|This page edited daily by Rachel Vonderheide.
|Saturday 1/28/06 Alpine, CA
| We made it to San Diego early. Starting at the Pacific Ocean, we rode to 3000 feet
elevation. We have been explaining our cause to several people today. We're Staying in Alpine
in the Sierra Mountains. Stunningly beautiful.
|Sunday 1/29/06 El Centro, CA
|Monday 1/30/06 Blythe, CA
| California's Imperial Valley has some of the most productive farmland in the
world and that is what we rolled passed through the early hours. By midday, the
verdant fecundity of the morning gave way to the empty sterility of desert
dunes. These dunes are a mecca to lovers of motorized off-roading with ATVs,
dune buggies and motorcycles buzzing up, down and sideways through the sand. By
afternoon we had left the dunes below and had climbed above sea level to high
chaperal, where we encountered a Border Patrol checkpoint. After a nice long
descent to the welcome green of the Colorado River valley and a breathtaking
sunset over saw toothed peaks, we finished the day in twilight.
|Tuesday 1/31/06 Apache, AZ
| Crossed the Colorado River at daybreak. Entered Arizona. Rode east through the
Big Horn Mountains. Gorgeous country. Met up with Becky Vonderheide's Uncle Mac
and cousin Dan west of Phoenix. They picked us off of I 10 at dusk. Great guys. Good
conversation. Staying with them in Apache Junction. Tomorrow into the Rockies. Our
thanks also to Norma Ward's brother Chuck for his advice about this area.
|Wednesday 2/1/06 Globe, AZ
| Today began the test of will and sinew that will be the Rocky Mountain leg of
this trek. The climb out of Superior, AZ included high bridges, blind curves,
major traffic and even a 1/4 mile tunnel and there is more of the same ahead. At
least the weather, if not the terrain, is benign.
|Thursday 2/2/06 Safford, AZ
| Cold clear morning in the mountains. Rode in full gear until it warmed up.
Passed through the valley of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. 82 miles.
Reached Safford, AZ. In the morning will climb the mountain pass into New
Mexico. Will probably be camping tonight.
|Friday 2/3/06 Buckhorn, NM
| Over 5000 ft of elevation gain, most of it in about 5 miles, pretty much sums
up the day. Switchback curves, incredibly beautiful mountain vistas and
nonexistent traffic make for a perfect, if strenuous, climbing day. The wizened
cowboy proprietor of the small country store, restaurant across from our
campsite tells us "you just did the hardest climb between California and
Florida." We soon shall see.
|Saturday 2/4/06 Silver City, NM
| Beautiful morning in the Rockies but cold, mid 20's as we packed our tents.
Crossed the Continental Divide just west of Silver City which we reached by
early afternoon. Tomorrow we finish the mountains. GO STEELERS!!
|Sunday 2/5/06 Caballo Lake, NM
| We're over the hump! Today we took on the best that the southern Rockies
could throw at us and made it our bitch! The climb to the 8300 ft Emory Pass was
the most relentlessly grueling cycling that I have ever done, notwithstanding
the less than sage advice from the slack jawed yokel from a couple of days ago.
On the way up to the pass we encountered unrailed drop-offs, steep grades, snow
(finally!) and the biggest damn hole in the world. Obtaining the summit was
truly one of the great moments of my life.
As often happens, this fleeting elation was quickly followed by one of
the most boneheaded moments of my life. On the descent, about 8 miles at 6%
grade, I thought Fred was being too cautious; I had to play racer boy and try to
double the posted speed limits on the curves. Howling like the perfect idiot
that I often am, I made the first 4 with aplomb, picking the perfect line and
indeed doubling the 10, 15 and even 20 mph postings. Then came the 5th, a
decreasing radius 'U' at a posted 15. My great line was interrupted by gravel and
frost. Instead of laying it down, I straightened up and rode off the outside of
the turn, into a snowbank. I should have ended up dead or at least maimed but
the bike rider gods took pity on the fool; nothing more than a bent and
scratched brake lever. Dr Fred, wise and perfect friend that he is, refused to
upbraid me like I deserved and the rest of the descent was accomplished at 50
year old touring bike guy speeds. Kids, don't try this at home.
|Monday 2/6/06 El Paso, Texas.
| Rode southeast along the Rio Grande river past miles and miles of pecan groves. Clear, cool day, the
sky so blue that the moon was visible the entire day. Made Texas at dusk. My sister, Kim, doing well
following triple bypass surgery today. Your prayers appreciated.
|Tuesday 2/7/06 Van Horn, TX
1 Flat Tire
| "Don't mess with Texas" they say around these parts and, if your talking Texas
dogs, I agree. The first 50 miles of todays ride was amidst cotton fields, pecan
groves, small towns and sage brush. Through it all, scarcely any humans, except
in the occasional car or truck. Lots of Texas dogs though; big and little dogs,
black and white and multihued dogs, dogs alone and dogs together, dogs in yards
and towns and fields, most always barking at the rare and wonderful sound of an
approaching bike rider. The howlers are not the ones that you really worry
about though. It's the deep cover commando, hiding in a bush or behind a junk
pickup waiting days or even weeks for his foe. You don't really see these guys
so much as sense them; the click of toenails on pavement or maybe the feel of
dog breath on your ankle. Instinct takes control and the flight response wins;
pedal like hell while screaming "GO HOME!" Works most every time, unless he
nails you on an uphill!
|Wednesday 2/8/06 Ft Davis, TX
| Spirits were low this morning. Joe caught my cold, and I awoke to find both my
tires flat. Our hands and feet were frozen for the first hour or two. By noon,
the bright Texas sunshine had raised the temperature and our spirits
considerably. We climbed into the high desert of the Davis Mtns past the
McDonald Observatory. We saw a roadrunner that shot by us like we were
standing still. Actually, at one point, a blowing piece of paper passed us.
However, our efforts were rewarded. As the sun was setting, we were speeding
on the downside of the last set of mountains between us and Florida Today
might be seen as a metaphor for life, but more likely that is just the musings of
my pedal crazed mind. Goodnight.
|Thursday 2/9/06 Sanderson, TX
1 Flat Tire
| Do 'They call the wind Mariah' around here? Probably not; that's up in
Oklahoma and just a songwriter's invention anyway. I would call the Texas wind
Miserable Bitch after today's run from Alpine to Sanderson into her at 20-30
The first 25 miles from Fort Davis to Alpine were pleasant but cool.
Alpine itself was a surprise, an urbane little college town in the Texas
outback. The owner of a bakery called Bread and Breakfast ran out of his shop
and hailed us from a block away to hear our story, tell of his cycling
adventures and proffer a loaf of his finest rye. John, proprietor of the town
bike shop, opened early based on my phone message of the night before, pleading
for spare tubes. In fact, so many folks expressed interest and support that we
stayed about 45 minutes more than we should have. We left town running late,
headed south, crested the first hill and met that bitch Mariah, or whatever her
name is, head on.
|Friday 2/10/06 Del Rio Texas
| What a difference a day makes. Still cloudy and cool, but now the wind at our
backs. We raced sixty miles to our lunch stop at Langtry only to find it had become
a ghost town, very eerie with signs creaking in the breeze on this gray day. Made
do with some pretzels. Crossed the Pecos River and rode on to our planned
stopover at Comstock only to find the motel closed, but the bar open. Pushed on
to Del Rio and found the Border BBQ restaurant operated by the Reott family.
The best food and friendliest people in Del Rio.
|Saturday 2/11/06 Uvaldi, TX
| This has been a relatively easy, uneventful day. Just a straight run east
on US 90 with mostly flat terrain, benign wind and good pavement with nice wide
shoulders. Not much to look at either; the most amazing thing about the
landscape we traversed was what was missing.
What was missing was desert. From about 50 miles outside of San Diego we
have been riding through this stuff almost constantly. High, low, scrub,
mesquite, mesa, butte; it's all pretty much the same-sand and gravel with
pitiful, scattered bushes and cactus. Yes, of course there have been interludes
of pine-covered mountains, some agriculture and of course cityscape, but mostly
it has been desert.
I know that I should be awed by the grandeur and majesty of the American
Southwest; the solitude amidst the vastness of the desert can be a mystical
experience for many. It's just that after almost two weeks of it at 10 to 20
mph, I am damn bored. So it has been fantastic to see a few real trees, and
rivers and streams with actual water.
|Sunday 2/12/06 San Marcos, TX
|Spirits soaring! Perfect weather and approaching the halfway point. We dubbed today Hump
Day. Cruised all the way to San Antonio and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of fast
traffic on the Interstate. Made a decision to stay alive and got off. Ended up in front of a
beer and snack store. Met a guardian angel named Ron Medlock a triathalon
cyclist who empathized with our predicament and got us around the busy city I
even got to see the Alamo! We had dinner with Ron who acted as our designated
rider so Joe and I could do a study on Mexican beers. I would release the
results, but the study is ongoing.
|Monday 2/13/06 LaGrange, TX
|Tuesday 2/14/06 Conroe, TX
| Another beautiful day, blue skies, warm, uneventful. The terrain is flattening now. We
passed through many small towns that appeared to be nearly empty or altogether
deserted. One, Round Top, is only open two months of the year. My theory is that Texas is
so big that there aren't enough people to go around so you end up with these empty or part
time towns Another town had a population of thirty-seven I have more nieces
and nephews than that I think that you could put all of Haiti in Texas and
nobody here would ever know. It's that big. Well, enough rambling. Time for bed
Happy Saint Valentine's Day from the Tour de Saints.
|Wednesday 2/15/06 Silsbee, TX
| Flat terrain, pine trees and logging trucks ruled today. We rode through
Texas' Big Thicket, an area once so densely wooded that it was sanctuary to
bandits, ruffians and Confederate draft dodgers and deserters. During the Civil
War, the word 'bushwhacker' was coined to describe the southern "homeland
security" troops tasked with beating these same bushes in search of enemies of
I know how these conscientious objectors must have felt; I think we were
often almost bushwhacked by the logging trucks. Their loads of pine trunks are
not very uniform as crooked logs and branches hang over the side. These
protrusions are seemingly sticks in a stick and ball game that some of these
drivers play; guys like us being the ball, of course. So far, the home team has
Approaching Kountze, TX I thought this part of the Thicket was looking
rather ramshackle. Then a Halliburton PU truck passed by and then another and I
realized that the dishevelment was courtesy of hurricane Rita. Many of these
small towns are still devastated some 5 months after the awful event.
With any luck and barring hurricanes, tomorrow we will leave Texas behind
as we begin our exploration of Cajun country. I wouldn't say 'good riddance'
exactly, but Texas is a wide bastard, especially to dudes on bikes.
|Thursday 2/16/06 Oberlin, LA
| Well, we finished Big Bad Texas. We got out with our skins, but just barely.
About ten miles west of Louisiana, we encountered the final chapter of the Texas
Canine Corps, three ferocious looking brutes just waiting for us on the opposite
side of the road. Joe and I started to pedal fast, but they were ahead and had
the angle and they knew it. Just as we drew abreast of them and they prepared to
lunge across the street at us, an 18 wheeler entered the Frey. With horns
blaring, it bore down upon Joe and I and the three dogs. Two of the dogs thought
better about the crossing and retreated back to the left side of the road. Joe
and I, fearing for our lives, ditched for the right side. The third dog, the
boldest and meanest of the bunch, somehow managed to dodge beneath the speeding
18 wheeler and emerged unscathed on our side of the street. It took him only a
second to recover from his near death experience with the 18 wheeler and he was
after us in a shot. He passed me and went for Joe who was a little ahead I
assume he considered Joe the better prize as he was in the lead. I feigned a
rear assault to try to draw him off of my companion while Joe screamed Go Home!
These measures worked and he gave up the chase. We then passed peacefully into
Cajun Country. As the sun set, these two tired cowboys rode slowly into the
east. So mothers tell your children, that's mainly what the open road is about,
dogs and 18 wheelers Goodnight y'all.
|Friday 2/17/06 New Roads, LA
| Here we are, hard against the left bank of the mighty Mississippi. We
think of this river as the demarcation between east and west; the centerline of
the nation, as it were. While this may be true in some metaphysical sense, I can
assure you that there is a lot more pavement behind us than over on the other
side. For the first time on this journey, I can feel the end nearby. I wonder if
I will feel less a stranger on the opposite shore.
We received our first taste of rain today, a baptism Light of fine mist as
a prelude to what looks to be a few days of persistent showers. The amazing
thing is that we dodged rain this long.
More irritating and pervasive was todays north wind. At a steady 25 to 30
mph crossing our port side, it made for slow going through the mostly treeless
rice fields of central Louisiana.
We made Opelousas much later than planned and called ahead for
accommodations, only to find no room at the inn. Sitting outside a gas station,
we considered our options: stay here, if even possible, well short of our goal
or chance another run in the dark on a busy, shoulderless highway to reach a
more distant place to stay. In the midst of debating this Hobson's choice, a
young man approached with exited questions for us: where were we going to/coming
from? How many miles/ how many days? Brad Bays is an Investment Management
Consultant specializing in Family Trusts and Endowments and an avid cyclist who
has dreams about a cross-country tour of his own. In the middle of Brad's
questioning Dr Fred, I found a room at the more distant city, New Roads.
Overhearing this, Fred did what a road-hardened, unsupported Bicycle Touring
Professional should do: he asked for help. And to our everlasting gratitude,
Brad helped. He drove us 35 miles, circumventing the chancy road and putting us
within striking distance of our further destination. If Brad is as good at
Investment Management Consulting as he is at being an Excellent Human Being, I
am sure that his clients as well as his family and friends are well served.
|Saturday 2/18/06 Amite City, LA
| This morning we crossed the mighty Mississippi on the St Francisville ferry. I'd
like to forget the rest of the day, ten hours of pedaling in cold rain capped
off by Joe laying his bike down on Interstate 55. Fortunately, no vehicles were
passing at the time and he was unhurt. It looked like we would be pitching our
tents which would have been the perfect ending to this miserable day. Then, lo
and behold we discovered a motel about five miles off of our route. Not a fancy
motel mind you, but a motel with heat, wonderful heat. My hands and feet are now
warm. Hallelujah! There is even a pizza place that delivers. Life is looking up.
|Sunday 2/19/06 Silver Lake, MS
| It's 40 degrees outside, I'm in a mummy-style sleeping bag in a tent and I
stink. Mrs. Rogers, owner of this property, is kind enough to open her lakefront
grove to cyclists in need. She even has a shower/restroom for the use of campers
but, given the distance and ambient temperature, I think I will be enduring my
own stench tonight.
I called this a grove but if I look above I see the mottled blackness of a
clouded night sky, not the protective canopy of a pine forest. I fear that in
the morning we will find the handiwork of Katrina has turned this once sylvan
setting into a columned but roofless monument to the ruthless power of Nature.
We have seen a lot of Katrina destruction today and we are still 30 miles
from the coast. Some of these small towns are virtually seas of blue FEMA tarped
roofs. Most everyone we chat with has a Katrina story and most of these storys
end on an essentially positive note.
As for tonight, nothing to do but enjoy our feast of peanut butter,
crackers and Milky Way bars and try to get some sleep in spite of the chill and
|Monday 2/20/06 Pascagoula, MS
| A good thing about camping is that you go to bed early. There isn't much else to
do once it gets dark. I actually got ten hours sleep last night. We got off to a
good start this morning, but then spent the better part of the day lost in the
bowels of southern Mississippi. We finally wandered into a Biloxi area Fire
Dept. While the chief explained to Joe where we were and how to get back on
course, I went to the kitchen with the other guys and they fed me collard
greens, ham, and hush puppies. Like many of the people in Mississippi, a lot of
these guys lost their homes to Katrina Very sad, but they have positive
attitudes. Getting back on course involved an eight mile run on Interstate 10,
busy 70 mph traffic with a one foot shoulder. I remembered the only advice given
me by my partner, Jay Ziegler, before this trip-"pedal fast". Joe said it was
my best time trial ever. We reached the Gulf Coast and are safe in a motel If
the Mobile ferry is operating, we should be in Florida tomorrow.
|Tuesday 2/21/06 Pensacola, FL
|Wednesday, 2/22/06 Panama City, FL
| The sun returned today after a week absence. With temps in the 70's, it was a
perfect day for riding. We followed the gulf coast and passed through many
seaside communities and resorts. The white sand beaches looked inviting and.the
ocean breezes carried the scent of the sea. A man approached us outside of a
small grocery store where we were having our breakfast of bananas, donuts, and
cokes. He made the usual inquires about our trip. It turns out that he is an
avid cyclist who is recovering from a bout with cancer. He hopes to be strong
enough to do a couple hundred mile ride later this year. He said that his
illness is not important. He said that what is important is his bicycling which I
think represents life for him. This brought to my mind the people I have met in
Haiti who in the midst of famine and pestilence are very much alive. Later in
the day, we passed a little church with a sign out front that read "fear less,
hope more". I like that.
|Thursday, 2/23/06 Wakulla Springs, FL
| Wakulla Springs is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the
world. I read an article about this place several years ago and I remember
thinking at the time that I would like to see it someday. With any luck,
tomorrow morning I will get my chance to mark another item, albeit minor and
just recently recalled, off my life list. See big, water spewing hole in the
With just a little more luck and barring complete physiological, spiritual
or mechanical breakdown, by Saturday afternoon we'll be riding triumphantly into
St. Augustine and the end of this little excursion. Ride bike across North
American continent... Double Check!
My oldest son Nathan, recently minted Florida States' Attorney and
raconteur will be providing support for the next two days. He promises to show
the Greybeards a Good Time in various Gainsville area watering holes. Hope
|Friday, 2/24/06 Gainesville, FL
| A sunny, cool morning as we departed the charming lodge at Wakulla Springs State
Park, by far the best place we have stayed on this journey. The only weather
drawback was an eastern wind that we faced all day. Tomorrow we make our
triumphant entry into the grand old city of St Augustine. This event will be
unheralded by any save Joe's son Nathan who, having just completed the Florida
State Bar Exam, is looking for a good laugh at someone else's expense.
As we are about to finish this thing, I have compiled a few statistics on our trip.
Total cycling days: 28.
Number of rainy days: 2.
Average speed for entire trip: 12.35 mph.
Number of flats: Fred 7, Joe. 1.
( I think I daydream too much and don't pay enough attention to debris on the road ).
Least favorite road conditions:
2. Attacking dogs.
3. Logging trucks traveling at 70 mph that hug the shoulder so close you get splinters when
We are going out for some beers with Nathan Vonderheide and some of his friends.
This thing is about finished. Across the U.S.A. on an inch of rubber, pretty cool!
|Saturday 2/25/06 St. Augustine, FL
| It was a rather uneventful ride to St. Augustine Beach. The last hurdle we faced was a six
feet ledge of sand that we had to get down with our bikes in order to actually get our tires in
the Atlantic Ocean. An elderly beach comber who mistook my intentions advised me that it
would be difficult to ride on the beach especially with such skinny tires. When I explained
that I just wanted to get my wheels wet, he offered me the use of a hose. I then told him
about our ride from San Diego. He held out his hand in a friendly shake and said
"Congratulations". Nathan was there in support and snapped a few photos and then the
three of us retired to a local tavern, an interesting establishment in an outdoor, tree house
like setting. We took our leave of Nathan and by early evening Joe and I were headed north
with our bicycles in a rented car. It felt strange to travel in ninety minutes what had been a
whole day’s effort. It also felt strange to purchase gasoline for the first time in a month. We
bought four tanks of the stuff during our non-stop, all night, largely silent drive to
Pennsylvania. We were serenaded throughout our dark, northward journey by a satellite
radio station, Sur La Route. Somehow these strange French songs felt fitting, maybe
because they reminded me of some of the French speaking interpreters I have met on trips
to Haiti. In the cold dawn, Joe deposited me in Washington, PA and headed for his own
home in Lawrenceburg, IN. And with his passing an end had come in middle earth to the
Fellowship of the Bike (this last sentence is for the benefit of all you JRR Tolkien fans).
I have been waiting for this journey to be finished, but now that it is I am already feeling
the first twinges of nostalgia. What is it that I miss? Mainly, the simplicity. The simplicity of
one companion, one bicycle, one goal for the day: to find a place to eat and sleep. I'll miss
the self-reliance on one's physical, emotional, and spiritual strength.
So, the ride is over, but the far more important stuff goes on--the work in Haiti. We have
about $58,000.00 raised to date. We are just $12,000.00 shy of our goal. If you are
reading this, you have probably already donated to this project. I still would ask that you
consider telling your friends and neighbors about it and perhaps giving them our website
address so they can learn about the project for themselves. Also, please continue to follow
our website for updates on the progress of the project.
Finally, I would like to say that it has been my ongoing privilege to volunteer side by side
with the people from churches such as Thomas and Westminster in western PA. They have
been involved in this work far longer than I. Joe and I feel honored to add our small effort to
their long term commitment.