Archive for July, 2006

Day 28: Nothing to see today. Move along.

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

I have very little to say about today. Mostly because I spent the majority of it in Coyville, KS completely stranded. I was cycling with Paddy, blew a tube, put in a spare, and it blew as I was pumping it up (poorly patched). Paddy’s spare tubes are smaller, so we were stuck. I’m just glad we were in a populated area rather than a 50 mile stretch of nothing. We waited together for the support car since Paddy was unsure of the route later on down the road. We waited on, a tad uncomfortable in lycra while burly farmers stared at us from their porches.

An hour and a half later the support car drove within two houses of where we were and then drove off in the wrong direction as we attempted to flag it down.

They’ll be back.

Paddy took off after getting directions from a local and we agreed to meet when the car came back 10 miles down the road. He ended up cycling the whole 34 miles to our destination, a park where “all the bums sleep”.

Eventually people started coming out of their houses and greeting me as I sat with my bicycle all in pieces. One man came out and brought me bottled water and ice saying, “it shows 114 on my porch so I figured you’d be thirsty”. Then a couple across from me came out with lemonade, ribs, and delicious garden-grown corn. More people offered help and wanted to know what a city boy was doing on the corner.

The car will be back. Soon.

After I read the sign I felt metal poking me and noticed I was sitting in a pile of .300 Win-Mag shells (they’re big).

Four hours later I realized that the car would not be coming back and the sun was getting low. Time to hitchhike while I could still make out drivers’ faces. (Also I was sitting in the only available shade which is also occupied by flesh-eating ants. Ouch.) J.D. and Teresa, from across the street, wouldn’t hear of it. J.D. was too loaded, so Teresa drove me out and we saw the support car while heading to town. All’s well that ends well.

I didn’t get to capture much since I was on the corner for most of the day. But I did manage to snap a photo of where meat products come from, since Kansas is no. 2 in cattle in the US, I believe.

Hopefully tomorrow goes a bit smoother.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 140
Flat tire tally: 30
Good people in Coyville, KS: 98
Gallons Jacob drank and then proceeded to sweat out while waiting: 2.5 (And no need for urination!)
Sleeps to go: 16

Day 27 (Rest Day): Mimes, Puppies, and Slide

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Saturday, July 29th. We are in Newton, KS.

Right off the bat I think it’s important to note that we crossed the meridian of the US today. That means we’re over half-way across the country, though 2/3rds through the trip. Well, enough of that.

We spent the day in Newton, a city slightly north of Wichita with a population of 17,000 or so. There are a few things I need to get off my chest about Newton. It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy place that makes you crazy. First, we show up and sleep in a park that is claimed by two gangs, though luckily they aren’t at war currently. They scoped us out when we first appeared and I suppose our lycra-clad selves revealed no threat. (It’s hard to conceal a .45 in spandex shorts.) Then we find out that trains go 5 mph through Newton all day and night and blast their horn every 10 feet (no joke, we saw it). Also, 80% of the town is apparently over 85 years old which means in 10 years the population of Newton will drop below 1,000. Lastly, it was ridiculously hot, day as well as night. Did I mention the gangs?

But all that is okay, simply for the reason that we camped 25 feet from a giant municipal pool that had [insert many sweltering adjectives here] life guards and a giant Miracle Slide™. It takes about 5 hours of swimming and sliding to truly saturate yourself with all the goodness after four weeks of cycling. Only one issue, the lifeguards held the power to allow us to go down the slide as a “5-man CCFC train”, but they chose to deny us even after Paddy displayed how slowly and safely we could slide (he took 2 minutes to slide down what would normally take 8 seconds — queued children began to cry). When we left the pool our fingers and toes were beyond pruning and every orifice burnt with chlorine.

Then God delivered mimes to our front door. At first we thought they were Jews, but David straightened us out. We watched them practice miming by slapping brick walls and pretending to laugh with their hands on their stomachs. So, in time, 30 mimes put on a show at the pool from 7-9pm and then invited us to join them for watermelon and K-brand sodas. I’m now convinced the 1930s surrealist movement began in Newton.

I think we need to see another angle to properly wrap our finite brains around this event…

btw, I left my heart in the pool that day. It was bloody and painful. (I’d come back for you, hott-ness, but Kansas is no good for me.)

Ezra and David took off in the evening for Wichita, but not before a stray Lab ran into our camp and delighted us all with tales of pooping, peeing, and drinking from toilet bowls.

About 4 hours later the owners showed up with another puppy and informed us we could get our very own puppies for $25 from the local shelter. David went in search of a Labradoodle (which I believe half-Labrador Retriever and half-Snickerdoodle) to bring along for the rest of the ride as our mascot.

Another 150 miles tomorrow. Gittyup!

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 0
Mimes: 34
Sleeps to go: 17
Gang-bangers hitting on pre-teen bikini-clad girls with apathetic parents: 3
Parents Jacob yelled at: 2
Free visits to the pool over two days: 5

Random Image

Day 26: Fly by night, goodbye my dear.

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Friday, July 28th. 8:34 CST. We are in Newton, KS.

Let me just start by saying this: Cycling from 1:30am through sunrise in Kansas is one of the single greatest experiences of this trip. I was hesitant about doing it at first, since night riding is dangerous. And that early it’s uncomfortable with the dark cold chilling through our arms and legs while our torsos burn with heat, but we all agree that we saw the best of Kansas this morning.

I think early in the morning we really connected with the ride as we cycled away from towns and into rural nothingness. We couldn’t see anything except for the thousands of clear stars overhead and a few feet ahead of ourselves on the road. Everyone just kept saying “this is awesome” over and over. (Except Ezra, who was eerily muttering songs to himself.) There is this serene feeling that saturates as you silently ride mile after mile only occasionally hearing the click of a gear or pop of a rock under a tire. Each mile seemed to bring a new smell of whatever invisible crops were being grown; wheat, sunflowers, corn, soy, and so forth. Blindness really does increase awareness of other senses…

As dawn crept up, we saw that we were riding in a three foot fog that coated Kansas for as far as we could see. Faded colors rose from the horizon in a watercolor of deep blues, yellows, and pinks broken up by darkly silhouetted trees and grain silos. I honestly can’t describe or think of any example of what we saw. I think people from Kansas are the only ones who know what I’m trying to get on about. It’s almost a run-down worn-out sunrise, but there is a certain unique beauty in that.

We’re blowing up Kansas (in the sporting-event sense of “blowing up”). We’ve traveled over 300 miles in the past two days. When locals in eastern Kansas heard that we had only been in their state for under 24 hours, jaws dropped. Everything is flat and straight, so you can even clearly see the distance we’ve travelled on a globe. This is a big change from mountain states where we could ride all day and hardly see any progress. In fact, in terms of mileage, we actually rode across Utah twice before crossing it since our route was so twisted, loopy, and mountainous. Kansas is a straight shot.

Time for rest, then a rest day tomorrow in Newton and Wichita. Also, we need to plan how to work our extra day into the schedule…

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 175
Flat tire tally: 28 (David, his first 2)
Happy first-time customers of Sonic: 6
Fastest time down the Newton water slide: 6.82 sec (Paddy)
CCFC cyclists who rode the entire 175 miles: 0 (car rotations)

Today’s Wonders:

Milky Way, observed without any light pollution: 1
Fire flies, observed for the first time by: 2
Miami Vice, observed at a cinema: 1

Day 25: 19 sleeps to go

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Thursday, July 27th. 7:32pm CST. We are in Ness, KS.

So as I mentioned yesterday, we’re a bit tired of the Great Plains already (yes, it only took 12 hours). So we had to come up with a plan: and our brilliant idea is to risk our bodies for two days to gain a day. That is, ride 50% farther per day and gain an extra rest day to spend at an amusement park or whatever everyone decides. Since it’s not worth gaining a day only to lose it to injury recovery, we have to be smart. Through generous rotation in the car, we kept everyone fairly fresh throughout the ride today. By the end of today, we were feeling surprisingly good and ahead of schedule.

We crept out of Eads, Colorado in the early morning and hit Kansas mid-morning. While the “Now Exiting Colorado” sign was fabulous, the “Now Entering Kansas” sign was a tad vanilla. Well, I’m being nice. It was terribly disappointing in its lackluster welcoming.

Once the sun rose up and began to scorch us in all its glory, we realized there are no trees in most of Kansas. Only our support car provided any relief from the muggy heat. Unfortunately, flies claim-jumped the shade of the car and they would swarm us and bite through our lycra and spandex clothing. You sort of get stuck in a place where you are fatigued from riding, but riding fast is the only thing that provides any relief from the bugs and heat.

100 uneventful Great Plains miles later we found ourselves broken, weary, and in Ness City, KS. It was already past 5pm since we road extra long and lost an hour thanks to another time-zone change. I hear time is a precious gift, but ours is being stolen away.

We met up with some other cyclists from Oregon who are taking their leisure to cycle across the country, sleeping in churches and parks at their pleasure. If I did this again, I would definitely scratch the schedule and try to sight-see more like they do. They pointed us to a municipal pool and a park where they had bedded the night before. The pool turned out to have public showers for rinsing off chlorine, but we took full showers.

We ended up sleeping in a park by the pool.

So… it came to me in a spat of road-hypnosis while cycling across the plains scratching bug bites. We could try to ride over 160 miles again tomorrow, except start in the early, early morning. Avoid the heat. Avoid lots of cars. Avoid the flies. All for the cost of a poor night sleep. It’s not like we would miss anything too interesting in the dark. Everyone agreed that we would push off tomorrow for a 175 mile ride to Newton, KS at 1:30am tomorrow. That would mean arriving in Newton before noon having done over 300 miles in two days.

Waking and riding on 3-4 hours of sleep should be interesting.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 165
Flat tire tally: 26 (Paddy 2, John 1)
Hitchhiking tally: 1
Shade: 0
Bike shops for 300 miles: 0
Helmets worn in the past 160 miles: 2

Random photos:

Day 24: The Great Plains… seen it.

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Wednesday, 3:18pm MST. We are in Eads, CO.

If you can’t tell from the title, today was our first cycling across the Great Plains (great as in size, I assume). After 120 miles of staring at each others’ rear tires, we’ve decided to get on with this as quickly as possible. Imagine riding a stationary bike located in an empty white room for 5-7 hours a day. That’s about how interesting it has been so far. So, we’re going to rework our schedule to blast through all of this monotony as quickly as possible. Tomorrow: 160 miles, or better if possible. We’re on a mission.

The library is about to close, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find (steal) wireless to finish this post today. So I leave you with this:

Update July 29th: We ended up sleeping in a park outside the Eads Courthouse. The sheriff came by and informed us that there may be a storm warning issued later in the night and, if so, they’d open up the courthouse basement for us. It did end up storming terribly, but not so bad that we had to pull up camp. There was continuous thunder and lightning. I’ve never been in anything like there. There literally was no space between lightning flashes and the cackling and booming of thunder. John noted “at least we’re under the shelter of large trees”.

PS: Really great folks in Eads, though some of them looked a bit intimidating and all of the bathrooms were just like prison.

Tomorrow’s 160 mile ride will take us to Ness City, deep in Kansas. We’re looking forward to a state-change to break up the monotony of The Great Plains, but I’m sure it will be more of the same. I would really enjoy seeing a twister right about now…

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 120
Flat tire tally: 23
Hours of Star Wars listened to: 4
Campsites: 0

Day 23: For British Eyes Only II

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

For British Eyes Only II: A Letter From America

Today’s musing is the ‘American ego’. Apparently it is not something confined to the testosterone-fuelled American sports blockbuster where an utterance by Al Pacino causes a room full of footballers to start bashing their heads against one another. (By the by, that sport has neither foot-usage or proper balls.) No, this is indeed a trait that runs through the veins of all young Americans. Along with fluoride, it is a main additive in their fresh water supplies.

Everyday is a fresh education in America. Those little nuances of history that we missed in school (It totally passed me by that the US beat England in WWII), the subtle cultural mismatches (Wearing spandex counts as inciting a hate crime), and the finer points of dining out (Knife and fork? Anyone? At all?).

Our New World cousins are a fighting fit nation. 4 Americans on the trip. 3 Achilles injuries and 1 knee injury.

The British Response – Rational and Measured. Top tips include ice, compression, massage, and not cycling.
The American Response – Reject Colonial Propaganda. They’re weakening us for a snatch and grab. Push harder, cycle farther and faster, through the pain and currently accepted medical opinion… The very sovereignty of the United States may depend on it.
The Lauterbach Response – The Underdog always wins, 60% of the time. Rest until our largest climb is imminent, mount bike and tame the beast pre-breakfast. Phone ER for knee consult post-breakfast.

The American ‘take charge’, lead from the front, costly personal weekly life-coaching philosophy has its advantages. Patrick has drafted approximately 1047 of his 1300 miles ridden so far. Max’s own ego is kept suitably in check; he wears ear-plugs at night so his own weeping doesn’t keep him awake. The main disadvantage is we have had to dump food and water to make space for US casualties (and their musical therapeutics).

Weather excellent. Wish you were here.

Paddy and Max

Day 23 (Rest Day): Halfway to 45

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Today is a significant day for us: it’s our halfway point of the trip. No, we’re not halfway across the country, but we’ve put in our last hours climbing mountains and freezing our arses off at over 10,000 feet. 23 of 45 days are done. We will begin the second half of our journey with hitting Kansas in two days and picking up our mph as we cross the plains. What is to come? Boring terrain punctuated by striped scorpions, twisters, midwest truckstop restroom mayhem, perhaps premature death, stock options, the gout, and a hysterical pregnancy.

We hit up the Pueblo Library for a few hours today, took it easy. Ripped some books-on-CD to our laptop to ease our upcoming long rides. David queued up a book adaptation of Star Wars for his ride.

Actually, Ezra was nearly eaten alive by mosquitos because of a faulty net. He picked up his own tent at Walmart since his bivy bag isn’t protective enough. The mosquitos are getting thicker every day we ride east. I don’t like that at all. They’re getting bigger, too. They pierce tent walls now. I’m thinking Du Pont needs to come up with a fabric to combat that issue.

Time to make dinner, so this is a brief post. Salut-

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 0
Mosquito bites: 37
Library Internet Kbps: 2

Day 22 (part 2): Windy Plains

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Monday, July 24th. 9:43pm MST. We are in Pueblo, CO.

I think we’re almost in tornado country! This evening was absolutely torrential. Lightning and thunder every few seconds and high speed winds knocking over all of our tents and gear. I love this sort of “force of God” weather, but you start to doubt whether you’ll be able to sleep in it. Luckily the storm blew out before we had to curl up for the night.

The locals say Kansas is like this every evening. I sort of doubt that, but if there is one thing I’ve learned from the Wizard of Oz, it’s that Kansas is spelled with a tornado. We’re going to need lower-profile tents, I think.

Apparently if conditions get really poor, John will help us hunt for food. We’ll be eating like royalty in no time… I just wish I hadn’t decided to leave my golden robes at home.

No cycling tomorrow… it’s a rest day. Then we pick up the pace since, as I’ve said, terrain gets very flat in the US.

Random Images

Cimarron Tepee Party

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Don’t forget to watch the Pony Ride.

Day 22: Much to do about nothing

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Monday, 2:36pm. We are in Pueblo, CO.

Today was the first day we were weaned off of our cycling maps and took another route on the whim of a KOA associate we spoke with. He told us Highway 50 would be shorter and less hilly than the map’s indirect route to Pueblo, CO. For a while HW50 was great, but then toward the end it turned into an honest city freeway with a pull-off that we rode along.

There was a lot of sharp debris in our “lane” of the highway, so we had five flat tires today (3 for John, 2 for Max). John had so many flats the car had to backtrack to pick him up since we ran out of tubes to give him on the fly. That’s five flats for John in two days (almost 25% of our trip total). Max was alone, so he was sent in the wrong direction by a local and was rescued only by chance by our support car.

John and Max were slowed by the flats, but the rest of us blew threw the 70 mile trek to Pueblo at an average of 25mph. Our mountain legs are destroying this flat terrain, but I expect things will get very boring shortly.

When we reached Pueblo and tried to find the KOA, all hell broke loose. The map said 5 miles, it was 8 miles. And the map sent us down a road that only partially exists. It dead ends, reappears down the road, and dead ends again for good. Paddy and I ended up having to cross the black-tar highway during construction traffic a few times… and the construction workers kept hooting as us. So violating… yet self-image boosting.

When we found the KOA it was… in a less remote location than we had hoped. It has a pool, showers, and free Wifi, so we’re extremely pleased to be here none-the-less.

Tomorrow is a rest day in Pueblo… time to do some laundry.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 75.8
Flat tire tally: 21 (John 7, Ezra 6, Max 4, Paddy 2, Jacob 2, David 0)
Water sports invented: 1
DVDs ripped to laptop: 3
VHS movies at the KOA: 112 (and they’re good films!)
VHS players at the KOA: 0
Times Paddy had to cross the freeway for “art”: 2