Bicycle Journey Progress

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

Ride Progress: COMPLETE!
Daily summaries:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75

sábado, 21 de abril de 2012

Summary of days 14 and 15

Day 14 – 04/16/2012 – Vestavia Hills, AL

This was a quite memorable day. To begin with, for the first time we woke up with rain over our tents. We had breakfast, organized the panniers and, by the time we were ready to disassemble the tents the rain had stopped. Packing all the camping materials wet was messy, but there was no good way to clean it up and dry it properly, so we packed and moved on.

We started riding with the goal to reach Vestavia Hills before nightfall. Being about 60 miles away from it and knowing the elevation would get pretty intense the closer we get to the Birmingham metro area made this a very ambitious goal. Because of that we tried to save some time cutting down the miles to be covered by getting into interstate 20 again. That had worked for us in the previous two days, and with so much ahead of us in the end of the course we didn’t want to take any back roads that could slow us down considerably. Besides, the path suggested by the GPS was full of detours and much longer than going through the interstate.

However, as soon as we got into the interstate entrance a police car stopped and told us to head back to where we came from. Knowing bicycles were not allowed in the interstate we didn’t argue and returned to our original path. Now we had to run. The path through the back roads we long.

That’s when we decided to check the radar one more time. We noticed rain was coming in two big waves: the smaller one was about 2 hours away from us. The next one should hit us by night time. We then decided to cover as many miles as possible without stopping much to rest before the arrival of the first rain. We pedaled for over two hours with almost no rest and no water. When we finally arrived in Pell city, the rain was too close. We entered a restaurant to eat something and rest. By the time we got out, the rain was starting. We then crossed the street and had some coffee while the strong rain was pouring outside. For about 20 minutes we rested, had coffee and updated the blog using the smartphone.



Then we dressed up with rain coats and, as soon as the rain diminished, we were on our way. Following the GPS’s calculated path, we moved away from the interstate and started riding on some small, isolated back roads. After a few turns we entered a road full of puppy mills. That was a sad place: the old cages, the damaged dogs. But unfortunately for us seeing those horrible places was not the worst part. That street was full of big dogs of all kinds running free. At some point we were chased by one Fila, two Boxers and one German shepherd all at once. The dogs would come out of obscure houses and run after us down the road, some getting fairly close to us. The streets were full of hills, but up to this point we had not been chased going upward. A few minutes later I was a little ahead of my uncle on the road, going up a steep hill, when a group of German shepherds heard us and ran straight at me. I was circled by the dogs which were barking and threatening to jump at any time. I screamed “help us!” in the hope the owners would hear and come to our aid. Thankfully they did. The owners called the dogs back home and we kept moving forward. After some more dog attacks we finally went out of that zone and back to regular roads.


Just as we forecasted, as we approached Vestavia Hills, the elevation got harder and harder to ride on. We had to go down our bikes and walk them up hill a few times, so steep and long they were. By 8:00pm the sun was pretty much gone and we still had 15 miles to go. To make things worse, the second wave of rain clouds was above us and we started feeling a few drops here and there. We put our rain coats again, and moved forward. In a matter of minutes it was totally dark, the temperature dropped significantly and the thin rain transformed into a heavy storm. We kept moving forward despite of the low visibility and difficulty to ride on those hills. We had no option, my uncle Edison and his wide Marisa were waiting for us and we didn’t want to arrive too late. In a few minutes I was shivering and I could barely feel my hands. I’m not sure why, but on every move with my arms would feel electric shocks going down my wrists and fingers, and my uncle said to be feeling he same. Probably a result of the cold air, chilly water and the position we had to maintain while riding the bicycles for so long.

We stopped a few times in the heavy rain to check the GPS. My uncle would raise his rain coat to make a small roof and I would dry my hands on a small towel and check our way underneath his cover. We kept following the directions through the dark streets of old neighborhoods. The intersections had large stone walls, like if the streets were guarded by gates. At one point we entered Cherokee Road, which was a thin path in the middle of dense woods with absolutely no public lights. Our flash lights were all we had to go forward, and the remaining miles seemed to go slower and slower the colder we got.

That’s when something special happened. I looked forward to that dark street surrounded by big oak trees and suddenly I realized how incredible that moment was. I knew then that I had to soak in every second of it as this would be one of the moments I would remember for the rest of my life. I stopped paying attention to the rain, to the cold and to the dangerous path we were in and observed everything that was going on with a great level of appreciation. I felt as alive as I can describe and that was priceless.

Unfortunately the moment was over, we reached the next corner and I was shivering again. We finally reached a busy highway that would lead us close to where we needed to go. We decided to go through it despite of the heavy traffic to shorten our path. Once we reached my uncle’s street there was one last surprise: a long, very long hill that extended for over a mile. We went down our bikes and walked it up the hill, barely feeling our arms and legs.

When we finally arrived to his home it was already past 9:30pm. They were waiting for us. We entered and went straight to take a warm shower, followed by a very nice dinner. We talked for a little while and then retied to sleep.


This was up to this point and at least in respect to the physical aspect of it one of the most difficult days in my life. But it was also a very memorable day which helped me see things in a different perspective; and that what this journey is all about.




Day 15 – 04/17/2012 – Resting Day – Vestavia Hills, AL

That was such a nice day. We were the whole day resting really. We woke up late and then had breakfast. I used some time to write about things that I wanted to share on the blog such as our daily routine during the trip, our diet, and other topics.  We then took my uncle’s car and went to Walmart, where I had a consultation with the optometrist in order to buy contact lenses: up to this point I had been riding with glasses. My prescription was expired and I had forgotten my lenses in Brazil. So, after the consultation and with the two sample pairs he had given me we headed back home. Uncle Edison and aunt Marisa arrived not too long after that and he decided to cook something for us.



In the previous days I had been in touch with a dear friend of mine called Charles. We had worked together at Idera for about 4 years back when I was leaving in Houston, TX, and now he was living in Vestavia Hills. My uncle suggested I invite him for dinner, and so I did. He came and we had a great time. It is always good to reencounter good friends. The conversation over dinner was very interesting. We had coffee and then he left.


 That day we went to sleep late, and I stayed in the kitchen writing in the blog about previous experiences I wanted to detail. I went to sleep around 2:30 am, but couldn’t fall asleep for a long time.


Course Difficulty Rating


In order to facilitate communicating the difficulty of a course, we created a code that we associate with each of our daily reports. Here is how it works:


Difficulty Rating
= Distance Rating + Elevation Rating


Distances:
1 - From 0 to 19 miles
2 - From 20 to 29 miles
3 - From 30 to 39 miles
4 - From 40 to 49 miles
5 - From 50 to 59 miles
6 - From 60 to 69 miles
7 - 70 miles and up.

Elevation:
            A – Completely flat.
            B – Mostly flat, with occasional small hills.
            C – Composed mainly by hills and an occasional flat stretch.
            D – Only hills of all lengths and steepness. Not flat stretches. 

Examples:
  • Flat course, 54 miles long = 5A
  • Mainly composed hills, 48 miles long = 4C 
  • Composed hills only, 62 miles long = 6D

You will see these rating on our daily reports, here.


Summary of days 11, 12 and 13

Day 11 – 04/13/2012 – Resting Day – Atlanta, GA

We decided to stay in Atlanta a full day, just to go around and visit places. Also, we needed a time to rest our legs and reset our knees. At this point my uncle had been feeling his left knee which slowed down our average sleep a bit. Stopping for a day would also help me recover my legs, which have been sore since the beginning.

We slept a little longer, left all bags in the hotel and took off to Atlanta’s downtown with our bikes. It was about 8 miles away, so it took us about 50 minutes to get there. Upon arrival, we had breakfast/lunch in a sandwich place and went to the famous Georgia Aquarium. What a place! We saw all kinds of fishes, stingrays, sharks, whales and much more. I enjoyed this visit very much. I have actually been there when I was 11, but all I could remember from that visit was a corridor where we passed below a giant tank and could watch the sharks from below. It was very good to see it again after so much time. Well, not that much time. =)


We spend a good three hours walking in the aquarium, then went out and got in The World of Coca-Cola, the famous museum which is right next to the aquarium. There we learned about the history of the brand and how it came to be, and also tried other Coca-Cola brand sodas from all around the world. My favorite was a melon-flavored Fanta sold in Thailand. One more reason to go visit Thailand as soon as possible!
We then set down outside in the park that surrounds the aquarium and the museum to catch the Wi-Fi and get in touch with friends and family, then eat at a Subway and got back to the hotel.



This was a great day I’ll never forget.




Day 12 – 04/14/2012 – Tallapoosa, GA

We started riding towards a city called Tallapoosa, but right on the beginning we passed a place called Holly Taco and decided to stop for some coffee. We ended u spending over 30 minutes there and then moved on. We rode about 20 miles until we reached a gas station where we met a couple that as very interested in our trip. They asked about our goals and our motivation, and also about some of the tales we had to tell. After a nice conversation we went to find a place to have lunch. As usual, we ended up stopping at a Subway.

I hadn’t slept well in the previous night, so I wanted to cut down some miles anyway possible. We decided to enter interstate 20 just for a few miles to save us from a big detour suggested by the GPS. There, we found a picnic/resting area and decided to stop for information. The guy there was very nice and we had some good conversation. Other people, seeing us dressed up the way we were, stopped to ask about what we were doing and talk. We spent about 30 minutes there, and then moved on through the interstate. After a few more miles we returned to our regular path through back roads. Here are a few pictures (click to enlarge):



No major things happened in the road and we arrived in the campground safely. We then assembled our tents and set out to find a plug to connect our electric pan and heat up the dinner. There were no tables around and the only plugs were in front of the bathrooms. So we took a piece of wood and improvised a table. There we cooked some pasta with shrimps and Alfredo sauce, eat and had some orange juice. We then washed the dished in the bathroom, took shower and set out to sleep.

In the next day, no one was around to receive the payment. We filed out the registration form we found in a box in front of the office, added a thank you note, placed the money together with it and left it in the drop box and left.





 Day 13 – 04/15/2012 – Lincoln, AL

 When we woke up that day the grass was humid and none of the clothes I had left over our tents had dried, so I packed them went in a bag and prepared for breakfast.

The ride was easy and without major events. That was a good thing since we wanted to arrive at the destination early and assemble our tents with at least a little bit of sun light.

At some point our planned route was again crossing interstate 20. We then decided to test our luck one more time and cut our some miles by riding in the interstate. We were able to progress well for a few miles, but then we faced a construction site that seemed to be stopped due to the fact that was a Sunday. No workers around. Without further options besides returning to where we came from, we took our bicycles down the construction area and moved forward riding in it. Later on, we found out a few newly constructed lanes were closed to the cars, but the pavement seemed dry enough for bicycles. We then started riding in there, while all cars were passing us using the old lanes. Thankfully, no police cars passed by us, or we would be in big trouble. That was nice, we were able to shorten our path in several miles and ride without any incidents.


When we arrived to our destination, we found nothing. Google had marked our campground in the wrong place and we spent several minutes riding around trying to figure out where was it. When we finally found it, an old guy greeted us and allowed us to pitch our tents without problems. We cooked in the bathroom since we couldn’t find plugs anywhere else. Then we eat showered, washed clothes and went to sleep.
Before falling asleep we checked the forecast for the next day: heavy rain and thunderstorms. We thought we would maybe ride with a few drops here and there… the fact was we had no idea what the next day had reserved for us.