*mile 2,116* Days 22-27: July 21-July 26th: 4 overnight rides: 450 miles: Stockton, Missouri to Garden City, Kansas

26 07 2011

Have some soul caffeine so you don’t fall asleep on your dreams!

These past few days contained hands down the hardest riding of our lives: we began riding at midnight transitioning from the 21st to the 22nd- we rode 104 miles into the 22nd and then 124 miles overnight into the 23rd. We were delirious after the 124 miles; I collapsed in the hotel hallway with wobbly legs- James and I were laughing hysterically but the maids looked terrified. When we went to ride overnight into the 24th, we realized that seven of James’ spokes were broken from the ride; we were forced to hold out on riding in order to track down a mechanic to fix the wheel the following day. We were able to get back on the road at 9pm and put in a wild 128 miler. The unlit, pitch black roads of Kansas were only illuminated by the stars, moon, the headlight on my helmet, and a passing lightening storm. At one point we saw glistening, emerald marbles that seemed to be floating in the air- when I shined light on them, we realized that they were the gazing eyes of cows. The ride was mostly peaceful, but it also had disconcerting junctures- one road turned into sandy gravel that we had to slowly trudge through for 10 miles. We couldn’t see much and we almost fell off our bikes when a dog charged onto the road. With adrenaline rushing through our bloodsteams we rode on, thankfully unchallenged by the dog. 

 We put in 94 miles overnight into today, the 26th. We will conclude our overnight rides after tonight; we will be arriving in Colorado and readjusting to a morning and evening ride schedule due to higher elevation and cooler climate. It is 2:15pm here in Garden City, Kansas, and we wrapped up riding about three hours ago. I am exhausted and in need of getting back to our motel to rest. The past few days of riding contain blurry miles put in while in a meditative, dreamlike state. Going into Kansas we were eager to put in heavier mileage due to the fact that the roads are flat (the miles will be harder to come by in Colorado). The potential for heavy mileage here is completely dictated by the wind- we were mostly hit by annoying south cross winds- not the ideal east wind but also luckily not the nightmarish west wind.

 It has been a rewarding experience to go through a spectrum of physical and mental states all in the matter of hours on these rides. Although the majority of the rides contained positive vibes, negative phases needed to be passed through. Knee aches and butt pain usually happen in the beginning of rides forcing us to repeatedly sit and rise; they eventually subside and go numb before coming back at some later point. Towards the middle of one ride, a burning, acidic, pre-vomit taste lurked at the back of my mouth while the remaining mileage seemed insurmountable. Once the negative phases inevitably passed, there were moments where we felt invincible- especially with the sun rising on desolate, pastoral highways with the miles effortlessly flowing into each other. I woke up last night around eight in a motel room, somewhere in between dreams, unsure of whether or not the sun was rising or setting. Coming back to reality from a lucid dream state mirrors the state of our minds drifting under the stars as we  subconciously spin glinting rims under a crescent moon. I’m somewhere found and lost on a barren Kentucky highway peering through the translucent beam of my headlight, restless in the dark but content that our sunrise is inevitably on the horizon.

Pictures are unable to be loaded at the library here so hopefully our theme song will due for now:





Days 18-21: July 17th- July 20th: Vienna, Illinois to Stockton, Missouri: 344 miles

21 07 2011

The heat index is currently up around 110 in western Missouri and we are currently booked in at a motel for the day; we are switching our body clocks to night-ride through Kansas. We checked in at 7 am after camping and are checking out around 10 pm tonight- then a week-long phase of riding overnight and sleeping during the day will begin. We are in the midst of an epic heat wave: no day over the past week has been under 100 with the heat index. Thermometers that we’ve passed by while riding prior to 8 am consistently registered over 90 degrees- so much for waking up early to avoid the heat!

Due to the heat and repetitive up and down climbing through the Ozark mountain range, the miles were tedious at times to get in over the past few days: we rode 91 miles on Sunday, 90 on Monday, 84 on Tuesday, and 79 yesterday. We had to camp on the side of the road two nights- one being last night when we missed the office of a motel closing by a half-hour. Now that we are about 70 miles away from Kansas and the heat wave is peaking, we are resting and waiting for the night to come- it will be easier on our systems to sustain high mileage on overnight rides. Our goal is to never actually see Kansas and we are hoping that the next five-six nights through it blur into one quick night of riding. We are pumped to get out west in Colorado afterwards!

Missouri had been pretty uneventful up until yesterday when we had two seperate fierce-looking dogs chase us- within ten minutes of each other- we  had falsely assumed that we were safe since we were out of Kentucky. They both looked like the dog from Sandlot.  James used a skillful leg-lift maneuver to avoid being bitten while I screamed at the top of my lungs at my attacker – my throat hurt and I was seeing stars afterwards but luckily it seemed to scare the dog off! I’ll never understand why the dogs out here in middle-America are such haters. Some of the dogs are so far away when they see us yet make futile attempts to try chasing us down while we continue on bewildered. Dogs over a half-mile away will sometimes spot us and streamline across farmland trying to catch up to us. James actually turned around to chase two smaller dogs the other day; he was “calling them out” for pretending to be tough bullies.

The highlight of Missouri was meeting Dale Sargent, a Powerbar rep who pulled over while riding by us on Highway 32 to invite us to his house that evening, about 35 miles up the road. He hooked us up with a spaghetti dinner, new water bottles (our old ones were tasting like a disgusting mix of Gatorade, chocolate milk, Coca-Cola), directional advice, and loads of Powebars, gels, and sport drinks. Thanks for the much needed fuel-stop Dale! We are pumped, reinvigorated by some extra sleep today, and ready to charge through Kansas with hopefully just the sounds of pesky crickets and not the barks of wild, stray dogs.





Days 16 & 17: July 15th and 16th: 161 miles: Caneyville, Kentucky to Vienna, Illinois

17 07 2011

After being chased by the 15th dog in Kentucky, we lost count of how many of man’s “best friend” tried to hunt us down. The main hobby of dogs in Kentucky is to attack cyclists and it is a fervent interest of Kentucky residents to not bother with leashes since miles of vast farmland can separate neighbors from each other. As we entered a new time zone in Kentucky (an hour behind NJ time), we were transported to a surreal realm where dog attacks regularly provide multiple doses of adrenaline rush. We adapted to the comical yet frightening circumstances with stones and tactful (awkward) swerving. The last and worst encounter happened this morning as a dog lunged for my leg and I nearly fell off my bike after rapidly jolting the handlebars.

Fortunately, our encounters with people in Kentucky were far different than the dogs. We stopped at a gas station yesterday and were enthusiastically encouraged by Roger and Will to keep fighting the good fight in the heat of the early afternoon. A man named David handed us a $20 bill for our charities in passing outside a restaurant. We boarded a ferry across the Ohio River today filled with motorcyclists who cheered us on. Passing motorists, especially those on motorcycles, have constantly give us waves.

Western Kentucky became far more barren than we ever expected; yesterday we unsuccessfully went over 40 miles in search for any food on our route. When we reached mile 80 for the day we were both hit by a primitive hunger that could not be pacified by the boxes of granola bars stored in our emergency snack stash. We were soaked in sweat and disheveled, fumbling through our panniers for snacks on the side of the road when a Mighty Ducks miracle happened: up rolls an orange Shelby convertible and two legendary people- Randy and Connie. They adopted us for the night, fed us steaks, potatoes, and corn from nearby farmland, let us heal our legs in a jacuzzi, and fed us eggs, sausage, and biscuits in the morning. Thanks again for the above-and-beyond hospitality! We were quite grateful to not be camping when we heard the coyotes howling from the safety of comfortable beds! We hit 81 miles today, 80 yesterday, and tomorrow we are Missouri-bound. We have a heat wave and lots of climbing in the Ozark Mountains awaiting us…with a flat Kansas (we are praying for east winds on our backs) on deck.

the magical Shelby and the legendary Randy

riding dirty in Kentucky

James w/ Beth and Gary, coolest couple ever

me w/ our other adopted parents in Kentucky: Connie and Randy- absolute legends





Days 14 & 15: July 13th and 14th: 156 miles: Berea, Kentucky to Caneyville, Kentucky

15 07 2011

Yesterday we slept in for the first time in two weeks and it was glorious. We got in an easy 70 miler and rode at night with only the piercingly loud sound of crickets- thank you to Dennis from Raywick for the water, snacks, and for informing us of the park we could stay in at Raywick last night. Today we road 86 miles and raced horse carriages. We were also fortunate enough to meet Jersey natives Gary and Beth who are letting us stay in a cabin on their beautiful farm at Cannyville. They have three dogs, two horses, as well as deer and wild turkeys roaming in the backyard. Gary and Beth you are awesome- thanks for the delicious dinner, refreshments, and hospitality- you are legends!





*Mile 1,000* Days 9-13: July 8th-July 12th: 385 miles: Troutville, Virginia to Berea, Kentucky

12 07 2011

We are about one mile away from hitting mile 1,000 on the speedometer! The days are starting to blur together as we are feeling like all we are doing with our lives is riding bikes, eating absurd amounts of food, ceaselessly hydrating, and chugging chocolate milk a 1/2 gallon at a time. On our way out of western Virginia, the early morning dew and sun beams seeping through trees onto empty, back-country roads refreshed our spirits. Nature has its own inexplicable way of communicating to us each day- and it isn’t always mystically “beautiful.” After a cumulative 12 flat tires for the trip, two broken spokes, and another flash flood that left us only able to do 56 miles on July 9th, we finally got into a groove from the 10th-12th logging 96 miles on Saturday, 91 on Sunday, and another 91 on Monday. Game on! A motel was our only option on the 9th; we then camped three nights in a row wherever we decided that we could no longer bike. We arrived in Kentucky two days ago and we are currently in the city of Berea; today we did an easy 52 miler as a mileage setback day to rest our bodies (and also to fix James’ back rack which snapped today). We just put a local Chinese buffet restaurant out of business and are ready to finally get a full-night’s rest at a motel.

The journey over the past few days has had some gnarley moments including a woman shrieking blood-curdling screams near our tent at midnight, being chased by stray dogs while throwing rocks (several times already in Kentucky), hitting over 40 miles per hour on a downhill while our map for the 150 miles to Berea flew off a cliff, and running out of water on the hottest day of the year in Kentucky yesterday (100+ heat index) and having to stop at a house to ask for water. We also had to pull over at dusk to set up camp yesterday after 91 miles of riding, unable to find lodging, food, or more water to wash off. Kentucky was a sauna yesterday so we were drenched in sweat; within five minutes of riding on our second session of the day we were already soaked. I woke up to lightning the following morning (today) with my skin attached to the floor of the tent like adhesive tape. Kentucky is a different ball game- there are desolate stretches where it may take 50 miles to get any food or water- we are adjusting with new strategies. Teamwork has been pivotal whether drafting behind each other to alleviate the work output or just cracking jokes all day long to stay positive.

Thanks to other traveling cyclist Thorin who pushed us to get that 96 miler in, the boys from Georgia at St. George’s Catholic Church for inviting us to their epic chicken pot-pie dinner, the waitress at Bobb’s for the best peanut-butter milkshake, fresh toast, eggs, and coffee of my life, Jamie and Jerry for the emergency water stop, and Dennis here in Berea for operating on our spokes. We’re beginning to discover that it’s the people that inspire us to keep going and not the destinations. We get random encouragement at all hours of the day whether it’s motorcyclists giving us the hang-loose sign or people in cars asking us where we’re going, hearing California, and then giving us a look of shock-and then a thumbs up. We advocate our website and charities to the friendly people we encounter and pedal away from the sketchy ones. We also get lots of bewildered looks in public places. As one woman said at a Country Pride diner, “Are ya’ll soccer players?” We are not, but it’s time to go leave the library and back to the motel where I can kick it. (sleep) I’ll try to get a picture of stray dogs chasing us tomorrow.

After lots of climbing in the Appalachians, nature revealed a reward

 

after 20 miles with olympian cyclist Kent Bostick!

on our way out of Virginia into Kentucky

a beautiful cliff in western Virginia

James repping for Debra Ireland, ready for the next stage of the journey

we have had to throw out over 20 pounds of "stuff" that isn't completely necessary to carry...including hair





Help Support Debra Ireland

8 07 2011

Click on the Debra Ireland tab up top for more detail on my charity back home in Ireland. Below you can find a song made by my good friend Samuel Arnold of Dublin for our journey across America. The song costs one euro to download and all proceeds go straight to Debra Ireland. Thanks!

http://samuelarnold.bandcamp.com/track/west-always-west

 

                                                                                                          -James





July 5th thru 7th: 242 miles: DC to Troutville, Virginia

8 07 2011

It’s Friday, July 8th and we are currently in a library on Route 11 in Virginia waiting for a storm to pass. On Tuesday, July 5th we put in some fast mileage on Richmond Highway 1; it was not the most safe journey but we made some ground on the pressing mileage we have to cover by September 1st (the day of our flight home from San Diego). We realized that the total mileage of the Adventure Cycling Association maps surpassed what we had originally roughly calculated to be the correct distance. Although it is about 3,000 miles to drive to San Diego, we will likely be cycling over 4,000, more than 500 miles than we had orginally planned. We calculated that we will have to cover about 70 miles a day to cover this ground. It is going to be a challenge. One strategy we are utilizing is “shooting gaps”- we use the maps as a “base” and use a gps navigation system attached to the bike to take more direct routes when safe enough to do so. Thanks to the Mineral Fire Department for allowing us to shower in their facilities and camp on their ground that Tuesday night.

Wednesday, July 6th was brutal; we made our way through the Blue Ridge Parkway and spent a good deal of the day climbing the longest hill of our lives in the Appalachians. Prior to the climbing we had to replace a spoke in my back wheel that had broken off.  It was 13 miles of climbing and it was so steep at points you had to keep cycling with burning quads to avoid falling sideways.  There is a 15 degree drop in temperature once up in these mountains. Checking the speedometer every few minutes, it always seemed to stay on the same mile. All in all, we covered 74 miles and climbed to over 3,000 feet in elevation. The scenery was breathtaking and we experienced a profound, peaceful silence up in the clouds. We later found out that the Appalachians are considered to have more harsh climbs than the Rockies, which made us feel a bit better about how exhausted we were. We pitched a tent in the woods behind a chapel in a small town called Love where mosquitoes destroyed our souls.

On Thursday, July 7th, a couple in a cabin by our tent gave us some much needed water to start off the day. They led us in a circle of prayer which helped start the day off with a sense of tranquility. Thanks Gerry and Silvia! We continued climbing some harsh Appalachians hills and made a frightening, sharp 2 mile descent that forced us to grab the breaks the entire time- while still maintaining between 15-20 mph. At one point I had to stop because my fingers started hurting. My back tire then blew out due to resting on the hot pavement for too long. James also got a flat this day.  All the mechanical mishaps and hills were redeemed when, unaware to us, we began cycling with an olympian cyclist. A man with a carbon-fiber bicycle joined alongside us later in the day and “pulled us” for about 20 miles. To be “pulled” means to ride closely behind someone’s tire to become more wind resistant- this greatly reduces the input of power necessary to go forward. The cyclist helped us reach between 25-30 mph for certain portions of our ride with him. After keeping up for about an hour, I had “bonked”- my body had nothing left to offer due to hunger. The cyclist revealed that he was Kent Bostick, winner of the 1996 Olympic Track Cyling Trials. We got our pictures taken with him and we were humbled and honored for the kindness he extended to us. Thanks for the pull Kent! We then found an all you can eater diner and decided to upgrade to a nearby motel…with beds! Beds and showers are all of a sudden gifts not taken for granted when we get them! Big shout out to beds and showers! Also, food you know I love you more than ever- I enjoy the time we spend together. CHICKEN FETTUCCINE ALFREDO FOREVER. We covered 76 miles this day. Check out Kent in the clip below:

 Much love from the road, Joe & James





Days 5 & 6: July 3rd: 82 miles: Butler, MD to Washington, D.C. Day 6: July 4th in D.C.

4 07 2011

On our way to D.C. ominous clouds crept up on us and people scurried for shelter as we got caught in our first storm. We made it to an overhang in Rock Creek Park, MD, where Jorge and his family gave us Pepsi and watermelon as we waited out the downpour and lightning. After it subsided we took a narrow, hilly 13 mile trail from the park into D.C. That’s when the real fun started: the storm put us behind schedule so we were caught in the dark again. The aftermath of the storm in surrounding rural neighborhoods of D.C. was fallen trees and power lines. There were multiple road closings, newscasters covering the severe weather,  and branches and leaves scattered throughout streets. It took us until 11pm to finally reach our destination- lifeguard friend Jon Kelly’s apartment. Jon and his roommates Jason and Gino have hooked us up with food, shelter, and good company- thanks for the hospitality! Shout out to 6 month old dog Egypt for helping hold down the fort. Today, July 4th, Jon brought us to a local bike shop where we bought better equipped, rugged tires for our journey to prevent the onslaught of flats. We are utilizing the day for healing, maintenance, logistics, and watching fireworks at the Capitol Hill. We’ll be back in the saddle again tomorrow!

D.C. got served by Mother Nature

Jorge here's your pic- you're the man go live your dreams!

mountain biking with road bikes?

Egypt protected us as we fixed our bikes this morning

road block

getting some speed on the trail to D.C.

muddy tires: riding got a bit gnarley after the storm





Days 2-4: June 30th-July 2nd: 189 miles: Conshohocken, PA to Susquehanna, PA to Butler, MD

3 07 2011
            Day two of the journey definitely tested us. We woke up with sore bodies, specifically in the lower back and butt regions! The sun, head-winds, and riding from day one took a bit out of us; the biggest factor is the weight we carry…an extra 45 pounds each. We carry a tent, sleeping bags, clothes, and equipment in panniers (waterproof bags on the back attached to our racks) that really weigh down on the back of the bike. Getting up hills can be a burden because of the extra weight. We were in for a shock as we traversed through Pennsylvania: monstrous hills unlike anything I’ve encountered. Some were too steep to climb on the bike and some extended for over a mile.
 
             We spent most of the day in the lowest gear climbing hills and feeling like we were getting nowhere. The few downhills we got, however, produced the same adrenaline-inducing effect of a roller-coaster. Around mile 20 I had to pull over for a power-nap. Dusk found us at mile 53 where we pulled over to the side of a back-road, pitched our tent and spent the night. The area was completely desolate and eerily quiet. Other than being scared straight by a nearby falling tree and by a possible deer or person walking by, the night was somewhat peaceful.
 
             On day three I felt a bit initiated by a night in the woods and felt 100% committed to the trip, having realized that it will be challenging with unpredictable circumstances that we will have to adapt to- and not just a “fun” adventure. Maintaining water and food intake has been crucial; due to the 85-90 degree temperature and humidity, we have been drinking a minimum of six liters of water a day- while we ride- through Camelback backpacks with accessible valves. On day three the only food we could access on our route was pizza; we got two large pizzas, ate half, and carried the leftovers with us and ate them for dinner. At one point we climbed an intense hill to find homeade root beer on a bench; James and I left $1.50 in a can and split the glass bottle. On another occasion I clocked 37mph on a downhill, and on another descent on a major roadway I hit a bump and went airborne. I have since been using my breaks more wisely to prevent future stunts!  We hit 66 miles this day dealing with the same factor of extensive, frustrating inclines. As night descended on day three, I asked a friendly couple along the Susquehanna River about camping locations, and they happened to also be cyclists. They let us camp out on their front yard, a front-row seat to fireworks on the other end of the river- and they let us stock up on water the following morning- thanks Joe and Roberta!
 
              By day four (today), we each had a total of six flat tires; we will soon be getting rugged “touring” tires to prevent this problem from reoccuring- the heat of the roads and our extra weight can not be handled by the thin racing tires we have been using. Days three and four were dominated by farmland and friendly encounters with Amish people. Today we logged 70 miles and got a friendly wave from an Amish man in a horse-drawn carriage. We were also served delicious frosted cinnamon bread and blueberry pie by two Amish girls running a road-side homeade goods shop. Escaping the mind-blowing hills of Pennsylvania will go down as one of the happiest moments of my life; today we entered Maryland which thus far has consisted of friendly, smooth rolling terrain. A chance encounter with another cyclist again helped us out big time. We met a cyclist named John while we were riding around dusk; we had a chat, and he continued biking while we made a fuel-stop. On his way back, he told us that we were welcome to camp behind the Butler Fire Station; he had inquired on his long bike-ride while we ate. Big thanks John! When we got there, we met Dale and Mike. Mike is letting me use the laptop from which I am currently writing this blog. Dale was beyond welcoming and awesome- he has allowed us to sleep in the large, air-conditioned dining room of the station equipped with a television, 50 cent drink machine, and showers. Here is a big shout out to these guys for helping us get reinvigorated for tomorrow’s long ride to Washington, DC. Thanks so much to Dale, Mike, and the BUTLER VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT IN MARYLAND for hooking us up!
 
              Much love to every back home for the donations to our charities and for your encouraging words; this is helping to keep us upbeat and positive. We will blog when the opportunities arise; the unpredictable nature of the trip could make it sporadic. Our bodies are adjusting to the workload and we are 100% ready to make this dream happen- stay tuned and let’s roll!
 

with Dale @ the Butler Fire Department- best hotel ever

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

a free hotel in PA

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

never has food been this amazing

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

long way to the top if you want to rock n' roll: James climbing in PA this morning

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

an Amish man in a horse-drawn carriage





Day 1: June 29th: 101.3 miles- Spring Lake, NJ thru Trenton & Manayunk, PA to Conshohocken, PA

30 06 2011
We started off with a wild all-day ride. In order to get on track with the Adventure Cycling maps we had to pave our own route to Conshohocken, PA. As we entered PA, my back tube exploded going over a railroad track. We replaced it with no problems and luckily it occured just outside of Trenton and not in it. The Google maps for cycling were  more useless than a novel on Snooki’s dresser; we tacked on a bit more mileage than we needed to and we cycled through Allegheny in Philly at dusk, a not so safe area at a  not so safe time. Luckily the purple crescent moon kitten cycling jersey intimated onlookers and prevented any issues. We got caught in the dark for over an hour; this made for some exciting downhills in Manayunk. The backroads in Conshohocken were pitch black, yet soothingly quiet and peaceful alongside the Schuylkill River Trail. The people in Pennsylvania we’ve encountered are quite friendly: we got some directions from construction workers, some people in Wal-Mart, and two ladies  named Jen from Manayunk. Also big thanks to big John U, PA cyclist and future brother-in-law…You rock! The adrenaline is still flowing and we’re departing shortly for York, PA. ~Joe
 

departing from the Atlantic Ocean @ Spring Lake, NJ

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

escaping the hectic roads of Philly for some serene, closed roads somewhere in PA

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our ride ended up being about the length of the Garmin's full battery life