Saturday, August 2, 2008

San Francisco....We Made It!

It's been 5 days since we reached San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm in San Antonio, Texas at Sam's house and we fly back to Connecticut tomorrow morning. It's been a busy 5 days and I haven't had a chance to sit down to update my blog until now. I still don't have sufficient time to sit, reflect, and write about the entire experience and reaching our final destination.

Day 51 took us through the capital city of California, Sacramento, where we followed a bike path for about 45-50 miles. We spent the night in Davis California which is considered one of the most bike friendly cities in America. Every main road in Davis has a bike lane. We had a bit of a scare on day 51 as I took a small spill on my bike as we rode through an area where there was some construction on the road. However, the fall didn't slow us down and we were back and riding in 5 minutes.

Day 52 took us from Davis to San Francisco. We woke up at 5am to get a good start on the day. We had to ride 70 miles to Vallejo where we hopped on a pedestrian ferry that took us across the San Francisco Bay to the city. The ferry ride was about an hour long and provided us with a great view of Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the entire city of San Francisco. The ferry ride was one of the highlights of the day. The ferry ride was such an adrenaline rush - seeing the San Francisco landmarks triggered something inside of me, it finally started to sink in that I just biked across the entire country with Sam and Bob in a little over 7 weeks!
We exited the ferry and had a 6.5 mile ride to the Golden Gate Bridge and the beach where we eventually dipped our front tires into the San Francisco Bay. We reached the foot of the Golden Gate at about 4pm and stayed in the area until about 6:30pm. We celebrated, took a lot of pictures, and sat around to take in all the sights. We had to wait an hour or so for the support crew to catch up with us. The truck got towed while Mr & Mrs. Mangum and Andrea waited for us to get off of the ferry. They had to retrieve the truck and then catch up with us at the bridge and after a few wrong turns, they finally made it! San Francisco had a strong, cool breeze and we were pretty cold and tired by 6:30pm. We found a hotel nearby, showered, and grabbed some dinner at a local steak and seafood restaurant.

The next day felt so strange not having to get up and ride my bike. I missed it. The day felt more like a day off than anything. In the afternoon, we went back to the Golden Gate Bridge and walked to the middle amongst all of the other tourists, took some pictures, and then headed out of the city.

Five days later, it is still hard for me to wrap my brain around the entire experience. I am so thankful I got to experience the ride with Sam and Bob - they made every day a memorable one. I am also thankful for the help of our entire support crew, Sharon, Jesse, The Smiths, Mr. Mangum, Mrs. Mangum, and Andrea. Thanks to all of you for helping us achieve our goal of reaching the west coast and for helping our team raise awareness and money for the Living Waters Orphanage. It was a trip of a lifetime!

I can't wait for my next bike trip!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 50 - California!

I know I said we did our last 100 mile ride of the trip, but yesterday we rode 116 miles to reach Placerville, California. We crossed into California about 20 miles west of Carson City. We rode along a small back road and when we reached the state line we were all a bit surprised at the California sign. It was so small! We all joked about it and got our pictures taken. Check out the picture of me lying with one half in Nevada and one half in California.

Yesterday's ride was hard! We had our final day of climbing - we had to go over Kit Carson's pass, about 8,500 feet. As usual, we were all looking forward to the climb, but especially the descent. However, the elevations on the cycling map was a bit deceiving. It looked like once we cleared the summit, it was all downhill....wrong! Just as we started to go downhill, the road turned skyward again. The first time I thought, "okay, no problem", the second time I thought, "hmmm, okay last climb then downhill!", the third, fourth, and fifth time I thought, "Not again, stop toying with me!" I also thought about tossing my bike over the side of the mountain! Sam and I both agreed that we had not done that much climbing in a single day the entire trip. It was the toughest 116 I've done so far!

Ha, but we made it! We are about to head out to Sacramento this morning. I offered to buy the team breakfast, so I'm heading over to Chuck's Restaurant right now. Sam, Bob, and Andrea are preparing the bikes as I write this. Andrea is learning a lot about cycling. So far, I love California. I wish I had more time to fill you all in our how pretty the ride was yesterday (despite the agonizing hills).

Have a great day!

Day 48 & 49 - Carson City, Nevada

We rode from Fallon to the capital of Nevada - 112 miles. The ride was long with pretty much the same scenery we've been seeing throughout all of Nevada. Carson City sits on the western edge of the state and acts as a gateway to California. We took day 49 off from riding because Sam's mom and friend, Andrea, were flying into Reno to join Mr. Mangum for the last 3 days of our trip.

I rented a truck from Enterprise (the girl who worked there gave me a GREAT deal) and drove to Lake Tahoe (25 miles away) on Day 49 while Sam and Mr. Mangum went to the airport in Reno. Bob, being the great guy that he is, did our dirty laundry that afternoon (thanks Bob!).

Lake Tahoe was awesome! There are parts that are full of tourists and other parts that are fairly quiet. That evening, after dinner, everyone opted to see the new Batman movie. I'm not much of a movie goer, so Andrea and I head back to Tahoe. We stopped at a lookout to watch the sunset and ran into a group of people who had already claimed the spot. They were very friendly and took pictures of Andrea and I as we posed on the rocks. We told them all about our bike ride and the orphanage and they made a donation to our cause. This is just one more example of how many nice people we've met along the way. Andrea is the one in the picture with her arms stretched out on the rocks.

Now that our team is complete with our newest members, we are ready to hit California!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 47 - The Last Century to Fallon, Nevada

My morning started out very well. I had a big breakfast at the International Cafe in Austin at 6am. I had scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, hash browns, and a blueberry pancake shaped like Micky Mouse. It even had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. I sat up at the counter and enjoyed my magical breakfast while listening to country music. My waitress was extremely perky and filled my mug with coffee about 3 or 4 times.

After all that food, we rode out of Austin this morning at 7:45am and biked 112 miles across the Nevada desert to reach Fallon. The first half of the ride was quite cool as we were higher up in elevation. Austin is a little over 6,000 feet and Fallon is over 3,000 feet in elevation. We had 3 small mountain passes to contend with today, but for the most part the roads were fairly flat. However, the afternoon ride was rather hot. The last quarter of the trek had us passing a nearby U.S. naval base air strip. I got to see jets taking off and landing all afternoon. We were passed by a few military vehicles carrying some pretty big missiles as well. The military has a series of bunkers where they test bombs and run training exercises. It is pretty easy to mistake the sound of a bomb for thunder.

Two other interesting sights are shown in the pictures above. One is a shoe tree - literally there was one random tree on the side of the road that was filled with thousands of shoes. People tied a pair of shoes together and threw them up in the tree. At the base of the tree there were also hundreds of shoes just lying on the ground. The other unique sight we saw was a huge mountain of natural sand, the only thing missing was the water. A little water would have been a nice relief from the afternoon heat!

We finished our ride today at about 6pm. I'm pretty tired, but overall I felt great throughout the entire 112 mile ride. It is our day of over 100 miles. Tomorrow is a shorter day, about 60-70 miles. I look forward to sleeping in an extra hour or so. Have a great night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 42-46: HWY 50, "The Loneliest Road in America"

Well, as you can see from the title of today's blog, I am traveling down America's loneliest road. Luckily, I have Bob and Sam to keep me company (and our "Roadie", Mr. Mangum). We've been on HWY 50 since Baker, Nevada. You might also have guessed that either: A) I've grown tired of updating my blog (which is not the case!), or B) That Internet service along HWY 50 has not caught up with the 21st century. If you guessed B, then please pat yourself on the back. NOW, let me try to get you all caught up to speed on our journey over the past 5 days.....

Day 42 - Cedar City, to Milford, Utah (I made an error on my last blog...Milford in in Utah, not Nevada). The ride from Cedar City to Milford was rather short, we crushed 56 miles in 3 hours and 48 minutes (Go team)! It must have been the McLaughlin's french toast...delicious! The ride itself was uneventful, however, I managed to get myself into a bit of a pickle that night. For those of you who have been reading Sam's blog you are all aware of the infamous "Flat Tire Incident", but for those of you who haven't read Sam's blog please do (simply click on her picture to the right). I will not attempt to right my version of the story because what she has written is perfect. Enjoy!

Day 43 - Milford, Utah to Baker, Nevada. As we left Milford the next morning, we realized that we were literally biking into the desert as the sign out of town said "No Services for the Next 85 miles". We finally reach the bright lights and fast life of "High Rolling" Nevada....wait, am I in the wrong state? Nevada looks like Utah, except more desert-like with fewer rest stops (literally there are NO places to pee for miles on end). We once again get our picture taken with the state sign and after my initial excitement, I realize that Las Vegas and the sweet sound of slot machines are hundreds of miles away. Gambling isn't my thing anyway, and I'm more excited to see what these little Western towns have to offer. Baker was a nice surprise, we stayed at one of the two motels in town, the Silver Jack Inn, that also doubled as the town's restaurant, bar, and coffee shop. We hopped on our bikes the next morning to head for Ely, which is a booming metropolis of 4,000 strong. The ride to Ely would take us through a stretch with no services for 63 miles.

Day 44 - Baker, Nevada to Ely, Nevada. It took us 5 hours to cover the 63 miles to Ely. The road is considered the loneliest road in America, but surprisingly there is quite a bit of traffic. Along HWY 50 there are no houses, gas stations, or picnic areas. They even have a Passport you can pick up and get signed by each of the 6 towns along the route. They send you an official certificate stating that you "survived" HWY 50. Needless to say, I am working on filling my passport. The scenery is beautiful as well. A pattern has developed along our route. We see a mountain pass in the distance 10-30 miles ahead, we reach the base, we climb, we descend into another valley where the road stretches another 10-30 miles to the next mountain pass. All the while, there is desert, mountains, and clouds of all shapes and colors to look at. In most valleys you can do a complete 360 and see mountains in all directions. It's awesome!

Day 45 - Ely, Nevada to Eureka, Nevada....78 miles with no services. We completed this stretch in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Eureka is your typical "Old Western Town", it has a lot of history and a ton of character. At one time, it was a booming place when folks flooded the west during the Gold Rush in the late 19th century. However, the current population of Eureka is somewhere around 400-500. Many of the local townspeople talk of the town being haunted. It would certainly make a good set for a Hollywood horror film. The town has several small motels, several bars and restaurants (or saloons) that offer up slot machines and pool tables. We ate dinner at a place called the Owls Club and spent the evening there playing a few games of pool and listening to music on the jukebox. After a good night's rest, we headed out for Austin this morning...this time it was only 68 miles without services.

Day 46 - Eureka, Nevada to Austin, Nevada. Austin is a town just as quirky as Eureka. It is a town of 400 is nestled in the Toiyabe Mountain Range at about 6,600 above the desert valley floor. Our route took us over a the Austin Mountain pass at about 8,000 feet and our last two miles had us descending along a winding mountain road into Austin. The descent had me feeling as if I were not in Nevada at all. The mountain sides were a mix of emerald green, pale yellow, and a earthy brown. The sun beams were peeking their way out of some overhead clouds, cascading down, and illuminating parts of the mountain as we passed. We could also look down over the cliff to see our destination far below us. The road down to Austin reminded me of a spiral staircase, it was a lot of fun to ride! We found ourselves in a nice, cheap, clean little motel that caters to bikers of all types. Before dinner I walked around town, bought a T-shirt, and scoped out the ice cream situation. I also made a trip to the courthouse to have my HWY 50 passport signed. The weather the past two days has been cool and breezy, great riding conditions, however, the lady who signed my passport today warned that as we continue to head west, the weather will get much hotter!

Tomorrow we will ride 110 miles to Fallon. The team agreed to combine two days of riding into one so we could complete our last Century Ride of the trip (that is a ride over 100 miles for you non-cyclists). It looks like we'll have to get an early start to beat the heat, but from our days in Kansas, another 100 mile day doesn't faze us anymore. Woohoo, a 110 miles with only one rest stop 65 miles in....Bring it on!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 41 - Cedar City

Today Mr. Mangum woke us all up bright and early as he usually does, however, it was rather hard for me to get myself going this morning. Yesterday was a such a nice little break! We were on the road by 7:45am and heading toward Cedar City. Cedar City is a 59 mile ride from Penguitch, but the first 35 miles are all climbing. We took our time today, we biked at a slow leisurely pace up the mountain. We were all feeling a bit tired and felt no reason to rush our ride since it's the shortest ride so far on our trip. Sam was being harassed by some big nasty horse flies. Sam really hates what she calls "rude" bugs. One was giving her a really rough time, and she wound up and swung at it. The force of her swing must have knocked her off balance because she tumbled to the ground. She was a good sport about it and we all had a good laugh. Bob and I don't seem to be targets for bugs, but Sam seems to have a bulls eye on her back (they can smell the fear).

The most interesting thing I saw today was a herd of sheep coming at me down the mountain. All three of us had to pull over to let the sheep herder, who was on horseback, his two dogs, and his flock pass. They were headed to a pasture down the road. There were cars stopped in both directions and from the reaction of the drivers, it seems to be a common occurrence in this area of Utah.

We reached the summit around 12:00 and had a nice long descent into Cedar City. I stopped and took a picture of Ashburn Gorge at Sunshine Point and we headed back down the mountain. We didn't even stop for lunch today which allowed us to reach Cedar City by 1:30pm.

Mr. Mangum had arranged for us to meet up with family friends for dinner. The McClaughlin's used to live in San Antonio 11 years ago but now live in Cedar City. We went over to their house where they grilled up some bbq chicken and Kerri made a huge bowl of pasta salad. Kerri and Allan have 6 children ranging in age from 15 to 2 years old. They were even nice enough to let me drive their ATV. It was a lot of fun riding it over some of the hills around their house.

It was a great day and an even better night spent getting to know the McClaughlin family. We are all heading over there tomorrow morning for breakfast before we head out to our 7th state....Nevada here we come!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 40 - Rest & Relaxation

Today we rested. I slept in until 8am! The day started out with a wonderful breakfast in town and then a trip to the bike shop in Cedar City (55 miles away and our destination for tomorrow). The best part of the day, and maybe the trip, was our late evening trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. We hopped in the truck at 7:00pm to drive 20 miles to Bryce to watch the sunset and explore while we could still see. My words cannot do justice to what I've seen tonight and neither will the was unreal! Bob, Sam, and I stayed until well after sunset and we were the last ones to leave the trail at Inspiration Trail head. The night ended with each of us sitting quietly, by ourselves, overlooking the canyon and taking it all in.

On a more comical note, while at Bryce, we decided to hit the truck and try to make it to another lookout stop to see the sunset, but Sam couldn't find the key to the truck. At first we chuckled, but as the sun was setting (and it was getting dark) the mood suddenly got more serious. Bob and Sam looked down below, and I hiked back up to the overlook to retrace Sam's steps. Luckily, I found the key sitting unscathed in the dirt behind two Japanese gentlemen sitting on a log taking pictures. As I made my way down the path back towards Sam and Bob, I pondered playing a joke on them...however, when I saw the slight panic in their eyes, I didn't have the heart to go through with it. As we all were once again relaxed, we climbed back up to the top of the trail to enjoy the last bit of daylight.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I took 70 of them...this is just a small sampling.