If you bike to eat more chocolate, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Ride is for you!
My life goal is to bicycle in all 50 states. Biking in a state doesn't mean I ride from top to bottom or end to end--just that I ride long enough to see something typical of the state. For example, in NY, I rode about 30 miles around one of the Finger Lakes. In PA, I rode about 35 miles on a route that took me through the Amish countryside. In Southern California... well, that'll be a story yet to come.
So far, I've ridden in these states:
N=27 (not counting CA)
I started out riding on the road in summer 1989. (Well, I rode a lot in high school, but that seems a long time ago.) In winter 1992, I added a mountain bike to my bike stable. My road bike's name is Ender; Human is my mountain bike. I don't refer to them by name very often, though.
I commute partway to work by bike. You can read an article I wrote for our club newsletter after I'd been doing the commute for about a year and a half.
I have lots of good biking buddies. One of them managed to let his birthday slip by us. When we found out, we arranged a month-late celebration at Bandido's in Chapel Hill. Bandido's has a great birthday surprise! They pop a huge sombrero onto the birthday celebrant and take a polaroid picture which they give to him. For this happy occasion, someone kidnapped the photo and scanned it in so you can see how much fun we have. Sometimes, we have so much fun, we wear someone out--and then we have a ball taking funny pictures of the person wearing a hat. Actually, we've only done this once, but now we look for opportunities!
Trying to get biking buddies to wear funny hats for a photograph is becoming commonplace. In January 1999, we had a birthday party for Rob and Debbie. Rob likes puzzles, so we had a little party game. I printed out about 9 puzzles from a Web site I found, and made up these rules:
Well, Rob chose Beth to try to solve the puzzle, and she did it! So, here's the resulting photo of Rob and the koala hat (along with the other birthday celebrant, Debbie).
I'm not a fast rider, but I really enjoy endurance rides. For 5 of the past 6 years, I've attempted (and mostly succeeded!) the Annual Assault on Mt. Mitchell... a ride of about 102 miles from Spartanburg, SC to the top of Mt. Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi. The last 30 miles are basically uphill with only 2 short breaks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's a great ride. Unfortunately, my 1996 attempt was thwarted by a bout with strep throat and incredibly hot temperatures. (The weather's; not mine.) I got as far as Marion (mile 73) before yielding to the cries my body was making of "Abuse!" The first time I did the ride was in 1992. I wore a duck helmet cover and had a Daffy Duck horn on my bike. I told friends those were to remind me that the ride was supposed to be fun. If I got to the point where I wanted to throw them off the bike (and my head), it was time to stop! Luckily, I never got to that point. :-)
The 1998 Assault on Mt. Mitchell
I've also ridden 150 miles in one day while on RAGBRAI in 1996. It was Iowa's sesquicentennial, so in addition to the usual century option, they offered a 150 mile option. Several of my biking buddies and I were there. Fortunately, one of the others was also willing to try the long day with me. If he hadn't been on the ride, I'd have turned around after the first 5 miles (or less!) of the extra loop. The headwinds were stronger than any I've ever ridden in--and I much prefer headwinds to hills! It was a tough ride, but lots and lots of fun. One of the rest stops was in Bolan, IA. The population of Bolan is either 5, 17, or 25 depending on your source of information. One woman we met in Bolan commented that she doesn't live in Bolan. She lives in the suburbs. She laughed and laughed as she told us that! The t-shirt I bought at the rest stop asks, "Where the heck is Bolan, IA?"
On RAGBRAI, we camped most of the time, but on a few nights, we stayed in host homes. They were all very kind to us, but one family in Cresco, really rolled out the welcome mat for us.
Every morning, we'd stop just out of town at the Pancake Man for a breakfast of pancakes. The pancakes were good, but the better part of the Pancake Man was watching the pancake batter machine which doled out perfect dollops of batter, about 20 at a time. The Pancake Man also flipped pancakes and would often have someone in the "audience" hold out a plate while he flipped pancakes onto it.
RAGBRAI was the largest ride any of us had been on. As far as you could see, bikes, bikes, and more bikes
Food is very important to most of my biking buddies. It was especially important on RAGBRAI where we were riding all day. Mostly, we found plenty of food... more than even we wanted! But in one town, we ran into a slight problem. Fortunately, we found food elsewhere.
And, at the end of RAGBRAI, we dipped our rear wheels in the Mississippi River.
A more complete RAGBRAI story is also available.
In March 1995, I went to Washington where I rode in two different places... one day (well, part of a day) in Capitol State Park outside of Olympia and one day on San Juan Island. (Where I had hoped to see orcas, but didn't.)
June 1995 saw me in Austin, TX for a conference which is always a good opportunity to get another state in. That way I don't have to pay for my transportation to the state. :-) I rented a bike and rode around the Town Lake hiking/biking path. It was crowded for most of the way, but really pretty. Eventually I got away from the crowds, rode under the Congress Street bridge. I didn't see the famous bat colony (since I was riding in the daytime), but I did get to read the plaque describing it. When I got back to my hotel, I saw a letter I hadn't noticed earlier that cautioned visitors about biking on the Town Lake path in the early evening hours since there had been several robberies of bikers. I was glad I hadn't read it earlier. :-)
In August 1995, I flew to Burlington, VT for the Champlain Valley Folk Music Festival. I intended to kayak on Friday, go to the festival Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, and bike on Monday and Tuesday. Well, I was closed out of a kayaking trip, but that turned out to be OK because it poured down rain from a few hours after I got there Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening during the Tom Paxton concert. It was beautiful for biking in NH on Monday and in VT on Tuesday, though.
On Monday, I got up and left my campsite (which had threatened to float away during the rains) and started out for NH. Stopped at Crawford Notch and Pinkham Notch visitors' centers and ended up at the Great Glen Trails where I biked on, among others, the Libby Trace (recommended by someone as a "must do" for me :-)). The trails are cross country ski trails in the winter. I think I rode on all they had open and none were very challenging. Still, it was pretty, quiet, and in a state where I had never biked... all very important.
On Tuesday, I drove to Stowe, VT where I biked north of Stowe for a couple of hours. The trail was supposed to be "one of the most popular" trails in the area, but I didn't see another biker. I saw one car that looked like it didn't belong. The only other creature I saw was a black bear... luckily bounding away from me through the woods. Gave me pause about riding the singletrack that was supposed to be coming up, though. :-) However, either I missed a turn or the singletrack that had been open had closed. In either case, it never materialized and I ended up riding the last few miles on the highway back to Stowe. Luckily, the shoulder was wide because the traffic was fast and heavy.
In Stowe, I biked on the Stowe Recreation Path which was wonderful. Not exciting, but very, very pretty. And convenient, too. It ran right behind a MacDonald's where I stopped and got my fat fix. Is the map above too small? You can also view a larger one.
I had intended to get West Virginia in during 1994-1995, and finally made it in August 1995. Three friends and I rode mountain bikes on the Greenbrier Trail starting from Caldwell, WV. We rode about 60 miles on Saturday to Marlinton (including a surprise 1.5 mile 8% grade hill on pavement to get to the motel) and another 56 on Sunday back to the car. It was great fun, a good workout, pretty, but very bumpy. 116 miles of mostly gravel can make your body feel like jello. :-) Phil, Sara, and Bruce were the other folks on the ride. Bruce had just bought himself a mountain bike as a graduation present on Thursday or Friday and rode the 116 miles no Saturday and Sunday. If he starts bringing his mountain bike on road rides, maybe it'll slow him down enough to ride somewhere close to the rest of us! Phil kept commenting on our lack of mechanical failures (he was ready to fix anything). And, yes, he managed to jinx us. But not until we got to the car after a full weekend and, as we were driving out of the parking lot, someone stopped us to say we had a flat tire--on the car. Oh, well.
In the spring of 1996, I went to a conference in New Orleans and decided to drive to get 3 more states on my "done" list. I only managed to bike in Alabama and Mississippi, but it was fun. In Alabama, I spent the night in the Talladega National Forest and biked on the roads around the forest the next day. In Mississippi, I biked about 34 miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway, beginning from Natchez. That was terrific. Wish I could have gone further.
Too bad I've already marked Florida off my map since October 1996 saw me on a business trip to Tallahassee. And, since airfares were so cheap for a Saturday night stay, I saved the state of NC money by spending the weekend there. :-) So, on Saturday I dragged myself out of bed and drove my rental car to the start of the St. Mark's Rail Trail. There I rented a bike and rode the paved, flat trail 16 miles to St. Mark's. I was planning to eat lunch in St. Mark's, but there isn't much there. And it was only 11:00! So I biked several blocks west to an old Spanish/Confederate fort, wandered a bit, and then biked back towards Tallahassee. When I was almost there, I stopped off to bike on the singletrack in the national forest there. Yes, the trails are mountain bike trails and they were lovely. I discovered that even though I can ride on rocks and wet leaves and roots pretty well, my skills in loose sand need to be developed! Maybe a few more trips to the beach for biking?
Also in October 1996, some friends and I rode in the Seagull Century for the first time. (Another group of us rode it again in 1997.) What a wonderful ride! Totally flat, which I love (despite my history of hilly rides)--although with a tough headwind for enough miles that we were all glad to see the rest stop at Assateague National Seashore. Now *that* was a rest stop. We got out muffins and sat on the beach listening to the ocean and watching the seagulls. We also petted a few of the wild ponies, but not recommend doing that. There were signs up warning us that they might bite, and the signs in 1997 also warned of possible rabies if the ponies *did* bite. But, before we got to Assateague, there wasn't much of anything on the road. Not much traffic, no towns--until about 10 miles out of Assateague. There, on the road where we were directed, was a restaurant! Two of our group, Bruce and Jeanne, had gone ahead of Carol and me. When Carol and I saw the restaurant, we quickly decided a stop for a diet coke was in order--and maybe we'd have a little snack, too! As soon as we walked in, we saw that Jeanne and Bruce had the same idea! No wonder our informal motto is "Bike to Eat." We all think about eating all the time! The century was on Saturday. On Sunday, there was a 40ish mile ride to Delmarva for an all-you-can-eat crab feast. Luckily (I guess), with crabs, you work off the calories even as you're eating them. :-) We did manage to consume a few hushpuppies and ears of corn, as well. And at the end of the two days, we decided this is a ride worth doing every year!
Note that the official spelling of the Seagull Century is "Sea Gull Century." If you're like me and searched for "Seagull Century" hoping to find the ride's homepage, follow the link in the paragraph above, and you'll get there!
A more complete story of the Seagull Century is also available.
In late March 1998, I went on a business trip to Chicago, IL. Although I'd been warned that late March in Chicago was likely to be cold and wet and windy and generally not pleasant, the first 3 days were beautiful! (Thanks to El Nino, no doubt.) On Sunday morning, I walked from my hotel (the Blackstone on South Michigan) to Navy Pier where I rented a Trek mountain bike from Bike Chicago. I have variable luck with renting bikes for these things. In this case, the bike fit really well (after raising the seat post a couple of times), the gears were adjusted beautifully, they included a helmet, and I also rented a lock. But, I found out when I was too far away to want to go back, that the seat was loose. Oh, well. I rode around Navy Pier and then headed north on the recreation path that runs beside Lake Michigan. I was hoping to bike to Oak Park thinking I might go see the Frank Lloyd Wright house there. But, the path was closed not far from Navy Pier, and so I took the chicken way out and biked south instead. This was my first view of a great lake, so riding beside the lake was lots of fun. I rode to the southernmost end of the path at the South Side Cultural Center. Sadly, there wasn't a single place to stop and get water or a diet coke once I passed the museum area (with the aquarium, the planetarium, and the museum of natural history). And I'd neglected to take a water bottle with me. So, by the time I got back to the Shedd Aquarium, I was very, very thirsty. The temperature was, after all, 79 degrees with the sun shining down on me the entire ride! (Yes, I even got a bit pink from the sun. :-)) I locked the bike, and went in to see the aquarium. Had to stand in a long line to get in, but at least it moved fairly quickly. First thing I did after paying was to head for the vending area to drink a quick diet coke. Yum! After wandering through the aquarium and seeing the dolphin show (always a moving experience for me), I got back on the bike. Now, that wobbly seat seemed much worse! I managed to ride along the Chicago River a bit before heading back to Navy Pier to return the bike so I could meet some friends to go to an Irish Pub for the evening. I'm glad I missed the typical March weather for this state ride!
Being a native North Carolinian, I love barbeque--of the right sort. The right sort just happens to be Lexington style since Lexington is my home town. Lexington is on I-85 just south of Winston-Salem. According to multiple reports, it has the most number of BBQ joints per capita of anywhere in the U.S. The population has been stable at about 18,000 since I left for college in 1974. Each year, Lexington hosts a BBQ festival. For the past several years, there has been a bike ride associated with it: the Tour de Pig. You can read a report of the year I rode in it.
At the Carolina Tarwheels' annual meeting in January 2000, Don Belk, president, gave out a number of "Big Chainring" awards. He was nice enough to give me one! Probably because he wants to keep those cookies coming! :-)
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