Friday, June 24, 2011

Oklahoma is OK by Me

Alright, so Oklahoma and I admittedly got off to a poor start. Part of that is my fault and I am willing to assume that responsibility, but the state does have a few redeeming qualities about it.

Our build days in OKC were great. It was nice to get back to building and helping out again. We decked a roof, installed soffit, facia and frieze board, and then we caulked and painted it. Another group painted the interior of a home and did similar trim work.

The first day out on the road after the build day was my van day, which was adventurous because we had two riders crash who needed to be patched up (for the record they are both fine and rode today) and a bunch of sick people in the van. So much for having so me time to get things done. We got into the host around 2:00 which is pretty early these days and then I went and picked up a van load of mail. I can tell that I have gotten sentimental in my old age because instead of tearing through the packages and looking at all the good food that I was sent, I went straight for the cards. I guess as you get older you realize what is important.

Today we rode from Watonga, OK to Arnett, OK a total of 86 miles. Up until our first lunch stop things were going great. We had a tail wind, were making excellent time and were riding on great roads, but just after our first lunch stop we made a left hand turn and the tailwind turned into a crosswind and the roads got rough. We pedaled through and had an excellent surprise at our second lunch stop in Vici, OK. People had stopped to talk with all the bikers coming through town and we wound up getting $335 donated and lunch meat, which made for a great lunch stop. The last couple of miles got really difficult as the winds picked up to about 30mph with gusts around 40mph but we managed to make our way into Arnett were they were ready for our arrival. They had a sign at the Activities Center welcoming us and ice cream at the host for us to eat when we got in. It was incredible.

We head to Texas tomorrow on a 95 mile ride, but I think there will be a part (albeit small) that will miss Oklahoma.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oklahoma, Oh How I Loathe The

The past few days in Oklahoma have been absolutely brutal. I am partly to blame, but I think that I will mostly just blame Oklahoma. On our 102 mile day into Henryetta, I got really dehydrated about 30 miles in. I continued to our lunch stop at mile 40ish and was going to try and recover some and make the rest of the ride but as sweep was about to leave I wasn't feeling much better, so I decided to do the smart thing for once and van myself for the rest of the day. I drank about a gallon of Gatorade and got to feeling much better.

Our host in Henryetta was great. They had set-up posters from the two previous trips that had come through and had one for us to sign, as well as a poster about what had happened to Christina. I have to admit that it was a really nice gesture but it was a bit of a painful reminder for me. Anyhow, they had sacks for us when we got in, and served us a nice pot luck.

On our ride day into OKC, we had a nice 20-25 mph crosswind to start the day, as well as roads that were straight from the bowels of hell. I relaxed the first half of the day and rode towards the rear with Sierra. It was her birthday and I didn't think she should ride alone and I wanted to relax to make sure that I had energy for the rest of the day.

The last 3 miles or the crosswind we had been fighting turned into a vicious headwind. At one point I was going downhill pedaling and was still only going 8mph. It was at that point I decided that it was going to be a really long day.

When we got into lunch, everyone sang Happy Birthday to Sierra, which was really cool. It was also at lunch that I heard that they had issued severe weather warnings/watches around OKC for 3:00PM. And that we were more than likely going to cut the ride short. I took a quick lunch and decided to push hard and try to make it in before the weather got bad. The wind got worse and I actually got blown off the road twice after lunch, once I actually think the wind literally picked me up because my bike moved about a foot to the right but it did it, while I was leaning into the wind and the front wheel was straight. About 1:30 the riding started getting pretty intense as the crosswind moved to a headwind again. We rolled into a town with a casino about 2:00 and I decided that the casino would be an excellent place to wait for the van pick up. So I stopped and played on the slot machines for a while. It was a good decision because I won $25.

Maybe the next couple of days in Oklahoma will be better, but if not I am just going to write off Oklahoma as a God-forsaken place and vow to never return.

I have been bad lately about uploading my pictures lately, but I have added a couple of pictures from Petit Jean Mountain Lookout in Arkansas. It was so beautiful and anyone who is taking the time to read my blog deserves to take a look at the photos.

Build day today and tomorrow, riding again on Thursday.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweeping the Streets

So yesterday was the first real day back on our bikes, and it was real hard. Ninety miles, several hills and scorching heat. Oh and to top it all off, I was riding sweep as well. I don't really mind riding sweep but it was a struggle to get into a rhythm because I kept having to stop and it was an eleven hour ride. I was completely exhausted when I got to our host.

All that said it was really a beautiful ride. We had a climb right before our second lunch, which lead to this amazing lookout over the Arkansas River. It was absolutely gorgeous. I really didn't want to leave that lunch stop...especially considering there was another 30 miles to ride and I was already exhausted.

The last third of the day was a struggle for me. I started to cramp soon after the second lunch stop and by the time I got to mile 80ish, my legs weren't really cooperating. At one point in time, I managed to get a cramp in my left calf and my right quad at the same time.  I managed to clip out on the left side, but because of the angle my bike fell to the right, so I had no choice but to fall with it. No harm done though just a little embarrassing.

Today was a recovery day or it least it was supposed to be. It was 78 miles in the rain for the first half of the day. I actually had to pull off the road for about an hour to let a thunderstorm pass, which slowed me down a bit, but I wound up making really good time regardless. It wasn't as scenic as yesterday's route but it was a lot flatter and we got paintball DM'ed, which was pretty sweet. Three games and I only got shot once.

Upon rolling into Van Buren, AR we stopped at a Sonic, number 1 all the way with jalapenos, tater tots and a coke. It was pretty amazing after 78 miles. Then we ate dinner at the host too. Been a long two days and I'm really exhausted, but it has been and will continue to be a great experience.

108 miles tomorrow and Oklahoma!!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back in the Saddle

So I have been neglected my blog. Sort of. I have actually been working on a post to summarize what happened in Boston, but I struggling to come up with the appropriate words to describe it, but stay tuned I promise I will get that posted in the next couple of days.

We had another shakedown ride today and it was also my first day back on my bike. I wasn't exactly sure how I would react getting back on my bike and this morning when I was getting ready for the ride I had a hard time spending more than a few minutes at a time around my bike. I was riding sweep with Dits so I got to be the last one to leave, which was good. I took a few minutes and just rode around the parking lot trying to get settled back into my bike. Then I hit the road again. The first couple of miles were hard but I settled in and it actually felt good to be back on my bike. I also had several great conversations with Dits.

We mostly rode on a bike trail today, that ran between a river and an old rock quarry and it was absolutely beautiful. We rode out and back on the route so we had a nice descent on our way out which turned into a good climb on our way back.

In addition to our ride today, we also had a pool party at Mac's neighborhood pool which was great.

Tomorrow is going to be about 90 miles and it's late here so I am going to hit my Thermarest.


Friday, June 10, 2011

A Brief Update

First off, I want to thank everyone for the support that they have given me. It’s been an extremely difficult time, but you all have made it a little easier. I am currently writing this on a plane to Boston with Christina and her family, where I am headed to spend some time with her brothers as well as attend services.

The past few days have been a struggle for me as I try to cope with everything that has transpired, but God has been faithful to me and bless me with more support than I ever could have dreamt of. The church that where we have been staying, St. Luke’s Episcopal, has been awesome. They have provided us what feels like an endless supply of food. Church members have opened up their homes to give us something to do besides just sit around at the church. If such a thing had to happen I am glad that it happened when I was surrounded b such amazing people.

Christina’s family has also been amazing. I have to say that I was nervous about seeing them. The last thing that her mom, Caroline, had told me was to take care of Christina. I know that I did the best that I could, but I couldn’t help but feeling that I had failed her. However, she walked in to the church fellowship hall, hugged me and just told me thank you for being there for Christina, and all my anxiety left me.

I have been fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with Christina’s family, which I think has been beneficial for both of us. It’s great to hear stories from her family and it helps me remember Christina the way that I want to.

I had hoped that the last blog that I wrote would be the most difficult one for me. However, that was not the case. One of the things that Caroline and I talked about was writing Christina’s last blog entry.  Recalling the events of the day, were hard but the most difficult part was figuring out how to end, but then I realized that it doesn’t end. Christina continues to live in each of the lives that she has affected and that this is only the beginning.

I know that the next couple of days are going to be difficult being away from both my B&B family, and my real family but I feel like the Genco’s have taken me in as one of their own and I know that I can lean on them for support

Monday, June 6, 2011

We Miss You Christina!!!

This is far and away the most difficult blog that I have had to write thus far and it is my sincere prayer that it is the most difficult one of the trip. Today, I have lost a co-leader and more importantly a great friend, Christina Genco. Christina was my rock for Bike & Build. I could talk to her about anything and we voiced grievances about the trip to one another many times. It actually had become slightly absurd in the past week or so because we were finishing each other’s sentences and coming up with the same ideas. She will be missed and remembered.

I have had a good bit of time to reflect on things and there are a couple of things that I think I, as well as some of my friends, need to take away from this tragedy. First, Christina was not afraid of challenging herself. She found herself to be unhappy, so she quit her job was going to bike across the country and then was going to try and start over again somewhere else.

Second, she knew how to love life. It’s tragic that at age twenty-two she is gone but she lived life and loved life. She passed doing something that she absolutely loved. I hope that I am lucky enough to meet my end in a similar fashion. I know many other people who don’t love life simply because they aren’t living life. So go take some risks and live life.

I know there are a couple of things that if I had done differently she might still be around. That said, I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I know that Christina wouldn’t blame. Therefore, I cannot blame myself.

Many people have asked me about whether or not I will finish the ride. I don’t really see that I have any other option but to finish. I know that sounds absurd to a good many of you, but Christina wanted to make this ride happen more than anything. It’s going to be difficult without Christina, for certain, but I know that’s what she would have wanted. So, I think that it is necessary to honor her memory.

Christina, I love you and miss you and while it is difficult, I am going to press on for you.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Onto Athens

I woke up this morning pretty stiff, and just never really felt like I was having a good day on my bike. I am pretty sure that I over did it at the lake yesterday. The last five or so miles of the route didn't help things much either as we were going through the uber hilly downtown of Athens. The good news though is that the day was only 45-miles and I still made it into the host by 1:30. So I actually had a little bit of free time, which was a pleasant change.

Dinner tonight was provided by our host Holy Cross Lutheran Church and it was by far the best meal we have had so far on the trip. It was a church potluck with all kinds of dishes. So nice to actually have some variety, as our fare is typically a meat, chips and maybe a salad.

After dinner, we went and saw Hangover Part 2. Honestly in my opinion don't waste your money or time. It was no where near as good as the first, but then again...are they ever??

All in all a pretty relaxing day and a nice change of pace. Tomorrow build day in Athens.


Journey to Georgia

Today we had a 59-mile ride from Greenville, South Carolina to Hartwell, Georgia, which also meant our first state line crossing. The morning started off as most of them do pretty well. I was riding with a group of six or seven and I pulled off to take some pictures. My plan was to catch up with the group after I had taken photos but about a mile later I found myself with my first flat. Not that big of a deal changing it but it definitely slowed me down.

At lunch we had lunch DMed (Donation Magic) from Subway in Anderson, which was amazing!! It was so nice to actually have a decent lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about our lunches. Peanut butter and jelly stale bagels give us all that we need. It is also cheap which means that we can donate more money to affordable housing!!! By the way, it’s not too late to donate. So if you haven’t you should. (

After lunch we all rode pretty hard to get to Lake Hartwell. Lake Hartwell was great! It was so enjoyable to just spend a few hours relaxing and not worrying about anything. We swam and chicken fought (I guess this is the past tense of chicken fighting) and then we played a chicken fight/ninja hybrid. Christina and I won!!  

After the lake it was back on the bikes for about two miles to the Georgia State line and some pictures of the dam. After that quick stop we biked the rest of the way into Hartwell. Lucky for us it was downhill because we were all exhausted after spending two hours at the lake.

When we got to Hartwell, Christina, Mac, Craig and I stopped in at Dairy Queen to celebrate our first state line with a nice cool treat. This might become a tradition.

Our host in Hartwell, Hartwell UMC was absolutely incredible. They let us use their youth building, which had ample couches for everyone and exposed rafters by which I could hang my hammock. We had a little paint spill and Troy our contact their went out of his way to help us clean it up. He also shuttled us back and forth to showers and made a Wal-Mart run for the group. Our dinner was hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, and when they realized that we ate more like a group of 66 than a group of 33, they went back to the store to buy more food for us. Can’t thank them enough!!

We also had our first town hall meeting. It went a little bit long but I think overall it went really well. Hopefully the next ten will go just as well.