Final Facts, Figures and ramblings - What I Did On My Summer Vacation - CycleBlaze

August 5, 2010

Final Facts, Figures and ramblings

Whoa, why is it that I feel worse physically AFTER a couple of days off the bike? I went out Friday for a little spin, on the lightweight Trek I might add, and could barely make it home. ...ok, to be fair, I really did know I would make it home, but I felt awful.

Still, I'm home, and I'm already thinking about new places to ride. But before I get to that, here are some facts, figures, favorites (3xF) along with worsts and general ramblings about "What I Did On My Summer Vacation"...


Accommodations (give or take) -

Camping 45%
Hotels 35%
Hostel 2%
Church property 8%
Friends/Family/hosts homes 10%

Flat tires: Around 7, give or take. I stopped counting after 3.


Best new gadget: The Garmin. I was really happy with my new cell phone with a little speaker to listen to MP3 music but the Garmin was a huge help! It was incredibly handy to find alternate routes (when I was off the ACA maps). It was incredibly handy for following the ACA routes with the GPS downloads provided by Adventure Cycling. I also used it to find hotels/restaurants/camping/etc when I pulled into new towns. It wasn't perfect, I still need maps as a backup and you still have to use your head but it was by far the best new gadget.

Mixed review: The SPOT locate-or would have been in a dead heat with the Garmin if it had not been for the last week or so. Until then, every time I pushed "Send" it shot an e-mail to my friends and family with my exact location. But, for some reason, during the last week it pooped out. I'm not sure why and intend to investigate?

Most fun stretch of road -- The 10 mile downhill before the approach to Austin, Nevada with Fred. Wow! Fast downhill, tailwinds, light traffic, dramatic landscapes. Awesome! (See day 7)

Favorite State: Nevada--it was just so dramatic! I liked the wide open spaces. Just beautiful! Utah was a close second.

Favorite/most interesting place for reasons I can't totally explain: Middlegate Nevada. It was just so cool! It is what I imagine it to be like in the Australian outback.

Favorite Photo: This is a tough one, there were so many I like, but I think the fact that it is a bike tour, and Nevada was my favorite state, and this one was so spontaneous, AND I took it while riding... Well, it just has to be my favorite.

Best meal--Again, a toss up. The dinners I had with Carol and Charlie, Jonathan and Sharon and Pam were fantastic, and I'm not trying to be politically correct here, it's just that a home cooked meal, with vegetables and fruit, always taste better when you've been deprived for weeks on end.

Best Quotes --

1. "Bike touring is harder than boot camp" -- From a former soldier I rode with for a day.

2. In Kentucky, when my brother and I asked the hotel desk clerk about a restaurant down the street...

"...oh, yes, that's a nice place! Why, you go in, sit down, and they'll come right on out to your table and wait on you!"

If that is not an endorsement for fine dining I don't know what is?

Best advice--"Be sure to use the headwinds to your advantage" a friend told me. So, when I had monster tailwinds (like Fred and I did from Dayton to Middlegate) I put in longer days so I could go easy on harder days.

Favorite climb: Loveland Pass in Colorado. It was a long ride to the top but the views, the switchbacks above the treeline... Awesome! I could do it all over again.

Best weather moments: 1. The thunder/lightning storm in Tribune, Kansas. Awesome display of nature's power! 2. Sunset on the Mississippi (is that "weather"? Not sure but I'm counting it)

Best "all around" of the trip! -- The "night ride" from Baker to--Milford. It had it all--adventure, spontaneity, riding after dark, sleeping under the stars with scorpions... It has to be #1, it just has to be!


Least Favorite State: Kentucky--the people were nice enough; I did not hate it; I did not have the problems with cars that some riders seem to have; but narrow roads, poor road surfaces, dogs, cigarette smoke in every indoor space, poor food choices and high humidity made touring less than ideal. I'm glad I rode through it but once was enough.

Worst stretch of road -- This is a toss up. The Ozarks in Missouri had the annoying climbs but the roads through the Appalachian Mountains could be awful because of poor road surface, narrow roads and gravel trucks...

Hardest Climb -- Carson Pass. It might have been that I tried to do it in one day, or that I didn't have enough miles in my legs yet (it was only day 2) but man, that was a hard day!

Worst smells--Feed lots, road kill (over one day old) and cycling gloves unwashed for days on end.

Worst weather -- Kentucky/Virgina. Hot, humid, unexpected rain and lightning...

Worst mechanical incident -- The tires de-treading were unsettling but the rim split near Pueblo was by far the worst. Though, it could have been worse had I not been near a good bike shop.

Worst meal -- Booneville Kentucky. Not only was the the fried chicken and cornbread dryer than an Arizona Winter, but a chain smoking, bitter, retired school teacher who invited himself to sit with me while I ate just added to the culinary wasteland...
"Would it offend you if I smoked?" He asked me.
"It won't oFFEND me," I replied. "But I can't eat with smoke in my face."
...I'll tell you, you have never seen someone eat a terrible meal so fast in all your life! Finally, I think that, after 10 minutes he couldn't take not having a cigarette hanging from his lips anymore and he left...or perhaps he realized we didn't have enough common interests for a sustained relationship?


Weirdest Moment -- Came in the middle of nowhere in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri when a guy pulled out a DVD, popped it in his Apple computer inside of his pick-up truck, to show us colonoscopies in an attempt to sign us up for a pyramid scheme to sell reverse osmosis water filters... (see day 42)

Just plain weird -- People in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia have a thing for red vehicles, especially red pick-up trucks. It looks to me like 75 percent of the pick-up trucks in that area are red.

Things I missed about home when I'm on the road:

1. Good food in some of the "gas station food only" stretches of the trip.
2. Conveniences--Laundry, knowing where a bed is every night...
3. Clothes--It will be a long time before I where those blue shorts again. They were my only off the bike shorts that I wore for 2 months!
4. Cricket--that's my cat.

Things I missed about the road when I'm home:

1. Riding!
2. Seeing new places, meeting new people.
3. Adventure!
4. Simplicity--you only have to worry about one pair of blue shorts, all you have to do is get up and ride everyday.
5. My "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" journal.

Things I learned:

1. If you drop your cell phone and it sits outside in the rain for an hour and stops can dry it with a hair dryer and, yes, it will (or might) work again!

2. Don't believe everything you hear. A lot of people said Kentucky/Missouri drivers are horrible to cyclists. I thought that, overall, they did their best to avoid me, even though there was not much space. I did my best to be polite and give them room and they seemed to appreciate that.

Other facts:

I am officially in contempt of court and on the run from the law. After I left I received a notice to appear for jury duty on July 13th. I'm going to the big house, I just know it!

I only had one past due bill when I got home. Not bad. Luckily it was just my water bill, but they didn't turn off my water. My other bills were paid in full, on time, thanks in part to online banking!


I just spent an hour re-reading the first half of my journal. I started writing the the journals so family and friends can follow along, but I must say, it sure is nice to have all of it recorded so I can go back later and relive the moments. I had even forgotten some of the details.

I sure did meet a lot of nice people along the way. I think it just shows that most people in this world have more good than bad in them and are quick to lend a helping hand when seeing a need and given the chance.

Small town America is amazing in some ways. Somewhere in Kansas I started to realize that I could unpack my stuff, set up my tent in the city park, and leave it all unattended to go run errands. People were around but didn't bother it... Tribune, Kansas we were invited for free ice cream at the towns 4th of July celebration. If a big city did something like that it would not surprise me if I had to show an I.D. to show proof of residency.

...I'm sure small towns have their problems but it's nice to know there really ARE "Mayberry" type places in this world that welcome cyclists. "We know summer is here when cyclists start riding through," said a friendly woman as she ate her ice cream.

All in all it was a great experience that I wish more people could have.

Right around the time I had a week or so to go I spontaneously started thinking of other places I want to tour. I have some ideas (ok, 1 or 2 ideas, with 1 MAIN idea) for next summer so I'll see how that pans out. Until that time I will have this journal to look back on and remember summer 2010 and "What I Did On My Summer Vacation."

Thanks for reading and all of your support!

Karen (and The Trucker)

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Jeff TeelKaren,
I have a friend who was following along on my recent trip to Wisconsin. She confessed when I was back that she got distracted, spending way too much time reading your "vacation" journal instead. I wasn't surprised - your perspective, sense of humor, and writing style make reading your stories addictive!
PS: My friend said you call your bike "The Trucker". I know enough about touring now that I was able to tell her why :-)
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1 year ago
Karen CookTo Jeff TeelHa ha. That's why I wrote the journal, to distract people from your journal some day ;-)

Seriously, thanks for the kind words!

I look back on the trip very nostalgically. I think of it as my real first adventure (even though I had done some shorter trips before that). Some day I will do that route again, with a few modifications, just because it was so fun!

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1 year ago