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TransAmerica Bike Trip 2017 / Days 17 - 37 / Berea, KY to Breckenridge, CO / 1576.2 Miles

Foreword

This leg of the trip involved higher mileage days, far fewer rest days, and much less scenery. My daily average (including rest days) nearly doubled from 46.7 miles per day to 83 miles per day. I was very eager to get to the mountains, and did not particularly want to spend a lot of time in Kansas. As such, I did a lot less picture taking and writing, and devoted any hours where I had energy left after riding to working, as it had been tough to keep up with things in KY where I had very sporadic/sketchy cell reception. I tried to piece together the days as best I could and tried to remember to take notes of anything interesting.

By Berea I had sent nearly half my set-up home (or out to Oregon to pick up when I got there). Got rid of the 2 large rear panniers and a whole lot of stuff with them. By this point I was down to one set of bike clothes, one set of off bike clothes, and minimal camping setup/toiletries. Still held on to the camera and laptop of course which added a good bit of weight, but never considered ditching these.


Day 17

Berea, KY to Springfield, KY / 78 miles

The scenery in Berea very much set the tone for the rest of Kentucky. Had a great day of riding...rolling hills through farmland. Kind of reminded me of riding in Lancaster (PA). Got to Springfield pretty early in the afternoon, scoped out the Idle Hour park/pavilion where I planned to stay that night, then went into town and had a beer/lunch at Mordecai's and worked for a while. Charlie, another westbound TransAm rider, showed up a bit later. We had a beer then he went to check out the park. We met up at Pizza Hut for dinner then headed back to the park to set up camp. We were happy to see Matt had showed up at the park in the meantime and was camping there that night. I had some cell reception there, so I worked for another few hours, probably until 10pm or so. Overall a pretty mellow day, especially compared to the tougher riding in eastern Kentucky.


Day 18

Springfield, KY to Constantine, KY / 77.8 miles

We all got up and rolled out around the same time, but went our separate ways pretty shortly after. Matt had mentioned wanting to go into town, and I had planned to do a bit of a longer day than Charlie wanted to do. Charlie and I grabbed breakfast at the supermarket next to the park then headed out. Overcast pretty much all day, then a downpour in the afternoon and evening. Rode past the Makers Mark distillery but it was early in the morning and closed. I took cover out front of a defunct convenience store that supposedly allowed cyclists to camp outside. I saw a light on inside and knocked a few times but nobody answered. I set up my tent on the porch and got in to get out of the rain. Planned out the next few days and binge watched season 2 of Master of None that I had downloaded because I had pretty poor service. A few hours later a guy parked his car out front of the porch where my tent was set up, walked into the store, and brought someone out with him. He said something about the bathrooms not working and asked if I was ok out front. I said I was, and he drove off.


Day 19

Constantine, KY to Utica, KY / 67.9 miles

Overcast morning then beautiful rest of the day. Mellow riding. Took a mid afternoon nap on the side of the road. Got into Utica and slept at a volunteer fire department that leaves their doors open for touring cyclists. I hung my stuff out to dry from the night before and relaxed for a bit before going to sleep. Saw some familiar names in the guest book. Planned out the next day's detour into Evansville, IN.


Day 20

Utica, KY to Evansville, IN / 56.9 miles

Took a detour up into Indiana to visit the McMahons! Went up into Owensboro where I stopped for some bike repairs. Drivetrain needed a really thorough cleaning and also there had been some phantom shifting and clicking going on recently so I wanted to get my cassette and derailleur cables checked out. I hung out for a bit in a Starbucks while I waited for the bike shop to open. Met a couple cool people....Steve (very active runner and cyclist) and Heather, who works for Liv bikes and gave me a mystery pouch of super athletic food of some kind that she says was the only thing she ate during her first Ironman! Went to the bike shop, got a new chain and got everything cleaned out and headed on to Evansville. Unfortunately the issues came back, so when I got to Evansville I ended up just getting a new cassette at a bike shop there. While I was riding through Evansville, a guy pulled over to talk to me from his car. His name was Jake and he said that he didn't see a whole lot of touring cyclists come through so he figured he'd say hello. He had done a bit of the TransAm in the past and was getting ready to leave on a trip to Thailand. While my bike was in the shop in Evansville, I got a haircut. Continued on to the McMahons. When I got there they had an amazing smelling dinner ready, and immediately showed me where the shower and bed was :) Had a great time hanging out with them. Mrs. McMahon showed me the weather forecast for the next day, which involved hail and tornado warnings. I figured I'd check the weather again in the morning then decide. Video chatted with my Dad and Susanne for a bit, then took one of the best showers ever (their shower head is amazing) and passed out pretty early.


Day 21

Evansville, IN to Marion, IL / 74.6 miles

Got up and had an early breakfast at the McMahons involving lots of eggs, bacon, coffee and orange juice. Rode on a pretty busy road into IL for a while. Beautiful weather in the morning, and the forecast said that the craziness wasn't supposed to start until 8am or so. I planned to be in Marion well before then. Around 4pm, as I was on the side of the interstate, the storm clouds rolled in. A fairly hard rain started, and a couple driving a pick up truck pulled over and asked if I wanted a ride. I said that I was only a few miles from where I was going and that I should be fine, and thanked them for stopping. They drove off. and about 5 minutes later the sky unleashed...I couldn't pedal the bike forward, was getting blown sideways into the road and the rain was coming down as hard as any storm I had ever seen before. I got off my bike and started pushing it forward and stuck my thumb out. There was nowhere to take cover and I was worried about things getting worse/it turning into hail/etc. About 30 seconds later a pickup truck pulled over and a man named Jerry got out and helped me load my bike into the back of his truck. He was incredibly nice, and drove me to an Econolodge in Marion. I got him a beer at a bar across the street and we talked for a bit before he headed home. I hung out in a Starbucks nearby for a bit then went back and checked in at the Econolodge. The rain died down, and I debated continuing on, but decided to play it safe. Very glad I did because it started right back up about an hour later. Video chatted with the family...was really great to see them all. Got a little homesick after the call. Got ready for the next day and went to bed.


Day 22

Marion, IL to Chester, IL / 61.9 miles

Left Marion and headed down the road a bit to Carbondale, where I hung out in a coffee shop for a bit because there was a crazy headwind. Drank a LAVENDER LATTE which was delicious. Headed on to Chester. Fairly uneventful day, got in to the Fraternal Order of the Eagle hostel pretty early, where I ran into Holly again! I met Holly in Afton and she had decided to rent a car and do some specific stretches of the ride, and I doubted I'd run into her again. I took a shower then we hung out at the bar for a bit. Later on, 2 guys with American flag jerseys rolled up. They introduced themselves as Jordan and Lincoln. I was amazed to finally meet them...I had seen their names in guest books and heard about the infamous Freedom Tour but they had consistently been a few days ahead. We all went out for Mexican and drank tequila and had a good ol' time. Came back to the hostel where I tried to sleep then ended up just pitching a tent outside because it was pretty cramped.


Day 23

Chester, IL to Middle Brook, MO / 78.2 miles

Saw a marker on the map that had a beer mug icon and a tent icon, which seemed like a good objective to get to for the day. Crossed the Mississippi river into Missouri. Other than that fairly uneventful day, got to the beer mug which ended up being a closed bar on a pretty remote road. Nobody was there at the campground either so I just set up a tent. There was a really cool broken down car across the street with a tree growing out of it. Rinsed of in a nearby river then hung out and cooked some dinner aka instant mashed potatoes. Jordan and Lincoln showed up a bit later. Had some Jack Daniels while Lincoln worked on troubleshooting his tire. He had gotten a ton of flats in the past few days. There was a wild old truck across the street with a tree growing out of it.


Day 24

Middle Brook, MO to Summersville, MO / 77.2 miles

Big climbing day in the Ozarks (and pretty hot). Finally caught up with "The Brits" (Chris, Laura and Steve) and Brian who I had heard about several times along the way. Rode with them for a bit. Ran out of water at one point and had to ask someone out front of their house if I could fill up from a hose. I hung out at a McDonalds and worked for a bit in Eminence, then continued on to Summersville. Went for a swim in a river with Jordan and Lincoln then climbed up a fire tower and hung out there for a bit. I rode up ahead a bit and stayed at a little motel connected to a church called the Country Inn. I couldn't find anyone there, so I went to a convenience store. The cashier there happened to know the owner and her daughter and called them....they gave me instructions over the phone and I got in and went to bed pretty early.

Day 25

Summersville, MO to Hartville, MO / 61.1 miles

Fairly uneventful riding. Hung out at a Subway for a little. Camped on the lawn out front of City Hall. Had some bummer personal things happen during the day so I drank a bunch of beer and decided to do a long day the next day to get my mind off things.

Day 26

Hartville, MO to Pittsburg, KS / 143.2 miles

Got an early start to push into Kansas. Stopped in Golden City and had some awesome food at Cooky's. Rain cloud followed me from there into KS. Very weird because sunny on either side and ahead. Got into Pittsburg just as the bike shop was closing. I had ordered a new sleeping pad and pillow and had them shipped there. Picked them up and camped at an RV park in town.

Day 27

Pittsburg, KS / Rest Day

Had tasty pancakes eggs and bacon at Harry's Cafe. Dropped my bike off at the shop to get new derailleur cables. They gave me a loaner bike which was great. Did some laundry and worked for a while in a coffee shop. The Brits, Jordan and Lincoln all showed up in the afternoon. They did some work on their bikes then we went out for some beer then headed back to the RV park where we all camped. I had planned to do 100mi the next day, the Brits planned to do a shorter day, and Jordan and Lincoln had planned to hitchhike across Kansas because they had a deadline to hit, so we all figured we wouldn't see each other again. We had a good time at the bar and stayed up a bit at the campsite hanging out.

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Day 28

Pittsburg, KS to Toronto Lake, KS / 99.4 miles

Long but fairly easy day to Toronto Lake. Light rain throughout the early evening up until sunset. There was a little bit of a climb just before the lake. A guy driving a pickup truck stopped at the top of the climb, got out, flagged me down, and handed me a can of Cherry Pepsi. He introduced himself as James. He was very nice. We talked for a minute while I drank the Pepsi, then parted ways. Set up my tent in the rain at the Toronto lake campground, then took a shower in the bath house there. Was stuck in the tent for a couple hours during the rain, so I planned out my next few days. The rain stopped a bit right around sunset and I was able to walk down and check out the lake. Apparently I didn't take any pictures today.

Day 29

Toronto Lake, KS to Newton, KS / 98.4 miles

Packed up in a drizzle and rode up the road a bit to a cafe/gas station called Lizard Lips. I walked in and one of the owners asked if I wanted a riding companion. I said that would be wonderful and he handed me a small plastic lizard. I named him Dimitri and he hung out in my map holder. I sat there eating breakfast for a few minutes. To my surprise, The Brits showed up about 15 minutes later, then Jordan and Lincoln showed up another 15 minutes after that! They hadn't made much progress hitchhiking, and The Brits had gotten a very early start because of a bad experience the night before at the place they were staying. Something about conspiracy theories and a large DVD collection. We all hung out for a minute then I headed on as I had planned to get into Newton that day and the others were unsure yet of their plans. I met really nice couple, Mike and Timi, in Cassoday. They said they planned to get into Newton that night as well. I got into Newton just before a storm started and got checked in at the hostel, which was extremely nice. Talked to the owners Heather and James for a little bit, showered, and drank some beer. Everyone else rolled in a bit later. We all hung out chatting and drinking beer for a bit, then went out for some Mexican. The Newton bike shop is pretty well known amongst Trans Am riders. They have a really nice hostel and were featured in the documentary on Netflix "Inspired to Ride." I found signatures on the wall from friends who had done the Trans Am before me...Mike, Lee and Kevin. Really cool feeling to find this history in a tiny town in KS. Rejuvenated my stoke for the rest of the ride. Newton is also just shy of halfway on the Trans Am.

Day 30

Newton, KS to Sterling, KS / 60.2 miles

Planned to do a longer day but ended up cutting the day short because I killed a few hours mid-day working in Buhler. Decided to go all in and make it a full work day so finished in Sterling and worked for a while in a motel there. Also it had been really hot during the day and I got drained pretty quick.

Day 31

Sterling, KS to Larned, KS / 53.6 miles

Worst riding day of the trip so far. Crappy/rough slightly uphill roads all the way through the Quivira national wildlife refuge with a headwind. Also couldn't stop and rest because would get swarmed with flies. Made very little progress the first part of the day and was really frustrated/starting to lose confidence because of the 2 short days. Got to Larned and called it a day, felt discouraged about having to endure more of this for the rest of Kansas. I checked out the city park there and took a shower at the pool. Went into town and worked at a cafe for a couple hours. Eventually the Brits and Brian showed up. We all went back to the city park together, set up our tents and got ready for bed. The Brits mentioned getting up pre-sunrise for the next few days and doing 100+ mile days to get out of Kansas. We agreed to ride together as long as we could. Definitely came at a good time for me personally after the discouraging past couple days. Looked forward to riding with them and figured some teamwork would equal less painful days and getting out of there more quickly.

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Day 32

Larned, KS to Scott City, KS / 119.2 miles

Got up at 4am and were on the road by 5. Sunrise was beautiful. for about 30 minutes while the sun was coming up, Kansas wasn't so bad :) We did it peloton style, traded off leading. It was great getting to know Steve Chris and Laura and talking to them while riding. Made the miles pass quickly. We took quick stops every 15 miles or so rather than any big ones throughout the day. We got into Scott City fairly early on and went to a guy named Josh's house, where we were staying. He was a fairly new Warmshowers host and a pilot. He lived on the airport. Super nice guy. I went into town for a bit with Steve and worked at a Subway. Talked on the phone with my Dad and Susanne for a bit. Was really nice to hear from them. Got back to Josh's house and ate some burgers and hung out. He sold me on getting my pilots license. Added to the list :) Brits set up sleeping pads on the floor inside, I set up a tent outside because it was cooler. Electrical storm rolled in in the middle of the night. Concerned the wind may pick up/turn into a tornado or something, I grabbed my stuff and went inside.

Day 33

Scott City, KS to Eads, CO / 104.6 miles

Got into Colorado!! This was an exciting moment for me. I had been looking forward the whole trip to getting to the west/the mountains, and finally getting out of Kansas was a big milestone in my trip. Got swarmed with flies while taking a picture by the "Welcome to Colorado" sign...Steve only got a picture of himself running away. We got into Eads pretty early. It was really hot and we heard the mosquitos in the city park were supposed to be pretty bad. I suggested we just split a motel room because it was super cheap and then we'd have a shower and not have to worry about the insects/etc. and we would have A/C. We checked in, grabbed dinner at a diner nearby, then passed out very early. I woke back up at 9pm because it was super hot in our motel room despite having the A/C on. I opened the door and left it open the rest of the night.

Day 34

Eads, CO to Pueblo, CO / 111.4 miles

Another 4am wake up, but felt pretty refreshed after the motel. We started out the day in a very spooky/thick fog for 15 miles. The road we were on didn't have much of a shoulder, and we were concerned about cars not being able to see us. We kept our ears sharp (specifically Laura) and whenever she thought she heard a car we bailed out immediately into the grass on the side of the road. While the safest option, this made the first part of the day go pretty slow. Got into Pueblo early afternoon. The Brits had a Warmshowers and I got a hotel room so I could get some work done. Hung out at the hotel bar for a bit then went to another bar nearby for dinner. Very relieved to be out of the flat of KS and so excited for the mountains!!

Day 35

Pueblo, CO to Royal Gorge, CO / 59.7 miles

One of the most memorable days of the entire trip. Had a huge smile on my face for most of the day. Will never forget rolling out of Pueblo and seeing the Rockies pop up on the horizon for the first time. The toughness of KS, KY, etc instantly disappeared from my mind. Got lunch at a cafe in Florence, then rode to Cañon City. Did some laundry and bike maintenance outside the laundromat. Had planned to stop there for the day but was having such a great time riding that I continued on to Royal Gorge. Stayed at Prospect campground. The owner, Danny, gave me some chicken that his mom had made. Had an amazing view from my camp site. Cool, dry mountain air and the first night of the trip without the rainfly up on the tent. One of the best sleeps I had in a while.

Day 36

Royal Gorge, CO to Hartsel, CO / 49.6 miles

Got up early and discovered none of the water was working at the campground. Didn't have any and was a bit worried....got about 15 miles into the ride and was feeling a bit dehydrated (today was all uphill....>4k ft of climbing in <50 miles) and flagged down a truck who happened to have a water bottle. Riding was gorgeous. Barely looked down at the Garmin at all. It felt like each climb I went over a new set of snow-capped peaks appeared on the horizon. Such a good day. At the top of one climb there was a guy named Paul sitting outside a pickup truck with waters and gatorades. He offered me one which I gladly accepted, but was slightly confused. Thought maybe he was handing them out to the racers, so I asked how much I owed him. He said I didn't owe him anything and explained he was a friend of a guy on the TransAm who was just a little bit behind me and was his support car for the next few days. Got into Hartsel early, set up my tent behind a barn that looked like it hadn't been occupied in a while. Hung out in the cafe, and a whole crew of other riders showed up, including Paul with the support car. The crew consisted of Jim, Keith (Old Timer), Frederik and Ekaterina, Patrick and Bobby. A bunch of Jim's friends stopped by and hung out as well. We exchanged stories from the past month of riding and watched the sun set over the Rockies. We all decided to ride over Hoosier Pass together because another TransAm rider, Jay, had gotten hit by a car going over the pass and really badly hurt (fractured vertebrae, punctured lung, among other things) and was in the hospital. Also the roads and drivers in this area were notoriously bad in general.

Day 37

Hartsel, CO to Breckenridge, CO / 42.3 miles

Crazy day. I had booked bus tickets from Frisco into Denver for a week of climbing and such before continuing cross country. My plan was to get over Hoosier Pass, print out tickets in Breck, then head on to Frisco and catch the bus in time for some dinner/drink plans I had in Denver. Roads up through Fairplay and Alma were pretty crappy....little/no shoulder and terrible drivers. Other than a few close calls made it through without incident. Talked to Frederik for a while, who was working in academia doing some really interesting computer-vision related machine learning work. We chatted as much as we could but then had to stay single file for the rest of the day going up over the pass. Ride up the pass was beautiful. Could see a bunch of peaks in the ten mile range. Crystal clear, cool day made the climb go by quick. We hung out and had sandwiches at the top of the pass. I went on ahead so I could make sure to get my tickets printed out and get to Frisco in time. Enjoyed the long coast downhill into Breck. Printed out tickets, then went back to Marmot and bought a new rain shell along with some off-bike clothes to wear in Denver. Hung out at the brewery for a bit, then continued on to Frisco. Was riding on Main Street in Breck in the bike lane and a shuttle bus side-swiped me, knocking me off the bike and wrecking the front wheel. We yelled at each other for a minute before he drove off. I got a photo of his tags and called the police and the lodge that owned the shuttle bus. The general manager drove out and the police arrived. I explained that I needed to get to Frisco to catch my bus, and Josh drove me there. We dropped my bike off at the shop there, then I walked over to the bus station, probably looking pretty rough (hadn't cleaned up any of the scrapes or anything so a bunch of blood on right arm and leg). Waited at the Greyhound station for 2 hours and the bus never showed up, nor could Greyhound give us any idea of when it would show up or where it was. I suggested that the 5 of us waiting for the bus just split an Uber into Denver. Everyone was pretty fed up and agreed. Got into Denver and checked in at my Airbnb, dropped off my stuff, took a shower, then went out for the night. Many beers were needed and consumed.

TransAmerica Bike Trip 2017 / Days 1 - 16 / Mt. Airy, MD to Berea, KY / 747.2 miles

Day 1

Mt. Airy, MD to Front Royal, VA / 94.8 miles

Day 1, while long, was pretty uneventful. Had a big egg sammy breakfast at home then said bye to my dad and Susanne and was on the road by 6:30am. Intermittent rain during the morning but really nice riding through Maryland and into VA. The climb up Mt. Weather was a good preview of the long, steep climbs that the next few days on Skyline Drive had in store. Rode past 20 or so road bikers throughout the course of the day, waved to all of them, and maybe 2 or 3 waved back. Lame.

I got to Front Royal around 5pm, had an awesome burger and some beers at Pavemint, then rode the remaining 3 miles to Mountain Home, where I stayed that night. Mountain Home was great. Sean and Lisa, the owners, were really nice and made an awesome breakfast the next morning. I shared a room with Adele, a long term tenant, and Mick, a German AT hiker. Stretched a bunch then passed out pretty early after taking care of some work. Overall a pretty nice day but shouldn't have done 95mi right out of the gate...especially with the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway climbs coming over the next couple days.


Day 2

Front Royal, VA to Big Meadows (Skyline Drive, VA) / 57 miles

The second day kicked my ass. Woke up sore from the long first day then struggled through ~7,000ft of climbing over 57mi. I moved really slow and was pretty bummed at the end of the day. The campground I stayed at was awesome though and felt pretty rejuvenated mentally the next morning (but definitely not physically). Even after shipping a few things home my bike was still pretty heavy with my laptop and camera and I was discouraged because of my pace.

The views on Skyline Drive were very picturesque and awesome, but definitely got a little monotonous after the first 5 overlooks. I rode with a guy named Larry for a while who was on a 5 week "bicycle vacation". He had a camper and was just driving around the eastern part of the country biking wherever he felt like it. I made it to Big Meadows campground around 6:30pm, set up camp, ate and crashed. It got down to 35 degrees at night...was glad to have some warm stuff with me.


Day 3

Big Meadows (Skyline Drive, VA) to Afton, VA / 56.8 Miles

Today was much mellower terrain. Generally downhill. Still moving kinda slow with the heavy rig. Need to ditch some more stuff. The descent at the end of Skyline Drive leading into Afton was so awesome. On Skyline Drive at one of the rest stops I met 2 ladies named Patti and Linda...they were both super nice and we talked for a while. Linda said she was from Maine and that her and her husband did the Southern Tier trail a while ago and only had 1 day of rain! She also bought me a blackberry milkshake that was so insanely good!

I got to the "Cookie Lady"/bike house in the early evening, where another cyclist was already hanging out. Her name is Holly and she's from York, England. She came over to the states to do the TransAmerica trail on sabbatical from her job. We talked for a while, made some dinner, and crashed. Here's a link to her blog for anyone interested: http://hollyaread.blogspot.com. The bike house is so cool...June Curry (the "cookie lady") hosted over 14,000 touring cyclists on the TransAmerica trail over the years. It was really cool to see all the things people had left behind (the walls were covered with postcards) as well as be part of the story!


Day 4

Afton, VA to Lexington, VA / 55.1 Miles

The first 15 miles of this were long and steep on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but pretty uneventful. Listened to an audio book (The Will to Climb by Ed Viesturs) to help pass the time on some of the slow/long/monotonous climbs. The scenery was beautiful going through the mountains. I passed Holly at the Humpback Rock visitor's center and said hello, then kept on. Also passed a guy named Skip who I talked to for a minute. He said he was 70 but looked waaay younger. He was bike touring the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. He said everything was "back asswards" and that he wishes he had bike toured when he was younger.

The Rt. 56 descent down into Vesuvius, VA was crazy. Very steep and windy with lots of blind corners. I made it to Vesuvius with no water or snacks left, and was pretty desperate for both, so I went to Gertie's (a convenience store recommended by the lady at the post office, the only thing that was open in town). Gertie's was closed, so I went back to the post office, got some water from their sink (which was pretty gross according to the lady there) and used that to make my last bag of instant mashed potatoes. Rt. 608 from Vesuvius to Buena Bista is pretty much all downhill so I gunned it there. Stopped at Mallard Duck campground to refill water. At the gas station where rt. 608 meets rt. 631 I met 2 guys, Neal and Sean, who were trying to do the TransAmerica trail in 20 days. Pretty amazing. This rejuvenated me and got me psyched to keep going (had been in a bit of a mental rut). Gunned it the next 10mi to Lexington.

I checked into the Econolodge in Lexington. Needed to catch up on some work and was pretty physically and mentally beat from the first leg of the trip/wasn't quite feeling it yet so hoped the bed/shower combo plus a rest day would get me more pumped. I showered and took a cab into town and worked for a while/ate and drank at Rocca, an awesome italian restaurant, on their roof deck. I befriended the hostess, Maureen at the hotel, who proceeded to buy me chicken nuggets and fries from Cookout in Oprah fashion (saying "YOU GET FRENCH FRIES and YOU GET FRENCH FRIES" to the other employees at the hotel she ordered for). Went back to the hotel and slept for a long time.


Day 5

Lexington, VA / Rest Day

I went to a cool coffee shop in Lexington called Lexington Coffee and worked there all day. Walked from there to Kroger and got food for the next couple nights. Went to Southern Inn restaurant for dinner. Sat next to a couple at the bar Jim and Maryann who were from Louisville KY and going to a wedding in Charlottesville. Both very nice and intrigued by the bike journey. My cab driver Eric is from Buena Vista and recommended the Jamaican place there (more just a personal note to remember to check it out if I'm ever back in Buena Vista)


Day 6

Lexington, VA to Catawba, VA / 72.6 Miles

Weather was pretty bummer. Cold, windy, and rain all day. My rain shell/all clothes were totally soaked through by the end of the day. The actual terrain/riding was pretty mellow though so was able to move kinda quick. About halfway through the day I stopped at a convenience store called Mama D's and got 2 hotdogs and a coffee for $3. Sufficient energy for the rest of the day. I got to Four Pines hostel and Joe said it was full, but that I could sleep in the barn in front if I wanted to. I started to set up my sleeping pad in there, but then walked into the hostel to go to the bathroom. I decided I'd rather squeeze in there on the floor and be warm than sleep outside in the cold with all my stuff wet from the day. I talked to a few of the AT hikers there. One guy, Captain Mud, was "walking home" to Maine after his boat broke down in Florida. He decided to do it via the AT and left a week later. I claimed a small spot on the floor, put on Daughter, and stared at the ceiling for a while before falling asleep (after eating my usual combo of 1 bag of instant mashed potatoes and 1 bag of Uncle Bens)


Day 7

Catawba, VA to Wytheville, VA / 84.1 Miles

Long, tiring day but pretty uneventful and nice weather. None of my stuff had dried out from the day before so putting it on sucked but it dried out pretty quick once I started riding. I stopped in Christiansburg and worked for a few hours. I met a British guy named David in Christiansburg who was doing the TransAmerica trail with outdated maps and didn't know there was a hostel in Catawba so he bivvied outside in the cold/rain the night before. He looked pretty frazzled and said he was thinking about skipping the middle part of the country and heading out to the west coast because he wasn't sure if he was going to have enough time to do the whole thing before he had to go back home.

During the 2nd half of the day I ran out of water a bit before Draper...when I got to Draper I just wanted to get a snack and some water but they wouldn't let me have the kids meal, so I had to get 1/2 a chicken that included a buffet. Had some stuff from the buffet then put the chicken in on of my panniers and had for dinner. I planned to stay at the Elizabeth Brown Memorial Park in Wytheville, however when I got there there was a guy sitting there saying he would be sitting there all night, and that sometimes kids come up and vandalize stuff. I had to get some work done and reply to some emails and had no cell service so opted to hotel it once again. I stayed at the Bolling Wilson hotel which had a pretty awesome roof deck with a bar...I talked to the bartender for a while (Francis), and eventually a couple (Debby and Larry) came up and joined in the conversation. They brought up a bottle of wine that we all drank together. I worked a bit and also worked a while the next morning. Expensive night but ended up being very productive.


Day 8

Wytheville, VA to Damascus, VA / 58.1 Miles

Got a really late start...worked at the hotel until around 11am, wasn't pedaling until around noon. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I met a guy named Courtney, and his dad Dick. They were both veterans and doing the cross country trip eastbound from Salt Lake City to raise awareness for POW/MIA. Weather was nice but there was an insane headwind most of the day that was pretty annoying. Also my brake pad was rubbing on my rim, so I pulled over to adjust it. In adjusting it, the 2mm screw fell out and was immediately lost (it's very tiny). Without this I was unable to get the brake pad into a decent position where it wasn't rubbing, so I took off the brake pad and just had to trust the front brake for the remaining 50mi into Damascus. The climb up to Konnarock/Troutdale was pretty tough, but the subsequent descent into Damascus was amazing. It was cool, early evening, smelled like a bonfire, and the sun coming through the trees on the way down was awesome. I stayed at Crazy Larry's hostel, where I met several AT hikers and talked to Larry for a bit. I ran into 2 hikers, Big Target and Sleepyhead, a bunch of times over the next couple days. They were great to talk to, from Boston and headed northbound to Maine. I took a shower at Crazy Larry's, ate some pizza he offered me along with my usual mashed potatoes and Uncle Ben's, showered, and fell asleep pretty early after drinking a beer on the porch with a guy named Jefferson.


Day 9

Damascus, VA / Rest Day

I spent the day running some errands and taking care of some bike maintenance, then working for a while in Mojo's, a coffee shop in Damascus. They had this amazing drink called the Iced Bananas Foster which was basically a banana flavored iced chai latte. Yes and yes. Instagram celebrity and Dayton hero @katielayla was scheduled to arrive that afternoon around 5pm. We planned to do some hiking and exploring over the next couple days, so I tried to chill out a bit on Monday during the day. I shipped some more items home that I didn't anticipate needing anytime soon (some off bike clothes, small backpacking tripod, etc). Katie met me at the AirBnB we were staying at a little bit outside of town with some AWESOME hosts, Jon and Carol. We talked to them a lot the whole time we were there. They are both incredibly smart, resourceful and kind people. We learned about Jon’s past career in social work and how he now does his own sort of DIY social work wherever he goes (including using their AirBnB income to subsidize housing for at-risk people in other shelters on their property). They have built a number of livable structures on their property, and Jon calls himself an "eco landlord." After getting settled in and me doing some laundry/setting some stuff out to dry, we walked around for a bit on the Virginia Creeper Trail. We then decided to drive into Abingdon, a nearby town, to find some booze. We went to a very cool brewery, Wolf Hills Brewing. Their barleywine was really, really good. Enjoyed perfect weather and drank a whole bunch of delicious beer.


Day 10

Damascus, VA / Mt. Rogers Hike / 13 Miles

In the morning I kindly offered to make some brown cinnamon sugar instant oatmeal for breakfast, as this had been my de facto meal for the past week. Katie was not into the idea and made some eggs with avocado instead (much tastier). We drove out to Mt. Rogers, the highest mountain in VA, and hiked up. It was real hot but we were in the shade most of the day. Also, for being the tallest mountain in VA, there were very few times where it felt like we were on anything steep. We had a super awesome couscous/tomato/avocado combo for lunch. Saw some wild(?) horses and a bunch of AT hikers, presumably headed to Damascus for Trail Days festival. Got back down then headed into Abingdon and had an awesome dinner at JJs.


Day 11

Damascus, VA to Rosedale, VA / 36.6 Miles

I didn’t leave Damascus until around 3:30pm. Katie and I talked to Jon, our AirBnB host, for at least an hour that morning, and I got some work done there before we left. After we left, I went to Mojo’s and worked there for a while. It was insanely hot with 0 clouds in the sky. Every time I walked outside to my bike I would just think to myself “well, if I work another hour then that’s less time I’ll have to be in the heat” so I took my time leaving. I left and rode about from there to the cyclist-only hostel just before Rosedale and got to the hostel/church where I planned to stay that night around 6:30pm. The ride was pretty mellow and uneventful for the most part. Hayter’s Gap was long, steep and tough, but the downhill was great and the rest of the ride was a breeze. Right after Hayter’s Gap I was taking a quick break/eating an apple and a guy who introduced himself as Steve pulled up next to me in a pickup truck. I could barely understand Steve through his thick Appalachian/VA accent but we talked about biking for a second and where I was coming from/headed to. He started to drive away, then stopped and put his car in reverse and came back to where I was and said out the window “Ya know, I have a bike too….ITS A HARLEY” and laughed and drove away. I was greeted at the hostel by Sarah, a lady who was there for bible study. She said I had gotten there just in time for dinner and immediately loaded up 3 plates of pizza, salad, breadsticks, and cake for me. Everyone there was very nice. After dinner, I took a cold shower outside which was amazingly refreshing. I met another TransAmerica cyclist, Matt, there as well. Matt is from Wisconsin and also doing the ride solo. We talked for a while before passing out on the floor in the church sanctuary.


Day 12

Rosedale, VA to Lookout, KY / 65.1 Miles

Matt and I had loosely agreed to ride for a bit together, but I didn’t set an alarm and woke up a bit after he had left. We had gone over our route for the next few days and it looked like we were planning to hit the same hostels/campsites so I was sure we’d run into each other again. I rode for a bit then stopped in Honaker and worked in a Chevy dealership guest lobby for about an hour. I kept riding through a few mellow climbs, then cruised through some awesome downhills around Council. I stopped again in Haysi and worked for another hour. When going through Breaks state park, I missed a turn for a detour on Rt. 80 and ended up in a blasting zone then at a dead end. Had to backtrack ~2mi to get back on 80. Crossed the Kentucky state line then rode for a bit longer before doing a quick stop in Elkhorn City. Made it to the cyclist hostel in Lookout around 6:30pm, where Matt was already along with another solo cyclist on the TransAmerica trail, Charlie. Charlie recently retired and is doing the ride for fun. Most of the day was extremely hot and humid, so it was great to be able to take a shower at the hostel.


Day 13

Lookout, KY to Hindman, KY / 50.5 Miles

Got an early start…were out the door around 7:30am. We all knew the forecast for the day was thunderstorms, so to lighten the mood when we stepped outside I said something along the lines of “its totally gonna be a beautiful day today”. The second I finished my sentence we heard thunder :). Charlie stopped pretty early on in the day and waited out the storms. Matt and I decided to mostly ride through them, stopping only when it got really, really bad. We got out to Hindman pretty early, around 2pm. I got on the Wifi at the Arts center and replied to some work emails while I waited for Matt to arrive as he had stopped to grab some groceries. We walked up the insanely steep (14% grade) hill to the “hostel”. We were greeted by David, a very interesting character, who showed us where we would be staying (a tent he had pitched outside). He seemed a bit annoyed that we had gotten there so early, and I guess wasn’t aware we were coming until just a couple hours before as Charlie’s text to him hadn’t gone through. Matt and I took showers then went back down to Main Street, which consisted of a pizza restaurant, 3 law offices, a courthouse, and the arts center. I posted up at the arts center and worked for a few hours while we waited for Charlie to arrive. While we were exploring, another cyclist, Jay arrived. Jay is from the UK and, due to some unforeseen changes in his girlfriend’s schedule, has to make it to LA by the end of June. As such, he needs to average 96mi per day, including rest days. He had done 145mi to get to Hindman, and planned to do 120 the next day to Berea. Jay told us about 2 cyclists near Damascus who were new to biking (and the outdoors in general from what it sounds like) and were biking cross country. He said they came to a snake in the road that wouldn’t move and was hissing at them, so they made a truck driver stop and run it over and throw it in the woods. When Charlie arrived we all met up and ate a ton of pizza. I then went back and sat outside the arts center and worked on their wifi for a few hours until around 10pm. I went back to the tent where everyone was already asleep and crashed. We got woken up by a torrential downpour in the middle of the night. Like reeeeally really intense. David walked through the storm to our tent to try and convince us to come inside. Our whole experience with David had been a little strange and we didn’t particularly want to be inside the house, so we stayed in the tent and made it through the night without any trees falling on us or anything.


Day 14

Hindman, KY to Booneville, KY / 67.4 Miles

 

Got up and hurriedly packed up and got out of there. Grabbed some coffee and breakfast at a convenience store then got started. Rode together with Matt until Hazard, where I stopped to adjust clothing/use the bathroom/grab another quick bite. The rest of the day was very brutal. We had about 6 really long hard climbs back to back in 100 degree humid heat. I ran out of water before a series of 3 back to back climbs and felt really dehydrated/dizzy by the end. Stopped at a little food store thing and got a milkshake and BLT and a bunch of water, then continued on to Buckhorn. Took a quick 20min power nap in Buckhorn because I had very little energy left after all the heat/climbs plus not really sleeping the night before in David’s tent. Got through the last couple climbs very slowly and into Boonesville, where I met Matt. We took cold showers at the church/biker hostel then walked into town and grabbed some food at the only restaurant in town. We got a 6 pack of Corona at the dollar general and came back to the pavilion behind the church/hostel where we hung out for a while. Matt napped and I messed around with my bike and experimented with ditching more gear/different packing configurations. Thinking I may need to change my approach for the next 2-4 weeks if I want to get out to PNW with time to hang out. That night we got hit by the most insane storm I've ever seen. I had to hold down my tent...water was getting blown in through the sides of the pavilion, hardest rain I've ever heard/seen, etc. Both our bikes blew over, very thankful nothing flew in and hit us.


Day 15

Booneville, KY to Berea, KY / 48.5 Miles

Mike (Smedes) told me that when I was in Berea I should stay with a friend of his named Maya, so we headed out towards Berea and coordinated staying with her that night. We got in early afternoon and chowed down on some Mexican at Mariachis. As we were biking to Maya's house, we rode past a car that was pulled over. Maya was in it waving out the window at us yelling "I'M MAYA!!". We followed her back to her house and she showed us around. We instantly felt at home and relaxed and talked to her. The weather was beautiful outside, I sat on her porch for a bit and worked. We did a long overdue load of laundry and fell asleep pretty early.


Day 16

Berea, KY / Rest Day

We woke up feeling very refreshed. I tinkered around with my bike for a bit (I planned to lighten my load even more by sending some more stuff home) and Matt worked on Maya's front steps a bit. Matt drove Maya to work, then we stopped at the post office, then headed downtown. I worked at a coffee shop for a while. Charlie rolled into town a bit later, and him and Matt ended up getting spotted by a professor at Berea College who convinced them to give a lecture about bike touring in his class. Pretty wild. After picking up Maya from work, we went to get some things to make dinner for us, her, and her friend Janet. Matt made an outrageously good Indian meal...chana masala, homemade naan, and rice. I made a salad and got us a blueberry pie for dessert. We had an amazing evening hanging out with Maya and Janet. After eating dinner we relaxed on the porch for a while, where Maya had made a fire. The whole day and evening was so awesome and rejuvenating. Maya's energy and positivity got me really excited to get back on the bike (while at the same time not wanting to leave!). She is such a great person. The world needs more Mayas.

TransAmerica Bike Trip 2017 / Day 0 / Mt. Airy, MD

Heading out tomorrow to bike cross country. My plan is to follow Skyline Drive down to Charlottesville, VA then pick up the TransAmerica trail there. From there, I'll follow the TransAmerica trail to Florence, OR then bike down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. I have a handful of stops mapped that I may or may not actually hit, but I am planning to definitely spend some time in/around Boulder climbing, then hopefully the Tetons and Yosemite (time permitting). Rough map of the route below.

I have a duffel bag packed of climbing gear that I'm planning to meet out in Boulder, then send on to Wyoming and San Francisco. Got plenty of fun stuff bookmarked on Mountain Project :)

I'm going to do the best I can to update this every few days. I'll also be periodically posting to Instagram.

Finally, I'm planning to LiveTrack my location via Garmin. Trying this out for the first few days then may not do it anymore if it's draining batteries too quickly or too annoying to do every day. Either way, each day's progress will be on Strava (strava.jchap.me)

LiveTrack URL: livetracker.jchap.me 

This link will work during the day when I am riding and my GPS is on. In the evenings (or early morning) it will just show a screen saying the activity has ended.

Spent all day finishing up packing, picking up some last minute gear and food, and said goodbye to Evan and Sarah. I've been distracted the last couple months with training for Crush the Commonwealth and it's just starting to set in now that I'm leaving tomorrow. Very anxious and excited to get going. The first day is a long day...100mi from Frederick to Front Royal. On my road bike I could do this in about 6.5hrs, but the touring bike fully loaded is extremely heavy so I'm not sure yet what my pace will be like. I am planning to average around 60-70mi/day. Continuing work during the trip, so I'll be riding slightly fewer miles each day than I otherwise would.

More to come.

Crush the Commonwealth 2017

Night Before

Corey, Alex and I arrived in PGH around 6PM on Friday. After running a couple errands and getting dinner at Salems, we went back to the AirBnB, stretched, and were ready to go to sleep by 8:30pm. About an hour later, just as we were actually falling asleep, the fire alarm went off and the entire building got evacuated. 3 firetrucks drove up, and the firemen went inside to see what was up. Apparently someone had set the alarm off while cooking. We were all very pissed. About 20min later, we all went back inside and went to sleep. Both Corey and I had dreams (nightmares?) about the impending ride.

Day 1

175mi

Our alarms went off at 3:30am we ate our respective breakfasts and drank coffee. We were out the door by 4:30am and at Point State Park by 4:45am. A couple people were already there, and several rolled up just as we did. Spirits were all high, people were smiling and talking about this or that person they heard was going for it in X hours. My favorite (which turned out to be very real) was rumor of a bike messenger from NYC who was aiming to finish sub-30hrs then continue up to NYC and make it by Saturday night. Didn’t hear anything as of Saturday night, but I know he rode through the night on Friday and was at the Liberty Bell very early Saturday. We met a few Drexel cycling people, as well as others from NYC, PGH, etc. Met a girl named Leann who did the ride solo last summer and finished in 34hrs. She was very quiet but I heard from other riders that she kept trucking through the night.

At 5am people all hopped on their bikes and we rolled out. Everybody was talking and still smiling at this point, but it was definitely a little anxious and tense cuz we all knew what was coming. We rode the first 15mi to McKeesport together, then as soon as we hit the GAP trail everyone broke off and started riding at their own pace. My rear light popped off right outside the city...jumped off and grabbed it quickly so as to not lose the group.

We were on the trail by the time the sun came out. I was feeling good, towards the front of the pack with Corey up until around 40mi, when I got my first flat. Cursing very loudly, I told them to go on and I would catch up. I quickly put in one of my spares, which I discovered had a tear in it. Not wanting to use my only other spare, I patched up the original one, pumped it up, hopped back on the bike and gunned it to catch up. I caught up with everyone in Connellsville.  10mi past Connellsville I got my 2nd flat. More yelling at my bike happened and I told Corey and Alex once again to keep going and I would catch up. At that point I was out of CO2 because I had been re-inflating the patched tube periodically to try and avoid another flat before I got to Ohiopyle. I put in my last good spare, then pumped it up the best I could with my hand pump (which was not enough for the GAP). I rode maybe another half mile, then got the 3rd flat of the day. I had nothing left to repair or replace it with, so I weighed the options and figured the only thing to do was to ride on my front rim the next 10mi to Ohiopyle, where hopefully the bike shop was open. I limped the bike along for over an hour, very worried I was going to do permanent damage to the rim. Finally got there and dropped my bike at the shop while I washed off my face and grabbed some quick lunch. At this point I was already pretty shaken mentally because of losing so much time to mechanical issues. Tried to pull it together, then hopped back on the bike and kept going. The last 15mi of the 75mi stretch of GAP is particularly demoralizing. Slightly uphill on packed limestone that was a little wet from rain the night before and behaved like quicksand. I ran into the bike shop in Rockwood as soon as I got off the trail and asked them to clean out my drivetrain and check the tire pressure. Real roads from here on out mostly and I wanted to move quick. The next ~90mi through Somerset, New Baltimore and Bedford were pretty uneventful. I kept running into a group of 3 from PGH (Noah, John and Greg). The first couple times we saw each other we talked for a minute, then gradually started talking less and less. By the Burger King in Bedford our conversation had been reduced to a nod and fist bump on the way out the door. I rode the 20mi between Bedford and Breezewood at sunset...that stretch is so awesome. A couple big climbs but then a huge 3mi downhill that I did around 40mph down. I got into Breezewood around 8:30pm. I felt good physically but was pretty demoralized from all the days setbacks. I decided to call it a night and come at Saturday fresh. I took a quick shower, set my alarm for 3:45am and passed out.

Day 2

208mi

I got up at 3:45am, quickly packed up my bike, and rolled next door to Sheetz to grab some breakfast. It was slightly drizzling and very dark. I rode out of Breezewood and onto the abandoned turnpike around 4:30am. Doing the abandoned turnpike and tunnels in the dark alone was not fun. Really crappy gravel/broken up asphalt for 10mi with 2 tunnels, each about 1/2mi long, that were very spooky to ride through. The 2nd one was filled with mist and my front light just got washed out in front of me. I was listening to S Town, a podcast recommended to me by a couple friends, so was able to distract myself a bit and not get in too dark of a place mentally before the sun came up. After getting back onto real roads, I started making my way through Cowan’s Gap and approaching Chambersburg. I rode in a thunderstorm for about an hour through Cowan’s Gap. S Town saved the day once again, giving me something to focus other than getting drenched. The rain started to clear up a few miles out of Chambersburg. After riding in the dark through the abandoned turnpike then getting drenched for an hour just after sunrise, all on top of the soreness from day 1, I was starting to feel a little battered already, which wasn’t good because I still had ~150mi to go. I stopped at the Sheetz in Chambersburg and got some more food. Noah, John and Greg rolled up while I was there. They told me that they had gotten caught in a storm at 1am the night before between Breezewood and Chambersburg and had to bivvy under a pavilion in Cowan’s Gap, and that they were calling it quits after being stuck outside shivering all night. They also told me 2 other people (Sean and the guy he was riding with) had gotten stuck in the same storm and also had to sleep outside with no gear and threw in the towel Saturday morning.

Some combination of the food/caffeine, conversation, and the sun starting to come out re-energized me and I rolled out of there feeling ready for the rest of the day. I made it from Chambersburg to York (50mi) in about 3hrs. On the way I ran into CJ, a Philly randonneuring guy who Corey had introduced me to. We rode together for a few minutes and I learned that his riding partner had thrown in the towel a few miles back. I wished him luck and pushed on to York. After grabbing a quick bite in York I started riding again. As soon as I crossed the bridge over the Susquehanna River I started to feel lightheaded and nauseous and very close to throwing up. Probably dehydration as it was starting to get pretty hot. I chugged a bunch of water at the Sheetz just west of Lancaster and put a bunch of paper towels with cold water on my head and neck. I closed my eyes for about 15min while doing this, then noticed another rider, Michael (from NY) had rolled up. I talked to him for a few minutes and we left the Sheetz together. He told of at least 2 other people who had dropped out...1 girl had gotten hit by a car and another was throwing up pretty violently after Somerset. We rode the next 30mi together to Morgantown, stopped to refill our water, then left Morgantown. Michael and I checked our phones and saw Corey had finished at 36hrs. Incredibly psyched for him and Alex (39hrs). Both sick times, especially considering it was their first year. We all trained hard together and it was so awesome and rewarding to see them not only finish, but get the times they did. I was feeling very good at that point, like we might be able to get in by 10:30pm (41.5hrs total).

A few miles after Morgantown I got my 4th flat. I quickly put in a spare and hopped back on, but Michael had kept moving and I didn’t have enough steam left to gun it to catch up with him. I got to Phoenixville just after dark and starting having some stomach problems which added another couple stops, one at a very fancy Mexican restaurant that I ran through to get to the bathroom. I downed a few more Tums then kept going. I physically started giving out around Conshohocken. Everything hurt, I had no energy left to pedal, couldn’t see straight or hold my head up, fingers were starting to twitch and arms/shoulders were giving out, etc. At that point I had been on the bike for 16hrs that day and was really starting to feel everything. I really didn’t want to stop again before finishing, but I physically couldn’t keep moving the bike forward so I decided to take 5min at Conshohocken Brewery to get ready for the 15mi home stretch. I ordered some hummus. I had to repeat my order to the bartender 3 times because I was slurring my words and staring at the ground. I finished my food, drank some 5hr energy, and got back on the bike. I didn’t take any painkillers, and every pedal rotation from Conshohocken to center city me wince. As soon as I hit boathouse row and could see the city I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I rode the rest of the way through center city and touched the liberty bell visitor center at 12:11am, putting my total elapsed time at 43 hours and 11 minutes.

Summary

The reason CTCW is done in April is literally just to make it harder...the weather is unpredictable, you have to train through the winter if you want to participate, nobody is in top riding shape, etc. I was disappointed with all the setbacks on the first day that ended up throwing a wrench in my plan to ride through the night (or at least make it to Chambersburg) and finish in the low 30hr range. However, I still beat my 2015 time by 15hrs and felt good that my ankle held up for the whole ride (was actually re-learning how to walk just a little under a year ago), so I was glad that despite all this I still finished in the low 40s. Looking forward to walking normally again in a couple days.

https://www.strava.com/activities/963841066