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John Herrington's Rocketrek http://rocketrek.com John Herrington's Press Releases and Blog en-us Copyright 2008 John B. Herrington 1440 The ride may be over, but the journey never ends... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226736000 So where is the blog you are probably asking? In cyberspace... After having spent the better part of three, no four hours typing it, my computer froze and what I had been continuously saving on the website, was no longer responsive and all gone! Heck, darn, grrrr.... I will try again in the morning! And it was really going to be a doosie...

My apologies...

Enjoy the pictures. It's 1:45 am and I'm going to sleep now...
Ok, I'm back, refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to make my final entry. The title of this blog may have more to do with my computer not wanting the journey to end, so it throws me a curveball late in the evening and I have to start all over. Well that's ok. More thoughts and reflections come with a good night's sleep rather than a late night, furious typing session. So let me try this again...

I believe the journey never really ends because the destination is never static. There should always be another place to go or challenge to accomplish as we go through life. When one adventure ends, another one starts. I just have to figure out what my next one will be!

The day started off early, early, early. I was up at 5:00 am in order to get the bike back to where I left off in Titusville last Thursday. I was scheduled to meet my press escort at the KSC Badging office on State Road 405, at 8:00 am. In my hustle to get out the door I always forget something. This time it was my camera. While I assembled my panniers back on my bike, Jay and Margo were kind enough to return to the hotel and fetch my lost article. Luckily my bike doesn't require a set of keys to start; otherwise I would have forgotten those too! (Sound familiar Mom and Dad?)

The ride through Titusville was a non-event. The roads were quiet that early in the morning as most folks were probably sleeping in after the launch the night before. I trundled down Hwy 1 and crossed the NASA Causeway on SR 405, arriving at the Badging office precisely at 8:00 am. I was met by COL Johnny Johnson, USAF (Ret), our escort and docent for KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). I've worked with COL Johnson before during previous trips to KSC and he is always fun to be around and full of interesting stories. I was also incredibly pleased when four colleagues from NASA pull into the parking lot to greet me. Jerry Ross (one of only two people to have flown in space seven times and my mentor), Dr. Joe Schmid (Flight Surgeon extraordinaire, and my personal physician when I become the President), Steve Pruzin (keeper and provider of all things Flight Data File, all of the checklists and articles used by the astronauts during flight), and Jose Hernandez (astronaut in the class of 2004 and assigned as a Mission Specialist on STS-128, also the Prime ASP (Astronaut Support Personnel) for STS-126). As the Prime, Jose was responsible for strapping the crew in the vehicle and is the last man out of the hatch before it is closed for flight. I was a member of that team for two and a half years. Best job in the office next to flying in space! It was great to seeing everyone and fun to talk about my journey. Thanks so much for coming out and wishing me well.

After discussing the route I would follow with COL Johnson, I headed through the west gate and north along the road to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Just after I turned north, I noticed a bald eagle sitting off to my right. Proudly perched on the branch of a pine tree, it symbolized that my journey was nearing completion and that I had been guided safely across the country. If you remember, my journey began with a blessing from the Makah Nation and eagle down was sprinkled on my bike and me to keep me safe in my travels.

I turned east in front of the VAB and made a stop at the Press Site for more photos. Curt Richter, a world-class photographer on assignment to document the end of the shuttle program, came along to take some large format pictures. It was like watching Ansel Adams and his big box camera at work at KSC. I continued down the crawler way toward Pad 39A with Jay Roman hanging out the back of the van, high definition video camera in hand. I passed the crawler-transporter, a massive 5.4 million pound behemoth that carriers the shuttle to the launch pad.


We rounded the edge of the pad perimeter and headed out to the beach road, before venturing into a stiff 20-knot headwind. I was hoping to draft behind the van, but they stayed too far ahead to make an impact, so I was left to grind my way down the road, no rest for the weary! We made numerous stops along the way to the Cape. First was the turn off to the KSC Beach House, which is used as conference center and for the crew. Next, we took some time to pay our respects at Launch Complex 34, site of the Apollo 1 fire and the launch site for Apollo 7. From there we stopped at the entrance to the Gemini launch site as well as the Mercury Seven memorial. Under the concrete lies a time capsule that will be opened in 2464.


I passed the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse before turning on Camera A road and the beach at Cape Canaveral proper. Just as I left the pavement, I came close to doing a head dive off my bike as the sand took my tire to the left and I went right. Luckily I was able to quickly release my right foot from the pedal just in time. It would have been the only time that I fell off my bike this entire trip and right in front of Jay's camera! Thank goodness for the quick reflexes of a 50-year-old young man!

Just as I had done three months before on Hobuck Beach, in Neah Bay, WA, I pushed my bike through the deep sand and stood at the water's edge as the surf enveloped my front tire and feet. Four thousand, one hundred and eighty-four miles after I began, my trek was complete. Almost complete, that is. I still had to pedal down to the Cocoa Beach Pier and meet with a reporter from the Florida Today, Rebecca, and two friends of Joe Oswald that attended the launch, Sarah and Matt. Once at the pier, I pulled my panniers off the bike and loaded it up in the van and closed this chapter of my life. Now I turn the page and start to write the next...

So what was this all about? Why in the world would I pedal over four thousand miles from coast to coast? As one of my fellow cyclists I met during this trip told me, people have an easier time believing that we can fly in space than being capable of pedaling across the country. Why did I do it? It was for the challenge, to be quite honest, both a physical as well as a mental challenge. And not just to challenge me, but hopefully to challenge students to accomplish great things in life. I was only able to accomplish difficult challenges in my life, because there were people who believed in me and encouraged me to do my very best. I hope that in some small way, what I have done over the past three months will give students the encouragement they need to seek out their own challenges. Flying in space is a challenge, graduating from high school or college is a challenge, as is pedaling across the country. The things we do in life that take tremendous effort, also provide the greatest reward. There is a phenomenal amount of satisfaction that comes from doing a good job, more so when the job is difficult and demanding. I tell students, if you do nothing, you will be nothing. But with time, effort and motivation, all things are possible. You just won't know if you don't try. I challenge everyone to challenge themselves, accomplish things you might not think you are capable of doing. You just might be surprised at where it takes you!

I extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to everyone that has followed my journey. I could not have done this without the support and financial assistance of the Chickasaw Nation, Pro Bikes, South Dakota Gearup and Trek Bicycles. To Jay, Stacy and the folks from Linn Productions, thanks for the IT support and helping document my journey. To Margo, my love, I couldn't have done this without you. No more early morning phone calls with wind in the background from my Bluetooth headset! To my parents, brother Jim and sister Jenn, thanks for your love and encouragement. My birthday celebration in Thermopolis, WY was the best I have ever had. I'm still freaked out over my brother appearing out of the darkness! And, lastly, to my daughters Jessica and Amanda, thank you for always being there for me! I love and adore you both more than you will ever know!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226736000 Blog Sat, 15 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
The cyclist pirate at launch... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226649600 It's amazing how one well placed monocle rear view mirror can totally change the meaning of the photo! Argh matey, I thought I left the last pirate back in Montana!

Friday was a flurry of activity. In addition to getting the final approval for me to ride my bike around the Kennedy Space Center I was working to make sure that my friends were taken care of for launch. The public affairs and media services folks at KSC, namely Lisa Malone, Mary Ann Chevalier, and Bill Johnson, made a tremendous effort to coordinate my time here at the Cape. My deepest appreciation to everyone!

I knew that it would be impossible to complete my ride to the Cape during a launch flow, so I decided to hold off one day and take some time to appreciate the launch from the Press Site. NASA Headquarters and KSC took some time to film my arrival near the countdown count. Jay Roman, Margo Aragon, Erin Coye, and I had a spectacular view of the launch of STS-126. Before I started my ride I told the Commander of STS-126, CAPT Chris Ferguson, that I would make every effort to be here in time to see his crew fly. I am so pleased that it worked out! If you have never seen a Space Shuttle launch in person, I would highly, highly, extremely highly recommend that you make the effort to come to FL before the shuttle quits flying in 2010. It is a personally moving experience that takes your breath away. Not just from the visual aspect, but from a physical one as well. You can actually feel the vibrations from the shuttle as it climbs to orbit. So much so, that many car alarms in the parking lots go off in response to the launch. The light from the solid rocket boosters and space shuttle main engines is so bright you can't look directly at it. It's just like looking at the sun (please don't do this at home). You can tell that from the silhouette of Windy against the light.

If the shuttle launch wasn't spectacular enough, my evening was made complete when I dropped to one knee prior to launch and asked Margo to marry me (SHE SAID YES!) Since we met back near the beginning of my ride, Margo has been an incredible inspiration, a tremendous support, confidant and friend. I am blessed to have met her on this journey and firmly believe there was a greater purpose to this ride than I ever imagined! I started off this trek hoping that I would make a difference in the lives of others and found someone else making a huge difference in mine! Margo, thank you for being there for me! I love you!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226649600 Blog Fri, 14 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Some people's kids... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226563200 just don't know how to behave. You just can't let me alone in a room without something silly happening. This was one of those stores that everyone needs to stop in for a good chuckle (and some fine BBQ and pecan pie). On County Road 46 out of Sanford, headed to Titusville, we stopped in for some cold drinks and met Matt and his collection of stuffed animals, Gator skulls, and assorted meat cleavers hanging from the wall. Matt was great to talk to and he asked a lot of questions of the two crazy cyclists that just happened to show up today. The pie was fantastic, but I was afraid I would have to use the side door because my hair is getting a bit shaggy!

I apologize that this blog was running a bit late. I tried to upload the files last night, but a problem with the server prevented me from doing so. Well, better late than never!

For the third day in a row we rose before the sun and headed out at daybreak. With 108 miles planned for the day, we wanted all of the daylight we could get. The ride out Hwy 27 was fast, but warm (71 degrees) and humid (93%). My handlebar tape, camera and just about everything else hanging off of the bike was soon drenched in a fine layer of moisture. I forgot what it was like to be in Florida, even in the late fall. We crossed the border to Ocala National Forest and climbed a few small hills along the way. This was the first time I have run across a bear crossing sign. I would have expected one of those in MT and not in FL. Just before the turn off on Hwy 17, we came across Nancy pedaling the opposite direction, headed for the other side of Florida. She posted to my blog the other night and we made a point of connecting in the middle. Good luck on your ride and I hope you have a mind to continue to the west coast one of these days. I highly recommend it!

When we made the turn down Hwy 17, the wind picked up a bit and gave us a bit of a headwind. Just before the town of De Leon Springs, Erin came face to face with a piece of wire from a blow radial tire tread and ended up getting a flat and changing it in record time. I continued down the road a bit until I realized he was not where he had been a few moments before. I turned back up the road and found him just crossing a bridge, cruising right along. We stopped for some excellent Mexican food at a small tacqueria (sp?) stand and took a break from the wind. We continued south until we picked up CR 46 out of Sanford and started the final press to Titusville. It was a bit of confidence on our part (however misplaced) that we would cover 108 miles today. Even with the wind we made excellent time and pulled in to Titusville just at the sun was starting to set.

Since no one has seen me blog, I thought I would throw a picture in for good measure. Every day after my ride I spend about 4 hours uploading the pictures, typing the text, adding statistics, getting all of my chargers out of the bag and pulling everything together so that it will work the next day. On average, I have been getting to bed around midnight, except with Erin around. For the past couple of nights I have hurried through my stuff as he goes to bed way before I am used to. I thought I was the old man here!

Tomorrow I will head to the KSC Press Site to attend launch and then come back again on Saturday morning to be escorted over to the Cape Canaveral side and the finish of my ride.

Determine how much thrust each solid rocket booster has and how long they burn before being jettisoned over the Atlantic. Any idea how far out to sea they actually land? Once you determine how many pounds of force each SRB exerts, convert it to it's metric equivalent.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226563200 Blog Thu, 13 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226476800 ...that is if the bullet doesn't bite you first. Erin and I were pedaling down Hwy 27 toward Ocala. I was in front and he was directly behind me when I passed by a metal object and heard Erin actually run over it. I knew in an instant it was the clip to a gun. With bullets!! I wheeled back around and snapped the picture. I took a mental note of where we were, picked up the clip and stuffed into my pile sweater I had bundled on my left rear pannier. I thought I would give it to the first police office I came across. Twenty-five miles later I found a sheriff's substation in Silver Springs and gave it to the detective on duty. After giving him all of my contact info, he told me it was a 32 caliber bullet and off the cuff mentioned, "I hope no one was shot up that way." I think they are going to go back and look for the business end. He said to expect a call! Just doing my civic duty! I thought about looking for the gun after having pedaled about two miles down the road. I didn't think it would be in my best interests to be pedaling with someone else's gun on my bike! Now that would make the news! Geezzz....

Erin and I rose early once again and hit the road just after sunrise. We planned on covering 90 miles and we were afraid the winds would be our enemy today. We were pleasantly surprised. Though they were up a bit, the winds were coming from our left side and not giving much of a headwind component. I may have done this problem before, but I'll toss it out there again. If we had a wind of 10 mph coming at us from about 45 degrees to our left, what would be our headwind component and our crosswind component? Any idea what the maximum crosswind component allowed is for the space shuttle when it lands?

The highway from Branford to Ocala was great. Nice and wide and an excellent shoulder. The traffic was relatively light with an occasional truck now and then. We passed across numerous spring fed rivers and one had a bridge with a large fence and barbed wire across the top. I guess that is one way to keep kids from jumping from the railing. There was a beautiful stretch of bike path running along side of the road on the way to High Spring. We took it for a distance and had the first opportunity to ride side by side without upsetting anyone on the road. Once in High Spring we stopped to get pictures of a large cycling mural next to the local bike shop (which wasn't open yet). The local bakery wasn't open either (opened at 1000) so we couldn't indulge our craving for pastry. We did stop at My Lil Cafe and slammed down a tasty breakfast. They were also giving away some goodies (cupcakes and pecan brittle) so we took those for dessert. I consider a cupcake before 12:00 pm a form of coffee cake so I have no guilt! The pecan brittle was awesome! As I stepped out the door of the cafe I noticed the Open Sign indicating they would be serving Gatortail on Wednesday for lunch. Darn the bad luck. We were on a tight schedule and couldn't wait for lunch to roll around. Maybe next time!

It turns out that most of the scuba diving that is done in the area is cave diving. Hence the sign beside the road. I believe there are numerous limestone caves associated with the springs. If anyone has been diving is this area I would love to hear about it. I was fortunate to learn cave diving techniques during my stint in the NOAA habitat during my NEEMO mission with NASA. I would love to come back here and dive in this area. The water is spectacularly clear!

Just as we crossed the Williston city limits, I crossed the magical 4000 mile mark (give or take a few) on my trek. I initially thought the ride would be right at 4000 miles, so I am pretty close. Another 130 to go and I will be finished! We stopped for lunch at Ryan's Deli in Williston and had some fantastic sandwiches courtesy of Debbie, Bud and Ryan. I snapped their picture along with Erin outside of their store. Great food and warm friendly service if you ever get out this way.

We rumbled against the first headwind of the day as we headed east toward Ocala. I didn't realize how popular this area is for raising horses! Massive horse farms on both sides of the road. Huge gated entrances and country clubs that include golf and equestrian facilities. My daughter Jessica would go nuts here! When she was 13 she said, "Daddy, horses or boys, your choice!" She has been the proud owner of a wonderful horse named Hobbes for the past four years. She is quite the accomplished rider and has even joined the Polo team at Colorado State University. I didn't realize there was something else I could spend my money on at her college. It never ends, sigh...

We made our way across Ocala and trundled into Silver Springs, FL. I love coming across establishments that cater to a wide and varied clientele. Next time I am in the mood for breakfast and a tattoo, I know where to go! And if I don't feel like leaving the house, that's ok, because they will come to me. Have ink and drink, will travel...

We pulled into the Days Inn with a coupon in hand that Erin found in a local travelers guide. Double room for $45! Not bad! The young lady behind the desk, Kristine, was very helpful. As it turns out, she biked across the country from Providence, RI to Seattle, WA as a member of Bike to Build, a Habitat for Humanity effort. She gave us the website:


If you are a student and have an interest, check it out. What a interesting and satisfying way to travel across the country.

Tomorrow Erin and I have an ambitious plan to pedal from Silver Springs to Titusville. One hundred and eight heart pounding miles. My Mom pointed out that tomorrow will be my three month anniversary from when I started back in August. My goodness how time flies. If I wanted to be sneaky, I could pedal directly over to Ormond Beach and stick my toes in the water, just to say I completed the ride on the 13th. But, being the biking purest that I am, I will keep going to complete at Cape Canaveral this Saturday. I plan on being next to the countdown clock at the KSC Press Site for launch and then return the next morning (assuming the launch goes as planned) to ride past Pad 39A, down the beach road and ending up near the Skid Strip on Cape Canaveral AFS. Once there, I will walk my bike onto the beach (I'd probably fall over in the sand if I rode) and dipping the front wheel in the water! What fun and how sad it will be to see this end...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226476800 Blog Wed, 12 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
I didn't realize there were fake ones... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226390400 I know it is really a sandwich, but who would make a fake Cuban sandwich? I don't know why this stuff catches my attention, but it sure brightens my day.

Erin and I got an early start just after the sunrise. The hotel was positioned at just the right spot on our ride. Not too far, not too short. But in quality, it comes in a close second to the hotel I stayed in way, way back in Washington State. Remember, the one with the fleas in the tub, no air conditioning and no curtains on the windows? Well, this one at least had AC, no fleas, and curtains, but the bathroom looked like someone had a temper tantrum and took out the door to the cabinet below the sink. If you turned the water on to the shower after flushing the toilet, the water dribbled slowly from the shower-head until the toilet was full. Then and only then did the water start to flow. Hmmmm... At least the shower had brightly colored tile that dated from the 1960's. Oh yeah, the AC unit was held in the window by tape!

The ride down Hwy 27 was interesting. Nice wide shoulder, but not much traffic. That flies in the face of my Truck Traffic = 1/shoulder width equation from Alabama. The wind started to become an issue as the day wore on. We stopped in Perry and enjoyed a fine lunch at the Main Street Caf�. We started off with an ambitious plan to pedal to a campground about 97 miles to the east, but ended up finding a hotel in the little town of Branford, saving about 7 miles in the process.

The country is sparsely populated between Perry and Branford. We came across a couple of small towns, at one point finding a rather expensive chocolate milkshake in the process. Keeping the law of supply and demand in check, even in rural Florida. Planted pine forests covered most of the countryside. Seeing the trees in even rows is an interesting sight. Along the way we came across a forest service fire lookout post.

The wind became quite annoying as the afternoon wore on. Erin and I traded leads, making for a nice windbreak and a chance to rest. At one point we passed a Florida Correctional Facility (prison) and shortly thereafter came across a sign for Convict Spring. Nice that the state provides directions to the escape facility as well! ;o)

Just prior to Branford we crossed the Suwannee River (namesake for the song?). Nice and inviting river, but a big sign on the bridge warns people to not jump from the bridge.

Tomorrow we will head towards Gainesville and then south toward Ocala. From there we will head east through the Ocala National Forest and pick up the road south toward Titusville. Unfortunately, the winds are forecast to be right off our noses for a good portion of the ride, ten to twenty miles per hour. Oh joy!

For today's math tidbit, do you know how much liquid you are allowed to take on an airplane in your carry on luggage? I believe it is 100ml per container. Any idea how many ounces that would be? What is another metric equivalent of ml? Think volume! 100ml = 100 xx? The reason I ask is that I had to purchase some toothpaste yesterday and I was trying to find one just the right size so I wouldn't have to buy something smaller than I need (which usually costs more per ounce).

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226390400 Blog Tue, 11 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
A bridge not too far... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226304000 Talk about an uneventful day! Nothing much happened, except for maybe having someone point their car at me and swerve away at the last moment. But other than that, what a snoozer! Some people's kids and their cars. The only problems I have had on this trip were usually from teenage kids with too much testosterone and not enough common sense. About all I could expect was for them to hang out of the truck window and bark like a dog or hoot and holler like a fool. But having someone actually move their vehicle directly at you while staring right at you, now that is a different story. While it wasn't really close, it was aggravating and it did make me a bit testy! Let's see how the rest of my Florida ride goes before passing judgement.

I left Marianna this morning after seeing my Dad head toward Texas. I really appreciated his support for the past week from McGehee, AR to Marianna, FL. Thanks so much for keeping an eye on your younger son!

I headed down Hwy 90, appreciating with overflowing glee the width of the shoulder and lack of a rumble strip. After downing a fine, really cold chocolate milk, I got back on the road and headed toward Tallahassee. After about 10 miles of pedaling I noticed someone coming up behind me on another touring bike. I thought for a second it was Chris from cycleforheart.org but quickly realized I was in the presence of another crazed cross-country cyclist. Erin Coye, who hails from the Seattle area, left Washington State back in July and was headed to Maimi Beach. He was taking a more southerly track which brought him down the west coast to San Francisco and then points eastward through Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and finally to Florida. I will pedal with him for pretty much the remainder of my journey, following most of the Adventure Cycle's Florida route. We will get to the Cape in time for the launch of STS-126. Nice way to end the last leg of my journey.

The route we followed took us south of Hwy 90, crossing I-10 a couple of times and along some beautiful stretches of country road. Spanish moss hanging from the branches of huge stately trees with plantation like mansions on either side of the road. We took a circuitous route through downtown Tallahassee and avoided most of the nasty traffic on Hwy 90. Our total distance of nearly 80 miles brought us to a small hotel on the east side of the city. Forty dollars for one room, double occupancy and a large bag of remote controls to go through to make the TV work (Jim is not just the owner, but also the handyman!). Tomorrow we will we point our trusty steeds toward Gainesville and shorten the remaining distance to KSC by another 90 miles or so. I am looking forward to seeing the Vehicle Assembly Building rising in the distance as we near the coast. For today's problem, how tall is the VAB and how many Statues of Liberty could you fit inside, height only?

PS: Jill Reddington made my Dad and I a fantastic Pecan (that's pronounced Peekhan) Pie. Not only it is a fine desert in the evening, but it makes an awesome breakfast coffee cake as well! Great job Jill! Thanks!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226304000 Blog Mon, 10 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Permit to fish, walk on water, or both? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226217600 Why would someone offer you a place to fish, require you to get a permit and then plant grass all over the bank and say you can't stand there? I bet someone didn't even stock the pond! Lure you in and gotcha!

I left the hotel this morning and headed back up the road to start my ride where I left off in Brundidge, AL. A heavy fog was settled over the low points of the highway and made for a spectacular sight as we descended each hill and disappeared into the mist. Hwy 231 is four lane and the traffic was much lighter this morning than it was the day before. I loaded myself with a cup of strong caffeine and chatted with some local folks outside the store. I asked if this is an everyday occurrence and I was told it was their Sunday morning ritual. I've found these types of gatherings all across the nation, be it next to a gas station or a local cafe. The place to get the latest news and make plans for the day. This is the American experience, the people and their ties to the community!

The stretch from Brundidge to Dothan was an easy pedal, some hills and a shoulder of varying width and rumble. This is also the home of Army Aviation, Fort Rucker, AL. Many of my friends at NASA and in the flight test community come from Army Aviation and have ventured through Fort Rucker during their training. One of my classmates from TPS, John Reddington is still here and I met his wife Jill for lunch. We met unexpectedly beside the road as I was off the bike taking a picture of the lower half of Buzz Lightyear! We had not seen each other in almost twenty years. It was nice to get together and talk about our kids and our experiences from our Test Pilot School days.

Just as I was leaving Dothan I came across a small restaurant with a rather unique way to advertise their breakfast menu!

The ride south into Florida was a piece of cake. I passed the National Peanut Festival (I didn't know there was one) and flew ride across the state line. Just beyond the spot where I took the state line photo, there is a very nice visitor's center that serves up great information and a fine glass of cold orange juice! I don't recall getting a free pineapple when I visited Hawaii. Maybe the Hawaii visitor's bureau needs to get with the program! I would venture to say that Hawaii doesn't have many bicycles coming across the border either...

For every little bizarre piece of junk I find beside the road, there is always a sign that leaves me guessing as to the purpose behind it. I have no idea what "bull testing" might be, but they sure want you to know where it is done.

Though their signage can leave me guessing, they sure know how to pave a highway. What a treat to cross the border and actually have a shoulder without a rumble strip and even markings for bicycles along the shoulder. I hope this is a constant theme as I head further east.

As a native of Oklahoma, I have a strong affinity for peanuts. Raw peanuts. Not those salty roasted critters that make you crave liquid to wash them down with, but plain old raw goobers (eating goober peas). However, I have never had a "boiled" peanut! And I probably never will again! If you like boiled peanuts, more power to ya! Yuck! But the gentleman running the peanut stand was a most gracious host and warm soul. He boils his peanuts in an old beer keg and , according to my Dad, he had cars lining up for his product.

The last leg of my ride today took me down Hwy 71 into Marianna, FL. The sun was setting just as I pulled into town, but I still had about five miles to cover before I pulled into the hotel near I-10. Tomorrow I will head back up to Hwy 90 and head east toward Tallahassee. It looks like I will be able to complete my journey to the Cape by Friday and be on hand to witness the launch of STS-126. According to Google Earth, I have another 393 miles to cover. If I pedal approximately 12 mph, how many hours should I pedal each day in order to arrive by 4:00 pm on Friday afternoon?

Now that I have crossed my last state line, I am beginning to get a bit nostalgic about my ride. This has been a remarkable journey that I have enjoyed immensely and it is going to be hard to see it end. Every challenge that we face in life has some distinct period of time over which it occurs. There are times when the end sneaks up on you and you catch your breath that it went by so quickly. That's what it was like to fly in space. You train so hard and once you fly, it goes by far too quickly. Even though my trek has been much longer than my time in space, it has passed with alarming speed. So many memories, so many wonderful experiences. It has been my pleasure to share the journey with all of you. Thanks for being there for me!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226217600 Blog Sun, 9 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
No room at the inn... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226131200 ...thanks to the homecoming celebration at Troy University, there were no hotel rooms available in the city of Troy. Correct me if I am wrong, but if it is "home"coming, shouldn't they be at home and not in a hotel? Am I missing something here? ;o) We could have back tracked in Montgomery and stayed in this lovely abode, but I'm not quite sure what it is! Any guesses out there?

I am dog tired right now. Please bear with me while I take a power nap and get back to the blog in about 30 minutes.


Thanks for indulging me. This was a long day and I didn't quite get as far as I would have liked. Since I started on the opposite side of Montgomery this morning, it was nearly 30 miles before I even made it around the city and headed south along Hwy 231 to Dothan. Before I left the hotel I had breakfast with the Huwaldt's. Joe, Bobbey, Jonathan and Jacob drove down from Huntsville the night before so that we could see each other during my trip through Alabama. Joe and I worked together at Rocketplane before we both decided it was in our best interests to part with the company and pursue other ventures. Joe is an extraodinary aeronautical engineer and conducted all of the computational fluid dynamic analysis for the vehicle we were designing. He was the smartest and most talented engineer in the company and a pleasure to work alongside. Thanks for taking the time to come to Montgomery!

The ride around Montgomery was not bad at all except for a portion along the south side of the city. I would venture to say that 99.99% percent of the people and drivers I have met have been absolutely fantastic. Courteous and friendly. Except for two brainless wonders and their big white Cadillac! This big honking car pulled alongside and the passenger actually rolled his window down to watch me as they turned in front of my bike and into a parking lot. I don't know if he was curious to see if I would run into his passenger door or he was just looking for a fight. Rather than tempt fate and let out a string of expletives, I just waved and said excuse me! I said it in the manner that Steve Martin would in his comedy routine. "Well, excuuusssseee meeeeee." Other than that one incident, the ride through the city was fine.

The strange looking shelter that I took the picture of was quite bizarre. I have no earthly idea what it is. It was out in the middle of a parking lot and there were a bunch of junk cars scattered about. If you are from Montgomery, I'm all ears!

The morning mist was rising as the sun began to warm the ground. I pulled into a road side convenience store and bought my carton of chocolate milk. As luck would have it, I was given a Little Debbie Honey Bun as part of a giveaway since I purchased the milk. I thanked the ladies in the store and went back outside. I glanced down at the nutritional value on the back of the package and about choked. One bun, one serving, 360 calories. Of those calories, 180 were from FAT! For today's math problem what percentage of the total calories in the Honey Bun come from fat? Do you know the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat?

About the time I was choking over the fat content, I glanced over at a dumpster and noticed mist rising off the metal. While the dumpster is not the most attractive thing to take a picture of, I thought it's otherwise bland form was enhanced by nature's power. Call me weird, it's ok.

My Dad's name is Jim and I just had to take a picture of him and the restaurant that bears his name.

On the way down Highway 231, my Dad mentioned there was a guy following me on a touring bike and he was pedaling pretty fast. About 30 minutes later, Chris Figureida pulled alongside. I asked him where he was from and I about fell off my bike when he told me "Neah Bay, WA." Talk about a chance meeting! He had left Neah Bay back in September and was traveling to Key West, FL. He was pedaling much faster than I was and on a Trek 520 as well, but modified to a large extent. He followed a slightly different route, but crossed paths with my route in OK as well as AR and now in AL. He is pedaling to promote a heart healthy lifestyle and this was his third trek across the country. You can read more about him on his website, www.cycleforheart.org. Like me, he is stopping at schools along his route and talking to kids. Unlike me, he is riding with as little weight as possible and scorching along at a blistering 16-18 miles per hour. Maybe on my next trek I will decrease my load and pick up the pace. I hope we cross paths again in FL, but I am afraid I will be left in his dust!

I rolled into Troy and came across a most interesting billboard for a tire store. I'm not sure Britney Spears would have approved of her image being used in this manner, but it sure was funny!

I had planned to stay the night in Troy, but with homecoming in full swing, I had to find a hotel farther down the road. The plan was to meet my Dad near the town of Brundidge and then head on to Ozark, AL. As the sun was setting I came across some metal art on the side of the road that struck my funny bone. I couldn't make out half of what they were, but the conglomeration of parts was fascinating.

The last thing that caught my eye and brought me to a screeching halt was a sign for a scenic dirt road. Perhaps the road less traveled, but they were trying hard to get you to venture forth. I wonder what lies that direction? Not me, that's for sure!

Tomorrow it is on to Dothan and hopefully crossing the Florida State line. I plan on meeting Jill Reddington for lunch somewhere in Dothan. Jill's husband John and I were in Test Pilot School together back in 1990 and they now live near Fort Rucker, AL. He is a retired Army Officer and helo driver. It will be fun to see her after almost 20 years. How time flies when you are having fun!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226131200 Blog Sat, 8 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Gentlemen, start your campers... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226044800 Is there a more appropriate greeting to the many NASCAR fans that inhabit the hills and hollows of Alabama? This is stock car country with Talladega being one of the shrines of the sport. Many fans of the sport don't know it, but their favorite driver may be 50 degrees cooler in the cockpit of their race car due to Space Shuttle insulation. Here's a link that discusses the technology transfer.


This is just one example of many that exist in industry and in our everyday lives. I highly encourage everyone to go to the following link and see what else exists that you may have taken for granted.


Our tax dollars at work improving our lives. That was a nice tidbit in lieu of a math problem, don't you think?

I am not fond of pedaling through cities, but getting through Tuscaloosa was a breeze. My thanks to the folks at Velo City Pro Cycles for the great directions. Leaving the city southeast on Hwy 82 led to a series of hills that stretched out over the entire 82 miles. And these were not hills for the faint of heart. Most of them ranged from 4-6% grades and they were one after the other. I like hills. I did say that, right? Did I say I like hills for 82 miles? I don't recall that exact statement. This would have been a beautiful ride, except that the shoulder was essentially non-existent for the entire ride. Occasionally the shoulder opened up to a whopping two feet wide, but once again, the highway engineer placed a rumble strip right smack in the middle. I hate rumble strips!

As I was pedaling down a relatively flat stretch, just prior to crossing a bridge, I glanced over to my right and saw what I thought was a furry basketball. I quickly pulled my brakes and found myself in a staring contest with a groundhog. At least I think it's a groundhog. If anyone knows differently, please let me know. (John, that's a rare Alabama furry basketball. They only come out after football season). My Dad says its a hedgehog. Since I didn't seen any hedges, I would tend to disagree ;o).

I pulled into the County Line Country Store and came across one very spunky "Bama" fan. When I went into the store, Sheila asked me if I was the crazy one pedaling across the country (my Dad had been there before me). When I said yes, she asked if I had a brain. I think I mumbled that I had lost my mind in a earlier state or something of that nature. I told her that I like to capture the images and comments of people I meet along the way, so I convinced her to come outside and pose for a photo. "Roll Tide" she kept saying! "Roll Tide!" Click, "Roll Tide." I think she likes football. At least "Bama" football. I didn't have the heart to tell her my sister went to UT, my brother to Texas A&M and me to the University of Colorado.

The entire day I had a cold front lingering behind me, threatening to rain given the dark clouds over my shoulder. It held off for quite a while, only sprinkling occasionally before lunch. The fall foliage was gorgeous and the leaves where being tossed around by a strong tailwind that was preceding the storm front. I crossed over the Cahaba River just as I turned south into Centreville, AL. I was told it is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama. Beautiful sight! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahaba_River

My Dad and I stopped for lunch in a small cafe just as we were headed out of town on Hwy 82. The parking lot was packed and we followed a couple of folks into the restaurant. Lots of trucks outside and no place to sit inside. Luckily the two folks we met outside offered us a place at their table. Cliff and Vicky Clemmons were a couple of very nice folks that spoke very highly of the area. Vicky is the author of a recently published book about Bibb County and the Cahaba River. She graciously signed a book for me and I gave her a signed NASA lithograph. That is what is most enjoyable about this ride, meeting the people that make every place special.

The rain decided to come down while we were eating and it let up when I stepped outside to get back on the bike. What timing! The hills continued to come and go and traffic kept me on my toes. I continued to find all sorts of gadgets, gizmos and paraphernalia lying beside the highway. I firmly believe that if I stopped for every piece of "Bama" memorabilia that was laying beside the road, I would never get to where I was going. I hope the Crimson Tide football team can hold on to the football better than their fans can hold on to their souvenirs. If not, it will be a short season!

I thought the most interesting thing that I have found to date was the Superman costume back in southeast Washington. I think the Halloween Witch has one upped Superman! She must be covering her eyes because she knows the highway doesn't have much of a shoulder!

We didn't get a chance to stop in to the Fat Girl's BBQ, but if the sign is any indication of the quality of the food, maybe we should go back.

And to close out my ride, passing over Swift Creek was a nice finish. At least it was moving a bit faster than the Bayou back in Arkansas. I was too!

Tomorrow I will end around Montgomery and head southeast toward Dothan. It is a more direct route to Florida and should allow me to shorten my ride, such that I can arrive at the Cape by Friday. Keeping my fingers crossed!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1226044800 Blog Fri, 7 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Miss Windy's Alabama Sweet Potato Pie http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225958400 Ingredients:

1) Take one slightly bruised roadside sweet potato

2) Locate a knife, preferably with the blade closed and not rusty

3) Stuff both of the above items in one "Bama" shoulder bag

4) Take to someone that can at least hold a knife, won't cut their fingers off and knows how to throw this stuff away

5) Buy a pie at a local bakery...

It's amazing the things I find. I should travel the country taking pictures of the junk beside the road. It would make a good coffee table book. Better yet, maybe I can find a coffee table book lying in the grass somewhere!

Today I jumped from one college town to another. Starkville is home to Mississippi State University and Tuscaloosa is home to the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama. In Mississippi I swore I saw Elvis riding a bike on the turnoff to Tupelo and in Alabama, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant is just about everywhere!

I wandered through the hills of Starkville before popping out on Highway 82 headed eastbound. The wind was slight, barely 5 knots from the south. The shoulder of the Mississippi side of Highway 82 had an ever changing shoulder; rumble strips, gravel, no shoulder, more gravel, more shoulder. What a treat it was to cross the Alabama State line. A NEW HIGHWAY with a REAL shoulder! A rumble strip strategically placed in a proper spot giving me ample room to stay to the far right side of the highway and avoid the plethora of trucks that were constantly zooming by.

The hills of western Alabama were a joy to pedal. It was nice to not be constantly looking over my shoulder and on guard for an errant truck. My Dad stayed within a few miles of my position and had some fun watching a State Trooper stop at least 6 people within a four mile stretch over the period of an hour. The trooper must have been having fun because he gave me a big smile and wave as I passed by!

In the small town of Gordo, AL, I stopped at a gas station to grab something to drink and came across a fellow that was obviously lost. Without a map or even a good understanding of exactly where he was going (or where he was for that matter), he ends up giving me his cellphone and wanted me to ask the guy on the other end where he was supposed to go. The lost soul gave me the name of the town, Corinth, 184 miles to the northwest! Yow! Talk about lost, but he was a nice guy!

While he was lost going west, I didn't fare much better going east. I knew where I was going, but the highway went from wonderful to woeful. My beloved shoulder went by the wayside, some wayside, but certainly not the one I was on. I think there is an inverse relationship between the width of the shoulder and the amount of truck traffic. Decrease the width, increase the traffic. That would be equivalent to decreasing the denominator of a fraction and increasing the total value of the fraction. Truck traffic = 1/shoulder width. That is the mathematical insight for the day.

There is an old adage in aviation. Flying is actually hours of pure boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I think that could be transferred to my experience today on the road to Tuscaloosa. One section of the road kept me on the edge of my seat for about 15 miles before opening back up to a wide shoulder. When I thought I had seen enough, road construction began and the highway necked down to an even narrower road and NO shoulder! Now that was fun! I decided in the best interest of my personal safety and a desire to live a long and prosperous life, I bailed out of the construction lane and pedal on the side that was being paved. None of the road crew gave me any grief, probably because they would be happier letting me pass than scraping my body off the pavement! My Dad was strategically placed at the end of the construction, keeping an eye on my progress using a pair of binoculars. I think he earned more gray hairs than I did!

I made the final push into Tuscaloosa around 5:00 pm, not before finding the county ran out of money to keep a wide shoulder and they decided to neck it down to keep costs under control. I picked up a hitchhiker for a mile or two before I pulled into the Budget Inn on Highway 82. I put the bike away and made a beeline for Velo City Pro Cycles in Tuscaloosa to replace the tire tube that I used the other day. They gave me some great advice on how to navigate through town tomorrow and find my way south toward Montgomery. Always nice to get local advice (and high carb goo for the road)!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225958400 Blog Thu, 6 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Over hill and over and over and over.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225872000 Did I say Mississippi was flat? I stand corrected if I did. The Mississippi bottom land is flat. Flatter than a pancake, I believe I claimed yesterday. Leave the bottom land and up you go. Up and down, over and over. I really do think I am a nut for hills. It's something about working hard and resting shortly thereafter. The first hill just east of Greenwood rose out of the cotton fields and snaked up through the trees. It was a seven percent grade and I could actually hear the trucks downshifting and struggling up the climb. The undulating landscape carried on for about 30 miles and it was quite a pleasant experience.

The shoulder was reasonable part of the time. I now believe that the rumble strips are not inherent to any particular county. Rumble strips would appear out of nowhere. No change in county or municipality. So much for my highway department theory! I think they are just doing it to keep cyclists on their toes!

The landscape changed dramatically from the bottom land to the hills. Not just the natural features, but the economic ones as well. The homes were more stately and well kept. The yards were manicured and spacious. Throughout my ride along the bottom lands and on either side of the Mississippi, there appeared to be much more poverty and economic downturn. Even though the economic status was less than other places I have been, the people were incredibly pleasant and outgoing. Many times a truck or car would pull alongside or pass in front of me and people would wave and call out. It's amazing how people respond to someone on a touring bike. Everyone seems to be interested and willing to chat! To be honest, many people have expressed concern about me riding across the south, but I have seen the exact opposite. A pleasant and enjoyable revelation over what I was told to expect.

Highway 82 is four lane with a large median separating the eastbound from the westbound. It weaves around the local communities, bypassing the heart of most of the small towns that dot the landscape. My Dad and I pulled into Kilmichael, MS and found an awesome cafe right in the heart of the town square. The place was packed! The Chief of Police started up a conversation with a deep southern drawl. I find my drawl rising to the surface when I chat with folks from the south, be it OK, AR, or MS. It becomes especially strong when I order "swwweeet teeaa" or "peekhan pie." "Thank y'all, y'all come back now, ya hear." Most of my ride took me along Hwy 82, but it was a nice experience to detour into Kilmichael. For today's problem, let's do some everyday math. Our bill for two grilled chicken sandwiches with mushrooms, onions, and swiss cheese, a "sweeeet teea" and "peekhan pie" with ice cream was $17.59 with tax. How much should I have tipped the waitress (there was a sign encouraging me to do so) if my tip was 15%? I tip 20% if the service is great. Do you know a fast way to calculate the tip without grabbing your calculator or pencil? It's easy to figure out 10% of $17.59. Half of 10% would be 5%. Add them together (in your head) and you get 15%.

For those of you that like to shop garage sales or yard sales, this is the place for you. Bonita's Hobby Shop was actually a well stocked yard sale complete with table cloths on each of the folding tables. All of her items were neatly spaced on each table and row after row of clothes lining the side of the house.

Not sure what Kamp Kumbaya held in store for campers, but I had this strange urge to sing as I passed the sign. "Swing low, sweet...."

I slid under the Natchez Trace Parkway, which I am told does not allow commercial truck traffic. Why didn't they build it east to west? Sure would be nice to be rid of the large trucks that prowl Highway 82! Most of the cotton fields I have passed by in AR and just east of the Mississippi have already been picked, so it was a surprise to come along a large field just right of the highway. In the setting sun, it made a beautiful sight with the tufts of cotton brightly lit. I crossed the Choctaw County line and within 500 yards, I crossed into Oktibbeha County. Smallest county I have come across in my travels.

I've been trying to complete 90-mile days, but it is hard with the sun setting just after 5:00 pm. I rolled into Starkville with my taillight and headlight flashing, but I couldn't quite make it to the hotel before the sun set. The key to be safe is always having a plan to minimize the risk. Not riding after dark is mine. Tomorrow my ride will take me through Columbus, MS and down to Tuscaloosa, AL. With just under 84 miles, it shouldn't be a problem if I can drag myself out of bed at a reasonable hour.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225872000 Blog Wed, 5 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Swiftly going nowhere... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225785600 Swift Bayou? Can you say oxymoron? Jumbo shrimp, same difference, old news, criminal justice? Hmmm.... Given how fast the bayou was moving (glacial like would be a good descriptor) I think the name is a bit misplaced. If however, you apply the title to my recent venture away from the bike, Swiftly going nowhere is right on the money! The problem with taking a little over week away from the bike is that it seems like the end keeps getting farther away. At least in terms of time, not necessarily distance. Unless we were talking glacial movement again, then that might give me a few more inches to cover in the next millennia...

Man, it is nice to be back on the bike! From a psychological perspective that is! From a physical perspective, OUCH! My thighs were burning! What a difference a few days make on the way the body functions. I slammed down a serious amount of water to wash away the lactic acid that was building up over the course of the day. It felt good to pedal an incredibly flat surface. The only hill I climbed all day was the bridge over the Mississippi. My Dad has become my SAG wagon for my ride across the south. Good thing too! He came in very handy today (more on that later). We drove from my home in Guthrie and made it to Winchester, AR where I picked up my bike from Lisa Wilson, Joe Oswald's niece. Thanks so much for keeping it under guard while I was away (though I did see Lynley's eBay ad, but the minimum was not met). In the photo with the bike are Lisa, Laura, Max, Hannah and Jacob. I started my ride from where I left off, the McGehee Best Western. The road was flat as a pancake all the way to the river. Nice sunrise with a layer of fog stretching across highway and the cotton fields. It looked like sheets of cotton weaved across the landscape. The cars acting like cutting shears slicing the fabric pulled taut across the road. I came to the Swift Bayou and chuckled for a about a mile afterward. My mind starts thinking of blog titles whenever I come across something funny.

Just prior to the river I stopped in and visited the good folks at the Arkansas Visitor's Center. Dorothy Lucas, Hank Polson and Norma Lowery were very helpful and even gave me a map for Mississippi and good information regarding my soon to be bridge crossing! My Dad and I worked up a plan where he would follow behind me and keep his flashers blinking while I pedaled as fast as I could across the span. From the pictures I hope you can tell there is little room for error and no room for sightseeing! Just off to the south is a beautiful new span that reminds me of the span across the Houston Ship Channel. Unfortunately, I don't think I could have convinced the workers to let me slide past. Given that fact that some of the concrete had not been poured yet, it would have been a trip straight down into the murky depths of the mighty Mississippi! For today's problem, there is a famous author, humorist, etc... whose pen name was taken from a call made by the sailors who sailed the river and measured it's depth. Who is this author and what was the call? Since these questions do not specifically deal with math, tell me how many feet in a fathom.

My plan with my Dad didn't quite come to pass the way we had planned because there was no room for him to pull over while I passed him on the ramp to the bridge. Instead, he continued across the bridge to find a place to turnaround, while I made a mad dash during a lull in the traffic. I think this is where my heart rate pegged at 188 bpm and I maintained a 17 mph pace up and over the span. I did take some time to click some photos left, right, back and forward, all the while keeping my eye out for trucks. I was lucky that only one truck came upon me at the top of the bridge and gave me ample room when he passed. I topped out at 26 mph down the backside, but didn't even get a chance to catch a glimpse of the river, given my frantic pace. I did wave at my Dad as he passed me going the opposite direction! So much for our careful planning!

I rolled into Greenville, MS after taking my obligatory state line self-portrait. The MS Visitor's Center had some interesting looking catfish adorning the surface of the pond. I'd hate to pull one that looked like that out of the muddy water! The scary thing is, there probably are some that look pretty close!

One of the common themes that I have found from state to state is that every road's surface, particularly the shoulder, is different. At one point, depending on the county responsible for it's upkeep, the shoulder was graced with a set of rumble strips right along the white line that edged the road, with soft, green grass further to the right. Cross the county line and voila, the rumble strip is gone, but they have replaced the grass with gravel the size of small boulders. Continue down the road to the next county and someone, in their infinite wisdom, thinks both of the previous counties have it right and then adds the rumble strip right alongside the boulder sized gravel! Obviously, no one in the county transportation department rides a bike. They probably ride an ATV as their family car, so the rumble strip and gravel make perfect sense! For me, however, it was thirty miles of constantly looking over my shoulder, making sure the noise behind me was a car giving me a wide berth. In most cases yes, in some cases, no! When a car or truck appeared to me to be oblivious to my presence, I'd make a quick getaway across the rumble strip and hope my fillings stayed in my head and my wheel didn't get bent. At times I would try to maintain my tires between the strip and the gravel, but the rocks would inevitably narrow the gap and make my small space into an off road adventure!

When the road finally relented (city maintained road) I found a wide shoulder, but full of bits and pieces of trash and discarded metal waiting to leap up and bite me. Which it did! Right on the sidewall of the rear tire! A big "c" shaped piece of metal embedded itself squarely in the tire, leaving a hole so big even my slime filled tubes couldn't withstand. Flop, flop, flop... This is where my Dad came in very handy! I was right at the 90-mile mark, the sun was setting in less than an hour and I still had another 7 miles to cover. I took the panniers off the bike, laid the bike on its side and took my rear tire off. Realizing that too little time remained to get the tube patched or replaced and still have time to get through town during daylight, I opted to put the bike in the back of the truck and fix it in the evening. So much for having only one flat after 3300 miles on the bike. Not a bad record!

Tomorrow I will head back to where I left off and make my way to Starkville, MS. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) National Conference, the time away coupled with my computer problem has forced me to reconsider my remaining stops at Choctaw, Tuskegee and Gainesville. With a little less than two weeks to make it to Cape Canaveral, I have decided to press on to the Cape without stopping at the three remaining schools. I apologize to anyone that was anticipating my appearance, but I have commitments at the Cape that require I be there no later than the weekend of the 15th of November. Again, my sincere apologies!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1225785600 Blog Tue, 4 Nov 2008 01:00:00 -0700
Eufaula me and I'll follow you... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224918000 You would think that I would be satisfied to take it easy during a break from my cross country trek. So what do I do for relaxation? What else? Ride a bike! I joined Andy from Pro Bike and the Oklahoma Bicycle Society (OBS) the Tour de Trees jaunt around Lake Eufala in eastern OK. Jumping from my fully loaded Trek 520 to a totally clean Trek aluminum/composite 2800 road bike, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. Until I hit my first crack in the pavement! Ouch. Light, but an incredibly stiff ride. Every nuance of the road reached up to bite me and rattle my teeth for 68 miles. I love my touring bike! Smooth as silk and a pleasure to tour on. I did take advantage of the lighter weight which made hill climbing a very pleasant experience.

It was great to ride with a lot of enthusiastic folks. As my luck would have it, I forgot to take the battery for my camera (brought the camera) and was fortunate that Curt loaned me his so I could continue to document my rides. The ride took us around the perimeter of the lake and there were a few hills thrown in for good measure. The creativity of manufacturers of Halloween decorations took on a new dimension with the inflatable hearse complete with the rider of death at the reigns! Where do people find these things?

The ride took us across the Eufaula Dam and everyone stopped into Pete's for Breakfast, Burgers and Bait! I took the bait... har har... For today's problem (which I forgot late last night so I am sneaking it in this morning) I pulled up a website that the United States Geological Survey publishes that shows the discharge rate for rivers all across the country (where they have instruments in place to measure such things).


This link provides the discharge rate for the North Canadian River near Wetumka, OK (my birthplace). If you look at the graph it shows the discharge rate in cfs. What is cfs? Try and imagine just how much water that is. What is a cubic foot? What would be the metric equivalent of a cubic foot? If you are familiar with logrithmic graphs, can you determine the flow rate for the 26th of October? If you are not familiar with logrithmic graphs, this would be something to look up on Wikipedia. Calculate the difference in flow rates between October 21st and October 26th.

Just beyond Pete's there was a turn off which placed a demanding climb (14% grade) on the shortcut to Eufaula. Just prior to the climb, a vicious dog posed for a picture (little furry camera ham). We rolled into Eufaula and took another break at the Braum's Ice Cream Store. If you are a lover of Blue Bell Ice Cream, you need to stop into Braum's one of these days. Awesome ice cream. I'm speaking from a professional ice cream scooper perspective, as I earned my very first paycheck for Braum's back when I was 16 years old in Plano, TX. It really does taste good!

A total of 68 miles to complete the loop, but not before coming across an elk lounging in the grass with a spectacular rack! The hills of Oklahoma provide for excellent touring and a great workout. I'm grateful to Andy for inviting me along and all of the wonderful folks I met at OBS. Now if I could just keep Andy (whom I have dubbed "Capt Recumbent") from falling asleep while lounging on his ever so comfy looking Bacchetta. ;o)
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224918000 Blog Sat, 25 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Laid back in OKC http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224831600 I took some time while looking for a replacement laptop to try out a couple of recumbent bikes at Pro Bikes. They took some getting used to, but with good coaching from Andy, I kept myself from becoming part of the parking lot pavement. A little twitchy on the steering, but loosen the grip on the handlebars and it is much easier to handle. I'm just afraid I would fall asleep in the reclined position!

I found a replacement at Oklahoma Business Systems. The Baker's have a great store and were super helpful. They provided me a micro HP laptop with a 80 GB hard drive and 512M of RAM. It has all of the bells and whistles I need to support my blogging, including a wireless and video camera! All for the unheard of price of $449! Wow, the price of computers these days. I loaded up all of the software to support my Garmin, including the MapSource software and Training Center for uploading the GPS track and maps for my 705 Edge. The only thing about the laptop that surprises me is just how hot it gets setting on my legs as I type. I need a water cooled cold plate to bring the temp down to something reasonable. It is about 3/4's the size of my IBM and just as functional. So, I am back up and running. Hence the reason yesterday's blog is being typed today. But who's counting... ;o)
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224831600 Blog Fri, 24 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
One of those days... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224658800 Ever had one? Well, today was mine. I made it safely from Pine Bluff to McGehee, AR in piece and sat down to do my blog and the whole day came crashing down. Actually, it was my computer that came crashing down. Hard down! Completely, unrecoverably, totally, hard down. Funny grinding noises from the hard drive is a bad sign. At least I think its a bad sign. So, here I sit, comfortably in the lobby of the Best Western in McGehee, with Tabitha the cat looking contently down from the back of a queen ann chair, oblivious to my pain and suffering. I wish I had her composure right now. Anyway, I digress...

I had some fabulous pictures, interesting stories and some fun that I would like to have shared with everyone. But, I have to quickly regroup and head back to Oklahoma City, get a new computer, load all of my software, and, somewhere in there, head to Anaheim, CA for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society annual conference next week. So, I will plan to return to the ride on the week of the first of November. That shoots my chances for getting to the Cape by November 10th. I will get there eventually, but not as soon as I anticipated. Unfortunately, this computer does not have the software to load up all of the GPS and pictures that I need to have to make this work. And I don't think the management here at the Best Western would like me to dump all of this on their laptop. ;o)

Please bear with me and hang in for a few more days and I will get this together. Into everyone's life a little hard drive must fall... sigh....

My best,
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1224658800 Blog Wed, 22 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Thanks for your service gentlemen! http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223967600 Everyday I continue to be amazed at the people I meet. Today it was Eddie and Buck! Two war veterans (Korea and Vietnam) that were sitting on a bench in front of a roadside store, just shooting the breeze. I walked up and Buck asks, "Are you a spaceman?" I guess my Endeavour t-shirt gave me away. I answered in the affirmative and the conversation just took off. Talk about two fun guys to talk to. They had some great stories and smiles from ear to ear. You guys were a pleasure to talk with and I thank you both for your service to our country. Buck was a para-trooper in the Airborne and I asked him why he would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I told him a friend once told me that if they made perfectly good airplanes, they wouldn't have invented parachutes. He agreed!

Joe and I left Hot Springs under a cool drizzle with a total overcast. This was the earliest start I have had the entire trip. We jumped out of the hotel and hit the road around 7:30 am. We followed US 270 east out of Hot Springs and encountered a series of hills pretty much out past Malverne, AR. From there the road settled out with a great shoulder and the traffic was not too bad. Some logging trucks to contend with, but nothing as bad as I experienced in the northwest.

Joe was great fun to have along. We were hootin' and hollerin' most of the way. I was having to contend with his impression of Willy Nelson and "On the Road Again" as well as many other dated songs from a bygone era. The total mileage came out to just over 80 miles and he did a great job. Ask him about the dogs that were chasing us this afternoon. I'll let him tell the story on the blog. It will be much funnier than I can tell it. Joe, the floor (or ditch) is all yours...

Lots of interesting stuff on the road today. A large spider web next to a street sign, Department of the Army flag, multi-colored squash and tiny scarecrow (At the Sonic Drive In), and an "Anythang Wanted" sign at a local store. Its funny how this stuff just leaps out and gets my attention.

We rolled into Pine Bluff and wandered around the west side of the city trying to make sense of my GPS directions (still need to talk to those Garmin folks). After weaving through a somewhat questionable neighborhood we popped back out on the main highway and found our way toward the home of Larry and Betty Greene, parents of my neighbor Patty Woodbridge. After a fabulous dinner, Joe headed back to Little Rock with his brother Bart and I settled in for the evening. I will head to Colorado tomorrow and then on to Phoenix to attend the National Congress of American Indians. I will plan on returning to the bike by next Wednesday. From here I will pedal to Philadelphia, MS and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Their middle school is a NASA Explorer School. From there I will head directly east across Alabama to speak at a school in Tuskegee, AL before pointing myself across the southwest corner of Georgia and in to Florida and the last leg of my journey.

Since I am still having some issues with my GPS and it's inability to give adequate directions (not the fault of the GPS, just the software that provides navigation), here are some questions about GPS technical stuff (that's a technical term ;o). How many GPS satellites are in the current GPS constellation? Are there any spares floating around up there? At what altitude are the satellites orbiting the earth? How many GPS satellites do you need to determine a GPS position (not to include elevation). Can you use GPS to determine the attitude of an aircraft or the International Space Station?

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223967600 Blog Tue, 14 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Ahhh... the spa.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223881200 Of course I only visited the spa after a grueling day of speaking. ;o) The Quapaw Bath House is one of only two active spas that are still open along Central Avenue. What a treat after having pedaled 3100 miles! Add to that a deep tissue massage and my muscles are ready for the remaining 1000 or so miles to complete this journey!

I made a beeline for Langston Magnet School around 1200 with my friend Joe Oswald in tow. Upon entering the school, it was apparent they were incredibly enthused about space flight and very proud of being a NASA Explorer School. Pictures of the space station adorned the walls of the school. And what amazed me was the fact that all of the photos of the ISS were taken during my flight just after we undocked. The folks in the office were great and even pulled one of the photos down from the wall, removed the backing and had me autograph it!

The students were K-5 and we very excited to hear about space flight. They asked some great questions (and told me some neat stories, as kids that age are prone to do). A couple of students were very good about getting photos for the school paper. Misti, James and Jamesa were great helpers and posed for a photo after the talk. I really enjoyed my day at Langston and hope that the kids took away something from my talk.

Tomorrow Joe and I will depart for Pine Bluff. The trip should be about 78 miles and follow US 270 from Hot Springs. I'm looking forward to spending some time on the road with Joe. I don't think a moment goes by where we are not laughing or cracking up. I hope we don't laugh so hard we fall off our bikes.

On the way out of the Quapaw Spa, I came across a small plaque that listed the constituents of the mineral water (again). It turns out that the water is heated by the radioactive decay of three elements. The water seeps through the ground for some 4000 years, before breeching the surface. Check out the picture and review the elements that make up the water. Find each of the elements on the periodic chart. How is the way that this water is heated differ from the way the water is heated in Thermopolis, WY? The other place where I visited hot springs.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223881200 Blog Mon, 13 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223794800 Now if this mailbox doesn't make it clear that this is the land of the bass sportsman, I don't know what would.

I left Mt Ida after having a huge breakfast and wandered slowly toward Hot Springs. With only 35 miles to go, I was going to take my time and have a leisurely day on the bike! Even though I only had a few miles to go, the wind kept me at a slower pace than I would have liked. Windy, you're
not working with me here...

This portion of AR is known for its quartz formations and there is even a diamond mine about 40 miles south of Mt Ida. There are also numerous rock shops along the highway. I found one shop that had some very large quartz crystals and took some photos with Windy in tow. When I was growing up in Colorado, my family spent many hours in the mountains searching for crystals. While we found some pretty large crystals, nothing compared to these! Wow!

I stopped for a drink at a local gas station and met probably the friendliest barking dog I have come across on my journey. And his name was Sparky! My family recently lost our favorite pet and his name was Sparky too! And they looked alike as well! Good boy Sparky!

There was a great smokehouse and some awesome beef jerky with a cat that was a pretty good beggar! I'm a bit of a softy so he ate well as I sat enjoying the noon time sun. I think he was sad to see me leave!

I crossed Lake Hamilton and made my way into Hot Springs. I had reservations at the Arlington Hotel in downtown Hot Springs, right across from the Hot Springs National Park. Once there I met my good friend Joe Oswald and his brothers, Steve and Bart from Little Rock. Tomorrow I have plans to speak at the Langston Magnet School and then Joe and I will ride out of town on Tuesday for Pine Bluff.

Here in Hot Springs they bottle mineral water with the following constituents:

Mountain Valley Spring Water
Bottled Water Mineral Analysis
Constituent Parts Per Million (mg/liter)

Calcium 68.00
Magnesium 8.00
Sodium 2.80
Potassium 1.00
Fluoride .25
Iron .01
Zinc .01
Total dissolved solids 230.00
Total hardness 205.00
Alkalinity (CaCO3) 180.00
pH 7.00

What does pH stand for and what value of pH is considered acidic and what is consider alkaline?

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223794800 Blog Sun, 12 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Just snakin' around the Ozarks http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223708400 Not sure I would want to find this critter on a mountain trail. When I was talking to Ronnie and Christie (the two bikers) at the Rich Mountain Country store, there were three guys walking off into the woods with snake tongs, boots up to their knees and duffel bags. I asked the store's owner if there were a lot of rattlers in the woods and this was the skin he brought out from a paper sack. Apparently the snake bit the guy trying to capture it and spent three days in the hospital (the guy, not the snake). I think the guy deserves the skin!

I had fun wandering through the Ozarks. Beautiful tree lined roads with wide clean shoulders. Lots of little walking sticks ambling across the road. They must have been migrating or something. I've never seen so many. I thought it would be fun to put Windy next to a couple of them. She is not the only one hitchhiking. I saw numerous walking sticks crossing the road in pairs. Pretty neat. Next came the garter snake with the huge curiosity. I pulled alongside and he came right up to my shoe. Next he started to sniff my tire and before I knew it, he was entangling himself between my spokes. He slithered off the side of the road, perfectly content with his new discovery.

Hwy 270 followed the valley floor between the hills. Lots of curves with numerous climbs and descents. I have forgotten how beautiful Arkansas can be with it's combination of tall oak and pine. I had read that many cyclists fear Arkansas for it's rude drivers and narrow roads. I'm not sure where those folks pedaled, but it clearly wasn't along this route. Everyone has been super courteous and the roads have been great. Nice place to tour!

The road into Mt Ida crossed over a few hills and was much more undulating than the previous 70 miles. When I arrived in Mena, I realized I still had another 45 miles to go, and only about 4 hours to make the trip. I left Mena knowing that only one hotel had a room for me in Mt Ida and I hustled to make it before dark. I ran my average speed up from 9.0 to almost 11 mph. I made it with about 30 minutes to spare! Against a 10 knot headwind, no less! Windy and I need to have a talk... No winds Windy!! No winds...

Let's talk power! Not the emperor rules the kingdom type of power, but work (W) over a period of time (dt). P=W/dt. Work is defined as a force applied over a distance. How can we relate this to a bicycle? There are a few ways to measure Power required to move a bicycle forward and I have none of those gadgets on my bike. So let's pretend for a moment that I do. Just looking through some sources on the internet, I have found that the average Power that is generated by a professional cyclist can be between 300 and 500 Watts per hour. Assuming I am producing something close, say 400 Watts/hr and I pedaled for the amount of time I did today, how many Watts of power did I generate? Using that answer, determine what type of things I could have powered. An average size house for how long? Hmmm, makes one wonder...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223708400 Blog Sat, 11 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
I may be nuts, but something has been bugging me... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223622000 I know, I know, quit typing so late in the day. I'm going just a little bit nutty. Maybe I should pedal less and type more? I think not... ;o)

It was a fairly straight ride from McAlester to Heavener (pronounced "He vin er"). Interesting sites. Running the gamut from Alien shaved ice to The Hard Times Festival! I guess it makes sense to take time off from hardship to celebrate it!

The shoulders that I praised so much yesterday disappeared and became a passing memory. The road narrowed just after I found the Choctaw Nation's Jones Academy. I didn't realize this school was here, so I took some time to stop by the office and meet with some students. The Jones Academy is an in residence boarding school for grades K-12. Kids from all across the country end school here. They were a lot of fun, I just wish I had known of the school's location and I would have planned a longer stay. At least I had a chance to spend a short period of time.

I took a short cut when I left the school and followed a narrow paved road back to the main highway. I've learned that this is the perfect place for a dog. You can roam free and chase bicyclists at will. Gotta love a dog owner that doesn't mind their dog running freely across a major highway. If you are a dog and can read this, pack your bags and move to eastern OK. I'm sure you will be happy! Nice doggie...

I wanted to stop at the Hateful Hussy Restaurant, but funny thing, they were closed! Go figure! I tend to find tools on just about every bike ride and today was no exception. A 200 foot surveyor's tape! What a find! I strapped that critter down to my bike and found the first post office I could find. Nine dollars and 10 cents later, the tape was on it's way to my house! What a deal!

When I am pedaling along and I see that someone has stopped alongside the road and appears to be waiting for me, I pay close attention. Two motorcyclists did just that today and as I came closer one of them started to wave. Upon closer inspection I realized it was Tony Choate, a journalist for the Chickasaw Times. Tony had just covered my departure from Ada and the Chickasaw Headquarters, but didn't realize I would be pedaling this way. I stopped and took photos of Tony and Stephanie and had a good laugh in the process! Nice to see friends along the road!

I made a turn where US 270 turns south near Wister, OK. I followed a winding road around Wister Lake and negotiated some rolling hills populated by the ever present free roaming eastern OK bicycle chasing canine. I think I counted about 10 in the last 5 miles of the ride. None of the dogs came too close, but they were certainly trying. Probably the funniest sight was the bassett hound bounding through the brush, bent on annihilation. Big old ears flapping in the breeze! At least he (she) had some spunk.

I'm still scratching my head over how a pair of boots were placed so neatly side by side in a drainage ditch beneath a church billboard. Things just keep getting stranger by the day!

One of my friends mentioned in the comments that I should ask how long it took me to fly in the shuttle over the distance I have pedaled. Good idea Dave! If the shuttle travels at 17,500 mph, how long would it take to fly 2975 miles (total mileage to date).
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223622000 Blog Fri, 10 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Uh oh! Ce n'est pas bon... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223535600 Uh oh! This is not good. I'd better start using a map again! I wonder if the exact change has to be in Euro's or Francs? What would be today's exchange rate between Euros and US dollars? If the toll was $4.00 US, how many Euros would that be?

Many thanks to Eugene, Jada and Piper for hosting me over the past two nights. Last night Eugene was the hero of the evening by helping me recover all of the photos I had deleted from my camera's memory card. I thought that I had transferred all of the photos from the memory card to my computer, but apparently that was not the case. As an IT wizard for the Chickasaw Nation, Eugene had the right tools on his home computer to help me recover data from a formatted memory! I owe you big ones Eugene! Many, many thanks!

It was great fun leaving Ada this morning. There were about thirty kids and their teachers from the Chickasaw Nation's Head Start program awaiting my arrival and departure from the tribal headquarters. They gave me and a group of riders from the ECU cycling club a rousing send off. We traveled east out of Ada on Hwy 1 headed toward McAlester. I appreciate the fact that the club took the time to ride out of town with me. Always fun to share the road. Matt, Mike and KC rode quite a distance with me. KC, aka Casey, rode all the way to McAlester, before turning west and heading home. I hope he picked up a ride before the sun went down! It was a very enjoyable ride with the wind slightly off our right quarter which slowed us down just a bit. Windy worked her magic by keeping it off the nose! We're buds, Windy and I!

One of the things that I find interesting in riding across the country is that every county has its own idea of what makes a quality road. Most of the roads in OK have had wide shoulders, but the road between Ada and Calvin had some of the nastiest tar and chip surface that I have encountered in the entire journey. Imagine a gravel road with all of the rocks held in place by a tar surface! Yuck! We spent a good portion of the time wandering between the road's main surface and the shoulder when traffic would permit. When Matt and Mike turned around, I joked that the surface of the road would change about � mile east of town! How prophetic that statement was! Sure enough, right when we crossed into Hughes County, the road's surface became smooth as silk! What a treat! And Hughes County is the country where I was born!! Yea!!!

The hills of eastern OK provide for some beautiful scenery as the road rolls eastward. Old bridges and railroad trestles have stood for years in this part of the country and have become part of the nostalgic landscape. It brings back memories of the years that I spent here visiting my grandparents in and around Wetumka. The scrub oak is beginning to change color and I expect the trees to put forth an assortment of color as I head into Arkansas and wander through the Ozarks toward Hot Springs, AR. One tree that had some interesting color caught my attention (thanks to KC for pointing it out). I never thought I would actually see a real boot tree, but I have a picture to prove it! If money doesn't grow on trees, I guess footwear does...

KC and I rolled into McAlester around 4:30 pm. We wandered through downtown looking for Mexican restaurant to quench my hunger and came across Lupe's on Chickasaw Avenue! How cool is that? Inside we met Emily and Sandra who served up a great meal with lots of smiles. KC decided to head back in the direction of Ada and I realized that McAlester would be my stopping point for the day. I didn't have the time to make it all the way to Wilburton by nightfall, so I found a hotel in George Nigh Parkway and settled in to the Americ Inn for the night! Thanks to Anika at the front desk.

Kudos (congratulations) to Ms Medcalf's 7th hour math class of determining this would be my stopping point. As a matter of fact, I determined that my next stop would be Heavener, OK if McAlester was going to be my stopping point for the day last night! Good job! You betcha...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223535600 Blog Thu, 9 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Lights, camera.... oops, I forgot to shave... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223449200 I guess that is not a problem given that I can't grow a beard anyway. Actually, this is my pensive look...

I spent the morning at Sasakwa visiting students from grade school to high school. Sasakwa lies about 25 miles to the northeast of Ada and has been a NASA Explorer School since 2004. Not a large school, maybe 250 students from K through 12, but they are full of spirit. They were having a pep rally for the softball team that is headed to a championship tomorrow in OKC. Lots of great questions and a dedicated staff. Thanks to everyone there for making my visit a success. We were lucky to have some folks from Horizon TV spend the day with us. They are a division within the State of Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. They came down from Stillwater to film my talk for broadcast on the state's public television stations later this month. So, to give them something to film, I loaded the bike up and made my way over to Ada High School and Ms. Medcalf's 6th and 7th grade math classes. What a fantastic bunch of high spirited students! You guys and gals were great! I really appreciate the effort everyone has put into following my journey. It is obvious that all of you appreciate your teacher, Ms. Medcalf. She is clearly a great motivator and has done a super job of keeping everyone's interest in math at a high level! I really enjoyed my interaction with everyone and I hope that I have shown you what the possibilities can be if you put forth your best effort. From the feedback I have already received, I am THRILLED! Yee haa! That is what is journey is all about! Keep up the great work and enthusiasm!

Once again, my lack of sleep and late night tinkering on the blog resulted in the lack of a math problem. So, let's double up tonight...

I leave tomorrow for Hot Springs, AR. I will depart Ada around 9:00 with friends from the local cycling club. I have to do some planning so as to arrive in Hot Springs, AR by Sunday afternoon. If you were me, where would you stop tomorrow night, Friday night and Saturday night? Assume that I will pedal at the rate of 12 mph for roughly 7 hours each day. Take a look at the cities that have adequate accommodations, hotels preferably, camping if necessary. I will take Hwy 1 out of Ada and pick up Hwy 270 from McAlester. This will be a problem of estimation. Since my mileage may stick me in a place that is between cities, use your problem solving skills to figure out where you would stay if you were me. If you want to put your answers on the blog comment section, go ahead. Let's see if we come up with the same answers.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223449200 Blog Wed, 8 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Windy, the Goddess Bearer of Wind.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223362800 She truly is the Goddess of Wind. It is an apt name for my little bear hitchhiker. Ever since she came aboard, I have had the wind at my back; twenty knots on the 29th and again today. This is GOOD!

In the past few days I was able to catch up on a bunch of personal stuff that has needed my attention since I have been on the road. I took some time to attend the Chickasaw Festival in Tishomingo, OK and also was granted the opportunity to ride a float in the festival parade. Half of the fun was taking pictures of those that took pictures of me. Some of the pictures are fantastic! I will add those to the end of my photos from today!

A bunch of us gathered at Pro Bike this morning and slammed down a hearty breakfast at the restaurant next door to John's shop. I was surprised when every major TV station in OKC rolled into the parking lot just prior to our scheduled departure time. It is great to get the word out and I am grateful to the local stations for making the effort to cover this story. I hope some students in the area can pick up the blog and it makes a difference for them. As is usually the case, I failed to get a single picture of the media stuff. To my route coordinator Jay Roman in South Dakota, my humble apologies for dropping the ball! ;o)

I scampered out of OKC like a scolded pup, with about 10 friends in tow! It is quite the challenge to pedal through a city, but I think we picked a great route. We left the bike shop on 63rd and wound around the southern portion of Lake Hefner before picking up Wilshire Blvd through Nichols Hills. From there it was a straight shot to the east side of the city before heading south to pick up the 23rd toward Hwy 177. We shed a few of our fellow riders as we headed eastward. John and Andy had to head back to open the bike shop, but three folks remained, Derrick, Tony and Leslie as we made our way to Shawnee and points south. The wind was FANTASTIC! Thank goodness I waited a day to let the stormy weather and southerly winds pass. Today the winds were howling out of the northwest and made our ride incredibly pleasant. Nothing like a flat road on a river bottom that points southeast with the wind at your back!

We sailed into Shawnee just after 1200 pm and took a rest on the south side of town. From there it was a straight shot down Hwy 177 toward Ada. Tony and Derrick stayed with me all the way down to Asher, before they turned back and met their support van from Edmond (Derrick's wife, Ann). The shoulder of the highway was the cleanest I have pedaled to date. Nice and wide to boot!

From Asher I had another 21 miles to Ada before I met up with Casey and Eugene from the East Central University Cycling Club. We rode the last few miles into Ada together (They had to battle that nasty headwind just to meet me. What fortitude!) When I arrived in Ada, more folks from the cycling club were there to meet us and we all traveled to the Chickasaw Nation Headquarters together. There is an awesome sculpture in front of the building and I just had to take some pictures. From there we headed over to East Central University where I gave a presentation to the local community. We finished up around 8 pm, pedaled through the darkness to dinner and I eventually ended up in the guest room of Eugene and his family.

All told it was a fabulous day! Long, but fabulous. It was so nice to get back on the road, especially with friends to share the journey. We all need to step back once and a while and take care of business, but it is the challenge we find in life that keeps us going everyday. Sometimes we lose sight of the things that motivate us and we can get caught up in the day to day doldrums and we can't fill our sails. I feel alive and energized when I have something that captures my attention and makes me put forth my best effort. There have been days when I would wake up with nothing to do and I felt lost and confused. This ride has given me a purpose and a passion that I was lacking in recent months. I hope that my enthusiasm is infectious and that others benefit from what I am trying to accomplish. If what I am doing changes the life of just one student, then it will have been worth it. This is my payback to the people that invested their time in me and helped me find success in my life. To them, my thanks...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1223362800 Blog Tue, 7 Oct 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Slower traffic keep right... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222671600 Some things move a bit slower than I do. Some things don't come out of their shell, either. Kinda like me, the shy type...

Great day coming out of Taloga. I was fortunate that Mike Jackson took me down the shortcut to Watonga. I don't think I would have trusted my GPS to send me down this path. Fortunately, it actually gave me proper directions down this rather obscure road, but it still gives me ridiculous directions when going down a highway. I will be giving Garmin lots of recommendations and data at the end of this ride. The GPS is a great tool for telling you where you have been and collecting the data, but a very poor tool for navigation.

As I was headed down the shortcut (Oakwood Road) I realized that my little rider decided to hop off of my bike somewhere along the way. Just like Dave Atala mentioned in the comments, I felt a bit like Tom Hanks looking for Wilson, the volleyball he became close friends with during his stay on the island. I turned around and went looking for my hitchhiker. I found her laying on her side just past the mean growling dog that gave me a good scare when I pedaled by. I'm such a softy!

I rolled out of the hills and made Kingfisher is fairly fast order. A really solid tailwind gave me a push all the way into Oklahoma City. As I headed down the Northwest Parkway, a motorcycle pulled up alongside and started asking questions about my ride. Steve and his Harley stayed with me in close formation for about a mile before he asked me to pull over and chat. I was in a bit of a hurry as I was trying to make Pro Bike before they closed at 6:00 pm. I had a good chat with Steve, a former Navy man with the US Navy Emblem proudly emblazoned on his Harley.

I merged well with the busy traffic inside of the turnpike that surrounds the northwest side of OKC and sped all the way to the bike shop. I met John and Andy just before closing time and started giving them an immediate data dump on my ride to date. I left the bike in their fine care for a complete tune up and will take a ride out of town with them next Monday. I will be taking a few days here in OK before heading out next Monday to Ada and points east. I will get back to the blog as soon as I hit the road. Thanks for taking the time to follow along with me on my journey.

Speaking of moving slowly, if I pedaled 5 miles per hour slower than I did in yesterday's problem, how much longer would it have taken me to pedal 100 miles? How early would I have had to begin in order to make 100 miles by 7:30 pm?
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222671600 Blog Mon, 29 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
I couldn't bear to leave her... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222585200 There she was, just sitting on the side of the road looking so forlorn. Lost and alone with no one caring for her. I rode by her once, turned around. Took a photo of her and pedaled away, only to turn around and give her a place of prominence on my handlebar bag. She will have a front row seat for the remainder of my trip. And she's a quiet little traveler too!

Once again, I was awake before sunrise and packed my stuff as the light started to filter into my room. I found a small cafe in Buffalo where at least twelve local farmers were huddled together discussing the price of wheat, serving themselves coffee because the waitress wanted to be anywhere else but here. An omelet with cheddar cheese that couldn't melt because the eggs were too cold. Other than that, my breakfast was pretty good!

I headed out of Buffalo toward the south. The wind was minimal and the temps were hovering just below 60 degrees. I started to climb numerous hills as I rose up the bluff close to Fort Supply, OK. The hills are covered by a huge wind farm with towers stretching as far as the eye could see. The sun was just in the right position to highlight the enormous blades as they stood quietly still in the Oklahoma morning. The last time I came through this area, the wind was howling out of the south and I parked my truck and listened to the "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh" as the blades turned in unison. No such sound today. Just the occasional screech of a pair of red tail hawks that seemed to be following me from power pole to power pole.

I rode through Fort Supply and eventually wandered southeast of Woodward. I have traveled this road so many times from CO to OK from my childhood until as recently as July of this year. It has not changed that much over the years.

Since I would not be able to reach Watonga by nightfall, I made a point of finding a place to stay as close to 80 miles away. It seems like most of the hotels (and there are not many) are being occupied by wind farm construction crews or people associated with the oil drilling in the area. I did find a small hotel in Taloga, OK and which would take me about 10 miles off my track toward Watonga, but I did not have any other options.

The landscape changed dramatically as I rode down the hills into the South Canadian River valley. Taloga sits in the base of the valley, in a large lush plain. I pulled into The Taloga Inn and was met by the owners, Mike Jackson and his wife. Mike asked me to hurry and get my bike put away so that he could show me the way out of town that I will use tomorrow. Rather than climbing back up the hills I just rode down, Mike wanted to make sure I knew the locals way of winding through the Canadian River valley. A beautiful paved road that winds around and over the river for about 14 miles, meeting the diagonal highway that will take me directly into Watonga. Nice to have the help of the local folks. To show how small this world is (once again), I asked Mike where he was from in Oklahoma (can't miss the drawl). He said he was from Elk City. So I asked if he knew a very good friend of mine, Bill Khourie. "I've know Bill since I was a little boy." Bill and I work together for the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority and he has been a strong supported of aerospace in the state. It is a small world, yesiree!

For today's problem, let's talk velocity, specifically the velocity of my bike. If I was traveling at 10 miles per hour and I had to reach Watonga, 100 miles away, what time should I start pedaling if I want to reach Watonga before the sun sets at 7:30 pm?
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222585200 Blog Sun, 28 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
A snake in the grass... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222498800 I would have expected a snake, but instead, the little prying eyes in the grass were of a different variety. The strange things I see when I pedal across the landscape. I bet some child is really missing this little guy.

The day dawned a bit later than I expected. Now that I am back in the central time zone, getting up at 6:00 am, left me without light to pedal by. Back in bed for a little more rest before getting up and going around 8:30 am. I was only planning on 80 miles today, since I expected some forecast headwinds. It would have taken me about 117 miles to reach Woodward, OK, so I looked for places to stay in Laverne or Buffalo. Since both are relatively small towns, I thought it would be best to call ahead and make reservations. I am glad I did. In Laverne the only hotel was being renovated and all FOUR rooms were occupied. In Buffalo, I ended up learning that rather than having a hotel, they have a collection of ladies that rent out rooms or houses. Sort of a motel call tree. I made plans to stay at a small bungalow in Buffalo and headed off in that direction.

The wind I was expecting never materialized, so I pedaled effortlessly south, but not before doing my tourist thing in Boot Hill. Wyatt Earp was in good form in the early sunshine! The road south had a small shoulder, but the cleanest shoulder I have yet to pedal. Not a bit of glass or stone. It looked like someone had swept it clean! So nice!

Both sides of the road were lined with crops. Primarily sorghum in a variety of colors. Mostly burnt orange, though! That would make my sister happy, given that she is a University of Texas graduate and her favorite color matches the crop. The road was pretty straight and my speed was averaging 13 mph with a slight tailwind. I dropped into what I thought was a large valley and found a sign talking about the geologic history of the Big Basin. I would have enjoyed going to Jacob's Well, but the road was dirt and the Oklahoma stickers were in great form. No need to get a flat, so I headed back down the road.

I crossed the Cimarron River which eventually flows just north of my place in Guthrie. From there I turned east and picked up a quartering tailwind and a few more hills. This was the first place where I began to see the bright red soil that Oklahoma is famous for. I eventually stopped in Buffalo at the local pizza parlor and tried contacting the lady with the bungalow. Since she didn't answer, I contacted another lady on the call tree and ended up getting a room at the Woolly Bison Inn. Great room at a very reasonable rate. The nicest hotel I have stayed in this entire journey.

If you pay attention to the website, you will see that I had planned on visiting a school in Wichita before heading south. Since I have some personal commitments in OK over the next week, I unfortunately had to change my plans and head directly to OKC. Hopefully in the future, I can make a trip back to Wichita and share my story with the students there. My apologies for not being able to stay with my original plan.

With the excellent amount of sunlight I have been having recently, I want to share some information explaining my Solio solar charger. Here's copy of their basic explanation of how the charger and it photovoltaic cells work:

"Solio has been designed to harness the sun's energy, shortening the process of transforming it into electricity by using photovoltaic cells (PVs). PVs convert sunlight into electricity that can be used immediately. The process is clean, fast, noiseless, and�thanks to Solio�easily portable. Here's how it works. Light from the sun hits the solar cells, exciting electrons within the cell. Some of them break free, and are channeled through a conductive metal strip to create an electric current. This current can either be stored in a battery or used directly in the form of electricity. The stronger the sunlight and the more rays that hit the cell, the more electricity is generated."

To get a better explanation of how a PV cell is constructed, please visit this website:


http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222498800 Blog Sat, 27 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Giddy up... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222412400 You gotta "giddy up" pretty early in the morning to pedal 105 miles. Oh, that was bad.... har har....

Not my longest day, but certainly one of the most difficult. Battling a nasty wind is much more challenging than climbing a pass. There was an episode on the Twilight Zone where the main character keeps looking at something in the distance and it keeps getting farther away. The closer you get, the farther away it looks. That's the way towns and grain silos appeared on the horizon. Getting closer, further away, closer, further away... sigh... All you can do is hunker down and put your best pedal forward. My Dad has always said something when times are tough. "This moment will pass before you know it." How true in this case. One way or the other the winds will eventually stop, either on their own or when you do. So, just keep pedaling!

The nice part about starting early is the wind has not yet reached a level that slows you down. Most of my ride was eastward with some portions taking a more southeasterly track. The wind was variable from the southeast to the southwest, but predominately from the south. Reaching speeds anywhere from 15-20 knots. Gusty at times as well. Thank goodness for my aero bars!

Lots of straight with a few hills tossed in for good measure. I saw a couple of interesting things today, but not as much as in previous days. One was a rather comfy looking chair parked beneath a power pole with a sign saying, "Bryan's Draw." He must have really liked the view! Another interesting site was a pheasant farm. Large pens with netting covering the top with hundreds of ringneck pheasants wandering about. I did see a few pheasants along the side of the road, but they weren't wandering about, if you know what I mean. One of the more interesting sites here in southern Kansas are the feed lots. Lots of cattle, lots of smell. If you ever have a hankering to become a vegetarian, try pedaling by a lot on the northerly side, with the wind from the south. I think your mind might be made up...

The shoulder of the road was great for about half of the ride, but became half as wide as I neared Cimarron. The traffic was a bit heavier as well and numerous cars and trucks were doing their best to honk at me right as they came alongside. I tend to think they want to startle me, but maybe they are just being friendly.

As the sun began to tip lower on the horizon, my shadow was cast across the highway. At one point I came to a field covered with the state flower. Huge sunflowers, hanging their heads as if getting ready to sleep.

One of the challenges when pedaling long distances is that the miles click off really quick in the beginning and slowly slide by near the end. Things move in slow motion and the world seems to creep by. Toss in a good wind and a sore behind and 100 miles can be a challenge. I rolled into Dodge City right as the sun set in a flaming orange ball. It was nice to find a place right inside the city limits. I take some pictures of the historical section in the morning before heading south toward Oklahoma.

For today's problem, let's talk about the wind. Now I am not complaining, really! I just want to use these nasty winds to exercise some math! How fun is that? At one point during my ride, as I left Garden City and passed the airport, I was pedaling on a heading to the southeast. Using a compass, my heading would have been roughly 150 degrees. The winds at that time were blowing strong from the south, or 180 degrees. Let's say the speed of the winds were about 20 knots (sure felt like it!). How many degrees off of my heading were the winds? Once you determine that angle, determine the headwind component I was having to pedal against.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222412400 Blog Fri, 26 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
"Home! And this is my room - and you are all here! And I'm not going to leave here ever again, because I love you all! And --- Oh, Auntie Em ----- There's no place like home" http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222326000 Dorothy and Toto may have gotten here quickly with three clicks of her shoes, but it's taken me just a bit longer and I am still not home! Maybe if I had a pair of ruby slippers with bike cleats I would have been here earlier, but I would have had a lot of explaining to do in Montana and Wyoming! I still think they should have ridden a bike...

I ate a small meal at the Best Western and rolled the bike out the door around 7:30. In the parking lot I was met by some farmers from Mexico who were here to buy some used farm equipment. Only one of them spoke some limited English so we had a chat (limited chat) and took some pictures. Very cordial and genuinely interested in my ride.

The wind was minimal as I started off toward Lamar. One of the pleasures of Hwy 50 is that the shoulder is very wide and smooth. Very few rocks litter the road and there is a set of rumble strips that give me a warning if someone is wandering into my part of the road. As I rolled along at a pretty fast clip (18 mph), a fuzzy little critter caught my eye. I whipped the bike around and snapped a picture of a tarantula. Too bad it was dead. I wasn't sure until I gave him a nudge and he didn't budge. Either dead or really sleepy!

I rolled into Hasty, CO and purchased my daily ritual of chocolate milk. No guilt chocolate milk. So much fun when you ride a bike, not worrying about my caloric intake (well, maybe a little, but chocolate milk is the exception). The Valley Grocery is 100 years old, according to Colleen, the woman running the store. A few farmers were sitting the store and everyone knows everyone. Nice place to stop for a rest.

You see a lot of interesting things on and beside the road. The duck head (not real) caught my attention. I usually pass something by and then realize it would make for a fun picture. Trying to put it into perspective with the road adds to the sense of the abnormality of it's place in the world. I should make a montage of the weird things I have photographed. The duck head and kid's Superman costume come to mind.

I came across an old stone school that the community is trying to keep alive. Not sure how many donations they pull together with their sign, but it is nice to see them putting in the effort.

I happen to be traveling through an area that is smack in the middle of harvest season. Lots of melons, onions, corn and wheat. I saw a couple of school buses rolling through a field, which I thought might be carrying folks that were doing the picking, but on closer inspection, I realized they were used for carrying the melons that were picked. No windows, just padding along the window sills and full of pumpkins. Innovative way to use an old school bus!

Just shy of Granada, CO, I came across the Amache Japanese-American Relocation Camp. I have traveled this road numerous times in my truck, but haven't never stopped. I thought I would today, but there is a long dirt road to the camp and I didn't think it was be good for my tires. I am sure there is a lot of history and I plan on returning and spending some time here.

As I traveled the highway, I began to notice that whoever was doing some of the tar work on the cracks in the road, was a bit creative. I have seen big swirls, hearts, and today I came across a Smiley face! I couldn't pass up a picture of it.

When I crossed the border into Kansas, I stopped to take my obligatory state line photo. At the same time, my very good friend Joe Oswald called so I made sure to take the photo with the phone in my hand. Joe was the most senior Aviation Ordnanceman Master Chief in the Navy when he recently retired. I was honored when he asked for me to speak at his retirement ceremony at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL.

The shoulder of the road changed dramatically when I crossed the border. Different texture and a bit more debris. Unfortunately, the color of the rock makes it harder to discern whether there is broken glass in my path. On more than one occasion, I rolled right through a pile of glass, cringing if and when I would puncture my tire. So far, so good, but I am sure I just jinxed myself.

The wind really picked up from about Holly, CO all the way to Syracuse, KS. I was hoping to make Lakin, KS, but the wind just beat me back and brought my speed down from 16 mph to around 8 mph. I found only one hotel in Syracuse and decided this was the place to stay. I don't have an option of camping, given that I took all of my camping gear off the bike and shipped it home from the Lamar post office. With all of the items I shed, I lost about 18 pounds on the bike. So, now I have to be a bit more cautious about having a place to stay and better judge my distance between stops. It's no fun keeping my fingers crossed hoping the next town has an open hotel. Before I hit the hotel, I downed a great pizza at the Syracuse Pizzeria courtesy of Brenda and Kathy. Another bonus from burning so many calories everyday. I wonder how much weight I have lost...

When I left Las Animas this morning I realized that I had forgotten to place a math problem on the day in the blog. It was also brought to my attention but some of my astute blog followers. Didn't I say I was forgetful? I don't remember... anyway, here's what you and I missed:

When I purchased the charger in La Junta, I needed to make sure that the voltage and current were compatible with my computer. On the bottom of my computer it states that the current for the unit should be about 4000 milli amps (4000 mA). How many amps (A) would that be? Also, the voltage from the charger can be adjusted down to a minimum of 15 volts. Using Ohm's Law (V=IR), what would be the resistance if the voltage is 15 and the current is 4 amps?

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222326000 Blog Thu, 25 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Charging eastward... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222239600 Did I say I was forgetful? I don't remember if I did or not. Oh well, it doesn't matter now. After watching my computer die last night right as I was starting to upload my photos for the day, it dawned on me that either I get creative and find a way to get my computer charger back from my folks in Texas or bite the bullet and buy another! Ouch, I ended up buying another. Chris in La Junta happened to have just what I needed. He is richer and I am poorer, but now I have a charge and can continue my blogging. "And there was much rejoicing... yea...." (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

I jumped out of bed early this morning knowing that I had a large distance to cover if I wanted to make Lamar before nightfall. At 121 miles, it was going to be a stretch. I was feeling great and made excellent time down Hwy 50. I've driven this road so many times, it was a bit of a shock that I was moving a bit more slowly and the mileage signs just didn't click down fast enough. Hwy 50 parallels the Arkansas River for most of it's length through eastern Colorado. Nice and flat with little wind and the temps getting up into the high 90's. I used copious quantities of sunscreen and ended up shedding my shirts in favor of just my yellow vest.

The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad also parallels the highway and many trains laden with coal slide eastward along the rails. I always try to get the engineer to toot the horn when he goes by (the kid still in me) and most of the time they oblige. Beside the railroad, Highway 50 has had the widest shoulder of any road that I have pedaled to date. Thank goodness for new pavement. Smooth, smooth, smooth...

I found myself taking pictures of all of the signs for each town I rolled through. I would like to eventually put together a montage of all of the towns I visited alongside a map for the trek.

One of the crops that is grown in this area, beside corn, is (are) onions. As the crop trucks trundle down the highway, they shed portions of their load which provides an aromatic obstacle that I have to navigate around on occasion.

By the time I rolled into Las Animas, I realized that I had another 36 miles to go and only about two hours of daylight left. Not wanting to deal with trucks and night time, I opted for the Best Western on the far side of town.

Tomorrow I will get an early start and try my best to make Garden City, KS. A bit ambitious, but worth a shot. I just have to keep charging eastward (with my new charger in tow).
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222239600 Blog Wed, 24 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
You crack me up! Literally... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222153200 I'm stressed!! Actually, my bike is stressed. My rear wheel to be specific. So stressed, I have cracks propagating from every other spoke. I just happened to listen to the little voice in the back of my head again and decided to stop in at Old Town Bikes in downtown Colorado Springs. While they were changing my tire, they discovered my rear rim had numerous cracks. While I waited, Jerry laced a new rim and had me ready to go in a couple of hours. The pictures should give you a good idea of the problem I faced.

Jerry and the rest of the folks that were in the shop today were absolutely superb in their support and did their very best to get me going down the road. Thanks so much for your help!

I left JR's house on Nevada Avenue and stopped by the house of a very good friend, Bill Wallisch. Bill has worked with the astronauts on perfecting their communication skills and he has set up an awesome video-teleconference capability in his home office. He was in the process of conducting program for General Mills and graciously let me sit in and watch.

I headed south along the Front Range Bike path, hoping that I could somehow make it to Pueblo without incurring too much pain in the process. That wasn't the case however. I tried using Hwy 85/87 until it became part of Interstate 25. Since it is illegal in CO to pedal along the interstate, I followed my GPS until I ended up along Meridian Road. My fears were realized when I ended up pedaling about 15 miles on a dirt road. To say that it was less than fun is an understatement. In some places the road was better than a paved highway, in other places it was like getting my teeth drilled without Novocaine! I wasn't about to turn back though. I was in it for the long haul!

I finally saw pavement like a shining beacon of hope, glistening in the distance! No more bone jarring sinusoidal washboard dirt obstacles to overcome. I rolled into Pueblo with a sore fanny and no desire to continue pedaling. I met Denny Mu and decided to share a hotel room for the night. He is off to Denver tomorrow to see an old friend and I will head east toward Lamar. At 121 miles, I doubt I will get that far, but it is worth a try.

As I broke out the computer tonight, I realized that I misplaced my charger and may end up without power for the next couple of days. If you don't see my blog, that is the reason. I am not being lazy, just forgetful!

Denny and I spent the evening at the Mo Mo Japanese Restaurant. The owner is Korean, so he and Denny struck up an immediate friendship and we spent the next three hours enjoying Jun Park's hospitality! (and sake!) If you ever get to Pueblo and have a hankering for Japanese food, Mo Mo Restaurant is the place to be!

Tomorrow I will head toward Lamar, hoping I can get there before nightfall. My desire is to be in OKC by next Wednesday. At 610 miles, it will be a challenge, but isn't that what life is all about?

For today's math problem, try to determine how much weight a touring cycle's wheel is supposed to support. Check out some websites that have touring bikes. I would recommend Trek's. I don't believe I am carrying too much gear, but if I have to decrease the total mass I am carrying, than that is what I will do. I am currently packing about 100 pounds on the bike (minus me). Is that a reasonable figure for a Trek 520? If not, what should I be carrying?

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222153200 Blog Tue, 23 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Fox and Friends http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222066800 People ask me how often I take a break from riding the bike and truth of the matter is that I stop to work. Today was filled by two things; Fox Meadow Middle School and good friends!

My folks departed the pattern today for points south. Most of my route from here on out will place me in locations where I will be able to find lodging. I'm still carrying all of my camping gear (minus my stove and white gas), and I will use it as necessary. I really appreciate all they have done to support me across MT, WY and CO. It was always a pleasure to see their RV parked alongside the road and food waiting for my consumption and a place to lay my head at night (and do my blog). Thanks Mom and Dad! Love you both very much!

I met up with Jay and Rolf this morning and took them to one of my favorite breakfast hangouts. I ran a few errands before heading over to Fox Meadow Middle School. My most important stop was to pick up the flute that my friend Jim Gilliland made and shipped to me courtesy of general delivery. An absolutely beautiful flute with an awesome sound. The protective case is more than sufficient to prevent me from bringing harm to the flute. Jim made two of the flutes that I flew on my flight. One flute is on display in the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC and the other is on display at Epcot in Orlando, FL. Jim is Cherokee and a retired engineer from the Kennedy Space Center. He uses MATH to make each flute and the results are phenomenal. Thanks so much Jim!

My talk at Fox Middle School was great. Very attentive students with some excellent questions. Matt Allner, one of the NASA Explorer School teachers at Fox, did a great job of organizing the event. I appreciate everyone's attention and helping to make it a successful presentation.

Tomorrow I will head south toward Pueblo and meet up again with Denny, the Chinese lawyer. We will head across CO along the Transamerica trail along Hwy 50. It was great to spend quality time with such good friends like Jim Reilly, Rolf Fredrick and Jay Roman, but it's time to head on to OK and arrive in time for the Chickasaw Festival. Hopefully with the wind at my back...

For today's math teaser, I thought I would include a link to a website that discusses the math involved in flute making. If you are interested, this is a good place to see what is required to produce a flute.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1222066800 Blog Mon, 22 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Bike path by the lowest bidder... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221980400 I'm not one to complain, except for good reason. I think having a bike path that parallels a major highway is a good thing! Great planning by the city fathers (and mothers). It keeps the riff raff off the major interstates too! But I would think they might think twice about contracting the job to the lowest bidder, because it might be in an attorney's best interest when his client/biker friend falls through the crack that runs dead center down the middle of the path. I'm thinking the cyclist could find a good lawyer in China (I know one now) because that is probably where he would end up given the size and depth of the crack! Actually, I was warned about the crack for another cyclist headed on the same direction around C-470 on the west side of Denver.

I left the Golden Hotel around 0730. Earliest start so far this trip. Jay Roman from South Dakota Gearup was here to film some of my travels and he had the camera rolling as I headed down Washington Street. We were lucky that we used part of yesterday to scope out the best route from Golden to Castle Rock. I slowly climbed the hill leading out of Golden and easily found Rooney Road where it parallels C-470. I followed it for a bit and then eventually found the bike path wandering through Bear Creek Park. The path was well marked and easy to navigate. I followed it clear around C-470, alongside Chatfield Reservoir and on to Hwy 85 to Sedalia, CO. Along the way I met the Held family scoping out a huge frog just below the bike path. I continued on down Hwy 85 to Sedalia. It was there that I met up again with Jay and my good friend Rolf Fredrick. Rolf and I have know each other since the day we starting training in Officer Candidate School. We spent time together in CA, assigned to P-3 squadron's operating out of Moffett Field. Rolf went on to a career with American Airlines and is a Captain on the MD-80. He even brought his hat along! Too bad I couldn't convince him to wear it on the ride.

We left Sedalia and headed down County Road 105 toward Palmer Lake. I thought the traffic would be minimal on a Sunday, but I was sadly mistaken. Every motorcycle gang and Sunday driver was using this road to practice their driving skills (or lack thereof). It was a winding, undulating road with little to no shoulder and made for some interesting moments. Like when a bright red motorcycle went screaming down the road at about 80 mph. Just a couple of feet from my bike! Sunday drivers! Geezzzz...

Rolf had been doing a lot of riding lately, so I gave him the wheel (handlebars) of my Trek and let him feel what a 90 pound touring cycle feels like. Not a responsive as his road bike and a lot more forgiving on the bumps. Even with the traffic, it was a much better route than trying to find a way along the frontage road. We eventually negotiated our way onto the Air Force Academy (even with Rolf wearing his Navy riding jersey). We had to show support for the Navy contingent stationed at the USAFA because the Navy / Air Force game is Oct 4th!

Rolf needed to get the bike back to the bike shop by 6:00 so we decided to try the dirt bike path that runs along the creek and ends up right outside Criterium Bikes on Monument Creek. Great riding even though it was dirt and we were on street bikes.

we parted company there for the day and I went off to meet my folks and use my Dad's motorcycle to take my daughter Amanda to dinner! Great time with my youngest! It was fun to haul her around on the back of the Yamaha! Zoom zoom... She a VERY talented singer and guitarist. At 14 she has absolutely ZERO stage fright and can get up in front of 400 people and sign without batting an eye! I took her to Scotland recently where she had the opportunity to play a guitar in front of perfect strangers and she did a fantastic job! I am extremely proud of how accomplished and confident she is, especially at her age! Keep up the great work Amanda!

Tomorrow I will speak at Fox Middle School and get ready to depart the Colorado Springs area on Tuesday morning. From here I will head east and southeast to my home in Guthrie and then down to Ada for the Chickasaw Festival.

It seems that the 8th graders at Fox have been working on some pressure related problems. Using the formula, PV=nRT, what do each of the variables in the equation represent? Looking at this equation without using numbers, what would happen to the pressure if I increased the T and kept all else equal? Would you expect the pressure to go up? Could I keep the pressure the same by changing the increasing the volume as the temperature increased? How is this related to my tires?

See you tomorrow! I think I will sleep in a bit...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221980400 Blog Sun, 21 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Are we there yet? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221894000 Nope, but we are getting closer! Half-way to Cape Canaveral! Just crossed the 2000 mile mark in Boulder, CO. How the miles fly by when you are having fun! Well, maybe not that much fun today. I have the scrape marks on my right rear pannier to show you just how close I came to the guard rail trying to become one with the shoulder and not one with the traffic!

I left Fort Collins this morning in bright, warm sunshine! Quite the change from yesterday in Walden. Funny how a few thousand feet in altitude can make such a difference. I have been so lucky that most of my travel to date (with the exception of a couple of cities) has been on the open road and not much traffic to contend with as I ride. Not so for the Front Range of Colorado. Pretty much one continuous city from Fort Collins down to Castle Rock. Staying off the main roads was my primary objective, but it added a few miles to my trek. My intent was to make Larkspur, just south of Castle Rock, but I did not take into account the many detours I would have to take just to get from Fort Collins to Boulder.

I did stop in Longmont and asked for directions from a local bike shop, the Bike-N-Hike. Rick Emerson, the owner, as well as Brian and Dave were super courteous and got a kick out of my website. They carry Trek bicycles too, so I praised their product line! It's always nice to get the straight skinny from local cyclists on the best routes around the city. I followed their directions and found the ride from Longmont to Boulder much more appealing than staying on the main drag.

I wandered out by Vance Brand Airport, through Niwot and back along the Diagonal to Boulder proper. From there I had to do a lot of weaving and route finding along the many bike paths that line the city. I eventually found my way out Hwy 93 toward Rocky Flats and up and over the mesa to Golden. In a little over six hours of pedaling time I covered almost 74 miles and was totally wasted from battling traffic along the VERY NARROW shoulder of Hwy 93. I found that I didn't take that many pictures as I was too focused on where I was going, not what the scenery looked like. I did pop a few shots of Longs Peak, Eldorado Canyon and the Flatirons. By the time I arrived in downtown Golden I was spent. A strange thing occurred between Boulder and Golden. I went from the world's narrowest shoulder to the world's biggest. I even took a photo to prove it! So now I have a comfy bed and warm shower to make up for my stay in the park the other night! Just for fun, use Google Earth and see if you can determine what hotel I stayed in tonight.

I will head out tomorrow EARLY and make the remaining 70 miles to Colorado Springs before the traffic gets too nutty. I'm half-way home and want to maximize my chances for success! Ride smart!

Speaking of smart... Boulder is home to what company that is deeply involved in the space program? Their engineers and scientists are responsible for developing the hardware that has given us the wonderful photos that you see from the Hubble Space Telescope. Let's do some research and find out who this company is and how they got their start. Sometimes problem solving is as much about research as it is about actual numerical manipulation.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221894000 Blog Sat, 20 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor dark of night, nor bugs, nor... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221807600 lightning, nor big trucks, nor tomato bisque and grilled cheese... will keep me from seeing my daughter Jessica at Colorado State University! And tomorrow I will get to see Amanda in Colorado Springs! Yee haa! I love my kids! Heck, I would even pedal across the country to see them!

I woke this morning to a ice covered tent and 27 degrees F. The ice laced grass crackled with every step as I slowly started to move about packing my gear. I whipped the rain fly into a frenzy, throwing ice crystals into the air. Frost covered my bike from stem to stern and the cushy seat was a tad bit frozen. Denny and I pulled our stuff together and settled down for a huge breakfast before parting company. We walked from the cafe into a thick fog that had settled in over Walden and the surrounding countryside. I headed east on Hwy 14 while Denny headed west toward Kremmling. We may meet again east of Pueblo as I pick up the TransAmerica Trail on Hwy 50 toward Kansas.

The ride out to Gould was relatively flat. Occasionally a hill would have to be negotiated, but nothing major. The fog started to lift after about 15 miles and revealed the snow capped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. The aspen were just starting to turn a golden hue and covered the hillsides north and south of the highway. I stopped in for lunch at The Drifter's Cookhouse in Gould. Maggie makes a mean Tomato Bisque soup and Fred serves up some fine political humor. The ride up the pass was gradual, eventually topping at over 10,000 feet. About a mile short of the summit I had to don my rain gear as I had to endure a mixture of lightning, rain, sleet, and hail, before and after the summit.

The ride down from the pass was about 50 miles of narrow shoulders, big trucks and campers. I was a bit spent by the time I popped out of the canyon just north of Laporte, CO. I still had another 5 miles to go to the RV park and another 5 miles beyond that to meet my daughter Jessica for dinner.

I met Jess and her friend Lawrence for Mexican food and she gave me a look at her dorm on campus. It's hard to believe that the little girl that used to tap me on the nose at 3:30 in the morning for a glass of water has grown up into such a fine young woman. I could not be more proud of my two very talented and wonderful daughters. I am one very lucky Dad! Love you both bunches!

Ok, so where's the problem for today? One of the things I tend to do while riding the bike is ponder. I ponder all sorts of stuff. For example, I ponder whether or not the bulge on the sidewall of my rear tire is going to give way at the worst possible moment and leave me careening toward the ditch with a blowout. Gotta get that fixed I suppose. But for now, let's talk tire pressure. Or pressure in general. If my tire is inflated to 85 psi, what does that mean? Any idea what "psi" stands for? If I had a plate that measures 10 square inches and I exerted 85 psi of pressure on the plate, how many pounds of force would that be? Care to estimate how many pounds of force are being exerted on the sidewall of my tire, if the area of the bulge is about 2 square inches? Should I be worried? Would you be worried? Better fix the tire, huh?
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221807600 Blog Fri, 19 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
East meets west http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221721200 Did you ever have one of those days where everything just comes together nicely at the start and then falls apart at the last possible minute? Yup, so have I. This day started out fantastic. Denny Mu and I headed back out to the place where Julie picked us up in her pickup truck (having taken pity on two struggling souls in the midst of a mountain gale). We off loaded our bikes from my folk's RV and headed back to toward Riverside. Beautiful day. No wind with light fluffy clouds overhead. We headed off down Hwy 230 toward Walden, CO. Undulating hills between two mountain ranges. It was fun to pedal with someone for a long distance. I learned a lot about Denny. Born in Korea, left for China to study law, earning a PhD. He is also an entrepreneur, owning his own restaurant and dealing in commodities. Jack(ie Chan) of all trades!

As the day progressed the clouds started to build over both sides of the valley. Storms brewed pretty quickly and we watched as a wall of water began to approach us from the southeast. I snapped a shot of us in front of the Colorado State line and then hurried into our rain gear. For the remainder of the day we were pelted by rain showers and inundated by the spray of passing cattle trucks. One of the things that I have noticed about being out of logging country and into cattle country is that the passing trucks have a distinctly different aroma! I'll take the logging trucks any day with their fresh pine scent. I don't think you want me to describe the other...

As we rolled into Walden I made the decision that I would stay here for the night. Too wet and cold to bother pedaling another 20 miles to Gould on Hwy 14. As our luck would have it, hunting season is in full swing and today's hunter prefers the comforts of the hotel, vice the tent. So, every hotel was booked and the only place to stay was in the park, in our tents. I stopped a local sheriff and asked for permission and he said it would not be a problem.

Fortunately, I have broadband service via my Sprint card and I can get something loaded tonight. Not sure if I can get the GPS route in place, but I will first thing in the morning. Hopefully some of the pictures will load before my battery dies.

The temp is supposed to get down to freezing tonight and snow on Cameron Pass should make tomorrow's ride interesting. For today's problem, Cameron Pass elevation is around 10,200 feet. How many meters would that be? Often, we hear of mountain climbers talking about ascending all of the 8000 meter peaks in the world. What is the most famous peak over 8000 meters? Are there any 8000 meter peaks in North America?

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221721200 Blog Thu, 18 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Hey there little fella! What's shakin'? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221634800 There are some sounds in life that you recognize immediately, without hesitation. The sound of glass breaking, the cry of your child, and the sound of a rattlesnake doing it's thing. I was pedaling up a steep grade between Lamont and Rawlins when this little critter made his presence know to me. I hopped off the bike and took a couple of pictures. I was hoping to get one of him striking at the camera, but I am not Jim from the Wild Kingdom, so I listened to the voice in the back of my head and kept my distance. Quite the impressive reptile.

I left Lamont after getting a ride back to my ending point from yesterday. The ride was pleasant, but the shoulder was less than hospitable. Narrow and bumpy! And avoiding the infamous Wyoming Goathead stickers that rear their ugly head up through most of the cracks along the highway. One of the towns I passed was Baroil, WY. Way back in the 1970's I worked as a surveyor doing section breakdowns in the dead of winter. We were required to look for stuff that marked the corners of each section. Sometimes the early surveyors would use whatever they had at their disposal to identify the corner. I have found big stones with etched "x's" on the stone. Sometimes we found axles from cars, broken bottles, and occasionally an actual piece of rebar. For today's problem, what is a Section of land? How many square miles is that? How many acres? Square feet?

Rawlins was only about 30 miles down the road and the winds were minimal. After stopping for lunch, I turned east and picked up a slight tailwind as I weaved through the small town of Sinclair. Sinclair gas has had a refinery here for many years it is was humming with activity. I followed my GPS ( I should have known better) and found myself in the parking lot of the Sinclair refinery. I was careful to avoid any cars that might be cruising between lanes, but I wasn't prepared for a woman in a green Jeep to come barreling off the main street and into the parking lot. She was probably topping 30 miles an hour and turned about 45 degrees and flew into the parking lot. She looked directly at me and didn't even slow down. I was screaming at the top of my lungs before she hit the brakes and came to a skidding halt about 5 feet from me. I was a stunned and she just stared in my direction and didn't say a word. No apology, no "I'm sorry," no eye contact. She just cruised by me and found a parking spot. I was livid!! Some people! She must have been on drugs or something. She didn't even have a cell phone stuck to her ear! All of this way on the highways to meet my demise in a parking lot courtesy of a Jeep! What an interesting way to begin the day. I would rather have played with the rattlesnake!

After catching my breath, I joined I-80 for about 20 miles on the way to the turn on WY 130 toward Saratoga. I saw another touring cyclist on the frontage road who ended up doubling back to the Interstate after taking a side road that went to a dead end. We eventually caught up in Saratoga and then shared a ride in the back of a pickup when the winds picked up to 30-40 knots right down the middle of my forehead! If we had continued on, at 4 miles as hour, the last 12 miles would have taken how long? (I have two problems today, because I forgot the one last night. Sorry!)

Denny is a Chinese lawyer, of all things, traveling across the country from Florence, OR to Virginia. He plans to write a book about the Americans he has met along the way.

The wind was incredibly strong. The worst so far this trip. One of the locals took pity on us and gave us a ride the last 10 miles into town. We also ran across Aaron, traveling from Washington DC to San Francisco, CA. Another fun couple I met were Rachel and James traveling to Salt Lake City with their five year old puppy (thought it was a horse), Odin, named for the Norse Father of the Gods! I think my brain is getting fried from all of these miles, as I as mistakenly thought I had left my wallet on the counter at a gas station. The little voice in the back of my head told me that I didn't put it away in my handlebar bag and sure enough, it wasn't there. I hurried back to the store (2 miles one way) and ended up finding it on my front rack. At least I found it! That would have been really bad to lose.

I will backtrack to my ending point tomorrow morning and then head toward Gould, CO and eventually over Cameron Pass toward Fort Collins and my daughter Jessica. Should be a beautiful ride, as long as the weather holds.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221634800 Blog Wed, 17 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Going up and up and up and up.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221548400 Beaver Rim is located about 20 miles south of Riverton and rises majestically over the rugged terrain that surrounds the Wind River basin. It was on this rim over 37 years ago that my parents buried my childhood best friend, a 16 year old Bassett Hound named Gus. There are lot of things that one remembers about growing up and this was one of those events that sticks in the mind for the rest of your life. Coming through this country always brings back those memories right to the surface.

Buzz Aldrin once remarked that the surface of the Moon was Magnificent Desolation. I really think the same can be said for the land that lies in central Wyoming. It is a starkly beautiful landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see and not be interrupted by any man made object. Trees exist, but only on the slopes of the mountains that border the area north or south of the Sweetwater River. This is also the location of the numerous trails that settlers used on their way to the west coast.

My climb up to Beaver Rim pegged out at a 9% grade, but it was not all that long. It's a straight shot and looks impressive from a distance. Like other climbs I have made on this journey, it goes by surprisingly quickly. The weather was wonderful and the wind was minimal on the climb up. What the rim harbored was a sneaky southwest wind that smacked me in the face when I crested the top. I pushed through a sometimes gusty wind for another 15 miles before I coasted down to Sweetwater Station on Hwy 287. Antelope would poke their heads up from grazing, but always far from the camera lens.

I turned east and took advantage of the wind as it shifted more towards my back. I hummed along for another 20 miles until I rolled into the Split Rock Historical site. Early settlers used the Split Rock as major landmark on the road west. The Pony Express briefly traveled this same route during it's short life time.

I made plans with my folks to rendezvous in Lamont just in case I couldn't make the distance to Rawlins before sunset. My last stop before Lamont was in the Three Forks Muddy Gap Service store. Rachel was behind the counter and offered up a pen so that I could sign my name to the wall. Finding a place to write proved a challenge, so I grabbed a chair and found an empty space overhead. I also took Rachel's picture and commented on her sweatshirt! I know where Muddy Gap is and now you do too!

I was hoping I could push on to Rawlins and cover the last 45 miles before 10 pm. The sun began to set making for some interesting photos of my shadow spanning the road, but the traffic was getting gnarly with trucks and semis screaming by next to a narrow, bumpy shoulder. After having two trucks squeezed by me, with what appeared to be five to six drunk rough neckers honking as they passed, I decided it was better to leave the highway behind until tomorrow morning. I met my folks at Lamont and we loaded up the bike so they could camp in Rawlins. My map indicated camping was available in Lamont, but it was nowhere to be found. As a matter of fact, my dad spoke with two cyclists that had asked the folks in the cafe if they could camp and they were told no. So one of the cyclists asked my dad if he could give them a ride into Rawlins. About the same time a truck pulled up and gave them a lift. Not a good place to camp beside the road. I will head back out to Lamont tomorrow and continue my ride from where I left off. I'm a purist in that I WILL ride every mile of this trip, rain or shine or no place to camp...

Hopefully CO by tomorrow night. I've decided to pop over the mountains just north of Rocky Mountain National Park and travel down to Fort Collins and see my daughter Jessica at Colorado State University. From there I plan to travel along the Front Range through Loveland, Boulder, Golden and hug the hills west of Castle Rock and on into the Springs. I hope to be there by this weekend.

Today's ride was a joy. Good temps, the sun is out, winds in a happy direction and I am getting a tan again!

Yee haa!

I forgot to mention that I had my bike serviced at "Out Sportin" in Riverton. Henri, the general manager did a great job getting my bike ready. Change out the rear tire that was down to the red inner liner and also trued my wheels and an overall tuneup. The bike is running super, thanks Henri!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221548400 Blog Tue, 16 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Live Your Dreams http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221462000 Whenever I sign a photo for a student, I use these words rather than saying "Best Wishes" or "Reach for the Stars." Why? Because I am living a dream, so why can't they? I tell people that I used to sit in a cardboard box and dream I was going to the moon, but I never really imagined that one day I could become am astronaut. That's what other people do, not me. I'm not good enough or there are others that are better than me. It was all just a dream...

Surprise folks!! Dreams do come true, but only if you let them! If you believe in yourself and believe in those that believe in you, anything is possible. It just takes hard work, determination and the right combination of mentors and motivation. That was the message I took to the Arapahoe School students today. I had the opportunity to speak to three groups of students; some in middle school and some in high school. For those of you that have never been on a reservation before, this can be a world apart. Many reservations are in very rural areas, away from major population centers. The statistics for kids growing up on the rez can be staggeringly dismal. High unemployment, high drop out rates, teen pregnancy, diabetes, drug abuse, etc, etc... Being a kid in today's world is tough enough given all of the pressures they face at home, at school and in the community. Add to that a feeling that there is no hope for the future and you can see how difficult it is to look beyond the world you live in. What I saw today were extremely bright kids with incredible potential. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in the questions they asked. But what I also heard from a few were resignation and defeat.

"I'll never leave the rez."

"I have no future."

"My family will take care of me."

"I get per caps." (Per caps are per capita payments from gaming revenue that some tribes distribute directly to tribal members. In some tribes it can be substantial. I have no idea what it is here in the Wind River Reservation)

These are really tough things to hear, especially when you are trying to encourage and motivate. What do you say to someone that thinks their world is so utterly hopeless that they have no incentive to graduate from high school much less go on to college?

Well, here is what I said.

I encouraged each of these students to believe in themselves. Sometimes it takes others, outside of your family, to point it out. It happened to me a couple of crucial times. I told them they needed to look beyond the present and see themselves in 10 years because it will go by in the blink of an eye. "Don't turn around in 10 years and wish you had a high school degree. Don't be satisfied making minimum wage. You have so much more potential than many of you realize." Many of these kids have no role models to which they can identify. Many in their families never went to college; many did not graduate from high school. Without role models to encourage and motivate, many of these kids don't know how to proceed. Part of the problem as I see it as that many of these kids (this is not a rez specific problem) don't want to do well, because they fear the ridicule of their peers. "It's not cool to be smart." Trying to get through a school day without accomplishing anything is seen as an ACCOMPLISHMENT! Teachers and administrators have a heck of a time trying to keep these kids interested and engaged when the kids have no support at home. Some parents are either apathetic or not educated enough to assist their students in the learning process.

When I talk to these kids I can either focus on the negative or see the little flashes of potential and open the door to the possibilities of success. One girl was very engaged in asking questions, so I asked her what she wanted to do when she graduated (not "if" she graduated). "Deliver babies," was her response. I asked her where she would go to school. Did she know the process required to get a degree? Where would she go to medical school? I also asked her if she had ever spoken to a doctor about what she wanted to do. She seemed stunned by the idea of seeking out a professional in the profession that she wanted to pursue. I told her that doctors in the local area would LOVE to mentor a student interested in their profession. They would even let them know what they didn't like about it. Another student stated that he wanted to be a computer programmer but didn't think anyone around his area was smart enough to be one. One of the teachers immediately stepped in and told him he knew of three people at a local community college who were programmers. It's all about networking, getting to know the people that are doing the things that students want to do. Career days are great opportunities to open the door for professionals to come into the classroom and talk about what they do, but it must go beyond group effort. These students need to develop individual relationships with mentors to recognize their full potential.

When I speak to students, I don't beat around the bush. If some are acting up and talking with their friends, I politely tell them to either stop or take their conversations outside. I don't tolerate disrespect and expect them to give me their attention. If they choose not to, that's fine, that is their choice (bad choice, but a choice nonetheless). It is my hope that in the time span of an hour I can at least plant the seed that each and every one of them has the potential to do something fantastic with their life. I tell them they are the only ones responsible for the decisions they make, no one else. They can (and will) make some bad decisions, but hopefully the good decisions will outweigh the bad ones. All of us can point out the times in our lives that were pivotal to our success. I hope to prepare these kids to recognize when it happens to them by telling them of the times it happened to me.

For continuity, here is my background so that everyone might understand where I am coming from when I talk to students. Many of you have heard my story, but for the record, here it is in a nutshell. I graduated from high school with no real incentive to go to college other than I was told by my parents that I should. I never sought out the advice of my counselors, never stayed in one place long enough for them to get to know me (I moved about 14 times by the time I graduated from high school). I started college with a vague desire to work outside. I thought being a forest ranger would be the right fit. I always liked the outdoors, so why not? I entered college about the same time I learned to rock climb. I spent most of my time climbing and little time studying. Add to that a part-time job working at night, my grades suffered and I was suspended from college for a 1.72 grade point average. The year that I was suspended from school, I found my way to Fort Worth, TX and a full-time job in a restaurant. It was during this time that I was at my lowest point ever. I was lonely, no family nearby, no friends, and very little money (I made $4.00/ hour). At one point I lived in a run down apartment in southeast Fort Worth where I could not afford the deposit money to get electricity. In my frustration and loneliness, I made a call (from work) to a friend in Colorado just to talk. In return, he offered me a job rock-climbing in Colorado as part of a survey crew. I left Fort Worth within two days and found myself hanging from a cliff in Colorado the following week on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, CO. Over the next year I worked from Iowa to Colorado and Wyoming on a variety of survey projects where I had the chance to see mathematics in practice, trigonometry to be specific. I was fortunate that the owner of the company that I worked for took the time out of his busy schedule to sit me down and talk to me about my future. He flat out told me that if I wanted to improve my chances for success I needed to return to school and get a college degree. He encouraged me to look into the future and see where I might be if I didn't change directions. "You can't raise a family on $4.00 an hour. What are you going to do when you are 25? 30? Go back to school and make something of yourself." So I did! If I hadn't, I have no idea where I would be today, but I can pretty much guarantee that I would never have flown in space.

I returned to school with a desire to major in engineering. By the time I was a senior I was an Applied Mathematics major and I worked for the Math Department as a tutor/grader for Calculus. It was during this time that I met the next gentleman that had a major impact on my life, and he was a retired Navy Captain that encouraged me to join the Navy and become a Naval Aviator. He flew aircraft in World War II and I was mesmerized by his stories. So, with a degree in hand, I entered the Navy in November, 1983. I went on to have a successful 22 year career as a Naval Aviator, test pilot and astronaut. None of this would have been possible if I had not listened to these two mentors. They mentored and I became motivated!

One of the reasons I decided to pedal my bike across the country is that I have a responsibility to give back to others for what others did for me. I am the result of people that cared about me enough to want to make a difference in my life. It was my responsibility to listen and make a decision. I think I made some pretty good decisions. I also know I have made some bad ones, but life isn't easy and the path is never straight forward. To the students that will read this blog, each and every one of you is capable of doing great things. Some of you have the potential to change the world. If you do nothing, you will be nothing. Your life will account for very little in the great scheme of things. But if you believe in yourself, make good decisions and work hard to recognize your potential, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Yes, you can LIVE YOUR DREAMS!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221462000 Blog Mon, 15 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
There is a light at the end of the tunnel... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221375600 ...and it is not a train. If it were, than I am on the wrong side of the canyon! Just as I was nearing the end of the Wind River Canyon, I approached three tunnels in rapid succession. So, since the shoulder of the road pretty much disappeared into the wall of the tunnel, I could either get off the bike and walk it along the curb or pedal like a maniac to get to the other side before a truck came barreling though. Given that there was only about two feet between the tunnel wall and the edge of the curb, either the bike or I would have been hanging out into traffic. So, I decided to put my legs into motion and waited for just the right moment. I had a fairly decent view of the road behind me, so I had enough time to scope out an opening in the traffic flow and make my break. No problemo! I had the camera hanging on the aero bar, so I snapped a photo as I exited the final tunnel. Nice light!

I left the RV park after saying goodbye to my brother and Margo. My folks headed off down the canyon and would meet me in Riverton where I have a talk on Monday on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Even though I celebrated my birthday the day before I actually turned 50, it was great to see everyone and to be surprised as I was.

Dropping out of Thermopolis, the road winds into the Wind River Canyon. Beautiful sandstone bluffs line the entrance from Thermopolis, where the Wind River exits the canyon. The grade up the highway was mild, following the river by hugging the east side of the canyon. The formations within the canyon changed as I headed south toward Shoshoni. The amazing geologic history of the canyon is documented by the state of Wyoming using signs to identify the name and the time period of each formation. Once again, I failed to get a single picture of one of these signs. My apologies.

The canyon was about 13 miles long and I climbed a 5% grade as I hit the south end. Boysen Reservoir is fed by the Wind River as it flows across central Wyoming from the Wind River Mountain range and empties into the canyon as the river flows to the north. I caught my first walleye pike in this lake back in 1970. That fish had some nasty sharp teeth. Not like catching a trout!

Like my exit from Shell Canyon a couple of days before, the landscape changed dramatically as I exited the canyon. Long open prairie with buttes dotting the horizon. The road undulated alongside the reservoir as I headed into Shoshoni. A couple of folks stopped and asked where I was headed. Both of them had ridden across the country a few years earlier and it is always fun to chat and compare experiences.

I had the wind at my back most of the day. Not so much through the canyon, but from Shoshoni to Riverton it was a pleasurable ride. I stopped once to take a break, eat an energy bar and drink some water. I heard voices across the road and saw three young ladies walking across the top of a large collection of hay bales. They just sat there chatting away so I snapped their picture. I think they were oblivious to my presence.

I rolled into Riverton after about 54 miles on the road. I made a point of pedaling by the house I lived in back in the early 1970's. In the yard I found a guy digging in the flower garden beneath my old bedroom window. I called out, told him that I used to live there years before and asked if he would mind taking my picture. His name is Alan and has lived in the house since 1995. He is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and we chatted at length about the prevailing winds in Wyoming, the curious nature of Hurricane Ike and why it didn't build into a much larger hurricane. I thanked him for his time and headed a few blocks farther to meet my folks at the RV park. Another day done and whole bunch more to go! Which is just fine with me!

For today's problem, let's talk about the weather! Since I have been battling the winds off and on during my ride, I would like to determine how the winds may impact my ride from Riverton to the Colorado border. If a low pressure system was centered right over the center of the state, say right smack over Riverton and the center was moving due east, what direction might I expect the winds to come from over the next couple of days? To answer this, you need to know which direction the circulation is around a low pressure system. Since a hurricane is an extreme example of a low pressure system, which way does it circulate? Which direction would the winds be from on the western side of the storm?
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221375600 Blog Sun, 14 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Where's the fire? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221289200 It was the commotion in the RV that got the attention of my dad, brother and me. The RV was rocking a bit and laughter came spilling out the door when my mom and Margo (my assistant from Idaho, remember her?) leapt out with a birthday cake and one sparkler lit up in blazing glory (they couldn't get the other one lit because they were too busy laughing). "Don't light sparklers inside a closed room," so said the fine print on the sparkler package. I guess they were just too excited preparing the birthday cake. Nice way to celebrate my 50th birthday, watching my SAG vehicle go up in flames!

So ended the day, but the beginning was pretty fun too! I left Manderson with a 15 knot quartering tailwind and 52 miles to go to Thermopolis. I stopped in Worland for a coffee and nestled it neatly alongside my Trek bike computer (necessity is still the mother of invention). I enjoyed the sign on the outside of the Latte Da coffee shop. This has been quite the journey, so I thought it was rather appropriate. Where else can you get a cup of coffee, buy a car and have it washed all while getting free wifi! I love Wyoming!

The landscape has changed remarkably since I left the Big Horn Mountains. Lots of antelope scattered across the fields, but too far away to get any decent pictures. I did find this is the place where many cat owners owe a debt of gratitude, because betonite clay is loaded aboard rail car after rail car and eventually finds its way into your cat's litter box. My cat thanks me!

A few miles after the turn off to Winchester (like Ranchester only different) I found someone had parked Butch's tanker truck out on a hill some 80 years ago and decided to just build a restaurant and paint a sign on the truck. Why let it go to waste....

As I neared Thermopolis, my dad came racing up on his motorcycle. He's had time over the past few days to ride his motorcycle around Riverton and visit places that he hasn't seen in nearly 40 years. After making sure I was still alive and near town, he headed back leaving me to pedal the last remaining hill (which he reminded me still lay ahead). Why do they always put a hill as close to your destination as possible? I think it is a conspiracy by someone in the highway department!

When I was growing up in Riverton back in the late 60's and early 70's we spent some time here in Thermopolis enjoying the hot springs and I looked forward to spending some quality time soaking in the water. The Hot Springs State Park has a public pool that you can use for free, except they limit your use of it to only 20 minutes. I had some fun with the attendant asking if I could get out after 19 minutes and climb back in at 21 minutes. He wasn't amused, but it was fun nonetheless!

For today's problem, if the pool temperature is roughly 104 degrees F how many degrees Kelvin would that be? Just for fun, at what temperature in Kelvin is absolute zero?
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221289200 Blog Sat, 13 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Oh brother where art thou... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221202800 "John, talk to your brother, he's on the phone. He's got a question about planes."

"Planes or instrument flight rule questions?" (He's getting ready for his Instrument Flight Rules Checkride)

"Hey bub, what do you know about Decision Height versus Decision Altitude?"

I go into this lengthy discussion about height above touchdown versus height above airport, yadda yadda yadda. When out of the darkness this guy comes walking along talking on his cell phone. He looks strangely like my brother. Then I realize it is my brother talking to me on his cell phone. Surprise, surprise, surprise... What a nice 50th birthday present. My brother flew all the way to Wyoming to help me celebrate. How nice is that? I was totally surprised and it was a great present. Now I just need to convince him to rent a bike and ride the next 60 miles with me.

Today began as the coldest of the journey so far. I woke up to freezing temps and frost on the windshields. Luckily my bike was tucked into my warm room and the seat wouldn't be an ice cube when I sat on it. I headed down US 14 into a stiff headwind. It took a while for my body to cold soak, but I got into the rhythm of riding fairly quickly and the miles to Granite Pass sped by. The clouds were still hovering low along the mountain tops, but it wasn't raining or moist like the day before. I only had about 1000 vertical feet remaining before I made the summit, so I didn't have too much of a grade to contend with. Along the way, I passed the turn off to a campground with the odd name of "Dead Swede." I know there is a story in there somewhere, but there were no explanations by the roadside. I guess I will just have to research that one on my own.

After having ridden such a steep climb the day before and still having to crank another 1000 foot vertical, I was expecting an imposing summit sign stating that I was crossing Granite Pass, Elevation 9003 feet. Instead, all I found was a tiny county line marker next to a fake cattle guard (lines painted on the ground to resemble metal bars. I guess cows aren't that smart. Maybe they are because I saw cow footprints on both sides of the crossing). Talk about a dejected feeling! No summit sign to mark my accomplishment with the obligatory bike in photo, photo. Instead, I made a point of taking a picture of my GPS with barometric altimeter reading showing 9070 feet as well as a picture of the country line sign. Better something than nothing! For today's problem, why would there be a discrepancy between the altitude my barometric altimeter was reading and the actual elevation of the pass. Remember, my altimeter read 9070 feet and the actual elevation of Granite Pass (without the sign) was 9003 feet.

The next best photo was of the caution sign for an 18 mile steep descent! Yeeee haaaa... I swapped out of my wet inner layer for a nice dry shirt so that I could enjoy the downhill run. The sun came out and it made for a warm and blissful downhill jaunt. I captured it on video as I went screaming around the curves. I think I maxed out around 39 mph as I descended into Shell Canyon. The switchbacks were a thrill and each one brought a new perspective of the canyon into view. One area was devoid of trees, looking as though it held been clear cut for logging when it was actually the result of a tornado back in 1959. And along the ridge, the forest was a strange shade of grey with a smattering of green. It turns out that pine beetle kill had taken out a large portion of the forest following a long drought that left the trees vulnerable to disease.

I was making fantastic time down the canyon and actually had to slow down for a cement truck slowly creeping down the hill. My first time to pass another vehicle while both of us were in motion! Another thing that you notice on a hill like this is that many cars and trucks have been riding their brakes for WAY TOO LONG! Whew! Might be a smart move to open a brake shop at the bottom of the hill (assuming they all make it down in one piece for repairs). The canyon narrowed to a point where it was probably less than 50 yards wide then opened up to reveal a completely different landscape, moving from the mountains to a sandstone desert in less than a mile. This was the most invigorating ride of the journey to date!

I made it through Shell, WY after stopping at Dirty Annie's Restaurant for a bite to eat, large chocolate milkshake and French dip sandwich (I was told I could eat like this since I would be burning so many calories). From Shell I continued down through Greybull and turned south toward Worland. The wind seemed to be constantly stalking me from the front the entire ride and it became even more pronounced as I headed south. I pulled into Manderson after turning over 68 miles and decided this would be a good place to stop and continue on to Thermopolis in the morning. I'm hoping my brother can find a bike somewhere in town and make the last few miles with me.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221202800 Blog Fri, 12 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Making mountains out of molehills http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221116400 I don't know what your definition of a hill is. I'm from Oklahoma. We have hills in Oklahoma. It is not flat like many people might think. There are mountains too. And they call them mountains. For example, the Wichita and the Quachita MOUNTAINS! So imagine my surprise when I crest what I think is Granite Pass and lo and behold I see a sign, "Cutler Hill, Elevation 8347 FT." Cutler HILL? HILL? They call this a HILL? I would hate to see what they call a mountain. I need to have my astronaut/geologist friend Jim Reilly have a talk with these people. Ok, let's do the math! My starting elevation was 3773 feet and the height of the HILL was 8347 feet! What's the difference? The distance covered from bottom to top was 24.6 miles. Assume that is a straight line distance (it's not, check out Google Earth) what would be the horizontal distance covered? What would be the angle of the climb?

And what a climb it was. I have to admit that I had a late start. My alarm went off at 5:30 and it was raining hard outside. I went back to sleep and woke up again around 7:00. It was still raining, just not as hard. I lounged around for a bit and had breakfast at a local cafe. The rain finally relented and I climbed back on the bike. I started pedaling around 10:00 believing I could crest the pass and still make a screaming downhill run to Greybull, about 60 miles away! Boy, was I way off the mark. The climb to the summit of the HILL was nearly 5 hours and I still had another fifteen to go to crest Granite Pass which is 1000 feet higher! I ate a late lunch near Burgess Junction and realized there was no way I could crest Granite Pass and find a place to sleep before night fell. I was dripping wet from a combination of sweat and rainfall and running out of dry layers to change into. Luckily the Bear Lodge Resort lies at the intersection of US 14 and US 14A and they had a room special of $55 a night (with a laundry). So, here I sit in warm comfort with wireless internet, getting ready for a summit push in the early am with my screaming downhill for tomorrow. I should be able to make Worland by nightfall and Thermopolis by mid-day Saturday. I want lounge in the hot springs for at least a few hours!

Even though I didn't make Granite Pass, it was an awesome day. Winding switchbacks that climbed into the clouds with a 6-7% grade all of the way. A relentless climb, but absolutely enjoyable. I just seem to get into this rhythm and the miles just pass by, albeit slowly, but they pass by nonetheless. It's fun to look back at the switchbacks below and realize that I had climbed so far. Something that is very odd when you climb this pass is the rock formations that are exposed by the road cut. The State of Wyoming has marked each road cut with a sign stating the time frame of each formation and the name. What is strange is that as the higher you climb, the dates of the formations get older not younger! As an added bonus to today's problem, see if you can find information on why that is the case in the Big Horn Mountains, at least on the east side. Pretty interesting...

The clouds descended around me like a cotton cloak and the moisture started to bead up on my outer layer. It wasn't raining, but pedaling through the clouds brought the temperature down to around 40 degrees. The chill didn't really hit me until I started my downhill run to the Bear Lodge. Beyond the summit of the HILL, the trees open up to large meadows with cover the landscape. Lots of cows grazing on both sides of the road. Some deer were sprinkled in the mix, but too far away to get pictures. When I stopped for lunch I had the chance to visit with two folks for Britain, Barry and Susan Sisson. They are on a holiday and have traveled as far north as Alaska and through the western states on their way to Minnesota. It sure is fun meeting people from around the world. Always pleasant conversation!

While pedaling through the clouds is quiet and peaceful, I wish I had an opportunity to see some of the vistas that I am sure were laying just off to my left. I did come to one turn out where it said "Overlook." You can tell from the picture that it was just a pipe dream today, but I am sure that it is a staggering view! Maybe next time...

One of the last sights I saw was the flag at half-mast in front of the Burgess Junction Visitor Center. I made me reflect on what I was doing on this day back in 2001. I remember sitting in my office at the Johnson Space Center then running down to the Chief of the Astronaut's office and watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Seeing the flag at half-mast was a poignant reminder of the tragedy that occurred that day and my heart goes out to all of the families and loved ones that felt the tragedy first hand.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221116400 Blog Thu, 11 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Gone with the wind http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221030000 "Frankly Scarlett, I kind of like a 30 knot tailwind..."

"But tomorrow is another windy day!"

I will never, ever, ever complain about the wind again (well, maybe not ever never). I checked the forecast last night and they were predicting 20-30 knots out of the NW. I thought for sure they would be wrong and I would be bucking a headwind the entire way south! Well, thank goodness meteorologist have their good days too! I left Hardin without even pedaling. I should have thrown up a sheet and played pirate on a bike.

"Thar she blows!" Literally! I was easily taking a 20, sometimes up to 30 knots on the tail end. What an effortless way to ride a bike! When I stopped, I felt like someone was pushing on my back! I just pray that the wind stays this way for the next two months. I'll be done before you know it!

Once again the frontage road is my friend. It was nice to stay out of traffic, especially when I was clipping along at 15 to 20 mph on flat ground. I made my turn at Crow Agency in less than one hour and wandered through the town until I found the tribal headquarters. Just as I was talking to a gent walking into the building, three folks came out to greet me. I had called ahead over the past week just to let them know when I would arrive and they were ready for me. I have always been told that the Crow Indians are very tall people and I was not disappointed. Check out the picture of all of us on the front steps and you will see that I am still shorter than Scott and Darrin and I am standing one step up!

A few years back I gave a talk at the school in Lodge Grass, MT and I was given the flag of the Crow Nation and asked if I would fly it in space. Not having been assigned to a flight yet, I took the flag and promised I would, whenever that might be. After I flew, I knew I would bring it back, but I did not just want to mail it or drive up in a car. It was a natural thing to do, deliver it by bicycle! Who'd have thought?

Everyone was so appreciative and I spent some time discussing the flight and describing how items are packaged and flown aboard the shuttle. The flag was still in the sealed pink plastic bag that it flew in. One of their elders shared some very meaningful words about how the Crow people(Apsaalooke) view the heavens and how they honor the moon as their grandmother. He then used sweetgrass and smudged the flag as a blessing and thank me for returning it. I was deeply humbled by their sincerity and kind words. Returning the flag this way was the proper and honorable thing to do.

After spending some quality time with folks from the tribe, I climbed back aboard my Trek and headed south to Ranchester, WY (like Winchester only different). The skies were a bit foreboding when I left Hardin in the morning and the wind brought even darker clouds by the time I left Crow Agency. I sped along at an amazing clip and didn't expend very much of an effort. The road weaved left and right, but never did the wind leave my rear quarter. I turned around a couple of times when something beside the road caught my eye and the wind just hammered me in the face. Thanks goodness I was going south to southeast. It would have been achingly slow to have had to pedal the opposite direction!

The hills rose up on both sides of the Little Big Horn River, but my ride was relatively flat until I had to crest a couple of hills at the MT and WY border. By now the sky was beginning to open up and the rain was starting to come down pretty heavy. The water began to pool on the roadway, most often in the depressions made by the car tires. A couple of times I feared that I would hydroplane off the road when I was cruising along at 20 mph, downhill with the wind. Just about six miles from Ranchester, a fellow in a Toyota pickup pulled alongside and asked if I wanted a ride into town. I guess the fact that I was pedaling in knee deep water left him room for concern (just kidding). Actually, pedaling in the heavy downpour was quite pleasant and it would have taken me longer to get off the bike, empty my gear into the back of his truck and climbed aboard then if I just stayed on the bike.

It has been raining steadily since arriving here at the hotel Tomorrow I will head up US 14 and crest Granite Pass at approximately 9000 feet. The elevation down here in Ranchester is around 3700 feet, so I have quite the climb ahead of me. Steepest pass to date and probably for the entire trip. So, for today's problem, if the temperature down here in Ranchester is roughly 42 degrees, what might the temperature be on top of Granite Pass, assuming a standard adiabatic lapse rate (for those of you that don't know what that means, give the Wiki a try)? Rather than using the fancy formulas you might find on the computer, there is a standard rule of thumb that pilots use when calculating a temperature at altitude. See if you can find what that is...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1221030000 Blog Wed, 10 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Necessity is the mother of invention http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220943600 When you have a warm cup of coffee in hand and you are itching to get pedaling, what do you do? Well, you improvise! This is not some fancy four cup holder touring bike. This is necessity in action! Where there is a will, there is a way. The tricky part is getting it to my lips without weaving all over the road. Remember the bike safety video? Kids, don't do this at home. For that matter, don't start drinking coffee... Speaking of coffee, I forgot to mention this yesterday. While I was riding west of Columbus, I kept noticing coffee cups littering the side of the road. Not your standard, run of the meal generic coffee cup from a local convenience store, but coffee cups from McDonalds. Given that I had not seen a Mickey D's since Bozeman, it was surprising just how many there were. I counted 20 cups (complete with lids) in a little over two miles. I lost track after that. They just kept coming. And all from McDonalds. Not a single one from Starbucks. So, using this as a totally unscientific survey of the coffee industry, I would say that Starbucks should be worried about Mickey D's coffee. Maybe that is why they are closing stores...

I left my folks at the RV park for points east (me) and points south (them). I followed the frontage road along I-90, crossing over the Yellowstone River for the last time. I had to judge the traffic just right, because they narrow the bridges down to no shoulder and you have to sprint to get to the other side before a semi comes barreling up the highway. Luckily I didn't become a hood ornament and eventually found the turn off to Hwy 87 and Hardin, MT. I pulled off for coffee and rigged my bike accordingly. I asked the woman behind the counter if I could expect any type of store on Hwy 87 and she quickly replied, "Not a chance." So, I bought some peanut butter crackers, made sure all four water bottles were filled and hopped on my trusty steed.

Hwy 87 was such a pleasant change from the frontage road. The highway started a gradual climb out of the valley and hugged the bluffs to the east. I left a few houses behind and began a winding climb up a 6% grade. I kept looking back over my shoulder and noticing how rapidly the lush green trees along the banks of the Yellowstone River faded into the distance. And back beyond the valley, the mountains of western Montana were barely visible. I am amazed at how far I have come in such a short time. Every mile just slips by and pretty soon I have covered a large distance. I was also trying to imagine how this valley looked a couple of hundred years ago. It would be great to step back in time and see what it would have been like to have lived and grown up here years ago. Sigh....

I crested the top of the bluff and began a winding descent into a beautiful golden canyon. Sandstone cliffs lined both sides of the road and cottonwood trees were snuggled into the creek beds. It was all downhill through the canyon and across the turnoff to Chief Plenty Coups State Park. From there the land opened up into a treeless plain stretching off to the horizon, golden fields of hay on both sides of the road and bluffs rising to the north. The road took a few turns cutting through hills, with prairie dog towns popping up occasionally. Every time I heard the chirping bark of the prairie dog, I would inevitably see hawks circling overhead. I guess they knew where the good hunting occurs. Increase your chances for success by flying over a smorgasbord. High above the hawks, I caught my first glimpse of a bald eagle since leaving Neah Bay, WA. He circled effortlessly in the noon day sun and I tried getting a picture, however in vain it might have been and out of focus, but he was there! They say the eagle flies closest to the Creator, one of the reasons it is held in such high esteem by Native Americans.

The road straightened and stretched out the horizon. It looked like someone had pulled a string taunt and laid it on the ground. The climbs were gradual and gave me the opportunity to pull off and take photos back into the distance. Again, I was amazed at how far I had pedaled in such a short time. This bike riding is great stuff!

Hwy 87 merged alongside I-90 again and headed slightly right of my destination before angling back to the northeast. I was met at the outskirts of Hardin by a rather imposing water tower, leaving no doubt as to my location. I chose to get room here, before heading off to Crow Agency tomorrow. I plan on reaching WY by tomorrow night and pointing myself back over the Big Horns on Wednesday. I want to reach Thermopolis and the hot springs in time for my birthday!

I have finally decided to take the time to get my GPS in order. I spent a better part of the afternoon trying to get customer service from Garmin. After waiting 35 minutes for my first technical service representative (and promptly losing the connection) and trying again for another 20, I finally reached Troy! Thank goodness! I dumped a myriad of problems on him and he graciously led me through a variety of software upgrades which will hopefully solve my problems. I will give it my first test run tomorrow and report back to him how it works. One of my issues dealt with the GPS locking up in map mode and having to power it down to reset. Another dealt with straight line segments appearing in the Google Earth after I upload my course for the day. It looks like I cut across people's lawns and around corners, part of the reason that my mileage has been slightly different than my Trek. So, for today's assignment, let's dig into GPS or Global Positioning System. A constellation of GPS satellites circles the earth at what altitude? Are these satellites in geosynchronous orbit (what is a geosynchronous orbit) like a lot of communications satellites? If not, are they lower or higher in orbit? For now, let's just become familiar with the satellites and where they are located. Later we will get into how they communicate with all of these GPS units running around the world in cars, airplanes, bicycles and yes, the Space Shuttle and International Space Station...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220943600 Blog Tue, 9 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Ahoy matey! http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220857200 Argh! Thar she blows! Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! What in the world is a pirate doing in the middle of Montana? I asked the very same thing to one pirate named Elmer in Reeds Point, MT. Elmer is the sole proprietor of the Pirates Cove, named in honor the Reeds Point Pirates. I shared a warm cup of coffee with Elmer amidst a plethora of antiques and knick knacks within a converted gymnasium while the fog slowly burned off. For today's problem, let's talk nautical since we are dealing with pirates. Two questions: 1) what is a fathom? 2) what do we mean by knots and how was it used by sailors as a measure of speed? Look these up on Wikipedia. Fun nautical trivia...

The chill of the morning bit right through me. The temperature was slightly above 38 degrees as I walked out of The Fort in Big Timbers, MT. The fog was hanging low as I pedaled out of town toward the frontage road. I was immediately struck by an amazing sight. The fog had lifted just above the ground and the sun was splitting through and illuminating the surface. Wisps of fog were rising in small vortices, like tiny tornadoes spinning across the prairie.

The frontage road paralleled I-90 for quite a distance. Only once did I have to ride the shoulder for about 10 miles, the remainder of the time I wandered either north or south of the interstate. One of the joys of pedaling slowly through the countryside is that you can catch a glimpse of the smallest objects that you would never see from the window of a car speeding by at 70 mph. I glanced over into the ditch and saw a small bird's nest planted firmly in the branches of a tiny bush. I spun the bike back around (I was going a bit fast for pedaling slowly) and took a picture. Quite a precarious place to raise a family of birds!

I-90 and the frontage road runs alongside the Yellowstone River. It is by far the largest river I have come across on my journey. It's a pristine river, but the close proximity of the interstate and the associated noise takes something away. It is certainly a visually stunning river, especially with the snow capped mountains rising in the background.

I rolled through Columbia, MT and started pedaling against a nasty headwind. The forecast for Big Timbers called for light winds out of the south and southeast, but someone got that wrong. I climbed out of the Yellowstone River valley and up onto the bluff with the wind getting stronger as I neared the top. As I rounded a bend, a huge golden eagle flew alongside the cliff and weaved through the trees. I was hoping to catch a photo of him sitting on the bluff, but he disappeared into the trees. I could hear him, but couldn't see him. This was the second one I had seen today. The other circled high above me and you could hear his calls. I have always been in awe of this majestic animal and to see two in one day was especially powerful.

My day went by very quickly. The wind shifted back around to my right rear quarter and gave me a significant push towards Billings. I stopped for a drink in a local grocery store in the town of Park City (not to be confused with the one in Utah) and met a gentleman that was just getting out of his truck.

"How many miles have you pedaled?"

"Since the beginning? About 1230 miles."

"Where'd you get the eagle feather?"

"Neah Bay, WA and the Makah Nation. I'm Chickasaw, what tribe are you?"


"Well, I have the Crow Nation flag in my pack and am going to return it tomorrow. I flew it in space a few years ago and I guess it is about time I give it back."

"Which space did you fly it in?"

I pointed up! "The one up there."

"Cool. They will be thrilled. They may even buy you dinner or something! Have a great ride!"

I always meet neat people, every day on this journey. Today was no exception!

I made it to Billings and plan on making it to Crow Agency and Lodge Grass tomorrow! Maybe I will get dinner there....

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220857200 Blog Mon, 8 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Let's talk turkey! http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220770800 I thought I ran across (not literally) my first close up view of wildlife! As I got closer, the turkeys started to hunker down and didn't seem too concerned about going anywhere. Usually I'm a pretty good gobbler, but that was not the case today. As I stood there and took pictures, a lady and her son came out of a nearby house and up to the road.

"They've been wandering up here and hanging out on the corner. I'm afraid someone might steal them," she said.

One word from her and the turkeys started gobbling up a storm. They were pretty much domesticated, so I am still striking out in the wildlife category.

I woke at 4:00 am to the sound of rain coming down on the RV. I am busually pretty content to hear the sound of raindrops on a tin roof, but not so when it comes to biking. Starting out another day on the bike in the cold, wind and rain. I bundled up and hit the road around 8:30. It was about 8 miles to town, so I made a beeline for the first local coffee shop I could find. An extra large vanilla latte to start my day off. As it usually happens, the rain tapers off when I go inside a store and starts back up when I leave. I think someone is trying to tell me something.

Luckily, Hwy 191 parallels I-90 for a bit before merging onto the interstate. I stayed on the frontage road as best I could, but inevitably I would have to climb back into traffic. Bozeman Pass rises rapidly out of the valley with a 6% grade. It was wet and windy the entire way up (and down). I came across a sign that said I could see grizzlies in five miles. Behind a fence would be fine. They were closed for the season, so they probably let the bears go and they would be waiting for me as I pedaled by (har har).

The passes must be getting easier or my thighs are getting stronger. Everyone I meet that has traveled in this area tells me that I will meet my match in the Big Horn Mountains. Bring 'em on baby! Bring 'em on....

The ride downhill was not as exciting as some of the other passes, with the wind straight into my face at around 20 knots. I guess I am getting the payback for having the wind at my back the day before. There is something to be said for having to down shift while pedaling downhill. There is just something wrong about that! Which brings me to my problem for the day! Wind chill! What exactly is wind chill and how is it calculated? Is there a formula you can use? Here are some figures you can use to determine just how cold it was for me today going over the pass. The outside air temperature was about 40 degrees F. I was pedaling downhill at 20 mph and the wind was blowing about 20 mph. What would be the actual wind I was experiencing? What would be the resulting temperature?

I pulled off the highway at Livingston and met the turkeys hanging out at the corner. Rough bunch! From there I wandered through town and found an awesome Mexican restaurant. Bean and cheese burrito with green chile! The best one I have had since I used to visit Henri's Mexican Restaurant in Colorado Springs! There is just something about having Mexican food after working out in the mountains.

After lunch the sun came out but I was still a bit chilled from the ride down the pass. I dress in layers, but my inner layer tends to get soaked from sweat, so I end up getting cold in the long run. Even though my outer layers are breathable, I still have to shed the cold inner layer. I'm going to swap over to some form of thin wool or silk, so I can at least stay warm without having to swap shirts all of the time. I pedaled off into a strong headwind which stayed with me for the remainder of the ride. There was road construction along I-90, but I was able to hem and weave off and on the frontage road whenever the interstate necked down to two lanes. At one point I came across two fields that butted up against each other and there were two very distinct shades of green. Whoever said the grass is greener on the other side of the fence never mentioned the shade... A little farther down the highway, I came across a car that was broken down. The license plate caught my eye, so I just had to get a picture. NDN! As in Indian... NDN KAR. Very nice...

About the time I was struggling into the wind, I thought,

"I would be great to see a flag or something so that I can gauge the wind speed."

Lo and behold, a wind sock, out in the middle of nowhere! I have to be careful what I start asking for... I assume this is a 15 knot windsock, which means if it is standing straight out, the wind is around 15 knots. So, maybe around 10 - 12 knots judging by the way it is hanging.

On my last stretch into Big Timber, MT, the frontage road was wide open with NO traffic. I took the liberty of setting up my mini tripod and getting an interesting perspective of the Big Sky and your's truly. My gloves were still wet from my ride down the pass, so I decided to use my aero bars as a clothes line. I think everyone that passed me thought I was a really friendly guy! Waving at everyone and anything...

I met my folks in town and we indulged in milk shakes and hamburgers at the Frosty Freeze, before heading out to the Spring Creek Campground. It is situated on the Boulder River and my dad parked right on the bank. The window will be open tonight and the sound of the water will lull me to sleep.

To end with a funny story, the owner of the campground, Sophie Stewart, told me how she once had the opportunity to view at launch in Florida back in the 60's. She doesn't quite recall the exact date, but she had heard that some of the astronauts were allowed to invite their favorite Hollywood movie star to view a launch. One of the stars invited was Jimmy Stewart so she decided that she would be his daughter for the day and went to the gate of KSC stating that she was supposed to meet her father there. When the guards asked her who it was she said, "Jimmy Stewart." They asked her for her ID, which said, Sophie Stewart. They let her in and she saw a launch! She wasn't really interested in seeing Jimmy Stewart! Funny how space flight can affect people...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220770800 Blog Sun, 7 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
You're going where? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220684400 The standard question every long distance cyclists gets after someone asks once where you are going. Not a double negative, but close.

"You're going where?"

Usually, I am on the receiving end of the question. Not today. I had the good fortune of running into a Japanese cyclist named Hiro. Sorry, didn't get the last name because his English was very limited and my Japanese is nearly non-existent. Except for a polite hello, thank you and goodbye, I spoke slowly as we tend to do to someone who doesn't speak English. Like that helps...

Hiro was cycling from Prudhoe Bay, AK to Tierra del Fuego in South America. For today's problem, locate both places on a map and calculate how for apart they are. Preferrably not as the crow flies, but as the bicyclist pedals. I thought across the US was far. My ride doesn't hold a candle to Hiro's adventure.

"I survived the Arctic Circle" was proudly adhered to his bike. He was fully loaded with everything anyone could want on a long-distance bike ride. Including a trailer and a power kickstand in the form of a pole that lodged up under his seat and stuck to the ground. You might be able to see it in the picture. This is one of those times I wish I could speak another language fluently. I would like to speak a lot of languages fluently. I only know a little of some, but not enough of any! One of the things that I think we could do better in this country is travel overseas more and make an effort to get to know people and the languages they speak. I have been fortunate to travel to many places around the world, but I still wish I had the capability of speaking to others in their native tongue. We would be far better off in this country, politically, if that were the norm. Ignorance of others is not a way to have meaningful relationships and discussions with foreign governments. Ok, off of my soapbox...

The morning started out rainy and cold. I lumbered out of the RV fuly decked out for the nasty weather, loaded up my stuff and headed off down the road toward Townsend. The campground was just north of the town by about 5 miles and it was all downhill and with a tailwind again! I crossed the Missouri River and headed straight for Three Rivers. I decided against heading across the state on Hwy 12, thinking I might not be able to find shelter as readily as I would to the south. It turns out that Hwy 191 runs parallel to I-90 for quite a distance and since it runs next to the Yellowstone River, I thought it would be a good option. If I had not gone this way, I would not have bumped into Hiro. Thank goodness for small favors again!

The day was relatively uneventful except for my meeting Hiro. I found some humor alongside the road in the form of a huge headlight from some massive vehicle. I thought it would make for an amusing photo, attached to my bike!

"Use your headlights for safety!"

"How's this one for size?"

The skies began to clear and the temps started to come up. I shed a few layers and took advantage of the stops to take some breathtaking photos back across the valley and into the mountains. Once again, the pictures do not do justice to the awesome scenery. The expansive valley was bright golden with the clouds making for a stunning backdrop against the mountains. I always try to catch the road in the picture to give a good perspective on just how vast the valley is. I hope that is apparent in the pictures.

After I met Hiro, I hustled down the road trying to outrun a huge rain storm to the west. I was just getting hit by the first few drops when I pulled into the Montana Wheat Bakery along I-90. My folks were waiting with a scrumptous ham and turkey sandwich and cold green tea! I AM GETTING SPOILED!

I turned down I-90 for about three miles before jumping on Hwy 205 which ran parallel to the north of the interstate. It was much more pleasant than dealing with the traffic, even though it meandered a bit more and well as having a few hills thrown in for good measure.

I rolled through Logan and came across a truck with rather dubious announcement.

"We Do Anything."


Given there was no one around to ask, I guess one thing they don't do is answer questions! I did however see them a ways down the road, slopping muck out of horse stalls, so at least I know of one thing that they do!

One thing that is nice about side roads in the country, very few people use them, unless they live nearby. Once you get closer to town, that story changes. The traffic gets heavier and the shoulder stays just as narrow! It gets much more interesting and somewhat of a concern as you near town. Crossing through Belgrade and on into Bozeman it was all I could do to concentrate on the traffic and keep myself as close to the edge of the road as humanly possible without becoming part of the roadside vegetation. I did find a very nice ski glove that I stopped for, hoping I would find it's match further down the road. No such luck, so I left it on a post beside the road in a permanent wave, waiting for the next roadside scavenger!

I came into Bozeman, met my folks and then followed them to the KOA campground out on Hwy 191. It was a bit of a back track, but worth it since they have a hot springs here. Once I finish the blog, it is the pool for me. They open at sundown and stay open until midnight!

Tomorrow I head toward Billings, hoping I can get to Lodge Grass, MT by Tuesday morning. From there I will head south into WY and cross over the Big Horn mountains. My biggest pass to date! Should be fun! Hills are fun!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220684400 Blog Sat, 6 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Has anyone seen my glasses? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220598000 I would have to say I have been a very lucky guy. For almost 44 years of my life, I was able to pick up a book and read without the use of glasses. I have a deep appreciation for those that are not fortunate to have 20/20 vision. When you reach your late 40's, the world up close becomes blurry! So, with that said, I still didn't pick up my glasses when looking at a map of the pass between Lincoln and Helena. Fletcher? Sounds like Fletcher! Must be Fletcher. I'll call it Fletcher! What? Flesher? Flesher Pass? Really?

"Pumpkin, fetch my glasses! Good dog!"

The day started off cold and foggy. Snow on the peaks to the north in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I rolled out of the campground, fully dressed for the 34 degree temperature. For today's problems, what temperature in degrees Fahrenheit does water freeze? What is that in Celsius? Is there a temperature where Fahrenheit and Celsius are equal?

The clouds hung low across the mountains to the south. I had climbed steadily up the day before and only about 1000 vertical feet remained to crest the Continental Divide at Flesher (yes, Flesher) Pass. On the way out of Lincoln a sign caught my attention and I had to do a double take. I turned around and chuckled as I took the picture.

"MT Poverty Well Drilling"
"Going in the hole is our business"

The geniuses on Madison Avenue could not have come up with a better slogan. I'm still chuckling as I type this.

I turned the corner from Hwy 200 toward Helena and was met by a brand new asphalt road. Smoothest road I have pedaled yet. I shed some of my clothing in preparation for the climb to the summit. The mountains closed in around me and a small river ran to the right of the road most of the way. I kept looking for elk or moose, but I must be too noisy. I haven't seen anything yet. My folks passed by and tossed a granola bar out of the window. It lodged in my helmet and sent me screaming over the side of the road. Bounding down hundreds of feet to the river below. I gathered what remained of my bike, my good humor and choice words for my loving parents... (just kidding). Actually, it's kind of nice when a car rolls up and someone hands you something to eat and fills your water bottles. I could get used to this. I'm getting spoiled!

My folks rolled ahead and would be waiting for me at the top of the pass. The few miles to the top rolled by quickly and I soon found myself on the Continental Divide at Flesher Pass. I was expecting some moving moment, with the clouds parting and sunshine beaming down. Instead, I found the entire collection of Montana's paving trucks and signs lined up awaiting my arrival. Funny, but less than esthetically pleasing!

Like a said before, the upside to a hill is that it has a downside. In this case, a HUGE downside! I was going so fast, no one passed me! Not even the logging trucks! The only problem was it gets a bit chilly at the those speeds, so I had to stop for a bit to add a layer over my jacket.

I rolled on down the road and eventually broke out into golden hills, leaving the pine forest behind. I stopped at the first store I came to in Canyon Creek. Indy (short for Indiana Jones) met me on the way out of the store. I have no idea where he was when I went in, but he has waiting for a tummy rub on my way out. I asked the owner why he was named Indy. She said it used to be Undy, but didn't think it suited him. I didn't ask why...

The road into Helena was mostly downhill, but I found myself fighting a slight headwind. A common theme among cyclists, we can handle hills, because we know when they end. Wind is a different story. It comes from here, shifts to there, blows left, blows right, and occasionally, but not often, from behind! I met Liz Gundersen from the Helena Exploration Works and she provided directions through town so that I could do a short piece for a local TV station and meet some of her staff. I had already traveled 54 miles by this time and still had another 30 to go, so I didn't have a chance to visit long. I appreciated her enthusiasm and hope I can return in the future and spend more time.

For the first time on this journey, the wind was howling at my back. I must have picked up a 20-25 knot tailwind and went flying out of town. I think I peaked at 30 mph on level ground! The only thing that slowed me down was a craving for an A&W root beer in a tall frosty mug and to take a picture of The Man Store sign. Beer and bait! I bet they don't have a problem doing inventory...

I breezed down Hwy 12 toward Townsend and my folks waiting at a KOA campground. I made one final stop at the Western Store and was informed that the last 5 miles of my ride was all downhill. After a long day in the saddle, I was ready for a break and it is ALWAYS nice when gravity and wind work in your favor!

I had a great day. I hope everyone else did too!

I am still having issues with the Garmin and tried to use the "every second" recording method so that my route is much more detailed. In the process, the instruction manual said that in this recording mode the memory is only capable of holding about 4.5 hours worth of data before data is overwritten (which happened yesterday). They recommended that you reset the unit before 4.5 hours so that you could retain the data and it would not be overwritten. Well, I did that and poof, I lost the middle leg over Flesher Pass. Gone! In the ether! Disappeared! Darn! I have the before and after legs, but not the middle. I sure am glad that I stuck my Trek computer on at the last minute in Seattle!

Tomorrow I will go back to the "Smart Recording" method and deal with the less detailed route recording.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220598000 Blog Fri, 5 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Row versus Wade http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220511600 Given the heightened political season, the first thing on the mind of everyone in Montana is.... "Row versus Wade?"

For those of you that don't understand the political satire behind this joke, my apologies. I just couldn't resist! When Don told me this after having taken a photo of three guys in a row boat and two guys in waders fishing, I was cracking up! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! Row versus Wade....

I left the RV park this morning around 7:30 am and made my way over to Adventure Cycling Association's headquarters. Once there I met Aaron, who was taking pictures for a story about Rocketrek he would like to write for their magazine. He also brought his kids along so they could meet me. I gave them a couple of stickers, took some pictures and then one of his sons kept saying,

"Come on dad. I want to get to school so I can do some math!"

Yea!!! This bike ride might be working after all!!

One of the co-founders of Adventure Cycling, Greg Siple, took some black and white photos for a art project that he has which has documented hundreds of cyclists that have come by his office over the years. It is a very fine art exhibit that spans decades of cycling. Greg was one of four people back in the 1970's that rode from Anchorage, AK to the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego! Over 18,000 miles! Wow! It was called Hemistour and was documented by National Geographic. If you have any of the old magazines lying around the house, take a look and see what they endured. Adventure Cycling Association (formerly Bikecentennial) is an outgrowth of that amazing adventure!

From downtown Missoula, Don Lange and I headed up Hwy 200 for Lincoln. Don rode with me for 40 miles before reluctantly turning for home. I really value his company and sense of purpose. Kindred spirits we are, that's for sure! I took some parting shots of him as he headed back down the road. I'll be back in the near future, of that I am sure! Thanks bunches Don, to you and your family! So, here's a math problem that will probably make you cringe...

If two guys leave Missoula and pedal 40 miles before one turns back and the other continues on, how long will it take one of the riders to reach 80 miles if traveling at 12 mph? If the other rider is pedaling at 10 mph, how far will he have traveled when the first rider reaches 80 miles?

The ride along the Big Blackfoot River was outstanding. Nice even grades and beautiful vistas. The Bob Marshall Wilderness came up on my left and provided a stunning backdrop with passing rain and snow showers hugging the tops of the peaks along the Continental Divide. The wind starting picking up the closer I came to the mountains and was pretty steady around 10 knots or so. I made a smart move back in Missoula and picked up a Mountain Hardware Windstopper jacket and breathable rain jacket from REI. Together they cut the wind to nothing and I stayed warm and toasty the remainder of the afternoon.

I know I am not the only one, so don't anyone start off by saying John is crazy, but we all have a little voice in the back of our heads that chimes in once and awhile when we start to do something that might not be in our best interests. Right? Work with me here.... Anyway, even if you don't, I do! That little voice has followed me through the better part of 40 years and is usually right about 99.999999999999% of the time. For those times that I chose to ignore that little voice, I have regretted it 99.999999999999% of the time. So, today when it started to chime in, I naturally paid attention. I was headed up the road, just starting to pass a side road that led down to a small town called Ovando, MT (pronounced like, 'O 1969 Chevy "van" do') when I made a u-turn and wandered into the small town. I came upon "The Stray Bullet" cafe and gift shop, nestled on the south side of the main street. I doffed (astronaut term for took off) my riding helmet and gloves and went inside for coffee. Two gentleman sat near the front window, deeply immersed in conversation. A older woman sat against the far wall, nursing the final bites of a noon meal. And Nancy, the owner and resident barista sat behind the counter at the far end of the shop. The walls were adorned with classic western art, chaps, rope and saddle. Framed pictures of old Hollywood western movie stars dotted the log framed walls. I grabbed my coffee and sat back in an oak chair and looked through the front window at the mountain range in the distance and the dark clouds rolling by. Nancy walked up and asked how far I was riding.

"Today or eventually?" Came my standard reply.

I told her I was headed to Lincoln to meet my folks, but eventually on to Florida. She asked how long it might take me and I told her probably November. I also mentioned I had a few stops along the way to speak at schools and some reservations. She thought for a moment, then said,

"Were you in the newspaper today?"


She grabbed a copy of The Missoulian, section B and there I was. A patriotic picture against a backdrop of the Stars and Stripes. The article covered my talk at Hellgate Elementary and was fun to read. The writer obviously enjoyed the subject matter. I signed the paper for Nancy and gave her card to my website. We chatted a bit more and she graciously ran across the street to get the last remaining copy at the post office. She gave me section B to give to my folks and we chatted some more before I rode out of town. I turned when I reached the highway and took an awesome photo back down the road I came and the mountains in the distance. This is truly a spectacular place and I am grateful I listened to that little voice. I could have kept me head down and continued up the road, leaving Ovando for someone else, but I would have missed something very special. It is a lot like spaceflight, riding a bike. You can spend all of your time working incredibly hard to accomplish the task and not take the time to look around. If you do, you will most certainly miss something and come to regret you didn't stop to smell the roses. A lot of folks that ride cross-country seem intent on high mileage. 100 to 120 miles per day! But what does that get you? It gets you to the end more quickly than you should. And you miss out on the little and spectacular things along the way. Never take for granted that there is a world around you waiting to be discovered. It's the small things in life that add to the joy of being alive!

I pressed on and eventually came to the intersection of 141 and 200. I stayed to the left and found the road becoming more narrow. The wind picked up as it was funneled through the canyon that bordered the river. I stopped the bike and put on my rain jacket just as the drops started to get bigger. Painted on the ground by a previous well meaning cyclist (I think) were the words,


I looked up again at the narrow road and how the guardrail now appeared to be more ominous than before. No shoulder, just a huge metallic guardrail holding me in check for the next "Mean Truck." Great! Sixteen miles to Lincoln and mean trucks on the loose. This will be fun!

No problem whatsoever! Everyone gave me ample room and the ride was gentle and relaxing. The river was beautiful and meandered slowly along my right side. I kept looking for signs of moose in the tall brush, but no joy. The most wildlife I had seen all day were numerous grasshoppers inhabiting the shoulder of the road. They seemed to wait until just before my tire came within striking distance to jump to the side. I bet they have to deal with the "Mean Trucks" too!

The road wandered back and forth until finally leveling out for a straight shot into Lincoln. The sun was obscured by the cloud cover and the temperature had dropped into the low 50's. I gave my folks a call and found them half way through town at an empty campground. I climbed off the bike after putting about 84 miles on the wheels in my first day back in the saddle. After taking a week off of the bike, it was obvious my legs and behind only had about 80 miles worth of endurance today. It was nice to be greeted by fire baked potatoes and BBQ. My day ended with a deer wandering up to the side of the RV and looking longingly into the window. I grabbed some grapes and sat on the step, coaxing the deer closer. After tossing a few at her feet she came forward and starting eating out of my hand. Nice finishing touch to a splendid journey!

Some of you may wonder why you do not see my entire route on Google Earth, only the remaining 40 miles or so into Lincoln. I changed the data recording parameter to every second, since my previous routes were a lot of straight line segments and did not exactly follow the road. By changing it to every second, I record more data and the route actually comes out more precise, except the Garmin overwrites data because there is so much. It just doesn't let you know it's doing it. I have an additional 2GB micro flash card on the Garmin, but that doesn't seem to help. I will investigate it tomorrow. I would prefer to have the exact route plotted out, so I will find some way to write the data to the flash card. My apologies....
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220511600 Blog Thu, 4 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Gee, I wonder what's behind this door? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220425200 Not the typical sign you might see during a bike ride. If it were, I wouldn't need a headlight. I'd be glowing all the way down the road...

My last day in Missoula started at the Hellgate Elementary School and finished with a short ride from Don's to my new SAG wagon (Support And Gear) ie, mom and dad wagon... I guess since they have been supporting me for the past few years, doing it at age fifty should be just fine! Does this mean I pay them an allowance?

I gave two presentations at Hellgate and then sat down and had lunch with 12 students and did some one on one questions and answers. Lots of fun. Once again, the teachers and students were great. Lots of enthusiasm and many good questions. It's very reassuring to know that kids have an interest in learning and space stuff really gets them energized. A good loud video of a launch, astronauts living and working (playing with food is always a crowd pleaser) in space are perfect ingredients to motivate students to ask good questions.

From Hellgate, Don gave me a lift down to the Saint Patrick Hospital Cancer Treatment Center where his wife Kim works. I met the staff and I was given an awesome tour of the facility. The technology they have at their disposal is quite remarkable. I discussed some of the aspects that the astronauts have to be concerned about regarding radiation exposure and how we measure the levels of radiation we are exposed to. During an EVA(space walk) we are required to wear three dosimeters on our body which provide our flight surgeons with a measure of radiation exposure. As astronauts, we were required to track the amount of exposure we incur during flight so that we would ensure that we did not exceed a certain level. Exposure to high levels of radiation can lead to some forms of cancer, so it is in our best interests to know just how much radiation comes our way. For our science questions of the day, what exactly is radiation and from what sources does it come? Is there an acceptable level of radiation that we can incur over the course of a year? How is a dose of radiation measured? Can radiation be used to treat cancer?

I've included some pictures of the equipment that is used to treat some forms of cancer (that answers the last question). The white mask that I am wearing is used (with lasers) to pinpoint exactly on the body (in this case my head) where the radiation is directed to attack the cancer. Amazing piece of hardware!! Thanks to the staff (and Kim Lange) for taking time to share your facility with me.

Following my hospital tour, I dropped in on the folks at Adventure Cycling Association (http://www.adventurecycling.org/) and discussed the best route out of Missoula and on through MT, WY and CO. Lots of great information. I also picked up the picture of Rob and his dog Patty (Cleopatra). See, I told you there was a dog! I will head back in tomorrow with my bike on the way out of town and take a picture of the entrance to the shop. They have a wall of pictures of everyone that has come through this year on a bike tour. Remarkable number of people on the road touring! I missed a couple from Norman, OK that is pedaling to the center of every state in the union. I believe they have visited 41 states to date. Sorry I missed you guys when I was in town. Planning on WY or CO anytime soon?

I made my final stop back at Don's house, packed up my gear and hopped back on the bike. It was great to get back on the pedals, even if it was only for a few miles. Don and his kids joined me for the ride to the KOA campground. Don will join me for the ride out of town tomorrow and lead me up Hwy 200 for about 30 miles. He has been a great source of information and become a good friend. I will value his friendship and advice for years to come! Thanks so much for making my stay in Missoula a memorable one!

See everyone on the road tomorrow!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220425200 Blog Wed, 3 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Has anyone seen my glove? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220338800 I know I left that glove around here somewhere... hmmm...

I seem to be writing a lot about dogs lately. The peaceful dog turned rabid monster, easy rider Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lucy the 12 month old retriever....

Yes, Lucy the retriever! And what a good retriever she is. Lucy belongs to Don Lange and is a wonderfully spirited dog that took a liking to my scent. When I left my bike at Don's house and headed down to Durango, Lucy really must have missed me so she tracked down my scent and, viola, my glove! Don felt bad so I now have a new pair of gloves (thanks Don) to continue my ride (which begins again on Thursday). Lucy is a sweetheart and her family has been wonderful to me. Kim, Don, Kevin, Christopher and Andrew, fed me and my folks some fabulous BBQ on Monday! Thanks bunches!

My parents have joined me for my trip across Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. They will drive ahead and pre-position their RV to give me a place to stay. Now I can off load some of my gear (tent, sleeping bag, thermorest pad, stove, gas, etc...) and really fly! I hope to be in Lodge Grass, MT by the following Monday or Tuesday. I will be shooting to complete 80-100 miles a day. We will see how it goes.

I spent today speaking to a lot of students on the Flathead Reservation. This is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (www.cskt.org) and is one of the most spectacular places in North America. If you ever have a chance to visit Flathead Lake near Polson, MT, the view will take your breath away! Stunning mountains alongside one of the largest freshwater lakes in North America. Down right gorgeous!

And the folks here are fantastic. It was a pleasure to share the story of spaceflight and my journey to the astronaut corps. I visited three schools (Arlee, St. Ignatius Mission School, and Two Eagle River School), Salish Kootenai College, the Tribal Council, and The People's Center before the day was done. It was a lot of work, but everyone was such a pleasure to work with and the students were very enthusiastic. Lots of interest and some great questions. To top off this fabulous day, The Chief Cliff Singers honored me with an Honor Song at the Tribal Council and again at the People's Center. I have never heard a more powerful and moving drum group. I hope to upload a portion of the song so that you might get a chance to hear some of their music. For those of you that have not had the privilege of listening to Native American drum, the music and power of the drum stirs right into your soul. To be honored by the Chief Cliff Singers was especially moving! Thanks so much guys!

Tomorrow (early early) I head back down to Missoula and will speak to students at Hellgate Elementary, a NASA Explorer School. I have to run some errands and gather up some maps from Adventure Cycles, new rain gear (my rain jacket, while somewhat waterproof, is not breathable and leaves me pretty damp after I work up a sweat), and pack my stuff at Don's. I will head out early on Thursday, up Hwy 200 toward Powell and then down Hwy 141 to catch Hwy 12 again into Helena. I believe it will take about 4-5 days to get to Lodge Grass if I really stand on the pedals. Hopefully, the wind at my back.

During one of my talks today, I was asked the same question by two boys on opposite sides of the room. I swear they looked like brothers, so it must have been a set up! ;o)

Their question was,

"How fast does the Space Shuttle go?"

I replied the Shuttle orbits the earth at a speed of around 17,500 mph. So, for today's math problem, how many feet per second is that? Once you determine how my feet per second, think of someplace near your home, say something 30 miles or so away, and determine how many seconds it would take you to get there in the Shuttle! It will surprise you... Fast, really fast...

Have fun!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1220338800 Blog Tue, 2 Sep 2008 01:00:00 -0600
It's a dog's life... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219820400 Imagine your owner decides to move one day and you, as a dog, think...

"Great!! I get to hang my head out the window and let my tongue flap in the breeze! Oh boy, how fun is this?"

Then you owner shows up with a Burley cart (pull behind trailer for a bicycle). And your owner says,

"Hop in. Were moving to Hood River, OR from Billings, MT and I am going to pull this cart with my bicycle ALL THE WAY THERE. Oh yeah, you need to share the cart with some of my personal stuff!"

You, as the dog, can turn tail and run or sit there and do as your master commands! Which, by the way, Patty, an 80 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback did with her owner, Ron. I found Rob and Patty slowly pedaling up Hwy 12 out of Lolo, MT. All 400 pounds of them. Bike, cart, dog and personal stuff! I kid you not!!! Rob, you see, was moving to Hood River and since he already had a car there, why not pedal? Rob, you are my hero!! I chatted with Rob, not knowing what was in the cart behind him. I was flabbergasted!

"A dog? Get out of here! No kidding? Wow! Oh wow, how cool is that?"

In all of the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of the dog! I did get Rob, his coffee cup holder and cowboy hat, but not the dog. I am going to stop by Adventure Cycling here in Missoula next week and see if they have any pictures of him and post those as well. Rob, if you get this, awesome job! Patty deserves a huge treat when you get her there!! Which brings me to my math problem of the day. If Patty weighs 80 pounds and the total weight of Rob, his stuff and Patty comes to 400 pounds, what percentage of the total weight is Patty? Whatever it is, she is a pretty special dog!

I was chuckling all the way down into Lolo and most of the way into Missoula. It wasn't until Don Lange came pedaling up the opposite side of road and met for a ride into town. Don works as a substitute teacher at Hellgate Elementary (A NASA Explorer School). He is a veteran transcontinental cyclist having worked for Adventure Cycling leading tours across the country and up into Canada. Once, he even pedaled his 13 month old daughter from Rapid City, SD to Missoula, MT in a Burley cart. We pedaled directly to the school and met some of the teachers that I will work with next week. I answered some questions from the students and toured their school. From there Don and I pedaled to his house and I met his three sons. Super family and very cordial to me. I left my bike there for the weekend since I have to depart tomorrow for a speech I will be giving in Durango, CO at Fort Lewis College. I will return on Monday and then have plans to speak on the Flathead Reservation on Tuesday, followed by my talk at Hellgate on Wednesday. From here I will head toward Helena (hopefully not hot) and then on to Lodge Grass, MT.

The rain was coming down this morning and I took my time leaving the hot springs. I had a great conversation for four guys on their motorcycles. Two going east and two going west. The ride was mostly down hill and the miles just flew by. This was the first place I have ever seen with electric fence around the bee hives that line the road! Makes you wonder just who is in search of honey! Bet a few bears have had their noses zapped a few times.

It amazes me when I can pedal 40 miles and it seems effortless. Even with the down hill run, just getting on the bike and going is like putting on a well worn pair of jeans! They just fit and are comfortable!

Oh yeah, I had fun with the Moose Crossing sign! Still haven't see a moose though.

I will be off the blog until next Tuesday in case anyone wonders where I disappeared to over the weekend. My daughter Amanda is celebrating her 14th birthday and I AM GOING TO BE THERE!!!

In case anyone is wondering, I don't have Trek statistic for my trip as I left the computer on my bike at Don's house. I'll get those next week.

Have a great weekend everyone! Thanks for riding along...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219820400 Blog Wed, 27 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
What, me worry? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219734000 MONTANA!!!! Yee haa! What a ride! If there is a more beautiful place on the face of the earth then the road up to Lolo Pass from Lewiston, ID, then someone better show it to me! I am hard pressed to think such a place exists. I heard a story once about a couple that was visiting another part of the mountains and kept bragging about how their place back home was so beautiful that it was obvious God did his handiwork there. Their friends were not impressed and opened up the door to their deck and stepped outside saying, "well, if God does his handiwork there, this is where he takes his vacations!"

Let me cover the remainder of the yesterday and fill you in on what happened today. If anyone is trying to reach me by cell, or trying to text message me, I am still out of coverage. Give me a shout via email. Darn technology...

I completed yesterday's mid-day blog from the River Dance Lodge, where they had the last connection to the internet that I would find until this evening. Stacy Phelp and Jay Roman came over from Rapid City and did some filming of my ride up Hwy 12 toward the Wilderness Gateway Campground. Jay was sitting on the back of the van with the hatch open using an High Definition camera. I thought I was going slow until cars had to slow down to wait for Jay and Stacy slowly tooling up the highway. I appreciate their desire to get this on film and the creativity with which they do it. Jay kept telling me I had quite a climb ahead as they has just come down the highway I was going up.

"It just kept going downhill, John. You've got some serious climbing to do."

"Man, that is some steep hill. Gonna take you a while."

"I think I saw another cyclist using a ladder to get up the hill." (just kidding, it was an elevator...)

Lolo Pass was still another day ahead, so I just put it in the back of my brain. Why worry when there was nothing I could do about it? the road up to the campground was gradual and only a 1 to 2% grade. Nice and shallow and just followed the Lochsa River. Lots of places to access the river along the way. I am sure in the spring there is a great deal of river rafting that occurs here. The river is substantially down, but I bet it runs pretty fierce with the spring runoff. I came across a bridge that is used for access to the back country. A couple of bikers (motor types) were being tourists just like me and taking photos of the bridge and the river. Ron (I think) and John (easy name to remember) were headed to Portland and graciously took a picture for me. I crossed into the Bitteroot Wilderness as I continued my climb. I have always read stories about people backpacking in this area and how primitive and remote it is. Lots of wildlife is said to inhabit this area, but I only saw one deer my entire ride.

Which brings me to the title of today's blog. For those of you that had the privilege of growing up in the 60's and 70's, Alfred E. Neuman, the cover art for Mad Magazine had the saying, "What, Me Worry?" Just about every time I stopped as I made my way up Hwy 12, people kept telling me to watch out of the cougars. Mary Park at the Bear Hollow Gift Shop said they were very territorial.

"But don't worry about the wolves, since you aren't going up Lolo Pass."

"Um, er, that's the direction I am headed."

"Oh, then maybe you should worry about them. They're really big!"

Another gent at the Cougar Canyon Store (appropriately named) told me that some guy introduced the Canadian wolf here a few years back and everyone is upset.

"Killing all of the big game. An occasional biker too! (just kidding)!"

Another guy, Brian, at the Wilderness Campground, a young man from New York that worked as an outfitter taking hunters back in the wilderness, said that the wolves were much bigger than the original ones that inhabit the area.

"The big ones get up to 185 pounds. Get three of those guys on you and you don't stand a chance. They usually come around the pack animals and play a game trying to get one to spook. I just saw seven wolf kills right up over there on that trail. Maybe a mile or two up. They're full though. Lots of game around, so they just play these games."

So I asked, "What about the cougars?"

"Oh, they will be on your neck before you know what hit you."

"Oh, great!" geezzz.....

So, I had a tremendous amount of insight into the possibility that I could die a horrible death at the hands of our furry friends. My pepper spray seemed like a weak substitute and merely a seasoning for me, instead of a deterrent to them!

But really, what are the chances? Why worry? If you are so worried that you can't enjoy the trip, why bother? Some things you just can't control. The odds are incredibly slim that anything would happen, so you just be conscious of your surroundings and don't do something stupid, like trail a dead deer carcass behind your bike....

People always ask me if I was ever scared on the space shuttle.

"Were you scared during launch?"

"Aren't you afraid something is going to happen?"

All I can say is you are conscious that something can go wrong, but you can't let it overcome your ability to do your job. If you do, than you shouldn't be there in the first place. It is matter of controlling those things that you have control over and not to worry about the things you don't. Rather than worry about the animals that could be stalking my every move, I instead concentrated on the beauty of the world around me and pedaled to my hearts content! Why ruin a good thing? My biggest fear was about the most dangerous animal in the forest. An inattentive or intoxicated driver is far more of a problem that any animal could ever be.

I pulled into the campground and set my tent up just in time for the skies to open up. It deluged a good portion of the night, so I forgot to get any pictures of the setup. My Big Agnes Emerald Mountain SL2 tent worked great! Kept me warm and dry!

One of the things that is so much fun for a camper after a rain is to pack a wet tent! I didn't want any extra weight to drag up the pass, so I did my best to shake the water off. One of my fellow campers, Grady Sutton, came by and we took our picture together. Great guy! He thought I was in my 30's! Bless you my friend, bless you!!

My plan was to get over the pass before evening set in. The temps were cool, in the 50's and still a bit of an overcast. I was hoping it would clear up, but the cool temps were a far cry better climbing the pass than the temperature I had climbing Snoqualmie.

The ride up the river was spectacular! Every turn brought a picture postcard into view. The water was crystal clear and the air smelled of wet pine. The traffic was light and I never had a problem with anyone squeezing me off the shoulder. All of the drivers gave me a wide berth.

I came across my first transcontinental cyclists of the trip. Keith, Jesse and Rick started in different locations, but joined up along their journey. Keith started from Kitty Hawk and I am not sure where the other two started. I believe they were headed to Florence, OR. Lots of fun to chat on the open road! Good luck guys!

Now, this is not a name of a creek you would expect to run into up here! Post Office Creek? Who are they kidding! How about Stamp Creek or Envelope Creek? How about Big Heavy Package Creek? Or better yet, Can't Find a Post Office Up Here Creek! Or, Up the Creek!

I must have Monty Python on the brain, because I swore this thing was a coconut!

"Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?"

How about big granite boulders shaped like coconuts? I wonder how many African Sparrows you would need to carry this thing...

I was cranking with my head down (thanks to my aero bars) and saw a historical site to my left. I thought I would just pass it by until I came to a river rock grave on my right, just below the side of the road. I took a picture of the grave site and went over to read what the site was about. Colgate Licks is a memorial to a man that had die years before during an attempt to float down the river. His remains were buried next to the river! Wow!

There were a couple of hot springs along the way, but both were about a one mile hike off of the road and I didn't feel like leaving my bike exposed. I would have loved to have jumped in, but I would want my bike when a came back. Small thing, don't you think? Worry wart, huh? Jerry Johnson springs is one, Weir springs is another. I hear both are clothing optional...

The pass was slowing getting closer. Road signs can be a blessing and a curse. Too many and they remind you of just how far you have to go. Too little and you keep guessing. These were just right. Only one!

There was a very nice historical site that covered the Nez Perce journey to Montana. Horace and his family make a pilgrimage back to the Bear Paw Battleground every year to honor those that sacrificed. His great-grandfather being one of them.

I stopped at one of the campgrounds close to the point where the road starts to get steep and found an old well pump with the most delicious cold water! Pumping with one hand and taking pictures with the other! What fun!

As I started to leave the river, the road became steeper and followed a more direct route to the summit. I stopped by the Lochsa Lodge for lunch and walked into a corporate retreat. Everyone was so intense and talking about this managed care plan and how many people that could cover in at home health care. Blah blah blah... I thought corporate retreats were meant to be relaxing and a place to recharge. These folks were going full bore and about as stuffy a group as I have ever met! Chill out and go ride a bike for goodness sake.... Do you a world of good, guaranteed!

Just before I crossed the last creek where the road stretched to the summit, I came across an interesting contraption in the river. I think it was a gold sluice, but I am not sure. It was powered by the flow of the water and turned slowly as the water ran through it. I was a bit curious to see he might have dragged on board, but I thought I might get shot for jumping someone's claim so I deferred to my lawful side and continued on...

The road became much steeper, reaching about 6% for five miles (how many feet of elevation would that be? Math for the day). I just kept my head down and cranked slowly up the road to the summit. I tried to get a couple of shots to give everyone an idea of how long the climb was, but again, unless you are in the thick of it, the pictures don't do it justice!

I peaked out on the summit and enjoyed a cup of coffee at the summit forest service lodge (our tax dollars at work, thank you). From there I crossed into the mountain time zone and descended down to the Lolo Hot Springs Lodge! The WATER WAS AWESOME!!!! One happy and wet guy!

I can't say enough about what a spectacular journey this has been. It has exceeded my expectations ten fold and I am only 800 miles into the ride! I look forward to many more miles of amazement and wonder! Thanks for joining me, however vicarious it may be....

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219734000 Blog Tue, 26 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Here kitty kitty... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219647600 You would think that you could get them to roll over and let you scratch their belly. The darn thing kept growling at me. Oh well, maybe next time...

This is my first mid-day blog because I am about to disappear into the wilderness and will not have cell coverage to uplink my stuff. So, here is what I have for part of today. Bear with me (no pun intended, because I hope to not see any) for a couple of days until I get back down into Missoula.

Big thanks to my hosts in Kamiah, John and Cindy Strombeck. Their daughter Victoria is not in the picture (still sleeping). Just outside of Kamiah is a Nez Perce historical site called the Heart of the Monster. It is the Nez Perce creation story on how they came to be in this area. The mound is the heart that Coyote took from the Monster. Here's a link. http://content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/walker.html

Further up the road I stopped in and had a chat with Mary Park at the Bear Hollow Espresso and Gift Shop. My lap dog is named Sparky. Award winning German Short Haired Pointer and Mr. Friendly! They also keep the pet cougar and bear in the front room. Beautiful little home and what a spot to live.

I just finished lunch at the River Dance Lodge and will head up to the Wilderness Gateway Campground for the evening. Enjoy the photos and I promise to have more in a couple of days.

This is an incredibly beautiful area. Well worth the visit. My climb out of here is going to be intense, but that is what this trip is all about! Nothing better than a good challenge in life to keep us at the top of our game!

Stats so far today:
Total mileage: 26.46 miles (GPS) 27.1 (Trek)
Total time: 2:51:56.61 (GPS) 2:28:34 (Trek)
Avg pace: 6.29 / mi / mi
Avg speed: 9.2 mph (Garmin) 10.9 (trek)
Max speed: 27.4 mph (GPS) 27.5 mph (Trek)
Total calories: 2168
Avg heart rate: 124 bpm
Max heart rate: 149 bpm
Total ascent: 866 feet
Total descent: 608 feet

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219647600 Blog Mon, 25 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
On the road again... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219561200 Just like Willie Nelson's song, I'm at it again. I bet by the time this ride is over my bike will be like his guitar, well used, it just won't have a big hole in the middle!

My apologies for not getting this blog out last night. I had a great time with the Strombeck's last night here in Kamiah, but I did not have internet access to upload my stuff. I did type this late into the evening, so if it sounds a bit loopy, you'll know why (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

I'm pedaling Rex, I'm pedaling! Gee, I can't even get a little extra sleep and it's go go go... ;o) Kind of like keeping on the timeline! No post-sleep, just dive right into EVA prep and start sucking O2 from the mask. I think I will take LA's recommendation and see what my VO2 levels are and compare them with my pre-flight EVA protocol numbers and see if I am actually in better shape than when I flew. For those of you that are wondering what in the world I am talking about, I'll decipher my gibberish. Before we fly in space and perform an EVA (space walk), we have to get on a stationary bike in one of the labs at NASA and exercise up to our maximum heart rate while measuring how well our bodies consume oxygen. Based on the outcome of the test, NASA prescribes a particular exercise protocol to use prior to your EVA while breathing 100% oxygen. This allows our bodies to purge the excess nitrogen in our blood so that we do not develop a condition known as the "bends." This condition results when, at lower pressure levels, dissolved nitrogen in the blood comes out of solution (turns to a gas bubble in the bloodstream) and ends up in your brain (very bad) or causes pain in the joints or along the skin. If you are more aerobically fit your body is better capable of utilizing the oxygen you breathe in. So, by the end of this bike ride I had better be in the best aerobic condition of my life!

This morning started out calling Brad from TNT bikes and dragging him down to his shop three hours before he was scheduled to open (he told me to, really!). He had finished with my bike and it was in great shape. They did a super job of getting the aero bars in place such that my handlebar bag could be easily installed and removed. The positioning of the bars gives me many options on hand placement so that I can offload the weight on my hands. I can sit more upright and use the forearm pads for hand placement or lean forward and use the pads as resting points for my arms. It feels great and was much less painful than before.

I loaded up the bike after a filling breakfast of peanut and almond butter pancakes (yep, I still eat them...), orange juice, coffee, and a banana. I think I keep adding weight to the bike (and me) at every stop as I keep getting mementos from the folks I meet. I have been given lapel pins from each tribe that I have visited, so I have been installing them on the strap hanging from my front left pannier. I will probably add about ten pounds of weight (to the bike, not me) by the time this trip is over!

I headed through downtown Lewiston and picked up Hwy 12 toward Missoula. The mileage sign said 207 miles, so I started pedaling really fast. Gotta get there by nightfall... yeah, right... Two hundred and seven miles divided by 70 miles per day, gives how many days of travel to get there? Snuck the problem in right up front, huh?

I am taking my time! I have to be in Missoula by Wednesday night in order to catch a flight to Durango, CO on Thursday morning to attend the convocation at Fort Lewis College. I'm the guest speaker so I should probably be there, don't you think? The ride up Hwy 12 took me by the Potlatch paper mill and if you have ever lived by a mill, you will agree that the aroma is less than pleasing, to put it mildly! Pedal faster John, pedal faster....

The road is fairly narrow along 12 with very little shoulder. Some stretches are worse than others, but the cars and trucks gave me plenty of room, so I never worried about getting hit.

I was following the Clearwater River so the advantage was a relatively flat road, with the disadvantage being many curves and some blind corners. Just across the river from the Clearwater River Casino, there is a formation on the top of the hill that looks like the face of a young Indian lying prone looking toward the skies. From a particular position, it is very obvious. The formation is called Elbow Child and the legend states that the child is the son of Coyote, having come from his elbow. He died young and this is how Coyote honored his memory.

Traffic was relatively light and I pulled into the first store I came to and filled my water bottles with ice, grabbed some peanut butter crackers and had a chat with the clerk. In addition to me, he was shooting the breeze with two bikers, (Harley type) about how incredibly dangerous Hwy 12 is. "I see the ambulance every day going up and coming back, dragging some slab of human body with it every time." He turns and smiles at me. "Where are you headed?" "Um, er, nowhere! Just gonna sit right here until I die of old age," I say. "I'll be in the back drinking a coke. Tell me when the next ambulance passes by. I might be able to beat him up the pass!" Nice conversation to start a ride up a narrow little road! "But it is very scenic," he concludes. "Have a nice day." Yep, I think I will...

The miles pass by very quickly, my mind wandering with each passing mile marker. The town of Orofino comes along about 40 miles into my ride. A huge dam covers a valley facing the road. Dworshak Dam is the highest straight axis dam in North America. I was pedaling just east of Orofino when I struck up a conversation with Ron, Nadine and Julie. I am usually asked, "where are you going?" So I respond, "Today or eventually?" Kind of hard to swallow "Florida" at the beginning of the conversation, so it is a good ice breaker to talk about the next stop and then drop the lond distance bomb on them. That way they aren't too shocked.

It was right about here that my GPS starting acting up. I didn't figure it out until I was about three miles out of Kamiah. But my mileage on the GPS was stuck at 41 miles, so some alien must have climbed abroad my GPS software and started wreaking havoc with the program. Another strange event with my GPS. I will figure it out tomorrow!

I haven't seen much in the way of wildlife except an osprey that kept diving out of the trees and performing acrobatics over the river. I did catch him later diving straight down and coming up with a fish. I took a picture of him sitting contently on a rock in the middle of the river, enjoying the fruits of his labors. Well, maybe "fruits" is not the correct term here. Something fishy about that... har har...

I pulled into Kamiah with time to spare. I had anticipated arriving around 6:00 pm, but bat that time by about 45 minutes. John Strombeck and his wife Cindy invited me to stay in the home (RV actually) and made a fabulous dinner of grilled moose meat. The peach pie was phenomenal!

Even though I made it here in one piece (human slab of meat, remember?) I met with Stacy Phelps and Jay Roman from South Dakota to work on the AIII initiative. I didn't drag back into the rack until past midnight. Getting theses blogs out for me is always fun, but they take on a different tone if I work on them after midnight.

Today, I will head on up the pass and find a campground. I hear there are a lot of nice ones, but few stores, so I have to stock up on supplies about the time I get to Lowell. I made a mistake yesterday, they are located between mile marker 96 and 97 on Hwy 12.

Time to start looking for cougars. Here kitty kitty....

The stats today from my Garmin are not accurate today. The darn thing locked up in the middle and left only 41.25 miles

Total mileage: 42.14 miles (GPS) 69.9 (Trek)
Total time: 5:54:36.63
Avg pace: 8:24 / mi
Avg speed: 7.1 mph (Garmin) 11.5 (trek)
Max speed: 24.1 mph
Total calories: 2168
Avg heart rate: 124 bpm
Max heart rate: 149 bpm
Total ascent: 866 feet
Total descent: 608 feet

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219561200 Blog Sun, 24 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Been fiddlin' around http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219474800 ...at the Old Time Fiddler's gathering at the Three Rivers Resort in Lowell, ID (doesn't actually exist, but it is a place. Trust me on this one, I have pictures). Lowell does not have a zip code or mailing address, but you can find it between the 45 and 55 mile per hour speed limits somewhere around mile marker 150 something on Hwy 12. Honest to goodness, I listened to the owner of the resort explain their location. Regardless of how you define its location, it is a fabulous place. The Selway and Lochsa Rivers converge to form the Clearwater River. On the banks of these two very scenic rivers lies the Three Rivers Resort.

Oh yeah, my bike is still in the shop! Really! Cross my heart! So, you are probably wondering why I am still here. That's a long story too, left for my alternate blog... ha ha! The bars they are installing on my bike don't fit with the handlebar bag in place and so I had them move the bars more to the outside and lower my handlebar bag fitting. I am supposed to call Brad tomorrow morning, early (he is going to be surprised how early) and pick it up!

Actually, I had a presentation scheduled today at the Kamiah Elementary School. So, I took the time to join Margo as she went to Lowell (just up the road from Kamiah) to gather information for an article for Idaho Magazine. It's a regional magazine that highlights the people and places of Idaho. It was a pleasure to watch her interview the folks at Three Rivers. The fiddlers are a group of people, mostly in their 60's and 70's. (some in their 80's) that travel the state, performing at various venues, camping and having a grand old time. The jam session was great. These folks are fabulous and just a joy to listen to. One of the old time fiddlers played a bass bucket. A plastic pickle bucket with one end of the string tied to an eyebolt in the center of the bottom of the bucket and the other end of the string tied to a broom handle (I think Jed Clampett played one in The Beverly Hillbillies). He changes the pitch of the string by moving the broom handle such that the string stretches or loosens. Since the frequency of the vibration of the string characterizes the pitch, as the frequency increases the pitch increases, changing the sound of the note. For today's math problem, without getting into standing wave theory, simply determine how you calculate the frequency of a wave by knowing it's period. What's the formula? If you increase the period of the wave, does the frequency go up or down? What if you decrease the period of the wave? I'm not interested in numbers, but the formula and how changing one variable in the equation affects the answer.

As I was watching the folks play, this lady caught my attention because she was wearing a Kennedy Space Center t-shirt from STS-118's launch, which said, "I was there." Well, since this is Idaho, I figured Barb Morgan had something to do with it and sure enough, Lynda Paznokas knows Barb. I struck up a conversation with her, while Margo interviewed her husband, John "Skip" Paznokas. Both work for Washington State University. Once again, I am amazed at how small this world is. The degrees of separation are astoundingly miniscule.

As Margo interviewed the owner of the resort, one thing became perfectly clear to me. There is a large possibility that I could become bait for one of the local carnivores if I let my guard down. "Oh, the bears will start coming out really soon with the apples ripen and the berries are ready." "A cougar came through that door right there and stole our Airedale puppy." "Moose will trample your remains." "We don't let the kids outside unless they carry a 30.06 with bear shot." (Just kidding about the 30.06, everything else is true.) This will be a fun ride come Monday. Where's my pepper spray...

My presentation at the school went well, small group, but very enthusiastic. Horace and Andrea were there and I am so grateful for their friendship and support. I am blessed to know them and to have met so many in their family. This was the right amount of time to stay in the Lewiston area. I will leave in the morning, happy to be continuing my journey, but sad that I will be leaving so many wonderful people. I can't say enough that the joy of this trip has been the people I have met and the friendships I have made along the way. This trip started out as a squiggly line on a map. Featureless places on a flat piece of paper! But the reality is, the random line had a purpose and it becomes clearer with each passing day. Each place has become a vibrant memory. Names have become faces with personality and warmth. For those that know me well, the past few months have been a very difficult and emotionally stressful time. This trip was the answer to my prayers. A blessing in disguise that has filled my heart with a joy I have not experienced in a long, long time. I look forward to many more laughter filled miles and memories that will last a lifetime!

See you on the road tomorrow!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219474800 Blog Sat, 23 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
No rest for the weary... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219388400 Weary? No! Rest? Yep! And lots of it! At least, off of the bike. I was hustling here and there doing lots of wonderful things, but my bike is still in the shop, ready for my ride to continue on Sunday. I made such good time getting to Lewiston that my contacts in Missoula aren't quite ready for me to pop in! That's OK, because it has been fabulous here in Lewiston.

My day began with an extended rehabilitative rest period (I overslept) before taking a ride up to Buffalo Eddy. Margo's role as a writer and extensive work with the Nim�ipuu/Nez Perce people makes her the perfect guide to share the stories and legends that make this valley such as amazing place. Buffalo Eddy is a spot, upstream from Lewiston, where outcroppings of rock create a narrow passage on the Snake River. Along these outcroppings are numerous, detailed petroglyphs created some 4,500 years ago. It is truly awe-inspiring to stand among these rocks and try to imagine the artist diligently working at depicting his or her experiences. This is history dating back thousands of years; a natural history not a structural history. You are not seeing civilization in the form of homes or dwellings, but expressions of thought or creations of character. This is not history from a Euro-centric perspective, rather history of life as it occurred long before European contact. That's what makes this such a meaningful and special place. Very moving! I hope the photos in some way share the quality and beauty of this wonderful spot.

From Buffalo Eddy we headed north to Moscow and the University of Idaho. The university is prepping for classes to begin next week, but the folks at the Native American Center on campus took time to sit down and chat. The Interim President, Steven B. Daley-Laursen and his wife, Diane (who is Chickasaw, yea!!) took some time out of their very busy schedules and spoke with us for a bit. I enjoyed spending time with everyone in the office and chatting with the students. While I was there I took the opportunity to call a friend who works in the Systems Administration department for the university. Larry Hughes and I have known each other since 8th grade, but have not seen each other for over 35 years! I just happened to get a LinkedIn (professional networking website) notice on my computer one day telling me that he now lived in the Moscow, ID area and if I was ever near here, to give him a call. Well, he happened to be just across the street!! What a pleasure it was to see him after all of these years! The same look, facial features (we both have gray hair now, but everything else still looks the same! ;o) He has the exact same sense of humor I remember from so many years ago. We went to a local watering hole and reminisced about days gone by. To give you an idea of just how small this world is, it turns out that his younger brother was a flight surgeon stationed in Adak, AK at just about the same time I was. How weird it would be if we actually crossed paths up there and didn't even know it. What's that they say about six degrees of separation? (No, that is not the math problem for today)

After having spent a great day in Moscow (it's pronounced Moss go not Moss cow) we came back to observe a yearly ritual in Lewiston called The Hot August Night Cruise. Not a finer cultural experience to be had if you have a deep burning desire to watch automobiles cruise main and burn rubber every 20 feet! There are some classic cars mind you, but it is just not the same to watch a 1996 Honda Civic burn rubber from the front wheels while sitting beside a 1971 Chevelle SS 454! But, the street was packed and spectators were lining the curb cheering on their favorite tire burner!

Tomorrow I get my trusty steed out of the bike shop and then visit Kamiah Elementary School for a presentation to the local community before heading out the following morning to Missoula and points east!

So, for today's problem, let's revisit the Chevelle SS 454 (since I am not on my bike, I have to use a car as an example). The 454 stands of 454 cubic inch displacement (CID) of the engine. What exactly is CID and how is it calculated? Does it depend on the number of cylinders in an engine? How about the size of the piston? Since cubic inches is a measure of volume, can we describe the displacement of an engine in terms of another measure of volume? What would a metric equivalent?

My assistant has forced me to tell you that if you have any desire to ascertain if I am actually alive and doing something productive (other than eat Buckin' Hot Habanero Caramels from Cowgirl Chocolates, www.cowgirlchocolates.com) please visit the press section of this website for proof (www.klewtv.com).
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219388400 Blog Fri, 22 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Where's my bike? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219302000 Gee, I know I left that thing around here somewhere... oh yeah, at the bike shop getting some tender loving care! Funny, the first place I pedal into when I reach Lewiston is the local bike shop. For those of us that are die hard bikers (no, not the Harley types) we all have a local bike shop, or more affectionately, our LBS (the NASA acronym user coming out in me again). Brad took my bike and is giving it a good going over. The aero bars will allow me to rest my forearms on the handlebars and keep me from doing any more damage to my hands. I'm surprised at how numb my left hand has become and it makes it difficult to do something as simple as change a tire or handle a wrench. This is not good and I need to take care of it. I went to the shop today and found out that my rear brake pads have almost completely worn down. It will be nice to leave the area in a couple of days knowing full well that my bike is in tip top shape and ready for the next few hundred miles. Thanks to Brad and TNT!

My day was meticulously organized by Kay Kiddder and expertly executed by Margo Aragon. Margo has been fantastic getting me to and from each appearance and handling all of the details that arise. Margo is a writer and has co-authored a book with Horace Axtell called A Little Bit of Wisdom. I purchased this book and presented it to my mom when she was recovering from surgery following a diagnosis of breast cancer back in the 1990's. It is a gem of a book and I highly recommend it. I had no idea I would eventually meet the author! She's an awesome cook too and makes a mean enchilada!

This morning she spirited me off to attend a program where the Nim�ipuu/Nez Perce tribe was distributing cash awards to local schools to support education programs in the community. The tribe presented nearly $1.4 million dollars and they do this biannually! In attendance where educators and administrators from the surrounding area and ran programs ranging for K-12th grade. I was impressed with the tribe's commitment and I wonder if the state of Idaho does the same. What a great benefit to local students!

From there we attended the 10th anniversary celebration of the Lapwai Boy's and Girl's Club. Lapwai is derived from the Nim�ipuu word Tlaptlap meaning the place of the butterflies. Tlaptlap is the word the Nim�ipuu believe a butterfly would make as it sat near the water, opening and closing it's wings. The weather played a bit of havoc with us as it rained off and on, but finally settled out and the sun began to shine. It was great to share the story of spaceflight with students in the open air surrounded by the towering hills on either side of the valley.

The remainder of the afternoon I took a break and passed out on the couch while waiting for our evening event at the National Park Service Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding, ID. I had the opportunity to meet with the rangers and view some tremendous art work by a local artist, Nakia Williamson Cloud. There were also historical photos dating back to the 1870's. What was fascinating was talking with Horace and he pointed out a picture of his great grandfather, Timlpusmin, who was killed at the Battle of Bear Paw in October of 1877.

I gave a presentation for the local community and answered questions as long as people wanted to stay. I had a fabulous time and fielded questions on a variety of topics from my personal perspectives on where the space program is headed to aliens and education. What a fabulous time!

Part of the purpose behind this journey for me is to share my experiences with people that may never have the opportunity to speak with someone from NASA or someone that has flown in space. I believe I have a personal responsibility to share the joy of space flight but also encourage others to achieve dreams that they may have. I have been blessed with the opportunity to fly in space, but I know I would not have been able to if certain people had not encouraged me to do my very best and seek out opportunities in life. This is my chance to give back to others for what others have given to me.

So, where's the math problem for the day? How about instead, we try some science... In my discussions with Charlie the biker/agricultural man of answers (B/AMOA) we talked about the amount of potash dumped on the Yakima area following the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, back in 1980. Since the northwestern United States is a highly active geological area, do you know what type of volcanoes dominate this area and how do they differ from the ones in Hawaii? I know it's not math, but this is about science too! We will get to the technology and engineering stuff later!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219302000 Blog Thu, 21 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Rocketrek on KLEW TV http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=6906&setit=lm_19&ind=6906 "Down from the skies" By Matt Loveless on KLEW TV.
View the video online
Read the article online
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=6906&setit=lm_19&ind=6906 Press Release Thu, 21 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Nice doggie.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219215600 No, not the turkeys. They just gobbled around and looked uninterested...

I wish I had a picture of the dog that chased me, but in the heat of the moment, I wasn't thinking camera, I was thinking "pepper spray." On my way up Hwy 12 I passed this house in an idyllic setting, stream running nearby, trees swaying in the breeze, open air porch, dog resting lazily on the porch wall, legs dangling over the side. In the matter of a nano-second (how many decimal places is that?) this happily content canine has become the guardian of the underworld. A viscous beast bent on destroying every living creature in his path. Or at least me first! He comes screaming through the trees in full tilt fury! Hair standing up along the crown of his back, teeth bared in full enamel glory, a bark that sent shivers up my spine. As I have done in the past, I leapt of the bike (opposite the doggy side) and make menacing growling noises back (like that did a lot of good). He stands off about two or three feet away, jumping, biting and barking at my bike. No amount of praise, good boy, nice doggie, sit, stay, growl, ruff, fetch, or whatever I could think of would change this standoff. Except one thing... well placed pepper spray. He turned tail and ran so fast I thought about chasing him. Ha! I've got to buy stock in this stuff! Bring on the bears!! ;o)

My only dog so far, except the one barely surviving the heat near Toppenish. My ride from Dayton this morning started off under gloomy skies. The rain had started early, but was merely misting when I left the hotel. I grabbed an apple crispie and chocolate milk at the local bakery before heading up the road (Andy the dancer at Pro Bike told me I could eat anything without guilt and still lose weight. I haven't seen the lose weight part yet, but the eating everything is right up my alley). A steady climb at the end of the valley took me to an incredible three to four mile downhill screaming that had me topping almost 40 mph. The whole time I am thinking, "this would be a bad time to have a blow out." I was weaving in and out of tall golden hills, some cultivated, some not. I passed another Starbuck sign, which made me crave a double shot espresso. I was aiming for Pomeroy, 35 miles to the east, half-way to Lewiston. The road was winding back and forth, huge shoulder with little debris, but large trucks kept passing for most of the ride. One of the little sounds that yor come to anticipate, is the sound of the tires of a passing car crossing the center line. They groove the center line so that you can hear when you venture into the other lane. It also gives me a clue that someone behind me is giving me a wide berth. Its those times when you hear the truck or car coming and you DON'T hear the tell tell "brruuummmmmppppp." That's when I catch a glimpse in my rearview mirror and start squeaking over to the edge of the shoulder. Almost all of the drivers have been incredibly polite and have given me a wide berth. But occasionally, someone gets close.

Before I left Dayton, I asked the lady at the hotel if she had heard when the rain might let up. She said it was supposed to blow over around 1100. I think she meant blown DOWN at 1100. Because that is what it did! In buckets! I think Charlie the biker/agricultural man of answers (B/AMOA) was right on the money. The rainfall does increase about one inch per mile to the east. I just didn't think he meant all at one time!

I threw on my rain gear and kept on pedaling. It was actually quite pleasant. Not much wind, steady drops falling fairly heavily. Each drop hit the black pavement like a little crystal ball, shattering into tiny pieces and casting it's shards in all directions. Thank goodness it wasn't glass or I would have been fixing flats most of the day (more on that topic later). I made it to Pomeroy in short order. It is amazing how quickly the miles pass when you get into the rhythm of the bike. The miles tend to float by while I am lost in thought. I was watching the rain drip off the brim of my bike helmet and strike squarely on the face of my GPS. All of the electronics I was carrying on my handlebars are water resistant and worked perfectly (except the solar cell, no sun all day). Once in Pomeroy, I stopped for lunch at the Up and Up Bar and Grill. It was recommended by Jeff back at the Tuxedo. I was soaked to the core, not because water leaked through the raingear, but because my gear is not Gore-Tex and doesn't breathe, so I had sweated up a storm without really knowing it. I shed my soaked shirt for a dry pile sweater and sat down at the bar. The food was not as good as the Tuxedo and the company was not either (I was the only one at the bar).

From Pomeroy I had one last grade to climb before descending into Clarkston, WA. The rain kept coming down, but not as heavy as before. The trucks were kicking up a good deal of spray when they would pass by, even though they were hugging the opposite lane. I put my head down and made a push to the top and peaked out on Alpowa Summit around 3:00 pm. I pulled off to take the customary summit picture (my machine in the foreground) and pedaled over to read the summit information. Over my shoulder, back to the west, the storm clouds were hanging low over the hills and becoming ominously dark. Since the grade down to Clarkston was fairly steep (trucks were told to check their brakes before heading down, runaway truck ramp, etc...) I thought it would be best to wait out the weather. I hunkered under the information booth and watched the skies open up. It was really pouring now! I tried to take a picture, but that was fruitless. I just leaned back on the sign and watch the rain come down.

Pretty soon I heard the roar of a motorcycle flying into the parking lot and ran straight up to the toilet! Here's the rider and his motorcycle, nestled neatly under the awning of the outhouse, waiting for the storm to pass. He gets off the motorcycle and we talked about, you guessed it, the weather! He was heading to Montana and had just come from Tacoma. When the rain relented a bit he took off down the hill and I followed shortly after. The grade was pretty steep, 6 to 7% for about five miles. It would have been great if it was dry, but I was dragging my brakes all the way down, for fear the water would prevent me from stopping quickly if I had to. I made the steepest part of the grade without a problem, but just about the time it started to level out I felt the signs of a flat. The tail end of the bike just starts to wobble back and forth a bit. I pull to the side and saw bubbles coming up through the rim next to the valve stem. Great! Just about the time I am ready to leave Washington, she throws a sliver of steel into my tire and down the tire goes. Having a kickstand saved the day. I don't worry about an extra pound on an almost 90 pound bike and it makes a great jack stand! Check out the picture. Rather than lay my bike on the derailleur, I put one pedal down and used the kickstand to hold the bike up! Just to make my day a bit more entertaining, the skies decide to open up. I change the tube in the downpour, tuck the new tube in the wheel and off I go. Funny, there are bubbles coming from the stem again! Shoot! I think I must have pinched the tube when I put the tire back on. I decided to see how far I could go before I had to pump it back up and I was surprised I made it all the way to Lewiston, 10 miles away! And it stayed full so it must have been some residual air in the rim. But I tend twist the tube when I put in on, so part of the tire did not seat well and I kept getting a thump thump every revolution of the wheel. Luckily, one of the first stores I came to in Lewiston was the TNT Bike Shop and I left my bike there overnight for a tune up and installation of aero bars. I really need to off load my hands as the numbness is getting annoying, especially when I have to change a flat in the rain.

My hostess for my time in Lewiston, Margo Aragon, met me at the bike shop and took me off for some homemade enchiladas! I will be here for two days meeting kids from the local community and the Nez Perce Tribe. I've included a picture of a very dear friend, Horace Axtell. I first met Horace in Houston at my first AISES conference. He has been an Elder for AISES for many years and is the Spiritual Leader for the Nim�ipuu Longhouse.

Today's stats:
Total distance: 66.88 mi
Total time: 6:29:20.05
Avg pace: 5.49 /mi
Avg speed: 10.3 mph
Max speed: 36.9 mph
Total calories burned: 3069
Avg heart rate: 113 bpm
Max heart rate: 144 bpm
Total ascent: 2848 feet
Total descent: 3768 feet

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219215600 Blog Wed, 20 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
The hills are alive... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219129200 ...alive with the sound of music. And it's not Julie Andrews swirling in circles in the Alps! Seriously, there is music! The music of the wind whistling across each tassel of corn, along the edge of an embankment beside the road, or through the trees of an orchard. I am amazed at how the sound varies with the landscape. I heard a humming noise as I cranked up a hill between an embankment. The wind was blowing around 20 knots, quartering to my right rear. I was being pushed along ever since I left the Columbia River Basin and started out along Hwy 124 toward Clarkston. As the wind curled over the edge of the road, it made a distinctive low frequency hum. Music to pedal by...

I left the motel before 7, meeting some folks from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Professional Chapter at a local breakfast joint. The Sterling! The waitress was way too vivacious for 7 am, but she was working the table like a well seasoned professional. Tips are life (I know, I have been a waiter!) I had a great time sharing the journey and learning a lot about the local community. Thanks to Annabelle and everyone for joining me this morning!

One of the problems of pedaling in the city, it is harder than all get out to get out!! Everyone recommends taking the bike path, but bike paths are meant to be scenic, not functional. When you want to go some place, don't take the bike path! You will see a lot of nice things, but end up going in five different directions, none of which are the way you want to go. And the GPS? Forget it! Bike paths are not in it's memory!

I intended to stop by REI and pick up some gear for the bike, but after having navigated along the river's bike path for longer than I thought reasonable, I opted to head for points east. I jumped off the path and found my way to Hwy 12, crossing the Snake River in the process. I found Hwy 124 as it ran through Burbank, WA. I was thinking I would call Dan Burbank (Astronaut classmate) and tell him there is a city with his name, waiting for a new mayor!

As I turned along Hwy 124, the wind came directly at my back. How nice to have a good stiff breeze forcing me to the east. Occasionally, it would be more quartering and I could feel the bike respond to the broadside gusts. Having large packs hanging off the side of the bike makes for a great sail, or huge hindrance, depending on the direction of the wind. As I climbed out of the river valley, I was met by all sorts of crops. Vineyards, apple trees, potatoes, peaches, soy beans, corn and something I didn't expect, Poplar trees! Huge rows of Poplar trees. No fruit, just pulp. So I was told by Ken in the company of Charlie, the biker/agricultural man of answers (more on him later...). As I headed down the highway, I came across a sign that said, "road work next ten miles." Yuck! Chipped asphalt, no shoulder, no lines, lots of trucks! Well, this is harvest season and every truck in the state of Washington was using this highway! Every time one passed they would kick up a fair amount of rocks, shooting them in my general direction! I hugged the side of the road like a newborn grabbing for mom. The sign was truthful, for exactly at 10 miles, the road became asphalt and smooth as that baby's bottom! With lines and a shoulder too! Yea!

One of the things I have taken for granted (and I ventured to guess most of the rest of the nation) is just how plentiful our nation's agricultural resources are (and I am only referencing WA here). I saw a tremendous variety of fruits and vegetables spread out as far as the eye could see. Huge orchards of apples and peaches. Massive grapevines stretching for miles. Orderly and extremely well taken care of. We see the results in our local store, but fail to realize just how fortunate we are that we live in a country that provides so much. And the many people that make it possible. I equate this in a way to how people view the space program. It has become so commonplace in the minds of the general public, they fail to realize just how remarkable it really is. A lot of the things we have in our daily life that we take for granted, are the result of the incredibly talented and hard work of thousands of people that make it possible. Unless you have a personal relationship with the reality, you don't grasp just how amazing it really is. It's nice to see the world from a different perspective. It makes you appreciate just how fortunate you really are!

I descended out of the well tended orchards into a valley of golden wheat and undulating hills. I was told (once again by Charlie the biker/agricultural man of answers, that this portion of WA is the steepest cultivated area of the United States. Golden fields covered the hills. Driving a tractor along those hills must be a gravity defying exercise. Zero-g wheat harvesters, that's what they are. You can come across the strangest sights beside the road. Sometimes its an errant tool that jumped from the back of truck, or in this case, Superman jumped out of the suit and on to a truck. Nice suit! Superman was a little guy... Just about this time I cross the 500 mile mark on my trek. Had to take a picture!

I followed the valley floor (someone knows how to build a highway for bicyclists) all the way to Prescott. I stopped at the first market I came to (I think there were only two in town) and was immediately met by Robert. A pony-tailed gent a little younger than me. Very personable and eager to talk about my ride. He followed me into the market and shadowed me as I picked out something to drink and eat. He said in a rather loud voice I could probably find a better selection at the Co-op. The woman working the counter told Robert it was not a good idea to encourage me to shop at the OTHER store! We chatted for a bit and Robert told me that there were incredible hamburgers right around the corner at the Tuxedo Bar and Grill. The Jasonburger! Gotta have one!

We went back outside and he proceeded to tell me about a cycle accident he once had. In a coma for 17 days, head split open and re-constructive surgery. He survived and now works around town doing odd jobs. He then took his glasses off and showed me something that he says scares the kids. He smacked the side of his head and made one of his eyeballs move independent of the other. Yup, pretty scary! But what a nice guy!

I rode the bike around the corner and met Pam and Jeff sitting out front of the Tuxedo. I said I heard they had an awesome burger for sale and they assured me that it was a correct statement. Pam was the cook (and owner) so I guess there was some level of confidence in her answer!

I bellied up to the bar and waited for the magic to happen. I sat next to a couple of guys talking about the harvest and politely asked about the large stands of trees I saw along my ride. Ken informed me they were Poplars used probably for pulp. We chatted for a bit about the weather and the declining temperatures when he asked if I was the guy on TV riding the bike across the country. I guess they get KING 5 TV out in the lower SE corner of WA. We had a great conversation, talking about my space flight and me asking about the best way to Lewiston, ID. A bit later, a big biker guy, Charlie, sat down to my right and Ken introduced me! This guy was all knowledgeable about agriculture in WA. I learned that the average rainfall per year increased by one inch for every mile you traveled to the east. Five to six inches to the west and up to 26 toward the east. We discussed the eruption of Mount Saint Helens and how it deposited huge amounts of potash near the Toppenish and Yakima areas. He said they plowed the potash under by the tons and for years the potatoes were the size of dinner plates! What a fun conversation! I had traveled 54 miles by 1:00 pm, but spent about an hour and a half in Prescott soaking in the company! I asked Pam and Debra to pose for a picture and I agreed that the Jasonburger lived up to it's billing!

After too short of period of time in the Tuxedo, I hopped back on the bike and headed off to Dayton. Flat, wind at my back, pleasure riding! How about a coffee at Starbuck? No, not Starbucks, Starbuck! Just inside of Waitsburg, the thought of an ice cold beer came to mind! The sign was promising, but it was Tuesday! Darn!

Unexpectedly, I came across a sign that I was entering Columbia County. I had to stop and take a picture and for the next few miles I contemplated the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the loss of my friends and colleagues. Mike Anderson considered the Spokane area his home and I was just south of that part of the state. Having a lot of time on a bike you spent a great deal of time contemplating a lot of things. As I thought about the Columbia, the mission right after mine, and how much we are willing to risk in order to fly in space. The general public may not realize just how dangerous it really is and that the odds are not in your favor when you climb aboard (I was told a 1:400 chance of not coming home), but everyone in astronaut office is fully aware of the possibility. And yet, they are willing to look beyond the odds and take the chance because they know that it is worth the risk. What is ironic is that I was traveling along the Lewis and Clark trail! Here were two people, that along with others, they understood the risk, but took the responsibility to go forth into the unknown. Today, we celebrate and memorialize the efforts of the Corps of Discovery. One day, I hope that future generations will recognize the sacrifices of people like Rick, Willie, KC, Laurel, Dave, Mike and Ilan who accepted the risk to make this world a better place!

I pulled into downtown Dayton a little past 5:00 pm, not because I was tired, but because there were no places to stay for the next 40 miles. Nice, comfortable downtown. A brew pub, cold stout and a small plate of nachos and I settled in for the evening!

The pleasure of this ride is measured in the people I meet! The warmth and hospitality of the folks along my journey is testament to what is good about this country. Hard working people making an honest living and caring about others. Sometimes I get too caught up in the here and now. Worried about the plethora of problems surrounding my personal world and I fail to recognize the warmth that surrounds me. Putting yourself in an unfamiliar place where you are at the mercy of those that make it their home, I have come to realize that your problems are what you make of them and small in comparison the quality of the world around you. Stop and smell the roses, or eat a Jasonburger in the company of nice people!

Today's stats:
Total distance: 68.90 mi (GPS) 74.6 mi (Trek)
Total time: 6:14:54.27
Avg pace: 5.26 /mi
Avg speed: 11.0 mph (GPS) 11.4 (Trek)
Max speed: 26.4 mph (GPS) 26.9 (Trek)
Total calories burned: 3590 (covered by the Jasonburger)
Avg heart rate: 109 bpm
Max heart rate: 1421 bpm
Total ascent: 2676 feet
Total descent: 1477 feet

Total mileage to date: 530 mi
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219129200 Blog Tue, 19 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
To Bee or not to Bee... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219042800 The weather has finally relented and given me a reprieve from the heat. Temps peaked out a 106, but with a 15 knot tailwind and a thunderstorm building behind me, is was a much more bearable day. Questions for the day... how does a knot (nautical mile per hour) differ from a statute mile per hour? How many feet in a nautical mile? In a statute mile? Which is faster, 1 knot or 1 mph?

My accommodations were a far cry better than they were the night before. I stayed in a Best Western, within walking distance of a fantastic Mexican restaurant, which provided the incredible calorie busting meal I took a photo of yesterday. I don't know what had more calories, the margarita or the burrito! But after a long, hot day riding, they were both a welcome treat!

I chose to stop in Toppenish for two reasons. One, the Toppenish Middle School is a NASA Explorer School and Toppenish is the location of the Yakama Nation tribal headquarters. Unfortunately, the school year doesn't start until after Labor Day, but I couldn't wait to start riding later for fear I might be caught in the first snows of the season, going through the Rockies (which will probably happen anyway). Even though school was not in session, I met with Amy Milne, one of the NES teachers at the middle school. She was a pleasure to talk with while her mom helped her arrange her room for the opening of school.

I also met with the ladies at the front office and we took a photo under their NES flag. From there I headed over to the tribal headquarters of the Yakama Nation and met with their Chairman and members of the tribal council. I just kind of popped in unexpected, but they were incredibly gracious and made me feel right at home. We met in the council chambers and discussed the ride and some other educational activities I am involved in. One of which is the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII). A non-for-profit organization we recently formed which will lead the effort to build and operate a full-time, in-residence STEM focused 8th-14th year learning institution situated in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It will be based on the very successful South Dakota GEARUP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) that a very talented and dedicated man named Stacy Phelps has been running in Rapid City for the past 16 years. What Stacy does is bring high school aged kids from throughout SD, mostly from the reservations in the state and puts them through a six week academic program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The kids spend six weeks living in the dorms, attending classes in math, science, scholarship application process, to name a few. They also include the parents in a discussion surrounding separation anxiety associated with college life. Of the 400 or so kids that have graduated from this program, ALL have graduated from high school. Eighty-seven percent or so of the graduates have gone on to college, while another 10% go into the military. A phenomenal success rate that needs to be implemented in a full-time institution that prepares students to be successful in the college environment. If you are interested in learning more, check out the GEARUP website link.

After taking a few photos in front of their awesome council table, one of the councilmen performed a blessing ceremony and prayer for a safe journey. I was incredibly touched by their kindness and warmth of spirit. I said my goodbyes and hopped back on the bike, but was greeted by a blistering wind from the west, complete with dust clouds and swirling debris. But that was ok, because it was at my back. You have to ride a bike long distance to appreciate the advantage a good tailwind will give you. Debris and all...

I headed off down Hwy 22 amid orchards and fruit stands. I even went by some fields of cilantro and the smell was unmistakable. Another thing that people miss when they just sit in their cars as the world passes them by. The smells of wet sage and pine, apples and peaches, and cilantro. Corn doesn't smell! Looks pretty, really tall, no smell...

On the downside, the big disadvantage of riding the bike when it comes to smell is that it takes a bit longer to pass the carcass of a skunk on a bike then in the car. Just can't put the AC selector on recirculate when riding a bike. You just have to suck it up! I had my share of skunks today.

I passed a couple of fields with a really strange arrangement where the plants were going up wires attached to big wooden poles. I have no idea what they were. No fruit hanging off of them that I could tell. If anyone knows what they are, please share the wealth. I also passed a some marking on the road that said "C2C" with an arrow pointing in the direction I was going. Since this ride of from Cape Flattery to Cape Canaveral, C2C makes sense! How weird is that? Another time, there was this house that was COMPLETELY covered in vines, with the exception of the roof. Every nook and cranny was covered. I don't know if the house was a 10 years old or a 100. Sure looked pleasant, though. I came into the town of Prosser and stopped by the Chamber of Commerce to say hi to Amy Milne's husband (being neighborly) and found an interesting statue on a park bench. I just had to take a picture.

Another pleasure of riding the bike is taking advantage of all the fruit stands that line the road. I usually don't stop when I am in a car, but on a bike, it is a great chance to take a break and just relax for a bit. I would grab a couple of peaches or nectarines, a cold drink and sit by the side of the stand and enjoy the moment. One stand I went to had raw Oklahoma peanuts in the shell. Now, that's my kinda nut! I buy them by the bag full back home. I bought a pound or so and stuck them in the back pocket of my riding jersey. It is much easier to eat a peanut out of the shell while standing still with two hands then to try and man handle those little critters while moving along at a 15 mph clip on a bike. The little buggers just wouldn't break open easily and I kept weaving from side to side while I wrestled one-handed with the shell. Not to make matters worse or anything, but I kept crossing paths with bees flying across the highway in search of precious nectar. Well, for some reason, a couple of them decided it was more fun to follow me and take swipes at the red neckerchief I was wearing. I had my video running trying to capture the moment when one of those fellows decided to sting me. Right on the neck! I kept shaking my head side to side (the video looks pretty good and I will try and upload it for your viewing pleasure) to shake them off, but it obviously just pissed them off! Pedal faster, pedal faster...

I cruised straight down the highway without exerting too much effort, the wind pushing me along. I pulled into a another Mexican restaurant ( I get a hankering for mex when I exercise) just about the time the storm opened up. I sat in the comfort of the store for about a half-hour while it blew over. The temps dropped by about 15 degrees and I put my rain jacket on before heading further toward Richland.

I caught one last long stretch of highway before descending into a torrential downpour in Richland. Luckily I had just made the edge of town when the skies opened up and I ducked into a Starbucks to wait it out. It wasn't so much the rain that bothered me, it was the lightning that kept lashing out of the sky that caught my attention. Having been struck by lightning twice in airplanes and nearly twice on the ground (Ed, remember the day in the Montgomery Wards parking lot in Colorado Springs?) I have this belief that I am a natural lightning rod. I may be crazy to ride a bike across the country, but I don't tempt fate!

With full rain gear on, I left the coffee shop and was greeted by the most beautiful double rainbow I have seen in a long time. Once again, I tried to capture it on film, but it just doesn't do it. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but the original is seared into your memory and can never fade away...

Tomorrow morning I will have breakfast with some folks that belong to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. After that, I need to search out a bike shop and purchase some aero bars for my bike. I need to find some way to off load the pressure on my hands from riding so long. I am starting to lose feeling in my left hand, pinky finger to my wrist. I'm impinging a nerve and I don't want any permanent damage. Once that is accomplished, I plan to head east along Hwy 12 toward Dodge or Pomeroy, hoping for Lewiston, ID by Wednesday evening.

For those that have never ridden a bicycle long distance and have always had the desire to, you need to make every effort to try it sometime. This has been the most pleasant and rewarding experience I have had in a long, long time. I don't know if it is the endorphine rush (runner's high) or what, but I feel so alive and free. My own pace, my own power. My legs aches in a most satisfying way at the end of the day. The little discomforts come and go, but the satisfaction of doing something like this is sticking with me for the long term. I think it is just like flying in space. I am doing something I have never done before. Something that is challenging and in an environment that is unfamiliar to me. There is a certain level of risk and uncertainty in what I am doing, but the rewards are worth all of the effort. I am seeing this country and the people that make it special, up close and personal. The feeling of satisfaction is huge and can never be taken away from me. Whether I do it once, or a thousand times...

Whoops, forgot my stats:

Here's today's stats:

Total distance: 59.15 mi (GPS) 69.6 (Trek) My error is that I sometimes forget to restart my clock on the GPS. It does not track mileage unless the timing is running.
Total time: 6:53:16.69
Avg pace: 6.59 /mi
Avg speed: 8.6 mph (GPS) 13.6 (Trek)
Max speed: 35.9 mph (GPS) 36.7 (Trek)
Total calories burned: 3395
Avg heart rate: 87 bpm
Max heart rate: 142 bpm
Total ascent: 1201 feet
Total descent: 1552 feet
Avg Cadence: I don't know, the sensor fell off my bike...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1219042800 Blog Mon, 18 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Rocketrek on KNDO KNDU http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=4534&setit=lm_19&ind=4534 "Astronaut Rockets Across America FOR Education" aired on KNDO KNDU, Yakima, WA.

View the video online.
View the article online.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=4534&setit=lm_19&ind=4534 Press Release Sun, 17 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Hotter than Helena http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218956400 Wow, I didn't think it could get any hotter than it was yesterday! Was I ever wrong. I had just come out of an A&W after slurping down a ice cold, mouth watering, root beer float, when I took a look at my temp gauge. Yow! 117 degrees! Must have been the concrete and side of the building baking my bike to a crispy finish. Math for the day... If it was 117 degrees F, what would that be in centigrade? Think I could have fried an egg on the sidewalk? What's the boiling point of water in F and C?

I was pretty toasted last night after having ridden so far in the heat of the day. I finished my blog, but did not elaborate on how my day ended. I have my wits about me again, so let me finish the story...

I came out of a small town called Selah, WA and was trying to follow my GPS to a hotel that I had located earlier. My GPS said that the hotel was only two miles away (as the crow flies) but gave me 7.51 miles to get there. Huh? My GPS told me to hang a left and follow a steep hill, rather than go into town. I decided to follow the designated bike path into Yakima and began a winding, curving path along the river. By now it was getting dark and I was hoping for the day to end in short order with a comfortable bed and cool shower. Well, the bike path wandered on, clearly away from the direction I needed to go. I kept on pedaling and grumbling that there was no way off this path. Every winged insect in the valley was swarming on the bike path and I kept getting mouthfuls of bugs. Trying to breathe with my mouth closed, but still sucking down the little demons. I pedaled for another four miles, before I finally had to drag my bike off the path into the parking lot of a hotel. Finally!! Yah hah! A place to sleep.

What, no rooms? Jazz festival in town? Car show? Where's the nearest hotel that has rooms? Thirty-four miles? I'm sinking here! The folks at the hotel were great. I gave them the number of the hotel I had been looking for earlier and they were surprised there were rooms available. My first alarm should have been that the hotel was not on their list of hotels to recommend. They called and found there were rooms available, so I hopped back on the bike, totally dark outside now, and off I went (the guy wouldn't take my card, but gave me 45 minutes to get there). My GPS wandered me through the back streets before I finally found the hotel, buried back in a darkened parking lot (my next alarm). My third alarm was the fact that the door was locked and a big sign said no visitors after 1000. A darker parking lot I have not seen around a commercial establishment. A lady came to the door, unlocked it and asked what I wanted. I told her I had a reservation and had just called. She stepped back and invited me in and then quietly mentioned that she was having problems with the rooms (fourth alarm). No air conditioning, but she would see what she could do. My fifth alarm? Thirty-five dollars a night and a deposit required for the key!! I should have been turning for the door long before, but having a bike on a dark night with no prospects for a room somewhere else, left me with few options. I was committed! After I paid, she said she would check on the room and make sure it was clean (sixth alarm). Off she goes with cleaning supplies in hand, complaining about the temperature and lack of AC. She told me to wait there and enjoy my cold soda (which was great). I waited in the parking lot and lost track of where she went. She pops out of the darkness like a bat exiting a deep cave, telling me that she needed to find something else, but I was welcomed to take a look. She introduced me to Jose, the maintenance guy on the balcony (she said he had fixed the AC earlier). After jiggling the key in the door, she was able to wrestle the door open (there was a huge gap in the door jam and someone could have easily stuck a knife through the opening with the door closed. Gee, someone may have done just that at one time...). The room reeked of smoke, the carpet was a pale shade of green, stained in numerous spots, one bed, a desk with no chair, curtains that barely covered the windows, one window without a curtain entirely. I pushed my bike through the door and decided that I wasn't going to go anywhere. I was bushed. I have stayed in worse places, so I could suck it up. It was muggy and stuffy beyond belief and I made one more appeal for a fan. She went off to find one (Jose comes to the rescue). As I sat there, flies started to come out of the wood work. They were everywhere. On the walls, the bed, the bathroom. What fun! Always nice to have company, but this was pushing it! I went into the bathroom (which was the coolest room) hoping for a nice cool shower, to take some of the heat out of my system. I pulled back the shower curtain and was greeted by even smaller little creatures bouncing around the rust stained porcelain. Oh boy, fleas! All right, this was about as low as it could go. No shower, just finish my blog and go to sleep. With Jose's fan in place and my blog finished, I crawled into bed with this sinking feeling that I wasn't the only one sharing the covers. Ever have that itchy feeling when you think there might be fleas or bedbugs in your space? Uh huh! So did I. I didn't sleep too well... Anyway, that was the story I needed to tell. I hope I didn't gross anybody out! To cap it all off, the next morning I did an interview with one of the local reporters and shared the experience of the previous night. She immediately knew which motel I stayed at, because she had recently completed a story on how the entire complex had been inundated with sewage. Covered the entire place, she said. Oh joy...

Well, needless to say, I departed rather quickly the following morning and had breakfast at a local diner, Mel's. I met a couple of gents out front, Dave and Gene, father and son. We chatted up a bit and talked about the ride. Dave shared some philosophy on faith (he needs to tell you the story). From there I headed over to meet a couple of reporters to film a bit on my ride. It's always fun to have an interview with a reporter that acts as the cameraman, producer and reporter all rolled into one. Both Nick from KNDO and Lindsey from KAPP TV did a great jobs. Not much news going on on a Sunday morning, so I was something to film!

I headed out of town along Hwy 97 and moved at a quick pace. The highway cut through a split in two mountains and I came across a historical marker. I don't know more about the story than what is in the photo. I will make sure to ask tomorrow.

After I came through the split, I was met by vast orchards of peaches and apples right inside the Yakama Nation. I stopped at the first fruit stand and picked up a peach for 36 cents. The shade was pleasant and the sprinkler was clicking away. I asked a guy to take a photo of me with the peach crates and the bike. I think I shocked the guy! He fumbled with the camera and I thanked him for his trouble. Too bad he didn't take a photo, I ended up taking one of my bike alone.

The road was flatter than a pancake and just about as hot as the frying pan. A dog leaped out of the bushes and gave me a good fright. I think he died of heat prostration after having exerted himself trying to chase a wayward cyclist! Even though the temp was recording about 109 degrees, it was actually kind of pleasant (yep, I'm a glutton for punishment). One of the things about riding a bike that you would not experience in a car is that a cool breeze blows off the orchards where the sprinklers are watering the trees. You pedal along and float through these moments of cool, refreshing air that immediately drops the temp about 20 degrees. The folks in the cars have no idea what they are missing.

Hwy 97 is a straight stretch of road that runs right into Toppenish. But from the photo, you can see that my GPS was telling me to take a right, then a left, cross the highway and do the same on the other side. Huh? I need to call Garmin and have a chat with their software developers!

My ride today was short, but I could not have gone far in this heat. Tomorrow I will meet with one of the NASA Explorer School teachers and drop by the tribal headquarters. The weather is supposed to change for the better and temps will drop over the coming week. From here I will head east and pick up Hwy 12 toward Lewiston, ID. I suspect it will take about 2 and 1/1 days to get there. Should be a nice ride.

Here are my stats for the day:

Total distance: 26.19 miles
Total time: 2:15:54.48
Avg pace: 5:11 / mi
Avg speed: 11.6 mph
Max speed: 25.7 mph
Total calories: 1355
Avg heart rate: 114 bpm
Max heart rate: 145 bpm
Avg cadence: 67 rpm
Total ascent: 425 feet
Total descent: 861 feet
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218956400 Blog Sun, 17 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Gee, I wonder what's cookin'? http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218870000 Aarrghh! It's me! Cruising through the Yakima Valley right alongside the Yakima River and my temperature gauge topped 111 degrees. And it wasn't as bad as it sounds. Fully hydrated and a decent breeze from the south made it bearable. It was also nice to pedal beside the river, making for relaxing miles, even with a few grades thrown in for fun.

I left the Summit Lodge after filling my stomach with a ham steak and peanut butter pancakes. I know it sounds pretty disgusting, but the peanut butter on pancakes is a rib sticking good meal. It goes way back to when I was a kid and I used to mix Karo syrup and peanut butter in a bowl and eat it by the spoonfuls. I picked up the habit again when I was training for my space walks. I needed something that was high in calories and slow burning which would last the entire run, usually about 6 hours. It worked like a champ! I actually flew peanut butter and syrup on my flight and would mix the two together on a fresh tortilla. Yum!

I headed down from the summit and immediately trusted my GPS to take me off the Interstate. MISTAKE! Right down a side road to a dead end. Turn around and pedal back up the hill to join I-90 for a few miles. The going was fast, but the traffic noise was painful. I stopped and grabbed my iPod out of the handlebar bag and cranked the music up to drown out the roar of the trucks passing by. Huh, what's that you say? Speak up, I can't hear you...

I was making sure to exit at each ramp along the highway, which gave a well deserved and shaded rest stop. On one of the ramps I saw this van parked and a guy hanging out by the back of the car. I slowed down and he shouted, "are you the rocketman?" I pulled off took a few moments to talk with Ron and Kathy (forgive me if I get your names wrong. Just leave a comment on the blog and correct me). They were headed to a Tom Petty concert and saw me as they passed by. Kathy offered me the coldest, sweetest grapes I have ever had! Wonderful! I've included their picture so everyone can see a couple of very nice and generous people. Thanks so much for stopping!

I ventured off the highway and stopped at a great little store in Easton. Kristi was working the counter and we struck up a conversation. "Where are you going, why are you doing it, are you nuts..." She was great. I've included a picture of us in front of her store. It turns out her dad used to work survival training for Gus Grissom and the first group of astronauts. What a small world! I also chatted with a woman named Rita and was biking the John Wayne trail with her family. She had some coast to coast bike rides under her belt. Nice to chat with her too!

This just happened to be the day to meet people. After I took the picture of my temperature gauge hitting 111, I pulled over in the first shade I could find and heard the most pleasant gurgling noise coming from across the road. I walked over and took my shirt and headband and dipped them in the coldest spring water. I should have guessed by the number of cattails lining the side of the road. What a pleasant surprise! The picture does not do it justice. It was so gratifying on a hot August day! (No, I didn't drink any, even though I have iodine tablets with me. There were a bunch of horses upstream)

I wandered back across to my bike, but out of the corner of my eye, I see this guy walking down the side of the road, way out in the middle of nowhere. I thought he might have stopped over the hill and was walking back to check on the crazy guy pedaling out in the heat of the day! His name was Rich and he was helping shuttle cars for some of the fishermen on the river. He asked if I was riding my bike to support some animal cause, something he has seen on TV (someone is riding a bike somewhere to support something I have learned). It's so nice to meet people that are enjoying what they are doing and unpretentious as the day is long. What a nice way to fill my day!

I followed Rich's directions and ended up pedaling through Thorp, WA. Nice ride alongside of the Yakima River. Lots of irrigation and orchards alongside the road. I was occasionally hit by an errant sprinkler (not that I am complaining). The heat was getting to be a bit unbearable with the wind dying down, so I dropped into a fruit and antique shop next to I-90. Heather made me the most delightful iced caramel coffee and filled my water bottles to the brim with ice cold water. On the way out I struck up a conversation with another gentleman regarding my bike ride. He brought his two grandsons back with their dad and we grabbed a picture. I handed out some NASA stickers, which the kids immediately applied to their t-shirts. I had to ask their names a couple of times and I hope I get it right, Cade and Jace?

The ride through the rest of the valley was relatively flat, but the heat was intense. Luckily, the irrigation canals ran beside the road and I stopped numerous times to dunk my shirt and headband to keep me cool. Ahh, so nice!

I slammed down some tasty teriyaki chicken in Ellensburg and then ventured down the Yakima Canyon road for the last 30 miles to my destination. The canyon is spectacular and the river was so inviting looking. There were lots of folks floating on rafts and inner tubes making good use the water in the heat of the day. I came across a group of four students from a local college and they asked where I was going. One pointed to my video camera on my head and asked if it was streaming video. I turned it on and had each one introduce themselves. I asked what they were studying in college and the all chimed in a unison, "physical education." Considering that all four of them had less then 4% body fat combined, I would say they were in the right degree program.

A couple of more climbs took me out of the country and along a beautiful lava formation next to the road. The canyon opened up to these lush green lawns with sprinklers happily doing their thing. I tried to catch a photo back up the road, but again, it doesn't do it justice.

I hurried into Yakima by night fall and found that most of the motels were booked due to a bunch of events going on in town (next time I won't assume). I did find one buried in the back of a dark parking lot. No AC, reeking of smoke, curtains won't close, had to hang a towel over one of the windows. he lady at the desk was great and did her best to find me a fan. Jose, the maintenance guy offered up his only fan to keep me cool! Thanks Jose! You do what you have to do.

Tomorrow, a couple of interviews and then on to Toppenish for a talk on Monday.

Oh yeah, some of you may be wondering what all the gizmo's are on my handlebars. The solar cell is a Solio (http://store.solio.com/s.nl/it.A/id.257/.f) I use it to power my Garmin throughout the day. I configured it with an old bungee cord from a handlebar bag I use back in college (thanks Ed). The Garmin Edge 705 is on the right and the Trek bike computer on the left. I added it at the last minute as I wanted to have some way to record temperatures during my ride. I'n GLAD I did. One discrepancy I have found is that my cycle computer and GPS disagree on the total mileage. Today, my Trek computer said I pedaled 101.3 miles. The Garmin, 95.96 miles. I will track down the source of the error. I would tend to believe the cycle computer as it measures directly every rotation of the wheel. So this would be a great segway into today's math problem... If my wheel is 700x28c, that means the outer diameter is 700mm, convert 700mm to inches and than determine the circumference of my tire. If you don't know how to determine the circumference, you can find great web links that discuss it. Google "circumference." Once you have determined the circumference you will know how much one revolution of my tire is across the ground. If you want to go a bit further, assume that I am going to travel a total of 4000 miles. How many revolutions of my wheel will that require? Have fun!

Stats for today:

Total mileage: 95.96 GPS, 101.3 Trek
Total time: 10:49:14.20
Avg pace: 6:45 / mi
Avg speed: 8.9 mph
Max speed: 34.2 mph
Total calories: 4927
Avg heart rate: 118 bpm
Max heart rate: 146 bpm (LA, are you sure that was my heart rate on EVA1? Must have been a problem with the sensor. Oh, that was you, wasn't it?)
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218870000 Blog Sat, 16 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Rocketrek on the Peninsula Daily News http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=15678&setit=lm_19&ind=15678 "First Native American in space inspires Neah Bay students" By Debbie Ross-Preston

Read the article online.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=15678&setit=lm_19&ind=15678 Press Release Fri, 15 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Hey Dude, you're over the hill... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218783600 I know, I know... a lot of you are out there saying, "hey, he's almost 50!" I can hear my friend Ed Quesada saying the Dude part. All I can say to Ed is that I will never be as old as you! Ha ha..

My hill today it Snoqualmie Pass, on the backbone of the Pacific Crest Trail. I left Terri and Mike's house this morning and made a quick jaunt over to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Well, not exactly a quick trip. Maybe in a car, but not so on my bicycle! Maneuvering the roads of Seattle with a GPS that doesn't care which hill lies in front of you. Only the shortest rou�, hills included! I met Bonnie Dunbar, former astro and the current President of the museum. Her administrative assistant, Linda Kennedy came from the Johnson Space Center Astronaut appearance office and handles a lot of the events. She gave me a call the other day and asked if I could stop by and speak with the students attending an aerospace summer camp. I spent about 30 minutes talking about my background and answering questions. Great group of kids and staff. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

From there I used Bonnie's directions to navigate through Renton and up between two mountains to Issaquah on I-90. I had a hankering for Vietnamese food, so I used my GPS for what I have found is an excellent feature! Search engine!! Pho Hoa, only .39 miles to the east. Yee haa. Grilled pork with vermicelli and a bubble smoothie!! How decadent.

From there I located a local bike shop. LBS for those that like acronyms! And all of those at NASA are saying, "yeah man, give me more acronyms, we don't have enough!" The guys in the shop gave me good advice about going up the pass and using the shoulder I-90 some and side roads as they occur. Never used the bike trail as I was told it was dirt. Didn't even bother looking for it! The side roads were excellent and afforded me the opportunity to get away from the interstate traffic! Not scary, just way too loud. Ear plugs would be nice! Lots of rocks and assorted junk on the side of the ride. I have been fortunate so far not to get a flat, considering how much stuff I have run over. Watch what will happen to tomorrow, I will get a flat. Jinx...

The ride up the pass wasn't as bad as I anticipated. The grade was relatively shallow, mostly around 2-3%. Here's today's math tickler... how do you determine the grade of a road? How many vertical feet per mile do you have to climb to achieve 1%, 2%, or 10%?

I jumped off the interstate at every possible point and still heading in the general direction of the pass. I came through the town of North Bend on Hwy 202. Great flat stretch of road.

Gotta run and get my laundry. More to follow....

I stopped a few times and got some pictures of the bike at strategically scenic spots (i.e. in the shade and a place to sit). The temperature peaked at 100 today! Ultra yucky! Anyone remember the line from Good Morning Vietnam? "It's hot, *amn hot! Hot and wet." It was hot and I was wet! Soaking wet. I bought one of those little gizmos called a GUTR. A little rubber sweat band with a gutter in it. It's meant to keep the sweat out of your eyes by letting it drip out the ends rather than down your face.. Whoever made it must not have ridden a bicycle, because it does a great job of funneling the sweat right into your eyes in copious quantities. It seems that hanging your head in a riding position is not optimal for the gadget to work.

I made a stop at the TA truck stop about mile marker 38 and met a trucker from Romania. Must have driven a long way... ;o) Great guy. We sat and discussed politics, owning your own business, why a nut like me is pedaling across the country... If you happen to catch my blog, please drop me a line and give me your name. Something Gregori, or the like... Nice guy! Prior to that I met a gent riding an old mountain bike, carrying a huge climbing pack. It seems that his seat was no longer staying attached to the seat post and kept swiveling on him. "You wouldn't happen to have an allen wrench would you," he asked. Why yes, I am carrying just about every tool known to the cycling world right here in my little panniers! We chatted a bit and then off he went to the trailhead on his bike.

I continued up the pass and found a bunch of folks on a side road taking advantage of a huge water fall and deep pool. I took their picture, and any other time I would have joined them, but I was trying to get up the pass before night fall.

My intent was to stay at Denny Creek campground, about 3 miles from the summit, but they were FULL!! You know what it feels like when you at the top of a 60 mile day, still another 3 miles to go with the sun setting and you have to pass up an idyllic camping spot, because everybody and their brother has crammed their motor-home into every available spot? Not good! And the remaining 3 miles were all up hill. Another math question: If I was at 1600 feet at the Denny Camp Ground and I still had another 3 miles to go, with the final elevation being 3200 feet, how many feet per mile must I climb? What grade is that?

Luckily at the summit I found a room at the Summit Lodge. No AC, no cable, no problem! Just a bed and a power outlet, that is all I need. I did meet a very nice guy, Bill Marsh (like the swamp, he says). Works as a fireman and EMT for King Country. chopper pilot in Vietnam, ski area builder , all around nice guy. He had heard about my ride on the radio in Seattle and poof, there I am. He asked what he could do to support and I told him to open up a dialog through the blog with hopefully others in the Seattle area that have a passion for education. Think of creative ways we can bring math and science to the classroom. Real world examples of everyday problems and how they are solved using math and science. We can do this collectively if we can first concentrate on our own communities. GET INVOLVED!

One last really weird gotcha for the day. When I checked in to the Summit Lodge, Kirstan at the desk promised to find me the best room possible, given that the AC was down. Guess the number of the room she gave me? 113! And we hadn't even discussed what I did! Wow, I flew on STS-113 and whoa, this is too freaky...

Have a wonderful night and keep on keeping on.


Oh yeah, stats for the day...

Total distance: 61.58 miles (hey, it was uphill!)
Total time: 7:44:29.55
Avg pace: 7:32 / mi
Avg speed: 8.0 mph (hills, lots of hills)
Max speed: 31.6 mph
Total calories burned: 4884
Avg heart rate: 120 bpm
Max heart rate: 151 bpm (conditioning, YEAH!)
Avg cadence: 64 rpm
Total ascent: 5215 feet
Total descent: 2329 feet

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218783600 Blog Fri, 15 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
What goes up, must come down.... and up and down and up and down.... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218697200 Gravity sucks!! It really does. It sucks you down to the earth so darn hard, going up hills becomes a lesson in perseverance. I would kind of like the zero gravity thing right about now. Where is it when you need it?

Actually, I am tickled at my ability to climb hills. Back when I was in graduate school, my lunch ritual was to leave the Naval Postgraduate School and run down the bike path along the water until I came to the merry-go-round on the boardwalk. From there I would point my toes up toward the Presidio and climb skyward. The upside about hills, is there is always a downside (pun intended). Going up, you have to come down and it's a time to rest.

I started off this morning backtracking to the Lower Elwah Klallam Reservation and presented the only person on duty with a picture and a flown mission patch. Unfortunately (for a biker), the rez lies at the bottom of a 11 percent grade and about 7 miles the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. But it was worth it. I would hate to have passed them by just because I was tired and wanting to head to the east. It would have been disrespectful to do otherwise.

Back through Port Angeles and I stopped by the PA School District office and said hi to the folks on staff and they kindly gave me some incredibly cold water! From there I ventured along the bike path near the water, but it quickly became dirt and I was afraid I would blow a tire. I jumped back on Hwy 101 near and battled traffic for nearly 40 miles. Yuck!! The shoulder of the road had rocks all over and it was like playing dodge ball. Weaving back and forth without venturing into traffic. One of my less fun parts of the ride. Once I past Sequim, the road was more shaded and clean along the shoulder. Hey, another touring bike!! I kept seeing someone in the distance riding a touring bike, but they disappeared into thin air when I looked back up.

I stopped by the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal HQ and handed off another pic and patch to Jeremy at the admin window. I bummed a cold glass of water from him and off I went.

You would think that having a road along the coast of the ocean would mean that it is fairly level, wouldn't you? Anyone been down Hwy 1 in CA lately? I lost track of the number of grades I climbed, but they were certainly respectable. The temps were right at 99 degrees and I stopped to shuck my shirt in favor of my vest, when the mysterious disappearing touring cyclist came along. She was from Quebec and was finishing a 500 km ride through Vancouver Island, back along the Olympic Peninsula and ending in Seattle. Here's the math for the day... how many miles is 500 kilometers? How many feet? How many meters?

She could sure climb hills though. She headed out in front of me and up another 6% grade, when lo and behold, she disappeared again, right in the middle of the hill. I kid you not!! Poof, gone, zippo, nadda, no more... I have no idea where she went! Must have been an angel, she sure looked like one. ;o)

I left Hwy 101 for Hwy 104 and finally ended up in Kingston. The ferry had an hour wait, but I just cruised up alongside the waiting cars and right to the motorcycle and bicycle staging area. We have to be the last ones on, but the price was right ($0) and no waiting! I love this bicycle stuff!

I rode the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds and tried in vain to follow my GPS through the city streets. Someone on the blog recommended I get an updated map, but unfortunately, this is the most updated map. As a tool for collecting data, it is awesome, but as a tool for giving directions, it is way less than perfect. For now I will rely on my map and the people I meet that live in the area and bike!

I wandered through the city until I came to Lake Washington and followed it until I came to my friend's house. It was a long day. Longer than I expected, but still enough time to capture my thought and put some pics on the web. There will be days, inevitably, where I will be just too darn tired to do anything. Hopefully, not often!

Here's today's stats:

Total distance: 92.13 miles
Total time: 9:15:54.70
Avg pace: 6.02 /mi
Avg speed: 9.9 mph
Max speed: 32.5 mph
Total calories burned: 5758
Avg heart rate: 124 bpm (slacker)
Max heart rate: 160 bpm (not bad for an old guy)

Have a nice night folks. Thanks for following along! Anyone care to ride the Cascades with my tomorrow?

One last thing, don't ride at night when your flashing tail light decides to leave you bike about 40 miles behind you...
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218697200 Blog Thu, 14 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Rocketrek on Universe Today http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=149&setit=lm_19&ind=149 Former Astronaut to Bike Across US for Education
Written by Nancy Atkinson

Read the article online.
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=149&setit=lm_19&ind=149 Press Release Thu, 14 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
First Native American in Space Launches 4,000-Mile Sea to Sea Bike Ride at Washington State's Makah Nation in Cape Flattery http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=16&setit=lm_19&ind=16 Commander John Herrington will offer inspiration and encouragement to kids; Other Washington stops include the Elwah, S'Klallam, Suquamish and Yakama tribes

Beginning in Cape Flattery in Washington's Olympic Peninsula across country to Cape Canaveral in Florida, astronaut John Herrington � the first Native American in space � embarks on a 4,000-mile coast-to-coast bike tour Wednesday, August 13, offering inspiration and encouragement to kids and touting opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The trip � dubbed Rocketrek � kicks off at the Makah Nation on Wednesday. It is sponsored by TREK Bicycle Corporation, Pro Bike Inc. of Oklahoma City, the Chickasaw Nation, the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII), and South Dakota Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP).

Commander Herrington decided to take on the cross-country ride to help spur a renewed interest in science and engineering among young people generally and among Native American youth specifically.

"The generation that grew up in the age of the Apollo program and the journey to the moon was motivated by the excitement of space and the possibilities that it brought to the nation," says Herrington. "Those kinds of possibilities to explore the unknown and make new discoveries still exist, but we must motivate students to learn and have a way to connect what they learn to what they do on a daily basis."

Kids will get a hands-on opportunity to do just that by following Herrington's journey on a special Web site, www.rocketrek.net , which allow students to track and participate in his progress. Using basic STEM skills along with problem solving and critical thinking, students can use the site to log into daily uplinks of Herrington's Global Positional System (GPS) positions, photos and a journal.

Herrington believes that by providing real world examples to problems presented in a classroom setting, the subject matter becomes less daunting and more intriguing. Students will start to enjoy seeking out the answers and not worry so much about the methods involved in finding the answer.

After the Makah Nation, the ride will take Commander Herrington south where he will visit NASA Explorer Schools at other Native American reservations in Washington state including the Elwah, S'Klallam, Suquamish and Yakama tribes.

"It made sense to begin our trip here in Washington," the former NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy test pilot explained. "Because the state is a hub for technology, it was a perfect launching pad in starting our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of STEM disciplines."

After Washington, Herrington heads east to Idaho and continues through the states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. In each state are planned stops other NASA Explorer Schools where Herrington will engage students in a motivational talk about his personal experiences, journey to the space program and the wonders of flying in space, and how they can work to achieve their goals and realize their potential.

"I was once an unmotivated student, looking for something that sparked my fire," says Herrington. "I found it as a rock-climber on a survey crew, learning the application of mathematics from the side of a cliff. That experience inspired me to return to school and ultimately led to my career as an astronaut."

Commander Herrington firmly believes his success and accomplishments are due to the encouragement and involvement of individuals he met during his formative college years. In leaving the astronaut corps, Herrington hopes he can help make a difference and impact on children by sharing his experiences � encouraging them to pursue their dreams, seek out exciting opportunities, and challenge who they are and what they are capable of accomplishing.

"Sometimes it takes someone outside of our normal circle of friends and family to shine a light in our direction and help us along," said Herrington. "As I set out on this bike ride and try to make the learning practical and fun, I hope to also show students that it takes commitment and effort, both mental and physical, to accomplish your goals."

About Rocketrek

Rocketrek is a 4,000-mile bicycle ride from Cape Flattery, WA, to Cape Canaveral, FL, beginning August 13. Commander John Herrington � the first Native American to fly in space � initiated the cross-country trek to promote and encourage student participate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The route is expected to take three months and will cross the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Stops are planned in each state where Commander Herrington will discuss his journey to the space program, the wonders of flying in space and the need for students to realize their potential that lies within. Sponsors of Rocketrek include TREK Bicycle Corporation, Pro Bike Inc. of Oklahoma City, the Chickasaw Nation, the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII), and South Dakota Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP). Learn more at www.rocketrek.net .

About Commander John Herrington

As a Mission Specialist on the Shuttle Endeavor, John Herrington became the first Native American to fly in space in 2002. He logged 330 hours in space, including nearly 20 hours in space walks supporting the construction of the International Space Station. As a motivational speaker, Commander Herrington shares his journey from a sometimes aimless youth to becoming a naval aviator, test pilot and astronaut forging new frontiers for America and the world. Herrington is a native of Wetumka, Oklahoma, and a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=16&setit=lm_19&ind=16 Press Release Wed, 13 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
"We are off to see the wizard..." http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218610800 Dorothy and Toto should have ridden a bike!! And they should have started in Neah Bay!

What a FABULOUS day!! Everything came together this morning and I hit the road with the blessing of the Makah Nation. They held a ceremony on Hobuck Beach right on the water's edge. I was humbled that so many folks came to see me off! I chose the perfect spot to begin my journey, not because of the beauty of the land, but the beauty, warmth and caring or the people that call it home! I felt at home with my family, that is how much they gave of themselves! I am deeply honored to been afforded the privilege of sharing their homes and way of life, if only for a couple of days! I owe much to what they have shared with me. I will carry their spirit across the country!

After getting my shoes throughly soaked by the Pacific and feet full of sand, I struggled my almost 80 pound bike (and I think I am being conservative here) through the sand back up to the parking and down the road (after cleaning the tires and chain of sand). An honest to goodness police escort (front and rear, complete with lights, but no siren) through town and out to the reservation's edge. From there I was on my own. Gorgeous ride along the edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Lots of construction along the road, so I stopped many times for single lane traffic. The hills began right outside of Neah Bay. My data shows the grades ranged from mild to wild. I still need to crunch the data and hopefully get it into a chart where I can show the number of climbs. My total ascent over the course of 86 miles was 4356 feet!! Not in elevation gain, but total feet climbed, adding up the elevation gain from each hill. I descended a total of 4157 feet.

So, here's some math for anyone interested, what was the total elevation gain, using the numbers I have given you. To check if your work is correct, figure out the elevation of Port Angeles and the elevation of Hobuck Beach.

Back to the story...

The weather was perfect! Temps from 58-90 degrees F. For those that like numbers, here are some that may be of interest...

Total Distance: 86.43 miles
Total Time: 8:20:47.46
Avg pace: 5:47 per mile
Avg Speed: 10.4 mph
Max Speed: 31.4 mph (that was fun)
Total Calories burned: 6368
Avg heart rate: 135 beats per minute (bpm)
Max Heart Rate: 168 bpm

I traveled along Hwy 112 until it turned left from Hwy 113. I continued up 113 on a five mile climb along Burnt Mountain. I screamed down the backside (that where the max speed came from) and turned on Hwy 101. Which was mercifully flat until just before Lake Crescent. I did make an error in judgment (not like that has never happened before ) ;o) I ate a wonderful breakfast at Dan's house (4 pancakes, cup of peaches, three pieces of bacon (fat removed), cup of OJ, 1/2 of peanut butter globbed on the pancakes (try it sometime). I was fueled for performance! How many calories is that?

So, I decided to fore go stopping at a convenience store to grab a snack before I headed up Burnt Mountain. I thought (erroneously) that another store lay ahead at the next intersection! Whoops, only in my dreams. Rather than pedal back down the 4 mile long 6% grade (and pedal back up) I pressed up and over the summit of the pass because my GPS told me there was a gas station at the next intersection, 7 miles down the road. Well, the gas pumps were still there but the building had been demolished years before. No gas, no food, no nothin'. So, I consulted my now suspect GPS data for the closest food store. There was one, three miles in the opposite direction. So, being the cautious one that I am and thinking pedaling another 22 miles with only a little water in my bottles was not a good idea, I headed SW. Well, I NO LONGER trust my GPS data base, because that store was not there either. I turned around and ended up scrounging water from some dilapidated heavy equipment garage. Grease coated the walls of the sink, but I filled up anyway. What choice did I have? Oh yeah, the lady that ran the shop wasn't too keen on my presence.

Lo and behold, only 1/2 mile further down the road was the Hungry Bear Cafe! (wasn't on my GPS, go figure) I ate well and shared greetings with two bicyclists from Seattle headed the other way.

The rest of the ride was straight as any arrow until just before Lake Crescent. Another nasty grade followed by a hair bending descent to a large sign that read, "Bicyclists, read the notice in 1/4 mile." The road around Lake Crescent is narrow with a very small shoulder and blind curves. The notice asks the cyclist to push a button which starts two flashing lights that warn motorists there are bikes ahead. The lights flash automatically for one hour, assuming you can pedal the next 11 miles at an average speed of 12 mph. It wasn't bad at all. "I've had worse." "merely a flesh wound." Monty Python....

Gorgeous lake. A couple of pictures to prove it. One thing I did realize, is I didn't take enough pictures!! I took a lot of video with rolling commentary, but we haven't included that on the website yet. Hopefully in a couple of days. In one of the pictures you will see me wearing a camera on the side of my helmet. Digital video! They look great!! Trust me...

I'm staying in Port Angeles tonight at the house of one of my friend's from Neah Bay. Tomorrow I will visit the Lower Elwah Tribal Center before heading down the road toward the ferry and two other reservations.

Thanks so much to everyone that is following this journey. I am blessed to have so many friends that cover the length of this great country. I hope to cross paths will all of you before this journey is over! Keep those cards and letters coming! Judy and Lauren, I expect big hugs at ACQ!!
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218610800 Blog Wed, 13 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Rocketrek on Wired Blog Network http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=119&setit=lm_19&ind=119 Dave Banks writes about John for the "geekdad" section of Wired Blog Network.
View the article
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=119&setit=lm_19&ind=119 Press Release Wed, 13 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Hard to pedal in the ocean... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218524400 If you are at all curious why my trek route today took me out along Cape Flattery and about three miles out into the Pacific, I was checking to see how water tight my Ortlieb panniers were! The bike didn't fare too well... Har har...

Actually, I was absolutely fortunate to take a ride with Dan Greene and his 24' Radon Craft boat out around the Cape. I took my digital video, GPS and digital still camera and recorded the entire trip. Great photos of Grey whale, puffins, Bald Eagles, incredible coast line, and awesome swells. Dan took us out to his 125' mid water trawler which was bringing aboard 100 tons of Hake. I jumped aboard the FV Alyeska and took video on the operations. Dan, TJ, Nate and John waited alongside while I wandered the ship. When I was done they came back alongside and I jumped over the railing. Unfortunately, the swells had risen to about 5-6 feet and the boat pulled back at the last second. I was about 1 second from taking a swim, but I grabbed the railing with my right arm and dangled about 4 feet above the water line. Arms from the deck hands grabbed my side and helped me back aboard! Yee haa! I just about went swimming with all of my electronic gear attached to my body! That would have brought this trek to a quick halt until I purchased some more! Luckily, I have quick reflexes (not bad for an old guy) and the crew jumped into action. Otherwise, we would be discussing the causes of hypothermia! See, I told you we would be discussing science!!! ;o)

Fantastic ride and absolutely breathtaking watching the Grey whales breech the surface. One thing I learned, whale breath stinks! I was actually hit in the face by whale spit!! How cool is that?

I spent the remainder of the afternoon talking to folks from the Makah Nation in the community center and answering some great questions! Wonderful folks and a pleasure to be around.

I also visited the Makah Cultural and Research Center. Janine Bowechop, Director of the Center, gave me a fabulous tour and explained in detail the history of the Makah people. On the way there, TJ gave me a lesson in berry picking. Thimbleberries are awesome, Huckleberry's and crab apples!

If you ever get a chance to come out this way, you will have the most wonderful experience. Breathtaking scenery and incredibly kind and generous people. I picked the perfect spot to begin my journey, which starts tomorrow at 7:45 am. A blessing ceremony followed by a police escort through the city! What a way to start!

I'll try and get some of the photos loaded this evening. I just forgot to bring my camera to dinner...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218524400 Blog Tue, 12 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
John Herrington's Rocketrek on King5 http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=78&setit=lm_19&ind=78 KING 5's Deborah Feldman reports on John Herrington's Rocketrek from Seattle, Wa.

View the newscast online.
Read the article online
http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=press&id=78&setit=lm_19&ind=78 Press Release Mon, 11 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Neah Bay and Hobuck http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218438000 I woke up early this morning and assembled my trusty Trek 520. A crisp, clear and cool day in Seattle!! John Wright did a phenomenal job of packaging my bike. I used two Yakima gears straps to suspend the bike from the garage door in a makeshift sort of bike work-stand. The bike went together in nothing flat. I've included a series of photos of document the process. At least it will give me a guide when I go to put the bike back in the box in three months! My good friend, Teresa Moore, arranged an interview with KING 5 TV, one of the local stations, so I threw my gear together and took the bike to downtown Seattle. They filmed a short segment about the ride which aired this evening across the state. It was fun to read the comments from folks in the local area. Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback.

After the spot was filmed, I headed back to the house and met my ride to Neah Bay. I was very fortunate to hook up with two great folks, Wayne and Jane Bridenstine. They are the parents of a fellow Naval Aviator, Jim Bridenstine, whom I met a couple of years ago at the X-Prize Cup in Las Cruces, NM. Jim is the team owner of Bridenstine Rocket Racing and is getting ready to field a rocket powered vehicle in the new Rocket Racing League. Jim's parents live in the Seattle area and they graciously gave me a lift out here to the coast. Such a small world we live in as they were once residents of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Great conversation and company! Thanks for the lift!!

I settled in to my cabin here at the Hobuck Campground and RV Park, just west of Neah Bay. My cabin is about 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean! It's an absolutely a beautiful area. Lots of sea kayaks amid numerous tents and cabins. The fog has been steadily rolling in since this afternoon and the temperature is a far cry cooler than it was when I left Oklahoma. Together with the Bridenstines, I spent the evening with some folks from the Makah Nation. Lisa Halttunen directs the tribal education program and TJ Greene is the Treasurer for the Makah Nation. Tomorrow I plan to get a tour of the area which may include a boat ride around Cape Flattery and to the Straits of Juan De Fuca. In the afternoon I will get the opportunity to meet with some of the tribal leadership and elders as well as spend some quality time talking to students

It was quite the ride out here via Hwy 112 from Port Angeles. I thought my hill climbing would start farther east near the Cascades, but 112 has its share of steep grades and narrow shoulders. It's been recommended that I take a longer route around Lake Crescent along Hwy 101. Time to consult Google Maps with terrain contours! Gotta love the internet...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218438000 Blog Mon, 11 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
NW to Seattle... http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218351600 I'm on my way!! Sort of... sitting in the back of a Southwest 737 letting someone else do the flying. I'd rather be up front than sitting in back, but I don't have much say in the matter. I'm headed to Seattle via Las Vegas courtesy of SWA Rapid Rewards one-way award. Hopefully, I will pick up the second leg this November, from Orlando back to Oklahoma City. My good neighbor, Gary Woodbridge gave me a lift to Will Rogers Airport this afternoon after I finished a flurry of housekeeping and logistical chores. Paying some last minute bills, including those that come due while I am away. I am fortunate to have a friend of the Woodbridge's house-sit for me while I am gone. My cat Tili will certainly appreciate the company. The one thing in her life that has been constant since my daughter Amanda picked her out for me is my absence!! I am gone much more often than I have been home. I have been on the road constantly supporting a variety of efforts across the country, overseas included. Every time I come home, my cat goes nuts for attention and then, poof, I'm gone again. At least now she will have some continuity in her life. That includes a teacup poodle my house-sitter is bringing along! Given the fact that my mom has a teacup poodle also and Tili finds great pleasure in scaring the dickens out of the dog. This will be interesting...

I arrived in Seattle after an interesting turn in Las Vegas. It seems the concourse I was to leave from (Gate B10) had lost power for some reason and they were shuffling passengers from C concourse and back. No sooner would people get to B when they would be turned around and told that C was the place to be. Back over to C and then we are told that the plane will leave from B (really, trust me...). So, back to B we go. Sit, wait, and sure enough...gate change, back to C... Funny thing, even though the power was out in the concourse, the slots were still lit and cranking away! I guess they have their priorities when it comes to emergency power!

A friend from way back in my Plano, TX days and her husband (and I mean way back when I was a 14 year old brat, she says) picked me up with my plethora of equipment and sported me off to their home near Lake Washington. Tomorrow, a media event or two and then off to Neah Bay.

Time to snooze... Zzzzzzzz...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218351600 Blog Sun, 10 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Done packing! http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218265200 I finally have all of my bags packed and ready to hop on a flight tomorrow for Seattle.  I'm carrying four Ortlieb panniers, two front and two back in addition to a handlebar bag.  Each pannier weighed out between 7 and 10 pounds.  A little less weight in front, so I will see how the bike handles.   I also will be carrying a Big Agnes Emerald Mountain SL2 tent, with a Thermorest pad on the back rack (6 pounds).  On the front rack I have mounted a Cat Eye Halogen light and will carry a Mountain Hardware bivy bag.  Each rack is rated at 50 pounds max, so I'm just under the limit in front and a pound over on the back.  My front panniers carry my extra hardware for the bike (tools, tire, tubes, spokes, etc...) and my cold weather and rain gear.  The back panniers are a bit more interesting.  Given that I am going to keep a daily log and update my route to the website, I'm carrying more electronic gear than most sane people would care to lug around.  I have an IBM X40 laptop, Sprint Broadband USB, Garmin Edge 705, Sony digital voice recorder, VHoldR helmet mounted video camera, spare charger (2 AA batteries), Solio solar powered charger (keeps the Garmin powered throughout the day) and a Canon Power Shot...  whew....  The IBM fits nicely in the back pannier.  Most of the remainder of the electronics will reside in my handlebar bag.  I configured the Solio charger with a bungee cord to rest on the top of my handlebar bag and I run a power cord to connect to the Garmin. 

My bike was expertly packed in a standard Trek shipping box by my good friends at Pro Bike.  I'll just have to reassemble when I reach Neah Bay on Monday evening.  That will be fun!  I'll just have to see how many spare bolts I have remaining when I'm through!  ;o)

I've included a shot of the folks at Pro Bike, Inc.  John, Andy and Ruby have been fantastic and incredibly helpful throughout my preparations.  Everyone has a LBS (Local Bike Shop) that they value and I was blessed to walk into John's shop late last year.  I've owned Trek bikes for the past 25 years and I knew that I wanted their production touring bike, the 520.  I stopped by Pro Bike and talked to John about my planned ride, the reason behind it and what I wanted to accomplish along the way.  I left confident I would be buying a bike within the week, but John beat me to the punch when he called me a few days later and said that Trek was interested in sponsoring me!  Now wasn't that nice?  Yepper!  Anyway, hanging at Pro Bike has been a great experience.  It's fun to watch John, Andy and Ruby do their thing and take care of their customers in a friendly, knowledgeable manner. 

The adventure is about to begin...

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1218265200 Blog Sat, 9 Aug 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Broadmoor Training Ride http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1217142000
This was one of those spectacular days in Colorado Springs: Dry, cool, beautiful sunshine and a very good friend to ride with up the mountain. Ed Quesada and I have been friends since the our college days, roommates on Columbia Drive and have spent many hours together climbing in Colorado. I took three bikes to Colorado for my daughter Jessica's 18th birthday!! Two Trek mountain bikes and my Trek road bike. One bike went to Jess for her birthday! Now she has a bike to ride when she heads up to Fort Collins to start college this fall!

Though it was a short ride, cranking up the road to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was a solid workout and a blast to ride down. Having only been at altitude for two days, I was feeling pretty good. Great company and great exercise! Love it!

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1217142000 Blog Sun, 27 Jul 2008 01:00:00 -0600
Sunrise Beach, TX Training Ride http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1216537200 Ever have one of those days where you just want to hop on the bike and go as far and as fast as your legs can carry you? This was one of those days by a factor of 10!! I needed an attitude adjustment bad and riding the bike hard works like a champ!

My dad owns a small plane and we were going to take it flying from Sunrise Beach to Llano, TX so the natural thing for me to do was pedal over, fly and pedal back. Nice solid ride out HWY 71, just south of Marble Falls, up to Sunrise Beach, back to Marble Falls through Horseshoe Bay. Some hills to be had and I was cranking along like I haven't in a long time. At one point I hit 39 mph just as my dad passed me on his motorcycle. Great workout through I wasn't on my touring bike. Light weight and fast! HWY 71 has a great shoulder beginning just past the turn off to Marble Falls on HWY 281. It was a bit more challenging on FM 2147 through Horseshoe Bay. No shoulder and lots of traffic headed to Marble Falls. I took a short break at the Starbucks overlooking the lake and then the back road on FM 2147 to CR 404. Very pleasant ride, non-existent traffic and SHADE!! It was a bit of a scorcher that day. I think the temperature peaked out near 100 degrees. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate...

On a separate note, I thought I would give an explanation of how I will be loading the GPS data on the website so that folks can track my journey across the US. In order for me to test the blog capability of this website, I have added a couple of training rides that I captured using my Garmin Edge 705. The two that I have added to the site were conducted in July, a couple of weeks after I purchased the GPS. The Edge has the capability of capturing the route, in addition to data on heart rate, elevation, distance, cadence, etc... I transfer this data to my IBM laptop using a USB connection and upload it to a program called Garmin Training Center. The data is saved as a *.tcx file. The file is usually around 20-30MB. In order to display my route on Google Earth, I have to convert the file to a *.kml file. This file is then up-linked to the server that supports my website. You must have Google Earth installed on your computer (link is on the website) so that you can open this *.kml file and it will overlay on the map.

Starting on Wednesday the 13th, I will start uploading my route each day and number them Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc... This way anyone that cares to track me on the site, will have a excellent plot of my route for that day. In addition, I plan on having either a video, audio, or text blog to coincide with the route. As with all things, there will be bugs and problems to overcome, but isn't that what testing is all about? Flight test or otherwise, you have to try the system in it's intended environment! Please email me if you have any comments or questions.

http://rocketrek.com/index.php?pg=blog&date=1216537200 Blog Sun, 20 Jul 2008 01:00:00 -0600