Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I have sent my computer and associated electrical cords back to Seattle in order to lighten my load and allow for more water and food as my trek through the desert will be more demanding. There will be much longer stretches without places to stop, rest and rehydryate.
So blogging will be a little more difficult as I will rely on internet cafe's and my cell phone to keep in touch with you. So expect the blogs to be intermittent for the next two weeks until I expect to be in Phoenix. I still have my camera so I will find a way to get tons of pictures posted.
I have once again changed my route. So I won't be heading to Amarillo and Albequerque as originally planned. I'll ride from Dallas and head west to Phoenix instead. This will keep me on flatter and dryer roads although it will extend my total mileage by several hundred miles.
I have also exchanged my fleece sleeping bag for a winter sleeping bag in anticipation of some very cold desert evenings. I have added raingear and some long sleeved layers and sent back some of my summer gear.
So my ride from Tampa to Dallas has taught me many skills and cautions that I am fortunate to take with me as I continue on to Seattle. I feel confident in my new route and I am anxious to get on the road again.
I anticipate I still have about 3500 road miles to go. And for the 1st time I am publishing my anticipated arrival in Seattle at Sunday December 7th. 41 days from today.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Today is the long haul to Dallas and I am 125 miles away. I know I can do it. It has been nearly 300 miles in 3 days and I feel strong. I have noticed my legs have grown and I am able to peddle longer at higher speeds. This could be improved road conditions and wind as well, but I am going to assume that I am getting stonger and more efficient on the bike.
... so I am cruising through the Texas towns. They are closer to each other and my speed is often at 25MPH or greater. I am nostalgic about the places I have been and seen already. Its a happy moment for me to remember new friends I have made. I sometimes have euphoric thoughts about life and the future as the ride entrances my mind occasionally. Today I am destined for the long haul and I have traveled nearly 60 miles without anything more than a water and restroom break.
The roads always change when you enter a new county. From the perspective on the bicycle I often wonder if people even notice the quality of the road from their car. You can't miss it pedalling.
For the 1st time I am riding on a new surface that looks like fresh blacktop but it is terribly rough to ride. There is a larger aggregate of rock mixed into the black top. The kind that will come loose and break many windshields in the future. I even kick up small pieces every once in a while with my own tires. Sometimes I am even going fast enough to hit myself as the blacktop pieces are rocketed into the air, while my speed and it's gravity traject the blacktop piece back at me. This is a frustrating surface to ride and I am getting tired. I am just 7 miles from my lunch break in Grand Salime, Texas.
I come to a bridge that has a nice smooth surface and I relax from the vibration of the rough blacktop. To stretch my hip flexers I stand up on the pedals and push my hips forward on each side. It's feels good to get up off the seat and take a brief new position. I am coasting at about 18 MPH and my life in an instant changes...
Now I am on the ground, facing forward and sitting up in a state of shock. What happened? Thoughts of this tours finality and complete embarassement can barely scratch the surface of the distraught emotion that overwhelms me. My left elbow is very cold as I inhale deeply and relive the last 10 seconds. I hear a truck slowing behind me as my head slumps into my chest and I exhale.
Two men in a large white pick-up truck are staring out the window in complete disbelief of what they just saw. They couldn't have been more than 100 yards behind me when it happened.
As I stretched my hip flexer, I leaned too much weight over the handlebars releasing the natural tendancy for the bikes front wheel to remain straight. And the wheel suddenly turned to the right, projecting my body over the front forks and lifting the back end of the bike over in a front sommersault like motion. I could hear the strain of the carbon as the forks buckled under the pressure they were momentarily required to carry. I can't believe it! I actually crashed just going straight.
The truth is I went too long without a proper rest and I made an error that was based more on fatigue and laspe of good judgement. Yesterday, I had a flat in my front tire (my 4rth flat) that was a result of another bad choice. I was trying to improve on my maximum speed of 37MPH. Which, with the load I am carrying is to fast to adaquately see some of the bumps and objects I would need to avoid in the road. I need to remember this isn't a BMX bike and I am not a 12 year old boy anymore.
The two men in the truck drove me several miles to Grand Salime where there was a Subway and a filling station. I ate and rested until my good samaritan Sharon got off work and kindly drove me to Wills Point about 30 miles down the road. Sharon and I got to talking about her son, who is in the military going back to Iraq and also about all the helpful folks in Texas. So far she is right on the money. Thank you for the ride and the great conversation Sharon. It was a pleasure meeting you.
So she dropped my off at Dairy Queen and I did what kids do to make themselves feel better after getting an cut or bruise. I ate some ice cream. A chocolate dipped waffle bowl with ice cream, strawberry's and more chocolate. And I felt better. A young boy, Nathan, was having some ice cream with his sister's for his ninth birthday and I played with them for a while to get my mind off incident.
For several hours I met people at the Dairy Queen who were interested in the bike tour and my recent bandage work. I thank you all for the well wishes and encouragement. When I was a kid Dairy Queen was the place you went for the dipped cones after a soccer game or as a reward. Today it was a place where Texan after Texan brought me back to my riding spirit.
My poor bike. I am sorry. I'll get you fixed and we can finish our journey.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Day 19, 25 miles south of Shreveport, Louisiana, 10/13/08, Mile 1198
This was my camp for the night. It is actually next to an onramp and the main highway was a further away. But the big trucks were very loud as they passed intermittently throughout the night.
Meet officer Mondello of the Louisiana State Police. He pulled me over with a quick bleep of his siren and some fancy blue lights. I really had no idea why he had pulled me over until he told my I couldn't ride my bike on the interstate in Louisiana. He was pleasant and asked about my tour. I told him, "you know... they may or may not be funny to you but I have been on this highway since Lafeyette (191 miles ago)." He chuckled, because that fact was indeed funny. But he quickly reminded me of the law and I told him I was planning on getting off in 4 miles just before Shreveport. I just had to have a picture for this journal and he obliged. Thank you sir. I will stay of the Louisiana interstates.
Texas greeted me with some hot weather. I had been in Louisiana for quite some time and I was ready for a new state. I screamed "Texas" from the bike everytime I saw someone for the 1st 20 miles or so. TEXAS!!!!!
Dewayne and his wife were nice enough to let me bring my bike into their bar b que house and eat some brisket and stuffed peppers with them. For the most part we were alone talking about biking and their son who had completed a cross country tour back in 1976 (I think 1976). Dewayne helped me get settled in the next town down the road, so I could have a nice place to watch the Cleveland Browns tear apart the NY Giants. Thx Dewayne.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
There was a lot of this through northern Louisiana. Long distances between exits. Just a warm up for the desert though. These distance make for good peaceful and safe rides.
I thought this was a funny anecdote on the church reader board. My GPS wasn't working because I was out out Verizon's network area. I called Verizon and I was in an extended coverage area. I guess they "can't hear me now".
The moon was so bright tonight I almost packed up and kept riding. Naw.... to tired.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Since I left Slidell without me tent, I needed to get a new one. I can't afford to stay in hotels, so I need to camp as much as possible. I had found a place called the Pack N Paddle.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
It is really something how the weather can change overnight from vicious black clouds and attacking lightening, to clear and cool with no cloud in site.
My rear tire is already worn. It has a red line under the tread that is designed to let me know when to replace it. Lafeyette was 100 miles away so I hoped for the best. Also my waterproof panier has a hole poked in it from jamming my computer into it. No problem. I should be able to patch it from the inside. My bicycle computer quit switching modes, but when I detached it from the housing it would still switch modes. I am hoping it is just the battery. Finally my rack which is bolted to the frame has a striped bolt that I found trying to slip out. I would guess the bike store did it at installation and its just finally working its way out. I'm not really sure what the solution is on this one. Oh yeah, my pump quit working. I have CO2 backup though. Good thing I am going to the bike store tomorrow. Its about 25 miles away from where I am staying tonight.
Today was just a long ride. 92 miles. Over two long hauls. I had a great all you can eat lunch buffet at Shoney's. Just an unbelievable price for the nutrition you get if you choose the right foods in the buffet. I was starving, since I only had a banana and 40 miles of bicycling behind me. Four full plates of food over a 2.5 hours while I emailed and blogged. How do they make any money???
I was heading for Lafeyette. Much of the ride was windy with elevated roadway over marsh next to untouched land in its natural state. It was a beautiful ride, even though this stretch of highway was continuously posted with Bear Crossing signs.
I looked for animals here. Nothing but slow flowing shallow murky water.
I closed the day at sundown and plan to start tomorrow at 6AM for another long ride.
I was back on highway 90 at one point and ahead of me was a clear line of blue sky. Behind me and to the south was a creepy dark slow moving storm that seeemed just a few hundred yards off the ground. It was travelling north and west and i was moving at an average pace around 25 plus miles per hour. So i was coming up behind me but also moving across away from me. I kept this pace up for about 35 to 40 minutes. I was truly racing the storm. I could feel the shreak of the lightening as the light from its power bolted by me, brightening up whatever the light could bounce off of. And then in an instant I could feel the barometric pressure ease and the temperature rise. I had beaten the storm.
It was smooth sailing to Motel 90. It was an eerie sort of side of the road motel. 40 bucks, cash only. But it was clean and I was tired from the sprint of the storm race. My fast twitch muscles were spent and I was ready to rest once again.
I watch most of the presidential debate drinking a jar of salsa with some mult grain sunchips (and some fruit) but feel asleep before it was over. When I woke then next morning the news referred to the debate as lacking real inspiration. All I know is that it didn't keep me awake...
... well, the New Orleans Saints loss a heartbreaker the night before and I was in an independant brewery pub taking in the experience. I met a guy who lives in Virginia named Chris. We got to talking about the bike tour and triathlon's and he mentioned I should try the "Muddy Buddy"
races if I ever get a chance. On October 26th, Cati is meeting me in Dallas to run the 2008 Muddy Buddy. It is a team race where you run and bicycle through obstacle courses and a finale mud pit. check is out on you tube at this link. It is hilarious. www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ6njTEUH5U&feature=related I can't wait. Cati will be the greatest muddy buddy partner ever.
So I woke up a little slowly at the Crowne Plaza. I was up late mourning the loss with the Saints as I stopped at a second bar on my way back to the hotel. "I probably should have just slept" I was thinking as I stumbled to the shower. It was a great hotel for the $99 dollar stay. Below is after I packed up to leave. I took the bike right into the elevator and up to the eighth floor and no one seems to mind.
Biking out of town proved to be a maze of interstate, streets and highway I wasn't sure I could pass on along with the looming concern I would get stuck in another unsavory neighborhood. At one point I walked my bike across some freeway in order to get to the freeway I wanted to be on. This took me to a stretch of Interstate 10 that I shouldn't be riding on, but the off ramp to get me back on Hwy. 90 was in site. So I took the chance and out of New Orleans I went.
Leaving a big city on a bicycle is a lot like leaving a port-a-potty after it's due for a sanitation. You bike into the city disturbed by the smells of polution and vehicle emissions. You do your business in order to leave. And then when you finally get out city you feel the freedom of fresh air and the open road again.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
On the way over the bridge I told Bill, "I bet I get wet today." And I did. Within a few minutes of Bill dropping me off the raindrops started to fall as i headed to the Big Easy. I was fast today. Partly because I had taken a day off and partly because my load was a little lighter (I may have had a tailwind too). I left my tent in Bill's truck and I realized about 10 minutes after he was gone. Bill was off to a meeting so I didn't bother him, plus I had already broken a tent pole and I would really like to have a slightly larger tent to sleep in anyway.
One of my water bottle sleeves on broke off as i was re-assembling the gear. grrrr.
I made it to the out skirts of new Orleans in about an hour. I was pacing at over 25-28 MPH much of the way. Hwy 90 split at one point and I wasnt sure which split was the highway so I took the direction toward the french quarter knowing that it was east of downtown. Big mistake! I soon found myself in a part of town I had know business being in so I stopped to set my navigator to send me to Canal street in the French Quarter. As I was stopped I noticed a man in a junker pontiac convertible take an interest in my. I just glanced and saw that he slowed to a stop ahead and perpendicular to me about 100 yards in front up me. He then pulled into the street and drove by slowly, watching me as I typed into the phone. I saw him drive about 200 yards further and then pull a u-turn in my direction. I knew this wasn't good so I quit the typing on the phone and pedalled quickly. I wasn't sincerely scared in my situation because I knew 100% from his actions he had bad intentions.
A few blocks later he passed me slowly and with his window rolled down apparently trying to get me to pull over. He was a black man about 40ish wearing jean shorts and a tank top. He had a lazy beer gut and a fake smile I knew was worthless. I didn't pull over. He then took a turn at the next street pulling another u-turn in a parking lot and followed me again. Again he passed me a this time gave me a quick honk and said something out his open window as he pulled off to a y in the road. I continued forward. He put the car in reverse, passed me again and then did another u-turn to get behind me.
I took off now quickly. No more breezing down the road. This man was waiting for the right spot to jack me and he was on the phone as well. I was afraid more help was on the way. I ran through several stop lights getting some disance between us as he was caught in traffic. I really didn't know where I was going which made me even more wary. So I stop in at a convenience store, parked the bike by an ice machine and went inside. About 30 seconds later he went by the store slowly and pulled in after noticing my bike. He came inside the store like he wasn't noticing me. He got in line and I also got in line behind him. I nearly confronted him right there. It seemed much safer than the prospect of meeting him outside on his terms. I just looked at him instead as he ignored me. Then he drove off slowly.
About a minute later he pulled back in. I was going to ask another old black man if I could pay him drive drive me out of the neighborhood in his truck. But when I asked him, "sir"? He only replied, "Don't talk to me!" I was very alone amongst no one I could look in the eye ask for help. So I stayed inside. The clerk spoke very poor english and was really no help. Except that when he finally realized I was being stalked by the guy in line before me he said I should call the police. That didn't comfort me at all because it left me the impression this sort of thing happens regularly.
The man pulled into the parking lot again. Slowly drove through and then parked behind a moving truck on the other side of the street. I could still see his wheels.
I called a cab to come get me. But when I gave the cab the address he only said, "I'll see what i can do." He wasn't coming.
The man in the convertible pulled away again and I never saw him again. A police pulled in to fill up for gas. I went out to talk to them and they offered me an escort to the French Quarter. I was less than three miles away.
I stopped at an outdoor cafe with live jazz and order a light beer to calm me down. It didn't work. I really wanted to leave New Orleans but I wasn't going to let that one man change my course. I booked a hotel and stayed anyway...
Monday, October 6, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I went to the Kamground in Slidell, LA. It was about a 4 mile detour each way off of Hwy 90, but I was spent for the day and it was time to camp. My alternative was about another 25 miles or so (I think) before I hit more places to camp. It seems that when I stop at a gym to get a weight lifting workout my ride always seems to tail off sooner and more abruptly. Almost without much warning that my energy is gone. And I had a really strong workout at World Gym earlier that day.
So Clare and Lohoma were waiting outside of the Kampground office when I pulled in. They very pleasant and inquisitive about my adventure. Clare instructed me to go the Southside Cafe and Lahoma just kept shaking her head about me riding my bicycle to Seattle. Nice to meet both of you.
I sat at the corner of the bar which is right next to the front door. Overhead was the USC / Oregon St. game and everyfew minutes a new party was sitting left or right of me waiting for their table. With my computer, camera and phone with the according charge cords and my meal, I took up more than my share of space. Some folks were nice and interested in what I was doing and others just mumbled grumpy under their breath about it. I thought it was funny when a group of seniors sat next to me looking at each other talking about the space I was taking and then didn't even order a drink while they took up 4 seats waiting for their table. Just a reminder of how I don't want to behave when I am a senior. Honestly, I wasn't even taking up more than half of another seat.
At one point a couple, Bill and Sharron Newton, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where I was riding to. I had on of my panier's with me which is how I assume they knew I was on a bicycle. They are bicyclists as well. Bill asked we where my road support was and I didn't even know what he was talking about. I said it was packed on my bike. Bill has taken some longer rides and apparently road support is when someone is following in a car with gear and other comforts. They asked me where I was staying and then offered for me to stay with them the following night. The Newton's are a couple that immediately give you a sense of "good peoples" and I gladly accepted. I want to be in the french quarter for the Saints game on Monday night, so I have a day to spend off the bike (more time for a jog and and another workout - my legs feel like they could use a different motion then pedaling).
The ride back was nerve racking. I saw how the people were drinking and I remember the road I had to navigate back to my tent. It didn't help that on 4 separate occasions during dinner that other folks warned me about all the drunk driving in the area. So with caution I grinded the pedals and scurried to camp.
I found Cati online (well her friend Erin on Cati's log in). Cati was eating breakfast and Erin went to get her. It took a while for Cait to get there and I feel asleep looking at the computer in the tent. I was laying face down with my chin resting up on my makeshift dirty laundry pillow (I tried baby... sorry). She left me some nice words, like she always does, and I felt bad for dozing off. She is climbing Kilamanjaro and this was my last chance to talk to her online for a week.
So... an eventful evening worth writing about. I hope you enjoyed hearing about last nights chaos!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
And this is what I got...
Good thing she talked me into ordering some bacon that they cooked just perfect. I could only laugh.
.... I slept well regardless of the hard slab I was sleeping on. Who knew?
I hoped for today to be a long ride. But I found a sweet little coffee shop call Cold Fusion and a World Gym right behind it. So I knew I was in for a timely, but worthy detour. I had already travelled about 15 miles from where i slept so I was ready to eat. The had a decent menu but the coffee was great. AA Kenya Dark blend in honor of my sweetie who is in Africa. I'm thinking of you...
So I ate and set off to have a great "big group" lift. And it was...
Biloxi was just arond the corner... and over a bridge. The roads turned freshly paved and the ride began to speed up. I was strong today. The knee was feeling better and yesterday's lighter pace ride proved to pay off. Maybe some of the motivation was from being near the poker tables. But I resisted the urge. New Orleans was on my mind.
Biloxi was having a little art festival and a guy I met at the Shephard State Park Campground said he was going to be there. His name was Keith Stewart (if I remember correctly). I found the festival so maybe Keith is in the background somewhere. Nice to meet you Keith.
So I am not a Hard Rock Cafe junky, but I thought this guitar was pretty cool.
I rode along the coast after breezing through Biloxi. After seeing the baron beaches I thought, "wow these gorgeous sandy beaches are empty. I can't believe no one is here." It was Saturday and hot and sunny too. I even remember thinking how women always say the like to walk on the beach... what a crock of @#$%.
Then I started to notice that the buildings that were around were newer... really new. And the road I was on was completely being over hauled and narrowed to just one barracaded lane each way. It hit me. This was the beginnings of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. At a short stop, I met a guy, Doug White, at a convenience store who educated me on his version of the events and trauma that took place. I felt like I had a whole new point of view after talking with Doug.
All in all, everything seemed cleaned up nicely. But the region looked like it was just starting completely over. I felt bad for not being better prepared to understand the devastation.
I wonder what New Orleans will be like... There wasn't even a sign saying "Welcome to Louisiana" at the state line. I'll bet Katrina stole that one too.
I was heading to Shepherd State Park Campground which took me through Pascagoula to Gaultier. I was racing sundown to get there, but I had a little time to spare. I made my 1st fast food stop for the trip. Wendy's. I got the grilled chicken burger with Mandarin oranges and unsweetened tea. Not bad and certainly quick. It was a good thing I ate too, because once I got to the campground, I was nowhere near an eating house or grocery store.
Shepherd State Park is really an RV stop. I had power for the computer but basically a slab a concrete like hard sand to pitch my tent on. It was $16 on the honor system. I paid. I pitched my tent and slept well... of course.
The funny thing is, I have no idea what it cost to litter from your car in Washington. Anyone?