Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cross Country Challenge Summary

Pacific Ocean - June 7, 2009

Atlantic Ocean - July 28, 2009

Hi everyone from Gettysburg, Pa.
Well, it has been four days now since we finished our Cross Country Challenge and I am still on quite a high!! I actually went out for a ride this morning and found it to be very strange not to see Silver or White SAG wagons coming by to check on me even though I found myself constantly looking in my mirror for them. The first ten miles I rode with my brother, Gary, who had both knees replaced on May 11th, and has been pushing really hard to get back on the bike. The most he had done since the surgery was 7 ½, so it was quite an accomplishment for him.
The remaining 16 miles were spent reflecting on what we just accomplished – I am still in awe and am not ready for it to be over! Twenty-three riders and five staff set out on June 7th on a journey that would take 52 days from San Francisco, Ca, to Portsmouth, NH. – two more riders joined us in Erie to finish their challenge also.
At the beginning we were all just beaming – full of energy , anticipation and excitement and some apprehension at what we had all committed ourselves to do for two months. None of us knew each other at the onset which provided another perspective on our adventure. It didn’t take long for each of us to come to the conclusion that we were one cohesive group who were all passionate about cycling . We had come from many different places – Switzerland, England, many states in the USA – 19 male riders and 4 female with 3 male and 2 female staff.
Three miles into the first day, we were challenged with a 2.8 mile 16% grade climb that reinforced that we were setting out on a Cross Country Challenge and not a Cross Country Easy – but, all took the challenge and trekked onward! Fifty-two days and many challenges later we completed our journey.
Some of my favorite parts were; riding every day, no matter what the weather or terrain; getting to know all of the riders and watching how they supported each other by watching for wrong turns or problems with bikes; watching the scenery change with each state ; eating all of that food; getting to know our staff; being outside in nature everyday; meeting the people in our country and watching them express amazement and appreciation for what we were doing; and knowing through all of it we had supportive staff watching over us.
The riders came from all walks of life and each had their own special strengths. I really enjoyed getting to know each – some on the road, some at meals and meetings , some on rest days, and some through lobby blogging times. We observed the changes in our country’s beauty as we moved from state to state – mountains with no vegetation in California and Nevada – slowly greenery started to appear until Colorado where they were covered with fir trees.
I never thought I would say this, but I actually got tired of eating – especially at breakfast where we had to eat as much as we could to prepare for the day’s ride. Going through the motions of chewing and swallowing became almost laborious. However, chocolate milk every day after riding for recovery to our legs was a big plus for all of us.
Michelle, Gerard, Judy, Alex, Sean/Tom, were the most professional staff you could imagine – they encouraged us to continue when we were exhausted and allowed us to start early on long days if we were a slower paced rider. I remember one day when we had 121 miles and a rest stop at 102 where I was extremely low on energy and ready to get in the van – Gerard made sure I had some food in me and sent me out to finish the last 19 miles. Not only did I finish, but I did 105 miles the next day too – neither ride was done quickly, but at my pace (which had been drilled into my head by Coach Bob while training). Michelle was always there when we called and spent many evenings just sitting and chatting with us – I will always remember the day another rider and I were lost and I was wiped out at mile 91 of 96. I called and Michelle didn’t even say “Hello” – she just said “Carole” and immediately located us on the GPS and came and drove me in. Judy, was always upbeat when delivering water or driving by with a thumbs up sign, and was instrumental in helping me get across some bridges(I even had a personal escort one day). Alex, an intern, just starting his career with ABB, was a very hard worker, entertaining, and pleasant to be around. Sean, first half mechanic, was knowledgeable, supportive, and could often be heard to say “it’ll be okay – bring it to mechanic’s hour this afternoon, and I will check it". Tom, second half mechanic, has done many rides with ABB and was just a lot of fun to be around and always ready to do any repair we needed.
People in our country are great – many wanted to hear all about what we were doing – one man who met me in a convenience store at the end of a riding day was very interested and then asked if he could shake my hand – the lady at the ice cream stand who had many questions and at the end looked at me and said, “how old are you?” – upon hearing, she gave me a hug and told me she would pray for me – many times we just needed directions from people and they were all very helpful. I did not encounter one person who wasn’t willing to help.
The only real part of the summer that I had difficulty with was trying to digest everything we did on a day to day basis – many times I didn’t have time to think about the day’s ride except while doing my blog at night. Often when asked by people what town we had stayed the night before, I couldn’t remember and sometimes even gave an answer that was from 2-3 nights before. I finally just started answering by saying we started in San Francisco and would end in New Hampshire.
If you are considering attempting a ride like this, I would make the following suggestions – make sure you have a good bike that you know well, and that will survive the trip(I rode a TREK 2100 WSD with Continental Grand Prix 4 season tires); train, train, train – the more time you have on the bike, the more satisfying the adventure will be; be flexible – if you are one who is bothered by small changes such as bad roads or route changes, this isn’t the trip for you; and finally (as told to me by Coach Arlene) prayer, practice, and perseverance are of the utmost importance.
In conclusion, I want to thank everyone who played any part in helping me train and do this ride – I feel sure I will continue to do touring rides in the future and hope one day to be a staff member with some organization. If you are considering attempting a ride and would like more information, feel free to contact me at – I would love to be able to “pay it forward”.