My Route, More or Less (Red line, but starting in NY)

My Route, More or Less (Red line, but starting in NY)
NY NJ PA MD VA KY IL MO KS CO UT NV CA

Make a Difference

I'm pedaling for many reasons, the most important of which is to raise awareness and funds for Pedals For Progress. P4P is a non-profit that collects used bicycles and sewing machines in the US and donates them to poor people overseas. P4P combines my love of bicycling with my growing concern for those deprived of life's most basic necessities - sparked by a visit to the slums of Kibera in June '09 (pictures). P4P improves mobility and economic options for destitute people, opening pathways to greater dignity and opportunity.

Please make a donation, if you can (please write "TSQ2USQ" in the '...honor of' field). Remember, a bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. :)

My Game Plan

I'm following portions or all of three routes mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association: the Atlantic, TransAm, & Western Express. I'll cycle through thirteen states: NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA, KY, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, NV & CA! I'm leaving on 4/17/10, and expect to return to New Jersey by mid June - back to my family, friends, & neighbors. I plan on cycling 5 - 6 hours per day, 6 days/week, usually starting in the early AM. My laptop and phone will allow me to work remotely most days, but I won't pass up opportunities to smell the roses along the way!


Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 14

More rest for the Achilles'. The only riding I did was from my hotel into town. My left Achilles is swollen but didn't hurt much while riding; my right Achilles is not swollen but hurts a bit. The physical therapist I saw today said I need to ice, compress, elevate and rest (i.e. don't bike or walk) my heel. I s/ only consider riding Monday if I see a significant reduction in swelling. Uggh. Too aggressive in my mileage over the past two weeks, it seems. I'm hoping I don't have to come home before returning to Berea to continue the journey. We'll see on Monday. The PT was *incredibly* helpful. She saw me right away, gave me her home and cell number in the unlikely event the swelling becomes significantly worse, and didn't even charge for an office visit. Kindness of strangers. The weather forecast calls for several inches of rain this weekend...good time to catch up on some work and take a break. :)


Oh, I enjoyed immensely a performance of The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble this evening. What a treat to hear bluegrass music in the graceful setting of Presser Hall, surrounded by the mountains and immersed in the culture Appalachia.

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Day 13

No riding today. Rest day! I'm not tired, particularly, but I am looking forward to checking out Berea's arts & crafts and hopefully meeting some more locals today. I'll also call my doctor re: what do to to prevent long term damage from my recently developed tendonitis, and catching up on work. I'm seriously thinking I should back off my desire to reach SF by early June. I'm not going to risk chronic Achilles issues for the sake of biking 4,000 miles in ~45 days. Oh, some stats: 949.3 miles traveled | 11 riding days .: 86 miles / day average | latest estimated total trip miles: 3,983 .: ~ 25% of the way to San Francisco!

I'm chillin' at Black Swan Cafe this morning. Interesting observations in this excellent cafe: folks talking about bicycles and home brew and heirloom tomato gardening on the one hand, and on the other hand comparing notes on gun sizes and quantity of guns owned. Wow! Okay...I'm going out to explore Berea...

I'm back. I did my share to support the local economy today. Purchased furniture, blown glass, pottery, a hand made broom, etc. Nice stuff, and good prices! Also caught up a bit on work and emails, but there's plenty more of both awaiting, as usual.

My friend Dave emailed me a few good questions today re: the most interesting views, events, and people I've encountered so far. My response:




- Most interesting view(s): Mangled mountains in KY, lots of them, the result of mountain top removal coal mining. The massive physical impact our quest for energy has had on the Appalachians is arresting to witness first hand.

- Most interesting event: Hmmm. No one stands out. Many, many little ones, like the realization I enjoy eating at Ruby Tuesdays.

- Most interesting people: Again, no one single person stands out, but a few are of course more prominent in my mind than others. The woman at the Christiansburg, VA Ruby Tuesdays (where else) who seems to have endured heaps of personal challenges with grace, fortitude and success. The coal miners at Your Place restaurant in Hazard, KY with whom I perceived a shared sense of mutual respect, despite environmental and economic interests that pit us sharply against one another. John, a touring bicyclist who's planning a Chicago to MD ride, and who inspired me to step up my mileage a bit. And the Berea crowd: Nick the bicycle shop owner bicycle shop owner who went out of his way to share his knowledge about bicycle touring, and who did a beer run (!); Natalia, a charming and smart Ukrainian exchange student; and Paul, who works at a hot spot coffee shop in Berea & has excellent taste in '50s music!  


Pictures: Mosaic at the Main Street Cafe, Berea. Bicycles in the window at Nick's bicycle shop. The composition sucks on the bicycle picture. I was in a rush; on my way to dinner!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 12

Today's Route: GPS Tracks

Today's ride was great other than worries about my Achilles tendons. That's right, plural. I've found my weak link - literally, my Achilles' heel. Oh, that and sprinting from so many dogs I lost count. I'm just happy no one shot a rifle at me. Okay, I'm not really concerned about pot shots. I am however feeling a mix of being welcomed and decidedly unwelcomed. People I meet in shops and restaurants are almost unfailingly friendly, as are many drivers, most of whom give me wide berth while passing. A handful have even honked and given me the thumbs up. The unwelcome feeling runs strong, however, while outrunning dogs, sucking exhaust from the cars and trucks that accelerate hard as they pass uncomfortably close, not to mention zero bicyclist sightings for days...until today's arrival in Berea. A genuine bicycling culture seems to exist here!

I took a pass on the regional fare on offer today: Dolly Parton pie at Dooley's Diner in Booneville, KY. Strawberries and cool whip and I can't remember what else. Strawberries: good. Cool whip: no thanks. The food was tasty, especially the home made carrot cake, and the waitress made me feel at home. Ditto the guy at the store in Big Hill who invited me to sit down at the counter and rest, and bade me farewell by intoning me to 'be safe'.

I felt relieved when I reached Berea, a town with coffee shops, a college, and a population disproportionate number of artisans. After my usual hotel routine: check in, plug in electronics, upload pictures & GPS tracks then shower, I eagerly headed into town. Met Sune at his gallery, which represents more than 30 artisans; Chelsea at Main St Cafe - also owned by Sune; and Natalia, Paul and Nick at Berea Coffee & Tea. There's enough bicycle tourists coming through here for Paul to inquire if I was riding the TransAm. Nick, an avid bicycle tourists and owner of a used bike shop, introduced himself. He had lots of solid advice for stealth camping and related bicycle tour survival tactics. All in all a very pleasant end to the day.













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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 11

Today's Route: GPS Tracks

I didn't really think I was going to die, but this admittedly far fetched thought did cross my mind today. First off, there were the dogs. I sprinted away from no fewer than three surely rabid mongrels. The Appalachia mountain people apparently aren't shooting at strangers any longer, or dropping stones on them from bridges, but a remarkable number of them leave their dogs untethered. Serendipitously, rear panniers turn out to be excellent protection against dogs trying to sink their teeth into one's leg. Dog ownership rates appear to be at least as high as in Hoboken - by this I mean seemingly every household has a dog - except that mountain people tend to have several dogs. Then there was the cold and the heavy rain. I'm prepared for rain. I'm prepared for cold. But for the sole reason my gloves aren't waterproof, I'm not prepared for both. I can ride w/ wet warm hands, but cold wet hands = fingers that don't work well. It got so bad I couldn't switch gears w/o using my entire hand, and when I finally found a place to stop for lunch (read: warm up and figure out how to get to my hotel), I literally couldn't hold my sandwich. In addition to the dogs, and the cold, and the rain, there was the unexpected three mile dirt road into unknown mountains, the GPS that indicated I was not on a road, the iphone with no reception when I needed it most, the unfamiliar rural poverty, and the general sense that green minded bicyclists pedaling from NYC to San Francisco are not embraced in the heart of coal country. All these factors contributed to a heightened level of anxiety.

Yet, when I did stop for lunch, I met and spoke with two very amicable coal miners. I even admitted to being in the renewable energy business. They politely and somewhat jokingly suggested I keep that info close to the chest. Coal drives this region. Hazard, where I stayed the night, has an annual Black Gold festival featuring prizes for best coal truck. The pizza place I went to for dinner had dozens of pictures on the wall, featuring generations of family and friends working in the mines. Mangled mountains, their tops sheered off to cheaply extract coal, are abundant. Coal dropped from overloaded trucks litters the streets, and falls from exposed seams alongside the road. Coal mining is not just a livelihood for people in this area, it's central to the region's culture.



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Day 10

Today's Route: GPS Tracks

Stayed in Marion, VA last night, an unremarkable town, at least what I saw of it. Ate at an unremarkable Mexican place across the street from my unremarkable hotel. Felt strong on the bike except for the last 10 or so miles, in part because the wind wasn't fighting me and in part because many of the grades were not too steep - kinda like riding out west - despite nearly 7,000' of elevation gain. It was a welcome change from yesterday. I also enjoyed coffee and a lunch break at Zazzy's, my kinda coffee shop, located in the historic town of Abingdon.

The day went well until the end, starting with a brutal climb in the rain, off of 58 Alt into Wise, where I snapped a few pics of UVA Wise. I thought the ride was over when I arrived at the Best Western and tried to book a room. No vacancy. Who would have figured? The hotel will filled with w/ construction workers. Turns out the area is thriving, in large part because of the *huge* (585 MW) coal fired power plant being built down the road. Interestingly, for me at least, this coal plant will be capable of using biomass (wood) for up to 20% of it's fuel. I booked a room over the phone at the Super 8 (this trip's lodging strategy: clean room + low rate), and got fantastically lost getting there. Google was about 5 miles off re: the hotel's location. Ended the day w/ a few beers and a pleasant conversation with the bartender at the otherwise deserted Inn at Norton bar. 








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Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 9

Today's Tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/31276079

I knew there would be good and bad days; this was not one of the better ones. No major problems, just relentless 20+ MPH winds out of the south west, pushing against me all day. Between the wind and 4,000 (my Garmin) - 4,800 (Dan's Garmin) feet of vertical gain, I earned every mile. The sidewalks of the two towns possessing little storefronts along their main streets, Wytheville and Pulaski, were nearly completely devoid of people. Had a snack in a pleasant park in downtown Pulaski. Ate lunch on the lawn beside the Food Lion parking lot in Wytheville, thinking 'shouldn't I be biking through Europe instead'? I understand Obama was in the region giving a eulogy for the twenty nine miners recently killed in the Massey Energy mine, rightly honoring their contribution to our nation. 

















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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 8


Today's tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/31125330?sms_ss=email 


Weird: there's a Ruby Tuesday's and Waffle House restaurant right next to my hotel, again. I ate at a Ruby Tuesdays last night for the first time, and ate at the one next to my hotel in Christiansburg on Saturday night. Waffle House this AM for breakfast (3 eggs, toast, grits: ~$4,00...I kid you not); and tomorrow too since there's one just next door. Today's ride: rode to Christiansburg, VA from Lexington, home of VMI and Washington & Lee, and a town graced by many blocks of lovely homes. The ride was interesting, dangerous, & tiring. I stumbled across a Civil War re-enactment in Buchanan, a cute town. I'm not sure who was dressed more strangely, the Rebels (!) in Civil War regalia, or me in my spandex. The people were quite friendly to this Yankee. I figured eating regional cuisine should be part of the journey, so I ate corn fritters for the first and probably last time in my life. Can't say they tasted terrible, but I'm not much into fried food or creamed corn. Corn on the cob, adulterated only with a little butter and salt, cannot be improved upon. Encountered two asshole drivers today, one nearly asleep at the wheel and the other I swear was trying to get scare me for the sport of it. He succeeded only in arousing mild anger. My left Achilles tendon was sore for the first 1/2 of the ride, then mostly okay for the 2nd half. It seems to be getting better. :). Enjoyed speaking to Matt at Ruby Tuesday's, a real estate investor, and to a smart, strong army cryptographer who seems to seems to posses great emotional intelligence. Oh, and I scared a squirrel nearly out of its skin coming 'round a corner on my bike. This squirrel jumped vertically several feet into the air; never seen anything like it...

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 7




The Ride: The Blue Ridge Mountains kicked my ass, but I survived! Starting off with a completely inadequate breakfast and a sore Achilles didn't help. Did a little work in the AM, and left 'round 9:30. Getting lost for the first time (on this trip), added about 15 miles to my day's ride. The vistas from the Blue Ridge Parkway are among the most beautiful in the country, and the roadway was nearly devoid of cars. It was a memorable ride. Oh, and bikers outnumbered motorists by a seemingly substantial margin. I've never before encountered so many happy bikers, many of whom cheered me and my panniers on. :) This biker was happy - giddy, indeed - when he finally reached Rt 56, from which my descent into Lexington began.

Nutrition: Having eaten too little for breakfast, I was hoping to load up on lunch. No such luck. No restaurants, so I relied on the dried fruit and nuts I bought at The Farmer's Wife, plus Hammer and Gu liquid nutrients. I also had a mega dinner at Ruby Tuesday's - where I now sit, at the bar, writing this post. My typical food snobbery does me no good out here, and as much as I hate to admit it, Ruby's ain't bad. The salad bar is downright excellent. I had a burger & fries (gasp...I strayed from my vegetarian preference), two heaping plates of salad bar fare (beats, apple salad, cottage cheese w/ fruit, potatoes!), 30 oz of beer, and a blondie w/ ice cream. Normally I'm only into the beer & salad bar fare. The sacrifices I'll make to avoid shedding weight knows no bounds!

Health: The soreness in my Achilles tendon got worse yesterday, but didn't hurt much when I woke up this morning. Oddly, it hurt quite a bit walking "home" after yesterday's long lunch + beers. Seems to hurt when I use it, so I was *worried* about riding, especially since I had many thousands of feet of elevation gain to conquer. I did a little research the night before. I was afraid I might have a partial tear, which would be a huge problem. It seems I have tendinitis, though, which is far preferable to a tear. Within about ten miles I settled into a routine of pointing my left toe down, which relieved the pressure on my tendon. By the end of the ride I was using my left leg all but normally, with just slight pain. Though I have a noticeable bump about 1/2 up my Achilles, I'm somewhat confident after today's ride that it will not materially delay my progress to SF.

Today's Tracks: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/31008368?sms_ss=email

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Day 6


Many friends keep telling me not to rush to SF...to smell the roses along the way. I guess they know I can be goal orientated to a fault, and might might end up exhausting myself if the only trip objective is to complete it. Charlottesville seemed like a great place to take their sage advice to heart. Lovely town and home of UVA, Thomas Jefferson's university. I managed to find a balance between alleviating my anxiety about making a dent in the work, emails, etc that were piling up all week, and enjoying the town. I strolled The Lawn, then did a typical work thing: went to a coffee shop and fired up my laptop. Had an enjoyable lunch at the 12th St Tap House. Was happy to meet two good dudes, John - who recently moved to C'ville w/ his wife, and Emmanuel, a triathlete and excellent bar tender. Also took my bike to the shop to tweak the skipping chain, get a new rear tire, etc. Ended the day at a crummy Mexican restaurant that morphed into a karaoke bar before I called it a night.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 5

I started off Tuesday worried about getting started early, going the distance from DC to Charlottesville, and the weather. Started pedaling 'round 8:30, later than I'd hoped. It began raining almost immediately, heavily much of the morning before tapering off 'round 1ish. My waterproof Ortlieb panniers performed flawlessly, as did my Gore-Tex clothing. Rain will no longer worry me! :) Wind is the real enemy, though I haven't had to fight strong headwinds yet. I had a pleasant lunch at The Farmer's Wife in Remington, VA. Nice shop. Lots of 'whole foods' - dried fruit, nuts & the like. Welcome serendipity as I'd all but exhausted the supply of pecans & raisins my mother gave me. Fixed my first flat of the trip shortly before arriving in C'ville 'round 7, excited about eating, and chillin' in town on Thurs. Given almost all my training was limited to 30 mile rides, I'm relieved that my body's holding up. Aside from a slightly sore left Achilles - must have pulled too hard accelerating from one of my *many* navigation stops yesterday - and some still minor chafing, I feel like I can ride 100 miles / day no problem. That will make keeping up w/ work, email, etc, a challenge, though. Oh, and I had an enjoyable night and a few good beers at Mellow Mushroom, though I was wishing for the company of friends!


Day 5's Garmin tracks:
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/30867261?sms_ss=email

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Days 3 & 4

Day 3. (3 Garmin Tracks) Monday's weather was as beautiful as the ride. Highs in the low 60s, clear skies; good roads, lightly traveled; Amish farms and spring bursting forth all 'round the lovely countryside. Lunch at Reconnect Cafe in Delta, PA was surprisingly excellent: great coffee, cookies, veg sandwich and egg sandwich, and a delightful and interesting owner. Traveled about 80 miles, arriving at the Comfort Inn in Cockeysville, MD, of all places. Not a fancy hotel, but totally servicable and much nicer than the Econo Lodge in Reamstown - complete with boogie on the desk lamp shade and mold on the wall. I'd hate to see what that place looked like under the glow of a UV lamp. Based observations at a bar on Sun night, horses and big hair are the rage in Reamstown. Imbibed a beer at Silver Spring on Monday, a dissappponting bar, with a name similar to a great Fleetwood Mac song.

Day 4. (Day 4 Garmin Tracks) Another Perfect day for riding. The roads were busier, being  close to DC, and the scenery was nice but not quite as spectacular as  Monday on Amish country. Of course it was exciting to visit the Mall  in DC again, although it's best enjoyed with kids. Today's lesson:  book your hotel at least one night prior, and don't try to ride ur  bike through Arlington Cemetary. Many of the hotels in DC are booked;  there seems to be no consensus opinion as to why. I got stuck  overpaying for a crummy Days Inn. I'd rather be camping, but that  learning curve is too steep to figure out alone while trying to bike
endless miles each day. I'm having trouble enough using the coin  operated laundry equipment at Arlington Laundromat. Plans tomorrow are  as big as tonight's Mexican dinner plate: ride to Charlottesville, VA  ~ 120 miles. We'll see tomorrow if can I make it.
Sent from my phone...please excuse the tpyos.

Day 4 | DC!

Pictures!

Pictures from the 1st, 2nd & 3rd day's rides:

http://gallery.me.com/fahmies#100202&bgcolor=black&view=carouseljs&sel=0

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 2 | Reamstown 4/18

(Day 1 & 2 Garmin TracksMade it to Reamstown, just after dusk. Rode a lot of slow, hilly miles today, with heavy panniers and mechanical problems. Celebrating at the Black Horse Tavern, which has a small but well chosen beer selection. Stouts and Victory Hop Devil for me tonight. Listening to bar chatter about horses and brain teasers. Lots of horses out here. Useless factoid of the day: race horses wear aluminum shoes. Why not carbon fiber!? ;)

This video (http://gallery.me.com/fahmies#100202/IMG_2552&bgcolor=black) is definitely boring, but it's very short. It *does not* do justice to the gentle beauty of Valley Forge. Glad my chain broke, sorta...I would otherwise have rode through w/o stopping.


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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 2 | PA & Mechanicals



Farewells to mom, Jim and Jeremy outside the Stockton Inn this AM, then entered PA via Lambertville/New Hope. I've fond memories of this area - autumn bike rides and the summer Shad festival. Beautiful ride through Bucks County; rolling hills, blue skys, red buds and daffodils in bloom, and many lovely homes. Met a few bikers along the Schuylkill bike trail, a few guys heading to a race and Fred Brown, who no longer mountain bikes due to a back injury. Had what I thought was a minor mechanical in Valley Forge Park, a broken chain. Problem is, the link on the chain appeared to have broken when it somehow collided with the front deraillure, bending the deraillure in the process and rendering 2/3 of my gears inoperable. Luckily there was a bike shop a few miles away...so her I sit, updating my blog while Pheonix Bike Shop hopefully fix my ride.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 1














(Day 1 & 2 Garmin Tracks)  
Arrived in Stockton! 77.8 miles and I feel great! So many people to thank today - especially mom for making breakfast and booking the hotel, Jim and Kent and Mike for riding with me from NY, dad and Mima for driving 2 hrs rt just to see me off, JD for rising early and taking care of the house while I'm gone, Jeremy for riding with me to Stockton, Dave and Dina for a *great* lunch and inspiring conversation about P4P, Louis and Ester for the bagles, and for Denise, Marilyn, David and his wife for coming out in the rain to see me off, and for well wishes from Melinda & Max, Sean & Bryce, Kasia, Dan, Jenni and Jason for well wishes. Thank you. I'm sure I missed someone; I'm operating on low blood sugar levels. Beer fixes that, right? River Horse! Thanks everyone for sharing so much positive energy! :)    


Steve

Sent from my phone...please excuse the tpyos. 


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bon Voyage Party & GCTC Ride

Wow! What a great party on Saturday. I'm so incredibly grateful to the many friends and family members who joined the celebration. For me, it was a moving show of support and love. I gathered heaps of good karma that will carry me to San Francisco, and had a great time! My only regrets: failing to deputize someone to take pictures, and not having enough time to speak at greater length with all who came despite carrying on 'till 4 AM! Special thanks to Mayor Zimmer for rallying and making a late night appearance; I hope Vance didn't violate his strict instructions to steer clear of political talk. A very special and heartfelt thanks to Mom and Jim for all their assistance preparing. They helped make the party prep stress free, and without them food would surely have been limited to pretzels.

Oh, and I'm totally going to miss the Gold Coast Triathlon Club's (http://www.gctri.org/) Tuesday and Thursdays morning rides - and the Thursday night runs. Will and Jared gracefully allowed me to claim the polka dot jersey on this morning's hill repeat workout. The green (and yellow) jersey went to Will as usual, who had a deep reserve of power available at the end of the return sprint despite having pulled me most of the way back.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stick to the road...

My cheek slammed hard into a rock today after going over my mountain bike's handlebars while riding Ringwood, a seemingly endless rock garden. I was strength training on the hills for my xc journey. Umm, okay, I was just having fun on the trails. A Ringwood crash last year left me unable to shave my chin for weeks thanks my having pushed a rock with my face...the catalyst behind my goatee. Today I picked a very inadvisable line. My two good friends Kasia and Dan took *great* care of me. I'm now at Morristown Memorial waiting for the plastic surgeon to stich me up. Very minor injury...no broken bones...and I'll likely have just a small scar. All the better to add character to my 'look'. ;)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mechanical

First blog post! It's looking like I can post via a web browser, email or text message. Hopefully future posts are more interesting than this one... ;) Just over two weeks until the start of my journey! Monday I only rode 8 miles on account of a biblical storm. My chain was skipping, but I didn't realize until Tuesday AM a link had all but completely failed. With no replacement chain and 'quick links' that only fit my mountain bike, I didn't ride Tuesday at all. Bought a new chain at Flo on Wheels, but they were out of quick links. Wed AM I changed the chain and gave my bike's cassettes a long overdue cleaning. The newly installed chain was not working properly, and with the help of Jim V, who was kind enough to come by my house at 8 AM, and Sean C via phone, I learned it should have been shortened before installation. Shortening it after install risks a weakened link, it seemed to me. I'll pick up some quick links today and ride tomorrow for sure!