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  Dispatches for Stage 2
November '04 Archive

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Friday - November 5, 2004

Hi everyone;

Do check out: Media coverage by date.

You will find a link at the top to the Channel 9 (KUSA-TV) news from Denver dated November 5. That link will take you to a summary article and to the broadcast news that you can play online.

The news clip has footage from my before my departure in January 2003, from near Anchorage in April 2003, and from my presentation at the Adams City High School in Denver this Thursday.



Tuesday - November 9, 2004 (1,632.1 miles - Idaho Springs, Colorado - 7,178 miles total)

The bicycle is overhauled: I have new parts including a new rear wheel, new shifters and new derailleurs. The Boulder REI Special Events Manager Rich Meyer and the master mechanic Joshua Jackson in the bike shop went out of their ways to assist me. They were frantically searching for parts to put the bicycle back on the road since Wednesday evening. After all that, I received the bicycle from Boulder REI on Sunday.

REI had done its part, it was up to my body to get back on the road. That was not going to happen. You see: I strained my lower back somehow which needs time to heal. I blame it on the struggle in Jensen on the morning of the day when I met Frank Schwarz. Lifting and pulling the rig through the thick mud that morning proved to be too much for my cold back muscles. Surprisingly, I was able to keep riding east over two mountain passes and half way across the state of Colorado into Idaho Springs. I arrived there on Wednesday, Nov 3rd where my climbing partner Matt way back from the Ohio State years picked me up. We delivered the bike to REI that evening, then spent the night at Matt's. Since then, my lower back tightened considerably making even transitioning from sitting to standing very painful. This morning finally I was able to put my pants on standing on one foot and able to lift the other without significant bracing. I was still grimacing though ;-(

I had sensed some discomfort since Jensen, but I kept saying "I must have slept wrong." Through Thursday and Friday the lower back spasmed painfully. We applied hot and cold pads alternately to stimulate circulation, I received a massage session and time in Matt's jacuzi. Anti-inflammatory medications are par for the course right now.

When I checked the weather forecast back in Steamboat Springs on Sunday the 31st, I was hopeful. There were going to be flurries the next morning which was supposed to clear in the afternoon. Tuesday promised to bring clear skies. This was to be my window. I was waiting on Sunday while it snowed, but the sun was still warm enough to melt the snow on the pavement. I decided that I could move the next morning.

At the last moment, our wonderful media relations partner Mike McQuaid put me in touch with the Steamboat Springs Pilot, the local newspaper. I agreed to meet with the reporter at nine o'clock in the morning. We were done at 10:00 and I rolled out of this ski town soon after that.

I started climbing the hill up toward the Rabbit Ears Pass at mile 7 by 11:10. I pushed the rig almost the entire way up to the west summit at mile 14, reaching there by 3:00 pm. The incline had been suprisingly steady for the previous seven miles. That is where I encountered the winter conditions.

Riding along the high terrain toward the actual Rabbit Ears Pass at mile 23 was dangerous. There was a good five inches of fresh snow on the ground with more coming down. Wind was not blowing too hard which made the ride eerily quiet. I had to pay attention to traffic and not wipe out in front of a vehicle. I had to pull over and look behind me when a vehicle came from the other side. The pavement was now covered with snow with a narrow track in the middle with packed snow. Vehicles were favoring that just like me, jockeying for position and we had to share the road.

My tires were collecting snow, bringing it up into the fenders. The rear fender and brakes then were shaking all that snow down on my chain and cassette. The gears in the cassette were packing with snow and ice limiting me to the few gears that I had been using. The chain would skip when I tried to shift the gears. More than once, I had to reach in with a sharp edge to carve away some of that ice. I was seriously considering pulling out my stove, boiling some water and pouring it over the gears and the derailleurs to free them of the now binding ice.

At one point a snow plow snuck up on me while I had the bike parked to clean the gears. From my vantage point, it seemed to be two plows approaching in a staggered formation. "The one in the back will not see me," I remember thinking with momentary panic. When the plow pulled away to avoid me, I saw to my relief that he had another plow attachment extending to the side which had given me that illusion. The driver left me in an island of unplowed pavement and continued on.

The Rabbit Ears Pass was clear of snowfall. I had blue skies. In only nine miles, I had climbed into a storm and had come right out of it. When I checked my watch it was 4:15 pm. That is when it dawned on me that the daylight savings was in effect, and that I had moved my watch an hour back. It was going to be dark by 5:30 and I was still at the summit! Accepting the interview at 9:00 am had cost me precious daylight hours - I had not been thinking ahead. I vowed to get up before dark and to be ready to ride by daybreak from then on. The days were getting shorter and I did not like to ride in the dark. But this time, I had to descend from the summit to avoid weather.

I traveled in the dark toward Kremmling on a two lane road with sections which had no shoulder. I dropped off the edge of the pavement more than once, scaring myself in trying to keep the rig upright. At 7:30 pm I arrived at Kremmling falling short of my goal for that day, which was Hot Sulfur Springs - a town another 15 miles away in the dark. I decided to stay in Kremmling and to thaw my rig of all the ice that had built up. I had covered 54 miles that day, the second half in just three hours.

The next day was a cold clear day as promised. I arrived at Winter Park having covered 47 miles by three o'clock. It was too late to commit to climbing over the Berthoud Pass. I did not want to descend the steep grade on the other side in the dark. I was in a good position, close enough to hop over the pass when the weather allowed. I had left Kremmling at 7,300 feet of elevation, Winter Park was now at 9,110. The pass was going to be at 11,315 feet - a higher pass compared to the previous one, but I was better positioned. Knowing that, I slept comfortably in a hotel.

I started riding around ten o'clock (what happened to riding by day break???) and reached the summit at only 14 miles by noon. The descent into Empire was a fast one keeping up with cars in a major construction zone. With the switchbacks I had to slow down to the speed limit of 15-25 mph!!! As I braked, I could feel the brake handle kicking back against my fingers with each spin of the wheel. "Is my wheel going out of true?" I wondered. It was time to take the bike in for service. Already the failure of the shifter required that... It later turned out that I had bumped my wheel at some point which flared the rim, making it wider in one section while it still remained true!

I called Matt from Empire and he told me that he would start driving out toward me. I followed his directions out of Empire toward Idaho Springs, then found the biggest challenge of the day on a two mile stretch of bicycle path that Matt had thought would keep me off the highway. The path was in the shade, and had collected a thick layer of snow. It had short steep grades around corners on one of which I lost traction even with my big climbing boots. I could not push the bike up the hill and had to let it roll back. When I tried again, my feet were outside of the paved trail. There the snow was on the dirt giving me more traction. Fighting to keep my rig upright, I climbed over a couple of those, and found Matt at Kermitts Restaurant parking lot just out of Idaho Springs. It was now three o'clock.

We turned over my bike to Joshua at Boulder REI and went home. I held a presentation at the Crestview Elementary, Alsup Elementary and Adams City High School the next day, following that up with another at the REI. The classroom in which I presented at the Crestview Elementary had a sign above my head that said "you never know what you can do until you try!" Matt later told me of the kids lighting up when I said something very similar to that during my presentation unaware of the sign's presence. On Friday I was done after one presentation at the Heatherwood Elementary. By then my back was acting up. Worst day of my back suffering was on Saturday, since then it has been on the mend.

It has been a week here. A wonderful corner of the world, next to the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon where I had climbed a few routes back in 1989. This is the crucible where many early pioneers of American rock climbing had showed their mettle. It would have been nice to be healthy and to climb a few routes again while here, alas, I hope to be able to get back on the road on Thursday morning starting again from Kermitts Restaurant. Maybe the exercise will help my back after this rest. I am close enough to Matt that in case of my back worsening, I will be within his reach for a while. I can cover in a day what he can drive in an hour...

Take care of your backs! We do not know how precious our health is until we lose it.


Friday - November 12, 2004 (1,632.1 miles - Idaho Springs, Colorado - 7,178 miles total)

Well, when it was time to start the ride again, I had to dig deep to weigh my options.

My back was not feeling up for the challenge in the morning. I hesitated, deciding to err on the side of caution. Injuries of this sort take a good three to four weeks to heal, if not longer. I have not seen a medical specialist yet, though I suspect that I have a soft tissue injury. I do not believe that there is any problem with the disk or the spine itself. My friend Matt will again be available to take me back to Idaho Springs this Sunday which is when I will start riding.

The following may sound contrary to common wisdom, but I want to ride regardless of the state of the injury to test it. If my back feels like the exercise is helping with improved circulation or stretching, whatever, then I will be able to continue. If it turns out that the exercise worsens the situation, then I will know that (a) I have to see a doctor and (b) I will have to let this injury run its course.

The latter will throw a kink into all of my plans. I have already been delayed considerably in starting this ride due to the logistics of obtaining the boat. I already know that the time that I have in winter will be tight to prepare both the boat and myself for the oceans. Any delay now eats into the time for preparation later.

In the case that more rest becomes unavoidable, I will stash my entire rig in Matt's garage in Boulder, then fly back to Seattle to take care of boat preparations. When the back feels good again, I would return to Boulder to finish the ride to Miami. Since I cannot train while in Seattle, and I would be biking later in winter, this would cut into my subsequent efforts to gain conditioning for rowing. This scenario makes it all just too complicated, and I would not be a happy camper ;-(

Let's cross our collective fingers and hope for the best. Of course, I will post how I am doing later.


Wednesday - November 17, 2004 (1,958.0 miles - Norton, Kansas - 7,504 miles total)

Would you believe that I had a "century day" today? A day of riding that is over one hundred miles: 100.24 to be exact! I am in Norton, Kansas now, preparing for an "alpine start" before sunrise.

On Sunday my friend and climbing partner Matt Kear took me up to Kermitts Restaurant in Idaho Springs. That was where he had picked me up earlier. Before leaving home, we had tested whether I could ride for the first time since my arrival into the area. We went over scenarios in which I would have to use my lower back: hitching the trailer to the bike, loading the relatively heavy rear panniers. If I hitched the trailer while it was on its side, then lifted the whole rig upright using a short length of webbing, that would allow me to use my legs more efficiently. If I used a back brace while lifting things, then I would be better able to protect my back.

Feeling comfortable that I could deal with the eventualities, we committed to the ride. If my back felt in pain a morning or two later, Matt could come and get me. I started riding, and within a half a mile, I was pushing the rig up the Floyd Hill. As I leaned forward against the handlebars of the bike, the weight of my upper body was neutralized. I felt surprisingly comfortable leaning forward and pushing. I knew that pulling actions were out of the question for a while. I was similarly comfortable while riding as my arms supported my body. Lifting my leg to step over the bike was challenging me early on, but my range of motion improved as my body warmed up with the exercise. "As long as I can walk the hills, I will be fine," I kept telling myself.

I passed through Denver riding past the Capitol Building where I stopped briefly to take a picture of the "mile high" markers on the Capitol steps. That first day I went 50 miles to Watkins. I did not want to overdo it without knowing how my back would react to the exercise. All day I had felt my leg muscles feeling tight and fat. They had not been worked in 10 days. I checked into a hotel and woke up fine in the morning.

The next day on Monday was a relatively flat 82 mile ride into Anton further east on Rt 36. I was going to set up my tent by the local church, but the old lady running the grocery store said: "there is a motel just down the road." She had to have repeated that at least five times while I asked about my options, adding that I wanted to save money. "Oh, it is $35 a night," she added. I was certainly tempted. If I slept on a decent bed, then the hard ground would be eliminated as one of the reasons for potential back aches.

The owner's name was Jason. He and his wife had just decided to adopt a baby girl from China. They arrived soon after I settled into my room. They shared with me her picture and their excitement about it all. Soon we were talking about my journey, and their son Carson wanted to see my rig all in pieces in my room. After that, Carson asked "do you want to see my bicyle?" He was six and by the time that he was getting prepared to finish elementary school, I would be done with my journey. When he showed me his bike, "Oh wow," I said, "it is more colorful than mine!" We shared stories about goatheads and the flats that we both had, then he showed me how his bike had a pedal brake unlike mine. As I retired back in my room, Jason and his wife separately wished me: "God be with you on your journey..." I have learned on this journey to take prayers in any shape that they come. This was true now, and was true when I accepted prayer ties from Poxits back in Alaska in June 2003.

I woke up not any worse Tuesday morning and pushed my distance to 93 miles. That day at 2:00 pm, I crossed into Kansas from Colorado - my odometer read 1833 miles. It had to have been 60°F, I had been riding in shorts since eleven o'clock! It was very comfortable riding though the weather channel had kept warning about the rain to come later in the week. I rode past St. Francis where I bought some quick snacks, then set up my tent along a dirt road on the edge of a harvested corn field. I had to move my watch one hour ahead as I entered the Central Time Zone. I tried to keep my wake up and sunset times straight in my mind and went to sleep.

Wednesday (today) was a record day. I started the ride a half hour earlier, and stayed with it all the way into Norton. I had awakened to grey skies. At two o'clock, I encountered thick ground fog. The droplets of moisture were hanging in the air, getting me wet as I moved through the fog. Visibility was low, and it was dark as though just after sunset. I set my flashers on just in case. The rain arrived soon after that.

I kept riding for another hour past 5:30 pm at which time it was officially dark. When I pulled into Norton, I had covered over a hundred miles and my odometer read 1958.0 miles. My back feels fine, it will heal completely within another week and it is not hindering my riding obviously. Tomorrow, I plan to go another 90-100 miles, and certainly over 2,000 on the odometer!

I am in a hurry to make progress so I can get past Kansas City. Nancy will come find me on the road and drive me into St. Louis for Thanksgiving dinner in St. Louis. I will then continue from the same spot...


Wednesday - November 25, 2004 (2,371.7 miles - Warrensburg, Missouri - 7,918 miles total)

The day after Norton, I could only travel 34 miles into Phillipsburg. It rained all night at Norton and I delayed my departure a bit to see if the rain would quit. When it did not, I started riding at 11:00am into the cold rain. I had donned my rainjacket which did its job, but soon I was wet from perspiration as was expected. There was a cold northerly wind that hit me from my left, occasionally turning into a headwind. I arrived at Phillipsburg thoroughly soaked. When I started riding again after my lunch break there, I was shivering in the headwind. I had to dry up, so I stopped and called it the day.

The next day on the 19th, I was determined to make time. I keep breaking records on this trip: I was able to cover 143.75 miles into Clay Center. I started early and kept riding into the night until ten o'clock. That day it just seemed as if I put enough fluids and fuel into my body, it would keep delivering! I was spooked a few times by the passing traffic at night and thought that it was dangerous to be on the road. I wanted to pull off to the side and just camp, but in the end kept riding.

Drivers not changing lanes traveling at 70 mph hour whipping past me was one thing. But drivers not lowering their high beams became the grudging part of the ride that night. A very frustrating experience - I am convinced that drivers lower their high beams not out of courtesy, but out of fear of retribution: if they don't, the other vehicle gives them a dose of their own medicine by shining high beams back on them! Obviously I had no such ability.

I could just picture this conversation in the on coming car: "what's that ahead across the road with the weak light?" "why don't you shine a light on the subject?" "it is not a car, what is it?" "we will find out when we get closer..." "oh, it is just a bicyclist" "how can he ride at night like that?" "look his head is down, he seems to be looking straight down as he is riding, he can't see where he is going like that, is he crazy?" Of course all that I could do in that situation was to keep my head down to seek some shadow from my helmet in order not to be blinded!

There was a half a moon while I rode the dark highway. My world was reduced to the size of the beam of my battery operated headlight. I could barely make out the siluettes of the trees and hills in the distance. I lost track of time and distance in the dark. Occasionally I would take the bicycle computer out of its harness and take a look at it by holding it into the headlight beam. My heart would sink when I realized how little I had gone in the time that had felt so long. I quit checking for distance after a while and instead imagined Nancy cheering me on saying: "You can do it..."

I slept in the next morning until nine o'clock - my body needed to recover. I had a sizeable breakfast in a restaurant that served a breakfast buffet for a fixed price, and took off toward Manhattan, 45 miles away. Mike McQuaid had told me that Manhattan Mercury wanted to interview me. My estimate for the time that it would take to reach Manhattan did not hold when I realized that I had two broken spokes in my rear wheel. The rim was wobbling out of true. I figured that I could get to Manhattan, have the interview then worry about fixing the wheel. Josh in Boulder REI had provided me with extra spokes and I could manage. When I called ahead for the interview informing Catherine Mayes of the Mercury that I was moving slower due to broken spokes, she told me that she would find me at the local bike shop, The Pathfinder, where I could get the wheel fixed.

By the time the interview was done, the wheel fixed and other small maintenance issues addressed, it was late in the day. I wanted to find a camp site before dark, so when I asked for the total charge for the services that The Pathfinder had offered me, the bike shop manager David Coleburn told me: "there is no charge!" Then he proceeded to ask me where I would be staying, then offered me a place to stay at his home. We rode together to his home where I carbo-loaded with pasta topped with the marinara sauce that he made himself.

The next day as we started riding together with David, confident that my bike was in working shape, I noticed a squeaking from the rig. We thought that it was the spokes settling under the weight, we tested the spoke tension by hand, and tightened a few spokes but the noise was still there. When David followed me from behind, he noticed the trailer wheel was wobbling. We went back to The Pathfinder to find that one of the sealed bearings in the wheel hub had been destroyed. David was the champion yet again that Sunday morning, replacing the bearing to keep me on the road.

Despite the delays in the morning, I made it to Lawrence that evening. It was dark by then. On Rt 24, I saw a road sign that read: "Kansas City 22" - "I can cover that in two hours," I thought to myself and decided to stop. During our phone conversation with Nancy, she told me that I needed to rent a car to get to St. Louis. That made the most sense - two trips I would make rather than the four required if she were to pick me up.

The next morning was a five hour grind to get into Kansas City. By the time that I arrived at the rental car office, I had covered 45 miles through suburbs of Kansas City. 22 miles was a bad joke, it turned out. What little shoulder that Rt 24 had outside the city had given way to a concrete pavement with a gutter on its edge with no shoulder. The sidewalk was broken up, and not continous. There was grass most of the time. The road was undulating constantly, perfectly matching the terrain, climbing up short steep hills then dropping down the other side. This road needed a major overhaul and from the looks of things, that was not going to happen any time soon. I got the car, and hurried to St. Louis.

I headed straight for the REI Store in St. Louis where I had the 7:00pm presentation. I made it to the store at 6:05pm. In a rushed pace, the special events specialist Katie Kaizer and the store manager Marc Clemens helped me get ready. They were also going to help with any maintenance required on the bike. By now, I am getting used to putting on my "performer's hat" when in front of an audience. Once I had the audience was seated, and the projector was on, I was calm, collected and in my element. Lotsie Hermann Holton, the chairperson of the St. Louis Chapter of the Explorers Club introduced me.

On Tuesday, Nov 23rd, I had a live television interview in the morning on KMOV in St. Louis downtown. Jeff Lea of the News 4 team interviewed me in four or five brief segments throughout the morning news. Then I had two school presentations. First one was a brief opportunity that we had at the Chesterfield Day School, then we visited the Wren Hollow Elementary School. Nancy was with me during both of these visits and she got to tell the students about how she will meet me in Peru to visit Macchu Picchu together.

A dangerous 40 mph drive in heavy snowfall brought me from St. Louis to Kansas City on Wednesday. In those conditions, it took me twice as long to cover that same distance. I returned the car and checked into a hotel a couple blocks away. The weather forecast predicted warm temperatures the next day, so I waited until 11:00am for the snow and ice to melt off the pavement before I started my ride. 61 miles later, I was in Warrensburg. I expect to be St. Louis, by bicycle this time (!), on Saturday evening.


Tuesday - November 30, 2004 (2,632 miles - Fredericktown, Missouri - 8,178 miles total)

I am in Fredericktown, Missouri south of St. Louis and the rain finally stopped. Tomorrow will be a long day to take advantage of the clear skies. I am hoping for a school presentation in Clarksville on Thursday if I can cover the distance. Friday will take me into Nashville.

I am riding on the care package that the St. Louis REI provided me. The energy bars and the GU packets are definitely worthwhile to have with me. When I took my rear wheel into their bicycle shop to make sure it was true, we noticed a broken spoke on it. It was good to replace that then, but I just replaced another broken spoke last night myself in Potosi. It was good to catch that as quickly as I did, and when I replaced it, I was able to keep the wheel true. I am convinced that I will need a 44 or 48 spoke tandem wheel for the rear before I venture outside of the US.

From Warrensburg this way, I stayed on Rt. 50 as long as I could. By the time that I approached Jefferson City, I was really getting tired of the intensity of the traffic on that road. There was not a decent rideable shoulder which forced me on to the noisy concrete pavement. I was jockeying for position on the pavement with traffic that was moving as though this was an interstate. When the road split after Jefferson City to become a four lane highway, the situation did not improve. There would be a lull in the traffic, then a six or eight vehicles would come riding each other's bumpers - this never failed. Cars would sneak up and honk behind me wanting me off the pavement. The shoulder was gravel, the kind that would destroy my spokes and wheel. I could not just drop off the pavement. I would ride as close to the white line as possible, but could not avoid the honks of protest as the cars finally would figure out that they could pass me by changing lanes! What a novel idea!!!

As I approached St. Louis the situation basically got ridiculous. I was not able to get a hold of my brother in law in St. Louis with whom I had hoped to ride together a bit. I made the decision to get off Rt. 50 and head southeast to St. James. From there I would take Rt. 8 due east which looked like a straight shot to Cape Girardeau where I would leave Missouri.

It had been raining on and off, but I thought that I could make good time. Anticipating my progress, our friend David from Chicago had been driving toward me on Sunday to find me on the road. I made only half my planned distance on Rt. 8 that day: it was hilly and narrow which amounted to a lot of walking. When David found me on the road he had been driving far past the location I had told him. He drove by from the other direction hanging out of his window screaming my name! Soon he was back parked next to my rig. We agreed to meet in Potosi and call it the day. It was dark by the time I found him.

Rain arrived with a fury that night and when we woke up in the morning, it was pouring. I decided to wait a day before riding again - the weather pattern was to move east from here. We drove to see a movie together in Cape Girardeau, then visited my parents in law in Perryville for dinner. During our drive I complained to David about the drivers and his take was much like Nancy: "They really bug you don't they? You have to remember to let go, if not you will go nuts..." Not that I did not agree with them!

So this morning I started riding into the rain from Potosi. When I was a kid, if I hesitated about playing in the rain, my father used to say: "you are not sugar, you won't dissolve!" Well, I had to stop being a wuss, and get going. So I did. Soon on an empty road at eight o'clock in the morning, there was truck behind me honking. The road was empty with occasional vehicles coming from the other side. I minded my own business, holding a steady pace and a straight line one foot inside the white line. The honking continued. I looked over my shoulder - it was a black Dodge Ram with a woman behind the wheel whom I did not know. She was pacing me and not passing. After a half mile of this non-sense, I got on the gravel, stopped my bike and turned around throwing my arms up as in: "what do you want?" She looked at me down from the cab of this jacked up truck, and stepped on the gas. Soon she was gone and I was alone under the rain.

These drivers would change lanes and simply go around a farm machine moving at 10 mph, but they were choosing to harrass me on my bicyle. "Let go," I reminded myself: couldn't afford to go nuts!

I hope to find more tolerant drivers in Tennessee.


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