Harry on his Bike

Day 57

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Day 57   Monday, October 30
     I woke at 4 and immediately began writing the report for days 54
through 56. As always, I started by selecting the pictures I would post.
Next I wrote e-mails to Barry, attaching a picture to each, which I would
send when I reached Gerry's since this place didn't have a phone. Then
I worked on the text. Writing does not come easily to me, so it was
slightly past 8 when I finished.
     Packing went quickly, since I was anxious to get away from that
depressing room. Just before exiting I folded my large Miami map and
clamped it to my map board with rubber bands. I didn't attempt to
insert it in the protective ziplock bag---it didn't look like rain, and I'd be
refolding it often anyway.
     The street on which this motel was located ran NW--SE, and I
wanted to go south. The most efficient way to go would be SE, but
I had travelled that street the day before in my search for a non-hourly
motel, and it was full of traffic and had no shoulder or sidewalk. With
the heavy traffic and narrow lanes I figured it would be easy for me to
be hit and perhaps very seriously killed, and I was determined to avoid
this type of end to the trip. I therefore opted to go northwest, looking
for a friendly street going south.
     I quickly came to a major highway that went in the right direction,
but it looked so big and important that I was afraid they would have a
restriction on bikes, so I kept moving northwest. But on the left side of
the street was a canal, and for a considerable distance I didn't see any
street that had a bridge. After I'd invested about two miles I carefully
examined my map and saw that I'd have to go another mile before
coming to a crossing. When I finally made the turn my GPS told me
that I was now 3 miles farther from my destination than when I started.
     After crossing the canal I carefully followed the map, took a road
heading south and came to construction that had closed the road.
Another lost mile.
     These setbacks didn't bother me, because I'd told Gerry that I
wouldn't arrive at his house before 2 p.m., and an average speed of
about four miles an hour would be plenty fast enough. Traffic was
heavy as I passed through a region of light industry, and I made many
detours to avoid congestion. Whenever a sidewalk was available I
used it.
     Around 11 I became very hungry, and stopped at a Cuban restaurant.
There I ordered an "ensalada mixta" and two empanadas. In South
America the mixed salad was always a mixture of fresh vegetables, but
here I was served a mixture of cooked vegetables, topped with a little bit
of lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Applying oil and vinegar resulted in a
pretty good dish. The empanadas were similar to those I'd eaten in
both Chile and Argentina, where they are made by putting a mixture
of ground meat and other ingredients onto a pie-crust-like pastry shell,
folding and pinching the edges so as to enclose the filling, and then
either baking or deep-fat frying. These differed from the South American
variety only by what was added to the meat. They were very tasty, and
not a bad deal at 85 cents each.
     I continued south, through increasingly-beautiful residential areas,
until my GPS told me I was within a half-mile of the destination I'd been seeking
for the past eight weeks. It was only 1:15, so I pulled off the road, leaned
my bike against an attractive stone wall, and lay on the thick green grass
beneath a huge tropical tree. For thirty minutes I was able to enjoy the
memories of painless moments of past days, knowing that I didn't have
to jump on the bike and push hard to reach my goal. Every few minutes
I would experience an upwelling of emotion, as again and again I would
realize that this adventure-ordeal was about to end.
     I got back on my bike. Gerry had given me detailed instructions on
how to reach his home, but as the GPS distance began to be reported
in hundredths of a mile I was still a few minutes ahead of schedule, so
I wandered very slowly through the residential area admiring the beautiful
homes. Suddenly I noticed that the GPS showed a distance remaining
of 0.01 miles. I looked up, and there standing in a fish pond was a man
with a smiling face that I hadn't seen for 43 years. To say that we both
were pleased is an understatement.
     Gerry and his wife Carol had returned from a weekend trip the night
before, and were busy cleaning out the large pond near their front door
where they have about a dozen koi. One of the first required tasks was
for Carol to take our picture. 
     After our initial greeting and introductions (Carol and I had met very
briefly in 1957 but neither of us remembered it) we entered their house.
It became immediately apparent that there would be a giant leap in the
quality of my accomodations. I was shown to my private room and
private bath, which were only a few steps away from the room with the
big TV (with all sorts of remotes!) and the pinball machine. That room
adjoined the huge living room with its pool table, wet bar, and seating
area with a big-screen TV. They brought out the orange juice in large
amounts, and Gerry and I began reminiscing about the days in the mid-
fifties when we were together in Air Force flight training. After receiving
our wings and commissions we went to different bases and lost contact
for forty years. Recent internet connections enabled our friendship to be
     I wandered through their house, admiring the many antiques and
works of art from all over the world that he and Carol have collected
during the years. Then into the backyard, with its pool and lush lawn.
At the back of their lot is their dock, where three small boats are tied.
Only a few minutes motoring is required to reach the open water of
Biscayne Bay.
     Both Gerry and Carol have many interests. Gerry  is a retired
Air Force colonel, and after his retirement was CEO of several companies.
He is an entrepeneaur, consultant, and adventurer. He is a member of the
Explorers Club, having been selected after years of working with Amazon
Indians while an Air Force attache to the Brazilian Air Force. Carol 
also has many interests, including buying and renovating houses in the
Miami area. Both are active in many civic organizations.
     Besides these talents, they both are extremely generous with their
hospitality. Carol is a fantastic cook, and that morning had started
cooking a large pork roast. After my black Russian (they had wine) I
was treated to a wonderful meal. An unbelievably delicious coleslaw
complemented the pork, and I have another quality recipe to take back
to Mary.
     After supper Gerry phoned his sister and brother-in-law to get some
information about what spices to put in some salsa he was going to
make the next day. "Where do they live?", I asked. "In Arivaca, Arizona.
You've probably never heard of it, because it's a small town at the end
of the world."
     Maybe Arivaca is at the end of the world, but that world is a small one.
Yes, I had heard of Arivaca, have visited there, and Wendy and Mark are
dear friends, subscribers to my reports, and have sent several encouraging
messages during my trip. I knew that if Gerry's sister and her husband
lived in Arivaca then they were certain to know my friends, because
Arivaca is a small community with close neighborly ties among all its
residents. So I asked to speak with his brother-in-law after they had
concluded their recipe talk. "Do you know Mark and Wendy?", I asked.
"Sure", was the reply. "Their daughter house-sits for us." I asked him
to call Wendy and tell her that he had talked with me. I'd have loved to
have seen Wendy's reaction to that news.
     At a reasonable hour I went to the most comfortable bed I'd slept in
in weeks. My sleep was wonderful, for although I always enjoy biking,
tomorrow I had no miles to bike.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     I'll conclude my reports with some statistics, some miscellaneous
notes, and some thanks.

     The milages registered by my three cyclecomputers all were within
15 miles of each other, and the average (within a fraction of a mile,
amazingly) was 3700 miles. The 57 days duration of the ride included
8 rest days on which I never got on the bike. The average daily milage
for all 57 days was 64.9 miles; the average for biking days was 75.5 miles.
     My route from Seatac Airport to Gerry's home had three waypoints:
Albuquerque, Beaumont, and Tallahassee (which I passed a few miles
to the south). The first two waypoints were to visit family members; the
third was to avoid drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. The sum of the great-
circle distances of those legs was 2981 miles. Therefore, my "biking
milage efficiency" was slightly over 80% (i.e., on average I had to bike
100 miles to get 80 miles closer to my goal).

     In the reports I gave little information about my physical aches, pains,
and other complaints, other than those very minor injuries I sustained from
my spill on day 23. (The bruise that appeared three days later faded away
completely after another 10 days, and never caused the slightest dis-
comfort while pedaling.) My failure to catalog other complaints is not
because I'm against (me) giving organ recitals, but because I really felt
pretty good during the entire trip. I do have some arthritis in my neck
and knees, and my left knee had been bothering me before I started. But
I'd gone to my doctor and he injected it with cortisone and the problem
immediately went away, and I was never bothered by knee problems
during the trip. I took four motrin pills daily for a few days, but started
forgetting to take them, and took no medication of any kind during the
last three weeks of the ride.
     Starting on day 1 with the two jumbojacks, I paid no attention to the
nutritional quality of the food I'd eat; I'd just get whatever looked good on
the menu or on the grocery shelf. (I'm not recommending this procedure---
only reporting what I did.) I've found on previous long rides that I can eat
whatever I want and I'll still lose weight. This ride caused my waist size
to decrease by more than four inches. I weighed 186 pounds at the
beginning of this trip, which is 35 pounds over what the doctors say I
should weigh (but only 20 pounds over what I think is an OK weight).
This morning my weight (same scales) was 162. Over the past few
decades I've lost 15 or more pounds several times and the weight would
always return within a few months. This time, however, I will keep the
weight off. [Pause briefly while audience chuckles ...... I said chuckles,
please, not guffaws ..... QUIET!]

     I kept a record of every cent spent. The total cost of the 57-day
trip was about $2447, which comes to about $43 per day. Here is a
rough accounting (together with some explanatory notes):
          $162 airfare from San Diego to Seattle (including bike)
                    Southwest Airlines, senior fare plus $40 bike charge.
          $175 airfare from Miami to San Diego
                    I received this bargain rate through the generosity of
                    my friend Sid, a retired United Airlines pilot, who
                    gave me a pair of "buddy passes", allowing me to
                    fly home on a standby basis at about $25 per flying
                    hour. After three wonderful relaxing days at their
                    home, Carol was kind enough to take me to the
                    Miami airport at 5 on Thursday morning: I caught
                    a flight to Chicago, then one to San Diego, and
                    was home by noon San Diego time.
         $1236 for motels
                    I spent 39 nights in motels. The most expensive
                    (not the best room by far) cost $38.55; the least
                    expensive (not the worst by FAR) cost $22.60 (and
                    finding such a good deal is a pleasure poor Bill
                    Gates will never get to enjoy). The mean price for
                    a room was $31.65. I doubt that anyone staying
                    in motels on a cross-country ride can have an
                    average cost less than $30.
              $5 for camping
                    I camped 8 nights, 2 of which were in campgrounds.
                    A secluded free campsite can be found with little
                    difficulty somewhere in any 10-mile stretch of road.
                    (The remaining 10 nights were with friends.)
           $715 for food
                    This included restaurants, groceries, snacks, orange
                    juice, and anything else that ended up in my stomach.
                    Several times during the trip someone would say that
                    my transportation was cheaper than buying gas. Not
                    so, I would point out. Fuel (food) came to over 19 cents
                    per mile.
             $68 for bike shipping from Miami
                    Gerry and I went to a bike shop in his pickup and got
                    a bike box (free). The bike was disassembled and
                    packed. Other equipment was put in another box.
                    One pannier was kept for carry-on luggage going home.
                    Total weight shipped home by FedEx ground was 99
                    pounds. (Had I shipped it by air the cost would have
                    been about $90 more. I can wait, since I have no
                    immediate plans to do any biking.)
              $38 for bike-related expenses
                   This includes tubes, patch kits, and a pair of spandex
                   biking shorts (I had to replace the ones I started with
                   because they got so thin I was mooning all overtaking
                   motorists). This does NOT include replacements I will
                   have to make immediately: two tires and two pedals.
                   Other than about 15 flats (I lost count), I had no
                   mechanical problems on this trip, thanks largely to
                   the good maintenance and tune-ups by Peter Kendal.

             $48 for miscellaneous
                   Toothbrush, sunscreen, poker chips, and other items
                   that didn't fall into one of the other categories.

     As announced at the beginning of these reports, this was a "goal"
ride. This ride was nothing more than a personal challenge, to see if
I had the ability (both physical and psychological) to complete the
task I set out to do. Had I not enjoyed biking I would never have selected
this task. Most of each day was enjoyable, but there were moments of
pure misery. One must assess the pleasure of the ride by looking at
the entire picture and forming some sort of average. Although the average
came out on the enjoyable side (especially now that it's over), I believe
that no long multi-day bike ride (whether a goal ride or a smell-the-roses
ride) will be ALL pleasure.

     Although I will never do another "goal" cross-country ride, I do intend
to do some more touring. On my wish-list: Ireland (with a companion
I biked 17 days there in 1997 and only scratched the surface of that
beautiful country), Bolivia-to-Chile (this would require biking a few days
at high altitudes, and would definitely not be a solo-ride), and New
Zealand (a tip-to-tip ride would make a good goal ride).

     For any readers who have not done bicycle touring and would like
to try it out, I recommend riding a part of the Pacific coast. A very
good ride (for either experienced or beginning tourists) would be the
Oregon coast (from north to south so the coastal views are on your
side of the road, and in September when the weather is best and
the congestion least). Do not leap into a long ride without several
shakedown shorter trips.

     Finally, I would like to thank the many people who helped me on
this trip:
     Mary's sister Jean (Albuquerque), my sister Jean and her husband
Ray (Beaumont), and my nephew Harry and his wife Janis (Georgetown)
went above and beyond the call of duty by welcoming a greasy bike and
smelly rider into their home. Those breaks in my routine were refreshing
     The three days I spent with Gerry and Carol number among the most
pleasant of my life. Every minute was devoted to my entertainment, or
my feeding, or preparation for my trip back to San Diego. These two
friends are the most generous hosts I've ever seen. I don't want another
forty years to pass before seeing them again.
     Although they will never read this message, I'd like to thank the many
hundreds of patient and courteous drivers who at some time must have
been inconvenienced by my slow pace and yet refrained from expressing
their displeasure. I found the truck drivers to be especially courteous; in
almost all cases on a shoulderless road they would move to the left
long before reaching me, in contrast to many car drivers who would
shift left only at the last minute. Apart from the "driver from hell", I had
no unpleasant incidents or close calls, and occasionally it disturbs me
when I realize that I devoted several paragraphs to that one unpleasant
incident when there were so many friendly waves and beep-beeps that
I never reported.
     One of the most common questions asked was "What does your wife
think of this?" Mary has been very supportive during all my long rides.
I try to maximize her involvement by phoning her every day; she has a
map next to the phone and plots my course. But I know there must be
some concern on her part, and I thank God for giving me such a wonderful
wife. Thank you, Mary.
     My son Barry is a strong cyclist. We have made many local rides
together, but he has family obligations that prevent him from being away
for longer trips. Thank you Barry, for your encouragement, and for your
support with the photos.
     I set up the the topica mailing list because I believed that by
announcing my goal there would be a higher probability that I wouldn't give up
when the first tough day arrived. I think that worked, because on Day 4 Harry's
Hell Hills almost made me quit, but I thought of the many subscribers (about
80) who were pulling for me. Throughout the ride I received many e-mails
with expressions of support and encouragement; I tried to respond to all.
To all subscribers I say THANKS, and best wishes in whatever challange
YOU pursue!

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