Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 23 and 24: to Ash Grove, MO and Pittsburg, KS

After the tedious, annoying climbs up the Ozarks yesterday, I figured there couldn’t be much more to them.  Boy, was I wrong.  Today was A LOT more rolling hills in the June heat of the Midwest.

Day 23 and 24 003 We started out the day with second breakfast (first breakfast is oatmeal or whatever you cook at 6am, second breakfast you buy from a diner after 20 or 30 miles or riding) in a cute town in Missouri.  We pass through and stay in so many towns that I get embarrassed when I talk to locals and can’t remember where I am or where I’m headed.  This picture should be submitted to here based on how incredibly unhealthy it is for a breakfast food.  It’s two slices of french toast sort of hollowed out with cream cheese and strawberry preserves in the middle.  Then they are jammed together, rolled in corn flakes, and deep fried.  Add some whipped cream and syrup and BAM, you have yourself a breakfast only MAYBE people like us can justify eating.  I couldn’t bear to order one and I’m burning at the very minimum 5,00o calories a day.   However, I do plan on destroying a KFC double down sandwich as soon as I have the opportunity. 

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“What town are we in?”  “Do they have milkshakes here?” “Why does Missouri use letters instead of numbers to name their highways?”

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Approaching our final hills.  It’s so discouraging to see a looming landscape like this.  The camera definitely doesn’t do it justice.  By this point, I was discouraged.  My socks were halfway over my shoes because they had scraped up my ankles, my bike shorts were hiked up like a bathing suit because I was hot and dirty, and I was riding in just my sports bra with my shirt fashioned into a scarf.  I was not a happy camper, I just wanted to stop climbing up the Ozarks and go to bed. 

Of course the swimming pool that everyone was enjoying in Ash Grove was closed by the time I finally arrived at six.  I showered and then rode to the only restaurant in town, a Chinese place.  It might have been the worst Chinese I’ve ever had and I couldn’t have cared at all.  I was happy to avoid the hassle of cooking outdoors.  We slept in some weird old house that was only two rooms.  I found a small cot I slept in successfully until it folded up while I was on it and scratched the area where my butt meets my leg.  EXACTLY where I have been getting all these saddle sores and the most sensitive part of me right now.   Figures.   

Day 23 and 24 016 When I awoke the next morning and carefully got out of my cot to the smell of pancakes, I knew it was already going to be a better day than the previous one.  Thanks, favorite route leader Matt.

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WE MADE IT TO KANSAS!  We totally slammed it to Kansas, to be exact.  The ride from Ash Grove to the Kansas border was still sort of hilly and it was by far the fastest I’ve ever gone for that many miles.  I was trying just about as hard as humanly possible for the entire 70 miles.  I think the only way I could have gone faster was if a bear or murderer or something were chasing me.  That made seeing the ‘Welcome to Kansas’ sign even more exciting.  We finally made it to the flatlands AND we might finally be good at cycling.  Here’s Liza and Bridget lifting their bikes up in celebration.  True story: my bike weighs probably three times theirs and I was physically unable to lift it more than a foot off the ground.  I was exhausted.  So the picture of me looks pretty stupid. 

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Pittsburg, (no H) Kansas is an amazing place.  We rolled into town to find that the local MS chapter had arranged for us to have a free pizza buffet at a local joint, Wheat State Pizza.  All of the crusts are made from local, organic whole wheat.  So good.  I devoured an entire dessert pizza and it reminded me of the times Mike, Bart, and me would sit at CiCi’s pizza buffet for hours after high school.  The town itself was pretty big for us, maybe around 20,000 people.  The actual downtown was thriving for a change; although I thought it was odd that honestly 25% of the stores I passed were bridal shops.  Then we saw an actual bride walking down the street!  Pittsburg must be big into weddings?

Oh yeah… about earlier, when I said that I flew for 70 miles going as fast as I could without dying? The 4 hour sprint that left me completely exhausted?  The point of all that was to get to Wheat State before the USA vs. Ghana soccer game started at 1:3o central time.  And we all know how that turned out.  Talk about major bummer for Bike the US for MS.  We are all about the World Cup.  Now all we have to look forward to is the Tour. 

Day 23 and 24 038 As if free pizza wasn’t enough, we were also provided free frozen custard by some popular local place.  I had to include this picture of Roseanne and Liza because their faces crack me up.  Liza there on the right had just told Rose that we had to ride another 9 miles to our camp (a lie-it was only 9 blocks) and you can see the utter shock in Rose’s face.  We were totally full of food and done-zo with riding.

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The city water park in Pittsburg, Kansas.  Yeah, we went.  Yeah, we were the only people there between the ages of 15-45.  We waited in line for the slides and played a HORRIBLE game of sand volleyball.  We are unequivocally bad at every sport we attempt to play.  It’s amazing that you can get a group of people together that are so spectacular at cycling and, at the same time, so bad other athletic pursuits.

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My bruises.  I had an ‘unplanned dismount’ from my bicycle the other day.  I wasn’t planning on getting off, but for some reason I rode into the grass on the shoulder of the road and fell over.  Oops. 

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We were very fortunate to stay in the Pittsburg Middle School band room.  I’m not being sarcastic by saying that chilling out in a middle school was awesome; we had a whole locker room, multiple showers and toilets, AC, a cafeteria, a gym, and a whole school to explore late at night.  The local MS society (which had already done it’s part with the free pizza, custard, and pool passes) made us dinner in the cafeteria.  They fed us until we were full.  Amazing.  The ladies were so nice and caring towards us, we couldn't have asked for more hospitality.  This woman, Robin, was diagnosed with MS when she was 21.  She told us about the amazing advances in drugs and technology in the last 35 years and how they have helped her cope with her disease.  She goes around giving speeches about MS all of the time and is a remarkable public speaker.  Robin made me cry.  She hand-stitched each of us a red, white, and blue “angel”, sort of like a Christmas ornament, to keep with us to remind us that we’re her angels.  Everyone was touched by her words.  As I’ve said before, it’s easy to forget that what we’re doing affects people like Robin.  It just seems like I’m riding my bike a lot.  I’m so thankful for her kind wishes and encouragement.  To everyone that came out to see us in Pittsburg- thanks so much.  We love Pittsburg!  Go Gorillas!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Days 21 and 22: to Eminence, MO and Hartville, MO

I would once again like to apologize for the lack of blog updates.  This time I don’t get to blame lack of power supply or internet; I have simply been way too tired to do any writing.  We have been putting in several 75+ mile days here in the beautiful Ozark mountains of Missouri.  As I’ve mentioned several times, the Ozarks are a mysterious, secret mountain range placed in the ‘flat’ middle part of the country specifically to discourage transamerican cyclists. 

Day 21 019 “Oh,” you may be thinking, “what a nice picture.”  No, this is a horrible picture.  Did you notice how the road ends in a HILL?  And around that corner there was more than likely more hill.  See how tiny Dan there is in comparison to the hill?  I don’t remember this exact hill, and let me tell you why.  This landscape is repeated in the Ozarks over and over and over.  See hill, go as fast as you can approaching hill, slow to 4mph going up the hill, finally get to the top of the hill, immediately crank into high gear and start pedaling as hard and fast as possible to prep for the next hill.  It’s physically and mentally relentless.  You have no break, no time to talk, no coasting.  Just constantly preparing for or climbing annoying hills that aren’t even supposed to be in Missouri.  We are doing over 4,000 feet of climbing a day here in the Ozarks, almost as much as we were doing in Appalachia.

Day 21 018I guess we really are in the West; I saw my first armadillo.  

Day 21 017We found some blackberries on the side of the road.  I still enjoy my raisins and dried cranberries, but these 150 degree hot blackberries tasted like they were straight out of a cobbler.

Day 21 036 After a hard day, we were rewarded with a campsite close to a cool, clear, flowing river.  The rivers in Missouri are a lot different than the streams back in Blacksburg.  They are exceptionally clear because they are spring fed and flow through granite.  Or so a guy at a gas station told me.  Anyways it looks like Caribbean water and it’s so refreshing to swim in.  We swam earlier in the day too; I think everyone is finally used to the idea of swimming in bike clothes.  For some reason we set our tents up on the shore of the river, which was a great idea.  First, we had to sleep on rocks.  Secondly, tent stakes don’t work great when you just jam them between some stones, so my tent completely collapsed not once but TWICE while I was sleeping.  It’s incredibly frightening to wake up feeling like you’re being attacked by a parachute and then have to figure out where the zippers are to free yourself.  Once freed, I of course ran out onto the pointy rocks in my bare feet and fell down.  And made a lot of noise.  And this happened twice.  So yeah, good times in Eminence. 

Day 21 037 We all get really excited when the new Bike the US for MS videos ‘are released’.  Our fearless leader Don puts them together and debuts them at the end of a hard day.  Here’s some of us crowded around to watch episode 4.  We usually watch it a few times each.

Day 21 038This is where I’m blogging from.  On the side of a river.

 Day 21 001

Jump to the next day.  More Ozarks, more climbing. This picture looks like it could have been taken in Blacksburg. 

Day 21 005We stopped again after 50 miles or so to go swimming.  You could climb up that rope ladder or take a trail to the top of that cliff and then jump off of it.  I jumped off even though I’m terrified of heights and Pepper has a video to prove it.  I can’t wait to see it.  I figure that now I’ve proven myself and I don’t have to jump off of any more cliffs.  I like looking at the pictures of us swimming because it looks like we’re wearing old-timey bathing suits.  We’re so modest.

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Here’s Seth, Pepper, and Liza getting in their ‘tuck’ positions to go down a hill.  Seth’s back is really straight and Pepper has a lot of weight on his bike so he flies.  I reached my top speed of all time today, 48 mph.  I actually could have gone faster too but I lifted my head up for a few seconds because there was a dog in the middle of the road that I didn’t want to slam into. 

Day 21 015

Seth makes drafting behind him easier by opening his shirt for me while he rides.

Day 21 017Making dinner on our campstoves.  My new favorite is egg noodles with half a thing of parmesan cheese thrown in.  It’s like alfredo.

Day 21 021

And in case you’d be interested, a shot showing what my tent looks like when its in ‘mosquito net’ mode.  This is great because I get to feel the breeze.  However, I miss my cave sometimes.  It’s weird to know people can watch you sleep.  Well, it was, then all of us completely stopped caring.  In Blacksburg I spend so much of my time alone, it had been strange to spend 24 hours a day with people.  The ten minutes a day I spend in my camp chair or tent working on this blog is literally the only time I’m by myself, and even then I can always hear people talking and moving around.  But for probably half of the day on the bike I’m alone with my thoughts. 


P.S. Amber and Mike I’m so stoked to see you in San Francisco.  Ben, you need to find a way out there, too! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Days 19 and 20: to Chester, IL and Farmington, MO

The rest day was over way too soon and we had to set off westward from Carbondale to the Ozarks and then the Midwest.

Day 19 and 20 006 We started out the day by going on a local radio show and talking about our cause and telling funny stories about things that have happened along the way.  I talked about how you don’t have to be a “cyclist” in the traditional sense to enjoy the trip.  I mean, I’m sure it helps to be awesome at cycling, but if you’re just a normal person like me you can still go out there and try 100% everyday.  After the radio program we went to a local coffee shop where we were treated to ANOTHER free meal.  It was all organic and vegetarian.  Great for breakfast.  They also had real local coffee and not coffee-water like we’ve gotten used to at gas stations.  If you want to make us happy, get us coffee.  Most people take down their tents and change clothes in the morning when they first wake up.  I have to boil some water and make some instant coffee before I do any manual labor.  Then twenty miles later when we stop for breakfast I have another few cups.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that caffeine isn’t a drug.

Day 19 and 20 011

Here’s me,  Bridget, and Liza in our NEW JERSEYS!  Leigh’s mom has some sort of connection to pharmaceutical companies so we were all shipped shiny white Team Copaxone jerseys.  Copaxone is a drug used to treat MS.  So yeah, it’s not like we’re totally selling out to the drug companies.  They are also American flag colored which suits the trip well and probably placates local rednecks.  Dirty hippie cyclists love America, too.

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The ride today was neat; we rode along the tops of levees on the banks of the Mississippi River.  It was flat, hot, and for the first time I can remember there were hardly any trees in sight.  Riding your bike next to the Mississippi after having come all this way was surreal.  I can’t wait until tomorrow when we get to cross.

Coal: What’s up with that? 

Part 7: Shipping

Day 19 and 20 029

While on the levee road we went right under this awe inspiring structure.  Coal is taken off the trains and dumped in huge piles so big that the trucks dive up and down them.  Then it’s put on this conveyor belt that goes over the road and straight out to the Mississippi where the coal is dumped onto barges travelling down to the Gulf.  With that, our journey with coal is over.  We saw it literally being blasted out of the mountains and now we got to see it float off into the sunset like Huck Finn.  Goodbye, coal… hopefully goodbye trains.

Day 19 and 20 046

No one told us that Chester, IL was going to be sweet.  We were staying at a Lion’s Club or something like that, which usually means an empty building old people sometimes use to meet in.  Not this place.  This place was bumping.  It was a full restaurant, bar(!), had pool tables, internet, and a jukebox.  This picture is of the ‘nerd’ table; instead of joining them for the LAN party I had some rums and cokes and played pool for hours.  Then we went outside and watched the numerous games of league sand volleyball going on right next to our van.  Can you see why it’s hard to keep up with this blog now?  I would love to look over my pictures and write, but it’s so hard to find the time when I’m so busy riding my bike and having fun.  I need to get faster at riding so I have more free time in which to have fun AND blog.

That night the boys were nice enough to give the girls the “beds”, which were literally shelves of plywood nailed to the walls of a shed.  It might sound miserable but there is a catch: there was a window AC unit they’d put through a hole in the wall.  So us 7 girls enjoyed our hard plywood beds more than we ever thought we could.

Sleep in plywood bed.  Have coffee.  Pack up stuff.  Jam stuff into cubby.  Put on dirty, smelly, damp bike clothes.  Check bike shifting and pump up tires.  Reset bike computer. Start riding.

Day 19 and 20 053

I crossed the Mississippi!  I got here!  On a bicycle!  Really cool personal moment for me, my only regret is that I did not look more beautiful at 5am or whatever ungodly hour this photo was taken.

Day 19 and 20 068 We crossed into Missouri, our fourth state!  They were nice enough to line the highway with flags lest we forget we are still in America.


I didn’t take anymore pictures on the way to Farmington.  I was busy being shocked at this random mountain range (I’m told they call them the Ozarks) that is apparently in the middle of the country.  I thought it was Appalachians, Rockies, and Alaska.  Those are the mountainous areas of the United States.  No one explained to me that I would be able to find mountains in MISSOURI of all places.  Isn’t it like Kansas there?  No, it is not like Kansas there.  It’s like Virginia there. 

However, Farmington Missouri is awesome.  There is a legit WATER PARK in the middle of the town with a lazy river and big slides and everything.  We were so thrilled.  I laid on a tube in the lazy river for literally 3 hours without a care in the world as little kids splashed all around me.  Great afternoon.  I’m glad Farmington knows what’s up.

Later we went to a nice-ish place for dinner.  Of course we were appropriately dressed in our bathing suits and cycling clothes.  Geordie got a $5o lobster meal, much to our amusement.  The bike hostel we are staying at in Farmington is off the hook- leather couches, a nice TV, and enough large bunk beds that hardly any of us have to sleep on the floor.  If I had to live in Missouri, I might move here. 

Day 19 and 20 073

I guess I did take one final picture today: Seth scaling the wall of our hostel.  These boys have so much energy for activities all the time.  So many activities.  And I can barely type at night, ha.

Days 17, 18, and Rest Day!

I’m writing this entry a couple of days late so I think I’m just going to breeze through it and let you know some cool things we have been up to the past few days.

Day 17 was to Cave In Rock, Illinois. 

Day 17 002

We started out the day by stopping after 30 miles to watch the end of the World Cup Game USA vs. Slovenia.  The stupid refs called back our winning goal and we became perhaps the only residents of Kentucky to ever get angry about a soccer game.

Day 17 009


It’s hot.  Rest stops are crucial.  Sometimes it seems too hot to eat or drink and all you want to do is sleep.


Day 17 020

This shot of Pepper and I is the only and best picture I have to record our crossing of the Ohio River that is the border between Kentucky and Illinois. Yes, we finally left Kentucky.  My overall opinion is that it wasn’t so bad.  I never got chased by a big dog, run over by a  coal truck, or harassed by the locals.  The hills were horrible, I’d say worse than Virginia.  Phew, eastern Kentucky.  Hot, humid, HILLY.

 Day 17 027

Illinois!  Some of the boys from Carbondale had their parents meet us on the banks of the river with fresh, cold watermelon, grapes, and Gatorades.  We sat on the banks of the river and enjoyed our fruit (we hardly ever get to eat fruit or veggies) and relished the fact we were in our third state of the trip. 

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Day 17 040

These pictures are from the aptly name Cave In Rock.  We camped near there.  A shout out to Alex Pearlman's family for picking up our dinner tab a a nearby restaurant.  I was starving and had some fried bluegill for the first time.  I also ate approximately a million hushpuppies.  So thanks again for the dinner, I’m sure it was expensive but you have no idea how much we appreciate any food, let alone free food.

The cave was so chilly and windy that it was like someone had turned on the AC.  I wish we could have slept in there.  But we decided it’s better to wake up covered in sweat rather than bat poop. 

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And boy, did we wake up.  At 4am the night went from calm and sticky to cold and windy.  A storm was blowing into camp and fast.  I didn’t have my rainfly up so I was actually sleeping in a large mosquito net-enclosure.  When it came to putting my rain cover on my tent  (“work”) or knocking my tent down and jamming it into its bag (“less work?”), I picked the obvious choice.  It sucked that I had to climb out of my comfy bed and immediately start disassembling it, but doing anything dry is better than doing it wet in the rain.  In the panic of the brewing storm and due to the fact it was dark, I put my bike shorts on with my chamois on the outside.  Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to you, but boy was it hilarious to my teammates who joked me about it for the rest of the day.  I also put my underwear in my handlebar bag for some reason.  It was shocking later when I went in for my phone or something and pulled out panties.  Lesson learned: I cannot get ready quickly in the morning.  At least not correctly.  Oh yeah, anyways the picture is of us riding at first light of the day with our tail lights on.


Day 17 053A rest stop at a friendly town. 

Day 17 057


Riding with Dan and Liza through a wildlife preserve very close to Carbondale.  Carbondale is the site of our second (and final) rest day of the trip.  We were so unbelievably excited to make it to Carbondale where we knew a pool and a whole day of not bicycling awaited us.  It was a hard and hot 85 mile day and I’m not sure if we would have made it if we weren’t so stoked about Carbondale.

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We made it.  I didn’t take many pictures on the rest night and day because I was too busy not thinking about biking or blogging.  It was a total rest day from everything.  We set up shop at Seth’s house, swam in the pool, then headed out to a restaurant in downtown Carbondale called Thai Taste for what might have been our first ethnic food of the trip.  Afterwards we went to a bar called Tres Hombres where they donated a keg to us!  The above photo was taken after enjoying a few beers from said keg.  Give us a break, we only get two nights off all summer to stay up late.  Some of us stayed singing and dancing to the live band until Don had to forcibly remove us from the dance floor.  The band donated a free CD to me to put on my iPod and listen to when I bike. 

Day 17 070


After waking up at the late hour of 8am on the rest day, we went over to help a woman with MS fix up her yard.  It was pretty amazing to me to see how much 25 hardworking people can get done in a couple hours.  We completely made-over her yard; chopping down trees, tearing down vines, weeding, putting down mulch, etc.  Joan was so nice and grateful that we were helping her, so it was a rewarding experience in that way as well.  It was odd that all of us were happy to spend one of our coveted days off to do work in the heat and help someone… but that’s just how awesome we are. 

I spent the majority of the rest day in Seth’s pool on a raft drifting in and out of sleep.  It was deserved and appreciated.  A HUGE thanks to Seth’s parents for hosting us the entire time we were in town.  They not only allowed 20 strangers to sleep on every floor of their house, they also provided us with never-ending coffee, casseroles, fruit, and beer.  I felt like I was at a bed and breakfast the entire time.  Excellent food was everywhere.  They had some livestock and a garden so our breakfast casseroles were made with free-range eggs from their chickens and kale and tomatoes from their backyard.  And petting their donkey and goats entertained me to no end.  It was all that I could have asked from a rest day and we are all incredibly thankful to all of the Carbondale parents who made it possible.  We are always under such mental and physical stress and it’s nice to completely relax for a day. 


I love Bike the US for MS.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 16: to Sebree, KY

We did 75 miles pretty miles today with about 4,000 feet of climbing.  So even though we are out of the mountains and into the rolling hills we are still working our butts off and sweating just as hard as ever.

Day 16 003

We started the day off with the breakfast buffet at the Lodge at Rough River Dam Park.  I think skipping dinner last night was a mistake because I totally stuffed myself at  breakfast and felt sluggish the rest of the day.  I was too full to even drink a whole cup of coffee.  Rookie mistake, Tara.  See how far away the other cyclists are in the picture above?  Yeah, that’s how I spent a lot of the day, about 100 yards behind everyone else.  I have saddle sores on on my upper thigh and they are killing me.  It hurts so bad to bike, walk, sit down, or anything.  I’m so annoyed.  I feel strong and everything is going great except for that.  I wish they could just heal and I could cycle happily and pain-free.  So today was one of those long days where you just had to ride your bike all day.  I didn’t take many pictures.  Day 16 008But I looking back I honestly had another great time out on the road.  In no way does it get boring or monotonous to ride my bike all day.  I am happy and enjoying every second even with saddle sores and other various aches and pains. 

Today we went through lots of sort-of-sad small towns that looked liked they used to be full of life and business but now have abandoned storefronts and ‘meth watch’ signs everywhere.  They are neat to ride though; it’s like seeing what remains of small town America.  The countryside was beautiful.  Several times today I felt like I could be in Pungo or Chesapeake.  That sort of landscape.  Other times it reminded me of the hills around Richmond approaching Appalachia.  Yesterday I felt like I was in Kansas and today I felt like I was back in Virginia. 

Tonight we are staying at the  First Baptist Church in Sebree, Kentucky.  This place is awesome.  They have a really nice cyclists hostel on the ground floor of their church with comfy couches, a huge kitchen, ping pong, a big TV, showers, and lots of space.  Day 16 030That alone would make our night.  But then there was dinner!  The pastor’s wife, Violet, has been making cyclists dinner for 31 years.  She invites them to eat with her family around their kitchen table every night; last summer they fed and housed 260 cyclists.  We were too big of a group to fit in her dining room, so we ate in a nice area of the church upstairs.  She made us a million types of casseroles, vegetables, beans, and desserts.  I can’t imagine the money, time, and work that goes into feeding 30 people.  And she’s been doing this for 31 yeDay 16 018ars and isn’t sick of it yet!  I am so amazed and thankful for people like this.   It makes me so happy.  In addition to food, they gave us all Kentucky pins because (drumroll) tomorrow we are leaving Kentucky for Illinois!  I guess I’m going to have to just get a pin from every state and start collecting them or something. 

Ok, sorry for the short and not very entertaining update.  I’m totally beat and all I want to do is go to bed.  Only 55 miles tomorrow which is usually easy but I hope I can hold up.

See you all in Illinois!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 15: to Rough River Dam, KY

Another short day!  We were only going 60 miles today, another ‘rest’ day, ha.  Because I was sleeping inside in the air conditioning, I didn’t wake up until 7:15.  So late that I almost Day 14 008missed some of Bret’s pancakes.  Almost.  I still managed to eat three.  After reluctantly boiling water on my campstove to have coffee, we packed our stuff and headed out for breakfast #2 at Subway.  The girls and I somehow managed to stay at Subway for a whopping 2 and a half hours.  That’s our record so far for most dilly-dallying in one place.  Why ride early when you can sit in Subway for two meals and ride out just in time to catch the heat of the day?

Actually today was a beautiful day.  It never got toDay 14 012o hot and there was a nice breeze that wasn’t strong enough to be classified as a headwind.  There were pretty white, pink and purple flowers in all of the fields.  Horses were galloping and thankfully the road offered only gentle up and down hills.   We saw some Amish!  I didn’t know that they existed as far south as Kentucky.  Perhaps they are some offshoot of Amish that is called something else, I’m not sure.  We saw Day 14 020several but I only got this crappy picture from the back because I heard they don’t like their photo being taken and I didn’t want to be rude.  This dude flew past us in his horse and buggy.  One of the girls commented about how they are crazy to still be using horses as a mode of transportation in 2010.  Then we realized that we are riding bikes to California and that perhaps we are the crazy ones. 

Team “girls” continued to spend the day taking food breaks at every possible moment, much to the annoyance of our route leaders who had to wait forever at a rest stop so we could refill our water bottles.   Out of the blue we had to climb a 17%+ grade hill, our steepest of the entire route so far.  It’s about as steep as people like us can ride up without falling over or going backwards.  It was nuts.  I really want to be able to ride up this hill when I get to San Francisco.  I’m starting to wonder if that’s feasible.

We stopped for a final time for blackberry cobbler and ice cream before crossing the actual Rough River Dam into camp.  I’m Day 14 027almost positive I’ve seen this dam on the History Channel before.  How thrilling.  The campsite is nice and has showers in close proximity.  I’m currently a mile up the road at the Lodge which has comfy chairs, free wifi, and what I’m told is an awesome breakfast buffet for $7.  I sort of skipped dinner to blog and watch TV so I’m very excited about that.  I guess I’ll ride back to camp in the dark and eat a sleeve of Pop-Tarts in my tent, which is my new ‘sort of sad’ thing to do.

Cool things:

We crossed time zones today into Central Time!  I really feel like I’m GOING somewhere now.  The girls and I were thrilled to find out that even though we didn’t get on the road until 11am, we would roll into camp an hour early.  Or that’s what we told ourselves.

We have apparently done just about 1,000 miles on our trip so far.  That means my bike seat has about 2,000 miles on it since I bought it in March and it still sucks.  Nice!

There’s a new video online!  It makes us look pretty hardcore if you ask me.  You can see me summiting Hayder’s Gap in the white bike shorts.  Also, Bridget’s line at the top of the climb is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard and I’m so happy it’s on video to be preserved forever.  Enjoy.

Day 14: to Hodgenville, KY

Good news: it hardly rained last night!  I think it sprinkled a little but I left my rain fly half unzipped because it was so hot.  The minimum temperature around here at night is literally 80 degrees.  I don’t mind the heat and so far I haven’t had any problems sleeping in it but it’s a constant topic of conversation amongst us. 

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I think we each say “it’s hot” about twenty times a day.  Whenever we go in a store or something every looks at us really funny and asks us why we’re riding our bikes.  “Don’t you guys know it’s hot?”  Yes, we know it’s hot.  We just have these bikes and we sort of have to keep riding them to get to the place where are food and sleeping bags are.  The best is when people walk outside to their cars and complain about the heat for the entire 45 seconds it takes them to get across the parking lot and turn on their AC.  Then they roll their windows down slightly to keep the AC from escaping and wish us luck.  You can tell they are thinking “those people are idiots.”  Sometimes I think we are.   For instance, today my bike computer temperature gauge read 123 degrees.  It was out in the sun so I doubt it was anywhere close to that hot, but man it FELT like it was.  “How do you guys cool off in the heat?” “We try to ride fast enough to create a breeze.” “Uh, good luck, kids.”  It’s pretty funny most of the time.  I mean, I’m sure you all think it’s hot too and it does suck to be out in the heat, but when you have no alternative you just have to roll with it.

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Look how beautiful and flat that landscape is.  I think we have officially entered pretty Kentucky horse farm country and left the “backwoods West Virginia” portion of the state.  I didn’t mind hick Kentucky much; it had a lot of character and the people were super interesting to talk to.  But they were mountain people, and, unfortunately, I do not care for mountains very much.  They’re fun to look at and live in but you know… the whole biking thing. 

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Anyways today was an easy, rolling hill 40 mile day.  Our shortest mileage day of the whole trip.  Pretty much a rest day to be honest.  I never thought I’d think that biking 4o miles would  be a ‘rest’, but alas.  I was happy for the break because my saddle sores are killing me.  We have so many lotions and potions to rub on our butts every morning it’s nuts.  The thing we talk about as much as the heat is each other’s butt problems.  Chafing, rashes, sores, bruises. Yeah, we’re all quickly all becoming close friends.

Not much to talk about today as far as a play-by-play of the day is concerned.  We rode, we took little breaks, we made it to Hodgenville.  Hodgenville is apparently the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.  I learned something today, I always thought he was from Illinois.  Some of the girls went to go visit his birthplace only to find that there was no house or anything, just a field where the house he was born in used to be.  Enthralling.  Alex described it the town as “the land Lincoln left behind.”  This is the only place on the trip so far where multiple people have come up to us to ask us why in the world we picked their POS town to stay in.  We tried to explain to them that it’s on our bike route, etc,  but they remain perplexed.  Actually, we love Hodgenville.  There is more than one Day 13 and 14 054restaurant, a milkshake place, and a POOL.  We finally got to go swimming!  The public pool was 50 feet from our campsite and was totally worth the $2 each entry fee.  Later there were several little league games going on and some of the team had a great time watching the kids play baseball and talking to the parents about our trip and our weird tan lines.   Personally, I laid my sleeping pad out under a tree and took an hour long nap.  We then got some malts at a cute old diner and I made an Asian Pasta Side + can of chicken for dinner.  Day 14 005 The TV at the diner was tracking a huge storm front and tornados a few counties over, so we talked to the rec center guy and he agreed to let us sleep in the gym for the night.  Good thing I was too lazy to set up my tent earlier. 

Quick note:  Thank you to EVERYONE that reads and that has donated in my name.  We are all having a great time but in the end we are riding to raise money and awareness for MS.  We wear our jerseys proudly and spend a good portion of the day talking to strangers about our cause and handing out business cards.  I’d say 90% of the random people I’ve met know someone close to them that has MS.  I haven’t personally met a lot of you that have donated but I really appreciate it.  My route leaders are so thrilled that my blog is bringing in more donations for MS that they raised my minimum to encourage more people to donate.  As a team we’ve raised over $87,000!  That’s so amazing.  Seriously, thanks again.  Multiple Sclerosis is such a strange disease, no one knows what causes it or how to prevent it.  Other people that have biked across the country with no problems have developed MS overnight and a few years later can’t even walk or feed themselves.  It could happen to anyone.  I am thrilled that our money is going towards more research to figure out how to stop this disease from destroying the lives of so many previously healthy people. 

The other day I stopped at a milkshake stand in a horribly poverty stricken area of eastern Kentucky.  I got to talking with the lady who worked behind the counter and found out her husband has MS.  He was diagnosed out of the blue at age 50 and now can’t work in the coal industry anymore.  So she’s the sole breadwinner of the family and she probably makes minimum wage making milkshakes for people like me.  What options are there for these people?  It breaks my heart.