Bicycle Journey Progress

The journey begins on April 5th and ends on June 20, 2012

Ride Progress: COMPLETE!
Daily summaries:
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5
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8
9
65
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75

terça-feira, 17 de abril de 2012

The Campground from Hell

That's how we call it.

On April 9th, after a long day riding towards Augusta, GA, we decided our next day would be lighter. We slept early and rested enough. By 10:30 am we were ready to depart. In front of our hotel we got our smartphone and started searching for a destination not too far away. That's when we saw this campground showing on the map, in the middle of nowhere. It's name was Fountain Campground, located about 48 miles away from Augusta - perfect distance.

From the satellite imagery we couldn't tell anything else besides that there was some kind of installation in the woods. Researching more, all we found about it was that this place had been founded in the late 1800s, and since the mid 1930s it has been used as a campground. Without better options, we decided to go for it.

Due to the hard elevation and our more relaxed rhythm we ended up arriving there very late, around 7:30 pm, just before nightfall.

At the first glance the place didn't look bad. There was a sign with its name and a small entrance that lead to a few old houses. We looked for a reception or registration office but found none, so we decided to walk in. At first, all we saw were old houses, no one seemed to be around that area. As we searched, the remaining sunlight faded away until it was almost completely dark. Still, we couldn't find anyone.

We then saw light coming from a small house. We checked and there were the bathrooms: all clean, with soap on the sink and the bathing spot's floor was wet. Clearly, someone had been showering there not too long ago. We moved on searching for an owner or someone that could grant us permission to camp there.

That's when we saw a red light coming from one of the old wooden houses. It was across the campground, so we parked our bicycles and walked over there. It was a scary place. There was an old coat laying on a bench. The house had an opened corridor that ran through the middle of it. It actually looked more like a barn than like a house. I said hello, explained in a loud voice that we were travelers looking for a place to camp, but no one answered. The walls in the house were full of cracks through which inside red light could be seen, so we weren't sure if there was no one in the house or if someone was watching us through the cracks. I called for someone a few more times and no one answered. Due to the lack of response, my uncle started walking back to where the bicycles were parked.

Then I decided to walk in.

I turned on my recording camera, and started walking towards the house. As I stepped in I could see everything was covered in dust. In the first room at the right side of the main corridor two mattresses were leaning vertically on the wall, side by side. There was also a box full of what seemed to be old papers. Then I moved to the second room. There I saw several old, dirty toys spread all over the floor and bed. Judging for the amount of dirt in them I would say they had been laying there for quite a while. Here is what I recorded:


I searched but found no one there. From the woods I started hearing noises, as if something was being dragged on the ground, over the dry leafs.

I walked back to where my uncle was and, without anywhere else to go, we decided to look for a spot to open our tents.

We then saw an old construction, with a large roof but no walls, more like a shelter. Bats were flying in and out of it in a frenzy. We walked in with our flashlights on and noticed there was an altar in one of the sides. A bible was resting on top of the main table, along with a funeral business card. As we moved our flashlights toward the other side of the shelter we noticed several long wooden chairs lined up, covering all the remaining area of that shelter. That's when we realized that this was some kind of religous ceremonial place.

With a thunderstorm approaching, we decided to set our tents in the altar: that would be the best spot, after all it was off the floor and we had a roof over our heads. My uncle found a few switches that when flipped turned the lights over the altar on. We also found plugs which we could use to charge the cellphones and connect our electric pan to cook the frozen food we had in our bags.

We then had dinner, and took showers in those bathrooms. After, we assembled the tents and placed all our bags within them. We locked the bicycles in the altar's main preaching desk and went to brush our teeth.

As we were entering the bathroom we heard wolfs howling close by. Let's say that didn't help us to relax. We then brushed our teeth and returned to the shelter. My uncle started organizing the dirty dishes we had from the dinner while I packed the remaining things when we saw two cars approaching by the road in high speed. They turned in a side unpaved road that passed just along side that area, about 300 feet / 100 meters away from us. As they were passing by the campground they suddenly stopped, went in reverse back to the corner of that side road and the main road and got outside the cars. A loud discussion was taking place, but due to the distance and the echo we couldn't understand what they were saying. My uncle and I were not sure if they had seen us, if they were talking about us or what, so we didn't move or make any noises for a few moments. Then my uncle turned off the altar lights and we docked, hoping they would not notice us camping there. Over the corner, two guys and a girl were discussing something, and the noises were interspersed with crying sounds and hysterical laughter. We remained docked while the discussion went on. After about 15 minutes they got back in their cars and took off.

We then finally got in our tents, but decided to leave the lights off.

Not too along after we were trying to sleep, the two cards came back from the road and stopped in the same place. Again a loud discussion went on, but they didn't seem to notice us. When they left again, we finally relaxed.

I was almost falling asleep when I started hearing steps around the shelter. There were no openings in my tent turned to that side, so I couldn't see what was going on. The steps were quick, like animals running around. I immediately remembered about the wolfs we've heard earlier, and decided the best thing to do was to stay in the tent and not make a sound. I then heard the steps as whatever that was waked closer and closer, until it was over the altar just a few feet away from where my head was located in my tent. It then started making noises in a bag we had left with the dirty packs where our food had been stored. I heard as it chewed through the leftovers and then a loud noise when some cups felt on the floor. That's when my uncle woke up, came out of his tent and saw a cat eating from our trash.

He scared the cat, and from that point on all I could hear was the sound of bats flying over our tents and the wind blowing in the woods that surrounded the campground. In the distance, I could still hear the wolfs howling.

Thankfully, the next morning was sunny. We eat a few sandwiches, packed our things as quick as we could and left the place once and for all. That was a night I will never forget.


Our diet

This is another topic people have been asking about.

We usually wake up very hungry, since our bodies have been recovering all night long from the previous day's ride. Also, as we haven't been leaving the campgrounds very early, we try to start with a strong meal in order to progress two or three hours before having to stop to eat again.

For breakfast we have either sandwiches or a full meal. Our sandwiches are made with whole wheat bread, one egg and cheese. Usually each of us eat three of these, so half dozen eggs go each morning. Also, whole wheat bread is better because it digests slowly, delivering a steady dose of carbohydrates for the next hour and a half.


When we had the opportunity to buy frozen food on the previous night and have a ready-to-cook meal at hands we prepare it on our electric pan and pretty much have lunch before riding. Each of us eat in average 24oz of food on each meal.

We usually drink natural orange juice in the mornings.

Before leaving, we take one Centrum Specialist Energy to help replenish the minerals and vitamins we need for such an intense routine.


We our ride progresses, every 15 miles or so we stop and eat a fiber bar, usually those with high protein. These contain anything from 10g to 30g of protein, depending on the brand. Fibers also digest slowly, so that's good for us.

When we spend too much energy and get hungry in the middle of the afternoon, which is often, we stop and have a meal somewhere. Frequently we stop at a Subway and eat the Egg and Cheese sandwich loaded with all vegetables they got.

For dinner, we usually buy two packs of 24o frozen food at a supermarket and cook it in our electric pan. We also drink a quarter gallon of chocolate milk each pretty much every night.
Note on being a vegetarianBeing a vegetarian in this trip has quite a challenge. Not only due to our caloric and proteinic needs, but also due to availability of vegetarian dishes in some remote places. More than once I had to eat chicken or turkey since there was nothing else around. Having said that, I've been able to maintain my diet fairly well with pretty much no meat for the most part. Proteins come from supplement bars, eggs, and chocolate milk.
So far that has been working very well for us.

Cheers,
Eduardo



Resting day!

We really needed it. Today we are resting and recovering in my uncle's house, in Vestavia Hills.
Of course we have lots to do: wash all clothes, dry our camping materials, update the blog with everything that is pending, and fix our legs.
I also want to visit a friend of mine that lives here (Charles), and go to Walmart to get a prescrip for ,ontact lenses. I forgot mine in Brazil and now I can't wear my shades =)
Well, that's a lot so we better get going!



Life on a bicycle

Hi Folks!
This article will talk a little bit about our daily routine: what has been happening from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to sleep.

In the beginning, when we were still at an early stage of planning, we had an idea of what our routine would be: we would wake up really early, around 4:30am, then disassemble our stuff and start riding 5:30am. By noon we would be done, then we would camp and rest the whole afternoon. We would then have time to write more about what happened, explore the city we were in, etc. By early evening we would have dinner, and by 9:00pm we would be sleeping to prepare for a new day. Well, it turns out we were completely wrong.

We tried that way in our first day. We placed our clocks to 6:00 am instead of 4:30 am, after all that was our first day. Despite, we ended up getting out of our tents around 9:00 am.
Here is Why
So far - South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama - the temperatures have been varying significantly throughout the day. At 6:00 am we have temperatures around 40-50 F° /  5-10 C°. That makes it so much harder to get out of the sleeping bag. Besides, riding in those temperatures isn't as pleasant as riding in the 60-70 F° / 15-20 C° range. When we get up too early, we have to dress up with heavy clothing. As the day warms up and we start to sweat, we start taking everything off. As a result, by the end of the day we have a whole lot of dirty clothes to deal with. Also, being tired from a previous ride makes it harder to get out of the bed that early.
Immediately after waking up we packed our tents, inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags. Went to restrooms, and had something to eat for breakfast. Then we washed the dishes, organized everything that was pending, and closed our panniers. By the time we were all set, in the bike and ready to go it was already 11:30 am. So much for arriving in our destination at noon.

Then we started riding. 50 miles to go. Well, someone not very aware of what really happens in the road as we were when we were planning all this might think "10 mph is a good average speed. As long as you keep that, by 5:00pm you'll be done. Add 1 hour for resting, and 6:00pm is you arrival time.". While this is not a completely absurd estimate, it is also not very realistic either. The elevation plays a huge role in how fast we complete our course, and thus any estimate not taking it into account is very likely to be wrong. In most days, loaded as our bikes are, we've been able to maintain a 8.5 mph average speed. Besides, in courses with strong elevation, we need to stop every 2 to 3 miles to drink water, rest, etc. Also, we need to eat and brush our teeth at some point. Add more 40 mins for that. In the end it's been taking anywhere from 7 to 8 hours to cover 50 miles. We, of course, expect these times to decrease as we reach more plain terrains later in the trip.

So, leaving by 11:30 am and with about 50 miles to cover, we reached our destination by 7:30pm. Then it was time to find food, which took us another hour. Then cook, clean up everything, take showers, wash clothes, update the blog, and prepare to sleep. By midnight, we turned the lights off. As you can imagine, waking up at 4:30am in the next day was out of question. So we setup our clocks to 9:00am... and the cycle began all over again.

So far this has been our routines. For this reason we haven't been able to update the blog as much as we would like, except for the instant updates from the road. Being in Birmingham today without riding and with WiFi access all day long will definitely help with that.

I hope you had enjoyed having a glance at what we have been doing every day for the past two weeks. People have been asking about our diet too, so I'll soon write about that.

Cheers,
Eduardo