This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Doug Orcutt, a financial planner from Loveland, Ohio had little trouble persuading Ryan, his 14-year-old son, to take the ultimate bike ride. Their journey started on the shores of the Pacific in Oregon following the Lewis and Clark and Transamerica bike routes until Yellowstone. From there they climbed the hills of Wyoming, sweated through the plains of South Dakota and into the cornfields of Iowa. They passed through Chicago and the Midwest until reaching Pittsburgh where they rode the Allegheny Trail and the C&O Towpath to their final destination, Washington D.C. This book contains Doug's journal describing the people, places, and daily adventures along the way. Their web page is www.dougandryan.com
Doug and Ryan Orcutt
ID: 259745 www.lulu.com
Every Day an Adventure
By Doug Orcutt And also lived by Ryan Orcutt
For understanding my motivation for doing this trip, despite the fact that I have struggled to put it into words myself. She knows that, for whatever reason, I need to get this thing behind me, so we can see what the Lord has in store for us next.
To Kylie, Katelyn and McKenna: For your daily reminders that life is all about living, and living without family just wouldn’t be the same. To my parents:
For my fathers loving support during some of the most beautiful and challenging parts of the journey and my mother’s daily prayers and support from afar.
To my family and friends: Finally, to Ryan:
Your sincere support and encouragement throughout the journey was felt and appreciated.
You made me proud each and every day of the adventure. My prayer is that you continue to rise to the challenges of the journey of life.
What follows are the daily journals of Doug Orcutt as he and his 14 year-old son bicycled across the USA during the summer of 2005. The entries were written by typing into a small Pocketmail device usually while lying on his back on a bed or sleeping pad after a long day of biking. They were uploaded using a pay or cell phone and posted at www.dougandryan.com. Eventually 800+ photos were also included at the website. The text was later edited for spelling and typos, but otherwise left as they were originally written.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Summary of our training
With just 5 days until we depart for the Great Adventure, we can only hope that we have done everything possible to prepare. We have most of our supplies purchased and our bikes have been shipped via FedEx ($57 total!) to a bike shop in Seaside Oregon. We certainly did ride a lot more this spring. We had a handful of goodweather days in Jan. and Feb. and Ryan and I took a Spring Break trip to Florida to do some business, see my in-laws, and do some riding. Both of us did more weight training; me with a trainer and Ryan with his football team. We made numerous rides around the area countryside, and many trips up and down the Little Miami Trail. Our training concluded with a 65 mile trip to John Bryan State Park with our trailers and gear, and a ride back the next morning. It was a fun 25 hours, and was pleased with our performance and our recovery afterwards. I look forward to getting on with the adventure!
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
We made it in the Loveland Herald!
Check out the article in the local Loveland Ohio paper about our trip! They have just a few facts wrong.
Man, son to ride bicycles across country
By Lindsay Braud Staff Reporter Used with Permission, Community Press
LOVELAND - For the past five years Doug Orcutt, 41, has dreamed of riding his bike across the United States with his family. His wife and three daughters can't go, but on June 10 Doug and his son Ryan, 14, will start riding their bikes from Oregon to Washington, D.C., in a 60-day, 3,500-mile bike excursion. "This will be a great bonding experience with my son. Not too many parents can take two months to spend with their kids. Hopefully it will instill a sense of adventure in him and myself," Doug said. He was first inspired by the books "Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?" and "Miles From Nowhere." The father-son team ride their bikes 50 to 70 miles a day, almost 400 miles a week They ride mostly on the Little Miami Bike Trail and both agreed it's time for a change of scenery. In 2000 the entire family participated in the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, a one-week bike trip with hundreds of other cyclists. Doug and Ryan have continued that tradition.
"I'm really excited for them. It's a once in a lifetime adventure," wife and mother Debbie Orcutt said. "I think the greatest part will be all the people they get to meet. It'll be life changing for both of them." Ryan is looking forward to Yellowstone National Park, the mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and all the different wildlife he'll encounter on the way. He's especially excited to see a buffalo outside of the zoo. Doug owns Orcutt Financial Services in Milford. He will maintain work through e-mail and the Internet. He has also set up a Web page for family, friends and anyone else to keep track of their progress. www.dougandryan.com. Doug and Ryan will start their trip in Eastside, Ore., where they plan to dip their rear bike tire in the Pacific Ocean before heading down the Lewis and Clark Trail as designed by the Adventure Cycling Association. They will travel through Washington, Idaho and Montana before heading south to Yellowstone. Then they will ride through Wyoming, across South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Chicago. After many more miles and states they will end their adventure in Washington D.C. where family will await their arrival. "My biggest challenge will be leaving my three daughters and wife. I've never left them for more than a week," Doug said. Debbie isn't too worried. She just doesn't want anything bad to happen while they are far away and outside of working cell phone range. Of course travel gear is necessary for a trip of this magnitude. Doug and Ryan will both pull a trailer bike containing only the essentials: Tent, sleeping bags, clothes, toothpaste, rain gear and daily needs. They plan to camp under the stars and stay in a hotel only when mother nature is not cooperative. Ryan just finished his freshman year at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, where he played football. The trip has to end by August in time for next season's football training. "I hope I don't get too bored doing the same thing every day, or spending time
with this guy," Ryan said laughing and pointing at his dad. He's bringing his iPod just in case. Family and friends are excited and supportive of the trip, Debbie said. Mostly people think the idea of biking across the U.S. is crazy or simply unbelievable. "If I have to explain it you don't get it," Doug said.
The day before we left on our trip, Paul Daugherty, the wonderful writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed us and then wrote this article:
Friday, June 10, 2005
Going a long way to get closer
Cross-country ride is biking and bonding for father, son
By Paul Daugherty Enquirer staff writer
Used with permission, Cincinnati Enquirer Ryan Orcutt is a 14-year-old who's riding his bike 3,500 miles, from Seaside, Ore., to Washington, D.C., starting Saturday. He's planning on averaging 61 miles a day for 57 days, sleeping mostly in a tent and pulling a 35-pound trailer full of essentials, such as Advil. Along the way, he expects to get rained on and honked at. He expects sunburn, flat tires, a sore butt, an aching back and Joe Namath's knees. That's not even the worst of it. He's doing it with his dad. What 14-year-old human chooses to spend every second of two months with his father? Alcatraz wasn't accepting applications? "My dad's pretty cool," Ryan decided. "I don't think I'll get too bored of him." Doug Orcutt, the dad, had a different take: "I don't think he's at the age where he knows it all yet. He still likes me." Some of us take our kids to ballgames or to work. I remember playing catch with my son. I had to bribe him. To spend two months alone with him when he was 14 would have required a court order and a six-pack of Mountain Dew. Dads around the world, you know what I'm talking about.
And Ryan Orcutt turns 15 July 4. That's when thoughts of homicide happen. Doug Orcutt could have done this alone. He's 41, right on the cusp of that age when wanderlust grips us males right by the brain. You're halfway to coulda, woulda, shoulda, and dead in the middle of "Why not?" If not now, when? If not me, who? Sometimes you wanna go where nobody knows your name. "A lot of guys who do stuff like this are trying to escape from something. That's not me," said Doug. "I kind of like my life right now." This is usually the part where we introduce the affliction for which Doug and Ryan are riding. We ask for your heart and your Visa number because these guys need support and it's for a good cause. You feel guilty, shuffle your feet and before long, you're handing over the golf money. "I don't have a cause," Doug said. Whew. "I don't want to have a cause. I want to focus on my kid. What better cause is there than to invest in my son?" That's the heart of it. A two-month journey to build a lifetime relationship. Some of us can live 18 years between the same four walls and never get past anything more meaningful than hello. Others get on their bikes and ride. Or as Doug put it: "I've got to jump on this while I've got the chance. Once he's driving a car, he'll never want to bike again." If you press Doug Orcutt some, he'll allow this: "Sometimes I just want to spend time with my son. Sometimes I just want a break from life. I'm halfway through. Halfway through my career. I'm in the business of helping people reach goals. I feel like I have to get this out of my system, so I can see what adventure is next. "I want my son to have the sense of adventure I never had. I've led a pretty safe
life. I want my (three) daughters to see someone reach a goal." The bikes are already out there, a pair of Bianchi Volpe touring cycles, heavier than racing bikes and more comfortable. Each will pull a 35-pound Burley Nomad trailer. Doug, a financial planner, will take his cell phone and his PocketMail, a device that allows him to communicate by e-mail with his clients. Ryan will take his iPod, for those times when he needs to tune out Doug. The trailers will hold food, tents, sleeping bags and the like. Doug also will have a GPS tracker, so anyone logging on to their Web site - dougandryan.com - can locate their whereabouts along the way. The idea is to go 3,500 miles in 57 days, which would get them to D.C. Aug. 7. That's the day before Ryan starts football practice at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. Some guys just bang a few weights to get in shape. Others turn a quick 3,500 miles on a two-wheeler. The goal is something grander and less concrete. You always hear what kids want most from their parents is time. You don't always believe it. Maybe you should. Maybe that's the message here. "I think we'll learn a lot about each other," Doug said. "I'm just trying to be a good dad. I told my wife we're helping our grandkids. We'll have better grandkids if we have better kids." Heaven help the grandparents if the little ones take up the triathlon.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Today is THE day!
It's 6:30 am, and I woke up 30 minutes ago with paranoid thoughts of all the things I have yet to find/buy/pack. Our plane leaves at 5pm. Ryan has football camp all morning, so it will be a full day. Yesterday, I had a visit at my office from Paul Daugherty, a great sports columnist from our big paper in town, the Cincinnati Enquirer. I know him from watching our daughters play TOP Soccer over the years, but it was a mutual friend who tipped him off about our trip. So, this morning I hop out of bed and rush to Enquirer.com to read what he wrote. I admit, I was a bit overcome with emotion. I knew Paul would "get it". It was incredible that he was able to do what I have had such a hard time doing over the past few months; explain why we are doing this crazy bike ride. I coaxed Debbie to get out of bed to read it, and she too said, "It's too early to cry!" "Sometimes I just want to spend time with my son. Sometimes I just want a break from life. I'm halfway through. Halfway through my career. I'm in the business of helping people reach goals. I feel like I have to get this out of my system, so I can see what adventure is next." I expect it to be a pretty emotional couple of months. We welcome the Enquirer readers to the site! Come along for the ride. Bring your sunscreen.
On the jet plane
Flying standby is always a risk, but thanks to our kind Delta pilot friend Mark, we saved a bundle, got to fly out of Cincinnati, and made it on our first choice of flights. It is a 4-hour direct flight to Portland that was filled to the brim. Debbie and my girls (less Kylie who was working) followed us through the airport as far as they could. We snapped a few pictures, kisses all around and, before we knew it, Ryan and I were on our own. I don't think anyone wanted to be too emotional in such a busy public place. I tried hard to hold back my tears. We were placed over the wing in coach, across the isle from each other in our respective middle seats. I quickly SIZED up our seatmate choices and, deferring to my seniority, offered Ryan the seat beside the portly gentleman. We experienced our first taste of kindness when the lady beside me quickly offered to give up her window seat so Ryan could sit with me. Very cool. Either that, or my deodorant was wearing out. We watched Coach Carter together. Decent flick, but rather predictable. Dinner for me was animal crackers, cheese and crackers, and raisons. For Ryan, Oreos and Sunchips. I suspect we will pick up more when we land. It has been fun to see the snow covered Rocky mountains and the mysterious Black Hills of SD, especially knowing that we will be biking past them in a few weeks. I need to finish my OJ and animal crackers before we land. So far this crosscountry thing has been a piece of cake.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The first morning
The ride from the airport to Seaside was quite nice. We had a waiting Lincoln Towncar from Northern Lights Towncar Service waiting outside baggage claim. We grabbed some Chinese food at the airport and cruised in style in our last car ride for a while. We didn't see much of Seaside last night, we were tired and were asleep quickly. We are in a brand new Holiday Inn Express, with a nice view overlooking a canal, hotels, convention center, and hills in the distance. We have yet to see the Pacific. The ride here was nice. Though the weather was cloudy and drizzly, the scenery was beautiful. We passed numerous nurseries and plenty of open spaces. It is, of course, far greener than Ohio, with large pine trees lining much of the road. We tended to focus on the hills, knowing we would have to bike back the same direction. It was mostly flat, with a handful of long steady hills, with the elevation dropping as we neared the ocean. It’s still a bit surreal that we are here. There was no welcoming marching band, and we haven’t met the mayor yet. I am grateful for the many friends, family, and new names on our guestbook that are following our trip. I suspect we will need you as the going gets tougher. Next, we need to pack our trailers, and wait until 10 am for the bike shop to open and we can start peddling to Astoria, 20 miles north. From there, we head east!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
What a day!
We had a good night sleep, but woke up early due to the time difference. We assembled our trailers, after which it was light enough to figure out where the ocean was. It was just 5 blocks or so, past an assortment of small hotels and t-shirt shops. The beach was quite nice. It was around 200 yards of smooth brown sand and gentle waves. It was cloudy with scattered drizzle and fog covering the nearby cliffs. We searched for sand dollars, but mostly found sand quarters and fiftycent pieces. I did find two real small dime sized intact ones. We ate the hotel's complimentary breakfast and walked around town viewing the hot rod car show lining the street, basically killing time until the bike shop opens at ten. Once we walked the 11 blocks to the shop, we were told that the bikes were never taken out of the box! He was a real nice guy, had no other work in progress, so he cranked them out pretty fast. We quickly took the required wheel dipping photos at the beach and didn't get on the road until 1:30. Long lines at McDonalds slowed us down further. Immediately, we faced the longest hill we have ever climbed. I knew we would shatter all our records, but I was hoping they would wait a bit. I had to
stop a few times to fuel up on air, but the downhill on the wet roads was a blast. The 21 miles to Astoria took forever and included a quick stop to see the re-creation of Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s winter home in 1806. When they said admission was free because it was after 4 pm, we were shocked! We still had 40 miles to go! Astoria was nice, but a bit more "worn out" than I had envisioned. We quickly peddled around the outskirts of the city and faced the Columbia for the first time, forcing us to finally head eastward. We continued to climb and descend, climb and descend. The rain was over but there was a constant chill in the air. Cars were whizzing by, including several who didn't like our presence on their roads. It was getting late and we were out of fuel until we finally found a minimart. It was there that several people warned us about a killer hill that stood between a tiny hotel and us. We were a third of the way up the hill when we found a small, unmapped campground that was like an oasis for us! It was called Gnat Creek Campground, and obviously very new. We were the only ones camping there, but we met another family who was doing some climbing on the hillside. We quickly found out how the place got its name, but at least the creek was nice and the place was clean and safe for our first camping experience. We were soon inside our tent wondering aloud if this day was going to be typical of the rest of the trip! If so, we will have quite the ride!
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Second (long) day
We got out of our wet tent in our private campground at 7:30 and finished off the hill that we started yesterday. It wasn't as bad as we feared, and enjoyed a breakfast at a diner at the bottom. Again, it was a cloudy, drizzly day in the 60's. I was growing weary of being wet all day long. We had one monster of a hill today. They aren't super steep, but they just go on for miles and miles. The downhills are a blast! We saw several towns on the Columbia River. One, Ranier, had huge barges lined up on the shore picking up timber to take overseas. None of the towns so far seem very prosperous. Similar to our Midwest steel towns, I suspect these towns’ fortunes depend on the price of timber. It seems like a rough life. Ryan is doing so well. He is such a better climber than I. Most importantly, he has a great attitude that I suspect will last to D.C. Going was slow, but we did manage to squeeze in 60 miles and ended in the
town of Scappoose "Land of Many Rocks". We were under the mistaken impression that this town had many sleeping options, and I was determined to sleep in a warm bed and take a hot shower. Ryan wanted to camp. We get in town and see no hotels. We asked a few guys at a gas station, and they sent us "4 clicks" down the road. "Four miles?" "No, 4 clicks, that’s two miles". I still don't get it. (I found out later that a “click” is navy-speak for kilometer!) Anyway, 4 clicks or not, the place they described was run-down apartments converted from a hotel 8 years ago! We were a bit frustrated and consulted our ACA maps that had several phone numbers of B&Bs. We called one, Scappoose Creek Inn, who claimed to be the only place remaining in town and since we would have to backtrack nearly 4 miles to get there he offered to pick us up in a moving van!! It was a converted U-Haul truck, and he took us back to a gorgeous property with several houses and a huge barn used for weddings and other functions. We had Llamas grazing in the field and geese roaming the property. Beautiful place, nice hosts and the price was right. We got our laundry done and they picked up pizza for us! All's well that ends well.
Monday, June 13, 2005
We hated to leave our B&B, especially with its guest-to-staff ratio of 1:1. We cruised 15 miles into Portland, crossed over the very imposing St. Johns Bridge then took a very odd route around Portland and ended up at the airport where we were a few days prior. We found two restaurants side by side, one a fancy upscale place, the other a simple tavern. I took a seat in the tavern and waited for Ryan to come in (he was putting shorts over his bike shorts!), but when he arrived he was booted out since he was under 21! We walked over to the nicer place and this time we both put on shorts and jackets in an attempt to look presentable for the nice business folks on their lunch breaks. We probably looked a bit silly, but we had a great view of the river while we dined in style. I told Ryan that we deserved it! We then headed across a busy eightlane highway on a nice pedestrian path down the center and crossed into Washington! We had fun trying to take photos of our first state sign and felt like we were slowly making some progress! We loved the wide shoulders of the freeway in Washington we spent the rest of the day on. We had one major climb that had the most incredible views. After 65 miles, we ended up in a small RV park and ate Lunchables and Hostess products bought from a gas station!
Today was my first day off work. I coasted downhill for 5 miles at 30 MPH on one-inch tires in the Columbia River Gorge with my favorite son while screaming "Yahooooo!"
It was a great day.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
A day of contrasts
The day started with a perky wake-up call from my sweet wife at 7:30. We crawled slowly out of our cold tent and put in 8 miles before breakfast in North Bonniville WA. Lunch was at the 40-mile mark then we sailed up and down hills with an awesome tailwind. We finished the day by crossing the river again to get a hotel in Biggs, Oregon, a busy trucking town. The morning scenery was lush and green with spectacular river views. As the day progressed, we moved into a brown cliff Grand Canyon-type region. Temperatures rose and the winds picked up. It was quite a dramatic change. Once again, Ryan rocked. He is quite skilled at climbing and is very cautious with all the busy traffic hazards. His attitude remained top notch. We had fun going thru 6 tunnels where bikers press a button to activate a flashing light to warn motorists. I broke my speed record today, 41 miles per hour! We also biked down the steepest hill so far with a headwind so strong that it kept us at 14 mph! We have a long hot day tomorrow, but tonight we will sleep well.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The color of the day is brown. We left Biggs OR and hopped on the interstate and cruised nicely with the wind on our backs pushing us along. We had 35 miles completed by lunch at the NEXT town available, Arlington, where we ate at a small air-conditioned diner. After lunch we plugged along and completed our day 59 miles down the road in a small town called Boardman where we checked into a shady motel and crashed. The motel is the Dodge City Motel. The lady at the front desk encouraged me to dine in their saloon, but they would have to have Ryan's food sent to the room. I passed and got us pizza instead. The whole days scenery is what you would expect to see in Utah or Nevada. The morning cliffs smoothed out to vast sandy fields and brush. I saw one deer (brown) and one prairie dog (also brown!). We met our first bike tourist; a homeless guy biking from Vancouver WA to Helena MT. He was sitting on a folding chair smoking a cigarette while feeding his dog on the shoulder of the freeway. He had a mountain bike pulling a souped-up child trailer totally loaded with junk and a seat for his dog. He claimed that with his weight included, it totaled over 400 pounds. He does just 20 miles a day. He said he couldn’t get any free housing where he was living so he was headed to Helena where a friend has hooked him up with a place to live.
We are feeling strong and confident. We both walk a bit funny, and our hands are getting blisters, but it’s all as expected. We figure that in two days we will enter Idaho.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
I cleaned and lubed my bike, dined on some motel muffins and we headed down the highway once again. Today’s goal was Walla Walla WA, but the afternoon brought extreme saddle sore for me, so we had to cut the day short at around 48 miles. We found a little RV park beside the highway for 10 bucks. The owner heard we were here, so she came down the road to make sure we were tucked beside several trees to protect against an upcoming storm. Not sure if we get the storm or not, but we have had intense winds as we lie in the tent playing cards. We saw some spectacular cliffs alongside the Columbia today that date back to early floods. Mostly, however we saw barren dry lands or U.S. Government owned barren dry lands. We have now departed from the Columbia and have entered Washington once again. Now we must find this city called "D.C.". I don't see it on the WA map anywhere!
Friday, June 17, 2005
We missed the big storm, and slept reasonably well at the RV Park. We were on the road by 8:30 heading towards Walla Walla Washington, the corporate home of Acme Industries, the firm that provides Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner with all their cool gadgets. After 24 miles or so, one major hill and a steady climb the rest of the morning, we arrive at Walla Walla (I'm going to miss saying "Walla Walla!"). We grab the first restaurant we find, Elmer’s. We enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch chatting with the people at the next table. We learned a lot about the history of the area and all about their famous Walla Walla Sweet Onions, which are on sale now at every corner roadside stand. We were plotting over lunch how we might take a rest day once we ride one more day to Clarkston. Though we feel fine, we think it would only help our stamina through the mountains. While leaving Elmer’s, Ryan hops on his bike and immediately falls over! He landed on his chest, and his helmet saved him from hurting his face. After he recovers, he realized that the fall was due to a flat front tire! We spend way too long repairing his tire, then head off again.
We look to our right, and see a major storm brewing. Ryan is not worried, but as we were leaving town, the sprinkles started. I have us duck under an overpass for a bit. Well, Ryan was right, and the storm passed us by, so we continued rather slowly another 10 miles to a small town called Dixie. While feasting on PowerAde and ice cream sandwiches, we agree that we are losing our Mojo. Our bodies are saying they are strong, but they aren't delivering! I checked email on the pay phone outside the Dixie General Store, and get an encouraging message from my buddy Dave in Michigan and it lifted my spirits. Ryan offered me his I-Pod and my mood picked up even more. The skies turned blue again, the scenery was beautiful, I was singing to the music and, lo and behold, there was a 6 mile downhill! Life was good! The ugly flat prairies of the morning turned to rolling fields of wheat. I told Ryan that they reminded me of a Dr. Seuss drawing, with the different shades of green in neat rows with an occasional tree thrown in. There were fluffy white clouds overhead contrasting with the bright blue sky. A quick drink stop, and other ten miles got us to our destination, Dayton WA. I asked several people ahead of time if they thought we would have any trouble getting a room at any of the 3 hotels in Dayton. They all agreed we wouldn't. Well, this weekend is Dayton's biggest of the year. It’s the "All Wheels Weekend"; basically all the same classic cars we saw in Seaside a week ago must be in Dayton this weekend! The first dumpy hotel we passed was full, the second as well. We saw little hope.
I pulled in the last remaining hotel right in the heart of town, The Weinhard, explained our predicament, and she said she JUST had a cancellation, "BUT it’s the signature room in the hotel." We saw no other option, so we grabbed it. The room was spectacular. It was huge, with a giant bed that predates the civil war. Twenty-foot ceilings, an armoire and classy furniture completed the scene. Best of all, we had a Jacuzzi! Ryan was lounging in it as soon as the hostess left. I soon followed. Once again, our poor planning paid big dividends! It was a fun town to be in. There were old cars cruising down the street all night, while Wolfman Jack played old tunes on the sidewalk. We saw a dragster zip down the street, and fireworks when it was dark. We had a nice dinner, and celebrated our first week on the road. It was exactly what we needed.
Some random thoughts after 7 days of biking
Lewis and Clark must have been thrilled after all their travels to find EVERYTHING named after them when they finally arrived. Spray-on sunscreen is designed to save you from messing up your hands, but how do you spray your face? How do you get your shins without turning it upside down and clogging it up? Jacuzzis are just what every biker needs. They also are very similar to washing machines...hmmmmm.. Christians need our own set of hand gestures. So, for instance, when some dude blasts their horn and yells out the window because we caused them to get across the bridge a few seconds slower, we need a way to gesture "Yes sir, I understand your inconvenience, but I do not agree with your assessment of the situation. Jesus loves you!" The first question people ask when they find out about our trip is "So, how long you think it will take ya?" Men always want to know the route, and then proceed to describe the hills, etc. Women always mention how they would "need a saddle the size of a tractor seat!” When you ride on flat lands, you are pedaling non-stop. At least with hills, you get to enjoy some fun rides down. I buy Nutter Butters for a snack, and Udder Butter for my road rashes. I am careful not to confuse the two. This country is mighty darn big!
Saturday, June 18, 2005
The ride in the dark
Saturday was the 8th day on the road; a new record for us. Our goal was to make it to Clarkston, around 70 miles down the road and the end of the first leg of our trip. On paper it looked like an easy day, since it included a 21-mile downhill as we neared town. We got a late start since I was fiddling around at the hotel editing the website and uploading photos. Ryan slept in, then spent some time walking around town enjoying the car show and the festival atmosphere. We didn't leave until 12:30 or so then began a 30-mile trek to Pomoroy, the next available town for food and water. Along the way we encountered about every kind of weather, from favorable tailwinds, to dangerous side winds to frustrating headwinds. The temps were hot, then cold. The skies were blue, then cloudy, then blue again. As much as we looked forward to the big downhill, we had to get through nearly 50 miles of steady climbs first! It was simple middle-chain ring stuff, but it had a way of draining our strength. By the time we made it to the peak, at 2,750 feet, it was twilight, and we had a long descent in near darkness ahead of us. The first 5 miles were steep; I could have easily shattered my previous speed record, but we had to hold back to maintain control on the dark roads.
The road flattened as we had the Snake River to our left illuminated by the near-full moon. On our right were rock cliffs with the eerie sound of bats screeching at us. We were cold and exhausted as we finally entered town. Clarkston WA is just across the river from Lewiston ID (get it? Lewis and Clark!). It will be exciting to enter a new state on Monday as we resume our peddling and head into the hills. We are starting to see more bike tourists. We met a guy biking solo from Salt Lake City to Alaska, and later we saw a couple of older men who had been biking the Lewis and Clark Trail for about a month. We have now completed the first set of maps on our route, 442 miles, and we are only slightly behind schedule, which is fine at this stage. The Midwest will give us plenty of time to make up lost miles.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
We snagged the last room of the Clarkston Motel 6, and they left the light on for us. We put our bikes in storage, and then carried our trailers up the stairs to our room. There was a party going on outside our door; a family reunion who didn't want to wake the sleeping babies in their rooms. It was ok, as nothing was going to stop us from sleeping soundly. We slept till past 10am. We lounged around a bit, and then walked next door for a nice Sunday Brunch. It was wonderful to finally have a salad bar and a variety of choices. We got haircuts then I went on a fruitless search for a cell phone battery for the GPS phone. Looks like it will have to wait till tomorrow. It's still early in the afternoon, but I will go ahead and post this journal entry now since I guarantee there will be NOTHING exciting that will happen today as we rest our tired bodies. Remember all that whining I did about the hills? Well, we are about to learn what real hills are. Stay tuned; it should get interesting!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Back on the road again
After an incredibly lazy Sunday, we hit the road again and, within a mile from our hotel, we were posing under the "Welcome to Idaho" sign. Lewiston ID was just a continuation of Clarkston WA, but it had everything we needed: a bike store and a waffle shop. The waffle shop claimed to make the worlds greatest Belgium waffle. That's a mighty big claim. I am no expert, but it was darn good. Ryan assumes there must be someone in Belgium that could make a better one. Over breakfast, we met Marvin. Marvin is a 72-year-old retired accountant who is biking from Portland to Whitefish MT, where he will take a train to MN to bike and visit family. We had the same destination today, so we knew we would see him again. We went to the bike shop to get some spare tubes, a new computer for Ryan's bike (wind blew his bike over and broke his), and a new flag for his trailer (he lost his on a killer downhill). While in the bike shop, we met an awesome lady who gave us lots of advice on the upcoming roads and took great interest in our trip. She then offers to let us sleep in her grandmother’s home in Kooskia, our destination. It was an incredible offer. We got the directions, instructions on how to find the keys, and we were off! It wasn't long until we caught up with Marvin at a rest stop. The three of us stayed together all day. The ride was incredible. We followed Route 12 thru the Nez Perce Reservation, coasting along under blue skies beside the Clearwater River. It was a shallow, blue river. You would expect to see lots of fishermen, but we saw few.
It was nice to see the green pines again, as the cliffs and hills that bordered our route got greener and greener. After our 4:30 "lunch", we saw the temperature was at 98 degrees, but once back on our road, it was quite pleasant. Many times, we had a curve in the road, and there would be a blast of cool air from the river that the passing motorists never got to enjoy. We feel lucky to have completed these 75 miles (a new personal best for Ryan!) without incident. We were given numerous warnings about these roads with their blind curves, speedy logging trucks, and disappearing shoulders. It was scary at times, but we were quite cautious. It was a great day. We met a new friend, had a complete stranger offer keys to her house, biked through some beautiful countryside, and had our highest daily mileage of the trip. Tonight, we sleep in the home of a 97-year-old woman in Idaho. It reminds me a lot of the former home of my grandmother. You can tell she spent many years here, with little need or desire to purchase anything new for many years. Collectively, nothing in the house has material value, but I suspect it will be difficult for the family to part with any of these memories. It’s hard to envision how many memories we will have after 6 more weeks of this.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Up the hill we go
Didn't leave the breakfast diner in Kooskia ("koo-ski") until 11 am! Delicious breakfast, but on the wall next to the table there were photos and posters showing the damage that the reintroduction of Canadian wolves are causing. There were photos of a pack of wolves devouring a bear, and a live cow that was all bloody from a wolf attack. Just the kind of thing you want to look at while you dine! We continued on Rt.12, following the river into the National Forest. Like yesterday, it was just gorgeous scenery. The river is very shallow and clear. We did finally see some kayakers and a handful of fishermen. We never did catch up to Marvin, but he warned every waitress/store clerk that we were coming. We met a nice young lady on a fully loaded bike heading to Portland. So far my theory holds, that all the bike tourists we meet will be either college students or retired folks. I was on a constant search for moose, but to no avail. This was the first HOT day of the trip, despite the blasts of cool air off the river. The heat drained on us. I am afraid that our days of sleeping in are over. We had the option of going 50 miles to a campground, or 90 to the next one. Perhaps in the future we can put it to a vote on the web page. My cousins will be excluded from voting. The 50 miles was mostly a steady uphill, with few downhills to compensate. We entered a region that has no food services for over 60 miles, so we
stocked up on food (P&J, bread, crackers) when we could, and have plenty to carry us to Powell, the next town. We had hoped to make it to Missoula MT by tomorrow evening, but it looks like it will be on Thursday afternoon, the same day my dad arrives to join us.
Wednesday June 22, 2005
We did it!
Last night, while in the campground, we met a guy named Robert, camping with his dad and daughter. Turns out that he is a serious biker, a racer who did 1,200 training miles last month alone. So, when Ryan got a flat riding around camp, he was quick to fix it for us, as well as swapping extra tubes with us in exchange for some wrong sized tubes we were sold in Lewiston. So, we headed out by 8 a.m. and did a slow steady climb for 40 miles until we came to the NEXT town, which was really just a private campground with a cafe. Outside the cafe, two men were taking a tooth out of a small dead bear! Turns out a hunting guide found the bear dead, so he is required to remove a tooth to send to a lab that will derive an age for the bear. He then stuffed the bear in a sack and tossed it in his truck. We had a relaxing meal, with Marvin soon joining us, and we soon took off to bike up one of the highest passes of the trip, Lolo Pass at 5300+ feet. Remember when I was whining about 600 foot climbs? Well, never mind. I was feeling strong, spurred by beating Ryan at chess over lunch. The first 8 miles or so were uphill, but I did well. It then got steeper and steeper. Ryan tried to show his hill dominance by staying ahead, but a flat soon sidelined him.
I could have taken this opportunity to put some space between Ryan and I, but opted instead to help him fix his flat. I didn't even get his wheel off, when Robert, from nowhere, pulls up asking if we need anything! He has the flat fixed in moments. A few more miles uphill, and again Ryan has a flat; same tire. Robert didn't magically appear, but we got it fixed and eventually made it to the summit. I was thrilled that this 200-pound (give or take 40 pounds) middle-aged dude made it (slowly) up this big whopper of a hill. The downhill was nice, but it wasn't a good tradeoff for the past 2 days of climbing. So, after 61 miles we roll into a campground in Lolo Hotsprings, and set up tents next to 3 groups of cross-country cyclists. It was great to share stories with them. And, guess who is camping right across from us? Robert, our chief mechanic.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Big Sky Country
As we slid over the Lolo Pass yesterday afternoon, we entered a new time zone (Mountain) and a new state, Montana. This morning, we left our campground and coasted downhill for around 25 miles to Lolo, not to be confused with Lolo Peak, or Lolo Hotsprings, or Lola, from the classic tune by The Kinks. Our drink stop in Lolo marked the departure from the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail and the beginning of a leg of the popular Transamerica Trail that has been used since 1976. For us, it’s just a 320-mile section that will take us to the entrance of Yellowstone in a few days. We said our good-byes to Marvin and pressed on. It was remarkable how quickly the scenery changed since entering Montana. The ride today, totaling 70 miles, was through vast green fields sprinkled with wildflowers. We rode past many horse and cattle farms, as well as sheep, goats, and even buffalo. It is kind of creepy how all the animals stop what they are doing and just stare at you as we pass. I guess we do look a little silly with our spandex on. We had spectacular views of the snowcapped Bitterroot Mountains to our right all day, and another smaller mountain range to the left. It was such needed change from the last few days of spectacular beauty through Idaho. The weather, not unlike every day on this trip, was near perfect. We stopped at a little store and sat on its porch sipping and munching, when
a wild cowboy hopped out of his pickup truck. He had on the Harley T-shirt, faded jeans, dirty boots, messy long hair and beard and tattoos. I whispered to Ryan "Now there is a real Montana cowboy!" He made a joke about our bikes, that we have heard many times,” I got a bike, but it's got a big 'ole motor". He stood and talked to us for a long while, sharing his life (he's an "outlaw, always looking for fun") his loves (horses, fishing and Harleys) and about the local wildlife. He told us where to find moose, and explained that Montana ranchers take care of their wolf problems by themselves. As the miles flew by, this old man rocked. Ryan was forced to bow to the massive strength of my bulging calves. I left him in the dust. It was very encouraging to find that I am getting stronger, not weaker, as we are concluding the second week and 4th state of this journey. Tomorrow should be the toughest climb of our ride, Chief Joseph Pass, 7,241 feet, and we are only at 3,700 feet now, at the Comfort Inn in Hamilton MT. My dad arrived in Missoula today, but needs to travel to Butte, several hours away to get the rental car he needs. Hopefully, he will arrive just in time to help us topple this Chief Joseph character.
Friday, June 24, 2005
The long day
Ryan and I both needed work done on our bikes, so we took them to the bike shop. I also went to a cell phone store and got my GPS phone diagnosed. Turns out the GPS phone can't hold a charge, not because of the battery, but rather the phone itself. I will post in the journal if we get a replacement. So, with all our errands, we didn't hit the road till past noon. It was already hot, and we knew we had the largest climb of the trip ahead of us. We went 15 miles to Darby and took a leisurely break. I explored a little museum and we were soon climbing more to Sula. We soon had a silver minivan beeping at us! It was my dad, who arrived just in time. We exchanged hugs and quickly loaded our trailers into the back of the van. It felt incredible to be relieved of this extra weight, if even for just a couple weeks. Sula was just one store/diner/gas station, but the diner was closed, so we ate
Hot Pockets on the porch and took off up another 3000 feet to Chief Joseph Pass. The climb was 12 miles and nearly 4000 more feet. After crushing Ryan the day before, I thought it best to try to boost his confidence today. I let him beat me to the top. He actually climbed the last 5 miles non-stop while I took numerous "photo" and "water" breaks. I think I did a great job making him feel good, because he even came back down and rode the last few miles again while taunting me. I love it when a plan comes together. We posed for pictures on top, as it was the first time we were at the Continental Divide. I was plagued with a rubbing rear brake, and then a broken spoke, which made the 5 mile screaming downhill that much more hairy. We had 27 miles to get to Wisdom, our home for the night. As the sun was setting, we saw numerous deer and antelope, beaver, and lots of strange birds. We even heard the howling of a pack of wolves or coyotes. We were warned of the mosquitoes that "can pick you up and carry you". We saw them in full force, and I learned they taste awful. The last 14 miles, completed after my dad pulled up with dinner, were through a beautiful pasture with yet another mountain range on either side. It was getting cold, but we were cranking the miles out at a fast pace. The last 5 miles, we had my father illuminating the way with his headlights. It made us feel like those final finishers in a marathon. The crowds were gone, but we were still going to finish our race.
After a warm shower, we were fast asleep. A wise man from Philly was recently quoted on this website’s guestbook as saying, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever". Advil took care of my pain. My pride is strong as I conquered Chief Joseph.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Biking under the big grey sky
Somewhat exhausted after an especially tiring ride yesterday, we forced ourselves out of bed at 8am, and walked a block to a nice restaurant with a classy western motif with my dad. We hopped on our bikes around 10am and headed to Jackson MT. We began to see numerous bikers, all participating in a 165-mile ride for charity! We snacked up in Jackson, and then headed towards the hills that we had been admiring from afar. We climbed one major hill, zoomed down, and prepared for another. My dad had driven ahead to Dillon and booked the last two rooms in town, in separate hotels. He returned to join us with some groceries in perfect timing; right before a storm was about to hit. 20 more windy and hilly miles, a total of 61, got us to Dillon in time for showers and dinner, before calling it a day. This concludes our second week of our adventure. In 2 days we will be in Yellowstone Wyoming, the 1000-mile mark!
Sunday, June 26, 2005
It was bound to happen
I have been bragging about the near-perfect weather we have had on our journey, but we knew it wouldn't last forever. Our night at the Super 8 wasn't so super. We were too hot until we discovered how to operate the air conditioner, then we got to listen to a party next door that we were not invited to. A call to the front desk quieted the party, and soon it was time to start another day. I was fortunate to find the name of a bike mechanic, and we finally connected early this morning. He used to own a shop, but now works for the state and repairs bikes in his garage when he can. I rode to his house; he repaired my spoke, trued my tire, and fixed my brake. He said my wheel never would have made it to West Yellowstone, the next bike shop on our route. His wife will give birth to their first child in a couple of days, so I felt lucky to have him when I needed him. It had rained during the night, and the sky was cloudy, but we took off and did a fast 30 miles to a little rancher town called Twin Bridges. We ate in a diner that probably hasn't changed in 40 years surrounded by locals who I suspect never owned spandex shorts and yellow riding jackets. As we ate, a bunch of oldtimers paraded through the diner to the bar in back carrying their guitars and fiddles in preparation for a concert. We had another 30 miles to ride, BEFORE we had to tackle another mountain pass. These miles weren’t as fun, as there was a gradual climb and a side wind that was a bit annoying. Ahead, we can see the rain clouds and
lightening, as we appear to be peddling right to them. We felt the temperature drop quickly as the wind picked up and the rain began to fall. But, fortunately, we are no longer two self-contained bikers at the mercy of the elements. Like a beacon in the storm, my fathers silver minivan was waiting for our arrival. We toss our bikes in the back and drive to Nevada City. Nevada and Virginia City are two restored gold rush towns that now specialize in trapping tourists. There are shops, saloons, eating establishments, gold panning, train rides, and motels. We have a small cabin with 3 beds and a bathroom. Ryan was shocked there is no television. We had a simple dinner, walked the streets, then went to the Opera House and watched a play, followed by some Vaudeville. All in all, a much better evening than we would have had, with much more relaxed leg muscles. The sky was clear by the time we exited the show, and tomorrow we continue the quest to get to Yellowstone. I had forecasted that, if on schedule, we would be at Yellowstone by the 27th. We would have made it, if not for this shortened day. We now have 90 miles to go, and I suspect we will not try to go the whole way tomorrow.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Highs and Lows
This day had a little bit of everything. We walked a few doors down from our cabin on the oldwest wooden sidewalk into a nice little diner and loaded up on fuel. We then got in our van and drove back ten miles to the point where we left off yesterday. The rain seemed to be gone, and the temperature was quite pleasant. We even passed my dad at one point watching some beavers at their dam. We made it back to Nevada City where we spent the night, and took some pictures at the old saloon. It was there that we met a single lady biking across the country west to east. She sold her house in Alaska, and is taking 5 months to cross the US at just 20 miles per day. She will then go to Italy to watch her daughter in the Olympics! She is on the cross-country ski team. We then begun one of the largest climbs thus far; a few miles of winding road that never seemed to quit. This, thankfully, was followed by one of the best descents we've had; a 10-mile winding downhill into a gorgeous valley surrounded by some snowcapped peaks. After lunch, the rain started to fall. We quickly ducked into a porch at a rental cabin. The sun came out, and we were on our way.
Maybe 10 miles more, as we were biking beside large ranches with antelope running in the fields, the rain and hail begun again, so we hopped in our trusty van. We were in the middle of a 50-mile stretch prior to Yellowstone where there are no services. We knew we weren’t going to make it the whole way, but we wanted to get close enough to finish up the miles in the morning on our rest day. My dad sped ahead to find us rooms in West Yellowstone, leaving us alone for 2 hours. As soon as he left, the wind picked up again, and we were facing our FIRST headwind of the trip. The wind was so strong we were forced to downshift and treat it like a hill. Our speeds dropped, and the frustration began. Once we adapted to the headwind, it suddenly shifted to a side wind. At one point, I was PEDDLING downhill, with the side wind nearly sliding my wheels out from under me. This was the first time in the trip that I was starting to miss my comfortable office. I found Ryan up ahead sharing my frustration. He was sitting by the road watching some cowboys bringing hundreds of cattle into some pens from the fields above. We walked over to watch the cowboys in action. They were sorting them in pens based on the tags on their ears. We had a fun chat with 3 young boys, who were wearing spurs on their dusty boots. They were amazed about our journey, and we enjoyed hearing about their life. I got a great photo of the boys. I told them that we have three dogs. They said they have 3 dogs too, plus 20
cats, 9 horses, and a few hundred head of cattle. I told them that we have "almost an acre"; he said they have thousands of acres. They seemed to enjoy the cowboy life. Yellowstone was my only "must have" when I designed our route. I calculated that we would be there today if we were on schedule. The good news is we made it; the bad news is we still have 40 miles to make up on our bikes. After considering several options, we decided to take tomorrow off and enjoy the park, and then on Wednesday we will bike the 40 miles to West Yellowstone plus another 20-30 miles into the park to camp. Thursday, we will try to make it around 80 miles to Cody WY, as we take the northern route across this next state. At some point today, we completed our 1000th mile! Regardless whether it was part of the climb, the downhill, or into the wind or rain, we suspect it was well earned.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Restless Rest Day
Unlike our first rest day, this time we aren't all sore and exhausted. We were up at 7am and packed our stuff back in the van. It’s funny watching Ryan and I carry our stuff in and out of the hotel, as we have no suitcases. We first checked around to find a cheaper hotel for tonight, and snagged a room with three beds down the street. We entered the park, and within the first two miles, saw a bald eagle nest with at least three eagles inside. We got to see the mother fly away. Quite cool. The park had a fire that burned 2/3 of the land back in 1988. Evidence of the fire is everywhere. Much of the land looked littered by fallen trees, like a giant "pick up sticks" game. The park has done nothing to reforest, so you see giant pines with no branches towering over small "Christmas trees" that have arrived since the fire. Soon we were driving by vast marshy fields covered with elk and buffalo. It was a thrill to see them both, but soon they became commonplace as we continued our drive. Yellowstone has it all; waterfalls, cliffs, lakes, marshes, and an incredible "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone". We saw a coyote, trumpeter swans, pelicans, and missed seeing a black bear and her cub by moments. Ryan loved seeing the buffalo in the fields by the hundreds. I enjoyed watching the packs of Japanese tourists.
We chose to save Old Faithful for last. We saw many bubbling and steaming fields, mountains, and streams, but Old Faithful has an aura of its own. It blows every 90 minutes or so, and by the time we arrived there were a few thousand people all lined up in the cold afternoon air. I suspect that every 90 minutes the same thing happens. The anticipation begins. People make lame jokes about the ranger pushing the button, etc. Kids start doing countdowns; adults start "the wave". Old Faithful does a few sputters, blows some steam, and then dies a half dozen times. When it finally blows, people cheer, pictures taken by everyone and, before it even finishes, people are leaving. Our show ended with a thunder strike and the rain came in droves. We checked out a few more attractions, and then headed back to town. We have sensed a trend in this area; chilly morning sunshine, nice by noon, rains in the afternoon, then a sunny and cool evening. We will backtrack in the van once again in the morning and ride here to West Yellowstone then enter the park to fend off the bears at a campground.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Biking through Yellowstone
We started the day by driving back 44 miles to the point where we were picked up 2 days before. It was somewhat shocking to see how far we actually had to bike, just to get back to West Yellowstone. Once on the bike, however, the miles flew by. We caught up with Kate again, the mother of the Olympian. She is a happy lady who seems to live a life of adventure. We also met a couple biking west from Belgium. When I mentioned their famous bike racer Eddy Merxx, he showed me his Eddy Jersey under his sweatshirt. They thought Virginia and Kentucky were the hardest states thus far. We rode through an area as we approached West Yellowstone that was hit with an earthquake in the '50s. Twenty-nine people died from the flooding. It could have been much worse had the Corp of Engineers not rushed in to clear the way for water to leave the large lake and back into the river again. Once in town again, we changed at dad's hotel, made some phone calls, then headed to lunch. We ate some good barbeque, with a side of cheese grits. At least the barbeque was good. We then faced a moral dilemma. Do we ride into the park and take advantage of my father’s National Park Pass (an old folk perk) or do we pay the $20 and pedal in the gate ourselves? If we rode in the van to save 20 bucks for 50 feet, can we really claim to have ridden across the country? Hmmm.. Well, for Ryan, it was an easy decision, since he wasn't paying. We biked in, and got a picture by the Yellowstone sign. Another couple miles and we posed by the "Entering Wyoming" sign. Again, we saw the bald eagles, swans,
pelicans, elk, and moose. When we completed our 73 miles at our campsite, there were two large buffalo just 30 feet from where we put up our tent. The ranger said they often have 8 of them in camp. He also said they get elk herds and lots of GRIZZLY BEARS! Should be an interesting night. If you see no journal entry tomorrow, send a search party to Norris Campground. It has been chilly all day. We wore our long pants and jackets. I bet it never got above 62 degrees today. It was a big day, we entered our 5th state, camped with buffalos, and from here to DC we are mapping our own way. No longer are we using the nice maps from Adventure Cycling that we have so relied on. Its still light out here, the rain has stopped, the buffalo are still right outside our tent, and Ryan just bought firewood. I am sure my dad will sleep well back at the Evergreen Hotel.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Camper Attacked by Beast!
We were awoken at 4:30 by the sound of loud growling. It's got to be a bear, and no cute cuddly black bear; this was a grizzly. I heard it first, and woke up Ryan. It wasn't far from our tent, but I was too chicken to unzip the tent and peek out. We just lay there motionless, feeling incredibly guilty about the traces of food in our tent. Our great adventure is about to end thanks to a grizzly's love of Cheese-Nips and apples. The growling and rustling continued for a while. I heard no women screaming or gunshots fired. Eventually, we fell back asleep in our cold tent. When I emerged from the tent, I got the full story from our neighbor to the right. Turns out that he got up to go to the restroom and one of the buffalos were near the door. He figured he could walk around the lounging buffalo, but instead the beast stands up and showed some anger. There was a wooden fence that Buffy broke through, and he is a fugitive this morning. What a way to start the day. We leave camp, and decide to bike 28 miles before stopping at one of the Park's General Store areas to eat. The weather was chilly, and the climbing began right away. We were on some lousy roads, some nice ones, some curvy roads, but the theme was climbing.
I actually handled the climbing better than ever. I chose to stay in my middle chain ring all day, which causes one to use their thigh muscles and power up the hill instead of a lower gear where you spin up the hill and make it a cardio exercise. I guess it only makes sense that to leave Yellowstone, there needs to be a final mountain pass. We climbed with a 5-8% grade for many miles. The view at the top, overlooking Yellowstone Lake was incredible, and the ride down was nice too. Actually, there was some major construction on the road leading to the east entrance. They took all the blacktop off the road for repaving, and had just one lane open. For a bit, we rode on the dirt and gravel, but we were then stopped and told we cannot continue. We had to put our bikes in a pickup, and were driven down a couple miles until the road was paved again. This really bothered us, to have to get a ride, but Ryan figured that since they were downhill miles anyway, we shouldn't feel guilty. Once out of the park, it was smooth downhill sailing. Despite all the climbing and a long lunch break and construction delays, we ended the day with 86 miles, the highest thus far. We were all amazed at how drastic the landscape changed immediately after leaving the park. The green hillsides turned to reddish cliffs with spectacular spirals and caves. We saw little wildlife, but our jaws were in awe of what we were seeing. The air turned dry and the temperatures shot up. We had no idea that Wyoming had landscapes like this. We found a nice little motel with incredible views of the hillsides. We quickly changed and went to a local steakhouse to celebrate an awesome day.
We are just 24 miles outside Cody, so we expect to hit the town tomorrow for breakfast and visit the huge Wild West Buffalo Bill Cody Museum.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
The Valley Boys
We left our hotel in Wapiti, WY and cruised like greased lightening downhill 23 miles to Cody. My dad was waiting at the first diner, a small place serving tourists and local cowboys. The waitresses were great; friendly, happy, and proud of their community. It is a big weekend in Cody. This is the weekend of their Cody Stampede, with the top rodeo stars coming to compete in nightly rodeos. Our waitress was sporting a large belt buckle that she was given in honor of the work she has done promoting the local rodeo. She tried hard to convince us to stay in town, until she finally grasped the notion that we were biking, and we need to get our daily mileage in. Once she understood, she was amazed and gave us a card so we can send her a postcard from DC. I hope I don't forget. The biggest attraction in town is the big Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It is a massive place; several museums in one. There was a nice western art exhibit with many Remington’s, and other great artists. There was a Natural History section, an Indian section, a Buffalo Bill exhibit, and a firearm display that was extensive enough to make my father-in-law drool. The place was so large that
your admission is good for two days. We were told that we could not see the place in just one day. Ryan and I proved the experts wrong, and made it through in less than 3 hours. No we didn't read everything, but we got the gist, and were back on our bikes. Our goal was Greybull, a place we weren’t excited about after talking to our morning waitress, but it was where we needed to get to. The 52 miles were flat and hot. It was 30 degrees hotter than the day before when in Yellowstone. The lack of humidity meant that we could bike at a fast pace for over 50 more miles and not sweat! The high red rock cliffs of the morning flattened out, as we were now the Bighorn Valley. The valley was dry, flat, and uninhabited except for a few antelopes and at least two prairie dogs. The spectacular Big Horn Mountains became closer as the day continued. They were taunting us, as if they know that they are the last mountain range in the way to DC. So tonight, we rest in Greybull. There is a debate as to whether the town was named after a buffalo or an Indian chief. There is no debate that tomorrow will include a big climb.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Random thoughts after three weeks on the saddle
The most polite motorists thus far are in Montana. The funkiest tan lines are on our hands. We have deep dark tan arms and fingers, but our hands are still white thanks to our gloves. I have never seen a coffee shop, but every town has a small espresso shop the size of a snocone stand. Real cowboys wear Wrangler jeans. Cyclists like to complain about RVers, but we have had no problem with them. They actually look quite comfortable in their big lounge chairs cruising down the road with their bikes strapped on the back. I shaved today, for the second time in three weeks. I find it odd that some of the worst roads for bikers are in the national parks. The most annoying vehicles are the Harley riders. They are very polite but the sound of their motors sends chills down our spine. Since they travel in packs, it makes it worse. I feel like a sissy applying Chapstick, but if I didn't, my lips would fall off. I am a lucky guy to have a teenage son who likes hanging out with me. Out west, every pickup has a dog in the back. They seem to love the ride. I even saw a pickup with a llama strapped in the back with its head over the drivers cab. Every town in America has had a state champion HS sports team that they are still proud of many years later. We have had very few opportunities to ride side by side and chat. Most of our riding is on busy roads, so the most we can do is draft each other. After around 50 miles, my bike seat starts growing spikes that are gone in the morning. I am no longer worried about we can't handle the physical aspects of this thing. Our bodies have adjusted to the daily demands. Now, it’s a mental challenge. My prayer now is that we remain free from illness and injury, my family stays safe at home, and that each day continues to be a great adventure. We have been so blessed thus far.
Saturday, July 2, 2005
Our last mountain pass
I am sure that we have all had days that we dread. A visit to the doctor or dentist, perhaps a funeral. You know that pain will come, and there is nothing you can do about it. For two days we have seen the Bighorn Mountains up ahead. We knew that today was the day we had to come face to face with them. We got up early and met my dad for breakfast at the diner, and then headed out. We see the rain clouds ahead and the lightening in the distance. The wind picks up, and soon the rain comes in buckets. We found cover in a barn, but got drenched anyway. It took just 20 minutes before the weather cleared, and soon we were forced to peddle downhill with heavy winds. To get the maximum pain from the upcoming climb, we descended down to under 3,000 feet above sea level. We knew we had to climb up past 9,000 feet. The start of the climb was gorgeous. There were incredible stone formations that changed with each bend of the road. The climb was gentle, but I stopped several times to take photos. There were signs telling us how old the rocks were. One announced that the granite was 2.5 billion years old. I wonder how
often they have to update those signs? Like most of these mountain passes, you can't see very far ahead due to the twisting of the roads, so you never know where the top is. Ryan sped ahead, and my dad would drive back and forth to check on us both. I could tell right away that I would not be as strong as I was a few days earlier, as my legs were still a bit trashed. Climbing and climbing, I was starting to get mad at the road designers. Surely they could have found a better way to get over this mountain. I was getting quite exhausted climbing in the hot sun. Just as I reached the point where I thought I had nothing left to give, I see Ryan and my dad at the rest stop. With a surge of energy and excitement, I pull in. I made my way to the little ranger store and talked to the ranger. I posed the question that I hated to ask, "Are we near the top?" She didn't just say "no", she said "My heavens no!” We had another 2,800 feet to climb; we were just over halfway! We sat in the van with the air conditioner munching on food and Gatorade before heading off again. Ryan was only mad that he stopped, thinking it was the top. He was very determined to go the distance non-stop. In fact, he did complete the rest of the mountain non-stop over an hour before I did. I was totally out of steam. I was thinking of all the spin classes I meant to do before the trip and regretted (almost) every donut I had eaten over the past six months. It was past 5:00 before I crawled to the top. The air was chilly up top, so we donned our jackets and I put on my long pants. Usually after such an effort you are rewarded with a downhill. In this case we first had to ride over rolling hills for 20 more miles. We had a dinner at a very casual lodge,
and then continued on as the sun was dropping fast. Before we began our serious freefall, we came upon another 4-mile climb! Once completed, we began the most spectacular downhill of our journey. We zipped around tight curves, and then zoomed down some straight-aways. There were forests and campgrounds on each side. Then, as we were working up a good speed, we see my dad's van on the side of the road with his hand out the window flagging us down. It was a moose. Our threeweek search was over. Yeah, it was a small doe, but a moose nonetheless. I snapped a couple photos of his backside with his head in a bush, and left my dad to wait for a better shot. Again we continued our screaming downhill, until we came upon a lookout point that knocked our socks off. In front of us, we must have seen 80 miles in all directions. It was our first view beyond the mountain, and it was awesome. We saw rolling green hills with small mountains to the distance. The evening sun was creating a festival of colors. All the pain of the day was washed away in this great moment shared by Ryan and I. My camera batteries were dead. The downhill lasted for at least 20 miles. We soared around the mountain in the same manner we climbed, with switchbacks and rolling hills. We had to stop several times to regain our composure and let cars pass. As we neared the end, I could smell the succulent aroma of burning bike brakes so I let them go and flew into the town of Dayton. My dad was waiting on the road of this small town, and announced that he has rooms in the B&B. The place is wonderful. Ryan and I have a room with two queen sized beds and a warm
shower. This was a day that was all about biking. For nearly 12 hours we were out on the road. When we arrived, I declared to Ryan that today was the worst and the best day of the trip all in one. He agreed.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Another day in the saddle
After such a long day in the saddle yesterday, it was a bit rough to hop back on today. We figured this would be an easy one; no more mountains and ideal weather. We sailed the first few miles with a nice tailwind. After 5 miles, we hopped on I-90. This is the road that will take us to and through South Dakota and into the Midwest. No, we didn't have any mountains ahead of us, but there were plenty of hills. Big hills. We would climb for several miles with a slight grade, then zip down, only to start uphill once again. The landscape was simply green rolling hills. The green part was long grass and tumbleweed. The Bighorns were in the background, and there were patches of red clay all around. It was a pretty boring day for my dad. The highway has no historical markers and no tourist sites or exciting wildlife to observe. We ate one meal in the van and another in Buffalo. We added another 77 miles to our quest, snagged a budget hotel and flipped on the TV. Ryan's favorite movie was on, “Saving Private Ryan” and also “Tommy Boy”, the movie he has been quoting from for the last three weeks! It’s really impossible for me to make this day sound exciting. We did, however spend a good part of the day riding side-by-side and chatted about a
variety of things. I think Ryan will do just fine in life. Tomorrow, the adventure begins anew.
Monday, July 4, 2005
Fourth of July is a great day to have a birthday. Nobody goes to work, and everybody celebrates all day. I let Ryan sleep a little longer, and even brought him some donuts from the wimpy hotel breakfast buffet. We doddled around some more, until we got the great idea of going for a bike ride to celebrate his 15th birthday! He was agreeable, so we headed out in the van and drove the 44 miles to where we left off yesterday. Ryan announced a few days before his birthday that what he really wants is some cash to do his own stock market trading. So, this morning I went all out and bought a Devils Tower Wyoming postcard in the lobby and wrote a little note on it that included a dollar sign to begin his investment career. It wasn't but a few miles, on the first climb, that I gave him the card and it made him so happy. He is excited to get home and begin his investment career. He promised me that he would be real generous once he makes his fortune. Ryan quickly got another flat in his back tire. We found a tiny wire that did the damage, no larger than a staple. It was clear that Ryan was not in his best form today. He was riding very slowly. I know this because I was riding slowly and I was ahead of him! The route was very uninspiring. The wind kept changing directions, and we spent most of the time climbing.
The plan was to meet my dad at the Dairy Queen for an ice cream birthday cake at the 46mile mark. I got to the exit first and waited for Ryan. After a while, I was getting worried, and asked some drivers who just got off the highway of Ryan's whereabouts. They told me that he was walking his bike. Ryan had to walk the last mile thanks to another flat, and I learned my lesson not to let him get too far out of my sight. We ate as much of the cake that we could then agreed that, despite a measly 46 miles, that we should stop for the day and have some fun. We left Gillette and went to see Devil's Tower, the large rock made famous in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". It seemed odd to drive so far to see a rock, but it was quite cool. It has its origins as a volcano that went astray. If you ask the Indians, they will tell you about a giant bear that scraped the mountain while attacking seven Indian girls. We walked the 1.3 mile trail that circles the Tower, and saw 6 climbers going up the back side. Around the base, there were prairie dog fields with the little guys popping in and out of their holes. We drove back to Gillette, checked in the hotel, and then headed to the Cam-Plex (still don't know what it was) for the local fireworks. It was a real quality show with great traffic and crowd control. More cowboy hats than back home, but probably the same soundtrack.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
15 Minutes of Fame
This was a big day. My father needs to head home so he can get some tax returns and golfing in before leaving for his Alaska vacation next Monday. We were told that Lulu Belles Diner was the best place in town for breakfast and I suspect they were right. It was a small place in downtown Gillette, next to the train yards. The crowd was mostly working men telling offcolor jokes or talking business on their cell phones so everyone can hear. The specialty was biscuits and gravy, Ryan's favorite, so we both indulged. Dad had the short (but huge) stack of cakes. We spent some time at the hotel trying to organize our trailers. We threw out what we hadn't yet needed and sent our warm clothes back with my dad to reduce weight. My dad kept the trailers until we met for lunch in Moorcroft, 25 miles down the road. We didn't even begin peddling until noon since we visited a bike shop and downloaded pictures to a CD at Walgreen’s. The Gillette area claims to produce a third of our nation's coal production, so we saw several large mines and long trains full of coal. We spent two days in Gillette and concluded that it's a nice town with a little of everything, even a "Rock Pile Museum", which we passed on. The land flattened out a bit today, but not much. We still had a series of long steady climbs and short downhills. Oil wells began popping up, and our tires didn't (thankfully). We met Dad for one last meal together at a small place in Moorcroft. Afterwards, we met a half-mile down the road to put our trailers back on our
bikes and hop back on the highway. We were there maybe 15 minutes before it happened. First there were the stares, then the pointing. Next came the screaming and running towards us! "Dick Orcutt, Dick Orcutt!" was her shout as it looked like she was about to tackle our celebrity van driver. "Kerri Schuman, Kerri Schuman!" was her next words. Soon, she was hugging us both, and her husband, daughter, sister and mother were introducing themselves. Kerri goes to my parent’s church. We had never met, but we exchanged emails because she too was planning a trip out west and was hoping our paths would cross. We concluded weeks ago that our schedules did not match up. She was on a BUS with her extended family. They had been driving from Rapid City SD, and just happened to stop at the same Conoco gas station at this tiny town during the same 15-minute time span that we were there. Both Kerri and her sister had read our journals, so it was quite cool to talk to meet someone who knew and understood what we were doing. They popped in right as we were saying goodbye to my father. The jawdropping incident took a lot of pressure off our good-byes. We headed onto the highway as the tour bus was departing. I looked back to see my dad taking photos. It was the beginning of a new leg of our trip.
The timing of my father's 12 days with us couldn't have been better. He carried our stuff while we climbed all our worst mountain passes. He allowed us to ride late several days, and helped us end a few days early due to winds or rain. He gave us the opportunity to see most all of Yellowstone and visit Devil's Tower. He displayed patience with our slow moving agenda and made sure that we finally got to see a moose! Any time I do anything right as a father, it is simply learned behavior from my own dad. Thanks Pop. See ya in DC! It was odd to pull the trailers again. We noticed the difference immediately. Now we have 4 tires to avoid debris with. We decided to get a campsite in Sundance WY after 64 miles. This puts us around 80 miles from Rapid City SD and Mt. Rushmore tomorrow! Sundance is proudly "The town where The Kid got his name". Butch's partner in crime spent 18 months in jail here for robbery, and then took on his new nickname from then on. Ryan and I cleaned up, went to dinner, than came back to the camp’s game room and I taught him a lesson in Ping-Pong that he will not soon forget.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Entering South Dakota
It always feels like we are making progress as we enter a new state. After leaving camp in Sundance Wyoming, it was a fast 20 miles to the border. The ladies in the South Dakota Welcome Center were quite energetic about their state. I had them review the map and show me all the cool stuff we can expect to see in our 408-mile trek across their great state. Well, they have Wall Drug, the Mitchell Corn Palace (two things I have seen before), oh and they have the Car Museum. I think it might be a long week. We continue onward, only to be welcomed by long hills, over lousy roads into a strong headwind under blistering heat. We chugged along at a snails pace, stopping in Spearfish for Chinese food, then again in Sturgis for a cold one (Dairy Cream). Ryan's goal was to make it to Rapid City and get a hotel close to a movie theatre. We knew we had to get to mile marker 59, making it an 80-mile day. We huffed and puffed over the terrible roads; shoulders full of sand, debris, potholes and even several varieties of rumble strips. The last 10 miles were done in the dark, but we finally made it. This area is centered around a large mall, so we have everything for our rest day
tomorrow. We had to visit four hotels until we found a room, but at 10 pm, we finally got settled in at the Econo-Lodge. It was a long, tiring day. To top it off, today was my 20th anniversary to my beloved wife Debbie. It was terribly sad for me to speak to her today, as I feel quite guilty for being so far away. She was willing to sacrifice this special day so that Ryan can join me in this journey. Debbie is a great woman, and it has been a wonderful 20 years.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Hanging with the presidents
Our third rest day found us in Rapid City next to the Rushmore Mall. There is congestion, traffic, neon, and people everywhere here. It feels good to be back in civilization again. At least until tomorrow. I spent some time on the hotel computer today updating the website and dealing with some work issues. I called a guy here, Don, who is a fellow financial planner with my brokerage firm. I didn't know him well, but he was kind enough to leave his office early and be our tour guide. We drove the 20 miles or so through the Black Hills to Mount Rushmore. It is no longer a small attraction with a gravel parking lot. Even since Don had last been there, the place has turned into a pretty impressive site with a large parking garage, museum, gift shops, theatres, etc. It was quite cool to see it up close and personal. We looked for a bit, snapped some pictures, and then went downstairs to learn how it was made. It took 14 years and was done with 90% dynamite. A truly amazing feat. I made sure that Don selected a place to eat that is tourist-free, and he did a great job. We enjoyed a nice meal, got to know each other better, than he took us the long way home and showed us the town. It seems like a great place to live. There was a charming old district, and plenty of new amenities. There was the beauty of the Black Hills and the rolling hills below.
Don wears Wranglers to work each day, unless he was going to meet a new client, when he wears his nicer cut jeans. He maintains his late grandfathers cattle ranch on the weekends. I promised him some Cincinnati Chili if he ever makes it to our town. Don dropped us off at the movie theatre. Ryan was so looking forward to seeing "War of the Worlds". They had four choices: Herbie, Bewitched, Lavagirl, and the new Star Wars (seen it). We chose Bewitched. It was just OK.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Hitting the Wall
Today, after a rest day yesterday, was supposed to be easy. A look at the map showed that we had to make it a short 50-mile day since the next town was quite a bit further. The weather looked great, and we saw the wind was supposed to be heading our way. For Ryan though, things didn't feel right. Understand, this is a "kid" who has biked halfway across the country without a complaint. On the contrary, he is the ambitious one, the one who wants to go further each day. But, in the first 10 miles, he was dragging. The heat was rather stifling, quickly over 100 degrees. The hills were many, and the wind headed north. We stopped for lunch at the 20-mile mark, and Ryan didn't want to continue, but there wasn't an option. I made sure he ate plenty and re-hydrated, and we were ready to go. Fortunately, we had cell coverage, so his mom could give him a pep talk because he was in no mood for mine. We went another 6 miles and, despite Ryan's objection, we stopped at a fireworks store, got a drink, and sat and talked to the local high school basketball coach who was filling his summer working at the store. His school has just 95 students, around 25 in the last graduating class. The football team had 14 players who play 9v9. He has plenty of basketball players, but they sometimes have to travel 3 hours for games. The break was what Ryan needed, and we moved a lot better. If you look at the SD map, the western part of the state is the Black Hills,
which we drove through yesterday while visiting Mt. Rushmore. I-90 stays on the outskirts of the Black Hills heading southeast, then heads out straight east from Rapid City. So today we didn't see the hills to our right, just rolling fields of grass and wheat. You could see for miles and miles. It was cool to have a change of scenery, but I suspect it might get old real fast. Wall, SD was our destination, and it appeared like an oasis in the middle of nowhere. But first, we had a 5-mile climb. I handled it fine, but whenever I would stop to wait for Ryan, horseflies would bite me! Speaking of which, there was a time when we saw three sleek black horses with a white stripe on their noses looking at us. As we passed them, they all ran in unison with us, and then ahead of us, then they circled around and stared again. This was repeated three times. It was as though they were synchronized horses that liked having an audience! Wall SD is, of course, famous for Wall Drug. Signs dot the highway for hundreds of miles enticing you to stop by. It is what you would expect, a tourist trap of epic proportions taking up one side of the downtown district. We ate in the restaurant, which is staffed by college students from many countries, walked through the many stores full of trinkets, and then headed back to our tiny, but cheap, hotel. We pledged to try to beat the heat in the morning, needing to crank out around 80 miles. We are looking forward to seeing the land finally flatten out as we expected in SD.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
The Bad Badlands
We ate breakfast at Wall Drug, which is clearly the most overhyped place in the west. We hit the road by 9:15 in an effort to beat the heat, but instead it beat us. The temperature was quickly over 100 and the wind was tireless. Actually, once again, I wasn't affected by the heat like Ryan. Like yesterday, he fell behind and totally lost his energy. I did my best to encourage him, knowing we had no options until the 20-mile mark. Once there, we found a diner/campground/motel ran by a real nice family from Michigan. I told them about Ryan and asked if we could simply hang out in one of the motel rooms. For 10 bucks, we napped in room number one for around 4 hours. I checked the temperature as we left and it had not even changed, it was showing around 105 degrees, and the same wicked wind was blowing at us to the north. Like the morning ride, it was real slow going. We knew right away that we could never make the 60 miles we had planned on. We also knew there was a town with services just 20 miles ahead.
It took a couple hours of peddling to go just 20 more miles. The town, Kadosa, had a few hotels, diners, and gas stations. We had to stop here or go the other 40 miles. Where was my dad with the van when we needed him? Stopping here allows us to get to bed sooner and get an even earlier start. We did get a glimpse of the Badlands today. They were south of us, but we saw some of their grey spiral cliffs. The rest of the day was a series of wheat fields and cattle ranches. A sheepdog chased us from a small sheep ranch as we approached town. Today was a long one, and very frustrating. It was the shortest day thus far, just 40 miles, but our spirits are not broken. I am reminded of an online journal I read once of a biker going through a similar day in this state. When he asked a clerk how much further he had to Minnesota, he broke down and cried and accepted a ride in a pickup. This is the kind of territory that can break a person, but we will keep plugging along!
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Today was a long, hard day. We knew we had to make up some miles for the last two days, so we had our first 5:30 wake up call and tried hard to get on the road earlier today. We had a good breakfast near our hotel at mile marker 150, with the goal of reaching a town called Presho at exit 225. It was a wise move to leave early, as the temps were mild. We wanted to go 40 miles before the heat kicks in and we would be in Murdo, the town with a big car museum. We figure that would be a good place to wait out the afternoon heat. We still haven't found a flat spot in this state. We are either gradually climbing or descending. The wind is always blowing, but never the direction we would choose. It continued its westward direction, at times very severe. We made good time for the first 20 miles or so, but then the 100-degree heat arrived. Ryan had a flat on his bike (wire) and another on his trailer (undetermined). We slid into Murdo and downed a pitcher of water faster than any customers the Star Diner ever had. We opted out of going to the museum, missing the chance to see Elvis' Harley. We learned that the next town with services was 34 miles away, so we loaded up with Gatorade and water and took on the wind and heat again.
The shoulder seemed nicer today. We got many encouraging beeps from passing cars and trucks and many unbelieving stares as well. It wasn't what you would call an ideal day for biking. It was a struggle for us both to fight the wind, but we finally arrived and grabbed a $40 hotel room. The red shag carpet in the halls complimented nicely the tan shag in the room. I ordered a pizza at the place next door, but discovered that it was simply a frozen (then burnt) pizza! I found it odd today that we saw dozens and dozens of turtles as the main road kill today. They were ambitious little guys, but I saw no reason to attempt to cross the interstate, as both sides were equally barren. I have also learned to recognize the calls of the prairie dogs. They sound like a flock of birds chirping as they sit outside their mounds eyeing us or visiting with each other. We also had to bike through swarms of bees, as many farmers have beehives in their fields for pollination. I am quite exhausted tonight, but we have much to be thankful for. We are halfway through this state and over halfway across this country! We are feeling well, and our attitudes are strong. We did some math over lunch, and feel that we are still on track for arriving in DC in less than a
month. It has been very inspiring to see how Ryan has rebounded from the previous two days of struggles. He is showing great maturity to persevere despite the fact that this stretch of road isn't very exciting. We have shared a lot of great times on this journey, but I suspect he will benefit as well from these daily struggles that we affectingly call "South Dakota".
Monday, July 11, 2005
What a difference a day makes
After yesterday's struggles with the wind and heat, we were relieved to see a thunderstorm as we were in bed last night. We woke up to much more mild temperatures. All good intentions of leaving early were dashed as we had a leisurely breakfast and lounged around the room. We were excited when we got on our bikes to find that the wind had stopped blowing. It was the first time in many days that we didn't feel a breeze, and it was wonderful. Yeah, it was soon pretty hot, but without the wind slowing us down, it was heavenly. We were anxious to make it to Chamberlain, as we knew it would be a town with full services. It sits on the Missouri River and Lewis and Clark passed
through the area a few years prior, though they used a boat. Once there, we met a couple of lady bikers, as we are now intersecting with the Lewis and Clark bike trail that goes from St. Louis up to North Dakota over to Montana, ending at Astoria Oregon, where we started our trip. We ended up eating with the ladies and then had another man join us who was headed south. It was fun to share stories with them, as we hadn't talked to another biker since Yellowstone. The ladies took a big risk by never meeting before starting the trip. One of them placed an ad looking for a riding companion. I have read about these arrangements, and have seen many of them fail. These two ladies seem to still like each other after 3 weeks. I did experience my first flat tire today, after finding a wire sticking out of my tire. It took forever to repair, but such is life. We biked for 60 miles today. We still haven't found any flat ground in this state, but we weren't complaining today. We began seeing cornfields today. I suspect we will see several more before hitting the nation's capital. We should be real close to Sioux Falls tomorrow, allowing us to enter Iowa on Wednesday. We are excited to see all the big tourist sites in Iowa. If you know of any, please let us know.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Every Day an Adventure
This has been our motto from the start. Every day, something unique, exciting, challenging, or inspiring has happened on this journey. As I have written, these past few days have been a bit of a struggle, with the winds, heat, lousy roads and lack of attractions (we opted not to visit the SD Hall of Fame and the Tractor Museum yesterday). The prudent thing to have done today is to rise early and get the work over with. Trouble is, I don't like getting up early when I am home, let alone when on vacation. I didn't even bring a watch on this trip. Anyway, we got our breakfast at the "Doo Wah" diner across the street in Kendall, and then headed down the road. We were looking forward to lunch in Mitchell, but got too hungry so we found a little town called Mt. Vernon. As is typical in the small towns we have seen, there was a minimart/diner/gas station. We shared a pizza and read the walls covered with photos and articles about their local football star that played 9v9 football at Mt. Vernon HS and left his family's hog farm to be #18 for the Hawkeye’s. Luckily, Ryan wasn't wearing his OSU bike jersey today. We are getting closer to Sioux Falls, so the towns were getting closer and the family farms appear more prosperous. We began seeing beans in addition to the cornfields. We found a nice back road that took us to Mitchell and its famous Corn Palace. In case you have never seen the corn palace before, its basically a basketball gym with the outside covered with corn. Each year they redo it with a different set of images made by using the various colors of corn stalks and
husks. Apparently, it's all Lewis and Clarks fault. They claimed in their journals that this area could never be farmed. This gave the settlers in the area something to prove, so the first Mitchell Corn Palace was created to promote farming and show off their production. It was also designed to put the city on the map. It worked.
We liked Mitchell. We met a lot of good folks there. Ryan was mostly concerned with finding a theatre, and we did. War of the Worlds (good flick, don't bring the kids) started at 7:10 and eight bucks bought two tickets. We still had to bike another 15 miles or so, but who cares? We are on vacation. It was a relaxing time in the theatre and the manager was great about keeping an eye on our bikes. The ladies at the soda counter were all interested in our trip and took our cards. (We printed a business card with our website on it to hand to people who are interested) After the movie, the sun was sinking fast and we had to hurry. We passed a lot of great looking hotels and a couple campgrounds, and sped down the highway. Fortunately, the shoulder was wide, clean and recently paved. After just a few miles, we got out our flashlights to keep an eye on the debris and road kill. We could do nothing about the swarms of mosquitoes and other bugs smacking us in the face. The further we went, the sillier I knew we were for attempting this, but we also knew we had to get in more than the 50 miles we left the theatre with. The town 12 miles down the road (pop 560) had no sign for lodging, but we knew we had to do something. We rode the mile into town, and saw no signs of life.
Finally, we found a group of guys at a garage drinking beers after finishing work on their racecar. When I asked where we could camp, they sent us two miles down the road to a lake recreation area. We mostly coasted downhill in the dark on a country road with millions of stars shining down on us. Anyone who saw us would have seen a strange site of two bikers guided by flashlights talking about scary movies. There were the sounds of crickets and birds and the smells of the many passing farms. We coasted down the hill and over a bridge when a pickup pulled behind us. I really didn't need any farm boys harassing us, so was relieved to find it was a nice old couple that told us that we missed the road to the lake prior to the bridge. We climbed up a hill around the lake passing homes until we found a park and beach area. There was one other tent there, but no cars or bikes. We set up the tent in record time and quickly got in and tried to kill all the bugs. Ryan read a bit of his school summer reading book (Oliver Twist) but was soon fast asleep. It was another of those adventures that we will always remember. Doing things the smart way would have made this journal entry a lot shorter!
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
We crawled out of our tent and headed down the road. Our bodies have grown accustomed to a hearty breakfast when we wake up, but according to the guys down the street, our breakfast options were not plentiful. We opted to stay south of the highway and go east on Route 42 to Sioux Falls. Trouble is, the nearest town with food and a clean restroom was 17 miles away! We had some work to do before we could eat. On the way, we ran into the same guy that helped us the night before. He is a farmer who has hundreds of acres of corn, beans, and wheat. We talked a bit about our trip and about farming. He talked about the rapidly changing prices of beans, and the risks of selling too early or late. When we finally make it to Bridgewater, I asked a lady where the best place in town to eat was. She pointed to the only place in town. It was a friendly place with a big menu of fried food. It was too late for breakfast, so we ordered some burgers and got lots of friendly advice about Sioux Falls and answered the usual array of questions about our adventure. It was a long hot ride to Sioux Falls. By taking the country route, we were on quieter roads, but there were no places to get out of the sun or get a drink or snack. We were
almost out of water by the time we arrived. It is rare we end our day in a big town, so Ryan was anxious to find yet another theatre. We found the new part of town with all the shopping, hotels, and good eats. Turns out, there is a big Corvette show in town, so we had to search hard for a room, making Ryan too late to go to the movies. Ryan works so hard and has such a great attitude so I try to find ways to make the day something other than just biking. Alas, it seems that today was all about biking. At least I let him choose dinner (pizza) and let him control the TV remote. Tomorrow, we enter Iowa.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Iowa at last!
We woke up in the world’s tiniest hotel room in Sioux Falls without a plan. All we knew was, right outside our door was everything a couple of weary travelers would want. For Ryan, he hungered to see another movie. For me, I wanted a massage to ease the aches and pains. I suggested taking a rest day, but Ryan thought we should continue. I had a hunch he might change his mind, however, when he saw the town this morning. I arranged the massage, and Ryan took off on his bike to get us some muchneeded spare tubes and catch a movie. If you have never received a professional massage, I would suggest you don't. This way, you would never know what you are missing. She eased the stiffness in my neck, hands, and shoulders and made me feel like a quarter million bucks. While waiting for Ryan to return, I finally got some time to spend with an atlas and do some calculations, and it didn't look pretty. Whereas, I figured a few days ago that we would have to do just 60 miles a day for the remaining 23 days, today it added up to 70. Looking for shortcuts to save some miles, I determined that we could take a more direct route from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Instead of going through northern Indiana to Cleveland, we will instead basically take Route 30 all the way to Pittsburgh taking us through Ft. Wayne.
This might disappoint my Aunts Joan and Marcia who I planned on staying with, but sorry Aunties, you are dispensable! We had received invitations to stay at a sister and friend of a friend of ours in NE Iowa. Looking at the map, I realized that we could possibly make it today. So, when Ryan came back from the movies, I broke the news to him that we need to get some miles in today. We rode on the highway for the last time. Instead of going east into Iowa, we rode south around 15 miles, then went east on Rt. 18, the road through northern Iowa that will take us most of the way across the state. Once we entered Iowa, the change was remarkable. We posed for a quick picture at the sign, and then continued down a very picturesque country road with little traffic and large farms. The sun was sinking low, so there was a haze in the sky. The corn and bean fields would go as far as you could see. These aren't scrawny stalks of corn either. These are the way God intended corn to grow; seven feet tall and hearty. There was a variety of smells as we passed the farms. Some good and some not. We noticed the cows didn't look as happy. Out west, they would graze in the fields quite contently. Here, they were in pens being fed grain to make them plump. They probably enjoy being couch potatoes, but I sensed they knew that they were soon going to be served with potatoes. Ryan and I had a great time racing up and down the smoothly paved roads. At one point, we were on top of a hill, and below we saw some nice rolling hills and Ryan gives a little "Thank you Lord". It was a beautiful site after the long steady hills of the past week. To a biker, rolling hills are the greatest way to travel. If the hills are spaced right, you can zoom down one hill and have the momentum to coast up most of the next hill, then repeat indefinitely. It never lasts forever, but it's fun while it does. So, we cranked as fast as we have in weeks up and down past the many family farms. I placed a call to our hosts in Hull, but only left a message. We weren't
even sure if they were to be home tonight, but the door was to be open with clean towels in the bathroom. This is the kind of hospitality we were told to expect in Iowa. They don't have a Mt. Rushmore or a Corn Palace, so they have to make up for it somehow. We arrived in the dark at the town. We weren’t even sure we were in the right town until we finally saw “Hull” on a school. We asked a cop where the street was, and we had to backtrack to get to the house. Jerry and Lavon were both awake along with two of their four children. We showered, then spent time discussing the route we should take across the state. Iowa is actually Mecca to bikers from all over the world. Each year around 11,000 cyclists trek across the state participating in RAGBRAI, the granddaddy of all state rides. It happens on the third week of July, so we will miss it by a week. Their route this year is very similar to the one we will take. Ryan and I both feel called to someday partake in the mystique that is RAGBRAI. We are very grateful for the hospitality shown to us by our hosts. We arrived far later than a good guest should. The time spent planning our daily destinations was very helpful. The bottom line is, we need to pedal further, faster, and earlier, if we hope to cross Iowa in just 5 more days, and have some time to spend with my family in DC.
Friday, July 15, 2005
If you pave it, we will bike it
In the movie Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe Jackson asks Ray "Is this heaven?" Ray says, "No, it's Iowa." We have been here just two days and, although we have enjoyed this state, we can also concur that we are not in heaven. If we were, the roads of gold would have a nice wide bike lane. We would not have had to battle with gravel on the shoulder, rumble strips, and even disappearing shoulders. I suspect that the woman in the white SUV would not have beeped and saluted me in that manner if this was heaven. Although I do expect lots of fresh corn and beef in heaven, I envision the air smelling less like cow manure and more like a cheeseburger on a grill. In heaven, I am expecting the air not be approaching 100 degrees like today, and the 80 miles we rode would have been done in half the time. Iowa is a good place, with nice towns and friendly people but it has a way to go before it approaches a place I would choose for eternity. It’s probably a perfect place for some baseball.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Cruising by the corn
Another long, hot day. The temps were near 100 today, and the humidity seems to keep rising as we get further east. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since our last rest day, but we are feeling fine. Of course, you would think we would wise up by now. After arriving in Ennisburg last evening at 8pm or so, shower, relax, do some laundry, write a journal, we get to sleep around midnight. We wake around 9, and for some reason, didn't leave breakfast till around noon. So, we peddle past cornfields, bean fields, and cattle farms then, around every 10 miles, a small town. Every town has its big grain elevators and usually a farm implement store is the first business we see. Today’s 60 miles saw very little shoulders. Most of the drivers were polite, but you can tell they aren't used to being slowed down on Route 18. There was a party at a Harley Davidson dealer, which meant we were treated by
hundreds of motorcycles roaring by us all day long. As I said before, they are always friendly, but too darn noisy. We ate lunch in Algona, and then biked to Britt for some ice cream. The sun was fading, so we grabbed the last room in the only hotel in Garner. Nothing else exciting to report. Yes Debbie, if you read carefully above you see that I have learned how to do laundry on this trip, but I am sure I will forget by the time I get home. I will report on all the other Iowa hotspots tomorrow, and perhaps a report on bean and corn prices.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
That Iowa Hospitality Again!
Well, we tried to go to church this morning. I called an E. Free Church and found their service was at 10 am. We put on our nicest (only) shorts and shirts and packed our stuff. I asked the nice girls who were cleaning the other rooms for directions to the church. They sent us to the wrong place. It was 10:15 when we arrived at the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which started at 9:30. Looked like a nice place, but we pressed on looking for another. The other 2 places had also begun at 9:30, so we ended up worshiping over breakfast at Bill's Cafe, part of Bill's Supermarket. As we were leaving town, we passed the church we were looking for. I guess they started without us. Twenty miles down the road, we came to a town called Mason City. We knew it was destiny when the movie theatre was next to the bike shop. I needed to replace my back tire, which was starting to shred its outer layer and Ryan needed his visual stimulation. The next available movie was the Fantastic Four. Decent flick, but I fell asleep during the start of the big action scene towards the end. We got some routing advice at the bike shop, so we were able to avoid the busy roads by heading south then east and stay on the back roads. It was beautiful country. The wind was headed northeast, so when we went south, we crawled at
8 miles an hour. When going east, we flew at 15 mph. We went twenty miles more, and we found a little town with a little pizza parlor that was open on a Sunday night. We were relieved to find the place. We downed mass quantities of lemonade and enjoyed our pizza. Just as we were ready to leave, a gentleman walked in and approached our table (we were the only ones there). He asked where we were headed, announced that he is about to embark on his 29th RAGBRAI, and offered us a place to stay. He noticed our bikes and trailers out front, so he stopped in to offer some of that Iowa hospitality. I made a several predictions to Ryan at the start of the trip. I don't remember them all, but I did say that there would be at least one person/family that would invite us to stay at their house. I knew that would happen after reading many online journals before the trip. We had only completed 40 miles today, and had plenty of sunlight to do another 20. We took a look at the map, and agreed that we can still stay on schedule and finish Iowa with two more days of biking. I didn't wish to miss this opportunity to stay with someone, so we followed him home. He has a nice large ranch home on a quiet street. We showered, did laundry, and now I am sitting at his computer writing this journal. Jim is a 71-year-old retired funeral director, and his wife, a retired schoolteacher in town, is at a UMC Woman's Conference. I feel like I am amongst family.
Today, we completed our 14th day of biking without a break. We would like to continue on and, if we take a break, make it in Chicago in around 5 days. Hopefully, with my wife and daughters right there beside us.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Turns out, the house we stayed in last night was the former home of the mother of the author of "The Bridges of Madison County", which was set in southern Iowa. I even touched her former couch! Also, our pizza waitress last evening was the sister of the shy translator in "Saving Private Ryan", my Ryan's favorite movie. Small world. Our host Jim, a self-proclaimed "old fart", says he likes to get up and on his bike at 6:30 am. Uhhhh, ok. He knocked on our door at 6:15 and we were out the door by seven. Yes, I know my dad doesn't believe me. We rode for 10 miles to a town called Marble Rock where we had a real treat. We have noticed that every small town on our trip has a diner. Inside that diner there is a group of "old-timers" who meet each morning to solve the world's problems. This morning, we were part of this town's power circle. Perhaps the agenda was changed somewhat in our presence. They talked about the weather, farming, and their wives. Perhaps we missed the real important issues. Anyways, it was a real treat to hang out with these guys. The world is in good hands. From there, we hitched a ride on some eastbound tailwind and zipped at 17
mph for 40 more miles up and down the rolling hills under blue skies and milder temperatures. Along the way, we met a couple of ladies from California who have parked their car at the end of RAGBRAI, and were biking to the start. Down the road further, we met their friends, a mother and daughter riding a tandem trike. They were all frustrated with their headwind, and we tried unsuccessfully not to gloat over our tailwind. We finally had to head south, so our speed slowed a bit. We ended our journey in Oelwein, a fairly large town with a pretty struggling downtown business area. So, we had a good 80-mile day, and we are on track to complete Iowa in 6 days. The cool thing is that tomorrow Debbie and two of my girls are coming to join us! It’s been over a month since we have been together, so I know it will be incredible. Ryan doesn't know the plan, so I will have to push him tomorrow so we can cross the Mississippi into Illinois tomorrow afternoon. I can't wait!
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Field of Dreams
I was carrying a secret with me today. Debbie and the girls were on their way to see us, and Ryan had no idea. It was my idea to have them waiting for us as we crossed the Mississippi into Illinois, but as the morning progressed it became clear that we were over 80 miles away from the river, so it would be tough to get Ryan to agree to cross the river today. We found some great back roads and sailed eastward. I was excited to see my girls, so Ryan couldn't keep up! We had a little lunch at the 20-mile mark at a mini-mart, and then pushed off again. I did some taunting at Ryan over lunch as a means to get him to hurry up, and it worked. He zoomed up ahead of me and maintained a fast pace. The town of Dyersville was at the 60-mile mark. It’s a nice town with a huge Catholic basilica (a few notches above a regular church). We went inside and saw the most ornate church you can see this side of New York. As we were entering the town, we saw some cameramen filming us, and then saw them later filming the countryside as we rode out to see the Field of Dreams movie site.
The first thing you notice as you enter the site is that there is two driveways with two signs leading to two separate parking lots. Once there, we learned that the home and most of the field were owned by one family (who still lives there), and another farmer who leased his portion to an out-of-state company owns the left and center field. This results in two different souvenir stands owned by the competing companies. ESPN was setting up an elaborate stage along with several semi-trucks with satellite dishes. Tomorrow, Wednesday, they will be hosting Sportscenter there! I was hoping they were doing a story about us! I had to stall Ryan for a bit. We played some catch, and each batted and pitched. I had him posing for a picture to capture his reaction as he saw the girls. It was a real special reunion at the Field of Dreams. We completed another 20 miles and landed in Dubuque. We found a Super 8, and crammed into a room. It feels good to hear the kids arguing again!
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
I had a feeling it would happen. After nearly 40 days of being apart from my wife and daughters, I had a hunch we would lose some of our motivation to bike once we are together again. We got up, packed, had some hotel complimentary breakfast, and drove back a couple miles to where we left off yesterday. The dark clouds looked threatening, but Debbie assured us that the clouds would pass. Within minutes, she was proven correct. They passed right over our heads soaking us. We took shelter, and then loaded the bikes back in the van. The rain gave us a chance to check out downtown Dubuque. It was a nice town, with an old district of beautiful mansions and parks. We passed three different colleges/universities and got our first glimpse of the mighty Mississippi. The rain subsided, so we got back on the bikes and climbed up and down the steep grades of the city. The trip across the river was thrilling. There is a sidewalk somewhat dangling off to the side of the bridge with only a metal fence protecting us from the river below.
Ryan and I both felt ecstatic as we officially entered the Midwest. The rest of the states will take just a few days each, so it was another monumental moment of the trip. It was more special to have our new support team with us. McKenna took our picture at the "Welcome to Illinois" sign, and we headed to Galena, a town that Debbie had already fallen for on her trip west. Galena was just 14 miles inside Illinois. It was some of the toughest 14 miles we have ridden for quite awhile. There was a slight headwind, the roads were very hilly and in disrepair. The shoulders? Forget about them. Galena is a very historic town; the hometown of U.S. Grant, among a dozen or so other civil war generals. There is a river down the middle of town, and floodgates as you enter downtown. There is a mile-long winding Main Street of nice shops and restaurants. We loaded our bikes into the van, changed clothes, and figured we would get back to biking after doing some exploring. After a couple hours of following the girls through the shops, I finally sat down and did some calculating. We have budgeted three days in Illinois, then three more to Ft. Wayne. I knew we would be pushing it to make it to Chicago with the remaining two days, but it still appears we can make it to Ft. Wayne in the remaining 5 days. We decided to call it quits for the day, despite just 24 miles. There was no turning back once Debbie discovered this great Irish hotel/pub on the outskirts of town. Debbie loves all things Irish, so we checked into a nice suite. Katelyn and I took a little nap while Ryan and McKenna (note the Irish names) went for a swim. When they returned to the room, they found me soaking my aching muscles in the Jacuzzi.
We had a nice pub meal and listened to some Irish music. I am now kicked back in the Irish library overlooking the Illinois countryside. Our pot of gold waiting for us in D.C. is within reach. Today, despite our short miles, we felt like we made a giant leap forward. I will sleep well tonight.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
The land of Lincoln
It was so nice having my wife next to me in our king size bed this morning. When the clock showed 8:30, I simply turned it around so Debbie couldn't see. We made it downstairs for our nice Irish breakfast (scones, yogurt, muffins etc.), and then waited till noon for the light rain to pass. We knew we had a long hard trek ahead of us. The roads were very hilly, and we weren't confident in how the shoulders would be. These factors and the cloudy skies caused a little tension amongst the bikers this morning. We were at the highest point of Illinois (1,200+ feet), and I bet we climbed those 1,200 feet dozens of times. At one point, we were able to climb a wooden tower and see views for miles of the rolling countryside. It was great how quickly we climbed the hills. Prior to this trip, we might have considered this day one of our toughest ever. The afternoon weather was pretty ideal, but the roads were pretty lousy. We received several wrong reports about the conditions of Route 20, but we survived another day of busy roads with disappearing shoulders. We are in Rockford, around 80 miles from Chicago. The last ten miles were through some pretty scary city streets. Debbie had trouble finding a hotel with occupancy, but it forced us to go further than we probably would have. It was 9:30 before we completed the 80
miles. There is no doubt that since Debbie has arrived, we are eating and sleeping in a style that Ryan and I are not accustomed to! Debbie enjoyed visiting the U.S. Grant home this morning in Galena. Grant was so respected as a General, that the house and it furnishings were given to him. Shortly later, he went off to fight in the Civil War. Later, he was in the house when he learned he was elected president. As they later moved out of the house, the home was immediately turned into a museum, so all the furnishings Debbie saw today were the originals. Tomorrow should be interesting, as we have lots of people and traffic between Chicago and us. We don't have much of a plan, but I look forward to biking down Lake Shore Drive with my son! Deep-dish pizza is also high on the to-do list!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Peddling Through the Heartland
It was an odd day of biking. Leaving the bustling city of Rockford, with its busy roads and no shoulders, we found a rural road that took us past some nice Illinois farms. Due to missing a turn, we ended up in Woodstock, Illinois. The town is real nice with a great cobbled town square with a gazebo in the center park. Turns out, this is where the movie “Groundhog Day” was filmed, which was cool since we had all seen the movie countless times. We saw the spot where Ned would approach Bill Murray each morning, where he would step in the puddle (it has a plaque marking the spot) as well as the diner they spent their mornings. Ryan and I had a nice lunch there while the girls saw the new “Willy Wonka” movie (mixed reviews from this family). As we continued east, the towns get closer together and the homes get larger. Our destination was Libertyville and Lambs Farm (www.lambsfarm.org). Lambs Farm is a unique place. It is home to several hundred special need adults who work at its pet shop, bakery, petting zoo, restaurant, and other businesses. I had read a book on their founding, and thought it would be cool to someday do something similar in Cincinnati on a smaller scale, so that my Katelyn could be involved.
Anyway, we ate at their Friday night fish fry, but will be able to see everything else in the morning as they have their big annual craft show. I think the whole family was a bit tired today. Debbie worked so hard trying to entertain the girls and yet help us with our routing. We were glad to have the van tonight, as it was hard to find a hotel in the area. We found a good one, and everyone but me is sleeping soundly. We have yet to see the Sears Tower from a distance, but I suspect we will in the morning. I spent my teen years in a Chicago suburb called Frankfort, so I have been lost in Chicago plenty of times. Most cross-country bikers simply avoid big towns like Chicago, but I consider it just an added element to this great adventure. Debbie isn't thrilled about driving through the city, but I suspect we will have fun. Oh yeah, the nickname for the Rockford High School is The Pretzels! Go Pretzels!
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Winding through the Windy City
We had a leisurely morning at our hotel then drove back to Lambs Farm to begin our trek anew. We simply kept going on the bike trail that took us east through Libertyville yesterday, then hopped on another trail heading south through Lake Forest near Lake Michigan. It was a blast riding on nice bike trails with no trailers behind us! We entered a town as the bike trail ended and begun a trek on the city streets, including a Hispanic town having their weekend festival. After a few miles, we asked a young couple for some help finding the bike trail, told them that we are headed to DC, and they said to follow them! He was a new MBA student at Northwestern, and his girlfriend was an investment banker at Merrill Lynch Capital who enters triathlons. They kept us on the streets winding through some areas of gorgeous homes in Glencoe and other towns. We said goodbye to her, then he took us through Evanston where he gave us a tour of Northwestern, then escorted us to the end of the trail and told us how to hook back onto the Lake Shore trail. They were godsends.
We did as we were told, crossed over Lake Shore Drive, then biked along the lake for 30 miles or so. The path was crowded and meandered by small beaches, marinas, and museums. We had a hot dog on a very crowded Navy Pier, than sat back and looked at the people. Ryan is usually selfconscious about wearing bike clothes in public, but on the Pier, there were so many types of dress, we fit right in. We went by Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Grant Park. It was hard to concentrate on the path with so many attractions to view and so many strange people to gawk at. The time flew by, even though parts of the day were slow going thanks to the crowds. We continued down the trail until it ends and converts to simply a small lane on the road. Debbie and the girls were busy fighting some major traffic to find a parking spot near shopping haven, Michigan Avenue. They found a hotel, and then went to Crate & Barrel, American Girl, and Water Tower Place. Ryan and I weren't sure where we were going to end our ride, nor how we would get back to the hotel. The area was getting a bit shady so we stopped to talk to some female officers at an intersection. I asked how safe the neighborhoods were up ahead, and then asked if they thought cab companies would take our bicycles. Rather than take a chance on getting a cab up ahead, we instead hopped on a bus that was going our direction. There was a bike rack in the front that held two bikes, and the trip back to town cost us just three dollars. We only got in 50 miles, but it was a far easier day than I had hoped for.
As we were on the bus, we saw cops making two different arrests in the first mile. We also saw a guy lying on the sidewalk with blood gushing out his head from an accident. We knew we made the right decision to stop where we did. We got out of the bus on Michigan Avenue, and rode our bikes past some of the nicest shops in the country while dodging cabs. We found our girls with few shopping bags and headed to the hotel. It was once again far nicer than we are used to, but it’s the last night with the girls for a while. We went to Uno's Pizza, and had some great deep-dish pie. The best part of the meal was a visit from Debbie's sister Tammy and her three great kids, who we haven't seen since we left. They live near us in Loveland, but were in town dropping off a friend who came to visit and to visit a friend downtown. They had already eaten, so they walked the town while we ate. After dinner, we came back to the hotel so we could visit further and so I could "beat up" on the kids a bit. McKenna and I went swimming for a few minutes, but the pool closed as soon as we got in! It is such a relief to see how well this day went. It could have been a disaster, but we had the great escorts through town, we had nice weather, good roads/trails, easy bus ride, hotel, dinner, and family. You can't ask for more. Tomorrow, we glide into Indiana and then its smooth sailing to DC!
Sunday, July 24, 2005
It was tough to leave our sweet suite in the city. We dined at the deluxe hotel breakfast, then drove down Lake Shore Drive until the road is renamed South Shore then began our ride where we ended yesterday. The temps were already high as we rode through the 'hood and then down across the Indiana border. The series of bike lanes and bike paths was quite confusing and quickly left us with no support. We simply cautiously rode the busy city streets in an effort to reach Route 30, the road that will take us all the way through Indiana and Ohio and into Pennsylvania. We found a volunteer patrol biker once we found a short bike trail who helped us fix a flat tire for Ryan then escorted us to a trail that took us the final 8 miles to Route 30. We met up with Debbie and the girls in Merriville at a restaurant, then assembled our trailers once again, said a final farewell, and zipped down the road with a slight tailwind. We had an offer to stay with my brother's wife's brother and his wife in Valparaiso, but we thought we would get much further. We made it 10 miles further and, due to darkness, were forced to look for a hotel in a town with no hotel. We considered camping in the city park, but it was still over 80 degrees, and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.
We swallowed some pride, and had Kevin come rescue us in his pickup. Kevin has taught philosophy for 5 years, and his wife will begin teaching creative writing in the fall. I am going to read some of her writing after typing this journal. We are their first overnight houseguests, as they just moved in to their charming bungalow two weeks ago! Today was somewhat mentally exhausting. Biking through the city streets is rather nerve-wracking and very slow. We enjoyed the time spent in Chicago, but we are anxious to crank out longer and faster miles for the next few days. We have just two weeks until we arrive in DC and it still seems so far away, until we stop and think where we were two weeks ago! Debbie is home now, after being so great by staying with us as long as she could today. She was great about keep us full of cold drinks and finding the best routes. I think these next two weeks will fly by until we are together again in DC.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Century to the City
We had a great night sleep in our air conditioned home last night, and we were soon out to breakfast with Allison, our hostess. We got on the road around 9:30 after a light morning rain. The temperatures were reasonably mild, but the air was muggy. Our goal was 95 miles down Route 30 to Ft. Wayne. To Ryan, Ft. Wayne was a town big enough to have a movie theatre, so he was motivated to move quickly. The shoulder was wide, fairly clean, and safe. The winds were pretty non-existent so we sailed pretty fast. The heat built, and the humidity rose. The sweat soaked my jersey and dripped down my brow and stung my eyes. I now have Debbie's iPod, so it helped me get into my zone and peddle hard. We had to make several drink stops, allowing us to hang out in the air conditioning and regain our energy. I was incredibly proud of Ryan today. He was out in front all day pushing hard to complete his first century ride (biker talk for “100 miles”). Ryan had a flat at the 60-mile mark that slowed us down, and then later I had my trailer wheel pop off and roll into a marshy area beside the road thanks to some rumble strips. We arrived into Ft. Wayne as it was getting too dark to ride. We came upon
an area of budget hotels and an assortment of restaurants, but we had a problem. Ryan’s cyclo-computer only showed 99.5 miles and there was no movie theatre in sight. So, we kept riding with the assumption that there will be a motel a half-mile away. We were wrong. We did, however, get to see Downtown Ft. Wayne. The Holiday Inn seems to be a hotspot in town, but we only needed a place to rest our century old bones. We celebrated our accomplishment with some pizza and TV and will sleep good tonight only to get up and do it all over tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Home at Last (sort of)
Yesterday was our longest day mileage-wise, but it certainly wasn't our most exhausting. We didn't get in our room until 9:30 last night and, like always, we were too wired to go to sleep right away. So, this morning, we weren't exactly chomping at the bit to hop on our bikes. There was nothing about Ft. Wayne or points eastward that excited us. We did finally head out into the heat and grey skies. Just five miles down the street, thinking that there won't be a town for many miles, we stopped for lunch! At the 20-mile mark we entered Ohio. It was a monumental point in our trip, and could have been quite emotional, but the raindrops were starting to fall. We snapped a couple quick pictures, then raced ahead to find cover. We had no choice but to get a little wet, and then eventually found an overpass to duck under. Trouble was, the wind was so strong, that we still got hit from the sides. We waited out the rain some, put on our rain jackets (something we haven't needed to do since Montana) and tried to bike with the fierce wind pushing at us from the south. It was quite comical. While we were under the overpass, we saw a few "wide load" trucks carrying
sections of a pre-fab home. Once we started biking, we realized that one of them had blown off the truck and smashed into a pile of rubble. Just a halfmile up the road, with the rain picking up again, we took cover in a weigh station that was sitting across from the accident. The driver was inside trying to reach his boss to inform him of the accident. It was a bit of excitement on a rainy day. We made it to Van Wert with clear skies. We were now in a new time zone and hungry once again. We found a diner that claims to be world famous since 1922 for its chicken. The place was full of grey haired patrons, so I knew we found the right place. I ordered chicken, but when it arrived the waitress said the cook didn't like the "look of the chicken" and recommends the roast beef. The roast beef was ok. Our slow lazy day, made worse by Ryan's dashed hope of finding a movie, meant that we had to settle for just 50 miles ending in a tiny $35 motel in Delphos. Route 30 turns into Interstate 30 east of Van Wert, so we moved onto "Old 30" or "Lincoln Highway". It was a good move, as it is a quiet country road with nice family farms. We will be watching the weather channel closely on these final days. I am certain that only weather or an accident can derail us now!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Across Ohio Bike Adventure
Last evening, as we walked two doors down for ice cream, we saw the lightening striking and the storm approaching. It was a very eerie sight. As we "slept", we were constantly awoken by the raging thunderstorm. Later, we were struggling to sleep because the power went off and the air conditioning stopped. Soon we were too cold from the re-energized air conditioner. It was still raining this morning, so we dressed at went across the street to a diner. The place was packed with bikers! XOBA, the “Across Ohio Bicycle Adventure”, an annual ride of 200 bikers that takes a different route across Ohio each summer just happened to pass through town on their 25th mile. I recognized several of the riders from our annual GOBA trip and we had some good conversations about our trip as well as learning more about our upcoming route. Seeing them riding in the rain inspired us to get started with our day. We put on the rain jackets and put our baseball caps under our helmets for warmth. It looked dorky, but it worked. Old Rt. 30 kept changing its stripes. At times it was a nice country road with little traffic then we would have a two-foot shoulder with trucks zooming by soon changing to a clean and wide ten-foot shoulder. I had a lot of time on the bike trying hard to think of nice things to say about this part of Ohio. With all the great farmland we saw in Iowa, I can't brag about the Ohio farms. I can't tell you about the fantastic weather, since today was the first day we wore our jackets all day since the first day in Oregon. I
guess it has been nice because we saw more Ohio State banners than anywhere else. Anyway, we had lunch at a truck stop and later stopped in a diner for some peanut butter pie (not nearly as good my wife’s). Mostly, we just put our heads down, our Ipods up, and biked. My brother Greg, his wife Karen and two of his kids came upstate to camp with us. They found a nice KOA campground north of our route and they picked us up in Bucyrus after a 75-mile day. The sun came out from behind the clouds right as we finished riding. Karen had a great dinner ready, Blaire made some delicious cookies. Brogan and Ryan made a fire and I tried my first peanut butter s’more. We are making good progress across the state. I THINK we are ahead of schedule, but we will go as far as possible tomorrow just to be safe. The forecast is for mild temps and clear skies. Just what the bikers ordered.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Return of the Hills
Our campground was nice, we slept well, and we soon had my brother whipping up pancakes on the grill. My college roommate Dave and his two son's Eric (15, Ryan's age) and Andy (11) met us at our starting point. They drove three hours this morning just to bike with us for a bit. They drove up the road a few miles and found a safe place to park. They then got to experience the thrill of biking next to a busy road with a two-foot shoulder with constant semis zipping by. We hung a right to find a less busy road, and it worked for a bit. After maybe 5 miles, Andy had some bike problems so he and Dave headed back to their car. Ryan, Eric, and I headed to Mansfield. To get there, we had to do some climbing. We haven't done any serious climbing WITH our trailers behind us since before my dad arrived. We did fine, as did Eric, but it certainly slowed us down. Ryan and I have ridden this area twice before on our summer GOBA ride. It was a thrill to see how much better I am at climbing them than last summer. Of course, with the return of climbing comes the return of the downhill. We hit 30+ mph a few times including a nice ride down into Wooster.
We snagged the Super 8, ordered a pizza, and hung out for the rest of the night. We cannot complain about the weather today; it was pretty ideal. Our 61 miles were a bit disappointing, but we should still enter Pennsylvania tomorrow afternoon. We encountered a lot of friendly folks today who took an interest in our trip. I asked a lady to confirm that we were on the right road to Haysville, just 5 miles ahead. "You are going on your bike to Haysville? Oh my!" She thought it was too far to bike in this heat. Forgive her, for she does not know. So we told her. It was fun to share our adventure with friends and family over these last two days. Something this good deserves to be shared.
Friday, July 29, 2005
The Fab Bikers Arrive in East Liverpool
Today was one of those days that every biker enjoys when it’s over. This day had many ups and downs, and up and downs. It was quite amazing how the Great Land Planner chose to put so many hills in one area. He could have put some of them in Indiana and nobody would have noticed. Ryan never complains about hills; it is where he shines. Today, I handled them well. I just kept wishing I could do some of those earlier Oregon/Washington climbs over again. It was one of those days that, after our 90 miles were over, we came in to the hotel looking all grimy and smelling, as my daughter McKenna would say, "discustable". I had bike grease on my leg, on my hands (from fixing my slipping chain), and on my face (from wiping my sweaty face with my dirty hands). It was a very manly feeling. It got us no discount. We went through a lot of small towns that had a hard time coming up with creative names. We passed through Canton, East Canton, Paris, New Franklin, New Alexander, and ended up in East Liverpool. We passed cornfields, bean fields, cattle and horse farms, llama and alpaca farms, and lots of nice small houses that do a decent job keeping the yards looking nice.
Again, we found route 30 to be a confusing mess. It had a different look to it depending on where you are. Most of the day, we spent riding the white line, with just a couple feet to the right side of the line available if we need to bail out. The cars were pretty patient, but it was still a bit stressful. We never did get any dinner, though we snacked at a grocery store in the afternoon, and had some Dairy Queen around 8pm. Ryan had his usual, Reece’s Cup Blizzard. I recommend the new Banana Cream Blizzard. This month only, while supplies last. I bet you didn't know that it’s officially Blizzard Month at DQ. We have celebrated it big-time. We will cross the Ohio River tomorrow in to PA. From there, we will start the final leg of the trip, riding on the Allegheny Trail, which will lead to the C&O Towpath to DC. My parents and wife and kids are busily making travel plans. You are all invited.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
50 Miles to Nowhere
After yesterday’s grueling day, we spent some time doing absolutely nothing in the hotel for as long as we could, and then ventured towards PA. It was fast sailing 4 miles down to the Ohio River. Once there, we wasted no time making the crossing. We were a bit surprised to see a "Welcome to West Virginia" sign. I didn't even realize they had paved roads. I was part right; they have no paved shoulders. It took us about 90 minutes to cross West Virginia including a 45 minute lunch stop. We climbed the most brutal hills of the trip. We have seen grades this steep anywhere. It was a tough 30 miles until we finally hopped on a bike trail. There are a series of trails and roads that take us to the main trail, which starts on the south side of Pittsburgh. We got on at a town called Imperial. The trail was a lousy, bumpy single-track of crushed gravel for most of the first five miles (my trailer tire fell off at one point), and nicer smooth gravel for the next five. I didn't like the gravel at all. Our tires aren't designed for this stuff, and you can only imagine what part of me took the brunt of the constant vibrations. The trail ended abruptly, and we were to ride on a road for a few miles. The signage was very confusing, and we headed the wrong direction for a bit.
As we were climbing a hill, I shifted to my smaller chain ring, and my chain slipped off completely. This has happened several times over the past few days. This time, however, I didn't unclip out of my pedals in time, and I fell over onto the gravel on the shoulder. I scraped my side, my legs and arm. I used my right hand to break my fall, and now it is throbbing. It was painful to ride afterwards, as my palm is swollen. Ryan was just ahead of me when I fell, and quickly rushed to my side. Rather than help me, he quickly reached in my back pocket for my camera and began taking pictures of me lying in the street. This may sound a bit cruel, but he is only doing as I had taught him. Once we figured out where needed to go, we were told that there would be no hotels or campgrounds once we got there. We opted instead to head south and found a motel after 8 miles. It was a very disappointing day on several levels. I am not happy with our progress, and plan on doing some heavy miles over the next couple days to compensate. Hopefully, I won't have to ride one-handed.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Our 6:30 wake-up call enabled us to roll out of bed at 8:30 and on the road by 10. I felt like I had been drugged; exhausted from the last few days. My hand, to my relief, was feeling better. The challenge today was to get from where we were to where we needed to go. We were in a SW suburb, and we needed to get on the trail in a SE suburb. It sounded easy enough. Rather than climb a huge hill that we went down the evening before, we decided to take a pretty direct route. We got some helpful instructions and took off. We never intended on visiting downtown Pittsburgh, but we never found our connecting road and found ourselves just one hill away from the city. We climbed the hill, then flew down to the river and rode across the bridge beside Heinz Park, home of the Steelers. We rode around the stadium, and stopped to look at the houseboats docked nearby having picnics. We then rode back over the river on another bridge into the city. The city resembles Cincinnati in many ways. We stopped in one park and found ourselves in a crowd shot behind some ESPN2 announcers. I
have no idea what they were talking about, but I know it had nothing to do with our trip. It was bad enough that we went further into the city than we needed to, but the day was a comedy of errors, and we weren’t laughing. We were attempting to meander from one bike trail to another in an effort to get to McKeesport, where the fun really begins. The trails would end abruptly, with no signs helping us. There was a time when we had to walk our bikes and trailers over a large gravel section beside a railroad, just for the pleasure of hopping on a busy highway for 15 miles searching for the next lousy, rough trail. Once we arrived in Little Boston, the trail became a wide crushed gravel trail. The day became fun again, as we were enjoying the company of many other bikers. We didn't really go through any towns, but there were many small parks with services as the trail stayed by the river. We eventually found a bike shop where we bought some tubes, pumped up our tires, and got some good trail advice. We saw a biker arrive with a large macaw on his shoulder. I sent Ryan to take a photo, and instead the man put the large 15-year-old bird on Ryan's shoulder and took a photo of him! We continued down the trail, making good time (finally) and found a free primitive campground and set up our tent. We were the only campers. Ryan didn't waste any time making a fire. He was able to get it started by using some warm embers from the night before. I have spent little time on this trip
worrying about our deadline to DC. I knew that if we averaged around 60 miles per day, we would be OK. I promised my family that we would arrive at my cousin Sarah's house just outside of DC by Wednesday evening. According to reliable sources, we are 260 miles away, with three days of riding ahead of us. I was no math major, but that means we need to do beaucoup miles per day. We have 60 miles of hills ahead of us as well as some rough roads and some construction detours. Nobody promised us an easy ride to DC. Leave the light on for us, Sarah.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Slip Sliding Away
We knew that today was a perfect day to do another century ride. We camped last night, so we would get on the road sooner, we would be on ONE trail all day, and the weather was perfect. Forgive me for admitting this, but I don't really like sleeping in a tent. There is no such thing as a sleeping pad comfortable enough to satisfy me. We were hot and covered with dust when we got in the tent. It was too hot to get in our bags, then became too cold not to. The train roared by every few hours, and I could never find a good sleeping position. Regardless, we woke and got moving pretty fast, and rode 10 miles to breakfast. This was the start of a 60-mile climb up to the highest point of PA. It was very gradual; you would hardly notice it unless you were watching your speed. Climbing on crushed gravel roads on tires with no tread is sort of like running in the sand. You feel like you are slipping a bit with each pedal stroke. Around the 25-mile mark, we entered a nice little town called Ohiopyle. It was a popular resort town for Pittsburgh residents when the trains were active, but now it is a rafting/canoeing town. Several rivers intersect there with nice flat sandstone areas where people
were wading in the chilly waters. Ryan and I got a drink and snack and sat by the river. Eventually we both waded in, trying to balance ourselves on the smooth rocks and fast moving waters. Ryan got daring and tried to move out further and fell in. I'm sure it felt good, but it necessitated a change of clothes. We continued this dusty, rocky, slow climb. The trails are not nearly as crowded on Monday’s as they were the day before, so we would have long stretches before seeing another biker. We crossed over the rivers many times. The trail was mostly treelined and gave us nice shade. It really was a beautiful area, but without the road being paved, we had to keep our eyes on the road too much to enjoy the scenery. In fact, we kept close watch on our trailer tires, as we both had tires popping off due to the rough road. We got passed by one lone biker in the afternoon, and caught up with him a short time later as we were both looking for a place to eat. We ate together in an empty dingy restaurant and learned that he is a student at U. of Findley and he decided to ride from his home in Cleveland to see his quasi-girlfriend in DC. He is moving along way too fast for our paths to cross again. The more we talked to folks on the route today, the more we realized that this wasn't the day to put in the big miles. The climbing we did all day will end soon and we will lose elevation until DC. We decided to find a hotel in a sleepy town of Meyersdale and asked the 3 teens smoking cigarettes on the steps of the Christian Youth Center and they directed us to the only hotel in town. For 40 bucks, we got the dumpiest room of the trip. No phone, no little shampoo, and NO AIR-CONDITIONING! We carried our bikes and
trailers up the metal steps and jammed them in our pint-sized room. The shower felt great. I walked across the street and ordered the pizza that Ryan was craving. I had some too. We still have around 185 miles to cram into 2 days. Remember those prayers that so many have offered? We would appreciate it if you kick them up a notch. I sure will!
Monday, August 01, 2005
How to Know That You Are In the Worlds Worst Hotel Room
There is no office; you enter the downstairs smoke-filled diner and ask the lady behind the counter for a room. They don't take credit cards, just 40 bucks cash, and you get a real key with a hand written receipt. You carry your stuff up steep iron stairs along the edge of the two-story building. The brown paneled room is so small you can barely walk past the beds. The beds are old and saggy, right where you do not need sags. The Gideon’s bible looks like an antique. There are no shampoos, just a couple of tiny soaps and two small towels. The bath mat is made out of paper. There is no air conditioning and it is early August. There is a tiny window, about as small as our TV. You wake up in a total sweat and try to stagger to the sink to drink a gallon of water. No cups. You open the door to get some circulation going, and it intensifies the sounds of the
trucks constantly braking on the hill in front of the hotel. The pillow is harder than your bike seat. You find out too late that there is no toilet paper. Ryan is the first one out of bed.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Trail Angels Among Us
We left the World's Worst Hotel (WWH) and, since (of course) the room didn't have a phone, I found myself sending/receiving email at the nearby gas station pay phone. It was there that we got directions to Cumberland. There was some construction on the trail between the town we were in and Cumberland MD, the ending town for this trail, and the start of the C&O Towpath Trail. We were actually told by several bikers that the construction was done, and they had gone right through. Two others told us yesterday that they were prosecuting folks that do that, and they advised us to take a train or shuttle to Cumberland in lieu of taking the detour. Why? Because the detour has downhill’s too steep to ride safely. Well, we never saw a downhill we didn't like, so we headed out on the rural roads to Cumberland. There was to be "one big mountain climb, then its all downhill".
I wanted to remember our last climb, so I took pictures of at least four nice hills, thinking they were our last. We finally hit a monstrous hill that had me so sweaty, that the downhill nearly blinded me as the sweat poured into my eyes. We were more than a little disappointed with Cumberland. You can tell that it was once a thriving town, but it was in much disrepair. It did, though, have a nice visitors center at the start of the trail and a nice museum explaining its important history. Rather than an abandoned railroad, the C&O is the path that the mules took beside the canal pulling the canal boats up and down the waterway. Why mules? Because they were strong and small enough to fit on the boat when their 6-hour shift ended. We will pass the remains of over 70 locks during our passage, many in great condition. Again, it is a bumpy gravel road, but it was scenic with the canal on our left (more like a pond, as the canal no longer flows) and the Potomac on our right. We were mostly shaded, but it was another gorgeous day. I knew today was a special day, as it is our last day alone together. I got a little choked up thinking about it all day. I wanted to savor the day, but we had some major miles to cover and much that could go wrong. The big problem, once again, was our trailers on the gravel. The quick- release wheels would loosen, and if we didn't catch it in time, would pop off. I was a bit paranoid that one would fly into the mossy green canal, leaving us helpless. I got a flat tire at one point. We got a new tube put in, but we had trouble pumping it up. As we were working on it, another biker pulled up to chat.
He was the first biker we saw since Cumberland. He departed, and his riding partner showed up a bit later. By this time, we were convinced that something was wrong with our pump and we asked Rider Number 2 if he had one we could use. He explained that it was Number 1 that had the pump and he moved on. Not long later, Biker Number 1 showed up with his pump in hand! It was impressive that he made the effort to help us, and as it turns out, it was much needed. We got the tire inflated and peddled on. The next adventure was the famous Paw Paw Tunnel. This is a mile long tunnel designed for the canal boats that had an interesting history of construction delays and labor strikes. It was supposed to take 2 years to build, but took 12. It was quite freaky to walk through, with its uneven floor, dripping water, and the canal down below us. The length of the tunnel is quite deceiving. We used our flashlights to see, and used the entrance and exit lights at either end as our guide for how close we were through. It took 20 minutes. Once through he tunnel, we were able to make good time with the remaining sunlight. We knew that there was three hiker/biker campsites spaced five miles apart. Beyond that, there was a "drive-in" campground that we were told had a General Store. This was our only hope for food, so it was our motivation to move fast. At each campsite, we checked the daylight, and kept going. When we reached the last one, we got out our flashlights and rode the last 5 miles to Orleans, the site with the store. We hurried off the bikes and asked someone where the store was, and quickly walked the 100 yards. We saw the store, and got excited to see lights on. We climbed the steps and walked into air-conditioned paradise. It was a log cabin with groceries, video games, tables and chairs, and a few people sitting at the bar.
The few customers and the host/hostess peppered us with questions. We asked if the kitchen was still open, and she offered to open it for us. She made me some chicken and Ryan some shrimp, and we were both so ecstatic and relieved that our extra hard miles paid off. The old man who owned the place shared stories of the area while we sat at the bar and feasted. He bought the place in the 60's as it was abandoned and he always enjoyed the area. There was a man and his 10 year old son also sitting at the bar having drinks. He said they were camping down the street a mile away in a private campground. We asked if there were showers and laundry, and he confirmed there were. We considered switching campgrounds, and when he offered to carry our stuff in his pickup, the decision was easy. He is a contractor from Baltimore and we learned that he is a single dad raising his 10-year-old son. They had matching long black mullets. They even offered to let us sleep in their air-conditioned pop-up trailer. So, we loaded our bikes and trailers in Ray's (the Dad) old red pickup. Ryan rode in the back, Ray and Ray (the son) and I sat in front. When we arrived at the campground, we realized that we are the only ones there. There were other trailers, but they are parked there permanently. We set up our tent behind their trailer. They had everything you could ever want; spotlights, food, drinks, television, you name it. As we set up our tent, Ray (the dad) shined a couple big lights on us. He then pulls out a 3 ft. high industrial fan and directs it to our tent. Ryan and both went to sleep thinking how great this day turned out for us, from the flat tire to the biking in the dark, the search for food, etc. It was an adventure of a day. We never would have chosen our final full day alone together to be this way, but it seemed like an appropriate way to end this thing.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Ray (the dad) had a big breakfast cooking on the gas grill, as we were packing up. Fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, and eggs with crab in them! He didn't tell us that he was doing this, but he announces that its all for us and Ray (the son). Ray (the dad) doesn't even eat breakfast. We show our gratitude by feasting on the great food and sipping OJ and milk. Ray (the dad) has had a hard life. He shared far more than we needed to know about him, but we couldn't help but be struck by his generosity towards us. As much as we were a little apprehensive sharing this secluded campsite with this stranger, I suppose he may have had the same thoughts. We had another problem. My tire was flat again and we still can't get the pump to work well. A tire pump was the one thing that Ray didn’t have with them. We decided to have Ray (the dad) drive us back to the trail, and wait for another biker to come along with a pump. We were on mile marker 140 or so, and wanted to get to Cousin Sarah's house at mile marker 35 today! We knew we couldn't wait long. Sure enough, after 20 minutes, our trail angels arrived. It was a family who was pulling a trailer
full of bikes. The dad gets out of the truck coming to ask us some questions about the trail. It wasn't long before the tire was pumped and we were on our way. I still had a broken spoke, so the more I rode, the wobblier my tire got. It needed to last around 15 miles until we arrive at the bike shop in Hancock. We did get to ride on a paved trail that paralleled the C&O for around 17 miles, which gave me an opportunity to ride with the father and his 15-year-old daughter on their tandem. The wife and younger daughter rode with Ryan on their own tandem up ahead. They had ridden the Transamerica Trail last year across the country, so it was great to share similar stories from the adventure. It was a relief to see that the kids were still willing to get on the bike and still seem to like their parents after such a long bike trip! It was a struggle to bike with a bent wheel, with each stroke rubbing against the brake, but we made it. It was clear that after 3 broken spokes and over 3100 miles, that the wheel was shot and so I selected a new one. We were delayed probably 90 minutes, but I was relieved to have a new "back end". One mile down the trail, the new tire goes flat.
I took off the wheel, and Ryan zips it back to the shop. I pull out my sleeping pad, and kick back and start typing in my journal for a few minutes until a nice couple and their 9 year-old son stop to talk and tell me about their adventure riding from DC the past couple days. Meanwhile, my girls plus my parents are driving from Ohio to meet us at Cousin Sarah’s and we are way behind schedule. Constant stopping to adjust our trailer wheels plagued the next set of miles. We did continue to pass locks, dams, and aqueducts. We saw many deer on the trail as well as ducks, turtles, and frogs. Still, very few bikers. My family ended up meeting us at mile marker 100, waiting on the bridge by a former lock. As I would have guessed, my youngest, McKenna, was waiting first and came running to greet us. I stopped to give her a hug and kiss, and she stopped cold. Perhaps it was my scraggly "beard"; maybe it was my soaking wet sweaty jersey that hasn’t been washed in about 200 miles. Anyway, she was content with a simple high five. It was cool to see my mom and my oldest, Kylie, whom we haven't seen since the start of the trip. Debbie made some nice t-shirts commemorating the trip, which I got to preview!
Ryan and I happily said good-bye to the trailers as we loaded them in the car. This enabled us to move along faster, hoping to make it to marker 65, Harpers Ferry. Well, we made it to 72, giving us around 70 miles for the day. I assure you, 70 miles on the gravel trail is like 100 on pavement. The constant rattling on your body and the stress of watching the path for rocks, sticks, potholes, etc. tends to wear on you! So, tomorrow is Thursday. We have just over 72 miles to go on our journey. The plan is, as we are going to bed, is to bike half of it tomorrow and the rest into DC on Fri.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I slept well in Cousin Sarah's house and woke around 8:30 without any agenda for the day. We could have simply driven to DC and be tourists, but Ryan was determined to bike today so we can claim that we have taken no days off since our time at Mt. Rushmore. We chose to bike half the distance today, getting us near Leesburg by Cousin Sarah's. My dad drove us back to trail marker 72.8, but first we made a quick spin through the Antietam Battlefield. Ryan had been there before with his school class, so he served as tour guide. Once we arrived to our riding site, we saw two bikers that we immediately recognized as the guys who rescued us with their bike pump 2 days before. One of them was a vegan (the opposite of me) and has had trouble finding enough food
on the trail. My dad offered to drive him to a store. I was thrilled to be able to help him, as he was so generous to us. It was another gorgeous day as we headed down the gravel trail once again. Ryan was talking about riding fast, but was dragging once on the bike. For some reason he claimed that he was tired! To help him regain some energy, we stopped in a town called Brunswick for some food. We ordered their specialty Grilled Cheeseburgers and sat back and enjoyed our last meal together. When I reminded Ryan of the significance of the meal, he said "Don't worry Dad, you will be alive for another 40 years or so, we will have lunch again someday." We passed some beautiful scenery. There were many more locks to see, some nice views of the Potomac, and some charming towns. We saw some hikers, horseback riders, kayakers, rafters, and some lazy folks coasting down the river in inner tubes. This sounded good to Ryan. Ryan even ran over a long black snake thinking it was rubber! We made it to White's Ferry, a ferry that crosses into Leesburg. For the first time ever, we had to wait for my dad to arrive. He had some trouble navigating the maze of roads in the area. We dined on pizza at Cousin Sarah's and were entertained by Cousin-Son Avery. He is a cute 18-month old who was fascinated by my Pocketmail device. I didn't get a vote, by the majority declared that Ryan and I should ride the remaining miles to DC beginning at 6:30am so we can be done early and enjoy the sites in the city. It is a bit ironic that our last day should be the only day that we start so early. I am sure tomorrow will be quite emotional for me. I suspect I will be reviewing this incredible journey in my mind as we ride. Ryan will enjoy tomorrow, but he is definitely ready to get home and "be lazy". I will let him, until Monday when football begins. I, on the other hand, will find tomorrow bittersweet. I have totally enjoyed this lifestyle that we have had for two months. It will be a strange transition back to life. I am not sure how, but time will certainly show that this trip has changed me in some (hopefully better) way. Tomorrow, I will be trying to remember all the life lessons that I had meant to share with Ryan on the trip. I still haven't told him all I know about women. There should be plenty of time for that.
Friday, August 05, 2005
The End of the Road
Let the record show that I really did set my alarm for 6am. I woke up from my slumber at Cousin Sarah's and packed Ryan and my stuff and headed over to the Best Western where Ryan and everyone else were sleeping. When I got there at 6:45, that’s exactly what everyone was doing. The hotel provides a nice hot breakfast, so Debbie, my folks and Ryan indulged in some greasy protein and a few carbs and we were soon on our way. My dad drove us back to the ferry where we ended our ride yesterday, but instead of staying on the Maryland side of the river, we stayed in VA and rode back to Leesburg then hopped on a PAVED trail that heads to DC called the W&OD (Western and Old Dominion Railroad route). It was a nice ride, full of small ups and downs and increasingly busy towns. Our moods were up, as we knew this was going to be a day that would live in our minds forever. I noticed right away that my rear brake was rubbing against my wheel, my new wheel. It was so irritating that I eventually just unhooked my back brakes and used only my front. My tires felt low too, so we jumped at the chance to visit a bike shop near the trail at
around the halfway point. It was crazy, but we were actually getting some repairs on our bikes with just 25 miles to go! The mechanic took off my wheel and put it in the truing stand and remarked that the tire was totally messed up. He was surprised that I made it this far. Either the guy I bought it from 3 days earlier built the wheel wrong, or it simply lost its tension on the miles I have ridden on it so far. Regardless, he had it repaired in no time. He then pumped up Ryan's tires, and as he was doing mine, we heard an explosion. Ryan's front tire blew! Turns out he had a small hole on the sidewall of the tire, and as it got pumped up a bit of it pinched through the hole and popped it. A new tire for Ryan, and we were out the door anxious to put this thing to rest. We rode this trail closer and closer to the city. Ryan and I had some silly chats. For a while, I was an ESPN anchorman interviewing him. It didn't take long to get to mile marker 4 where we cut over to another trail that took us into Arlington VA. We met a biker who is a government economist to the Pentagon who showed us how to get right to the Lincoln Memorial where our family was waiting. It was a thrilling sight to catch our first glimpse of the Washington Monument. We were told to go a bit further and take the Memorial Bridge over the river to the Lincoln Memorial, but somehow we must have taken the wrong path and ended up at the Kennedy Center!
We corrected ourselves, came over a different bridge, and approached Mr. Lincoln from behind. We upset a couple drivers for the last time, and made a turn into the park where all the famous monuments are found. We look straight ahead, on a blocked off street right in front of Lincoln and see a throng of light green shirts holding a huge banner that said "CONGRATULATIONS". I snapped a quick picture and sped up to ride right through the banner. It was sweet. As we talked about this moment for weeks, Ryan had said that he was going to “beat me to DC”. I had convinced him that it would be best to ride to the finish side by side to honor this great moment. I had him fooled, as I sped ahead and raced through the banner. It was cool, because there were lots of people watching the spectacle, many of whom were applauding and some were even taking our photos. There were a large group of Boy Scouts and people from many countries.
Most importantly, there were my 3 daughters, my beautiful wife, my awesome parents as well as my Cousin Sarah with her husband Andy (who took the day off work!) and their perfect child Avery. Also, my cousin Deron and his new bride Rosie were there busily snapping photos. We posed for pictures at the Lincoln Memorial, then moved down to the famous reflecting pool and dipped our front wheels in to signify the end of our journey. Debbie pulled everyone together for a prayer to thank the Lord for so many blessings. We took some group shots on the steps, but I had two daughters who had been in the heat for too long as it was. It took awhile for Andy, Debbie and my dad to go get the cars, but it gave Ryan and I a chance to see Lincoln up close (Ryan thought he would be bigger, I just thought it was so cool to see it in person) then we walked over to the Viet Nam wall. At first, the Viet Nam wall didn't impact me, until we walked further and the wall got higher and you are hit with the sheer numbers of names on that wall and it really makes you understand the sacrifice this country made over there.
Once in the cars, we rode over to Georgetown, a very cool part of town full of old restored buildings and every store imaginable. We went to Sarah and Andy's favorite Mexican place, and it was just what we all needed. You could see everyone feeling better getting out of the heat and fully replenished. I toasted Ryan as "the world's greatest 15 year old" and he toasted me as "the world's best dad". It was a proud moment. From there, we drove just a short distance to see the National Cathedral. It is an amazing place, where we all saw President Reagan's funeral a short time ago. There are numerous chapels and rooms to visit as well as an observation point on top. It was here that we said goodbye to Deron and Rosie as my folks drove them back to their hotel, and my green-shirted family headed to the White House to take a stab at getting a photo worthy of our 2005 Christmas Card. It was a mess trying to drive in this town, and an equal challenge finding a parking garage at 6pm because they all seemed to close at 7. We finally found one that closed at 9pm, but the attendant said in no uncertain terms "If you are not back by 9, you will not get your car until Monday!" That was proper incentive. We had a fun time looking at the White House. We all gasped in unison as we
first drove past it. It was amazing to finally see this famous home. We took a whole lot of photos, and then walked around to the back, then eventually back to the car, as Katelyn could walk no more. The intense heat seemed to affect all the non-cross-country bikers in my family. We resorted to simply driving around with Kylie as our navigator. We drove by the Capital (much bigger than I envisioned), saw the new WWII Memorial, Ford's Theatre, and many many other notable buildings. It is clearly an amazing town. It was also unique in that there are no high buildings; they are all basically the same size. In fact, when we went to the top of the Cathedral and looked over the city we were at the town’s highest point, and it was only on the 7th (very high ceilings) floor. We headed back to the hotel in Leesburg and got a little lost. I really can't take the blame, as I haven’t driven too much lately. Our quest for Ice Cream was realized and I soon had them all snug at the hotel. I am on the hotel's computer nearly falling asleep. I am headed back to my room at Cousin Sarah's. It was a busy, exciting day. It doesn't seem like the adventure is quite over. I doubt it will until we get home. Tomorrow, for the first time in a long long time, we will not bike. I hope my muscles don't shrivel. I will share a lot more of my thoughts in the coming few days. Thanks for joining us in this experience. It truly did make a difference.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Declaring not to bike
Today was the first day we haven't biked in many many days. I can't say that I really missed it. Instead, we drove back into DC and saw the sights. First stop was the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial. We were all surprised by the sheer size of the statue (the one with the marines raising the American flag). We also managed to visit just as a group of retired marines were having a reunion, and were paying tribute to their fallen brothers. There was a flag presented to a widow, a wreath placed under the statue and a color guard that shot their guns in unison. It was quite moving. We then loaded the family trekster and went to the National Archives. We didn't stay long, but visited the Rotunda where they display the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. It was incredible to see these fading manuscripts that have changed the world. From there we walked a few blocks and entered the Smithsonian's American History Museum. It displayed the rise of science, technology, and popular culture in the US. Debbie loved the section on the First Ladies, I was content seeing Seinfeld's puffy shirt.
We headed over to see Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was shot. The place was in shambles then restored to its original appearance in the 60's. In the basement there were some amazing artifacts from the event including the gun that was used, a pillow with Lincoln's blood on it, and the coat that Lincoln was wearing. There were many details that I didn't know. You can quiz me on it when I return. We drove around some more. We all noticed the police patrolling every corner, especially near the Capital. The red van and it's tired occupants drove out of town with a mission to drive as far as possible without the driver getting too tired. If there was one thing I have become good at over the past two months is spotting a good restaurant and a hotel bargain. I did both, and the family was pleased. Tonight, we sleep away from our own beds for the last time. I suspect that I will drive slowly tomorrow, as I do not wish for the adventure to end.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Home at Last
Like waking up from a long dream, it was quite surreal to drive down our street again after nearly 2 months. Debbie's sister Tammy and her kids made lots of signs and gathered some friends and family on either side of the driveway and they were all clapping when we arrived. It was so fun. The house looked great; Debbie did a great job with the flowers and the mulching. Inside was full of surprises. There was a new living room couch and decorations, new table out in back, and a new bed in the bedroom. The real surprises were downstairs. She painted it nice, hung pictures up, and filled an empty hole we had with a new big screen TV! She used a bicycle theme in the pictures and wall hangings, and even painted a giant mural on the wall with our cross-country bike route on it! I was so very overwhelmed. I have a great wife. I am glad I didn't leave for 3 months! So, dear friends, this is the last journal entry. The trip is over. It is time again to be a father to 4, a husband to one, a master to 3 (dogs). It's time to be an Investment Advisor again, and the guy who takes out the trash and drives my kids to stuff. It was a wonderful dream that Ryan and I shared. It will be fun to see what happens next. I will do my best to summarize my final thoughts on the trip some day in the next week or so. Look for more photos within a week as well. Thanks so much for all your kind words in the guestbook and emails. I really appreciate the tremendous support.
3,500 miles later, father, son home safely
By Lindsay Braud Staff Reporter Used with Permission, Community Press
LOVELAND - Nearly two months and 3,500 miles ago Doug, 41, and
Ryan,15, Orcutt set out on a cross country adventure with nothing but their bikes, trailers and a few necessities. Now after being gone so long it feels weird, but nice, to be home, Doug said. The father-son duo from Loveland decided a while ago to ride their bikes across the United States. They started in Oregon, where their bikes took a dip in the Pacific Ocean. They biked their way over mountains and plains, through small towns and big cities ending in Washington D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial. "I feel very fortunate to have spent that much time with my son," Doug said. "Anybody can do what we did. Your body adjusts pretty easy. It's not so much a physical challenge as it is mental." Even though the two were close before, this trip has brought this father and son team even closer. "I can trust him more knowing he can do his best. He never tricked me into riding further. He always did what was best for me," Ryan said. On the two-month bike ride Doug and Ryan met hospitable strangers, ate at small town diners and camped out in state parks. On average they biked around 60 miles per day. "I didn't realize how beautiful Oregon and Washington are, or how welcoming the country really is," Doug said.
This trip meant a lot of firsts for Ryan. He saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time along with several other famous landmarks. "I liked Yellowstone and seeing the buffalos there," Ryan said. "I also liked riding through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive." The toughest part of the trip for Ryan was South Dakota. It was hot, flat and windy. That was the only time on the trip he wanted to give up. "My advice is never give up, persevere. Some days were tougher than others, but we had a motto: 'Everyday is an adventure,'" Doug said. On this trip Ryan said he learned to appreciate the small things. "You don't always get to see the small towns," he said. In one small town pizza place a stranger offered them a place to sleep for the night. The trip was everything Doug and Ryan expected it to be. The only thing Doug would have changed is the roads. If the two had biked on more country roads they could have ridden side-by-side more. If Ryan takes another cross-country bike trip it will be years from now and he'll stop to see Notre Dame and Cleveland. In 3,500 miles they only got off track twice. Despite the minor setbacks they still made it to Washington, D.C., in time to meet the family dressed in bright green Doug and Ryan shirts. The family was able to monitor their progress on an online journal at www.dougandryan.com. Doug said it was really neat because hundreds people who were just in the area started clapping when they made it in. He felt like a celebrity, even if it was just for one moment. Now that the adventure is over it's time to get back to the daily grind. Doug said it's time to live his life again. He's already back to work at his business, Orcutt Financial Services in Milford. Ryan, who will start his sophomore year at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
this year, is back to training for the next football season. Doug said he knows he'll be driven by something else, but next time it will include his wife and daughters.
Friday, August 12, 2005
First and foremost, I want to thank the Good Lord for all His many blessings. He truly answered all our prayers for good health, safety, protection of my family back home, and a special time for Ryan and I. He sent us many wonderful people along the way and taught us many lessons on perseverance, patience, and goal setting. Thank you! Thank you to my father (earthly) for all the time he spent with us in Montana and Wyoming as well as Maryland and Virginia. He demonstrated patience in our slow travels and allowed us to see more of the areas by hopping in his van. He saved us from biking through the rain and heavy winds and enabled us to ride further some days and cut others short. Thanks Pop! Thanks to my mom for basically getting everyone she knows to pray for us including... Nancy Roberts, who mobilized her many friends at EUMC to pray for us and send us kind notes of support. Thank you to the entire staff and congregation for their amazing support. To my daughter Kylie, who helped out at the office making sure that I didn't miss any calls or important mail, thank you! To my brother Greg and the ladies at the office who helped deal with some of my clients who needed assistance in my absence. Thank you to my clients who showed great understanding and patience while I was gone. If you notice, the markets have gone up during the trip! To my sister-in-law Karen, who made sure that I had places to stay with her friends and family. Thanks for joining us enroute and sharing a couple of good meals and s’mores.
To Jerry and Lavon for opening up their home late at night and helped us with Iowa routing. Ryan and I both agreed that Hull is a nice town and your kids are living a great life. To Jim in Iowa for making the effort to personally invite us to stay with him, washing our clothes, giving us batteries, computer time, and escorting us in the morning to the next town for breakfast. Thanks to Kevin and Allison for picking us up, giving us great hospitality and conversation, and driving us back to our starting spot, all with little advanced notice. To my "brain trust" of experienced cyclists that I met online during my preparations. They all shared advice, routing, and encouragement before and during the ride. Thank you Bobbi, Phil, Jon, Spaz, and especially, Charlie for your inspiration and routing assistance. Thanks to Tim for arranging the GPS device, tipping off Paul at the Enquirer and for the countless hours spent working on our website. Thanks also to Walt at Miami Township for the valuable assistance. Thanks to Don in Rapid City for serving as taxi and tour guide at and around Mount Rushmore. Thanks to my former roomie Dave and his boys for such an amazing gesture by driving for many hours just to experience our biker life for a few hours. It was a blast! Thanks to the good folks at the Loveland Herald for writing about our trip and printing weekly updates! Thanks to the many supporters who took the time to read our journals and write in our guestbook! Your words were quite inspiring to us. Thanks to my in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles who sent me tons of encouraging messages. I have such a great family. Thanks to Deron and Rosie
for "just happening" to be in DC at the time of our arrival. Thanks to Tammy, Bailey, Olivia, and David for organizing such a nice welcome home party! Thanks go out to Cousin Sarah and Andy and Avery for being such great hosts in DC! It could hardly have gone any smoother. To the many "trail angels" who seemed to magically appear whenever we needed bike maintenance, a meal, a place to stay, or some good routing advice. Thank you!! Thanks to Katelyn and McKenna for doing without a dad and brother for a couple months. Thanks for being such big helpers when you joined us in Iowa and Illinois! A special thank you to the world's best wife, Debbie. You showed nothing but love and encouragement before and during our adventure. You were such an amazing help when you joined us, and we are in awe of all you accomplished back home while we were gone. I love you so much! La stly, I t ha n k my fa vorite son Rya n. Yo u we re in cre dible eac h an d e ve ry day. I w as i n awe of y ou r p hy sic al a bilit ies, but mos t imp ress ed by yo ur atti tud e. It w as a bl ast han gin g o ut w it h yo u 2 4/7 a n d k now t hat you will ta ke f rom t he ex pe rie nce an d li ve life l ik e "ea c h day is an ad ven tu re ".
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Doug's Final Comments
It has been 3 weeks since our return to "real life", and the adjustment period is about over. The whole experience still feels like a dream rather than reality, and for the first week, I felt like I was waking up after a long sleep. A handful of football and soccer games and practices and early morning commutes to school quickly woke us up from our haze and shocked us back to life as we once knew it. The trip was an incredible experience that will be forever talked about, dreamt of and romanticized. I am sure the stories will grow larger as I someday tell them to my grandchildren. Just as I struggled to put into words the reason for embarking on the trip in the first place, I delayed in writing this final journal entry because I felt it difficult to summarize a trip of this magnitude. But, alas, I will try. Final Stats: We were gone for all or part of 59 days, and on the road for 56 days. We took three rest days. The first was in Clarkston WA, on the Idaho border on Father's Day after 8 days of biking. The second rest day was after another 8 days when we rode with my father through Yellowstone. Our final rest day was in Rapid City SD when we got a lift from a friend to tour Mt. Rushmore on July 7th. We found it amazing that we made it to DC without feeling the need to take any more rest stops. Our total mileage was just over 3,400 miles. With 53 days of biking, we averaged over 64 miles per day. We don't have exact mileage, as both of us had our cyclo-computers break at some point. Our highest daily mileage was 105 miles into Ft. Wayne IN and the shortest day was when we decided to stop in
Galena IL and enjoy the nice town with my family after 24 (very hilly and hot) miles. The hardest day for me was the long climb over the Bighorn Mountains of WY. For Ryan, it was most certainly the 2 rough afternoons we had in SD battling the intense 110-degree heat and winds. Both of us agree that biking and camping in Yellowstone with the buffalo and the elk was the highlight of the trip. Ryan also loved biking though Chicago and we both simply loved seeing the geography change each day around us. Physically: I was real honest on the web page, listing the reasons that we may not make it all the way across the country. Basically, I had no idea how strong my legs, knees, back and shoulders really were. I knew I could make it on a weeklong ride, I have done that four times, but I didn't know how I would feel beyond a week. I was relieved that, after 2-3 weeks, I knew that my body would hold out. I battled saddle sores and "sit-bone" pain at the start, but Udder Butter took care of the sores, and the "sit-bone" eventually got used to being in the saddle all day. My knees only gave me some minor aches during some windy days in SD and the last week biking in the gravel following the hills around Pittsburgh. My back, another unknown, held up fine. Ryan never once experienced any physical problems except for the typical stiffness in the legs. Once home, I realized I lost around 15 pounds and continued to lose another 5 during the first week back. Ryan lost 10 pounds and no doubt lost some of the upper body strength that he gained in the weight room in the spring. Nevertheless, he is doing well in football and certainly has more stamina and speed. The Route: For those reading my journal in preparation of a trip of their own (as I did for several years!), I have very few changes that I would make on the route that we took.
My objectives were to go west to east, visit Yellowstone, and get to DC on the shortest route possible. We had a deadline to return, so we opted not to take the well-traveled Transamerica Route that most cross-country bikers choose. The first 1000 miles of our route using the Lewis and Clark Trail to Lolo MT then the Transamerica Trail down to Yellowstone was incredible. We saw a huge variety of landscapes and constant opportunities for photos. The route across northern WY is one that I was nervous about, as I have read of very few cyclists who venture across this part of the state. It was easily the most beautiful state we crossed. There were two major mountain passes, one when exiting Yellowstone and another across the Bighorns, but they were well worth the struggle. South Dakota was rough, but what was the alternative? North Dakota? Kansas? We stayed on I-90 all the way across the state. It was a safe route with lots of services, but we didn't get to see much of rural SD life as a result. Iowa and Illinois had their redundancy, but we never got bored in the plain states. We met a lot of good people in this section and appreciated their slower paced lifestyle. Our big routing regret was that we were not able to ride across northern IN and OH as we had planned. We would have seen more of Lake Michigan, visited Notre Dame, rode through IN Amish country, seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other sights in Cleveland, and stayed with two different Aunts. We felt the need to cut out some miles to meet our deadline, so this part had to go. If we had more time, I know this section would have been much more enjoyable. Most people assume that the roughest hills are the Rockies out west, but I knew that the steep grades of the Appalachian and Ozarks are far worse. We experienced it first hand once we entered eastern OH and into WV and PA. We handled them well, thanks to 3000 miles or so of practice. It seemed logical to me and those I asked to take the Allegheny Trail and the C&O Towpath from Pittsburgh to DC, so I never looked into alternatives. We would be avoiding many hills, see a lot of history, and have plenty of camping
options. Well, that's all true, but the trails were also crushed gravel. The trail was brutal on our tires and wrecked havoc on our trailers. We made slow time through this section, just as we were rushing to get to DC to be with the family. If I had done my homework however, we still may have chosen the same route, as the times we did venture off the trail we had some major climbing to do! There appears to be some truth to the often-debated discussion about prevailing winds. There were very few days that we had rough headwinds. We went the first 900 miles without any wind problems! We had incredible weather, with rain never really hampering our efforts. We got wet only a couple times. Temperatures were very mild most days. Emotionally: My other worry going into the trip was if we could handle the daily demands of riding each day. Could I handle being away from my family and office? How would I handle hanging out with a 15 year old 24/7 for two months? Even more out of my control, how would my son handle this lifestyle? If you read the journal, you will see that these worries were also unfounded. Sure I missed my family, but we both quickly learned to appreciate this very odd lifestyle. Yes, we were physically exhausted at the end of every day, and a bit drained on many mornings, but we had a blast together. I had a father write me once that, when exercising every day, you get filled with endorphins that put you in a good mood. I wish I could bottle those things. Spiritually: It’s impossible not to experience what we did and not grow in your faith in God. There were too many things that went well not to appreciate the blessings that He gave us. Too many kind people along the way. Too many amazing coincidences. Too many trail angels who were there to help us. He laid out an amazing landscape for us to enjoy. He knows a thing or two about variety, coloring, and climates. I think that everyone needs to get away from "life" as they know it. Change not
just a few things, but change everything for even a short period of time. Once out of your comfort zone, you can then gain a new perspective on life and focus on your relationship with our Creator. It was time well spent. The Father/Son Bond: Ryan and I have always been the sole guys in the midst of 4 women, so we naturally had a close relationship even before we left. It was still pretty incredible that we were able to spend 24/7 for such a long period of time and end up remaining friends. He got to see me deal with stress, strains, and a bad case of saddle sores. He got to see me prepare for and accomplish a goal. We got to have many chats about every topic imaginable and he certainly knows where I stand on the issues. He will be dealing with some major decisions as he completes these last few years of high school. I feel that the timing was perfect for this trip. I have great confidence that he will choose his course in life wisely and know that he can confide in me as he does. Life in General: I made it clear from the start that I wasn't looking to discover myself on this trip, nor was I looking to change my life to any degree. I did, however, want to add an element of adventure and challenge myself (and Ryan) to something that seemed pretty daunting. I knew that it would have an effect on me, I just didn't know how. We quickly started using the phrase "every day an adventure", because each day found us doing something new, meeting someone interesting, or pushing ourselves to a new level. Each morning we would speculate what adventure the day would bring and we were almost always wrong. My hope is that we would keep this attitude for the rest of our lives. Adventure doesn't have to end once the bikes are in the garage. If we get up each morning expecting the day to be filled with challenges, new faces, and excitement, I suspect it will happen. If you knew that you had to write a journal entry to tell the world about your day, the odds increase dramatically.
The Journal: Perhaps the best decision I made was to create the web site and journal. I knew my parents and close friends and family would want to get daily updates and I knew I wouldn't always have cell coverage, so it seemed like the logical thing to do. I enjoyed learning about how to create a web site, and I did it all for no cost (except the domain registry). I had hoped Ryan would also like to journal, but he didn’t. We were on vacation, so I wasn’t going to push too hard. I wanted to keep a good account of the trip as a keepsake for us and for future generations. The result, however, is that many hundreds of people have read at least a few pages of it, and many folks have written to tell me that they became a part of their daily ritual. It was extremely encouraging to know that others were "riding along" with us enjoying the sights as I described them while typing with my thumbs on my hotel bed or tent floor. My Career: I have an investment advisory/financial planning business that I work in conjunction with my father and brother’s tax and accounting practices. Taking two months away from the office was a challenge, but I took many steps to make the impact minimal. For the past several years, my business has become more and more web-based. I am at the point now where I can access all client accounts and records online from anywhere with a computer an Internet connection. With email, voicemail, a cell phone and my Pocketmail device I was able to respond to clients needs almost as quickly as I could back home. After returning, I know that I will be much more encouraging to my clients to consider and pursue some of their long desired goals and dreams. I learned that life is short. At your funeral, there will be no mention of your investment portfolio, but they will discuss what you did with your blessings. What's Next? I have no idea. I only know that there are many places in this world and many crazy dreams floating around this head of mine and I don't know which of them I will pursue next. This bike trip idea has been on the forefront for several years, so I am anxious to see which dream/goal/adventure will move into its place.
It is a pretty safe bet that the next adventure will involve my wife and daughters. It will probably not involve a tent. The Challenge: We received numerous emails, many from people we didn't know, saying that our adventure had somehow inspired them. Perhaps they were inspired to pursue their dreams, perhaps it was to spend more time with their family, or perhaps they were inspired to get out their bikes. Many people have “crazy” dreams in their head but never pursue them for a myriad of reasons: lack of money, time, family commitments. We had all three, but once we committed ourselves to achieving the goal, we found that the obstacles moved out of the way in miraculous fashion! Don’t allow yourself to become trapped by seemingly impossible obstacles to obtain your goals. Take the first step forward today, and watch your steps turn into an amazing run! What are you waiting for?
Let every day be an adventure.