Coast to Coast for the FFB: THE ONLINE JOURNAL

Welcome to our online journal brought to you by PocketMail!

Check back here daily to read about our progress in our cross-country bicycle tour to benefit the FFB.
Recent postings will appear at the top of the page. All posts have links on the right.
Please feel free to leave comments for all to read!

Be sure to check out www.biking4theFFB.com for more information about
the FFB, our motivation, retinal degenerative diseases, and more.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Day 78: Cambridge, ID to Richland, OR (72 miles, 3802 total)


Oregon, ahoy! Well, we are in our tenth and final state. Unfortunatley, our entrance to Oregon was a bit uneventful as there we no signs marking the border at all. Apparently a wind storm last summer blew down the state line signs and both Idaho and Oregon are yet to replace them. So, instead of our usual photos in front of the official "Welcome to" sign, we just made our own sign and took a few photos.

This morning we woke up at about 6AM and found ash on our tent. We are not sure where, but not too far away a fire was burning. We knew we had a big day of climbing in the heat ahead of us, so we packed up quickly and headed over to a cafe for some breakfast.

Out of Cambridge, we almost immediately began climbing to our first pass. It was 17 miles to the 4,131 foot unnamed pass. We were surprised to discover how quickly we arrived at the top. The slope was very gradual and we were very fine with that.

After the first pass we earned a fun, speedy downhill for about seven miles. Traffic was extremely light (actually it was all day) so we took the liberty of taking over the entire lane. After several miles at speeds around 30 mph, we arrived at a small market/cafe and stopped in for a cold drink; the heat had become prominant rather early.

After a cold Gatorade, we headed down the hill to Brownlee Reservoir. The wind was dead, and the reservoir had a glassy surface. If it were not for the green algae colored water, I'd say it offered perfect waterskiing conditions. For a Saturday, the place was amazingly deserted, although it was pretty hot out. The reservoir is surrounded by tall, brown, treeless mountains with several steep drops directly into the water. We rode along a fun road along side the reservoir before arriving at the Brownlee Dam and quickly droped down to the Snake River.

Another big recreational area, the Snake River also seemed pretty crowd-free for a Saturday. We crossed the bridge over the river and we were offically in Oregon, although you wouldn't know that since the signs were missing.

As we rode along the Snake River, the heat really started to come on strong. The wind was dead, which meant no headwind, but it also meant that it felt really hot. Sweat poured off my body as we pedalled the 11 miles to the Oxbow Dam in the sun. I was amazed to see the amount of roadside blackberries ripe for the snacking. It must have been every mile that I smelled sweet berries coming from a huge patch. As usual, most of the sweetest looking berries were out of reach and protected by thorny branches.

Just past the dam, we officially crossed into the Pacific Time Zone and changed our watches back an hour. Needing a break from the harsh sun, we slipped into the Hell's Canyon Cafe a few miles from the dam.

When we left the cafe, the sun and heat seemed ten times more extreme than when we went in. Knowing these bikes were not going to pedal themselves, we got on and endured it. A few miles later, we passed the entrance for Hell's Caynon. No doubt, the place got it's name from the brutal heat.

Ten miles and a bucket a sweat later, we arrived in the town of Halfway which is actually now called Half.com. Apparently, some dot-comers got the idea to raise public awarness about their company by getting Halfway to change it's name. The good news is that the town got a lot of money for it, but now they are lumped in with other gimicky towns like Truth or Consequences.

After Halfway, we had another 12 miles to Richland, but our second pass of the day stood in our way. We lubed up with sunscreen and charged on in the sun. The climb to 3,653 feet was again gradual and again came quickly, but it was not without a lot of sweat. I had drops of sweat falling off of my handlebars, and the sunscreen seemed to run from my pores. I was a mess when I reached the top.

AK arrived at the top shortly after I did and we bombed down the backside at speeds around 40mph. It was fun, fast, and the curves were a blast. At one point, I almost plowed over a quail in the road that was checking out one of his fallen comerades (no doubt the result of a battle with a speedy driver).

We arrived into town from the hill at 30mph, and I declared there is no better way to arrive in a town for the night than to coast in after a zip down a mountain.

We have setup camp at the local RV park and we were both happy to get a shower. Tomorrow should be a short mileage day into Baker City to meet up with our first guest of the trip, Rebus Bonning! He spent almost all day today riding the Greyhound, so I am sure he is ready to ride. We just hope his legs, lungs and bum are ready as well!

Jeff

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Day 77: Riggins, ID to Cambridge, ID (84 miles, 3730 total)


Churning up the miles! We forgot to mention in yesterday's journal entry that we have now caught up on all the days in the guidebook (remember we were behind by 5 before) and are currently a few miles ahead. This was the plan as we want to be able to slow down some once we get to Oregon and Rebus joins us for the last week. Though I already said it a few days ago, I think (hope) we are now done with our over 80 mile days.

Our sleep last night was fantastic! We're so sold on sleeping without the rainfly in this dry climate that we're going for it again tonight. We awoke at the leisurely hour of 6AM and packed up. Not too many days left of this nomadic lifestyle!

We biked through Riggins on our way to the recommended stop for breakfast. It is definitely a town all about fishing and rafting. I'm so sorry we couldn't take a rest day and enjoy a rafting trip. That will have to be another trip.

Outside of Riggins Jeff pointed out an object in the road. It was a discarded frog stuffed animal complete with top hat. He is now riding on my BOB and his name is Ribbit Riggins Frog, IV, the Unsuccesssful Suicidal Frog of Idaho. I'm happy to have him aboard.
We also passed by several more blackberry bushes that made Jeff swerve over for a stop. I'm still wary of them.

Much like yesterday, we spent the first 35 or so miles climbing away. Nothing was steep, just long and gradual. At some points we had no shoulder to speak of. After my experience yesterday I was in no mood to mess around with big trucks so I was bailing off the side of the road all day when I saw them approaching in my mirror. Please don't squish me!

As we approached the town of New Meadows the road flattened out and we picked up lots of speed. Determined not to feel as dehydrated as I did yesterday given the hot temps and dry, dry winds, I was making myself stop and drink regularly. At one point, I took the time to talk to and then heckle some cows in a field. I just love the blank stares I get back from them.

Lunch was a BBQ joint in New Meadows. Their salads actually had great lettuce for a change. After some brisket and cold drinks, we checked cell phone coverage and were surprised to see almost full bars! It has been several days since we've seen anything other than "searching for service." Where's that Verizon dude now?

Back on the road, we had about 6 more miles of climbing before starting some nice downhill stretches. The wind was blowing in our faces but not too hard, and I decided that it was put there to try to make us a little cooler. With no wind the heat can be oppressive.

We arrived in the town of Council around 5:00. This was our short destination of the day but we both decided to push on for the longer stretch to Cambridge. It was a tough call, especially given that the Council Rodeo was taking place that night. It would be so fun to go, but what swayed me against it was the fact that we would have to bike back to our campsite when it was dark with some not-so-sober cowboys on the road. No thanks. We'll catch a rodeo in Colorado next year. (Note from Jeff: The rodeo was tough to pass up as they were featuring my all time favorite, "mutton bustin'".)

We caught a break on the ride over to Cambridge. The wind died down and the sun took cover behind a bank of clouds. We picked up the pace again and chomped away the final 23 miles to town. Dinner was the first stop again tonight and then it was on to the Frontier Motel. The motel allows camping in the rear for a mere $5.35 per tent and that includes showers. I'm also doing our laundry while I type this so this place is getting great bonus points. It even comes with 2 dogs, one of whom brought a small pine cone over to me, flipped it up in the air and then barked as if to say "Let's play, you know the drill." She was a great catcher!

OK, the laundry is done and the sleeping bag is calling my name.

AKB

Friday, July 29, 2005

Day 76: Kooskia, ID to Riggins, ID (72 miles, 3646 total)


If humans have one life and cats have nine, I think I borrowed one of our cat Maggie's lives today. I owe it all to being just plain stupid and I'm lucky to be typing this journal tonight. Bottom line is, due to the heat, wind, and the distraction of seeing the group from yesterday drive up next to me, I paid no attention to traffic signs. I assumed I was at a T where all directions stopped. Instead, I was on the road that had the stop sign and the two-lane road ahead of me was full of trucks and high speed traffic. I almost became roadkill under the tires of an 18-wheeler who was throwing on the brakes and laying on the horn. I have no clue what I was thinking (or wasn't). It took me a few minutes to get over the shock but I still can't get over the stupidity. Anyway, Jeff is going to write the joural tonight but I just had to tell my story. --- AKB

Ok, now that AK is done explaining her stupid move of the trip, I'll take over to finish the journal. Seriously though, it was a close call. I'm glad she is OK. Bikers should never enter an intersection (be it four-way stop or not) without assesing the potential hazards. AK's mistake was making an assumption on the condition of the traffic without actually looking. Bicyclists should never assume anything; even if the cross traffic had a stop sign, that doesn't mean they will stop, and AK would've found herself in the same scenario. Smart bicylists warn others to ride like you're invisible (meaning, don't ever assume someone has seen you). Anyway...

In an effort to beat the heat, AK and I decided to ride the 27 miles to Grangeville before stopping for something to eat. So, as we packed up camp, we snacked on peanut butter and graham crackers. I also made myself a delightful blueberry pop-tart PB sandwich.

Oh, by the way, we owe a big thanks to Nick, the cyclist we saw yesterday. He warned us about camping on the green grass in the city park as we would be subjecting ourselves to an early AM shower from sprinklers. Well, he was right. At about 3AM, the sprinklers went on. Luckily, we were in the brown grass, just out of reach from the last sprinkler. Suckers!

Anyway, out of Kooskia we almost immediately began climbing. Remember our miles and miles of downhill yesterday? Well, it was payback time. We passed the tiny town of Stites after 4 miles. About 12 miles after that we left the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) Indian Reservation and immediately entered the town of Harpster.

On the far side of Harpster, I think some home owner was running a "fight hunger among local predators" program as they had a huge yard full of domesticated bunny rabbits hopping freely around. There had to be over 20 of them. They were all brown and white except for one odd-ball black and white one. Regardless of color, they are all ripe for the scrutting; that place must be a favorite hangout in the coyote crowd. I wonder if the owner has aptly named all the bunnies "Scraps". Anyway, as we biked past, I noticed 2 of the bunnies were outside the fence and on the shoulder of the road. They must be the appetizers.

Anyway, after Harpster, we continued climbing. We were lucky to be out so early because not only did we catch the morning chill, but we also had a nice cloud cover to match. I found half of a naked Barbie doll on the road that I named "Wanda the Topless Torso". El Ranchero (the mole rat) had been looking for some company on the back of the BOB and I have a feeling that Wanda's topless company will keep him happy.

Finally, after a steeper section of climbing we arrived in Grangeville hungry for a meal. Since it was still relatively early, we took our time eating and leisurely reading the newspaper, big mistake. When we finally left the resturant, it was really hot and the wind had come up hard. Of course luck would have it that the wind was from the south and we were headed south. Just out of town AK tried to kill herself (see above), and once our nerves were settled we began to battle the gusting headwind.

We were actually headed slightly downhill, but it took all our effort to make 8mph. After miles of struggling down the slight descent and up the steep ascent, we finally arrived at the top of a pass at over 4,000 feet.

On the top of the pass we got a spectacular view of the desert landscape of the caynons below. It was quite a change from the heavily wooded areas we had travelled through yesterday.

Down the pass we were gifted with a 7% decline for seven miles. Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy it as the gusting winds made any speeds over 20mph seem really unsafe and unstable. AK and I rode our brakes almost all the way down as hot gusts of air shoved us around.

At the bottom of the descent AK and I both declared our thankfulness that we did not have to climb the pass going the other direction (a common thought after almost every pass so far). We found ourselves just outside of the town of White Bird, and we decided to get something cold to drink. Just on the edge of town was a nice shop serving cold drinks and tasty homemade cookies.

On our way out of White Bird, it began to rain. It was ever so slight, but the drops were big. The heat seemed to instantly evaporate every drop that hit the road.

We began following the Salmon River, and so did the wind, but not in our direction. The 30 mile stretch from White Bird to Riggins offered some great views of the ruggedly scenic river. Every few miles our noses would fill with the sweet smell of wild blackberries, there must have been thousands of them. I stopped to snack on several. AK was hesitant to taste, but I made her try one.

Finally, after a long day of riding, we arrived in Riggins. Just before town, we crossed a bridge over the Salmon River and returned to the Mountain Time Zone. On the north side of town, we found the River Village RV Park. We stopped in to pay for a tent site and then went straight into town for dinner (it was 7:30PM) without setting up camp first.

We took the RV park owner's advice and went to the Back Eddy Grill for dinner. They were advertising fresh blackberry and/or huckleberry shakes which had me sold. My burger was one of the best in a while and AK's grilled cheese came with homemade potato chips. My blackberry shake was awesome.

Now we are back at our RV park in one of our most scenic riverside campsites yet. We have an awesome view of the river and the canyon walls. Even after dark, hot, dry air continues to blow, so we decided to skip the rainfly.

"I'm your huckleberry."

I've been saying that a lot lately; name that movie and character.

Jeff

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Day 75: Powell, ID to Kooskia, ID (91 miles, 3574 total)


Today, we rode 91 miles, and I kid you not, it was downhill for at least 88 of those miles. Since Lolo Pass (yesterday), we have been slowly dropping from above 5 thousand feet to just above 1 thousand feet. None of it has been steep (except for right after the pass), but it has been all down except for the occasional roll of a slight hill. But, at the same time, I don't want to give you readers the mental image of AK and I sitting back and sipping on wine and snacking on cheese as we glide 91 miles downhill into Kooskia. No, that wasn't the case. The grade down is very slight, not enough to zip down efforlessly, but enough to notice that it is helping us ride a little faster than usual.

We got up at 6 (we are still acting like we are on Mountain Time) this morning and packed up camp. The sound of the Lochsa River made for a great night's sleep. By 7:30 we were back up the hill at the Lochsa Lodge for breakfast.

Our maps indicated that between Powell and the town of Lowell there exists 66 miles of nothing but national forest and the occasional campground, no cafes, no stores, no food, and no cold drinks. For that reason, we wanted to make sure we got a good breakfast before we pushed of into 66 miles of almost nothing.

Fortunately, the Lochsa Lodge offers some great breakfast food. We highly recommend the huckleberry pancakes, and the french toast. Actually, the Lodge would be an awesome place to visit anytime of the year. It's main building is this magnificent log building, while smaller cabins surround it. We looked over the prices to stay over, and they were pretty reasonable (38 to 100 bucks), or you can just camp nextdoor like we did for 8 bucks (probably not a wise choice in the winter).

By 9AM, we were rolling out. About 10 miles down we decided to stop at the Warm Springs Pack Bridge to check it out. By chance, there was a group of about 10 cyclists on a week-long supported tour of the area. We stopped and chatted with them for some time before taking a look at the bridge. They were all very interested in our ride, and I handed out an FFB card to each of them. They were headed to Lowell for the day, so we told them we'd see them down the road, and off they went.

We quickly checked out the pack bridge and moved on. Down the road we passed the large group and then stopped when we saw an eastbounder coming our way. Nick said he got a late start and left Oregon in mid July. He told us that about 10 miles down the road a lumber truck dumped his load all over the road and traffic was stopped in both directions. Apparently, this trucker flew past Nick at a speed that seemed unsafe, and a few curves later Nick came across this same trucker smashed into the hillside with his lumber all over the road, the driver was fine. Nick had to carry his bike over the gaurd-rail and walk around to get past. We thanked Nick for the heads-up and pedalled on.

Down the road, we came across the large group of cyclists again. They were taking a break, eating some awesome homemade "Martha Bars". We let them know about what was ahead, as we knew it would affect the van that was following them.

Sure enough, a few miles down we came across a line of cars about a mile long. They were all waiting for the road to clear. Knowing no traffic was coming, we just cruised in the left lane all the way to the front where we asked permission of an officer to pass.

It looked as though the trucker had taken a hard curve to the left a little to fast, bounced off the guard-rail, crossed the on-coming lane, and smashed into the hillside where he came to rest. His lumber had come to rest all over the road and hillsides.

On the other side of the accident, another line of cars waited for the road to be cleared. "Nice day for a ride," one guy yelled from amongst the crowd of people standing on the road (and not sitting in their cars). I pulled up to a group of about five motorcycles and said, "They are letting real bikes through." They were hardly mildly amused by this comment, and in retrospect it is probably not wise to taunt dudes with shirts and do-rags with skulls and flames on them.

For miles after the crash site, traffic remained extremely mild until they cleared enough lumber to let a few cars through at a time.

The road to Lowell was beautiful. I really enjoy riding on these roads that follow rivers for miles. On both sides of us, cliffs and heavily forested mountains climbed into the sky. Several creeks dumped into the Lochsa River, at times as often as one a mile. Even if we didn't see the creek, we knew one was there as we could feel the cold air being blown over the tree-covered creek and on to us.

We grabbed a quick lunch at Lowell and carried on with the ride for the day. By then, the temperature had climbed to as high as we've seen since Kansas, and we noticed that the woods were not as thick as they had been.

Out of Lowell, we began following the Middle Fork Clearwater River to Kooskia. As we went down the road, we followed the river on the right hand side. We passed ocassional homes on our right and what should be some really expensive ones on the left. The way the terrain worked out, these homes on the left had access to the road by a private bridge, or by a gondola-like device. It was pretty impressive, but I was more impressed by roadside berry picking.

Soon we arrived in the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. The tree-lined hills around us had now thinned out to be lined with brown low-lying brush (much like Central California in the Fall). With the thining of trees, the temperature climbed again.

Finally, we arrived in Kooskia and set-up camp in the city park. We are right by the river, although it is not flowing fast enough to be heard. It did suit us well for psuedo showers though. With Nick's warning, we were carefull to not set-up our tent on the green grass. Apparently, he woke up in the middle of the night to the spray of a sprinkler into his tent.

The best part about the city park so far: it looks like some locals were trying to break the record for the smallest square dance ever. Four couples and a dude with a PA system gathered up in a nearby pavillion for a mini ho-down. It was hillarious, but they all seemed to be having a blast.

"Swing your partner now... now, swing to the left... now, swing to the right... dosi-doe now..."

Jeff

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day 74: Missoula, MT to Powell, ID (60 miles, 3483 total)


State number 9! Only one state left to go and it is getting hard to believe that our trip is drawing to an end. Idaho will be a short state as we are cutting across the north central area, but it is full of beautiful scenery so far. We also finished yet another map section (only 3 left!), and crossed into the Pacific time zone. We aren't paying attention to the time zone change though because we go back into Mountain time in 2 days (when we ride south along the Salmon River which divides the time-zones). No reason to hop back and forth like that on the sleep schedule.

Since we didn't have to pack up camp this morning, it took us less than an hour to wake up and get out the door. We said our last good-bye to Dale as we really don't think we'll be seeing him again on this trip. We're definitely sorry to be losing his company. We miss you, Dale!

We rode the super busy road out of Missoula and back down to
Lolo. (By the way, Jeff has been singing "Lo-lo-lo-lo" in all different keys since we went through it yesterday.) We stopped in the corner bar/casino/restaurant for breakfast and learned that we had missed out on feeling an earthquake last night around 10pm. The man that told us remembers the 7.5 quake that formed Quake Lake in 1959 (see journal entry from Day 69).

We rode our first tailwind in days for several miles as we made our way to the pass of the day. As our pace was up and the terrain was easy, we stopped for a rest break at a campground about 15 miles out of Lolo. As I went off to find the bathroom, Jeff sat on a hill and started making friends with the prairie dogs that seemed to own the area. We I came back, he was singing his "Lo-lo-lo-lo" song to a few of them whenever they popped thier heads out of their tunnels. I think they were enjoying watching us as much as we were enjoying watching them.

The area we are biking through now is directly on the Lewis and Clark trail so there are many stops along the way with educational boards set up. Some are more interesting than others, let me tell you.

We stopped for lunch at the "town" of Lolo Hot Springs which didn't seem to be more than just a lodge. The food was good though, and it was another nice break before starting the climb up the pass.

Lolo Pass was, again, not a difficult climb. I'm fine with that too. If we have all chill climbs from now on I won't complain. The road continued its back and forth meandering with only a slight rise. At the top, we entered Idaho and left Montana behind us. Montana was a beautiful state, just a little rough on us in the headwind department.

We hung out at the visitor's center at the pass/state line for a while and talked to several other cyclists. Most that we are running onto now are on the Lewis and Clark trail. Adventure Cycling has lots of routes to choose from and you can always just do small pieces at a time if you are interested in touring but don't have the time to take off 3 or 4 months for the complete TransAm route.

After our break, we zoomed down the backside of the pass but had to be cautious of the gusting winds that were now moving around to hit us from the front (big surprise). We stopped several more times to check out the L&C boards and finally arrived at Lochsa Lodge in Powell. The lodge has various cabins open all year and a great restaurant that serves both Fat Tire and Moose Drool on tap. We've heard about this place since we met the Bike Friday couple on Day 69 and so we shortened our destination plan for the day to be sure we had time to stop in. Turns out there is a campground right next door so we set up camp and then biked back up to have a beer and dinner. As there are no stops for the first 66 miles of the ride tomorrow, we're also planning to have breakfast there. We wrote some postcards and then started a "Best of\Worst of" list from our experiences on the road. You'll have to check it out at the end of the trip as we don't want to overlook something we haven't gotte!
n to yet. Hopefully there aren't too many more "worst of's".

We're sleeping next to the Lochsa River tonight and I am excited to fall asleep to its chatter tonight. At dinner we "finalized" our schedule for the rest of the trip and it looks like tomorrow will be our last over 80 miler. Finalized has to be in quotes as we just never know what we're going to get in a day so we have to stay flexible. No matter what though, we will be finishing on the 7th. Time is racing by!

AKB

Note from Jeff: I've invented the most glorious breakfast sandwich. Pop-Tarts come in a pack of two, so there you have the bread. Smear some peanut butter between them, and there you have it. It is tasty and functional as carrying Pop-Tarts around often breaks them up, but the PB holds them together like glue. AK is being unadventurous and won't even taste it. Ha, more for me sucker!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Day 73: Hamilton, MT to Missoula, MT (50 miles, 3423 total)


Well, today we arrived into the heart of American bicycle touring. Missoula is home to the Adventure Cycling Association which is a non-profit orgainization that promotes and supports bicycle touring in the US. They produce the maps we use, orgainize tours, and document every rider to cross the country by bike on the TransAm and other trails.

We woke up at 6, packed up, and the three of us were pedalling by 7:30AM. We quickly rode through Woodside 2 miles later and arrived in the town of Victor after 10 miles. In Victor we stopped for a quick breakfast at a cafe (no pigs in a blanket), and got back on the road to ride into another headwind.

Luckily, the headwind was not too strong and we had no major hills to conquer. When we arrived in Florence, we rode on a bike path all the way to the town of Lolo.

Out of Lolo, we had to ride a rather busy road into Missoula. At one point, I scored my fifth flat of the trip (11 total now). I pulled over to fix it, and I guess I pulled over too far as AK never saw me! With the roar of the traffic, AK never heard me yelling to get her attention. Oh well, I fixed the flat and met up with them (Dale and AK) just in town.

With a population of 57,000, Missoula is one of the biggest cities we have ridden into in a long time. The streets were busy and it seemed to take forever to get to the Adventure Cycling office. When we finally arrived, we had free ice cream and soda and browsed the cycling related items in the cyclists' lounge. By the way, the door pulls for the front door are drop handlebars complete with bar tape. Anyway, on our way out they snapped a polaroid of us to add to their wall of cyclists that have ridden through this summer. It was fun to look over all the photos of our fellow riders that visited before us. We spotted the photo of Dave and Patty and realized that it was dated today!

Anyway, from the ACA, we headed over to a local bike shop called Missoula Bicycle Works. Bicycle chains stretch with use; if neglected, an extremely worn chain will require the drivetrain to be totally replaced in order to get the bike to shift properly. Buying a chain is much cheaper than a complete drivetrain, so we opted for the preventive maintenance.

For good reason, most bike shops really don't appreciate people walking in and asking work to be done that instant. We are on a tight schedule, and needed the work done immediately. Knowing that requiring so much of a busy mechanic is frowned upon, I offered to do the work myself if I could use their tools. "No problem," they said and even let me use a repair stand. In the end, we were in and out of the shop with shiney new chains in less than an hour. The shop is definately top-shelf, and I'd recommend any cyclists headed through town to use them (even if you can't do the work yourself, their mechanics seemed very well informed). Check them out:

Missoula Bicycle Works
521 South Higgins,
Missoula, MT
(406) 721-6525

AK's has been having a bit of a problem with her right hand feeling numb from the pressure of the handlebars. So we've been looking for a shorter stem with a rise in it to help her sit more upright and off her hands. All of the shops we have passed through have not quite had what she needs (it is an odd shape and size, so even the best shops would likely have to special order it). By chance (and with some luck), another bike shop next to our lunch stop had what she needed. While we ate some awesome burritos from Tacos del Sol, the guys at the Bike Doctor put on AK's new stem. I think she'll be a lot more comfortable now. (Note from AK - I just want feeling in my fingers again!)

Then we were off to find a place to stay for the night. With such a large town, camping seemed like a bad idea, so we opted to hunt for a cheap hotel. Not far from Adventure Cycling, Dale, AK and I found the Royal Hotel. A storm was brewing and rain was starting to fall, so we didn't have much time to pick and choose. The place had a room with two twins (not a good option for 3), and a suite with 3 queens. The price wasn't bad, so we went with the suite.

As we were loading the bikes into the room, Dave and Patty spotted us. It turned out they are in the hotel nextdoor. Dale finally had the chance to meet the couple he had heard about from so many other riders. As it rained outside, we all sat around sharing stories in the room for about an hour and a half. It was great to catch up and hear what Dave and Patty have been up to since KY.

Then it was time to shower before dinner. While I was in the shower, Dale spotted two more cyclits headed for the office of the motel. Wanting to help reduce our costs, Dale chased them down to offer up the extra room in our "suite". Mark and Kim are biking from Portland here and then up into Glacier National Park. They were happy to save themselves a few bucks and took the extra room, and we are happy to have them. The best part, Kim is riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker like mine.

AK and I took off for the laundromat while Kim and Mark showered up. Upon returning, all five of us headed out for Thai food to celebrate Mark's birthday. It turns out they are familar with the town and took us out to a great place; the curries were fabulous.

Now we are all back in the room and Mark and Kim have just showed up with a chocolate cake and ice cream to celebrate more birthday fun. It smells great and we are gonna chow down right now...

Jeff

Monday, July 25, 2005

Day 72: Jackson, MT to Hamilton, MT (95 miles, 3373 total)


Since we stopped 18 miles short of our destination yesterday, today we rousted early to get on the road and blast miles. We woke up at 5:30 and it was really chilly and rather windy. It was cold enough that packing up stung our fingers and the gusts of chilly air blew right through our warm clothes. Fortunately, all the plumbing in the lodge uses the hot springs water which has no sulpher in it and is probably 95 degrees. So washing our hands and sitting on the toilet provided some relief from the cold morning air. One problem with the use of hot springs water is that there is no temperature control in the shower. You just turn the water on and there you have it.

Anyway, we said goodbye to Javier and rolled out of town by 6:50. Dale was lagging a bit, so we told him we'd see him in the town of Wisdom for breakfast.

AK and I zipped the 18 miles to Wisdom. The roads were almost totally empty and we actually got to ride side by side again for a few miles. For the first 9 miles the gusty winds pushed us along, but suddenly the wind died. I was worried that this might mean that the wind was about to completely change directions, but it held off for us and we arrived in town at 8AM.

We had breakfast at a nice little cafe, and AK declared it one of the best breakfasts she has had on the trip. Dale arrived shortly after we ordered and shared the table with us.

After breakfast, we made a turn and changed our direction from due north to due west. The wind at this point was a bit puffy in different directions. As we pedalled through this huge valley between mountain ranges and headed for our first and only pass for the day, the wind started to become slightly in our favor, but not consistently so. We zipped the first 24 miles to the pass up a very gradual incline. With the puffs at our back, I was able to keep my speed above 18mph. At one point, I was buzzing along feeling great and a deer jumped in my path. I think he was suicidal. I wonder if deer are as good at boxing as squirrels? I bet the white-tail deer would beat down the mule deer.

I stopped to wait for AK and Dale a few miles after the deer incident. Before they arrived, a couple on bikes came down the pass. Tom and Janna were both excited and jealous about our trip. They've done little bits of the TransAm trail, but never the complete route. We did nothing but encourage them to do it as soon as they possibly could. We gave them a card for our website and told them that they must stop in Jackson for the hot springs.

Anyway, the last several miles got a bit steeper and curvey. I arrived at the top of Chief Joseph Pass (7241 feet) and pulled out the peanut butter which, by the way, I have lately discovered goes well with anything. Soon AK arrived as two hikers of the Continental Divide reached the summit (the pass was also another CD crossing for us). They were trying to hitch a ride to Wisdom in order to get to the post office. Dale arrived at the top and we all discussed the oddities of trail names on the Appalachian Trail and the tasty applications of peanut butter.

The descent down from the pass was fantastic. First, we zipped down about a mile and came so close to Idaho that we could literally throw a stone at it. The road flattened out for a moment for us to join route 93. At that point we saw a sign indicating a 7% descent for 7 miles, and what followed was glorious. We flew down a nearly empty road for 7.5 miles at 40mph. It was epic. The road was smooth, the turns were not too sharp and the traffic was light; it doesn't get much better for cycling.

After the epic descent, we rode a tailwind into Sula for lunch. A family owned campground served us up some nice burgers, ham and cheese sandwiches, and chocolate chip cookies.

After lunch, the wind became rather flukey. At times the wind was at our back and minutes later it would be in our face. It was really odd. We got a great view of Trapper's Peak on our way into the town of Darby. Trapper's Peak is an awesome mountain with very Teton-like features.

In Darby we stopped for a quick Gatorade and then pushed the last 17 miles to Hamilton. The terrain was relatively flat, so we made decent time. Before we knew it, we were in the market buying fresh brocoli, bread, and roasted chicken for dinner. Then we were off to the Black Rabbit RV Campground for the night. The place is right on the Bitteroot River, so I went for a swim while AK waded. All three of us sat down for a nice camp meal, while Dale played some of his favorites on his iPod. The roasted chicken was a good call.

Today, AK and I realized that two weeks from today we will be done with the trip. That is amazing. It feels like just last week we were embarking on this trip that was so long imagining the end seemed impossible. Well, the end is coming and it is coming fast; what a shock. I know I am going to miss this trip as I find myslef already thinking about my next bike epic.

Jeff

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day 71: Dillon, MT to Jackson, MT (51 miles, 3278 total)


We've had some bum luck with the wind for the last two days. Yesterday we were blasted with wind when we made the turn south for Dillon. For 28 miles we battled it, and we finally arrived in town much later than we thought we would. Today, our direction was northwest, and the wind... was from the northwest. Now that is some bum luck.
Yesterday, the wind only was an issue in the late afternoon, but today it was an all day affair.

After some breakfast, and a bit of a struggle to find our way back to the route, we were pedalling by just before nine. By the way, the KOA kampground was surprisingly nice. Our little site by the Beaverhead River was quite homey, and you just can't argue with a shower.

17 Miles out of town we hit our first pass of the day. Badger Pass was not very steep and topped out at 6,760 feet. The wind made it much tougher than it really was and by the time we reached the top, we were pretty beat. (Note from AK - At this point, visions of launching my bike and gear over a cliff were playing over and over in my head. I refrained, however.)

On the way up the pass we came across a group of about 15 cyclists doing the route from Missoula to West Yellowstone. They are staying in hotels and using cars to carry their gear. When cyclists are tired they just get a ride in one of the cars. It is a nice, chill way to do bicycle touring, but some purists may scoff at it. I don't scoff at it, but I do scoff at the woman that jumped out of the car at the top of Badger Pass and complained that she had to ride downhill with a tailwind all the way into Dillon. Ummm, right, we all feel so sorry for you.

Anyway, down the backside of the pass we went. We had to be careful with our speed as the wind can cause the bikes to move unpredictably. The descent only lasted about 4 miles, then we had 7 miles of flats (into the wind) before heading 7 miles up (into the wind) to the top of our second pass for the day.

Big Hole Pass topped out at 7,360 feet and was tougher than Badger Pass. Although Badger was physically easier, it teased us with a false summit. Both were tough because you can see the top long before you ever get there.

From the top of Big Hole Pass, we were 11 miles from the town of Jackson, our first town since Dillon for the day. We were all starved for food and decided that a late lunch in Jackson was a must. Outside of town, we spotted a wild fire with fire planes dropping retardant. It turns out it was just an excercise at "Fire Camp".

We finally arrived in the town with a population of 38 at 4PM. By that time the kitchen at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge was closed and I had to convince the chef to make us some sandwiches. We had planned to eat and then push the last 18 miles to Wisdom. That was the plan... but this place was hard to pass up for the night after such a tough day.

The Hot Springs Lodge boasts camping with showers, access to their hot springs pool, and a very nice lodge with a big screen (for watching the Tour) all for ten bucks. We've heard that all Wisdom offers is a fleet of mosquitos. AK was exhausted and was really pushing for staying over here. It seemed like a great place to stay, but it means we'll have to do the extra miles tomorrow. Javier, another cylist, just came from the way we are headed and he said the terrain is not too bad. In then end, we stayed and so far it has been worth it. The hot springs were awesome.

We had a nice Mexican meal at a local cafe and now we are getting ready for bed. We have a long day waiting for us tomorrow, so sleep is a must.

We've all noticed that the route is a lot less well known amoung locals in this part of the country. In our first few states, we were signing guestbooks daily. Now, the last guestbook we have signed was back at the Schecter Hostel in CO. I'm not sure why this is.

On the way down one of the passes, Dale lagged behind to pull of another one of his "naked miles". It is his goal to do one in every state (since Colorado when he heard of the concept), and I guess he decided that this was as good as a time as any. He thought it went off without a hitch as only five cars passed him without incident. Well, when he arrived in the lodge in Jackson, a woman approached him and said, "We heard you had a better outfit on on your way over the pass." Well, I suppose that is what can happen when you try to pull that off when you are on your way into a town of 38.

Jeff

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Day 70: Ennis, MT to Dillon, MT (74 miles, 3227 total)


Oh man, the morning always comes way too quickly. I hate getting up early on a normal day so an early alarm after several long days in the saddle is just that much worse. Oh well, it has to be done but it is good that Jeffrey is patient with me.
We packed up watching CNN coverage of more terrorist action in London. It is strange to feel so out of touch with what is happening in the larger world.

It was slightly sprinkling when we left our room but it wasn't too cold so it actually felt pretty good. We had small snacks in the room before heading out because we'd heard that we would want to spend some time in Virginia City today. Since our pass climb was within the first 10 miles, we decided to have a late breakfast there.

Just a few blocks from our hotel, we ran into Dale! He was coming into town for breakfast and to keep an eye out for us. We told him our plan for the morning and he was game, so he had a snack and we all rode on together.

The no-name pass was long but it wasn't too bad. The grades out here continue to be gentle, and with the cloud cover and light sprinkles, we were quite comfortable. Near the top, a badger came scurrying across the road in front of me. I wasn't sure exactly what it was until we got to Virginia City. If you've never seen one, they are rather large but very low to the ground. This guy wasn't interested in hanging out in the open either so no pictures exist.

After one false summit and one real one, we began a zooming descent down into Virginia City. I don't know if I will ever get tired of descents. VC is a very cute small town with a long gold rush history. We found the one and only place open for breakfast and sat down to enjoy being finished with our climb. Breakfast was great and as we were enjoying it, a local dog was enjoying Dale's sandwich he'd bought for lunch. D'oh! At least the cafe took a few dollars off his meal.

By the time we finished eating, the town was opening its doors (11:00 is the magic time) so we headed into the VC museum. It was more of a collection of old items and random things, but it had some very cool old clothing and several taxidermy animals. This is where I confirmed that what I'd seen was in fact a badger. It is also where we all learned that red and grey squirrels in Montana are boxers. These 2 particular stuffed squirrels were sporting boxing shorts and gloves and were standing on their hind legs in a small ring. The red squirrel has quite a left jab. We will post a photo just as soon as we can because it has kept us entertained all day.

About a mile from VC is Nevada City but since we'd spent so much time in VC, we had to blow on through. There are so many places we are blasting through now because of our deadline. I wish we had several more weeks to spend just exploring these places!

The rest of the day until lunch was a breeze. At one point, Dale was riding just ahead of me when a very large doe crossed the road right in front of him. He missed it because he wasn't looking but saw it once he heard me yelling. He started yelling something back but I couldn't hear it because of a car approaching from the rear. What he was saying was, "Here comes another one!" I didn't need the warning since I saw it at about the same time. It was a fawn scrambling like mad to catch up to its mom but it was running straight for me and the car! I was yelling, Dale was yelling, the fawn was falling all over itself, and the car was breaking. Thankfully, we all survived, though I think the little deer got the scare of its life. Bad doe for putting your baby in such danger!

After cruising almost effortlessly for many miles, we arrived in the town of Twin Bridges for a late lunch. We took a long lunch and when we exited the diner, guess which direction the wind was blowing? Our one south turn of the week was a 30 mile stint right into a mean headwind. Why couldn't we still be heading north?!

By now, we're getting pretty used to the bum luck. North, south, east, or west, if we're going that way, it seems that the wind likes to push hard against us every few days. (Jeff thinks I'm exagerating). We traveled a slow 30 miles into Dillon with breaks every 5 miles or so for a rest. At least there was no rumble strip so we could actually enjoy the spectacular mountain views all around us.

We rolled into town just before 7:00 and hit the grocery for fresh veggies and snacks for tomorrow. I was also craving ice water and Jeff and Dale wanted some beer. Home for the night is yet another KOA campground but at least that means showers and grassy spots for our tents. We are sleeping beside the Beaverhead River tonight but it doesn't make as much noise as the Platte or Popo Agie rivers. Regardles, my body is exhausted. We have a "shorter" day tomorrow but it includes 2 passes so I need to rest up.

AKB

Friday, July 22, 2005

Day 69: Madison Junction, WY to Ennis, MT (89 miles, 3153 total)


Today has been a great one. Once again, we woke up bear-free and packed up. We had a chance to chat with a few of our fellow cyclists while we loaded our bikes. Luke, the Aussie, told me that some man back in Oregon told him that he shouldn't pee on the side of the road, because if he is caught he'll be put in the National Sex Offender Registry, and he was serious! Luckily, Luke has enough common sense to know that that is bull.

Anyway, out of camp we biked 12 miles to the Montana border and snapped our usual photos. Since the state line is actually in Yellowstone, we had to wait until we were out of the park for the "Welcome to..." billboard in the town of West Yellowstone.

In West Yellowstone, we tried to get new chains in both the bike stores, but neither carried what we wanted. We did make it to a nice breakfast at a little place called "The Running Bear Cafe". I had "pigs in a blanket" and they were so very good. What's the deal with "pigs in a blanket" anyway? It is so rarely on menus, yet it is one of my favorites. From now on, I am going to end every one of my rants with: "...and another thing, how come I can't get no 'pigs in a blanket' around here!" I am sure the park rangers will appreciate that.

Anywho, after a short stop at the market to resupply our camping food, we rolled out. The ride out of town took us past Hebgen Lake and into the Madison River Earthquake Area. In August of 1959, a 7.5 earthquake rocked this area and caused quite a lot of damage. Hebgen Lake was originally formed by placing a damn on the Madison River. About 4 miles downstream of the dam, the quake caused the most damage. A huge landslide sent over 80 million tons of rock into the canyon, restricting the flow of the river. The river swelled and Earthquake Lake was formed. In order to avoid extensive flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers worked feverishly to create a spillway in the natural damn. Now, the same spillway keeps water flowing down the Madison, but Earthquake Lake remains. Thousands of drowned trees still line the shores, their bare trunks jutting from the water. It is a really impressive sight, and the slide scar on the canyon walls is so rugged that if told the slide happened las!
t year, I would have beleived it.

In one area, we spotted submerged trees in the most crystal blue water I've seen in ages. The water had to have been at least 25 feet deep, but you could see straight to the bottom with ease. AK and I were both tempted to take a swim.

A few miles from the slide area, we stopped at a fly fishing shop for a cold drink. While relaxing on the bench outside, a couple rolled up on the coolest tandem Bike Friday. Their "Twin Air" had a slick fading dark blue paintjob and sported 54 gears! Anyway, we exchanged website cards, so if you want to check out Dennis and Lyndsey's site, go to: www.denlynmor.com

Dennis and Lyndsey suggested a nice place for lunch 7 miles down the road. They also told us that we could probably make it all the way to Ennis tonight as the route gently slopes down into town.

They were right about both the sloping and the resturant. The Grizzly Bar and Grill is worth a stop for great food before a 31 mile stretch of nothing but ranch land.

After lunch we ventured out into vast ranch land shrouded with peaking mountains on both sides of the road. At one point, we caught up to a rancher driving a huge John Deere tractor. He had the scoop lifted high enough to be looking under it, and inside the scoop rode his tail-wagging, toungue-hanging dog. "He hurt his leg when a bull kicked'em, so now'e rides up there," the rancher explained. The dog was clearly enjoying being exactly where he was; it made for a great photo that I'll have to post when we are done riding.

Then it was on to Cameron, where we had originally planned to stay the night. Cameron is a tiny town that had fallen under total disrepair and lost all of its residents. In the mid-90's a couple decided to buy the town and fix it up. Well, they've done a great job as now the town boasts a store, a cafe, a saloon, and an RV park. As we gulped down Gatorade, the woman in the store told us that Dale had just left the store not too long before we arrived. It sounded like he was headed for Ennis for the night too. Maybe we'll see him in town.

On the 11 miles into Ennis, AK was riding really strong. While riding fairly hard, she continued to gain on me. Since the roads in Montana have horribly placed rumble strips that run right down the middle of the shoulder (leaving us the option of riding in the lane of traffic or carefully riding the 12 inches between the rumble strips and the edge of the road), I figured I better speed up in case AK wanted to pass, but can't because the bone shaking rumble strips blocked her path. I couldn't lose her, even when I was really pushing it. I'm really proud of her, she is one tough cyclist now.

Arriving into Ennis, we decided to opt for a motel since it has been days since we last showered, and we needed showers in the worst kind of way. The tent was super stinky last night.

After checking in, it was off to the laundromat. On the walk home, we stopped for some dinner at the Real Decoy which serves some great BBQ ribs and chicken.

We have another mountain pass tomorrow morning, so we hope to sleep well. No sign of Dale yet, and another thing, how come I can't get no "pigs in a blanket" around here?

Jeff

Note from AK - The rumble strips are such a pain in the holy cow. I hit them twice today while I was trying to take in the amazing scenery. The feeling is so bone-rattling that it gave me an instant headache both times that took several minutes to go away. I hate having to miss views just because I have to watch the road so intently!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 68: Colter Bay to Madison Junction Campground (Yellowstone Park) (81 miles, 3064 total)


Woohoo, 3000 miles!

Today was quite a day. We crossed the Continental Divide not twice, but thrice. We've crossed it so many times now, I'm not really sure what side we are on. We failed to mention it, but we also crossed the Continental Divide yesterday on the pass out of Dubois.

Speaking of "Dew-Boys", we also failed to mention that that town is pretty cool. It has a nice restored old western feel, complete with wood planks for sidewalks. Plus you can score some tasty shakes at the Exxon station (complete with a Jackalope exhibit).

Anyway, today has been a physical one. We woke up bear-free at 5:30, packed up and snacked on some simple breakfast foods. When we rolled out and onto the road, we quickly discovered that the morning is the best time to be out and about in the park as the traffic is much lighter. Plus, the wildlife seems more active and we saw several deer.

After about 15 miles, we arrived in Flagg Ranch and decided to stop for some breakfast. At that point, traffic had started to become quite congested, so we didn't feel like we were wasting any good riding conditions.

From there, we soon entered Yellowstone and the shoulder shrank and traffic remained constantly thick. At times it was nearly impossible to make left turns as RV's, trucks, and cars zipped past in both directions. Like I said, you'd think that the government should be encouraging people to visit the park by bicycle rather than adding another car to the zoo-like roads. At least the RV drivers have been, for the most part, very considerate. I suppose they should be though, after all AK and I paid the same amount as they did to enter the park!

We did not have to pay again when we entered Yellowstone as the 10 bucks from before lasts for a week in both parks. I did harass the ranger about it though. Although he can't do anything about it, he did claim to agree with me, or maybe he just wanted me to go away. Whatever.

In Yellowstone, we've seen amazing waterfalls, awesome canyons, and thousands of acres of land that is naturally recovering from a huge wildfire in 1988. The amount of fallen trees is huge, but new growth surrounds them. Either way, the place is amazing, and the views are spectacular.

We crested our first Continental Divde crossing for the day, and then rolled down the hill for a quick bite to eat in Grant Village (right near Yellowstone Lake). Fueled for more, we set out to conquer two more Continental Divide crossings (each at over 8,000 feet).

At the third and final CD crossing for the day a small lake at the top drained into both watersheds. It was loaded with lillies and flowers that looked similar to tulips. Several people asked about our efforts for the FFB. We handed out a few business cards, and one nice RV driver handed us a donation on the spot.

Next, it was on to Old Faithful. Of course luck would have it that AK spied the geyser blasting off when we were stilla couple of miles out. When we arrived, we had to wait 90 minutes until the next "show", and it was getting late. Finally, around 6:45, Old Faithful errupted. It was a huge blast and went on for a few minutes.

By then it was getting really late and we still had 16 miles to the next campground, so we set out to blast miles. Unfortunately, we needed to race the sun through some of the most scenic sections of the park. We zipped past several huge steaming hot springs adorned with red algae dumping into the Firehole River. We even spotted a wild Bison grazing in the distance.

Soon we arrived in Madison Junction and found several people watching a heard of elk move through an open field. By now it was 8PM and we knew it was getting late, but we decided to have a look. Low and behold, we were spotted by a group that camped next to us in Dubois. Pam, Steven and their two foreign exchange students were schocked to see us again, and we were excited to see some familar faces. They gave AK a bottle of water and me a beer (I could not resist). We chatted and enjoyed our drinks while watching the elk, and then the setting sun dictated that we best be going. We said goodbye and headed to the campsite.

The campsite was full, but fortunately there is a policy that these campsites will not turn away hikers or bikers. As I was registering us for the site, AK was chatting with a man about our ride and his dog. It turns out that he is the husband of the woman that was registering us for the site. Empressed with her efforts on the ride and for the FFB, Walter decided to pay for AK's site for the night.

Anyway, Miriam (Walter's wife) showed us the hiker/biker site and we were once again excited to see Sid sitting at a picnic bench! He had been taking his time through the park and we caught up to him pretty fast.

The sun was setting, so AK pitched the tent while I cooked dinner. Next, AK raced to wash the dishes, and I crammed everything into the bear box. We are now in the tent, and we are both super dirty! We need showers something fierce. The baby wipes only go so far.

Since arriving, several other bikers have arrived. In total, there are 10 of us from all over (including twins from Fance and an Aussie). This is a great place for bikers to stay. The bathrooms are clean and the price is right.

Ok, we are off to bed. Oh by the way, we gained a day on our guidebook today!

Jeff

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day 67: Dubois, WY to Colter Bay, WY (Grand Teton National Park) (69 miles, 2983 total)


Holy COW!!!! Did I miss something? Does Wyoming have a wind-share program with Kansas? The wind we had for the last 25 miles of yesterday is what Wyoming has served us up all day today...times 4. By the time we stopped for lunch at almost 3:00, we had battled 40 miles in around 5 hours of riding time (plus frequent and much needed breaks). It was pathetic and demoralizing. The scenery is breathtaking but we both remarked that we just couldn't appreciate it given what we were going through physically and mentally.

We slept through the alarm this morning and didn't wake up until 6:30. We hurried to break camp and get breakfast, but delay after delay
pushed our departure time back until almost 9:00. It didn't matter as far as the wind was concerned. It had been blowing hard since before we were moving around.

We knew the first 30 miles of today would be tough. What we didn't know is that we would be going 4 to 6 mph on flats and uphills and around 9 mph (working very hard) on downhills. Today we climbed over Togwotee Pass (pronounced TOE-go-tee), our second highest pass on the trail. When combined with the constant wind and the general fatigue of fighting for every 10th of a mile, this pass deflated me. I didn't even really care that I'd gotten to the top of it. That is one seriously exhausted reaction!

As we started our descent, we passed a sign warning truckers of a 6% grade for the next 17 miles. I'm not sure who from WYDOT put that sign up, but we certainly had a fair share of flats and ups in those 17 miles of 6% downs. Liars!

We stopped at the Togwotee Lodge for lunch just after the restaurant had closed. Thankfully, the bar had the same menu and was open (I'm not sure what I would have done if we hadn't been able to get food). We sat around for a while trying to muster energy for the remaining 30 miles of the day.

Luckily, the "6% downhill" continued to roll for several more miles and some energy did come back into my exhausted parts. I realized this when I got excited at my first glimpse of the Tetons. I picked up my pace quite a bit and even passed Jeffrey for a while. That rarely happens for me!

A few miles after this we entered the Grand Teton National Park. We took issue with the fact that bikers have to pay $10 EACH to enter while a car loaded with people only pays $20. We do much less to impact the serenity of the park than giant SUVs or RVs do. We take offense to the steep price. (Note from Jeff: I can rant and rave about this for hours! This is not the first time I've been exposed to this at a National Park and it makes me so very angry. Don't you all think our government should be encouraging people to visit the parks on bikes rather than add another car to the unbelivable amount of congestion? I sure do; what a crock.)

A few miles into the park we saw a large gathering of cars and people on the side of the road. Being good little looky-loos, we stopped too and were rewarded with a distant view of a female moose and her calf. A kind couple let us borrow their binoculars so we could see a little better. It was so neat! They were just hanging out in the river having a little moose swim time, but this was officially my first first moose sighting in my life so I was excited.

Moving on, we stopped a few more times to take in the awesome mountain views. Though a little too packed with people, the park is beautiful. We arrived at Colter Bay Village around 7:00 and got dinner at the cafe there. We got a slight discount on camping since we were on bikes ($10 instead of $15) but showers are not included and are about a mile away from our tent site. We decided to take a baby wipe
shower and then stuffed everything we could into the bear box. Thankfully, all campsites here have giant metal boxes for putting all of your "scented" stuff in. This makes it easier than trying to hoist our BOB bags up a tree.

Tomorrow we really will try to get up on time. We will enter Yellowstone in about 20 miles or so and I really want to see Old Faithful go off. Keep your fingers crossed that the wind takes an off day.

AKB

Note from Jeff: Hey Charles, our lunch stop had Moose Drool Ale on tap! I was a little too exhausted to have a pint (especially with 30 miles left on a brutal day), but I did ask for the bartender for a taste. You are right, that stuff is really good. If we didn't have to be done by August 7th, I would have insisted we stay the night, plus I was so over the wind.--JAB

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Day 66: Lander, WY to Dubois, WY (76 miles, 2914 total)


Ok, before you get all excited to bust out your frenchie accent and say "Dubois", take note that Dubois is pronounced "Dew-Boys." We learned the hard way too, so put away your fromage and beret-wearing toy poodle.

Today was a bit of a beat-down after our week off, but maybe we deserve it for having such a great time over the weekend. Again, a big thanks to Alecia, Matt, the Chandlers and the Wilders for having us. And of course, a huge thanks to Mr. Chandler for rescuing us from our heap of a rental car.

Anyway, we woke up, had breakfast, took the rental car back, and got a lift back to the bike shop. We were shocked to find the Dutchesses standing with a red Burley tandem outside the store. It turns out that about 20 miles out of Lander, the frame cracked on their tandem! I could not believe it. Anyway, long story short, they got back to Lander, rented a wreck, and zipped down to a bike shop in Denver that specializes in tandems. They returned with the nice gently used Burley and intended to do a lot of part swapping with their old bike. So, we found them outside the shop waiting to do some swapping.

Unfortunately, due to the broken frame, we will probably not ride with the Dutchesses again. In the shop, we said goodbye one last time and rolled out of town by 9AM.

Since we are now on new tires, I told AK that we should have a break from flats for a while. I guess I was only thinking about the bikes when I said that, but just out of Lander I got my first BOB trailer flat of my life. That makes 10 flats total on the trip so far, four for me and six for AK. (Although, we failed to mention it, AK had one on the way into Lander, and she managed to score a puncture after installing her new tires.) A huge staple protruded from my BOB tire, and it was very obvious why it was flat, although I was still shocked and if asked, I would have never guessed we would flat a BOB tire. Of course, I still carry spare BOB tubes. We fixed it and we back on the road rather quickly.

Soon we arrived in Fort Washakie. We stocked up on food and snacks at a market and headed on out. About 30 miles later, we arrived in Crowheart and ate a lunch comprised of cheese, cold cuts, and crackers. It was actually pretty good, and pretty much the only thing the tiny town had to offer.

Up to Crowheart, the scenery remained very simular to that of the route into Lander. We spied the Crowheart Butte on our way into town and from there all the way to Dubois, the scenery became rather Grand Canyon-like, but of course on a samller scale. We biked along the Wind River which is apparently named for good reason.

We biked the last 25 miles into Dubois with a punishing headwind. Perhaps we were getting paid back for the light tailwind we had in the morning, but we got it bad. Even pedalling downhill took a lot of work.

About ten miles out of town, we took a moment to dip our heads in the river and then continued on into the wind. At that point, we were really starting to feel the time off the bikes. We decided that we needed to eat, and soon.

Before ever heading to a campground, we went straight to a local cafe for dinner. Now we are camping at the KOA where they take the liberty to spell camping with a "k".

We are both happy to be back on the bikes, but we are also glad to have the first day back over with. Tomorrow we plan to get a much earlier start to beat the wind.

Until next time,

Jeff

Monday, July 18, 2005

Days 64 and 65: Colorado Springs


Friday was the beginning of the real wedding stuff and sort of the end of all of the preparations. Alecia and Matt (and their parents) have been working for so long to put together an unforgettable weekend, and it was fun to finally be enjoying the moments.

All of the bridesmaids went to lunch at the Broadmoor hotel/resort. If you've never heard of this resort, please do an internet search and check it out. It is beautiful and full of old history. Old letters hang on the wall, and in one area old bottles with preserved dust line the wall behind glass cases. (Note from Jeff: For the sake of preservation, I never dust my apartment.) More than that though, the resort feels worlds away from the city and sits at the base of mountains that provide a stunning backdrop. Head on out for a vacation!

After our lunch, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I had fun shopping on Wednesday for a new dress as I have lost a bit of weight during this trip. No spandex or camp clothes for me this night!

We rehearsed well and met our dates at the Fine Arts Center for dinner. Again, the work that Alecia and Matt put into the weekend showed. Our room looked directly across a manicured lawn complete with shade trees and up to the mountains. Dinner was one of the best we've had in a while and was topped by the flowing chocolate fountain complete with several options for dipping. Yummy! (Note from Jeff: I was happy to rehearse drinking Fat Tire Ale in preperation for the big night.)

Following the dinner, we went back to the Antlers Hilton for yet another reception, this one open to all out of town guests. Unfortunately, I could only stay a few hours as my body was calling for a long rest before the big wedding day.

Saturday's wake up came early as we had to return the second rental car and then get me to the salon by 9:30. The wedding party (bride side, of course) all had appointments for hair and makeup and we hung out there until it was time to go to the church at 2:00. That is when it all really started feeling real. Alecia was handling it all in style while several of the bridesmaids and I were getting giddy and excited. We dressed and then helped get Alecia into her dress and veil. She was, of course, beautiful. It seemed like only minutes until we were marching down the aisle and listening to them exchange their vows. Then, after pictures and one random rear-ending because a car was slowing to check out the wedding party, we were off to the reception!

We enjoyed lots of food and dancing and caught up with friends we haven't seen in a while. Too bad we can't eat like this on the road! Seriously though, the night was wonderful and everyone had a great time. All their hard work and planning paid off.

Today was full of good-byes and lots of driving. We left C-Springs around 2:00 and Jonathan and Margaret Day schlepped us up to Denver to pick up the dud car. According to the mechanic there was nothing wrong with it. I wish he'd been in the car dipping below 40 mph on the interstate with an 18-wheeler bearing down on him. We did make it back to Lander around 9:30 or so and decided to motel it one last time rather than set the tent up in the dark with the earwigs lurking about.

I added up the mileage left and divided it by 21 days and we only have to average 65 miles a day to finish on time. Funny that I look at it as "only" 65 miles a day. I've come a long way since those brutal days in Virginia! We'll spend the majority of the day climbing tomorrow so it is time to get back in the mindset of pedaling all day long. I'm already sad about the end of the trip. This has been such an amazing journey. I'll save the reflections until we actually finish, but I just can't believe I've come so far on two wheels!

AKB

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Days 61, 62, and 63 (Colorado Springs, CO, etcetera.)


Sorry for the entry combining the days, but we have been super busy.

On Wednesday morning, we woke up and I headed for Boulder to find an apartment. AK started running errands for Alecia and helped take care of anything she needed help with.

I got to Boulder around noon, and I decided to take the old school approach to finding a new A.P.T.. I grabbed a buch of classifieds and headed for a place to eat lunch. I lucked out in my choice as my server used to live in San Diego, and she gave me all sorts of tips about the area.

From there, I headed out to see all sorts of places. Several property managers showed me what they had to offer, and I saw all sorts of places. I needed to find an apartment that would allow my cat, Maggie, to live with me (for a photo of Maggie in costume, see "Stuff we are NOT bringing on the Equipment page of this website). Some places would not allow her to stay, while others required an extra deposit and about 20 dollars a month more for rent per month. Maggie is going to have to get a job. Another place told me that they would only rent a place with old carpet to me and Maggie. Figuring it was worth a look, I checked it out and the carpet was absolutely nasty. "I don't think my cat would walk on this," I told the property manager.

Anyway, after an exhausting afternoon, I finally called my future academic advisor, Dr. Todd Murphey for some tips. He told me to make sure I found a place without electric heat as it can be really expensive. He also invited me over to check online listings and stay the night if need be. I had packed the tent in case I needed to stay the night, but as I've always said, I like to avoid pitching the tent when I don't have to, so I took him up on his offer. Besides, the company was worlds better than the earwigs from the other night.

Upon arrival at Dr. Murphey's place, I met his wife Shelly, we looked over map and he showed me good areas to live in with regard to campus, and location. Soon we were both searching the online listings for additional options. He found a listing for an apartment attached to a couple's home which sounded perfect so I gave the people a call.

They were not home, so I left a message. Hoping they would call back, the three of us headed to a great Indian place near the apartment. Finally, on the way home from dinner, I got in touch with Tasha (one of the owners), and we headed right back to the apartment to see it at once.

The place is perfect. It is big and nice and gets a lot of naturl light. Plus, Maggie is welcome and the homeowners are friendly, young, and seem active. I really liked the place, but wanted to think about it overnight.

The next day I decided it was a good fit, so I gave them my deposit and my first month's rent and I was on my way back to Colorado Springs by 10AM.

I am really excited to move to Boulder. Bicycles seem to rule that place and bike paths extend through the city. It should be a great place to live.

I got back into town, had lunch with AK, Margaret Day and Baker, and then it was off to watch the Tour and take a nap before the evening's BBQ at Matt's place.

At Matt's place that night we enjoyed burgers, dogs and Fat Tire Ale while we chatted with all sorts of people that came to town for Saturday's big wedding.

Today, AK and I got a chance to sleep in a bit, and then AK was off to the bridal luncheon. I took the opportunity to run some trip related errands and explore the local bike shops. I picked up a few more spare spokes, and bought a few more tools too.

Right not I am in a laundromat taking care of our stinkies and then it is off to some place with internet access.

We are having a really good time hanging out with friends this weekend and the wedding is going to be a blast. Alecia, Matt, and their families have done a lot of work for this weekend, and we are both looking forward to seeing the result. It is going to be great. I am eager to get back on my bike though!

If all goes well with the rental wreck, we should be back riding on Monday. So stay tuned!

Jeff

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 60: Lander, WY to Colorado Springs, CO (by rental car, sort of)


Last night, I was harrassed by earwigs in the tent. I tell you, there is nothing like waking up to the feeling of an earwig crawling on your face. Twice I woke up and snatched the molester off my face and tossed it out of the tent. It wasn't until the third when I decided to turn on the light and have a look at what exactly I was dealing with and if the entire tent was infested.

Well, it was an earwig and the tent was not infested, but I made sure the zippered doors were as closed as can be. In the morning I learned that Dale was visited by the wigs as well, AK slept through it all, and Shawn (even with his floorless tarp shelter) was without an earwig episode. I just cannot figure out how they can get into the tents. We must not have been as careful with the door as we had thought.

Despite my close incounters with our pinchy guests, it was really nice to awake to the sound of the nearby river rather than the alarm clock. We got up around seven and promptly stabbed around in our ears with q-tips to oust any unwanted visitors. Is that even true; do earwigs climb into peoples' ears?

Anyway, today was the day to head back to Colorado Springs for Alecia and Matt's wedding. Since the bike shop did ot open until 10:30, we took our time getting packed up.

Eventually, we headed back up the steep hill from the campsite to the hotel area. We came across a couple whose daughter is doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. It sounded really hardcore (you end up biking really remote areas and may be away from civilization for 6 days at a time), and Shawn was sold. He declared it his next trip.

We said goodbye to Shawn and Dale, and needing to kill time, we went to breakfast and then biked over to Rent-a-Wreck (nice) to pick up our own personal wreck. Ironically, our car had previously been in a wreck as the hood was crushed in and didn't latch properly. Sweet.

Then it was off to drop our bikes off at the shop for a tune-up and storage. After a glance at the maps, we realized that we would have to drive back on the TransAm route all the way to Rawlins. Knowing the Dutchesses, Valentine, Joss, Sid, Leila (the eastbound Bike Friday rider), and perhaps Dave and Patty would all be on the desolate route between Lander and Rawlins, we stopped by a supermarket on the way out of town. We stocked up on snacks, water, ice and Gatorade and tossed it all in a cooler.

All the way out of town, we kept a sharp eye for our friends, and finally, about 25 miles from Lander, we spotted the Dutchesses. We yelled and waved and tooted the horn to get them to stop. Of course they didn't expect to see us, so they were totally shocked. Soon Valentine and Joss rolled up and we busted out the cold drinks and snacks. While enjoying the company and food, we all got to welcome Sid with cheers when he arrived. The entire group was extremely appreciative and we were happy to do it; it was fun!.

After about 20 minutes we were back in the car headed south. We zipped by Sweet Water Springs and our favorite ghost town, Jeffrey City. About 20 miles from Rawlins we caught up with Leila on her Bike Friday. She was completely surprised as we had only met her for a few minutes the day before.

We stopped in for some lunch in Rawlins and I took over driving. We drove to Cheyene on interstate 80 and then headed south on I-25 into Colorado. Everything was going fine until we were a few miles north of Denver and our rental wreck decided it was done. The engine light flicked on and soon there was no power. Pushing on the gas pedal did nothing and we coasted to below 40mph in heavy traffic. Fortunately, the drivers were courtious and patient as we limped our hunk of junk off the freeway and coasted into a parking lot.

The rental agency was not much help, so we called AAA and had our junker towed away. Thankfully, Alecia's father was willing to drive the 80 miles north from Colorado Springs and back to pick us and our stuff up. We really appreciate his aid as it was getting late and we didn't arrive into Colorado Springs until after 10:30.

Unbelievably, it was really hard to find a hotel room on a Tuesday night. After many tries we finally found a decent option not too far away from where we wanted to be.

It has been an exhausting day, and we are beat. It is amazing how complicated life can be when you are not just worrying about pedalling, sleeping, and eating. Tomorrow, AK is helping out with the preparations for this weekend's wedding, and I am off to find an apartment in Boulder.

Until then, we sleep.

Jeff

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Day 59: Jeffrey City, WY to Lander, WY (61 miles, 2838 total)


Our meandering tour through the deserted streets of Jeffrey City this morning was made more shocking once we heard from a former JC school alumna. We rode down streets full of grasses and shrubery past one empty foundation after another. There were 2 buildings labeled as Bachelor Apts #1 and #2 which, though now boarded up, looked as if they could house at least a few hundred people. Off in the distance, what looked like a modern, top-notch looking (even by today's standards) gym stood alone and in great contrast to its barren surroundings. What happened here is shocking. The bar-owner at the next town 20 miles away (which was really no more than a few houses, her gas station/convenience store, and her bar) filled us in. The uranium boom started in the 70's. The price was high and the town was reaping the benefits. The population of JC was close to 6500, not the 5000 we thought. Children were bussed from the surrounding areas to attend school there. Houses once stood on all!
of those empty foundations and trailers stood everywhere else. The bachelor apartments were always full. The gym housed an olympic size pool and there was a football field, baseball field, and tennis courts scattered around town.

Then, in 1980, the mines shut down. The lady we were talking to was in 5th grade at the time. She said that at the beginning of the school year, there were 3 classes of 5th graders, all with 25 to 30 students in them. Other grades were much the same. By the end of the year, only 18 5th graders remained and that was the largest class. The houses that stood on the foundations were sold for a mere $3000 a piece and were carted off to other towns. The uranium company owned the town and wanted to get rid of it so badly that they auctioned off whole blocks for $300. People from Georgia even bought one. Less than 100 people now remain and we're not that sure how they make it. It seems depressing and dismal.

Maybe that sad start put a damper on my energy, but I just felt like I was pedaling through mud today. I just couldn't make my legs go fast. The other 3 guys echoed my sentiments so a fairly easy day turned out to take a little longer than we thought it would. At least the scenery was gorgeous!

We rolled out of JC around 8:00 or so and headed mostly uphill to Sweetwater Station, where we met our friendly bar owner. Dale got a flat about 5 miles from the town so we went on to the Station to wait for him. After a long break, we heaved ourselves back onto our bikes for the remaining 40 miles into Lander. No stops were listed until Lander so we knew lunch would be a late one, especially with our sluggish legs and the headwind that was kicking up. Fortunately, 6 miles later we were treated to a very wonderful 5 mile descent at a 6% grade. I love it when gravity and momentum work in my favor! It was hard to keep my eyes on the road because the scenes unfolding before me at every turn were more beautiful than the last. At one point, there were 5 distinct types of mountains in view. Just to our right were the chunky rock mountains I described yesterday that look like one giant rock splitting into smaller chunks. Slighlty behind them were very smooth, banded mountains that!
looked like they were fresh off a potter's wheel. To our left were scraggly looking mountains covered in sagebrush. Ahead and to our left were mountains of bright red rock that jutted upwards to form mesas. Finally, in the far off distance were huge snow-capped peaks. It was almost too much to take in!

Just after crossing the Little PoPo Agie River, I noticed that Dale and Shawn were no longer behind us.
Turns out Dale had a 2nd flat and Shawn stopped with him. Jeff and I waited for a while, but then decided that we were so hungry that we had to get on into town. Our friendly bar lady recommended the Gannet Grill for lunch and she was right on the money. From salads to sandwiches to pizza, to microbrew beer, the place was fantastic.

We are camping behind a motel and right on the edge of the Big PoPo Agie River. For $8.50 we have grass, showers, and the glorious sound of water running by. It is great to think that we can "sleep in" again to that sound. The bike store that will be keeping our bikes and trailers while we are on our break doesn't open until 10:30 and we don't really need our rental car before that, so no rush in the AM!

We will be sad to leave the company of Shawn and Dale. Dale we will probably see again, but Shawn will be blasting on. It has been a fun week to be back with cycling buddies. We will continue to update our journal while we are on break but we won't be back on the road until next Monday. Keep on reading!

AKB

Note from Jeff: Sheish! I am having journal writing withdrawls here! I've been busy with spokes the last few nights and tonight I was bisy with a Snake River IPA! Anyway, I can't wait to post photos of Jeffrey City; the place was amazing. Wyoming itself has been amazing too. It is such a beautifully desolate state. I get the feeling that is one of the few states left were you can see land that has remained untouched by man since day one. Pronghorn Atelope, fox, and a rattlesnake, have all made an apearance. It my not be the most wealthy state, but it sure has a lot to offer. We saw a girl riding an awesome Bike Friday today; she was headed in the opposite direction. She said she loved it. We also put on our new tires tonight, so we are good to go to Oregon.- JAB

Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 58: Rawlins, WY to Jeffrey City, WY (72 miles, 2777 total)


We all slept fairly well last night even though the wind did gust on and off and trains were fairly constant. It is so nice to camp on grass instead of gravel again. Our alarms went off early and we were all moving around by 5:45. Camp was packed and we rolled out by 6:45. Unfortunately, the place where we wanted to eat breakfast did not open until a few minutes after 7. What a waste of sleeping time! Shawn rolled ahead to the grocery store for breakfast but Dale, Jeff, and I decided to have a hearty breakfast since there weren't supposed to be many stops today.

We met Shawn outside the grocery (we had to backtrack a few miles since there is only 1 grocery in town) and we all stocked up on extra water, meals, and snacks. After that, we shoved off to begin our 70 mile day. The wind was not blowing too hard and sometimes even gave us a push from behind. We all rocked through the first 36 miles. Even I was laying on the cranks to hit 18 and 19 mph consistently. It was awesome. We reached the "town" of Lamont with healthy appetites and pulled in to eat and the only place that marked Lamont as a place. The owner of the café was interesting and I'll leave it at that.

With full bellies, we turned our bikes into the wind for the remaining miles of the day. The land out here can only be described as rugged beauty. The soil is sandy with various shades of green drying out to brown. Wide plains lead up to rocky mountains that jut out of the land. Some look like one giant rectangle of rock cracked into "smaller" pieces that are still larger than any 18-wheelers that pass us. Others look like they are eroding away leaving cliff-like tops above gentle slops. Pronghorn antelope and some kind of deer made several appearances today.

About 15 or so miles before arriving in Jeffrey City, we turned into the entrance for the Split Rock Historic Site. This huge rock mountain with a large V in the top served as a navigation point for those on the Oregon Trail as well as the Pony Express riders. They could see it in front of them for at least one day, and then behind them for another two. I definitely prefer to just follow the road. I'm not sure I would have made a very good pioneer, actually, I know I wouldn't have.

Clouds were darkening and lightening was flashing on the mountains ahead of us as we high-tailed it into the ghost town of Jeffrey City. Uranium mines caused a sudden explosion in the population here. Roads were formed (not paved for the most part), a school and motel were built, businesses went up, and then everything crashed. From a peak of around 5000, the population has dwindled to around 100. The streets are deserted and grass is well established in the pavement cracks of the streets that were roughly paved. It is eerie and sad to see the downfall. Before we leave tomorrow I have requested that we ride around a little more just to really see it since we are only on the edge right now.

We are staying in the Baptist Church tonight. We heard it might be a possibilty from an eastbound rider a few days ago. Otherwise, the only option is a city park with no water or restrooms.

Turns out Dale had a broken spoke today. He and Jeff are working on it while Shawn reads a day old paper he bought in Rawlins and I write the journal. We'll be sleeping on concrete tonight but at least it is inside and away from any mosquito's reach. Tomorrow is our last day before another week off for a wedding. I hope it isn't as tough to get back in the groove of things as it was after the first week off!

AKB

From Jeff: By yhe way, we crossed the Continental Divide twice more today.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 57: Saratoga, WY to Rawlins, WY (47 miles, 2705 total)


There is nothing quite as peaceful as sleeping next to a gently flowing river. As the mileage was going to be lower today, we decided to forget about setting an early alarm last night and opted instead to let the sun be our nudge awake.

We leisurely packed things away and then headed to town for some breakfast. We ran into an English woman cycling west to east yesterday and she highly recommended a café called Lollypops for breakfast and coffee. She was very right! The place was cooling their homemade croissants when we walked in and they looked too good to pass up. They also make their own ice cream there (we did not decide to have dessert that early in the day).

While waiting for our breakfast to arrive, we talked with Bruce and Marilyn, a couple who happens to live in Boulder. They had only wonderful things to say about it. We also talked to a couple from Vail. Seems that Saratoga was a hot destination this weekend!

Our first 20 miles of the trip today followed State Road 130 to Walcott. The terrain gently rolled its way through wide open ranches. At one point I saw movement off to the left side of the road and focused in just in time to see the horns of a pronghorn antelope disappear behind a ridge. I pedalled faster to try to get a better view when he popped up the ridge and onto the road. He eyed me warily and continued to run slightly ahead and to the right. This guy was not interested in jumping the fence on either side of the road, so he ran with me for about a 1/2 mile crossing back and forth across the road before finding a place where he could duck under the barbed wire fence. Once on the other side, he stopped running and stared at me. I stopped and stared back and then we both decided to move on.

The wind was at our back and Jeff and I made fast time to the town of Walcott. We stopped for cold drinks and decided it was high time to figure out a rental car situation for Alecia and Matt's wedding next weekend. The first place we called in Lander was asking a ridiculous price so we may have to go to the next town over where there are two options. Dale joined us again at the stop.

After Walcott, we had our first journey onto an interstate in this trip. There are no other roads that lead to Rawlins from where we were, and Wyoming allows cyclists on their interstates, so we pulled ourselves up the ramp and then rode as close to the right side of the shoulder as we could. The road noise was heavy and you couldn't spend time looking out over the scenery as debris was plentiful, and so were the 18-wheelers. After about 7 miles, I saw Jeff pulled over off the shoulder. "Uh-oh, flat tire," I thought. No such luck. It was a broken spoke. This was the first broken spoke for us since the first week of the trip, and I guess of any day this week, this was the day for it to happen without delaying us too much.

We just happened to be very near a freeway rest stop so Jeff walked and Dale and I rode to the shade. While there, a couple gave us softdrinks, apples and a donation for the FFB! What a treat!

After about a 2 hour maintenance break, we got back on the road and were slammed with a headwind for the remaining miles of the day. (Note from Jeff: While fixing my spoke, I also noticed that my rear tire was extremely worn. I swapped it out for the spare and we should have new tires waiting for us at the bike shop in Lander.) We were all thrilled to finally exit the interstate. Jeff called for directions to the bike shop in town and then the three of us headed to Subway for a very late lunch. Three other touring cyclists were there and they were gross! They were not hesitant to say that they hadn't showered in a week and they really looked it too. One guy looked like he hadn't brushed his teeth in weeks either. Another "bragged" (?) that he was so cheap he was wearing USED women's shorts. Now those are some seriously low standards. After being grossed out by these guys, we were happy to take leave of them to find our campground. Jeff had gone to the bike shop while Dale and I were finishing our sandwiches and returned rather quickly. Turns out that he knew WAY more about bikes than the person in the shop so he wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. (Yes, spokes come in different sizes, no, they are not measured in inches, yes, sometimes people actually want to buy tools.)

Thankfully, our campground for the night is much better than the bike shop. Mountain Hills RV Park is on the opposite side of town from where we came in but the showers were immaculate, the grass plush, and the internet service available (though for a high price).

The wind is still blowing in gusts and we have all decided (Shawn is here too) that tomorrow has to be an early day to try to get as many miles in before the winds kick up.

One major milestone was hit upon entering Rawlins. We have finished 7 map sections now and only have 5 remaining. Yay us!

Oh, and no good news on the rental car for us. The outrageous price given us before seems to be the best deal out there. Let's just say it is more than most people pay for a car payment in a month and we're only using it for a week!!

AKB

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Day 56: Walden, CO to Saratoga, WY (70 miles, 2658 total)


Wyoming!!! Today we breezed (literally) into our seventh state of the trip.

It was a fantastic day. We originally planned to end the day in Riverside (suggested by our guidebook), but we were advised by Jonathan to push on the extra 18 miles to Saratoga because the town has more to offer including a free natural hot spring.

After our late day yesterday, we (FYI, since he spent the day with us, everytime I say "we" in this entry it includes Dale) decided to sleep in until 7AM. After meeting Jonathan for breakfast, we finally got on the road by 9:30AM.

After reading about the chances of strong gusting winds in northern Colorado and Wyoming, we were pleasantly surprised by a tailwind pushing us north. From Walden, we had about 22 miles to the state line, all of which passed easily. At one point on a descent, I maxed my computer out a 50mph. That is officially the fastest I have ever gone on a bike, and yet again I did not even mean to. I just crouched down and zipped down the hill.

At the state line, we stopped for our usual "Welcome to..." photos. We didn't dilly-dally long as we knew that tailwinds don't often last.

A few miles into Wyoming, I was blasting along with the tailwind at about 25mph when I managed to collide with a very angry wasp. Well, I'm not sure if he was angry before he smacked into my neck, but he certainly was after as he did not waste much time sinking his stinger into my neck. Insatantly, my neck was in pain, but not wanting to lose my precious momentum, I decided to coast to a stop rather than brake.

Soon, AK and Dale caught up to me. AK inspected my swelling bite for a stinger while Dale searched for a Claritin (in hopes of keeping the swelling down). There was no stinger to be found and we were back riding the tailwind shortly there after.

We rode the remaining 28 miles into Riverside without issue. The tailwind died, but so did the wind in general, so we were just happy to have a wind-free afternoon in Wyoming (something that is rather rare). Although, as we turned towards Riverside we did get a few stiff gusts on our left side, but they disappeared as soon as they came up.

In Riverside we had a great lunch at the Bear Trap Cafe, and all three of us decided that we ought to push on to Saratoga. The last 18 miles into Saratoga were really easy, almost too easy. Once we arrived we consulted our guidebook on how to get to the hot springs.

When we arrived at the "Hobo Pool", we were schocked to discover how hot it really was. We were told that the main portion of the pool was between 110 and 120 degrees and another smaller section was near 200! We could barely dip our feet in the main pool and decided that anyone wanting to have kids should probably swim elsewhere. We found that the mixture of the hot spring water with the nearby river was more our speed.

The hot springs were right next door to the city pool and one of the local lifeguards offered up his parents' backyard for free camping. Free, you say? We're there. He also promised few mosquitos.

After about an hour of wading and showers in the pool locker room, we biked back in to town to enjoy some live traditional African music. We asked a local for a recommended resturant and he pointed us toward the "Cantina" were we enjoyed mexican food and margaritas.

Next, AK led us to our accomodations for the night. Soon we arrived at the house, and the lifeguard pointed us toward the best spot to pitch a tent in his backyard. It turns out that their backyard ends at the North Platte River! So, under the watchfull eyes of several deer, we pitched our tents next to the river. It is a really cool place to be for the night.

All three of us are really happy we decided to blast past Riverside and come to Saratoga for the night. It was well worth the extra miles, and now we will have a shorter day into Rawlins tomorrow.

By the way, we ran into Shawn this morning. It turns out that he arrived at about 1PM into Walden after taking the shorter route. He said he could see the storm over in our direction. It sounds like the old route does have a bit more traffic, and I doubt it is as scenic as the route we took. We also ran into him again here in Saratoga this afternoon. The potential for mosquitos in the campgrounds tempted him (and his tarp-shelter) to spring for a hotel for the night.

All in all, it was a great day. With the sound of the river babbling nearby, we are off to bed.

By the way, yesterday marks one month left of our adventure. I cannot believe it. Time is passing so quickly; I just know I am gonna start missing this trip the day we finish it.

Jeff

Friday, July 08, 2005

Day 55: Kremmling, CO to Walden, CO (79 miles, 2588 total)


We spent the better part of last night and this morning discussing the route options to Walden. Adventure Cycling recently changed the route in favor of one 17 miles longer than the previous. We know that AC never changes the route without good reason, but some of our cycling buddies have maps with the old version of the route even though they had purchased their maps recently. Asking around, we did a little research on our options. Two different sources recommended the newer, longer route for reasons of traffic and scenery. In the end, Dale, Sid, AK and I all opted for the longer, newer route while Shawn decided to try the old route. Paul and Annemeike decided to take a rest day in Kremmling.

We rolled out just before 8AM, ahead of everybody else. We made quick work through an amazing canyon to arrive in Hot Sulphur Springs and stopped in for a much needed breakfast #2. The County Seat Cafe was worth the stop. Powered up, we moved on.

Seven miles after Hot Sulphur Springs, we turned north on state road 125 towards our third mountain pass of the trip. About 100 yards up the road, we were greeted by a sign that warned us we were in moose country. Excited to see one, both AK and I scanned our picturesque scenery looking for anything moose-like.

Finally, I spotted one standing in Willow Creek. It was a female and she looked like a huge deer. I stopped, hoping to have AK see her too. She looked at me and bolted. The sound of her sprinting through the creek was much louder than I ever thought it would be. Unfortunately, AK never did get a good look at her.

At noon, we were about 12 miles from the pass and a dark cloud loomed on the horizon above the pass. Knowing that lightening over mountain passes can be extremely dangerous, we decided to duck into Sawmill Gulch Campground to wait it out.

The campground offered some cool campsites, so we picked one by the creek and waited. Plus, the campground had a jerk-water pump that we had to try out. After about 45 minutes, the skies looked clear enough to go on, so we did.

Two miles up the road, the clouds looked worse. We were right near Denver Creek Campground, so we ducked in again. We asked a campground host what he thought about the storm clouds. "Nah, it doesn't look like they have any lightening in them." That sounded good, until the guy almost lost all credibility when he told us he has never driven the 9 miles up the road over the pass. Then about a minute and a half later, he lost all credibility when a flash of lightening ripped through the sky.

AK and I ran for cover. We tossed the bikes under a tree, grabbed our green dragon tarp, and headed for a spot we thought would be safe. We sat on an edge of the tarp and pulled the rest over us and the sky opened up. Rain turned to hail which turned to rain, and so on. Thunder seemed to crash all around us, and at one particular time it was so close that it really startled us. After about 30 minutes, it let up enough to peel back the tarp.

The skies still looked bad over the pass, so we continued to wait. Sun broke through and we rolled the bikes out to dry out. AK laid back to take a nap and I wandered around the campsite to explore. A swift creek ran right behind the site we picked, and I wandered down to check it out.

Something in the water looked odd, and on closer inspection I discovered it was... BEER! To be exact, there were 8 bottles of beer and one bottle of hard limeade sitting perfectly chilled in the creek. Knowing that it was most likely left by a 4th of July camper, I took a bottle out of the creek, opened it, and took a sip. It was good. I strolled back up to the campsite and told a semi-sleeping AK that I love this campsite. She opened her eyes and to her surprise I was drinking a beer. After telling her the story of my beverage, we noted that we best get back to taking cover as the skies were turning dark again.

This time we rigged up a better shelter using our clothesline, the tarp, and the picnic table. I also grabbed another creek beer. This time the rain was lighter, and we were much more comfortable.

The entire time we were waiting out the storm, we were trying to keep an eye out for Sid or Dale on the road. Eventually, AK spotted Dale and chased him down to get him to join us (he had already seen us though). Soon Dale was sitting with us drinking a hard limeade as the skies were clearing.

After hiding from the weather between the hours of 1PM and 4:30PM, we finally got back on the road as Sid was arriving. He had missed the really bad weather (as did Dale) and was planning on staying the night in the Denver Creek Campground. We recommended campsite #11 because of the superb beverage service.

From there, Dale, AK and I biked 9 miles surrounded in beauty to the top of the pass. The Willow Creek snaked back and forth near us and rocks and trees jutted into the sky. Soon we arrived at Willow Creek Pass at 9683 feet, and crossed the Continental Divide yet again. We are now back on the Atlantic Watershed side, so we will obviously be crossing it at least once more. I took the oppurtunity to pee on the Continenal Divide; prior to today, I had never peed in two oceans at the same time.

Our maps had us believing that the trip down to Walden through Rand would be all downhill. We we were wrong. There were a lot of uphill sections mixed in with our downhill ride.

At 6:30PM, we arrived in Rand were everthing was closed. We were still 22 miles from Walden and we were losing daylight fast. We shoveled down some snacks and began to race the setting sun and mosquitos to Walden.

On the way I spotted a seagull eating roadkill (I really don't like those birds, even this far inland), nearly got run over by a deer, and scored a nose bleed from the arid climate. Meanwhile, AK's back hurt, Dale fell behind, and we were all hungry.

Finally we arrived in Walden ("The Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado") at about 8PM. Exhausted, the three of us decided to share a motel room. That is when we learned that the reason Dale had fallen behind was because he decided to do a "naked mile" which actually turned into 5.

We quickly dashed over to get dinner before the place closed. We were joined by Jonathan, another cyclist who is camping in the city park with Shawn tonight.

Now we are all exhausted and plan to sleep in until 7 tomorrow. We will enter Wyoming tomorrow and are told to expect some serious ghost towns with almost no traffic (and lots of mosquitos). It should be interesting. Perhaps Dale could do a "naked state".

Jeff

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Day 54: Frisco, CO to Kremmling, CO (44 miles, 2509 total)


We woke up to another chilly morning, but not as bad as the day before. Although the campground was full, the place was quiet, and I slept hard. Sleeping in the high altitudes is quite a contrast to the the rest of the trip as we sleep bundled up rather than on top of our sleeping bags.

After studying the maps with our compadres, we rolled out by 7:30 headed for Kremmling. Yesterday, we discovered that for the next week we have to follow the guidebook exactly in order to make it to Alecia and Matt's wedding. Since AK is in the wedding, we need to arrive in Colorado Springs by Tuesday night in order for her to comfortably tend to and help out with wedding related events. So, just like our last wedding break, we needed to find a town on the route with a bike shop and a car rental agency. Looking ahead, the only option is Lander, WY. Otherwise we will be in the middle of nowhere, literaly. Anyway, if we follow the guidebook exactly for the next few days we will arrive in Lander on Monday night. So, we will have to take it pretty chill for the next week as we follow the guidebook, and I must admit we are pretty excited to have a good excuse to go easy on the miles in the next few days. Not to worry though, when we get back on the trail we will have three weeks !
left and only 3 days to gain on the guidebook.

Anyway, after about 5 miles on the bike path, we crossed over the Dillon Reservoir Dam (the reservoir is so full that the spillway is in use) and arived in Silverthorne.

We decided to stop into a cafe for breakfast #2 which was tasty and provided an nice escape from the cold until the sun provided enough warmth to ride comfortably. After we had finished eating, Paul and Annemieke stopped by to to chat about maps and today's destination. Desperate for a shower, AK called ahead to the various campgrounds and found the Red Mountain RV Park boasting showers, laundry, and soft grass for 6 bucks per person. We were all sold.

We pedalled out of Silverthorne down (literally) Route 9 towards Kremmling. The scenery was beautiful as always as we paralled the Blue River for miles. Both AK and I are growing more and more excited to be moving to such a beautiful state.

The Blue River dumped into the Green Mountain Reservoir which was surrounded by several awesome campgrounds. We actually were supposed to head south under the reservoir and through the town of Heeney on Route 30, but I missed the turn and we stayed on Route 9. As a result, our mileage was shorter, but we were exposed to a bit more traffic.

Just outside of Kremmling, we crossed the Colorado River which looks extremely small up here. But it is cool to imagine that theoretically, when I pee in the woods here it can seep into the river and run all the way down through Mexico and into the gulf. Well, either that or into the drinking supply for the L.A. Basin, but whatever.

Just after the Colorado River, we saw a few flashes of lightening, and we high-tailed it off the road and took cover under a nearby shed. After about 20 minutes we rolled out and into town for shakes and burgers.

While chowing down, we spotted the Dutchesses and then later Shawn. Already setup behind the local fire department, Shawn decided to move over to the RV park after hearing of the showers and laundry options. Sometimes a shower is well worth moving camp.

We grabbed some mac and cheese, corn, and brocoli at the market and headed for the RV Park. The woman at the front desk was eager to receive us as she is very proud of what all they offer cyclists for only 6 bucks, and she should be. The showers were fantastic, the bathrooms were spotless, and we did all our laundry.

We both showered up and AK took care of the laundry while I biked into town for some beer and a haircut. Rosie stayed open late to give me my seven dollar haircut complete with an eyebrow buzz. I grabbed a six pack of Bud to share with my fellow cyclists and a Gatorade for AK and headed back to the RV Park. Since I didn't have my trailer on and with my new aerodynamic haircut, I zipped past Paul and Annemeike on their way to the park.

While cooking dinner, Dale and then Sid arrived and once agian the crew was back together. I have a feeling that we all will continue to arrive at the same destination until we take our second wedding break.

Anyway, the mosquitos are brutal here, so we are gonna jump into the tent and take cover.

Jeff

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Day 53: Fairplay, CO to Frisco, CO (40 miles, 2465 total)


Awesome. Majestic. Inspiring. Breathtaking. As Jeff said yesterday, it is hard to put into words what we are biking through these days. It is just so beautiful.

The wind died down by the time we were climbing into the tent for bed last night. We zipped up all the way in our mummy bags and prepared for a good night's sleep. According to Dale's thermometer, the temperature this morning was in the mid-30's. Brrrr!

We bundled up with as many layers as we could before heading out this morning. My fingers were so cold that I finally wrapped my bandanas around them! For the first 6 miles we were on a bike path that paralled busy Highway 9. It was luxurious compared to the treacherous conditions of yesterday.

The bike path ended in the town of Alma which turned into a much needed coffee stop. From there we started the official climb up to Hoosier Pass. It was 6 miles from Alma to the top and it really wasn't tough at all. That may be because the scenery was so fantastic, or it may be because we have had so much practice climbing by now, or it may be because the grades are fairly gentle. Whatever the combo, getting to the top was no problem and enjoying the view was mighty nice. Dale and "The Dutchesses" arrived shortly after we did and we all took tons of pictures. The pass elevation is 11,542 feet and also marks the first time we cross over the Continental Divide. Dale turned on his iPod and speakers and played "Top of the World" by The Carpenters. It was cheesy and we all loved it because this is the top of the entire trail for us. (Note from Jeff: I do not love anything about the Carpenters even at 11,542 feet) We will never be higher than we were on that pass on this trip.

You know what the top of a pass means? DOWNHILL!!!! We effortlessly glided 10 miles down the other side to the ski resort town of Breckenridge. (We all decided that eastbounders have a much harder climb as switchbacks are involved.) In our guidebook we read that we had to get pizza at Fatty's Pizzeria in town so that was our priority. We sat at a table outside and I was constantly putting my jacket on and taking it off based on whether the sun was out or behind a cloud. There is a huge difference in temperature between the two. We ordered our pizza on whole wheat crust and just as we were served, Paul and Annemieke pulled up. Just after they got their pizza, Dale rolled up. (His first stop was the internet cafe.)

After lunch we walked around, checked out a camping store, then started talking to a man in the street. Turns out he is the mayor of Breckenridge! I love that we keep running into people like him. They are so ready to talk to random strangers like us. It makes the trip more memorable.

Breckenridge marks the beginning of bike paths that go through many ski towns in this area. We were still going somewhat downhill and barely touched the pedals on the way to Frisco. Tourists and serious cyclists alike were all zipping away enjoying the 70's and sunshine.

We stopped by a market to get more fresh veggies for dinner, then it was back to the bike path to find our campsite for tonight, Heaton Bay Campground. On the way we passed Elizabeth and Amy, 2 eastbounders, and swapped stories for a while. We shared info on where to stay (and not to stay) in both directions. A group of walkers who are also cyclists also stopped by to chat.

By the time we reached the campground it was approaching 5:00. Imagine our dismay when we saw the "Campground Full" sign. Fortunately, Jeff saw a note to cyclists hung on the board. A westbounder named Shawn had already checked in and was willing to share a site. Hooray! He started on May 27 so he is really covering some miles.

Dale and Sid have also arrived now and we have done the evening camp chores of setting up the tent, cooking dinner, etc. The sun has now set behind a huge bald mountain and this day has been one of the best we've had in a while. I am excited to again sleep all bundled up and hope tomorrow's ride isn't too full of headwinds.

AKB

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Day 52: Currant Creek Hostel, CO to Fairplay, CO (42 miles, 2425 total)


Colorado is amazing! So far it is my favorite state (I think it is AK's too) which is a good thing since we are moving here as soon as the ride is done. The views just cannot be beat.

AK and I packed up and rolled out of the hostel by 7AM. We biked along Route 9 in almost total seclusion. Everywhere we could possibly look, we would see the most amazing views. Sprawling hillsides dotted with trees filled the horizon.

After about 7 miles, we reached Currant Creek Pass at 9,400 feet. As we reached the summit, we got our first view of the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. It was spectacular, and it was the first time that the magnitude of the distance we have traveled really set in. Words don't begin to describe how spectacular the view was, and looking at it felt great.

After cresting the pass, we biked through more amazing scenery. I did take a lot of photos, unfortunately, I don't think the camera will do it justice. You will just have to see it for yourself!

On the way into Hartsel, we dropped into an amazing and far-reaching plain, sandwiched between the mountain passes. We spotted a few deer and several herds of bison. The bison look like floating shadows in the distance on the plains.

After 22 miles, we arrived in Hartsel and decided to stop in for our second breakfast. We opted for the cafe rather than the place serving tamales which turned out to be the wrong choice. An hour an a half after ordering, our food finally arrived. Even though we left the hostel before any other of our companions, all off them arrived at the cafe before our food arrived. We warned them all of the long wait and each of them made the wise choice to eat elsewhere.

Unfortunately, during our 2 hour layover in the cafe, a stiff wind came up. We are travelling North towards Wyoming, and the wind was coming straight at us. We have officially experienced wind from all cardinal directions on this trip.

Luckily, the scenery offered more and more amazing views to compensate for the struggle with the wind. Bison roamed the open fields with snow-capped mountains in the distance, and we creeped along at speeds less than 9mph into the wind. I just didn't care though, I was having a great time.

We crossed over the middle fork of the South Platte River three times. Its waters are very clear and lots of people were fly fishing in the wind. I watched one man pull two trout out of the river in the span of about 10 minutes. Soon we arrived in Fairplay, and I sported my 3rd flat (our seventh of the trip, all of which are rear flats except for one).

We stopped in the market and bought the makings for pasta, fresh green beans, and brocoli, and headed for our "campground". Tonight we are camping behind the South Park Lodge with our cycling buddies (all except Sid who decided he had a bad day and went to a hotel). The stiff wind and the rough ground made setting up the tent a pain, but we eventually got it set.

We enjoyed a nice meal with our friends and shared some local Fat Tire Amber Ale (which is great).

Currently, we are at 10,000 feet and we sure noticed it when we were cooking our pasta. Al dente anyone? Tomorow we will reach the highest point on the route which is also the first time we cross the Continental Divide. I'm very excited we are actually doing this! Amazing!

Colorado has certianly stepped it up on the route marker signs. We passed several today and yesterday which puts CO right behind VA in the contest for the best marked state.

The sun just set behind the mountains and we are all headed to bed unsure if we will see any professional firework shows from our "campground". Other than the heavy traffic in town, it hardly feels like the Fourth.

Jeff

Monday, July 04, 2005

Day 51: Cañon City, CO to Currant Creek (Schechter) Hostel, CO (37 miles, 2383 total)


Hello elevation! Today we traveled 37 miles from around 5300 feet to 8750 feet and we sure felt it. Even at 5300 feet, the altitude had an affect on us. The burning muscle feeling comes much earlier and our breath feels short and shallow. Along with that, the climate has become very dry.

We left Cañon City by about 7 and biked the rest of the way through town. Cañon City is very proud of their prison and welcomes tourists to visit their prison museum across the street from the real deal. We also learned that prison guards are not fond of waving. Not fond at all.

About ten miles out of town we came across a roadside campground and cafe and decided to swing by to fill up our water bottles. The dry climate had already taxed our supply considerably, even after only 10 miles.

After filling up, we learned from the owner that Paul and Annemieke (the young dutch couple from before our week off) had stayed there and just left this morning. He also said that Valentine and Jos had been there too. We stepped outside and walked over to investigate some horses. That's when I caught a glimpse of Sid's yellow shirt out of the corner of my eye. We hadn't seen Sid since Pittsburg, and it was fun to see him again. It turns out he had stayed there too.

While catching up with Sid, we spotted Dale passing by. It took some shouting, but we got him to see us. Minutes after that, Valentine and Jos popped out of their cabin. It was like a big bicyclist reunion!

After a lot of gabbing, AK and I decided we best get going to avoid the heat and the wind and thunderstorms that so commonly arrive here in summer afternoons.

Up and up we went, with Sid not too far behind us. The climbing was not terribly steep but it was very constant. Regardless of the fact that the climbing was not very steep, it was still tough due to the ever increasing elevation. Although, so far it is better than the Appalachians because at least every steep climb is not followed by a steep descent and another steep climb.

We passed a field with llamas and bison wandering together and we stopped to watch. Each had a few young ones wandering around with them and the llamas responded to whistling with the utmost curiosity.

The climbing continued and the dryness demanded more and more water of us. We stopped to chat with some eastbounders and learned we did not have far to go to our destination for the night.

Just after mile marker 24 on route 9, we were told to look for the hostel. At that point, I was busy looking up and was greeted by Paul and Annemieke waving from the hillside. We hadn't seen them since Pittsburg as well and we were excited to catch up.

Just as soon as I made it up the hill and greeted Paul and Annemieke, Warren, the owner, stepped out to welcome us. It turns out that he has owned this beautiful piece of land complete with majestic views since the early 70's. He built all of the buildings himself and has been offering a place for cyclists since day one of the TransAm Trail. He offers camping for 5 bucks and cozy bunkhouses for 10. He has raised kids here and now keeps five dogs and a few cats. One of the cats is named Katmandu and she likes to roll in the dirt. Never in the mood to pack the tent, we opted for the bunkhouse.

A short time later, Sid arrived and the old crew was almost complete; we just were waiting on Dale. It is fun having cycling buddies!

Since arriving the wind has increased and the temperature has dropped considerably. For the first time in weeks we have busted out our long sleeves and long pants.

It is about dinner time so we need to get to cooking. We are still waiting on Dale. It turns out that he decided to stop by the Royal Gorge to check it out, and plans to arrive later. We opted to skip it since we will have time to see it once we move to Colorado.

We are glad to have decided to take it easy for the weekend of the Fourth. It is important to take time to adjust to the elevation. Warren was telling us that many cyclists arrive here hurting with altitude sickness. None for us please.

Anyway, it has been really interesting to not only see the transformation of landscapes across the country, but the people and cultures as well. I think seeing these transformations by bicycle only amplifies the changes too. We just get exposed to so many more people and forms of nature than those riding in a horseless carriage.

I hope this journal has been inspiring a few readers to consider making this trip someday too. It has been really fantastic, and I know we are going to miss it as soon as we stop. I know other readers just think we're nuts.

Jeff

From AK - we lost cell phone coverage just outside of Cañon City and, as a result, we never got the chance to meet up with Matt and Alecia. I was really disappointed and kept watching the road for Matt's big truck in case they passed by. That is one of the hard parts of not knowing exactly where you're going in a day. I hope they didn't look around for us too long!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Day 50: Pueblo, CO to Cañon City, CO (47 miles, 2346 total)


Given the holiday weekend, and the lower mileage days ahead in our guidebook, we have decided to take it easy this weekend. Today's ride brought us to the doorstep of the Rockies. We have climbed to our highest elevation yet on the trip and are currently up to around 5300 feet. However, most of our climbing has been so gradual that it is hard to believe we are 1800 feet higher than our highest point in the Appalachians. I'll take this climbing any day!

We woke up early and sent the journal. We also got a message from Dave and Patty, the couple we met back in Kentucky. They were also in Pueblo and at the same hotel. Small world. We didn't see them though. They are having bike trouble and are laying over in Pueblo today. Shortly after getting their email, Jeff ran into a Dutchman named Valentine whom we have heard about for weeks now. He was also staying at our hotel and was joined today by his wife, Jos (pronounced Yoss). Who knew we picked such a cycling hotel mecca? Both couples and the eastbounder we'd run into on Thurday recommended an alternate route out of town. It just so happened that the route was shorter and we were in.

The streets of Pueblo were almost deserted as we pedaled across the Arkansas River for the 3rd time since being in Kansas. A few miles out of town, Jeff came across a small plastic mole rat with a sombrero on. He has now joined us for the rest of the trip and Jeff named him El Ranchero. I'm so jealous!

We stopped at a convenience store about 10 miles from Cañon City and Valentine and Jos were already there. We chatted for a while and shared road stories. They were having coffee even though the temps were climbing into the 90's. I can't imagine!

We reached Cañon City by noon and knowing the campground would be full, we started the motel hunt. We went door to door looking for an affordable, non-smoking room and finally found one after about 6 tries. At least there were options!

We piled our gear into our tiny room and then hit a Mexican restaurant that had been recommended by a few people we had talked to. It definitely hit the spot! After lunch, I showered and took a nap. Heavenly! There are so many benefits to arriving early in town. While I lazed it up, Jeff worked on the bikes. I think I got the better end of the deal.

We didn't feel like getting back on the bikes to go to dinner so we walked up the street to the only restaurant visible from the motel. Just our luck it was closed. We decided to order pizza to the room and are watching re-runs of Law and Order SVU as we eat.

The plan is to head out early again tomorrow and meet up with Matt and Alecia for lunch somewhere. Time to rest up again. Maybe it is the altitude that is making me so lazy...

AKB

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Day 49: Rest Day - Pueblo, CO


Technically our rest day was in Colorado Springs, but we left and returned to the trail in Pueblo.

After nearly 280 miles in just three days, AK and I certainly enjoyed our rest day. We slept in (sort of), relaxed, checked email (finally!), ran some errands, and spent some time with Matt, Alecia and their big, black lab, Vinnie.

We did make it to REI to stock up on some useful items. We got more camp fuel, a new wiring harness for AK's computer, and I was able to exchange my malfunctioning headlamp for a new one. That store is so full of cool stuff, it's hard to leave without spending any money.

In the next few days, we are headed into the Rockies. We are not excited about the 4th of July as it means the roads will be busy, the campgrounds will be full, and village idiots will be busy attempting to remove their fingers with firecrackers. All that amounts to a hectic weekend for us, especially since the holiday is on Monday.

AK's father sent a package to us via Matt and Alecia that we are most excited about. He made us Hudson Bay Bread which is a homemade high calorie energy bar. It is loaded with oats, nuts, suger, honey, molasses, and all sorts of good stuff. It tastes fantastic and we are excited to be fueled by something new. Thanks again Joe, that stuff is the bee's knees.

Many thanks to Matt and Alecia for their hospitality and their willingness to shuttle us around so close to their busy wedding day! Oh, and thanks for the Fat Tire Ale too; we dig that stuff!

We did have to fix AK's 4th flat of the trip this afternoon. She had another slow leaking tube that we chose to just nurse into Pueblo (by occasionally pumping it up) rather than stop to fix it. That makes a total of 6 flats for us. We took the opportunity to toss in our friend Patches (the well worn, but very loved tube) in AK's tire.

Jeff

P.S.: Go Lance!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Day 48: Eads, CO to Pueblo, CO (115 miles, 2299 total)


Taaaaaiiiillllllwwwwwiiinnnnddddd!
Ayyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Blasting miles! Thats all I've got to say, just plain blasting. That's it, this journal entry is over; there is nothing more to say.

Just kidding, of course there are things to say. We killed it today! We slept poorly in the city park due to a wind storm in the middle of the night. Luckily, there was no lightening or tornados, but the tent took a beating.

We woke up groggy at 5:30, and were slow to motivate. After eating some oatmeal and packing up we were on the road just after 7AM.

A few miles out of Eads, I started feeling really good. My legs felt no strain as I hovered around 20mph. It was then that a I realized that not only was I feeling good, but we had a slight tailwind. Wooohoooo!

Seeing as though we had seen the wind change directions in a matter of hours, AK and I decided that it was no time to mess around. We were going to take advantage of this gift to the fullest extent.

I had planned to wait for AK at this dot-on-the-map of a town, but we were going so fast we never even saw the dot. Literally, before we knew it, we had gone 23 miles to Haswell.

The wind increased in strength and then we really started to jam. Zip, there goes the dot of Arlington and the previously booming town of Sugar City. By noon we had traveled 63 miles and already arrived in Ordway, which we had planned to be our final destination for the day.

While AK and I were eating lunch at the Bit and Spur, we decided that there was no way we were stopping yet. When Mother Nature serves you up a tasty slice of tailwind pie, you take it! You don't stop at noon, no way! You get on your bike and ride like it is your job because tomorrow she may be serving haggis.

When I first thought of mentioning the idea of pushing on to Pueblo (for another century and then some) to AK, I thought it would go over like a pregnant pole vaulter. I knew that as long as we had this tailwind, we had to ride it, so I searched for a way to sweeten the deal and lower the bar enough for the preggers pole vaulter to just trip over it, no vaulting required.

Well, we had planned to arrive in Pueblo tomorrow night and we were going to meet up with Matt and Alecia (who would drive from their home in Colorado Springs to meet us) for dinner. Originally, Matt and Alecia sugested that they pick us up, we stay the night at their place and drop us off back in Pueblo the next morning. We had decided against that idea because it seemed like it would be fun, but also a logistical nightmare. But, therein lies the deal "sweetener". I told AK that if we make it to Pueblo, we could stay the night with Matt and Alecia, and we could take the day off tomorrow. And that was it, AK was sold on the idea of going to Pueblo, tailwind or not, she was going. Since we have gained two days on our guidebook in three days of riding, I am totally fine with taking a day off (even though in total we are still 3 days behind the book).

Out of Ordway, our tailwind was waiting for us. We zurned through some town named Crowley so fast that I don't even remember it and then we were on to Olney Springs where we stopped for a Gatorade at a nice little shop. Not wanting to waste our wind, we got back on the road ASAP. In what seemed like nothing we were 20 miles down the road in the town of Boone for one more cold drink.

Five miles out of Boone we achieved our second century of the trip. This time, 100 miles felt like nothing. "We earned the last one," I told AK, "but it almost feels like we stole this one." It is amazing how easy this one was for us. AK's computer is still broken, but mine read 5 hours 40 minutes with an average speed of 17.9mph. That is unbelievable compared to the 8.5 hour trek we had completed two days before.

Less than an hour later we passed a bunch of roadside prarie dogs and pulled into Pueblo. With a population of 102K, Pueblo seems enormous as compared to any town we have seen in days. The roads were congested and the air smelled dirty. We chatted with a fellow traveling "bug-eater" (his words) and then we searched out a place for Alecia to meet us.

We found a Carl's Jr that offered a place to rest our stinky bodies while we waited. That ended our longest mileage day we both have ever done in our lives, but we both agreed that with the tailwind it was easy. We could have done another 50 if need be. The 115 mile day took me 6 hours and 27 minutes (AK was probably one hour longer) with an average of 17.9mph. Amazing.

So today was a huge day for us as far as milestones go. First, just out of Ordway, we got our first view of the looming Rockies. Second, we finished our 6th map of the trip. Third, we have officially reached the mid-point of our trip! Fourth, we both rode further than we ever have in one day. And finally, the Hardee's have now become the more familar Carl's Jr.

Among all the happy news of the day, we did get some sad news from an eastbound cyclist today. Apparently the Adventure Cycling tour group that has been about a week ahead of us all trip suffered a major tragedy. Apparently, one of their riders was struck and killed by a car. From what we were told, the rider was in the midle of the lane just after the crest of a hill. An oncoming car (incidentally, driven by an off-duty officer) quickly crested the hill and didn't see the cyclist until it was too late. We are very saddened to hear this as even though we have never met these people, we have heard enough about them from people along the route to feel like we know them.

That said, AK and I have worked very hard to be safe on this trip. Visability is key. We wear our screaming yellow vests everyday, no matter how hot it is. Each of our bikes has the reflective orange triangles plus various reflectors and reflective tape. We both have mirrors on our bikes which are extremely useful. Above all, we never ride side-by-side unless we are on a road where we can see clearly both in front and behind us a safe distance.

Anyway, we are now back at Alecia and Matt's place for the night and we are happy to be here. It is nice to be among friends in a comfortable place. It's been a great day.

Jeff