Naming Red

The 2017 Finish Well Ride is peaking over the horizon. Twenty-nine days remain until that first of many long days of pedaling first over plains, then over mountains, then over more mountains until I finally arrive at the northernmost point where supporters of Bet Shalom can be found (and if there’s a farther point north, I don’t want to know.)

So what am I thinking right now?

I’m thinking: “WHAT AM I THINKING?!?”

My 4,000 km ride is turning out to be closer to 5,000 km. It’s too late to change the promotional material, but then what’s a thousand extra kilometers if you’re going to do 4,000, right?

I’ve got a lot of contacts still to make and press releases and videos to send. I’m starting to wonder if any churches besides the few contacts I have along the way are going to provide shelter for this weary traveler and her crew, and who knows if I’ll get anywhere near my $75,000 USD fundraising goal.

But right now none of this weighs on me as much as the dilemma of what to name my bike.

It’s not a new bike. I received it as a donation for my 2009 ride from Zihuatanejo to Oklahoma City.

In fact, my first time to ride it was the first day of that journey. Maybe at the time it was too new and sleek and professional to receive a name.

Now it’s past its prime and we’ve become friends.

It deserves a name, just like Meg, the second-hand mountain bike I bought more than 20 years ago in Taos, New Mexico.

I named her after the broken down mare in the Robert Burns poem, Tam O’Shanter.

For all the world Tam O’Shanter’s mare was just an old nag, but for Tam O’Shanter she was “my good mare Meg, a better never lifted leg.”

After the mountains of northern New Mexico, after the rain-soaked journeys of southern Spain. After frigid rides in England and the scorching ones in the African out-of-the-way places, my Meg earned her name and her epithet.

I even brought her to Mexico for a while and she carried me on my first long adventure here: the trip up through the Sierra Madre to see the Monarch butterflies in the Michoacan Highlands.

Her last big ride with me was the first one I rode up from Zihuatanejo to Oklahoma in 2003. Even though she was mainly just an extra on that trip, she didn’t get offended. She gave plenty of good miles when I asked it from her.

Meg never failed me.

But, alas, Meg is not up for this journey. She wasn’t up for the last one either, for that matter.

Since 2009 I’ve had a red bicycle. IMG_4923

Even as I write that last sentence I’m sorry I never named it. How can this red racer that has carried me more than 8,000 miles go without a name for so many years?

These days its red paint is chipped and some pieces have been replaced (and more will be replaced before I take off from Oklahoma City), but this red bicycle has kept its figure and it’s ready to ride another long one, or at least it doesn’t believe anyone who says it can’t.

Now you see why this bike needs a name?

What will it be?

This is Where I’m Going (Probably)

Here’s the itinerary for the 2017 Finish Well Ride. Look at it and if I’ll be near you at any point, let me know. I’ve plugged in a few two- or even three-day stops. Really those are cushion days so that if I don’t make my mileage (mainly in the mountains) then I can catch up.

There are about a dozen points on the map where I have a contact that dictated the general direction I’ve decided to go. After that I basically filled in the details by just picking the most interesting place names on the way (i.e. Rustic, Dinosaur, Chilly, Good Grief, etc.).

The last bit in Canada is still being looked at by my Canadian peeps and blanks will be filled in and probably tweaks made later.


2017 Finish Well Ride Itinerary

Start Day July 20 – OKC  to Crescent – 50 miles (81 km)

July 21 – Crescent to Medford – 70.9 miles (115 km)

July 22 – Medford to Country Acres Baptist Church (Wichita, KS) – 76.8 miles (124 km)

July 23 – Rest in Wichita

July 24 – Wichita to Stafford, KS – 85.3 miles (138 km)

July 25 – Stafford to Plainville – 120 miles (194.52 km)

July 26 – Plainville to Menlo – 84.9 miles (137 km)

July 27 – Menlo to Goodland – 56.9 miles (92 km)

July 28 – Goodland to Eckley, CO – 89.1 miles (144 km)

July 29 – Eckley to Akron – 40.3 miles (65 km)

July 30 – Akron to Raymer – 60.3 miles (98 km)

July 31 – Raymer to Ft. Collins – 68.5 miles (111 km)

Aug. 1 – Rest

Aug. 2 – Ft. Collins to Rustic – 42 miles (68 km)

Aug. 3 – Rustic to Walden – 57.5 miles (93 km)

Aug. 4 – Walden to Steamboat Springs – 59 miles (96 km)

Aug. 5 – Rest

Aug. 6 – Steamboat Springs to Lay – 60.9 miles (99 km)

Aug. 7 – Lay to Dinosaur – 68.8 miles (111 km)

Aug. 8 – Dinosaur to Red Canyon, Utah – 70.2 miles (114 km)

Aug. 9 – Red Canyon to Lyman, WY – 83 miles (

Aug. 10 – Rest

Aug. 11 – Rest

Aug. 12 – Lyman to Diamondville – 41.8 miles (68 km)

Aug. 13 – Diamondville to Montpelier, ID – 76.5 miles (124 km)

Aug. 14 – Montpelier to Pocatello – 87.5 miles (141 km)

Aug. 15 – Rest

Aug. 16 – Pocatello to Arco – 85.3 miles (138 km)

Aug. 17 – Arco via Carey to Ketchum – 83.2 miles (135 km)

Aug. 18 – Rest

Aug. 19 – Ketchum to Chilly, ID – 40.9 miles (66 km)

Aug. 20 – Chilly to Salmon – 94.4 miles (153 km)

Aug. 21 – Salmon, ID to Sula, MT – 58.3 miles (94.5 km)

Aug. 22 – Sula to Missoula – 83.3 miles (135 km)

Aug. 23 – Missoula to Thompson Falls – 101 miles (164 km)

Aug. 24 – Thompson Falls to Hope, ID – 69.2 miles (112 km)

Aug. 25 – Hope, ID to Coeur d’Alene – 62.1 miles (100 km)

Aug. 26 – Rest

Aug. 27 – Rest

Aug. 28 – Sandpoint to Good Grief, ID – 59.7 miles (97 km)

Aug. 29 – Good Grief, ID to Cranbrook, B.C. – 53.2 miles (86.2 km)

Aug. 30 – Cranbrook to Premier Lake – 40 miles (65 km)

Aug. 31 – Premier Lake to Fairmont Hot Springs – 38.4 miles (62 km)

Sept. 1 – Fairmont HS to Radium Hot Springs (or maybe farther along) – 23 miles (37.3 km)

Sept. 2 – Radium HS to Castle Junction – 65.5 (106 km)

Sept. 3 – Castle Junction to Banff – 20 miles (33 km)

Sept. 4 – Banff to Ghost Lake – 47.8 miles (77 km)

Sept. 5 – Ghost Lake to Calgary – 41.9 miles (68 km)

Sept. 6 – Calgary to Drumheller – 83.6 miles (167 km)

Sept. 7 – Drumheller to Youngstown – 80 miles

Sept. 8 –  Youngstown to ?????

Sept. 9 – ????? to Red Deer

Finish Well Ride: No More Easy Days

June 1 – Fifty days from today I’ll be taking off from Oklahoma City on another bicycling adventure that, if all goes well, will end 50 days after that in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

The 2017 Finish Well Ride is starting to loom large on the horizon.

Just an hour ago I got a commitment from a couple willing to drive sag wagon 10 days for the last gaping hole on my itinerary.

Thank the Lord, things are finally coming together.

Never mind that I can barely ride 60 miles and then need a couple of rest days afterwards. That’ll get worked out.

As the day draws near the voice in my head that says “you can always ride tomorrow” is now getting overruled by the voice that says “you don’t have time to mess around.”

I like that voice.

Actually, that voice can be merciless sometimes, but I like how I feel when I obey that voice.

My aunt told me how she was once talking to my grandfather, who was a man of few words, but who, when he said something, was worth listening to. She was complaining about how hard her day was and he said, “Did you want an easy one?”

I think I understand what my grandpa was trying to convey: Easy days don’t make us better. They don’t produce endurance or character.

So while it might seem preferable in the short term, it’ll get you nowhere in the long run, whether we’re talking about a ride to Canada or life.

Sure, rest is a blessing, but a life full of easy days can be a curse.

Here’s to no more easy days…at least for a while.

Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 11

A quick trip to Izmir (formerly known as Smyrna) reminded me how easy it is to get around on public transportation in Turkey…easy and cheap.

The outward bound trip was a combination of ferry and train. The return trip was by plane. It ended up costing us about the same…and not because the ferry and train were super expensive, but because the flight was super cheap. $34 for an hour-long flight. We bought the ticket at the last minute too.

The airlines in the U.S. could learn a thing or two from airlines in other parts.

Anyhoo, we managed to get around Izmir pretty easily and out to Ephesus without any trouble at all. The public transportation in and around Istanbul is the same.

Whether trains, planes, ferries, metro, or dolmuş, getting around is easy in Turkey.

Whether trains, planes, ferries, metro, or dolmuş, getting around is easy in Turkey.

For the ferries, buses and metro you carry a card that you swipe to get on. It’s like a gift card, but you just keep refilling it as you use up the credit.

Pretty handy.

The dolmuş, however, is old school. It’s a smaller vehicle. Some are kind of like a mini-bus, with a few seats and lots of room to crowd in. On the dolmuş, you actually have to pay the driver, so he’s making change while weaving in and out of traffic. It’s great.

Another interesting thing about the dolmuş is that when people get on in the back they just send their money up with the passengers between them and the driver so it passes through sometimes seven or eight hands with accompanying stop information so the driver knows if change is required or not. He then makes change while dodging cars and pedestrians who decide to cross the road at that moment and while watching for anyone along the side of the road who might flag him down as he approaches. That change is passed back to the appropriate passenger.

Now put three non-Turkish speaking Americans who aren’t familiar with the stops at the end of that chain right before the driver. More specifically, put me at the end of that chain right before the driver after two other non-Turkish speaking Americans…and you have a recipe for disaster.

It was like playing that game “teléfono discompuesto” (I forget what it’s called in English) where you send a whispered message down a line and see what you come up with at the end. The final version is often pretty comical.

I ended up just repeating exactly what my friends told me while handing the money to the driver. I had no idea what I was saying. Sometimes I got change to send back. Sometimes I didn’t. If the Turks who were handing the money up only knew how weak the last three links in the chain were, they’d probably send us to the back, but  somehow it worked out. And I didn’t hear any complaints, but I probably wouldn’t understand them if I had.

Anyway, it probably wasn’t as critical as our situation on our flight home last night. We happened to be seated in the row with the emergency door. The steward came by and spoke with us for about a minute. Not a word in English. At the end of it, I nodded my consent. He was satisfied.

I’m pretty sure I agreed that I was willing and able to open the hatch beside me in the event of an emergency, either that or he was making sure we were comfortable and letting us know there was a nice view from the window.

I decided I better look over the instructions in pictures just to be on the safe side.

Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 5 (conversations with Ghengis Khan)

One week ago today I finished my Turkish language course. I took an exam and everything… I even passed it.

I’m pretty sure I learned as much Turkish in one month as I did of Spanish in a whole year of high school. Maybe that’s why they call the course “intensive.”

So I have my diploma and I have much more Turkish in my head than when I started. Let me just review what that does and doesn’t mean:

It DOES NOT mean I can talk politics or religion with any of the locals.

It DOES, however, mean that I can carry on a long conversation of about two minutes with the eight-year-old daughter of my host family. Of course, over the last month she’s learned to speak Tarzan Turkish to dumb it down for me. She now speaks with all infinitive verbs. The English equivalent would go something like: “You, me, to play, after, to eat” complete with a mini game of charades built in.

I actually know that conversation by heart because we have it every evening. That and the one about watching a Barbie movie…yes, in Turkish. And yes, I will be leaving Turkey with the music from “Barbie and the Secret Garden” stuck in my head. Now I just have to work on the words.

Having a diploma in first level Turkish also DOES NOT mean I should be making any phone calls in Turkish.

My travel companions, however, think it DOES mean that. Apparently the diploma earned me the designation of official translator on our excursion to Yalova last weekend. I ended up in charge of all the ticket purchases and general asking of directions and bus schedules, etc. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up in Syria.

I even had to call for a taxi. Anyone who has learned a second language knows the hardest thing to do is talk on the phone. You can’t see the other person and they can’t see you so pantomime is out the window.

Fortunately for me, we had already talked to the guy so he knew I might call.

The call went a little like this (but in Turkish):

Taxi Driver: Hello

Me: Ghengis? (yep, that was his name. Ghengis as in Ghengis Khan. Nice guy, by the way.)

Taxi Driver: Yes?

Me: I’m American.

Taxi Driver: Yes, ok, ok, tamam. (“tamam” is Turkish for ok)

Me: We go?

Taxi Driver: ok, ok, tamam.

Me: Tamam, ok, tamam.

Taxi Driver: Tamam. Ok. 15 minutes.

Me: Ok, tamam, ok.

Taxi Driver: Ok, Ok, tamam. see you later.

Me: tamam, ok, see you later.

And that, folks, got us a taxi at our front door 15 minutes later.

Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 4

This is what they do here. And apparently fishing is good this time of year.

This is what they do here. And apparently fishing is good this time of year.

Looks like fishing is the same everywhere...just another excuse for the men to get together.

Looks like fishing is the same everywhere…just another excuse for the men to get together.

The fishing is above the bridge. The fish restaurants are below.

The fishing is above the bridge. The fish restaurants are below.

A ship en route to the Black Sea.

A ship en route to the Black Sea.

Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 3

Just thought I’d post a couple of photos to put it in perspective for my American friends who think the malls are crowded this time of year…

Istiklal Street, Istanbul is one happening place.

Istiklal Street, Istanbul is one happening place.

Not only is a place called "Pazar," but a whole day of the week is called "Pazar." Guess what people do on Pazar Day.

Not only is a place called “Pazar,” but a whole day of the week is called “Pazar.” Guess what people do on Pazar Day.

Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 2

So I’m a little late posting for Thanksgiving, but just a little something I’ve been thinking about since then…
I managed to eat a proper American Thanksgiving dinner in Turkey…and yes, I ate turkey (the bird, not the country).
Not sure what kind of quirk of history or circumstance had Benjamin Franklin naming a bird in the 18th century after a people group (the modern nation was born after World War I)…or if it’s just a coincidence.
And now that I’ve learned a little Turkish, I’m even more stumped at why Turkey (the country, not the bird) calls Egypt “Corn.” The word is “Mısır.” I looked it up. An Egyptian guy studying Turkish at my school said he was surprised by that too.
Any etymologists there wanna tackle that one?
Meanwhile, could someone pass me the egypt…