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|Day 39: Wednesday July 9th, 2008 - Indianapolis IN to Richmond IN - 74 miles
|The Staybridge Suites ended up being the perfect spot to stretch-out, relax, and get some much needed rest. Milling around the lobby this morning, people could be heard listing off the attributes that contributed to this consensus; huge rooms with closet space and DVD equipped plasma TVs, complimentary laundry machines, mini-kitchens, all you can eat popcorn, homemade oatmeal, Wolfgang Puck Coffee, complimentary happy hours, a full service business center with a book exchange and DVDs to borrow, AND a home theatre room with a huge screen and five reclining leather chairs. Some were tempted to stay a while longer but eventually the call of the road and the prospect of the �Country Mileage� leg of the Cross Country Challenge won them over.
Ordinarily today�s route is a straight shot on route 40 east with very little navigation until mile 68. Today however, a bit of road construction at mile 7 resulted in a short detour that had been discussed at a �supplementary route rap� earlier in the morning. Skip charted his own detour on the way out of Indianapolis as he took a small group on a brief �ride-past� that went by four of his childhood homes.
En route to the only SAG stop of the day, at mile 39 by the Post Office in Dunreith, the fleet of bicycles was a shade larger owing to the return of John Douglas and the arrival of John C. who has joined the roster for the balance of the journey. Riding higher than all was Greg, closing in on completing the entire length of the San Francisco to Portsmouth route with each pedal stroke of the day. Having said his formal goodbyes at breakfast, he looked like a tour de France champion savoring the final miles on the Champs-Elys�es.
Just a few miles before the stop, our route passed through Knightstown. In 1985, Knightstown�s old high school gymnasium became the home to the Hickory Huskers in �Hoosiers�, described by Sports Illustrated and ESPN as the greatest sports movie of all time. Visitors can shoot foul shots from the spot where Jimmy made the game winner as time expired, and walk through the locker room where Coach Norman Dale retreated after being tossed from the game. Perhaps this will be featured at the next installment of �Movie Night with Gerard�
As though they were being announced by the conductor on a train, the towns and communities of Lewisville, Straughn, Dublin, South Hermon, Cambridge City, Pennville, and Centerville barreled by as we knocked off the second half of the day. Everyone was checked in at the Holiday Inn by 2PM, leaving several hours to explore Richmond. Judging by the number of bikes sitting outside the Dairy Queen in Richmond, the �Girl Scouts Thin Mint Cookie Blizzard� - only available in July don�t �ya know � must be a favorite.
Pictured above is Alan Ferriday, visiting the US from Shropshire, England. In 2002 Alan became friends with Brian, Fred as Deb as they rode from Seattle to Boston on a journey that had as many as 100 participants during some of the sections. Back then he knew he would one day ride across America again; true to his word, here he is. This time he opted for �the comfort of air-conditioning and hotels.� The experience of meeting a group of strangers on the west coast, and becoming a family while pedaling east seems to have gotten in Alan�s blood; he is already projecting a third crossing some time in the future.
Alan has retired from teaching French, German, and Law to high school students, but has continued to earn money for tubes and tires as a substitute teacher for elementary students. Listening to him describe his touring, however, you could easily mistake him for a travel agent.
Alan has been instrumental in keeping the spirit of the 2002 group alive. In 2003 he arranged a velo-reunion on a ride that crossed the UK, in 2004 a ride that figure-eighted Holland and Belgium, in 2006 a tour of Tuscany, and this ride in 2008. Next season he hopes to set something up for a tour of Ireland. When we arrive in Erie on Sunday, Jeff, another rider form the Class of 2002 is scheduled to drop by to renew old friendships.
If you have ever ridden anywhere, talk to Alan��chances are has probably ridden there too!
posted 2008-07-10 | 12:49:01 | article number: 1
|Day 40: Thursday July 10th, 2008 - Richmond IN to Marysville OH - 105 miles
|With another century on the itinerary the �Underground Restaurant� saw riders loading up their tanks with a little extra fuel at breakfast. The first section of today�s route has a few tricky turns, so Michelle and Christine headed out early to mark out the course with chalk. Last year there was no chalk and riders were spread out in all different directions on their way to the first SAG stop.
The air was muggy as we took to the road at 7AM, but before anyone could get overheated we arrived at the Ohio State Line (mile 2.7) and stopped for ceremonial photos. Ohio is nicknamed the �Buck Eye State�, and also refers to itself as the �Birthplace of Aviation�. Heading east a couple of riders could be heard debating how this could be so if the Wright Brothers took their famous first flight in the Carolinas. No doubt the question would be answered on-line later in the evening.
Maybe the chalk marking paid off, or perhaps the 2008 Challenge Riders have stronger navigating skills than their predecessors. At any rate, everyone arrived on schedule at the first SAG (mile 41) in a park just outside the town of Covington. There were a few bass fishermen there who could overhear riders raving about the silky smooth freshly paved roads we were on in the morning. One of the fisherman remarked that last summer the roads were so rough that he wouldn�t risk damaging his boat by trailing through the area.
Just after the SAG we were greeted by two school aged kids � likely a brother and sister - holding up handcrafted signs that read � Covington Welcomes America by Bicycle�. The smiles, waves, and the number of times they had their picture taken assured these guys that their hospitality was noticed and appreciated. Further on, after 26 miles that featured onset of a few hills, we arrived in the town of St. Paris where several riders opted to stop for lunch at a caf� that was celebrating the 1yr anniversary of it�s opening. One of the ladies working there recalled having �your group stop here a year ago on our second day�. The sandwiches were delicious, so this place can be expect to open for quite a few more years.
The second SAG of the day was at mile 76, just outside of an area church. At some point of the day there must have been discussion there about the 2008 tour de France that ignited the racing flame in the minds of Gerard, Al, and Bill. Maybe it was subconscious, maybe it was intentional, but enroute to the hotel this impromptu chase group managed to track down George and Larry who, as usual, were way out ahead of the pack. They charged right past the usual and customary front-runners and kept up a steady pace all the way into Marysville! Tour de France fever also appeared to have set in at the hotel, as they welcomed us with a spread of cheese, crackers, and fruit set-up in the lobby as coverage of the race was playing on a TV in the background.
Prior to dinner at Bob Evans, Route Rap saw the Challenge Riders extend a round of applause to Dan who logged the day as his first ever ride of 100 miles. Also present was �J.L.� a fellow who rode the Y2K/ Millennium edition of the Cross Country Challenge with Michelle way back in 2000. He lives in the area and offered shuttle service to anyone needing transportation to local services. After dinner, he showed people around downtown sites.
Pictured above, on their Comotion Tandem, are Leslie and Virginia Sorrow of Athens GA. Last year they rode from San Francisco to St Joseph, this year they are riding from St Joseph to Erie, and in 2009 they plan to finish off the Challenge Ride with a quick trip from Erie to the New Hampshire Coast.
Not so long ago they found themselves leafing through a catalog from an �Outdoor Adventure� travel company and found themselves thinking �wow! a bicycling trip � that sounds like a good vacation idea�.
Little did they know what they were getting themselves into as they pulled their �Sears Bikes� out of the garage and prepared to bring them on a weeklong trip to Martha�s Vineyard. Grinning a bit Virginia recalled, �At the time�we really didn�t know how to shift the gears.� Seven days later they �thought they were pros� and began planning a three day, 250 mile, self-supported ride that would take them from Athens GA to Jeckyl Island.
In 2004 Virginia stepped-up the ante when she rode across the Northern USA with a women�s group, while Leslie got a taste for trans-continental travel as he dropped in on the group at each end and at a couple spots in between. After this ride they decided to purchase a tandem in order that they might cross the country together as a team. It�s amazing how quickly cycling passion can overtake people. Take it from Leslie and Virginia who laugh as they say,
�Now our bike collection costs more than our first home did !!�
posted 2008-07-14 | 20:01:00 | article number: 2
|Day 41: Friday July 11th, 2008 - Marysville OH to Wooster OH - 104 miles
|As a Ride Leader and an ABB Mechanic, Michelle and Gerard have logged countless mornings at Continental Breakfasts just like the one in Marysville this morning. However, each of them were at a loss at they stood beside the coffee machine this morning. Neither could figure out how it worked. Fortunately John D. happened by and rescued them from their plight, reinforcing the notion that on cross-country endeavors everyone helps everyone.
Hundred mile days used to be cause for concern, but heading out for today�s 103-mile trek on a gorgeous day with cool temperatures and slightly overcast skies, riders look as though they were stepping out for a quick 35-miler back home. Before long 16 miles were in the books and we were in Delaware where a handful took a quick 2-block side trip to a bike shop that had made special arrangements to open early for us.
A week or so ago Sarge saw an iPod System that featured a speaker system that fit into a standard water bottle cage. He located one on line and had it shipped to him in Indianapolis. On the rest day he found an iPod Nano (he also bought a couple to take home to his kids) in town and was ready to Rock and Roll. Today he and Steve rolled up to Christine in the van and put on a few dance moves as Matthew Wilder could be heard singing �Nothin� Gonna Break My Stride.� As the lyrics continued to �Nothin� gonna' slow me down��and�.Gotta' keep on movin'�the whole situation grew more and more humorous. Just before the first SAG stop at mile 33 the route came to a bridge that was closed for repair. Living the words of the song riders were not slowed down, they kept on moving, and they didn�t let anything break their stride as they got off their bikes and walked their way across the obstacle. The van had to take a detour but everyone was happily re-united beside the old closed store that was used to host the SAG.
Nine miles into the second leg of the day the signboard in front of the high school in Highland provided food for the soul as it articulated in big black and white letters what many have been thinking for days �Only by seeking a challenge do we find the best in ourselves.� Those in search of food for the body found what they were looking for at a caf� in Fredrickstown at mile 52.
At route rap the day before Andy had warned everyone that flat terrain of the morning would change to a series of challenging rollers and climbs by the end of the day. A sign at mile 65 announcing that we were close to a ski resort served warning that the climbing was about to start. Four miles later the work had begun, making for a tough stretch to the Charles River Park (mile 75) which was the ideal spot for second SAG of the day, with facilities, ample shade, and picnic tables. On the positive side, the wind and road were suitably aligned to give us a push on the uphills.
Turning on to Heyl Road at mile 98, we encountered the ultimate challenge of the day at the �Wooster Wall.� Bob Haugh who rode with us as far as Lamar lives in Wooster and admits that he usually avoids this climb unless there is no other option. Bob was injured between Pueblo and Lamar and reports that he is healing well, but like any other cyclist wishes that the recovery process was going faster. He misses everyone and continues to wish us well as we inch towards the Atlantic.
Following the wall we were only minutes away from the Best Western Hotel that was located in the heart of Wooster. Joining us this evening for a BBQ Chicken dinner was John S�s twin sister from Cleveland. Later in the evening Christine�s husband Bill arrived from Kingston Ontario. He brought his bike along and will be doing his best to keep up with the pack until we reach Little Falls NY next weekend.
Pictured above is Bill Cline of Haddonfield NJ who works as an architect on high-rise condominium projects in Philadelphia. Co-workers in his office have become interested in his ride and have begun fund raising for �Neighborhood Bike Works� � an initiative to engage at risk children in bicycle riding and encourage them to learn bike maintenance skills.
Bill cites three reasons why he chose to ride the Cross Country Challenge this year. First and foremost he relished the opportunity to spend all day, everyday riding across the country. From a professional perspective he welcomed the chance to break away from they day-to-day work routine and allow a period of creative rejuvenation. Lastly, he was interested to see how his body would respond to consecutive days of hard exercise. By all accounts he is doing well and having a blast. He is amazed at how 40 strangers have gotten together and have been so happy together. �Steve� he says �is the perfect roommate�
Bill�s wife Connie saw him off in San Francisco and will be there in New Hampshire when he dips his wheel in the Atlantic. While passing through Kansas Bill had the chance to meet up with his sister and her family part way through his cross-country campaign.
Roommate Steve was within earshot as today�s conversation unfolded, and was clearly looking out for Bill when he asked � Hey this is day 41�why are you only now interviewing William ?�
�He�s a really fast rider� came the answer. �Only now have I been able to catch up with him !�
posted 2008-07-14 | 20:06:57 | article number: 3
|Day 42: Saturday July 12th, 2008 - Wooster OH to Youngstown OH- 95 miles
|Out on the road individual days of the week tend to loose their identity. Today however it was Saturday morning and the group seemed to be a little quieter and a little more leisurely in the breakfast room; almost as though they were at home enjoying the start of a weekend. This all changed during luggage load as the daily routine was upended when the red pump could not be found. It is the current favorite and learning the nuances of another is not an easy thing to do at 6:30AM . Fortunately �Big Red� was found safe and secure before too long.
The Saturday Serenity continued as we began alternating between east bound and north bound stretches of road that passed by beef farms, dairy farms, freshly cut fields of sweet smelling hay, and lawns that were set up for Yard Sales that were due to open up at any moment. There were even a few houses set up with tents in the back yard, likely filled with children getting their first taste of camping out. John D has been riding with front and back fenders since San Francisco and the sound of pebbles jostling around inside them finally wore him down. As Gerard passed by John flagged him down to see if they could be removed; a couple of minutes later they were gone. John�s bike was quieter but by removing his fenders the riders who had seen what just happened decided that John would now be personally responsible for any rain between here and the coast.
Well turned out properties seemed to take over as the theme of the day as we made our way down Coal Bank Road. It seemed just about every house featured well-groomed gardens, ornamental statues, and stand-alone garages that paid as much attention to detail as the associated houses. Neighborhood pride was also on display as we rolled across the cobble stone streets of Canal Fulton as they were setting up the Canal-Fulton Days Parade. To stake-out a premium vantage point a lot of people set out lawn chairs and blankets hours ahead of time.
Our first SAG stop was at mile 38, outside of a building that was formerly home to TJ�s Bar & Grill. With the business closed the benches that used to be there were gone leaving no place to sit down. Andy and Gerard did not less this stop them. They simply rearranged a pile of cinder blocks and 2x8 boards and fashioned an impromptu lounge area. Riders who arrived before Deb had managed to pass through an area of construction without being re-routed, while those arriving after Deb had to take a short detour. Just as she started down the road in question a guy from the construction company arrived and drew two big gates across the road.
Following a brief rest the road became a little less populated and a little bit rough in places where patches from several years� worth of repair joined together. Those that passed through New Baltimore just before or after 12noon had the chance to stop in for homemade ice cream at the corner where Pontius Street crossed a highway to become Price Street. Moments before noon the parking lot filled-up with little league baseball players celebrating a victory. In between mouthfuls of ice cream they asked about who we were and where we were riding. When they learned we had ridden from San Francisco one kid announced �That�s what I wanna� do some day!� As the final cyclist rode off one player could be heard asking his coach �why do they wear such tight shorts?�
The second SAG of the day was located at mile 75, where the staff of the Ponderosa Park was kind enough to invite us to set up on the porch outside of their General Store. As the afternoon wore on the humidity had built up and the shade it offered was welcome. From this point the hotel was only 20 miles away and most riders felt confident they could coast in with ease on two full water bottles.
Eight miles out from the hotel we found ourselves on a newly paved bike path that was smooth, fast, and well marked. When the path ended the Best Western sign could be seen after a short 1.5-mile stretch into the wind along route 46. As Forest rode into Youngstown he was greeted by three of his co-workers who were at the side of the road with a large banner signed by an even larger group of colleagues that read �Ride Forest Ride.� Just before asking why they weren�t at work Forest realized that it was Saturday.
Also visiting in Youngstown were Amy�s Father and Stepmother who happened to be travelling through the area, as well as Charlie (a co-rider as far as Salt Lake City) and his wife Joyce. At Route Rap Charlie described how he had four flats during his very first ride after returning home to Cleveland. When he discovered a piece of wire left over from the western Interstate he knew he had solved the problem. Just before heading to dinner at Perkins, Richard announced that as of today the Cross Country Challenge Riders had accumulated 100,000 + feet of climbing!
Pictured above, waiting for a strawberry milkshake is Jos� Campos of Garden Grove CA - a retired teacher who spent 33years as a high school counselor after beginning his career teaching science and biology. He has been interested in sports his entire life with particular interests in tennis, boxing, skiing, and of course cycling.
In the five years since his retirement he has spent time volunteering with at risk children from Hispanic communities in California. Further away from home he has become involved with Mayan Indian communities in Guatemala where he contributes as a translator and counselor with medical teams in the field. The funds raised by Jos� on this ride will be used for medical supplies and to help finance wood burning stoves that are cleaner, safer, and more efficient than those currently in use.
Cycling is important to Jos�, but nowhere near as important as his family and extended family is. He is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of his wife, who will be on the New Hampshire Beach when the ride ends, and for the support he received from his son and two daughters. His daughters ride from time to time but his son is �very into� cycling. Between Gunnison and Garden City Jos� took a quick leave of absence to attend a niece�s wedding, and as soon as he arrives in New Hampshire he will be hopping on a plane to attend a nephew�s wedding in Mexico.
Hopefully Uncle Jos� will receive recognition for being the guest who travelled �the farthest and hardest� to be at the ceremony.
posted 2008-07-15 | 21:45:22 | article number: 4
|Day 43: Sunday July 13th, 2008 - Youngstown OH - Erie PA - 97 miles
|It was not raining at 6:30 this morning but with the ground wet from overnight precipitation, and the air heavy with humidity, even the strongest optimists admitted the odds of arriving in Erie without getting drenched were slim. The first few miles to the town of Niles � birthplace of President McKinley � went by quickly as most traffic lights had been put in to flashing amber mode. Passing by a bank on Main Street at 7:56AM the temperature read 77F. In less than an hour, after the deluge of rain had begun, the temperature had dropped to 61F and just about everyone was drenched, rain jacket or not.
The first SAG at mile 37 was outside of The Crossroads Family Restaurant. Notwithstanding our cold, wet, dripping appearance we were welcomed inside and enjoyed the heart-felt hospitality that accompanied the coffee, hot chocolate, bowls of soup, and early morning desserts. It seemed that everyone had a slightly different plan to deal with the driving rain. Some opted to press on immediately and not let themselves cool off, some decided to go inside for a moment or two to warm up and dry off, while others decided to sit down inside and not come out until the rain had stopped. Most had already left prior to 11:40, but by that time the rain had stopped and a hint of blue was visible below the clouds. By 12:20PM the sun was out and riders could see their shadow as the roads slowly dried off.
If there is such a thing as a good route for riding in the rain we had it after the first SAG today. We took a left shortly after the stop and found ourselves on a long stretch of straight out country road for the next 23 miles. With no turns to worry about riders could simply tuck their neck down into their shoulders and pedal as hard as they could. Marking the end of this stretch was a hard uphill right hand turn that turned us east on our way to the second SAG stop at mile 69.
This stop at �The White Turkey Drive � In� in Conneaut OH may just be the most memorable of the entire ride. The whole scene is right out of the 1950s. The centerpiece is an open air root beer stand complete with barstools, counter top juke boxes, polite young ladies taking orders, and a menu that included root beer on draft, ice cream floats, turkey sandwiches, fries, and burgers. Playing in the background were hits by Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and the Beach Boys. By this point in the day the sun was dazzlingly bright and the sky was intensely blue with only a few wisps of cloud. To be at the White Turkey under any other conditions would not do it justice. Dropping in for a surprise visit were Gene and Jane, a couple of 2007 alumnae who were passing through the area and stopped by to say hello.
One short mile further on we found ourselves being welcomed into The State of Pennsylvania. As though it was trying to out do Ohio�s claim on aviation, Pennsylvania noted its history � �Home of the Declaration of Independence and Home of the Constitution of the United States of America� on a sign that stood just inside the border.
The remaining twenty-five miles into Erie routed us along the Purple Heart Highway, a two-lane road that was not heavily travelled and which featured comfortably wide shoulders. Still under blue skies, and being nudged along by a tail wind, keen eyed riders were able to catch their first glimpse of Lake Erie at mile 85, just above the trees at Mason Farms� Pick Your Own Sour Cherry operation. Once we arrived at the Erie Airport we left the highway and started a gradual descent to the Avalon Hotel in the heart of downtown Erie.
Route Rap was held at the hotel immediately before dinner. At that time Michelle welcomed back Gary C who was rejoining the group for the balance of the ride, and extended a welcome to a friend of Alan�s from his 2002 ride who was joining us for dinner. Just before the first plate was served Andy drew attention to a cake reading �Happy Birthday Audrey� that someone had sent in honor of Audrey July 14th birthday. It was a large cake but by the time the room cleared out there were only a few crumbs left.
Pictured above is Jerry Griswold; although he wasn�t around for an interview his journal is located on line and he made it available to us. Jerry is retired, has been around for 65+ years and lives in Chico CA. Although he travels a lot he has lived there for 55 years and has yet to experience a place where he would prefer to reside. His first major trip was to Europe, without a bike, for 4 months in 1967.
Jerry started touring by bicycle in 1982 and it has become his passion. Although their are always challenges, the rewards earned by travelling a cyclist�s pace on less travelled roads far outweighs them. He makes detailed travel plans and departs on several trips each year. At last count he has traveled on 111 rides and has experienced many amazing sights and sounds as he has explored 56 countries. Altogether he has logged over 60,000 miles on his collection of bikes.
If he had ridden the length of the Cross Country Challenge in each of these countries, his odometers would combine to show a staggering 214,816 miles!
posted 2008-07-15 | 23:53:15 | article number: 5