O2M Day +34: The End

Wheeling, West Virginia to Frostburg, Maryland

Today: 153.7 miles
Trip: 2856 miles
Avg Speed: 12.8 mph
Pedal Time: 11 hours 59 minutes

Where to begin. I didn’t sleep very well last night. Wake up to go pee. Wake up to get water. Wake up to go pee again. Repeat.

I had stayed in a Super 8 motel last night. I walked out the door about 7:50 in the morning and there were some West Virginians on the front stoop… Drinking. They had already polished off 4-5 beers by the time I started chatting with them. Really fellas? Did you start drinking at 7 am?

After a chat I got on the road. I had to rise only 8 miles in West Virginia before I got to Pennsylvania. I was in the northern skinny sliver part of West Virginia. Interestingly, it was a fairly flat ride, those 8 miles. So much for mountain mama, at least in that little part of the state.

The next 42 miles in Pennsylvania can only be described as my personal hell on earth. Deep, steep, long, mountainous hills. These 42 miles was a ride of extremes. I was either going 6 mph up the hill or 30+ mph down the hill. I hated every second of those 42 miles.

In any case, I got to the town of West Newton where I picked the Great Allegheny Passage trail. This trail connects Pittsburgh and D.C. and while I was going uphill all day on it, the elevation change is unnoticeable. The trail was constructed on an old rail road track so the maximum grade was 1.5%.

The trail is beautiful, and at some point is like to do it again. It winds along a scenic river, through a state park, over bridges, and even through tunnels. There are small towns scattered every 15-20 miles with camping, restaurants, bars, and outdoor things to do.

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As I was saying, I was going uphill most of the day. From my starting point, the trail rose 90 miles to the “eastern continental divide” and then falls 10 miles to Frostburg, and then another 15 miles to Cumberland. 100 miles on a bike trail would be a big day, but I already had the 50 hilly miles under my legs. I felt it the whole way…

With about two hours to go, it finally got dark. Luckily, my head lamp is pretty powerful and I was still able to get a little bubble of light to travel in. It’s eerie biking at night in the woods. Shadows in the dark play tricks with your mind. Is that an animal? Or a bush in the shape of an animal. Plus, the eyes of every animal glow in the dark. Scary.

After the divide, I had to pass through a 1000 foot long tunnel. Darker than death in there. Little bubble of light in front of me, darkness behind.

I finally came to the welcome to Maryland sign. I was going to stop to take a picture but out of the darkness came a shirtless hillbilly with a long beard. Scared the crap out of me. He had no flash light, no walking stick, no shirt. Just walking in the dark. Where to… I have no idea. Nothing for miles around. Needless to say, I didn’t linger for a picture.

Anyway, by the time I got to Frostburg, it was nearly 11 pm and I had been riding for about 12 hours. Katie and Little Bruce Pike picked me up there and my long journey home came to an end.

It’s only just started to hit me that I rode my bicycle from one end of this country to the other.

Some thoughts…

1) if you’re thinking of doing this, I would recommend going with a partner. Somebody to share the experiences with, good and bad.

2) if you’re thinking of doing this, the best investment you can make is a long, hand held air pump. Great for fending off dogs.

3) my body aches all over right now. My left calf is starting to feel better, but now the right one is acting up. My right ankle is still bothering me. My knees are awful. I have lost feeling in my palms and developed several blisters and callous (spelling?) on them. Both elbows are stiff and sore from holding myself up on the handle bars. My rear end, i wont even go there. The list goes on…

4) I think the biggest lesson that got hammered home during this trip is I have to take the bad with the good. There are going to be conditions that present themselves that make life difficult. But you have to accept that. No matter how much you wish the temperature was cooler, the road was flatter, or the wind less breezy, it’s not going to change and you have to keep going. You have to deal with it and persevere.

5) I’ve learned never to say never in life. However, if I ever do something like this again it’s going to be a very very VERY long time away. And it won’t be alone for sure.

6) if I do do something like this again, I’m going to do shorter days. 100+ miles a day puts too much wear and tear on the body.

When I started, people asked how long they thought it would take me. My standard reply was “Hoping for 5 weeks, shooting for 6, probably going to be 7.”

It took me 5 weeks to the day.

A big thanks to everybody who’s followed me and checked in on me. Especially my fiancĂ© Katie, my family, my cousins, my three best friends, and the others I met along the way like the Adams. Your words of encouragement really helped in the darkest of days.

Here are pictures from my finish, a bit blurry unfortunately…

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I had a dream the other night that I had decided to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. I have an unnatural fear of sharks so I know it’ll never happen. Unless…

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O2M Day +32, +33: A Hard Days Night

Day +32: Lima, Ohio to Mt. Vernon, Ohio

Day: 97.5 miles
Trip: 2576 miles
Avg Speed: 15.4 mph
Pedal Time: 6 hours 19 minutes

Day +33: Mt. Vernon, Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia

Today: 126.2 miles
Trip: 2702 miles
Avg Speed: 14.6 mph
Pedal Time: 8 hours 38 minutes

Ohio has changed the more eastward I went. Illinois, Indiana, and eastern Ohio blended together with flat lands and corn fields. After Mt. Vernon, though, there were some big hills. Much of the day was spent Ina valley similar to what Missoula was like surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. This was just on a less grand scale. But the climbing did start with about 30 miles to go, complete with a couple switch backs.

I also saw my first horse and buggy on the road complete with an Amish guy and beard. He waved. I waved back.

I sit next to route 40 which goes to Cumberland. I am 137 miles from completing my journey. I could be done tomorrow. I dont know what to do. I could take the Great Allegheny Passage, but it will make the total mileage 150 miles for the day. However, being a bike trail on an old railroad, the hills will be negates. Plus, there will be no traffic to deal with. Or, I could take route 40 all the way in and do less miles, but more hills.

Now that I look at it, it’ll only be about a 15 mile difference between the two. And the GAP is by far safer. But I don’t know if my legs have 150 miles in them tomorrow, especially after my effort today.

I’m almost done, I’m so close…

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O2M Day +30, +31: Get Back

Day +30: Watseka, Illinois to Wabash, Indiana

Day: 116 miles

Day +31: Wabash, Indiana to Lima, Ohio

Today: 112.1 miles
Trip: 2478 miles
Avg Speed: 15.0 mph
Pedal Time: 7 hours 26 minutes

Yesterday I was able to fly. The heat wave finally broke and I had favorable winds all day. The land was flat and I got through the rest of Illinois and most of Indiana.

A guy at breakfast was trying to talk to me about the age of cemeteries in he area compared to back east. How ours are so much older. Buddy, I do not care.

The land started to change going from Illinois to Indiana. Very gentle rolling hills came to take over from the flat lands. Still lots of farmlands. The corn is very dry, very short.

I had favorable winds today as well, and I was able to get a good way into Ohio. I was chased by two dogs today. I find the most effective method is my air pump. A two foot long cylinder of metal. Wave it in the air and the dogs know… Metal club = no good. The birds though… I’ve been chased by more birds than I can count. It seems like every other minute one is flying above me squawking and trying to scare me away from their nest. He pump does not work on birds.

I’m so close to being done. I’m going to end my trip in Cumberland, Maryland. I’ll get there by the Great Alleghany Passage, a bike trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. I am 262 miles from Pittsburgh, PA (at least by highway). Very much looking forward to when I get home. A cold beer at Brewers. A rack of ribs at Black Hog. Walking to the record and tape traders to see what new vinyls they have. Mountain Biking again. Alive@5 on Thursday nights on the creek. Visiting my barber, Jay. Eating normally again instead of trying to consume every calorie I can. Playing with Little Bruce Pike, pictured here:

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Having a cup of coffee in the morning. Wearing normal clothes. I’m so close…

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O2M Day +29: Please Mister Postman

Not a Beatles song, but they did cover it…

Anyway, I am currently in Watseka, Illinois not far from the Indiana border. Yesterday the temperature soared to 104 (or at least the heat index was 104). I’ve been seeing articles in the paper and online how food prices are going to soar this year because of the drought in the Midwest. I can understand it. Much of the corn I rode through was dried up, dead.

I started around 7:30 yesterday morning in Streater, Illinois. It got so hot, I was eventually going through a liter of water every 10 miles. My first lunch stop came 50 miles from where I started, in a small town called Kempton. Only problem was, the bar and grill was closed. Great! I was out of water, hungry, and the only place to get food was closed. I decided to escape the heat in the local post office. The lady running the place let me get some water and soda from the vending machine and I sat in the air conditioned space where people come in to get their mail.

The lady came out and we got to talking about my trip. Then, as she’s leaving for lunch, her husband stops by. His nickname is Dutch and he’s a dish network satellite repairman. He had been out in this heat and wanted to take a drive so he offered to get me to the next town where there was a restaurant.

And so he drove me about 15-20 miles to Ashkum. The truck didn’t have AC. But riding 60mph with the windows down was better than biking 14mph in this heat. I noticed during the drive that not all intersections had stop signs at them, for any of the directions. This didn’t seem to bother Dutch in the least though it made me a little uneasy.

After lunch, I wanted to get across the India a border, but the heat was even worse. So informs a little town called Watseka and enjoyed their Super 8 there. Indiana is today. Its supposed to rain, but I’ll happily take that over the heat of yesterday.

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O2M Day +26, +27: Yesterday

Afton, Minnesota to Red Wing Minnesota

I think I reached my breaking point yesterday. I didn’t even bother looking at my stats afterward. I rode approximately 30 miles before lunch, crossed the two thousand mile mark, and then stopped.

It’s weird, I had taken two rest days over the past week, but I was exhausted. I was riding 45 lbs lighter (Katie and mom took my panniers) but I was riding slower than ever. It was like being a zombie, my legs pedaled, but my mind wasn’t really into it and I finally broke. Black Mamba is fine, it was the rider that could not go on.

With apologies to the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

I started this trip wanting to pedal every stroke to Maryland. But yesterday, that’s not what I needed. The three of us ate lunch in Red Wing, Minnesota, then we packed up the car with the bike inside and drove on. We went south, over the border to Iowa and came to the city of Muscatine where we stayed the night, right on the border between Iowa and Illinois.

I went back and forth over my decision to drive, but I have no regrets. I felt spent, physically, emotionally, and needed a break. Some people might try and say that I didn’t bike across the whole country because of this. Whatever… I don’t see them out here taking any pedal strokes with me. By the time this grand tour is over, I’ll have pedaled over 3000 miles and will have words with anybody who says I didn’t make it.

This was me at mile 2000:

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And the three of us in the car:

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That was quite uncomfortable. Black Mamba had the best seat in the car as she was stretched across the back. Katie had to sit on the cup holders.

Muscatine, Iowa to Kewanee, Illinois

Today: 84.8 miles
Trip: 2099 miles
Avg Speed: 16.5 mph
Pedal Time: 5 hours 7 minutes

Now comes the final push east. Muscatine is south of Minneapolis on the Iowa/Illinois border. On the northern tier route, cyclists turn here to head east. And wouldn’t you know it, I had pretty favorable conditions today, mostly.

The land has changed to finally being the flat land I had been looking for. That, combined with a real tail wind, meant today I could fly. Having a tailwind is an interesting experience. You hear nothing and everything all at once. Gone is the wind your ears that drowns out all other sound while riding. It’s replaced by the sounds that surround you. Birds chirping, the rustle of the corn leaves, it’s almost so quiet you could hear a pin drop. It’s a great sound of nothing!

It also means I could cruise, and cruise easily. 50 miles in 3 hours before lunch. I actually beat Katie and mom to the town we stopped at for lunch. That may have been more a fault of theirs than any superhuman act on my part. It took them an hour to get out of Muscatine. In a true case of the blind leading the blind, they couldn’t follow the detour out. In fairness to them, it was difficult to follow.

After lunch the winds kept up, but it got oppressively hot. I made it another 34 miles and called it a day. I could have ridden longer, but it’s my last day with Katie and Mom. What will I remember more, another three hours in the saddle or spending time with them. My choice was clear.

That did mean sacrificing my tail wind. The winds are supposed to shift tomorrow and a tail wind is a terrible thing to waste. But I’m good with it.

I’m back in corn fields. It’s amazing when I think that farm lands is basically what I’ve seen from eastern Montana on. How much land is devoted to farming is amazing.

As requested by Andrew Michael, here is a picture of my tan lines, arms and legs. Plus a nice shave for my new start. First shave since before I left for Oregon. Feels good…

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O2M Day +25: Something

Minneapolis, Minnesota to Minneapolis, Minnesota

Today: 0 miles
Trip: 1979 miles
Avg Speed: 0 mph
Pedal Time: 0 hours 0 minutes

Katie and my mom ended up getting to the hotel around 11:30 last night. I can’t describe how nice it is to see a familiar face. And to act “normal” for a day. Jeans, flip-flops, and tee-shirts. Sweet mama it felt nice to not be wearing a bike jersey and shorts with pads in the ass…

We were up fairly early for some reason. After breakfast we decided to visit Mall of America. I like to tease that I only went along with the because the women wanted to go but shamefully I admit it was my idea. I wanted to see The Dark Knight Rises and there was a showing there. Not as good as the middle movie, but good nonetheless.

The mall itself is a testament to American excessiveness. Four stories of any store you can think of, plus roller coasters, gigantic Lego people, and too many tourists (ourselves included).

I ended up enjoying the trip though. Besides the movie, I ended up getting an hour long massage. I’d never had a professional massage before and was not disappointed. Though, my quads were so sore that when my legs were worked on, I think I tensed up more than relaxed.

I also found two vinyls I had been looking for: The Beatles Abbey Road (which the song Something can be found on) and Miles Davis Kind of Blue.

Katie and I went for a swim when we returned. Another couple in the pool commented on my “farmer’s tan.” cycling for seven hours a day in a tight fitting jersey will give you a very defined tan line. It is quite literally a straight line, as though it was drawn on with a marker. No fade from tan to white. Just tan… Then pale. That’s not going away for a while…

Tomorrow, Katie and my mom will drive me outside the city to start biking. Traffic inside the city is awful, and getting out requires crossing some interstates. Then, I will give them my panniers and hit the road. It’ll be nice: in a way it’s my own mini supported ride. They take all my gear, and I ride my now 45 lb lighter bike to meet up with them. Looking forward to a lighter ride.

The ride ahead will take me into Wisconsin, and then back into Minnesota as I head south to Iowa.

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O2M Day +24: Hey Bulldog

St. Joseph, Minnesota to Minneapolis, Minnesota

Today: 94.2 miles
Trip: 1979 miles
Avg Speed: 12.4 mph
Pedal Time: 7 hours 32 minutes

I woke up to terrible news today about a shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Senseless…

I was eating breakfast this morning and got talking about my trip with a guy at the table next to me. His name was John. He also was a teacher and loves to cycle. He rides a tandem bike (2 person bike) with his son who has a disability. Really cool. He ended up giving me his number in the event I had difficulties today. He offered to come and get me. Nice guy…

Ten minutes into the ride today t started down pouring. It was the sharp stinging type of rain that Forrest Gump spoke of. Even through my jacket it was stinging. No worries though. I’ll take rain any day over heat.

The rain lasted about a half hour. After which the sun came out drying me off. Around this time, I was chased by a dog named Bella. I knew her name because her owner was following in a golf cart calling her back. Bella did get a hold of me, though fortunately she grabbed my front rift pannier instead of my ankles. Bella started trying to pull me off the road. So I in turn, started to compensate and pull back into the road. Luckily for me, there were no trucks at that moment because I was swerving all over the road. Bella let go but continued to give chase. I took out my long pump and held it up as a club and Bella finally backed down. Damn dog…

A good majority of my ride was into the wind today (shocker) but I made my way along. It was nicer because towns are no longer spread so thin. I don’t have to carry as much food and water because there’s typically another town just ten miles down the road (as opposed to 65 miles like eastern Montana).

I don’t think I realized how big Minneapolis is. Once I got to the outskirts, I still had 20 miles to go to the hotel where I’d meet Katie and my mom. I couldn’t quite find a good way there. I was looking at a map and though I could take a road labeled 100 south towards the airport. Didn’t realize that it was a major highway. No going there! In another lucky twist of fate, a shirtless man was biking by and we got to talking. Lowell offered to show me the way and so I followed along. The views to my side were nice, lakes and the what not. The views in front ( love handles and Calvin Klein tighty whities), not so much. In all seriousness though, Lowell was really nice to show me the way and I eventually did get to our hotel.

Now if only Katie’s and Mom’s plane wasn’t delayed…

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