I been through the desert on a bike with no name (I)

Greetings from Utah!
 
We crossed the state line this morning, putting Colorful Colorado (see the state line signs) behind us.  We’re in high desert now, about 4000ft above sea level.  this stark landscape is in its own way beautiful, but during the heat of the day it can be pretty warm–i’m not particularly looking forward to the Nevada desert where the air temperatures can get up over 110F.  To beat the heat we’ve been getting up at 4AM, not fun but good for you.
 
One thing I am looking forward to is spending my ‘birthday’ in Park City–we have a day off on the 31st.  My real birthday (aug 1) will be spent between park city and somewhere west, but that will just be an 80 mile party!!
 
In other news: the powertap continues to be a useful investment, i put down 730W in the state line sprint (no challengers), which is over a 100W improvement over my peak at the beginning of the trip.  I wonder what I’ll be able to put down with fresh legs…
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The highest continuously paved* road in the US

This story actually began yesterday (23rd). My parents were conveniently in Estes Park to meet up with us and follow us to Steamboat. I took the opportunity to use the rental car to reconnoiter the highest continuously paved road in the US—which we climbed over today. Passing the safety-orange sign stating “CYCLISTS: Road may be rough – consider alternate routes” was an ominous sign, and either a touch of altitude sickness or the seemingly endless ascent under a dark cloud made me feel a bit nauseous as we reached the summit.  And the road is not actually continuously paved!  there are two gravel sections near the summit, not bad but still gravel to contend with.  In the parking lot walking to the visitor center the temperature was about 40F, with 40mi/hr winds. And the ranger on duty said it had hailed about an hour before. As I had been told by a Scottish mechanic (who bore a striking resemblance to Desmond from LOST) at Lee’s cycles in Fort Collins, the road had been mostly repaved, and there were only two short gravel sections near the summit. Most importantly, the descent side was well maintained.
Returning to the church in Estes Park (where it was beautiful and sunny), I briefed the leaders on what I had seen, and resolved to change some brake pads—we were going to need some fresh rubber on the rims for the descent.

I awoke this morning to the clunkings and clankings of the men of the church making my favorite breakfast food: pancakes. Soon after, Becca came through with her customary “heyyyy Guyyyyys, time to waaaaake up [flicks lights on].”

The morning dawned cold and bright—there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Fuelled on a big stack of flapjacks and equipped with my Glenn Swan supplied 11-32 tooth climbing cassette, it was time to saddle up my scandium steed and go for the (metaphorical) spotted jersey. Being a 125lb climbing freak, I’d suffered mightily in the Great Plains headwinds, and it was my time to let loose on the biggest climb of the trip!

To explain the gearing: most of the riders have triple front chainrings, 52-42-30 tooth, and a 12-25 tooth cassette, yielding an easiest ratio of 1.2:1. My mountain bike cassette gave me a final drive ratio of 1.25:1, as opposed to my usual climbing ratio of 1.44:1 (which Nate rode today to great success).

Rolling through town and into the park, our fearless leader Jeff negotiated our entrance to the park and we began our ascent. In good weather it was much easier than I had anticipated. With my heart rate safely in the green zone (155 b/min) we averaged about 9 mi/hr for most of the way up the mountain—which is very quick. Our first stop was at a turnoff with a spectacular view, where the van was parked but Jeff was nowhere to be found… he was on top of a cliff 80 feet above us taking pictures! Eric motored by us-he had resolved to climb without stopping (he did later, to take pictures of the wildlife). As we approached the summit, things began to get interesting. Alex, cranking his 42t middle ring like Jan Ullrich, Dave Mollitor, myself and Nate (with just a 39/27 top gear) were contending the King of the Mountains title. Mollitor dropped back and it was just the three approaching the summit, breathing hard in the rarefied air at 12,000ft. Strangely enough, my heart rate stayed a in the 160s—my legs were a bit toasted and I couldn’t crank any harder… and the mountain bike derailleur was being cantankerous (and the spacing of the mtb cassette was a bit wide at the top: 21, 24, 28, 32 teeth). Near a view spot, we spotted a guy in a Performance Bike jersey, riding a bike older than me, and climbing at a rather rapid rate. Nate shouted “should I chase him?” and then BAM! Takes off. I have some jump left in me and I catch on after looping around the Ford Expedition blocking my path. Apparently, this man raced with some big names back in the 70’s and 80s (I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he ever slugged it out with Swan…), and still had some speed left in him. Alex passed us and I latched on to him, and shortly after that Nate and the mystery man went blasting by us, and I tried to get on their train, to no avail. This guy then perfectly executed a sprint, hauling Nate along. After the mystery man pulled off, toasted, Nate flew over the top, passing the tiny 12,200ft sign on the side of the road, with me in pursuit–rather far back. Nate claimed the spotted jersey, and I caught him at the construction roadblock. As I hadn’t gotten a picture with the summit sign, I went back to find it. Assuming the sign would be at the apparent summit, I climbed back up the hill only to find nothing there. I asked a construction worker and after some more looping around I found the 6×10” sign stating simply “12,200ft”. My parents then arrived, and we went to the lunch stop at the visitor center.

Lunch was again provided by Cooper Leher’s parents, with a load of bananas and oranges contributed by mine (they were much appreciated!)

From the visitor center, there’s a trail to the top (12,005ft) where we took some great pictures and spread the message of why we’re biking across the country: “there are too many people paying too much for housing, and therefore can’t afford healthcare, education, food, or save for the future…”

And then the descent began. It was pretty cool at the top, and we dressed in our windproof best in preparation for the 40+ mi/hr descent. With fresh Kool-Stop black pads and wonderfully grippy Vittoria Corsa Evo KX tires, the limiting factor of the speed on the descent was my low weight and lack of nerve. With each hairpin, Nate moved further and further away, with Mollitor following him. We descended over 1000ft in minutes to the continental divide, and then continued until the nature photo stop where a female moose conveniently posed for us (at a reasonable distance of course). As we passed through the forest, I was amazed by the number of dead trees dotting the landscape-victims of the invasive Japanese Beetle.

We had well earned our ice cream stop in Grand Lake—and it was good, and a perfect pick-up to keep us rolling in to Granby. On the road to the middle school, there was a short steep hill, which became my chance for glory (I had to get it in somewhere hehe).

A great day of riding was capped off with a cookout—right now we’re firing up the camp stove for Nate’s dad to boil up some much needed cyclist-fuel: pasta 

Halftime!

Greetings from The Middle (as in the geographic center of the continental US, Lebanon KS).  Just so you know, Lebanon Kansas looks a little like what you would expect Lebanon the country to look like- bombed out.  Lebanon Kansas wasn’t attacked by cluster munitions or any other high tech weaponry, the buildings downtown fell down out of neglect.  I suppose that’s what happens when a town declines, the school closes and most of the rest of the people leave (only 300 residents now).  But the hospitality of the church was great, and it was something to see.
 
A few days ago, we went through Lawrence, Kansas–the town made famous in the scariest movie ever, The Day After (disturbing Youtube video). 
In real life, it’s a great university town, and is, as its location would suggest, in between Ithaca and Palo Alto in demeanor.  There’s a good bike shop (Sunflower Outdoor and Bike) which finally fixed my creaking bottom bracket (faced the BB shell and chased the threads, repacked the BB).  We worked on a house for 3 days, which took it from framed walls to clad walls and the roof trusses up- impressive for novice builders!
 
More interesting than Lawrence itself was the change in group dynamics.  After days of slogging through headwinds, the withdrawal of Geoff (due to heath concerns) and some rather illiberal churches, everyone was starting to get on everyone else’s nerves.  Fortunately, as soon as Lawrence started to get into the conversation, everyone cheered up and for the last while pretty much everyone’s been happy.  Hopefully it will last into the mountains
 
3 days off in lawrence really helped my legs-I was feeling pretty toasted after 2-70mi time trials (i went off the front because I was a bit teed off), and the last few days I’ve been putting down good power and 3 days ago I did my longest day ever- 117.5mi, at an average speed of 18mi/hr (on pretty flat ground).  Today in to Nebraska (we’re not in kansas anymore!) Nate and I went really fast, and felt pretty good.  Watch out Bear Mountain Cat-4 contenders!

This is your Destiny

Greetings from the other side of the Mighty Mississippi – Moberly MO, to be exact.
Hannibal MO, the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, was a pretty neat place.  It has a neat cave that inspired some of Tom Sawyer, a preserved old town section, and an Aldi, which for the uninitiated is an amazing cheap supermarket.  We were there for Mark Twain Days, and saw the national championships in fence painting.  40% costume, 30% speed, 30% quality – for 10-13 year olds.
Here in Moberly, we’re staying at the Destiny center… I was expecting this morning to be going to some kind of new-age place, or some kind of adult education center.  It’s more like a game room for kids.  2 nintendo Wiis, a stage with a Jesus-fish made of lights on the ceiling, air hockey, the works.  It’s hooked up!
Now you have to ask why- hearts and minds people, hearts and minds. They’re promoting the religious agenda early, in an easy to swallow format, beating the influence of the secular world.  this place reminds me of Jesus Camp (the movie).  Unfortunately, the Uvulon (the most amazing science museum ever, in the Netherlands), or the American Museum of Natural History are far away from here, ideologically and geographically.
I think this is an indication the tide of faith is continuing to swell in the American heartland, and won’t be abating any time soon.  Given what I’ve seen in churches and communities here in the Heartland of America, science is in for an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of America’s youth… and it could be quite a difficult fight.

The Cross-Country Guerilla Theater Trip

On this July 3, I would like to take the opportunity to chastise the US for not living up to the promise or the hype.  As we say in the bike and build presentation, 30% of americans spend more than 30% of their income on housing (which is often substandard for these poorest people in the land).  Something must be done – and we’re the people to do it.

I’ve been researching some political action content for our presentations.  saying "30% of americans spend over 30% of their income on housing, which forces them to scrimp on other necessities such as nutritious food and healthcare…" isn’t enough.  We’re biking across the US as an act of political theater, and I feel we have an obligation to really do something about reducing poverty.  telling people that there are poor people is like telling people that they’re breathing air. As Albert Bandura, the most famous and influential living psychologist says, you have to tell people what to do to effect change.  His subtle methods take a little longer than we have here on B&B…  So I want to tell people what to do to help end poverty.  I haven’t found any current antipoverty legislation, and telling people how to vote is apparrently taboo to most of the other B&B folks: "bike and build is not a political organization" (Roshan) "bike and build is by nature a political organization, we’re on a 4000 mile guerilla theater trip here-we’re supposed to dramatize the issues" (DM).  but maybe I can get some things together like "support local businesses" and "contribute to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, and the Ford Foundation"

Bottom line here folks, I’m becoming like my dad was back in the day.  The ’60s radicals failed (and are now retired stockbrokers) and I don’t have much hope for our generation, but I have to try.  They had the luxury of being able to fail, and I honestly don’t think we do.  If our generation (the 20-somethings) don’t roll back global warming we really will be staring global catastrophe in the eye.

I still believe in the promise of America, and though my faith in democracy never was great, riding with an awesome 32 person group out to change the world is making me more optimistic.  B&B’s 1 million dollar donation is serious money, and if we motivate the people we see on our route to support local businesses, contribute their time and money to antipoverty organizations, gains will be made.