Monday, February 11, 2013

P4W2 Day 37 Salt Mine Wallace-Morehead City, NC 92 miles

For a period of time today, the road conditions were as I would have scripted them:  rainy and windswept but otherwise quiet.  I was able to lose myself in a series of daydreams...essential nourishment for one's soul.  I thought about the many miles behind me across this beautiful land.  Pedaling through Mojave moonscapes, the sun-soaked climb into the lovely Davis Mountains of West Texas, and the tranquility of the Natchez Trace: these memories will stay with me for a long time.

I have many people to thank for making this journey a reality.  Thanks to my parents, C.G. and M.E. Rudershausen, and my siblings, Chuck, Bonnie, and Sara, for their support and encouragement of my ride.  I want to thank the OWLS director, Trish Slape, for being game for another fundraising ride for the shelter.  My boss, Dr. Jeff Buckel, graciously gave me time off from a busy work schedule.   Chris Whitlock's many words of encouragement and hog bars were carefully planted to provide me a maximum boost of 'umph' when I needed it the most.  And thanks to my many faithful e-mailers and texters that gave me regular words of support.   They kept me going when my legs started to fail.

I would like to thank all the donors to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter through Pedal 4 Wildlife II.  Your generosity will be put to use to revamp the pool that houses brown pelicans that come into OWLS from all over eastern North Carolina.  You, the donors to OWLS, really gave my ride as bedrock sense of purpose and motivated me through seemingly endless miles of hills and headwinds.

I was able to bike across the continent with really sub-par bike mechanic skills.  Despite my love of biking, it's simply something I have not mastered, far from it!  So I am thankful particularly for the shop that sold me a wonderful bike and trustworthy components - Downingtown Bike Shop (Downingtown, PA).   Ken and George have always provided me wonderful service.  I committed their phone number to memory many years ago, and called them 'cold' many times during my ride this winter.   I also thank the shops I visited on the 'spur of the moment' and who unflinchingly gave me wonderful service: Hi Tec (San Diego), Gila Hike and Bike (Silver City, NM), Crazy Cat (El Paso), Arrowhead Bicycles (Kyle, TX), Trippe's Western Auto (Natchez, MS), and Cycle Therapy (Rome, GA).

In an era when bikers and bike lanes are unfortunately still way too uncommon, I am pleasantly surprised and very thankful that the vast majority of motorists gave me space on the road.  I could not have asked for, or been provided, better road etiquette by almost every one of the tens of thousands of drivers that passed me between the two oceans that bound this wonderful country of ours.

Finally, a message to those of you that have considered a big journey of your own.   A journey like this stirs rare, priceless, and powerful emotions.  Completion of a trip like this can have an everlasting benefit on one's soul.  If you've ever considered a big journey like this, whether it be carried out by the mind or the muscles, or both, have faith in your plan.  Do not let natural human trepidation derail your visions.  Dream big, believe in yourself, and go for it!

I think over again my small adventures, my fears, Those small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing. To live to see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.   -Inuit song

Sunday, February 10, 2013

P4W2 Day 36 Stretching for the Atlantic III Laurinburg - Wallace, NC 102 miles

Last night I spoke to my boss and his wife, Jeff and Christine Buckel.   They had a novel idea to drive down the road to meet me, and then one of them hop in the truck while the other let me draft off of them for my second-to-last day on P4W2.

This turned out to be a great idea.  Jeff and Christine, thank you!   When they first met me, I felt like....well, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Either over-eating the night before (another 5000 ish calorie dinner) or the four waffles, five cups of OJ, and two cups of coffee this morning were not sitting well with me.
We ditched the four paniers in the truck - suddenly I was 60 pounds lighter! And I drafted off of Jeff and Christine for essentially the rest of the day.  That really helped to take the bite out of the east wind that confronted us all day long.   We crossed numerous cypress swamps and blackwater creeks traveling southward towards the long meandering coastlines of the Carolinas.  We made several pleasant rest stops along NC Highway 41, which has now taken me fully into the Carolina coastal plain.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

P4W2 Day 35 Chester, SC - Laurinburg, NC 114 miles

A good day of riding.  On a cold clear morning I was able to pedal a few miles just as the sun started warming the South Carolina hills.   The frost melted fairly rapidly.  It was a clear cloudless sun-splashed day from sun up to sun down.

The wildlife highlight of the day was raptors - many red tailed and red shouldered hawks were seen today.  I was descending one hill today and saw something out of the corner of my eye.  A hawk was taking flight about 50 feet from me, with a large black snake in its talons.

Late in the day I crossed a flagship road in the country  - U.S. 1.   Ten miles later I made a turn to the north and turned 20 really pleasant miles on a quiet and flat secondary road leading through a mix of forest and farmland near the state border.  And just before dark I finally pedaled back into North Carolina.  Was it really only a month ago that I left here to start P4W2?

P4W2 Day 34 Anderson - Chester, SC 99 miles

After yesterday's beating from the rain I woke up with
puffy eyes.  I had to blink out a lot of rain drops after
giving up on yet another pair of so-called 'anti-fog'

After 30 years of pretty enterprising outdoor activities
I am still really stunned how much the weather can dictate
the terms of the experience.  To say that today's ride was
different than Day 33 would be an under-statment.  This
difference was largely due to the rain yesterday, and lack of
rain today.  I had wanted to stay in the South Carolina
Mountains yesterday but glad I dropped south because it was
likely a few degrees warmer, which made the sting of rain
not quite as bad as it would have been at higher mountain elevations.  I would
suspect some of the higher passes of the southern Apps got
snow yesterday.  I hope those AT thru-hikers had a good book and
a dry lean-to to park it in during the storm.

Today's route wound through some picturesque piedmont roads
of western South Carolina.  The air was filled
with the scent of loblolly pine.    The traffic was not too bad. Upon looking
back at some photos from the first couple weeks of the trip, I
realize that I have definitely accepted a new norm for shoulder
widths over the course of the trip;  many wide shoulders and
deserted roads out west, the exact opposite here!
And the desert weather seems like a lifetime ago; I crossed countless
muddy streams and rivers that were running high from yesterday's


Thursday, February 7, 2013

P4W2 Day 33 Sky Lake, GA - Anderson, SC 85 miles

Heavy traffic, hard rain, horribly wet, headwind, head down, head east.

P4W2 Day 32 Talking Rock - Sky Lake, GA 71 miles

Day 32 was a very tough but wonderful day of pedaling.   A heavy fog and singing cardinals and phoebes greeted me when I woke this morning.  The fog quickly burned off and brought about one of the nicest days of weather of the entire trip...60s, totally clear, and calm. 

I snapped a photo of a Civil War era chimney before I left Talona Creek Campground.  And I couldn't resist feeding one of the local horses one of my granola was consumed as if he was on a bike tour (very quickly!).

The hills were immediate and intense today.  The first 30 miles I covered on pleasantly traffic-free roads.  World-class roller coaster rides have nothing on today's ride, and I shifted gears constantly.  I was fully in the beautiful Georgia mountains, and going slowly for a long long time.

Six miles into the ride today I got to a T in the road.  I sat there puzzled, for I had not climbed Burnt Mountain and the truck was pointed downhill on the sign.  Well, I think the Georgia DOT was playing a joke on me, for the 12 miles posted on the sign was uphill!  Turns out the hill signs in the state always have the truck facing the direction that bikers like to see.  Don't be fooled into thinking the tough riding is behind you!

Burnt Mountain was a very tough climb.  It was very similar in duration and steepness to Rabbit Ears Pass in Steamboat, Colorado (P4W1, Day 15 ish), except at 6000 feet lower elevation.  But Burnt Mountain had the elevation change where I could literally see the lobolly and oak forest give way to one dominated by white pines, rhododendrons, and mountain laurels, the southern terminus of species found even a couple thousand miles to the north.  The top of  Burnt Mountain even had snow.  I felt I was back into winter after a spell in the deep south where it felt like summer was upon me.

By noon I had made 20 super tough miles and detour off to see beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park, which has a spectacular mountain cascade.  And the state park is home to the start of Appalachian Trail, the famous hiking path of the East.  The quote on the memorial sums up the wonder of the AT.

The traffic re-found me later in the day.  But I had wonderful mountain views all afternoon as my route paralleled a major spine of mountains in northern Georgia.

After traveling through several very picturesque mountain towns, I finally made it to Sky Lake, where Gail and Dennis Piccirilli  hosted me at their beautiful home in the Georgia foothills.  Gail was a volunteer at OWLS and recently retired along with Dennis to a lovely and peaceful spot in the southern highlands. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

P4W2 Day 31 Centre, AL - Talking Rock, GA 88 miles

This started kind of like Day 30 ended.  Rain and really heavy traffic on narrow two-laned roads forced me to purposely drive into the grass a few times in the tight spots.  It's not the drivers...they've been considerate here in the southeast.  The roads are not designed for road biking.  And the traffic volume speaks to either a populated part of the country or low number of paved roads, or both.  It's amazing to think that 150 relatively short years ago Atlanta was reduced to rubble, because now its traffic extends out like 50 miles from city center.  Late in the day I stopped over the I-75 bridge and watched traffic pouring down a six lane interstate in both directions.  Getting across these interchanges is pretty challenging with a bike when you have that many trucks and commuters on a mission to get where they are going.  Sensory overload with traffic avoidance, lights, and billboards everywhere trying to grab your attention.

By noon today I had made it to Rome, GA, a very busy city in its own right, with traffic issues to boot.  Getting frustrated by biking on the sidewalk, I needed a timeout and committed to a slow time-draining ride through downtown.  I am glad I did.  Unfortunately many downtown squares in America have died and their businesses left to the outskirts, or left altogether.  That was not the case in Rome.  I got a tip from a local to go visit Trey Smith at Cycle Therapy, a locally owned shop that provided me some really nice, friendly service.  Turns out that the road salt way, way back on snowy Day 1 rotted one of my cables.  A visit to the bike shop and a local bakery was a good way to forget about the traffic and break up the day.   The city was marked by beautiful architecture.  Several lovely churches lined the city streets.

A tailwind after leaving Cycle Therapy let me cover the next 25 miles easily.  The trucks lifted me up a bit when they passed.  I then crossed through tiny Adairsville, which I later learned had an F-3 tornado go through a week earlier.  My point-and-shoot camera wouldn't capture the damage.  The destruction to houses and trees was alarming.  Two people died from this tornado.

The late day featured a couple sharp climbs on mountain roads with lighter traffic, clear skies, calm winds, and views of stands of beautiful hardwoods on steep hillsides.  With the hills and re-entry into the eastern time zone, I soon realized with the daylight compression that I wouldn't make my destination of Amicalola State Park even an hour after dark.  A stop at a country store, consumption of a pint of ice cream, and fish talk (reservoir striped bass) with the owner revealed that one Talona Creek Campground was just five miles away. 

Talona Creek Campground is what you would picture in the Georgia mountains:  go to the top of one hill, turn right, and drop down a short but intensely steep hill into a hollow filled with apple trees to get there...the kind of hill you are already hoping you don't have to go back up the next morning (I don't - there's a cryptic dirt road shortcut I plan to take.).  The picturesque campground sits right next to  - you guessed it - Talona Creek.  The owner John Rausch informed me that the creek has several species of rare darters in it.   I pulled into the campground right at dark.  Over the sound of bluegrass music John and I shot the breeze for an hour in his cabin by the creek.  It felt really good to be inside by an oak wood stove fire on a cold Georgia night.  It turns out that formidable Burnt Mountain would have blocked my passage to the state park tonight; I am glad I didn't try this climb at night. 

With the rush of cold mountain water by my tent and barred owls calling from the woods, the traffic, at least for a spell of time, felt a like a really long way away.