Thursday, May 11, 2006

Not Looking Good

After 26 consecutive days of riding, we are almost to Chicago. Today, we crossed the the old Chain of Rocks bridge into Illinois. Despite the rainy forecast, we had a sunny morning, and only a little rain in the afternoon. The group I rode with today rolled into town in time for a late lunch and some relaxation. On Tuesday, I would spend my birthday riding within 50 miles of the town were I was born. A few days of rest would only be two days away. Things were looking up.

But just as I started feeling good about a the prospect of a successful first leg of the transcontinental, the weather gave me reason to be nervous. Tuesday's ride to Bloomington is set to be a bit of a problem. 127 miles, crosswinds and crossing headwinds forecasted at 25-35 mph, 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms, and a high temperature of 48 degrees. Even on a sunny day, riding 127 miles with those kind of winds is challenging. This could easily be a 10-12 hour day. Add the rain, and things get even worse. All of that aside, however, it is the temperature that has me really worried -- I have no waterproof gear for my legs and feet.

48F is intolerably cold when you are wet. Even without the wind. And 48 is the forecasted _high_ temperature. Until now, I've been just wearing my long fleece pants and fleece shoe covers in the rain. With temperatures in the 50s and 60s, they have kept me warm enough -- as long as I kept moving. But, with wind chills in the 30s, fleeced lycra will not be enough. I cannot ride 2 hours, let alone 12, with hypothermic legs and feet.

There is a Wal Mart Supercenter here in town, so I took a spin over there tonight to find some rain gear. They had no rain gear. Absolutely none. Not even rubber pants. Left with no choice, I had to try the McGuyver thing. So, I bought a few silver emergency blankets, a thin plastic tablecloth, and some stretchable kitchen garbage bags. The idea is the fashion some sort of wind and moisture barrier to wear under my fleece. I'm still not 100% sure on how I'm going to do the wrap, but I've got a few hours to think it through.


I managed a few shots of St. Louis, the Chain of Rocks bridge, and roadside Illinois before the rain kicked back up.
Photo Journal

Ride Summary

Thursday: 71 miles from St. Louis, MO to Litchfield, IL

Miles this year: 4123

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Green Acres

Tomorrow we leave Missouri, and I haven't even blogged about it yet. I have a lot of excuses for not blogging -- no wireless Internet (on dial-up again tonight), almost constant rain (i.e. no pictures), long riding days (i.e. no time), etc.

But you all deserve better than that. So, even though I have to get up at 4:45 for a 6 am departure, I will try to post a minimally coherent entry with the little time that I have.

A couple of observations about Missouri. First, everything is green. After almost a month in the west, I had begun to forget what greenery looks like. But, as we crossed the border into Missouri, I was instantly reacquainted with green grass and green deciduous trees. I had really missed the greenery.

Secondly, the population is substantially more dense than the states we had previously visited. The rain kept me from taking many pictures, but when I did, it was difficult to find uncluttered landscape. Almost every scene was corrupted by buildings and billboards.

Thirdly, about those billboards... Missouri seems to be obsessed with Jesus. In addition to billboards advertising various religious organizations, there are scores of signs that are simply say 'JESUS' in white letters on a green background. At the same time, however, Missouri also seems to be obsessed with pornography. 'Adult' shops, and billboards advertising them, are almost as common as religious buildings.

Lastly, the drivers are supremely obnoxious. During the approximately 2000 miles of riding that brought us to Missouri, I can recall only one or two unpleasant encounters with motorist. However, within minutes of crossing the Missouri border, the antics started. Honking, handlebar flybys, idiotic screamers, etc. I've lost track, but there have been at least a dozen incidents thus far. I've been pretty good though. I only screamed "fuck you!" once. The rest I let go. We all slip sometimes...

We are only 4 days from Chicago. Well, three and a half. The last day is only about 40 miles, so that doesn't really count. At this point, I could ride that one half drunk and dragging a bowling ball... The weather forecasts suggest that we may see thunderstorms for the duration, but I'll try to get some pictures anyway. Thanks for being patient...


A few green things
Photo Journal

Ride Summary

Tuesday: 106 Miles from Strafford to Rolla, MO
Wednesday: 111 Miles from Rolla to St. Louis, MO

Miles this year: 4052

Monday, May 08, 2006

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

On Sunday, we left Oklahoma for Kansas. Unfortunately, the old Route 66 alignments only covered 13 miles of Kansas, so we did not get to see much of it. That was my first visit to Kansas -- I would have liked to have seen much more.

We are in Missouri now. The edge of the Ozarks are starting to deal us some serious rollers. A hundred mile stretch of road can net you over 5000 feet of climbing -- without ever seeing a proper mountain. The rollers are providing a painful reminder of how long it has been since I had a day off. After 23 uninterrupted days of riding, my legs are pretty shot.

Oddly enough, I feel pretty good overall -- I just can't push much anymore without my legs burning and slowing down. I believe that I was gaining fitness up until Amarillo, but that I have been declining since then. Any fitness coach will tell you that you need to rest between workouts to improve. Over the past week or so, I've tried to slow down so that I can recover, and maybe even improve, while still riding. I'll have 4 days off in Chicago, waiting for David to fly out for the ride home, but I don't think I will fully recover in 4 days. Ironically, I may arrive in New York a slower rider than I was when I left.

Muscle loss notwithstanding, the experience is invaluable. Just as I could not have made it this far without the lessons learned at desert training camp, I would have little hope of finishing the faster transcontinental this fall had I not done this tour. Still, I'm going to have to do some serious rebuilding between June and September to get my muscle mass and speed up. Other riders on this tour are telling me that they think I am ready for the faster crossing, but I'm not confident yet. I now know that I can do the miles, but I am doubtful about the pace.


Not too many photos today. I only took a few point-and-shoot photos on the ride out of Oklahoma -- and it rained too much today to take to camera out. Photos include an old 8 foot wide section of route 66 in Oklahoma, an old bridge in Kansas, and the 'Field of Dreams' ballpark. Given the popularity of the movie, I included the photo. Photographically speaking, however, the ballpark is pretty uninteresting without all of the computer graphic enhancements seen in the movie. In reality, the surrounding area is pretty bleak. No endless rows of corn -- or any corn, for that matter. The park was fenced off, so I only took a photo from the road. If you build it, they will come. So you had better put a fence around it to keep them out.

Photo Journal

Ride Summary

Sunday: 84 Miles from Vinita OK, through 13 miles of Kansas, to Carthage, MO
Monday: 87 Miles from Carthage to Strafford, MO

Miles this year: 3835