Summary in Pictures

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We followed much of the old Route 66.

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Excited to be arriving at the Atlantic at trip’s end.

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Redux

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I want to add a few more images, taken by others from the tour who shared them with me.  These celebrate the awesome countryside through which we cycled.

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Climbing to Julian, California.

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Climbing Mingus Mountain in Arizona.

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Talimena Parkway in Arkansas.

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Dawn over the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge in Arkansas.

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Toward Jerome, Arizona from Mingus Mountain.

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Glamis, California.

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Roadside in Oklahoma.

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Looking back over cotton fields to the bridge over the Mississippi.

 

Day 5

As I revisited my blog, I was startled at the number of you who have ridden with me.  Thank you, whether you commented or just observed.  It has felt transformative for me.  I wish you the chance for experiences that help you reevaluate and reset.

Now I’m going body surfing.

Day 1

I awake with reality thoughts: where are my keys?, why would I choose an all-you-can-eat buffet now that I’m trying to get back on a normal diet?, how do I repack my bag since I don’t need my bike gear? Instead I focus on my prayers and then reach over and pat my wife.

I don’t know what I will do with this blog. I thank you  for keeping company with me. For those connected with PACtour, I am grateful for all you have offered me. As I honor my sister, I am even more conscious that life is a precious gift. As I thank you for contributing to end polio, it is with the faith that we can make incremental changes that help the arc of history bend toward justice.

To the Atlantic

IMG_2384Day 27: Metter to Tybee Island GA: 86.9 miles, 15.7 mph, 961 feet of climbing, 5198 calories

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Bull; today it was about the destination. Traffic was heavy as we approached Savannah. So we just pedaled, first to get to a Starbucks, then to the rendezvous, then to the Atlantic. But once you reach the destination, you realize it’s about the people. I was delighted to ride with Bob and Gary today. There were many jokes, hugs, pats on the back. I have been part of an exceptional community.

Ultimately, it is about the process. I have been outside of time. Each day has been a simple matter of pedaling until the job is done. Sometimes it has hurt, sometimes it has been frustrating, sometimes it has stretched my sense of what I could do. In the end, I am left with joy and a deep sense of peace.

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And tomorrow life starts anew.

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Endings on My Mind

26: Cordele to Metter GA: 116 miles, 13.5 mph, 3373 feet of climbing, 7141 calories

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Today was challenging. But I got by with a little help from my friends. I had 6 flats. 3 different riders helped, but I ultimately had to borrow Susan’s bike to finish the last 36 miles. It turned out that my rim tape was the issue. So I will ride my own bike for the finish.

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I spent the day thinking about endings.

Ending Polio. We are close. With luck it will be done within 5 years. I will keep supporting the effort. Thank you to all who contributed through endpolio.org. You know that most contributed through their local Rotary, so I have no record of the total raised. But the notifications I have received let me know you have been generous. Thank you!

Ending teams. We have worked together for a month, but now face the immediacy of the ending. There is a tangible difference today. When I moved up from my usual trailing position to take the lead, Rich refused to let me in. We have had each other’s wheel for hundreds of miles. If we had hundreds more, I doubt he’d have objected. But I settled at the back until the first break. Then I rode alone for the next 25 miles. Facing the wind by myself,I got a new appreciation for those like Ken, Ian, and Ted who choose to ride all the miles alone. There are different teams. I respect Charlie, Wes, and the Hart  boys for riding fast; Rich and Matt for loyalty through challenges;  Karen Ann and Brent for riding slow; Daniel and James for riding as if they were totally independent of the tour; and the lunch crew for being enthusiastic when any of us arrive. We all need teams to get us through. Thank you to all who helped with my flats.

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My rear end. I had planned to put in a picture from my back, but decided it was too unprofessional. Count your blessings! I am 3 toned. My legs and arms have never been browner. My back and thighs are summer brown, but distinctly lighter. My ass is as white as snowballs.

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Endings suggests beginnings. I am looking forward to seeing my love tomorrow. I find myself thinking fondly of family and coworkers. The next chapter opens.

What’s on My Mind

Day 25: Eufaula AL to Cordele GA: 116 miles, 15.4 mph, 3901 feet of climbing, 7301 calories

We crossed into Georgia, welcomed by the east wind and a long climb up to Providence Canyon. Then the terrain flattened out. We passed cotton fields, pecan groves, and peanut farms as we traversed Carter country. We had lunch in Americas, but without sighting Billy. We ended in Cordele, warmly welcomed at dinner. I believe that it was in Cordele, in 1970, when this hippie with a white Afro was refused service when trying to buy gas. At least some divisions have been reconciled.

I rode in different combinations, but consistently with Bob and Gary. They’ve been my best mentors on this trip, supportive and sharing advice. Gary reminded me to keep pedaling when leading on downhills. Part of me reverted to the insecure cyclist I was when the tour began. Then the appreciation kicked in, because I have learned a lot from many good people.

Here is a partial list of those to whom I’m grateful: Don and Tom N for being gentlemen who keep the enthusiasm of 12 year olds; the friendliness of the Ice Cream Gang (Karen’s rich laughter and Ian’s antics that provoke it); Stig and Bill for kindness; Ernie, John M, and Daniel for lessons on retirement; Tom H and Larry for climbing lessons; Paul and Phillip for teaching me about racing; Karl, Ted, and Mose for wisdom for the road; John, Lon, and James for demystifying mechanical issues; Terry, Todd, young Ian, Doug, Patty, and Tom N for lessons on determination; and Bob and Gary for teaching a rookie. I have ridden with most of the cyclists, deliberately, and been consistently rewarded with warmth and wisdom.

I also cast back to childhood hikes with my parents. My father was the model for planning, efficiency, and determination. On days when I have pushed hard, I am channeling him. My mother saw hiking as communion with nature and other hikers.  She would approve of my social days. As a child I would oscillate between them, literally running between them as they often would be hiking at different paces. Now I have integrated them in my flexible approach to this adventure. I feel their approval as I pedal.

Last Dance with Alabama

Day 24: Greenville to Eufaula AL: 110.8 miles, 13.8 mph, 4915 feet of climbing. 6766 calories

Goodbye Alabama. Goodbye to Tom Petty.

For the last 3 days I have been struggling to get into my 2 highest gears. Those who know me for pushing big gears at a low cadence are laughing to see me spinning like a normal person. I feel like a gunslinger without my pistols.

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We talk about this tour as Groundhog Day.  Each day is a repeat of the one before: packing up, preparing the bike, eating breakfast, applying chamois butter, loading the van, loading the route on the Garmin, starting pedaling. I really don’t feel the day has begun until I get down on my aero bars. Similarly, the ride today felt like the last 2: same rollers, same east wind, same gentle sun. I made it fresh by taking pictures during the early light. Then I joined the Ice Cream Gang until lunch. I came in alone, choosing to ride at my pace and meditate.

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Tonight I will join James and Daniel for craft beers. I am beginning to think about “lasts.” Is this the last craft beer night? Was this my last ride with the Gang? I try to stay in the moment, but we are now 90 percent done with this tour.

 

Racing across Alabama

Day 23: Livingston to Greenville AL: 128.7 miles, 17.6 mph (18.5 moving), 4206 feet of climbing, 8470 calories

What Alabama had to show me was wind: straight out of the east, gusting to 20 mph, aggravating. I went into efficiency mode. I got into a pace line early, took quick breaks, traded leading with Gary, and discovered I was leading the pack at 95 miles. When the Tacoma Train closed in on us, I told Gary I’d lead them “on a merry chase” and took off in a full sprint. They caught me after 3 miles. But I hung with them through many a pull and sprint and ended up finishing with them. I’m tired, sore, and satisfied.

Alabama did show me pretty towns, lovely parks, the usual rolling hills, catfish farms, timberlands, and proudly tended flower gardens.

My meditation was on the healing power of rhythm. A therapy for trauma, known as EMDR, uses bilateral eye movements to integrate trauma memories. Other approaches use bilateral sounds or tapping. 100 miles of cycling uses 10,000 strokes of each leg. There is something normalizing about the simple repetition, something soothing. Bicycle therapy?

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Into Alabama

22: Kosciusko MS to Livingston AL: 114 miles, 16.2 mph, 5500 feet of climbing, 7569 calories (not enough to offset those consumed at the ice cream social).

Summer lingers in the South. I hear of rain in Seattle, frost in Spokane, and leaves falling in Winchester. Here it’s 65 at dawn, with a gentle sun that warms us into the 80s. The morning is cool enough that horses and even cows race with us as we pass by. Of course, country dogs try and fall to catch out wheels. The east wind  fights a rearguard action as we advance across the state. I hide behind Australian Jonathan as he pumps his tree trunk legs, indifferent to the wind. We climb rolling hills. As the day progresses, we leave farms behind and see more clear cut forests with kudzu taking over.

I love the names given to Mississippi rivers: yesterday it was the Sunflower, today the Pearl, and, of course, the mighty Mississippi.

I rode hard, attaching the hills. But I still took time for pictures and prayers. I enjoyed the cars clustered around the small country churches. My worship was the rhythm of my pedaling; my sacrifice was my sweat.

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I had never been in Alabama before. It’s my 49th state. I look forward to what it will show me.