Expedition To Ecuador
Highlights of the events leading up to the trip
April 24 - I got fed up with my old, ill-fitting bicycle (hey, I got it used for a great price) and took it to the local bike shop to see what they could do to make it fit better. I ended up trading it in for a new Cannondale M300. It's a step down from what I had but at least it fits. It's amazing what a difference a properly sized bike makes!
April 25 - Rode my new bike over to show my niece and nephew. I did a wild, uncontrolled bunny-hop to avoid a snake and put a mild but annoying wobble in my rear rim. Sheez, I rode my old bike extremely hard with not one problem and now I've got a bent rim with only 6.5 miles on the bike.
The kids liked my bike, but I think I really impressed them when I did an endo and went flying over the handlebars. At least I know the brakes work. Afterwards I rode to the bike shop and had them true the wheel and as I was leaving I met my buddy Rick. He was picking up his new bike and wanted to go for a ride so we made a quick trip to the Towpath Trail and got in a decent 25 miles before dark.
May 3 - For some strange reason I've taken to running and biking with a vengeance. Although I really don't like to run, my 5K running time has been slowly improving. Do I dare entertain thought of running in a race this summer?
May 12 - I have no idea why I did it, but today I requested two weeks off for a mountaineering trip to Ecuador - and got it! Looks like I'm committed now! I'll call American Alpine Institute tonight and get some information.
May 31 - I sent the application form, $250 deposit and an outline of my pertinent outdoor experience to American Alpine Institute today.
June 8 - The info packet from AAI arrived today and with it an odd, surreal feeling. I can't believe I'm actually doing something I've dreamed about for years. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.
June 9 - During my lunch hour I drove to the local Post Office to pick up a Passport Application only to learn that they didn't handle passports at that branch. The nearest branch that did take process applications was fifteen minutes down the road. Unfortunately I couldn't find it and with my lunch hour about over, I had no choice but to head back to work.
June 10 - Made another attempt at finding the Post Office. After I spotted it from the street I drove around and parked in the rear lot only to discover that they had moved in February. Armed with concise directions, I found the Post Office, picked up the passport application, and made it back to work with enough time to eat a banana and an orange.
June 11 - I got my passport photos taken tonight. Despite the friendly employees at Kinkos, the quality of the photos is rather poor considering they cost me $14.00, but I'm sure they'll be more than adequate for the passport.
June 13 - Rick got some new tires for his bike so we rode the entire length of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, a total distance of 40 miles. Apparently my training is starting to payoff. We rode at a fairly fast pace, but I was feeling so good I'd have ridden another 20 miles.
June 17 - Went to the Post Office during lunch and applied for my passport. The application fee was $60.
June 25 - I've rediscovered how much I enjoy biking. I haven't had this much fun since I was 15 years old and virtually lived on my bike. The past several weeks I've been averaging about 80 miles per week on the bike but my running mileage has dropped to almost zero.
July 5 - I went on my longest bike ride so far; a full metric century (62 miles) in 4 hours 20 minutes for an average speed of 13.1 mph. Not very fast, but not bad considering the short time I've been training and the fact that I'm riding a mountain bike. By the time I finished the ride my legs felt like they do after a one-day winter ascent of Mt. Washington but they didn't hurt anywhere near as bad as my butt. Stupidly, I tried a different seat on this ride and regretted it from the very beginning. On the otherhand, I already knew the old seat hurt so I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained. But (no pun intended!) you can bet I'm going to put the TricoSports seat back on!
July 12 - My first Century ride! I rode in the Akron Bicycle Club's 23rd Absolutely Beautiful Country event and had a great time. The weather was perfect, the route was a great mix of rolling county roads, the food was excellent and best of all... I completed the entire 100 miles! My legs felt tired but not as sore as last week. I even felt good enough I could have ridden at least another twenty miles. I did some fine tuning last week and the bike performed great. Even the seat felt good! For the first 48 miles I was able to maintain a 14.8 mph average speed but the last half of the route had far more hills and my final speed was 13.2 mph average for 100 miles with a total riding time of 7 hours 20 minutes.
July 13 - My passport arrived today.
July 15 - I bought aero bars for my bike along with new, flat aluminum handle bars to replace the stock heavy steel hi-riser bars. Spent the evening swapping all the hardware and adjusting everything. I can't wait to try it out!
July 16 - The modifications to my bike have been a tremendous success! Despite stopping a few times for further fine tuning, air temperature in the low nineties with equivalent humidity and taking on a few short but steep hills that are not part of my normal "short and easy" route I set a new PR of 15.9 mph average speed - total distance 18 miles. By using the aero bars I can easily maintain a cruising speed of 23-25 mph, a huge improvement over my normal 18-21 mph. I'm really curious to know how much faster I could go on a road bike instead of my modified mountain bike. Checking the odometer I see I've riden 601 miles since April 24th. Time to start training seriously!
July 26 - Although I was physically and mentally exhausted from one of my rare migraine headaches, I forced myself to get up and ride in the Richfield Sweet Corn Ride. It was already hot by the time I started at nine o'clock - a bit late to be starting a long ride in my opinion. I wasn't content to just ride the fifty mile route and opted for the "Gear Crunching Hills" of the sixty-two mile route. Bad move! By one o'clock my headache had returned with a vengeance, the sun was boiling my brain in my skull and the fourth of the five "gear cruncher" hills was tough. Very tough. In fact it was so long and steep I had to climb it in three installments. At the last water stop I ate a mealy, sun baked banana, finished off the last of my water, and decided I had punished myself enough. I took a short cut back to the starting point, collected my four ears of sweet corn, racked the bike and took off for home. My total mileage for the ride was 56 miles in four hours and four of five "gear cruncher" hills completed.
July 28 - I called my doctor today to verify my blood type. The nurse I spoke to told me that they "...don't have that information in your file." If they don't, then who does? I haven't been very happy with my doctors performance and knowledge so now I'm looking for another physician.
July 30 - Checked in with my insurance agent today about what coverage I needed for the trip. Turns out I have zero coverage when I'm outside the country. Checking the coverage provided by Travelers it looks like it will cost almost $280 for two weeks. I guess I'm starting to discover the hidden costs of a trip like this.
August 9 - I rode in the 7th Annual Emerald Necklace Tour with my buddy Bob today. We originally intended to ride the full one hundred miles but there was a high chance of rain in the forecast so we opted for a quick fifty miles instead. As it turned out, the only rain we got was about five minutes of light sprinkles at the very start of the ride. Although Bob kept telling me that this wasn't a race, our pace didn't remain slow for very long. A long time amateur bicycle racer, Bob showed me some of the finer points of drafting and alternating leads.
We washed an extremely dry cookie down with a cup of sports drink at the rest stop before starting back. I guess we forgot this "wasn't a race" because we rode the entire twenty-five return loop at a twenty-one mile per hour average speed. I'm sure Bob was just coasting along on his featherweight road bike but I was working hard to maintain the speed on my much heavier mountain bike. In fact, I got too tired to take my turn leading and rode the last five miles in Bob's draft. We had an overall time of 3 hours, 10 minutes for the fifty mile ride. Not too bad considering how slowly I crawl up hills.
September 1 - Got my inoculations today, Tetanus in one arm and Typhoid B in the other. I also have a prescription for eight anti-Malaria pills. I'm supposed to take one pill a week before I leave, one pill per week while I'm there and one pill a week after I return. I also made an appointment for the Yellow Fever inoculation on October 1, 1998.
September 4 - I couldn't obtain suitable glacier glasses from my optician so I ordered a pair of Cebe 390 glacier glasses with the McKinley #3, 100% UVA, UVB and 90% IR protection Photochromic (55% - lightest,90% -darkest) glass prescription lenses from Opticus Inc. today. I am very, very pleased with their expertise and service and highly recommend them. Total cost was just over $300 but without them I can't go on the trip. My credit card is about to melt from all these necessary purchases!
September 6 - Despite the very high temperature and humidity I forced myself to get in some milage on the bike. I rode as far as I could but by the time I hit twenty-five miles I had already consumed two gallons of water. Finally listening to the anguished screaming of my body, I refilled my hydration system and started for home. Before too long I came upon a fellow biker pushing his bike along the road. Turned out he had broken his chain several miles back and was now hiking back to his truck. He had no tools so I offered the use of my chain breaker. Unfortunately, he had thrown the chain away and was now forced to make the fifteen mile trek on foot. I felt bad for him but there was nothing I could do so I continued on. As I rode I watched my odometer and tried to figure how fast he would be walking and about where he would be along the route. When I got home I quickly grabbed a couple of bottles of sports drink, hopped in my RAV4 and raced back up the road. I found him almost exactly where I expected to and he gratefully accepted my assistance. It was twilight by the time we got to his truck but at least he didn't to walk the last seven miles in the dark.
To reward myself for enduring my difficult, sweaty ride I had a small Sicilian pizza for dinner. So much for making any fitness gains!
September 10 - Turned over 1200 miles on the bike tonight. I'm sure that is an insignificant number for serious bikers, but I'm pleased with it. I just wish I could get in more riding time, but it's late by the time I get home and now the days are getting shorter. It won't be too much longer before I find myself in Ecuador.
September 13 - finally rode in the Hancock Horizontal Hundred bicycle ride! My entire family rode the fifty mile route nearly twenty-four years ago but I was too busy with work and drag racing on the weekends to make the trip.
After completing my first century during the Akron Bicycle Club ride in July I initially had little enthusiasm for doing another one hundred mile ride. As it turned out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. In fact, I even wrote a short trip report.
September 20 - I went on a nice ride with my sister today. The weather was very nice so we rode about thirty miles on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Despite the beautiful morning there were relatively few bikers out and we had a very pleasant ride.
We even saw things that should not be seen! As we were riding along we were passed by a large fellow, large enough that his bike shorts were stretched far beyond their designed range. Infact, they were stretched so thin we could see both halves of the moon! Sheez!
September 22 - There is so little daylight left by the time I get home that I can no longer get in my usual 23 mile ride. I guess I'm going to have to start running more, but I really hate to run. Oh well, enough complaining - "Just Do It!"
September 25 - My flight itinerary arrived today. I'll leave Cleveland at 8 am, fly to St. Louis then to Miami. After a four hour lay over I'll fly on to Quito and arrive at 11 pm. Looks like it will be a long day, I'd better remember to take some reading material.
October 1 - I got my Yellow Fever inoculation today at a cost of $55. All I need to do now is call my physician and get the Diamox, Bactrim and Lomotil.
October 2 - I've put over 1300 miles my bicycle this summer with out an incident until tonight. A car full of teenagers hit me with a large glob of barbecue sauce and almost knocked me down with an extra-large cup full of ice. I was so angry I immediately pulled out my cell phone and called the police. There was enough traffic that I was able to keep them in sight and almost caught up to them at a traffic light. I was able to give the police a good description of the car and license number. I never realized owning a cell phone could be so much fun!
October 14 - The vapor barrier socks I ordered from International Mountain Equipment arrived today. I was lucky to find the socks, they were the last pair that IME had and for some reason Black Diamond has ceased production. They seem to be rather sturdy and well constructed. Hopefully these will last longer than my old pair.
October 26 - I called my physician and got the remaining prescriptions. I have eight Larium tablets (anti-malarial) at nearly ten dollars each, Lomotil (anti-diarrheal), Tetracycline (anti-biotic) and Diamox (acclimation aid). Through out the day I had to explain to three different nurses where I was going and why I needed all this stuff. None of them have ever heard of Diamox and when they looked it up and discovered it is used for glaucoma and the control of seizures they really got excited. I explained as best I could why I needed it an finally they called in the prescription. Fortunately, my insurance covered most of the prescriptions, but nonetheless, my total bill was almost eighty dollars.
October 30 - I bought a neat little battery powered shaver from TravelSmith. It is made by Panasonic and runs on two AA batteries. I'm going to use it for a bit and see how long the batteries last. This may be a whole lot easier than totting along shaving cream and razor.
October 1 - I've discovered that the volcano Guagua Pichincha has become rather active and that the city of Quito is under Yellow Alert. I sure hope I get to hike up and look into the crater!
I've also learned from the Rock & Ice Super Guide that "extremely dry conditions opened a 10-foot crevasse on Cotopaxi; two ladders strapped together bridge the gap. A wall (El Castillo) on Chimborazo collapsed; climbers must ascend "direct" route before rejoining normal walk-up. Assault, robbery an issue in Guagua Pichincha." Sounds like I'm going to have an excellent adventure!
November 8 - My local outdoor store, Appalachian Outfitters, held their annual "garage sale" of all their rental gear and other sale items along with gear that other individuals bring in. This year the Mountain Hardwear rep was there and had a lot of great deals on last years demo models. Unfortunately most of the stuff was sized too small for me but by luck I spotted a down vest that fit perfectly. And best of all it was only $40 instead of the regular $110. I really wasn't looking for anything but I just couldn't pass up a deal like that!
November 9 - As I ate my dinner tonight I sat down to check my e-mail and while surfing the web I came across the name Peter S. Taking a chance I wrote to him and it turned out that he is the very fellow I am to meet in Quito! The odd thing is, he knows even fewer details about the trip than I do. I find that very disquieting as I expected more out of American Alpine Institute considering their fine reputation. There is about a week and a half before I am to leave. If I don't receive the "trip letter" by Saturday I will call AAI on Monday and find out what is going on.
Novemeber 10 - I'm going to take one 500 mg Diamox pill today and one tomorrow to check for any adverse reaction or side effect. The pills themselves are large translucent-orange capsules filled with hundreds of tiny little white balls. The really odd thing about them is that they smell like candy!
November 11 - I bought another duffel bag tonight. I finally had to admit that there was no way I was going to get everything into my one big bag. At least this way there will be room for a few souvenirs.
This is also the second day of my Diamox test. Other than feeling slightly jittery around lunchtime I have noticed absolutely no side effects, not even the increased urination that is frequently reported. I tried another carbonated soft-drink today, this time choosing Dr. Pepper. This tasted even more bitter than yesterdays Root Beer and in fact it was very much like Robitusin cough medicine, only it didn't taste anywhere near as good.