The Last Few Days
We left the Erie Canal just a little over a week ago, and I feel like I never told you what happened after that. It just seemed like we finished the canal and then we were home. However, we still had 4 days of cycling left to do. But, by design, those days were on the shorter milage spectrum than what we had more recently been doing. The day we finished the canal, we rode another 30 miles or so, making it so that the last 4 days of biking would mostly be under 50 miles per day. This would both allow us to “take it easy” on those days, but also, to be able to tackle the last of the hills of the trip, the Berkshires!
When we left the canal, we still cycled about 30 more miles to just outside of Bennington, VT. This was our fist time back in New England in more than two months and it was the first time we were climbing again since we left the Rockies. That’s if you do not count the horrible rollers from just outside of Omaha, to about a quarter of the way through Iowa—I’d rather have a longer climb to settle into than those horrible half-mile rollers. We had been staying ahead of the weather as we started early, and about 30 minutes before we got to our destination, I really thought we were going to make it in dry. Anna and I stopped to wait for Sarah and Isabel and I could see the rain chasing us, but it seemed still a ways off.
I told Sarah when they rode up “we have to keep moving to beat the rain” and she replied, “all I can do is bike, I can’t control the rain.” Maybe that was what jinxed us, or maybe we were supposed to be caught. I knew we had mostly downhill until right toward the end, but perhaps her words did us in. We made it down but with about 2.5 miles to go, and no more than 15 minutes left of our ride, the skies really opened up and all of a sudden, we were getting quarter sized drops of rain. The other problem was that we were now on a busier stretch of highway 7. I worried that we wouldn’t be very visible in the heavy rain, but there really was no where to stop. We rolled into our host’s farm about as wet as we could be, but our friend’s relatives were so warm and welcoming, that we soon forgot the last 15 minutes of our ride.
The next few days really provided the majority of the hills for the last segment of our journey. When we left Bennington, we rode about 48 miles to our next destination. However, this day would challenge us with a steep 7-8 miles or so out of North Adams. This road is famous in the area for its hairpin turn. Lucky for us that we had just devoured a decent lunch and we had the fuel to tackle the climb. We made it to the top in about two hours and were rewarded to a fabulous downhill on a newly paved road! When we were at the bottom Sarah mentioned how steep downhill was and that she had to use her brakes, and Anna said, “I think Papi used our brakes only once!” I do love a good downhill!
The next day provided more climbing, through it was more spread out and not just over one long climb. We stopped a few times and really had a sense of calm about where we needed to get at the end of the day, versus the usual somewhat rushed stops of the majority of the trip. If anything, this reinforced what I had been telling the girls about the trip. I’d been saying that I wished we had had 3 months to do this ride. The pace could have been more relaxed, we could have ridden in a not so rushed manner, and we could have had time to see more stuff along the way. But we had the time we had, and we rode accordingly. That night we stayed in our last motel and it turned out to be a good one! Unlike some of those roadside motels, we had a newly renovated room with fresh and new everything!
On our penultimate day, we were treated to a net elevation loss, we were on roads that I did not need the GPS to navigate, and we had our friend Bob Ryan meet us for lunch. He met us in Harvard, MA and provided us a Backroads style lunch! Bob was really paying attention as he did have many of the things we love and sometimes blogged and posted about. He had Ghost Pepper chips from Trader Joe’s, fresh fruit, cold mineral water, he even brought Sarah and iced cold coffee with some milk! We really felt like celebrities meeting him there. From there we rode a short 15 miles or so to our friend’s the Reidy’s where we would have our last overnight! Conan really busted out the culinary chops with his grilled chicken and delicious mac and cheese.
But those two meals provided much more than full bellies. They reinforced the feeling that people really cared about what we were doing. People were interested. I mean, here’s Bob driving about an hour to meet us, probably taking 4 or more hours to prep all that he brought, hanging out with us for two hours, and then headed home to clean up and put what we couldn’t eat away. The Reidy’s had to get their home ready, cooked and entertained us for hours that day and the next when we lingered at their home as the rain fell heavily.
Then, the last day had arrived. We woke up to clouds and a light drizzle. We looked at the weather and it seemed like there would be windows of less rain throughout the morning, but every time I’d check, those windows were no longer there. Our friend Charley was going to ride and meet us in Concord center at 9am, but I thought he knew to check in with us since it was raining. He did not and like a faithful soldier, went out into the rain and rode out to meet us. He eventually made it to where we were and after a while, we rode in together, partially in heavy downpours, but ending up with just overcast skies. It seemed like from Cambridge to the beach in south Boston, we no longer had a drop of rain. This was good as downtown Boston is not a place to ride if you are at all timid in traffic. By this time Janet had also joined us, and I can only hope she felt safety in numbers because I know she’s told me in the past how she feels about traffic. I’m sure this ride was not easy or fun for her, so it means that much more to us that she was there.
But we made it to the beach where Jon, Christine, and one of their daughters, Violet, were waiting for us. It was a truly warming experience! I’ve finished a few long rides before, including ending my 18-month long-haul to Tierra del Fuego, where we ended that trip and not a soul was there to greet us, or even know what we had just finished! This was completely the opposite! There were happy screams, almost tears, lots of hugs and a complete sense that we were done, and we were home! For all the planning we did throughout the trip, this ending could not have been sketched any better, but that’s probably because everyone mentioned above was involved in the planning.
We dipped our wheels into the ocean, and rode home in more heavy traffic, but it didn’t matter. We were done. Mission accomplished. Country seen. The only thing left to do was eat some of the foods we’d been talking about for the last few weeks, and we’re doing just that since we arrived!
The End of the Road
We set out to bike across the country and we achieved that goal today. We finished off our ride accompanied by friends Janet and Charley, who rode with us in heavy traffic into downtown, the waterfront, and then a little strip of beach in South Boston. We were met by our friends Jonathan, Christine, and Violet and we dipped our wheels into the Atlantic. Then we cycled home to Medford where we dined and relaxed, trying to make sense of it all. I'd like to close out a few stories about the trip that I never got to tell, but that will have to wait until I'm not exhausted.
I hope you check back in the next few days for those updates.
Thanks for reading!!
Road Surprises, Just a Few
As we spend our third evening here in New England, I thought it would be a good time to go back and talk about some unexpected things we encountered on the road. Sometimes what you think is going to happen, that just doesn't materialize. Sometimes, things you didn't expect appear without warning. A Warmshowers host said it best, sometimes you just go from "rags to riches, and sometimes, the other way around. In general, it's a good thing, but you have to be ready for when it is not. Here are a few road surprises we encountered.
This could have turned out really badly for all of us. Sarah's bike experienced two completely cracked rims. Both times we were somewhere flat, approaching a town, so it was just time that was lost, though when you are on a tight schedule, this can be a source of stress. But this could have been really bad. I don't know if the rim could have completely come apart while traveling at a high rate of speed, but if so, things could have been much worse. I don't like to think about it. Still, this definitely added a road surprise of almost 400.00, that we certainly could have used for something else.
12 Mile Climb
This one goes back to our first week of cycling. Two days before this happened, we had spent and entire day climbing up Mt Hood. And the day prior was no picnic either, with a few multi mile climbs in the heat. We had camped at a cyclist hostel in Mitchel, OR, and the woman running it told us as we were heading out that we had a 12 mile climb. None of us were too happy to hear that news, but we pedaled on.
We were definitely grunting up the climb when we decided to take a break at around mile 5. I was trying to make it to mile 6, but I knew others were beat. But as I started looking around, I just couldn't see how we could climb for another 7 miles. It seemed like I could see the top of the Mesa everywhere I looked. BUT, we were given this info by a woman running a bike hoste! Of course she knew the distance to the top!. So we continued up, expecting to see another Mesa once we reached the top of the one we could see. But as we reached the top at about mile 6, I could see far into the distance to know we were done climbing. Not only that but about a mile later, we started down this canyon that would generally go down for about 15 miles! Great surprise!
The Giving Stranger
We were cycling in Iowa and were about two days before we crossed into Illinois. We were caught in a horrible rain storm, and the road just didn't seem that safe, so when we came upon a dirt bike path going to where we were hoping to get second breakfast, we jumped on it, even though it was a muddy mess. Needless to say, when we arrived at the only eatery in town that was open (it was Sunday, afterall), we were looking really dirty. The place was packed, and we were definitely a scene for more reasons than our muddy and wet cycling outfits showed.
We sat and ate our food and the meal was more or less uneventful. I just assume that people just moved on as they were hungry too. But when we left the restaurant, a family chatted us up just outside. I think it was a dad, his two sons, their wives, but I'm not 100% They were very nice and as it turned out, one of the sons was s cyclist who was going to do RAGBRAI at the end of the July. We parted ways with them wishing us good luck. But that evening, I got an email through this blog, it was the brother who was doing the ride, and he wanted to know how he could send us some money to pay for a hotel night. People are nice, I know that, but even he surprised me completely! Thanks again Samuel! I still feel so thankful when as I write about this.
Well, we have only two more cycling days to go. And even though the miles will be very manageable, I should probably finish this off and get some rest to close out this trip strong. I'll check back in here with some final facts of the trip, such as miles and such, and hopefully with some closing thoughts or stories. Sleep well New England
The Erie Canal, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
We just spent the better part of 6 days cycling the Erie Canal. I can tell you, we all are giving it a huge thumbs up! Where else can you ride for so long and be car free for the majority of the time? Plus, this thing is mostly flat, but if you ride west to east, you are basically riding downhill most of the way. What else can you ask for? Still, not all is perfect on the trail, welcome to another edition of the good? The bad, and the ugly.
Well, I pretty much mentioned a few of the great things already, but in addition to that, our friends Katl and Kristin came and joined us for two nights on the trail. Like when Bill came, they brought food and a bunch of goodies for us. We got to ride with one, or sometimes both of them so it was a special treat to actually converse with someone different other than the 3 others on this trip! Plus, they also carried our stuff for a day and a half, so we took advantage of the situation and elongated our full day of riding with them. This made it posible to shorten the next 3 days to about 50 miles per day, instead of 60ish. This is great as we are no longer on a flat canal path and have hit the mountains in VT and MA.
If there bad thing about the canal, it is that you do have to leave it to get food or to resupply. So, say we're riding along and we wanted ice cream, we'd have to see when the next town was, and then leave the canal to get your fix. This isn't a huge issue, but when you are on the road, and your are coming into a town, you can get a feel for what the town may or may not offer as you are riding in. When you are on the canal, you just drop in right in the middle of town and see what the town is like. We got lucky once and found what we needed, but more often, we'd have to keep looking or just get moving and. Ack in the trail.
The mosquitos. They were horrible. The first night with K$K we decided to camp at what seemed like a great place called Lock 20. We were basically pushed there by the tailwind and rolled onto camp on the early side. That seemed great as we'd have ample time to set up camp and cook. But the wind, even when it seems in your favor, it can be cruel. When we arrived, there were no mosquitoes and even in the early evening, there weren't a whole of them. But when the wind stopped completely, nature's greatest killer came out starving. These were no ordinary mosquitoes. I'm not sure if it was just the sheer number of them, but nothing seemed to stop them. We tried losse clothing, deed, swatting them, and they didn't care. It didn't even move when you swatted. In the end, I probably ended up with about 40 bites, too many to count, really.
Still, given all the above, I'd ride the trail again in a heart beat. But maybe this time I'd do it in the Fall to see if there any less vicious killers. Or I would suck it up and carry heavy clothing that I knew could prevent those pestering murderers from taking my blood.
Now that the trip is coming to a close, I think we can start thinking about our experiences along the way. For the most part, even with the hardships, the tough miles, the rain, the hunger, etc., we've had an amazing time. BUT, as eluded, not all has been fun and games along the trail. So, I thought I'd mention the day, or the event, or a mix of many things that broke, at least temporarily, each one of us. I'm going to list them alphabetically, not in an order of importance, FYI.
This was among our longest day at the time. We clocked in at 66 miles. We were going to ride the most desolate stretch of road in the entire trip. But, at some point, we were going to meet our friends coming from Steamboat. They were going to be loaded with food and drinks. However, we'd had to get through a hot, desolate, and arid section of Wyoming. All of a sudden, Anna can't bike anymore. She tells me she can't go another mile. I know that we have to keep biking to bridge the distance between the two moving points. (Remember that train question in math class?)
But Anna can't go any more. She's at the point of tears. I keep looking around to see what I can do to make the last 15 miles possible. Those same 15 miles that still had about another 1000 feet of climbing. I see and point out wild horses, and that seems to ease the pain for just a little bit, but it returns. I finally tell her that we have to keep going, we have no choice. And I reassure her that once we get to the 7500 ft. mark, we will have a downhill. And Anna did bust through her braking point and did help us climb that pass. And we did have a great downhill. And towards the bottom, we met our friends who ushered us to a great campground near where we met them. And the rest of the evening, it was like that braking point had never happened.
Mine came fast. It was the very first day. To be clear, we did some training prior to this trip, but we didn't do enough. Some of us did more than others, as schedules allowed. This became clear in the 64 miles we had to ride right out of the gate. I had scheduled that particular ride to avoid a busy road heading up the Columbia river. And indeed the road I chose was very quiet, but it was also hilly. We climbed about 3000 feet according to my Garmin. And the road had only one gas station, unfortunately, it came soon after Astoria, and we didn't know it would be the only one.
So we rode up and over some hilly terrain, the heat was definitely on, and we surely had to get to our destination as we did not have any food to cook for the night. At about mile 50 I rally the team and I'm feeling pretty good, but that quickly changed 10 miles up the road. All of a sudden I hit a wall and it becoming more and more difficult to rotate the pedals. Then we get to a last 1/4 mile climb before our end spot. And my body was screaming to stop. So much so that I can still remember my brain telling my legs not to stop. It wasn't just my legs, my entire body wanted to sease all movement. But it was overridden. But the braking point was at the very end. When we got to our hotel, I could not get off the bike. I cramped up and needed assistance from my entire family.
Isabel and Sarah
Their's came on the same day. And it was a brutal day for sure. I wrote about part of this day before in the blog post about the wind. We started the day with a mild headwind that quickly grew in strength. But the heat was also rising. We left early and made our way to second breakfast but after leaving the restaurant, the heat had jumped to about 96 and the wind was well in the 20 to 30 MPH against us.
We were not making any headway and we were out of water. Sarah walked up to the only home we had seen in miles to see if they could refill our bottles. No one was home, so we helped ourselves to their spigot. But that water went fast, unlike our miles. We were out of water again in about a mile, which took us about 30 minutes as it was uphill and into the stiff headwind. At this point the temps were over 100 degrees. Isabel was hurting and Sarah started to feel ill. So we stopped to rest at the top of the climb, but we know the downhill is still going to be work.
I didn't even hear the truck coming as the wind was deafening. But as it passed me, I see Sarah and Isabel waiving it down. Luckily it stopped as we hadn't seen any vehicle heading in the same direction in a while. And just like that, our luck changed. The almost insurmountable 15 miles we still had to go were all of a sudden done in about as many minutes with our bikes in the back of a pickup. The 100 degrees heat could not compete with the AC inside the truck. But more importantly, we were no longer in danger of having at least one of us get sick from the heat.
We have seven more riding days before we reach the beach in Boston. And we are now stronger than ever. We did gain strength and we did get lucky with the weather and avoided any more days over 100. Hopefully on the remaining days we will not have a worse days that the ones in the post. But there are no guarantees
Close to Home
A few days ago we passed that invisible barrier that automatically changes our devices' time. It was the third time this trip and it always seems to surprise us. Since then, we have been on Eastern Time, so our girls feel a sense of closeness, not only because each pedal stroke is getting us closer to home, but also because they are now in the same time zone as most of their friends. But honestly, we still felt that we were not yet on the East coast as everything around us still looked like the midwest. That really changed yesterday.
Before yesterday, we have been hearing from locals about their thoughts on where the midwest starts and ends. This discussion went on for weeks. Some people put Ohio in the mid west while others bulked it with the East Coast. But now, we are 100% on the East Coast. We entered Pennsylvania. There's no denying that PA belongs on the East Coast. I mean, can't you get to the Atlantic from Philadelphia, after all?
But really, more seems to have changed when we got into PA than in the last bunch of states. There are more trees than before. The corn and soybeans we have been seeing since Nebraska are all but gone. We saw a little bit of corn today, but definitely no soybeans. And the huge expansive, industrisl fields of corn have been replaced by mom and pop stands, and actually, there are just a lot less farms and more actual trees.
But the Changes are even more noticeable now that were in Erie, PA. We have been seeing some homes that look like the homes on Medford streets. In fact, for those from Medford, we were hosted by a family that has a colonial that could be on Governor's Ave, the house is beautiful and the street even has that center grass area as well! If only we could ride around the corner, a quick shot down Lawrence, and turn onto our street and be home!?
After we pulled into their home and settled in, got showered up, and had dinner with them, we really had not seen their home's details. Once I started noticing, it just felt like we were visiting someone in Medford. After dinner we were offered some ice cream and if all the things I mentioned above weren't enough signals for us to see that we are close to home, the Wegman's ice cream box was a definite sign telling us we're not far now.
We were still in Oregon, the first state on our trip, so we definitely didn't expect to change time zones then. We all assumed that we would at least get out of OR before a time change happened. But it came fast. On this particular day, we had 70 plus miles, with no stores or services in between, just the change into Mountain time. The other time zones didn't quite sneak up on us, but they still arrived quickly. I guess time moves like we move on our bikes. Each pedal stroke seems as slow as each second tick, but they accumulate quickly, and before we knew it, we had almost arrived back home. We're so close, we can almost feel it, almost.
Here's to Bill
As some may remember, our friend Bill drove out from Salt Lake City and met us in WY and SAGGED us for a few days. During that time, helped us bridge the gap of 120 miles without towns or services between WY and CO. It's not stretch to say that we could not have taken that route without his help. Well, Bill is here again and he has been for the past week. So I thought I'd take this chance to detail exactly how he has helped us.
First of all, it's always nice to see a friend. We've seen a good amount of people from our past lives, and it has always brought us joy. So seeing Bill, especially after not having seeing him through the pandemic, that was awesome. Bill usually comes to spend Thanksgiving with us and may also sneak in another trip in the Spring, so it had been a while since we had seen him. And he's been a regular at our house since the girls were born, so they also know him too.
But the support he provides goes way beyond seeing a "friendly " face. When Bill is here, all of a sudden we really do not have to worry about much. We get up and get ready for the day, packing up and having breakfast, and once we start biking, we just bike. We know somewhere along the way we will see Bill and his white VW, carrying all kids of goodies we normally can't get on demand. He'll always have some ice cold Gatorade or seltzer water, usuually some chilled fruits, and some salty snacks. And that just for our first break!
Our lunch, which will be a bit later on, usually has cold cuts, 'high-end" chicken salad, fresh bread, and the drinks mentioned above. All we have to do is pedal and look for the white car, roll into park or other suitable chosen area, and start building our sandwiches. After we eat he's always making sure we're topped off on water and we have had enough before he'll start putting everything away so he can hit the road and either find another place to.meet us, or go on ahead to our final destination. Yesterday he met us in town and bought us some ice cream when we arrived!
And once we're off the bike, the fun doesn't end. We usually hit the town and head to a local eatery, which can definitely be en experience. We've have some decent food, but we've definitely had some really bad meals. But all of this is possible because Bill has a car we can ride in and go get food! Otherwise we'd have to cook (which is usually the tastiest choice, but the most work) or walk to whatever may be close by. So this expands our possibilities.
But all good things do come to an end, and so, Bill has to leave tomorrow evening. He will help us get to the shores of Lake Erie, and then he'll start his 1691 miles back to Salt Lake City. He said something that sounded like the adults talking in the Peanuts cartoons (please google this is you do not know what I mean) but all we heard was, "I'm leaving." And the next day we will continue on our trip, carrying all of our gear, and fending for all of our food and all will be OK, but it will not be the same.
There was one thing that we will stay even though he's gone. it's the thought that he's taken so much time and effort to help us on our trip. The knowledge that he cares enough to come put up with our whining, our quiet and not so quiet demands, and our messiness and everything else. There aren't many people who would do this, and we know how lucky we are. So THANK YOU BILL! We love and already miss you!
The Last 1000 Miles
They say that a thousand mile journey begins with one step. In our case it will be with one pedal stroke. Even though I'm writing this from Chicago, our bike adventure has already taken us as far east as Hobart, IN. If you Google the cycling distance between Hobart and Boston, you get 1037. But, how did we get to Hobart, and are now some miles west in Chicago? We rode to Hobart two days ago and our friend Bill picked us up and we all drove back to Chicago for a well deserved rest and lite sighs seeing day. But as we wake today and get ready to pick up our gear and bikes to continue on our way, I thought I'd give you some trip highlights and maybe even lowlights thus far.
Overall, things have really gone our way thus far. I hope this continues on the last 1/3 of the ride.
About 3 weeks before our trip, some of our friends really wanted to get together with us to know more about our upcoming adventure. They had tons of questions about all kinds of things: What type of bikes are you riding? How long will it take? Where will you sleep? How far will you bike each day? Ect. One of our friends however, most of his questions had to do with personal safety, his questions were more about that: Are you carrying a gun? No? Are you carrying a knife? Etc. We said we were not carrying a gun because we could not carry legally throughout each state. We've also never fired a gun so neither of us would be sure we could actually pull the trigger of needed. So then the conversation turned to knives. After talking about options for a knife, our good friend decided to buy us the ultimate protection piece, a machete.
I knew we could not legally fly with a machete as a carry on, and we didn't want to put that in our luggage as we didn't want to take a chance on ripping our waterproof bags, so he decided to ship it to us to Portland. It would be in our hotel waiting for us. But when we got there and asked for our package, right away it felt a little odd walking up to our room with this blade. When we took it up to our room, it was in a box, so it wasn't a huge issue, but when we left with it the next day, we were unsure of how to discreetly carry it to our rental car that was taking us to Astoria, the start of our cycling. We just wrapped it in between other equipment and hoped it wouldn't fall out in the lobbies, causing a scene.
Once we started cycling, the machete needed to be somewhere out of site, but within an easy way to extract this quasi sword, if needed. We played around with a few options and eventually settled on wrapping the machete in a piece of a thick duffel bag we used to check our panniers when we flew out. (Panniers are the bags we hang on our bikes) And we put the machete tucked in with one of the tents we carry on the rear rack of our bikes. This way, it's out of view, and yet fairly easy to get to. The other day, we actually took out the machete for the first time, but this was surely an over estimation on a percieved danger. However, yesterday, we actually needed to retrieve this multi tool and actually used it on on a quiet bike path spanning much of Illinois.
The Hennepin stretches for about 60 miles from about the Iowa border, and it goes more or less east. The path was very quiet. In fact, I'd say in the entire 60 mile stretch, we probably only saw less than 20 people. Part of the reason I'd say it wasn't heavily used was probably because we were there on a weekday. But the other reason was because the trail is not well maintained, so it really isn't for the occasional bike path user. The trail went form being paved, to broken pavement, to dirt and mud, and at times, it turned to jeep tracks or single track, even. But after 2000 miles of biking, to us this seemed OK as we were off the road and on a very peaceful ride.
However, we did have to always be watching the path. There were holes, rocks, tunnels, mud, critters and occasional people to watch out for. Luckily for us, many of those people were actually on the canal, fishing. So, we could just wave at them and even if they had questionable intentions, it would have almost been impossible for them to get to us. But yesterday, as we were about at mile 15 for the day, up ahead on the trail, I saw a dark obstincle blocking our path. As I was trying to more clearly assess the situation from afar, I truly wasn't sure how we'd get around this so we rolled towards this in a type of limbo.
What was impeding our forward progress you may ask? Well, it was a shadowy figure, blocking the entire path at that point, but is wasn't a person, it was huge fallen tree that stopped us dead in our tracks. As we definitely could not put the bikes over it, even if we unloaded them. But at one side of the trail, I see a bunch of branches and I'm thinking maybe we can unload the bikes and them carry them over the thick, tall, branches. But Anna pipes in and says, "why don't we use the machete? So we did!
I took out the 12 inch machete and did my civic duty and cleared the way, not only for us, but for the five other cyclist that may be going across that path this year. I have to say, it felt good using it. Maybe it's my Mexican roots, every Mexican in the country side would never leave for a day's work without it. One never knows if you'll need it for work or for protection. Maybe I just needdd to get upper body work out, but I did like hacking at the branches. And in a few minutes, we had cleared the way. Sarah rolled up just in time to pass through, and we soon followed.
The rest of the ride yesterday and today, provided a ton of other obstacles, but we did not have to use the machete again to cut back the overgrown path. If only we could have a tool that would have hardened the soft mud that was slowing us down and providing some slippery conditions..but it wouldn't have been as fun to use. So thanks Geoff!
Iowa Nice, and Massachusetts Comraderrie
Almost as soon as we set our wheels in Iowa, we noticed that people were very nice. We stayed with a great couple in Counsil Bluffs, right over the border from Omaha. They let us stay in their above the "garage" room, which looked like high end hotel. The next day we were on country roads where 3 people actually pulled over to see if we needed anything. It was one of those folk who pulled over and told us that people here were "Iowa nice " This was very helpful when it came to dealing with our first major mechanical issue of the trip. We've had other issues, but this one could have sidelined the trip for days were it not for the help of a few individuals.
Two days ago, we were about 9 miles from Adel, IA on a great bike path. The sun was out, the cars were gone, and the path was smooth. We were going to camp in Adel and had just about 45 minutes to go for the day. Isabel and I were ahead by a few minutes so when we came to a small village, we paused to wait for Sarah and Anna. We hadn't been there more than 2 minutes when the phone rang, it was them, and both were trying to tell me at the same time that there was an issue, but I couldn't hear over the other. Eventually I understood that they had a flat tire, so I thought it was no big deal. However, I installed tubes with sealant in them, so the flat should not have happened n the first place. Isa and I rode back to meet them so I could investigate.
Sure enough, Sarah had a flat. I decided to pump up the tire so I coul try to locate the puncture, but there was no obvious hole or visible goop leaking out and we couldn't detect the unmistakable hissing sound. But sure enough, in a few minutes, the tire was flat again. That's when I took the tire off and discovered that the puncture was caused by the actual rim and not the road. This is usually not a good sign, but it can sometimes be "fixed" by tapping up the area that's piercing the tube. But that's when I discovered that the rim had a good size bend on one of the sidewalls.
A bent wall is not great, but since we have disc brakes I thought we could go on like this for a long time, but upon a closer look, not only was the rim bent, there was also a 6 inch crack along the side. This was surely something that we needed to jump on ASAP, and we did right there and then. It was almost 5pm when this was happening so rather than rig a solution and get to Adel, we started calling shops in Des Moines as it was only 14 miles past Adel. We called about 4 shops and while they all were "Iowa nice," they just didn't have the rim we needed.
I then called a shop called Bike World and the woman who answered gathered all the info on what I needed and set off to talk to the service folk. She was gone a long time and when she came back she told me that a mechanic at their sister store wanted me to call him directly. So I called Donald and told him what the issue was. He sounded concerned and told me that he would look around the shop and see what they had, and that he'd call me back. When I started giving him my cell number he said, "ah! a Boston numbah." Turns out, Donald is from Melrose, MA, so, a connection was made. Sarah and I patched a solution to get us rolling and hoped it would get us to Des Moines the next day.
Prior to this, I had been corresponding with Dave, a Warm Showerrs host in Des Moines about him leading us through the city. He had family in town so he could not host us, but he could help us navigate the bike paths through town. I texted him to let him know that I wasn't sure we'd make it and in fact, he's the one who told me to call this particular shop, Bike World. After we arrived in Adel, we continued to text and he told me he would come find us the next day, ride us to his house, and drive me to the shop If they had a wheel for me, and let Sarah and the girls hang out with his wife! How nice is that?
Turns out it was nicer, even. That evening, Donald told me he was staying late at the shop to build a wheel for us. I let Dave know and the plan was confirmed. We rode into his house at about 11am the next day and headed to the shop to get the wheel. But turns out the wheel was the wrong size. So Donald decided to build another one using the good parts from our wheel, but this would take more time. Dave and I drove back to his house where upon arrival we were told that Dave's wife, that Dave was just going to give us a bump out of town to keep us on schedule.
So, while the wheel was being rebuilt, we took Dave to lunch. Afterwards, he patiently waited for the wheel to be finished, a storm with golf-size hail to pass, and once all that was done, he helped us load his truck with all of our gear, he drove us to the shop to get the wheel, and then took us to our next town. Did I mention he had family in town? All of this took a major part of his day, so we really can't thank him enough for being Iowa nice. And to Donald, who also showed his true Mass comraderrie by staying late and then rebuilding another rim the next day! A true and genuine thanks to you both!
Update: the new wheel is rolling great. We rode a full day today and it's as though the this issue never happened.
Random Thoughts of a Crappy Day
Not all days on a bike tour are going to be stellar. Today was definitely one of those days! We only rode 55 miles, but it was a tough 55. We had deep rolling hills, followed by deeper rollers. We had some drizzle throughout the morning, making it hard to see. We had 20 to 25 MPH headwinds when the road took us north, and we went north too long. And we were not quite getting along superbly as a family unit. So my ride today was more quiet than normal in terms of conversation. Following are some of the random thoughts that came to my head during the the 5 plus hours of pedaling we put in today.
My buddy Bob Ryan sent me a note saying he ordered up some tailwinds for Iowa. I have yet to feel them. So my thought on that today were; Bob, we are feeling the requested wind, but there was a mistake with the order. Can you please confirm with the supplier on the direction of the wind? It is coming from the North or Northeast. We really would prefer it out of the West.
In regards to the rolling hills, I can't believe how everytime we just about crested another 1/2 miles or so climb, I always wondered if this was going to be the last climb. It's a cruel joke my brain was playing on me. We climbed 2500 feet today, and only gained about 20 feet from where we started. So there were tons of these hills. And yet almost every time, I wondered and hoped!
My saddle soar came back, so this was a source of some serious time occupied by my brain. My thoughts on this were directly connected to the length of the climb too. You see, I could not get up off the saddle while climbing. It's really hard to stand and pedal when on a loaded tandem in any raod condition. So while I eagerly awaited flat roads at every climb, I was also happy to see a downhill so I could stand and rest my sore spot while we voasted. TMI?
Even though overall the road was relatively quiet, as I kept looking in my "old man" rearview mirror today, I keep seeing a truck usually followed by a few cars. The steep hills made me be able to see them all lined up, almost as though I was getting an aerial view. As a I kept seeing this all day, I imagined I was watching a long centipede follow led by a few ants. I also wondered if people in the cars thought we were some kind of bug on the road to be squashed. Apparently not! I have to say that so far, Iowa drivers seem to be the most considerate of the trip.
The last thought that kept rolling around my head was related to my garmin computer. I've been running it on "battery savings" mode to make sure I can get two days in case I do hot have the chance to charge it up at night. But when in this mode, the screen is blank until I touch it to wake it up to give me my stats up until that second. And every time I woke it back up I'd think something like this; "what??? We have only gone 1.5 miles since I last checked? There's something wrong with this computer!
I know it's not pretty, but like I said, not all days on a tour are good ones. But I do know that overall this is a great experience. I can only hope that tomorrow will iron out the wrinkles that created all the rollers today, so we have flatter roads, but I know I may be fooling myself.
We celebrated the fourth of July yesterday with friends in Omaha, NE. Getting into town wasn't easy or for the faint of heart, and I mean that figuratively and literally. About 20 miles out of town, the day went from a sleepy Sunday morning feel to a really busy, "I've got places to be" feel. Drivers seemed much more aggressive and the hills really picked up. This part of NE is not flat at all!
Hills really slow cyclist quite a bit, so we rolled into our friend's house about 2 hours later than what I had imagined halfway through the ride. Main roads and side streets only go up or down, there's nothing flat around these parts. So we were panting and sweating like crazy as we fought the traffic. After taking one of many breaks, we elongated the last 14 miles to 18 to get on a series of paths to get us off the roads. It made for a much better ride.
We arrived at our friends home and all of our moods immediately switched from semi angry to overjoyed. Its amazing how that can happen just by finishing a hard 58 miles at a friend's home, on the 4th of July.
We are roughly at the halfway point of the ride. We'll be surely able to say that we've entered the second half once we depart. Thank goodness we're not leaving today, we need a rest day! But these are some of the derails of the first half of the trip.
Ok, we have many tasks to take care of today on our rest day, so I better get out of bed and start that list! Hope you had a great Independence Day!
Ever since the girls were little, we always tried to have dinner as a family. Before they had afternoon activities, that was easy. Once they got a little older, it became more challenging, but still a priority. On this trip, whether we are eating out, being hosted, or dining al fresco while camping out, we have had almost every meal together! Some have been bad, some great, we've been in fantastic moods and have gotten in fights, but last night's dinner was particularity memorable even though it was somewhat unexpected.
We are now on what's called the Lincoln highway. As Sarah told me today, this was the original cross country highway going coast to coast, dedicated to Lincoln in the early part of the twentieth century. Later on, interstate 80 was built closely following 30. So now, highway 30, at least through Nebraska, is mostly used for local traffic. This is great for cycling, but maybe not ideal if you're looking to get a motel, in town, within walking distance to food. All of the towns thus far are a mile or two away from 80, so if they had a motel on their main strip, it could be gone, or turned into long term living since I-80 travelers now stay right off the highway.
Yesterday we were aiming to get to the town of Sutherland, NE. But at lunch, when we called the one motel in town, we were told that the place was now used for long term rentals and they had no rooms. This was particularly disappointing as we had mentally budgeted to ride another 30 miles and now we were faced with either riding an extra 10 miles (roadtrip) for camping, or biking an extra 20 miles to the next town. So, we headed down the road with the intention to tack on another 20, and bring the total to 81 miles. We were not interested in doing an out and back to camp, at a place that may or may not have water.
However, it was late in the day when we finally departed our lunch spot at the shaded church steps after having PB&Js. It soon became obvious that riding 50 miles after lunch was going to be tough and that we would probably all regret it. So after about 15 miles, we hatched a new plan; we would stay in a town 10 miles short of our original destination of Sutherland, but it would have to be at the only only place to stay, which was a mile from town, right off I-80. The issue was that we needed food, and food was a mile away, and none of us wanted to walk a mile, or ride a bike to dinner.
So right before we headed to the interstate, we stopped off at the lovely community of Paxton, NE and hit the grocery store to pick up dinner provisions. Now, when I say "lovely," I truly mean it. People inside the store, on the street, in front of the bar, all were so friendly and seemed genuine. We asked the butcher if it would be possible to buy just one stick of butter since we are on bikes, and by God, he got us one stick of butter. We got some pasta and sauce and bought some marinated chicken from the butcher as well. We topped that off with some fruit and carrots for a vegetable and headed to our home for the night.
When we go to the motel, I instantly started scanning where we could cook and was disappointed that there really was no good place for this to happen. I was sure that the owners would not want us to cook in front of the room. So went around to the side, way to the side. We were about 40 yards from the hotel right next to a dirt road that said something about local traffic only. We brought all of the needed cooking tools, all the food, water for cooking in a collapsible bladder, and most importantly, we scrounged 4 milk crates to sit on.
We fired up the MSR International, and started off by cooking the chicken. As this is cooking, I realize that the 4 of us are alone, on this dirt field, looking almost homeless, cooking practically on the ground, and all that mattered was the talk about how good the chicken was going to taste. We told jokes about our cousin Paul and some perhaps undercooked chicken he may or may not have served once at the Cape. We laughed and enjoyed the chicken once it was completely cooked.
As we ate the chicken, we started cooking the pasta. Some of us were having it with sauce, and others with butter and salt and pepper. So while all of this was cooking, a few "locals" headed down the dirt road and stared like they were seeing ghosts. We didn't care. We were having a great time, we were jovial and laughing about looking like we were on the set of The Walking Dead. Once the pasta was ready, we devoured it like we were feasting on the flesh of the living in the show. All the while the conversation was funny and filled with joy, and maybe even love, in a roundabout way. It's a sentiment that can't really be explained, at least not by me.
I've had many a meals on bike tours, and I do mean literally hundreds of them. Many in settings like this, minus the motel. I've also dined most nights with my family, at home, in Medford for the last 17 years. As I said before, every sentiment has been felt and expressed at one of these meals. But, there was something extraordinary about this particular dinner. I can't really put my finger on it and therefore can't tell you why it was so special, at least not yet. But I can tell you this, I will cherish this meal for as long as I live and I hope it is something that can be repeated.
We left the Rockies behind and have entered the prairies of northern, CO. We had one last exceptionally beautiful day before we rode out of the mountains and into Ft Collins. If anyone is ever in this part of the country, I highly recommend driving up Cameron pass and maybe even dropping onto Walden just to see the beauty this mountains hold. You will not be disappointed. I was definitely sad to be leaving the western mountains thinking that the boring part of the ride was commencing, but I was wrong, at least thus far.
We rode out of Ft Collins yesterday morning after a great stay with Dennis Ryan, the brother of an ex Backroads leader and current Belmont Wheelworks employee who reached out after the Globe article and has offered encouragement, advice, and places to stay. As we were riding out on CO 14, I could see the the mountains in the rearview mirror but had yet to see the beauty due to the exceptionally busy road. After getting a late start, I guess I was trying to also speed out to get us out of town and leave the traffic behind.
When we hit Ault, CO, highway 14 became a very quiet rural road. We were headed to the small community of Briggssville, where we knew we probably wouldn't get a campsite, and would have to figure out where to sleep once in town. But to our surprise, they allow overflow camping at a small area designated for group events. So we hit the town to buy dinner for the night, ate, and rested up for the next day's ride.
Maybe it was the worrying about where we would sleep the night before, but I hadn't really noticed how beautiful these prearies were until we rode out this morning. The wind was blowing out of the north, and either passing through my avid brakes or the wheel spokes, but the whistling created was adding a perfect soundscape to the land. It accentuated the openness and solace this land provides. The rolling hills provided the feeling that they go on forever, like the inundating ocean waves can sometimes do.
Today is Sunday, so the town we passed was entirely closed. And by town I mostly mean the only business in the 60 miles stretch. We still stopped to eat there, however, even if just on the front entrance. We had lunch of pasta salad given to us by a resident of Briggsville when she found out we'd be biking out of there, with little or no prospects to reload. Thanks Heidi! But it was after lunch that we noticed the northern winds were bringing in a very real threat. In the closing distance we could see thunderstorms appearing just to the north and east of us, with the prevailing winds driving towards a sure collision.
I'm no meteorologist, but as I've said before, I've done some touring in the past, so I felt like we could out run the soon-to-be passing rain and thunder. We grouped together and made a plan to try to stay ahead of the showers as the sky lit up from time to time over our left shoulders. The other choice was to stay under a porch of a building we passed, but I felt like that could delay us for a long time as it seemed like the clouds were all starting to open up and bring those stark gray streaks of rain onto the beautiful prearies. So we rode on...without our normal breaks.
We did manage to stay ahead of the rain and thunder. As we were on some of the the last prearies before town, we could see behind us that the plan was just barely keeping us safe and dry. The clouds that started up as puffy sun cover were now a rolling train of rain and thunder. Yet, the storms only accentuated the beauty layed out behind us. The wind continued to blow, creating that whistling sound out of my bike. It reminded me of a long ago sounds I'd hear as a kid when the wind blew through an empty playground. Only this time the play structure was solidly wheeling us to town, into our motel, and keeping us safe for one more day.
The Stress of Family Touring
When I did my bike trip from Alaska to Argentina, it was just two of us who started, and over the course of the trip we rode with two others for some periods of time. We were all in our 20s, and while safely was a big concern, there were things we did that I can't really consider doing with my family.
We did a ton of what we called "wild camping." That was where we would load up on food and water in the afternoon, ride until we found a suitable place to hide out from the road, where we could also have dinner, and then pitch a tent at dusk if all seemed safe. Then we'd go to bed and in the morning, after packing up, say, "I wonder where we'll sleep tonight. " We could go for days doing this as it was free, and we didn't have an unlimited budget.
We still don't have an endless funds, but we can definitely spring for lodging this time around. (And also thanks those who have offered to pay for a hotel here and there) The issue we've run into is that there are no hotels or campgrounds at times. We've been through some towns so small that they offered no accommodations whatsoever. This is a real source of stress that I had not anticipated.
I spent a lot of time plotting the route. But one can't really look at each town along the way and try to find a place to stay. And even if I had, one little change and all the planning goes out the window. But now I'm paying for it. It is stressful looking at the next day's route and having the options of biking a short day at 45 miles, hoping we get there early enough to snag a campsite or bike 70 miles to a town that has only a restaurant and no other services.
Adding to that is the fact that people are out and about. The pandemic really created a huge demand for people wanting to do some travel. Every one is roaming with their campers or booking hotels and taking up what would normally go unused. We were in Soda Springs, ID trying to get a hotel a about 10 days ago and there were none to be had. We were like beggars sitting outside the motel office trying to decide on where to go. Luckily for us, that day, there was a cancelation and the lady waved us into the office to offer us the room.
I'm a huge believer of thinking that the road will provide what we need, it has thus far. This morning, lying in bed, I think I pieced together a suitable route with layover from here to Omaha. But we'll still have to look ahead to the nex day's town to find where we're staying. Hopefully, there will be a motel or campground or a Warm Showerrs host with room for us
Roughly 1/3 of the Way
Staying in Steamboat Spring the last few days taking some well needed rest days. At least the adult are. The girls are swimming, going to the mountain summer park, and taking in a few other attractions.
This is just some stats on the first third of the ride. Tomorrow we depart for the Continental devide and we'll leave the mountains on Friday. Hope you enjoy the bullet points.
The Desolate Road
On Saturday we started biking out of Rock Springs, WY in a more southern direction that would prove to be the most desolate stretch of this entire trip. We did not see a single town in about 120 miles and saw only two dwellings at about mile 40. At least one of them was abandoned a long time ago, while the other looked like it might still be inhabited, maybe. It's funny how human nature works, we stopped there for a while knowing there was nothing to benefit our ride. We just stared and wondered how and why.
We looked at the house that was surely abandoned and could make out through the dust covered window that someone just walked away one day and never came back. We could still see a dinning room set waiting for someone to come feast on this lonely table. We could make out a staircase leading to what we hoped was a completely empty second floor. The small pull out on the road for the mail box was totally overgrown with dessert plants I can't name, but it was clear mail hadn't been delivered there in a long time. Still, when Anna asked if she could see inside the box, I said no, not knowing why. It felt like our being there was already an intrusive act. I mean, someone did live that removed for a reason, right?
Right before we continued on, we saw 3 or 4 wild horses off a few hundred yards in the distance. They seemed to be the only residents for miles and miles. It was a little reassuring that they were there, at least there's some type of witness to this otherwise beautiful landscape. There might have also been some rattle snakes too. Thus another reason why I always warned Anna to see where she's walking when she wants to try to get close to the horses.
We seemed to go in and out of a few basins, maybe climbing about 300 to 500 feet from one to the other. We could see beautiful mesas to our left and knew that eventually we would take one of the canyons in between and climb higher. GPS had told us our highest point that day (and trip thus far) would be 7500 feet. Once we bent left and started heading up the canyon, our energy started to wane. It was a good thing that the same bend also made our new direction better align with the persistent winds. It eased the climb and the pain.
Let me remind you that our friend Bill was providing support for this section of the ride. We'd see him pulled off the road at about every 10 miles. It would have been almost impossible otherwise. We do have the capacity to carry large quantities of water, but even then, it may not have been enough. But what really helped was the cold drinks Bill was providing. His cooler was like a mobile convenience store, providing many Gatorade flavors that cooled and provided an extra source of energy, even if just percieved.
Bill was going to be with us until the Hagney's, our Steamboat friends, came stocked with food and drinks for camping that night and for the rest of the desolation. Late on Saturday we made the connection and the handoff was made. After a long day of driving, Bill headed back to the comfort of his hotel room in Rock Springs and we continued southeast. We camped at one of the most beautiful campgrounds I have slept in. Turns out they got steak and chicken for dinner from Qdoba and OMG, it was like heaven!
The next day we continued cycling, but this time our tandems were not alone. Beth and Dan took turns driving while the other and their two boys cycled with us, or more accurately, just ahead of us. We did the same routine of stopping about every 10 miles and then decided to stop for lunch at about mile 50, but this time, it would be in the comfort of the first town out of the desolation, Maybell, CO.
The Hagney's needed to be back in Steamboat by Monday morning so our choices were to stay dusty and dirty and camp out another night and bike into Steamboat this afternoon, or put our bikes and gear into their trailer and head to their house where showers and beds awaited us? What do you think we did?
Birthday On the Road
This post will end with a summary of the last few days and start with as a telling of some memorable birthdays I've had while on the road.
First, I've had some great Birthdays while traveling. In 1995, I was in Quito Ecuador celebrating my 29th birthday. I had just spent about 4 or 5 days prior in Ibarra fighting a bout of some horrible illness. When I was finally strong enough to bike to Otavalo and then Quito, the American clinic thought I had contracted cholera, though I could not provide a stool sample as I was completely empty. Then a few years later, I was in Yellowstone working for Backroads and I came down with a flu like illness for a few days.
But not this time! I had a fantastic Birthday yesterday. The day started out less than ideal. The town we were in, Cokeville, WY didn't have a restaurant, or a grocery store. So breakfast was provided by the Flying J. If you have traveled across the US on any interstate, you probably stopped at one, or something similar. But since this was the only game in town, we wolfed down product from their ever hot display stand. The breakfast sandwiches said they had been made two days prior, we ignored that as we were already almost finished them.
But things got better from there. Our friend Bill was driving up from Salt Lake City. We knew he was coming with treats we don't usually carry. This meant we could lunch on chicken salad or ham and cheese sandwiches instead of our usual PB&Js. We knew his cooler would also be stacked with cold drinks like mineral water, Gatorade, and my faves (tho not while biking) Cold Coors Lights, that's right, I'm man enough to admit this. But more importantly perhaps, this also meant that he would carry our gear!
Bill left early from SLC and caught us at around mile 15 of our shortened day. We were scheduled to ride 45 miles to celebrate my Birthday. So we had 30 miles of riding hard and pushing the limit to see how fast we could go without all the weight. I'd say we probably pushed about 2 MPH faster on flat roads without the weight. So, it something, but I was dreaming of more.
Lunch was delicious, and we ended the day on the early side in Kemmerer, WY. We stayed at the Best Western there, all thanks to a friend and colleague, Elise. About a week before, she contacted us and asked if she could donate some cash towards a hotel room. We all are so thankful for her generosity. Turns out she was paying forward. When I asked if I could share this story, she graciously said yes, and wanted me to include the main reason why:
The idea to give was inspired by the generosity shown to my brother and cousin so many years ago, and the happy memory of my Mom tracing their progress with thumbtacks across her 4th grade classroom bulletin board.
So we had this swanky room, access to a car, I had my family around me, and a great friend who volunteered to take days out of his time and lend support to our trip. These same friend who back in Yellowstone helped feel better during my flu like illness. We went for a less than stellar Mexican dinner, not because I wanted Mexican, but because we thought that may be the best option in town. But it didn't matter because I was having a great day. How lucky am I to be surrounded by some of the people I care about the most all while doing this incredible trip?
But perhaps the best part was that I became a year younger yesterday. How's that possible you ask? It is not because this trip is making me feel younger, because it's not. Somehow, sometime, on this trip I had been thinking I was turning 56. It wasn't until my sister texted me wishing me a happy 55th! Sarah read the text to me and I voiced, I'm 56. But then we did the math, and sure as shit, turns out I'm now only 55. So what else can a person ask for?
Just a little note on where we have been the last few days. We left Pocatello, ID on Tuesday and rode to Soda Springs, ID. On Wednesday we redid Soda Springs to Cokeville, Wy. Yesterday we rode from Cokeville to Kemmerer, and today we arr in Green River, ID. We will probably have very limited cell service after tomorrow as we're headed into a no man's land of sort between Rock Springs, WY and Steamboat Springs, CO. Lucky for us that Bill will be around for part of this portion and our friends from Steamboat will be driving up to intercept us with another load of supplies and goodies. Hope the good fortune continues!
A Best Friend and Your Worst Enemy
Many of you know that I have bike toured a ton. Some of you may even know that in the mid nineties, I spent 18 months cycling from Alaska to Argentina, right to the very tip of it, in fact. So when I tell you about the one thing that can be your best friend or your worst enemy on a bike tour, I know what I'm talking about. What is this sometimes magical thing that can turn on a dime and make you almost want to cry? Wind. Every cyclists knows how a tailwind can make you feel like superman when in your favor or like you are trying to push an invisible brick wall when against you.
I'm not particularly superstitious, but I still do not want to say it outloud, so I hope that writing this does not change our luck. But we have either had manageable breezes to very favorable winds. It is in fact one of the reasons why we are riding west to east. I biked across the US in 92 and I only remember having a few days when the wind was agaisnt us.
But on this trip, we did have one day when the wind was so strong that we were hardly moving. It was just this past Sunday, in fact. Things started out just fine that morning, We got an early start to beat the heat and really didn't notice any wind when we started pedaling. All seemed totally fine, we were headed more south than east, and then we turned left onto a previous nemesis, the Oregon Trail. But this time I confirmed on satellite view that the trail was now a paved road. Still, as soon as we turned, I could feel it. There was that little push-back, the one you barely notice, and if you do, the one you hope doesn't build.
But this one did. It grew little by little. It was still at a manageable pace when I saw on the horizon a bad omen; in the distance I could see rising out of nowhere a huge wind farm. It was like an army was invading us, except that we were the ones moving directly for them, right into a trap. As we passed under them for a few miles the wind had surely picked up, but it was still manageable. Then we tucked into a small community to get "second breakfast" and while there, we could hardly feel a breeze. All seemed Ok while eating, we had cold water, and were being served a delicious meal.
However, when we came back out and headed east again, the feeling was un-escapeable; the wind was now a formidable beast. Also, did I mention that by the time we came out it was also about 95°? It soon reached 100. We had about 30 miles to go to our next destination but we were not making much progress. The terrain was rolling, we were going up hill at about 4mph and down at about 10, while pedaling full on. And then the wind picked up even more, it was demoralizing. The heat and the thrist didn't help either, but there was no shade and there was no water.
It had been about two hours since we had left second breakfast and we then decided to change our end point and go for a town that was 14 miles closer than our morning goal. But the wind grew and grew, the heat rose above 100, and we were really not making progress. We climbed a hill that was about a mile long and it took forever. When we got to the top, I could see Sarah was worried, I was worried. We hadn't seen a car or more importantly, a pickup truck heading in our direction in about 30 minutes. So, as we were there for a few minutes, i was still standing over my bike, looking east, I didn't hear a car coming from behind. This can happen when the wind is so strong against you all you hear is the sound of wind.
All of a sudden, I saw was Sarah stick her thumb out and I realized what was happening. To my surprise, the truck stopped. I could hear Sarah tell the driver we'd take a ride anywhere further up the road, ANYWHERE. Turns out the guys was only going about three miles up the road to go fishing, but, Sarah wasn't letting that ride go. After all, 3 miles, with all the stopping was taking us about an hour. So we unload the bikes and the girls jump in and I ride on the bed holding the long cycles. And all if a sudden, we pass the turn off for the lake. Sarah worked her magic on the driver and he drove us to our destination.
When we arrived, the wind still howled, but we were safe and no longer had to worry about heat related issues. We ducted into our AC controlled room and collapsed, incredulous of our change in luck, like that of the wind sometimes
The Good the Bad and the Ugly, part two
People. People are good. We've traveled through Oregon and are about to leave Idaho and we have experienced mostly kindness. We've have four people let us stay at their places from the bike touring site Warm Showerrs, Sherri in Portland, Jalet in Mitchell, Marci and family in Boise, and Kathy and Mike in Pocatello. These are all people who took time and effort to answer our posts, host us and put up with all the work that comes with that and even feed us in some cases! Marilee, she was our guide in Boise, too! So Thanks!!!
We've also had people give us a boost when our route was either somewhat suicidal due to the fact that we either had to bike dirt roads or the interstate for long miles in each case. Our hotel manager volunteered to drive us across that area when we mentioned what laid ahead. We've had people just give us money towards hotel stays so we can have a little comfort, I can't say how grateful that made us all feel! THANKS!!
Right now, the heat. It's bad. A few days ago it was 100° and the last two days have been in the high 90's. Had we gone on that dirt road yesterday in southern ID, things could have gotten ugly fast. To the best of my guesstimate, we would have ridden on a dirt road that turned onto a jeep track, that had many roads and intersections to get lost on. Bad Google maps, good for satellite view! Maybe someone smartet than me can figure out hoe to contact Google to let them know some of these routes can be dangerous?
Today we rode 56 miles and are now trying to cool off, but the AC in this room is just not doing its job. A shower felt great but since the room is 82° right now, I may have to take anither cold shower after dinner.
Even though they are a treat, some of the motels we have stayed at have been downright ugly, gross, almost disgusting. One in particular, in Mountain Home, ID, that took the crown. As Isabel put it today, our stay was so bad there that we know every motel from now on can only be better. The ceiling had cracked and chipped paint, walls had faded colors from the years of toking up, the bathroom had cracked tiles, and the carpet was so gross that all of us wore our shoes if we ever had to walk in the "suite" they provided us. I have stayed in many motels in my life, and this one really took the price.
But now we rest and get ready for tomorrow. The heat is slated to decrease. And our good friend Bill will be joining us in a few days to lend som SAG supoort. So, things are looking up!
The Ur-a- Gonner Trail
The Oregon Trail starred in Missouri and eventually ended in Oregon. It took a few decades to lay out the route and make the trail passable by horse and wagon. But the parts that remain today, at least the parts that we saw, those seem to be mosty for horseback riding, or today, mountain biking. How do we know this? Because today our Google Maps and Bikemaps both took us on that trail. And while we were on it, I thought that if we didn't get the hell out of there, the buzzards would soon start circling us, like I'm sure they did when someone passed back in the 1800's.
The day started our fine, Google maps took us to a filling but less that tasty breakfast in Boise. Then it lead us out of town on a very beautiful bike path. Shade was plenty, the sounds of the Boise river provided a natural soundscape, families like us (except not biking across the US) were out cruising up and down the path. Everything seemed idyllic. Our GPS was happily guiding us and we were mindlessly following, like sheep, baahhhh.
Once the bike path ended, we were dumped onto a fairly busy highway. But only for a short while as instructions said "in 600 feet, make a left, then continue onto The Oregon Trail." So we did! Then at the end of that parking lot, was the trail. I was a little worried to see that it was a dirt path, it wasn't wide, but it was packed dirt. And we were only supposed to be on it for about a mile. Then we would be dumped onto E Columbia Rd. So we thought, "how bad could it be?"
We should have turned around after about 600 feet when the trail pointed up and became more rocky than pecked dirt. But East Columbia Rd beckoned and we followed, baahhhh. We were determined to see it through. So we pushed our very heavy bikes, rode on raised single track, and held on for dear life when the trail headed slightly down again. But we weren't sure of the way. We asked a few mountain bikers to direct us to the promised Columbia, and finally, someone knew of it. Only, we had to needle through a fence that looked like barbwire. We could step on the lowest cable and pull up the other two and someone else could gingerly walk the bikes through.
Finally, we were back on smooth, beautiful pavement--but our jubilation only lasted for about a mile. Again our GPS started pointing us onto the historic path. But this time we said "no mas!" So we got on another app. I heard from a friend that Bikemaps was really good. We fired it up, and asked it to show us the way using one of the map features "road bike only." I'm not sure what type of road bike the developers of this app ride, but it sure ain't like my trusty road machine back home. This route also wanted us to trek where no roady should be, let alone two fully-loaded tandems.
So we headed back to the trail head, back towards where it all started, and we met a nice set of brothers having a day out with their families. They basically told us the old Mainer saying, "you can't get there from here." After having wasted precious energy and a few hours, perhaps they read the look of dejection on our faces, and they helped us out by putting our bikes on the back of their nice pick up, and driving us to the I-84, where we knew we could bike on, according to Idaho law. So we rode on there until we reached a section that had a frontage road leading us to our next layover, Mountain Home, ID.
After this adventure, we only added about 5 miles from the projected amount. But we added hours to our day. And, as we were cycling after our bail out saviors, I could envision the Oregon Trail to our left. I could imagine the old timers trekking for a promise land of sorts. But to me, the trail's name just morphed from The Oregon Trail to the Ur a Gonner Trail.
Recap of first leg of the trip
We'll ride today if Isabel's feeling OK. Either way we'll have to vacate th Airbnb as it is rented tonight
FYI, we have been out in the remote outback of eastern OR, so while I wrote a few blog updates, I could not post them. I will post them over the next day or two so check back and there should be a few updates. Lastly posting from my phone is less than ideal for grammar/spelling, so please forgive
It was 1am when Sarah and I were jolted awake by our tent's violent snapping sound. It was being accosted by the strong gusting winds. Up until then, I had been soundly sleeping, not even waking once. This is not usual for me. But just like that, i went from wistful slumber to almost panic. I started to wonder, was a huge storm coming? Will our tents hold up? Did we just make a huge mistake? How the hell did we get here?
We dicided to camp at Unity Campground in eastern OR the afternoon before. Our choices were to proceed onward and just make up some miles, or do a short day and start setting up camp early. We were all tired from the trip and thought this could be a great overnight. The skies had been appearing to clear and the sun was brighter than we'd seen in days. So we set up camp and cleaned up, even washing some cycling gear by hand. The clothes dried in the sun and I thought sunny weather was winning the at atmospheric battle. But maybe it wasn't?
I couldn't tell from inside the warm sleeping bag what the skies looked like. Would it be partial overcast or complete hell coming our way? The only way to assess the situation was to leave the warmth and go out. I guess it's lucky that both of us also had to go to the bathroom so we could kill two birds with one stone. We.braved the cold and wind and took a peak/leak for ourselves. It wasn't good news. I couldn't see a single star, only varying shades from grey to black. The clouds were thick and the wind kept howling.
We laid awake in the tent for a few hours in silence. I kept asking the same question in different ways; did we just make a huge mistake? At almost 3am Sarah asked me a few times if I was ok, was I worried? I was. I could envision us waking to a violent storm in the middle of the most desolate stretch of road we have yet to cover. The plan was to ride 70 miles the next day to Vale, OR, but according to locals, there isn't much in between here and there. I always assumed that if truly violent weather hit us, we'd eventually find shelter, I just hadn't planned on it being 70 miles away.
There were a few times when the wind would stop completely for minutes at a time. And I do mean completely. All of a sudden it would become early silent. This, and exhaustion let my mind and body drift back to sleep eventually. When I awoke about an hour ago, there was no sun, the wind was still gusting, but there was no rain and the birds were singing. The mountains to the west seemed to be hogging the rain, sparing us a dry morning, at least for now. Maybe we should get an early start and keep ahead of the weather. Maybe we should do what we came to do; ride our bikes.
The Two Day Slog
Well, another two day slog is in the books. And, we really have left the shadows of Portlandia in the helmet mounted rear view mirror. (Yes, I am aware that I have entered old man bike age with that mirror) Gone are the food trucks, the hipsters, and city dwellers escaping for the weekend. They have been replaced by cattle trucks and camouflage decked locals who told us "you have people living next door to.you? It's been eye opening for the girls to say the least.
But this is in part what this trip is about. I biked across the US in 1992 and that trip truly changed my view of the country, for the better. I had just graduated from college from UC Santa Cruz, where the college rule book literally said "clothing optional. I felt at that time that I could not be more different from the country I was about to see. I wrongly assumed that my interactions with the locals would mostly not come naturally at best, and contentious at worst, but I was proved wrong, completely.
This is the America I want my daughters to see. And this, I think is in part what they are seeing. Every day we'll have multiple interactions with the locals and while they definitely note the differences, they can take away their humanity and kindness. Anna put is best when she said that most people don't start out friendly, but they end up being kind later on. But then again, that saying " you reap what you sow" could end up being true. Today a woman told us that their town sees a lot of cyclists, but that most are "snooty, not nice a like you girls.
Maybe they'll take away that no matter what your ideology, kindness will mostly win out in the end, mostly
Kids Say the Darndest Things
The last few days brought just about everything a bike tour can provide. We've had highs, literally and figuratively and lows, of which only the latter. Yet somehow, I'm continuously amazed at how resilient the human spirit can be, especially that of our two daughters. We had a long hot climb yesterday pedaling over 4:30 minutes, with about 3:30 of which was all uphill, in the heat, and fairly steep. They were not happy, there were lots of stops, thirst was a constant, the need for energy, ever present. So when we arrived at our campground I was expecting frailty, but what I got instead was strength and fortitude.
The girls jumped right in helping us find a site. This was not an easy task as each site either had campers, or a tag marked "reserved." So we decided to wait at the designated campground host's site to see if they could carve out a small plot for our tents. One thing was certain, we were definitely camping there as we could not make any other destination that night. To our surprise, when we finally met the host, he told us that site was empty and that we could stay there. So the girls happily jumped in by setting up their tent and sleeping gear, helping us figure out the camp stove and cooking with us, as well as lending a hand in the cleaning effort. All while in fantastic moods. Maybe it was the awesome pasta and canned (not jarred) red sauce?
Today we awoke to a cold dreary day that got worse by the minute. We had planned to make pancakes and hit the road, but when the rain started we scraped that plan and ate PB&Js instead, I could barely chuck mine down. After, we packed up our wet gear climbed a mile back to the main road, and headed downhill again into what felt like shards of rain on the face. The day did eventually clear out but it never warmed up. We had a late lunch at the first town we saw and headed to our hotel for the night after another long stretch of raod. We had tons of work to do after checking in; unload bikes, dry gear, wash and hang dry clothes, etc. But there were two comments from each of our rear passengers that amazed me. One said, "today was my favorite day" and the other commented "these are the things we'll remember about this trip."