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9.3.1 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 1


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.3.1 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 1

From: pamela@keps.com (Pamela Blalock)

Copyright 1993 Pamela Blalock

The tears were streaming down my face. I had been fighting the most
incredible headwind I had ever ridden a bike in for hours and hours,
all alone, just hoping to see the sag vehicle, so I could stop this
torture and get off the bike for the day. But when I finally did see
the vehicle, it just drove right past me, and didn't stop. I was
emotionally and physically a wreck. I looked at my odometer and
figured I had another 25 miles of the 150 mile ride to get to West
Yellowstone. I looked at my watch and the quickly setting sun, and
tried to figure if I could get in by dark. I had been making these
same calculations since mile 80, when the winds picked up and tried to
blow us backwards. The winds at lunch had blown our food off the
table. Susan had warned us about a potential hail storm ahead. I hoped
for the rain, since maybe the winds would die down after the storm
went through. I rolled out of lunch into a cross wind. This same cross
wind had almost tossed me off a steep descent earlier in the day, and
was really making it difficult to control the bike. I couldn't really
tell which direction we were going to go, but hoped that we would turn
and have this wind as an aid at our backs. Well we turned, but in the
wrong direction and felt the full fury of a 30-40 mile per hour
headwind. I shifted into a lower gear and plodded along. I was
thankful to have my granny gear, and figured I would be using it a lot
during the day. I kept looking in vain for trees that might break the
wind, or for a turn into the mountains for some relief.

After 20 miles, I spotted an oasis in the form of a store, where I
bought a drink and found other riders. Unfortunately they were calling
for sag, and I really wanted to continue on. I kept telling myself
that it couldn't be this bad all the way in. It just couldn't! I got
back on the bike and continued on. Paul passed me and I tried to
draft, but I couldn't stay with him. Later my lower gears proved to
help and I passed him. We rode back and forth for a while until I
passed him for the final time, as he was walking along a 1% grade
waiting for the sag, and I was plodding along in my 26-25 low gear.

I kept telling myself that the winds would die down, or we would turn,
and just tried to push on. I decided to go for the snack stop at mile
130, where I would either get in the van or press on if there was any
relief in sight. Just before mile 120, I saw Marty, a member of the
support crew, who told me about a snack stop they had set up just
ahead. I had in my mind to go for 130, so I kept riding, not realizing
that this was the only snack stop. The road turned and began climbing,
in the same direction a river was flowing. I could not figure out how
the river was going uphill, but just pressed on. I finally reached the
visitor center that was listed as the final snack stop. An arrow
painted on the road pointed left, and I followed it around, but saw no
one. No Pac Tour vans, no vehicles at all. The bathrooms were locked,
the visitor center closed, and the water fountain dry. I leaned up
against the building and cried and cried.

Finally I decided I had to get going. I was either going to have to
ride in or hitchhike! I knew there were still riders behind me, but I
didn't understand why they had already closed the snack stop. Were we
riding so much slower than everyone else? I was just too tired to
realize that stop I had bypassed was THE snack stop. I got on the
bike, and rode a few more miles until I saw a campground, where I
filled my Camelbak, and asked about the terrain to West Yellowstone. I
was told that there was a steep climb, and then rolling hills. I was
finally back in the mountains, and out of the really bad winds, so I
decided to just keep going. After the steep climb, I found myself next
to a beautiful lake and rolling along, finally back into double
digits. I had averaged 9 miles an hour for the past 60 miles, and it
felt like I was flying when I hit 15.

Then one of the support cars drove by, and kept going! And there I was
in tears again. But still moving forward. About 5 miles later I saw
the Ford van parked on the side of the road. I rolled up and leaned on
the side of the truck and every emotion welled up inside again, and
the tears flowed. Joanne and Diane Penseyres got out to check on me.
They held me, got me food and drink, and gave me the courage I needed
to go on. I had 20 miles to go. The sun was still high enough that I
would probably make it by dark, and there were still 3 people on the
road behind me pressing on. Almost a third of the riders had sagged
in, but I was determined that if I had suffered through the winds that
I wouldn't give up now when it was so much easier. I made it in, 15 or
20 minutes before dark. Richard and Micha came in a bit later with the
car behind them providing light. After fighting the wind for that
long, we deserved to come in under our own power.

This day provided me with inspiration for every other difficult part
of the ride. Every time the hills got steep, the wind got vicious, or
I just got lonely and depressed, I'd think back to this day, and
continue riding forward. The memories of this day, while they include
tears, also include an incredible sense of accomplishment for pressing
on and finishing, and of how good it felt to roll into the parking lot
and honk the little horn mounted on my handlebars, as those few who
were standing outside cheered my arrival. This is a lot of what Pac
Tour was about, a personal sense of accomplishment in the face of
adversity. According to Lon Haldeman, one of PAC's founders, it's the
challenges you remember, not the mishaps.

Many people have asked me if I had fun, and I know I did, just not all
the time. This was not a fun day, but it was a rewarding one, and only
one of the 24 days I took to ride my bike across the country. When I
was 13 years old, my parents took me camping in Williamsburg,
Virginia, where my fate of riding a bike across the country someday
was sealed. I met some riders who were touring across the country on
their bikes, with a final destination of Washington, DC, and decided
that someday I would like to do the same thing. Well, when I had the
time, I didn't have the money, and then when I had the money, I
couldn't take the time. But last year, after a dear friend was killed
by a drunk driver, I realized that I might not always have time to do
things later. I decided do my ride across the country and dedicate the
ride to and be inspired by memories of my dear friend Al Lester.

Pac Tour's Northern Transcontinental route covers 3400 miles in 24
days, with an average of 140 miles a day. I decided I could take 24
days off work, and sent off my deposit and application. I decided that
the type of riding I normally do, a few brevets, a few doubles and a
lot of centuries, and my regular commute would adequately prepare me
for the ride. I did add a few miles to my commute home at night, rode
a lot of times when the weather would have stopped me before, and
maybe did a couple of extra centuries, but I didn't really stray too
far from what I would have been doing anyway. I probably should have,
and looking back now, I would do a little weight lifting in the
winter, and a little more speed work, weigh a little bit more at the
start and try my darndest not to have an accident 2 months before the
trip. I wish I'd had more time to train, but while working seven days
a week throughout the winter cut into riding time, it also gave me the
time off I would need to do the ride.

One evening last winter, I was working pretty late, and as usual had
ridden my bike to work. The weatherliars (tm) had predicted that a
couple of inches of snow would fall after midnight, but I figured as
long as I left by 10 PM I would be fine. Well the snow started at 10,
when I left, and by the time I reached home, 2 inches of snow covered
the ground. My biggest problem riding was wiping the snow off my
goggles so I could see. My fat soft tires on the mountain
bike/commuter provided good traction in the snow, and I didn't slide
or fall. But what was really great, was when I got home, there was a
big box on the front step covered in snow, with all my Pac Tour stuff
inside, including my gear bag, jersey, arm and leg warmers, jacket,
and bottles. It just seemed like a fitting way to end the day!

After a busy and difficult winter, with lots of snow and lots of work
and lots of riding, and a spring that was much the same, a setback
caused by a head-on with a dog, resulting in a new Merlin for the
tour, and some new car shopping as a result of a dead, melted car two
weeks before the trip, I was finally on my way the afternoon of July
21. My friends and co-workers, Linda, Ron and Jodi drove me down to
the airport to send me on my way. I was a bundle of nerves for a week
before the trip and they were probably happy to be rid of me! We had a
little joke going where I walked around saying I'm a teepee, I'm a
wigwam (two tents - too tense).

My friend, Terry met me in Seattle and gave me a place to crash for a
couple of days before the tour. I put the bike together Thursday
morning, and went for a little test ride, where I managed to rip a 500
mile old Michelin tire in half on a piece of chain link fence lying in
the road. Fortunately I always carry a spare tire, but if I didn't I
could have take a ride from one of the 5 or so cars with bike racks
that stopped to see if I needed help. (This would not happen on the
East Coast)

Friday morning, equipped with a map and a lousy sense of direction, I
left Terry's and rode my bike up toward Everett to check in and go to
orientation. I made a few wrong turns and did 1000 or so extra feet of
climbing, but eventually found my way there. At the riders' meeting,
Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo introduced themselves and our crew.
For those who may not know, Lon and Susan are both former RAAM winners
and hold many solo and tandem transcontinental records. Our crew had
some pretty impressive credentials as well, including Pete and Joanne
Penseyres (Pete still holds the record for highest average speed in
RAAM), Jim and Diane Penseyres (Jim lost a leg in Vietnam, but didn't
let this stop him from completing RAAM), Marty and Lisa Hoganson (PAC
Tour veterans), Roberta Hillman (one of the top 5 American women in
PBP in 1991), Mike Bishop (mechanic-extraordinaire), and Phil Kohl
(the masseur who got me and many others across the country). Susan's
niece, Karen, was taking care of their 6 year old daughter, Rebecca to
complete our crew.

They told us about our daily routine for the next 24 days. Breakfast
would be served buffet style in the parking lot of each hotel between
6 and 6:30 AM. Riders would begin rolling out between 6:30 and 7:00,
with the fastest riders leaving last. There would be two snack stops
before lunch about 30 miles apart, and one stop after lunch
approximately 30 miles from the end. The daily average is 140, with
the shortest being 105 and the longest 171. There were three vehicles,
a caravan, the lunch wagon, which was a big ford van pulling a
trailer, and the hotel/gear bag wagon, a U-haul pulling a trailer.
Each vehicle would have a mesh bag, where riders could put in rain
rackets or other clothes for the day. You could both send clothes
ahead and dump them along the way. Each vehicle had a assigned stop
and we would only see the U-haul at the second stop, the lunch wagon
at lunch and the caravan at the first and last snack stop. (I figured
all this out after a couple of days and got used to sending the right
clothes to the right stop.) Riders were to bring their gearbags and
bikes to breakfast. Gearbags were loaded into the U-haul. When we
reached the hotel each day, bike stands would be set up, so riders
could clean and lube their bikes, gear bags were set out, room
assignments were posted, mesh bags were dumped, and cue sheets for the
next day were available. A white board posted important messages about
good restaurants for dinner, and changes in routine, route, or time
zones. Laundry was done every three days. We each had a mesh bag with
a number on it. Our clothes would be washed and dried inside the bag
during the day and returned at night. Finally, they emphasized that
this was not a race (they will be holding a race next year), to take
it easy the first few days, and then let us continue getting ready for
our great adventure the next day.

We had a pre-ride banquet that evening. Terry brought up my gear bag,
and got the opportunity to meet some of the riders and crew. He also
planned to return the next morning and join us for the ride out to
Steven's Pass.


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