Sunday, May 31, 2015

Day 71: Hamilton Indiana to Montpelier, Ohio

It's 8 am and raining outside. It's a cold rain and we are busy loading the van as we prepare to drive to downtown Hamilton and get breakfast.

We eat well and drive back towards the hotel. Dennis pulls over in a safe spot and I proceed to get dressed for the rain. I'm planning to put on my full Tyvek suit. I take off my jersey, arm warmers, and leg warmers knowing they will just get cold and wet under the suit.

Getting ready to face the rain

Soon I'm out in the elements and hoping for the best. I have to stop to put on warmer gloves. It's a cold rain. Worse, I'm facing a strong 20 mph North Eastern wind. I feel like I'm moving backwards.

The rain comes down harder and the wind is stronger

 Geting wetter and wetter

Let's add some mud to the game 

Back on the road, but the wind and rain is worse

My Garmin display is giving me my route on a nice map but with gloves on I can't change the touch screen to see my speed. I'm concerned that today's ride is going to take much too long.

My Tyvek suit is designed for single use and it's already been worn three times. It is no longer waterproof. I feel water puddling in shoes, my legs and arms are getting chilled, and the rain is burning my eyes. I plop through a few flooded sections of the road and realize that it doesn't make sense to keep going. I decide that I'll ride to Ohio and find a good place to call it a day. Ohio though shows up a bit too soon for me,  so I press on a bit more. About an hour into the ride I see a school in Montpelier and decide that's the spot. 

I pull over, turn off the electronics. Score: Mother Nature  1, Dave 0. 

I'm a bit disappointed but know I made the right call. Diana is pleased that I have a semblance of common sense left in me. She says she is proud of me.

As we get on the interstate and drive into Perrysburg, Dennis struggles to keep the van in its lane. The wind and rain is fierce, visibility is poor. Dennis tells me that I was moving at a good pace despite the wind. For a second I wonder if I should have pressed on a bit more. But that thought fades quickly I'm glad I'm on the inside. Safe and dry.

Day 70 La Porte, Indiana to Hamilton Indiana

108 miles. Big day. Lots of rain in the forecast.  Looks like country roads ahead and I'm hoping they are paved.

We are up at 6 am for breakfast and shooting for a 7 am departure. It's 7:28 and we're rolling. The rain has stopped but the roads are wet and there is but a slight drizzle in the air. Feeling lucky and hope it holds.

It's Saturday and there's a big speed boat race today. Lots of people partying the night before so as Diana and I snake through La Porte, we are wary of possible DUI drivers. It all looks good. The few cars we encounter give us plenty of room.

Soon we are on country roads.We see evidence of the strong winds from last night..

 It must be the seasonal changes in temperature at it seems like the roads are in poor shape. Lots of expansion cracks. It makes the going slow.

 But we're not complaining, yet.

 It's nice to be traffic free. The wind is also a bit helpful and cruising at 16 mph feels good.

The scenery is nice. Everything is so green. Diana and I talk a lot but we also have long intervals of silence where we're just lost in our own thoughts. This trip has taken turns we never expected and it's a lot to take in.

I can't help but remember the day before we left, smiling for pictures, all excited about the upcoming journey. At the time I remember thinking that at the end of this trip we would look back and realize how little did we know. That sure has proven true.

The bumpy paved roads now turn to dirt and gravel.

Some of the gravel is so deep it's hard to keep the bikes upright.

Mother Goose (our SAG wagon) has now passed us in search for lunch. Diana and I ride on. Lunch is somewhere around mile 58, I think. I tell myself I really should make a mental note of these things.  Now we are riding on a real bike path. Right through a cemetery. I'm uncomfortable. Diana though finds it calming. We ride on through.

We're now at mile 60 and I'm pretty sure we blew past the lunch spot somehow. I see a missed call from Dennis so we stop and call him back. He tells me that nothing was open at the lunch spot (mile 52!) so he has been standing in front of a Deli further down the road waiting for us. I remember seeing that deli about 5 miles ago! Yikes.We're ahead of them. So we agree to keep moving forward as Dennis picks up lunch and chases us down.

We're now at mile 70  and Diana is starting to bonk. She needs some real food. We call Dennis and he's just now leaving the deli. So we keep going albeit at a slower pace and stop a few times in the shade to rest.

We see many Amish buggies and children playing together outside. It's nice.

Diana had hoped to see some of these and we were rewarded many times over.

We stop in the shade to cool off a bit...

 Check out our friendly visitor...He's a real beauty.
It seems like all the dogs we've seen today have been friendly. I imagine Tigger is protecting us.

I stop a bit further down to admire a young foal running around a field. Too far for the GoPro to capture, but I do get a visit from some of horses. I pet one and am rewarded with soulful look. I know nothing of horses but sure do like them.

We finally see Mother Goose coming up on us. Mile 77 I believe.

The deli sandwiches were well worth the wait. We eat well.

Soon we are visited by an Amish farmer. He offers us water but we tell him we have plenty. So he goes back and brings us back a beautiful Kohlrabi.

He tells us to peel it like an apple and slice it like an onion and eat it raw. "Even better if you add salt" he says with a mischievous smile, "but don't add salt if you have high blood pressure!". I reach in the truck and pull out some pecans that my friend Bruce Caris gave to us for the ride. He tells me I've given him too much and that he should bring me 3 more kohlrabis. I tell him we have plenty and that he could certainly share with his neighbors if it's too much. He's very appreciative. We all shake hands multiple times and we're back on our way.

Diana continued on for another 10 miles or so and is ready to call it a day. Bumpy dirt roads, rain and now a humid heat have taken their toll. She rode strong and we are all proud of her. I take off solo. 

Soon it's only about 10 miles to go and I come across a 'road closed' sign. I check it out. They are working on a bridge. Is it safe to cross?  I see some heavy equipment on it, no activity,  and no evidence of fresh cement. So I take my chance and carry my bike over with. Mother Goose has to turn around and take a detour. It turns out to be a long one as I'm pretty close to the hotel when they wiz on by. 

I pull in close to 5pm. 108 miles down.

 Lost an hour with the time change. I'm drenched and tired. I think I rode too hard and am concerned I'll pay the price tomorrow. 

The hotel is billed as a resort. It was probably quite the resort 40 years ago but time has taken its toll
Still the views are excellent, the price was right, and the food not bad.

We sleep well, listening to the rain.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 69 Chicago to La Porte, Indiana

Today we rode from Tinley park (Chicago) to La Porte Indiana. It was great to have Sean with us again. Sean's support and encouragement makes a huge difference. Plus, having the company of my lovely wife, Diana who will be riding with me all the way to New York is a real treat.

Today though was a tough day of riding. Emotionally Diana and I were exhausted. We received an emotional call from our daughter last night informing us that our lovely dog, Tigger had passed away. Tigger's been part of our family for 16 years and was a wonderfully  mischievous and loving dog to the very end. We will miss her greatly. Thank you John Becker and Andrea Brennen for stepping up and helping during this very difficult time. 

So our day started off with heavy hearts. 

It helped though having our new friend David Barnes come up to us at breakfast. He thanked us for saving his life and that of his friends and family. After talking with Sean and me yesterday, he did some research on stroke and heart attack prevention. He got the message and spread the word to his siblings and co-workers and plans to get his carotid arteries scanned. 

So he thanked us and we thanked him. His feedback fuels our drive to keep on moving. Thank you David.

The ride to La Porte was difficult. It was not a long day and it had minimal climbing. But the first 20 miles gave us traffic light after traffic light. Stop go stop go. It wears on you. Then we faced horrific road conditions. Pot holes, cracks, bumps, you name it. We also had our share of drivers telling us to get off the road and to ride on to the sidewalk. A bit disheartening. The concept of sharing the road shouldn't be so difficult to understand.

Some of the better riding conditions before lunch...

We stopped for lunch at mile 32 and it was a nice break. Clouds were looming and a few sprinkles hinted we might be getting drenched...

Those are my legs hanging out as I eat lunch in my favorite spot

Post lunch, the ride got much better. Bike trails (still very bumpy) led to country roads. We moved pretty well,  though the early miles took their toll. We got some sprinkles, but in general the skies held tight and what little moisture came down gave us a most welcome break from the humid heat. We rode pretty much straight through with just one stop to help a wayward turtle and another stop where Diana changed shoes to try and address some hot foot issues...

Finally a bike trail!

We arrived in La Porte around 2:30 pm, pretty tired. Sean headed out to a local gym to do some leg work therapy, and around 6 pm we  all headed out to dinner. Parking was tight in this little town as today they were parading all of this weekend;s race boats down the main strip. This is a big deal apparently. Lot's of drinking, bar-b-ques, and concession stands. 

La Porte is an interesting little town. Seems to be doing well. Howevever, I was amazed at how many tattoos I saw. Having seen my share of them along this journey, it would take a lot to stand out enough to catch my eye. La Porte takes the cake. 

Tomorrow's forecast for both La Porte and our destination of Hamilton is rain and more rain. I hope it's not 108 miles of this...

Here's an interesting bit about La Porte's history taken from Wikipedia:

"La Porte is also well known for the area of which Belle Gunness serial murders took place. Belle moved to the United States in 1881 in search of wealth. Belle had posted many notices in lovelorn columns in hopes to attracted wealthy men. She would attract these men to her farmland, and mysteriously they would all disappear. Not only did she murder the wealthy men she attracted, but also her adopted daughter, and her foster children. The remains of over forty men and children were found on her property. Belle eventually burned her own house down, and made it look as if she died inside, although the body found was not hers. Belle withdrew most of her money from her bank accounts, then skipped town. She was never tracked down, and her death has never actually been confirmed."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Days 67-68 Chicago

Chicago sure seems frightening based on the news and the statistics but so far it's been a great visit.

I've walked twice to a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Dos Riccos.
Great food at Dos Riccos
 It's a  short walk and supposedly this area is not the best neighborhood, but at least during daylight it seems quiet and safe. In any case, the restaurant advertises Mexican-Asian fusion and it is outstanding. On my second visit I went with Sean, Dennis and Amy. I knew Amy would enjoy it but wasn't so sure about Sean. It turns out they both enjoyed it immensely.   
As we are sitting outside waiting for our meal,  I see the cloud cover and am concerned that we might get wet. Seating is limited inside so I suggest maybe we should go in now while there's space. Here's Sean assuring me that we will be fine..Amy is a bit more non-committal once I start recording:

Famous Last Words

5 minutes later

Notice we are no longer sitting outside. We are inside, waiting for a table!

 It was a long wait but worth it. The chef, Guillermo, took good care of us and we had a chance to talk about our ride and stroke and heart attack prevention. His first question was, "How can I help?"

Amy is comfortable eating standing up. That comes from living in Japan for so long..
.The rest of us wait!

Today began with a health fair event at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Sean gave a presentation and we set up a booth, talking about what we are doing and selling jerseys and vests. There was no line for the free carotid artery ultrasound checks so I went in for a follow- up to see if 68 days of restaurant food had changed anything, All was still good.

This afternoon I gave my bike a good cleaning and then worked on Diana's. She will be riding the rest of the way to New York.  Both bikes are sparkling clean. This feels good.

 In the process of working on the bikes I met several Mexican painters that were working a the hotel. They gave me a fresh supply of cleaning rags and filled my bucket with water. They were  taken back by the story behind the ride. I gave them all HAA cards and encouraged them to get their BP checked. Speaking Spanish has come in handy on this trip.

As I was packing things up, I met David Barnes, a cyclist and pilot. He chatted for quite some time, you would think we were old friends. It was a treat. He was very aware of cardiac health and keeps a close check on his health.

So now it's time to seek out dinner and put the finishing touches on tomorrow's route to La Porte, Indiana. It will be nice to start heading East again!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 66 Attica, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois

It's 7:15 am, van is loaded with all our luggage, Kenny, John Langlois, Dennis, and me. We have left our bikes behind in the Attica hotel and we are off to McDonald's for a hearty breakfast.

The oatmeal is good. The egg McMuffin sans meat hits the spot, but the coffee latte is syrupy sweet. At the counter I'm told it's just coffee and steamed milk, but I know that can't be the case, so  I just ask for a black coffee. Two out of three is not bad. The coffee is too hot to drink and we're ready to head back so I just put on the cap and climb in the van.

Minutes later I'm back at the hotel and working to get all the electronics on my bike running. The routes are loaded and now all I have to do is  start live track. Since I have no cell service (thanks T-mobile) I need to launch this while under the wi-fi umbrella at the hotel. By the way, the hotel was built in the 1853 and has some of the fastest internet we've seen on this trip. Just seemed strange...

In any case, I can't get my Garmin to pair with my iPhone and I'm struggling. I finally tell my phone to forget the Garmin, I reconnect, and voila, it's back. We can leave!

Birtie, the hotel owner is outside taking pictures of us as we leave. She was a great hostess and really made us feel at home.  We also meet a young man that considers Birtie is 2nd mom. He is very curious about our ride and asks us our ages. He is shocked and says something to the effect that as young as he is, he couldn't do what we are doing. We encourage him to get a bike and stop smoking. He laughs. But who knows, maybe he will change...

Birtie taking our photo as we leave

We are riding now. I look at the sky. Dark clouds. Thunderstorms forecast for all morning. But not rain yet and the road is dry.

We cross a bridge and start heading north. Oh, such a tail wind. This is going to be good. John looks at his cue sheet and says we missed a right turn. My Garmin indicates the next turn is 47 miles down the road. Drats, I loaded the wrong file. The file I loaded has us on 41 pretty much the whole way, and John had noted on his drive down to Attica that the shoulder was non existent and lined with a spoke breaking rumble strip.

So we stop and I find the right file on my iPhone and use it for navigation. I hope the iPhone battery  + the external one I brought will last the 103 miles we have ahead of us.

We ride a bit and the road is traffic free and smooth. 

We the turn left. It's dirt and gravel. Can this be right? Kenny looks at me. I tell him, "don't blame me, John picked this route!" We all laugh. John looks at his cue sheet and says, it's only 3/4 of mile.

 Dirt and gravel surprise

All smiles...

3/4 of mile turns into about 3 or 4 miles but none of us are complaining. The surface is not bad and we're enjoying the views. I'm thinking of how much this is like the Natchez Trace, just without the road! 

Kenny, master videographer!

Screen shot from Kenny's video...

Soon we are back on pavement and navigating right and left turns as we navigate along farm lands. The wind is strong. We feel like super heroes when it's at our back. Human when we turn right and hit the crosswinds.

We're on a good road and John indicates that we're on it for another 20 miles or so. I confirm with my cue sheet. Perfect. I turn of my iPhone display to save battery life.

 It's not 2-3 or minutes when I hear the RidewithGPS thump thump that we are off course. Yikes. I turn on the display and sure enough we missed a short left right jog at an intersection. We now turn around and head into the wind. We feel like slugs. Hard to move 10 mph. 

More laughter.

We find the course and once again we have the mighty tailwind. We are flying 25 mph. My watt meter shows 100 watts. John comments, "Does this count as a ride?"  More smiles. Yes it counts!

Lunch shows up at mile 58 and it;s barely 11 am. But we're hungry. Sandwiches get mixed up and I end up biting into a pepperoni one. And no guacamole. I swap with John who had my sandwich. He must have been hungry. Doesn't like guacamole but my 6" subway sandwich seems half gone. I supplement it with a cliffbar. 

As we head out the sun is shining, Nice but I can't read my iPhone display. Can't even see the brightness control. We pull over, John and Kenny help me shade the phone, and I get the brightness set to 100%. We're back in business.

The miles fly by. This is going to be one of the easiest century rides I've done. 

We're at mile 91 and it's starting to sprinkle. Feels good. At mile 92 the skies open up. It is pouring rain. The roads are not only wet, it feels like we are riding along a stream. The rain is cool almost cold. Get too close to the bike in front of you and you get sprayed with the rooster tail.. The road spray is surprisingly warm. Almost like taking a shower. I look back at Kenny. He's taken the brunt of the road spray and is looking pretty grimy. But he's smiling and singing, "I'm singing in the rain..."

At mile 98,  I suggest we pack it up. I'm not serious, but knowing that Kenny really wanted to complete a century. I am being an instigator. I get clear 'negativos' from both Kenny and John and we continue to press on. Kenny is still singing. This time it's "The weather outside is frightful..."


Soon we are at mile 103 and are greeted by John's wife Nancy who had driven with John to Attica, spent the night at the hotel and then drove ahead to pick him up in Merrillville.  We are all soaked.  I ask Nancy if she would believe me if I told her we rode the whole way in these conditions. She smiles and says "No,..." 

Kenny heads to the van to change into dry clothing. There's a nice clean towel in the van that my sister donated to the cause. I warn Kenny that the towel is mine and I'm not too keen on sharing it. 
He assures me he won't use it... More laughter.

I'm waiting outside, talking with John, Dennis and Nancy. Starting to feel chilled. The wind is still howling and I'm dripping wet.

Finally I see some legs hanging out the side door of the van. Kenny pops out and I jump in. I pull out some dry clothes, put the my wet gear in my dirty laundry bag, dry off with my towel, and get dressed. Love this van.

We say our goodbyes. Nancy gives us big hugs and thanks us for what we're doing. John, who is a IIT alumnus says he will see us at Thursday's event. 

I'm feeling great. Somehow getting to Chicago seems like a huge milestone. There are still many miles to go, but the end is  in sight. 

Shortly I will see Sean and Amy. Sean will be joining us for the rest of the journey and tomorrow I'm joined by Diana who will ride all the way to New York with me! Yay! 

In Perrysburg we pick up Andrea and my friend Rick Hoffman. I haven't seen Rick in 35 years. Can't wait. 

In Pittsburgh, my colleague Chris Lattin, joins in. And somewhere before New York, Tom Lacey might join. So as we approach the finish, the number are growing. This is good.

Short video highlight the fun of cruising with huge tail winds (we rolled at speeds up to 37 mph) and the small price we paid when the skies opened up...

Route summary...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 65: Brazil to Attica, Indiana

The weather forecast for today was grim with thunderstorms predicted for most of the morning.

I was down for breakfast at 7 am and it was pouring outside. It's always hard to start riding in the rain so mentally I was getting into the the right mindset to muscle through it.

I looked around the breakfast area, and no Kenny or Dennis. Usually they are on time. Hmmm...Then I remembered we had agreed to meet at 8 am! So I ate alone and headed back up to my room to finish packing.

At 8:05 I was back downstairs and met Dennis and Kenny..... They were concerned. Normally I'm not late and as I sat down with them, I received the delayed text from Dennis "are you ok?" .

We chatted a bit with a family next to us. The mother has a history of stroke in her family (including her sister)  and I asked her if she had been screened. She had not. We explained what we were doing and she agreed to go get a carotid artery ultrasound. I hope she does.

By 8:30 the rain had stopped and we decided to get out as soon as possible to at least start with dry weather.

We were lucky. Huge tail winds and no rain. This lasted until we started heading west towards Bridgeton. Yikes. Strong crosswinds, cold rain. Not exactly ideal biking weather but  we pressed on.

We were rewarded with a beautiful covered bridge crossing:

Next we were heading north again and I could tell Kenny was happy. He sings when he is having fun. Fortunately he has a great voice.

 Kenny singing away!

The roads were still wet, but the rain stopped and the tail wind was splendid. We were both having a great time. Then we came across a series of horse buggies. My camera lens was unfortunately wet so the screen captures are a bit blurry...

Young man, tips his hat at me. Nice!

Friendly couple gave us a big wave

Two small children in the back of this one. They boy waved. The girl just stared me down expressionless

Dave meets horse

The horse wasn't too pleased with rider number 2

 We stopped for lunch near mile 38 and ate left over pizza. Leftovers never tasted so good.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. Small sprinkling rain that felt good. Strong winds pushing us forward. The effect on the tall grass was mesmerizing. Pictures don't do it justice so I won't bother...

Clouds were threatening, but we got lucky...

Pulling in to our historic hotel, Hotel Attica; Blue skies and dry weather!

Tonight we will be joined by John Langlois from Intel and a friend of his. . They will be dropped off here tonight and will ride with us tomorrow to Chicago. I'm looking forward to meeting them.

Last but not least, here's a map of today's route...