Follow my journey through the southern tier of America on my bicycle through my blog.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 21 (19 riding): Total overall distance: 1408.22mi Total distance today: 38.02mi Total time: 3.15.09 Avg speed: 11.4mph Top speed: 25.5mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-That.……cannot be good
-Thank you Mr. Bike Service Man...everything you just said about my bike...was bad
-But it's made it this far!
-It might take a miracle for this bike to complete the trip in one piece
-Do you believe in miracles?? I do!

Today started quite well...I slept in to around 9:45 or so. I enjoyed a nice breakfast of mini-muffins and orange juice and hit the road around 11. My legs felt better than yesterday, although pedaling still seemed just a little harder than usual. I found out why about 20 miles into the trip. Turns out that I wore my back tire down to the bone and it split apart in the center in a 5 inch section. It was continuously getting worse too. It was getting longer around the tire and deeper in the section. The good news is that somehow the inner tube was fine so I didn't get a flat. Also, somehow the tire held up for another 15 miles to a bike shop that had the same tires that I have on my bike. Plus, I am super lucky that this happened now, when I was close to a bike shop. If it had happened at any time in the next 2 1/2 weeks...I would be in trouble. Now on to the bad news. The new tire cost me $70, and I pretty much had to buy 2 so I had a spare in case it did happen in the middle of nowhere. So that was a quick $140. On top of that, the bike service guy, who was really nice and took care of the tire and tightened my brakes for free, told me that he was amazed my bike has made it this far. Apparently I have the cheapest rims you can get and they aren't made for touring or carrying this much weight. Awesome. I thanked him for boosting my confidence and he said it was all "real talk" here. I realize that and I know that I don't have the nicest bike but it has gotten me just about halfway with only a couple tire issues. With any luck, it will hold up for another 1700 miles or so. Fingers crossed. On top of all of that great news, he said I had a strange, back wheel and gear set. So if the wheel does give out, it will take time to find another one like that, and be quite pricey. Fantastic news really.
The only thing I can do is try to take some weight off the back of the bike...and hope and pray it makes it. I can't spend time worrying about it or thinking about it at all really. It either will or it won't...time will tell.

On a side note, I made it to Austin, TX today. I am staying on Hilary's couch tonight...thanks! I spent the later part of the afternoon and the evening touring parts of the city on my un-loaded bike but mostly just by walking. I spent a lot of time on historic 6th street in downtown Austin. It seems like a really cool city and definitely a place I want to come back to...for more than 1 night, with at least a friend or two, and not on a bicycle. I haven't fully decided how far I will go tomorrow. Either 75ish or 95ish. I guess I'll figure it out as I go. There are campsites in each place. I'll be skipping a few hotels to make up for the money I had to spend today, so there will be a lot of campsites and stealth camping in my future. I guess it's about time after all.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 20 (18 riding): Total overall distance: 1370.20mi Total distance today: 66.62mi Total time: 5.02.19 Avg speed: 13.2mph Top speed: 32.5mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-Saw my first legitimate hitchhiker...he should just buy a bike
-Passed an elementary school where kids were out playing during those were the days!
-Today would have been easier if it wasn't: uphill, into the wind, and on a bike
-Weather Channel App says 20% chance of rain...real world says 100% of rain...thank you Jack-In-A-Box for food and shelter

Today was the first day where I woke up and really did not want to ride a bike. Not a good way to start the day. All day long I just didn't want to be pedaling and stopped a lot to just munch on something or take a picture. Just wasn't really feeling it today even though i had planned to go 100 miles to Austin. Therefore, I was actually happy to see a pop-up thunderstorm in Bastrop, TX. I was about 35 miles away from Austin and running out of daylight as it was. So I grabbed a hotel, thanks to my brother Kyle, for paying for it! Merry Christmas to me. The more I think about it, the more glad I am that I stopped early. I can get a long sleep and leave tomorrow around 10 or 11. I'll take about 3 to 3 1/2 hours to get to Austin and be able to tour the city for the afternoon and night. Austin is considered the "live music capital of the world" and I'm excited to walk downtown and listen to some live tunes. Also, this will help my legs rest a little before hill country this week. Normally, I would want to get as far as I can each day but this week is different just for the fact that the Super Bowl is Sunday and I need to plan according to that game alone. I need to be somewhere that I can watch the game. Therefore, I am going to go slowly this week so I will be in Del Rio on Sunday because there's nowhere to watch the game for a couple hundred miles west of there and I wouldn't make it. So it will be a slower, lower mileage week this week.

On my way into Bastrop, I was supposed to take some roads through the state forest, but those roads are still closed due to a massive forest fire a few months ago. So I had to stay on the highway and the damage from the fire was still devastating. For miles on end, there was just dead, black trees. The worst and saddest part though, was seeing a whole bunch of foundations of things that used to be people's homes. Very sad stuff. I took a couple of pictures of the trees, on both sides of the highway, but didn't want to take too many because it ruind people's lives and taking pictures of that is not right in my mind. It was like riding through a war zone. I had some memories of the fire in the woods behind my house when I was a kid...scary stuff.
I also passed by the world's smallest catholic church that is still available to worship in. I took a break there, filled out the visitor log and wrote in their prayer book. All really awesome stuff
Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow but at least it's only a short ride planned. I need to save my energy for the hills!

Day 19 (17 riding): Total overall distance: 1303.58mi Total distance today: 101.96mi Total time: 7.31.29 Avg speed: 13.7mph Top speed: 26.5mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-Boom...2nd century ride today, but this one I earned...a lot of hills, into the wind for a while, and alone
-This is what life on the road on a bike is like: a bug flew in my mouth...and I was grateful for the free protein
-The things that are the most interested in me are easily the one point today, I passed a ranch and EVERY cow had its head turned and was staring at me...there were over 50 easy...creepy
-Now that is a strange place to see a zebra...2 zebras actually
-I hope Chuck Norris doesn't come out and roundhouse kick me in the face

Today was definitely a good day overall. I was bummed to have to leave John's apartment so soon with only 2 nights and a day to hang out, but it had to be done. Thanks again for everything Sal! The first 50 miles today flew by. I was riding fast and the roads were flat with very little traffic. I love riding on Sundays! I grabbed a longish lunch at Subway in Navasota, TX after briefly visiting and taking a picture of Chuck Norris' ranch. Pretty cool. I also had a nice chat with the guy who runs the "Checkpoint" hostel/bed and breakfast in Richards, TX. He told me I may catch 3 riders about a day ahead of me. Small world, I already knew he was talking about Ricky, Paul, and Nadine...who I presume are in Austin tonight. I'll be there tomorrow night and we may end up leaving at the same time on Tuesday...guys if you read this, give me a call!
The last 50 miles today was pretty tough because of a lot of's obvious I'm getting very close to Texas Hill Country. However, it was the most visually appealing ride so far. A lot of good scenery. The riding was tough and I only went up about 300 feet a peak of 500 feet. The Hill Country goes to a fun 2,317 feet. Oh joy, can't wait! I actually am kind of excited for the challenge. Plus it will be a good warm up for the Emory Pass in New Mexico, where I go to over 8,000 feet.
Luckily I had a perfect weather day today. It was 60 degrees and cloudless all day. Beautiful blue skies. Chilly in the morning and evening but not bad at all. I stopped into a small General Store in Independence, TX to get a gatorade. I had read about the store on another blog and knew that the owner had a bikers' log so I was excited to sign it. But I forgot to put where I'm from :/ I did leave this blog address so if you are reading this store owner, add Tiverton, RI to my post. It was cool to see a store that is legitimately the only store in a town. Gas, groceries, lunch, conversations, and who knows what else goes on here. Otherwise, you have to drive quite a ways to get that stuff. It's so old school and southern, I love it.
The owner asked if I was going cross-country because I didnt look like I had been on the road for that long. I guess I hold up well, and I am moving quite quickly besides.
I made it to the home of my warmshowers host Carol in Carmine, TX around 5:30 or so. Carol is unbelievable. She owns a 62 acre ranch and has a beautiful house that she built herself with the help of some friends. The house is such a cool set-up too. Plus she is almost too nice if that's even possible. I was treated to a great dinner and dessert and then had some nice conversation while we played pool for a while before the repeat of the tennis match came on. She said I could watch it with her, but I don't have 5 sets in me...I'll be asleep before it's over! I'm staying in a really neat bunkhouse over the barn with a nice bed, bathtub, and eggs, sausage, and oj waiting for me to make in the morning. Thank you Carol!!
Tomorrow will be another long haul in order to get into Austin, TX. Probably around 100 miles again, maybe a little less. Will be tough but worth it when I hopefully get to walk around the city a little tomorrow night. That means another early departure, probably around later than that really. Once I'm done with this blog, I'll try to find a place to stay. If I can't get a warmshowers host, there is a hostel I can head to, which may be a better option anyway since I'll be in the city. I'll figure that out later.
I made two of the best food purchases of the trip today. First, I bought 12 cookies from Subway. Brilliant. Then at the store in Independence, I bought girl scout cookies. I decided on peanut butter delights. Also brilliant. You're welcome self.

I have very little 3G coverage out here so it would be a pain to update the animal count, with having to find it, copy and paste it. So hopefully tomorrow, but you know there will be zebras on there. I was riding up another hill and saw a bunch of deer to my left fenced in. I stopped and snapped a picture and then saw what looked to be some elk. Weird but okay, then I saw a zebra and had to do a double take because I thought I was going insane. But then I saw a second zebra. Unfortunately, right before I got off a picture of them, they ran off. Bummer. Turns out that the fenced in area holds exotic the middle of nowhere, texas. Who'd a thunk it?
I took a ton of pictures today, and I got a close up of a real Texas Longhorn. It had slipped through a hole in the wire fence about 5 feet from me so I took a couple pics and then watched as 3 ranchers came running over and herded it back in and fixed the fence. Pretty cool to see in person, I tried to get a video of it, but they were too quick.
I talked to Mason today, one of the two guys I rode with for a little while about 2 weeks ago or so. He had given me a call but I missed it so I called him back tonight. He was wondering where I was and wanted to check up on me since some guy told him a biker had been hit and hurt pretty bad in louisiana, he wanted to make sure it wasn't me. Really nice of him and it meant a lot or him to call and see if I was alright. They are back in the Baton Rouge area so I am now a week ahead of my pace meaning I probably won't see them again, but ride safe!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 18 (16 riding): OFF DAY

Today was complete rest day #2 of the trip thus far. It felt good to not have to pedal all day and was nice to be able to spend time with John, Tommy, and a whole bunch of their friends. The day was nice and relaxing and we had a really fun night with their friends. It was a great group of people and I never really felt like an outsider to the group, so thanks for that.

I have good news on the bike too. The de-railer was pretty bent and it was due to some other piece being bent. I don't really know, but the guy at Bike Lane bike shop in The Woodlands, told me that if I downshifted going up a hll, I would destroy the tire and the whole chain mechanism...aka...I'de be up the proverbial creek with a busted paddle. Plus, he said he had a 2 week delay on repairs. I talked him into just looking at it and he ended up tightening and straightening the de-railer plus greasing the chain...for free! Great customer service and he went out of his way to help me out. Without him, I could have been in bad shape. Plus, the famous "Texas Hill Country" that I thought was coming up in a week or two, will be here mid to late this week. I'm actually somewhat excited for the challenge...and some good views.
I have another option on a detour. This one goes through Austin, TX and is about 15 extra miles to the trip but I figure it's worth it even if I don't really stop and check out the city. It's supposed to be a much nicer ride than the main route.
I have a big day planned for tomorrow. I have a warmshowers host set up, but it's a long haul...I think over 100 miles but I could be wrong. It will be 10 miles longer than necessary because I plan on going east for 5 miles and then doubling back about mid-day. I'm doing that so I can stop at the Lone Wolf Ranch, Chuck Norris' Ranch just east of Navasota, TX. I have been looking forward to that and refuse to miss the picture opportunity.
Enjoy some random pictures that I haven't posted yet and goodnight!

Thank you so much to John for letting me crash at his apartment for 2 nights and treating me like family! It was great to see ya!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 17 (16 riding): Total overall distance: 1201.62mi Total distance today: 67.47mi Total time: 5.27.50 Avg speed: 12.3mph Top speed: 21.0mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-Didn't think the first cowboy hat I would see would be on an old man in a beat up Corolla
-This place was definitely not in the brochure
-I wouldn't even take a tank through here
-Does carrying the bike through water while wearing sandals count as biking across the country?
-Where. Am. I?
-Great, another locked fence...I go up and goes around?
-Well it can't get worse at least...oh never mind
-I've never been so happy to see pavement!

Well today was fun...most definitely an adventure! I left the ACA maps after 20 miles and said bye to my three riding pals. I planned on using the maps on my Iphone for directions to get to John's apartment in The Woodlands, TX. The car option listed it as 88 miles away but it was only 66 miles away by foot. Strange, but I'll take 66 over 88 any day. I checked the whole map for walking and every turn had a street name so I wasn't too worried. A. There's no way the places I was had street names. B. I guess the Iphone doesn't factor in locked gates and no-trespassing signs when creating walking directions. However, by the time I realized I had to hop a fence and head into the abyss...the only other option was to double back 10 miles and then go 40 more...not happening. So I lifted the bike over the lowest part of the fence and headed off. The road leading away from the fence looked okay so I took off riding. It didn't take long for me to realize I was in for quite a trip. As you can tell from the pictures below, here is what followed over the next 8 or so miles:
1. I rode over grass and dirt paths made for ATV's, trucks, and maybe mountain bikes...not road bikes...and definitely not fully loaded road bikes.
2. I had to stop at least 20 times to see which creepy dark path to head down.
3. I finally reached an impassable point...a creek that had overflowed from the storm and flooded the path
4. Therefore, I switched from bike shoes to sandals, and carried the bike through about 20 feet of ankle-deep water.
5. I had to carry the bike 7 more times.
6. I had to walk the bike 1/4 mile because of large rocky paths that I couldn't ride over.
7. Right before I finally reached the end of the trail, I saw a truck driving towards me and stood off to the side of the path to chat with whoever was headed my way.
8. It turned out to be Keith and Mike who got quite a kick out of my story and couldn't believe I had made it all the way from the other side. We had a brief but nice conversation and I gave them a business card and headed towards fence #3...luckily not locked.
9. It was quite an adventure and a cool story...and it did save 20 miles!
10. It turned out to be a giant private hunting area of some sort, hence all of the seats and booths I saw up high along the paths.
11. Keith and Mike are the epitome of the kind of people I was hoping to meet along this trip. I had a great conversation with them and I figured that would be it. But a few hours later, just after I arrived safely to John's apartment, they gave me a call just to make sure I made it here safely. They were ready to offer me a ride to wherever I needed to go if I needed one. I can't thank these guys enough for taking time out of their day to talk to me and to actually care enough about someone they don't know to check up on them and make sure they're safe. I really appreciate that phone call and they said they were going to follow my trip, so thanks guys if you are reading this. It's amazing that there are good people still out there!

The rest of the ride went pretty smoothly with only a little confusion upon reaching The Woodlands and riding on some shoulder-less roads. Nothing I haven't dealt with already. John was nice enough to treat me to dinner, unbeknownst to me until the check arrived. I had been craving Outback Steakhouse...mainly for the bread. So I had 4 loaves of bread and a full rack of ribs myself. Plus a beer and a bunch of glasses of water. Slightly disgusting really but I think I impressed the waitress Amanda...or grossed her out haha.
After that I met some people John knew who are going to follow my progress and one guy, Mike, who is going to look into sponsoring me by putting a sticker on my helmet...we'll see.
All in all a good, fun day and I'm looking forward to an off day and night tomorrow.
One possible negative though, I have to take my bike to a bike shop tomorrow to get the de-railer checked. Ricky pointed out that it was bent towards the wheel and if I down-shift just a couple (which could happen on the big hills coming up), I could destroy the wheel and chain. I think that's worth looking into while I'm near a bike shop rather than broken in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully it's not too bad or too expensive if it needs to be replaced or fixed :/

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 16 (15 riding): Total overall distance: 1134.15mi Total distance today: 106.30mi Total time: 8.20.36 Avg speed: 12.7mph Top speed: 21.0mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-Boom, first century ride...and then
-Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes...why no waist?
-Oh hi 3 other fully loaded bikers headed to the same place as me are you?
-I am 50 miles into Texas and have seen...nothing
-It is very difficult to place an order at a Sonic when you walk I just walked into the kitchen through a side door and asked someone to feed worked

Well I was on the road this morning by 7:00, which was a little later than I wanted, but my bed was sooooo comfy and warm. It was still somewhat dark when I left and a little chilly but not too bad. I had yet another PB&J sandwich for breakfast and didn't stop until I was 20 or so miles in where I went into a Dollar General and got some donuts and typical breakfast. When I walked out, I was greeted by 3 cyclists who were fully loaded and stopped by to see where I was headed. Amazingly, not only are we headed in the same direction overall, but we actually had the same destination in mind for tonight. So here I sit with Paul, Nadine, and Ricky. It was nice to ride with other people for most of the day, and really nice people too. We had some pretty brutal headwinds today too so it was nice to be able to switch leaders after a while. Plus, thanks to them, I am eating better than I would've tonight. They shared some food and tea with me and we've had some great conversations as we sit in a trailer in Thicket, TX. This place is the first of many in Texas that is in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It's day one of a bunch in TX, that's for sure. I am glad there was a camper available though, because we were going to sleep in our tents and the mosquitos outside are huge and angry.
Like I mentioned, we had some brutal headwinds today, upwards of 10-15 miles per hour basically all day long, but we still managed to go 106 miles. Not too shabby, but definitely would've been harder by myself. Luckily, with the big ride today, I only have 80 miles or so to go tomorrow to get to John's apartment in The Woodlands. I'm not sure how the roads will be since 80% of them are off of my maps but hopefully they won't be too bad. It should be a very nice day at least. Today was cloudy and cool and windy all day. Unfortunately I'll have to say bye to my new friends after about 20 miles tomorrow but maybe I'll see the down the road in Texas...time will tell.

Happy Birthday to my awesome sister Shannon!!

Goodnight and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 15 (14 riding): Total overall distance: 1027.85mi Total distance today: 36.50mi Total time: 2.37.33 Avg speed: 13.9mph Top speed: 21.5mph

Random thoughts of the day:
-I'm not going to mess with tornado warnings
-I hope this pain goes away
-phew, glad that pain went away
-well now I can say I've slept in a teepee
-Cracked the 1,000 mile mark're welcome

I got off to an early start today, technically beating the sun by 5 minutes. I pedaled out of the hotel parking lot at 6:56. As you can tell by my average, I was pedaling hard because I wanted to get to a small town in Texas where I had a place to stay. Unfortunately, those plans didn't quite work out. I rode into the DeRidder, LA at around 9:30 and pulled into a gas station for some gatorade, quick snack, and weather check. I noticed that there was a tornado watch in effect from houston to DeRidder. I most likely could have gotten to the next town with no rain, but after almost getting stuck with no shelter at all yesterday, and still getting rained on for 30 minutes...I decided to call it a day early and find somewhere to stay. I had read about a cool RV Park down the road where bikers can stay in a modern day (wood & electricity) teepee for $15. I decided to go there and wait out the storm. Good idea, it's 4:00 now and it's been thundering and lightning outside for about 2 hours, which would have been 4 hours ago where I was headed. So at least now I'm dry and can get a long night's sleep. I'm actually headed to bed very soon because there's not a whole lot to do anyway, besides sit and listen to the storm. Plus I love falling asleep during t-storms.
Since I still want to get to my college buddy John's place in The Woodlands, TX by nightfall on Friday, I will have a big couple days coming up. The weather forecast looks okay for tomorrow and great for Friday so mileage shouldn't be an issue, especially after a nice long rest today.