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 sideswipped by a speeding car at the junction of 165 and the Carbonado Road, by the old hotel. The car swipped 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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Apr 08

Day -1 02April

I left Washington on 02April on a shut-eye flight to Charlotte, NC, and then up to Newport News. I slept very well on the plane,compliments of Halcion. Also compliments of sleeping pills, it’s all a vague memory, but I am up and running today.

 

Day 0—03April

My friends Randy and Leslie Neil picked me up from the airport, and I then got my bicycle all assembled. Randy and I then went for a 7 mile jump ride around the base, and the bicycle seemed to be working well. Our entertainment for the day was a squadron of F-22 Raptors taking off, chased by T-38s. That afternoon, we drove around the Yorktown battle site, and it was most interesting. The area was larger than I anticipated, and many of the fields are now overgrown with woods. We had dinner on the waterfront at the Yorktown Pub, on the spot where I would be starting the route today. I slept again like a baby.

Rany and I enjoying a good cigar.

A quick drive around the Yorktown battlefields, and a second surrender.

A super-good pub right at the start of the TransAm

Day 1—04 April

Yorktown to Chickahominy, 39 miles. Randy and Leslie dropped me off at the Victory Monument at about 11:20 am. I performed the obligatory dip of the rear wheel in the Yorktown River and started riding. By chance, there was an older gentleman, Rick, who was also starting, so we rode for about the first mile together. I then recognized, to my horror, that I did not have my helmet mirror. Anyway, on I rode. I arrived in Williamsburg, and wasn’t quite seeing what the map showed, so I finally turned on my Garmin for guidance. It directed me an odd direction, but, trusting the Garmin, I rode on. Eventually, my trust waned, and I realized that the Garmin was short-cutting me back to the start of the trail. It was 10 miles and an hour lost, but good lessons learned. The remainder of today was facing a very strong Gegenwind (headwind) making it feel like I was climbing a 5% grade. All I could think about were what things I could eliminate from my panniers to lighten things up. I already know a few things, but will wait a few more days before finding a post office to mail them back home. That’s ok, as I’d rather over- than under-plan a trip. So I did finally reach Chickahominy, intact, feeling great, but a little tired. After the sticker shock of paying $31 for a bicycle only campsite, I called Betsy, that sweet angel of a lady who gave me permission and support for this trip, am whom remains ever in my thoughts. I then called R & L to let them know that I was ok, and to thank them for all they did. When I mentioned the loss of my helmet mirror, they quickly identified it, and demanded to drive out to give it to me. Honestly, I’m in tears… I don’t deserve such good friends. It is a lesson to always strive to be friendly to others.

Note the ride to the start of the TransAm in a TranAm! Also seen are Leslie and Randy giving me a formal VFW sendoff, and Rich, a 75 yo retired teacher, also starting the trip.

Riding to the TransAm in a TransAm

A VFW send-off with Leslie

A VFW send-off with Randy

The only other cyclist I saw on the entire adventure, Rick, ready to depart.

Re-dipping the wheels at Yorktown.

People ask me what I think about on a bike trip like this. The changing unfamiliar scenery constantly commands my thoughts. I see the fingerprint of God in every passing scene, and gratefulness to a loving creator fills my neurons.

Day 2—05April

I woke up to freezing cold temperatures, and a little lack of luster. The wind continued from the northwest, so I was mostly riding against the wind. It remained cold, and I did not take off my fleece coat until about noon, but then the wind continued to make it much colder than it was. I did only one wrong turn this time, and this time I fault the ACA maps, in that the map shows a straight direction, but one actually needed to make a sharp right turn at a particular intersection. Continuing on, fortunately only several miles, I realized than this was not the correct direction. When I stopped to turn around, lol and behold, there was the Mechanicsville Apostolic Christian Church, which is where my sister-in-law attended church until she married my oldest brother Dennis. I struggled on, thinking to stop at a hotel in Mechanicsville, but very disappointed with the choices, so I rode on to the originally planned destination of an Americamps KOA campground. They offered free breakfast, a charging plug just outside my tent, and even Wi-Fi, all for $11.31. I felt like I got ripped off last night. So, 73miles for today, and tomorrow is going to be a much shorter day!

First night camping

Chickahominy State Park with my bike.

Church of my sister-in-law Dottie, just slightly off-route.

A thought on finding directions. Alone, the ACA printed maps are woefully inadequate, but still quite necessary. The Garmin gps points are great, but is terrible when wanting to find oneself back to the route. I iPhone/iPad product has been the most helpful, and I use both of them to plan out the day. It’s just they are not good for moment by moment directions, since they will quickly deplete you phone and pad batteries. The combination of all three works best for me,and I wish that the ACA would sell them as a package. I also wish that the iPad/iPhone options were regularly updated, rather than having to look on the ACA website for addenda or corrections. If I had one more wish, I wish than notes could be added to the maps, and that both myself and the maps creators would include their thoughts on the road.

Day 3—06April

The day started out with a waffle breakfast at the KOA. I slept extremely well, and didn’t wake up until 7am. It was again cold and windy. I also got notice from Randy that another snowstorm was coming. Well, that didn’t tickle my feathers. I felt really bonk-ish today, ending with a minor shortcut into Mineral. After setting up my tent at the volunteer fire department, I got a box and packed away nearly 15 lb of stuff I knew I would probably never use. I think that the excitement of this adventure caused me to way overpack. My legs will be happy to have 15 less pounds on the hills. If I remain a touch bonk-ish tomorrow, I’ll probably find a hotel and spend two nights in Charlottesville. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m going to crash early, and try to get another good night’s sleep, taking off earlier than this morning.

Fire department tent setup–it was a very windy day

Mineral Fire Department

Day 4—07April

The fire station was exceptionally noisy, with trains, cars, and emergency calls constantly going off. So, I got up to chat with one of the firemen, had a coke, some Advil and a sleeping pill, and I slept totally all night, waking up at 7:30. I quickly packed a very soggy tent, put on warm rain clothes, and headed out. About an hour into my ride, it started to hail, so I opted for a shortcut to Charlottesville. By the time I arrived, I was being hit with snow flurries. I booked my first hotel for two nights. Most every thing except for my sleeping bag was wet. I am now thawed but happy to have a break day. Photographed is the one remaining statue in Charlottesville of Josef Stalin.

University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson

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Mar 31

OK!!! I understand! This is a blog about bicycling! So, why am I displaying myself as an old fart out on cross-country skis? Simple. I’ve been dreaming of cross-country skiing ALL season, and either had nobody to go with (yea, I could have gone alone) or some other lame excuse, like the weather wasn’t good, or I wasn’t sure if the snow was ok, or, it might be avalanche conditions. Now, this was my last chance this winter, and Jon (my son) was up to it. I can’t believe it. I hadn’t touched my skis in about 3-4 years, but used to spend winters in the snow. In fact, there was a time where I far preferred to snow camp than to summer camp. It’s much cleaner. You stay warm, if you know what you’re doing. In fact, my problem (including today) has been that of over-dressing, and getting too hot.  I usually wear wool knickers on the trail, which keep you warm, but also shed sweat and heat much better. . . but wool knickers are now a thing of the distant past. NOBODY but a dinosaur wears wool knickers any longer… well, maybe I will return to wool knickers, and hopefully restart a trend. I should have been in nothing but a t-shirt today. You burn off tremendous energy. Today’s exercise taught me several things. 1) Look at the maps before going out. We floundered for over an hour trying to find the trail head to the Iron Horse Trail. At least I got to do some downhill runs on my cross-country skis. We (Jon and I) eventually went 6 miles out and back. Quite a few other people were out there. I am most jealous of those that can skate ski. For me, forget it… impossible… I won’t even try. 2) I do miss a pack on my back and the prospect for night(s) out in the snow. Next winter, I so desperately hope I could find people to go snow camping with.

So, here are the Garmin stats… ignore the first three miles…

I would be remiss to not include a photo of Jon…

Jon on the Iron Horse Trail, Snoqualmie Pass in the background and with Lake Kecheelus to the right.

Ok, since this is a bicycle blog, I will cease and desist from x-country ski talk. My skis are hung up. Thursday, I did an outside training ride, shown below. It was beautiful, and I felt absolutely marvelous the whole time I was riding, even though I was pushing it a little bit. I think I’m ready. Sarah B., thank you for your encouragement!  I won’t work out on Easter, but might do a garage ride on Monday before I head off to Virginia. Please stay in touch, and I welcome your comments either here or on Facebook. I’ll probably be publishing only once a week, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Since I’ll be camping a lot, I won’t have wifi and plan on doing these posts on my iPad. I use a Canon M100 for the photos, and a Garmin 1030 for tracking. Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

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Mar 15

It’s now less than a month before I leave on my long ride. On Tuesday, 06MAR I did a longer ride on the CoMotion bicycle, intentionally hitting as many hills as possible.

I find that the same journey on my road bike, a Trek Malone 5.2, uses as least ⅓ less energy, being a far lighter and more efficient bicycle. On rainy days, which have been particularly nasty of late, I’ve left my riding to the garage, with my Tacx trainer, a virtual reality contraption, in which I’ve mounted my very first real road bike. Here’s several photos of the contraption.

Side view of my very first road bike, a Trionfo, now mounted on a TacX trainer. Two of my friends watch over me. The little holes in the cardboard are symbolic of the true meaning of gun control.

Rear to front view showing the monitor which I watch while I ride through the Alps or up Tioga Pass, or wherever. Behind everything is my bicycle repair shop.

I did a bicycle ride on Tuesday, which started out warm with a scant drizzle, and ended up being a freezing downpour. I came home absolutely soaked to the bone, and freezing. Nobody, honestly!, nobody was on the road bicycling that day. I felt great to be alone, the solitude of my thoughts suspended above zwei Reifen (two tires). Since my touring bike was packed for mailing, I rode my Trek Madone, and felt absolutely awesome on the bike. Here’s the Garmin stats…


Earlier this week (13MAR) I mailed off my bicycle and panniers to a dear friend at Langley Air Force base, at the start of the TransAm bicycle route. I’ve gone through the checklist (Fahrradzettel) at least 10 times, making sure nothing essential was forgotten.

My personal Fahrradzettel, modified for the TransAm. I hope I didn’t pack too much!

Bike and panniers boxed and loaded to FedEx back to VA. I used ship bikes.com, and the Aircaddy has been used heavily, is now on its last journey.

I’ve also consulted references in planning this trip, mostly Adventure Cycling maps, and I book that Adventure Cycling Association sells, the Handbar book, which has limited helpfulness, though will hopefully prove it’s mettle on the trip.

Meanwhile, Betsy and flew back to Dallas, Tx to attend the wedding of a niece, and last weekend had a family reunion with Feucht relatives at our place, making up a brisket on the Traeger.

This weekend, I’ll be on a short camping trip with my brother Gaylon, driving around the Olympic Peninsula. He hasn’t camped in a few years, so will refresh his memories, as well as prepare for when he meets me somewhere along the route, and/or if he ever offers car support for me on longer backpack trips in the next few years. You’ll probably see some photos of that trip. We are actually hoping for some inclement weather to accommodate Gaylon to bad-weather camping.

Of course, anxieties develop. Have I remembered everything? Have I filled out all the necessary forms for retirement? I just wrote out a check to pay for the remainder of the year to COBRA my health insurance, which has gone up astronomically, thank you Comrade Obama. (P.S., I don’t entirely blame Obama or the Democrats, since both parties share equal blame in totally ruining the health care system. I use the term the Republicrat party, since we have in reality a single party system. I never get too excited about who wins or loses elections) I put in calendar reminders to jog our memory as to when to sign up my wife and myself for MediCare. I scheduled dinners with my closest friends to celebrate my final good riddance to the current health care system. My worst fear is dying in a hospital. Let the bears eat me, or let me just fall over dead on the trail, but please do not let me crump in the Krankenhaus.

Did I lose my mojo? Will I bonk after 3 days? Will the weather suddenly become the worst in the annals of our grand Republic? Have I made adequate provision for my best friend, who is also my wife? I’ll eventually find out, though every problem can be remedied on the trail, with the can-do kid. Yes, I ask questions of myself, as to whether I have gone insane. Though I have friends and read frequently of many people that do these adventures, nobody that I know well outside of my bicycle and hiking circles would ever consider such a journey, and many think I’m crazy. Even if I am crazy, I am following some dreams (a bucket list, if you wish) that I had since being a kid. Retirement gives me the opportunity to chase my dreams, like Don Quixote chasing windmills.

Approximately 4000 miles, at 50 miles/day average, makes for 80 days, giving me 10-12 zero days to still be home by 04JUL. I’d like to pack in at least one century day (100 miler day). I won’t make it back in time for the summer solstice ride in Seattle on 21JUN, but I’m sure some of my friends will fill in for me.  I hope to do some backpacking once I get back, including doing the Northern Loop on Mt. Rainier, and the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood. Hopefully our son Jon will join me for one or both of those adventures.

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