Travis bikes America… for MS

I’m 61.  I have multiple sclerosis.  I’m going to bike across America.

I’m doing this because I love America and to raise as much money as I can for MS research.  I hope you’ll follow my progress.  I also hope you’ll help me — and everyone who has MS — by donating as much as you can.  You can make a donation by going to my fund raising page under the “Donate” tab on the menu above.  Once you arrive at the fund raising page, please use the “Make A Donation” button under my picture

You can also follow me on Twitter at: @TravisBikeGuy

 

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September 6 Denver — Epilogue

It’s been almost a month, we’re back in Denver, and I’ve gained back exactly one pound. I’ve been working out with Alison, my trainer, but not riding a lot.  As for fund raising, you’ve been very generous and given more than $31,000 or $8.37 per mile.  My goal was $10 a mile or $36,670 (based on the official mileage).  So, I’m a little short … but I’m going to rationalize that six newspaper interviews, five TV interviews and two radio interviews are worth at least $6,000 — so with “soft” dollar contributions, we’ve reached the goal.  (If anyone wants to give a few more “hard” dollars, just go to the home page: travisbikesamerica.com)

Lastly, here are a few observations, that never made it into the blog:

Baseball is still America’s pastime — we rode through dozens of small towns and virtually every one of them had a baseball field.  Maybe it was only chicken wire and some two-by-fours, but there was always a place to play.  On the other hand, we saw relatively few football fields — though the ones we saw were pretty nice.

Red-winged blackbirds hate me — at least a dozen times, I got stalked by red-winged blackbirds.  They’re very pretty but — apparently – very territorial.  Every time I entered one’s territory, it would scramble to the defense — zooming at me and flying about ten feet above my head while squawking loudly.  I was never able to make peace with them.

Loco is actually pretty funny — I like Loco a lot but I always thought of him as a rather dour data dude.  On several occasions, however, I actually thought his blog was funnier than mine.  I especially like his insightful observation that there’s no I in curmudgeon. That gives me a new standard to live up to.

Cars aren’t the problem — I did a rough calculation of the leading causes of lost rider-days (one rider, one day lost).  The leading cause seemed to be saddle sores and — interestingly — the men did much worse than the women.  Does this mean women are smarter than we are or do they just have iron bums?  The second leading cause was loss-of-control accidents — largely caused by gravel, grates, cracks, or edges.  A rider would lose control, fall, and — at the very least — get some road rash.  This was the only type of accident that caused a rider to drop out — due to a broken collar bone. The third leading cause was riders bumping into each other.  Riding in a peloton requires a lot of concentration, which is why I didn’t do it very often — my mind just wanders too much. Interestingly, none of our accidents involved a motor vehicle.  More interestingly — of the 35 riders who started in Oregon intending to do the trans-continental — 34 of us made it. That’s pretty cool.

So what’s the next big adventure?  Well, for the time being, it’s pumping up my persuasive communication business (traviswhitecommunications.com), teaching two courses at the University of Denver, volunteering at the National MS Society, and staying away from red-winged blackbirds.

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August 8 The Atlantic

(tweet) Wheel in the water. Tears in my eyes. Girl in my arms.  Thank you everyone. (end tweet)

It’s over.  I can hardly believe it.  After 50 days of pedaling, 3,721 miles, and more than 100,000 feet of climbing, we reached the Atlantic Ocean and dipped our wheels.  I was also inducted into the EDI club since I biked Every Damn Inch.

I’d like to say a few words about my fellow riders — a braver bunch I’ve never met.  As I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve become ever more amazed at the obstacles and challenges that they’ve overcome.  Here’s a list — probably incomplete — of the afflictions and infirmities that this group has faced down:  ovarian cancer, bone cancer, knee replacement due to bone cancer, prostate cancer, pulmonary embolism, Hodgkins disease, brain aneurysm, knee surgeries (too numerous to count), neck fusion, cerebral palsy, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, heart attacks, obesity, triple bypass surgery, diabetes, and the death of a child.  I’m just proud to be one of the gang.  So, if you ever think that you could not possibly do a cross-country bike ride… well, you’ve got another think coming.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say tomorrow and the next day. But for now, I’m just going to get reacquainted with Suellen.

Day’s distance: 52.7 miles (84.8 km)
Average speed: 15.8 mph (25.4 kph)
Day’s climb: 1,400 feet (426.7 meters)
Total distance: 3,720.7 miles (5,987.9 km)

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August 7 Brattleboro, Vermont to Manchester, New Hampshire

Quick.  How many gallons of sap does it take to produce one gallon of maple syrup?

When I worked for J.D. Edwards, I would visit our offices in Brussels every now and then. On every visit, I got lost.  After half a dozen visits, I complained to one of my Belgian colleagues — that the city and its road signs were very confusing.  He was not sympathetic: “Do you know how many times we’ve been invaded?  We don’t want you to know where you are.”

New Hampshire has a similar feel.  Apparently, the state is too poor to afford street signs so it’s very difficult to tell what road you’re on, much less where you should turn.  In the town of Keene, we were supposed to turn left on Main Street and then right on Washington Street. Damned if we could ever find a sign that said Main Street. So three other riders and I wound up making a five-mile mistake.  We call them “bonus miles” — we’re reducing the overall cost per mile.

The route consisted of lots of ups and downs — no big, long hills, but hundreds of small ones.  Every turn introduced a new 100- or 200-yard hill.  Then it was down again, only to climb again after the next turn.  After four hours of ups and downs — and no road signs — we were all just annoyed.  On the other hand, most everything else was great.  We had perfect cycling weather — cool and cloudy. The roads

Why three doors?

were nice; the shoulders were exceptionally good. And the scenery — forests, small rivers, pretty little villages, and factories from the Revolutionary era — was exceptional.

With our national elections only 14 months away, I was expecting to see presidential candidates lurking behind every tree.  No such luck — apparently they’re preoccupied in Iowa.  However, I did just speak to Suellen.  She had a four-hour flight from Denver to Boston and sat by a Sarah Palin impersonator.  Sounds like she has lots of good stories to tell.

So now we’re in New Hampshire, where the first potato in the United States was planted in 1719. We have one more day and less than 50 miles to the Atlantic — where we’ll dip our front wheels to complete the coast-to-coast marathon. Better yet, Suellen arrives in a couple of hours.  I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

Day’s distance: 83.7 miles (134.7 km)
Average speed: 15.7 mph (25.3 kph)
Day’s climb: 6,100 feet (1859.3 meters)
Total distance: 3,668.0 miles (5,903.1 km)

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August 6 Latham, New York to Brattleboro, Vermont

It’s legal to go naked in Brattleboro but we decided to ride with our clothes on.

We had a big climbing day today.  In some ways, it reminded us of the early days of the ride, back in Oregon.  We had one long climb — 13 miles on my odometer — and a lot of smaller climbs.  Like yesterday, we had lots of rolling hills — long ups followed by long downs.  In total, we climbed 6,100 feet through the Green Mountains of Vermont. However, Brattleboro is only 279 feet higher than Latham.  So, in addition to 6,100 feet of climbing, we must have had 5,821 feet of descents.  In other words, some hard miles and some very easy miles, just like Oregon.

Now we’re in Vermont which is very pretty, very

Brattleboro Summer

green, and very quirky.  Brattleboro not only permits nudity but it’s also one of the few certified free trade towns in the United States.  Brattleboro also indicted George Bush and Dick Cheney for “crimes against the Constitution”. Apparently there’s still a warrant out for their arrest.  I wonder if they would be arrested if they showed up naked.

Brattleboro is also the oldest town in Vermont, which has a few quirks of its own.  Among other things, it was the home of Ida May Fuller.  Don’t remember her?  She received the first Social Security check ever.  Vermont also has the only state capital — Montpelier — in the Union that does not have a McDonald’s.  It does have a lot of Ben & Jerry’s though. Where does all of Ben & Jerry’s cream come from?  Well, Vermont has the highest ratio of cows to people of any state in the country.  Vermont’s a little weird which is why I’m looking for the t-shirt that says: U.S. Out of Vermont.

Ooops, I’ve gotta go.  Tucson Terry has organized a nude fun run for us and I don’t want to miss it.

Day’s distance: 79.2 miles (127.5 km)
Average speed: 15.6 mph (25.1 kph)
Day’s climb: 6,100 feet (1859.3 meters)
Total distance: 3,584.3 miles (5,768.4 km)

 

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August 5 Little Falls to Latham, New York

We stopped at Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In for lunch today.  Think the 1950′s.  I had a hot dog and a chocolate milk shake.  New York Bruce had fried dough.  In México, they call fried dough a sopapilla.  Don’t you think a sopapilla sounds more appetizing? What’s with these New Yorkers?

We’re obsessing about food.  Here’s how it started with me. Suellen’s a great cook.  She’s also a very healthy cook.  She also eats ladylike portions.  Her eating motto might be: That which doesn’t fill me makes me stronger. So when I started working out with Alison and eating right with Suellen, I lost 22 pounds — dropping from 200 to 178.  Then Alison told me I was too skinny. I wouldn’t be able to consume enough calories on a long road trip so I needed a little fat in reserve.  Alison suggested that I gain ten pounds.  So what do you eat to gain ten pounds when you’re also working out hard every day?

That started a long research project for the “perfect” foods to eat before, during, and after exercising.  I was particularly worried about recovering after each day’s ride.  I knew I could do any one day of the ride but I didn’t know if I could do all of them in succession. I’ll cut  very long story short here.  The best pre-exercise meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread.  It gives you complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, and a little sugar.  The best food during exercise is fruit — especially apples. Fruits give you carbs that you can burn immediately.   The best recovery food is chocolate milk. Actually, I prefer chocolate milk shakes.  They give you protein and carbs in a nice mix. Additionally, dark chocolate and ice cream are always appropriate. So I took Alison’s advice, ate a lot, and started the trip at 188 pounds. I also became obsessive about food — just like everyone else on this trip.

As falls Little, so falls Little Falls

When we weren’t obsessing about food today, we had a very pretty ride from Little Falls to Latham.  Little Falls lies in a very attractive valley with rivers all around.  We’re still in Leatherstocking country — it’s heavily forested, green and hilly and cut by numerous rivers.  We started in thick fog that made everything and everyone look spooky.  Then we biked through towns with names like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Jan Cheese must have been here.  For most of the day, we were in rolling hills — up/down, up/down, up/down. You gain altitude only to lose it again.  Though we

Spot the silos

cranked along fairly quickly, the up & down routine started to wear a little thin by the afternoon.  By the time we got to Latham, I needed two chocolate shakes to start recovering. Is that obsessive?

Day’s distance: 75.9 miles (122.1 km)
Average speed: 16.5 mph (26.6 kph)
Day’s climb: 2,100 feet (640.1 meters)
Total distance: 3,505.1 miles (5,640.9 km)

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August 4 Liverpool to Little Falls, New York

As I biked through one neatly manicured village after another this morning, a random thought crossed my mind: This is Yankee country.  Not that it matters to me but my mother would be worried.  Being a good Texas girl, she thought Yankees were persnickety. Or maybe she thought all persnickety people were Yankees.  At any rate, she didn’t care much for Yankees.  Her last instructions before I left for college were, “Now don’t bring home a Yankee girl.”  It’s a good thing Suellen’s from Indiana.

Actually this is Leatherstocking country.  I thought that sounded slightly kinky so I looked it up and was transported back to high school when we studied James Fenimore Cooper.  As you may recall, the Leatherstocking Tales included The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers, and The Prairie.  They all featured Natty Bumppo, a white kid who was raised by Indians and personified the best of both worlds. The Leatherstocking Tales all took place in this part of central New York and Natty is a bit of a hero here.  You can even get t-shirts that say, What would Natty Bumppo do? Maybe I’ll get one in tonight’s t-shirt swap.

It was a pretty ride today through Natty Bumppo country.  You can almost imagine Mohicans, Oneidas, or Mohawks living among the forests and rivers we rode by. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis lives nearby.  We’re also back into climbing country. Though today’s climb was only a modest 2,100 feet, we’re definitely headed back into hill country.  On the penultimate day of our ride — this Sunday — we’ll climb some 6,000 feet.  That’s 500 feet more than the day we climbed Teton Pass.  It ain’t over yet — we’ve still got some work to do.

Day’s distance: 79.4 miles (127.8 km)
Average speed: 16.2 mph (26.1 kph)
Day’s climb: 2,100 feet (640.1 meters)
Total distance: 3,429.2 miles (5,518.8km)

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August 3 Henrietta to Liverpool, New York

We’re in canal country now.  The Erie Canal was the first navigable waterway between the Atlantic (the Hudson River actually) and the Great Lakes.  Completed in 1825, the canal covers some 363 miles and rises approximately 600 feet from the Hudson to Lake Erie. Today, we biked about 20 miles of it.   It’s a pretty ride and many of the villages along the route are very picturesque.  The canal now seems to be given over mainly to pleasure boating and tourist activities though occasionally there is some commercial traffic as well.

We pushed off early because we had a near-century day — the last “long” ride of the tour.

Erie Canal Path

It was threatening to rain in the early going and then began a slow, steady drizzle — just the kind of rain Suellen loves for her garden.  The rain made the canal path — which is hard-packed dirt rather than pavement — a bit of a mess.  We soon had fine grit all over ourselves and our bikes — even our water bottles.  The path would be a great ride on a sunny day when all you want to do is poke around, look in antique shops, and have a nice lunch.  On a rainy day, when you’re trying to cover 95 miles, it’s somewhat less enchanting.

The rain refused to relent all day long.  By the time we arrived in Liverpool, it was coming down in sheets.  Liverpool was founded in the late 1700′s as a center for salt manufacturing.  Then it became known as Little Ireland because of all the Irish workers who settled here to work on the canal.  Today, it seems to be mainly a bedroom community for Syracuse.  Speaking of which, I think it’s time for me to sack out — we have another early start tomorrow.

Day’s distance: 95.2 miles (153.2 km)
Average speed: 15.5 mph (24.9 kph)
Day’s climb: 1,600 feet (487.7 meters)
Total distance: 3,349.8 miles (5,390.9km)

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August 2 Niagara Falls to Henrietta, New York

I’m writing this on August 3rd because the internet service in our hotel in Henrietta was so poor that I couldn’t get on long enough to post anything.  Which reminds me of the only real gripe I have about this trip — the hotels are lousy.  (We’ll talk about food later). I expected rather bland chain motels.  After all, the point is not to stay in fancy places but rather to bike across the country.  However, some of our hotels have just been unpleasant and maybe even unhealthy.  By general agreement, yesterday’s was the worst — with torn carpeting, cracked walls, mold, dysfunctional plumbing, and crummy internet service.  So a word to prospective riders — check out the hotels first.  If the tour still includes the Day’s Inn in Henrietta, New York — don’t sign up.  That suggests that ABB management is not listening to its customers.

Apart from the hotel, everything went fine yesterday.  It was a pretty day, we had favorable winds, and we cruised through some very pretty, very rural areas of upper New York state.  We made very good time — only to arrive early at a motel we really didn’t like.

Kevin, Mimi, Jeff

The evening was the best part of the day.  Loco’s sister-in-law, Mimi lives with her family (husband Jeff and kids, Kevin and Kim) about 20 minutes away from Henrietta.  So, she invited us — Loco, me, Tucson Terry, and Columbus Dan — to come over for a home-cooked meal.  Boy, was that ever popular. (Daughter Kim is working for Loco’s wife, Ann, in Denver this summer.  We met her when Ann and she came to visit on our rest day in Casper. Unfortunately, Kim was thrown out of the bar — but that’s a different story).  We sat on a lovely deck, overlooking a forest scene, and cooked thick steaks on a grill.  We also sampled some of the many micro-

Loco likes Pork Slap

brews from the local area.  Apparently, northern New York has one of the largest concentrations of micro-breweries in the country.  I think our favorite was Pork Slap Pale Ale.   We had a very early start this morning so we couldn’t stay late but we enjoyed every bit of the break from our routine.

Day’s distance: 82.3 miles (132.4 km)
Average speed: 17.5 mph (28.2 kph)
Day’s climb: 1,550 feet (472.4 meters)
Total distance: 3,254.6 miles (5,237.8km)

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August 1 Rest Day Niagara Falls, New York

Chuck, Gail & Loco

Today being a rest day, a lot of friends and family joined us in Niagara.  (Suellen will join us next Sunday in New Hampshire for the finale).  Tops on the list were Gail and Chuck Berthe, the Locomotive’s Mom and Dad.  Chuck is a former Naval aviator who has built two airplanes of his own. Chuck and Gail flew from their home in Georgia in a single-engine, two-seat aerobatic plane that Chuck built some years ago.  That’s pretty cool but even better is the fact that Gail brought home made cookies. Chuck, who is 80 years old, still bicycles 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year.  He’s also an ace mechanic so Chuck, Loco, and I spent a good portion of the morning futzing with our bikes.  I now have a new chain, new tubes, and new tires.

Also joining us was Diane, Columbus Dan’s wife of two months.  Can you believe this — they got married on May 29 and Dan left almost immediately for this trip.  Fortunately, Diane has been able to join us at several points along the way.  The two of them joined Loco, Gail, Chuck, and me for dinner last night at a very nice restaurant overlooking the Niagara escarpment.

Maggie, Adair, Julie

Also joining us were Maggie and Adair, Carolina Julie’s two teenage daughters.  Julie started the trip in Oregon with her husband Chuck, a doctor who wound up treating most of the butt blisters during the first weeks of the ride.  (He also removed the stitches from my shoulder — much to Suellen’s

Terry & Lucy

relief). Unfortunately, Chuck could only stay for the first two legs of the trip and then flew back home to North Carolina — partially to go back to work and partially to look after the girls.  Today the girls were with us; they’re a delightful pair and they immediately bonded with Lucy.

Goat Island

Loco’s Mom, Gail, organized a picnic for all of us — including Tucson Terry and Hustle Russell — on Goat Island.  I must say that Goat Island dramatically improved my opinion of the Niagara Falls area.  It’s within walking distance of downtown but it’s completely undeveloped.  No shops, no barkers, no t-shirts — just trees, lawns, black squirrels, and

Lucy, Maggie, Adair

white birds — very pretty, very bucolic, and a lovely place to eat, chat, and relax.  Many kudos to Gail for organizing a delightful meal from Wegman’s — the best grocery store in New York — and for getting us all to the right place at the right time.

Tomorrow it’s back to work for the last week.  We’ve passed a number of milestones in the past few days:

  • Over 3,000 miles;
  • Over 5,000 kilometers;
  • Into our eighth state — only Vermont and New Hampshire remain.
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July 31 Brantford, Ontario to Niagara Falls, New York

We had good wind and good motivation today as we zipped along through the Ontario countryside.  The wind was at our backs and created the motivation — a large front that was moving from west to east and seemed to be carrying a lot of water.  We were racing a rainstorm and that kept us pedaling hard through an agricultural landscape and a myriad of small rivers.  The wind and motivation helped me deliver the fastest average speed yet on this entire ride.

The other factor that upped my speed today was that I fell in with California Leslie and Ann.  You may remember them from Mankato — they’re the ones who taught me the dollar bill trick. (I still have the dollar bill). They also ride Serottas. In fact, Ann and Leslie and Loco and I form the Serotta club on this ride.  We’re always swapping tips on how to get the most out of our bikes.  Ann and Leslie are also very strong riders and I sometimes find it hard to stick with them.  Today, with the wind at our backs, I was able to hang with them for the last half of the ride — almost 40 miles.

Then we got to Niagara.  What can I say?  The natural setting is just spectacular and I can certainly see why people would want to come and view the falls. On the other hand, so much of what’s been built up around the falls is just plain unfortunate.  You can find a lot of cheap hotels, t-shirt shops, wax museums, and bus and boat tours — just like you would find in any tourist town.

I mentioned the other day that Canada was named after the Kanata Indians.  Actually, there’s another explanation that I find more intriguing.  The Spaniards were among the first Europeans to explore much of the Americas. As they explored North America, they didn’t find anything on par with the fabulous cities of México and Peru.  The story goes that they wrote “Aca Nada” — literally “Here Nothing” — across the tops of their American maps.  You can see how AcaNada would easily transform itself into Canada.  I have yet to find a map with this legend on it.  If you see one, be sure to let me know.

I’ve also added a new feature to this web site.  I get a lot of questions on how to protect oneself from saddle sores on long bike rides.  So, I’ve collected all the tips I’ve ever heard on a new page called “Your Bum”.  You can find it on the black navigation bar near the top of the screen.

Tomorrow’s a rest day.  I’m sure I’ll write something but maybe not ’til late.

Day’s distance: 74.6 miles (120.1 km)
Average speed: 18.1 mph (29.1 kph)
Day’s climb: 1,400 feet (426.7 meters)
Total distance: 3,172.3 miles (5,105.3km)

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