Shaw Ride

Illinois Wesleyan Professor Nears Arizona on Third Day of Cross-Country Bicycle Ride

May 4, 2005

OUTSIDE IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif. — Greg Shaw, associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesleyan, is riding his bicycle across America to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of McLean County. Shaw departed San Diego on May 2 and plans to arrive in New York City on June 8.

The following is a description of Shaw's first few days as received in a cell-phone call from him on Wednesday, May 4, at 3 p.m. (CDT):

Monday, May 2:

I started riding at about 2 p.m.

I was so disgusted - I set up a pretty tight schedule these early days of the trip, forcing it to get to Flagstaff by Friday - the first day out, road construction had altered the route, which didn't show up on my map. I wasted about 25 miles backtracking. I was riding around these gated communities in affluent San Diego County. It's not a dangerous place to be, but it was just a waste of time.

That gave way pretty quickly to a climb.

Tuesday, May 3:

On the morning of day 2, I climbed over 4,000 feet …

Then I was able to coast for an hour into the desert. (Descending a mountain) the vegetation changes; you can actually see it. I was coasting about 25-30 mph, coming down off the mountain. Around every bend, there was a really dramatic change.

(Then in the desert) it got up to about 100 degrees; I sat out the middle three hours of the day in a little dune buggy resort.

Wednesday, May 4:

I'm tired, but I'm doing well. When I press on, I should be in Arizona within 15 minutes.

I'm told from my Habitat for Humanity sources, we have over $3,000 raised.

I'm longing for fields of corn and soybeans …

I just finished crossing the Imperial Valley. It's harsh - gravel and sand and rock. About the only thing to grow are these little scrubby bushes and cactus; you don't even see birds. You see the occasional lizard. It's just devoid of life as central Illinoisans would know it.

The desert is a harsh climate. It really teaches you a lot of respect for it and the people who live here, although you have to wonder why they live here.

It's hard to stay hydrated. I've given up on drinking straight water; it washes the minerals out of you too fast. My main drink is half water and half Gatorade. I drink a lot of V8 juice, which is loaded with salt and potassium, and fruit juice and chocolate milk, which has sugar. I'm taking salt and mineral tablets, to help get back what I'm sweating out, and I take three multivitamins a day. I'm burning off 5,000 calories a day, which is two and a half times what I would at work.

It's difficult to eat that much without upsetting your stomach. The idea of regular structured meals has gone out the window; I just stop and eat every hour. I get a lot (of calories) in the form of drink, I'm eating a lot of granola bars, bread and peanut butter. I'm actually sitting in a Taco Bell right now and just had a couple of big burritos. You have to eat like crazy; it's an effort, and expensive, to eat that much.

My current altitude is 397 feet. My goal for tomorrow is to reach Prescott, Ariz., which is just over 5,300 feet. I'm still about 30 miles behind schedule, which is hard to make up when you have an abbreviated day because of the heat. I get up early, about 5 a.m., head out at 6 a.m., ride till midday, then rest for a few hours (during the hottest part of the day), then ride again until within an hour of sunset. That's my strategy now. I'll shift strategies once I enter more normal climates.

When I reach Flagstaff, then I'll start worrying about cold. Ten days ago Flagstaff got snow. I shipped a box of clothes to Flagstaff that's going to get me through the cold weather part.

Every dollar donated will be used to support construction of the Habitat for Humanity house by IWU and ISU students, their 10th house in 10 years of the universities' partnership. Pledges marked “Collegiate House” can be sent to Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, Attn: Bruce Williams, assistant director, 410 N. Prairie St., Bloomington IL 61701.