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9.3.6 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 6


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

9.3.6 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 6

Day 15 - Albert Lea to Prairie du Chien, WI. 161 miles, 3200'

Despite the great chocolate chip cookies, and the new supply of Excel,
my cold was getting worse, and I suffered a great deal on this ride. I
had developed this one really painful saddle sore, that was a pressure
point about the size of a walnut. There was no broken skin, but the
various remedies I was trying weren't working. I used desitin every
day to prevent future sores. I powdered my shorts constantly to stay
dry. I also tried alcohol cleanings, followed by applying Vitamin E
oil at night, at the recommendation of the masseur. Jane Vanni had
recommended Borofax, saying it was the only thing that worked for her.
I finally found some in a drugstore near lunch, along with a new
bottle of vitamin C. I took quite a bit of vitamin C in hopes that it
would help me to fight off this cold, but I still felt pretty bad.

I then saw the only truly disappointing lunch of the whole trip. Most
of the food was really good and there was plenty of it, but the rice
and salad I saw on the table didn't strike me as a filling lunch.
Joanne found some tuna fish and brought it over to our table saving us
from having to hit Hardees for a second lunch. Most days, we had some
sort of pasta, with an occasional burrito, and soup on rainy days.
There were usually good deserts and fruits too.

I joined up with Team Extreme again in the afternoon. Sally's knees
were even worse and the hills in Iowa took aim at them. I was quite
surprised by the steepness of the hills. I guess Iowa isn't all flat.
It was quite beautiful and a wonderful change of the dull cornfields
of South Dakota, the pavement on the downhills was a little too rough
to enjoy. Then we crossed the Mississippi River and into a decidedly
non-flat Wisconsin. We were crossing upstream enough that we would not
have major problems with flooding. Prairie du Chien had been flooded
earlier in the summer, but the major problems now were a bit

We took a quick break at McDonald's, where I cleaned them out of
chicken fajitas. I ate at more McDonald's on this trip than I have in
the past 10 years!

The cold was really kicking in, and I really felt bad. I worried about
being able to ride the next day, but worked with Lon to set the tandem
up anyway. We were able to get my saddle on the clamp on this bike.
Apparently the other tandem had a different type of clamp. We put my
pedals on and set the seat height and handlebar height, and planned to
ride the next day. Lon said we wouldn't be able to leave until 7AM,
which meant I could actually sleep in a little later the next morning.
I needed it too. After my massage, I picked up some fruit juice and
throat lozenges and aspirin and headed off to bed. Unfortunately our
air conditioning didn't work well and our room overlooked the indoor
pool, so opening a window only got us even warmer air.

Day 16 - Prairie du Chien, WI to S. Beloit, IL. 152 miles, 6540'

I woke up feeling a little better, but my throat was still pretty
sore. I lined up all my drugs again, taking Vitamin C, Excel, Motrin,
aspirin and throat lozenges. I stood there while taking all this stuff
and tried to remind myself that this was my vacation and this was
supposed to be fun. It wasn't that hard to do since this was actually
going to be the best day of the whole trip.

It had rained overnight and there was still a little drizzle coming
down at breakfast time, so we ate breakfast in the hall and stairwell.
No one seemed in a tremendous hurry to go out and ride in the rain.
This was to be our first morning of having to "start" in rain, and it
just takes a little more of a push to start out this way.

The roads were pretty wet, so I put on my rain pants, as well as
jacket, booties and gloves. I wanted to try to keep my shorts dry, and
keep that one saddle sore that I had lonely. Before we actually
started, the rain seemed to stop, but the roads were still wet and I
didn't have a lot of confidence that the rain would not start back up,
so I kept all my rain gear on. I was really eager to ride, but we had
to wait until everything was loaded up before leaving. I got to see
all the other riders get ready and roll out, as well as all the stuff
it takes to keep our group on the road get loaded into each vehicle.
Rebecca was the last thing loaded each morning! Being a slower rider,
I was usually one of the first riders to leave each morning, so this
was kind of fun.

Lon and I rolled out a little after 7AM, accompanied by Jim, Pete, Ed,
Fred, and Kurt from Switzerland. We started climbing right away. I was
happy to be on the tandem, but also knew that I was going to get my
hardest workout of the trip. I was really working hard. Something
about not wanting the other rider to have to do extra work. On one
particularly long hill, I must have been breathing pretty hard and Lon
asked if I was wearing a heart rate monitor. I'd always thought that
would take the fun out of riding, so of course I didn't have one. He
suggested that if I did, it would be pegged, and that I should relax a
little. Then Pete and Jim pulled on either side and placed hands on my
back and proceeded to push us up the hill! We weren't doing that bad,
but I think Pete really enjoys doing this. He did it to me and many of
the others plenty of times on the trip!

I was having a blast. I was soaked through, and realized I'd need to
dump some of my rain clothes soon. We spent most of the first 25 miles
climbing. None of those spectacular downhills I had hoped for yet. At
the first stop, I inhaled some food, got rid of my booties and rain
pants and we were off again. Lon doesn't like to stop for very long.
We then hit a dirt section that we just hammered through. I definitely
picked the right day to ride the tandem.

The terrain on this section was amazing, up and down and up and down,
gaining 50-60 feet of elevation at a time. This was definitely a ride
that would put wear and tear on shift levers and derailleurs. The
gearing on this bike was set up for RAAM, and definitely for two
incredibly strong riders. It had two chain rings, a 36 and a 56. We
stayed in the 56 most of the time, powering up and over hills. The 36
was our bail out gear, and only got used on really long steep climbs.
(On my tandem, the middle chainring is a 38, my bailout is a 24!). But
Lon is an absolute powerhouse on the bike. I'd never ridden with a
captain as powerful as Lon and was a little surprised when he stood
for the first time and I was thrown up and out of the saddle. It
certainly eliminated the need for him to say standing, but it also
made me afraid to take my hands of the handlebars.

Speaking of handlebars, one of the really great things about this bike
is the stokers bars, or rather everything that had been done to
accommodate the bars in the back. The bike has aero bars on the back,
not so much to get the stoker in an aero position, but to relieve hand
pressure on long rides. I ended up with a little numbness after last
year's Boston-Montreal-Boston and had decided I really wanted to get
aerobars on the back of my tandem. The problem is that then my face
would be in the captains backside. This bike had a much, much longer
top tube, eliminating that problem. My NEW tandem will be just like
this one.

We came over one hill that Lon thought was a great photo opportunity,
so he ducked while I took a picture over him. I can't wait to see this
one. The scenery really was great and stoking gave me the chance to
really enjoy it, since I only had to pedal and look around, rather
than paying attention to pavement, and arrows, and shifting and such.
I really was having such a good time, that I didn't want to give the
bike up. So I asked Lon if I could convince John Bayley to captain, if
I could keep the bike that afternoon. He knew that John had not
captained before, but having seen and ridden with John himself, and
with my confidence in John he decided to let us try.

John was a little nervous, but decided to go for the challenge. At
first, we figured we'd send our singles up to the next snack stop in
case it didn't work, but logistics made that difficult, so we decided
to just go for it. After all it was only 60 more miles! Roger started
trying to tell John all sort of tandem tips, but I stopped him. I
didn't want John to have to think too much about what he was doing and
filling his head with all this information would make him more

I told him it was just like riding a loaded touring bike, except that
the luggage would pedal. I got him to ride around the parking lot
without me, and then hopped on with no further instructions. I've
stoked enough with so many different captains that I can usually feel
what they are doing. I don't need to be told everything and often it
is distracting. So maybe I've taught John some bad habits if he rides
with novice stokers, but it worked great for us. We rolled out and
immediately got out of the saddle. I wanted to make sure we could do
this right away before doing a hilly 60 mile ride. No problem. We went
barreling down the next hill and leaned hard into the first turn. That
was a surprise, but we did great. John tried the aero bars a couple of
times, but it was really too hilly to get much of a chance to spend
any time on them. It didn't take too long until John seemed like an
old pro captaining a tandem.

We joined up with Tom and Cindy on their super lightweight titanium
tandem with it's 28/38/48 gearing and played cat and mouse on the
hills. John didn't like our 36 tooth granny any more than I did, and
we did an awful lot of powering over hills in the big chainring. We
really started to have fun, and it was great finally getting to ride
with John. We had met last year, when John came over to do
Boston-Montreal-Boston and stayed at my house a little before and
after the ride. John is incredibly fast, so of course I hadn't been
able to ride with him, and really hadn't seen that much of him on the
trip, so getting to ride the tandem together was really great.
Definitely the best part of the trip!

At the final snack stop, Roberta, one of our dedicated crew members
told us that the last 30 or so miles would be much flatter. Well we
wanted to strangle her after climbing hill after hill, and the message
that Lon painted on the bottom of a hill saying "Welcome to FLAT
Illinois" really frustrated us. We finally did hit a flat section
about 15 miles from the finish. It wasn't too much later that we saw a
rider coming toward us. We waved and continued on, but then the rider
turned around and gave chase. It was Terry. He had flown all the way
to Chicago to see if I liked my cookies! Actually, he was on his way
to Boston to do BMB and had arranged a 2 day layover in Chicago to
visit with his parents. He looked at his schedule and discovered that
we would be nearby, so he came out to meet and ride with us. I had
foiled his plans by getting on the tandem and riding so fast, so he'd
only get a 20 mile ride, instead of the 60 miler he had hoped for.

I convinced Terry to clean my single, while I got a massage, and then
we went out in search of milkshakes. We hit the jackpot with a diner
across the street that used 7 or 8 scoops of ice cream for each shake!

This day was certainly my best on the tour, thanks to Lon, John and

Day 17 - South Beloit, IL to Kankakee, IL. 161 miles 1150'

After our successful ride coming into S. Beloit, Lon had asked if John
and I would like to use the bike again the next day, going south into
a headwind in really flat Illinois. It sounded great to me.
Unfortunately for John and myself, Lon had forgotten that he had
promised the tandem to Mike Bishop, our mechanic. Mike's family came
out to meet him on the route and planned to ride with him some. He
rode the first 30 miles with his brother and the next 30 with his mom,
so I was back on the Merlin.

It was a really tough windy day, and a tandem would have been nice. I
tried to stay on Ann and Dan's wheel, but I was still a little weak
from the cold and tired from riding so hard the day before. I rode
with a small group for a while, but a pit stop left me alone for a
while. Then Greg, a triathlete, who had decided not to do any drafting
on the trip came along and pulled me 20 miles to lunch. I felt guilty
not pulling, but he wouldn't let anyone pull. He was preparing for the
Canadian Ironman after our little tour, and I hope he did well.

Just before lunch I saw one of the vans drive by with Lon's tandem on
top. So when I saw Mike, I asked if he had lost his stoker and wanted
a new one. He said he was a little tired, but would like to ride
again, so we took the bike back down and headed out.

While at lunch, I got the chance to meet John and Mark Royer, who were
joining us for a couple of days, to give Pete someone to climb with.
Jim was leaving that night to go back to work, and none of the other
riders could hold a candle to Pete's climbing.

Storm clouds were rolling in and I should have gotten my rain jacket
out of the van, but I stupidly figured my wind shell would be okay.
The clouds got darker. The wind got louder and stronger, and soon the
rains came, light at first and then heavier. Then the wind switched
directions for a while. Either that or adrenaline and fear made us go
30 mph. Lightning and thunder crackled around us and we started to
talk about taking cover. I told Mike that since it was his home turf
to make the decision. Just as the lighting was getting really close,
we pulled off the road and into an detached open garage, where we took
cover for about half an hour. Fortunately I had my leg warmers with
me, so I pulled them on, along with my jacket. I really started
regretting not having my real rain jacket. I also felt very bad for
making Mike ride in the rain. One of the great benefits of being a
crew member is that you don't have to ride if the weather is

We watched as several groups of riders rode by. I was quite happy to
be under cover. Lightening scares me, and I didn't want to be out
there. After a while, the storm moved on and the rain let up a little.
We got back on the bike and headed out. I noticed that there were
people in the house. Well, no one came after us with a shot gun, so
maybe they are used to cyclists ducking for cover. I wondered if any
of the others had taken shelter. When we reached the final snack stop,
manned by Roberta, we discovered that quite a few had, but many others
rode right through. Roberta let me trade my soaked wind shell for her
dry rain jacket and I was a much happier person.

While at the snack stop. I discovered that this was to be Mike's
longest ride ever at 140 miles (I think he had done a century before),
but assured him that we would do fine. Youth and strong racing legs
were on his side! Robert, Ray and Bill joined us for the final 30
miles, with Robert teasing the heck out of my 20 year old captain
about what we really did in the garage, while waiting out the rain.
The laughter helped cover the pain of the long day, and made the miles
go by a little faster. We finally reached Kankakee and as usual had to
climb a hill to get to the motel. We stopped at McDonald's where
Robert ordered one of everything on the menu and the rest of us had

Mary, Phil's wife brought cookies brownies and an extra set of skilled
hands to make the line for massage much shorter. I asked Phil to put
Mike's massage on my tab, since he had been so brave to ride with me
and do his longest ride ever.


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