Ride Across America, Day 26

Dear Readers,

Savannah, Georgia, is on our minds – we will complete our transcontinental ride tomorrow at the Atlantic Ocean. Final plans are in place. We will meet at Tybee Island at 2:30 p.m., dip our tires in the ocean as we did in Costa Mesa on April 17th, and have photos. Then, we will go to our hotel and prepare to go home. Our final banquet will be at the Blue Moon Pub, near the Hotel Indigo where we’re staying in Savannah. I will pack the bike in a special box and have it shipped home.

Water lilies outside Vidalia

Water lilies outside Vidalia

This morning, we left Perry at 7:30 a.m. and while the air was a comfortable temperature, the humidity hung in the air. We had four miles of relatively flat road to begin using my legs. Then, at a 4 percent grade, a long uphill that was a mile in length was the biggest challenge of the day. Changing gears and standing to pedal, I found my heart rate had quickly jumped into the 140 range. About 1/3 of the way up the hill, I sat down, changed gears to make pedaling easier, and grinded out the remaining distance in the easiest gear ratio. At the top, I was breathing deeply and hard, legs were aching and was heart pounding, but I felt warmed up and ready for whatever the rest of the day would bring.

Rural roads with straightforward names were common today: Antioch Church Road, Snowhill Church Road, Lowery Firehouse Road, M.L.King Dr., Sawmill Road, and multiple side roads with names of the landowners. We passed through the small, historic towns of Hawkinsville, Eastman, and Mt. Vernon before reaching Vidalia. By nearly 2 o’clock, the temperature was 89 degrees with little cloud cover – I had used up both bottles of water when I spotted one of the vans and got refills. (One of the riders stopped at DQ for a treat and air conditioning.)

We were still 15 miles outside Vidalia at that time. A warm refreshing shower and plenty of fluid awaited us at the hotel. Rap is scheduled for 5 p.m., then Rob (from Bristol, England) may want to get a prescription at Walgreens for antibiotics – he’s been having tooth pain for three days. (I brought my license just in case I would need to write a prescription for someone.)

A field near Eastman

A field near Eastman

We will complete 22 days of 100 plus miles with our final ride tomorrow. We also had two days of just under 100 miles by bicycle. (Two days of planned rest and one day we could not ride due to unsafe weather conditions). The other riders have reported similar physical conditions to mine: stronger legs from the riding, and yet, overall very tired and with little reserve. (As I write this now, I am getting muscle cramps in the quads and hamstrings – time for more fluid and electrolytes tablet to replace potassium and sodium.)

None of us have done so many long rides over such a short time.  Fortunately, our ride tomorrow just 104 miles with 900 vertical feet. No one would start the tour feeling as we do now, but everyone is talking about their next extended ride (or racing event for those inclined).

It has been a tremendous experience in many ways, and I will be reflecting about what I’ve learned over the next several days to weeks. It has also been my single most challenging period of extended exercise – despite training, I initially had questions about my ability to complete the ride. I did not know how my 60 year-old body would respond to the daily exertion, and under the various weather conditions we faced. (As a physician, I was always recommending physical activity to my patients – but wasn’t always following my own advice. Had I gone too far, too soon in restoring regular exercise into my life style by planning this ride?).

Most certainly, I am looking forward to wearing regular shorts in the coming days. The morning routine of applying chamois butter to the skin over the “sits bones,” followed by two pairs of biking shorts has worn thin. (It feels a little like I’ve messed in my diapers.) I am still standing to peddle throughout the day – as all riders must, but it is a little more comfortable on the bike seat than 2 weeks ago. Nonetheless, I’m still scanning for chair cushions when I enter a room.

The welcome sign at our hotel

The welcome sign at our hotel

Now, to a more important issue. I am honored to be associated with the International Institute of Minnesota and the good work it does in the community. The #roadscholarship fundraising is still going strong. If you have not done so, please consider making a donation to support Medical Careers Pathway Student Scholarships.  I will be in touch with the results of the fundraising and how the program will be implemented.

I will write again when I have time following the activities tomorrow.

Normally, I take hundreds of pictures when I travel. I had hoped to take more on this trip, but the time constraints of being part of a group and getting to the next destination by bike greatly limited my photographs. I am sorry that I don’t have more to show you.

Thank you for your continued interest in these updates.

Be well,

Jeff

Support Jeff and New American nursing students by making a donation to the #roadscholarship fund!

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