Day 36 Valpariso to Kendalville, IN – 114 Miles through flat farmland

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114 Miles through flat farmland

MapMyRide Stats:   114 Miles  |  Time:  6:27   |  17.6 Mph

This was an excellent day for cycling.  The temperature was in the high 70’s with a slight tailwind.  The sky was blue all day and there was a zero percent chance of rain.  The cycling through Indiana was flat with lots of soybeans and corn.

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Sunrise in the cool, misty morning

Kendallville is a warm town who welcomed us with a dinner with the Mayor, W. SuzAnne Handshoe.  The Parks Department and their board of directors made us dinner and breakfast in Bixler Lake Park.  Their hospitality was gracious and generous.  They made us feel like family.

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Kendallville is very patriotic. They have many soldiers who serve our country.
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The flat land in Indiana is used for growing lots of corn and soybeans.

Battery report:  For those of you who want to know about how the electric bicycle handles this high mileage, here are some details from today’s ride:

Battery 1-35 miles

Battery 2-30 miles

Battery 3-40 miles

Battery 4 just started when we reached our destination — the county park.

At this point in the trip, we have accumulated about 2500 miles and the battery life is hovering around 35-40 miles per battery.  Each day, I try to completely discharge the battery before changing it.  Each night, I run three chargers with three batteries.  I carry three on the bike and keep one in the mechanic’s truck in case it is needed in an emergency.  The extra battery on the truck is available every day if I think I am running low on power.  I am riding the electric bike with the power assist at levels 2 and 3 most of the time.  After 36 days on the road, I have only used four batteries twice, and both days were over 100 miles.

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Soybeans….lots of soybeans

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Day 35 Coal City, IL to Valpariso, IN – 86 Miles – Cycling Through Amish Farmland

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MapMyRide Stats:  86 Miles  |  Time:   5:31   |   15.5 Mph

We cycled through tidy farms owned by Amish and Mennonite farmers.

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The roads in the state of Indiana are rough — lots of broken pavement — but they were tolerable because the traffic was fairly light and the terrain was flat.  We made the trek to Valparaiso Universitywhere we were thrilled to stay in dorm rooms with laundry facilities and air conditioning.  The school is nicknamed Valpo.

We were very happy to join Ben and Chris as they made their way through the state of Indiana on their way home from the RAGBRAI expo in Iowa.  We got to eat with them at a local brewpub and enjoy company from home.  Thanks Ben and Chris for the visit, that was really special!

Ben and Chris joined us for some local food and beer
Ben and Chris joined us for some local food and beer

 

Sunrise cycling to beat the heat.
Sunrise cycling to beat the heat

Day 34 – Garden Prarie to Coal City, IL – 109 Miles

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MapMyRide Stats:   109 Miles  |  Hours 6:42  |   16.2 Mph

Riding through the state of Illinois was long but mostly flat with interesting waterways and quaint little towns.  We ended this day at a campground in Coal City.  The city has several deep quarry holes from man-made coal mining properties.  The coal was mined very deep into the ground before fresh spring water filled the landscape to create several recreational waterways.  Our campsite was next to one of these man-made lakes; there were boats, swimmers and lots of recreational activity.

 

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Early morning exit from Garden Prairie Illinois
Corn fields are everywhere
Corn fields are everywhere..they call it “fuel corn”
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There are lots of big time farmers who rotate their fields between corn and soy beans
Coal City Recreational Area
Coal City Recreational Area – Camped out for the night

 

Day 33 Madison, Wi. to Garden Prarie, Il. – 94 Miles

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MapMyRide Stats:  93.3 Miles  |  Speed 16.3 Mph

Riding out of a bicycle-friendly city was pure joy!  Bicycles have their own space and infrastructure — designated lanes and bicycle paths throughout the city.  There are many cyclists in this town because it is flat and safe to ride.

Madison is a bicycle friendly town.
Madison is a bicycle-friendly town. It was a fun couple days at Wisconsin University.

The bike ride today was out of the city and through rural Wisconsin dairy land.  There were lots of farms, with lots of cows.  The hills were rollers which gently flattened out as we approached Illinois.  The weather was perfect, in the 70’s, and the sky was clear all day with a zero percent chance of rain.

 

Happy Cows
Happy Cows

 

Golden Wheat Fields
Wheat is almost ready for harvesting

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Cathy and Paul Entering the 8th State on The Big Ride Across America

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Day 31 Viroqua to Madison – 100 Miles – Through the Polar Vortex

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Today’s 100-mile ride was pretty cold — we rode through really thick, intense fog.  The temperatures today were really cold, my hands and feet were freezing even though I had 2 long-sleeve shirts and a rain coat, leg warmers and fingerless gloves.  I was chilly starting the day out.

MapMyRide Statistics:    100 Miles  |  Time:  6:59  |  14.4 mph

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Unseasonably cold for July

It was amazing to ride through such a dense cloud of moisture, you could feel yourself punching through the density of the air as we rode through it.

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Riding early in the morning through the dense fog was really exciting. You could feel the density of the air.
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The clouds demonstrate how excellent the weather has been on this tour.
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Flood plains on the Mississippi River
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Wow – The corn grows tall here!  Cold temperatures in 50’s
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The roads we rode on were lush, and quiet – Wisconsin is very leafy and green

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Day 30 Winona to Viroqua, WI – 65 Miles – Across the Mississippi

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New State on the Big Ride Across America: Wisconsin

We have ridden over 2000 miles and we are entering our 7th state. Hard to believe we are almost done!  We were thrilled to stay the night in a dorm room with all the extras we have come to expect.  One of the biggest benefits — no mosquitoes!

MapMyRide Statistics:    71 Miles  |  Time:  4:47   |  14.8  mph

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Sunrise Bicycle Ride

The ride today was quite smooth given all the climbing we had to do.  The hills were pretty steep; the only one marked was 10% grade but it was over a mile long.  At the top of the hill was a serene setting that overlooked the Mississippi River gorge.  These happy cows came over to say Welcome to Wisconsin.

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Happy cows in Wisconsin! Cheese curds were on the menu from Kevin and Jen who know a lot about this part of the U.S.

While riding in the rolling hills, we got to see lots of Amish people working in their fields.  The crops changed to reflect the local population, as we saw more oats and alfalfa growing to feed the working horses.  We also saw a few buggies parked next to the river while the men fished.

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Big Riders entering Wisconsin – Our 7th state.
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This King of Beers doesn’t come from Anheuser-Busch
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Mississippi River Crossing
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The World’s Largest 6-Pack in LaCrosse, Wi.

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Day 29 Owatonna to Winona, MN – 90.2 Miles

This was an amazing day, with a strong tailwind the entire trip. We got into the dorms at 11:30 am — after riding 90 miles! It was so early, we had time to walk into downtown Winona, shop at a bike shop and visit Bubs Brewery Restaurant and have some lunch. Of course, we had to taste the local beer. We stayed at the University of Winona in luxury dorm rooms. It was awesome to stay indoors with a nice cool temperature.

MapMyRide: 90 Miles | 4.5 hours | 18.3 mph (Tail Winds make a big difference)

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The sunrise as we started our day
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Cornfields – This will be a bumper year for corn and soy. Crops are huge so far!
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What goes with corn fields? Ethanol…
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Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes
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Can you see the high temp? July 14 – high of 69 degrees!

Day 28 New Ulm to Owatonna, Mn. – 73 Miles

New Ulm is a quaint Minnesota town with lots of farms both large and small.  The ride to Owatonna was pretty easy given the moderate terrain, and the cool 70 degree weather.  We had a visit from Fritz, the local reporter for the New Ulm Journal, and got front page coverage in their newspaper.  We rode into the town of Owatonna and camped in our tents at the County Fairgrounds.  The insects were not too bad and with the chill in the air, it was a good night’s sleep in the tent.

MapMyRide:  74 Miles  |  Time:  4:54  |  15.1 mph

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Big Ride cyclists stop in New Ulm – NUJournal.com | Ne…

NEW ULM—A 57-year-old Pittsburgh, PA woman who described herself as a “casual cyclist” was among eleven people who stopped in New Ulm this weekend…
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This is a school that was built for the Lutheran Ministry.
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The local Brewery had an excellent factory tour and history for this fine Pilsner Beer.
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New Ulm’s 45-foot tall glockenspiel bell tower with 37 bells that chime throughout the day.

These are some of the sweet houses in New Ulm:

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Day 26 Tyler to New Ulm, Mn. – 94 Miles

The ride from Tyler to New Ulm was fairly easy given the high mileage.

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Cycling Tyler, MN, to New Ulm via rt. 14

New Ulm, Minnesota has a German influence.  Population: 13,522.  This little town was established by German immigrants and is home to the August Schell Brewery.  The town center has a 45-foot tall glockenspiel bell tower with 37 bells that chime throughout the day, and play beautiful music at noon, 3 and 5:00.  In addition, it has what any good German town must have, polka music — playing all day in the downtown area.

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Downtown New Ulm, Minnesota — land of friendly people

The hills were gently rolling with a lot of farm country in between.  There are acres and acres of corn and soybeans growing in lush green display.  The state of Minnesota had a lot of rain this spring so it appears to be a bumper year for crops with large yields.  The only downside that I can see is the mosquitoes and gnats…lots and lots of bugs.

The custodian of the Miller High School said the mosquitoes were so big this year that we could skin them and filet them for dinner.  Now that is a big mosquito.  All joking aside, it’s pretty buggy this time of year.  We started the day out with moist conditions as it rained hard overnight, but lucky for us, no rain for the ride — the clouds opened up and blue sky came in.  Another blissfully excellent day on the Big Ride Across America!

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Started the day out with wet rainy streets, but then…the clouds broke up and it was blue sky.

MapMyRide Stats:  94.04 Miles | 15.4 MPH | 6 hours and 7 minutes

There is a big promotion on Mapmyride.com for the Tour de France: once entered into the contest, within the smartphone application, all your mileage is automatically logged into the online race.  With all this high mileage on the Big Ride, I happen to be in 31st place.  Woot Woot!  I already won a jersey for 500 miles.  This makes me want to sing….do do doit do do do do, do do doit do do do do do ( my fellow riders know the tune).

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Corn ethanol processing plant

With all the cornfields here in Minnesota, it’s only natural that we would come across one of these ethanol processing plants.  The smokestack was not quite tall enough as the odor of fermenting corn was quite heavy as we passed by.

The team from VeloSante Cycling Services create a wonderful experience for us each day.  They feed and water us every 20 miles (and we love it), they rescue us when we have technical difficulty (flats, broken chains, derailleur issues etc.).  What is really cool about this organization is that we get the fix we need and they put us back on the road.  What a luxury to ride with such an outstanding organization.  If you are reading this and are thinking about a bicycle tour, they are awesome!

VeloSante - Great Service Provider
VeloSante – Great Service Provider!

 

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Bicycle Touring in comfort – 85 miles a day without hot spots

Bicycle Touring without pain or “hot spots”

Now that we have completed the first half of the Big Ride Across America and are at the 1800-mile point, I cannot believe how comfortable I am every single day.  No sore butt, no need for chamois cream, no hot spots on my body. I am incredibly comfy…why?

1.  My Bike Shorts   These Aero Tech Elite shorts are amazing.  I do not have any need for chamois cream–in fact I gave it away.

The bike shorts from Aero Tech Designs are the best shorts I have ever worn.  The grey Elite chamois pad is a carbon fiber with silver ion threads, which prevent bacteria from building up on the shorts (bacteria is a major cause of saddle sores).  The pad has engineered layers of padding that put different densities of thick and thin padding where needed.  The shorts fit snugly, holding the Elite chamois tight to the skin so there is no bunching.  There are no seams anywhere in the rub zones, thus removing all opportunities for abrasion.

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2.  My Saddle

The saddle is a gel-filled seat that is designed for women.  A woman has wider ischial bones than men, so naturally a well-designed women’s saddle would have a wider area for these “sit” bones to rest.  There are gel inserts at the exact location where the bones rest.  Between the gel saddle absorbing shock, and the Aero Tech Women’s Cycling Shorts smoothing out the abrasion issues, the comfort is amazing.  Since I am an old lady, this wider saddle with gel inserts is the perfect complement to my bike shorts.

3.  My Upright Position on the Pedego Interceptor bike

The upright position…different?  Yes, but amazing.  I have been a bicycle geek all of my life.  I love cycling and am a former racer.  So, for most of my life I held the tightly regarded “racer position” for all of my bikes.  I rode for years in the aerodynamic dropped positon.  This is how a serious biker should look and any departure from the “look” means you are not a serious cyclist.  All serious cyclists have that look…dropped down.

If you don’t have to fit the mold, I recommend the upright position.  Again, since I am older, I do not succumb to the peer pressure to fit the “serious cyclist mold” any longer because I don’t care about all that tradition.  I am in it for the JOY and nothing more.  I ride upright and I love it!

No more Neck Pain – Previously in the dropped position, I would get a serious hot spot on the back of my neck, that started to burn after about 35-40 miles, from keeping my head cocked up to see the road.  I do not have that hot spot in the back of my neck now.  This painful cycling issue is completely eliminated by riding in an upright position. I just love the Pedego Interceptor for the way it fits my body.  My neck is completely pain free–even after 100 miles!!!

No more Numb Hands – I used to have numb hands after riding long distances.  The upright position has taken all of the weight off of my hands and the median nerve.  I wear Aero Tech gel padded cycling gloves, which also help to reduce the vibration on my hands.  Previously, this discomfort would cause serious, numbing hand pain when riding in the dropped position.  In the upright position on the Pedego, I have ZERO numbness in my hands.

No more sore butt – The upright position puts all the weight of my body exactly on the ischial bones (where nature intended).  The gel saddle and the excellent Aero Tech Elite bike shorts have eliminated all aspects of the sore butt.  It is truly an amazing contrast to previous tours where I rode in the traditional “dropped” cycling position.  My butt is perfectly comfortable–every day!

Bicycle Riding in Upright Position is very comfortable for long rides.
The upright cycling position is ideal for long rides on a bicycle tour

4.  My Visibility is high so I feel safe.

My clothing from Aero Tech Designs Custom is fluorescent yellow which is the most visible color for motorists.  The jerseys have two 3M reflective tabs sewn into the back pocket.  I have two different fabrics that I  have been using: one is the Coolmax branded polyester and the other is the Aero Tech Standard Wick-Away material.  I prefer the Aero Tech fabric; it is very breathable and feels cottony soft next to the skin.

My Lights – I use a white blinking headlight and red blinking tail light for the entire time we are riding.

My Bike – The fluorescent orange paint on the Pedego Interceptor is amazing.  I get so many complements on the bicycle because it is beautiful, and different.  Just one look at the bike excites people, especially young boys who often shout “nice bike” as I pass by.  I added the orange Ortlieb panniers to carry extra battery power for the Pedego electric bike.

5.  The Ride Organizer – VeloSante – The Big Ride Across America is enhanced greatly by great product choices, outstanding food for energy and a well-planned route.  The food served for the Big Riders is sensible, well-planned and delicious.  The route each day is carefully planned in advance and we are given a cue sheet with the day’s directions.  There is about 20 miles between rest stops where there is plenty of water, isotonic drinks, high-end food and snacks.  The routes are safe and there is a tightly orchestrated  daily routine to keep all riders on the road with support and sag services.  It is really nice to have all our luggage and supply needs cared for by an outstanding team of people.

The bottom line is that comfort rules when you are bicycle touring.  We are seeking more joy in our lives and I cannot find anything negative about this experience.  I am riding each day with utmost regard for our planet Earth and the people we meet.  Every day I open my eyes, I thank God that I am alive and healthy enough to experience this dream come true.  Riding Longer.  Feeling  Stronger.