Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 3: Archdale to Angier

Today, I biked 100.8 miles from south of Greensboro to Angier, way south of Raleigh. The route snaked around a lot and dropped as much South as East. This fact played head games with me all day. I was on familiar turf from my training rides. Alamance and Chattham Counties, then swooping across Jordan Lake and the Sharron Harris nuclear plant. You'd think that home turf would be a confidence boost, but it actually made me feel like I still had a very long way to go (which I do). And the land around Pittsboro and the Haw River folds up on itself into one short, steep valley after another.
And the land would flatten out for awhile today - look after mile 60 on the elevation chart - but never completely. Even here in Angier, the soil is sandy and every few miles I would see a view that looked like Eastern North Carolina - sandy soil on the edge of the road, then fields stretching flat to the horizon. But then another dip into a hollow would bring another steep climb up, making my legs burn.

I'm not sure what to say, except that the riding is going well, even though it's getting harder and my hands and seat and feet are in a lot of pain by the end of the day. I set out to do something that would challenge me like never before to show how much I believe in providing a quality, equal education to every child in North Carolina. And it looks like I'll be able to do it, which feels wonderful.

Today, one of the roads I took was called Major Hill Road. I thought, "I hope that's named after an army officer names Mr. Hill, and not because the road has a MAJOR HILL." That is the kind of lame joke that pops into my tired, wandering mind and strikes me as hilariously funny, even though it's probably not at all. Hey, eight hours on a bike is a long time.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Technical details

One of the things that helps the time go by when I'm on the bike for 6, 7, 8, 9 hours is the GPS watch that measures the time and distance of my ride using GPS tracking. It chirps at me every mile, and the time of the last mile pops up on the screen. I can tell if I've been flying or if the hills have slowed me down a lot. Today, though, the watch wasn't charged all the way and died at mile 92. So the last 16 mile, I felt a little lost. The watch's mileage tracking also tells me when to turn. So when my que sheet might say to turn left on Trinity Road at mile 98, I have to be extra alert not to miss Trinity Road. And by mile 98, I'm not mentally at my best! But I made it to my stopping place without getting lost. I'm a little sad though. 108.8 is the furthest I've ever biked and I don't have the data for it. But here are the first 92 miles:

The map, tracked before the battery death, shows all but my last 16 or so miles, but those 16 miles were perhaps the longest! I love data. I like this tangible evidence of how far I rode, how much the hills took out of my system, how big the hills were. My watch is a tool. It helps me succeed, to know how far I've gone and what's ahead. We all need those kinds of tools.

And, as I thought about on my ride, too many kids don't have those tools for their learning. Good people - like the nonprofits I'm fundraising for - step in to provide them. Now, my watch is a silly thing; I can make do without it. But that's not true when it comes to education. Please support BIKE NC.

108.8 miles for education!

Good bye mountains! At mile 6.

A bit sunburnt but happy at mile 22

Munching during a brief rest at mile 44
After mile 50 or so I get too focused and determined to take pictures! Today was a good day. Hard, but good. I biked 108.8 miles from Wilkesboro to Archdale, NC, south of Greensboro. There were quite a few climbs that still had me at the bottom of my gears and still pushing almost painfully, but those stints were briefer. And this morning, a road called Old NC 60 wound down out of the foothills through some of the most beautiful rural North Carolina I've seen. Nicely tended little houses, slopings fields, barns, thickets of trees around gently flowing streams.

I do notice the landscape. But I was focused today. I stopped three times to sit down and munch on a snack, twice for about ten minutes and once for half an hour. I hit mile 61, a planned stopping point for the day assuming the mountains were grueling, in Tanglewood Park. And from there, I never stopped moving until the end. One run into a store to reload on Gatorade. By the time I stopped, around 6 pm in the middle of a country road, I was feeling shaky. But I made sure to eat, a lot, today, and it helped. I try to get some fruits and veggies, and protein. Energy and protein bars are the easiest things for me to carry and digest. And a few treats for dinner. Its not perfect, but it's working well for me.

Fuel for the ride:
  • Bowl of raisin bran w/ lowfat milk, coffee for breakfast
  • During ride:
    • 100 oz. of Gatorade
    • Water
    • Small green apple
    • Quaker oatmeal raisin breakfast cookie
    • Lara bar, coconut
    • Lara bar, chocolate chip
    • .5 oz honey roasted peanuts
    • Peanut butter Powerbar
    • Nature Valley fruit and nut chewy bar
    • 10 oz. Diet Mountain Dew (needed caffeine!)
  • After ride: Vanilla protein shake (170 cal, 15 g protein)
  • Dinner:
    • 1 Stella Artois beer
    • Chips, salsa, and guacomole
    • Cup corn soup
    • Small potato with cheese and broccoli
    • Mint chocolate Clif builder bar
Thanks so much to everyone who has donated. I will be putting your name on the donor wall and mailing you a thank you. And I cannot say thank you enough. But please be patient with me this week! I'm lucky to get cleaned up, eat, get the blog up, and crash!

Why 108.8 miles today? Because it means less than 300 to go!

177.8 miles so far. 298.2 to go.

Ah yes! Read all about it! Press coverage of BIKE NC continues.

Carrboro Citizen
Daily Tarheel 
News of Orange County

So grateful for the support and the attention this will bring to education and the wonderful work of EDCI, Smart Start, and Advocates for Children's Services. Thank you for reading.

PS: A few technical glitches, so ride data and maps to come.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What goes up must come down, or, "Why couldn't my home state be Kansas?"

Today I began the BIKE NC journey by cycling 69 miles from Banner Elk, North Carolina, deep in the Pisgah National Forest mountains, to Wilkesboro, a town known as "Where the mountains begin." My ride began 4,000 feet above sea level and ended at just over 1,000. So I know there was more down than up. Some of the down was so terrifyingly steep, through hairpin turns on narrow roads, that my fingers ached from braking and I thought my hands might give out. But there was also a lot of up. 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 10 miles at one point, climbs that lasted for minute after minute after minute where each pedal stroke took what felt like all my strength yet the bike moved so slow and wobbly that if I skipped even one stroke the bike would topple over. Getting to the top of one of those climbs, usually right when I was ready to stop the bike and start wheeling it on foot, was glorious. Whoosh.

The truth is I was not trained for that ride. Neither for the grueling ascents or the tactical challenge of steering downhill with traffic coming up behind you. But I made it. I stopped at two convenience stores for Gatorade and an energy bar or cheese crackers, chilling out for a few minutes, and took two or three more breathers along the side of the road to stretch and check in on the flurry of text messages and Facebook posts from well-wishing friends.  Those meant so much!

I feel lucky to be off the road the first day with no serious soreness, actually feeling pretty good. My riding time was just over 6 hours, plus stops, with an average moving speed of 11.5 miles per hour. That's slow, but it's what I planned. I have to keep doing this for four more days.

I wish I had pictures of so many things today: Cascades running down a steep wooded bank toward a shady, curving two lane road; purple mountain flowers; tiny clapboard churches, a pony who galloped the length of his fence to keep me company; the road sign for Eastern Continental Divide on route 16 right before I dropped 1,200 feet in about five miles, flying down at over 30 miles per hour on a curving descent. We live in a beautiful state and I thought as I rode that this state's future is in the hands of today's children. I want them to take good care of it, and I want us to give them the education so that they can do so.

I will sleep well tonight. I'm tired but so satisfied. Dinner, shared with my mom, will taste amazing. My mother dropped me off in the parking lot where my ride began in Banner Elk and snapped a few photos, then watched as I took off, stomach churning with nerves, into the unknown. She drove past and waved once along the route as she explored the mountains, and met me at the end of the ride at Wilkes Community College with ziplock bags of ice ready to go on my slightly puffy knees. I need that support for sure. I've realized, despite my stubborn initial intentions, that I can't do this totally alone. And neither can the children I'm riding for, who struggle to stay in school sometimes in the face of tremendous obstacles. 

I stopped in Todd, North Carolina (a handful of houses, a bakery, and general store clustered in a river valley with mountains all around) for one of my pit stops. The general store is full of folksy things, jarred food, North Carolina candy. An elderly gentleman had just parked his car in the town and stopped me to talk about my bike. He and his wife liked to ride; he wanted to know how may gears my bike had and how far I was going. It gets lonely out there, so I was happy to chat for a bit. When I told him I was on a fundraising ride across the state, he asked me what the cause was. I told him I was raising money for nonprofits that help underprivileged children get an education. He asked me if I took donations. YES! And he handed me twenty dollars, just like that. What a wonderful man. People do care about education. The gesture carried me the next 10 miles.

I've questioned the relevance of this bike ride to education and its challenges, to how all of it fits together. Today, it makes sense.

If you haven't donated - now is the time! If you have donated - THANK YOU. Now please think of someone you know who cares about education and equality and wants to see things done differently, better, for children. Ask them to give a little too.


eating oatmeal and coffee on a cool mountain morning then hitting the road!

Raffle winners!

Hi everyone, just a quick note to introduce our RAFFLE WINNERS from the night at East End Martini Bar.

Glass Half Full (Carrboro) gift card: Eric Noble
Southern Rail gift card #1: Matt Dudek
Southern Rail gift card #2: Anna Spence
Weekend camping equipment rental: James Oldham
60 minute massage from Kara's Pro Massage: Nick Baker

Congratulations, everyone! And thanks so much to all who bought tickets and came out to East End.

I'll be thinking about everyone who has stepped up to support education and so many people out there who I know believe in our schools and our children. Tonight I arrived to Banner Elk, NC, up in the mountains. And tomorrow morning, bright and early, the ride begins!

Photo: Festiva Resorts

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thank you, Durham Herald Sun!

The Durham Herald Sun published a first-page feature about BIKE NC today! The paper is a great one and the reporting on education funding and the nonprofits I'm supporting was top notch. I'm glad more people will get the opportunity to learn about why their work is so important.

Tonight I leave for the mountains to get some sleep and then an early start on my bike ride tomorrow morning! The mountains will be the most daunting part, because they are unknown. They will go up up up up up up up for miles, and the descents might be scary for their speed. I will keep pedaling and do my best. So excited!

Thanks so much for the donations that have come in. Please donate, amounts big and small, and spread the word. If you know someone that cares about education, supporting BIKE NC with a small donation is a great way to make a difference. And even small donations mean the world to me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Going across North Carolina for education

Hi, everyone. I am getting both scared and excited about my bike ride across North Carolina. We live in a beautiful state; I'm talking about its natural beauty and the gifts and potential of the people who live here. That potential rests with our children. I'll have many hours a day to think about that, about why I'm riding my bike, while taking in the landscape around me. Mountains then rolling hills then coastal plain.
If I feel intimidated by a 476 mile bike ride, all I have to do is think of another person's experience crossing North Carolina for education. This guy completely humbles me. Matt Jenkins RAN BAREFOOT across North Carolina in 2010 to raise money for the nonprofit he worked for, Western Youth Network. The organization provided after school and other enrichment programming for kids. Jenkins ran 50 kilometers (31 miles) a day from the state's westernmost corner, a 760 mile trek. Here's a blog post about his experience, and it's worth reading about. He even got a snake bite in route! Wow. Inspiring. I'm not alone in wanting to stand up and DO something, something real and physical, to say "This isn't right" when we strip resources from children's futures.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Raffling off and counting down

On Thursday night, East End Martini Bar was packed with UNC grad students out to enjoy a mile-long list of drink specials and DJs mixing pop hits and house music at full volume. It was a fun night, and I was so happy to be part of it for BIKE NC. The bar is generously donating 5% of Thursday night's proceeds to BIKE NC. And I sold $5 raffle tickets at the bar's entrance to raise additional funds. Friends from law school and even total strangers that I approached bought tickets and offered words of support for the bike ride. And on Tuesday night, I'll be drawing the winning tickets (blindfolded for perfect fairness!). Someone is going to be very happy with their massage from Kara's Pro Massage. Look for a blog post announcing the winners. Thanks again, East End!

I've met with a couple reporters and photographers from local papers this week, and am excited that articles will help spread the word about BIKE NC. I'll post stories and links when they come out. For one photo shoot, we used a local bike path. I would pedal toward the photographer going one direction, turn around, then pedal back for an "action shot." But I'm not always very smooth/skilled with my bicycle cleats, that clip onto the pedals. At one point, turning around,  I didn't unhook my feet from the pedals ... which means you can't get your foot down on the ground for balance. The bike was going too slow ... my feet were stuck to the pedals ... and the bike tipped over, sending me sprawling into a graceless heap. I was flailing around on my back on the pavement with one foot still stuck to the pedal. And it hurt! I jumped up laughing at myself to take the sting out of the whole situation, but sheesh. Cyclists say that the "feet stuck" wipeout happens to everyone at some point or another. And mine happened in front of a photographer on a shoot for a story about how I am a cross-state cycling phenom. Oh well. Good to get all the bad karma out BEFORE I start pedaling on Wednesday!

This weekend is all about getting school work out of the way, packing up, and staying healthy so that I'm at my best next week.

Here are a few interesting bits of education news:

North Carolina will seek the waiver of No Child Left Behind regulations that Obama extended. The 2002 law has not yet been rewritten by Congress, and states are frustrated with the faulty accountability system that NCLB has imposed. States will now be able to write their own accountability rules for ensuring that schools are making progress closing the achievement gap and educating students. This will give states needed flexibility. I'm all for accountability, and will be curious to see what North Carolina does. But I'm thinking about that almost 500 million dollar budget cut to schools this summer. Are we going to take away from our schools with one hand while asking more of them with the other?

Here are a video and economic report from Smart Start on the impact of early childhood education on the state's overall economic health. Child care brings $1.7 billion to the state and is linked to 49,000 jobs. And beyond the childcare industry - as low-income parents find jobs or go back to school, they need to know that their children are being well cared for. Paving the way for three and four year olds to come to kindergarten as prepared five year olds, as their parents pursue their own opportunities with peace of mind. Both economic health now and an investment in the future. That's what Smart Start does and that's why BIKE NC supports their work.