Posted by: emilyeb | August 11, 2009

Sometimes, it’s just too amazing

It’s official, I’m in California.

The day before yesterday we had a 110 mile ride (which I completed all of!), and yesterday we had a 100 mile ride to bring us to Lake Tahoe, and finally, after over 2 months… California.  The official sign was located at the North side of the lake at mile 91 of our ride.  So the whole day was in anticipation of reaching that point.  We also had a >8 mile climb up a mountain to get to there.  The whole way up the Phantom Planet song, “California” was stuck in my head- at least the 1 or 2 lines of the song I actually know (it’s the theme song from the show “the OC” that was on a bit ago).  “California here we come, right back where we started from, California- here we come”- this was the line playing over and over in my head. 

On long days we have 2 lunches, and the second lunch was at mile 74, right near the top of the climb.  I got to lunch a little before the others I rode with, and filled up with water and Gatorade, and headed out.  It was getting late, and if we’re not in by 7pm, we get picked up by the van.  I had about 16/17 miles until the California sign, and 1 hour to do it in.  And for the record, I rarely average 16/17 miles an hour, unless of course, it’s flat, or downhill, neither of which was waiting for me.  But I headed out by myself around the lake (riding alone- a very uncommon practice).  

At the top of the massive climb there were rolling hills around the lake.  Pulling up to the lake was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen on the trip.  The sun was setting and it made the water shimmer and the mountains in the background (far background because the lake is huge) look blue and fuzzy.  It was amazing.  I really enjoyed riding around the lake, always with my eyes peeled for the California sign.  I got there just around 7, and couldn’t have been happier.  I was so overwhelmed by what I had just done, both that day, and in the last few months, biking from Florida to California.  As I sat there at the sign waiting for the others (and the normal state sign photo shoot to begin), I had tears of happiness in my eyes, and a huge smile on my face.  I ended up waiting at the sign for at least 30 minutes, basking in happiness, and secretly hoping some stranger would pass by me on the sidewalk so I could tell them what I’d just done (sadly, no one did walk by, and sadder still, I contemplated yelling it out to those that walked by on the opposite side of the street, but decided not to, so to not appear too crazy). 

And now, we’re all enjoying a day off at Lake Tahoe.  This is the first day off that I have slept in some, I got up for breakfast at 6:30am, and then went back to bed (aka Thermarest). I still want to go and hangout by the lake, and spend the day relaxing.  Biking as much as we have has definitely taken a toll, and downtime is essential- and rare.  But I also have to balance my time at the lake with being indoors some too.  I’ve spent around 12-13 hours outside every day for the past 2 months, and I still haven’t gotten a bad burn.  So I try to spend days off in the shade, away from my friend, the sun. 

But as of now, we’ve got 6 days left, 5 of those our ride days, and one is a build day (in Yuba City).  Tomorrow and Thursday we ride, then the build Friday, then Saturday and Sunday are rides (through Napa Valley!), and then Monday we ride along the coast (for only 36 miles!), go over the Golden Gate Bridge, and finally reach San Francisco.  Sometimes, it’s just too amazing…

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Posted by: emilyeb | August 9, 2009

Nevada: the state of optical illusions

We are now in the dead center of Nevada in Austin.  Our time in Nevada has been odd.  The past few days have been incredibly windy and hilly, with a decent amount of longer climbs.

The reason Nevada is such an odd state, full of optical illusions, is that we all expected it to be incredibly hot, flat, and car-less (we are on a highway named the “loneliest road in America”- Hwy 50).  It has actually been quite the opposite.  It has been really cold the past few days, we’ve woken to temperatures around 30 degrees, and have dressed in every warm thing we brought.  The mornings have made my toes and fingers go numb with cold.

And the coldness wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t for the strangely hard wind that blows the wind right at us.  I don’t even know where it comes from.  It feels comparable to the wind when standing on the beach.

And the wind wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the hills we’re having to climb at around 6/7% grade that last for miles.  During the down hills, the wind also makes coasting a struggle, which is very sad.

But of course, all of this just truly makes a strong impact for a Florida girl like me.

And for better or worse, all 30 of us are going through this together, one day at a time.  We’ve only got 7 rides left, and each is going to be special, just because they’re so precious at this point (even though I might not feel that way while I’m cursing the wind and hills loudly at times during rides).

I’d also like to add how much I appreciate all the support I receive from those of you in the “real world”.  It means so much to me, I can’t even express it through type, thank you.  🙂

Posted by: emilyeb | August 6, 2009

It’s the final countdown

Tomorrow will mark 10 days left on this crazy adventure.  It’s pretty hard to believe that it’s almost over.  At the beginning it felt like it might last forever, and that my life might just be consumed with biking insane mileage every day.   But the days have passed (like they always do) and we’ve gotten down to the final stretch. 

We are currently having a day off in Ely, Nevada.  Which is long over due after a 5 days stretch of rides, the last few being particularly long.  Yesterday was a 108 mile days, that was surprisingly awesome.  I woke up in a bad mood, dreading the day, but it turned out to be pretty great. 

Today many of us woke up at 7:30 (which is sleeping in my Bike and Build standards), and got breakfast.  We then explored town to find some ridiculous outfits for the ladies “roller derby” day- where we’ll all dress up and ride. The rest of the day will include relaxing and bike cleaning. 

Ending so soon is definitely be bitter sweet.  This lifestyle has found a great rhythm with us all, and we’ve definitely transitioned into a great family-group.  But August 17th will also bring my family and Josh, friends, and everything I love about life as I knew it.    I definitely plan on enjoying the remainder of the trip, soaking it all in.

Posted by: emilyeb | July 16, 2009

See ya later Texas

Today is our last day in Texas.  Tomorrow we’ll be biking West into New Mexico.  It’s always really exciting to mark another state off the list.  We’ve covered so many already, it’s crazy.  Getting to, and completing the rides through Texas, was a goal of mine, and I’m glad to have almost achieved it.  It’s a neat state that really started to show me how different the landscape and weather can be outside of Florida.  I’m sure it’ll just become more apparent from here on out.

Tomorrow officially marks one month until we arrive in San Francisco.  I’m really excited.  The time seems both long and short at the same time. And the amount of country we have to cover until then definitely seems long.  But one day at a time is the best approach to this trip. 

I’ve unfortunately got to wrap up, library use is short.  But I’ll be heading West, and trying to update again soon!

Posted by: emilyeb | July 1, 2009

Love

I want to say a sincere thank you to every one for all the support and love.  This is quite a journey that I’m on this summer, complete with up’s and down’s, and I genuinely appreciate the support network I have.  I carry that with me every day, throughout the country.

Love.

Posted by: emilyeb | July 1, 2009

The bumby roads of New Orleans

I am currently writing from Baton Rouge, LA.  We left New Orleans today after a 5/6 day stay.  We’ve been on this trip for about 3 weeks now, so any amount of time at a location that exceeds one night is pretty exciting.

We got into NO last Tuesday after a long ride and spent Wednesday, Thursday, Fri, & Sat building for two different organizations.  We had a much needed day off on Sunday and then were back to work Monday at a build site. It was a great week, and a nice change of pace from biking everyday.  I worked on two different houses and one community building.  I did all sorts of things, lots of painting, mudding, framing, and my personal favorite, sheet rocking.  It was great to learn all about different houses building and maintaining activities.  The two houses we worked on had great stories associated with them.  It was really nice to know that our hard work was going to such a worthy cause.  This week I also learned to appreciate spandex on a whole new level.  The work sites had us wearing cotton, which soaked up any ounce of sweat that came off my body.  By the end of the day, I looked as though I’d swam in a pool.  When we bike in spandex, it just tosses the sweat off.  And after a few days of biking to the build site, I also truly appreciate the padding in bike shorts.  My running shorts, which I built in, provided little support from the seat.

The day off was great and gave us an opportunity to explore the city.  The previous night we all went to Bourbon Street and the following Sunday we went to the French Quarter, walked along the Mississippi River, and ate at Cafe Dumonde.  New Orleans really is a unique city, and there was way too much to see in one day. I would love to come back in the future.  One of the great things that biking to the build site afforded, was seeing the city at a slower pace.  On our bikes we got to drive on roads that we might zip through on a street car, or a regular car.  We got to glide past great music and street artists, and see things at a slower pace.

Today we biked away from New Orleans today with a 85 mile ride to Baton Rouge. The ride was much more pleasant than expected and everyone seemed to keep a great pace, and the weather wasn’t too terribly hot.  Tomorrow we have a build day in town, and then Thursday we have a daunting 6 or 7 day stretch of biking without a day off or a build day. A few of those days being quite long.

We’ve been out for 3 weeks and have gone through 5 states! Having never been to Texas, I’m excited to go there next week and tackle such a huge state.  Until then, we’ve got the 4th of July coming up and more of Louisiana to see!

ps. The roads in New Orleans are awful.

Posted by: emilyeb | June 23, 2009

Centuries upon centuries…

It is bizzare to think we’ve been out for almost 2 weeks and we’ve covered so much ground.  Right now I’m writing from Biloxi, Mississippi.  We’ve gone over the FL. panhandle, a jump into Georgia, through Alabama, now Mississippi, and tomorrow we’re going into New Orleans for a week to do rebuilding for Katrina relief.  It will be a welcome respite from biking. 

In the past few days we did a 100 mile ride (aka, a century), another 100 mile ride, a hot 55 mile ride, and tomorrow is our 100 mile ride into NO.  So needless to say, all of me is sore and ready for some building.  But I am pretty surprised at how far we’ve got, and how much progress we’ve made in such a short time span.  It’s pretty amazing. 

Home sickness waxes and wanes, but the longer we’re out, the easier it is to get used to this lifestyle.  There are some cool people and we’ve had a lot of laughs. 

Hopefully we’ll have some more Internet access soon so I can keep updating throughout our build week!

Posted by: emilyeb | June 18, 2009

Ahhh, Internet, my old friend

Today officially marks one week and a day of being on this Bike and Build adventure.  We have rode almost 300 miles since our departure from Jacksonville, FL. last Saturday.  Still 3,200 to go and 8 more weeks.  However, if all the weeks fly by as quickly as this past week did, then we’ll be in San Francisco before we know it.  Bike and Build does a weird this with time actually.  It feels as though I’ve been gone forever, and yet the time has flown by…strange.

Each day of biking so far has consisted of getting up around 6 (way earlier than I’m used to since graduating), and packing up in a frenzy, consuming something for breakfast, and suiting/sunscreening up.  Then we’re off.  Time on the bike can range from feeling quite pleasant and the miles pass quickly- to feeling hot, miserable, and ready to return home.  Despite the latter of the two, I haven’t given up on a ride yet, despite how difficult it can be.    And I’m glad I’ve found a handful of people to ride with that I don’t slow down too much.  Because in comparison to about 99% of the people here, I am in fact, quite slow- no matter how much I am pedaling.  There is quite a range of ability here, some having even cycled for their colleges.  So since I got my bike about a month or two ago, I’m not quite keeping their pace, obviously.  We’ve been getting to our end location later than expected most days, but we rush to the showers, eat some dinner, hangout, sleep, and repeat.

We are currently on a much needed day off in Marianna, FL. (In their public library).  And while we’re still in my home state, I have seen some beautiful parts to it I would never have seen otherwise.  One thing I’m particularly enjoying is all the wild flowers, they are so beautiful.  Those combined with the shady trees make for some really nice scenery.  But one thing about Florida I was not anticipating was all of the hills we’ve encountered in the past few days.  Those were some rough patches that were thankfully overcome.

All in all, this is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, during the good, and the bad.  An experience that I wouldn’t be fortunate enough to have if it wasn’t for everyone’s help and support!  I’m hoping to get to update this more regularly, but Internet is incredibly hard to come by in these small towns we’re going through.  But until then I’ll be thinking of you all, send some thoughts of speed and safety my way!

🙂

Posted by: emilyeb | June 10, 2009

It has arrived

Holy cow, tomorrow I head off to Jacksonville to begin Bike and Build!  Having found out about this organization three years ago, it is something that has been on my mind for a long time.  So the fact that it is actually coming to fruition tomorrow is surreal.  It will probably take awhile for it to set in.

I want to give a HUGE shout out to everyone who donated.  Bike and Build has been a dream for awhile, and I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it without your help… seriously!  I am going to do my best to keep this blog updated while on the road, although internet can be spotty in many of the places we’re going.  But you can also check out our group online journal to get even more of a B & B SUS fix. It has some pretty sweet stuff.  Click the pencil icon for our journal.

Being away for two months, rarely staying in the same place twice, and biking every day, will be unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I’m quite nervous, but mainly excited to begin this adventure.  A quote I love sticks with me as I prepare for this summer:

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves. Although they may feel very alone during the quest, at its end their reward is a sense of community: with themselves, with other people, and with the earth.”
-Carol Pearson

This sense of community is something I’m really looking forward to this summer, both with the people I bike and interact with, and the earth.

It will be a great ride, and I am so grateful to you all for helping me get here.

Posted by: emilyeb | May 18, 2009

Welcome to the jungle

Friday evening Josh and I went out for a 30 mile ride to keep with the schedule.  We had to head out late because of when he got back from work, and when we got geared up, etc.  So around 6:40pm we hit the road.  And then the action started.

It was a really overcast day, with predicted rain.  I was excited about this because I want to get some practice biking when it’s wet out.  We biked from his apartment to the Hawthorne Trail and on our way out, the drizzling began.  Nothing too bad, especially compared to the down pour that happened the day before.   We got the the trail and as soon as we entered all the tree coverage made the visibility go down significantly.  It was nice biking, the sun was on its way down, and the rain cooled things off a bit. When we first started the trail, we saw a team of wild turkeys, who took flight when they heard us coming. Very cool.   But then we enter the hammock.  Picture this, it’s already super overcast, and the sun is setting due to it already being around 7pm, then we bike into this thick forest area with lots of curves, and surprising hills and descents.  I felt like I was on an adventure ride for how much we could actually see, and how much debris there was covering the path (from the previous storm).  Then we get to the descent (my favorite part of the trail) and we come across a fallen tree.  This is not your average Florida Pine tree, no.  It’s a huge one, blocking the whole path, so wide, we couldn’t even climb over it.  A few feet off the trail provided place for us to walk around, thankfully.  So we re-mounted and began again.  The rest of the trail was peaceful, other than the darkness creeping up on us, and another tree blocking the path, which we could climb over.

Our short break at mile 15 was that much shorter by the swarm of mosquitoes that came after us.  So we began again to a very eventful ride back.  We still had the light rain, the essential darkness, and the fallen trees to deal with, but it was made even more exciting by a fox spotting, a hawk spotting, a rabbit spotting, a ton of armadillos, but then, when we were about to re-enter the hammock, we saw an ALLIGATOR just hanging out on the side of the path. I would have ridden right past it- as in, it was on my side of the trail, and my bike was 3 feet from it- if Josh hadn’t pointed it out. At first, his exclamation made me think it was a snake, in which case I would have pedalled faster, but I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of it.  It was about 4 feet long, just sitting there.  Being a Gainesville native, I’ve seen my share of gators in the wild, but always when I was expecting to see them, not just randomly on a bike trip.  We debated turning around and taking a second look, but thought best of it considering it was already quite dark out. And even at 4 ft, that sucker could have done some serious damage, if it wanted to.  But it was a very exciting spotting!  The ride back, outside of the trail, consisted of us biking our butts off to minimize the time spent on a busy road, with a high speed limit, at night- thankfully there was a bike lane.  But I have seen my share of crazies in Gainesville who swerve in and out of the bike lanes for no good reason.  So needless to say, we got home safely, and cleaned off our mud coated bikes, and selves.

Overall, pretty awesome ride.

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