Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31

There was a heavy fog this morning so we hung around until 8:30. George was just ahead of Seth and me, and Josh stayed in Hazard to wait for Claudia so they can ride the TransAmerica route.

It was actually a bit cool this morning and it was so wonderful. We heard that the humidity was supposed to be down as well and it was, making for a very pleasant riding day. I actually commented to Seth how dry the air seemed...it just goes to show how incredibly humid it has been! Today was highway riding all day and it got progressively worse as the day passed. We started with a great bike lane, which turned to small bike lane, which turned to rumble strip/gravel/no bike lane on a busy, busy highway.

At the top of our first of 2 big climbs today ("big" being relative to the recent terrain), we crossed into Virginia! State 9 of 9! Seth and I met in Virginia while hiking the AT, so it is a neat feeling to be back again on another journey together! We had a wonderful shoulder to ride on during the climb, and immediately after crossing the border, it disappeared beneath gravel and rumble strip. We were forced to alternate between riding in the road and trying to balance on a 8-14 inch section of sometimes there pavement next to a brain-rattling rumble strip and a 4+-inch drop off into gravel. It was probably the worst riding we've had, and the ride tomorrow looks to be similar. It is stressful to have to look at every car in my mirror and try to weave in and out of the gravel and rough spots, especially going downhill!

We made it to Norton, VA for a total of 66 miles and are staying in a hotel tonight. We hope to get an early start tomorrow for the 62 miles into Damascus. Seth's mom, Josh's mom and stepdad, and my parents are all coming to visit us in Damascus, so we are excited to get there!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30

I woke around midnight to get out my sleeping bag. It certainly wasn't cold but the dampness made me stir, and I fell instantly back asleep. Seth and I got up at 6 for an early start. The moisture in the air brings out all kinds of smells, and I put my stinky, wet clothes on with disgust. We headed to the convenience store for coffee, and hit the road with Josh at 7:30, George just ahead of us.

The climbs were longer today, 2-3 miles, but I felt strong and happy. The morning was overcast and it was wonderful riding. The downhills in Appalachia are actually a bit scary, with sharp turns and blind corners. It makes me miss the mountains of the west, where we could coast without breaking or pedaling for miles!

We took a break for breakfast sandwiches and Andreas and Doug caught up to us. The sun was out when we left, and we stopped again for lunch after another 15 miles. Our plan tonight was to go to Hindman and stay at a hostel. We called the place and they charge $40 per person! No thank you. We did some figuring and found a shorter route to Damascus, Virginia, that would keep us on larger roads. We decided to ride the TransAm to Hazard, 15 miles away, and go from there.

Josh, Seth, and I arrived first and we stopped at a Papa John's to split a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper. George was just a few minutes behind and we sat inside for an hour and a half debating our options. We are staying in Hazard tonight and getting off of the TransAmerica until Damascus. This will set us up for two 65-ish mile days, 130 miles, to Damascus instead of 176 miles via TransAm. Hopefully the roads will not be too busy. We also should not see as many dogs, so I hope to leave Kentucky with today's final count of 13 incidents!

July 29

3003 miles!!

Kentucky is beautiful and today was no different. It was another hot and humid one, and we took our time waking up this morning. We planned 51 miles to Booneville so we didn't leave Berea until 10 a.m. We needed rest from getting in so late last night! We made a quick stop at Walmart on our way through town and then headed east.

Berea seemed to be the edge of the mountains, as we had a 2 mile climb shortly after town. We haven't done a sustained climb since Colorado and it was difficult to get back in the mindset for a steady climb. We had 2 others that were slightly shorter but mentally I struggled with the concept of moving so slowly! Over the rolling hills we moved at 12-15 mph, and today we barely averaged 8! My legs are also not used to the long climbs and they were tired today, and yes, still sore after 51 days on the road.

We were taking a side of the road break this afternoon and a westbound cyclist came down the hill toward us. He stopped to chat and we discovered he was an AT thru hiker, class of 2006! He is the 3rd one we've met so far, and it feels good to be among people who have shared similar experiences. That is one thing I love about these long distance trips: we all have the same goal, and it makes no difference where we are from or what type of work we do. We know each other only by the challenges we have faced and the triumph we have known, and in ways that knowledge is more real than many of the relationships we have in "real" life. When you share such a powerful experience with another person, it bonds you in an indescribable way.

We caught up to George after a construction zone stopped him for 30 minutes. Apparently we had timed it right because we were able to ride right through! The second half of the day was much easier than the first and we made better time. We found a river with a small waterfall right next to the road, so we stopped and George and Josh went for a swim.

We rode into Booneville at 4:30 and headed to the Presbyterian Church where they have a pavilion and shower for cyclists. The shower was cold but it was wonderful in the afternoon heat, and we set our tents up under the pavilion. It is crowded here with the four of us plus Doug from North Carolina, Andreas from Germany, and a young guy who came in just at dark. We are all heading east and have been exchanging stories of our journies so far. We had dinner at a local diner and it is of course another hot, sticky night. The humidity rises in the evening air and I am laying inside the tent, stuck to my air mattress and sweating profusely, with my hair spread in an arc around my head to keep it off of my neck. I hope I am able to sleep!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28

Big day planned for today and we (with the exception of George, who left at 6 a.m.) were highly unmotivated. It was hard to get out of bed and we didn't until almost 8! We had breakfast and left Bardstown at 9:30.

We had a route planned that was only 79 miles, and George called this morning to warn us not to follow it, as he had ridden for 5 miles and the road and traffic were horrible. He said it was so bad he didn't even want to ride back; instead he got a hitch back to town and followed a state road to connect to U.S. 150 in Springfield, 25 miles away. We did the same and it was pleasant riding, although we did have 2 dog encounters.

It had rained this morning so we were hoping for a cloudy day, but the sun came out and with it the heat. About 5 miles from Springfield, we passed a truck coming the other direction and he told us he was forced to turn around a mile back because a semi was in the ditch and the road was blocked. Not wanting to add more miles to our long day, we decided to take our chances and continued east. The road was indeed blocked, with lines of cars waiting to pass in both directions, but we squeezed by in the grass next to the road.

We ate lunch in town and then took route 150, which had a wonderful bike lane. It was easy peddling and we made good time on the rolling terrain. The towns here in Kentucky have been very interesting, with historic sites and buildings. I wish we had more time to stop and look at everything!

Josh has been wanting a hair cut and we found a salon in Perryville so he decided to stop. Seth and I waited inside and read magazines, enjoying the A/C.

We continued on and the clouds started rolling in...the shade was nice but we knew a storm was coming. We had some steeper climbs than we had this morning and I was having trouble shifting into first gear again. I was very frustrated, and in second and third gears I was hearing a grinding, clicking sound. I have been noticing it off and on the last few days but thought it was just the new chain. Today it was definitely metal on metal rubbing and I knew something wasn't right. I stopped to discover that the new chain was fed incorrectly through the rear derailleur! I was furious! This is the second time this has happened on this bike (Seth fixed it the first time; the bike was put together incorrectly at the store). It is so frustrating to pay a mechanic to fix your bike, only to find such a careless mistake. Josh and Seth started to fix it for me, but with the storm right on our heels, we decided to wait. We rode the next few miles to Lancaster...it felt like Colorado again, trying to outrun the storm! We pulled over at a gas station and went inside. Five minutes later it began to downpour and I was so happy to be dry! We waited inside until the storm had passed and hit the road again at 7 p.m. with 20 miles to go.

We had gotten another warning from George that our intended route was a curvy, busy road, so we found another option on less traveled roads...only the roads weren't marked, so at every intersection where we thought we were supposed to turn, we got our phones out and checked our location. It was slow going and we had more dogs run at us (we're up to 9 encounters in KY, but that's not counting each individual dog)...but the roads were beautiful! We rode through the sunset and into town with our lights on...only to discover we had come in on the wrong side of town and had to go 3 more miles! I had taken my gloves off when we stopped at the edge of town, and without them my hands and handlebars were so wet that I could not shift at all! I had to stand and power up the hills, exhausting my thighs after such a long, tiring day.

We finally made it to the EconoLodge where George had gotten a room at 9:30, and he had pizza waiting for us! We ate like animals, showered, and told stories about our day. 86 miles over 12 hours and I am ready for bed!

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27

Back in the Eastern time zone!

Seth and I woke to sprinkles about 3 a.m. and got up to put the rain fly on. They stopped before we were asleep again, but when we woke at 6 it was drizzling. Again it only lasted a few minutes and we packed up and headed to the restaurant where we had dinner last night. This may be our last riding day to enjoy a leisurely breakfast since this might be our shortest day for the rest of the trip at 66 miles. The bacon, eggs, biscuits, and coffee were delicious!

The morning was gray and damp, and Seth and I were dripping sweat as soon as we started peddling. We stopped to wait for Josh and Claudia (George had left before us) after about 10 miles. We made a turn onto KY 84 and the road was horribly bumpy and very hazardous for bikers...there were huge 3-4 foot potholes surrounded by gravel and other rough patches. We had a steep downhill section with sharp turns and I was on my brakes the whole time, still afraid I would hit a rough spot and fall. When I got to the bottom, Josh and Seth were waiting; Seth had fallen on the way down! He said he was going too fast as he approached the last curve, and on the wet road he couldn't stop; he laid the bike down in the grass. He re-opened the wounds on his arms from his first crash but was otherwise okay since he landed in the grass.

Once we got to the top of the next climb it started to rain. It was a light but steady warm rain that saturated our clothes in minutes. It lasted an hour and stopped just as we pulled up to a gas station for a break. Soaking wet, it was cold inside in the air conditioning!

We said goodbye to Claudia at the store as she is doing an alternate loop to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. We may see her again since we are planning to take a day off once we reach Virginia, so she may catch us.

We were sweating profusely in the hot post-rain air and took another break once we reached Elizabethtown. Towns are always hectic with inconsistent bike lanes but we made it through with only one small incident: Josh nicked the curb with one of his pedals, knocking him off balance, and he fell onto the sidewalk. He was very graceful about it and was unscathed. The eastern side of Elizabethtown was much more pleasant, with a two-lane road and forests.

The climbs became noticeably longer today and it is obvious in the forest that we are approaching the Appalachians! I was having trouble shifting into first gear this afternoon, barely able to twist my grip shifters using all my strength. Seth looked at it tonight and made a simple adjustment to the barrel tension, which will hopefully solve the problem. The new cable is tight!

I will say that one negative aspect of grip shifters is moisture. When it's humid or raining, it is very difficult to get a strong enough hold to shift gears! Even with gloves on, my hands slide when I try to twist. It wasn't an issue at all out west, but the eastern humidity has been frustrating!

We made it to Bardstown and discovered we had crossed into the Eastern time zone! We got a hotel room at the General Nelson Inn, complete with laundry and a buffet restaurant right next door.

I was tired when we got into town tonight; the last two days have spoiled me with low mileage! We are going to push to Berea tomorrow to get some miles behind us!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26

Fantastic day today!

I had another great night of sleep indoors and Seth brought me breakfast in sleeping bag: coffee, biscuits, and donuts. We took our time packing up since we were only doing 53 miles, and left Utica just before 9.

We again had a beautiful sunny morning and the air was thick with humidity. We are back on the TransAmerica route now that our detour is finished, and the country roads made pleasant riding. We had 2 dog encounters this morning, making 4 total for Kentucky so far. The first was just a small dog that I feared we would run over or kick with our pedals. He wasn't threatening but followed us for a good half mile before we sped away downhill. The second incident was much more intense: two boxers that seemed to be waiting for us at the top of a hill. I am much more afraid of the dogs than Seth, so I usually try to use him as a shield. The dogs were barking and growling and charged at us as soon as we approached them. Seth gave them a stern warning and we both had our pepper spray in hand. One of the dogs came just to the edge of the road while the other stayed a few feet back, but they both followed us along the road for probably 50 yards, and we were peddling uphill and couldn't go very fast. Seth said he thought the one dog had been sprayed before because as soon as he lifted his hand, the dog would stop its charge. My heart was pounding for 10 minutes afterward as I seriously thought we were going to get chased or bit. We talked to a guy coming west and he warned us of many more dogs in eastern Kentucky, two of which had bitten his panniers and nearly caused him to crash!

Seth and I took our time today and took a long lunch break at a convenience store about 8 miles from our destination. We ended up at Axtel Recreation Area in Rough River Dam State Park, at a beautiful campsite right on the lake.

George arrived about an hour behind us and Josh and Claudia an hour later. We made it to the restaurant nearby just before they closed and I ate a satisfying barbecue sandwich with French fries and green beans.

Today was a wonderful relaxed day; in fact the past two days have been very casual and enjoyable. It's been a good rest before we enter the Appalachians in a few days!

I'm typing this as I sit on a rock down by the lake enjoying the shallow waves and peaceful evening sounds. It's amazing to think we only have two weeks left in this trip. In many ways I will be sad to see the Atlantic.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25

It was hard to get up this morning as my legs were stiff from the long ride yesterday. We didn't get to sleep until almost 11 but I slept well on the plush couch. We had the luxury of brewing coffee this morning and ate breakfast from our food bags.

It was 31 miles to the bike shop in Owensboro, easy riding but my legs were tired and my butt was sore from yesterday. We rode through farmland in the morning sun and stopped at a dairy bar 12 miles from town. I ate what I think may have been the best sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich I've ever had and we continued on to town. We arrived at the bike shop at 10:30 and luckily they had a spare rim for Seth's bike! He installed what Seth calls the artificial limb to Rumble Strip (the nickname for Seth's bike, as he is always hitting the rumble strips and running off road), and we were on our way. So hopefully this was our last bike shop visit!

We ate lunch and headed south to Utica, where we were planning to meet back up with George and Josh. We got a call from them that George broke another rear spoke! They were able to fix it with one of Josh's spares, but it took 2 hours and they didn't think they would be able to make the 83 miles to Utica. They stopped in Sebree at the hostel where Seth and I stayed last night.

Seth and I arrived in Utica mid-afternoon after a relaxing stop at a farmer's market where we sat for a bit in the porch rocking chairs. The ACA maps indicated cyclist lodging at the volunteer fire station, so we asked a local who happened to be a volunteer fireman, and he confirmed that we could stay there. The place is great; there is a couch and tv, shower, and full kitchen. A call came in this afternoon so a dozen volunteers showed up to the station, two of whom showed us around. People in Kentucky have been very friendly so far!

We watched Men in Black 2 on VHS while we ate gas station chicken fingers and powdered donuts for dinner. It doesn't get much better!

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24

I think I fully became a touring cyclist today.
George was already gone when we woke at 6:30. He opted to stick to the Adventure  Cycling route but Josh, Seth, and I took an alternate route that was shorter. We had breakfast at the hotel and hit the road. The highway was busy but there was a wide shoulder and it was easy riding.
We met a man out for a ride on his bike and he rode with us for a few miles. David said that he wanted to thru hike the Appalachian Trail and cycle cross country. In Josh's words, "He ran into the right people." :)
We had second breakfast at Taco Bell and continued on Route 3. It was another sunny, beautiful day, and only about 85 degrees. The road was flat and narrowed to a two-lane road once we got out of town. Our intended destination was Cave-In-Rock, a town right on the Ohio River. About 22 miles out, Seth heard a pop and stopped to find another broken spoke!...again in the rear on the cassette side. We rode to the nearest gas station and he did a fantastic job of trueing the wheel, making it rideable.
We looked at the map and had a big decision to make: 1) Seth could try to ride on the broken spoke for a few hundred miles until the TransAm passes through a town with a bike shop or 2) we could ride off route to the city of Owensboro to a bike shop about 80 miles away. We mapped our options and decided to ride 50 more miles to Sebree, Kentucky, which would set us up for about 30 miles to Owensboro tomorrow. The total for today would be 103 miles, by far our biggest day!
When I get an idea in my mind, I can't let it go until I've completed it. On the AT, I had a 30-mile day goal, and we did it. We had a discussion in Murphysboro yesterday about my desire to do a century ride on this trip. I didn't think we'd have the opportunity since the terrain is only going to get harder. Well, hello opportunity! I wished the circumstances were different, and I was sad to miss out on the Cave In Rock state park and the ferry crossing of the Ohio River (the alternate route simply had a bridge), but I was so excited about getting my hundred mile day!
Josh decided to continue on the original route to meet up with George, and Seth and I set out at 3 for another 50 miles. It was again fairly easy riding and we got to the Kentucky border and Ohio River in 10 miles. I grew up in a town very close to the Ohio River so it was amazing to think of where those waters had been! The bridge was harrowing as there was construction and one lane was closed. We had to stop in the closed unpaved lane twice to let cars pass.
Kentucky had a few rolling hills but they weren't difficult. We both felt strong and enjoyed the ride on the quiet road...until we heard another pop! Another spoke snapped. Surprisingly the wheel was only slightly wobbly so we continued on to the closest town and stopped at McDonald's for fuel. We called the bike shop and they have a rim that should work on Seth's bike, so they will hold it for us until tomorrow.
Twenty-five miles remained and we were starting to slow down. Since we are off of the TransAmerica, we had to use Google maps to navigate, and at one point it told us to turn down a gravel road! We stayed on the pavement until it found an alternate route, down a narrow unlined bumpy country road. We took it and were fortunate to have pavement for the 5 miles to the junction with the highway! We lost the sun 3 miles from town and rode in with our lights blinking, stopping at a convenience store for Gatorade. We had done my century!
We asked the lady behind the counter about a church hostel in town that we had heard about (Sebree is actually on the TransAm; essentially we took a short cut) and she gave us directions. A teenager who was helping to set up for a wedding at the church let us in and the hostel is amazing! A hot shower with real towels, couches, ping pong table, pool table, full kitchen, etc. I wish we had planned a zero here! :)
We are the only ones here tonight so it should be a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we will ride to Owensboro and then down to Utica to meet back up with George and Josh. Now time for sleep!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Videos!

Trip videos are posted on my YouTube page here: http://www.youtube.com/lindsey8095

July 23

Our intended zero day turned into a 10-mile ride as we decided to head to Carbondale for the night since it is a larger town. We slept in this morning and took our time packing up. Josh and Seth rode to Hardee's down the road and brought back breakfast; it was so nice to enjoy my morning coffee!

George left about an hour before Josh, Seth, and me. We headed out right at 11, checkout time, and enjoyed the leisurely ride. I felt strong and could have done a longer day today, but part of that was probably the mental aspect of knowing we had a very short ride!

Seth and I stopped at a bike shop on the way to the hotel. My chain needed replaced, and I've had some shifting trouble in the rear. We've had great fortune in being able to walk into bike shops on this trip and get quick service, and this experience was no different! The mechanic checked it out and found that my rear derailleur cable was fraying, preventing me from getting all of my gears. He found a nick in the cable housing, which I suspect happened when I fell a few days ago, and one of the cable fibers was jammed up inside. It is shifting much better now; I hope we do not have to visit any more bike shops on this trip!

We had a relaxing afternoon and bought dinner at the Walmart across the street: discount rack frozen Stouffer's dinners and an entire loaf of french bread. I am hungry all of the time! Most nights we eat dinner and then 1-2 hours later when I lay down to sleep, I am hungry again. I have found that a woman's body is very different from a man's body on these long distance trips...the guys have all lost 10-15 pounds so far, and when I weighed myself a week ago in Newton, I had gained 5 pounds! I know that my diet is horrible and I'm sure that's a major factor...my legs are more muscular but I can feel that I have lost muscle mass in my upper body as well. I'm probably eating more than I should but I need my energy. :)

July 22

"Oh, it's a good day," I said as we rolled out of a convenience store on our way to Illinois, my belly full of root beer, Fritos, and chocolate.

It was.

I don't think I've ever been in a hostel where everyone was awake and packing by 5 a.m. The three westbound guys were up at 4:30 and the whole place, minus Mick, was clear by 6. Josh, Claudia, Seth, and I stopped at 3 gas stations before we found breakfast sandwiches, and then made our way out of Farmington. Claudia sped ahead and George was a few minutes behind, so Josh, Seth, and I rode together for most of the morning. It was 48 miles to Chester, Illinois and it felt great to be on the road in the cool morning air.

It rained on us twice this morning, leaving us damp and the air thick, but I felt strong and was excited to cross the Mississippi! We made it down to the river just before noon, to find a very narrow two-lane bridge with no shoulder. It was a little scary to cross but we pedaled hard and made it without incident. Crossing the Mississippi River is such a milestone for me; I remember looking at the maps before we started and thinking how far we would have come once we reached this point. It truly feels like we are in the eastern part of the country!

We found Claudia waiting at the Illinois sign on the other side and waited for George for a group picture. Apparently Chester, IL is where Popeye was created, and the town had Popeye statues and paintings on display. We rode to Subway for lunch and debated which route to take to Murphysboro, about 35 miles away. The Adventure Cycling maps list two options, a hilly route and a flat route closer to the river, both the same distance to town. George took the hilly route as it was more of a country road, and Josh, Seth, and I opted for the flat route. We thought at first we had made a mistake as the road was narrow and rough, with semis flying past us every few seconds. Conditions improved after a few miles as most of the truck traffic turned to go to the train yard next to the road. 

We stayed on the state route, cutting off 6 miles, and got into town at 5. We stopped at a Mexican place and feasted before riding the last 3 miles to a motel. We were going to take a day off tomorrow but we may ride 9 miles into Carbondale as it is a larger town.

I am sad to leave Missouri but excited to only have 3 more states between us and the Atlantic!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 21

I really love Missouri! The weather today was almost perfect: partly cloudy, 80-85 degrees, and significantly less humid. Still hot but it felt so much cooler than yesterday! I actually got goosebumps on a few of the downhills.

Seth and I left together for our 63 miles, and we climbed right out of town. We were told that the climbs today wouldn't be nearly what they were yesterday, and surprisingly it proved true. Up and down, up and down again through rolling forests and farmland. We've been told by other cyclists about the dogs that chase bikers in Kentucky, but we've had our share here in Missouri. We haven't had to use the pepper spray yet but we had probably a dozen dogs run at us today. I hope Kentucky isn't any worse!

We stopped at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park with Josh and Claudia and went down to the river. It was a gorgeous setting with boulders throughout the river, but I had been in a good groove and was dreading the remaining 35 miles after having stopped for an extended time. The river was almost a mile ride and a 1/4 mile walk off route so we didn't stay long, although Josh and Claudia stayed behind to go swimming.

It was mid afternoon and we hadn't had lunch yet so Seth and I were starving! We did about 15 more miles and coasted downhill to Pilot Knob, and we saw the golden arches in the distance. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a McDonald's! It was delicious and Josh and Claudia caught up to us just as we were leaving town.

We arrived in Farmington right at 6 and made our way to Al's Place hostel to meet up with George and Mick. It is a full house here tonight with another couple riding east and three guys heading west. Hopefully I will get a good night's sleep as tomorrow is 83 miles!

July 20

There was heat lightning in the distance when we went to bed last night. We left the fly off of the tent, as we often do, so we could get as much air flow as possible. It took awhile for me to fall asleep but somehow I did. I woke at 1:30 to lightning and thunder that felt very close. I nudged Seth and suggested we put the fly on. We jumped out and hurriedly staked it down just as it was starting to sprinkle. The downpour came before we got inside and we ran beneath the park pavilion until it slacked off a bit. Josh had not put his fly on either and he was also scrambling around. The storm continued for probably an hour and turned to a light rain. Thankfully it was finished by morning and we had some nice clouds to block the sun's heat.

Seth and I took a break in the first town we passed, meeting up with George, Josh, Mick, and Claudia. On our way out of town we saw a lemonade stand and stopped. Brookelynn was in 3rd grade and was raising money to go to Florida with her aunt. :) In a few more miles ee came upon a fire tower and climbed to the top for a great view of the forest around us.

We had 4 big climbs today and stopped at a camp store before the first to fuel up with Gatorade and cookies. It was a steep, steep climb and I was pouring sweat from every inch of my body! We made it to Eminence for a lunch break with the crew and got back on the road for 27 more miles to Ellington.

We are officially in the Ozarks and they are wonderful...dense forests and winding mountain roads. There are large rivers in the valleys and shade on the roads. I love being in the forest again, but the climbs are steep!

We heard rumbles of thunder a few miles from town but got in before the rain. We found Josh and Mick at the diner and joined them for dinner. George arrived shortly after and not 10 minutes later the rain and thunder came. It felt great to be in town and not out in the rain. We got a hotel for the night and the shower was wonderful after such a hot and sticky day!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19

Breakfast was amazing at the hotel...eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, etc. George left early and Josh and Seth tried to talk me into a zero!...Tried being the keyword. I was able to resist as I felt pretty good this morning, and we left a little after 9. I'd rather save a spontaneous zero for a rainy day. :)

We planned 64 miles today since we had pushed an extra 15 yesterday. Today's ride began the same...hot, humid, and hilly. I was feeling good and we all stopped at a Subway 27 miles away for lunch. George was just leaving as we pulled in, and Mick and Claudia were there as well. Josh, Seth, and I left together and we crossed a bridge about 5 miles out with a beautiful river beneath. We turned around and headed down to the water for a dip. The water was 2-3 feet deep in some places, and more shallow in others. It was cold but so refreshing! I went in with all of my clothes on, promised by the guys that I would be dry in 30 minutes tops. Unfortunately I rode in what felt like a wet diaper for 2.5 hours! Don't think I will be swimming in my bike shorts again.

After the break my energy started to gradually fade as we continued up and down, up and down. The hills got bigger and the views more expansive...I'm really enjoying Missouri! We came to a small town that was supposed to have a convenience store...the store was there but since it was Sunday, it was closed! We were running a little low on water but with 17 miles to go we figured we would be okay. After 10 miles, Seth saw a man outside his house and decided to ask him for water, and came back with a bottle full of ice water. So good! The man told him it was 7 miles to town, "all downhill from here." In my exhaustion I forgot the lessons I've previously learned and believed him. Well, it's never "all downhill". It was more ups and downs and I was so hungry all I could think about was getting to town! We passed George and Claudia who had stopped at a river and were sitting with a group of people down by the water. We decided not to stop but found later they had gotten free bratwurst, potato salad, and other goodies! They had also gone swimming and jumped off of a 30 foot cliff into the river. I guess we missed the party!

We got to town and found Josh at Taco Bell. George, Mick, and Claudia arrived and we decided to ride to the city park to camp for the night. It is incredibly humid; I washed up and I am still sitting here dripping with sweat. It is going to be a sticky night in the tent!

July 18

Susan and Michelle came to breakfast with us at Cooky's this morning. I've been eating gas station breakfasts and it was great to have a full meal! We left town around 8:30 and opted to take an alternate route to cut off close to 10 miles from our intended 66-ish mile day.

On the Appalachian Trail, I was "pure", as they call it, walking the entire trail carrying my gear and not skipping any part. I still consider myself "pure" on this trip as I am riding my bike from coast to coast carrying my gear, not skipping any miles. I think if we had started on the TransAmerica trail, I would not be at peace with taking alternates so that I could truthfully say that I traveled the entire length of the route, but the fact that we're taking a combination of two routes makes me less concerned with staying on route. As long as I cycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic, I'll be satisfied.

I'm really enjoying Missouri as the rolling hills look very much like the area where I grew up in southeastern Ohio. I felt a little homesick today while riding! We are beginning to enter the Ozarks and it is up and down, up and down all day. I was all over my gears today, shifting quickly between the downhills and the steepness up the uphills. It sure is nice to have the downhills again...I went 35 mph today, much faster than I've gone for the last two weeks!

George was ahead of Josh, Seth, and me today, and I came upon the guys stopped at a bridge. There was a small creek below and they said they were going down to soak their feet. It felt amazing! The water was cool and clear and my feet appreciated the time out of my shoes! Later today, Josh, George, and Claudia went swimming in a couple of rivers we passed. Today was hot and very humid, and I was dripping sweat constantly. It felt  almost like Florida! :)

We arrived in Fair Grove after 56 miles around 5. We all were feeling good, and a hotel in Marshfield was calling our names!  We decided to push 15 more miles for showers and laundry and it feels wonderful to be out of the humid evening air tonight!