Thursday, September 26, 2013

More about Virginia...

I just have to add this.

I had a family emergency right after this trip. This meant I was flying to Austria.
When I am stressed my attention span shrinks. So it happened that I got on the last bus that left from Washington DC to the airport with exactly $1.- in my pocket. Not making this bus would have meant a 20+ mile taxi ride. I got on not having the fare blushing at my predicament. The bus driver waved me on, I was floored.
The next day at the airport, I realized I still had a $60.- Leatherman knife from the trip on me. There is no post office at the airport, no service to mail things home and no time. I went to the information counter and offered the knife to one of the people as a gift. Mr. Cote took the knife, promising to mail it from home. I just got it, plus the change, which I told him to keep.
Virginia, you have a new fan.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Virginia, Generosity and The End

Day 62, September 1, Hindman to Elk Grove, 68 miles, 4700 feet ascent

Darin and I left at slightly different times, agreeing to meet at the end of the day. I think both of us very very used to riding alone at this point.
The good thing is that since I have entered the Appalachian mountains, the dog issue has largely disappeared. You get an occasional one, but almost all are either on chains or in kennels. Sometimes hard to see a large dog in a very small cage, but still better then on the road. As I said to a woman in Kentucky the issue with the dogs was culture, not money or logistics. She was not pleased.
The roads are very steep in parts. Dotted by really nice homes with some barley standing barracks. More than once I was thinking that a home is abandoned only to see a car or children toys later.
The people are much friendlier than Kentucky. I really like this part of the country.
This is coal country. Lots of trucks with it on the road. I spoke with several people I met about coal.
I stopped to rest in the afternoon, when a man stopped his car and asked me if I needed a place to stay for the night. He introduced himself as the major of the town and offered city hall for me to stay. I gratefully accepted and spent a comfortable night spread on the carpet and was able to use their little kitchen. It was great. Thank you Elk Grove.

Day 63, September 2, Elk Grove to Damascus, 87 miles, 9700 feet ascent

I left early to ride to the campground that Darin and I had agreed to meet at last night, worried that she may thing something happened to me. The campground was huge, and I did not see her.
A beautiful ride. Lush forests with some agriculture. I caught with Darin again. We rode together for a bit. I rode behind her, when I had another flat tire. It took 11 minutes to fix. By the time I got into the next town, I was surprised to find she did not wait. I did not see her again. Also got lost again.
It did not want to go that far, but could not find a good place to stay. I crossed the first of two mountain ranges that make up the Appalachians. It was beautiful. The main climb all in the afternoon shade.
When I arrived in town, some people helped me to a hostel. In this town, my route intersected the Appalachian Trail (2000 mile long hiking trail), which meant good options to stay and eat. I stopped at Subway first and wolfed down two foot long sandwiches, watched  by the employee with surprise.
The keeper of the hostel was a disarmingly honest man with a colorful history. I liked him quite a bit.
We talked for almost two hours. I had a single room and slept well. Maybe from the most climbing of this trip in one day.

Day 64, September 3, Damascus to Wytheville, 60 miles, 5400 feet ascent

I had dense fog for the first two hours, and it was cold. This was also the day Dietmar found out what it felt like to over eat. I had a big lunch in front of a grocery store.
A very big lunch. I also had bought 1/2 gallon of rice milk. I filled 1/3 into my water bottle and attempted to drink the rest. I was kind of hard to get it down. I did succeed, but at a cost. I found myself standing there with rice milk forming a standing column half way up my esophagus. Do not try this at home! I landed up walking gingerly through an adjoining lawn for 45 minutes, trying to dislodge air in my stomach. It worked. Even when I ate a whole fried chicken the week before did I not feel this full.
I did not manage to ride fast that afternoon.
I stayed in a motel that night, could not find any decent camping spot.

Day 65, September 4, to Wytheville to Catawba Mountain, 79 miles, 6200 feet ascent

I got very lost in an effort to secure good food. The town was Christiansburg. I landed up in Blacksburg, nearby. Part of the problem was that the maps I have give me little sense of surroundings, and there were mountains between me and the correct trail. I did not want to backtrack.
I had another flat, patched it, but I was out of water. So I did the unthinkable. I knocked on someones house to ask for water. Nobody was home and then I slipped on the stairs coming from the house.
The step was not wood as I thought, but plastic composite. It was like somebody pulled the rug.
I fell with my back onto a low concrete retaining wall. I got very lucky, just a painful scrape on my left arm. For the first time on this trip, my ego launched an attack on me: This is hard, people are stupid for having plastic steps, asking for help is dangerous and so on. This lasted a few minutes. I stepped in, and put an end to it. First I told my ego, I should have taken my shoes off, knowing how slippery my clip on shoes are, flat tires happen and I could had bought more tubes. If I needed water, go ask.
I rode to the next house, looking for an open garage. I walked up in my socks, did not slip, was invited in, got ice-cold water and directions. Case closed.
Being lost takes time. I ran out of daylight. The horse took time too. I saw him grazing about 100 feet inside this beautiful property. Something about this horse made me get off. I landed up being one of the most beautiful encounters with an animal in my life. I stood and called him. He ignored me, but I noticed, that he was grazing slowly in my direction. He never lifted his head. Ten long minutes later I was caressing his head. It is hard to communicate what connection I felt to this animal.
I continued with darkness approaching. The road linking me to the correct path was very steep. I rode it in total darkness with my headlight. It was densely wooded and quite serene.
Being on a roll knocking on strangers doors, I did just that again. I asked some owners if I could pitch my tent on their property, having no other options (heavy vegetation). I was invited to stay in their beautiful home. I have rarely in my life felt so comfortable in someone else's house. They were smart, balanced and generous souls. I easily had the best night sleep of this trip.

Day 66, September 5, Catawba Mountain to Lexington, 75 miles, 4800 feet ascent

I had another flat. I was out of new tubes, so I decided to patch all three I had. In order to find the leaks I had to run down to a creek, which lucky me was close. It still took two hours and six patches. During this a man passed me on a motorcycle with a side car. He turned and came back. We talked for an hour. He was a local judge and full of wisdom and grace. It is encounters like this, one of many, that makes this kind of travel so enriching to me.
I was resting along a beautiful creek, when a lady stopped and offered me her home for the night, after warning me about snakes where I was sitting. OK everybody, I just look trustworthy! For the only time on this trip, I declined, I had no way of getting food for dinner, she had none. Virginians have been incredibly generous to me, all the way.
I got lost in Lexington. I asked for a grocery store at a fire station. One of them guided me there. Really nice. I stuffed dinner into my trailer, and found a great spot behind a commercial building just out of town. I was dark by then. I saw something glittering in the grass. I was a big spider. The body was reflecting light with little sparkles. I do not know if it was water reflecting from the body which looked very rough.
Zip tent tight, go to sleep.

Day 67, September 6, Lexington to Rockfish Gap, 51 miles, 6500 feet ascent

 I woke up to lawnmowers buzzing by at 6:00 AM. When do those people sleep? Lucky for me, the stretch along the creek, they were mowing, was so long they did not come back for an hour.
I found a beautiful spider as I walked to the creek to answer nature's call. It had a yellow triangle on it's back. This being a photo moment I rushed back to my tent, without paying enough attention (for the first time in my life) and ran, well hmmm... right through said spider net. Yes it was head level.
I tore off my T-shirt and brushed my hair with my fingers....for a very long time. I do not mind insects, but this was too close. Way too close.
This was the day, when I crossed the second spine of the Appalachian mountains. It was 3.5 miles of some of the steepest climbing on this trip. Lowest gear out of saddle, going 2.5 miles per hour.
I had lunch in the tiny town of Vesuvius at the foot of the mountain, prior to the climb. A local farmer, chatted me up while I was reading my book, which is a big behavioral Faux Pa in Dietmar's world.
But he was nice. Outside he offered me a beer. I told him not before the climb, give it to me on top.
He did. I arrived panting at the top with him parked with an outstretched hand holding a beer. OK I drank two. We talked for a couple of hours, and I was able to ask him a question, that had been bugging me all trough Kentucky and Virginia. Why would somebody mow 1-3 acres of lawn. I was hesitant to bringing up the carbon footprint for fear of giving away my west coast credentials. He informed me that his neighbor mows 50 acres meaning that he is pretty much on the mower all sunny days. It is prestige, fear of snakes and the ever present, driving me nuts argument (worldwide), that this is tradition. Never mind there were no lawn mowers 100 years ago. In my new friend's defense, he thought it was silly too.
I had 2 more flats and a low front tire as I arrived in Rockfish Gap. I was starving but there was no real food in this hamlet. I ate some good pop corn and two hot dogs, I bought from a very friendly black couple. They owned the trailer with a thriving business. He gave me a discount, just nice people. It reminded me of how few African Americans I have seen in the last few month.
I stayed in the worst motel of the trip. The first one that with stained sheets, but I simply could not go on, in the dark with a front tire I had to pump every five minutes.

Day 68, September 7, Rockfish Gap to Charlottesville, 46 miles, 3400 feet ascent

I bought tubes, real thick ones. Since the store did not open until 10AM, I got a late start.
In the afternoon I was studying my map alongside the road, when a woman stopped and offered her  home to me for the night. (STOP all of you, I am just cute....?). She knew her husband had brought home strays before and would be OK with it. This was 20 miles before her hometown of Charlottesville. This would make it a short day, but I could not refuse. I experienced the by far greatest concentration of aggression towards me as a bicycle rider through town along this trip. I almost T-boned a kind of driver that causes a lot of problems in my hometown area as well. The other incidents, too much to write. Her husband who owns a bicycle store and rides 350 miles a week, told me it was not normal. Good reminder of how one visit to a place can give you the wrong impression. The couple was super nice and I felt at home right away. They and the last couple that invited me a few days ago, give me hope for what beautiful intimate relationships may be possible. Both live a very healthy life and my head is bowed  to their beauty.

Day 69, September 8, Charlottesville to Sherwood Forest, 146 miles, 8400 feet ascent

This was the day I chose to go as far as my body would take me. I made myself available to family and friends for about 2 hours by phone and stopped for lunch with some minor breaks in-between. Other than that, I rode, sunrise to midnight. Shall we agree I arrived tired?
It was surprised as to how much forest there was near the coast. I was was told by several sources, that virtually all forest in Virginia was second growth. The early settlers had clear cut just about everything. Many people (who are still grieved over their loss of freedom) were asked to remove their cattle from land, they did not own anyway, some were paid, in many of their opinions, too little. I am encouraged by the result. The epic battle between individual rights or greed and the common good (or bad) played out here and just about anywhere else in the world.
I found a pretty good spot to camp next to a field and slept decent.

Day 70, September 9, Sherwood Forest to Yorktown, 61 miles, 3300 feet ascent

My last day riding. It felt odd to have the end within grasp. I had anxiety creep in, which I beat back.
I got very lost in Williamsburg, the last town before Yorktown. And then I finished, after getting lost one mile before the end. It was 2PM. I was very proud.
After, I realized, that I had no real exit strategy. I mean I had a ticket home for the 14th, knowing I wanted to spent a few days adjusting, relaxing in Washington DC. I was not really fond of riding more that day. I did my trip. OK? I was smart enough to call a friend gifted in opportunistic thinking. It took him exactly one second to come up with a solution, no exaggeration. He said rent a car from Enterprise, because they will pick me up and then drive, one way. Said and done. They picked me and my equipment up and drove me to Newport News (what a funny name). Their system was not working, so they drove me free of charge back to Williamsburg, 20 miles. They were super nice. In Williamsburg, no train or bus would take me and my bicycle, at least that day. So I spent the night camped behind a church. Before I could leave in the morning the groundskeeper came.
I left out the back through somebody's driveway. I am assuming they were suprised seeing a guy on a bicycle and a trailer come OUT of their driveway at 7:00  in the morning.
I rode the 60 miles to Richmond, VA (not counted in milage total) and shipped my bicycle and trailer through a Bike store ($75.- +shipping). I left the store with two plastic bags of stuff, feeling utterly lost
without my bicycle. I walked 1.5 miles to the Greyhound station, buying a backpack on the way.
I arrived in Washington DC at 8:00PM. Life is good. This happened to be one of the better things I ever did. I am better for it.

Total miles: 3,985
Total ascent: 266,800 feet, or 51 miles

Your mileage will vary...

I have done my very best to be accurate with all I wrote. Logistics not being my talent I may have made mistakes. I doubt there were any big ones. I apologize for the ones did make.
On the other hand, driven by my temperament, as all of you are with your individual ones, what mattered always to me, was the meaning of this trip, not it's numbers.
I counted all miles ridden in a day, including miles to get food or to find my way back from wherever my legs took me while my brain was taking in my surroundings.
I still rather get lost, than to miss a spider or a cloud....
I used few things to enhance my performance. One cup of coffee in the morning. Three pain pills  during the whole ride and last, I think three energy drinks.
I sometimes used towns near where I stayed as begin or end point for the day, having no other reference point.

What this trip helped me understand better, taught me:

I am calmer.
I know more about this country that I ever had.
I find asking for help easier.
I learned how good I can be by myself.
Endorphins make me talk (even) more.
More people could do this than they think.
The human body is an awesome machine, if maintained properly.
I want to do it again, in 9 years.
I will loose 15 lb riding 3,985 miles on a bicycle.
This country has a huge infrastructure deficit.
I have really good friends.
It takes a lot of time to eat well, once out of home turf.
I am stunned by the amount of climbing I had to do.
I never met another person doing this who used a road bicycle (just touring ones)
My best guess is, that 250 people did this in 2013.

Biggest mistake(s) I made:

Not bring spare tires, or buy them when I could.
Leaving without spare tubes for trailer
Starting the trip with a bicycle seat, designed by the Marquis De Sad.

Best Equipment I brought:

Jetboil cooker
REI Folding chair
3 Inch thick sleeping mat
Quality head light

Most difficult moment of the trip

Watching the woman in the fruit and vegetable market in the process of braking her little girls spirit.

Scariest moment of the trip:

The time I was cut off by Idaho militia as I was fleeing the Mormon and Indian attack.

Best moment/time

Too many best moments to start. Best time was when my body was beaten down enough, after about three weeks, in order for my creative mind come come alive. (does this sound too new age?) Oh well.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dogs, Appalachia and Noisy Bread

Day 56, August 26, Utica to Madrid, 76 miles, 4600 feet ascent

My intestinal track is not happy, but on I ride, starting at about 11:00AM. Shortly after I start, a golden retriever, tried to....well retrieve me. Not as a friend. He came within 3 feet of me at full speed. I waited, aimed and hit him right between the eyes with my pepper spray. That dog learned two things that day: Bicyclists do not always good targets and this was not a good day for him. The additional favor he can not get, is that I may have saved him from being hit by a car and of course any driver would not get hurt.
Otherwise uneventful, all of it beautiful. I found a nice level ground behind a church and made camp.
One interesting event has been radio. I have only listened to (Internet) radio maybe two hours total. The station was NPR (know to the more conservative folks as "Radio Free Havana"). They had a series on farming in America. I was an awesome feeling to ride through some of the kind of fields they were talking about. Honorable mention: My shoulder. It has completely healed and I now ride pain free. Isn't the human body awesome?

Day 57, August 27, Madrid to Bardstown, 77 miles, 3700 feet ascent

A few more dogs chase me. I met up with a German guy, who said it well: Why would you let your dogs run onto sometimes very busy street if you love them? He found good words. He also told me about a great website They connect long distance bicycle riders with people willing to host them. I have signed up since.
Otherwise uneventful day. Still not feeling well. By the end of the day I was so finished, and so hot, I needed a motel. I just could not stay out. Felt good.
I must say Western Kentucky felt like a harder place than Missouri or Kansas, people have not been as open or friendly to me. Even the religious messages were more pointed. On one Baptist church the sign read:
Speak to be heard
Move to be seen
Shut up about your accomplishments

Day 58, August 28, Bardstown to Berea, 93 miles, 5900 feet ascent

 A few more dogs, one more sprayed. I was riding through tobacco fields. Never knew what they looked like. It is a natural plant, not all natural is good. I saw some trucks with the harvest of about 3000 pounds of the leaves on the back of a trailer. When they stopped, I asked them if they had a smoke. They said no....and did not think it was funny. I did.
I was so sick that I started looking for a motel at around fifty miles or so. Then I got very lost.
Changed course to a bigger town of more than 4000 people. There was no motel. At first I felt defeated. But all that know me, that never is more than a fleeting moment. First I decided to reward myself. I bought a large can of beer, not really knowing how that would affect my body, the state it was in or effect any more riding. Well it was like medicine, I do not understand why. Believe me, it was still not an easy ride, but I rode about 40 more miles, bought groceries. By the way I confirmed again, why you should not go to the store hungry. Here is a list of what I bought for dinner/breakfast:
1/2 Gallon of rice milk
2 Bananas
3 Plums
2 Avocados
4 lb Of oranges
1 lb Of sausage
1lb  Of bread
2 lb Of frozen vegetables
12 oz Box of blueberries
This was so big, I could not of it into my trailer. I rode one mile with those bags on my handle bars,wobbling like a drunk sailor. I found a city park, ate and....crashed
It was one of those rare times, I slept the sleep of an exhausted man.

Day 59, August 29, Berea to Booneville, 53 miles, 4200 feet ascent

I woke up to a headache. Having gluten sensitivity, and haven eaten a pound of bread for dinner, was of no help, I am certain. In my defense, it was the first loud (crunchy) bread I had seen since I left Carson City, Nevada. I had actually seen a few places before that sell baguette, but they were always out. It was the first day of the trip I took some Ibuprofen in order to ride. To be exact, three, during the day. I could not get going until 11:00AM.  I was entering the Appalachian mountains. The initial climb out of the city was very hard. It was really hot. I have never sweat so much in my life. The only way I could ride was with my bandanna over my forehead to stop sweat from from running into my eyes.The town had a nice setup behind a church, available to people like me. A sink, cool shower, benches and a roof. It was very comfortable. I was grateful and slept decent, almost 7 hours.

Day 60, August 30, Booneville to Hindman, 66 miles, 6400 feet ascent

I got going. Very nice weather. I had gotten lost more days than not, for the last 2 weeks. This day was no exception. I did not know exactly where I was and had been riding on one of the scariest roads of this trip, when I had another flat. The first one on my front tire. This tube held more than 3000 miles. Not bad. Lucky me, it happened next to a side road and I saw a cool, four feet long snake. A harmless black racer. I was able to videotape it sliding into it's den. Bad news, I was out of tubes, the old one had burst. I forgot to restock, dam logistics. A really nice guy picked me up, brought me to his brothers house, who used to own a bike shop, fed me grapes and gave me water. Just a sweet person. His brother who used to ride a lot locally, had crashed because of a dog before and get this, once because of a squirrel. It ran perpendicular into his front wheel, got stuck in the spokes and the turned into the fork, where.... it could not fit. I bought two tubes and started to install them. As I pulled out my tools from the little bad beneath my saddle, I found a hmmm, sigh, a tube. Embarrassed, I quickly zipped it shut.
I continued riding and landed up in Hindman as darkness fell. I knew there was a bicycle hostel. Even with help, it was very hard to find. Almost no signage. The road leading up to it had an astonishing     26% grade for the last 100 yards or so. It was the first time I pushed my bike up a hill, in my socks, so I can bend my toes for enough grip. I roused the unhappy owner of the hostel. He complained that I should have called, even though he knew that it was left off my map to do so, and thus I could not have known. He fed me dinner and I slept in a very large made, up for this, tent. I was the only guest, nice.

Day 61, August 31, Rest day

I landed up warming to David, my beautifully quirky host. We talked quite a bit. He had a snake phobia, while living amongst them. He was a good resource for some things. In 20 years of living on this property, surrounded by woods, he had seen 7 venomous snakes on his land. Killed them all.
He had been a teacher and an actor among other things and I enjoyed his wit and humor. He served beautiful dinners and breakfasts to all his guests. Late in the day, I was joined once more with Darin who arrived at the hostel. We were genuinely happy to see each other and exchanged stories. It was a nice and relaxing day.  

Dietmar's tidbits and other silly questions.

What is the third ingredient in Tropicana 100% juice after water and concentrated juice?
Natural Flavoring

What is natural flavoring?  (without Google please)
The answer is in the book "Fast Food Nation"

How many of you, are uncomfortable about how little we know about what we eat?

How many ingredients are in (at least the one I found) white, enriched, healthy, bread (counting white flour as one)?

Total miles so far:  3312 miles

Total ascent so far: 214.400 feet

Monday, August 26, 2013

Addictions, Humidity and the NSA

Day 48, August 18, Houston to Owls Bend, 59 miles, 4400 feet ascent

I  woke late, at about 8:00 AM, having found deep sleep only in the early morning. As stammered out of my tent, I saw a guy taking a picture of my tent. I pretended not to have seen and he approached me.
Kyle is 28 years young. At first I thought he had Aspergers Syndrome (DSM-5 eliminated it and now calls it Autism, which I think is a terrible mistake). Turns out, he was still drunk and had not slept all night. We talked for over two hours. A beautiful and tormented young man caught in the spiral of two self reinforcing addictions, sex and alcohol. He had driven 1.5 hours in the early morning hours to hook up with a woman, he met on line, only to be beaten to it by another man. This means to me, that there were probably 3 addicts involved. Kyle is a few month away from running out of money but can not stop. I gave him all the love and understanding I had at my disposal and a glimpse of another world. A world of satisfying sex, of his thirst squelched with ease. Of all the beauty within him and the world around him visible again.
He was open and humble. Kyle, I know you will read this. If you are ready now, great, if not when you are.: You can do it. You have my love and that of many people who have healed from addictions behind you.
Kyle reached out as we parted, by giving me his phone number. A hopeful sign. I will stay in touch.
After breaking camp, shopping for food, it was after noon when I left.
More steep climbs and beautiful land. I found a special place to camp, next to the Current River, below the bridge. I was very hot and was looking forward to a swim in the morning.

Day 49, August 19, Owl Bend to Farmington, 77 miles, 5200 feet ascent

I woke up to fog. Warm fog, but no sun. No swim for me. The river was a little scary anyway.
On the road I found a beautiful large turtle. I had been run over, broken shell, mangled parts. I tried to pick it up, because it was a road hazard. When I did, the turtle's head lifted up from the road. Turtle do not have vocal cords, but I heard it's silent scream of agony. It was mortally wounded, but alive.
I apologized, twice, found a rock and ended the suffering. I have only done this one time before, in my life, in the Kalahari desert in Africa, when I was 22 years old. Some things do not get easier with age. Further down the road, I swam in the Black River, in water so clean it was like it did not exist around you.
After riding for over 2600 miles with one flat tire, I had another one. I hit some very sharp rocks, that spilled from an unpaved driveway onto the shoulder-less road. They do not pave a little ways into unpaved roads as they do in California. There are rocks on the road in many places. You come up against these rocks and you have a choice between adorning a Mack truck's hood or riding through the them. I chose the later. My tube just burst. I fixed it, and had the exact same thing happen to the same tire 2 hours later. This time though, I was out of tubes.
No option, but to stick my sexy leg out and try my best smile. It was almost dark. 10 cars later, a lady around 50, stopped and picked me up. She first asked me if I was an ax murderer (she really did).
I told her I forgot my ax and loaded my stuff. We had 30 minutes before she dropped me off. She told me that she must be crazy for picking me up, since her job was to guard sex offenders in a halfway house and she just divorced her, addicted to porn, husband.  We were interrupted by an "automated prayer chain" phone call. She put the phone on her lap and continued talking. It reminded me of prayer flags or wheels in Tibet.
I heard the pain in her voice as she decried men. I chose not to defend us, or mention, that I just counseled a younger version of her ex. Nor did I point out the signs of addictions she displayed herself to the world. This was a time to listen.
She dropped me off near an old jail, the top part having been converted to a bicycle hostel. $20.- for a beautifully done space, and I was the only guest. I was able to write my last blog on the computer they provided. Kitchen, laundry, It was nice.
I had a lousy dinner, in the only open (at 8:30PM) place in down-town. Chinese, cheap and bad service.

Day 50, August 20,  Farmington  to  St. Mary,  49 miles, 2700 feet ascent

I woke up with a headache, presumably from too much MSG. I walked over a mile to a grocery store for breakfast ingredients. My breakfast is pretty much the same every day. Oats with whatever fruit I can buy, with a backup of freeze-dried fruit in my trailer. I had to wait until the bicycle store opened, buy three new tubes. Late start of a day again.
The rest of the day was uneventful until I came to a sign: "Road closed". No detour sign. It was the only road leading over a river. The bridge was being built new. I found the local gas station. Like in many small towns in the last 4 states, they serve as grocery store, with predictable results, and often as the only place serving prepared food, with the predictable results. Anyway, I found some locals. They spoke in a strange tongue, probably stemming from English. (I still do not know what a "siaaandwitch is"). They knew of a way around on a dirt road. A little later, I found myself pushing my bicycle, dutifully followed by my trailer, up this incredible steep road, in near darkness. Large pick-up trucks loaded with locals driving up and down the narrow road with embankments 20 feet high on both sides. I had to wear my bandanna over my mouth, to mitigate the dust.
Two miles later, I was back on the road, riding it downhill in darkness, my headlight illuminating so many insects, it looked like it was snowing. I found a pretty good spot to camp behind some grain silos and made camp. A full moon coming out, quite romantic.

Day 51, August 21, St. Mary, Missouri to Little Grassy Lake, Illinois, 81 miles, 4000 feet ascent

A short ride to the Mississippi River. The town on the other side is Chester and it lies in Illinois. The river was brown and big, the bridge scary. Old and decrepit with two lanes for traffic, then the railing , then the river. I moved to the middle of my lane and started peddling, with the motto: Better them late than me dead.
Chester, the birthplace of Popeye was ugly and confusing, I got lost for a while. Had a narrow miss with a big truck, who did not see me and wanted to make room for an oversize vehicle by moving to the right while stopped at a light. Guess who was between him (or her) and the curb. Innocent Dietmar.  Lightening reflexes by my muscular legs allowed this blog to be continued.
I stopped at a fruit and vegetable market and met sandbox guy's Filipino female equivalent. The whole time I was there, she gripped at her 3 year old girl, with a voice that could cut glass. What a great reminder, to not judge a book by it's cover. The mother was really look at.
For the record: I now share the opinion of the scientific community and the peoples of the East Coast, that high humidity reduces the bodies ability to cool....a lot. I was hot!
I got within 500 yards of a campground I found and had another flat tire, in front for the first time. I fixed the tire with one hand, the other was killing mosquitoes. The camp had a pay box and I lacked the $10.-, having only 20s. No place to get change and no staff. The place had a shower, very nice and I was alone. I left early in the morning, like a thief.

Day 52, August 22, Little Grassy Lake, Illinois to Marion, Kentucky, 96 miles, 7000 feet ascent

That was a long day. Up and down like all the 2 weeks before, just not as steep as the Ozarks.
I crossed the Ohio River by ferry, very cool. A man on the boat told me that Marion is: "A very nice town". This scared me because I had asked his wife to take a picture of me on the ferry, and she had to delegate to her husband who had to get out of the car and walk around. I was right about the town, very clean, nothing but fast food places to eat and in a "dry" county, no alcohol. Not that I drink much at all, its just that too much white picketfencing (I made that up) makes me uncomfortable. They had a beautiful gazebo in the town center, well lit, but you were not allowed into it after dark and loitering was forbidden. I was not sure when loitering began, so I moved.
I found the towns only motel and checked in after negotiating the price down. I do not do this ordinarily, but the guy had "Please haggle" tattooed on his forehead. The motel was empty, the room lousy. After I checked in the owner asked me a question, I had not been asked before in my life: Do you need hot water tonight? I digested the question and said: Yes. (It was still 85 degrees at 8:00PM, 97% humidity and I was wearing bicycle clothing). I did not like the guy.
Almost forgot. The last 10 miles before town, I rode in the dark. At one house, two big dogs came out and started chasing me. One on each side. I could not see them well. No time to pull out the pepper spray. They caught me off guard. I just hauled ass.  I had not been this scared since I was attacked by Mormon Cavalry, supported  by (American) Indian paratroopers who had landed behind my left flank. (I actually knew they were coming, but for security reasons, I can not tell you that it was the NSA (National Surveillance Agency) who had listened to their smoke signals)).

Day 53, August 23, Marion to Whitesville,  68 miles, 3300 feet ascent

Largely uneventful. I rode hard knowing Astrid would pick me up mid-afternoon. She did and we drove to Louisville for lack of any decent hotels. 

Day 54, 55August 24, 25

Rest  days. I landed up only sleeping 2 hours the second night. Did not feel very well.

Dietmar's Index and other tidbits.

Total miles so far: 2947 miles
Total ascent so far: 189,600 feet

Distance in miles it takes a Dietmar to figure out how to hook up his trailer correctly?

The secret is to not tighten the bracket that holds the trailer until the arm of the trailer is connected. This assures perfect alignment and I hate to admit this: No squeaking. I have been riding all this time with.....I can not even write it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Perfect weather, Roller Coasters and Ozarks

Day 41, August 11, Hutchinson to Newton, 50 miles, 1000 feet elevation gain

I got to the nearest town, Newton, at about 3:00PM. Several riders, I have met the day before, told me to positively stop by the Newton Bike Shop. The owner, James, puts up riders for free in his shop. You can use his computer, his little kitchen and he has mattresses. I passed the store, they are closed Sundays, you can guess what day it was. I figured it would have been to early anyway and I went to a store to buy food. I was about to leave when an Architect, who saw me riding earlier, chatted me up. A gentle soul. This delayed my exit by about 30 minutes. As I get ready, another man approaches. He introduces himself as an employee of above bicycle store and insists that I go there, adding, they would love to host me, the owner having arrived since. After this, I figured, I was meant to land up there. Good decision. James, high energy, with a beautiful family, all there. They were more than kind.
I stayed the night, in the company of another traveler, Darin, a mature 20 year old from Iowa, on the same route I was on. In fact we left almost the same time, and had been in close proximity the whole time. Now riding solo coast to coast as a 20 year old woman is admirable. Darin, you are a well balanced, curious woman. Not driven by fear, but careful. You are a shining star.
The air mattress I slept on was leaking air. I slept maybe 3 hours.

Day 42, August 12, Newton to Eureka, 82 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain

It rained in the morning, but stopped a couple of hours later.
The ride was typical eastern Kansas. Slow rolling hills, green, a slow place dotted with friendly people. The interesting thing is, that my map, which I love and has been very accurate, issued by Adventure Cycling Association, describes this part of Kansas as flat. I am puzzled by that. The land is tilted from (all approximate) 3400 feet to 800 feet, west to east. From Hutchinson, in the middle of the state, to the Missouri border the elevation gain (riding downhill) was about 2500 feet  per 100 miles of riding. Now how to they say it? "That ain't flat".
Early afternoon, I caught up with Darin, who left earlier than me. We rode together for the rest of the day. I was getting quite hot, then on cue, a thunderstorm passed us, drenching all. It did not last, and was perfect cooling off. Late in the day, I showed Darin where I typically spend my nights, she was no impressed. She mostly camped in city parks. We parted ways, probably not crossing paths again.
In the end, me and the local chapter of mosquitoes, found a decent spot to camp, off a closed road.

Day 43, August 13, Eureka to Walnut, 71 miles, 1900 feet elevation gain 

The weather was perfect, little wind, no rain.  Temperatures from 70-90, sweet. Partly cloudy, nice.
Most of the tiny towns I go through, look sad and decayed. I found out a reason for why there are so many decaying buildings even in otherwise well kept towns, (true at least in some). I love to read. I pick up local papers, and find the most interesting stories. In one I read, that many towns have restrictions on alterations of "historical" buildings. This makes renovating difficult and expensive.
So some people do nothing. In the misguided believe that all old is worth saving they have encouraged the existence of some very debilitated housing. Of course, there is the habit by many in rural America, to store old cars or equipment on their property, typically along the road for all to see.
Something I have never quite understood. With the exception of a few items, I find it ugly.
I saw one car with a tree growing out of the area that once held a motor. Another had three pick up trucks parked next to each other. You could see by the vegetation and model that every 10-15 years another truck gets parked.

Day 44, August 14, Walnut to Golden City, 86 miles, 2400 feet ascent

I crossed into Missouri that day. Land of the Ozarks! I thought the Ozarks where a tribe of the Amazon basin, named after an animal with white stripes. I am not admitting wrong, but it is actually one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world (that's why they are so low), rising up to 1600 feet.
This does not sound like much, until you ride it. I have heard people describe is at a roller coaster and I must say the description is apt. Many rivers have carved deep river valleys with steep climbs in and out of them. So you go up and down all day long. I had a lot of fun with it. The area is incredibly beautiful. Forests of Oak, American Elm,  Hickory and more. Many streams, with the cleanest water I have ever seen. Kansas rivers run brown with cow manure, one of the many unseen (by many) affects of raising cattle.
I overcame my reluctance to camp in public places and stayed at the city park. Part of my fear is always noise. I arrived and it was empty and beautiful. With benches, toilets and hold showers. I felt good. Unfortunately, there was also an open basketball court a 100 feet from me.
As I lay down at 9:30, kids arrived. There game was over at 11:30PM. I can not blame them, I was glad they are playing. Sleep? No.

Day 45, August 15, Golden City to Fair Grove, 70 miles, 4400 feet ascent

More of the same riding. I have found better ways of cooking healthy meals (hey I am from the West Coast). I am realizing that I shop the same way, I shop at home. This means I walk along of the inside perimeter of the stores walls, where all the fresh food is located. There is a reason for this (read Michael Pollan). I have ignored the frozen section, which holds a good variety of frozen vegetables which bought at noon are ready for dinner. Add parboiled brown rice (for ease of cooking on my small stove) and something else, great meal. And cheap. Talk about food. My appetite is still improving. I now eat 2-3 pounds of food at one sitting.
I was was on the side of the road eating when 2 people stopped, making sure I did not need help. One of them, a woman, gave me a water melon. I do not know how I did it, but I ate 7/8 of it within 2 hours. This is after I finished my lunch.
I stayed in the city park again. This time, no noise but also no bathrooms.

Day 46, August 16, Fair Grove to Houston, 80 miles, 4600 feet elevation gain

The ride was uneventful and beautiful. (Still Ozarking).  I have seen my first confederate flags and people talk funny. I have a dog chase me every hour or so. Most are harmless, the one's that are not recognize pepper spray....they really do. I pull it out (it is strapped to my bicycle, don't leave home without it) and there anger at me seems to dissipate.
At one turn, there was a gas station. I stopped to look at my map. Right next to me a guy rolls down his window, while his amply proportioned wife who wears shorts and T-shirt, but nothing else pumps gas. He told me I was going in the wrong direction. Now I am pretty good in figuring people out. He was pulling my leg, but was harmless. Next he told me to watch myself, because there are a lot of "Hillbillies" around here. I asked him in return if he was one of them. He broke out in a wide grin, showing off three missing teeth and said: "Yes". It was priceless. He was sitting in his very beat up car, with the above described wife, who never spoke, his pot belly touching the steering wheel, he wore a "wifebeater" shirt. All that was missing was the beer in the cup holder.....maybe I just did not see it. I laughed for the next mile of riding.
I had a motel booked for one night, found it and slept pretty good.

Day 47, August 17,  Rest day

 In the morning, I moved out of the motel. I did my laundry, including my sleeping bag, which had a lot of sunscreen and insect repellent on it. Bought food and found the city park. Located beautifully along a creek, and spent the day reading. I realize, again,  how sensitive I am to people screaming at their kids, for the smallest infractions. No difference between man and woman here. One guy was screaming "GET OUT OF THAT SAND NOOOOWWWW!)"at his 5 year who had run ahead and found the sand box. She did, right away. I had a strong urge to stick the guy's head into the sandbox, deep. Made camp and slept fairly well.
I know this is random, but I want to mention, how few fruit trees and or vegetable gardens I have seen so far.

Dietmar's Index and other tidbits..

Total miles so far: 2517 miles, passed half way point of about 3900 miles total.
Total ascent so far: 163,000 feet.

Most common road kill in Kansas, by far?

First "slave state" to vote, on their own, to abolish slavery?
Missouri, 1864

First country in the world in the world to abolish slavery?
Spain, 1569

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Earth, Wind and............Rain

Day 33, August 3, Westcliffe to Pueblo, 64 miles, 3400 feet ascent

Well, in Pueblo the section of my trip called "Western Express" ends. With it end the mountains until I reach the Appalachian mountains anyway. The terrain change is dramatic. It was a very hot ride, I arrived tired from a constant headwind.
The new section, which will get me to the end is called "Trans America", all by "Adventure Cycling Association". I follow their maps. A great organisation.
I was not expecting Pueblo to leave a lasting expression on me, but it did. I am a little torn as to how much any reader would be interested in me writing before they get bored. I welcome feedback. Based on that I may add more. In the meanwhile I have started recording my many thoughts on my smart phone.
I am experiencing an outburst of creativity while riding, quite unexpectedly so I must say. Maybe it is the result of the endorphin from riding.  Also empowering. I am getting much better overcoming my shyness with new situations. I am no longer waiting to see if people wave to me (as a test if they like me or mot), instead I wave whenever I feel like, nobody has failed to wave back yet. (Excluding traditional Mormon woman, who never look you in the eye). After 2 nights sleeping outside I am usually very dirty and I did not bring a comb. Nobody has cared yet.
When I arrived in Pueblo I tried to find clips for my shoes (that latch onto my petals) because I lost screws from the used ones I got 2 weeks ago. I arrived at the first store and was invited by the owner to stay at his house for the night. Good timing because 2 hours later a huge rainstorm passed through.
I agreed to rejoin the owner (forgot name) 2 hours later and left to buy groceries and have dinner.
At the grocery store, I saw a young man sitting on at table. I joined him and he asked me for a cigarette. I mentioned to me him that I do not smoke and then of course told him neither should he ....and why. In the ensuing conversation I found out, that he was kicked out of his home by his very drunk father, and had nowhere to go. He did not say, but I could tell he was hungry. I shared my grapefruit with him and then gave him $20.- in order for him to go into Safeway and buy dinner.
I asked him to please come back, since it really was my last $20.- It took him a little longer than I thought it should, but back he came, having bought the cheapest food he could find ($7.-) with receipt and chance in hand. I left him to his dinner and as I rode passed him he said: "You taught me a lesson tonight". I told him I was grateful for that. I do not know what the lesson was to him, no need.
I went to the bicycle store, where the owner made me wait 5 more hours, expected me to pay for dinner and then showed me an empty room to sleep in, no shower, no coffee in the morning.
A motel would have been cheaper and far more comfortable. I did feel used. If it was not for the torrential downpour, I would have left in the evening.
He had an employee who reminded me of myself at his age. Very sweet young man of course.

Day 34, August 4, Pueblo to Sugar City, 67 miles, 1600 feet ascent

I did not leave Pueblo until noon, spent the morning securing supplies. I had my first flat tire of this trip, on my bicycle. Was easy to fix. Due to the special liquid I had put into my tires, called "Slime" I have only added air to my tires once in 1600 miles and avoided most flats, great stuff.
Uneventful ride, quite dry landscape. Interestingly enough, a lot of oil wells. I did not know Kansas has oil.
I lugged my bicycle and trailer through a ravine and over railroad tracks towards a place to pitch my tent. By the way, my trailer and I have made up long ago. We are now "friends". It carries everything I need, and in return I pull it. I have yet to meet another person with a similar setup. All other, maybe 25 people, I have encountered doing a similar trip, have touring bicycles with panniers (bags) with which they carry their belongings. Most talk with you, some do not stop.
15-25 Miles per hour headwind all day. I slept on the side of the road.

Day 35, August 5, Sugar City to Sheridan Lake, 74 miles, 1100 feet ascent

I had lunch in a small town and sat next to a table with four grain silo inspectors, wearing their orange safety vests. One young and inquisitive, one cynical (I am sorry you are from California), and two quiet. I had a good conversation with the young one. The cynic remained silent after his initial comment. They left, the young man shaking my hand, sad to leave. After they left the waitress told me that one of the men who did not utter a word, paid for my lunch. I was genuinely touched.
Found another ditch, made camp and fell asleep to trucks rambling by. Thank you Ibuprofen PM!
15-25 Miles per hour headwind all day.

Day 36, August 6, Selkirk to Scott City, 52 miles, 1000 feet ascent

The day started beautiful, like so many mornings. Sitting with my instant coffee, taking in the landscape, smelling the dirt, birds chirping. After lunch, a strong wind started blowing, maybe 50-60 miles per hour. I rode 9 miles in 2 hours on flat ground. It was exhausting. My friend Kevin warned me about this, in a comment on this blog, before I left. I deleted the comment, because he was not in a good space when he wrote it. But man, he was right, the winds are tough.
I tried to shelter in an abandoned grain silo but doves had found it first. Doves do not wear diapers in Kansas. Off I went, finally just set up my tent on bare ground next to the road, fully exposed.
No shrub, no tree, no grass. I felt like I was in a glass house, truckers honking while I ate. I had no choice. I could not go on. After dark, the wind subsided. I slept better than I thought I would.

Day 37, August 7, Scott City to Alexander, 63 miles, 900 feet ascent

I chose to have a second breakfast at 10:00 AM, my appetite having returned. The only food available in many of these small towns, is located in gas station eateries. This one was a bar that served food and had just opened.
I have liked Kansas so far, the people have been very welcoming. I love the landscape, it's vastness. The food here though, like in much of the places on this trip so far, is unimaginative, and of poor nutritional value. Think hamburger and sandwiches in varied ways coupled with french fries and white bread. Fruits, vegetables are rare. I did hit an emotional low point when I watched a young family order a Sprite for their one year old baby. Nothing else, just Sprite. I had the special of the day, ground beef over french fries. I was hungry, OK?
On the other hand, it did propel me 63 miles that day. The only place I found to make camp was in 12-18" high grass. It was almost dark when I set up and I was a little freaked out, that I could not see what I was stepping on. I had to mat the grass down just to set up. A big thunderstorm hit right after I "tried" to sleep. In the morning everything was soaked. It was quite uncomfortable.
15-25 Miles per hour headwind all day.

Day 38, August 8, Alexander to Larned, 89 miles, 1000 feet ascent

A long day of riding against the wind. Nose to grindstone and pumping. I talked with a gentleman on a table next to me while having lunch. He looked like a worn out farmer. Instead he was a college educated motel owner. He majored in Spanish. He was a very sweet man. As I left, he gave me the most tender and longest handshake of my life, adding "God bless you". It is these moments that make a trip like this. He added, that there is more that unites us that there is that separates us (meaning coastal regions and conservative interior). A wise man. So much for my judgement of what people do for a living by gaging their appearance.
15-25 Miles per hour headwind all day.

Day 39, August 9, Larned to Hutchinson, 82 miles, 1300 feet ascent

This day was supposed to be my rest day but I did not want to spend it in a small town.
I left in pouring rain at 11:00 AM. I waited to see if it would stop. I got lost for the first time. It added a painful 11 miles to the day. It rained for about 45 miles. I had better days.
There was flooding everywhere. Every time I stopped mosquitoes the size of small chickens attacked in carefully orchestrated formations. I hit my leg once and killed 5 at the same time. That was a first for me. This was worse than the night when a group of Mormons attacked me on horses. You remember?  
10 Miles out of Hutchinson, I ran into (figure of speech (have you noticed I like putting words in brackets? (my friend Mike told me it is temperament specific(funny)))) two fellow road warriors coming the other way. Very good men. They were looking for an elusive dry spot to camp. Since I had a motel room booked, I offered to share, they accepted. I am glad they did. Open minded, curious, with a passion to make the world better with food and schools, to me these are the young men we need more of. To Zachary and John (your mom could have given you a more imaginative name though): Thanks.
I like beds, sheets, cushioning, running water.
15-25 Miles per hour headwind all day, except 20 miles when the road jogged.

Day 40, August 10

Day of rest. I like Hutchinson. They are trying to rebuild downtown, staying local. All the things I have lamented are missing in so much of this country. Go Kansas.
I have found three bookstores within 1 mile radius of the motel. Go Kansas.

Total distance so far: 2078 miles, passed half way point of about 3700 miles total.
Total ascent so far: 101,800 feet.

Dietmar's Index and other tidbits..

Name the town of the first documented public performance of an electrical guitar happened?
Wichita, Kansas

Guess the difference in height between the lowest and the highest of Colorado's 58 mountains over 14,000 feet.

Guess the weight Dietmar has lost so far on this trip.
How would I know, I do not have a scale!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Colorado, Mountains and Rain

Day 27, July 27, Blanding UT to Dolores CO, 85 miles, 5200 feet descent

Beautiful day, only in the 80s for the first time since I began. Most of the day was riding up and down little hills. I felt I like I was on an seesaw. I crossed into Colorado midway, the change in scenery and culture was immediate. I got into Dolores with rain clouds forming. The Motel was too expensive and the town laying in a narrow river valley had no place where I could pitch my tent in privacy.
Then of course they had a city park with some bushes. The guy in the motel said that the cops in town are pretty cool. They were, nobody bothered me. It rained for much of the night. It was uncomfortable though to come out of my tent in my underwear and realize that people are already walking on the trail 5 feet from my tent. I dove back in and waited for a better time.

Day 28, July 28, Dolores to Rico, 38 miles, 3000 feet ascent

As soon as I was done with breakfast (consumed on a park bench), it started pouring rain. After an hour of hovering under the roof of the park rest room, I was able to continue. It was all uphill, very beautiful.
Almost ran over a gorgeous brown snake by a few inches. The snake made it off the side. 
After 30 miles rain started again, I was about 7000 feet high and it got very cold. In the town of Rico about 8000 feet high I threw the proverbial towel and shivering checked into a Bed and Breakfast/Hostel.
I watched 2 episodes of "The Simpsons" at the towns only store with the store owner had a beer at the local bar and called it a day.
Finally figured out a good meal made from cans. Canned salmon stewed in canned tomato soup. It was actually good.

Day 29, July 29, Rico to Ridgway, 67 miles, 4600 feet ascent

The day started cold at 45 degrees and I left with all my clothe on. Went over Lizard Head pass, 10,222 feet.
Colorado is beautiful. 14k foot mountains all around. Zoomed down the other side, passed Telluride as in famous ski resort. I am finally finding stores with more selection. What a treat. I love civilization.
I am stopping often to take in the scenery. Unfortunately with the place comes a lot more traffic, this being peak summer season. Lots of trucks. It rained a few times, but not for long.
On nice thing about Colorado is , that for the first time since I began this trip, I was in comfortable temperature much of the time. 75-90F.
I found a pretty spot off the road, made camp and ate. A soon as I was in the tent, a thunderstorm rolled through, yes rain again. The incredible thing was that the same storm came back 2 hours later, pelting my tiny tent form the opposite side. It must have been driven back by the mountains and changing winds. Kind of incredible to me.

Day 30, July 30, Ridgway to Sapinero, 56 miles, 4700 feet ascent

I broke camp and walked my bicycle down the dirt road I had used the night before to get back to the main road. The ground was soggy from the rain and all four tires picked up lots of mud. On the side of the road there was gravel which soon ordained the mud over the tires. It looked funny. My brakes were a ball of mud. The next town had a self service car wash and yes you guessed it, I was the only bicycle in there. It was a odd scene. Funny.
Had to seek shelter from rain a few times, but it passed.
In the evening I was approaching Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado biggest body of water and surprisingly small. In fact I did not know how dry Colorado really is. It is a desert below 6-7k feet. Near the reservoir were a lot of homes so I tried to find a camping spot in the mountain before. No flat area, without which I can not sleep. I finally found a tiny space, right next to the (major) road and so small, my legs below my knees were already off the ground. Logging trucks going uphill are loud. My sleep was according. I was still at 8500 feet, so I wore all my clothe to sleep.

Day 31, July 31, Sapinero to Sargents, 63 miles, 2200 feet ascent

Had breakfast watched by (sometimes honking) RVs trucks and cars.
Outside of a town I passed, I saw a guy hitchhiking, complete with gang tattoos and walk. It was hot and I knew that there was only one place for water in the next 50 miles. He was carrying nothing. It caught my attention. I stopped and talked with him. He told me why he was out here, trying to get back home to Colorado Springs over 200 miles away. He met a woman on Facebook, who invited him over, even willing to pick him up. He checked into a motel with her. The next thing he remembered was waking up. Everything but his shoes pants and shirt gone. He was clearly drugged. As he told me the story, tears were rolling down his face. He was pretty humiliated. I gave him one of my water bottles, some food and $20.- I let him make a phone call..... and he called his mom, hanging up with "I love you" after reassuring her. The guy was real.
A gentle soul, born into a neighborhood he can not fit in. I made him promise to help the next person he sees in need. I believe he will do it. I hope he found a ride.
Near the end of the day, I was getting water from a creek and came face to face to the same kind of snake I almost killed a few days earlier. It was a Water Snake.
I rented a little cabin for the night, found no other choice.

Day 32, August 1, Sargents to Westcliffe, 80 miles, 5600 feet ascent

Between Sargents and Westcliffe, lies Monarch pass and the continental divide, rivers either flowing west or east. It was a steep 3000 foot climb to the top at 11,312 feet high. I have never been higher on a bicycle and I may never again be. It was exhilarating. It rained briefly in the afternoon. Beautiful ride along the Arkansas river valley. Checked into a motel for two nights, having a rest day following.
Spoke at length with the motel manager, a smart and open minded (this is very very conservative county) man. Aaron has a degree in medieval history and the conversation meandered beautifully along many topics. He helped me understand the area and its people better and he said that I influenced the topic of his next course he is teaching in San Diego State University. How beautiful is that. 
There are a great many people that I have met on this journey, that I can not or did not mention. It has been a great privilege to meet and learn from them.
Other than walking, I do not know of any other way on how to get such a sense of this beautiful country.

Dietmar's Index and other tidbits..

Percentage of all Harley Davidson motorcycles currently registered in the USA that have been within a two mile radius of wherever I have been in the last two month?

Percentage of  Harley Davidson motorcycles in the shop on average at any given time?

Amount of mountains over 14k feet in Colorado?
58 (this is true)

What does the word "cannoisseur" mean?
Its a new word meaning "the art of cooking with canned goods"

Total miles so far: 1,587
Total ascent so far: 91,500 feet

Day 32, August 2, Rest Day

Spent my day at the Motel talking with Tarla and Erin, the managers, people whose kind souls I will not forget. Did laundry at $10.- for soap, washing and drying. A stark reminder at the cost of poverty if you happen to be to poor to own a laundry set.
I read part of a conservative newspaper, for the second time on this trip, and was struck again by the meanness and the complete disregard for facts. In fact it scared me.
Also, I want to report, that my shoulder is improving, riding pretty much pain free for hours most days now!
Sleep is still difficult, but that is nothing new. Last week I could not fall asleep until 2 in the morning, but I managed 6 good hours last night. Fact is that I managing on what I have.
Life is good.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Burning Trees, Tires and Generous People

Day 23, July 23, Torrey to Hanksville, 54 miles, 1800 feet ascent

Stayed in hotel in Torrey. As I was leaving, I inspected my tires, because I had been noticing some pattern appearing in the middle of the rear tire. Turns out , they were threats, staring to show. OK, need new tire, very soon, maybe now. Would have been smart to inspect this sooner. Nearest bicycle store is a scant 256 miles away (really). No problem, FedEx it. Turns out they do not ship overnight everywhere. A lot less so, where nobody lives. Nearest Post Office (in travel direction) was 186 miles away in Blanding. 
After a few phone calls and back and forth, I decided to try my luck, aided by the smart move to switch the much better tire from the front to the rear. Off I went, now rather fearful to go more than 25 mph downhill, in case the tire blows. 
On this day, for the first time, somebody stopped next to me, while riding and offered me a cold bottle of water. French tourists never the less. I am now no longer in favor of bombing France.
I pitched my tent in the desert, just in time before it started raining....again. It was still very hot outside. The tent was like a sauna. I did not sleep much.

Day 24, July 24, Hanksville to Colorado River, 60 miles, 3200 feet ascent 

As I was leaving, I noticed, that I could no longer clip into my pedals. I had broken the piece of plastic on my shoe that clicks in. Not good. What was good, is that there is "Cycle Ride". They raise money for some cancer by having people ride across the country supported by a Mercedes Station Wagon with food and drink and stuff. I did not even see them. I was having lunch and they stopped to see if I was OK. I had the presence of mind to say: I am good, but do you have some spare clips for Look pedals. They did. $40.- Problem was the only ATM for the last 100 miles was broken when I rode money.
So the guy spends 45 minutes unscrewing his from his shoes and installs the new ones, giving me his used ones, which where fine. We did not have the right tools which is why it took so long. What sweet people.
I continued through a spectacular canyon and then reached the Colorado River. I knew that it would emotionally significant, but I can not tell you why. When I glimpsed the river, I started crying and right after, laughing. It was great. It felt like such an achievement. When I crossed the bridge I realized, that the river was far below. I needed to touch the water. So I climbed down and did. Almost got stuck in the muck, very scary. Had my dinner at the by now closed Ute National Recreation Area. Was grateful, that the bathrooms were open, my only chance at fresh water, Without I could not continue. 
The next town was 76 miles away, no water anywhere, and very hot. To reduce heat exhaustion on the 10% climb out of the river valley I rode the first 4 miles that evening, loaded down with 19 pounds of water.
I camped in the desert in an remote and stunning valley, with my tire still in place, to my surprise.
It was very windy and I was almost asleep, when I heard a gunshot. Now there is no hunting in the area. I could not see anybody. It did not help my sleep.

Day 25, July 25, Colorado River to Blanding, 72 miles, 6200 feet ascent

My biggest ride so far. I used up all my water 15 miles before town. Did not matter as you will read soon.
Beautiful countryside. The pass tops out at 7100 feet. As I neared the top, two different cars stopped to offer me water and talk to me. A young man riding the other direction joined me for a few miles so we could talk. It was so helpful.
As I got to the top, it started hailing and raining....again. Got very wet again. Then I started to see smoke a few miles away. Lightening had struck a tree, about 100 feet from the road. No flames, but lots of smoke. The tree was about 15 feet tall. I jumped off, grabbed both water bottles and doused the tree. I found a creek nearby and began running back and forth for about 1/2 hour sliding in the still falling rain. I thought I was done, the rain stopped, when I saw a flame shooting up higher on the tree. I climbed the tree and poured water from the top and that did it. I arrived in Blanding very tired, but with an intact though very worn tire. I stopped at the first gas station, rewarded myself with a big bag of potato chips and a big beer and then checked into a hotel for two days.

Day 26, July 26, Blanding

Day of rest, and fix my tire problem. I met a very open and friendly German family. They agreed to give me a ride to Moab, some 70 miles away where the nearest bicycle store was. They spent 20 minutes rearranging their car, so I could fit. They were extraordinary nice people, and I will stay in touch. Danke schön.
I found my tires, had lunch and got three rides to take me home, never waiting more than 10 minutes, all very friendly people. I must say, I greased the skids by bringing along my front wheel, so they knew I was broken down on my bicycle. It really was touched by how many people have helped me the last few days. I am grateful.

Total distance so far: 1,198 miles
Total ascent so far: 76,600 feet

Monday, July 22, 2013

Food, Drink and Humming Bird

Day 17, July 17, Milford to Cedar City, 56 miles, 2700 feet ascent

The greatest surprise to me so far, is how little appetite I have. I am probably consuming 3-5k calories but land up eating less than when I am at home. Food quality and choice have definitely something to do with it, but still. I know I have lost weight. As part of adding calories I thought of consuming more drinks with calories. So I guzzled 1.5 liter Sunny D before I left. I did not feel good that day, so much for drinks that contain no juice. When I arrived I drank 1.5 liter of soy milk. That worked better.
Anyway the ride was boring and I arrived very tired and hot. Time for a Motel. Had a horrible dinner and went to bed.
Let me add my second biggest surprise of the trip so far. I did not know how much I would dislike drinking water that is from lukewarm to so hot that every time I take a sip, I instinctively look for a teabag. 

Day 18, July 18, Cedar City to Lake Panguitch,  53 miles, 7000 feet ascent

I spent until noon getting supplies, this being the last town for about 450 miles of any significant size.
Proofed to be hard to find things. I bought a rain jacket (finally), a new book (needed), had my bicycle adjusted and got some food.
A hard climb up to 10500 feet. I found Cedar Point National Park on top, which was stunningly beautiful.
I could not stop looking and by I was ready to go down it was almost dark and getting cold fast. I put on all clothing I have with me and yes, my new rain jacket over all of it. I do have a head light and tail light.
Coming down the mountain 2000 feet was scary in the dark because the roads in Utah have horribly rough surfaces. I also remembered the story of someone I met a year ago who has twice in his life hit a deer, both time with broken bones (his). I kept looking left and right all the time and saw over a dozen deer. Their eyes light up white in the dark. At the bottom of the run, me going about 25 mph, with my hands on the brakes the whole time, 2 deer jumped out in front of me. I missed the second by maybe 5 feet. Being ready payed off.
Checked into a campground for the first time on this trip. It was pitch black, no moon, no street lights, hard to find anything.

Day 19, July 19, Lake Panguitch  to Bryce Canyon City 36 miles, 2700 feet ascent

The ride was uneventful and I stopped when I found a good campground for my day off.

Day 20, July 20

Day of rest.
You though, there would be nothing to report. Not so fast! In fact, I had the most amazing nature experience of my life.
I was sitting on my chair, reading a book. A humming bird came up to me. Flew directly towards my face, stopped 2 inches from me and then pecked my left cheek. 2 Million years of evolution kicked in, and I closed my eyes, not knowing what the little fellow would do next. What he did next was to fly above me and start piking my hair, like I was a flower. Maybe 4-5 times, and flew away.
You have do understand, that the hummingbird is my favorite animal. I will never forget those two minutes.

Day 21, July 21, Bryce Canyon City to the Escalante River and SR12, 75 miles, 3700 feet ascent

Beautiful ride, in incredible scenery. I arrived at the river at 7:00 PM, looking for a place to camp.
Turns out, the river is in a low, very narrow valley with vertical rock wall on the sides. All private property along the river. As I come to a bridge in my quest to find a camping spot, there stands a woman, who points some Indian ruins out to me. She told me, she was one of the property owners and that there is no where to camp. A few minutes later she offered her back yard to me. Five minutes after that, she invites me into her beautiful home, even though she had never done such thing before in her life. I will not post more about her property on a public blog, other that it is a few miles from the river and that it was beyond stunning.
Margy, you are a beautiful and graceful woman.  Your generosity will stay with me. Thank you.

Day 22, July 22, Escalante River to Torrey, 52 miles, 6500 feet ascent

Very steep at times. Climbed 1000 feet in a little over 2 miles to start. Saw some of the most stunning views of my life. Quite tired when I arrived. Am staying in Motel, so I can write this Blog. My tablet, which stopped charging a few weeks ago and is now with Astrid, should be fixed soon, making this easier.
Life is good. 

Total distance so far: 964
Total ascent so far: 62,200


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Professors, Snakes and The Church of Later Day Saints

Day 12, July 12, Eureka to 30 miles before Ely, 48 miles, 3200 feet ascent

A fairly uneventful ride. Hot, but beautiful scenery. Astrid came to meet me for one last weekend, since after this, driving would be too far, and of course the point was for me to be alone. Still enjoyed her support and company very much. She picked me up 30 miles outside of Ely and dropped me off again at the same spot after. I bought a new (bigger) bicycle saddle in town, and have been congratulated by my rear end every morning since. People here love big pick-up trucks. They really do, and guns. Have not seen a recreational bicyclist since I left.

Day 13, July 13

Day of rest Spent a comfortable day in Ely.

Day 14, July 14, 30 miles before Ely to 30 miles after Ely, 60 miles, 4200 ascent

Shortly after starting, I caught up with a professor of economics from UC Berkely, who is 68 years old and is on his way (and still is) to of course where else.....Chicago. Yes he was on a bicycle. Maybe 5'5 with legs that would make Arnold proud. The poor guy endured 3 hours of questions about the world and economic issues and was treated to some of Dietmar's theories. What was I supposed to do? He is friends with Micheal Pollan and Robert Reich. I want to be his friend so bad. He stayed behind in Ely as I continued.
He asked for my E-mail address, but did not offer his. I was crushed.
My trip was cut short by rain. This time I looked around and build my shelter before it started.
Yes that means I slept in the desert.

Day 15, July 15, Outside of Baker to 27 miles past Baker, 72 miles 3500 feet ascent

Ok, this one you have to read.
I got started by climbing a mountain. I am almost on top and it starts to rain. I seek shelter under a few trees. Within 10 minutes a certain professor comes up the mountain. By starting at 6:30 in the morning, he caught up with me. We agreed to ride together until Baker when our routes diverged. I was easier on him this time. The rain let up and on we went. I got rained on twice more that day, but not too heavy.
I miss the professor. By the way, his next day was 91 miles with lots of climbing. I wish him well.
I enter Utah!
Here comes the fun part. So I have been wondering, why I have not seen any snakes. I had noticed 3 fresh road kills that day and thought hmmm interesting. This being a hot day, I decided to rest one more time before making camp in the desert. Which means I am sitting on the ground for a few minutes. Always scanning the ground for "unfriendlies" (I made up that word). After I get back on the bike and ride 5 feet, I am startled, in fact almost fell of my bike, by a hiss and a rattle, 18 inches from my right foot. Yes it was. Only 15" long and already in retreat. I stopped but could not find her anymore. On we go for about 10 feet when I notice daddy, a fully grown Big Basin Rattler, laying parallel to the street again 18" from my foot. Now daddy did not move until I got off to take pictures. He was not pleased with my decision. I stayed three striking distances away.
Now remember I sat 15 feet from these guys....I am still thinking about that.
Alright, enough excitement for the day. I created a distance of about 5 miles between me and my new friends. How fast do snakes travel? I though about that...really. I stopped on a bald swath of earth as to give nobody a chance to hide. I build a safe house (formally known as tent) with one eye to the ground, the whole time. I ate my dinner the same way and rushed in. Safe at last.
It is now dark, and my eyes, which is typical for me when I try to sleep, are closed. All of a sudden I see a flash of light. I open my eyes, look outside, keeping my head above striking height of snakes, nothing.
This repeats itself a dozen times and I am a little freaked out by now. I have to add, there are clear skies above me. I finally calm my mind, which tried to tell me the Mormons have found out a non believer has entered their state and are coming with pitch forks and yes FLASHLIGHTS.
It is now 11:00 PM and I am tired. You have to understand, that the nearest settlement (200 people) is 27 miles away. I am in nowhere. Back to me almost sleeping. I close my eyes and hear freaking foot steps. Very loud, right next to my tent. We are talking 10 feet maybe. OK, I am now really freaked out. I am in my tent, which means I can not see out. Next thing I did, was to take my knife out. I WILL GO DOWN FIGHTING! The steps are all around me. Thank heavens, in the end, one of the wild horses that came to graze on the grass that lines the road makes the sound only horses make.
I carefully unzipped my tent and looked out.
I see their shadows all around me. At that same time the light finally gave up it's secret. There was a thunderstorm on Mount Wheeler, Nevada's highest mountain 60 miles away.
I went from freak to awe in one second. The horses stayed for an hour.
It is a night, I will not forget.

Day 16, July 16, 27 miles past Baker to Milford, 55 miles, 3400 feet ascent

I am almost to the top of my last of three passes, when rain catches me again, really good. I am soaked and cold. I finally shelter under a big tree and wait it out. Half an hour later I change into my only other dry shirt, since the rest of the ride is a 1200 foot descent and it would be very cold when wet. I ride 10 minutes and it rains again, a lot. So wet I rode. One beautiful thing  happened. As I came flying down the mountain, chased by my trailer, three desert foxes tried to cross the road. I rode right into the middle of them. One went right, two went left. I stopped and watched them look for each other. They where gorgeous.
I came into Milford, wet and exhausted, in part from not sleeping much the night before, and found a nice hotel with hot tub. Life is good. My odometer stopped working from the rain.
I just corrected this blog....and some of my spelling mistakes, OK, this is not my talent. My odometer started working again and all data, except yesterdays is there. I corrected the mileage and ascents. It is a good reminder how inaccurate our memories are. I had underestimated one ascent bu 2000 feet. I guess part of is my strong need to not oversell what I do.
I will try to add pictures soon. Did not work when I tried it at home. Definitely not my talent.
Of to Cedar City Utah.

Dietmar's Index:

Road kills seen since I left in descending order of quantity:

Rabbits (remember the saying: Why did the rabbit cross the road?)
Birds (really)

UC professors on bicycles per 1000 miles so far

Lessons learned:

Mormons do not own flashlights
Desert foxes are incredibly graceful runners
There are wild horses in Utah/Nevada

Total distance so far: 692
Total ascent so far: 39,600

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Airplanes and Frostnip

Day 9, Fallon to Middle Station, 55 miles, 1300 feet accent

Hot and dry. Met several people crossing the country the other direction. Jonah, on foot from Vermont I think, who sang me a song, which earned him a hug. Lucky man, did not ask me to sing. Beautiful young man. Three other cyclist followed, Mercedes a smart future Chemist and others, all 30 years younger. They warned me of rattle snakes near Eureka, two of which paid their respects late in the evening in their campsite. I slept in the desert that night and promptly dreamed of a snake in my tent.....thanks guys. Found a good place to camp off the road.

Day 10, Middle Station to Austin, 60 miles, 4100 feet accent

Rode an alternative route on beautiful Highway 722. I stopped and listened to birds in a deep creek bed as a Navy Jet flew a few hundred feet above and greeted me by dipping his (her) wings.....very cool indeed. Made it to Austin after a grueling climb into the city. I suggested for the town to be moved to lower ground, they thought I was kidding.
Slept in a Motel. Town population: 196

Day 11, Austin to Eureka, 70 miles 3300 feet accent

My longest ride so far. Beautiful scenery. Nevada has more agriculture than I knew.
Much of the day was cloudy, which I enjoyed after so much heat. I saw thunderstorms all around me. Unfortunately at about 5PM with 30 miles to go they converged onto the valley I was in. I did not see it coming since my rear view eyes were shut. The temperature dropped from 75 to 55 and the biggest raindrops I have ever seen started falling. I had to make a difficult decision. Make an already wet camp or try to ride through the storm.
I was worried about lightening too, since I was the tallest object. Since I was already wet and spending the night would have been miserable, I decided to give it all I got , and some, and run. The wind was blowing in my direction so I rode 20-26 miles per hour for 30 mile in light to very heavy rain. After 20 miles my hands were tingling. I thought it was nerves from tightening my shoulders. When I made it into the hotel, there was a puddle where I stood in the lobby. I told the receptionist, that I wanted a room, some hot chocolate and my mommy. She replied: I have a room, the hot chocolate is behind you (it was) and I am sorry about your mom not being here. Once in the room I started shaking. Hot shower I thought. I realized, that I could not feel my fingers and my hands felt like they were hooked up to a battery. My fingertips had turned white. I had the first stage of frostbite called frost nip. Maybe I am stubborn.
All this in Nevada in July.

Total distance so far: 505 miles
Total ascent so far: 28,500 feet

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mountains and Desert

Day 4, July 4, Jackson to somewhere on the mountain, 33 miles, 5500 feet ascent.

Astrid dropped me off at the "tire" tree at about 10:00 AM. I rode the 6 miles to Jackson and then had a gourmet lunch 8 miles further up the road with Astrid.
I asked to fill up my water bottles in a bar. The waitress refused to take my tip of a Dollar until she made sure I had enough to eat. The first of many kind people.
I found a nice tiny meadow where I spent my first night alone in the forest.

Dietmar's Index:

Time it takes in minutes to use up the calories of a freeze dried dinner (for two) going uphill on a bicycle?

Day 5, July 5, Meadow to Carson Pass, 37 miles, 6100 feet ascent.

Towards the end above 8000 feet and after climbing 11600 feet in 2 days, I was tired. Very.
I rode down the other side far enough to where the night would not be so cold to about 7300 feet.
It still was. On the way up, I stopped at Silver Lake and swam in it's cool waters, awesome.
A woman on the beach offered me some of the family's watermelon. Camped in the forest with 1.875 million mosquitoes.

Lesson learned:
People love water.
Insects share that love.

Day 6, July 6, Meadow to Carson City, 40 miles, 400 feet ascent.

I stopped riding at noon, when I met Astrid. Rested in the comfort of a hotel that night. Did I say I love beds? I really do.

Day 7, July 7, Carson City to ditch, 44 miles, 1200 feet ascent.

I left at noon after, yes you guessed it, lunch with Astrid. I stopped when I found a ditch with a few shrubs to shield me. Camping in the desert is quite different from the forest. At least there were no mosquitoes.

Day 8, July 8, Ditch to Fallon, 21 miles, 500 feet ascent.

During much of the rides on this journey, I had a pain in my left shoulder, Something that happened on many longer bicycle rides before. I thought it was a muscle I only use riding (looking up all the time) and that it would get better, once used more. It got worse. I decided to get help before I ride into the main desert with no big towns for many hundreds of miles.
Astrid helped me find a Chiropractor in town, I arrived at 10:00 AM.
Dr, Laura Harmon treated me, refused payment, placed me on a spare bed and told me to rest my shoulder for the afternoon. This not being enough kindness, offered me a room in her house for the night, ....before telling her husband, and made me a delicious dinner. As you readers may guess, this was of course insufficient hospitality, so she bought me a bag of supplies for the road, and lunch to go.
There are a lot of beautiful people in this world. I just met another one.
I am humbled by her (their) love.
It is 10:00 AM and I am heading into the desert. I keep you posted.

Total distance so far: 320 miles
Total ascent so far: 19,800 feet

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flat tires and sore butts

Day three just finished. Finally get to write.

Day 1, June 28, Fremont, CA to Pittsburg, 63 Miles, 3300 feet ascent

I stopped many times to fiddle with my trailer.
I rode 63 miles following my phone GPS. Which promptly drained my phone within 4 hours.
Hooked up my solar charger and made it. There is no way to have done the first 2 days without GPS. There must have been a 40-50 turns a day. Turns out riding a bicycle Fremont to Pittsburg is complicated. It was also hot at over 100 degrees.
Upon leaving I tipped the scale at 179.5 pounds with my hair wet and a full bladder.
My trailer weight was 57 pounds, which turns out is too much. More on that later.
Stayed in Motel 6, had Popeye's Chicken for dinner ....and breakfast, both a first for me.
I collapse into bed, sore and tired.

Day 2, June 29, Pittsburg to Galt, 50 miles, 1100 feet ascent

Temperatures rising to a 106 degrees by 2:00 PM.
Had a flat tire on my trailer. Turns out my patch kit had dried up glue in it. I am in nowhere.
My solar charger is not working and I am out of batteries. I decide to ride with a flat tire, which is very hard. Now here comes the lucky part. A quarter mile further on the road, which like I said is in nowhere is a building that houses a trucking company. Yes trucks get flats too. Problem solved. Nicest people. Send me off with extra glue. This turned out to be the only building for the next 15 miles.
Astrid met me in Galt , as arranged to bring some supplies and support.
Best Western Hotel. I like showers, very much.

Day 3, June 30,  Galt to near Jackson. 32 miles, 1700 feet ascent

Went shopping for a few more things needed. Since I did not have the time to do a test ride, I knew that the first few days would be filled with adjustments and changes. Was done at noon.
Astrid chose to follow me due to concern about the weather. I decided to make it a very short run for the same reason. 25 Miles to the small town of Ione. Both where good decisions, as the high temperature was 114 degrees just before Ione. We decided for Astrid to stay (and dogs) for the night. No dogs allowed in hotel. Nearest choice was Jackson, the capitol of Amador County with a population slightly larger than 30,000. That would be another 12 miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain. And it was still 112 degrees.
Still I felt good enough to try. I had several times stopped and sat in the air conditioned car for 15 minutes prior on this day. In all honesty, I could likely not have tried to go on without that.
About 5 miles before Jackson, after an arduous 2 mile climb, I chose, to my misfortune, to rest underneath a beautiful Black Oak tree. After I sat down, I noticed dozens of spikes sticking out of my trailer tires, and several on each bicycle tires. I had a total of about 50 flats at one time. There was ground cover, that produces these seeds with 3 spikes of 1/4" length of incredible sharpness and toughness, aptly named  Goathead,  I rode right through it. My bicycle tires were fine due to me having added stuff called "Slime" before leaving. It seals holes. And this was the field test. This stuff works.
Did not do the same for trailer. Both tubes and tires are landfill. Time to call Astrid. Got ride to Jackson. This being Sunday evening, the only bicycle store in the county, is closed. Mondays they are closed too!
I went to bed figuring the answer will come in the morning. It did, at 5:45AM.
I am writing this from the comfort of my home. I will do some regrouping, thinking until Wednesday night.
Thursday early, Astrid will drive me me to a spot near the certain Black Oak tree, a safe distance away and leave me to conquer the Sierra Nevada once again.

Lessons learned:

  • Turns out, I did have time for a test run.
  • I am able to consume 2 gallons of water and not pee until the afternoon. (Day three)
  • Pulling a 57 pound trailer slows you down by about 30%
  • Pulling a 57 pound trailer creates a strong rocking motion (forward, backwards) on step uphills, as you petal hard, transmitting it to the bicycle through the piece of rubber that connects the two. 
  • Trans-versing this continent self supported, at an age when you need a thicker mat to sleep on, is much harder than being supported, or having the money to always sleep in hotels (motels), leaving the trailer much lighter.
  • Dietmar can do it!

Total distance so far: 145 miles
Total ascent so far: 6100 feet

Sunday, June 9, 2013


My name is Dietmar and I am 51 years young.  I am about to embark on the second great adventure of my life.  The first being Africa at age 20 for one and a half years. This trip will take me from San Francisco to Washington D.C..   It will be me, my road bike and a little trailer made by WIKI.

The idea probably came to me about 4 years ago to do something daring, different, difficult. To test myself against nature and my own limitations. It was born on the heels of a very difficult time and has morphed into something very different since. Part of the initial reasoning was to also bring awareness to environmental issues, which I still intent to do. But the bigger reason for going has emerged as a way to find balance, find peace. I started collecting aluminum cans in order to help pay for the trip shortly after the idea was born. I knew it was silly to compete with homeless people for resources (which of course I generally won because I could run faster). I found it incredibly soothing to improve the environment wherever I go by removing debris, all the while saving some money for the trip. I had all the money in an envelope and labeled nicely, but unfortunately about a year and a half ago, I ran out of money completely and used it to pay bills. So I have to guess at the total I collected from the cans, but I think it was around $1,100. It will help. I've had girlfriends scramble down steep embankments, my daughters diving into lakes, jumping over fences along freeways, all in an effort to collect those cans.

The starting date for my trip has been a moving target and stands at June 27th , from Fremont, CA, heading east.  I am ill-prepared for this trip, as I did not take enough time to train, ran out of money and of time. Still, I feel prepared mentally, facing the adventure with a calm resiliency.

 I fear with ascending levels the following:
            -Difficulty sleeping, leading to decreased performance
            -Edible food

I am optimistic about:
            -Channeling the resiliency I have shown through a very hard 5 years into the loving core
              that I have
            -Sleeping better
            -Beating my ego
            -Making friends
            -Nature’s beauty

I will miss my daughters, my friends (except my gay friend Yan), my bed, predictability.  I expect the trip to take about 3 months.  I will plan the final route as I go, for the peace of the journey will show me directions I cannot see right now.

Failure is not an option, as defined in failure to stop if it gets to be too difficult or too dangerous.