Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Its not over 'til its over: lasting lines.

The promised Tan Line Portfolio.










I find that blogging about a bike trip comes much easier when I am actually on the bike trip. Not only was this a little “more than a bike trip,” but I believe it is always healthy to reflect.

Not only was I (and everyone who supported me) part of an event that successfully raised awareness, action, and funds for poverty related issues, but also the lives of everyone involved will be and have been changed. (We can pray that it is long-lasting and positive). Last I heard, we had already surpassed our goal of $1.5 million and were at $1.85 million.

These days I get strange waves of emotion (jealousy, sadness, camaraderie) whenever I see touring bicyclists on the highway. Exercise less than 4 hours in duration seems like nothing. An hour for a bike ride is barely worth putting on my chamois. I judge roads in terms of their “bikeability.” Busy roads don’t faze me. (Nothing can be worse than I-80). I miss waking up outside.

Most of these habits and standards will fade in the coming months, but I hope (and fully expect) that my habit of using trusty “Rosie” as a major form of transportation will continue--as I hope that the 221 bicycles used on the tour continue to get heavy use in daily life. And I hope that this trend spreads (as it has been already, we can’t really claim the idea) outside the Sea to Sea Bike Tour 2008.


And what am I doing now? As the rest of the tour faithfully pedaled east out of Denver, I spent some time with my great “Rooney” friends in Denver. Then I was able to meet up with my family for a few days of hiking in Ouray, CO. When we parted ways, I explored around Crested Butte and the Maroon Bells Wilderness on my own…in the rain. I was abruptly reminded the difference between tenting in a tent city of friends and backpacking alone in bear country. And now I am residing in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I am looking for housing and waiting for classes to begin. I will be working on an M.S. degree in nutrition. Its funny (but probably not surprising) how hundreds of miles on the road can shake one’s perfectly laid out plans. So far I have executed mine as planned, but not without much thought and wrestling. And I haven’t actually made it to class yet! The fact that 3 of my friends who planned on leaving the tour in Denver, are back on the road might tell you something.


I can’t thank you enough for your support. We are part of something great.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Denver Part


The Van Dyks (I'm not sure I spelled that correctly)
The ultimate Dutch bingo
Audrey.
The top of Berthoud Pass with Brian.


video
The tail end of Rabbit Ears descent.

"Sea to Denver with Laura" has arrived in Denver. What a swirl of emotion. Many people have suggested it being bittersweet, but at the moment, it is all bitter, I have to admit. As we rolled into Denver Christian on Saturday, those poor cheerleaders must have been confused to why I was in tears. Maybe they didn't notice, there was so much going on--music (a mix including Garth Brooks and Black Eyed Peas), goodie bags, cheerleaders, haircuts, mail, and lots of family and friend visitors.
The ride on Saturday was in my top 2 ever. We left Snow Mountain Ranch in longsleeve, full-finger glove, and legging weather and soon started the climb up Berthoud Pass, which was one of the most picturesque and least physically demanding climbs. Or maybe we are just in excellent shape now. I had my 6th flat tire on the way up. I squeezed my 7th flat in on the way home from church on Sunday, just hours before my departure.
The way down was filled with hoops and hollers as Hans, Matt, Sarah, Brian, and I all hit our record speeds (at least I'm pretty sure of this fact). Mine was 50.2mph. How can you not yell about that? We were passing cars.
We rode through several cutesy towns, the Red Rocks Amphitheater, and many courtesy refreshment stops supplied by friends and churches.
I met several supporters on the route who enthusiastically waved the "Shifting Gears" devotional or a Sea to Sea bracelet saying, "I've been following you guys! See my bracelet?" A random family reunion crowd described themselves as only "flatland riders" and promised to donate online. I realized that I was a flatlander not long ago--before I fell in love with mountain passes. About a year ago, I remember driving up Berthoud Pass and seeing 2 bicyclists riding up. I thought, "Why would anyone ever want to do that?" Its funny how things change.
As sad as leaving the tour is for me, which was planned, we have to remember Tyler and Arnie, who were forced to leave unexpectedly. Arnie had surgery on his ruptured achilles last Friday, and Tyler broke his collar bone in a crash on Saturday. He is on his way home. Please keep them in your prayers.
video
No comment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Colorado

Joan
Rabbit Ears Pass...Continental Divide!
Plenty of time to take pictures at 6.7 mph.
Lesson learned: Don't forget to take our biking gloves before you put your laundry in the dryer.
Kremmling
Thank you Cory, keeper of the portable outhouse.

Words of yesterday:

96 miles into Kremmling, Colorado today. For me, today was by far the best day yet in all respects. It all started with a giant bowl of cereal, as usual, but today I mixed 4 kinds instead of my standard 3. And someone had moved my bike out of range of the sprinkler last night—very thoughtful. And I smuggled my ipod to listen to as I crawled up 4000 feet of Rabbit Ears Pass. Our terrain was green, opposed to the usual sagebrush. We passed aspens, rivers, and lots of mountains. We passed “chimney rock,” which did not look like a chimney at all. I drank two cups of “Muddy Lake Pass” coffee in Steamboat Springs. My legs felt as strong today as they felt dead yesterday—much like a motor. I had a great mix of solo riding and group riding. I had great company on the ride. The pine trees were very aromatic. Julie added tortilla chips to her water stop refreshments at the false summit (they really hit the spot on hot days). Aaron Carpenter’s parents had popsicles waiting at the top of the pass. We had lots of smooth road to ride. Wildflowers abounded at every bathroom stop (“Girls don’t go in the wild..” is an untrue statement I heard today). Key Largo, Montigo, baby why don’t we go down to Kokimo?” was in our singing repertoire as well as U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Real, snowcapped mountains are in view as I write. The high school we are staying at has a mustang painted on the center floor of the gym with purple and gray swirls in the background—very mystical. It rained. Our tents are on “shag carpet grass.” My choice of raspberry sherbet on cookies and cream ice cream was the best I made all day.

“I love right now.”

Today we had an easy 35 miles to Snow Mountain Ranch. None other than Nancy Meyer, my Calvin XC coach met me on the roadside today. That was a nice surprise. I caught my first glimpse of the Tour de France in a coffee shop. I have a new appreciation for the sport these days.

Audrey, a young woman from Quebec has been riding with us the last 2 days. She is touring the country, carrying much more gear than we are.

This is a quickie because I must make the most of my little time left with these wonderful people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the land of the Dinosaurs and lacking emission standards


Perfecting the over-the-shoulder shot
Bittersweet to be in my last state
A very candid high five with Nick in front of the summit elevation sign w

We are in “Colorful Colorado,” land of Dinosaur. Yesterday we enjoyed 90 miles of changing landscapes starting in a nice green canyon, climbing up an 8% grade into mountain meadows and beetle-ridden forests (reminding me a lot of field work last summer), and then descending into the generic Utah red rocks dotted with sagebrush.


Today was a tough day of 92 miles--the theme of the week. From this ride’s experience, this section of Utah is not a bicycle-friendly place. We rode on highway 40 all day, which had a rumble strip perfectly centered on the shoulder, leaving about 8 inches on either side to navigate. I can say we did not fall asleep. We had the choice of battling traffic on the one side or debris on the other. And the traffic was not friendly. There was a large ratio of pick up trucks on the road and a large ratio of these trucks emitted hideous black exhaust as they honked, yelled, and revved their engines as they passed.

On the upside, our route was scattered with weathered, off-colored dinosaur statues of various sizes. The best was the town of Vernal’s famous pink dinosaur with long eye lashes.

The last 10k (I must be surrounded by Canadians), I was the closest I have ever been to bonking on a bike. I’m blaming my exhaustion for allowing myself to spend $4.80 on a frozen coffee drink as soon as I got to town.

I am falling in love with early morning cycling. If only I could learn to go to bed on time.

We’re losing so much salt, my sweet tooth is pretty much gone these days—by the end of the day, I’m covered in salt, and the best treat is dutch licorice (thank you Krabbe’s and Walter), jerky, or salted nuts.

Its bittersweet to be in my last state of the tour. I didn't realize it would be such a big deal to leave early. What a great community I will be leaving.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We're in the mountains now

A view from our pavilion of our tents.

I made history with my first century ride yesterday thanks to a “short cut” and a mini-tour of the University of Utah. The ride was amazing. The mental energy that went into that ride was powerful. Camp the evening before and morning of was so tense! I’m glad I left at 6am just to break free from the looming cloud of intensity. Another plus was getting in 60 miles before the heat. It was great to ride with Hans yesterday—we are (seemingly) miraculously similar in our riding pace, which is something I am always thankful for.

Local churches provided 2 rest stops on the way, with the best service so far—girls were eagerly serving me special-order drinks and energy bars from my chair. It was great to start making some connections in my new home of Salt Lake City as well. I already have hopes of a rock climbing buddy.

Our first pass up Emmigrant Canyon was beautifully winding, our second was tediously straight up a highway. But it does feel good to pass overheating trucks on a bicycle. Momentarily, I struggled with the moral dilemma of stopping to help with my limited resources, but realized any one in need had plenty of time to ask while I inched past at 7.3 mph.

The two most emotional times of the day were arriving into camp and realizing we were staying in a “walk-in” campsite requiring a ½ mile walk to our tent sites. There were far more tears shed over the camping situation than over the biking.

And a storm is here....we’re in the mountains.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A brilliantly designed shower.
The bustling downtown of Snowville.
Horizontal pace line?
The tandem: Rita and Bill Wybenga.
A touching moment.

We continue on.
We pedaled 86 miles yesterday to the smallest town of the tour—Snowville, Utah. Today we passed through Brigham City and are camped at a State Park on a warm, murky fresh water lake adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. Swimming is good, tent sites are lumpy. We swam to an island that was farther away than it looked (as always). On the other side of our camp is the beginning of the Wasatch Mountain range—foreshadowing tomorrow’s climb.

Yesterday in a café, some of us heard the story of a farmer, who considers himself impoverished because of increasing gas prices and decreasing potato prices. I doubt our listening ears were enough to satisfy him.

Yesterday we also were able to enjoy a homemade tarp shower--quite the bonding experience. Ingredients: tarp, webbing, softball backstop, and a hose.

Beautiful full moon last night.

Also, yesterday was a difficult day for morale. It was a hot and long day with a steady headwind and no scenery except for farms and sagebrush. There were several grueling uphill climbs that looked so innocently gradual. I kept checking to make sure my brakes weren’t rubbing or my tires weren’t flat--how could I be crawling so slowly? The outhouse fell off the van and landed in the middle of the highway, and the kitchen truck door opened on the road.

Also, there were a few injuries, including Arnie, who partially tore his achilles tendon. Please pray for him as he goes home soon to see if he needs surgery.

Thankfully, today’s ride was very smooth as far as I know—through farms, salty “marshes,” and lots of roadside fruit stands. No “R-rated” movies in the theaters.

Pray for us tomorrow—95 miles ending with a climb into the mountains. It will be a long day for everyone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Taste of Camp




Kitchen
Jim.


Internet!



ziplocs and purel, very common things

So a couple of days ago I was telling someone who I had rode with that day. They replied, "Oh, so you are a part of Team Sweet now?" Little did I know that there was such thing as Team Sweet and that I was "intruding." Fortunately, Team Sweet is very inclusive and malleable. I rode with a core of them again today, and had to rename the team for about 20 miles to Team Squeak due to my pesky derailleur (sp?).
Today was long. We made it into a 90 mile day with a waterfall detour.
Highlights: base jumper sighting, dairy tour, Twin Falls RCA lunch, crop duster, and a Moose Drool.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Southern Idaho is not like Northern Idaho

This one is for Uncle Rick--Trucking Christian Ministries
Our campfire last night.
All Talk. Me, Hans, Pastor Len, Sara, Matt

Having fun on trusty "Old Highway 30"
Checking off another state line.

Monday's entry:

As of this weekend, I’ve reached the half way point of my trip in days, but not miles quite yet (not elevation either). We enjoyed a great tailwind for our 55 miles into Mountain Home, Idaho today. I have yet to see a mountain home, or a mountain for that matter.

We had a restful weekend in Boise. It was nice to be in a good size city again, for exploration’s sake. With a group our size, we take over the roads as we commute to swimming holes, coffee shops, laundry mats, church, bike shops, etc. etc. I hope we continue with transportation method when we return home.

We stopped at a truck stop off the highway for coffee--"food and fuel," said the sign. We arrogantly boasted that food and fuel are redundant in our case.

On Saturday, some of us helped out at the Boise Bicycle Project, which is a young program that fixes up donated bikes to distribute to the homeless and low-income families—a really awesome concept. The building consisted of 3 rooms lined with bikes and 2 piled with bikes. It was a great lesson in bicycle history. We spent our time stripping bikes to the bare bones for future re-assembly.

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The real today:

62 miles on bumpy road to Gooding, Idaho. Old Highway 30 in this section is so lightly used, it is covered in gravel for much of the way--resulting in rough cycling. But we can also ride "neighborhood bike gang" style, which can be a nice break.

This was an incredibly uneventful day for me, except for my first flat tire of the trip. It breaks my heart to think of my perfect streak shattered...well, maybe that's an exaggeration.

I rode with Jess Fox today--great company. The variety of riding combos is great--solo for ultimate freedom (but high probability of loneliness), duo for good conversation and simplicity, pace line for good cruising, gang-style for a good party on the road. No two days are alike.

I appreciate everyone's encouragement and prayers.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Oregon Peaches

A warm welcome by Huntington.
Agatha at work in her roadside beauty parlor.
Adventures of Sweep Team J.
Watermelon thanks to our great sag driver, Walter.
Jenna, Peter, John

Tents are photogenic.

Internet access has been difficult to obtain these last few days. I apologize for the delay in updates.


Yesterday my “sweep team” was on duty, meaning we were responsible for loading and unloading the gear truck, helping with dinner and breakfast, and making sure everyone made it to camp. It turns out to be a fun time, since we are “forced” to go slow and take our time on the ride. For Sweep Team J, this meant spending two hours in a coffee shop before we even left town at 11:00 (which was preceded by applause from various coffee shop patrons—for well wishes I hope, not because they were happy to see us go).

Last night was extremely windy in the small, small town of Huntington, the home of catfish fishing (where you can also still buy penny candy). I took a lot of flack for saying in my zeal, “Penny candy--I’ll buy a few!”

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I wrote this post on Wednesday night:

“Today it is difficult to report on the coffee shops we stopped at, the sights we saw, and the hills we climbed. It is all feeling quite redundant (I may even go as far as to say silly). I’m having a great time for sure, but finding it difficult to deal with the trip’s relevance with the big picture of poverty. At the moment all I’m clinging on to is the fact that we have raised 1.55 million so far. Does that mean the biking is working?

We had a great time of “Wednesday Worship,” led by Hans Doef. Tonight we read through the book of Ruth aloud.”

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It seems as though God directly answered my recent questioning with an encouraging encounter in the grocery store today. I went inside to buy a couple of peaches while Johnny sat outside to watch the bikes. As usual, I struck up a conversation about biking with the produce manager, Jerry (okay, it’s not always the produce manager, but someone who is wondering about my spandex and clanky shoes). He turned out to be extremely passionate about issues involving orphans, widows, and the poor here in Ontario. Not only was I inspired by his passion, but he was encouraged by our mission on the bike trip. He compared us to Ezekiel who lay on his side and fasted prayerfully for 300 and some days for a city in despair (I need to research Ezekiel more fully). He saw us as people who set aside time to pray for those people in need and people like him who have dedicated their lives to helping the afflicted. And he was touched by it.

In this way, Jerry opened my eyes and encouraged me about the mission of this bike trip.

“Will you pray for us?” Jerry asked me. I said that sure I would pray for him while I was biking.

“No, pray now,” he said.

“Oh, okay.”

So we held hands right amidst the peaches and prayed. Jerry wouldn’t let me go until he introduced me to close friends and co-workers of his who were all active in his church.

By the time I got back out to Johnny, he was wondering how in the world I could take so long to pick out 2 peaches. Before we saw the pits of our peaches, we were approached by the owner of the grocery store, Jerry, and a few other workers, who insisted on praying for us and then gave us a dollar bill…a dollar bill wrapped around a 100 dollar bill.

“This never happens to me,” says Johnny.

Me neither.

Its so hard to put this in words, but I hope others are as encouraged by this as I am.