29 August 2012

Thank Yous and Tears, Memories and Beers

The bus ride to Vegas was, for many of us, a real highlight
of the trip.
As we convene here in Santa Paula for our second-to-last dinner together, the conversation is hardly different from a typical Bike & Build evening. All of us are aware that our trip is ending tomorrow, but we seem to be burying our wistfulness and nostalgia under excitement, hunger, and anticipation. Tomorrow's farewells will be especially poignant and even tonight we all seem to be teetering on the brink of accepting the fact that our summer is drawing to a close.

Personally, I am feeling overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with three wonderful, responsible, and passionate co-leaders and to ride with 29 energetic and courageous riders. I am thankful that our trip has been safe and free of major incidents and I am thankful for all of the amazingly generous hosts, family, and friends that have supported us on the way from Portland.

Although it would be impossible to individually thank everyone who helped me our trip such a success, here is a partial list of ME2SB's treasured friends.

Thank you to...

-All of my generous donors and well-wishers.  Your support made this trip possible for me and enabled my Bike & Build trip to donate over $80,000 to the cause of affordable housing.

-All of my friends and family who visited my trip along the way - Mom, Jesse, Michael, Hoops, Ali, Harry, Brie, and Kyle.

-The lady in Tulsa who bought us all root beer floats from Weber's Root Beer

-Ed from Berwick, who joined us in song and showed us his Air Force uniform

-"Corn Robber" from Cordell, OK, who offered Perrier and encouragement to Holland, Cathy, and Nick W.

-Megan from Pie Town, who rocked out at our prom and baked us pies

-The Food Bank in Carrizozo, NM, who offered us two glorious meals

-Jennifer and the Cinnamon Twists of Payson, AZ, who performed for us, gave us CDs, and put together our build day at the Women's Shelter

-Melissa from Stroud, OK, who gave me 23 scoops of ice cream for $5

-The limo drivers who brought us all to the Big Texan Steakhouse for free!

-Jim Minor and friends, who cooked us a meal in Columbus, OH simply because the granddaughter of an old friend was on our route

-Mike the Mobile Bike Mechanic, who brought his truck to our lunch stop on the way to Columbus and fixed all our bikes for free

-The people of Half Moon Farms, who gave us a second lunch of homemade sausage, chicken salad, raspberry shrub, and anything else we could have asked for on the way to State College, PA

-Sue from Trader Joe's in Santa Clarita, CA for giving us lunch.

-Louise Simons, for sending Amy (and us) the best mail drops.

-Debby Zawalich, for sending us chapstick, maps, and iTunes giftcards.

-Mr. Winters for giving Will and Adam cookies at the top of Prescott Hill on the way to Northampton, MA

-KMOG-AM Radio in Payson, AZ for interviewing Tim and Holland and making them famous

-Bob from Yukon, OK, who showed us his wooden bike, rode with us, and gave us chocolate milk

-Bike One of Yukon, OK, who stayed with us all night to work on all our bike issues

-Taco Box Tom for feeding all of us in Portales, NM when we had no kitchen to cook for ourselves

-Maria from Taco Bell in Andover, MA, who donated tacos to us on a very difficult, very hot day

-Bob Reinke of Reinke Repairs in Worthington, MA, who diagnosed our trailer problems for free

-And finally our Program Director Natalie, for returning some of our phone calls and spending 18 hours with us in California

Because of all your help Maine to Santa Barbara 2012 was made possible, our contribution to affordable housing are more significant, and 33 young adults are more inspired, more fit, and more in awe of our amazing country.


22 August 2012

Arizona to California

Failing to find a real state line sign, we chalked our own.
Greetings from Barstow, CA!  We've made it to the Golden State and here's a round-up of the last week or so.

Payson, AZ – Riding from Heber, AZ, we climbed to 8,000 feet then descended a 6% grade for over ten miles. We stopped for an extra day in the small town of Payson to volunteer with Habitat and to help paint and renovate a transitional women’s shelter. 

Sedona, AZ – After our build day, we rode about 90 miles into the town of Sedona – home of the world famous “Red Rocks.”  A strange local told me many quotable things about Sedona, including that “God may have created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.”  He also recommended that I go and see one of the famous Sedona Vortexes, where “this reality touches the next.”  We showered for free at one of the town’s many resorts and prepared ourselves for a day of climbing to come.

Flagstaff, AZ – Although our ride into Flagstaff was one of the shortest of the trip (just over 30 miles), it was nearly all climbing.  Along the way we made one of the most memorable pit stops of the trip, at Slide Rock State Park, where we enjoyed natural waterslides and a 40 foot free fall of a cliff above Oak Creek.  Cliff jumping was absolutely exhilarating, but led to many bruises.  Poor Cassi even ruptured an ear drum.  Once we got to Flagstaff we stopped for a day of volunteering with a local organization called Bothands. One of our riders – Nick A. – departed the trip early after our build day to get to grad school and we sent him off with a night of karaoke. 

Grand Canyon, AZ – After 70 miles into the Grand Canyon we enjoyed our third and final “day off” of the trip.  Four other riders and I decided to descend into the bottom of the canyon and back by foot – a voyage of 18 miles of trail and nearly 2 miles of elevation change (down and up).  Park signs and rangers highly recommend that nobody attempt this hike in a day, but having only one day off, we all felt compelled to give it a go.  We made it back safely and it was 100% worth it. 

Williams, AZ – We were all sad to leave the Grand Canyon behind us, but Williams was not a bad place to end up.  To shake things up we organized ourselves by height and broke into riding group accordingly.  I rode with three other very tall riders and we called ourselves the “Four Pack of Tall Boys.’ We got into town early and enjoyed beer and live music at a café on Route 66.

Meg and I admire a very large saguaro
cactus in Cal Nev Ari, Nevada
Seligman, AZ – Our next stop was in the tiny town of Seligman, said to be the inspiration behind Radiator Springs of the Pixar movie Cars.  Our sleeping quarters here were a little cramped, so I tried to sleep outside and enjoy the dark night skies, but midnight rains pushed me back indoors. 

Kingman, AZ – Arriving in Kingman, we knew that we were getting close to California because we found our first In & Out Burger.  Most of us went to bed early in Kingman to rest up for our 4:30 a.m. wake-up and our night out in Vegas to follow.

Searchlight, NV – Our trip only spends one night in Nevada and naturally we tried to make the best of it by chartering a bus and taking a 6-hour trip to Vegas. I would elaborate more about this mini-trip, but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  Also what happens in Denny’s, stays in Denny’s.

Baker, CA – After returning from Vegas around 1 am, we slept for four hours and then rose to set off on the final century ride of our trip.  Fortunately nobody in my riding group (nickname: “The Centurions”) was hungover and we made good time in the morning, at least until we hit the Mojave National Preserve where 105+ temperatures and crappy roads slowed us down.  We were ecstatic as we entered California, but disappointed to find no state sign to greet us. Instead we just chalked our own and made the best of our entrance into San Bernardino County.

With just five days left of our trip, we are really starting to feel short of time, but also proud of the accomplishment that is nearly complete.  Next comes the trip back… but more on that later.

09 August 2012

New Mexico into Arizona

Having just spent six days in New Mexico, the "Land of Enchantment," I am already looking forward to my next visit to the state.  Here's the run-down on our adventures there:

Portales, NM: This town was, according to its sign, "Home to 17,000 friendly people and 3 or 4 grouches."  Trying to find a place to give us dinner for free that night I think I found all the grouches before finding a Tex-Mex restaurant that gave all 33 all we could eat for free.  Portales is surrounded by peanut farms and home to Eastern New Mexico University, where we stayed. 

The Devil's Inkwell in Roswell, NM
Roswell, NM: The site of our second day off of the trip and the birthplace of Demi Moore, Roswell itself does not have much to offer outside of its trumped up UFO incident and a flying saucer-shaped McDonald's.  However we shuttled out to the nearby Bottomless Lakes State Park, where we swam, paddle boarded, and hiked around the "Devil's Inkwell."  The landscape here was breath-taking, even though a local described the park as "nothing special."

Carrizozo, NM: On our day into Carrizozo we decided to mix up our riding groups by arranging ourselves in order of tan-ness and then riding with people of matching complexion.  I was proud to find out that I am the 8th tannest rider in our group and I happily rode with numbers 7, 9, and 10.  Along our way we rode through the town of Lincoln, famous as the site of Billy the Kid's escape from jail.  As we were passing through, the town was hosting a Billy the Kid Festival, where we got free sarsaparilla and rode a horse-drawn trolley from one end of town to the other (about 200 yards). 

The path through the "Valley of Fire."  Everything in New
Mexico had a cool name.
Socorro, NM: Shortly after leaving Carrizozo, we rode through the Valley of Fire lava flow - a 3 mile wide, 40 mile long stretch of gnarly volcanic rock.  In the afternoon w passed through the White Sands Missile Range and read a historical marker telling us that we were just about as close as you could get to the Trinity Test Site, where the world's first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1944.  The fact that the Manhattan Project folks were willing to detonate a nuclear weapon there is a good indication of how populated that stretch of New Mexico is.  We met some serious descents and I reached my new max speed of 48.8 mph.  Fingers crossed that I'll hit 50 soon.

Pie Town: Riding into Pie Town we climbed from roughly 4500 feet to nearly 8000.  We hit the Continental Divide just outside of town and right after taking a few pictures, two of the riders I was riding with that day (Kegan and Josh) hit each other, damaging Josh's derailleur.  Being team players, we decided to walk the remaining 3 miles into Pie Town, which was a new Bike & Build first for me.  We spent the night at a hostel called the Toaster House and dined with a dozen or so Pie Town locals (meaning that, with a population of 50, we met about 25% of the town).  We enjoyed some of the eponymous treats from the staff at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe and also had our Bike & Build prom in the evening, for which my date Caroline and I dressed up like a totem pole (the theme was Wild West). 

Springerville, AZ: We were all sad to leave New Mexico on the day into our next state, and also very confused about what time it would be in Arizona since they don't observe Daylight Savings Time.  We've got a Build Day tomorrow in Payson and we are just days away from the Grand Canyon, so overall spirits are high.