Monday, July 29, 2013

Mid-Way...Week 6.5

Rulo, Nebraska

2600 miles total...101,385 feet climb total...July 29/30, 102013
In some ways, the first mile of the second half is more crucial because it's the one that propels the traveler down the slope of endurance to destination. (The River Horse, William Least-Heat Moon)

[This is an update with photos.]

Awoke this morning July 29 to rain. Packed up the gear and sat reading. As I finished, so did the rain. Leaving Weston Bend SP I took a walk along the bluff that overlooks the Missouri River into Kansas. Packed, dense clayey soil. There was a paved bike trail down by the river that took me into the charming village of Weston, childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody, and breakfast at Subway since the local restaurants are closed on Monday mornings...another traveling point to remember. It commences to lightly rain again.

Looking out across the Missouri River
[Weston, the childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody. I'm posting this on 8-18-13 as I sit in Cody, WY and after visiting the museum bearing his name.]

My celebratory day is going to be a wet one...but will not dampen my spirits. It's interesting how I have been anticipating this point for several days. It's like reaching the top of a long climb and anticipating the thrill of a long descent. Of course it also means that I have just as far as I have come to yet complete and I have no expectation that I will be able to coast.

Rainy days can only mean one thing...flats. Mine came after two hours on the road as I approach the crossing of the Missouri River into Kansas. This time the culprit is a metal wire staple. It takes 30 minutes to change the front the rain, since the barn I sighted as a covered refuge was in a state of collapse.

I'm pretty wet after bending over in the rain for 30 minutes. The next town, just over the bridge in Kansas, is Atchison, KS. Mexican for lunch, and lots of hot coffee.

Entering Kansas, the cornfields celebrate our halfway accomplishment with the applause of their green leaves thrashing in the wind. Confetti in the form of water droplets is cast in our direction from the waving stalks.

Very soon open arrival in Kansas the topography flattens..mostly due to the road hugging the Missouri River flood plain. Later when there are hills, I climb them at 9 mph, but only descend at 24. This compares to the Pennsylvania and Missouri hills where I climbed with effort at 4 mph and descended at 35.

Wet Kansas
Perceptions change with the landscape. I have been trying to judge distances. East of the big rivers I would guess one mile and it would actually only be 0.75 mile. Now in the beginning of the plains, I estimate the distant peak of a hill as 1.5 miles and it takes 2 miles of pedaling to arrive there.

A break in the rain comes late in the afternoon as we enter the pitiful little town of White Cloud...but it has two parks that welcome overnight campers. The great benefit of these city parks over stealth camping is the public restroom available...though very rustic. I am graciously helped to confirm the camping status with a call to the Madame Mayor by a local native...a true native. I do not know his tribe. Federal authorities moved the Kansa tribes to Indiana, and then we name the territory and state after them...go figure. There are Fox and Sac tribal reservations nearby. My new friend works at the casino on one of the reservations.

Industrial castle
The hearty bicycling trio doesn't actually make the 2600 mile mark until early Tuesday morning, 8:15 just to the north of Rulo, Nebraska. We stop and do a little jig on the yellow centerline stripe.

A very small town but it does have a library
Rulo, NE...mid way
Blackie celebrates
What a saddle looks like after many miles
What the legs look like after 2600 miles



Lou, Blackie, and I have been on the road now for 45 days out of a 90 day adventure, and have just passed the 2600 mil point of a 5200 mile ride. It might be an appropriate time to summarize a typical excursion day...

  • 6:30 wake up, dress, pack gear
  • 7:00 strike tent and load bike
  • 7:30-8:00 depart camp
  • Ride 20-30 miles to town for breakfast, unless I had a big dinner the previous night; figure out where I'm going for the day
  • Ride 20-40 miles to lunch
  • Ride 20-40 miles to camp; restaurant dinner perhaps, or grocery stop; my favorite snack is fresh, cold, sliced watermelon and cold chocolate milk.
  • 6:00 to 8:00 set camp, shower if available, camp dinner maybe
  • 10:00 sleep
  • During the day there may be a point of interest, a historic site, historic markers, an interesting side road, a river to look at, someone to meet and talk too, a photo to take that enliven the day.
This routine gets broken almost weekly when I stay with a friend, meet family, take advantage of WarmShower hosts, or give in to a motel. Rain, very long days, difficult detours, weariness, lack of accommodating options shape the end-of-day events.

After 45 days I have taken ten off days (including those days I rode less than 24 miles). This means my average ride day had been 74 miles. The shortest at 40 miles, the longest at 115. I have broken 100 mile days three times. I have climbed an incredible 101,385 accumulative feet...3.5 Mt. Everests...and without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

There have been seven days of rain...only three days where I wear my rain jacket for more than two hours.

There have not been as many other bicyclists on the road as I expected. I have meet riders from Australia, Sweden, Baltimore, San Francisco.

I have taken to always having English muffins (which are essentially already squished), peanut or almond butter, canned sardines, mackerel, or tuna, and a constant bag of gorp for my emergency meal stash. This gets supplemented with a bag of sliced turkey and ripe avacado for a dinner sandwich, with fruit and yogurt, and occasionally some cheese.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Week Five & Six

St. Louis...11 days to Kansas City (4 off-days visiting family)

499 miles...18,860 feet climb
2485 miles total...97145 feet climb total (nearly half way)
...speed and time against miles and obstructions, hope against ignorance... (The River Horse, William Least-Heat Moon)

It is well to be calm; to be hopeful is still better; but to understand is best of all, for understanding is the universal and perfect remedy. (Eddy, modified)

By the way...I also frequently post a daily photo on Facebook Robbie Sweetser if you want to follow more timely on route.


Leaving my family in St. Louis, I ride the Katy Trail leaving off to ride into Jefferson City and find Central Dairy ice cream that Gabe, Sandy, and Hannah told me about. Saturday early afternoon sitting on the sidewalk bench eating good, local made ice cream on a summer day. Good times. The elderly gentlemen sharing my bench notices my bike and shares his stories of his own bike adventures in days gone by. By 2:00 I need to get on the road. Upon leaving, this man states he will be attending church soon and asks if he can offer prayers for my safety. "Absolutely, I need all the care possible."

Moonrise over Missouri

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Week Four

Cincinnati...Kentucky, Indiana & Illinois 9 days to St. Louis

624 miles...21,982 feet climb
1974 miles total...78,286 feet climb total
Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality.(Mary Baker Eddy)

Individual being is expressed in humility, obedience, honesty, awareness, compassion, selflessness. (Robbie)

The object isn't just to get to the top but to get there in such a way that you learn the nature of the mountain. (The River Horse, William Least-Heat Moon)


Cincinnati Purple People's Bridge
After long moments to ponder the larger issues of life on isolated trails and roads, I am beginning to see that there really are other bicyclists on the road. This was the week to begin experiencing these other adventurers and travelers as I approach midway on many cross country routes.

First siting of Mississippi River
I was happy to revisit Cincinnati friends Ann and Mark for a couple nights recuperation. They escorted me out of town...or at least to the boundary of their neighborhood and the relinquishment of host responsibilities.
Cincinnati friends Ann and Mark
Cincinnati friends Ann and Mark
Robbie, Ann, and Mark
It's best of all to meet old friends. Ann and I met in 1975 as an awkward 20 something tripped on his umbrella while boarding an airplane bound for foreign studies in Denmark, and practically feel into a young woman's lap. Who totes an umbrella to Europe anyway?!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Week Three

Pittsburgh...West Virginia 2 days, Ohio 3 days to Cincinnati

415 miles...9,360 feet climb
1,365 miles total...56,230 feet climb total
Proceed as the way opens. (River Horse by William Least-Heat Moon

It becomes quite obvious that the Alleghenies have passed upon leaving Pittsburgh and riding along the Ohio River. Once crossing into Ohio the landscape becomes that ancient sea bed, nearly flat. Riding into Cincinnati over 98 miles only accumulated 910 feet of climb mostly along the Ohio to Erie Bike Trail that joins with four others at the restored train depot of Xenia, Ohio. Xenia is a bike trail hub unequaled to date...great bike signage too.

Sign of progress
I remain amazed by the beauty and convenience of bike trails available.

Leaving Pennsylvania
Little Muddy headed to Big Muddy
As seen from bike trail...find Blackie (hint-he came back damp)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Week Two

New Jersey 1 day to Pittsburgh 7 days

620 miles...30,640 feet climb
930 miles total...44,230 feet climb total

There have to be better ways out of New York City than my route. The ferry across the Hudson River from 39th Street to Paulus Hook landing in Jersey City was very nice. But then crossing over other waterways on US route 1 to Newark, Irvington, Madison, and Morristown was terrible and unpleasant. After Morristown to the Delaware Water Gap, the next 50 miles were much better. Arrived after 8:00 pm to conclude a long day.

Such a bad day causes one to question their route. I am becoming quite enamored with the mapping abilities of GoogleMaps. With bike symbol highlighted, nearby bike trails become visible in green and the topo layer helps to identify coarse grades. There have been many greenways available to me. Over the next several days I will ride a greenway at least partially every day along streams, weaving between mountains, passing abandoned villages and early industrial communities, and through current villages where water, ice cream, and snacks are available. Whenever I leave these trails I recognize why Pennsylvania has no yearly cross-state ride. If they ever develop one it will be called the Ole Cycle Ride Across Pennsylvania-Land of Endless Mountains, with the acronym O'C.R.A.P.