Friday, June 19, 2009


Day 16 - June 19, 10:39pm

81 miles. Weston, WV to Marietta, OH

The title is subtle yes, but think about it.

Today was interesting. I have realized that one either adapts really quickly to the bike and build madness of constant movement or suffers greatly. I'm the latter and this morning was especially rough for me as i was so late doing everything. My biggest problem is that i just can't do anything before I use a bathroom in the morning. With 32 people rushing for 2 maybe 3 of them, this is tough and as a result i am always falling behind. I literally even slept alone in a separate room with its own bathroom last night just to combat this issue but i was so tired in the morning that a line had already formed over my sleeping bag as i woke up. I think 2 weeks is prob enough time to get over the shock and in general i would like to sort this and my other logistical issues out so i can have less stress from these things.

The first 10 miles were nice today until guess what. More rain! However there was also thunder and lightning that started approaching us. When it got over us, we pulled over and chilled under trees and proceeded to get soaked for 20 minutes. In life, I feel there is a very fine line between what constitutes character building on one side and unnecessary discomfort on the other. I'm still trying to figure out where rain fits into this. With 70 more miles to go, I was not overjoyed.

We regrouped once lighting stopped and walked down to a house to seek shelter until the rain weakened. This couple Don and Betty were very generous and let 12 of us dry up in their garage. Their three grandchildren kept running in and out giving us stuff. First towels, then benches, and then food. There were definitely more than a few deer heads in that garage to say the least. The rain subsided just as they were about to cook us bacon(boo!) and we took off. Not only did the rain stop but the sun emerged and shined with rays of happiness. I literally felt like i could do 100 miles right then and there and got so determined to finish today's ride even though we had been delayed 2 hours. I love the sun.

Dan and I tore up the next few miles of flattish terrain until lunch at a volunteer fire station that they had opened up for us. It was really cool inside and had vintage but still functioning trucks.

Unfortunately our chain lube had again been wiped off with the rain and riding was less than comfortable. On top of that, Rob and Dan both got flats while we were riding together and i was worried i would have to be next. Fortunately Larry found us and lent us some lube. My gears were also not quite right and i still need to fix that, but its just so hard to do anything once you get into the host and change out of uniform. True story.

At about mile 50 I regrouped with Larry and we decided that we were determined to make it to Ohio at the very least if not the whole way. We totally booked it like no other up the very last hills of the Appalachians. It was awesome knowing that these same types of hills that were intimidating in the first week were now just part of the routine. My favorite expression is to "Eat hills" as in "We just totally ate that hill! yeah! ugh!" It's pretty fun to say and the iterations are pure fun.

At the second lunch at mile 60 I was quite possibly the sweatiest I've ever been. Mugginess was the theme of the day and it was outrageous how gross we were. For some reason I totally love that slimy sweaty feeling, especially outdoors. Carlie didn't happen to appreciate me rubbing my wet arm against her dry one. It was so bad that i had to plastic wrap my camera for fear that my sweat would drip into it through my jersey.

Post lunch Larry and I decided that we were going all the way and would avoid being picked up in the van at all costs. The land was getting much flatter but we were facing strong headwinds. The heart is the real muscle you use when cycling. Let me tell you, Larry and I pacelined the hell out of that wind. Pacing is where cyclists line up really close to block the wind for each other and take turns being up front while the ones behind rest. We had such a rhythm going and were just totally rocking out. It felt great.

Larry is one of my favorite people on this trip, he's so chill and hilarious and we really just get each other. One of those people you really need to just meet to understand. He deserves much more elaboration at a later time.

Then we got over the bridge into Ohio and hit literally the flattest stretches of land I've ever seen. They were so straight that i couldn't even so all the way to the end of them. I was only in Ohio for a mile before i decided that i loved it. There was also a humongous nuclear power plant on the way, which was the first I've ever seen. It was pretty cool and so overwhelming. Quite the contrast from the wind turbines 2 days ago however...

On the way into town on the main road we were bombarded with like 756 chain restaurant signs. It was pretty funny, but not that much since we were starving. I pulled into the church with 89.75 on my odometer and had to ride around the block to make sure it got to 90. My previous longest was 82 and it felt so great to actually finish today, like unbelievably so. No one got vanned and we were all super happy about that.

Marietta is actually really nice and quaint. The first thing that struck me is how there are literally 6 different churches within the same 4 square blocks. Our hosts are really great and they've been hosting our route for 4 years. Bill also taught us the Ohio Buckeyes arm cheer.

Also found out tonight that i can do pushups again unhampered by any elbow or shoulder pain. I'll get right on those starting tomorrow This gets me really excited because I was really looking forward to being super fit after this trip. Well perhaps i should say "look" super fit instead actually.

I can't believe we totally rocked through the Appalachians. It's great not only to have that amazing sense of hell yeah accomplishment but also to know that we have nothing but plains for a long way to go. Being in Ohio is really intense for me. Its the first place where i really feel like I"m legit in the middle of the country. It's so cool to have this feeling of "yes, i am actually biking across the country and am in a midwest state and just did 700 miles in 2 weeks"

Also, found out that my camera actually does work after the crash just as i was about to buy a new one. It occasionally will do its own thing, as in not open, but it should be good enough to see me through i think.

Again there are so many little computer errands i wish i could do right now but i'm tired and just want sleep. It's not like i won't be tired after 75 miles tomorrow either. Anyway. Sleeping in the sanctuary again tonight. fun.

Why I will never own a Chihuahua

Day 15 - June 18, 11:44pm

58 miles. Parsons, WV to Weston, WV

Sleeping in pews was fun, felt like I was in some sort of trench, except without all that nasty war stuff. The morning routine was a bit more stressful than usual since I had put off so many things from last night when i went to sleep early. Note: Bike and Build is not equivalent to sleep, nor does it particularly encourage average amounts of it. Especially if you journal.

Started out the day on some gravel country roads. The weather and scenery were great but the roads made the uphills even worse than usual. Fortunately the bike was lubed this time. We were just totally in forest and it was so misty that we might as well have been in the amazon. Now that i think of it, parrots are awesome and it would've been so much fun to see a Macaw.

Unfortunately one of the riders ahead of me took a big spill on the gravel going downhill. Sounds familiar... It was really scary riding up to her and seeing her grabbing herself. Note: HELMETS SAVE LIVES, and it did in this case. She had a decent scrape on her right shoulder and pelvis, almost exactly like mine except less severe. She's doing just fine right now and is in great spirits. We made sure to grab a picture of our matching elbow wraps later in the day.

But apparently the day had more falls in store. Now I don't really know whats up with West Virginia, but they've seriously gotta get they're dog situation under control.
If you were riding along a quiet road only to have a pack of crazy pet chihuahas run in front of you barking like mad you might feel this way also. Yes they were the size of my backpack and yes I kinda freaked out. I couldn't help but think they would get caught in my spokes or something. I swerved right but ended up falling while trying to avoid the riders next to me. Not like my knee can't use a few more cuts...

I've basically realized that Bike and Build for me is a wild combination of high highs and low lows. As Meryl and I pulled into a town around mile 27 we were starving and decided to see if a pizza store would help us out. We explained our deal and asked for any day old bread or something hoping that they might pity us and give an actual slice. What i did not expect was the owner returning with actual day old loaves of bread saying "This is the oldest we've got" It was great to have any food but still kinda hilarious since I never actually expected day old bread. Fortunately Ed and Judy at Hometown Pizza were super nice and also gave us four super fresh pepperroni rolls right out of the oven. They might as well have been made out of ambrosia they were so great. Thank you Ed and Judy!

To complement that high high, about 4 blocks later my wheel decided to get stuck in storm drain slit sending me over the handlebars and into a low low. In retrospect it was pretty scary but I escaped unscathed. What i did not need however was my third fall of the day coming as I tried to clip back in and get away from the whole mess. And yes, i do officially have a crashing reputation on the trip by now. I've already suggested a tally row for the trailer.

After the town, Meryll and I kept riding only to come across more unleashed dogs in yards. They came pretty damn close to us but never actually chased us. I think being real calm helped. But seriously! these were legitimate 100+ dogs that could've easily mauled us. I got so frustrated at this thought. LIke i thought that stuff only happens in cartoons. Many other riders we found out did actually get chased, but successfully disbanded them by squirting water at them. What was legitimately frightening was when I saw one dog that very well could've been rabid trot near us. I didn't even want to ponder that scenario.

We had lunch at a great campsite and played on the seesaw's there. Very fun. We also got mail. To be totally honest, getting mail on the road is one of the nicest feelings ever. Some of us tend to get more than others. This group doesn't quite include me. So do check out the new "how to send george love via mail tab on the right" Seriously even pity mail is a huge morale booster. Wow this is shameless.

West Virginia is actually pretty beautiful. It's basically all rolling hills and mountains with lots of trees and pastures. Rugged is how i would describe it. It's a different kind of beauty from Pennsylvania's open flat farms and one that deserves exploring. The rest of the ride was pretty decent and mostly downhill fortunately.

At one point there was an older lady mowing a large field on a sit down mower while her husband sat and watched the event on a lawn chair. Not gonna lie, kinda odd from the road.

The elbow wound is healing pretty well though the size of the future scar is apparent. Taking care of a semi-serious wound like that is interesting. It really makes me think a lot more about the special low maintenance relationship we have with our bodies that is often taken for granted i feel. It's also amazing to see how much abuse our bodies are capable of withstanding.

Dinner at the church was great and over conversation with one of the members we talked about college sports. Now college football has never made much sense to me. I never really understood why people care so much with something thats not even in professional athletics. Over our conversation however i came to realize that states like West Virginia don't have any major league teams at all in any sports. Their state universities are really the only things that represent them individually and it makes sense that people would rally around them. It all makes an incredible amount of sense to me know. While i still am not used to the idea, being from NYC, i can totally appreciate more rural states addiction to college football way more now through this one simple conversation.

Kelly's 21st birthday was today. Some riders went out to 7-11 and bought some makeshift presents including tin foil for a hat and a pack of bologni. Her mom also legit sent her a frog pinata full of candy that we will hit during lunch tomorrow. That is just plain super cool.

The whole getting into a host routine is kinda starting to take its toll given that we do the exact same things every single night without any real time to hang out or do actual activities. We're still so grateful to our hosts but its just so mentally exhausting to go through the same motions every morning, day, and night.

For me, this kinda represents a larger metaphor for life where we're pretty much doing the same things whether it be our jobs, schoolwork, taxes, toilet bowl cleaning, or other obligations that don't seem to ever disappear. It's pointless to get upset over these constant things, but it is rather more helpful to focus on the little hidden gems in life that are in between these chores and that give us happiness and hope for the next day. Most people call this the weekend. For me on this trip, it can be trying to push a haybarrel on the side of a road, posing near a funny sign, or having an enlightening conversation. But i feel this mentality can be applied way more generally in life and its something that I've realized I need to start cultivating for this trip. I think that by the end I'll be way better off in life for having done so.

Off to Ohio tomorrow, I can't even believe that we're really that far already.

Cold + Rain = ?

Day 14 - June 17, 1 day late

89 miles. Cumberland, MD to Parsons, WV

So this day's journal is the only one I haven't written on the day of due to my sheer exhaustion yesterday. So much stuff happens each day that not writing daily makes it impossible to capture it all.

The theme of this post is discomfort. In many forms. The day started off rainy which was eh. Should I ever need to imagine what Armageddon will look like, this day will be my closest point of reference. Unfortunately I couldnt figure out my layering situation quickly enough and on top of that my rain jacket soon turned into a wetsuit. Note: Water-resistant and Water-proof are not equivalent. The result was that within the first 5 miles of our wettest, windiest, longest, hilliest day yet i was already soaked through every layer. The windchill was really the worst part and on every single downhill the wind felt like daggers flying through my body. I was too cold to even curse and had to resort to pure primal screaming just to try and keep warm. As my older posts indicate, i really purely hate biking in the rain, let alone freezing, and it was easy the most miserable I can ever remember being in my life. The whole point of biking is the joy of enjoying the world around you and its hidden gems. In otherwords its the journey, not just getting to point B. When it rains all I can think of is how uncomfortable I am and how I just want it to be over as soon as possible. It's fitting then that at mile 20 just as I was hitting the early stages of hypothermia, my back tire decided to get a flat.

Fortunately there was this one bar right there(the only building for miles) that i was able to go into. I didn't have any cell phone coverage to call the van so i don't even know what wouldve happened if i didn't warm up in there. The owner Judy was kind enough to give me a hot chocolate and let me change my tire inside. While there another rider Carlos found me. He called the van and after the tire was fixed we rode three more miles to meet the van. Two other people had already been picked up due to the cold and others were getting into dry layers. At the van I immediately inhaled 3 donuts and put on every dry piece of clothing I had. Fortunately the other riders were doing well with the rain and were able to keep going.

I rode in there until lunch about 10 miles later so that i could warm up. I was much warmer and drier by then and the rain had stopped. Thus i was in a better mood!

We rode on and guess what, the sun came out! It happened just as we were crossing this great bridge low on the water and I screamed with delight at the top of my lungs.

For the rest of the trip the sun would disappear and reappear about 3 more times. It was literally the craziest weather. At one point we were being poured on as we could see the sun and blue sky.

At mile 63 we crossed into West Virginia, the "Wild and Wonderful" state. Enough Said.

Big highlight: As i left our second lunch i realized i had forgotten my gloves. I started going back just as i heard some rustling in the woods and barking. Not more than 30 feet in front of me a huge buck emerged from the forest and ran across the road. I was the only person there and immediately felt such a great connection to nature in that one moment. Seeing its muscles ripple was just so beautiful and stunning. If you've ever seen wildlife you may know what I'm talking about.

As i continued the route i soon realized that my chain was acting and sounding funky. I found out later that the rain had completely removed all of its lubrication. The result was that I might as well have been hauling 4 pumpkins. And not even in a carriage, I mean like dangling from a rope. At the top of the last hill was the extremely rewarding site of gigantic wind turbines. These guys were HUGE and actually cool as hell. It was super sweet because we had seen those same turbines 10 miles ago from the valley. I got pretty close and couldn't help but just stare for 5 minutes straight. I also pondered the whole concept of pure renewable energy which when you think about it is pretty mindblowing. The only word i could think of how to describe them was gracious.

By now it was already 8pm and I had been on the road for 12 hours. There were still 15 miles more and I was done. The van came and picked me up along with the last few riders and drove us past countless more hills that made me cringe just looking at them and thinking of my chain.

The chuch in Parsons was very gracious and put out a great spread along with letting us sleep in the sanctuary which was a cool experience. It was also Dan's 20th birthday and we presented him with a dinosaur birthday cake to match the stickers on his bike.
By that point i was just purely beaten, like unimaginably so. I barely ate any dinner and dragged myself straight to bed at 9. While routine is important to me, such as journaling and cleaning my bike, I knew I needed to sleep right there and then at 9pm. It was a fabulous 9 hours.

Overall it's just really hard to reconcile the overall awesomeness of Bike and Build with the small pockets of misery such as this day. Lets just hope for less rain.

Also, just as I'm writing this the second rider today told me that her mom is a follower of the blog. Pure Awesomesauce. Makes me so happy to know that the Bike and Build P2SF family audience audience is growing. The slight pressure to deliver makes sure i do it and this is great.

One of the most overwhelming things about this trip is the sheer lack of personal quiet time, especially given our time constraints. Though I lose about an hour of sleep, my journaling is a legitimate contributor to the maintenance of my sanity and prevents general passive aggressiveness. It helps even more to know that someone is actually reading all of this. So thank you for encouraging my sanity! Will try to stay funny for you all. And maybe even insightful...