Sunday, May 21, 2006

Savannah

May 20, Day 27, 106 miles, Vidalia to Savannah and Tybee Island GA (900’ climbing)
Each sight, sound, smell and motion took on a special significance today. As Johannes and I slathered on the sunscreen and Bag Balm for the last morning, we marveled at the fact that we wouldn’t do this tomorrow morning. We had a big buffet breakfast at a nearby Shoney’s and marveled at the fact that we would have to retrain our appetite on 2000 calories per day instead of 6000 ( those extra French toast sticks with gratuitous syrup sure were good). The ride out of Vidalia was on a busy 5 lane road with strip malls. The drivers were some of the least tolerant of bicyclists that we had come across on our 2900 miles. The driver who yelled “get a job” didn’t understand the amount of irony in that statement. Our slow motion/ high intensity ride across America has blessed us with an extra helping of patience that these urban drivers didn’t seem to possess. After we left the city, we got back on to quiet agricultural roads and the smell of sweet Vidalia onions wafted over us as we passed fields with onions already standing in 50 lb bags in the fields, waiting to be picked up and taken to market. I found myself riding with Jenny and Rachel again. We talked most about getting back to our spouses and the tremendous debit we owed them for carrying the responsibilities while we followed our dreams. Then our thoughts turned to what it would be like coming back to the “real world”. Rachel challenged what is the “real world” so we changed the phrase to returning to the “work-a-day” world. In Jenny’s experience working with the elite Tennessee athletes, depression is not uncommon after an abrupt end to a season. Our riders have spent up to a year getting ready for this ride and the past month dealing with joy and adversity together. After Savannah tonight, we may never see each other again. Rather sobering thoughts.

On the lighter side, you develop some pretty funny tan lines after a month in the sun wearing bike gear every day. Jenny has three stripes on her forehead from vents in her helmet in a pattern vaguely reminiscent of the Michigan Wolverines football helmets. Most of us have tanned finger tips and a single spot on the back of our hands. Bob has a distinct white line down his temples and around his chin from the helmet strap. A white patch around the eyes like a costume ball mask is common from the wrap-around sun glasses. White feet up to the ankles, white thighs, white tummies and white shoulders. But apt for how rural most of our journey was, we are all have red necks now.

Our first sag was at a former gas station. I got some good pictures of our bikes leaning against abandoned gas pumps. It seemed very appropriate that for this merry troupe, two wheel bio-power had won out over internal combustion. By our lunch sag, rural was giving way to sub-urban. As we were entering the outskirts of Savannah, our group almost had to swerve off the road to avoid an oncoming truck that was passing on a 2 lane road with no shoulder. Then as we entered Savannah, I was almost taken out by a cyclist that came out of a convenience store lot and turned into us against traffic without even looking. We turned in to right onto 52nd street at 85 miles. Our queue sheet says “Notice live oaks in the street”. We had to laugh at that: these huge old oaks literally take up the entire right hand side of the street at 30 yard intervals. Some of the houses on this street were as old as these great trees. We went through a series of 0.1 and 0.2 mile right and left turns until we got on highway 80, then the ride got very intense: Saturday traffic, going out to Tybee Island on a 2 lane, 50 mph road with no shoulder. A police car came by and told us to move right on his bull horn. He raced ahead and pulled over on the right. I think that’s when he realized the 2 foot rumble strip on the 2 foot shoulder made the paved surface to the right of the fog line unusable. We turned off at Fort Pulaski, a pre-civil war fort in the shape of an pentagon that was captured by the Confederate forces at the beginning of the Civil War. After all of us gathered, we ventured back onto Highway 80 for the 5 mile sprint to Tybee Island beach. When we got there we picked our way through the throngs of people (considerably more people than our Monday morning wheel dip in the Pacific 4 long/short weeks ago), flung shoes, socks, helmet and gloves everywhere, then asked strangers (more likely they thought us “stranger”) to take our pictures as we waded into the warm Atlantic hauling our bikes along for the ride. It was joyous. We hugged, splashed, dived, congratulated… and lingered, not wanting to go, but realizing the burden of schedules was back: traffic back to Savannah, check-in, bike packing and shipping, luggage organization, cleanup, quick look at the city, then our final banquet. It was strange riding in an air conditioned van with team Alabama back to Savannah. Our final 5 mile bike ride had been intense with sensations: 95 degrees, humid, sweaty, loud, traffic at 55 MPH, the feel of every rut and crack in the pavement and watching the wheel 10 inches ahead at 22 MPH. Now I was in a Toyota cocoon eating a frosty (and my last one for some time as Barb had reminded us all: “no more milkshakes!”).

Our celebration ceremony was outwardly boisterous and joyous. There were hugs, camera flashes, corks popping and champagne to celebrate our achievement (and we were only the second Fast America group where all those who started at the Pacific also finished at the Atlantic). Each of us had the chance to speak when Barb gave us our trans-con certificates: words of friendship, support, achievement, dreams and goals accomplished. But the evening was tinged by moments of melancholy at something truly special now complete. Jeff and Jenny had each composed poems that contrasted some of the harder moments with some of the easier times: the yin and yang. I gave Johannes a final hug and thanked him for being a great room mate over the last 28 days. Then we said goodnight, good bye and good luck.


Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214



Epilog JAX-BNA-SEA (a day in airports)
May 21, Savannah to Jacksonville, 120 miles by car
Doug and I are sitting in the Jacksonville airport, furiously copying media files between cameras, video recorders and computers before he boards for Huston and I fly to Nashville then on to Seattle. It was weird driving in a car with Mark and Doug this morning. We covered distance a lot faster than on the bikes. But what I noticed was that life had changed. We were no longer focused on the journey ( the road surface, the temperature, the wind, the smells, sweat, water bottle level, scenery and the condition of our fellow riders), we were focused on the destination – JAX airport, and the clock. Mark slept (try that on a bike) and Doug and I reminisced.

It will be strange going cold turkey: withdrawal from the life I have known over the past 28 days. However, my memories of this ride will last a lifetime.

What about the blood sugars and the riding with diabetes stuff?
I am ecstatic to report it was less of a problem than I anticipated, probably because with my wife’s help, I had plans for the most likely scenarios (I had considered plans A-D, Abigail appropriately asked that I add E to the list as a real possibility):

Plan A: keep BG to nominal target BG = 150 until I have a week of BG data. Err on the high BG side and bolus in small increments to correct back to 150 target. Check BG early and often especially as my body acclimated to the increased stress of 5-8 hours per day of intense physical exercise, high calorie intake, adverse weather and high altitude. Check in the middle of the night for at least the first 2 weeks. I learned to check blood at the back of a paceline going 20+ mph then adjusting my pump settings while riding (don’t do that in traffic or at the front of a pace line!!!!). New insulin pumps linked to continuous BG sensors will make this easier.

Plan B: BG’s in the “yellow alert” band (below 100 while riding, below 80 at night). Tell somebody that I am low and correct and check again. I had one of these on our first day as we finished riding into Thousand Palms that I treated with an energy gel packet (I brought along 30 power gel packs and used 1) and a couple night time lows that I treated with 3-4 glucose tablets.

Plan C: BG’s in the red zone, that requires assistance from others to correct: NONE. I had informed the ABB staff of emergency procedures and had back up supplies (glucose, glucogon, back-up BG meter, insulin) in the van; and several doctors (Jeff, Vanessa, Andy) and a nurse (Pam) ready to assist with the glucogon I had in my seat bag at all times.

Plan D: illness/injury: Treat conservatively, take a day off riding if necessary to correct. I had the Flu in Gallup and had to take off 2 days, fortunately one was already a rest day. Bob was able to let me keep my room in Gallup instead of riding in the van all day and checked in a couple times (thanks again Bob!).

Plan E: hypo- or hyper-glycemia that requires hospitalization. Depending on the severity of the event I would need to assess whether I could catch the ride again and take a couple days off or go home to Bellevue. Thankfully, this didn’t happen.

David’s Empirical Insulin Rules of the Road (Your mileage may vary: Talk to you doctor first!)
There was a gentleman with Type 1 Diabetes from Canada a couple years ago who also completed the Fast South ride, and I hope and expect there will be more Type 1 riders in the future. This is what I learned to do for my insulin and BG’s during the trans-con ride (using an insulin pump with fast acting Humolog insulin and assuming a 120 miles per day with about an 18-19 MPH average moderately high to very high intensity). And remember to increase the basal rates to normal (and bolus for the normal insulin to carb ratio) on the rest days!

6 AM morning BG target = 90-100 before breakfast; typical breakfast high protein/fat first (to slow the digestion of carbs) followed by carbs (potatoes, pancakes, biscuts, or donuts): Bolus for 40% of normal (my basal before I started the trans-con ride) insulin/carb ratio; Basal rate 30% of normal basal rate for first 2 hours. One thing I found was that this large breakfast typically resulted in a slower starting pace (the “Denny’s Rev Limiter” phenomenon) that was good for warming up my muscles. I had to resist over correcting high BG’s after the first hour, like it or not I was usually about 200 at this time. I drank water during the AM. At the first rest stop I usually didn’t eat too many carbs.

After first 2 hours of riding, my insulin basal rate dropped to 15% of normal for the rest of the ride. I would bolus for carbs at about 30% of normal. Pre-lunch BG target = 150 (I wanted to have this margin in case I got lost before lunch, the ride had more hills or intensity than I expected or adverse weather increase time in the saddle). I tried to target BG = 120 at the end of ride each day.

Upon finishing up riding, I would have a protein, fat and carb snack (bananna, peanut butter, crackers) and bolus at 80% of normal insulin to carb ratio (for the dinner and dissert also). I would often see BG’s shoot up after the ride and would bolus at 80% to correct down. Bed time BG target was 120-130 with mid night target at 110. Post ride and Night time basal was 80% of normal.

Even though I was consuming 2-3X my normal calories, I used 78% of my normal insulin dose. My advise, start the ride with BG’s on the high side and gradually tune in on the right basal rates and insulin/carb ratios for riding and non-riding times. If possible, try to test out your insulin plan on 3 back to back 100+ mile days a month before the start of the ride to use as the basis of the insulin plan that you can discuss with your doctor. I was also very open with the ABB staff and fellow riders to make sure they knew my Plans A-E. Be safe and enjoy the ride!



Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214

We did it!

Our America by bike group just finished our celebration party here in savannah. 2900 miles in 27 days and all our riders finished safely. What an accomplishment! And it took the whole team: the riders supporting each other, our ace ABB crew, the unpaid medical staff of 5 doctors a nurse and a physical theripest, the coworkers who carried the additional workload, those contributors to the jdrf, and especially my wife abigail who kept her job going AND our family running like clockwork while I was gone. Thank you all. More up dates on our final day tomorrow.

David Nestvold
Engine Strategy
206 226-4595 cell --------------------
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Friday, May 19, 2006

Creaking knees, sloppy shifting, Georgia peaches and Moon Pies

May 19, Day 26, 104 miles, Perry to Vidalia GA (2500’ climbing)
Second to last day. It is hard to put all the experiences in perspective. How I have loved the journey. I ended up riding much of the day with Jenny and Rachel. We reflected on what we had wanted from this ride and if anything was left undone. I mentioned that I had been looking for a good sweet Georgia peach, but had not run across any fresh produce stands. Then a couple miles later, I saw one just after we crossed the railroad tracks in Glennwood. I excused myself and asked the proprietor, Chuck, if he could pick out a good ripe one for me. For a whopping 25 cents I got a great peach. I caught up with Andy while I was still trying to eat a juicy peach and ride. I asked if he thought the SPF of peach juice was the same as my sunscreen. He didn’t know, but thought the bugs would like me at lunch. I eventually caught up with Jenny and Rachel again and we talked about how tastes can bring back vivid memories. I related three such: Big Red pop when I was in first grade in Texas, pomme frites (French fries) on the sea wall of St Malo with my sister Karen, and sharing a fresh roadside pineapple with my wife in Hawaii. We had been passing fields of corn, a crop that had poles (green beans?), lots of pecan orchards and just before lunch thick pine forests that radiated pine smell. Then, to top of this oral fixation, at the lunch stop Bara had an additional treat for us: Moon Pies.
Well most of our bikes and bodies have creaks and groans. It is a good time for our journey to wrap up. At our route rap tonight, Karen, Barb and Jim went through the complex logistics for the last day. How to get all of us out to Tybee island together at 2:30, have our wheel touch to the Atlantic, get some to the airport, some to relatives, some to the bike shop, some directly to the hotel, get the bikes boxed and be ready for our closing dinner at 7 PM (Jim asked if I could help box bikes and I said I would be honored to put my rusty bike mechanic skills to work).

Big day tomorrow. Good night all!

Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214

Thursday, May 18, 2006

(Perry) Georgia on my mind

May 18, Day 25, 97 miles, Columbus to Perry GA (3500’ climbing)
Today was a good example of what this Fast Ride Across America is, and what it isn’t. It is about the physical challenge, seeing the sights (from the bicycle saddle), smells, weather on the route, and the camaraderie of the fellow riders. But there is not much time or energy left for touring off the route. Last night as I took my quick tour of Columbus I say the Civil War Naval Museum from the outside (because it was already closed for the day), I admired oodles of beautiful old southern buildings from the outside, and I had a quick meal to go at a local diner. This morning, we slept in until 6:30, neither Johannes nor I had the energy to turn off the alarm… but some how we managed to rise and slather on sunscreen then decimate what was left of the breakfast buffet the hotel had put out (clearly they were not expecting 33 cyclists to eat like the Crimson Tide football team – they were wrong). We had a leisurely ride along the beautiful Chattahoochee River trail all the way to Fort Benning. The Fort is huge and I was stunned by the scale of resources in terms of soldiers, tanks, training centers, redeployment areas, etc. I stopped to take pictures and was promptly the last rider around. After leaving the fort there are rolling hills with about a 1 mile wave length. I felt good and decided to see how long it would take to get to the front. As I approached the front, we passed signs for Andersonville Civil War memorial (15 miles to the south), and Jimmy Carter Historical site (25 miles to the south) and I thought too bad I can’t take those in. But oh my how we did get to enjoy the ride today. I finally caught up with Ed and together the two of us flew (40’s going down the rolling hills, 20’s coming back up). I enjoyed a slow paced lunch. I had no desire to choke down food and dash off. A bunch of people had left by the time I finally got back on (even though I do enjoy going fast at times on the bike, I still want to stretch out the last few days). But once I got back on, it was time to go. Tail winds had picked up and the terrain had leveled out so mostly there were large farms with corn, wheat, peanuts. I cranked until I caught Ed in a Mennonite region (churches and farms). Then we turned up the cruise control until we were going at 31-32 MPH sustained. I didn’t know what I was ready for at the beginning of the day, but that was fun!

Tonight we had a tee shirt swap that was a lot of fun. Everybody brought a personal favorite. I had (and lost) a Zed Lepplin, Norway, Dothan AL and Tennessee tee shirts. I finally ended up with a New Mexico café shirt. At the route rap tonight, Barb reminded us to start transitioning our eating habits from 5000-6000 calories/day back to 2000. Jim encouraged us to stay alert even though we are tired. No crashes so far on this tour and we want to keep it that way for the last 2 days.

Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Looking for lost time

May 17, Day 24, 125 miles, Prattville to Columbus GA (2300’ climbing)
Prattville is Mike and Barbara Monk’s home town. So we had some fun (at their house) as we came in to town last night. At this morning’s route rap session, the day took on a melancholy tone when Mike shared with us that his mom had suffered a severe stroke last night and was not expected to survive. Charles led us in a prayer for Mike’s family before we set off. Our first destination at about 20 miles was the school where the classes of two of Mike’s grandchildren have been studying our transcon ride. We have sent them postcards along the way and they have sent us letters. As we approached the school, we heard cheering and saw the kids had gathered on the front lawn to welcome us! It was delightful talking to the kindergarteners (it made me think of my wife Abigail’s class). After this, Mike set out to be with his Mom and family in Florida. It was sad saying Godspeed to him under such circumstances. He and Barb have been a great ride leading team. Barb will carry on with the support of Karen and Jim. They are all great team members.

I decided to go at a casual pace today and talk with the other riders. Most of the folks I talked to today seemed more introspective: perhaps due to the combination of Mike’s loss, the gathering at the school and the approaching end to our ride. I reflected a lot on loss and grief. When I lost my mom as a grade-schooler, I was too young to really understand how much I would miss her. As I reflected on my transcon ride, part of my motivation was about the grieving process. Besides my desire to raise funds for the JDRF as part of my ride, this ride is also about coming to terms with diabetes and the resulting series of losses, large and small for me and my family. This is my 20th anniversary of my diagnosis. Simultaneously, this ride is a celebration of life, fitness and adventure. They seem to be contradictory, but are yin and yang. The other thing I thought a lot about today was my family. I miss them so much, especially my wife Abigail. It is time to be going home.

Today we crossed the Chattahoochee River and lost an hour going to East Coast time. The river walk reminded me of the river trails from my home town of Eugene Oregon. But Columbus has so much history: its old iron and cotton factories along the river and its history of battles in the civil war. I admired the city after we arrived and put in almost 20 optional miles, riding around the city this evening.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Prattville

Greetings from historic Prattville! again we had ideal weather for our 118 mile ride today. About 8 of us stuck together the whole day and we flew along without even trying. Lots of rolling hills and logging. Lots of chasing dogs and kudzu. One of the prettiest images that I didn't get a picture of was our group of 8 riding next to a heard of 15 horses running next to us. We stopped at the historic cotton mill on a mill pond in downtown. Quiet a sight. Tomorrow we visit the class of school children who have been following our trip as part of their studies.

David Nestvold
Engine Strategy
206 226-4595 cell --------------------
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Monday, May 15, 2006

Home of the Crimson Tide

May 15, Day 22 Aberdeen MS to Tuscaloosa AL, 118 miles, 5300’ of climbing
I had a low BG during the night last night. Woke in a cold sweat, took a couple glucose tablets and immediately checked blood glucose: 50… too low. So today is a good day to back off on the hard riding. It’s a mere 110 miles (barring getting lost), and the elevation map on the queue sheets (only 5 pages today) looks the back of a porcupine (with a lot of 200’ quills).

I started out talking to Pam, one of our new riders. She is a Nurse Anesthetist (we have 5 doctors and a nurse on our ride!). She had asked me if BG control was a challenge on this ride and I said yes, but the hardest days were the first few finding a new insulin basal rate for my pump. I also told here about the Glucogon I have in my seat bag in case of emergency. Our conversation drifted to the islet transplant I got in 2003 and how I had put a lot of hope and energy into those clinical research trials (funded in part by the JDRF) as a possible cure to diabetes. My involvement in the front lines of finding a cure started in December of 2000 with my application as a possible research volunteer, 2001 with my selection for follow-on testing for acceptability into the research program, 2002 going on the transplant waiting list, being called in 5 times for possible transplant. The 5th time, I got my islet transplant (http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?page_id=100797 ). But in 2003 my donor islets failed. I remained in the study for follow-up (side effects or any long term complications) which officially ended this year with my final lab visits to the Virginia Mason Clinical Research Center in April. Now I have completed my transition from front line to support staff. I am using our JDRF Northwest Ride to Cure Diabetes team (http://www.jdrfnwride.org/ ) to raise money for cure focused research, and to support those with diabetes by introducing bicycling as a healthy activity to help manage the physical and emotional toll diabetes can take. Enough with the heavy stuff, then we talked about bikes and how her’s was almost identical to the bike I rode for about 20 years.

We got a great picture of a big bunch of us crossing the Alabama State line. Our group was clowning around and taking pictures, having fun so we blew by one of those many turns on the queue sheet (I think it said something subtle like “County Road 53 – Convalescent Rd - Don’t Miss!”). Well we ended up adding about 7 optional miles on that little excursion – but had fun doing it!

American Sampler (AKA Gordon’s Fiddle Shop and riding lawn mowers)
As I think about the patchwork quilt of experiences I have had on this journey across the country some of my stereotypes broken, a couple formed. At lunch today, an old fellow in a pickup pulled up and asked us what our group was. Johannes and I told him, then (with his engine still running) we got into a long conversation (I finished 2 sandwiches). William Gordon was enlisted during the Korean war. But because of his unique talent (playing bluegrass fiddle), he was sent to Germany, France and England playing bluegrass for the troops, instead of being an infantry soldier in Korea as he had feared (see foster those unique talents and they will pay rich rewards!). After the war he came back to Alabama at worked at BFGoodrich making truck tires until he retired. Then he got back into fiddles and began violin repair. One client brought him one that had an exceptionally beautiful note to it. He commented to it’s owner what a fine instrument it was. After he had repaired several more violins for the same owner, he was given the beautiful violin as a gift. It turns out, that violin was made in the late 1700’s by a Czech craftsman. William still plays it every day, and takes great joy in its song. My new stereotype: southerners are a really friendly, laid back bunch.

As we traveled across Arkansas, Mississippi and even more in Alabama, I was astounded by how well kept the lawns are (I thought I would see more shanties and junk… Wrong!). Now, not everybody can afford a mansion (we have seen a lot sprinkled about all these back roads we have been traveling). However, more likely than not their next door neighbor or across the street will be a neat and tidy single or doublewide prefab home. But almost all the lawns are like putting greens, acres and acres of putting greens (I mean that literally these are huge lots all neatly mowed and no dandilions). How do they manage to cut all that grass? With a riding lawn mower of course. This must be the riding lawn mower capitol of the world with the highest per capita ownership (I’ve seen sheds and barns and carports with two riding lawn mowers!). They are everywhere (especially in front of Wal-Mart). And thus, the explanation for the unique, multifaceted business entrepreneurs like: “Ted’s Market and Small Engine Repair”.

Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214

Roll on Mississippi

May 14 (Happy Mother’s Day!), Day 21 Senatobia to Aberdeen MS, 143 miles, 4500 feet of climbing.
Those of you who have been following our progress on Mike Munk’s web site (http://www.bamacyclist.com/Journal2006/FastSouth06/06fastsouth.htm ) also, may have noticed some “drift” between Mike’s official mileage and my unofficial mileage. No it is not just because the air in my front tire is low so I get more revolutions than Mike. No, this is what we call “optional” mileage (AKA navigation errors). When the daily ride queue sheets become 6 pages of instructions and maps, this is not necessarily a good thing for those who are navigationally challenged. Fortunately the roads and weather has been so beautiful, that I don’t mind taking in a few extra sights.

Here was a recipe for our riding day:
- Take about 30 well seasoned riders.
- Stuff with breakfast.
- Release one by one into a cool, pink Mississippi morning.
- Allow to congeal into small clumps with some spicy talk thrown in (note, do not let the spicy talk distract the navigator or you might have a recipe for disaster)
- Find a bunch of picturesque, quiet Mississippi back roads.
- Throw in a smattering of twists, turns and climbs.
- At 40 miles (or 45 miles for those who were not following directions), allow to congeal until you have at least 25 riders at the first rest stop, then increase heat, strip off outer skins (arm warmers, knee warmers and vests) and deposit them in the sag wagon.
- Allow to congeal into small clumps then vigorously shake (on 2 mile bumpy roads) and bake (on sprinters climbs). Repeat about 10 or 20 times.
- Then stretch out on long, flat roads.
- By this time (87.9 miles if you follow directions, 95+ if you didn’t) the riders should me more than ripe for lunch. Be careful to put out mountains of food or the riders my try to eat their tires.
- After lunch, riders should be plump, slow and tenderized.
- Now is the time to add spices: kudzu and fire ants to attack the unwary cyclist that tries to rest by the side of the road. Dogs… lots of dogs to nip at the heals of the weary cyclists who are too slow to sprint away.
- Finally, finish with a flourish of down hills and tailwinds.
Viola! A great Mississippi riding day!

Final note: follow ALL directions on the queue sheet if you want to finish at the right hotel before sun down.


Thanks for your help in finding a cure to diabetes:
https://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.donationForm&riderID=5214

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Crossing the Mississippi

May 13, Day 20 Brinkley AR to Senatobia MS, 115 miles, not much climbing
We were awakened by a thunder storm at about 3:30 AM. Well even though the Weather channel did not alert us in advance (remember, no TV in the non smoking rooms), the storm certainly announced its presence loud and clear. When we opened the door at 6:15 for loading gear on the van, it was still raining lightly. We were hoping that after a hearty breakfast at Gene’s, the storm would blow past us to the east, which it mostly did. My plan was to take it easy today and take lots of pictures as we came upon the Mississippi. Even though there was still a slight drizzle and the roads were wet, I decided not to wear my wind vest because it was already humid. I caught up with Scott, Tom and Doug. Instead of riding in our high speed echelon formation, we chose the “wind block” four abreast formation so we could sit up a chat (it seems most everybody was in the mood for a casual day. We could see for about a mile up and down the road to watch for cars, but there were none. Save one. At about 15 miles into the ride, our support van passed us and Mike jumped out and flagged us down. Some of the folks were still finishing breakfast so he was officially putting us under the yellow flag until the lunch stop at 71 miles. That was fine with all of us, so we got him to snap some group shots of us then we casually pedaled away. At one point Tom asked Doug (AKA “Big Doug”) if this was a good riding pace. Doug laughed (he has always got a slightly cocked, contagious grin on his face) and said, “I got one pace, Doug’s pace. If I’m still with you, you know this is my pace”. Doug is the fellow who kindly agreed to give me a ride with him to Jacksonville FL to catch my flight back to Seattle. Our first sag stop was at a truck stop/ tractor shop/ mini-mart. I went in to ask to use a bathroom. On my way out I stopped to chat with a group of locals who were having coffee and shooting the breeze. I complimented them on how nice the weather, roads and scenery were in Arkansas. They appreciated the compliments and asked if I wanted to join them for some coffee. They asked if I was riding for some cause. I told them I was riding for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They agreed that was a good cause, but didn’t think they would be up to riding transcontinental for it. So I agreed not the make them ride transcon if they just donated to the JDRF on line. Before I left, they had one piece of advice, “jest be off the road by Saturday night, some folk do party a mite hard”.

I left the rest stop solo and just took in the sights, sounds and smells of the south. At times like this I would like to have a photographic memory of all that was happening. This ride, besides raising money and awareness for the JDRF, is about the moment by moment experience of this incredible country. Just as I was catching a paceline, Mike flagged us down and offered a side trip to historic Helena. I took the bait and went solo on a really nice road next the some beautiful spreads. As I entered town there were some well cared for old estates with the white columns in front. The road twisted and turned and Helena had the only “hills” (small) around. Then as I approached the historic district, more of the big homes were in disrepair. The big cotton factory was closed. I merged back onto the route and immediately ran into some of our ABB riders taking pictures of the big bridge across the Mississippi we were about to cross. Wow, that bridge went on for quite a while. As soon as we got to the other side, there was a huge casino with a parking lot that would do Disneyland justice. We all got pictures of the “Welcome to Mississippi” sign also. We had a big crowd at lunch today. Funny thing, usually I’m in the group that gets to help set up the lunch tables, not today. Mike Munk noted that he had never caught Will to tell him not to spread out today, so now Will (about 6’ 4” with a thick German accent and strong opinions) was way out in front alone. Mike officially gave us the green light to chase him down and make sure he was safe. Four of us, Scott, Jeff, Andy and I cranked it up like a well oiled machine. We passed more wheat and corn in the Mississippi side than we had seen on the Arkansas side. Until we reached the town of Crenshaw at 91 miles, the land was completely flat (probably 10-20 feet higher than the Mississippi). Then we climbed up to about 350 feet and we had rolling hills for the rest of the way. On the last stretch of road coming in to Senatobia, we caught Will. But he was not going to let us pass him. He jumped on the train and as we turned into the parking lot, he sprinted in to finish first to the hotel. At our briefing tonight, I passed on the “hammer head” award to Will: “you can hammer in the morning, you can hammer in the evening, and in Will’s case, today he could hammer all day long” congrats Will. Now you get to carry that 4 pound hammer head in your jersey pocket!


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A short day’s ride in Arkansas

May 12, Day 19 Conway to Brinkley AR, 100 miles, 1900 feet of climbing
Another beautiful day in Arkansas. Arkansas is different from how I imagined. We started our ride along Lower Ridge Road, a quiet little country road that went past small farms with a few horses and large estates with a few horses. The route in the morning was on winding country roads, lots of trees (sycamore, maple and oak) very gently rolling hills. Temperature was great, humidity low, sunshine… pretty much an ideal ride in the country. After the lunch stop we got into the flat flood plane of the Mississippi. Although there were still lots of trees (and surprisingly a couple of lumber mills along the way, that slowly gave way to large grass fields, then huge rice fields and catfish ponds. During this second half of the ride, the high point (as in altitude) was the bridge over the White River. Our front group pulled into Brinkley by about 1:30 (a short day!). The main street was lined by huge trees giving the town a stately feel. Their high school on Main was immaculate as were a number of the big old houses. But clearly Brinkley has fallen on hard times. Many of the businesses and buildings along Main were closed and boarded up. When we got to the north end of town near the interstate, there were the typical strip mall/ fast food/ and hotels. But even these had seen better days. As we pulled into the large Best Western, there was not a single car in the parking lot. The pool had no water in it. The chairs in the attached restaurant were on the tables. We thought the place had been closed and nobody told us. With some trepidation we tried the front door. Low and behold, there was somebody at the front desk. We had a choice of smoking rooms with TV or non smoking with out (????). Johannes and I picked non smoking, so no weather channel that night. For dinner we went to Gene’s restaurant. I can assure you our group of 15 hungry cyclists stuck out like 15 sore thumbs there. But Gene was very accommodating (we were also going here for breakfast). Several of the patrons asked us about our ride. I got, coleslaw, grits, potatoes, onions, catfish, hushpuppies and green tomato garnish for a whopping $5.50… and it was good food. Johannes and I chatted a bit, and then I picked up a book and was asleep by 7:30 pm.

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