Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Longer

Day 62 - Aug 4, 9:30pm
110 miles. Yes, 110. Austin, NV to Fallon, NV

You read correctly. 110 miles. Third Century so far. I can't help but think back to when i went on this one training ride with my school cycling team. There was this one guy who did about 40ish miles and wanted to take it easy since he was doing a century the next day. I remember thinking whoa this guy is so hardcore. But that doesn't fly now. We warm up to a century with a week of 70 mile days, followed by more, not to mention the crazy heat, headwind, hills, and saddle sores we deal with. So basically I've officially come a long way from my naive training days and i think thats pretty much the story of everyone here. I'll at least try not to scoff the next time i ride with my school's team.

In honor of our mileage, today was the "longest" day of the ongoing Regatta where endurance was tested. In short, if you won an event today, its very likely that at some point we highly doubted your sanity for at least a little bit. Some highllights:

Steven came in with an incredible 40 miles of hands free riding up and down hills and against headwind. My five miles didn't quite pull it out on that one.

Meryl pulled 16 miles on her granny gear(lowest gear) while Carlos and Libby pulled an outrageous 65 miles on their highest gear.

videoSonya went 17.3 miles riding with only one foot and to give you a sense of how big all the margins were(and thus how crazy all the winners were) the next closest in this category was 4 miles. A similar ridiculous margin held for Max's 26 miles standing up.

Noah obviously won the "only speak by singing" category with a solid six hours, while Paige carried through in the Pig Latin competition.

What took the cake though was Dennis'(on the left) amazing 6 hours and 13 minutes of playing copycat to everyone he rode with which was easily the funniest thing we've seen all week. While we assumed it was just verbal, he willingly copied every single physical aspect and riding style of his victims ruthlessly.

And since 4 of the 8 winners were from the Black Pearl it makes sense that we stand with a crushing 421 points compared to our closest competitor, the Santa Maria with 291. Nothing like imaginary points to drive bored bikers to insanity...

Even besides the Regatta today was just crazy. More of the same pretty mountains and valleys, and more of the same ridiculous heat and headwind. I couldn't even pay attention to the scenery around me for a good part because i had to keep my head down to distract myself from the neverending road in front of me. It was actually the first day i relished riding into the headwind(somewhat) because since yesterday it has become so clear how this ridiculous stretch is our final challenge, and how much i just want to kick it in the face and prove our worth.

So really really super cool. We're sitting at lunch only to all of a sudden hear the sky rumble and have two navy fighter jets zoom over us! So amazing, first time ever seeing anything like that. But thats not it. About 30 minutes later we're riding and from our right a deafening quaking precedes this fighter jet which passes like 500 feet away from us. I kid you not that i thought an 18 wheeler had snuck up on us and was about to run us over and end my life. No joke. So unbelievably cool to see it pass by that close. Those machines are just incredible. You know that pilot was having some fun with us. We continued seeing them for the rest of the day but never that crazily close again.

We later also passed a sign pointing to the "Navy Centroid Facility". Now as if the word centroid isn't sketchy enough, when the Navy has a base 300 miles inland, you know somethings up. Well we found out that they apparently have a huge elite fighter pilot base here where all aircraft carrier pilots pass through at least once. 3 other riders further up saw a fake village get legitimately firebombed by those same planes from before, as in bam boom huge destruction fireball attack. Yea, and we thought the desert was boring.

The wierd meter spiked even higher when we came across "the Shoe tree" which is this huge tree(also the only tree) completely covered in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of shoes that have been thrown on it. Apparently a couple was driving through when they had an argument. The wife threatened to walk back alone when the husband threw her shoes up the tree inspiring a slew of others. Hooray for patriarchy? Either way it was actually unbelievable. So many shoes!

It was only fitting? at this point for Sonya to unflinchingly devour a 3 pound Monster burger at this crazy diner winning a t shirt. To think, only the third woman to ever do so.

We crossed over a decent hill and ran into some really intense lightning in the distance(like actually scary) and some brief intense rain which we started booking it out of finishing the last 25 miles at a solid 20+ mph pace. Kelly, Julie, Doug, and I actually beasted the entire 45 mile stretch from second lunch to the host barely stopping which felt amazing. Even better was seeing an actual group of sand dunes 2 miles or so off the rode. Like aladdin status wavy sand hills. it was so cool and Dan M who climbed up them said they were of course wonderful. At that point, with the jets firebombing, the crazy lightning and rain, the sand dunes, the shoe tree, the monster burgerand our delirious mileage, I probably wouldn't have been that surprised If we had seen Elvis himself drive up next to us.

We had an actual host today, the methodist church, for the first time in over a week and it was overwhelming. Not only is there dinner AND breakfast which is hard to show enough gratitude for, but we're finally around so many nice old folks who actually love and care for us. So nice! A close second was remembering what a traffic light looks like after 200+ miles without one.

But yea, our hardest day is over and the trip is basically downhill from here. Except of course the 4,000 feet we climb up the Sierra Nevadas. But mentally, there are so few days of riding left, and each one is that much easier and enjoyable as a result. Starting with 63 into Reno and our build site tomorrow!

Bonus video of the downhill race we completed today
video

Faster

Day 61 - Aug 3, 6:05pm
70 miles. Eureka, NV to Austin, NV

The Regatta entered its "fastest" stage today beginning with a baton, or tire pump, relay race to lunch. The standard strategy for the teams was to space out riders a few miles apart. But then again, these were the teams that lost. The key was to keep the baton moving at all times and to pass it at full speed between riders. The Black Pearl saw a valiant extraordinary, actually unbelievable effort from Hillary and Dennis who rode the baton 40 miles from the host to lunch. They would pass it off for a mile to our teammates and then take it back and sprint ahead since they're the fastest riders. The riding was really great this morning and it was actually super exhilirating to be sprinting frantically with Dennis and Hillary next to me trying to make ground. I went for a few miles with them but they were just jetting at 20+ for literally all 40 miles which was insane. Even more insane was that Sean singlehandedly carried his baton from the host, caught all the way up to Hill and Dennis, and was in a dead heat with them for 30 miles before pulling ahead in the end. The kid is a machine plain and simple. As he passed me after i had slowed down, i sprinted full out to try and get behind him and catch his draft but couldn't even get near him even though he had already been sprinting for 10 minutes and i had been resting. It was crazy.

Second Place was not too bad especially since i was able to complete my secret challenge at lunch which was to get as many people as possible to say "That's the fastest tent I've ever seen" Sounds difficult i know. But victory was all the sweeter when i led the entire group in a sing a long under the guise of a "group activity" only to fit that line into the lyrics. The result was a ton of confused stares while Paige and Ryan were cracking up. Perhaps i shouldn't feel so happy at having manipulated 30 people so easily like that.

The Regatta continued with the fastest climb and fastest descent events. Because i value my knees, i definitely did not volunteer for those. I was proud though to have caught up with a group of decent riders halfway up the mountain who had left 10 minutes before me at lunch, which in biking time is an eternity. It was 6 miles at 6% which is so damn long. Every bend just brought more uphill into visibility. At the top we cheered the racers as they finished and especially Carlos who just beasted everyone with an astounding 30 minute time. Dennis and Max were close behind to score a second and third place victory for the black pearl. Kelly closed the group but still got the celebratory water dumping as you can clearly see.

Just as we entered the obligatory sweet descent, the mountains decided to cut it short with guess what, yet another summit. It really did suck but whatever. The downhill was really curvy so the fastest descent race was postponed indefinitely. It occured to me today how this last stretch in Nevada is really pushing us to our limits unlike every other part of the country. The 4 Hs to beware of in cycling are Heat, Hills, Headwind, and Hiney. This has been the only part of the country where all four are being ruthlessly pitched against us at once. It's pretty cool to think of it as a culmination and our "final test" before the prize so to speak. It only adds to our feeling of indomitability.

In a group like this something inevitable is the consentual pairing up of certain individuals. Given that I'm talking about this in a public blog that my parents read you can guess that I am not included in this category. I think its really cool and nice in a way that people are happy together and enjoying each other's company. And i think that the personalities all end up matching very well. However there is still a part of me that can't help but feel that it detracts from the overall group dynamic. As in sometimes i feel its more like several groups of two rather than one big group of 32 and that bothers me i guess. But then again so says the loner. I could talk for a long time about this topic but I'm sure that if i were in a different position in regards to this i would also hold a different opinion. And that for me is actually the most interesting point I've taken away from it. I think the way your standing affects your outlook on a situation is extremely interesting if not the permanent source of worldwide political conflict. Its interesting to think then how much free will we really do have over our opinions.

Off to discuss our grant allocations with the group.

Chug, Chug, Chug!

Day 60 - Aug 2, 11:47pm
78 miles. Ely, NV to Eureka, NV

Aside from Red Cloud, Nebraska Eureka comes pretty close to being my favorite town name of the trip. Today i thought i might try some riding alone to see if it altered my experience of the trip. I got about 25 miles out which was the farthest I've ever done solo and it was pretty nice actually. The wide open desert doesn't lend itself to too much soloing for fear of going insane, but being the only human within a 15 mile radius in that crazy desert is a really interesting feeling you can't get too often. It was especially cool when right after a downhill I was able to sustain 35-37mph for a while from my own pedaling, which induced that awesome superhero-like feeling i always get at those speeds.

Even better though was at the start of the day when i was again having ridiculous trouble pedaling i actually found a problem with my tire rubbing. I fumbled with it and soon enough i was actually cycling and not just inflicting masochistic pain on my legs. Its kinda nice to know that i wasn't going insane last week, but unfortunate that i had to put up with that tire rubbing for so many days. Even more unfortunate are the stupid drivers(especially of humongous RVs) who don't bother moving into the other lane while passing us when they're the only car on the road for miles. Seriously man, what the hell is so hard about that. As you can guess, some of them have been way too close for comfort lately. I'd say 90% of the drivers are fortunately very generous but its those really scary 10% that stick in your memory.

While the open desert is nice and all, i think its very clear that US-50 is starting to take its toll on us. Its just the same mountain basin, mountain basin constantly. Being able to see 10 miles of desolate road in front of you that seemingly never ever gets closer is also just unbelievably demoralizing. On top of everything the basins are just full of headwinds that combined with the ridiculous visibility just crushes my soul sometimes. The crosswind can get especially bad and i swear i thought i was going to eat it today when the wind pushed my bike a full 5 inches over. Imagine pedaling slanted to the left like that trying to cut the wind for your life for a good few miles after just having climbed a mountain and expecting a break. Yea I dont want to either. Oh yeah, and the road isn't exactly littered with ice cream shops either.

Today the Regatta took it up a notch with the eating and drinking contests with competitors from each team. Sonya drew victory for the Black Pearl with 5 PB & J sandwiches but Doug from the USS Enterprise stole the show by chugging a full 3 liters of water. Disgusting and unnecessary on both counts, yea. Oh boredom...

Getting in early is awesome and so destressing and i've been making a point of doing it this week much to my happiness. As a result i got to replace my chain today(and learn how to) which will definitely pay off in saving later expenses. It still amazes me how remarkably complex bikes are and how much serious maintainance needs to be invested in them as a result. Its definitely given me a better perspective on how to treat and maintain cars and other vehicles in the future.

Highlight today was seeing a christmas tree in the desert today, as in a pine tree covered in garland and ornaments in the middle of nowhere. I guess we're not the only ones who get bored out here... Also when showering in the pool building two dudes came in with gas masks yelling that chlorine had leaked and then ran out screaming frantically when they saw us. Now imagine experiencing all that while naked and scrubbing yourself in the shower with 3 other dudes. Such a good moment!

Oh and can't forget Pancake Summit!

As for a facial hair update, i've apparently acquired the loose nickname of wolverine, which i suppose can't be totally bad. I'll see how its received back in the real world but I'm really thinking of leaving it for a while after the trip. I really value change in hairstyles and i've never done this before so why not. Now if only i could find some adamantium claws...

Avast, the Black Pearl sets sail

Day 59 - Aug 1, 9:56pm
Baker, NV to Ely, NV

Is it really August! Crazy that I'm literally only 16 days away from being back at school. Though, as Dan Marotti so eloquently expressed, given that each bike and build day is so chock full of stuff it actually counts for 4-5 days itself, meaning there's really a whole month left.

Could feel within the first mile that today would be good. I was going on an incredible seven hours of sleep and my legs felt great, as in the pedals actually turned when i pushed down. Am so glad that things are turning around and that I've been so happy lately. I mean life in my view is really just a connected, alternating series of happy and sad moments, and i suppose its up to us which ones we choose to focus on. This trip has definitely had some of the lowest lows and highest highs of my life and its interesting how the two have gone together. Of course the latter moments are the ones that really stick best with me.

A little less desolation today but still the same basin-mountain pattern with one nice climb in the middle of the day. Climbs are still tough but its cool that we're at the point where we can be like "oh whatever, its just another 5 mile 6% climb" which probably would sound crazy to me a few months ago.

Also cool i think is how the extreme desolation of Nevada is really bringing the group together just as the rockies and all of our other challenges have. Today was the official start of the Nevada Regatta which has been wonderfully masterminded by our own Paige and Ryan Farr. Basically its a humble attempt at us keeping our sanity by keeping us busy with silly challenges.

The four teams are the Titanic, USS Enterprise, Santa Maria, and of course the best, the Black Pearl. Today they introduced a few challenging(read: ridiculous) trivia questions about Nevada which you basically can't answer without asking locals and getting funny looks. Even more daunting however is the outstanding Scavenger hunt with about 40 or so challenges ranging from riding a mile on a rumble strip to locating and carrying a bottle of urine to getting a kiss from a local. Yea, it gets boring out here. It's not called the loneliest road for nothing. So far the intensity of the competition has been almost scary. I checked off the riding hands free for a mile and also snapped a picture of a dead coyote. I'm mildly excited to win eternal glory but mostly happily amused by the whole endeavour. That basically means I'm not as willing to ride 10 miles in my lowest gear or urinate while riding my bike or eat bread with chamois butter as some braver souls are.

Its awesome though and so cool to see the group having so much fun with something so ridiculous. Super props to Paige and Ryan.

Today Carlie and I pulled yet another Subway donation as well as $20 from a supermarket which bought 15 loaves of bread which was super cool. Got in pretty early and could relax and take my time. Feels great.

Arg, avast, I be called to walk the plank for a meeting of the Black Pearl, Farewell for now Mateys

Up and Down and Up and Down Again

Day 58 - July 31
82 miles. Milford, UT to Baker, NV

As if getting out of bed hasn't been hard enough in the mornings, doing so from an ultra comfy mattress didn't make things easier. The real motivator was getting back to that dinner where they were treating us to breakfast, which for me meant three huge fluffy pancakes and sausage. Three pancakes you say? To give you a sense of scale, this was probably the first meal i haven't finished on this trip and that says a lot. What a diner.

Being one of the first ready to roll out in the morning was really nice. Didn't have to feel the stress of rushing to make sure i leave with a group. The riding was decent and my legs weren't too bad until it became clear that we were doing a straight but subtle climb for 13 miles. Those long super subtle climbs are the worse since your mind thinks its flat and just totally messes with you, i think ive mentioned this before. That summit sign couldn't have been more welcome.

That downhill though, It was uncomparable to anything else on this trip. It was seven miles of straight downhill with no pedaling at about 25mph. There were maybe 25 cars in both directions all day today so the road was super deserted and on top of that the visibility was unreal. As in from the summit and all the way down, we could see the same road we would be on for the next 30 miles. Look closely in the pic to see what im talking about. The whole day was just this huge up and down of mountains, basins, mountains, basins.

Steven and I climbed again to lunch, where the sweat started pouring and the downhill afterwards was again satisfying. Its hard to describe how hilarious this was but there was literally one tree in the entire second basin we descended into. We're talking 30 miles of desert here. You could see it for 10 miles in either direction. Well Steven and I decided that it was Siesta time and took the prettiest 30 min nap ever under it. The silence out there is so intense. Its the kind where its so quiet that you actually hear ringing in your ears. Ugh great nap. The abandoned house next to the tree(again, the only structure for dozens of miles) added an awesome creepiness factor.

Pretty solid riding overall and just so much preoccupation with how overwhelming this desolation was. All Colin Hood, Steven and I could do was ponder how you could literally do anything you want out here and no one would ever know. The suggestions for carrying through with that got a little outlandish to say the least and you probably would rather not hear them. I mean you know somethings up when you need to weave between the lane dividers just to keep from getting bored. Whenever we called out car back, we had to clarify with "oh wait its actually 2 miles back" Also found a few carcasses which were not all the way decomposed as we unfortunately found out firsthand, so still no cow's skull.

Crossed into Nevada and the Pacific Time Zone towards the end. Crazy to think how i can't just get on the phone and call my friends since the times are so wacky. Soon we'll be on US - 50 for all of Nevada, "the loneliest road in america" You can't help but be a bit disconcerted when you see t shirts in stores saying "I survived US - 50!" Yea its gonna get that crazy.

But one thing Utah did put out before we said good riddens actually made me scream with delight. Can you guess? How closely have you been following the blog? What have i really wanted to see changed about roads as mentioned in my older post?

COLORED ROADS!!! All of a sudden there was a pavement change and the road became this amazing maroon for several miles until the Nevada border. I could hardly contain my excitement and didn't even know how to express such extreme happiness. It must've been like Ryan Farr jumping into a pool of free Cliff Bars.(inside rider joke) OK, but seriously think like actual effective health care reform getting passed. We're talking epic happiness here.

Baker is really interesting. Susan who gave a great dinner told us how the state is trying to drain the underlying water to bring it to Las Vegas and the residents are desperately fighting it since 1989. If the state wins, Vegas will probably have a few more golf courses, but this whole basin will turn into a dust bowl meaning environmental destruction, lung problems, and all sorts of nasty things. It was really eye opening to see what our need for growth has come to and to what extremes and sacrifices we will put others through for our own personal benefit.

Found this super cool cafe with all sorts of imported drinks and foods that totally didn't make any sense in a place with 300 residents in a 100 mile radius. Anyway, read a good part of todays New York Times and was so high off the brief intellectual stimulation. It was just so awesome to feel normal like that again in a way i can't describe. Interesting op ed on how the internet is like the new NYC in terms of people going there to make it big, the disorientation, etc.

Updated blog today which was good, and camera is nice to have. Also! did 2 consecutive sets of 50 pushups today. Big personal physical milestone. The trip just keeps amazing me at how its really not just about exploring the country but also exploring ourselves and our limits(or past limits i should say). Hmm...