29 June 2010

Garden of the Gods

We had an absolutely wonderful walk through the Garden of the Gods yesterday.  Are you ready to look at LOTS of pictures??

There were lots of people there for a weekday.  Some were rock climbing:

And some were cruising around on these things getting a guided tour:
They look fun, but I'd rather walk.  Actually, I'd rather have ridden my trike!  We may go back and ride through there now that our trikes are out of the shop.
See?  Lotsa peoples.
It was such a nice day to spend time together with my family.  78 degrees!

27 June 2010

Pueblo and the Uh-Oh!

We left Fowler heading down 50 where my parents met us and took us through the trafficky parts and into Pueblo where they had found a temporary place for us to stay.  It was an RV park/horse place and since all the RV spots were taken they had given my mom and dad a spot back by the arena, and us a little barn thing to set our tent up in.  They didn't even charge us to stay here!

It was pretty cool there and there was a great breeze in our little barn.  Then in the morning there was a horse event which was fun to watch, especially the little kids riding horses.

Aren't they cute?  They rode really well!
This, unfortunately, was a bar and things got loud Saturday night which made it really hard to sleep. As usual, though, we were tired enough to get some zzzzzz's anyway.  We left the next morning so we could get set up in Colorado Springs.  We were planning to spend a little time in Pueblo since Alex's liver recipient lives there and we were hoping to meet him.  Russell was 9 at the time of his transplant and he is 19 now.  I called them but didn't get any response which was really disappointing.  I thought for sure they would be receptive but I guess I was wrong, so there was no reason to stay in Pueblo. Especially when I kept thinking I would run into my daughter's liver at Walmart or something and I sure didn't want that to happen.  I wanted to meet him, but not like that.  Here is a picture of Russell:
Good lookin kid, huh?  Maybe someday we can meet him.

So anyway, when we pulled through the gate to leave - UH-OH!
What happened?
Apparently on the turn the bikes had hit the fence.  My mom's bike and the bike rack were both pretty much trashed.  We left the rack and the bikes with the campground owner who is going to try to get the rack welded for them.  
The fence didn't sustain much damage and we didn't hear or feel a thing.
Mom's bent bent.
I think she needs to get a TerraTrike now, don't you?  :)

Eads and the Ordway Ordeal

The last few days of riding in Kansas were workouts.  In fact I think my legs are still a bit sore from all the hard pushing we did to get through those long stretches with no place to stop.  A couple of 60+ mile days in a row with strong winds fighting you and you really feel it.  Add the heat and not much to look at and you have some LONG days.  Have I complained enough for ya?  We loved that there was no traffic, though.
Hard to tell in this picture but these were so big we weren't even sure they were deer.
These were empty cattle cars and they went on for over 30 miles.  The tagging on them was occasionally impressive but usually lacked city skills.  There were a couple I liked:
Not art, but always a great message no matter how it's written.
This one took some time. 
We were out of water and starving by the time we reached Sugar City and it's only cafe.  Rude service was provided by the first waitress we've met that admits to hating cyclists.  :)   Wim, the cyclist we saw at the Colorado border, really gave her a hard time and she gave it right back.  Since we got there shortly after he left we got the whole story.  And we got Mexican food because that's all she would serve us.  lol
After eating Mexican food one sure appreciates seeing this on the side of the road!  It's an outhouse, put there especially for us cyclists.  Apparently there are several of them along the TransAm in CO.
They even put a biker log in it.  lol
We signed it and saw that our friends Carole and Dave had been there.
When we got to Ordway we introduced Wim to Carole and Dave.  They all stayed at the Hotel Ordway, a hostel for bikers for many, many years.  Wim paid far less for his cyclist room than the couple paid for their foo-foo room.  Apparently the place was fixed up nice but we didn't get to find out.  NO PETS. So after a pleasant conversation about the rude service in Sugar City Ken and I went to check out our other options for places to stay.  One of them was a campground, which wasn't a campground at all.  It was a parking lot/dump station for RVs, not even any grass, and it was right next to the busy road.  So we went to the end of 9th street to investigate staying at a lady's farm.  She was from New Zealand and apparently hosts a lot of cyclists in spite of not being on the Adventure Cyclist maps.  We were told about her from some eastbounders way back in Missouri so we went to check it out, but in spite of her having lots of animals out there already Simon was a problem and we were not allowed to stay.  There was no camping in their city parks either and we had already spent hours riding around this little town looking for a place to lay our heads and we were getting really upset.  We'd ridden nearly 70 miles and were so very tired... but we decided to press on instead of staying in a town where we didn't feel very welcome.  Silently we pedaled back out onto 96 and headed West once again.  And what did we see?
A prison.  Right on the TransAm trail.  The inmates there could see us pedaling by, pouting about not being able to stay in Ordway and I was suddenly reminded of my freedom and I became instantly grateful for the "problems" we were having.  The furrow in my brow relaxed, I breathed deeply, and got into the pedaling groove with a new and improved mood.  And then it happened.  Ken saw them first, and said, "Look Jen.  There are the mountains."
Our first glimpse of the Rockies.  Took my breath away and the Ordway Ordeal was truly over in my mind.  The sunset was stunning and we continued to pedal through it and into the night.
When the sun had set, the nearly-full moon shined over our left shoulders and we were able to see our way to a little town called Fowler where we stayed in a friendly motel that allowed pets.  We ended up with 87 miles.
Downtown Fowler.  Accidental art.

25 June 2010

Rush County News

Pictured are Mary Engel holding Cali, Jen, Ken and Melissa Engel. Mary's husband, Duane Engel, received a heart transplant 10 years ago. He died as the result of a stroke in September 2009. Melissa is Mary and Duane's daughter. Mary also has a niece who has received three kidney transplants.

Following is the article that ran in the June 24, 2010 edition.

Cyclists encourage organ donation


Cross-country cyclists Jen Ballentine and Ken Burris received a warm
reception when they stopped at The Rush County News on Friday afternoon,
June 18. They are making a 7,000-mile trip to raise awareness for organ
donation, and soon discovered the staff of the newspaper has an intense
interest in the same subject.
News staff Mary Engel and Melissa Engel told the couple how their husband
and father, respectively, gained 10 years of life because of a heart
transplant. Duane Engel died September 2009, but his family is grateful for
the additional time they had with him.
Ballentine's interest in organ donation comes from the other side of the
situation. Her 11-year-old daughter, Alex, died almost 10 years ago and
became an organ donor. Ballentine said her daughter saw a public service
announcement about organ donation on television when she was 10, and didn't
understand why anyone wouldn't do that.
"Whoever gets my heart would be able to do back flips," the young gymnast
said at the time.
Six months later, the girl was hit by a car while walking home from school
and died. Six people benefited from the donation of the girl's organs. The
couple from North Carolina decided to make the trip across the country in an
attempt to encourage organ donations. They plan to meet the boy who received
Alex's heart in Denver, Colorado during the journey.
They are pedaling TerraTrikes, recumbent-style touring tricycles made in
Michigan. They say the trikes are easy to ride, but spent two days in La
Crosse recovering from a 100-mile leg of the journey they did on June 16.
The couple saved money to pay for the trip, but also rely on donations to
help with expenses. Anyone interested in donating can get more information
at www.kenandjennc.blogspot.com.

24 June 2010


This is going to be the highlight of the trip.  Colorado.  It's where this story actually begins, well, at least the organ donation portion.  I lived in Aurora, a suburb of Colorado for about 4-5 years back in the late 90's, and I felt really at home there from the moment we rolled in to town.  I did well there, working my way up from the billing department at AT&T to a Telecom Tech at Qwest, to a Telecom Engineer for Janus Fund.  I was not prepared to lose my daughter, and when that happened my life began to fall apart at the seams.  It has been a rough decade for me.  And it is hard to come back here.  But I feel it is important for me to do so.  As excited as I am to be doing this ride and all that comes with it, I did feel a serious jolt of anxiety rip through me when we crossed the state line.  Another cyclist came along and that helped...

That's Wim.  He is from Belgium.  He likes to write handwritten letters to his people back home.  He thinks it is more personal and thoughtful and we agreed.  A few miles down the road and we saw another fellow traveler.  This time an eastbounder riding out of SF but originally from Louisville, KY.  I found Jeff delightful, funny, and VERY in love with his fiance.  He was really missing her!
Jeff got rid of his front panniers.  I would too, I think.
What's this about?  Yep, Ken got another flat.  That makes 6 for him, and ZERO for me.  Oh I probably shouldn't have said that.  We stayed last night in Eads, which was a 60 mile ride for us.  We have another 60 miles ahead of us today.  I am looking forward to spending some time in Denver (2 weeks we think) but it's getting harder to pedal there.  I don't know what that's about.  I think I am just tired.
Speaking of tired.  :)  Simon continues to be a trooper.  He seems so happy doing this, even in the heat.  He is so cute and he makes me laugh so much.  I love Simon.

Dillon's Grandparents

We spent the night after the storm at the local Athletic Club which is also a Gymnastics gym with a pool in it, which made me feel even closer to Alex since she was a gymnast.  Swimming in the heated pool also helped me to unwind after an incredible meeting.
Swimming pools are my favorite place to pray.  And pray I did because I had just gotten to meet two people I didn't know I was going to meet - Dillon's grandparents (for those of you who don't know, Dillon is the boy who received Alex's heart).
I could never explain how powerful this meeting was for us all, but Ken did, so I would like you direct you at this time to his journal.  Go to his Main Page  then scroll down, then click on his entry called,  "The Meeting."
Our initial embrace.  Whew.

The next morning we were back on the road, that is until Ken noticed his tire was flat again.  It took a little time to get everything together, but we were on the road by 8:00 or so.  It felt good to pedal.
First we had to stop by the slot machine.
Then we rode past a wind farm.  33 of those awesome things slowly spinning.  They are majestic looking to me, and I love what they do.  They make clean energy!
Then we got stuck in a traffic jam with a bunch of cattle trucks.  They were full of cows and it made me so sad to see them peeking out those little holes at me.  Now, I know we need to eat, and I love a good steak, but the feed lots made me sad to ride past, and seeing all the cows in the trucks bothered me.  No offense to anyone here, I know this is big business in this area, but I love animals and seeing this operation close up made me feel something, ya know?  I saw Food Inc.  
Right next to the feed lot we saw several of these birds.  Anyone know what they are?  They aren't in our bird app, at least not that we can find yet.
And speaking of big business, it's harvest time around here.  We see these things literally 10 miles before we get to them.  It's the strangest thing, because they only look about a mile away, but Ken and I play a game where we guess how far away something is, and we usually way under-guess.  
When you're pedaling through such desolate places and you see one of these on the horizon, your mind begins to imagine things... things like ice in your camelback, that first cool blast of air on your face when you step into the store...  but do you see a store here??  Nope.  Just some pumps that you use your card to pay for.  I was sooooo upset!!!!  Good thing there was a store on the other side of this town though.  :)

We made it to the next town called Tribune and I wondered if their newspaper was called, "The Tribune Tribune."  lol  Never did find out.  We set up camp here by the pool and everything looked sunny and calm but about 10 minutes later we were securing everything yet again.  We slept through another windy rainy night in our trusty tent.  I fell asleep before the sun went down and slept like a log.  
It was HOT out.

A trippy harvest shot.  There was nothing else to take pictures of.  :)
Oh!  I forgot to tell you!  My Dad and I got to go on our Father's Day hike the day after Father's Day.  We went on a nice long hike and talked about deep things, like the water we were unable to cross.  :)  We had to get a ride across from a couple of nice ladies who had come to check out the storm damage.
I liked wearing my Mom's Tilley.  :)
I mostly just liked being with my Dad.