Thursday, May 27, 2010

Final Thoughts.

"Too often we are scared of what we might not be able to do. Scared of what people might think if we tried. We let fears stay in the way of our hopes. We say 'no' when we want to say 'yes'. We sit quietly when we want to scream. And we shout with the others when we should keep our mouths shut. Why? After all, we do only go around once. There's really no time to be afraid."

I don’t know if it really feels like we have just cycled across the country yet, seeing the ocean laid before us at Bethany Beach was a completely surreal event. I do know that I feel like I’ve been away from home (wherever that is right now) for a long time.  My bed is in Columbus, my job is in Chicago, my family and friends are everywhere in between and it’s time for me to get off of my bike and back to the real world.  It was easy to grow into the cycle of the trip: ride, eat, sleep and it will definitely be hard to leave it and be a grown up again. 

Every day of the trip was its own story, I hope I even did a little bit of them justice by documenting them here. For the past 2 months we woke up and had a goal to move a few more miles across this vast country, some days we did them fast, some days we struggled to stay up right because we were pedaling along so slowly up a mountain.  Some days were fun and an adventure around every turn, and some days just plain hurt; but they are all memories that I love and hopefully 10 or 20 years from now when I come back to read these entries Ill still cherish them all like I do now.

I learned a lot from this trip both from the people I was riding with and the roads themselves.  I learned that some times you have to get off the interstate and enjoy the country roads of America, stop at scenic overlooks and eat at the place that all the locals are at.  I learned that we all need to visit the National Parks more often, watch sunsets and appreciate nature for all it has to offer. I learned that everyone has a story, sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.  I also learned that in life you have to take a chance, go for it. I just rode my bike across the country with 22 other people at 20 mph, through deserts, up mountains and across Texas, anything is possible if you are truly passionate about it.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, I was a science major so hopefully my words were adequate. Thank you for those who made the donations that helped make this trip possible. Thank you for all of those that came out and met us along the way, you don’t know how much those visits meant.  Thank you to all the churches, schools, community centers, hospitals, and random people that took care of us in too many ways to name along the way. Thanks to my mom and dad for all their support every single day.  Thanks to Maggie, Katie and Libby and rest of the leadership team for all the time and efforts you put in to make this ride possible. Thanks to all the other riders, I loved hearing your stories, riding in your pace lines and consider you all friends and cycling teammates for the rest of my life. I'm not cool enough to have a blog in real life so this is the end for me. On to the next journey, No Chain!

Ocean to Ocean.


Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones that ever have. 
                                 – Margaret Mead


Bethany Beach, Delaware

"A ship in the harbor is safe. But that is not what ships are built for."
                 -William Shedd

The ride to Bethany beach was more ceremonial than an actual day of riding but it was great to be together on our bikes for 3 more hours before the group all went their separate ways. After driving away out of D.C. due to traffic and over the bridge that crosses Chesapeake Bay because cyclists are not allowed on it we ended up riding about 50 miles for the day. The vans were parked a mile out from our final destination so we knew when to really begin the celebrations.  Champagne was toasted, a ton of pictures were taken and we rode in together as a group of 25 right up to the boardwalk bordering the Atlantic Ocean before everyone took off on a dead sprint for the water.  Jumping into the ocean with my helmet and jersey still on with all of the other riders definitely go some interesting looks from the other beachgoers but we were all having so much fun it didn’t matter.  People had to start heading home for graduations, weddings, etc as soon as we finished up so the goodbyes began way too soon; I hadn’t really prepared myself for it all to come to a close so quickly.  Once we got the people on the road who had to go we road the 1 mile to our accommodations for the night. We stayed at some very nice condo’s  just down from the boardwalk that overlooked the ocean so after one last team dinner we spent the night down on the beach watching the sunset and telling stories from our amazing trip.  I don’t think anyone really wanted to go to bed because we all knew that would signal the end but after 2 months of constant traveling and a big day of driving back to Columbus ahead of us we all hit the bed pretty early.

I plan on posting one more blog to try and put the whole trip in words, we'll see what I can come up with because it's going to be hard to cover everything that needs to be said. No Chain!

One last new state!

One last paceline.

It's probably safe to bike with champagne in your back pocket.

Slow clap at the last traffic light.

Up the boardwalk.

Pretty happy to be here.

Pure joy.


I have one of these with the Pacific and the Atlantic. I rode my bike from picture to picture.

Dr. Money. He really is graduated and a doctor now. Scary.

Not a bad view from our condo.


D.C. Off Day

The National Capital

I covered a lot of ground in my off day in D.C.  A tour of the capitol, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and an afternoon in Georgetown barely touched all the sights that I wanted to see but I guess that will just be another reason to come back again some day.  USA! No Chain!

The Freedom Statue.

The Rotunda Room

The ceiling of the rotunda room

Love the quote at the Library of Congress.

The Supreme Court

The spiral staircase at the Supreme Court

Georgetown's Medical School

Washington, D.C.

"Well of course. I mean there’s nothing better than being an American…so…I mean this is the greatest feeling. If you don’t love it, leave it. U.S.A. number one!"
- Ricky Stanzi after winning the Orange Bowl for the Iowa Hawkeyes

The trip into Washington D.C. was everything I expected and built it up to be in my mind the past 3200 miles.  We awoke to ominous clouds and basically a 100% chance of rain but we all were smiling as we pulled away from the last high school we would be staying at on this trip.  We rode the first 30 miles as a large pack before the clouds opened up and drenched us from head to toe. We stopped at the first water break to be told by the support team of a monster climb coming up ahead on a very busy highway, the shop guys at a local bike store basically called it a “death trap for cyclists”.  We broke into 3 groups each being trailed by a van to protect us from the cars and trucks that were flying by us at 70 miles per hour as we slowly trudged up the 2 mile climb into the clouds. By the top of the mountain you could barely make out the rider in front of you do the thickness of the moisture, Libby referred to it as biking through “pea soup”.  After the climb it was basically downhill into the city so we rode at a pretty quick pace despite the ongoing torrential downpour. We rode from the outskirts of town on a bike trail leading straight to the heart of the city, as the density of traffic and buildings around us grew so did our pace as we all knew that around one of the next bends the Washington Monument would come into view.  We crossed the Potomac and arrived at the feet of Lincoln sitting in his chair with the reflecting pool and the National Capital lying in front of us. I’ll never forget the feeling of riding my bike on to the National Mall with a pack of 10 other riders who just had the experience of a lifetime crossing the United States to get there.  To have the history of America on display in front of us after seeing so much of it up close and personal on our bikes the past 7 weeks brought goose bumps, high fives and wild yells of pure joy from the entire pack.  We offered each other congratulations and then raced from monument to monument and finally the White House to have our pictures taken to culminate the end this amazing trip.  The reactions from all the other tourists at the monuments when we told them how far we had come; were eerily similar to the reactions we got in California and Arizona when we told them how far we had to go.  We waited for the rest of the riders to arrive at the Lincoln Memorial before a group shot was taken and we headed to our destination for the evening the Presbyterian meeting house in Alexandria, Virginia. I don’t know if what we have accomplished has completely set in yet, maybe diving into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday will help but I think mostly it hasn’t because I’m just not ready to be done cycling yet. Only 50 miles to go, No chain!

On the path into town, the first time I could take a picture all day after the rain finally stopped.

Just hitting the sidewalks of D.C.

Getting very close.


Check the red, white and blue arm warmer. GBA.

Shortly after taking this picture I was escorted out by security, they don't love bikes that close to their monuments.

Just rode my bike to the White House, no big deal.

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Pretty Amazing!

Front Royal, Virginia

The elevation profile for our ride today. You can see how steep and how long that second climb was.

The same people who told us about the mountains between Elkins and Petersburg also said that it was all downhill to Front Royal, our next stop on this trip, I don't know what roads they were taking but they definitely weren't the ones we were on today.  Another 5000 feet of climbing later (Close to 20,000 feet in 3 days) we arrived in Petersburg, Virginia, our last night before heading to D.C. in the morning. After starting out the first 20 or so miles on pretty flat territory in a pretty tight paceline with a few of the riders things went up hill quickly. Pete and I got out front of the pack on the first climb and stayed in front all day, not even seeing anyone at the lunch stop where we took about a 30 minute break which never happens. It was a lot of fun to ride for four hours with one of my best friends on this trip and personally challenge myself to stay on his wheel as he is one of the best climbers I've ever met.  Their was really only 2 mountains between the two towns but one climb I'll remember forever occurred right at the border between West Virginia and Virginia.  4.5 miles, 30 minutes and a 9-10% grade the entire way had me questioning my ability to continue to move forward multiply times on the way up. I was dripping with sweat and breathing hard when I took those last few peddle strokes at the peak. We had a little celebration at the top as the support van was parked there and with the state border sign right there it was a great photo op. The descent was awesome, lasting about 5 miles with some pretty sharp turns but it started to pour as we began our way down so it felt like we were being pelted with tiny pebbles the whole way.  We went through some rolling hills and fought a pretty strong head wind the last few miles into Petersburg but still managed to arrive right around 1 pm.  During the afternoon we headed to yet another national park, Shenandoah National Park, home of skyline drive, a 105 mile winding road that rides the crest of the blue ridge mountains it's entire distance.  Due to some pretty crappy weather we only got to experience the breath taking views to about 1900 feet before we ascended into a cloud and couldn't even see the cars in front of us on the highway.  I'll definitely have to come back again some day to get the real deal because the small glimpse I got was awesome, and I can only imagine the beauty in the fall when the colors come out.  We all went to dinner at an old mill in historic downtown Front Royal before calling it a night to prepare for our big ride into Washington, D.C. tomorrow. Can't wait to make it to 'Merica's national capital! No Chain!

Not a warning sign you like to see

Pete Descending

Our winding road through the valley

Not my picture, it was too cloudy, but it gives you an idea of how awesome Skyline Drive is.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Cycling Family

It’s hard to explain to people who are not apart of this trip how much the guys (and girls) I ride with mean to me as we traveled across the country. It’s difficult to explain the sense of closeness that can come with mile after mile of riding together on this trip. How you can come to quietly understand and recognize subtle shifts in each other’s cadence, posture and effort as we press against the wind, up and down mountains, through valleys and deserts. They understand and feel the same pain that I do on the hard days and we all celebrate together on the good days and when we accomplish something amazing like summiting yet another mountain. They know the roads we have traveled and the towns that we have passed through in ways that few others may ever fully appreciate. Sometimes it feels as though they pulling me along and sometimes I pull them. Some days our paces are in sync and other days I know that they are thinking I am too fast or too slow. I have watched them work hard when they are tired, even when their bodies and minds are telling them to just stop for the day and hop in the support van. I appreciate their words of encouragement as much as I appreciate the silence that often falls over the group as we work hard in the paceline to make our way through mile after mile, day after day, week after week. I’ll miss all of them when we go our separate after we dip our tires into the ocean; hopefully our paths (or bike paths) will cross again some day out on the road. Thanks for the journey of a lifetime to all of you. No chain!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Below is a great quote from Don Miller one of my favorite authors who wrote a really good book about telling a better story with your life including his own personal account of his bike trip across the country:

“When you fly across the country in an airplane the country seems vast, but it isn’t vast. It’s all connected by roads on can ride a bike down.  If you watch the news and there’s a tragedy at a house in Kansas that guy’s driveway connects with yours, and you’d be surprised how few roads it takes to get there.  The trip taught us that we were all neighbors, that my life is connected to everybody else’s, that one person’s story has the power to affect millions.”
                                                                                           - Don Miller

I thought about this passage from the book a lot today as I was plodding up the mountains of West Virginia.  How La Jolla beach on highway 1 is connected to the driveway at Joe’s house in Las Cruces, New Mexico and the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Ranger, Texas is just a thousand miles east on those same roads.  How the main street we paraded down at the Western Tennessee Strawberry Festival is connected to the roads that lead to Mammoth Cave National Park in the middle of Kentucky. How we somehow 6 weeks later through just a few turns ended up on the roads that led back home to Columbus, Ohio.  In the end they will all be connected to the highway that leads Bethany beach, the end of our journey just a couple of days away for us now.  It’s truly a small world connected by just a few roads, especially when you get off the interstate and enjoy the country and the people of America like we have the past 7 weeks. What an amazing, life changing experience traveling down all of them this trip has been.  

Petersburg, West Virginia

The pastor at the church we are staying at in Petersburg, West Virginia told us as we arrived that when people go to Elkins, where we stayed last night, they don’t pay attention to the mileage between the two towns they just count the mountains between them. "5 mountains and a bunch of hills" quickly became the description of the mileage for today’s ride by the team. It was an epic day of riding that will go down with our day into Guadalupe National Park and the Natchez trail as rides that I’ll remember forever.  We pulled out of town this morning we quickly hit our first major climb that lasted about 25 minutes and summited at Cheat mountain around 2600 feet,  after being a little cool when we first started it quickly became a stripping of layers at the peak from the work that took to get there.  The next 30 miles were all pretty, put your head down and climb at 6 mph to a summit, have your breath taken away by a beautiful view and then plunge down the other side at 45 mph white knuckled around sharp bends only to do it all over again, it was amazing!  One of the more deaf defying descents came just after the Eastern Continental Divide, it was around a 10% grade for 3 miles and featured multiple curves that had warning signs for cars to slow to 25 mph, we were taking them at 40 mph on 23 cm of rubber, I was seriously concerned about the physics of it all but was having too much fun to slow down.  Jeff and Adam ended up interspersed in a pack of motorcycles on the way down; it was awesome to watch a motorized vehicle pulling off of a bike at such high speeds. We climbed half of yesterday’s total for the day in the first 18 miles alone right around 2300 feet, but even though it hurt I did it all with a smile on my face because how often do you get the opportunity to accomplish something like that during your day? The entire ride was spent in Monongahela National Forest so the scenery was unbelievable on the way up and down, many of the climbs were bordered by mountain streams and the sound of water crashing over the rocks was very peaceful as we plugged away to reach the next peak.  We took a left hand turn at mile 35 when we hit Seneca Rock, a huge outcropping of stone from the side of one of the peaks and followed a white water river the final 25 miles that were relatively flat into Petersburg. I made sure to take a lot of pictures today because I knew I could never adequately describe the magnificence of our surroundings, I hope you enjoy them.  No chain!

Peak #1

Unbelievable views.

Peak #2

Crazy we got up there.

Riding in the clouds.



Continental Divide #2, Peak #3

Peak #4

Hit Seneca Rocks, turn left.

The final stretch into Petersburg was mostly flat, and completely beautiful.

Libby taking a tight bend at nearly 50 mph

I took a video the last hill of the day, I almost died doing it when I hit a pothole midway down but I still think it came out pretty well.