Jul 23, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/23/2014
For the past few days, I've been camping in Jackson and Yellowstone, so I haven't had any service or wifi. My phone had also been off due to the lack of electricity. 

I've been enjoying the great wonders of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. I am in awe of the beauty of this place. I can seriously look at these mountains all day. 

We spent Day 52 in Yellowstone, driving around, since biking it isn't very feasible. I am cherishing every moment I have with my team, and I am so thankful for this day with them in Yellowstone. 

We had a really great time seeing Old Faithful, West Thumb, and a spectacular jade-colored waterfall. 

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy."

- Sylvia Plath

Jul 15, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/15/2014
Mileage: 79.1 miles

Today was by far the most beautiful ride of this cross country trip so far. Although it would be easier to ride west to east because of the tailwind, today I realized that going east to west is more rewarding. Now that we are really getting into the Wild West, it's been getting more beautiful by the day. It's incredible to see what Mother Nature has in store for us. 

Our ride today was a bit intimidating: about 80 miles with 4700 feet of climbing. We were going over a mountain pass in Medicine Bow National Forest, which we were told was going to be an amazing ride. And it was. 

The day started out pretty chilly as we left Laramie and headed towards the mountains. At about mile 30, we started the climb. It was about 14 miles of straight climbing, so it would take us quite some time. Lunch was originally at the summit, but it had to be moved earlier otherwise we would have eaten much later. 

I wasn't feeling too great in the beginning of the climb. Maybe due to the lack of sleep or lack of oxygen, I was feeling pretty exhausted. I usually have a lot of energy and am a strong climber, but today I was barely hanging on. As we ascended the mountain, however, I felt my energy coming back. With each turn of a switchback, we were treated to yet another breathtaking scene. We stopped by a mountain stream in the forest, which looked like a scene out of a nature documentary. My adrenaline got pumping, and by the time I reached the summit, I felt like my usual self. 

One of the highlights, other than summiting a 11,000 foot mountain, was spotting a moose! I threw down my bike and grabbed my GoPro and phone to take pictures on top of a snow bank. I wanted to get closer, but was a bit afraid to. 

Shortly after spotting the moose, we summited and were treated to the cheers and screams of my teammates. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive and cohesive team. Seriously, Team Portland 2014 is the best. 

We spent a lot of time exploring the summit and taking a lot of photos. I wanted to get closer to the snow capped mountains in the distance, so I took off running towards them through a meadow full of wildflowers. It was beautiful. 

What's awesome about summiting a mountain is the descent! I was really looking forward to flying down the mountain after climbing for so long. It was a really rewarding descent

The cherry on top of this perfect day was arriving at a great host in Saratoga. Most of the team had home stays, and Ashley, Caitlyn, and I got to stay with Diane and Randy in their beautiful home. We were first fed a delicious dinner at their church, and then Diane drove us around the small town to give us a tour. Saratoga has mineral hot springs, so we checked that out and decided to go there the next morning. 

Home stays are always much appreciated, especially after so many days on the road. It's nice to have the comforts of a home away from home, and we felt very welcomed. We settled in, showered, did laundry, and just relaxed. 

It's been a long time since I've slept on a real bed, and the bed I slept in that night was pillow-soft and so comfortable. I had a much-needed good night of rest, and woke up "late", around 7am. There was coffee waiting for me in the kitchen, and I poured myself a mug and enjoyed it on the large front porch with a great view of the mountains. 

Diane joined Caitlyn and I on the porch and told us her story. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer about a year ago and had a very tough battle. When the doctors thought they got most of it out, the cancer spread to her breast. Although Diane is a lot better, she is not completely cancer-free and her doctors are managing it with chemo treatments every two weeks. She told us about all the support she had from her family and the small community of Saratoga. Although Diane was very sick, I had no idea about her battle with cancer until she shared her story. Diane is an incredibly strong and inspirational woman, and refused to let cancer define her. I felt so grateful to have had met Diane and heard her story. 
Posted by Jo W. in | 7/15/2014
Mileage: 42 miles

Sorry about the lack of blog posts lately. And the fact that they are all out of order. I am currently in Wyoming and cell phone service and wifi has been very spotty. I'll try to post photos and quick recaps of the days that I've missed. 

Day 43 was short, with one big climb into Medicine Bow National Forest. 

Shortly after taking this picture, I saw a huge rock formation and immediately wanted to climb it. A few of my teammates and I decided to go. 

Climbing up the rock formation was so much fun! I'm like a mountain goat and just scrambled straight up the rock. The views from the top were amazing!

We enjoyed the views for a while and explored the rock formation.

Best detour ever!

We got to the host in Laramie, took showers, and had a home cooked dinner provided by the host. After dinner, I had some free time and enjoyed the sunset with the mountains in the background. More mountains and climbing soon!

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/15/2014
Mileage: 61.75 miles

We are in another state: Wyoming! 

On Day 42, my ride group was with Max, Chris, and Helen. We also have a few 4K alum with us for a couple of days, so V joined our ride group. After the next water stop, we traded him for Bradley, another alum. 

Today, we went across the Great Plains of Colorado, and then crossed the border into Wyoming. Without trees, the wind really picks up across the plains. The headwind was pretty brutal and I felt that I was exerting a lot of energy to bike not so fast. The route was also a steady climb up to Cheyenne, so with the wind and hills, I felt like I was crawling.

Although the winds were sucky, the views were gorgeous. The sky was so blue and the prairie grasses were dotted with yellow flowers. There were also rolling hills and rock formations in the distance. Sometimes I forget to look up when I am focused on the wheel in front of me in a paceline, but I soaked in the scenery and enjoyed the moment, trying to forget about the wind and my fatigue.

Getting to the state line was up a hill, but when I saw it, I got a burst of energy and charged up. We took the usual bike photo, and of course I had to climb it. 

Yay Wyoming! I am so excited to be here and I am looking forward to even more beautiful landscapes as I cycle across this wild and wondrous state.

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/15/2014
Mileage: 47.68

My team had a great time in Boulder during our rest day and were reluctant to leave. Team San Francisco was in Boulder with us, so we got to hang out with them. In the morning before we headed in different directions, they came to our host church to do dedication circle together. We stood in a large circle, about 56 riders and each shared who we were riding for. We then took turns doing our team cheer. Every team does their cheer differently, and it's fun to watch the creative variations of the 4K cheer. 

4K alumni also met up with us in Boulder and were joining us for a couple of days. Some rode with us, while others rode in the support vans to cheer us on. I got to ride with an alum, Chelsea, who is also from Montgomery County, MD. She had just moved to Boulder, which I am so jealous of! After being in Boulder for only two days, I already know that it is somewhere that I would love to live. 

We had a short riding day, and since we couldn't get into our host in Fort Collins until 4pm, we took our time. It was National Slurpee Day, which meant free Slurpees at 7-11. We stopped by one near our first water stop. 

For lunch, we stopped by a cool sculpture park. Since we had plenty of time, we just hung out for a few hours there. 

After eating, I walked around to look at the sculptures. Some were very whimsical. 

We got into Fort Collins around 3pm. Fort Collins is an interesting college town, and their main street is full of restaurants, shops, and bars. The host didn't provide us dinner, so we were on our own. I enjoy going out to eat and trying local food in different cities, so I didn't mind. For dinner, I was on a mission to try Beau Jo's, a pizza place that I heard about on the Travel Channel. They specialize in "mountain pies", which are ridiculously large pizzas with a ridiculously large braided crust. These pizzas are hefty! Perfect after a day of cycling.

Beau Jo's has a "14er" pizza eating challenge: two people have to finish a 14 pound pie in under an hour. The reward is free pizza, $100, t-shirts, and your name on the wall. I joked about doing the challenge and even considered it seriously for half a second. But 7 pounds of pizza would most likely kill me. I split a 3 pound pizza with Chris, and we didn't even finish all of it. We each had a slice for breakfast and some odd ends of the huge crust. 

Jul 11, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/11/2014
I am currently at a laundromat in Fort Collins, CO waiting for my laundry, so I have some spare time to blog. I will try my best back track on the days that I missed. (Actually, I started writing this at the laundromat and didn't finish until today, oops)

I spent Fourth of July in Arapahoe, NE. I had heard about Arapahoe, with a population of approximately 1,000, since the start of the trip. I was really looking forward to spending the Fourth in the small town. We arrived on July 3rd around mid-afternoon, since it was a short day. Some teammates got homestays, but I stayed at the Hunt Lodge. It was pretty neat; I shared a hotel room with Emily Lake and Jocelyn. There was also a game room, lounge, hot tub, laundry, and wifi.

Later that day, the hosts at the Hunt Lodge took everyone to go shooting at a shooting club. They taught us how to hold the shot guns, and we took turns shooting clay pigeons. I've shot a gun before, but at a stationary target. Trying to hit a small target flying through the air is really hard! I got 15 shells, and I got two. Some people were really good at it, but I was just glad that I hit one.

On the Fourth, I woke up early to run a 5K Fun Run. I thought it would be a great way to meet some of the locals and see the town. The registration was $15, which would go to help the women's basketball team. The run was great, though I kind of felt like I was out of running shape.

Later in the morning, we headed to the main street to watch the parade. Candy was being thrown from the floats, and all the kids ran into the street to pick up candy. There were a lot of tractors in the parade, which is typical of Nebraska, I guess. 

After the parade, we headed towards the park where there were food vendors. I got a runza, which is apparently a Nebraska thing. It was like a bun filled with beef and cabbage. I also got some homemade peaches and cream ice cream.

In the evening, we were invited to a cookout at the mayor's house. A lot of people from the community came to meet us. It was great to chat with them, and they served us delicous grilled chicken, hot dogs, various sides, and loads of dessert. 

One of the host families owned horses and were kind enough to let us ride them. We all took turns riding the horses. I really enjoyed it!

When the sun set, we went to the baseball field to watch the fireworks display. It was a decent show, but the real show started afterwards. Nebraska sells fireworks only for the Fourth, so people go all out. There were fireworks being set off everywhere it was crazy! These weren't the tiny wimpy fireworks that don't leave the ground. They shot up hundreds of feet into the air and exploded with a huge boom. And these were going off every few blocks or so in the town. I had an amazing time in Arapahoe, and this day will stand out to me for years to come as the best Fourth of July ever. I didn't want the day to end and stayed up until 2am, even though I had to get up at 5:15 and ride 90+ miles the next day. YOLO!
Posted by Jo W. in | 7/11/2014
Greetings from Colorado! We got to this beautiful state on day 36 from Benkelman, NE to Yuma, CO. Today was a rest day in Boulder, CO and it was a fantastic day. Boulder was one of the cities that I was most looking forward to visiting, especially since I had never been here before. Boulder seems like the ideal city for me; bike friendly, outdoorsy people, mountains, nature, local food and beer. I seriously might consider living here one day.

I started the day with a macchiato from Fior di Latte. I heard that they had really good coffee and gelato, and it didn't disappoint. I ordered it with house-made almond milk, which foamed up perfectly.

For breakfast, I decided on a breakfast cafe called Snooze. I was really craving pancakes and omelets, and that's exactly what I ordered. Everything was delicious.

The one thing I really wanted to do in Boulder was to go mountain biking, so I had to make it happen. I noticed a ton of people here who have mountain bikes, and I knew there must be some fantastic trails nearby.

Max and I went to Full Cycle bike shop to rent a hardtail mountain bike and asked them about trails that are within biking distance. They directed us to a canyon loop trail, which was pretty accessible by bike.

Even before we got to the single track, the path to the trailhead was gorgeous. It ran parallel to a creek, with the mountains on both sides.

The trail was pretty tough, which was very steep sections that I had to walk my bike up. I had never mountain bike with clip less pedals, so it was a bit challenging to get used to them on the difficult terrain. I was also really feeling the elevation, and got winded after climbing a bit. I felt so out of shape, but I hope it was just due to the lack of oxygen.

It was about 6 miles of paths and trails to get to the canyon loop, which was 3.3 miles. It felt amazing to go down some of the descents with big bumps in the path that I could jump off of. Max and I had a blast and soaked in the amazing view.

On the way back, we decided to climb a huge rock formation next to the bike path. We got to the very top and had a great view of the canyon. 

Tomorrow, we are going to Fort Collins, CO. Sorry about the lack of blog posts lately. I have been enjoying my time at the host cities and exploring, so I rarely have any down time. I will try to post some of the days that I missed.

Jul 4, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/04/2014
Day 32 was a century day (100 miles), but I had van duty with Chelsea. I was a bit bummed that I was missing out on a century day, especially since the weather was gorgeous. Chilly in the morning and high in the 70's. The last century we did was not so pleasant. 

I was in the food van, again, which meant that I would be going around grocery stores and restaurants to get food donations for the team for their lunch. Coming out of Fairbury, there were few towns scattered between. Many of the towns we tried to get donations from had populations of less than 1000. We tried a few places, including a grocery store and a Subway with no luck. 

We finally got a "yes" at a train-themed pizza restaurant. The manager gave us a box of frozen orange juice, and then a table of men drinking their coffee gave us a bit of cash. The $13 we got was enough for two pizzas. 

Next, we tried a "larger" town called Superior. We really needed to find some good lunch food at this point, since frozen OJ and two pizzas was not enough. At the grocery store, the manager was very generous and gave us $50. He even called up a friend (who owned a bike shop!), who donated another $30. We were able to buy a lot of good food for lunch :)

In the same town, we got more food donations at a cafe and Dairy Queen. The DQ was generous enough to provide us with enough sundaes for everyone! We just had to pick them up close to lunch time. 

Since we got really lucky in Superior, Chelsea and I had some time to kill. We ended up playing in a park, which had a tank! Of course we had to take a tank selfie. 

Haha we are so silly. 

After delivering lunch to the team, we headed to the host to drop off everyone's luggage. It's a lot of work to unload all the heavy duffels and backpacks! After that was done, I found a room with a bean bag and took a two hour nap. It felt amazing. 

The team started to arrive around 5pm, and we went outside to cheer them in. Dinner was a potluck with the community, so there was a ton of great food and great company. Nebraska has been good to us so far!

Jul 2, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/02/2014
Mileage: 50.5

My stay in Omaha, NE was my favorite on this trip so far. We had our first homestay and were hosted by a few families of a church community. The team was divided among the families to stay in their homes. It was the first time our group has split up since the beginning of the trip, so it was kind of weird to not all be together.

Emily Lake and I were hosted by Liz and RJ Neary. They picked us up from the church and drove us to their house. We met their daughter, Nora, and their two labs, Sailor and Cadence. After we settled in, Liz and Nora took us to the pool at their country club. It was so refreshing to jump in a pool after days of sitting in buses and vans. For dinner, we went to Nora's aunt's house to have dinner with four other teammates. It was great to have a home cooked meal and relax in their basement watching Game of Thrones on comfy couches.

Staying in the Neary's home was very nice and relaxing. We felt so welcomed, had our own beds, and woke up to a nice breakfast made by RJ. In the morning, Liz and RJ drove us back to the church, where we met the rest of the team. All the host parents were there to send us off and join us in our morning dedication circle. A few of them even rode the first few miles to show us a route on a bike path. Liz ended up riding to our first water stop at about mile 17! That was pretty impressive, considering she had only recently started road cycling.

My ride group for the day was with Emily Lipsitz, Chelsea, and Ki Young. The first water stop was at a park with a lake and a playground. Of course if there is a playground, we must play on it! We so silly.

A few miles after the first water stop, we turned onto a busy road that did not feel safe. At the earliest opportunity, we pulled off into a driveway and called the van to reroute us. We ended up getting picked up and driven to the lunch stop, which was back on the route and on a safer road with a wide shoulder. It was a good call, because being on the original route was just not safe.

At the last water stop at a gas station, a lady saw our van and came over to us to ask what we were doing. She is an advocate for fighting cancer, so she was curious whenever she sees anything related to cancer. Apparently, her sister is a reporter, so when she found out that we were biking across the country to fight cancer, she ran back into her car to get her sister to interview us. We gladly did so, and took a photo. We will be in next week's local newspaper of Waverly, NE!

The host in Omaha was a church on the University of Nebraska- Lincoln campus. After showering, I explored campus a little, went to a bookstore and a thrift shop. We had a great home cooked dinner at the host. Later at night, we walked around the college town and went to a bar for live music. There's a surprisingly large music scene in Lincoln. 

Posted by Jo W. in | 7/02/2014
Mileage: 70.03 miles

Today seemed like a relatively short day. We had about 70 miles to ride, which seems short after having done over 100 miles. My riding group for the day was with Emily Lipsitz, Katie, and Helen. The farther out west we go, the simpler the route becomes. We basically stay on the same road for the whole day, which makes things a lot simpler. We are notorious for getting lost, so it's nice to only have 9 turns over the course of the day.

The downside to staying on the same route for miles on end is that it gets a bit boring. Nebraska has some "hills", by which I mean ever so slightly uphill, followed by a flat stretch. There were also some pretty strong headwinds, since we were heading southwest. It was pretty tough, and at one point we were crawling at 8 mph. Not very fun.

Even though our team was slowly plodding along, we didn't have any flats or other mechanical issues and were making good time. We passed the time by playing some games and listening to music from Katie's speakers. I wish I had some speakers for my bike (hint hint, next mail drops are in Arapahoe and Boulder).

At around 3pm, we made it to our host, a Lutheran church, in Fairbury, NE. I had time to shower, hand wash some clothes, and blog. A few people from the congregation came to serve us dinner and eat with us. They made us a lot of delicious casseroles, salads, pasta and meatballs, and a variety of desserts. There is never a lack of dessert on this trip!

After dinner, a group of us decided to make the 15ish minute drive to the Kansas border, just for fun. We took a bunch of photos with the state signs.

Van duty tomorrow, so I will be asking for food donations all day with Chelsea. I am a bit bummed that I won't be riding since we are doing another century (100 miles). Oh well, there will be more.


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