Friday, August 2, 2013

Confluence, PA - Bedford, PA - Gettysburg, PA - Poolsville, MD

One of my only regrets from this trip is that I didn't document it in a much detail as I would have liked to. I suppose when I want to remember the specifics I can just refer back to Olivia's blog.

The rides going into Bedford and Gettysburg were some of the most climbing we had all trip- over 12,000 feet in 2 days. I took a nice spill about 5 miles out of Gettysburg on some train tracks (my own fault for not going over them at the proper angle). I was lucky to escape with only some funky looking scrapes a little gravel in my arm. The day off in Gettysburg was fun, spent most of the day in a tattoo shop with some fellow riders. 4 of us got cycling related tattoos. Mine is a bike with an infinity sign as the wheels on my ankle and I'm very pleased with it. The rest of the day was spent at a kickin all you can eat salad bar with Cara and Melanie. We stayed in the dorms at Gettysburg College which were kinda funky but a bed is a bed! Nice break fom camping.

Today we rode into our 12th state, Maryland. We only had 62 miles to travel so we made it with plenty of time to hang out at the community pool. We are camping on the lawn on the high school here, and 4 of us are stuffing into Nelle's tent to snuggle tonight! Our last dinner as a group was sad, I have really grown fond of each and every person on the trip. Tomorrow is the big day as we roll into DC and I know we're all crazy excited but it's gonna be sad parting ways. Lynn warned us that people have trouble adjusting back to their normal schedules, and I know I will be no exception. I am excited to get home and see everyone, but this trip has been so unbelievable. The Meyers family who held a brunch for us asked me to describe the trip in one word and I've been thinking a lot about it and I've come up with two. The first is unreal, because coming from someone who has never been so out of my comfort zone, I have also never been this satisfied. My bike is kind of just a place where I can let my mind zone out and enjoy the moment. We have all had those times of pure frustration where we think to ourselves that we never want to ride again, but those are few and far between and there are so many more moments of pure elation it makes all the moments of struggle worth it. The second word I would choose is freeing. I have never felt so free of stress and self-doubt. I love the constant movement we've experienced the past 7 weeks.

We have really become a team and it is so beautiful to watch people who are so completely different work together so well. I'm off to do some haircuts to pretty everyone up for the finish line tomorrow :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 42: Washington, PA to Confluence, PA

We spent today climbing lots of hills for the first 20 miles and the next 70 on a lovely bike path that goes from Pittsburgh to D.C. We will only be on it for another 20 miles tomorrow then it's back to the roads. We are officially over 3000 miles into our journey! It doesn't feel like we've ridden that far. This morning when we woke up it was 48º. It got up to mid 60's today but this weather is NUTS for end of july. Tip for any future riders: don't send all your cold weather gear home. We are all wishing we hadn't. Whoops. Tonight Laura bought 2 rooms at a lovely bed and breakfast half a mile from the campsite and invited all the girls to stay (thank you Laura!!). The next two days are supposed to be difficult ones but only 4 more days of riding and 1 more rest day and then we're in DC!

Days 38-42

Sorry I'm awful at updating this. Service has been crappy and I'm usually wiped out by the time I crawl into my tent. We spent a few nights in Ohio (Sandusky, Burton, and New Waterford) and tonight we are in Washington, PA. I was not excited by Sandusky at all, with nothing really going on (except Cedar Point amusement park which I had no interest in) but I did have a wonderful deep tissue massage with Laura. On the ride out of Sandusky we got to ride along Lake Erie for most of the day which was absolutely gorgeous. We've seen some really beautiful sunrises this trip, and this week especially. The weather has been a bit chilly but I'm not complaining at all! We've only had about 3 days this whole trip in the 90's and this week has been mostly 70's. We also keep missing the rain. A lot of towns we go to, like the one last night for instance, they had like 18 days straight of rain. You would never know from the looks of it when we roll through though! Now that we're in PA we are done with the longer, flatter rides and have shorter days with a lot more climbing. It feels like we're back on the east coast. We entered into the heartland of fracking today and they are actually fracking below the campsite as I write. It breaks my heart to see such raping of the land with complete disregard to human well-being. The American Lung Association publicly speaks out against fracking because destroying the air quality is just one of the many externalities that people tend to disregard when they talk about how "wonderful" it is for the economy. I could go on all night, but if you're interested to learn about fracking you should check out the movie Gasland by Josh Fox. Tonight Cara and I are having a sleepover with Nelle in her tent cause it's huge and we're too lazy to set up our own. Tomorrow we head to Confluence, PA.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 35: Morris, IL to Valparaiso, IN & Day 36: Valparaiso, IN to Kendallville, IN

Yesterday we had an 85 mile ride into Indiana. We've only got 2 days in Indiana and that is plenty for me. The roads are awful! Yesterday was the first day I was just not really in the mood to be riding. We were up at 4, so I was tired and usually wake myself up by the time I reach the first checkpoint, but I was dragging all day. Laura was feeling the same so we took it easy and rode together. Chocolate milk has become the official drink of the trip, and as soon as I got my IV of choclate milk when I got in I felt much better. We stayed in dorms last night and I got a much needed wonderful nights sleep and felt totally refreshed for our big day today.

Today we rode 110 miles through cornfields and Amish country. We encountered a lot of folks riding their horse and buggys which is not something you see everyday. It's very interesting to me to see them, but also to observe how our group reacts to them. It's just that's it's so different than any of us live, so it's like they're a whole different species when really they're just people too. It got me thinkin about something we talked about in one of my human rights classes in terms of where the line is drawn between religion/culture and oppression. We were discussing it in the context of muslim women, but that could apply for Amish folks as well. Do they only follow all these rules because they feel that not doing so is not an option or do wach and every one of them truly believe in it and consciously choose to? I'm not Amish (obviously), so I don't know but I am curious. Tom and I rode together today and were talking about what kind of stuff we think about when we ride. We have like 6+ hours to let our minds wander everyday, so I'm curious what everyone else thinks of and have started asking people. My thoughts mostly consist of stuff like the Amish thing, and a whole lot of "what am I doing with my life?" hah! Another thing that I think about while riding through endless fields of corn is how funky it is that our food has turned into science experiments. One of the slogans on a lot of the corn marker signs is "serving with science". All the fields are named like XX13859-HPJ and I'm not sure where these mass food experimentations fit on a scale from bad ideas to really bad ideas. I have seen one organic farm this whole trip! Eek! Speaking of food, there was a bangin ice cream shop perfectly situated at mile 100 today. Just what we needed to make it the last 10 miles! And since we missed national ice cream day yesterday, we had to make up for it today.

We crossed into our third time zone today so we're back on normal time for me. Tonight we are staying at a campground and it's perfect camping weather!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 34: Belvidere, IL to Morris, IL

Another century ride closer to home! Well actually today I clocked 110.02 on my odometer by the time I made it to camp. It was the easiest and most enjoyable ride I've done over 100 miles. It was very flat and lots of farms and cornfields so I was able to zone out for most of the day. I zoned a little too hard at some points because I did miss 2 turns but realized I was going the wrong way pretty quickly. Cara and I rode together after the first rest stop and listened to some girl power music to help pass the time. It also helped that we had a slight wind at our backs to keep us movin fast. Illinois is a lot prettier than I expected. This morning we were riding through the farms at sunrise and maybe I'm just getting my period, but I was so overwhelmed by the beauty I just wanted to sit on the side of the road and cry haha! I didn't, and it wasn't any more beautiful than some of the other sights we've seen along the way, but I guess I'm appreciating them more since the trip will be wrapping up soon. We are camping on the lawn of a country club and had dinner in camp tonight. Team 2, my group, was responsible for preparing it. We had lots of different types of salad from Costco, as well as cold cuts and fresh corn on the cob that Lynn picked up from a farmstand today. This is the longest week of the trip in terms of miles that we will travel, but when I finished my ride today it was the first century ride I didn't just collapse into a nap. I actually felt like I could have gone more and kind of wanted to. We welcomed a new rider tonight who will be joining us for a week, Olivia's friend Ali. Tomorrow is only 80 miles, which compared to what we have been doing should be a breeze!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 41: Viroqua, WI to Madison, WI; Day 32: Rest Day; Day 33: Madison, WI to Belvidere, IL

We had a century ride going into Madison which was filled with gorgeous scenery and lots of hills and really friendly baby cows! It was a long day but there was a frozen yogurt place situated about 95 miles in so it was perfect. Madison was so freaking cool. Maybe because it's the first taste of a real city I've had in a while, but I think it's just an overall awesome place. It kind of reminded me of a more relaxed New York and a bit more of a college town. It seems to be a big party school, from what I heard there are about a third of the 45, 000 students involved in greek life. That has no appeal to me whatsoever, but there are a whole lot of activist-type co-ops which I find to be so fascinating. I was able to visit with Natalie, a friend from my high school who now attends UW Madison, and lives in a co-op and it was bangin. They have their own chickens and grow some of their own food (we planted some basil with her housemates while I was visiting) and are a very DIY bunch. One of her housemates is even making her own mattress out of alpaca fur and the fluffy part of wheat plants! So cool! There are over 30 people (little kids all the way up to adults) who live there and it just seems incredible. I love the idea of collective living- it's amazing how much more can get done when you have a group to split all the work up. That was definitely the highlight of my visit and got me thinking once again how I would love to live in a collective someday. I don't know of all that many in NYC though. Other than hangin at the co-op I went to a bike store, got some lunch with the riders, cut some more hair, and explored a little. They also took me swimming in the lake there, which was beautiful and I'm really glad they didn't tell me about all the big fish until the end of my stay. One day in Madison was certainly not enough. It really got me thinking how different my life could be if I left New York. Not that I plan to anytime soon, but there are a number of places I think I'd like to try living for a bit.

Today we left Madison for Belvidere, IL. Lots of rolling hills and cornfields and MORE ALPACAS!! There was a pen of them on the side of the road today and they were so sassy. We are staying at a campground tonight in the middle of the nothing that is Belvidere. Illinois is our 8th state and they have been flyin by recently! Tomorrow is a 109 mile ride eek! I can't believe we only have 2 weeks left til we arrive in D.C.!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 30: Winona, MN to Viroqua, WI

We are now in the 7th of the 12 states we will pass through on our cross country journey. Wisconsin was the state I was most excited for; I've heard a lot of good things about it from friends that came from or ended up living here. The ride today was only supposed to be 65 miles, but we had a reroute due to construction and I got some bonus miles when Tom, Luke, and I missed our turn and went a bit out of the way. In the end, it turned out to be around 80 miles total. It was our first really hot day of the trip- 95º and 95% humidity, eek! It was bearable though, and when you're moving on the bike at least there's a breeze. Our first rest stop was the home of the Meyers family, who as young girls started serving refreshments and baked goods to Big Riders when they came to their town and over a decade later are still hooking us up as we pass through! It was a delicious spread with tables set up on the lawn and photos and interviews of all the previous Big Riders. Thank you Meyers family! The next exciting thing was crossing the state line and the Misissippi River. We stopped at both points to get some pictures and enjoy the view and then carried on with our day. Once we crossed into Wisconsin it started to get a lot prettier and a lot more hilly. We had some of the steepest inclines we've encountered thus far today (about 11% grade). I am super excited to get to Madison tomorrow and meet up with a friend from high school and do some exploring on my day off!