Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poop. Lots of Poop.

Day 13 - June 16, 9:56pm

Build Day. Cumberland, MD

I woke up pretty tired today from hanging out last night and realized that this has been the most sleep deprived period of my life. I don't regret having fun last night at all but I was pretty miserable for most of today due to not having enough sleep.

In the morning, our host for the artspace, Lucas(Noah's friend) brought us some great cereal and blueberries. He's an awesome dude and just one of those people that you know you'll get along with real well within the first 30 seconds of meeting.

Speaking of sleep, the leaders right this minute just announced a 5:30am wakeup tomorrow, since we have 82 miles through the heart of the appalachians. Oh fun. Did i mention it will be raining!

Today half of us went to build steps for the porch of a homeless shelter while the others did drywalling for another shelter. I was in the former group and it was really great since we actually started with nothing and today there is a brand new set of stairs there. This will stop the insurance from charging them huge premiums for that fire hazard. It was even more meaningful since Noah donated his $500 Bike and Build donation(which every rider gets) for the supplies. It was amazing to realize how without us this project would've never gotten moving and how much of a tangible difference we have made for the financial struggle of the homeless shelter. Also, guess who got to use a power drill!

Colin King's Dad was there and gave so much help to what seemed like a bunch of blue shirted hammer wielding headless chickens. Steven's mom and sister also passed by which was so nice. I was especially glad to meet Steven's mom Priscilla. I might have said this before but I love meeting people's parents and getting to see what has shaped them.

At lunch i changed my wound dressings and realized that there was actually no skin on a decent patch of my elbow. Disgusting is a pretty fitting word. We're taking really good care of it so I'm sure it'll heal just fine. But i'll also probably have a decent battle scar as well. Again, all i could think about was how much worse it really should have been, and how even if it does scar what's the big deal. I won't lie though, walking around with a wrap on my elbow does make me feel(and look) pretty hardcore. I should be able to ride tomorrow no problem though it will def be a bit more annoying and painful with the bandages. Fortunately, butt issues are way more under control though i did find two saddle sores today as are most riders. They're these little pimple like things in your crotch area that result from rubbing and are almost inevitable. With all of this crazy stuff we're doing to our bodies i can't help but laugh and think "Really? are we really doing this willingly?"

In the afternoon, i went to the bike shop where the mechanics were super kind and fixed up our bikes for free. Mine had some kinks from the fall but is fine. On our way there some huge dude in a pony tail yelled at us saying "Hey stop, no blue shirts on tuesday" Needless, to say we were horrified only to find out that he was the owner of the bike shop and laughing his ass off at having pranked us. He was definitely a fun guy.

So as i was sitting against the wall of the bike shop with Sonya, trying to nap, shit went down. I literally mean that shit fell. As in i felt a splash and saw that i had 6 bird poop stains on my shirt. 4 on my shirt and 2 on my shorts. I kid you not that i literally got shit on from the sky today. Not one foot to the left or right of me(Sonya was untouched), but right where i was sitting. It's funny how its always the people who didn't get pooped on that inform you of your supposedly newfound "good luck". Anyway, I started screaming in my disgust but soon started laughing uncontrollably as i realized how hilarious it was. Especially since i was feeling horrible from no sleep this just confirmed that today wasn't my day.

Fortunately afterwards i was able to get a solid two hours of sleep in and felt much better. We went over to this nice bar where Noah's had arranged for his friend Lucas' dad's band "Shanty Irish" to give a performance for us. It was great traditional Irish folk music and we were all jigging away and hollering with them.

We were treated to dinner by a local Synagogue who had great vegan and gluten free options for our riders as well as an awesome bicycle design in the powdered sugar on one of the cakes. They were so so kind and it was nice to see such generosity spread out across different religious establishments. One of the members took out a map and helped us do some major avoiding of hills for tomorrow.

After searching all my stuff today, I've officially confirmed that my wallet has misplaced me. Of course this sucks beyond belief as all my IDs, and important cards were there. It's the only wallet i've ever had and it's the first time this has happened in all of its six years with me. If anyone reading this blog has it please do comment and let me know! I'm basically planning on trying to contact every random general store i've stopped at but hope is not high right now.

In general this whole routine of packing and unpacking all of my stuff every day is really stressful for me though I'm getting better. Being in so much flux and losing little things on top of everything else going on and your physical exhaustion is not the funnest.

For a little while today i started thinking about what will be going on for me as i return to my Junior Year of college in the fall. I hated that i was getting stressed out about some obligations that i have waiting for me. This summer is so surreal in its isolation from all my normal life and i want it to stay that way. I've been having so much fun this summer that I am slowly developing the rough mentality that If you don't enjoy something and can bail without too much fallout then do it. That's exactly what I considered as i thought of those school obligations and it immediately calmed me down. As much as we can, we should live life for us and for the people we care about, and prevent the clutter of life from seeping in and corroding this. Pretty easy for an idealistic responsibility-free teen to say, but still.

Officially decided today that I will aim to grow my facial hair until San Francisco. Notice the use of the phrase "facial hair" and not "beard". Today was the first time i ever cleaned it up as opposed to fully shaving and its not too bad. Am hoping for at least +8 rugged points by August.

It makes me super happy that more and more riders are telling me that they're family members are following this blog and are encouraging me to keep writing. It's kind of unfamiliar territory but also an honor to be able to bring you along for this journey in daily doses. Please do keep the great comments coming. I figure with this many readers, at least someone has to appreciate my warped humor...

Hope to at least be able to walk down the stairs semi comfortably tomorrow. Its prob going to be the hardest yet(funny how i keep saying that) and will totally rock my world. Can't wait!


Day 12 - June 15, 10:27pm

60 miles. McConnelsburg, PA to Cumberland, MA

Woke up today only to realize how much I would miss my host family Don and Charlotte. They had a regal spread of eggs, pork and fruit. On top of everything Charlotte new i LOVE ketchup on my egss because they had read my rider bio. We talked about how she too had raised her kids that way. They insisted that we would not leave their house without trying Scraple. Its this little patty like things that is literally just leftover pork scraps. Between the sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy, and scraple i basically ate an entire pig for breakfast.

All of last night I had seen Charlotte struggling to barely walk around her own house and this morning she told me about how MS is a mentally degenerative disease which i had no idea of. She mentioned how she was an active reader every day to keep the MS symptoms at bay. The strength, love, and perseverence from this small woman was overwhelming. Don was equally great and drove out last night just to pick up ointment for my rear which has since gotten much better.

When we got back to the Church ready to head out, I found that a bird had pooped on my bag as it was waiting to be packed. Yea.

Couple of highlights on the road:
Found a dead turtle on the road, which was a first. Passed through this nice little tunnel and Rob, Julie and I took the opportunity to chalk, i mean graffiti, a "P2SF wuz here" right before
our dope pose.

We also officially passed the Mason - Dixon line from PA into Maryland which was marked by this great obelisk.

Though i thought yesterday's two mountains were a special case, it turns out we had three today. So much for getting a break. As we were climbing on right at 2pm with the sun at its strongest, I remember never ever being so ridiculously sweaty and grimy and exhausted at once. Getting to the peak at 1,602 feet and seeing the view in my sweaty, panting glory was supreme.

On the way down i took a spill coming into a turn. It was obviously super scary but i managed only a scrape on my elbow and thigh. I seriously wouldn't put it being past a miracle. I'm literally 100% fine save for my scrapes but it was supremely humbling to think of how much i really should've hurt myself. I rode the last 20 miles in the van and it really sucked totally. On an emotional level i hated not being with my friends and not having that sense of accomplishment. On a physical level, my body was all hyped up on adrenaline and was literally craving for endorphins and physical activity so it felt horrible. Getting to our host site not being totally exhausted ironically enough is the worst feeling one can have on this trip. There were four other people who got vanned for various reasons so it was great that we could have some company.

It really made me appreciate the ability to be healthy and fit enough to ride everyday and enjoy all the fun stops and all. I'll admit that i love building speed on downhills and after this I learned that i need to be way more respectful of the dangerous endeavour I'm making. Seriously, beyond just cycling it's so easy to take things for granted, and with potentially dangerous things like this I feel that second chances are not really the norm. At least my camera and phone are still intact.

We're staying in a super sweet huge empty loft that is normally an art space, courtesy of Noah's cool friend Lucas and had dinner graciously provided by the Cumberland African United Methodist Church.

Really funny, on our way walking back across the railroad tracks we were midway when the bells started ringing and the bars started dropping. We all literally started screaming and running. It was absolutely terrifying and hilarious. I mean seriously, since when do trains actually pass by railroad tracks anymore?

For the record, I am considering my personal issue resolved. Not necessarily in the way i originally expected but its nice to be able to have come to terms with it and to be able to focus more on the trip now. A lot of us got a chance to hang out in the town tonight and i had some really awesome bonding/conversations. All i could think about during them was how much i am looking forward to being great friends with these people after this.

We're having a build day tomorrow. Finally, rest!

Hardest. Day. Ever.

Day 11 - June 13, 10:37pm

82 miles. Schuylkill Haven PA, to McConnelsburg, PA

Thats right, 82 miles. I just spent 6 hours pedaling on my bike today. No way have I ever done anything like this to my body. Ever. AND IT FEELS GREAT!

This week I'm assigned to the cleanup chore crew, where my group has to make sure our host site is totally clean before we leave. Last week we were responsible for giving the presentation to our hosts during dinner.

Day started off quietly enough with more of the great rolling countryside and sunny weather. Got into a good game of boticelli on the road and a group of us were able to stop at this cozy sandwich shop in Carlisle, PA where Meghan was kind enough to let us fill up on bagels. It was such an obvious college joint for the nearby school and gave off that great hip vibe with its leather couches.

Following lunch a group of us came across these awesome oxen like creatrures and just observed their shagginess for a while. In general there areo many farm animals on the way. I can hardly describe how painfully beautiful some horses have been along the way. The smelly cows not so much but they're still cool and they even moo at us sometimes when we yell at them enough.

We could only go 200 more feet before we had to do an obiligatory frolic among hay barrells. it took 3 of us to even budge one. Fun was had by all.

Saw two amish horse buggies today. Seeing them have signal blinkers on the carriage and having to negotiate an intersection with them was hilarious.

We knew we had a long day ahead of us and pushed it until mile 60. This is when we quickly realized that the reason we had had so much flat ground for 3 days was because we had just reached the actual mountain range separating us from the rest of the country. Namely, the start of the Appalachians. CT had hills but i'm emphasizing that this was a legitimate mountain, meaning a mile and a half of straight ascent. I started climbing just before I was able to realize that all of us on this trip are probably insane.

To be honest, it just didn't end and was mindboggling. We were all in lowest gears barely able to rotate the pedals. It's too bad that this is where some of our riders with knee problems had to call the van. Never ever have I been so furious and happy at the same time as when i summited the ascent. We could hardly believe what we had just done and treated ourselves to the two mile downhill waiting for us.

At the next town, we were all ready for calories and invaded a general store. This is where I ate an entire sleeve of Fig Newtons, about 15 or so in 10 minutes. This did not fill me up as much as it merely held me over till i could snack next or dinner. But it gets better.
A few miles later at mile 70 we were treated to yet another full ascent of a mountain. This was just pure horror and my legs have probably never pushed so hard in my life. Unfortunately it was so steep that some riders had to get off and walk up. Don't know how but i found the power to get to the top where the riders ahead of me were splashing in the lake there.

Never in my life have i been so assured and determined to do anything as i was when i started marching straight into the water. I could barely get my gear off before my body threw itself into the water. It was like a baby's but meeting talc powder, except there was no mother applying anything. I was so hyped up on endorphins that i couldn't stop laughing the entire time. After our splash session, we assumed a quick 10 miles to our destination only to find that we had not even summited the mountain. Again, I might as well have been being beat with smelly bricks the whole way up. I'm sure the exhaustion from that would've been less. At the top of the ascent I found a second wind, via some vehement cursing, that brought me to this awesome biker bar and a breathtaking dusk view of our town.

We descended a super 3 miles of downhill to meet each other and our hosts. I remember still wanting to do more after having just done 82 miles. What happened today was literally both the best and worst thing I've ever done to my body. The whole way up was the most horrible muscular struggle I've ever faced, but it was so worth it. Seriously, there wasn't anything i didn't think i could accomplish after having just destroyed those two mountains. I'm sure that feeling will probably stay with me for a long time after this trip. it's just so great and inexplicable to be able to push yourself far past the limit that your mind sets for yourself. It opens up a whole new hidden pocket of self confidence.

We are doing homestay's tonight and the fabulous Don and Charlotte are hosting me and Doug. They're super cool. Don builds baseball fields around the country with his identical twin brother and his office is best described as a shrine to the sport with a wall of autographed balls and two actual stadium streets there. Charlotte is such a sweetheart who used to teach 4th grade and kindergarten. She is so much fun to talk with. I barely asked her anything before she was already telling me her and Don's life story. it's really painful for me to see the effects that Multiple Sclerosis is having on her ability to walk around her own house. But her eyes lit up like unregulated headlights when she explained how she just recently reached the one mile a day landmark on her recumbrent bicycle. What great people.

Their son Tim who lives next door also passed by and Doug and i chatted with him about his time in the Peace core in Chad.

I actually can't even keep my eyes open anymore. to sleep. now.