A Travellerspoint blog

Blog 9: The End of B&B - Part I

Colorado to California

Well, all good things must come to an end and so shall Bike & Build. I am currently in Brawley, California and only have three more days until the end of Bike & Build. Because of this fact, I am making my final blog two parts: part one, from Utah to here and part two, the last three days and some final reflections on the program. I will have them both up within the next week. I hope you enjoy them!

Our route since last blog:
Cortez, CO to Bluff Utah (89 miles, went to the four corner monument)
Bluff, UT to Kayenta, AZ (75 miles)
Kayenta, AZ to Tuba City, AZ (73 miles)
Tuba City, AZ to THE GRAND CANYON!!! (85 miles, 4,000 ft climbing)
Day off at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon to Williams, AZ (75 miles)
Williams, AZ to Prescott, AZ (73 miles)
2 Build Days
Prescott, AZ to Wickenburg, AZ (55 miles)
Wickenburg, AZ to Salome, AZ (60 miles)
Salome, AZ to Blythe CA (60 miles)
Blythe, CA to Brawley, CA (89 miles)

The Plague:
I mentioned this last blog, but I want to bring the issue up again because it turned out so well for me! I never got sick! Of the 33 people on the trip, I was one of 3 who never got sick. I blame my strong immune system for miles of travel through China and Brazil, but it was probably just luck. Either way, I rule.

Navajo Reservation (UT and AZ):
This is one of the most depressing places I have ever visited in my life. In Tuba City the unemployment rate is 63%, there is an incredibly high alcoholism percentage, high levels of obesity, and they can’t legally sell alcohol on the reservation! To be completely honest, this was probably the most eye-opening experience of the entire trip because it was reminiscent of a third world country. The only other place I have see so much abject poverty was deep in the Amazon – and this is in the heart of the America!

Bluff, UT:
I finally got to go climbing! While everyone else was throwing up their toe nails, I went with a couple locals up into the bluffs and saw some old cave dwellings. It was some good climbing and really enjoyable watching Rachel crawl along ledges (she is scared of heights).

First, go see it. It is unbelievable. Second, We got a day off here, which meant that I recharged my body from days of lack of sleep and disease fighting. They also have a Grand Canyon Brewing company that makes a tasty “Starry Night Stout.”

Williams and Prescott, AZ:
Williams is a cute little town caught in the crossroads of historic Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. It is a lovely town but super touristy. The church we stayed in was great and all the shops were a lot of fun. This was the last night for one of the girls on the trip (the one who took me to the Sadie Hawkins dance) and so we got a little wild in this small town. It was too much fun – we hung out with locals and learned why the world was going to end while they bought us drinks. Williams also has one of the coolest coffee shops I have ever been too. It’s a touch expensive but it loves bikers.
Prescott is also gorgeous. It is a weird mixture between Wild West and hippie environmentalism and overall a fun place. They have a yummy brewery called “Prescott Brewing Company” and lots of places to buy fun little artifacts. My favorite part of this town was certainly my evening with Uncle Ray, Aunt Shirley, Heidi Bender and two friends of theirs. We had great conversations, they fed me steak, and then they let me take a steak back to the school site so I could enjoy a second day of deliciousness. Thanks for everything! It was a highlight of Arizona.

Wickenburg, AZ:
Wickenburg is a cute little town that really reminds you of the Wild West. It is at the bottom of 2,500 ft descent (in 4 miles) and was our first images of the desert. I learned that there are two types of deserts – hi and low – with one containing shrubs and greenery and the other very barren. We experienced the first in Wickenburg and the second in Eastern California. I also got to eat and chat with Bruce and Jodi Frazier and had a great time learning about Arizona and why they moved out here. Another awesome highlight of Arizona!

WE MADE IT!!!! Check out the sweet pictures I took with the state sign.

Blythe and Brawley:
It is great to be in California and really wild to see how quickly the topography changes between Arizona and California. For instance, California has three times the palm trees, has more plantations and also has more “traditional” deserts. The region between Blythe and Brawley is home to the dunes where Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi was filmed. I was so excited for these dunes that I made a video of myself in front of them that I am going to show my brothers because they will appreciate it. Also, Playboy was filming in these dunes as some of the riders went through the dunes – sadly, I rode fast that day and missed them by about 3 hours. I did not miss the pictures our riders took however.

I think I have rambled enough for now. Part II to come shortly. Miss you and love you all.

Live. Love. Ride.

Posted by jsheehan11 21:29 Comments (0)

Blog 8: Through the Rockies

Rocky Ford, CO to Cortez CO

Well, it has been some time since I have blogged! Since last blog we have climbed the Rockies, rolled the western continental divide, helped build 2 houses and put in another 400 miles! The reason I haven’t blogged since the beginning of Colorado is two-fold: first, Colorado is awesome. There is so much to do here! The second reason is that we have had a lot of riding. Our average ride in Colorado has been 80+ miles through mountains. To give a quick run down here is our recent route:

Rocky Ford to Chico Valley Ranch (84 miles, 500 feet climbing, 20 miles on dirt roads)
Chico Valley Ranch to Colorado Springs (45 miles, 1,500 feet of climbing)
Two Build Days
Colorado Springs to Buena Vista (104 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing)
Build Day
Buena Vista to Gunnison (84 miles, 3,500 feet of climbing – over Monarch Pass, the Continental Divide)
Gunnison to Ridgeway (92 miles, 1,500 – 2,000 feet climbing)
Ridgeway to Durango (81 miles, 8,000 feet of climbing – over three 11,000 foot high passes)
Durango to Cortez (45 miles, 2,000 feet of climbing)

Needless to say, it has been a rough week and a half. But it has also been my favorite week of the trip! Partially this is because I love climbing – I love challenging myself – and partially because Colorado is amazing! The mountains have been breathtaking (literally and figuratively). They are really challenging to climb because the air is so thin but are amazing at the top and even better on the way down at speeds that would make my mother would scold me.

Interesting Things in CO:

1. Beer in Colorado: there are hundreds of microbreweries and types of beers here. It has been amazing! Every town we go to has its own brewery even if 5,000 people live there! Sadly, because of the long rides I have only been able to enjoy some of the beers…wink.
2. The Monarch Pass: The highest point in the Rockies (at least for us) and the Western Continental Divide. I tied with another rider as the first person to the top so I took a bunch of pictures. I also took a gondola to the top of the mountain and napped at 12,000 feet – which is really the only thing you can easily do at that height.
3. Extreme speeds and dangerous experiences: it is common to descend down the mountains at 40+ mph. It is also common for drivers to leave very little room on the road because they are [INSERT CURSE] drivers. The combination has been a continual blood rush from close calls – luckily I am through the mountains, so no need to worry!
4. The Million-dollar highway: one of the most the most beautiful and challenging experiences of my life. We climbing along passes that had 800 foot drops on the side and no rails. We also climbed three passes over 11,000 feet. We also climbed in a hail storm and I almost got hypothermia at the top. I set a personal best speed at 51 mph on the descent down the last pass. Finally, I “bonked,” or almost passed out while riding, as I came into Durango because I had literally run out of calories – so I got some Wendy’s and took a nap. Thanks Grandma for those gift cards!
5. White Water Rafting: On our day off a bunch of us went rafting down the Animas River. It was one of the most fun experiences I have had in a long time. We were ridiculous. It would be difficult to count the number of water fights that occurred between the two Bike & Build rafts but let’s just say everyone got soaked multiple times and one girl was tossed in the river twice.
6. Mesa Verde: these are the cave dweller ruins in Southwestern Colorado that are often displayed in National Geographic Magazine. They were twenty five miles off our route (up a mountain) so my friend Grace and I hitchhiked up and took a bunch of pictures. They were gorgeous!
7. The Virus: Starting is Durango a virus started passing around the group making people violently ill of about four to five hours and then really weak for another twelve hours. So far I haven’t go it but I am really nervous because I am the last guy to remain virus free… It is probably only a matter of time.

Okay, Well that is all for now. Tomorrow we will cross into Bluff, Utah and onto to Arizona. Supposedly the desert is having a heat wave right now so that should be fun. Only a couple more weeks of Bike & Build left! Miss you all!

Live. Love. Ride.

Posted by jsheehan11 18:24 Comments (0)

Blog 7: Bartlesville, OK to Rocky Ford, CO

Hello friends and family! We are currently on a long binge of riding right now and have had spotty internet access. Yippee! Since Bartlesville, OK we have traveled to Ponca City, OK (77 miles); Cherokee, OK (83 miles); Coldwater, KS (90 miles); Dodge City, KS (80 miles); Garden City KS (57 miles); Lamar, CO (101 miles); and are here in Rocky Ford, CO (67 miles). We are also riding 80 miles tomorrow to a dude ranch outside of Pueblo, CO and end our nine day stretch of riding in Colorado Springs, CO on a 50+ miles day. Doing some simple math that means we will ride over 650 miles in nine days. Craziness.

The last seven days have been quite interesting! Our Pirate dance was a blast, though we might have been a little irresponsible. Our rides have been either amazing our terrible – completely dependent on the direction of the wind. The view has been spectacle and terrible – depending on the state and industry nearby. And we have had three birthdays! With all this excitement it should be no surprise that I actually fell asleep last night at 8:30 pm. I have not done that since I was five?

Here are some interesting points:

1. Birthdays: They have been a mixed bag, but overall very good for everyone! On my friend Katie’s birthday we had a ridiculous tailwind (which means the wind is on our backs and makes us go real fast) and rode 80 miles at 22 mph. She was super excited because her boyfriend and I “pulled” her the whole way (i.e. blocked the wind so she could maximize her speed) and she was the “winner” that day – i.e. she got there first. We also randomly got to swim at an amazing pool that day, which was amazing since the temperature was 107 degrees.
2. The Gypsum Hills, KS: when we first crossed into Kansas we were transported into what seemed to be an old John Wayne movie where we rode through the gorgeous Gypsum hills. These hills were cut into large plateaus and made of red clay. Simply breathtaking! Too bad we had a really strong headwind (meaning it the slows us down a lot) and had to ride really hard that day.
3. The wind in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado: Overall a head wind is terrible, a cross wind (from the side) is bad but not terrible, and a tail wind is awesome. We experienced all three in the last few states. The best times were riding in 40 mph tailwinds and the worst ones were riding in the same ferocity of wind, except that it was blast us in the face. To put it in perspective, I went as fast as I have ever gone at 48 mph when we had a tailwind but when we had a headwind my average speed was about 13 mph. The good news is that we got both good and bad winds, the bad news is that all of Kansas was up a hill and in a head wind – see below.
4. Reasons I hate Kansas: The crappy semitruck drivers, miles of construction, nasty head winds, the fragrant odor of cow poop, flat flatness forever, and I had to sweep during it. Literally we spent 20 miles of a road one day riding over grated asphalt that felt like a rubble strip. We spent another day fighting 40 mph headwinds for 80 miles only to fight them again the next day for another 57 miles. Finally, when we left the state we were surrounded by feedlots that made 50% of our experience in the state taste like cow feces. Hate you Kansas.
5. Reasons why I love Colorado!
a. It’s not Kansas.
b. We reach the Rockies in two days!
6. The longest day: I swept with Olivier – meaning that we HAD to be the last to people to arrive to ensure everybody made it safe – on the 80 miles day with headwind. It was a blast! We were in the countryside that looked exactly like we were in a wild west movie so we pretended like we were cowboys – lassoed stuff, lounged in the shade, and sat on hay bails. Unfortunately the headwind made the slower people in our group take forever so we did not get in until 8:30 at night (we left at 7:30 AM). What a long – yet great – day.

Okay, that is it for now. It is weird to think that I have biked from the east coast to Colorado but I am excited to climb some mountains soon. Tomorrow we camp in a dude ranch and get to learn all the fun aspects of ranching (I hope!). I hear all went well with Grandpa’s celebration and am sorry I missed the celebrations! I miss you all and love you even more.

Live. Love. Ride.

Posted by jsheehan11 21:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Blog 6: Brinkley, AR to Bartlesville, OK

Hello again! I am in Bartlesville, Oklahoma enjoying tornado season! Today we had a build day that was cut short because of a tornado threat – as in we could see the funnel cloud forming over our heads – and tomorrow has the possibility of another. Yippee! But in all seriousness, we are in are very dangerous area of the country right now for many reasons: poor roads, ridiculous drivers, and tornados to name a few. But that’s okay because we are being super safe!

To give an update from last blog, we have ridden A LOT in the last week. We rode to Little Rock, Arkansas and had a build day there. Then we rode 350 miles in 4 days between Little Rock and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was pretty intense. We rode a century – that I set a personal best time averaging 19.4 mph – and a bunch of other 70+ mile days through the Ozarks and fields of Oklahoma. Needless to say I am pretty beat right now!

Now we are building for two days in Bartlesville and then we will shoot across the Midwest and into the Rockies. I am so excited! I can’t wait to ride the Rockies!

Some highlights:

1. The Ozarks: Arkansas’ state motto is the “natural state” because of the beautiful rivers and mountains throughout the state. While I partially disagree with this motto I do think the Ozarks are gorgeous. They were a great break from midwest winds and gave us something to look at while we climbed t hem. Sadly they only lasted one day!
2. Sadie Hawkins: we are having a dance tonight that is pirate themed and a Sadie Hawkins dance! Grace asked me and we are going as a scurvy swashbuckling pirate couple – arrrrrgh! The highlight is not the dance itself (because it hasn’t happened yet) but instead all the thrift store shopping! I have overstuffed my bin with ridiculous clothes. I even have pirate boots! I am so excited.
3. Food Changes: The South was very pork based and the Midwest is much more beef based. Not a huge changed but it has changed the fare enough that I am really enjoying hamburgers almost every night, which is new and excellent! Also, I haven’t been able to eat chicken in the last week because Tyson Chicken is in Arkansas and the entire state smells like chicken poop – yuck!
4. Bad Midwest Drivers: Drivers in the Midwest are the worst. No joke. We have had slushies thrown on us, cursed at, and have been pushed off roads multiple times. It is ridiculous! Drivers honestly believe that bikers should only drive on the shoulder of the road or the sidewalk. NEWS FLASH: We get three feet of the lane! So if you are driving and see a biker, be kind and slowly pass them.
5. Finally Uploading Pictures! I am uploading two whole albums to facebook today! Yah! Check them out.

Okay that is all! I love you all and am having a great time. I am sorry I cannot make it back to Grandpa’s Celebration of Life; I am really sad that I missing seeing the family and celebrating the life of an amazing man. I love you so much Grandpa!

Also, I am sad I don’t get to make fun of Nick for bringing a girlfriend to a family function. Please pick up my slack in joke making.

Live. Love. Ride.

Posted by jsheehan11 15:44 Comments (0)

Blog 5: Crossing the Mississippi

Sweetwater, TN to Brinkley, AR


So I have been super busy recently and apologize for not blogging recently. Also, a lot has happened on our trip that has changed plans and made life a little more hectic for us all. To be exact, one of the group leaders another trip was struck by an SUV and killed by the impact. Her name was Christina Genco and she was on the Southern US ride. To learn more about Christina, her story, and the actions that transpired please visit the Bike & Build website - I do not want to misrepresent any information concerning her passing. Things have become a little more tense here at Bike & Build and we have all been on pins and needles because of the actions that transpired. And though we remember her life and rejoice in her great life, we must press on across the country as safely as possible.

That aside, our trip has been amazing. We climbed some smaller hills, road plans, finished another century ride, visited Memphis, and rode over the Mississippi. Though I wish I could blog about it all I will only highlight a couple points because I have to wake up at 4:30 tomorrow morning - boo!

1. Pulaski Tennessee: We were literally treated like kings and queens in Pulaski. They cleaned and repaired our bikes, gave us free chiropractic work, fed us 4 times (ribs and shrimp), and gave us air conditioned rooms. I am not sure if the people of Pulaski were so kind to us simply out of their own love for biking or because Pulaski is the birthplace of the KKK and they are saving souls, but it was a truly magical experience. Truly, Pulaski was the best town we have visited.

2. Dunlap, Tennessee: I had the best fried chicken of my life. They are cooked in peanut oil and everyone our trip agreed they were the best they ever had. We also got to sleep in an U.S. army Armory that night. Pretty awesome.

3. 2nd Century ride: one of the guys on the trip is an iron man athlete. No one else on the trip is anywhere near his ability or speed. So of course we tried to race him on the longest day of the trip. Ben asked me if I wanted to help him race the iron man and I said, "sure, why not." So we rode as fast as we could for those 100 miles and we caught by the iron man at mile 80. We then rode with Ed until right before the church where the iron man flatted 200 yards from the entrance of the church. It was poetic. Also, we averaged 17.3 mph during that little race.

4. Memphis, TN: We had our first day off! During that day off I visited the National Civil Rights museum, Sun Studios (where the first rock song was ever recorded and where Elvis started), ate at an amazing deli, and had a beer at the bar where Ray Charles used to shoot up heroine. It was a pretty amazing day! We also visited the famous Beale Street, where B.B. King used to play and enjoyed a pool party with some locals. It was AWESOME. Definitely one of the best days of Bike & Build.

5. Brinkley, AR: After one my best days on B&B, the worst was the day after. The ride to Brinkley, AR was horrendous. We had head wind all day, it was stifling hot, and my spoke broke for a second time. The day was saved, however, by a simple visit to the local thrift store where I purchased some ridiculous clothes and was blessed by the owner of the store. It was both moving and hilarious.

Okay, well I am dead tired so that's all I got. I want to reiterate that I am being very safe and that I love you all and will make it safely across the U.S. So please don't worry too much about me - it's difficult enough to handle already. On a happier note, I still love B&B. I am so happy I am doing it and wouldn't change my summer plans for anything.

Live. Love. Ride.

P.s. sorry for grammatical mistakes.

Posted by jsheehan11 18:48 Comments (0)

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