Monday, October 31, 2016

192: Homeward bound

California, here I come!
I figured to use that phrase as a blog post heading one day during our last week on the tour.  The Simon and Garfunkel song has been running through my head for the last couple of weeks as I thought about the approaching end of our trip. So many amazing experiences, so much beautiful countryside, so much love from our families and friends. Yet I was ready to be home. I was looking forward to being back in my own space.

And now I am going home - earlier than we'd planned to be. And I find that I am already nostalgic for our days on the road. I'm not actually even home yet, and still I miss it.

We came into California too quickly to snap a photo of the state line, but we certainly enjoyed the sunset as we crossed the desert. But in the car, it's not the same. You can't smell the air or feel the breeze. 
California desert sunset

On our trip, we had lots of folks ask us about our journey. There were a couple of 'frequently asked questions' that I will address in the next couple of days. And, we are still planning to celebrate our return to Redlands this Saturday with our friends - we just won't be riding down the pass as we had expected.
Jeff and Roger check out the bike

So, if you've been following along, stay with us for a few more days while I wrap things up.  The adventure continues!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

191: Is the bike ok?

While we were riding through the desert today, I thought that I would title this blog post, 'The Final Countdown.' Because of course, we are just one week away from completing our trip and arriving back in Redlands.

But as you have probably guessed if you are a cyclist yourself, we had an incident today that may have brought an abrupt end to our adventure.   We had reached Kingman and were looking for someplace to have lunch, when we were rear-ended by a fellow in an SUV, who just didn't see us.

Roger says that he knew we were hit. I don't remember anything about it. I was lying on the side of the road with my leg draped over the bicycle and he was lying there to the side of me and I thought, 'how the hell did this happen? What are we doing here?'

The guy that hit us stayed to help, and a number of other people appeared out of nowhere. It was just a moment or two before I heard sirens and ambulances came up. The guy driving the car was ticketed for failing to control his speed and hitting us, which I think is fair. I don't think he was going very fast. The police officer told me that he said he was lost and looking for a road, and he just didn't see us until it was too late to stop.

I have some bruises and some scratches and I had to get some stitches in my leg behind my right knee where I think I probably got caught up in the pack somehow. Roger has no apparent injuries but was woozy and had very low blood pressure when he got to the ER so they wanted to keep him overnight to observe him. He is there now, over his protestations. I am in the hotel across the street.

We don't know how the bike fared. The police took it and have stored it at the station along with most of our stuff. We'll take a look at that in the morning. I do know that our brand new back wheel is all bent up. And Roger's saddle is bent over like a taco. I cannot imagine how that happened.

We are bummed about the accident, but thankful that our injuries are minor. We had just sent a final dispatch to the Daily Facts inviting everyone to join us next Saturday for our final leg into town, so we'll have to update that story and think of some other way to celebrate.

And now to bed. We'll figure out what to do about all this tomorrow.

That wheel doesn't look so good 

 Roger's saddle got bent somehow
 This crazy guy is Headicus Giganticus
The beautiful road we took today

Saturday, October 29, 2016

190: Don't fence me in!

We just went 37 miles today, about what we would go on a typical Tuesday or Thursday morning ride with our friends back home. It was a beautiful day. Roger said at one point, "this is almost perfect conditions for riding."  I asked him, "what is wrong with it?"  And he said, "nothing. I guess it is perfect"!

Before we finished our ride, we angled a bit further south, and the winds turned around a bit, so we did finish with a little bit of a headwind. But that was a minor complaint.

We enjoyed watching for some additional Burma Shave signs. I've included their rhymes below.
The sunlight on the train cars make a great pattern on the landscape

Other activities that we use to pass the time include counting the train cars as they go by. This is a very, very busy train corridor. We believe these trains are coming through the Cajon Pass, and then heading up toward Chicago or LA. It is not unusual to have two passing at the same time.

Sometimes we count the number of posts in a fence in a mile. That is how I learned that they are typically on a 16 foot center. Sometimes Roger will just tell me something like, 'Well, in that gear we pedal 400 times to go a mile.'   So that tells me what he's been doing for the past mile!
Descending to Peach Springs
And of course, there are always songs popping into my head. Today the wide open spaces brought one to mind: 'Don't Fence Me In.'

The day's report: Seligman to Peach Springs, 37.2 miles/9099 to date

And here's our route

Here's some of the Burma Shave signs we enjoyed today!

Slow down Pa
Sakes alive
Ma missed signs
Four and five

If daisies are
Your favorite flower
Keep pushing up
The miles per hour

 "Cattle crossing"
Means go slow
That old bull
Is some cow's beau

Thirty days
Has September 
April, June
And the offender

You can drive
A mile a minute
But there is no 
Future in it

Let me ride through the wide open country that I love . . . 

Written in 1934, with music by Cole Porter and lyrics by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in

Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze

And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle

Underneath the western skies
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences

And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in

Wide open skies

What should I wear today?

For a cycling tourist, the age-old question of "what should I wear today?" is pretty simple to answer: if you are on the bike, you wear what you brought to wear on the bike. If you are off the bike, you wear what you brought to wear off the bike! You don't have a lot of choices, because you only have a few things - there is precious little room to carry stuff. Hence, the real question comes when it's time to pack: "what will I take with me on a bike tour?"
The jerseys, socks and coolers we started with - and the cool little beanie that Roger lost at some point!

Ah, now - that is a question that many have asked. For the benefit of those of you who may be planning a trip yourself, or are just curious how we've managed to get along for six months with just a couple of "stuff sacks" of clothing, here's what we brought along.

I'll cover the clothing in two parts - the on-bike and off-bike attire. In yet another post ("Tour-tested and cyclist-approved"), I'll "name names" and give you the brands and items that we have really found to work well.

So here we go.  Here's what we wore, while on the bike:

On our journey, we've seen a fair number of folks who ride with a t-shirt, tank top or other clothing up top. One guy we met said he was just so uncomfortable in the humidity that he wore nothing at all! But both Roger and I prefer a plain ol' cycling jersey, for a couple of reasons. One, we love the pockets. I want my wallet and my glasses with me, and having the pockets makes this easy. With a t-shirt, you've got to carry them somewhere else, and that increases the odds of misplacing them. Two, the protection from the sun. Even with the jerseys, we have tanned across our backs. Wearing a tank top would NOT have worked for me; I need more sun protection than that, and I don't really like getting all gooey with sunscreen everywhere! Three, the jersey gives you options for ventilation or warmth with the zipper open or closed, as needed. Other shirt options are not quite as flexible and easy to manipulate while you ride. And lastly, they wash and dry out quickly. That has been very helpful any number of times.
Here's the arm and leg coolers (Kathy with cousin Jacque)

We wear bike shorts, with pads. In fact, for the past couple of weeks, as our miles and hours on the bike have increased, we've been wearing two pair. It aids in "comfort" on the saddle. I've seen one fellow in a pair of cut-off blue jeans, and I can't quite wrap my head around that option. But to each his own!

We use either leg and arm "coolers" or "warmers" - pull-on sleeves and leg covers that either provide shade from the sun (the coolers) or warmth (the warmers).  So, in pretty much every photo of us, you will see that we either have black or white arms and legs, and that's what you are looking at. The coolers have saved us several tubes of sunscreen, for certain. They also are great when it's really hot - we wet them down, and then they are just like standing in front of the air conditioner for a little while!  Because we have these extenders, if you will, we did not have long-sleeve jerseys or long-leg shorts, but we have been comfortable riding in climates from about 30 degrees to 90 degrees. (You're never really comfortable when it's hot and humid, but that's another story!)

We each have a lightweight wool layer for under the jersey if it's cold. Roger wears his less than I do, since he runs warm. These have been great! Mine is short sleeve; Roger's is long sleeve. They add the extra warmth you need if it's very cold or wet, and because we had them, we did not take any fleecy jerseys. We just wore the wool layer underneath if it was cold.
Roger's wearing the warmers, shell, and puff vest

We had a couple of pair of lightweight wool socks each, one heavy pair of wool socks (which we wore in the first month or so when it was cold and rainy), and a couple pair of light socks. I used silk sock liners for the summer riding, which worked great. They were cool, washed and dried quickly, and wore well.

We have ridden for years with bike shoes that have mountain bike soles and cleats (SPDs). They are easy to walk in, because of the platforms around the edges which protect the cleats (though mine are wearing down now!)  We gave some thought to getting the Keen shoes with cleats in them, but did not do so. As it turned out, I'm glad we didn't. It is great to get off the bike, and put on a different pair of shoes. If I had been wearing Keens on the bike, I either would have had to wear them all the time, or carry another pair anyway, and so what good would that do me?

I added a visor-cap under my helmet, to give me more shade - one of those things like tennis players use. It has been invaluable. Roger had a little skull-cap that protected his noggin, but left it behind at some point and since then, he's used one of our kerchiefs as a do-rag.

Of course we also wear helmets and padded cycling gloves.

In addition to the above "every day" wear, we have some stuff for cold or wet weather. We each have a pair of long-fingered warm gloves, a stocking cap, a puff vest, a windbreaker (our cycling club shells), and a waterproof jacket.  I also had a great headband for warmth without bulk.  Because our trip was so long, and we had weather ranging from deep-South summer swelter to Oregon sleeting rain, we have used all of this stuff at one time or another. (In fact, at one point, we used it all at the same time!)  If we had been able to accurately predict when we would need it, we could have shipped it to ourselves so we didn't have to carry it all the time. In fact, we did send some of the cold-weather stuff to my mom's house after we got out of the mountains. But weather doesn't really work that way. It can be pretty hard to predict what you will run into on any given day, particularly over a six month period, and when you are changing elevation frequently.
The super-dorky "helmet and visor" look I love!

Our inventory fluctuated as stuff wore out and we got new stuff, but here's the basic breakdown. We each started with 2 or 3 pair of shorts. We now have 4 pair each.

We had two jerseys, and then the mayor of Fort Worth gave us each one, so now we have three. Two worked fine for a long time; since the club jersey was wearing out, it's nice we got a new one.

We had a couple of pair of socks each, and had to get some more when we wore them out. I was surprised how fast our stuff wore out!

What to wear when you're not on the bike

Here's part two of "what did you pack for your trip?" focusing on the non-cycling apparel.

Again, we had the issue of packing for multiple seasons. It was spring when we left, but we were heading for the Sierras. We expected to cross the Cascades in June, and knew it could be cold at that elevation. (Although, as it turned out, there was a heat wave that week, and it was in the 90s in the mountains!)  No matter what route we took, we'd be spending August somewhere, and that was bound to be hot. And then, we figured we would not be home for at least six months, which would put us back into fall weather - particularly at the higher elevations.

So, we each packed a pair of pants, and a pair of shorts (mine were Capri pants.)  I had a tank top, a short sleeve top, and a long sleeve shirt (mostly for protection from the sun) that were comfortable for warm or hot weather. I also had a sundress, which was great on laundry day (the bra was built in.) For cool weather, I had a long-sleeve t-shirt and a wool blend shirt.  Roger had pretty much the same thing, in a guy-kind-of-way:  two shirts with collars and a t-shirt, plus his warm shirt.
Kathy's rain jacket, long and short-sleeve shirts, lounge pants, wool shirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, my sleeping tee and tank top. Sent home the skirt and the other t-shirt.

We each took a pair of those "lounge-y" pants and a t-shirt for sleeping in. They turned out to be great - we could wear them around the camp site if we were camping, and they were modest enough that we more than once went down the hall to the breakfast room to get coffee while wearing them.

I had three "accessories" with me: a single pair of earrings, and two scarves. One was just for color, and the other one (an oversize, super lightweight square) turned out to be great as a little shawl during the summer when I was wearing the tank top or sundress, and needed something on my shoulders indoors (because restaurants in the South are always freezing!)  From the photo, you can see that all my stuff "went together" - it was pretty much all in the same color palette. That worked well, as it allowed me to mix and match.
My sundress with the scarf/shawl and my cousins Vic and Nancy, Rita and Peyton

We each had a pair of Keen sandals. I love mine!

Along the way, we sometimes had people give us t-shirts, so we occasionally had a couple extra things to wear. And then we would send them home when we needed to lighten up the load.

Recognizing that I can go just about anywhere with this very limited wardrobe has been liberating. One of the things I want to do when I get home is go through my closet and get rid of a bunch of stuff!

Friday, October 28, 2016

189: Taking it easy

Beautiful, soft leaves look like flowers
If yesterday was a "hard day" - tough, the road crispy and fragmented, the traffic and trucks assaulting our hearing, the overall sense just a fight to get to Williams - then I would have to say today was "soft."  We didn't have that far to go today, and the ride, while not trivial, was so much nicer than yesterday!

Even though we had to start out on the freeway shoulder for a while, which was not so great, the shoulder was in much better condition than yesterday. There was even a guy in a pick up truck that was driving along the side of the highway, stopping now and then to pick up the chunks of the truck tire debris that litter the shoulder.  I was sorry that we got ahead of him before the descent!  It would have been great to be in the travel lanes for this descent, by the way. It was six miles of 6%, according to the downward facing truck sign. That was probably the first decent descent we've had since Montana, Roger was thinking - and we had to do it on the freeway shoulder!  Even so, by the time we finished the first hour of our ride, we'd gone 16.5 mph, which is about as fast as we ever go.
Starting the descent

From there, we got off the highway onto an old segment of Route 66 through the ranch country. The grasses and shrubs along the side of the road were all in beautiful fall colors. Not brilliant, bright reds, golds and oranges, like you might see in the eastern hardwoods, but softer, more muted versions of the fall palette. There were grasses in greys that almost seemed hazy blue, and straw-colored grasses, and rust-colored plants that almost seemed mauve. It was subtle, soft, and totally fabulous. I could not get enough of it.
Looking back to the mountains

Out in the country, as we were, it was quiet. We had the occasional car or truck pass us, but mostly it was quiet. In that environment, I could hear the crows cawing, watch a hawk circle above. Even the sunlight was soft today - a nice overcast sky kept the temperature great for riding.

Riding a bike, you see so much more than you do in a car. I don't think I could have seen the grasses, the birds, the blue carpet of juniper berries under all the trees if I had been traveling 60 miles an hour. Even the fact that we were off the highway was a blessing. It allowed us to see the old inns, and a surprise - on this segment of Route 66, someone has maintained or recreated Burma Shave signs!

We are slowing down just a bit for a few days. Having made the decision that we will attempt a ride-through on the long leg through the Mojave, we have an extra day in our schedule. We've decided to shorten one of our longer days on the way to Needles.  So tomorrow we only advance to Peach Springs.

The day's report:  Williams to Seligman, 41.8 miles/9062 to date

Here's our route, including that nice descent

Soft skies today

Thursday, October 27, 2016

188: 500 miles

You probably have heard the song, "500 Miles" (attributed to Hedy West), with its mournful refrain:

Lord, I'm one, Lord, I'm two, Lord, I'm three, Lord, I'm four
Lord, I'm five hundred miles from my home.
Five hundred miles, five hundred miles, five hundred miles, five hundred miles
Lord, I'm five hundred miles from my home.

Well, we've passed that milestone by now. We are somewhere within 500 miles of our home. Another milestone passed today:  9000 miles ridden!  So our 10,000 mile trip is going to end up being something more like "9,484 miles." Or round about that. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "10,000 miles around the country," but what's a girl gonna do?  Ride around in a circle to make up  the miles?  NOT!

We had a hard day. Roger is in bed already - he'll be asleep before I am finished typing this. He's worn out. I am worn out. It shouldn't have been that tough, but we had that bottle of wine last night, at altitude . . . maybe we were hung over! Or maybe it was riding for 60 miles, nearly all of it on the shoulder of Interstate 40, and a good bit of it uphill. At least we were not fighting the wind!

The highway shoulder has been, generally speaking, pretty decent. Aside from the fact that we keep picking up those tiny segments of the busted-up truck tires, it's usually a pretty good surface. Not so today. From Flagstaff on, it was totally crap - all busted up and filled with debris. I was worn out from the collateral effort of trying to help Roger avoid all this stuff. I cannot imagine how tired he must be. It's a stupendous job, keeping the bike upright, dodging the tire debris, avoiding the potholes and lateral cracks. We have another good portion on 40 tomorrow and I hope to heaven the road surface will be in better shape.
Flagstaff motor inn

Love the detail on the golden parts

So modern

On another note, though - the towns of Flagstaff and Williams still have some great old motels and inns along the original Route 66. There were so many in Flagstaff I could scarcely get them all. We had lunch at the Galaxy Diner, and great old place with movie star memorabilia all over the walls and delicious milkshakes. Seems like you just want to have a milkshake when you are riding down Route 66!
Galaxy Diner

And dinner was a delightful reunion with our friends from Redlands, Mike and Martha Lee. They have moved to Arizona, and drove up to visit with us in Williams. We had a good time catching up. And of course - there was pie!
Roger and me, Mike and Martha

By the way, Roger and I are not the only things around here that are worn out. My shoes are worn out, my little pouch for my phone is worn out, our leggings are busted up and losing their grip, we've gone through several pair of shorts each . . . I have patched and mended our toiletries kit, our jerseys, my socks . . . we are just hoping to have everything hang together until we reach home. For sure, we retire the RWBTC jerseys! They have had it! And the shoes - I am about to pull a "Vicki M" and get the duct tape out. I actually have used a small piece inside the toe to keep my little toe from sticking out.

Over our trip, we've reduced our carrying weight in a number of ways: use it up, wear it out, send it home, leave it behind, or give it away.  Just tonight we finally bit the bullet on our tent and sleeping gear. We have toyed with the idea of shipping it home many times. We always demurred, figuring that we'd run out of places where we could find a motel and we'd need to camp. But even in the past few days, when we have expected to camp somewhere, we've found an indoor option that was just a few dollars more. And that's what we did - we stayed indoors.
About to become open-toe sandals

My poor bag is wearing out

We were hanging on to it out of concern that we'd need to sleep in the desert during that long, 107 mile stretch that is coming up. But we were talking today while we were on the road, and found out that we had both independently come up with the idea of just making a run for it on that segment - sticking it out to do the entire bit in one day. And that means we don't really need to carry the tent and sleeping gear anymore. And that means we can lose a bit more weight from the bike, which will help us get through the long day.

So, we packed up some clothes that we hope we are done with, and we pulled out the tents, sleeping bags and pads, and asked Mike to carry them back to Redlands for us. They may beat us home!

The day's report:  Winona to Williams, 60.9 miles/9020 to date

The run down the highway

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

187: Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona

Fun Eagles-themed trivia in the backdrop painting - how many can you find?
I'll be no one else has ever used that title for a blog post before!  But it's unavoidable. We really were standing on a corner in Winslow. Not only A corner, but THE corner. At least that is what they have created for all of us. A very special corner, with a great big mural of the girl in the flat bed Ford, and all sorts of fun little treasures to find in the background of the painting.
It's just a prop! 

We had our picture taken, and watched as others did the same. The guys across the street were repairing their business - keeping it looking spiffy. The cafe/coffeeshop on the other corner was busy. Back down the road, one of the remaining inns on Route 66 had a sign: "Sleep on a corner in Winslow, Arizona"!  All this because of a song. It just goes to show - with the right promotion, these small towns off the beaten path can prosper again.

One group of tourists that we enjoyed visiting with was from Scotland. It had been one of their dreams to come to America and drive Route 66, and so the whole family came along. "How did they know about Route 66?" Roger asked. They've always known about it. I guess it's like we know about the Loch Ness monster! Some of the cultural touchstones of our land are broader than just us - they resonate around the world.

Back in Santa Rosa, we were having lunch in the town's historic Mexican restaurant when a large group of British tourists came in. They were on a bus tour of Route 66 - from Chicago to Santa Monica. The tour director, turns out, is from our part of the world - when he asked where we were from, he said, "oh, Redlands! Yeah, I know Redlands! Turns out this was Jim Conklin, who used to manage the Route 66 Rendezvous over in San Bernardino. Small world, once again!  Anyway, he runs the tour about eight times a year, primarily British guests. They take about two weeks to go the entire route, while we are taking three weeks or so to do the portion from Oklahoma City to home.  But that gives us more days to stay in the inns, to eat at the restaurants. If I had a great big wad of money, I think I'd try to figure out some way to capitalize on all the interest in this route and actually preserve and build up some of these small communities. Maybe there already is some sort of umbrella organization or initiative to do so. But in many places, it seems that it's all up to the local folks, and they just don't have the capital to make a go of it.
One of the iconic Route 66 lodging options

Which brings me to our lodgings for tonight: we are staying at the Twin Arrows Casino Resort just east of Flagstaff.  Wow. First class digs. This is probably the nicest room we've had on our trip. Many years ago, I did some consulting work for the Navajo Nation at their community college in Tsaile. I recall that at that time, the Navajo did not participate in any gaming. Well, that has changed, and they have really done an amazing job.  This place is full of fabulous art, there is a fine dining steakhouse downstairs (where we are going to have a scrumptious dinner soon!) and they have won the Triple A "Four Diamonds" award for the past three years. If you are traveling through the area, this one is worth a stay!
Floor tile detail

This is the floor of the elevator!

Tells the story of Navajo people

By the way - another set of flats today. We actually fixed one this morning before setting out (tiny little wire from the truck radials) and then one about 8 miles from the end of our ride (tiny little wire from the truck radials). Geesh! I guess we are just going to have to budget time for flats into the rest of our trip, as long as we are on the shoulder of the interstate.

The day's report:  Holbrook to Winona, 69.1 miles/ 8959 to date

Our route for today is here

Purple mountains' majesty - approaching Flagstaff

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Desert poetry

Sometimes while we are riding, my mind wanders . . . here's a selection of the places it went today.

Desert poetry
must be Haiku, don't you think?
Spare, elegant. Bright!

Cinder cones rise up,
little "ploops" from long ago
volcanic hiccups.

Cool, damp. Desert rain
has filled leaves with life today. 
Blessings fall from sky.

Little rain falls but
life abounds here anyway.
It's not desert-ed!

186: We may never pass this way again

Early morning rain
It was sprinkling when we went for breakfast, but it had stopped by the time we were rolling out, and the skies ahead were clearing.  The road had even dried up enough that we were not being bathed in the spray each time a truck went by. We had 22 miles of riding on the shoulder (and yes, we had another flat) before turning off the interstate into the painted desert and the Petrified Forest National Park.

What a delight that turned out to be! I was so pleased that we could spend a day riding through the park, stopping to view the incredible desert colors and petrified logs. This is a stop worth making if you are driving through Arizona on Interstate 40.  Roger and I were not able to spend the time to make some of the longer walks, but what we saw was spectacular. And they had recently paved the road, so it was great riding!
Taking advantage of that rare rain

While we were viewing the introductory movie, I was chatting with the woman seated next to me, who asked where we were headed. When I said "home to Redlands," she said, "I'm from Redlands"!  So here is another small world moment - her mother is the director of the nursery school program at our church - and has been for decades!  So if you are from Trinity Episcopal, let Bev know that Carol says, "hi" and will see her soon. Carol and her husband were planning an overnight in the park (doing some wilderness camping.)

The painted desert near the north end of the park
The old Painted Desert Inn, now a museum

Other-worldly landscape
Beautiful colors in the petrified wood
Turned out to be an unbelievably beautiful day
Huge big trees

The day's report:  Chambers to Holbrook, 71.6 miles/8890 to date

Our route today