Friday, July 31, 2009

DOUBLE Downhill!

Day 57 - July 30, 11:03pm
101 miles. Otter Creek State Park, UT to Milford, UT

What a day. Am just praying that at least one day this trip I wont have to wake up utterly exhuasted. Even mildly exhausted would be making progress. Waking up to balmy weather and eating cereal all bundled up by the lakefront during sunrise was, of course, super spectacular. It got me so pumped for the outdoor orientation trip im leading in the fall which is the same group bonding and silliness but without oh you know the 100 miles of biking daily.

The morning started off wonderfully and we went along these great valleys until lunch at mile 40. There's much more greenery in this part of Utah. And It almost makes up for the past few days of desolation. Almost. Had some great riding with Anne Lise, and one of our first real longer conversations. I like her a lot. Really got a good head on her shoulders and just such a pure soul. The fact that she can beast any boy on this trip on a climb doesn't hurt her either.

Hit a decent climb right after lunch and a solid 8% downhill. But wait. Just as we approached flattening out of the road we were met not with another climb, BUT WITH ANOTHER DOWNHILL!!! a double downhill! this one was also 8% for 4 miles. Possibly one of the best surprises ever. Probably even moreso than a surprise David Hasselhoff appearance at a concert.

The Interstate following that was pretty damn terrifying if not for the wide shoulder but soon enough we hit a burger king right before lunch that we all stopped at. Since i wasn't feeling like PB and J for the 574th time i opted instead for some Triple Super Deluxe Patty Supreme Burger which was gone in about 3 inhales. Now im not sure if im just a donation whore or people are getting really lazy about asking for donations. But personally with food being as tight as it has been, its tough to shell out cash for such a starving appetite. I mean what do we have to lose by asking. Well i did that with the Burger King and they were kind enough to donate 10 burgers. Thank you guys!

The last 30 miles were spent fighting a ferocious headwind(as in moving my bike 3 inches left and right continuously) and coming up with barnyard jokes. For example, why did the sheep go to college? Punchline: To get his Baaaachelors degree!

While we thought that we would be staying in a conference room tonight, the Oak Tree Inn was super kind to put us up in actual rooms! As in a real bed!. We were treated to dinner in this cute diner by the local newspaper reporter and Larry, Dan M, Noah and I couldn't have been giddier after we had all ordered our MONSTER Burgers. Just one of the six toppings was a fried egg. You get the picture. The sides of onion rings and shakes and floats completed the euphoria. But have to mention todays First alert: First Malt ever! It was chocolate and delicious. Officially a fan for life.

Afterwards Larry, Clarissa, Karina and I leaped for the jacuzzi where our minds, muscles, and any stress in them immediately melted. Seriously, at that moment with the burger in me and the boiling water around me, I had more of a buzz from times when i go party.

And i found my camera charger on top of it all!

Entering Nevada tomorrow. Good. Utah and especially Moab was okay but just not very high on the checklist, frustration wise at least. Off to my bed!


Day 56 - July 29, 9:13pm
75 miles. Capitol Reef National Park, UT to Otter Creek State Park, UT

So usually when you get halfway to 3/4 through a day of cycling you're ready for it to be over. Well imagine what its like to feel that way from mile 1. Thats whats been going on with me lately. For the first 40 miles i literally stopped several times to check my bike because there was no way that i could be going that slow naturally. I was pumping as hard as i could but those pedals just didnt want to move. I finally figured out/accepted that it was just a case of jello/spaghetti legs. Probably a symptom of biking ridiculous amounts of miles daily. That happens on this trip. The massive climb out of the park and the several thousand feet up afterwards definitely didnt help. The misery of the headwinds and the climbs combined with my inability to pedal is hard to describe. Its just so defeating for your body to just fail like that despite all your will to go on.

This coincided with my realization that with less than 20 days left im really ready for the trip to be over. At least for the cycling. This past week really took a toll and im just ready, but not eager, to be able to not have to push myself so hard every single day.

Am still keeping my promise to stay postive though and just soldiered on. Knowing how to break up such a large day into small chunks and goals is crucial to surviving on this trip to accomplishing most things in life. About 9 miles out the whole group unanimously stopped at the one oasis of civilization, namely a gas station complex to have a second breakfast. Who would think that a bowl of oatmeal wouldnt suffice for 40 miles until lunch. Yet again Subway pulled through for me with three foot long sandwiches for a group of us. It was so glorious. I was used to so much generosity on the east coast which really carried me through mentally and physically. But the lack of any stores let alone towns here is just daunting.

Also, Jenny totally changed my ride by finding me another Vertebrae to replace my lost one! It was actually three of them connected which was slightly gross but i broke off my favorite piece and mounted it to the front with some fishing line so as to fully display its awesomeness. Its really cool(at least to me) especially since from the front it looks like a face which is great since my cow's skull thing never worked out. Also imagine this convo: oh hey where'd you get that ornament. Oh at this cool website, but where'd you get yours. Oh you know, just off of a carcass in the deserts of Utah. We all know who wins the cool award there. I hope its a decently hardcore animal like a deer or something and not just like a dog. I generally don't like to get too attached to inanimate objects, especially dead ones, but i think the name Charlie fits especially well with this guy. Though the nickname, Vertebro, is kinda growing on me.

There were some pretty horrible climbs until lunch at the summit at mile 40. By horrible i mean the first time i've cursed at hills since West Virginia. Lunch was perfect though. 2 bowls of pasta, banana, cream cheese and honey sandwich(first time, its great, make one now!) and the most wonderful 30 min nap for all of us. The sun came out and made us super toasty since we had all our rain gear on. So good after that. Lunch was not only halfway milewise, but the summit was also the turning point for the day where everything was literally downhill from thereon.

Found these four beautiful horses on the side of the road and had a wonderful petting sesh with them while feeding them some grass. Was pretty terrifying to be so near such a large beast, but rubbing its skin and mane and feeling that connection with another living creature for that moment was so spiritual. Apparently the height of spirituality also led one of them to lay a fresh poop while we were there.

Came down an awesome 8% grade into what was basically a monsoon. Heavy but short afternoon showers are the norm here. We waited it out in a small diner which might as well have been the visitor center for a big game hunting reservation. Drinking hot chocolate next to 5 different animal heads, pretty interesting. The pictures on the wall of hunters and their game is a whole other story. Compound bows, smiling, and dead animals, is a unique combination. Though I did ponder how cool it would be to accurately fire a compound bow while riding a bike, Mongolian warrior style. Still got a few weeks left...

After that sweep and everyone caught up and the 10 of us rode the most glorious 20 miles into camp. The wide open fields flanked by mountaints(there was more green today) was super but not as good as the downhill all the way through. Had some good conversation with Jenny about her study abroad experience which really helped me ponder my decision for the spring, which is basically between the fun European adventure or the eye opening third world immersion. I feel their both cliche in their own ways but am just trying to figure out what would be the best for me. I have been considering the former while Jenny had done the latter which made for good convo.

During this stretch i had some really great alone time and just slipped into my own zone of thought which hasn't happened for a while and can be really great while cycling. I was basically thinking about some of my activities at school, which are normally sorta stressful, and realized that i was happy thinking about them and even looking forward to getting back to them. This is a huge difference from a few weeks into the trip when i wrote about how thinking about these things and the real world really ruined my mood. These thoughts along with my readiness this morning made me glad to know that the trip was really succeeding in giving me a breath of fresh air and perspective from my somewhat stressful normal life. The fact that I can think about life in the real world and not be stressed out, but even a bit eager to return is a really calming and centering sensation that i think we don't experience often enough. But for now I'm super ready to squeeze as much enjoyment and immersion out of these last two weeks as possible.

Did an obligatory dip in the lake at camp and pounded more of that awesome pasta. I could actually get used to camping on this trip i think. the logistics are pretty much down. I think its mostly that its really nice to not have a host once in a while as much as we love the donated food. Its nice to just be together as a group in solitude sometimes.

Hopefully i wont hate my bike tomorrow...

Noodle Time!

Day 55 - July 28. 8:20pm
92 miles. Green River, UT to Capitol Reef National Park, UT

You know how no matter how tired you are when you wake up, as long as you wash up and eat you start to feel fine? Well that works until you get out on a road in the middle of nowhere and start biking for 90 miles. The nodding off was pretty tough this morning due to the 4:30 wakeup and i wasn't the only one feeling it. Its pretty concerning actually since i almost couldn't physically resist closing my eyes. That would not have made for the safest riding.

Today was more of the same ridiculous desert terrain, like sand dune status. Seriously, we might as well have been in the middle of a scene from Star Wars. We were on the road with the sun at 6:30 and it was gorgeous. The temperature was also perfect for riding.

The lunch nap was crucial and in general the ability to sleep on command on this trip has been a much appreciated new skill i've acqured. Though im sure anyone pushed to their physical limits would probably be able to do the same. At lunch today we were visited by the "Grim Sweepers" aka Ryan Farr and Lara covered in black robes and wielding huge scythes. Super props for coming up with that and riding 40 miles in black robes for the sake of a joke. Awesomeness.

The riding really couldn't have been less eventful. The exception was the green swimming noodle we found on the side of the road! Carlie rode with it on her camelbak for 50 miles as we dubbed her Green Vengeance. It stuck out on either side so it was almost like bike jousting which was fun.

Oh yeah, what did happen was we were greeted by the most ferocious headwind ever. And lucky us, it was on an uphill. No creature should ever have to be in first gear struggling for their life to go 6mph on almost flat ground. Headwinds suck, really they do.

Also, we passed by this random motel which randomly had this sign out front saying "Bike and Build Special" Apparently he was not the busiest and heard about us at a gas station and decided to see if he could make a buck giving us a discount. He definitely made sure to emphasize "how far behind" we were from the rest of the group.

The park here is really nice and has some cool huge rocks and cliffs but not mindblowing like the other two we've been to. But camping is still super fun albeit a bit less novel. At the entrance was this nice waterfall where we stopped to take a dip. We also did some cool riding along this narrow fast flowing chute which looked so fun with the little kids flowing along it. Suffice it to say that after riding through it once, we from then on referred to it as the waterslide of death. I can't find my camera charger(ugh!) so pictures are limited for the next few days which is unfortunate.

No pushups for the last two days which bothers the routine craving side of me, but is cool since ive been really exhausted and it would just be pointless and hasslesome to push myself like that. I think working smarter, not harder, is the key to this one.

I'm also happy that i really followed through with my promise to myself to be stress free today despite the long riding. By the 80th mile we were all exhausted and the headwind was still kicking. Most surprisingly, as usual, i was super duper crazy hungry right before pulling into camp(which seemed like it would never appear) but i didn't let myself complain or let it actively affect my demeanor. Fortunately dinner crew came up with 25 POUNDS OF PASTA! for today and tomorrow's camping. Seriously, heaven in my stomach. The only thing i love more than food, is lots and lots of food. And the only thing more than that is probably eating lots and lots of food with a pretty girl. You get the picture. Tonight i was happy.

I'm shooting to sleep in the next 30 min. 9pm will be unprecedented for me. Again it was funny how we all cheered when we heard about the 5:30 wakeup. Its basically like sleeping in! Love camptime!


Day 54 - July 27
51 miles. Moab, UT to Green River, UT

Im just in a really poopy mood right now. Really stressed. I think im really starting to get overwhelmed by a couple factors. The food hasn't been too great lately. I couldnt even eat dinner tonight because the only pot of baked beans and ham made me nauseous from smelling it. Our spaces have been ridiculously cramped meaning peoples stuff is harder to keep organized. As a result my morning packing routine ive been so proud of has fallen apart, everything is just a pile, things are getting lost, and it just sucks and is so stressful. Honestly i can't overstate how much this is ruining my peace of mind. At least for me. Also this journal has been more of a hassle and chore lately, especially since all i wanna do each night is just say screw it to everything.

Most of all im just sick of my bike not working. Today the new tire i put in was rubbing against my brake caliper for some unexplainable reason and it made riding hell. I mean seriously, just give me a break.(wait i may have just cheered up for the sole sake of just having unintentionally made that pun) The wheels were okay at least. I was so pumped about degreasing tonight only to find that the group bottle had spilled and emptied. I borrowed someone's but it wasn't really enough or the right type. It still is cleaner than it was but i just wanted to kick it. All i want is to just ride my bike and have it work. Why does riding have to be hell sometimes. And why do we barely have time for maintainance.

Im just really not happy these past 3 days. Its only been at the host though. I think its just that all of these little peeves are really getting to me and i just can't take it so many days in a row wihtout some decompression. Today, while struggling to clean my bike i really did feel intense homesickness and kinda just wanted to say to hell with it all. I dono why my roll with it attitude isnt kicking in and letting me just laugh at all this. Oh well, i mean how bad are things really and what am i really complaining about. not enough room for my stuff? Don't sweat the small stuff George. Its not worth it. Just roll with it. Ugh Think positive, think positive.

Today was super short and through an actual piles of sand, no signs of life, even tiny insects, desert. We got in at 12 and took the most awesome 2 hour nap in a park that was blissful. The town is ridiculously small and kind of just odd how deserted it can be.

I dont feel like writing more now so i wont but i think this definitely helped calm me down for tonight. Keep thinking positive George. Stuff happens, all we can control is how we react to it. Actually, come to think of it, i need a goal. My new goal from here on is to minimize stress and just roll with it. I think that keeping this in mind will hopefully let me take a step back and just relax before getting all flustered. Its kind of ironic since new goals usually create stress naturally but lets see how it goes starting with a 4:30 wakeup tomorrow!

Mudslinging in the Wild West

Day 53 - July 26
Build Day. Moab, UT

Today was probably the best build day yet. We were working with a local organization called community rebuilds that achieves affordablity through Natural Building. Natural building refers to making homes out of materials like straw bales, earthbags, sod, and mud plaster. The builder Donny was apparently really big in the natural building world and knew his stuff so well as he explained to us the history and philosophy behind the whole movement. I loved him because he was so scraggly, rebelious, and out there, but at the same time his geology background really shone through and you can tell he was genuinely intelligent and knowledgeable about his trade. I love that emotionally chill but intellectually fierce combination in people. Hearing him talk was great, but i would've preferred to not have to use sunglasses to cover my uncontrollable morning sleepiness.

We were rebuilding a wall at a community garden using plaster, meaning the whole day was basically a huge fun mudfight. One team of us mixed the sand, clay and straw in exact ratios to create the plaster while the rest applied it onto and built up the wall. My job was to throw chunks of the plaster from the wheelbarrow to the appliers, in otherwords a mudslinger. The best part was not getting blamed when a chunk of mud accidentally hit the persons face instead of their hands...

It was such a refresher from the other habitat sites and most importantly it was so eye opening to see how feasible natural building is. It's incredibly cheap, sustainable, and looks really great. There was something really spiritual about building that structure with your bare hands and the earth and i can see how one can really take ownership that way. I would love love love to live in a naturallly built home one day, not to mention one i built with my bare hands.

After the horrendous ride into Moab, i decided it was time for a new leaf and bought some super tough Armadillo tires at the bike shop for a decent discount. May all budding flats tremble in fear at the sight of these new treads. It kind of bothered me a little bit to think how even on our time off the road we still need to be running around to bike shops and scrambling to do maintenance on our bikes. As if 75 miles a day wasn't consuming enough.

After a pretty lengthy and potentially more efficient town hall I, as usual by now, ended it with a fun new group activity called Moo. Steven as the farmer definitely afforded the group a great laugh on this one.

Did some bike maintainance at night. Still need to do more but still really need sleep. This whole crazy lack of time for essential things just really eats me up sometimes but i think I've realized its inevitability by now and learned to just take a deep breath and roll with it. Hmm, Perhaps thats something worth trying in real life as well..


Day 52 - July 25,
2nd Day Off. Moab, UT

So today I woke up and decided to jump out of a plane. Pretty much. Skydiving that is. I've always known i would do it someday and since the opportunity presented itself so conveniently in such a beautiful place I figured why not. Ten of us headed out to the airport and some were definitely calmer than others. I wasn't too nervous after signing away all rights to my life and my first born away. I mean the way i figure it the dude strapped to me definitely(hopefully) cares about staying alive, so then i should be all set.

It seemed that being Australian or foreign was a prerequisite for working there. My instructor was this crazy European dude(Austrian?) named Mick who was a total character. He basically took every chance he could to psych us out. Like when checking our straps, "Oh yea i guess you can survive in those..."

The plane took 2 divers and 2 instructors at a time and the cabin was probably smaller than my suitcase. To be sure, it was tight, and the pacifier hanging in the back was a nice touch. They took us on a 15 minute ride up to 10,000 feet which was 14,000 above sea level. The ride was a really big part of the experience. As if all of the scenery wasn't crazy enough from the ground, seeing all of the canyons and cliffs from above was just stunning, like unbelievable actually. What was also unbelievable was when they threw open the door of the plane meaning it was time. Emily went out first and lets just say calm wasn't the best adjective for that moment for her. We all agreed that the most intense moment was when we stepped out onto the ledge and were sitting out of the plane. Its that surreal moment like with the cliffs where all that fills your blood is pure fear and adrenaline. All i could really think was "Really? is this actually gonna happen right now?"

Well it did. Mick pushed off as my pupils dilated about 100x their size. I'm not even going to try and describe what it was like other than hands down the craziest rush you can ever imagine. When he deployed the parachute and we slowed down I found myself laughing so uncontrollably for 30 seconds that it hurt. The Euphoria from those 30 seconds of freefall was overwhelming. He let me control and steer the parachute for a little which was fun but the most memorable part was the spectacular views i was taking in as i was slowly wafting down for 3 minutes. It was such a epic vantage point and scenery that i kept asking "Where am I right now"

Back on the ground it felt amazing. Did i really just throw myself out of a plane? I can only describe it as a supremely high calm. Talking to the instructors and hearing what else they do was pretty interesting. They're just a whole different breed of people whose life is totally centered around as much extreme adventure and adrenaline as possible. You sometimes joke about living your life like that but here are people who just get up and actually do it. A little crazy but probably more fulfilling than your typical 9-5. I wonder which matters more...

Back at Moab we had some great Mexican food at this thoroughly themed Mexican restaurant where the 15 of us got to watch the penultimate day of the Tour de France which was so fun. Those guys are just beasts, totally unreal the endurance they have. We watched the final 6,000 foot climb of the race in pure awe as they just powered through. After this I would really love to go see the tour in France one summer and drive around to all the stages. The energy there just seems incredible. Putting it on the list...

Then Carlie, both Dans and Ryan F, Colin King, Larry and I went over to this trailhead to the popular swimming holes there. We trekked about a mile inwards to find this great one with a small waterfall where we splashed around. Walking amongst those cliffs was so intense and i couldn't get over it. Also the blazing sun was being just a little bit irrational but the water made it worth it. I find it so funny how on our one day off out of three we choose to bike 3 miles to a trail only to hike in 90+ degrees rather than i dono, sleep in airconditioning. It was wonderful though. The way i see it, if i have to choose between something new and unique and something i can do any other time, it almost always has to be the former regardless of how much of a hassle it might be.

Miranda came to dinner to say goodbye to everyone before she headed off home to rest. Most likely she'll be meeting us in San Francisco on our last day. She was obviously pained but in really high spirits. It was really emotional for everyone at the final goodbye and I personally had to find a corner to let my own tears out in private. I really wish i could be a little bit more personal in this journal sometimes but it suffices to say that it wasn't easy at all to see such a happy, strong, and inspiring girl like that leave our group. In a way I was glad to realize how far we had come as a group and how close we could be. We'll be making sure that her bike's giraffe horn makes it across with us as per her request. We all love you so much Miranda!

Today was also Mail Drop, and the first time i wasn't bombarded with packages from mom and dad which was kind of nice. A simple card saying hello, and the thought and effort that went into it is really enough for most anyone on this trip i feel. Priscilla's thank you card for this blog was especially appreciated. I loved the frogs!

And then there was Ariel's Package, a great friend from school who did this route last year. She sent Ipod speakers and a wonderful and thoughtful 10 page note reflecting on her trip that just made my day. There was also an Allen Ginsburg book which reminds me that i really wouldnt mind doing a bit more reading. She included a pic of the manhattan skyline asking if i was homesick, and while i thought no, looking at the pic and thinking of wonderful nyc i couldnt help but think yea, just a little. Interesting how that answer changed. Anyway, thank you Ariel!

And then of course was a group visit to Arches National Park. Its worth all the hype. The pictures will speak for themselves. If your in the area, just go.

At night i went to journal but really just ended up bumming around on some of my favorite websites. It was really cool to have that personal time and I felt so at home in that i was doing what i would normally do outside of this trip. I was so absorbed that when i finally looked up i had actually forgotten that i was in Utah biking across the country. It definitely felt so good to take a step back like that and was definitely what i needed.

Flat Day

Day 51 - July 25, 1 day late
80 miles. Naturita, CO to Moab, UT

What a day. First of all, seriously, what is it with every single building we sleep in needing obnoxious amounts of air conditioning 24/7. I understand its summer and all but can't it at least be a little lower, and its not always super hot. I feel if there weren't air conditioning i might just complain about the excessive heat instead but i still just find this air condititioning ridiculous sometimes, especially since i dislike sleeping in it so much and always choose heat over cold. I really thought the goal was to just temper the outside climate, not create a whole arctic ecosystem in your building.

Despite the lack of honey buns in my pack, the day started very well. We rolled along this crazy straight, rolling road that was mostly downhill for about 25 miles. It was in the middle of the red rock desert and huge cliffs surrounded us on either side. Gotta love canyons. Even better was the fact that we were riding through "Paradox Valley". Larry and I tried to think of some kind of tangible paradox pose for the picture with the sign but realized none really exist(Get it!).

Towards the end of our climb right before lunch i popped the first of what would be an epic day of flats. Jenny showed me how to use one of the superglue patch kits, which was great since its always cool to learn a new skill. Number 1. From there on it all went downhill (Downhill, Get it!, both literally and metaphorically!). Coming down the sweet descent Emily got her first flat of the trip(What?) which was quite removed from my most recent eighth. I chilled out while she changed it, and when we were ready to head out i got on my bike only to realize that the tire i just fixed had deflated. Was I mildly pissed at not having fixed it at the same time Emily was doing hers? YES. Number 2.

By the time we rolled into lunch i was too exhausted and demoralized to even bother making an effort to eat. It hasn't been the first time and i had to actually just force what little food we had down my throat for the sake of absorbing calories. OH and in case your wondering, yes it was once again peanut butter.

So then guess what happened when i got back on my bike ready to leave lunch. Number 3. And guess who had a tire they had just fixed pop and deflate as they held it in their hands ready to put it back on the bike. Number 4. By now i had realized that my back tire couldnt stay on a second longer so i replaced it with one lying in the van. The only problem was that the pile i was looking was full of discarded tires, meaning they had problems with them. Fortunately i managed to find one in decent shape and got myself going. By now though i had 6 broken tubes lying around me which I knotted onto my camelbak for maximum hobo effect apparently. This last ordeal all happened at the Utah border, so my picture there was not exactly my best.

All of this tire changing had eaten at least 2 hours and Sweep(the last 2 riders) had been chilling with me and Emily. It was decently late and we still had 40 miles to go and the sun was at skin melting status. All we could do was truck on through the remaining climbs, and slowly but surely we kept going. And going. And going. Once again, I emphasize the slowly part.

Staying positive was definitely a challenge, as once again cycling is an extremely mental sport. Towards the last 20 miles we finally hit the downhills we had been waiting for and they were some of the best yet. There was this one amazing one i can never forget where these massive red rocks just emerged from over the crest of the hill and were beyond glorious. Its also been a while since i hit 40+mph which was great. We ended up pulling in at 7pm which was late, but after a certain level of struggle, getting vanned is just mentally crushing and basically erases all of your effort for the day and we couldn't let that happen.

Moab is in a crazy canyon surrounded by these unbelievable crazy jutting red rocks everywhere. It basically makes me think of Mars is how i can best describe it. I can't even compare it to the Rockies because its a whole other type of beautiful.

Today our group contest was to find the most interesting thing on the side of the road. Hopefully nobody will miss their black latex glove they left on the side of the road... (though it ended up losing to a license plate Jenny and Larry found that was a US Govt plate)

On a more unfortunate note, today Miranda took a bigger spill on the road early in the day on a downhill. I remember seeing an ambulance blaze by us while we were riding on this desolate plain thinking "Oh man, whoever that is for isn't getting help for a while" Well imagine my horror when i found out that it had been heading back to get Miranda. She had gotten a concussion and broken her collarbone. It was pretty scary since she had initially had some trouble remembering some people's names which i think is really petrifying. She was taken to the hospital in Moab and is in very stable condition. She'll be just fine and will recover fully but her riding for this trip is definitely over.

Its really weird to write about this and acknowledge that something this bad could really happen. Of course it could be much worse but it isnt thankfully. Its just that Miranda has probably been the most improved cyclist out of all of us and for her amazing trip to get cut short like this just doesn't jive well with me. Its times like these that i really like to think that everything happens for an ultimately good reason. And i really hope that it can become clear to us, Miranda, and her family as soon as possible.

Our second day off is tomorrow, and it should definitely be a "rush" to get some time to ourselves...

Calories. Lots of Calories.

Day 50 - July 23, 9:21pm
86 miles. Montrose, CO to Naturita, CO

There are some days where you just reach your limit. Today as i stood in the kitchen i decided that i would rather go hungry than eat more peanut butter for breakfast. Not that there were even any bagels or bread left. 10 minutes later i was eating a paltry bowl of cereal. With peanut butter.

Lately, we haven't been having the most luck with breakfasts being donated unfortunately. Probably due to the early wakeups i would guess. That by itself would be bearable, but not when there are only 2 towns, if that, on 86 miles of desert highway. And even given the availability of places, its really expensive to support the crazy appetites we have out of our pockets on a consistent basis. I guess what im getting at is that I've gained a whole new level of appreciation for our hosts who provide us with meals, because without them, and without breakfast especially, the day really starts off to a bad tone. What a surprise, once again im talking about my problem with hunger...

Well today a good number of us needed a real breakfast no matter what so we stopped at this diner on the way out of Montrose, or should i say Cafe 110. We spent a good hour there(so much for 5am wakeup) eating these pretty good omelette burritos. Being my hungry self, i jokingly asked the waitress to stuff as many eggs in as she could. It was only after i had completely cleared my plate did i see a weird charge on my bill. I asked the waitress Michelle how explained that yes, "thats for the three extra eggs" Yes. Extra. Three EXTRA eggs. Without realizing it had just consumed a 5-6 egg burrito. Wow.

The riding was okay but my legs still felt like bricks. Its just such a miserable feeling to be pedaling as hard as you can and to barely be moving, and on top of that to have muscle soreness in those quads with each stroke. I really hope some good stretching and our days off will give the legs a chance to recover.

Just as we were approaching the bottom of our first climb, i got into a little spill when my wheel slid off the shoulder. It was just a minor elbow scrape but all of a sudden i became furious. I've been pretty cranky sometimes on this trip but never legitimately angry the way I was then. It just sucks because almost every single fall I've had has been because of that stupid transition between the raised asphalt and the ground. You would think I'd have learned by now to just go off the road instead of try and recover and end up falling. What made me angrier was that it happened because i could barely pedal and was really slow and wobbly as a result. I was just so sick at that moment of not having cycling work for me. I shouldn't have to kill myself to barely move 10 mph on flat ground. It just drove me mad. Also, I was just pissed at being "that dude" whose always falling.

Ironically enough, all of the adrenaline from the fall let me pedal really hard. I channeled that combined with my rage and totally flew up our first 5 mile climb. I can't even remember the last time i was that angry, but it definitely fueled me up that hill.

What also fueled me up the hill was a snack i bought at a gas station beforehand. It seemed like your typical Iced Honey Bun, but this was no normal snack. I would ask that you try and guess how many calories were in this one pastry. Really, just throw something out there. OK. Now multiply that by two and you'll still be short because this one honey bun packed 674 calories. WHAT! Is that even legal? Not 675, 674. Carlie and I cracked up laughing in the store when we read it. Oh and if you're curious, 354 of those calories were from fat. As expected, it gladly disappeared half way up the hill. Its tough because on the one hand you really do need some sugary fatty junk food to sustain such intense exercise. But on the other, 72 days of that diet really doesn't sit too well with my arteries.

After the summit we enjoyed a solid 20 miles of downhill. It wasn't awesome like the other ones since it was gentle enough that we still had to peddle, but still good. The canyon we were riding through was gorgeous with all of the exposed red mountainsides everywhere and the river alongside us. The desert is definitely becoming more of a reality.

We continued until 2 solid miles of an 8% grade climb(meaning up 8 feet for every 100 feet). 8% is steep. 10% is uncomfortable. 12% is really bad. Anything more is insanity. Along with Carlie calling me a mountain goat for climbing it so fast, i realized that i really enjoy climbing hills the most and am pretty good at it. I alluded to it a few posts ago but definitely confirmed it today. I guess i just really like the concept of having this crazy finite challenge staring you in the face versus indefinite normal pedaling. Knowing that you'll always have a downhill and an awesome view at the top are definitely driving factors as well.

Had really great riding for the next 30 miles on a gentle downhill through really amazing fields and prairies with lots of cattle and horses. Alas, my equine brethren do not yet heed my calls to solidarity. As a consolation though, we did get this lovely herd of goats running alongside us today which quite possibly made me the happiest person in the world for that moment.

Had an awesome strawberry-vanilla milkshake in town(all 3 blocks of it) and now need to clean my shorts since our group alone makes up 5% of Naturita's population. Moab is tomorrow which is great. What isn't so great is the 86 miles of uphill we need to travel to get to it. Either way, its just one more day and then a build day and a day off, meaning 2 whole days of no riding! Its really ironic how sometimes the only way I can motivate myself to cycle is by thinking of how much Im looking forward to not cycling. Its also funny how we're ending the cycling on friday and have the whole weekend off. In otherwords, cycling nonstop has literally become our job. Except that instead of 9-5 its really 5-11, a little more demanding.

Oh and forgot to mention that i found this awesome white vertebrae on the side of the road yesterday while waiting for the van. It's odd how i found just one, though I'd rather not uncover an entire carcass if i can help it. Anyway its making an awesome centerpiece for my handlebars right now, especially since the bull skull and elk antlers don't look like they're gonna come through. Now if only i could find some leather handlebar tassles...