Megan Horton Dedicated to 14 year old Megan Horton who, on a Sunday this past June, was the recipient of a donor heart. Megan is recovering well, but unfortunately medical bills mount. My enlightened company has blessed me with a sabbatical, so I'm cycling from Yorktown, Virginia to Austin Texas. The ride is dedicated to Megan, and I'm collecting pledges for miles ridden. Read more about Megan's journey at her site. Read more about mine here.

25 October 2006

Tuesday, 24 October 2006
Washington D.C.

Rest day, and time to repack. I had a great relaxing day visiting with my sister-in-law, Vicki, had a late brunch, and headed off on my bike for Georgetown. The cleats on my shoes are worn down to the point of failure, and after calling around it seems that the only shop in the area that carries Campagnolo equipment is the Bicycle Pro Shop in Georgetown. I also picked up a pair of heavy gloves, and leg and arm warmers. The temperature is in the 40’s, and my Texas weather gear is no match for the wind. A cold front has descended into the area, much to the disappointment of the shop owner, as it signals the end of his bicycle season.

After biking through Georgetown, exploring the campus and row houses, and discovering the canal system, I head down the east side of the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial. I get there just as the sun is setting and am there at the “Magic Moment”, as Patrick and Vicki call it. The setting sun rays play optical tricks with the spire of the Washington Monument, and standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial I am able to catch the changes.

Then I head to my brother’s home, following an extensive network of trails – from the Mount Vernon Trail I connect with the Custis trail, and soon converges on the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) trail that extends 45 miles to Leesburg. Tomorrow I intend to head out that way.

But first I have to shed some weight. While Patrick watches the 3rd game of the World Series, I discover the source of my problems. Electronics gadgets have a cost – weight. I decide that my trip is more important than keeping in touch. I’m going to have to shed the computer and the cameras. When I pulled out the scales, I was shocked:

Weight of electronics and gear:

  • Olympus E-1 Camera and lens = 3.25 lbs
  • Olympus 200mm zoom and case = 3.1 lbs
  • Olympus battery charger = .75 lbs
  • Brunton SolarRoll 14 watt & assoc. electronics = 3.1 lbs
  • Dell Latitude 300, charger and mouse = 4.25 lbs
  • Dell battery and recharge kit = 1.5 lbs
  • Olympus flash = .75 lbs
  • Misc. - .55 lbs
  • Aluminum pot = 1 lbs.

Total = 19.55

So by shedding the unnecessary gear, I can shed 20 lbs from my load. The correct decision is obvious. From this point on, I’ll be taking notes by hand and taking pictures with a compact digital camera, and blogging when I can find a library or internet café with free computer access.

So to all who were hoping to follow the journey, I apologize. I’ll add the daily entries when I return or get access. And I’ll see you back in Austin! Go Megan!

Sunday, 22 October, 2006
Williamsburg to Richmond (approx. 65 miles)

It was overcast and threatening when I woke up today. Bill and I said our goodbyes and he headed off to check on some samples that he had running at VIMS. I packed and called Brendan to meet for coffee and breakfast at Aroma's.

While we were eating it starting pouring down rain. It made it all the more difficult to leave the warm cafe, but I knew that I had to get moving to make Richmond. Brendan, a very capable and talented photographer, decided to get a picture of me in front of the Christopher Wren building before I departed. The Christopher Wren building serves as the icon of the College of William and Mary. It is the oldest continuously operating university school building in the country. It is where Thomas Jefferson received his formal education. As a student, I took all of my English classes in this building. And finally, my wife Cindy ('77) and I ('79) were married in the small chapel in this building the summer after graduation. Only a few weeks ago I learned that we were married over a crypt, buried beneath the chapel, containing the remains of some of the historic dignitaries of the college.

The trip from Williamsburg to Virginia was a good test, both as my first long trailering experience and to try out my gear in the rain. I traveled along Route 5, also known as the James River Plantation historic byway. Crossing the Chickahominy River, I almost went slipped on the drawbridge grates, which were slick from the rain. I had to dismount and carefully walk across the bridge. Much of the geology of this region is documented on the William and Mary Geology Department website:

Along the way I passed plantation after historic plantation. President John Tyler, Robert E. Lee's family, and others resided in these homes. Many are now open to the public.

Entering Richmond from the south side of town, Route 5 turns into Main Street and passes through the historic warehouse and rail district south of the city. The climb up Main Street to Richmond proper was a challenge, but not unbearable. I finally arrived at my parent's home north of the city after dark.

Monday, Oct. 23, 2006

Richmond / Mount Vernon / Burke, VA

Today I compromise. I had planned to cycle from Richmond to Fredericksburg, and then from Fredericksburg to Washington DC. But everyone that I’ve talked to have told me the same thing. Fredericksburg is not the sleepy little historic town that I remember, but is now almost a suburb of Washington DC. “Shack” didn’t think that there were many good cycling routes between the cities. I looked on the web, and found a route documented, but there seemed to be dozens and dozens of road changes, no strip longer than a few miles. I decided to acquiesce to my father’s desire to drive me to Mount Vernon, where I could continue my trip.

Somehow, growing up in Virginia, I had missed visiting Mount Vernon, the palatial (at least by colonial standards) home of George Washington. Unlike some of his peers (significantly fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson), Washington was wealthy and a good businessman. He married the wealthiest widow in the Virginia colonies (Martha Custis) from New Kent, Virginia to the south. He builds the estate up to 8,000 acres on one of the most desirable locations along the Potomac. I couldn’t believe the view. The Potomac seemed especially wide at this point, and with the giant old trees and fall colors it is particularly dramatic.

The Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association purchased the property from the Washington family in 1858 and have maintained it ever since. They originally purchased the site and 200 acres, but the acreage has slowly been expanding. The grounds were very well maintained and the tour was enjoyable. Like most colonists, Washington’s home started out modest, but over time was expanded to the impressive 14 room structure that we see today.

From Mount Vernon I headed up to the Mount Vernon Trail towards Washington DC. The trail is paved and stretches for 18 miles along the Potomac River. In places it passes over long wooden bridges that extend over grassy marshes. It is an absolutely wonderful trail, and a great way to see the river, the surrounding forests and suburbs, and the old industrial sections before ending in downtown DC. It passes right by the airport, and jets passed right overhead as I cycled by. Commuters were numerous, and blasted past me in their rush to the suburbs and their homes.

This was a learning experience for me from the bicycle standpoint. My trailer was just way too heavy. When my father dropped me off, I added back all the camping gear that I head left with him in Richmond. The trailer felt like it weighs 100 lbs. I’ve got to lighten the load! I could not get the bike moving at all, I probably averaged only 6 or 7 miles per hour. My bike frame flexed more than I’ve ever experienced and I’m worried about what the stresses and strains will do to the lugs and welds. I’d hate to break the bike, or the trailer.

I resolve that I’ve got to re-think my trip plans. It was romantic to think that I could bring a laptop, and blog all the way back. And I’m guessing that my professional Olympus E-1 camera, lenses and flash add some significant weight. And all the associated chargers to keep everything running. When I get to my brother Patrick’s in Burke, Va., I’m going to have to re-pack.

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Yorktown & Williamsburg

I wake up the next morning and decide that I’m going to spend this Saturday in Williamsburg. The real activities in Yorktown are taking place today and Sunday, and I really didn’t get to visit the battlefield. The weather is cool, but sunny – a perfect day to bicycle back to Yorktown. As I head out, I’m immediately struck by the volume of traffic heading to the event. I’m sure that I’ll be glad I’m on bicycle.

As I retrace my route from the night before, I start to remember the parkway. I often drove down this route to visit Yorktown for seafood when I was here in college. Small inland lakes transition into marshland before I reach the river. Along the river there are spits of sand that shift with the season where fossil shark teeth can be found.

As I approach the park, I find that the anticipated crowds are arriving. As I zip past the mile long line of cars I head for the visitor’s center. I re-acquaint myself with the details of the battle. I’m reminded that this was a battle and war that never could have been won without the support and expertise of the French forces.

Washington was in New York in 1781 and had to be convinced by Rochambeau to abandon his plan to attack Clinton, and instead head south to Virginia to trap Cornwallis. The British general was only in Yorktown because he had been ordered by Clinton to guard the harbor for his fleet in the Chesapeake. He commanded around 8000 troops. The battle wasn’t really – it was more a siege in the classical European style. Admiral de Grasse was an expert in this technique, and instructed the 17,600 American and French troops in pummeling the British with artillery. The British tried to escape across the river to Gloucester Point, but a violent windstorm capsized many of the boats and forced Cornwallis to abandon his plans. Within days he was forced to surrender.

I spent the day listening to fife and drum corps demonstrations, watching artillery, cavalry and infantry reenactments, and enjoying the spectacle surrounding me. There were more participants dressed in colonial garb than modern. A market had been set up, but I found that most of the transactions were taking place between the reenactment participants. Costumes needed to be fixed or upgraded, traditional fabric cloth prints purchased, etc. From a photographic standpoint, I had a blast.

By four o’clock, I decided that I better head back to Williamsburg. One last cycle past the harbor, and a few pictures of a traditional four masted schooner, and I’m off. My experience riding in the dark the night before was not one that I wanted to repeat.

Back in Williamsburg, I called up my son Brendan, who is a freshman this year at the College, and we got together for dinner at the Green Leafe Café, a visit to his dorm, and late night decaf at the Daily Grind. Brendan is really enjoying college – he’s challenged by the coursework and has really bonded with his dorm mates. He’s living in one of the nicest dorms on campus, and is living on a second floor sandwiched by freshman girls on the 1st and 3rd floors.

Friday, 20 October, 2006

Richmond & Yorktown

Today’s the big day. Do I have any second thoughts? Sure, but what’s reassuring is that plenty of people have done this before me, and many 10 – 20 years older.

The day begins with the sun shining through the curtains, which I interpret to be a good sign. I walk downstairs and look outside, and the ground is wet. I hear on the news that it’s rained all night, but is clearing.

Dad’s driving me to Yorktown, Va., which is the traditional starting point for cyclists riding the “trans-America” route. In Yorktown the river opens up into the Chesapeake Bay, and is the historic site of the final major battle between the United States and England in the Revolutionary war. It just so happens that I’m beginning my journey on the 225th anniversary of Cornwallis’ surrender. This anniversary will be celebrated in a major fashion with battle reenactments, special events, and visiting dignitaries. I’m guessing that this unremarkable anniversary is being celebrated as a lead-in to next year’s 400th anniversary of the first major permanent settlement in the “New World”.

We get a late start – with packing and a trip to the local bike shop, Agee’s. Then it’s just an hour’s drive down Interstate 64 to Williamsburg, and another 20 miles to Yorktown. The first thing that I notice going down the highway are the fall colors. A few trees have already matured into rich reds and deep yellows. But it’s scattered, and obvious that the peak of the color change has not yet progressed this far south.

When we reach Yorktown, we find that there is a line of cars waiting to get into the Yorktown Battlefield National Park. I ask Dad to stop the car, and I get out to ask one of the rangers for some trip directions and advice. He introduces himself as “Shack” and tells me that he was based here back in the 1970’s, which is when he met his wife who was attending school at William and Mary. But now they are living in Fredericksburg, where he’s working at another National Park at the site of one of the biggest battles of the War Between the States. Extra support was solicited from throughout the Park Service, anticipating crowds for this event.

By now it’s getting late in the afternoon, and I realize that I need to get moving. While Dad investigates the visitor’s center, I get my bike and trailer put together. Then we head down to the waterfront, so that Dad can take a picture of me at the water’s edge. The mouth of the York River opens up here into the Chesapeake, and for tran-America cyclists, this represent the Atlantic Ocean.

After a quick snack of oyster stew and a shared crab cake, I hug Dad goodbye and head out for the parkway. It’s dusk and getting dark quickly. I’m not too worried, as the speed limit is restricted to 45 mph all the way to Williamsburg, and motorists are accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists. I can feel the extra load of the trailer – it takes some work to keep it from oscillating back and forth. Steady strokes seem to be the answer.

The black river stretches off to my right, and I pass a naval yard which is brightly lit. Then it progressively gets darker, and I’m finding that it’s incredibly difficult to see. There is no moon, and no streetlights, and every time a car approaches with the new, brighter headlights, I find that I’m blinded. Often, I find that I have to stop and wait until a line of approaching cars has passed, before I can see again. I pull off onto a scenic overlook and change the lenses of my sunglasses from yellow to clear. It’s not easy in the dark. A park ranger pulls in and asks me if I’m okay? I recognize the voice, and realize that it’s “Shack”. He wishes me a good trip and I head slowly on to Williamsburg.

A friend of mine from college days, Bill Jones, has graciously offered me a place to stay, and as he’s right in town it’s the perfect place to be based. My favorite undergraduate college professor, Steve Clement, also offered me his home, but he’s got a beautiful farm outside of Williamsburg that’s just too far to get to tonight.

Bill’s waiting for me, not knowing what to expect (am I arriving by car or bike?) and has prepared a tremendous dinner of crab cakes and cucumber salad. Inside, I find that Bill’s still keeping a collection of exotic snakes and lizards, as well as two friendly cats and a sea turtle. Outside there is a porch covered with a variety of bromeliads, which is another of Bill’s passions.

Bill and I catch up – he’s just been to San Francisco and visited with another one of our college friends. In the 1970’s, we all worked together as waiters at the King’s Arms Tavern, which was part of a work study program that funded my education. Most of my friends moved on to other professions, but a few of the old crowd remains at the tavern. Bill has a masters degree in marine biology and is working at VIMS, a marine science affiliate of the college.

Thursday, 19 October, 2006

Woke up in my parent’s house which is located near the University of Richmond. Comforting to get prepared for a trip like this in one’s parent’s home.

The weather is overcast today, not raining but threatening. I’ve got to put my bike and trailer together, and thinking about taking it easy. I stayed at work late on Tuesday, and even later packing, so I’m still recovering.

Thanks to the heavy duty bike case designed for shipping (courtesy of Mike Zimmermann – this is a “Zimmer-rigged” trip), my bike appears to be in great shape. The trailer is an easier assembly, so I started with it first. I’m using a Yakima “Big Tow” trailer (also loaned to me by Mike just for this trip), which is no longer available, but looks just like a B.O.B. trailer which is available at stores like REI. Other than a little “crunchiness” in the sealed bearings of the wheel, the trailer assembles easily. I add some lubricant to the bearings with some Phil Woods grease, and it’s ready to go.

The bike takes a little longer. I find that I’ve lost a cable pressure plate for the front brake, probably in packing. Also, a rubber cover for the handlebar bolt, which helps shed sweat to avoid rust. I’m a little worried about the headset, as a lot of solvent was sprayed down this area to free a frozen (rusted) handlebar compression fitting. Sure enough, when I check the bearings, they are dry, both top and bottom. Some more “Phil Woods” it’s ready. I also add a seat post mounted rack, as I’ve purchased a large rack bag to hold rain gear, emergency repair tools and tubes, and my Olympus camera.

By the time I’m finished, it’s late, and raining.

Wednesday, 18 October, 2006

I arrived in Richmond Wednesday evening after a remarkably uneventful flight (thank you JetBlue). I carried 2 small backpacks and my Yakima bike bag, all still heavier than I would like. I’ve included my gear list, below, for those interested in that sort of thing:

Gear List:

Camping related:

  • Kelty Clark 1 man hoop-style tent & footprint – weight = 4.5 lbs
  • Mummy style sleeping bag (synthetic) – weight = 3 lbs.
  • Cotton/Silk sleeping bag liner (clean bag, adds warmth)
  • Therma-Rest compressible pillow (synthetic)
  • Therma-Rest Inflatable air mattress
  • Byer Tri-Lite folding camp stool = 1.25 lbs.
  • Svea 123 brass stove with primer attachment (a classic) – weight = 1.25 lbs.
  • MSR 30 Fluid Oz Fuel Bottle + white gas
  • MSR Aluminum/Teflon pot set & plastic utensils – weight = 2.5 lbs.
  • Plastic plate
  • Coffee mug (steel)
  • Coffee filter
  • Utensils (knife, fork, spoon)
  • First aid kit
  • Leatherman “Wave”
  • Leatherman “Mini”
  • Backpack for computer and camera


  • Rain pants, black – Bellwether “AquaNot”
  • REI Novara “Conversion” rain jacket/vest, bright yellow
  • 1 Goretex wind/rain jacket
  • 1 nylon rain pancho
  • LL Bean lightweight fleece vest
  • 1 pair lightweight khakis, long
  • 2 pairs lightweight khakis, short
  • 1 sleeveless undershirt (synthetic)
  • 1 long sleeve thermal undershirt (wool)
  • 1 pair long johns (cotton, spandex mix)
  • 1 pair Under Armor underpants (synthetic)
  • 2 pairs cotton underpants
  • 2 pairs cycling shorts “William and Mary” and “Velocity Cycling Club”
  • 2 short sleeve cycling jerseys “William and Mary” and “Velocity Cycling Club”
  • 1 pair long lightweight nylon/spandex cycling pants
  • 1 pair long heavier weight cycling pants
  • 1 long sleeve cycling shirt
  • 3 pairs cycling socks
  • 1 pair Sidi Mega Genius road cycle shoes
  • 2 pairs cycling gloves
  • 1 pair winter gloves
  • 1 cycling ear muffs
  • 1 cycling beanie cap
  • 1 pair Teva sandles
  • 1 pair Merrell lightweight hiking boots
  • 2 pairs hiking socks
  • 4 bandanas
  • 1 Baseball-style cap

Cycling Gear:

  • 1 (Skip) Hujsak semi-custom Columbus steel bike
  • Campagnolo Chorus components, Record Triple Chainring, Mavic Open Pro rim (back) with 13-29 cassette, Mavic CXP-33 rim (front)
  • Hutchinson “Gator-skin” 25c tires for touring
  • Drop handlebars with add-on aerobars to increase riding positions
  • Campagnolo “Ergo-brain” cadence cycle computer
  • Garmin Edge 305 GPS cycle computer
  • Yakima “Big Tow” cargo trailer (70 lb capacity) discontinued product
  • Yakima waterproof bag for trailer
  • Blackburn handlebar-mounted Mirror
  • Helmet
  • Spare tubes, spare tires – Hutchinson folding “Gator-skin” 23c
  • Pump
  • Tools – mostly Park & Pedro’s brand
  • Precision Al Seat Post rack and Nashbar rack bag
  • Handlebar map case


  • Casio portable digital camera (model)
  • Olympus E-1 Digital Camera
  • Olympus Zuiko 14-54mm F 2.8 and 50-200mm F 2.8 zoom Lenses
  • Olympus 1.4X tele-converter
  • Olympus F-35 zoom flash
  • Memory cards
  • Ultrapod miniature tripod

Other Electronics:

  • Brunton SolarRoll 14 watt flexible solar-powered charger
  • Dell Latitude X300 + spare battery
  • IPod Shuffle
  • Princeton Tec Aurora 3 LED headlamp
  • Charger (car) for computer
  • Charger (car) for cell phone
  • AC Charger for Olympus camera
  • Charger (computer USB) for Garmin GPS
  • Charger for AAA & AA batteries
  • DC inverter for AC chargers

Personal hygiene items:

  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Qtips
  • Soap dish
  • Liquid Soap
  • Contact lens cleaners, etc
  • Mirror
  • Shaving razors, etc.
  • Sunscreen


  • Sunglasses

21 September 2006

A Little (Longer) Charity Ride
(text for article in the October issue of the Austin Cycling Association's "Cycling News")

The October Ride for the Roses is certainly on everyone’s mind at this time of year, but some charity rides are on a much different scale. Rather than being organized by a foundation with hundreds of volunteers and lasting days, some are initiated by an individual and last for weeks. I’m embarking on one of these solo events this month to help raise money for an Austin family facing huge medical bills. Their 14 year old daughter underwent heart transplant surgery in June.

Megan was born with a defective heart – her ventricles were reversed and even after prior open-heart surgery to correct the leaking valves, Megan was getting weaker. Doctors decided to put her on the transplant list last May, and within a week Megan was blessed with a new heart. Megan is now recovering (see her story at She’s staying in Houston until it’s clear that her body has accepted the new heart; she hopes to be back in Austin this fall and return to classes at Westwood High School.

I got to know Megan and her family through lacrosse – her brother, Ryan, and my son, Brendan, played together and were captains of the Westwood High School team. Last year both were seniors, and Megan was their biggest fan.

It is reasonable to wonder why the fundraising campaign is necessary. Why doesn't the Horton family's medical insurance cover the cost of the heart transplant? The reality is that their medical insurance will not cover all expenses. With Megan’s previous surgeries, the transplant, rejection drugs, biopsy, follow-up visits, and future testing, the cost of a heart transplant will quickly continue to approach their medical insurance cap. Friends in Austin have sponsored a number of charity events, but this is the first representing the bicycling community.

I’m a member of ACA and the Velocity Cycling club; I try to fit in a mountain or road ride daily (usually over lunch). I’ve completed a couple of LAF “Ride for the Roses” centuries, and more recently joined club members in local team trials. But nothing on the scale of a multi-state tour.

Starting on October 19, I’m going to begin a solo ride from Virginia to Texas (a distance of about 1600+ miles), gathering pledges for Megan. Taking a long bike tour is something that I’ve dreamt about for a long time, however, the opportunity never seemed to present itself. This fall, the availability of a sabbatical from my employer SEMATECH coincided with a son starting college at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In addition, the Appalachian fall colors are legendary and family friends needed financial help; the whole package just seemed to come together.

A couple of years ago I sprung for a Skip Hujsak ( custom road bike and fitted it with Campagnolo Record and Chorus components. The frame is made from Columbus steel so it's light, but strong, so I’m planning to use it un-modified for this trip (other than adding 700x25c tires and a wide cassette for the campy triple chainring).

I enjoyed backpacking in my youth, so I’m planning to camp along the way. However, an occasional evening taking advantage of a bed with family or friends, or a night in a hostel, is not out of the question. I’ve decided to tow my camping gear, food and clothes in a cargo trailer, rather than converting my bike into a “pack horse” with panniers. I’ve taken a few trial rides with the trailer loaded with free weights, and except for the extra burden on hills, it’s not that noticeable.

Donors and other interested parties will be able to follow my trip through this blog. I’ll be carrying a laptop, and where wireless is available (public libraries, etc.) I'll update the entries.

The trip will start in historic Yorktown, Virginia where the York River empties into the Chesapeake Bay. After passing through Colonial Williamsburg, I’ll head north towards Washington DC before cycling west until I reach Front Royal. From there, I will ride south, first along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and then the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'm anticipating beautiful fall foliage in mid- to late-October, and plan to take lots of pictures. The route then goes west, following the Adventure Cycling Association’s trans-America route through Kentucky. Before hitting the Mississippi River, I will turn south and travel down the Natchez Trace Parkway which traverses Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and ends in Louisiana. From this point I'll head west into Texas. The whole trip will exceed 1600 miles.

In addition to daily observations, supporters will be able to follow daily bicycle performance metrics, as well as the exact route and altitude as recorded by a Garmin GPS cycle computer. This should be interesting to some readers, particularly in the Shenandoah, where the grades can be steeper than in the Rockies. Finally, having studied geology in college, I’m looking forward to following and recording some of the geologic highlights along the route.

I’m hoping that the generous Austin bicycling community will be especially supportive of this health and heart focused charity. Many dream of embarking on this type of trip, few have the opportunity to realize it. Pledges can be registered and donations can be made at: