Wow – can you believe it has been this long? Just a few short weeks ago, we were celebrating being over halfway to the finish line in Dallas. Tonight, we’re in Atlanta and heading out tomorrow morning to Gainesville, GA. Only 6 more days of riding until we are in the Atlantic Ocean. Sea to shining Sea. I am sorry that there have not been more posts as we’ve traveled along. Each day takes a terrific effort of mental and physical energy to complete and at the end of the day, being able to put together thoughts into meaningful sentences can seem like an overwhelming task. So ,what often happens is that there are quick posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the blog is left hanging.
Don’t get me wrong – we are not setting a torrid pace each day, but we have been averaging over 83 miles per day for 41 days and from sun up to sun down, there is very little going on other than eating, riding and resting.
Week 6, one of the highlights and lowlights of the week was crossing the Mississippi River. We had to cross via I-20 and much thought, discussion and prayer had gone into how to cross. Traveling an additional 200 miles to another crossing wasn’t an option. Throwing our bikes in the van and riding across safely was an option, but in our desire to ride every inch of the country, that wasn’t highly favored. As we approached the bridge via the shoulder of I-20, we saw that one lane was closed and we got excited – we could ride over safely behind orange barrels! That was true until about 2/3 of the way across – the good news was that the traffic was pretty much at a standstill, since it was shut down to one lane. We quickly jumped into the main traffic and were laughing about how we had worried. Then we saw it – two sections of the bridge that were connected only by metal “teeth” – with gaps big enough to cause problems for our wheels/tires if we didn’t hit them perfectly. Out of 4 riders, we had 5 flats. Unfortunately, both of my flats came from hitting those gaps at a decent speed and both of my rims were damaged beyond repair. Thankfully, we had packed my aluminum Specialized Allez and that has been my ride ever since. The Volagi Liscio I was riding comes with disc brakes and without a spare wheel set, there was no replacing them. The bumps are felt more intensely now and the gear components makes the hill climbing more difficult – but you adapt on the road – that is what you must do.
This week, one of the more memorable days was Birmingham, AL. What made it memorable was that we climbed almost as much that day as we did in the mountains of Washington or Colorado going from Tuscaloosa, AL to Pell City, AL and passing through the south side of Birmingham. The sharp hills of Birmingham are pretty intense – they never seemed to stop going up and down and the gradient was regularly more steep than the Rockies. We also rode on the Chief Ladiga Trail from Jacksonville, AL to the Georgia border and then the Silver Comet Trail from the Georgia border into Atlanta. What a beautiful set of trails to ride – you’re safe, off the road and the scenery is amazing. As we get ready to finish, it is amazing to think that we have gone this far by bicycle. While we are close to the Atlantic Ocean, it will be 6 days of relatively long rides – two will be over 100 miles each and two will be over 90 miles. Endurance riding is physical and mental, as I mentioned before and it will take focus to finish strong.
I miss seeing my wife, Laura, every day and I look forward to seeing her again soon. Being apart from her all this time as been one of the toughest elements. She’s my greatest fan and without her encouragement, I would struggle each day. All of my friends back home in Dallas – I miss you as well and look forward to getting back into a “regular” routine of life with you. Thank you for reading and remember – we are doing this so oral learners can hear the truth of the Gospel. It’s not about the ride – it’s about the listener.