Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Ride… Day 1… Travel Day

Nebraska! Kinda almost there... not quite

Nebraska! Kinda almost there… not quite

We arrived at my grandparents’ house Thursday night after preparing the hobby farm for our absence. How does one explain to 16 goats, 2 sheep, 2 horses, 11 cats, 4 dogs, a bunch of chickens, a bunch of guineas, a bunch of rabbits and 2 guinea pigs that we would be away for two weeks, not forever, and they were to be on their best behavior for the seven families who were to be caring for them for two weeks. Add to this the simple fact that no one runs our hobby farm quite like me and my well trained two sons (by well trained I mean they have been taught to do things “Mom’s way” and do so quite well) and you have a recipe for quite a bit of worry on the part of this hobby farmer.


We got in late to grandma’s house in Wisconsin Thursday night and I didn’t have time to dash to the grocery store for the boys’ favorite foods. Logical next step? Set my alarm for 4:30am the next morning to run to the 24 hour Super Wal-Mart for things like carrots, goldfish crackers, string cheese, frozen wholegrain waffles, taco shells, chips, lemonade, almonds, and a million other things that no two boys could ever eat all of in a month’s time even. I promise I was not thinking that my grandmother was unable to get these things for our boys. I just didn’t want her to have to be bothered with a big grocery trip on top of all she was already doing for us by watching our kids for what seemed like forever.


I’ll let you in on a little secret (probably quite apparent by now)… I’m not away from my kids very often. We homeschool, they like to hang out at home, and we have many of the same interests so we tend to just be together A LOT! This is the longest Kevin and I will have been away from our kids… ever. I’m not sure how I feel about it as I grocery shop for their comfort food. Maybe they will think of me when they eat string cheeses. For every goldfish cracker my youngest son eats maybe he will feel my loving arms around him. I may be a bit emotional…


Ooh guess what else… I found flip flops! I had looked for cheap plastic flip flops (for shower shoes on the ride, I’m a germaphobe) all over Indiana and Kentucky and found NONE. Guess what I found in that Wisconsin Wal-Mart… FLIP FLOPS! I was ecstatic. Probably more so than anyone in Wal-Mart was prepared for at 5:00am. I also got a big bottle of shampoo and conditioner even though Kevin recommended the little travel sized ones. I may have to sneak these into my bag to avoid a well deserved lecture about overpacking from my very logical (and almost always right) husband.


I got back to Grandma’s at 6:00am and was welcomed with a great pot of coffee (oh how that woman knows me!) and a cheery good morning from Grandma who thought I had just woke up (did I look that rough?). Kevin and I grabbed some coffee, loaded up our bags, hugged the boys and grandparents goodbye and set off to catch the bus in Rockford (hour drive from Grandma and Grandpa’s house).


We chatted in such a gitty fashion and were so excited! We had clipped our helmets onto our carry on gear so they wouldn’t get cracked in checked luggage (I admittedly think air luggage handlers are out to ruin every material item I hold dear) and in hopes that they would be a great conversation start up for folks we ran into along the way (still raising funds for the Arthritis Foundation on the ride and through Oct 31! Donate here! .)


About halfway to Rockford we realized we were way early, completely excited, and throwing around the idea of just driving down to Chicago ourselves. Kevin didn’t like the idea of me riding a bus back from Chicago on my own on the return trip anyways and the parking fees at O’Hare would only be about $10 more than the cost of the bus tickets to get there so we went for it. ON TO CHICAGO!


Traffic was easy, construction not so bad, and when we got to Chicago we were almost 4 hours early for our flight. I felt like we were on “The Amazing Race” and kept alluding to that fact the whole drive down as an excuse for my slight lead foot. We got to the airport and I wanted to grab our bags and sprint to the shuttle, airport, and to our gate all the while checking for earlier flights (I used to watch A LOT of The Amazing Race). Kevin wanted to take our time, MAKE SURE I knew where the van was parked, MAKE SURE we had everything we needed, MAKE SURE I would remember where the van was parked, and MAKE SURE we weren’t forgetting anything… get my point?


We checked everything twice over and jumped on the shuttle to the terminals. We were so excited! I totally overlooked and forgot the bar of poison ivy soap I had brought for the lovely poison ivy I had all up and down my right arm but wouldn’t realize it until we were getting into the hotel in San Francisco. I blame Kevin LOL!


Check in was a breeze at O’Hare… props to Virgin America, great airline and super nice people. Plus I kinda felt like we were heading somewhere exotic just by the airline name… Virgin Islands, ummmm , can’t really think of any other place that Virgin America reminds me of but Virgin Islands are good enough. We still had just over three hours until our flight left and there was no line for security so we got through quite rapidly.

Kevin kept asking me, “Do you remember where the van is parked? Lot F, S1.” I assured him I had put the information in the notes of my phone because I could NEVER remember it. He seemed content with that.

A wonderful breakfast at the airport Wolfgang Puck hit the spot though I kept thinking they were hiding bacon somewhere in my Belgian waffle that would assuredly send me intio anaphylactic shock and my epi-pen was in my checked luggage (once again I blame Kevin for not insisting I put it in my carry on). Oh, actually, I think we both decided I might get in trouble in security for my obvious intent of taking over the plane with an epi-pen.


We walked around the terminal, looking in shops, realizing there really are few magazines we are really interested in anymore and thinking people MUST BE CRAZY to pay $5 for a little bag of about 15 almonds. We chatted, messed around on our phones, double checked I had the van parking information in my phone at the insistence of my sweet husband, chatted some more, checked online to see if our bikes had been delivered to the hotel (FedEx tracking confirmed they had), walked some more, called the Sheraton to see if our boxes had arrived (I eventually hung up after being on hold for 45 minutes while they checked), and finally were ready to board the plane. San Francisco here we come!


On the plane... first selfy of many and Kev is not a fan of selfies

On the plane… first selfy of many and Kev is not a fan of selfies

I don’t do well on flights. I’m not scared I just have the attention span of an ADHD squirrel. I like to drive so I can stop when I want (seldom do but the option is still there), go as fast or as slow as I want (always fast… grrr that lead foot), and can pull through a drive through whenever I get hungry. Flying limits my options way more than I am comfortable with and I just get bored. I couldn’t sleep because I was too excited and so I resorted to watching Judge Judy and Law & Order: SVU on the neat little individual video screens each seat had. Kevin’s was on a picture of our flight path and the plane seemed to move at a snail’s pace across the midwest, west, and California. I took pictures (of his screen) when our little plane was shown over Nebraska (our youngest son’s birth state) and entering California (our oldest son’s birth state). These of course were for their awesome scrap books that I haven’t quite started yet.


We arrived in San Francisco right on time and my Amazing Race dream jumped back into full swing as I begged Kevin to sprint off the plane and through the terminal with me… he refused. To the baggage claim we went at a normal pace (grrrrrrr!) and picked up our large hiking backpacks (mine had miraculously stayed together even with the ripped seam). Mine was crazy heavy and Kevin kept asking me what all I had in there. I admitted to the large bottle of shampoo and conditioner somehow rationalizing that those were the sole cause of the seemingly 400 pound pack. My stubborness and pride took a front seat and I insisted on carrying my own pack out to the area where we were to catch the shuttle to the hotel by the airport. Kevin said, “Fine” and I knew to not mention that we should sprint out to the shuttle spot like we are in The Amazing Race.


It was warm but windy. We waited and waited for what seemed like hours (in reality it was in total about 30 minutes) and I made several calls to the hotel who assured me the shuttle was making its regular rounds and would be there soon (should I tell them we are on The Amazing Race?). It was. We hopped on the shuttle for the hotel and again were excited beyond measure. “Do you remember where the van was parked?” Kevin wanted to know again. I chuckled and said “I have no clue, I guess I’ll be hitchhiking out of Chicago.”


We chatted about things of the ride… what we were excited for, nervous about, how often we would stop to take pictures, what ifs, and of course memories that Kevin had of the ride eight years before. I was nervous about my bottom getting sore and Kevin was nervous that I wouldn’t clip out of my pedals at stops well and would be falling left and right taking out other riders as I went down. His concern was valid.


We arrived at the hotel and it was lovely. We took all of our stuff up to the room and relaxed for all of 2.5 minutes before I was asking Kevin if he wanted to go for a walk, get something to eat, anything to move my legs and calm my racing mind a bit.  We went down to the hotel restaurant and had a great dinner. He had sea bass with rice and veggies and I had salmon with some pasta and yummy potatoes which I checked over several times for any signs of mammal product (I’m allergic to mammal meat… not fun). I really hate that I am so overly concerned with the fact that every chef is secretly trying to kill me with mammal products, ugh!


We talked about the time difference (the fact that California is 2 hours behind the midwest) and the fact that we better get a “good night” call into the boys as it was already 9:00pm their time. We chatted with them, all was well, they were fine. Grandma and Grandpa were also doing great and Grandma made me promise that I would be coming at some point to get my children (the amount of clothes and food I had brought for them had her concerned lol).


We headed up to our room with full bellies and excited nerves. Have I mentioned we were SO EXCITED! Yup, we were. I looked for my poison ivy soap to give relief to my very itchy arm and realized I didn’t have it! Ugh! I tried to call the Sheraton again to check on our bikes and Amazon packages (tent and sleeping bags) and they told us all bikes were locked up in a separate room and they would have any packages for us at check in. I drifted off to sleep that night slowly while Kevin did some reading. We joked about how this was our honeymoon (we never had one when we were first married) and how totally unromantic we would feel each day as we finished many miles on our bikes. It was good to be on this journey with my husband of 17 years, even if he wouldn’t play The Amazing Race with me… maybe tomorrow.


Join me tomorrow for Day two of this adventure. Remember how I was talking about exotic destinations? Crazy at it may seem, we actually got to see Jamaica, so cool!

Ta ta for now,



The Ride…Day 0… Prep Work

I do, I REALLY do!

I do, I REALLY do!

As many of you know, back in April Kevin (my husband) and I signed up for an amazing trip. It was the kind of trip that you had to train for, raise money for, and go through logistical nightmares to make sure it all came out “just right.” Even with intense training (I can be quoted screaming, “Indiana REALLY does have huge hills!”), amazing donations, and the most well thought out and planned logistics things did not go smoothly. First off, Indiana has speed bumps (well at least southern Indiana)… nothing to compare with the MOUNTAINS, yes I said mountains, we climbed in California. Wait a minute… let me back up one second…

Before you think I am some crazy mountain climber dangling from cliff edges and carrying an oxygen mask to reach a summit let me let you in on our trip… We rode in the 8 day, 525 mile bicycle California Coast Classic to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation. Over 27,000 feet of climbing in all, sleeping in tents on the very hard ground, eight hours on the bike most every day, and leaving our children with relatives for almost two whole weeks!

Ok, now that we are all straight, back to the speed bumps of Indiana. They are short little hills even though some do have quite a steep incline. They are short, sweet, and to the point. At one point in California while climbing the Twin Sisters I was climbing straight up for over 2 hours. Now that’s a hill (mountain)! Not short, not sweet, and certainly not to a quick point!

Logistics, oh my the logistics! How does one get 2 bicycles, camping gear, comfy clothes and cycling clothes and equipment out to California when airlines are charging an arm and a leg for even one checked bag and the reality that they throw luggage (and boxes with bikes in them) on those conveyor belts up into the belly of the plane looms over you as you stare at your expensive bike with thin little spokes, carbon frame, touchy gears, and a chain ring that just begs to be cracked ? One gets creative!

Leading up to Day one of our epic travels (Day one would be the “travel to California” day) we decided to have our bikes disassembled, boxed, and FedExed out to California. People do this all the time, right? This is how bikes get to the bike shops! We were able to get a great discount from Breck’s Bicycle Shop for packing up both bikes ($50 instead of $150) as a donation for the Arthritis Foundation. We took the bikes to be boxed up two weeks before the ride started. They disassembled, boxed them up and I lugged the two boxes to FedEx the next day. We paid $372 to ship both bikes to The Sheraton at Fisherman’s Wharf, Kevin Conway, c/o Arthritis Foundation California Coast Classic. Bikes, done, woohoo! Not having them for training two weeks before the ride was tough. We knew we would be logging many miles and hours on those saddles (seats) and disliked the idea of not being on them to get ourselves used to it every second we could. But, it was $980 to ship them via air (just a 3 day shipping) and our budget did not allow for that.

Camping equipment… tent, sleeping bags, tent stakes, mallet, you know all that stuff one needs to be sure you don’t end up blown into the ocean in the middle of the night or covered in a marine layer of fog upon awaking. Well, all that stuff is hard to fit into an already VERY full hiking pack (we were limiting ourselves to one checked bag each to save cost and for ease of lugging stuff around on the ride). Light bulb moment… buy new sleeping bags and tent from Amazon and have them delivered to the hotel in San Francisco to be packed on the luggage truck without us lugging them around the airports! As far as getting them home? We’d worry about that later. Order made the Tuesday before we left for trip so it would all arrive the day before we got there. I even called the hotel to be sure this was ok (it was) and so they would be expecting it and hold it aside for us when we arrived (they said they would). Pillows are crazy bulky but I was able to stuff mine in with only ripping a few seams towards the top of my bag (it would hold up… right?). Kevin decided to use his sweatshirt for a pillow and said he’d be fine (the man has osteoarthritis in his neck… I’m not sure what definition of “fine” he was clinging to but I figured he’d be “fine” and I’d give him mine if his “fine” didn’t hold up).

Bikes… check. Sleeping accommodations… check. We packaged each set of a day’s cycling gear in a separate gallon Ziploc bag (so we could put the dirty cycling clothes back into that bag while they waited a few days to be washed), threw in some comfy “lounging around camp” clothes which would double as pajamas, plenty of ibuprofen, Excedrin, muscle relaxing creams, Benadryl (liquid and tablet), aspirin, iron supplements, epipen, pepto bismol, and tums. We looked at each other and our “medicine bag” and just laughed. Wow, we were getting old and had some conditions that required a few extra things to be considered.

Soap… what about soap? Lately my life has revolved around soap (making and selling it for fundraising for this ride). I just thought I would get that out in the open so you don’t think I’m a crazy soap person.

Liquid shower gel was a mess waiting to happen and a bar of soap would be a mess after every shower. What to do, what to do? Ooh ooh, I make soap, I can figure this out! I cut a couple of my bars in half or fourths (the ones that would be good at relaxing muscles and/or repelling mosquitoes etc.) and put them in a Ziploc bag. We could each grab a little bar for each day’s shower and just leave it in the shower truck when done or throw it away because we had another little bar for the next day. This idea literally took three days of intense problem solving… what can I say, some things just need the perfect solution and that can’t be hurried. I was quite happy with my solution though I don’t think Kevin lavished as much praise as the idea was worth.

Laundry detergent… we would be able to do laundry at two different points during the 8 day ride which helped one not to pack as many clothes. I poured some powdered detergent in a Ziploc bag, looked at it, thought I would have my bag confiscated for drug or anthrax smuggling and be subsequently arrested, thrown in a California prison, never be able to make soap again, and never ride my bike. So, I labeled it “TIDE LAUNDRY DETERGENT NOT DRUGS.” That seems logical right. After so much effort with the soap dilemma this was the best I could do… a girl only has so many brain cells at optimal firing capacity in a given day and I was not interesting in building new synapses.

The kids… what to do with the kids. While I felt a little guilty about Kevin and me heading out to California without the boys I was relieved to learn our youngest son (10 years old) had no desire to go to California. He said he had seen all he wanted to see of California after living there for four years.  Our fifteen year old would have loved to come but has hit a streak of uber compassion and sweetness lately and said it would be great for dad and me to get off on this trip by ourselves. I’ll take it. Off to Wisconsin they went to spend time with great grandparents, cousins, uncles, great aunts and great uncles and all sorts of other extended family that I have no clue how exactly they are related. Besides, it was the 100th anniversary of Cheese Days in Monroe… it would be EPIC! They had their laptops, Grandma and Grandpa had WiFi and satellite TV (we have neither here at the homestead), the boys were actually quite excited.

Yes, I know Grandma and Grandpa have a washing machine, yes, I know they know how to go to the grocery store, and yes, I know they’ve raised up three kids of their own but that didn’t stop me from sending a month’s worth of clothes, buying a month’s worth of groceries, and reminding my boys of all the daily things they should be doing (teeth brushing, showering, eating well, helping grandma and grandpa, going to bed the moment grandma mentions she is tired, and being all around the best kids EVER). I think my Grandma may have been concerned that I would never be coming back to get my kids!

Plane tickets… it was time to figure out how we would get there and get back. Kevin had a school (for work) starting in Oklahoma City three days after the ride finished. This would be tricky. We decided to drive the boys to Wisconsin. Stay overnight one night there, leave the next morning to drive to Rockford, Illinois where we would catch a bus that would take us directly to our Virgin America check-in desk. We would fly Virgin America to San Francisco and arrive there Thursday night. Stay overnight at a hotel by the airport that night, go to the Sheraton at the Fisherman’s Wharf Friday. Stay overnight there Friday night with all the other riders and start the ride Saturday morning! Ride the next 8 days and finish in Los Angeles the following Saturday and be met by my aunt and uncle who live there. Stay with them for Saturday and Sunday and then on Monday I fly back to Chicago, take bus to Rockford, pick up van and drive up to Wisconsin to get boys and then drive the eight hours home the next day. Kevin would fly out of Los Angeles Monday morning to Oklahoma City and attend his class for a couple weeks and then fly home. He checked with his boss at work who gave the green light for leaving from L.A. for the class. Tickets bought, PERFECT!

Not so fast. Three days before we were set to leave Kevin finds out his boss was wrong, he can’t leave from any destination for school other than his home destination. We buy a ticket for him to fly from Los Angeles to home on Sunday so he can pack and leave to drive to Oklahoma City Monday morning for a class that starts Tuesday. I try to change my flight to leave on Sunday as well to save my aunt from having to make two trips to LAX and find out it will cost $650 to change flight. I buy a separate one way flight on Spirit America from L.A. to Chicago… much cheaper (Why has no one ever warned me about Spirit America?)! Disaster averted but why oh why were we having to deal with all this when I was trying to get the farm ready for my absence?

OK, so these were some of the things we had to settle before the ride even started. As many of you know, the work leading up to the trip can be more tiring than the trip itself! To save you from reading an insanely long post I will wrap up my pre-trip ramblings here and continue with DAY ONE tomorrow. Nothing  goes as planned, things get interesting, we see Jamaica, and I almost have a melt down… stay tuned!