Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 3593: "Rest" Day in Chicago

Note: The gap blogs will be filled in shortly-we are experiencing technical difficulties and will be back on the air shortly.

The group split up yesterday for the rest day in Chicago. However, they all reunited, albeit in two groups, at The Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field. With help from donors, all seven members of the team were able to attend the Cubs-Cardinals game this afternoon, watching Sweet Lou's ballplayers romp the Cardinals 5-0. A day that saw Alfonso Soriano, a Lupatkin family favorite when with the Yankees, hit a home run and Albert Pujols, a Lupatkin family favorite although he made Tino Martinez obsolete, go 0-4 will truly prove to be memorable. Sitting in the bleachers, Shane, Claire, Sanford, Zane, and Jason proved to be a lively bunch, making conversation with the fans around and even the outfielders at one point. Unfortunately, although that conversation led to Marlon Byrd throwing Shane and Jason a ball after warming up, he may have become to energetic and enthused about the FACE AIDS mission; in fact, he overthrew our two matching boys and ended up hitting a clueless Zane in the end. Used mostly to holding pitchforks and other farming implements, Zane's calloused hands were no match for not-cow filled leather, as he quite literally dropped the ball, leaving Claire with an injured finger and the other riders filled with a seething, festering anger.

With "Go Cubs, Go" playing their heads, members of the team went their separate ways for dinner. Enjoying a delightful and delicious dinner at the Sullivan Household, courtesy of Tim and Sue, were Shane, Sanford, Claire, Jason, and Zane, while Mike and Kirsten head back to Batavia.

The night culminated with a 50 mile drive back to homebase in Batavia, where the team was forced to endure rough thunderstorms in the Mystery Machine. Fear not, however, as our meddling kids were able to weather the storm (get it?) and make it to the Pufahl Household in one piece.

PS An obvious many thanks to Kirsten's family for hosting the team and being as flexible as they have been.
PPS Yes, Joel, maybe they should have kept Soriano

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 32: Life is a Highway…in the Middle of Nowhere Surrounded by Cornfields

Leaving the Super 8, the bikers were bussed to Anita (10 miles away) in the Mystery Machine to begin the day where they left off. Country roads would be the choice asphalt for the day, and the scenery would be unlike anything our group had come across thus far faced.

Pushing away from Anita, the first 15 hilly miles of the trip were dotted with enormous wind turbines that would put even the Dutch windmills to shame. These skyscraping turbines helped us realize that one day we could solve the energy crisis, and dumping billions of barrels of useless oil into the Gulf of Mexico should be the first stop. Those executives at BP were brilliant!

Past the oversized fans, cornfields soon became more cornfields and the eye could only see a sea of green and yellow. Emptiness. Though this was far from any morbid emotion: mile upon mile of cornfields and farms formed the backbone of America. This was the land, the state that bred the highest average SAT scores for the last ten years. This was the real America: enormous, relentless, and oblivious that the world was becoming more and more technologically advanced.

Arriving in waves, Des Moines was introduced to us by the lovely Rick and Dena. Hearing about our ride from friends, the two willingly took in seven unshaved strangers, and gave us advice on the many sights of Des Moines. Learning from the two, our team traveled into the downtown area and was drawn closer and closer to the golden domed (extremely gaudy) state capital building. With snacks in hand, we sprawled out across the steps of the capital and watched the sun fall on the steel stalks of the city. Heading home to eat a delicious home cooked meal, our group was enthralled with the couples shared stories of their travels and college experiences (which, I might add were only a few years ago). The night of stories and laughter reminded us of summer nights back home with our friends, and as the light left the state of Iowa, we had all counted our blessings for such amazing hosts.

In talks before bed, the plan for tomorrow is to combine two days of biking and make it all the way to Iowa City. This 120 mile ride, would be the longest of our journey, and, to be honest, the odds are better for BP actually stopping the oil in the gulf than for us making this journey.

Day 31: Perfection Needs Few Words

When you decide to bike across America, often times the thought of spending countless hours alone, pedaling over and over slips past the train of thought. You get caught up in the wonder and adventure, and forget that some days will simply be miserable.

On that extremely cynical note, if there ever were a ‘most boring day to blog about’ July 15th would take the cake. Yesterday’s turmoil left our professional cycling team ready for a spotless day of ridding, and the 60 miles of rolling hills through Iowa provided just that.

Upon crossing the graceful Bob Kearny pedestrian bridge spanning the Missouri River, the group rode straight into the countryside of Iowa, noting, “at least this state is greener than Nebraska?” Now this is usually the point in the blog where we make an over the top, half-truth joke about one of the riders, but, to be honest, no one had any significant issues on this day. No flats. No drama. No whining from Jason. Even Claire pedaled right on through these 5 hours of biking as if she were wearing a Livestrong bracelet and a yellow racing jersey.

Rolling into Anita, Iowa around 1p.m., our group quickly realized that the town of 900 had no campgrounds and that our mothers would kill us if we stayed at the ransacked motel located in the ‘downtown’ area. Piling into their unmarked van, the team turned west, and decided to spend the night in the already-passed city of Atlantic, Iowa (pop. 7257).

Perfect days are a blessing and a burden: they leave us with an usual sense of peace, but they lack the drama required for a memorable, ABC prime time television show. Des Moines, Iowa sat just 87 miles away from our Super 8, and with quiet souls our Brady bunch went to bed early in hopes of an early departure to the capital of Iowa.

Day 30: Chaos in the Cornhusker State

With sizzling eggs and bacon draped across the table, and a lovely host serving more and more food onto our plates, it was extremely difficult to pack up and leave the Kennedy’s home in Lincoln. Mike and Jason were scheduled for Mystery Machine duties today, and as they packed the van, the rest of our star-studded team yawned at the thought of short, 45-mile bike ride to Omaha.

Now, if you haven’t picked up on the fact that we are often ill prepared for our journeys, you are either A) not reading the blogs thoroughly, or B) forgetting that we are a bunch of procrastinating, fast paced, college students. Well, that is except for Kirsten, who at 22 is just a few years away from nursing homes and discounts at the movies. Anywho, as history tells it, our 45-mile ride was actually a 90-mile ride (apparently Google maps screwed up the calculations?) and your favorite meddlesome kids had a few minor mix-ups along the way.

Leaving promptly at 9am, our first group of heroines, Kirsten, Claire, and Zane, somehow got lost in the wilderness of Nebraska’s cornfields, and wound up completely separated. Kirsten and Claire used their special, power-puff esque, telekinesis to reunite, but sadly, our favorite cowboy, Zane, was nowhere to be found. In other headlines, the dynamic duo of Sanford and Shane, which departed the Kennedy house at 10am, managed to pass by the confused threesome and rode into the outskirts of Omaha an hour before the others. With the riding team split up into three different teams, chaos was bound to transpire, and I will try to exaggerate it as much as possible to make sure that every mother begins to worry about our well being:

1. Kirsten and Claire somehow biked onto the highway and had to be picked up by the Mystery Machine
2. Zane suffered from severe dehydration in the 115 heat index day and was picked up after biking past our destination
3. Sanford accidentally biked into a pot hole and fell off his bike, adding some new marks to his jersey and skin
4. Shane was forced to ride the last 10 miles alone in hopes of carrying the face aids torch to its cauldron in Omaha

After finding diverse routes to the city, we were graciously taken in by Angy Schmidt who rehydrated us and gave to us man’s single greatest invention: air conditioning. Omaha’s famous Old Market provided the perfect location for a recuperation lunch, and after the meal, Shane decided to visit Creighton University while the others drove back to the nearby house.

Mother Nature just couldn’t let the day end smoothly, however, as the tornado sirens sounded around the downtown district as soon as the Mystery Machine pulled into the Schmidt driveway. Within minutes, the purple sky threw down buckets of sideways rain, calling Jason and Claire to run out and jump into puddles and forcing Shane to seek refuge with a Baptist Church group in the basement of the cathedral at Creighton. Amen.

After an hour, the storm began to roll its way across the Missouri River, and the worried team picked up the newly baptized Shane from his basement retreat. With heartbreak and heart attacks, the day’s excitement never stopped, and as nightfall came our entire group was ready to curl up into their sleeping bags. Tomorrow’s ride would be the beginning of the trek through Iowa, and everyone’s excitement would be left back with the wonders of the West.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 29: The Kennedys in Lincoln, NE

Rising out of bed at the timely hour of 7 AM, For the first time in almost a week, our team had something to truly look forward to: We would finally have a true home to stay at courtesy of Walker and Diane Kennedy. Smiling joyfully at the thought of a warm bed and home-cooked meal the six riders hit the road early, planning on arriving at the Kennedy household as quickly as possible. As with most days, however, there were unpredictable obstacles on the road today.

In following with recent tradition, a direct headwind from the west provided the riders with serious speed issues, causing the 98 mile day to take longer than expected. Passing cornfields for the umpteenth day, our riders found themselves conversing on a variety of topics. From a discussion on the Branch Dravidians, triggered by passing a town called Waco, to an argument on the effectiveness of humor in conveying a point across, it has become evident that the team is simply running out of things to talk about. Hundreds of miles of corn are not exactly stimulating sights either.

The second drawback of the day? The team would finally be entering a city with a population greater than 17. The fact that the rider's presence would not affect the demographic counter on Wikipedia was proof for the entire team, including the San Franciscan and New Yorker, that Lincoln is truly a city to be reckoned with. Rolling into the arms of the welcoming Kennedys and their country club was the perfect end to the day, providing our riders with a welcome rest.

On that note, a special thanks goes out to the Lincoln Country Club and to the Taylors for joining us at dinner, providing us with valuable life advice, and simply amazing hospitality and company. After a scrumptious meal, in which we learned the secret Nebraskan style of adding butter to corn, Claire, Shane, Jason, Zane, and Kirsten chose to take a driving/walking tour of the capital. Imagine their surprise at "finding" an "open" door to the famous Memorial Stadium, home of the University of Nebraska football team. Sanford, Shane, and Jason ran some plays on the famous turf of the inferior Big Red while the others hung out around the stadium. Eventually the riders made their way to the comforts of their temporary home, Shane, Claire, and Jason ending the night with an in-depth conversation on life at Stanford and the purpose of college with their hosts.

With a medium-length ride ahead of them tomorrow to Omaha, our team hit the sack fairly early, eternally thankful for the selflessness shown by their hosts and looking forward to the, with hope sans wind, day ahead of them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 28: A Snow Day with our Soccer Mom

Monday’s weather forecast called for cats and dogs mixed with thunderstorms, and as the team closed their eyes on Sunday night, excitement was like that of an elementary school snow day: Homework was left unfinished, the heat was turned up, and everyone expected to have a relaxing day off. “I’m going to balance the checkbook all night since we don’t have to wake up early!” exclaimed the usually conservative Zane.

However, like many failed forecasts of the past, the rain held off and the riders were forced to pack their brown bags and go to school. “In my day, we never missed a day of school and we had to walk 10 miles to the bus stop,” reminisced the elderly Mike.

With flat roads ahead, the team wasn’t too dismayed by the surprise, taking their sweet time on their way out of the comfortable Holiday Inn. With Mike and Kirsten off to their usual early start, Claire, Sanford and Shane road out to catch them, and Jason attempted to get another five minutes of beauty sleep – unaware that he would need much more than sleep to fix his beautification issues.

Just as the riders were discussing the ease of the ride, Mother Nature had a chuckle and threw down a ferocious headwind that would surprise even Herman Melville's Captain Ahab. After 40 miles in the wind, the team took a break for lunch (offsetting their Sonic tradition with Subway) in downtown Gibbon, Nebraska. With another 40 plus miles ahead, the heavy hearts of the riders were lifted as they left Kearney and discovered that the wind had subsided.

Upon reaching Grand Island the team showered up and quickly headed out to grab some dinner. The exhausting 90 miles had taken all day, and the only thing on their minds was a scrumtrulescent meal. Pilled in the van, Momma Fish practiced her soccer mom skills and drove the team to Pizza Hut after their big ride. Handing out awards, pizza, and pop, Claire’s motherly colors shone brightest today, as she is now FACE AIDS certified to step into any PTA meeting and command charge.

Lincoln, Nebraska and a alumni home lie just under 100 miles away from our team, and after catching up with the world (and the blog) via the hotel’s internet, the team called the night early. Except for Sanford, who is still doing crunches and push-ups as I type these final words from the comforts of my bed.

Night mom.

Day 27: Hot Tubs and Vuvuzellas

Sunday mornings remind Sanford of being dragged to church; They remind Shane of being dragged to the temple, Jason of being dragged to the synagogue, Zane the barn, and Claire the showers for her weekly bath. But, for the elderly, wise Kirsten and Mike, Sunday mornings represent another day to have fun before the workweek starts.

Fittingly, the five underclassmen slowly arose from their sleep in the Mystery Machine to the departure of Mike and Kirsten on the day’s 66-mile ride. The sophomores had slept in after a long night on the road, while the almost senior citizens took advantage of their days of rest and arose bright and early for the ride. In hopes to arrive in Lexington before the start of the World Cup final, the kids quickly jumped out of their bed sheets and threw on their biking gear. It took two months and a goal from Landon Donavon for soccer to become America’s national sport, but now that it was at its pinnacle in America, the boys would not miss out on the finale. With Claire, shockingly, deciding to drive the Mystery Machine, the team saddled up with a drive and determination to make the ride in three hours. Team Diversity, Sanford and Shane, pressed early in the game, trying scoring an early goal so that they could settle into the pace of the game later on. In accordance, Team Muscle Milk, Zane and Jason, sporting matching tank tops, decided to relax through the first part of the game and find a rhythm before they made any moves. Mike and Kirsten, the long time favorites, had an advantage in goal differential leading up to this final match, but with the determination of four pressing behind them, they dropped their cameras and took to each pedal with a new found determination.

Averaging more than 21 mph the entire day, the group stage was won by Sanford and Shane, as they only acquired a Green Card during their ride. The Cow’s “moos” rang louder than vuvuzellas as Zane and Jason were booed finishing up the last 10 miles in shame.

Momma Fish, had done well with her driving job, getting the tired teams a deal at the luxurious Holiday Inn Express and as soon as the teams pulled in they had Lunchables and a flat screen TV ready to go. As the always knowledgeable Jason taught the team about the sport of soccer, though he hasno idea how to play the game himself, the Spaniards scored their goal and the referee had successfully screwed the Dutch out of their trophy. Sanford, noticeably upset by the entire fiasco, stormed out of the room ranting, “Team Jacob should have made the finals! He is much cuter than those Dutchmen!”

With the game over, and Zane’s muscles finally sore, the group took a relaxation session in the hotels hot tub and pool. And, after spending hours in the water, the pruny bunch finally had more wrinkles than Claire. With pool time came an ever-growing rumble in their stomachs, and the team hopped back into the Mystery Machine in hopes of finding a local eatery for dinner.

Lexington’s relatively high percentage of Hispanic Americans (over 50% of the population) and southern environment truly made Shane feel at home. With his newly purchased cowboy hat and freshly grown mustache, Mr. Hegde led the team to San Pedros for a traditional Mexican dinner. After many a Margarita and countless Tequila shots, the group stumbled back to the Holiday Inn with Chingy fashion and headed to bed to prepare for their 77-mile day to metropolis of Grand Island, NE.

Day 26: The Land Before Time

From the riders: The day began interestingly with Shane and Jason confessing to Sanford their desire to read Twilight, however lacking security in their masculinity, the pair decided against it. Shane settled to watching Lizzie Maguire reruns and Jason proceeded to consume 8 cans of Muscle Milk in attempt to compensate for even considering the idea.

And now on to the story…

Biking across America, you learn many valuable life lessons. One of which is how to maximize your dollar at tourist locations. After wasting more than enough of our cash in the carnival town that is Moab, Utah, we approached Mt. Rushmore with a new sense of direction. There was no need to pay $20 for a tour of the caves, the idea of a $50 helicopter ride sounded pointless, and it seemed unheard of to pay $30 to go to a reptile farm.

With a prudent nature imparted on us by Claire and Jason’s heritage, we left our regal hotel for another attempt at understanding the limestone faces and surrounding worshipers. With Jason’s Lincoln-esque facial hair leading us in discussion, we argued in true Stanford fashion the topics of the call to serve, citizenship, and the meaning of the stone faces. Agreeing only to disagree, our group finally pushed away from this national memorial and drove to one of another kind. Just 10 miles away from Mt. Rushmore is the Crazy Horse National Memorial and Native American National Museum. Not funded by federal money, it is truly a wonder that the monument is still under construction. The carving in the limestone of the black hills will depict Sioux chief Crazy Horse riding a, presumably crazy, horse. More interesting than Crazy Horse, however, is the next door statue called “Crazy Train.” Although ground has yet to be broken on this monolith, this next work will feature Ozzy Osborne, a real American icon. Though it is still unfinished, the “fifth face” made us rethink what it means to be American, and in following again with Jason and Claire’s heritage we chose to sit outside the park and study the work instead of paying $80 to enter.

Heading on a windy route back to North Platte, we tried to maximize our time and see as many of the sights in South Dakota as we could—despite the size of the state, this would prove fairly simple given there are only three attractions in the (cleverly named, might I add) “Mt. Rushmore State.” After our traditional Sonic lunch, we drove through Badlands National Park against Jason’s criticism. “Look, a mountain is a mountain, hills are hills, and Badlands will look exactly like Utah except it will be green instead of red.” To his dismay. however, the stone castles scattered throughout this national park were worth the drive and looked nothing like the canyons of Utah because they were green.

As children of the 90’s, this “Great Valley” reminded us of the hit animated film Land Before Time and we peered around each curve in the road with a childlike fervor only rivaled by Claire’s daily tantrums. Stopping to explore, the timid, somewhat cowardly pterodactyl Petri (named Jason in our saga) was coerced by the rough and tough triceratops Cerra (Sanford) to run across the salt flats and heard cows. With Moos louder than the roar of a T-Rex, the two frolicked through the fields as Ducky (Shane), Spike (Zane), Kirsten (to old to have a animated character name), and Little Foot (ha ha, think about the irony of Claire being named Little Foot) walked along the flats to find rocks.

Reconvening back at the car, the team traveled back into reality and began working their way back through the park. Apparently, though, the angered cows had texted some of their friends and set up a “Cattle against Jason and Shane” facebook group. However the means, word spread about the dynamic duo and after a couple miles of driving the car came to a sudden halt as it was surrounded by a heard of more than a hundred cattle. Transforming out of his Mexican state by removing the power of Zane’s cowboy hat, Shane referred back to his Hindu tradition to pray to the cows for forgiveness. With the power of the Ramayana, Shane managed to convince the cows to let the poor riders free, and they slowly marched away, leavening only hundreds of flies and a terrible stench behind them.

Determined to see a wild bison, the team ventured into the neighboring Buffalo National Park for Land Before Time IV (does anyone know why they used roman numerals in this movie? We had no all had no idea what they meant as kids). In the park, Kirsten, in true Eliza Thornberry Fashion, asked some of the local Prarie Dogs if they knew Timone from Lion King, while Zane, Sanford, and Claire all watched as Jason and Shane got in touch with their Old West Roots. In true Buffalo Bill fashion, the two got within 15 feet of the enormous Bison at the park, before the animals decided that enough was enough. Divorce and a debt ridden life flashed by Jason’s eyes as he realized that the stomping foot of the Bison could mean the end of his road. Managing to escape with only their lives, the two jumped back into the getaway vehicle and headed out of the Taft-financed national park.

In conversations with the always insightful Mr. Fisher, father to the much lesser insightful Claire Fisher, we were told to visit Wall, South Dakota on our way home. Wall is known as the “Window to the West” and is surrounded by an 80 mile radius of nothingness. In Wall, is the Wall Drug Store, made famous in the early twentieth century by providing free ice water to travelers heading west. This indoor mall/saloon/western Wal-mart provided Shane with an opportunity to acquire his own cowboy hat, gave Zane a chance to get some postcards, Jason a moment to get in touch with his Amish roots, Claire a reason to avoid eating, Kirsten a setting for more pictures, and Sanford with the realization that old is not better than new and Romeo and Juliet not as well written as Twilight.

Departing the historic mall, our exhausted bunch piled into the van one last time for the four hours left in the drive. Mother nature, desperate to teach us one last lesson before we left Dakota, provided us with a demonstration of her power as she thrust a electric lightening show miles ahead of us, a beautiful countryside sunset behind us, and a double rainbow in the rain directly in front of us. The scene was something out of a movie, as we drove on one of the loneliest roads in America through the multitude of conditions.

Day 25: Memories on the Road

Thus far, we have not met a single Nebraskan who has complimented their state. During last nights dinner at a local Saloon, even the waitress exclaimed, “just turn around and go back to Colorado as fast as you can.” Not only is Nebraska the most boring state in the Union but it in fact smells the worst as well.

Smiles brimming with enthusiasm, our group arose at the Roadway Inn in Ogallala prepared to bike the 52 miles to North Platte. Farmboy Zane, used to waking up before the sun rises, was the first out the door, as Shane, Sanford, Claire, and Jason all decided to get some extra shuteye. While a sick Kirsten and Mike pushed away in the Mystery Machine, the half-asleep foursome jumped back on to highway 30 for another leg past Nebraskan cornfields, cows, and trains. The always intellectually stimulated Jason, in an attempt to perfect his short-term memory, gave names to all 163-train cars that steamed past the bunch in great American fashion.

Arriving in North Platte just in time for lunch, our tumultuous group decided to take on its biggest task yet: cleaning out the van. From mold to hitch hikers, our van was stuffed to the brim with unnecessary amenities, and the two hours spent thoroughly cleaning each nook and cranny were well spent. Most importantly, after hosing down the van, the group was able to convince Claire that she needed a wash as well – paying the car wash company an additional $20 to send Claire through the much needed foam and bubbles will absolutely prove to be worthwhile use of FACE AIDS stipend.

After sharing pizza for lunch, our group jumped in their shady, unmarked white van and began their rest day with a 6-hour drive to visit Mt. Rushmore. With Mike deciding to stay in North Platte to service his bike and catch up on his movie watching, the remaining six riders were dazzled by the emptiness of Nebraska and South Dakota. Wikipedia said that the Great Plains would be flat, but none had prepared themselves for the miles of American land that lay lifeless before their eyes. 80 miles away, the team could see the Black Hills on the horizon, and with the help of U2, the team flew through the countryside where the streets have no names. After a long day on the road, it wasn’t long before the team had ascended the evergreen covered hills and laughed past the touristy town to see the faces of four American heroes etched in stone. Sitting among almost a thousand American citizens ft. Shane in the open-air auditorium, the team truly enjoyed the presentation by Smoky the Bear. With differing views on the night, the group managed to come together in their mutual desire for a bed and some food. Posing as a boy with family in Mumbai, Shane managed to find relations with the workers at the hotels front desk and the team struck a deal for two rooms at the highly acclaimed President’s View Resort. Mind you that any “Resort” in South Dakota is still a resort in South Dakota, and in opening up the blinds in their cozy rooms, the team chuckled at the picturesque view of a stone wall five feet in front of them.

With a hectic day past them, the inspired/ confused/ frustrated/ patriotic team collapsed on their beds and dreamt of what was to come. Their rest day in South Dakota had lots of promise, and they all swore to not leave the state without first taking a glimpse at the Americas true hero: The North American Bison.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 24: LeBron Cements His Decision

Now that we have fully recuperated from Lebron Jame’s shocking announcement on Thursday that he would be joining the Miami Heat and selling out on his hometown while renouncing the greatest city in the world at the same time, we are prepared to present you, our hungry readers with an update on our ride.

Rising from the comfort of their cramped and rough Ramada Inn beds in Sterling, the team was ready to hit the road for another 100+ mile day. The ride to Ogallala was predicted to be downhill and mostly flat; however, the reconnaissance team consisting of Shane and Jason that hit the road first brought texts of dismay. Not only would the ride be hilly, but the scenery as well would prove to be a downer. During a water break, the two were approached by a group of large, yet friendly cattle. Speaking only a few common words, specifically “moo,” the boys proceeded to start a game of tag with their new friends. As Momma Fish always says, “These things can end only with someonbody getting hurt.” The somebody in this case? The cows who ran across the highway and were massacred brutally by oncoming traffic.

Just kidding!!

No cows were harmed in the writing of this blog or on the course of this trip, save for those Jason orders for dinner and doesn’t finish.

On with our story: Kirsten was the day’s driver, chauffeuring Mike and his injured steed (read:bike). Sanford, Zane, and Claire left soon after the recon squad, catching up to the two of them as they “cowed” around. Hahahaha. Making use of a road currently closed to vehicles, the five riders continued to perfect their slipstreaming and drafting, adding in some three-man weave to the mix. Knowing they would be unable to stop running the drill until making 15 layups in a row, Shane, Jason, and Zane took over shooting duties. With a becoming-sick Sanford cheering from the bench and Claire attempting to boss the boys around as usual, our big three sunk the final shot and found a Subway waiting for them. Move over Lebron! After enjoying a fine meal, a paler and dehydrated Sanford joined Mike and Kirsten in the van to rest and the four riders head out to finish the final leg of the day’s journey.

Before they left subway, Mike and Kirsten had a very informative conversation with a local, Jesse, who has spent his entire 66 years living on the Nebraska side of the Colorado-Nebraska border. “My best advice,” he started, “get out of Nebraska as fast as you can.”

Finding his insights on life engaging and stimulating, the two finally hit the road some time later, only to come across an odd sight—a knee-deep concrete-dipped Jason. You see, the always adventurous New Yorker was so used to breaking the law, that upon biking up to a construction site, he instantaneously was compelled to push past the bright orange pylons plastered with “no trespassing.” As our aspiring Huck Finn brilliantly biked in uncharted territory, he accidentally rolled across some freshly poured cement and sank down to his knees mid-pedal. With workers screaming at him in words only Shane could understand, Jason flagged down the van and tried desperately to use whatever available water to wash his shoes and bike clean of the fast-drying construction material. Surely, Mr. Stein is sitting somewhere reading this and chuckling to himself. With the aid of a cement-mixer driver, Jason was able to hose himself down and rescue his horse. While Shane and Zane biked past and laughed at the hilarity of the image, Mike, Kirsten, and Sanford managed to stifle their giggles until it was clear that there would apparently be no permanent damage to the bike.

Although Zane and Shane’s dreams of frolicking with the cows were crushed by a necessary detour into Ogallala, the two enjoyed each others company as they discussed contemporary trends in the cowboy hat industry. Such riveting conversation truly made the ride fly by, and the two found themselves relaxing in the comfort of their rooms in Ogallala in no time. Recently showered Jason and never showered Claire, however, overshot the target by about 8 miles and were picked up by an effervescent Mike farther down the road.

Overall the day’s ride, though long and fraught with monotonous scenery provided our riders with what has so far been deemed the most entertaining of the entire trip: Jason, knee deep in cement, with no clue on whether or not he would be sealed in his bike shoes for all eternity. While the streets of New York may have prepared him for mob hits and dumps into the Hudson River, nothing would be able to compare to his feeling of stupidity after falling into that pit.

And now, the answers to the trivia questions:

1) 3792 children under the age of thirteen are estimated to be living in the USA with AIDS

2) The sarcastic paragraph was the Last one.

Somehow, nobody managed to answer these questions correctly. In fact, nobody attempted to answer them at all. With that in mind, consider the next week’s trivia questions as a provisional testing period to determine the value of trivia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Days 22-23: Pure Bliss

Unfortunately, daily blog posts have not been the norm for some time now. Our visionary writers attribute this to the nature of the employment market: the truth of the matter is that Shane and Jason have become so nerve-wracked by the ongoing free agency of Lebron James that neither can sleep, eat, or, at any rate, blog. ESPN’s persistent coverage of every minor rumor regarding James’ future home has truly proven useful to our restless riders as their only sustenance.

With that in mind, please excuse potential spelling errors in the following piece of literary genius:

Waking up in the homey Stein house immediately made the team forget about its accommodations at the Ritz the night before. Well, maybe nobody will ever forget the Ritz Jacuzzi, but that doesn’t mean the team wasn’t continually amazed by the Stein’s help with all things, from breakfast to route planning and even pool lessons. Nonetheless, our riders awoke for a white water rafting trip down the world famous Clear Creek . As everyone made it groggily to the van, Zane sans cowboy hat for once, Shane sans identification papers, Claire sans makeup, Jason sans a shirt, and Sanford clearly “con” Twilight book, the team could only wonder if they would be able to ford the river without losing any oxen.

As usual, our team was more than satisfied with its rafting decision. Providing a challenge to our Stanford Rowers equitable to breaking 1:40.00 on a twenty minute erg test, the Class 3 and 4 rapids were more difficult than anything our riders had ever encountered. The trip, a lengthy 1.5 hours long, was filled with overly strenuous exercise, incredible conversation, and countless water breaks.

Those of us who had rafted before were disappointed; those who had not somewhat close-mindedly pledged never to make the mistake again. However, the entire rafting experience was not a waste—the trip was saved by the engaging talk our riders gave to the owner of the company about FACE AIDS and its microloan programs. It is true that even the roughest stone reflects some light. Thanks to excellent discussion, our rafting experience was, put simply, unforgettable.

Tuesday ended with amazing lasagna courtesy of the Steins. At the kids table sat Zane, Sanford, and Shane, a dinner party that quickly descended into chaos. When Zane refused to allow Shane to wear his cowboy hate, Shane took the oranges he brought to dinner from the plates of his tablemates. Zane ended up chasing Shane out of the house, over the fence, and across the Aurora Reservoir/Gulf, back into the undeveloped land south of the Stein household. Meanwhile, oblivious as usual was good old “Sanny” who continued to read Twilight and ponder the next location to place his smoothie cup. While Shane emigrated from the Stein’s, Jason and Claire enjoyed dinner with Mr and Mrs Stein. Wise, clever, and always witty, Mr Stein provided the lost New Yorker with directions home and advice on how to live a good life: Step 1/1 Renounce the Yankees and give up on the Knicks. As Claire tried to spirit away some lasagna so as to reverse-engineer it later, Jason simply nodded his head, ignoring every word out of Mr Stein’s mouth.

Finally, our team hit the hay, ready for its big (130 mile) ride the next day. Clearly the journey to Sterling, CO would be a wake-up call for out rested and lazy riders. Beset by tire problems and dreary skies, our riders found themselves resting on the side of the road for some time, discussing international politics, the potential for FACE AIDS expansion, and English tea. While Mike and Kirsten found their own Sacajaweas to aid them on their winding journey, the rest of the team played a round of the children’s game of GHOST. Despite Zane’s unique spelling prowess and Shane’s arguing for the acceptance of “maƱana,” the game was quickly wittled down to our two contestants of the Book, Jason and Claire. Jason made short work of his cross-country rival, once more asserting New York’s dominance over San Francisco.

Eventually, the entire team made it successfully to Sterling. With high spirits after a truly rewarding, renewing, and purely amazing day, the team looks forward to the endless cornfields of Nebraska with an anxious fervor. Tomorrow, the ride to Ogallala, NE will be a mere 89 miles, providing no challenge at all for our always energized and enthusiastic team.

Belated Fourth of July Trivia: How many children under the age of 13 in the USA are estimated to be living with AIDS?

Bonus Question: One paragraph in this blog post is completely sarcastic. Can you guess which? (Hint: Replace the letter “f” in fast to find out!!!!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Days 20 & 21: Ammmm-errr-ica

Before beginning to tell the epic that has been our rest days in Denver, we would like to formally apologize to our loyal fan base. We could use the "we are biking across America and don't have internet" excuse or the "Claire grounded us" explanation, but, at the end of the day, the blogs have not been as prevalent or timely due to poor time management -Yes, I said college students with poor time management skills. We wake up, bum arround all day, and at 12 am realize that no one has written the blog yet. Our B world, our B (to the elderly: "B" is a slang term for bad, which is a slang term for "fault," so I just said "I am sorry, it is our fault").

As history has written it, the story began on July 4th, with the fantastic four being deserted in the city of Denver for three days of rest. Mike had gone back to Wyoming, Europe for his friends wedding; Kirsten discovered and stayed with Waldo in Boulder, Co; and the social queen, Claire Fisher, hung out with one of her 1,125 facebook friends in Vail, CO. Though the motherly love held inside the Kelsall home could never be replicated, Sanford, Zane, Shane, and Jason desperately tried to solace themselves with a stay at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver. Thanks to the group’s business sense, and an affable manager named Jason Arrington (much better dressed than our Jason), the four were graciously given two rooms for an immensely discounted price. They had slept in the deserts of Nevada, the canyons of Utah, and the mountain passes of Denver, but, to be honest, nothing has prepared them for the pillow-top beds and feather pillows of the Ritz.

In true American fashion, after showering in their own personal tubs and steam showers, the boys headed out to the Colorado Rockies baseball game against the San Francisco Giants. Realizing that they had traveled across four states, only to attend a game they could have watched back home in San Francisco, the Hardy Boys tried to make the best of their mysterious adventure. Shane wanted to solve the case as to why Americans loved Slumdog, but don’t give the Indian’s game of cricket a chance. Twilight savant, Sanford, went people watching to make sure that there were no gremlins, werewolves, vampires, or teen heartthrobs in the bleachers of the stadium. USDA certified, Nor CAL farm hand Zane Silver was fixated on the grass of the stadium and tried to determine the origin of each blade. And, most importantly, Jason attempted to stay cool in a baseball stadium that lacked the obnoxious fans, absurd amenities, and grimy walkways that he is used to in New York.

The game was a thriller and would go down in history as the longest game ever remembered in the intoxicating brewery formally known as Coors Field. Post game, the boys took naps at the hotel and ate dinner at the renowned eatery of hometown hero John Elway. Though “Elway’s” made up for its amazing food with terrible service, the night of Independence was filled with gothic nightclubs, free limo rides, and lectures on Sub-Saharan Africa from cab drivers.

As America woke up one year older, the gang laid in their ultra comfortable beds and debated prolonging their stay. In the end, the distressed bunch finally managed to get out of their beds and were forced to call the bell hop up to pack their bags and take them down to the car. Those poor kids! The group was scheduled to stay with Shane’s family friends, the Stein family, for the next two days, and with their car freshly cleaned the four headed out to Aurora, CO for their final two days of rest. Arriving at the Stein’s home, the boys thought that they had accidently driven back to the Ritz. The beautiful home lay on edge of the Aurora Reservoir, and the Rockies etch-a-sketched a perfect skyline vista from the second floor patio. Mr. and Mrs. Stein, along with their son Nate and daughter Lindsey, complimented their welcoming home with friendly humor, and Mr. Stein’s love for the Red Sox even cracked THE Jason Lupatkin. In fact, in finding out that Jason was a Yankee fan, the Massachusetts bred Stein family was kind enough to let Jason sleep outside, within their fence, so that Coyotes would not eat him at night.

Relaxing in the Stein household on the 5th was the perfect ending to the first third of our journey. The sense of home refreshed all of us - with family discussions on the couch and a mother's seasoning of love on dinner - but, most memorable, was the Stein’s overall approach to life. Four strangers, later featuring Claire, had come into their home, and within hours, they were treated as part of the family. Every amenity was offered, every bed was given, and the nature of our hosts will always stick with us. We are slowly learning that it is the people of this land that make this country special - It is families like the Mongas, Gartons, the Kelsalls, and the Steins who give everything they can to others and treat all like their kinship. FACE AIDS and nonprofits in this country have the opportunity to make a difference because of these families, and waking up each day underneath a new roof each day has reminded us that we are lucky to live in the friendly, amber waves of grain that are America.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Days 18 & 19: It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

There comes a moment in every half way to being middle aged man's life, where he realizes that, officially, his childhood is over. The door to Mr. Rogers' playhouse closes, the ferries stop taking people to Gulla Gulla Island, and you have to be on drugs to think a purple dinosaur can talk. This moment of clarity dropped the curtail on our childhood, tonight, as our group watched Toy Story 3: We laughed, we cried, and as Vanessa Carlton would say, "if I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by?"

Friday's sun rose with a newfound relaxed approached to our ride: we decided that, at the end of the day, we were going to make it across this country in 67 days no matter how early, or late, we woke up in the morning. 7:30am, quickly became 10:00am, and as we waved goodbye to the Garton's Lincoln-esque cabin, our team braced themselves for the world renowned Vail Pass. Weaving up and around the brute of the Rockies, this pass is known for swallowing riders faster than when Claire inhales her daily bowl of fruit. 40 miles of climbing and 30 miles of mountain pass trails, separated our team from our destination of Keystone, CO (located beside beautiful Lake Dillon) and as we began the day's ride optimism was at an all time low.

From Jason's first wrong turn out the driveway, it was clear that the ride to Keystone would prove to be an interesting one. While Shane and Claire chose to be safe and ride together, Sanford, Zane and Jason motored ahead, hoping to outrace the rain clouds and finish the day's climb quickly. However, our three musketeers would find that their biggest obstacle on the road to Friday's destination would not be steeply ascending bike paths but a go-kart course and the Colorado River. Upon reaching the town of Copper, in the middle of Nowhere, CO, our FACE AIDS uniformed riders were approached by a family of Stanford alums. After discussing FACE AIDS and the purpose of the ride for some time, Sanford, known for his keen alertness especially on the road, noticed a track in the distance. Would our riders be able to resist the temptation of mid-day go-karting?

Obviously not. Despite talking to Arthur, the owner of the karting operation, about the ride, the boys were unable to secure their favorite cars. Zane, obviously, should have been Donkey Kong, but instead was given Peach due to his flowing locks of hair. Upon realizing that Edward from Twilight was not, and never will be, a playable character in any respectable video game, Sanford chose Wario simply because he has teeth that kind of sort of look like those of a vampire. Not really though. Finally, Jason requested the strong-willed, never-questioned Bowser, but, instead, was given the role of the lanky plumber Luigi. After seven laps on the rainbow level that everyone falls of off, Luigi used his weight advantage to navigate past a lagging Wario. With time running out, Peach dropped three banana peels with the hope of protecting her leading position. Unfortunately for our princess, a gopher from the days of "Moo Moo Farm" sprung up, decapitating the lovely Peach and allowing Luigi a well-earned victory. Realizing after returning to their actual bodies that they had no idea how to get to Keystone from Peach's Castle, the boys asked and received help from Steve and his wife Sue, experienced bikers eager to learn about the Ride Against AIDS. Following a half-hour discussion of FACE AIDS activities on the Stanford campus and their relationship to pin-making program in Africa, the "S-Couple" offered our riders advice and steered them on their way.

While shells were being fired in Copper, more interesting events occurred with our other riders. Shane suffered a flat tire immediately after finishing the uphill and was forced to bellydance his way into town to await pick up. With one leg and one tire, our heart and soul believed it wise to call the day early and live to fight another battle. One rider Shane will receive no pity from for Friday's hardships is the famous Momma Fish II. Treating the ride like a crew race, Claire pedaled and pedaled without any idea as to where she was heading. Unfortunately for the experienced stroke seat, Claire forgot that she had no coxswain to direct her: In the end, Momma Fish II wound up biking an extra 20 miles on the day, leaving her angry and ready to erg her pain away.

Sanford, Jason, and Zane were not the only members of the group to have good Fridays--Kirsten, forever an trooper, accomplished a feat unparalleled in history. Through the masses of thousands of red and white-striped clad people on the roads of Colorado, she somehow managed to do what the visually-impaired Shane has always dreamed of: she found Waldo. Apparently, Waldo travels with a companion named Bobby always and prefers to be called Wally. Reveling in her success, Kirsten found herself anxiously awaiting Saturday's ride with Wally and Bobby, so much so that she chose to hit the hay early in order to lead the charge into Denver.

The branches of the Stanford Tree did not need to extend very far to find us housing in Keystone, as Alex Kelsall, a dorm-mate of Claire and Shane, volunteered to host the group of 7 at his families winter cottage. Pulling into the beautiful home, Mike and Shane unloaded the car, and Mike was picked up by a friend to attend a wedding during the holiday weekend. For the second day in a row, the FACE AIDS team and somehow landed a beautiful home with amazing views of the surrounding mountain passes. And, as fate would have it, as Shane and Alex looked into the basin of one of these mountain passes, they saw Zane, Sanford, and Jason pull in next to the Colorado river. Instantaneously, as if Barry White was playing in the background, Shake-Weight certified user Zane Silver threw off his riding shirt and dove into the rolling Colorado River that ran next to the bike path.

Eventually, we all made it to the comfort of the Kelsall Keystone Kottage. After taking our traditional read/nap/listen to Jason three song playlist on repeat session, our group pilled into the car for a nice dinner beside Lake Dillon. Though the food was sub-par, the conversation was splendid and, in the end, at least Zane was able to give the waitress his cell phone number. Purposely forgetting the boxed food at the restaurant, your favorite riders reconvened beside the fireplace for a night of laughter and route planning.

On Saturday morning, accompanied by her newfound entourage, Kirsten lead the infamous climb up Loveland Pass by leaving thirty minutes before scheduled departure time. With this news permeating his REM cycle, Jason made a conscious decision to sleep in for two more hours. After the representative from New York was finally pulled out of bed, Claire had emailed enough nonexistent people about not important things, and Zane had finished applying his camera-friendly makeup, the three stragglers finally hit the road. These three would soon find themselves separately, attacking Loveland Pass in their own ways. While Zane rode his tamed goat up and Claire de-stressed by erg-biking, Jason jerked his way to the 11990 foot summit--the highest point on our entire ride. Ten minutes and forty photos later (You didn't think Zane would waste an opportunity, did you now?), our riders felt the chill and cruised down the mountain. Drafting and slipstreaming, the three truly felt "safety in numbers." Thirty miles of downhill later, the team was extremely close to its lodgings for the night.

While the riders actually did something of importance/meaning, Sanford and Shane pulled into the Kelsall's Denver home to stay another night with this selfless family. Hobbling out of the car, Shane was immediately swarmed by Mrs. Kelsall, an unbelievable pediatrician, who had him on a couch, taking medicine, whiling icing, and on the phone with a orthopedic doctor within 15 minutes of their arrival at the house. It was worse than the storm of Omaha Beach, as the stunned rider had been surprised by the unwavering love that Mrs.Kelsall kept deploying. Sanford took the time to explore the Kelsall House, finding a stash of Twilight memorabilia to stare at for hours.

As the two drivers relaxed, Claire, Zane and Jason found themselves drawn to the Denver Federal Center. Scoping out the buildings on the fenced-in property for an hour, the three waited until they had found weak points in the perimeter defenses to alert the Pentagon about before calling for pickup. Sitting by the side of the government property, our riders were then picked up by an unmarked white van driven by Shane and Sanford, the sight of which relieved the hundreds of federal agents surveilling our apparently-snooping riders.

After tidying up and futile attempts to force Shane to shave in order to keep our phones untapped, Mr. and Mrs. Kelsall teamed up to make the riders an amazing BBQ dinner with more fresh fruit than even the organic, our state is going to save the world even though we are broke, super green Californian riders knew what to do with. It was interesting to juxtapose this family dinner with last nights meal because not only was it cheaper, but the dusk's ambiance against our table on the Kelsall's deck was just enough to help us realize that we could finally relax. The worst of the ride is behind us. We had suffered through the lonely roads of Nevada, escaped the missionaries in Utah, and climbed the Rockies of Colorado. "It's only downhill from here," exclaimed Sanford as he pushed one more burger down out of sight.

Tomorrow, our group will split up once again, with Mike at the wedding, Kirsten heading to Boulder, Claire visiting friends in Vail, and the four lone rangers exploring the sites of downtown Denver. For now, our team has been put back in the toy chest. Andy has forgotten about us, hidden us in crates with his Beanie Babies and Lego action figures. But, it is only time (more like 2 days) before the the air of childhood will blow open the hatch and our team will reunite to ride on and finish the mission we began.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 18: Rolling On Into Colorado

We got an early start this morning, pushing off from the hotel at 7:30. Shane, not surprisingly, decided not to join us for the day and it was great to not have another fresh face in the group! The day's route called for 48 miles of mostly uphill riding with maybe 3,000 feet of gained elevation. 25 miles in we reached an overpass. It was nice. The van met us there, we posed for some pictures with the Colorado River and headed on out.

Eight miles later we paused to take in the scenery and consider our mission. Shane stayed in the van, while we riders lamented our decision not to eat, fell into the Colorado, and took a half hour nap. When we finally got up we rode on and finished the last 25 miles or so. Ten miles later we were ten miles closer to our destination. The hills were green, but rolled all the way into Edwards (unfortunately, we ended on the uphill!).

We arrived in Edwards, CO around 12:30. It's a semi-large town, but is loaded with charm. The buildings are snowcapped and the people are friendly, especially our host Lulu Garton and her daughter Bailey. Additionally, the river that runs parallel to the town makes for a great outdoors area. The team gladly sat in the comfort of the couches of our second Garton host for a half hour or so. The conversation was enjoyable but we managed to find some topics of mutual interest that rose slightly out of the murky water of our thoughts, allowing us to all enjoy the beautiful July sun.

We just returned from a wonderful dinner, courtesy of our hosts and are enjoying a quiet evening in our amazing home, fit for the critics of Log Home Design Ideas Magazine (See 1998) that we are staying in. Tomorrow we climb 3000 feet up over Vail Pass then descend into Keystone. It's about 50 more miles and the grade is gradual, but we are going to sleep in a bit and see the 2nd of July sun that I’m told rises in the east and sets in the west.

I suppose this is officially the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Since the beginning of the trip people have been wishing us luck on the Rockies, but frankly (I could possibly eat these words) I'm not that intimidated. We just spent the past 2.5 weeks in the mountains; in Nevada it was not uncommon to do hundreds of flat miles in a day. So even though you are wondering why this is clearly plagiarized writing from last year, I think it should be very understandable that we are simply at a loss for time. Not easy, mind you, but not devastatingly difficult. Check back in a week to see if the sun's position holds true!

Today's Trivia Question: 100% of the funds raised through Face AIDS are matched by private donors and thrown behind the work of what organization? (Hint: Paul Farmer founded this organization while still a medical student). (10 points)