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Sunday Seventy-Seven in the Hills; Ride Across USA.

Monday, February 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Late last week I decided that on Sunday I was going to head over to the Withlacoochee trail to do a 162 kilometer (100 mile) ride. I’ve never been to Withlacoochee, and so I was looking forward to checking it out. The trail is about 70 miles from my home, so I figured if I was going to drive that far I might as well make it a century ride.

My plans changed, however, when Tracy Draper put the call out for a local Sunday morning ride to the hills. I was not relishing the ~150 mile round-trip to and from Withlacoochee by auto, and since I could do Tracy’s ride from my house that sounded much more attractive to me. Also, Withlacoochee is flat as a pancake–less than 700 feet of elevation over 100 miles. Tracy’s route took us through all of our favorite local hills, giving us more than 3,300 feet of elevation over about 125 kilometers (77 miles).

When I rolled out at 7:30 AM yesterday the temperature was a fairly chilly 39°(F), but I knew it would quickly warm into a beautiful 65° and sunny day. The plan was to meet up with the rest of the riders about 7 miles in, where our two routes crossed. I arrived at the rendezvous a little early, so I turned down the street from which the other riders would be approaching and rode towards them. A short while later I was surprised when I saw a lone rider come around the bend towards me. I guess no one but Tracy and I wanted to brave the “cold” early morning temperatures. Ha!

It was a beautiful, crisp morning and traffic was very light. We quickly warmed up as we chatted and peddled towards hilly Clermont…

So my riding partner yesterday happens to be the primary architect behind Ride Across USA to benefit an organization called Hope for the Warriors. Of course I was already familiar with Ride Across USA and Hope for the Warriors, as this past November I did the 100 mile Warrior ride in support of this effort (see my blog “The 100 mile Warrior Ride: post-ride report“). It’s a fantastic cause, and something Tracy is very passionate about. As we rode, Tracy gave me additional backstory and information. She talked about the genesis of her idea, and how she turned her dreams into a reality. It was fascinating, and inspiring.

The Orlando Sentinel did a nice story on Tracy and her Ride Across USA team: “Eustis woman to lead 2014 cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for wounded warriors“. Be sure to give the article a gander.

Tracy Draper, the brainchild behind Ride Across USA to benefit Hope for the Warriors, takes note of the donations made by cyclists at Harry Fenstad's water coolers on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Tracy Draper, the brainchild behind Ride Across USA to benefit Hope for the Warriors, takes note of the donations made by cyclists at Harry Fenstad’s water coolers on Sugarloaf Mountain.

About 38 miles into the ride Tracy and I stopped for water at Harry Fenstad’s water coolers, which are located at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Harry takes the time to put out fresh, cold water for cyclists every single day. He does this out of the kindness of his heart, and we cyclists just love him. Harry, if you happen to read this, THANK YOU! 🙂

At these coolers cyclists (or anyone else who wants to) can make voluntary donations, 100% of which are currently going directly to the Ride Across USA effort. As of yesterday over $5,500 in voluntary donations have been given by cyclists at these coolers!

Please check out Ride Across USA and Hope for the Warriors, and give what you can. Every little bit helps.

As the ride progressed we were joined by a couple of other riders, Tim and Julie, who stayed with us for awhile. Nice to meet and ride with you both!

The four of us were all riding together on Blackstill Road when we saw a couple of motorists trying to catch two loose dogs. They had been unable able to catch the dogs, so we jumped in to assist. We were able to corral the pups, both of which, thankfully, had tags with phone numbers.

The Husky's name is Ginger, and the smaller dog is called Nibbles. It was great to see the dogs get safely home.

The Husky’s name is Ginger, and the smaller dog is called Nibbles. It was great to see the dogs get safely home.

One of the motorists tried to call the number on the tag (as seen in the picture to the right), but he was unable to get a decent cell signal. I tried next, and had a strong 3 bars (yay Verizon!) I was able to reach the dogs’ human, and he said he was about a minute away! Sure enough, a couple minutes later he rolled up in his SUV and took his adventurous and thirsty pups back to their home. A very happy ending.

I really enjoyed yesterday’s ride! Thanks, Tracy, for planning the route and putting it together.

Incidentally, yesterday’s ride put me a little over 432 kilometers for the week, which is a new single-week distance personal record. Also, as of yesterday I’m at 875 kilometers for the month of February and heading for another record month. My biggest riding month to date is 1,167 kilometers, and right now I’m on pace to demolish that with more than 1,500 kilometers in this short 28-day month.

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