10 December 2013

Jam's Christmas wishlist 2013

yes I've been in New York state for a month now! I've been very busy with work starting, and also I'm moving into a cheaper apartment this weekend. I will try to update about all that when I can. My internet access has been pretty spotty--as in, the wireless I'm paying premium rent for will be down for days at a time and unusable. More reason for me to move.
but anyhow! I wanted to post a list of items I want/need but don't necessarily have the budget for right now. All I *really* want is cards/letters from my friends--if you need an address to send 'em to, email me or comment with a way for me to contact you. I'm working on getting a P.O. box here, but I don't have one yet. I don't have the budget to create/mail my own cards this year, but all cards/letters I receive I will respond to!
As for non-card things, there's a small list I have. This is as much for my own reference as anyone else's.
*want*
A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke  Got! (a friend traded me for some art)

This awesome tetris alarm clock by thinkgeek Got! (with a gift cert.)
any Star Trek: TNG or DS9 2014 calendar
amazon.com or thinkgeek gift certificates
any nerdy/cute 1-inch pin or button (for my purse)--esp. skulls
*need*
cute wool/synthetic socks (not cotton)
cute/nerdy winter house slippers got! thanks mama.
king soba gluten-free buckwheat/sweet potato noodles
money in general
That's it for now.
pax!

19 November 2013

New York ho! Days Six and Seven

I get up and drink earl gray tea and eat rice chex and read maps and use the internet until an hour after I originally meant to leave. I wake up a sleepy Nan in order to hug him and bid him farewell. Packing up my truck takes no time at all and then I'm driving, taking a wrong turn, trying to turn back around and failing, then finally driving eastward on the proper road again.

I spend about 3 hours on I-70 before I'm too sleepy to really continue driving safely, and I pull over into a rest stop and devise a way to lie down across my two front seats without crushing any of my things or any part of my body. I have a pillow, blankets, and stuffed animals to make it easier on me. It's a tight squeeze by the steering wheel (I have short legs, okay?!) but I manage just fine. I think I sleep about two hours, and when I awaken it's softly drizzling outside.

That drizzle takes its time and then becomes a full on *rain*. It gets dark really early in the afternoon, and I drive through the rain listening to my terrible audiobook and every once in a while making sarcastic remarks at it. In Columbus the crumbling roads writhe like snakes amidst its raw, smoking industry, factories and warehouses lit up by the sickly glow of streetlamps--by the fierce, ascetic glare of headlights. Traffic is thick as the rain, which sloshes across the road and reflects light just-so to confuse the placement of the markings painted there. In the distance a great orange flame rises over all, spitting and howling at the storm with long tongues of furious fire.

I pass through a small piece of Pennsylvania, lake Erie to my left, and before I reach New York the rain has become a snowstorm, sleet flying straight at my windshield like stars at warp speeds. I am on I-90 and the buildup of slush slows down the right lane to something like 40 mph--which is, according to me and the others in that lane, the safest speed to travel in such conditions. Large trucks behind us disagree and roar by in the left lane much too fast, splashing my windshield with copious amounts of water and ice, rendering me blind for a good 30 seconds after each passing. The anxiety from trying to keep on course and safe on the slick roads reaches a tipping point within me, and soon I am bursting into fearful tears each time a truck passes. I turn on 4-wheel drive, but it only helps steady me so much. There's nowhere to stop out here; and besides, the plan was to reach Waterloo tonight. As soon as I am able to get off I-90 onto route 20, away from the dangerous trucks that are making me cry, I do so. Added bonus: no tolls this way.

I'm losing no time by taking this 45 mph road instead of the interstate because either here or there the only safe speed is around 30 anyway. I crawl along and keep changing the CDs in my audiobook as they complete themselves. The book has created a very scary, awesome villain I find interesting, only to somehow forget about her until the very last climactic scene. It is not good storytelling. Feels like something a promising young middle schooler would've written: shows promise, but needs much work.

There is an accident up ahead. A bad one that blocks the entire road. Someone is standing there, makes me roll down my window, tells me to turn around. I do my best. What now? I can't go back to I-90, I can't... my wheels slip on some ice and send me sliding sideways across the road. Lucky no one was coming. I go back into the last town I'd passed, stop and check my map. I can go on east 5 past the accident, and then east 5 will join east 20 right into Waterloo. I go that way, passing through town after thickly-frosted town. It is hard to see through the reflection of my headlights on the falling snow, but soon enough it is not snowing at all.

My audiobook finishes and I take out the 13th disc. I wonder if it's even worth giving away, or if I should simply toss it later. Hmm.

I reach Geneva late at night, past midnight by at least an hour or two. I am going to look at the cabin in Waterloo early tuesday morning... I can't bring myself to pay $50 for a motel for so little sleep. I find a parking lot by a lake and park there... near to a porta-potty in case I need to pee at night. I fill up my car with as much warmth as I can before turning it off, wrapping up in two blankets across the front seat, and conking out, exhausted by the stress of driving in the snow and past an accident that very well could have been me.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. I jolt awake. Someone is rapping at my window and shining a flashlight at me. There are two police cars, lights flashing. My heart is racing from the shock of it.

I open the passenger door. An officer waits as I sleepily paw through my purse and pockets for my driver's license. Apparently this park closes at 10, and I am trespassing. I tell him the full truth of what happened. I am young, innocent, cute, naive. When he establishes thru running my license that I am not a wanted criminal, he tells me to put on my shoes and drive away. Try sleeping in the grocery store parking lot, he says. That's your best bet. Sleep there and buy something in the morning when they open. I nod gratefully and putter through Waterloo to the Tops in Seneca Falls, cranking the heat up high to replace all the heat lost by the open door. When I reach it I lie down again and sleep fitfully till sunrise, warm enough to keep my circulation going but too cold to sleep restfully.

I get up and go into Tops for breakfast, buying a package of turkey pepperoni and a strawberry/banana smoothie and eating them in the car with the engine running for warmth. At 0800 I call the cabin owners to confirm when I can come see it. How about 9, she says, and tells me how to get there. I go early and wait for her.

It is adorable. Small, but all I need, wood floors, wood walls, wood ceiling, wood bunk beds. It heats up quickly and stays toasty warm without too much trouble. My only issue is it has no oven, but she says the last tenants used a convection oven instead. It is reasonably clean, altho' I will need to clean beyond the immediately visible surfaces later. I run through my options in my head. This location is probably the closest to work, which is a straight shot from here up 96 to Lyons. Heat, electric, internet, all included in the bill. I ask when can I move in. Right now, she says. I meet the landlord and in a flurry of questions and answers obtain phone numbers and information and lightbulbs then they're gone and I unpack half my truck, make the lower bunk, and crash to sleep.

I now live in upstate New York. Who'd've ever thought.

pax.

mon/tue, nov. 11th and 12th
Bloomington IN to Geneva, NY
Geneva to Seneca Falls to Waterloo

16 November 2013

New York ho! Days Three, Four, and Five

It is good to be here, in Bloomington, with my honorary brother, Nan. (He is also my British Grandmother, hence the nickname. Long story.) He is going to grad school at the University here, studying music. He's constantly singing something. I don't think he even realizes it half the time. I love him like a brother and I'm happy that I don't have to drive today.

I drink Earl Grey tea every morning that I am here. On the first day, we go by the mall for a while, and I eat boiled eggs from my pockets in the food court while Nan has a grease-dripping lunch from the mall pizzeria. We browse Hot Topic and some other stores, then head to Barnes and Noble, were we get lost in the stacks of books. I spend a lot of time looking at the Star Trek books. I'm not super interested in the official, published fanfiction novels, but I like the textbook-style books--visual dictionaries and such. I want all of them. I almost buy a history of the Federation book, but then I decide that someday I will go online and buy all of these kinds of books at the same time, and have them all, and also possibly for cheaper than they are here. I do end up leaving the bookstore with a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I've been meaning to pick up for a while. (I don't read it until I reach New York and obtain lodging, but it is beautiful and brilliant and it makes me cry.) Nan leaves the bookstore with a pretty little copy of A Christmas Carol by Dickens.

We go hang out with friends of his that night, have a few ciders and beers between us, get acquainted. They're feminists and one of them is a Trekkie, like me, so we have a lot to talk about. I talk about Star Trek so much tonight. It makes me happy. Nan rolls his eyes at us and sometimes tries to redirect the conversation but he doesn't understand just how awesome it is to be able to talk Star Trek with someone who has, in the very recent past, re-watched all of TNG and most of DS9 just like me, and remembers all the little details and has opinions and loves and hates and... it's just great.

Saturday and Sunday blur together in my mind. At some point I make a phone call, setting up an appointment to view a cabin in Waterloo early Tuesday morning. I don't call any other places but I keep browsing craigslist looking at prices. The Waterloo cabin has all utilities, including internet/cable and snow removal, included in the rent. Since heating seems to turn out very expensive in upstate New York, the price seems like the best deal. There might be cheaper places I could live, but not by a lot. I decide that if I like the place when I see it, I will probably take it as soon as possible. I begin to think in terms of moving in there even tho' I haven't seen it yet. Brains work that way.

My dad calls me, too. It is good to hear from him.

On the third night, I meet a person who has no gender, and prefers the pronouns they/them. I am bad at this, trained as I've been to never use "they" to refer to a singular person. I default to "he" a few times accidentally and backtrack and rephrase the sentences using their name instead of the pronoun. Later I wonder if a singular "they" should be used with singular verbs. "They is really cool." "They wants some pizza, wanna bring them some?" We need, in English, a gender-neutral pronoun that rolls off the tongue and is not "it". More experimentation needed. More practice needed. Time will tell.

Nan and I are very lazy. We watch a lot of youtube. We wear wizard robes and witch hats and watch Hocus Pocus (which is, of course, the best Halloween movie of all time). We watch an episode of the Muppet Show, the only DVDs that I actually brought with me to NY. I take naps. I realize suddenly that driving gives me all kinds of ridiculous anxiety and that driving so much for so long made me a nervous wreck. I need these few days just to iron out my nerves for the final assault on Monday. Nan's driving is terrifying and mostly when he drives me places I just close my eyes.

I take a walk on Sunday evening while Nan goes to church. It settles my mind.

I am ready for New York.

pax.

November 8th - 10th
Bloomington, IN

10 November 2013

New York ho! Day Two

I toss and turn with the cold, but manage to sleep a significant amount... I rise at 8 a.m., having collected enough sleep between 18.30 and 08.00 to total 8 or 9 hours. My tent is coated with a diamond glitter of frost on the outside, and slick with condensation on the inside. Emerging from it into the cold air takes a colossal amount of mental effort. But I manage. First thing is to pee, then to pack my bedding back into the truck along with the tent. Packing the icy rain fly back into its bag, bare-handed, is super painful. I can hardly feel my fingers and have to take a break periodically, wander around in the sunny parking lot and come back to it. I wonder about gloves but don't want to dig around in my cases and boxes to find some.

Got some mud on my Starfleet hoodie. This makes me sad, but then I get over it.
Breakfast is simple... an apple, some cured beef sticks, an Izze. I sit with my car running for warmth while I eat it. For lunch I will have more avocado and rice cakes. I read over and respond to a few texts from friends and family, then pull out of this lovely, lonely little campground, leaving it behind as I press ever eastward.

I find my way back through rural Kansas roads to I-70 using a combination of the sun (to know which way east is) and notes from google maps I jotted down before leaving home. I have to get gas before I hit Kansas City and Missouri just to realize later that Missouri gas prices are significantly cheaper than any gas prices I've seen so far. oh well. As is always my luck, when I finally have to pull over to fill up, the next station I pass has gas cheaper by 5 to 10 cents.

I get lost a little in pre-Kansas city city, off I-70 due to confusing signage, filling up at a 7-11 with no public restrooms. I am approached by a man in a backwards cap and oversized shoes, and he asks whether I have 75 cents for the bus. I give him a dollar in quarters. Then, he tries to give me his phone number and address. His upper teeth, all of them, are capped in some kind of gold plating, with letters on them. K... C... ? initials? I tell him I'm not from Kansas and won't be here much longer. I lie and tell him I have no phone yet as he keeps trying to give me his number. He repeats it often enough I expect he wants me to memorize it right then and there, but I push it from my mind, and bid him farewell as I finish looking at my maps and figure out how to get back onto I-70. He saunters back to sit on a bench with a friend of his on the other side of the 7-11.

I put on an audiobook that I bought specifically for this journey: Iced by Karen Moning. It's... really bad. It's narrated by an obnoxious 14-year-old, leaves huge holes in its world-building and plot... mentions past events that seem much more interesting than present ones (leading me to be like, why not write the more-interesting prequel to this instead?)* ...and the voice actress's Irish accent lapses from time to time into American South (??). I bought it because it was set in Dublin and featured a superheroine lead, but most of the book involves more powerful men fighting over the right to own her, and... ugh. It's mildly amusing to the point where I leave it running, and to where I want to know how it ends, but I have to speak aloud my critiques periodically in order to bear listening for long stretches at a time.

* actually, I researched this later and this *is* a sequel. Unfortunately, nothing on the packaging mentioned that, or I probably wouldn't have boughtten it.

I don't stop again until I reach St. Louis. I have an internet friend there I planned to meet for lunch--we have a lot of real-life friends in common, so I want to meet him in real-life too. I want to park near the famous arch but get turned around and end up in a very impoverished part of Illinois. All the buildings here are crumbling, surrounded by the rotten bones of dead industry: rusted-over machinery, graffiti-encrusted brick, weed-eaten concrete. My friend texts me... don't get out of your car on the Illinois side of the river. I lock my doors and heed his warning. It looks about as poor and run down as Steubenville, where I used to fearlessly walk alone at night, but it's best not to take chances when you're carrying all your worldly possessions in your truck with you.

Parking by the arch is $5 I don't want to spend, so I drive around in circles for a long time looking for a meter. My friend and I meet in a Hardee's, where he orders food and I whip out my avocados, rice cakes, and cured beef. We talk a lot about music, especially jazz bands and the like we were in during high school/college. It's a nice lunch and we leave before our meters run out... I would've liked to have talked longer, but I still have quite a bit of driving to do. I ask him for a picture I can use as his contact photo in my phone and he gives me this:

(picture of an arctic fox, looking to the right with snow on its nose)

A man with two little girls comes by and asks us for money. My fox friend gives him all the change in his pockets. All I have is a $10 bill so I give him that. He's so grateful he hugs me. Then he apologizes to my friend, in case I'm his girlfriend. He thinks I'm hot and he likes my Starfleet hoodie. I don't find what he's saying creepy 'cause I don't think he's trying to pick me up or hit on me... even tho' he calls me hot like 5 times, I think he's just trying to pay me a compliment in the only twisted way he knows how. I just think it's funny how a homeless guy likes my super nerdy hoodie.

My friend and I part ways and I keep on through Missouri, needing a fill up again in Illinois where the gas prices are much higher. My friend Nan calls me to make sure I'm still coming to his apartment in Bloomington, IL tonight. I definitely am. I get off I-70 and putter through small town Indiana roads on my way to his University town. I get tired of my audiobook and play music for a little while. Nan keeps texting me while I'm driving so I just call him. He tells me how to find his place, thinking I'm another 45 minutes or so away. Within 15 I'm knocking on his door.

I've missed him quite a bit since my senior year of college. It's nice to have a chance to hug him again. I give him some presents (he's easy to get presents for, so I do that a lot)... mostly religious articles I no longer need or use or desire to have. I give him an awesome purple-and-green rosary that has glow in the dark spots on the beads. That present was meant specifically for him, while the rest are just religious things I could never simply throw or give away. I know that what he keeps he will take care of, and what he gives away will go to people who really want it.

I eat a really simple supper and we set me up with a fluffy sleeping bag on his floor, along with my blankets and pillows and my stuffed giant anteater I've named Lady Annabelle. We talk and catch up. When I crash, I crash hard.

pax.

wed. Nov. 7th. Topeka, KS to Bloomington, IN.

New York ho! Day One

Tea. Irish Breakfast. Hot.

I add a splash of almondmilk to my tea and settle down in the red armchair by the fireplace. It is early in the morning: after my mother has left for work, but long before I typically arise. My father is in and out of the garage, doing work. Bonnie, my mother's little five pound runt of a min pin, jumps into my lap and digs to get under the blanket draped over me. I let her curl up in my lap and ask my dad to bring my breakfast to me if he doesn't mind... a boiled egg and leftover fried chicken from my last Colorado supper. I don't want to get up, don't want to leave this warm puppy, my tea-drinking chair, my CO friends and family. But onward it is. Adventure. Unknown.

My car is already packed. I bid farewell to my father, Bonnie, and Clyde, and hop in. Grizzly Bear is buckled up in the passenger seat, holding my CDs--music and audiobooks for the trip--in his lap; a week's worth of food lies at his feet. I relinquish the garage door opener and drive away, leaving the door wide open for my dad to close later.

First stop is King Soopers for more toothpaste, which I ran out of this morning. I duck out quickly before anyone can recognize me. I buy a quart of oil and fill my tank with gas. Then, I'm off to Limon to hit I-70.

I've driven I-70 before. It's boring. I hate driving. I stop for gas and eat avocado on rice cakes and drink Izzes. At some point I listen to an audio production of Sleepy Hollow... I never knew that Ichabod Crane was such an utter dweeb. Or that the headless horseman only makes a singular appearance in the story. Hmm. I think I'll give this away now that I've heard it once.

I hardly pay attention to where I am until the western horizon behind me is an angry red gash between the earth and sky. I'm looking for a particular exit after Topeka... I find it and rattle down country roads in the fading orange light, looking for a free campsite by a lake in the dark. I miss a turn or two navigating toward it but am able to make U-turns in the dirt. The road fades to gravel, turns sharply right, and I'm there. It consists merely of parking, a sink-less toilet building, and fire circles scattered about the grounds. I have to set up my tent by the light of my headlights, as the sun has now sunk below the horizon. Darkness catches the white on my breath, holding it there.

Inside my tent I throw a flashlight, my phone, my sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and extra blankets. I buckle my fur-lined winter hat under my chin and huddle into the nest I've made (after locking my car and turning the lights off). I can't seem to keep my feet warm enough. Coyotes howl and bay and yip in the woods around me. I'm alone here. No one to pay for the privilege of sleeping cold in the frost. It is barely 6:30 PM and I settle in to sleep early because I've nothing better to do.

Of course I have to pee in the middle of the night. My feet are ice. I barely make it three yards from the tent and just pee there, in the grass, rather than trying to make it to the toilet building, where the doorknobs and toilet seats would bite me with cold. I try to wrap a liner around my feet when I shove myself back into my cocoon but it's too late for them... they're cold all night.

At least I'm free.

pax.

wed., Nov 6th. Colorado Springs, CO to Topeka, KS.

30 October 2013

upstate NY

I figure it's high time I update this blog and get it going again. If only because my dad keeps bugging me to do so. :p

Since the last blog entry, I have been keeping pretty busy. I tried for a while to get my King Soopers job back, but to no avail (even tho' they are chronically understaffed...). So I spent a lot of time working on personal creative projects--most especially art projects, as I attempt to become a better artist. I haven't written very much, which is a shame, but I did begin a few small practice projects which I'm excited about (one being fanfiction and another being a legal manual for superhero/ines... "practice" in that they have no prospects of being sold in future).

I also went to a convention here in Denver and wore my commissioned two-toed sloth costume, and made a lot of friends there and reconnected with old friends I hadn't seen in a long time. I've kept up old and new friendships in Denver by driving up there twice a month to see folk, and even made new friends here in the Springs whom I've been hanging with once a week, and for weekend events from time to time.

I've also gotten back into Star Trek and realized what a die-hard Trekkie I really am... I re-watched all of TNG--except for episodes from the first two seasons I remembered as being particularly bad--and am currently watching Deep Space Nine for the first time as an adult, and loving it. I'd only seen scattered episodes as a kid, and I didn't like DS9 back then; I only liked Voyager and TNG. (These days, I don't particularly like Voyager. I think of it as Star Trek for kids. Not sure why? Neelix, maybe?) Anyway, I bought myself a proper metal communicator pin and a Star Trek uniform hoodie, and I will talk about Star Trek to anyone who's willing... I've even gotten to the point where I can name the episode wherein particular things happened, so I guess I'm pretty far gone, haha. TNG is still my favorite, but DS9 is a very close second.

But, all this unemployment, while thoroughly enjoyed, has taken a huge chunk out of my savings even despite the fact that I do chores instead of paying rent whilst here in my folks' basement. So, onward and forward! I have been applying to Americorps jobs ever since I returned from the cycle trip, and have finally accepted an offered position.

In a week I will be on the road driving to upstate NY--somewhere around Lyons, where my Americorps VISTA position is. I don't know where I'm going to live, but I do know that I will only make a monthly stipend and will basically be poor for this next year. But poor with a purpose: capacity building for the Wayne County Action Program, which helps impoverished veterans. Whether or not this leads into a fulfilling career for me remains to be seen, but I'm excited nonetheless. It will I'm sure be a wonderfully rewarding experience and will teach me many things.

I intend to blog more often, as I move to NY and make my way on my own again. Right now I am packing up all my things to fit in my dad's SUV, which I get to borrow for the next year. I'm leaving all my books with my parents (otherwise, I'd have no room for anything else in the truck >_<;) and sticking to the bare minimum of what I need to live a decently comfortable life in NY. The list is short and the first entry: internet.

Anyhow. That's all I've got. Expect to hear more from me soon!

Pax.

03 July 2013

Post-cycling funk

So, what have I been up to since returning to Colorado from Kentucky so suddenly?

Not much.

It took me about two weeks to work up the energy to do anything besides watching Netflix/DVDs or faffing about on the internet. I think the medication I was taking made me feel weird and my body needed the time to just heal my infection and my contusion without cycling 50 - 70 mile days, y'know?

Ten days after the accident, I got my elbow X-rayed again to check for the kinds of fractures that show up again after swelling goes down, but, thankfully, nothing showed up. Soft tissue injury only. Still, I had to wear the splint for two weeks and the sling for three, and tho' my arm is mostly healed by now, if I use it normally all day it starts hurting before bedtime. Sigh.

I ultimately decided against joining the Handlebarbarians when they come thru Colorado--which is July 2nd, actually; we're going down to Pueblo to see them soon. Reasons? A big one is that I'm simply not ready to face traffic again for a little while. Even driving in a car frightens me now; I can't imagine being on a bicycle again. After taking my first spill on a bit of loose gravel (see the video in my previous post), I took every downhill after that slower than Jenn, even, because it was frightening. I just kept seeing my bicycle, in my head, flying out from under me and dropping me to the asphalt again. It just happens after you get hurt--you don't want to get hurt again. Same thing used to happen with skiing: I'd be fine, going fast, having fun, then I'd have a fall, and even if it wasn't that bad I'd still be slow all day, and not get up to speed again until my next trip. I know my injuries from this car accident weren't that bad... no broken bones, no head injuries, nothing serious or scary... but, still, I was hit by a car. I didn't slow down fast enough, I hit an obstacle, I spilled off my bike, and WHAM I felt a car slam into my shoulder and I felt the rubber of the tire hit my elbow and I got up and I just couldn't do it anymore. Now, if I tried to keep going, I know that every time a car passed me I would just have a flashback of falling down in front of one. Big trucks passing me in the Kansas wind? No. I need some time to build my strength and my courage back up before facing that, and if that makes me a coward, well then, that's what I am.

Another reason I'm not joining the trip again is a conflict of interest. I love my family and I love Ben and Dan too, and I had some genuinely good times on the 920 miles of trip that I managed to go on. Nevertheless, I had some really, really bad times as well. Bad times that go beyond mere physical exhaustion, and which I'm not sure anyone can properly understand, what with my celiac disease and personal demons and getting that skin infection in my arm and all the swelling that was in it and various aches and pains that go along with having the body I have. This trip started out as something I wanted to do because I had so much fun cycling in Ireland, and because cycling there saved me from a lot of funk and depression that I otherwise would have been wallowing in. I was genuinely excited for this TransAmerica thing. But, once the other five cyclists joined on, it wasn't my trip anymore. Slowly and surely a lot of my plans and ideas got outvoted--this, because of differing budgets; that, because of differing time schedules; the other, because of differing fitness levels; yet another because of differing personalities and interests. Maybe this is selfish, but it got to a point where I didn't feel like the trip I was on was a nice vacation anymore, because it wasn't MY vacation. It was work. It was someone else's project, someone else's adventure; someone else was calling the shots. Since I wasn't fully equipped on my own and didn't have my own set of maps, I had little choice but to follow along. Many times along the road I seriously considered breaking off and going at my own pace, but that lack of maps and lack of certain communal items (first aid, food, cooking supplies) kept me from being so drastic.

Yeah, we had some personality conflicts in the group. Conflicts that may have been resolved over time, but never got resolved because I had to come home before they could be. And I don't have the mental or emotional energy to face unresolved issues right now. I simply don't. I have a lot of emotions to work thru, old bad habits of laziness coming back, health problems that involves super low energy levels, muscle pains, awful digestion, nonstop headaches. I have a tendency toward both depression and sloth, and I'm trying to fight it back. I've started with some professional counseling. My relationship with my parents is a bit rocky at the moment and I feel isolated from old friends by so much distance and I hate living in Colorado Springs but every place I've lived that I liked living in is closed off to me now, for one reason or another.

I can't stop comparing that 920 miles to what I did in Ireland and the small trips I took in England. I'd give all 920 miles back to time if I could just ride the 25 miles from York to Rievaulx and back, in England, by myself, the way I did in August 2012. If I could re-live my Irish cycle trip in July 2012 I would do it every summer in the exact same way without changing a thing (except maybe bringing an effing mosquito net or a proper tent for the midges, yikes--oh, and without burning my leg in Doolin, haha). America has a lot of promise in certain areas, but you have to go thru a lot of crappy areas to see the promise, and that's another part of it, too. I wasn't super happy with the route, and tho' cycling across America is an impressive achievement, I feel like a shorter route, say along the west coast, along the east coast, or simply starting in Colorado thru to Oregon would end up being a nicer trek overall with less doldrums to suffer thru to get to the nice bits.

I'm trying to start job hunting and start working on creative projects that I'd been putting on a backburner for far to long, now that I'm back. I'm reconnecting with friends in Denver and I've decided I'm going to a convention in the first week of August so that I can wear an elaborate costume I commissioned for that very purpose two years ago. I've been cooking with dad (more on that in a later post, I think), and I went to the Pride Parade in Denver and the Ren Faire in Larkspur. I'd rather be spending my time doing these things right now. I want to get a job and get out of here and be on my own again and it's just too much to try and put all that on hold a second time to get out there on the bike for another month and a half.

So I haven't even taken my bike out of her box and put her back together again. Even if I wanted to go, I wouldn't be in the shape for it, not when the other Handlebarbarians have been cycling 100 mile days and the most exercise I've gotten is one 4 mile walk since I've been back.

I'm going to reconnect with the Handlebarbarians soon, just for a day, and I'll write about that I'm sure, and then I will bid them farewell as they continue on to dip their front wheels in the Pacific Ocean--the Handlebarbarians, minus one. I'm happy for them and that they're able to do this and that they're having fun and that no one else has been injured on the way. I'm also a little jealous, a little angry, and a lot sad about it. But there's no point in dwelling on the negative, is there? Especially not when they're doing such an adventurous, exciting, and difficult thing. I do wish them all the best.

That pretty much covers it, I suppose.

pax.


02 July 2013

Video of my 25 mph wipeout from day 14

Finally started sorting thru the videos on my contourROAM since coming back early from KY after my injury.

The most exciting/frightening video is, of course, the video of my 25 mph wipeout downhill in VA. It's described, and my injuries are pictured, in my blog entry titled TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 14.

Have a look at it below:






All I can say is, I'm really fortunate that I passed Jenn in the beginning of the video, so at least one person was behind me when I crashed. Everyone else kept cycling and it took me and Jenn like 6 or 7 miles to finally catch up to them at the bottom of the hill--and that's when I get the first aid from the 2nd half of this video. It would have been a lot more disheartening and difficult to proceed if I had been by myself for all of it.

Freaking gravel after a blind turn >:(

As for the rest of my footage, there's some nice downhills and things that I managed to film in VA, some of which may find their way to my youtube channel (jameverywhere). Mostly I think I will give the best clips to Dan so that when he makes his video of the entire trip, once they return from Oregon, he can use my clips in the beginning part.

It's a shame I won't be finishing this trip with them but I have a lot on my plate right now, physically and emotionally and professionally, and I just can't bring myself to get back on the road at this time.

I will, however, continue to cycle and continue to go on cycle tours every few years--but maybe not 3-month-long ones, maybe 2 to 5 weeks is a better time frame for it.

I will also attempt to keep blogging here. For those of you who came to this blog purely to follow the TransAmerica Cycle, I'm sorry that I will not be writing any more of it, as I will not be continuing the trip with my fellow Handlebarbarians. Perhaps I will explain why in detail in a later post. My blog will turn back to my life and my attempts to follow the Jam Everywhere philosophy described in Jam Everywhere episode 2 (which you can view here).

Thank you all for reading and supporting my blog during our cycling adventures. I hope some of you might stick around for what comes next.

pax.

14 June 2013

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 20

I get a call maybe 30 minutes after I wake up--it's Ben's family friend, saying she will be an hour late due to fog on the highway. I look out the window and sure enough the whole world is draped in a dense fog, leeching color and focus, phasing everything partway to intangibility. Best not to drive in such conditions for sure.

Jenn and Dan arrive and Dan makes a beeline for the shower while Jenn helps me get dressed. I have boiled eggs and antibiotics for breakfast, along with some coffee I fetch from the main office. I also drink the rest of my almondmilk from Big!Lots. My arm did well overnight and secure in its splint and sling it doesn't hurt so much really anymore. It's just weird not to be able to use it for much of anything.

Once Jenn's taken her shower and we've gotten BK packed up again we check out and head back to the campsite, where my benefactor, Harriet, is waiting for us, along with her 4-year-old grandson. She takes the whole gang out for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and won't let anyone pay for anything. During the meal (Dr. Pepper alone for me) I spend a lot of time on my smartphone trying to figure out ways to get to one of my uncles in Missouri. It seems like it'll be quite difficult--they both live pretty far in the countryside, away from big transportation centers. I keep trying anyway.

When the meal is over we all say farewell and I climb into Harriet's car with BK and her grandson and we're off to Lexington. The others intend to cycle a short day today, ending up where we originally meant to be before the accident. Once we're off, they set off, too, cycling ever westward--without me.

I make some phone calls on the way to Lexington and then still more when we've arrived to their spacious penthouse apartment, downtown. rural Missouri proves too difficult to reach: too exorbitantly expensive to reach via rental car, too isolated to reach via plane or train or bus. Besides all this, even if we were able to get me there, Harriet tells me it's unlikely my arm will be fully healed in the 10 days it will take the others to reach our uncles... I need more time for something this swollen, and there's still a chance that a hairline fracture might show up once the swelling goes down. She has experience as both an x-ray tech and a nurse so I take her advice and call my dad to get a plane ticket back to Colorado. (author's note: I'm writing this about a week later than it happened, and tho' I haven't heard back from the hospital about the status of my x-rays, my arm won't be ready to ride for another week at least... it feels loads better, but it still can't handle a lot of pressure. This was certainly the better choice.)

Once my ticket to Colorado is sorted--flying out tomorrow evening from Lexington to Chicago O'Hare to Colorado Springs--we go out to a local bike shop to get Bike Rothar boxed up. We drop her off and they say she'll be ready in the morning. I also pick up some new red handlebar tape to replace what got messed up in the accident since they're carrying a brand I like and never found in the Springs.

After this it's time to grocery shop, so that I have enough food to tide me over till I'm home (I fall back on my old favorites of almondmilk and cinnamon chex, along with crisps and sausage and things). It's about 4 in the afternoon when we return to Harriet's house but I'm absolutely beat so I go to take a nap while Harriet and her grandson watch Snow White in the living room. I've been set up with a whole room and bathroom to myself, with one of those couches that folds out into a bed. I fall asleep immediately for hours and hours, waking up only to take my medicine and call my friend Nan to update him and receive a call from Jenn wherein she tells me that she and the other Handlebarbarians miss me dearly. I tell her that from now on when they sign people's ledgers and guestbooks as TransAm cyclists they should sign as the Handlebarbarians minus 1 and she says they will. Some of the others text me their well-wishes also. I try not to be too upset about all this. I'm still alive, after all, isn't that so? And tho' I'm very jealous that the others get to continue and to cross the Ohio River and the Mississippi and see all the cool things I fully intended to see--well, I'd rather that they get to go without me than not go at all. It's just hard, I guess. This trip started out--I had the idea first, I meant to do it before anyone else joined in (except Travis, who's been meaning to for a few years now, bit he didn't tell me until after I decided to myself). And now it's not my trip anymore.

I do a touch of blogging then fall asleep for good, full of antibiotics and pain medicine and unshed tears. Tomorrow evening I'll be home.

pax.

[picture below is of a sloth--my spirit animal-- crawling over wet leaves on the forest floor. For the next week, this is all I'm gonna be...]

09 June 2013

Transamerica cycle 2013, day 19

When I get up in the morning, Jenn tells me that the nurse practitioner has actually come down here to see me, so I get up and stretch a little until I'm lucid and then go out to show her my wound. She decides that yes, it *is* infected, and takes me to her practice in her van to dress it and give me an antibiotic shot in the hip. They dress it with a clear dressing that should fall off when the wound is healed enough for band-aids alone. At least I don't have a fever. She also calls in a prescription to a pharmacy down the road for some oral antibiotics for me to take and I thank her profusely and offer to give her my insurance info but she says she'd rather not deal with the paperwork.

Back at the church I eat a banana and an apple and some scrambled eggs with garlic powder and pepper in them and a couple fruit punch drinks that are like Capri Sun but aren't. Me, Jenn, and Dan have a few arguments that involve shouting and almost-crying because of leftover stress from yesterday. I had been very paranoid, before this trip started, of feeling rushed and pushed too hard seeing as I'm a weaker cyclist than most of the others on top of having dietary and digestion issues with a compliment of pain and fatigue issues that crop up from time to time. All I wanted was to have a fun and challenging vacation but the past few days have been very difficult on me and I'm afraid, because if this pattern continues without respite, I'll be spending more of the trip miserable than not. Dan and Jenn think that I'm not acknowledging how accommodating and helpful and proactive they've been for me so far and take issues with the way I express and frame things. By the end of it, tho', I think we reach an agreement of a path to take--move a bit slower, take breaks more often, let me eat *before* sitting down in restaurants so I'm full and not pathetically envious of all the poison floating around me, etc. The others put in a few helpful comments as well and eventually everyone calms down so that we can move on.

Then it's, unfortunately, time to pack everything up and get moving again. Outside is a group of lifeteen people with vans and there's two girls who caught newts in a stream and named them Lizzy and Spot and let us hold them. They're here to use the building we're vacating. They're a church youthgroup thing, but I don't get to talk to them for long because I have to cycle down the street to the pharmacy to fill my prescription for antibiotics for my arm. I do so and it turns out someone else paid for them--I don't have to give them a cent and they don't ask for my insurance information or anything. We've hit a motherlode of kindness here in McKee, wow.

We do leave a thank-you note and a donation to St. Paul's before we go, at least!

After I've obtained my pills we start cycling again. When we've gone about 3 miles, we hit a bit of a traffic jam. Cars pile up behind us because the roads are bendy and there's a lot of oncoming traffic. Sometimes we pull over into driveways to let folks by. Other times, when we can see further ahead around a bend than the car behind, we wave them on to pass. There's a large truck at one point, like a small semi, and Dan who's in front waves him on because he has just enough time to pass us. He does so but there's an oncoming car and while he has time he still pulls in front of us again really abruptly and causes our whole line to slow down. I can't slow down fast enough because I wasn't prepared (I'm 2nd to last in the line) so I swerve, and hit Ben's left pannier, and start to spill onto the road. A red car which blindly followed the semi passing us (even tho' there wasn't time for 2 cars, only for the semi, to pass) is next to me when this happens. This red car didn't leave us enough space while passing, so as my left elbow hits the asphalt the car's rear tire smacks that elbow and the body of the car clips my shoulder. The car swerves to a halt as soon as the driver hears the THUMP of my body against it.

I get up off the road quickly, afraid of being hit by the next car coming, and shout something like, I CAN'T DO THIS TRIP ANYMORE as the stress of the argumentative  morning, misery of yesterday, and severe trauma and fear from what just happened fuse together in my brain. It is soon followed by, I JUST GOT HIT BY A FUCKING CAR. Someone helps me get my bike off the road into the grass and moves me as well. I'm standing and walking okay, my left knee is bloody again but that's nothing major--it's my left arm and elbow that's super swollen and in pain and I shout things like IT'S THE SAME ARM and I THINK IT'S BROKEN. It is some kind of cruel twist of fate for the same arm which got dressed up this morning due to infection to be almost run over in the road not 3 miles later.

Jenn puts down a yellow raincover on the ground and has me sit down as I sob and shout things and try to process all the fear and adrenaline running thru my body, holding my arm to keep it immobile. I remember Anna Faye telling me to breathe and after I stop shouting she keeps telling me that I'm doing really well and that I've calmed down quickly and that I'm handling everything really well. Travis and Jenn get out one of those tinfoil emergency blanket things and drape me in it and Jenn sits next to me and she's crying too and I say I'm so sorry I yelled at them this morning and she says they're sorry too. Dan and Ben deal with the other driver I think, who is a bit hysterical also because she thought she killed me at some point and someone calls the police and an ambulance and the cops come and get info from me and then the paramedics come and look at my arm and splint it and they apologize but they have to put me on one of those immobilizing board things with the head blocks and the big collar just in case of spinal injuries. And they do that and load me into the ambulance in a stretcher and Jenn rides up front, leaving the others to find a way to get themselves and our bikes 20 miles to the hospital in Berea, which is where they're gonna take me.

The lady in the ambulance gets all my info and my vitals and makes smalltalk with me while we ride. It's not super uncomfortable on the board except for a pain in the back of my head because of the pressure of the strap on my forehead. At some point I reallyreally have to pee but I can't so I hold it but all I can think about is how bad I have to pee. In the cab Jenn and the driver are talking about the Boone Tavern in Berea and how it is supposedly haunted.

We reach the hospital and all I see for the longest time is the ceiling. Eventually some nurses find me and I tell them I have to pee but they have to do an exam of my spine first before they can take me off the board. It takes a while but they finally clear my neck and spine and let me up to go pee. I hold my arm awkwardly out in front of me and take care of business and I feel a lot better when I get back. At some point they come and give me a tetanus shot since I can't remember when it was I last got one (but it was probably time to get another one anyway...).

Jenn talks to me and keeps me company while I'm in there waiting for x-rays. The x-ray tech is a nice guy, retired navy, makes me smile with some dad-jokes. He takes off the original splint and takes pictures and sends me back into the ER. Another wait and the results are in: no fracture! Just a really bad contusion. There is a chance that a hairline fracture can show up in a few days when the swelling starts going down tho' so they give me a CD with the x-rays on them and say if it doesn't improve by Monday, go get them re-x-rayed. they wrap my arm in a splint and a sling and put me in the hallway to wait. We wait in the hall a while for outprocessing and once I've given all my info for the 100th time and given my insurance information they let us go out.

And who should we see in the entrance but the rest of the Handlebarbarians! Turns out that Rebecca, our guardian angel from yesterday, just *happened* to be riding by the fire station where they were with all our bikes trying to see if they could hitch a ride with a pickup or something. She stopped to see how they were doing because she recognized them and when she heard what happened she summoned two volunteers and two vans to ferry everyone to the hospital. When I get outside she's brought me two slices of gluten-free bread (I confirm it's Udi's before partaking) and for the others, chocolate covered coffee beans. Dan gives me the pre-cooked bacon that was supposed to be tomorrow's breakfast and I have a bacon sandwich and some juice and feel better from that.

Rebecca then calls around to the catholic church of the area, St. Clare's I believe, for permission for us to set up camp in their backyard and she calls the neighbors to tell them what's happening and she doesn't leave us until she knows that we'll be safe and sound for the next two nights as needed. We take photos to remember her by (and to post on facebook) and bid her a warm and grateful farewell. The volunteers drive me and Bike Rothar over there while the others cycle. Cursory examination says BK is all right--she'll just need some new handlebar tape and some adjustment to the hoods/brake levers.

everyone pitches their tents, but I don't because I know that I'll need to sleep indoors tonight. there's a Knights Inn just across the street so I decide that I will sleep there. first thing we do is all walk half mile to Walmart where we get some more food and I fill my prescription for pain pills that I was given in the hospital. the people in the pharmacy are really great and they offer me a lot of condolences and heal soons. I buy an orange carrot juice because I'm really thirsty but I can't really think of anything else and I'm not terribly hungry so that's all that I get besides the medication. when we're all done with Walmart we walk back the other way past the church to go to a Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by Rebecca and the volunteers earlier. obviously I can't eat anything here but I'm not hungry so I just get a Dr Pepper and refill it a couple times. everyone else eats pizzas and bread slathered in garlic butter. I spend some time trying to find out where my uncles in Missouri live and if it is a good idea to try to go ahead to Missouri and wait there until the others pass through. they'll be there about 10 to 14 days from now and if my elbow is not fractured then I should be healed in time to join them. but my uncles in Missouri live kinda far out in the country, and it's looking like it'll be difficult to reach them, especially since Berea Kentucky has no train station no bus stop that we know of and no airport. I do call my uncle Danny and ascertain that he would love to have me over so it's just a matter of trying to get there. it is too late at night however to make any solid plans about Missouri. Ben calls an old family friend who is currently in Lexington, Kentucky, to see if she can give me a ride up to Lexington because I will be more likely to find rental cars, trains, buses, and planes up there than in Berea. She immediately agrees and says she will come first thing tomorrow morning. Our first instinct is to get me a rental car but we're not sure yet if that is feasible.

when everyone is done eating and drinking, we all walk back to the Catholic Church. it is now dark, as the Sun has set. Jenn and Dan help me walk my bike with all my stuff on it to the Knights Inn. I check in for one night and I'm given a whole room with two beds to myself for only about $50. Jen helps me change into sleeping clothes and rewrap my arm after I'd had taken the bandages off to stretch it a little and make sure the joint is still flexible. dan commiserate with me for a little while because one time he broke his collarbone in a accident with a car while he was cycling and he understands what it's like to have difficulty using one side of one's body. they make sure that I can get into an out of bed on my own and a few other things without help, and then they head back to the campsite for the night, saying that they will come back in the morning to help me get dressed and ready to go.

I then spend some time texting my friend nan and reading things on the internet and waiting for the pain pill to make me fall asleep. it takes a bit longer than usual because I was just drinking Dr peppers with caffeine, but when I fall asleep I fall asleep pretty hard. I definitely could not have slept in a tent with my arm this way.

I'm glad that my injury is not worse and if anyone had to be injured I'm glad it was me and not someone else. however, I am very disappointed that I won't be able to continue the trip with the others come tomorrow. hopefully, I will be able to join them again at some point. I don't care if I skip States, I just want to make it to the Pacific Ocean.

Pax.

--
today's numbers
distance cycled: 3 mi
riding time: 15 min
avg speed: panic
max speed: ambulance
odometer: ~920 mi
--

[ since today was so traumatizing & terrible how about a picture of my puppies? the brown one is 10 pounds and the black one with brown accents is 5 pounds and they're both Miniature Pinschers. here they are cuddling up together and sleeping.]

07 June 2013

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 18

For breakfast I finish off my rice chex from before and most of the almondmilk, while everyone else goes back to the continental one. We actually manage to pack up our stuff and get out of this room in a semi-organized fashion, which surprises me. We leave a few dollars for the cleaning staff and are on our way.

The first part of our day is back along hwy 15 with 3 choices: ride in debris-filled shoulder, the rumble strip, or in the lane w/ scary traffic. At least this only lasts a few miles before we turn off onto another, smaller road. For the beginning of the day we ride in a pace line thru a not-insignificant headwind but Ben and Anna Faye in front of me are kinda yo-yo-ing in and out behind Travis and at some point I'm kinda volleyed out of the pace line and Jenn who was behind me gets into it and I'm stuck in the wind on an uphill and lose everyone. I lose them for a long time so I just ride at my own pace and we reach a place with a climb and a rocky cliff rising up on one side and it's overcast and I find a little black snake in the road so I stop to push it into the grass with a stick (so it won't become roadkill) after I take a picture and it bites my shoe. But it's so little that its fearsome figure 8s and strikes at my shoe are just cute and pathetic rather than scary. I don't know if it's even old enough to have fangs yet.

Then, as I'm photographing the snake, Dan cycles up behind me? I was like, I thought you were ahead of me! but everyone had stopped at a gas station or something and I was just trucking along and didn't even notice. I'm glad that I'm not as far behind as I thought I was but soon enough since it is a climb everyone passes me again. Travis finds another little snake, with a kinda giraffe pattern, and picks it up by the tail before tossing it into the grass. This one is super lethargic and doesn't even protest at all.

We decided a day or two ago that one of the reasons I'm slowest uphill might be because I have the smallest wheels out of everyone--26" while everyone else has 700cc or similar. It means that not only do I have lower gearing mechanically than everyone except for Travis and Anna (i.e. lowest number of teeth on granny gear), but my small wheel size makes my lowest gear even lower as each pedal stroke brings me less distance with less effort than the others. Add that to my natural weaknesses compared to everyone in fitness levels and also muscle/energy issues related to celiac and you have one fairly slow cyclist.

So naturally the others are way far ahead of me and there's this very ominous thunder and lightning way off to the left kinda making me nervous like I'm going to get left behind in the pouring rain. I feel a little abandoned and I have to stop and take a sit-down rest at some point before I even see the others again. A passing driver pulls over to make sure I'm okay, sitting there alone, but I say I'm fine, just taking a rest, and she continues on. By mile 45 or so I'm holding back tears. I find Anna Faye, Ben, and Travis at a gas station in I think Boonesville and I get a real-sugar sprite at a gas station. They lost Jenn and Dan but we find them at the next gas station over. Locals tell us there's a church that hosts cyclists around here and are we staying? But our goal for today is McKee. It's raining pretty hard by now... I vote to just stay here but the others outvote me so we just take a rest here, buying more food, eating snacks, and it's discovered Ben has a flat so we take some time to fix that, too. I start crying at some point so we also have to stop and talk about how I haven't been having a very good past few days and how all I want is a leisurely vacation but I feel pressed hard with these 70-mile days and I feel abandoned when I spend so much of the day out of sight of anybody and so we try to work out solutions to my issues and then 'cause I've been outvoted we press on toward McKee.

Since I cried Ben stays behind with me for most of the rest of the day which is really nice of him and helps cheer me a little, but my muscles are still overtaxed despite the rest day and I'm just trying to survive the next 25 miles. At some point I help a turtle cross the road and at another we stop at a church to ask for water (it's Wednesday night so a lot of protestant churches are having services)--the basement door's open but no one's there 'cause they're all singing upstairs so we just get some water from the kitchen sink and hope they don't mind. Dan gets annoyed with me because I won't climb back down this grassy hill to get the water bladder for cooking tonight but my legs don't work and I've gone over 65 miles which is all I thought we'd do today so I'm annoyed too. Travis ends up filling the bladder.

We finally roll into McKee and what we had planned on is camping in some national forest around here but we roll and roll thru town and can't find a spot of it. We do see  a sign at some point for a recreation area and turn to go there but after like 2 miles we're still passing houses so we ask a guy in his driveway where is it and he says it's like another 8 miles so we say screw that and go back into the main town. We decide to knock on the door of St. Paul's Catholic church and maybe they'll let us camp in their yard? A woman named Rebecca opens the door and we ask can we stay here and she doesn't even blink she just asks, are you hungry? The fact we can camp there is just a given. We pitch our tents under a pear tree and then go inside. She happens to have a lot of leftover food from some event they just hosted so she loads the others up with it and I go to take a shower first (they have showers too!) but before I do I sit on the toilet and just cry and cry to let out all the stress of the day.

When I unwrap my arm it looks really infected and swollen and gross and I think I need to see a doctor. Jenn comes to check on me and sees it and concurs and says we'll find a doctor in the morning. I take my shower and when I come out Jenn forces me to eat so I eat bananas and spam and Rebecca offers me almondmilk and juice boxes too. Turns out she has a nurse practitioner friend I can go see in the morning, but in the meantime she opens up this giant first aid kit and lets me raid it and re-dress my wound for the time being and take some bandages for later also.

I already pitched my tent but there are couches in here and she offers that we can sleep indoors 'cause it might rain tonight. The others refuse and say camping is fine but me and Travis decide to take her up on it. She even brings me a pillow and blanket; added to my sleeping bag liner, I don't even need my sleeping bag I'm warm enough. The couch is super soft and comfortable and I'm so happy not to have to camp in a wet stinky tent after such a difficult day. Sometimes I feel like I'm in boot camp rather than on vacation. But we'll work it out. We'll make it work. We're a team even when it really doesn't feel like it.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 71 miles
riding time: 7 hrs 25 min
my avg speed: 9.5 mph
my max speed: 39.2 mph
odometer: 917.6
--

no picture today, sorry.

04 June 2013

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 17

Today we sleep in as long as we can without missing the free continental breakfast but when the others get up I keep sleeping because I can't have any of it anyway. (They try to bring me back some fruit cups but without a label to read I don't feel comfortable eating them.) When I finally do get up I walk to the grocery store with the others and at Big!Lots I actually find almondmilk so I can pig out on cinnamon chex and just eat bowl after bowl of it. I also get chickpea chips, BBQ potato chips, canned ham, blood orange soda, and a regular 24 oz coca-cola for the caffeine. As soon as we get back to the room we all take an extended nap, 3 to a bed, except Ben who reads and drinks beer in a chair. Then we get up and all talk about the crazy dreams we had (Anna Faye's was a nightmare) and everyone goes out to get fast food for lunch while I eat chickpea chips and blog and read blogs on my phone while lounging in bed.

That's all we do, all day: nap, eat, and play on our phones. We also get one load of laundry done but it doesn't dry all the way before the laundry room closes so we have to hang our clothes all over everything and this room is an absolute mess with stuff by now... it'll be a confused and disorganized morning trying to clean up but, whatever, we deserve this laziness today.

Jenn and Dan go out to dinner while the rest of us stay on our phones. Travis sets himself up on the floor and goes to sleep first. I eat some fish for the protein and decide to hit the hay, too. We have five more days of riding ahead before we can do this again and I want to be good and rested for it.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 0 mi
riding time: 0 hrs 0 min
avg speed: slug
max speed: snail
--

[pictured below is all of us sans Ben scrunched into the beds and napping]

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 16

The swelling in my arm has gone down by now, which is good. It was probably caused by a too-tight bandage and high exercising blood pressure; nothing major. I leave the same dressing on it and go into the dry bathrooms to change clothes. It's raining and it sucks to have to pack up our wet tents but the pavilion is dry so we don't have to stand around in the rain while getting ready and eating breakfast (bacon and boiled eggs again) so that's good, too.

It's a busy road for the first few miles of the day, but all downhill in the shoulder. At some point we pass a huge roadkill with bubbling skin melting in the rain and tho' we only see it for all of 5 seconds it's really traumatizing, like we all kinda shout what WAS that?! after we pass it. Three votes go toward big dog, and three toward mountain lion, but later people decide it might have been a bear. I still vote big dog, knowing how all dogs in Kentucky seem to run free for some reason.

There's a lot of debris in the shoulder and Dan gets a flat due to broken glass and then immediately another flat due to a staple. He, Jenn, and Ben don't have a pump but the rest of us already made it to the bottom of the hill and were waiting at the turn so we have to send Travis back uphill with a pump for them (but at least he can take the stuff off his bike to do it). While they're taking care of that Anna Faye and I go on to get a head start since we're the slower cyclists of the group but we don't make it far before we decide to pull over and buy lunch already (because really, whether or not we'll be remotely close to civilization and food at lunchtime is a gamble) and the others catch up. But then they go inside to shop when I'm done so I go get a head start up the next climb.

...except it's not much of one 'cause they catch up to me about halfway up. Then Jenn has a slow puncture which means her tire gets flat in like 15 min after being pumped and her and Dan don't have any more spare tubes between them so they have to borrow one from Ben to fix it. Jenn and Dan then decide to buy better tires at the first opportunity they get; 3 flats in a day is a lot.

After 20 miles we stop at a pizza place for lunch and while the others devour insane amounts of pizza I eat rice chex and maple almond butter and drink so much Dr. Pepper I can hardly hold it in. The lady who serves us is really sweet and helpful and fills up our water bottles for us before we leave. For the rest of the day we take no more food breaks so all I have on the road is almonds and skittles. It is a hard day today. We still have 50 miles left to go.

There are rumble strips on the edges of all the roads in Kentucky. Getting caught in one on a bicycle can break your teeth; dayum. Shaken Cyclist Syndrome.

We go into a nice valley past a rehab center and what looks like old folks homes and also a college, and then up thru Pippa Passes which isn't so bad of climbing but I'm still far behind. The sun comes out for a while and it gets hot but it's not so bad. The others wait for me at the top and then we go down for a long ways on a kinda busy road to where traffic will stack up behind us like 6 cars deep on the bends before we have a chance to pull over and let them pass. We stop for a short soda break in Hindman. I go into a little cafe looking for something and I see a Kentucky soda called Ale 8 and I ask them what it's like and they give me a can for free to try. It's pretty good, tastes like a cross between ginger ale and sprite I guess.

From there we keep a really great pace line for a long time, singing songs from the Labyrinth at the top of our lungs. Thru rolling terrain and flat areas I keep up pretty well and even stay in front some of the time. We reach Dwarf, KY at a nice clip and stop to take photos of me under the sign because I'm Gimli. Then it's onward to Hazard. We have to take a detour because an entire bridge from the route is missing--just, not there anymore. But the detour is actually a more direct route and it's still a pretty quiet road so it's not so bad at all. Except for a big hill on it, which contains a pack of like 7 dogs that chase us all in turn and at some point a stocky bulldog mutt that chases Anna Faye really viciously and scares her quite a bit, as she is climbing in her lowest gear and has a hard time getting away. Dan brings the bear spray down to where I am below her in case it comes back but when I finally reach the top it is gone.

When we reach Hazard there's 2 motels to choose from--one closer but next to nothing and another farther off close to food and liquor. We choose the latter (a super 8) and push on an extra 3.something miles to get there on highway 15 in the shoulder in busy traffic and actually uphill to where I walked my bike up some of it because I was starving and super tired from such a long day in the saddle. When we reached the super 8 FINALLY AFTER SEVENTY MILES OMG the first thing I do is go to a liquor store with Ben and while he buys beer for everyone else I buy a bottle of sweet citrus strawberry wine and drink half the bottle in the 5 minutes it takes to walk back to the motel. I then decide to go down to a grocery store Dan says is <0.5 mi away because everyone else is going to fast food places and so there won't be communal dinner tonight. But it's closed when I get there--everything in that strip is closed. I have to walk back up to a gas station, still exhausted, still hungry, to buy jerky and sardines and starburst and canned fruit cocktail which are like the *only* things in the store safe for my consumption. And I don't really want them but I don't have a choice so I buy them anyway.

When I get outside of the gas station I sit in the grass by a drainage pipe and just cry and cry, not gonna lie. Doing so much physical exertion in a day just lays your emotions bare, let me tell ya. If you're happy, you're giddy; if you're irritated, you're irate; if you're tired, you're exhausted; if you're sad, you're depressed. When I get back to the motel room and it's locked because everyone else is eating easy food I can't have, I start struggling with some internal demons that have been laying dormant within me for years--so I call my best friend Nan and thankfully he picks up and I can talk to him for a few hours to calm down to a point where I can start eating and stop feeling quite so terrible. When the others come back and let me in I keep talking to Nan but I retrieve my other half bottle of wine and drink the rest of it while I do so. When we finally say goodbye I come in and take the last shower, rinsing days' worth of dirt off of me--coloring the tub gray--and cleaning out my wounds again. The one on my arm is still full of pus and oozing but it's clean so I re-dress it with Vaseline and leave the other scrapes to scab up like my knee finally did.

Tomorrow is a sorely needed rest day. Gonna sleep in, yeah, yeah.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 71 miles
riding time: 6 hrs 52 min
avg speed: 10.3 mph
max speed: 37.2 mph
odo: 846.6 mi
--

[pictured below is a sign we found in Dwarf, KY. It's on planks of wood, clearly handmade, and reads, "WELCOME TO DWARF, KY / CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE"]

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 15

Due to our late night last night we don't even start getting out of bed until like 9 a.m., which is fine by me. I replace the dressings on my hips with 3 band-aids each and decide to leave my knee open to scab up. Breakfast is boiled eggs only so I also have a can of sardines in tomato sauce and a real-sugar coke which I had bought at the dollar store before the tractor pull. The small amount of caffeine helps me get ready but I'm still really slow. The gentleman who had driven us to the tractor pull shows up to bid us farewell at some point and we thank him again for the indoor stay. Rolling start is after 10 sometime.

The first couple miles of the day is uphill and I'm really tired and fading so I fall behind immediately. There are times even that I have to walk my bike up steep bits, which I never did yesterday. Also, it's raining on us--nothing fierce, just a steady and relentless condensation--and that makes my pedals slippery, especially when I'm changing gears. So I have to stop and take a while to finally adjust the cleats in my shoes so that I can clip into my pedals and keep traction. When I finally reach Breaks Interstate Park the others are waiting for me, talking to some other touring cyclists who just finished a tour thru the Ozarks to here. They take a group picture of us at an overlook of the park, which has a fabulous view. A semi-circle of green mountains, suspended in mist and cloud, surrounds us, cut thru by a rambling river. We take our fill of pictures and then press on to the Kentucky state border, which is only a few miles down the road from here. We stop at the sign and take more pictures, saying goodbye to Virginia (whom we will dearly miss!) and hello to a brand new state.

When we reach Elkhorn City, KY, we stop at a little place called the Rusty Fork Café to celebrate. When I sit down and take off my cycling gloves I realize that my left forearm and hand are really swollen... I go into the bathroom to take off the bandage and give my wound time to rest. The others check out the menu and while I do order and drink a sprite I can't bear to hear them order or watch them eat delicious poisonous food in my exhausted and hungry state so I go outside to eat some potato chips and beef jerky under the awning of a bank across the street. Tho' it's still raining, it's actually warmer outside than inside with the air conditioning so I just stay out here until the others are done and I pay them in cash for my soda later.

(I finally figure out that the cause of my severe nausea for the past few days was probably all the ibuprofen I've been taking for muscle aches, so I go buy some generic tylenol to try instead. As long as I take less than the daily max amount and don't take it every day my liver should be fine and it's a lot better than throwing up all the time.)

Travis helps me re-dress my arm wound right before we get moving and the rain lets up for a little while. We have two climbs on very small local roads where dogs are generally left unchained and unfenced and they come and chase us way too often. Travis is in the lead and gets asked some creepy, suspicious questions by some hillbillies with thick accents so he turns around to meet the rest of us again and not travel by himself in the front anymore. The downhill is nice and then there's another spike of winding uphill, this time with a sheer drop cliff to the right for a lot of it. At some point I move too slowly to go up a steep bit of hill and I can't unclip fast enough to save myself so I fall over in slow motion onto the knee I already banged up yesterday. My knee hasn't scabbed yet due to the rain so it's oozing yellow and falling on it opens up another bleeding wound beneath the first. I walk BK up the rest of the hill because I don't want to fall on my knee again or off the cliff. I'm fading really fast and feel awful and grumbly and then it starts raining really hard and as we descend on a narrow bendy road the sky lets loose and drenches us and actually I start laughing at this point because it's just funny I guess and we all howl and shout with absurd glee until we reach the bottom of the hill.

At the bottom is an ice cream stand and the others are like, it's raining buckets on us, why not get ice cream? So they get various flavors of soft serve and milkshakes and I eat dark chocolate peanut butter and marshmallow fluff by the spoonful out of my handlebar bag. We don't even know what town we're in and we've only gone 35 miles but because of the weather and late start we're kinda ready to stop for the day. We do some iPhone and google searches for nearby things but a gentleman whom I'll call J.G. comes to get some cheeseburgers and fries at the stand and we ask him if he's local and he is and does he know of a place anywhere nearby that we could camp for the night? He says there's a community park about 2 miles up the road but why doesn't he go drive up there and make sure it's okay for us to camp there before sending us down on our bikes in the rain, and while they cook his cheeseburgers that's what he does. When he comes back he says we have permission from the guy who lives on and takes care of the park so we thank J.G. profusely and cycle uphill for another couple miles (which is really hard since we're so close but I'm moving so slow) and then we're there.

It's small, two pavilions and a playground and a bathroom and a community center. We put all our bikes under the roof of the bigger pavilion and during a break in the rain we put up our tents in the horseshoe pitch behind it. It's nice to have our bikes under shelter overnight and we lay some things out to dry on the picnic tables too (even tho' we know in this humidity they'll still be wet in the morning anyway). The boys use a firestarter our dad gave us to make a fire with damp wood on the barbeque grill and it works splendidly and they use it to cook sausages while we use Travis's camp stove for the rice, beans, and greens. Immediately after dinner I retire into my tent to sleep, because my everything hurts and since today was a short day tomorrow is going to be extra long to make up for it.

At least there'll be proper toilets in the morning.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 35 miles
riding time: 4 hrs 17 min
avg speed (for me only, of course): 8.1 mph
max speed: 36.3 mph
odo: 775.7 mi
--

[pictured below is Ben, barefoot and still in his cycling clothes, retrieving a piece of firewood longer than he is tall]

01 June 2013

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 14

I am NOT a morning person, you guys. I understand how important it is to get up early so that we can make our mileage goals without riding or setting up camp in the dark, but still. Mornings are the worst part of the trip for me. I'm the last up and the last packed again but it's not that bad because I don't have to pack my tent. Breakfast is once again boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon, which I supplement with a pack of skittles and a juicebox-sized almondmilk.

Anna Faye injured herself yesterday at some point to where she can't sit on her saddle due to bad bruises, so what we do is call the elder that let us into this church (we find his number in the phone book) to ask if someone could possibly give her a ride to our next destination? That way she'll have an extra rest day and time to heal up and hopefully be ready to go tomorrow. He sends us two members of his congregation with a pickup truck and they arrive between 9:30 and 10 a.m. to pick her up. They're really sweet people and they load Anna Faye in their cab and Christopher Robin in the bed and then they're off to Haysi (pronounced hay-sigh), VA. We've got all day to catch up to them, but it's over 50 miles so it's time to get going now.

There's some downhill and rolling hills until we cross a river and pass thru Hayter's Gap, then it's a long curving uphill that seems like it'll never end. I slog up it at 3 mph with frequent breaks and of course am farthest behind. At least we are passing thru shady forest and the road is quiet. Pretty, even. When I reach the top, the others are waiting for me and Dan lifts his arms up and shouts, you made it!! We're over 3000 ft high, I know that much.

We stop for elevensies at this point and then it's time for a steep, bendy downhill. I turn on my helmet camera and go for it, passing Jenn right away. There is apparently a sign that says "loose gravel" at some point but I miss it and when I have to get over to the right for a string of cars going up the other way I hit the gravel at 25 mph and lose control of BK and go sliding on my left knee, elbow, and hip, shouting obscenities all the while. Jenn stops to help me gather my wits and inspect my injures: road rash on one knee, half of my forearm, and both hips for some reason. Small holes in the hips of my shorts and dirt everywhere but otherwise no more damage. I ride the brakes the rest of the way down the hill and we have to pedal 6 more miles thru rolling terrain before we catch up to the others and I can get some first aid. (While I do carry a personal first aid kit, my injuries covered more surface area than I carry gauze for, unfortunately--I'll stock up when next I can.) I strip down to bra and shorts by a busy road so that we can reach my hips and tape everything up. While we're taking care of me, the sweet couple that gave Anna Faye a ride comes back our way and pulls over to chat and tell us that she's fine and has even found us a police- and mayor-approved indoor place to stay, too. We just have to reach it is all.

So, yeah. Our first wipeout. I think I caught it on camera, too...

We reach Rosedale shortly and stop in a valero gas station for lunch. I eat turkey spam straight from the tin, mesquite BBQ potato chips, and two lemonatas while the others eat hot dogs and drink fountain sodas. Ben tells us that it wasn't 'till this trip that he realized what "hillbillies" means--now that we're rolling thru all these hills where people live tucked up in the nooks and crannies, sheltered from civilization at large. It's a lot more literal than he realized before.

There's one more climb after Rosedale, this one on a busier road and with hardly any shade. Big A Mountain. It's not as tall or as steep as the last one and has flat bits for respite but I think this one is worse because of the baking sun and lack of shade or breezes. I'm dripping with sweat and run out of water by the time we reach the top. But we reach it, and I don't crash coming down the other side, either. From there we ride at a good clip to Haysi, me falling behind on a few small rises but staying above 11 mph pretty much the whole way.

We find Anna Faye waiting for us on main street and she tells us about what a good day she had. There was a festival and a mile-long yard sale and ponies and kittens and peeping little chicks. She talked to the sheriff and was put up in a newly renovated theater--it's empty and echoey but it has a roof and bathrooms so we're happy. They want to encourage cyclists to stop in Haysi so they're going to put a hostel for cyclists on the upper floor, but it's still under construction. We're the first cyclists to stay there and they take our picture to put in the local paper and everything.

After this we're invited to the local truck and tractor pull and the gentleman who set us up in the theater gives us a driving tour of Haysi (Dan, Travis, and I sit in the bed of the pickup) and then drives us up to the tractor pull and gets us in for free. The others get food at a booth there but I can't eat anything so I just get a Dr. Pepper. Then the tractor pull starts and it's actually a lot of fun to watch when they get that weight moving really fast--I like watching the modified diesel trucks go at it. There's a super souped-up truck called Nuthin Fancy that pulls with its huge back wheels with its front wheels off the ground and fire shooting out of its engine. That one is our favorite. It's hard to explain what a tractor pull is so you might wanna google it if you're not familiar--Jenn had to do that on her phone as it was going on so she could explain it all to us. This is definitely redneck country, yeehaw.

The tractor pull lasted well past midnight but we are beat so we hitchhike back down into town rather than wait for a ride back from another guy who was staying till it ended. An older gentleman with a pickup lets us all climb in the back and I climb into the cab and talk with him about the weather and the tornadoes in Oklahoma and then we're back in the theater and setting up our bedding. It's a late night, which means a late start tomorrow, and I haven't managed to eat anything tonight and now I'm too tired to so I have a feeling tomorrow will be harder than today. But, onward into Kentucky it is.

...OMG WHO IS THAT SNORING THAT IS REALLY LOUD YO

--
today's numbers
distance: 55 miles
riding time: 5 hrs 26 min
avg speed: 10.1 mph
max speed: 43 mph
odo: 740 mi
--

[pictured below is me, in pink sports bra and cycle shorts, all bloodied up with the wounds described above]

31 May 2013

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 13

In the morning our tents are soaking wet with dew, and inside with condensation; when we pack them up the footprint/tarp things are again crawling with slugs. For breakfast there is boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon. I'm the last one packed up but Dan has to change a tube due to a slow puncture so I'm not the last one ready to roll, which we do at something like 9 a.m. We stop after only 6 miles at the first gas station we find for an ice cream and soda break, which takes way longer than it should but hey whatever today's gonna be a shorter day than yesterday at least.

The first part of our day is mostly uphill, but it's thru a national forest with plenty of shade and the gradient is very gentle. Yellow butterflies flutter like early autumn leaves amidst the green of spring. (Their carcasses also, sadly, litter the road. At some point Anna Faye and Ben witness one get creamed by a passing truck.) I'm the slowest up the hill but the alone time in the lush forest is quite nice. At some point we pass the hill-walking cyclists again, as they stayed in Wytheville last night and passed us early in the morning. They're only going as far as some campground in this forest today so it's doubtful we'll run across them again--but, hey, you never know.

It's a long and wonderful downhill after that climb and for lunch we pull over by a stream and eat on its banks, sometimes dipping our feet in the swift, cold water. It's another climb after that thru similar roads and another luxurious downhill. At some point we're passed by a group of motorcyclists but we catch up to them at the bottom of the hill where they'd stopped at an old, abandoned gas station for a snack break. They offer us ice-cold sodas (I take a sprite), cookies, and candy, and we stay with them and chat for a while. Their kindness makes our day. Turns out they're from Kentucky and some of them actually live right along the route we'll be taking. They give us phone numbers and say to call when we're a few towns over, and they'll come out to meet us with more food or something. It's people like these that make this trip worth it. Should be seeing some of them again in about two weeks!

There's a nice coasting downhill thru a small town and then a winding, curving uphill thru another forest. The gradient is gentle enough that I can take it at 7-10 mph. Dan shoots up ahead of me on the climb but I stay ahead of the others all the way until the wicked-awesome downhill starts. It's bendy and all downstream; I go something like 30-35 mph, taking a few turns a bit too fast and having to be careful not to scrape my pedals on the ground while leaning over for them. I didn't manage to film much of it at all but I will say that was my favorite stretch of road so far, and it's gonna take a lot to top it.

When we reach Damascus the first thing Dan and Jenn do is get ice cream, and I get a 24 oz sprite and down it quickly. We sit outside in the shade for a long time, talking, me writing up day 12 to post. We take a nice, long, leisurely break, buying a few bits of gear (sleeping bag liners for Anna Faye and Ben, serving spoon and spatula for chef Travis, etc) and chatting with shop owners. We spend some time trying to find a place to camp tonight either in Meadowview or Hayter's Gap, but nothing pans out. We consider staying in Damascus but ultimately decide to press on to Meadowview and see what we can find.

The hills roll thru sun-stained, stereotypical farmland from Damascus to Meadowview. The first stretch is on a kinda busy road but once you turn off onto a little 1.5 lane county road it's really nice. We string out along the road quite a bit, Travis, Dan, and Jenn up ahead where I can't quite see them, Ben and Anna Faye behind where I can't see them, either. At some point we almost stop and knock on someone's door to ask if we can camp in their field but a bit of intuition tells us to press on to Meadowview proper. Sure enough, when we're cycling thru their little downtown a truck passes and a gentleman leans out the window and asks if we're tired and ready to set down for the night. We say yes, and he offers up Mount Carmel Christian Church to us, telling us how to get there before driving off to get a key and come back to open the door.

He's an elder of the church and says he usually offers their building to cyclists when he sees them and we thank him profusely as he opens it up to us. There's a covered pavilion outside to leave our bikes in and inside there's bathrooms and a kitchenette. We hang our tents out to dry while we eat supper at the pavilion--hot dogs, rice, peas, carrots, and black beans--and the boys have a philosophy discussion I'm too tired to really join in on. My stomach is still bothering me something awful and I actually throw up a little at some point, so I go in to lay down before my whole dinner comes back up. Can't afford to lose calories like that on a trip like this.

While inside I discover a tick on my ankle and yank him off. Scary stuff.

We put our dry tents away instead of setting them up and decide to sleep inside so that we don't have to pack up wet gear in the morning. We set up in one of their classrooms, rolling out our sleeping mats and bags. I go to type this blog and my word processor on my phone crashes and deletes everything, so I get really upset (that's the 3rd time it's done that) and give up blogging for the night. I've now downloaded a new note-taking app so hopefully that works better.

There's a pretty steep, tough-looking climb coming up tomorrow--wish me luck.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 53 mi
riding time: 5 hrs 5 min
avg speed: 10.4 mph
max speed: 37.2 mph
odo: 684.4 mi
--

[picture below of mount carmel christian church, a one-storey brick building topped with a cross]

TransAmerica Cycle 2013, day 12

We get up pretty early in the morning with the goal to be rolling by 8 a.m. It's made a bit easier by not having to pack up tents and sleeping bags first. Breakfast for me is almond milk and fruit; the others eat leftovers from the potluck last night and things like that. Carla watches and helps us pack our bikes up, and Brian rolls up at 8:05 on the dot. After a few more pictures and farewells we head off.

Brian escorts us for our first 20 miles--probably the best part of the day. The hills are gentle and there's shade and running water. Brian usually stays up front with Dan but finds time to chat with each of us before peeling off back home. After we leave this last representative of Radford behind, we stop for second breakfast at the abandoned and kinda creepy-looking Pulaski Motel. All the doors are locked and chained and it seems like no one has been here in years; the sidewalks are crawling with little red bugs that Travis thinks are harmless spider mites. I make a dent in my new jar of chocolate peanut butter and put it on rice cakes. I'm starting to feel a little nauseated, but that won't become a big issue until later.

After 2nd breakfast we press on, and there's hardly any shade for a very long time. The predominant smells of the day are cow poo, skunk funk, and roadkill. Our path crosses over the highway several times because we follow county roads that parallel it to keep out of traffic, but quite a bit of traffic finds us anyway. There's long strings of gas stations and trucker stops all in a row here that's why. We pull into one at some point and I have a grape soda which is super refreshing on a boiling day like today.

At some point we come across two other touring cyclists, who are on their way to San Francisco, where they're from. They walk their bikes up any hill that I'd be using my granny gear on, and I find myself wondering, how are they going to make it over the Rockies and thru Nevada etc if they have to walk their bikes up Virginia hills? But their whole thing is "Cycle Slowly" (the name of their blog on crazy guy on a bike, iirc). They only do about 30 miles a day, they say--provided there's a place to stay; otherwise, they press on. (Such as doing the whole blue ridge parkway and then some, something like 80 miles, in one sitting!)

After I while a start to have serious muscle pain/weakness and I slow down way behind everyone in the breezeless heat. I'm worried about heat stroke a little bit, so I drink a lot of water and rest in the shade periodically. Still, tho', the nausea and muscle pain persists. It's related to my autoimmune disease, I think--it's not muscle soreness or muscle burning like working hard, it's something that happens to me from time to time and usually on those days I just stay in bed until it's over but I can't because I have to cycle. The hills today aren't quite as steep as what we've been doing but they're taller and last longer so I can't ride my momentum up them, and there's no breeze and no shade and the sun is boiling us so it's really hard. At some point I pull over by a duck and goose pond and just cry until I can pull myself together enough to follow and find the others again.

We finally stop for lunch in Wytheville, pulling into the shade of an abandoned shop front. All the stores we need--bike shop, camping goods store, gas station conbini--used to be here but are closed down now. I try to eat some clams for protein but they taste like fish poop and have the consistency of phlegm (ordinarily I like clams, but today my stomach won't have it) so I force down half the can, toss the rest and keep eating chocolate peanut butter on rice cakes. I take a really long time to eat because I'm dazed and in pain so while I eat Jenn, Dan, and Travis go to the post office to mail the key to Radford back home for safekeeping, along with some other things they'd been carrying but didn't actually need and didn't want to carry anymore.

Turns out we've just done 500 miles as a team, so we decide to go out for a couple drinks to celebrate. We only have about 20 miles left to go and it's only like 4 p.m. so we have time for a longer break. We find this log cabin restaurant place down the street and wait 10 minutes for it to open and go in and sit down. Everyone gets beers except Dan, who gets a Pepsi, and I get a hard cider. The decor of the place is really interesting and rustic and we have a nice time sitting there, me trying to gather some strength to continue without throwing up or giving up. I try to order another type of cider but when it comes it's just an apple-flavored beer, which is disappointing, but I don't want to deal with sending it back so I give it to Anna Faye and settle down with water.

I don't remember anything of the cycle beyond this except for latching on to Dan's back wheel as he acted the wind break for me, pulling me into Cedar Springs. I tuned everything else out but that wheel in order to actually make it to where we decided to camp that night. Except that where we thought the national, campable forest started wasn't and all we can see is POSTED: NO TRESPASSING signs. We go another 6 or 7 miles beyond where we wanted to stop and finally pass another abandoned, creepy, ivy-conquered house and decide to just camp in the flat area behind its barn because, well, who could possibly mind? The grass back there is tall and full of spiders which is hard for Jenn to take but we get our tents up and start on supper well before the light starts fading. We don't have water to cook with so Dan cycles down the street a bit to an inhabited house to beg a gallon of water off someone. Turns out it's an old lady living alone and Dan is pretty sure she's super scared of him but she does fill up our canteen in her kitchen while he waits outside on the porch. Hot links, canned spinach, kidney beans, and rice it is. We eat our fill and then all retire to sleep. There's no phone signal and I'm exhausted so I crash pretty hard, waking up later only as it gets colder so that I can wiggle into my sleeping bag.

Tomorrow hopefully my muscles will calm down and I can actually enjoy myself.

pax.

--
today's numbers
distance: 67 mi
riding time: 6 hrs 37 min
avg speed: 10.1 mph
max speed: 37 mph
total trip: 631.3 mi
--

Today's featured guest cyclist:

Brian riding Flagondry