Friday, July 27, 2012

Loving Nevada

As Nevada Comes to a Close

I was hoping for a new state of mind when we crossed into Nevada, and that's exactly what I got. Nevada rocked. Many of my cycling mates didn't care for the long stretches of road with not much to see all the way around. I, however, completely enjoyed the nothingness. The miles of road stretching out in front of me, the gentle climbs to 7500 feet, the long, gentle downhills that allowed me to pedal and keep the speed up around 35 mph all added up to each day being an enjoyable ride. Through Utah I felt like I was struggling and commented to a friend that I was getting weaker as a cyclist, but Nevada showed me I was simply fatigued through Utah. Through Nevada, I found my climbing legs again, my flats legs again, and my enjoyment of being on the bike every single day.

Thank you, Nevada.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moving into Nevada!

New State, New State of Mind

And now we're in Nevada. Just like that it seems, though I know it wasn't just like that. With Utah now in the rearview mirror, the ol' rose-colored glasses want to be put on and make me think Utah was a great leg of the trip. I keep brushing the glasses aside because Utah wasn't a great leg. Utah was an okay leg, and I'm more than ready to say goodbye to it.

In the beginning Utah made me marvel at its beauty. The changing formations, the colors of the rocks, the whole so-different-than-all-the-other places we'd rolled through made me really look forward to rolling through Utah. By day four, biking to Escalante, the enthusiasm for Utah had worn thin. Every inch of the way, we were climbing. Some grades were such that I was barely pedaling 6 mph. And that's how Utah went. Even today, our last day in Utah, we had three climbs. The grades were gentle this time, but still, climbing mile after mile wears on a cyclist. I surprised myself today with how strong I rode. Maybe it was knowing Utah was ending. Maybe it was the hope that Nevada would flatten out some, just a little? Whatever it was, Sweetness and I rolled along at a nice clip, even on the uphills, for 83 miles.

Here in Baker, Nevada, I'm sitting in a little store/cafe/bar/bistro. I ate homemade pumpkin/sweet potato pie, uploaded pics to Facebook, and am now drinking Anchor Porter. If this is any indication, Nevada is going to be awesome.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Make a Rest Day

Ingredients for a rest day:

Take sleeping in and add breakfast of whole wheat toast, honey nut o's, and orange juice. Mix in watching the Tour with Cavendish shooting across the line like he's been shot out of a cannon. Follow with a short walk to the coffeehouse for a veggie "everything" bagel and  a caramel macchiato. Stir in an hour nap. Add grocery shopping for a few days' supplies followed by a taco salad at the Mexican restaurant. Blend in laughter with good friends and a phone call from a big brother and Dad. Fold in a hot bubble bath. Top off with a stupid movie, say, something like Talladega Nights.

Yep, now that's what I call a rest day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where'd My Mojo Go?

Utah has been awesome. The varying terrain has certainly kept me entertained, but the climbing has diminished said entertainment at times. Coming into the ride, I knew there was going to be a lot of climbing, and being a flatland dweller, there wasn't much I could do to train for the hills. All I could do was go out for long, hard rides. That's what I did, and I got through Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri just fine. I even pulled the 14 miler and 11 miler in Colorado without trouble. Utah, though, has just about done me in. And tomorrow, during the trek to Cedar City where we will enjoy a rest day on Friday, we have a 30 mile climb. 30 freakin' miles! That's just wrong.

I'll do the climb, just like all the previous, but I'll not enjoy it. We're at day 47, riding 50+ miles most days, and I for one am just plain tired. While I enjoy the camping, I haven't been sleeping for quite some time now. There always seems to be something going on that keeps me awake: another camper listening to music without using headphones, another camper deciding to get out of his/her tent and unzipping then zipping again, another camper deciding to rummage through the trailer at midnight or getting into the van for whatever and banging the door shut without regard to those trying to sleep, and another camper snoring. Last night, for instance, campers just down the way from our site played cards late into the night. They were loud. I knew this was going to be the case earlier in the evening, so I put Pandora on, put in my earbuds, and very happily listened to music rather than the goings-on of the other campers. Unfortunately I can't do this tonight. No wifi at the tent site so no Pandora.

At this point of the ride, the cumulative factor is great. Lots of miles. Lots of climbing. Lots of no sleep. All add up to losing the incentive to continue. I very easily could call Hubby and say please come get me right now. I won't, though. I signed up for the ride with the intention of going all the way to San Francisco, so I will do just that. I don't know how much I'll enjoy the last two weeks of riding, however, because even in Nevada there will be lots of climbing. I was even told that the day we leave Nevada and enter California we'll face the hardest climb of the whole trip. I'm trying not to think that far ahead, but . . ..

I think back to the beginning in Yorktown and how excited I was, how each day I totally looked forward to the day's ride no matter what the ride entailed. Now, I'm wondering where that mojo went.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goodbye Colorado, Hello Utah

One thing this ride has taught me is how to be resourceful. Like right now--I'm sitting in the bathroom/shower at the RV park, using the wifi, and charging my phone. Since there are no electrical outlets at the tent sites, and there are no electrical outlets outside the main building, the bathroom/shower was the only option left. Thankfully, this RV park is very nice, well maintained, and clean, a nice change from the campsite we were at the last two nights in Telluride. Which is funny given how high end Telluride is, at least outside the campsite, I guess. So it's kind of nice to spend our last night in Colorado at a place that offers some decent amenities. The tent sites are flat and clear of debris. We have quite a few picnic tables instead of just one for twentysome people. And a river is running right alongside the campsite, offering soothing water sounds for a good night's sleep. 

Tomorrow we'll enter Utah. For me, there's a mysterious quality surrounding Utah, so I'm going to use it as the place I fulfill a request from a friend: offering prayers/meditations/thoughts for his parents who died when he was very young. When I was asked to do this, I felt so honored. I will do my very best to send out positive, loving prayers/meditations/thoughts. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Simple Life For Now

Another week has flown by. Hard to believe we were just in Pueblo for a rest day last Wednesday, and now we're in Telluride for a rest day tomorrow. Some of us were wondering why we were getting another rest day so soon, but after the climbs just about each day since we left, I for one no longer wonder why. A 12 mile climb, an 11 mile climb, and all the shorter climbs in between make for some lingering fatigue. Today's final climb, just before the last leg into Telluride, sucked all remaining energy out of me. The only redeeming aspect of that climb was the view from the top. Spectacular.

So now, after setting up camp, after taking the coldest shower ever in my life (it cost $3.00 to have hot water for 5 minutes, and me being the cheapo that I am settled for the cold--hey, that $3.00 was just spent on a tea latte, a much better use of the money!), I'm sitting in Between the Covers, drinking said tea latte while eating a monster cookie. I also just bought Czeslaw Milosz's Selected and Last Poems 1931-2004. What more could a person want?

Simplicity. The whole ride has been about living out of a 30 x 18 x 16 box. After finding out how easy this actually is, I'm wondering what life will be like when I return home. Will I fall back into the usual ways of pre-ride? I truly hope I don't, but with the pressure from those around me, I have a hunch I'll cave and follow the status quo. As I was pedaling along today, I was imagining getting home and setting up my tent and crawling inside. I know my family would think I'm absolutely nuts, but I've developed an affection for my tent, and each night I set it up, snuggle down into the sleeping bag, then wake up with the rising sun and the singing birds, I wonder why we need 3500 square foot homes. Why do we need air conditioning? Why do we need to build walls around ourselves?

I'm not sure what's in store when I get home. I have three weeks to enjoy the simplicity of life while riding across Utah, Nevada, and California, and that's exactly what I'm going to focus on. I'll worry about home when I get home.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Gift

When I settled onto the saddle this morning, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable my hiney was feeling. After two weeks of hard cycling, I'd developed some sore spots, one on each buttock. They weren't so bothersome that I couldn't or didn't want to ride, but they let me know they were there. A little shifting on the saddle usually took care of the protests, so I was looking forward to an extended period of not being on the bike to see if the soreness would ease. It did, making today's ride very comfortable.

We left out of Pueblo, heading west towards our goal of Westcliffe. Everyone had been murmuring about the 14 mile climb facing us, and a couple of people had let the looming climb get into their heads a bit too much. They just couldn't get into a good, solid rhythm and only talked about how difficult the 14 miles were going to be. I've reached the point where I don't look at the map for anything other than making sure I'm on the right road. I don't check the elevation chart, the part on the back that lays out what the hills look like. What good will that do? The hills aren't going to change, and I'm still going to have to get up them one way or another. So I just saddle up and ride.

When we reached the point where we started up, I settled in and started climbing. While going up, a strange thought occurred to me: Mom having MS was a gift. At first, I couldn't believe I actually had that thought, but then I began thinking it through. While no one wants to hear a diagnosis of having MS (or any other disease for that matter), once diagnosed a chain of events begins. In Mom's case, family surrounded her and supported her. My dad was her primary caregiver the entire time, attending to her needs with love and care. Everyone who knows my parents saw this and benefitted from seeing how two people reacted positively to something very negative. My siblings and I stepped in as much as we could to give Dad breaks, giving him time to regenerate and have time to enjoy the things he liked to do. Several times, my daughter and I stayed with Mom while Dad went away on fishing trips or other trips. She and I learned what it meant to be a caretaker, and through our time with Mom, we developed stronger, more loving relationships along with memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

For me personally, this cycling trip would never had happened if Mom hadn't been diagnosed with MS. I wouldn't be riding across this magnificent country, meeting so many wonderful people, and helping those living with MS. I wouldn't be surrounded by my teammates who are funny, compassionate, smart, and wanting to help people they don't know. Some of my teammates have no connection to MS in any way. After covering over 2200 miles, they've  learned just how prevalent it is and are so much more aware. That awareness means they will tell others, encourage others to become aware, active, and involved in helping find a cure.

So yeah, I do think Mom's having MS was a gift. I know many would disagree with me, and I do understand why they would disagree. Pain and suffering hardly seem like a gift. But so many good things can come from the pain and suffering. I'm seeing those good things every single day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Captured Memories

What I Would Have Missed

Left out of Haswell, CO this morning around 5:30 to make my way to Pueblo, the place we all were looking forward to because it promised a rest day. Most of the crew, though, had opted to move past Haswell yesterday, not wanting to camp in the town park, leaving only two of us to camp overnight. Some went 40 miles beyond, to Ordway, where they stayed in a hotel, and some were bolder, going the whole 89 beyond to Pueblo because then they'd have two rest days instead of one. Me, I opted to stay in Haswell. 79 miles for the day was plenty, and I wasn't scared of the outhouse.

Around 8 pm, a storm began brewing to the southwest. We watched the lightning play across the sky and listened to the thunder rumble. I took out my camera and waited patiently for a bolt to cut the sky. After three failed attempts to capture lightning through the lens, I squealed in glee when my trigger finger was quick enough to actually make it happen. Not satisfied with just one picture of the lightning, I stood at the ready to get another shot. It didn't take long.

As I was walking back to sit with the others, one of the route leaders pointed me towards the moon rising in the east. Haswell is just a tiny, run down, dusty village, but with the deep yellow moon rising above, it became a beautiful, peaceful, quiet host to those of us who had decided to stay in its town park.

During the night, the wind blew out of the north, rustling the fly on my tent for most of the night. At times, I wondered if the tent with me inside was going to take flight, ending up back in Kansas. My little tent, though, stood strong against the 35-40 mph winds. I slept really well, and at 5:30 I started out for Pueblo.

Not even a quarter mile down the road, I came upon four antelope standing on the side of the road. They moved to the higher berm further off the shoulder but stood there as if posing while I took several pictures. I thanked them then started off again. About another quarter mile down the road, I stopped to capture the moon setting in the west. The road stretching out in front of me with the moon hanging low on the horizon made me think anything is possible. When I turned to see if the sun was rising, I marveled at the red glow of the eastern sky. The sun sitting on the horizon line along with road stretching out behind me filled me with a peace I've never felt.

All of these things I would have missed if I, too, had decided to move on past Haswell yesterday afternoon.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tired, Irritated, and Frustrated

Because of the heat, I've figured out places I can go to stay cool once we've reached our destination. So far, the public library is my favorite place because it is usually quiet, cool, and comfy chairs are available to lounge in. Unfortunately, the public library in today's destination, Tribune, KS, closed at 2. I, along with a gaggle of kids who'd been watching movies in the community room, was kicked out promptly at 2. I slung my two backpacks onto my back, the one holding all my dirty laundry, and headed to the laundromat I was told could be found at the truck stop.

Now the laundry is in and I'm chilling in the cool air of the truck stop. Thankfully wifi is available, so I'm connected and can catch up on what's happening in the world. Or at least my little world of Facebook, Blogger, hotmail, and Bike the US for MS. I've not read or watched any news, so as far as what's going on outside my little world, I have no idea.

The news of my little world hasn't changed all that much. The weather is still hot. The rides are still long. Today I cycled 70 miles, officially putting me over 2000 miles for the ride. Tomorrow, I will cycle 89, taking me out of Kansas and into Colorado. There's been talk of doing 118 miles tomorrow because the campground we are scheduled to stay at is supposed to be "extremely primative," meaning there are no toilets. It'll mean truly being one with nature. At least this is what I was told. I'm not sure of all the particulars, but the thought of cycling 118 miles in 100 degree heat is about as appealing as having a root canal done. I know the heat is out of our control, but putting people's lives at risk in the name of reaching a better campground seems extreme. There have to be alternatives.

Speaking for myself, I'm tired. I'm irritable. I'm frustrated. Being told I have to cycle 30 miles beyond what is scheduled, which is already a long ride, only exacerbates these feelings. To counter these feelings, I've been talking to Mom a lot. The ride is, after all, for her. I knew coming into it there would be moments during which I would be tired, irritable, and frustrated. I know Mom felt these same things so many days while facing the MS. Having a better idea of what she felt helps me deal with the feelings in a more productive way. One thing I did today to combat the frustration was put in the earbuds and listen to music for most of the ride. I've never done this before, but for the sake of my sanity and to get some enjoyment out of the ride today, I opened up the music, settled in, and watched the miles tick away.

Tomorrow will happen no matter what, but for a little while longer today, I can sit here in the cool, drink a cola while playing on the tablet, and wait for my laundry to finish. Just the thought of having clean cycling shorts and jerseys eases some of the frustration, making me less irritable. Now, if I could just find a place to take a nap and ease some of the fatigue.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Halfway There

31 days are now in the book, putting us at the halfway mark by the calendar and by mileage already ridden. In just a couple of days we will be in Colorado. And climbing again. Kansas has been fun with its relatively flat terrain, so moving to the mountains is on my mind these days. I'm all at once excited and scared silly by the thought of cycling the Colorado mountains.

Today we covered 94 miles. I had been dreading the day for nearly a week. With temps in the 100s, and our daily mileage anywhere from the 60s to the 90s, I was beginning to crumble physically and emotionally. Drinking hot water all day only adds to the misery. I'm pretty sure I can make sun tea with the water in my bottles; it gets that hot. Not fun to drink when the sun is beating against my shoulders at 105 degrees. Thankfully storms moved through last night and cooled things off. Being able to ride in 70 degrees gave me the shot in the arm I so needed. The 94 miles went by with lots of smiles instead of frowns, frustration, and constant checking of the mileage. Today was actually fun.

Tomorrow may be a different story, but for now I'm only going to think about today's ride.