C2C — Observations

Flat Emily in a prickly situation

It has been two weeks since we first dipped our wheels in the Pacific Ocean. that thought is amazing to me. At this point, we have had 13 riding days and 2 rest days with today being our second rest day. To date, we have ridden 759.60 miles of road through varying terrain and weather. We have climbed 5 mountains including the western continental divide. We have zoomed through valleys and canyons. We have suffered through flats and mechanicals. We have made it through 2 weeks with 5 more to go.

Bubba’s tent city.

Did you notice I kept saying we in that last paragraph? There is a reason for that. This group of separate and dynamic personalities from across the nation and even one from Germany and one from Canada, has melded into a family. Also throw in the staff to the mix because they are just a part of this adventure as the riders. We are one now. We all know on another. We don’t always hang out together or ride together, but there is a mutual respect for one another. And we all look out for one another. You can feel the bond. Family.

FOOD!

On a tour like this, it’s all about the food. It almost becomes an obsession. During the ride you are burning a huge amount of calories daily. It is very hard to replace the calories no matter how much you eat. And you eat a lot. We have our own chef with us on the tour and she feeds us very well. But the hunger is always there. I am usually hungry again after just a couple of hours of eating. And I order what ever I want when we are out. I’m not worried about calories.

The ride has been beautiful. It doesn’ matter the location, always something new to awe about. Blooming flowers in the desert. Mountain ranges that stretches forever. They also seem so close that you think you can reach out from the bike and touch them. However, they are ten’s of miles away. The vastness of the desert can take your breath away. Miles and miles of sand, scrub brush and cactus. And each desert can be different with differing plants and cacti. Never that I would ever see this in my life.

Hugs and kisses.

Bottom line so far. We are in great hands. Bubba and the staff go out of their way to take care of us. Above and beyond. The comraderie of the riders is a joy to be a part of. The joking, the kindred spirit, the feeling that you belong to a special group.

The actual riding and the feeling of accomplishment. I am not sure what day I truly realized that I really am going across the country on a bike, but I really feel it now. And it only goes to motivate me more. Each day is just another step towards that goal. And I look forward to each new step.

C2C — The Saga Continues

Yes, that is snow…

Okay, I never said this was going to be easy. When we first started training for this, I could not imagine how hard this could be. This week has proven to us all, that the training payed off and you can overcome extreme challenges.

Monday’s ride after the day off was just supposed to be a warmup. It turned into 35 miles of very nice paved trail, but hell of a headwind. We knew Tuesday would be hard. But none of us envisioned that. It rained. It was 40 degrees. We had to climb mountains. We had a tremendous headwind. You had it all. Extremes. As you were climbing for miles at 6 to 9 % grade, you were sweating. Turn a corner, hit the wind full force, you were freezing. This went on for 35 miles.

Fortunately, we were rewarded for our hardships as the last 35 miles were downwind and some downhill.

Wednesday would find us in the same scenario. Headwinds, cold and climbing another mountain. This mountain would take us over the continental divide. The climb took us 6400 ft above sea level. It was also a 8 mile climb maxing out at 12% grade at the top. And it was snowing just to add a little excitement.

With Flat Emily at the continental divide

The next 35 miles were awesome as we went down the mountain and had the wind at our back. I am grateful for that. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise.

Today was a recovery ride. Just 55 miles, little climbing and a tailwind. Thank God!!! I am beginning to realize that it is going to take a few miles for my legs to get going.

All and all, it’s been great. We are indeed pampered riders and all I have to do is pack my stuff and then ride my bike with Flat Emily in my pocket. Good times.

C2C Week One In Review.

Wheels Deep

It all started with a little dip. In the rain and cold of San Diego, we dipped our rear tire ito the Pacific Ocean and our adventure began. After months of training, we were off and for the next eight days, we would be on our bikes rolling through varied terrain. It would be an exciting week.

Day 1

We would leave San Diego and then start to climb. It rained most of the day and climbed most of the day as well including a 5 mile climb into Alpine, California. We would be shuttled to our hotel in Jacumba, California to spend the night.

61 degrees for the high. 37.58 miles. 3684 ft of climbing.

Planking on the second mountain

Day 2

This day started with a huge climb, followed by another big climb. Fortunately there were downhills that followed. And they were cold. It varied from 40 degrees to 60 degrees. Not that I am a pro cyclist, but I have a much better appreciation of how they sweat their ass off climbing and then freeze on the way down. Ended on a nice down hill into Jacumba where we would spend the night again.

50 degrees, 44.88 miles, 4423 ft climbing, rain.

Day 3.

Starting in Jacumba, we had a slight uphill. Then went downhill. This was covered in a previous post. Go find it. I’ll wait.

Welcome back!

Okay, the rest of the day was uneventful and we entered the dessert. They plot off sections of the dessert and set up irrigation and, boom, farms growing everything you can think of. Beautiful.

Also stayed in Calexico, California in a school right on the border. Fascinating.

68 degrees, sunny, 922 ft climbing, 14.5mph ave

Flat Emily and I checking out produce.

Day 4

We left Calexico and headed for the dessert again. Our lunch stop was at a place called “The Center of the Earth”. This had a hodgepodge collection of granite memorials, pyramids, a church on top of whole lot of steps and a concrete maze. One stop amazement if you ask me. We ended the day outside of Yuma, Arizona at a national guard armory.

60 degrees, 64.77miles, 981 ft climbing

Day 5

We started the day in Yuma. We almost immediately found ourselves in Dome Valley, also known as the salad bowl of America. Over the last century they have teriformed the dessert to a vast farm area. They grow, everything here. Broccoli, peppers, romaine, iceberg, garlic, parsley and on and on. After leaving the salad bowl, we were back into pure dessert. Mainly flat traveling. It was also our first night camping as we ended the day in Dateline, Arizona.

68 degrees, 70.47 miles, 837 ft climbing q

They will let anyone in this town.


Day 6

A pretty flat day as we were on the interstate most of the day from Dateline to Gila Bend. Riding on the interstate is legal if you don’t have any other options. It also has a wide shoulder, so I felt safe all day. Pretty easy day. Another camp night.

68 degrees, 53.97 miles, 627 ft climbed.

Day 7

This would be our longest day so far but also one of the easiest. It was cold, but we were blessed with a strong tailwind. As a result, we were flying down the road. We clicked off the miles pretty fast. We like these kind of days.

55 degrees, 87.27 miles, 1306 ft climbing.

Day 8

We began the day in Casa Grande and we would be a beautiful ride into north Tucson. Some climbing but the natural beauty of the surrounding kept me awestruck most of the day. We would end the ride in Catalina State Park under the impressive Copper Mountain, so named because as the sun set, the top of the mountain shined in a copper hue. It would also be our coldest camping night as it dropped below 40. Brrrr.

52 degrees, 56.9 miles, 1526 ft climbing.

Day 9

Rest day at Catalina. What do you do on a rest day? Walk 2 miles to Walmart.

So that is week one. We get back on the bikes again on Monday to start week 2!

C2C — Days 4&5

Sunset in Dateline, Arizona

So for those following along at home, we finished Day 5 of the C2C in Dateline, Arizona. It was a nice ride that took us from yesterday’s stop, Yuma, Arizona. We started Day 4 in Calexico, California.

While we were in Calexico, we stayed at a mission school that has 80% of the students cross the border of Mexico, which is just across the street from the school, in order to go to school. As part of a fundraiser for the 7th grade class, the students fix and serve us dinner and breakfast, all of which was wonderful and pretty cool.

Yummy breakfast

After breakfast, we departed for Yuma. So we are now in the second state of our journey. At this point, I would like to report that I haven’t had any life threatening experiences on the bike for the last two days. I am good with that. No, really, I am!

We have entered a whole new world in the last two days. We are in the dessert. A big difference from the mountains. The dessert has beauty also. And great vastness. Around the Yuma area, it becomes America’s salad bowl.

Broccoli and more broccoli

Everything is grown in this area. Romaine, kale, parsley, iceberg, peppers, onions, garlic and BLT’s. Okay just kidding about the last one. Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Spectacular to ride through.

Riding

After that, just dessert. We have been told to not expect to see any green for the next two weeks. That is hard to grasp, but I am looking forward to seeing it.

The Players

I want to switch gears for moment and introduce the main players in this on going saga so when I say we, you know whom I am referring. Of course, there are 43 riders total and 13 staff, so there are many “we”, but the two guys in the picture above are the main guys. Besides my handsome self in the middle, I am flanked by Ken Hess on the right and Gregg Gerber on the left. It is the three of us who agreed to do this ride together last August and all of us have been training since then to make this happen.

The three of us met 10 years ago during our inaugural Pan Ohio Ride in 2009. We became good friends and along with three other people, formed the now famous six pack riding team. One of the first things we ever talked about was our collective dream of a coast to coast ride. And now we are here.

I am not saying that there won’t be other players in this story, as a matter of fact, there already are, but those are stories. But I wanted to share the genesis.

On our way to Gila Bend, Arizona tomorrow.

C2C Day 3

“After 2 brutal climbing days in the cold and rain, we finally had what was a “recovery” ride. We had just climbed over 8000 feet over 3 mountains in Southern California, and now we were going from Jacumba Hot Springs, California to Calexico, California, a distance of 51 miles and it is mostly downhill and flat.

The day started with a small climb out of Jacmba followed by the first downhill of the day. It just happened to be a 4000 foot decent that lasted 8 miles at 6% grade. You could easily gotten the bike up to 50 mph if you wanted to. I didn’t. And that decision may have saved my life. Oh, add in the 20 mph crosswinds that threaten to push you over the edge of the mountain extra fun bonus.

You see, about 2/3 of the way down this mountain of terror, I decide to have a flat just to add to the terror factor. Fortunately it was a rear flat. Had it been the front, I don’t think I would be writing this post right now. None the less, a flat while traveling at 30 mph is not a good thing.

I was able to keep the bike upright despite fishtailing all over and brought the bike to a stop after about a hundred yards and got the bike to the side of the road. A major bike handling feat if you ask me.

After I was able to calm myself down, because I was truly terrified, I began taking off the tire to change the flat. As I began to get the tire off, my hand slipped and I somehow sliced my index finger giving me a very bloody mess. Talk about adding insult to injury. Or maybe the other way around.

Hurt a little bit

As I was bandaging my finger so I didn’t bleed over the entire mountain, a couple of my fellow cyclists stopped and helped me change the tire. I then rolled into the rest stop and got proper first aid. After getting cleaned up, we continue on the ride.

We now rolled into the Yuha Desert. Talk about a whole new world! But has with the first two days of the ride, the scenery is breathtaking.

As we got close to Calexico, I managed to crash the bike. The bike is okay. Me, well I have some road rash to keep my finger company. So much for the recovery ride! Tomorrow we head for Yuma, Arizona.

Now a bonus for those two people who actually read this post to this point. (Thanks by the way) My garmin watch helped me get up a mountain yesterday. As I was struggling up a 5 mile climb, my watch decided to tell me to move. As if. But it did make me laugh and helped me keep going up that mountain.

Here We Go!

We have arrived safely in San Diego. This is the starting point for the coast to coast ride that will officially start on Saturday morning.

We arrived on Wednesday after 8 hours of airports and airplanes. But we did get here.

After a morning of chores, we decided to go for a ride and chose to ride to Coronado Island which is the San Diego Bay. We finally made it to the ferry that would take us there after numerous wrong turns and misdirections. That didn’t bother us much because, well, we were on the bike and we were not on a schedule.

We made it to Coronado to have lunch and then it was back to the hotel. On they way back we played in traffic for awhile. I do have to say, San Diego is a very pretty city and very bike friendly.

Star flowers in bloom

Oh, by the way. Add California to the list of states I have ridden in!

One Week!

It’ hard to believe but in just one week I will be dipping the wheels of Sue Ann into the Pacific Ocean and then begin my 52 day pilgrimage to the east coast. I then will again. Dip the wheels of Sue Ann into the Atlantic Ocean.

This is dream come true for me. Ever since I got on my bike, I have wanted to ride across the USA. Now I am finally doing it.

I will be posting here as much as I can. Also follow me on instagram. Look for Chris.meadows1 and see my pictures. I love all of the support I have received and am looking forward to sharing my experience with you all!

My faithful steed

What I Will Miss

As most of you know, I am planning on doing a little bike ride that will take me across the southern part of the country and will take 52 days to complete. During this time I will miss many things. Of course I will miss you, my friends and loved ones. That should be assumed without saying. But there are some other things I will miss.

I will miss driving. I will not drive for close to two months. I know it is hard to believe that I would miss this, but it has been on my mind. I will be on a bike for 52 days. No gas required! I’m just having a hard time coming to grips with the fact I will not have a car at my disposal.

I will miss my anniversary. For the first time in 29 years I will be away from my wife on our anniversary. It just might be her best one yet!!

I will miss my birthday. Okay actually I hope not, but I will be away from my loved ones when I turn another year older. Because of this, I will also miss renewing my driver’s license. I think I can do it before I leave, but then again, why should I worry. I won’t be driving any way.

I will miss March Madness. For years I ran a bracket poll for the tournament. I lived for that time of year. This year, I doubt I see a game. How time changes everyone.

I am sure there are other things I will miss. But those are the main ones. However while I am missing these things, I will be experiencing a whole new world.

The Tale Of Larry Hill ~ A B.A.R.R. 2018 Story

If you are a cyclist, there are certain rides that are a “must” do.  Rides such as Trans Am (America), the Continental Divide (west) and the East Coast.  There is also the another big one, the GAP and C&O Towpath.  It was the latter that made up the B.A.R.R. 2018 and that is where I met Larry Hill.

The Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O canal connect Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. or vice versa depending on the direction you go.  The canal actually starts in D.C. with mile 0 marker somewhere in Georgetown.  That is where we ended our ride.  And it was a good ending to the ride as we were able to find our way down to the mall in D.C. that evening and see the monuments and Washington at night.  A good way to cap the B.A.R.R.

But it was what happened earlier that day that makes this story.  But before I get to that, I have to do some back story.  You see, the GAP ride is actually 2 rides in one.  There is the GAP and there is the canal.  The GAP portion runs from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland.  The Canal runs from Cumberland to D.C.   The Gap is mainly crushed limestone path that runs beside a railroad with a uphill grade that averages about 1 to 1 1/2% grade.  Not to bad but still uphill until you get to the Continental Divide.  Then you are blessed with a very nice downhill into Cumberland.

The canal, by contrast, is the towpath used to haul the canal boats up and down the canal.  The week before we did the ride, a hurricane had passed over the area.  As a result, the towpath was basically a mud-path which was at times barely wider than a foot.  As we traveled the path, we always had the canal on our left and the Potomac River to our right.  This made the path basically a sliver of a land mass that divided the canal from the swiftness of the river.  A precarious ride at time to be sure as one wrong move  traversing the mud and you could find yourself in the river or the canal.   I am happy to report that none of us suffered that fate, but the danger was real.

It was during our first full day on the canal that I first met Larry Hill.  We had started the day in Little Orleans, Maryland.  We planned to stop in Hancock, Maryland for lunch.  I was riding ahead of the others for most of the morning leading into Hancock.  I pulled off the trail when I arrived in the town covered in mud and dirt.  There was a bike shop that was located right of the trail so I naturally headed straight for the shop.

I put my bike along a rail and started to walk into the shop to ask where there was a place to eat.  Sitting on a bench outside the shop was Larry Hill although I wouldn’t learn his name until that last day on the canal.  He looked at me with bug out eyes and asked,  “Are you riding the canal?” to which I replied in the affirmative.  It was then that I noticed he was clean.  And the bike beside him was clean as well.  I also noticed that the bike was stacked high with stuff.  I immediately knew that the bike was overloaded.   You see, Larry Hill is a very big man.  And his bike was very heavily loaded.  There was no way he was going to make it through the mud.  And I proceeded to tell him that.  I described my day to him so far and what the trail was like.  And I basically wished him luck, but in my opinion, he wasn’t going to make it.  I then walked into the shop for directions to the restaurants.

As I walked backed out of the shop, I noticed that my riding companions were working their way to the shop from the trail.  I also noticed that Larry was off to the side on his phone.  I waved goodbye to him and joined my friends and rode on to lunch.  I never thought I would see Larry again.

But I did.  Now we are back to the last day of the ride.

We had spent the night near Brunswick, Maryland and rode our bikes into Virginia to get some breakfast at a gas station, then back on canal for the last day.  We were rolling along when Tedd had his first flat.  We were all together at the moment so we all stopped as Tedd fixed his flat.

At that moment, a rider came upon us and who was it?  None other than Larry Hill.  He was now muddy, as we all were, but his bike was much less packed. When he saw me and recognized me from the bike shop, his face lit up.

“Thank you so much!” was his first remark.  It took me a second to realize he was talking to me.   “Hmmn, you’re welcome.”  I responded.

“You saved me, thank you!”  He went on to tell us that after meeting me in Hancock, he had called a family member who was local and got rid of some of his equipment.  He then told us of how he was on a bucket list ride (the GAP) and he didn’t think he would have made it without my warning.  He thanked me profusely.

He introduced himself to us (Hence, Larry Hill) and that this ride was a part of his finding God.  I have his story in a pamphlet if you ever want to read it.  So, inspired by God, I asked him to say a prayer for our safe passage, since Tedd was changing a flat, which he gladly did.  I now know a prayer for the fixing of a flat tire!!

So imagine this.  We are in the middle of a muddy trail, changing a flat tire, among our friends and newly acquainted, praying.  You really have to love the cycling community.  You just never know who you are going to meet or what is going to happen.

After Larry left us, I looked at Tedd and Sandy and commented that you just never know how you are going to effect someone you meet.  When I met Larry in Hancock, he was just another cyclist on a ride.  But I changed his entire ride and according to him, saved his ride.

That really was the last I saw of Larry although Tedd would spend some more time with him after suffering another flat.  But meeting him, praying with him, I will now always remember him.

 

 

 

 

History Of The B.A.R.R.

For those who that know me, you know that I cycle.  I ride a bike.  A lot.  I ride for causes.  I ride for adventure.  I ride for sanity.  It is my passion.  For all of these reasons, The B.A.R.R. as we know it today came into being.

The B.A.R.R., Big Audacious Research Ride came into being in the early spring of 2015 created by my good friend  John Hoctor.  As I know the story, John, who works for the American Cancer Society, was in Atlanta meeting with colleagues when they decided to go out and have a few adult beverages (research) after a day of meetings.

Conversation started about the PA Hope Ride an ACS event of which both John and I have participated in for 2 years.  For the 2015 edition of the ride, John boasted that he would ride his bike from Columbus to Hershey, PA and then complete the PA Hope Ride that went from Hershey to Philadelphia.

Someone called his bluff.  That someone is Jean Nagy, and she basically double dog dared John to do that ride.   And all of us fans of “The Christmas Story” know that you can not back down from a double dog dare.  So John is now compelled to do this ride.  Jean was nice about it though.  So volunteered to support the ride as SAG and also volunteered her husband, Chris,  to ride with John from Pittsburgh on.  To this day I do not know when Chris found out about his “volunteerism.”

It was a week or so that John posted on Facebook about what he was planning to do.  When I saw it, well, you know, I wanted to go.

A quick sidebar.   There is a quick way to find out if someone enjoys the same hobby or passion as you do.  In this example, those that like to cycle.   When you tell someone you are going to cycle from Columbus to Philadelphia and they cycle, they remark “How cool, that sound like an epic ride.”  If they do not cycle they will remark, “What?  Are you out of your mind?  I don’t even driving that far, let alone biking that far!”

We all know what I said when I saw John’s post.  I quickly texted him that I would love to join him on this adventure and he just as quickly said hell yeah.  And after a few rides together and quite a few “planning” meetings (research), we had come up with a name for the ride.  And then we were off on the grand adventure that was the 1st B.A.R.R.  We went through rain, wind, dogs, the Amish and the Alleghenies to meet John’s boast to ride from Columbus to Philly.  Many legends were made during that ride.

Unfortunately, that was the only B.A.R.R. that John or Chris ever participated in to date.  But I unabashedly stole John’s idea of an epic ride and been a part of one every year since.  With the help and planning of many good friends, there has been a B.A.R.R. every year since 2015.  I am fortunate to be a part of each one.  Each year has brought a new adventure and new and broadening experiences.

The first year was Columbus to Philly.  The second was a bucket list item of mine.  I wanted to ride around Lake Erie.  So with much help From Sandy, her husband Tedd, Paul, Sandy’s dad Bob, whom provided support and myself, pedaled 9 days, over 850 miles, 4 states and 2 countries for B.A.R.R. 2016.  Lake Erie is very impressive from the saddle of a bike!

B.A.R.R. #3 was an entirely different ride.  I was joined on this version of the ride by Phil, Gregg and returning for more punishment, Tedd.  This ride took us on the Northern Tier or part of it.  There are three “tiers” that cyclists us to cross the country.  Guess where this one is.  Anyway, Phil was doing cross-country, just a section of the tier at a time and this year he wanted to go from Fargo, N.D. to Muscatine, Iowa. Another 8 day 830ish mile adventure.  The twist this time is that we were self carry.  No support.  We carried every thing we needed.  And there were hills.  And rain. And cold.  But the Mississippi river basin…absolutely beautiful.

B.A.R.R. #4.  Again a totally different adventure.   This took Tedd, myself, Sandy and Pat over the Greater Allegheny Passage and also the Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath that goes from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.  It is a mecca ride for cyclist and was a must on Sandy’s bucket list.  This ride was different bikes, camping and mosquitoes.  Also a lot of mud.  More stories on this forthcoming as we just ended the ride.

So that it is so far.  I would like you to know that there is a B.A.R.R. #5 on the horizon.  Maybe even some off shoots of the B.A.R.R. as we all go off and find our own stories and adventures.  But that is for a later post.

The most important part of all of this that even though we are small in nature on these rides, all of our friends are with us as we ride, just like flat Emily.

John and Chris will always be apart of this ride regardless of if they ride or not.  Sandy is always with me as is all of my friends.  Another reason of why I do these rides.  To take you along.