It Starts with a First Step

It’s been a frustrating few weeks for me on the home liquidation front.  Partially, I felt stuck in a rut of analysis paralysis; constantly planning and no action.  However, mostly it just not finding time to get anything done. Between my day job, my side work on Fore & Aft Design and just the stuff that we have to do to keep our lives afloat, there just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to arrange three weeks off work to get to work on house repairs and to downsize like crazy.  Plus I’ve been able to twist my father’s expert arm and he’s agreed to provide some much needed expertise to this undertaking.  Even the first day, which has mostly been logistical work has felt like more progress than the entire last month.

Today we shopped for lumber, appliance parts, ordered a massive dumpster and did some minor repairs.  It might be a small step, but it really feels like actual progress. Call me excited.

Tomorrow begins the porch rebuild . . .

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A New Dream

For me, it started with a dream of boats and wide open spaces. While growing up in Oklahoma City can’t be described as exactly living in a concrete jungle, it also wasn’t the exactly the great wide open either. I then spent several years in Chicago, which really was the concrete jungle before returning once again to Oklahoma.

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And yet, my favorite memories are of traveling through wide open vistas, whether family camping trips through Big Bend, TX, backpacking in New Mexico or any number of bicycle trips. After seeing quite a few of those American vistas, I thought the next wide open space to visit would be the ocean.

Grace wasn’t so convinced. I mean despite the fact that I don’t know much about sailing, I might have an issue with sea sickness and I don’t have enough money for a yacht, I didn’t see any real obstacles. However, we judiciously decided to set our sights a little bit more conservatively for our next plans.

Grace never had the chance to travel much and while I’ve traveled quite a bit in the US, I’ve never spent long periods of time out in the wild.

So, that’s where this new dream of getting a travel trailer and heading out to see the United States. This blog will tell our story as we start paring down and prepare for our great new adventure.

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Quick Chicago Vacation

Last weekend Grace, Gwen and I along with Gwen’s friend Alica took a whirlwind tour of my old stomping grounds in Chicago. We were only there for four days, so it was really a short time, but it was nice to see the place again and it was fun to act as a tour guide for Gwen and Alica on their first trip to the city of big shoulders.

With four people, it made economic sense to drive this trip which, on the way there, we split into two days to save energy, though given the sleepy nature of my passengers, I needn’t of bothered, they mostly slept (or were otherwise occupied) all the way there:

Our hotel was right off of Michigan Ave and the River, so naturally we spent the first day wandering up Michigan Ave as all good tourists do and making sure we stood out as such:

After letting Gwen look at clothing no one in their right mind would consider affording, we headed to Wicker Park for some more affordable options. Of course, this neighborhood isn’t nearly as “affordable” as I remembered it. Wicker Park/Bucktown was pretty well gentrified by the time I left, but boy, it has truly finished off the process. It’s now a pretty and slick neighborhood for the young, hip and upwardly mobile. Even so, it was a fun stroll and I even got to visit the home of my one venture into theatrical production:

The next day we continued the tourism festival by braving the extremely long lines at the Willis Tower, an ordeal that I hadn’t suffered through since I was a freshman in college, and as my knees began to ache from standing in once place, I remembered exactly why I hadn’t been back. However, the girls got a great big kick out of it, especially standing on the glass boxes hanging out from the west side of the building. And I at least was able to acquire an obligatory Willis Tower picture:

We had planned on hitting the aquarium after the tower, but I really couldn’t imagine handling any more crowds so instead we grabbed some Chicago hot dogs and wandered around Millennium Park before heading to my favorite restaurant RoseAgnelis for dinner.

Grace’s knee had been hurting her from the hiking of the day, so we took the car out for dinner which let us take a big Chicago driving tour/nostalgia trip after dinner. After doing some of the big land marks, including Wrigley Field, I went back up to Roger’s Park to see if I could find my last apartment. Wow, talk about a neighborhood that has changed since I left. It wasn’t exactly an awful neighborhood when I lived there, but I think you could call it a rough neighborhood. Now it was filled with neon signs and upscale coffee shops and stores. It’s nice to know that the city doesn’t stand still. We then headed south and did drive out to the planetarium to take in the skyline view. Though, at this time some passengers were needing to get back to the hotel room quickly so we didn’t get to stop. ;)

The next morning, we meet up with my old friends Dennis and Maria and their darling son Riordan for brunch before heading out on the road for a 13 hour straight shot home. Not exactly and exciting drive, but given that almost everyone else was asleep for most of the trip, I finally was able to get caught up on This American Life and several dozen other podcasts that I’ve been falling behind in. All in all, it was a great trip, albeit a short one. Hope to go back again in a few years for a longer stay

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Day 21 (6/23/2012): The Final Ride, Tour de Cure (62 Miles)

So after a weeks worth of rest, I felt more than ready to tackle the last ride of this Oklahoma trek by riding in this year’s Tour de Cure. It was great feeling of accomplishment to see this fundraising effort coming to an end. It was also great to see a bunch of the other Freewheel riders back from their rest and ready to go, like Sharon who completed her first Freewheel this year and is already ready for more:

Sharon the Machine!

The ride was a great one and while a bit challenging, it wasn’t really too tough after the mileage of the previous two weeks. I was finished by noon and with a 14 mph average on a touring bike (with all the racks still attached), I was happy with the pace.

And the trek is at an end.

In reflection, this whole trek overall has been a wonderful success and a fantastic adventure. The only failure is that I didn’t quite make it to my 800 mile goal due to that missed day early on in the ride. However, in the last three weeks, I rode 794 miles which I have to say is close enough! :) However, in raising money for the ADA, all of you made the goal and then some. Together we raised $1525 for this great cause. My thanks go out to all of you for your generous contributions! Now I’m going to take a little break, whew!

 Ride Details


Day 14 (6/16/2012): Ponca City to South Haven, Kansas (37 Miles)

The last day started off beautifully. The weather was predicted to be clear with a strong south tailwind with storms moving in for the afternoon but long after I would have gotten into South Haven. With Grace being so kind as to pack up camp, I was out on the road by 6:30 and was setting a good pace. However, it wasn’t long into the morning until it quickly became clear that the weather people had gotten their timing wrong.

Stormy Skies

With darkness like that coming at you, you certainly can feel an urge to hunker down. However, there wasn’t much lightning with this storm and most of it seemed to be staying to the South and so I decided to press on. I can say I certainly doubted my decision when I looked back after the front had passed over and this was my view:

Darkness Overhead

However, while it certainly did rain and fiercely, it really wasn’t too bad and I was glad to keep going and stay warm while making progress. After about a half-and-hour the rain died down a bit and soon after than the wind switched back to the South and I started making great time again. Before I knew it, I was at the Kansas border ready for the obligatory state sign shot.

Kansas Border

Of course, not everything could go that smoothly. Just a mile or so further down the road and within sight of the water tower at South Haven I got a flat on my front wheel. But after hunting down the little piece of wire that made it through my tire, I was soon back on the road and to the finish line in no time.

Freewheel Finish

After a hot shower and a thorough exploration of the pastries on offer by the good people of South Haven, I was refreshed and happy.

Freewheel Feeding

Grace and I sat comfortably until Moni arrived, who we had offered a ride back to OKC. Soon enough we were on our way and while I would miss the joy of being out on the road, I was thrilled at the prospect of some time back home and with Grace. Till next year . . .

Ride Details


Day 13 (6/15/2012): Drumright to Ponca City (78 Miles)

Bridge

Today was a pretty day of rolling hills, trees and fields and river roads. However, it was also the longest ride of the trip and it was a hot day to boot, so it certainly wasn’t an easy day. Realizing that the main part of my journey was coming to an end, I rode with a certain amount of vigor and confidence. Therefore, I was relieved when Dennis’ rest stop appeared as the last stop before the destination.

Dennis' Rest Stop

Dennis is sort of a Freewheel legend. He rode Freewheel frequently in the past when he wasn’t doing long treks to Alaska. These days he follows us along the route with his remarkable reststop caravan which carries everything cycle tourists could possibly want including shade, restrooms, oatmeal cookies and all the ice cold water and gatoraid you could drink. He always holds the last stop on the way into town and it is always a relief to see his stop in the distance.

I made my way into town and was searching for a nice camp spot when Grace spotted me and took me to the already partially assembled camp site, now that’s a treat. After a shower, we headed off to get the end-of-the-trail meal. We spent the rest of the evening sitting in the shade, watching the world go by and listening to the bluegrass concert going on in the park. A perfect last evening for Freewheel.

Ride Details

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Day 12 (6/14/2012): Guthrie to Drumright (55 Miles)

My decked outbicycle for Flag Day.

Today was Flag Day so it was only appropriate that I deck out the bicycle as much as possible. However, today was also the day of Freewheel that I had kind of been dreading all along, and like most things that we dread, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought. However, the ride certainly was hilly and hard, evidenced by my lack of photos for the day. However, they were mostly rollers which really aren’t that bad once you get your rhythm setup properly.

Soaking up the AC at the public library and catching the kids show.

I actually got into Drumright much earlier than expected and had some time during the the heat of the day. The good people of Watonga had turned the small public library on main street into a Freewheel support center with cold water, wonderful A/C and free wifi. It was an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse. However, they also still held the kids story session with a fabulous local story teller, clown and balloon art master. Being that this was a Freewheel event, it quickly became a full participatory event with a rider being roped into singing some great kids songs while wearing improbable head gear. Even I, as a bearded weirdo, got pulled into the act:

I got sucked into the act.

I eventually left the comfort of the library in search of food and ended up at a local Lebanese steakhouse where I dined with a Tulsa English professor and cycling advocate who caught me up on the world of cycle advocacy and politics.

With an enormous amount of food in my belly, I got to bed early and while we got hit with a really heavy thunderstorm at about 3:00 AM, I was able to sleep well through the night.

Ride Details

 


Day 11 (6/13/2012): Watonga to Guthrie (74 Miles)

Field

If I had to choose one word to describe today’s ride, it would definitely be flat. However, with a crosswind, it still wasn’t exactly an easy ride. However I still really enjoyed it and it was without any mechanical difficulties. The high point of the ride was the spontaneous creation of an 30 person paceline made up of mostly Oklahoma Bicycle Society members. I don’t ride in pacelines very often, but when I can find one I can keep up with, I will certainly join in. We kept up a good pace for about 10 miles and while it certainly took a bunch of energy out of me, I had a blast doing it.

Always a bit disconcerting to come across a cemetery with your name on it.

The other interesting discovery was a family plot in the middle of nowhere that I knew nothing about. The Lorenz name isn’t exactly an uncommon one, but if I come across it in Oklahoma it usually means I’ve found a relative. (My mother would later confirm my suspicions) However, it is a little ominious to find your name on the gates of a cemetary while doing a long physical trek. ;)

Field of Flowers

Guthrie provided us a nice flat park with lots of shade to setup camp in which was great after several nights of setting up in the sun. Grace drove up from the city for dinner and I loaded up on pasta, AC and wonderful company. I made sure to get to bed at a decent hour knowing that tomorrow I faced hills, hills and more hills.

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Day 10 (6/12/2012): Anadarko to Watonga (72 Miles)

Today was the perfect day for everything to go wrong. Traditionally, the third day of Freewheel is Crazy Day where riders don the silliest costumes they can, if you don’t consider our normal spandex wear as silly. :) After two years of failed costume attempts, I had high hopes for this year. I was planning to cover my bike with pinwheels and go as an out of work wind farm with a cardboard sign reading, “Will generate for food.” Unfortunately, my pinwheels hadn’t survived the first two days well and I barely made it out of towns before one-by-one the heads of the pinwheels started flying off and I just didn’t think I had the time to perform the necessary repairs.

Ranch Sign

However, the ride started off nice traveling through more pretty western ranch land. And as I got close to the half way part, I felt good and confident about getting in earlier than I expected. However, as I headed into Hinton, I started having problems keeping my bike in my lower gears. Figuring that it was derailleur problem, I started making some adjustments. Thankfully, a bike shop van came along to take a look and were able to make some quick adjustments and I headed on down the road. It seemed fine for about a 1/4 mile, but then started falling out of gear again. I limped into Hinton only to discover that it wasn’t a derailleur problem but that one of my chain links had started to come apart.

While all of this had been going on, storms had started to roll in and so I decided to eat some lunch before dealing with the situation. However, I knew I was eventually going to deal with it and I knew my options were limited. I had, for some reason, left my extra links and pins in one of my bags that I sent back with Grace. Kurt and Mary McDaniel (check out their awesome, ongoing cross-country journey at http://moreadventuresahead.com) happened to be at the same lunch stop and because they were going completely self-contained, they had a pin I could use but they had a different sized chain so I was out of luck on links. I decided to save the pin and pinch the chain back together and see how far I could get before it came apart.

As I headed out-of-town, the second front on the storm came in and while that meant I was going to ride a bit in the rain, it also gave me an incredible tailwind. So I actually made it about 10 miles on the bad chain before it finally snapped. But following in my alternating good and bad fortune, it snapped right as the rain came to a stop. So I then began the arduous process of removing the bad links and attempting a short chain patch with the always awful chain tools that come with a bicycle mini-tool set. Even with some extra hands it was slow going. But once again, favor smiled upon me with the return of another bicycle van who was able to get me a new chain and sent me on my way.

Now normally, an hour and a half of repairs during a 72 mile ride would make for a tough slog through the heat that would just leave me absolutely slaughtered by the time I got to camp. Thankfully though, the rain and cloud cover had kept the temps in the mid 70’s, perfect riding weather. I caught up with Moni and Jennifer in Geary and decided to finish the ride into Watonga with these two fantastic riders who truly embody the spirit of crazy days.

Crazy Day

We made a leisurely pace for the last 15 miles, making a few stops to leave chalk drawings on the road, as the sun came out for a pretty day of riding. With all of my good and bad fortune, I arrived in camp at 4:30 in the afternoon, but feeling refreshed especially given my tribulations.

Butterfly

Watonga had put us up right in the middle of town, so I set up my tent on one of the vacant lots around downtown and set out in search of more food. I caught a bit of the Freewheel talent show and thought about staying up to watch the Thunder game, but sleep beckoned and I gave into it.

What must these towns think when sights like this start filling up their parks?

Ride Details

 


Day 9 (6/11/2012): Elgin to Anadarko (63 Miles)

Today was much shorter and flatter than the previous day, but for some reason it was much more tiring. Maybe it was because it was a route that had been extended from about a 28 mile direct route out to a 63 mile scenic one. For some reason my transportation mind can’t always happily accept the long route. However, it was a nice ride through some rolling hills and some pretty sights.

Truckin '

And for all of my complaining about taking the long route, if I had taken the short cut I would have missed my chance for the silly photo of the day, a real fork in the road:

There is a fork in the road, what should I do?

Spent an uneventful evening in camp reading and eating which was really just what I needed and wanted.

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