Bike across America - Daily Blog
The journal of my cross-country trip from Seaside, Oregon, to Ocean Grove, New Jersey - 4139 miles
Most of this was originally written into an online web log along the way using computers in public libraries.
Shortcut by states (west to east):
June 20, T minus 41 days and counting
I loaded my bike up with dummy gear yesterday and rode 44 miles. I felt pretty good riding but was physically tired this morning when I got up. So, I loaded up and rode 30 miles. Fortunately, I felt good once I got started. I must admit, I'm looking at 65 miles a day and wondering. These rides are "shake down" rides, just making sure that everything works, including my own bad self. Riding loaded (not "loaded" like Bicycle Harry [past Tyrone, PA celebrity and alleged consumer of alcoholic beverage]) really slows you down. It hurts when people pass me. I really fight the urge to shout, "I'd kick your ass if I didn't have 50 lbs of gear on my bike." Yesterday, I bought a bathroom scale to get a feel for how much my bike actually weighs and how much I'm hauling, and I was carrying about 50 lbs of "gear" (that being juice bottles, cans, towels and other heavy stuff.) I haven't loaded my actual gear on my bike, yet. My goal for gear load is less than 50 lbs. I'll have to leave the hair dryer at home. My bike weighed in at 32 lbs. This includes front and rear rack, 3 water bottle cages, suspension seat post (I cannibalized this off of my old mountain bike - and it fits!), and odometer. Now, I need to plan an overnight with real gear.
July 20, T minus 12 days and counting
I packed my bike last night, or I should say that I packed my bike several times, last night. I took the fenders, racks, handlebars, pedals and derailleur off my bike and carefully jammed them in an old bike box. I will be sending my bike up to my motel in Astoria, Oregon. Hopefully, it will be waiting for me when I get there. Then, I rebuilt it all over again. The plan is to leave Astoria on Monday, August 2.
July 30, T minus 1 day and counting
It's 4:30 PM and I'm cleaning off my desk at work. I think that I'm about packed and ready to go. My bike is waiting for me at the Crest Motel in Astoria, Oregon, thanks to Fedex and I'll be there tomorrow. I appreciate all of the best wishes that I received in the past week. Atlantic Ocean, here I come!
August 1, Prologue Seaside, OR to Astoria, OR - 23 miles
Made it to Astoria Saturday evening. My riding partner, Anna, picked me up at the Portland airport with the Uhaul and we drove the 100 miles to Astoria. Anna got to Portland before me. So I built my bike on Sunday morning and we rode to Seaside for the official "dip my toe in the Pacific Ocean" start. We rode past Fort Clapsop of Lewis & Clark fame. Everything is Lewis & Clark here.
August 2, Day 1 - Astoria, OR to Goble, OR - 56 miles
Got into Goble and stayed at the RV park. I was rather dubious about this place but it worked out fine. We basically camped along the Columbia River and chit-chatted with some of the local RV characters. Everybody was friendly and wanted to know about the trip. Dinner was spaghetti - cooked over a WhisperLite gas stove. Traffic was OK but definitely a good % of logging trucks and trucks hauling containers (to and from the Astoria Harbor). Good shoulders for the most part.
Overall, Day 1 was a success!
Enroute stopped for lunch at Clatskanie and found library. 30 miles so far today with 20 to follow. Sun is out and tailwind! Holy cow... I'm on vacation!
August 3, Day 2 - Goble Landing (and RV park) to Portland, OR 35 miles
Short day. Day 2 had a lot more traffic as we approached Portland. Lots of logging trucks, etc. The road was mostly 4 lanes with 8 foot shoulders but the road noise was a drag. We ended our day at Linton which is right outside Portland. Anna has a cousin there and we stayed at their house. It was pretty deluxe accomodations on Skyline Drive overlooking the city.
August 4, Day 3 Portland, OR to Cascade Locks, OR - 52 miles
Cruised across Portland to the Columbia River and headed east. There was a real nice bike path along the river and near the airport which made for 15 low stress, easy miles. Went through Troutdale on to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Very scenic road with vistas and waterfalls. Parts were closed to traffic. I got my first flat today. We ended up staying at the Cascade Locks RV/Campground which was on the the river. It was also almost on the Railroad tracks. I found this out at 3AM. The campsite was near town so we went to the local pub and chowed down. On this trip, I am doing a scientific study on local brews. So far, Deschutes River Brewery Mirror Pond and their Seasonal Ale are rated good. The Mt Hood Cloud Cap Amber - good. Rainer and Hamms - not so good. I don't pretend to be a connoisseur, but I know what I like. Somebody has to do it. It rained a little last night but was over by morning.
August 5, Day 4 - Cascade Locks, OR to Maryhill State Park, WA - 66 miles
Started the day by crossing the Bridge of the Gods into Washington, first thing. The toll keeper let us pass for free. Had a swell view of the river looking through the steel grated bridge as I rode across. Not a good place to drop your keys. We got on Highway 14 in Washington and was pushed up the river with a fine tailwind. There were some cool tunnels that we went through. There was a push button prior to the tunnel that flashed a warning that a bike was in the tunnel and Speed Limit 30 mph. In general, traffic has been really friendly towards bikes. Eight foot shoulder most of the way. We stopped at the Maryhill Museum which is an art museum that seemed way out of place in the middle of nowhere. It was built by Sam Hill who was a wealthy gentleman who had a lot of influence in the area in the early 1900's. I can only wonder if this is the same Sam Hill that is in the expression, "What in the Sam Hill..." We camped along the river at Mary Hill State Park.
August 6, Day 5 Maryhill, WA to Crow Butte, WA - 58 miles
Traffic is getting lighter the further from Portland. We continue to ride the big tailwind and enjoy the fantastic Columbia River gorge scenery. The pavement changed today to a 3/4" chip seal. Talk about your rough ride. My butt and arms were sore at the end of the day. I plugged in my MP3 player today when riding. I can still hear the trucks coming while I sing along with, "You're scaring the horses.." We had some rain at lunch time but it was done when we were. It kept the temps down. One of the guys said that it hadn't rained in 2 months. We camped at Crow Butte ex-State Park. The guy at the front gate explained to us that it was a State Park until last year when it was sold to a local group of investors. He said, with a smirk, that it was sold because it was making money.
August 7, Day 6 - Crow Butte, WA to Walla Walla, WA - 89 miles!
We were motivated to get to Walla Walla, today, so that we would have a good place to have a rest day. I don't think that we planned on 89 miles but that's how it ended up. Again, a good tailwind. Not sure what I'm going to do when I lose that tailwind. We planned on having breakfast in a small town near our campground. After riding 12 miles, we found the restaurant to be closed... therefore, peanut butter for breakfast. We finally said goodbye to the Columbia River. Got into town at 5:30, took a hot shower, had a big mexican dinner and a margarita. Full Sail Ale - real good.
August 8, Day 7 - Walla Walla, WA - Rest Day!
Walla Walla is a cool town of 30K. Home of the Walla Walla Sweet Onion. They are everywhere. It has a couple of small colleges and a growing wine industry. This weekend, they blocked off Main Street, striped the pavement and set up about 20 basketball courts. It's the annual Peach Basket 3 on 3 tournament for boys, girls and adults. Everybody is playing or watching. Really cool. Lucky for them that I don't have my basketball shoes... Actually, I'm not sure if I can jump, right now. End of week 1 and I'm enjoying the ride. Odometer reading, so far 390 miles. This is including campground transportation. One more night in Washington, and then Idaho. Beer of the day: Fat Tire Bicycle Amber good and appropriate for the occasion.
August 9, Day 8 - Walla Walla to Pomeroy, WA - 66 very hot miles
With triple digit temperatures predicted, we got an early start on the day - leaving at 7 AM. You know, I just kinda like saying Walla Walla... Anyhow, we rode backroads for the 1st 20 miles today. Low traffic and wheat fields. In fact, lots of wheat fields all day. Talk about your amber waves of grain. Then back on Highway 12. Lots of Lewis & Clark signs and markers. I read "Undaunted Courage" a couple of years ago, so these markers continue to interest me. We had 30+ miles in by 10:30 and had an early lunch in a little park in Dayton. It only got hotter as the day progressed. We hit Pomeroy at about 2:30 PM and called it a day. The next campsite would have been 18 miles away. Doable, but with the heat, we decided to call it a day. We hung out at the library and an ice cream shop, all afternoon. We "free camped" for the first time. Pomeroy has a nice little park, so we went to the police station and asked if it was all right. They said go ahead, but look out for the sprinkler. Thanks for the heads up! Pomeroy also had a swimming pool but of course, "Closed Mondays". Dinner was spaghetti cooked on the gas stove and a beer (Alaskan Summer Ale - real good). Word is more hot weather to come.
August 10, Day 9 - Pomeroy WA to Lewiston ID - 35 very hot miles
This morning at 5 AM, my tent got hit by a sprinkler. I thought that I was safe in an area without grass. Right before I went to bed, I decided to put the fly on my tent, just in case. I'm glad that I did. Oatmeal for breakfast. Cooking breakfast (and clean up) takes a chunk of time, especially when we want an early start because of heat. Time to start the morning with bagels, maybe. Yesterday was the first day without a hot shower. The campgrounds have been pretty good. We crossed into Lewiston Idaho, today. It was a short day. Tomorrow promises over 4000' of elevation gain. Given the heat and the location of the next campground, I'm not expecting a lot of miles. Hmmm, I see that I am developing a "Lance Armstrong tan". It used to be called a "farmer tan". I don't expect computer access for a couple days as I cross Idaho on US12. We'll see. Thanks for all the emails!
August 11, Day 10 - Hells Gate State Park (Lewiston, ID) to Kamiah, ID - 90 miles
It was very hot again. We left camp at 6:45AM and headed east. We had a choice today. Choice A was to ride on a narrow US 12 roadway with busy traffic on fairly flat Clearwater River grade or Choice B which climbed over a really big hill (close to 3500' of elevation gain) but had very light traffic. We took "Door #2". It was difficult and hot but had great views of Idaho wheat fields. We hit another decision point at mile 50. Should we camp or push on to Kamiah which was another 40 miles. The little town of Craigmont didn't have much going on so continued to Kamiah. It was a long, hot day. We camped at the city park along the river and had dinner at a local pub. Alaskan Amber Ale - good. Everybody wanted to talk about our bike trip. One guy we met was doing the Lewis & Clark route the hard way. He started up the Columbia River in his canoe (camping on river islands), then when he ran out of river, he started walking with his little dog along the highway. This was a narrow road, with fast traffic and he was walking 10 miles a day until he could get back in his canoe in Montana (He had somebody transport his canoe). I was in awe given the lousy conditions. Tonight I had a "sink bath" :(
August 12, Day 11 - Kamiah, ID to Wilderness Gateway Campground, ID - 58 miles
Hit the road about 7 AM. I saw the Lewis & Clark hiker/canoeist along the highway with his big pack and little dog, right outside of town. He went 10 miles today and we did 58. We rode up along the Clearwater River and then the Lochsa River along Highway 12. This took us across the Nez Pierce Indian Reservation. Very scenic ride - pine trees, rock outcroppings, river, road and blue sky. I jumped in the river to cool off. Yes, life's simple pleasures. There were a ton of blackberries growing along the road/river bank. After seeing 2 little kids with purple faces (from the berries), I decided to dig in. I was careful to not get a purple face, though. We had a great campsite along the river. Jumped in the river again. Much better than a "sink bath". The friendly camp host provided a cold Rootbeer - "very disappointing."
August 13, Day 12 - Wilderness Gateway Campground to Lolo Hot Springs, MT - 60 miles
Heat wave continues as we head up Highway 12 along the Lochsa River to Lolo Pass. Harley Davidson motorcycles are everywhere. When we stop at the Lolo Pass visitor center, we find out that there is a Harley "posse" ride with 625 bikes sharing our route. It was funny, when we were hanging out the Harley riders were complaining about the tough ride. Then, they would look at us and acknowledge us as kooks". They were actually very friendly ... and well fed.
August 14, Day 13 - Lolo Hot Springs, MT to Lolo, MT, Rest day - 26 miles
Got into Lolo at 10:30 AM and checked in at the beautiful Days Inn Lodge. This was laundry day, relax day, eat day. I've been eating a ton on this trip but it's hard to keep up. Everything is game. Dairy Queen, Hostess cupcakes, french fries, cookies, etc. It's becoming quantity over quality. Yes, sad to say. I really had a sore butt today so a rest day was really good. Met a Canadian guy heading west. He said, with a smile, enjoy the trees now because they will disappear as we head east. Total mileage so far 745.
August 15, Day 14 - Lolo, MT to Spring Gulch Campground near Sula - 72 miles
Finally, a cooler day with some cloud cover. Headed up the Bitterroot Valley past Florence, Stevensville, Hamilton, Darby. Great Montana ranch scenery. I got my 2nd flat today. More to come I'm sure. Had a "Montana bath" in the Bitterroot River at our campground. Every night, I clean my cycling clothes, either in a river, sink or shower and hang my clothes to dry on my bike the next day while riding. I'm sure that I look like the Beverly Hillbillies riding down the road. Pass the vittles, Uncle Jed!
August 16, Day 15 - Spring Gulch Campground to Jackson, MT - 61 miles
Continued up the Bitterroot Valley over Lost Trails Pass elev 6990' and Chief Joseph Pass elev 7241'. Lots of climbing to start the day. We jumped on Highway 43 and headed down into the Big Hole Valley. Big Hole Valley - "Land of 10,000 Haystacks" - I lost count at 2384, but there were at least 10,000. We stopped at the Big Hole National Battleground. It was rather humbling how the Nez Pierce Indians were hunted down and surprise attacked as they slept. Men, women, children. The Nez Pierce Indians were very welcoming to the desperate Lewis&Clark Expedition 70 years earlier, basically feeding them and giving them horses. Gold fever and homesteading compounded the problems. Interesting history. We finished our day at Jackson, MT, population 38. Jackson had a great hot springs/lodge where we camped and they had great ice cream in the general store that really hit the spot at the end of the day. A big storm blew through in the evening and it rained at night. Lewis and Clark Lager - disappointing. Bitterroot Brewery IPA good.
August 17, Day 16 - Jackson, MT to Twin Bridges, MT - 77 miles
Woke up in a fog in Jackson. As we pedaled up Big Hole Pass elev 7340', we left the fog behind. Looks like it might rain again today. Getting a good weather forecast is next to impossible - "chance of rain". Dropped down from Big Hole Pass and it seemed that we went right back up Badger Pass elev 6780' and then down into Dillon. From Dillon we had a fairly flat ride into Twin Bridges. The scenery on the ride today was great again. Big ranches in the valley surrounded by mountains - and a river runs through it. Saw the Beaverhead Rock along the Beaverhead River. A giant rock cliff looks like the head of a swimming beaver - cool. Stayed at the beautiful Madison County Fairgrounds and battled mosquitoes. Rest Stop cold water sink bath tonight :(
August 18, Day 17 - Twin Bridges, MT to Ennis, MT - 43 Miles
After dodging rain for several days, today it rained. Rode 30 miles in the rain to Virginia City on Highway 287. It rained hard at times but there really wasn't anywhere to go. Other than wet feet, the rain gear seemed to work. We passed through the Nevada City Ghost Town, and Virginia City was a ghost town but came back to life as a tourist trap. This used to be gold country. Anyhow, it stopped raining during lunch and we continued towards Ennis "hill". Turns out to be one of the steepest climbs, yet. Of course, it wasn't shown on the map. Going down the hill to Ennis, the cross winds picked up rather strong, making it very stressful being pushed all over the road at 30 mph. Finished the day with a head wind into Ennis. Tough day and only 43 miles. With the rain and cloud cover, the scenery was very limited. The smell of wet sage was great, though.
August 19, Day 18 - Ennis, MT to Bozeman, MT - 50 Miles
Left Ennis with blue skies and a slight tailwind. Saw a herd of pronghorn antelope right outside of Ennis. Had one climb then Madison River grade most of the way to Bozeman. Really spectacular canyon. When we left the Madison River and headed south, I caught my first glimpse of the Bridger Mountains. Bozeman was close. My brother, Anthony, lives in Bozeman and getting there is the first milestone of my trip. It was really exciting getting closer and closer. Got to Bozeman at 1 PM. A much, much better day than yesterday, for sure. I barbequed steaks to celebrate the end of leg 1 of my trip. Had a beer, also. Bayern Troutslayer Ale - good. Cheers! My odometer read 1,056 miles. I'l sleep well tonight knowing that I'll have several days off.
August 20, Day 19 - Bozeman, Rest Day
I had a bowl of cereal for the first time in 3 weeks for breakfast. I like cereal, but it's next to impossible to have milk at the campground in the AM. I enjoyed my Wheaties. I have a few days to get organized for the next part of the trip. I took my bike to the shop to get rid of an annoying click in the bottom bracket and tighten the brakes. That click was driving me nuts at every turn of the cranks. Turns out nothing major. The shop cleaned, greased and tightened the cranks and BB. Good to go. Also, hit the AAA and loaded up on maps. The woman asked, "Where the heck are you going?" After lunch, we went for a hike up to Beehive Basin in the mountains near Big Sky. I almost didn't go because I was kinda tired. Turned out to be a great hike. Especially on the way back. There were 2 moose grazing about 50 feet from the trail. We were really hesitant to go past because they were so close. One was making "moose noises" and it was just intriguing to watch. That really made the day, on top of the great views. I'll rest tomorrow.
August 21 -23 Bozeman, MT
When in Bozeman, check out the Montana Ale Works. This place specializes in microbrews on tap and I focused on Montana microbrews. Trimotor Amber real good, Moose Drool Brown Ale real good, Spanish Peaks Black Dog Ale good. I was quickly impressed by the quality and choices of Montana brews.
August 24, Day 23 - Bozeman to Gardiner, MT - 70 miles
On the road again, after a very short 4 day rest in Bozeman. My brother, Anthony, did a very good job of keeping me active. I actually slept in a bed in Bozeman, instead of my cocoon sleeping bag. This morning, Anthony took me out for a hot breakfast before I left, then gave me a ride outside of town to Bozeman Pass. It was blue skies and tailwind down to Livingston. I hit a new max speed on my odometer at 40 mph. Amazing what you can do on a big hill with a tail wind. At Livingston, I turned right and headed to Yellowstone NP. It was about 58 miles of headwind. Glad I had fresh legs. I had lunch at the "Paradise" boat launch on the Yellowstone river. Not much paradise. I saw a Bald Eagle as I approached Gardiner. It was just hanging out along the river watching me ride by. Finally, made it to Gardiner, right outside of Yellowstone. As I set up my tent at the campground, a big storm blew through. The weather forecast was not looking good.
August 25, Day 24 - Gardiner, MT to Cooke City, MT - 60 cold wet miles
It rained in the early morning leaving me with a wet tent to pack. Looked like it would be a rainy day. I crossed into Yellowstone and as I headed toward Mammoth Hot Springs area, I was sucked into the hot springs at the Boiling River. The sun broke through briefly and I was feeling pretty content. After a short dip I stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs briefly and then headed on. I saw a bunch of bison along the way. They really intrigue me, much more so than cows, for some reason. I sure enjoyed touring Yellowstone, even though I just rode the north end. Always a lot to see. I eventually ran into showers, then rain and cold the last 15 miles into Cooke City, as I left the park. It rained hard enough where waterfalls were pouring off of Barronette Mountain, really beautiful, even though I was cold and wet. I got into Cooke City (elev 7200+) and rented a room so that I could dry out. Camping just didn't sound fun. After a hot shower, I ate at the Beartooth Cafe and stuffed myself with a prime rib dinner. Very good. Also, enjoyed a Sleeping Giant IPA - good. After I got back to my room, I flipped channels on my TV between the Olympics and the Weather Channel and worried about tomorrow's weather... snow ???
August 26, Day 25 - Cooke City, MT to Cody, WY - 77 miles
I woke this AM wondering if I should just hang out in Cooke City today and let the weather pass or take my chances. The thought of 70 miles of cold rain was not appealing as I was comfortably buried in my bed. Well, I decided to take my chances - at least my tent was dry now. It was sure cold but at least it wasn't raining, yet. As I left, I found out that Beartooth Pass had 1.5 feet of snow and it was closed. I was going over the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and it remained open. I dealt with a lot less traffic because of the closure which I initially thought was good. Then I started seeing the grizzly bear warning signs along the roads and I started to think that a few more cars would be good. It was kinda spooky for a while which kept me pedaling. Chief Joseph Highway turned out really great. The views were fantastic and there was a tough climb up Dead Indian Pass (not very PC I'd say). Anyhow, I made it over the pass and was very cognizant of rain clouds forming around me. I sailed down the other side and set a new land speed record of 47 mph. I was pretty scared going that fast and had to apply the brakes. The windy downhill was exhilarating. As I pedalled the last 16 miles into Cody I could see the big black rain clouds behind me in my rear view mirror. I made it into Cody and had my first Whopper of my trip. Fast food tasted pretty good tonight - shame on me. It rained right after I set up my tent. The biking gods smiled on me today as I dodged rain all day and even got a little sun.
August 27, Day 26 - Cody, WY to Shell, WY - 65 miles
I got a late start this AM after drying out from last night's rain. Fortunately, for me, I had a nice tailwind that pushed me along the highway at a good clip. I could see the rain clouds stacking up ahead of me in the Bighorn Mountains, but kept pedaling. Along the way, I saw a herd of "wild" horses. I guess that non-natives would be more correct. I got to Grey Bull and decided to take my chances with the rain and try to get to the Shell campground. No problems. Turned out to be a nice little campground inhabited by a group of "bikers" or should I say motorized bikers. They were a friendly bunch and generally thought that I was a kook for riding my bike. I might start taking this personally.... hmmmm... maybe I am a kook. The owner of the campground was really cool. He asked me if I stopped at the dinosaur tracks at Red Gulch and I kinda said, "huh? About 5 miles back and 5 miles in the desert was a famous spot where dinosaur tracks were discovered in rock. He was kind enough to give me and a couple of the bikers a ride back to check them out. Very interesting history. It made me feel a little insignificant putting my hand in a 150 million year old dinosaur footprint. The sunset in the desert that evening as we returned was fantastic. I was waiting for the guy to try to show me Big Foot prints next, but that didn't happen. After a miserable rainy night last night, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of today.
Aug 28, Day 27 - Shell, WY to Ranchester, WY - 65 miles
As I left Shell this AM, I stopped to take a picture of some of the funky geologic formations. As it turns out a woman that was hiking up the road, stopped and talked with me. She and her husband discovered the dinosaur tracks back in 1988. Last name was Manuel (or something). She gave me Readers Digest history (in geologic terms) along the roadside. Very interesting and I guess that there are a lot of "digs" still going on. Then I turned to the Bighorn Mountains and proceeded to climb. Big day with over 5000' to Granite Pass. By far my toughest climb, yet. Nice scenery, though. At the bottom of the climb I was barely pushing 4 mph. I was afraid that I might tip over. It took me 4.5 hours to get to the pass. On the way up, my biker friends rode by, and yelled/waved. One of the group's name's was Slim. He was an older guy that was following the group with his wife in a car. He looked like a real cowboy. I won't forget as he passed by, his wife waved and I could see his head shaking back and forth (exagerated by his cowboy hat). I imagined him mumbling something like, "crazy SOB". After I made it to the top, there was a big screaming downhill into Dayton. The advisory speed limit was 35 mph most of the down the curvy road down the face of the mountain. Awesome views of the valley when I stopped to look, otherwise, I focused on staying on the road. Tough uphill, exciting downhill. Riding on a loaded touring bike sure adds a certain X factor to this riding.
August 29, Day 28 - Ranchester, WY to Clearmont, WY - 56 miles
Short day today. It was too long to get to Gillette today and nothing (and I mean nothing) between Clearmont and Gillette. I stopped at a little cantina in Clearmont (pop. 115) and asked about camping in the area. He said that I could camp out back if I wanted. Sounded good to me. I hung out at the little park all afternoon trying to figure a good route across South Dakota and Minnesota. It's not as easy as I thought a month ago. Coors was as good as it got today.
Aug 30, Day 29 - Clearmont, WY to Gillette, WY - 68 miles
There were lots of trains running through Clearmont last night. Darn nice of them to honk as they pass. Highway 14 that I'm riding on is really out of the way. Lots of big ranchs and as of recent, lots of methane wells. When I was having breakfast this AM at the little cantina, the owner sat down and explained to me how the whole area has coal under it. From this coal, methane is extracted. And here I thought it was the Mexican food that was talking in my tent last night... no... naturally occurring methane from below. I went past two super big coal mines as I approached Gillette. I could see a 80' thick vein of coal that was being mined. Big hole in the ground, though. I saw a ton of pronghorn antelope along the way. Everytime that I tried to get a photo they "spooked". I guessed that they were getting wind of my scent which was getting stronger than normal since tomorrow is laundry day. I noticed humans giving me plenty of room too. Nothing a hot shower can't fix.
August 31, Day 30 - Gillette WY - much needed rest day
Laundry, haircut, bicycle tuned, library, eat, sleep. Coors Light - I'm in a rut.
September 1 - Gillette, WY to Devil's Tower, WY - 60 miles
Short day over to Devil's Tower. It was very hot, though and wore me out. I had to have 2 ice cream cones today to replace vital body fluids. My first impression of Devil's Tower was kinda, "OK, that's pretty cool, I guess", but it really grew on me. It had a real presence - I wanted to climb it. I guess that it's a real popular climbing area but it is technical, meaning no easy way up. I saw my first prairie dogs today at the "prairie dog city". They are really entertaining to watch... more so than cows. They seem to be having a good time, whatever they're doing. Beer update - Devil's Tower Lager good!
September 2 - Devil's Tower, WY to Newcastle, WY - 75 miles
I left Devil's Tower heading south east for Newcastle on my way to Mt Rushmore. I kept looking in my rear view mirror to see if Devil's Tower was still there (for some reason). The road to Newcastle was low traffic volume and very scenic from a western scenery standpoint. Newcastle was pretty interesting. There is an oil refinery in the middle of town, right beside the highschool. Kinda funky town. I've been seeing these "Welcome Bikers" signs everywhere. I'm sure they are for the Sturgis Rally, but I pretend they're happy to see me. These signs seem to be near bars, though. No beer for me until I'm off my bike. No drinking and pedalling.
September 3 - Newcastle, WY to Rapid City, SD - 81 miles
Welcome to South Dakota! Long day today into Rapid City. It started off looking like rain, but by lunchtime in Custer, SD, it was blue skies. I rode past the Crazy Horse Monument on my way to Mount Rushmore. Very impressive big. They basically carved it into a mountain. A picture doesn't tell the story. Mt Rushmore was pretty cool. Definitely worth the stop but I wouldn't plan a trip just to see it. There was a pretty impressive view from Mt Rushmore looking out over the prairie. That's where I'm heading. It looked like all downhill into Rapid City but I didn't plan on the headwind the last 10 miles. I was beat when I got into the campground. There was an incredible lightning show when I went to bed, er, sleeping bag. I could see the lightning streaks very brightly through my tent, as the storm slowly rumbled through. I just wondered if my therma-rest pad was a good insulator, or conductor.
September 4 - Rapid City, SD to Interior, SD - 75 miles
I packed a wet tent this AM after last night's storm. It showered on and off all day. It was like, put raincoat on, take raincoat off, all day. The raincoat gets hot if it's not raining. I ate my peanut butter and honey sandwich in a little backwater called Scenic. It shows as a town on the map but it's basically a gas station/convenience store. Seems to be a lot of these "towns" here in SD. I was riding up the road and came across a big ol' snapping turtle in the lane. It had to be 18" diameter, at least. There wasn't much traffic but I thought that I better help this guy along. Turns out that this guy didn't want help. It snapped at me, and didn't budge. Finally, he chased me off the road, thereby, he got off the road, also. Oh yes, I outsmarted a turtle. The National Grassland area was adjacent to the Badlands. There were prairie dogs everywhere barking at me and making a mad dash to their hole. Cheap entertainment. I camped at Interior, SD, population 77. Surprisingly, there was a really good restuarant there with indian tacos as its specialty. Really good food. Here is an idea of what I ate today: Breakfast - 2 eggs, 3 pancakes, potatoes. Lunch - Ham and cheese sandwich, chips, yogurt, coke. Dinner - big Indian taco, fries. Snacks - 2 bananas, powerbar, half dozen cookies, snickers, sprite, and 2 more yogurts for dessert. Not bad.
September 5 - Stuck inside of Interior, SD with them Memphis Blues again
Started raining this early AM. I laid in my sleeping bag trying to get motivated to pack up and ride in the rain. It kept raining as I packed my bags from inside my tent. It was still pretty hard so I decided to go to breakfast and hopefully, the rain will blow over. By after breakfast, the wind had kicked up and it was still raining. I got soaked just coming back from breakfast. So, I went in the campground office and read, hoping the rain would blow over. About 10 AM, I checked on my tent and it was partially collapsed in the wind and no signs of the rain letting up. At that point, I decided to stay in beautiful Interior an extra night. I got a room, hung out my tent to dry as best I could, and went back to bed. I was pretty disappointed in getting stuck in Interior. No internet access, no TV. Since I took a rest day only 3 days ago, I felt like I wasted a day. Seemed like everytime that I stuck my head out the door, it would start raining again. The storm finally blew through and the sun came out by 6 PM. Beautiful sunset on the Badlands. The setting sun brought out the vivid earthy red tones in the rock formations. Things are looking up for tomorrow. I had an interesting discussion with one of the managers at the RV park. He is also a rancher. I told how I saw so many Prairie Dogs, yesterday. In a very restrained way, he let me know that he doesn't care much for prairie dogs. He called them, "short tailed rats". I hadn't looked at them in that vein, at this point. He said that they tear up the pastures and are very destructive (But they are so cute!). He said that he and some other ranchers had been meeting with Tom Daschle and other SD state representatives to control these varmints as they spread into private property. Several days later, I read an article in the Sioux Falls paper that addressed this meeting. Anyhow, I had enough sense to get his opinion and respect his point of view. After all, it's a SD issue.
September 6 - Interior, SD to Murdo, SD - 72 miles
A beautiful day in South Dakota. I had breakfast at the Cedar Pass Lodge inside the Badlands NP. Some people from Minnesota invited me to join them for breakfast. They wanted to hear about my trip. Very nice folks. I really enjoyed cruising through the Badlands on my bike. It was kinda otherworldly with the odd shapes and colors (brought out by the rain). I jumped on a "service" (frontage) road and rode parallel to Interstate 90 until Murdo. This road worked out great with very low traffic volume and some tailwind. I got another flat today on my rear tire. It's a real hassle having to take off all my gear, fix the flat, then put all the gear back on. What was really frustrating, was the fact that I did a poor job fixing the flat. It leaked and I had to go through the exercise a second time. I ran into two cyclists (Hans and Franz - my nicknames) heading west. I spoke briefly to them. They were from somewhere in Europe. These were the first riders that I have seen since Lolo, several weeks ago. I got into Murdo and found out that I had crossed a time zone. I am now in Central time. Hmmm...how will that affect things tomorrow morning?
September 7 - Murdo, SD to Fort Thompson, SD - 79 miles
I got up in the dark and it was cold. It got me thinking about fall in the east. Cold and dark. Better start putting more miles on or I'll be pedalling in the snow. I had a headwind all day which made for a long, tough day. There is something about a head wind that is just mind numbing. I think that it requires more concentration and of course, it slows you down. I went through some fine small SD towns: Prisho, Kennebac, Reliance. Not much there beyond a post office, convenience store, and few houses. I broke through the 2,000 mile barrier today and crossed the "Big Muddy". Actually, I camped right under the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri (near Fort Thompson). I could hear the turbines humming all night. I was real happy to find that the campground had hot showers. Hot showers are a godsend at the end of a long day. Most USFS campgrounds don't have showers but some of the state parks do. I'll pay the couple extra $ sometimes to stay in a private campground just for the shower. I've been going through several Indian reservations through SD. They all have a casino or two. I figured out where they grow sunflowers seeds also. Acres and acres of sunflowers today.
September 8 - Fort Thompson, SD to Woonsocket, SD - 64 miles
I ran into very strong headwinds today. I was fighting to go 5 and 6 mph at times. Hell, I can run that fast. I saved a turtle again today. It was camped in the middle of the road. It's just not fair when turtles try to cross a road. I stayed at a little camping area that was pretty much closed in Woonsocket. I had to use a restroom in a nearby church. The librarian clued me into this. I have met a lot of really cool librarians along the way. Always helpful and interested in my trip. Woonsocket's city motto is "The town with the beautiful lake." Unfortunately, they were doing some repairs to the lake when I went through.
September 9 - Woonsockett, SD to Madison, SD - 60 miles
Today, I got crosswinds rather than a headwind. A crosswind doesn't slow me down so much but I really have to stay alert to get pushed around. There are a lot more trees and its not as hilly here as in southwest SD. Pleasant ride today. Madison is a cool little town where Dakota State University hails. College towns seem to be a little busier and open minded.
Sept 10 - Madison, SD to Blue Mounds State Park, MN - 72 miles
I just crossed the Minnesota border. I am considering it half way, yahoo! As of right now, I have 2,234 miles on my odometer. That's about 400 more than I expected, at this stage. It all adds up when my bike is my sole source of transportation. Yesterday, I rode past my campground, into Madison for laundry, dinner and library, then turned around and went back to my campground. Turned out to be almost 10 additional miles. These miles count in my total miles but not my daily. I have had very little luck accessing a computer the last ten days. Some of the towns that I stayed in didn't have a library or weird hours or something. Is that right... 10 days since Gillette???
I've been having a "costume malfunction" with my website. My brother, Anthony, had put together the photo page from his computer. For some reason, when I work on my website, all of Anthony's additions mysteriously disappear. He added the photos twice, so far, as we tried to work things out. He said, next time is my turn. Well, it might not happen for a while unfortunately.
I hope to take a rest day in a day or 2 (in a town with internet access). I'll catch up with the daily log. Each day brings new and interesting "stuff".
I came out of the library at Pipestone to a flat tire. Another rear flat and that was my last spare. I tried to find the hole in my tire but it's next to impossible to find when it's windy. You can't hear it or feel it. This was a tiny hole and I couldn't see it. I'll have to patch it on my rest day. I looked around in Pipestone for a bike shop to buy some new tubes but they only had a hardware store with tubes with schrader valves - I need presta. Hmmm... this could be a problem. With fixing the flat and chasing around town looking for a spare, I found myself riding the last 20 miles to the campground into a stiff headwind and during Friday "happy hour". I like to be off the road by 4:30 or so but today I didn't finish to 6:15. I don't like riding that late and I was beat.
As I leave South Dakota, I have to say that the drivers have been very courteous and the people very friendly.
It's good to be in a civilized Big Ten state! I'm almost home!
September 11 - Blue Mounds S.P. (Luverne) to Jackson, MN - 78mi
I headed south to Luverne then got on "Old Highway 16". Old Highway 16 was a coast to coast route before Interstate 90. I've been on and off 16 all over the west. Now it's county roads, at least in MN. I immediately hit a detour out of Luverne. I shortcutted the detour on a gravel road. As I pedalled, I considered my spare tire situation. Just gave me something to worry about - I made it. I went through Worthington, MN around lunch and figured that a town of 12,000 should have a bike shop... no luck. I talked to some kids and they said that they go to the Walmart for tubes. If Walmart had a 700mm x 35mm tube with a presta valve, I was going to take back all the nasty things that I said about it. Well, no tubes, so all those nasty things stand. Where am I going to get tubes? One option is to order over the internet then general delivery to a post office in an upcoming town. Outside of Worthington, I hit Detour #2. From what I saw, the "closed" road looked newly paved and the detour added lots of extra miles. Me being a construction engineer and all, I decided to go for it. How bad can it be? After 3 miles of new smooth pavement, I hit a mile of unpaved gravel, then 3 miles of pavement recycle (basically ground up asphalt pavement that was driven on by cars) - pretty rough. Then I met a farmer on the road and asked him, "How long does this go on". He said, "It's gets worse". It was pretty interesting talking to one of the farmers that actually owned some of the acres and acres of corn that I was cruising through. He had cows, pigs, corn farm equipment, and kids in college. A regular guy. He could easily sell all and live easy but his farm is his investment. $3000/acre for farmland in central MN. Anyhow, ahead, they were tearing out old concrete pavement. Talk about your rough road. I made it but I was sure thinking about flat tires, though. Next time, I take the detour. I camped at a campground at Jackson. That evening, I patched my spare tires while I sipped beer (Bud) and watched Penn State get spanked by Boston College. I noticed the flats were in the same area of the tire and they weren't necessarily being punctured as they were wearing through. Might be a tire problem? I noticed that in SD and MN the beer tended to be Bud or Bud Light. Not as many choices unfortunately. Also, they don't let you break up a six pack for one beer. It's either a 6-pack or a quart of Bud. This has hindered my grand experiment. Hat's off to Montana for the best beer! Beautiful day today!
September 12 - Jackson, MN to Big Island S.P. (Albert Lea), MN - 92 mi
I need to shave. I've noticed that I'm getting "the look" when I walk into stores. Today was a long day. I went through a town called Blue Earth. I liked the name. Turns out to be an Indian name. How did the Indians know that the earth was blue from space view? They didn't - the banks along the river was a bluish clay, hence, blue earth. I got another rear tire flat. I took off the tire, examined it and there was a strange rub area that somehow wore through the tubes. I put my spare tire on - problem solved... I hope. I camped at Big Island S. P. There was a nice, new bike path that got me there from Albert Lea. I was beat after 92 miles. Hot Shower, though! There are lots of mosquitoes here in Minnesota and lots of lakes. Another beautiful day.
September 13 - Albert Lea to Spring Valley, MN - 58 miles
After 20 miles, I was feeling the effects of yesterday's miles. I went through Austin MN. It had signs up advertising "Spam Town" USA. Not sure what that means. I found a bike shop with tubes! I had a tough crosswind and I wasn't making very good time so I called it a day in Spring Valley. Tomorrow will be a rest day. Steak for dinner and a Grainbelt Premium Beer - "jury is still out" - try another tomorrow. I saw two flocks of turkeys today ???
September 14 - Rest Day
Looks like rain.
September 15 - Spring Valley, MN to LaCrosse, WI - 80 miles
It rained most of yesterday and there was a big lightning storm and flooding, last night. I watched the Weather Channel wondering if I would get out of Spring Valley. Even though the Flash Flood watch was in effect until 11:26 AM, I took off at 9 AM when there was a break in the showers. As I left town, several of the town roads were closed due to flooding. I asked a State Police if Highway 16 was open, and he said, "Good to go." I got on the Root River Bike Trail in Preston. Turned out to be 40 miles of paved bike trail along the Root River. It was a real pretty route in trees, along farms and through little towns. The sun came out... real nice. I even saw a couple of cardinals that let me know that I am getting there. I made really good time except where the trail was flooded. I went in pretty deep at one location and luckily didn't get anything important wet. I did have wet feet for the rest of the day, though. I stopped and had lunch in one of the little towns, Lanesboro. I sat on the steps of the Sons of Norway Hall and had a ham sandwich. It's pretty fun seeing and hearing some of the things that I've heard on Prairie Home Companion. I can't go by a Lutheran Church without grinning or when I hear, "Ohhh yeahhh, you betcha". You gotta like Minnesota. As I got closer to LaCrosse, I didn't know where to stay, so I figured that I'd have to find a motel in La Crosse. Fortune smiled upon me as I came upon a campground on an island on the Mississippi River. It was pretty cool. I went over one bridge, found the campground, then the next morning rode over the other bridge into LaCrosse with the sun shining on the Ol' Miss. Had a beer with dinner last night New Glarus Brewery Spotted Cow Ale - good beer! LaCrosse Lager - OK.
September 16 - LaCrosse, WI to New Lisbon, WI - 71 miles
There was a very heavy morning dew this morning which meant that I packed my tent wet. Worry about it later. I jumped on the LaCrosse to Sparta Bike Trail. This trail was not paved but a graded limestone road. It wasn't bad but it was slower than pavement and I had to pay attention a little more. No cars, though. There is a $4 fee to ride on Wisconsin trails which I chose not to pay. I figured that I'd pay if they stopped me because I really wasn't going to be on the trail very long. Anyhow, 1/2 mile from Sparta, the bike cops busted me. So, I ended up coughing up the $4 and slept better. Sparta is the self proclaimed "Biking Capital of the US". I was not impressed. As I rode through town in search of lunch, I found that I was the only bicycle on the road. I'm guessing that this "Biking Capital" has to do with the bike trails. Anyhow, before I left San Luis Obispo, I got a Wisconsin State Biking Map. It rated roads by traffic volumes and widths. It was a great map to have. I took a county road from Sparta that was just short of perfect. Low traffic, green hills, pretty farms, good smooth road. And yes, things are very green in Wisconsin and lots of cows. I went through some Amish country along the way. It felt pretty good passing a horse and buggy. I'm not the slowest thing on the road, after all! But I did have to dodge the horse poop, though. It was a really good bike day, unfortunately, it ended on a sad note. As I entered New Lisbon, I saw a big dog along the road. I thought to myself, "Must be an old dog, not interested in chasing bikes anymore." Two seconds later I heard a big loud bump. Apparently, the dog saw me and charged out into the road in front of a car. I helped the driver and the dog owner put "Sam" into her car to go to the vet. It was all pretty sad. Poor old Sam.
September 17 - New Lisbon, WI to Green Lake, WI - 81 miles
Today was pretty uneventful, just another nice day in Wisconsin. I rode county roads as much as possible which added a few extra miles but over all it's worth it. I camped in a little town called Green Lake. I randomly picked it because it had camping and it was about the right distance. Turns out, Green Lake was a pretty cool town. Real nice downtown with boatdocks and all. I ate at a very good restaraunt, Adam's Rib. I had a well deserved steak and a cold "Leiney". That would be a Leinenkugel Okterberfest beer in a cold mug. As I sat in my tent that evening I could hear the high school football game being announced from across the lake. I thought that was pretty quaint. Thank God for my headlamp. It's dark early again but at least I'm able to read my maps to plan for tomorrow and read my book, "The Oxbow Incident".
September 18 - Green Lake, WI to Elkhart Lake, WI - 75 miles
I zigzagged all over trying to get low traffic county roads. Eastern Wisconsin is not as pretty as western WI (in my humble opinion). As I approached my destination at Elkhart Lake, I went through the town of Plymouth in search of food. To my surprise and good fortune, Plymouth was celebrating Octoberfest! After 2 brats, beans, potato salad, 2 ears of corn and a Spaten Oktoberfest beer (good) to wash it down, I felt much better. Maybe it was the Polka music? Only 2 types of music use the accordian - Salsa and Polka. Then again, there's Weird Al Yankovic... not sure where he fits in.
September 19 - Elkhart Lake, WI to Ludington, MI - 40 miles
I couldn't find a good breakfast this morning, so I had to choke down a mini-mart burrito. I've found that a good breakfast really takes me far. Fortunately, I didn't have to go very far to get to the ferry at Manitowoc, today. The ferry is a 4 hour boat ride across Lake Michigan to Ludington, Michigan. I took a dramamine to get me across. I hate Dramamine but it seems to work - I didn't feed the fish. I either slept or stumbled around in a zombie-like state (worse than normal) for the 4 hour boat trip. The ferry was supposed to be a fun and different alternative to fighting congestion around the Chicago free for all. Well, it turns out to be 4 hours of my life that I don't recall clearly. My head did clear as we came into port in Ludington. Ludington is a pretty cool beach town with a good feel to it. You might want to vacation there. This is very unlike Manitowoc which had a very bricks and mortar, industrial feel. There is a power plant and a Budweiser factory right at the dock. Not very visually friendly. You probably wouldn't want to vacation there, unless you're Charley Hench. I got off the boat, found a great restaurant and chowed down on the Turkey dinner special. Apparently, my stomach recovered nicely from the boat ride. I got a strawberry ice cream cone to go for desert. It was getting dark and I was hunting for my campground with the cone dripping down on my hand. I didn't have time to stop and eat it, and I absolutely couldn't throw it out. Good ice cream!
September 20 - Ludington, MI to Reed City, MI - 71 miles
When I came into Michigan, I entered Eastern time, so this morning I slept a little later than normal. Usually, I'm up before 6 going through the exercise of packing gear. Today was more like 6:30 and it was dark. I got a good breakfast today and on my way out of town I found a AAA office. I loaded up on maps that I really needed. After about 30 miles, I got back "on route". I had an Adventure Cyclist route map to get through Michigan. These maps are always talking about "off route" and "on route" relative to their map route. The route maps are real good because they include campgrounds, grocery stores, motels, etc that are on their route, which is also supposed to be the road less travelled. I've been "offroute" since Bozeman, MT, mainly because their route didn't go where I wanted to go. Anyhow, I ended up in Reed City, MI. I rolled into town to find a giant Yoplait Yogurt factory. I always wondered where they make this stuff (Yogurt is a very important part of my diet. I consider it fairly healthy and fast to eat. Goes good with Snickers bars, too.) There was a really nice campground in town for $5 and hot showers. I didn't realize how close to the highway it was though... G.D. jake brakes in the middle of the night!
September 21 - Reed City, MI to Belding, MI - 72 miles
It was cold and dark this AM - like 45 degrees F. Once I got out of my sleeping bag, I moved with purpose. I left Reed City on a real nice paved bike trail that led to Rapid City. Sun was up, I saw a couple of deer, and I was making good time. It was a fine morning in Michigan. South of Rapid City, the bike trail became a mountain bike trail when it turned to basically gravel. It was hard going so I went back out on the road. I'm not liking Michigan roads or its drivers. The roads/shoulders can be rough and narrow, while the drivers are fast. As the day wore on, traffic got worse, I bonked, then got my first flat since South Dakota (Apparently, somebody didn't do a good patch job on the last flat.) Anyhow, I got a motel room in anticipation of tomorrow's much needed rest day. I found a Chinese Food Buffet for dinner after much searching. I ate much :)
September 22 - Beautiful Belding, MI - REST DAY
Laundry, update website, sleep, eat. I'm heading basically south right now in Michigan so I don't feel like I'm getting the eastern progress that I previously had. I should be out of Michigan by Friday night, if things go well. I passed the 3000 mile barrier, yesterday. Wow!
Turns out I updated my website in the morning, but before I could enter it, the server went down. The librarian informed me that it had never happened before. I am a slow typist, so doing this update a 2nd time was painful, and I think that I lost some of my initial energy and insight. Great weather here! Hope it stays for a couple more weeks!
September 23 - Belding, MI to Augusta, MI - 75 miles
Last night I ate at the Goody Chinese Buffet for the 2nd night in a row. All that you can eat for $5. Belding had very limited food choices and I was hungry, so what the hey. I was the skinniest guy in that place but I was keeping up with the big boys. I don't think that I'll eat chinese again for a while...
Well, I started today with my fingers crossed. On Tuesday when I rolled into Belding, I was pretty stressed out with traffic and I was really hoping that things would go better. Fortunately, today turned out really well. Beautiful weather, good low volume country roads, friendly people. I take back all the bad things that I said about Michigan. I had lunch today on the steps of the Irving Township office. It was a public building in the middle of nowhere that had shade, so it looked like a good place to eat. It was empty for some reason until two building assessors showed up. They said that not much happens around here so the office only gets used part time. They asked a bunch of questions about my trip, then I got to ask them questions about Michigan real estate. Obviously, Michigan real estate is much cheaper than California but percentagewise, it has risen the same as CA. After lunch, I jumped on my bike, bid the assessors farewell and continued my trek south. At that point, I wasn't sure if I was going to camp in a little town called Augusta which was a few miles off route or motel it on Gull Lake which was on route. As the miles clicked off, I decided to short cut around Gull Lake and go to Augusta. Turns out, I made the the right decision. Augusta was a cool little town, I camped at Ft Custer State Rec Area, had a very good dinner at Nina's Taqueria (good Mexican food in MI!), friendly people. Dos Equis - "not very local." I stopped in the library to check email when I got into town. When I was there I asked about the restaurants and places to camp. The librarian was rather attractive, so I had a lot of questions. She was looking over my shoulder looking at my map, helping me find campgrounds, pointing out Fort Sutter and another local place, then she said, "Climax". In my brain, I thought, "Alan, say something intelligent here." So in true Homer Simpson form I said, "... huh?" Short pause. Then she said, "There's a campground in Climax." Oh, right, campground, yes. Turns out Augusta is only a few short miles to beautiful little town of Climax, Michigan. Glad we got that straight. I road past the Michigan Farmers Hall of Fame and Museum, today. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to stop in.
September 24 - Augusta, MI to LaGrange, IN - 72 miles
I got the "Biker discount" at the Fort Sutter campground last night. It has something to do with getting in late and leaving early. The weather was just perfect again today. As I passed Climax, I thought that it would be fun getting a photo of a sign saying "Climax 2 miles", but no signs were to be found. I'm guessing that they were stolen as fast as they were put up. (Darn college kids). I crossed the border into Indiana and started seeing horse poop on the road, again. More Amish country. This is the largest community, yet. Horse and buggies everywhere. They all are friendly and wave as they pass. A couple times I felt that I got lost in a "Little house on the Prairie" time warp. I'm really surprised at how many Amish communities there are back east with basically people living in the past. No cell phones! It is quite a sight seeing a man plowing the fields with a 8-horse team. The plow horses are these big, muscular horses, just beautiful. I'm not sure what the rules are for when you can use tractors or modern conveniences, because I did see some tractors...but I saw a lot of plow horses. When I got into Indiana, I found out that they don't use daylight savings time. So, I had just adjusted to the Eastern Time zone in MI just in time to spend 2 nights in Indiana. I couldn't remember what time it was at that point. (I didn't reset my watch, of course, just to keep things confusing). Lagrange had horse and buggies all through town. At the county courthouse, they had horse and buggy parking (or tie-ups). I also noticed that the laundry that was hanging out to dry was pretty much black and white. No decisions in the morning like... "So what am I going to wear today???" Although, I currently don't have that problem right now, either.
September 25 - Lagrange, IN to Monroeville, IN - 80 miles
I rode a long way in Amish country today. I noticed that many of the Amish kids had bikes and I saw several young men going on bikes, too. Not much chrome on these bikes but they were fairly modern in having several gears. Today, I stayed in Monroeville, IN which was the end of the Michigan route that I had. It was very satisfying to see the big water tower that said Monroeville from a distance. Finishing up the Michigan route is one step closer. According to my Adventure Cyclist map, there was a free bike shelter there at the city park. I had my doubts, but it turned out great. When I got to the park, there was a sign that said cross country bikers call xxx-xxxx to access the bike shelter. I called and a woman named Jen came and opened the bike shelter which was part of the community building. It had showers, washer, dryer, cots, bathroom, TV/VCR, book exchange, etc. It was just too good to be true and it was free. There was a Baptism party while I was there and the family brought me over food and were very hospitable. What a cool place. Monroeville is on the North Route across the US and it connects with the Great Lakes route, so they see their share of bikers and they welcome them. Really cool. Beer du jour: Sam Adams - old reliable, best that I can do.
September 26 - Monroeville, IN to Findlay, OH - 71 miles
I got an early start this morning since it was light at 6:30 AM. I couldn't find a restaurant open that early so I had a mini-mart breakfast. I got to talking to the guy working there and he said that his daughter was the starting guard at Indiana University (basketball). I have been following women's NCAA basketball over the years, so I really enjoyed hearing how his daughter, Leah, got there and the players that she played against - Kelly Mazzante (Penn State), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota). He also said that his brother travels all over the US refereeing women's games. NCAA and Pro. He said that his brother refereed last year's women's NCAA finals in New Orleans. I told him that I was there and the refereeing was really good... Anyhow, when I left, he sent me off with a big apple filled pastry on the house. It was fun talking with him. It was cloudy all day, today, as I crossed the border into Ohio. Looked like rain, but no rain. Ohio is flat and they grew acres and acres of soybeans. Not real exciting. I did go through a little town called Glandorf. As I approached I could see on the skyline an enormous church steeple. This huge, old church just dwarfed the town. The road went practically to the front steps then turned. The bold architecture and size of the church really left an impression. I decided to stay in Findlay, Ohio which was right along the way. I have a friend, Steve Welsh, who lived in Findlay when he graduated from Penn State. He worked at Marathon Oil as an accountant. I visited him once when he was there. I don't remember much because I think that we drank a few beers, maybe. I remember Steve (the accountant) telling me that he had a different business suit for everyday of the week and I remember thinking that I didn't have that many pair of jeans. Steve blew out of Findlay, and moved to Chicago for a few years, then Sydney, Australia for a few years and now Florida - and he doesn't wear suits everyday anymore. Findlay seemed like the white picket fence little town (but growing) that I remembered.
September 27 - Findlay, OH to Mansfield, OH - 82 miles
Today turned into a challenging one. I got a little lost in Findlay and took the downtown tour during the morning commute. As I approached, Mansfield traffic was starting to build and I was getting tired. I came across a bike path that headed into Mansfield and looked like a short cut. This was a "rails-to-trails" bike path, practically new. Very nice, but as I pedalled I was looking for Route 430. I was a little perplexed to see a large bridge over my head with a sign that said Route 430 with no way to get to it. So I kept pedalling thinking, I'll figure it out. Well, I got lost in what turned out to be a pretty big rustbelt city. I went through some pretty tough neighborhoods on my bike. Unfortunately, I didn't have any car doors to lock. I didn't expect Mansfield to be that big or tough. I eventually rode past a school and hit up a teacher for directions. She got me out of town and headed in the right direction. I was tired that night and couldn't find a campground, so I had to motel it in some dive. I was really tired and Mansfield was not a highlight of my trip.
September 28 - Mansfield, OH to North Canton, OH - 69 miles
Another nice day in Ohio. Nice to get out of Mansfield. The landscape is starting to get hilly as I head toward eastern Ohio. Still farmland, pretty much. On my bike map for Ohio, it showed that there was a place to eat in the little town of Congress. I rode into Congress at lunchtime and asked a guy where the restuarant was and he said, basically, that it wasn't there. Next stop for lunch was 15 miles away or about 1.5 hours. Being that I was really hungry at the time, I was crushed. At that point, not much to do but eat some Fig Newtons and start pedalling. About 5 miles away from Congress, I spotted a new golf course. I knew that there would be a clubhouse there. Yes, I was happy again. So, sometimes golf courses actually can be a good thing... Right past the golf course, there was a construction sign saying bridge out 2 miles ahead. So, I gambled that I could get through, somehow. That seems to be a first order of work for the contractor to get access through a work site. Sure enough, I was able to walk my bike across a couple of planks over a box culvert and avoid the much hated, time consuming detour. Today is going much better than yesterday. I went through the small town of Canal Fulton. It was kind of touristy but actually pretty nice. I stopped briefly to check my email at the library. Then headed on to my campsite. It's interesting how some towns seem to have their act together and some don't. I think it all comes down to money and tourist towns (and college towns) seem to have it. At the campground tonight I ate my "emergency dinner". It was a freeze dried stew that I've been carrying since Montana. I was hungry enough so it almost tasted good and it did a pretty good job of filling me up. That's one less pound of weight that I'm carrying on my bike. I saw a groundhog today... and I think that it saw it's shadow. Of course, that means 3 more weeks of nice weather, until Alan finishes his trip.
September 29 - North Canton, OH to Beaver Falls, PA - 78 miles
I made it to Pennsylvania!!!!! Yahoo! It was cloudy all day today but no rain. I'm feeling pretty lucky that I haven't had much rain. Actually, I'm feeling real lucky. I came to another "bridge out" sign today. I gambled again, risking riding back two miles to the detour. This time the bridge was really out. There were 2 old timers or "sidewalk supervisors" checking it out. When I rode up, they said, very skeptically, "where do you think you're going?" They really quizzed me about where I'm from and where I'm going, etc. They gave me a lot of good information about the road ahead and a shortcut I was planning to take. Then we went down to the creek and they handed my bike acrossed to me and off I went. Good guys. Along the way today, my back brake pads gave up the ghost. I was hoping that I could get to New Jersey without changing them, but no such luck. I had 30 miles of Appalachian hills left until Beaver Falls, tonight, so that made the downhills a little more interesting. All across Ohio, I've had loose dogs chasing me, so not having back brakes, and fear of loose dogs, and highway traffic, and roadway obstacles, ...well, it had me a little nervous... just to spice things up. Well, I crossed the PA border which was pretty satisfying then rolled into Beaver Falls, PA, birthplace of Joe Namath. I had a much deserved 2-large pork chop dinner and 2 much deserved beers. Good old Iron City Beer - as bad as I remembered and a Yuengling Lager (oldest brewery in the US) - relative to the Iron City... Good! Great to be in PA!
September 30 - Beaver Falls, PA to Houston, PA - 54 miles
It was very foggy this morning, so I decided to wait until it cleared some. I knew that I had a fairly short day but I wasn't sure exactly how many miles. I was going to Houston, PA to visit my friend, Jay Lucas and his family. My first order of work, though, was to find a bike shop to replace my nonexistent rear brake pads. I talked to a guy in Beaver Falls and he directed me to the town of Beaver for a bike shop. This was pretty much in the right direction so I headed through the old steel towns and over the old steel truss bridge into Beaver. It was a cool little town with a bike shop and a bakery (two very important aspects of what I consider a cool town). The bike shop owner was very interested in my trip and when I showed him my route for the day, he basically said, "Can't go there". Apparently, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan really flooded parts of the Pittsburgh area. The Montour bike trail that I was supposed to ride was "gone". The bike shop owner was real good about rerouting me around the Pittsbugh airport back to my route down to Houston. With this new information and operational rear brakes, I crossed the street to the bakery, loaded up, then headed south. I found cruising through the old steel towns along the river very interesting - a lot of ghosts from when steel was king. When I left Pennsylvania back in the early 80's, this area was very depressed with very high unemployment rates as the steel mills and associated industries were shutting down. Now, it appears that the towns are rebounding and not as dependent on steel. When I was cruising through downtown Monaca I ran into a young couple touring tandem. We pulled up on the sidewalk and swapped stories and website addresses. They are riding from Seattle to Maine in, what sounded like, a very indirect route that went through as many national parks that were "close". I hadn't seen any riders for over a month and I hadn't expected to see them there, so this was a pleasant surprise. We shook hands and went our ways. Along the way to Houston, I came upon a highway construction project. It had K-rail on both sides of the 12 foot lane on a curved road going uphill. I stopped and pulled off the road and said, "no way!" Just then one the contractor's guys pulled through. He was driving in a SUV so I figured that he had some authority and could help me out. I asked him if I could ride behind the K-rail to stay out of traffic, and he said, "No, this is a construction area, it's not safe. You have to ride over there." (He pointed to the live traffic lane between the K-rail). I could see that he wasn't going to help me so I asked him where the Resident Engineers Office was. He pointed to the office up the way, then said very authoritatively, "I'm the Project Safety Coordinator." So, I said, "Great, how are you going to get me safely through this project?" I perceived a little steam coming from his ears, as there was a pause as he tried to figure out what to say next. I bailed him out and said, "How about I just ride up that haul road and stay away from the heavy equipment." He said, "OK but I don't want you coming through here everyday." No problem there. My transPA bike route went right through Houston so it wasn't like I had to go off route to visit Jay, although Jay's house was on top of this nasty, steep hill that I was finding to be fairly common in PA. I found that any time that I asked directions in PA, the first words out of their mouth is, "Well, you go up a hill..." I had a real nice visit with Jay and Maureen and their kids, Jack Henry, Bobby, Taylor and Jennifer, the Lucas soccer team. We even went to the Saris candy shop for ice cream, imagine that. In the spirit of the grand experiment, Jay provided 2 beer samples for me: Erie Brewing Company Rail Bender Ale and Mad Anthony's Ale. That is Mad Anthony, as in Mad Anthony Wayne.. "I'll storm Hell if you'll only plan it". I'll have to "Google" Mad Anthony. Both beers successfully passed the taste test with flying colors. Cheers!
Good day today and more nice weather.
October 1 - Houston, PA to West Newton, PA - 30 miles
I thought that today was going to be an easy day with only 30 miles or so, as I followed my TransPA bike route to the Youghiogheny Bike Trail in West Newton where my cousin Tom would pick me up. Tom lives in the Irwin area which is fairly close but I didn't feel comfortable going off route on the busy roads around Pittsburgh. In the morning I updated my website and then headed east. Jay had given me a brief summary of my route for the day, being that he was familiar with parts of it. He mentioned a "pretty good hill" which I pretty much forgot about as I cruised through the very pretty Mingo County Park and through the steel towns of New Eagle and Monongahela (where do they come up with these names?) Well, I found the "pretty good hill" as I rode from the Monongahela River to the Youghiogheny (hereafter called "the Yough"). This hill was steep with recently chipsealed narrow shoulder and it was frequented by very large triaxle coal trucks. When I looked in my rear view mirror, these trucks would fill my mirror as they passed and leave a vacuum in their trail. They must have been empty going up this hill because they were moving (and I was crawling). This hill turned my "easy" day into a real stressful work out. Anyhow, I made it to West Newton, met Tom and went to his house for dinner and a good night's sleep. It was my first time in a car since Bozeman, so I was a little in awe. I had a nice visit with Tom, his wife Cindy and their 2 daughthers, Sara and Samantha. Tom generously assisted in the Grand Experiment by providing me with a Penn Pilsner - very good and Spreker Special Ale (specially imported from WI) - very good. Before I went to bed, we checked weather.com for tomorrow's weather. Rain and T-storms forecast... and I have a long day tomorrow.
October 2 - West Newton, PA to Somerset, PA - 83 miles
Tom gave me a ride back to the Yough bike trail this morning and I took off in the gray dark day. I figured that I would pedal until the rain and lightning forced me to stop. I was guessing that I would make the kayak/rafting mecca at Ohiopyle. As I was pedalling up the Rails to Trails Yough Bike trail and my breakfast was wearing off, I remembered that I had fresh chocolate chip cookies that little Jennifer Lucas (bless her) made, stashed in my pannier. They were soooo good! Homemade cookies have soul. With this uplifting snack, I made very good time on the trail, getting into Ohiopyle around 11:30 AM. I had to put on my rain coat several times during the morning but not enough to stop me. So, I had lunch at Ohiopyle and forged on, checking the sky as I pedalled. I switched trails at the town of Confluence and got on the Allegheny Passageway bike trail. The Yough trail was unpaved limestone rock dust (#4 screen), I would call it, and it was like pavement, but the Allegheny Passageway was just a little looser and a little slower. Overall, though, these Rail/trails were really great as they sliced through prime PA forests (at nice flat railroad grades) along very scenic wild rivers. I really didn't get much more rain until the last 7 miles or so coming into Somerset. I was really happy that I made it to Somerset. I thought that I would be losing a day today. Surf & turf dinner with a Newcastle Brown Ale to top it off. I should be in Tyrone tomorrow!
October 3 - Somerset, PA to TYRONE, PA - 88 miles
The day started off foggy but I was anxious to get started. I headed east from Somerset through the Laurel Highlands. There is a reason why they are called the highlands, I found. It's not the Rocky Mountains but it's steep up, then steep down, then up again, etc. This went on for 20 miles or so. I knew that I had a long day today and I was wondering if it was going to be like this all day. Fortunately, when I got to Bedford and headed northeast, I rode parallel to the Appalachian Mountain ridges, in the valley rather than up and over. It was pretty smooth sailing the last 50 miles or so. Low traffic, blue skies and favorable winds. It couldn't be a much better day to ride. I had 2 lunches today, Lunch#1 was 3 slices of pizza and Lunch#2 was an Arby's roast beef sandwich. I pressed on through Altoona to Tyrone. I must admit that from Altoona to Tyrone (15 miles or so), I was going on adrenaline. I was enjoying the scenery, I felt good and I had a real warm, fuzzy, satisfied feeling of almost being there. Getting to Tyrone was the main objective of this trip and I was there. I was greeted at my mother's house by my mother, brother Larry, sister Jean, her husband Jay, and nephews Joe, Jack and Kevin ... and homemade lasagna (thank you Jean). After eating and talking about my trip, I was really tired since I pedalled 170 miles in 2 days. I slept well.
Odometer reading 3,849 miles
October 4, 5 - Tyrone - Rest Days
October 6 - Tyrone, PA to Gettysburg, PA - 56 miles
This morning was very cold. I had to scrape the frost off of my mother's car's windshield before I left. I caught a ride to the little town of Burnt Cabins on the PA bike route that I am taking. Since I had to get off my route to go to Tyrone, I didn't see the point of retracing my tracks. I left all my camping gear in Tyrone and decided to "motel it" for the last 3 nights. The route today took me through some very pretty Pennsylvania forests which were starting to change color. By the time I leave PA, the fall foliage should be at it's peak. I arrived in Gettysburg around 3 PM. Gettysburg was a little off route but I hadn't been there since childhood and I had very little memory of it. First, I went to the Visitor Center and the electronic battlefield presentation. The electronic battlefield gave a summary of the 3 day battle and it gave me a real good understanding of what went on. When I arrived in Gettysburg, I couldn't help but notice the monuments and statues that are everywhere. The longer that I was in Gettysburg, the more that I understood the impacts that this battle had on so many people. The monuments and statues tried to memorialize these impacts and the individuals caught up in this battle. After dinner, I took an evening walk along the "High water mark" of the confederacy. Basically, it was the furthest advance of the confederate forces against the federal troops before they were pushed back. It was considered the turning point of the Civil War. As the sun went down, I could not help but feel the history and humanity that focused on that spot. Very humbling.
October 7 - Gettysburg, PA to Lancaster, PA - 70 miles
Before I left town this morning, I toured the battlefield on my bicycle. I rode out to Seminary Ridge which was basically the Confederate line. Along the line were monuments to the divisions of the army representing different states along with statues of generals and heroes. The Virginia monument pretty much was located at the heart of Picketts Charge. 12,000 confederate soldiers charged across the field to attack the feds. The vantage point from this monument was stunning. I had to ask myself, "Would I be able to charge across the open field into a barrage of guns and cannons"? Near the VA monument was the location where General Lee apologized to retreating troops after the unsuccessful charge. The casualties were incredible. Next, I went over to Cemetary Ridge where the Union line was located. This was where the Union defense positions were and the "high water mark". Again, the line was marked with monuments, statues, old cannons. There was a lot more involved in this battle than Picketts Charge. Picketts Charge was the defining moment. The Confederates on several occasions almost changed the outcome of the battle but the Union troops somehow managed to keep it together. My next stop at the book store, I'm going to find myself a good Gettysburg book to fill in the gaps in my understanding. I hope that I'm not too far off in the explanation here. I got a late start but it was worth it. From there, I headed to Lancaster. I found Lancaster to be a larger city than I thought as I fought rush hour traffic. I passed another bike rider today on the bridge midway across the Susquehanna River. He was riding from Long Island to Fort Myers, FL. He was in his first week, which was apparent in his clean gear and general appearance. I kinda would have liked to get a good look at myself to see how I looked after 9 weeks on the road. I wished him well and good weather.
October 8 - Lancaster, PA to Doylestown, PA - 81 miles
After yesterday's traffic going through Lancaster, I was a little anxious about today's ride. Fortunately for me, I started the day out in Amish country. The roads had a lot less traffic and it was fun seeing the Amish kids heading to school. This was definitely the largest Amish population that I've been through. It's still a curiousity to me how these folks choose this seemingly backward lifestyle that goes with their religous beliefs. It just seems that it would be so easy to say, "To heck with it, I'm buying a tractor". It was kind of refreshing to see this lifestyle, though. I rode on pretty good roads today with the exception of the last 5 or 10 miles when I got into the afternoon commute on a narrow road with no shoulders. Eastern PA has a lot of history to it. You can really see it in the old stone houses along the road. I really dug the old stone houses which really project a certain character, as compared to my old California stucco.
I ran into to an older couple touring on a tandem from Maine to Virginia. They were wearing "California bear" cycling jerseys which I recognized immediately. They were from the Bay area and seemed unphased by the traffic. We traded touring stories and headed different directions. I've seen more touring bikes in PA than just about everywhere since leaving the Lewis Clark route.
October 9 - Doylestown, PA to Ocean Grove, NJ - 83 miles
Since I've been "moteling it" as of late, it seems that the Sopranos were on every night on HBO. So crossing into NJ had me thinking about Tony Soprano and his bunch of thugs. I told myself, "Alan keep your nose clean here and don't piss anybody off." Ba-da-bing. I had nice roads heading out of PA then crossed the Delaware River at Washington Crossing. There was a big sign that said "Bicyclists walk your bike". There were no pedestrians on the bridge, so I rode slowly across. I mean, I've be riding my bike for over 4000 miles... I couldn't walk my bike! As I approached NJ, there was a policeman standing there and he didn't look happy. He said, "You're supposed to walk your bike across the bridge." I was hoping for a "Welcome to New Jersey", but no such luck. I apologized and got the heck outta there. Just what I need was a ticket. New Jersey was like one big suburb with varying degrees of density. There were lots of really big houses in western NJ then it just got denser as I approached Asbury Park. I was hoping to have a shorter day today but my route was indirect to say the least as I zigzagged my way across NJ. The zigzagging kept me on lower traffic roads (by Jersey standards). About 20 miles from Asbury Park, my bike suffered a "costume malfunction" when the hooks that connect one of my rear panniers (saddlebags) to the bike basically fell off exposing my right fender. I had been waiting all morning for the "curve ball" to make my day interesting and here it was. Fortunately, I wasn't moving when I made this discovery. After a few choice words, I "McGiver-ed" (sp?) it temporarily together with a bungee cord that I've been carrying for the whole trip. (I knew I brought it for a reason). It worked great for the rest of the trip, but I saw so many broken bungee cords on the road as I crossed the country, I just didn't feel real comfortable with my rigging. Anyhow, I rolled into Asbury Park and was heading to the beach, when my brother Larry pulled up beside me in his car. He said, "Follow me, Asbury Park is pretty run down. We'll go to a nicer place." Larry had arrived in Asbury Park a couple hours early from Tyrone and scoped the place out. About 3 blocks from where I was supposed to finish was another small beach community called Ocean Grove. They were having a little street festival, so I arrived at the beach with a live band playing and people in the streets. I got down to the beach and did the ceremonial wheel dip. Then, I gave Larry my bike and I jumped in the Atlantic Ocean. I made it! After a bunch of photos, we jumped in the car and headed back to good old Tyrone.
I want to THANK everybody for their support along the way. I appreciated all the emails. You can't imagine how important an email can be when you're in a little library in Woonsocket, SD, for example. It went a long way. The final odometer reading was 4139 miles. I guess that I had 5 or 6 flats, all on the back wheel. After I changed my back tire in South Dakota, I only had one flat (because I did a lousy patch job previously). The tire wasn't worn out but I was tired of patching tubes. I replaced my rear brake pads in Beaver PA (about 3700 miles+/-). I had my bottom bracket tightened in Bozeman MT and a tune up in Gillette WY. Nothing major. Over all, things went very well! I was very, very fortunate with the weather with only a few hard rain days. I'm sure it will take a little time for me to fully appreciate this adventure but I really enjoyed it. I'm flying back to SLO on October 19th. I hope that my desk is still there at work, when I get back.
October 23 - Epilogue ~ San Luis Obispo, CA
After my swim in the Atlantic on October 9, my brother Larry and I drove back the 5 or 6 hours to Tyrone, PA. At one point, Larry asked me if I wanted to drive because he was getting tired of driving. He had driven to NJ that morning, of course. I said, "Sure, but I haven't driven for about 10 weeks so I might be a little out of practice." With that in mind, I don't think that Larry slept much. It took me 4 days to travel the same distance that we made in 5 or 6 hours. When I was in Indiana, I was getting a feel for when I would finish up my bike ride, so I made airline reservations for my trip back on October 19. So I had 9 days to decompress before I headed back to California. These 9 days just flew by as I went to visit my brother, Bryan, and his family in New York, packed my bike, visited friends and family, etc. Next thing that I know, it's early Wednesday morning and I'm sitting at my desk at work. As I look around and see that things haven't noticeably changed, I sense that I'm returning from a long weekend. It was a weird deja vu feeling that I wasn't expecting and wasn't prepared for. One positive thing though, I could not remember any computer passwords or phone numbers. For some reason, that made me feel good. After I finally got into my computer, I found 18 pages of new emails. Ugh! So somehow I managed to plow through the rest of the week. I really appreciate everybody that I work with taking it easy on me this week. They might not be so nice next week, though. As I slowly tried become a functioning engineer again, I couldn't help but wonder how I was able to juggle so many things at the same time before I left. Well, I guess that I'll start with one ball at a time. Many thanks to Tim Campbell for covering my job (as well as his) when I was on vacation. There is a case of beer in your near future. I thought that I would try to summarize this trip as best that I could, but it's not easy, since it really hasn't totally sunk in. It was a very interesting and fun adventure with lots of spice but that doesn't begin to do justice in describing the "ups" of slowly grinding my way up Granite Pass in the fantastic scenery of the Big Horn mountains or the "downs" of stressing out in busy afternoon traffic through downtown Lancaster, PA, for example. In hindsight though, this adventure had a very simple plot line. Simple in comparison to the complicated lives that we seem to gravitate towards. At one campsite in Lewiston, Idaho, I was talking with a bike tourer heading west to Seattle. He was nearing the end of his trip. He told me that he was carrying 56 items on his bike. At the time I thought that it was a little funny to count the items but now I understand. He was living comfortably with just 56 items for 3 months or so. (He didn't mention if his credit card was one of the items.) But keeping warm and dry, and eat, drink, sleep = 56 items. The 56 items, though, were really just part of it. It provided an avenue to explore, meet new people, experience new things. At times it seemed limiting but you adjust. You accept the limitations and work around it. There are always options and challenges. For me, the personal interaction with the friendly people across this country was something that will always stand out in my memory. I sense that there is something nonthreatening about a loaded bicycle, maybe? Sometimes, (a lot of the times), I can be communications challenged, especially with people that I don't know. This trip definitely helped my communication skills. I pushed my social skills envelope, some, by necessity. Biking across the US might not be for everybody, but it was very rewarding for me. Back home in California, Firestone Double Barrel Ale is my favorite local.