Impressions from the ride

First, here is an e-mail "report" to my sponsors written right after returning from Atlanta:
Date: Wednesday, September 04, 1996 3:08PM


I have just (Tuesday, Sept.3, at 2 a.m. to Winnipeg) returned from the BA ride.

At least some of you were interested in hearing about my impressions from the ride. So here is a few words. Generally, it was fun. I liked it. In the saddle of my bike I made about 2,230 km (during the 16 days of riding), and spent another 4 days (about 700 km) behind the steering wheel of a motorhome which served as the "mothership" for the support crew (all riders where divided into 4 groups, every day 3 groups were riding and one group was acting as a support crew for the others - helping with the tire repairs and preparing brunch and lunch from the donated food; except for the first and the last day when almost everybody was riding his/her bike). The ride was quite easy for me, I wished I could continue for a few more days, at least to the Atlantic coast. I turned up to be among the fastest riders, maybe even the fastest one in the end, which was a pleasant surprise for me, I sometimes deliberately left as the last one and still arrived as the first one (to give an interview for the local TV channel; just kidding, actually, I was giving an interview only once, in Metropolis, Ill [home of the Superman], in most other cases the cameras usually were late for my arrival; we really were the target of the interest of the media all the way, however most of the interviews were given by our main organizer Gord Peters). I even managed to swim in some lakes along the route and also swam across the rather dirty Illinois river and back. However, I stopped to do that further in the south were all the waters seemed to be very muddy and polluted. Winnipeg River in Pinawa seems to be crystal clear compared to the rivers down there.

In a sense the first 3 or 4 days were the most difficult because we had steady head wind from the south. It is true that the rest of the route was in the rolling hills with almost no flat sections, and through two ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, but one could at least rest down the hills. The heat and humidity was not as bad as we expected (were told to expect). Apparently the summer was somewhat colder than usual down there. During the last 3 days of the ride the skies were cloudy almost all the time and we even had some light pleasantly cooling drizzles.

Habitat celebrations were somewhat reduced from what was originally planned. Jimmy Carter was not there because his daughter was said to be getting married. However, we were present at a nice and moving home dedication in Grand Forks, ND, earlier in the ride, when a new house built by Habitat was being handed over to a family with 3 small children.

I spent all the last Saturday sightseeing in downtown Atlanta, it seems to be a very lively city, where it is fun just watching crowds in the streets. Then came the almost non-stop drive home from noon Sunday till 2 am Tuesday.

Our accommodation and meals were donated by affiliates of the local Habitat organizations, most of the time different local churches. We slept in school gymnasiums, church basements or the YMCA's (that was the best choice as a swimming pool was usually free for us to use right after the ride). Although sometimes the supper consisted only of plain spaghetti with always the same sauce, especially in some small southern cities we have experienced some of the famous Southern hospitality. We were greeted by speeches by local town mayors and treated to royal feasts with more meals than a single person could try. I have never eaten as much as during this ride.

On the other hand, on the roads in the South we met a few rednecks who didn't like cyclists or were not used to them; frankly I didn't understand that. I personally experienced on only about two occasions shouts such as "Get off the road" from the passing cars. Some other riders were thrown stuff at, one was apparently even shot at from an air gun (judging from the wound that appeared on his leg after he experienced a sharp pain when passing a lonely house). But this were rather exceptions. There were no other injuries except for a bruised shoulder when another rider ended up in the ditch on a highway with an extremely heavy traffic earlier in the ride. Thus the main problem for almost everybody was a lot of flat tires.

This was written in haste and in a very disordered way. It is at least a fresh record of my impressions from the ride. You will probably laugh at my boasting of being among the faster riders. It was really a surprise for me in view of the doubts I had before the ride.

A month later I somewhat improved and shortened the above report for the Pinawa local paper called "The Paper", but I also added this:

There was one day of rest in the middle of the trip for everybody, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Hannibal, MO, the birthplace of Mark Twain.

Actually, in the light of all those reports about the crime in the US, our trip was a rather pleasant experience. I felt very peaceful on all those back roads that we were riding on between Minneapolis and Atlanta (up to Minneapolis we rode on the Interstates). Many places in those rolling hills we went through could easily be somewhere in the Central Europe where I came from.

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