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rideATAXIA Blog

In January 2007, rideAtaxia was born when Kyle Bryant and his father began their 2,500 mile, 60 day cycling journey from San Diego to Memphis, TN to raise awareness and funds for FA research. Now functioning as a program of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), rideATAXIA offers single day, challenging and family fun bike rides at locations all across the USA. From firsthand accounts of Kyle’s inaugural journey to the most recent news about our annual bike rides, the evolution of rideAtaxia is chronicled in this blog.

 

Superbowl Sunday

 

Thank you Andy for that last post. I don’t think I have the vocabulary to follow that up but I will try. I want to apologize for the graphic images in the last post, Andy insisted saying they were “funny.”

We started from Benson on Superbowl Sunday with a nice downhill and cool, clear weather. However, before we got started, as we were getting ready at the staging area for that day (some very random offramp), Sergeant Gary Durree found us again and wished us safe travels for the day, what a guy!

Right before we left, we noticed a flat in one of my front tires, this has become a routine, I have had a flat almost every morning...


At mile 20 we ran into some road work that required us to get off the bikes and climb over these concrete barriers.




At about mile 25, our downhill turned into a burly climb for about 5 miles. It feels good to look back and see a huge valley that we just crossed.


We stopped for lunch at the top of the hill and had some chicken salad sandwiches in the Desert Fox. 20 miles to go… We crossed the final ridge and looked upon another huge valley that turned out to be about 30 miles across. The next 20 miles were a blur. We had a smooth shoulder, slightly downhill grade and a slight tailwind to begin our descent. 20 mph minimum for about three miles until we hit another small ridge. On the other side of this small ridge, our tailwind turned into a headwind. The wind does not effect me half as much as the other two because I am so low to the ground. So I traveled at about 18 mph for 5 miles while my partners struggled to stay with me. We took a short rest and finished the last ten miles in about 45 minutes. We finished in time to catch some pre-game and watch the super bowl on the 13 inch TV in the trailer. We also patched tires for the first time, we were rinning out of tubes so I patched 7 that day.


The next day, we started out from our humble RV “resort” in Wilcox, AZ. The three of us did not ride one mile before we had to stop because Andy’s derailer was malfunctioning. It turned out that the dxerailer cable had snapped and there was no way that he was going to fix the problem out there. So Andy turned around and headed back while Dad and I trucked on, we agreed that we would meet for lunch about 25 miles down the road and reassess the situation.

As soon as Andy left we hit an estimated 30 mph headwind. To quote the great Chuck Frey (co-worker and friend): “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” We had a wide, smooth shoulder, a slight downhill grade and clear sky but the headwind kept us under 12 mph. There is something about a strong headwind that is very irritating, it’s an invisible force resisting, constantly resisting…I know, deep huh?

Anyways, we rode through the invisible force field for about 15 miles and then we encountered a terribly rough shoulder. The shoulder had been roughed up in preparation for another layer of asphalt, however the asphalt only covered the two traffic lanes and excluded the shoulder leaving us with blurred vision and loosened fillings. The sag vehicle passed us so we pulled over to give them a call and get an update on the situation with Andy’s bike. Andy informed me that not only did he have a broken derailer cable but on the way back to the trailer one of the spokes on his back tire had snapped and he had to wobble back. Check out the broken spoke, can you find it:

So he gave up on the day, the shoulder got better, we stopped for lunch, and then we rode another 15 miles to grab 40 on the day, not bad considering…

We met our support crew (Andy and Mom) at an offramp that was home to a gas station and a tire shop. I rolled up and stopped in front of the Durango anrd from no where I hear (in a truly stereotype German accent, like cartoon stereotype): “What the hell is that?” I looked over to see a mangy, long haired dude with a handlebar mustache and a grin on his face. We talked for a bit and I found out that he was living n Mexico and just passing through. He was fascinated with the trike and he wanted to take a ride. I agreed and he left his rental car running to take a spin through the parking lot. He was wearing a red “poofy shirt” with a large leather jacket on top. His jacket was too large and the leather fringe dragged on the ground when he sat in the trike. Jeans and black cowboy boots completed his get-up. As he took his first few pedal strokes, he let out a couple hoots of excitement. He was truly enjoying himself as he swerved through the gas station nearly running into most of the cars, parked and moving. Finally we had to insist on loading up the trike so we could head back. We never got his name but he was a real character and will not soon be forgotten.

It was only 230pm so we set up shop outside the Desert Fox and performed some maintenance while Andy packed up his bike for the plane trip the next day.


During our bike shop hours that afternoon, we met several fellow RVers who told us that there is a music festival that takes place at this park in the evenings. After a nice shower and some sustenance, we ventured over to a large hall where we could hear a mellow baseline. Upon entry, we saw a tricked out stage with large speakers and about 6 microphones. Behind the instruments were some old timers rocking out to some old time country music. The music sounded great and we soon found out that the musicians included several Country Music Hall of Famers including Judy hall who just released an album at age 79. The jam session continued for a couple hours as Judy ran around demanding her favorite songs from her musician friends and singing when they demanded. We had a great time, enjoyed the music and met some great people at the Sideman Music Festival #21. At different points during the night we each stopped to think to ourselves, “How did we get here? How random is this? We are at an RV park in the middle of nowhere listening to some really great musicians.”


The next day we slept in [(until 730am) we are all kinda on a schedule now and that schedule does not allow us to sleep in even on rest days] and then drove back to Tucson to take Andy back to the airport. It was great to have Andy with us for a few days. He can make my knees buckle with laughter and that is needed every once in a while. One day I was really dragging and hating every moment, Andy was riding right behind me making weird noises and bringing up old inside jokes, I couldn’t help but laugh all day. That’s what friends are for…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity blogger. Andy Smith

 

Today we have a Celebrity blogger. Andy Smith, please tell us about your experience in the last three days...

Andy: Thank you for the introduction, Kyle. It's an honor and a pleasure to be here.

So, I arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday (Jan 31st) night from Sacramento. I had two backpacks full of tight-fitting lycra and assorted cyclewear, as well as a big cardboard box with my bike in it. Kyle and Mike met me right outside the terminal and whisked me away to a nearby RV park, where a very tiny bed was waiting for me. Before going to bed, however, I thought it would be a good idea to re-assemble my bike (I had one of the bike shops in Sacramento partly disassemble my bike to fit it in the box) so we could get an early start in the morning. When I opened the box, it took Kyle and me a good five minutes to figure out where everything was. The front tire was strapped to the side, the brakes were taken off, the handle bars were strapped to another part of my frame, etc. etc. I began putting things back together and was about ready to put the front tire back on when Kyle asked me where my pedals were. I looked all over for them and couldn't find them. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, I began cursing the bike shop in Sacto for their sloppy work. Just as we had resigned ourselves to taking an unscheduled trip to a bike shop in Phoenix the next morning to replace the missing goods, I found the pedals, sitting in a smaller box that I had removed when I first opened the main box. Mike shook his head and laughed; Kyle called me an idiot and laughed harder. I put the pedals on and went to bed, ashamed yet thankful.

The next day (Thursday, Feb 1) we headed east. We quickly learned that the lion's share of the Arizona place names that we had heard of - Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale, Peoria - are pretty much all in the same place. We put down about 20 miles just weaving through strip malls and suburban areas before reaching US 60 at the eastern edge of Tempe. Along the way, we had to wait about 45 minutes for Mr. Media Star (a.k.a. Kyle) to wait, on hold, for a phone interview with a local radio station that never actually happened. After finally getting onto the highway, we were pumped to pick up some speed and put down some miles. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a narrow shoulder and a wide rumble strip. The "rumble strip," which consists of 1/2" grooves in the pavement spaced every inch or so (put there to alert sleepy drivers if they drift onto the shoulder), was a bigger pain than I had imagined. If one is forced to ride on the rumble strip for long (and we were in spots), your bike shakes so hard that you actually begin to lose sensation in your hands and feet, making it hard to react if, say, a huge truck blasts by you and the wind from its "wake" pushes you to one side. Eventually, it got better, and we were able to ride for about 35 miles before hitting Superior, Arizona, where Mom was waiting for us in the SAG vehicle. Just before we hit our destination, however, Kyle got his second flat for the day – right as it started to rain on us.


On the way out of Superior, we drove farther into the mountains along what was supposed to be our route for the next day. We quickly realized that the shoulders were narrow to non-existent, the grade was pretty steep, you couldn’t see more than 300 yards ahead of you at any time, and there were a ton of big trucks passing through – in other words, certain death awaited us. Our conclusion was that the route was pretty much unrideable, and that we needed to find another way east. We decided to look over a map that night and then make the final decision the next morning. That evening, we stayed just outside Globe, Arizona, in the heart of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Our RV park for the evening was actually in the parking lot of the “Apache Gold Casino,” a truly magical place nestled at about 3,500 feet in the mountains. After enjoying a sumptuous feast inside at the casino buffet, we hurried back to the RV in the near-freezing temperatures to retire for the evening.

We woke up (Friday, Feb 2) and decided that the best course of action was to head south towards I-10, which connects Phoenix and Tucson. When we got to I-10, Kyle called a guy named Seth, who works for Caltrans in their Bicycle and Pedestrian Pathways department. Seth basically told us that a) getting on the freeway at that location, as cyclists, was illegal and dangerous, and b) that there was a better route that paralleled I-10 about 10 miles north of where we were. So we backtracked, again, and found our way to State Highway 79. This road was straight as an arrow, flatter than a pancake, and pretty lightly traveled. The only missing ingredient was a good shoulder. Having already wasted half the day at that point, however, we were not about to complain, and suited up for a productive afternoon. As straight and flat as it was, it was fairly slow going. We averaged about 10 mph for 4 hours, due mostly to a very bumpy shoulder, shown below.


The upside was that the scenery was pretty spectacular – an array of cacti, including some pretty cool saguaro, and some very cool mountains in the background. During one pit stop, Kyle snapped this candid photo of Mike and me admiring several excellent cactus specimens.


We ended the day about 25 miles from Tucson, at the top of a pretty decent downhill stretch. Mrs. B drove us into Tucson to the “Prince of Tucson” RV Park, where we stayed for the night. Kyle and I met some nice Canadians in the hot tub and then took a hot, steamy shower (in separate showers). We passed out shortly after dinner.

We woke up (Saturday, Feb 3) and had a lovely breakfast prepared by the team mom. As we were getting ready, Kyle decided that he needed a bandaid on the back of his knee, where his knee braced had been chafing him. Due to excessive leg hair, however, the bandaid wasn’t cutting it, so we convinced Kyle to grab his mom’s razor and do some shaving. Enjoy:

Notice Kyle's excellent technique.

We were then chauffeured back to our ending point from the day before. We had an excellent time screaming downhill for about 25 miles into Tucson, despite the flat Mike got a few miles in. We met back up at “the Prince” in Tucson, had a bite to eat, and did some cursory bike maintenance before embarking again. Since it was warming up (low 70s?), Kyle decided to go topless, but played it safe with some sunscreen:


When we took off, we were finally headed east again! We had to navigate our way through the center of Tucson on surface streets, since the freeway at this point was still off limits. We found a couple of nice frontage roads on our way through town, which happened to take us past some sort of enormous gem show that was taking place. We finally decided that we were beyond the “edge” of the city (see below), and that we had “no choice” but to get on the freeway.


As we passed another “Bicycles Prohibited” sign, I was a still little nervous about getting on the freeway, but I was comforted by how confident Mike and Kyle seemed as they chugged up the onramp ahead of me. Just as I was starting to relax, I heard a loud electronic beep behind me. I turned around, and there it was: the Arizona Highway Patrol, pulling us over less than 300 yards into our freeway adventure. I clicked out of my pedals, expecting a brow-beating from the officer. Luckily, our antagonist wasn’t an antagonist at all – Sergeant Gary Durree (he and Kyle actually traded cards) was a fellow cyclist, and guessed immediately that we were attempting to follow the Adventure Cycling route from San Diego. He politely explained that we needed to follow the frontage road for two more miles before being legally able to enter the freeway, and then turned his car’s lights on and backed his way down the onramp in order to provide some safety for us as we turned around. We thanked him and said goodbye, and quickly found our way to the legal onramp. Once we were on the freeway, the going was good. The shoulder was wide (5-6 feet), the road was smooth, and the road was pretty straight and the grades were pretty low-key. The only downside was the incessant truck noise, and the quantity of exhaust fumes we had to inhale. Otherwise it was great, and we put another 35 miles behind us before meeting up with the SAG vehicle. Below are several good shots from the freeway:



This truck may look stationary, but the posted speed limit on this stretch was 75 mph.

Tonight, we’re in Benson, Arizona, staying at a pretty cool RV park perched on a hill overlooking the freeway. Kyle snapped these shots of the mountains to the north at sunset:


Bonus shot:

Helmet hair.

If you thought this entry was long-winded, too bad. Kyle’s dad gave me a 22 oz. IPA before I started this, and Kyle’s mom has been feeding me some really good peanut butter fudge, and this blog entry is the natural result of those things. I’ve had a blast being out here and riding with KB and Co., and wish I could stay longer. So long,

Andy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salame Sandwich

 




The last couple of days have been really long and taxing so I have not been able to blog much lately but I will catch up on the details soon. I thought I would just give you a taste of my Salame Sandwich.

Quick tidbits: Phoenix was totally sweet, we picked up Andy who will ride with us until Feb. 6, The mountains were very dangerous so we had a change of route, Current location: Tucson, AZ.

 

 

 

Bottomless Bookseller

 

Current Location: Blythe, CA (yes, this is where we were yesterday. We are riding on either side of Blythe for a couple of days...its complicated...nevermind)

Today we started out near Ripley, CA which is about 15 miles west of where we are right now. It was a little cool this morning because the sun was reluctant to push through the thin cloud cover. This has not been the case the past couple of days, we have been riding in short sleeves beginning at about 830am and it has been about 75 degrees in the afternoons. Not today, it only reached about 68 this afternoon, too bad for us.

So we biked for about 15 miles and then we reached the trailer in Blythe, CA where we had some lunch, tuna sandwiches (one of my favorites, so easy and tasty). After lunch we crossed the Colorado River into Arizona, there goes one state. We entered the freeway again to start another climb.

- Side note: Some people freak out when we say that we ride on the freeway but let me tell you that the freeway is much more pleasant and safe than the non existent shoulders that we rode on a couple of days ago. So far, the freeways that we have ridden on have had nice, wide, smooth shoulders to lean on... -

We climbed this small mountain range just inside of the Arizona border and I actually enjoyed the climb, just pounded away at about 5-9 mph. I think I enjoyed it because I knew we would get to cruise down the other side. And we did, for about 5 miles with minimal effort we kept a steady 20 mph.

Then we caught sight of a little place called Quartzsite, AZ. This place is the RV capitol of the world. As we came over the grade, we saw an absolute sea of trailers and RVs for as far as we could see. One guy told us that during the off season Quartzsite has about 3,000 residents but during this time of year, there are about 350,000. Another guy told us that there are about a million people there right now. Personally, I think they were both over exaggerating but there were a ridiculous amount of people gathered in this random spot in the middle of the desert. As we came down the off ramp, we could barely get off of the freeway because of the insane traffic. We got onto the main strip (if you wanna call it that) and there was a giant flea market in all directions. It smelled like the county fair, corn dogs and deep fried twinkies. We made our way through the crowd and called Mom who had the sag vehicle waiting at a bookstore called “Reader’s Oasis.” We met there and went inside. There was a large poster of a guy wearing nothing but a small mesh bag on his "package". That was kinda odd…Even more odd, I walked around the corner and there he was. He was wearing a blue fleece jacket, a cowboy hat, some moccasin type boots and a small bag which contained his family jewels. My mother had already met him so she introduced me as her son that is riding across the country. He was very happy to meet me and he was a great guy. We chatted for a bit and he told me that he was envious of me and my adventure. He said that he loved to ride his bike but he has been busy selling books for the past seventeen years…with no pants on. We were about to leave and he told me that I might need some reading material for my journey, he ran inside and brought back a book called “How Many Hills to Hillsboro?” It is a story about a family and their cross country bike ride…Thanks Paul, I will take off my pants before I read.

So if anyone is ever in Quartzsite, AZ please visit Readers Oasis and a very nice gentleman named Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rideATAXIA: Joy and Misery

 

Today was great, yesterday was an absolute grind.

Yesterday we started out in Quartzsite (fully clothed) and immediately started the 10 mile climb over another small mountain range. Grinding away at 4.5-7 mph, this ten miles took us what seemed like forever. On the other side was a small payoff which was not enough to cover what we just suffered. Then wse got off the freeway onto highway 60... The shoulder was very rough with seems about every 5 feet, not cool! So we bounced along and took a short stop for some gatorade at a small store in Brenda, AZ. Then came another hill. This one sorta snuck up on us...Looking at the road you would think it was flat but don't be fooled, it is slightly uphill, and very bumpy. The hill continued like this and got steeper for about 15 miles, hooray! Toward the top, the shoulder surface turned to smooth asphalt and wse kept grinding away slightly faster. We were looking forward to the payoff on the other side but that wouldnt come for another day. The road was flat for the last ten miles and our legs were aching but we put in 50 miles.
Endless Road:


The next morning we started at about 8 am (about the time you were getting to work) and enjoyed the flatness for about 25 miles. Then we came to the big payoff. A downhill stretch for about 12 miles, all the way to our destination for the night Wickenburg, AZ. We finished up at about 1pm and took a load off...We sat for an hour, sunny, 80 degrees with a cool breeze. Whats the date? Oh yeah, January 29...Great day!
These two pictures provide a decent summary of our afternoon:



- I have noticed that I have a lot more to say about the bad dxays so far, maybe this is something I will have to change.

Bonus Picture:


Mornings on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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