Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 30 – Arkadelphia, AR to Hot Springs, AR (36 miles)

Friday, April 30, 2010
Today was a wet day. Very wet. We started out our ride in a humid, Arkansas morning. The sky looked a little bit bleak, but we kept our fingers crossed that the rain would hold off until we arrived at our destination. We had a short ride today, so we were (mildly) hopeful. The rain started around mile 9 or so. And it kept going the entire ride. At times the rain would let up a little, but it never stopped. And most of the time it was completely pouring. When we were going downhill, the rain became bullet-like. It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. But we all arrived safe and sound (albeit quite drenched) in Hot Springs.
After warming up and drying off, we went in to town to explore Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was a pretty cute little town. And, as it turns out, the town is also a National Park. Probably the least nature-like National Parks I have ever been to. The Park collects 700,000 gallons of water a day from the hot springs for use in the public drinking fountains and bath houses. The water from the springs is 143*F. Very hot. It’s pretty neat to see (nearly) boiling-hot water coming out of a fountain or running through a creek.
We explored the downtown area a little bit. Apparently Al Capone loved Hot Springs, Arkansas and was known to frequent the bath houses. We went to one of the oldest hotels in the area and saw his car in the main lobby.

We all went to one of the bath houses in the afternoon. It was splendid. It was great to relax in the water and ease some of the tension and pain out of our over-used muscles. No, the water is NOT 143*F in the bath houses. They cool it down to different temperatures, because I’m pretty sure someone could get some pretty bad scalding burns if they stayed in 143*F water for too long. Our bath house had four different pools: 92*F, 95*F, 100*F, and 104*F. It was so relaxing.

I’m not sitting here watching the weather channel for tomorrow. Storms are definitely near by and on their way here. There are already a few rain drops falling outside. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow…

End of the thirtieth day. And it was wet.

Day 29 – Magnolia, AR to Arkadelphia, AR (76 miles)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"We swear that we will take part in these Olympic Games in the true spirit of sportsmanship, and that we will respect and abide by the rules that govern them, for the glory of sport and the honour of our country." – The Olympic Athlete’s Oath

Today was a gorgeous, hot day in Arkansas. The roads we traveled could definitely best be described as picturesque. We passed over some really pretty, old bridges. The terrain was rolling, but made for a really fun ride. My only complaint would be the weather. It is starting to get hot. Very hot. And the humidity is picking up. That’s how I can tell that we are getting closer to Ohio…

Yesterday afternoon, Team Tango revealed the first part of a surprise to us. They had sent the entire team a package to our mail drop in Magnolia. Inside the box was a random assortment of odds and ends, as well as instructions to divide in to four teams. We would find out more instructions the following day.

Today we learned that these random odds and ends would be the makings of an epic battle - The First Annual (hopefully) Ride for World Health Olympics. It was so much fun. Events consisted of the following:

1. Wheel barrow/straw drinking race. In this grueling event, teams are required to divide in to two pairs. One member is the wheel barrow “wheel”, while the other is the wheel barrow “handle.” The “wheel” walks on their hands to the other end of the field, while the “handle” holds the “wheel’s” legs up in the air and walks behind. This specific event is different from your typical wheelbarrow race, in that the “wheel” is also responsible for drinking water out of a bowl through a twisty straw. Each person must complete this task. The first team to finish, wins. My team won a bronze in this event. We were awarded 1 point. We would have done better, except that someone sabotaged our straw. It literally was practically impossible to suck up the water. It took be probably about 3 minutes to drink approximately one and a half cups of water.
2. PlayDough modeling. In this show of artistic ability, elegance, and grace, each team was given 4 minutes to design a bike out of PlayDough. We felt that ours was amazing. Travis crafted ridiculous, life-like handlebars, complete with brakes and aero-bars. The bike was very aerodynamic and structurally perfect. Had I not purchased a new bike prior to this ride, I definitely would have purchased one identical to the one we created. We definitely should have won. Our bike was by far the best one out there. The judges, however, obviously had been bribed by the other teams, as the other “bikes” (I put this in quotes because they did not resemble the perfection we had created with our PlayDough) had no artistic ability whatsoever. They also lacked on elegance and grace. Pooh. We placed third, again.

3. Water balloon toss. This should go without explaining. If you do not know what this is, you lived a very sad childhood. We didn’t place at all in this event.
4. Dizzy bat. This is an event that challenges all dimensions of one’s being – speed, balance, agility, and last (but not least), poise. The rules of this event are as follows. Each team lines up approximately 50 yards from a plastic baseball bat. When the event starts, the first member of the team must run to the bat, place the large end of the bat on the ground and the small end of the bat (the handle) on their forehead. They must then proceed to spin around the bat 8 times, all the while ensuring that the handle remains on the forehead and the other end of the bat remains on the ground. Once they have completed 8 full rotations around the bat, they must run back to the starting line and tap hands with the next person, who repeats the same sequence. This event is hysterical to watch. And incredibly fun to play – for children (and adults) of all ages. While spinning around the bat, one becomes incredibly disoriented. When they try to run back to the starting line, they veer in all crazy sorts of directions and frequently fall down. My team did not have the fastest time. In fact, we had the slowest time. But we definitely won in the entertainment category. We were hysterical. Three of our team members fell down. I definitely would have fallen down if it hadn’t been for Pete (one of our officials) catching me and steering me in the correct direction. Fun times for all.
5. Pie eating contest. Each team was assigned a graham-cracker pie crust filled with whipped topping. The competition was to see who could finish their pie soonest (whether it be the entire team that helps out, or a single person). I was a little grossed out by this event, but it was great fun to watch. Everyone who participated ended up with whipped cream from chin to ear. My team finished last. But we got an extra point for cleanliness (we didn’t spill nearly as much on the ground as other teams). We’ll gladly take our points where we can get them…

So, needless to say, my team came in last. But we put up a valiant effort. And if we hadn’t been thwarted by the faulty twisty straw, who knows what would have happened?!? We could be gold medalists right now. But, in the end, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about having fun. (Although this is usually what is told to the losing team…)
End of the twenty-ninth day. And it was glorious and honorable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 28 – Texarkana, TX to Magnolia, AR (59 miles)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We passed in to yet another state today. Good-bye Texas, hello Arkansas!!

Today also marks the (approximate) half-way point of our trip. We have traveled over 1500 miles and have been on the road for 4 weeks. It doesn’t seem like it has been that long. Time flies when you are having fun. It’s been an amazing experience thus far.

Our entry into Arkansas was lackluster, to say the least. While all of us were incredibly excited about entering a new state, Texarkana, Texas is not a good place to be starting. Texarkana, Texas borders Texarkana, Arkansas, and it is very difficult to figure out where one state ends and another starts. Unfortunately, there was no sign to mark our entrance in to Arkansas. We were all quite disappointed, to say the least. We decided to create our own “Welcome to Arkansas” sign to commemorate this epic passage. We are determined to find the Arkansas state line when we pass in to Tennessee.

I rode the day with Jenn, Maggie, Pete, and Katie (intermittently). We lost Katie for a while at the beginning of the day. I thought she had just fallen back to take a picture, but when we arrived at the rest stop we were there for quite a while before she showed up. I called to see how she was doing, but she said she was just feeling “really weak” and her legs were “jello-y.” When she arrived at the rest stop, she was informed by Justin and Bryce that, not only had her brakes been rubbing on her back wheel (making it very difficult to move), but that her back wheel was also not secured in place. Awesome, Katie. Not sure how that happened. Needless to say, the rest of her ride was much easier…

We had great ride today. It was short and incredibly relaxing. And lots of fun. We were “pulled over” soon after our rest stop by one of the local Sherriff’s deputies (Sarah had gotten a flat tire and everyone had stopped to help her out). He proceeded to help us get hooked up with the local newspaper in Stamp, TX and Magnolia, TX, as well as a radio station in Magnolia, TX. Thanks Mr. Sherriff’s deputy. You have been very useful. Thanks for helping out your local citizens.
While getting “pulled over,” we also learned from our Sherriff’s deputy friend that there was a County Fair starting… when? Well, TODAY!! How exciting. We decided to check it out. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the fair, they were still setting up. Sad. And they weren’t opening until 5:00pm today. Even sadder. But we still had fun admiring the rides and drooling over the prospect of carnival food. Yum.

Further down the road, we passed a very interesting farm. From far away, we thought that maybe there were funny-looking cattle and funny-looking horses. However, upon a closer look, we found that the farm had bison and camels. Yes, camels. In the middle-of-nowhere Arkansas. They fit in really well. We are all quite used to seeing camels on the side of the road…

Maggie also found an Arkansas license plate on the side of the road. She was quite excited about it. She practically caused a bike crash trying to get off her bike and run back to retrieve it.

I got a package today from my parents - a late Easter basket. It was incredibly exciting. It was my first package to one of our mail drops. Big day for me!

End of the twenty-eight day. And it was random.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 27 – Paris, TX to Texarkana, TX (94 miles)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I feel as though I have run out of witty things to say in my blog. At the beginning of the trip, the jokes seemed to be rolling off my fingers on to the page. Now that we are almost half way through, my fingers are tired. I guess they have passed over too many Frontage Roads, Primitives Roads, and just plain terrible back country roads. They are starting to lose sensation. I guess this is a common injury in cycling known as “handlebar palsy.” Too much time spent on those handlebars.

We definitely spent a significant amount of time on our handlebars today. 94 miles, to be exact. It was a great ride, complete with more gorgeous Texas scenery.
We had an awesome tail wind for the entire day. We were easily going over 20mph without much effort whatsoever. And, to top it all off, I had great company for the day. I rode the first part with Roshan and Jody. We picked up Justin after lunch. And we picked up Bryce after our last water stop. So we ended up with an awesome group to finish strong in to Texarkana.

We are staying at another Methodist Church in Texarkana. They treat us very well here. Their youth centers are absolutely amazing. Makes me realize what I was missing gong to youth group in the MidWest. The youth center is complete with an “internet café” (created by ourselves, but there is free wireless as well as an awesome little café area), basketball, Wi, cable television, a huge projector screen that will turn in to our own personal movie theatre tonight (I hear rumors of watching the Sandlot – awesome movie!), and a stage, just to mention a few of the amenities. The connecting church also has a book store where we got free popcorn (I was in Heaven – I absolutely LOVE popcorn, and free popcorn is even better!) and delicious peach smoothies. Yum. Food makes me so happy. It makes me chuckle thinking about the small, simple things that really make my day.

Speaking of food, Team Strawberry is currently in the kitchen whipping us up a delicious dinner. My stomach is already rumbling. We were moving pretty quickly this morning, so we had “lunch” a little after 10:00am. I’m ready for some tasty food. Yum.

End of the twenty-seventh day. And it was blissful. (I would like to point out that this was Maggie’s suggestion. I am feeling so incredibly un-witty today that I couldn’t even come up with a word to describe the day. Hopefully I’ll get my spark back tomorrow.)