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Thanks and Happy New Year

Dear Eco-Patriots,

We hope this finds you all well and ready for a new year poised to top ’07.

On November 11th we successfully arrived in San Francisco after 3,800 miles and 63 days on the road (52 of which were spent in the saddle). Since we began our adventure we’ve experienced the most genuine kindness beginning with you all and continuing through each of the 9 states we crossed. Your combined support allowed us to purchase and permanently retire 2,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide on the Chicago Climate Exchange through our partner organization, the Clean Air Conservancy. To put that in perspective, 2,000 metric tons is equivalent to burning 225,000 gallons of gasoline, 210,000 gallons of jet fuel, or 5,400 tons of Bituminous coal. It is also equivalent to the annual emissions of about 4,700 cars in the US. Your support has made tangible steps towards cleaner air and a cleaner environment. The dollars have also served as our combined vote for a cap and trade system to further a market based approach towards the environmental issues we all face. In related news Wall Street has just announced a green market to further the growing carbon trade.

Breaking from tradition the Eco-Patriots began the trek at Virginia Beach, VA instead of the customary TransAmerica start point of Yorktown, VA. This did not make things easier since we had to travel through non-biker friendly Norfolk, however we desired to dip our back tires not in the Chesapeake Bay, but in the Atlantic Ocean, truly making the ride coast-to-coast. Many thanks to Barclay and Jane Perry McFadden for accompanying us to the beach, photographing and well-wishing us off. Fortunately our first day was a short warm-up of 22 miles from the beach to Norfolk, since our spandex were wet from jumping in the Atlantic. Thank you Barclay and Sloan McFadden for allowing their home in Norfolk to become the Eco-Patriot headquarters for three nights!

Of course we also faced significant difficulty as well. Beginning just 5 days in, Will was called away from the team to support his family after his sister, Sylvie, was in a bad car accident. Thanks to you all for the countless care-packages, kind words, and prayers. They have made all the difference in the world in helping Sylvie with her tremendous progress and continued recovery.

After regrouping in Charlottesville, VA the team prepared for their first climb in the steep Appalachians. Despite the sadness from being a rider down, Ann Marie, George, and Ryan continued west, seeing both the beautiful rolling country side as well as areas devastated by mountain top removal coal mining. We quickly learned that our lives on the road were going to be completely consumed by the daily tasks of getting from point A to point B. Climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway on route to Vesuvius, VA, George broke his chain, which was only a couple hundred miles old. Staring at the chain tool Ryan had brought, some guesswork and greasy hands repaired the chain enough to arrive at our day’s destination. If we began the trip with a Bachelors in bike maintenance and mechanics, after one broken chain, a broken spoke and consequently a wheel, 15 flats, four crashes, and countless derailleur problems, we finished with a doctorate.

The generosity along the established bike route was outstanding overall. Biking through seriously impoverished areas on the coal lined roads of Appalachia, chased by Kentucky hounds, we were often happily surprised and blessed by welcoming families and churches who offered a shower, meal and a roof. The hills never seemed to end in Virginia and Kentucky but upon crossing the Ohio River via a ferry at sunset we entered some flatter country in Illinois, officially surviving the Appalachian boot camp.

After our first full day there, Kansas lived up to its reputation of having the friendliest people in America. A strong tailwind and blue skies littered with Great Plain cumulus clouds pushed us at an easy 25 mph for a ride of 70 miles to Chanute. While grocery shopping for the night, Ambassador Ann Marie befriended Cyrila, an endearing yet rambling Kansas farm wife and she extended an invitation for us to camp in her yard. Nine miles west of town we rolled into their yard at dusk to find we would have to share the yard with two dogs, a litter of kittens, a goggle of geese, horses and of course some old broken down Chevrolets. Lonny and Cyrila woke us up in the morning for a hearty sausage gravy biscuit breakfast with ample coffee and chatter about Kansas weather. To our dismay and the dog Jack’s delight, Ann Marie’s favorite biking shorts had been nipped off the clothes line overnight and hidden in his secret spot. Cyrila later found the shorts 100 yards from the house in the tall broomstraw and sent them general delivery to the nearest post office!

After a grueling 10 hours in the saddle, fighting 40 mile headwinds and occasionally driving rain the team was pleased to make camp in the Eads, CO fire department waking to a friendly face waiting to bring them back to Denver. Reconnecting with Will was a powerful moment for all but nothing compared to the next day which was spent at Craig Hospital cheering Sylvie along in her daily “routine” which we promise was far more impressive than any headwind or hill we faced.

The reunited team left Denver on Tuesday October 23 and geared up for their first taste of the Rockies camping in the Canon City town park about 40 miles west of Pueblo, CO. Just 2 days later we found ourselves at the top of the continental divide on Monarch Pass (11,324 feet) giving a false sense of accomplishment as our most demanding climbs still lay ahead. After Monarch we camped at the Blue Mesa Reservoir under a full moon, it was truly a breathtaking sight. From Blue Mesa the team beat on to Montrose, CO for a brief interview with the Grand Junction Sentinel and meeting with the Western Colorado Congress, a local environmental organization, before continuing to Telluride.

A much needed rest day in Telluride left the team refreshed as we rode to Dolores, CO with a stop at the hot springs in Rico. As the team moved into Utah we prepared for longer stretches between service and water stations (often as much as 80 miles). On Halloween we had a grueling 105 mile day from Monticello, UT to Lake Powell. Figuring that we could treat the water at Lake Powell we decided to ditch our reserve water for the day about 50 miles out. Upon arrival at “Lake” Powell we were surprised that despite the campsites and postcards, the lake was nowhere in sight as it was so far below the high water mark it was inaccessible. In the dark night Ryan and George set off to find some desperately needed running water but having to settle for moisture wringed out of the dirt from what was essentially a swamp. Around one of our few campfires we drank as much of the boiled and treated mud as we could stomach while George put on his Halloween cape. Despite the dehydration spirits were high on the beautiful night surrounded by some of the most dramatic scenery we encountered. The next morning George and Ryan rode 14 miles out of the way to a boat ramp to fetch enough fresh water to get us to our next town.


Utah was an amazing experience for us all as the scenery never let up and neither did the climbs (occasionally 25+ miles and over 4,000 vertical feet). On November 3 we spent our second to last night in Utah at a spot called Red Canyon where temperatures dropped to 11 degrees, making it difficult to get up and leave camp the next morning.


Feeling strong and also worried about snow and falling temperatures, we flew across Nevada averaging almost 100 miles per day despite 14 peaks along the way. A night in South Lake Tahoe at a friend of Ryan’s house left us anxious to reach California. We chose to leave our scheduled route and cut off about 50 miles by taking the highly traveled Highway 50 out of the Lake Tahoe area. With heavy traffic and no shoulder we were nervous as we worked up our last climb until we were about 500 yards from the top of the climb. There we caught a break as a rock slide had stopped traffic in both directions leaving us a 30 mile, 8,000 vertical foot descent all to ourselves. Having been in the desert for so long the smell of California Red Woods and verdant vegetation was something we will not soon forget.


The last night of the trip we camped out on a soccer field in Folsom, CA getting ready for our final 118 miles to the Vallejo ferry, which would bring us into San Francisco. At around 2pm we stopped for lunch knowing that we had only 51 miles to go. In a rare moment of foresight we decided to check the ferry times assuming the commuters would be running well into the night. To our surprise the ferries were running on a holiday schedule for Veterans Day and the last boat was leaving Vallejo only 3 hours later! It seemed as though the entire trip was training for our final 51 mile sprint as we took turns drafting and motivating like the proper team we had become, making the ferry with about 3 minutes to spare. It was truly an exciting finish as we collapsed on the boat and received a hero’s welcome from Will’s brother, Adrian, and mother, Terry, at the terminal in San Francisco.


In traveling so far with so little to rely on, we learned that there is so much energy in nature, whether it comes from a brutal headwind (or tail wind if you are so lucky to be going the other way), the release of potential energy as we roared downhill, or the beating sun. Nature has a way of providing, and if you search for the proper means of releasing that bounty, life can be rich and simple at the same time. So often we are tempted by the low hanging fruit that we ignore the consequences of our actions to the detriment of our environment. There is no feeling in the world like being close to the world we live in yet feeling completely safe and secure. We encourage you all to get outside and see what we are so passionate about protecting.


With lots of love, full hearts, and miles to go before we sleep

Eco-Patriots

Ann Marie Rubin, George McFadden, Ryan Ahearn, and Will Fadrhonc


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January 8, 2008 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Home Sweet Super 8 Motel

 

Taking a couple rest days in Farmington, MO for health reasons and desperate for news updates on OJ. The news is ironically and tragically amusing because you realize how similar it all is when you are disengaged for awhile, same story but different place and people, albeit OJ.

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We’ve made some significant steps in completing the ride. On Monday we crossed the Mississippi River and entered Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase territory. We biked on some levees in Illinois during a strong headwind day. The levees provide an awesome vantage point of all the farmland to the east. Found a boat ramp with a beach beside it and went for our first impromptu swim in fresh water of the trip.


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We are now in the Ozarks of Missouri, some of the oldest mountains in the world. The bedrock here is limestone and dolomite derived from the carbonate deposits when this area was under a small ocean hundreds of millions of years ago. The Ozarks have karsts topography providing very steep rolling hills, Ryan’s theme song has been Roller Coaster of Love- RHCP, very short lived.

The generosity of people along the road has been outstanding and pleasantly surprising. When was the last time you let three strangers sleep under the same roof as your family? Not particularly recommending it but very thankful for it. Like the Trail Angles of the Appalachian Trail some people have embraced the summertime biker traffic of tourists going cross-country and encourage riders to take a break, get cold water, shower, eat, and camp out at their homes. We’ve had overwhelming support from churches along the way- beginning to see the light, feel the warmth, and eat the home-baked goods at churches.

Our introduction to the TransAm Angles was in Afton, VA at the Cookie Lady’s place (June Curry). She has befriended bikers since the trails creation in 1976 and has become a steward of it. Her biker basement is filled with tourist relics ranging from jerseys, news clippings, old books, post cards, maps, socks, etc. As we were cautioned, lay aside an hour if you want to stop by because she has a lot to say. She recommended the Lees in Radford, VA, a well known pit stop for TransAm bikers. At dusk we arrived at the Lees, who beckoned us in for some hot pizzas that were consumed faster than the work of any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ®. Dr. Thaddeus Lee biked the TransAm with his two sons about a decade ago and his experience encouraged him to open his door to bikers ever since.

The next day Ryan saw a biker pull out of the local airport in Marion, VA and sped ahead to catch his draft. While drafting this biker, who happened to be an Emeritus amateur road bike racer, they struck up a conversation and ten miles later we were at Cecil Hicks house with his wife and son eating spaghetti and meatballs, showering, and eventually sleeping under a roof.

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By our survival learning curve and recommendation of Dr. Lee, Ann Marie was unanimously elected Head Ambassador with Ryan and me as her luggage boys. Just yesterday Ann Marie and I were at the Holy Grounds coffee shop here in Farmington, MO explaining to the cashier that we needed to pick Ryan up 20 miles outside of town for a doctor’s appointment. We asked for cab company recommendations and instead received three offers to pick him up, two from employees and one from a customer.

Although we are all Americans, belonging to one nation, I underestimated the bond I would share with strangers. Our country is so large that different states can seem like different countries, accents, traditions, and upbringings differentiating us. During the ride thus far I’ve been called a freak, nerd, Yankee, college boy, and some other ones. Despite the many ways we differ from each other it has come down to the basics of us all being people, and not to mention Americans.

 

-George

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October 3, 2007 at 10:28 pm 1 comment

Update from the road

Hey everyone and anyone,

I apologize for this update from the road coming so late after our departure from Virginia Beach on September 9th. For many reasons we’ve had limited to work on this blog and we have to rely on Public Libraries- like the one I’m in right now in Danville, Kentucky- for internet access. We hope to add itinerary details along with commentary, pictures, and videos about once a week until we finish. As of now we estimate reaching San Francisco by late October just in time for a West Coast Halloween. For me, this trip has become a great chance to reflect on this year’s Halloween costume and many ideas have surfaced such as vampire, a biker in full spandex!!! (gross and causes ostricism from communities), possibly trashman (a collection of garbage from the roadside) and many more.

First off we would like to give our support to Sylvie Fadrhonc who was in a terrible car accident Thursday morning, September 13th. Sylvie, we wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you in Colorado. Will Fadrhonc, one of Sylvie’s older brothers, was on the road with us for the first five days but upon hearing the unfortunate news flew to Colorado immediately to be by his sister’s side and with his family. Our love and support goes out to the Fadrhonc family. To post a message for Sylvie please visit her CaringBridge website at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/fadrhonc.

Inspired by Barclay McFadden IV’s point that the TransAmerica Trail detailed by Adventure Cycling Association starts at Yorktown, Virginia, on the Chesapeake and not the Atlantic we stubbornly started the ride at Virginia Beach. It must have been really easy to comment on the legitimacy of the ocean-to-ocean bike ride from a desk chair in Norfolk.

Virginia Beach

The riding has been terrific so far and I have quickly realized that this is by no means a vacation even though some of my elders may refer to this post-college adventure as coasting. Since leaving Virginia Beach the weather has been fantastic with no rain yet but we are heading for a cold front and expect rain in the next two days. When we started the trip none of us had rode over 60 miles in a days or spent more than four hours on a bike seat. A bike seat is a generous name for hard leather slab that rubs you in all the wrong ways. I brought my brother Thomas’ Appalachain Trail tent which must have been on store display as a miniture model for tents and a fleece sleeping bag for middle school slumber parties. So trial by fire- nothing to do with Will’s locks- has been my adolescent style of learning and worked so far.

We cruised across the coastal plains of Virginia averaging 60 mile days and made it to Charlottesville, Virginia on the fifth morning. Charlottesville is the gateway to the Appalachains and Berea, Kentucky supposedly the exit. From books, blogs, friends, and other riders we heard that the Appalachains would be the most difficult part of the ride because not only does it have the most climbing but the grades are very steep since the roads were constructed a long time ago. I think of them more as donkey trails fashioned as a dead squirrel slalom couse. The hills were so tough, coupled by coal trucks owning the road.

A memorable night was spent in Haysi, Virginia in the 300 sq. ft. town park sleeping behind a tree and flagpole for privacy and mainly security. The Eco-Patriots went there so you don’t have to go. After an epic 90+ miles yesterday with big climbs, 90 degree temperatures, and about 5 aggressive Kentucky dogs we reached Berea, Kentucky. I am excited to finally do an American century ride (100 miles) and think we will accomplish this soon, but came very close yesterday.

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September 25, 2007 at 9:38 pm 2 comments


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