Day 4 Blythe CA to Wickenburg AZ

A New Hope

We got an early start this morning to take on a 116 mile day across the desert and over three smallish mountains, and our first border crossing – state border that is.

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The first thing was to find the Colorado River and to get on I-10 to cross it, and into Arizona.


It was a “blue” day so Jim and I wore matching 2015 B2VT jerseys, and Jim Miller from Iowa had one from his shop in Iowa. Greg didn’t get the memo so he wore red, and Lynn showed off her Gran Fondo NYC, as shown in this over the shoulder shot.


We rode along the interstate for miles (legal if there is no alternate route for cyclists) and several of us got flats from the debris. Soon we got onto Rt. 60 and didn’t make another turn for 80 miles. We had several long shallow climbs including riding past the town of Hope. (My apologies to Strunk & White.)


Back in New England, the two bottles of water on my bike last for 40-60 miles, depending on the tempature. Here in the desert we were treated to water stops every 20 miles, and needed them, in addition to guzzling Coke, and chowing down on Pringles, pretzels, and lots of sweet or salty snack food. Just a mile after a water stop my mouth was already dry again. I drank 2 gallons on the ride plus a quart before leaving and at least another at the end of the day.


Our group (Jim M, Jim S, me, Lynn, and Greg) stuck together the whole day, though I did get close to being voted off the island for singing songs about Greek Sailors and TV Party by Black Flag.


The wind was generally on our right, so we made an echelon where the lead rider stayed on the edge of the road, the next rider was on his left and a wheel back, and so forth, staying in the aerodynamic shadow, spread across the entire lane. Three of us had mirrors and could easily see cars behind us two miles away.

We all finished together and then went out for Mexican food and sundaes at McDonald’s.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog

Day 3 El Centro to Blythe

Ice socks and sitting on the sofa

We got an early start this morning to take on a 107 mile day across the desert and over one smallish mountain.

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The profile looked intimidating until I figured out the scale. That scary hill was 1500 high over 20 miles, barely noticeable.

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First we had to get out of El Centro, departing before 7am to beat the heat. We were headed north east, with a strong wind out of the south. Here is Jim, Lynn, and Jay in our NY paceline. (Jim and I wore matching Cornell jerseys, Lynn is from NYC and Jay is from Sleepy Hollow.) We rode 11 miles on this smooth road with a tailwind, practicing our pacelines.

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Soon we turned off and went by a feedlot with 50 tracking solar panels sitting above the cattle. Even though we were surrounded by farmland, cattle, and bales of hay stacked 50 feet high, we had 5 bars on our cell phones.

Entering the Imperial Sand Dunes, we saw an amazing overlook several hundred feet up a sand dune. Herb from Houston just made it to the top – note the clipless sandals for hot weather rides.

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Jim and Chris, all matchy-matchy in our Ivy League splendor.

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Behind Lynn’s bike you can see about 100 spare miles of just … sand!

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No, it’s not Monument Valley in the distance, just an old set left by John Houston from his westerns.

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The PAC Tour organizers had stops every 12-25 miles with food, water, and lots of ice. Fill a sock with ice and put it between your jersey collar and the back of your neck for miles of cool enjoyment. So long as you don’t mind looking like Marty Feldman from Young Frankenstein. “Hump, what hump?”

The US Border Patrol had another stop along the way, looking for illegals well inside the border. Cyclists always get waved along as who bike to this country? Technically they are not allowed to search cars, or force anyone to show ID, but hey, not everyone knows their rights.

For the last 20 miles I partnered with Eddy, a strong amateur rider from Belgium. When we headed north, we had a strong tailwind and easily rode 25 mph. But when we turned east, the wind slammed us in the side. Eddy had me ride in his wind shadow, his left side, shielded from the breeze on his right. He called it “sitting on the sofa.” He pulled me almost twice as much as I pulled him, and together we flew in.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

P.S. Check out Jim’s blog


Day 2 Julian to El Centro CA

The heat has only started

Last night (day 1) ended with an early Italian dinner, which didn’t quite fill us up. Good thing too as Julian is known for pie. The bakery has a takeout window on the sidewalk so I got an apple boysenberry with a scoop of vanilla while Jim got apple pumpkin with whipped cream. We then headed back to the hotel for our typical early evening. My legs were still cramping so I couldn’t even bend them. Yoicks!

Day 2 of the PAC Tour goes from Julian CA up in the mountains, ~90 miles to El Centro.

Today we started with a 7 mile descent – sweet! As some of you know, I love a good downhill and hang my “sit bones” off the back of the saddle to get a little extra speed. The last section was marked as shown below.

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Right around the corner was the start to another downhill section – shown here with Eddy. 2015-09-14 09.48.48

Right after this we joined with the tour organizers, Lon & Sue in a short pace line. Eddy and I each pulled a little and started a double pace line with at least a dozen riders.This lasted for a few miles until the next climb when we dropped down to six. At the top of the ridge I had everyone pull over for a photo. Jim Salvie, Jim from Iowa, Lynn from NYC, and two more people.

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No cars passed us for at least a half hour, until we came to a border patrol stop. Our destination is El Centro, only a few miles from the Mexican border, so the US Border Patrol sets up stops at choke-points in the US to catch the sort of people Donald Trump loves to hate.

The PAC Tour suggests people bring an “ice sock”. Never heard of this? Neither had I. When you are in the desert, fill a sock with ice and drape it around your neck. Only a few people had one today, but everyone is sure to have one for tomorrow’s desert crossing. Today’s high was supposedly only 99, with a pavement temp of 116. Our last 30 miles had a great tail wind, making for a very fast pace, but depriving us of the cooling breeze. Not that I’m complaining. I would love a 25mph west wind for the rest of the trip!

When I told someone that El Centro was an armpit, they suggested I think a little lower. Our evening plans include dinner at IHOP and laundry. Wahoo!

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

Day 1 San Diego to Julian CA

Winner and loser

Saturday ended with the Flat Pool being filled with $22, to be split by the first and last persons to get a flat during the PAC Tour. Enough to be fun, not enough to make anyone cheat.

Sunday morning we got up, had breakfast in the hotel parking lot – cereal, oatmeal, bagels, bananas, the usual biker food, preparing for the first day, 76 miles from San Diego to Julian. We rode though about 15 miles of strip malls and constant red lights until we finally got into the hills. It was there that Jim won half of the flat pool, shown here with Fast Eddie, a rider from Belgium who has ridden Paris Roubaix twice. I’m not worthy! Not shown is Frode from Oslo. Off to see Sauron!

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We rode higher and higher and even did a 3 mile section of I-8.Here we are at Vista Point on the highway.

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The sun was relentless and I was starting to get cooked. Eddie wisely left us slow guys behind so we connected with Lynn, a Manhattan judge. Then I got a flat and she dropped us too. So the two guys from Boston had problems with under-inflated equipment today – imagine that!

Now the real climbing started, at 4000 feet and no shade. My heart rate stayed high, even when we stopped twice. Jim is a fantastic friend and stuck with me, mile after mile as I rode slower and slower. Finally, 3 (uphill) miles from the lunch stop I was done, barely able to stand up. Jim called in the support van. While waiting I slorped down a chocolate Gu, basically frosting and caffeine. Then I felt a little less bad and decided to ride a half mile until the van showed up. Clouds blew up, giving us our first break Then a mile. Susan came up with a cup of Coke, which I skipped. The grade let up a little and soon we were in Cleveland.

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The support staff set up a great lunch in the forest at nearly 6000 feet and we were soon recharged. “20 miles to Julian, all down hill,” they said. Well… 80-90% was downhill, but there were a few climbs left up in the high desert hills. Which hurt.

Now we are in the little mountain town of Julian, contemplating dinner at 4:30pm or maybe 5. Long distance cyclists like the senior citizen discount, especially since we are head to bed by 8pm.

Tomorrow we head to El Centro (a real armpit I hear) and were told that the first half of the ride is all downhill. Yeah, right.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

Day 0 San Diego to San Diego

Reach for the beach

Today we rode from the San Diego Seven Seas Best Western to the beach and back, 16.6 miles to start the 2015 Southern PAC Tour.

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We rode to the beach for the traditional “dip the wheels” photo.

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Of course this meant taking off my cleated shoes and carrying the bike across the sand. This is in the San Diego Mission district at the Dog Beach, but luckily all we stepped on was sea weed. Here is Jim (a well known dog aficionado) with tomorrow’s mountain’s in the background.

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Not normally a gambling man, I started a “flat pool.” The first and last flats of the tour split the pot. It is only a buck, so cheating should be minimal. To bad I didn’t start this yesterday. Lynn from NYC barely made it out of the parking lot before going BANG. It took three people to fix it.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

Flying high

Even the longest journey begins with an alarm clock. 4 am, grab a quick breakfast, shave, kiss Laura for the last time in a month, hop in the rental minivan and head out into the predawn rain to Jim’s house. Soon we are in the gridlock of Terminal C, trying to check our huge bike cases.
Jim and I have traveled together so many times that I kid about him being my “life partner.” Jet Blue must have heard me as they put Jim under my TSA Pre-Check umbrella and zipped through security. Get one the plane, crawl into the void of noise cancelling headphones and eye-shades and snooze a little.
Now we are over Arizona, looking down at the sand box with mountain walls.  That will be Tuesday’s route.
If you want the book version of our ride, you are in luck, it is free Kindle month on Amazon. Download the app and look for, “Under a Triumphant Sky” by Steve Garufi. He rode solo on a similar route (San Diego, Julian, …), carrying his gear. I’m on page 42 and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Chris Spear

Feel the panic

The PAC Tour recommends getting your bike tuned up at least a week in advance, so two weeks before leaving I had my cables and housing replaced, new chain, wheels trued, and everything given a sparkly shine. I replaced my tires and was all set. The front didn’t shift as well as I liked – oh well.

Last weekend I went for a ride with people from the shop and got my butt kicked. I wanted a long slow distance (LSD) ride, but hey, anything that gets my heart rate up is good, no? The front derailleur was still finicky so at the end of the ride I asked a mechanic to take a look. My bottom bracket (BB) was noticeably loose, just a week before the PAC tour and only a week after the tuneup. I dropped off the bike before lunch Saturday.

The shop was closed on Labor Day, and they had to order a new BB. I called on Wed – the BB arrived but was at a different store. Now I am really starting to panic.Should I bring my Ritchey Break-away travel bike? No, it is good for the occasional ride, but not a month. I would rather buy a low-end Trek Alpha, throw on my pedals and saddle and use that instead.

I called the shop three times on Thu, less than 24 hours before flying out. They finished installation and I picked it up by 4pm, about 12 hours before I was going to get up the next morning.

Now the bike is all packed up, ready for Jet Blue to whisk me away to San Diego. Go over the check list one last time, pretend to sleep for a few hours, and start the adventure!

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

One week to go

Next Friday, 9/11, I am headed to San Diego to start a cross country bike trip, the PAC Tour southern route. PAC will carry my bags, and I will be staying in the finest Super8 motels across the land – literally! Just a bit nervous, but I have trained close to 4000 miles this year and feel almost ready.

Time to turn the tables. What do you think I should bring? There is an official gear list, but I want to know what one item you would take on the trip. Other than a bike, or motor.

Please support my ride to raise money for the Pan Mass Challenge and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Chris <hat> Spear <dit> net

Let the genie out

Behold the water bottle. Looks simple, relatively harmless, right? Actually the number one cause of accidents on the Pan Mass Challenge is the humble water bottle. They get dropped, pop out of their cage, roll across the road, and riders in pacelines unsuccessfully dodge them. Ouch!

I crashed out of the 2014 B2VT ride when my bottle popped out for the second time. As I slowed down, my front wheel was caught in a crack in the pavement (curse you Pepperell!) and down I went, just 30 miles in. I replaced the rear cage with a Specialized Rib Cage and that bottle only comes out when I want it to!

I drink more when the water is cold so I like to freeze bottles. If you throw a bottle of water into the freezer it could split – unless you first fill it up with ice cubes. This trick lets me keep a few frozen bottles ready to go for a hot day’s ride.

Gatorade and Powerade are expensive, so instead buy the powdered versions. You will have to shop larger supermarkets, and look at the edges of the sports drink shelves. A $4 container lasts me most of a season.

The first person to win 5 Tour de France races was the French cyclist Jacques Anquetil who had an innovative way to climb better – he would put his bottle in his pocket to make the bike lighter. Not exactly a physics major, but he did excel at the time trial.

How about Camelbacks? I bought the first generation of these, thinking it would be handy to have the equivalent of 3-4 bottles ready to drink. In my experience they are uncomfortable, and need to be cleaned thoughly. The last time I used a Camelback, I accidentally swallowed the bite valve and rode 8 miles with the hose clenched between my teeth until I could get to a store to buy a replacement. Maybe I’m just too stupid to drink out of anything but a bottle.

Don’t be that guy, be this one

From raising two children, I’ve learned to give positive advice. “Stop hitting your brother”  does no good as the sibling still does not know what to do. “Go outside and keep away from your brother” worked better.

So I’ve tried to follow the same advice here. Today on the Climb to the Clouds, two people were stopped right in the middle on the intersection of Deershorn and Rt. 62 in Lancaster. Don’t be this guy! If you stop, pull completely off the road. Better yet, look for a driveway so you are fully out of traffic. Don’t make other riders and cars go around you.

If you have a choice of where to stop, generally pick a shaded spot. No need to sweat while you dig out an energy bar or change a flat. Two exceptions are if a place is thick with mosquitoes (they hate the sun) or in cold weather when you want to avoid getting chilled.

Speaking of obnoxious behavior, how annoying is it to be on the side of the road and have every passing rider ask if they can help? Actually it is quite helpful, so I try to be that annoying guy. Perhaps someone is not comfortable with changing a flat. At intersections someone may need directions. Be that annoying person who asks, because you might be on the other end.

Lastly, when someone asks for directions, always ask where they really want to go. Initially they might just ask how to get to an intersection that they passed a mile ago. Find out of they are actually going to Lexington, Mt. Wachusetts or Narnia. You can help with the first two, and probably should just ride off for the last.