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2

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Sun Aug 17, 2003 9:32pm
Subject: And we're off!

   
Day 1 of the Ride Across America is complete! We started at 6:30 this
morning when Andy drove us out to the coast (Netarts, near Tillamook)
where we dipped our wheels in the ocean (to the much bemused stares of
the early morning fisherman) and started the ride by around 9:15am.
Aimee joined us for the entire first day as well, which ended up being
about 82 miles and 3500 elevation gain to Portland. We took highway 6,
then highway 26, and met up with Brea for the final stretch, which
included climbing up Barnes over the hill to my condo around 5:00pm.
The ride was beautiful with the usual great Northwest scenery, although
there were a few too many cars on our route for my tastes. On the
bright side, we had a generous shoulder for almost the entire trip.

We decided to give ourselves a break and ride without any gear... so I
thought it would be a piece of cake, but it was much harder than I
expected. I haven't been sleeping well (nervous anticipation of the
trip, plus wrapping up work last week), so I'm hoping that that's the
cause... we'll find out tomorrow. Having said that, if this is a
harbinger of the trip to come, I think we'll be ok: We didn't get
started until after 9, we took lots of breaks, and still knocked off
over 80 miles/3500 elevation before 5:00.

Next stop: Government Camp (day 2), and then on to Prineville (day 3)
and east through Oregon for the rest of our first week.

This may be my last e-mail for a while, as I don't know when I'll have
net access again. Until then...
-Preston


   
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3

From: Aimee Green <[email protected]>
Date: Sun Aug 24, 2003 7:05pm
Subject: Ride update

   
Hey groupies, :)

I'll send occasional updates about Preston and Eric's epic ride.
Preston also has asked that I send you two web addresses:

http://www.ericshiflet.com/praam/data.html if you'd like check out
their mileage and elevation gains (these guys are animals!)

and http://www.ericshiflet.com/praam/notes.html to read "Notes from the
Road."

I just got off the phone with Preston. It's the end of Day 8 for them.
He says they decided to take it easy today by pedaling "only" 65 miles.
He reports that the most difficult thing for him about the ride so far
is his "ass condition." "Out of five stars, today was a two-star butt
day," says Preston. "Yesterday was a one-star butt day. I hope
tomorrow is a three-star butt day."

People have been friendly, and excited for them. Preston and Eric
stopped in front of a home in Idaho the other day to retube Preston's
first and only flat (Eric hasn't been so lucky - he's had two flats
after his tires rolled over some tough thorns). A woman came out and
gave them ice water. After talking with them a bit, she told her
husband to get their bikes out of the garage because they were going
riding. "I think we inspired her," Preston says. ...Also, in another
encounter, a man the two of them talked to for a few minutes gave Eric
an ice-cold Gatorade and wished them good luck.

Best,

Aimee





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4

From: Aimee Green <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Aug 28, 2003 7:48pm
Subject: Day 12

   
Hey all,
 
Presto reports he and Eric are one-third of the way done. They crossed over the Continental Divide today and swung by the Grand Tetons, before completing their 87-mile ride with 4,200 feet of elevation gain.  Their topo program told them they faced 9,500 feet of elevation gain, but Preston says he now knows to halve most of the topo's estimates. They've pedaled a total of 1,040 miles so far.
 
Preston also was in a much cheerier mood tonight on the phone. I asked him about it and he said that's because no drivers yelled, honked or swerved toward him. (Unfortunately, the same can't be said about Day 11).  What's more, they rolled into a Super 8 motel around 4 p.m. - leaving them plenty of time to eat and wash up before bed. ...And oh yes, Preston says today was a four-star butt day. He's body already is toughening to the road!
 
Best,
 
Aimee


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5

From: Preston Joel Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Sep 2, 2003 3:29pm
Subject: Chadron, Nebraska!

   
Hey folks,

I finally found free Internet access at the public library in
Chadron, Nebraska (pop. 5600). We had an "easy" day at only 80 miles
today, although a very strong headwind made for slow progress. We
are now approximately 1450 miles done. It feels great to be done
with the marjority of the climbing, although I am beginning to wonder
if the winds of the midwest are just as bad!

My body and bike are holding up pretty well. Aimee and Tracy just
visited us in Casper, Wyoming, for Labor Day weekend and we were able
to knock off 125 miles and 115 miles on consecutive days without any
baggage. After looking at our route, we made the decision to send
all of our camping gear home (saving anywhere from 5-10 pounds each)
and just stay in hotels for the rest of the trip. I had thought that
bike camping would be fun, but when you are cranking out the kind of
mileage that we are every day, you really need a hotel at the end of
the day to clean up and get a restful night's sleep. Plus, with
camping fees on the rise and abundant cheap hotels, we really aren't
spending that much more to live the luxurious life.

As far as the ride so far, Wyoming has probably been the best state.
Awesome roads, huge shoulders, very friendly drivers. Nebraska has
been very friendly to us as well so far. Oregon and Idaho had lots
of trucks and a few inconsiderate motorists (these two starts were
also the most "uh-huh"/Redneck), but far and away the trip has been
only good encounters.

That's all for now. Thanks for all the support, and I'll write again
the next time I find Internet access!

-Preston
6

From: Preston Joel Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Sep 4, 2003 6:03pm
Subject: Valentine, NE

   
It's strange... for the first 15 days of the trip, no net access at
all. And then, for the previous 3 days, we've had it in every city!
We are staying at a Comfort Inn in Valentine, Nebraska, and they have
an old computer in the breakfast room hooked up to the net for guests
to use.

We are approximately at the halfway point of the trip. Woo hoo! Our
mileage completed is somewhere between 1550 and 1600. We also just
crossed into the Central time zone which is another big milestone.

The biking in Nebraska is good. Nebraska is definitely up there with
Wyoming for my favorite biking states so far. Nebraska has a lot
fewer cows and a lot more hay than Wyoming. The traffic on the roads
is about the same in both states, which is to say not much --
probably 1 car every 10-15 minutes. Nebraska is definitely the
friendliest state by far that we have crossed through. I would say
that at least 50% of the people going the other way wave or raise
their index finger in a "hello" fashion. The shoulders here are huge
too, easily wide enough for a car. The only downside to Nebraska is
that the roads have huge cracks every 15-20 feet that are a real pain
on the bike (ba-bump ... 3 seconds of silence ... ba-bump ...
repeat). And the Nebraska wind can make us or break us. Our first
two days in Nebraska, we had a strong headwind that really slowed our
progress. Today, we had a sidewind that was neutral. We are hoping
for a strong tailwind tomorrow to speed us eastward.

For those wondering what life on the road is like, here is a typical
day for us:

6:00am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze button.
6:10 Eric stumbles into bathroom for 10-20 minute wake-up shower.
6:30 Preston gets up, puts in contacts, takes first #2 of the day.
6:33 Get dressed, apply sunscreen
6:35 Fill up water bottles, mix Cytomax, pack panniers
6:40 Apply "Chamois Butt'r" for maximum butt protection
6:45 Get free continental breakfast (if available) or eat
groceries purchased night before if no free breakfast
7:00 Take second #2 of the day.
7:05 Other miscellanous tasks that always spring up.
7:15 On the road!
7:16 We try to knock off 60 miles before lunch, taking a break
every 20-30 miles or 2 hours, whichever comes first. The preferred
break spot is a small city with a snack store, but the side of the
highway often suffices if no cities are forthcoming.
12:00 Stop for lunch break, usually at some hole in the ground
that you would never consider stopping for in a car. Unlike the
Interstate, the rural highways do not typically feature well known
chain fast food restaurants. We often have to make do with whatever
we come across, and what we come across is definitely not healthy.
At least we're biking a lot to make up for it :)
1:05 Optional third #2 of the day. What can I say, biking 80-100
miles a day really drives up your appetite...
1:05-5 Finish the ride for the day. Same formula as before.
5:00 Try to find reasonable priced motel with hot tub and
continental breakfast. Typically spend between $40-60. Take showers,
do bike maintenance, grab dinner, hit the hot tub, watch a little TV,
call friends and loved ones, and usually asleep by 10:00 in
preparation of beginning the cycle anew the next day. Usually too
tired to partake of any local area attractions (of which there are
few anyway).

One last note on Nebraska: I achieved the nirvana I was hoping for
on this trip on a stretch of Highway 20 somewhere between Gordon and
Valentine today:

Picture gentle rolling hills stretching into the horizon under an
infinite blue sky with only a hint of clouds. The hills are covered
with long grasses that billow in the wind and emit a soothing
rustling sound as they move. Crickets, grasshoppers, or locusts are
chirping in unison all around you, and they occasionally jump from
the grass and bounce off your leg. The occasional cow ponders you
suspiciously as you enter its territory. The only sign of human
intervention is the very road you're biking on, an endless fence on
either side, and the occassional water-pumping-windmill-
thingamabobber. The sun is out and it's about 85 degrees, perfect
weather for biking. The feeling out there is remarkable -- remote
and serene, yet the road beneath you is a safety tether to
civilization somewhere. With heart thumping, lungs expanding, and
legs pounding like pistons, your bike moves effortlessly up and down
the rolling hills, bursting to 25 mph at times as you weave through
the hills. With the wind whipping all around you, it's hard to
imagine that there is a care in the world, or that there ever will
be...

Until next time,
Preston
7

From: Aimee Green <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Sep 4, 2003 10:00pm
Subject: Day 20

   
Hi all,
 
At the risk of offending anyone who may have roots in eastern Wyoming or western Nebraska, these regions are not interesting - at all!  I had a great visit with Preston over an extended Labor Day weekend, simply because it was good to see him and witness him and Eric in action on their grand journey. Despite the lack of population centers or what I'd consider beautiful scenery, Preston and Eric seemed quite content with the rocky brown dirt, sagebrush, grasses and mild hills of the region. Except Saturday during a downpour (when Eric exhibited his California tendencies by declining to leave shelter :) the skies were blue or only partially cloudy. Preston described it as "cycling through one big screen saver," which is kind of what it looked like!  
 
While Eric and Preston got up early to set off biking on Sunday and Monday, Tracy (Eric's wife) and I took our time getting up, working out in motel gyms or watching a little cable TV. Then we drove to meet up with them for lunch. My favorite lunch spot of the trip was in a town with 10 people living in it. This restaurant had dozens of stuffed and lacquered rattlesnakes for sale. Most were frozen in aggressive poses, with their bodies coiled and their fangs showing. I also was surprised to see the Confederate-flag lighters and other memorabilia for sale next to the snakes, although Preston and Eric seemed kind of used to it. We all chuckled at the sign next to the cash register that said something about "vegetarian" being another word for "bad hunter." 
 
Preston and Eric had quite a ride on Monday. In an effort to avoid the 75 mph traffic of the freeway, the two of them ventured out onto country roads. Unfortunately, one of them turned to gravel/dirt and turned out to be something like 17 miles long. They looked like they'd really been through something when Tracy and I met up with them. But they did seem to enjoy the horses and deer that they pedaled past. Apparently, deer are all over eastern Wyoming. They just roam around ranchers' fields. They also mentioned that there were plenty of dead jack rabbits on the road, squashed by cars. ...That evening, Eric was forced to replace a tire that was wearing through at spots.
 
Tracy and I made it a few dozen miles into Nebraska (a place I thought I'd never visit), before eating lunch with Preston and Eric one last time. The section of western Nebraska (near Crawford, pop. 1,500) we were in was actually kind of pretty (interesting rock formations). We marveled at an add in the "summer edition" of the local newspaper (apparently it only comes out four times a year) advertising a charming 1,800 square foot house + full basement for only $34,000!
 
Best,
 
Aimee


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8

From: Aimee Green <[email protected]>
Date: Sun Sep 7, 2003 1:36pm
Subject: Day 21

   
Yesterday Preston and Eric polished off Nebraska and spent the night in
Sioux City, IOWA! These guys are moving fast: 127 miles yesterday, the
longest day of their trip so far. Preston and Eric were invited to
their first home-cooked meal on of all places, a soybean farm! They ate
lunch with the farmer (who had befriended them after a short chat), his
wife (a teacher) and their kids. They learned that cattle are going for
a very good price - cheaper than the farmer can raise them himself. And
that soybeans are grown to be converted into a fuel source.

What an education they're getting!

Aimee


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9

From: Preston Joel Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Sep 11, 2003 11:11am
Subject: Muscatine, Iowa

   
After 2,200 miles, we have finally reached the Mississippi River!
The days recently have been wearing us down and we have decided to
take a badly needed (and luxurious) full rest day here in Muscatine,
Iowa, located on the eastern border of Iowa. Tomorrow, we will cross
over into Illinois.

Muscatine is one of the largest cities we've been in at 20,000
population. It seems like a good place for a furlough. We have had
way too many 110-120 mile "death march" days recently and our bodies
are definitely in need of some recovery time. The mental demands of
constant life "on the go" are also wearing. It was nice to sleep in
this morning, and to have time to find a library with Internet
access, do laundry, get a haircut, etc. We may even catch a movie at
the local movie theater.

On the bright side, we are definitely in the home stretch. We should
be pulling into Manhattan/Times Square in almost exactly two weeks!
We are planning on doing the final jaunt of the entire trip out to
the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, 27 September; if you are interested
in riding the final 30 miles with us from Manhattan to Coney Island,
leave me a voicemail on my cell phone and we can work out logistics.

A few notes on Iowa... this is one great biking state! Highway 20
had been our constant companion for almost the entire trip, but upon
leaving Sioux City, we quickly learned that roads in Iowa have no
shoulder at all. This is not good news for a bicycle trying to share
the road with cars and trucks whizzing by at 65 mph. We quickly
retreated to the side roads of Iowa and discovered what thousands of
RAGBRAI (see www.ragbrai.org) participants already know: The country
roads of Iowa have extremely low traffic, beautiful views, and gentle
rolling hills.

One downside of the backroads is that services are hard to come by.
The transportation network in America has definitely shifted to
supporting the large thoroughfares. Food and often even water are
sometimes difficult to procure on the back roads. We usually only
have one lunch option a day for a hundred mile stretch (the only
other option would be to take a significant detour to a major
highway, where countless services would be available). Of course, in
grave situations, there are plenty of farmhouses that we could call
upon to help, but thankfully the need has not arisen yet.

I cannot say enough good things about the people of Iowa and
Nebraska. When Eric and I rode past the state sign into Nebraska, we
chuckled at the tagline, "The Good Life". Having spent the last 9-10
days in Nebraska and Iowa, I can definitely attest to the fact that
the people here do indeed make this the good life. Here are few
memorable encounters:

In Merriman, NE, we met our first young ranger (age 25 or so), Brady
Hanks. He was a very gregarious fellow who approached us at a gas
station and asked us all about our trip. We told him all about our
trip, and he told us all about life on the ranch (for example: They
only get 4 hours sleep a night for 2 months straight during "calving
season"). After speaking with him, it's not hard to see why people
like the cowboy life, with its constant challenges and rewards, all
in the great outdoors. Brady also had an insatiable work ethic. He
mentioned that he wouldn't want to be rich because he wouldn't know
what to do with himself... he would probably just starting working
again to keep busy!

In Plainville, NE, a man named Burt Lingenfelter saw us snacking
outside a gas station and, after a few minutes, invited us to his
house down the street for lunch. Burt and his family are farmers
(farms have slowly been replacing ranches as we head east from
Wyoming); they grow predominantly corn and soy beans, which are
converted to ethanol at a plant a few miles from town, or fed to
cattle. They made us delicious BLT sandwiches with produce grown
behind their house. We had a very enjoyable time visiting with them
and sharing details about our lives. We are very grateful to them
for taking us into their house as it definitely lifted our spirits
and reaffirmed the goodwill of humanity.

One of our favorite cities so far has been Grinnell, Iowa, a quaint
little college town in the middle of Iowa. It was here that we found
the best bike store of the trip, "Bikes To You", where the proprietor
(Craig) didn't hesitate to drop what he was working on and look at
our bikes for us. An annoying ticking sound has been plaguing me for
the last several hundred miles and Craig was the only bike mechanic
who was able to fix the problem for me! It turns out that a tiny
metal shaving had somehow worked its way into my rim and was banging
around causing all the noise. Craig is definitely the Jedi master of
bike mechanics and I thank him every time my wheel rotates without
that annoying tick!

Lastly, just yesterday we ran into two awesome retired gentlemen in
Montezuma, Iowa, Cecil Flander and Vern Vander Leest. We were
sitting down enjoying a quick snack when these outgoing guys joined
us at our table and asked us all about our trip. Both were retired
after a life of farming, and, despite going on 80 years old,
exhibited the very essence of vitality. These are the sort of knee-
slapping, bellowing guys that you would invite out with you when you
want to have a good time. You could almost sense that these guys
wanted to jump on some bikes and come along with us. And, despite
our protests, they insisted on giving us $10 to treat ourselves to
something on the way to the east coast. That's the midwest for ya!

This has gone on pretty long, so I'll draw to a close for now. The
unabridged version of our journey will be available after the trip
concludes :-)

Preston
10

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Sep 11, 2003 11:16am
Subject: [Fwd: Hello from Muscatine, Iowa]

   
Here is Eric's update; he wrote this as I was writing mine, so there may
be some duplication, but also a different perspective! --Preston


---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Hello from Muscatine, Iowa
From: "Eric Shiflet" <[email protected]>
Date: Thu, September 11, 2003 11:41 am
To: [email protected]
[email protected]---------

We've decided to take a rest day in Muscatine, Iowa. Muscatine is a
thriving metropolis of 22,000 people which is about the third largest city
we've stayed in. It's on the banks of the Mississippi River, just next to
Illinois. This is the first area I've been in since Oregon where there
are trees as far as the eye can see. From Idaho through Nebraska it was
grassland and sage brush of the high desert. Then farm land of corn and
soy beans through most of Iowa.

Crossing the Missouri River seemed a demarcation between "The West" and
"The East" of America. Now, crossing the Mississippi River seems be a
gateway to a much more humid and rainy region, and the last 1,000 miles of
our journey. There are 2,200 miles already under our wheels and far fewer
to go than we have already seen. I am looking forward to the
accomplishment of completing the ride and returning to my home in
beautiful California, but it is regrettable that the end of the journey is
only two weeks away.

Iowa has been a friendly, generous and beautiful state to us. The drivers
on the country roads are amazing. They will actually pace us up the hills
to avoid driving into potentially hazardous traffic, then wave at us
(nicely) as they drive by. And every time we stop to refill the water
bottles the local farmers tell us great stories about the land, what
they're growing and are really excited about our trip. For example,
Nebraska farms use irrigation systems while Iowa generally does not. As
Cecil (a farmer I met) said, "Iowa gets what the good Lord sends us." I'm
guessing that it must rain a bit more in Iowa than it does in Nebraska.

Tomorrow we enter Illinois and begin our final push to New York City. As
most of the people I've met so far have observed, and I tend to agree,
those last few miles into Manhattan will probably be the most dangerous.
Middle America is definitely the heart land of our country with good
people worth visiting and talking to.

- Eric

PS- as usual, check my web site for updates: www.ericshiflet.com




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We've decided to take a rest day in Muscatine, Iowa.  Muscatine is a thriving metropolis of 22,000 people which is about the third largest city we've stayed in.  It's on the banks of the Mississippi River, just next to Illinois.  This is the first area I've been in since Oregon where there are trees as far as the eye can see.  From Idaho through Nebraska it was grassland and sage brush of the high desert.  Then farm land of corn and soy beans through most of Iowa. 
 
Crossing the Missouri River seemed a demarcation between "The West" and "The East" of America.  Now, crossing the Mississippi River seems be a gateway to a much more humid and rainy region, and the last 1,000 miles of our journey.  There are 2,200 miles already under our wheels and far fewer to go than we have already seen.  I am looking forward to the accomplishment of completing the ride and returning to my home in beautiful California, but it is regrettable that the end of the journey is only two weeks away.
 
Iowa has been a friendly, generous and beautiful state to us.  The drivers on the country roads are amazing.  They will actually pace us up the hills to avoid driving into potentially hazardous traffic, then wave at us (nicely) as they drive by.  And every time we stop to refill the water bottles the local farmers tell us great stories about the land, what they're growing and are really excited about our trip.  For example, Nebraska farms use irrigation systems while Iowa generally does not.  As Cecil (a farmer I met) said, "Iowa gets what the good Lord sends us."  I'm guessing that it must rain a bit more in Iowa than it does in Nebraska.
 
Tomorrow we enter Illinois and begin our final push to New York City.  As most of the people I've met so far have observed, and I tend to agree, those last few miles into Manhattan will probably be the most dangerous.  Middle America is definitely the heart land of our country with good people worth visiting and talking to.
 
- Eric
 
PS- as usual, check my web site for updates:  www.ericshiflet.com
 
 


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11

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Sep 19, 2003 10:31am
Subject: Chardon, Ohio

   
We're in Chardon, Ohio, approximately 30 miles from the Pennsylania border!

After cycling well over 500 miles in 5 days, we had planned on taking a
rest day today, but were considering a short jaunt over to Linesville, PA,
which is apparently a bicycling mecca and the start of a state-wide
official bike route. We woke up to pounding rains from hurricane Isabel
this morning, however, and quickly opted to take the day off and rest up
before the final push to NYC. We will be rendezvousing with my mom and
aunt tomorrow (they'll join us until the end), and are looking forward to
riding the final days unencumbered by heavy panniers.

Much has happened since Iowa. It rained almost the entire time we were in
Illinois, especially on our first day there. Except for a 1-hour downpour
outside Boise, this was really the first inclement weather that we had
encountered on the trip. Unlike the Pacific Northwest rains that I am
accustomed to riding in, the rains in the Midwest are warm, and thus it
didn't bother me that much and I actually found it to be a refreshing
change of pace. It was also reassuring to know that this was as bad as it
was going to get, and it wasn't really that bad. Eric, on the other hand,
being of a Californian disposition, did not enjoy the rainy conditions one
bit. Early on in the ride, I found him waiting for me under a giant tree,
drenched, shivering, and with a deranged look in his eye like a feral
animal. Luckily, the rains passed in a couple of days and we were back to
our usual sunny riding conditions by the time we left Illinois.

It has been fun to pass through the eastern states so quickly. It took us
2 riding days to pass through Illinois, 2 days for Indiana, and 3 days for
Ohio -- a nice change of pace from the 6 days per state of the west! The
states have also been becoming increasingly dense. This is nice because
convenience stores (with vast supplies of Pepsi and donuts) are plentiful,
but bad because there are a lot more cars on the road. Navigation and
route finding also pose more of a challenge with so many road choices.
Directions from the locals are often not helpful, because they are always
given from the perspective of a car driver.

With more people come more roads, however, and it's often possible to take
advantage of an extensive network of side roads that automobiles eschew
because they are not as fast or as direct as the highways. Ohio, in
particular, has an awesome grid of roads that reminds me of a piece of
graph paper. North-South and West-East roads crisscross the state and
provide excellent passage for bikes. Our first morning in Ohio, we were
only passed by 10 vehicles (half of which were farming equipment) in 4
hours of biking! Western Ohio ranks right up there with Iowa in terms of
best states for riding in ... except that Ohio is much flatter!

For those of you who have been following my butt status, you will be
pleased to learn that I have had "5 star" butt days for the last week or
so. It seems that my derriere has finally learned to cope with 7-8 hours
of saddle time per day. The rest of my body has toughened up as well.
The only real soreness I have left is my hands, which are starting to feel
the cumulative pounding of 2,800 miles of travel (the area between my
thumb and pointer finger is especially sore as my default riding position
is "on the hoods"). And, despite a nutritionally despicable diet
consisting almost entirely of fatty and/or fried foods -- not my fault,
you try eating healthily on the road! -- my body fat has dropped to a very
low level. My leg muscles have also become very defined. For example, my
calf muscles have separated into distinct sections and the blood vessels
have risen to the surface to better supply oxygen. If I were to shave my
legs, I am sure I could start to resemble a body builder (well, at least
in my dreams) :-)

Mentally, while the trip is still very enjoyable, I am looking forward to
wrapping things up next week. The biking part is great, but living out of
motels for the last 5 weeks has grown wearisome. The days are growing
quite short as well, and we now barely have enough sunlight to finish a
long biking day before rolling into town and starting our standard
shutdown procedure for the night: Shower, hot tub to soothe muscles (if
available), dinner, laundry (every third day), journal writing,
communication, plan the next day's route, and lights out around 10pm to
get up at 6am the next day for breakfast and to be on the road shortly
after dawn.

I'll wrap things up with the following revelation from the road: For the
most part, a bike trip is a solo experience: You, the bike, the road, the
slowly changing scenes around you, and countless hours with only your
thoughts on hand. On occasion, while gazing at the passing countryside, I
will discover another solitary creature, the eagle, soaring the thermals
beside me, looking for lunch or perhaps just enjoying the sunshine. The
eagle commands the skies, and I am in command of everything that surrounds
me as well. A feeling of unbounded power and the possibility of the
infinite envelops me, the result of undertaking such a vast journey, of
"living the moment" all day every day amidst the abundnant splendor of our
world. Yet, as night falls or with the first drop of rain, I am reminded
that I am still ruled by a hierarchy of needs -- the need for shelter,
warmth, food. And the fleeting hubris of power is replaced with
insignificantness in the vastness of the universe. I believe that true
contentedness lies at the confluence of these two emotional rivers... and
now that I have found it, my only hope is that I have cached enough of it
away so that I can return to that place as the need arises when life
resumes back in the normal world...

Until next time (probably from NYC!),
Preston
12

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Sep 19, 2003 10:38am
Subject: [Fwd: Hello from Chardon, Ohio]

   
---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Hello from Chardon, Ohio
From: "Eric Shiflet" <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, September 19, 2003 10:02 am
To: [email protected]
[email protected]---------

We've now covered over 2800 miles and have about 500 miles to get to New
York City. The last week has been challenging from the weather. We had a
storm from the West move through last weekend and now we're taking a rest
day because Hurricane Isabel is moving through and dropping much rain.
The winds have generally been against us and slowing us down most of the
days.

We rode through Cleveland yesterday, which is the only major city we go
through, except Portland and NYC of course. I suggest anyone bike touring
not to ride through a major city. The most dangerous part of the trip so
far has been suburbia. The suburban drivers are not cautious like city
drivers and are not courteous like the country drivers. But we made it
through safely to the beautiful country of eastern Ohio just before the
rain fell.

This trip has been an exercise in isolation and endurance (riding hard for
hours on the road) and also in socialization (relying on others for food,
lodging, directions). I am sad to see the end of the trip in sight, only
six more riding days until we hit New York City. But I do miss San
Francisco, my home, friends and family a lot and look forward to
returning. It's an odd duality that seems to split one's personality: the
desire to ride more, begin the adventure again and yet the comfort of
home, wife and friends is impossible to overcome. It reminds me of a Tom
Paxton song:

If you see me passin' by
And you sit and you wonder why
And you wish that you were a rambler, too
Just nail your shoes to the kitchen floor
Lace 'em up and bar the door
Thank your stars for the roof that's over you

We will be entering Pennsylvania tomorrow morning for (almost) the last
state to travel through. (we have brief encounters with New Jersey and
New York) Pennsylvania seems very biker friendly with an official bike
route to take us into NYC. In addition to the challenge of the weather,
route finding has been difficult and slowing us down. I look forward to a
predetermined route that is biker friendly. Now that it is getting close
to autumn, Pennsylvania should be beautiful with the changing colors of
the leaves and the coming signs of winter. This will truly be a fitting
end to our long and rewarding adventure.

We plan to ride across the George Washington Bridge and enter Times Square
on Thursday. Then on Saturday, we will officially end the trip with a
short bike ride from Times Square to Coney Island where we will dip the
bicycle wheels that once touched the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic. All
of you who have been following our trip will be with us in spirit as we
reach that milestone.

- Eric

PS - web site updates at www.ericshiflet.com





---------------------------------
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We've now covered over 2800 miles and have about 500 miles to get to New York City.  The last week has been challenging from the weather.  We had a storm from the West move through last weekend and now we're taking a rest day because Hurricane Isabel is moving through and dropping much rain.  The winds have generally been against us and slowing us down most of the days.
 
We rode through Cleveland yesterday, which is the only major city we go through, except Portland and NYC of course.  I suggest anyone bike touring not to ride through a major city.  The most dangerous part of the trip so far has been suburbia.  The suburban drivers are not cautious like city drivers and are not courteous like the country drivers.  But we made it through safely to the beautiful country of eastern Ohio just before the rain fell.
 
This trip has been an exercise in isolation and endurance (riding hard for hours on the road) and also in socialization (relying on others for food, lodging, directions).  I am sad to see the end of the trip in sight, only six more riding days until we hit New York City.  But I do miss San Francisco, my home, friends and family a lot and look forward to returning.  It's an odd duality that seems to split one's personality: the desire to ride more, begin the adventure again and yet the comfort of home, wife and friends is impossible to overcome.  It reminds me of a Tom Paxton song:
 
If you see me passin' by
And you sit and you wonder why
And you wish that you were a rambler, too
Just nail your shoes to the kitchen floor
Lace 'em up and bar the door
Thank your stars for the roof that's over you
 
We will be entering Pennsylvania tomorrow morning for (almost) the last state to travel through.  (we have brief encounters with New Jersey and New York)  Pennsylvania seems very biker friendly with an official bike route to take us into NYC.  In addition to the challenge of the weather, route finding has been difficult and slowing us down.  I look forward to a predetermined route that is biker friendly.  Now that it is getting close to autumn, Pennsylvania should be beautiful with the changing colors of the leaves and the coming signs of winter.  This will truly be a fitting end to our long and rewarding adventure.
 
We plan to ride across the George Washington Bridge and enter Times Square on Thursday.  Then on Saturday, we will officially end the trip with a short bike ride from Times Square to Coney Island where we will dip the bicycle wheels that once touched the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic.  All of you who have been following our trip will be with us in spirit as we reach that milestone.
 
- Eric
 
PS - web site updates at www.ericshiflet.com
 
 


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13

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Oct 2, 2003 1:46pm
Subject: We made it!

   
On September 27, we officially brought our 6-week, 11-state, 3418-mile
odyssey to an end by dipping our bicycle wheels into the Atlantic Ocean
at Coney Island, New York! A couple of days earlier, we had celebrated
an "almost-end-of-the-trip" moment when we rolled into Times Square in
Manhattan. We were fortunate to have the company of our loved ones and
friends to help us celebrate the accomplishment at both places.

I will be posting pictures, trip statistics, and other neat multimedia
presentations over the next few weeks (I'll send out a note when these
are ready). In the meantime, here are my notes from the final week of
the trip:

We crossed into Pennsylvania giddy with excitement -- this was the last
big state that we would have to cross, and then New York City would be
only a hop, skip, and a jump away. We were also excited to experience
the much-touted Pennsylvania bicycle route system. Indeed, we saw a "PA
Bike Route Y" sign a few hundred feet after crossing the state line, and
these trusty signs would accompany us all the way to the New York
border. After 5 weeks of having to do our own route finding, it was
nice to sit back and just follow the signs.

Ahhhh, Pennsylvania: It was the best of riding, it was the worst of
riding.

If you haven't been there, Pennsylania is an extremely hilly state
consisting of countless valleys and hills ranging as far as the eye can
see. Only a few major arteries cut from west-to-east across the state,
fed by countless capillaries that reach out into the surrounding hills,
but do not really go anywhere of substance. Out of necessity, the bike
route often followed US Route 6, a major thoroughfare that carried tons
of car and truck traffic and often had a less-than-adequate shoulder.
For most of the times that we were on Route 6, it was some of the worst
riding conditions that we had on the entire trip. We didn't have any
bad experiences (not even a "rude honk" to speak of) and the riding
conditions were no worse than riding in any major metropolitan area, but
it was a harsh change after weeks of idyllic country roads.

When possible, the bike route would venture onto the backroads, where we
would find some of the best that the country has to offer for a
cyclist: Very low traffic, beautiful rolling hills, postcard-perfect
farms with hay and cows, rivers, ponds, all encased in arboreal
splendor. The hills are ubiquitous (the region is referred to as the
"Endless Mountains"), but each individual hill is not too big or arduous
(less than 5 minutes climbing max). The cumulative effect of the hills
does sneak up on you -- far and away, our biggest elevation gain days
were in Pennsylania, weighing in at 3980, 4540, 6880, and 6460 vertical
feet gained. This climbing is in addition to knocking off between 95
and 121 miles on each of those days. I can honestly say that I don't
think I could have done it if I hadn't been in killer shape after 5
weeks on the road and if my mom and aunt hadn't been accompanying us
those final days and carrying our gear for us in their car.

Our brief trip through upstate New York treated us quite well. It was
pretty much the same as the best parts of Pennsylvania, except with a
much better shoulder to ride on. To tell you the truth, I was pretty
surprised at the quality, quantity, solitude, and beauty of the outdoor
experience available less than 50 miles from NYC. Unfortunately for our
weary bodies, NY also shares the hilliness of PA and our last day before
Manhattan was exhausting. We also stayed in the absolute
bottom-of-the-barrel, worst motel of the trip, the sort of place where
you wonder if you are going to be killed in some sort of midnight
drug-deal gone bad.

Needless to say, we were raring and ready to go the next day for our
short (~30 miles) and glorious ride into Times Square. We followed
Route 9 along the Hudson River, crossed briefly into NJ for a few miles,
and then met up with Eric's friend Nat at the George Washington Bridge.
Nat was our trusty navigator and escorted us over the bridge into
Harlem, and then down along Riverside Park along the western coast of
Manhattan. Around 95th Street, we cut over to the center of the island
and continued through Central Park. We picked up Broadway at the
southern tip of the park and continued south to Times Square where
Eric's friend Peter, my mom, dad, aunt, and Aimee were all waiting to
celebrate our arrival.

Riding through Manhattan was an exhilarating experience, not only
because it feels like you are in a giant video game, with six lanes of
cabs whizzing by, abundant skyscrapers, and glitzy lights everywhere,
but also because we had made it! The Ride Across America was
essentially complete. Riding through the Big Apple was definitely a
high point of the trip and a perfect way to end our epic journey. It
seemed like only yesterday that I was riding the first tenth of a mile
away from the Pacific Ocean, thinking to myself, "what kind of crazy
thing am I doing here?!"

Stay tuned for trip pictures and associated statistics, as well as a
final e-mail or two on takeaways from the trip and "What I've Learned"
from life on the road.

-Preston
14

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Sun Oct 12, 2003 0:23pm
Subject: Pics from Oregon (days 1-6) are up!

   

I'm finished sorting through the pictures from the first week, which takes us through Oregon. I apologize for taking so long, but I just got back from a week in Yosemite and also had to spend some time writing a photo viewer for my web site and adding captions to all the pictures.

I have sorted the pictures into three buckets: If you want to see only the best pictures, choose short. If you have more time, you can choose medium, long, or even all (which shows everything, even blurry or duplicate photos). The longer albums contain all of the pictures from the shorter albums, so there is no need to view the shorter albums if you view the longer ones. Lastly, you can see all of the pictures at once (although very small) by selecting thumbnails. You should also select thumbnails if you are having trouble viewing the pictures with the other links.

Oregon Pictures (Days 1-6)
Short album
Medium album
Long album
All pictures
Thumbnails

If you are having trouble with the links above, all of the pictures are accessible via www.prestonhunt.com/raam as well.  Let me know if you run into any problems viewing the pics.

-Preston
15

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Sun Oct 19, 2003 8:16pm
Subject: Next batch of pictures are up (days 7-35, Idaho-Ohio)

   
Hello all,

Just a quick note to let you know that I have been slaving away all weekend, sorting through pictures and adding captions, and they are almost all done.  Days 7 through 35 are now complete, which covers Idaho through Ohio.  Only Pennsylvania and New York remain (well, and technically about 30 minutes or so in New Jersey).

Please go to my website at http://www.prestonhunt.com/raam/ to view the pictures. 

As before, I have divided up the pictures into short, medium, and long albums.  I highly recommend the medium album as the best one to choose as it captures the true spirit of the trip.  However, I realize that folks are busy and in that case you should choose the short album to see only the best pictures.

I've also posted some interesting trip statistics to the web site.  For example, our longest mileage day was 126.87 miles.

I hope to have the final pictures posted by the end of the week, as well as one final post containing final thoughts about the trip.

Thanks,
Preston
16

From: Preston Hunt <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Oct 30, 2003 9:02pm
Subject: Pictures through NY are up

   
Hello faithful followers of the ride across America,

I have almost all of the pictures cataloged and captioned now, all the
way through the end of the bike ride to Coney Island. I have a few
dozen "after trip" photos that I'll be posting soon. In the meantime,
check out the PA, NY, and NJ pics at www.prestonhunt.com/raam

Preston
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