Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rest Days

What a wonderful time for recovery. First we spent 1 ½ days in Des Moines. Now we’re completing two days at home in Pella. In Des Moines we were looked after, cared for, even pampered by Larry and Linda S. We had a wonderful visit, great meals and stimulating conversation. What more could you ask for? Well there was more. I had time to visit the Des Moines Pine Rest staff, one of the two best mental staff in Iowa and attend the clinical staff meeting. That too was very affirming and rewarding. Finally, I stopped art Bike World and had my seat post replaced. Wouldn’t you know it, a second bike computer died, fortunately just that the morning and I had it too replaced, again.

Wednesday, it was raining. I waited about two hours, gave in and drove to Pella. I didn’t want to ride in the rain primarily due to safety. To add in the miles, one option will be to decide that one of my mid tour training rides covers this leg of the trip. Another will be to complete it when the rest is done. Larry and Linda have invited us back for pasta in October. A fall Saturday bike ride from Pella to Des Moines may be wonderful.

It has been restful but active at home in Pella. A nap yesterday followed by nine hours of sleep felt great. Today I had a wonderful visit with the other greatest mental health staff in Iowa. The laundry is washed. Wedding clothes are packed. The van is washed, gassed, vacuumed and a turning signal is repaired. I have Marty’s rear wheel on my bike and it feels great. The cats have adjusted to our return.

Tomorrow we leave, first for a wedding and then to complete about 1,300 miles of the ride. I’m ready and eager to begin. What will be the theme of this third leg? The first was enjoy the beauty. The second was stay in the moment. I have no idea what theme will be next.

Blessings to all of you.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Des Moines

How nice to bike just 51 miles. I arrived at our friends Larry & Linda S by late morning. It’s a beautiful afternoon with low humidity and temperatures in the high 70’s. We’ve had coffee and lunch and I’ve had a shower. Now we’re sitting on the deck while Mary plays her recorder accompanied by an irregular percussion of falling acorns.

Other than starting from Waukee, I hadn’t decided how to enter Des Moines. Arriving in Waukee I noticed some bicyclists to the left on what appeared to be a bike path, so I joined them and asked. It was a bike path that first paralleled the street, but soon joined Walnut Creek and meandered along into the city and within 5 blocks of my destination. What a treat to be under trees with no traffic. It was a fitting beginning to a restful afternoon followed by a rest day tomorrow.

Iowa Pictures

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Into Iowa

We’re from Iowa. Iowa.
State of all the land.
Joy on every hand.
We’re from Iowa. Iowa.
That’s where the tall corn grows.

I was tired today. Yesterday I celebrated arriving at the edge Iowa. Today was a 94 mile ride mostly on Hwy 44 an Iowa Scenic Byway. I was looking forward to it, but my body disagreed. My brain said “Isn’t this lovely!” My body said “I don’t care. I’m stiff and sore and I want a rest day. Now!” My brain tried using reason, “It’s just 54 miles tomorrow with fewer hills. You can rest all afternoon and the next day.” My body said, “No. Now!” Eventually my brain convinced my body to do the best it could. My poor body gave all it had, but without a rest it doesn’t have much left.

Tonight we’re staying on the edge of Guthrie Center at the Guthrie County Fair grounds. The fair starts tomorrow. For the second time on the trip, we didn’t have lodging prearranged. We couldn’t find a church. Someone said the city park has camping. Mary asked there and was sent out to the fair grounds. There are many young farm families in campers. It’s clearly a community celebration. Everyone is having a good time.

Schedule: Monday, arrive in Des Moines. Tuesday rest day. Wednesday bike to Pella. Thursday rest and home chore day. Friday drive to Kalamazoo. Saturday Mary’s sister’s wedding. Sunday church. Monday bike from Muskegon to Grand Rapids. Tuesday Pine Rest reception from 8-10 and then on to Salem, MA.

Road kill additions: fox and box turtle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Goodbye Nebraska

I didn’t know east central Nebraska had hills, BIG hills. Today I used every gear on my bike. Even so, the 81 miles of fairly hard climbing had an enjoyable rhythm. Spin up a hill, push and coast down the other side. Then do it again. And again. And again. This was the pattern of the day exceptf or thirteen miles in the middle of the ride.

Today was fun because I’ve regained my strength. Today was fun because I could appreciate the climb. Today was fun because I could savor the rolling beauty of the farmland. And today was fun because tomorrow I bike into Iowa!

During RSBT One, I was apprehensive about Wyoming and Nebraska. I knew I was strong enough, but these are lovely, large, barren states with the potential for exhausting heat and headwinds. Now with RSBT Two, I had the added worries of sufficient healing, manageable pain, and regained strength. Arriving in Blair has been a huge relief and feeling of accomplishment. I’ve biked about 800 miles in 9 days, averaging just below 89 miles a day. I’ve worked to block out worries and stay in the moment. Accomplishing that has been a blessing in itself. However, having also successfully knocked off these two states feels GREAT! HALEJULIAH!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just a Good Day

Not every experience or every day can be a mountain top event. Today was just a very satisfying 97 mile good day. The biking was tricky for the second half of the day as the road is narrow and there are no shoulders. In fact in many places it drops off into washouts. It’s also hilly with quick short hills and poor sight lines for drivers. For biking this meant shifting into the big chain ring going down hills and into the little chain ring for the other side. There was quite a bit of truck traffic today; grain trucks, feed trucks, fuel trucks, stock trucks and trucks hauling metal to the Lindsay center pivot irrigation plant in Lindsay. This meant I spent most of the time concentrating on riding the white line while not drifting into the traffic lane and not dropping off the edge of the road. Overall it worked out. I did my part and the drivers did theirs.

We left the sand hills completely at Albion. The fields are now all corn and beans, mostly irrigated. We passed many cattle feed lots. The population density is increasing.

I could definitely notice the flat spot on my rear wheel. I’m going to accept Marty’s offer of a loaner wheel. The new bike seat worked great. I’ll replace my cracked carbon fiber seat post in Des Moines next Wednesday.

Tonight we’re staying at the city park in the little community of Humphrey. For fifteen dollars we receive water, electricity, rest rooms…and a shower! I’ve already had mine. The water pressure wasn’t very good, but the water was hot. It was definitely better than using a hose on a spigot.


This is western Nebraska, the same day as Carhenge. For some reason Blogspot wouldn't let me add it to that post, so I'm giving it a separate post.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I just took a moment to add up the miles. My first bike computer died, so it takes a little work to get the total miles. Anyway, today we're at 1,987 miles. I figure halfway is 1900 miles, so we achieved the milestone yesterday.

Staying in the Moment

As predicted, the winds today were 15-25 mph from the SSE. This meant I faced them directly for 16-20 miles on an 89 mile day that again went well. If I’m not careful, I can let myself become frustrated with circumstances like this. I need to remind myself that the wind, similar to rainfall, blows on the just and unjust alike. It does no good to curse the wind. Instead, I practice being in the moment, accepting the circumstances I have been given. Rather than focus on the idea of the wind stopping or the ride being done, I work at accepting, even appreciating the situation I’m in. I’m very thankful that I’m close to my pre-accident strength, if I’m not already there. So I spend my time thanking God for the renewed strength and the privilege of using it in the wind. I allow myself to be aware of the pleasure of experiencing the forward movement of the bike. I spend time in communion with the nature around me, with the wind and in prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of this wonderful experience. I spend time thinking about and offering prayers of blessing for people I know. And I always, always strive to keep fully aware of the road ahead of me and the traffic beside me.

We moved out of the sand hills today. This is still sandy country, but we’re clearly moving into the Midwest. I saw a lovely restored country school house. I don’t recall seeing any out west. Perhaps this is due to the less dense population and greater distances. Also the humidity is higher here. In part this means it doesn’t cool down as much at night. And I saw my first large ragweed and wild hemp, what we used to call ditch weed.

The flat spot on my rear wheel is barely noticeable. I switched bike seats tonight. The old one had a plastic cover which doesn’t breathe. The rain from the first day caused chaffing from which I still haven’t recovered. I hope the new leather covered seat helps. I already have a side benefit from the replacement process. I noticed a hair line fracture in my carbon seat post, so I called Marty my bike mechanic. The seat post will be replaced in either Des Moines or Pella.

In about two days we’ll be in Iowa.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Side Trip

To avoid the worst of the wind, I was up at 5 a.m. and on the road by 6 a.m. This was partially successful as later the wind was gusting 20 – 30 mph. Even so, it was a very enjoyable ride into the east. The wind was inscrutable and capricious. Sometimes it pushed from the southwest. Sometimes it challenged from the southeast. Mostly it harassed me from the south. Even so, I was able to complete a 65 mile ride and my bike computer had the same mileage as the map.

Today’s original goal was 80 miles to a campground in the Nebraska National Forest. Yes forest. I didn’t make it due to continued problems with my rear wheel that was becoming increasingly wobbly, so I stopped in Thedford around 10:30 (CST, the time change occurred this morning) and started calling bike shops. Wayne’s Cyclery in Grand Island said they could repair it today, so off we went on a 150 mile side trip. While waiting we went to the Blue Moon Coffee house for Americano coffee and dessert.

I now have three new spoke nipples and the rear wheel has been trued. There’s one more problem. The wheel is no longer round. When I hit something it not only broke the spoke nipple, it created a very minor flat spot on the rim. It’s not serious but fixing it will require a new rim and a rebuilt wheel. I think I know when and what I hit. It was a pothole in Wyoming on the last morning out of the state. I didn’t see it due to the fog. If the ride is too bumpy, when I reach Pella I’ll change the wheel for the one Marty offered me from his rode bike.

Tonight we’re camping for free in the Thedford Municipal Park. We have water, but not bathrooms and no electricity. You get what you pay for. Once again we will be serenaded by coal trains.

The forecast tomorrow is for calmer winds; only 15-25 mph.

Spokes & Wind

This post is for August 19. There was no internet or cell phone coverage yesterday.

I left at sunrise this morning for two reasons. I wanted to see Carhenge in the early light and I wanted to have as many miles in as possible before the wind became strong. Oh well. The ten miles biking straight east went very well. By the time I turned south the wind was increasing and for some reason the peddling was an effort. This continued for 15 miles to Carhenge, which is interesting if you just view to central sculpture. Unfortunately the site is cluttered with other car based art which in my opinion distracts from the sight.

While there, I discovered the second cause for the slow biking which was loose spokes on my rear wheel. This is a major problem to have in western Nebraska. Alliance, Nebraska is two miles from Carhenge so I biked in. I stopped at a gas station convenience store and asked the men drinking coffee if there was a bike shop in town. Nope they said. One man said he takes his bike to Scott’s Bluff which is 60 miles to the west. Then another man suggested Bernie’s Supply, took out his cell phone and called. Arrangements were made and I was sent to ask for Dennis G. The sign says “Bernie’s Supply since 1881. If we don’t have it you don’t need it.” Dennis began tightening my spokes when he discovered a broken spoke nipple, which he installed. Then he trued the wheel and wouldn’t charge me. Thanks Dennis.

Dennis said he’s helped other transcontinental bicyclists over the years. One young man needed a bike part from Scott’s Bluff, so he sent him along with his wife, who was already going there. Then the man asked if he knew anyone for whom he could work so he sent him to a friend whose house needed painting. The young man stayed for two months. A couple years ago a man and his son from Amsterdam were looking for a place to pitch their tent. Alliance has a 10p.m. curfew so Dennis put them in his back yard where they stayed for two days. They repaid the favor last year by showing them around Amsterdam when Dennis and his wife were on a European vacation.

After the repair I still had 60 miles to go. By then the wind was strong from the south. Fortunately it wasn’t from the east and the sand hills are rolling. Most of the distance had a wide shoulder. Part of it was very bumpy but there was a 10 mile stretch that was smooth and contained quite a few grasshoppers. The little ones were quick, but the big ones were slow to react, possibly because they were hunkered down against the wind. They were very good for steering practice. Crunch, crunch.

Unfortunately, I discovered the new spoke nipple was the wrong size and the spoke worked loose again. I called Marty my bike mechanic in Pella. He said as long as the wheel is reasonably true, which it is thanks to Dennis, I could keep going and should be able to make it to Des Moines where there’s a good bike shop. I’ll keep you informed.

My bike computer said 89 miles today while the maps said 84. I’m beginning to think the computer’s not accurately calibrated and gives me a couple extra miles a day. This is flattering but not helpful. I’ll monitor it closely tomorrow and then decide whether to recalibrate it. The current setting is standard for a 700 x 25c tire, but that may need to be adjusted.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Into Nebraska

Wyoming did not let go easily. There were 22 miles of moderately dense fog. The road had a narrow and very rough shoulder. I was passed by one semi and he at me. I have an LED flasher on the back of my bike and I was to the right of the white line. I think he just wanted to show his disapproval. Many more trucks passed me later in the day and they all gave me a wide berth, which I appreciate.

When I entered Nebraska, the road side widened, the fog lifted and I was serenaded by coyotes. Plus I was able to get this picture of a spider web. The terrain has changed. We’ve moved from the west to the central plains. The sage brush is gone. In this area there is more tillable land. The crops include wheat, irrigated corn and sugar beets, sunflowers, and alfalfa, some irrigated and some not. There’s also quite a bit of land resting in summer fallow.

I was hit by two whirlwinds today. The first caught me by surprise. I wasn’t near summer fallow, where the heat usually causes the whirlwinds. My first tipoff was the two tumbleweeds twirling above my head. I was coasting down a hill at a reasonable pace. I was surprised by the force of the wind which was much stronger than a truck passing too closely. It strongly jerked my handlebars on which I had a good grip. I think it was trying to take my bike away, but I wouldn’t let go. I do learn from these incidents so I was prepared for the second whirlwind which signaled itself by the 10 -20 tumble weeds it carried. Neither whirlwind carried dust. Mary observed and I agree that these may best be called devil winds.

We took our lunch break at Fort Robinson where Crazy Horse was killed. Tonight we’re camped at the Methodist Church in Hemingford. Mary has written about both of these, so read her blog.

Today’s mileage: 98 miles.

Road kill addition: badger.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Interstate Bicycling

For the first time ever I biked on the interstate. We're now on Hwy 20, which for 36 miles joins Interstate 25. Biking on the interstate is legal in Wyoming, but not encouraged. In fact today I passed a police officer giving a trucker a ticket. Later he drove past me with no acknowledgement. Phew. Because of the wide shoulders, the biking felt safer than many other roads, just noisier.
I miscalculated today's mileage which I thought would be about 104 miles. Instead it was 111 miles. This is the longest distance I've ever biked in a day. I don't look at my bike computer while on the ride. I twist it under the handle bars. Otherwise, instead of enjoying the journey, I become preoccupied with things like trip distance and average speed. When I pulled beside the camper and did finally check the computer, I was very surprised. My three day total is now just shy of 300 miles.
I'm also happy to report that I have no pain from my broken bones. While on the bike there is no discomfort. Off the bike there's occasional stiffness and soreness, but I can't call it pain. My bicycling pains are much stronger. I forgot to use chamois butter the last two days. One hundred eleven miles doesn't help.

Road kill additions; rattlesnake and antelope.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Challening Day

Today the ride was from Shoshoni to Casper, 101 miles according to my bike computer. There are no towns that can really be described as towns between Shoshoni and Casper on highway 26. Yes if you look on a map you see town names, but I think these are more of a wish than a reality. My first sag stop was Moneta, 40 miles out. Everything was out of business. Fortunately, Mary was there with food. My last sag stop was Waltman, which consisted of a trailer house, an old half painted house with sheets over the windows and a post office drop box. This gave us two choices, either I bike 101 miles or I bike less, Mary picks me up and drops me off at the same spot tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow presents a variation of the same problem. Either I cut it short at 50 miles or again bike 100. The same is true the following day. I attempted and succeded the 101 miles today. I'm going to try for the 100 miles tommorrow, which should go better. Then we'll see what happens in the future.

However, today was challenging both physically and psychologically. Physically, I want to be as strong as I was prior to the accident and I'm not there yet. So the pace was a little slower and on the last 50, I had to take a break every 10 miles or less. I had adrenaline and excitment yesterday. Today I wasn't as stong. Psychologically, I just want to be out of Wyoming. I was here too long the last time and now I want to move ahead. The Nebraska sand hills won't be that much different, but I grew up in Kansas and it will be more familiar. Plus, we drove the route coming out here and there's a little more to see, like small farms and small communities that still exist versus those in Wyoming that are just a name on a map. The terrain today wasn't challenging except for a little head wind. It was cloudy and cool. The problem was the huge vistas. I'd climb the crest of a hill hoping for something new and instead there would be another 4 to 6 or more mile view with the road going through it and off to the east.

I do know I could have shortened the day. I have to admit part riding the full 101 miles was a personal recovery test. Every biking part of me is sore, butI passed the test and I'm glad it's done.

One final thought on mountains. Driving west from Shoshoni to Dubois, I was disappointed to see the Rocky Mountains. It reminded me that I've only completed 1/3 of the ride. However, I decided they made a clearly marked stopping and starting point, versus wiping out in the middle of Michigan or even Iowa. Then there would be no clear change in the vistas. It wouldn't be the same and the story wouldn't be as interesting.

Also today I had a nice telephone conversation with Officer B from Dubois. He was the policeman on the scene of the accident and filled in a few gaps in my memory. He told me how glad he was that I was wearing a helmet and he really appreciated the update on my recovery and the ride. It was good to talk to him.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Singing in the Rain

I'm singing in the rain.
I'm singing in the rain.
What a glorious feeling, I’m biking again.
I’m singing and biking in the rain.

At the start of the day I was worried. Not only was I resuming the ride at the site of the accident (since it happened on July 4, you could say I went out with a bang), but it rained off and on all day, plus I needed to bike 86 miles to make it to the next town for camping. And although my strengthening rides went well, my longest was 60 miles. I started just west of the accident at the Smokey Bear fire risk sign. Then I biked through the area of the accident to see if I could remember any more details. I didn’t. The paved shoulder is wide and clear, with no obstacles. See for yourself.

The ride went very, very well. I think the weather was actually a gift from God. It was cool and there was very little wind. The rain was gentle and intermittent. It could have been hot with headwinds and a sun blasted and white washed terrain. Instead, the terrain was misted with dark sky enhanced beauty. Once I adjusted to riding again and the conditions, my worry lifted. It was a fun day. I had an image of angels beside my like dolphins on a bow wave.

Starting over feels a like a time warp. It’s not high summer. The season is leaning toward fall. Instead of snow melting, last night’s rain added snow to the mountains. The red wing black birds aren’t defending their territory and don’t care what I do. The black birds are beginning flock. The milk weed seed pods have formed. The wheat has been harvested. I hadn’t planned to see these changes, but they’re appropriate, even inevitable and what better choice is there but to enjoy them?

Songs to sing in the rain: Singing in the Rain. Blessed be Your Name. Pressing On. Hymns, at least the phrases and sometimes verses I remember.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is This Heaven?

No, it's Iowa! Yesterday I took my last restrengthening ride. It was 26 miles on the Red Rock Dam trail. It links directly to Pella, so in essence I join it right out of my driveway. Here's a few pictures.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dates and Duties

Choosing the original June 15 to August 15 dates for the ride was somewhat arbitrary. However, once the dates were set, other events got scheduled around them. One of them is jury duty. In June I received a summons for July jury duty. I returned the exemption form saying I would be on a bike ride and I included my brochure. My jury duty was delayed to October, not cancelled and I didn’t receive a donation for the Patient Assistance Fund.

But now that I’m resuming the ride, there is one event I don’t want to miss and which can’t be rescheduled. This is Mary’s sister’s wedding on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, August 30 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My original plan was to bike from Wyoming to Pella, take a break for the wedding, traveling to and from Kalamazoo and resuming in Pella.

Mary had a better idea. Now the plan is to bike from Wyoming to Pella then drive to Kalamazoo for the wedding. From there we’ll complete the eastern end of the ride, from Muskegon, Michigan to Salem, Massachusetts. Then we’ll return to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and bike back completing the ride in Pella. This saves at least 900 miles of driving, two days of traveling and the ferry expense from Milwaukee to Muskegon.

The original schedule has already changed. The sequence for completing the ride doesn’t really matter. Ultimately I want to be able to say I completed a transcontinental bike ride and this will still be true.

Now I just need to be back by October for my civic duty.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Almost Time to Go

Many people have told me they are praying for me. I can tell. The angels are so thick around me I have to swat them away so that I can see the road.

It’s almost time to leave…again. It’s a strange feeling. It seems existential. I feel suspended between two worlds. While in Pella, the life and work here seems more real. While on the road the road seems more real. Also my perspective on what constitutes reality seems to have changed so neither location seems grounded like it used to be. It’s all a little disconcerting but in a good way.

The desire to ride again came rapidly. I’ve been blessed with a swift recovery and little pain. But making the decision to ride has not been so easy. The question I’ve been pondering is whose will is it that I’m resuming the ride? I know without a doubt that I want to, but am I supposed to? I think so. It seems I’ve been given an equal choice. Both options are legitimate with equal blessings and challenges. It seems as though the decision has been given to me to make. So I’ve made the choice I want to make. Sometimes it seems selfish, but I don’t think that can be true if the choices are equal. The ride is a relatively short term activity and longer term I’ll be returning to my work. Some people have applauded my perseverance or what my daughter has called my stubbornness. I don’t know what it is but I hope this about something more. I hope in some way this is about following where I’m lead and about faithfulness.

So for now I’ll just thank the Lord for the opportunity and continue to be open for guidance. If I complete the ride, I’ll say “Praise the Lord.” If I don’t complete the ride I’ll still say “Praise the Lord.”

The joy is in the journey.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On the Bike Again II

This was a successful first training weekend. As I’ve already written, I had a very nice 17 mile training ride on Friday. Saturday I road the Red Rock Dam trail, a 26 mile round trip. The ride went very well, but was a study in contrasts. I was weak, but I recovered rapidly. I needed to climb a few hills in my easiest gear, but I felt fine immediately afterward. I concluded that having already biked 2,800 miles this year does have its conditioning benefits.

I had manageable discomfort in my shoulder.

Today is very hot and humid. I believe the temperature was 94 degrees with a 110 degree heat index. I was a little stiff and sore from the last two days training rides and I didn’t want to stress my healing bones with a ride in these conditions, so I rode my resistance trainer for an hour. I rode 56 miles for the weekend. It’s a good start to regaining my strength and endurance.

My next concern is sleep. I’m trying to shift from sleeping in a recliner to sleeping in the bed. This isn’t going well. I can’t yet sleep on my right side, much less on my left side. Even on resting on my right side pulls on the distressed bones. That leaves sleeping on my back. I’m hoping an extra sleeping bag for padding, a wedge pillow to raise my head and ibuprofen will improve the problem. I also still have 11 days to heal. As it is, every day now I have less pain, more mobility and more strength.

I’ve also made a safety decision, which is to not do anything differently. While biking this weekend, I tried to be more careful and conscious of risky situations. I learned this really isn’t possible. I observed that I regularly do a good job monitoring for potential problems. Therefore I’ve decided that I need to be as careful as I’ve always been and let go of what I can’t control.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On the Bike Again

I already know I don’t have any stabbing pains that will immediately cancel the ride. Now I’m supposed to wait another week or so and let the bones knit before I ride too much. Oh well, it was a good thought. Today I was going to go for a 6-8 mile ride but instead I went for 17 miles. It was a good ride. I’m still in reasonably good shape, so my muscles felt good. My breathing was open and comfortable. I did have tightness and pain in my shoulder blade by the time I got home. It was gone within a few minutes. I hope my shoulder doesn’t stiffen too much over night. If all goes well, I’ll probably ride the Red Rock trail tomorrow, a 26 mile round trip.