Monday, July 29, 2013

Surprise day off!

July 26, 2013
Build day/day off in Tulsa, OK

Today was supposed to be a build day in Tulsa, but at breakfast they regretfully told us that they didn't have anything for us to do that day. There are only a few things that large groups like us can do, and it was forcast to rain, so everyone agreed that it might not be worth it. However, the Tulsa Habitat was amazing and provided us with both breakfast and lunch! After breakfast a group of us went to a coffee shop and sat around in shock, wondering what we were going to do with our day. It's a very weird feeling to waver from the routine on this trip. After coffee, we did what any Bike & Build group would do on their day off--we went to the local bike shop! Almost every bike shop we've gone to has been super excited about what we're doing so they often give us discounts and this one was no exception. From the bike shop, we walked to lunch through the center of the universe again. It was still mind blowing. We looked silly standing in the circle saying crazy things while business people of downtown Tulsa were walking past us. Lunch was at a Mexican restaurant and provided us with SO much food it was ridiculous. Right when we got back to the Powerhouse after lunch, most of us passed out. I took a TREE hour nap and didn't really want to get up when I did but I felt like I should or I was going to sleep until the next morning. Dinner was provided by an avid cyclist and Bike & Build supporter at Cici's Pizza. It is a buffet style pizza chain restaurant, something I've never seen before and probably will never see again. The highlight of the day came that night though when we had our Christmas in July celebration. We turned on a YouTube video of a crackling fire with an hour of Christmas music playing in the background. It was absolutely over the top. We also had a halfway there cake sent to us by a rider's family! It was truly a joyful occasion. The presents were all amazing and ranged from pins and stickers to a small nerd gun and a vintage tape measure. I had found a scream Halloween mask at a flea market a few days earlier that I gave. I'm hoping it doesn't turn into anything too crazy with people scaring each other. Tonight was so much fun being with everyone and celebration together. I can't believe we've made it halfway already! A shout out to my awesome uncle and cousins for sending a giant box of snickers for the team! Best mail drop package yet!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A day at the ZOO

July 25, 2013
Vinita, OK to Tulsa, OK

For some reason, my group today wanted to go super fast. For much of the rest of the trip we will be on Route 66. Some times there are lots of things to stop at and see since it is quite touristy, but some sections are very boring and empty. Today was an empty day, hence our 18mph average into lunch. However, about 3 miles out from lunch, Chris, one of the guys I was riding with, got a flat. There wasn't much we could do on the side of the road because he needed a new tire, and the van was all the way in Tulsa doing errands so we were kind of stuck. We started walking to lunch, and I quickly realized we needed to figure something else out or it was going to be an hour until we got there. So for the first time in my life, I stuck my tongue out and attempted to hitch hike. After only about 5 cars, a car pulled up on the side of the road and asked what he could do for us! It was so cool. Chris hopped in with his bike and got a ride to a local bike shop near lunch while I jumped on with the group behind us and biked to lunch. After lunch we continued our fast pace, but had to slow down a bit because the road was so bad. There was gravel and debris everywhere with large bumps and pot holes. Over the course of the day between Chris, Casey, Jeff, and myself there were 6 flats. Luckily, around mile 57, we encountered the Tulsa Zoo! We stayed at the zoo for over TWO HOURS! We saw almost every exhibit and a few people rode a camel! 

As we were leaving the zoo I looked down at my odometer and realized that I had finally reached 2000 miles!! It was a super exciting moment yet also kind of surreal. It's hard to believe that we've actually gone 2000 miles so far on this trip and have just about that left to go. A little ways past the zoo we reached our officially half way point!

The halfway point was only about 5 miles away from our host site in Tulsa. It was really fun biking into a big city again and being able to see the skyline from a few miles out.

The part of the church we were staying in was called The Powerhouse and it was absolutely awesome. It had so many couches for everyone to sleep on and tons of things to do. It was also walking distance from a lot of cool places on Tulsa. That night we went out to three very different places--a biker bar (bicyclists, not motorcyclists), a country swing dance ballroom, and a club called The Yeti (apparently big foot has been spotted here multiple times). The biker bar was super cool because they had bike parts and bike jerseys hanging everywhere. Turns out Tulsa is a very bike friendly city. Next we went to Cain's Ballroom, a historic place for country swing in Oklahoma. It. Was. Unreal. There were lots old people in full out country get-up doing all sorts of awesome country swing dances. They all made them look so easy so a couple of us tried our hand at it. Lets just say we were more concentrated on not bumping into other people than anything else. Even the basic one step was extremely difficult! I would love to actually try to learn these dances because they looked like a whole lot of fun when you know what you're doing. 

Walking home, Jeff too Casey and I to a place in Tulsa called The Center of the Universe. It was this spot in Tulsa where you can stand and everything you say reverberates perfectly back to you and only you and can hear it. I've seen phenomenon like this before with things like domes, but the crazy thing about this spot was that there was nothing obviously causing this spot to be any different than any other spot around it. It was really cool and a fun way to end a really fun day. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week 4 Video

Bike & Build - Me2Sb13 - Week 4 from Daniel LaFata on Vimeo.

Week 3 Video

Bike & Build - Me2Sb13 - Week 3 from Daniel LaFata on Vimeo.

Week 2 Video

Bike & Build - Me2Sb13 - Week 2 from Daniel LaFata on Vimeo.

Finally to Oklahoma

July 24, 2013
Joplin, MO to Vinita, OK

This morning we had our first police escort! It was super cool to have a police car ride along with us, blocking traffic at lights and stop signs. It made the first 5 miles go by so much faster. 

Not long after the police car left us, WE BIKED INTO KANSAS! The sign was small and included the line "NO THRU TRUCKS". I missed it because it was on a downhill in some trees, so I didn't realize I was on Kansas until I was almost through it! Luckily the entering Oklahoma sign was much better and we got some real state line pictures. 

For much of the rest of the trip, we'll be on or following Route 66, a historic road that goes from Chicago to LA. After lunch, the group I was with stopped at the only remaining 9' section of the original Route 66. It was really cool to ride on for a tiny bit. 

Since we knew the day wasn't that long, we stopped a bunch of times. Our next stop was at the Buffalo Ranch where we saw real live buffalo! It was pretty cool.

The rest of the trip was pretty barren since there weren't any real towns between the ranch and Vinita. When we got there, we got stuck at a train crossing for almost 5 minutes! Turns out a lot of trains go through Vinita because we heard them all night too. 

When we got to the church the van hasn't arrived yet so we went back out on our bikes and got free Sonic! It was my first time at a Sonic and their milkshakes were amazing. Afterwards when the trailer had arrived with our bags, we all headed to a community pool where we were going to shower. We spent some awesome time at the pool relaxing and tanning parts of our body that have rarely seen the sun this summer. 

So far I have loved Oklahoma. Everyone at the church is so welcoming and friendly. We watched a movie tonight about a cyclist in Bloomington, IN, a town we biked through a few weeks ago. It was a fictional movie and made in the late 70s that was actually pretty good if not a little strange. 

Raking dirt

July 23, 2013
Second build day in Joplin

Today we split into two groups for working, which was smart since there definitely wasn't 27 people's worth of work on our first build site. I was with the group that went over to another house that was completed but needed landscaping. Our job, with the help of or leader Matt and his tractors, was to rake out the dirt all around the house so they could spread sod all over and make a yard. It was hard work raking dirt but we had a good group and kept the chatter going all day. Also, we had gotten insider information from the Habitat team in Springfield that Matt in Joplin used to be a Christian rock star and was once on tour with his album. They gave us a poster from his album and directed us to his songs on YouTube. During a break, we all gathered around our leaders speakers and listened to one of his songs. When Matt walked over he was pretty embarrassed but had a good attitude about it. We swayed in a circle to his music and then got him to sign our poster. Overall it was a fun day and we got a lot of the dirt spread over the lawn. 

When we went back to the house they were flooring they weren't as far as we thought they'd be because they'd been waiting for the inspector most of the morning before they could move on. We helped them out with the last of the work just as the clouds cleared and once again it was so hot. When we finished the floor it was such a satisfying feeling!

After building, I went with Casey to find the spirit trees we'd heard locals talking about. Since it was only a mile away we grabbed our bikes and found two of them. They are large dead trees that survived in the path of the tornado. As a memorial for those that lost their lives in the tornado, a painter has gone around and painted these trees bright colors. They were really cool to see, especially since all the other trees around them were gone entirely. 

At the host site that night two of the girls had bought pink and purple hair dye. I've never dyed my hair before and since this trip is all about doing things I've never done before (and may never do again) I decided to dye a small section of hair at the back of my head right pink. It was exhilarating. I wasn't sure how much I would like it but once it dried I was really happy with it! 


Dying pink

Final product!

First build day in Joplin

July 22, 2013
First build day in Joplin, OH

Walking to the build site this morning all of us couldn't help but wonder if where we would be working had been in the path of the tornado. Sure enough it was, and once the site manager Matt explained to us where the path had gone, it was hard to miss it. It wasn't because there were tons of vacant lots (almost every house was rebuilt already actually), but it was the lack of trees. When the tornado came through it ripped out every last tree in its path making the path barren while the surround areas were filled with trees. It was pretty eerie. When we showed up there was also a huge thunder and lightning storm going just south of us that made for a frightening scene. 

The house we were helping to build was just in its beginning stages so we were in charge of putting in the floor. It was pretty cool to go from finishing the painting in Springfield to putting in the floor supports in Joplin. 

We've really had the opportunity to do many things with Habitat already. Since not everyone could be working at once, we found ways to have fun on the work site, too. 

During lunch, a woman that had been affected by the tornado told us her story. It was very moving and made what we are doing here so much more meaningful. By the end of the day the tail end of the storm was coming right for us so we cut it short, but we had completed a lot of the floor and had fun while doing it!

That night we went out in the town to a rooftop bar (our favorite) and got a taste of the what the locals are like in Joplin. It was a crazy scene with a few cowboy hats and boots. As always, we brought the dance party and had an awesome night. 

Cows tell all

July 21, 2013
Springfield, MO to Joplin, MO

Since Matt went to school in Springfield and lives just outside of the city, he hooked us up for all of our meals while we were there. Our final breakfast before leaving for Joplin was beyond amazing. We went to a Village Inn, a breakfast place in Missouri, and had the most delicious and hearty breakfast we've had all trip. Just writing about it now is making me hungry remembering how good it was. I spent the day riding with two girls I've become close with on the trip, Casey and Ellie, and our friend Jeff. Again, the clouds were out so the heat was bearable for most of the morning ride. In fact, the clouds made almost a second sunrise when they started to clear around 10 or 11 which was cool to watch. 

While on this trip we've heard that if cows are laying down then it means it's going to rain. Just before it started to rain, we passed a field with 4 cows in it--2 were laying down while 2 were standing. Clearly there was some confusion as to what the chances of rain were. Turns out it was only just a light drizzle, which is understandable that not every cow got the rain memo. However, when we biked by cows when it was drizzling, almost all of them were laying down. It was a relatively easy 80 mile ride, which seems crazy to say but it's true. We had a lot of fun talking and doing our sweepstakes video. Today's challenge was the best lip sync or voice over. This was our final product: 

We didn't win but we had a lot of fun making it. Riding into Joplin was also pretty cool. All I knew about the city I had heard from the news when they were hit with a devastating tornado back in May of 2011. The town was way larger than I thought it would be and a lot more rebuilt than I had anticipated. I'm so excited that we get to work here for two days! Since we rolled into the host site on the early side, I decided it was time to give my bike a real cleaning since it hadn't had one since before the tar had gotten all over it. I also switched my tires (the front went to the back and vice versa) and lubed up my chain. So clean and so fresh! This is what a bike and build girl looks like! 

A relaxing day of painting

July 20, 2013
Build day in Springfield

Today's build day was awesome. We didn't have to be there until 9am! So much sleeping in happened. It felt great. There were two options for the day--painting inside or painting outside. Since I've been getting a cold, I thought a day inside would be better and it was. They were doing a restoration of a Habitat house that had been taken back by the organization and a new family was moving in pretty soon. It was cool to be a part of the final touches on a house knowing that the home owners would be moving in only a few days later. I did most of my painting with a roller and in the ceiling. It was very relaxing and a fun way to spend the afternoon. We got done earlier than usual and went back to the church and hung out for the rest of the night. A giant thunder and lightning storm came through that night which was fun to listen to while falling asleep. I didn't even think to take pictures today so there are none!

Making it to Springfield

July 19, 2013
Lake Ozark, MO to Springfield, MO

Today started off badly, got worse, and then was amazing. Since the address of the church had changed since the year before, we started the day with a wrong turn. It quickly added 3 miles to our trip before we even really started. Not long after we corrected ourselves, we ended up on the freeway, complete with semi-trucks, cars going way too fast, and many exit ramps. Needlesstosay I was a little freaked out. Another rider and I, Kamal, eventually decided that we had had enough and called the van to pick us up. She had been freaking out on the road too so we decided that just skipping to the next road would be a good idea. And it was an amazing idea! The rest of the ride turned out to be awesome and we had fun biking with just each other and getting to know one another better. We were on county roads or farm roafs for most of the trip which had amazing views and fame animals! Missouri continued to be one of the most beautiful states we've been in. 

We were headed to Springfield, but passed right through the home town of one of our riders, Matt. His family was making us burgers from cattle that they had raised for lunch so we were all anxious to get there. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Kamal and I couldn't keep up with Matt and Jeff, ran out of water, and thought we might have gotten lost since the farm roads were poorly marked, so we stopped at this really cool looking historic house. While standing in the shade at the start of the driveway, a mini van pulled up and asked if we needed water because this was his house. We were so excited for water and followed him and his son into the house. He was very excited to see us and hear about what we were doing and gave us a whole tour of the house and history. It was unbelievable. I didn't take pictures inside, but you can check out the W. C. Potter house here.

The dad's name was Jim and so was his son. Little Jim filled our camelbacks with ice and water while big Jim took us around the house. He even brought us down to the basement where you could see the original brick that the house was built out of. When we came up from the basement, little Jim told us that another rider had showed up on the front step. Since we had left our bikes outside, Ella V had seen them and pulled in. As we were all standing on the front stoop, Sam rode by and we flagged her over for some water refill too. Afterwards Jim got a picture of us all on the front steps with little Jim. It was awesome and I'm so happy we just happened to stop there. 

Afterward it was just a little while to lunch which was absolutely delicious. This was when my phone died so I have no other pictures from today, but the ride into Springfield was also amazing. The clouds had just come out because it was going to rain that night so everything had cooled down dramatically. A very welcome break from the humid heat of Missouri.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beautiful Missouri

July 18, 2013
Belle, MO to Lake Ozark, MO

Today was my first town presentation! Each morning before we leave for the day, a rider presents facts, both affordable housing related and fun facts, about the town we're riding to. It's a great way to know a little about the place we're going to especially since we are only just passing through most towns on our route. There have been a few mornings where towns were somehow not assigned to anybody and for some reason I was unofficially assigned to read their Wikipedia pages. Today, however, I had done actual research and was excited to present. The Lake of the Ozarks is the premiere lake resort destination for the Midwest. Unfortunately we didn't get to explore it very much or even swim in the lake! However, the ride there was absolutely gorgeous Missouri country side and the sweepstakes challenge was a lot of fun with my group. It was a long hot ride again, but we took multiple dance breaks and snack breaks. We had a major reroute because the route we were supposed to take turned out to be all gravel. The sweepstakes was the best tribal video or picture. Right when they said that I immediately got the song Baba Yetu stuck in my head. Our tribal dance to this song turned out amazing and we ended up winning the sweepstakes! It was super exciting. For lunch we stopped at a local place in a super small town and I got a cheese burger--so amazingly delicious. As of today Missouri is in my top three for prettiest states we've biked through so far.