Physical Breakdown

Gary, Indiana was a horrible industrial pit of hell, but I do think its great that we went there right BEFORE Michael Jackson’s death.. because somehow it seems more meaningful (this is not to imply that I would ever go there again).

I’ve spent the morning watching Michael Jackson videos, some are very awesome and nostalgic (tho i think i was 3 or 4 when thriller came out) and some great but really creepy.  Like the one with the Marlon Brando cameo… one of the later videos i think, as Michael Jackson was in his really creepy looking faze, one of them.

Last night we watched Jackson’s body be transported from place to place – because there was nothing more important happening in the world.  CNN’s headlines were horrible and funny at the same time and all very abrupt with fewer commas than necessary.  MICHAEL JACKSON, KING OF POP DEAD.  Just doesnt read well.  Interesting how both Jackson and Fawcett had wayyyyy too much work done and went from very beautiful to disturbing and creepy.


farrah-fawcett-anal-cancer 51950045FB011_net

Oh and my mom’s neighbor’s cat died too.   Very sad, but way to make history!

Syracuse is great.  I road my moms craptastic bike over to my dads place yesterday in hopes to jump in the pool when i got there.  There are two hills on the way to my dads place, one is pretty big and steap, so i figured i’d get some excersize even tho my moms bike was too small and far from comfortable to ride.. but when i got there, my hopes of jumping in the pool dissapeared when the pool was green.  So i hung out with my sister for a bit and then planned to ride home.  but that’s when the major thunderstorm started.  whoops.  best not to ride in this and tho i dont mind the rain, the lighting was far too close for comfort.  so my mom came and got me. thanks mom!

This weekend, I woke up more sore than on any other day during the trip. My knees hurt to bend and my ankle hurt to walk on. Jumping right back on a brakeless fixed gear bike weighing 1/5 the weight of my fully loaded touring bike and sprinting back & forth all day long in the rain didn’t come with as much ease as I might’ve expected it to, having powered nearly three thousand miles by this point. Quinn & my polo bikes were stored by friends in New York, and shipped out here for the tournament. They’re both fixed gear bikes. A good number of the people reading this blog know what that means, but for the rest of you – our moms’ friends, the ladies at Curves, maybe a few lurkers who haven’t left comments – it means that the bike only has one gear, no brakes, and doesn’t coast. To slow down and stop, you pedal slower or lock up your legs to completely stop the rear wheel from turning. It works an entirely extra set of leg muscles than riding a “normal” bike because stopping the bike requires applying resistance to the pedals’ constant forward motion. Sure, Quinn and I have worked the crap out of all the other muscles, but the fixed gear muscles had been more or less dormant for the past two months. Then we go and hurl ourselves into round-robin competition using them. I personally hurt a lot Sunday morning. It probably didn’t help that I fell on my knees & ankle once or twice – and the half-bottle of vodka I shared with my teammates before the last match of the day probably didn’t improve my coordination either.

More photo’s on Quinn’s flickr account


These idiots also showed up. If you haven’t watched their videos, you don’t understand bike polo.

My team’s Saturday win/loss ratio suffered. 1-6-2, I believe. One of the two ties was 0-0 with a Chicago team. Disappoinment all around. The other tie, we TRIED to lose 0-5 like most of the rest of our matches, but Ch0mb0 kept scoring goals! WTF!? Our one win came against Quinn’s team, “Ladies”, made up of herself, Birdie from Madison, and Amandaconda from Tampa/Seattle.


Photo from Minneapolis’s Kat.

Quinn’s brother, Jarrett, by the way, is on my team. No mercy. Another good lesson we learned is that we tend to play better sober and maskless. We did much better on Sunday. Yet another valuable lesson learned is that we’re great dancers. Watch this video! Here’s a caveat – you have to lay down or turn your entire computer sideways to watch it, and imagine there’s music playing. It’s got a fantastic ending.

People come out of the woodwork for these things, especially the well-sponsored and hyped events. Sven, Kat, Dustin, and Sue I met in Minneapolis; Ben Hunter, Johnny Hunter, Birdie, Jill, Pierre (from France as of a few months back) and Sam from Madison; Jason from Baltimore; Jarrett, Ch0mb0, Doug, Paul, Bad Zach, Good Zach, Red Chris, Johnny Midwest, Adam Ackbar and Cecily from New York; Amandaconda from Tampa/Seattle; Sea Bass & Leon from Seattle; Lucky from St. Louis; Alexis from Ottawa who’s Canadian teammates backed out at the last minute and left him with Sea Bass & Leon (they came in 2nd place); Rory, Gentleman James, and Pieter from East Vancouver; Gus, Jav & Nick from Boston; Nick, Ben, and Ian from Richmond; Ben, Dumptruck, Joe, Tucker and Brian from Chicago; all those kids from Portland whose names I forgot. There are names I’ve unintentionally omitted, and for that I apologize. And too many names from Milwaukee to recall – except for Jake and Kremin, who orchestrated the entire event with near flawlessness. Well done, in spite of the disagreeable weather and less-than-expected attendance, guys.

This is a good time to express our gratitude to Ben’s Cycle/Milwaukee Bicycle Company. One of the two main sponsors of the event, they also accepted the shipment of our bikes from New York, and had no apparent qualms with us loitering in the back of their shop for hours unpacking and assembling them. COG Magazine, the other major sponsor, made it possible to coordinate 22 teams into a two-day round robin/double elimination tournament on three handmade courts.

Before competition even began, Tucker from Chicago cracked two of his teeth in half after an errant mallet swing collided with his face. International polo medic Johnny Midwest leapt onto the scene of the carnage with aplomb, and Jarrett somehow found the teeth fragments on the surface of the refashioned tennis courts. Tucker fortunately lives a mere hour’s drive away, and his nearby family came to shuttle him to some emergency dental work. Polo can be a dangerous sport. As if it doesn’t take enough coordination to maneuver a bicycle while weilding a mallet and trying to hit a ball through a goal, you have to do this while five other cyclists swerve, twist and sprint, trying to do the same thing. Crashes are inevitable, and there are few rules prohibiting defensively rough play. Bike Polo is a contact sport.

Even the spectators are often at risk. Andy’s Mom, for instance, took a mallet to the face from Jarrett. Andy has given me free license to exaggerate the retelling of this event, but it’s good enough in real life to not have to.

Andy’s family lives across Lake Michigan. They ferried to Milwaukee for the weekend to meet twoarmparty and observe the polo. Tournaments, unfortunately, are all-day events, and they never got to take us out for some one-on-one dinner time. On Sunday, they came with sandwiches for the day and cookies for the trip. Quinn & I took a break from the crowds to hang with the family. As Jarrett walked up to play a game of pickup on the adjacent court, Quinn introduced him as her brother. At this exact moment, Jarrett was hurling his mallet onto the court. He missed. Instead, as it left his hand, it caught on a part of the plywood wall and redirected itself towards Andy’s Mom’s face, Jarrett’s hand extended in an expectant handshake. WHAM!!! In slow motion, this moment is spectacular. Andy’s Mom staggers back. Jarrett’s handshake turns into two hands covering his face in horror and humiliation. Quinn is mortified. Andy is in shock. I can’t believe that just happened. Bystanders shake their heads humorously, wondering how Jarrett can make this ok. He really can’t. Andy’s Mother was fine. No cuts, no scrapes, no shattered teeth or broken glasses. Jarrett only got that one chance to make that first impression, but he went as far away as he could afterwards to play his game. Well done, Gigante. Gigante smash!

Sunday’s weather was far more forgiving than the cold, intermittently rainy Saturday. As teams got eliminated from the bracket, more kegs were tapped and more courts were opened for pickup. The sun brought out more babies & dogs than I’ve seen at any other tournament. Our friend Roxanne brought out her baby, Mabel, who’s one of the most adorable babies the midwest has ever seen. And that’s saying a lot, since it seems an apparent requirement to have a baby out here. Like they give you one for signing a lease.

That’s Nan, Ben Hunter’s daughter. She’s teaching me how I can become a fairy. (Photo by Gus).

We stayed with Roxanne & Mabel Monday night after packing our bikes back up and saying goodbye to our friends. It was far more comfortable than my Sunday night slumber party at Kremin’s, sleeping next to Nick from Boston, who accurately warned me that he snores loud. While a party went on around us and he snored, I struggled to sleep on a dusty matress with no pillow or blanket. It was raining too hard for me to go back to the hotel, and my phone had died (more than just the battery) so I had no way of getting back into the room at this hour anyway.

I wandered downtown Milwaukee in the morning and found some girls handing out free Stone Creek Coffee in honor of Bike To Work Week. I gave them our blog and explained Bike Polo to them. We saw them again the next day in front of the Stone Creek coffeeshop on our way out of town. It was a good time taking some exhausting rest days in Milwaukee. We reconnected with people we’d met along the way, and saw some of our best friends for the first time in months. One of them in particular was impressed with how good we’re starting to look. I think he has a crush on me now…which is actually kinda disturbing. But flattering of course. Everyone was happy to see us and tell us how much they enjoy following us on this blog. We’ll see you soon guys. Thanks for a great weekend.

The weird Wyoming weather finally caught up with us today. Sure, we’d been battling some disagreeable headwinds & crosswinds here & there, like Patrick Hugens told us we would be, but we’ve been able to avoid the downpours and blizzards everyone else told us were inevitable. Even yesterday, when we rolled into the general store at Devil’s Tower, the rainclouds rolled in right behind us, scattering downpours for the rest of the day. We woke up to cooler temperatures and blustery West-Northwest winds. Convenient, since we were headed Southeast today. Still, the inconsistent winds pushed us from side to side. Climbing the Black Hills, flurries began to drift past us, then began to drift past us in gusts. The higher we got,the colder it got and the more it started snowing. Soon, we were in the middle of a full-fledged snowstorm. Just like the one the crazy lady in Jeffrey City predicted. (I never, never should’ve called her out on being a terrible witch. Stupid! So Stupid!).

The roads slick, we eventually reached the summit and began to decline, winds battering us and snow biting at our faces. Maybe it was going to pass. “The weather can change at the drop of a dime out here. But stick around a few minutes. It’ll change back.” Someone somewhere said that, more or less. The good news was that it might pass. The bad news was that it was pushing us the whole way, so we were going to stay underneath it. The other good news was that it was pushing us, so we didn’t have to fight it. The other bad news was that that was really freezing, and we were starting to get numb.

By the time we reached Sundance, 26 miles from Devil’s Tower and 45 miles from our destination in Newcastle, we needed to warm up. We stopped for an early, lazy lunch to wait out the weather. The weather never passed. Each time we stepped outside to challenge it, it’d kick up harder and colder. These were not the types of conditions to ride in. We’re tough and awesome, but we’re not stupid. It was time to stop.

We don’t like to have to stay in motels all that often either, but it’s something like 38 degrees & snowing outside, so camping is out of the question. Big thanks go out to Andy’s Dad here, for putting us up in the Motel across the street. There’s cable & wifi, so we’re totally hooked up here.

from the campfire at devils tower

BROasted marshmallows from the campfire at devils tower

Late last week i started feeling like i was getting sick.  I was taking dayquil and nyquil and vitamin c and drinking as much water as p0ssible, but after 110 miles to lander, my body wasnt happy and i woke up the next day feeling like crap.  Ken and Andy were understanding and agreed to a day or two of rest so i could get better and not worse after more riding days.  Man did this suck, i really hate to slow us down (more than i already do up hills) and it also just sucks to be sick.  I called my mom for advice on what to take and she proceeded to research doctors in lander, made me an appointment, made reservations at a hotel and made friends in lander.  This was all in about 15 minutes (i did lots of holding).  Amazing, thanks mom.  She even paid for two hotel rooms so the guys wouldnt get sick and i could just sleep all day undisturbed.  oh, and she also offered/threatened to come out here and take care of me if i didnt do it myself.

I went to the doctor and they tested me for the flu and strep and thankfully i dont have either of those, i’m just sick.  They gave me antibiotics just in case and some cough medication with codeine.  Azithromycin and prometh with codeine.  The codeine puts me right to sleep and after two days of laying in bed and sleeping, im feeling a lot better.  but man does it suck to be inside when its so nice out and i know the guys are out exploring.  ugh. so boring.  but better than getting worse.  and as its such a small town here in lander, they came back tonight telling me that everybody in town wishes me the best.  ha!  and this is the biggest wyoming town we’ve seen yet.

tomorrow we’re gonna take it easy and ride 60 miles to another town and then the next day to casper.  im excited to get back on my bike and i hope my body is too!  i know we’re ahead of schedule,  but its no fun to be sick and i sure hope the guys dont get it!

Just in time for the opening of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, we crossed the Rocky Mountains through Logan pass today. At least I assume it was Logan Pass. It started in the town of Logan and followed the Logan river through Logan Canyon from the point it dumped into the Cutler Reservoir as a rampaging river, gorged by the day’s rain and the winters melting snow, until it’s sources, trickling from the summits of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. So if that pass has a name, it is probably Logan Pass. And it was a lucky pass for us to find.

The entire time I was planning this trip, I knew that today was going to be one of our hardest days. I knew that we were going to be in Northeast Utah, and I knew that we wanted to get to Wyoming. But from point A to point B was worrisome. I never knew exactly how we were going to do it… and then everything changed the day before we got there. The plan was to take route 39 out of Ogden. It was a direct, but brutal route over the mountains and into Evanston, Wyoming. No more than 50 miles, but probably about 5,000 feet up. When you get that high up, snow never melts. And when snow never melts, sometimes these roads don’t stay open for the winter. That’s what we found out about route 39. It closes from October through May. (It even says so on our Utah map. We totally could’ve just checked that…). There we were, in Brigham, on our way to Ogden, finding out that we had no idea how we were going to get over the Rocky Mountains in two days. We knew that once we were over, we could pretty much just coast to New Jersey…but we just had to get over them first.

Our first option was to take the freeway. Which we’ve done for a handful of miles here & there, but none of us wanted to have to struggle up for four hours while 18-wheelers wailed by us at 60 miles per hour. We loathed the idea of fixing a flat on those shoulders, and wanted to be able to take up an entire lane when we were coming down the other side at 50 miles per hour. Further north on the map was another route. And it went through what was called “Logan Canyon”. “A canyon,” I thought, “that totally means it’s BETWEEN the mountains and not OVER them. This is going to be awesome!” I was mostly right.

Logan Canyon was phenomenal. As soon as we found the way to edge between the behemoth mountains vaulting up directly to the sky, guarding the Great Salt Lake from the vast country to the east, a cascade of impassable earth folded out before us, thousands of feet above our heads, reaching out from all directions to impede our path. Yet we followed the routes discovered centuries ago, between the lowest points of each of these fingers. Before we had begun, locals would wax wistfully about the beauty of the way we were about to go. Then they’d shudder and twitch at the idea of riding a bicycle through it. Especially with the weather like it was today. Deep dark clouds threatened us from the very first minute we began to ride, and seemed to float slowly from the west only to crash into the tops of the mountains we were about to cross, and sit there, dumping who knows what kind of weather onto our tracks ahead.

We began to climb so gently it seemed like we weren’t climbing at all. The work felt too hard for a road that looked this flat – like I was fighting a flat tire, or a maladusted brake-pad, or an invisible headwind. As soon as I would look behind me, I would see the incline, and rememer that we were indeed going up a hill. For hours, we rode up these flat hills, fortunately avoiding a dounpour, and slowly feeling the temperature drop around us. Patches of snow appeared below us. Tiny, seasonal streams fed the Logan River as it dwindled on our way up. The road twisted and turned and mountains were all that we could see in any direction. Our own mountain gradually turned from green to white. Our legs gradually burned and our sweat quickly felt cooler as it dripped down our faces. It was 40 miles from Logan to our destination of Bear Lake. After 28 miles of climbing, Quinn began to struggle. An off-season lodge had no warm tea to offer (and $89 off-season rooms in case we really were in for a disaster. Pfft.) There were still 6 miles to the summit, and then 6 miles downhill to Bear Lake. Andy & I each took one of Quinn’s bags for the next six miles uphill. It helped a lot.

We finally reached the summit to find Bear Lake and all of Wyoming sprawled out before us. I have no idea how far the human eye can see, but we were seeing it from this peak. Then it finally began to rain. After avoiding the scattered storms all day, it caught up to us at the top of th hill. Before we were to get caught in it, we began to descend. An 8% grade at 40-50 miles per hour with freezing rain felt like a plague of daggers flying at your face. Words hardly can describe the thrill and pain. It seems as if it rains or snows on us every time we come down a hill.

At the bottom, exhilerated, exhausted, and stung by the plague of ice daggers, we warmed up inside the Chevron on the outskirts of the lake. We bought some postcards, coffee, hot chocolate, Hostess Apple Pies, bowls of homemade chili, and beef jerky. We told everyone our story. The people there were quite friendly, and helped us brainstorm campsites, motels & RV parks in the area. They thought we were nuts, but they loved it anyway. (Ogden, where we began the day, was at least a two hour drive for them).

The KOA campground was closed on Sundays (!). Motels cost nearly $80. It was cold out, it was beginning to rain harder, and none of this sounded appealing after a sweaty, 80-mile day. Any other campsite was still 8 or more miles away. The owner of the station, a perky and wonderful woman who was keeping the station open late for 1) us, and 2) her husband to come back so she could go home, came over to us and offered the spare space in the office building across the lot. “It doesn’t have a bathroom or a shower, but it’ll keep you out of the cold & the rain.” Slightly stunned at this startling offer, we looked at eachother, realized the great relief in all of our eyes, and accepted her offer. Her cashier walked us over & gave us a key. The space is an abandoned office space – slightly dusty – but a real roof above our heads. It wasn’t being used, and she told us we could use the bathrooms in the gas station in the morning. As soon as the cashier left and we had settled in our sleeping space for the night, the skies opened up, and it rained heavily for the next hour. Our luck and good fortune could not have been better.