Friday, July 18, 2008

the beginning of the end

written Wednesday 7/16/08

I have had a couple of exciting and productive days in the past couple weeks. My wreck and the injuries that I sustained from it stole 7.5 days of riding from me and about 400 miles. Beyond that, everything has been great, and I would like to tell you about a few of my days. I am excited to talk about our recent build day, which was my personal favorite one yet.

My favorite build day was in Idaho Falls. We were working on a house for a local couple and their children. The house will be an energy efficient house, and it will be pretty sizable with a basement. Our group was split into four or five crews with jobs including roofing, hanging siding, building a deck and installing insulation. I was on the deck building crew. Contributing to my good day was the creative control that I was given on the deck. As I have had a bit of experience doing this, everyone I was working with looked to me for answers. I was, to say the least, “lovin’ it.” With somewhat shotty tools and used deckboard, the going was slow. This allowed us to take our time and do it right. We worked hard all day. Every crew got more work done than the Habitat folks had expected, and they did it right. I was very happy with our work this day, and excited that we made a great impression on the local volunteers.

The half a day that I rode was my day to ride “sweep.” Every day two riders are assigned to be the sweep riders, whose responsibilities include bringing up the rear, carrying extra gear for those who may need it, and paying close attention to where other riders may have stopped for a break. I had been looking forward to this day, for Nathan had decided to take the place of our missing comrade and ride sweep with me. We began the day after taking a mini morning nap to allow the rest of the pack to get a head of us. The first 10 miles were a breeze. We cranked at about 20 mph on the slow rolling hills outside of Idaho Falls. It was about 10 miles outside of the city where my hip began to ache. I continued riding, determined to make it as far as the first lunch stop at 30 miles in. My hip, over the past few days, had become my most nagging injury. I have included, to what I am sure will become many of your’s chagrin, a picture of the basketball sized, deep purple bruise that had developed on my side. Despite the irksome pain, I made it to lunch where I packed it in for the remainder of the day. My limited knowledge diagnosis of the pain was a broken hip. As you can guess this scared the crap out of me. I (knock on wood) have never broken a bone, and am glad to say the same now, after an extensive x-ray exam. The doc, a cute young lady from Oregon, told me that I had an inflamed bursa, a fluid sack in my hip flexor. She gave me a shot of cortisol (steroid), and said I should be good to go in 2 days. I would be…

My next day back in the saddle was, to be modest, a good one. I had my best ride of the trip. It is safe to assume the week of rest had allowed my muscles to rejuvenate themselves. I was ready to go on the morning of July 11. I was the first one out of my sleeping bag when I heard the first alarm. I was of the first to have my bag packed and be at breakfast. My tires were pumped, sunscreen applied, Ibuprofen abused, and body hydrated. I listened in on our route meeting with my helmet, gloves and Camelbak all strapped up and ready. The meeting ended and I left (not necessarily in that order.) I rode hard. I could feel the pain in my hip wanting to slow me down, but I put it out of my head. I barreled into the prevailing wind like a mad man. I rode 28 miles without stopping (a personal best) or looking back. Upon reaching a little diner, I stopped, ordered the hash and eggs breakfast, and waited a half hour for the riders behind me to “catch up.” The hash and eggs breakfast may be the best morning meal I have ever purchased. Not only were the eggs and potatoes very delicious, but they were also served with the biggest and most scrumtrulescent (for all the SNL fans) hunk of sausage. Upon seeing my menu choice, five of my fellow bike and builders were temped into the same choice. The hour and a half or so that I spent at this diner/gas station/hunting emporium/town-hangout came to an end with a 9-mile ride into lunch. Needless to say, I was not hungry. Our lunch stop was arguably the most scenic one of our trip. About 90% of our day consisted of riding upstream along the Salmon River (aptly named,) and on its banks we had lunch. Our youngest rider, Lee, was the only soul brave enough to test the chilly waters. With a quick change into some shorts, he waded out into the beautifully clear, brisk moving water. At the pleading of the rest of us, he threw up his arms and fell face first into the river and was nearly swept away. After these festivities and a few moments of resting my eyes, I headed off towards Stanley, again at the head of the pack. The second half of the day became a little bit more challenging. The wind picked up and the temperature rose. It became hillier, and my water supply dwindled. I was assisted by a couple of local Salmon fishermen who filled my water bottles and kept me company for a few minutes. They told me how this year is the first Salmon season in 30 years. I got a chance to see the fish they had caught. I never realized how big Salmon were. They had a cooler full of 20-25 lb monsters. I left the fishermen in good spirits. I was still in the lead, and would remain there to the end of the day. It was my favorite ride of the trip, and the first time I finished the day in the lead. As I rode into our campsite I let forth a roar of accomplishment and could not feel more awesome.

We reached Oregon today. It ended up being a pretty lame sign compared to the momentous occasion. I rode pretty mad today as I had some bike problems. I am glad to be in Vale, Oregon. So far from home. As my venture begins to end, I can only think of life outside of Bike and Build. I am so thankful for all of the prayers, love and support from all of you. I can’t wait to tell you the rest of my stories and share all of the pictures.

stay up,

Saturday, July 5, 2008


We awoke this chilly morning to an orange glow from the east.  Our campground was quiet except for the few stirs of our fellow bike and builders.  Gabe, Emily, Janine and Dylan were careful not to tumble from their sleeping perch atop Betty (the van.)  Few others had slept outside, myself being one of them.  As we carried out our usual routine, the antelope/deer of Flaming Gorge frolicked in and out of the campground.  We broke our daily route meeting with a huddle and a cheer… today would be an adventure.

Our route, at first, had us backtrack about 3.5 miles to get out of the park where we had camped.  We then turned on Hwy 530 and headed for lunch.  This particular morning was an amazing ride.  The air was cool.  The terrain wasn’t too hard.  Everyone was in good spirits.  We rode into lunch in little groups.  Lunch was very near the top of our toughest climb for the day.  After grubbing out on PB and anything sandwiches, we took off towards the long downhill to Green River for a big American cheeseburger and some freedom fries.  Not 2 miles later, as we neared the crest of our climb, the road became treacherous.  A repaving project was underway, and we were caught in the worst of it.  The road had been “shaved” down to make a base for new asphalt to be put in.  Riding on the shaved road can be best described as taking a jackhammer, turning it upside down, putting a bike saddle on it and turning it on.  The faster you went the worse it was.  The only other option that presented itself was riding on the 1-2 foot shoulder that was not covered by road shavings.  This route presented a whole new danger of having your back wheel slip from beneath you due to the loose dirt.  The six miles of what was supposed to be our rewarding downhill had been ruined by silly roadwork, and McDonald’s was the only place to get a burger at the bottom.

We were all digesting the distinctly American McDee’s burgers and freedom fries when we learned that our original route had been changed. Instead of taking the interstate, we would take a gravel/dirt service road for 10 miles.  I would only make it a few hundred yards down this new road.  Near the bottom of the first gravel downhill I lost control of my bike and saw a pile a dirt around a raised manhole.  I hit it and jumped it.  My best guess is that I launched about 10-12 feet before I landed on my head/arm/hip.  After jumping up and pacing around pissed off for about 10 minutes, I began the short walk up the trail where the van would scoop us up and bring us to our destination for the night.  The brief ride brought us to a First Baptist Church, and I continued on to the hospital.  I learned that my injuries were no worse than superficial scrapes and bruises.

The tough and frustrating day came to an end with restful sleep on our air mattresses.  We all pondered what tomorrow’s 100-mile day would have in store for us.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

There be mountains here (COMPLETED)


I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life.  3 days ago it was: "I've never seen anything so scary in my life."  I can now say that, in one day, I biked from 8,000 ft. above sea level up to 12,000 and back down.  It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever put myself through physically, and arguably the best day of my life.

I have to start from the beginning, though.  Leaving Boulder was a very nerve racking.  We would climb about 3,000 ft. in about 30 miles.  It would be the hardest day of my life, but only for a few short hours.  I would have to bike about a mile or a mile and a half then stop catch my breath, eat something, and keep going.  The uphill biking was challenging, but even more difficult was dealing with the climate changes in the higher altitude.  I thought our lunch stop was going to be near 24 miles in.  This is where I ran out of water, only to find that, around the corner, the grade of the road increased for about 3 more miles.  I would literally ride 100 feet and stop, over and over again.  I finally made it into the small mountain town of Ward and lunch.  After lunch, I experienced a few miles of rolling hills across the ridge line.  I then reached my first big downhill.  AWESOME.  I flew down the mountain.  Going 35-45 mph, I was slowly gaining on the traffic in front of me.  I went 5 mile in about a minute and a half.  I stopped after the long downhill and Gabe, riding sweep, caught up to me.  We rode the last few miles into Eagle Rock School and our home for the evening.

Eagle Rock School was a cool place.  This alternative high school, sponsored by Honda, is a place for kids who did not succeed in conventional school to go for free.  It was a really neat place with a good mission and a unique approach.  Leaving Eagle Rock School the next morning would kick off the hardest and best day of my young life.  The school has a pretty steep, mile and a half driveway that peaks in the middle.  Every morning, the entire student body, which ranges from 60 to 100+ students, runs/walks down the driveway and back.  On our way out, we were met cheers and well-wishes from the exercizing students, as we headed off to tackle Trail Ridge.

     It took us 10 miles to reach the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park.  We stopped before entering the park at a small coffee shop.  The coffee shop had lots of cool wildlife around.  We were nearly swarmed with tiny Colorado Hummingbirds, which we learned weigh up to the same as a penny.



Entering the park, I stopped at the ranger station to learn a little bit about the park.  I picked up a brochure/map and perused the literature on the parks attractions.  the first few miles in the park were slightly flat, as the last few would be.  Then it began.  The hardest thing I have ever put my body through.  Up and up.... and up... and up.  Then I biked uphill some more.  The park gate had been just above 8000 feet.  It seemed like for every mile I went forward, I also went up a mile.  The stark beauty of the landscape, the majesty of the great bull elk, and the ever thinner air combined to take my breath away.  As I climbed higher it felt as if my lungs were not working, and in turn my entire body fought my mind to stop moving.  Trail Ridge Road peaked about 20 miles from the park gate at 12,053 feet.  It was the highest I've ever been on Earth and on life.  I did it: the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've been cycling every day for the past month and a half.

The trip down, oh, the trip down.  What took 8 hours to climb, took only 45 minutes to descend down from.  If you haven't seen the video, you should watch it (that is Nate in front of me and Beau is close behind.)  We flew down the mountain, stopping only 2wice to shed layers of clothes.  We zipped around 15 mph switchbacks at 30-35 mph.  We met or exceeded the speed limit for 20 miles.  I hit my top speed of the day after we had left the park and continued to descend into Grand Lake, CO.  I think it was about 49.  I even missed my last turn by about 300 yards, as I was trying to go faster.  After realizing I had missed the turn, I slammed on the brakes and turned out into the lane a bit to look back at Nate and Beau.  At this moment I hear Nate scream.  I had not signaled that I was slowing down.  Nate nearly missed hitting me at a dead stop when he was going 45 mph. Close call.  We rolled into Grand Lake Elementary School with cold tacos and hot showers awaiting our arrival.  What a day!

I can now say that I have been in a snowball fight in the middle of June.  I have eaten Elk sausage.  I've seen a wild moose in person.  I can be relatively comfortable in tight spandex shorts all day.  I've been to Colorado, and now Utah.  I have ridden an Alpine Slide.  I will soon go on my first white water rafting adventure.  I hope to exceed 60 mph on my bike, which have named Shadowfax for all you Lord of the Rings geeks.  My current top speed is 51 mph.

Monday, June 23, 2008


So I have made it halfway across the country. I lie in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. We are in Denver, after our second 100 mile day.

Yesterday was an exhilarating ride. The beginning of the day was a little tough. We woke after our first night of camping, and with surprisingly springy steps, we got all of our morning chores done. A few locals in the little town of Anton (where we stayed instead of Limon) told us that we might be able to see the Rockies after riding for just 2o miles. So that became our motivation for the morning, catching a glimpse of the great snow capped peaks. The 20 mile marker came and mountains. The wind whipped into our faces and the hills grew bigger and bigger. 25, mountains. I had to force discouraging thoughts from my head as I climbed hill after hill. Finally, right around the 40 mile mark, cresting a hill, I look at the ground beneath me. On the ground,written in the chalk which we use to mark turns on our route, was "LOOK!". I looked up, and in the distance (100+ miles away) were the mountains. It was hard to tell if they were covered in snow or in clouds, but they were breathtaking, literally. It was very emotional.

Being that it was a 90+ mile day, we would set up 2 lunches. I cruised into the first lunch around mile 42. We were posted up on what looked like the edge of a ranch. It was after speaking to the owner of the land, Lloyd, I learned that it was an 170,000 acre ranch! Wow. I spent a good amount of time relaxing at lunch, which ended up paying off, because the first 12 people to leave ended up going an extra 10 miles out of the way. The middle third of my day was fun. I rode with a group of girls through a few small towns, parallel to and not far from I-70. Our second lunch came at the seventy mile mark in a little town called Bennett (elevation 5483 ft.) I noticed a sign showing the elevation, and this was exciting. Denver is the "Mile High" city...5280 feet. We would be traveling down 200 feet in the next 30 miles.

I headed out of this second lunch spot by my lonesome. Riding about 15 miles before I caught Nate, Colin, and a few others who were changing a flat tire. We rode about another five or six miles before we began to get into the city. City riding is very different from riding through the country. There are lots of stop lights and traffic, and you have to be much more alert while keeping up with traffic the best that you can. Riding through the city is like performing a series of sprints. We moved at a blistering rate through the edge of the city, catching another group of riders and pushing our numbers up to about 12 or 13. We rode into the Christ Church UMC on Colorado Blvd. around 4:30, 100 miles of roadway behind us.

We had a fun evening. After relaxing for a while and taking showers at a local gym, we headed to dinner at a local Habitat for Humanity member's home. As I walked through the house and out into the backyard I was surprised to see that our friend from Durham, who did bike and build last summer and is now in school in Boulder, was awaiting our arrival. We had dinner together and then had a chance to catch up throughout the rest of the night.

It is bittersweet to be halfway through this journey. I am excited about the second half of our trip, but I also wish it would never end. I am nervous about tackling the Rockies, but I know I will get through it. Continued thanks to everyone for all of the support.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fun Days Continue As Our 1/2way Point Draws Near

Wow. I have seen and experienced so much in the past weeks it is hard to know where to begin. We have grown accustomed to eating like kings in the past few weeks. It seems like each church we spend time at is dead set on one-upping the previous one in terms of prepared food. We have such an array of leftover food that, today at lunch I found a 3 day old untouched breakfast casserole, an entire ham leg, and a bag full of unopened sandwich meat. Suffice it to say that we are not going hungry.

We are in Kansas, now, and have been for a few days. We had our first day off in Manhattan, Kansas. We went out the night before our day off and perused a few local hangouts. It was fun to tell other young people about what we were doing. We had a "prom," which was fun. We all went to local thrift stores and bought cheap ridiculous outfits to suit the occasion. At our last three cities, we were able to get into local swimming pools. Many of us are lucky to have not hurt ourselves doing dumb stunts off of the diving boards.

As far as biking goes, we are all still getting a little bit stronger. Our tan lines are very well established, and our butts are pretty much accustomed to being sore. The countryside here in Kansas is quite breathtaking. The landscape is a bit more hilly than the flat cornfields that I had expected to find. Everyone keeps saying that it will level out, and I keep waiting. The Rockies are quickly approaching, and it is easy to feel the group's anxiety of conquering them. We will be in Denver in a week, where we have another day off. So until then, I hope you are enjoying your day jobs as much as I am. -CORY

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gettin' faster and takin' naps

Hello all. I come to you today from St. Louis, and the campus of UMSL. The past couple of days have been great. Yesterday I was sluggish in the morning, having to battle 30 mph wind gusts through the farmlands of Illinois. I have become accustomed to taking little naps throughout the day, when I feel that I am having trouble pedaling. After lunch, I turned it on and caught up to the front of the pack. We were riding along a levy, with floodplains all around us. I knew the mighty Mississippi River was near. We crossed a couple of tributaries on our way into a beautiful but stinky swampland and island park which would lead us over the great muddy waters of the Mississippi. We came upon a bridge and peered over into a dank swampland covered with moss and low country foliage. It was breathtaking. The bridge we were on continued immediately out over the Great River. It was Muddy and HUGE, just like I remember from my childhood in the Big Easy. We stopped, snapped some pics, then continued on our way. We made perfect time to get to a bus station just as a thunderstorm broke and tornado sirens began to ring in our ears. We waited here until the lightning cleared, then cruised through the pouring rain into the city of St Louis. Warm showers and a great dinner provided by Anne's parents awaited us and then we went out on the town. After getting "home" and very minimal sleep time, we arose to tackle our build day. We spent the first half of the day painting and cleaning up the house of a local Cincinnati woman. Anne's parents then provided another great dinner at their house, and we relaxed in and around their pool for hours. In short, these past couple days have possibly been the best of my summer so far. From minimal soreness after biking in St. Louis to swimming in the pool and painting houses, I am having a blast.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Another Toughie

Columbus, Indiana 6/1/08

So, I rode more miles today than I ever have. 86+! I had somewhat of a tough day. As my legs get stronger and stronger, I try to push myself harder and harder. Today this backfired. We arose from our cotton cocoons at 5am, as it would be a long hot day. We were a little slow this morning. We dragged our hour and a half worth of chores out into 2.5 hrs. I hit the road from Cincinnati @ 7:37am and cranked out the first 25 miles at or around the front of the pack. This was a foolish idea, trying to hang with the fast folks. Right around that 25 mile mark, I ran out of fuel. I thought that I might be able to take a little break and be rejuvenated for the next 10 miles to 1st lunch. This was not the case. I ended up walking some and riding at a snails pace until I reached this landmark. I thought about the possibility of pooping out on the rest of the day, but when Janine insisted that I at least make it to 2nd lunch (30 more miles), I put that idea out of my head for the remainder of the day. I refilled my engines at 1st L with a couple candy bars, a banana, an orange, a pack of crackers, and lots of water. I was the last person to get back onto the road besides our two "Sweepers": Will and Dylan. Not 100 yards down the road I got my first flat tire of the trip. It didn't take 5 minutes to change, and I was back in the saddle. I struggled to knock out the next 12-15 miles, stopping for a couple of breaks in the shade of some local obliging foliage. It wasn't until Will and Dylan caught up to me that I was really able to start moving again. Will is our resident triathlete. He scooted in front of me and set a pace that I could handle for the remainder of the day. I can not describe the feeling that I experienced when I cruised into Columbus and The First Presbyterian Church where I now sit. The church provided us with a place to shower, free reign of their facilities, and a superb burrito dinner. I have already taken a 4 hour nap, and I am anxious to sleep as much more as I can. I hope you have enjoyed this snippet of a day in the life of a Bike and Builder. Until next time...Cory.