Friday, October 14, 2016

The 2016 Tour des Trees Ends with a Return to Charlotte

Today we rolled into Charlotte, the city where this all began last Sunday. Today's ride was 88 miles with 4,500 feet of climbing. I thought I felt great until we hit the road and my body simply said,
"out of gas." There was big hills right off the bat but I believe the big day yesterday just had me tired. My legs felt great but I was fatigued. My riding friend Sam from Vermeer was kind enough to back off and ride with me most of the morning. This helped tremendously and is part of the sport of cycling, you drop back and help others because one day you will need help. It's what makes long distance cycling different that any other sport.
Our first break was again with church ladies and another structure with a tree from hurricane Matthew on the roof. We'll miss the many church ladies we met who were so gracious and welcoming to our group. The church had a huge tree on top of one of the buildings and we all wished we could help.
The road was hilly all the way to lunch which was at Andrew Jackson State Park. Evidently he was born near by. Our catered lunch spread was out under the trees and it was awesome to dine amongst the trees.
The ride into Charlotte was beautiful as we rolled past stately trees and beautiful homes in some of the neighborhoods. As traffic increased there were a few close calls as motorists hurrying home on a Friday afternoon really didn't want to yield to cyclists. We rolled in unscathed back to the place it all started. 592.65 miles later.
So many people put in tons of time to set up the tour. The team at the Tree Fund is amazing. Paul Wood, our tour director and owner of Blackbear Cycling Adventures is an outstanding cyclist and knows how to organize a ride. This ride had challenges and adventures. It was safely routed and very well marked. Few, if any, got lost on this tour. We had folks who schlepped our luggage from city to city. We had volunteers in cars and vans out on the road lending assistance. We had a professional photographer, Jet Martin who is world class, and Canadian. By the way, all the Canadians are just so nice. We Americans could learn a thing or two from them! Joanna is the queen of support and the most wonderful person to have helping you. Ya, eh, she's Canadian also.
And so it comes to a close. Most people will do a ceremonial ride tomorrow, but for me, I need to get home to my supportive wife Diane who packed in may bag, a card to open each day giving me inspiration. You see it isn't just doing the ride that takes time, it is the entire year of training, away from loved ones, on the road, spinning those cranks. You can't ride a ride like this without all kinds of support--here and back home. Let me also add how supportive my company, Bartlett Tree Experts, has been with this Tour. We had the largest group of riders and also the largest amount donated as a team. Last time I checked Team Bartlett had raised $61,000 of the $360,000 that had been raised for this event. This is possible because of the culture of giving back at Bartlett and the belief by Robert Bartlett, our CEO, that it is important to participate in such things, in our industry that provides so much to us. Without a supportive culture at Bartlett, we all would not have been able to take the time to ride. Lastly, I think of my Bartlett teammates and friends Todd Nedorostek, Brian Maxon and Derrick Wells who trained so hard for this ride but were unable to participate fully due to hurricane Matthew. They were back taking care of our clients while we were riding and we thought of them everyday. Tree people. We don't just take care of trees. We do it for the people.
Team Bartlett. We work in a wonderful organization that supports our profession like no one else.

OK, some people in back country North Carolina don't like dogs. We got chased by several but none of us in my group got bit. We were too fast.

The end of the Tour brings a chocolate milk toast at the hotel bar.

 
(LtoR) Karen Jenkins from Savannah, Doreen Crenshaw from Indianapolis, me and Sam Van Maanen from Pella, Iowa.

Andrew Jackson State Park in South Carolina.

What a cool place to rest our bikes.

Old church cemetery and my ride.

Another tree on a church building from hurricane Matthew.

Lunch under the trees!

Paul Wood's birthday cake. Today was his birthday!

 
Sam and me after a tough morning ride. Staring down the cemetery, moving on.
 
Another view of the big oak that fell on the church.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chocolate milk is THE best drink after 123 miles on a bike!

With 118 miles pedaled our peloton spied a gas station where we knew there would be ice cold chocolate milk. You see in the world of cycling, nothing is better. Sugar, carbs and it goes down really great when you are hot from cycling. There is just something magical about chocolate milk that makes most cyclists actually crave it towards the end of a long ride.
A long, hot ride is what the Tour des Trees had today. This was the biggest day of the Tour, 124 miles with 4100 feet of elevations. For me, 124 miles is a personal best, the most miles I have ever rode on a bike. The ride trekked across North Carolina and into South Carolina where we rode on roads cut through pine plantations. They grow pulpwood down here and many of the "fields" have been clear cut as is the practice here. Pines are grown like corn and after a few decades are harvested. But for us riders that meant no trees to shade the miles and miles of roads we rode. This was the hottest day of the ride with temperatures nearing 80 degrees. Not bad, unless you are riding 124 miles out in the open sun. It was hot.
We dedicated several trees today including a nice oak at our dinner spot in Camden, SC. We were at the Steeplechase training center that had much history of horse racing in the area.
This was a day of gutting it out riding, knowing you are going to be on the saddle for nearly 8 hours. We had a great group of people riding together and that is why cycling is great, teamwork. We all took time to pull the peloton along the way and making sure our teammates weren't left behind.
Speaking of teammates, we were all reminded of the devastation that hurricane Matthew left behind as we cruised into South Carolina. Many, many trees down including large trees still on top of houses. We miss our fellow riders who had to go back to work to help with the hurricane clean up and all of those arborists working while we work cycling to raise money for tree research.
One of our great support people is Jet Martin who is a wonderful professional photographer. She's been there every day taking photos of the riders on and off the bikes. She also has a great sense of humor and couldn't resist teaming up with a fellow rider from Canada who wanted to honor a martial arts center with an interesting slogan. We look forward to seeing all her photos!
Tomorrow is my last day of riding and it will be a tough 88 miles with a TON of climbing before the first break. Best news is we get it out of the way early in the day. Then on to Charlotte and back to the hotel where it all started a week ago.

Many of our rest stops were at fire stations. These first responders have a career that is a calling. I just wanted to try on their helmet at mile 94.  

One of Jet Martin's interesting pictures. Warren calls it "KFC"

Kristin Fletcher, wife of one of Bartlett VP's Paul Fletcher, and Elwood Pricklethorn. 

Best new rider, Lucas Hubbard from Bartlett!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Raleigh to Pinehurst--Day 4

We typically have breakfast at 6am and today was no different except the Sheraton didn't get the buffet out until 6:10. That's a big deal for the riders who get down early, want to eat and get things set up. Its all about routine when you ride these rides. You lay your stuff out the night before, make sure everything is set. When you do this day after day your get a rhythm. Throw people off their routine and they get testy. But all was fine and we got set up including a safety briefing that reviews a couple of spills that happened the day before. Safety is key to the Tour des Trees and we take it very seriously.
Our exit from Raleigh was during morning rush hour in congested traffic. For the most part it worked out well although riding alongside cars with no bike lane made for a tight squeeze. There was no other way out of town. We did have our closest call of the ride. Our great rider Sam from Vermeer (Pella, Iowa manufacture of great equipment we use in the industry) was bombing down a big hill with all of us and he was in the front. We were probably going 35mph and I looked up and watched a car coming the other way turn right in front of Sam. He missed her by a mere fraction of a second. She only saw us AFTER she made the turn into us. This once again reminded us that most motorists simply do not see cyclists. They don't expect to see us. The mind tells the eyes what to see.
After 83 miles and 4,100 feet of climbing we arrived at Mid Pines which is a historic golf resort near Pinehurst, NC. A very nice place for us riders to stay. There was a great putting contest on the course right near the clubhouse and everyone enjoyed sitting on the deck watching the finalist play it out for some cool Vermeer cycling jerseys.
Dinner was outstanding but everyone's mind is on tomorrow. It is the beast of the tour! 123 miles and we will likely be on the saddle for 8 hours tomorrow. That's just simply a long time. Many butts are hurting. Riding on a small seat for that long begins to bring out the sores. Then you have to ride on the sores. Key is to not let the sores get there in the first place! Ouch.
We will arrive tomorrow late afternoon into Camden, South Carolina. In fact, much of our riding tomorrow will be in South Carolina. We'll get it done. We have no choice. :)
Our cool historic dining room


Jeremy sinking the winning putt!

Ms Katie doing her thing to get the Bartlett rider Ethan ready for tomorrow

My bike

A very piney road today with no cars!

Safely taking a selfie on the move

Can you guess this crop? They make molasses from it

Stihl is a major sponsor of the Tour des Trees so we raised our bikes to this sign we saw on our route today?

Early morning tree dedication. We do a lot of these.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Greensboro to Raleigh--Day 3 of the Tour des Trees

It was only supposed to be 80 some miles but with a couple of  road detours day 3 ended up at 100 miles for the day! Our elevation wasn't too brutal and the weather was perfect. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky and near perfect temperature. Now it was a bit cool when we left Greensboro--43 degrees and it never got much above 60 during the day, pretty good for riding. Everyone was layered up and I just kept my layers on all day. I run better hot than cold any day.

We had a great first break with about 50 young school children who gathered to hear our rider Warren Hoselton aka Professor Elwood Pricklethorn. He does this amazing routine of teaching kids about the benefits of trees and helping to start them advocating for trees. He humor is perfect for the kids as well as the adults. Warren is a park supervisor in Toronto, an island, and a big deal there. He could easily be a stand up comedian. Just a great job.

Lunch today followed a tough segment of 1500' of climbing, biggest of the day. We ate at a market in Chapel Hill, NC. Great to sit outside and hang with the riders near downtown Chapel Hill.

Our last stop was a tree dedication for Susie. Susie was a pedestrian safety advocate and in  tragic irony was killed crossing a street in a walkway with flashing warning lights. Her mother, in order to stay alive herself, began planting trees in her honor around the country. We planted a tree for Susie today and in honor of an urban forester in Fort Lauderdale who recently passed away. Trees have a way of soothing people while also providing a legacy for the future. Hope and love.

Dinner tonight was at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State. A world class place, but too bad it was nightfall by the time we got there.

(R to L) Ethan Crockett of Bartlett, Paul Wood our tour director and Jeremy Baker who I used to work with at The Care of Trees

(R to L) Frazer Pehmoeller and Jack Kelly of Bartlett

Thanks the Lorax. He looks sad.

Lunch in Chapel Hill, NC

Professor Elwood Prickelthorn

Pricklethorn doing his thing!

Susie's mom with photos of Susie and a map where all her trees are planted

Joanna our support team leader along with Thom who is also an amazing support person


A Much Better Day--Its Mayberry!

Our second day of riding was a joy compared to the first! We all rode to breakfast in downtown Mt. Airy which was a great way to start the day. Andy Griffith was from Mt. Airy and he modeled the show Mayberry after his hometown. There are even a couple of Mayberry sheriff's cars on the street and they escorted us out of breakfast through town. In fact, we had police escorts all through town which just showed that small town, Mayberry feel.
Our first turn took us into a parking lot and someone yelled, "wrong turn" and we bolted back to the main road with no accidents. Problem was that was the right turn and we were supposed to be at a tree planting. We all felt bad afterwards because the mayor and other dignitaries were on hand.
The day of riding had some big hills and climbs, really steep but they seemed to be balance with great downhills--I hit 42mph one of them. Some of the heavier guys might have hit 50!
We had a great Thanksgiving lunch as it was Canadian Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and yes even pumpkin pie!
More riding to the next break which was at a grist mill over 100 years old. Still working, still grinding various grains.
We ended up our 80 mile ride at the University of North Carolina Greensboro where we saw some new climbing techniques by Sherrill--our major tree gear for the industry.
Dinner was on our own which allowed Team Bartlett to get together along with a few friends and business partners.
What difference a day makes to the legs and the body. On to day 3--Greensboro to Raleigh!

"The Canadians" having Thanksgiving Dinner.

Super support person Jo

Breakfast in Mayberry

Our masseuse at work during the ride. Seriously, we have a masseuse!

A Much Better Day--Its Mayberry!

Our second day of riding was a joy compared to the first! We all rode to breakfast in downtown Mt. Airy which was a great way to start the day. Andy Griffith was from Mt. Airy and he modeled the show Mayberry after his hometown. There are even a couple of Mayberry sheriff's cars on the street and they escorted us out of breakfast through town. In fact, we had police escorts all through town which just showed that small town, Mayberry feel.
Our first turn took us into a parking lot and someone yelled, "wrong turn" and we bolted back to the main road with no accidents. Problem was that was the right turn and we were supposed to be at a tree planting. We all felt bad afterwards because the mayor and other dignitaries were on hand.
The day of riding had some big hills and climbs, really steep but they seemed to be balance with great downhills--I hit 42mph one of them. Some of the heavier guys might have hit 50!
We had a great Thanksgiving lunch as it was Canadian Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and yes even pumpkin pie!
More riding to the next break which was at a grist mill over 100 years old. Still working, still grinding various grains.
We ended up our 80 mile ride at the University of North Carolina Greensboro where we saw some new climbing techniques by Sherrill--our major tree gear for the industry.
Dinner was on our own which allowed Team Bartlett to get together along with a few friends and business partners.
What difference a day makes to the legs and the body. On to day 3--Greensboro to Raleigh!

"The Canadians" having Thanksgiving Dinner.

Super support person Jo

Breakfast in Mayberry

Our masseuse at work during the ride. Seriously, we have a masseuse!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

There is no whining in cycling

OK today was our first day of the Tour des Trees. 118 miles from Charlotte to Mt. Airy. We had nearly 6000 feet of climbing and 20 mph headwinds that were remnants of Hurricane Matthew.
I've done this ride 3 times now and I'd have to say this leg was one of the toughest for me. At about mile 50 my legs cramped up, something I just seem to do always on the first day. From mile 50 to 118 the cramps ravaged my legs and ability to ride smoothly. I ended up  riding in a group with 2 others who had the exact same thing. They are perennially strong riders so perhaps, maybe a little, I took some solace in that. There is no whining in cycling. Just tell your legs to shut up and keep pedaling.
We saw a few mountains today (seemed like we climbed a few) and it was beautiful to see the North Carolina "skyline." A couple of our break stops were sponsored by Carolina Tree and I regretted not seeing my friend Jack Guffey who owns the company. Jack's wife was there representing as Jack was busy with his company handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Thanks to Carolina Tree for still being there while their team is cleaning up massive storm damage.
We planted a tree in Statesville, NC. Now in Illinois Statesville has a completely different meaning. Google it. But Statesville, NC is a great city and were so happy that they welcomed us as they did and greeted us at the break stop.
We did get to eat lunch today--at mile 81! We lunched at a fire station and it was so great to have the station welcome us and make us lunch. After lunch we hauled to the 100 mile mark in Rockford, NC and stopped at the country store. Great ice cream for some. For me, a pickle, and a tums from a fellow rider, as that was the latest potential remedy for my leg cramps. It actually worked, wish I had had that at mile 50! This little store had all kinds of cool candy, trinkets and even some confederate flags. 
The last pull of 18 miles to Mt. Airy was the hilliest of the day. Big climbs after doing 100 miles is, well, sort of tough. Our little band of "crampers" made it to the hotel just before sunset. 8 hours of riding, 8 hours of my butt on that little seat. Because we got in so late a few of us missed the organized dinner. So food was found elsewhere.
The night came to a close watching the debate and I can't really tell what is more painful---leg cramps for 68 miles or the presidential debate. Oh wait...that's easy.

Yes they had an Indian at the store too


Roll out from Charlotte at 7:30am