Epilogue

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 by Climberruss

Now that the trip is all over and I’m back home in England I think I need to try and put the events of the last few weeks into some kind of life perspective.

It’s not often anyone gets to undertake an “event” that will be looked back at in the future as a life defining moment. For me however, I have been very lucky. Over the last few years I have had several of these instances. The first was in 1996 when I trekked to Everest base camp – this was probably the most important as it proved to me that you can achieve a lot if you put your mind to it. This one event set me off on a course that continues to this day. First of all it was mountaineering – progressively higher – Elbrus, McKinley, Spantik and Khan Tengri, and then since 2006 when I decided to start biking again various milestones. Firstly there was my first SR series (200, 300 400 and 600km event) in 18 years, then in 2007 I completed PBP. This was another monumental event as it confirmed that whilst I might not be the fastest person, I am at least good enough on the bike to undertake some seriously challenging events. That of course led indirectly to PAC Tour.

To cycle from coast to coast across a country as large as the USA is not something to be taken lightly – no matter how fit you might be. If you are going to spend a month sat on a bike grinding out 120 miles a day – you need to be mentally prepared as well as physically fit. Once you attain a certain level of fitness you can do it – but to keep on doing it you have to have the right mental attitude. For me that mental state is attained by finding out as much as possible about the event before, by ensuring that I am as physically well prepared as possible and by continually mulling it over in my mind I pshyc myself up for it such that by the time I start I have pretty much already discounted completing it in my mind. This approach is fine if everything goes to plan, but if things go wrong what then?  Well, I believe that by being mentally “bigger” than the event that you are thus able to cope with unexpected problems that much better without getting too stressed about it.

Day 1 - The Pacific

Day 1 - The Pacific

Day 32 The Atlantic

Day 32 -The Atlantic

Beyond the mental and physical preparation for a trip like this, there is also the knowledge that you will meet a group of like-minded motivated people. There is no feeling like being with people who are all motivated towards a common goal, whether on a mountain or on a transcontinental cycle ride.  The people you meet on trips like this are those for whom you have instant respect born out of the fact that you are all in it together and you are all capable – or you wouldn’t be there in the first place. On this particular trip I met a good cross section of people. From young Greg who at 16 was on his second trip across country to Walt, Bob and Susan – the older members who at 60+ are all still phenominally fit and able to acheive these goals as ably as people 20-30 years younger. The faster element – Doug, Brian, Dan, Greg,Jeanine and Lori who showed me that despite thinking that I was a good rider, I am in fact a fairly ordinary (if quite fit) rider. These guys are true athletes. The rest of the group, who had between them multiple cross county trips, multiple PBP’s and massive experience of other similar extreme events are also good athletes. To all of my fellow cross country cyclists – I salute you! RESPECT!

Respect to all!

Respect to all!

No trip or expedition of this nature can occur without a good support structure. The support team and infrastructure for this trip was extraordinary. I could not pick fault with it if I tried. The organisation was superb; Lon and Susan leave nothing to chance and everything is covered. The support crew work extremely hard to ensure that we as cyclists hardly have to think about anything apart from riding the bike, except maybe which beer to order at night!

Looking forward now that I am at home, I can start to think about my next big events. No firm plans have been made yet but in 2010, Paris-Roubaix is being run as a sportive as is Bordeaux – Paris. Both of these are on the radar. I will continue to do plenty of Randonneur events including hopefully an international 1200km. All of this will be with one eye on the fact that 2011 is PBP year again and after the dismal weather of 2007 I have to do it for no other reason than the fact that the weather cannot possibly be that bad two events on the bounce!

Finally, I have had fun creating this blog. It was hard at times due to lack of availability of a computer, but typing it all in and organising the photos enables me to relive the trip and to think more about what I’ve acheived. I hope people have enjoyed reading about the trip and hopefully I will blog further events in the future.

Russell Pindar

Aug 2009.

Day 30 – Metter to Tybee Island

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 30 – our last day, our final day of riding after over 3500 miles across the country. The day dawned slightly brighter than recent days and very warm from the start. There was a sense of anticipation at breakfast, of finally completing a monumental task. However, rather than excited chatter there was a slight sense of depression around. I myself felt the same way. It was the knowledge that one of our number would not be dipping his wheel in the Atlantic today with everybody else. I only found out after I finished yesterday that Tom Zaharis who had ridden every step of the way had fallen off the previous afternoon after slipping on the wet road. Unfortunately he had landed badly and had broken his hip. He was now in Savannah’s main hospital awaiting an emergeny operation to pin his hip back together. This was easily the most serious of the breakages on the trip. He was reported to be very upset – understandably so after riding so far. I think this put a bit of a cloud over everyone which did not lift until much later in the morning.

We all felt for Tom and wish him well in his recovery.

Leaving the last hotel on our last day of riding

Leaving the last hotel on our last day of riding

We left the hotel in early morning sunlight – this promised to be the best day in the last week – heck the sun was out!

The route for the day was a mere 87 miles of flat terrain to and through Savannah and then on towards Tybee Island.

Dragonfly on awheel at the 1st SAG

Dragonfly on a wheel at the 1st SAG

Savannah is quite a big city but fortunately the route skirted through the suburbs without actually going into the centre. This saved any problems with busy traffic. The suburbs themselves were very nice and the roads were lined with trees adorned with hanging Spanish moss.

Tree lined suburbs

Tree lined suburbs

On exiting Savannah, it was a short ride to the entrance to Tybee Island. It was pre-arranged that the whole group would gather there and then ride the last 3 miles to the beach in procession. This would be a nice end to the trip.

Tybee Island - our final destination!

Tybee Island - our final destination!

The whole group gathering for the final procession

The whole group gathering for the final procession

As the final procession left we were accompanied by one of the SAG vans which drove behind us with hazard lights flashing to warn other motorists. This was kind of exiting and added to the sense of anticipation which grew rapidly once we set off.

The procession heads for the beach - Susan Reed in front on her recumbent

The procession heads for the beach - Susan Reed in front on her recumbent

A few minutes later we turned on to the beach front road, then we saw the hotel. We turned into the car park to be greated by members of the PAC Tour crew and some family and friends who were cheering and waving banners! It felt great to have a reception committee. We rode through an archway in the hotel, past the rear car park and up the boardwalk onto the beach – and finally we were there – the Atlantic Ocean!

After 30 days of very hard riding it cannot be stressed enough the feeling of emotion at finally arriving! We walked onto the beach past bemused sunbathers and down to the water. There we deopsited bikes on the sand, removed our shoes and walked or ran into the water. On entering, the water was warm and so I along with several others dived straight in!! The feeling was amazing!.

Finished at last!!

Finished at last!!

Afer the elation at finishing - a more restrained photo!

After the elation at finishing - a more restrained photo!

Once the initial elation at completing the trip was over it was time to pose for a few “official” shots. Firstly the four of us who rode all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic:-

Dan, Brian, Russ and Walt - all rode Pacific to Atlantic

Dan, Brian, Russ and Walt - all rode Pacific to Atlantic

And finally -the obligatory group shot – a lot of very tired and very happy people:-

The whole group celebrating!

The whole group celebrating!

Once the celebrations on the beach were over we went back to the hotel car park where we dismantled and packed our bikes up ready for the journey home. After being our friend and transport for such a long time, it seemed almost discourteous to unceremoniously dismantle and pack away the bike so quickly -hell even the sea and sand had not dried yet!

Packing bikes up in the car park

Packing bikes up in the car park

As we packed the bikes up the sky turned blacker and blacker – and then the heavens opened yet again – at least this time though, we were not riding – and we had just finished packing the bikes – ha ha -let it rain!!!

The red line goes ALL the way!

The red line goes ALL the way!

This says it all!

This says it all!

The final map - now signed by everybody ready to be auctioned off for charity.

The final map - now signed by everybody ready to be auctioned off for charity.

After the bike packing we had a couple of hours rest time before the evening when we all attended a finishing banquet along with friends and family who had arrived to meet people. It was a great evening with good food, a superb slide show of all of Susan’s photos and a presentation to everybody of a PAC Tour placard for completing the trip.

The crew with their shields

The crew with their shields

PAC Tour Presentation Shield

PAC Tour Presentation Shield

Once all the shields were handed out it was time to auction off the map – this is a great souvenir for one lucky deep pocketed individual. Ours was won by Jonathan Page who has a small collection of them now. I subsequently found out however that he sent it to Tom as a present – a really nice move which I’m sure would have been greatly appreciated by Tom. The money raised from the auction goes towards Lon’s charitable projects in Peru.

Jonathan and Lon with the map - subsequently given to Tom Zaharis

Jonathan and Lon with the map - subsequently given to Tom Zaharis

Stats for the day and trip:-

Distance:    87 miles for the day, total for the trip 3684.

Climbing:   1000ft for the day, 123350ft for the trip.

Max Speed:   50mph broken on 7 occaisions, overall max 55.2mph (Day 20 – Talimena Parkway)

Max Temp: Many days over 90f but top temp was 103f in shade on day 19 – McAlester

Wildlife: Very little alive but highlights were Couger and Armadilo. The dead Coyote was impressive though!

Day 29 – Perry to Metter

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 by Climberruss

Our second to last day takes us from Perry to Metter, a distance of 117 miles. We rolled out at 7am and scenery-wise picked up where we left off yesterday with yet more forests.

The day did however start of dry, but at 6.30am it was 75f. All that we would expect for the rest of the day would be for it to get hotter and more humid.

Day 29 - Dry for now!

Day 29 - Dry for now!

The humidity continued to build during the morning and by lunchtime it was really hot and sticky. The sky was now turning black. Sure enough it couldn’t last and just before we came into the last SAG stop of the day the heavens opened spectacularly. Fortunately for me I was able to take shelter under a flyover and I waited there for 20 minutes until it eased of a little before venturing the last 300 yards to the SAG wagon.

Monsoonal rain (taken from under a flyover)

Monsoonal rain (taken from under a flyover)

Neil got caught by the rain.

Neil got caught by the rain.

The rain eased up a lot but the temperature never dropped below the mid 80’s. The rest of the day was a steady ride into Metter.

Only one more day to go!

Only one more day to go!

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 117 miles

Climbing: 2500ft

Temps: Mid-high 80’s, torrential rain in the afternoon.

Day 28 – Eufaula to Perry

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 28 – only 2 days to go Whooppee!!  Today takes us into our last state – Georgia. From here it is just a case of crossing the state until we hit the Atlantic.

Early on in the day (i.e. after 4 miles) we crossed into Georgia. As we never saw an Alabama state line when we entered, we took a picture as we left!

Alabama state line - as we leave the state!

Alabama State line - leaving!

Georgia State line (across the road from the Alabama line!)

Georgia State line (across the road from the Alabama line!)

Once into Georgia, we rode through gently undulating countryside trying to enjoy the fact that at least it wasn’t raining – for now!

Puncture No.4 - my last of the trip

Puncture No.4 - my last of the trip

Continuing along the road we passed the turn off to Plains – the home of Ex President Jimmy Carter. The scenery however remained resolutely unchanged – lots of trees and very little to see.

Road and Forest - most of Alabama and Georgia were like this

Road and Forest - most of Alabama and Georgia were like this

Just before lunchtime whilst riding along with Walt I spied something out of the corner of my eye in the undergrowth. I hit the brakes and turned around to go investigate. I had found a real LIVE armadilo – the first one I or anybody else had seen despite seeing literally hundreds of them as roadkill. It was only a young one as it was quite small – but it was alive!

A real live armadilo!

A real live armadilo!

Whilst we stood there and took a photo it was seemingly oblivious to us – no wonder they get killed so often! At lunch I announced that I had seen one and everybody said no – I just found a dead one and propped it up! That was the level of expectation after so much roadkill.

The rest of the day passed without any excitement and we rode into Perry after 113 miles and 4100ft of climbing.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 113 miles

Climbing: 4100ft

Temps: High 80’s, humid some rain.

Day 27 – Greenville to Eufaula

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 by Climberruss

Our 27th day takes us a step further across Alabama and a step closer to finishing. Today was a day of 111 miles full of rollers which added up to a respectable 4900ft of climbing.

It was another day of poor weather and unfortunately, the camera stayed wrapped up all day long. Having said that, the scenery did not differ much from the last two or three days so there was not a lot to take pictures of anyway. There are only so many photos you can take of a road with forest on either side in a rain storm!

Today’s alternative topic is the “Bikes of PAC Tour”. On a trip like this which puts both man and machinery through intensive testing, it is perhaps worth a look at the types of equipment being used by the various members of the group.

1. Frame material. Carbon fibre frames were definately in the ascendant led by Specialized. Their frames made up the largest manufacturers contingent with Tarmac, Roubaix and Tri Cross frames  all represented. Trek made an appearance too along with  BMC, Cervelo and Scott. All carbon fiber frames stood up to the punishment very well with no problems that I am aware of. Titanium was the next most popular with Litespeed, Van Nicholas, Serotta and Lynsky all being represented although the sole Lynsky frame did fracture completely on the second day necessitating an emergency bike replacement. As people on PAC Tour tend to take part in big epics – it is notable that several bikes were equiped with S&S couplings (www.sandsmachine.com) to allow better packing for transportation.

2. Wheels. Overall there were more factory built wheels than custom built wheels. Mavic  were well represented with several riders on Ksyrium SL’s and one on Ksyrium SL Premium, all seemed very durable. Dura Ace wheels, Bontrager and Roval were also represented. Roval appreared to be rather brittle with two people having problems. Dura Ace wheels caused problems with freehubs. Of the custom wheels, Shimano Ultegra and Dura Ace and Chris King were covered. Rims were either DT Swiss or Mavic Open Pro. Spokes were a problem only on the Chris King wheels (mine!).

3. Gruppos. When it comes to build up kit, Shimano Dura Ace was a clear winner followed by Ultegra. Only one person had Campag – possibly because it is not that easy to get hold of in North America and is significantly more expensive there than Shimano. Dura Ace brakes, front and rear deraillieurs and chainsets were very common with more people being on triples than doubles and most of the doubles being compacts. One person was riding SRAM and this appearred to be decent kit too.

4. Tyres. Choice of tyre and weight of rider did not seem to have too much bearing on number of flats. One of the lighter members had the most flats at 15 whilst running tyres generally regarded as very puncture resistant (Conti Gatorskins). Continental tyres were on maybe 75% of bikes split between Gatorskins and GP4000’s. A few people were on Schwalbe Stelvio and Vittoria also made an appearance. I personally had 4 flats on a mixture of Vittoria and Conti GP4000.

5. Tri bars. These appearred on just less than 50%  of bikes but quite a few people who did not have them said that they would have been useful on this particular ride.

6. Camelbak. Over half the people had one of these and a couple more bought them on route. Considered invaluable when in the very hot areas.

7. Pedals / cleats. Various types were represented with no clear winner. Shimano SPD, SPD-SL, Speedplay, Time and Look were all present although the racing people seenmed to favour the Speedplay style.

Day 27 Map- still in Alabama - just!

Day 27 Map- still in Alabama - just!

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 111 miles

Climbing:  4900ft

Temps: Mid 80’s and very humid, heavy rain at times.

Day 26 – Livingston to Greenville

Posted in Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 by Climberruss

Day 26 is a full day in Alabama. A total of 128 miles across the state from Livingston to Greenville. This is a fairly short post as the weather was poor yet again and although it did not rain all day, it was miserable.

Day 26 - 1st SAG stop

Day 26 - 1st SAG stop

Just before lunch we crossed the Alabama River which is part of a reservoir/lake. The whole area looked to be both picturesque in good weather,  a draw for locals to come fishing / boating etc.

One of our biggest problems today , and indeed for most of the recent days is the number of dogs whoose  sole purpose in life appears to be to chase and harrass (whilst attempting to take a bite out of) cyclists. Over an average day we would expect anywhere from five to ten dog chases of varying degrees of viciousness. The type of dogs who gave chase can be summed up as follows:-

  1. The No Hoper. This dog is either old, fat or has short legs. It knows it has no real chance of chatching you but it has a go and makes a lot of noise whilst doing so. Form a cyclists point of view these are fun as you can tease them. Go just fast enough that they cannot catch you and then start egging them on!
  2. The Athlete. This dog is bad. It is a young fit and invariably fast dog. Because of its youth however, it makes a lot of noise whilst chasing (showing off to its friends) and thus telegraphs its intentions to the cyclist giving plenty of time to change into sprint gears and up the speed. Some of these are however very fast and survival is difficult!
  3. The Stealth Dog. This dog is the worst. It is mad, bad and dangerous. This dog is a bit older but still young enough to be fit. It knows that you have a head start on it so neutralises this by starting the chase silently – in this way it can get very close to you before you even know its there. Your margin for escape is slim as it will be at attack pace before you. Your sprint has to be top notch to survive!.

I myself had several close encounters with “stealth” dogs including one very fast hound who actually hid in a bush waiting to ambush me. When it launched its attack I nearly had a heart attack!

Dog chases are however great for interval training as at times they were coming thick and fast.

Stats for the day:-

Distance: 127 miles

Climbing: 3100ft

Temp: Low 80’s and lots of rain.

Dog chases: Worst day – 9 or 10.

Day 25 – Kosciusko to Livingston

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2009 by Climberruss

Kosciusko to Livingston, Alabama, our 25th day takes us into state number 11. Only 2 more to go!!

We awoke to another grey wet day, ate breakfast in the hotel lobby rather than the car park and then set out for a 116 mile ride through a second day of torrential rain. After a couple of people killed their cameras by getting them wet the previous day, I was taking no chances and so mine stayed wrapped up virtually all day. The scenery ( what little we saw of it) was very similar to the previous day with lots of thick wooded forest, muddy creeks (Bayous as they are called around here) and a few isolated farms.

Day 25 Russ on the road.

Day 25 Russ on the road.

All stops were as short as possible as given these conditions, most people wanted to press on and get the day over with as quickly as possible. Two days of heavy rain created their own problems for the riders. Whereas previously most people had suffered from “hot foot” due to the heat, today people were suffering from sore feet due to them being wet for so long. Young Greg in particular really suffered and by the time he finished he could barely walk,  his feet were so shrivelled up. Also the wet created problems of chaffing for most people which can be particularly uncomfortable.

One ofr the PAC Tour "P" arrows with Franz's attempt to cheer people up a bit.

One of the PAC Tour "P" arrows with Franz's attempt to cheer people up a bit.

Coming into one of the SAG stops, we had to smile as Franz had tried to cheer everybody up a bit by adding his own bit of artwork to the usual “P” arrows. These arrows are spray painted onto the road near particularly awkward junctions or to direct people into where the SAG wagons are parked up as they may not always be in clear sight of the road. It worked as it made people laugh – not easy today as most people were close to a sense of humour failure.

By the time we arrived at the hotel in Kosciusko, the weather had cleared up for the first time all day. We did the usual end of day stuff (wash bikes etc) and then just as everyone was starting to go out for their evening meal, the real excitement came. A thunderstorm rolled in so quickly that the sky looked like something from a movie makers special effects box. The sky went black and very angry in a matter of seconds and then the heavens opened as we walked a hunderd yards to the restaurant for the evening. By the time we got there we were all drenched – in the space of about 30 seconds!.

The thunder storm starting to come in.

The thunder storm starting to come in.

A matter of seconds latter it looks like the apocalypse is upon us!!

A matter of seconds latter it looks like the apocalypse is upon us!!

Day 25 - Map

Day 25 - Map

Stats for the day:-

Mileage: 116

Climbing: 5000ft

Temps: Mid 70’s, very humid, torrential rain (again).