NCC Race Across America Team Blog
Musings and insight as the boys blaze across the country
Team NCC left Oceanside for the RAAM on Saturday and faced adversity from the outset. We appreciated the wisdom of Mike Tyson: “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Day 1 highlights (Saturday): Quick strong climb from the ocean to time station 1 near Mt. Palomar, which is featured at Tour de California. We averaged 20mph in first day, mainly because of a massive descent down the “Glass Elevator” to the Anza Borrego desert. But then all hell broke loose. Rich punctured on that Glass Elevator descent but stayed upright. Then while we leapfrogged Dan thru the downhill desert near the Salton Sea (with a huge tailwind push 40mph speeds), we drove ahead to plan an exchange to Bruce but the 8pm curfew for unsupported riding arrived, leaving Dan alone on the road (a rule infraction). Just our luck, an official found Dan alone (and safe) just before he arrived at the exchange and we received a 15 minute time penalty. After Time Station 3, we were in first place (out of 3) in our 50-59 by 8 minutes, but our penalty ate up the lead. We arrived after midnight in the Colorado
River Valley desert and Rich made it through the Federal Border Patrol Inspection set up on the highway, despite being a Massachusetts citizen with a wicked Boston accent. The Team quickly developed its abilities to cycle and drive vans on little to no sleep, as Dan started his first Day 2 pull at 1am Pacific Time. When it was cooler and dark the team members took longer pulls (of 90 minutes) so the other van of riders and crew could sleep. On one night desert pull by Bruce though, he lost his powertap computer while overtaking another rider and the crew saw it bounce past in the dark. Once the crew got Bruce to stop, Brian and Dylan ran a half mile in the dark along the desert highway, dodging on-coming riders where Brian miraculously found the little yellow computer in the dark. Bruce’s primary bike had mechanical issues with shifting too, resigning him to his back-up for several hundred miles of riding.
Day 2 highlights (Sunday): California to Arizona, past Hope, AZ with its sign “You’re Now Beyond Hope,” thru Congress, AZ with it’s giant sized kiddie pool. Lots of climbing and descending in desert valleys. Beautiful ascent with mountain switchbacks from 5000 feet elevation up to 7000, followed by a 5000 ft descent, then a 5000 ft climb from Cottonwood AZ to Sedona and Flagstaff. Then another night descent 3000 ft into the desert. Breakfast at Denny’s in the middle of the night, then more descending into Utah and the Monument Valley. A nice little switch in Mexican Hat, Utah (where they don’t know how to spell sombrero).
Day 3 (Monday): Utah desert riding. Hot, but not as bad as Arizona. Began climbing to the Rockies and the San Juan Skyway. One van drove ahead to Durango shower at a friend’s house while Brian fixed Bruce’s bike at a local shop. In the meantime, Rich and Jim conquered a 8416 feet “hill summit” and descended to Durango. After the exchange and serving our time penalty, Dan rolled out and the other van showered in Durango and we hit the road to Pagosa Springs. Out of Durango we climbed 8,000 foot Baldy Mountain to Pagosa, then Rich and Jim spent 2 hours in the dark slaying the toughest climb of the trip, Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857 ft in the low 40, high 30 degree weather. Across the continental divide, the team did the 40mph descent into South Fork, past the National Lampoon Vacation campground!
Day 4 Highlights
45 mph decent, near collision with deer, inches, lock
Twilight desert crossing
Missed hidden turn
Climb into Spanish peaks
Into purgatory river valley
Into cattle country/farm country
Chucarapass arguably prettiest of the major Colorado passes was summited by Bruce and Dan decended into cattle country @ 6000 feet of descending in less than 8 hours!
Walts country store 100 miles of nothing east or west the store in the middle land met Elsie working all by herself with her dog buster we took a quick water break and she snapped pic.
Along the way we lost our safety flag so we improvised with one of Dan’s neon yellow Tee shirts from the gym he teaches spin at The Fitness Studio in Dudley Massachusetts
Amazing resourcefulness by crew
Day 5 Highlights
Rode thru night in Kansas, past miles and miles of wheat. Fresh harvesting created clouds of wheat dust; we have enough gear for a TDF team and forgot to bring our cyclist respirator masks….
Stopped in Dodge City, KS for overnight food, ten gallon hats and six shooters
Drove in the morning to see family in Wichita, Kansas + eat breakfast, nap, do laundry and clean the van (the last was a temporary and futile measure).
Rode across eastern Kansas
Saved turtle in road at intersection
Rode all night through beautiful Ozark mountains in western Missouri
Day 6 Highlights
Rode thru the night in Ozarks, 3 hour shifts per van. Rolling hills you could
never get over. Team strong but sleep deprived. Averaging about 500 miles last two days with easterly tailwinds.
Pulled in morning into outskirts of St. Louis, with angry obnoxious unruly Missouri drivers flipping riders the bird and yelling/swearing/honking/throwing while having their speedy backroads commute blocked by the team riding steep rolling hills with no shoulders (and therefore van protection) during pre-dawn commuting hours. Not exactly best route choice ever.
Construction reroute around St. Louis required driving to bridges over both Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but team regrouped to ride together over Old Man River
Entered Illinois; drivers much nicer generally, which was a plus (what’s wrong with Missouri?)
Team had first short in-person meeting about day’s riding plan since California, instead of usual strategy calls via phone/walkie-talkie and fist-bump during exchange
Long flat stretches with big easterly tailwind created extended 30+ mph stretches and team was quickly into Indiana
First sign of rain on trip.
Two long 4-5 hour stretches per van allowed one van to get long rest and other to drive back roads of Indiana and get lost on unpaved gravel, but then recover to visit friends in Bloomington for showers and power naps on basement couches, floors and guest rooms. Alas, no time for “Breaking Away” re-enactment moments on the Little 500 course.
On to Ohio….