Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ben Dymond
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Day 30 - Nickerson, KS to Larned, KS - 61 mi

First off, check out our Tribune article from Chanute, KS a couple of nights ago!

After downing some AmeriCone Dream last night I slept in to a lazy morning - as did everyone else. We rolled out of the campground around 8 am with the thought that we only had a 60 mile day and we could crank it out before noon (which happened). We rode through probably the most desolate section of road yet where there were no services (water/food/restrooms) available. It was key that we had a support vehicle for water and snacks!

(campsite from last night next to massive grain silos)

The ride today was super flat and we were able to cruise anywhere between 17 and 24 mph on the ride. We rode through flat agriculture land and past massive beef farms. It was pretty gross to get passed by trucks hauling (even empty) manure from the farm to the fields.

We have been extremely lucky on our trip in terms of weather and today was no exception - the skies were beautiful and the temperature not extremely hot. So far on the trip, we have not had very much rain and the temperature has been manageable enough that you can bike through the hottest part of the day (1-3 pm). Today the lack of headwinds prompted a horizontal pace line for communication sake rather than pace.

(Leigh Graziano, Bret Taylor, and Ben King)

Over the past week we have been running into more and more TransAm cyclists - specifically those heading from West to East. We have encountered many solo cyclists and smaller groups of 2-3 people carrying their own gear, but today we ran across our first group of the trip - the ultra plush America by Bicycle group that will be heading to the East as we go West.

After doing laundry at the local laundromat, I am currently enjoying a cold Miller Lite before heading to the local public pool across the street!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 17: Rough River Dam, KY to Sebree, KY - Ben Dymond

After demolishing the all you can eat dinner last night at Rough River Dam Lodge, we went back for the breakfast buffet! Needless to say we ate a ton of food and borrowed a few sausage biscuits for lunch. The campground and lodge were awesome and a lot of us discussed how it felt that we weren't really embarking on an incredibly long journey since we have been stayingin plush settings with wifi and showers. We could definitely make the trip a little harder if we wanted to!

We are definietly getting faster at knocking out mileage, especially when the goal is in site. Our ride today continued through farm lands of Western Kentucky as the terrain and buildings are starting to look more Midwest everyday. I definitely saw a few huge corn silos and massive operations for storing grains. Today we passed our first West-to-East TransAm bikers who must have started super early on the West coast to make it this far by mid June. Unfortunately, I was riding along at a good clip when they passed. Some other riders talked to them when they passed by our water stop. On one final note, today was my first ride using my iPod and headphones - only the right ear in the beginning and then both ears. The music definitely increased my pace significantly as I busted through 25 miles at a good clip. Following the ride, I stopped at one of many dairy bars that we will start encountering as we approach the Midwest.

Our stop tonight was at the First Baptist Church in Sebree, KY. This is definitely one of the best places we have crashed yet!! Actually, in my mind it is probably #1.5 in terms of coolness as #1 is still the Cookie lady's house. The bottom of the church - the youth center - is hooked up with a big screen TV, a pool table, ping pong table, kitchen, and an indoor 4-square court taped on the floor! There is also a set of sweet maps including the USA, Europe, and the world where riders tack their home location.

The minister and his wife, Bob and Violet Hardison, are fairly famous on the TransAm. They have been hosting cyclists in their house/church since 1979 when they discovered they lived on the TransAm route. They are famous for feeding all of the cyclists with a home cooked meal using real plates and cloth napkins to make them feel at home. I can't even recall what our dinner consisted of because the spread of food was too large. We are definitely the largest group she has ever fed and we were certainly able to help with the cooking and clean up.

Day 16: Sebree, KY - Tara

We did 75 miles pretty miles today with about 4,000 feet of climbing. So even though we are out of the mountains and into the rolling hills we are still working our butts off and sweating just as hard as ever.

Day 16 003

We started the day off with the breakfast buffet at the Lodge at Rough River Dam Park. I think skipping dinner last night was a mistake because I totally stuffed myself at breakfast and felt sluggish the rest of the day. I was too full to even drink a whole cup of coffee. Rookie mistake, Tara. See how far away the other cyclists are in the picture above? Yeah, that’s how I spent a lot of the day, about 100 yards behind everyone else. I have saddle sores on on my upper thigh and they are killing me. It hurts so bad to bike, walk, sit down, or anything. I’m so annoyed. I feel strong and everything is going great except for that. I wish they could just heal and I could cycle happily and pain-free. So today was one of those long days where you just had to ride your bike all day. I didn’t take many pictures. Day 16 008But I looking back I honestly had another great time out on the road. In no way does it get boring or monotonous to ride my bike all day. I am happy and enjoying every second even with saddle sores and other various aches and pains.

Today we went through lots of sort-of-sad small towns that looked liked they used to be full of life and business but now have abandoned storefronts and ‘meth watch’ signs everywhere. They are neat to ride though; it’s like seeing what remains of small town America. The countryside was beautiful. Several times today I felt like I could be in Pungo or Chesapeake. That sort of landscape. Other times it reminded me of the hills around Richmond approaching Appalachia. Yesterday I felt like I was in Kansas and today I felt like I was back in Virginia.

Tonight we are staying at the First Baptist Church in Sebree, Kentucky. This place is awesome. They have a really nice cyclists hostel on the ground floor of their church with comfy couches, a huge kitchen, ping pong, a big TV, showers, and lots of space. Day 16 030That alone would make our night. But then there was dinner! The pastor’s wife, Violet, has been making cyclists dinner for 31 years. She invites them to eat with her family around their kitchen table every night; last summer they fed and housed 260 cyclists. We were too big of a group to fit in her dining room, so we ate in a nice area of the church upstairs. She made us a million types of casseroles, vegetables, beans, and desserts. I can’t imagine the money, time, and work that goes into feeding 30 people. And she’s been doing this for 31 yeDay 16 018ars and isn’t sick of it yet! I am so amazed and thankful for people like this. It makes me so happy. In addition to food, they gave us all Kentucky pins because (drumroll) tomorrow we are leaving Kentucky for Illinois! I guess I’m going to have to just get a pin from every state and start collecting them or something.

Ok, sorry for the short and not very entertaining update. I’m totally beat and all I want to do is go to bed. Only 55 miles tomorrow which is usually easy but I hope I can hold up.

See you all in Illinois!

Day 15: Rough River Dam, KY - Tara

Another short day! We were only going 60 miles today, another ‘rest’ day, ha. Because I was sleeping inside in the air conditioning, I didn’t wake up until 7:15. So late that I almost Day 14 008missed some of Bret’s pancakes. Almost. I still managed to eat three. After reluctantly boiling water on my campstove to have coffee, we packed our stuff and headed out for breakfast #2 at Subway. The girls and I somehow managed to stay at Subway for a whopping 2 and a half hours. That’s our record so far for most dilly-dallying in one place. Why ride early when you can sit in Subway for two meals and ride out just in time to catch the heat of the day?

Actually today was a beautiful day. It never got toDay 14 012o hot and there was a nice breeze that wasn’t strong enough to be classified as a headwind. There were pretty white, pink and purple flowers in all of the fields. Horses were galloping and thankfully the road offered only gentle up and down hills. We saw some Amish! I didn’t know that they existed as far south as Kentucky. Perhaps they are some offshoot of Amish that is called something else, I’m not sure. We saw Day 14 020several but I only got this crappy picture from the back because I heard they don’t like their photo being taken and I didn’t want to be rude. This dude flew past us in his horse and buggy. One of the girls commented about how they are crazy to still be using horses as a mode of transportation in 2010. Then we realized that we are riding bikes to California and that perhaps we are the crazy ones.

Team “girls” continued to spend the day taking food breaks at every possible moment, much to the annoyance of our route leaders who had to wait forever at a rest stop so we could refill our water bottles. Out of the blue we had to climb a 17%+ grade hill, our steepest of the entire route so far. It’s about as steep as people like us can ride up without falling over or going backwards. It was nuts. I really want to be able to ride up this hill when I get to San Francisco. I’m starting to wonder if that’s feasible.

We stopped for a final time for blackberry cobbler and ice cream before crossing the actual Rough River Dam into camp. I’m Day 14 027almost positive I’ve seen this dam on the History Channel before. How thrilling. The campsite is nice and has showers in close proximity. I’m currently a mile up the road at the Lodge which has comfy chairs, free wifi, and what I’m told is an awesome breakfast buffet for $7. I sort of skipped dinner to blog and watch TV so I’m very excited about that. I guess I’ll ride back to camp in the dark and eat a sleeve of Pop-Tarts in my tent, which is my new ‘sort of sad’ thing to do.

Cool things:

We crossed time zones today into Central Time! I really feel like I’m GOING somewhere now. The girls and I were thrilled to find out that even though we didn’t get on the road until 11am, we would roll into camp an hour early. Or that’s what we told ourselves.

We have apparently done just about 1,000 miles on our trip so far. That means my bike seat has about 2,000 miles on it since I bought it in March and it still sucks. Nice!

There’s a new video online! It makes us look pretty hardcore if you ask me. You can see me summiting Hayder’s Gap in the white bike shorts. Also, Bridget’s line at the top of the climb is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard and I’m so happy it’s on video to be preserved forever. Enjoy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

June 10 - Dale Johnson

Total miles ridden – 600

I awoke this morning in the choir loft of the Elk Garden Methodist Church outside Rosedale, VA. I’ve been known to snore on occasions, so I try to find a secluded spot to sleep where I will minimize any disturbance to others. The church was a gem. They leave the church unlocked so Trans-Am cyclists can stop by and sleep. They even provide food in the pantry and a place to cook. Last evening there were all sorts of dishes being prepared and we left money in their donation box to cover the food we used.

The weather forecast today was for partly sunny with highs around 80 and very little wind, which is always great news. Today was a short day (only 43 miles) after yesterday’s tough day of 74 miles and Hayter’s Gap. The Appalachians run North to South and we are riding East to West. Today we had climbs over 4 mountain ranges. The first mountain was called “Big A Mountain” by locals. About half way up the climb I realized what the A stood for. Big A Mountain nearly kicked my A. It was long and steep. As we started the climb, Rosanne, a 110 pound Duke University medical student with the strength of a horse goes blowing by me. Rosanne spends most of her time riding with the King brothers, who race for the Virginia Tech cycling team. I’m struggling along about half way up the mountain when the team support vehicle passes me. I look up and see a team leader with his hand out the passenger window and displaying a “thumbs up”. That brought a smile to my face. As we approached the summit I passed Stephen. I looked at my terrain profiles I had worked up prior to the trip (I’m both a computer and geography geek). I yelled to Stephen…” You already know the bad news. The good news is we have an 11 mile downhill after the summit”. About a mile past the summit, Stephen goes blowing by me on a blazing downhill. Stephen and Jeff are big boys and are “downhill specialists” who gain a lot of speed and momentum going down hills. I topped out at 43 mph …..Jeff at 45.2 ……and Brian hit 49.7 mph. The rest of the ride included long climbs over 3 more mountains followed by 3 other screaming downhills.

Both of my late parents grew up in humble beginnings during the depression in this area. My father was born in Pound, Va which is just south of our route today as we approach the Kentucky state line. My mother grew up in Rogersville, Tennesee which is just over the Virginia state line. This is a fairly depressed area of Appalachia. I can’t image how difficult it was in this area during the depression. All the foods my mother prepared when I was growing up are from this area…..biscuits and gravy, pinto beans, and southern sweet tea. I was riding along by myself for a while so I decided to put on my headphones and listen to some music. I started with some classic country music, which was my father’s favorite and then switched to country gospel, which was my mother’s favorite.

We pulled in early to Interstate Breaks State Park. This is the nicest campground we have had so far. It gave everyone a chance to shower and wash out their biking clothes. The ranger stopped by and gave us pins for biking across the entire state of Virginia. Well,

How the tour operates - Stephen French

We’d like to provide our perspective of the role of the Route Leader and how invaluable they are to the safe and smooth operation of getting nearly two dozen bicyclist from one coast to the other. In January, just a few days after my application was accepted, I received an email from Matt Brinkman introducing himself as my Route Leader. He acknowledged that fundraising was the immediate concern and may seem like a daunting task, but that he was willing to help with ideas. As I reached the mid-way deadline on May 1st of $1500.00 he started contacting us about sweet discounts from our sponsors, recommended gear lists, and was always available by phone, email, or facebook whenever I had a question. There are 3 full-time leaders who take turns driving the van with trailer in tow, and then of course there’s Don Fraser who drives his 4Runner as an auxiliary vehicle for emergencies and scouting out the route for the day. As avid bicyclists themselves, one leader usually drives the van, another rides shotgun to be able to answer the phone and read the map, while the third rides along with the pack and picks up the rear to be sure no one needs an extra hand with repairs, or some added motivation! Don as well as every person with a title has always presented themselves as one of us, never condescending, just offering thoughtful advice. At one point, Mason Cavell parked the 4Runner at our campsite and biked up seven miles of steep mountainside with frozen Mars bars as a treat for climbing Afton Mt! That’s dedication! They provide the days weather forecast and rest stops on a white board in the trailer. We have NEVER been without copious amounts of potable drinking water when we’ve needed it thanks to the tireless efforts of Bret Taylor. Joe Ferrell,who is proficient with almost every aspect of bicycle repair, is provided with professional grade tools, and has been very successful helping to maintain our fleet. All the videos you see posted on the website have been shot, edited and posted by the leadership team. As we enter into our second week on the road they still offer suggestions about what to eat for optimum energy output, how best to care for sore knees, ankles, and feet, and make recommendations for proper posture to avoid fatigue. When the unfortunate situation arises and a rider comes down with a cold/flu, they put that persons’ bike on the van and take them on as a passenger until they feel good enough to start pedaling again. Liason with the many eating establishments to let them know that they will soon be invaded by an army of ravenous bicyclists has been crucial, and finding a safe space to camp at night within striking distance of the starting point has been seamless. Whether on the back lawn of a firestation, a park, campground, or a church, there’s been no shortage of folks flinging their doors open to help us out. The Route Leaders are continuously proactive with providing information prior to a challenge/event because they all have extensive bicycling experience, most on this exact journey. Every opportunity to learn from what we could have done to make things easier goes into the “what we’re gonna do next year” file, but those moments have been so seldom it’s hardly noticeable. In fact, Don exclaimed today that it’s going so incredibly well he’s almost afraid that he’s doing something wrong!! So here’s to you Mr. Route Leader extraordinaire, we would like to acknowledge their hard work and dedication, and that without them being so invested in our welfare and success, this incredible undertaking would hardly be possible. Crack open a Natty Lite, you deserve it!

June 6 – By Stephen French

Knowing that we were going to leave a little later this morning I made a personal decision to sleep in a little and set my alarm for 6am. Today’s blessing came in the form of a reprieve from the usual nightly train whistles every two hours most probably due to the fact that it was Sunday. With the absence of a local eatery, most folks broke out the campstoves and made coffee and oatmeal, while someone making a peanut butter and honey sandwich made my mouth water! A real treat was that close to fifteen bicyclists came out to the campsite to accompany us for the ride in to Blacksburg where we”ll enjoy our first day off! Blacksburg is significant because it’s the town where Don Fraser, the founder of our organization lives and works so you can imagine the reception that will ensue! Our morning ride began with some nice small steep climbs as the billowy white clouds provided just the right cover from the sun so cooler weather prevailed. Midway on our 45 mile ride we stopped at a service station to meet up with even more enthusiastic folks from Blacksburg, some who rode along and some who just came out to celebrate our arrival. As I stood around eating bananas and replenishing my energy and water, my rear tire went flat just standing still amidst the crowd. This tire of mine has been a long running joke as this is now the sixth flat I’ve had. The wheel seems to be the culprit and I’ve called ahead to the Bike Barn in Blacksburg to order a replacement in hopes that the many flat tires and broken spokes will be a thing of the past and I can spend my post-ride time NOT doing bike repair. The group was ready to leave for the last leg into town and I waved them on telling them not to wait for me to fix my cursed tire. Most of the last half of the ride included beautiful lush green rolling hills of farmland with homes situated in picturesque fashion atop the hills with cattle and horses enjoying themselves as if in the wild. A quick dart to the left to avoid a large black snake crossing the road and a brief introduction to a doe as I was slowly climbing a hill and came upon her having a snack. She looked up as I said “hello”and then showed me her hind quarters as she fled into the tall grass on the opposite side of the road. The sun shone brightly and made an appearance during the final steep ascent into Blacksburg where we all met for a group ride through town. We were met with cheering crowds, balloons, and a feast of great food and friendly faces at the Farmers Market Pavillion. I met so many supporters and advocates of the MS fundraising efforts in addition to a really huge helping of that fantastic Virginia hospitality. As the skies opened up with the occasional downpour, as it happens in these parts, we all retreated to The Cafe at Champs were we quenched our thirst and celebrated a successful week of spreading awareness about MS. Don Fraser, Matt Brinkman, & Mason Cavell opened their homes as respite for the masses as we all looked forward to a hot shower, a good meal, and being able to sleep in tomorrow morning. Signing up for this event many months ago, I never imagined in my wildest dreams what a responsibility I would be undertaking, nor the amazing receptions that I would be a part of as an ambassador for this grassroots movement begun by one man (Don Fraser) with an idea to impact the level of care for his mother who had been stricken with a debilitating disease. Love is ever present here.

June 7th ( Free Day ) - Rosanne Jones

When we woke up to the smell of coffee brewing this morning, I knew it was going to be a good day. And for anyone who knows me well; not only was there coffee, but also an endless amount of honey and soy milk available to make the best coffee in town. We bumbled around our host’s house, sipping our coffee in peace before we lazily hoped on our bikes for a stroll into Blacksburg. As we were coasting along the rolling hills in the early morning sun, I dropped to the back of the group, and with a grin on my face, I thought to myself– Life just does not get better than this.

Many of us dropped off our bikes at the Bike Barn where the mechanics were gracious enough to perform free and much-needed repairs to our bikes. We strolled on down to a restaurant, Gillie’s, which is famous for its breakfast food. I ordered banana, walnut french-toast, and a large glass of milk. I find it quite hilarious during meal times on our trip. In lieu of some good ol’ chatter during meal time, we have our heads bowed down, fingers tensed, eyes focused, and mouths mechanically chomping at a dangerous pace. The waiter even commented on how quiet our group was; I chuckled to myself.

On a side note, I am by far not alone when I say that our Blacksburg hosts, Leanna and Mason, are incredibly warm individuals. I cannot thank them enough for opening their home to us. I am looking forward to another good night of rest, and another morning of delightful coffee, before a long day of riding tomorrow– 75 miles.

June 3 - Rosanne Jones

Fortunately, and let me emphasize my delight, we were awoken to the “chirping” of a train that for some unknown reason had to announce its presence to a sleepy town of only 424 people, Mineral VA. We were camping outside a fire station; they had shown us southern hospitality. As we set off in the morning, the fog was still lingering, we bid good-bye to the town, and its people (who were just beginning to stir); I thought to myself, “How lucky am I to have experienced the charms of this sweet community, which probably does not even have its name on a map.

We were all a bit stiff from the day before ( due to a wrong turn…many of us had biked approximately 90 miles), but as the sun sneaked out from behind the clouds, our muscles began to loosen and our legs began to find their rhythm. Our goal or destination for the day would be to reach Charlottesville, VA, the home of the fighting cavaliers. Thankfully, our mileage for the day would be around 65 miles; and we needed this shorter day because tomorrow’s ride will be full of hard climbs that may at times seem un-ending. After a two stops to rest, eat and load up on water, we finally chugged into Charlottesville and even passed the Thomas Jefferson famous Monticello. We knew we were near our destination when the hills began to increase drastically in elevation. There are two Charlottesville natives on our teams, Caleb and Ben– the King brothers, and they knew the hot-spot to chow-down. We had delicious bagel-sandwiches from Bodo’s Bagels (apparently this store ships in there water from the Big Apple–NYC).

After fueling our tanks, we toured UVA on our bikes and then set off for the James Q. Miller clinic. This is the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) clinic that much of the funds we raised from our wonderful sponsors will be donated to support the salary of a physician’s assistant. While we were riding into the parking lot of this clinic, my heart warmed and even melted, as some of the patients and staff were lined up with ballons, cheering us on. We migrated inside in the nick of time, alas, a huge thunderstorm was preparing to let its voice be heard. My highlight of our tour of this clinic was hearing the personal testimony of a MS patient at this clinic. I cannot recall her name, but her face still lingers in my mind as I type her words. I hope I can do justice to her speech. She began by telling us how envious she was of our position: embracing our freedom, willing to tackle the challenge and more than anything, being physically-gifted to be able to pedal 4,000 miles. She told us that before 2002, when she was diagnosed with MS, she would have liked to embark on a trip like ours, except she would not have a cause to support. The MS cause would have never crossed her mind. But, all changed in 2002. Her life and her family’s life has been emotionally affected by this unpredictable and at times debilitating disease. I began to feel the “warm fuzzies” when she spoke about the MS clinic and how it has changed her life. This woman and her husband had been living in northern VA when she received the news, and not long after, they decided to move to Charlottesville for the sole purpose of being close to the James Q. Miller clinic. We learned that this clinic is the only MS specific clinic in the state of Virginia and West Virginian that has the ability to provide a wide-spectrum of care: physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses, physical therapists, social workers and other health care providers are all working together to provide the MS patients the best care at hand. She seemed to light up when talking about this clinic, and her warmth was contagious, because I felt her fire. I felt a renewed sense of motivation to continue cycling day after day after day, because I knew that if our funds only were able to impact one person’s life, like this sweet woman, that would be enough. That would be enough to inspire me for the rest of the summer. With that said, I would like to send a huge thank you to all of our sponsors.

I am sitting now in a cozy, chair, typing away in the warmth of a kitchen. The King family our being our hosts for the evening and they are quite the hosts; we were welcomed to a beautiful home with a feast for dinner. I hope we rest up well tonight. We have a long day of climbing tomorrow!

How the tour works - Dale Johnson

We hope from time to time to provide insight into how the Bike The US For MS tour works. One of the big keys to the tour is the trailer that is the nerve center of the entire operation. Inside the trailer each rider has cubby that is 30″ x 16″ x 16″. Not a lot of space for all the equipment each rider needs to keep them going for 60 days. The cubby contains your tent, sleeping bag and pad, bike clothes, regular clothes, and your supply of food. The organizers are still trying to perfect a mechanism so that much of your equipment doesn’t end up on the floor each time the vehicle hits a major bump. The trailer also has a stereo system which allows music delivered through an Ipod. The electrical system has some really cool features. You can recharge all your electronic devices on a regular basis and it also has a WiFi hotspot. The trailer has really become our home away from home.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2010 Underway

Time to dust off the literary cobwebs and once again deliver our accounts from the field to the cyber-masses. We took off from Yorktown yesterday with the customary tire dip and an impressive crowd of friends and family to see us off and snap several thousand photos. It will be fun to compare the looks on our faces to pictures taken now to those taken at the Pacific. The first day by most measures was a huge success- nobody was lost for more than a few miles, no bikes or riders suffered serious injury, and everybody had a great time. The friendly folks at Willis Methodist Church put us up for the evening and the group had a relaxing evening to mingle and cook their noodles.

There is one problem with this year's group however: they are already too good at this. Most people were packed up and ready to roll around 7am, and each is really very well prepared to ride their bikes for long distances. There in lies the issue for the route leaders, who must double down on daily planning and preparation just to keep up. Of course this is a good thing and we hope to keep it up. Staying at the fire house in Mineral, VA tonight and feasting on pizza and ice cream. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In four months the 2010 team will begin the epic journey west on the TransAmerica Trail. They will spend 60 days on the back roads of America, experiencing towns that interstates left behind. For these cyclists, looking at a map of the United States will never be the same. They will face rain, mountains, coal trucks, dogs, hot, cold, wind and countless other obstacles. Concepts of distance will be challenged and the sense of accomplishment will be heightened.

If you don't have all summer to ride your bike, the next best thing is watching this video compiled by 2010 route leader, Bret Taylor. Bret had visions of creating a slide show that offered cyclists the opportunity to experience the beauty of the TransAmerica Trail without actually getting on a bike. Past & future TransAmer's have caught on, and Bret's video is perhaps the best way to get an idea of what the TransAm offers before actually taking the trip.