Thursday, April 29, 2010

Magnolia, Arkansas

"...cause in the daylight anywhere feels like home"
        -  a lyric by Matt & Kim
Yesterday it took us right around 4 hours to ride 93 miles, today it took us right around 5 hours to ride 57 miles. No it wasn't hilly. No there wasn't a tremendous head wind.  Today was just a day to appreciate the sights and sounds of rural Arkansas at a little slower pace.  It's funny how the personality of the ride varies from day to day, somedays for the group it's put your head down riding with all of us working hard to get to our destination for the day only stopping for the designated water stops along the way. This kind of ride usually occurs when the mileage approaches 80-100 miles.  Other days, like today, we end up riding as a much larger group stopping for anything that catches one of our eyes, this usually occurs after a high mileage day like we had yesterday. Some would argue that today is how you are supposed to ride across the country but I can definitely appreciate both sides of the argument.  Somehow this morning in getting out of Texarkana, Texas through back streets to avoid traffic we missed the coveted state line sign of Arkansas but there are already plans in place to get that picture when we hit Tennessee  in a couple of days, even if it means a little backtracking the wrong way down the road.  The roads were more quiet today and the weather was perfect for riding with the sun shining bright and temperatures in the 70's.  We really have had almost no weather problems so far and we're already half way across the country, pretty amazing although there is talk of storms this weekend.  We all had a lot of fun stopping in a lot of the small towns along the way getting into some pretty random stuff and even took extended breaks (approaching 45 minutes) at the water stops for some dancing and photo ops.  We stayed at another church, Presbyterian this time, where once again we were served a great dinner by their wednesday night small group.  After a heart felt blessing by the pastor on our journey we broke for bible study which quickly turned into the largest game of kickball I've ever been apart of and probably my first game in the past 14 years. It was a lot of fun getting to know these amazing people on another more closer level than just giving our talk and heading for the next down.  The whole night/day was a a lot of fun, Magnolia will definitely go down as one of my favorite stops.  Can't wait till tomorrow when we get to do it all over again with another group of people in a new city.  On to Arkadelphia, No Chain!

Whoever said booties without pants doesn't make you look tough has never met Libby and me.

Maggie got a new tat to celebrate the end of Texas.

New state #5!

My friend Katie is a strong rider. Today we had to wait 30 minutes at the first rest stop for her to get there which is completely unlike her.  She pulled in bright red, covered in sweat and stated, "I'm just not feeling it today, I'm pedaling as hard as I can and can't break 13 miles per hour."  We all felt pretty bad and figured the miles were just adding up and taking its toll....and then we looked at her bike and realized her brakes had been rubbing and her rear wheel hadn't correctly been locked into place the first 25 mile basically the equivalent of riding with the parking brake on. Her reaction was pretty priceless, and you probably had to be there to fully appreciate it but I don't think many of us had laughed that hard for a long time.  Thanks Katie!

Beautiful Arkansas roads for riding.

Pulled over for speeding.

The Red River is more brown than red.

Just another great day of riding.

Thanks for the watermelon Aunt Melody & Uncle Bob!

 Bocaw Creek.

The last bridge before town.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Texarkana, TX

93 miles covered in 4.5 hours of riding time, not a bad day on the bike at all.  The ride was beautiful today as we rode through along country roads that were tree lined for the first time in the trip. It will probably go down as one of my favorite rides of the trip.  One of the main industries in the northeast corner of Texas is logging and it was evident by the views from the bike and by the number of large trucks hauling stripped pine trees to the local mill that passed us along the way.  I rode with the front pack for awhile but when I couldn’t handle their speed after the pounding my legs took yesterday I dropped back and picked up my friend Libby for the rest of the day.  With the wind at our back today (finally and thankfully!) it didn’t take a lot of effort to move at a good rate so I still ended up averaging nearly 22 miles per hour for the day. The last 2 miles of the day after we hit the city limits were directly north into the wind and we were all reminded how lucky we were today with the weather as I rolled into our destination very slowly.  We hit town right around 1 pm and had the rest of the afternoon to work on correcting our farmer’s tans and taking naps. We’re staying at yet another amazing youth center in a Methodist church that includes everything from a wii, multiple projection screens for tv & movies and a full length basketball court, pretty much everything a group traveling across the country needs.  We had a great dinner prepared by Team strawberry and now it’s time to watch the movie “The Sandlot” on our huge screen before my 9 pm bedtime, just another day with Ride for World Health. No Chain!

Riding partner for the day.

Taking pictures while riding is dangerous.  We are professionals.

Texas really grows on you after 1,000 miles.

My brother used to love horses when he was little. 

Breaking the law on our lunch break.

Dinner is served.

Not the best sign to have in a place our group is staying.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In the quiet, I can hear my effort. As I peddle, I can hear the sound of my lungs forcing air out before taking new air in. I hear the wind rushing past my face with each turn of my head. I can hear the sound of my breath as I drive my legs uphill… hard…shallow… steady. I hear the whirring of the wind as it tugs at my wheel and helmet. I notice the rhythmic stroke of my feet beneath me. My heart pounds… I can almost hear it.

These are the sounds I can hear in the quiet. They remind me that I am alive, vital and strong. These are the sounds of my effort. I welcome them. They are respite from the noise of everyday life…from the demands of everyday living.

With the effort spent, the ride over, I reluctantly return to the world of noise… a world of voice mail, e-mail, snail mail, telephone calls, requests, complaints and commotion. I am again swallowed up in tasks outside of me, unaware of my breath, unaware of effort. The momentum of the noise around me takes me further and further away from the cocoon of hard physical effort. The stillness within is gone, the sense of oneness with my body vanishing…until the next ride …until the quiet again welcomes me.

                    -Adapted from a poem by Allison Colavecchia

Paris, Texas

It’s starting to get repetitive, at least for me, to talk about the winds of Texas but once again it was what dominated the minds and legs of the team as we pulled out of Greenville this morning.  Paris is located 56 miles north of Greenville, which wouldn’t be much of a test for us as we have covered many more miles than that in a day but with a wind consistently blowing 20 miles per hour directly in our face it became an absolute battle along the road this morning.  After a great breakfast (including Special K!) provided by the church we stayed in last night we put our heads down and began the grind north along highway 24.  As a rider having to work that hard against the wind means sitting in a high gear, pedaling at a high cadence and not a lot of breaks, a combination that can really put a damper on the mood of team which it especially seemed to today. With a couple of monster pulls on the front of the group by Pete, Chris and I following the water stop at mile 25 we still managed to pull into Paris around lunch. Once there we had a photo-op with the Eifel tower including an interview with the local news station who put together a nice piece about the ride for their nightly news.  Eiffel tower, Paris? I know what you’re thinking but no we didn’t ride all the way to France this morning. Following a tradition of many of the American cities named Paris, a 65 foot replica of the Eiffel tower was constructed in 1993 including my favorite part a giant red cowboy hat on the top of the tower.  With some free time in the afternoon before another great dinner provided yet again by the church we stayed at I spent some time walking around some of the neighborhoods surrounding our church before cooling my feet off in the fountain at the center of the town square. Our night was filled with the usual; updating our blogs, prepping our bikes for tomorrow’s ride and talking to friends and family on the phone.  The youth center of the church we slept at had 13 couches in it which made or some great sleeping which we all needed after getting beat up and worn out by the ride there. 92 miles to Texarkana tomorrow (our last day in Texas!) hopefully the wind will be back on our side and blow us all the way there. No chain!  

The wind and flags were not our friend yesterday.

Waiting for the rest of the riders to arrive.

The hardest part of the ride yesterday, after waiting for the news crew for an hour having to get back on the bike and ride the 3 miles to the church we were staying at.

The town square.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Greenville, Texas

Back on the bike after a great weekend, but I think we were all ready to ride again and continue on this journey through Texas. What was supposed to be the 4th century of the trip was cut short by some road construction but we still got nearly 80 miles in (previously a huge day of cycling prior to begining this trip) before having to rack our bikes back on the van.  We fought a gusty head wind for the first 28 miles as we headed north up and around Dallas before making a right hand turn and getting a huge push in the back all the way to Greenville from the wind.  We averaged nearly 30 miles per hour (which is flying on a bike) heading east over the next couple of hours which we all agreed was a lot of fun and a welcome break after fighting the wind for so long. The speed also helped as we were riding on the shoulder of a pretty busy 6 lane highway so at least we weren’t getting buzzed quite as bad as normal. As we were struggling north we passed through a whole town in Texas named after me! (Also may have had something to do with the huge Justin Boots factory just outside of the city limits but people don’t need to know about that). Tonight were staying at a Methodist church on the outskirts of Greenville, they just made a great enchilada dinner for us including a lot of fresh fruit and some amazing deserts.  We have a lot of room to spread out for the night as they have opened the entire church to us and then they are making breakfast in the morning before we take off for Paris (Texas) just another incredible contribution from a group of strangers, who we all now consider friends.  No Chain!

Along the way. Texas cows have a more space than California & Arizona ones.  

Waiting to rack due to road construction.

Bryce was so mad we had to rack that he jumped in the lake we were waiting by.

Our welcoming hosts in their beautiful church.

Dallas/ Fort Worth

I was pretty homesick by the end of last week; I think some of the small towns we had been traveling through really reminded me of home so I was missing my family and friends quite a bit as we rolled into the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday afternoon. Luckily the weekend would provide exactly what I needed. The ride through the country from Ranger was beautiful following a spring storm the night before and the weather was absolutely perfect for the first time all week, even the wind cooperated for the most part. We covered a lot of territory through the back highways of Texas before getting into the suburbs of the Dallas/ Fort Worth metroplex and the stop lights and traffic that come with it.  Cyclists keep track of century (100 mile plus) rides like golfers keep track of holes in one and this was our second of the week, a major accomplishment for any cyclist.  The group was staying in cabins at Camp Carter, a YMCA summer camp for young children, but my dad’s sister (Melody) and her husband (Bob) live just a few hours away and with the day off from riding on Saturday they took the opportunity to drive over to Fort Worth and absolutely spoil me for the weekend. I ate a lot of great food, answered a million questions about the ride and got to see quite a bit of Fort Worth. We had a great time getting caught up as I hadn’t seen them since the previous 4th of July, we stayed at a hotel five minutes from the team and I got my own personal bed for the first time in one month, IT WAS AMAZING!   It also happened to be my little cousin’s birthday weekend so we all got to be together to celebrate that as well. Fort Worth was a lot of fun, it’s a big city which has a lot of cool neighborhoods, the riders spent a lot of time in the historic stock yard district which gives you the true Texas experience, you could people (cowboy) watch for days but if you tire of that there are a lot of great restaurants and bars in the area too which were all heavily patronized by us over the weekend.  Getting to spend some time with my family definitely helped me refocus for the miles to come; supposedly Wednesday we hit the half way point of the trip in terms of mileage (We’re going to have a big party!).  I arrived back at camp before we left for the morning and another day cycling refreshed and ready to get back on the saddle. I can’t believe how far we have already ridden, how many adventures we have already had, how close I’ve become to these people and yet how far we still have to go as we cross the country. Another century from Fort Worth to Greenville on Sunday, just one more to add to my count!   No Chain!

My super cute cousin on her 14th birthday!

On Saturday my uncle and I took the tour of the brand new Cowboy football stadium, one of the most impressive structures I have ever been in. The word big, huge, biggest and world record are used more times during the hour tour than I have ever heard before. 

From all the way at the top of the stadium, to the 50 yard line.

Just hanging out in the Cowboys locker room.

I had to stand outside while my uncle got our sodas.

Some of the best mexican food I have ever had. No menus, you eat what Joe T Garcia is cooking that night...

...And you can see by the line to get in how popular that food is.

Country music with some cowboys at the White Elephant in Old Fort Worth.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Katie receives an award!

My good friend Katie received a certificate of appreciation (or according to her a lifetime achievement award) from the Eastland, Texas Rotary Club today following her presentation to their group. She was pretty proud of her accomplishment and has been parading around with her plaque all afternoon.  It features the following closing line which according to the club are the famous words of Carrie Latet (don't worry I have no idea either):  "If you don’t take care of yourself, the undertaker will overtake the responsibility for you."   With inspiration like that I'm sure it will be on her office wall of her pediatric clinic for years to come. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Maquoketa Sentinel Press Article

For those of you who don't get the biweekly Maquoketa Sentinel Press newspaper (ie. most of you) they did an article on the ride. You can download and read it at the 
following link (it's a small file):

Download Article Here

Ranger, Texas

Chilling at the First Baptist Church of Ranger

Population 800 (may be quite a stretch) according to the owner of Fox’s Mercantile, the only business located on main street that’s still open where according to the front display sell everything from crackers to coffins and after peaking through the window I’m pretty sure its not lying. Ranger was a petroleum boom town during the 1920’s and I’m pretty sure much of the town’s buildings haven’t been touched since that time. We had one of my favorite rides of the trip covering 75 miles from Sweetwater to Ranger on beautiful rolling back country roads that were so quiet we actually rode 4-5 across at times, a much welcomed change.  The head wind we had been fighting for the last few days continued to gust but today it was directly out of the south hitting us on our sides all day, during one stretch I’m pretty sure I was cycling at a 75 degree angle leaning into the wind to keep from blowing over. We rode under a thick cloud cover and a tornado watch for most of the day but at least the temperature was perfect for riding.  We rolled into Ranger right around noon, thanks to the Irish Hammer (Pete) who pushed our average speed after lunch to around 23 mph and found the First Baptist Church where we will be staying for the night.  The basement we are staying in has lots of wood paneling, shag carpet and smells like a little musty but we have wifi and a nice kitchen so I’m sure we will survive.  We’re about to grab showers at the truck stop located along the interstate, just another new experience for me along this trip, and are hoping to find a place to watch the NFL draft and NBA playoffs tonight before another 100 mile ride into Dallas/Fort Worth Tomorrow. No Chain!

Texas country roads.

Pulling up to the first water stop. Me, Adam, Pete.

Texas Wildflowers

Drafting one of the vans, they pulled me at 40 mph for about a 1/2 mile

What a sailor.

The one and only local store.

All of Ranger from one end to the other.

Chris leading a revival at the church.

My whip.

I'm guessing most people who visit Ranger don't take this sign seriously.