May 17

The plan was for Russ A. and I to ride the train together to Denver, and then bicycle down to Cañon City, and resume the ride of the TransAm in Colorado. We spent weeks preparing this, and I had purchased Amtrak tickets for both of us for this event. Unfortunately, late last week, Russ informed me that he had to have urgent hand surgery, and so had to cancel out. Multiple decisions needed to be made but I ultimately decided to not seek a train ticket refund, though I was able to get a partial refund for Russ’s portion of the ticket. In the meantime, my brother Gaylon seemed very interested in meeting up with me in Colorado Springs and sagging me from there. So, I’m a mixture of very sad that Russ could not ride with me, but also very happy that I am able spend time with Gaylon.

Just a comment is offered first on posting. I wish that I could post more regularly, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I use WordPress, take photos with a Cañon M100, and import the photos to my iPad. WordPress would love to use the Photos images, but they are too large, and Photos doesn’t have a means of converting from RAW TO JPG while reducing the overall size, so I’ve tried using Affinity for that. This post will reveal if I am successful.

09MAY—Betsy was able to get me to the train station. The train runs from Tacoma to Sacramento, then I transfer to a train that will take me to Denver. Because both legs involve overnight travel, I will be riding in sleeper cars, though sadly without Russ. The sleeping car roomette is small, but very comfortable. It’s only disadvantage is that you can only see out of one side of the train. As I write this, the train is currently going over Willamette Pass, and the view is awesome. Sorry, but I do not take photos through windows of moving vehicles. For sleeper cars, the meals are complementary, and thus it is a little bit easy to overeat; the train dining car food was quite good.

10, 11MAY— One can sleep quite well on a train, when one utilizes the sleeping cars. The train to Denver was the California Zepher, which goes up over Donner Pass, on the original route of the first transAmerican rail line. I slept from just past Winnemuca to just past Salt Lake City. The train then heads south to Grand Junction, Colorado, and follows the Colorado River for an extensive distance, showing me part of the route that I will soon be riding. Denver implied a complete change in body activity and mentality, as I will soon be connecting up with Gaylon, as well as spending most of the day on my bike. The train ran nicely through Colorado, and I was even able to see about 20 miles of the road I would be on east of Kremmling. The train was running up to an hour late at various stops, but arrived in Denver on time. After quickly assembling my bicycle panniers, I was off. There were a few minor misturns, even following the Garmin gps unit, but there were also unexpected detours on the bicycle trail that neither Garmin nor Google knew about. I arrived at my hotel 13 miles later, and after sunset, but feeling great. One thing I might mention that I’ve never experienced before were massive thick swarms of tiny bugs like fleas. They were thick and frequent, and coated my arms with black specks, and forced me to hold my breath. They were just absolutely horrid. I saw one cyclist wearing a fine mesh face mask 😷 and it was easy to see why. The hotel was interesting in that it was a total dive, though the price was right. The place was run by a Bangladeshi family.

12MAY—First full riding day. There were a lot of people out on the trail, jogging and cycling. I got started early, forgoing coffee, and having only a granola bar for breakfast. It started out with cool weather, slowly warming up to uncomfortable. The Google route ended up being frankly horrid, taking me on gravel trails, which was sort of okay but a bit more work. At one point, the gps took me on a gravel bike path that ended at a gate with a no trespassing sign—that caused me to have to retrace about 1.5 miles to a busy highway to get around the obstruction. The climbing was also much greater than suggested by Google, so by the time I got to Monument, I was totally beat. Fortunately, Gaylon arrived in Monument at the same time, we loaded my stuff, and drove the remaining 15-20 miles to our hotel in south Colorado Springs. Inspecting the bicycle trails that I would have been on, there would have been considerable gravel path riding, and a moderate amount of more climbing, so I was happy to call it a day. I was in Colorado Springs 20 years ago at a medical conference, and the town seems to have grown immensely since then into a major metropolis. Yuk!

13MAY—easy day to Cañon City. Today was Mother’s Day, necessitating a call home to the love of my life, dearest Betsy. We got a late start out of Colorado Springs, poked our way over to Cañon City, hit the Walmart on the way into town, and stocked up on food and a few other supplies to last us for for the next few days, since we will not be in any large towns. We ordered small meals at the Mexican restaurant next to the hotel, but even that was too much. It’s funny how my appetite falls off profoundly while on adventures. We visited the state prison in Cañon City, and mostly laid low. It was fairly hot, as a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit just seems a little too hot to my Northwestern acclimatization. A swimming pool, or floating down the Arkansas River just seems to make more sense than pedaling a bicycle. Hopefully, as we achieve higher elevation, we experience cooler weather. Tomorrow–Guffey, and maybe some photographs.

14MAY—Guffey. I was able to head out at 7 am, and enjoyed cool weather. It was a beautiful climb out of Cañon City, the road had wide shoulders, and 10 miles up, hit the tourist traps. Turning onto route 9, there was some roller coaster riding, but the road went mostly upward. It was a delightful high steppe environment, with minimal wind. I was able to stop frequently for photos! Gaylon caught me right at the turnoff to Guffey, another 300 foot climb with some 9-10% grade, bringing me to the most delightful town of Guffey. The proprietor Bill put us up in a cabin, well over 100 years old, and built as a gold claim office. The land around Bill’s place was practically a museum, with old buffalo carcasses, automobile carcasses, and even an ancient fire contraption. We had dinner in the Rolling Thunder Cloud Cafe, good food at a great price, the owner/waitress being from the Seattle area. We were able to finally put out chairs and chill out in the outdoors. Bill also gave us a tour of the town, including the “city hall”, which was really nothing more than a small auditorium with a stage, but also containing a lot of Bill’s collections of things.

15MAY—FairPlay. We were up a little later than yesterday, had coffee cooked on the camp stove, and I headed out of Guffey. It was quite chilly, and I had to keep riding in order to stay warm. After crossing Current Creek Pass at 9400 ft, there was a small descent and then slow, constant 1-3% grade from 8900 ft up to 9900 ft. There was a little trouble finding a campsite in FairPlay, but Gaylon located a site that he fell in love with, so there we stayed. It was at the Middlefork RV resort, and the owner and employees were super nice, and easy to see more cyclists. Several other places mentioned on the ACA maps either did not exist, or they were terribly unaccommodating to cyclists. Meanwhile, we called ahead for reservations in Frisco at the national forest service campsites, but none of them opened until May 18. Super bummer!!! Gaylon really didn’t want to stay in a hotel in Frisco, so a few quick decisions needed to be made, though our options were limited.

16MAY—Lazy day in Fairplay. We woke up late, had a light breakfast, and reorganized all our “junk” to be workable without me having to always haul a bunch of panniers into every campsite or hotel. On the western edge of Fairplay is preserved a portion of town called South Park that was preserved just like when it was built. All the buildings were original, and inside each building was a preserved atmosphere that was very well done, from the bank, the doctor and dentist’s office, the mine works, etc, it was very well done, and most everything was accessible to the visitor. What we thought would be a quick hour tour ended up being over 3 hours. Afterwards we had lunch at the highest bar in the USA, with a great view overlooking the mountains. A relaxing afternoon was then spent and preparations for me riding again tomorrow.

17MAY—On the road again. Hoosier Pass was the big agenda for today. I had wanted to camp out at one of the state campgrounds close to Frisco, but they don’t open until 18MAY. In addition, they didn’t look quite as appealing as I had thought, I.e., too many people, not remote, etc.. So, I took off early, fearing the possibility of a hot day, and less performance ability due to being at up to 11,500 ft. The day did start to get hot, but I was able to roll into Dillon to our hotel by 11am. It actually did NOT seem terribly challenging to climb over Hoosier Pass, which incidentally is the highest point on the entire TransAm. The last four miles of the climb were not difficult because of incline, which was brief and never over 6%, but because the road had no shoulder and traffic was extremely heavy, even though I was riding early morning. The descent was easier, in that I followed a large dump truck which I could have passed but felt wiser not to. The hardest part of the day was wending my way through the towns of Breckinridge to Dillon, with occasionally perplexing route finding (even with a gps unit), and the ever scary traffic. We stayed at another Super 8, recommended by the ACA and an EXCELLENT choice. This gave Gaylon and I the ability to have showers, charge all our devices, have a sane breakfast in the AM, and actually be able to take time to see the town. We also drew a quick sketch as to the remainder of our adventure. Specifically, I will not be riding for a few days, as Gaylon wishes to introduce me to his style of camping.

I anticipate being ex communicator for a while, so no more posts for at least another week. It won’t be all bicycling, since Gaylon wants to do some remote camping. Don’t worry, as I’m not done cycling next.

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Apr 28

StCRAP

By Kenneth Feucht Adventure, Bicycling 1 Comment »

This is like the Seattle to Portland (STP), except that it is much more beautiful. Specifically, S=Spanaway, t=to, C=Chehalis, R=Raymond, A=Astoria, and P=Portland. I intend to do this is 4-½ days, and then hop the train back to Tacoma.

Day 1—Spanaway to Chehalis (Monday 23APRIL)

The weather started out cool, but absolutely beautiful. I was going to start riding right from home, but Betsy suggested that riding through Puyallup would be the worst part of the entire adventure, and so she dropped me off where the Mountain Highway splits off from the Pacific Highway. The ride was fantastic, and I stayed in a cheap but nice hotel a mile off of route in Chehalis. A bikes-forbidden bridge in Centralia forced me to take a bike lane used by the STP but which parallels I-5, not long, but not real nice with the freeway traffic adjacent to you. I suddenly realized that this is why the ACA has some strange routing on their Pacific Coast route.

Day 2—Chehalis to Bruceport County Park (Tuesday 24APRIL)

This was a long but beautiful ride, following a previous rail bed, now called the Willapa Hills Trail. The first few miles were paved, but then turned to gravel. At first, the gravel was nicely packed and easy to ride on. Later, it began to turn into loose gravel. I stayed on the gravel road most of the way to Pe Ell, owing to the beauty, solitude, and ease of travel on that road. Even once I was on paved road, it was never uncomfortable in spite of occasional logging trucks, owing to a broad shoulder on the road. There was a climb past Pe Ell before dropping down to Raymond. All along the way, I could see the rail bed of the trail waiting to some day be paved. There were a lot of large meadows occupied by farms. I didn’t notice any appealing restaurants in Raymond, so rode on to South Bend on a paved bicycle path, where I stopped for lunch at a cheap Chinese restaurant. The food was ok but it gave me the shits. Fortunately, the Bruceport campground was only six mostly easy miles on roads with wide shoulders. This was a relatively easy day which was warm enough to ride in shirtsleeves. The weather is predicted to be warm without rain the next few days, which is VERY odd for the Northwest.

View of stream along the trail

Start of the Willapa Hills Trail

View of Willapa Bay from camp

Day 3—BCP to Astoria (Wednesday 25APRIL)

Somehow, I always sleep wonderfully in a tent, and pretty much sawed logs all night. This was the first time this year I woke up in a tent and actually felt warm, even though the temperature was in the low 50s. Breakfast consisted of two granola bars and two cups of coffee, and I was off by 7:31. The day was absolutely glorious, and on reaching the junction to highway 4, 20 miles into the ride, decided to take a longer course and stay on highway 101. The road had mostly excellent shoulders for riding, though once getting to highway 101 past Ilwaco, I had to contend with very busy traffic and occasional poor shoulders. Crossing the Astoria-Meckler bridge wasn’t quite as bad as I had imagined. The shoulders were only about 12 inches and sometimes a bit cluttered with debris, but I never felt uncomfortable, as the traffic wasn’t too heavy. I would have liked to ride on, but there wasn’t any convenient places to stop without making it an unduly long day, so I terminated the ride at a cheap hotel just beside the off ramp of the bridge. Dinner was at a brewery, which had an incredibly excellent tasting lager beer. The day remained beautiful, and the weather report notes that tomorrow will also be nice. This portion of the ride was unbelievably beautiful and needs to be counted as a prime alternate for the Pacific Coast route, going from Elma to Montasano and then south on 101 to Raymond.

Broad expanses of meadow heading toward Astoria

Wildlife sanctuary along 101 in Washington

First view of the Astoria-Megler bridge

View of bridge from my hotel

An awesome beer at a brewery in Astoria.

Day 4—Astoria to Stub Stewart State Park (Thursday 26APRIL)

Today was an early start, owing to a long climb 11 miles into the ride. The hotel did not have a coffee maker in the room, and didn’t start serving coffee until 7am, so I used my camp stove to make coffee in the room! The weather started as quite foggy, eventually turning into a hot cloudless day. Getting up over the pass out of Astoria was a little bit easier than anticipated, and the remainder of the ride was short roller coaster hills or flat, with occasionally needing to dodge lumber trucks. In both directions, the ride was beautified with babbling brooks. For brother Dennis’ sake, as I passed through the town of Mist I kept special watch for clandestine government activity, since Google had perhaps once blacked out a small area around Mist, though that it now no longer true. There was nothing but farms and logging activity. Perhaps a silo in a farmyard 1 km west of Mist was a secret missile silo, but I doubt it. I arrived in Vernonia just a little after 1pm and had lunch there before jumping on the start of the Banks-Vernonia trail, a paved bicycle path 22 miles long, mostly nice, but with occasional 10% grade, and often torn up by roots. Fortunately, the trail was short to camp, and I was able to easily settle in for the night. The campsite was quite primitive, but it didn’t matter, since I knew that only 22 miles away, I would be in Hillsboro, and able to hop the MAX to the Union Station to ride Amtrak home. Oddly, though in remote woods, I was able to get excellent phone reception to talk with Betsy. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, so I will probably get an early start into Portland.

 

A VERY delightful view of the summit of a long climb

The land around the town of Mist. Somewhere in those hills is HIGHLY secretive government projects

Day 5—SSSP to Hillsboro, and then home (Friday 27APRIL)

I woke up anticipating rain. It was very misty, which turned into a misty rain as the morning got on. I got up slightly earlier than usual, packed everything including taking the tent down, had a cup of coffee with a granola bar, and then hit the trail before 7am. The misty rain became a fine persistent drizzle, and cold. It took me 2 hours to reach the Hillsboro MAX Station, and then another hour on the blue line to downtown Portland, and yet another half mile of bicycling from the Chinatown MAX stop to the train station. Sitting on the MAX, I didn’t realize how cold one got, when wet and not pedaling. Thankfully, the Amtrak people were very friendly and I was able to get a ticket for 12 o’clock noon back to Tacoma. I changed my clothes, felt warm and comfortable once again, and gave Betsy a heads up that I would be arriving back home sooner than expected. The train ride was delightful. I love taking Amtrak, especially since they now make it so easy to take bicycles.

A bridge on the lower Banks-Vernonia trail

Union station in Portland

Summary

This was an awesome five day loop that turned out better than I ever could have anticipated. I’ve been doing cycle touring for a number of years now, but each time I hop on the bicycle I again feel like an amateur. My style is constantly changing. What has helped the most is the ability to get out alone in order to learn what works and what doesn’t work. All my other riding has been with Russ, Jon, or with the ACA, and I am constantly learning and unlearning things. Example: with Jon, our bread was attacked overnight by chipmunks, so I started using a soft bear bag. This ended up being too heavy on the TransAm, and sent it home a week later. This trip, I am grasping that you don’t need to carry a lot of food along (especially bread), unless there truly is nowhere to pick up food. So, a few more details…

  1. I hate to cook on the road, and always appreciate once a day making a formal restaurant stop, if possible. If not, prepared foods that can be heated in the pouch in boiling water seems to work best. As mentioned above, it is best to carry minimal food.
  2. I brought along a down puffy (coat) instead of my usual fleece coat. It was great for camp when there was no rain, but awful for rain or misty weather. A suitable coat needs to be dual-purposed, and work as insulation on the bike in really cold weather. The fleece coat worked well for this on my failed TransAm when I was freezing to death, since it stayed warm even while I was sweating on the bike. A down puffy will not serve this purpose. I prefer the comfort and packability of the down coat, but need a better solution for rain.
  3. Friends… yes, I would enjoy the bike rides much more with friends. There was a perfect example on this trip, where I bypassed Pacific Beach and Ilwaco. If a friend were along, there would have been no problem going the extra two miles and enjoying lunch on the beach in Ilwaco.
  4. Weight is a serious issue that I need to reduce. There is a fine balance between being prepared and being over-prepared. It’s just that at the end of the day, I would be so much happier with less weight on the bike. It would be wonderful to have life reduced down to the PCT backpack standard base weight of under 18 lb. I have just a week to work on this, since in 10 or so days, Russ and I head out to Colorado to work on a portion of the TransAm from Cañon City (Denver) to Missoula (Whitefish), taking Amtrak both directions to and from home.
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Apr 21

During my brief layover before getting back on my bicycle to resume the TransAmerica Route with Russ, I have had the opportunity to read books on cities that have influenced by life the last 50+ years. I plan on a 5-6 day bicycle trip the long way down to Portland, taking the train home, but have been interested in the history of both Seattle and Portland. Though I have lived in the Seattle area longer than Portland area, I still consider Portland my home. But, Seattle has a stronger “sex” appeal as a city. Though not exactly true, it has tried to paint itself as the most cosmopolitan and dynamic city. Contrariwise, Portland is the more artsy, colorful, environmentally friendly, and more comfortable place to live. True, it doesn’t have the Space Needle, but then, it doesn’t need a Space Needle. That’s my bias. It has nothing to do with the judgment of these two books. Both books paint a history of its city from its settlement by white man to the present day.


Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle, by Murray Morgan ★★

Murray Morgan grew up in Seattle, but lived for the most part outside of Seattle, and is most remembered in Tacoma, by having a bridge in Tacoma named after him. He also wrote a history of Tacoma, and is buried in Tacoma. Yet, Seattle consumes his interest in this book. Starting with settlement by Doc Maynard, a somewhat sleazy if not incompetent merchant, Seattle fought hard to achieve supremacy over rival cities of Tacoma and Portland for the ascendency as the “great” city in the Northwest. Morgan paints a very patchy history of the city, mostly dwelling on various personalities that shaped the city. Unfortunately, these characters were all somewhat dubious personalities, either more in the show business, disreputable souls, or socialists/communists. Perhaps Morgan’s choice of characters only represent his own thinking and personality, or perhaps Seattle is best described by these persons; I’d like to think the former and not the latter. From John Considine and his efforts to establish brothels in the Skid Road area to Dave Beck and his corrupt leadership of unions, one is left with a bad taste of the city. Morgan does a very poor job of describing Seattle, its development and expansion, its physical development (such as the building of the locks, or the dismantlement of several of its downtown hills), its more reputable founding fathers, and the factors that molded Seattle into the city that it is. Morgan writes well, and it was easy to get through the book, but one was left wondering about the actual history of Seattle outside of what Morgan describes. Perhaps Seattle truly is the sleaze town that Morgan describes, but I’d rather think otherwise. I long wistfully for a solid history of the city of Seattle. It is sad that Morgan suggests that this book has been sold to school children as a credible history of the city.

 

Portland in Three Centuries, by Carl Abbott ★★★

Portland in Three Centuries is a different sort of book than Skid Road, written in perhaps a bit drier style, and yet significantly more informative. The book could have used maps for those uninformed as to the geography of Portland, yet each region was familiar to me, with many familiar names of historical figures that form community place names, though I was unfamiliar with the historical grounds for those names. Abbott has written other histories of Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas. In this account, he was able to carry through history into the twenty-first century. He occasionally compares the personality of Portland with that of Seattle, as they are two radically different towns, even though they are both Northwest cities. Particularly, Portland has been far more environmentally sensitive, and possessing a far more stable economic base. Both have had their issues with corrupt politics, with dealing with race issues, with issues regarding trade unions, with the sleaze element and red-light districts, with fires and natural disasters, but Abbott does not linger on the problems, but rather, presents a dynamic city, eager to confront problems before they become unsolvable. A simple example is transportation issues, where Portland has been able to build a quality public light-rail system while Seattle picks its nose. I was amused that even in the 19th century, Portland was known as a bicycle town, and today stands as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world.

Next week, I will be bicycling away from Puyallup, hitting the coast in Washington and riding down to Astoria, and then taking the Banks-Vernonia trail to Hillsboro, where I hop the MAX light rail to downtown Portland, and from there to Union Station (hopefully with a brief stop at cousin Dee’s world renown Ovation coffee shop) before coming back to Tacoma after the five day adventure. With my arrival in Portland, I will celebrate my love for that city, which I have known since moving there in 1964. In childhood, I dreamed of a bike trip from Portland to the coast, but now will be able to fulfill that dream, assuming I am not attacked by the weather, as my most recent other bicycle escapade.

 

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Apr 18


Today, I knew that I needed to get back on my bike after my VERY abrupt pause in the TransAm. In training for the TransAm, I mostly rode by road bike. While on tour, I realized that the riding style between a road bike and a touring bike might use many of the same muscles, but the style is radically different. One rarely stands to pedal on a touring bike. One rarely powers up an incline on a touring bike, preferring to shift down and maintain a constant cadence and force on the pedals while seated. I realized the importance of training on my CoMotion, rather than the Trek, a bike that weighs half the weight of the CoMotion and with much different handling characteristics. It’s about the difference between a Ferrari and a Mac truck. So, off I rode, as happy as a lark on the CoMotion, wanting to get close to the Rainier NP entrance, until………..

I was sideswiped by a speeding car at the junction of 165 and the Carbonado Road, by the old hotel. The car swiped by me, hitting my upper lateral thigh which knocked off his right rear view mirror. He swerved, and an oncoming car was also swipped by him causing damage to the car over the rear fender and rear driver hubcap. The offending car slowed a little, and then sped off. Neither the girl that was hit nor I were able to get exact positive identification of the driver. After waiting an hour for the police, we registered our reports, who informed us that even if the car was apprehended, pushing charges could be a challenge since we didn’t exactly see the driver. The law sometimes (usually????) really sucks. I bicycled home ok, but wondering whether a GoPro would be a good idea. I thank God for His protection in that I could have been hurt much worse. It’s good to be tough, but even better to have guardian angels.

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Apr 16

Monticello

TransAm Day 5—08April

Today I rested. I love the hotel that I’m in, right on the route. Breakfast was great, and I was able to get everything dried out. Randy and Leslie decided to drive up from Langley just to get away for the day. We went out to lunch, and then drove up to see Monticello, Jefferson’s home. I had passed Monticello en route to Charlottesville, but it was cold and snowing at the time, and all I desired was to get warm and dry. Sadly, photos were not allowed inside the house, so I was only able to preserve for posterity the exterior. The evening was spent packing up and getting ready for tomorrow’s ride. Once again, I went through everything that I was carrying, and eliminated another five or more pounds of goods, to be shipped back home. I read on hiker blogging pages that this exact same thing happens. Suddenly, many articles of clothing can be multi-tasked. There becomes a blur between bike clothes and street clothes. The only real distinction is that my bike pants have padding which is uncomfortable to just wear around as street clothing when trying to chill out. I decided that it is highly unlikely that I would do any serious cooking, and needed the stove only for coffee in the morning, if I’m camping that night. Granola bars take the place of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and all those other things I cherish at home.

Randy and Leslie with Tom Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s grave site in the family plot

TransAm Day 6—09April

Time to check out of a comfortable hotel. Looking at the ACA maps, they deviate to some very strange side roads. I have the strange mentality that if I wish to go from point A to point B, one goes in the most direct line possible, unless there are very good reasons to do otherwise. Most of the TransAm route in fairly direct, except for Virginia, which for unexplained reasons, the ACA course takes you all over the map. Thus, I will be making modifications as I go through Virginia. I am recording the route on my Garmin, but am not sure how to get it into this post through my iPad, so will leave that only to my Garmin friends, or if you particularly request to see my route.

The weather was cold and windy when I went for breakfast, but by 8 am, it started to snow. I thought I’d wait a bit, but it continued to snow until after 11am, and the temperature remained bitterly cold. I checked the weather reports, and tomorrow was supposed to be sunny, so it made sense to just wait out another day. If I don’t get riding soon, it will be impossible to get back in the saddle!

TransAm Day 7—10April

I started out the day with fog and wind. Some of my mojo seems to have come back, and it was not terribly challenging making it up to Rockfish Gap, though I will admit that I walked the bike a short distance past the cookie ladies’ house. The cookie lady was June Curry, who would bake cookies for the cyclists going by her house. It appeared to be a beautiful brick structure, that unfortunately had fallen into serious disrepair after her death in 2012. I arrived at Rockfish Gap much earlier than I expected, but it was bitterly cold, again chilling me to the bone, and making me lose my mojo. I had a hot dog at the King popcorn stand, and wanted nothing more than to get down out of the wind. So, I made executive decision #39 to forego riding the Blueridge Parkway, and to ride the Shenandoah valley instead. It was a little disappointing to me, but a good decision made on somewhat bad information. The elevation of Alton was shown at about 1000 ft on the ACA profile maps, and the top of the parkway at about 3000 ft, suggesting that I had only scratched the surface of the climb, when in reality, Rockfish Gap was over 1800 ft altitude per my Garmin. The Blueridge Parkway route would not have been as challenging as suggested by the ACA elevation profile. So, I dropped off of the ridge into the Shenandoah Valley. I stopped in a cheap hotel south of Waynesboro, but would be able to make up for a few lost days in the next few days by just following the Lee highway southward.

The cookie lady’s house

Popcorn stand at Rockfish Gap, a great place for a hotdog.

 

TransAm Day 8—11April

Today I wanted to make some distance. But, a woke up feeling absolutely miserable again. It is strange that I was sleeping better in tents than in hotel rooms. The very first night of my adventure, I took a hard fall to my left side getting up from a picnic table at the campground. I thought nothing of it at first but then realized that it was extreme pain not letting me sleep at night, and bothering me whenever I moved or lifted something. The pain and symptoms were most consistent with a rib fracture, something I’ve had before. Worse, the cold air was making me cough constantly, adding to the misery. But, the coldness was affecting me in a manner very strangely, as I felt frozen to my bones, and could not warm up. I’d have all my cycling clothes on, and warmth clothes on, be sweating profusely, and yet felt icy cold in the wind that seemed to mock defiantly my efforts for comfort. I had completely long any sense of ginger. So, I have my bags packed but the thought is overwhelming me whether or not I was enjoying my adventure, and when the course would turn that I would start enjoying things. My body wasn’t helping because all it could say was “pain”. It wasn’t tiredness, save for the tiredness that plagued a body feeling like crap. It didn’t help that the weather reports had been consistently more optimistic than reality, but still didn’t predict balmy spring weather, but rather, more storms. So, I called home to Betsy for advice. Her suggestion was to abort, and normally I’d be resistant to that. I’m not a quitter. I don’t do things like that. I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. But, for now, I decided to abort. Running through all the options, I decided to rent a car, and just drive home. It was the most expensive option, but the most convenient. I considered stopping for several days at Pete’s farm house in Kentucky (close to Berea) to see if I would bounce back, and then resume the ride in Kentucky, skipping only a short section. Anyway, I pushed the abort button, got a car that would fit my bike, and off I went. A car also made sense, because it would continue the adventure, driving through places I’ve never been, or re-discovering places I once was.

Peter’s new car, a 10 wheel drive vehicle

Pete at the wheel of his new car

Peter building his house by himself on his farm. The frame was to go up in two days.

The first day was driving through Virginia, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky to Sanford, KY where Peter had his farm. Peter, by the way, was a good friend through surgical residency, the research years, and surgical oncology fellowship. We had done a number of rides together before, including several cycle tours together in Germany. He had just gotten married to Karma, and it was nice to see Karma again. The plan was to spend several days with Pete, see how I was feeling, and then take off either by car or bike from there. We drove Peters’ “new” Jeep around the farm, had a bbq and cigar, and chatted as old friends. That night I slept worse than ever with rib pain and coughing, felt like a low case of the flu, and just wanted to get home. So, I decided to run. The temperature when I left Virginia was 40 degrees, and it had warmed up to 50 in KY, but with the wind, I still felt frozen. I drove through KY, Indiana, southern Illinois, Missouri, and made it all the way to Selena, KS, where the temperature was up to 90 degrees. But, a storm was expected the next day, so I knew that the warmth would be short lived. Taking off early the next morning, the temperature started at 50 degrees and balmy, but dropped to 28 degrees with high winds in a blowing snowstorm by the time I reached Colorado. Pushing on, there were more snow flurries and much high winds in Wyoming, the weather finally becoming beautiful sun in northern Utah. I stopped in Burley, Idaho for the night. The next day remained a warm-feeling 50’ish degrees F, and a beautiful ride home, ending in a torrential rain as I arrived in Puyallup. It was raining so hard that the area was worried about landslides of an Oso proportion, which happened several years ago up by Arlington, WA, wiping out an entire community. Meanwhile, the next few days manifested horrible snowstorms in the Midwest, and Peter even noted that they were getting snow in Kentucky. I would have been struggling through at least a week or two more of inclement weather. It was just NOT the right year to start the TransAm in April!

Analysis

So, how might I learn from this truncated adventure?

1. Riding alone is fun for a few days and I always have enjoyed occasional solo adventures, but for me, I hated the absence of a companion to ride with for prolonged periods. That’s me. I didn’t think that it would affect me so much, but the prospect of three months mostly alone began to torture me. I went on this ride to find myself, but it didn’t take three months, it took only a week to find myself. I learned that I like being around friends and people, and put a high value on that. That’s how I found myself.

2. Over-planning is always my biggest curse. But, I do that when not sure what to expect, and this abbreviated adventure gave me great insights into how to do it right in the future for “epic” bike tours. Don’t fret every possible contingency, pack light, and adapt to re-provisioning on the road.

3. Physical injury or illness can never be predicted, as well as inclement weather. Many variables affect an outcome, and the insight to change or abort must always be held. Surgical training has taught me that to persist in something that isn’t working is the epitome of foolishness. I don’t consider the “abort”decision as a sign of failure or giving up, but rather the need to adjust plans to best accommodate the current situation.

4. When tired, depressed, and overwhelmed with discomforts, personal hygiene seems to be neglected. I had learned in Air Force survival school as well as on backpack trips, of the importance of maintaining cleanliness. This is a small but important item that is often neglected by many, but as survival school taught, could make the difference between life and death.

Prospects

So, what am I going to do from here? I intend to continue some sort of touring bike ride, but without the intention of riding the entire TransAm this season as a complete whole. I have several backpack trips planned for later this summer, including one in Mt. Rainier National Park for which I was able to obtain reservations for campsites, but more on that in another post. Russ wishes to do a long ride, so we will perhaps take the train to Newton, KS, and ride from there to Missoula, MT. Perhaps we’ll alter our plans an ride the Pacific Coast route to San Diego from my house. It doesn’t really matter too much to me as long as I can keep riding. And yes, I will keep posting.

Postscript

I didn’t realize until I came home that the photos I the first TransAm post were not coming through correctly. I was taking the photos in RAW format on my mirrorless Canon M100, and they seemed to incorporate nicely into the WordPress app that I’m using on my iPad. Apparently, they are importing in too large of a format, and I’m unable to add captions to the photos. I will be correcting the former posts, and playing around a bit to see if I could fix the problem so that I can post while on the road.

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