Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In Remembrance of Ramie

We all started this trip for a variety of different reasons. For some,
it was to test ourselves with the challenge of biking over 4,400 miles
in a single summer. For others, it was to take advantage of the
opportunity to see the country intimately, one small town at a time.
And for most of us, it was simply a way to have an amazing adventure and
forge incredible new friendships before taking the next step in our
lives. Whatever our initial motivations, we all came together back in
New Haven, CT, knowing that our journey would be an unforgettable
experience.

Over the weeks that have followed, our group has become more closely
knit than many of us would have imagined possible. Whether it means
trading massages for aching muscles, sharing inside jokes and personal
stories, or just being willing to ride in front and take the wind for
the others on a hard day of riding, we look out for each other and take
care of one another each and every day of our journey. From joys to
sorrows, every experience throughout this trip has been a shared one.

On June 19, Ramie Speight, a member of our group, was killed outside of
Henderson, Kentucky. For many of us, her death has been one of the most
difficult challenges we have ever faced. The days following the
accident were very emotionally turbulent for our entire group, but after
many long hours of group discussion and deliberation, most of us decided
to continue the rest of the way to San Francisco. Getting back on our
bikes was incredibly hard, the difficult terrain of the Ozarks made only
more unbearable by the heaviness we all carried with us those first few
days. We lost a few members of our group, but we know that they and
Ramie will always be in our thoughts and we will carry them all with us
across the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of July.

Our decision to continue our journey was not an easy one to make, and we
couldn't have done it without the kindness and generosity of everyone
who has done so much for us in the past week. The outpouring of support
we have received has been truly incredible.

Ramie's parents have been unbelievable, encouraging us to keep going and
assuring us that Ramie would have wanted us to continue in her memory.
The pastor from the United Methodist Church and the director of the
Habitat for Humanity Chapter in Morganfield, Kentucky shuttled our
entire group and our bike the 90 miles to Carbondale, IL so that we
could take a day off before riding our bikes again without getting off
schedule. The director of the New Haven chapter of Habitat for Humanity
flew out to visit our group and reassure us personally. We've had
countless phone calls from the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors,
HBC alumni from the earliest trips to the most recent, and, of course,
all of our family members and friends. To everyone we've mentioned here
and everyone we haven't, we truly appreciate everything that has been
done for us and all the offers for help that we've received. Thank you
for all of your support.

Together, we're ready to face the new challenge of not only continuing
our journey, but continuing it in tribute to Ramie. She will always be
missed, but we will all keep her memory alive with each mile we put
behind us on our way to San Francisco.

For more details, some of the news articles that we've found to be the
best can be found here:

The Houston Chronicle

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3233909

and

The Yale Daily News

http://www.yaledailynews.com/default.asp?IssueID=1568


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Enjoying The Bluegrass State

After leaving Big Ugly in West Virginia, we made our way across our
fifth state line into Kentucky. We spent our first night there in
Sandy Hook, at Infinite Possibilities Ministries. The center was
great, but it also happened to be located at the top of one of the
steepest hills we've seen on the trip so far. A few of our crazier
riders did manage to make the climb on their bikes though.

After leaving Sandy Hook, we made our way to Mount Sterling. Along
the way, we passed through the tiny town of Preston. Last year's HBC
group had told us there might be some famous whittlers outside the
small grocery store in Preston, so we stopped for lunch on the lawn
beside the store, hoping they might turn up. Inside the store some of
us tried Kentucky's Ale-8-1 sodas ($0.55 for the soda, $0.80 to keep
the bottle). The whittlers never showed, but we enjoyed Preston and
scored the sodas and some pear butter from a generous neighbor. When
we made it in to Mount Sterling, we picked up our mail drop goods. We
had A LOT of great care packages. My personal favorites were the
sugar cookies decorated by Matt Broach's little sister and the package
for Ramie Speight that allowed us to actually try out the cookie
recipe we put up on the website. After sorting through our packages
and being shuttled to showers, we were fed not only home-cooked meal
for dinner, but for breakfast as well (complete with biscuits, sausage
and egg casseroles, and apple butter!).

From Mount Sterling we made our way in to Frankfort. Along the way,
we stopped at the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon Distillery for a
tour. After abandoning our cleated shoes on the front porch, we were
taken through the entire process of making Woodford Reserve Bourbon,
from the fermenting and distilling to the aging and bottling. From
there, we took some beautiful side roads to Kentucky State University,
where we joined with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to promote
bike safety. We helped offer a bike safety clinic and participated in
some tricycle races before bedding down on the gymnasium floor.

From Frankfort we made our way into Louisville. We spent the morning
riding to Long Run Park, where we met Judge Jim Moyer, who lead us the
rest of the way into the city. We arrived a few hours early to meet
Jim, so some of our group did more trailer-painting work and enjoyed
leisurely naps in the park grass. The other members of our group
stopped a few miles before the park at the Hi Ho Day Camp to swim,
play, and eat with the campers. Jim lead our group in to the
University of Louisville, where we met up with fellow Yalies at the
Bulldogs in the Bluegrass program. After dinner, we joined up with
the Bulldogs to explore what we could of Louisville. The next day was
a much-needed day off, so we spent the day seeing the sights of
Kentucky - Churchill Downs, The Louisville Slugger Museum, and more.

Getting back on our bikes this morning after Louisville was tough, but
the ride was mostly flat and went by quickly. We made our way across
another state line this afternoon, over the Ohio River into Tell City,
Indiana. We changed time zones sometime before lunch as well, so
we're all enjoying the extra hour. It's back into Kentucky once again
for tomorrow, and then on to Carbondale, Illinois!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Photos are up!! Gallery #1

Please enjoy our latest pictures!!

http://www.freepgs.com/kgill/photos/hbc1/

Our Last Day in West Virginia...

We last heard from our cyclists in Marlinton, just before what turned
out to be one of the most amazing meals we've been fed along the trip
so far (and coming from this always-hungry group, that's saying
something). After dinner and our slideshow, some of the church
members took our group sightseeing around West Virginia. The tour
included Snowshoe Ski Resort and the world's largest satellite dish
(used in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence). The next
morning, our hosts impressed us again by showing up at 5:30 AM (even
though the group slept in to a leisurely 5:45 AM). We had a rare
morning of delicious hot breakfast before setting off for the town of
Gauley Bridge - our longest ride yet at a daunting 95 miles.

The ride to Gauley Bridge was beautiful. We had a few gradual hills
at the start, but they led us up to the Monongahela National Forest,
so we spent the morning cruising through the shaded woods and past the
occaisional creek. We stopped for lunch at a little over halfway, and
the rest of the way was thankfully pretty flat. The day was really
hot, and when we finally arrived in Gauley Bridge, most of us were
glad to jump right into the river, still in our biking clothes.

We had another delicious dinner with some folks from Gauley Bridge,
followed by another West Virginia sightseeing excursion - this time to
see the New River Gorge. We slept well after all the biking we had
done and woke up to get another early morning start on our ride from
Gauley Bridge to the infamous town of Big Ugly.

We're staying at the Big Ugly Community Center tonight, where we've
discovered that Big Ugly is really neither big nor ugly. Those of us
with the foresight to bring cash here, where ATMs are a rarity, are
now sporting new T-shirts that read "I'm with Big Ugly." We're
looking forward to a dinner of hamburgers and chili, and hoping to
finally finish our trailer painting!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Take Me Home, Country Roads...

Well, maybe not home exactly, but to San Francisco (which is home for
some of our group).

We're still winding our way through West Virginia, enjoying the green
scenery and the curving trails. The weather has been hot and humid,
and we've ridden through more than one occasional thunderstorm.

Our road today was flat and fast, with some of our riders covering
about 70 miles in only 4 hours! We had some adventures along the way,
of course, including our first case of bike road kill, a stranded
cyclist, and a pretty rough fall.

But, all in all we made it, and now we're spending the night in
Marlinton this evening. We've met some great people in town who kindly
offered up their showers to us (I don't think they would have wanted to
stay and eat with us otherwise). Plus, we've learned a lot in the past
few hours about everything from pond digging to hay bales to 4-H pig
competitions. What's more, we hear we're being fed grilled salmon and
steak for dinner tonight...ah, the joys of Southern hospitality!

We've got a few days left in West Virginia before we cross into our
fifth state, Kentucky. Thanks for checking in on us, and we'll keep
you posted as often as we can!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Welcome to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!

Coming out of Johnstown, we rode the world's steepest inclined ferry
(which also conveniently cut 700 ft. off of our climbing for the day).
We certainly made up for it though, as we had to climb a number of
hills and a large mountain before we finally made it in to Uniontown,
PA.

The ride from Uniontown to Belington was another long and difficult
one, as the hills of Pennslyvania gave way to the geography of West
Virginia, which we have come to discover is known as "The Mountain
State."

We're camping in Belington and enjoying a much-needed day off here. We
ate dinner last night and breakfast this morning at the fabulous Laurel
Mountain Inn. As we were leaving last night and talking of returning
this morning, a waitress gave us one of her cards with a request to
call before coming in the morning so that more than one cook could be
on hand for us!

We're finally painting our brand new trailer today - our resident art
majors having finished the designs for it. Hopefully we'll be able to
post some pictures of our masterpiece when it's finished.

Cell phone service is scarce as we make our way through the hills and
rural areas here, so if you haven't heard from us in a few days...we'll
be in touch again soon!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Starting off sore...pedaling hard

Hello from the Open Road!!

It has been nearly a week since we started this great odsessy across the United States. We
apologize for not getting our daily entries up and running but here we go....

Our sore quads and tight hamstrings reinforce the reality that we are cycling 4, 400 miles in 9
weeks!! I
remember how on the first night, as everyone was tightly tucked in their sleeping backs to look
like synthetic caterpillars and stale breath held in the anticipation of riders as their minds
drifted to open roads and soon to be memoriable and unforgettable experiences. Closing their eyes,
they held the last remains for this "self", for after our sixty-three tiring days, we
will be forever changed. Now, just a week after that first night, we can feel the shift happening
daily.

So here we are in Johnstown PA, after climbing hill after hill from New Haven. We have traveled
through most of PA and have a day left. We've already crossed Connecticut and New York. When we
were in Hazelton, PA, we were told that it is the highest point in Pennsylvania (about,800 ft or
so) and boy did we notice it on a mere 55 mile ride. Our longest ride has been 87 miles and we
definitely felt it the next day! We have had to climb huge hills several miles long each and we
were sure suckin air at the top of each one. All of our rumps and quads are pretty darn sore but
it is so worth it-we're having a blast. All of our hosts have been so nice and cooking us enormous
amounts of food.Our eating habits have nearly doubled and for some quadroupled. One of the guys
on the trip won a shirt for completing a 24 inch Stromboli, by himself!!

The press welcome us at each stop, so watch out we are getting famous!! :-)