Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gone with the wind




Day 9. Boise to Mountain Home Idaho. After a rest day yesterday, it was back to the ride today. Our route today took us through the same valley we've been riding in the past few days. Again, not tremendously scenic, but open, dry, and windblown in an Old West kind of way. The valley we were in must be 30 or so miles across. We didn't have much in the way of climbing today, but what we did have was the wind.

Before I get to the details of today's ride, I have to report that Wonderboy got a new brain, a massage, and new eyes yesterday at George's bike shop in Boise. Wonderboy's new brain is a Garmin 500 Edge bike computer. This puppy is state of the art. It has speed, distance, average speed, cadence, heart rate, elevation, grade climb/descent, and much much more. It is GPS based and is nuclear powered (actually, it isn't nuclear powered). It does everything but ride the bike for me (I wish it did that too). Wonderboy's new eyes are a new Mirrcycle mirror so I can see what's coming up behind me. He also got a quick once-over safety check. All is good with Wonderboy.

We rode 53 miles today to Mountain Home Idaho. We had a big tailwind and averaged over 30km/hour. We got to town as early as we have arrived anywhere yet. I had a nice high calorie lunch at Wendy's (no Frostie though, but the day ain't over yet) and enjoyed every bite. I don't really know why they call this place Mountain Home. There aren't a lot of mountains nearby, and it doesn't look like it is home to many people other than a US Air Force base. We asked someone at the Wendy's where town was, and he said that past the Walmart next door there wasn't really anything worth seeing. OK. Talk about hometown pride! We rode another large chunk of today (over 10 miles) on the interstate (I-84 to be precise). But this section of interstate was actually outstanding. It must have been recently repaved and a rainstorm that just blew through here yesterday must have swept all the debris off the road. With the tailwind today and the light interstate traffic, it was a pleasure to ride on (I can't believe I'm saying that – it was a pleasure to ride on the interstate)!

For 10 or so miles today we rode with Rick (in the orange cycling jersey). Rick is a 62 year old semi-retired engineer. Man, can he ride a bike. Not only did he keep up with us young'uns, he led the line at a pace that was hard to keep up with. I am amazed at how fast some of the people on this ride who are older than me are. We have one rider named Howard who is 79 years old, and while he may not be the first one in at the end of the day, he is certainly far from the last. Imagine being 79 years old and doing this ride (not to be indelicate, but that's older than you Eleanor, and pretty close to you Muriel!). Simply incredible.

Lastly, Katie heard about my Duchess having the world's most awesome nickname when she met her on Skype yesterday and wants a nickname of her own. Since I traditionally have been the bestower of nicknames in my family and have come up with some pretty good ones over the years for the neighborhood kids (the boy, TBOB, Laurenofsky, Satan's Little Helper, Spencer for Hire, La Femme Nikita, Mitchmeister, VJ, Logan's Run, Brad Man, etc.) I thought I'd give Katie a nickname.

Let's see...what would work...how about, consistent with today's blog post title Gone with the Wind...that her nickname could be Katie Scarlett (like Scarlett O'Hara was called by her father in Gone With the Wind)? Let's see what she thinks of it.

On to today's mail:

Allan from Toronto writes "You're on a small bike ride (in response to my Facebook status "Mark went for a bike ride")". Well Allan (wait for it), maybe it's small to you, but its big to us (MISTYBIBTU)!

That's the only mail from today. Boo-frickety-hoo. I guess all of you are just going about your normal lives. Actually, that makes a fair bit of sense when you think about it.



Useful links for you:

SO COOL: CHECK OUT MY STATS FROM MY NEW GARMIN!!!!!!

This is Joe's blog:


Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:

http://www.americabybicycle.com/BAMA/BAMA/North/North.html

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride – very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog:

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Say hello to "Wonderboy"



Boise Idaho. We got to Boise yesterday on a fiercely hot day. I didn't realize until I watched the weather last night on TV that they set a record high yesterday in Boise, which was good to hear (at least this isn't the norm). The forecast calls for cooler temperatures ahead. That is a bit comforting as the next leg of this ride has some daunting days next week.

So, after much contemplating, mulling, and procrastination, I have decided on a name for my bike. This is an executive decision (I am, after all, allegedly a so-called executive – HAH!). A lot of the names were wonderful, but I just have to go with "Wonderboy" (tm, all rights reserved).

Wonderboy is actually a French bike brand called "Time" and the specific model is a VXS Trans Link. This is a pro-level carbon bike. It was specifically developed for the rigors of the gruelling Parix-Roubaix race, a portion of which rides over cobblestone roads. It's been called the BMW-M Series of bicycles. Those cyclists in the know say it is an awesome climber, and I can tell you that it certainly helped me climb better on this ride than I ever thought I could.

Why the name Wonderboy? Many of you may get the reference to the book and movie The Natural. In this movie a young boy named Roy Hobbs (played as an adult by Robert Redford) dreams of being "the greatest ballplayer there ever was". Early in the story, a tree next to Roy's home is hit by lightning and Roy fashions a bat out of the wood from that tree. He emblazons the name Wonderboy and a lightning bolt logo on the bat and the bat helps create the near-myth of the ballplayer with so much talent that he is, of course, The Natural – the greatest ballplayer there ever was. Oh yeah, a young mega-foxy Kim Basinger also played the love interest in the movie. I mention that only because Kim Basinger (at the time) and my wife The Duchess are near look-alikes. In fact, I'll bet right now people are walking up to my wife at the Galleria Mall in Buffalo (where she and my son Adam are buying stuff for his NY apartment) and asking her "aren't you Kim Basinger – didn't I see you in the movie "The Natural"? Seriously. It happens all the time.

I certainly have no delusions of cycling grandeur. I ain't no "Natural". I actually may star in the cycling sequel to The Natural. They're going to call it "The Un-natural – a true middle-aged story". Like most sports I've done, I'm probably a mediocre cyclist at best (aside from skiing and snowboarding, I always seem to be a "50th percentile" athlete). Wherever I ride, I watch other cyclists glide across the road or effortlessly climb, but to me it's hard work. I had to train for over a year and lose 30+ pounds to prep myself for this ride. It's only 1/6th over and not one mile has been easy.

That's where Wonderboy comes in. He's super light, yet very durable and rugged. He helps make the riding a little easier. Hence the name. Hopefully Wonderboy will get me to the Atlantic Ocean in 6 weeks. This morning, I'm taking Wonderboy to a Boise bike shop for a "bike spa day". He's going to get a new mirror (my old mirror broke on I-84 the other day). He's also going to get a little tune-up, and perhaps a Garmin GPS bike computer as well.

After we got here yesterday, everybody's mood brightened. Talk about a much-needed respite. We said goodbye to 2 riders, Carl and Gayle (Cardiologists from Duluth Minnesota). We met Margot Weinstein's parents who came from Chicago (or was it Wisconsin?) to see their daughter and son-in-law Gary and to support her during the ride. Margot is going the whole way, but Gary is only able to do several sections of the ride due to work commitments. Then it was a delicious BBQ here at the hotel (here's a shot of kindergarten teacher Teresa from Pennsylvania finishing 3 helpings of apple cobbler for dessert last night – we're on vacation and riding like maniacs – we can eat anything we want!) . Because it is a day off tomorrow, we all thought about going out. A group of us went to see the movie Knight and Day (the new Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz movie). Perfectly acceptable crap. Some other people actually went to a Boise jazz club (I think it was called "The Easy Listening Finger" – that one's for you The Vancer!).

I'm blown away by how close this group has gotten in just over a week. I can't imagine what it'll be like 6 weeks from now, but it will be fun to see. I'm off to the bike spa with Wonderboy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

That's one leg down




Day 8. Ontario Oregon to Boise Idaho. Today will be the first and last time I ever leave Ontario and get to Idaho in 5 minutes by bike. That's because we left the town of Ontario Oregon (as opposed to the province of Ontario) and half a mile later crossed the state line into Idaho. The day started rather warm and is the first day I rode the entire time without arm warmers, leg warmers, or thin liners on my hands.

In fact, it was downright toasty. When we hit Boise, the thermometer read 99 F. But, as they say "it's a dry heat". Actually, I enjoyed it. I am so tired of being cold when I ride after training in March, April, May, and June in Toronto and then riding the first few days in Oregon. So long as you liberally apply sunscreen (which I did twice today) and drink tons of water/Gatorade, this is great weather to ride in.

Today's route took us southeast into Idaho through irrigated farmland that ran along an incredibly wide (but not particularly scenic) valley. Along the way we found a road sign directing us to Canada (see picture)! I think all of us on this ride were very happy that today's mileage was less than previous days (we "only" rode 100 kms today in the 99F heat). All of us are just beat. The injuries amongst my fellow riders are starting to pile up with sore achilles heels being the most common, followed by knee pain, aching backs, and of course, the old nemesis of anyone who rides – saddle sores. So far, I am injury and pain free (knock on wood – pooh pooh pooh, as my mom and Joey Goodbaum say). Yay – we have a rest day here in Boise tomorrow. Even the hotel we are in is really nice.

So, the first of 6 legs of this trip is over. Over 1,000kms in 8 days of riding. According to the charts, we have climbed close to 25,000 feet in the last 8 days, which is almost as high as Mount Everest (seriously). The riding mileage and climbing is so far out of my zone that I can't believe I'm actually doing this. I guess it's one mile at a time. What other way is there?

The days are melding together and it is getting hard to know what day it is, where we came from, and where we are going. Yesterday we were in a DQ getting the ceremonial end of day Blizzard (awesome) when a woman asked us what we are doing and where we were heading. I actually forgot and someone with me had to remind me. That's not like me at all (to those of you who know me). I can't figure out why that's happening to be honest. Anyway, when we told her we were riding across the country she thought we were pulling her leg. The other day a waitress in a restaurant asked us where we were riding that day and when we told her she said "are you nuts – that's a really long drive!".

This is quite an experience for sure. It's not exactly what I expected. I have been almost overwhelmed by some of the things I am seeing and pushing myself to do. Every time I think of how hard it is, I remind myself how hard certain things are for others to do, in particular my cousin Lara. Hope you're doing well Lara. I think about you all the time on this ride.

Now it's on to the mail:

Cathy from Saskatoon writes: "Your trip sounds amazing. It's great that you're raising money for such a worthwhile cause. God bless you and keep you safe". Thanks for those kind wishes Cathy.

Fred from Moose Jaw writes: "I've been inspired by your trip to take on a challenge of my own. I'm going to climb Mt. Logan and raise money for the Save the whales Society". Go for it Fred!

Susan Weisbarth from Toronto writes: "Where did you leave the printer paper in the office at home?" It's in the drawer under the desk, my Duchess.

Useful links for you:

Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:

http://www.americabybicycle.com/BAMA/BAMA/North/North.html

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride – very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog:

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Once, twice, three times a freeway



Day 7. Baker City to Ontario Oregon. I'm continuing on the Lionel Richie theme from yesterday because of what we did today. Have any of you ever ridden a bike on an interstate highway before? I hadn't until today.

The reason we have to ride on the interstate is that in some places out here, there are no other roads that get us to where we need to go. That was the case today. This morning, we rode on I-84 not once, not twice, but three separate times. I was really anxious about the idea of riding on the freeway (they call the interstate a freeway out here, but it's the same as the 401 in our neck of the woods in terms of its classification as a highway). At the initial tour briefing last Saturday the ABB team gave us a thorough review of safety practices for doing this riding – very thorough, in fact. Nevertheless, I was very intimidated by this. Not only that, but I woke up with a bad stomach ache that dogged me all day. My riding mate Baltimore Mark (who by the way has an Art Hoffman-like drug store on the back of his bike – the Art Hoffman reference is for my Mom) gave me a couple of Tums to chew on and by the time we hit Ontario Oregon it was gone. Whew, just in time for a Blizzard at DQ.

The interstate section of today's ride turned out not to be that big a deal, and everyone (almost all of whom were as anxious as me) agreed. The traffic moved a bit faster than a state highway (only 5-10 MPH faster), but there was a really wide shoulder. Also, we left at 7AM this morning and let's just say there is pretty minimal Sunday morning traffic in the greater Baker City tri-city area (the "tri-city area" reference is entirely sarcastic by the way). There is a ton of debris roadside on a freeway though, and it can tear bike tires to pieces. We were very lucky today though – no flats.
Here's video of the I-84 trip:


On the way to I-84 I rode a large section of the way with Kay from Fayetteville Arkansas. What a great lady to talk to. She's CIO (Chief Information Officer) for JB Hunt Trucking (Jill – tell that to Dave) and she is "wicked smart" as they say in the movies (she's the blond next to the 2 Swiss cops Bruno and Daniel in the photo). She's here with her friend Jay (an unbelievable cyclist who is way out of everyone's league on this ride, he's so fast) to bid farewell to her 18 year old niece Alison who is going all the way across country by herself. Jay and Kay are with us until Wyoming. Nice person to pass the miles with.

Today was easier than yesterday because for the first time this trip, we went more down than up. It didn't help that my stomach was killing me most of the ride. However, the value of a team sure was proven today. First, a large group assembled at the I-84 entrance ramp (like 25 of us) and we rode the 6-7 miles together as a group to prove the "there's safety in numbers" theory, which we did. Second, after the second rest stop, a group of us formed a paceline to cover the last 25 miles. Now, 25 miles may not sound like a lot, but in 33C heat, after riding 500 miles in 6 days, I was looking forward to the finish today, especially feeling the way I did. But our group of "thoroughbreds" got it together and we really got moving. We even added a few new horses to the group (Bob from DC, Dan from Indiana, and Bill). We moved along nicely and before we knew it, we were here at the Holiday Inn in Ontario Oregon. Then, it was off to DQ, which was great because as soon as my stomach ache disappeared, it was replaced by ravenous hunger!

Also, today was a first in another way. At mile 52 of today's ride, we crossed into the Mountain time zone. Now I'm only 2 hours behind you guys. Only 2 more time zones to go!

I had a last minute entry into the bike naming contest –
"wonderboy"

Now it's on to the mail:

Jordy from Toronto writes
"I love your blog because it's so creative. Maybe you should consider a career in the field of advertising." No, I don't think I'd ever be any good at that Jordy. Maybe in another life.

Lauren and Samantha from Toronto write
"We miss you terribly. We think you are the greatest Dad, not only in this world, but throughout our galaxy. We actually don't know how we get through every day without you. Our hearts feel like they are missing their most important
piece - Y-O-U. How about Thunder Seat for your bike name?".
Thanks girls. I couldn't have said it better if I had typed that myself on my own laptop in room 146 in the Holiday Inn in Ontario Oregon.

Useful links for you:

Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:

http://www.americabybicycle.com/BAMA/BAMA/North/North.html

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride – very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog:

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Once, twice, three times a summit...







Day 6. John Day to Baker City Oregon.

With apologies to that crappy old Lionel Richie song, we had a big day today. Whew. This is hard. As in, hard. The ride started today at 6:20AM. I was never so happy to leave a motel behind. Last night's motel was the first genuine dump we stayed in so far. Unfortunately that is the only option in John Day Oregon for us, and John Day was the only spot of civilization between Prineville and Baker City. Good riddance John Day!

So far (knock on wood), the weather has been ideal. Clear skies, beautiful vistas, and favorable winds. Today was no different. However, it started heating up. That's OK, I don't mind the warmer weather at all. Just drink lots.

The ride today was over three separate 5,000 foot summits and was 80 miles long. After yesterday's marathon of 117 miles, today's "triple summit" was no walk in the park. The first summit was a 3,250 vertical foot climb over 22 miles (it topped out at 5,277 feet which is just 3 feet short of "mile-high"; that's why I am jumping the last 3 feet up – as if I had a 3 foot vertical leap) . Yikes. After an awesome descent (top speed 66.4 km/hour) we hit our second climb of 1,200 vertical feet over 7 miles. Then shortly thereafter we had our third climb of 1,000 vertical feet over 5 miles. Then a picnic lunch at a gorgeous lakeside rest area (see picture) After that, we had a 30 mile ride through a river canyon into headwinds at the end of the day.

The one thing I can tell you about this trip is, boy am I eating! I'm eating whatever I want and as much as I want any time I want. Aside from breakfast and lunch so far today I had blackberry cobbler and ice cream (at a rest stop at 9:30AM; believe me, it tasted better than it looks in this picture) and a root beer float at a cool old fashioned ice cream shoppe in this neat little town of Baker City. My Snickers count to date is 1, but that's only because the tour doesn't supply them at rest stops (they pretty much have everything else though) and there are basically no civilized outposts between towns out here. It is magnificent country though.

I guess even so-called "thorougbreds" get tired. I won't speak for Dave, Mark, Joe, or Jeff, but the last 10 miles into this town wore me out (I do think we're all tired today). I'm bagged for the first time this trip. My legs feel like stone and things aren't getting any less tender "down there", that's for sure. But we have another big day tomorrow to (of all places) Ontario, Oregon which is another 80 miles (like Toronto to Stayner). The thing I'm learning about myself is that even when you think you've hit your limit (like on the third climb today), somehow there's always something left in the tank. I can feel all of you pushing/pulling me. I'm just looking forward to the day off in Boise Idaho on Tuesday.

Oh yeah, and when I pulled into town here at 2PM today, I'd never been so happy to see a clean Best Western Hotel in my life!

On to today's mail:

Benji (via his Dad Kenny) from Toronto writes "I know you'll think this sounds funny, but I really don't want to go snowshoeing right now". Neither do I Benji, neither do I. But, I can't wait to go with you up at Alpine next winter!

Jess from New Jersey writes "Hi." Well, hi right back at you there Jess!

Sharon from Toronto writes "I am AWED! I can't believe I actually figured out how to get onto your blog (it's the first time I have ever looked at a blog, let alone added to it!!)
I'm also awed by you". Well Sharon, there's a first time for everything, including being awed by your old high school nemesis.

Useful links for you:

Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:

http://www.americabybicycle.com/BAMA/BAMA/North/North.html

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride – very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog:

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoroughbreds know how to move!



Day 5. Prineville to John Day Oregon. Thank you Kevin Raposo! Kevin is my trainer at The Cambridge Club who tortured me over the past 6 months with lunges and squats, squats and lunges. I hated every minute of it. Well, it all paid off today, let me tell you. Also, thanks go to Kimchan Ramrattan (one of the guys I've cycled with who helped me train for this, and who definitely should book this trip next year). Do it today. You won't regret it (do it with your son!)

We rode 117 miles today. We climbed 2 mountain passes with total climbing of over 5,000 vertical feet (Lipsons/Roses – that's one and a half Apsen Mountains!). Without a doubt, and by a mile, this was the hardest day of cycling in my life. The most I'd ever ridden before was 100 miles, but there was virtually no climbing the times I rode that distance. We climbed over 5,000 feet each of the past few days, but not combined with 117 miles of distance. The day started at 4:45AM. We loaded luggage into the truck at 5:15AM. Breakfast was at 5:30AM and we were on the road at 6:15AM. We started with a 30 mile climb over 2,500 vertical feet to Ochoco Pass (see picture). During the climb a bunch of us formed a paceline where somebody takes turns leading into the wind which makes it easier for everyone to "draft" and save energy (like NASCAR drivers do). One segment was led by 18 year old Alison. Check out Allison's picture wearing the Super Grover cycling shirt (the same one the Duchess owns!).

Then we had a 10 mile descent through the most magnificent High Alpine valley I've ever seen. Beyond breathtaking! When the settlers crossed through this part of Oregon, I can't imagine why anyone would have kept going after seeing this valley. Wide open, lush meadows. Stark peaks. Unreal.

Here's video from the top of the summit:


As I'm sitting here writing this, the whole day is becoming a blur. I'm trying to remember everything that happened. We were in the saddle for over 9 hours. After our cruise down the river valley, we had another 3,000 vertical foot climb over 6 miles (much steeper than the first). This one was tough, but we made it. When we went down the back side, we were treated to a 25 mile (that is almost from Toronto to Oakville) screaming descent at 50-60km/h through a river canyon out of the old West. I thought Butch and Sundance were going to jump out of the sagebrush and hold us up (or buy us a beer) at some point!

Then it was on to John Day over the last 40 miles. We caught a nice tailwind and even though Jeff had a blowout en route, we made it to the hotel in plenty of time.

The other riders are calling me, Jeff (Canadian Jeff from Connecticut), Joe (Atlanta Joe who, by the way told me today he was at Game 5 of the 1992 Braves/Jays World Series – the same game I was at that the Braves won on Lonnie Smith's HR), Dave, and Baltimore Mark "the Thoroughbreds".
I guess that's because we zip along together at a nice pace.

When you are on your bike a long time, like this, you do have time to think about stuff. I guess today I was thinking about what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it. I'm not talking about being something completely unrealistic like a major league baseball player when you don't have natural talent. But anyone who can ride a bike and has the fortitude to do it can accomplish this ride. Some take longer than others, but it's possible. I mean who would have thought that you could get an amazing summer internship or full-time job at a prestigious management consulting firm at the age of 21, or be a walk-on on an NCAA softball team. Or for that matter, crush your college aptitude test, be a professional musician, train to be a fighter pilot, open your own newspaper, or build a uniform business. How about opening a clothing business in the height of a recession, running a marathon, holding fundraising events for a lost brother, or holding down the fort when one's boss goes on a 2 month-long bike ride? All these were done by people I know, and they were done simply because they willed themselves to do it. I never thought I could do this ride, no matter how hard I trained. But, here I am, doing it. It's far from over, but I am surprising myself everyday. If I can surprise myself, why can't everybody else?

On to today's mail:

Esther from Toronto writes "how about The Prince of Rides or Queasy Rider as your bike name?" I love the Barbra Streisand (for my Duchess) and Dennis Hopper references!

Eric from Toronto writes "I think you'll be under 7 and a half pounds lost during your ride". Not after what I ate today, even with all the riding. I ate like a teenage boy after hockey practice today.

Useful links for you:

Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:

http://www.americabybicycle.com/BAMA/BAMA/North/North.html

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride – very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog:

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Me and my NBFs


Day 4. Kah-nee-ta to Prineville Oregon. Another beautiful day here in Western/Central Oregon. Scenery today was much like yesterday with desert scrub giving way to cultivated fields and beautiful vistas of rolling hills, rivers, canyons, and mountains. After a while you get a bit desensitized to it all, despite it's beauty. We had a good 100 km ride today. Jeff, Mark, Dave, and I were joined by Joe who recently retired as CFO of BBDO Atlanta (yes, he knows Frascione, and yes he "knows" Frascione, if you know what I mean Karen - also for my running friends, Joe has run a 100 mile ultra-marathon before). The people on this trip are unreal.

We decided to take it easy today (a bit) because we have a daunting mountainous 200km ride tomorrow that is intimidating all of us. Not one of us in the group has ever done this kind of mileage before, let alone with 5,000 feet of climbing. I'll bet we don't get to the motel much before 6PM (even with a 5:30AM start). The most I've done is 160km, but it wasn't over the Cascade Range (unless somebody thinks the Niagara Escarpment is a "range").

So, why did I title this blog post "Me and my NBFs"? Well, around our house, we use the term NBF to connote "new best friend". I know that over the years I have made fun of both my daughters and my wife for spending time with their NBFs, whether they were new or not. But what an interesting group. These are my NBFs!

There are my riding mates (Jeff - a computer guy for IBM, Mark - a tech guy with Northrup Grumman, and Dave - a retired Ford Finance guy). At breakfast today I sat with Carl and Gayle from Duluth. At dinner last night I sat with Margot and Gary Weinstein from Connecticut. Gary and Margot have 3 children including a high functioning autistic child. For those of you who've been to Aspen before, Gary is a minority owner in Il Molino, that fabulous Italian restaurant we ate at that opened last year. I thought that was cool.

There's also Ellen, a retired Postal worker from Maine. There's Kay and Jay from Arkansas, who are riding and seeing their 18 year old niece Alison off on this trip. Then there's Katie, an assistant at Martha Stewart Media who is one of the most determined persons I've met (an outstanding writer, Katie writes a blog you could cry over - see link below). It's too bad she doesn't live in Toronto, I'd ask Jill or Karen to interview her. On the second day of the trip, Sandy (see below) heard that Katie had the wrong gearing for a trip like this and that Katie had spent all her savings just to get her and her bike here (imagine a car only having a third or fourth gear - you could never get it going). Immediately Sandy got a bunch of us together, and with some contributions and the help of tour mechanic Jim, Katie got her gearing right. "Giving Katie the gears" is what we'd call it if Due North had this pro bono assignment!

There's Sandy and her friend Leo. Big Don from Oregon. Texas Tom, Bruno and Daniel from Switzerland, Ian from the UK, and lots of others that I'll tell you more about as the days roll on. The only thing we have in common (at least now) is this ride. But boy is that enough. Based on the chatter and easy mixing of the group, you'd have thought we'd known each other for years. I've been to Bar Mitzvahs and weddings where people who were family didn't seem as close as this group seems in less than a week.

Now on to my mail.

Kenny, from Toronto writes: "My mom Minky has a name for your bike. How about "for sale"? Thanks Kenny, but while I laughed my ass off at the thought, I'll keep on searching for a name.

Irwin from Toronto was inspired by the" Leg-a-sea" name suggestion and writes "how about The Spirit of Lara" as a bike name?" That is pretty good, Dad.

Jo-Ann from Toronto writes "Did you hear about the earthquake?" Yes, I did, but I didn't know that the Duchess' snoring could have that kind of a seismic impact.

Erin from Toronto writes "I'm enjoying your adventures without having to do the biking myself". That's kind of like me enjoying your upcoming trip to Greece without having to do the shopping myself.

The Vancer from Thunder Bay writes (when told his bike name suggestion lacked creativity) "I'm a lawyer/mediator, not a creative guy". Truer words have never been spoken.

Lastly, my wise-ass son Adam from, well, New York now, writes "Here are some names for your bike – "nutcracker", "hemorrhoid maker", or even "Muriel" (after Granny). How about "TBOB - the bike of bikes?"

I am going with one of these three. It's either "The Spirit of Lara" or "TBOB" (the bike of bikes), or "Leg-a-sea". Hey Kaufman clan – what do you think? Kailee, Nicole, Russell – let's hear from you! Lara – how are you doing?

As promised, here are a few links from other riders blogs.

This link is data from Jeff's bike computer showing stats from today's ride -very cool:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/38042514

This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:

http://marksrideacrossamerica.blogspot.com/

And this is Katie's blog (why isn't this girl writing for Martha Stewart?)

http://blog-by-bike.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is how we roll



Day 3. Welches to Kah-nee-ta Oregon. Before I review what we did today (and we did a lot), I can't help but refer back to a conversation I had with my father before I left. We were talking about whether or not this trip I'm taking would in any way relate to his experiences during WWII, when he was a fighter pilot for the USAF. At first, he didn't seem to think there might be a connection, but as we talked, he suggested that the notion of people bonding during a common cause might be a connection between his experiences (in the past) and mine (still to come). The big difference between us is that no enemy is shooting bullets at me.

Well, as is often, but not always the case (because my Mom is right a lot of the time too!), my Dad was spot-on with respect to this. I am amazed at the speed at which we, as a group, are coming together. I've only known these people for 4 days, but I feel like I've known them a lot longer than that. There must be something about the singularity of what we're trying to do (bike from coast to coast) that brings everything into focus. We all have this in common, right now, and if we are fortunate enough to finish, we'll have this in common until the day we die.

It's funny that the notion of singularity is what has surprised me so far. After all, as most of you know, I've been in advertising my whole career. We constantly preach being single-minded to our clients when we discuss strategy and creative with them. When our Creative Director Karen Howe tries to explain that, she uses the "throwing ball" analogy. If I throw one ball to you, you'll likely catch it, right? If I throw 3 balls at you, you'll likely drop 1. As I pound out the miles, I am struck by how single-minded this pursuit is. It's too bad we can't all be so single-minded in our day-to-day lives. I'm very fortunate to have the support of my family (go Duchess!) and everyone at Due North (go Jill!) or else I couldn't pursue this dream. Thanks!

On to today's ride. WOW! As in WOW! Today we left Welches and skirted the side of very impressive Mount Hood. This is a massive mountain and a very tough 13 mile climb of over 3,000 feet of vertical. It's like riding a bike up Aspen Highlands (that one is for Lauren, Sam, Adam, the Lipsons, the Roses, and The Vancer). Then we had a rapid descent through spectacular scenery. Alpine forests, waterfalls, huge valleys, flowers. Just incredible. Here's video of the climb:


The rest of the day was a series of climbs and descents around Mount Hood. I was feeling a bit tired by the last 10 miles or so. Today's ride was 65 miles, and we had over 5,000 feet of climbing.

What's amazing is that when you get on the east side of Mount Hood, the terrain changes from Alpine green and verdant to desert scrub. After the top, my riding mate Dave from Ann Arbor pointed out a coyote and wild horses running across the brush. It seemed like we kept climbing until we came to a bend in the road, where the more scrubby of these 2 pictures was taken. We then had a 1,200 vertical foot descent of around 9 miles that was, in the words of my kids "off the chain". Hairpin turns up around buttes and mesas, roaring down through canyons, all at 55 km/hour+. I looked over at my riding pal Mark (from Baltimore) and we just smiled at each other. It looked like the cavalry was going to come over the bluff any second. I wanted to take pictures, but there was no way I was going to stop. We're now at the Central Oregon miniature version of Casino Rama (it's the only place to stay within 50 miles it seems). Here's video of the bottom of the descent:


Now, on to yesterday's blog comments. I got a number of suggestions for my bike. My Dad suggested a number of names including Ducherina. My wife's cousin Shawna suggested both Lara's legacy and the even more clever "leg-a-sea". The Vancer suggested "bend, not break/brake", which while of noble intent, is not a very easy-to-grab handle for a bike. From my office, Dee suggested "the bart". I'm liking "leg-a-sea" (sorry Dad!). What do you think?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I hadn't read my blog comments when I wrote about the pool!!


To my loyal readers. Sorry – I hadn't read the comments on the weight loss pool. From my office, Dan, Dee's husband Wayne (honorary Due Norther), and Pat say over 7.5. Dee and Rob say under. I think the unders are right, but what do I know? Keep posting comments. I am reading them! Here's a photo of me taken today to let you know how it's going, diet-wise.

I've got a new nickname on this trip...






Day 2. St. Helens to Welches Oregon. Well, I don't have a nickname on this trip (yet), but if I were to have one, it would be "Mr. flat tire". I got my second flat tire in as many days. Thanks to my trusty riding mates Jeff and Mark, assisted by Dave and John, I was back on the road in no time. I still am not confident fixing a flat, but given my "flat-a-day habit", I'll need to get better, and quickly.

Today was, in a word, incredible. I'm riding my bike across the country!!!!

We started in the somewhat depressing (to me anyway) town of St. Helens Oregon. It was cloudy and gray, but dry. Very little wind at all. Our group included Jeff from Connecticut (I'll call him"AAA" , as in Auto Club, due to his roadside assistance), Mark from Baltimore (whose wife Karen says he and I are like long lost brothers, given the contents of each of our blogs), Dave (a retired Ford Finance guy who lives in Ann Arbor, and whose parents live in Hamilton NY – Colgate University), and John from Ohio (John owns a pizza franchise just outside of Cleveland). John ended up riding with some other guys for portions of the day.

By the way, I forgot to mention that nobody is allowed to wear earphones and listen to music while they ride (safety reasons). I must have spent hours setting up playlists for my iPhone to listen to for this trip to no avail. C'est la vie.

Yesterday's route, which was not overly scenic, took us down a busy logging road where massive logging trucks filled with cedar trees whizzed by at 60 MPH. The only benefit was the incredible smell of fresh cedar as the trucks roared by. Today, our route paralleled the Columbia River to Portland. Portland – not so scenic. In fact, not scenic at all. We wound our way through a park system of bike paths (OK, kind of pretty) until we exited the Portland area and made our way into the countryside. Before we left Portland though, we stopped on the bridge going into Portland that spans the massive Columbia River for a picture of me, Dave, Mark, and Jeff.

Once in the countryside though, the views became tremendous (that's Mount Hood). We stopped in the town of Sandy Oregon for lunch at this cool truly "Americana" roadside burger joint called Calamity Jane's. I didn't eat a burger, but I had the greatest milk shake in recorded history (milk shake division). We stopped several times today to take pictures of breathtaking scenery.

Have I mentioned I'm riding my bike across the country!!!!!

OK, we have 3 entrants in the "how much weight will Mark lose" pool. Ira Pamnani, my old Media Director now living in California, says I'll lose more than 7.5 lbs. My Dad says under (like 3 lbs). My friend Jeff Citron says "over" and he's good at pools, so I'd think about going with him. Remember, there's still time to enter this pool (like weeks, actually).

Today, I'll ask my loyal readers to help me with another issue. I think it's time to name my bike. The obvious name, of course to those who know me, would be "The Duchess". But not only is that too easy, it conjures up phrases and images I don't think are too good. Can anyone help me here??