Jun 27, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 6/27/2014
Sorry about the lack of blog posts lately. I am trying hard to keep it up, but sometimes it's just near impossible to write with the lack of wifi and cell phone service. I've also been having longer days, so when I have to choose between blogging and getting enough sleep, sleep usually wins. Oh well. I will try to catch up this weekend as we have a longer break from cycling. I will get into that more later.

Day 23- Chicago, IL to Mendota, IL

Mileage: 70.1 miles

So Day 23 was supposed to be a 95 mile day, but that didn't happen.

After a much needed rest day in Chicago, we were ready to get back on the road and head to Mendota, IL. We stayed at a dorm in UIC with Team Seattle, so we did our morning dedication circle and team cheers together. Since our team got up at 4:30 am, we were ready to leave before Team Seattle.

The forecast threatened rain, and right before we rolled out, it started to to downpour. Great start... at least I had my rain jacket and it wasn't hot. Got to stay positive.

Whenever it rains, it makes riding more complicated because the chalk on the road that directs us gets washed away. Getting out of Chicago was pretty difficult with all the traffic and traffic lights. We also rode through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods. Eventually, we got onto a path around mile 15. The bike path had a lot of intersections with roads, so that slowed us down a lot as well. And of course, it had to turn into a dirt/sand path that was a b!#$% to ride on. Sorry, but I really hated it. It rained on and off all morning, which made the path even worse to ride on. Our bikes and clothes were caked in mud and sand. It was so nasty.

We continued on the path for what seemed like hours until we eventually stopped to check directions. Turns out we were far off the route and very lost. It was close to noon by that point and my team was feeling the hanger (hunger-induced anger, it's a real thing). We wanted to give up and just go to closest Dunkin' Donuts. Turned out, the food and water van ended up making the lunch stop at the Dunkin' Donuts that we were going to anyways, so that worked perfectly. It was past noon, and we had gone less than 40 miles. For a 95 mile day, this was bad news. I think everyone was feeling a bit beat by that point. When the food van arrived with our lunch, our spirits were lifted by the sight of a huge box of Chipotle burritos and an even larger box of LOADS of Panera Bread! We had so much bread it was ridiculous.

After a long and filling lunch, we headed on the road again. We knew that we weren't going to finish the day (only one team did), so we took our time and just tried to get as many miles in as possible. We were on a time crunch since our next host provided us dinner at a Mexican restaurant and we had to be there at a certain time. In the afternoon, we stopped by a cute little town and checked out a bike shop for stickers. We are always on a quest for more stickers to add to our bike. No luck here, though.

By 5pm, we had gone about 70 miles and had to get shuttled the rest of the way to the host. We got picked up by the water van and drove about 30 minutes to Mendota, IL. The rest of the day was spent cleaning out the nasty water van, taking a freezing cold shower at a pool, eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant, cleaning my bike, and sleeping.

Day 24- Mendota, IL to Blue Grass, IA

Mileage: 112 miles

Today was the first century for Team Portland! I had already done a century before the 4K, but 112 miles was a personal distance record for me. Since we had a long day ahead of us, we woke up at 4:30 am and tried to leave the host in Mendota, IL by 6:15. My ride group for the day was with Peter, Emily Lipsitz, and Ari. The first few miles flew by as we enjoyed chatting as we rode side by side on very low traffic roads through the Illinois countryside. We play a game called "Hot Seat" where someone is in the hot seat and has to answer any questions that are asked. We like to ask some deep questions, mixed in with sillier questions.

The day before, we got Chipotle burritos donated for lunch, and there was a leftover one that I stuck in my jersey pocket. I ate the entire thing at our first water stop. We had 112 miles to ride, so I thought it would be a good decision to fuel up with Chipotle. It was a very good decision :)

A lot of our water stops as we cycle through the countryside are at farm houses. Our first water stop had baby cows, a huge dog, and a kitty. Love it when there are animals at our water stop. 

We got to the second water stop at mile 40 before 11:00; we were making pretty good time! From the second water stop, we had to hop on a trail for about 31 miles. The trail was actually a tow path along a canal, so it wasn't paved. At first, it was fine gravel, which wasn't too bad (though I really hate riding on anything that isn't pavement. It just slows us down so much).

After a few miles, the trail took a turn for the worse. It was poorly maintained and at some points, we were essentially riding through a jungle. There were tall grasses on both sides and the smoothest riding surface was two narrow tire tracks of loose sand/gravel. There were also random rodent holes in the middle of the path that were unpleasantly surprising to bike over. 

I seriously felt like I was mountain biking through some single track. We were on road bikes, so this was not okay. After about 15 frustrating miles, we decided to reroute (this is the theme for today). At a bridge that went over the path, we decided to climb up and get back on some real roads. I have to admit it was quite beautiful, though.

Around mile 60, we met up with the food van for some lunch. Food van did very well with getting a variety of food for lunch, including pizza, lo mein, fried rice, veggies and dip, and a lot of snacks. Whenever I see food when I'm riding, I just want to eat it all. I ate way too much and regretted it later when I struggled to stay awake in the afternoon. 

Shortly after lunch, we came across this barn that we thought would make a good photo op. There was an anti-government message written on the side next to the American flag. We just snapped a few pics and left.

The rest of the afternoon was the most challenging part of the ride so far. We had a lot of trouble with the route, and had to reroute a lot. The water van was kind of MIA and wasn't chalking the turns ahead for some reason, so we relied on our own directions from Google Maps. Peter, our "mama duck", led us most of the way since he always writes down the cue sheet and has it in front of him. It was a really tough job to have the responsibility of making sure we were on the right track, and I really appreciated Peter for keeping us from getting lost. 

I think our century day was more mentally exhausting than physically. It was just frustrating to have to stop every few turns to look up directions, and we were so ready to be done with the ride as it got later, but we had many more miles to go. Around mile 97, we got to the Mississippi River. The view was so spectacular, we momentarily forgot our exhaustion and stopped to take some photos. There was a bike path along the river, though it turned into a confusing bike route through a commercial area and then kind of disappeared, so that added to our frustration. We eventually made our way across the bridge into Iowa, though we were disappointed that we didn't get to see a state sign. Crossing the bridge got our mileage at 100 miles. First century complete. 

Except we had 12 more miles to go. The sun was getting low and by that point, we were fighting against the clock to get into the host at YMCA Camp Abe Lincoln before sunset. The rest of the way was very straightforward, so we didn't have any problems with getting lost and rerouting. The road conditions were also great, and we ended up riding in a double pace line, with me and Brady leading. Those last few miles went by quickly with little headwind, a perfect ending to a day that was quite frustrating. My group was the first to arrive, a little before 8 pm. We had time to eat dinner before the rest of the team arrived. After dinner, I ran down the gravel path (in my flip flops) just in time to meet my teammates as they arrived. Everyone was so excited and we were cheering and whooping like maniacs. It was amazing that everyone got to finish the day, even though it took over 13 hours. I am incredibly proud of my team for toughing this day out. I think greeting and cheering for my teammates at the entrance of the YMCA is one of my favorite moments so far. The daylight was just about gone, but our team was reunited after a long, hard day.


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