Monday, August 25, 2008

Coast to Coast by the Numbers

3889 - total miles
125 - most miles in one day (Pueblo-Eads, CO)
36 - fewest miles in one day (Rico-Telluride, CO)
53 - days to get from San Francisco to Farmington, Connecticut
7 - rest days
1- day of rain
12 - states crossed
8 - nights in Utah, the longest time in one state
1 - night each in Illinois and New York, the shortest states

50.43 - miles per hour, the top speed recorded by a rider (clearly not Dan)
33 - miles per hour, the top speed recorded by a rider in Kansas

21 - flat tires
5 - tires replaced
3 - cracked helmets
1 - pedal broken

64 - ounces in the monster-sized milkshake, which was purchased numerous times
0 - times the purchase of a monster-sized milkshake was regretted later

12 - (AM), earliest wakeup time

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Final Ride!

This is it, everyone. Come join us for our final ride to Milford, CT. This Saturday, leaving UCHC at 10 AM. There will be a celebration after the ride at Archie Moore's Tavern in Milford. We'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

there's no place like home

After completing our last entry in Coudersport, we promptly gathered up our stuff by the computer and headed to Erway's for lunch. It was clear that Erway's would become our gathering place for the next several meals and our day off in Coudersport. We got to know most of the waitresses by first name - Christy and Sue - who were happy to serve us our outrageous orders. Sue was always trying to get us to order the larger size, add another side, or get the whole sub instead of half. She must be a major share holder of Erway industries. We usually didn't need much convincing. After lunch, we didn't do much at all. It was truly relaxing. After the long afternoon of being unproductive, we once again headed to Erway's for dinner and ate too much dessert per usual.
With the exception of the previously mentioned climbs into Coudersport, Pennsylvania had really not challenged us too much in terms of climbing. Western Penn had, therefore, left us feeling a bit like we were home free. The ride from Coudersport to Towanda, however, changed our minds as we truly started our climb through the Appalachians. Although not always long climbs, there were many ups and downs and some steep roads into and out of towns we passed through. The good news was that Alex's parents were driving in our direction to meet us. After a relatively uneventful morning, we stopped for lunch in the town of Mansfield. Russ and Dan did make a stop at a blueberry stand (obviously a stop was required). With much excitement, they reported that the lone blueberry stand sign stressed that payment was required. As it read: "God punishes STEELERS." Obviously we had ventured quite a ways since Pittsburgh.

You probably wouldn't guess it, but we stopped at an ice cream place for lunch. As we finished up and made our ice cream purchase, Alex's parents arrived in Mansfield and were happy to see us in good spirits. We were happy to rid ourselves of our gear and continue our ride without much weight on our bikes. It definitely makes a difference, and Alex's parents were amazed at the cheetah-like pace we were moving at through the mountainous terrain. Having driven our bike route in the morning on the way to see us, the Burns gave us the scouting report and warned us of the hills ahead. On the way to our destination, we must have been passed by the van about five times since Alex's parents liked to drive ahead and then wait on us, perhaps slowing us down in the process. They were just worried about our safety, and we much appreciated their concern.

A large climb into Towanda awaited us. After conquering the hill, we rode into Towanda to find Alex's parents waiting at the one and only motel. As we checked out the motel, we learned of a Comfort Inn only a couple of miles down the road. The Comfort Inn was willing to make us a better deal so we headed a couple of more miles down the road to bring our total to nearly 100 miles for that day. We ended up in the town of Wysox. On the ride to Wysox, Russ decided to stop in at another motel we happened to come across even though we had already secured a donated room at the Comfort Inn. When we arrived at the Comfort Inn, we had discovered that the owner and manager, Greg, was also the owner of the motel that Russ had visited on the way. Greg knew our every move and caught us in the act. It was fine, however, he was a very nice guy. In part due to his generosity, we decided to go eat at his restaurant Wildfire (at the other motel Russ previously visited). Before leaving for the restaurant, we almost lost Russ to some Swedes with whom he shared the sauna. The Burn family treated us to a nice dinner, and once again, we happened to run into Greg, the owner, at his own restaurant. Making of some PB and J and bed followed.

We awoke to thunder and lightning the next morning and were unsure about what to do in this particular situation. We hadn't really been exposed to the elements until then. We decided to sleep another half hour in hopes that the weather would pass. It turns out that the rain didn't stop, but the thunderstorms seemed to have passed.
After a steady rain for a couple of hours, the sky cleared and the day was getting better. The Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania are beautiful! They are a lot different than the Rockies - no snow-packed peaks - but they have some special unique qualities: green rolling hills and low-lying clouds. Let's just say that we stopped many times to take pictures. Our route followed a river for the first half of the day, which made for some pretty riding.

The next big decision of the day was where to stop for lunch. Our choices were limited as usual. When we reached Factoryville, there was no place to stop for lunch - even more surprising was the fact that there were no factories. The Burns scouted the next five miles of our route, and found a great place for lunch - a nice picnic table with trees and shade, at the golf course of Fleetville, Pa. Alex's mother Franziska had prepared a wonderful Swiss dish birchermuesli, a chilled yogurt-like preparation with fruits and oats. By this time, we knew of her wonderful cooking, as we had been filled up by her homemade pastries earlier in the day - so we chowed down. A very nice woman at the country club brought us cold iced tea, and her niece Abby offered us chocolate chip cookies, which were delicious.

The rest of our ride that day was pretty uneventful, with more climbing of course. We arrived in the town of Honesdale. Although we are quite fast cyclists by now, the Burns beat us to our destination once again.... gosh darn cars always win. Luckily for us Alex's parents arrived at the only hotel in Honesdale just in time to treat us to the last two available rooms. We got caught in one last rain storm before arriving to the town of Honesdale, but more importantly we found ourselves at a bar that had $1.50 hamburgers and $.35 wings, which meant dinner number 1 (not for DMo of course), consisting of 5 hamburgers and 30 wings for four of us. We knew it was time to leave when Russ started eating Alex's half eaten wing that fell on the floor. We rode to the hotel for a quick shower....well all of us but Russ who stopped at a food stand for 3 pierogies and a potato pancake (dinner number 2). After rinsing off the stink of riding in the rain, we piled into the Burn-mobile and headed to dinner number 3 at a Chinese restaurant. Dinner number 3 was not finished by Russ since once again his eyes were larger than his stomach.

After a quick breakfast we headed out, naively eager to cross into New York. We should have known by the hills and lack of state sign upon entering that New York would lead to nothing but trouble, but we still had a few hours before moving NY into the "least safe biking state" category. New York did have one thing going for is a beautiful state. We rode along the Delaware River which had spectacular views and we crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge with more great views. The only downside were the windy roads with no shoulders that made us nervous. Soon after crossing into NY Russ found a cute bakery where we overindulged in many delicious baked goods for a second breakfast. Then between second breakfast and lunch the unthinkable happened. An angry 60 year old man in his pick-up truck purposely ran Russ off the road hitting him in the process. Alex was a bit confused because he saw a sign with a picture of a bike and a car that read "SHARED ROAD." Clearly, there are some drivers out there who don't adhere to the full meaning on this sign. Full of adrenaline and rage Russ sped to Port Jervis to report the incident to the police. We decided to have lunch there and then push through to Harriman, NY which lies just west of the Bear Mountain Bridge. The wonderful Burns family scouted out the only hotel in Harriman for us, and then wished us well on our final day as they returned home to CT.

The morning started with a climb over Bear Mountain, and we accidentally found ourselves on the Palisades Parkway. We turned around and quickly exited once we realized our mistake. We dragged our bikes across the median, backtracked, and then got off using the exit ramp. We were not quick enough, however, as a New York Department of Transportation (DOT) man caught us and using his megaphone, despite the fact that we were now 2 feet in front of him, warned us that we are not allowed on the parkway. Rather than phrasing his rambling in a clear way, he kept on insisting that "You can't be on the parkway." This was pretty confusing and unclear to us because we were getting off of the Palisades Parkway to get onto the Bear Mountain Parkway. Now, it was clear to us that we shouldn't have been on the busy Palisades Parkway. However, the Bear Mountain Parkway is a back road with no cars at all and was definitely a road we could cycle on. After pulling up to DOT man's vehicle, Alex tried to decipher what the man meant. Did he mean we can't be on any parkway, did he mean we can't be on Bear Mountain Parkway, or is he trying to tell us not to be on the Palisades Parkway (this we already knew, hence, the reason we turned our bikes around and immediately got off at the next available exit). His answer to every question posed was, "you can't be on the parkway." Finally, we decided to just pretend like he had been extremely helpful and proceeded on the Bear Mountain Parkway (which we ARE allowed to be on). Let's just say this delightful man didn't help with the impression we got of NY state. Dan and Alex have since also installed a megaphone on their bikes in anticipation of further DOT disputes should we ever cross into NY again.

After some more beautiful riding - not on any more New York parkways - with plentiful shade, we arrived at the Connecticut border. Wow, were we excited - we did it! We were back to our home state, the place where things had all began. It was unbelievable.

Sarah and Jen led us expertly through the Connecticut roads to our lunch destination, Georgetown, CT - we stopped at a great jazz-themed pizzeria. Dan was happy to order pizza made with whole wheat crust. After another hour or so of riding, we had arrived at the Long Island Sound at the Westport beach - the coast! We were joined by Sarah's mother, Jen's mother, and Jen's aunt and uncle, who celebrated with us on the beach. We took tons of pictures, dipped our front tires in the water, and then, the boys took a plunge in the water to make sure it was real. It was indeed.

After a small celebration, and after Dan changed his front tire (he got a flat tire from wheeling his bike along the beach - that sand is brutal!) we got back on our bikes and road the 10 miles to Easton, Connecticut, home of Sarah Steenbergen. We had a wonderful party that night at the Steenbergen residence. All of the riders were joined by family and friends for an evening of food, lots of great stories, and smiles all around. Martina and Sabrina Burn (Alex's younger sisters) brought a full sized AAA map of the United States, with pins marking all of our stopping points along the U.S., marking our route across the country - it was certainly a sight to see. There was plenty of excellent food prepared by Mrs. Steenbergen - eggplant lasagna, baked ziti, salads, a chicken dish, bread - the list goes on, and Dr. Steenbergen was busy at the grill with the hot dogs, hamburgers, and a few veggie burgers for the Morris family. We also got interviewed by Laura, a reporter for the local Easton Courier weekly paper - so be sure to check out our quotes in an upcoming Courier article.

After another dinner where the riders stuffed themselves, it was time for dessert. A special toast was made to all of the riders. Then we cut the cake, which had a map of the United States printed on it, with bikers on the map along our route across the country. Very cool.
The next morning, we awoke later than usual for a great breakfast of eggs and fresh blueberry pancakes prepared by Jen's mom and Sarah's mom. We said goodbye to Jennifer and her mom, before they left for their drive back to Baltimore. Jen had to get home to prepare for her first day of medical school at the University of Maryland on Thursday - we wish her best wishes on the start of her first year. Alex, Sarah, Dan, and Russ were joined by Dr. Keat Sanford, Dean of Admissions at the UConn medical school, for a final bike ride from Easton back to Farmington.

We had great weather for the whole day. Dr. Sanford impressed all of the riders - every uphill he was the first person to the top! When we arrived in Farmington, and first caught sight of the UConn Health Center, we let out a huge cheer - perhaps we had never been so happy to see the health center. We joined Dr. Sanford and his wife in the student affairs office for a celebration with some champagne - Dr. Koeppen, Dean of the Medical School was there to greet us as well. We also received congratulations from Dr. Ardolino, our Dean of Student Affairs. He was particularly impressed with the two and a half beards that had been grown over the course of the summer.

The riders then rode around the health center to the main entrance for a photo-op and celebration with Carla Sgro, George Economos, Ed Malley, Dr. Biree Andemariam and others from Lea's Foundation. We appreciated all who came out to wish us congrats and greet us on our final ride. The riders continued riding, on to Murphy's across the street for a few celebratory drinks before we were taken out to dinner by Russ' parents. What a great last day.

Well, if you've made it this far down in this blog entry, you are most certainly one of our most devoted blog readers, and we have appreciated your comments, your support, and your encouragement throughout the summer. We hope you will continue to show your support for Lea's Foundation for Leukemia Research and the Coast to Coast ride, which will continue for years to come.

Make sure to keep checking the blog for the next few days, as we hope to publish some more summary posts with some final thoughts and memories from the trip.
We hope you will join us for our final celebratory bike ride, on Saturday, August 23! We will be riding from the UConn Health Center in Farmington, CT to Archie Moore's restaurant in Milford, CT. We will be assembling around 9 am at the health center, and there will be a party at Milford when we arrive. More details to come...

Monday, August 4, 2008


We can't believe it, but we entered Connecticut today! We are at Sarah's house in Easton tonight and we are coming home to Farmington tomorrow. We should be arriving at UCHC accompanied by Keat Sanford at around 4 PM! Can't wait to see everyone, and we will fill you in on our last five days.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

onward to pennsylvania

Dinner at Tony and Joan's wonderful home was delicious - we enjoyed tasty chicken kabobs, potato gratin, and salad with pie for dessert. We should note that Tony was surprised how much we could eat - he ended up firing up the grill a second time just to satisfy our appetites! We also enjoyed getting the extensive tour of Tony's slot car collection. For those young blog readers out there, slot cars are awesome - they are small race cars (a little bigger than the matchbox variety) that race around an electronic track at the push of a button. As we learned from our demo try, Russ may have found a new career in this sport.

Quick aside - a weight update. To correct an earlier reported post, we had an accurate weigh-in at Tony and Joan's residence.
Alex: 150 (down), DMo: 153 (down), Russ: 159 (up), Sarah and Jen: no change. (DH would be proud)

We left North Canton under a clear Monday morning sky ready for our last ride through Ohio. The group was excited to know that Dan's Uncle Marvin would be meeting us along the ride and assisting us by carrying our gear. The plan had been to meet at the intersection of route 5 and another smaller numbered road. This, however, turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Having been detoured from our original route and giving Uncle Marvin coordinates that didn't exist, it took us some time to find a common meeting place. Nevertheless, after Dan and Uncle Marvin exchanged multiple rounds of cellular communication, we finally found ourselves traveling down the same road. Jen and Russ were riding ahead and nearly missed Uncle Marvin in his blue Toyota Highlander. However, from the back of the pack, Alex and Dan spotted the bright, luminescent and orange Miami Dolphins attire from miles away. Uncle Marvin wanted to follow us along the way by driving behind us. After several miles on Route 5, however, it was made clear that we do not bike as fast as cars tend to travel. He quickly, and smartly, decided to meet us at our lunch destination.

We stopped to eat at Caesar's where we proceeded to order and finish an entire sheet of pizza (24 slices) with a side of PB and J. We found ourselves moving quickly without gear and, thus, had a relatively easy ride. Staying true to most days, we stopped for ice cream/shakes at a local establishment. This time Lickety Split was the lucky winner. A peanut butter bananaramma was ordered. Part of the group opted for a quick power nap instead. After ice cream, we climbed into Pennsylvania toward Cianci's Inn in Greenville. Finding the hotel was tricky because we had misunderstood Uncle Marvin and thought he had said Cialis Inn (this got a few laughs). Luckily for us, this was the only hotel in town. After a grocery stop at the famed Giant Eagle, we ate a nice dinner at the Stone Arch Family Restaurant. As if one ice cream stop for the day had not been enough, members of the group ordered pie for dessert and then walked all the way across the parking lot to Dairy Queen for dessert number two.

Tuesday was a great day - our first day riding for the whole day without gear. We departed Greenville with the ups and downs of the Alleghany Mountains ahead of us. Our lunch conference with Uncle Marvin took place at the Washington House, a wonderful establishment in the town of Fryburg (P.S. if you are interested in checking this town out, it is just past Venus on the map). If this was even possible, we out did ourselves again for lunch this time, ordering monster-sized burgers, entire pizza pies, and triple-stacked BLT's. The cook was so generous that she made us complementary appetizers to satisfy our hunger prior to the meal - deep fried squash and cauliflower that had been picked that morning (essentially defeating the purpose of eating a healthy vegetable).
Our ride to Marienville was fairly easy, except for the fact that our stomachs were stuffed full - why do we do this to ourselves every day? The answer alludes us, but this trend continues, day after day. Uncle Marvin had wisely selected the brand-new Microtel Inn in Marienville for us to stay the night, despite them having hung up on him 3 times the night before on the phone. Microtel offered us 2 rooms, an extra conference room to hold our bicycles, and continental breakfasts for all. The only alternative in town, the Bucktail Hotel, offered fewer amenities, and, when we checked it out later that evening, we noticed that there were no cars at all near the premises. Uncle Marvin comes through again.

After a few intense discussions of Civil War and WWII history with Marvin and the sleepy bikers, talk of dinner surfaced. While the girls opted to sleep, the men traveled to the local Italian restaurant, Betina's. Despite the recommendation by John at the hotel to sample the ice cream at a state favorite 40 miles away, we opted for the good stuff 1/4 mile down the road - and we of course notified the proper authorities that we were "taking some home" for Jen and Sarah.

On Wednesday morning, we left Marienville, but not after a photo-op with Uncle Marvin. It was great to spend time with him, and we are so appreciative of everything he did for us - we were truly spoiled for a few days. Now, it was onwards with our gear once again on our bikes. After a flat tire on Jen's bike and a couple of worthy uphills, we found ourselves stopped with another flat on Jen's bike (more to follow) in the center of a town. While the tire situation was being evaluated, Sarah, Alex and Dan headed to the local Pizzeria to find a restroom (it is much more difficult to tend to nature's calling in the middle of busy towns we have found). While taking care of business, we spoke with the owner of the Pizzeria and told her all about our trip. They would have offered to make us pizza had we been there longer or closer to lunch time. After declining the cookie we had been offered (we forget why we would ever decline food, but probably because we were too hungry to process this information correctly), we headed back outside to see how progress on the bike was going. Soon thereafter, the owner came out to us to offer some wraps (chicken, turkey, and vegetable) for the road. This time we certainly said yes. The group kept riding and was looking forward to the lunch break. The only other stop came when there was yet another flat on Jen's tire. This time it was decided that perhaps the ridiculously skinny tire on the back of the bike might need to be replaced as it was clearly not cut out to do the work it was being asked to do. Shame on you tire which is skinny.

Per usual, we stopped for lunch at a drive in (complete with selection of 24 ice cream flavors of course) in Smethport. After finishing wraps, PB and J, and several day old Tabouli (in questionable condition at best) we proceeded to order dairy products. On the way to the front window to order, we were stopped by some locals who questioned us about our trip. We had a pleasant conversation with Becky and Marcia who both generously made donations to Lea's. They warned us about the uphills to come and the rain that was expected. After thanking them, we finished our ice creams just as the rain began. It was just light at first but more was to follow. We headed out quickly to try to avoid the worst of what was to come. However, after only a few seconds, Alex needed to pull over in order to put on his rain jacket as it started pouring down heavily. Luckily for the group, the process of putting on the jacket took some time. On try number one, Alex left his Camelbak on making it hard to put on the jacket. Try number two and some real quick thinking took place immediately following try number one. This time the Camelbak was successfully removed and the Jacket put on just before actual soaking occurred. In the meantime, Dan waited patiently behind Alex in proper group formation and accumulated significant moisture on his forehead along with streams of water pouring down his sunglasses (he promptly thought about installing small windshield wipers, then opted not to since that would have taken additional time). As the commotion went on, this allowed Becky enough time to leave the drive in and pull up behind us. She got out of her car in the soaking rain only to slip Dan an additional donation for a hotel room that night. We thanked her yet again for her kindness and followed her down the road.

Although the hard rain only lasted for about fifteen minutes, it was enough to leave us drenched. Immediately following lunch, we had some pretty decent uphills to conquer before arriving at Coudersport. On the longest uphill since Colorado, we found ourselves amidst a procession of automobiles. First to pass us was a cop car, followed by an oversized load car. After that, we simply heard noise for about five minutes. All of us were wondering what might be trying to make its way up the hill (and why the heck was it traveling at roughly our speed?). Only DMo can answer this question. As the enormous truck carrying portions of a bridge eventually passed us, we were greeted by a long line of cars that had been stuck behind these two massive semis. Dan was happy to get many a thumbs up from passengers in those cars. At the top, a group bathroom break was established (luckily by that point the traffic had cleared up). It was notable that the bathroom lineup was in boy-girl-boy formation.

After the majority of the hills were conquered, we rode through Port Alleghany and were somewhat surprised to find ourselves in Buffalo Bills territory. We marched onward to our final stop that day in Coudersport. Still wet from the ride, we attempted to situate ourselves at the Westgate Inn. We were, however, denied a donated room and so went on to get groceries instead. At the store, a nice lady at the register called other hotels in the area to try to help us find a place to stay. She was finally able to negotiate a room at a reduced price. Before heading to the proposed hotel several miles down the road, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at the local Erway's Restaurant. As we were finishing our meals, we received a call from Dr. Keat Sanford, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. After informing Dr. Sanford of our situation, he generously informed us that he would be putting us up for the next two nights in Coudersport at the Westgate Inn (which we had just previously been rejected from). We were all ecstatic to hear the news as we sat in the restaurant and were even more surprised when a waitress came up to our table and asked if we were the group from Connecticut. Apparently, Dr. Sanford had asked the hotel when making reservations where a good place to eat was. They had suggested Erway's which we coincidentally happened to be sitting in already. The waitress proceeded to explain to us that Dr. Sanford was on the phone and in the process of setting up a tab for us to cover our food expenses throughout our stay in Coudersport. The waitress explained to us that she had to convince Dr. Sanford to lower the amount of money on the tab because she did not think that there was any possible way for us to run up a tab to that amount at their restaurant. Thank you Dr. Sanford, you have certainly made our stay in Coudersport as comfortable as possible. Not to mention, when we entered the suite at the Westgate Inn, we found a gigantic room with three beds, two tables, plenty of space to fit our bikes, a kitchenette, and premium cable television. Plus, it's Shark Week which makes the TV all the more essential. Again, thank you for your generosity and support Dr. Sanford.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Goodness Gracious

What does that expression even mean? Noun followed by adjective? Come on.

Regardless, we have been impressing ourselves with our own abilities. That's right. From Carmel, where we had a great time with Arjun and Sandy the dog (who only moved once the entire day, to eat our sandwiches), we rode onward towards Ohio, reaching the border in the early afternoon. We rolled on to Piqua just pushing us over 3,000 miles or ~5,000 kilometers and had a lovely stay at the Knight's Inn. And by lovely, we mean dirty and 9 hours too long.
We had heard that Ohio gets progressively hillier as you head east, so we decided to throw in some long miles on the west side since they may end up being our last flat days of the trip. 115 to Piqua was followed by 115 to Apple Valley (outside of Mont Vernon- home of Kenyon College). We ended up camping in Apple Valley, since it was the Knox County Fair, which filled up all the hotels in Mt. Vernon. We pitched our tents in the fading light of day, only to be abruptly rained on during dinner. Per usual we were in bed before dark and were sleeping soundly until the police woke us up at 10pm demanding our camping permits. (please note, this is the second time on the trip police have awoken us). Russ motioned to our neighbors stating that they were sleeping with the permits, which earned us a get out of jail free card.

The weather and drivers here in Ohio are definitively east coast. The temperature is cooler, and clouds roll through every day; there is noticeable humidity, but mild in comparison to the tropical rain forest we battled in Missouri. We love that, but the drivers on the other hand are terrible and bound to get worse. As is typical of east coasters, they pretend they cannot see us and come within inches of our handlebars, and on top of it, they don't slow down. The people here are also more guarded and not as eager to invite five stinky bikers into their homes for the night.

All of these rules are an exception tonight however in North Canton, Ohio, where we are graciously being hosted by Sarah's cousin once removed (now that's technical). Having cranked out 2 long days, today was only 80 miles giving us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery in Amish/Mennonite country of Holmes County, where to our dismay every bakery, produce stand, and dried meat shop was closed since today is Sunday. The riding however was shaded and spectacular! Note the extremely wide shoulder on Amish Country roads, presumably for the buggies!

Since there was little to snack upon in the early morning hours, we made a pit stop at a local Creamery, where everyone ordered ice cream. Russ and Dan decided to "super size me" with the monster size shake- why a styrofoam cup exists in this size is beyond comprehension...

Russ tried to figure out how so much volume can fit into the stomach, but left without an answer.

We finally rolled into Canton around 3:30, and if any of you know anything about Canton, OH, you know it is the home to the pro football hall of fame. Having lost Dan and Alex for 3 hours to such an enticing attraction, Russ, Jen, and Sarah headed instead to the alluring air conditioned home with hosts, food, and showers. Dan declares that this visit was certainly a capstone experience and that he will probably blow up that picture of him next to Dan Marino, so he can hang it on his wall back at 5S as a poster. (Please note Dan Marino was not actually present for the picture.)

Everyone is gathered around the dinner table, so it is time to eat (again). Only 7 days of riding remain. How the miles add up.....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moving Along Through the Midwest

We left off with you in St. Louis, Missouri, with a great stay with Daniel's brother Josh and his college buddies. For dinner on Sunday night, we took a trip down to the popular college hangout "the Loop" for an evening of Thai food and ice cream. We were joined by Jen's friend Marissa, who is a fourth-year medical student at St Louis University - thanks for the ice cream and the ride, Marissa!

Well, it was back to riding on Monday morning, and Jen helped us navigate the streets of St Louis, through the beautiful Forest Park (Dan got a flat tire here), north on the Shoreline bike trail on the banks of the Mississippi, and of course our historic crossing of the great river of North America via the Old Chain of Rocks bridge. It's amazing how vast and wide our country is west of the Mississippi - we know from experience...

Our ride through the state of Illinois was pretty, pretty, pretty good. We had bike trails for the first twenty miles, following the original Route 66. As the temperature rose and the humidity got worse, we started to get tired. But we pushed through to our destination for the day, Altamont, Illinois. When we arrived, we did our usual routine: supermarket, scout out for places to stay, and set up camp - but when we checked out the town park, we realized that the water spigots were not working and local neighbors were skeptical that we were allowed to camp for the night. Luckily, we met up with Mary-Jane at the local supermarket, and she insisted that we stay at her wonderful home just outside town. When we arrived, we met her husband Dave, cooled off in their outdoor pool, and cooked a wonderful meal with them - pasta, garlic bread, iced tea, and wonderful peach pie homemade by Mary-Jane. We had a great visit with them and we appreciated their warm welcome to the state of Illinois.

The next day we had our first cloudy day of the entire trip! We all were proud of Dan, who only reapplied the SPF 50 three times during the day. Under cooler skies, we breezed into Indiana, where a road sign was one of two welcomes we received.

The other welcome was not a warm one: Indiana roads are crap. We got jolted right into Terre Haute, which has the highest concentration of fast food joints in the entire world. Paradoxically, we climbed out of Terre Haute 15 more miles to Brazil.

We noted a sharp contrast between Indiana and the other states we had seen. In Indiana, lots of people yelled at us from their cars. We called the police and sheriff and were strictly verboten from camping within city limits. Over the past few weeks we have been steadily improving at searching out the generous people at supermarkets and even getting invited to camp in back yards. Unfortunately, people at the supermarket in Brazil were wary of us. The nicer shoppers asked us where we were going, but never considered helping us out. Most just avoided us. After seeing us at the supermarket, then again at the church, one family eventually found a family member to let us camp in their yard. Just to give you an idea of what we mean when we say they were "wary" of us, this nice woman let us camp in her yard, but we were told the dogs were "trained to kill" and were not invited into the locked house to use the bathrooms. Regardless, thank you for the use of your yard and garden hose, Marsha!

After that strange evening, we rode the remaining 60 miles into Indianapolis, continuing our "America's Worst Roads" tour over potholes and sunken railroad tracks right into downtown Indy. We were treated with cooler temperatures all day, which again was a trip first. After lunch in the park, we took the Monon bike trail 15 miles to Carmel, north of the city, to stay with Arjun, Alex' high school friend. Arjun has been a great host, and we were all excited to see how Alex spent his high school years, sitting in a semi circle in someone's driveway.
We are off to Ohio withing the next two days, then Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. We are all getting excited as we approach our destination, but we aren't quite ready to leave Carmel: Arjun's sister Priya has been bragging about getting her first tattoo since we arrived, but keeps putting it off when the time comes. We think she's all talk.

Some questions have been posed by our loyal readers, and the best will be answered right now.

  1. We did indeed go to Ted Drewe's frozen custard in St. Louis. After raising money and awareness for Lea's Foundation, our second goal is to try every ice cream place in the country. Today we tried Handel's Ice Cream, which has received numerous national accolades. We were all very impressed. We should note that we have been impressed by every ice cream place so far, though.
  2. We all help write every blog entry, and that is why we don't sign a name. If it's grammatically lacking, it's usually Alex' contribution. If it's boring but well-written, it's usually Jen's. If it is long-winded and documentary-like, it's probably Russ' or Dan's. If it doesn't make sense, it's probably Sarah's.
  3. Some of us have some knee pain, and most of us have issues with our rear ends. Dan has been wearing two pairs of bike shorts for the past two weeks.
  4. We are always tired. We ride a lot, and when we aren't riding, we are either sleeping or eating. There is no time for anything else. For instance, as I am typing this I am also eating. As soon as I hit submit, I'm going to bed.
We will try to answer all questions as they come.

Have a great one!