Jun 27, 2014

Posted by Jo W. 6/27/2014
Mileage: 82.82 miles

We had a slow start on Day 25, which was a bit concerning since we had over 80 miles to ride. Our host was at YMCA Camp Abe Lincoln in Blue Grass, IA. There were a lot of campers there, and we got to eat breakfast with them. Since breakfast was at 8 am, we got to sleep in until 7, which is really late for us. I got a full eight hours of sleep that night!

By the time we were ready to leave the camp, it was close to 10 and already pretty hot. I was riding with Brady, Walt, and Jocelyn. Iowa actually has a lot of rolling hills, which was a nice change after days and days of riding in pancake-flat Illinois. I was so excited to see a hill, I bombed up the first one. Fun :)

Since we had such a late start and had two water stops before lunch, it was already almost 4pm by the time we finished lunch. Another long day, but we just pedaled steadily.

At the last water stop, about 15 miles from the host in Marengo, the water van had a surprise for us. Chris had bought the whole team ice cream sandwiches from Dairy Queen! That was the highlight of the day; we were so close to finishing the long day, and the ice cream definitely helped keep us going. You're awesome, Chris!

The last 10 miles riding into Marengo were gorgeous. Hilly countryside and fields with the golden light of early evening. The temperature was also dropping, which made it more pleasant. Less than 2 miles from the host, we finally saw the sign for Marengo and had to take a team photo. As we rolled into the small town, we were greeted by our teammates and the people from the church we were staying at. It's so nice to have such a warm welcome at the end of the day. We were served dinner first thing, then waited for the last group to arrive.

For the next four days, we will not be riding since we are going to Maryland to attend the celebration for Jamie Robert's life. We are riding a bus all day Thursday from 4 am to 11 pm, attending the memorial service on Friday, and driving back to Marengo, IA on Saturday.

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.

Jun 22, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 6/22/2014
I haven't been cycling for the past two days. Instead, I've been eating a lot of delicious food. On Day 21, I had van duty and was driving the food van, which meant that I went around to beg for food donations. It was my second time in the food van. Although I was a bit bummed that I didn't get to ride into Chicago, I enjoyed the extra rest day driving the van with Ariana. My butt surely did, after cycling over 300 miles in the past four days. 

Ari and I went to a Panera, Krogers, a drugstore, and a few family-owned restaurants. Almost everyone was really friendly and was willing to help. We got donations at four out of the six places we asked. I was happy to bring my teammates a great lunch of sandwiches, wraps, paninis, salad, homemade potato chips, and a bunch of snack foods and veggies. And we got all that stuff before 11 am, too! The morning went by smoothly and we were able to have an early lunch stop. 

Getting into Chicago and reaching our host at UIC was a bit of a pain. There was some confusion about our dorm rooms which took over three hours to figure out. We finally got rooms and everyone arrived and was able to shower. Everyone was really hungry by then. A group of us decided to go to a steakhouse, and chose a random steakhouse. Turned out, it was kind of fancier than we thought, about on par with Ruth's Chris. Whoops, I was wearing running shorts and my 4K shirt with flip flops. Oh well. 

I wanted to splurge a little since we were in Chicago, so I ordered two oysters, a 16oz ribeye, a side of truffled peas, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

I also stole other people's sweet potato fries which were some of the best I've ever had. My medium rare steak was delicous. 

The next morning, my body automatically wanted to wake up at 5am, but I made myself sleep in until 6:40. I wanted to go for a run to the Navy Pier and see the lake path since I didn't get to ride into Chicago on it. I went for a 5ish mile run with Chris and enjoyed the views of the lake. 

The mist shrouding the skyscrapers was eerie and pretty cool. 

There are a few interesting sculptures along the lake path. I thought this whale sculpture made with plastic bottles and scrap metal was interesting. 

After we got back and showered, a group of us headed to Chinatown for some dimsum. Ki Young, a teammate who is from Chicago, took us to a really great dimsum restaurant. 

I sat at a table of four, and we ended up ordering 13 dishes, including chicken feet and congee. 

I ate so much food and it was amazing. I needed to lie down for a bit afterwards. 

In the afternoon, Ki Young took us on a tour of UC. It was a really beautiful campus with huge gothic buildings covered in ivy. The cathedral was immense. 

We also went downtown to walk around and see the bean. Chicago seems like a pretty bike-friendly city with a lot of bike lanes. I guess I'll see when I bike out of the city on Day 23. 

This was the second time I've visited the Bean. We took a bunch of group photos and some people got hot dogs in honor of Jamie, since it was her favorite food. We still laugh about that. 

It was a fun day in Chicago and I wish we had more time to do stuff. I'll just have to come back again. 

Jun 20, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 6/20/2014
Mileage: 91.9 miles

Day 20 was our longest day so far. The morning started with a downpour as we were leaving the host at University of Illinois. I wasn't too happy riding in the rain, but at least it wasn't scorching hot like the past couple of days. Fortunately, the rain stopped soon and the sky started to clear up. From Champaign, we quickly turned onto the back country roads with hardly any cars.

Before the first water stop, we saw a bunch of airplanes at an airport/museum and stopped for the photo op.

The miles went by pretty quickly, despite the highest mileage so far. The roads we took were great; virtually no traffic through the farm fields in the middle of nowhere. We usually ride in groups of four (me, Ari, Chris, and Brady) but since the roads were so deserted, a bunch of groups started riding together. We were able to ride side by side and take up the whole road, just chatting away the miles.

Whenever someone gets a flat, we have something called "Flatchat" and we take a selfie with the person who got the flat. I kind of failed with this pic because I didn't include the person who actually got the flat.

In the afternoon, we all congregated under a large tree for a moment of silence in remembrance of Jamie Roberts, our teammate who was killed a week ago in an accident. We all stood under the tree in a circle, holding hands. It was an emotional moment, and although it still makes my heart wrench to think about it, I felt as though Jamie was smiling down on us and felt peaceful.

We do a hand signal every day during our team cheer called "Jamie Love", which is like the Vulcan greeting (from Star Trek) with the four fingers making a V and the thumb at the side. It was her way of saying "I love you".

This ride was the most fun I've had. I got to ride with different people in our large "super groups" and had a blast. I also pacelined with Aaron, Brady, and Victor on a long, flat stretch going east with a tailwind at our backs. We were flying. And I love going fast and hard on the bike, which doesn't happen much on our rides. Our max speed was 35.4 mph.  Can't wait for more days like this :)

Posted by Jo W. 6/20/2014
I honestly don't know where to begin to describe what has happened in the past week. The days have been filled with a lot of heartbreak and tears, but also a lot of love, laughs, hope, and inspiration. It has been a tough time, but I am glad to say that my team, Team Portland, is going to be okay. Or as we like to say, "4K OK".

Today is day 20, a week after my 4K team experienced a terrible tragedy and a huge loss. If you haven't already heard on the news, Jamie Roberts was hit by a car on the side of the road in Kentucky on Friday, June 13th. It was a freak accident and so sudden. Another teammate was standing right next to her, and walked away with non life-threatening injuries.

The following few days were so tough. In the middle of the worst case scenario, being together as a team was the best possible way to get through it. Everyone was so supportive of each other and there were a lot of massive group hugs full of tears and laughter. We were also surrounded by family and friends whose love and support really helped make things better. The tragedy hit our team hard, but we are slowly healing together.

This was the first time I had lost someone that was close to me. I had known Jamie for only the first two weeks of the 4K, but when you are cycling across the country, time seems to stretch out. Two weeks honestly felt like at least a month; our whole team got to know each other pretty quickly. I am grateful for having the privilege of knowing Jamie for this short time, though I am sad that I won't get to know her better. Jamie was such a joyful and warm person; I honestly don't remember ever seeing her without a smile on her face.

As a team, we have decided to bring her bike to Portland, OR. Jamie has touched everyone in a special way, and we all carry a piece of her with us. We are taking turns riding her bike each day, so that she can finish the ride to Portland. Getting back on the bike after the incident took a lot of courage, but I think we are all the more stronger and determined to keep on riding for Jamie. We will get to Portland, and Jamie will definitely be with us the entire way.

Today, we observed the time that Jamie left this earth a week ago with a moment of silence. Our team stopped under a large tree in the middle of the countryside, with fields of corn and soy stretching as far as the eye could see. As we gathered under that tree, holding hands in a circle and reflecting on our memories of Jamie, I could swear that she was sending us sunshine and beautiful blue skies dotted with white clouds after a morning that started with a downpour.
Posted by Jo W. in | 6/20/2014
Scenes from Day 19: Effingham, IL to Champaign, IL

Mileage: 83 miles

Cows to greet us at our first water stop

Hot and sunny day, but beautiful low-traffic roads through the countryside

I rode with Ki Young, Emily, and Chris today. Our team name was "Creamy Hydration"

The miles flew by as we chatted and played games. It was a fun day since the roads we road on were basically deserted and we could ride four across

Corn and soy was the theme for today. It seemed endless

Went out for dinner tonight at a sushi restaurant

Fried tofu with bonito flakes and dashi sauce for an appetizer, and a bowl of raw fish and veggies over rice, mixed with a hot pepper sauce. Everything was delicious.

I was craving froyo so badly. Finally got some and I was very content :)

Jun 14, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 6/14/2014
I wrote a draft of this post for Day 11 a few days ago, but haven't posted it yet, so I might as well today.

Today is Day 14 of our trip, and we are currently in Lexington, KY. The past 36 hours has been a crazy whirlwind of chaos that has rocked my team. I just can not bring myself to write about it just yet. For the next few days, my blog will be on hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time. For those of my readers who do not know what happened, I apologize for keeping you in suspense.

Tomorrow we will be in Louisville, KY for a service day.

Here's a brief recap of Day 11:

The Rotary Club in Oakwood, OH invited us to their breakfast meeting at a country club. It was a really delicious and fancy breakfast. A nice change from the usual banana and peanut butter on whatever random bread I can find.

The Rotary Club members were happy to have us and chat about what the 4K is about. A few of us presented our experiences with the trip so far, our logistics, and why we decided to do the 4K.

The president made us step out for about five minutes, and in that short time, they did a fundraiser right then and there. The handed us a wad of cash, over $580, to donate to the Ulman Cancer Fund. That was so incredible of them.

Before we left, we invited the members to join our dedication circle, where we share who we are riding for that day. A few of them asked us to ride in honor of their loved ones who were either battling cancer, beaten cancer, or succumbed to it. It was really special and emotional to have the Rotary Club members participate in our dedication circle.

We did our Team Portland cheer, and got ready to head out for the day. Before we left, though, we stopped by the Wright Brother's house, which was nearby.

I honestly don't remember much of the details of the ride; my memory isn't the best right now. It went smoothly for the most part, and a lot of it was on bike trails. It was nice to ride on traffic-free trails for a change; it is so much less stressful. 

We got to our host, the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, in Cincinnati, OH. We did some group laundry at a laundromat, which was an interesting experience since I don't remember the last time I was at a laundromat.

Where we were and going for the next few days:

6/13- Lexington, KY
6/14- Lexington, KY
6/15- Louisville, KY
6/16- Bloomington, IN

Jun 11, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 6/11/2014
Mileage: 83 miles

Day 11 went by really quickly, despite the higher mileage. The route we took was really flat, and quite a large portion was on the extensive bike trails of Ohio. It was so nice to ride on traffic-free trails for a change. It is much less stressful. 

A highlight of the day was stopping at a bank for ice pops. A lady was standing by the side of the rode with a "free popscicles"  sign and we slammed on the brakes. We chatted with the people from the bank as we ate our ice pops and told them about the cross country bike ride and how the Ulman Cancer Fund helps young adults with cancer. 

We got to the host, a high school in Oakwood, OH around 4pm. The local rotary club invited us to dinner at one of the member's houses. We had a great dinner with plenty of Dewey's pizza (so excited for it since I've had it in StL), salad, various sides, and a ton of desserts. 

One of our teammates, Peter, had his 24th birthday, so we got him a cake. It was decorated with bananas because he challenged himself to eat 24 bananas throughout the day (though thankfully he quit after about 11 bananas). 
Posted by Jo W. in | 6/11/2014
Day 10 was our first service day in Columbus, OH. We went to the Ronald McDonald House to help out. The house is a place for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It is designed to be a home away from home, and is run by mostly volunteers. 

When we arrived at the house, we got to take a tour. The house is under going an expansion that adds over 40 more rooms, making it the largest Ronald McDonalds house in the world. 

The rooms that we saw were so nice. There were fitness rooms, game rooms, a music room with fun instruments, a library, theater, and more. The house looked like a great place to stay while a family is going through a rough time when their child is sick. People process stress of illness and worry differently, and the organization does a good job to provide families with everything they would need. Some stay for 7-10 days as their children receive treatment, but some patients are long term. They are currently working on a few houses next to the building for families who stay longer. 

After taking a tour, we got to work. I helped with getting the newly built rooms ready. They were pretty dusty from all the construction, so our job was to sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, put in lampshades and lightbulbs, and polish the furniture. I ended up polishing the wooden furniture for two hours. It was pretty fun to work together, listening to music blasting from our iPhones. 

Some of us also helped with laundry, stock a food pantry, and assemble some furniture. It's amazing how the place is run mostly by volunteers. It was like a hotel. 

After about two hours of work, we were pretty exhausted and took advantage of the new Tempurpedic mattresses. I power napped for a few minutes. 

We finished at about 3, and many of us had only eaten breakfast. We were all hungry and needed something to tide us over before dinner. But before we left, we had to take a photo with Ronald McDonald. Of course. 

We were recommended to Jenis by a waitress for delicious homemade ice cream, so we decided to go there. Jenis has some really interesting ice cream flavors, including Saison with Sunflower, Cantaloupe and Suntea, and Brambleberry Crisp. I love anything yogurty, so I decided on Lemon and Blueberry Frozen Yogurt, Brambleberry Crisp, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. 

And when there is a waffle come option, I will most certainly get it. This was delicious and so worth it! 


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