Saturday, July 11, 2009


Day 38 - July 11, 9:24pm
47 miles. Red Cloud, NE to Alma, NE

Never thought i would feel this way, but ever since Lawrence its like we've been on vacation. Today was less of a riding day and more of a day off spent biking to a lake.

Same beautiful terrain and quick riding held up and before we knew it we had gone 38 miles to Harlan County Lake. Now i know we were gonna have surprises along the way, but lets just say that i wasn't totally prepared to be riding through 30 miles of cannabis lined Nebraska highway today. The stuff was everywhere! And totally out in the open, not even concealed. Quite possibly one of the most hilarious moments of the trip when we realized that it wasn't just our minds making up that smell. No wonder why they call Nebraska "the good life"...

The lake had a great lunch spot and I got on a swing for the first time since I can't remember when. Things only got better when the local ranger Chris took a few of us on a tour of the Dam. As soon as you stepped inside the concrete walls, the 55 degree air immediately surrounded you. 40 degree temperature drops give quite the tingle. He showed us all inside in the hallways and pumps and also took us up to the catwalks where we could see everything below us. I love huge structures like that and gettting the tour was a blast for all of us. No pictures were allowed unfortunately and for some reason neither was pressing the button labeled "Open Gates"

Afterwards, Larry, Carlie, Hilary and I went for a quick dip in the lake which was glorious. I used to be such a stickler about being cold and not wanting to get wet but around this year as part of my larger push of getting rid of silly inhibitions I've totally embraced things like this and the concept of just letting go and doing it. I really try and live as much of my life as i can by this and throwing myself into the cold water was wonderful affirmation of this.

I just completely laid out on the sand for at least a half hour afterwards. It was so surreal, but mostly heavenly, to just be hanging out like that on a sandy beach on a riding day. Just one more example of how Bike and Build has made me appreciate almost everything in my life so much more.

Oh and by the way, did i mention that i finally nailed the van today. Victory sure did taste sweet.

The United Methodist Church put out a great spread for dinner. I could tell because before I even ate I was already so happy thinking about how good tomorrow's lunch leftovers would taste.

Probably the best thing from today was getting to talk to my best friends George and Paul from back home, the latter of which I haven't heard from for a month. I had the biggest grin on my face the whole time. I barely use my cell phone at all on the trip, (not that the service is exactly excellent out here..) so when i do actually call and talk to people its just that much more special and amazing to have the comfort and love of their voice while on the road. Not really being around a phone and being isolated in general like we are really makes you think about who matters in your life via who you find yourself wanting to call.

Only 1 more day in Nebraska, and then Colorado, aka THE WEST! I'm so super pumped for the rockies and showing them who's boss. At least so I say now from the flattest place in the country...

Center of the Universe

Day 37 - July 10th, 10:41pm
70 miles. Beloit, KS to Red Cloud, Nebraska

I know, seriously, a town called Red Cloud, you just know this day had to be awesome. I'd def put it in the top 3. All the cool things today were definitely much needed after those 200 miles of nothingness.

To start with, 70 miles is actually a treat. Our terrain was the same mix of flat and rolling ground, a great mix of wild, untamed prairies and endless farms. It was really gorgeous and kind of struck me as a less intense version of West Virginia(which id say has been the prettiest so far), West Virginia Lite if you will.

The weather was a whole other deal. To begin, as we exited the building this morning what did we find? Not one, but two rainbows covering the entire sky! They were so pronounced and colorful, almost like a skittles commercial. It was the first time all of us had seen anything like that. Words cannot describe. It was wild and purely awe - mazing.

We started the day pedaling away from the darkest of the dark clouds towards the other half of the sky that was all blue. It was only 2 miles before the cue sheet turned us left back into the storm clouds for 27 miles. As we prepared for the worst, being rain, the landscape yet again pulled off something crazy. The sun peeked through some clouds illuminating all of the seas of wheat and contrasting heavily with the ultra dark sky. The color clash was outrageous. It looked like a poorly photoshopped image or something and was super. Kinda was one of those "Whoa, are you for real right now sun?!" moments. Even more super was that we were able to actually peddle all the way through the storm clouds to the other blue sky side without any rain! Anyone reading this blog knows very well by now what that means for me.

Our first funstop of the day was at the world's largest ball of twine at Cawker City, KS. In case you were wondering, 17,000 pounds is really heavy and yes that ball is ginormous. Its kinda hilarious to think that something like that actually exists but then again we need something to take pictures in front of, right? Much fun was had as we did some climbing on it as well as taking little snippets to carry along with us. Don't worry, we also put on our own twine contribution that way exceeded what we took.

Next up was the geographic center of the universe, erm, i mean the continental US. I kinda love anticlimactic monuments and this definitely did not fail to deliver. Though i did think it would be pretty funny if they one day discovered that they were off by like a few feet and had to move the whole monument. There was also this rooster just hanging out in the lunch gazebo. Kinda random, but also kinda fun.

The biggest highlight by far though, and one of my favorite memories so far, was my riding with Larry, Ryan Farr, Steven, and Carlos. 20 miles of enless, deserted rode basically means byof. Bring Your Own Fun. What started out with some joking around about riding formations quickly turned into the most extremely synchronized cycling performance Kansas has ever seen. Seriously\, I've seen less coordinated Olympic athletes. After developing about 6 or so moves including the Jack in the Box, Flying V, Five Abreast, Reverse V, we ran through a 5 minute choreographed routine memorizing positions and all. That was merely to prepare for none other than our finale, the fabled Zanzibar. All i can say is that criss crossing, water bottles, charging, flanking, thumbs up, and fist pumps, may or may not have been involved in that move alone.

While obviously super fun by itself, we performers have the audience at heart and ran through it relentlessly in preparation for a Van only performance. Kate apparently didnt get the message and passed us only 1/3 of our way into it. No Joke, we were actually furious that they hadn't watched it all. Its all good since we calmed down after getting out a flawless run through anyway. Ugh, Happiness is so internal these days...

The waterballoons were unused today due to rehearsal, but the munitions team remains ever alert.

Passed into Nebraska today! Apparently over here is where its "The Good Life". Funny, you wouldn't really know it from the 5+ shotgun rounds sprayed onto the state welcome sign. Oh America...

Got some pool time in along with the others in town. I've never really taken to diving but there have been boards everywhere. I decided today that I don't enjoy painful bellyflops but would rather prefer graceful swan aerialism. Did a lot of practicing on the board. Not much improving, but still, a lot of practice. Hopes are to get a decently cool one i can do solid by the end of the trip. I mean what's water for if you can't show off to your friends, right? The millions of little kids there definitely had a ball doing that in front of us today.

Thought today about having us try to break some kind of cycling world record. Would probably be unneccessary, silly, and totally useless. Figured it would fit right in with the rest of our fun activities!

47 miles tomorrow is a joke, we usually do a little less than that just for lunch. Will be nice to rest while still covering distance. I'm also responsible for writing the group journal for today. Was originally planning on letting my imaginary gnome friend, Moxy, take care of it. He tells me he'll cover next time though and will just use my experience for this time. Gnomes these days... Anyway, Goodnight!

Seas of Gold

Day 36 - July 9, 7:58pm
94 miles. Manhattan, KS to Beloit, KS

Waking up at 4:30 really isnt too bad. Really, I mean as long as you think of it as an extended nap from the day before you'll be set. Seriously though, being totally ready to ride while its still dark was an interesting experience. Breakfast was provided by this funny group of men from the church who were kind enough to be up so early. It was funny since dinner the night before had been prepared by a female only group. Seems like a good enough way to avoid marriage stress...

Riding with the sunrise in the morning made me realize how few I've actually seen. I can't even remember the last time, but let me tell you, no one could get over how magical the morning ride was with such a majestic sun creeping over the horizon. We all agreed that we'd totally do 4:30 every morning if we could experience that each time.

The rolling scenery was great all the way through. Lots of prairies and lots of wheat. Unfortunately the latter had already been harvested only a week ago but that didn't stop Karina and I from getting a quick frolic in(it was her first!). Though i would've loved to be running among head high stalks, standing in a sea of gold for as far as i could see was pretty awesome. The 100+ degrees that started hitting around 2:30 was less than great. But there were sheep! We even got to see them run around. Gotta love em.

I explained yesterday how people usually just end up riding with each other sorta randomly unless arranged beforehand. Lately there have been lots of two person pairs and I've been thinking for a while how frustrating it can be when your pace isn't matched up with your partners. Its really none of your faults but just rather your difference in riding abilities. On a super hot and long day like today where the roads are flat I at least feel that its nice to go a healthy pace and finish early and beat the heat. You obviously can't ditch people you're with so it gets a little tough if things aren't matched. Its not so much going slow that's the problem, but rather that feeling of not getting a good workout. I guess in a way my body sometimes craves endorphins and speed really bad but I can't always allow that due to riding conditions, and that can sometimes be tough to handle. Its also much harder if good conversation isn't always present to make up for the slow riding. Just some thoughts on an unavoidable dilemma. It kinda bothers me that i sometimes find myself subtly maneuvering to make sure I don't get paired with certain riders, but on the other hand there shouldn't be anything wrong with wanting to ride with people who you like and who match your speed.'

The day was once again spent on Route 24 which was thoroughly uneventful. We did pass a sign pointing to Salina, KS which was cool since my roommate Patrick is from there and has told me a bunch of stories about it. On the last 15 miles, we hit flat land and the crosswind picked up like nobody's business. We were struggling to not let the wind push us off the rode. I literally had to ride tilted left 80 degrees just to keep from being pushed over. It was pretty fun and cool actually. I mean really, who would want easy riding?

We did some guesstimating and are thinking that the Rockies will come into sight in two days. Some say tomorrow but i think two days sounds good. Can't wait to get that first glimpse of them on the horizon. Nothing like staring at doom head on for hundreds of miles.

Also, the artillery was out in full force today. The satchel was loaded last night with seven munitions of which only one was prematurely detonated today. One other was fired directly at the van as it passed us(perfect timing!) only to be deflected off the windshield. No other victims were targeted, but tomorrow is another day. And for those who are more confused than usual, I'm talking about my slowly self-consuming water-balloon obsession. Jenny couldn't tell what hit the car, so worry not, she still assumes it was an onion(?). The enemy still sleeps...

Finally! i found postcards. Such a load of stress off of me, it was literally the only place in a 30 mile radius that had any. Ugh! Its silly to be upset over this but i still can't believe that in 94 miles and our host town i didn't pass a single pharmacy that i could buy sunscreen from. With sun that intense its a necessity and it pains me to keep borrowing from people. Words cannot express my outrage at the barren countryside right now, as beautiful as it is. This is def my city side being all fussy but seriously, just one bottle of sunscreen. I just get really upset and outraged when things that should make sense and be simple aren't. Namely, buying a bottle of sunscreen somewhere in 200 miles of road. Don't even get me started on companies' customer service...

Got into town early with Carlie around 2:30 and enjoyed a great root beer float at this nice soda fountain shop for only $2.50. You can't even get a whipped cream topping for that cheap in NYC. By then it was definitely over 100 degrees and we headed to the city pool with some others only to find the greatest slide ever. We easily went on it at least 10 times in the first 5 minutes and were more hyper than most of the little kids there. Water to our skin was like gold bond to a wet crotch. (Trust me, riders know what that means) Getting to know several female lifeguards was also very appreciated. Easliy chilled in the pool for over 1.5 hours and loved every minute.

The catholic church here treated us to a great spaghetti dinner and i couldn't help but go into "inhale" mode after all that swimming. Finished dinner by 7 something and its really nice to have all this time to decompress. Though its quickly approaching 10pm which for most people is probably the equivalent of 1am.

Also, mail drop today! Super Duper thanks to John and Niki and everyone for sending the cards and words of support (loved the drawn in bicycle!). They totally made my day. I guess someone looked at how to mail love on the right sidebar, ahem... Also just in general thank you for your unrelenting love and encouragement. That goes for all of the readers of this blog as well. You're probably all connected in some way to one or more riders on this trip, whether friends or family, or acquaintances we've met along the way. If you're a random dude in Greenland that's probably still okay. But knowing that you're all following along and silently cheering means the world to me and all the riders. Comments are just goldmines of encouragement as well and I'd highly recommend them. Its really my honor and pleasure to share this magical journey with you all so THANK YOU for being there with us.

The Little Apple

Day 35 - July 8, 9:52 pm
80 miles. Lawrence, KS to Manhattan, KS.

So this was our cue sheet today.

1. Turn right out of hotel
2. Turn right onto Route 24.
3. Pedal Pedal Pedal for 80 miles.
4. Turn right into church.

One road, 80 miles. Yes, we're in the midwest. Rode with Clarissa today and it was honestly some of the fastest riding yet. She's pretty awesome and we get along well. Im just really attracted to her laidbackness and how forthcoming she is. Its kinda wierd to think shes 5 years older than me but how i never even think of that when talking to her. If she never told me i would've thought she was 20. Age is just so ridiculously arbitrary and it amazes me how little it matters in how people can connect. Its too bad it still remains such a silly barrier sometimes. LIke me, you may also be thinking of one age marker in particular.

We averaged almost 17mph for the whole day which i think is my highest yet. We got to lunch at 40 miles without even stopping once which was definitely a first. Neither of us had ever ridden 40 consecutive miles like that so that was cool. We had also never been on such insane flat ground without a headwind so yea.

Morning riding is the best. Traffic and temperature are so low and your energy is so high. By the time the sun came out in our last 10 miles, even I was having trouble with the heat. Guess who saw more corn today! Apparently all the wheat has already been harvested so thats no fun but 24 was actually a decent highway. In some ways, its nice to have many turns to give yourself small checkpoints and a false sense of accomplishment and such. But so long as the shoulder is nice and we can keep up a good speed, staying on one route and getting in your zone also works pretty well.

We found some abandoned train cars and climbed up to see the empty insides. Seeing an empty container is pretty much as anticlimactic as it sounds but it was still fun to see and climb the cars up close.

Its kinda personally funny to be in a town called Mahnattan coming from NYC myself, when its clearly not the most populated. In case you're wondering, Manhattan is actually a Native American term meaning roughly "Land of hills". Thats the only way i could see that the two towns would have the same name. Its apparently referred to as the "Little Apple"

Seriously though, could it be any harder to find a simple postcard. The gas stations were fruitless and the town book stores has all of these silly artsy cards. Its kinda frustrating actually because its just so counerintuitive. We have so little time to actually look for things like that and when you're riding it sucks to ruin your rhythm and take a pitstop for errands. Man, I've never wanted tacky gas station items so bad. You would think that a place like Kansas would want to show off itself at every chance it gets. Either way, I am confident that i will persevere and that through my cards all shall know of the great state of Kansas.

After getting to the church, four of us headed over to a local sprinkler park and basically did what every other 8 year old was doing. We ran around and screamed. Did some mothers pull their children away from us? Maybe. Hopefully not. it was an awesome sprinkler park though with so many cool colorful fountains and on such a hot day it must have been paradise for those kids. The only problem was the aimable squirt guns with which the kids decided to keep getting my attention with. For our pose we decided to go with Water Vixens. And by we i mean I. That might help explain the, how can i say, less than coordinated arrangement.

We continued walking into the main strip which was a typical college town strip for nearby Kansas State University. We walked into this store called Acme Gifts which is one of those stores that basically has all of those really witty and funny but utterly useless items like huge moustaches and peanut shaped erasers. It was sort of like Urban Outfitters except cooler and less gimmicky in my opinion. There were some fun girls there that were fun to talk to and that I joked around with about the store. Lets just say that I wouldn't have stuck around so long had they been guys...

Then i met the owner of the Store, named Diane, and had my world rocked. She was also apparently the owner of that Acme t shirt shop i wrote about in Lawrence as well as the original branch in Manhattan. I flipped out when i heard that and told her how i had legit said to myself how all i want to do is work there for the rest of my life. I could really sense something about her that I haven't seen in many other people and that immediately mesmerized me. You could tell that she just absolutely loved her work. I can't explain it but the way she spoke, her subtle facial expressions, her tone of voice and smile all just gave me the impression of extreme laidbackness in the best way, which is just so attractive to me. With a store like Acme her whole philosophy is how can i sell the coolest, funkiest things to people and i just find that so inspiring and beautiful. It was overwhelming actually how much that spoke to me. I can only hope for a career where i can pursue such a simple, fun goal like that. Meeting her and hearing her story and seeing how her personality was clearly the bedrock of her business was an unbelievable highlight. I could barely handle how inspired I was.

It disappoints me sometimes to think that people's careers and passions aren't always related. Its obviously one of things that just is and you can't really change all at once, but why does economic necessity have to so crushingly trump our personal fulfillment sometimes.

Great chicken dinner provided by the church which was much appreciated. We'll need it for our 100 mile ride tomorrow! I'll also need plenty of sleep for our 4:30 wakeup so goodnight!

Seriously, why do we even bother getting off our bikes sometimes.