(Sunday) September 22, 2002We entered our 4th state today. After a wonderful time in Illinois, being escorted almost every single mile (by some of the most supportive and caring troopers Illinois is lucky to have on their staff), it was time to cross the Mighty Mississippi for the 10th time, via the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This bridge is part of the historic Route 66 that I wrote about in yesterday's log entry. But Missouri holds new adventures to discover and new people to meet.
The St Louis Arch is one of those amazing pieces of architecture that defines the uniqueness and individuality that we see in many cities that we visit. It rises up and appears to be almost fragile, but when you knock on it, you find that it is indeed one serious chunk of concrete wrapped in stainless steel. There is a lot to the rest of St Louis that gives it it's own sense of style. Union Station is huge, and is what many other cities wish they could have as a showcase of their own. Busch Stadium is the home of the St Louis Cardinals, and the colour of the grass is so brilliantly green, it almost seems too rich and vibrant to trust your own eyes.
St Louis Skyline
One big highlight of being in St Louis is that we actually get to spend two nights in a row in the same hotel! Of course we have to be up and riding to a local TV Station for their morning show at 5:15 AM (Yes, that was correctly typed, as in we have to be there before it even gets light out), so the staying out late and howling thing is not going to happen. The hours get to be long at times, but then again, if you met some of the people that we have along the way, and listened to them tell us just how much our simply being here has meant to them, you would also find the work to be a lot less like work and more like spending time with family and friends. They welcome us so warmly and thank us so sincerely, how could we do anything but our very best when we come to visit?
(Monday) September 23, 2002When was the last time you worried about putting on sunscreen at 5:00 AM? That was how my day started. We had a long day of various riding around town events on the schedule, and I didn't know how much of it was going to be out in the sun, hence the sunscreen concern. Yes, it struck me as being really weird as well, so you don't have to email me and mention that I really do need a life. :-p
Our first event of the day was to visit the KSDK TV studios for a morning news show called "Windows on St Louis". It is a Today Show format show, with a live audience outside the studio window, where the weather guy will come out and talk with faces in the crowd. It's somewhat like work in that it isn't nearly the dazzle and excitement that it looks like on TV. But if it helps get the message out to one person, then it was worth standing out in the cold darkness.
I was asked today how my "flat count" is going. Well, I believe I am still the leader in that regard, but only by one flat. We have a few riders with 4 flats, and even a few with 5 flats, but today I got my 6th flat of the ride on the way from our early morning event to our second event of the day. A brand new tire is now out of commission due to the streets of St Louis literally taking a bite the size of a pencil eraser out of my rear tire. And about 3 miles later, another rider got a flat on his rear tire, all of about 2 blocks from the event. Unfortunately this flat was on a very busy road with lots of morning rush hour traffic, most of which didn't have any care in the world for the Five Points of Anything, unless it allowed them to get to work 5 minutes faster. It comes with the territory, and we do have a pretty good teamwork approach to flats, which makes it not take very long at all.
Today the riders ended up splitting up into 3 separate groups, to go to three different events. The group I was with went to the nation's second largest cord blood bank at St Louis Cord Blood Bank, and then toured Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St Louis. It was at the children's hospital that we met Amanda. She is your typical 17 year old girl, with the one exception being that she is on the transplant list, urgently needing a heart transplant. A pretty tall order for someone so young. While visiting with her we did our best to give her a positive outlook on things, as we have ridden with a number of heart transplant recipients over the course of the ride, and they do seem to handle it quite well. It's just a bit different in Amanda's case. She has plans to go to her school's homecoming on October 12th. The hospital has made arrangements for her to be able to leave the hospital for 4 hours to attend homecoming and the prom. She has to pick out her dress yet, but she had the info right there in her room, which was how we came upon the subject. I would guess that the plans you made for your prom were slightly different, and just being able to survive the night was not something you worried about when you were 17 I would bet...
Gateway Arch Shadow
So after a hectic day, we had a few hours late in the afternoon all to ourselves, and were also given the allowance to go out for dinner on our own if we chose to. I ended up going up inside the "Gateway Arch", and didn't make it back in time for dinner with the rest of the gang. Not a big deal, I have been managing to forage for sustenance for some years now, so I was sure I could manage one night. And it was a great dinner (Hard Rock Cafe), save for one thing that was amiss at dinner. What was really missing were the 12-18 people that I have shared almost every single meal with since the very beginning of this ride. I think this would only be the second time in the past month that I have eaten a meal without being in the company of the full entourage. It was a great meal, but it truly felt like something was missing without the entertaining and also distracting company of these strange folks that I am on this adventure with! :-)
(Tuesday) September 24, 2002Our schedule for this day was turned backwards. Instead of riding out early and then going to an event, we started our day with an early morning event, and then spent the rest of the day riding. We started with an event for gifted 5th grade students who attend a special advanced learning school one day a week. Their topic of study at this time is organ donation and awareness. These kids are inquisitive about all of the things you would expect, and I can remember myself in their places 30+ years ago. This was followed by lunch with the staff from Mid-America Transplant Services, who is our primary event coordinator in the state of Missouri.
Then came the time for riding. We actually did not hit the road until well after 1:00 PM, and had 45 miles to ride (Which turned into 55 with road construction detours). The riding was pleasant however, with some rolling terrain and nice weather (Slightly cool but at least it was sunny and dry), although the traffic was a bit heavier than we cared for. (There were traffic detours that sent interstate traffic on some sections of the secondary roads we were riding). And when we finally arrived at Ste Genevieve, MO at the end of our day, it was close to 6:00 PM for the final riders in the group. This meant that it would be a late dinner night, and when we finally did finish eating, everyone was set to get back to the hotel to catch up on their sleep. As has been quoted a number of times about our schedule, "There is not a lot of leisure on this ride". I will second that one.
(Wednesday) September 25, 200280 Miles to ride, and most of the day to get there. Our event for the day was a blood drive sponsored by the American Red Cross in Cape Girardeau, MO. It was a placid ride across gently rolling terrain, under light overcast with no wind. Every rider I spoke with about the weather said that it was just perfect for them, and no one even seemed to notice that the course had a few hills in it. At the 55 mile point, the group was given the option to take the flat and longer route into Cape Girardeau, or to go the short and hilly stretch. Only Gary and I were up to the hill challenge, and as Gary said it, "How hilly can it be?". Well, as it turns out, it was not hilly at all. I understand the longer route that the other riders took was flatter, but for the extra 15 miles they had to ride, it was well worth the short and direct path to us, and the route we took was scenic as well.
I met a donor at the blood drive that has donated 220 times in his life. He didn't have a good reason for doing it, except that he was in good health and could. I explained to him that blood donations are like nails to build a house. One donation by itself is like having one nail. But if you have 20 donors, that is like having 20 nails. I can frame a section of wall with 20 nails. With 100 donations/100 nails, you could frame a large wall. With 500 donations/500 nails, you could frame an entire roof. We each contribute one donation/nail at a time, but when people need blood/nails, they typically need a number of units/nails. Ever see anyone try to nail a board up with just one nail? Often it will require several just to do the job securely. It is pretty common for people that need blood to require 5 or 10 or 20 units of blood. So every one of the nails we put in the box helps someone out there to build a better life for themselves.
Nancy Being Interviewed
(Thursday) September 26, 2002Today's weather was not a case of if, but simply when. This was the day we got to meet up with the remnants of Hurricane Isidore. It was a slow and gradual introduction, but once she was with us, it was time for a constant steady soaking rain. Something that the local weather prognosticators tell us will be with us through at least noon tomorrow.
Illinois Cypress Swamp
There are times when I swear that the entire country is either cornfields, or cornfields across the road from soybean fields. And then we find ourselves in a rural area of Illinois, and see what the team consensus believes to be a Cypress Swamp. This was one of those things that was so absolutely astounding to see that I instantly dropped out of the paceline to photograph it. I can always catch up to the rest of the team, but this scenery was something I wanted to fully experience. It was remotely similar to the Cypress Swamps in Florida, but yet uniquely different. Another captivating thing about it was it's serenity. Quiet and patient and simply there. Here again was an occasion that could have consumed some larger amount of my time in the company of my Nikon, a tripod, and a few rolls of film...
Shortly after my time admiring the beauty of the surrounding countryside, I happened upon another thing of beauty. It was a simple number, but a number great significance to all of the riders. My odometer reached 1500.0 miles at 10:15 AM. That would be half way through the estimated mileage we will be riding on this grand adventure (3000 Miles). And as we are just over half way through the number of riding days (Today was day 25 out of 48), it seems that we are pretty much right on target.
We started our day in Missouri, then went across the southern most tip of the previous state on our ride (Illinois) to get to our 5th state on this year's ride. After crossing over the Ohio River on a long and narrow bridge at the point where it merges with the Mighty Mississippi River, we found ourselves in the great state of Kentucky, where we are quietly spending one day (and night). Tomorrow we head off to yet another state, that being Tennessee. The riding, while being on the wet and chilly side, went through some beautiful rural areas with winding roads and tree canopy overhead. It does make me wish the weather was better so I could pay more attention to the surroundings, versus having to focus so much on the riding. (As you can imagine, riding in the rain on unfamiliar and rolling terrain requires a lot of concentration)
Richard in Kentucky
(Friday) September 27, 2002As of today I have been on the road for a full month. 26 days of riding, plus a few days of training camp at the beginning, plus a few days of transition time before that got started. This entire lifestyle has gone from being new and unknown, to being challenging and busy, to now just being the way things are. We no longer have to wonder what time dinner is (It's always at 6:30 PM unless you hear very specific instructions to the contrary), we know to expect lunch at 50 miles on a riding day, we know who rides well on what terrain, who rides alone, and who eats what types of foods. We know that luggage is always to be at the support trailer 30 minutes before departure time, and we know that each day is subject to change at a moments notice, and so many more things. (We also know that the support crew gets just as little personal time as we do, and they get significantly less recognition for their efforts!) And we take every single one of these items in stride as if we had learned it in first grade. We learned all of these things together, and the team as a whole has a very strong bond because of it. It would seem that every team of riders over all of the years has had a different personality, and this year is no exception. I just hope that we can make an impression in much the same way as all of the previous Five Points of Life Ride teams have done, and we only have just over 3 full weeks left to make that impact as a team.
Gary Cleaning His Bike
Last night at 11:30 PM it was still raining. It was this soft and drifty rainfall that when viewed under the street lights outside of the hotel, looked markedly similar to a soft snowfall. Quiet and steady, masking far away sounds and images. It was also late last night that it was discovered that today's school event was cancelled due to flooding in the area of the school. And as we did not know what the weather outlook would be in the morning, the team was given until 10:00 AM before we had to leave. Some slept in, some just lounged around, while I awoke at 6:00 AM (I don't know why, I just woke up!), took my camera and went out to see what unique images I could find. After that it was time to clean my bike (Actually that was probably the most common task for most team members today), have some breakfast and enjoy a few minutes of well deserved leisure time for a change.
Team member Mike Williams is from today's destination of Jackson, TN. While all of the power tool aficionados out there will recognize Jackson as the home of Porter Cable brand power tools, Jackson is also the home of one more very famous plant, one which I know every single one of you has heard of, if not bought the primary product made in that plant. Ever hear of Pringles potato chips? Well, Mike just so happens to work at the Proctor & Gamble plant that makes them, and was happy to give us a full tour. This means we now have a good idea of how they are made, from the potato flour at the beginning, to the cans being packed into boxes on the other end.. Here again is yet another example of how the kid in each team member is very impressed by the "wow" factor of the oddest things. Well, to be honest it may also have been that we left the factory with a case each of Pringles and Torengos to put into our food stash being carried in the large support trailer. But don't anybody tell Mike that, OK? :-)
(Saturday) September 28, 2002Today is the day that we will call "The Dog Day of Riding". This is because we got barked at and chased by more dogs in this one ride than all of us had ever been chased in all of our lives added together! Most of the dogs could be brought to a stop with a very loudly shouted "NO!" (Which is also why my voice is half gone due to hollering so often), but there were more than a few that required pulling out a water bottle and spraying them. And to be honest, this sounds much more arduous than it really was. In practice you get good at knowing what to expect and how to react. The shout becomes a reflex and works about 90% of the time, and you get good at being quick on the draw with a water bottle. Only one dog had us seriously speeding up to get away, and we did have numerous tiny dogs making us laugh at their vigor as well.
This was our first day of mileage over 100 miles, aka a "century" ride. This was also the first ever century ride for two of our team riders, so it was a day for the record books on their parts. And we did it in a big way, as the day's distance was 109 miles. Oh, and to top it off it was also a day for some serious climbing. There were at least 3 serious climbs that had all but a very few of the strongest riders "talking to grandma", so named as it is when you use the "granny" gear front chainring on the bike. (Just to different I named my granny gear "Elvis", although I have yet to talk to him on this ride) There are days when it helps to be a runner, as those muscles come in very handy when it comes to climbing days, and I had a great day all around.
OCD Note: (This is only for all of the OCD people out there, so whatever you do, don't read this if you are not a Johnson & Johnson - Ortho Clinical Diagnostics employee!)
The full time riders are starting to sense a serious lack of creativity amongst the names of the riders you are sending us. Nick/Vic, Rob/Bob. See what I mean? Thank goodness we had Killer B and that last guy who liked to be called by the name of a Florida vacation spot. And we really didn't send Orlando packing simply because his bike was blue, or because he drank that pink stuff in his water bottle. We actually did it so that we could welcome our newest OCD relay team rider to our happy family. However, if I was Bob, I would check in with his boss to see who is mad at him. I seriously have no idea how he got selected to start his first day with 109 miles, only to follow that up tomorrow with 90+ miles. They either think the world of him and his abilities, or they are getting him back in a big way for last year's Christmas party? :-)
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