The End of the Journey

Again, I wish I could have blogged more regularly, but things just got too busy and entertaining. This post is all about California and is coming from the van on my way back to Notre Dame. I’m just happy that I remember all the details. Anyways, here is all that information!

After leaving Parker, AZ, I was disappointed to learn that we still had several days before leaving the desert. My vision of California would not be realized until we got closer to the coast. Meanwhile, I was getting mentally ready for more blistering heat. Thankfully, the day was rather overcast, and we were blessed to not have to deal with the scorching sun. That is not to say it wasn’t hot, but it certainly wasn’t anything like the past several days. Our ride that day brought us to Blythe, CA. It still blows my mind that I rode my bike to California from Maryland. We were almost done, and that’s crazy. Anyway, I rode with Kirk, Kevin, Danny, and Max. Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable ride, helped in part by the fact that it was a rather short mileage day. Because we were following the river, my group even stopped to buy inner tubes, and we were going to try tubing all the way to Blythe. Unfortunately, such a trek would have taken hours. So we just cruised to Blythe. After arriving, we actually went back to Crystal Cliffs to look for a GoPro that Simon had lost. Unfortunately, we were not able to find it. We did what we could, though, and I hope it turns up. After heading back to Blythe, Danny’s mother donated a great meal for us at a restaurant near the hotel where we were staying. It was a great meal. We were staying at a hotel to avoid camping in the heat, and we were lucky to get it discounted. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in a bed.
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We were supposedly still not done with the heat, so I was getting prepared for a miserable ride into Brawley, CA. However, we lucked out again, and the heat really wasn’t too bad. What wasn’t fun, however, were the roads. For most of the day we had to deal with bumpy roads. It could be worse, but those are never fun to ride on. I rode that day with Heather, Bri, Tyler, Brad, and Taylor. We passed most of the day by just joking around and enjoying the ride. We even passed through some more sand dunes, but they were not nearly as impressive as the ones in Alamosa, CO. That day we had a great homestay with the Harveys, who hosted the team last year. They treated us to a great lunch, dinner, and breakfast, which was wonderful. It was great to stay in a house, and they even did our laundry! That evening, we went to get some things at Walmart and then got some ice cream. Overall, it was a good day.
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I was in the van for the ride into Palm Springs, CA. Supposedly, this would be the last hard day of riding and the last day of heat. Once again, the group got lucky, and the day wasn’t too unbearably hot. Eric and I just headed directly to Palm Springs to try and get food donations. It was a decent sized town, so there were a lot of options. After getting shut down from quite a few places, we were able to secure some donuts, Chipotle, and some fruit from Trader Joe’s. I’d say we were pretty successful. He and I also spent much of the day talking about the Navy and his brother in the SEALS, which I thought was awesome. After dropping the bags off at the host, we discovered that several groups were caught in a torrential downpour. It was the only like that Palm Springs had seen in 6 years. Of course, it happened on the day we were riding into Palm Springs. Typical 4K experience. That evening, we were able to get cheap tickets to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and got free Coldstone! I’d call that a pretty good evening.
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I was anxious to get back on the bike for our ride into Rancho Cucamonga. Supposedly, it was the day we finally leave the heat and the hard riding days were behind us. For the most part, it was true. We did have a pretty brutal headwind for the beginning of the ride, but it could have been a lot worse. I rode with Danny, Heather, Lisa, and Simon. It was honestly one of the most fun days I have had on the saddle. We spent the whole day just joking around and enjoying each other’s company. Rancho Cucamonga was also a pretty beautiful community, and I enjoyed riding into it. That night, Lisa’s family friend allowed us to come over, eat, and swim for awhile. It was a lot of fun. After that, some of us left and went to go rock climbing at a climbing gym that donated tickets to us! I had never been truly climbing before, so it was a lot of fun!
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I was very excited for the next day because we were officially riding to the Pacific Coast, through Los Angeles, and to some pretty beautiful areas. The day was only about 60 miles, and it was through some beautiful areas. I also loved riding through Los Angeles. We saw some pretty cool areas and rode right through Beverly Hills, which was great! We stayed at a Catholic Church right on the ocean in Santa Monica. It was honestly the perfect location. After eating some lunch and taking a nap, Shawna and I headed right to the ocean. I loved swimming in the Pacific and just enjoying the atmosphere. In my mind, we made it. We had gone coast to coast, and now we just had to get to San Diego. That night, we had a wonderful dinner at the host, and then explored Santa Monica and the pier. Some friends and I also tried to each eat 25 hot wings at Hooters late at night. I failed. The next day we had a rest day. We started out by meeting with cancer patients at the USC Medical Center. That was an unbelievable experience. I was amazed by their positive attitudes and outlook despite everything that happened. It was incredibly refreshing, and I loved the experience. The rest of the day was spent further exploring Santa Monica, and we rode on the beach all the way to Venice Beach. I can comfortably say that this area had some of the most interesting characters, and I loved it. The area was so beautiful and comfortable. It would be hard to leave California.
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The next couple days only confirmed my love for the California coast. Our ride into Huntington Beach was only about 50 miles, so my group of Eric, Kenny, Kirk, Kevin, and Max took our sweet time in getting there. We opted to take the beach ride the whole way there and go unsupported. It was a great decision. We got to ride along the ocean the whole way there. We also stopped at a great coffee shop in the morning, rode slowly, and met Wee-Man at his taco shop. It was pretty cool running into a celebrity! Our host that night was also great. We stayed in the homes of people that Taylor and Tyler knew from Maryland. They provided us with a great dinner, beer, and a pool to swim and relax in. After dinner, Kirsten treated us to spotlights of each member of the team. She called me ruggedly wise, which was an…interesting compliment. It was great to hear all the great things she had to say about everyone. I slept on a mattress they had in a camper, and it was incredibly comfortable.
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The next day was our last real ride of the summer. That was an incredibly surreal realization for me. We rode with the groups we had on the very first day, and it was crazy to see how far we’ve come since Baltimore. I rode with Erika, Kenny, and Lisa. We spent the day riding through some beautiful beach towns. I’ve never seen more nice cars such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mazerattis, and more. It was crazy how nice all the towns, such as Laguna Beach, were. My group also did some fun things like riding without shoes and switching bikes for awhile. We also rode with some local cyclists who took us through some cool areas of the coast such as Camp Pendleton. I really loved the ride even though it was 70 miles. That night, we stayed at a high school in Solana Beach that grilled out for us. Stephen also was there since it was our last night, and he let me and Kevin go for a ride in a Dodge Challenger! It was awesome! I really loved just hanging out and spending one last night with my team. We just hung out in the church, and I could not think of a better way to spend the final night with my incredible team.
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The next morning was filled with all sorts of excitement. It was the final day of the 4K and we were not allowed to arrive at Mission Beach until noon. So we slept in until about 7:30, which was amazing. We then had everyone sign our Team San Diego jerseys and got all our stuff together for our last ride. I plan to frame my jersey at some point. The whole morning was incredibly emotional. We had our final dedication circle and the loudest and best cheer of the whole summer. It was also crazy because our last ride was only 17 miles, and it felt like nothing. Everyone was cheering and chanting the whole way there. Eventually, we arrived at Mission Beach, and most were greeted by many family members and friends. We had officially made it. We biked across America. All of it. Coast to coast. That blew my mind. After reuniting with family for a bit, we all gathered for some final words. Stephen gave a short speech, and we all said something nice about one person on the team. We each received a flag, a diploma, and an alumni wristband. After that, we did our cheer one last time, and it was by far the best one we have ever done. It was incredible. We concluded the summer by running our bikes into the Pacific Ocean. Surreal and incredible are both understatements. That night, we went out for Heather’s 21st birthday, and we enjoyed one last gathering with the team to conclude the summer.
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To say this has been the most incredible thing I’ve ever done doesn’t even begin to cover this summer. I’ve met some amazing people who I can call friends for life, proved to myself what I can accomplish, and saw some pretty amazing places. Thanks to everyone who donated to make this possible and to all those who have been following my journey. It has been quite a ride (pun intended). Until my next adventure, that’s it for now!

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Crossing the Desert

So this is the longest I have gone without blogging. I wish I was able to be more diligent about it, but things just go so busy. Starting in about Colorado until the end of the trip, there was hardly a dull moment. We started doing a lot more outside of simply riding our bikes. Hopefully my memory serves me well so that I can accurately retell it all. Anyway, here goes!

After Colorado, we dipped back into New Mexico for one more day. Coming from being in the Rockies, this ride was expected to be rather flat and even downhill. For the most part that was pretty true. I rode with Shawna, Brad, Haley, and Lauren that day. We were able to ride pretty quickly, and the ride was rather enjoyable as well! However, toward the end, we could definitely tell that we left Colorado. The climate began to get more desert-like and the temperatures rose. It was time to get mentally ready for the desert. That evening, we stayed at a wonderful church whose pastor was Scottish. They treated us to a grill out! After dinner, some of us went to see Shiprock, which is a large rock formation and what the town was named for. It was pretty rough road getting there, but it was cool to see!
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The next day brought us into our second to last state: Arizona. And let me tell you, the welcome was none too welcoming. The majority of the day we battled terrible roads that were tough to ride on. I was scared that I was going to get a flat with every bump I hit. Surprisingly, we had also had our toughest climb thus far. It was a 4,000 ft climb over about 15 miles called Buffalo Pass. It was an incredibly steep climb as well. However, going down the same mountain was a blast! Unfortunately, I got a flat on the way down, though, which took away some of the enjoyment. Our destination for that night was a small town on the Navajo Reservation called Chinle. My group and I stopped at Canyon De Shelly before arriving and then got smoothies at Burger King. It meant we didn’t get to the host until 8:00, but it was worth it!
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After Chinle, we were headed for Kayenta, AZ, which was another small town on the Reservation. Thankfully, our ride that day was much less hilly and more enjoyable. I rode with Lauren, Jeremy, Haley, and Max. We spent a majority of the day devising a bucket list because the trip was coming closer to an end and simply joking around. I had a great day, and it was made better because the day was only about 65 miles. The last 15 we had a police escort! It was really cool for a bit, but then it unfortunately made things a little harder because we had to stop every so often and let traffic go by. That evening, we had some really great homestays who provided us with great meals. It was a great experience overall. We also went to Monument Valley that night, which was really cool to see! Check out the pictures below!
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I was excited for the next day because we were heading to Page, AZ, which was the location of Lake Powell, a trip to the Grand Canyon, and our rest day! We just had 100 miles of riding before we got there. I rode with Lauren, Erika, and Dan. After some wind and hills in the morning, the ride was pretty flat most of the way. However, we got our first real taste of the desert. Right at the end of the day, it got really hot. Thankfully, it was at the end. That evening, we all just spent some time walking around Page and seeing Horseshoe Bend. As you can see from the pictures below, this was an unbelievable sight to see! However, the cool sights didn’t stop because we got up at 3:30 to go see the Grand Canyon at sunrise. So much for a rest day! But it was completely worth it. Seeing the vastness of the Grand Canyon was incredible, especially with the sunlight illuminating the rocks. I also enjoyed climbing down into the Canyon a bit. The rest of the day was spent resting up, hanging out, and spending some time at Lake Powell. It was a great day!
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After Page, we were headed for Tuba City, AZ. I was excited because it was another short ride, and it was almost entirely flat the whole day. It was hot, but we were able to get into our host by around 2:00 that day, which was rather nice. The ride itself was enjoyable, but nothing major happened. Our host for that evening was an academy boarding school. It was a pretty nice place, and our host was able to provide us with some nice accommodations! After eating dinner, we all went and got shakes at Sonic because they were generous enough to donate them! It was a great treat.
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I was in the food van for the next day’s ride into Flagstaff. The road seemed pretty smooth and flat, so I expected it to be a relatively simple ride. However, I was told that there was a pretty crazy headwind. Bri, Taylor, and I just headed right to Flagstaff and worked on food donations. After getting shut down from quite a few places, we were able to get some rice, a bunch of bread and rolls, some salads, and some chicken. It was a tough, but overall successful, day in the van. Because we had some time to kill, Bri and I drove around the town a bit to look for more donations and got some Baskin Robbins! I had never eaten there before, and it was delicious. Since I didn’t ride that day, I did a short lifting workout at the YMCA we were staying at, and then spent the rest of the night hanging out and getting ready for the next day’s ride!
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The next day brought us to Prescott, AZ. As you can tell, we actually spent a good amount of time in Arizona. As we got closer to San Diego, we were heading toward sea level, so I was expecting a somewhat flat ride. And I was wrong, O so very wrong. The beginning of the day was relatively simple and easy. We headed way downhill for awhile and even got to ride through Sedona, which was a really cool tourist town! However, about halfway through, we encountered Mount Mingus. It was a 12 mile climb straight up a mountain. It came out of nowhere, and it was pretty tricky and tough to do. There was also a town in the mountainside, and I could not understand why someone would put a town there. After reaching the top, it began to rain rather heavily, and we had to pull over at the bottom and wait out the storm. It seems our team cannot get down a mountain without a storm accompanying us. It was a bit ridiculous. After my group got 5 flats in the last 5 miles, we finally arrived at our host around 6:30. We had delicious burgers and hot dogs and wound down for the evening after a long day.
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Our ride into Wickenburg, AZ gave us our first real taste of the desert. It was a short day with only about 65 miles. It was also very nice because the whole day was basically downhill and flat. There was very little climbing at all. This made for a pretty enjoyable ride with Bri, Tyler, Heather, Simon, and Taylor. However, that changed in the last 15 miles or so. As we descended down a mountain about 2,000 ft, it got really hot. When we weren’t too far from our host, the temperature was around 105⁰. It was almost unbearable, but thankfully, we were almost there. I have never been more thankful for A/C than at our host. Our host for the evening, The Place, also provided us with a feast for lunch. It was wonderful. Then we had another feast for dinner, which was equally wonderful. I was also able to meet up with my Aunt Sandy from Phoenix for about an hour, which was a nice treat because I don’t see her very often. All in all, it was a good day despite the heat.
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Our final day in Arizona was our ride to Parker, and it was the hardest ride thus far. There was very little climbing, and the ride wasn’t too bad in the beginning. However, that might be because we got up a 3:30 to start our ride with the sunrise and avoid the heat. Up until mile 75, we did just that. However, that was when things got hard. I will never again complain about being hot. That day we ended up riding 115, and the last 40 miles were in a temperature of above 110⁰. To put that in perspective, 115⁰ is the preheat setting on most ovens. We were literally cooking. We had to shorten our water stops to every 6 miles just to refill with cold water and catch a breather. I still can’t believe I made it, but I just tried to remember that giving up isn’t an option for people with cancer, so it shouldn’t be for me either. That helped me to push through. I have never been more thankful to see civilization in Parker than that day. We got A/C, cooled off in the Colorado River, had a great dinner, and just spent the evening hanging out at the host. Our next day was a rest day, and we spent the majority of it at Lake Havasu. We swam for awhile and had a great Italian meal donated for lunch. My favorite part of the day, however, was cliff jumping at Crystal Cliffs. I jumped off a 65 foot cliff! It was exhilarating, and I would love to do it again someday.
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That about wraps up our time in Arizona. I apologize for the long blog post, but I hope it’s a good read! I wish I could have blogged more regularly, but there is no sense in looking at the past! Stay tuned for the juicy details about our time in our final state: sunny California!

The Beauty and Tragedy of the Rockies

Lately I have had a little more time to catch up on blogging because the rides are slightly shorter and we are getting into the hosts earlier. This post revolves all around the excitement in Colorado, and there was quite a bit of it. Colorado, though brief, has been my favorite state thus far.

After Taos, we headed toward Alamosa, CO. My group of Danny, Kirk, Kenny, Kevin, and Max departed with our host, Bob, for the first stretch. It was an awesome beginning of the day because he is extremely nice and interesting to talk to. We stopped by the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge right away, and it was quite a sight to see. Shortly after, we stopped at a park of sustainable homes. The houses looked like something out of Star Wars, and they were pretty cool and unique. It was at this point that Bob headed back to Taos. The rest of the ride was pretty standard, but the group of us had a good time. After arriving in Alamosa, we headed out to the famous sand dunes in that area. That was honestly one of the coolest sights I have ever seen. It was like small mountains of sand nestled in a valley that stretched out for miles. It was an incredible sight, and we had the opportunity to climb them. Climbing on sand was rather difficult, but getting to the top was worth it. You can see in the pictures below.
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The next day brought us to Pagosa Springs, and that day’s ride was one of the most interesting yet. The sights were gorgeous, but the ride itself was pretty normal. At least the first part was. We had been hearing about this mountain pass called Wolf Creek Pass, and I was anxious to see what all the hype was about. The ascent was quite high, but it was pretty gradual. At the peak, we were at almost 11,000 feet, which is the highest point of the entire trip. The interesting part began on the way down Wolf Creek. It was a 7% graded downhill, which is really steep, for 7 miles with several hairpin turns. That would be bad enough itself, but then it also started to rain really heavily. My team and I were ready to tackle it, but then the temperature dropped over 30 degrees and it started to hail. We had to pull off the road and take shelter in several different cars to get warm for a bit. Eventually, the van got back to us, and we had to shuttle the rest of the way to the host. It was unfortunate, but it was the safest decision at the time. After we had a nice meal at the host, we all headed to the hot springs in town. They were a really cool place to relax and wind down an eventful day.
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Our last day in Colorado brought us to Durango. I was in the water van with Dan that day, and it was a really easy day in the van. There were only a couple turns, so I really didn’t have to chalk much. All we had to do was ensure accurate mileage for the water stops. Every group got into the host by around 1:30, and we didn’t have to go back for any mechanical issues, so I’d say it was a pretty successful day! Because we had so much time, we went to explore the town of Durango. It was a really nice town nestled in the mountains, and we walked around the downtown area for most of the day. It was really nice to get a souvenir shirt and some good ice cream. We all headed to bed relatively early and prepared for our departure from Colorado.
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As I said above, our time in Colorado was short, but it was really fun and eventful. It seems like every town in Colorado has something that it’s famous for. I really like that aspect, and I think it was my favorite state thus far. I hope to return sometime soon!

The Beginning of the Southwest

So, once again, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. The ride just seems to get busier and more exciting the further west we go. I suppose that’s a good problem to have. In any case, we also find ourselves in some tiny towns, so the Wi-Fi for blogging is not always available. But here goes trying to recap everything that’s happened since Texas!

From Lubbock, we traveled to Clovis, NM, which officially marked our 11th state! That’s absolutely crazy to me to think that I’ve ridden a bicycle through 11 states. It’s honestly hard for me to imagine. Because we were crossing another state line, we got to pick our own riding groups that day. I rode with Shawna, Kenny, Kirk, Kevin, and Max. The ride was more or less a century, which makes for a rather long day. We passed much of the time by joking around and telling a bunch of riddles. It was pretty fun! That is, until the end, when the road started to get really bumpy. The sore butt was becoming very real by this point in time. However, we made it to the host, which was a nice church with an odd shape. Considering the staple of Notre Dame is the golden dome, I felt right at home. Our host that evening was a phenomenal cook and provided us with quite the feast consisting of smoked pulled pork, brisket, and a ton of sides. It was one of the better meals we have had on this trip. New Mexico was off to a great start with the hospitality!
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After Clovis, we traveled to Tucumcari, NM. I was in the water van that day with Kirsten. It was shaping up to be a rather easy day because there weren’t really any turns. That means that I didn’t have to chalk much and only worry about having well placed water stops. That all changed when we ran into a local who said the planned roads were not very good. Kirsten and I rerouted the riders in a different way, but that took them off the famous Route 66. So we made another reroute that would allow them to ride on Route 66. The problem was that we were in the middle of nowhere and had little cell phone service, so we could not see what kind of roads they would be taking. The final reroute ended up being about 12 miles of gravel road. It seemed awful, but I was in the van, so I can’t say for sure. Personally, I feel as though the incredible scenery would make it worth it, but that’s just an opinion. This is the first day that the landscape started to get really beautiful. There were canyons and red rocks all around. I was able to get some really cool pictures. Those were the major events for that day, and I quickly got ready to get on my bike the next day to Las Vegas, NM!
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From Tucumcari, we headed to Las Vegas…NM. Contrary to popular belief, the two are not the same at all. Las Vegas, NM is much smaller and more desert-like. Anyway, the ride for that day proved to be the hardest yet. My riding group was Shawna, Danny, and Max, and we had to travel through mountain valleys all day. The road was just bumpy enough and there was just enough headwind to make the ride difficult and frustrating. However, that was pretty manageable. Then, around mile 75, things got interesting. We came face to face with our first real mountain climb. It looked almost vertical to us upon starting. However, we all kicked into high gear and managed to climb the mountainside. I was really proud that no one got off and walked, either! Little did we know, that our hills were not done for the day. Upon reaching the summit, the landscape changed into something out of a painting or a computer desktop. There was beautiful green grass, nice clouds, and mountains in the background. It would have been incredible if it didn’t come with more hills. By the end of the day, we had biked 108 miles. It was easily the hardest day yet. However, I actually really enjoyed the challenge! We stayed at a community center that night. A few of us played with the Frisbee before getting ready to head to Santa Fe.
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Considering how hard the ride to Las Vegas was, we were all hoping for an easy ride to Santa Fe. It seemed like that would be the case since it was only 65 miles that day. However, it upped the ante and became the new hardest day for me. It was a pretty hilly ride, and the headwind was unlike anything we had faced until that point. It was like riding into a brick wall the entire day. I could pedal with everything I had and still not get anywhere. It was incredibly frustrating. I rode with Eric, Danny, and Lisa that day. I also learned that Lisa has a petrifying fear of large dogs. I feel bad, but it was a little funny. At the first sight of a dog, she would just take off at high speed. Perhaps dogs could be used as motivation when things get tough! After finishing the ride, we arrived at the recreation center where we were staying in Santa Fe. It was really nice, and we had the opportunity to hot tub and swim. It was very refreshing. After an Olive Garden dinner, we headed into the town. Santa Fe is rather vibrant and unique. There was live music playing, and a few of just walked around and grabbed ice cream. We had an early curfew for where we were staying, though, so we headed back early.
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Heading back early ended up working out great because we decided to get up early and go hiking. So much for a rest day. It was completely worth it, however. The hike was tough and steep, but the view at 9,000 feet was unreal. We could see all of Santa Fe and for miles around. I was able to get some rather good pictures. After hiking, we all took a short nap so we could actually rest a little bit. After that, Tyler, Eric, Kenny, Kirk, Kevin, Max, Simon, and I went to a bike shop before grabbing lunch. We ate lunch at a locally recommended restaurant called Horseman’s Haven. It had one of the best burgers that I have ever eaten. If you’re ever in Santa Fe, I highly recommend it! Shortly after that, we all headed into town again. We did a little shopping around, but I only grabbed a sticker that I liked. I figured that I would get a shirt or something else in the near future. I really like Santa Fe, but we had to retire early because the next day was supposed to be challenging.
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The next day marked our last day in New Mexico for the time being and the beginning of my time as a leg leader. That means that for the next several days I would be responsible for creating the route and making sure everything was good to go at the hosts. We left Santa Fe and headed for Taos. I made the decision to take a route called the High Road because it was supposed to be really scenic and beautiful. That part held up, but it was also an incredibly difficult ride. There were several category climbs, which means that they are very steep and long. Many people struggled, including myself. We did an awful lot of climbing, but we also did a lot of downhills. The end of that day was the most fun I have ever had on my bike. We went down a mountain for about 7 miles, and I averaged around 36 mph for that stretch! It was exhilarating. Our host for that day also made the ride worth it. We stayed at a tennis club that was very excited to have us. They provided us with a great New Mexican feast and let us use the hot tub and pool. I also had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman who was a physician and served in the Navy. He was very excited to share his story with us and play the bagpipes for us. It was a great evening.
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That about sums up New Mexico and all its thrills. The states and places keep getting better as the ride progresses. I hope that stays the case as we near the end of this trip! In any case, after New Mexico, we headed into Colorado, so stay tuned for details regarding the interesting times we had there!

Crossing the Rest of Texas

Hey everyone! I would apologize for the lack of blog posts lately, but it seems to be a recurring theme. I keep meaning to blog more regularly, but I can’t seem to find the time. Things are just so busy and exciting out here on the 4K! Anyway, here is all the details about the large state of Texas.

Last time I blogged was in Navasota. Since then, we have passed quite a few cities with some amazing hosts and stories. After Navasota, we headed into La Grange. My riding group for that day was Michelle, Haley, Danny, Dan, and myself. For much of the day, we were not on the highway, so I was rather excited for that. Riding on backroads is more comfortable and fun. The day goes by much quicker. I was excited to head into La Grange just because of the famous ZZ Top song. I figured that there must be a reason for it being famous. The town was nice, but it was rather small. Our host was very nice and accommodating. Unfortunately, they could not provide dinner. However, we were not too upset because we were able to get rotisserie chicken, vegetables, and rice! It was our first homecooked meal, and it was wonderful! Later that night, we went to Sonic for root beer floats and Wal-Mart to get stuff for our 4th of July ride. We couldn’t find many American flag items, so we had to improvise a bit. You will see what I mean when you see the pictures below. We got a good sleep that night, and we got ready for our ride into Austin.
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The ride into Austin was one of the most fun rides yet. It was the 4th of July, so everyone was extremely excited to get to Austin and celebrate the holiday. That meant waking up at 4 am so that we could arrive early. It made sense to me, but I certainly was not happy about it at the time. However, the morning sunrise made for a beautiful and rather entertaining ride. I’d venture to say that our outfits for that day made the ride more entertaining, however. Kirk, Danny, and I all wore high socks that looked like beer mugs and biked in our boxers. The goal was to find American flag boxers, but we had to make due with what we had. Seeing that hilarious sight the whole ride made it rather enjoyable. We also spoke in British accents most of the day, and we just talked and joked the whole time. It was awesome. After riding up the steepest hill I’ve ever seen, we finally made it to our host for the next two days. They were a small Hindu family who treated us very well. After relaxing for a bit, some of us went down to a local creek. It was really unique and a ton of fun. Finally, the day ended with celebrating the 4th on 6th Street, which is one of the most famous areas in Austin. It had some great restaurants and a great local music scene. All in all, it was a pretty great day.
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The next day was our rest day in Austin. I would say it is the best day of the trip thus far. Austin is a city unlike any I’ve ever seen. Most of Texas is rather desert-like and mostly flat. However, Austin reminded me a lot of Southern California. It was rather hilly and had beautiful landscapes. The morning started with a tour of the Livestrong Facility. In essence, Livestrong works to connect cancer patients with the help they need, much like the Ulman Fund. The office was very open and spacious. I really enjoyed seeing the place and hearing about some of the work they do. It was really eye-opening and inspiring. After the tour, most of the team took naps. I definitely partook in said naptime. It was glorious. However, the end of the day was my favorite. About half of us headed over to a place called Barton Springs. It was essentially a river with a ton of stuff to do on it. The water was crystal clear, and there was even a rope swing! I had never done anything like that, so I was pretty excited. After my hands and grip-strength wore out, we headed out to get some dinner. What a great meal. We ate a place called Torchy’s Tacos, which is apparently a local favorite. After my chicken fajita, I can certainly see why. That fajita was glorious. However, I think desert was my favorite part. I had apple pie ice cream with gummi bears. I’ve never seen any other place with ice cream like that. I was in heaven. Such a long day made me sleep like a very happy baby.
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Our ride the next day brought us to Lampassas, which was a rather small town. I rode with Haley, Shawna, and Max. The first part of the ride was great as we left Austin. The scenery was incredible, and we ran into quite a few other cyclists. The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful, but we went really fast. Because of some hills and stellar riding, we were into the host by 12:30! This gave us time to check out the natural springs that Lampassas was apparently famous for. After swimming for awhile, it is easy to see why. The water was some of the most clear water that I have ever seen, and it was incredibly refreshing. It felt like an ice bath at first, but I was thankful for that. And of course, you cannot go to a crystal clear pool without snapping some great pictures, so I got quite a few on my GoPro. After the springs, some of the guys and I decided haircuts were in order. Before long, we came up with the idea of mohawks and went for it. The result is below. Now I can talk about that one time I got a mohawk in Lampassas, Texas. After such a great day, I was drained and hit the hay early.
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Still in Texas, the team headed to Brownwood. I was in the food van with Lisa for that day. I was pretty thankful because my legs were sore, and apparently the road was not very good. However, the food van is no time to relax, and Lisa and I got to work. For breakfast, we got a bunch of donuts, fruit, yogurt, and bread donated. It was great, and the team was certainly happy. For lunch, we were also pretty successful, having secured steak sandwiches, burgers, fries, and pizzas from several places. One place will stick with me forever. I got the steak sandwiches donated from a very small BBQ shop called Lemon’s BBQ. It was owned by a man named Keith and his wife for over 19 years. They clearly could not afford to donate much, but they still gave us 12 great sandwiches. He said our story really hit home, and he loved what we were doing. That kind of generosity and kindness really blows my mind and inspires me. I hope to meet more people like Keith. Our host that night provided us with a great meal, but I didn’t do much else other than sleep.

I was very appreciative of my van day, but I was also eager to get back on the bike. The ride to Winters, Texas was pretty short and standard, but we had a great time. I rode with Kirsten, Micaela, Kevin, and Simon. We passed much of the day by talking and taking some pictures. After arriving at the host fairly early, we swam in the public pool there. Now, let me say, Winters is the smallest town I have ever seen. Almost nothing was open, and I’m pretty sure that every kid who lived there was at the pool. However, they were also some of our most gracious hosts. They gave us wonderful meals, and the townspeople let us stay in their homes. I stayed with a woman named Theresa. She didn’t have much, but she completely opened her home to us. She was gone when we arrived, so we simply watched Castaway. After she came home, we talked for awhile, and she even did our laundry. I was again amazed by her generosity. That is a pretty common theme on our trip. I wish the best for Theresa, and thank you for opening up your home.
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Our ride the next day brought us to Snyder, Texas. Again, the ride was pretty uneventful and standard. Much of Texas was pretty flat, so we were able to arrive at the host again relatively early. I am thankful for the flat road, but it makes the ride somewhat boring. We again had a wonderful host who provided us with a great meal. I had 3 burgers, 2 hot dogs, and some ice cream. My taste buds and mind thanked me, but my stomach certainly did not. After dinner, Kirk, Kenny, Kevin, Taylor, and I went to the railroad tracks and walked around for a bit. It was a very nice evening, and a great way to wind down the day. We went to bed shortly after, and got ready for our last days in Texas.
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Our stay in Lubbock would mark the end of a 12 day stretch in Texas. That day I rode with Tyler, Matt, and Micaela. In the beginning, the ride was sort of hilly and reminded me of some Western movies. However, the second half was flat as can be. It was sort of boring, but we were able to arrive at the host relatively early again. Just outside of Lubbock, we even had time to take a break at the Coor’s factory! We all got some pictures with the sign. That night, our host brought us to Texas Tech Stadium to shower and have dinner. After goofing around on the stadium field for awhile, we all sat down for a great, catered, Italian feast in the pressbox. We had the pleasure of dining with some cancer survivors and some employees of the YWCA there in Lubbock. I really enjoyed talking with them and hearing their stories. It was incredibly inspiring, and I hope that I can live my days with the newfound passion that they have. I also had the opportunity to share my story with everyone. Every time I share, it reminds me of how blessed I still am and that I am not the only one who has faced these problems that cancer poses. Although tragic, it is universal, and I am thankful that I can share those experiences with such wonderful people.
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We all went to bed rather early because we had to get up for another service event in the morning. Bright and early (at least for a rest day), we headed over to the YWCA and made cards for cancer patients with some of the children. I love spending time with kids, so I thoroughly enjoyed the morning. It was great to see their innocence and excitement. I sincerely hope that the cards we made touch some hearts and brighten the days of many cancer patients. That afternoon, we helped to sand and paint a few picnic tables outside the church where we were staying. It felt really good to do some manual labor and to help the church out. That night, we got some dinner, and I had some Western dance lessons in the church. I danced with Dana mostly. It was a ton of fun, and I was glad they were willing to give us lessons.
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That about summarizes the second half of Texas. It felt like we were in that state forever, but it is probably my favorite state thus far. People were incredibly hospitable, and we did some awesome things. As I always say, I will try to blog more regularly. We are officially over halfway to San Diego, so stay tuned for details of the second half of the trip!

From the Bayou to the Lone Star State

Again, the lack of time and suitable WiFi has made it somewhat difficult for me to blog regularly. I apologize to all of my undoubtedly passionate fans for that. Anyway, this post is coming from Houston, Texas. It’s still unbelievable to me that we’ve made it all the way to Texas and have covered over 1900 miles! I never thought that I could do something like that, but here we are. Pretty incredible.

Anyway, we left Biloxi, MS for New Orleans, and I was pretty excited. We had a rest day after that ride, and I have heard some great things about New Orleans. My riding group that day consisted of Kirk, Danny, Kevin, Simon, and myself. We made it a lot of fun by goofing around a lot of the day and taking our time. Sometimes going slow and enjoying the ride beats getting there super quickly. This was especially true in the morning when we stopped at Biloxi Beach to get some pictures and hang out for a bit. Most of the ride was fun, but nothing major happened until near the end when we had to ferry across the Mississippi and it started storming. The storm added some time to the ride because we had to wait out the lightning and rain. After that storm passed, we took the ferry and were greeted and surprised by Tyler’s parents! It was rather funny because they hadn’t told him they were coming, so him seeing them at the ferry was certainly a shock. Before long, we made it to the host and got ready to head out to Bourbon Street, which New Orleans is so famous for.
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Even for a Wednesday night, Bourbon Street certainly lived up to its name. There were bars and restaurants everywhere, and every one was lit up by neon signs. There was so much going on that we didn’t even really know where to start. Most of the night was spent was just walking around, but we did go to a couple cool restaurants. I just enjoyed being there and seeing the unique environment. However, I enjoyed the rest day the following day a little more. I spent almost the entire day in the French Quarter with Kirk, Kenny, Kevin, Danny, Max, and Shawna. Believe me, Shawna got several compliments on putting up with the guys all day. It was pretty funny. Anyway, there was so much to do and see. We ate the famous beignets from Café Du Monde, had an awesome breakfast buffet at the Market Café, saw some live street jazz, got some gelato, went to several music stores, and ended the day with a dinner cruise on a river boat. I’d say that’s a pretty good day. The dinner cruise was by far the best part. It was sort of a last minute decision, but we got it for half price because of our ride and its cause! That was pretty great and helped out a lot. It was really cool to take a boat tour of New Orleans from the water, especially after it was lit up at night. The dinner was also incredible. We had fish, pork, five cheese pasta, rice, beans, bread pudding, and more. Being accompanied by live jazz was icing on the cake. I felt like a king for two hours. What a day. I hope there are more days on the 4K like that.
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After such a great day in New Orleans, it was pretty tough to get back on the saddle. But my butt was starting to miss the saddle as much as the saddle missed my butt, so it was best to keep moving. On Friday morning, we set out for Baton Rouge, LA. My riding group that day was myself, Heather, Dana, and Shawna. That day of riding was probably the most eventful thus far, and not necessarily in a good way. In total, our team had 37 flat tires and 8 on one bridge! That is so many that it is almost comical. For my group, Dana had two within the first 5 miles, so my group fell way behind. We eventually caught up, only to be plagued by my flats. I had four total on the day, and I had to get in the van to avoid using so many tubes. It was pretty unfortunate. The take home lesson is that tubes are like currency on our ride. We go through them quickly and can always use more. So if any of you would like to send tubes my way, I would be highly grateful. We need 700x23cc with Presta valves that are 48 mm in length. So please help a desperate cyclist out!

I did manage to scrounge up a tube for the next day’s ride to Lafayette, LA, which was the second day of our 8 day stretch of century rides. This stretch is one of the hardest of the trip, but I was ready. My riding group that day consisted of Matt, Jackie, Lauren, and Lisa. For the most part, the ride was fun but uneventful. However, we did ride over some of the worst roads that I have ever seen. It was as if someone just threw rocks everywhere and glued them to the ground. It has been suggested that after the trip is over we collect donations to repave Louisiana’s roads, and I am a huge fan of the idea. The fact that I didn’t get a flat that day is a miracle.
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The next day brought us to Lake Charles, LA. The day started out as most days do. I enjoyed my riding group of Kevin, Danny, Kirk, Shawna, and Kenny. We were taking our sweet time in the morning because we realized there wasn’t much rush and simply passed the day by with dumb stories, riddles, and jokes. However, the day started to get long when we had to wait a long time at all the water stops for other groups to catch up. It’s frustrating sometimes, but there is not much that can be done about mechanical issues, especially on our team. Before long, it was getting into the afternoon, and we still had about 55 miles to go. We decided that we would form a paceline and cruise the last 55 miles. But not before getting Frostys at Wendy’s. Those were delicious and really hit the spot. For the last stretch of the day, we cruised into the wind at about 18 mph on average and did 55 miles in just under four hours. I was pretty proud of that day. I especially loved that we had Olive Garden for dinner that night. Most people are sick of pasta, but I absolutely love it and am certainly not complaining.
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After Lake Charles, we finally headed into Texas. Heading into there essentially marks the halfway point of the trip. We are not quite halfway, but it certainly feels like it, especially since we will be in Texas for two weeks. I was in the water van for that day’s ride. The day was pretty normal until two groups went 12 miles out of the way. Evidently, the chalk Taylor and I placed in the road got paved over by the time the riders got to it, and they did not see the chalk. We shuttled most of the riders to the lunch stop, but Danny, Brad, and Tyler decided to ride the 24 extra miles. They were cruising because they caught up before everyone even left the lunch stop. Later that day, we went through Bridge City and encountered some of the biggest bridges I’ve ever seen. Most riders went over them, but we shuttled a few. Upon later arriving to our host in Beaumont, we were greeted with an immense welcome by several members of the Church. They provided us with a wonderful meal, great conversation, and even a masseuse! It was by far one of the best hosts we have had yet.
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After Beaumont, we headed to Houston. Again, the ride was pretty standard most of the day with my group of Michelle, Kirk, Danny, Dana, and Micaela. I had a broken spoke and Michelle had a flat, but those were the only major events of the day for the first half. After lunch, Kirk and I jumped in a random pond on a whim. It was outside of a church and awesome. The water actually felt really refreshing on the hot day. Unfortunately, we did not arrive to the host until 7:00 due to two flats in the last 12 miles. Again, it was unfortunate, but there is not much that one can do. Our host for that evening was just as great as the night before. They provided us with a great meal of enchiladas and ice cream, and we all got shuttled to church members’ houses to shower. It was probably the best shower I have had yet. Breakfast was equally as good with cinnamon rolls, eggs, bacon, sausage, and a ton of fruit. Large meals are certainly more common on this trip than I had originally expected.

Today, we had a much shorter ride from Houston to Navasota with only 68 miles. It’s crazy that I am now excited for a 68 mile ride and consider that short. It just goes to show how far we have come. The ride was pretty flat and uneventful, but it was noticeable that hills are returning. How dreadful. The good news, however, is that we arrived to the host before 2:00 and actually had most of the day free. We went to a bike shop, Target, and some of the guys and I got Outback Steakhouse donated. Later we also got some Dairy Queen. Our hosts this evening are rather nice and accommodating. I am thoroughly enjoying the southern hospitality. All in all it was a pretty great day.
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Alright, that should pretty much sum up the last week. I apologize for the length, but sometimes it gets tough to blog regularly, and I really want to make sure I retell everything! Thanks again to everyone for reading, and stay tuned for more juicy details about the second half of the trip!

Beach Time

So this post is coming from Biloxi, MS. I apologize for the lack of blog entries lately, but things have been rather busy and I haven’t always had Wifi. However, I have done a lot and experienced a lot since DeFuniak Springs, and I am excited to tell you about it!

When I last blogged, I was just getting ride for our century ride into Pensacola, FL. It was the last day of a rather difficult three day stretch, so I was praying for easy, flat roads. With that in mind, we had a couple options for routes: one was 85 miles but hilly and not scenic, and the other was 107 with flat road and right along the beach. Having had a van day for the first century, I picked the second option so that I could ride my first century. That turned out to be the best decision.

The morning was one of the most fun rides that I have had thus far. The day was going to be long, but none of us felt the need to rush because the roads were so flat and scenic. Eric, Tyler, Allison, Taylor, and I simply took our time and enjoyed each other’s company for awhile. After about 20 miles or so, we started to see water and were heading over bridges. I was getting excited because I do not get to the beach very often, and it was just around the corner. Then, at mile 38, we decided to skip the water stop and head to the beach. I felt like a kid skipping school for a day of fun. That beach was absolutely incredible. The sand was perfect white sand, and the water was clearer than any I’ve seen. I absolutely loved taking that swim break, and getting back on the bike was tough.
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Although definitely worth it, we did waste a lot of time in the morning. Considering how many miles we had left that day, it was time to get moving. But that can’t be done on an empty stomach, so we stopped at Tommy Bahama’s and had Ahi Tuna Tacos. I am an incredibly picky eater, so I was pretty proud of myself for stepping out of the box a little bit. We also had Chick-Fil-A donated to us. The manager hardly even heard our story before he decided to buy us all lunch. It was pretty incredible.

Once we finished eating, it was really time to get moving. After some issues with flats, my group and the group behind us ended up sort of combining people. Tyler, Eric, and I picked up Max, but we lost everyone else. It ended up working out, however, because we four decided to cruise. For around 40 miles into an insane headwind, we averaged around 18 mph! That’s pretty amazing, and I was proud of all my team members. However, I am not looking forward to facing that headwind every day. I suppose all I can do is pray that it’s not too bad and keep pedaling.

After arriving at the host, we all just ate dinner, hung out, and got a good night’s sleep before the rest day on Sunday. The rest day in Pensacola was some of the most fun I have had yet. As I said above, I don’t get to the ocean very often, so I wanted to be in or on the water as much as possible. We started out by just swimming for awhile. Pretty quickly, Eric suggested that we go sailing and try to get it donated to us. Unfortunately, there was no wind to push any sails (of course there’s no wind when we are not riding). Instead, we decided to go jet skiing. Danny and I split a jet ski and just took turns driving. It was a lot of fun and really exhilarating. I would love to do that more if I could. After that, Taylor and I went parasailing. I love heights, boats, and water, so this was a great way to get all three! Although we didn’t move very fast or far, I still loved it for the great scenery. It was so cool to be that high in the air and see all of Pensacola and beyond. Again, something I would love to do again in the future. We closed out the day by spending more time just hanging out on the sand, going to a laundromat, and getting some rest. All in all, it was a great day.
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The following day, it was time to get back on the bike. That would be difficult, so I was glad to have food van duty for that day. It was my first time on food van duty, so I was hoping I could get some good donations for everyone. I’d say that Brianne and I did a pretty good job because we got Chick-Fil-A, Zaxby’s, Papa Johns, and Wendy’s. The team absolutely loved it, and I was pretty proud. After lunch, Brianne and I both went to our host, the YMCA in Mobile, AL, and focused on securing more hosts, showers, and food for the rest of the trip. I was thankful for the time because I got almost all of my hosts secured for the trip. That feels pretty good to get out of the way. I was thankful for the van day, but I was also bummed to not be riding. To make up for the lack of exercise, I lifted and swam at the Y. It’s gotten to the point where it feels weird to not exercise daily. I hope those habits continue after this trip.

Today, we rode into Biloxi, MS. My group consisted of myself, Tyler, Eric, Kevin, and Shawna. Overall, that day was pretty uneventful. There was not a ton of scenery, and the ride was mostly flat. I am finding that I can’t make up my mind about my feelings toward bike terrain. I love flat roads because they’re easy. However, they can get boring and old fast. I almost fell asleep on my bike for part of the way. That would have been bad. Shawna also averaged a flat tire every 17 miles. That made the day drag on a bit as well. I couldn’t even really be upset, though, because I have been there and it’s tough to be mad at Shawna. She’s a great person to ride with and a ton of fun. Our host for tonight is a wonderful Methodist Church, and I even get to sleep on a couch! That should be a great treat.

Tomorrow morning, we cross into our 9th state: Louisiana! I am excited to see what New Orleans has to offer and also maybe see some alligators. We also have a rest day on Thursday in New Orleans, and that should be really fun! Stay tuned for more details!