MY MOST IMPRESSIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT (and, alas, it was due more to luck than to skill, conditioning, perseverance or even stubbornness)

The Pacific Ocean; June 26:

The Atlantic Ocean; August 16:

The Champagne:

Sponsors’ Appreciation; the accomplishment is revealed (Lafayette, CA):

Five days before the end of the ride I had told Ale that if the ride continued as it had I would have accomplished something that few if any others have ever done. It was something that neither Nick nor I did last year when riding from Santa Monica to St. Augustine and it is something that I doubt even much more accomplished riders than I have done.

Ale asked me at the end of the ride what it was I had done but I wanted to wait to share it when I got back home. Although she managed to figure it out, she kept my secret.

Those of you who attended our post ride supporters’ appreciation gathering at Mangia’s in Lafayette already know what the accomplishment is.

No, it is not that I have now ridden across the country 2 times (“Twice Across America”) because there are any number of people who have done that, and more. In fact, I met one of them, Dave Haase of Attitude Sports in Fond du Lac, WI – see my August 3 posting – who has ridden across the country some 6 times with Race Across America with any number of high finishes, including a 2nd in 2016. Nor is it my age because I know that older people than I have ridden across our country including, I am sure, self supported. But I would be surprised if many, if any, of them did what I did on this ride.

So, what did I do? I wish I could say that my most noteworthy accomplishment was due to my endurance, perseverance or skill. But no, instead it was due to luck and a fortuitous choice I made before the ride started. I rode a road bike with “race” tires – 25 mm rather than the wider tires most would tour on – from the coast of Oregon to the coast of New Hampshire, including on highways, back country roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, over broken pavement and occasionally glass AND I NEVER GOT EVEN ONE FLAT TIRE! No, not one. What a contrast that is from last year when there were days when both Nick and I had multiple flats.

I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, but when people started asking me how many flats I had – no doubt remembering all that we suffered last year – I didn’t want to say anything for fear of “jinxing” my incredibly lucky streak. Then as I got close to the end I was hoping that I could go the entire ride without a flat not just to avoid the inconvenience of having to replace the tube on the road, but so I could bag the unique distinction of making the whole trip without a flat.

I have been asked how I did it and my typical answer has been, simply, “luck.” To be fair, though, I think that the pre-ride decision to use Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II tires also played a part because they were great. However, after getting home and going on a few rides, my explanation NOW is that I didn’t get any flats on Laura’s Ride North because I wasn’t riding with Nick. How did I reach that conclusion? Because after having a few more rides with others without a flat, my very first ride with Nick after I got home resulted in a flat tire. And I got it before we had gone 20 of our 80 mile ride. If that, when combined with all of the flats we got during Laura’s Ride 2016, isn’t irrefutable proof, I don’t know what could be. (Please, don’t be a spoil sport and point out that correlation does not establish causation.)

Speaking of rides since I have gotten home. I have been pleasantly surprised that my riding after Laura’s Ride North has been significantly different than it was after Laura’s Ride 2016. Last year I felt depleted when I got back and that feeling lasted to some extent through the start of this year’s ride (which no doubt accounted for much of the apprehension I felt before starting this ride). In contrast, this year I have felt stronger than when I started the ride. I still lag behind the group on some climbs but I manage to keep up more often and feel considerably better than I did last year. I think that the main reason is that last year I suffered from heat exhaustion from riding in so much higher temperatures than I encountered this year and that it took me literally months to finally fully recover. Plus, of course, I would like to think that this year’s ride helped build some endurance and strength even though I still resisted pushing too hard because I was always conscious of the miles I yet had to ride. Maybe, though, I’m just getting younger. (Sandi would scoff at that given all of the aches and pains I have had recently.)

Flashes of numerous places I saw this past summer go through my mind. Without going into boring details, I will say that it was an adventure I am glad to have experienced. And images of small towns and coast lines on the East Coast also flash through my mind. But that is for another time.

Best,
Rick

 

 

 

A RETROSPECTIVE. AND A POSSIBLE FUTURE.

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Hi, Again.
       Although I expect that this posting is going to go unread because this ride is now so far in the past, it is because the ride is farther in the past that I am writing.
       I don’t know exactly what I am going to write – I will discover that as I go along – but the thought of bringing some perspective to our experience has been with me for a while.
       The first thought that comes to mind is how many times memory fragments of our ride have randomly popped into my head. I will be going along, sometimes on a bike but not necessarily, and all of a sudden I will picture an endless highway with barren landscape and remember the thought that the solution is to just keep pedaling. Or I will remember a dinner with Nick, Ale and Sarah in a little restaurant where the waitress had a pistol strapped to her hip. I will think of the various signs marking the new town, county or state that we were entering. One of the times we got lost will make an appearance, or I will think of how it felt to know that we still had more than 10 days before we would leave Texas, of the numerous people who wished us safe travels and those who were generous with their time and hospitality. The man and woman on their Harleys who, as did we, were at a rest stop to get some respite from the oven-like temperatures in one of the numerous deserts we crossed. I will think of sore legs, hands, arms and butt, or I will remember flying along with a tail wind and loving my bike and the ride. I will remember leaving Santa Monica and riding through downtown Los Angeles, through Chinatown and into San Bernardino behind the helpful lead of Manuel and Margarita Montanez – the same Manuel who, incredibly, laid the plywood path that led us from the Pacific ocean over the beach to the road at the start of our ride – in their truck and the excitement of seeing Sandi, Ale, Sarah and the members of the North Florida Bicycle Club waving and yelling for us when we got to the St. Augustine pier at the end of our ride.
       The second thought is that it is interesting that although many unbidden recollections and feelings have come to mind since our return, time does a good job of muting memories, of replacing some of the dark clouds with rosier skies. (Well, we DID have lots of very bright skies!) In looking back, I know that there were difficult days – mostly because of the heat but also a day in Florida because of the wind, rain and splashing cars and me having my bike slip out from under me on the way into Baton Rouge  – but the “difficulties” are more abstract than real; I can remember them, but I don’t feel them. And in not feeling them I can think of them as just obstacles that were overcome and that added to the “adventure” and that are outweighed by all of the things that were fun and satisfying.
       As I say, time changes perspectives.
       I don’t mean to equate the minor difficulties or pain we experienced, but I often think of women who have given birth. The experience is painful and no sane person would want to do it again. Yet,  given some time – and the pleasure of the first born? – most women do it again, some even intentionally. And many more than just once again.
       So, what’s the parallel with us?
       Well, in talking with Nick, I think that he feels somewhat the same way, that the passage of time has changed perspectives. That is, by the end of the ride he was saying, “Never again,” “I WANNA GOOOOOO HOOOOOME,” he would never want to be away from his home, his pets and his friends, for so long. Maybe a week, or 2 at the most, some time, but nothing as long as what we had done.
       But now, with the passage of some time?
       Well, after grumbling about how much my riding has to improve – I had mentioned in a blog after we got back that my riding had fallen off and that hasn’t yet been rectified – I told Nick that I am at least considering doing it again, but this time across the northern part of our country, from the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Oregon to the Atlantic Ocean off of New Hampshire. Our last route was relatively flat and it would be interesting to face the challenge of crossing the mountain ranges and seeing very different country but with the consolation that we shouldn’t be riding in an oven (the Mojave, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) or a steam room (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida).
       Plus, despite the monotony, the drudgery, the discomfort and the homesickness, there was something addictive about being on the road day after day with a definite goal. The camaraderie of the four of us – Sarah and Ale as drivers/helpers and Nick and me as riders – sharing an adventure. Leaving most of the ordinary every day concerns behind and focusing on one more day of riding and doing that again and again and again. Riding through country side and towns at a pace that is very different and more satisfying than being in a car created memories that in some ways have become more valuable with the passage of time. I also admit that the satisfaction of knowing that we did something that was challenging and that relatively few people do has become more concrete with the passage of time, maybe because the thought of 3,200 miles on a bike on a single trip boggles my mind. Also, knowing that our ride helped, even in a small way, those afflicted with breast cancer because of the generosity of those who contributed to Laura’s Ride 2016 gives value to what we did. While in many ways the ride was self indulgent, at least it also did some good if only because it motivated so many of you to be so generous to the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
       So, what was Nick’s response, Nick who had said “Never again”? Well, it was very similar to when I first mentioned the ride to Florida: no hesitation and an immediate, “Yes, I am interested in doing that too.” (By the way, before the last ride someone said that with all of the time together Nick and I were likely to end up very good friends, to which I responded, “or enemies.” Thankfully, she was right and we are now definitely better friends than before all of this started roughly a year ago.)
       Well, both of us have to get into better shape, including losing weight and getting back to doing some climbing. And I have to see how a pending trial fits in with my schedule. But as of now, the bug has bitten both of us and we are starting our tentative plans for Laura’s Ride North, from Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This time with Sandi and, hopefully Ale, as our drivers. A bit longer than last time. A lot more climbing. And a year older. But why not?
       If I write here again it will be because we are pursuing our plans. So yes, we will let you know if it is going to happen. And no doubt, if we do we will again ask for your generosity and support, both of which were so valued last time.
       Thank you, and I hope to write again,
       Rick
       PS: Who knows, your urging us on may increase the likelihood of us making Laura’s Ride North a reality.

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An Inexcusable Omission

I apologize for having forgotten to extend my thanks to Adam Hanin in yesterday’s “Relief and Overwhelming Gratitude” post yesterday.

If it weren’t for Adam, Nick’s Masonic brother, I couldn’t have blogged during this adventure because this site wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t created and designed it as his contribution to Laura’s Ride 2016. Thank you Adam!

Rick

Relief and Overwhelming Gratitude (Sorry, no photos this time)

I have been asked how I feel about having completed our ride. I will try to answer that.

First, I am of course pleased that I accomplished what I set out to do. It also felt good knowing that now our energy can be focused on returning home and that means getting to see family, pets and friends that I have missed over the past couple of months.

In some ways, however, the “excitement” was/is somewhat muted. The best analogy I can draw is from my professional career. When I actually take a case to trial, virtually all of my thoughts and energy are focused on the trial, which becomes my whole world, and on winning. My experience has been that the high of winning is not nearly as high as is the low of losing, mostly because my expectation is that I am supposed to win so that the major feeling is one of relief when I do.

In many ways, finishing the ride was the same. For 2 months (really for a bit longer than that because it started before we started riding), my focus was on the ride and on completing it. Once we set out to ride across the country, there could be no satisfactory alternative to finishing the ride; that was what we were supposed to do and it is what I expected to do. So finishing just accomplished what I had expected and what we were supposed to do. While it feels good to have done it, it doesn’t approach the low I would have experienced if I hadn’t. In many ways, rather than excitement, I had a feeling of relief, relief that I had done what I set out to do and that I hadn’t proven those of you who said we could do it to be wrong.

However, my main feeling, which started before the end of our ride, is one of great gratitude. I know that a number of things had to come together for me to be able to take this adventure and I am thankful for all of them.

I know that I am extremely fortunate to be healthy enough to have been able to even consider this at my age. I have thought of friends who have given up riding because of heart problems or whose riding has been curtailed by injuries, even if just temporarily. The gratitude for still being healthy at my age was reinforced today when I tried to call one of my 2 best high school friends when we were driving through the part of the country he had moved to. I was concerned when the voice that answered wasn’t his and that fear was confirmed when I was told that Larry had died this past February. We were virtually the same age. I know that my health is largely a matter of luck and I appreciate my good fortune.

I am also thankful that my conditioning was such that I believed I could make this ride. While that is largely a function of my training, even that was helped tremendously by those I ride with because their normal rides are rigorous enough that I didn’t even increase my miles in anticipation of this ride.

I also know that I am very fortunate to have  the time and resources to do this ride. More than 2 months away from home is a long time and 2 months of travel expenses isn’t insignificant. Both are the result of years of good fortune and not everyone would have the same opportunity.

Having the right significant other was also essential. Sandi provided the understanding and support that was necessary. While some could say that having me gone for 2 months was to her benefit, it did place burdens on her and not once did she complain. To the contrary, she supported my effort from its inception through the completion. Thank you, Sandi!

I am also thankful that I selected the right riding partner. Nick was equally determined to finish this ride and that was important. While I would like to think I would have finished alone if necessary, I know that the entire ride was easier because I had his company. Thank you, Nick

Of course this ride wouldn’t have been possible without our drivers, Alejandra and Sarah. Not only did they drive the SAG, but they made most of our room arrangements, unloaded the truck every evening and reloaded it in the morning, kept track of our receipts, did laundry, went shopping for us and gave us massages when we asked. Thank you to both of you.

I am also grateful for the support many of you have given us. The support ranges from donating to our cause to commenting about our posts, from congratulating us on our efforts to encouraging us to keep on pedaling.

So, this ride has given me much to be grateful for. THANK YOU!!!

Rick

(From Kansas City)