Day 9 – Tears All Around

When I changed my route after day 3 I decided I would just head straight east across Nebraska.  It is fairly flat and the roads are relatively good for

Road to Papillion

cycling. As I mapped each day I discovered I was heading straight toward Papillion, NE where my dad grew up. I thought how cool it would be to end day 9 at the cemetery where my grandma and grandpa are buried, so the plan was set! I decided to keep my destination a secret and never told my parents.  They had been watching me on my tracker map every day and I thought it would be a fun surprise to have them watch me as I headed toward the cemetery just outside of Papillion.

 

As I rode closer to Lincoln the landscape changed from flat to rolling hills. I was having a blast going up and down hills again.  Working hard pedaling up hill pays off 10 fold as you fly down the other side. One thing that stands out in my mind and I wish I had stopped and took a picture of it was a garage sale sign. I was in the middle of no where and there was a dirt road off the main road.  There was a sign pointing down the dirt road that said: Garage Sale, 4 1/2 miles ahead.  I laughed out loud and thought you have got to really be desperate to go to a garage sale via traveling 9 miles total down a dirt road to look at someone’s junk!

I was in Lincoln, NE and I texted my  mom to asked if my dad was tracking me? She said, yes, that he was crying in the basement. He had figured out my trajectory. The cemetery where my grandma, grandpa and an entire host of relatives are buried is in a rural area of rolling hills outside of Papillion on a dirt road. When I arrived at the cemetery the first thing I did was call my dad, needless to say it was a very emotional conversation.  David and the kids were waiting there when I rode up. They had stopped and purchased a couple of plants for us to place on my grandparents grave.  I walked around and took photos of all

My Grandma & Grandpa’s Grave

my relatives headstones to send to my dad. Unfortunately I was still 4 miles short of my 100 miles needed for the day. I decided I would call my dad and find out the address of where he grew up and just head in that direction until I get my 4 miles in then we could load the bike up and drive the rest of the way so I could get some photos of the house that he grew up in. It is funny how the mind works, my dad cannot remember a conversation from two days ago and yet when asked where his house he grew up in was he rolled off the cross streets like he lived there currently. Some things stay with you forever I guess.  I entered the location into my GPS and immediately got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. The house he grew up in was exactly 4 miles from the cemetery. Sometimes fate is subtle and other times it is so evident it knocks you to your knees in amazement. What a beautiful day this was.

Jackson & Maisie Setting Plants on their Great Grandma & Grandpa’s Grave

I Seriously Rode My Bicycle from Colorado to Papillion, Nebraska!

 

As soon as I started off toward my dad’s old home I noticed my tire was really low.  I was 4 miles away from my 100. Could I make it on the dwindling air I had? You have to understand, when you are only 4 miles from your daily goal, which is a BIG deal when you have ridden 900 miles because it means getting OFF the bike and not getting back on it until the next day, you do NOT want to spend 25 minutes wrangling with a tire but rather spend 15 minutes riding the final 4 miles. I decided to wing it and see if I could just pedal my ass off and beat the flat tire. By the time I got to my dad’s childhood home, it was pretty near where I was not going to be able to ride it another mile.  I WIN!

My Dad’s Childhood Home

Hello Random Little Piece of Metal

As soon as I took pictures of my dad’s house we loaded my bike in the truck and hightailed it back to Sterling, CO. Which mind you, is a 407 miles away and because we were hauling the camper we could only go around 65 MPH. The FINAL day was just hours away. Day 9 was by far my favorite day. Getting back to my family’s roots and doing so by riding my bike all the way across Nebraska – I just cannot find the words to describe this day.

My cup runneth over.

 

Day 3 – Friendship Ride

New Fantastic Friends!

This day was AWESOME, AMAZING, ENCOURAGING, MOTIVATING, HUMBLING and so much more. Truth, in life people come and go

and many never will leave a mark on your spirit.  But this is NOT the case for the incredible friends who joined me on this leg of the journey. A few of my coworkers and I had been talking about my ride for some time and they decided to join me on this day.  Steve is an avid cyclist and Amy is literally the most athletic person I have ever met…ever!  Steve put the word out to his cycling group and I ended up having 5 riders complete the 100 miles and another 3 join for a portion of the ride.  It was the BEST DAY EVER!

I had 200 miles under my belt and was ready to rock and roll on another 100.  We traveled from Strasburg, down through, Elizabeth, around the Aurora Reservoir Trail which I now have on my list of places to visit with the kiddos to play in the water and ride bikes along the trail.

Beautiful Day for a Ride!

What I did not really expect was the number of long hills through Elizabeth and then returning to Strasburg. Let’s be real. I am an extreme novice cyclist at this point in my life.  I used to cycle a lot but I had kids, then more kids and then life just got in the way of doing any real cycling.  The last long distance ride I did was 16 years ago when I was 31.  I did the Seattle to Portland, also known as the STP, two years in a row. The second year I rode in it I called David during the middle of it and told him if I ever say, I want to do the STP again under NO circumstances should he allow me to do it!  But you just cannot tame CRAZY and David of all people knows this.

Day 3 – “Rookies” Ready to Roll!

This day and all these hills made me realize that I needed to change the entire rest of my course.  I lacked the power to effectively perform on the hills and my route through Wyoming would present hills 3-4 times as long and challenging. Compared to the people I rode with on this day my novice ability was shining like a lighthouse beacon! On WAY  more than one hill, Chris (one of my new found cycling friends via Steve) literally rode along side me on the hills and pushed me while riding his bike up the hill. I still don’t know how anyone has that amount of energy or strength but it was very much appreciated. Everyone who rode with me on this day came out in support and encouraged me leaving me feeling incredibly humbled.  People are good. This day was DA-BOMB!!!!  THANK YOU FRIENDS!!

 

Day 4 – Start of the Plains

BOOOOM!!!  300 miles on the books! I am ACTUALLY DOING THIS.  Not that up to this point I did not think I would complete this but not gonna lie, there was PLENTY of time during my long rides to think and every now and then I had doubts creep in.  Today was different. I had just come off a day full of friends and support and could not let their efforts be for naught!

Long Empty Roads & Miles of Fields

Wind was my friend as I headed northeast toward Sterling.  I was cruising like crazy!  Hour after hour when I looked at my speed I was consistently between 17-19 MPH.  At one point I hit a bump and my waterbottle fell off my bike, I circled back and got it then stood on the side of the road taking a few photos of the vast fields that seem to never end and the empty roadway that went on forever.  I vividly remember thinking how blessed I am to be in this moment.  As I stood there alone my phone rang, it was my dad.  He had been tracking me and saw I was stopped and was wondering if I was eating lunch. It put a smile on my face as he was telling me about how he has been tracking me each day and then would pull up Google maps and zoom in on my location to see what I was seeing.  My dad has always been a man of few words but being able to share this experience and have him actively participate brings tears to my eyes just thinking of that moment. He grew up in Nebraska and I told him I felt like I must be seeing his childhood landscape all day long. WIDE open fields full of some sort of crop that I could not identify that went on for miles and miles. And a roadway that was as empty as an unwatched cookie jar in a preschool! It was lovely….. Peaceful – so incredibly beautiful and left you feeling minuscule in this great big world.

This day was also very special as my super amazing friend Jordan found me via my tracker and delivered to me a bottle of wine! We stood on the side of the road for probably 45 minutes chatting. As we stood there a truck slowed and stopped and asked if we were OK and then he said… I am XXXXX (sadly I cannot remember his name) and I’ve been tracking your ride via the website! He works down the road and thought he would come and give me some encouragement. The amount of encouragement I received in person and on Facebook was just amazing and really helped push me to continue on.

Cool! Someone Found Me on My Tracker!

LOVE Jordan! Surprised Me with Wine and Nothing but Support!

Day 5 – Leaving Colorado

My first thought this day – after today I will be half way there! I was incredibly excited and proud of myself.

Welcome to Nebraska – the GOOD LIFE!

Riding 100 miles on a bicycle in a single day is hard, knowing each day after the day you just rode 100 miles that tomorrow you have to get up and do it all over again creates a mental internal war-zone that is straight up hard to explain and likely not many people could even understand it. However, when I make it to 500 – I am 50% complete! Mentally – this feels like you are WINNING!

Today I crossed the border into Nebraska. As I said before, my dad was born and raised in Nebraska until he joined the Navy which took him to Hawaii where he met and married my mom and finally they landed in Kingston, WA.  I was born and raised there and spent the first 30+ years of my life causing all sorts of chaos. My dad’s mother, my grandmother, moved from NE when I was a baby after my grandfather died. She moved to Kingston to be close to my family. She was the only relative I really grew up with other than my parents.  I have a fabulous photo of her at 14 years old that I cherish more than anything else I own. She was an amazing woman. She is buried in Papillion, Nebraska. Hmmmm maybe I ride all the way to Papillion???

Trains Trains Trains!

I have always loved trains.  There is something about the amount of sheer power they have that leaves you feeling a sense of excitement and danger.  Who doesn’t love that! There would be 15 or more a day that paralleled my route. The trains would frequently block the cross winds that came directly from the south to the north. When they passed I would kick it into high gear and enjoy a mini 5-10 minute cross wind vacation. Honestly, while riding alone on the road day after day, you find ANYTHING and I mean ANYTHING you can to be excited about.

As I arrived at my 500th mile – I could hardly believe it! I mean WHO does this?  Especially someone who is a complete novice and is 47 years old! 50% Complete!  500 down, 500 to go!

My FABULOUS FRIENDS made signs of encouragement for me and David secretly placed them along the entire ride! I AM BLESSED!!

WHAT is NOT to love about this sign….

 

MORE to COME!!!  Part III – Day 6, 7 & 8 Coming UP Next!

 

What Have I Done??

I know everybody at one time or another in their lives makes a statement about something epic they are going to do and then think long and hard about it and realize they might be dreaming a little too big. Most of them come back down to earth and park the idea and move on.

The Bike that Completed the Journey, AKA, Black Beauty

MOST of the time I do this too, except this one time, maybe I got carried away. A little caught up in the moment perhaps? Originally I was trying to think of a way to raise money for Honor Flight Northern Colorado (a cause I very strongly believe in). I started thinking since I love riding bikes maybe some kind of bicycle ride? Hmmmm,  250 miles sounded like a good number, but the idea evolved and grew and before I knew it… It became an epic bicycle ride of 1,000 miles in 10 days. Maybe I was trying to compete with my big bad ass friends, Charley Barnes and Mike Nuererburg who were riding their motorcycle 10,000 miles in 10 days. Pretty sure Charley Barnes may have planted the seed for the bicycle ride. He had tried 3 times to complete the Iron Butt Ride to raise money for Honor Flight Northern Colorado, which he raised a TON of money for. Sadly he came close a few times but (until prior to this ride) had not yet completed it. I guess I was feeling competitive, those who know me can attest to my competitive nature, you just cannot let something like this go! After all, how hard can this really be?

June 1, 2017

This day marked the first day of  what would be hands down THE most difficult self imposed challenges I have EVER undertaken.  Riding my bicycle 100 miles a day for 10 straight days. I loaded up my Specialize Diverge Bicycle and was on my way!

Day 1 – Piece of Cake

And she’s off!  I hopped on my bike and started on my way.  From Greeley, CO to a very long way around back to Mead, CO.  Easy Peasy I

Jennifer, David, Jackson & Maisie

said to myself.  As I cruised 18 MPH through Greeley my mind was on fire.  YOU got this!  I guess the adrenaline kicked in, I could hear my inner thoughts touting: BRING IT! After all, I have trained since January for this very moment in time.  I was as ready as I would ever be!

I made it to the Poudre River Trail   where my 10 year old son Jackson and 8 year old daughter Maisie were going to join me for the next 21 miles.  As we wound through the scenic trail I was chatting with them about the river and how it always changes. How water is one of the most powerful in all nature and natural disasters. Almost as soon as we had that conversation, the trail up ahead was closed due to high levels of water in the river which was blocking the path. The original plan was for David, husband/chase truck, to pick up the kids at the other end of the trail and I would continue on. We made it 5 miles in on the trail, the kids were disappointed their ride was cut short but life never goes as planned and the more they experience this at a young age the easier it will be for them to navigate road blocks later in life.

The rest of day one went pretty much as planned.  I ended the day in Longmont, CO at my son’s first baseball game of the season. Could not have asked for a better ending location.

Day 1 and the first 100 miles down.  I was feeling great and still felt a little cocky quite honestly. Like, pfffft…. This is gravy….

Day 2 – Metropolis

100 miles down, 900 to go! As I left Mead, CO I was really excited about this leg of my trip.  I was going to ride on the new US 36 Bikeway. It is the little things in life that get me excited.  This 12 foot wide cycling path goes from Boulder to Denver along US 36. The views of the Flatirons are breathtaking. One of the things I love the most about biking is you really get to SEE IT ALL! I used to think how awesome it was taking road trips in the car and seeing the countryside.  But when you are traveling 75-80 MPH you miss 50% or more of it. The sounds, winds, smells, and small things you cannot see in the car skip by without ever getting noticed. On a bike, you cruise along at around 15 MPH and can take in everything. It is simply amazing.

Top of US 36 Trail out of Boulder, CO

In Denver I changed over to the Cherry Creek Bike Path. This trail goes through the heart of the Denver Metro area along the Clear Creek river.  During this portion of the ride a thunderstorm rolled through and I was faced with the dilemma of stopping under one of the underpasses and wait it out or just keep riding through it.  My preference would have been to wait it out but this portion of the trail is known to have very high population of transients and drug abuse.  As the storm was intensifying I was along a higher ridge that followed major high line power-lines. The lightening was now surrounding me and yet I still felt safer than the underpass with all the sketchy characters that I had just rode through. Needless to say, my speed increased as I pushed as hard as I could to get out of the storm and this area of the path.

One of my favorite parts of this day was riding on East 56th Avenue on the south side of Denver International Airport.  Two reasons, 1 – the jets fly extremely low right over this section of roadway one after another just before landing.  Seeing this perspective was a different kind of thrilling. The sounds of the engines roaring was incredibly violent revving up my internal excitement for powerful violent machines. Being able to practically read the underbelly of

Near Strasburg, CO a Farm with Thunder Clouds

a 747 as it flew over head was SUPER COOL! And 2 – they had just paved this roadway – it was like riding on a smooth pathway of butter (but without being slippery) – ahhhh butter road.

As continued the last 25 miles I managed to dodge two major thunderstorms and was beyond thankful for that. I literally felt like I was in the middle of NO WHERE.  Cars would go by every 10 or 15 minutes at the most. As I approached the Strasburg KOA where David had already set up our camper and was awaiting my arrival I realized I was 4 miles short of my 100 miles. Let me tell you…. you DON’T ride 97 miles on your bike and call it good enough! As tired as I was, I rode straight past the camp ground 2 miles then turned around and came back to complete my 2nd day – 200 miles down, and I was still smiling and still a little cocky…

There is MORE…. Click here for Day 3, 4 & 5

And More… Click here for Day 6, 7, & 8

Even More…. Click here for Day 9

AND THE FINAL DAY 10 Click Here: Day 10