People often ask me; Why ride across America? Why ride for 24 hours? Why climb that hill? Why try to go farther? Why try to go faster?
Because I want to see if I can.
Because I can.
Because it’s fun!
I’ve always been one who has been overwhelmingly, intrinsically motivated. When I was growing up, I loved to play basketball. The church parking lot across the street had a basketball court. Perfect! I would shoot hoops for hours every night. I would tell myself I couldn’t go home until I made all the shots “around the world”. All of you who play, know what I’m talking about. If I missed the very last shot, I would start all over again. Again and again. Sometimes I wouldn’t go in until I made 25 free throws in a row. Then 50. Then 100. And so it went. Personal goals, doled out by nobody but me, for me.
It’s been the same for me on the bike. Pick a goal and go for it. Ride 100 miles. Ride 200. Ride 100 miles in under 7 hours. Then under 6, and under 5, and under 4. Ride for 24 hours. Climb this hill. Climb that hill. Ride across America. And so it goes. Personal goals doled out by nobody but me, for me.
I love the journey to get there. I love the starts and stops and the little victories. And oddly enough, I love the pain of not making it and trying again. I also love the things you learn (mainly about yourself), the people you meet, and the places you see along the way.
Safety is a language spoken fluently in my household. Mr. SAG is in the police and emergency response business. I work in healthcare. My training is in physical therapy, but having specialized in orthopedic manual therapy for over 30 years, my joints started to say “no more”. With ergonomics expertise in my repertoire, I transitioned into employee safety about ten years ago. We both train people in our community on how to be prepared for and respond to emergencies through the CERT program (Community Emergency Response Training). We are also both private pilots and safety is taken into account before and during every flight. We have food and water storage that can take us through at least 72 hours and go bags are ready in our home. Emergency kits are in each of our cars and we have one packed that we take on the plane. Miss SAG even has one in her dorm room since she’s been trained from day one.
Given that background, one would hope safety comes into play when I cycle. I do my best – if not for me, for Mr. and Miss SAG.
People frequently ask about what I bring along on my rides keeping safety in mind. So…
It starts with a checklist. I learned somewhat the hard way that at least for me, at this point (age) in my life, a checklist is essential. And it starts with a safety check of my bike – tire psi, bolt tightness, chain/derailleur, lights – and then all the things I should have with me.
I believe lights are essential. I run one or two blinking red lights on the rear and a blinking or steady white light on the front. My lights are rechargeable, but I have backup ones that run on batteries. I carry solar and rechargeable usb power banks just in case.
I ride mostly solo and long distance so I have a satellite tracker and back up phone aps that send signals for Mr. SAG to see where I am at any given time. If my phone is out of commission (charge or service), I can still send customized messages asking for help.
I take fuel and water on every ride – unless I’m doing the 5-mile loop around my house. I take plenty of water with me whenever I ride. I have the ability to take 3 water bottles if necessary, and on really long rides through the middle of nowhere, like Nevada’s route 50, I carry a Camelbak. I also have a life straw in my trunk bag just in case.
I usually have some form of fuel with me. If I’m out on a hundred-mile or more ride, I pack meals. Otherwise, I usually have a banana or orange, some nuts and dried fruit, some Clif bars (or similar) or Clif blocks. I usually don’t eat much, but they are handy to have if you get into trouble.
Other items I have along: first aid kit, sun screen, lip balm, space blanket (extra from my plane kit), jacket, multi tool, extra tubes, mini pump, chain master link, duck tape, air horn/dog deterrent and maps available on my Garmin device and phone aps.
Aside from all that, I wear high vis/reflective clothing, reflective ankle straps, a helmet, gloves with good padding and glasses (either polarized for sun, or clear lenses). Sometimes I use Cat-Ears which are wind noise reducers. They are the things that look like side burns. I didn’t think they did all that much until I stopped using them. They really make quite a difference!
It might seem like a bit of overkill, but it gives me and Mr. SAG peace of mind. Be safe out there!
Revival. Sometimes it happens by circumstance. Sometimes it comes by choice.
This past weekend I rode one of my fairly regular training routes. It’s a 32 mile loop with a fair amount of climbing – about 1600 feet and gets up to a 12% grade in parts. It takes me out along one of the roads where fires raged two weeks ago. They are actually still smoldering a bit in some places around the valley as they are not yet fully contained. There is evidence of the fires in the sporadic charring seen, and in the fire crews still maintaining watch, and in the PG&E crews hard at work restoring normalcy (power) to areas where it was lost. This route doesn’t go into the heart of where the fires actually burned ferociously, but already, I am seeing signs of revival. It will be a long hard road for some, but it will come.
Fall (or Autumn to some) has always been a favorite time of year for me. I am from upstate New York, and the colors of Fall are astounding. When I see them around the Valley, my longing for home is always revived. I love the smell of fallen leaves. I love wearing shorts with a bulky sweatshirt on breezy, clear afternoons. I love the feel in the air that says change is coming. And if it weren’t for recent events, I love the smell of smoke telling me people are snuggling with families by a warm fireplace. I don’t always enjoy the feel of acorns crunching under my feet or tires, though. I love the knowledge that after fall and winter, nature will revive us with the fresh smells and brilliant colors of spring – my new favorite time of year since living in California.
My revival began in the fall, about four years ago. I chose to renew health and fitness levels and revive quests for adventure once thought lost. What a ride it has been! I am reminded every year though, that sometimes revival involves hard work and conscious decisions. It can be harder to get up and work out every morning when it is dark and cold outside. It can be harder to get a ride in after work when the sun fades so quickly. It can be hard to make healthy food choices when the season says “bake!” But onward we ride. Revival doesn’t always just happen. It can be a long, persistent journey.
I live in Napa, CA. On Sunday, October 8, 2017, some of the fiercest wildfires in history broke out on one of our mountainsides. It quickly spread due to unprecedented winds gusting to 60-70 mph. Napa and several surrounding counties, Sonoma, Solano, Lake, and Mendocino have suffered unimaginable losses of human life, animal life, property, and livelihood. Luckily, my family was spared. Sadly, many whom we know, were not.
In the face of this devastation, I have also seen incomparable kindness, love, compassion, volunteerism and generosity. Napa will survive!
I had the opportunity, due to a work commitment, at the end of this week of fire, to visit one of my favorite places. I fell in love with Pacific Grove when I arrived in California 27 years ago. It is all together beautiful, energizing and peaceful. After a week filled with smoke, anxiety, and unknowing, it proved to be all that and more. I had thrown my bike in the back of my SUV before leaving home, just in case. It turns out that we had almost a full free day on Saturday, so of course, I rode. I was off before most of the tourists were even awake. I took in the sunrise, and I rode along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline one can imagine. 50 miles and 4 hours later, I felt renewed.
And just as the lone cypress is resilient against the odds, so too will be Napa. We will recover. We will love and help each other. We will move forward. We are #Napastrong!
I don’t know if God rides a bike or not, but I’m pretty sure He’s out there with me when I do. The evidence is overwhelming.
He’s there every time I witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
He was there when I biffed on the road while climbing the mountain. I’m pretty sure he pushed me out of harm’s way.
He was there to help Charlton find my cash/ID pack and save my epic ride.
He’s there showing me beauty where I thought there was none (think Nebraska).
He’s there when I feel just enough soreness to feel alive and like I really worked hard, but not enough to stop altogether.
He sends angels to watch over me.
He reminds me how wonderful my friends and family are.
He protected my bike when I wasn’t smart enough to secure it to the bike rack before taking off in the RV.
He sends comfort, food and shelter at just the right times and in all the right places.
He puts smiles on our faces even when we’re not really feeling it.
He speaks to me through signs.
His majesty is everywhere!
John Muir once said about hiking – “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
I too, saunter, just on a bike (Mr. SAG would say “wander”). Everywhere I ride is Holy Land and I am in awe!
It doesn’t matter how many miles I ride or how fast I go. Just being out there is exhilarating. I usually ride on my own, solo, for hours on end. So, some of the most common questions I get are; “What goes through your head while you are riding?” “What do you think about?” “Don’t you get bored?”
I really don’t get bored. I’ve even ridden the same 4-mile or 9-mile loops over and over and it doesn’t bore me. I notice small changes happening throughout the day and think about how remarkable it is.
To give you a sense of what goes through my head, I tried to capture some thoughts as I was attempting my latest 24-hour challenge. Here goes…
Here we go!
Wow, it’s still pretty dark!
It’s pretty cold. Glad I wore my long tights.
I’m kinda liking this tail wind! Oh, wait. I’ll be going into the wind in about 10 minutes. Ugh!
I love watching the sun rise.
Why would you be laying on a bike/walking path, in dark clothing, doing yoga?!
Oh good, the organized century riders are out on the road, not on this bike path!
Hmm. I’m getting a little hungry.
Good morning! (Said to another rider.)
32 miles. Not too bad.
There go more riders. Must be the metric century start.
This is like deja vu!
This banana tastes really good!
Nice to see some friends out!
Well crud. They are having the family fun ride of 12 miles go right along the bike path with me.
Should I jump out onto the road for a couple of hours?
This head wind out of the North is going to wear me down today!
I think I’ll have a PBJ.
Ahh! Water. Time for re-fills.
It’s getting warm. Maybe I’ll dump my jacket after this lap.
No. You know if you’re thinking of taking your jacket off, go another hour.
On your left! No, your OTHER left! OMG!
OK – dumping the jacket.
Can’t wait for this “organized” ride to be done.
I think I’ve seen that person before. They must be doing some laps too.
I shouldn’t be riding by that restaurant all day. It smells really good.
It’s a beautiful day, except for the wind!
I hate the wind!
How should I set up my activity tracker (for work).
Hey! That’s Aaron Comfort Dog! Hi Aaron!
At least the wind is calming down.
On your left!
People need to pay attention while they are riding!
I wonder how many bottles of wine that vineyard produces.
I love the smell of crush!
Really? That restaurant is smoking meat? Yum!
100 miles down. I’ve got to stop stopping and chatting!
I can do this. My bottom isn’t even sore.
My quads are a bit tight. I think I’ll stop and stretch after this lap.
Hi Andie! Thanks for riding with me!
Wow! I can’t believe she’s doing this, and she’s 7 months pregnant! I don’t think I could have done this.
I miss Miss A. I hope she’s enjoying Rwanda.
This pizza tastes really good. Thanks Andie! Better not eat a lot. I’ve got many miles to go.
Time to put my high vis on.
Pick up the speed!
Hey! Yo! (Yelled at truck speeding into my path from across the road)
It gets chilly when the sun goes down.
Maybe I need my over gloves again – hands are a little cold.
Huh! Not a soul out here, but me.
I kinda like this solitude.
You get the idea. I think about what’s out there visually. I think about what other people are doing and why they are in my way (LOL). I think about things I need to do at work. I think about my family. I think about how I feel in the moment. And, all day long, different songs go through my head. For me, things I see, smell, hear, or think about, trigger songs – mostly oldies (My goodness! When did songs from the 80’s become oldies!) or ones I listen to on K-Love.
I started cycling about 50 years ago. My family of six used to ride around town together. People said we looked like Disney on Parade! We had a variety of bikes and you just grabbed one to go with. A couple had banana seats with high rise handle bars. There was a vintage Schwinn, a Raleigh touring bike and a tandem to choose from. There was no “bike fitting”. You just rolled.
While in high school, I rode my bike to school, to sports practices, to work, and to volunteer opportunities. It gave me a sense of independence and freedom. I bought my first road bike (a Trek) with money earned from babysitting and working as a lifeguard. I thought I was something else when I rode twenty miles.
In college, I continued to ride and would easily adventure out for fifty to a hundred miles at a time. I fell in love with distance riding back then. The big difference between then and now, though, is back then, we didn’t have cell phones or satellite trackers. If you broke down and were stranded, good luck! No wonder my mother didn’t want to know what I was up to. She would worry way too much.
After college, I worked in the Chicago area, and I found a friend who would ride with me. We had regular old steel 10-speeds with drop handle bars but we were fast! We typically rode about four hundred miles per week including two hundred plus mile rides. You ride that many miles, you tend to get strong and fast. We generally rode a 25 plus mph pace. We pushed until we were able to ride our hundred mile training route in just under four hours.
I’ve probably ridden close to fifty thousand miles including my trek across America earlier this year. And that’s with about twenty five years away from riding all together. In all that time and over all those miles, I’ve ridden with plain platform pedals or with toe clips. I never had any desire to even try clipless pedals (yes – those are ones you actually do clip into), until now. For whatever reason, I decided to go clipless. Maybe it’s Mr. SAG’s fault for once again bringing me to REI. When I go to REI, I always find something to come away with. This time, it just happened to be new shoes and clipless pedals. Now mind you, there is no research that shows that clipless are actually better or more efficient than platform pedals. There are just a lot of anecdotal and subjective opinions. It’s funny, now that I have them (and I’ve ridden just over a hundred miles with them), I sort of feel all grown up! I no longer feel like a kid grabbing any bike that’s handy. And I do like them. For me, I’ve gained about 2 mph in speed and they make it noticeably easier to stand out of the saddle when climbing.
They took a little getting used to. Clipping in was especially different. With toe clips, you lead with the toes. With a clipless system, the cleat is more towards the mid foot. And luckily, I haven’t forgotten to or been unable to clip out when stopping. Oh, but I’m sure there will come a day!
Wow! It’s already getting close to harvest time in the valley. The days are starting to get noticeably shorter. Schools are back in session. And the fog is staying put longer in the mornings. Change is in the air. We’re definitely starting to see Fall peek around the corner.
With Fall coming, and winter not far behind (and yes, I know it’s still August), I’ve started thinking about my continuing exercising and training routines. So, cross training has crept back into my vocabulary and I like it! I am a cyclist at heart but I enjoy other activities to challenge myself as well. I’m still riding one hundred plus miles per week (if I get a long weekend ride in), but I’ve started to run again too. This week I pulled off 16 miles. No, not in one run. But, some day! I enjoy running in the rain, so for the winter in California, it’s a good one to have in my wheel house. Besides, switching it up helps keep me from getting bored (not a good thing if you know me).
As far as cycling goes, I’ve been working on speed (thanks for the ongoing motivation bgddyjim! For me, that means HIIT (high intensity interval training). Easy to do when you essentially ride loops – rather than going straight across the country. OK, straight may be pushing it. You all know I got lost and backtracked more times than I’ll admit! I’m also working on climbing strength. I’ve climbed some mountains in my day, but I’d like to do it quicker and easier.
I do have a couple of personal challenges in mind for the near future. I’m still working them out in my head though. I haven’t settled on what they will be for sure yet. Suffice it to say, I have something in mind for running and a couple somethings for cycling. Stay tuned. 🙂
My next event for a cause is the Tour de Fox – Wine Country, a ride to raise funds for Parkinson’s Disease research. I’ll be riding with my friend Pam and her team.
Many who followed my cycling ride across America have expressed that they’ve actually missed my stories. Who’d have thought? I am humbled by your sentiments and have decided to continue blogging about my endeavors to stay healthy and meet new challenges. So come along for the ride – if you will.
It’s been said that when you embark on certain journeys, they change you and you grow in ways you would never have imagined. I recently reflected on my whirlwind ride and found that it changed me indeed. What started as a check off on my bucket list became so much more. It was more than just being about me and completing a goal. I decided early on that if I was going to take on that challenge, I should raise awareness and funds for something important. I was led to the group Bike the US for MS. They support self-contained riders, and my sister and some friends back home in NY have Multiple Sclerosis. What a match! I also raised funds for pediatric cancer research through The Great Cycle Challenge in honor of Molly, a special person who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago. I will continue to raise funds for MS and cancer research, but will also join in other fights and ride, run, walk, or just be for a cause. As a matter of fact, I have two events later this month.
Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – I will be walking with my friend Danielle who survived a battle with leukemia last year and taught me so much about courage and faith.
Tour de Fox – raising funds for Parkinson’s Disease research. I will be riding with a long time friend who has the disease and is an inspiration with her positive attitude.
How else have I grown or changed?
I stopped watching the news and being cynical. There are such good people out there who are wanting to help or make a difference in any way they can. They are curious and interested and fun and caring and so much more! I met Charlton on day 1. He found my lost packet of cash, credit card and id along the road and found a way to return it to me! On day 7, I met up with LaVoy and others from the Union Pacific Rail crew. They made sure I had safe passage and kept me hydrated and replenished on a hot day along the Great Salt Flats. Alan made sure I didn’t walk too far with a flat tire on Day 8. Team Cubby Comfort Dog gave us food, shelter, and worship on day 11. And we met up with many more LCC Comfort Dog Teams along the way that were wonderful to us. Then on day 27, Nancy generously gave me shelter from the storm.
I also learned that staying connected with friends and family is a good thing. They love you forever, no questions asked. And some friends are family! Even if you haven’t seen them in years, it will feel like it was yesterday. You really can go home again.
And I now know more about me and what I’m made of. I did this ride in part to see if I could. I now know that I can. When it gets tough, I can push on. And I’ve grown by learning that even though it looks like I am riding solo, I never really am.
Since I’ve returned, several people have told me it was inspiring. That alone makes me feel great about completing the trek. Many people inspired me so if I can pay that forward to even one person, it was worth it.
Song of the day:
Stay tuned to hear more about the causes I support or the challenges I take on.
Hi again – I get to relax in the RV on the way back to California, so I am taking some time to reflect on my month of cycling across our great country. I hope you had fun tagging along and getting a glimpse into what it was like. The following are some retrospective thoughts about the experience.
Start – Finish: San Francisco, California to Plymouth, Massachusetts
Days Riding – 32.5 plus prologue
Rest days – 0
Miles – 3569
Most miles in one day – 146.5 (Austin, NV to Ely, NV)
Feet climbed – 102,450
Highest point – 8062 feet (Colorado)
Most feet elevation gained in one day – 8288
Number of states touched – 16
CA, NV, UT, WY, CO, NE, IA, IL, IN, MI, OH, PA, NY, MA, CT, RI (ended back in MA)
Dogs giving chase – 36
Dog deterrent air horn used – 4x
Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) Comfort Dogs met – 12
Aaron (send off from home), Cubby, Moses, Eddie, Joy, Katie, Gracie, Shami (early morning send off in Illinois), Barnabas, Anna, Lydia, Obadiah – And they are all looking out for us on the way home!
Mechanical Issues – SAG Actual got really good at fixing/maintain things!
Flat Tires – 5 (I had one the day before the last ride – slow leak found at camp)
Brake pads replaced – 1 set
Rearview mirror replaced – 1
Chain dirt and grime cleaned – daily
Times caught in rain – 3
Highest temperature on road – 104.6 degrees (according to Garmin)
Weight lost – 12 lbs.
I have a GREAT SAG Team!
The sweet spot for riding is between 6 and 10 am.
I don’t like riding in the wind (especially head wind)!
I don’t like rumble strips!
I am directionally challenged.
Biggest Surprise – that I liked Nebraska
I have the best supportive friends ever!
Best ride – day 15 – Gothenburg to Grand Island, NE – nice smooth road, flat, slight tail wind, moderate temperature (100 miles in under 6 hours).
Hardest ride – day 12 – Fort Collins, CO to Sterling, CO (103 miles) – lots of wind!
Prettiest scenery – California for awe inspiring, dramatic views and New York for absolute, serene beauty.
Best barns – Iowa
Friendliest state – Nebraska
Best RV Park – Streetsboro, OH KOA (and then Dayton Ohio KOA after the ride)
Best bike path – Des Moines, IA
Best road – Route 6 in IL from Marseilles to Joliet
Worst road – Service and frontage road along Union Pacific Railway West Wendover, NV to Salt Lake City, UT
Coolest experience – riding along prancing Antelope on the way to Laramie, WY
Dogs love to chase bikes.
This was a one and done adventure.
The vastness of this country is incredible.
Riding across the country 100 miles at a time was easier than I thought and harder than I imagined (hard to explain).
When I asked for a sign along the way…
You get to take a new road/go in a new direction only at the top of a hill – never happens at the bottom – you must climb first!
Descents are the best!!! (This is what it was like coming down from Spooner Pass)
Scoobert is a dog that is too big for an RV!
Reconnecting with friends and family is great! Don’t wait to do it.
Downshift before you stop. No, really. Downshift BEFORE you stop!
America is not flat (except for parts of Nebraska)
Even Iowa has hills, lot’s of hills!
My faith in humanity has been made stronger.
There are a lot of good people out there!
Respect the checklist! We learned early on that I needed a checklist to make sure I remembered everything. I forgot things every day! (Things forgotten: tail light, Camelbak, sunglasses, food, sunscreen, helmet, more…)
Respect the SAG team! They have a different vantage point and are extremely helpful!
Cycling gets you a great tan. LOL
This is likely my last post for a while. There will be more adventures/goals coming up and I may write about them as well, but I’m pretty sure nothing will be as epic as this one was! Apparently, this is the end of the path for now. 😉