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."
Well, if you have read up until now, you'll know that today was a very late start. After we got our bikes back with their new drivetrains, and we got them loaded up and hit the raod. We left Sherri's house with deli sandwiches in our bellies and happiness in our hearts. It was about 2pm so we knew we were not going to get far. The bike path leading us out of Portland was nice, but there was a slight grade most of the way, like a slight rubbing of your wheel brakes, we just couldn't get into a cruising mode.
Along the path a very fit rider asked us where we were going. Usually, when I get this question I assess the subject or situation and answer accordingly. If we're pressed for time, or the inquisitor seems like "the answer may not compute," I answer a place that we're riding to an upcoming town. If they seem like they would "get it" and specially in a case like today where this person was biking in the same direction, I answered "Boston." This of course slowed her down and she had a few follow up questions, and some helpful tidbits.
She mentioned that the town 6 miles after the bike path ended had a food truck section. So, we planned to go there for an early dinner, and perhaps ride another 15 miles or so to the the national forest, where campgrounds start to crop up. But when we got to the food trucks, we were not really hungry, but, we didn't feel that we could make it 15 miles up without food. So we lingered at the roadside station to "rest up" an appetite and figure out a place to crash.
Slight panic set in when we looked at the map and there seemed to be no where to camp that was within our energy level. So we looked at hotels, which were both booked. We considered other "free" options but it was too populated for that. So we got an Airbnb! Oh the comforts that a credit card and a cellphone can provide. While all of this was transpiring, we all became hungry. So we ate while we waited for the Airbnb host to send us instructions on how to get to our rental.
With our bellies full again, this time with Thai, Indian, and burritos, we rolled up the 0.8 of a mile to our home for the night. As I type, Netflix plays in the background, devices recharge, and soft beds await to lull us into slumber. We are enjoying this tonight as we know these comforts will not be so readily available as we head into eastern Oregon.
Well, we've done it now. We are temporarily stuck in Portland. We had hoped to have some gears changed by the shop in Astoria but when that was not going to happen, we did contact a few places in Portland and scheduled the work to be done yesterday. However, that depended on how early we could get the bikes to the shop so they could have them ready for us the same day. Let's just say we didn't make it in time! We'll blame the heat and the huge climb coming into Portland from the west. Both were energy killers!
Luckily for us, we had hooked up with Sherri through a bike touring site prior to all of these issues. The site is called Warm Showerrs. Now, I know what you're thinking, "didn't the founder have anyone to bounce ideas off of when selecting a name? This site matches people who want to host and cyclist looking for a place to crash. Sherri has been amazing! She picked us and all of our gear at the shop and brought us home like stray dogs, where we got to meet her awesome pooch, Mister! We've had great conversations, shared food, and slept soundly, and in fact Anna and Isa, are still asleep! So, here we wait, hoping for news on the expanded gears so can collect our bikes and continue eastward. Shop opens soon!
This will make it all but impossible for us to get to our planned destination for today. This was already going to be a tough ride, concluding with our first camping night. We had 59 miles and about 4k feet of elevation gain. Still, as soon as our bikes are ready, we'll saddle them up and see how far we can get. We'll hope to make up the miles slowly over the next few days.
As much of a pain as this delay may seem, unexpected events like these are what make bike touring great. You never know when you're going have a wonderful suprise due to a little bit of discomfort. In our case, I already knew Sherri was awesome. She went out of her way in providing us multiple routes for the safest passage into Portland, even testing the routes on her spare time. She's chuck full of ideas and advice for what's down (really up) the road. We can only hope to encounter more "Sherris" along the way
Today, I'm tired and ready for bed, so I'm just going to note the bullet points of the first day's ride: