700 States in a Fortnight

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my 14th 50 States Ride.

14? Yes, I may have a problem.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event in the Washington Area Bicyclists Association ride calendar. Participants follow a course that winds all over DC as they ride on every street named for a state. The route is about 60 miles long with minor variations from year to year. Like last year, this year’s ride started at Yards Park, a small green space along the Anacostia River in the Near Southeast neighborhood.

After parking my car in East Potomac Park, I rode about three miles to the start where a posse of hardcore fools met up for the ride. Michael B., Kevin W., and Chris M. returned from last year’s group. Keith A. who I met on my very first 50 States Ride in 2006 and who I ran into on my bike tour this summer joined us. Jeff D. with whom I’ve ridden two 50-States and countless other event rides also met us at the start. Alas, Jeff and his friend Mike seemed always to be just behind our group so we only saw him at pit stops during the ride.

The returning posse members were joined by a bunch of youngsters whose names I, of course, can’t remember for the life of me. Okay, I managed to remember Sara, Julie, Catherine (sp?), and Chuck but there were two other guys whose names fell out of my head. Along the way we were joined by Claire. For much of the ride we were shadowed by Steve O., a volunteer course marshal who knows a fund group when he sees one.

That’s a pretty big pack of riders. I believe some of the new people work with Chris at a federal government agency while others are known to Kevin from the Thursday night PubRoll. The PubRoll was started by posse expat Peter K., who moved to Barcelona this summer. (We miss you Peter!)

I would post a picture of the group but Kevin has it and is not giving it up. Maybe he’s got Big Nate class picture issues. I didn’t take any pictures except those below so you’ll have to believe me when I say this was one good looking group.

The route goes up and down and all around. Through neighborhood streets and on main roads, into traffic circles, and on bike paths. There are countless stops at stop signs, traffic lights, and pit stops. Usually this causes a group to splinter but this year’s posse was as cohesive as any I’ve ever ridden with.

Usually we are treated to a cloud burst or horrible humidity but not this year. The weather was splendid.

The pit stops – staffed rest areas with snacks, water, and restrooms – were fewer this year. There was no stop until the halfway point in Eastern Market on Capitol Hill where I managed to fall when dismounting and got a boo boo on my elbow. Michael got me a bandaid from the WABA first aid kit that caused an earnest WABA person to fill out an incident report. This took longer than the incident but this is DC and whenever we have a chance to fill out some paperwork we get rather excited.

We also stopped at Mike and LIsa’s house, the Tacoma pit stop near the northern most part of DC. Mike and Lisa open their home, well, their bathrooms and front lawn, to the pedaling horde every year. They are super nice and ride a mean bike when not handing out snacks. They are also serious Washington Nationals fans.

After Mike and Lisa’s we continued on and had our pictures taken as we turned onto Alaska Avenue by Patti Heck. She stands there, rain or shine, all day taking photos of the riders. Follow the link and you can find scads of pictures of this year’s riders (and, for that matter, riders from previous years).

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Me with Keith in hot pursuit. Photo by Patti Heck. Used with permission.
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Steve O. – photo by Patti Heck
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Jeff D. photo by Patti Heck
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Chris M. – photo by Patti Heck
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Posse newbies – photo by Patti Heck

After descending to MacArthur Boulevard we climbed back up Cathedral Heights. This involves two challenging hills, one on Garfield Street, the other on Cathedral Avenue. The rest of the route was a meander through the flat core of the city, then on to Hains Point along the Potomac River and the big finish back at Yards Park. We tried to join the official afterparty at a bar near Nats Park The bar is located between the Metro and the ballpark. It was no surprise that with a Nats game about to start the bar was packed. So we rode to Solace, a bar located on the opposite side of the ballpark where we had a celebratory beer and finger food.

From the sound of things the posse will re-assemble for WABA’s Cider Ride in early November. Stay tuned.

Sunrise on the Anacostia. Haze courtesy of wildfires out west.

While I was at the Tacoma rest stop I talked with Lisa for quite a while. She has a collection of Nats bobbleheads and is missing only one, Sean Doolittle. I just happened to have one so I rode back up to her house a couple of days later. On the way home I coincidentally ran into Mike. We chatted for long enough for me to take a picture of him in his summer bike cap.

Mike in his summer cap
Mike in his summer bike cap

Just before the event we were handed an addendum to the cue sheet. There was a street festival on H Street NE that the ride organizers wanted us to avoid. The route normally passes by the ghost bike that stands as a memorial to Dave Salovesh a friend who was killed by a driver on Good Friday of 2019. A few days later I went back to see the bike and take a moment to remember him.

Dave’s ghost bike.

And so another 50 States Ride is in the books. Will I do it again? As Rachel Maddow says, watch this space.

September 2022 by the Numbers

Plugging away. That’s all I do. Just keep riding and riding. I managed to pull off my fifth straight 1,000 mile month. And probably my last for the year. I’ve got less than 1,100 to go to reach 10,000 for the fifth straight year. Pedal on.

This month I rode 1,014.5 miles, split among my three main bikes. As I;ve been riding, I’ve tried to identify all the repairs that will be needed over the winter. Already, I know that The Mule needs new brakes (again!) and a new front rim. The Cross Check has a strange shuddering of the front brake. I think the rim is defective but I’ll let the bike shop folks sort it out. Big Nellie doesn’t need much; because it uses 2 1/5 chains, the chains and cassettes tend to last a bit longer than my conventional bikes. (Little Nellie doesn’t need any work except for a good dusting. I really need to sell it.)

The Rides

I did two rides over 60 miles. One was in Dorchester County, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. It was an out and back route that I found online. There were several side roads that went down necks to views of the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers. These little excursions doubled the length of the route. My other long ride – which I keep meaning to blog about – was my 14th 50 States Ride. We had a posse of ten or so. I fell down as I was dismounting at the pit stop at the half way point. Otherwise it was a pretty nice ride through DC.

Social Stuff

I started attending Friday Coffee Club again. It gets me rolling by 7 in the morning and after I get to DC and hang out I’m good for another 40 miles or so. Also, riding along the river at daybreak is a mighty way to wake up.

I met up with Keith and Charmaine to talk bike touring and bikes. We met on the 50 States Ride in 2006 (I think). Keith cooked brats which I don’t normally eat. They were bueno. Keith is buying a new custom touring bike so we measured him for it.

Watching

Aside from watching the Nats lose a lot on TV, I watched three Marvel stories. Thor – Love and Thunder was a disappointment. It wasn’t nearly as witty as Ragnarok and relied way too much on one of my least favorite actresses, Natalie Portman. Ms. Marvel was not a whole lot better. The lead actress was a novice and did very well. To some extent it’s the Spider-Man story moved from a white male teenager in Queens to a Pakistani-American female teenager in Jersey City. I also watched the first several episodes of She-Hulk. I keep thinking it has to get better. So far, nope. In addition to these less than super hero stories, I watched Andor, a new Star Wars series. It’s a prequel to Rogue One, an overlooked gem among the Star Wars movies. Andor benefits from a coherent story and great acting from Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgard, who has yet to turn in a performance I didn’t like. (Alas, even he couldn’t save Thor – Love and Thunder.)

Reading

I dug into the pile o’books that built up after my birthday and bike tour.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was an entertaining beach read that was an Agatha Christie novel set on an island off the coast of Ireland. I enjoyed it mostly because of all the scoundrels in the cast of characters.

How the Post Office Created America by Winnifred Gallagher describes how the post office was used to bind the new nation together and help it extend out west. In some ways it dovetailed nicely with what I’ve been learning about the western U.S. on my bike tours. When I used to write for a living, I struggled with what to do with all the interesting tangential facts that I came across while doing my research. They often were edited out. Gallagher tosses hers in parenthetically to interesting and amusing effect. (Full disclosure, I read and commented on the last chapters of this book while she was writing it. A friend of my wife bought it at a used book shop and thought I’d be interested in it. She was floored when she found out I was mentioned in the Acknowledgements.)

86 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is a collection of correspondence between and American writer based in New York City and a rare book shop in London. It’s surprisingly interesting. I wished it was longer,

The Post Roads Act of 1866 by Bob Cannon, an expert on Internet law, is a self published monograph of Bob’s research into the regulatory law that intended to make the U. S. telegraph industry more competitive. Suffice it to say, it backfired big time and all but allowed Western Union to monopolize the industry. The fact that Western Union could buy up its competitors, consumers be damned, ultimately to the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the establishment of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the expansion of the federal judiciary, and the Federal Communications Act. Dang. (Personal disclosure again: Bob’s a personal friend who rides and often crashes bikes. He should not be confused with Rachel Cannon who is no relation to either of us.)

The Maid by Nita Price is a whodunit set mostly in a boutique hotel. The story is told from the perspective of the peculiar and naive titular character. Her odd and engaging voice made me recall Amor Towles’s first two novels. That’s high praise. Unfortunately the resolution of the mystery read like a screenplay. Also, after the big reveal the book carries on for far too long, as if the author couldn’t bear to part with her characters.

The Mount Vernon Trail – From the Sublime to the Rediculous

The Sublime

Today was just another ride on the MVT. I rode south of home to check out the replacement bridge near Fort Hunt Park. It has only been open for a day or two. The old trail was narrow and bumpy and the approach to the bridge had steep switchbacks with no shoulders. (Who’d have thought this was a good idea in the first place?) It was one of the highest crash locations on the trail. Mrs. Rootchopper was one such victim.

The replacement includes a wide trail with new pavement on both ends from street intersections on Waynewood Boulevard and the Fort Hunt Park access road. The new bridge is higher and wider than the old one and switchbacks are no longer a feature of the approach.

This project has been in the works for a long time. Unfortunately, the southern end of this section of trail connects to a narrow winding trail with washboard root heaves and another, similar dangerous bridge on which I crashed 30+ years ago. This second bridge was itself a replacement for a bridge that was even worse. Funding for the improvements in this area came about after a US senator’s wife was seriously injured.

New bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail
New Bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail

The Ridiculous

After checking out the bridge I rode north through Old Town Alexandria. At Canal Center just to the north of Old Town the trail splits into two: the left side goes around the old power plant along the GW Parkway while the right goes around the plant along the river. I was planning on going left when I came upon three young men and a shiny white Toyota. The car was parked directly on the trail. Apparently the men were photographing it. (The only reason I could think of doing this on the trail was to ensure that no other cars were in the picture. Ironic, no?)

I told them to move the car off the trail. They blew me off. I said you can laugh when the police come.

I rode a mile north and turned around using the river route. The three photographers were now shooting a blue sedan on the trail. I lost it. Words were used. One of them called me a racist. (They were POCs; I am white.) After more words that advanced the cause of bike trails not at all, I took a picture for posterity then rode off. I called the Alexandria police but I have no idea if they sent someone out to roust the rapscallions.

Just for context three weeks ago I was passed by a couple on a gas powered motor scooter on the trail near National Airport. I guess they were afraid to ride it on the Parkway. About a week ago, I saw a photo of a car stopped on the trail north of the power plant. The driver had to jump a curb to pull this off so it showed remarkable disregard for trail users. And let’s not even talk about me getting hit by a car on the trail a few years ago. (No right on red? You can’t be serious. This is only a 3,000 pound SUV.)

Three knuckleheads using the Mount Vernon Trail for a auto photo shoot
They clearly weren’t interested in good lighting.

August 2022 by the numbers

August is usually a slow month for me. I tend to ride less for reasons that vary. This year I took four days off to go to Asheville, North Carolina with my wife and daughter. We toured Biltmore for the second time. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. We also did a lot of hanging around in Asheville and came to the conclusion that we’d never want to live there.

As for reading, I polished off some of my backlog of magazines that piled up while I was riding across the country. My brother Jim gave me a book of essays on bicycles and bicycling called Two Wheels Good by Jody Rosen. I found the chapter on Bikecentennial to be especially interesting. There was also a good account of the claims by many to being the inventor of the bicycle. On the watching front I managed to sit through Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, two hours of my life I wish I had back. I also binge watched in one sitting Obi Wan Kenobi which I thought was surprisingly good. I had low expectations, I suppose, after The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian. Also, Hayden Christensen didn’t totally suck.

Big Nellie and I went to see the Nationals play a game. They didn’t totally suck either and they won.

As for riding, I managed to squeeze out 1,070.5 miles, exceeding 1,000 miles for the fourth month in a row. I started doing 60 mile rides every other day. I find that I can just put my brain into touring mode and ride all day. I discovered a brochure that includes six loop rides in Talbot County, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. The rides are flat and mostly car free. The maps in the brochure are color coded so that you can easily construct rides that are two or more loops long or add or subtract pieces of rides to make shorter loops.

I did my long rides on my Cross Check (679.5 miles). Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent did most of the short days after my 60-mile rides (243.5 miles). The Mule contributed 100.5 miles until it made it to 68,000 miles. The rest was from riding Little Nellie to and from the car repair place. (My 2009 Accord was in need of new rubber and a working air conditioner. Suffice it to say, my wallet took a hit.) I use the car mostly for driving to places where I can ride my bike.

So far this year, I’ve ridden 7,910 miles, more than half of that was on The Mule because of the 3,400+ mile bike tour. I’m on a pace for 11,881 miles this year.

Bike Tour 2022 – Loose Ends

Some interesting things happened since I returned home. The day after I arrived I couldn’t hear anything and my sinuses were stuffed. I thought it was from sitting close to the engine on three flights. And maybe jet lag was playing a role. After a day of this, I decided to take a Covid test. Positive. I took another. Positive again. Dang. I called my doctor and we did a remote consult. He put me on Paxlovid. Within 36 hours I was back to normal. I coughed a lot but that was part of the process of my sinuses clearing.

Another annoying thing happened. My pants kept falling off. I had to tighten my belt to absurd lengths to keep them on. My beltless bike shorts (they go over my bike tights) were snug when I left home in May. Now I put them on and they’d fall straight to my ankles. To keep them on, I resorted to rolling the waist band,

After I recovered from Covid, The Mule arrived home. (It was packed flawlessly by West End Bikes of Portland.) So there I am in my bike pants trying to unbox and re-assemble The Mule. I had the frame out of the box. Every tube was wrapped in either heavy cardboard or styrofoam tubing. The styrofoam was affixed to the bike using zip ties. I pulled out my trusty Swiss army knife. It was super sharp because I have only used it a couple of times since I bought it in May. As I went to cut a tie, my hand slipped and I put a deep gash into my left thumb.

There was blood everywhere. I tried to continue with the bike but it was pointless. So I put my thumb in my mouth and walked around the house to go inside and bandage it. Except my pants kept falling down. There I am sucking my thumb, bleeding from one hand and holding my pants up with the other. Thankfully my kids and wife weren’t around to laugh their asses off at me.

The thumb is healing slowly, and The Mule is back on the road.

Today I went to my doctor for my first physical in three years. The doctor’s assistant weighed me. 198 pounds. I am below the Mendoza line for the first time in four years (when I came back from the 2018 tour.) This means that, when I came back from Portland two weeks ago, I probably weighed around 195 because I have been eating more and biking less. I must have weighed north of 215 pounds at the start of the tour. No wonder my pants are falling down.

As readers may recall, while riding down the highway along the Lochsa River in Idaho, Mark was given a traffic citation for failing to ride as far to the right as is safe. That’s what Idaho law calls for. A driver had passed Mark on a blind curve and nearly hit an oncoming vehicle,. which happened to be a Sheriff’s car. The car was driven by a chubby cheeked deputy who looked all of 22 years old. The deputy pulled a uey and gave chase. He pulled over the offending driver. The driver explained that he had no choice but to pass Mark because he came on Mark so suddenly. And that Mark was in his way. The deputy let the driver go and gave Mark a ticket. The next day we rode to the county magistrate’s office in Grangeville, the county seat. Mark arranged for a hearing via Zoom to contest the ticket. Today, Mark had his hearing. Barney didn’t appear. The ticket was dismissed. Justice was served.

July 2022 in the Books

Riding

Well, July was an interesting month. I managed to ride 1,321 miles even while taking a week off because of travel and quarantine. All but 60 of those miles were part of my bike tour. I finished the tour with 3,449 miles, my second longest tour ever. And it sure felt like it. 66 is not the new 62.

The longest ride was 95.5 miles from McKenzie River to Corvallis. Corey had started the day joking about riding 100 miles. We nearly pulled it off.

This was my third month in a row with over 1,000 miles. I didn’t come close to breaking my month record which was over 2,000 miles on my 2018 tour.

For the year I have ridden 6,839.5 miles, on a pace for 11,776 miles for the year. If only I can squeeze in another tour, I might just make it. (Not gonna happen.)

Reading

After two months on the road I bought two books for my trip home. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien us about storytelling and about being a kid soldier in Vietnam. I was watching an episode of the old WWII TV show Combat! and one thing stuck out: all the actors are in their 30s and 40s. O’Brien’s book is about kids just out of high school. It’s also about the art of telling a story. Strangely the book works really well.

The other book I read was Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By. It was the basis for the old Paul Newman movie, Hud. I am now interested in watching Hud to see how much the original material was changed. It was McMurtry’s first book and he captures life and language on a ranch in north Texas with great skill.

I have a stack of reading – Adventure Cycling Magazine, National Geographic, and two books that arrived while I was away. It’ll take me all of August to get through it all.

Watching

I watched two movies this month. The Fundamentals of Caring. It has Paul Rudd. I’ll watch Paul Rudd in anything. The Bucket List is a weird buddy movie about two old guys on their last legs. It was directed by Rob Reiner. Mediocre with Nicholson chewing the scenery in every scene. The chemistry between the two leads was never quite right. Also, there were multiple continuity errors that were really annoying.

I have fallen behind all the Star Wars and Marvel shows. Once I can be in the same room as my wife (three more days of masking) I’ll cue them up.

Recovering

I am out of quarantine but still need to wear an N95 mask. My wife and I are living on separate floors to the extent possible. Next Thursday we can revert to normal. Unless I relapse.

Bike Tour 2022 – Update and Pictures

My Covid symptoms are milder by the day. I am taking Paxlovid and staying indoors which has given me plenty of time to get most of my tour business done. (I still need to make my Cycleblaze journal but that will take a few days.) I expect to be released – masked for the first five days – on Saturday as long as I have no symptoms. Right now my worst symptoms (minor though they are) seem to be side effects of the Paxlovid.

While I’ve been lolling about I’ve read two books, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a memoir/novel about a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam. It won a Pulitzer Prize back in the early 90s. I bought it more or less on impulse after reading a couple of pages. It is extraordinarily well written. Today, I finished Larry McMurtry’s first novel, Horseman, Pass By about a family in turmoil in north Texas in the 1950s. It was the basis for the movie, Hud. I liked it a lot as well.

Today, I went through my pictures from the trip. Some were uploaded to this blog. Others were put on Instagram or sent to friends. I tried to find all of them but I am sure I missed a few shots trails and roads and rocks. I sorted them by date so you can take a quick 3,449 mile bike trip across the country by accessing my Bike Tour 2022 album on Flickr.

Bike Tour 2022 – The Journey Home

About a week before I expected to finish my bike tour, I booked a flight home from Portland on Southwest Airlines. I chose Southwest because I had enough points on my Southwest account that I could fly for free. I chose a flight between 10 and 11 on Saturday morning. All the other flights left before 6 am. I also chose this flight because it had only one stop, Chicago’s Midway airport.

I was about to call a cab to go to the airport when I received a notice from Southwest that my Portland to Chicago flight had been canceled. Southwest re-routed me on a two-stop flight leaving Portland at 5:40 am on Sunday. UGH!

After much agonizing about getting a hotel, I decided to extend my stay at the hostel. I did some laundry, read a book, and took a walk. At 10 pm I went to sleep for five hours.

My cab arrived at 3:30. 20 minutes and $50 later I was at the airport. I tried to use a kiosk to check in but the software wouldn’t let me. So I got in the long line to see an agent at the check in counter. The line moved fast. I explained calmly to the agent that I had been rebooked. She immediately gave me preboarding status on all three flights. This was a courtesy I was later to learn was extended to others who had been re-scheduled.

When I lined up for my first flight and saw all the people waiting to board, I was feeling burnt out and a little angry, despite my preboarding status. I started chatting with a woman standing next to me. She was traveling with her family to DC to attend a conference about disabled people. She, her husband, and younger son were traveling with her elder son who was obviously disabled; he could walk but needed to much assistance and persuasion to board the flight.

To make matters worse, the family had missed the first day of the conference.

So much for my personal pity party.

When I left the plane at Denver, I was met by a woman with a wheelchair. I turned it down, of course. It gave me a good laugh, though.

The next two flights, Denver to Dallas and Dallas to DC, had more disabled people in the preboarding line. This included five people in wheelchairs in addition to the family I met in line in Portland.

During the descent to Dallas my ears plugged up and became very painful. The pain went away but the “plugging up” worsened. By the time I arrived in DC, I couldn’t hear a thing. I attributed the hearing loss to sitting next to one of the plane’s engines.

With two connections, I assumed my bags would be delayed or lost. In fact, I had only a five minute wait for them once I arrived at baggage claim.

I hefted my tent bag and my duffle and headed outside for a cab. There were none. I took an airport shuttle to the main terminal where the shuttle driver dropped us about 150 yards from the taxi line.

For the previous two weeks my back and legs had shown little sign of my stenosis problems. Hauling those bags around at the airport brought my stenosis symptoms back.

Once I arrived home, I realized I could not hear our whole house air conditioner running. I did some laundry and couldn’t hear the machines working. I had a stuffed up head and felt tired. I attributed this to jet lag.

Today I went to the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled. While waiting I went to the barbershop. I returned home with my medicine and some ear drops to unplug my ears. Curiously, I was now coughing up drainage from my sinuses.

After tending to post-ride business, I took a nap. After dinner I decided to test myself for Covid. Knock me down with a feather, I’m positive. After two months on the road, I finally caught the disease. I had previously made an appointment with my primary car doctor for tomorrow so I’ll probably be zooming with him.

We have a winner! I tested myself twice. So far it feels like I have a cold in my nose. Luckily I have a doctor appointment tomorrow anyway
Might as well test myself twice, right?

I am four times vaxxed and eligible for Paxlovid. No worries.

Bike Tour 2022 – Stuck in Portland

About an hour before I was going to call for a cab, Southwest Airlines informed me that my flight had been cancelled.

Lovely.

They rebooked me on a series of three flights, the first of which leaves Portland at 5:35 am tomorrow. After checking for alternatives, I decided to go with the glue and extended my stay at the hostel, and booked a cab for 3:15 am.

My flights are Portland to Denver, Denver to Dallas, Dallas to Washington National. I would guess that my probability of arriving at home tomorrow is no better than 25 percent. Hence I am doing laundry to feel somewhat productive.

I should point out that Southwest has been unable to provide any guidance except for the new booking. They didn’t answer their phone (I waited an hour on hold), their online chat was useless, and their email response told me they’d get back to me within ten days.

I am hoping to get reimbursed for my additional lodging costs.

Bike Tour 2022 – The Mule Abides in Portland

The day began with coffee and granola in the hostel cafe. Afterward Corey packed up all his cares and woes and took off for a nostalgia tour of Portland (he has a daughter who attended Reed College) and then head to the Amtrak station. We confirmed last night that his bike tools will remove his pedals, essential for boxing his bike.

This morning I rode a half mile to West End Bikes and turned over The Mule for shipping. West End shipped The Mule home in 2018 and it arrived intact.

Corey and I shared a room last night with a bike tourist who just did a loop ride in western and central Oregon. He’s now headed north. He wasn’t exactly chatty but that’s okay.

I’m killing time here at the hostel. My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon which should give me plenty of time to chill. (I hate to bring this up but it’s actually kind of cold here.)

As far as bicycling goes, the tour is now officially over. Thanks to everyone who read these blog posts. Your encouragement of my insane little adventure is most appreciated.

In the coming weeks I will convert these blog posts into a proper journal on Cycleblaze.com when I get the time.

I’ll also post a few more entries reflecting on the tour.

Miles today: 0.5 Tour miles: 3,449.5