Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 59: Fairfield, CA to Napa, CA

Tuesday, July 27

We’re in wine country! California has been beautiful and sunny. This morning we slept in a little and went to the Jelly Belly Factory. David managed to score us some free water bottles and Sports Beans, which are electrolyte- and caffeine-filled jelly beans. We took a tour of the factory with Stephanie, our super enthusiastic guide, and got free samples. It was loads of sugary fun.

After we got back, we rode a whole 17 miles into Napa. My team, which consisted of Andrew, Amelia, Terence, and me, was the last to leave the church. The wind was pretty strong but not unbearable, and we were moving at a decent pace. After getting lost for a bit, we found ourselves at this awesomely busy intersection where a nice man let us in. We biked past picturesque hills and vineyards. For a while, there was a nice tailwind. As soon as we turned into the host’s driveway, we ran into Pooja and Sara, who were on their way to downtown Napa. We joined forces and made our way to the visitor’s center. We found bars and coffee shops, grabbed a quick snack, and perused some stores. Pooja introduced me to falafel, which tasted like fried hummus. We picked up a bottle of wine from a small wine shop and headed back to the church for dinner.

Later that evening, we made a run to the shopping center to pick up a few things. I had my first In-N-Out burger—a double-double, animal-style—which was a delicious experience. I later came to regret this meal when it sat, like a brick, in my stomach for the remainder of the night. We headed back to the church, had ourselves a little wine and cheese party and played some games. A locked gate thwarted our plans to go downtown, but we had fun nonetheless.

- Erica Lai

Day 54: Fallon, NV to South Lake Tahoe, CA

Thursday, July 22

“We’ve been on the run, driving in the sun, looking out for #1, California here we come, right back where we started from”

The day into Tahoe was probably the most exciting days of the trip thus far. Not only were we biking out of the desert and into the beautiful green mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, but we were about to cross into the last state of our journey: CALIFORNIA! The morning wake up music consisted of “Californiacation” and “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the opening song to the OC, “California Love” by Tupac and my personal favorite “Hotel California” by the Eagles.

It was a very hot morning but Pooja and Erica were awesome and managed to get us free Slurpies from 7-eleven at one of our water stops in Carson City. I was on team California that morning and we were determined to get our hands on a juicy In and Out burger so we decided to take a little detour from the 2nd water stop and went half a mile out of the way just to satisfy our craving. It was well worth it!!!! Dan, Charlie, Terence and I were very happy and immediately after our lunch started our first and only climb of the day. On the way up we spotted the first ever “Bear Crossing” sign of the day. That definitely made me pedal a little faster up that mountain!

The whole team waited at the top of Spooner Summit until everyone completed the climb because we all wanted to reach the California state sign at relatively the same time. The descent into Tahoe was absolutely breathtaking. Right as we turned the corner we saw nothing but blue and green. It was unbelievable. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful descents of the trip. Finally we reached the California-Nevada state line… I’m not going to lie, it was a bit anti-climactic… and small… but we were all filled with excitement either way. We took various team photos and hung out at a busy intersection for about half an hour.

That night and the next night we stayed at a lovely church across the street from restaurants and an art fair in the city of South Lake Tahoe. Everyone enjoyed their day off by going to the beach, shopping, watching movies and of course… eating!

-Adali Martinez

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 50: Day off in Ely; and Day 51: Ely, NV to Eureka, NV

Sunday, July 18; and Monday, July 19

Today was a 77 mile day, not terribly steep or long. The scenery looked a lot like the small mountains crossing from Utah into Nevada, and wasn’t particularly spectacular… but then again we’ve been spoiled by states like Colorado.
Our day in Ely, Nevada was far more eventful. David, our new 4k Executive Director, joined us. He is 40, has a wife and a baby girl, has worked and lived in Central Asia, run non-profits, and led outdoor expeditions. Most importantly, he has personal ties to our cause that cause him to be devoted to this organization. He fit right in, joking around with us and chatting. We spent time talking with him about the future of the 4k on our day off, and it’s clear that he has great ideas. Eventually, I envision the 4k growing to something much like Teach for America, something that is prestigious, effective, and in high demand. I am confident that in a few years, I will be proud of how much the 4k has grown thanks to him.

We attended the first Relay for Life where I felt what I expected and wanted to feel. The people were incredibly nice, offering us food and kind words of encouragement. We enjoyed a few games of Bananagrams (a competitive cross between scrabble and crossword puzzles), a dinner of fried chicken and potato salad and delicious free cupcakes (I am very picky with my cupcakes, these had chocolate buttercream frosting inside so they were particularly good and I had to have at least four of them). Jose, Adam, and Mariadina participated in a chocolate pudding eating contest (Jose won but everyone did an impressive job), and Andrew did impressions of our team introductions for David.

We watched as a train went through the mountains, with a wedding reception and a huge cake aboard. I guess in Nevada, that’s the coolest place for a reception. A rainbow lit up the sky, a seemingly appropriate sight for Relay for life. We had seen two full double rainbows once, and it was tempting to chase the pot of gold at either end.

I walked a few laps around the track with a friend whose mother has battled breast cancer several times, and it was at this point that the power of Relay for Life hit me. As I looked at the decorated names on the luminaria bags around the track, I realized how lucky I was not to see the names of anyone I knew. I felt how difficult this event, and these laps must have been for my friend. Krystina is an incredibly strong person, and I admire her ability to smile through the hard times and be a pillar of support for other people every day, despite how draining and difficult it is to bike this much. Thinking of her strength in battling life’s difficult situations keeps me going on days where I would prefer to lie down and fall asleep on anything, even a flight of stairs (this has happened).

Following the ceremony, a breast cancer survivor spoke about how not cancer itself, but all too often fear, kills patients. She shared the moment that her doctor told her it wasn’t a question of if she was going to get cancer, but instead, when. At that point, she decided to be proactive in preventing cancer from attacking her, and was lucky to consequently catch it at an early stage by opting for a biopsy even though her breast tissue appeared normal. I thought about how terrible it must be for girls who are told they have the BRAC gene, who are forced to accept the reality that they will some day have to face cancer. I thought about my mother, and how thankful I’ve been that she’s recently started taking better care of herself, and seeking preventative measures. However, she still hasn’t gotten a full skin cancer screening, which frightens me because I don’t think she knew what sunscreen was until I was born, and nevertheless neglects to use it. Skin cancer is an especially preventable disease, yet if measures aren’t taken, your name could end up on a luminaria bag at Relay for Life. That is something no one should ever have to see.
We attempted to sleep in tents at Relay despite the constant music, many of us to no avail. Luckily, I had earplugs, which were fantastic. I did lose my sleeping mask, though, but my sweatshirt proved to be effective enough. I’m an extremely light sleeper, so however ridiculous earplugs and a sleeping mask may look, I find them to be necessities. However, I still heard them announce ‘It’s 3 am, and we’re going to keep playing the music!’ before blasting country music and heavy metal. I thought it was actually 7 am, and spent the following hours confused, and half awake.

When it finally was 7 am, we awoke to a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and ham donated by the Lions Club. We were so tired that many of us returned to the middle school we were staying at to catch up on our sleep. I cleaned my bike, and David helped me fix my derailleur, teaching me more about bike mechanics in five minutes than I had learned on the entire trip. I was ready to trek to the bike shop for repairs and hefty fees, but thanks to him, I didn’t have to.

Some of the team went to explore the caves in Baker, Nevada, and others to the hot springs/natural pool in town. Instead, I slept for two hours, got a Mcflurry and sweet tea from McDonalds with Chris, and made a trip to the pharmacy. I felt lazy not taking advantage of the surrounding area, but sleeping sounded more appealing than swimming or traveling an hour and a half each way to visit caves.
Lunch that day was donated by a couple who helped organize Relay for Life, and put together a meal for us out of the kindness of their hearts. I still find it incredible that we’ve had free lunch every day, and that people are so generous.
Tomorrow’s a 70 mile day into Austin, which has hot springs, followed by 110 miles to Fallon (downhill!). I’m supposed to drive on the 110 mile day, but since I’ve driven five times already, David kindly agreed to drive for me. I can’t believe we only have 9 biking days and 4 days off left… this trip has gone by far too fast!

Natalie Draisin

Day 43: Green River, UT to Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Sunday, July 11

There are times we encounter roads better suited to mountain bikes. We began the day with such a road – a monstrosity of loose gravel on which we fought for balance with every pedal stroke. Riding on this road became a game requiring the utmost concentration to find the firmest patches in the road. Of course, this area also happens to be thick with gnats and mosquitoes that form clouds behind riders in an almost cartoon-like fashion. Luckily, the road ended after about four miles.

The fun did not stop there, however. It’s said that Highway 50 is the “loneliest road in America”, but the next stretch of this road was definitely less traveled. The right lane of the road was overgrown with grass, and the roughness of the pavement, while not easily seen, could be felt with every jolt through our saddles. We had rolling hills similar to what we saw in Missouri, but riding slowly was not an option, for the cloud of gnats would engulf us at speeds lower than around 10 mph.

The majority of the day was hot, dry, and gnat infested. There was, however, little traffic in the roads, and today Kieran decided to ride no hands for 43 miles with Henrik supporting him with water and food. These two continued on as the rest of us stopped for a delicious Subway lunch at an RV park.

In the last 20 mile stretch, we ran into these two stopped at a small store that has supposedly appeared in travel guides for CruiseAmerica. After a short break we entered into the canyons as a brief but strong storm caught us on a climb. The entry into Capitol Reef was rather scenic but also repetitive. It was a great relief to finally roll into the campground. And thus began the first of three straight days of the team’s first true camping experience!

-Charlie Ouyang

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 46: Bryce Canyon, UT to Cedar City, UT

Wednesday, July 14

I felt really sick that morning and stayed on the van. We were camping a night before at Bryce Canyon. We woke up at four. Although I really enjoyed seeing millions of stars, it was not fun waking up so early that sun is not even up. It is hard to gather all my belongings together and therefore take significantly longer to pack. Also, it was so cold in the morning. It started with nice descent until the first water stop at least. But after the second water stop, we were faced with eight percent grade-mountain. Mountains were not as bad as the ones we have climbed before, but it was pretty long. What made things worse was that there were some miscommunications with the lunch van. We have decided to have lunch at mile 63, which, according to the elevation chart, seemed correct. But it happened that the summit came few miles before. People waited for hours for lunch van to come and were starving. It finally came around two. After that summit, it was downhill till the host and it seemed that bikes went a lot faster than the car. We were all so excited to have finally a day off, since previous couple of days has been so difficult. We stayed in a dorm and it was nice to sleep on the mattresses.

-Chorong Song

Day 44: Capitol Reef National Park, UT to Escalante, UT

Monday, July 12

Expectations can be friend or foe. Sometimes we go into days expecting the worst, and at the end of the ride find that things weren’t quite as bad as we’d expected. Other times we head in unprepared for what lies ahead, and become devastated with each new obstacle that rears its ugly head. Today’s ride fell squarely into the latter of these two; we went in expecting a few tough climbs, but what we got was nothing less than the hardest day of the trip so far.

We started off with a climb out of Capitol Reef National Park, and quickly realized we’d have to add a couple of miles onto the original total. Not the best way to start the day. We weren’t given much time to get warmed up; once we left the park we immediately hit a steady climb out of the canyon. My group, which dubbed itself Team Testosterone (in light of our high concentration of Y chromosomes), had some pretty strong climbers in it, and we quickly made our way to the top of the first hill. At this point I stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break, telling my group I would meet them at the top of the climb. As fate would have it the directions were wrong, and my group missed the turn and added yet more miles onto the day. I was the lucky one who stopped behind to figure out what was up, and had a good laugh as I watched them make their way back. Still, they should be thankful they didn’t go as far as Kieran, who got a nice tour of a Utah grist mill before realizing he’d gone ten miles out of the way.

Eventually we got back on track, and started on the long climb we’d all been waiting for. Dubbed “Hog’s Back,” this climb was extremely frustrating because every once in a while we’d start making our way back down the hill, essentially wasting some of the ground we’d arduously climbed up. I stopped at what I thought was the top- where cows were parading across the road, no less- to wait for the rest of my group. There we celebrated being done with the toughest part of the day, and talked a bit about what we’d thought of the ascent. It was here that Kevin said he thought it was the toughest climb of the trip so far. If only he’d known what was in store ahead. After descending for about a minute, we rounded a bend to see a steeper grade than any previously encountered. Worse yet, we could see the road winding its way up the mountain for many miles to come. If we’d thought that climb so far had been tough, the rest of it was basically the state of Utah trying to beat us into submission. I kept looking up around each corner for the water stop, only to be rewarded with more of the mountain in front of me, almost as punishment for getting my hopes up. I finally made it to the top, and at this point I didn’t even have enough energy to be excited about getting there. I wordlessly grabbed some food and sat down to await the rest of the team.

We were given a bit of a reprieve over the next fifteen miles, as we reaped the benefits of our long climb. Considering we start and finish at sea level, one of my mottos for this trip has been, “what goes up, must come down.” Or at least, that’s what I tell myself when we’re going up tough hills. On this day, however, we weren’t even given much of a break on the descents, as a pretty strong headwind came to impede our progress. Nevertheless the miles downhill went by pretty quickly, as my group enjoyed making our way out of the mountains. The day’s elevation chart had essentially told us we were done with any difficult climbing, and so we looked forward to a comfortable ride into Escalante. Alexis, who had driven the van ahead, told us that there were some hills in store, but nothing too difficult. I would later learn she was trying to protect us from the truth, because what she had seen along the rest of the way was so difficult she had no idea what to say.

We entered what the group called “Devil’s Backbone,” which may or may not be a name the 4K made up, but it certainly seems appropriate for the hellish environment we had to work our way through. It began with a steep descent into a canyon along a very narrow pass, with no rail guards or anything for protection along the sides. I went along pretty slowly, not wanting to risk anything for a little bit of extra speed. I would later learn, almost as a fun fact, that this part of the ride along Highway 12 is considered one of the most scenic drives in America. It’s funny how this was lost on me, as I was forced to focus squarely upon keeping my bike from veering off a cliff in light of the strong winds present on top of the pass. The way out of this canyon was filled with some very steep hills, and it finally finished with a two mile climb at steep grade to get out. Once we reached the top, it was almost like entering another planet, as there were no signs of life or civilization stirring under the hot desert sun. It took a bit more climbing to get out of this eerie wasteland, and to at long last be done with climbing. We slowly made our way down to the town, and figured it was appropriate to stop and celebrate with a round of drinks for surviving the worst day so far. It was all we could do to keep ourselves from going insane. I’m proud we all made it through the worst day so far, but I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to go through this day again.

-Chris Tait

Day 42: Moab, UT to Green River, Utah

Saturday, July 10

So begins the first day of the third leg. A 5 a.m. wake up had us staggering around with forever shocking efficiency for such an indecently tired crew. As we cruised out a red dawn greeted us with what we thought was the promise of a sizzling day. Did I mention that we ate? No that’s because we cruised out of the church parking lot and headed for the diner. Yes the DINER! The pastor who had so kindly given of the church space had ALSO donated 25 breakfasts each to the riders own discretion, delicious I had buckwheat pancakes, hash browns and coffee. Does it get any better? Yes! Happy Birthday baby Kieran! The staff brought him an encore of ice cream in celebration! Needless to say no one felt like moving after the massive meal, but we hoisted ourselves up and formed a slightly bloated morning circle. After morning circle the usual herding cats/ making groups for the day ensued (a short one of 51 miles or so...and the elevation chart, a work of art (all down hill)) my group was team new jersey, as in new bike jerseys. Coincidentally many of the speed demons had new jerseys so we averaged a seamless 21 mph! Nice! Team New Jersey quickly came upon Green River and were wondering where it was until we reached the epicenter, just kidding there was no epicenter. Green River may I mention is the only town within a reasonable distance (100 miles) from Moab and ( ) aside from our other options, Solitude Utah and Desolate...Green river does sound a little more inviting although the surrounding landscape was doubtless no less stark than the afore mentioned.

Getting in early was fantastic and we were greeted by a selection of sandwich fixings, ants on a log and home made jelly! The coolest part is that it all was provided by folks our age! Every one was surprisingly wiped out by such a short day after a day off. The napping was brought to an abrupt end when we were summoned to a walking tour of town lead by one of the volunteers. The volunteer explained what was around in town, their aspirations for the town and the booms and busts of the past. After the walking tour the group was split and some of us were talked to rake up glass, batteries and the like and others were delegated to the consignment shop to sort and organize clothes, weeding was also a quintessential part of the days tasks. Giving back was a very cool thing to do but we were all exhausted by the end of the hour and a half. The daily showers were definitely what the doctor ordered. Once refreshed by the interestingly mineral laden water much of the team wondered into a super cool coffee house...the only one actually. Bedecked with a record player, native art, interesting furniture and an impressive book collection, not to mention marvelous coffee drinks etc.! Diner at 6:30 summoned us to our hosts where we scarfed down delicious burritos and then tried to fall asleep at 9 (sun still shining) in lue of the next mornings 4 am wake up.

That’s all for now.

- Amelia Lindbergh

PS Miss you Kristine!