Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh blessed rest!

We had no internet last night so we all had to TALK to each other! Imagine that! Actually, it's nice to have that every once in awhile, though I am as hooked as you. But it was also nice, yesterday, to have a low mileage day, a day of less wind, not-too-bad road surface, all of that. 111miles wipes a person out!

I did ride yesterday. And I rode today too. Thankfully, these two days' mileages have been low, 50 miles or less. Funny, that amount of mileage used to make me take a deep breath, plan, get psyched. No more. 50 miles is a "rest day." Ha!

We are in Campwood, Texas now. Seems that we have left West Texas and are now in Hill Country. Our elevation is considerably lower and we are now seeing lots of green. I'm not sure, but I might have seen a hint of blue, as in Bluebonnets. I don't know when they bloom, so I don't know if I am making that up. Today's ride was easy. 50 easy miles. Oof.

Tomorrow we head into the hills in a big way, but today, right now, we are stopped in Campwood and that, my friends, is just fine with me.

I guess the biggest thing I can say about the BIG day was that I was SO sore and SO tired and SO spent when it was over. I sank into a chair, allowed someone to bring me a drink, a piece of pizza, a hug. I let someone take my bike. Someone else gave me my key. Someone had taken my bags to my room. Along with Jan I was the last one to finish - well, of the 6 of us who rode the whole way that day I we were the last to come in. And I was DONE. But remarkably, the next morning I got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, got on my bike, and rode on. This is a testament to something beyond me. Good trainers. good food, good advice, good luck charms, the knowledge that many people are keeping their fingers crossed for me, sending me love, believing that I can do this. And now, tra la, I am believing it too.

It is not over. We are only half way through that number of days on this ride. But I keep riding and my body keeps working and my bike keeps working and there we go.

What a time. What a thing to do. What a life.
Thanks for caring about this with me.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oh my friends. Not too much energy to write a long note tonight. Today was an exceptionally challenging day. Many times I wanted to stop. Many other people stopped and that seemed like a very sensible thing to do. I mean, what's with all this making things that are one thing stand for something else anyway? Couldn't this just be a bike ride?

Today's distance was listed as 111 miles. I have ridden over 100 miles a couple of times. But that was a long time ago. And at the end of each of those rides I was quite spent. And then I rested for a long time. And there was no wind, at least none that I recall.

Today, Weather Underground (sometimes my friend and sometimes, like today, NOT my friend, predicted 15 - 20 mph winds coming from the South by South East. We were riding south by south east which meant that that wind was going to be smack in the face. And it was going to continue all day long. So not only was today's ride exceptionally long, it was exceptionally difficult. Rough road. Strong wind. Very long distance.

Some riders stopped at the first SAG stop - 20 miles out. Some more stopped at 40. Many stopped at 60. I thought about it, was tempted, and kept riding. I thought about it again at 80. And I thought about it again at 100. I mean, 100 is a respectable distance. But Jan looked and me and told me I could do it and, well, at that point, it seemed she was right. Connie and Sherry had gone on ahead. So all four of us were still on the road.

I drank, ate, took electrolyte tablets, ate more, drank more, and, most importantly, thought about Andrew and Lynn and Lucas. Andrew does not have a choice. He has to keep going. Lynn, too, is keeping going. Lucas tried as hard as he could and he lost the fight. So it seemed like I should, wanted to keep going.

I made it. I rode all 111 miles. Jan and I came in together. Sherry and Connie arrived a few minutes before us. Marci and Lois also made it. And everyone, all of them, stood out on the road and cheered as we rode in, almost as the sun set. We'd started before sunrise. 12 hours, more or less.

This was the hardest bike ride I ever did. And I am going to go to bed.
Thank you for sticking with me on this.
I do read your notes and they mean a lot to me.


Good night Andrew and Lynn and Lucas.
God Bless you all.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oh glorious riding

Oh I love this. I love this riding. I love this open land. I love the quiet and the noise and the conversation with my little team of four. I love the routine of arranging my two bags of my belongings and organizing my clothes for the next day and going to sleep listening to music and waking up, putting on the clothes that I laid out. I like having breakfast and getting the notes for the day's ride and planning where to stop and what to do and it is all just so simple and easy that it is just the most perfect thing.

We're in Western Texas, a land unto itself. Our geologist tells us all that we're looking at, tales of ancient oceans coming in and going out. Lava flows and plate movements. Erosion and sedimentation. We ride, watch, ask, learn.

This is a simple and good thing to get to do. I check in a little bit, trust that the gang at Laurey's means it when they tell me they are good too. We miss each other but I'll be back after awhile and we'll all see how it will go at that point.

In the meantime, my life is about this life. This very present time. Susan, a new friend on the ride, talks about that with me. No worry. No planning. Nothing but right now. And who's to say that is something that can only be done here? Not me.

When the riding gets really hard we remind ourselves of how lucky we are to be healthy enough to be here. We are. Healthy and lucky. And I am happy. Thrilled. Full. Amazed.

Tomorrow will be a big day. Everyone is nervous. Me too, sort of. But, well, it will be what it will be. Then. Not now. Now is now. And tomorrow will be fine too. 111 miles. One pedal stroke at a time. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Friday, March 27, 2009


Holey mazoley. It is COLD here. We started riding this morning before the sun was up over the Davis mountains. The thermometer read 36, I think. COLD! Here's what I wore:

Heavy wool socks
bike shoes
Neoprene overbooties.

Bike shorts
full length tights

Warm undershirt
long sleeved wool shirt
extra thick jersey long sleeved bike jersey
down jacket

fleece balaclava

bike gloves and fleece overgloves

And I was just about right.
Okay, once we got off the mountain I shed the down jacket but kept all the other things on almost the whole day. We stopped for hot chocolate and I took off the balaclava and the gloves and the booties, but I was so cold when we started back up that I had to stop the SAG (Support And Gear) vehicle and get all those things and put them back on.

The road surface was pretty good. Not too much chip seal (this, for you who wondered, is a VERY rough surface of chunks of asphalt and a tiny bit of something to hold it all together. It's like riding on a washboard.) And the wind, at the start, was not much of a consideration. We breezed along. The wind picked up but came from the north west. We were headed southeast so that was okay. But then we turned a bit to the north and that wind about blasted us off the road and into the fields. Huge gusts pummeled us, made us swerve, lean into the wind, hoping to remain upright. Fortunately, it only lasted for about 5 miles and we knew we could ride that much.

We're staying at a fancy place here, the Gage Hotel. Ooh baby. Swank. They have thick robes in our rooms and old saddles and lots of faded leather and stuffed things that people shot once upon a time. It's quite a place. And it is especially inviting because outside the wind is still whipping along. I'm happy to be here. Happy to be on this ride. Happy, yes, to be alive on this glorious day in this gloriously different part of the world.

Oh - I almost forgot. I got a flat tire today. This is now just about a non-issue. The only notable thing about it is that we had just stopped at a Radio Shack for me to buy a mini Leatherman (a cute, blue multi tool thingamabob.) Connie has one and it comes in handy when pulling out thorns from flat tires. Well, I bought one. I got a flat. I used my mini Leatherman. That'll teach me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh tra la. A day off from riding is a fine thing indeed. I mean, if you really think about it, 18 days is a lot of days to be riding a bike, many hours in each day. Our conversations have gone from somewhat modest to sort of modest to devoid of any hint of modesty whatsoever. We've now been together enough that not much of anything is hidden. We talk about sore butts. We compare ointments and bathing strategies and seat adjustment alterations. It's quite something. The day off is a good thing, if for no other reason than to put us in the midst of people around whom we ARE more, shall I say, discreet. (Not much, but somewhat.)

I spent this morning at the Marfa Public Radio station giving an interview on their Talk at Ten morning program. Marfa has 2000 residents but seems much larger. There is fine, fine art here. Site specific installations, courtesy of Donald Judd. Very good dining. A laundromat/coffee shop. Incredible scenery. Clean air. Dark night skies. I like it very much. Very.

Many on my ride can't wait to leave Texas. I don't feel that way. Rather, I could come back. Probably will.

Most of my ride friends are up at the McDonald Observatory right now. I'm sticking close to home, enjoying this magnificent afternoon with clean air, occasional bird calls, brisk wind (but who cares - I'm not riding today) and not much else. We're staying at a lovely Lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. What a good thing that was. How fortunate we are to have these sturdy, artful places in this country.

And today, talking with Rachel, the interviewer, about ovarian cancer, I am reminded of the gift I get to have, simply that I am alive, that I am healthy, that I am physically able to do this ride, that I am able to leave work and trust that things there will be just fine. That I have someone to care for my home, my pets. I am reminded of how fortunate I was, 20 years ago, to have had symptoms, to have paid attention to them, to have had access to care, and to have been diagnosed in Stage 1. What a remarkable thing. After that, a 90 mile ride is a cakewalk. Almost.

I'll be in touch tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The windiest day so far

Oh what a DAY this was. 90 miles. Yesterday, the 74 mile day, seemed like NOTHING in comparison. The first 40 miles were fine. Just to give you a sense of what is good and what is bad riding, we were thrilled today to GET to ride on the highway. The frontage road was surfaced in Chip Seal which is very rough and not fun at all. The interstate was smooth and the shoulder, wide. Bliss! AND we had a westerly tailwind. Tra la. Off we went.

Well, at mile 40 we left the interstate and headed south. The tailwind became a cross wind and, as happens, picked up speed. NOT so much fun. At all. AND the surface was chip seal. ARGH. We poked along and poked along and sank into the lunch stop at mile 40. At that point it still didn't seem bad. But after lunch the wind picked up even more and then it got really hard. We had 45 miles of riding still to go and a big wind, strong enough to almost blow us over at times.

The paceline blew apart and we separated. Sherry went on ahead. Jan followed. I hung back with Connie. The miles crept by. We all know what the slowest speed possible is for each of us. For me it is about 2 miles per hour. At times that was my speed. Horrible. I really did not think it possible that any of those miles would pass. But they did. Somehow. I sang MORE motivational songs, over and over and over and over. I thought of everyone I know who is having a hard time and said, "Well at least I'm HERE instead of in the hospital." But even that didn't' do much except help another few tenths of a mile elapse.

We did finally make it to the top of the pass. A 14 mile climb. In the wind. On Chip Seal.

And then we rode down. And now we are at a very nice Lodge that is a part of the Texas Park system. Very nice place.

Tex and Tom Harrison, who lived in Asheville and ran Complements to the Chef, now live here and I've just returned from dinner with them. Tomorrow I will be on their public radio station so I need to go to sleep.

Tomorrow is a day off. YAY!!!! I'm very sore.

Good night!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flying into Van Horn, Texas

We rode through more of Texas today. There is a lot of griping about Texas. It's BIG, for one thing. It's windy, for another. And it's, well, BIG. But today was a stellar day. Just as perfect as a day could be if you were to plunk yourself down in the middle of the Western part of this huge state and decide to get on a bicycle for a spin.

We were graced with a light and then a moderate and then a whipping good tail wind all day today. This means that we flew along with no effort. And the day was and still is a bit chilly and that was also a relief. We are pretty well exposed out here. Today's route was the frontage road next to Interstate 10. Not exactly what you might select as the most scenic choice. But I guess there are not a whole lot of choices and really, if you look at the landscape and not the road, the view can be pretty nice.

And then, riding with that tail wind is a spectacular experience. To give you a little bit of perspective, I usually ride at 15 miles per hour when I am home. Around here, with the help of the team, I've been riding a bit faster. On a steep downhill I have gotten up to 39 miles per hour. And on the sloggiest of days with the steepest uphill, I can go as slow as 7. Well, today we were floating along at 18 - 20. No effort. No troubles. Oh joy.

Also, the tv clip that appears just before this entry is the bit that appeared on the NBC station in San Diego just before I left. Dara, the wizard from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, posted it for me. Thanks Dara!

And the interview from Silver Springs is now viewable too but I haven't yet seen it. I'll look and figure it out and will tell you how to do it as soon as possible.

Anyway - I'm VERY happy to be here. Tomorrow we ride for 90 miles and it is supposed to be beautiful. We'll end in Fort Davis and I am going to spend the evening with Tex Harrison who used to own Complements to the Chef in Asheville. Fun!!!

San Diego Interview

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nice legs!

This morning Lois, who used to be a ballet dancer, walked by and told me that I was really get nice muscle definition in my legs. WOW! She is a powerhouse of a rider, always way out ahead of all of us. She is the strongest one here and so that was quite a statement. Connie used to be a model for stockings so SHE has great legs. And I DO know that my quads are tightening up and, after all these miles it is inevitable that our legs are getting more, well, shapely. So of course Connie and I had to document the moment.

Today was SHORT! Just 47 miles. We're right on the edge of Mexico. I can see Mexico right out the window - just past the STUPID fence! ARGH. The Border Patrol cars are the most prevalent vehicle on the road. Oh sigh. I guess my disgust is not going to do anything to improve that situation.

We stopped for some terrific food. REALLY fine red chile sauce on chicken enchiladas. The waitress was 10 - just when I started to work in this business. She just stared at me when I told her that I did that when I was her age and now own my own place. She was pretty great. She's on her spring break and is visiting her grandmother - who is a fine cook.

We rode on the Mission Trail today and stopped in at two of the missions along the way. The groundsman was fascinated by our bicycles. We were fascinated by his church. Ah - a mutual admiration society. Pristine whitewashed buildings. Graceful, simple lines. Clean pews. Carefully restored statues. All nice. All very nice.

And then, after lunch, the wind came up. BIG time! Fortunately, it came from our right side which is not nearly as hard as it would be if it came right at us. There is a formation called an echelon. In stead of riding in a straight line, you stagger so that each rider is just to the left of the rider in front of her, and also is slightly behind too - an angled line that provides a windbreak. The four of us took over the entire lane on this not-very-well-traveled road and rode easily - except for the front rider. Sweet, sweet times.

Okey doke.
Hope all is well with all of you. Thanks for checking up on me. It's nice to be in touch with you.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Due to a glitch...

Well, today seems to be my day of things falling apart. All started out well but sheesh - it got hot and, um, I REALLY need to figure out what to do when that happens because it is going to be hot a lot from now on and fading in the heat is not a very productive solution.

And, starting with what JUST happened, I somehow erased the day's pictures. ARGH!!! And I had a REALLY nice video of my shadow, riding past the pecan trees. You'll just have to imagine how great it was. Nice and steady. Great light. Morning, you know, strong and east and... Oh well.

We started early this morning, all nervous about the heat and the wind and convincing the guides to let us get going at the start of light. (okay - to tell you the truth, this early time is now affectionately referred to as "the butt crack of dawn." We may LOOK like mature women but we do NOT act like them.)

The morning riding was just fine. Pecan groves and more pecan groves. Flooded pecan groves and pruned pecan groves. Oh, and new pecan groves and old pecan groves. And then, all of a sudden, it seemed, we reached the outskirts of El Paso and just like that we were hugging the Rio Grande and that STUPID fence appeared again and the Border Patrol appeared again too, cruising back and forth on the levees of what IS a lovely river but NOT when it is lined by 15' high fencing. What a colossal waste of our money. I swear.

We pedaled into Texas with no fanfare. No signs. No trumpets. Not much of anything to distinguish it from New Mexico except for one flag. Ah well. We were lucky to miss the wind and the strongest heat of the day. 66 miles is really not very long, especially after those 80+ mile days which also had significant elevation gains. Today's ride was mostly flat.

The end of the ride, though, got quite hot and there is something that happens when the cue sheet says "1 mile" and that is, that one mile stretches out interminably and the numbers on the houses seem to increase by fractions, not by whole numbers. But just when it seems like we will NEVER, EVER arrive, there is the awesome sight of the Comfort Inn, totally generic, and yet completely inviting. Home!!!

Today's glitch collection included, however, one final insult. As I was coming out of the lobby, after trying to be patient while the clerk searched for my missing reservation, I noticed something on my tire. A tiny burr? NO! A GOATHEAD Sticker. The bane of a bike rider's existence. I pulled the little pesky thing out and heard that stomach turning sound, "psssssssssssssssss...." FLAT! Right outside the lobby.
I HAD been one of only four or five riders who had not had a flat. I now have had one. And one will be enough. (OKAY??)

I'll see if we can improve on this day's tales when we leave El Paso tomorrow and head for the Texas countryside.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leaving the high desert

This morning ranks as perhaps the most stunningly fun bike rides I have ever done. And this afternoon might qualify as one of the hardest.

We left Kingston after a spectacular breakfast of homemade waffles and bread and phenomenal eggs with chiles and cheddar cheese and fruit and yogurt and many other things. (I did not eat all of that, though I was tempted.) The first 9 miles of the day, smack out of the lodge door, practically, was downhill. After yesterday's climb (someone figured out we'd climbed about 5,000' during the day) this was an enormous gift. Just plain down, down, down. Chilly, yes, but who cared. We certainly didn't.

Down and down and down in the clearest mountain air. No cars on the road. Ribbons of pavement contouring around big hills and losing elevation steadily. Oh friends, what an extraordinary ride. 9 miles of no pedaling. 9 miles of perfection.

And then the four of us caught up with each other and organized ourselves into a paceline and rode FAST until we reached the first SAG stop at mile 26. The front rider pedaled, though not too hard, and the following three simply coasted. Sherry calls it "the sweet spot" to be pulled along in that draft. The road dropped continually, steps of flat and then a drop, step of flat and then another drop. Bliss. Bliss.

We got all the way to Hatch, mile 50, with very little effort. And, though the place we were looking for was closed, we slipped into The Pepper Pot and had THE best chile rellenos I have ever had in my entire life. They are my favorite and I now that eaten the one that all others will heretofore be compared to. We told our waitress about our adventure, "HI! We're riding across the entire United States" and she, without missing a beat, countered, "I'm sorry..." Cute. Very cute.

After lunch the wind picked up and the day's bliss turned to some very arduous pedaling. Sherry is from Hawaii and she actually had to take the lead, all on her own, for quite a stretch. The rest of us were falling way behind and, as I've told you, it's so much easier to ride immediately behind someone. But when you're THAT tired, it is VERY hard to stick to the one in front. I kept falling back and so did Connie and, finally, Jan. But Sherry slowed down, which was very nice as she was certainly energetic enough to take off on her own.

And now we're here. I've showered and have had my chocolate milk and all, once again, is just fine.

Tomorrow is much less mileage. And we go into Texas. Can you believe it? Texas.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A familiar scene

Flat tires are a part of the adventure. There is a running total for the entire group which is well over 20 by now. Our foursome has had its share. The other day I was sharing a room with Jan and she woke UP to a flat tire. In our room! Overnight!! Argh. We changed it in our room but I pinched the tube when I was putting it back together (pinching a hole in a brand new tube) and so we had to do the whole thing all over again - this time with help from Mik, our guide. Jan has had a few flats. Sherry has had one. Connie has had a few. I, so far, have not had any. To make up for that, I have become the one who actually changes all the other tires. Truthfully, we are now a team. Each of us has a role. Connie drags out her gear. Jan gets ready to inflate the new tube slightly before it is installed in the tire. Sherry is the pumper. And I take out the old tube, check the tire for Goat Head stickers or glass and, after finding the culprit and extracting it (with Sherry's reading glasses and Connie's mini Leatherman) I put the thing back together again and we're off. We're getting very fast at this and are now calling ourselves the Parnelli Jones pit crew. At your service!

Silver City provided us with a very nice day off yesterday. I was VERY slow and VERY lazy. Had a terrific massage with Fred at Cienega Spa (I recommend him and his gallons of Arnica gel.) And ate some very very good pizza at Diane's Bakery and then a fine Chili Relleno at Jalisco's. Oh and in between all the eating I was interviewed by Kathy Zink for her cable tv show "Spirit Matters." Michael, her husband, will edit the footage and will have it available next week for all of us to see. I'll let you know when.

Today's ride was 48 miles. The first 10 were a gradual uphill. The last 10 were a dramatic downhill. DRAMATIC!!! Hairpin turns swooping through the Gila National Forest. And the miles in between were epic, long pulls up long steep hills. Long. Long. Long. Hard and, oh, long. We climbed from slightly below 6,000' in Silver City to 8,825' at the top of Emory Pass. The last tenths of miles were near agony. Pedal. Calculate how much further. Pedal a little bit more. Calculate again. Repeat. Sing motivational songs to myself. Wait for Connie. Pretend I am waiting for Connie, knowing I am stopping to try to catch my breath. Pedal a few more bits of a mile. Calculate that at this rate I'll be at the top sometime next week. Keep pedaling.

Round and round. Round and round. Slowly but surely. And then, like heaven, we make it to the top. First Sherry, then me, then Jan - who turns 65 today - and then Connie. We scream in delight. Whoop around, hugging each other, taking pictures. And then we add layers of clothing for the 8 miles descent.

Screaming, flying, soaring, roaring down down down.

And now, home for the night at Black Range Lodge. The folks who own this place build and teach straw bale housing construction. I ask if they know my friend Janelle who lives in Asheville and they do and the day and the world become very small again and I say I'll say hello to her and off I go to my third floor "garret" with the red door.

I'm very happy to be here. I can see spring and the mountains and blossoms and feel proud of this day's ride and all that this ride stands for.

Tomorrow we go down further. 80 miles, I think, into Las Cruces. And in a few days we'll be out of New Mexico. Is this possible?

I'll write tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Continental Divide!!

We climbed out of Lordsburg this morning. Flat for the first 10 miles, well, sort of flat. That is, if you call a gradual uphill climb flat - which I don't! BUT it was easy enough and clear and crisp and sharp and dry and, again, lovely. At mile 16 we fueled up (peanut butter and raisin sandwich bites, m+ms, V8 juice, Gatorade, and other Lucullan treats.) The next 15 were steady and uphill. Sherry has a GPS on her bike and can report the altitude, which can be good, but can be NOT good either. Still, climb, climb, climb. The air thins noticeably. The scrub gets replaced by pine. No more cactus. Blue skies. Fresh, fresh air. Green rolling mountains. And then, looking back, it is easy to see why we feel so tired, for the valley floor is laid out for miles and miles and miles and miles behind us all the way back down to Lordsbug which then is just a tiny snip of a town.

Then up more. No paceline today. We all huffed and puffed and struggled with our own climbing systems. Sherry "spins," rotating steadily in her smaller gears. Jan plugs along. Connie has a different gear set so we drop her on the uphills but she catches up on the downhills. I alternate. Spinning in my smallest gear and then shifting down to a harder one, standing up in the pedals, using my skeletal system instead of the muscles. The muscles, by then, ache. My left buttock aches. My right knee hurts where I banged it the other day on the not-so-funny bone. And then I sit back down, shift to the easier gears, alternate. Down in the saddle. Up. Pedal. Climb. Up. Up. Up.

And then we're at the top. Everyone off the bikes. Take pictures. We're at the top!!! Four riders. Four cameras. Four poses. Two snaps on each camera. Goofier and goofier.

And then, yes, DOWN! Ten miles of down. TEN miles. I lose fear and get up to 37 miles an hour which is the nearest thing to flying I can describe. Connie, speed maven, hits 41, gives me a thumbs up for my daring. We fly. FLY!

Mik has said that the ride is a series of ups. Do NOT look up to the top, she counsels, just pedal and pedal. Then you'll be at the top. She did not spill the beans on this glorious romp down and we are thrilled. The down is the longest I have ever ridden. Easily 8 minutes. Many miles. It doesn't end.

But then, yes, it's over. More spoiler hills come up and by then our muscles are screaming to stop. STOP. Please stop. Just STOP. But we still have 5 more miles which we somehow manage to do.

We spill into Silver City, pour into Twin Sisters Bike shop, stock up with butt creams and energy gels and extra tubes and CO2 cartridges for tire inflation. And then go to Diane's for lunch of a spicy chicken and green chili sandwich. I meet Diane and she looks at me with tired eyes when my gang tells her I do in Asheville what she does here. We shake in understanding.

And we leave. Visit another bike store. Buy more things. And limp to the hotel.

Tomorrow is our day off. I have a massage at noon. An interview at 2. Two restaurants to try. And I'm very, very happy about it all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The start of the day

Oh we were tired out today. Yesterday's heat wiped us all out. I woke up feeling like I could NOT ride a bit. Aching head and aching legs and aching back and aching BUTTS and aching crotches screamed "PLEASE! Don't you think it'd be nice to just STAY IN BED today??" But no, that was not what I decided to do and my gang, my three buddies, waited and they were aching too but we all sucked it up and posed for this spectacular snap in front of our motel (not a bad backdrop, eh?) and hopped on and actually had a pretty fine day all in all.

The highlight, once again, was the brilliant feeling of being in a line, the paceline, and doing the hard pulling work for a mile or so and then peeling off to the left and letting the other three move forward to take their turns. And then, four miles later, it is my turn again but by then I am rested and do my turn for my mile and then peel off to the left and mile after mile passed with near ease.

Yesterday I experienced "bonking" which is when you run OUT of energy. All stores depleted, you just sink. A boost comes from candy or a cookie or some energy gel or something. Connie reported that she asked how I was when she saw me dropping behind and that when I BARKED back, "I'M FINE (dammit)" she knew I was bonked. So today I tried hard to remember to eat at every possible opportunity. I had finished my peanut butter and raisin sandwich before lunch - which was at 11 - and went through many bottles of gatorade laden water. And I now have a supply of chocolate milk that I slug back as soon as I hit the motel. I'm getting the system. And, though I am sore, I am in pretty good shape, all things considered and am happy and filled with the thrill of the wind in my face on that lovely ten mile downhill jaunt. NO buildings, NO cars, NO roads (other than the one we were on) and NO noise. Just us and those magnificent mountains and old volcanoes and volcanic ash and a living geology textbook. Bliss again.

It was a lovely, lovely, lovely day.
And we're now in New Mexico and life is a fine thing.
Tomorrow we go to Silver City and then we have a DAY OFF. Spa here I come!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The morning snack table

We gather around a table and fill zip-lock bags with m+ms,nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, candy, granola bars, and other fine energy boosters. Today we really needed every single thing we could stuff into our pockets because the day was long and hot and sustained. We stop every 20 miles or so, and fill up water bottles and stuff more candy into our many pockets.

I'm now trying to cool off, feeling very happy to be settled in this fine lodging for the night - a Days Inn on the eastern side of Safford, Arizona. I'm not quite sure the reason for this town, but there is a very nice church near here and on the other side of the traffic noise, we can hear nice bells on the hour. at 3 they played Edelweis.

Tomorrow we leave Arizona and head for the hills of New Mexico.

The only other thing I want to report is that my right calf is very tan. Much more so than any other body part. I do have a bike short tan and bike glasses tan and bike gloves tan. I am tan, except underneath the clothes. There I am very NOT tan.

Okay - this sun has addled my brain.

I'm trying to post a video too. If it works, it should appear just after this post.
If not. Well, trust me, it was a good one.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Top of the World

At the very top of today's 4,000' climb we found The Top of the World cafe. A portly guy sat in a chair. An almost-as-round woman chattered with us as we guzzled icy gatorade for me and diet coke for Connie. They had a huge racing motorcycle (I got a picture of it too...maybe I'll post it on facebook) and an old dining car from a railroad. Hmm. Oh and some cafe benches and some other stuff, mostly junk. Oh and a fat old car with this license plate. He hardly moved except to say that he'd crashed the motorcycle when he'd lived in Chicago.

Having climbed to the top, we then enjoyed a spectacular downhill ten mile romp. Joy of all joys!!!! Connie is very fast on the downhills and so she waits at the bottoms. I can plug along on the uphills and wait at the top for her. We're well matched.

Today's ride was a tad dicey. Narrow uphills, a tunnel, sustained climbing, roaring downhills. But we're all here safely. Some hitched a ride with the sag van, but I felt strong and enjoyed almost every bit of the day.

When I was little we had a Viewmaster. One of the discs we had was of the Grand Canyon, I think, or at least it was some place that had towering rock formations and pine trees, all very three-dimensional. Today's views were like that, piles of red rock punctuated by dots of dark green. Blips and long views all the way down to the bottom of the valleys that we'd just climbed out of. Glorious. Glorious.

So all is good. We're high up now, way off the floor of the desert. We're in copper mining country. Huge gashes, sadly, have been carved out of the mountainsides. The copper economy, no surprise, has fallen off, so now the gashes are here with a ghost town. Not like it once was.

We pedal on, raising eyebrows as we go.

Today Connie got a flat tire. I've changed flats before but not on-the-fly, as it were. We changed her tube, she inflated it, it did not hold the pressure, so we changed it again. Tra la. Then we got to the end of the day and she found a significant slit in her tire so we changed into her new tire. I now feel much more confident about all of that. And more confident about using my own legs and body to propel me across this county. What a magnificent thing this is. How lucky, how enormously fortunate I am.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A morning chat

These sweet lovelies came to see me off this morning. FIRST thing! Ovarian cancer survivors (the woman on my left is a 38 year survivor!) and supporters, they arrived, armed with teal feather boas and a video camera and good questions. The sun rose over those fragrant eucalyptus trees and we talked about riding and surviving and persisting in the face of chemotherapy or miles and miles of uphill, bumpy roads.

Before I left Asheville I had a Reiki session with a friend and told her that I was not sure I was doing the right thing by leaving my business and my home and my friends and my life to go gallivanting around on my red Trek. She said I would find signs to tell me I WAS doing the right thing. She said, "Your spirit guides will tell you. They especially like to show themselves in the form of pennies and feathers."


Here they are.

Today was hot and our group split for the first time. Some went to the Desert botanical Gardens to see a Chihuly glass exhibit. Some came right to the hotel. I rode to the gardens and breezed through. It was crowded and I was hot and just not in the mood so I left and was completely alone for the ride back here. Well, I did pass one other rider at one point and ran across, and rode with another for a little while. But it felt good to be alone for a change. Sort of scary but not really. Phoenix is laid out on a grid system and so its just a matter of pedaling south for a while and then east for a while and then south for a while and then east for a while.

And now I'm here. Tired and hot still, but stopped.

And yes, still thinking about the women who got up so early to meet me today. One of them is a bigwig in the Phoenix ovarian survivors group. She's a 22 year survivor and so I now have TWO women ahead of me in this odd game. I'll see Annette again in Washington this summer. By then I will have ridden to Florida. Still amazes me.

Cheers to you all.

Tomorrow we head into the mountains. Last year the riders were not allowed to ride this part, because there was too much snow. Right now it is snowing in Albuquerque. Not sure what that means for us, but I'll probably dig out the warmer duds for the mountain days.

Onward we go.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On to Phoenix

Can you believe it? I have now ridden my bicycle into Phoenix, Arizona. A mazillion years ago a girlfriend and I drove here from Maine and we stayed here for three months. At that time it seemed unimaginably far away. And now I've come back, on my bike.

Today was a blast. Again. An easy (imagine that) 63 miles from Wickenburg to Phoenix. Connie and I took off at first light or so. Jan and Sherry were not far behind and when they caught up with us we hopped to it and the four of us drafted for miles and miles. This feeling is so amazing. When you lead, of course, it is hard because you are essentially breaking the trail. But then you get to slip back into the draft of the others and THAT, my friends, is a stunner. Pulled along, floating, pedaling lightly, resting, yes. Bliss. Bliss. Yes, bliss.

And then, quicker than believed, we came to the lunch spot, and headed for Subway because Connie had some free lunch vouchers but then, almost as we got there she spotted In-N-Out Burgers and friends, if you have never had an In-N-Out burger, well, you just have to find one sometime. We were there at 10. They opened at 10:30. Officially. But they let us in and we plowed through burgers and fries and cokes and laughed and were all very very happy.

And then we followed Mik, our guide, into town, roaring down here on bike paths that were clean and smooth and it was just utterly fabulous. 20-25 miles an hour, no effort, warm sun, fragrant cactus blooms coming to our noses.

And then a bike shop and admiration. "You're going WHERE? And you've come from WHERE???" The boys in the bike shop impressed with us women. We too, impressed with ourselves.

We arrived here, 63 miles after starting, after many pee and photo and food stops, at 1:00. Pool. Laundry. Notes to you. Tra la.

I LOVE this.

I'll write tomorrow.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

My riding pal

This morning we stopped at "Ingredients," a cutie pie little cafe with all sorts of gee gaws and signs and goofy things all over the place. Almost all of us showed up at 7:30 in the morning. We'd already eaten a fine batch of oatmeal and lord knows we were NOT hungry. Ingredients is in Wenden, a full 4 miles from our overnight stop in Salome (pronounced Sa-LOME.) But we had a blast and took lots of pictures of each other posing and prancing around.

We're now in Wickenburg, Arizona. This, they say, is the Dude Ranch Capitol (of what?) There are two early Dude Ranches here so maybe they were the FIRST ones. There are also a bunch of J. Seward Johnson bronzes around town. Um, nothing to get too excited about, know what I mean? Um, not so good bronzes. Painted. Not very well. Um...skip 'em, know what I mean?

Tomorrow we roll up and then down into Phoenix. It continues to slay me that we can really do this. We've already ridden all the way across California and are now going to ride our bicycles into Phoenix. I'm told that a big group of ovarian cancer survivors is going to get up early on Saturday to wish me off. They may bring some tv news folks too. Tra la. All is fun.

Oh - sorry for not writing from Salome. We barely had electricity. But it was a cute place. Old style. Our guide warned us about it by saying, "This place is NOT rated by AAA." Forwarned, but no worries. With state crossings we get Margarita parties. That makes a sticky floor easily overlooked.

Cheers y'all.


In Hope, AZ

One of the main reasons for a gal to ride her bicycle all day long is to eat as often as possible. Fortunately for me, my riding partner is a good eater too AND she likes sharing. Tra la! Here I am enjoying - REALLY enjoying - my half of a cheeseburger. And yes, if you look closely, you will see a streak of dirt on my forehead. The ride up into Hope was long and hot and dirty. I had washed my face but it didn't really matter. (I AM getting a good tan (and yes, I am lathering on the sunscreen) but this was plain old grit.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day off in Blythe, California

So, on a day off we clean our bikes. My riding colleagues' bikes all seemed much cleaner than mine. I had actually thought that MY chain ring (pictured here) was black, that it was MEANT to be black, that the newer ones were chrome but not mine.


I learned, today, about "Simple green" which might be my new favorite cleaning product. It is incredible. Takes off bicycle grease as if it was, well, nothing. Spray it on/rinse it off VOILA! Clean bike!!!

I had thought that a day off was a wimpy, unnecessary thing. But it feels REALLY good to sit around doing nothing physical. I'm about to take a nap, in fact.

Oh frabjous day, calooh, callay!

Tomorrow it's back in the saddle. But tomorrow is tomorrow and right now is nap time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

After the mountains - into the Imperial Valley

Day 3

What a gorgeous day! 67 miles, only 5 of which were uphill. Then a TEN mile downhill romp through these gigantic piles of rocks and oddity, followed by glorious rolling spinning into the Imperial Valley.

Today, though long, was a grand day.

This land is rich and lush and full and it is a fine thing, on a day like this, to have a red bike and be able to get on it and ride.

One moment of perfection:
one of my day's riding partners had a flat tire right after lunch. We helped her change it and got completely greasy in the process. BUT, providence prevailed and I was able to stroll over to a car wash place where the fellow directed me to a spigot which released degreaser. AND there was an endless supply of towels. NICE!!!!

Today was a fine and fun adn great day.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The end of the second day

So, halfway through today we stopped at a diner for pie. Much anticipated, it was, though the reality left a little bit to be desired. Didn't matter. We were just happy to stop and eat something. Well, really I was happy to just plain stop.

The day was gorgeous. Sweeping views of rocks and crags and mountains and high peaks. We're at about 4,000' here. Up from 0' yesterday. Much of this elevation gain came today. And tomorrow, after a 5 miles climb, we plunge DOWN for 10 miles. Ten miles! Yeeps!

The worst thing about today is that we are now right on the border of California and Mexico and there, right next to us at the end of the day, was this huge, nasty-looking fence. What a stupid, stupid thing this is. A fence to keep out people. So stupid. And as we rode we saw truck after SUV after jeep with Border Patrol written on their sides. What a colossal waste of money. Hilariously (or not) one of our guides ran into two men who spoke NO English and actually conveyed to her that they wanted to know how many hours it was to Los Angeles. Meanwhile the Border Patrol was scouting up and down, up and down the road. Somehow these two got over that fence and had managed to avoid the big boys. Kind of made me smile. I hope they make it. (I said this to a friend and she said that there is a lot of drug traffic involved and I don't agree with that BUT otherwise I think it idiotic to have spent the enormous amount of money on such a thing.

OKAY enough about that.

Tomorrow we go for 60 miles.

Time for me to go to bed.

Don't forget to set your clocks ahead.

Pie in Pine Valley

Friday, March 6, 2009

It has begun

I've been waiting for it to be March 6th for a long time. Today it finally got here. We got up early (I got up WAY before dawn - too excited to sleep) and ate some of the very best oatmeal I've ever eaten (might have had something to do with the excitement of the day, but I'm not sure). We then rode to the ocean, a short 3 mile stint.

What a thrill to be starting in on this thing. But what a brisk start! Before I left NC people would say, "well you're not riding on the HIGHWAYS, are you?" Well, much to my astonishment, we DID. Granted, there are bike lanes, but still...that's some FAST traffic. But after a bit we made it off the freeways and into the foothills. Lovely space, beautiful day, and it is as intimidating as I could believe anything could be. I mean, we've STARTED!

Tomorrow we ride more than today and the profile of the ride is much more intense than today's. But as many have said, it is one pedal at a time, one breath at a time, one bit,one little bit at a time.

The tire dip

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The chocolate Bikes

I forgot to mention it but Dawn MADE these chocolate bikes. She's amazing. A powerhouse of San Diego.

Today she took us to eat fish tacos at South Beach in Ocean Beach. That's near Dog Beach where we will start tomorrow. I guess when there are this many beaches you have to name them all. Really it's just one huge beach separated by stone jettys.

Anyway - thank you Dawn. You are amazing.

I'm now waiting for dinner to start. Funny, starting to shift to this schedule of someone else being in charge of the what, where, and when of my meals. Funny stuff. The fish tacos, at the South Beach Bar and Grill were great, as was the fried calamari and the french fries with grilled beef on them (picture to follow...)

Then bed time.
Then time to get up.
Then time for breakfast.
Then time to ride to the ocean to dip the tires.
Then time to ride to Florida.

Can I really be doing this?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The San Diego reception

oh boy. I'm whipped. Dawn Edwards, my Women Chefs and Restaurateurs colleague (and fellow board member) organized a mixer/reception tonight for me and the bike ride. The Mayor of San Diego sent his chief of protocol to read a Proclamation declaring today Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs day in San Diego. (My name made it to the proclamation too.)

Wild times. I met more ovarian cancer survivors, friends of women who did NOT survive, adn other inspiring women. I'll be on San Diego television tonight, talking about the ride. (I asked the camera man to pass the word that I want to tell Ellen DeGeneres about this ride...One of these days my pesterings will turn into me actually getting on her show.

I got my bike, rode it, and had a fine time today. Still can't believe that I'll be getting on it for real day after tomorrow. Unbelievable.

In other news - I ate one fish taco today and tomorrow will go to the place that has, I'm told, the BEST. It's a tough job, but someone has to be the taster. I'm stuffed on cutie pie pastries from St. Tropez bakery and bistro. De-LISH! You should come here if you come to San Diego.

This is an amazing thing, this ride. I continue to feel humbled and stunned. Big stuff.

And now I'm going to bed.


My sweet little red Trek - waiting for me!

Outside my hotel room!