Riding4Research Day 69 Salt Mine Dunn > Morehead City, NC 132 miles

I have many, many people to thank for making this journey a reality. First and foremost I thank Dr. Jason Somarelli of the Duke Cancer Institute for being game for such a novel fundraising idea.  Jason did a ton of work to make this a reality to help generate funds for research to fight cancer at Duke University, a world class institution of research and learning.  I also thank members of his outreach team at Duke Cancer Institute…Erin Tate, Karen
Butler, and Jessica Hyland…for pulling off the mission of the R4R.

I want to thank the major donors and sponsors to the ride: Mill Whistle Brewing, owned and operated by Tom and Barb Bachman, The Sports Center in Morehead City, managed by Paul Gillikin, Breakthrough Physical Therapy in Morehead City, managed by Matt Ware, and Wells Family Dentistry in Morehead City.

I also wish to thank my supervisor of 15 years, Jeff Buckel.  He was very understanding of me taking this time to memorialize my mother in this fashion.  Jeff and his wife Christine were very generous in offsetting the costs of my big ride.  I am tremendously  grateful to both of them.  My Mom thought the world of Jeff and his family, and for good reason.

This ride was tougher than my previous rides.  In fact, it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  Why was is tougher than my previous cross-continental rides?  I think there may have been a bunch of reasons at play.  One is my age relative to other rides. Another is the length of this ride and the number of mountain miles, which surpassed the full length of some of my other tours.  Then there was the heat.  I went almost two months straight
where every daytime high temperature was 90 degrees-plus, across the full breadth of the continent. On some days I’d have to simply lie 50 feet off the roads on my camping mat, far enough away not to alarm motorists with the sight of a semi-passed out biker, but close enough to the road that the added toil of hauling my heavy bike off the road was not too bad.   Just anything
to get out of the saddle and get out of the sun on those oppressively  hot afternoons.   Dehydration from an aversion to drinking out of solar-heated plastic water bottles probably also added up in draining my energy.
And finally there is the fact that the novelty of crossing the continent by bike has worn off…I’ve ‘climbed that mountain’ before.

Which brings me to my message to the donors that supported the ride’s mission to research cures for cancer at the Duke Cancer Institute.  You gave this trip legs to stand on.  You gave me a reason to press on through very, very tough days across this great land of ours.  Of course I did this trip and to memorialize my Mother, who died of lung cancer.  Mom and Dad always
said a key to life is to surround oneself with good people.  Mom would be very proud of the people that donated to this cause and she would be honored to meet each and everyone of you.  Someday this disease will be defeated, and each of you will have helped towards that end.  As a small token of our appreciation of your generosity, Jason Somarelli and I look forward to sharing more information with you as the plans crystalize for a gathering of the donors to the ride.

Your generosity and my lifetime of preparation got me to the end.  My exercise, on average of one hour per day, 360 days per year, for 35 years, gave me the grit my muscles needed to see me through.  I had invaluable experience my brain had accumulated over these 3-plus decades on how to compartmentalize the range of pains and discomforts that are an inherent part of long distance bike riding.

After 5800 miles here’s how it ended.  Long gone were the Harley and truck drivers blowing by with their noise machines.  There were
no campground owners warning a seasoned outdoorsman about blood-thirsty grizzly bears.  The chip seal of the Alaska Highway and the heat of the Rockies were far behind.  There were no more disbelievers from the heartland that were shocked to learn that a guy riding solo at 10 miles per hour could make it diagonally from one corner of the continent to the other.

In the last miles, with utterly failing legs, I rode with the rich coastal sunset at my back down beautiful Emerald Isle on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.  There my friends Matt Ware and Lise Fondren found and safely escorted me all the way to Atlantic Beach Circle, where a group of my amazing friends and donors patiently awaited in the darkness of the autumn night.

That little vial of sand, the one I picked up on the beach in Anchorage on January 18th, seemingly a lifetime ago, was still in my back panier.  To me it represented a pledge to myself, no matter how mentally or physically tough the ride became, to bridge the gap across this continent
of ours, for the sake of defeating cancer, in my Mom’s memory.  So it was there, at Atlantic Beach, in the darkness and with the stormy surf at my feet, that I released my little symbolic vial of hope onto the sand.  The bike, the biker, and a little piece of the Earth had somehow bridged a gap of seemingly endless obstacles and uncertainties, to help defeat cancer.

And finally, of course, there was Quelly…Mom’s dog…and my
dog too.  After all this time of me being away from her, she fell into my forever-loving arms as the waves of my home ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, lapped rhythmically at our feet.

I am whole again.

Riding4Research Day 68 Arching 4 The Atlantic IV Mebane>Dunn, NC 81 miles

It was great to catch up with Jason Somarelli and Megan Dunphy-Daly this
morning on the Duke campus.  I waged a lot of little battles with my legs and the traffic since I saw them last, so it feels like a long time. Jason has done a ton of stuff behind the scenes to make the R4R successful.  I am forever grateful that Jason was game for teaming up on a novel fundraising idea to benefit top-notch research at the Duke Cancer Institute, in my Mom’s memory.

Jason, Meagan, their daughter Avery, and I got an awesome breakfast at Foster’s, a must stop for me anytime I am through Durham again.  It is the best breakfast I’ve had all trip!

Jason and Meagan put me onto the American Tobacco Trail, an awesome biking/pedestrian trail on the west side of the Triangle.  Here I saw more bikers in 2 hours than the rest of the R4R combined.  What a scenic and carefree path through the loblolly pines of the piedmont.

All carefree stretches of biking on North America are short lived (IMO) and end all too soon.  Soon enough I was onto busy roads, with some motorists not too happy they had to slow down for a biker.  I passed over US Hwy Number 1.  I needed to snap a shot, for it is this forever-busy road I grew up a few hundred yards from in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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The Triangle is an amazingly big and spread
out place, I took me 60 miles to cross it from the NW corner to the SW corner,
a distance across of the Phoenix metro area if I recall.   The traffic held on
long enough that I was once again grateful for a $300 GPS unit to route me
to safer roads late in the day.  How did I pedal 3 times across this continent
without it?!  I am still scratching my head at that one.

My legs have nothing left.  If I reach the Atlantic in another day it will be
on willpower alone.

Riding4Research Day 67 Hanging Rock State Park > Mebane, NC 101 miles

I am glad I did that climb uphill to Hanging Rock State Park campground in the dark.  It was steeper by daylight!  I am surprised I didn’t friction flat on the way down, I was braking that much!

The best stuff was in the morning.  Danbury is a really quaint town in the piedmont.  I had a really nice conversation with the owner of the coffee shop.  She lost two relatives to cancer.

I found some great secondary roads for biking in Stokes and Rockingham Counties…rolling, quiet, smooth roads.   But true to the journey, the good stuff just didn’t last long enough.  Soon I had to take some state roads that were narrow and busy, and with motorists that were driving very fast.  I detoured onto some quieter roads in the afternoon but soon enough got shunted into another busy state road.   With the trip winding down, it made me think about the best and worst of the trip….

Best roads:  Wyoming

Worst roads:  1. Montana 2. North Carolina 3. Virginia

Least trash:  Colorado

Most trash: Kentucky

Finest Day:  Big Hole River Valley, Montana: down hill, down wind along my new favorite trout river.

Toughest Day:  Day after my sickness, central Wyoming (not a close second)

Town I’d most like to pass through time and time again: tie: Anchorage, AK, Missoula, MT, Ennis, MT

Town I’d never like to see again: tie: Jeffrey City, WY

Toughest climb:  Lots to choose from…probably eastern KY on the TransAM route

Most harrowing moments of trip: Ohio River Bridge, IL>KY

Four letter cuss words for a bike tour: heat, hill, wind, truk

Nicest people I met: Texas 4000 students from UT.

State with the nicest folks: Nebraska (honorable mention Kansas)

Best coffee:  Black Coffee, Missoula, MT

Worst coffee: Lizzy’s Botique and Coffee, Red Cloud, NE; I watered the plants with it.

Finest climb: First time over the Continental Divide, Yukon…no traffic, incredible views.  Just the bike, the biker, and the hill.

In my next life, I will….pack obscenely light…no computer, no stove, no spare tire, no money-wasting foam (bear spray).

 

 

Riding4Research Day 66 Damascus, VA > Hanging Rock State Park, NC 106 miles

There were a crushing number of hills today.  I was able to finish one
of the tougher ones, at the base of Mt. Rogers, before the heat of the day
came on.

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Then it was onto Carolina!  I struck a familiar pose at the same state sign
some 8 years earlier.

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The joy of being back in my home state was short lived for now, as the traffic got pretty bad.  And it finally rained in earnest.  Coupled with narrow roads,
about 30 times today I drove into grass/yards/driveways to let motorists
and heavy trucks pass. One of the challenges of biking in a densely
populated state.

East of Mt. Airy, I thought the App climbs were largely done, having ascended
to 3000 feet (from 1000) a couple times today.  Wrong!  For some reason,
most publicly operated campgrounds are as far off the biker’s road of transit
as one can imagine.  Hanging Rock State Park’s campground was literally a
thousand foot elevation gain steep climb in the dark.  Wish I had known that
beforehand.  With no other campgrounds or hotels in the area, I would have
pitched my tent in a hayfield to save my legs!

Riding4Research Day 65 Breaks > Damascus, VA 84 miles

Today featured more very difficult climbs.  In the morning,
just after finishing the first tough one, I found myself in
Haysi, VA.  I had stopped to look at a used tool sale.  I had
a guy tell me rather matter of fact-ly that he hit a biker once.
That’s never something a bike tourer wants to hear.  Especially
when more narrow roads loom ahead on one’s route.

Somehow, for some reason, the human squalor disappeared the
farther east I got.  I’ve heard it referred to as, ‘peeing in
your own nest’ when your house is a junkyard and the roadside
is your dumping area.  So I was happy to gradually get out of
this zone of the Apps.

Late in the day I finally arrived in Damascus.  This is a really
nice small town in SW VA infused with tourist dollars from folks
hiking the AT and mountain biking the VA Creeper Trail. All the
outdoor businesses were closed when I got there.  I entered a general
store where a guy was giving away his day-old fast food.  He gave
me two pounds of potato wedges and cheese sticks, which later
became my dinner, along with assorted other finger foods.

As it was about 8 years earlier on one of my cross-continental
tours, I finished the day with some of the best riding of the whole
trip, ascending into the beautiful Mt. Rogers area, home to the
highest peak in the state, trout streams, trash-free roadsides, and
deep forests with a lot of wildlife.

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Riding4Research Day 64 Hazard, KY > Breaks, VA 85 miles

Another really tough day in the Apps.
I passed some serious mountains today, stuff steeper and more gritty than anything in the Rockies.  By ‘gritty’ I mean sheer drop offs off the side of the road, potholes, asphalt crumbling away.  Not a good place to bike at night.

I passed some real squalor today…whole cars in creeks, trash everywhere, a man yelling obscenities at me when he drove by, then shooting at his chickens half mile up the road when he stopped at his dilapidated trailer.  One lady I met shuddered at the thought of me biking in the area, due to, in her opinion, the major drug infestation and the unfriendly drivers.  I was in the roughest section, as luck would have it, at dusk.  But I made it through.

As is typical, I paid for a late start today.  Darkness caught me about 5 miles before the KY-VA border.  But at least the road was quiet for a while.  One hundred yards before the state border, in a parting state farewell, a large dog made for me in the pitch dark.  It startled me, I about toppled over on my bike.  And I startled it…with the road already moist from the dewfall, the dog skidded out in the middle of the asphalt then went running as fast as possible back to its house.   The adrenalin coursed through my veins!   Half an hour later I was in a campground in Breaks State Park, spelling my address letter by letter to the attendant there.  I thought to myself, ‘thank God for the education that I received!’

Riding4Research Day 63 Berea>Hazard, KY 51 miles

In my struggles across this state I have been trying to figure out
what kind of place Kentucky really is.  Take the natural beauty.
It is so pretty but trash litters every single road…lots of trash.

Is Kentucky good for biking?  On face value, most definitely, this has
been the physically most demanding stretch of my entire trip.  There
is no serious elevation in this state but the hills are relentless,
there is not a flat stretch anywhere.  If I was serious about bike racing,
this would be a good place to train.  But for biking road
quality, people drive at breakneck speeds on really narrow roads. This
creates a pretty tough situation for safety.  And I have seen zero bikes
here.

The other big thing, when one has high speed traffic, lots of traffic volume, and windy narrow
roads is dead animals…dead animals are everywhere.  In the summer heat
this creates quite the odor.  Couple that odor with the smell of poultry
and swine farms, it creates, for me anyway, this confused state of affairs where the scenery is good but
its not, where the riding you can get in a groove but you cannot fully.
Then there is the people element of Kentucky.  The rate of smoking is
through the roof.  People are quite friendly here but they seem to march
to the beat of a different drummer.  On one stretch yesterday I passed
three houses back-to-back-to-back right by the road.  On all there sat
people smoking, waving at me, and leisurely watching there snappy snarly dogs chase me.  Its as if they’re thinking, ‘this is the way the world turns around and I am perfectly OK with it.’

Someday I’ll have to come back to Kentucky and get off the road system.
Maybe that will give me a different perspective on the place!

Riding4Research Day 62 Loretto > Berea, KY 82 miles

When I was in the west I had kind of forgotten about Kentucky.  Mistake!   Hills, hills, hills.  Plus heat, trucks, and narrow roads.  Even with Jill taking my bike bags today I really struggled.  Back in Fort Collins my new made friend Nate did a really nice job of getting the shifting right.  This really helped today.  I would bomb as fast as possible downhill then rapidly shift all the way back to low gears going up the next hill, and repeat that process like 200 times today.

I’ve come to know that the last parts of these big journeys is the toughest part.  Last night I dreamed that I was in some deep view-less valley with no exit in sight.  The way home was blocked by hills.  I was in Kentucky.

Riding4Research Day 61 Fordsville > Loretto, KY 95 miles

A complete copy of Day 60.  I covered 90 miles of real backroads today.  The motorists on these narrow strips of pavement didn’t seem thrilled about slowing for me, but I am glad that they did.

What a paradox about biking here.  There are so many good roads for biking and the state is quite scenic, but there are zero bicyclists.  People still smoke in public places here and it looks like, generally speaking, exercise is not a real common thing in western Kentucky.  So I definitely felt like a one-man band, in my bike garb, moving through the scenic countryside on another way hot and humid day.

Jill and Quelly came out to visit me in this final phase of my journey.  Here is me and my mutt after 2 months apart, she hardly recognized me!…..

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Riding4Research Day 60 Shawneetown, IL > Fordsville, KY 112 miles

Late into Day 59 I spied the crossing over the Ohio River and I didn’t like what I saw…a steep bridge with no shoulder.  Last night, then, I stayed at a super dumpy campground that, while run down, was at least close to the bridge so I could get over it while the traffic was light.  Dumpy as in love songs blaring when I arrived, nobody to check in with, no place to take a shower (I blasted a cold faucet across me for 10 minutes), and five cases of full beer cans right on the only good spot to pitch a tent.   But I slept well!

And get an early start is exactly what I did.  As soon as the birds were chirping I was crossing the muddy Ohio into Kentucky.  A lollipop orange sun was just poking up as I got the top of the bridge, but a large dump truck scared me from stopping for a quick photo.  And by the afternoon of Day 60 it felt like a lifetime ago that I had made the crossing, for it was another hot day and the hills on my R4R returned in earnest.  Kentucky is a very very hilly place, no mountains in the western part of the state, but there sure are some steep rolls and on roads almost uniformly without shoulders.  I was vigilant to pick up the Adventure Cycling Association’s TransAm route ASAP into Kentucky, it this put me on some safe backroads that were lightly traveled.

This western part of Kentucky sure feels like a place that would partake in the moonshine production.   I rolled through countless hillsides with run down houses and trailers, many with ‘no trespassing’ signs, most with no signs of life on this hot and humid late summer’s day except for the occasional dog that made after me if it wasn’t tethered to a tree or behind a fence.    Finally late in the day I found somebody to talk to…it was actually the other person that initiated conversation, a very heavy set man that yelled out of an opening of a trailer (where a window once existed)…he asked where I was headed.  He was actually a really pleasant guy but I’ve never had somebody start a conversation with me from a gaping opening in their dwelling.   It made me wonder what he does when winter comes, as he looked very much at home without a shirt on, in 90 degree heat, talking to me from his home like a car driver might from the side of the road.

It was dark and dark can be when I finally found a really nice campground in Rough River Falls State Park.  The barred owls were calling all over the park when I arrived.  At this point in the trip not their calling, street lights, or people laughing over campfires nearby could keep me from deep sleep as soon as I crawled into my tiny tent.