Day 40: And then there were four.

August 12th, 2006 by Jacob

Friday, August 11th. Tonight we are staying in Barnesville, Ohio.

We woke fresh (and an hour late) from our wonderful rest days in Granville, OH. For the first time it felt like our bodies were given enough time to mend themselves and there was no morning ache and fatigue on the bikes. We had a great little breakfast (using real milk in cereal for the first time) and began the final 5-day sprint to Baltimore.

If you recall, David left us about a week ago to visit Chicago and go to a wedding. That left us with 5 riders. Now, John has decided to stay at his home in Ohio for a couple days as well. That leaves us with a solid four: Ezra, Paddy, Max, and myself. Are we the champions? Yes, there is no doubt about that. Sorry, David and John, better luck next time. We’ll try to find participant awards for you both. (Though keep in mind John and David will be rejoining us in a few days to finish all together in Baltimore on the 15th.)

The morning ride took longer than expected because it turns out Ohio has no real highway clean-up system. There is weeks old rotting roadkill and glass everywhere. You basically ride until you run out of spare tubes from glass punctures or until you can’t stand the rottening-flesh smell. Also, Eastern Ohio took a turn for the worse with more Southern Missouri-style redneck attacks on the cyclists. (One passenger in a red truck tried to push me over from his window on a 55 MPH highway.)

By the time we hit Zanesville, I was the only cyclist left on the road after both Max and Paddy had used up all of their spare tubes from flats. Honestly, there is glass sprinkled every few feet. Your brain goes completely numb after hours of vigilantly looking for any glittering a few feet ahead of you on the road.

I thought things would be better in Zanesville, but it turned out they are the Broken-Glass Capital of the World. I’m pretty sure they hold Molotov Cocktail festivals (or something) every night without bothering to clean up the mess. By this point, riding through glass was unavoidable and I just hoped for the best… since otherwise nobody would reach Ezra 14 miles further down the road where he was waiting in the support car.

Once we all rendezvoused again, we enjoyed our second breakfast at Denny’s (the first was on Day 1). We need them to sponsor us next tour. During the pancakes, Max whipped out his photo IDs and we made a startling observation:

At the end of the day in Barnesville we rejoiced in having a decent park to stay at: a pool, open showers, wifi, and luxurious toilets (that means they have stall doors, which is rare). However, at around 2am the local police rolled up on us and woke Max with their flashlights. We’re pleased he didn’t blindly respond with “Okay, which one of you turds want to get their face punched in?” Instead they asked who he was and he said something about a charity while half asleep. When they asked why we were at their park Paddy chimed in “Well, there’s a water fountain.” We were golden from there. Finally after more harassment and running background checks on Ezra, myself, and the support car (it somehow came up as a Mercedes) they let us be.

In other news, this website has now reached a new low. I was looking through a report of what people search the web for to find us, and lo-and-behold, “preteen bangers” was on the list. After a quick “wtf” moment, I searched Google and discovered we are ranked as the 17th most relevant website on that topic (though we’ll probably be higher after this post). But before you call NetNanny on us, it’s only because of a unfortunately written sentence in Day 27… something about “gang-bangers” (look at the numbers). Paddy thought this was why the Police approached us at 2am in the park. But I guess Google isn’t that powerful yet…

Tomorrow: West Virginia and Pennsylvania, just the four of us.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 110
Flat tire tally: 38
People met walking across America: 6
People walking for Cancer: 1
Perverts visiting our site: at least 1
Perverts donating to Cancer: probably 0
Sleeps to go: 4
Days since Max has been lost: 3
Days since real showers: 1
Days until real showers:4

Day 39 (rest day): Mall Rats and Teddy Bears

August 11th, 2006 by Jacob

Thursday, August 10th. We are currently staying at John’s place in Granville, Ohio.

Well, it’s our second rest day here in Ohio. We’re burning up the extra day we gained in Kansas by riding over 320 miles in 36 hours. John woke us up with news of breakfast and… what? More cycling?! He secretly picked up a permit to fundraise at a mall in Columbus, though none of us were in any mood to do it on our rest day. It would mean cycling on a trainer in the middle of a mall for most of the day. We agreed we could get more money by selling the permit to some other shady group. So, in the end, we decided to skip that particular fundraiser and do one in the afternoon in downtown Granville where newspapers would pick up the story.

(Above: John agrees he doesn’t want to do the fundraiser either. Paddy rejoices.)

We still went to the mall in the morning anyways and found they had prepared a booth for us and everything. Oops. So John spent an hour at the booth while we all picked up supplies for the trip. You know… mall stuff… like new GAP swim trunks. And Abercrombie catalogs for the lonely nights.

Paddy headed over to “Build-A-Bear”, a little shop where you can design, stuff, and clothe your own teddy bear. He wanted a bear with 8 inch arms and 2 inch legs. I don’t know if you’ve picked it up from this blog, but Paddy… well Paddy’s a freak. (And not the good kind that you’d pay $2 to leer at.)

Paddy’s new “best friend”:

Back at the ranch, we enjoyed more of John’s Mom’s fabulous cooking including the culmination of all of the leftovers from other meals. It was like a potpourri of the past two days worth of meals, and it was fantastic. We stuffed ourselves doubly to prepare for getting back on the saddle tomorrow.

In the evening, John’s friends checked out our support car (aka “The Gimpmobile”) for any issues. They think it’ll make it to Baltimore and back to San Francisco, so that’s a bit of good news for Ezra and myself. We weren’t sure if the car would even make it to Baltimore in the first place.

Tomorrow we finish up Ohio. Then, some more states of various names and colors on a map.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: a few on the trainer
Flat tire tally: 35 (Max magically got one without touching his bike)
Films watch today: 0
Days without losing Max: 2
Satiated stomaches: 5
Mimes at Mall: 1
Internet at John’s house: 0

Day 38: “For British Eyes Only III: The Final Countdown”

August 11th, 2006 by Jacob

Wednesday, August 9th. We are staying at John’s house in Granville, Ohio.

We earned it, and here it is: the double-A side, buy one get one free, patented two-in-one formula, Siamese conjoined-twin rest day! 48 wonderful hours of home cooked foods, real roofs, a pillow, showers and no cycling… Or is it?

Our delusions (rest day is such an ambiguous term) were shattered by John. He’d managed to get us permits to hold fundraisers in Granville, OH and Colombo, S.L.. Rah-Hoo! Not that we didn’t want to (though that was a major issue), it’s just I personally found the last few weeks just got a little to much. My anti-Yank injury heckling had no effect my ears, and my knees took the brunt of it. Pot, meet kettle… We tried to convince him to raise some money by selling the permits to a group that would never get the permission the honest way: KKK and Scientologists came to mind. Messieurs Bedford Forest and Hubbard were unavailable, so we stepped up to the plate, and got a newspaper article to boot.

Granville has been very kind to us. John’s mother is a demon in the kitchen – pancakes freshly made at brekkie, an endless supply of fresh fruit, homemade pizza coming out of your ears, and more coke than even I knew what to do with (Mama, take note. I’m coming home and if that’s where you want me to stay, you had better buck up your ideas young lady).

By my reckoning, it is a mere 5 more sleeps to go! A few hundred miles, and then our great ordeal will grind to a splashy halt in the Atlantic Ocean. After the formalities of dipping the wheels into the brine, it will all be over. I won’t pretend I’m not looking forward to the end of our little adventure, and there are definitely some unsavoury moments and people I would rather forget (anyone with a gun, anything that bites on command, anywhere hotter than the sun), but have no misgivings, friends. I would heartily recommend the journey to anyone inclined (though I should dare say not before we are all safely home behind our doors), and I can see myself doing the trip again. Under certain conditions…

1. No more than 40 per day (miles or Celsius).
2. More Cokes, less Pepsi.
3. Someone find that hallowed 96 oz soda.
4. Anyone inclined to stray from the prescribed path will be fitted with a ‘Battle Royale’-style collar – too far off course and it ceases to be our problem.
5. An armed escort.
6. Dog repellent. I hear chilli powder in a spare water bottle is effective. Or spreading their front legs, cracking their tiny weak rib cage. Apparently.

Until next time, my green and pleasant land,

Paddy

The Brits will return in…
For British Eyes Only IV – Never Say Never Repatriation Ceremony Again

Todays Numbers:

Miles Cycles: 0
Melons devoured: 5
Movies watched: 2.5 (telephone call from London)
Nice sleeps: 3

Day 37: Tabula Rasa

August 10th, 2006 by Jacob

Tuesday, August 8th. Tonight, we sleep like kings in Granville, Ohio.

This is our first of four days in Ohio. The next two days will be rest days and the fourth day will be riding on to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Ohio is a fascinating place in a few ways. On the one hand, most of it seems to be cornfields, note unlike Kansas. But when you hit the city, Columbus, all hell breaks lose. Urbanization has created a stark contrast between urban and rural, though I suppose they live in harmony. But it’s like two different worlds, all within a few miles of each other.

After about 120 miles we reached John’s home-town of Granville. It’s sort of a little wealthy suburb for Columbus lawyers, doctors, and the like. They generally have so much money floating around the city they have to make up things to do with it. For example, they replace the street signs every two years or convert asphalt crosswalks to brick. Also, there is a public Polo field outside the village-owned mansion. It’s a wonderful place.

In the last paragraph when I said “we reached John’s hometown”, I meant all of us sans Max. Max, after two full days of riding in proper fashion with the rest of us, got lost in the last 8 mile stretch to Granville. After waiting a few hours and catching fireflies with Paddy, we backtracked the route a couple times to make sure he hadn’t broken down. No sign of him. Eventually John called in another missing persons report to the Police.

We were sure Max had to be in the hospital since we all agreed there was no possible way to get lost in the last 8 miles. Stay on Highway 16, then follow the one dead-end turn to Granville. Luckily, not long after the Police got involved, Max called John’s house and reported he was outside someone’s home about a mile back on the route. Three police cars escorted us over there and one of them ended up crashing into a deer on the way (we thought he hit Max at first).

In Max’s defense, John’s hometown of Granville is located next to “Johnstown”, which is a bit confusing I must admit. How he ended up in Newark, we have yet to establish.

Finally Max was brought back to John’s house and we feasted on Chinese food for the rest of the evening. It was truly a wonderful experience for all of us: dish after dish of complex carbohydrates that weren’t pasta. John’s mom is an amazing chef. I don’t know if we’ll be able to finish the rest of the trip after staying in a paradise like this. I’ve taken four showers already and washed my clothes twice… just because I can.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. Max’s “punishment” for getting separated to often (and so badly) is to carry the GPS transmitter for the rest of the ride. (We also considered getting that little device that attaches to your keys and beeps when you clap.)

The next two days are rest days at John’s house. Go team!

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 120
Flat tire tally: 34
Days since Max got lost: 0
Fireflies caught: 5
Fireflies that like being in ziplock bags: 0
Fireflies released: 5
Cumulative minutes spent looking for Max: 1660
Cats killed by curiosity: 12
Cats rewarded by curiosity: 19,293,439,384
Roadsigns Max bothered to read: 0

Day 36: It’s not about the bikes.

August 10th, 2006 by Jacob

Monday, August 7th. We are in Richmond, Indiana tonight.

We set out from Telle Haute, IN and we’re all greatly looking forward to our last two days of cycling before two full rest days at John’s house in Granville, Ohio. On top of that, we’re taking a mid-day break to visit Indiana University and tour their Cancer Research Institute. Indiana marks our entrance into Eastern Standard Time, so we lose yet another hour.

The ride today was a bit long, about 145 mi, and once again we really had no idea how far it was to the destination. Estimates were between 130 miles and 170 miles. We don’t own any maps of the east coast. For our team, $5 for a map is too much to pay for peace of mind. We’d rather “guesstimate”, as some would say.

The University of Indiana Medical Campus is located in the center of Indianapolis, right smack between the ghetto and the ghetto. You would think property values might go up just a tad if you have one of the best Cancer Research Institutes in the world right down the street. But I digress.

Amber Senseny and Brenda Smither of the Indiana University Office of Development greeted us with a hardy hello and goodie-bags filled with Gatorade, IU stickers, Red Hots, and Marathon Bars (26g of protein!). We love free stuff, especially when it’s useful. David is still AWOL, so Max voraciously tore into what would be his bag. Once we had our fill, we trotted over to the Cancer Research Institute to visit a lab doing DNA-mending research.

We were given a tour of Dr. John Turchi’s laboratory, which investigates the molecular mechanism by which cisplatin works to treat tumors. The lab members are involved in research to identify and develop the agents that target proteins that work in cisplatin metabolism, and one of their ultimate goals is to enhance cisplatin activity in cancer tumors that do not usually respond well to the treatment. Researchers Jason Lehman and Brooke Andrews were kind enough to give us an overview of their individual research projects. We were shown samples of human lung cancer cells from a patient and told about possible future applications of their findings. The remainder of our time in the lab we spend trying to determine if animal cruelty practices (namely giving cancer to mice) should be allowed… but of course.

I guess it’s worth mentioning that Lance Armstrong, the man with a grapefruit-sized testicle and about a 3% chance of beating cancer, was treated at University of Indiana. Max and John are pretty big Lance fans, so…

Today’s Numbers:

Miles Cycled: 145
Flat tire tally: 33
Pregnant faculty: all eligible
Rashes that turned out to be AIDS: 0 (phew)
Mice given Cancer on purpose: n/a (another lab does the dirty work)
Mice that see it coming: only the mutants
Days since Max has been lost: 2

Day 35: Another one bites the dust.

August 9th, 2006 by Jacob

Sunday, August 6th. This evening we’ll be in Terre Haute, IN.

This morning Ezra and David took off early to visit Terre Haute, which Ezra estimated at 50 miles away, and left the rest of us to catch up later on. So, Terre Haute is 100 miles from where we are starting out in the morning. And after Max got lost for six hours yesterday, we’re being more careful about providing proper directions, as you can see by the note Ezra left us with:

So if someone leaves you directions and the first line is “Don’t hate me I’m very cuddly”, I recommend purchasing a map as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately, there are no places to buy maps in cornfields. I like it that the key point of the directions is to go ask someone else for directions. Very confidence building. We ended up having the support car go ahead and find the correct route as the riders made their way down HWY-37.

Ezra and David did not fair so well. They realized they wouldn’t make it to Terre Haute soon enough for church service after about 30 miles and tried to hitchhike. The thing about Illinois is that they really don’t like hitchhikers. It’s a felony. (It could be because of all the prisons located all along the freeways. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.) So they tried in vain to hitch for about 3 hours and then a highway patrol car spotted them. After a few lies about their flywheel being broken and the police attempting unsuccessfully to catch them in their lies, they were allowed to continue to ride on.

When we all met back up, David announced he’d be taking a train to Chicago and staying there for a week to visit his girlfriend and go to a wedding. Kind of sudden, but who can blame him.

Tomorrow, Indiana. All of it.

Today’s Numbers

Miles cycled: 110
Flat tire tally: 33
Times Max visited Ferina: 2
Locals that think we should change our name to UUFU: 1
CCFC team members: 5
Damage to Jacob’s property: over $1200
Sad Jacobs: 1
Retractions that will be issued tomorrow: 1
State Park Rangers that didn’t care we trespassed and didn’t pay for a campsite: 1

News: GPS floodgates reopen

August 8th, 2006 by Jacob

Well, if you’ve given up on tracking us via the GPS feed, it’s time to start again. GPS tracking is now working about 95% of the time we’re cycling. It’s a great way to find out where we are, if we’re still moving, or track our GPS unit if it gets stolen. GPS data gets updated about every 5-15 minutes.

Also, expect a few days worth of blogs to be posted this evening when we get to John’s house.

Day 34: Illinois, our personal safehouse.

August 6th, 2006 by Jacob

Saturday, August 5th. Tonight we are sleeping at Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area.

What can we say about Illinois that hasn’t already been said before? As we all know, it has a population of about 12.5 million. But what you may not know is that it was first colonized by the French, but they surrendered it to Britain after spending about a hundred years trying to teach the native Shawnee tribe to make tiny metal Eiffel Towers for export. Twenty years later America acquired it through a series of “Olympic” drinking games with the British. It turns out if you throw a coin with a likeness of the Queen into a beer glass, English folks have to chug the whole thing to “save the Queen”. Tactics such as throwing English coinage into rivers worked wonders for the colonies during the Revolutionary War and saved many lives.

Enough history.

After spending four days in a little place called Missouri, we’re pleased as punch to be riding through Illinois. The odd thing is that all of the issues Missouri posed, such as drivers trying to run us off the road, ended within a mile of crossing the border. Illinois is smooth sailing all the way.

Well, smooth sailing all the way to Salem at least. John crashed a few miles before town and twisted his wrist during the landing. Then we formed two groups upon reaching town: Team Library and Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr. for the western US) and Team McDonalds. Max was the only person in Team McDonalds, so he rode off into the sunset, never to return. I’m not kidding. It was 2pm when we stopped for lunch and I didn’t see him again until after 9pm. What transpired inbetween was a snafu of such epic Vietnam-type proportion, we’re planning on selling the rights to Oliver Stone. …Is he still alive? No? Huh. Okay.

Actually, Max somehow didn’t hear the “Hardee’s” part of “Team Library and Hardee’s” so he looked for us at the library didn’t bother turning around to look at the Hardee’s that was two doors over. Then he thought we had abandoned him (may it never be) and rode to what he thought was our final destination. It wasn’t. He went to Farina, some little town that only exists to make dehydrated eggs for Military MREs. The State Troopers picked him up and notified the Park Rangers where the rest of the group was staying. Paddy and I sprung him late in the evening. A bit worrying for a while, but otherwise a harmless and mind-numbingly mediocre adventure. The worst part was when I checked the hospital for his body and one nurse pretended to think a cyclist was in the E-room. Aren’t they under a hippocratic oath or something?

Tomorrow, Indiana. But first, more Illinois.

Today’s Numbers

Miles cycled: 110
Flat tire tally: 33
Individually bulleted directions for the day: 27
Correct guesses at Max national origin: 0 of 7 (Australia? Com’on.)
Times Max was spat on by passing drivers: 1
Times Jacob felt bad for telling Max’s mother earlier in the day she has nothing to worry about since we’re out of Missouri: 8
Requests from Jacob and Ezra for John to visit the hospital to x-ray his wrist: 7
Visits to the hospital for John’s wrist: 0
Miles travelled by car looking for Max: 89
Hours Jacob spent looking for Max: 6

Day 33 (rest day): We are what we are.

August 5th, 2006 by Jacob

Friday, August 4th. We are in Chester, IL.

We’ve finally done it. We’ve exited Missouri, The You’ll-Die-Here State, and entered Illinois, The Sensible State. We didn’t take a picture at the border crossing since we were in such a hurry to leave and taking the photo would have required us to stand in Missouri longer, exponentially increasing our risk of death or disaster. We’ll get a photo in reverse on the way out.

We stayed in Chester on the Mississippi River next to a kiddie pool, prison, and a trailer down by the river. Chester is the home of Popeye, a lovable sailor character with unusually large forearms and a healthy appetite for Spinach (it prevents Scurvy and healthy marriages).

We rested long and hard all day, only driving into town to pick up some bike parts and new glasses for David. While David was driving he saw a “goat riding a tire”. No one else saw it and we certainly don’t believe him, so we had him pull over and Ezra took over driving. Paddy and Max spent some time at the library and ran into Popeye. But you really can’t help but run into Popeye in Chester. He’s all over everything, including Chamber of Commerce, Sheriff, and City Hall buildings.

We all did loads of laundry as well. We’ve come to realize that you really only need one pair of underwear per week (“pants” for UK readers). We spend most of our time in spandex and lycra, so wearing underwear seems foreign at times. Max uses every excuse possible to get out of it.

Most everyone worked on their bikes at some point in the day. Degreasing, greasing, drying, lubricating, tinkering, and in Paddy’s case, completely breaking his bike as well. Max spent two hours patching puncturing tires and then another hour “in solitude” after realizing the patching didn’t work. Life goes on.

Mostly we’re just pleased to be in Illinois.

Today’s Numbers:

Miles cycled: 0 (rest day)
Flat tire tally: 33
Flat tires on the rest day: 1 (Yay Max!)
Surprise poopies: 1
Alcohol accidentally left in children’s jungle gym: 1
Alcohol returned by children: 0
Secret Illegal Midnight Swimmers: 2 (Paddy and Jacob)
Poetry used as a response to Missouri: 1
Suspected benders on trip: 1
Parents that love Jacob: 3

Day 32: With a rebel yell we cried “more, more, more”.

August 4th, 2006 by Jacob

Thursday, August 3rd. We are in Chester, IL.

(Warning! This post contains very silly ideas and generalisms based on a few chance encounters from today. The views expressed here are not held by any of the CCFC riders or affiliates.)

We slowly rose this morning at about 4:30am. We’ve been suffering from the heat, succubus-drivers, and senseless climbing, but now add teenagers as well. For most of the night the local teens were joyriding around the park we slept at yelling and screaming at each other (and us). I personally slept 95% naked on a picnic table without a sleeping bag and somehow came away without any bug bites or attacks in the night. I did cover myself in DEET, but who knows if that stuff really works. Also I slept next to a copy of the Wall Street Journal to repel away the rednecks.

While the weather today is better than it has been in a long time thanks to overcast skies, our danger level has reached an all time high. We were on yellow alert after yesterday’s incidents, but today we upgraded to orange and then finally all-out red alert.

After 50 miles of riding and finishing the Ozarks, we’d gone through a couple of extremely hazardous run-ins with locals. First there were a couple of Great Danes running around in the street outside their residence. They blocked the riders from continuing on their path by barking, snapping, slobbering, humping, peeing, and every method a dog can utilize to slow cyclists. The owners sat and watched in glee and after 10 minutes they called off their dogs, to speak literally. If you aren’t familiar with Great Danes, they’re about four feet tall while on all fours. Quite a beast.

On top of daily vicious dog attacks, something completely unique to Missouri in our experience, drivers continue to not only ignore our presence on the road but commonly push us off or cut in front of us maliciously. At one point a pickup truck driver accelerated in front of us and cut an extremely close right turn into a dirt road and nearly hit John and Ezra. He was laughing the whole time.

This is getting more and more common, and while we are young, haphazard, and feel invincible at our age, we can see when death is imminent. So for the first time, we’re skipping a leg of the ride. We are driving the rest of the way to Chester, abut 60 miles. It will take a couple of trips in the car since there isn’t room for more than a couple riders at once, but again, we’d rather just say “we skipped 60 miles” than be dead. We’re choosing life over pride.

Okay, first, on the bright side of Southern Missouri, we met some nice older folks who I think were passing through and they secretly paid for our Steak ‘n’ Shake lunch (so thank you if you’re reading this!). Also the Steak ‘n’ Shake employees were really nice and understood when I told them we may be writing some negative things about Southern Missouri. Also a church let us hide from potential murders while the support car carried members ahead.

Now for the negativity… I’m beginning to think that making Southern Missouri a landfill, as suggested yesterday, isn’t proper enough. We all agree that we can’t possibly express our level of for dislike for Southern Missouri terrain, weather, and the people living in it. In my opinion, more drastic measures should be taken by the US Government. Here’s the plan:

Stage 1: Allow Southern Missouri to secede from the Union (US). We know they want to secede again because they’ve had 150 years to take down the Confederate flags and replace them with Ol’ Glory, but they have not. Also the ubiquitous Swastika tattoos and cobwebbed Cotton Gins make me think they want to reinstate slavery.

Stage 2: All 13 Southern Missouri citizens who are not neo-Nazis will be relocated to St. Louis. In turn, thousands of other Confederate supporters (e.g. meth-heads, neo-Nazis, etc.) from other states will move to Southern Missouri seeking freedom from non-segregated bathrooms and schoolbuses as well as for tasty Missouri Chicken Fried Steaks.

Stage 3: “Operation Napalm Whipping Boy” begins and Southern Missouri’s Meth problem is cleaned up with judicious carpet bombing. Afterwards, a proper salting of the earth.

No Americans will be harmed. And no extra tax dollars are required to fund another war because the US Gov. will sell its land in MO to foot the bill. Win-win situation, I think. Please write your Congressman or Congresswoman with support.

We’re staying in Illinois, and it’s better than Missouri. More on that tomorrow. Tune in at the same CCFC time, same CCFC place.

Today’s Numbers

Miles cycled: 45
Miles skipped: 50
Flat tire tally: 32
Dog attacks: 4
Dogs larger than CCFC members: 2
Confederate flags passed in 25 miles: 37