Day Fifty-One: Winslow Super Express

Personal Record: 100.0 miles in 4h32m.

After yesterday’s slow ride, I decided that it was time to push it. With cool temperatures, no wind, and 1,000 feet of elevation loss over 99 miles, I decided to ride hard. I set a new personal record for 100 miles, which was a great achievement for me. The ride itself, though beautiful, was standard issue Interstate riding: stay all the way to the right, avoid debris, and either take every exit, or cross every exit once you’re sure that no cars are coming.

Our ride today was supposed to take us to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, but both required paying money and a large amount of additional riding. I decided that taking the Express was the best option, and I’m glad I did.

I arrived at the host site at 9:55am, Arizona time. The next rider, Jane, arrived at about 1pm, giving me enough time to eat delicious Mexican food from downtown.

I took the laundry shuttle to laundry. We watched Full Metal Jacket at the laundromat. I missed logistics presentations on Flagstaff and Las Vegas, and an art presentation by Erin.


Day Fifty: Navajo Nation, Houck, AZ

We woke two hours before sunrise today. We were not sure what time to call this, since Arizona (Springerville) is on MST (same as PDT) but the Navajo Nation (Houck) is on MDT. We avoided using time today, since it’s all so arbitrary in comparison to our fixed solar schedule.

I rode with Jane today, who took this as a recovery day. The recovery riding was helpful, but painful. I don’t know how or why, but riding slow is so much harder than riding fast.

The last bit of the ride into Houck took us on I-40, our first section of riding on an Interstate highway. The Interstate has nice, flat, wide, well paved shoulders, but is full of wires and things that cause flats. I was fortunate to not get any flats on the way in.

Our hosts at the St. Anselm Catholic Church were members of the Navajo tribe. I’ve never seen people who look like this before in my life. Their facial features are truly unique. They’re also the nicest people ever. We had Navajo tacos for dinner, which are like regular tacos on Navajo fry bread. Delicious.

In response to the beautiful weather, and to excessive noise inside, Jane and I pitched a tent. We saw a perfectly clear sky and the Milky Way once the sun set. It was wonderfully clear, cool, and dry, ideal tent conditions. I slept well.


Day Forty-Nine: Van to Springerville, AZ

I drove the van today.  One of the other leaders (really not sure who) managed to bend the jack on our trailer, so I was able to purchase and install a new one. We stopped to take photographs at the Arizona state line.

Our host this evening was the Round Valley High School in the town neighboring Springerville. The high school has a large dome for their football team, with a million-dollar artificial turf field inside. We stayed in the dome, which was really great. People were running around all over the field playing games. I did an excellent job backing the trailer into a tight parking spot.

The logistics with laundry, dinner, and a town hall meeting were a real disappointment, with much confusion and some people waiting two and a half hours to eat. Unacceptable. We need to do a better job planning and executing these events for the rest of the trip.


Day Forty-Eight: Battling the Wind to Pie Town

Today’s ride was epic. We climbed about 3,000 feet from Socorro to Pie Town, over the course of nearly 100 miles. It was hot and dry, and to boot, there was a roughly 30 MPH headwind the entire day. I chose to ride with Jane today.

We visited the Very Large Array, located on Route 60. It’s the perfect array for a radio telescope: flat, at elevation, with almost no cloud cover, and with mountains in all directions to block radio signals. Brilliant. I enjoyed the technical humor on the posters at the visitor’s center, the warnings about rattlesnakes, and the astronaut ice cream.

The last bit of the ride was impressive for Jane. She pushed harder on that section than I’ve ever seen her ride. She set three new personal power records. Hooray Jane!

Pie Town, NM is a little town of sixty people located on the Continental Divide. It’s home to some pie champions, and a woman who allows thru hikers and bikers to use her home. Our reward for the hardest riding day ever (Jane burned almost 4000 kcal according to the power meter, so I burned more) was a fantastic, homemade dinner that exceeded all expectations.

I can only imagine how wonderful today would have been if we were going the other way.


Day Forty-Seven: Downhill? Tailwind? Really? Socorro, NM.

We woke at 0410 this morning, two hours before sunrise. I spent the morning fixing two flats, changing my brake pads, lubing my chain, and not getting a good breakfast. I would spent much of today's ride changing two more flats.

The rain from yesterday persisted through the night, so it was raining when we left. The rain removed my fresh chain lube within about ten miles, leaving me with a loud, squeaky chain all day. It was so foggy for the first part of the day that I had to remove my glasses just to see, and I couldn't see much at all.

Eventually the rain lifted, revealing a breathtaking landscape. This is why we rode to New Mexico. It's beautiful. I enjoyed a long downhill with a tailwind, and being alone for the day. I also visited the local bicycle shop, and enjoyed good local food en route.

Our host this evening is the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, or New Mexico Tech for short. There is a large "M" painted on a neighboring mountain, a demonstration of school pride. We're just staying in the gym. We did manage to tell a few students about Bike & Build, and maybe we'll have some Tech students on rides next year!

I spent the evening taking the laundry crew to dinner, eating delicious grilled chicken, and listening to an Affordable Housing presentation.


Day Forty-Six: Rain All The Way To Carrizozo

I rode sweep today. I certainly enjoyed hearing Jorge's life story, as I was very curious about him. I did not enjoy riding at 10 MPH for much of the day, or the fact that it was 60 degrees and raining all day and I was stuck without my rain gear. We eventually arrived, quite cold, after 100 miles in almost 11 hours on the bicycle in the rain.

A recent hurricane has sent a freak summer rain storm into the area, one that will stick with us for the next few days. The locals say that the rain is welcome, and that everything is greener than it has been for quite some time. We just wish the rain could have held off four a few more days. We've had more than enough rain this summer, and it just seems to continue to follow us.

We punished a rider for no good reason toda


Day Forty-Five: Day Off in Roswell

In planning the route, we decided to add the detour to Roswell. Compared to just staying on US 60 all the way, going to Roswell only added a few extra miles while adding a very interesting stop. So, we're in Roswell today, a decently sized desert city that capitalizes on the 1940s UFO incident to bring tourists to an otherwise quiet place.

I woke up early, did some errands on the Internet, and managed to watch the sun rise with Jane. After that, we went into town on the Pecos Transit public bus; 75 cents and a wait got us into town. We had breakfast at IHOP, explored a Goodwill store, purchased a copy of Full Metal Jacket, and walked around town for a while. We even got to visit the UFO museum. I was glad to have some time away from the group.


Day Forty-Four: Another Van Day into Roswell

I drove the van today.

Today's 96-mile day into Roswell was punctuated by, well, nothing. There was one town early on, around mile 35, but after that, the next thing we saw was Kenna, a "town" consisting of a single eatery, post office, and store. The proprietor of the store, an elderly woman, let us use the bathroom, let us play with her cat and dogs, and gave us three gallons of bottled water.

The next stop was Acme, a "town" that consisted of an abandoned building, and a mailbox.

Today's ride was made exceptionally difficult for the riders by the 95 degree heat and strong headwinds.

We had a mail drop day today. I received another wonderful package from my mother. She's getting much better at this, and I greatly appreciate all that she sends me.

Lenny's crew managed to secure our group donations from Chili's, KFC, and two local pizza houses. Well done!

We're sleeping in four squash courts at ENMU's Roswell campus.


Day Forty-Three: Portales Burn-Out

We woke at 0455 in Hereford, approximately two hours before sunrise, per standard. The leader team was delayed this morning, as we were determining how best to deal with the fact that five of our riders had broken two of Bike & Build's most serious policies. I was all for enforcing the letter of the rules, and giving them three days of van time. Hey, you know the rules, and you know the consequences, so there should be no surprises. The other three leaders on the trip disagreed for various reasons, putting me in the uncomfortable minority. We had the group of five riders ride sweep today, awaiting the office's verdict on the situation.

In hindsight, this morning's meeting was the turning point of the trip for me. Prior to today, I had been optimistic about the rest of the trip. I tolerated excessive van use, unsafe riding, poor routine, lack of organization, and general incompetence from the riders and leaders. I honestly believed that, in time, the errors at the start of the trip would come to fix themselves. This morning taught me an important lesson: it was me against the other three leaders, and I was fighting a losing battle.

After this morning, I felt uncomfortable working with the rest of the leaders on the trip. I don't think of them as friends, nor do I trust them to make sound, rational, competent policy decisions based on the written rules that we all agreed to uphold. I'm not going to go out of my way for these people any longer, if my reward is having riders lie to me about alcohol and leaders wanting to go along with this.

As a result of various meetings this morning, I left about 45 minutes to an hour late. A combination of wanting to win the state line sprint into New Mexico, wanting to ride with Jane, and being less than pleased with the conduct of the riders and leaders on this trip, motivated me to push into the headwind. I managed to average about 21 MPH for 90 minutes, with no aero equipment other than my wheels. I caught Jane, who was in pretty dire straights after another day of riding through feed lots and slaughterhouses. I decided that it was more important to stay with Jane than win the sprint, so we rode together into New Mexico.

Lenny, our donations guru, managed to get us all free Subway sandwiches at "lunch". The time zone changed to MDT (GMT -6) at the state line, leading to some confusion. After lunch, Jane and I rode with Emma, stopping at a Western store along the way. I was happy to ride at less than full power at that point, after my strong effort.

In Portales, we stopped at a Dairy Queen, and I visited a local bicycle shop (which sponsors a female triathlete!), before heading to the ENMU dorms, which hosted us for the evening.

After a chat with Kristian, we had a conference with the aforementioned five riders. We decided to give them one day of van time each, in a 2-2-1 pattern.

I just know I'm going to get flack for making this information public. People will call me this and that in their frustration. Let me just say this: the rules are no secret. They're written in plain and simple American English at http://www.bikeandbuild.org/Documents/2008Manual.pdf. Riders and leaders received them before the trip, and reviewed them at Orientation. The riders agreed to follow them, and the leaders agreed to enforce them. So, don't fault the leaders for doing their job, and don't blame the Bike & Build office for the way these things pan out.

The riders got one van day each, and the leaders got no reprimand. Are you kidding me? Alcohol has no place on a trip like this. These people got off easy. I'm ashamed of the other trip leaders, of the riders, and of the office.

Take the high road. If the rules seem broken, revisit the rules, not your enforcement of them.

In hindsight, this is where I stopped enjoying every new day, and started waiting for things to be over.


Day Forty-Two: Hereford Express-Direct

Today’s ride featured a scenic detour to the Palo Duro Canyon, a very large canyon. On account of a few nights of bad sleep, and just needing some alone time, Jane and I booked it to Hereford. Book we did – we managed to average about 15.5 MPH into fairly strong headwinds, with me pushing along and Jane holding on quite well.

I put the FP60s back on the bike before the ride. I just don't trust them to not be destroyed in the van or trailer, so I decided the safest spot for them is on my bike.

Hereford is the beef capital of the world, and as a result, is home to many feed lots. We rode by some feed lots (a.k.a. slaughterhouses) on the way into Wheeler, but this was way worse. The stench of death was overpowering. Jane was depressed and almost vomited. I wasn’t doing much better. The wind was blowing the worst of the stench right at us, and it was beyond horrible. If it weren’t for the excellence of our hosts at the First United Methodist Church there in town, I would vote to never go this way again on future trips.

Our hosts made up for the bad ride. We had an entire building to ourselves, with lots of classrooms and an incredible youth room at our disposal. Our hosts cooked us a fantastic meal, and ran shuttles to the showers and Wal-Mart as needed.

Jane and I managed to catch the 1250 showing of Batman: The Dark Knight. It was a good movie, and I’m glad we saw it. Apparently, two riders from our trip make a cameo in the movie, though I didn’t see it. As we left, we caught most of the trip, there for the 1545 showing.

It’s really nice to run out of phase with the rest of the tri. We were at the movie when everyone was at the church, and vice versa. Jane and I really appreciated the quiet time, plenty of time to rest, talk to the hosts, and de-stress.

This is our last night in the Central Daylight Time. We’ll enter Mountain Daylight Time tomorrow, and start going to sleep at 2000 and waking at 0400 to be consistent with our solar schedule. Sigh. 


Day Forty-One: House for fifteen. Specialized Transition. Building in Amarillo.

After breakfast at the Habitat office, we ran van shuttles to a build site just north of Center City in Amarillo. We were working on putting the finishing touches on a house. We did a lot of painting, some caulking, and some landscaping. The house, a six-bedroom home, is still not nearly big enough for the family of fifteen (!) that will inhabit the home. That’s right; one single Somali mother and her fourteen children will inhabit this home once we complete it. I wish them the best.

A number of people had bicycle fit issues today, including Jane, who needed a shorter stem. We visited two bicycle shops in the afternoon. The first had an ordinary bike in the front, which we did not get to ride, and a tandem, which we did. Jane hates tandems. I also managed to find batteries for the PowerTap at a dollar store (!). At the second shop, I got to test ride a 2008 Specialized Transition (!). I came really, really close to just buying it, but decided that I only really want the frame. What a beautiful bike.


Day Forty: Drive to Amarillo. Steak and oysters.

I drove the van today, and as a result, missed out on a century of riding into a hot headwind up a continuous 0.25% grade. Jane was doing exceptionally and unusually well today, gapping the group by about an hour into the first lunch stop. By the second lunch stop, her lead had dwindled to about 15 minutes since she was pulling into the wind all alone. She still managed to be the first rider to arrive, after a strong effort. Well done, Jane! Unfortunately, the PowerTap had run out of batteries, so we don’t have power data for her fastest century yet.

After having the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had (grilled over mesquite wood) at our host site, the Amarillo Habitat for Humanity Chapter, we went to the famous Big Texan restaurant. An original Route 66 attraction, the Big Texan is best known for its 72 oz steak challenge. If you can eat the steak, a potato, a salad, and the shrimp within the span of 60 minutes, it’s yours free. Jorge tried, and ate all but 9.8 oz of the steak. We applauded him for trying.

I also tried Mountain Oysters. As the restaurant’s menu quipped, “if you think this is seafood, stick with the shrimp.” They weren’t too bad, really, they just tasted like fried generic meat product.

This evening's events, and the following events, marked a significant downturn in the trip for me.

On account of my no alcohol policy, I ended up driving the van shuttles back from the Big Texan. I would find out somehow, without my noticing, a group of five people managed to transport alcohol in the van. This is a major policy violation. Come on, people. Fill me with pride, not shame.

I was very upset when I learned about this happening. I was even more upset to know that another leader could have helped to avoid the entire situation.


Day Thirty-Nine: Wheeler Express

Today was my fastest day of riding to date.

We woke at 0430, two hours before sunrise, in anticipation of sunrise at 0635. We'll be waking two hours before sunrise every day for the rest of the trip, to be out the door for civil twilight, twenty minutes before sunrise. After gathering our laundry and eating some breakfast, we hit the road at 0610. I decided to push myself on this 77 mile day, after yesterday's unpleasant experience with the heat and the wind.

I rode quite fast, and didn't get off the bicycle or stop at all. My next stop was lunch, at about mile 38. I stopped for exactly 2 minutes and 11 seconds starting at 0807, just long enough to refill my Camelbak with 1.5 liters of water. I won the state line sprint into Texas at 0932 with no contest. After that, my next stop was the host, at 1025. I averaged at most 19 MPH on the slight upgrade.

Since the host was not available, I decided to poke around the town. My first stop was the town square. There were a couple of local farmers selling their wares. One of them, the Jones', a pair of retired math teachers, were selling organic apricots. They donated a dry gallon of apricots and a small jar of apricot jam to the cause. My next stop was the town park. I hosed off from a faucet, changed, and caught up on phone calls while munching on apricots. As I was getting ready to leave, a grandmother arrived with five of her grandchildren. Kyle, age 5, was very impressed with my bicycle, and tried on my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses.

At the host, I rested for a while and ate more apricots. We were treated to a delicious dinner of beef brisket. We got to meet the Baptist church’s very active youth group as well. Matt, our host, and the youth and music director, is a funny man:

“Are you looking for just, a little bite to eat? No? Well, good, because you’re in Texas.”

“We know y’all have some vegetarians in your group, but this is Texas. We made brisket.”



Day Thirty-Eight: The No Aero Road to Cordell

We woke at 0500 this morning in various parts of the church, to an excellent breakfast and a moving prayer by Judy, our host in Yukon. It would be about 88 miles to Cordell, a slow climb to elevation. Since Jane was feeling well, I rode with her for the entire day. I pulled, with her closely following my wheel.

The first half of the day went well. The weather was cool, as clouds blocked the sun's rays from baking us on the road. The wind was calm into lunch, so Jane and I were able to maintain about 18 MPH all the way in.

Lunch took longer than I would have liked. On days like today, I try to avoid excessive delays at lunch. Every minute of time not spent on the road becomes two minutes in the afternoon heat at reduced speed. I was sucked into doing a bicycle repair at lunch, delaying us.

The second half of the day was a test. Within a few miles of lunch, and with almost no water in the air, the temperatures climbed into the 90s as a 20+ MPH headwind tried to blow us back the way we came. A very narrow SR 152 and an excess of oversized vehicles traveling at 70 MPH did little to improve the ride. We filled our Camelbaks and bottles at lunch, but the brutal wind was sapping water from our bodies before we could replenish it and, before we knew it, we were dehydrated and almost out of water. With the van nowhere in sight, we stopped at a house for water. No one was home, so we just used the faucet on the side of the house.

Jane and I arrived to a well-colled church just before 2pm. I had two double cheeseburgers and a milkshake fronm Sonic before taking a rest.

We had a busy evening, with dinner, laundry, and an affordable housing curriculum. I cut the evening short by going to sleep at 2000, in anticipation of an 0430 wakeup. Riding hard into a hot headwind all day did strange things to my body. The plan for tomorrow is to leave early, and do anything possible to beat the heat.

This evening, I decided to opt out of the van drive back from California. A number of reasons led to this decision: wanting to spend more time in Santa Barbara, not wanting to spend more time in the van than necessary, and differences in philosophy between myself and the other members of the van ride home. (I want to high-tail it home; they want to go drinking and take a non-optimal route.)

I'm reconsidering putting the aero equipment on the bicycle. With these winds, the wheels would help, though trucks passing would give me grief. 


Day Thirty-Seven: In Memorial. Oklahoma City and Yukon.

We woke at 0500 today. I was going to ride with Emma today, but a medical problem prevented her from riding today. Instead, I rode fast with Lenny and Oliver along good old Route 66. As the FP60 wheels are now "surplus", I'm lending them to people. Oliver rode with them for the first half of today.

I saw a dog get killed on the road today. It was a little dog, running at about 25-30 MPH on the left hand side of the road. It repeatedly tried to cross the road, successfully avoiding the cars several times. At an underpass, it didn't see a car coming in the opposite direction. The car's front right tire hit the animal. It yelped, flew into the air, and hit the ground hard. It was still somewhat alive, though paralyzed, when we rode past it. There was nothing we could do.

After a few miles of fast riding, I decided to take it easy. I rode along 66 slowly, waiting for people to catch up. I stopped at Pops, a huge gas station with an impressive cantilevered roof and a convenience store full of soda bottles. That delay was long enough for Kyle Rudzinski to catch me; we rode together to "lunch" at IHOP, which generously gave our group a 50% discount.

Lenny, Kyle, and myself decided to ignore the cue sheet for the second half of the day, instead detouring to visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. This didn't add any mileage, but did take us far from the other riders. We explored the memorial solemnly and respectfully, as this was a place where almost 200 people died some 13 years ago.

Our elevation is slowly increasing, putting us to 1350 feet today and 1600 feet tomorrow. Getting in early allowed me to take a much needed nap.

We had a mail drop today. My mother's package of cookies, beef jerky, sardines, cashews, my favorite cereal, and $20 was well received - thanks, Mom! Dave Miller of Crummy Crunchies, Inc. sent our group delicious cookies. Oliver's triple crank arrived, but without the correct derailleur, we're stuck until Zane's ships us the correct part.

We had another excellent dinner, courtesy of the church, consisting of pasta and marinara sauce. I never get tired of the pasta, since it is delicious. I'm starting to get worried about the weight; I'll have some making up to do at the end of the trip. Staying hydrated is also getting difficult, since it takes conscious effort.

Today was Erin Rice's 24th birthday. We bought her a pinata, which we hung from the basketball hoop for everyone's amusement. We watched "Cars" and "Dumb and Dumber" in separate rooms. We're looking forward to the new Batman movie tomorrow.

It is now time for sleep. I never sleep through the night; I usually wake up because I'm cold, or I have to pee, or I've managed to soak the sleeping bag in sweat. Grumble grumble. 


Day Thirty-Six: The Mother Road: Route 66 to Chandler

The de-aero-ifying of my bike left me with a conundrum: where to put the aero bars? I put them on Jane's bike for the time being, but they're a little too long for her. Also, we had to flip her stem to address some back pain issues, so since these are the stem-mounted Profile Design Lightning Stryke bars, flipping the stem makes the aero bars unusable. I spent about 2.5 hours in total today tweaking Jane's bike.

Jane and I left behind the rest of the group, due to equipment delays. The rest of the group included Pastor David Frerichs of the Bethany Lutheran Church, an excellent cyclist and host who we will all miss. He rode with us all the way to Chandler - well done, Pastor Dave!

I hopped on Old Route 66 a number of times today. I just live riding the old, narrow, abandoned, concrete sections of the former Mother Road, since they're authentic and usually empty. So excellent.

Chandler, OK was home to several museums. I visited two of them, telling the curators about Bike & Build and spreading the message for next year.

Our excellent hosts provided dinner for our group, then invited us to their Wednesday night service. We gave a presentation to their youth group, about 50 middle and high schoolers.

I thoroughly enjoy meeting the locals on this trip, especially the younger ones. They're so different from the uppity, high maintainance, perpetually busy folk of New York City. This Oklahoma place is starting to grow on me.


Day Thirty-Five: Tulsa Build

Our latest Build Day saw us working on a Habitat home in Tulsa, OK. A neighborhood formerly overrun by drug dealers, the introduction of Habitat homes began the revitalization of the area. We worked on applying soffits to the eaves of the house, constructing a shed, and insulating the house. We were busy for the entire day.

Numerous reporters were present through the build. We would be in the Tulsa World newspaper the following morning, and I believe we also had a good amount of news coverage.

After the build, I completed the de-aero-ifying of my bicycle. I made a few component changes:
* removed the aero bars.
* switched the Flash Point 60 wheels for my DT Swiss wheels.
* switched to 700x28c GatorSkins.
* switched seat posts.

After the build, I went for a shower at the YMCA as an equipment test. The CK wheels are so much quieter than the Flash Point wheels. They don't scream when I coast, and that whooshing sound is gone. They are a fair amount heavier, but the 28c tires make everything so plush. I also weighed myself at the YMCA: 196 lbs. I really am getting fat. It's horrible. I never know where my next meal is coming from, so I overeat. I'll start the diet at 2500 kcal in full force after the end of the trip.

We had dinner at a Roman Catholic church, one of the very few in this overwhelmingly Protestant part of the country. A delicious meal of pasta, meatballs, and ample dessert left us all well fed.


Day Thirty-Four: Tulsa on Cruise Control

I played the wake-up music this morning. I chose The Rolling Stones cover of Get Your Kicks On Route 66, since, well, we were on old highway 66 for almost all of today.

Prior to getting on the road, I stopped by Wal-Mart and procured water balloons. I filled them from my bottle, and attacked people at lunch. I had great fun, at the expense of the riders.

We've gotten to that wonderful part of the country where driving the van is really easy. All I need to do is accelerate to 65, engage cruise control, and wait.

We were able to get a bunch of donations today. A supermarket about 18 miles in donated bread and chicken, and the Subway across the street donated cookies and money. Amol, Lenny, and Kyle Rudzinski have gotten quite good at procuring donations.

I decided to skip the PowerCranks option on the trip, as Mike had significant trouble removing the bottom bracket from #5. Instead, I'm putting my Chris King - DT Swiss RR 1.2 wheels on the Roubaix, with 700x28c Gatorskin tires.

We're staying with the Bethany Lutheran Church here in Tulsa. The pastor, whose name escapes me, is a bicyclist and an overall excellent person. The food is quite good as well, making Oklahoma our favorite state thusfar.

All in all, another excellent day.


Day Thirty-Three: Two State Line Sprints to Vinita

We left St. Paul's United Methodist Church this morning to visit a restaurant for breakfast. We could order anything on the menu - and, we did! Breakfast was delicious and well received.

Our route today took us through a few miles of Kansas prior to entering Oklahoma. I was very excited to enter these new states, and won the state line sprints by default. We were on back roads, so the state lines were not marked. I used my GPS and some sidewalk chalk to precisely mark the locations of the state lines for everyone else.

Kansas was very hilly, but Oklahoma was delightfully flat. A combination of cool weather and tailwinds allowed me to rocket along at 25 MPH.

Vinita is a neat little town right on old Route 66. Its main attractions are a movie theater, and a railroad crossing which sees very regular rail traffic. I arrived at 1230, before the hosts did, so I got a burrito and came back.

We had wireless Internet access tonight, the first in quite some time. We were pleased, and promptly set up all five trip computers to be online. People were using all five computers late into the night.


Day Thirty-Two: Joplin, MO

Today, we departed Springfield, MO for Joplin, MO. After an 0500 wakeup, chaos ensued as it always does, in the mad scramble to clean a place that has hosted us for more than a single evening. We were finally on the road at 0700.

Lenny and I rode together for the first 45 miles, using our GPS units to help the entire group avoid making a wrong turn in the first mile. We rode on rolling terrain into strong head and cross winds, in hot, sunny conditions, By lunch, I had drained my 3L CamelBak, and downed two of my four bottles. I waited for the van to fill up on water, and to switch the front FP60 for my Open Pro rim on account of the wind. Naturally, the rest of the day was cloudy, cool, and not all that windy. so the change was for naught.

I arrived at our host location around 1300. Merrill from the church showed me around. I set up shop and helped unload the van when it arrived. People trickled in over the course of the afternoon, slowly but surely filling the gymnasium.

We had an excellent dinner of black angus hamburgers and homemade apple and cherry pie. The president of the very active Joplin Habitat chapter came by, and mentioned that she'd love to have us build, and also has some open spots for AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers.

I finally figured out what has been causing all of our front derailleur problems. The Specialized Dolce bikes we have, shipped with defective derailleur housings. The housing frays at the end, into the shifting mechanism, making it impossible to operate. Simply replacing the housing permanently fixes this; Allie's bike was repaired in this fashion.

I'm considering shipping out my PowerCranks, just for fun.


Day Thirty-One: Springfield Build Day

We woke up at a refreshingly late 0630 to work with Springfield's Habitat chapter. They are building a house by the golf course and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame to coincide with a major golf tournament, before putting the house on a trailer and bringing it across town to Highland Park. Bike & Build got some media attention here from the local NPR station, as well as a local television news program.

We met Kelly, the woman who would buy this house and move in with her five year old daughter. I stereotype Habitat families as somewhat older; Kelly didn't seem much older than any of us. I wish her well in her new home.

Nancy of Springfield Habitat arranged for us to have a second van to use for the day. I spent some of the day driving people to Sunshine Cycles for some much needed repairs. The owner of the shop took over the operations after her son, the previous owner, passed away at the age of 47. She generously offered us a 20% discount, and gave us free nutrition bars and magazines. Colleen, one of the employees at the shop, is thinking of doing the trip next year. I hope she does.

Dinner was generously provided by Chipotle, which we all greatly enjoyed. Other people didn't seen to enjoy the smoked fish that my mother sent, as much as I did.


Day Thirty: Springfield Express

By the numbers:
Departure: 0650
Arrival: 1222
Average: 18.0
Distance: 96.5

After yesterday's fiasco, I decided that I needed some alone time and some hard riding today. In the scramble to get everything ready this morning, I managed to tear some skin on my foot, so I'm working to keep it from getting infected.

I left immediately after our route meeting this morning, skipping the usual dawdling. It was foggy, like the Oregon coast, which was very unusual for southern Missouri in the summer.

As I was blasting along the rolling countryside this morning, I saw all kinds of things. We're in the part of the country where cornfields have made way for ranches and dairy farms. We're also in the part of the country where the very few cars that you see on the ride will wave at you. I was helpful, and waved on passing cars if I could see the road ahead was clear.

We rode through some Amish country today. Amish country is relatively car free, but the horse-drawn buggies do little for road quality. It was a jittery ride for about 10 miles.

We also started riding on US 60 today. Much of the old US Route 66 is now US 60, and we'll be on this road for the next few weeks, until we leave New Mexico. It was exciting to ride such a famous road today.

I arrived nice and early, at 1222, with my shower supplies: a change of shorts and my Teva sandals. I showered, ate at the Sonic down the street, and slept for 90 minutes. It was just what I needed. The next rider arrived about 3.5 hours later, and the next group, 30 minutes after that.

We're working with the local Habitat affiliate here in Springfield to prepare for a blitz build this weekend. Nancy, their director of volunteer operations, helped provide us dinner and gave us a short presentation. After that, Jess Robertson gave a presentation about independent youth, technically homeless individuals between the ages of 15 and 25. It's a different kind of housing problem, and perhaps one that Bike & Build should know more about.

A good day, overall.


Day Twenty-Nine: The Rainy Bumpy Road to Houston

Today's ride featured a 15-mile section on gravel roads. It was terrible - especially in the van. I seriously question the competence of the leadership team for allowing mistakes like this to happen.

We had an excellent time with our hosts in Houston. There is an active affordable housing effort. There was good food, a good number of community members, and a few youngsters. We gave a presentation, which was well received. This host had formerly hosted HBC rides, so they knew just what we needed.


Day Twenty-Eight: Camping in Potosi

We woke up at 0430 this morning, in an effort to beat the heat and humidity. It only worked in part: it was still very humid when we rolled out at 0600, and warm, but not hot. We'll be better off in the dryer part of the country, but here on the flood plain, we're still seeing rain almost every day.

I rode well for the first half of the day, chalking turns as I went along. Unfortunately, I ran out of chalk, and ended up waiting 90 minutes for the trailer at lunch. I waited for Jane, had pancakes for breakfast before the trailer arrived, and rolled out two full hours after I stopped.

Knowing that the trailer was hours away and that I had nothing waiting at the host site, I visited the Potosi library, checked e-mail and weather, and took care of a few errands. A rider got hit by a car in the town, sending her to the hospital for six stitches on her knee.

We stayed just outside of a Boy Scouts of America camp 9 miles west of Potosi. At the camp site, we advised people to take down the tents, as there was a huge thunderstorm headed for Potosi. People grumbled, but when the storm finally did hit at 0230, they were glad. We were able to sleep inside an unfinished building, which provided a roof over our heads.


Day Twenty-Seven: Day Off in Saint Louis

Jane and I spent much of today exploring the city. Much to my amusement, I discovered that Saint Louis has a fully functional light rail system, using high-platform light rail vehicles that are mostly identical to the rolling stock Pittsburgh uses. The Metrolink, as it is called, re-uses old railroad right-of-ways over the Eads bridge and in Missouri, so it must have been comparably cheap to build.

We visited the St. Louis arch, Big Shark cycles, and the St. Louis Zoo.

The arch has a viewing platform at the top of it. To get to the top, you ride in an elevator-tram, which contains eight small pods each holding five people. From the top, about 650 feet above the ground below, there is an excellent view of the city, of Illinois just across the river, and of the overflowing Mississippi river. The river was still high enough to completely bury trees and roads that are usually at the river's edge.

I wanted to try a new seatpost, since, as a result of overtorqing over the years, my Roubaix's seat post has a kink in it and clicks when I ride. I tried a new (carbon) seat post, but that did me no good, as the clicking didn't go away, the offset was wrong, and I wasn't able to return it before I left. Thumbs down. I just hope I don't need to replace that Roubaix frame after the trip. There are some small cracks at the top of the seat mast, under the seatpost clamp, and I've never been able to get the seatpost torqued just right on the frame. Carbon compound helps, but doesn't solve the problem: it's either slipping or clicking.

Jane and I then spent a sweltering afternoon at the St. Louis Zoo, a huge zoo in the middle of Forest Park with many animals. We ran out of photographs, since the camera's batteries died.

All in all, it was a good day off.


Day Twenty-Six: The Winding Road to St. Louis

We woke at 0500 this morning. Jane was kind enough to save me some breakfast, as I was busy sewing my Zipp shorts. They have a bad habit of bursting at the seams, which means I need to attack then with a needle and thread once every few weeks. I can tell the three pairs of shorts apart by exactly where the holes are. Hopefully, my repair job will hold.

I started with an eight mile warmup this morning, still donning my aero helmet in the cool morning weather.

Jane and I played a game. I sprinted for 5 miles, and she tried to catch me. After 5 miles, I turned around until she caught me. We played this game exactly once. Afterward, the van passed us, and I managed to draft the van at 40 MPH for a few miles.

At lunch, the proprietors of the local gas station gave us free donuts. Some police officers from Trenton, IL chatted with us for a while about bicycle safety. The officer, a cyclist, informed us that in the state of Illinois, cyclists may ride in the lane, albeit on the right side of the lane in single file.

Jane and I took the lead after lunch. The route to St. Louis was complex, with lots of tricky turns in an effort to avoid East St. Louis, and the cue sheet was tricky as a result. With the help of my GPS and three sticks of chalk, we managed to route everyone onto a beautiful bicycle path and onto the McKinley Bridge. Formerly an interurban rail trestle, with some of the overhead wire hangers intact, this structure made for a very sturdy bridge and a dramatic way to cross the flooded Mississippi River.

The bridge had Missouri/Illinois painted on it at the state line. At least, this is where the painters thought the state line was. Using GPS technology, I correctly chalked the state line about 100 feet to the east! These things matter for things like state line sprints, which I won uncontested today.

We took the Riverfront Trail until it closed, then used busy local roads to route us to the Centennial Congregational Church here on Olive St. After a hurried shower at the YMCA, we had a few hours to kill before the homeless shelter provided us dinner. There were about 200 homeless individuals present.

In casual browsing of some weather reports, it looks like the parts of Nevada and California where we will be in just a few short weeks are suffering from record temperatures, with lows in the high 70s overnight and highs in the 105-110 degree range.

I'm looking forward to some rest tonight and tomorrow. The city will be livelier on Monday, and things will be open.    


Day Twenty-Five: The Prologue to Salem, IL

 Today was the first day I got to ride after our mail drop day in Bloomington, where Mike Short sent my aero helmet. Today also happily coincided with the Prologue of Le Tour de France.

Mwa ha ha.

I set off this morning, donning my aero helmet and a big grin, just waiting to attack the flats with my highly aggressive aero profile. I would mount my attack in various stages, various bouts of wind cheating and related awesomeness.

The first stage was the breakfast rush. I decided to push it to breakfast at about 27 MPH, which is tough to do on cold muscles. My reward for the effort was sausage and vegetarian biscuits and gravy - delicious!

After breakfast, I decided to take the first few miles slowly, as the standard warmup, before pushing. Once I did get up to speed, I was able to hold about 24 MPH until, well, I got bored. Here in the corn flats of southern Illinois, things get pretty boring pretty quickly. I used my high-speed superhero skills to chalk the route for everyone else, and waited at lunch for some people to ride with.

After lunch, I helped chalk an alternate route, then, in the town of Xenia, I decided I wanted to ride with Jane. She was in Flora, some 9 miles back, at the Dairy Queen.

Time trial time. Zoom!

I got to Flora about 19 minutes later, holding good form and wishing I were more powerful and in better shape. KRud mentioned later that I looked pretty awesome, in the aero position, with the helmet, zooming along. Skip later told me that he was worried about me, since I was breathing really hard and looked to be in a fair amount of pain after my little stint. Jane, of course, knew I was just fine, and gave me a couple of minutes to ride around the block and cool down. I rode about 20 more miles than everyone else, what with all the back and forth of the day's riding. Riding fast and turning around is a good way to both get exercise and be social. I'll start doing it more often.

I finished the ride with Jane, which was fantastic. She's getting so much stronger, I can ride with her comfortably on a good day. We got to Salem, IL, and - surprise - found that, instead of staying at the city park, the First Christian Church would be willing and able to host and feed us. Excellent!

We finished the day with an affordable housing meeting on the state of housing in every decade for the past few decades, and with planning the route into St. Louis. Apparently, East St. Louis is bad enough that we should seriously consider a reroute. Hm. This turns a 70 mile day into an 80 mile day. 


Day Twenty-Four: Flying Plane! The Drive to Illinois.

Today was July 4th. While most riders prepared for a roughly 80 mile day to Lawrenceville, IL, I prepared for another day in the van. I played Ride of the Valkyries and the USSR anthem this morning; no one seemed to appreciate Valkyries or recognize the USSR anthem.

It was an exceptionally rainy day. The weather to date has been less than ideal, and we can only hope that the rain clouds subside as we head further west. Until that happens, we don our raincoats and try to ward off hypothermia. I ran the van's heater at lunch to help people stay warm.

As we passed through Vincennes, IN (where townspeople were making preparations for a parade later that day) and into Illinois, we entered a part of the country where flooding had very recently devastated the land. At the Illinois state line, we found three Piper two-engine aircraft parked, since the local airport had been flooded. (These planes look unimpressive from the inside, where they look like shoddy cars.) I stepped out of the van to chalk a turn onto Old US 50, and was overwhelmed by the stench of manure and overrun septic tanks, spread over once-thriving corn and soy fields, now dingy brown. The roads, now open, still took on a brown color, ravaged by the floods. Later this evening, some townspeople would tell us their flood stories. One woman, age 79, had never seen anything this bad. Geez.

We stayed in the Gas Lite Motel, which doesn't have an address - it's just on IL Route 1, south of town. People were glad to get beds, even if the majority of rooms were smoking (Jane and I pushed for a nonsmoking room).

As a complete surprise, Ericc Powell P2S'06 drove down from Chicago to visit our group! I was so excited to see him, though as always, I wish we could have spent more time chatting.

We went to bed early, in preparation of the 0500 wakeup for an 0530 sunrise and 0630 breakfast. Welcome to Central Daylight Time. 


Day Twenty-Three: Build Day in Bloomington

We had our first non-riding day in some time here in Bloomington, IN today. Our group of 31 is large enough to overwhelm the local Habitat chapter, so we worked in two shifts, from 0830 to 1200 and from 1300 to 1630. As a result, Jane and I spent the morning working at the Habitat chapter headquarters, doing some fun demolition work. Lunch was provided by Habitat at the church we stayed.

I spent the afternoon loafing, going to a bicycle shop, and exploring downtown Bloomington. In the evening, we had dinner provided by Chipotle, and watched the movie Real Genius as a group. All in all, today was a quiet day.


Day Twenty-Two: Bloomington Express

We woke at 0530. With my bag pre-packed the night before, I was able to do my most sensitive clothing changes in my sleeping bag and be ready faster than usual. I used my extra time in the morning to download Keith's PowerTap data, since I had lent him the PowerTap wheel yesterday (much to his amusement).

After what will likely go down as the very best breakfast of the entire trip, and a short prayer led by the pastor, our group departed Rushville, IN. I rolled out at 0730. I decided I was excited to see Bloomington, and would likely battle the headwinds alone.

There is a daily question for me, between getting to socialize (and riding slower than is comfortable for me) and getting exercise (and riding faster than everyone in an attempt to raise the heart rate). I usually choose exercise, as it's safer with this group of riders.

I made my way to the front of the pack in about 20 minutes. Along the way, I made my rounds, saying "Good Morning" to everyone I passed and checking in on previous issues.

Life up front is good. I get to maximize the amount of mileage I cover in the mornings, before the heat and wind really set in. It's also quiet, and somewhat lonely, but the endorphines from riding at power help with that. I bypassed lunch, stopped in a McDonald's in Nashville, IN to cool off and rehydrate, and arrived in Bloomington at 1243.

Tomorrow is a mail drop day, but since the Post Office is across the street from our church, I collected everyone's mail. We got some goodies, including a (plush) tetrahedral tack from Dave Miller, chocolate covered edamame from Tracy Heckler, and best of all, my aero helmet, courtesy of Mike Short! The aero helmet is my latest weapon in the war against wind, and worn backwards, it's a chicken hat.

After dinner, we watched Breaking Away, which was filmed entirely here in Bloomington, IN some thirty years ago. There are thunderstorms in the forecast tomorrow, preventing any potential visits to quarries or trips to draft tractor trailers down State Highway 37.

In the evening's ensuing silliness, I told some riders about my quoting policy. I decided at some point that I got really sick of stupid references to popular culture, videos on YouTube, the television, and the like. I decided that I was probably clever enough to say interesting things without other people's help. Some of my trademark quotes, like "Oh Boy!", "facebreakers", and "a world of unpleasantries" are original. I don't need a conference room of advertising and marketing executives in some faceless New York skyscraper to generate quips and jingles. An example:

Accu-Trac (describing Facebook.com, sung to the tune of the old Spiderman theme):

Accu-trac, Accu-trac
Once you sign up, you can't go back
Follows you, knows where you live
Your information, you did give
Watch OUT! Accu-trac's watching you.

Accu-trac, Accu-trac
Once you sign up, you can't go back
You gave up your privacy
So everyone can clearly see
That NOW! Accu-trac's watching you.

Accu-trac, Accu-trac
Once you sign up, you can't go back
Put you pictures on the net
So that no one will forget
You FOOL! Accu-trac's watching you.

(I have strong feelings on this topic. See my Facebook paper.)

Today was an excellent day, with much socializing, and perhaps insufficient sleep.    


Day Twenty-One: No Rush to Rushville

We woke at 0600 this morning. After a delicious breakfast and a quick route meeting, our group hit the road. I was running a number of errands, so Lenny and I left almost last, just ahead of sweep, chasing Jane and Keith at chase pace.

At around mile 20, we got a phone call from Jane. They took a wrong turn a few miles back, so we ended up passing them. Lenny and I waited for Jane, Keith, and Kyle Rudzinski (KRud). Jane and Keith rode with us until just after first lunch, then Jane and Keith dropped back as the rest of us took off for the state line.

We have state line sprints on this trip, with brownie points going to the first people to enter a new state. My GPS navigation system lets me know exactly where the state lines are, and plan accordingly. Unfortunately, Lenny has the same exact system, so he can use the same information. The sprint comes down to tactics. For the New York state line sprint, I dropped behind Lenny and Dave Miller, let them gain some space, downshifted, and sprinted past them with enough of a speed difference that the could not catch me. Well, I knew Lenny would use this same exact tactic, and he did. With about 1200 feet to go, I listened very carefully for his downshift. When I heard it, I sprinted, drafted him, and passed him just in time. (KRud came in third, a couple of minutes later.)

We waited at the state line for 15 minutes for Jane and Keith, and took some photos. When we were set to leave, Jane's chain snapped! Keith and I combined our bike repair powers to get her on the road.

Not too long after that, KRud took a spill after slapping my butt and hitting Lenny's tire. I'm weary of unsafe riding.

With 18 miles to go, we met Ellen, and Keith got a flat. The four of us - myself, Jane, and Jane's parents - rode together for the very first time, and were the second group into Rushville. I still can't believe how strong Jane's parents are on the bicycle! I can see where she gets her talent.

We had a lovely time with our hosts in Rushville, IN. I organized a bicycle clinic, where I taught adorable youngsters the ABCs of bicycle repair: air pressure, brakes, and chain. I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam, a very bright man who gave us all kinds of useful information about our route to Bloomington. After a fantastic dinner and a short town hall meeting, I even got to pre-pack my bag and sleep at a reasonable hour.