In case anyone still cares about the trip, here is a lot of stuff in list format (because I never learned how to write decent transitions in my prose).
Best day of riding for me: This was a hard one for me to decide, especially because a lot of the actual riding is forgettable. Identifying a best day really means identifying the day with the fewest problems and with few if any hills. So this means a boring day with maybe some decent scenery. I can come up with Day 15: Horizon City to Fort Hancock, TX. (We had ridden fully through El Paso the day before, so we didn't have to deal with that craziness anymore. This was our first look at non-urban Texas, and we were finally getting out of the desert of the Southwest; seeing trees and other green things was pretty great. Like the day before riding into El Paso, we got to see more pecan orchards, and the terrain was pretty flat. It was a relatively short day, as we had a place already arranged to house us. At the time, I wasn't all, "Wow, what an amazing day of riding," but I think this one was pretty good.)
Worst day of riding for me: TIE between Day 4, Holtville, CA, to Yuma, AZ (This was the day I realized my shoes were about a half-size too small. We rode Old Highway 80, the frontage road for I-8, and the lack of recent paving made the road have a large crack in it every five yards or so. I was pulling Burley, and every time his wheels hit one of those cracks, it would cause my bike's momentum would be pulled backward. Being clipped in, this meant my shoes were part of my bike, so whenever my bike got pulled backward, my toes got scrunched more and more toward the front of my shoes. These road conditions went on for at least 90 minutes. I was convinced my toes were going to fall off once I removed my shoes. When 80 became unridable, we got on I-8, which was a very smooth ride through some pretty neato sand dunes. Before getting to Yuma, we had to get off the interstate and back onto 80 again. I was delighted to see the cracks were now only every 10 yards. I had to buy a new pair of shoes in Yuma, $120 I wasn't really planning on spending on this trip.) and Day 8, Picacho to Tucson, AZ (We were on a highway frontage road going into the city, but a truck would pass us every 20 seconds or so. I had Burley, and this was just a slow uphill climb the entire day. This was one of the only instances when I was lagging behind the other two, and it was making me pretty miserable. In Tucson, a bike map we got didn't do a great job of indicating that roads didn't go over highways; they just dead-ended there.)
Best/Worst days of riding for the group: Talking it over with Katherine and Michael, we couldn't really come to a consensus on bests and worsts, so I'll just take direct quotations from their emails.
Michael: I think it must be mentioned that the day to El Paso had elements of both the best and worst days [Day 14]. What a confusing one. The continental divide day was really tough [Day 12], but I think my worst day was probably Day 1 or Day 2. Pulling [Burley] up those hills without any training, I kept feeling like vomiting. Remember I had to lie down at the top of one? Ugh. I remember a great day being Marfa to Marathon - downhill, pretty, and tailwinds [Day 19].
Katherine: Yeah, the first couple days were the hardest physically; I remember feeling like I could sleep in the middle of the first few days. The 11th Day, the one before the [Continental Divide] (headwinds, locusts, hyperventilation on my part) was the hardest for me overall (the only time I thought I might have to quit, and the day just dragged on and on.. going so slow with the headwinds, really long straight sections, seeming to make no progress, etc.). El Paso might have been the worst riding conditions, but it was also sort of crazy/exciting, so I was in a pretty good mood that day [Day 14]. The day out of Bay St. Louis was tough (winds, construction), but it was also exciting because we went so far that day [Day 41].
There are a lot of best days... I can't decide which is the best yet. My favorite scenery was the mountain after Benson, AZ (Michael has some pictures of that... everyone was warning us about the huge climb, but at that point it wasn't that hard and it was really beautiful... one cross road was called "Dragoon Rd.," and I wrote down that it was "Zelda-like"...?) [Day 10]. The Pecan trees before El Paso were pretty idyllic as well [Day 14]. I think the easiest stretch was that downhill with the tailwinds before we met the Newhouses going to Sanderson [Day 19]... Anyway, the locust day stands out as a definite worst moment/day for me, but I don't think that was everyone's worst day. And I can't think of how to pick an overall "best" day, as most of my favorite moments have to do with meeting crazy people, not with riding.
Best State for Riding: Florida (I would guess that 85% of the roads we were on had a sizable shoulder. I had lived in Gainesville for 16 months, allegedly one of the best cities for bicycles in the country, but I had assumed that the conditions didn't extend beyond the city limits. It turns out they do.)
Worst State for Riding: Mississippi (This is hardly fair to the state, as we were confined to one road that had been badly damaged only a few years ago by one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country. This is, however, the state where we experienced an altercation with a driver who didn't understand that bicycles could ride on the street. I apologize to the state, but this is the way it is.)
Falls off bike: Just one on Day 25 in Kendalia, TX (We had come to a stop on an incline. When I tried to start again, I was in too high a gear to get enough momentum to stay upright, so I fell over. Katherine and Michael had started about 30 seconds before I did, so they were too far away to notice anything. I was already having a miserable day at this point, and that didn't help.)
I don't remember Michael ever falling. Katherine had at least two falls, one when Michael and I had pushed a few hundred yards ahead of her on a busy road. Sorry, Katherine. We are all happy you are okay.
Michael: I never fell off of my bike, but I think that I did win the award for most often losing control of bicycle while standing still.
Katherine: There was the time Michael hit Burley/me from behind, but I was already dismounting, so I didn't fall (the chainring just cut my leg). Also, for the fall in Mississippi [mentioned above], I wasn't on my bike... I was sort of wheeling my bike down this concrete incline back onto the street from the sidewalk I was on, and both me and the bike fell. But I wasn't on the bike, so it wasn't bad. I also sort of fell as I was getting on my bike at the gas station after that dude drove us over the 4 mile bridge, particularly embarrassing because there were people watching. But, again, I wasn't clipped in or moving forward. Did I ever actually fall off my bike when I was riding? I can't remember.
Most common lunch: Double-decker PB&J (estimated number: 40)
Most common dinner: Pasta with sauce and Bush's Baked Beans (estimated number: 20)
Most common snack: Clif Bar (estimated number: 50) [I realized on this trip that Oatmeal Raisin Walnut is by far the best flavor in the Clif Bar family. If you disagree, you are wrong. Furthermore, let's fight.]
Most enjoyable snack: Pineapple
Most underrated snack: Generic corn flakes
Food I didn't expect to be eating as a snack, but turned out to be the best idea ever: Flour tortillas by themselves
Food consumed on October 8, the day I decided to log the food I ate (listed somewhat chronologically):
2 packages Nature Valley peanut butter granola bars
1 Clif Bar
1 Clif Bar
1 tortilla with peanut butter and jelly
Scraped up remains of jar of peanut butter
Scraped up remains of jar of jelly
64 oz orange juice (in ~15 minutes)
21 orange pineapple cookies (at this point, I'm starting to hate myself)
5 spring rolls
12 oz beer
3/4 of "Texas size" portion of red curry
1 fortune cookie
8 oz red wine
1 Clif Bar
2 oz mixed nuts
1/4 of "Texas size" portion of red curry
Makeshift birthday "cake" (5 vanilla cookies with frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips; 1/3 clif bar)
(Note: We biked no more than 35 miles that day.)
Best night sleeping outside for me: Day 30 in Warrenton, TX (We had just started the second half of our trip, and the previous night had us being rained on nonstop. We had to pack up our still-wet tent in the morning, which always feels super gross and adds more weight. The skies were gray throughout the day with the threat of more rain. When we found a small RV park toward the end of the day, we were afraid that they wouldn't allow tents. The owner turned out to be a really nice guy and let us set up on the porch of the antique shop that he also owned. This meant that we would be protected if it rained again, and that would just make everything easier when we packed up the following morning. When we started unpacking our stuff that evening, though, the sun came out, allowing us to dry the stuff that was still wet. Everything seemed to come together to fix all that was wrong with the previous night. Looking back, it wasn't really that amazing of a night, but at the time, everything seemed amazing compared to the night before. It really is all about our moods.)
Worst night sleeping outside for me: Day 11 in Lordsburg, NM (Before we found where we were sleeping, I had already felt kind of sketched out by the town, despite the fact that I had little reason to do so. We were set up in the yard of a church, but our tent was in plain view of two heavily-traveled streets, so there was little-to-no feeling of safety. This was before I bought my Halt! (see below), so to make myself feel safe, I clutched my bike multi-tool to my chest all night, hoping that the knife on it would be of some help if someone did try to mess with us. Every time I thought I heard something, I would be jolted wide awake by my own cowardice. But on top of this, we tried to go to sleep before 8:30, but the church bell rang every 15 minutes until 10:00. I don't like Lordsburg, NM.)
Best/Worst nights sleeping outside for the group: More email excerpts...
Katherine: Worst nights outside were again the Jessie night (animals [crawling around right outside tent] on tarp, car with radio pulling up) [Day 35] and the morning by that river because of the cold [Day 43 in Milligan, FL]. Best night outside... I really liked camping under that bridge [Day 23], but I don't know how everyone else felt about that. Staying on the church porch... with the bathroom access was pretty sweet [Day 37 in Donaldsonville, LA].
Michael: I definitely agree that the alligator river was one of the worst mornings [Day 43]. That was at the height of the cold spell in the Florida panhandle. But some nights echoed the best and worst day in one, like the Jessie night [Day 35]. But really, bad nights for me were only caused by my hip digging into the ground and hurting. Maybe one night I couldn't sleep. I was never afraid, because you were so big and strong, Adam, and so I did really enjoy the wildcamping. I also liked the night we stayed in that river park in Branford [Day 47]- nice to eat at a table and duck to avoid park supervisor car headlights.
Total spent on accommodations:
Including the last night with its hotel fee (49 nights): $231.60, $77.20/person, or $1.58/person/day
Not including the last night (simply ocean-to-ocean, 48 nights): $208.85, $69.62/person, or $1.45/person/day
Day 4, Blue Sky RV east of Yuma, AZ, $30 (supposed to be $35; I hate Yuma)
Day 7, Picacho Campground in Picacho, AZ, $18.31
Day 10, Grande Vista RV in Willcox, AZ, $15.45
Day 12, Dreamcatcher RV in Deming, NM, $15
Day 16, Eagle's Nest RV in Van Horn, TX, $24
Day 22, Hampton Inn & Suites in Del Rio, TX, FREE (birthday present from Michael's dad)
Day 24, Pioneer River Resort in Bandera, TX, $18
Day 29, Bastrop State Park in TX, $24
Day 32, Browder's Marina in Camilla, TX, $17
Day 34, Pine Grove RV in De Ridder, LA, $11.25 (Maurice paid rest)
Day 38, Bayou Segnette State Park near Bridge City, LA, $18
Day 42, Big Lagoon State Park in FL, $17.84
Day 41, RV park in Alabama Port, AL, FREE (no one in office, no one returns call)
Day 47, RV park in Newport, FL, FREE (owner liked what we were doing)
Day 49, Hampton Inn & Suites in St. Augustine Beach, FL, $21.80 (Joe C pays for the rest with Hilton points)
Selected street names in Yuma, AZ:
No Problem Lane
Easy Living Place
Good Time Boulevard
Dream Havin' Avenue
Party Time Boulevard
Something Special Avenue
Almost Heaven Road
Doing It Our Way Boulevard
(Man, I hate that city.)
Most offensive thing said to us matter-of-factly:
"The oriental mind is designed for torture."
Most energizing moment: Day 25, ~4:00pm, northeast of Kendalia, TX (I had been pulling Burley all day over the hills of central Texas, and we had just gotten into even hillier territory. This the same day as my only fall, and I was feeling pretty dead. At the bottom of one hill, I decided it was best to dismount my bike, eat the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Clif Bar I had been rationing, and sing the song Dwight sings to Michael on The Office to try to encourage him to jump off the roof onto a trampoline. Man, did that ever get me going.)
Most important "non-essential" item: Halt! Dog Repellent (Wow, this stuff made me about 100 times braver. It is more or less pepper spray that is meant for attacking dogs, but it obviously would work on a human, too. I came across it in a bike shop in Las Cruces, NM, after I had spent the months leading up to the trip unable to find it. It was easily accessible while I was riding in case of a hot-headed dog, and I would always have it by my side while sleeping at night, even though I'm sure it would do very little if someone actually wanted to attack us while we slept. I never had to use it, so I am still curious to see its effect. If someone wants to set up a date to attack me on the street, I'm thinking about carrying it around with me at all times, anyway. Call me.)
More to come when memories come back to me. Check back later.
18 November 2008
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