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Cross Country Challenge 2008 Journal
(Page 3)
Pueblo to St. Joseph, MO
(Tour de Plains Tour)

current date and time 2008-11-18 | 10:08:41
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Number of Journal Entries online: 17
Day 22 - Sunday June 22nd, 2008 - Pueblo CO to Lamar CO - 122 miles
Although yesterday was a rest day there were still a few yawns slipping out as we loaded luggage at 5AM this morning. Over the next leg of the ride (the Tour de Plains) the heat of the mid-day sun, strong winds, and the possibility of severe weather will become our new challenges as we make our way over to St Joseph Missouri. Joining on this morning was Greg Marx. He has previously ridden from San Francisco to Pueblo, and from Richmond IN to Portsmouth NH. This year he will be closing the gap.

At 6AM the temperature was comfortable as riders took to 50E, en route to Lamar CO which lay 121 miles ahead. Winds were favorable in the early hours, but switched to moderate headwinds before the day was done. The terrain felt dead flat but was actually a slight downhill grade all day long. Less than a mile before the first of three SAG stops, Bob Haugh endured a crash and opted to return to the hospital in Pueblo to seek medical attention. He lives in Wooster OH, so there is a chance he may rejoin the ride when we pass through his hometown. Heal well.

The first SAG (mile 38) was situated at a gas station in the town of Fowler. Christine was stationed there without a support van so she had to give up one of her own bike tires when a rider arrived with a skin on his wheel that was �too worn to ride�. By the time the last rider left the SAG around 9AM, the comfortable temperatures of the early morning were giving way to rising heat. Over the next 23 miles we passed through the towns and hamlets of Elder, Manzanola, Vroma, Fayette, Rocky Ford, Krammes and Newdale which at one time may have been watering stops for trains that would have been using the tracks immediately north of the road. Along the way we passed a HUGE feedlot and rode over an overpass that represented the only climb of the day.

By the time riders rolled into Swink for the second SAG (mile 62) they were looking for a shaded spot to cool off before heading further east to La Junta, where the route began to follow the path of the Santa Fe Trail. Dating back to the 1800s, the Santa Fe Trail was a historic transportation route that connected Missouri to Santa Fe. In its time it has served as a commercial route, a military highway, and a precursor to the railroad. Today the route is �just another road�.

There was no mention of it on the cue sheet, but as route 50 took a sharp left into Los Animos, the lure of a �Dairy Queen� sign pulled in just about everyone. Sodas, milkshakes, Blizzards, and Mister Mistys disappeared at an alarming rate. If only the settlers along the Sante Fe trail could have enjoyed such hospitality. From there it was only 16 more miles to the third SAG stop (mile 102) in the tiny town of Hasty where a thermometer outside the General Store read 100� in the shade.

The store featured a front porch with a shaded table set-up underneath. It soom became apparent that this was the town meeting spot as locals drifted past the store and congregated for a few moments to talk about the weather and catch up on the latest news. A reporter for the local weekly was there and it eventually dawned on him that a story about the �Cylist Day� might be in order. As he interviewed riders, his buddies chuckled and warned those just arriving that �he wont make you famous in the movies, but he MIGHT put your picture in the paper�.

The final 20 miles felt more like 40 but we arrived at the Best Western Cow Palace, as planned, to complete the longest day of the crossing. Before long we were showered and enjoying the convenience of having dinner served by the indoor pool just ouside our hotel room doors. The long hot ribbon of asphalt we had spent the day on outlasted any other topics of conversation.

A visitor from Trinidad (see photo above) is today�s featured rider. He is on the roster as Shuresh Kurjah but to the Cross Country Challenge he is known as �Sarge�. He is a member of Trinidad�s Military and began training for this ride back in December. Since then Sarge has logged 3000+ miles, 20 centuries, and 6 back-to-back centuries. He jokes that he is probably the first Trinidadian to have ever accomplished this feat. Sarge began this adventure as a �personal challenge�, but concedes that as news of the ride has spread across the island he has begun to feel that he has a duty �not to let the country down�. Two of his training buddies will join the Cross Country Challenge in Erie PA and ride the final miles to the Atlantic with him.

In Sarge�s eye success is not measured by how fast you ride. Rather, it is measured by how many people you meet and assist along the road. If any of his colleagues show signs of being discouraged or tired, Sarge is quick to distract them with a song, a story, or general carrying-on. He credits his military experience for the trait of trying to make sure that everyone remains content.

At this point he feels that the afternoon into Pueblo was the toughest challenge thus far. Inbetween attempts to keep his group pedalling against a strong wind, he was kept busy arranging them into a more energy efficient pattern. Those he most often rides with have affectionately nicknamed themselves �Sarge�s Daycare�.

Good companionship on the road continues to be �the shortest cut of all���.

posted 2008-06-24 | 00:30:05 | article number: 10

Day 23 - Monday June 23rd, Lamar CO to Garden City KS - 105 miles
A few days back someone was overheard saying ��.I don�t really like these long climbs, I can�t wait to get to Kansas for some nice easy flat stuff�� This morning, at least for a little while it looked like he was going to get his wish. Getting back on 50E shortly after 6AM it was already hot, but the road was newly paved, with a wide shoulder, and there was a strong wind at our backs. Before long we were closing in on the deluxe SAG venue at mile 33.

To make us comfortable at our last stop in Colorado the State had built a rest stop with clean restrooms, groomed green grass, picnic tables, and several large shade trees. In years past they may have hung bandits from these trees, but this morning someone hung a bike � Michelle�s Kestrel � from one of the limbs. (Andy spoke volumes by his silence).

A mile or so further on we left Colorful Colorado and entered the breadbasket of the nation as we crossed into the �Sunflower State� of Kansas. Even though they were busy taking pictures riders couldn�t help but notice that the tailwinds were diminishing and crosswinds were starting to kick-up. So much for flat and easy!

From there it was 45 tough miles to the second SAG in Lakin, KS. The wind and sun kept up as the terrain (today was an overall descent day) began to roll and pitch. Riding a single mile stretch Christine counted 22 telephone poles; over 105 miles that adds up to 2305 poles! Out here you can see towns 20 miles before you get to them, and it often seems that no matter how hard you crank you just don�t get any closer.

Many had just about run out of water by mile 78, so you would think that riders arriving at SAG two would be discouraged and downtrodden. On the contrary they were upbeat and enthusiastic because this SAG was located in a Dairy Queen parking lot. It must have nearly killed them, but riders waited patiently in long line-ups for their containers of energizing refreshment. Strangely enough on a 97� day, there was NO ONE in the big municipal swimming pool across the road.

The final 27mile leg started off easier due to a bend in the road. However, before long the road and wind had re-configured to their earlier geometries and continued to battle riders every inch of the way in to Garden City. Some thought they were in Texas when they saw Longhorn Cattle, while others thought they were hallucinating when they were passed by a truck with a menacing figure (looking very much like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland) hanging out the window as he stuffed himself with A&W; Root Beer and Twinkies. They hadn�t really lost their minds, the truck was the SAG van, and the Mad Hatter was a rider who chose not to continue past Dairy Queen when he saw what lay ahead.

Those with enough energy to go for a walk took advantage of the proximity of the Best Value Inn to the shopping district; Staples and Target were two favorites. Later in the evening an impressive thunder storm passed through, promising cooler temperatures for the morning.

Pictured above is Richard Walsh, who has joined the Challenge Ride from Tipperary Ireland. What keeps him looking and sounding so young is his job teaching math to 16 and 17 year olds at The Abbey School. He is also responsible for organizing trips and promoting Social Awareness.

Several years ago Richard was instrumental in establishing �Providence School� in the village of Shillong, located in NE India. It now operates as a structured school with certified teachers, but in the beginning it was a project of The Abbey School based on the premise that Third World work is a mix of giving and receiving, of teaching and being taught. Every other year Richard and a group of students visit the school to exchange skills with the students of Shillong. The students from Ireland share their knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic while the students from India share their expertise in vocational skills.

Obviously, Richard also has a passion for cycling. Prior to the Challenge Ride he rode a self-supported fun raising journey where he rode at least 32 miles in each of Ireland�s 32 counties.

It surely is a long way to Tipperary, especially when you start out in San Francisco��

posted 2008-06-24 | 23:42:17 | article number: 11

Day 24 - Tuesday June 24rd, Garden City KS to Dodge City KS - 51 miles
Following two epic days, it felt like today would be an �on bike rest-day� as we gathered for breakfast at the Golden Corral. Winds were not noticeable, the air was cool and less humid following the overnight thunderstorms, and there was only 51 miles separating us from Dodge City.

Not too far out of Garden City highway 50E began to resemble a rolling tour through a food factory; grain elevators, huge fields of wheat, acres of corn, and a steady stream of cattle trucks in both directions. Apparently Garden City is surrounded by more cattle than any other city in the USA. As we neared the SAG at mile 27 signs gave notice of an �Overlook Ahead�. Expecting a panoramic view of nature everyone pulled off the road, cameras poised to see something spectacular. To our surprise we were greeted to a bird�s eye view of the �Ingles Feed Lot� that extended for miles.

The sole SAG of the day was located under the water tower in the town of Ingles, where we were joined by veteran ABB rider Dale Crocket. Dale left a day early for a meeting in Wichita, so he could fit in a ride with the Challenge Class of 2008. He rode west from Dodge City this morning, met us here, and rode back to town with us. You never know when you�ll bump into an �ABB Cousin.�

Just off the highway, around mile 48, there was a monument to surveyors of the Santa Fe Trail. A few hundred yards beyond this was a spot to view the trail from a hilltop. Reading plaques and gazing off towards the horizon, we imagined how tough the life of a trail traveler must have been. On a good day they traveled 14-16 miles � during an �on bike rest day� we were logging 51.

Every town we have come across has a �Welcome to� or a �You are now entering...� sign at the city limits. Dodge City has out done them all. Well above the highway, on a stony cliff, there were iron silhouettes of six or seven cowboys galloping west, with a chase group closing in. Whatever crime they had committed they had to �Get out of Dodge!� in a hurry. Sarge, looking every inch a cowboy as he arrived at the Comfort Inn, announced that he was heading into town for a �showdown at high noon�. With a smirk an associate was quick to point out that it was already 12:20h!

With everyone in by 12:30h the afternoon was free to head into Historic Dodge City and experience the legacy of the American West first hand at the Boot Hill Museum. Later in the evening a group of 12 returned to the Boot Hill area to take in the �Miss Kitty Show� at 7PM. Those who were fans of the Gunsmoke TV series were in their element.

Today�s feature rider is Forest Wathen, of Owings MD (see photo above). Years ago his wife Dawn got him a bike that he began riding on 7 mile road trips to a nearby bakery. Ever since he started riding he has dreamt of riding coast to coast. When the big day came he said goodbye to Dawn, and their 13yr old son Nick, then headed off to the airport. After settling into his seat on the plane, he looked up and saw Dawn coming down the aisle to the seat beside him! She had secretly arranged to fly out to San Francisco with Forest to send him off in style.

Forest recalls feeling like he was back in grade school, on the first day of summer vacation, as he took to the road on Day One. He has flown over the USA many times and has always wondered, �what is it like down there�? He marvels at how dramatically the weather, terrain, and surroundings can change from morning to evening. More than ever before he is convinced that �biking is THE way to see the country�. Having the support of his family and employer makes the adventure complete.

Having trained hard and ridden strong Forest was pleased with his accomplishment as he rolled into Gunnison nearly a week ago. However, when he checked into his room he had a moment of self-doubt. There, next to his bed, was a stationary bike! Was someone trying to tell him something? Were his buddies playing a joke? Later in the evening he chuckled as he told the story over dinner. He was no slouch as he zipped up Monarch Pass the next day; perhaps he did sneak in a bit of secret indoor training after all!

Forest is looking forward to seeing Dawn and Nick at the end of the ride, but given their track record, he wonders if they might just appear along the side of the road some day�..

posted 2008-06-25 | 16:20:36 | article number: 12

Day 25 - Wednesday June 25th, Dodge City KS to Great Bend KS - 85 miles
No matter what kind of bike you ride, when the first turn of the day is a left on �Wyatt Earp Blvd� you can�t help but feel you are riding a horse. First your helmet starts to feel like a 10-gallon hats, then the SAG van starts to look like a chuck-wagon, and finally you start calling the person riding beside you Lefty, Curly, Festus or some other cowboy type name. After a short 2 mile ride through the historic Boot Hill area, with a mild tailwind and hot, but not humid temperatures, we were on the east end of town and were able to say that we had made it �Out of Dodge�.

Riding through a series of small towns along 50E we met up with a mixed bag of sites that kept us focused. We passed some REALLY big windmills, we witnessed the beehive of activity and heavy equipment that is part of a contemporary wheat harvest, and we saw aircraft fuselages loaded on railway cars en-route to an assembly plant somewhere. For days we have been riding right next to train tracks that were at one time part of the immortal �Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe� line.

37 miles into the day riders slowed down for a SAG stop in the town of Kinsley, which calls itself the "Midway City" because, according to the sign in the roadside park, it's 1561 miles from both New York and San Francisco. During the thirties, the cover on one issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured this sign. Nearby was a museum that featured a sod house and a steam engine & coal car that served as reminders of how much things have changed in the last 150 years. Just after leaving the SAG we turned left on hwy 56, leaving 50E after many, many days.

The small towns kept coming with Garfield at mile 42 and Larned at mile 61. Garfield was notable for having restrooms available, and Larned was notable for a pretty downtown area and a couple of spots to stop for lunch. The bargain of the day was found just a mile beyond Larned at the second SAG stop of the day; 32 ounce fountain sodas for only 69 cents! Shots of vanilla, cherry, or �energy� flavoring were available for the big spenders.

Eight miles off route was an optional side trip to Fort Larned National Historic Site, nicknamed the �Guardian of the Santa Fe Trail�. Established on the vast prairie, troops stationed at Fort Larned protected mail coaches, freighters and other Trail traffic. As the site of an Indian Agency, Fort Larned also was instrumental in maintaining friendly relations with Plains Indians.

Half-way between Larned and Dundee was a chance to take another side trip (1/2 mile) to Pawnee Rock. Native Americans were said to have met at Pawnee Rock and reputedly used it as a vantage point to spot bison herds and approaching wagon trains. Neither of these was seen today, but the view overlooking the prairie was spectacular nonetheless.

As the day neared an end the tail winds picked up and dropped riders off at the Highland Hotel in Great Bend, so named for being along a notable curve in the Arkansas River. Passing by a local bank the thermometer was showing 103�.

On the way over to dinner at �Montana Mikes�, Sarge held everyone�s attention as he described his encounter with the Kansas Law Enforcement Community. Earlier in the day a well meaning motorist had seen some cyclist riding �three or four abreast� - maybe they were ABB riders, maybe not � and was compelled to notify the authorities. Sarge and the Daycare were the first riders spotted by the responding patrol car, so he stopped them and asked them to remind �their group� of proper cycling etiquette. A while later, after perusing the menu, Sarge announced �I think I�ll have the chicken��but I�ll have the Chicken-One-A-Breast not the Four-A-Breast!!!� Late into the night riders could be heard laughing and wiping tears from their eyes as they recalled the moment.

Kip & CJ (Carol Jean), who spend their time between Treasure Island FL and North Carolina, are visible in both of today�s photos. They decided to be a part of the 2008 Cross Country Challenge because they wanted to engage in a shared life experience while they are fit and able. The have completed a number of rides � Ragbrai, Bike Virginia, a tour in Vermont, a week in Qu�bec � but the longest of these was only 10 days. As the start of the Challenge Ride approached CJ thought they may have taken on too much and began to wonder if they should back out. However, Kip�s belief that the journey of 3836 miles begins with one pedal-stroke, and the fact that they had already passed the �no refund� date, secured their place on the roster! This afternoon CJ was happy they made the choice they did; she is having a great time, her on-bike comfort zone has expanded, she is riding faster than ever, and the whole experience is more than she ever expected.

Kip�s conviction that you can conquer any task if you break it down into small pieces is not something he simply read somewhere. Several years back he was in a peloton of about 30 when an oncoming driver fell asleep and collided with the group. He was air-lifted from the scene and spent several months in a wheel chair. In the early days he could not button his shirt. But once he figured out his shirt he moved on to tying his shoes, before long he was riding his bike, and now he�s riding across the country. CJ jokes that after the accident Kip is a better dancer since one leg is a bit shorter than the other!

Like many cyclists, Kip and CJ are also runners. They met at the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. and celebrated their honeymoon while running the NYC Marathon. Between them they have six children ranging in age from 31 to 43, and eight grandchildren aged 6-18. When asked, their family said �We are extremely proud of Kip & CJ, but we are so glad we are not on the ride ourselves!�

In the words of Art Linkletter���kids say the darndest things!!!

posted 2008-06-27 | 00:03:50 | article number: 13

Day 26 - Thursday June 26th, Great Bend KS to McPherson KS - 64 miles
Breakfast was scheduled for 0600h this morning and the hotel was ready for us. Everyone was served a platter that included scrambled eggs, sausages, oatmeal, two gigantic pancakes, orange juice, and coffee. It was so gorilla-sized that only a couple of riders were able to send their plates back empty. Sometime around 7AM, as riders were milling about the luggage loading area, a voice could be heard singing from a radio or an iPod. It could have been Rod Stewart; it might have been R.E.M; possibly Bonnie Tyler; perhaps The Ramones, or maybe even C.C.R. themselves. At any rate the words were unmistakable:

�I Wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
I Wanna know, have you ever seen the rain
comin' down on a sunny day?.....

Whatever the source, it was soon silenced and riders took to the road � another straightforward day with only 2 turns - hopeful that the weather gods had not heard this musical transgression. Rain never did materialize; the day was hot with a light tailwind, and humidity that crept up as the day went on.

The only SAG stop of the day was at mile 27 at a comfortable rest area with picnic tables and pavilions for shade. Four miles on riders saw a �Dairy Queen� sign, and as they got closer they noticed that it opened at 6AM. If anyone did stop for a quick Blizzard they must have done it on the sly without anyone else noticing. The next 23 miles were arrow straight with only very occasional hills. George remarked that such long �climbing-free� stretches would likely spoil and make us bock when we got to the rollers in Missouri.

Passing through Conway at mile 56 Jeff, Tom, and Gary found themselves paralleling an east-bound train. Noticing that the engines were not pulling at full speed Tom picked up his cadence and found himself to be �more powerful than a locomotive� even though he still had energy to spare. Whether or not this particular trio is �faster than a speeding bullet� may not be determined until the next BIG descent. (See you in Vermont).

Arriving in McPherson at mile 61 it became apparent that trains are a common site in this town. In 1879 the Santa Fe and Union Pacific Railroads extended branches to McPherson, and in 1888 The Missouri Pacific and Rock Island Railroads arrived with their lines. Other reminders of the 1800s are the Opera House Building, the finest of its type in the Midwest, and the town Courthouse that was built in 1894. Both of these buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

After nearly 2000 miles of riding The McPherson Waterpark, 2 miles away, provided some riders a chance to cool off in style. With a 500 foot �lazy river�, a giant water slide, deep diving areas, and shaded areas to lounge in there was something for all tastes.

Route Rap was a little longer than usual due to three additions to the agenda. Sue introduced her Son who traveled from Tulsa OK to visit and spend the night, and Steve shared a career opportunity that he had discovered while reading the �McPherson Sentinel���the local Daycare had openings available on the 1st and 2nd shift and applications were being accepted. All eyes shifted to Sarge et al to see if there was any interest. To close things out Gary, an Accountant in his pre-ABB life, presented a collection of figures he had cooked-up as we near the half-way point of the ride (*)

� 1,855 miles of road to date
� 70,400 collective mile ridden thus far
� 550,000 pedal strokes to McPherson, over 1,000,000 expected by trip�s end
� 61,783 feet of climbing
� 117 total flats (averaging nearly 3 per rider)
o 3 riders with no flats yet
o 11 flats from Alan alone (an award was presented)
o Sarge has changed 18 flats, only 3 of his own
� 17 new tires have been installed
� 13,059 incidents of riders pointing out road hazards to each other
� 4,940,000 calories burned
� 152 pounds lost by riders (would have been >er if Jeff quit Twinkies earlier)
� 3.75 gallons of sunscreen applied
� 7.9 gallons of chamois cream deployed, AND
� 23 cases of beer consumed - �gotta� work on this one guys�
(*) GBE and WAG Accounting Principles Used (Gary�s Best Estimate and Wild Ass Guess)

Figuring into the above numbers is today�s feature rider, Steve Foley of the Australian island of Tasmania. Steve recalls having always wanted to ride his bike across the USA, even as a kid. After many years of waiting he is now able to take a long enough break from work to accomplish this goal. Halfway through the ride, the transcontinental dream is still alive, but Steve now finds himself enjoying the company and day-to-day life on the road just as much. He celebrated a birthday in Salt Lake City and will never forget the camaraderie and friendship he felt on that occasion.

Last year Steve and his wife Pam visited the Iowa-class Battleship USS Missouri while in Hawaii. �Mighty Mo� was part of the force that carried out bombing raids over Tokyo and provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. While on board they picked up a small piece of wood that was part of the ship. Steve is carrying this relic with him, as a tribute to all those who served on the USS Missouri, as he rides across the country. On his way home he will be meeting Pam in Hawaii once again, at which time he plans to return the artifact to its original location.

Steve can be easily picked out in a crowd on his �Rans Fusion� recumbent style bike. Since sustaining a triathlon injury a while back, he has been unable to ride comfortably on his road bike for more than 30 minutes without having to stop and stretch. Knowing this wouldn�t cut it on a cross country ride he ordered his �Rans Fusion� on line and picked it up in California when he arrived. Ironically, the bike was made about 30 miles away from Great Bend.

Nothing beats a brand new bike�������

posted 2008-06-27 | 15:37:09 | article number: 14

Day 27 - Friday June 27th, McPherson KS to Abilene KS - 64 miles
The thunderstorms that passed through in the night were gone, but as a steady drizzle persisted into the early morning there was no choice but to dig out the wet weather gear. As the Weather Channel droned on in the breakfast room however, the precipitation did seem to lessen. George�s arrival - dressed head to toe in yellow rain stuff, looking like a cross between Big Bird and Mario Cipollini � may have actually been what sent the clouds into permanent retreat. Friday might be a dry day after all.

11 miles out of town the route took a hard left as we left 56E and headed north towards Abilene. Seeing blue skies ahead many took the opportunity to shed their rain jackets when they arrived at the van, strategically parked at this corner to �encourage� riders not to miss the turn. The stiff wind that had been coming from the side was now directly behind us and speedometers were reading 30+ mph without a whole lot of effort. Cyclists are a strange lot. While motorists dread the thought of a speeding ticket some cyclists secretly yearn for one as a badge of honor. Hopes were running high through the town of Canton where the posted speed limit was 20mph, but today would not be the day.

Wind aided, the SAG stop in Gypsum at mile 34 was less than an hour away. Emotions were mixed since this spot marked the half-way point for our coast to coast adventure. In observance Michelle and Christine had arranged a collection of cupcakes on the table to read ���. Some got the reference immediately; others took a little bit longer. Neither Michelle nor Christine would name names.

Jeff was tempted by the cupcakes, but opted for a banana instead. Steve Quinn has been acting as Jeff�s dietary consultant for the last few days and has been stressing how important it is to �stick to the healthy stuff� at SAG stops. As Jeff turned to dispose of his banana peel, there was Steve with a cupcake in his hand and a trace of frosting on his lips! �HEY...HEY...HEY�..� declared Jeff �what�s this all about ?!� Time will tell if this particular client/consultant relationship continues.

From this point on, the road to Abilene involved an ongoing series of straight aways and turns. The stiff wind continued but its favorability varied depending on which direction we were headed. Once in town many took the opportunity to park their bikes and assume the role of general tourist. The Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum - including the opportunity to tour Ike�s boyhood home - was the lead attraction, but the �Greyhound Hall of Fame� � with the opportunity to meet a greyhound close-up & personal - was a close second. Greg�s parents were married on this day during the Eisenhower Administration so he saw it fitting to drop by the museum and find something to remind them of that era.

Audrey Leonard of Santa Cruz CA is the focus of today�s rider profile. She is definitely strong on her bike, yet she sees herself more as a runner than a cyclist. She has completed three marathons, belongs to two triathlon clubs, and was spotted on a SIX MILE run through the streets of Abilene this afternoon. She will be running a �dirt trail� marathon in Northern California this October so she needs to keep those running muscles active. She reported that her legs felt great, notwithstanding the fact that she has not been out for a run since Salt Lake City.

Professionally Audrey works with an International Adoption Agency, directly involved with adopting families in a process that often takes 1-2 years to complete. Cases can be overwhelming at times, but all the effort pays off when parents are united with their new child and exude pride in �the perfect child.� In a couple of days Audrey will be meeting-up with her own mother, and the person she was named after, when we arrive in St Joseph MO. Sister Mary Audrey and Audrey�s Mother became life long friends while they were at a Convent in this part of the country. Sister Mary Audrey is now in her 80s, and our Audrey has not seen her since she was 3 yrs old.

On July 14th Audrey will be celebrating a birthday on the rest day in Erie PA. She has never seen any of the �Seven Wonders of the World� so she is planning to observe her birthday by visiting Niagara Falls. Even if Niagara Falls is not on the official list of wonders it is a phenomenon she has always wanted to experience.

Running six miles after riding 64, and training for a marathon while riding across the continent��.now that truly is a Wonder.

posted 2008-06-29 | 10:37:56 | article number: 15

Day 28: Saturday June 28th 2008 - Abilene KS to Topeka KS, 109 miles
Today�s ride to Topeka was just about perfect; in 2007 this day was one of the toughest we faced. The only real difference was the weather. Today a cloudy wet morning turned into a cool dry day with tailwinds, last year the rain worsened with each passing hour and the wind was a constant obstacle. We can train, we can tune-up our bikes, we can try to eat the right things, and we can try to get enough sleep in order to influence how well the day goes. But at the end of the day it is usually the weather that has the last say.

A steady drizzle fell as luggage was being loaded just after 7AM, but by the time the last riders had left the hotel the rain had just about stopped. The first few miles took us through the east end of Abilene but we were soon on the quiet country roads we would spend most of the day on. There was minimal traffic to contend with allowing more time to drink in a landscape rich in the greens of early summer and wheat fields that were no longer amber, but a resplendent gold. With temperatures in the low 70s and hardly a trace of humidity the light tailwinds offered a fresh cooling sensation.

With blue skies ahead many riders abandoned their rain gear at the first SAG (mile 36) as Route 4 passed through the town of White City. The next 40 miles gently rolled up and down through large farms where individual homes were separated by several miles of corn, wheat, and cattle. There is not a whole lot of waterfront property in Kansas, but today�s route took us past Lake Wabaunsee which is one of the few lakes in Kansas that is large enough to have cottages and year-round homes located immediately on the lakeshore. Those who stopped for lunch at a general store and deli (mile 72) were surprised to hear the unmistakable sound of outboard motors in the middle of the prairie. The lake is owned by the town of Eskridge, which was the location of the second SAG at mile 77.

The biggest surprise of the day took place 15miles east, in a small caf�, located in the town of Dover. Riders marveled at the rapid service and hospitality; drink orders were taken upon arrival at the door and employees passed around a tray of chocolate cupcakes with a cherry-cheesecake filling that were made for a function held earlier in the day. Forest was seated at a table and did a double-take when he saw a young teenager walk through the door. His chin dropped as he said �That�s my son Nick!� Earlier this week Forest told the story of how is wife Dawn booked a flight to San Francisco to see him off without his knowing. Now she was back with Nick, surprising Forest yet again. Dawn didn�t know the details of today�s route, she simply looked at a map, picked what she thought would be a sensible cycling route, and drove along until she saw Forest�s bike. The Wathen Family will be together until the end of the rest day on June 30th.

The Dover Caf� is also frequently used as a pit stop by local cyclists riding out of Topeka on route 4. Although the Cross Country Challenge didn�t encounter any sign of it, tension exist between local residents and these cyclists, mainly because the highway is narrow and full of turns, thus making it occaisionally difficult for automobile traffic and farm equipment to get around the cyclists. One local man is known for having created many works of �anti-bicycle art� that line stretches of the highway near Dover. Two such pieces were visible this afternoon ; a collection of bent and damaged bicycles welded together by a mailbox, and a sculpture of a monster-like figure eating a bicycle. Undaunted we carried on towards Topeka, enjoying sections of road that were completely shaded by a canopy of trees and stretches of pavement where tailwinds pushed us to over 30 mph.

After dinner at the hotel Bill and Steve were spotted slipping out of the door and were asked if they were heading out for a night on the town. �Yeah� they answered, �we�ve got a big night planned. We�re heading over to the gas station, and we�re gonna� throw back a few bottles of Gatorade !�

Today the CCC Journal visited with Jay Rohrer of Glen Allen VA. Before Jay retired a year ago he had decided that he wanted to �do something big� but couldn�t decide on what to pursue. He was interested in hiking the length of The Appalachain Trail, but felt it might take too long. He was interested in an extended off-shore sailing adventure but found out early on that sea-sickness might be a problem. At the time Jay was following the blog of a fellow church member who was riding the ABB North Ride and decided that a cross country bike ride would fulfill his desire to �do something big� and fulfill a long-held dream of cycling across the continent. A friend from his childhood days also registered for the Challenge Ride but had to reluctantly withdraw due to other commitments.

After 30 years in the IT field, Jay is using this year, and the Challenge Ride, to figure-out what to do when he gets back home. He currently volunteers at many places, including �Ten Thousand Villages� which works closely with the International Free Trade Association.

Jay�s wife Pat was in San Franciso at the start of the ride and will be meeting Jay in New Hampshire a few weeks from now. They have a daughter and son-in-law living in D.C., as well as a Son - also an avid cyclist - who equipped Dad with a GPS unit before he left home. Jay has now mastered the GPS and uses it to upload data to his blog at the end of each day. Pat has been kept busy on the phone taking calls from friends and family who have been following the ride on his blog.

Jay made the right choice when he opted for the Cross Country Challenge���at least he gets to sleep in a bed everynight !

posted 2008-06-30 | 01:16:47 | article number: 16

Day 29: Sunday June 29th 2008 - Topeka KS to St Joseph MO - 89 miles
There just isn�t a lot happening on the streets of Topeka, especially when you are on the road and riding before the church crowd on a Sunday morning. On our way out of town, at the corner of SW Jackson and SW 10th, we glided past the State Capital Buildings which date back to 1866. Making a left on 4E we got the first taste of a strong headwind that would plague us for much of the day. Riders fell into pace lines to battle the wind en masse, but even then speeds over 10 mph were rare. By the time everyone reached the first SAG, near Nortonville at mile 31, it was time to refuel with donuts from a local bakery.

Often WE are the main attraction at service stations. People want to know where we are riding to, where we are riding from, and how far we travel each day. Today we were upstaged by a family who had just picked up an Airedale puppy and were bringing him home for the first time. �We have waited a long time to get this guy� they said, �We named him Brewer �cause there will likely always be trouble brewing when he�s around�

After the SAG we left 4E and began following route 59 as it headed NE to the city of Atchison; birthplace of Amelia Earhart, eastern terminus of the original Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and the point from which we would leave Kansas and cross the Missouri River into the �The Show-Me State� with which it shares it�s name. Missouri prides itself as a land of fertile plains, rolling hills, well-watered prairies and historic rivers. A few miles beyond the state line riders came across the �Broken Spoke Caf�. Most were too superstitious to drop in; a decision which may have influenced a change in wind direction. Immediately thereafter we branched off onto wind-assisted back roads that rolled up and down on the way to the second SAG, just beyond the town of DeKalb at mile 91.

On one side of the SAG was a community center, and on the other was �Miller�s Fireworks Outlet�. The proprietor dropped by to say hello and to distribute some promotional items. Gerard ended up with a ball cap, a few others received Frisbees, and Sue (who missed a turn and had to climb �the biggest hill in town� to get back on route) was rewarded with a T Shirt. The magnitude of the rolling hills gradually picked-up as we carried on through even more fields of wheat and corn. Before long we were taking in the sights and sounds of a sunny summer afternoon in St Joseph�s Hyde Park, where even more bike paths than last year could be seen branching out from the tree lined roads. On the way out of the park we arrived on the front lawn of �Jerry & Sandra� who were offering Iced Tea, water, and lawn chairs to anyone who felt so inclined. Jerry rode cross country with ABB many years ago years ago and welcomes current riders whenever they pass through. Jerry still remembers taking the time to stop and see everything he possibly could as he crossed America; at the closing banquet he was given a bouquet of roses as a testament to this. To facilitate tomorrow�s rest day Jerry & Sandra offered to drop by the hotel and shuttle riders to points of interest such as the Pony Express Museum and the house where Jesse James was shot, or to points of business such as bike shops, shopping areas, and restaurants. Thanks Guys!

Recovery from a long day was made easier by a complimentary soda bar and popcorn in the lobby of the Drury Inn. Later in the afternoon the beverage selection was expanded during a happy hour that the hotel hosts each evening. Just prior to Route Rap we had the opportunity to meet Audrey�s Mother and her namesake Sister Mary Audrey who lives in the area. Also visiting from New Hampshire is Tom�s friend Roseanne. On a sadder note we also learned that John D has been called back to the outside world to be involved with a family matter. There are still a lot of miles to ride, so he hopes to rejoin us further down the road. John, we all look forward to your return.

Pictured up above is Rick Tangard of Richmond VA. He has been cycling long distances for decades and has always wanted to ride across the USA. A couple of years ago he broached the topic with his employer and they gave the nod saying �Ya...go for it!� Last year was out since Rick didn�t want to miss the high school graduation of one of his sons, and next year is out because he wants to be around when his other son graduates from Hampden-Sydney College. Consequently 2008 was selected as the year to ride, even though he will be away for his 30th wedding anniversary by doing so. Fortunately Rick�s wife Sophie will be able to join him in Erie PA and at the end of the ride in NH.

In addition to doing the ride �because it is there� and as a challenge to himself, Rick is riding to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, which supports the fight against cancer in children and adults at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He has ridden for this cause before and would especially like to thank repeat sponsors who are helping him once again.

When he isn�t riding Rick keeps himself busy by logging about 20hrs per week keeping up with his responsibilities at the office. High-speed internet connections are easy to come by in large centers, but are sometimes hard to find in more rural areas. Frustrating as this can be Rick takes it as it comes. He freely acknowledges that he �would like to work more, but the first priority is my blog.�

Rick had never met his room mate Jay prior to this ride, but it turns out that they belong to the same bike club back home, and live about five miles away from each other. They ride together most days, and their wives even got together for lunch in Virginia a few days ago.

Now for the TRULY amazing part�Rick and Jay have the exact same rain jacket!

posted 2008-07-01 | 08:12:12 | article number: 17

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Back to Page 2 Salt Lake City to Pueblo, CO (Rocky Mountain Tour)
On to Page 4 St. Joseph, MO to Indianapolis, IN (Heartland Tour)
On to Page 5 Indianapolis, IN to Erie, PA (Country Mileage Tour)
On to Page 6 Erie, PA to Portsmouth, NH (Eastern States Tour)

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