Day 19 – Albany, GA to Jekyll Island, GA – THE FINISH
This was the greatest moment of my life up till this point… standing in the Atlantic Ocean after 19 days of scorching heat, brutal winds, and massive mountains. I finally reached my goal. Dream Big !
I’ve never been so anxious for the sun to rise as I was on Day 19. With over 180 miles between me and the Atlantic Ocean, I needed every second of daylight. I’d grown accustomed to reaching my destination in the dark, but this wasn’t an option today. I needed to see the ocean in the light of day. For now though, I had to focus on riding. Considering the distance and the strong headwind, this would arguably be the most challenging day of the tour. Seconds seemed like hours, as I waited for that sun to appear over the horizon. Finally, it emerged, and I shot out of the parking lot. I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders that morning, and failure was not an option. I prayed that my body would hold out. By now my hands were so weak that I had to shift with my forearms. Even still, I considered myself the luckiest person in the world to be given the opportunity to accomplish my dream. With Aaron’s help, I made excellent time that morning knocking off nearly 70 miles by noon. It wasn’t until 100 miles that the effects of my rigorous pace really began to set in. However, when it hit me, it hit me hard. I limped my bike into Waycross and decided I needed to sit down for a few minutes. I’d already completed my usual distance of 130 miles from the far side of Albany to Waycross, and my body pleaded with me to stop for the night. However, with the ocean just 60 miles away, nothing short of an act of God was going to keep me from reaching it. I shot one final video with Aaron and sent him ahead to the finish line. It was purely adrenaline that kept me going that afternoon. As the sun continued to dip lower, I forced myself to ride faster. The last thing I wanted was for it to be dark when I reached the finish line. I started to enter a somewhat dreamy state. Before long, it was difficult to concentrate on the road. Even still, I pressed on ignoring all the warning signs. Just when I felt I couldn’t go any further, I saw the Jekyll Island Bridge. It was a sight for sore eyes, and it gave me the strength I needed to press on. Despite being a large bridge, I had no problem climbing up and over it. With Aaron alongside me now in the Aveo, I raced toward the sound of crashing waves in the distance. I’m not normally an emotional person, but my eyes started to water as I summited the last little hill and laid eyes on the ocean. There it was. It was more beautiful than I imagined. Without thinking, I dropped my bike to the ground along with my shoes, shirt, and helmet. I sprinted toward the water like a little kid. I ran until I couldn’t run any more, and I dove in head first. Submerged beneath the water, I experienced unexplainable joy. As much as I loved the adventure, I was so glad to be done. However, something inside me told me it was just the beginning. I started to believe that this was the way life was meant to be lived – not necessarily from a bike seat, but full of adventure. Dream Big !
Day 16 – Brandon, MS to Demopolis, AL
These were the storm clouds that forced me to take cover in a childcare center
By Day 16, my unusual life no longer seemed so unusual. In fact, it was as normal as getting up and going to work. The only difference was everything. I started to believe that this was the way life was meant to be lived – not necessarily from a bike seat, but full of adventure ! I was excited to cross into Alabama on Day 16. It was somewhat nostalgic, as my family had spent several years in Alabama, and Alabama was where I first learned to ride a bike. I made one last stop in Meridian before crossing the border and I was blown away by the level of destruction and apathy. I felt like I was riding through a war zone. I was surrounded by crumbled buildings and broken down cars. Finally, things started to look more normal as I neared the interstate. I met Aaron at one of our favorite meet-up locations (McDonalds). After a couple McChickens and a few minutes online, I was out the door and back on the highway. Suddenly, the skies started to turn dark, and rain began to pour down on me. The rain I could handle, but when the winds started to pick-up, I started to get nervous. I sought shelter in a rural childcare center, and tried not to look too suspicious, which wasn’t easy with my Moses beard. After about 20 minutes, the clouds began to break, and I was treated to the most spectacular sky as I crossed into Alabama just before dusk. I rolled into Demopolis around 8pm and navigated my way to our extremely scary hotel that I swear was full of drug dealers. Fortunately, nothing freaked Aaron and me out by this point. The one good thing about the motel was it had a grocery store across the street where I was able to pick up some sandwich fixings and 8oz cans of chick beer. All in all it was a good day.
Day 15 – Monroe, LA to Brandon, MS
Crossing the Mississippi River was the scariest and most dangerous part of the entire tour
Day 15 was a very significant day because it was the day I was hoping to finish the tour. However, with roughly 700 miles to go, Lance Armstrong himself wouldn’t stand a chance. Between the intense heat of Arizona and the brutal winds of Texas, I decided 20 days was a more realistic goal. I set out that morning with no idea of what was in store for me. The morning went relatively well, but things took a turn for the worse at the border. The bridge I had hoped to ride across the Mississippi was out of commission leaving me with only one option – Interstate 20. While I was no stranger to the Interstate, I wasn’t sure if it was legal in Mississippi, and I definitely knew it wasn’t safe. Even still, I had no other options so I said a quick prayer and started down the on-ramp. I pedaled with all my might, as the shoulder all but disappeared. Semis roared past me and blared their horn, as if I had chosen this foolish route willingly. Just when I didn’t think things could possibly get any worse, I noticed giant drainage strips just ahead that were ready to swallow my tires whole. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stop so I lunged my bike into the air over each drain. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I reached the other side of the bridge and darted off the road. My heart was racing, and I had mixed emotions of relief and anger for putting myself in such a dangerous situation. I thanked Jesus for keeping me alive, and I promised never to do anything so stupid again. I met up with Aaron at a little strip mall on the outskirts of Vicksburg. I waited for him outside a little Chinese restaurant, as he secured my bike to the roof of the car for safekeeping. Gazing in the front window at the people eating, I heard a raspy voice behind me and locked eyes with a homeless fellow with leathery skin and a poorly kept beard not unlike my own. “Look at ‘em in there” he said to me in a brotherly sort of way. I didn’t know what to make of this comment so I just nodded my head, and let him go about his way. It didn’t dawn on me till later that he had pegged me as one his own. 15 days on the road had transformed me into a completely different person – at least on the outside. The afternoon was much less eventful fortunately. I made it to Jackson just before dark, and navigated my way to our hotel in the eastern suburb of Brandon. After a quick run to the border (aka Taco Bell), Aaron and I shot the breeze for a bit in the hotel room before zonking out.
Day 14 – Shreveport, LA to Monroe, LA
We celebrated Aaron’s 25th birthday with a little local cuisine in Monroe, LA
After 13 days of waking up in low-grade hotel rooms, Aaron and I had become accustomed to quick-fix starchy high-carb breakfasts. Fortunately, Day 14 was pretty good. Aaron and I both ranked it among the top 5. After slamming a couple waffles, Aaron decided to take advantage of some of the other hotel amenities. His lower back was giving him some troubles so he decided to hit up the hot tub. I, on the other hand, decided to go back for a third waffle. Wrapping up my morning routine of eating and plotting my route for the day, I noticed Aaron making his way back into the breakfast area. I assumed he was coming for another waffle, but he was actually coming to show me the $20 his hot tub friends had just given him. Apparently, he told them about the scholarship we were trying to establish, and they wanted to contribute to it. This was a nice surprise, and it gave me a little extra energy that morning. That day’s ride was relatively uneventful, which was a good thing because we were going to celebrate Aaron’s birthday that night. I rolled into Monroe shortly after 5:00 and decided to relax a little before dinner. Aaron decided he wanted to celebrate his 25th birthday with a little local cuisine so we went to an authentic craw-fish restaurant and ordered 4 lbs of fresh-caught crawfish. The crawfish were great, but I struggled to crack them open with my hands that had grown extremely weak over the course of the trip. Even still, it was a great time. We never did run into the Duck Dynasty Crew who reside in Monroe, but we were waited on by a daughter of a Minnesota Vikings Player, which we both thought was pretty cool.
Day 13 – Terrell, TX to Shreveport, LA
Rolling into Shreveport, Louisiana after dark was a little unnerving
As much as I love Texas, I was extremely excited to leave on Day 13. However, with roughly 160 miles between Terrell and Shreveport, it was going to be a long day. I set out on highway 80 with favorable conditions and a decent sized shoulder to ride on. Even with the occasional shower, the riding was mostly enjoyable with rolling hills and several small towns. Things were pretty chill until I reached the city of Longview where I was forced to ride more aggressively due to the increased traffic flow and reduced shoulder. However, this didn’t faze me, as I was pretty familiar with this scenario by now. Before I knew it, Longview was in my rear view mirror and I was nearing the Texas/Louisiana boarder. I was excited to ride through Louisiana, as I had no recollection of ever being in that state. Supposedly I was there when I was young, but I had no lasting memory. The roads seemed surprisingly remote as I neared Shreveport, which appeared to be a decent sized city on the map. However, with little more than 10 miles to go, I was still buried beneath dense vegetation. I was getting nervous because the sun was going down fast, and there were no street lights to speak of. Finally, just as the sun finally dipped below the horizon, I was spit out of the jungle and onto a legitimate highway. I frantically pedaled my way into what must have been the scariest most run-down part of Shreveport. I swear the people staring at me had never seen a bicycle in their life – let alone a white Yankee decked out in colorful spandex. I sought refuge in a fast-food joint praying my decrepit cell phone had enough life in it to fire off a quick text. To my delight, it lit up and accepted my frantic text message to Aaron. To my horror the screen went black when I hit send leaving me no way of knowing if it ever sent. Out of desperation I paid a teenage girl $5 to let me use her cell phone. Unable to remember Aaron’s number, I called my mom praying she had the number written down somewhere. Luckily, she picked up. I assured her nothing was wrong, but she read between the lines and proceeded to interrogate me. Just then, Aaron came busting through the doors to the rescue. I thanked the girl for the use of her cell phone and got the hell out of there. Aaron drove me the last 2 miles to our hotel, which had its own little kitchen. We decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity and picked up some spaghetti fixings from the Dollar General. I felt bad that we were going to be eating meatless spaghetti on Aaron’s 25th birthday, but he was very understanding and gave me no reason to feel guilty about my 14 hour day on the bike. Tomorrow would be a shorter day and we could celebrate then.
Day 12 – Burleson, TX to Terrell, TX
A dead-end road in Dallas forced me to forge a quarter mile swamp
I had to make some tough decisions waking up Day 12. I could splurge and purchase a new smart phone or I could continue to rely on old fashioned planning and chicken scratch maps. Since I was already a little over budget on the trip, I decided to forego modern technology and trust my instincts. I knew navigating my way out of the giant Dallas/Fort Worth area wasn’t going to be easy, but I was up to the challenge. After plotting my route on a wrinkled piece of scratch paper, I set out. I can’t began to tell you how gratifying it was each time I encountered a new road that confirmed my map’s accuracy. Occasionally, roads weren’t labeled, and I’d have to use my best judgment, but it always worked out. I passed through some very nice areas, and I encountered my first actual cyclists of the entire trip, which shocked me considering I was already 1,500 miles in. I actually found myself racing some hardcore triathletes around a lake wondering what they would think if they knew I was in the middle of a cross country adventure. The ride was going absolutely awesome, and I was closing in on my destination when disaster struck. Suddenly the road ended in construction leaving me with nowhere to go. Without a smart phone, I had no way to navigate and I didn’t want to backtrack. I figured the road had to start up at some point so I decided to shoulder my bike and hike through the vast expanse of mud and water. As disgusting as it was, I managed to find pleasure in the experience knowing that it would make a good addition to my growing collection of crazy stories. Finally, after several minutes of hiking, I reached dry pavement and got back on my bike. At first, the heavy mud made it difficult to pedal, but after a few miles I managed to shed most of the mud, and I was back up to speed. I rolled into our motel that evening and had a long conversation with the receptionist regarding my muddy bike and the disappearance of our reservations. Finally, we figured it out, and I met up with Aaron who was just as curious about the mud. Fortunately, the night was young and I had plenty of time to tell him about the crazy adventure over a very gluttonous $5 CiCi’s Pizza Buffet. All in all, the day was a success. I made it to Terrell, and Aaron learned never to challenge me to a pizza eating competition !
Day 11 – Albany, TX to Burleson, TX
The massive Dallas/Fort Worth area was roughly 100 miles across
Having fallen short of my destination for the second time, Aaron and I had to get up at 4AM in Weatherford so I could be shuttled back to where I had stopped the day before. The 70 mile drive back to Albany felt like an eternity. Still a little beat-up from the previous day, I did everything I could to convince myself that today would be a better day. I was pleased to see that I would be entering a much different landscape with trees and rolling hills, which would help block the wind. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes into my ride that I realized I had forgotten my air pump in the car. Not wanting to make Aaron have to backtrack yet again, I had him drop it by the side of the road. I just had to make sure I didn’t a flat in the meantime. The ride between Albany and Weatherford was 100x more pleasant than the day before. Even with hills, I averaged nearly twice the speed. My goal was to make it to Weatherford before check-out time so I could get a quick dip in the pool. Even with a brief stop in the tiny town of Mineral Springs, I still made to Weatherford with time to spare. Exhausted and hot, I forgot to pull my phone out of my spandex shorts when I jumped in the pool. The next hour was spent trying to bring it back to life with one of Aaron’s trusty Zip-lock bags and some rice he had gotten from an Asian restaurant. With no working cell phone and the most complex part of the tour now ahead of me, I spent the next hour scratching out a complicated map that I would use to navigate the giant Dallas/Fort Worth area. Aaron suggested I purchase a replacement phone, but I decided to forge ahead like the cyclists from the 90’s – no cell phone. This went surprisingly well, as I navigated all the way to our Super8 Motel in Burleson, which is a suburb of Dallas. Unfortunately, I had no way to contact Aaron, as the scrap paper with his phone number had dissolved in my shorts. Finally, by about 7pm, we found each other and decided to return to the Mexican Restaurant that he had just spent the afternoon at. Apparently, they had cute waitress, which I discovered to be true.
Day 10 – Snyder, TX to Albany, TX
The Western Texas Headwinds made the middle of the tour the most difficult stretch
I honestly thought I was out of the woods when I set out on Day 10. I didn’t think it could possibly get any harder. However, I had no idea what I was about to face when I rolled out that morning. Despite favorable conditions in the morning, road construction and a poorly marked detour sent me 12 mile off course. Fortunately, I found a connecting road and was back on track before too long. Then, almost as if someone flipped a switch, the winds started to pick up. These weren’t pleasant winds. These were the angry Texas head-winds that I’d heard rumors about. Utterly defenseless, I fought against them with all my might. I struggled to hold even 10 mph. Even still, I pressed on and continued to battle. Driven to insanity, I remember standing up on my pedals and yelling at the wind. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so discouraged in all my life. Even the skies started to look angry, as dark clouds moved in. Having heard reports of terrible tornados earlier that week, I started to get nervous. I called Aaron and asked if he’d pick me up. As much as I hated falling short of my daily goal, I physically couldn’t go on. Tomorrow would be a better day…. At least I hoped.
Day 9 – Seminole, TX to Snyder, TX
Texans don’t mess around … and neither should you !
If I had to designate one day as the most uneventful day of the tour, this was probably it. Except for waking up to Aaron spooning with me, nothing really noteworthy happened. I set out in the usual way about 6AM with my heart set on making it 50 miles to Lamesa before the McDonalds breakfast menu was taken down. Apparently that was just the motivation I needed, as I rolled in with 17 minutes to spare. I ordered my usual sausage biscuits and small coffee. Aaron and I shot the breeze for a bit neither acknowledging the fact that we had just been spooning 4 hours prior. After a couple refills on the coffee, I booked our hotel online and set out. After 211 miles the day before, I decided to keep today’s distance relatively short. The one thing I do remember about this day was the relentless saddle soreness. In fact, I think this was the most painful day. Even with two pairs of cycling shorts I still felt like I was sitting on metal spikes. Still exhausted from the day before, I caught a quick cat-nap at a road-side picnic area before crawling back on the bike for the remaining 50 miles. It was terribly uncomfortable, but I’m not a fan of painkillers so I grit my teeth and just bore it. I met Aaron 15 miles outside of my destination city of Snyder, and we rode in together. Actually, I rode with him for 5 miles, but my butt was hurting so bad that I had to leave him behind. We met back up at the hotel, and since it was early, we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant down the road. The food was average, but the company was good. Another day down !
Day 8 – Cloudcroft, NM to Seminole, TX
Some sights never get old … some do. This is one sight that got really old, really fast !
Waking up to cool crisp air on Day 8, I knew it was going to be a good day. Not only was the Lemond back in action, but I felt great and was ready to throw down some serious miles! My body didn’t know what to make of this strange new sensation. Around every corner was a long satisfying descent. My feeble gears could barely keep up with the many 40 mph stretches. I prayed that this moment would never end, but little by little the decent started to give way to rolling hills. My averaged speed started to drop, but a quick glance at my computer revealed that I had just managed 30 miles in under an hour – almost unheard of on a bicycle. It felt good to bite off such a large chunk of trip with so little effort. Launching out that morning, I assumed we’d be spending one more night in New Mexico, but now I wasn’t so sure. It was late afternoon when I rolled into Artesia, and I decided to do something a little different for lunch. Rather than scrounge together my usual PB&J fixings, I stopped off at a Mexican restaurant and caught the tail end of their lunch buffet. Like usual, I ate way more than I should’ve, but I needed the fuel if I was going to try to make it to Texas by nightfall. Unfortunately, the pleasant riding conditions changed almost immediately upon reaching Artesia. My quiet country roads were no more. Suddenly, I found myself smack-dad in the middle of America’s biggest oil patch. Blasts of hot wind blew me off the road, as giant oil trucks rumbled past me. This went on for about 70 miles. Finally, just before nightfall, I reached the far eastern edge of the oil patch in Hobbs, New Mexico. I stopped off at a gas station to get one last blast of energy before my final 30 mile trek through the darkness to Seminole, Texas. I still had no idea where my destination was. Aaron went ahead earlier that evening and was going to find a campsite for us to stay in. Now after 11pm, he was worried sick about me and was scouring the highway between Seminole and Hobbs looking for my lifeless body on the side of the road. 16 hours and 200 miles into the ride, my cell phone was dead and I had no way to contact him. Completely out of options, I tried turning it on one last time and was overjoyed when it lit up. It stayed alive just long enough for me to read a text with his location. Apparently, I was supposed to ride into Seminole and keep my eyes peeled for a run-down hotel on the right side of the road. It sounded lovely. Finally after 211 miles, I rolled into the hotel a little after midnight and knocked on the door praying I had the right room. To my relief, it was Aron who opened up and not some serial killer. I asked him about the hotel and he told me the story of how he had been turned down at every campsite due to the heavy concentration of oil workers. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan overheard his desperate situation, and offered him the hotel room. It was no Super 8, but it was much better than the Aveo !
Day 7 – Las Cruces, NM to Cloudcroft, NM
The little town of Cloudcroft was sight for sore eyes after climbing nearly 6000 feet in 20 miles
I woke up Day 7 with a renewed outlook on life. My strength was back, and I was ready to conquer the world. After a little shortcut back to highway 70, I found myself facing down the most intimidating road I had ever seen. From where I was, it looked like it never stopped going up. Even still, I knew I could conquer it so I dropped my chain into the granny gear and started grinding away. Minutes felt like hours and feet like miles, but I eventually caught sight of the peek. With the Rocky IV anthem ringing in my ears, I took one last sip from my water bottle, and went for it. Finally, I reached one of the most spectacular views I had ever seen. I could see for miles, and knew that the Atlantic Ocean was somewhere in the distance. I retuned my sights to the road and noticed the “dangerous decent” sign. My tires started spinning faster and faster and before I knew it I was traveling 40 mph. It was extremely exhilarating, and I loved every minute of it. However, 10 minutes later the road started to level off and I was back on the desert floor for another 40 mile stretch to the famous Air force Town of Alamagordo. With the exception of a couple flat tires, I made to Alamagordo without much trouble. After grabbing some essential fuel (aka Taco Bell), I stopped off at a bike shop to pick up a spare tube and get the scoop on the remaining 20 miles of my ride. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I wasn’t ready for the shop owner’s response. He took one look at me and suggested I bring some warmer clothes. Apparently, the next 20 miles were so steep that I would literally be leaving a desert town and traveling to a ski town. A little freaked out, I thanked the guy for the tube and started toward the mountain. At first it wasn’t so bad, but it didn’t take long for me to realize this was going to be longest 20 miles of my life. I was in my lowest gear, and I wished there were more. I remember wondering if Aaron was able to make it up this hill in my car. Part of me expected to see him on the side of the road with smoke coming from the engine. Fortunately, he was nowhere to be found, and just when I thought I could go no more I saw the “Welcome to Cloudcroft” sign ! It was a quaint will mountain town with bars, cafes, and candy shops. I wanted to explore it, but I was exhausted so I made my way to our no-so-little bungalow and hit the hay !
Day 6 – Lordsburg, NM to Las Cruces, NM
Merging onto the Interstate with semi-trucks was always awkward
By Day 6, I felt like I truly settled into my new lifestyle, which consisted of biking, eating, and sleeping. However, I was anxious to get this day over with, as it was going to be another day of riding the Interstate. Not more than 2 miles into my ride, I realized that my prayers were about to be answered. Strong west winds pushed me along Interstate 10 at speeds of close to 30 miles/hour. I remember this stretch vividly, as it was Sunday morning, and I was texting a friend who was in a church service back home. Despite being 2000 miles away from my physical church body, I felt closer to God than I had ever felt in my entire life. I was overcome with emotion, as I watched the sun continue to rise over the horizon. Even my eyes were watering, and I knew it couldn’t be the wind because it was at my back. This experience taught me a lot about myself. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw the exit to Deming. Somehow, I had just managed 60 miles in a little over 2 hours on my bike, which is almost unheard off. Everything about that morning was magical, and I will never forget it for as long as I live. Not wanting to lose my precious West wind, I kept my lunch stop brief and was back on the highway bound for Las Cruces. Although not quite as fast as the morning, I continued to make pretty good time that afternoon and found myself making the long decent into Las Cruces by 4:00 that day. Even with a little confusion finding the hotel, I was out of my sweaty bike gear and into comfortable clothing by dinner time. I even had time to shoot a little video update that evening to let everyone back home know that I was still alive and well.
Day 5 – Globe, AZ to Lordsburg, NM
Crossing into New Mexico just before dusk
For some reason Day 5 is a little fuzzier than the other days. However, I do remember it being one of the last unbearably hot days. Leaving Globe that morning was bitter sweet, as Aaron and I had both made little-while friends while we were there. I had met a couple sarcastic druggies on the side of the road the night before, and Aaron had made a special connection with the hotel manager who is still one of his Facebook friends to this day (at least last I checked). The morning ride was very enjoyable. It consisted of light winds, quiet roads, and rolling hills. However, by early afternoon, the temperatures had risen again into the 100+ degree range making riding very difficult. Exhausted and hot, I caught a quick nap at a roadside picnic area before meeting up with Aaron in Safford, AZ. After a quick stop at a local bike shop with a creative name “Cycle Path”, I sent Aaron on ahead to Lordsburg, NM another 75 miles up the road. It was along this stretch that Aaron proved to me just how essential he was. I had learned to rely on the map feature on my phone for directions. However, because this stretch was so desolate, my phone malfunctioned and was showing that I had just gone 30 miles the wrong way. By now I was exhausted and dehydrated, and I knew the situation was getting serious when I hadn’t seen a car for at least an hour. Just when I when I thought all hope was lost, a text message came through that said “water at mile marker 100”. I looked up and noticed I was approaching mile marker 97, which meant I must be on the right track. Sure enough, I found the bottles Aaron had left for me hiding behind a guard rail at mile marker 100. Despite, his best effort to keep them cool for me by hiding them in the shade, they were already piss warm, but I didn’t mind. It seemed like everything I drank was piss warm at this point. Now with the assurance that I was on the right track, I loaded back up and rode another 20 miles to a quaint little Western town at the edge of Arizona called “Duncan”. By now my thirst had come back so I stopped in the little general store where I was greeted by the same 64 oz Big Gulp cups that I had taken advantage of the day before. While I hated putting that much soda in my system, I knew my body badly need the sugar for the final 30 miles to Lordsburg, NM. I have never been so eager to leave a state as I was to leave AZ that evening. With 90% of my flat tires occurring in AZ and deathly hot temperatures, I didn’t care if I ever went back. Even still, I stopped at the border just before dusk to snap a quick photo and make small talk with another tourist who thought I was crazy. The final 20 mile stretch into Lordsburg was one of the most peaceful stretches of the entire trip. There was no wind or sign of civilization. The only sound was the soft hum of my tires on the smooth pavement. It was along this stretch that I really began to love biking again. It was about 10pm when I rolled into Lordsburg, and Aaron met me on the edge of town. I grabbed my usual 12 inch ham sub from Subway, and crashed almost immediately when we reached the hotel.
Day 4 – Tonopah, AZ to Globe, AZ
This is the very classy Belle Aire Motel that Aaron and I stayed at in Globe, AZ
Waking up Day 4, I was starting to question my ability to finish the tour in 20 days. Having covered only 90 miles on Day 3, Aaron and I were forced to wake up at 4AM so I could be shuttled back 70 miles to Tonopah where I had called it quits the day before. As discouraging as this was, there was a bright side. If I could pedal fast enough, I might be able to catch Aaron back at the hotel before the 11AM check-out, which would give me an opportunity to jump in the pool. I knew the cool water would breathe new life into me so I rode as hard as I could that morning. Despite being on a slower bike and having to navigate through Phoenix, I made it to the hotel with 17 minutes to spare. Fortunately, Aaron had worked his charm with the front desk ladies and arranged for a late check-out. After an hour of pool therapy, I was feeling great and decided I would try to make up some ground that afternoon. Despite having already ridden 70 miles from Tohopah to Phoenix, we made arrangements to stay in Globe, AZ which was nearly 100 miles away from our hotel in Southern Phoenix. I switched back to my fast bike and sent Aaron ahead to Globe. The afternoon temperatures in Phoenix were 106 as I navigated my way out of town. I had to ride like a maniac to stay out of harm’s way, and I lost some important gear off my bike in the process. Fortunately, I found a bike shop on the way out of town where I could replace the tools I had lost. Finally, at what looked like the edge of civilization, I stopped at the last gas station to get a 64 oz Manzanita Sol, which sounds like the world’s biggest cocktail, but is actually just an apple flavored soda. While chugging it outside the gas station I got to talking to guy on a motorcycle. After telling him about my dream to bike across America, he started telling me about some of the dreams he’d given up on. We ended up connecting on a very deep level, and I was able to encourage him in this area. While it would’ve appeared as though I was the one helping him, he had actually helped me, as I was given renewed energy through this experience. With the sun setting and still 50 miles to go, I jumped back on the bike and rode like the wind. I think I knocked out the next 30 miles in a little over an hour. However, all of a sudden the terrain drastically changed, and I found myself climbing. Every mile became a struggle, as the sun dipped below the horizon, and I found myself on dangerous mountain roads with still 17 miles left to go. Normally 17 miles wouldn’t phase me, but each of these miles felt like 5. Just when I was about to lose all hope, the climb leveled off, and then started to go downhill. Suddenly, I was flying 20, 30, 40 mph down a mountain decent in the middle of the night with no functioning headlight. The moon cast just enough light on the road to keep me from flying over the guard rail. Soon I began to see the lights of the little mountain of Globe, AZ. Total mileage that day ended up being 170 miles. I figured that was worth celebrating so I decided to spurge on Nati-Ice and Subway. I can honestly say it’s never tasted so good as it did there in the Belle Aire Hotel. What a day !
Day 3 – Quartzite, AZ to Tonopah, AZ
Repairing yet another flat tire on Interstate 10
Day 3 started out like any other day – drag myself out of bed and down the hall to where I would proceed to cram as many starchy carbs down my throat as physically possible. While I had little appetite on this particular morning, the heat induced nausea hadn’t set in yet so I had a small window of time to fuel. America’s Southwest was experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, and I was having a hard time adjusting. The morning started out OK, and I felt like I was making decent time along Interstate 10. I knew it was going to be another hot one when I reached down for my water bottle and it was already piss warm by 9AM. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes later that I felt my rear tire give way. I wasted no time repairing the flat, and I was back in the saddle in a matter of minutes. I read online that this stretch of interstate was notorious for causing flat tires so I made sure to pack some extra tubes. I figured 5 or 6 would be enough. I was wrong. Repairing flats became more and more difficult, as my hands grew weaker and weaker. I was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t have enough tubes to make it to Phoenix. Add to that empty water bottles and no sign of civilization. Finally, I came across a road sign that projected the next town to be about 15 miles ahead. While it wasn’t much of a town, it at least had a truck stop with liquids and shade. Before entering the truck stop, I leaned my bike up against a shaded bench that I was very excited to be able to sit on. To my dismay, I came out to find an elderly gentlemen sitting right in the middle of the bench. I figured he would politely slide over if I slid my butt between him and the arm rest. I was wrong. He held his ground, and I sat there pressed up against his sweaty body as he proceeded to tell me how foolish I was for riding my bike on Interstate 10 when Mt Saint Helens was about to erupt at any moment sending ash and poisonous gasses all the way to Arizona. I just nodded and drank my Gatorade. Finally, after about 15 minutes, he finally went about his way, leaving me with 5 minutes of uninterrupted shade before venturing out. With 40 miles to go and only one remaining tube, I prayed I wouldn’t get a flat for at least a half hour or so. I only made it 10 minutes. Putting in my last spare tube, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do after this one. It was bound to fail me, as all the others had. However, after riding 20 miles on it, I started to believe that this tube was different – that it was some sort of super tube. Then I felt the dreaded squishy feeling in the back. Fortunately, this puncture was small enough that I was able to continue riding on it by pumping it up every mile. I did this all the way to the rest-stop that I had asked Aaron to meet me at. I had an extremely bad attitude when I rolled into that rest-stop, and I feel bad that Aaron had to put up with me. However, he was extremely supportive and understanding. Even though I’d only gone about 80 miles that day, I knew I wasn’t going to make it all the way to Phoenix, as I was absolutely exhausted. However, I at least wanted to make it 10 miles further to Tonopah where I would finally get to leave the interstate. After a quick bike swap, I rode the last 10 mile on Aaron’s bike and called it a day in Tonopah
Day 2 – Palm Springs, CA to Quartzite, AZ
Leaving Palm Springs behind and climbing 10 miles into the California Desert
Day 2 was a rude awakening for me. I spent the first three hours of the day sitting in the hotel lobby trying to convert the video footage from Day 1 into some sort of video masterpiece … only to discover that the video file was too large to even upload. To make matters worse, I had let the coolest part of the day slip away on me, and I was now facing 107 degree temperatures … puke. As if the blistering temps weren’t bad enough, the next two days would be spent riding the interstate – Interstate 10. Needless to say I was hating life a bit. Fortunately, the monstrous climb I encountered early in the ride took me to a higher elevation with cooler 102 degree temps. I spent the better part of the afternoon racing from rest-stop to rest-stop where I would submerge my entire body beneath the water fountain stream to get relief. This lasted until the sun started to go down in Blythe, CA. I stopped briefly for a 99 cent any-size soda from McDonalds and prayed that the 600 grams of sugar would be enough to get me to Quartzite before midnight. On the verge of what felt like death about 10 mile out, I noticed a small flickering light in the distance coming toward me. While it sort of resembled a bike light, I couldn’t imagine anyone would be stupid enough to be out on these roads at this time of night. However, as it drew closer, I heard a faint voice call out my name. Sure enough, it was Aaron to the rescue ! He led the remaining 10 miles over the Arizona boarder and to our luxurious Super 8 in Quartzite. I was slightly delirious by this point, but I think we had to jump a fence that separated the interstate from out hotel. That’s all I remember, as I must have passed out shortly after. What a day !
Day 1 – Huntington Beach, CA to Palm Springs, CA
Steve Carter and I at the starting line
After spending our first night in California at my friend Steve Carter’s house, Aaron and I woke up a little around 5AM to the smell of coconut pancakes coming from the stove. Steve promised they’d give me energy to battle the Los Angeles traffic. They must have worked because after snapping a quick photo ankle deep in the Pacific Ocean, Aaron and I set out together and covered nearly 15 miles in a little under an hour on the Santa Anna River Trail. After leaving Aaron, and eventually the trail behind, I found myself navigating the craziness of LA Suburbia. Then, just when I thought the traffic and stoplights would never end, I came to what appeared to be the edge of civilization as I knew it. Suddenly, I was riding a road that that would bring most 4×4’s to their knees. Known as “Jack Rabbit” trail, this rustic road lived up to its reputation complete with beautiful views of the rugged country side, and lung burning climbs. The decent along the backside was extremely thrilling – maybe a little too thrilling, as I quickly burned through a couple spare tubes in the process. Eventually finding pavement, I continued East and found myself at my first dead-end. I must have ridden an extra 20 miles trying to find a non-interstate road to the next town. After being denied access to a reservation road, I thought I was going to have to jump on the interstate. Then a local pointed out a minimum maintenance road that would barely qualify as a horse trail in my book. I ended up pushing my bike 5 miles over rocks and creek beds to the next town. Now, 90 miles inland, temperatures soared to 105 degrees, and I was becoming nauseous. Fortunately, the final 40 miles to Palm Springs were on nice smooth roads with the wind at my back so I made incredible time reaching our $30 Holiday Inn Express with enough time to enjoy a quick swim and a few too many Coors Lights in the hot top with a Hispanic Guy who didn’t believe that I was riding to the Atlantic Ocean …. I guess I don’t blame him. Though I didn’t have much appetite that night, Aaron force fed me some half-price appetizers at the Applebees across the street. As I sat in the booth, now a little dazed and confused, I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into.