Note: This is a blog, so you read from bottom to top.
An epic bicycle journey 2/3 of the way across North America
Throughout the trip I kept track of all the money I spent in a a little notebook. A little math shows that I spent an average of $8.80 per day, not including five hotels. Of those five hotels all but one were optional. The necessary one was when I almost passed out of heatstroke when it was 111F. Including all hotels I spent $11.76 per day.
Day 45: July 12, 2002
Blue Mounds State Park -> Beloit
I guess I knew today would come and go quickly. The first twenty miles were down before I could really register them. I went through a very nice wooded valley and passed a total of three cars in an hour. The first bit of the day was generally downhill, coming down into the flats. It might just be because I am within communting distance of Madison, but I am passing a lot of Mother Earth News type houses (you know the type -- "environmentally friendly" huge buildings with enough windows to finance four years of college) (I put those quotation marks there because while these houses may use recycled materials, etc, they still have a huge impact. Much friendlier to buy an older house in a city I'd say) ... They look exactly like they do in the pictures.
Goats are the cutest animals on earth.
I hopped on the Sugar River State Trail in New Glarus, a Swiss historical village and a charming place. Apparently bicycle trails in Wisconsin have user fees. I don't really know why, but this offends me deep down. Something about how everything is becoming so commodified, like this trail is a carnival ride instead of a mentally and physically healthy means of transportation. The fee was $3, and a sign at each road crossing warned of a $5 fine for not paying in advance. Well, I'm not going to march in lockstep while our country goes the way of the soul-sucking capitalists. Plus, thanks to my college education I can do a little regression analysis in my head and determine that the cost/benefit margin is in my favor. Watch:
I initially calculated the chance of getting caught to be somewhere between 1 and 33%, or that I would get caught somewhere between one and thirty-three times out of every one hundred that I rode. The fee is $3. The cost of getting caught is $8 ($3 fee plus $5 fine). The fee is 3/8 of the total fine, or 37.5 percent. So it is cheaper to skip the fee if I get caught less then 37.5% of the time. This is just over my high-end prediction of 33%, so it doesn't make sense financially for me to pay.
As I rode the 23 mile trail I re-figured my odds at between 1 and 10%. An extra factor to take into account is that yearly passes are available for $10.
So the trail was very nice, going on an old railroad bed through some very scenic areas. I made good time, 15-17mph with a smile on my face the entire length of the 23 mile trail. It ended in Broadhead and I was pretty suprised at how quickly it had gone by. It was only 12:30 and I had 50 miles under my belt...and Beloit was getting really close.
The ride on backroads and then on Hwy 81 into Beloit was somehow surreal.. It was like any other day, except that I had been here before... and I saw people I knew... The ride through town was the strangest ride I've ever been on.
On the quad in front of Pearsons at the college I laid my bicycle down, 2,680 miles and 45 days after we rolled away from Albany in the rain.
It just doesn't seem real that the adventure is over. Even the next day, typing this in my new apartment I feel disconnected, floating. Riding to the store without the trailer is a new experiance, disbalanced and awkward.
But already I am planning my next escapade. Coast to Coast from Houston to San Diego, 1,500 miles of dry desert and tall mountains.
Day 44: July 11, 2002
Richland Ctr -> Blue Mounds SP
Well, not quite. After 50 miles of county roads my legs and knees were seriously begining to get tired. My map reading last night must have been a tad overzealous, because I am 65-75 miles from Beloit right now and I could have made it, probably before dark, but why rush and just about kill myself when there is a wonderful state park right here?
I didn't eat dinner last night aside from 5 PB&honey sandwiches and I think that that is the cause of today's exhaustion. I ate about 14 PB&honeys today but I guess it was not enougth to make up the deficent -- maybe the 56g of Protein in my normal 1lb of pasta are what did it. Regardless, after I set up camp I took a 3 hour nap. I hope I'll be able to sleep tonight, but maybe it just means I'll get an early start tomorr.w
Last night I had two dreams about arriving in Beloit. When I woke up I was pissed because I had already gotten to experiance the exhileration, but I still had to ride all day. Kind of like eating desert first I guess.
This part of WI is really gorgeous -- quiet county backrouds winding along river valleys past small farms surrounded by deep green hills. The trees provide shade and break up most of the wind. Tomorrow as I get closwer to Beloit things will flatten out and the fields will get larger, the trees fewwer until it is all just corn. So many people go to Beloit for 4 years and leave thinking WI is just flat grey farmland. I'm glad I have to chance to see the rest of the state.
I went by a Frank Lyod Wright school or center or somethign today. I mention this only because it seems like the kind of thing one puts in a journal. Maybe I'm just not old enought to be interested. I am interested in architecture, but I don't really like his style.
I talked to Audra, my soon to be boss ont he phone today and she has made the necessary arrangments for me to pick up my apartment keys. I'm ecited. My first realy very own place, all tomyself.
So I'll make it in 45 days. Not bad at all, a nice number. I think today was a delaying action. Heh, oh well. I'm happy. VBTW -- WI is far better then MN. I had a lady stop to make sure everything was OK during a water break.
Day 43: July 10, 2002
La Crosse -> Richland Ctr
Yow-sa, there are some real hills in this part of Wisconsin. I kind of like it. The struggle of climbing at 4 miles per hour pulling a 50lb trailer is like nothing else. I love it and I hate it, but at the end of the day it sure feels great. Funny that I always feel kind of disappointed once I start going downhill. Speed (and boy can you get some speed on these hills -- 43 mph with a really strong headwind) just isn't my thing. But I guess downhills are a necssary part of the equation.
No hill is as long or as steep as it looks when you are at the bottom.
So this morning around 5am I was woken up by the pitter-patter of rain on the tent. It took me awhile to wake up enough to panic and throw the rain fly on. That was the first time I've lost the "I'll just leave the rainfly off tonight -- it wont rain" game. I was kind of glad to be woken up anyway because I was having a really weird dream that I was working for my old difficult boss at a tiny mall pizza place. The mall was 40 miles away and I didnt' have a car, so I had to wake up at 3am every morning to ride to work by 6am for a measly 4 hour shift every other day. Gack! Funny that I'm having dreams about work. Hello real world.
SO after the rain debacle I went back to sleep until 9:30. So I got kind of a late start this morning and what with the hills and such I didn't get in until 6:45 -- almost 9 hours on the road. Goodness.
I'm using the Wisconsin bicycle map set and it is huge -- 1"=3 miles. The roads are color coded by ridability. Green, blue, yellow and red. I don't really understand the system. It is not shoulder size, maybe traffic density, but I couldn't tell the difference between some of the red and green roads I was on today. Maybe a little more traffic on the red, but the green road had no shoulder and limited sigh distance. So who knows? Once you get used to the scale and figure out how they fit together it is a pretty good tool. Every road is on it, with all by town roads color-coded. The route through La Crosse was redicuosly low traffic, which was nice I guess.
In La Cross there is a water tower that says "La Crosse, on the Mississippi River, the West Coast of Wisconsin" which is true in both meanings I guess. Lots of hip college kids running about at least.
So tonight I'm in the Richland Center Fairgrounds, camping for $20. I'm sick of feeling like I hav eto justify to my journal spending over budget, so fuck off.
My other option was to go 10 miles or so down the bicycle trail that starts in Richalnd Ctr and stealthcamp. The WI Fram Progress Days Expo is in town somewhere near here and they say all the parks and hotels almost to Madison are full. Farm Progress is an Ag Tech Expo, lots of dealers, etc and over 100,000 people a day. In a town of 5,00 it must be quite something. There are a number of RVs here with me and if I was a mean person in a bad mood I think I would ask them if it was my tax dollars that paid for their subsidies that bought them the $100,000 RV. Apparently there has been a lot of farm progress. For some at least.
I was thinking this morning, as I rode through Amish country, dodging horse shit in the road :) and admiring the quipment by the houses, that if the family farm as we imagine it, small self sufficent and independent is to surivie or come back, it is going to have to do something like the Amish have done -- cooperative communites that don't grow too fast or big or get too complicated. I really dig Amish and other plainfolk.
So. Yep. Tomorrow should be the big day. Looks like it is less then 100 miles to Beloit. I've mapped out a nice route, lots of bike paths. I'll be riding in, come or hell or high water, on 81 past the Mennoite store and the video store and then down the hill to the river.
I'm excited. But sad. But happy. Which is good I guess. It sure has been an adventure. Well, it's not over yet. Tomorrow could be pretty intense.
I still haven't gotten in touch with anyone at the college about my partment. I'll try calling tomorrow morning but I guess I might be camping tomorrow too. Hah!
Day 42: July 9, 2002
Stewertville -> La Crosse, WI
Two more days! One more night! WISCONSIN! Goodbye unfriendly mosquito plagued MN and H e e l l o o WI!. Which will probably be the same. But it is a new state!
Today started out slow -- no tailwind but not much of a headwind either. Twenty miles in or so and I was in a roller coaster of bluffs and hollows, wooded valleys and flat plains. A rather dramatic change in screnery from even a few days ago. I guess the glaciers or the river did something here. I like the trees.
In Rushfield I bought dinner and got on a bicycle trail -- I'd heart about it from a buy on the trail the day before yesturday. I've decided I like Rails-to-Trails like this. They are very quiet, scenic and shadded. Plus they go somewhere! Too often bike trails are just for recreation, kind of a waste in my mind. Why drive somewhere to bike? Just bike from your doorstep. So even though I was only on it for ten or twenty miles it made my day more fun. And at the end I met two other touring cyclists! One was just kind of going all over for a few months and other had been touring for five years. Amazing. I think I am more of a settled, agricultural type person then a nomadic hunter-gatherer. I need a place to feel at home -- a private space of my own. But five years is damn cool.
Now I'm at an expensive campground right outside of La Crosse on the river. G'night.
Day 41: July 8, 2002
Sakatah Lake State Park (Waterville) -> Stewartville
Tailwind! Hah Hah! A pretty nice day, all told. The mosquitos in the morning almost killed me. I had to wear my winter coat and pands to keep them off, and I still came away with my ears and face swollen. Grrrr..
The storm last night brought a NW wind with it and I am thanking God, or at least questioning my atheism. Heh. So I headed south for 30 miles on Hwy 13 and had a good long lunch break before turning east on Hwy 30.
At lunch I called my brother and we chated while I walked him through paying my credit card online. One less thing to worry about. After talking to Michael I am pretty excited to get back to Georgia. James bought my plane ticket for me (with my credit card-- Hah, as if...) so I'm good to go on the 15th. I can't wait to see all the people again. Of course, two weeks is probably just the right amount of time to go back for. It occured to me today that I'll almost certainly never live my parents again. Here I am, college grad with a job lined up and everything. I even bought my own health insurance... Gack!
SO I stopped in Hayesville to buy food and start looking for camping possabilities. The girl at the grocery store smiled at me a lot and thought they might allow camping in the park. A double check at the post office (always a good source of information) revealed that not only did they not allow camping, but their were no campgrounds around. A check at city hall revealed an Christian youth camp towards Stewertville that someone thought might allow camping, but a phone call went unanswered. So I eyed the wind and the storm clouds and set off for the east. It felt very liberating to be just going, with no end destination in mind. But then as I approached Stewertville on a very busy highway and crossed I-90 I began to get nervous. I seriously thought about getting a hotel. Luckily before I could really consider it I was out of town going east on 30 again. It was getting darker and I thought I felt a drop or two, so ten miles later here I am, down a county road and by a copse of trees at the side of a bean field. The mosquitos aren't bad and I'm out of sight of the road. So far only 3 cars have gone by. Of course, it is still perfectly light and the storm has blow over 3 hours later, but hey.
I looked at a route through WI and I think I really cane make it in only two days! Tomorrow I will probably make it 20 miles into the state if the weather and terrain stay about the same. Their might be a headwind or huge river bluffs, who knows. My fingers are crossed.
Stealth camping has put me back in an adventurous mood!
Day 40: July 7, 2002
Good day, but now at night I am hiding in the tent from mosquitos. It is raining outside by I am soaking wet in here from sweat. The floor is sticky and wet. As I said in my postcards today, MN has good public radio but terrible humidity. That, the mosquitos, and the people make this my least favorite state. North Dakota is waaay beter.
I'm in a state park now -- there is a bicycle trail that was going my way so I hopped on for ten miles or so. Nice change of scenery. Plus, today after I corssed the MN River I got to climb a hill! I love climbing hills. Funny that I hate headwinds.
Two days more in MN. Blah...
You can spend all day on these county backroads and not go more then an inch on the map. *sigh*
Day 39: July 6, 2002
Wilmar -> Gibbon
A pretty good day, straightforward enough. Low 80s all day. The towns in MN don't seem to have even heard of the overnight camping in parks, so I am in a county park 6 miles outside of town by a lake. Nice enough.
My hands hurt and my pinkie and the next finger in on both hands are somewhat numb. I'm looking into gloves and doing exercises frequently. I hope it is not carpal-tunnel syndrome. Yikes.
I had a beer (actually a flavored blue malt-beverage) with some lady and her whiny friend. I asked for a soda but she gave me the beer. Oh well, I don't feel much. It was freaking hot when the wind died -- I thought I was going to go crazy -- so maybe I sweated it out quickly. I don't normally drink much at all.
I'm tired, but that hotel last night was *nice* I got a shower and even washed my clothes. It is amazing how brown my shirt can turn a sinkful of water.
Day 38: July 5, 2002
Hancock -> Wilmar
Sweat streamed into my eyes all day. MN is humid. Very humid. My eyes burn and it puts me in a bad mood. In Wilmar there is no camping and it is 7:30 because I spent a lot of time in Benson at the library. There was a really nice municipal campground with showers right on the edge of town -- goes to show you. I should have pushed the extra 20 miles yesturday. Then I wouldn't be at this $35 hotel. But it is very nice and the clerk was friendly. He hopes to one day hike the AT. I talked to my parents. They just got back from England. It sounds like they had fun.
Last night at midnight a bunch of teenage girls with one guy came to the lake by my tent. Took them awhile to notice the tent and then they crept up, whispering among themselves. They started plotting to steal my shoes, oblivious to the fact that I was awake and watching them. When I said "Boo" they all ran off but came back slowly to talk. I eventually got up for a picture and then they left. It was fun, so I didn't mind being woken up a midnight. They even called me "Sir." Heh.
I learned to blow snot balls today. Not something for polite company to be sure, but a usefull skill none-the-less.
Day 37: July 4, 2002
Herman -> Hancock
Blah. Everday can't be a good day I guess. I would have stayed at the park outside Herman and had a real rest day, but I didn't have any food. SO I packed up and headed intothe 30mph headwind. Jesus. I was stopping every 1/2 mile to rest. At least the wind negated the heat. hah.
I stopped for food in Morris and while I was sitting on the curb outside the store drinking my 1/2 gallon of orange juice about to collapse from exhaustion these two cute girls came up and gave me a Jehovha's Witness tract -- "Because you look down." Screw you lady, I'm just fucking exhausted. I have a real hang up with being pitied. There is a lot if significant attached to being dirty and sitting on the ground I guess.
So that encounter energized me enought to get back on the bike and make it another...200 yards to the park, where I took an hour long nap. And then made it 8 more miles to Hancock, where it appeared that the entire county had turned out for the 4th of July Parade.
The parade was a typical small town affair, featuring a couple of high school reunion floats, thrown candy, and every farm implement, political canidate, beauty queen (make that "Beef Princess") and large truck that could fit. Sorry, I'm in a bad mood because I'm exhausted and it is too hot to sleep, too windy to cook and my tentsite is a boatluanch that seems to be the teen hangout. Large crowds of teenagers make me neverous -- too much like highschool. I keep forgetting that I am freaking old compared to these kids.
So far I like ND better then MN -- far fewer people, which makes the ones there are more open to strangers I think. But who knows, n=2 days isn't much to go on.
If this headwind holds I'm kinda sorta fucked. I'll make it, but only after ten day sof fighting. Just another adventure I guess.
Day 36: July 3, 2002
Wyndermere, ND -> Herman, MN
Straightfoward day, except I found Tofutti ice cream at the sotre in Wahpeton. Yum... I think I'm getting sick of PB&J and spaghetti. I don't know what else to eat!
I had trouble finding a place to stay, ended up at a campground S of Herman by a lake. Mosquites don't even affect my anymore. The lack of park in Herman is troubling -- I don't know if MN will be as easy to camp in and hospitable as North Dakota was. But then, my first day in ND I had problems too. Maybe just crossing borders is bad luck. More trees and people out here, roads are really good too. Must have taxes or something crazy :)
Passed 2000 miles. It really is amazing.
Day 35: July 2, 2002
Orinska -> Wyndermere
Suddenly there are trees. Not forests, but lots of planted trees and in general a more inhabited, midwestern look. This is corn and cow country. I even went through a hilly section that reminded me of home in West Georgia. No kudzoo here though. I guess the proximity of Fargo provides the economic base to support a larger population than farming can.
I had a hard time getting up this morning and I felt tired and sluggish all day. If there was a town I think I would have stopped after 60 miles. But here I am in a midsized (for ND) town in the camping park (free with multiple RV hookups, but no bathroom..) kicking back and listening to Fargo radio. 7! stations on the FM dial, including one puhblic station. What variety! Plus canned veggies, rice mix and tofu for dinner.
I have neighbors in the park, a family with three kids in an older RV that juding from the grass growing under it is here for the duration.
I'm afraid that I might have to take a rest day soon. I'm sleeping 10-12 hours a night and I'm still tired deep down. I guess I've been pushing myself too hard lately. I feel disappointed that my body can't keep up. It is failing me at only 21?
Dinner tonight was good. I broke my string of speghetti dinners and had a package of spanish rice mix, the rest of my white rice, a can of stewed tomatoes and a block of Mori-Nu tofu (not the best) all mixed together. If you count in the 2lbs of grapes and the super-enriched Luna Bar (because only women need vitims?) I had for lunch, today was probably one of my most nutritions days so far. I'm going to be so deficient in everything by the end of this. Tomorrow I'm going to the store across the street to buy bread -- I think I'll get some fruit for lunch too.
This park is quite something. To the north it sounds like a god-damn fireworks stand caught fire. I'm trying to contain any fervent wish for some kid to lose a few fingers. Twenty feet to the south the train tracks do some kid of switch-a-roo that necesitates idling for a few minutes and then clanking away slowly every few hours. Twenty feet to the east a newcomer with a huge RV is trying to back into a too-small space. For the past 20 minutes. Ah life. So I'll lay in the tent listen to the radio (Simon and Garfunckle and John Lennon) and write. Everyting is OK, for ever and ever.
This journal really has become one of my primary forms of human interaction. Just a really long one-sided conversation. I definatly write directly to my audience. This is really kind of a long email more then a travelogue or journal. It certainly h as the grammatical problems of an un-polished personal email. It would probably be easier/more pleasent to read if I edited it some, but you'll just have to suffer.
Maybe the siren that went off at 6pm was to warn of the impending rebel invasion, because now it sounds less like an exploding fireworks shack and more like a firefight.
I tell you, if a tornado ever strikes right on the hour I'll be screwed. Seems every town I've been in tests their emergency siren every week, right on the hour. At least I think they are tests.
On long days like today I spend a great deal of time staring down at the ground, or more frequently, at my legs. I'm not really one to brag, but damn I have some hot legs. Ok, the hundreds of mosquite bites don't look that great, but my calves look like they were chisled from a block of granite. Despite my regular application of SPF 36 sunblock they are tanned an olive color. Hey, I'm in the middle of North Dakota, I'll gawk at my legs I want to. I don't know how much it matters anyway -- way back in Portland I was riding with Kali and we passed a biker with shaved gleaming legs to die for. I was awstruck, but Kali didn't even particularly notice. Provided, Kali is perhaps not the best focus group, but still, that guy had mother-fucking *legs*
It appears that the chances of my repressed hope that the kid with the firecrackers lose some fingers being realized have increased dramatically. From what I can tell they are putting the firecrackers under a can of some sort, sending the can 100 feet skyward with a tremedous boom and possibly a faceful of shrapnel.
I oiled the chain on my bike again today. About once ever 300 miles it seems. Yep, my life is exciting. Uh-huh.
Looks like I just missed my chance for a quick ride east -- a train pulling cars with ridable wells just pulled out. The whole tent is shaking. I'll sleep well tonight... But after three weeks of camping near train tracks I sleep right right through most everything.
Only twenty miles to the MN border. I'll be eating jerky for lunch.
Day 34: July 1, 2002
Glenridge -> Orinska
Gaaa tired... Didn't really get up until 10 (9 in old timezone) and I took a lot of breaks. Had a partial tailwind for part of the day, which is why I made it so far.
Now at this small park, watching the local kids watch me while they pretend to play and I pretend to write. They sent a scout first and then the other two came along.
It is so windy, even at 7pm, that my stove setup isn't really working. Very frustrating because I'm starved.
I've decided I like stopping in small bars for water and to chat. Nice, cool, relazing and the people after work are friendly. All you really need for a town is a bar and a postoffice said one patron today. The barkeep interjected that you need people too.
100 miles to MN, then around 400 to WI and then about 240 to Beloit. 10 days. Right on schedule. This is still fun, and I'm not desperately homesick, but I could use a little more excitement. Not that I want to get 5 flats for hit by a car mind you..
Day 33: June 30, 2002
Washburn -> Glenridge
1...3...5...! One hundred and thirty five fucking miles! Boo Yah! Hah Hah!
20mph tailwind all the way. up early, not too hot all day. I was like the energizer bunny. I've only done 100 miles once before, and now 135!
Beautiful flatland most of the way interspaced with lakes full of ducklings. At 10am with 50 miles down I set my sights on Carrington, 58 more miles. I figured that I might not make it, but there were towns along the way. When I got there I took a second lunch break and cooled off at a truck stop. Called my friend James who is looking at airfares for me. Then it was bgack on the road for 26 more miles! Hah Hah! 7" on my map. Now I'm at the Glenridge town park, camping for free. I just ate 1.5lbs of pasta. And I'm still kind of hungry. I feel like I only did a solid 70 miles, when in fact I did almost twice that! I am kind of tired though. But I just cut an entire extra day off!
I was talking to a local fellow about routes tonight and he made some good suggestions. It will mean that I stay in N.D. one extra day, but I end up in a much better spot on the MN border, in Wahpeton right by MN Hwy 9 that goes SE across half the state. SO I wont get to eat my vegan jerky tomorrow, but N.D. is worth it. I will miss the world's tallest structure, a 2063 ft tall TV tower right off of 200 near Blanchard. Oh well.
I also realized that people have a hard time with maps when they try to match the virtual representation of a map with the representation they have in the head. I can trace a route across the state in 30 seconds, but it takes people woh drive everyday through this countryside much longer. Interesting.
Tomorrow is a big shopping dayu -- I need fuel, toothpaste, food and sunblock. Note: Stay away from spray-on sunblock. It gets used up way too quickly. It took Charlie and I 23 days to use up one bottle of regular Bullfrong sunblock. It has taken me alone about 7 days to use up one bottle of spray on Bullfrong. Grrr. I thought it would probably wo rk out like that since in the ads they really pusht he pray on. Sure it's convienent, but at $10 a bottle I'll apply by hand.
I'm in the Central Time Zone now! Woot!
Day 32: June 29, 2002
Halliday -> Washburn
111F. I seriously almost died, or at least passed out, which could have been the same in the end. Like a moron I kept on biking past 1pm when it started getting really hot. And then I didn't drink enough. And then my target town turned out to be a ghost. As was the next. Finally I made it to Washburn and got a motel. The only motel I've ever not regretted getting even a little.
I was so hot on the road that I was having fever "dreams" while I was awake. I think the heat made me lose any sense of judgement, so I kept right on going. And without a breeze from moving it was unberable to the point that my legs burned if I stopped n the road for a water break. So I didn't drink enough.
I don't know if I would have died, but it is testament to my level of stupidity that I figured that if I did pass out a motorist would stop and save me. If they didn't hit me first. And if the skin on my arms and legs didn't burn off from touching the pavement.
In short, I feel really glad to be alive.
Day 31: June 28, 2002
T.R. CCC Campsite -> Halliday, ND
Hot. Hot. Hot. 102F
I don't want to sound like a broken record, so I'll skip the detailed day description. But today was good because I proved to myself that I can do it. Come wind, heat, hills and sun I can and will make it to Wisconsin.
Halliday is a neat little town. One thing that I really respect about the west is that they respect what I am doing as being in the tradition of what people in the west do -- go on individualistic adventures. Ok, so basicly I'm just glad they have free camping and are nice. Southern hospitality, at least in the part of Georgia I'm from, is a joke.
I had a snack and chatted with the locals at JP's Grill. JP's has two booths and two tables, for a total of 16 seats. The sheriff told stories about the speed trap he runs in Doge, a couple of miles down the road. He is quite proud of it's reputation.
They sprayed for mosquites overnight and in the morning there were none left. At all. Amazing. Now if I can only get this metalic taste out of my mouth....
Stayed up late and finished my Toni Morrison book. It was very good. She is a fantastic writer.
I've noticed a pattern. If I am camping in a part and a group of local kids come and hang out nearby after about 10 minutes one of the guys, no matter how many girls there are, will come up and start talking to me. It is always one of the guys. The girls follow a few minutes later I guess after it has been determined that I don't bite. Today a kid said that if he had the money he'd offer to drive me to WI. I said that if he had gotten me about 5 hours earlier I would have taken him up on it.
Day 30: June 27, 2002
Fairview -> Teddy Roosevelt Nat'l Park CCC Campground
Its not that I don't like hot tea, in fact I love a big mug of it when I'm writing a paper late at night. But it just doesn't work in a water bottle, at 3pm, when it is 100F and you still have 30 miles to go.
But I guess you don't always get what you want, so I sucked down my hot corn-syrup-imitation tea water and pushed on, up, and into the wind.
An east wind in these parts means rain is coming, but there isn't more then a wisp of cloud to block the sun. The dry air sucks the sweat from my body as fast as I can drink. Rolling hills taunt me at 8 miles per hour, the summit of each one revealing only more, stretching to the horizon 7 miles away.
My moral is low -- I called home and felt a little better. I realized that in my mind I stopped being on an adventure and started just trying to get home. It helps to step back and put things in perspective -- every escapade has stages and I'm just in a doubting stage. "And this too shall pass." I've been reading a chapter a day of "The Lotus Sutra" and that helps. It feels really weird to admit that I am finding comfort in a religious text. But its Eastern, so I'm still cool right? I don't understand why I read it, or why I even brought it. But I guess that is the point.
Country music helps too. At least it drows out the voice in my head that I have to listen to 12 hours a day.
My routine is so simple and so...routinized that time is becoming less and less important. Today is like tomorrow is like yesturday. I have troubple remembering were I was yesturday. Riding with someone else breaks up the monotony and real conversation gets the brain going.
I think it is really helarious that I'm feeling like this after only 4 days :-) Hah!
I'm camped in a CCC campsite on the edge of the Northern Unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. This valley is walled by strack cliffs, making it almost a canyon. The exposed rock faces reveal a rainbow of strata. This is the Badlands, but a little less bad then the NP in South Dakota. I had to stop, even if I am 15 miles short of my goal of Grassy Butte. The 6% climb out of the canyon was a little incentive too :-)
Tomorrow I'm going to get up at 6 and tyry to beat the heat and wind. Maybe I can find an AC'd convience store to hide in tomorrow after I ride.
Day 29: June 26, 2002
Poplar, MT -> Fairview, ND
Long, hot, headwind. Left at 8:30 and didn't get in until 5:30. Jesus. I left US Hwy 2 in Culbertson and took an empty road to Fairview, where the crusing teenagers stared at me. How old do I have to be before kids in expensive cars stop making me feel awkward? Grrr.
Camping in an incredibly mosquito infested campsite on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Free is good. There is a restored train draw-bridge for walking across the river. I watched a family of very fuzzy beavers swim about and eat river cane. I suspect that they were not actually as fuzzy as they looked, but my vision is truly terrible. I've decided to get glasses ASAP. I've put it off for years, but not being able to see a family of beavers is the last straw. Hey, and when I get glasses I can get a spot mirror to attach to the them so I can see cars before they hit me. Yey!
There is a bar about 1/4 of a mile away from the campsite. I stopped in to fill up my water and I ended up staying for a coke. It was nice to talk to the co-barntender about farming. This is sugar-beet country. Beets go for $75-$100 a ton and you can get 15-20 tons per acre in a good year. Some of the farms here are 2,000 acres. Quite something, especially when you remember that it all used to be 160 acre homesteads. Urban flight and new agri-biz have really changed the west.
Goodbye Montana, Hello North Dakota. 1508 miles. Wow.
Day 28: June 25, 2002
Caught up with Nacy and Jim, 2 of the 3 bikers I've been playing leapfrog with since Cut Bank. Their 3rd persond ropped in Havre, frustrated that his waay expensive racing bike kept breaking. I am smug. Let's hear it for cheap steel that lasts forever!
Other then that it was a long, empty day. I was going to stay in a park by the river but Bill, the county water clerk said it might be dangerous and suggested I try a backyard. I was a little perplexed and there was a moment of awkward silence, but then he offered me his. I set up camp and later he drove me around town. A very detailed tour of a very small town. I did see a kid's practice pow-wow, which was neat. The costumes were incredible.
Bill was white, a little socially awkward and a bit racist towards indians. He grew up 35 miles south of the rez and moved to town to work for the city. He didn't understand much about indian culture, etc and in general he saw his neighbors as a bunch of lazy welfare collecting do-nothings. A lot of the white people I've met around here seem to harbor a lot of racism towards the indians. It is really pretty sad.
That night I took a shower and washed my clothes but I had trouble falling asleep. Aside for the million kids with firecrackers and the street lights it felt like someone had kicked me in the solar plexis. I just kind of laid there motionless and moaned. I felt so pathetic that it was really quite funny. I woke up feeling fine and I was so releaved that it put in a good mood for the whole morning.
I got Song of Soloman by Toni Morrison from the library discard pile. It was the thickest book they had. Don't know if I like it yet.
Day 27: June 24, 2002 05:58 p.m.
A long day. Rolling by 8, lunch in Malta, then pretty much straight through all the way to Glasgow, where I am now, in the library typing away furiously before my time runs out.
If I must say so myself I think I am getting pretty good at this free camping thing. I just can't bring myself to pay $10 for a site just for myself. So even though there are bunches of hotels and three RV parks in town, I asked at the police station and after some calls around I was directed to a nice park with tall grass next to the pool and civic center. The pool and park were hopping with kids, so I decided to wait a bit to pitch the tent (don't want to intrude on their space) and came to the library, where for $1 an hour I am using one of two internet terminals. They are open until 8, and I think if I can put of dinner that long I will stay in the air conditioning and read as much as I can.
My plan to ration my book failed, like I knew it would. I finished the entire book yesterday. Oh well, there might be a book store in town.
No sign of the two bikers. They are either in an RV park (suckers! I even get a free shower in the rec department!) or staying in a hotel (whimps!) or they kept going (I'm impressed).
We shall see what tomorrow brings.
Day 26: June 23, 2002
73/1260 miles. Havre -> Dodson
Rain Rain Rain. Woke up at 4:30 to the tent being hit full blast by 2 sprinklers. Luckly I did some checking before I put up the tent so I wasn't on top of any. Inbetween the sprinklers I could also hear a gentle rain.
At 6 my alarm went off, but I could bear to face the rain until 7. Then the bathrooms were locked and I was forced to improvise. The thought of cooking in the rain was enough to turn me to two cliff bars for breakfest. Thanks mom! Lunch was white bread pb&j's in Chinook. By now I am quite familiar with the Havre->Chinook ride. Very nice, several good landmarks and a wide shoulder. Plus there are a couple of what appear to be old underground houses on the way, like early settlers dug when there wasn't enough wood. No historical landmark signs though.
Pretty much all day I played peak-a-boo with the rain. It was 70F all day so I rode mostly in my shorts and shirt. When I got cold in Ft. Belknap my cheap vinal rain coat worked as a good windbreaker, if not much else. It is actually quite cozy, made me feel like I was curled up at home next to the dryer.
Riding in the rain isn't bad, but it wears on you and by Dodson I was ready to stop. Not much here except a bar, fairgrounds and store. The lady in the store was very nice, invited me in the watch TV, read the paper and eat my foot with free coffee. The store just opened. Very comfortable place. She said two older bikers had just left for Malta (18 miles E) about 45 min ago. Maybe I will see them tomorrow. I watched 1/2 of Waterworld on TV and then headed over to the fairgrounds to set up camp.
Highlights of the day -- Ft. Belknap Rez. Welcome Center. Nice people, some neat pictures, including one of a white guy on a bicycle from my guess is around 1900? I should have asked for the story behind it.
-- Dodson - I probably shouldn't have watched TV, but I am addicted. I grew up withone one, but this summer it is something fierce. I'll stope by and chat in the morning. TOnight I'm going to try and stay up to 9 so I don't wake up at 4am again. I need to ration my book so it will last. One chapter "Passion Play" (sci-fi, not romance), one chapter "The Lotus Sutra" should do it.
So far so good.
Day 25: June 22, 2002
It is strange to share a bed with someone you aren't cuddly with. I typically spend the entire night sleeping on my side facing out to minimize any chance of an accidental midnight spooning. So far so good, but after all the conditioning I've had you can never be too careful :-)
I helped Charlie get his stuff together and then there was no excuse not to go get going myself. I made it 20 miles to Chinook before I heard my rear spokes start popping. Four broken spokes on the rear wheel, all on the non-sproket side. Strange. After a brief debate with myself I decided to do the prudent thing and turn around to Havre where I knew there was a bike shop.
I made it back, 45 miles r/t, by 1:30 and Roger at the bike shop worked on the bike (fixed wheel and the lose bottom bracket) and chatted. After a bit while he was still working I walked to Amtrack to say Hi to Charlie. He was quite suprised to see me :-) He gave me a book and we said goodbye again.
A huge storm is blowing in so I asked at the police station and now I am cooking dinner in a city park. Free! I wrote a postcard to Emilie (ex-gf) to let her know that her late night drunken attack on my bike a few months ago might have finally paid off. Heh Heh :-)
I'm worred about how tomorrow will go being solo. Roger at the bike store said he didn't think solo would be bad and I am inclided to agree, but I'm hesitent. I'd like to ride with someone my age -- maybe this day off will put me track with a new face. Not a big deal I guess -- I'll leave the ACA route in a week anyway.
The storm seems to have blown over, but camping in this park is almost like camping in someone's living room. People, trucks, dogs, etc coming and going. Well, I guess there aren't very many trucks in most living rooms, but you get the point. Hopefully it will quiet down.
Heard on the rado that there will be a 10-20 mph headwind tomorrow. I've set my watch for 6. If I'm rolling by 7 I can be in Malta by 12 or 1 -- maybe before the wind picks up.
Day 24: June 21, 2002
Nothing like 12 hours of sleep to really refreash. Up at 7, rolling by 8. But at breakfest Charlie breaks the bad news -- his Ankle is worse, so he will catch the train in Havre, 60 miles east and go home to Albany. That news puts a damper on things for me. It will be a big change to ride alone. Charlie is good company. I'm pretty aprehensive as to what 3 weeks on the road alone will be like. On my first trip I was really onesome, calling home almost everyday -- and that was only 9 days.
I guess I really have to come to terms with the fact that I am a people person, much as I would like to be the next Everett Ruess or Christopher McCandless. Of course they were probably a good bit different in real life then how they are remembered. Christoper McCandless (the kid from Into the Wild, but John Krackour) was a people person I guess, but he did enjoy being alone for long periods of time.
It is kind of ironic how the "loner" individualist is so idealized in our culture and by me, to the point that to be an individualist is to really comform. Gosh darn western ideals.
So things could be tough without Charlie. And my hopes of naming this journal "Travels with Charlie" are shot. Oh well, I heard that title might already be taken.
So Charlie went 10 miles before it got too painful to go on. He tired hitchhiking for 10 minutes and had two people stop but no ride. People just think you're kidding when you hitch with a bike. When that didn't work out we headed in Joplin and as luck would have it we ran into the woman from Chester who gave us directions yesterday. She stopped us to see how we were and very kindly offered us a ride back to Chester, where the hitching might be better.
It is really incredible how nice some people are, of course as the woman said: "Isn't this what we are supposed to do?" If only more people knew that. This trip has made me want to go out of my way more to be nice. Helping people when they need it is a wonderful thing.
I rode by myself to the rest of thw way to Havre. I like riding with someone else a whole lot better, it is easier to keep a good pace and I think go further, faster. There was a 10mph headwind about all day and it was a tad hot. I caught up with the 3 bikers from yesturday at lunch and then again climbing a huge hill in Havre.
Turns out it is cheaper for CHarlie to get a hotel tonight and take the train tomorrow afternoon then to go today, so we are in a nice hotel tonight. Very comfortable. I need to ease back into this on the road thing :-)
I'm sending so many clothes, books, etc home with Charlie that I think I'll just about break even, weight wise, carrying the tent now. Plus everything fits much better.
Day 23: June 20, 2002 06:44 a.m.
We are back on the road today, headed to east to Shelby. If Charlie's tendonitis is painful he will catch a train back home. If not, eastward ho!
Keep your fingers crossed.
We spent the past three days staying with Michael Collins, the Luthern Minister in Cut Bank. A really nice guy, very friendly and generous. We cooked impressive dinners each night and Charlie and I spent the days planning, watching movies and using the internet. One of Michael's flock? died, so he was out of the house taking care of the family a good bit, so we didn't get to hang out as much as any of us would have liked, but oh well.
The man who died was 55. He had a heart attack while fixing his irrigation system. He was about the same age as my parents. The whole thing really got me thinking and it was kind of scary. I'm glad I'll get to spend time with them in July. Then today (day 26 as I am updating this) I met a fellow who was 81, traveling with his dog across country in an old RV. He didn't look a day over 60, still spry and sharp, if a little upset over the recent death of his wife.
Life sure is strange sometimes.
Day 20: June 17, 2002
Wow, what a tailwind. It's blowing 10-20mph from the sw, so it is mostly behind us. At one point I was accelerating uphill...without pedaling. Charlie's tendon is still hurting today so we had a short day (46 miles, short because we did it in only 3 hours). We are staying with a Luthern Minister, Michael Collins, in Cut Bank, MT today. I am typing this on his computer, in his air conditioned house while Charlie takes a hot shower. This is the guy that came up to Charlie in East Glacier. If Charlie's foot wasn't acting up we could have easily gone 100 miles today. But boy is it nice to be in a real house with such a cool host.
Charlie is going to go to the doctor in town to see what they have to say. I'm going to buy health insurance online because mine just expired. Whoops.
I GOT MY CARE PACKAGE! Woo Hoo! Two of them actually, stuffed to the brim with peanut bars, cliff bars, luna bars, homemade peanut brittle (yuuuuummmm), store bought peanut brittle and hickory smoked soy nuts.... I think I'm set for at least 2000 more miles... ahhhh life is good. THANKS MOM AND DAD!
Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed as to Charlie's foot. I really hope it just needs some ice or a wack with a mallet or something. It would suck to come this far and not be able to finish together.
Day 19: June 16, 2002
East Glacier, MT. 0 miles
We are taking the day off to give Charlie's tendon some time to recover. Hopefully it wont cause any more problems, but I have a feeling that it might. I was thinking last night that if it keeps getting worse and Charlie has to drop I will probably continue on, but only go as far as Wisconsin.
I'm posting this batch of enteries from the cyber cafe in the local arcade here in town. $2.50 an hour isn't that bad, and the computers are running Red Hat Linux. This is a nice town, except the library is only open on Wednesday nights and the only two used books the grocery store has are romance novels. I should have traded last night with some of the bikers. Oh well.
My brother seems to be a bit slow in posting the updates I sent him like a week ago. Until they get posted, rest assured that the trip from The Dalles to Spokane was a blast. We met some neat people, but I won't repeat myself here because it will look very strange when they do get posted and this occurs after them.
I hope all you kids in the real world are doing well.
Turns out my parents left for England yesterday, but they will have email access. What a wired world we live in.
Day 18: June 15, 2002
Woo-Hoo! We are over the contential divide!
Ok, so we went over the lowest pass north of Texas or something (Marias Pass, 5216 feet) and the climb was only 4-5% for a good number of miles, but we did it! 2400 miles downhilll from here!
I ate one of my three packets of vegan jerky that Annie sent me way back when. It didn't really feeel like a monumental accomplishment, we've had lnoger and harder climbs int he Cascades, but the jerky was still the best thing ever. Thanks Annie!
We were gong to camp at the summit, but the campground was closed so we pushed on 10 more miles to East Glacier, a small poor town populated it seems equally by hip 20 somethines and full time residents. But it is so small the effect is very weird. We're at an RV park now, camped next to a group of 15 bicyclists on an Adventure Cycling Association trip. Nice to chat with other bickers. Most ar emiddle aged, but a few 20 somethings. I guess 30 year olds have families and jobs and kids so they can't throw it all into the wind for a three month bicycle trip. To bad.
Charlie's archillies tendon was really hruting him on the way up, but it seems better now. Our fingers are crossed. While I was hungting for a campground in town Charlie met a Lutheren Minister from Cut Bank who offered us a place to stay when we get there. Good Stuff!
We might take the day off tomorrow, if Charlie's tendon isn't feeling up to a ride. Either way I'm really looking forward to Cut Bank and my care package. I tried called home again tonight but there was no answer. I hope the package was shipped ok. I only have two peanut chews left!!!
My parents are going to England sometime this summer, I think later in July, but I really hope they haven't left yet. I'm sure they would have told me. Tomorrow is Father's Day too...
I kind of expected to be able to see for hundreds of miles into the flat6s from the summit, but there was no view and no huge downhilll. Just a gentle slope and even the occasional uphill. Not fair, to be sure. I guess you have to climb higher, faster, for the fast descents. The bikers tonight have me worried about headwinds int he next few weeks. Hopefully we willg et lucky and have a tailwind the whole way. Right.
We have an estimaged at least 4 more weeks on the road. These kinds have 4500 more miles.. heh... Time for some radio..
Day 17: June 14, 2002
Wow, a couple more days like this and I'll be beat... Up at 10, out by 11:30 and then 35 easy miles to a beautiful park full of neat people. Today is pretty much a rest day, so we will get to Cut Bank on Sunday. US2 was ok out of Kalispell, but we took a few backroads before we met up with the highway. Not as bad a yesturday, mostly because there were fewer logging trucks. My trailer tire had a slow leak around the monster hole in the tube from yesturday. I replaced the tube and before long we were in West Glacier. After some indecision we decided to pay the $5 each to get intot he park and then $3 eachto camp in a fairly nice hiker/biker site with a fearsome bear box. Next to us are two girls from England who are spending a week or so hiking around the park. One of them just finished teaching environmental biology at a 4H camp about 100 miles from my parent's house in Georgia. Small world. A guy from Fort Wayne, IN is sharing our site with us. He is headed to ID to stay with some friends in an off the grid house. he used my stove to cook and was suitably impressed. I have a hand-made pepsi-can alcohol stove and boy is it cool. Works like a dream.
Not much to say today. I did figure out our milage today. 24889 miles to Lebanon, VT which is pretty near Randolf, VT, our final destination. We should make it with time for me to spend a week with my parents in Georiga before I start work.
Day 16: June 16, 2002
Happy's Inn -> Kalispell, MT 58.3/850 miles
So I guess an explanation is in order as to the missing days. So way back on day 12 we had a great time, visiting the library in Spokane, then we found a great campground right at dusk. I had pan fried tofu for dinner... It went downhill from there when my spoon partially melted in the hot oil. My favorite spoon. With a lot of sentamental value (seriously) gone in a careless second. And then as I was getting into my sleeping bag I put my elbow throught he screen of my mailstation. Whoops. Good thing I paid $15 for it surplus and not $100 a year earlier. So, to make a long story end, I just bought a spiral bound notebook today to keep this journal. In the presceding three days I just sent postcards. Anyway, since then we have entered teh Rockies and gone through Idaho and into Montana. WA is just a distant memory now. We took US 2 into Sandpoint, ID and Hwy 200 out, heading southeast to a nice campground by a cool stream near Trestle Creek Recreation Area. Since I have to pick up my carepackage from my parents in Cut Bank, MT (on US 2) we took Hwy 56 back up to US2. This actually saved us some time because US2 heads a good bit north out of Sandpoint before turning back to where we hooked up with it in Troy. US 2 between Troy and Happy's Inn is a nice ride with a big shoulder, but between Happy's Inn and Kalispell it SUCKED! A lot of mean logging trucks that don't get over--at all--coupled with a 6" "shoulder". If you are thinking of coming through Montana on a bike, I seriously recommed you stay find a different route to Kalispell. I used to be a bicycle messenger in Atlanta and traffic, as rule, doesn't bother me. But I was seriously nervous on the way to Kalispell.Charlie really didn't like the traffic either and it pissed him off a good bit. What pissed me off was when my BOB Yak trailer's tire blew while I was waiting at the Kalispell city line. Not moving, and then BOOM. The tire had worn clean through, after only 900 miles. No good. Luckily the second bike shop we tried in town had 16" tires. Never underestimate the power of duct tape for emergency tire repairs.
We need to get to Cut Bank (133 miles and one contential divide away) when the post office is open, which means not Saturday afternoon. Sunday would be fine, because I can run in Monday morning before we head out. So it all boils down to we need to really take our time getting to Cut Bank or we need to spend a day sitting around once we get there. Or go around 70 miles tomorrow to right below the divide and then quickly coast the 45 miles down to Cut Bank before the Post Office closes Saturday. 80 miles could be ahell of a lot of work in this terrain though.
So anyway. Tonight we are in an RV park in Kalispell that has perhaps the nicest, cleanest bathrooms/showers that we have encountered yet. We're talking as clean as my parent's bathroom here. And that is clean. And nice. Kind of a short day, mile wise, but my l egs are sore for the first time. Don't know why. Hmmmm.. Oh well, shower time.
Day 11: June 8, 2002
Miles today: about 48
Miles so far: 500 something.
The number I gave yesterday was wrong. I'll get the right number for you kids one of these days. It is something around 530.
What a day. It drizzled all day long, from about 45 minutes after we left until we pulled in to Tylor, WA. We thought there might be a convience store or something to buy food, or better yet an RV park to setup camp for the night, but there was very little. One old storefront in fact, habitated by Mr. Larry Berry. We sat with him awhile, eating our sandwiches and chatting. He offered to let us stay in an old moter home out back, and that is where I am writing this. I'm pretty tired so I'm going to cut this short, but it was very nice talking with Larry. He is 60-70 something and talking with him was really the first time in my life I've ever had a good conversation and felt comfortable with someone that age. I've never really been close to my grandparents on either side or hung out with anyone around that age. It was very cool. Everyonceinawhile a neighbor would stop in to chat with Larry. Tyler has a population of 19, but Larry one the last mayoral
election by 57 votes, mostly thanks to his three legged dog and a few visits to the cemetary.
Today was a bad day bicycling but a good day meeting people. Tomorrow we are going to have french toast with real maple syrup for breakfest. I guess I'll have regular toast with real maple syrup.
What an adventure!
Day 10: June 7, 2002
I got up late, after Charlie actually, which was a first. I just didn't feel very motivated. That feeling stuck with me all day, but tonight as I write this I am excited again. We decided to hike around and down to the huge falls, which are several hundred feet tall instead of the hundred I said yesterday. It was a 30 minute hike, I was nervous about stepping on a rattle snake the whole time. The falls were really amazing. You could (not that I did, Mom) (Everyone else, wow it was cool!) stand right on the dry ledge twenty feet above the falls and look down to your left to a calm pool of water, and down 300 feet to your right at a very large and turbulent pool of water. I was reading something the other day on an on line hang gliding message board about the different kinds of fear surrounding heights. I've decided that I'm not scared of hights, I'm scared that I will jump. Not that I ever would or ever have the urge to, but somewhere in the back of my mind the thought is there. Aparently this is a pretty common fear. Plain vertigo is the inability of your brain to process vast differences in perspective, like if you are on a ledge and it is five feet down to your feet and three hundred feet down to the ground. Your brain freaks out and you feel fear.
Back to the story. We had a two mile climb out of camp on a paved and lose gravel road back to Rt 261. I was expected it to take an hour, but we made it in 20-30 minutes. Most of the day was spent punshing into a headwind on a winding road going up and down, up and down. We stopped to resupply in Washatuga. Aparently they get a lot of bikers coming through, so we must be intersecting an Adventure Cycling route. I figure most of them are on Rt 26, a more direct, flater and faster route that followed a large canyon. There is something to be said for going with a tried and true route. We spent all day going up and down and around except for the 6 miles we were on 26.. Then it was a flat empty road, a good tailwind and 17 miles per hour. Unfortunetly 26 gets complicated a little further east and there is no clear way to head north. Those clever buggers from Montanta (Adventure Cycling) really have things figured out.
We bought a lot of food in Washatuga and after lunch of I felt really full for the first time in days. Two loaves of bread this time, plus three dinners, an orange, canned veggies and farina cream of wheat to try for breakfest. I had some of Charlie's oatmeal for breakfest... Jesus that stuff is nasty. It did stick with me all day though. Hopefully this wheat stuff will be edible.
From Washatuga we went north on 261 again to Ritzville, were we are now, camed in a small RV park near I-90. We only did 48 miles today, but they were 48 hard miles. The site was only $10 for a nice patch of grass and very hot, very long showers. I am wonderfully clean right now.
So I said earlier that most of today was uninspiried, but that things were OK now. Charlie went to Perkins to eat and he bought me a soft drink to sit with him. We did some of the math working out how far we will be able to get before I have to be at work. It was kind of encouraging to realize how much time we really have. 51 days left if I am to be in beloit on the 27 or so of Junly. If we average 45 miles a day for ten of those days when we are in the mountains, and then 70 miles a day for the remaining 41 days, we will cover around 3920 miles! If you count in the 480 or so we have already done, that should be more the enough to get us to New Hampshire. But rather then have a set destination that we are feeling pressured to reach, we'll just go until we need to stop. If things are looking slow we might just end up in Beloit. It was nice to talk about the logistics and get things squared away. Plus this "campsite" is much more relaxing then a cheap
Day 9: June 6, 2002
Miles today: 58
I woke up today to the sight of a mule deer poking around the bikes. It went away and I went back to sleep. We completed our first sucessfull stealth camping by 10 something. We went almost sixty miles today and every "town" we went through turned out to be a ghost. So dinner was a rather bland dish of rice with peanut butter. We were expecting to run into a store to stock up on food, but it never happened. Lunch was rather pathetic, one and a half pb&j's each. I was about dead by the time we pulled into Lyon's Ferry Campground. But just six miles further down the road there was P-something Falls Campground. Only half an hour more, and it might be a better campground. Heh. Six miles climbing out of the river valley, into a headwind. It took us an hour. But once we got here, it was probably worth it. There was a lazy rattlesnake in the tent area. I'm scared of snakes, but it is mostly a fear of stepping on one suddenly. Once I can see them, they are
just slow moving cold blooded critters. The camp hosts here are so used to seeing the snakes that they just stroll around without watching where they are steping. I'm still watching every step. The other thing that made this worthwhile is the huge waterfall. Very out of place, but it is about a hundred feet tall. Still, it is but a tiny reminder of the river and fall that used to be here, 15,000 years ago when the glacial lakes burst their dams suddenly and released 600 million cubic feet of water per minute (second?) across this part of Washington to Portland. Quite amazing. Reading about it makes me wish I had majored in Geology instead of Political Science.
So the message of the day is EAT MORE. We need to buy two loaves of bread per day, and I need to find something I can stand for breakfest.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this on day six, but we saw a person on a surfboard with a giant parafoil kite. The kite pulled him/her along a good clip and every once in a while a gust would come along and lift the surfer twenty feet into the air. It was really quite something to watch. Kind of like wind surfing on crack.
Day 8: June 5, 2002 09:22 a.m.
Miles today: 75
Miles so far: 385
Quote of the day: by Charlie "I mean, I'm hot, but I'm not nearly as hot as you are" ... Nothing we didn't already know :)
It sure is amazing how flat and dry it gets going East in Washington. I am begining to question how this state gets to call itself "The Evergreen State" when 2/3 of the damn state is dry as a ditch and covered with sage brush. I guess "The Mostly Dry, Mostly Empty State" doesn't have the same ring to it. It was blistering hot this morning, at 7am. There is no justice. So even after paying $16 for the campsite neither Charlie nor I slept very well. A couple of trains went by and the sprinkler system came on in the middle of the night (not on us, luckily). Anyway. As per the routine, we rolled out at 10am. The baby owls (did I mention them already? Cute buggers living in a tree near our tent) were doing baby owl things, which I think mostly consists of sitting on a branch. Once again there was a strong tailwind and we did 20 miles before I even really noticed. Hwy 14 ran into Interstate 82 across the river from Umitilla, OR so we rode on the interstate
across the river. I don't like big bridges, nor riding on the interstate. It was over quickly and we stopped for lunch in a busy gas station. Peanut related candy and corn chips are becoming an important part of my diet. When I get back to Beloit I'm really going to work on patenting my weight loss plan: "Eat as much of anything you want, and then ride 80 miles." I'm sure it would be more popular then those all those weird fad diets. So we were in OR for a couple of miles, riding east on US Hwy 12. The road curves north and we were quickly back in WA, just on the other side of the river. Amazing. The rest of the day went by pretty quickly. We had wonder bread pb&j for a second lunch. I called my parents from Touchet, WA. My dad is almost finished with an ornate hand made sculpted chess set he is making with a friend. They are going to try and sell it this weekend at a festival in Atlanta. If anyone is interested in buying what sounds like a really
incredible work of art, get in touch :-)
From Touchet we split north on North Touchet Rd. There aren't any campsites in the area, so we made our own about 5 miles along.. As I write this, listening to the chirp of birds, full of good macaroni with oil, garlic, italian spices and fake paremesan cheese, we are hidden in a large bush about ten feet from the side of the road, a large cliff/steep hill behind us, comfortable as clams. I only wish I could take a shower. Those of you who know me know that I'm not normally one to be too picky about cleanlyness. Right now though, I am coated with grime. I wetted my finger and wrote "WASH ME" on my leg. It is really quite amazing.
In the distance a group of coyotes are warbling to each other. I think I can here a peacock screaming somewhere to the north. A wipporwill is in the next bush over.
Before I ate I was feeling kind of homesick and bored. Now I am full, content and happy.
On candy: my mom is going to send a care package of Peanut chews and maybe some other stuff to the Sandpoint, ID post office. We should be there in about a week. .... candy .... mmmm ....
Day Seven: June 5. 2002
What a day. We pushed my bike to the bike store and got there just as they opened. I got a pair of impressive kevlar lined tires and new brake pads. The mechanic wouldn't have been able to get to my bottom bracket until the afternoon, so I put that off. The tires are hella cool. A while back Charlie bet me that if he got more flats then me he would buy me a beer. With these tires it sure looks like I'll be enjoying a beer :-). After the bike store Charlie went to the library to use the internet and transcribe his journal. We finally left at 12:30, riding across that huge bridge for the third time and into a terrible head wind. I think my airspeed was around 25 miles per hour, but my ground speed was a pathetic 5mph. Then we turned onto WA Hwy 14 and the headwind became a tailwind. Weee! For the next seven hours it was like a huge hand, pushing us forward at 20mph. On one hill I hit 40mph. Fastest I've ever gone on a bike. Now I have new brakes and
tires I feel safer going fast. We went pretty much all out until we got to this camp, Crow Butte. Hwy 14 follows the Columbia River and even though the interstate is just on the other side there is a lot of truck traffic. The shoulder's are very wide, though, and we went through some pretty beautiful desolate areas. We stopped for water at the Maryhill Meuseam, although we didn't pay the $7 admission fee to go in. They had peacocks wandering around the grounds. Their calls always make me homesick.
Day 6: June 3, 2002 10:53 p.m.
Last night I came up wih a plan. We will put Charlie's rear wheel on my bike and swap my rear tire to my front wheel. I will then ride to Hood River and back while Charlie stays with all our stuff here in The Dalles. We do the swaping thing so my bike will be rideable. Charlie doesn't want to go to Hood River by himself and I can't ride his bike well enough.
Problems: His rear tire may be to fat for my bike and may not fit in my frame. Charlie may not want to stay here by himself with a ton of gear. In the first case it might be possible to find another way to get to Hood River and back. Greyhound is a possibility. In the second case it may be possible to rent a storage locker at the Greyhound station and put my stuff in it, then lock the trailer up on a rack downtown. Charlie is then just left with his stuff and an unridable bike, but who knows. I'll update this tonight when all these problems have hopfully come to a happy conclusion.
Ok, new plan. Charlie's tire doesn't fit my frame. Greyhound would be $14 r/t to Hood River, but I would only have two hours there before I had to be back on the bus. I'm not confident that that would be enough time to find a store, buy the tire and get back. Maybe, but it would suck to miss the bus. So we are spending the night here in The Dalles again, at a different, cheaper, dirtier motel. Today we relax, go to the post office to send stuff home, check for internet access at the library, and in general lounge around. Tomorrow I go to the bike store and get two new tires, plus my bottom bracket re-packed and new brake pads. Then we hit the road and leave this god foresaken town behind. I've learned my lesson about putting of maintence.
So I might send this mailstation home. It is heavy, and it looks like I'll only get to sync it at motels, which will hopefully be very few and very far between. So who knows. I'll keep you kids in internet land updated. Ciao...
Day 5: June 2, 2002
A bad day. I slept in today, sweating in my sleeping bag and enjoying my lesiure. We finally got up at 9am and got ready. Right off the bat it was downhill. And downhill. And downhill. For an hour and a half. I was sure that we would be below sea level before we stopped going down. But finally Defur arrived, a charming tiny little town full of pleasent people. My tire was looking pretty serious, the parts where the black rubber tread was wearing through were spreading and getting deeper. I called my brother and had him look up bicycle stores online. We were planning on getting a new tire in The Dalles after Government Camp fell through. To bad for us there weren't any bike stores in the yellow pages for The Dalls. There were five or six, however, in Hood River, 18 miles west. I was kicking myself, because if I had called my brother the day before we could have gone straight to Hood River instead of cutting through the park to the Dalles. That sucks sucks sucks. So if we are going to go to Hood River we have to head north to The Dalles on 197 regardless. There is a strong headwind coming out of Defur and the pace is essentially climb a mile, coast down two miles, climb a mile, coast two. Except that it is so windy I have to peddle down hill too. Oh well. We make it to The Dalles and low and behold, there is a bike store! But it is closed on Sundays. And Mondays. Oh well, onward to Hood River. We stock up at the Safeway and probably buy too much food. Then to Fred Meyers for some denatured alcohol. Woo Hoo! They sell cheapo bike tires at Fred Meyers! We are saved! We turn around and head over the bridge to Washington and Ideaho. Of course, this is too good to be true. I was wating to put the new tires on until we made camp for the night, but an encounter with a sharp rock thought otherwise and I got a blow-out half way across the bridge. On the other side I ate candy bars (Thank you Annie!!!) and felt bad. The new tire didn't fit. It was somehow too big. 700cm circumfrence=27"diamter. Aparently not to shit brand $8 tires. So we line the old tire with duct tape and limp back to Fred Meyers to return the 27" and go for a 26". No luck. Charlie and I wearing thin, and even as our tempers become shorter we still realize how funny everything is. Haha! We're fucked! Haha! And we're pissed at each other for no reason! Hehe. So we get a hotel. And I get another flat on the way. From where my tube was sticking out of the tire. A nice room, $47, from a nice man. And now after showering and watching TV, I am writing this. Of course the phone wont work with the mailstation, so no one will probably ever read this.
Anyway, right now I don't know what we are going to do. I guess we really only have two options: A. Stay in The Dalles for another night, wait until Tuesday and go to the bike shop here. B. One of us will take Charlie's bike to Hood River, 36miles r/t and buy me a new tire. C. Take greyhound or something to Hood River.D. Take greyhound or something home. E. Watch more tv and think of something tomorrow.
I'll opt for E. Hey, things kind of suck now but this is supposed to be an adventure! Oh, and it is Charlie's birthday! He sat up in his sleeping bag at midnight last night, tears streaming down his face, singing "Happy Birthday to me..." (Just kidding).
Weee! I'm on an adventure!
Day 4: June 1, 2002
Miles: 50 or thereabouts
Total so far: ? You do the math.
I'm writing this in retrospective because I was to dead tired to write it last night. There isn't much to say, except that we climbed hard and far. And visited the abysmal failure of a town called Government Camp. Both Charlie and I started the day in kind of pissy moods. I went out early to get water, which was fun. The bike is a completely different animal without a trailer hooked up. So we rolled out at the usual time and headed for Hwy. 26, which was covered with traffic, although it did have a nice shoulder. We were headed for Government Camp, to look for a bike store. It was uphill all the way, but there was an opitcal illusion so that it felt like we should be going downhill. I think it is caused by the bank of the road going around curves, but I'm not sure. It sucks though. Government camp was an X-Games ski town hell hole, mostly because it was expensive, full of X-games looking people and it didn't have a bike shop. So back down hill we go, onto Forest Service Rd 44 and then to 42 (or maybe the other way around). Anyway, we climbed like hell on some nice deserted roads and then went down hill like hell. One strech was a mile straight, all at 30mph. I could see Charlie a little spec in front of me, going maybe 40-50mph down the hill. Poor old me with the bad tire and the luggish trailer poking along at 25-30. We camped near the top of a mountain/hill thingy in a recently logged patch. It was a rough night, I didn't sleep very well. When we first got to camp I was completely dead. I spent 5 minutes staring at the ground before I even got out my stove to cook. I had two of Annie's lifesaving candybars (your place in heaven is assured, Annie)and a few handfuls of brown sugar and then I was good to go. Charlie bet me the next day's dinner that I couldn't eat an entire pound of pasta with olive oil and fake cheese. Normally I can, but tonight I just couldn't do it. Must have been the 1/2 cup of sugar.
All in all Day 4 was a good day, hard but satisfying. Plus we camped for free.
Day 3: May 31, 2002
Milage today: 40.1
Trip so far: 132
Jesus. What a day. Sure, we only came 40 miles (plus one or two from when my spedometer went out going down hill), but those were the most intense forty miles of my life. We broke camp at 10:15 and broke down at 10:20. Charlie had another flat. We found the culprit this time, a tiny tiny sharp sharp piece of rock. I pulled it with my leatherman and he had the flat patched in less then 20 minutes. Those pre-glued superpatches are very cute. So that three arrow very steep grade I told you about yesterday, well the map was a bit off and we hit it right off the bat today. Miles upon miles of intense climbing. My high speed going up was 6mph. My low was 2mph. At one point Charlie was pushing a good deal faster then I was peddling. I guess it never really occured to me until today that when you are going two miles per hour, for an hour, you will only have gone two miles. I guess the concept takes on new meaning when you have a 8 mile long hill in front of you. At the top of the first mountain (that is a sinister foreshadowing, for all you alert readers) we entered a new National Forest and stopped for pictures. The decent probably took all of twenty minutes. My rims were almost too hot to touch from my brake pads. Yowsah.
At the bottom of the decent we turned right onto Forest Service Rd 42, a paved one lane wonder that right up the side of the next mountain. Yee Gods, that was steep. We really didn 't have anything to eat all day except for some dinner leftovers for breakfast (I didn't get to mention this is in last nights diary, but I successfully cooked rice! I used my simmer control made from two muffin tins to get the flame low enough so that it didn't burn and all the water didn't boil off to quickly. Amazing! I did it again tonight to make some rice mix) a few handfuls of trailmix for lunch and then 800 calories of rice mix for dinner. That might not even add up to 2000, much less the 3000-5000 I burned today. Don't worry mom, I'm not any more happy about not eating enough then you are. We should make it to Maupin tomorrow and we will stock up like crazy. Today should be the only day all trip we don't go by some form of convience store.
So anyway. We finally made it to the supposed top of 42, only to find it was a false summit. We went through a bunch of ups and downs following the top of the ridge before we hit Summit Lake and began the real decent. It took maybe 30 minutes and now we are at some random campground without water by a mosquito infested lake. I'm huddled in the tent, covered in bites and Charlie is just walking around completely bite free. There is no justice.
Today is slightly below climbing Mt. Shasta on the scale of most physically demanding things that I'e done in my life.
Day 2: May 30, 2002
Today: 38 miles
Trip so far: 90 miles
Today was a short day milage wise. We got out of camp at about 10:30. I got up earlier and took a walk down to the river. Very scenic, in a National Forest Nature Walk kind of way. From the begining I pulled a good bit in front of Charlie and that was pretty much the pattern we followed all day. We passed some impressive dams between Mill City and Detriot on Hwy. 22. The first one was fairly small, maybe a hundred feet tall. The second one, the Detriot Dam was closer to 300 feet. People were fishing from the big dam (into the lake side)and when they caught a fish they would swing it high and smash its head on the concrete. Perfectly nice people sometimes cause so much suffering. They just don't realize the suffering they cause. Maybe that can be expanded to apply to bigger things.
From Detroit, OR we left the big road and for "46", a county or Forest Service road. 46 is a very quiet, winding road following the Breitenbush River, which is rushing past our campsite as I write this. On the Oregon Bicycling map we have it shows a steep and very steep grade that we went over sometime during the day.
I didn't notice any particularly steep hills, so either I am a better bicyclist then I thought or the map has a very conservative idea of what a steep grade is.
I found today that I was able to keep it in the double digits (eg above 10mph)on all of the climbs if I put some effort into it. I am feeling better and more capable today then before we left.
So the reason we stopped after only thirty-odd miles is that Charlie got a flat in his front tire and by the time it was fixed it was already 4:30. We were stopped at the last marked campsite for a good 40+ miles so we decided to stay the night here and make tomorrow a big day. We'll try to be out of here by 9am and push for a long day. We might make it back to US26 by tomorrow.
Our map shows the possible town of Breitenbush as being right around here, but it must be up one of the dirt roads across the bridge. There is a Convention Center a mile or so up the hill, but they have a bunch of "Reservations Strongly Suggested, nearest phone 10 miles" signs so I'm not inclined to see what it is.
We should have enough food for two or three days before we need to restock, but we finished the peanut butter, bread and jelly today. PB&J's make a great road snack (400 calories each..) but I guess we will just have to do without. I really wanted to use a phone today to call home (Hi Mom!) and my friend James(Hi James!) but I figured in Detriot that they would have a phone in the non-existent Breitenbush. James has a court date tomorrow (Friday the 31st) and I wanted to wish him luck. I hope everything went ok James.
Charlie is having a harder time on these hill/mountain things then I am, I hope his legs of steel pop out soon. I'd feel better doing 60 miles a day, but if that isn't possible right now then its not possible and no big deal. I guess the real reason I am concerned is that I am feeling homesick (well, not so much missing home as missing the people at home and school) and I would really like to go back to Georgia for two weeks or so before I have to start work on August 1st. I don't really get much time off of work, and the 8 days I will get off I am planning on using to go to DC in October for the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meeting.
The more I think about it the more I think I'm going to mail this MailStation home. I haven't run into a single phone jack yet, but every little town we've gone through has had a library with internet access. I write a lot more when I can type at 50wpm, but it feels kind of weird typing on a little gizmo out here. Plus it weighs 2lbs. Out of space, gotta go (damn8klimt).
Day 1: May 29, 2002
We are on the road! We pulled away from Josi's house after hugs and pictures at around a quarter past nine. Josi's brother Joel road about twenty miles with to show us the way out of town. Right after Joel left it started to get hilly. I was following Charlie with the map, head down and spinning when Charlie comes to a stop. Ahead is a VLH (Very Large Hill). From our persective this hill looked to go up about 150 vertical feet at at least an eight percent grade (which for all you car people, is very steap). Charlie was checking to map to make sure we had to climb it, but I kept pedling past him. I made it half-way up before my momentum ran out and I had to start really pushing on the pedels. My top speed was 3 miles per hour, but I made it to the top! Charlie's bike is a recombent, and even though it has a far better gear ratio than mine (I think his best is 30:30, my best is 38:28) he can't stand up on the pedels to push like me. My ass may be more sore at the end of the day, but I made it up the hill without walking! I don't think we will see anything steeper then that hill, but the Rockies sure are a lot higher. I'm glad I wont be the only one walking up some of them.
We had some trouble finding the campground. Our map was a little fuzzy as to which side of the river it was on. A friendly prepretarian minister directed us across the bridge and through the forest and here we are. He also offered to let us setup tent in his back yard, but I'm still too shy to do that. We chated with the minister for awhile about our trip. He said that he biked himself, but he seemed to think that you have to be rich to do what we are doing. That is definitly not true. The only major cost is the opportunity cost of not being able to make money for two months. If, like us, you don't have anyone to support and you don't have a mortage, this is a very cheap adventure. I have budgeted $10 per day. Since I left beloit two weeks ago I have spent around $15 a day, but that includes $70 in gas and $60 in bicycle gear. Food is dirt cheap if you eat basic vegan stuff. Once we get away from civilization a bit more we can stealth camp for free.
Biking is not a yuppie sport, despite what you might read in magazines. My entire biking setup cost around $300. On my last trip I stayed in a home-made plastic tarp-lean-to that cost about $3. Don't let money be the barrier that prevents you from setting out on an adventure.
Today was a good day. It feels good to be on the road, even if my legs and rear don't agree. The first day is always exhausting. Here are about to go to sleep at 8:30pm. Heh.
Oh first.. I successfully cooked vegan nutritional yeast macoronie and "cheese" over my stove! I didn't use my cool muffin tin simmer ring, but my pot stand starved the stove of enough oxygen that it simmered quite nicely.
Every trip needs statistics, so here are some for day one: Number of times Charlie fell off his bike: 3. Number of times Chris burned himself while cooking dinner: 5 (I think I'm missing that part of your brain that tells you that if a fork is glowing red hot, maybe you shouldn't pick it up to stir).
Thank you everyone that has given me so much support. I miss you all terribly.