Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nothin' Could Be Finer than to Be in Carolina....

Day 17

Whiteville, North Carolina to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
55 miles, 550' climbing---ha ha, still not begging for hills.

Seemed like a very short day, lovin' those flatlands. We made it to the hotel by noon-ish.

Our SAG stop was in the parking lot of a little grocery store. If the van didn't have quite what you wanted, the store had options. Such as:

Anybody got any good recipes?
What do you serve them with?
Seems like a good price. And they are farm fresh.
Fortunately, the SAG had everything I needed.

Love the big, round hay bales.

This kind of view makes the miles zip right by.

Would you let these two into your state?

At last! This trip is starting to look like a vacation!
The view from our room.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Day 16

Warsaw, North Carolina to Whiteville, North Carolina
73 miles

With all the farmland we've been seeing, I was hoping to see some cotton or peanut harvesting. Early in the ride this morning we came upon this truck of Spanish speaking sweet potato harvesters.
It looked like very hard work.

We've seen quite a few churches with catchy sayings on their marquee signs. Wouldn't that be fun if the LDS  churches did this in Utah? What message would YOU post?
Name them one by one....
This sign was in front of the cash register at our lunch stop in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.
I wonder if it works.
I'm learning a lot on this bike trip. We are being taught safety tips for riding; we learned some bike riding skills in the parking lot one afternoon; and today, underneath a tree, we were taught bike cleaning from Mike Roon.
The maestro cleans and lubes.

One more day of riding, then a day off in Myrtle Beach.

The Dog Days of Summer

Day 15

Rocky Mount, North Carolina to Warsaw, North Carolina

100 miles! 1,875 "climbing"----we are told there really is no more climbing. Only flat. We are, also, told that we will be begging for hills, just so we'll have some variety in the terrain. I'm not convinced that I'll be begging. We shall see.

Even 100 miles of flat-as-a-pancake is still 100 miles of pedaling. Also, 100 miles of reading our cue sheets and watching for the next turn, and dodging the usual number of hazards. It makes for a pretty long day.

Let's just say.....I was glad to see the Holiday Inn Express in Warsaw, North Carolina.

The only photo I took. Honestly, if a horse would have come by, I would have hijacked it.

Thanks everybody for the great tips for dealing with the naughty dogs. We've had some terrific success, but don't just take my word for it. Check out Mary Kay's blog---scroll down to the Aug 29th post; and Carl's blog, too. I think we have these cranky dogs handled.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

That is unless you're on some wacky bike trip where you ride your brains out every day. In that case, the livin' is hard. Life for us: get up, eat, ride 7 or 8 hours (where I come from we call that a job), shower, eat, collapse into bed, and repeat it all the next day. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know---we brought this upon ourselves. We paid good money to be this tired, but we really are having a blast.

Day 14
Emporia, Virginia to Rocky Mount, North Carolina
59 miles (practically a day off!) 1,085' climbing---in other words a whole lot of flat

We started riding this morning and I had to look down at my shorts to see if I'd inadvertently put on some shorts without the padding in the seat. Nope, I had on my new-specially-bought-for-this-trip Terry cycling pants. I swear yesterday they had a lot more padding.

Since we ride the backroads, we see a lot of farmland. One crop I've never seen but wondered about is cotton.

Poofy cotton balls on a cotton plant.

It feels and looks just like, well...cotton.

This is a peanut plant. The peanuts grow beneath the soil like potatoes. I've been intrigued with peanut plants ever since I first read about George Washington Carver in the 5th grade.

Some baby peanuts.
I wonder if they'll get to be Reese's Peanut Butter Cups when they grow up.

Steve W., Mike, Mary Kay, and I entering North Carolina

Today's SAG stop was at this lovely spot on the river
near the Roanoke Rapids.

For sale at our local convenience store.

You can buy a big styrofoam cupfull for $2.99. They come in the shell. You open the shell like
you normally would, then eat the hot, squishy peanut inside.
I think they taste like pinto beans.

I zeroed out my odometer as we left Maine. Today it rolled over 1000. 1000 miles! That's far even in a car.

Yes, Virginia...

Day 13
Mechanicsville, Virginia to Emporia, Virginia
91 miles 2,285' climbing

We started off the morning riding through the Cold Harbor Civil War Battlefield. We, again, felt like it was disrespectful to just go whizzing by.
Civil War Cemetery

The battle lines at Cold Harbor stretched nearly seven miles.This was the center of the Confederate position.

We passed the half-way mark today. We are half-way between Maine and Florida. Hard to believe we are actually doing this.
Are we there yet?
Last night as we were at rap (I think I mentioned that's when we go over the next day's ride---what to watch out for, where the SAG stops are, where the Dairy Queen is, anything tricky) Shane mentioned that we would go over a drawbridge. I was hoping we'd get to see it doing it's thing, and ta-duh! we did.

What you can't see behind the photographer is lined up traffic. We went straight to the front of the line.

Here comes the boat that needs to go under the bridge. I know, doesn't really look that big.
Here you can actually see that the bridge is drawn. It didn't open up like an upside-down "v" like I was expecting. It had a level platform that elevated straight up to let the boat through.

Civil War convenience store?
Taking a short-cut through a tobacco field.
Mike now leads the race with the most flat tires---three. Also, we are being warned about a couple of things. We have been told to take our bikes with us into the convenience stores in certain towns, and that the dogs are mean,  run loose, and chase cyclists in North and South Carolina. If you have a good strategy for fending off dogs while you're on a bike please comment. It is a nightly discussion. Also, please leave a comment anyway. It's fun to know who's reading this.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We're Officially in the South

Day 12
Fredericksburg, Virginia to Mechanicsville, Virginia
74 miles, 2350' climbing---the least yet!

We rode through the Fredericksburg Civil War Battle Ground today. A hallowed place, many deaths there. It's hard to imagine Americans killing each other amongst the peaceful trees. I couldn't help but think of my great-great-great grandmother who lost two sons because of the Civil War.

Fredericksburg Civil War Battle Ground

Mike picked up some kind of wicked nail and scored the first flat of the day. I want it to be some old Civil War relic, but I'm told that couldn't be possible because it would be all rusted away by now. He needed not only a new tube but a new tire, as well.
The culprit
Eating has taken on a weird dimension. I now eat to fuel my body, while I normally eat more for pleasure. We stop at the SAG stops to keep our bodies going, not because I'm actually hungry. I keep finding myself craving cheesecake during the day as we're riding---usually I crave a hamburger.
A typical SAG stop. The table is loaded with granola bars, bananas,  pears, apple slices, pretzels, fig newtons, fritos, oreos, peanuts, dried fruit mix, crackers, and ice cold water. We're always happy to see the van.
Gotta love the silos.

One of the last towns of the day was called Studley. We couldn't pass up that Kodak moment. Get serious.
John, Me, Carl, Mary Kay, Mike, and J.B. at the gun show.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two flats, a broken rib, and pie

Day 11
Washington, D.C. to Fredericksburg, Virginia
91 miles, 3850' climbing

We rode out of D.C. via the bike trails. Such a great trail system. It's amazing how much wooded area there is so close to the city. Lots of commuters on bikes heading in to work. Kind of a bicycle rush hour.

J.B., Mike and I

Me racing George Washington and his horse. I am winning.
Hey, look! Virginia is welcoming us. What nice people.
Carl had a front tire blow out at about mile 37. Luckily he was going slowly uphill when it happened. He said even so it was hard to control his bike. It looked almost like a surgical incision across his tire. There's been a lot of debris on the road lately, including broken glass. We called the SAG van and he replaced his tire only to have another blow out a few miles later on his rear tire.

The first of two blow-outs
The best part of the day---eating "Mom's" pie
Also, we got news today after Steve was x-rayed that he actually has a broken rib from his fall the other day. He's got a prescription for Vicodan, so the way he sees it he's good to go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

God Bless America

Rest Day in Washington, D.C.
Stats for the day: 0 miles which means 0 climbing. (Pump fist while saying, "Yesssss!")

Ready to give our behinds a rest from the bikes, we wandered down to see the White House. In front of the most famous address in the world, we overheard a 4 or 5-year-old girl ask, "Daddy, is that where Barack Obama lives?" Very cute.

Where Barack Obama Lives

We, also, checked out the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. By then, though, our legs had had it and Mike hailed a cab to get us back to our hotel. The best ten bucks ever spent.

On the way to hail the cab we stopped at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. This one always touches me. I was in high school during this war and my older sisters had friends who were drafted, so that means many of those people listed on the wall should have been just a little older than I am now. They didn't get to see those birthdays. Also, having been so recently in Southeast Asia I could easily put faces on the people they lost over there, as well. Such a loss. So many saddened families.

Vietnam Memorial Wall

Back on the bikes tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hard and you gotta stay focused

Day 9's stats: 81 miles, 4270' climbing.

Shane rated this day as "hard and you gotta stay focused." I can see why, because the first 30 miles or so were in traffic that was whizzing by and very close. I didn't like that part. It was quite stressful. One of our riders (Steve) came around a corner where the asphalt pavement had a sudden dropoff. He was launched over his handlebars and luckily landed in a grassy patch just off the road. His shoulder hurts but nothing appears broken. He was able to ride the rest of the day. At about mile 32 we stopped at a convenience store---not quite time for a full lunch so I downed a diet coke, a bag of potato sticks, and a Reese's peanut butter cup. Mmmmm....probably the same stuff Lance Armstrong uses for energy, right? Turned out it was just what I needed because we never did get a lunch stop the rest of the day and I felt pretty good.

Good to be out of the traffic.

I'm told that arriving by car to Washington, D.C. is difficult and complicated. By bicycle it's a different story. We connected to the Rock Creek Bike Trail about 25 miles out of the city and it took us to within a couple of blocks of our hotel at Dupont Circle---which is within walking distance of the White House. The trail is lots of pieces all connected together. We rode thru city parks, wooded areas, over several bridges, and past an old, old cemetery. Amazing that the trail is so close to the city.

Rock Creek Bike Trail

The highlight of the day: At one point along the trail we saw a sign that said "LDS Temple Visitors Center." We were excited to look up and see the bright white spires of the Washington, D.C. Temple poking up out of the trees. Just up a steep-ish hill and we were there. It felt like I was home! A great feeling. The missionaries in the Visitor Center let us stow our dirty bikes and filthy shoes in the back room. They were amazed to hear that we started in Maine. And more amazed when we told them where we are headed. The Visitors Center featured a special sculpture exhibit of stories from the life of Christ. It was great to be there.

And just in case you have a spare boat laying around, we saw this sign in a yard in Maryland:

Day 10 is a much needed day off the bikes in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Hunt Valley, Maryland

Stats for today's ride: 67 miles, 4,625' of climbing. This ride had me freaked out before it even started. Our leader, Shane, has been rating each day's ride at our meeting each night when we go over the next day's plan. Yesterday's ride rated a 9 out of 10. Others have been 6.5 or 7. All have been hard. Last night he told us today's ride was rated a full 10. Yikes. How could that be? How could the rides be any harder? Well, today we found out. Just add in several steep climbs. Or add in a bunch of moderate climbs alternating with hard climbs. And just for good measure add a climb equivalent to Woodland Hills Drive (a very steep road by my house.)

So I was freaked out before it began. Before we woke up to rain. Ok, now it's a 10.5. There are no photos of any of the climbs, because well....I was just trying to drag myself up the hills. Just take my word for it. They were tough. And wet.

When I wasn't gasping for air or wringing out my gloves I snapped a few photos. Just a few miles into the ride we crossed the Susquehanna River at the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge.

St. Luke's Cemetery 1772-1946---- somewhere in Southern Pennsylvania.

 The gang at the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.