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Made It

| August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

I completed my day one of the ride, 75 miles.  It actually started out well.  The weather was cool and overcast.  There were a few hills, but not much.  I felt empowered.

We passed through some small farming towns and it was very scenic at the beginning.  I felt like the bicycle gods were smiling on us.

Over time, however, the sun began to peak through the clouds, the temperature rose and the scenery got pretty one dimensional.  Miles and miles of corn on one side of the road and soybeans on the other.

At the 67th mile, I was riding alone and spotted a rare shade tree.  I pulled over and sat under the tree.  My butt was as sore as could be and my knees were giving out.  The last 10 miles were a steady incline and I didn’t think I could take any more of that.

Then I looked at the route on my mobile phone and saw that I was at about the highest point in the ride and the rest was down hill overall.   That gave me the boost to go on.  And, although there were still a few up and down hills, the ride was easier.  I am still sore, though.

Here’s the scenery for about 65 of the 75 miles….

The road from Peoria to Gibson City

The road from Peoria to Gibson City


Gay Marraige – How It Plays in Peoria

| August 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

As noted below, the group is staying at the First Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ.  I don’t know anything about the denomination, but the area does feel like the Bible Belt.  The fact that most stores, including bike shops, are closed on Sunday is a clue.

The community has been extraordinarily welcoming.  I went to their service today and it was very nice.  A small older crowd and the Pastor knew the names of everyone in the pews, except, of course, us cyclists. A lot of shout outs about members of the community, both good news and bad.  A few hymns, prayers, a short sermon.

One of the women who cooked the meals for us sat with us at dinner last night and talked about her family and mentioned her “wife.”  Since we’re in the Bible Belt, I assumed I’d heard her wrong.  But today, she asked for some help with a bike problem she had at home and mentioned her wife again.  My private reaction was an indication of my own prejudice.

Such a sign of the times….in a good way.

Now, I’m Ready

| July 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

imageI took the bike the 47 miles to the bike shop in Bloomington, IL. It was the Bloomington Cycle and Fitness store. Kelly and Mike the Mechanic came along. Kelly drove. It was a great opportunity to get acquainted. Mike’s a military retiree from Alaska and Kelly, a former JAG lawyer who lives in Reston, VA. They both have been on the ride since Seattle.

The Bloomington Cycle and Fitness store was amazing. They immediately went to work on the bike, fixed the main problem and about six others. We went to lunch and, when we came back, they were done. They also gave me a 10% discount in honor of the cross country ride.

The couple who owns the store are passionate cyclists. The husband worked on my bike while Kelly shared biking war stories with the wife. She started a women’s cycling club in Bloomington and they have 80 women for the Friday night rides. I’m beginning to better understand the cycling subculture.

Anyway, the bike is ready and so am I. 80 miles tomorrow.

St. Ann’s Church in Peoria

| July 31, 2016 | 0 Comments
St. Ann's Church in Peoria

St. Ann’s Church in Peoria

I went to Mass today with the only two Catholics on the ride, Jennfer from Colorado, a biker, and Nate from Cleveland, the videographer. We went to St. Ann’s and I prayed that I can get my bike fixed before my ride starts tomorrow.

Here’s the coolest thing about St. Ann’s.  They have a bowling alley.  This how the website describes the origin of the bowling alley:

The St Boniface Bowling Alley was constructed in the 1940’s. During that time there was a law in place preventing the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays. To get around this law, the men’s club built the bowling alley as part of their “private” club. Because the club was private, it allowed them the ability to serve beer before noon on Sundays.

No comment.


Getting the Bike Together

| July 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

First order of business was to reassemble my bike. Easier said than done. I was told to get “Mike the Mechanic” to do it. He’s the expert.

Unfortunately, my derailleur hanger was bent in transit. Turns out the bike store that packed the bike did a very poor job. Also, the brakes were stuck and there was a mysterious ping when the wheel spun.

Mike tried to straighten the hanger, but wasn’t confident it would shift gears properly. He said we should take it to a bike shop. Fortunately, Sunday is an off day, so there’s plenty of time to deal with this. Unfortunately, we are in the Bible Belt, so all the bike stores in the area are closed on Sunday. Closest open one is 47 miles away. So, that’s how I’ll be spending my Sunday.

First Christian Church of Peoria

| July 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

Tom Weber picked me up at the airport. He’s a good looking and  very fit 74 year old guy who’s done the cross country ride six years in a row. He also did a ride down the east coast, from Portland, ME to Key West. And a week later down the west coast.  Yeah, he’s pretty fit.

Looks like he took a page from Peter’s book on being secure in his masculinity. Peter wears multi-colored tights. Tom wears bright orange finger nail polish. What’s my thing going to be?  Not sure I’m quite so secure yet.

Tom took me to the Church where we’re staying. It’s the First Christian Church of Peoria.  The denomination is the Disciples of Christ. The church proper and its various rooms, offices, conference rooms are littered with sleeping bags and piles of clothes. I was told to choose a piece of floor and spread out there.

First order of business is to reassemble my bike, but I’ll need the assistance of the experts. And they have all made a shower run, going to a local Y or gym or pool. My bike will have to wait.

So, I’m sitting in a pew writing this.

Sitting on the Plane to Peoria

| July 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

After the cancellation yesterday, everything’s going pretty smoothly today. I was looking forward to the first class upgrade I got. Sadly, they had to switch planes. The good news, unlike those other unlucky 27 people, I did not get bumped. The bad news, no first class.

Things got awkward on the flight from DC to ORD. They had to move people around a bit because of the plane switch. I was moved from 3C to 1B. The woman who moved into my seat was extremely large. The guy who was next to me was not pleased and made a bit of a stink about his “downgrade.” I felt bad for the large woman.

On this flight, I’m in 2A, both a window and an aisle. It’s only about a 35 minute flight.

I will be picked up at the airport by Tom Weber. He has already picked up my bike.

I can’t recall when I’ve been in a situation like this. I have no idea what kind of experience I am entering. I do know I will be sleeping on a floor in a church tonight. Totally weird.

Fuller Cross Country Bike Ride

| July 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Me after 60 miles in 85 degree heat

Me after 60 miles in 85 degree heat

Today, I will head out to Peoria to meet up with my bike.  On Monday, I will begin the ride back to DC over the next two weeks.  The ride starts with four days in a row of 80 plus miles of riding each day.  The longest I’ve ever ridden is 60 miles and it wasn’t pretty.   See picture.

I’m nervously confident I can do this.  But we’ll see….

My confidence comes from my friend, Peter Asmuth.  He’s a man of my “generation” and has been riding from Seattle.  He was much more fit than me starting out.   So, his success doesn’t necessarily mean I can do this.  But he insists I can do this.  Fortunately, there are support services on the ride, like debrillators, etc.

While I am planning to post regularly to this site, that presupposes I will have the time, inclination or energy to do so.

Peter has been sending emails regularly to a group of friends.  They are informative and very witty.  With his permission, I will post some or all of his messages going forward to this blog.

So, off I go.  Wish me luck…

Archie’s House

| July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments
Bill, Richard & Bob in front of our ancestral home in Ballygill on Rathlin Island

Bill, Richard & Bob in front of our ancestral home in Ballygill on Rathlin Island

Archibald Black left Rathlin Island in 1848 to escape the Great Famine.  He’s the ancestor who brought the Black family to America.  We visited the house he left.

On the way over, we discussed the evidence that this home was, in fact, the source.  Richard, who is normally very skepticcal, chastised me for raising the question.  Bob explained that he had been researching our family tree for more than 40 years.  And he was convinced.  So there.

In 1968, our grand uncle, Brother Jason (a Xaverian Brother) and two of our uncles, Eddie and Vinnie Black, visited Rathlin.  During that visit, they came to this place and it was occupied by a woman named Mrs. Susan Black.   While they couldn’t find a direct connection, they were convinced, almost by process of elimination, that this was our ancestral home where Archibald lived.   The fact is that there are simply not that many other possibilities.  That a woman named Black lived here, was a pretty good indication of our heritage.

A Cottage on Rathlin

| July 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
The ancestral home of the Black Family Singers

The ancestral home of the Black Family Singers

After leaving McQuaig’s, we set out for our lodging, a classic Irish cottage on a hill with a magnificent view of the sound between Rathlin and the mainland.  I’m not sure when it was built, but it was clear that the indoor plumbing was a retrofit.  The original rooms were very small, but there was a spacious family room, clearly a modern expansion, on the second story with large windows facing the water.

The house was surrounded by sheep pasture and the evidence of the sheep was everywhere.  We had to take our shoes upon entry so as not to tramp “sheep dip” into the house.

It was a perfect place to stay.  It made us feel like we belonged.