Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 25th: Tama, IA to Ames, IA (plus a day off)

What a great day to be a bobcat!

So I decided to keep the talk of the actual riding to a minimum in this blog entry for two reasons: one, every blog entry only talks about riding, and two, I’m bad at it.

Apparently Iowa is hilly, and no one bothered to inform us of this fact until we were traversing the rolling hills of Iowa. Still, some nice scenery and a nice wind kept spirits high. Dinner in Ames was at individual houses in the community, which was great because I got to give piggyback rides to three adorable girls all night long. Go team!

So since many of the people who have written this blog before me have been kind enough to make sure people knew that I was still alive, I figured I would return the favor in this entry by giving an update on everyone else on the trip.

-So one of my responsibilities as the HBC birthday boy is to choose who gets to ride sweep. I chose my MD buddy Nick. Apparently Trevor wasn’t too happy that Nick was chosen over him, so as playful revenge, Trevor deflated Nick’s tires right before the ride began. To get back at Trevor for this stunt, Nick “accidentally” gave Trevor Benadryl instead of Ibuprofen. Eight drowsy hours later, Trevor arrived in Ames.

-David recently celebrated his 57th birthday. The old man celebrated by watching Matlock and going to bed even though the sun was still out.

-One of the unfortunate side affects of riding your bike across the country is that you get some pretty wicked tan lines. When you hang out with 26 other riders, tan lines are socially acceptable. However, if you were to, say, leave the trip for a few days to attend your roommates wedding, the tan lines are slightly more noticeable. We still love you, though, Liz.

-Another one of the other unfortunate circumstances of this trip is that you are limited to just three t-shirts since packing must be kept as light as possible. As a result, it’s very easy to identify most people because you very quickly become familiar with their entire wardrobe. Meg and Kathleen both brought an identical shirt: a maroon, Haverford shirt that says “Hi, friend,” across the chest. When both of them wear that shirt on the same day, Andy can’t tell them apart, and mixes up their names while doing the slide show.

-Speaking of Andy, he is still trying to think of a way to teach his kitty cat to, a.) learn to ride a bicycle, and b.) become vegan. Convincing him to learn to grow green zebra tomatoes seems to be too much of a stretch, however.

-Lindsay wins the award for having the worse series of events befall her on the trip. While turning in a small town in Iowa, Lindsay turtled (a very awkward thing to do; it’s when you very slowly tip over on your bike as you try in vain to unclip out of your pedals, usually resulting in anyone nearby to stop riding and laugh at you). However, as soon as Lindsay hit the ground, a bird pooped on her. Honorable mention goes to Trevor, who got stung by a bee at the exact moment that he got a flat tire.

-Sara and Shira spent one day writing political graffiti on the road in chalk. Good going, girls! Social revolution is soon coming to the cornfields of Indiana.

-Props go out Rebecca and John, who spent some time with me in a ditch on the side of the road as I took a nap. Sadly, that last sentence is true. Remember kids, always make sure you stay properly hydrated, even in the pouring rain on dirt/muddy roads on a 90-100 mile day in Illinois/Iowa. Go team!

-That same day, Niko also spent some time in a ditch….twice. Unfortunately, Niko was driving the van.

-One time, a few of us were talking, and Matt joined the conversation. At one point, Matt contributed to the conversation in a positive manner, adding a factually accurate statement with no hint of sarcasm or insult. The rest of us – now very confused - looked at each other, and the conversation abruptly ended when no one had any experience with what to do in this situation. Matt hasn’t pulled this stunt again since.

-Sam became the first person on the trip to require stitches, as he took a pretty wicked spill while skateboarding at dinner today. Don’t worry Sam: everything I have learned I have learned from television and movies, and they have taught me that chicks dig scars.

-Pictures will hopefully be added to this blog soon, for the sole reason that Rob is intent on getting a mullet before this trip is over. No joke is necessary here; instead, just imagine Rob with a mullet.

-Saskia said that she thought I was funny today. Saskia is now my favorite person on this trip.

-Brooke, Clay, and Nick are neck and neck in the competition to see who has the coolest bike accessory. Brooke has an iPod dock on her handlebars, which makes her one of the most popular people to ride with. Clay has an entire AM/FM radio. Not to be outdone, Nick recently purchased skull-and-crossbone valve caps. Again, pictures need to be added to this blog soon.

-Alexis reportedly has some pretty awesome trail mix her sister made for her. I say reportedly because I have no had the privilege of tasting this trail mix….and hopefully sucking up to her like this in the blog will increase my chances.

-Severin loves America.

-Erin has mastered the art of communicating with non-verbal sounds and a series of catch phrases. In fact, Erin and Niko are capable of entire conversations without actually saying anything. Bobcat pounce!

-Alex continues to wow church members across the nation with his amazing piano playing ability. It’s good to know that if we run out of money, we can set up shop on a street corner and let Alex tickle the ivories to finance the rest of our trip.

-Laura wins the “On-the-ball” award for being the only person in our chore group to know that it was actually our turn to load the van in the morning two days ago. Go team!

-Jessalee recently had a special visitor for her day off in Evanston; namely, her boyfriend. As a fellow redhead, I must admit that he has earned the Brian Allen Seal of Approval.

-Darrow was far and away my favorite person to ride sweep with. As someone who is admittedly slow, it was nice to ride with someone who couldn’t go more than two miles without having to stop to go to the bathroom. Riding slow + frequent breaks = Happy Brian.

Hopefully I’ve mentioned everyone, and if I haven’t, it’s because I’m too wired off the the Red Bull I got for free in the parking lot of the strip mall in Ames, Iowa. It wasn’t really that sketchy, but I have a flair for the dramatic.

So, in summary, go team!

-Brian Allen

P.S. Thanks go out to the nice woman in Evanston who let us play with her dog for an hour. Go team!

P.P.S. I want to take this opportunity to thank my prayer partner in Youngsville. Not only am I behaving like you told me to, but I’m actually still surviving this trip. Go team!

P.P.P.S Everyone pedaled very hard yesterday and survived another day. Go team!

June 24: Lisbon, IA to Tama, IA

Today we started our first full day in Iowa singing a rocking rendition of Dar Williams' appropriately titled, but actually very depressing song, "Iowa." Actually most people booed, but we listened anyway. Those of us who payed attention to the lyrics were well prepared for the rolling hills of Iowa that we encountered, which were very beautiful. Rob flagged down another bicyclist in the morning who happened to be doing a cross-country ride also, but in the opposite direction of us, and all by himself! After yesterday's stormy ride, today was pretty calm and uneventful, which left everyone with enough energy to conduct a massive cleanup and reorganization effort of the trailer, and laundry crew folded each person's laundry for them, which was amazing.

The midwest feels different from the eastern towns we passed through: They are less old, more spread out, and most of what we see is corn and railroads. The road we have been paralleling is Highway 30, also known as the Lincoln highway, which was the first transcontinental road in the US.

In other new developments, we are learning that farm dogs either really hate or really love bicyclists (we haven't waited around to figure out which) and will chase us to the death. The best way to ward them off is to squirt water bottles at them.

-Shira Miller

P.S. Sara and I went parasailing again today.

June 23rd: Morrison, IL to Lisbon, IA

How do I describe the epic proportions of today's mini-disasters...

Wake up call was early for our 90 mile day, and particularly painful, perhaps especially for those who decided to explore a corn field at midnight last night. The first unpleasant surprise of the day came when we looked out the door and saw the rain and the second unpleasant surprise came when we stepped outside and realized just how cold it actually was. Rebecca, our brave and self-sacrificing social worker, stepped to the plate and heroically volunteered to be sweep for the day. The next problem was the disfunctional lights on the trailer which required myself, Severin, and John working on it and Niko having to later go get the fuse fixed. However, we loaded the trailed and set out into the gray morning, all wondering how we would fare.

One thing about chalk is that it actually stays pretty well in the rain. Sadly for us, this did not seem to be the case today and it was not long before the first people were off route with the van following them. It should also be noted that in an attempt to avoid biking on Route 30, we were trying to take a series of side roads resulting in ridiculously long directions. The lost people were discovered when Rebecca caught up to us as we enjoyed the momentus moment of crossing the Mississippi. This event did not pass with some lasting marks as I managed to tear a sizable hole in my chamois in the upper thigh region while climbing over the road rail, thus requiring me to hike up my leg warmers in order to cover it.

Now pressing on into the west and thouroughly soaked, several of us decided to stop for a warming cup of hot chocolate at the nearest fast food, thus resulting in a total of about 4 minutes of warmth. It was not long after this that we encountered a gravel road, which, thanks to the rain, was actually more of a mud road. Deciding that a 4 mile an hour pace with the leg work of an 18 mile an hour pace was not worth it, we turned around to meet Niko and the van. We then realized that we had lost the front three riders since there were no tracks in the gravel and we had seen no chalk on the road and they could not be reached on cell phones. Most of the group was not gathered munching on brownies and flattened bananas and we turned around to re-route for what would be one of many detours. Lindsey took a pretty skilled fall at this point. It was not approximately 11:30 AM and had gone maybe 20 miles... epically slow progress.

The journey continued and it was not long before we found ourselves biking in a large group along a busy road with Niko blocking a lane behind us. When it sunk in just how inefficient this was, we stopped and ended up walking our bikes along the shoulder back the way we came to get to an exit. A proud moment for everyone. Despite yet another on the fly re-route, we soon found ourselves at lunch eating primarily left-overs from the prior night's dinner. Lunch was brief as we still
have many miles to go, but it was not long after starting again that we encountered yet another gravel road and re-routed again. Meanwhile, the few who were ahead were encountering difficulties of their own, including getting 15 miles off-route and hitching a ride to get back to the right road.

So it is now about 3 pm, having covered about 60 miles of the route but traveled over 75, and we had just passed through the town of Toronto when we came to a fork in the road. We proceeded to take a small detour down the wrong way, but when we returned, it was discovered that the other option was also the wrong way. This was discovered by finding out that Niko was currently stuck in another ditch, this time at a pig farm about a mile down the road, which occured as he was trying to turn around. So the two options in front of us were wrong, and the only other way was the way we came. It was also now nearing 4 pm when we needed to be getting off the roads and since we clearly were not going to come close to finishing the
remaining 30 miles, we headed back to Toronto and passed several happy hours hanging out in a bar eating fries and enjoying classic hits from middle school played on the juke box.

There is still one more untold tale. While we were all happily resting in Toronto, there were several members of our group who had spent the past few hours sitting in the lee ward side of a ditch. Brian had not been feeling well, so when they stopped to take a rest he proceeded to fall asleep in the ditch. Deciding that it was wiser to let him recover, Rebecca and John stayed with him and let him sleep. Remember that it was still cold, wet, and windy, thus required the previously mentioned huddling to get out of the wind. Eventually we were all collected and loaded into the van and set off to collect
Severin and Brooke from the gas station, who seemed to be enjoying the amenities it offered. Although the day can be adequately summed up as a long, wet, and cold ordeal, it will be remembered fondly by us for being long, wet, and cold.

-Meg Dickey-Griffith

June 22nd: DeKalb, IL to Morrison, IL

Our blockbuster journey continued today as we trecked from De Kalb to Morrisson. As we say goodbye to De Kalb, we must thank our wonderful hosts at the De Kalb Church of Christ for generous accommodations. Also, much appreciation to Toby and crew from North Central Cyclery for free tune-ups and leading us out for the first ten miles.

The ride today was 70 miles through a rolling sea of corn. Illinois was kind enough to provide us with generous tailwinds to thrust us along. The burrito stop from yesterday also provided a few riders with the nourishment necessary to spin their legs in circles for long periods of time. The award for quick thinking today goes to Alex, who thwarted an attack by an ferocious Australian cattle dog. He proved to be as able with a water bottle as he is with the piano keys.

Our lunch stop today was through the scenic Dixon, hometown of Ronald Reagan. Glimpses of his childhood home and a large section of the Berlin Wall twinged our American pride, and distracted us into taking an extra long lunch break. After lunch we were motivated to make it to our next church on time, but watchful for communists who stood in our way.

Tomorrow we all look forward to crossing the Mississippi and waving goodbye to the marvelous state of Illinois.

-Matt Morrin

June 21st: Evanston, IL to DeKalb, IL

Our epic journey started in a magnificent fashion. Our 77 mile day started off by actually sleeping somewhat in today (6:30! Woot woot!!) and had a delicious breakfast from the Lutheran church. Next stop: DeKalb, Illinois.

Our progress into the Midwest continues. The scenery is more of the same. Fields of corn sprawl to the horizon, occasionally divided by a patch of trees or a train in the distance. We had a nice lunch at about mile 40. I’ve come to be a big fan of Sam’s sandwich. Ranch, cheese (anything works), peanut butter and jelly all in one sandwich. Though it does not sound particularly appealing, it is filling and complete. I think Sam and I are the only fans—don’t worry, converts will come. Most of us stopped at a Dairy Queen where we enjoyed some ice cream in the hot weather.

Finally we made it to the North Central Cyclery bike shop where we received free tune-ups and fittings. These generous people spent all afternoon fitting most of the riders and giving everyone much needed tune-ups. And probably the best gift of the day was the AMAZING dinner prepared for us by the Church.

Today, we've frolicked in public fountains, gotten ogled by locals who've never before seen bike shorts, and feasted by enthusiastic Churchgoers. And now, mellowed into retirement with exhaustion exacerbated by food coma, we're all heading to bed.

-David Flynn

Friday, June 22, 2007

June 19th: New Buffalo, MI to Evanston, IL

New Buffalo is about seven miles due north of the Indiana border, which would not be so noticeable if both Michigan and western Indiana were in the same time zone. Some of our cell phones picked up signals from across the border, so according to half of them we woke up at 4:00, while the others displayed 5:00. Either way, when we woke up it was dark and stormy, so we all got our rain gear and anticipated a nasty, wet day that actually became very beautiful very quickly. As soon as we ate breakfast and were ready to go it stopped raining entirely, and by the time we had our 30 mile lunch break in Indiana (at 8:50 in the morning) most people had thrown their jackets in the van.

The ride was from the eastern half to the western half of Lake Michigan and almost entirely along the lake, which was gorgeous. We biked through Indiana's lakefront park up until Gary, when forests and streams suddenly turned into factories and steel mills. I got two flats outside of Gary, but four people independently pulled over to check if we were okay, and one of them donated money to Habitat. I'm pretty sure US Steel owns the city of Gary. All of the businesses and trucks seemed affiliated with the nearby US Steel plant, and the promotional signs around the city for Gary had the US Steel logo. It seemed to fit; Gary's city hall was surrounded by smoke stacks, and the city's minor league baseball team whose stadium we passed was apparently called the Railcats.

Riding into Chicago was, as expected, beautiful. By the time we crossed the border from East Chicago, IN to Chicago, IL it was sunny and warm, and the skyline was visible from at least 20 miles away on the route. We took a lot of stops in Chicago—some accidental, like when Meg and Rebecca each ran over a staple five or so miles apart, and some really fun, such as when some riders stopped at a deli and others got Italian ice at Navy Pier. The lakefront bike path was a lot more dangerous than we anticipated. Because it was such a nice day, there were a lot of (amateur) bicyclists out, and when Clay tried to pass two women taking up the entire lane he fell and had to stop riding for the day. Otherwise, the ride was really pleasant, and if some of us hadn't gotten lost a block away from the church in Evanston, we would have made it on (Central) time by the 4:30 deadline.

Some of the riders who still had energy hit the town after dinner, visiting Wrigley Field and a comedy club, Improv Olympic. During one of the prompts at Improv Olympic the troupe asked the audience for "an object that you would normally keep hidden." We shouted out "chamois butter," but instead of asking us what chamois butter actually was they made up an imaginary car-washing concoction that smelled like kittens "with a hint of raspberry." It wasn't until the El ride back to Evanston that we were finally too drained to stay awake.

-Niko Bowie

June 18th: Elkhart, IN to New Buffalo, MI

Today's ride was a short, sweet, and flat 44 miles, which gave us a
great excuse to take a detour. Many of us decided to follow Matt and
Liz to their alma mater, Notre Dame, just a mile down the road from
our main route. It was so beautiful! The main cathedral was
brilliantly painted in blue and gold with jewel-bright stained glass
windows within the walls. We also visited the stadium, famous for the
movie "Rudy" (I, at least, called my friends to brag) and a few other
sites before we were called by the van to get a move-on.

Upon arriving in New Buffalo, we went straight to Redamaks, "the
hamburger that put New Buffalo on the map." According to Kathleen, one
of many who experienced a burger, "the meat melts in your
was incredible!" When we got to the church, friendly Pastor Brad took
us on a tour around town, pointing out the ice cream store, Oinks,
that we would visit later.

I managed to fall asleep in the public library, but everyone else went
to a lovely home just over the Indiana border where a pool and dinner
awaited us. Eventually I came back to consciousness and made it to the
party. The church members were all great to talk with, and this was by
far the best part of the day. They also all (roughly) were related to
each other in some way, which seems pretty remarkable, but then again,
most of them have lived in New Buffalo all their lives. And I can see
why! New Buffalo is a lovely town right on the lake. Apparently it
used to be much smaller, but as our hosts pointed out, tons of housing
is going up for all the Chicagoans who want a relaxing place to stay
over the summer (fun fact: the population of the town in the winter is
1800; in the summer, it is 12,000!).

At the end of the day, we went to Oinks, an ice cream store with some
pretty creative flavors, but their glory lies in the decor. Oinks has
one of every pig-related item manufactured in history....just a slight
exaggeration. They even had a yellow, pig-themed biking jersey, which
we asked to buy, but, alas, they weren't interested in selling.

What's more, Brian's still alive, which makes today, in all, an amazing day!

-Laura Gaynon

June 17th: Angola, IN to Elkhart, IN


Happy Father’s Day! This comes somewhat belated seeing as I’m writing this blog 24 hours after the fact and it probably won’t be posted for several days still, so I apologize for that, but I do hope all you worried/proud/envious fathers out there had a good one. (Particularly one Bill Chiles. Hey, Pops.)

Today began, like many before and many to come, in a darkened room in a church in a small town. This time the town was Angola, Indiana, the church the United Methodist Church. But unlike any day before and probably most to come, I had that darkened room all to myself and I was on a couch, not the floor. The gloriousness of these novelties, particularly the latter, did not, however, compensate for the unpleasantness of being jarred awake by my cell phone alarm at 5:30 AM. Again. Yes, I do look forward to each new day of this trip, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m just not a morning person. I may roll out of my sleeping bag at 5:30 AM (or at 6:00, more likely, seeing as I my fingers always seem to find the snooze button even in the dark), but I’m not truly awake for another two or three hours. So of course I was last to get my bag packed and ready to be put in the trailer.

After finishing our regular morning cleaning routine, we sat down to a rare feast of a breakfast that a few kind members of the church congregation provided. Some highlights: asparagus casserole, broccoli-and-cheese casserole, eggs-and-meat casserole, French toast casserole, and a few other casseroles --- all exceptional, and they certainly beat the bagels we usually settle for. Then we did the old map meeting ritual, and there it was decided (allegedly based on an algorithm but probably randomly) that today I would be the HBC birthday boy, which means 1) I write the blog for the day, and 2) I don’t have to do my chores. It was especially fortuitous that I would be HBC birthday boy on this day because I happen to be on laundry crew for this week, and June 17 was one of the two days this week that laundry crew would be doing laundry. In case you didn’t know, few people like laundry duty because it means while everyone else is (supposedly) out having fun in the town, you’re stuck at a laundromat for three hours. Partay!

By 8:00 AM we were back on the road heading west from Angola towards Elkhart, Indiana, our next stop. For about seven miles we found ourselves weaving between corn fields on some of northern Indiana’s forgotten country roads, not a car in sight. At one point we spotted a doe bounding across a cleared field to our right and watched (should I say “in awe” or is that too cheesy?) as she leaped across the road in front of us and vanished into the trees. We also happened upon a ritzy-looking Clydesdale farm, quite impressive. Then, as indicated on the directions that our fearless leader Niko made for us, we were meant to head west on a road alternately called N 300 W, CR 500 W, E 300 N, W 300 N, E 400 N, W 400 N, etc., etc. for about 18 miles before taking a short crossroad that would lead us to the somewhat busier Route 120, which we would then follow west for another 22 miles or so. (The day’s trip would total 56 miles, a short ride for us by this point.) Well, upon turning onto the road of many names we discovered that it was in fact a dirt road, and thus began day two of our now three-day Dirt Road Debacle. Well, we told ourselves, maybe if we go a little ways it’ll start being paved, but after about three miles of gravel, we realized that was probably not going to happen. At this point we came across a paved crossroad, so Niko decided we would take that road north and then just get on 120 earlier than intended. It seemed like a plan, but we only got a few hundred yards up that road when a car (yes, a car!) rolled up and its driver informed us that if we went any further we would find ourselves on gravel again. He kindly pointed out that the next crossroad down was paved and would lead us to Route 120, so we took it, got on Route 120, and thus saved ourselves perhaps 15 miles of flat tires and aching bottoms.

Route 120 had its own thrills in store for us, namely terrible pavement on the shoulder and a series of dead kitty cats that brought a woeful “Why?!” from Andy. I felt a strange, paternal desire to protect the poor boy from sights such as this, but there was nothing we could do. There was a nice scenery change; flat farmland gave way to woods and lakes and some rolling hills to remind us of the good times we had back in the old Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. At mile 20 we stopped for a much-needed snack break/80s-themed dance party. Lunch was at mile 40 beside a one of the aforementioned lakes. (There are literally thousands in this state.) We made pretty good time between the snack break and lunch, we being most of the group except Saskia, whose tire exploded, quite dramatically, actually. She made it to lunch nonetheless, as you do.

Since this is my blog and I can ramble on about whatever I want, I want to mention something odd: at this lake where we ate lunch, there was a boat labeled with the logo of an alpaca farm. We had seen an alpaca farm back in Pennsylvania, and we had passed another one earlier this day. A few of us began to ponder the reason for having an alpaca farm. The exchange went something like this:

Clay: I would run an alpaca farm to harvest alpaca milk. It might be radioactive like the urine of llamas.
Niko: Alpaca milk? Maybe. I would shear them to make coats for cold people.
Sam: Cold people? Why not poor people? Not all cold people necessarily need coats.
Niko: But cold people need alpaca coats.
Someone: Where do alpacas come from, anyway?
Saskia: Alpacastan.

For some reason I always thought they came from the Andes. Oh well, that’s why Saskia goes to Yale and I…well…I do too. Anyway, the ultimate question remains: why did these alpacas have a boat in Indiana? Food for thought.

Pulling away from lunch, I hit a patch of soft gravel going about three miles per hour, so of course I turtled (HBC jargon for falling over on one’s bike while stopped or traveling at a speed so slow that taking a spill is just embarrassing). My fellows Centralians (OTers? Oregon Trailers?) cheered, I threw my arms up proudly, and off I went, joining up with Sam and Rebecca for the rest of the ride into Elkhart. In spite of a strong headwind, we averaged 20 miles per hour into Elkhart, arriving at the St. Thomas Catholic Church and School at about 1:30 PM just behind Andy and Erin, the first to arrive. They are so fast. Our contact at the church, Tammy, let us in, pointed us to the gym where we would be sleeping, and made us lemonade and iced tea. She also showed us to the showers, which actually were on the premises this time, unlike the three days before when our directions said “showers: on premises” but turned out to be lying to us.

After we had all arrived, showered, and perhaps even napped, we went to the basement for dinner with the eighth grade confirmation class and other church members. It didn’t take long for us ot discover that the 13- and 14-year-olds had not been briefed on who we were and why we were all eating dinner together, because after we had all introduced ourselves and said where we were from, the girls next to me started posing questions like, “Did all of you fly here from where you live?” and “Why did you come here?” I told them we were in fact on a cross-country bike trip and that we were only passing through, and their response went something like, “You’re riding a bicycle across the whole country? That sounds, uh, fun. Not.” So much for positive impressions. I did find out after dinner that the eighth grade girls at the next table over had decided who out of the 13 or 14 guys on our bike trip were the three most attractive and who were the three least attractive. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that more than a few of us actually were curious to know where we landed in the rankings, because the opinions of 14-year-olds are oh-so-important, but no one would say a word other than, “It seems that eighth grade girls aren’t that into masculine guys.”

We ended the day with a DVD, The Pursuit of Happyness, on the church’s big-screen TV. I don’t want to give a review of the film because this blog is already way too long, but I will say the film is aptly titled; the pursuit of happiness occupies about an hour and 45 minutes of the film, while the attainment of happiness only happens in the last 15 minutes of it. Our other options had been Shrek 2 and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. And we thought we were the fun group.

After that I went to bed. The next day I woke up on the floor in a room filled with other people who were also on the floor. And it was also not my birthday anymore. Not much more to say, so I’ll just throw this one out again: Happy Father’s Day!

-Clay Chiles

June 16th: Napoleon, OH to Angola, IN

Our progress into the Midwest continues. The scenery is more of the same. Fields of corn sprawl to the horizon, occasionally divided by a patch of trees or a train in the distance. So many times now we’ve been warned about the boredom waiting for us in the endless cornfields, but so far I’ve actually enjoyed the scenery. It probably helps that I’ve never seen this part of the country before.

A bit of excitement came from our first encounter with dirt roads. After riding along a stretch, I was pretty sure the teeth were falling out of my head. The roads were so bumpy, it felt like we were riding jackhammers instead of bikes. At the end of the day, just about every screw on our bikes needed tightening thanks to all the jostling. Overall we navigated the dirt with success, except for Nick who fell victim to the deep end of gravel and sand.

We crossed our fourth state border, as well. The tiny county roads we’ve been riding on don’t have many signs though, and that includes “Welcome to Indiana” ones. Luckily, with the help of our chalk, we had no problems making our own sign, so the milestone was successfully documented. Also, Sara and Shira did many exciting things!

-Sam Landfried

June 15th: Sandusky, OH to Napoleon, OH

After a day off resting our legs and spiking our adrenaline at Cedar Point Amusement Park – some nice views of Lake Erie from 200 ft up! – we left the lake for Napoleon, OH. So far we have seen the hills of Pennsylvania and have biked along a Great Lake, but this was certainly our first true day in the Midwest. Soy and corn crops stretched for miles on either side of long, straight county roads, few and far between. Meg and I practiced biking without hands on the long bits, while others used the opportunity to ride two and three abreast and talk.

A mother and her kids, seeing us drooping a little as we passed in front of her house, offered us Kool-Aid on their porch. The kids made us guess the flavors of Kool-Aid before we drank them. Rob meanwhile, took the opportunity to duct tape a few American flags to the roof of the van.

Saskia struggled in the afternoon with three flats in half an hour. Just as her group got back on their bikes again, Rebecca noticed a flat on her own tire. A few long trains crossing our path broke up the riding for the day and helped us put some college education to work: 140 cars on one train, 67 on another.

Napoleon appeared out of nowhere with shady streets and a tall town hall. We were of course overjoyed to pick up our maildrop and compare/share goodies sent from home and friends and ready to move on into Indiana tomorrow.

-Alexis Krumme

June 14th: Day off in Sandusky, OH

Today I am old - twenty-three years, to be exact. Last night the group surprised me with a cake, and today we headed to Cedar Point, one of the best roller coaster parks in the country, for our second day off. Most of us spent a full day at the park, although the long lines mean that you can really only do about one ride an hour (the line for The Maverick, the park's newest ride, was an hour and a half - and totally worth it). Nick's carnival experience served him well, as he was able to win a stuffed red dog from one of the stands. Shira and Sara tried one ride out, and then went straight to the beach for the rest of the day, where they charmed the parasailing guy into letting them go for free!

After a long day in the sun, we all ate dinner at Cabana Jack's in downtown Sandusky, where Rob sang "Rock'n'Roll All Night" with the band and Kathleen bemoaned the fact that the band's catalog lacked any Celine Dion. The owner of Cabana Jack's liked our dancing so much that he gave us all free tie-dyed headbands. It was a fantastic and thrilling birthday - it's good to be old!

-Jessalee Landfried

June 13th: Cleveland, OH to Sandusky, OH

Today saw us leaving the cozy comforts of Kim's house through the streets of Cleveland. Cleveland's streets are the only ones that I have seen that can rival the potholes of Boston. As we reached the waterfront, we stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and did a little rocking out with North. We then made our way through downtown with the assistance of Niko blocking traffic with the van for our sea of yellow. We continued riding along the Lake Erie waterfront, which was beautiful. The HBC birthday curse still reigns as I was devasted to suffer my first flat tire. I patched it up and joined our group at a park where we gladly devoured the leftovers from the previous night.

After lunch a few of us spent some time at the waterfront enjoying the beautiful view and weather. As we continued on our way to Sandusky, a few people saw a giant ball in a field and were immediately drawn to it. Of course they played with it and had a great break. Others, found a young local to lead them to a local beach where they enjoyed the cool water that refreshed and energized them for the remainder of the ride. Most of us, stopped at a Dairy Queen where we enjoyed some ice cream in the hot weather.

We pulled into Sandusky and took some great showers at the YMCA across the parking lot of our church. We spread ourselves out across the gym floor and after eating some pizza, shared an early birthday cake for Jessalee's actual birthday the next day, where we will be riding the monster roller coasters of Cedar Point.

P.S. Brian is doing awesome and excited about the day (off) at Cedar Point tomorrow.

--Rebecca Rebbe

Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 12th: Conneaut, OH to Cleveland, OH

We thought we’d left the massive hills behind in Pennsylvania but today’s ride proved us wrong. After having a delicious breakfast of donuts provided to us by our host church, we set out on what looked like a fairly flat day. This was true through the early afternoon as our route wound around Lake Erie lending many picture taking opportunities. However as we approached Cleveland, we were met with the two steepest hills we had yet faced. These hills conveniently hid themselves around corners so the element of surprise was wonderful.

Finally we made it to HubBub bike shop where we received free tune ups and fittings. These generous people spent all afternoon fitting most of the riders and giving everyone much needed tune ups. Having finally put 600 miles on the bikes this trip they were in desperate need of some maintenance.

When all was complete at the bike shop we arrived at our destination for the evening: Kim who was a Central rider from last year. She treated us with the most unbelievable hospitality welcoming us into her brand new home and feeding us a Mexican feast: homemade guacamole, shredded pork burritos, corn salsa, etc. After dinner most watched the NBA finals which we deemed appropriate due to Cleveland’s presence (and unfortunate loss) in the finals. Others enjoyed catching up on much needed sleep and the hot tub!

-Lindsay Collins

PS: Brian is alive and has made it to Cleveland!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 11th: Youngsville, PA to Conneaut, OH

I will get the most important information about the day over with first: Brian is still alive and kicking. His speedometer even broke 18 mph today. Go Team! Now, back to the epic journey. Today was our last day in Pennsylvania. Score. Pennsylvania is a great state but it was definitely time to leave and start exploring other states. Our 77 mile day started off by actually sleeping somewhat in today (6:30! Woot woot!!) and had a delicious breakfast from the Methodist church. We got a little side tracked on the route. First, we passed a house with a “Free Kittens” sign on the lawn. Because of everyone’s love for cute and fuzzy kittens, we had to stop and play with the little rascals. Our second stop of the day was in Corry, Pennsylvania, home of the one and only Liz Ferro. We took a little side trip and visited Liz’s house and her cute dog. Because of our little side trips, the group was a little behind schedule. After scarfing down some lunch, the entire group pedaled quickly towards the Pennsylvania/Ohio border and was more than overjoyed to see the “Welcome to Ohio” sign. Pennsylvania did not want to give Trevor up though. Because of allergies, Trevor was almost blind. He also got stung by a bee and then lost a nose piece off of his sunglasses. When we finally arrived at the Church of Christ in Conneaut, Ohio, Trevor got a flat tire. Rough. The church members provided us with a delicious meal and even volunteered to drive us out to the shore of Lake Erie and watch the sun set. It truly was a great day to be a bobcat.

Go Team!

-Erin Bougie

June 10th: Smethport, PA to Youngsville, PA

The sun rises over Smethport as our most magnificent and epic journey continued. Well, in actuality it was really foggy and we could not see more than twenty feet in front of us. It was also really cold with temperatures cool enough that we could see our breaths. Negatives asides, our day was started with a bountiful and scrumptious hot breakfast provided by the good people at St. Lukes Church. Then our ride began the way every 64 mile bicycle ride should: with a kickin’ dance party.

A few miles into the ride we went past an alpaca farm (not llamas by popular belief!) and of course we had to stop and gawk at the cute/awkward creatures. Me being an avid animal lover decided that I needed a closer look. Several minutes and a whole lot of pain (for me) later we were back on our way rolling up Mt. Jewett before experiencing some much welcome downhill for most of the rest of the ride.

Eventually, the whole group rolled into the little town of Youngsville where we were greeted by a splendid reception by the wonderful people at First United Methodist. Note to blog readers: First United Methodist not only had a map of the US that is tracking our progress, but also had the rest of the bulletin board filled with the groups bios. After some much needed shower and napping action we were treated to an incredible potluck provided by the greatest cooks in Warren County. Not only did we have centerpieces featuring little graham cracker Habitat homes, but there was also a whole room filled with desserts and then Dairy Queen for a pre-bedtime snack.

On a sad note, this is our last night in PA. Goodbye east coast!

-Andy Glaser

P.S. Not only is Brian indeed alive, but he led 15 riders for 10 miles at speeds exceeding 17 miles an hour!

June 9th: Wellsboro, PA to Smethport, PA

In which the brave Oregon Trailers conquer Potato City Hill, only to be undone by wrestling-club chickens.

Today – by which I mean three days ago; graduating college has not done as much as I hoped to improve my punctuality – we biked from the little town of Wellsboro, PA to the littler town of Smethport, PA, passing through some of the most beautiful scenery that we’ve seen on the trip so far. The first half of the day – up to about mile 40 – was a gradual climb, first through an agricultural valley surrounded by mountains, then – as we rode up into those mountains – through state-owned game lands. The last grade – which was apparently called Potato City Hill, although neither potatoes nor a city were anywhere to be seen – looked intimidating on the elevation profile of the day’s route, but ended up being not all that bad. We ate lunch when we got to the top of it, laying in the sun and watching people ride by on their ATVs. (For you city types reading this blog, an ATV – a.k.a. four-wheeler – is a motorized off-road vehicle with four wheels that you sit on top of and steer by using handlebars. So it’s kind of like a bicycle, except that you don’t have to exert yourself and it’s harder to fall off. I confess to feeling small twinges of jealousy as the ATVers rode by, and to stopping and taking a good long look at the next ATV
being offered for sale on the side of the road.)

After lunch, it was a long downhill through the towns of Roulette and Port Allegheny. Being, as usual, somewhat easily distracted, I ended up at the back with Jessalee and Alex. We were almost out of Port Allegheny when we noticed an inordinate number of chickens – hundreds of them, actually! – on two big grills by the side of the road. It turned out that the local youth wrestling club was having a fundraiser, timed to coincide with some sort of town-wide yard sale festival and – evidently – the arrival of the Habitat Bicycle Challenge. Of course we had to stop. We ate a whole chicken between the three of us, washing it down with cans of Mountain Dew. Little did we know – little did our elevation printout suggest – that the next seven miles or so into Smethport would be by far the most mountainous of the day. This provided our formerly-feathered friend with the opportunity to have the last laugh from the insides of our stomachs. Eventually, after much grasping at our stomachs, we made it to Smethport, mildly worse for the wear.

The church in Smethport was one of the friendliest we’ve stayed at so far and definitely the most thematically decorated. There were bicycle-themed tablecloths and several Tour de France posters, and one of the church members who fixed us dinner brought an old cruising bicycle to prop at the end of the serving line. Dinner was, of course, delicious.

The day ended with our first “town hall meeting,” which is HBC-speak for the weekly gathering at which we discuss problems and make group decisions. After hearing horror stories from last year’s leaders, I was expecting the meeting to be several hours of pure pain, most of it probably consumed by impassioned argument over whether to dry our bike shorts for seven minutes or eight. But it was surprisingly peaceful. The only semi-contentious issue was wake-up times, with the question being whether we should wake up really frikkin’ early or really, really frikkin’ early. And so, I am happy to close this blog entry with the news that the 27 riders of HBC Central 2007 still love each other.

-Rob Inglis

June 8th: Towanda, PA to Wellsboro, PA

Last night on the Susquehanna River, Rob and Severin decided to turn the plastic Thule into a raft, and successfully forded the river. This magnificent and epic boat launch/river ford was just another reminder that we were on the Oregon Trail. This morning we woke up really early, and continued biking through the “endless mountains” of Pennsylvania. Although the ride was pretty, I think we are all ready for some flat terrain, and if possible, less road kill. We promptly stopped for lunch at 9:15, and were into Wellsboro by 12:30! After showering, we took on the town, getting ice cream and milk shakes, and also having some bikes looked at by the wonderful Country Ski and Sports outdoor store.

Since more than 60 minutes had gone by, it must have been time for dinner. Pasta and sandwiches were donated by two local restaurants, and we drove 10 miles to see the Grand Canyon… of Pennsylvania. Although I’ve never been to the actual Grand Canyon, I am sure it cannot compare to the wooded valley at which we gazed.

It’s 8:30 now, and I think that’s past my bed time. Brian “Mad Dawg” Allen is still alive and pedaling, for all those curious. Today was our first mail drop, so thank you so much to all for everything!! It seems as though some of the baked goods we received will up our calorie intake to over 5,000. Three more days to Ohio! Yippee. Thanks for reading and for all the support.

-Kathleen Abels

June 7th: Waymart, PA to Towanda, PA

First I want to extend a big thank you for the great send-off this morning at God’s Mountain. We really appreciate everything all of you have done for us. If we receive an equally good welcoming everywhere than we will really be spoiled this summer.

As for the riding, it was our longest ride so far and we felt it. Pennsylvania has a lot of hills (East coasters call them mountains…). We are all exhausted and going to bed early but at least we know now that the group can handle the long rides. We are ready to tackle the rest of them but we all look forward to getting out onto the flatland where we don’t have quite so many hills to climb. The physical difficulty of the trip is finally beginning to set in.

In other news, Rob and I had an exciting adventure crossing the river in Towanda today in our new boat. It was about one hundred yards wide and all we had to paddle with was our hands. Little did you know that we could turn over the top of the luggage carrier on our car and use it to float. It drafts very little but the freeboard is even smaller, an inch max. We got wet.

Yet another amazing meal was received from the Presbyterian Church in Towanda. You can’t imagine how grateful we are for the time and energy complete strangers are spending on our behalf as we work our way across the country.

-Severin Knudsen

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 5th: Port Jervis, NY to Waymart, PA

We started the morning in Port Jervis to a sky threatening rain, but by the time we got on the road the sky was clear. Port Jervis is located in the very bottom of a valley so while yesterday we ended with a nice downhill run, today began with a nice climb. We spent most of the morning riding along the Delaware until we crossed over it into Pennsylvania across an old canal aqueduct. From there we switched to following the Lackawana (I actually have no idea what this river was called). All the river valleys made the morning fairly flat (though slightly uphill) and easy and we made good time to lunch along a lake around the 40-mile mark.

After lunch we left the rivers for good and switched back to hills. The wind picked up strongly through the afternoon making some of the hills even harder. We went up and down for 20 miles culminating in our ascent to God’s Mountain Retreat, our stop for the night right outside of Carbondale, PA. The view from the top of the mountain is amazing. We can see back over most of our day’s journey, which is a little depressing. All along the top of the ridge is a wind farm with a dozen or so wind turbines. We hiked up behind the lodge to beneath one of the windmills. Somehow I had expected them to be taller, but they were certainly impressive.

The lodge we are staying at is amazing. We are being completely spoiled by our stay here. Our hosts treated us to more home-cooked food than we could possibly eat, good conversation and a couple off-color jokes. The lodge itself lies along the edge of the ridge giving us a perfect view out to the east. The area is wooded with lots of animals though the only thing we’ve seen from the lodge was a lone black bear that rambled through the back yard before spooking and running away. We also get a pool and, for maybe the only time on our trip, beds. While we were splashing around in the pool a local news station came and filmed a short segment on our trip and stay here. They had no footage of us working or biking, but showed a lot of us playing and carrying our bicycles. Tomorrow we are looking forward to a (relatively) late start at 9am to rest our legs and do some work.

-John Vinson

June 4th: Central Valley, NY to Port Jervis, NY

Day three presented a bit of inclement weather. It was our first encounter with rain, and I wouldn’t exactly call that aspect of the ride enjoyable, considering that it was also freezing. Or so it seemed. I also continued the curse of the HBC birthday person by getting a flat. Let me just add that this was my first flat. Ever. The ride got better with a mid-ride stop for lunch and amazing hot chocolate. After the cessation of the rain and some minor up hill climbs, we had an awesome four mile downhill into Port Jervis, NY. After reclaiming our jerseys from South (p.s. we’re so much cooler than you, south), we ate dinner made by a wonderful lady at the church we were staying at. We tried to go bowling at the local lanes, but apparently, pulling the Habitat card doesn’t tempt everyone to keep their businesses open after closing hours. An unnamed individual subsequently had his clothes stolen, and then we finally headed to bed to ready ourselves for our first long ride. And so, the trek continues…

Oh yeah, and if anyone is wondering, despite the fact that Brian dressed like Johnny Cash on a bike today, he’s still alive. Go team.

-Liz Ferro

HBC Central 2007 Mail Drops

Here's a list of the towns where we'll be picking up mail along the way for anyone who'd like to send us anything (cookies and Clif Bars are our favorites!). To send mail to a rider in any of the towns below, mail your items at least seven days before our date of arrival, and use the following address format:

Rider's Name
Habitat Bicycle Challenge
General Delivery
Street Address
Town, State ZIP

Thanks in advance!
-HBC Central 2007

June 8:
14 Main St
Wellsboro, PA 16901

June 15:
206 W Washington St
Napoleon, OH 43545

June 22:
223 W Main St
Morrison, IL 61270

June 29:
348 E 6th St
Fremont, NE 68025

July 10:
112 Wyoming St
Shoshoni, WY 82649

July 20:
150 N 4th St
Hamilton, MT 59840

July 27:
128 2nd Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362

August 3:
28515 SE Highway 212
Boring, OR 97009

June 2nd and 3rd: New Haven, CT to Ridgefield, CT to Central Valley, NY

Our epic journey started in a magnificent fashion: escorted by the New Haven police, we set off. Next stop: Ridgefield, Connecticut. The day before, we biked up to Lighthouse Point and dipped our bikes in the Atlantic, but today it was time to start heading west. After about a 44 mile ride, we reached our first destination. It was a good first day. Our team is getting along really well and I can already tell it’s going to be a great ride to Portland. We stayed in a gym at St. Mary’s school and the following morning, during breakfast, everyone sang for my official “HBC birthday”…meaning I get to write the blog for today.

Day two of our journey was about a 50 mile ride to Central Valley, New York. My buddy Brian, who thought he would not survive this far, is still pedaling strong and everyone else has proven to be well trained. Despite falling off my bike twice and also getting two flat tires, it was a great HBC birthday (thanks Liz for helping me fix my flats). After lunch we took a small detour to Lake Tiorati. Some of the brave riders (including David, Meg, Rebecca, Kathleen, Niko, and Jessalee) went swimming and played a great game of Marco Polo. We were supposed to camp tonight, but since the weather called for rain, we ended up staying in a fire station, which was awesome!

Since this is the first entry and since I’m sure there are a lot of anxious parents reading this blog, I just want to thank all those who have supported this cause thus far and to let you know that we are staying safe and looking out for one another. The leaders are doing a great job organizing our voyage and they deserve our personal thanks. Anyways, it’s far past time for bed. Tomorrow’s destination: Port Jervis, New York!

-Nick Kostreski