Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 50 – Harrisville, WV to Elkins, WV (98 miles)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today was a tough day. Very tough, actually. I think it was perhaps the most climbing we have done on this trip (or at least the most climbing we have done in a very long time). We didn’t just climb up hills today. We climbed up mountains. My body is very, very tired. The hills/mountains started two miles outside of town and really didn’t stop until we arrived in Elkins. Fun.

We had our lunch stop in Weston, WV. It was an interesting town. During our lunch stop, we walked to see the local asylum.

It was enormous. Apparently it was built during the civil war and just closed down in 1994. It was actually a little creepy…
After lunch, we headed back out in an attempt to conquer the Appalachian Mountains. As we were traveling up yet another one of the CRAZY mountains that West Virginia decided to throw in our faces, we passed a woman working construction on the side of the road (she was manning one of those “slow/stop” signs before construction started). When we arrived at her post, we were incredibly tired, as we had probably already been climbing for about 4-5 miles and we were 70 miles in to our daily ride. Here is a quick recap of my conversation with her (as I was very slowly crawling by on my bike):
Me: “Hi.”
Construction woman: “Hi.”
Me: “Any idea when we’ll see a downhill?”
Construction woman: “Um…” (pause) “You’re in West Virginia.”
Awesome lady. Thanks for the encouragement. You just squashed what little motivation and positive thoughts I had left…

After more climbing and more mountains and even more climbing, we arrived in Elkins. Only six miles longer than we were originally told. I am very tired. And very sore. But I am incredibly proud of what we did today. We successfully conquered the Appalachians (or at least part of them). We’ll head out to beat them again tomorrow, too. And we will not be defeated.

End of the fiftieth day. And it was mountainous.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 49 – Athens, OH to Harrisville, WV (87 miles)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This morning started off with an amazing breakfast. There is no better way to start out the morning that with a delicious breakfast. While some of the other riders decided they wanted to forego breakfast and head out right away (I guess to get to our site earlier; but to do what, I have no idea…), eight of us wanted to experience this little cantina that had been highly recommended to us. And we definitely did not regret our decision. It was a Mexican-style breakfast. I had the most amazing huevos rancheros I have ever had. I was completely stuffed afterwards. I tried to take a little nap on the bench before heading out to start our ride. While I was afraid that the excess breakfast food might upset my stomach during the ride, it was just the thing I needed to power me through some of the hills that we were going to have to face.

While the route was relatively scenic, we did run in to some hills along the way. I guess that is to be expected, since we are entering Appalachian country. We also probably spent at least half of the first half of the day (the time before lunch) on gravel/dirt roads. Apparently there is no direct route from Athens, OH to the Ohio-West Virginia border except the highway and unpaved roads. Awesome. But it really was a neat experience. We just had to be super vigilant so as not to fall over in a rut or let our wheels spin out under loose gravel.

We passed in to West Virginia today (and, again, crossed the Ohio River). One more state down, two more to go. I was very distraught that I did not find the Ohio state sign, however. (If you remember, we did not find the Ohio sign on the way in to the state.) I guess the Ohio state sign was directly on the opposite side of the West Virginia sign. Who would have thought? Obviously not me. But Jeff managed to snap a shot of it, so I’m going to steal it from him and pretending that I took it. Don’t tell anyone, ok?

Soon after the lunch stop, we passed through a cute little town called Cairo (pronounced like Karo syrup – we asked a local). This was the start of a rails-to-trails bike path that we were going to take part of the way to Elkins. We were very deceived by the trail, though. We were under the impression that the bike trail would be paved. We were wrong. Very wrong. The trail turned out to be gravel and dirt. It actually reminded me of some of the roads we were on at the beginning of the ride. Who knew our road bikes would get so much off-roading experience?!?

After another massive hill, we made it to our site for the night. There’s no better way to finish off a tough ride than climbing a 21% grade hill, right? We are staying at the 4H camp right outside of Elkins. It’s very nice. And a local pizza shop donated dinner for us, which was amazing. I think all of us will sleep well tonight.

End of the forty-ninth day. And it was off-road.

Day 48 – Columbus, OH to Athens, OH (91 miles)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This morning we left Columbus and headed out to complete the final stretch of our journey. Atlantic Ocean, here we come!

We had a gorgeous, hilly, rainy ride today. As we were riding along, I was reflecting upon some of the things I was learning that day. Lessons from the road:

1. Southwestern Ohio is quite different from “Ohio-as-I-know-it.” While I am used to the corn fields, soybean fields, wheat fields, flat land, and generally boring overall appearance of Northwest and Central Ohio, Southwestern Ohio is the complete opposite. It was gorgeous. The fields seem more lush and greener. The scenery is much more pleasant on the eyes. And the topography is like a completely different place – lots and lots of hills. Some hills were pretty brutal. But the good thing about a hill is that (usually) for every ascent, there is a descent waiting on the other side (although it opposite is also true, unfortunately…).

2. When your chain falls off while going up a hill, the most logical thing to do is pedal like crazy. Unfortunately, this happened to me today. We were going up one of the brutal Southwestern Ohio hills, and I wanted to switch in to my lowest gear. (This gear is lovingly known as the “Granny gear.” This is the gear that provides the lowest resistance and is, thus, easiest for getting your butt up massive hills.) While trying to shift in to my Granny gear, my chain decided to rebel. Instead of moving in to this gear, it instead jumped off of my front cog. Awesome. So now, whenever I pedaled, my legs were not moving my wheels. Nothing was moving my wheels (because the chain was no longer connected to the wheel). While I was aware of this fact, my gut instinct was to attempt to move my feet even faster (even though this did absolutely nothing to propel me forwards). This, obviously, did not work. Because this is not how you get your chain back on the cog. Fortunately for me, the hill was not so steep that I didn’t have any forward momentum. I was able to clip out at the last minute to avoid falling over sideways on my bike. Crises averted.

3. Rain while running is fun. Rain while riding is annoying. Rain while riding downhill at 40+mph feels like bullets. We experienced intermittent rain throughout most of the afternoon. It was pretty annoying. At times, the rain came down pretty fast. While this may not seem so bad, while traveling down some of the massive Southwestern Ohio hills, you can get going pretty quickly. Thus, the rain drops no longer feel like rain drops; they feel like bullets pelting you from every direction. Not a very pleasant experience.

4. If it is raining, put on your rain jacket; then the rain will stop. But make sure that you leave your rain jacket on, because the instant you take it off, it will start raining again. This was perhaps the most annoying part of the day. The rain would start. We would ride on for a while, hoping that it was just a short shower. However, at some point, we would realize the rain was going to continue for a while and we would stop to put on our rain jackets. Then we would take off again. Literally within the next couple of minutes, the rain would inevitably stop. We would start burning up from wearing our jackets (they are pretty much like wearing a plastic bag), but would leave them on for a bit with the expectation that the rain would start again. But it wouldn’t. So we would stop and take our jackets off and then start on our way again. Literally within the next couple of minutes, the rain would inevitably start again. Then the above process would repeat itself. So we found ourselves with a dilemma: leave the jacket on, swelter in the heat, and avoid rain, or leave the jacket off and get drenched by the rain. Tough decision…

5. Take daily mileages with a grain of salt. I learned this lesson a long time ago, near the beginning of the trip. But I am reminded of it on an almost daily basis. Even when we are expecting a 80 mile day, we have to consider this mileage to be plus/minus 10-15 miles. This seems to take in to account all of the potential problems/changes that can occur along the route. And it helps keep us relatively calm when we are already at 90 miles when we are told that it is only going to be at 83 mile day.

6. Always remember what your specific road markings look like. Today our support team informed us that they would be using white and orange paint to mark our route. Good think I listened. Around 80 miles in, or so, we ran across three arrows labeled with an “R” marked in yellow paint on the road. All of the rest of our markings had been with white and orange paint and labeled with an “R4,” so I was pretty convinced that we were not supposed to follow those other arrows. Other, however, were not as convinced. And because of this, they ended up riding 5-10 extra miles. That’s an unfortunate mistake.

End of the forty-eighth day. And it was educational.

Day 47 – Columbus, OH (0 miles – Columbus Global Health Day)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today was a crazy day. We didn’t really get much rest from about 7am to 8pm. Columbus Global Health Day is one of the biggest days of the entire ride. We put a lot of effort in to it every year.

This morning was the kick-off of “Bike to Work Week” in Columbus. A huge group of people met near campus area and biked down to the State House. There were supposed to be 70+ CEO’s of Columbus businesses at the event, so we thought it would be a good idea to show up and try to do some schmoozing. The major showed up and talked for a little while. Then we all biked down to the State House. It was pretty cool to see so many people biking. We closed down High Street. And, perhaps more exciting, I got lots of free stuff. I like free stuff.
We stopped by Meiling to help set-up briefly before our official “ride-in” to OSU campus this morning. It was fun. We all hung out in the parking garage beforehand to hide ourselves from the crowd gathering outside of Meiling Hall (and to hide from the drizzling rain outside). At the designated time, we all rode in to our event, amidst lots of cheering and clapping. We felt pretty special. We had a few brief speeches (it was starting to rain harder) and then went inside for an informational fair and small group discussion with some local high school students.

The students from METRO High School came over to give us presentations on the Millennium Development Goals from 4:00-5:00. They were amazing. They used incredibly creative ways (most used videos) to explain the goals. Exceptionally impressive. Our key-note speakers were scheduled from 5:00-7:00pm. We had representatives from both of our beneficiaries – HEAL Africa and World Bicycle Relief. We were incredibly excited to have them there and they gave great talks. I have to admit, however, that I was very embarrassed by the lack of support from OSUCOM faculty, staff, and students. We had some amazing support, but not much. We advertised for the event a lot (perhaps excessively), but it didn’t seem to affect many people. Besides the R4WH team, there were only perhaps 5-10 in attendance for our keynote speakers. It really was a shame. This was definitely our worst attended event – and it was at our home institution. Pathetic.

End of the forty-seventh day. And it was tiring.

Day 46 – Columbus, OH (0 miles – rest day)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ride for World Health had our third annual Solidarity Ride this morning. We had an absolutely amazing turn-out. Nearly 140 people came out to support our cause – the most support we have had at a Solidarity Ride thus far. And, although the weather looked incredibly ominous in the morning, Mother Nature actually decided to be nice to us today and keep the storms up north.

One of the people to come out and support us this morning was my mom. We rode the 20 mile route together. It was so much fun. It reminded me of when we were little and we would go biking together around Findlay. She did an amazing job and we had a great time together. Although the route wasn’t that well marked, I helped organize the Solidarity Ride for the past two years, so I had a pretty good idea of where we were supposed to be going. The “20-mile route” actually only ended up being about 14 miles (not sure what happened there…), but it was enough for us.

Mommo had never worn a bike helmet before. But one of the rules of the Solidarity Ride was that everyone must wear a helmet. Lucky for her, I had an extra one sitting around the house. She wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to wear it. Here is a run-down of one of our conversations:
Mommo: “This helmet doesn’t fit very well.”
Me: “That’s because you have it on backwards.”
Mommo: “Oh.”
She switches the helmet to the correct orientation.
Mommo: “That feels better.”
Haha. I love her.

Today was Maggie’s birthday! How exciting! We went out to her favorite restaurant, Rubino’s, for dinner. Her parents treated us to an amazing pizza dinner. Yum. Gordon Gee even stopped by to say hi. Maggie is so popular…

We had an evening bowling party to celebrate Maggie and Pete’s birthday (Pete’s birthday is tomorrow). It was lots of fun. The theme of the party was “Sunglasses and hats.” I proudly wore my new, AMAZING sunglasses and yellow cowboy hat. I wasn’t that great at bowling, but at least I didn’t get last. We had lots of fun.
End of the forty-sixth day. And it was glorious. (As part of Maggie’s birthday present, I let her pick out today’s word of the day. “Glorious” was the first word she said. It is also one of her favorite words. I thought it was very appropriate.)

Day 45 – Columbus, OH (0 miles – rest day)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today was a free day from the ride. While I love all of the riders and the experience has been amazing, I was incredibly grateful for the break. The real break. Whereas on our other “rest days,” we were off our bikes but still around the team the entire time, today was a complete rest day for me – from my bike and from the team.

Mike and I went back to Findlay to see my parents and go to Lindsay’s wedding. Lindsay is one of my best friends from high school. We had an amazing time at the wedding and the reception. And Lindsay looked absolutely gorgeous, like I knew she would.
End of the forty-fifth day. And it was marry.

Day 44 – Cincinnati, OH to Columbus, OH (103 miles)

Friday, May 14, 2010

We rode home today. It felt amazing. I have never been more excited to go home.

We started off the day on a “rails-to-trails” bike path for the first 60 some miles or so. Although it eventually became a little monotonous, it really was quite gorgeous. We were surrounded by trees, which kept the temperature a little cooler than we had imagined. And, to make things even better, I had an awesome new riding partner for the day. While quite a few of the other riders were in a hurry to get back to Columbus, I had no need to rush. The person I was most excited to see was already there! Mike and I had lots of fun on our way up north.

The bike trail took us through a small town called Corbin, Ohio. We were lucky enough to have a water break in Corbin. It was amazing. There were so many things to see during our 10 minute water break. So funny. We met an amazing man, who was lovingly referred to as Elvis by the citizens of Corbin. It soon became quite evident how he earned this nickname. Not only did he have an amazing mustache and sunglasses, but he also loved Elvis' songs. Just prior to departing to continue down the trail, he serenaded us to an Elvis tune. Amazing. We also were highly entertained watching a foot-long dog being walked on a 12-foot leash. In the minute we were watching the dog, he tripped over his leash at least three times. Only in Corbin…

After riding over 2700 miles in the past 6 weeks, I was incredibly excited to arrive in to Columbus. It was great to know where I was going and not have to rely solely on the white spray paint on the road. We rode in to town and immediately celebrated at one of my favorite places in town – Jeni’s! There’s nothing better than finishing up a century ride with incredibly delicious ice cream. Yummy.

Mike and I rode back to the condo after ice cream and then went to pick up Mason (he was staying with a friend while Mike was gone in Cincinnati). It was a very happy reunion, filled with lots of scratches and even more kisses. Great day.

End of the forty-fourth day. And I was home.

P.S. Today I was on the front page of my hometown newspaper, the Courier. Check it out - (,2010,May,14&c=n) I’m famous!