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Cross Country Challenge 2008 Journal
(Page 1)
San Francisco to Salt Lake City, UT
(Western States Tour)

current date and time 2008-11-18 | 09:57:38
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Number of Journal Entries online: 12
Day 0: San Francisco, CA (Registration & Orientation)
America by Bicycle is pleased to welcome you to the 2008 riding of the �Cross Country Challenge�. On July 22nd we will proudly bring our bikes to a stop when we reach the Atlantic Ocean. Until then we will revel in the adventure each day brings.

If riders had brought books instead of bikes, today could have easily been mistaken for registration day at College. Forty riders from across the country (15 States represented) and around the world (Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Trinidad, New Zealand, and the Netherlands) have gathered here in San Francisco to introduce themselves to each other, to meet the Ride Staff, and look after last minute details before heading East tomorrow. Some took an early morning opportunity to see the sites of San Francisco, some who arrived yesterday went for a leisurely ride on the �Bay Bike Trail�, while others headed to an area bike shop.

By mid-morning registration was in full force. Re-assembling shipped bikes, followed by a Safety Inspection was the first order of the day. With a fleet of road-ready bikes this year�s roster of riders then met en masse with the Staff of the 2008 Challenge Ride, all of whom are returning after the 2007 Campaign. The adventure will be co-led by Andy Hiroshima and Michelle Sahli; mechanical matters will be attended to by Gerard Boisse, and on road support will be given by Christine Leininger. Following introductions discussion then moved on to familiarizing everyone with logistics and the daily routine that will keep things running on schedule as the group strikes out from the Pacific.

Last minute jitters notwithstanding, everyone seemed ready as they headed off for a solid night of rest before tomorrows 6AM breakfast call. Eighty-two miles down the road lies Fairfield California. See you there tomorrow!

posted 2008-06-05 | 00:49:26 | article number: 1

Day 1- Sunday, June 1, 2008 San Francisco, CA to Fairfield, CA 83 miles
Here�s hoping that today�s conditions � sunny skies, a warm but not hot temperature, and moderate winds from the west � will stick with us for the next 52 days! The �Get up and Go Index� was also favorable as everyone was up early for breakfast and ready to load luggage well before the scheduled time of 6:30. Smiles were abundant as, after months of training for the big day, we prepared to head out.

Most big time rides like the Tour de France and the Giro d�Italia have a prologue ride leading up to the event proper; this ride is no exception. Prior to the ceremonial wheel dipping we had a leisurely 16mile ride to a beachfront along the Pacific Ocean. As evidenced by their peppy climb up a steep ascent at mile three, this group includes �uphill� in their definition of leisure! Following a group photo, and saying farewell to some family and friends who met us at the beach, we made our way through some quiet residential areas to the Golden Gate Bridge. En route we encountered weekend riders out for a Sunday spin, a large group heading out on a charity ride to Southern California, and a bunch of triathletes running and riding their way to the finish line.

There was no fog blocking our view from the bridge today; we could see for miles in every direction. With a separate walkway/bike path along the side of the bridge most riders took a moment to stop for a photo or two.

The first SAG Stop (support and gear) of the day was at a rest area at mile 24. Several tour buses were there ahead of us and they took quite an interest in the details of our ride. ��where are you riding to?...where did you start? far do you travel each day?....and where do you stay at night?...� are questions we will likely hear over and over as we head to New Hampshire. Once we were back on the road we enjoyed a nice descent into Sausalito. Some made a pilgrimage to the local bike shop while others stopped for a roadside cup of coffee (or tea, depending on where they call home). After Sausalito the route picked up a bike trail for stretches of time, until the second SAG at mile 47.

Leaving the SAG riders found themselves on a long flat stretch of Highway 37 and took advantage of a strong tailwind to pick-up the pace a bit. As American Canyon Road approached the average speed dropped a bit as the terrain became �steady up� before turning into a solid climb. With this ascent behind them, riders found themselves with only 10 miles to go for the day.

Those with a sweet tooth may have noticed the �Jelly Belly Factory� listed as something to do in Fairfield. In addition to going on a tour, visitors had the chance to shop at the outlet store and pick-up bargains on factory seconds, affectionately known as �Belly Flops�. One thing is for sure�.Ronald Regan had good taste when it came to jelly beans!

Checking in to the Best Western, the overall sense was that it was good to be underway with a solid first day completed. Not even the occasional mention of aching legs could dampen the spirits � or appetites! � during dinner at Applebee�s.

Tomorrow it�s on to Sacramento.

posted 2008-06-05 | 01:03:43 | article number: 2

Day 2- Monday, June 2, 2008 Fairfield, CA to Sacramento, CA 57 miles
From the latest on Hillary and Obama, to the NBA and NHL playoffs, to stories on surging gas prices, morning television is overflowing with news. To cross country riders The Weather Channel is all that really matters. This morning was a two thumbs up forecast suggesting 64F to start off with in Fairfield, climbing to 79F by mid-afternoon in Sacramento. WSW winds at 14mph combined with clear skies completed the picture.

Today�s ride started off with a climb, but after that things flattened out for the balance of the route which saw us getting on and off a series of bike paths. Although riders left the hotel as one big group, it was not long before the peloton had split into two separate groups that each stayed together for most of the day. With a bit of coaching riders did their best to ride single file, and at times two abreast.

Having ridden through areas of agriculture in the morning, one rider remarked �I now appreciate the line ��..amber waves of grain�.� as he pulled in to the first SAG at mile 30. The wind was just the right strength to buffet the grain so that it looked like waves on an ocean.

By mile 42 riders found themselves in the heart of Davis California, a small city which prides itself as being named �the bike friendliest city in America�. The city�s bike heritage stretches back to the early 1960s when cycling became a hot topic in a local election and cyclists ended up dominating city council. Bike paths, bike lanes, and multi-leveled intersections are everywhere. Passing through the University of California at Davis, a lot of riders took the opportunity to stop for lunch.

15miles down route � via bike path � we came upon Old Sacramento which was another popular lunch stop. After checking into the Best Western quite a few riders walked back to Old Sacramento to spend the afternoon. By 5:30 the group re-convened to go over tomorrow�s route before heading off to dinner at �El Coyote Junction Mexican Restaurant�.

Our Website Correspondent rode with John Douglas for a while this morning and had a chance to learn what led him to join the Challenge Ride this year. John joins us from Seattle Washington and cited three reasons why he is here. First and foremost he loves cycling because of its inherent peace and clarity. Secondly, he loves cycling with other people and felt that a 52 day trip would allow enough time to get to know everyone. Lastly, having travelled all around the world by various means, he felt that the best way to see his own country was from the seat of a bicycle��.Makes sense to me John��.

posted 2008-06-05 | 01:15:23 | article number: 3

Day 3- Tuesday, June 3, 2008 Sacramento, CA to Auburn, CA 51 miles
Winds were light out of the SE as we rode the short distance to Lyon�s Restaurant for breakfast this morning. By the time we left, well filled and ready to roll, they had shifted to a more favorable WSW. Once again we were expecting high 70s/low 80s by days end.

Today our first 33 miles were along the American River Bikeway, complete with an abundance of squirrels, quite a few local riders, and a handful of wild turkeys. Some riders could not help but think back to their early bike riding days as they came upon a group of elementary school students - perhaps on a field trip � spinning madly down the path. Others may not have even noticed the kids, being too distracted by thoughts of the late great Johnny Cash as they rode past the gray walls of Folsom Prison that he so often sang about. Anyone who drives a car in California carries a bit of Folsom Prison along with them; since the 1930s that is where their license plates have been made.

The one and only SAG stop of the day was at Beal�s Point, along the shore of Folsom Lake, just before the point that we left the trail and got back on the road. From there it was a short 18 miles to Auburn, pleasantly situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Riders were reminded of the proximity of this mountain range as they attacked a steep 1.5 mile climb to arrive within the city limits. Auburn hit the map during the California Goldrush of 1849, and is well known today for having a well preserved historic downtown. We spent a lot of time in the historic core: most of us had lunch here, quite a few found time for local museums, and some took the opportunity to visit a bike shop �Victory Velo� in its brand new location. They just moved here Monday from their old site half-way across town. Not wanting to employ a truck to move 60 bikes, they simply got a bunch of volunteer riders, closed the main street for a few minutes, and moved �all at once�. Now that�s cool!

There was definitely a �buzz of anticipation� at evening Route Rap as tomorrow�s ride was laid out. Just five days in to the campaign lies the biggest climbing day of the trip. Perhaps that explains why many lingered by the Sizzler desert bar after dinner, loading on a few extra carbohydrates.

Today�s website spotlight is on Brian Cox from Los Angeles, CA. In his own words:

�I love a bike trip. It�s a vacation for the mind and a challenge for the body. This morning we woke up and noticed it was a beautiful day and were able to spend the entire day doing what I love �.traveling the USA by bicycle. When I was a kid, during those long summer days, I dreamed of getting on my bicycle traveling far from home and having adventures. This is my long delayed fulfillment of that dream.�

posted 2008-06-06 | 08:54:26 | article number: 4

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 4th, 2008. Auburn, CA to Truckee, CA 76miles
Add in 8000+ feet of climbing and today�s menu of 74 miles takes on a whole new perspective. If there is a temperature control dial up in the heavens, today it must have been precisely set between the �C� for cold and the �H� for hot. Absolutely perfect for a big climbing day!

Starting out we followed a series of narrow mountain roads with very little traffic, including Norton Grade Rd that was attention-grabbing as it provided us with nearly 2 miles of gentle curves and bends. Not too long after, at mile 26, was the opportunity to refuel at the first SAG stop.

About 6 miles after the SAG we merged onto Interstate 80 for about 17 miles. No western-leg of a cross country ride would be complete without a few stretches of Interstate riding, in places where no other options exist. The best feature � especially in the mountains � is that the grades have been sufficiently leveled to accommodate vehicle traffic. Climbs can be long (this mornings stretch was about 10 miles), but they are seldom too steep. Not a bad trade-off.

At mile 50 we turned on to Donner Pass Rd that offered text book Sierra Nevada scenery as riders made their way to the summit at an elevation of 7085 ft. Pride was evident at the second SAG as folks took a moment to take in the alpine panorama that included Donner Lake immediately below and Truckee, our day�s destination, 9 miles to the east. It always brings a sigh of relief to know that the only thing separating you from your luggage, shower, dinner, and bed is a descent!

Today people travel over Donner Pass with relative ease. Such was not the case in November 1846 when 81 members of the Donner Party (emigrants headed to a new life in California) became stranded of the eastern side of the mountain when their route became blocked by snow. Only 45 of the original group survived the winter, some of whom resorted to cannibalism along they way. On learning this our group took a quick look around at their co-riders and unanimously decided to hold out for the Pizza Party scheduled for later in the evening! Sixty-seven years later Donner Pass was again in the news when �The Lincoln Highway� � the first road across America � crossed the Sierra Nevada Range at this point.

Descent inspired high-fives and atta-boys brought on by conquering the climb were in abundance upon arrival at The Best Western in Truckee.

At some point today, our web reporter found a few moments to spend with Amy and John Spitzmiller of Buffalo NY. John has had the idea of riding cross country in his head for the past 10 years. When the �do it now� moment arrived Amy and John decided to �do it together� just as they have done everything together for the last 40 years! They tossed around the option of a self supported trip, but decided to do what they really wanted � share the experience with a group of people who share the same goal. They are no strangers to multi-day rides, each having completed a number of week to ten day tours. They will no doubt be smiling when we arrive in Western New York on July 15th as this adventure will be the longest they have ever been away from home. Also benefiting from their cross country experience are their son and daughter who became interested in cycling as Amy & John trained, and two Buffalo area charities (Nardin Academy Student Scholarships, and Child & Family Services) for whom they have raised over $16,000 dollars thus far.

posted 2008-06-07 | 00:55:47 | article number: 5

Day 5 - Thursday June 5th, 2008 - Truckee, CA to Sparks NV, 65miles
It was 35F when we started off this morning, and believe it or not we came across some local cyclists wearing shorts � brrrrrr! They must have known that clear skies and bright sunshine would warm things up before too long. I suppose they were right; by the time we finished our riding for the day it was up to 79F

Ten miles out we found ourselves in the Squaw Valley area, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Being the first-ever televised winter games, growth was quick to follow as the Lake Tahoe area was discovered by the world. Several riders invested in 3 extra miles of riding to visit the actual town of Squaw Valley. The rest carried on following a bike path along the Truckee River, ending up in Tahoe City at mile 16. The Kings Beach Lookout was an ideal spot to take in the scope of Lake Tahoe; 192 square miles of surface area, a water volume of 37 trillion gallons, and at a maximum depth of 1645 ft � the second deepest lake in the USA (Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest at 1943 feet). The Brockway Bakery was a fitting spot to celebrate our final few miles in California, offering an array of pastries and steaming hot espressos. With an equally impressive assortment of canine treats riders who left dogs behind took a moment to remember their pals back home.

At mile 26 cameras were liberated from jersey pockets as we left the Golden State and entered Nevada, nicknamed the Silver State. After the requisite picture taking riders did not linger long as the premier climb of the day � an 8.2mile ascent to the summit of Mt. Rose (8,991 ft) lay ahead. Waiting at the top, at mile 37.8 was a SAG stop. Ahhhhhh�.ice cold water.

Just like yesterday, the final leg of the day was a well deserved descent � this one 16.7 miles at an average grade of 7%. The terrain did flatten out for a mile or two prior to arriving at the Quality Inn, allowing the adrenalin levels to return to baseline before visiting the front desk. A buffet at a nearby casino ensured that no one went to bed hungry tonight. Breakfast banter tomorrow will likely disclose whether anyone struck it rich at the gaming tables after dinner.

We are honored to have Martin Selter visiting us from Germany. Martin has been on three previous bike tours in the USA and was quick to say that the 2008 Cross Country Challenge is meeting all his expectations. He enjoys the attitude and mentality of the people in the West that he has met so far, and enjoys the friendly conversations he has had with local residents. Assessing the state of motorist-cyclist relations, he has noticed that the cars are very respectful and pay attention to the bicyclists that they are sharing the road with. His appreciation extends to the weather we have been experiencing to date.

Martin has ridden quite a few kms in Switzerland and has been reminded of the Alps by the terrain of the last few days. He likes celebrating and socializing in the evening, but has found it tough to adjust to the early morning starts. (Some things truly are universal !)

posted 2008-06-07 | 09:42:29 | article number: 6

Day 6 - Friday June 6th, 2008 - Sparks NV to Lovelock NV, 91miles
Coffee talk this morning suggested that Lady Luck shone most favorably on John following dinner at the casino last night. With four days in Nevada ahead of us there is still time for others to catch up. Temperatures continue to please � around 60F rolling out of Sparks en route to expected highs near 75F by the time we arrive in Lovelock. For most of the day winds came from �every which direction,� oscillating between headwind, crosswind, and tailwind.

The first 3 miles of the day allowed us to finish of our tour of town before merging on to I80 for a 74 mile stretch along a shoulder that won rave reviews for being extra-wide, very smooth, free of debris, and having well placed rumble strips. With the exception of one noticeable climb, the altitude gain along the Interstate was barely noticeable. Without any navigating to worry about the miles to the first SAG of the day � between a Service Station and the Silverado Casino at mile 33 � clicked by with ease. Enthusiasm was evident from one rider who, after having found a section of strong tailwind a few miles back, remarked �I have never gone so fast on a bike before !�

Slipping back on to I80, the velvet shoulder continued across a mostly deserted landscape. In the middle of it all was an exit ramp with a big arrow pointing to Las Vegas. This reminded some of the miles and miles of barrenness you see from the sky as you fly into Vegas. As trip odometers approached 68 miles, the second SAG came into sight at a Rest Area just past Exit 83. There were picnic tables and basic facilities, but water was on a strict �bring your own� basis. Not to worry�there was an abundance chilling on ice aboard the van. One sign warned travelers that there were �40 Miles of Desert Ahead� while a nearby historical plaque stated that this section was often referred to as �the most dreaded section of the Emigration Trail� by early settlers heading to California. These warnings did not go unheeded as riders hydrated while stopped and topped up their bottles before continuing east.

The remaining 23 miles of the day were split into 10, 12, and 1 mile sections on the Interstate, Frontage Roads, and the main street of Lovelock respectively. Everyone must have been nearing the end of their clean riding clothes as jerseys and shorts could be seen hanging in the arid desert air outside many rooms of Sturgeon�s Inn. After items were dry and folded we dined in the restaurant of a nearby casino, with a catered menu. While there we discovered that Lovelock has a big weekend in store with High School graduation and the opening day of the rodeo season coinciding.

The Nevada desert is nothing new to hometown rider Skip King; he and his wife have lived in Las Vegas for the past 35 years. Driving west from Indianapolis after he finished law school, they wound up in Las Vegas and decided to stay when offered a job. They raised two children there � one now lives in Florida and the other in California. Skip pointed out that he does not gamble, and only finds himself on the strip when he is entertaining out of town guests. By the time we arrive in New Hampshire Skip may feel like he is on a two wheeled version of �This Is Your Life�. Today we are passing near his current home; on July 6th we will be passing by his alma mater � Wabash College - near Crawfordsville Indiana; and two days later we will have a rest day in Indianapolis where he lived before moving to Nevada.

Riding with Skip is his longtime friend Don. Over the years they have often found themselves in the midst of �crazy adventures�. He has ridden large sections of the country in the past, but was never able to be away from work long enough to ride coast to coast all at once. However, Skip has been gradually retiring over the past eight years and decided that this was the year for the LONG ride.

He insists that he is �not a runner� but has 5 half-marathons, and a 55 mile/21hr double crossing of the Grand Canyon (starting on one rim, running to the floor, climbing up to the opposing rim, then back to the floor, followed by the final leg back to the starting point) to his credit. Rounding out his riding feats is a double century � which he swears he will never repeat � and a triathlon or two in the past.

Sounds like this is one guy who won�t back down from a challenge!

posted 2008-06-07 | 23:29:54 | article number: 7

Day 7 - Saturday June 7th, 2008 - Lovelock NV to Winnemucca NV, 72miles
The Book of Genesis talks of the seventh day being a day of rest. Not so for the �08 Challengers who were back at the Casino Restaurant early in the morning for hearty servings of oatmeal, eggs, hash browns, bacon, you name it, before setting out on the road. Amid the clinking of cutlery a couple strands of conversation � � didn�t think it was it possible to lose everything I won yesterday� and � each day I�m in Nevada I set aside $5 to gamble with� � suggested that laundry was not the only game in town last night.

As we took to the road the blue sky and wispy middle clouds were accompanied by a crisp temperature of 50� and a noticeable breeze out of the east. Moderate headwinds prevailed most of the day, but there were periods of relief at times as our route meandered around bare brown mountains. The first 25miles of the day took us along gently rising country roads that had very little traffic. At mile 10 we passed under the Interstate through the narrowest of tunnels. Bikes were fine but Michelle had to fold in the mirrors and inhale deeply in order to slip the van through. Further on, a series of impressive homes suddenly appeared in an otherwise deserted area. Gliding by, each rider formulated their own theory as to why someone would choose to build here rather than say, over there.

Outside a truck stop at mile 25 was the first SAG of the day. After 7 days on the road riders have perfected their arrival at SAG stops. They fluently set down their bikes, took of their gloves, initialed the sign in sheet, and washed their hands before heading over to the table which this morning offered apples, bananas, grapes, crackers, granola bars, water and packets of Gatorade. Some hang out for a while and chat while others are quick to saddle-up and get back to business.

Although they did eventually subside, headwinds continued to be noticeable as we turned onto I80 just after the SAG. When trucks lose a tire along the Interstate they leave behind a collection of small wires from the steel belts; ride a bike on the freeway long enough and you will eventually have one of these puncture your own tire. Alan found such a wire today and dropped by Mechanics Hour in the evening to ask Gerard to see if there were any other small wires embedded in the casing. �The big one is gone� Alan explained �I pulled it out with my teeth before replacing the tube.� True grit!

A Travel Center at exit 145 was home to the second SAG stop of the day. Having knocked off 46miles many decided to drop into Subway and make this a lunch break as well. Looking up between bites a couple of riders noticed a colleague or two who whizzed by the exit without turning off; they were likely deep in thought. Before long they realized their oversight and made their way back. Pace lines were a little more evident today as riders worked together to limit their individual exposure to the wind as they returned to the road. Following 17 more miles on I80, the route turned on to a frontage road for the final 9 mile approach to Winnemucca.

It may have been on that very road that Hank Snow � a Grand Ole Oprey regular from the 1950s � depicted himself as a hitchhiker thumbing down a ride, in his 1962 hit recording of the North American version �I�ve Been Everywhere�. The song begins with the principal character saying �I was totin' my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road, when along came a semi with a high and canvas covered load�� As the tempo picks up to an auctioneer�s pace the hitcher goes on to boast of all the places he�s been. Just imagine a bike ride that took in:

�.Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma, Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo, Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla. Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey, Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devil's Lake, and Crater Lake. Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika, Shefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,Pittsfiels, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport, Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond Du Lac, Davenport, Idaho, Jellicoe, Argentina, Diamontina, Pasadena, and Catalina. Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravellburg, Colorado, Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado, Larrimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chattanika, Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika, Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Cedar City, and Dodge City.

We never found out if the hitchhiker made it into Winnemucca, but we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express right on schedule. CJ mentioned that she �loves those stores� as she headed over to the Super Wal-Mart located right next door.

Pictured above is Don Chism, the other half of the Skip & Don duo we were introduced to yesterday. Don was born and raised in Arkansas, and also went to school there. It was at College that he met his wife. In 1973 they moved to Las Vegas and have been there ever since. His wife is also a cyclist. They have a son in California who is riding in the LA River Ride this weekend, and a daughter in California who practices as a Personal Trainer and Pilate Teacher.

Don and Skip met many years ago when their sons were in the same Boy Scout Troop. Their zest for adventure spilled over to their roles as Scout Leaders, giving their group the reputation as �the most active troop in Las Vegas.� Many of their outings were epic, including a six day canoe trip along the Green River in Utah. Their sons are now grown up, but their adventures continue. They have hiked up Mt Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous USA) and regularly explore new waterways by kayak.

In 45 more days Don will be able to add a Transcontinental Bike Ride to his outdoor r�sum�.

posted 2008-06-08 | 10:14:37 | article number: 8

Day 8 - Saturday June 8th, 2008 - Winnemucca NV to Battle Mountain NV, 56 miles
When riding at home launching at 7:45 is often seen as an early start. This morning it felt like the essence of freedom. The hotel breakfast started at 6:00 so riders had the choice of sleeping in a bit or getting up early and starting the day off nice and slow. With a forecast of 73� by mid-afternoon most opted for shorts, but with morning temperature hovering around 50� many were hedging their bets with arm-warmers and vests.

Between the hotel and getting back on I80 at mile 4, we came across a shop with a big tall sign out front that read �Artemis Creek � A Women�s Boutique � Bikers Welcome.� Moved by the hospitality Sue and Audrey stopped for a photo and soon found themselves with a bit of cowboy companionship. As they pedaled away the ladies turned back to the wranglers with a smile and said �Save a horse ride a Trek!�

The one and only big climb of the day was up and over Golconda Summit. The ascent did not start until mile 20, but it could be seen looming on the horizon long before we got to the base. After finding the preferred gear it was 4 miles of steep Interstate-grade climbing to a final elevation of 5,159 feet. Just about everyone had summitted by 10:00, and the majority logged an extended stay at the SAG, taking pictures and passing time on a short mileage day. When it came time to be moving on they were welcomed by a 6 mile downhill!

Coming up on mile 40 riders noticed a Rest Stop where the van had stopped to keep pace with the group. Some headed into the Shell Station for a quick bite. Outside a room of slot machines was a sign advising patrons that �You must be 21 to enter, and you must ACT 21 to stay.� Charlie must have been on his best behavior because he stayed long enough to win $5 in nickels before cashing out. Back outside others stretched out in the grass and caught some sun. Gerard came upon this conspicuous relaxation and nick named the rest stop as the �Nevada Riviera�. The door of the van was open and John took the opportunity to re-apply sunscreen using the window as a mirror. At the same moment Brian approached the OTHER side of the window to do the same thing. Each was shocked to look into the �mirror� and see someone else staring back!

Six or seven years ago Battle Mountain was named the �Armpit of America� by the Washington Post Magazine. Forest must have been aware of this when he saw a prominent hillside branded with the initials �BM� in big white letters as he got off the highway at mile 53. Continuing into town he said �I suppose that says it all !� When Christine arrived in town she stopped by a Grocery Store and noticed essays written by a couple of high school students outlining the benefits of living in a small town, well off the beaten track. It�s hard to argue with the value they attributed to a tight knit community, rugged tough terrain that goes on as far as the eye can see, and recreation opportunities that are an adrenalin addict�s dream. Armpit or not, Battle Mountain is small and Battle Mountain is isolated. The �Area Attractions� section of the hotel�s webpage listed two shopping centers, but each of them was over 70 miles away.

Everyone was in by 1:30 and many whiled away the afternoon in the laundromat across the street from the Comfort Inn. Some were actually doing laundry, but one group was taking in a �Derailleur Clinic� hosted by Gerard while a second group was fixing to play a bit of poker. Just as the card were being shuffled Charlie arrived with his pocket full of nickels from the Shell Station Slots and said ��deal me in!�

Charlie is the guy in the above photo; it was taken yesterday morning around 9AM. Having the option to eat whatever you want, whenever you want is one of the things that makes distance cycling near and dear to him. Charlie lives in Cleveland Ohio and will be riding with the 2008 Challenge until Salt Lake City. He referred to today as his best day yet, citing a nice long stretch at 37.5 mph coming off Golconda.

This journey has been everything he expected and more, yet he is still looking forward to the creature comforts of a first class seat when he flies back to Cleveland. Once there he will resume his work in the real estate business. Property values have been hard in the Rock �n Roll Capital of the World, but Charlie cautions owners not to panic, and to hang tight unless they really have to sell.

If its 93� and humid in Cleveland right now, who knows how hot it will be by the time we pass through Charlie�s neck of the woods in July. Perhaps he�ll drop by the �White Turkey Drive-In� for a root beer float when we roll past Conneaut OH on day 43.

posted 2008-06-08 | 23:58:16 | article number: 9

Day 9 - Monday June 9th, 2008 - Battle Mountain NV to Elko NV, 72 miles
Many mornings things can be a little slow around the hotel lobby in Battle Mountain; not today. For the last few moments prior to the posted load time of 7:15 you might have though the Tour de France was passing through. It was during this flurry of wheels and brightly colored clothes that a non-ABB guest put all the pieces together and said ��.now I understand why the hotel is full but the parking lot is empty�. When Deb & Garry arrived outside, ready to ride, at 7:20 they discovered that they were the only riders left. Perhaps yesterday�s short mileage was the reason everyone had so much energy.

The first 21 miles of the day was along Mule Shoe Road, a name that completed the sensation of being in a dusty, remote, desert area. Like many of the roads out this way car and truck traffic was minimal; nonetheless we were in the transportation corridor. Immediately to the left were railway tracks, to the right was the Interstate, and beyond that were the mountains. It was the perfect spot for Steve, Wayne, Al and Gary (pictured above) from Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the USA respectively, to fall into their International Pace Line Formation. When the frontage road ended at mile 22 we rejoined I80, four miles up-route from the first SAG stop at the Beowawe Rest Area.

Emigrant Pass was the first significant ascent of the day, featuring 12 miles of uninterrupted climbing. It wasn�t sharp and hair-pinned like you might see on narrower secondary mountain roads, but whoever designed this stretch of Interstate clearly built in a switch-back pattern to make the grade manageable. The summit rewards included a panorama that took in the distant snow capped peaks of the Ruby Mountain Range, followed by a 10 mile downhill. At mile 49 riders veered off the four lane, into the town of Carlin for the second SAG stop. Many paused for lunch at Burger King or Subway. The Cross Country Challenge is not just about riding � it is also about discovery! John has been experiencing bandana difficulties; it may have been the fit, it may have been a diminished capacity to keep perspiration out of his eyes, who knows. Today John and a few others discovered the �Dew Rag� at a Carlin gas station, for the low everyday price of $6.

East of Carlin I80 goes through a long tunnel that is not too welcoming to cyclists, so we detoured for 6 miles along a road (no longer open to cars) that meandered between the mountains and rivers of Carlin Canyon. Alan, noticing how cattle grazing on a hillside appeared to have two legs longer than the others, commented that he �didn�t know how they could do that all day.� Someone within earshot countered with �the cows probably wonder how we ride our bikes all day!� After rejoining the post-tunnel Interstate for 11 miles, the route exited at Elko West and carried on into town. Just before the High Desert Inn was a Dairy Queen which, on this particular day, had a whole lot of bicycles out front.

Dinner was catered across the street at the Red Lion Casino, where a common topic of conversation was tomorrow�s 108 mile ride to Wendover � the first Century of this trip.

Up to the right is Terry Martin, life-long resident of San Jos� CA (he was born there, he was raised there, and he retired there), who will be riding with the Cross Country Challenge as far as Salt Lake City. Terry began cycle touring in 1982, since which time he and his wife have enjoyed many rides together. He has ridden cross-country on two previous occasions, once in self-supported mode. A chance to �enjoying the scenery� is one of the aspects he most enjoys about being on his bike.

These days Terry spends a lot of time in New York City and Nantucket, enjoying the company of his three grandchildren. Later this summer he and his wife will be heading to France with their 12 year old grandsons for a European cycling tour.

Bonne chance grand-m�re et p�p酅�allez��allez !!!

posted 2008-06-10 | 22:31:06 | article number: 10

Day 10 - Tuesday June 10th, 2008 - Elko NV to Wendover NV, 108 miles
The buzz through the streets of Elko this morning was that a new �Texas Hold �Em Champion� had ridden into town yesterday afternoon, not on a horse, but a bike. Oddly enough this seemed to fit quite well with Jeff�s account of why he was not at dinner last night. Late in the afternoon he was minding his own business in the casino when he happened across a collection of locals � wearing cowboy hats and sunglasses � playing Texas Hold �Em Poker. With a bit of time to kill before dinner he dealt himself in and got down to business. With a blending of skill and good fortune his pile of chips was growing while those of his opponents were dwindling. Before long there was only one other player left. Jeff had way more chips than her, but he offered to pool their money and split it down the middle in order that he could make it to dinner on time. Not recognizing a good deal she declined, playing out her hands until she was out of chips around 10PM. Victorious Jeff, starving by this point, collected his winnings and headed out to find something to eat. Unfortunately, the only thing open at that hour was a McDonalds Drive Through that would not serve walk-up customers! With full pockets and an empty stomach Jeff began negotiating with a passing motorist who offered to order for Jeff, in exchange for Jeff picking up the tab for both their orders. Sounds like they both ended up with a �Happy Meal�.

Clouds lingered and a few drops of rain fell as we loaded luggage, so riders had to take a moment to consider whether or not they should stuff a rain jacket in their jersey pocket. Light rain continued for a couple of minutes, but skies were clearing well by the time we completed the first 7 miles of the day along frontage roads. Fortunately the tailwinds stuck around and seemed to be building as the day went on. Following a roadside SAG stop at mile 40, most folks were anxious to press on as today�s distance was the longest to date at 108 miles.

The next SAG stop was at mile 71, preceded by a long ascent through an area of ongoing road construction. Fortunately there was a really wide shoulder that gave us plenty of riding room. To switch things up a bit strawberry-filled Oreos were offered along with all the usual items. This opened up a bit of a debate over whether the traditional Oreo or strawberry version was a better cookie. The group was split, with most willing to eat either. Fred however was adamant in his recommendation to �stick with the vanilla�. Gerard could not be reached for comment as he was busy helping stranded motorists get their car started. Once a mechanic always a mechanic, whether the client is riding a bike or driving a car!

The tailwinds that pushed us up to the summit were equally strong as we started down a steep technical descent of 3-4 miles. Once the road opened up a bit the grade leveled out to a more gradual decline, but the wind at our back continued. Maintaining a speed of 30+ mph with minimal pedaling was making easy work out of this century as similar conditions continued all the way to the foot of a short climb at mile 105. After a short 1 mile uphill, riders were rewarded with a scenic overlook of Wendover and the great expanse of salt flats that will usher us into Utah tomorrow.

The remaining 2-3 mile drop into Wendover was made a bit difficult as tailwinds gave way to swirling cross winds that made bikes seem a little less stable. As we made our way to The Rainbow (a casino complete with funky 70s d�cor, including mirrored walls and artificial plants) it sometimes felt that we might be blown off the road. At route rap at big round of applause was offered for Gary, Amy, Jay, and Steve (see photo) who chose today to be their first-ever 100+ mile ride. Well done!

Also pictured above is Sue Ahrend of Golden Colorado. Today was not Sue�s first century, but she conceded that it may have been her fastest! Years ago she was a runner, but since 1992 she has been sticking mostly to riding. When not on her bike Sue spends her time as an ER Nurse, and a volunteer with Mountain Search & Rescue. She has a son (completing his first year in medical school) and a daughter-in-law.

Since �92 Sue has ridden on many week long tours, the most memorable one being through the Canadian Rockies. In January of this year she decided that there would be �no better time than now� to complete a coast to coast ride. Her goal is to ride every inch of the Cross Country Challenge, but is willing to compromise if unavoidable circumstances present themselves. Meeting �amazing people� is what makes bike touring so enjoyable for Sue; this ride is proving to be no exception.

After eleven days of riding Sue looks forward to celebrating her Birthday on the rest day in Pueblo.

Many happy returns�������.

posted 2008-06-11 | 15:58:31 | article number: 11

Day 11 - Wednesday June 11th, 2008 - Wendover NV to Salt Lake City UT, 117 miles
There were no signs to mark our passage, but before we had been riding 10 minutes this morning we had left Nevada behind and slipped into Utah. When Brigham Young led the persecuted American sect of Mormons into the deserts of Utah in 1847, he found refuge in a land that no one else wanted. The determined Mormons, however, made the desert bloom through their hard work and skill. The descendents of these original settlers still make up a majority of the state�s residents. Utah has been nicknamed the Beehive State symbolizing the qualities of industry, perseverance, thrift, stability, and self-reliance.

After a wide turn on to the Interstate at mile 2, the wind that had been in our face and at our sides became a tailwind. We started in the low 50s, but were expecting a high of 69� by the end of the day. Storm-worthy clouds were present but never did produce any rain. Based on the number of flats experienced, a few hours of rain would have helped wash some of the debris off the shoulder. Charlie had four flat tires on the day, and rolled into the hotel knowing with certainty that �you can ride a Campy rim with a flat tire for at least 8 miles!�

Heading towards the first SAG at mile 43, the salt flats appeared to go on forever before they met up with distant mountains at the horizon. At times the fine sand/salt ground cover resembled a snow covered field. After riders signed in they were distracted from the topography by a surprise food item � POP TARTS!! Pete & Hetty gave the foil wrapped, fully baked, and ready to eat pastries two thumbs up and wondered if they would be able to buy them back in The Netherlands. Another rider visiting from outside North America was a bit more hesitant to give them a try. With 200 calories, no cholesterol, no transfats, 170mg of sodium, 36g of carbohydrates and 2g of protein, they fit the bill on the second day of back-to-back century riding.

Around mile 73, a gas station/convenience store made an ideal interim stop where riders took a moment to pick-up something to eat, stretch out their muscles, fill up their water bottles, and use the facilities (not so many trees out this way). From this point the scheduled SAG at mile 91 would be reachable within 90 minutes. Once there the second gastronomic surprise of the day would be waiting.

When buying the groceries last night Christine and Michelle picked up a bag of grapefruits, without noticing it, as they were purchasing a few bags of oranges. Steve S. from Australia seized the opportunity to expand his citrus comfort zone and tasted grapefruit for the first time. Finding them a bit bitter, he wasn�t sure what to think. Fellow riders assured him that by adding a bit of sugar, or by squeezing out the juice and adding a bit of ice and vodka, grapefruit can be made to suit any taste.

Back on the road the terrain continued to be flat as we made our way to mile 107 where we pulled off the highway, and began riding along Salt Air Drive, immediately beside Salt Lake. A few days back we rode past Lake Tahoe with an average depth of 989 feet; in contrast Salt Lake (the largest saline lake in the western hemisphere) has an average depth of only 14 feet. It has no outlets other than evaporation and is far saltier than sea water. In the distance we could see the Wasatch Mountains behind Salt Lake City.

The relief of a pending rest day was apparent as riders came to a stop at the Comfort Inn. Following Route Rap was an opportunity to say �...thanks for the ride...� to departing friends Brian, Charlie, Terry, and Martin. As the Manager�s Reception (happy hour) was just about to open, the timing could not have been better. Cheers to 11 memorable days in California, Nevada, and Utah!

For Deb & Garry Neumayer who live outside Chicago (see photo above), this gathering was their second celebration in two days. Yesterday they observed their 36th Wedding Anniversary. Garry was quick to dedicate his first-ever century ride to his wife, while Deb was just as fast to dedicate her day of �pulling him to Wendover� to many more years of happiness. Only once was Garry accused of �doggin� it� and only once did he suggest that Deb was �killing him�. She has ridden across the country before, but this is the first time for him. They are having a wonderful time on the Challenge Ride, enjoying �good times and great people.�

After dinner last night they capped off their anniversary by enjoying a bottle of California Red in their �mirrored suite�.

What better time to stop asking questions��..

posted 2008-06-12 | 22:40:02 | article number: 12

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