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.