Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 70 - Rattlesnake Country

Resting with 10 miles to go!

Merry Christmas! Nyx has been planning Christmas in July for two states now and today was the big day. She gave the whole team gifts for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. The gifts were anything from "a slightly melted ice cream sandwich" to "five peach rings." She made a 12 days of Christmas song about it but I can't remember how it goes right now so I might have to include it in a later post. 

We had a busy day today. It was a shorter ride, only 55 miles from Burns, OR to Wagontire. We had a headwind which slowed us down considerably but our 9 person pace line made fighting the wind easier. Southeastern Oregon is not the prettiest of states and the sagebrush covered land was pretty desolate. The mountains on the horizon were shrouded with smoke from western fires. We are not close to where the fires are burning but the wind was blowing straight for us, carrying all the smoke our way. We stopped in Riley halfway through the ride. It was a tiny town with a gas station and a post office and that was it. But the gas station had a cool general store attached selling sweet postcards and some outdoor gear. It was a worthwhile stop!

A thriving metropolis!

Wagontire, Oregon is barely on the map with a thriving population of 3. We are camping on the property of Marty, the most prominent man in Wagontire. He introduced himself to us by promptly killing a rattlesnake with a 2-by-4 after we arrived. The snake was on his property and he didn't want it hurting anyone so he swiftly and skillfully took care of it before removing the head and the rattle. Culture-shocked, the teams' mouths were agape as we watched him drape the decapitated corpse on an old hitching post in front of the "cafe." Marty is eccentric but a very friendly man and a gracious host. We are lucky to have him, otherwise we'd have no way of getting through the Oregon desert without doing centuries at a time between viable host sites. 

Marty told us that that's the fifth snake he's killed in the last few weeks. We a kept a wary eye on our feet as we set up tents and took hose showers in the afternoon heat. Luckily, no more snakes were spotted. Not yet. 

Tonight, we had to work as a team to allocate grant money to affordable housing organizations that had applied. Our route receives a certain number of grant applications that we need to read and decide which we want to find. Because SC2SC sponsors a house in Colorado Springs, which uses $55,000 of the money we raised, we had $10,000 to allocate in grant money and 16 applications to choose from. Having applied for grants with Purdue Habitat for Humanity, it is really interesting to be on the other side of the grant decision process. There are many worthy applicants but we have narrowed them down. Bike and Build has certain specifications that we look for in applicants such as youth empowerment. It was a lengthy process and tomorrow we are going to work on appropriately distributing grant money the organizations and projects that we have left. 
Finally, we had our Christmas party and we exchanged Secret Santa gifts. Some of them were really funny and we had a great time handing them out. Most were cheap gifts from thrift shops. The highlights were Reece's Pieces that had melted into a blob for Amanda, a postcard-sending kit for Sarah (who still needs to send her postcards from Charleston, SC), and a camouflage colored stocking for Curtis who spent five minutes looking to see if there was anything actually in the stocking (which there wasn't.) We played Kenny Chesney Christmas music because it was the only holiday music that Lacy had on her laptop. It was a perfectly dysfunctional Christmas. 

Now we are curled up inside our tents, attempting to sleep while they blow wildly in the breeze. Hopefully, the rattlesnakes will stay outside. Hopefully, our tents won't collapse on us in the middle of the night. 85 miles tomorrow. We are praying for cool temperatures and tailwind as always! Goodnight!

Yep. Sorry, Mom!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 69 - It's a Beautiful Day for a Bike Ride!

Before I started this trip, I was a little afraid that riding almost every single day would become mind-numbingly boring. You may be wondering what exactly we do to keep the monotony from making us lose our minds. But, truthfully, there is rarely a moment on Bike and Build when I wish I was doing something differently. And most of those moments occurred in Oklahoma/Texas. Yes, we bike almost every day but it is never monotonous. I thank God for every minute I am out on the road, working on a house, or just laying on gym floors with my Bike and Build family. This is life now, at least for the next few weeks. Every moment is precious and an adventure. I speak for almost every person on our route when I say that we could be satisfied doing this for a very long time. It is a blessing to be able to explore every beautiful part of this country on a bike and to meet so many gracious and wonderful people. 

Still heading west!

That being said, after five straight days on the bike, we are starting to get pretty sore. We still haven't reached the hump of our 13 day stretch so every mile can seem like it's uphill. Not to mention, everyone's butt is starting to feel kind of "spicy." In SC2SC language, the word "spicy" has many meanings depending on the context. Most commonly, "spicy" is used to describe highly concentrated Gatorade or a particularly sore butt. By day 13, we will all have bad cases of "spicy butt."

We had a few passes to climb over today. To entertain ourselves and distract each other from our aching bodies, Amanda and I traded similes to describe our pains:

"My legs feel like pretzel sticks."
"My chamois feel like sandpaper."
"My camelback feels like a fat baby."
"My saddle feels like a cement block."
"My quads feel like balloons about to pop."
And so on... Like I said, Bike and Build is never monotonous. We are entertained by everything. 

Before long, we reached the top of pass number one!

Today's lunch was touched by the gods. We had big sandwich buns and fancy lunch meat! There was even cheese!! I had the most delicious roast beef sandwich that has ever graced my taste buds. I washed it down with some trail mix and orange Gatorade. Manna from heaven! The rest of lunch we spent making Bike and Build commercials thanking Bike and Build for all the quirky qualities we have picked up over the course of the summer. Here are a few examples:

"I used to think dirty nails were disgusting. Now, I never use hand sanitizer! Thanks,
Bike and Build!"

"I once thought moldy water bottles were nasty. Now, I think it tastes pretty good! Thanks, Bike and Build!"

"I used to enjoy a nice summer breeze. Now, I think it's the breath of Satan! Thanks, Bike and Build!"

Our trailer at lunch

We were in stitches all afternoon as we continued to come up with sayings after we got back on our bikes to finish up the 57 mile day. We also made up songs, substituting bike-related lyrics into well-known pop songs:

"If you want to climb with me, there's some things you gotta know. I like my cadence fast and my pace down low!"
(To Bass Down Low by Dev)

Amanda and Rae changing yet another flat. Our tires are starting to wear out!

Before we knew it, we were at the host site. We didn't have dinner provided tonight so it was "DM or die." After some awesome hot showers, we walked into town to see if we could DM some dinner. We managed to come up with 7 free extra large pizzas and some Mexican food. Yay, there's no going hungry tonight! During the walk back to the host, we came upon an ice cream truck and freaked out a little bit and bought ice cream. The ice cream man is so elusive that there's no passing up ice cream when you find him!

Tonight, we got to see a free movie thanks to a kind city commissioner that we made friends with. We saw Despicable Me 2 and we all thought it was hilarious. We laughed at almost every scene, sometimes at each other because we were all laughing so hard.  Austin was even wiping tears out of his eyes at some points. It was even funnier because the movie had words in it that we use on a daily basis as part of inside jokes on our trip such as "jyes," "Lance," and "croinky." It was a great way to end the evening. 

Now everyone is getting tucked into their thermarests as they chat together quietly. We get to sleep in until 7 tomorrow so we are pretty psyched! I love Bike and Build!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 68 - The Wild West

Curtis cruised past me in the parking lot. He was "jelly fishing" on his bike. He had taken both feet out of his pedals and was throwing them back and forth in a jellyfish-like motion. "Okay! Let's go to Juntara!" he said as he jellyfished his way out of the parking lot to start our 70 mile trek. We were all bent over our bikes laughing for five minutes before we contained ourselves and joined him. 

Oregon is a very beautiful state. Cassie had introduced Oregon to us as "similar to Texas," so all of us were somewhat dreading it, picturing the desolate landscapes and demoralizing headwinds of Texas. However, we were all amazed by the beauty of the land on our way from Ontario to Juntara, OR.

Our cue sheet was very simple today. Take two turns to get onto the main road, travel 67 miles, take two turns to get to the host site. We were heading straight west and unfortunately the wind was headed straight east. But it was nothing like we'd encountered in Oklahoma and Texas. We quickly combated the wind with an efficient pace line. 

The canyon we traveled in was breath-taking. Buttermilk mountains covered in sagebrush surrounded us as we zig-zagged through the valley along the aptly named Snake River. We had a few climbs over some passes but for the most part we cruised along the river, winding through the foothills.

Juntara is a little cattle town nestled in the foothills. Tonight was another perfect Bike and Build style night. When we got to the gym where we were staying, we chatted while we waited for the van to show up with our luggage. Before long, it pulled up and we helped unload it, forming a well-practiced assembly line to move the bags and bins in. After that, we passed around the garden hose and showered. Next to the gym is an arena and we watched the locals flaunt their cowboy and cowgirl skills as they roped cows and ran barrels. Their culture is so much different than our team culture. We really felt like we were in the Wild West today. 

For dinner, we were treated to hamburgers made from grass-fed, locally-raised cows. Even some of the vegetarians could not refuse the chance to eat such a burger. They were delicious. We finished the night by taking the opportunity to ride some horses. It was great to get onto a different saddle or once! I showed off my cowgirl skills by loping a horse around the yard for a little while and this encouraged my teammates to try it out. Soon, everyone had the chance to trot or lope on the horse and we had a great time cheering each other on. It was great to get back on a horse again! I have missed riding.

We have 57 hilly miles into Burns, OR tomorrow. Hopefully the wind is at our backs!

Day 67 - Flats on Flats

Into Oregon today!

I knew it wasn't going to be a good day for my bike when I grabbed it in the morning and discovered that my back tire was flat. I quickly changed the flat but could not find a break in the flat tube. I had a bad feeling about the rest of the day as I changed to tube and started off. 

Sure enough, not 7 miles down the road I had another flat on my back tire. That was my third flat in just two days of riding. Exasperated, I pulled off to the side of the road and got to work changing my flat again. Afraid my tire might be worn through, I took off the whole tire and checked it thoroughly, looking for any holes or debris. I found nothing which made me nervous. There had to be something causing the flats. "We'll, if I get another flat down the road, I'll check more thoroughly I guess," I told Austin warily as I put the wheel back on my bike. I spun it slowly one last time and luckily discovered the culprit! There was a metal staple buried in the tread of my tire. I pulled it out and my tire was as good as new! Feeling more confident, Austin and I continued down the road without any more issues. 

A little while later, we met up with Nyx, Brian, Amanda, and Lacy and Austin took off while I stayed with the new group. We played some word games to pass the time. I was going to be a fast day, we only had 42 miles. Lunch was at mile 30ish but I chose to keep going since the host was only 12 miles away and my legs still felt fresh. I chugged ahead alone and crossed the Oregon state line. There was no border sign because apparently it had been stolen but we found an abandoned Oregon license plate and took pictures with that. 

Super Sarah!

It was our second-to-last state sign. The next one will be California! It is crazy to think that if we weren't headed south to
Santa Cruz, we could probably get across the state of Oregon and to the Pacific Coast in just a few days.

I got to the host really early and met up with Rae, Dan, Kevin, Marcus, Mike and Laini. We decided to get lunch at a local cafe. I had chocolate milk and a burger and it definitely hit the spot. 

After lunch, we headed over to a nearby car show to check it out. The guys were pretty impressed but Rae and know nothing about cars so we just picked out our favorite colors. The. We headed over to the showers and back to the host. 

I took a long nap on the couch while others also napped or relaxed. This 13 day stretch is eventually going to take a toll on us so everyone has been making sure to get as much rest as they can in order to stay healthy and strong as the weeks wind down. No one wants any extra van time when we only have 14 days left. 

Tonight we had a delicious chili dinner with cornbread, hot dogs, salad, and of course dessert. Later we cleaned our bikes, watched a movie, and fell asleep. Just another day in the life!

Kendra, the horse whisperer

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 66 - Shredding with Austin

As I pedaled strongly into the cool Idaho morning, I knew my legs were feeling great. There are some days on Bike and Build when your muscles are so torn up from biking everyday that even when they're "fresh" in the morning, they still feel like you've just ridden a century on them. Today was not one of those days for me. I felt the power in my legs as they churned the pedals, eating up the pavement and spitting it back down behind me. 

I rode with Austin and we chatted about our high school days and our childhoods. He was particularly excited because our route passed through Boise today, his hometown. As we drew nearer to the city, his face lit up as he recognized the roads that he had driven on for years. However with familiarity came anxiety. He was on the verge of breaking the Bike and Build "bubble" and his two worlds were about to mix together. I could not imagine what it would feel like to ride through my hometown during Bike and Build. It would be overwhelming. 

As we pulled into town, Austin gave me the grand tour of his college campus, Boise State University. We even snuck into the stadium and got some pictures d the smurf turf before we were asked to leave. 

Standing on the field!

Then we met up with some of his family and friends who had come out to greet him and the rest of the riders. It was really fun to meet some new people and to tell them stories about the trip. It must have been pretty surreal to see them!

Mandy, Alex, and Austin reunited!

Austin spent a lot of time catching up and soon time had grown short. We needed to continue the ride before it got too late. The weather had heated up considerably and we still had almost 40 miles to go. We went to a bike shop to pick up a couple tires because his had blown out yesterday. Unfortunately, we ran into some issues when he went to change his flat. The new tube exploded with a noise like a gunshot less than a mile after it was installed. The next tube he used had a hole in it. Finally, after three tries, the last tube remained inflated and we picked up Dan, Rae, Kevin, and Laini and continued our journey.

We burned through the last 40 miles like nothing. Even with a slight headwind, we were able to average about 20 mph for the duration of the ride. Our legs felt amazing and it was great to be able to cover so much difference in a short period of time!

Tonight, some of us went to a bar nearby to watch Austin's parents' band play a gig. Us underaged kids went to a local fair and had a great time screaming our lungs out on some rides. It was a great time! I haven't been to the carnival for years and years. It definitely brought me back to my junior high days!

We managed to DM a ride back to the church because a kind woman picked us up and drove us. To avoid the two mile walk back in the dark, we wandered around parking lots looking for friendly people who might give us a lift. We talked all about Bike and Build to this woman and her daughter and they both were intrigued! There are so many kind people out there!

Tomorrow is an easy 42 mile day. Most everyone wants to take it as fast as possible so they can get in and relax! I am thinking that I will do the same thing! Hopefully my legs will feel as good tomorrow as they did today!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 65 - Coca-Cola Problems

My teammates stood outside with their faces pointed east, waiting for the sun to rise. It wasn't to watch the beauty unfold in the sky as the clouds turned colors and the sky lightened in gradients of pink and orange. Rather, they were waiting anxiously for it to get light enough to bike. Helmets on, one shoe clipped into a pedal, they watched the sky intently while straddling their bikes. Today was a surprise century, a 103 mile day, and with the temperature estimated to be in the hundreds, nobody wanted to waste any time getting out on the road. 

I walked over to the Gatorade cooler to fill up my water bottles and was pleasantly surprised to see a stream of blue Gatorade flow out, the best flavor. Despite the anticipation, people chatted cheerfully as they made preparations for the road. Pumps squeaked and Velcro scratched as we pumped up our tires and strapped on our shoes. 

PSSSSSSSTTTT! With a sound more powerful than a deflating thermarest, Amanda's front tire suddenly went flat, the rubber of the tire splayed out on either side of the rim of her wheel. Amanda sighed slightly and began working to remove her wheel from her bike to replace the inner tube. Another day, another flat.

Her, Kat, Sarah, Cindy, Nyx, and me started off around 6:30 this morning after the sun finally rose. The sky was overcast and the temperature stayed cool and we cruised easily to mile 35 where first lunch was. We chewed on coconut peanut butter and razzleberry jelly, two new condiments at lunch that we had to try. The coconut peanut butter was unexpectedly sweet. Right after first lunch, I saw my favorite road sign:

I got into a tuck position to get as aerodynamic as possible and flew down the descent into a beautiful canyon. Idaho continues to surprise me with its incredibly varied terrain. Normally arid land is heavily irrigated to make lush and fertile crop lands blanketed with thriving corn and alfalfa plants. Waterfalls spurt from canyon walls, creating streams that make their way to the Snake River. Sagebrush covers land covered in dry grass, ready to burn at any given time. It is a beautiful and sometimes unforgiving landscape. 

A few riders made a wrong turn and got on the interstate by accident. Second lunch was pretty late in the ride, around mile 75, to accommodate those riders. I was feeling great when I rolled in. There was a half-empty (or half-full?) two-liter bottle of Coke sitting in the trailer. I downed half of it, savoring the sweet and caffeinated beverage which really hit the spot. I ate another quick PB&J and headed out, trying to beat the heat. The day was rapidly getting hotter and the wind was starting to pick up. I had been feeling so good that I decided to head out with a few of our faster riders, Dan and Kevin, because I figured I could keep up. Bad decision.

A few miles in, I just could not pick up my legs any longer. I was struggling to hold a weak 14 mph. The Coca-Cola sat like a carbonated rock in my stomach, threatening to come up at any moment. The small rises in the road felt like mountains and I panted like a dog in the sun. "Drop me!" I pleaded to Dan who stayed with me even though he could ride much faster. He did not want to leave me alone on a road with virtually no shade. We were riding on the Oregon Trail historical pathway. 

Miraculously, we came across a house with a green lawn and a few shade trees, a much-needed oasis in the Idaho desert. I told Dan that I had to pull off and rest in the shade and told him he should continue without me. He took off and used the last bit of energy I had to climb a small wood fence into a strangers yard and promptly fell asleep in the grass. My dreams were filled with the sounds of flies buzzing and the whirring of bicycle wheels as my teammates passed me unknowingly. A half hour later, I awoke just in time for Amanda, Ethan, and Kat to roll up, seeking the same shade that I found. The nap had done its magic and the Coca-Cola rock was gone. My legs felt better. 

We conquered the last 17 miles together, stopping only to cool off in the sprinklers in an alfalfa field. After 103 miles, we arrived in Mountain Home, ID where we were welcomed into the house of our gracious host and hostess. We were so psyched to be in an actual house again that Kat did a jig in the kitchen. I am blogging while laying on a couch right now and it is amazing. It's all about the little things on Bike and Bukld!

Relatively short 77 mile day tomorrow. Day two of our 13 day stretch! It is time to get some sleep!

A picture of me that Kat captured last time we swept together. 

Day 64 - Second-to-Last Build Day

We got to sleep in until 8:00 this morning, rest that was welcome after our late night at prom. After waking up and having a sparse breakfast, we were bused to the build site to begin work. There were a lot of jobs to do. Some people worked inside installed appliances and light fixtures while others worked outside on building a fence. I was a part of the fence crew. 

The whole morning, Cassie, Lacy, Mike, Chris, Curtis, and I framed the fence. We had an awesome system going and the site supervisor called us the "Dream Tram" so we proudly accepted the name and used it as much as we could. When we had framed the fence, we helped the other crews put on pickets. When we were done, we stained the fence and it looked gorgeous:

Looks progressional!

Tomorrow, we start a 13 day stretch of biking. It is going to be mentally and physical challenging but, after our awful stretch in Oklahoma and Texas, I think we can handle anything. Please keep us in your prayers as we try and get through our last long stretch of the summer!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 63 - Prom Hype!!

The group of us making a pit stop in Eden, ID

The air was filled with excitement when we woke up this morning. There was a lot to get pumped about! It was Emma's 22nd birthday, we only had 35 miles to ride, and tonight was the night of prom! We were allowed to sleep in until 7 due to our short mileage so everyone was energized and ready to go! Music blasted loudly and we sang and danced as we took down the tents/hammocks we slept in and packed up our bins. It was a gorgeous morning and everyone had a smile on. 

We got on the road and it was wonderful. A day that is as short as 35 miles means no stress because you have plenty of time to get in no matter what pace you go. The wind was calm and the road was flat, we have finally ventured out of the mountains and I am enjoying the long straight roads with few slight rises. It reminds me of my bike routes near Purdue in Indiana. 

View of the Snake River at a scenic overlook

We got into the host site early and immediately started working on the finishing touches on our prom costumes. That is, until we got a group text from JD saying that he was shuttling people to discounted zip line tours. I definitely jumped on that train. Kat, Kendra, Emma, Melanie, Josh, Austin, Nyx, and I all got to go zip lining and it was incredible. Kat was a little anxious at first, but by the last line, she was jumping off the platform with confidence and spinning upside down all while still screaming. It was awesome!!

Me, upside down of course!

Next came the main attraction of the night, prom! All couples had to dress in a theme so here are some highlights of the night:

Hawa and Chris (Chawa) as Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin

Brian and Sarah as Adam and Eve

Cindy and Austin as Rose and Jack from Titanic

Marcus won best costume as Lady Gaga. How horrifying! :)

Prom was a blast! It beat all of the proms I went to in high school combined. We sang and danced the night away. We voted for superlatives such as "Best Air Guitar," "Best Prom Proposal," "Best Dance Moves," and of course prom king and queen which turned out to be King Rachel and Queen Emma. Those two went to prom together due to the uneven amount of guys and gals on the trip. They dressed as a bride and groom!

We couldn't have asked for a better night. We had the dance in a gazebo next to the Snake River in a beautiful canyon. There was even a waterfall in the background!! Tomorrow is our second-to-last build day and then we are gearing up for a long 13 day stretch of biking!

My date, Travis, and me as lumber Jack and Jill

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 62 - The Simple Things

As the days of our trip wind down, we have been spending a lot of time reflecting on our trip: the things we've learned, the connections we've made, and the places we've seen. After over 60 days on the road together, everything feels familiar, like pulling on your favorite old t-shirt. You easily clip your cleats into your pedals and the cyclic movement of your feet and legs is like second nature. You pull casually up a small rise in the road without breaking your cadence. You chat idylly with the rider next to you while holding your bike in a straight line. You recognize every noise your bike makes, and understand when something is wrong or out of place just by the different click it makes or the way your pedal strokes feel. Even your saddle, worn in by over 3,000 miles of riding, fits your butt like a glove. Everything is familiar. Everybody is comfortable.

One might think that this familiarity might make us take things for granted. But it's really the opposite. We appreciate everything more now that we're 62 days into the trip. We now know every little quirk about each other, the good and the bad, and we love each other for our differences. The simple things in life, on the road, are a big part of what makes trip so awesome. A big shade tree on the side of the road to take a nap under. When the showers have pressure and stay warm. A dance party in the morning to get psyched for a ride. Surprise peach rings at lunch. This is Bike and Build. 

We don't carry very much in our bins and bags. We don't need much to function. This summer, we have all learned to not only appreciate the things that we are blessed with but to celebrate them! This trip is a celebration of service, our country, and the human spirit. 

Rae snoozing in her hammock. 

Today was an average 75 mile ride into our third-to-last state!

Laini and Cindy celebrating the border crossing!

I rode with Austin, Dan, Kevin, and Rae. We rode hard for a while and then slowed down to chat. It was hot but nothing like what we'd encountered in Texas. Austin and I took a break to nap under a beautiful tree in a yard that Amanda found.


We rolled in on terrain that made me nostalgic for my bike routes in Indiana: smooth, flat roads surrounded by fields. If I didn't look at the mountains on the horizon, I could have been fooled that I was riding in the Cover Indiana, a tour that I participate in every May. It was refreshing to feel back in my element. 

We are sleeping outside again to tonight at the Burley, ID Fairgrounds. There is a rodeo arena and we have been watching kids barrel race their horses and chase cows around. It is a gorgeous night. Brian and I hung some hammocks and we're swinging and talking. 

Tomorrow is Prom and everyone is really excited and getting their costumes together. Travis and I are going as lumberjacks and it's going to be awesome. It's only a 35 mile day tomorrow so it shall be epic!!! I'll be sure to take lots of prom pics! Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 61 - Sweeping it Up with Kat

Beautiful Utah morning

Kat and I were on sweep duty today. We waited for the pack to leave and then took off just cruising at a slow pace and chatting. The roads were flat and the traffic was nonexistent. It was a very peaceful ride. The winds were calm and the weather was cool. 

We rolled up to lunch in no time. It was at mile 26, one of the earliest lunch we have ever had I think. We stopped at some kind of engineering facility where they design or manufacture rockets. Of course, we had to take some pictures with the rockets. 

The entire team was still at lunch when Kat and I rolled in, which doesn't often happen. We spent a lot of time talking to everyone and goofing off while waiting for everyone to eat their fill and continue on. 

Travis and his awesome, crisp tan lines. In my opinion, they are the best on the team. 

Kat almost got murdered by a falling cooler while she was filling up her camelback from the trailer. The cooler avalanche resulted in one fatality, the polenta leftovers from last night. It had smashed all over the ground and looked pretty gross. Ethan pretended that he puked and posed for a picture. 


After lunch, it wasn't long before Kat and I got a text from Cindy that her tire had blown out and she needed a new one. Even though it stunk for Cindy that her tire was ruined, Kat and I were kind of excited because we were necessary! There's a lot of days when sweep doesn't directly help anyone. 

We came upon Cindy sitting on the side of the road with her bike. We stopped and gave her the spare tire we were carrying and chatted while she changed it. Her old tire had a big hole in it where it had shredded.

Cindy happily changing her tire

After the tire was replaced, Condy continued on her way and Kat and I finished up the 54 mile ride with no other incidents. We got into town and had milkshakes and burgers at Mollie's Cafe, a little cowboy diner in Snowville. It really hit the spot after a hot day!

We are sleeping outside gain tonight in a pavilion in the park. A few of us have our thermarests set out in a big field for optimal star-gazing positions. They should be beautiful tonight. The slack line is set up and I actually walked all the way across it tonight! I guess my balance is improving! Now, we're ready for s'mores and a game of ultimate frisbee! 75 mile day tomorrow! It will be our first longer mileage day in a while!

Our next three cities!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 60 - Straight Cruisin'

Their morning, we biked to a University of Utah dining hall and had a great breakfast. There was so much food, we sat there for hours just eating and watching the Tour de France on TV. We only had 62 miles so no one was in a hurry to leave. We just chatted and ate and ate. Everyone was disappointed because they weren't serving soft serve ice cream for breakfast. We didn't get on the road until about 10:00. 

The ride was a cruiser today. We had 40 miles on a bike path and Austin, Curtis, and I shredded it. We formed a tight pace line and changed leaders anytime our legs got tired. Bike paths are great to have on route because the miles go by fast since they're usually flat and smooth and there's no traffic to worry about. 

It got really hot the last 15 miles of the ride. It was our fault for leaving so late. When we got into town, we DMed some much-needed milk shakes from Sonic and then headed to our host site. 

This is what awaited us:

Tonight was perfect. It was a beautiful, warm summer evening. We sat in the grass in a park and talked and enjoyed each other's company. We only have three weeks left together so we are trying to enjoy every second of it. Mike set up his slack line and we all gave it a try. Ethan, JD, and Eliza are the best at it!

Ethan in the slack line at sunset. Photo curtesy of Kat. 

Josh played the guitar and sang softly while we laughed and sat close, hoping these next few weeks will go by slowly. We are definitely a family and it is going to be so hard to part in a little while. 

We slept outside underneath the park pavilion. Marcus, Eliza, and Brian set up their hammocks in one tree for the night. Luckily, they set them up high enough in the tree that the lawn sprinklers didn't get them when they came on at about 3 in the morning!

Hammock tree

It was a great day! Tomorrow is yet another short 57 miler. Kat and I are sweeping so it should be an adventure as always!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 59 - The Daily Grind

I don't think we're ever going to be out of the mountains! I am not complaining because I think they are beautiful. However, they do present some very challenging terrain. The route was relatively flat this morning. We were on a bike path, which was awesome because we didn't have to worry about cars. 

Sarah and Dan shredding on the "shred path"

However, not long after we got off the path did we hit a pass that seemed to rise up forever. Apparently, the climb was only about 2 miles long, but the grade varied from 8 to 10%

As I was climbing/struggling/panting, Kevin, one of our strongest riders came barreling down going to wrong way. He had just climbed to the top but he thought the pass looked fun to descend so he rode down to do the pass a second time. "The climb isn't bad, only about two miles long." He pointed to some houses on a hill way above our heads. "That's where you end up."

I kept spinning. The grade was really steep in some places and slowed me to a crawl. I watched as JD and Lacy pass me and climb out of view. Sweat poured down my arms and legs from the effort. Finally, the crest was in sight. "Shut up legs" was chalked on the road right as I reached the top. I was greeted by a beautiful view of the city below, the land stretched on for miles and miles. I probably would have stayed a little longer to take some photos but I caught sight of the downhill truck sign cautioning about the 10% downgrade and that was enough to convince me that I didn't need pictures. 

The descent was intense. The first drop, I hit 48 mph without even trying. The road was straight and smooth. There were no blind turns and traffic was light. The second 10% downgrade, I decided to push it. I pedaled to give my speed a slight boost, even though my cadence was almost maxed out. I glanced down at my speedometer and saw it reading 50 mph! Never have I ever gone that fast on a bike before, maybe never again. Tears streamed down my face from the wind as I flew down the pass, wind whistling in my ears. I got to the bottom in no time where lunch and some of my teammates were waiting. 

The rest of the day was very hilly. Just when you thought you'd reached the top, the road turned and kept rising much to the dismay of my sore legs. But we kept pushing until Salt Lake City appeared. We descended right into our host site. 

After showers and dinner, we chilled out on the beautiful University of Utah campus and took a nap on the grass. As the sun went down, a couple Bike and Build alumni took us to their secret spot on top of a mountain and we watched the sun set as the city lights twinkled in the twilight. 

Amanda, Laini, and me watching the sun set over Salt Lake City

Tomorrow is another pretty short day. 62 miles from Salt Lake City to Brigham City. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 58 - Lead Abatement Advetures!

The house we worked on!

Usually when we work with Habitat, we are building new homes from scratch. This project was different that what we were used to because we were fixing up a historical house. 

The first thing we did was take a tour of the house. It is beautiful, with lots of large rooms and space to move around. The family that will be moving in is currently living in a two bedroom apartment. This new, larger house will allow their five children to move around more!

Everyone was really pumped to work today because the work involved a lot of breaking things apart and ripping things up. The guys went to town on some kitchen cabinets, kicking them in with flying ninja moves and breaking up pieces with their fists. At one point, Josh fell on the ground attempting to destroy a cabinet but continued to kick at it from the ground, effectively reducing it to bits. It was so funny; they looked like children given the keys to a candy store. 

After lunch was when the real fun began. Because he house is so old, it is painted entirely with lead paint. This paint is not a problem when you can just paint over it, but we needed to break down a wall, which required us to get into "lead abatement gear." With temperatures in the triple digits, there were only a few people crazy enough to volunteer for the job: Josh, Chris, Austin, Dan, Rae, and me. The supervisors helped us pull on coveralls, gloves, booties, ventilators, safety glasses, and a very "breathable" head sock. Then, they taped up our ankles, wrists, and necks so as to exclude any lead-infused dust that might get in through the gaps in the suit. Before we even started breaking the wall up, we were drenched in sweat. 

The lead abatement crew. Photo credit to Ethan Gehl. 

The work was definitely "second degree fun," which is something that is not fun at all at the time but will make a great story later. Poisonous dust flew as we hammered holes in the wall and tore off the paint and plaster. Luckily, the job did not take too long and soon we were ripping our way out of the suits and sucking in clean air. 

We definitely did a number on the house. The kitchen appliances were removed, cabinets destroyed, and all the carpeting in the house pulled up and taken out to the dumpster. We got a lot done and had a great time!

The next few days we have some shorter mileage. It will be fun to take our time and just enjoy the ride and the towns we pass through along the way! Prom is coming up and most of us still need to visit some thrift shops in order to buy our prom outfits!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 57 - Mt. Summit

When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw that I was in a tent surrounded by the sleeping bodies of my friends. It took me a second to remember where I was and what I was doing. It was 4:30 in the morning and pitch dark. Everyone woke up and blindly attempted to pack their bags up. You could hear the confused ruffling of everyone's tent as my teammates haphazardly took them down and rolled them up. After breakfast and our route meeting, we sat on a bench near the beach and watched the sun rise. It was so beautiful. The sun came up slowly over the water, changing the color of the sky from periwinkle to the softest shade of blue and finally to warm pinks and oranges. 

Amanda, Kat, me, and Sarah watching the sun rise

Our famous team couple, Chris and Hawa, or "Chawa," were down by the shore being adorable and we were oohing and ahhing at them, much to their embarrassment. Ethan got some great silhouette pictures of them. After the sun had officially risen, we mounted our bikes and headed out of Starvation State Park.

Here comes the sun! (Do do do do!)

Just when we thought we were out of the mountains, we started this morning climbing uphill out of Duchesne. We were   headed 97 miles to Provo, UT but due to a wrong turn right away, it was clear that we were going to be doing more than 100 miles to get there. Two century rides in three days, that is intense!

We climbed up a hill for miles. Just when we thought it was over, we climbed some more. I was riding with Brian and Austin and we pulled off after 12 miles to stretch. "It looks like we're finally at the top," said Brian. But I was not convinced! 

Eventually, we had a descent followed by what looked to be another ascent. I pulled away from Brian and Austin and focused on keeping my cadence steady. It was a long and winding descent, just when you think you'd reached the top, you turned a corner and the road continued rising, like a gray wall. I was gettin closer and closer to Marcus who was having a hard time. "I'm killing it!" I thought to myself as I prepared to catch Marcus. But just as the apex was in sight, Austin had a second wind and passed Marcus and me like it was nothing. "Get it, Austin!" I called out as he sped by. My pace slowed as I watched him disappear over the crest of the pass. 

The apex of our big climb, named "Summit" ...Pretty anticlimactic!

The descent down the other side of the pass was refreshing. I took it by myself and enjoyed the easy speed, breathing deep. I cruised around turns, constantly checking for cars back on the busy road. 

At the bottom, I caught up with a fast pace line of about eight other people. We sped on, keeping cadence with each other. It is an awesome feeling to be pulled along a pace line. It was much easier than riding alone! Eventually, we came to a hill and our pace line got broken up. I rode with Rae and together we traversed a very sketchy road. Cars whizzed by and construction narrowed our path causing them to pass uncomfortably close to us. We frantically looked ahead for our next turn onto a bike path. Finally, it appeared and we got off the busy road onto a beautiful bike path next to some rolling rapids. Mountains rose again on either side of us, framing our way to Provo. 

In a few short miles, we saw a couple Bike and Builders sitting with their feet in the water. We stopped and joined them. They were facing a beautiful waterfall, listening to the crashing of the falls. Driven by the Bike and Build traditions, Austin, Chris, and I decided to climb up the waterfall. 

No big deal, just biked 100 miles and now we climbed a waterfall

When we got to the top, we stood under the falls and let the water hit us. It tasted so good and clean! It was really cold so we could only stay under for short periods at a time. We looked down the falls and waved to our teammates at the bottom. I am so lucky to be able to experience so many beautiful places I never would have known about had I not had the opportunity to bike across the country!

For the next 10 miles or so, we crushed it on the bike path. Dan led Austin and I and we cruised into downtown Provo after winding around trees and admiring the beauty of Provo Canyon. I never expected there to be such towering mountains in Utah!

Build day tomorrow! We are going to be working on restoring a historical house for a potential Habitat family! There is supposed to be a lot of demolition work so the guys are especially excited!

Our "totals" board on the trailer