African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Monday, June 30, 2008


...that's what I wrote in my journal while lying on my sleeping bag in the gym in Granby, Colorado after riding across Trail Ridge Road. It was an amazing day in a challenging, rewarding, wonderful week of riding. Now it is time to share the ride with you.

The easiest way to describe the trip is with the raw data:

502.6 miles
7 days of riding
1 day off
38 hours, 13 minutes on the saddle
13.2 mph average speed
28,570 feet of climbing

But that's not the whole story, not by a long shot. I'll pass on my thoughts and feelings about this ride from the daily* journal I kept during the week in Colorado and Wyoming. My plan is one posting for every day of the ride ~ except for the day we rode across Trail Ridge; that day will take more than one post to describe...

* I wrote something every day. Sometimes I wrote a lot ~ 16 pages (in my small journal) for the day I rode across Trail Ridge. Sometimes, I just wrote a few sentences, words as reminders ~ I'll fill in the details when I draft the postings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red Rides Right

Had to take the new red tires out for a check ride. It was a spectacular evening so I decided to ride down the river to Stoddard, staying off the hills out of deference to my back. I figured there is no use spending whatever lower back capital I have left on climbing here, just a day and a half before leaving for Colorado. Still it was 30 miles, the first ten miles riding ahead of a stiff wind. And the last nine riding against it. Of course.

All-in-all an easy ride. I suppose, in the spirit of the airline speak mentioned in the previous post, I can say I just finished a pre-recovery ride. I suspect I'll need all of the recovery I can get once we get started riding in the Rockies. No sense waiting any longer than I have to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All Dressed Up

You've been watching the countdown clock. I know you have. It's OK, that's what it is there for. So, you know it is (as I write this) just over two days to departure, 3 1/2 days until the actual ride. This means it is packing time. Final preparations. Only one more ride - an easy one tomorrow. And it is time to get dressed for the dance...here's the Trek all decked out in the new red tires. Does it look ready to go or what?!

Since it is time to go, I'm ready. Biggest concern? Not the climbing, but the altitude. Maybe the weather. And my back. It's been giving me grief the last month or so. After a really good week last week, the pain has come back. I'm exercising / stretching and will keep this up through the ride. We'll see.

I've been looking at maps and aerial photos of the route. It looks absolutely spectacular. I can't wait! As with the Seattle to Missoula tour last year, I won't be adding to the blog during the ride itself. But I will keep a daily journal and will post each entry back here, one day at a time, after I return.

Now, excuse me while I go do my last set of back stretches for the day!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


On July 18, I plan to fly from Indianapolis* to Atlanta to take in a couple of Braves' games and visit with family. The tickets were purchased on April 9. I wonder, have I been pre-boarding since then? I've always wondered about that pre-boarding thing. Another curiosity of airline-speak, one I haven't heard in a while, is the comment from the flight attendant upon landing, "We hope you enjoy your stay here in Chicago, or wherever your final destination may take you." Wherever your final destination may TAKE YOU? I'd always chuckle at that one.

But if you stop to think about, maybe it isn't such a strange thing to say after all. In 2003 my destination was the Dominican Republic. And where did my destination take me? Well, it took me back there five more times. So far. Working with the missionaries, pastors in this place so different from my home in Wisconsin. One of those life altering experiences. Then there was the spring of 2006. Destination? Uganda. Visits to a church and school. And I still wonder where that destination will take me. Back to Uganda in October is part of the plan. But there will be more. Much more.

There was also the trip to the top of the hill ~ the first climb up Bliss Road. The climb I had once thought that if I did it I could hang up my bike. But I found that even that destination was going to take me on. On to long rides with hard climbs and exhilarating descents. On to the tour from Seattle to Missoula. Later this week, to Loveland, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. And in August, to... the Next Big Ride! Now I'm pretty sure that most of you who read this blog know what that next ride is. But if you don't, you'll just have to wait until after Colorado trip!

For now, here's hoping that you are challenged to great things wherever your next destination may take you.

* Indianapolis? During the week leading up to this trip I will be attending an engineering conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. It seemed like a good idea, since I would already be more or less on my way anyway, to just keep keep heading south and enjoy a weekend of baseball at Turner Field.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rattle, Rattle...

La Crosse. The early years. There was a radio commercial for Car-X, a Midwest auto service chain that started out with the chant, "Rattle, rattle, thunder-clatter, boom boom boom!" The remedy when your car began to sound like this? Call the Car-X man, of course.

I heard these same sounds last Saturday. From the seat of my bike. After a nearly perfect morning, weather-wise, it started to cloud up during our stop at the Coon Valley Kwik Trip. And it was clouding up quickly. A more direct route home was in order, but we figured there was still time to head to Bohemian Valley, ride across Antony Road and then work our way back through Barre Mills. Figured wrong, we did. Riding along the ridge on Antony, we were rapidly closing the distance between ourselves and a dark, ominous sky. Thunder rolled across the top of the ridge; you could feel the low frequency rumble in your chest. We put this meteorological excitement behind us for a bit after we turned for the descent down County II, but it was a short-lived respite. The ride along County roads I, M and O was bringing us back towards the storm which was, helpfully, moving towards us at the same time.

Bill had gotten a ways ahead of me as I turned on to County OA, heading towards the FO hill. It was clear I was not going to get home dry. Then, not far from the start of the steepest part of climb up to County F, it started. Rattle, rattle, thunder-clatter, boom boom BOOM! The thunder bounced around the narrow valley like a swarm of pachinko balls while the lightning cracked and sizzled almost continuously. This was neither the time nor place to be sitting up on a bike. Here's where being slow helped. I was just coming up on one of the last houses at the bottom of the hill. There was a school bus shelter at the end of the drive. I pulled up and found the door unlocked*. This was good.

Tucked away in relative safety, I watched as the storm raged for about 15 minutes. First it was the sound and light show. This violent display was followed by a period of intense, wind-driven rain. Swirling sheets of rainwater were being swept up the road, probably all the way to the top of the hill. As much as I wished I could get blown up the FO climb like that, I decided to stay put.

Shirley soon arrived in the car with Hilary and Isaac. It had been a challenge, but after several attempts at getting the cell phones to connect, I was able to tell her of the situation and arrange for a rescue mission. They arrived during a lull in the action and I got my bike into car, much to the delight of grandson Isaac. Sitting with him in the back seat, I made one of the quickest FO ascents ever!

"What about Bill?," I hear you ask. Well, when the tempest broke he was in no-man's land. On top of the ridge, no public shelter. So, he put his head down, fought off hail, torrential rain, buffeting winds, and rode home. As it turns out, he put the Long White Line to good use in those last few miles as it was basically the only thing he could see through the sheets of water pouring over - and around - his glasses as he bent low over the handlebars. We connected a bit later and concluded that, having made it home safely, it was an OK ride.

PS* Many thanks to Paul R. who works in the same building as I do. His house is at the end of the drive where I had found sanctuary. He pulled in just as the rain let up and graciously offered me and the Trek a ride. Probably afraid he'd have to feed me if I didn't get out soon! Anyway, he did not have to take me home, but I very much appreciate both the offer and that he did not lock the door on the shelter.