Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Three slick gals


We were so hot today that we stopped, just twenty miles before Palatka. Sometimes it is just too hot. My rejuvenation drink of choice, when I am OUT, is a chocolate milk. This little store did not have chocolate milk, though there WERE cases and cases of beer. A case of beer is too hard to drink on a bike. ONE beer is not a good idea. And the only gatorade they had was purple. It tasted, well, purple. Not grape.

The best part about the stop was that the clerk was wowed by us.

"You're going WHERE?"
"You started in San DIEGO???!!!"

She was a relative youngster. Her stare went from one of us to another of us to another of us. We were mostly just thirsty and hot and we all had to pee but we answered her questions, in between taking turns to pee ("never pass up a flush toilet" is a truism of a ride with a bunch of women)and allowed her to take our picture.

It IS an amazing thing.

We have ridden our bicycles across the whole bloody, friggin' United States of America for cryin' out loud!

Um.

Today was our last long ride. It was not easy. We had a head wind. Connie ran out of energy. All of our crotches are sore. Jan's legs are tired. I am tired. We're TIRED.

But we're also thrilled. I am thrilled. This is a huge accomplishment. Even if I missed nine miles after I crashed my bike. And even if I missed 23 miles trying to avoid being flung into Oz like Dorothy on tornado day in Lafayette. Even so, this is a huge deal.

Whatever conclusions I ultimately draw over the course of the rest of my life, this has been a gigantic thing to do. Tomorrow we ride into St. Augustine. We have been invited to wear our group jerseys but I am going to wear the one that was made for me for this ride, the one with my shop's name across the front and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance on one sleeve and the Mission Hospital logo on the other. It has the logo for Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and for Jubilee, my spiritual community. It has the name of the guy who made the jersey. And it also says "Don't Postpone Joy" and, for now, most importantly, "Live. Love. Bike."

Someone suggested I keep writing this even after I get home. Frankly, between you and me, I might not be able to stop just like that. Keeping this going feels comforting to me. Of course it is up to you to check in or not, as you wish.

Anyway - I am getting ahead of myself. First I have to eat and then go to sleep and then wake up and get dressed and ride my bicycle into St. Augustine. Some Chamber of Commerce people are coming. Maybe some chefs. Maybe some cancer survivors. My sisters are coming. And my girlfriend is already here. We're going to celebrate.

Big time.

Tomorrow I'll send you a picture of me and my bicycle and my teal toes and the Atlantic Ocean. Imagine that. Imagine that.

Love to you all,
Laurey

P.S. One of my favorite church signs said (forgive me if I already told you this one) "Never pass up an opportunity to say I love you."

Okay? Okay.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Springs, springs, and more springs


We're in High Springs. Surrounded by a whole bunch of other Springs. All crystal clear. All blue. All world famous. Who knew? I'm in a cafe and the walls are covered with photographs of people diving in these beautiful waters.

We went to one, the one shown here, and yes, it was clear and lovely.

But we're now focused on the end. I'm thinking about home. I'm wondering about this ride. I'm wondering about the now what part. I'm wondering if anyone with ovarian cancer is helped by this thing. My sister wrote and said a friend of hers just died of ovarian cancer. This kind of thing rips me apart. I ride, wonder. Does it make any difference? Is it possible to do something like ride my bike and WISH that it matters? Does it? Sitting here in this bar in High Springs I wonder.

So I don't have a whole lot to say today.

I just wonder.

Two more days of riding. One short day. One long day. Then a day of walking around St. Augustine. Then a day of driving home.

I did not know today would have these springs. I do not know what is going to appear tomorrow. I do not know what will happen in St. Augustine. I do not know how the drive will be. I do not know what will happen when I get home. I do not know anything. Especially today.

And yes, I would like to tell this story to Ellen. My friend Dara, who helps with this blog sometimes, especially when it comes to adding videos and things like that, is the one who put up the Ellen video and the plea to you all to forward it to Ellen. It seems important to me. But I don't know if it is. Maybe it would help people stop dying. Maybe.

Okay - it is still a beautiful day here in High Springs. Come here if you want to see some beautiful water. And come to The Great Outdoors for lunch. The food is very good.

Tomorrow I ride some more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hot off the press

Here is a story about Laurey's ride as well as a video. Help Laurey and tweet the link for this video to get Laurey on The Ellen Show. Come on, I know you have it in you...come on you techno whizzes - give us some help. Click HERE for the story.

Leap and the net will appear!



My legs. Yes indeedy.

We spent our rest day at Wakulla Springs. Home to the largest spring in the United States and maybe the fourth largest in the world, the place has a flow of some 400,000 gallons PER MINUTE! Mik, the guide from the first half of our trip said to jump for her. Ah me. If we hadn't, she'd never have know. BUT I am not one to let an invitation like that go unmet so...

The funny thing about the place is that it hasn't changed much since it was built. Irregular cell phone service. No internet service. Funny old rooms, an old-fashioned menu, and boats that have been offering rides up and down the Wakulla River since Mr. Ball created the place. Thank you Mr. Ball! (Makes me especially grateful to anyone with money enough to buy up land and save it for future generations. This is a very good thing to do. We who follow behind thank you.)

The birds and animals are very accustomed to these tour boats and so do not fly away or retreat. This means you can get close enough to a pair of nesting Great White Egrets to see the fluff balls in the next - the babies. And the plentiful alligators blink and move just a little bit when the boat approaches. SO much better than any zoo. It is SO wonderful to see these beings in their home, their real home. And then, to ride outside the park where it immediately becomes filled with litter and roaring cars - well, it brings tears to my heart.

We continue to ride across Florida. Three more days. Three.

Today's ride was flat and straight. I don't think we turned except to get on the main road and, just now, to get off it. I'm talking STRAIGHT. The challenge becomes how to ride comfortably when there is no apparent reason to shift. Same gear. No turning. No hills. No variety.

But, as with all of these sorts of days, beauty resides just one tiny smidgen under the seemingly monotony. Iris live in the Cyprus Bogs. The foliage, if you look, is incredibly varied - palmetto, Cyprus, oaks, Spanish moss and many, many other things. Pines poke up, ferns fill in the scrub. Take a breath, look around - the world opens up.

So, being a short distance from Apalachicola, I'm eating oysters as much as possible. Lunch. Dinner. Breakfast - okay - not so much. I'm happy today, happy to get to see this land that is missed if you drive on the interstates. Missed, too, I'm sure, by drivers on these very roads. The honeysuckle is intoxicating. The musty earth is too.

I cannot believe this is almost done.
Last night, thinking about it, I got very sad. There are good parts to being done, but this has been life-altering. And how do you take this sort of experience, altered, and fold it into what already is? I am not sure. But tomorrow I'll ride some more and think about just that.

Ciao,
Laurey

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning...



This is my new favorite activity. I love tinkering, tweaking, adjusting. I have gone from knowing very little about this machine, to feeling quite competent. As I told you, the other day I had to get a major adjustment, a whole new derailleur cable. This was residue from my bike crash back in Navasota. Well, the bike mechanic told me that the cable would stretch in a few days and that I would need to get it fixed because it would cease to shift smoothly.

We're not near a bike shop in this run of the trip, so I, getting a hint of what to do from one of the guides, fixed it myself! Go me!

And then Jan, today, was having some trouble with HER derailleur and I fixed IT too! (She currently thinks I'm a mechanical wizard, which is a stretch, but it is true that she needed help, I gave it to her, and my help fixed her problem. Go me! (I wouldn't normally say this so much, but it is a real delight to have the confidence to plunge in and fix little problems.)

After Jan gushed to me, my whole day changed today. Before that I was just, well, riding, wondering what might pop up to catch my interest. I was enjoying the scenery, the Cypress Bogs (thanks for telling me about them) and humming songs (thanks for all the Florida song hints.) I was, as usual, musing about how and if my life has changed as a result of this ride.

And then Jan had that problem and I fixed it and she thanked me. It felt so good. So good. So simple and good.

Sometimes something doesn't have to be complicated to make a difference. A simple thank you made a huge difference to me today. A simple feeling of competence made a huge difference to me today. Simple stuff. Simple lessons.

Tomorrow we ride a short distance to a place that has clear waters in a natural spring. I have never been there before but the name, Wakulla Springs, is alluring. We ride in, spend a whole day there, and ride out. I'll tell you as much as I can. I am meeting some Chamber of Commerce people so I'll get the lowdown and, probably, will tell you to come visit too. Heck, I love water and I might not want to leave. Actually, no, I am ready to see my home and my town and my friends. But that's not to say I won't come back.

Pretty soon, y'all. Pretty soon.

For now - cheers,
Laurey

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Riding through Florida

What I see most



Connie wears red. Jan wears tank tops these days. We switch off. Me first. Connie first. Jan first. Me first. Connie first. Jan first. 5 mile turns today. Less on a harder day. Today wasn't really hard so longer turns worked just fine.

Today we rode 93 miles. No wind. Smooth roads. A relative breeze. We were on Route 90 for most of the day and our cue sheet said, pretty much, "get on route 90. Ride 90 miles. Get off. Turn right . Go to the Hampton Inn." (not exactly but almost.)

Today we had slightly more than 6 hours of actual riding time. We were out for longer than that, but every time we stop, the little bike computer stops. We start. It starts. Pretty cool. At the end of the ride you push a button and it tells you how long you've been riding. Fancy computers also tell your average speed, fastest speed, elevation gain - fancy stuff. Mine is a simple one. How far did you go? How long did it take. You want the average? Do the math.

It did get hot after a bit, which sent us into convenience stores. We troop in, head for the ice machine, fill up, head for the ladies' room, go to the drink area, load up with drinks, and finish off at the ice cream freezer. We're all aware that we need to start tapering off pretty soon. We simply cannot go home and eat like this unless we're spending the entire day riding.

At our second convenience store stop of the day we created the usual scene. We don't really MEAN to, it just happens. I mean, most convenience store shoppers are not used to three middle aged women biking around. And we're not exactly shy and retiring. Um, no. It doesn't take much to set one of us off and then the three of us get going and that's about it. Another scene.

Today, after the scene at the cash register, we ended up sitting with a Deputy Sherriff who was trying to eat his lunch of chicken and macaroni and cheese. I'm not quite sure how it happened but somehow there we all were, sitting with him in his booth, poor fellow, all of us talking at the same time. The people at the booth behind him were shaking their heads in amusement. The clerks gaped. We poured out our stories, answered his questions. He blessed us. We thanked him, told him to get out on a bike, and left.

Well, before we left I said, "Nice talking to you," and Jan said, "well, AT you," which cracked us up. We find ourselves stupidly entertaining at times. Maybe it's all the ice cream. Maybe it's the miles. We're probably not as funny as we think we are, but it doesn't matter. We rode 93 miles and that feels good.

We're in Mariana tonight. The truth is, we're at a motel near the interstate and we could be anywhere. I'm glad to be off the bike. I'm glad to stop, hop in the pool, take a nap, jot you a note. Later we'll have dinner in our parking lot and then we'll go to sleep and then get up and have breakfast in our parking lot and then we'll get on our bikes and ride some more. I spend an inordinate amount of time in parking lots these days.

We're almost done. Not quite, but almost.

Until tomorrow,
C
heers,
Laurey

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sunshine State



This is yesterday's picture, but you probably don't mind. Connie (near the road), me, Jan.

Jan and Connie and I were riding yesterday and when we came to this sign Jan started screaming and yelling and pounding her fists into the air. I, for one, have been excited every time we cross a state line, but this one really got her.

Connie and I were happy, don't get me wrong but Jan was dancing with glee.

There we were, the three of us, on a pretty busy highway. And by now we want pictures with all of us in them but there were no other riders around. Hmm... I moved into the spot under the sign, Jan followed and so did Connie (I don't know what we were all thinking) but just then Janet Bee, the day's SAG driver, pulled up.

Perfect! A photographer!

She snapped pictures for all of us. We snapped some of her. And then she went off to take care of her charges and we kept riding.

Today we left the coast and rode into the interior of the panhandle. A mere speck of a ride. 56 miles. Easy schmeezy.

We're in Crestview now. We stopped for lunch at a little independent restaurant here and asked the waitress what we should see that was cute. She said, "I don't know, let me ask in the kitchen." (She had just told us she's lived here for 15 years so I thought that was a curious answer.) But she came back saying, "If you're looking for cute, the chef says to come into the kitchen!"

So I did.

Turns out Michael (of Michael's) was a sweet fellow and that began a bantering, sharing, fun little conversation about who we were and why we are doing this funny thing. Most impressed were the youngsters waiting on tables. Our group IS impressive, even if we show up in small groups. 42 - 70 years old. All women. Riding across the United States. Sheesh. Who WOULDN'T be impressed?

Riding through back country, red clay, thick pines, lush ferns today gave me plenty of time to review. Time to think. My bike worked fine, odometer kept track. New derailleur cable held up. Wandering around in my thoughts. What will I do when I get back? How will I adjust to being off my bike? How will I take this experience with me? How will I give it away? I do not know the answers to any of these questions. Will I? When?

Our motel has a big pool. Want to go for a swim? I'm on the 3rd floor and my room has a blacony. The pool is right below. My roommate just came in and suggested we just jump in. I suggested a big two person cannonball. Okay - maybe not.

Tomorrow is a 90 miler. One of two more big rides.
Oh boy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm in Florida!!!!!!!



Made it. Rode my bicycle all the way to Florida. FLORIDA!

Chased by sharks and massacred by ferry-hovering mosquitoes, we managed to escape from the allure of Dauphin Island and the Alabama coast early this morning. It is REALLY beautiful here (there.)

We crossed into Florida at mile 27, I think. WHAT a change. Actually, I messed up my odometer yesterday by trying to reset it. BIG mistake. It was saying we were going 6 miles an hour and, when Connie's said we had ridden for 20 miles, mine was saying we'd gone 5. Ugh. I rely on the thing because our ride cue sheets are all based on mileage. And Connie relies on ME so much that she never even consults her cue sheet (which is fine with me, I like paying attention in this way.)

Also, I have been having some trouble with my derailler since my arm warmer crash. It has been getting worse and worse and today I could only ride in a few gears without having the unpleasant grinding noise of my chain rubbing against my front derailleur. I got myself into quite a snit about the two things. I KNEW we were getting to bike shop - at mile 55 - but could NOT let the stupid annoyance about the grinding and the odometer go.

I made my threesome stop twice and I tried to fix it but it just wasn't having any of it. We DID stop for a fine lunch of fried oysters and shrimp at mile 41 and I called home (go Liberty Bikes!) and Ben told me how to fix it. Whew! And then 14 miles later, we DID get to the bike shop and the mechanic removed my old, almost-completely-frayed cable, replaced it, and sent me on my way. 10 minutes - MAX. $18.00. Wow!

And then, I got to be a momentary celebrity. The Asheville paper is doing a story on me and the ride and the writer lives here. We met yesterday but the photographer caught up with us this afternoon as we rode into Pensacola. What a riot!!! He sat in the back of a truck while his driver navigated. He snapped a WHOLE lot of photographs. A LOT. And he had me ride way back and up close and next to the truck and he snapped and snapped and snapped and it was a total gas. Connie and Jan and I rode and laughed and he snapped away. It was really fun. Really. I think the article will be in the paper this week. If you live in Asheville, keep an eye out. And if you don't I'll let you know and maybe my friend Dara the computer genius will link it up here.

Anyway - it's truly amazing to be in Florida with my red Trek and my teal toes and my banged up body. We're almost done. 9 more days of riding. Flat days. Days of sun and wind and some more adventures, I'd guess.

I'll be in touch tomorrow from Crestview - hot spot of Florida.
Cheers,
Laurey

A Video from Laurey

We were unable to find the embed code on the video so here a link to a video from Laurey to you. http://sharing.theflip.com/session/079ba3f5e076d3633117faf48887ca02/video/3852709

Teal Toes go to Florida

,

I took advantage of our day off to redo my toes. They were looking a little shabby and, well, we're in the homestretch now and I'll need to be showing my toes off a bit more SO I got some toenail polish remover from Connie and reapplied the beauty.

I met six hilarious folks from Kentucky who are here on Dauphin Island for a vacation. We had a nice visit on the day we all got here and so, by yesterday, we were buddies. A reporter from Pensacola came to meet up with me and the six of them heckled in the distance, politely. No need to take any of this too seriously, right? After the reporter left the six brought me beer and wild drinks they had concocted in their condominium blender. And after that it seemed fine for me to reveal my toes and borrow Sharon's new, perfectly matched flip flops. I mean - PERFECT! Darvin and Freida and Helen and Mike and Bob. Very nice people. Very.

Teal, as you must know by now, it the ovarian cancer color. Don't you think this would be a fine poster? I do!

Today we're off, out of Alabama, over Mobile Bay on a ferry, and on to Florida. FLORIDA y'all!
Ten more days. TEN. Pensacola. Crestview. Quincy. Wakulla Springs. Perry. High Springs. Palatka. St. Augustine.

Asheville.

Some more biking. Some more thinking. And then home, where this journey started and, now, where it will really, truly - begin.

I'll tell you some more later on today.

Laurey

Sunday, April 19, 2009

21 riders, 58 days from ocean to ocean

I thought you might enjoy this write up on our bike ride.


http://www.hammondstar.com/articles/2009/04/19/top_stories/8989.txt

At the Gulf of Mexico


We're on the Gulf!

Rode into Alabama earlier this morning and wasted no time getting right to the Shrimp! We're now on Dauphin Island, the first place that migrating birds reach when they fly north from South America. Bird watching is a big deal here. The gang is planning an early morning excursion tomorrow. I'll see. I might join in or I might sleep in.

Our accommodations are pretty swank. We're at The Dauphin Island Beach Club. I have been assigned a King Sized bed and it turns out to be the Master Suite. Gigantic bathroom, huge bed, private entrance to the pool and really easy access to the beach. I can look out the window (the huge window) in my room and see dunes and then, just beyond, the Gulf. Right now the waves are big, pounding and roaring. There are storms around and, though we missed riding in the rain (I TOLD them so), the recent atmospheric upset has caused the waters to be pretty active. I might try body surfing. Or beach walking. Or both.

Riding today was a breeze. 42 miles miles is really nothing. Just enough to get the muscles moving and the blood flowing. Just enough to get a little further East on this trip, this constant movement East. East. East. Here we go. Still.

An interesting thing about endurance is that it takes a lot to keep it up. Today everyone seemed really cranky. We've now been together enough that the politeness has left. People spout out whatever they think. The filters are gone. And the sore parts that some people have are flaring up to be worse than annoyances. Some people are limping. Ice packs are used in abundance. When we crested the last peak it seemed like the hardest part was done. I remember going over Emory Pass and thinking, "well it's all downhill now."

Not so.

Endurance means sticking with it. Even now. Even now when the mileage is not daunting and and the terrain is, actually, to some, monotonous. This, really, is the hard part. This sticking to the plan is tricky. CAN I find beauty in this landscape? CAN I be nice when I feel annoyed? CAN I rise above the discomfort? Can I continue to find the lessons, the inspiration, the reason when I am surrounded by grumpiness? So far I can. I'm finding solace inside, inside myself, where the message of what I am doing and why I am doing it resides.

And I'm happy to have a day of quiet on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. I cannot believe I got here on my bicycle. From San Diego. And that when I leave I will go to Florida for the final stretch. I met a woman today at the store (buying postcards) and she was amazed and stunned. I forget that this IS amazing and stunning. It's good to run into amazed people. It reminds me.

Say - if you don't mind, I have a request:
I really want to go on the Ellen (deGeneres) show so that I can talk about this bike ride and what it has meant to me to be a 20 year ovarian cancer survivor doing this project. So, if it's not too much to ask, and you are so inclined, maybe you could write her a note and tell you think it'd be a good idea for her to have me on as a guest. (Go to Ellen.com). And if you know anyone who knows anyone who has any pull with NBC or Ellen - and you don't mind - maybe you could mention this to them. The ride ends on April 30 and so time is of the essence. Though, come to think of it, September is ovarian cancer awareness month so that'd be a good time too.

Thanks. Thank you for everything.
I'll send you a picture of the beach tomorrow.

Until then,
Cheers,
Laurey

Saturday, April 18, 2009

When in doubt



Today was another easy one. And maybe I am getting used to this, or maybe it's the short distance (68 miles) and the flatness (very flat) and today's relatively smooth roads (mostly "BUTTER!!!"), but I'm just not ravenously hungry like I was at the beginning. Still, the sight of the SAG vehicle makes all of us cavort and chortle and exclaim.

"SAG!"

We are still able to eat anything we want: doritos, orange wedges, fig newtons, apple slices, chocolate milk, and potato chips - not to mention the last bite of yesterday's biker bar and the remains of yesterday's peanut butter and raisin sandwich. I actually ate that exact snack today. When energy sags, put more stuff in.

It works. Today's ride was into the wind but it seemed just fine. I discovered that if you take it easy, the wind is less oppressive. I've been trying to figure this out. One might think that riding harder would mean that you get done earlier, hence the day is over faster, hence that's a good thing. Turns out not to be so - at least for me.

Today my foursome turned into a threesome. Jan, Connie and I rode together, agreeing to take it a bit easier. Jan was feeling sluggish today. Connie was chipper, happy to have had her massage yesterday (given BY Jan, not TO Jan - sorry about the lack of good editing in yesterday's note). I was, well, feeling just fine.

Threats of rain (in the various internet forecasts) turned out to be just threats, which I had decided not to pay attention to anyway. I sniffed the air this morning and decided to leave my rain jacket in the SAG vehicle - just in case. (Remember, I go with the 80% chance of NO rain). And, indeed, there was no rain. No worries. It did get windy toward the end of the ride but we slowed down and I tried to just let go and not fight it. It worked! Less effort, less stress, much more comfort, much less exhaustion. We rolled in about 1/2 hour behind the front runners who we found in the lobby, waiting to check in. Hmmm....glad we didn't rush.

We are much closer to the Gulf now. As usual we are in a motel near a highway so we can't really see much of anything. But I just checked the map and yes, we are near water. We crossed over a big bridge to get here and saw boats and boating things and the air is salty and moist. Tomorrow we continue, hugging the coast and moving into Alabama. We'll spend the next couple of days at Dauphin Island. A day on the beach. A day to review some more.

I'll let you know how that turns out when the times comes.
Thanks for being a part of this journey with me.
Laurey

Friday, April 17, 2009

Riding into Mississippi



Nothing snazzy about today.

60 miles.
Green, green, green. More green.
Water, water, water. More water.

Rough roads.
Rough roads.
More rough roads.

And then - BUTTER! (smooth roads).

We were teased. Rough roads were punctuated by smooth so we came up with a new road nomenclature.

"Pat of butter" (a tiny section of smoothness)
"Stick of butter" (1/4 mile or so of smoothness)
"Pound of butter" (a longer stretch)
"Case of butter!!!" (can't see the end of the smooth section)

This is what we do on a day of medium length and marginal difficulty.

60 miles is now nothing. Hardly worth a note. Today's forecast suggested wind and rain, but not until later in the afternoon. 20% chance of rain, the report warned. To me, that meant 80% chance of no rain. Winds might get to 20 mph. Or they might not. It didn't rain. The wind was never a problem. Lessons learned for later. Why worry? It might NOT do the thing that scares you.

Four of us started out together. Jan was worried about dogs. Sherry was worried about the rain. Connie was tired. I, well, I wasn't worried or tired. When we encountered dogs Jan learned how to use her whistle - very effectively, it turns out - and she is not worried about dogs anymore. Sherry took off, hoping to beat the rain. Connie poked along with me and Jan is going to have a massage later and that will make her feel better. At lunch after today's ride Sherry was talking about tomorrow's forecast already and is going to try to get going early and to ride really fast to try to beat the rain - again.

Not me. I'll take what comes. Makes it that much more interesting. I mean, if it was all a breeze, well, where's the texture in that? I'll take the bumps and the rain and, yes, even the wind. If it rains I'll get wet. Or I'll have another story to tell. Or it will be a chance to think about how I'm on my bike and not in a hospital. It'll all be fine. It is right now, after all.

Okey doke. I'll jot a note tomorrow from Pascagoula, Mississippi. (Aren't these names fun?)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Riding to Bogalusa, Louisiana




I rode by myself today. A first. A good thing to do. I like riding with the other three. But today we passed a Wildlife Park and I wanted to go in. The others didn't. So we parted.

As it turned out, the Wildlife Park's tours were completely booked. Masses of school children filled every possible seat in the cars and so the three of us who had wanted to try to get a better look at the animals were foiled. From a distance it was possible to see Llamas and Emus and Camels and odd deer of the African Veldt variety. (Elands, Dik Diks, exotic things, all.) And it was also possible to see the tractor-pulled cars loaded with screaming kids all tossing pellets of exotic animal feed at the Reindeer and the Antelopes and the Bison.

I'm glad the tour was full.

By the time the three of us who were trying to get on a tour were escorted out of the park (the animals all run free and the people are all confined to cars - and bicycles are not allowed unless tucked into a car or truck) the other three I usually ride with had moved on. Which left me riding with Nancy and Carol for a short time, but I ride faster than they do so I ended up passing them and riding on alone.

The countryside is beautiful here today. It's very green. They had rain recently, probably on that tornado day. All the rivers are above their banks, the water, swirls of mud and sticks. Leaves are fully out now and the roads, country lanes for the most part, were lined with buttercups and clover and verbena and some odd little white thing that I've never seen before.

And riding alone was a new experience. No one to rely on for the turns. No one to share the lead. No one to rest behind. No one, for that matter, to inconvenience. No one cared if I stopped to put on my sweater or stopped to take it off. I did both a few times just for the novelty of it. And, no surprise, there was no one to exclaim to, to sing to, to chortle with, to become annoyed by. No one to get to share the day with. No one to have to share it with either.

This, as I said, is our last day in Louisiana. I'm starting to think about going home, about returning to my life. I'm starting to wonder about it all, about the important things, the simple things, the conclusions, the things I want to have forever and the things I want to forget (there's not much in that category.)

This trip has been and continues to be a life-changer. But to what? For what? I guess that is something I can't know yet. As I figure it out, well, you know what will happen by now, don't you?

In the meantime, I'll be in touch tomorrow. From Mississippi.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

YUM!!



Oh yesterday was a fine one. A fine one indeed.

I had company and St. Francisville was the perfect host spot. We stayed in an old b+b (the norm in this lovely little town), walked around v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, drank a cup of coffee that lasted for an hour or so, walked a little bit more, visited with biker gals we saw, all of whom were walking at our pace or riding around, slowly.

Of of the many highlights of the day was lunch. Lunch at an Exxon station. My first experience of this sort. But we wanted to eat some crawfish and this, we were told, was the place to do so. We ordered a pound and the fellow tossed them into a paper bag which he nested in a plastic bag.

"These take sauce?" I asked.

"'s on it already," he said.

Annie went and got us a couple of Coronas and we sat at the only table on that side of the Exxon Station and opened up our bag. Annie had a swiss army knife so that took care of the beers.

"Know how to eat those?" a cowboy-looking guy drawled.

I knew but it seemed like a good conversation so I suggested he show us, and anyway, Annie had never had them and there's nothing like advice from someone who is offering it.

"Break off the tail," he demonstrated, "take off this top shell, grab the meat and eat it. And then you suck the head."

Okay.

That, in a few words, was lunch. Extraordinarily delicious. Very fun. And highly entertaining too. The heads are particularly flavorful. By the way.

Turns out the cowboy IS a cowboy, a performer from Oklahoma who was in town to perform at the Angola Prison Rodeo. He has trained longhorns that jump up on a flatbed truck. Sort of like the Royal Lippizaner Stallions. But a little bit different.

More walking. Visit to the place where Audobon painted some pictures. He was only there for 3 months but did 80 paintings. Whewf! We sat in the barnyard and watched ducks run around. Never went into the mansion. It was pretty nice outside and neither of us was interested in furniture.

Dinner, out, was good too. Gumbo, Grilled Peaches, Crawfish Etouffee.

Yum.

Today, just now, I rode 88 miles. Seemed like nothing.
A day off is good.
A visit from a gal who loves food and wandering and going very slowly as much as I do is a fine thing too.

And lunch at an Exxon station and advice from a cowboy, well, sometimes that can be the culinary highlight of a day off. This was.

I'll tell you some more things tomorrow.
For now - ciao,
Laurey

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A day off




I'm in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

Sorry about not writing last night. Long day. Lots of miles, beautiful, but plentiful.

Now I'm on vacation for a day.
This will be short because there are things to do , boudin and crawfish to sample, antebellum mansions to visit, including the one where Audobon painted many of his Birds of America series.

Here I am crossing the Mississippi.

Life is good.
I'll be in touch tomorrow.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stopped by a tornado



Nope. I did not ride all the miles today. Connie and I started out at 7:30. Skies were grey. Ominous looking. Winds were strong. And they got stronger. We rode. We rode a lot. And the winds got stronger and stronger. The ride, 83 miles, at one point seemed impossible to me. The wind was so strong that we were pedaling in place. It was not fun. It seemed grueling. And we kept it up.

Connie boosted me. I, her. Sherry had left much earlier, wanting to skip ahead of the storms. Connie and I ate breakfast and then left.

And the winds got stronger as we went.

We made it to mile 43 and I thought we had it. We had managed to figure it out, to find ways to pedal hard during the blasts, to work with the wind when we could.

We made it to mile 56 and I thought we had it. Less than 30 to go. Completely doable. But we stopped for a break and I noticed the tv with a weather warning. A Tornado warning. And that was it.

I do not want to be picked up by a tornado. I don't know how these things work, but I do know that I did not want to experience my first one on my bicycle. So we decided to stop. And then we helped collect all the other folks who were still out on the road. By that time the skies were filled with lightening and thunder and the winds were roaring and I was glad to be in the van even though it meant we did not ride all the miles today.

20 miles missed.
But, on the other hand, we're alive. Not flying somewhere out of control.

Sherry made it and so did two others.
Connie and I missed the 20 miles.
But not really.

I'll be in touch tomorrow.

(Oh, this picture is of me and Ann, one of the riders/SAG drivers. She gave me some road-find beads. And they match my teal toenails. NICE!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bye bye Texas



Well, Louisiana did not have a "Welcome to Louisiana" sign and, when we first rode into Texas THEY didn't have a sign either. So, um, this is today's Goodbye to Texas snap. And the photo of the road sign of Louisiana with a number of it (the route) didn't seem very dramatic, so here you go.

We are not in Texas any more. And the introduction to LA hasn't exactly been stellar, but a day is a day and that's what happens. Texas, lord love it, finished itself out with some smooth roads, not the dreaded Chip Seal. We all scream "BUTTER!!!" when we leave chip seal and start riding on smooth concrete. And of course, today's Texas finale was almost ALL smooth as butter concrete. AND someone had cleaned all the roadsides in Texas and there was no litter and all the drivers were nice and, well, I almost hated to leave.

And then, immediately, Louisiana's roads were awful. Chunky, sloppy, littered. Yuck. But, what can you do. A day is a day and a road is a road and, as we see, that's what happens. So it goes. So it goes.

We ARE in Bayou country now. We've seen our first mangrove swamp. Our first airboat. Our first pile of mud that looks like someone has been making little sand castles - and they, as it turns out, are breathing holes for crawfish. Who knew?

We have now ridden over the first round of bridges. We've smelled the first salty air, felt the first humidity. More firsts await.

I've stopped trying to predict any of this. No worrying about rain or lightening or things that are, truly, out of my hands. My job, my choice right now, is to get up, get on my bike, and ride. Every day. As many miles as I can. I think about those who can't and that makes me forget about the multiple bruises I now sport. I think, today, about Shayla, a little brave girl at Jubilee. She's battling neuroblastoma, whatever the heck that is. She's four. How can that be possible? In a few days she will go to have a bone marrow transplant. Her mother tells me I am an inspiration. And I say that Shayla is. The pictures of her are heartbreaking. The sweetest smile, the purest rays of love pour out of her.

So I ride. Today, for Shayla.

Today for love.
Today for hope.
Today.

Tomorrow is Easter. And though that whole story was not part of what I grew up with, I believe that there is reason, always, to be moved by mystery and so, in that spirit, I share this ride with you too. Think of Shayla on the 20th.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hot times in Texas



I figured out how to use the ethernet connection!! This was lunchtime at Mama Jack's restaurant today. 9 miles from the day's destination in Silsbee. Yee Ha! It's hot. Deep Soputh here we come.

Silsbee, Texas

Well, there is  no wireless internet connection here that I can find and the ethernet cable does not connect to my computer, at least in any way I can figure out.  So my roommate has loaned me her Apple and I'm going to write a note to you on it - but that means no pictures.  It was a kind of a slow photo day anyway.  I'd taken a picture of some Texas things but nothing dramatic or so compelling that I feel horrible about not being able to show them to you.

And, considering the drama of yesterday, it was kind of an uneventful day today all around, which, frankly, was just fine with me, thank you very much.  I woke up stiff and aching and bruised and if I'd been home I might have just said, "how 'bout we take it EASY today" but I'm not home and taking it easy, by laying around, is not an option.  We have a mobile life here and if I didn't ride I'd still have to pack, ride - in a van - unpack.  Riding seemed the better option.

And riding was fine.  63 miles.  Easy.  Flat or really easy rises and falls.  1 degree climbs. Compared the the 18 degree combs of our recent days, today might as well have been flat.

Fine by me. Just fine.

So it's not really a "rest day" but I'm resting, doing my laundry, mailing things back home, things like my heavy fleece and my down jacket.  It's in the 80s here and I think I'm done with those extra warm layers.

And it is early enough that a nap is an option and that sounds pretty good to me.

Cheers to you all.  And thank you for your notes.  I really am fine.

Oh - we rode by a small church today with one of those changeable signs out front.  It said, "Never pass up an opportunity to say I love you."  Nice, yes?  Keep that in mind.  Life is a fragile and important thing.  Don't forget.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh it was a big day



Okay. The END of the story is, I'm fine.

Now - the story.

I fell today. And I wrecked my bike. And, remember the beginning, I am fine.

See, it was hot this morning but sort of cloudy and looking like it might rain and looking like it might get cold EVEN THOUGH the weather report said it was going to just get warmer than the 61 degrees it started out at. And the rule of thumb in this regard is you are supposed to start out a little chilly because you warm up when you ride.

But I listened to my internal worrier and put on my arm warmers (these are like long gloves without the fingers), disregarding all signs that were telling me I would not need them. And sure enough, almost as soon as we started riding, I got hot. At only 4 miles into the ride. And even though our foursome has said, again and again, DON'T APOLOGIZE for asking for something, like wanting to stop, I didn't want to make everyone stop when we had just gotten started so, instead of stopping or asking for everyone else to stop so I could take off a layer of clothing, I decided to take off my arm warmers while I was riding.

Big mistake.

I slipped them down to my wrists and, still not cool enough and still not wanting to make everyone stop for me, I took them off, one at a time and, one at a time, tucked them into my jersey pockets, the ones at my lower back. So far so good. Except not really, because one of them was not really in the pocket and when I straightened out my jacket, one of the arm warmers slipped and went onto my back wheel and fell down right into my derailleur. And that, my friends, meant that I came to a stop. Instantly.

And that, as you might imagine, is a bad thing, instantly stopping while riding. I went down, landing on my left knee, my left elbow, all the things on the left side of me. And the arm warmer, tangled in the rear derailleur, broke the thing, bending it up and out and, well, in completely the wrong place for it to be. I bent my handlebars, bent my left brake lever, my left everything. And that was it for riding my bike.

The way this got to be a good story with a good ending is that Marci, a rider from New York City who is riding for the Davis Phinney Fund for Parkinson's Disease, has a boyfriend named Michael who is here visiting for a couple of days and right after I fell she showed up and so did everyone else and we created quite a spectacle there on the side of the road. Enough so that even the Sherriff stopped and THEN we were a BIG scene. Jan got out her first aid kit and gave me some antiseptic cleaning pads and some ointment and we cleaned my skinned knee and shin. And Marci called Michael and Michael came (we had only gone 4 miles) and just then so did Nancy, the SAG driver for the day. In a very short time a decision was made, not completely by me (I was not exactly thinking very clearly right then), that Michael would take me back to the motel, where I would get Nancy's (the SAG driver) bike and Michael would take my bike to the bike store to get it fixed. Michael is a rider too and knows what he's doing and, well, that seemed okay, sort of, I mean, aside from letting a stranger spend his whole day fixing my bike and me getting on someone else's bike and continuing to ride. So that's what happened. Michael and Carol and Linda (the staff gals) helped me fit onto Nancy's bike and Michael took me and Nancy's bike to where my three friends had gotten to - about 9 miles beyond where I left them. I got on Nancy's bike and Michael left with my banged up Trek. Total elapsed time: 30 minutes. Maybe.

So I got to ride Nancy's bike today, all but 9 miles of the day's 72. Michael ended up taking my Trek to three different stores to get it fixed and now it is back and I am clean, though kind of bruised and more than a little bit sore.

But nothing on me really broke. And the broken things on the bike are fixed. And Michael is an angel, a Guardian Angel. And so is Nancy. And so are my three buddies who took care of me when I rejoined them. Not to mention Linda and Carol, the staffers, and Marci and all of the other riders who have all hugged me and have expressed wonder and commiseration as the day has gone on.

And now I'm sitting on my bed writing to you. I think it is going to have to be okay that I am not going to be able to ride those 9 miles right now. I think I'll be okay with that. Maybe I'll ride some other 9 mile stretch sometime. Maybe. Maybe not. Frankly, I grateful to be here, safe, clean, and just a little bit scratched.

Oh, today I saw two Great Blue Herons and, when I arrived, Marci gave me a penny. Gifts of my spirit guides.

Masterton. Over and out.
I'll be in touch tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A clean bike is a happy bike



I never knew how to clean a bike before. Actually, I used to take my bike to the bike shop to have THEM clean it. Imagine! Now I find it ever so satisfying to take a long time to go over every inch of my little red TREK, scouring it, loving it. There is a great product called Simple Green that we have. It takes away grease and is non toxic. My kind of cleaner.

There is a certain order I follow when cleaning my bike, a certain method I now have that puts me in a quiet place. Today's session was particularly satisfying because for a long time I was all by myself in the parking lot. Now there are a number of riders, all cleaning bikes, sharing tips. giving help, having fun, but not being completely quiet. Not being meditative.

I opened the trailer, set up up bike stand, put my bike up on it, and began the cleaning. The chain, the rear cassette, the chain ring, the toe cleats, the frame, the brakes. I strip the bike first, taking off all the bags and bottles and it looks so fresh and new and unencumbered. I don't carry a lot of gear, but still, when I get it ready for cleaning, it seems so innocent. I have spent a lot of time with this machine in these past weeks and I feel very attached to it.

My bike is now pristine once again. The chain ring is clean, the cassette, glistening. All the cogs of the chain are clean and have new lubrication. All the metal-touching-metal junctions are siliconed. I've gone over the tires, the brakes, the spokes, the frame.

A rest day is a good thing. I had a massage. I ate lunch. I cleaned my bike. I will have dinner later. I might have a nap now. Tomorrow we're back to it. I'm ready, with not-so-tired legs and a very clean bike.

Cheers for now.
Laurey

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Those Texas Bluebonnets



Here we are in Bluebonnet country. Oh it is a glorious time to be here. Lady Bird Johnson left quite a legacy - flowers, flowers everywhere. And NOW is the time to be here. Right now. And here we are. In Bluebonnet Land.

Tra la.

The fields are full of these blue babies. From a distance there is a blue haze. On close inspection one finds scads, loads, heaps, piles. of them. And there are Indian Paintbrush which are orange and evening Primrose which are a lovely light pink. And Coreopsis are yellow and it goes on and one. The red dots the middle of a blue sweep. The yellow masses behind. Red. Blue. Yellow. My favorites. Laid out and huge bunches. Oh beauty. Oh beauty.

Before I left I heard a prayer:
Beauty in front of me.
Beauty behind me.
Beauty above me.
Beauty below me.
Beauty to my left and beauty on my right.

Today was that. Surrounded, surrounded by this color. And then all of it dotted on a huge background of rich green. Don't forget the green. The palette. Bliss. Bliss.

Sherry and Connie and Jan and I rode all together today. 70 miles or so. Rolling out of the hill country, no major climbs, no major descents. Just rolling and rolling and the green, ever green rich and thick and dotted with cows and bulls and calfs jumping around and sleeping horses and belted Galloway cows (the ones with the thick white band surrounded by black) and Brahmas and other odd types.

This is a beautiful place.

We stopped in Independence for lunch at the Independence Grocery Store. Sassy times reading the hot sauces and spice mixes with nasty little names. And, just off the bikes and full of ourselves we, as usual, created a scene. We were so happy to be out and warm and strong and headed to a rest day. And though I, for one, have enjoyed this Texas experience, it is also true that in two or three days we will leave and that, my friends, is a major accomplishment. A full third of this trip is Texas. Stunning.

Now the gang waits for dinner, happily chirping away down below my second story room. We tuck into our plastic chairs and drink a beer and visit and it is a fine day and most everyone rode and my laundry is done and what they all DON'T know is that my crew from "Laurey's" sent brownies and congo bars and that is tonight's dessert. Ha!! Fun surprise.

So tomorrow we loll around and then hop back on for more.

Right now it's time for dinner.
Tell someone you love them. It's that kind of a day.

Cheers,
Laurey

Monday, April 6, 2009



Thank heavens for an easy day. I was wondering why I felt so "sloggy" this morning and then realized I had ridden 90 some odd miles yesterday. That'll take it out of a girl, I'll tell you. This trip was supposed to be "an average of 60 miles per day." Well, what that REALLY means is that there are 90 mile days and 40 mile days and other mile days too. All AVERAGE 60, but on a day to day basis, "average" loses its meaning.

90 is a lot. 40, not so much. Thankfully!!

Today started in the Bastrop State Park, a glorious creation of the glaciers, which deposited some special soils in the area, making it a perfect spot for some odd pine trees. Those pine trees are not found in other areas, just right there. Indeed, as we rode out, 16 miles after entering the park, we came into rolling meadows, horse farms, pastures, and open land. And we'd just been tucked into the woods, rolling and climbing up steep pitches and down precipitous drops. FUN! (It might have been a little early - first thing on a Monday morning to go rolling up and down like that, but by and large it was a romp.)

We're now in La Grange. This is where the real Chicken Ranch once was, THAT chicken ranch, the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. There are plenty of like-named businesses in the area, a salon called the Best Little Hairhouse in Texas...as so on. Did you know I did a short stint as a dresser on Broadway? My job was helping those sweaty football player/dancer/whorehouse visiting chorus boys out of and into their costumes. Can you say sweaty dance belt?

I digress.

Tomorrow is another rest day. Seems awfully soon, since we just rested in Kerrville, but frankly, I am tired today and will not mind a day to get a little more recovery into my legs. I've tried massaging them myself but I'm not very good at it. Hopefully I can find someone ELSE who will not fall asleep while she/he works on my legs. I hope.

Anyway - short note today. We were tired. We rode. We're here. Short story.

Tomorrow might provide more.
Cheers,
Laurey

Sunday, April 5, 2009

90 miles to Bastrop



Oh me oh my.

Another near epic day. Okay, not really epic, but certainly one that shall be remembered years from now when I think back on this journey.

To start with, the day's ride was listed as 92 miles. And, as usual, we scoured the weather stations and weather underground and the NOAA site and any other weather source we could get our hands on to see what we had in store. The first part, the temperature, is now the least of our concerns. I mean, we look, see, and store away the 54 at 7am, 64 at 10am, 74 at 1pm and 84 at 4pm information. File it. And then we turn to the wind direction. That, along with the direction the wind is coming from are two key pieces of information. And then I hop on google maps and compare the cue sheet (which tells the exact roads and all the turns) with the map, noting which roads are headed north, east, north by northeast and so on.

Today's ride headed south at first, then east, then north, then east and then, finally south. The wind, listed as 15 - 20 was to come from the north. Gulp. 90 miles, much of it coming from the side or, for a good chunk of time and miles, right at us.

Nothing to be done about it. We got on the bikes at first light after, for me, an extra large serving of steel cut oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, butter (a big chunk of it) and milk. This breakfast keeps me going for quite a while, both quickly and then, slowly, releasing the more complex sugars and carbs, throughout the morning.

Part 1 was lovely. We're still in Hill Country and today took us past all the postcard pictures we had seen at all the shops. Beautiful rivers, dams, limestone-lined creeks. We had a slight cross wind, but nothing terrible. Just before lunch, 30 miles from lunch actually, we turned and had a major boost of a blast of a ride, whooshing along with that 20 mile an hour tail wind. JOY!!!

Lunch. "Whataburger." Not bad. Not great. Nice to have a stop.

And then, the work started. We rode north briefly, right into the wind, and then turned east and had a wind for then next 25 miles that hit on the left temple. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. This is called slogging, not riding. It is meditation, it calls on everything I can find inside myself to keep pedaling, keep going, keep remembering that this is an important ride, and important project and to stop would be a decision I would always regret.

I kept going. Kept going. Kept going.

Sherry had taken off and then Jan did too so it was just Connie and me, trading the lead, telling a few stories, looking for signs that we were doing this hard, hard thing. And we kept it up and the miles passed and we kept pedaling and the wind did not stop and we did not either and then we came over a rise and saw seven more rises laid out for the next couple of miles and we kept pedaling and made it to the top of the last rise and saw five more laid out for the next mile and we kept going and kept our feet moving and saw more rises and rode more miles and stopped for a bite of sandwich or, for Connie, a blood check and then we rode more and some more and just a little bit more.

The two of us stuck it out. We're now here. I'm going to take a shower. Dinner will be soon.
We rode 90 miles today.

I decided that today's ride is for the main organization I am raising money for. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) is behind me all the way. With the money I raise they will keep doing what they do - advocating for more funds to be spent on ovarian cancer research; helping spread the word about the importance of understanding the early warning signs for ovarian cancer; working with medical schools to help new doctors understand these things.

If you have not joined me and would like to, I would be honored to accept your donation. My goal is $50,000.00. Before the ride started I had gathered some $33,000.00. If you'd like to join me, send a check written to Jubilee (my church, which is holding the funds for me) and write Laurey Bikes in the memo line. Then send the check to Jubilee, 46 Wall Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

And thank you for reading these words of mine and for writing notes to me. They do get to me and I hold them close.

I'll tell you some more tomorrow.

C
heers,
Laurey

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Still in Hill Country



I'm in Blanco, Texas tonight. Hill Country. Lavender country, though we're a bit early for that. And, due to a drought, though we are also in Bluebonnet Country, we might not get to see any.

Today's ride, a gorgeous and perfectly manageable 64 mile jaunt, took us through limestone, more limestone. It's drier here than it was when we were lower down. We've climbed back up a bit now and it's arid and, today, hot.

Comfort, Texas is a cutie pie stop where we ate German pastries and bantered with the saleswoman/owner. She was sarcastic and funny and we tossed it right back to her, which made her laugh out loud and shake her head at our audacity. We're always ready with a smart retort, at least I find myself in that spot a lot these days. And, well, we're not FROM here so that's a license for a smarty-pants and, though I don't often let these smarty-pants thoughts OUT in the rest of my life, they seem to be escaping with reckless abandon. It's fun for a change.

And Blanco is a one street town of cute stores and lavender this and lavender that. We had some superlative barbecued beef brisket here along with beans and coleslaw and, for me, an icy cream soda. Hit the spot. And we ran into Brian, a fellow who is riding alone across the country. He knew we were out here and had been hoping to find us. We know of two men from Alaska and one guy from Ohio who are riding now too. And the other day we ran across 4 men who are doing this route from east to west. It's interesting. We compare stories, backgrounds, whys.

Tomorrow we go along some more in Texas. Have I mentioned recently how big Texas is? When we get to Alabama or Mississippi, two days each, we'll not know what to do. I have to say that any preconceived notions I had have all been smashed to bits. This is a beautiful part of the world and I am, still, delighted to be riding my bike on top of these old rocks and through these old hills.

Tomorrow is also a long ride. 94 miles. I'll tell you all about it when I get finished with the ride.
Cheers, until then.

Oh, this picture is for my two sisters, Heather and Lucinda. They've been following these reports and I screeched to a stop to pose in front of this sign. Hello sisters dear!!!
(Love to you both!)
Laurey

Thursday, April 2, 2009



Oh oh oh What a day THIS was! Here we thought we had it all under control. Connie and Sherry and Jan and I had gotten ourselves all geared up, as usual, for what we thought was going to be a fairly easy last day of this stretch. I mean, the four of us made it all 111 miles the other day. The four of us had ridden all the miles the next day and the next day. And today was supposed to be just another little 50 miler. No sweat.

Except that in the middle of the night last night we heard a roar that turned out to be the wind coming in from the northeast. Well, our direction today was northeast. NOT a good combination. Yesterday we had a 40 mile day and much of IT was into the wind and up three very steep hills. But the four of us had done well on that section so, though we were AWARE of the weather, we all hopped on our bikes and headed off, bright and early.

The hills were completely doable. We've been riding on top of the Edwards Limestone plateau. Occasionally we drop down to the layer that is the Buda Limestone (I hope I'm reporting this correctly). And then we go back up. It's about a mile up or down. Fun down. Hard up. 8-12% grade. But we had a tail wind for that section and actually got a boost UP the steeps today. And at one point, on one of the lower flats, there was a herd of antelope and deer and KANGAROOS and Bison. Oh, and Longhorns too. And it was breezy but not overwhelming.

At mile 24 we stopped in Medina for Apple Pie. YUM!!!! With apple pie flavored soft ice cream and, for those who wished (I didn't) apple pie flavored coffee. As I'm sure I've said, we can and do eat anything we want, and as much of it as we want. Big breakfast at 7:30. Pie at 10? No worries.

But right after the pie stop the wind picked up and for about 5 miles we were all riding as hard as we could, going pretty much nowhere. The gusts were coming in really hard. REALLY hard. And a person of my size is, well, not so big, especially now, and the winds really took charge. We plugged on and made it to the bottom of the last climb. The SAG driver came by and said that four people had fallen, one was being checked out by a doctor (she's fine and is my roommate tonight and is fully herself) and for us to please be very careful. They have not told us to be very careful before.

Anyway, the four of us did all the miles today. Up the steeps. Down. Riding through the crosswinds. Riding into strong headwinds. Ocassionaly being shoved along by a tailwind. Rough riding for much of the day. There are some scary times here. Today, with those crosswinds, was one.

Tomorrow we have the day off. Fine by me. I could use a little bit of nothing for a day.

Oh, sorry about no post yesterday. Vanderpool, Texas has 22 people and no internet. Ah well. We all came out of our rooms and played stupid card games and laughed uncontrollably about absolutely nothing. Grand times. Grand.

That's it for now. Gotta go have dinner. It has been 3 hours since my last meal. Yipes!