Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Post ride thoughts: part 1

So I am back in the real world. I am sure I will have more to write about reverse culture shock and especially more to write about the people on the ride that I will miss but here’s a taste of what I am going through so far. I went to the gym today and got my ass handed to me in a lifting and spin class. Yes, that’s right spin was actually HARDER after I had 3,300 miles under my belt. It’s completely different and a whole different than challenge than bike riding outdoors but it is so nice to be back. My upper body is thanking me for giving it some attention because it has been neglected for the past 8 weeks. I gained 7llbs on this trip (granted some of it is muscle because my legs have definitely leaned out) but I am not surprised. Despite burning 3-4,000 calories a day, we are constantly eating to stay fueled, constantly talking about being hungry, and constantly day dreaming about food. Oh well, what would this trip be without eating like a king, that’s one of the reasons I did it. I eat healthy in my every day life and I wanted a time to indulge in more ice cream and pies in 2 months than I have had the past 4 years so I should be set for quite some time.  After having a overly dramatic freakout to Brett and my mom about the 7llbs, I have now reconciled that 7llbs was worth living the life I did this summer and that my normal routine will shed that weight and get me back to where I was pre-ride in no time…but I will miss my calves.

I drove, cooked, and slept in my own bed for the first time in 2 months today. I set off the fire alarm from the smoke of my turkey bacon and finished the salsa container, pretty typical. Even the smell of Buffalo seemed oddly comforting. I cannot wait to see my friends this weekend but I am a little hesitant to start school. Once my summer boredom sets in, which will be in about 2 days when I have nothing productive to do, I think I’ll be ready to get back into it. One more blog post will be on the way once I let this experience marinate but until then it will be pretty silent. Thanks everyone for reading, sending me mail, sending me kind words, and most importantly never letting me forget that I, or anyone, can do anything that I set my mind to.

From Poolesville, MD to Washington, D.C. : 40 miles...say wha?!

Wow, our last morning and to commemorate it, I took photos of our morning cue sheet talk. We all huddle AFTER we load the truck and BEFORE breakfast (except the team that sets up b fast gets to eat) and go over some key directions and things to look out for.

This morning, we decided to all go to McDonald’s to save Team 1 the hassle of breakfast set up and collapse. The weather again was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. However, it started to drizzle at our first checkpoint and nobody had raincoats. I think the excitement of reaching DC clouded our impairment but need not fair, we became equipped with trash bags thanks to Lynn! After gearing up and grabbing some Starbucks, we headed out for our final 20 miles, which were mostly on a multi-use trail into DC. Last year, a cyclist fell on this portion and broke his femur so “it’s not over until you actually cross the finish line,” became a phrase engraved into our ears. Navigating into the city was tough yet fun and we found our way to the Lincoln Memorial and National Monument in order to take some celebratory pictures.

We headed into the Old Postal Building to be treated to lunch by a 1998 Big Ride Alumni who has his own Greek Place open to the public. Yummy chicken gyros, shrimp, and spanikopita although my appetite was diminished (for once) by the tremendous amount of nerves.

In just 30 minutes, I would be crossing the finish line….the FINISH of this amazing journey. I would be seeing my mom, Joe, Brett, Sean, and some DC folk (turned out to be Mike and Nick), seeing the first bit of familiarity in 7 weeks. We all huddled our bikes on the corner and waited to be sent off by Jim, a guest rider and friend of John’s. This year, we would be going in by ourselves, as opposed to the traditional entry of 2 riders at a time. Since there were only 14 of us, this made more sense but made me more nervous because now everyone would be staring at me. I was petrified I would do what I usually do---stop and forget to unclip and just sort of tilt over and smack the pavement. I rode in and was topped by a traffic light, as was every other rider (pretty funny), so I just waited as I searched the crowd for my support team and then rode in once it turned green to be greeted by cheers, signs, hugs, and my finish medal. I had it together until my mom gave me a binder she had made of my blog, all posts and photos printed, along with her own blog that she had been making, of which I was unaware. Then I started crying but I knew it would happen eventually. It’s funny how this whole trip I bonded with the ladies and then my entire support in DC (sparing my mom) was, of course, my guy friends. I loved it though and it was SOOO good to see everyone.

Charlton was right when he said after you cross the finish line, “poof,” it’s over and everyone disappears. Everyone was very involved with family and friends, as was I, and it didn’t really occur to me that this would be the last time we were with each other as a group until we were all gone. We hiked to the van to pick up our belongings and my mom and Joe took most of my stuff to their RV camp while Brett and I checked into the hotel for a much needed 2 hour nap (after I had fro yo and he got chipotle). Later that evening, we went to Duke’m for Ethiopian with Sean, Mike, and Dips. I ran into Remy who also happened to be going there, which was extra ironic because we were going to her house later that evening. The night was spent with my Pomona family (about 15 graduates) and every time we are together, no matter who I am with or where we are, it’s like nothing has changed. Many games were played and Ezra, bless his soul, made the most delicious beef jerky I have ever tasted. I am SO blessed to have this Pomona community and I would not trade it for a million bucks. I saw the country by bike, a new place every day, and while all of this was so amazing, enough cannot be said about people making places special.
 Waiting to cross

Crossing the finish line!

 Getting the medal!

Love them all!

Sean left for NYC on a 3am train and I hope his ride went better than my metro ride back to my mom at 11am (I got lost and then I got sick). My mom, Joe, the dogs, and I all headed to Hershey, PA. We did an abbreviated tour of Chocolate World, grabbed food, searched high and low to find beer on Sunday in the dry state of Pennsylvania until we finally bought some to-go from a bar. We got ready, blared JT, and headed to the concert by a yellow cheese bus that the campsite provided. The concert was AMAZING. I am not a huge rap fan but I can say that the collaboration between Jay-Z and JT was done in such a stellar way. They did so many songs together including, JT singing the chick part “I’m a hustler babbby” in Jay z’s song. They also did some MJ and ended with Forever Young. Sexy back was one of my favorites due to the heavy rock and guitar solos and the ability of JT to hype the crowd. Push-er love girl was also a treat and JT’s vocals cannot be topped. The cheese bus on the way home turned into a dance party as our driver pumped the jams, flickered the lights in a strobe light fashion, and the campers danced up and down the aisles. It was so much fun and I am glad I got to share this with my mom. It was indeed the perfect ending for my trip and my high expectations were even exceeded.
Pomona in DC!

On the tram to the park

 Ride in Chocolate World---Singing Dairy Cows


 Sound Check

 Cheese bus to the concert

I can’t believe I can say I RODE ACROSS COUNTRY, every mile, every inch. Aside from my sore shoulder, the training I did paid off to prepare me for long rides and help prevent me from getting injuries early on. I avoided the SAG wagon and can honestly say there wasn’t a time when I really thought I would need it (no sharp bad pains…just discomfort). It was always a mental challenge and at times, physical. I am so thankful for my safety and for the crew for reminding us constantly of best rider practices. This is been such a memorable experience and I cannot wait to reflect on it later on.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 47: From Gettysburg, PA to Poolesville, MD

We crossed into state #12! It's our final state and tomorrow we will be in DC. today's rides was quite enjoyable, as are all the rides that we know are short because we love knowing we have the option to go slow and stop. We got into camp (Poolesville High school) around noon and immediately headed to the local pool to shower and swim. The pools were great, yes plural...there were a variety of swimming options equipped with diving boards and mini water slides. The highlight of the day had to be dinner, which we ate at Bassett's fine dining. I had a steak salad with Sam Adams summer ale and a brownie sundae. Our first drink and entree were taken care of by Charlton and other entree options included burgers, chicken sandwiches, and turkey paninis. People gave a couple of toasts mainly to thank our amazing support crew for all their hard work. Of note, there is talk of the future of the Big Ride and what it holds, or may not hold. It seems the numbers of participants are dwindling due to the time commitment, fundraising quota, and other competing rides. So, I will be sure to voice my reasons why the ride should go on  and if you are a past rider, please do the same (if you believe it should go on). I personally think the ride could be marketed a bit better, the accommodations were not all camping and we only had dinner in camp about 3 times SO it has been more luxurious than I imagined.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 45: From Bedford, PA to Gettysburg, PA: 101 miles

Note the fog below the hills

Well today was the day that had me scared shitless since day 1 of this ride. From the start I have heard, "if you can get past the first day, then you can do this ride..and then there's Gettysburg." Well folks, I made it to Gettysburg and I think yesterday was more challenging than today. I also said to ask me after today's ride if choosing yesterday's climb was worth it, and it was. Today was great. Lots of climbs but all rewarded with descents. Yes, the mileage was long but if you think about it, I did just as much climbing as yesterday but had 13 more miles to accomplish it today. For me, I love steep grades and gaining as much elevation in a short time as possible. So, the "5 mile climb" at the end of the ride with very low grade was not very fun and kind of just felt as if I was going very slow with no summit to meet me at the top. However, this was the last challenge and then it was literally all downhill to Gettysburg.

The first checkpoint was strategically placed in front of a Starbucks so my turkey bacon brekkie sandwich and iced coffee (we ran out of coffee at camp this morning) got me until mile 50 where we had lunch. The first 40 miles consisted of steeper grades and bigger climbs while the last 60 were more rolling and less intense. The morning scenery left us with mountains covered with a low fog, a surreal picture that my camera could never capture. It was a great day of riding but I was so glad to have a rest.
Luke's diner upon arrival

For dinner, the Hanover Cycling club gave us chicken, backed potatoes, and corn on the cob at a local park. This is the first year we were treated (past riders have had 12 dollar night on this ride day), so I felt pretty special. At night, we went to the Blue Parrot and an Irish Pub that had 46 different types of whiskeys so needless to say we had a great time. Gettysburg is a cute town that is mostly touristy and historic with ghost tours, museums, horse tours but also has a great local scene with bars, diners, and boutiques in the village square.

On the rest day, my mom and Joe spontaneously decided to leave Buffalo a day early and meet us in Gettysburg. They got in around 2pm which left me plenty of time to sleep in (until 9:30am), get breakfast, get a tattoo,do some abs, and get lunch before they came. We went to Hoss Sea and Steakhouse which is Ponderosa x a million because of the HUGE salad bar with fresh bread, soup, and dessert for 7 bucks. Oh and did I mention you could add a 30c (yes cents) burger to that, which was not the McDonalds style thin as paper dollar menu burger but quite a hefty treat with an amazing wheat bun. Now on to the tattoo.

Although all the riders at one point in time expressed interest in getting a tattoo, only a few souls made the commitment. Jenny and Melanie, experienced tattoo getters came with me as well as Jeff, a first timer (as well as myself). Jenny's friend recommended the place so we all had an appointment at noon to get our ink. The experience is best described through pictures.

The shop

Nervous pre tattoo photo shoot

 My sketch off the necklace from Lo's mom

The procedures (Jeff, myself, Jenny, Melanie)

The finished products (same order)

All smiles after with our artist

My mom and Joe took Nelle and me on a horseback tour of the Gettysburg battlegrounds. It was so awesome to see this by horse and the trails (which were only accessible with the tour we went on) went directly through the heart of the fighting. My horse's name was Punky and he/she was truly a punk and tried to eat everything in sight, went off route to his favorite toilet spot (which I was forewarned about), and kept farting in Chip's (Nelle's horse) face. Over 55,000 people were killed in the battle and all the hospitals in Gettysburg were overflowing with amputated arms and legs outside their doors. It was amazing to have been where Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address ("four score and seven years ago...").
Joe and Stony

Nelle and Chip

Mom and Shiloh

Punky and I!

After riding, we rode around in the truck to look at some of the monuments. Some cyclists went on a 20 mile tour of the park but I was so happy to have a ride that I was not pedaling in order to give my legs a break (thanks mom!).

Hole in house made by cannon from the civil war, pretty damn cool

We had dinner at the Appalachian Brewery Company and three of us had an amazing pretzel coated chicken breast with veggies. For dessert, we got homemade ice cream at Mister G's..SO GOOD! This and the ice cream in Madison have been my favorite by far. Future riders, if you go you must order Ghost Tracks and the homemade waffle cone.

Time to retire in my dorm room. Pretty sure these rooms used to be part of a motel but are now part of Gettysburg college. Not the Ritz but I'll take a bed over a tent any day.