June 23, 2012
TS42 at Blanchester, Ohio was manned by RAAM volunteers who sat up all night to talk to incoming crews and riders, passing out free-meal coupons for the McDonalds next to the time station. (Thank you!)
Gunnar made it to Blanchester around 03:00 this morning, and after a couple of hours of well-earned sleep, he was on the road again at 05:15. Crew members Francis, Susan and Alice took over from “the lads” (Arne, Anders and Lasse) who had earned their rest after caring for Gunnar’s needs all through the night.
One of the advantages of the early shift is the sunrises. These last two days they have been gorgeous affairs with fresh air, bird song and morning mists that disappear as the sun warms the meadows. I am sure Gunnar is going to wonder why I have taken so many pictures that don’t have anything to do with bicycling, but these rolling hills, small, comfortable communities and traditional farms invite the photographer to try for an even better snapshot of whatever it was you last took a picture of. And there are lots of pictures of Gunnar’s backside too.
At TS 43 we hooked up with Alice and Francis’ brother Chris and his wife Kathy who had driven down from Columbus, Ohio to see the Ultra-Cycling Viking and wish him luck. Chris brought some needed supplies and Kathy spoiled us with home-made chocolate chip cookies and a crumble cake. (Thank you both!) That short visit slowed us down, but by the next time station Gunnar started making up for lost time. His average speed increased from 12.3 to 12.6 miles per hour, and 30 miles into the third leg of our trip he was averaging 13.7 m.p.h. He really was smoking down the highway, and it was exciting to see him overtake several of the other cyclists. Our biker is STRONG!
We are currently in Parkersburg, West Virginia (148 miles from Blanchester, OH) and it is here that the real climbing starts. According to the RAAM route book there is more elevation gained in this section than between any other consecutive stations anywhere from coast to coast. This section and the following two are the three with the most climbing. So Gunnar is down for a couple of hours now resting up for the next leg of the journey. And the lads are out going through his bicycles to make sure they are ready for the push. Francis said that if you could flatten out West Virginia it would be larger than the state of Texas. So there are a lot of vertical miles ahead of Gunnar.
But my shift is over and it’s up to Arne, Anders and Lasse to see him safely through the night.