Saturday, March 28, 2009

Preparing the Body and the Bike

The most I've ever ridden is about 500 miles for one week when some biking buddies and I did the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. At the end of day 7 I was done! We had a couple of centuries, lots of climbs and weather extremes. But it was only 7 days of riding after all with one rest day thrown in to boot. So now I've got to replicate that 7 times to make 3850 miles in 7 weeks.

I'd spent a good amount of time preparing the bike for that trip. My good friend Dave Levy really helped in getting the bike set up and ready for the mountains by installing a compact crank and recommending a 27 tooth rear sprocket which made for a great combination for climbing without losing too much on the top end. So my trusty 3 year old Cannondale is set up to be versatile enough to go coast to coast. It should still be sound enough to hold up under the rigours of the miles, the varied road conditions, the climbing and descents and the variations in heat and cold and wet and dry we'll encounter.

But there are some things I will need to tend to by way of preparation. The rear cassette has over 5000 miles on it so I'll replace it and the chain along with it. The rear tire is fairly new but it will go to the front and a new Armadillo goes on the back. I need to re-wrap the handlebars and buy spokes and tubes. Hopefully that will do it.

The body's another matter. Replacement parts don't cut it here. Last year's 3500 miles was the most for me in one season. Most were "quality" miles trying to keep up with some of my riding buddies over Ohio and Wisconsin's hills. Not a lot of long climbs, but plenty of rolling terrain and straining into the wind. And then 5 months of 3 days a week spinning waiting out Ohio's winter. And now finally back outside again with plans for 3 rides per week including 6 centuries, some medium distance 60 or 70 milers and plenty of 40 mile evening rides.

Since my outdoor riding season began when daylight savings time started, I've ridden about 250 miles. Not great, but a start.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weighing the Options

Cross country rides, like meals, come with many possibilities. There's the fast food ride that's less expensive because it hustles its riders from southwest to southeast in less than 30 days, averaging 120+ miles each day with no real breaks. It provides luggage transports, motels and meals. It's definitely a challenge and it's less expensive than longer options because you're on the road fewer days. But it also leaves little room for enjoyment or seeing the sights, especially when you're worrying if you will be able to finish the next day's ride before dark. It's a southern ride to minimize the distance.

Then there is the grocery shopping to fix you own meal option. You pack your bike with what you'll need, and if you're shopping at Aldi's you include a tent and bag for camping to keep costs low, you pick your own route and pace. It's least expensive, it's slower going and the outcome is least certain because you're dependent on your own culinary skills. You get to see and learn a lot along the way, you make mistakes and you correct them and when you're done you're accomplished in the kitchen.

Or you can pick up chinese food to eat at home. A little different than the previous option, this requires someone to accompany your trip, haul your stuff and provide SAG support. You still have to figure out the route and you don't get other riders to eat with like you do when you get out to a restaurant. The cost may be a bit less than eating out, but you have to figure stuff like route, motels or camping out yourself.

If you just want to eat an enjoyable meal with friends without devising the recipe or how to prepare and serve it up, you go to Olive Garden or Applebee's, kick back and order what you like,and then let the cooks and servers do what they do best. You find a ride that handles the details of determining low traffic routes, finding decent motels, providing meals, carting stuff to the next overnight and signing up others with whom to ride. It does cost more than shopping at the store or eating at McDonald's but if you're going out to celebrate your golden anniversary, you don't feel too bad about picking a place you know you'll like.

And so after weighing numerous options, America by Bicycle came highly recommended by Dave and Cathy who had ridden with them in 2001. The AbB Cross Country Challenge ride is at a pace that will challenge me and yet still allow for the time to listen to the birds or to what people along the way want to share with a biker coming through. AbB provides the route and maps to hit the most scenic roads with low traffic and special sights along the way. They will transport lap top, clothing, bike parts and PwP promotional materials from motel to motel. And they'll book the rooms, provide most of the meals, deliver snacks along the way, fix broken down bikes and generally make sure all I need to do is to pedal and enjoy. What a deal I say!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dreams, prayer and confirmation

Some considerable prayer and deliberation has led to this point of decision. It seems like a lot of money to spend on a "joy" ride, especially when operating on a retirement income. I needed some confirmation and a purpose for doing this other than just to do it. There is of course the wonder of discovery and the allure of adventure that goes along with such a trip. There is the planning and preparation, the excitement of what lies ahead along with the fear of potential failure to fuel the preparation to succeed. These reasons were entirely sufficient to embark on an extended road trip adventure in my mid twenties. But in the ensuing 36 years, I need more reason and confirmation. I need a larger purpose and a sense of divine affirmation that I am to actually embark on such an indulgent excursion.

For me, that affirmation in response to prayer came incrementally over the past couple of years. Almost 2 years ago I asked that God provide finances for such a trip completely apart from our normal income stream. The provision came not long before my retirement in 1Q08 when, as part of a CAS work-team that saved the company several hundred thousand dollars, we were each monetarily rewarded for our efforts. The award was within a hundred dollars of the total cost of the cross country trip I was most interested in.

I also had a sense that I needed to connect this trip to something meaningful to me -- specifically to Pedal-with-Pete. Could I be a surrogate for Pete's great dream and if so, how could "Ride, for Pete's Sake!" go forward if I was on the road? I agonized and prayed about this in late 2008. In January I discussed this with the PwP core team and came to the conclusion that I just could not lead a ride this year, keep up with my C.R.A.C.K. House Ministries responsibilities, train and prepare for a cross country trip, and be present to Marcia and our involvement in the lives of our 3 grown kids. I finally concluded that the solution was to bring the PwP ride to closure with this trip.

But God had other plans. Cathy and Dave Levy polled the PwP volunteer team and concluded that they wanted to move forward with this years ride. They have always had great passion for this ride and Cathy stepped forward to lead. She has already brought her enthusiasm and fresh ideas to re-invigorate the ride. And the rest of the team has picked up the planning and my responsibilities to move this forward. And so, this x-country adventure has larger purpose and connection to Pete and to the ride that bears his name.

Finally, I needed affirmation from the most significant person in my life, my soul mate, Marcia. As I vocalized this dream of mine, she saw how much it meant to me. Instead of rolling her eyes (which I admit I do occasionally when she tells me her dreams -- literal ones in this case), or trying to talk me out of it, or dismissing it as late-life crisis or countering with her own ideas of how better to spend such money, she listened, nodded, asked and observed. Finally a few months ago she began saying things like: "You know, you really need to get your registration in." Or "Are you just going to talk about this or are you actually going to do something about it?" Or "After all those years of going to work every morning, you need to take off and just do this trip!" And so confirmation came here as well. Confirmation that I should just do it and confirmation that I have a most wonderful and understanding first lady!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Prelude to Pedaling

My brother Pete has dreamed of traveling around the US to raise funds and awareness for cerebral palsy soon after his dream to bicycle at all became reality. That came in the form of a hefty red three wheeler with custom controls especially suited to respond to Pete's persistent will that overcame the herky jerky movements his cerebral palsy brought on.

And just when his sheer delight in being as mobile as anyone else on a bike had fully hooked me on cycling too, Pete's cycling passion ended in 1999 on GOBA with an awful crash that robbed him of even his herky jerky movement and his surprising strength. But it did not quench his passion to further CP awareness nor for raising funds for research through the Pedal-with-Pete bike rides. Pedal-with-Pete, which he founded and fueled, has raised $400,000 for CP research the past 15 years.

And now a part of Pete's dream has become my own. While the cost, logistics and stamina for circumventing the US perimeter has gotten beyond me, I could realistically still hope to traverse the US. With Marcia, my supportive wife urging me to go for it, I registered for the ride of my life last week with plans for a June 6 departure.

I am now well over twice the age I was at my last grand (motor)cycling adventure which I embarked on with my buddy and brother-in-law Les. That trip involved hauling a tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, spare parts and many other necessities for 6 months on the road. And Consequently, I am quite ready for the luxury of sleeping indoors, following a route someone else has charted and not having to weigh every ounce of gear I take since it will be loaded on a truck each morning. Doing an organized trip will focus the energy I still have on moving me and my Cannondale an average of 80 miles eastward each day and promoting Pedal-with-Pete to the other riders and to those I encounter along the way.

In recent years, I have dreamed, discussed, thought about and researched the possibilities, the cost, the timing , the route, and others' adventures. Last week the day came to put up or shut up, as the saying goes. June 6, 2009 is Day zero when our America by Bicycle group meets in San Francisco. The following day, June 7th, the biking caravan is scheduled to push off from the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and begin wending its way eastward to the Portsmouth NH Atlantic ocean terminus 52 days and 3850 miles later. The time for preparing body and bike has begun.