Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1/16/07 I thought you might like to see the face that, if it didn't launch a thousand ships (that would probably be Helen Mirren) at least launched one bicycle; my son, TK, seen here with his very cool service dog, James Bond.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Final thoughts…

Well, the adventure of the trip is over and I'm back to my normal daily routine. Lots of folks have asked me if I'd do it again. My answer has been yes, but differently. I sort of rushed across the country, trying to get the trip finished in as little time as possible and in so doing, somewhat compromised the objective. Raising awareness of something as rare as Friedreich's Ataxia requires time; time to make appointments with reporters and photographers who are all busy folks, time to stop and explain things, time to reach a wide enough audience to make a difference. I missed several such opportunities because by the time folks called me or could make time to see me, I was already 100 miles down the road or in another state. As far as being a personal challenge, the trip was very rewarding and its successful completion very gratifying, but that's just an ego thing and mine is already quite well-inflated. I just wish I'd taken a little more time to stop and spread the word about Ataxia, which was my primary reason for going in the first place. On the positive side, I did see a lot of this wonderful country that I hadn't seen before, found several places I'd like to return to and visit in a more leisurely fashion and made a lot of new friends and acquaintances. Relationships and experiences being the true riches of life, I definitely feel enriched and deeply appreciative of all the support and help I received from family, friends and strangers alike along the way.

I enjoy solo adventure and have hiked, skied, canoed and over-flown remote places alone many times. With the possible exception of solo instrument night flight, this trip was probably one of the riskiest things I've ever done. Safety lies in managing risk, but on a bike in traffic most of the risk factors are other drivers and they're beyond your control. Even after a few thousand miles, it's still unnerving to have 40-ton semi's or big ranch pickups towing wide trailers roaring past you with only a couple of feet or less to spare. Although the vast majority of drivers I encountered were courteous and gave me as wide a berth as possible, it only takes one to ruin your day. That said, I would still highly recommend bicycle travel as a fantastic way to see the country in much more detail than can be experienced from behind the wheel of a car. Just be aware of the dangers of sharing the road with much larger, faster vehicles and do everything you can to enhance your safety. Use the most lightly-traveled roads you can. These will be hillier, so use a true touring bike with a low granny gear for hill-climbing. Rural pavements are widely variable in smoothness and quality, so spend extra money for puncture-resistant tires and bullet-proof wheels with Phil Wood sealed-bearing hubs and at least 36 spokes, preferably 40. Have them hand-built and meticulously trued and tensioned by a touring expert like Dave Tullier in Baton Rouge or a shop that specializes in touring bikes. Go for maximum visibility in clothing, reflectors, flag whips, etc. If you choose to travel alone, which does give you maximum flexibility, carry whatever you need to sustain yourself in the worst conditions and circumstances you're likely to encounter. Yes, there are angels everywhere who will help people in trouble, but don't count on them. Always be mentally prepared for self-rescue in adverse circumstances. Have a plan B and duplicates of critical equipment. Schedule conservatively and allow time to stop and smell the roses, meet people, sample the local cuisine, take lots of pictures, rest and enjoy the beautiful places you'll find. It really is a great way to see the country.

I would encourage those of you who have enjoyed my blog to check out Kyle Bryant's (http://rideataxia.blogspot.com). Kyle actually suffers from Friedreich's Ataxia and is riding a recumbent trike from San Diego to the national Ataxia convention in Memphis starting January 28th to raise funds for Ataxia research. He's doing it right, with a more conservative riding schedule, advance publicity, giving folks the opportunity to ride along on segments and maximizing the awareness-raising aspect of his effort. My helmet's off to Kyle and his courageous endeavor. I wish him luck and success.

Downhills and tailwinds, everyone; it's been a blast!


This is the old fort in St. Augustine, FL on the morning of the first day of my trip.

I threw this one in because it was the only picture of me early in the trip. Taken just west of Baton Rouge, LA, after Dave Tullier rebuilt my back wheel. The VW Microbus is his pickup/delivery vehicle.

The day after Christmas, about 45 miles east of El Paso.

This is the pier at Mission Bay, taken from Dog Beach in San Diego, CA the Thursday morning after Christmas when I began my Eastward ride back to El Paso.

The penultimate day; 120 miles from Lordsburg to Las Cruces, NM.

My last morning in Las Cruces, NM. A fitting preparation for my return to winter-time New England!

This was taken outside my friends' house in Saco, Maine, a week before I began my trip. This was my only full loaded training ride; a 60-miler on a cold November day.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thurs. 1/4/07 Benson to Lordsburg, NM 124 mi., 18.5 avg, 6:41 saddle time

Character-building day. Started out cold, clear and calm. Benson's at 3800' and it was in the 30's at 7:00 am. Started to climb out of the valley, including 1/2 mile of lowest-gear hill up out of a river bottom, but got a flat after only 8 miles. When I pulled the tube out, there was a piece of tire wire sticking out of it, so it was no problem to locate and fix the hole. As I was reinflating the tire, the threaded cap that holds the working end of the pump together split in two, rendering the pump useless. That was bad enough, but as I was pondering what to do next I noticed that the little bit of air I had put in the tire had leaked back out and the tire was flat again. I pulled the tire back off and found three more pieces of tire wire penetrating the tire carcass. After 1/2 hr. of waiting, I was able to flag down a Highway Patrol sargent. He gave me a ride back into Benson, to a new Wal Mart there. I bought two tubes, some more patches and a new pump. By the time I got back on the road, it was 10:30 and I still had 110 miles to go to get to Lordsburg before dark. Not only did I have to reclimb those first 8 miles of uphills, but the sargent had told me that it was uphill almost all the way to Willcox, 33 miles away. I'd already reserved a room in Lordsburg for that night, so I popped a couple of Ibuprofen and started pedalling. Sure enough, the road continued to climb for about 25 miles, cresting a pass at the head of Texas Canyon, a spectacular landscape 4900' above sea level at its highest point. This was the highest elevation I'd reached so far on the whole trip. The country around there is full of brown sandstone formations with wind-eroded boulders perched haphazardly on each other. Looks like the perfect western movie set. The next ten miles were a nice downhillrun into another high valley and I stopped and grabbed a burger in Willcox. I left there at 1:00 pm, still 73 miles from Lordsburg. Luckily, that tailwind I'd been seeking for the last couple of thousand miles kicked in and I was able to cruise at 20 - 25 mph for the next 50 miles. Only one bad stretch where, for about ten miles, they'd ground the breakdown lane in preparation for paving, although there were no signs or equipment in sight. That couduroy surface was tough to ride on, vibrating everything like mad and offering poor directional control. But it ended as randomly as it began and it was off to the races again. There was a climb of several miles up through a pass right at the New Mexico border, but I was there by 3:45 and Lordsburg was only 22 miles away so I figured I had it made. No sooner did I crest the pass than I had another flat, only a double this time. By the time I got that repaired it was almost 4:30 and the shadows were getting long. The sun set a little after 5 and I finally rolled into Lordsburg at 5:45, having lost my tailwind during that last repair.

A long day and a bit nerve-wracking, but I did set four records for the trip;
- Most miles traveled in a single day (124)
- Highest average speed for a day (18.5)
- Highest elevation reached (4920')
- Most flat tires in one day!

Friday 1/5/07 Lordsburg to Las Cruces, NM 119.7 mi., 20.1 avg., 5:55 saddle time.
Tailwind! Glorious, honkin' tailwind! Another clear, calm and cool day. Lordsburg is around 3800', too, so it was another chilly morning, in the 30's, for sure. Aerobars are handy in cold weather because when you're leaning down on them, you can alternate cupping one hand around the fingers of the other for warmth. The first 30 miles east from Lordsburg climb gradually up to the Continental Divide, 4985'. It's a bit strange because there's this big sign in the middle of what looks like a huge, flat plateau with no discernible slope in either direction. In fact, the next ten miles past that sign felt like I was still climbing gradually but that could've been because the wind hadn't woken up yet. The breakdown lane for the first 50 miles east of Lordsburg was smooth as silk. It felt like the bike was just gliding over it rather than rolling across it and when the tailwind started to become noticeable around 10:00, the combined effect was magical! I could cruise efforlessly from 25 - 28 mph. It felt like I could've gone 35 quite easily if I'd had a higher gear. By the time I stopped for lunch in Deming, 60 miles out, the wind was blowing around 15 mph, gusting to 20. I was soooo happy I wasn't heading west! The breakdown lane got a bit gnarly east of Deming and I had another flat, but it was pretty much a continuous, very gradual downhill run into Las Cruces, where I arrived just before 3:00 pm. Two new records today: Highest elevation - 4985', about 60' higher than the east end of Texas Canyon, and highest daily average of 20.1, thanks to that wonderful tailwind. Lazy day tomorrow. Only 46 mils to El Paso and the end of my journey. I have an appointment with a photographer for the Las Cruces Sun News at 10:00 am, so I should be in El Paso by early afternoon.

Today was a good penultimate day, great conditions and easy enough riding to allow time for reflection. The end of an adventure is always a poignant time. I'm excited to be so close to a successful conclusion but at the same time sad to be leaving the freedom of the open road, these gorgeous desert views and the pleasure of meeting new people and enjoying new experiences on a daily basis. Bt all things must end and it's been a wonderful and fascinating experience. I hope some of the folks I've spoken with along the way have been motivated to look into Friedreich's Ataxia, talk to others about it an make donations to help advance the research.

Saturday, 1/6/07 Las Cruces, NM to El Paso, TX 42.4 mi., 16.6 avg., 2:32

When I awoke and looked out the window at the motel this morning, I was greeted by a winter wonderland! It was snowing huge flakes and the trees and grass were covered in about an inch of new, wet snow. I wasn't too concerned because the road was still black and just wet; not cold enough to freeze. I hung around waiting for the photographer to show and then got a cancellation call at 9:45. I threw on my rain gear and headed out, riding in falling snow for the first time on the whole trip. It really wasn't too bad, except that my glasses needed wipers. More comfortable than riding in the rain and quite pretty. I figured it was a nice prep for the conditions I'd be facing when I got home. Easy ride to El Paso and the nice folks at Crazy Cat Cyclery were very helpful. They're going to ship my bike home for me and they gave me a ride all the way across town to the hotel near the airport. I DID IT! I'd wax more poetic, but I'm running out of computer time. I'll have to post my final reflections another time. Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible and to everyone who helped me out along the way!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wednesday, 1/3/07 Eloy, AZ to Benson, AZ 104.1 mi., 15.3 avg., 33.3 max., 6:46 saddle time.

Another beautiful day for riding; clear, cool and calm. Winter is definitely a good time to ride in the southwest. Nice breakdown lane towards Tucson, but I got booted off the interstate by a very nice but firm State Trooper just north of town. It worked out OK becaus the frontage road, which had no breakdown lane to that point, had a wide, smooth one with very light traffic for twenty miles through Tucson. The only problem was that it ended eight miles before I was legal to get back on the interstate. I zig-zagged all over South Tucson for a few miles and then split the difference. On the way out of town, I passed the airport where they park the 'mothball fleet' of commercial aircraft that have been taken out of service but not scrapped yet. They stor them out here because they don't degrade in the dry climate. Some wierd old birds out there. I saw a white 747 with a stretched upper deck that made it look like a pregnant guppy. Hard to believe how many millions of dollars worth of airliners are just sitting there, probably never to fly again.

I'd stopped for lunch in Tucson, so I was good to go for the rest of the day. The breakdown lane of I-10, unfortunately, was not. For the next twenty miles (and for the last seven miles into Benson) it was punctuated by cracks in the asphalt every ten to fifteen feet. These cracks had raised edges so each and every one gave me, quite literally, a kick in the butt. They made an already long day seem quite a bit longer. Beautiful desert scenery along the whole route, crowned by the last few miles when, after climbing steadily through rolling hills, the road crested a ridge overlooking a broad desert valley, surrounded by brown, stony mountain ranges on all sides. The town of Benson, my destination for tonight, lies on the western edge of this valley, so my last few miles were a nice downhill run. At least, it would've been nice if it wasn't for those damned cracks in the asphalt that kept launching me more and more sharply the faster I went. I had to ride my brakes so much that by the time I got to the stop sign at the end of my exit ramp, the rims were almost too hot to hold onto. Lucky I didn't overinflate and pop a tire. Anyway, I'm here, safe and sound and 100 miles closer to El Paso.

Part of the cook kit that I carted all over the country was an 8 oz. Nalgene bottle filled with denatured alcohol stove fuel, which I also used to prep tubes for patching. Well, when I sent the cook kit home from Phoenix, I hung onto the Nalgene, disposed of the stove fuel and refilled it with Cuervo Gold. It was New Year's Eve, after all. I've found it cleans tubes just as well and is much more useful at times like this, when my knees have turned to Jello and are in need of anaesthetic. A little orange Gatorade, a couple of Ibuprofen and life is good! 110 miles tomorrow to Lordsburg, but I don't want to think about that right now. Hopefully, the Jello will 'set up' overnight. Right now, I think it's time for a refill on the Gatorade, etc....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tuesday, 1/2/07 Buckeye, AZ to Eloy, AZ 92 mi., 14.7 avg., 22.3 max, 6:13 saddle time

Very nice riding day today; cool, clear and calm. After a wonderful visit with my friend Paula and her family in Phoenix for New Year's, Paula gave me a ride this morning back to the same spot where she picked me up New Year's Eve. Since I had hotels available at every planned stop for the rest of the trip, I took a chance and sent all my camping and cooking gear, food and some unneeded clothing home via UPS, lightening my load by about 20 lbs. The total of bike and gear when I got to Paula's was 70 lbs, and losing almost a third of that weight was like putting wings on this morning. I was also able to strap my backpack on top of the panniers where my bedroll had been, so today was the first day I rode without a backpack on. What a difference! Similar to the way I felt on the AT when I switched from boots to sneakers and lightened my pack weight by ten pounds. I'm confident now that I can do essentially four consecutive centuries this week. Two in a row was tough last weekend. This morning I worked my way around the extreme southern outskirts of Phoenix, with housing developments to the north and farmland, livestock operations and desert to the south. I'd gone 55 miles before I rejoined I-10 southeast of Phoenix. At about 2:00 pm, at the 77-mile mark, I got pulled over by a State Trooper. As he walked towards me, he said, "I got you speeding back there", but he was grinning as he said it. He told me no bikes were allowed on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. I told him there'd been no signage to that effect where I got on at Briggs Rd. He asked me where and when I'd started and when I told him Buckeye at 8:00 am, he did sort of a double take. He asked me where I was headed so I told him El Paso via Eloy, Benson, Lordsburg and Las Cruces over the next four days. When I explained to him about TK's Ataxia and the reason for my trip, he told me to be careful and wished me luck, warning me 'officially' to get off the highway ASAP. I don't know if he spread the word or not, but two more troopers passed me between there and here without even slowing down. So far, so good. We'll see if my luck holds tomorrow. It's 98 miles from here to Benson. For the second half of that, I'll be past Tucson, so that part shouldn't be a problem. Don't know about New Mexico yet. It's a 110 mile leg from Benson to Lordsburg and then a 120 miler to Las Cruces. Saturday morning, I'll have 46 miles to the finish in El Paso and I have a reservation to fly from El Paso to Manchester on Southwest on Sunday morning. Should be home Sunday afternoon! Crazy Cat Cyclery in El Paso is shipping my bike home for me as soon as the box arrives from California. I can smell that finish line!

Monday, January 01, 2007

12/29/06 Pine Valley to El Centro. 79 mi., 14.3 avg.

22F when I awoke in Pine Valley this morning. Frost covering everything. I thought an open lean-to tarp configuration would ventilate well enough to prevent that, but in still air the frost formed just as well on both outside and inside surfaces. Made for a snowy egress. I was at Major's Diner when it opened at 6 and din't leave there 'til 7:30 after the sun was up. Got a little chilly breaking camp but was soon sweating as I climbed out of town on Old US8o. Beautiful cycling day in beautiful mountain country, beneath a cloudless sky of robin's-egg blue, through crystal-clear air suffused with the scents of pine and juniper and sage. Not a trace of the noxious brown haze that covers the coastal megalopolis. Several hours of ups and downs, culminating in a ten-mile, white-knuckle descent on I-8 from Jacumba down to Ocotillo. Set a new personal (bike) speed record of 53.6 mph. Trailer trucks are limited to 35 mph on the 6% downgrade, so I ended up passing a few in the breakdown lane. Sweet revenge! Unfortunately, I doubt they could hear my maniacal laughter over their engine noise. Perhaps it's just as well. Bicycles are forced to exit I-8 at Ocotillo and I had to parallel it on S80 over to El Centro. This is one of the roughest road stretches I've been on; the blacktop literally broken up for long stretches. It's also a major ORV playground, with a huge dust cloud being constantly replenished by bikes and dune buggies playing in the sand next to the 'highway'. Only one flat tire on that ten-mile stretch, which I considered lucky given the road surface. As I entered Seeley, just before El Centro, I entered the beginning of the intensely cultivated part of the Imperial Valley. I passed the largest accumulation of hay bales I've ever seen. Literally miles of huge pole barns, stacked to the rafters with millions of bales of hay, along with more piles, some covered and some not, out in the open. It seems that every field out here had huge stacks of hay next to it. Some of the fields had signs reading "IA Sludge - Keep Out" The odor left no doubt about what kind of sludge they were talking about. The other permeating odor was vaguely reminiscent of Malathion, or something similar. Chemical dispensing tank-trailers were abundant. The whole place renewed my determination to try and eat organic whenever possible!

12/30 El Centro to Blythe 105 mi., 13.3 avg. 7:50 saddle time.

Long day! Started at 6:45 am, 40F. Clear, calm and flat for the first 40 miles to Glamis. I stopped and asked a farmer if the hay was locally grown for export or imported to use as mulch on all the crops. Turns out that alfalfa hay is one of the valley's main crops and goes to livestock and dairy farms all over the southwest and California. They store it there until it's needed because it won't rot in their dry climate. Made me wonder how much of this huge agricultural area is devoted to growing meat instead of vegetables. That thought was reinforced when I passed one of the biggest stockyards I'd ever seen just east of Brawley. Stretched for over a mile along the highway and at least that far back from it. Over a square mile of wall-to-wall steers being fattened up for slaughter to coat the arteries of America. As I continued east from Brawley, I passed out of the irrigated, cultivated portion of the ImperialValley and entered the Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. This, too was covered with a huge cloud and it became apparent that this is where the hundreds of SUV's towing ORV's that had been passing me were headed for the holiday weekend. There were literally thousands of bikes, quad-runners and dune buggies of every shape and size roaring all over the dunes for miles.The whole area, including the dozens of parked RV clusters, was covered with a cloud of sand dust thick enough to burn my eyes and coat the insides of my nose and mouth with fine grit. Stopped for lunch at the one store in the middle of all this. People were lined up ten deep at the registers and the parking lot out front was a constant roar of arriving and departing ORV motors amid the all-envelopig dust cloud. Charming spot! I'd been making good time to there, but CA78 heads up into the Chocolate Mountains, next to a naval gunnery range and for the next 30 miles, climbs a couple of thousand feet via a constant series of short hills and valleys. The desert floor is folded into huge ripples there and the highway is like a roller-coaster climbing up and over each and every one. Most of it is standard two-lane road with about a foot of shoulder outside the white lines, but some of the shoulders are bermed off for drainage, with the 45-degree sloped curbs extending all the way in to the white lines. This is scary because this road is heavily travelled by trucks, as well as a lot of trailer-hauling RV's, and the dips are deep enough to hide them completely in both directions. The hills are just high enough and steep enough to slow you down to lowest gear and if you have trucks going both ways at the same spot, you're inches away from becoming a red stain on a bumper. Couple this with the fact that thare was now a 10 mph headwind blowing that funneled through the cuts at twice that speed and it made for a very long afternoon. I was very relieved when I finally emerged into the valley of the Colorado River at Palos Verdes with only 30 miles to go to Blythe.

12/31 Blythe, CA to Buckeye, AZ 120.6 mi., 14.3 avg. 8:23 saddle time.

I'm in Arizona! The published route leaves I-10 and heads northeast through the mountains to Wickenburg and then down into Phoenix, but when I got to the turn-off, I coud see a dust storm brewing up that way. I elected to stay on I-10, which was also a flatter and some 25 miles shorter route to Phoenix. I didn't think I could make Phoenix; it would've been a 140 mile day, and I was right. It became too dark to see the pavement clearly in Buckeye, about 30 miles west of Phoenix, so I called my friend Paula from there and she came and picked me up. I'll resume from there Tuesday. A nice riding day through the desert, with grand views in all directions of the typical Southwestern scenery; sharply defined mountains beyond vast, empty plains dotted with cacti and creosote bush. Very gradual ups and downs; you don't even realize you're climbing until you have to downshift one gear to maintain cadence. The interstate has to be the safest riding I've done. The breakdown lanes are wide and mostly smooth and almost all of it has rumble strips to warn you if traffic approaching behind you crosses into your domain. Aesthetically, it leaves a little to be desired because of the traffic and noise, but when your life's on the line, the extra few feet of seperation between you and forty tons of flying steel are very comforting. On secondary roads with a foot or two of shoulder, you often don't hear traffic coming until it thunders by, inches away. I'm still not used to it and have that constant awareness that every time, I'm literally a foot or two from sudden death, with the deciding factor being whether or not the passing driver is sober, or on a cell phone, or just paying attention. The caveats on the interstates are that you must be really careful to look behind you before crossing exit or entrance ramps; I'd have been dead several times over if I'd not done that and been passed by traffic I saw but didn't hear coming. That said, the interstates are, I think, the safest way to travel and obviously offer more direct routes. At this point, I'm sensing the finish line and am motivated to "git 'er done!" Let's just say that, if you're in front of me between Phoenix and El Paso on I-10, you'd best not be in the breakdown lane!

1/1/07 I regret that I've missed the opportunity to respond to several comments on a more timely basis. Not that many libraries open on weekend nor available to use at motels along the way. In answer to a few of the questions that had been posed by commenters;

As you can tell from the above, I'm no longer in California, but arrived in Phoenix on New Year's Eve. I'll be here for New Year's Day before heading on towards El Paso. The purpose of my trip is to raise awareness and hopefully motivate folks to contribute to research towards finding treatments and eventually a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia, a progressive neuropathy from which my son, TK, suffers. To that end, I've been talking about the disease with many folks I've met along the way and giving them the website address for more info. I also just wanted to see if someone of my advanced age and tender constitution could make such a trip, so there was an element of personal challenge involved, too. As in many things, I've discovered that while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, particularly the tush!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

12/28 San Diego to Pine Valley. I left the cyclocomputer on the bike, which is 1/2 mile walk from the library I'm at now, so I don't have the average speed, but the total mileage today was around 58, over 35 of which was spent climbing in lowest gear. Hard work, but very rewarding. The views are spectacular. From Alpine, at 2000' elevation, where I stopped for lunch and the earlier posting, the road climbs to 4000' with an average grade of about 8% and a few pitches over 10% and then drops to about 3700' into Pine Valley. That last drop was a two-mile downhill from Guatay on the shady side of the mountains during which all the sweat I was soaked with damn near froze! I figured I'd warm up with a hot shower at the Pine Valley Motel, but they'd rented their last room just before I rolled in. I'm now camped out in the back yard of the community center (with the Sherriff's blessing) on some nice, soft ground. A couple of good restaurants in town and warm, dry clothes on, so I'm all set. Supposed to be in the 20's tonight, which will be perfect for the sleeping bag I brought. No wind and no rain forecast, not that either would matter, but it should be a nice, clear night. As I mentioned to my niece, Rachel, in an earlier e-mail, I'm glad I had 1500 miles under my belt before I tackled today's climb. If this was day #1, like it is for the folks who do the official route from west to east, it would've darn near killed me!

Beautiful country up here in the southwestern mountains. Some of the peaks look like piles of stony rubble, with very little vegetation, but then there are hundreds of square miles of peaks and slopes that are solid green and lush. Here in Pine Valley, the flora lives up to its name, with huge old pines scattered everywhere and little creeks running through the stony, steep-sided valleys. The route up was on the old US-80, then joined I-8 for a few miles before breaking off onto Rt. 79 and back onto the old US-80 around the north side of Guatay Mountain (4885') through farm country that was reminiscent of (a dryer version of) New England, with grassy pastures backed by mountain vistas. Really pretty. Tomorrow, the route climbs to 4200', then drops to 3200', then climbs back up to 4100', then sawtooths its way up and down to 3300', then drops to 300', all within the next 50 miles! Not sure how early I'll be able to start, since the bike lane was wet in places on the way up and those spots will be iced in the early morning hours. Should be an interesting day. And now it's time to go fuel the furnace!
12/28 San Diego to Alpine (so far) About 50 miles into a planned 70 mile day.

Began this cool, clear day by heading from downtown San Diego (I spent the night by the airport instead of fighting 30 mph north winds to get out of town, especially after about 30 hours of no sleep) up to the beginning of the official Southern Tier route. It starts at Dog Beach, which is at the western end of a bike path that runs alongside the San Diego River, just south of Sea World. The Pacific was anything but this morning, huge breakers rolling in and crashing onto the breakwater at the river's mouth. Dozens of dogs running around on the beach, all getting along. Cool place. The ride east climbs very gently for the first 20 miles or so, through San Diego, Santee and Lakeside and then starts to climb seriously. The map has a very scary profile view that shows the route practically going up a wall, but it's a trick of scale. The vertical scale of the map rises about 1000' per inch, while the horizontal scale runs about 12 miles per inch. The route, which climbs from sea level to 4000' in the first 50 miles, therefor looks like about a 90% slope. There were a few steep pitches of 10% or more, but they were fairly short; a half mile each or less. Good thing, 'cause with no granny gear and 40 lbs of junk on board, those were slow, sweaty affairs accompanied by much undignified huffing and puffing. There was a very pretty diversion for a couple of miles through Mission Trails Regional Park, just west of Santee. Most of the rest of the climb so far (Alpine, where this library is, lies at 2000') has been on grades of 6 - 8%, quite doable in my present low gear as long as I pace myself. Still have a couple of thousand feet to go to get to my target for tonight, so I'd better get to it.