Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 40 - Getting "Vanned" and Climbing Another Pass

Colorful Colorado!!

Yesterday, Austin, Marcus, Dan, and I were a mile away from the host when we saw lightning. We were so close to the host site so we decided to continue even though Bike and Build rules say that you need to pull over when you see lightning. Because we broke the rules, we had to be "vanned" until first lunch, which means you ride in the support van for the number of miles until lunch. At first, we were all pretty bummed because today was our longest day of the summer: 116 miles. But we made the best of it and had fun with a few people who have been riding in the van a lot due to various ailments. 

The can crew today!

After we arrived at first lunch at about mile 40, we ate some PB&J and hit the road. We had another mountain climb coming up and we didn't want to get caught in a storm on the pass. After climbing some foothills, we headed down a long, beautiful stretch with a slight tailwind behind us. We averaged 20 mph during that 20 mile stretch. We were flying!!  Dan looked down at his speedometer, "26-28 mph?? That's how fast the peleton goes!" he said referring to the Tour de France. Our route paralleled the beautiful mountains which were almost unreal they were so gorgeous. 

Our view from the road. 

We had a 12 mile climb after that which was not as bad as the climb we had the day before. The grades were less steep even though the altitude was about just as much. The air seemed easier to breath today which hopefully means I am becoming better acclimated. 

The descent was awesome as usual. It wasn't as technical or as fast as the descent yesterday but we passed by beautiful rock formations as we flew down the mountain. I wish I could have taken pictures but that is one thing that you have to see in person to really understand. 

We pounded out 27 more miles after the descent after taking a long break for lunch. We sat in the shade of this restaurant that was closed and people kept come up to us and asking about where they could get some food. I guess we looked like locals, but I'm not sure how because we all had on our matching bike kits and our weird tan lines which are not really typical around these parts!

Tonight, we walked to downtown Pueblo and sat in a sports bar and watched the Tour de France. For some reason, even though we've been biking all summer, it was still awesome to watch the Tour on television. "We definitely look that legit," we said as we watched the peleton race across through the streets. 

Well that is all for today! Tomorrow we have a short 50 mile day into Colorado Springs and then we spend a week there building a house with Pike's Peak Habitat or Humanity! It will be so weird to spend a week off the bike!!! I can't believe it's July 1st tomorrow. I never want this trip to end. 

Our lunch spot today

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 39 - Our First Taste of the Rockies and the Apocalypse

Part of the team after the beginning of today's ride

With the intimidating snow-capped Rockies looming in the distance, we packed our bags and headed out from Trinidad with our destination city, Walsenburg, on our minds. The road we were traveling on was called the "Road of Legends" and we joked that they had named the road after us. The scenery was stunning and we cruised up and down the foot hills all while getting closer and closer to the huge mountains in the distance. 

Headed towards the Rockies!

Before long, they were upon us and we began our climb up through Cuchara Pass. It was a difficult climb. We started at about 6,000ish feet and by the time we'd reached 7,500 feet, it was getting hard to breathe. I panted, unable to catch my breath as easily as I usually can. The lactic acid built up in my legs faster than normal. Climbing in altitude is definitely a challenge. I was in my "granny gear" quite a bit. 

We reached lunch around mile 40. The lunch spot was at a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by pine forest. It was freezing, but Eliza, Emma, and me went for a swim anyways! It was very refreshing! 

Eliza, Emma, and Melanie

After lunch, we had about 10 more difficult miles of climbing. I was riding with Marcus, Austin, and Dan and they lead the way as we pushed up the pass. We took several breaks to catch our breath but not for long because a thunderstorm was threatening. 

We passed a lake with the bluest water I had ever seen!!

Finally, after one last push up a steep grade, we made it to the top! The altitude was 9,995 feet and the air was thin!

The summit!

We didn't spend too much time at the top though because it was starting to sprinkle and we didn't want to have rain ruin our 15 mile descent. It was great to see the downhill truck sign after climbing for so long. The descent was indescribable. The trees whizzed by as we flew down the side of the mountain at 40 mph. The descent was somewhat technical and we had to navigate several tight turns. I could barely believe my eyes as I looked out into beautiful valleys surrounded by mountains shrouded in clouds. Those 15 miles flew by and we stopped in town at the base of the mountain for celebratory ice cream cones. 

We for into the host site quickly after that. We only had 17 miles and a tailwind carried us in. We looked warily at the mountains we had come from and saw that storm clouds seemed to have overtaken them. We were concerned about our teammates still on the mountains. 

We got in and took showers and lasted heard horror stories about the stormy conditions on the mountain. My friend Nyx described apocalyptic conditions with freakishly strong cross winds and hail that left welts on their arms. Steam rolled up the road as cold rain hit the warm mountain and caused their brakes to slip. Their descent was not nearly as enjoyable as ours as it was difficult for the to stay in control of their bikes. But everyone made it thankfully!!

There are lots of wildfires in Colorado and a lot of the culture around here circulates around fire fighters and the fires they out out. Please pray for rain in Colorado to prevent the destruction of even more homes!

Long day tomorrow! I'm hitting the thermarest!
Marcus, Dan, and me after our descent!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 38 - Day Off in Trinidad, CO

Today was our third day off out of a total of four we had this summer. It was a gorgeous morning. I woke up around 8 am after a sound sleep and went for a short run. I was a little nervous that the altitude might affect me, but it didn't seem to have any adverse effects on me as I jogged around the neighborhood. I spoke briefly with a maintenance worker and he was nervous about a small fire up on a mountain sparked by the lightning last night. I looked toward the peak of the mountain and saw a small plume of smoke rising. It would be scary to have to worry about wildfires where you live!

After my run, a bunch of my teammates wanted to go out to breakfast so I joined them and we walked downtown to a local cafe. I had the French toast and it was great! Trinidad is an awesome little town with a lot of western history! I really like the Old West and I liked to visit all the little shops and museums they had downtown. 

Then we walked back to the host site and swam in the pool for a while and relaxed. It is great to have nothing to do in particular! I wrote a bunch of postcards and then walked back downtown for dinner and to check out an art festival that was going on. It was a really great atmosphere!

Cowboy merchandise

Ice cream spaghetti made with vanilla ice cream "noodles," homemade red raspberry "marinara sauce," cookie "meatballs," and topped with white chocolate "Parmesan cheese."

We finished off the night with an intense game of volleyball! I love just hanging out with my teammates and enjoying be day together.

Tomorrow, we have an 88 mile ride into Walsenburg, CO. It should be a hilly one as we get into the foothills of the Rockies!  4:30 wake up call so I am getting to bed! Goodnight!

"Lizard King" art car at the art festival

Day 37 - Is This Real Life?

Des Moines sunrise

The alarm sounded at 4:30 this morning, the earliest wake up so far. The sun rises early in New Mexico and we wanted to be able to leave as soon as possible in the morning to beat the heat. It was supposed to be 100 degrees today, and we had 75 miles to cover. 

At 5:30, the sun rose, glowing a fiery red and bathing the earth in a golden light. It was a beautiful sunrise and the beauty seemed like a good omen as we mounted our bikes and rolled out. We were headed across the Colorado state line, and as much as we all loved New Mexico and wish we could have spent more time in it, we were even more excited for Colorado. 

I rode in a large group headed by Melanie and followed by Eliza, Emma, Brian, Ethan, and Marcus. We took pictures of the rising sun as we raced our way down empty highways. It was already a magical morning. 

Soon, the road unexpectedly started to descend. As we glided down the road, rock formations and mountains rose up on either side of us, some lit with golden light, others shrouded in shadows. I cannot describe the elation we felt descending into that canyon after days of difficult riding conditions and broken down spirits. The landscape raced by as we coasted in the valley, simply awestruck by the beauty of everything. The canyon echoed with our shouts of joy. "I can't believe this!" cried Melanie with a huge smile on her face as she passed me. My heart felt as though it might beat out if my chest. Never have I ever felt so content on a bicycle. Riding into that canyon with so many amazing people is an experience that I will never forget.

Our pace line descending, pictures do not do this moment justice 

Just when I was convinced that the ride could not get more beautiful, we startled a herd of about 10 pronghorns grazing near the road. They raised their heads and began to run, effortlessly keeping our pace, dashing across the road right in front of our group before bounding gracefully over a fence. We could barely believe our eyes. A mile or so later, two white horses saw us riding and began to lope alongside of us. "Is this a dream, or is this real life?" I asked my group, close to tears.

Soon, our descent came an end and we climbed up and out of the canyon, leaving it behind as we pedaled toward Colorado. We saw the state sign in no time and took celebratory pictures. "We biked here!! All the way to Colorado!" exclaimed Eliza. It really hit me how far we've come since we started a little over a month ago. 

Colorful Colorado, finally!!

We had a tailwind into lunch where we started to experience the climate of Colorado before the mountains. Much of Colorado really isn't very scenic. There were no trees, nor cloud cover, and it was starting to get hot. 

After lunch, Marcus and I took off across the Colorado desert. We had a slight headwind/crosswind which slowed our pace but it wasn't too bad. About 20 miles after lunch, the sun started to get really hot and Marcus and I started looking desperately for shade to cool our heads. We found one lonely cottonwood alongside the road and parked underneath it. We were in no hurry so we took a nap on the side of the road in the shade. The sound of the leaves blowing and the warm air put us right to sleep. 

Marcus chilling out in the shade 

We napped for about a half hour and then continued on after meeting up with another group of sun weary riders. Along the way, we surpassed the 2,000 mile mark in our journey. 2,265 more miles to go! We felt better after resting and rolled into Trinidad, Colorado pretty easily. We stopped once to take a picture with a mountain lion statue. 

It was so hot I had to dump water on it so my legs didn't burn off! Worth it. 

A pool was waiting for us as the host site. We looked out of place with our bike shorts and our weird tan lines. Some kids were making fun of us but we didn't care because we were just so happy to be there. Tomorrow is a day off and I don't plan on moving very far from the pool!

The highs and lows on this trip are incredible. Some days, it is a struggle to wake up and get on the bike. Your body is sore, your mind is weary, and all you want to do is sleep in past 5:30. But some days, there is nothing more that I would want to do than ride my bike and experience the landscape and the people of the United States firsthand and with no filter. The difficult days are canceled out by the days of pure joy and I am still blown away that I have had the opportunity to serve my country while exploring the hills and valleys by bicycle. 

Marcus riding toward Trinidad. Look at how barren the landscape is!

Thank you all again for your support! This trip would not be possible without our family and friends back home and of course out donors. I forgot to mention that the Wiley family sponsored my ride into Spearman, TX! Thank you so much!! Love from Trinidad!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 36 - We Love New Mexico!!!!

Just keep riding west!

After the last three days, the team was feeling pretty beat down by the wind, heat, and lack of scenery and ready to get the heck out of Texas. We couldn't handle the pan handle for any longer. This morning, although the winds were surprisingly calm at 5 this morning, the cross winds picked up as soon as we got on the road. For the first 40 miles, we had an imposing cross wind, although definitely not as strong as it was yesterday. We were riding around 14-15 mph which isn't fast but it was double the speed of what we could do yesterday. Finally, we hit the state line and celebrated!!

Eliza was so done with Texas that once she crossed the state line, she refused to cross back over into Texas even to just take a picture. She stayed on the New Mexico side for the photos. New Mexico really is the land of enchantment because only 5ish miles after we crossed e state line, the winds died down and even pushed us forward and the landscape changed into beautiful but sparse  mountains. It was exactly as I had pictured New Mexico to be!

Marcus, Eliza, Rae, and Cindy leading the pack across the state line

Marcus pedaling west, riding on a tail wind. Look at that mountain!

We were shredding so fast that we beat the van to second lunch and just decided to keep riding. We had food on us so that tided us over until we got to Des Moines but the biggest issue was that we were running out of water and there was nothing around for miles. We stopped at a random person's house to fill up with their backyard faucet. 

 Mmmm New Mexico water!

We cruised into town really early because we were riding fast plus we gained an hour coming through the Mountain time zone wormhole. Josh, Marcus, and I stopped at the only restaurant in town, a little Mexican diner. We chatted with some locals who were also involved in affordable housing organizations. We ate some delicious food which we needed after a 92 mile day and bought postcards. After we were finished, we went to pay our bill only to find out that the people sitting near us had paid it for us!!! What an amazing and kind thing to do! It definitely made our day even better!

Marcus and me at the diner

To top off the day, we had an icy hose shower with a beautiful backdrop waiting for us at the host. Tonight, dinner is not provided for us, so dinner crew is making stir fry which should be delicious. I am downstairs blogging with the sounds of snoring around me and the sounds of people chatting and Dan playing guitar upstairs. It was definitely a much-needed, perfect Bike and Build day! I am going to go join the party now. Thanks for reading and thank you for your prayers of tailwind!!! They really came through for us today!

Our hose shower against an amazing New Mexico backdrop

One more update! Sorry I couldn't publish last night, my phone had no service. But last night we walked to a big hill to watch the sunset and it was gorgeous. I'd love to return to New Mexico one day!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 35 - Grinding Away into Dalhart, TX

The days get harder and harder as our bodies get sorer and sorer. Texas has not been treating us well. After two days of intense crosswind, today we were treated to 86 miles of straight headwind. The first part of the day we were able to travel between 11 and 13 mph but by the end of the day, 8 mph was all we could muster. It took us more than 3 hours to compete the last, mind-numbing 30 mile stretch. 

This trip would be impossible without my teammates. This morning, I rode with Eliza and we chatted for the first 50 miles, distracting each other as the miles crawled by. There wasn't much to look at, just lots of wide open space broken occasionally by an oil well or a factory farm. There was one pretty scene this morning as we descended into a valley. Rocks rose up in either side of us and the land went on farther than the eye could see. It is amazing how vast the land stretches. 

At mile 51, there was a Dairy Queen that was treating everyone to free ice cream!!!! It was our saving grace today because it was roasting hot on the road. I had a s'mores blizzard which was so delicious I almost cried. Eliza had a Butterfingers blizzard. 

After that, we just put our heads down and grinded out the last 30 some miles by sheer willpower. The heat was so dry that my mouth felt like sandpaper no matter how much water and Gatorade I downed. I heard that it was 112 degrees on the road today, but luckily the wind took some bite out of the heat and there was a little cloud cover. I turned my computer upside down to avoid watching the miles accumulate so slowly. JD, Curtis, and I formed the slowest pace line ever but we managed to keep it together and I could barely believe it when we rolled into Dalhart. These last three days have been the toughest I've ever experienced. Our minds and bodies are worn down but we are determined to keep going. Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling. 

We have learned so much about ourselves and our limits on this trip. It amazes me how much the human body and soul can do. Every person on this trip is driven by their passion to serve others and sometimes, that is the only thing we have to carry us from one city to another. Thank you all so much for your support, especially during these tough days. It is hard but we know that we can do it!!!

92 mile day tomorrow into New Mexico! The team cannot wait to leave Texas. A new state should definitely boost the team morale!

Well, I've just finished using the "Stick" to help stretch my sore quads and it is about time to hit the thermarest. Pray that there is a tailwind tomorrow! Goodnight all!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 34 - Gravel, Schmavel

Oklahoma sunrise!

Shout out to Sarah for titling my blog for me! The destination today was Spearman, TX, a tiny town with a windmill theme. The SC2SC alumni warned us that today's ride would be the toughest of the summer due to traditionally windy ad got weather. We were a little nervous, but we set off at a confident pace. The sunrise was absolutely gorgeous over the Plaines and we stopped a few times to take pictures. I have never seen such a pretty sunrise before. 

Unfortunately, we hadn't even gotten to mile 5 before we spotted lightning and were forced to pull over and wait out the storm. There wasn't much cover so we just sat in a ditch. We joked that we could maybe take shelter underneath some grass in case the storm got bad. We took turns screaming and cowering underneath whatever weeds we could find just to make each other laugh. It wasn't long before the storm passed and we got back on our bikes, but we had been delays for at least 45 minutes, which isn't good on a 96 mile day in Texas. 

A bunch of us waiting out the storm

The crosswinds were already blowing strong by the time we reached the state line at mile 15. We took a lot of pictures and a few people even climbed up the sign! It was so much fun and a great excuse to get off the bike for a few minutes. 


Ethan and Curtis enjoying the view from the top of the sign (yes, I had to climb it!)

We battled the cross winds and everyone was still feeling pretty good by first lunch. The terrain had changed again from rolling pasture to arid chaparral. Rangelands stretched as far as the eye could see dotted with cattle. The cows around here are very skittish and will take off in a stampede as soon as your get to close. It's kind of fun watching them run in a big herd. 

The first obstacle of the day was a gravel road. Riding on gravel is tricky on a road bike because the tires are so skinny that every rock sends you in a different direction. It is also difficult because road bikes don't have any suspension so you feel every single bump in the road with your hands and butt. We biked down this gravel road for 7 miles, over cattle guards and into extremely strong headwinds.
It took us an hour because we could only go about 7 mph. The gravel road winded through cattle pasture and went uphill several times. I was riding with Emma and her and I laughed out of the absurdity of the situation. Why???? We kept asking each other. One time, we were stopped by a farmhand who asked where we were going. Neither of us could remember the town we were headed to. "We don't know! All we know is we have to keep pedaling!" 

Josh coming over a cattle guard. 

Eventually, we got back on a real road and it was the smoothest road I have ever ridden on. There was a downhill and I went a blissful 42 mph without even trying. It was a such a relief for my body after the harsh gravel road. We had second lunch and the weather was now really starting to get hot. The winds had not died down. 

After lunch, we only had 27 more miles to go. "We can do this! Lets crush these next miles!" Eliza, Emma, and I said as we rolled out. However, it wasn't a mile before we turned onto an even more brutal gravel road than before. Deep, loose gravel covered the road and we gripped our handlebars tightly to stay in control. The crosswinds made it impossible to hold our bikes straight and every time we got blown too far to the shoulder, the gravel would shift and threaten to throw us off our bikes. "Oh no no no no!" said Eliza as she fish tailed, trying to find a place on the road with the shallowest cover of gravel. It takes so much concentration to navigate a bike in such conditions. We were soon mentally and physically exhausted. But we couldn't give up! We joked and laughed until we almost fell off our bikes. Eliza started belting our the Star-Spangled Banner (which is now everyone's favorite song to sing in adverse conditions.) we also channeled some Celine Dion with a rendition of "My Heart Will Go On." After 6 miles of relentless wind and struggling to keep my bike upright, my wrists were about ready to snap. All I wanted to do was let go of my handlebars for a second's rest but I couldn't without risk of losing control of my bike. But the end was near! Up ahead was a paved road!!!

Battling the gravel!

We met up with Ethan and Curtis after the gravel was done. We complained about the gravel and then looked at the road ahead. "Let's shred these last 20 miles!" said Eliza. So for the next hour and a half, we worked together in a pace line to pull everyone home. The wind pushed against us the entire way and our bodies had had enough. The sun beat down on us as we struggled to hold pace at 13 mph. Signs directed us to Spearman and we followed them wearily. I had to turn my cycling computer upside down to avoid checking the mileage every half mile. 

Finally, we limped into town and found the church we were staying at. We looked at each other, laughed, and then fell asleep on the floor for a while. The hosts here are amazing. They fed us we and even took us to a local pool to cool off and go swimming. It was so refreshing!!

Today's ride was probably the most physically and mentally taxing thing I have ever accomplished. I am so proud of my team that we all supported each other and rode in strong. Lots of people fell on the gravel today and got right back on their bikes to continue pushing on. It is amazing the determination and perseverance of the people on this trip!  I love them all so much.

Tomorrow is a new day. I've got to get some sleep. Thank you all for reading! Goodnight!

Rachel coming up a hill out of Oklahoma

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 33 - The Answer My Friend is Blowin' in the Wind

86 miles from Watonga to Arnett (still Oklahoma)

Our wake up call came at 4:45 this morning, just another Bike and Build morning. However, when we went outside to put our luggage by the trailer, we noticed a strange thing: though it was only 5:00 in the morning, the wind was already blowing strongly. As my friend
Eliza put it, that is not a good sign for how the wind is going to be that day. It is really amazing how windy it is here in Oklahoma. Amazing, but awful when you're a cyclist. Austin, with his arms crossed facing the wind this morning coined it perfectly: "Oklahoma, I hate you. But goshdarnit I respect you."

With that, we set off. Today we had three turns, one out of the host site, one onto a road for 38 miles, and one turn onto a road for 47 miles. We had an awesome tailwind for the first 38 miles. I rode with Marcus, Eliza, and Melanie. We rode two abreast in two rows. Eliza and Marcus were leading and we had to keep entering the road as the shoulder narrowed and widened periodically, crossing a brutal rumble strip whenever we entered the road. At one point, Marcus and Eliza got confused on how to navigate a narrowing shoulder. Marcus pulled onto a rumble strip to try and give Eliza more room while Eliza moved over into a gravelly gutter to give Marcus more room. They both looked at each other, both expecting the other to make a move.
"What are you doing???" yelled Eliza. 
"I-I-I-I-I d-d-d-don't k-k-k-k-know," stammered Marcus from the rumble strip. 
"Get back up here right this instant!" I shouted to Eliza who was still skidding around in the gravel. We finally got it sorted out but it the situation was so ridiculous and funny that we laughed about it for a mile. 

Eliza and Marcus cheesing at first lunch

After lunch, our luck changed. From the third turn on, we battled the most wicked crosswind I have ever ridden in. It was relentless, pushing against us with a force so strong that it was comical. We rode our bikes at an angle to stay upright against the wind. It was one of those days that, on a normal day, I would have looked out the window and said, "Nah, no cycling today." But on Bike and Build, things are different. 

I pulled away from my group to ride by myself. It was a long, windy stretch. To avoid going crazy because of the wind, I entertained myself by singing. Pounded by the wind by truck after truck, my singing grew louder with each passing semi. The artists ranged widely, including Coldplay, Greenday, the Goo Goo Dolls, Nickleback, and Avril Lavigne. "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music was thrown in there when I was having a hard time. I even tried the Star-Spangled Banner though it definitely did not sound very good. I was having a great time even though I was kind of delusional. 

The windmills were spinning fast today!

Eventually I came upon Laini and Marcus, who had a flat. I rode with Marcus the rest of the way in and he helped restore my sanity, sort of. I expressed my frustration about being stopped mid pedal stroke by the turbulence of oncoming trucks. Marcus commented that he kind of likes that feeling, it feels like when you're sitting on the beach getting hit by waves. He described it perfectly!! In a crosswind, every passing semi causes a wall of wind to hit you like a ocean wave. After that, I enjoyed the feeling a lot more. After every truck, Marcus and I would smile giddily at each other. 

At one point, we stopped for something alongside the road which appeared to be a dismembered trombone. Marcus filmed me as I attempted to play the Star-Spangled Banner. The wind does weird things to your mind. 

Marcus fixing his fourth flat of the day :(

After an exhausting 50 miles through the crosswind, we arrived in Arnett, a small town with about 500 people. Not too much going on here but the community welcomed us with open arms and fed us an amazing dinner. I love Arnett, everyone here is so friendly and I love the small-town atmosphere. The Methodist church we're staying at tonight has assigned each person on my team a "prayer warrior." So everyone on the team has a person or two praying individually for the safety and well-being of the rider. This is not the first church to be doing something like this for us. It is so comforting to know that we have so many people praying for us across the country and it is touching. It definitely helps me feel safer and taken care of. 

Tomorrow is rumored to be one of the most taxing rides of the trip: 96 miles into dreaded Spearman, TX. It is apparently always windy and always hot. We'll give it all we got!!! It's going to be intense. 

Well, it's 9:00 and that's my bedtime. Goodnight all! Pray for us to all get to Spearman safe tomorrow!

Resting with my bike on the side of the road

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 32 - Oklahoma City to Watonga

A crude warning we passed on our way to Watonga. After reading it, all we wanted to do was hunt snakes

After three whole nights in Oklahoma City, it was time for us to head out. The morning was warm before the sun had even risen and we sweat as we packed up the trailer and got out stuff together to leave. We would be traveling 74 miles to Watonga, OK, a 5,000 person town in the middle of nowhere. 

The morning started off with a flat. Josh got his first flat tire so we pulled off on the side of the road to fix it. 
Nyx giving me the thumbs up as Josh grumpily fixes his first flat. 

I think everyone on the team has had at least one flat by now and everyone knows how annoying it is to stop and fix them (some people know more than others!) Getting flats is all part of riding a bike. 

After first lunch, we enjoyed an amazing tailwind. The wind was blowing hard and Nyx, Austin, and I were able to hold 30 mph for 10 miles while we cruised with the wind directly on our backs. We could barely believe our speedometers. The sound of wind in our ears was broken occasionally by a whoop of joy or by a shout of "This is AWESOME!" by one of the members of our group. I have never covered 10 miles faster than how we raced through them today!!

Of course, all tailwinds must eventually work against you. After a blissful 10 miles, the road turned and our friendly tailwind became an enemy cross wind. We tried to keep our bikes in a straight line as the wind pushed us sideways, and we were buffeted by the turbulence from speeding semi trucks. 

Amber waves of grain

The Great Plains welcomed us with heat and wind, which we expected. The sweat on our bodies evaporated almost instantly and my arms and legs quickly turned gray with salt. We had to fight for 27 miles in the insane cross wind. Luckily, second lunch was located at mile 60 to break up the monotony. Austin, Nyx, and I felt so goofy from exhaustion that we spent a while just hanging out and being silly. We passed around one apple between the three of us and the leader driving the van today, each of us taking a turn to hold the apple while another bit off a piece. Eventually, we decided to devour the entire apple, Austin ate the stem, I ate the seeds, and Nyx ate a piece that fell on the ground into the dirt. Don't worry, we washed it off. 

After we were finished horsing around, we got back on our bikes and finished the ride which ended with a few surprise hills long enough to make our legs burn. We were very happy to finally see the Baptist church where we would be spending the night. 

Tonight was all about fun Bike and Build antics. We played "Around the World Ping Pong" which is where you take turn with a couple paddles hitting the ball to the other side and then running around the ping pong table to pick up the other paddle. It was a fun game and we got pretty intense of course. 

Extreme ping pong in action

Kat, Amanda, and I walked around little Watonga to see what it offered and we didn't find much. Most of the shops were closed on Saturday evening. We did find a cute wine shop where we ate some delicious local cheese and talked to some enthusiastic locals while they wined and painted. 

Amanda sipping some wine

Afterwards, we came back to the host site and found a piano and a few books and Amanda played the Star-Spangled Banner while attempting to harmonize with Kat and me as we "sang." Note the quotation marks. I'm pretty sure dogs could howl the song better than we sang it. But it was funny and we sang it loud and proud! Seeing the country and the people who live in it by bike has made us more patriotic and really proud to live in the U.S.

We have a tough week coming up and we are sure the wind will only get worse and the heat will definitely not let up. But we are confident in our abilities and we have so many people from home praying for us! Thank you all for your support!!

Marcus working on Chris's bike. I've never seen a bike ridden like that before!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 31 - Build Day Part 2 and Moore, OK

Kat and Austin with his classy painted-on bow tie

We had a second build day in Oklahoma City which was a relief for our bodies desperately trying to recover from the constant biking we do. My quads no longer feel as though they might bust through my skin (however I'm sure a few more days of riding will change that!) Today's build day was awesome because it was way cooler than yesterday was and we had a nice breeze. Today was pretty much a repeat of yesterday. We did the same type of work, caulking and painting, but we got so much done and the house looked great after we were finished. We also did a lot of picking up around the build site. There were bricks and plywood strewn around everywhere. We had to carry all the debris down the street to a dumpster where we hoisted everything up and into the dumpster. This feat was accompanied by exaggerated grunting and/or ninja shrieks. The site supervisors were amused by our antics. We are a very enthusiastic group of people! We had a lot of fun today!

JD and his belly AKA "Wilson"

Paint crew ready for battle

Are we working hard or hardly working?? We actually do a lot of hard work, although it may not seem like it from the pictures! Most of the paint got on the walls, and only some of it on our bodies! Austin had the most creative lunch today: pork brisket with barbecue sauce, cole slaw, and potato chips all stirred together into a delicious stew. 

 Mmmmm! "Just because we have to consume so many calories doesn't mean you have to do it all in one!" "...But it's all going to the same place!"

After we were finished for the day, a woman from the Central Oklahoma Habitat offered to drive us 5 miles to Moore, OK, the site of several devastating tornados that occurred in the beginning of May. The bus we were on, usually filled with laughter and chatter from my teammates, fell silent as we looked out he windows at the destroyed landscape and leveled houses. Piles of twisted metal and splintered wood were piled up in mountains along the side of the road. Our shuttle driver, Jane, tried to put into perspective what it would be like to lose absolutely everything in a storm. You would have no tables, chairs, utensils, not even a glass to drink water out of. She said more than 43 million tons of debris had already been removed, yet, as we looked around, it appeared as if barely any work had been done. The devastation was unreal. However, the more Jane explained it, the more it became clear that the people of Oklahoma are not the kind to collapse when disasters like this happen. They are ready to rise up and rebuild, after all, what else is there to do? Please keep the people of Moore and the surrounding areas in your prayer and be conscious about the little things that you may take for granted. 

The tornado's destruction

Jane, our shuttle driver

Tonight, we are just chilling out and getting ready for the 6 straight days of riding we have as we exit the southern states. Next is Texas and then New Mexico and Colorado. It's crazy that we will be in Colorado in less than a week! Everyone is really excited! This week will be tough, but I know we can do it!

Hey! I am still awake! I decided to write my blog a little earlier than usual tonight so I could stay awake for the duration of the post. Usually, I am so tired when I'm posting that I either fall asleep in the middle of it or I have no idea was I'm writing until I reread it the next morning. Last night, Kat caught me sleeping in the middle of a post: 

At least I'm not drooling! Again, thanks for reading and for putting up with my spelling/grammar mistakes. I'm not very good a typing on my phone! Love from Oklahoma!