Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tue June 29

The day started beautiful with a rainbow above the school.

The first miles were incredible with scenery, a ride along a river, cool temps, and good roads.

We had a steep 7-10 mile climb to the top of the continental divide - we went up separate as Chris is stronger than me. then there was a great 10 mile downhill. Wow!

We had a hasty lunch as we realized we linger too long (45-60 min) and get stiff. Then it is hard to ride after lunch. This time we had PB&J, filled our pockets and were out in 20. We had warnings for severe weather late afternoon so we wanted to get to Townsend, MT early.

The wind picked up - incredibly - gusts of 20-30 mph in our faces. The last 30 miles seemed to take forever with the strong wind. Our Montana friend Bonnie had warned us - she was correct! While we were frustrated with the tough wind, we persevered and cheered at the "Welcome to Townsend" signs. Finally we made it. Tonight we sleep in the school as the weather still looks rough outside. Actually, I am in the town library as I write this 2 hours after arriving and Chris is already asleep!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Misc thoughts

Breakfasts are typically eggs, bacon, oatmeal and cold cereals. Sometimes cooked by the school, sometimes cooked by a service group like Elks or Lions.
Lunches are picnic style. Cycle America sets up an awning behind a trailer and there are tables of deli meats, PB, & sliced vegetables. Often they have a good soup on cold days or some themed treat like Chinese Pot Stickers, Mediterranean Salads, etc. There is also cut fruit, nuts, candies, etc. It is so easy to stay and eat – that is how we stay too long.
Dinners are usually at the school, but occasionally out. Pasta and chicken have been common, with good veggies and salads.

Typically we camp on the school grounds – maybe an athletic field or the grass around the school. We slept in a gym once – that is a bit noisier at first but then it quiets pretty quick.


we had rain the first two days, but great weather since then. Usually it is cool in the mornings but then it heats up in the afternoons. Today got up to 95.

We have really enjoyed stopping at the drive thru coffee shacks. Typically we get espressos. At one of them, the guy on the other side had just seen us climb 7 miles to Waterville. He bought our drinks for us. At another, Chris asked for a “dirty espresso” - the lady had never heard of it so he explained how to layer the sugar and grounds to brew it. She was happy to learn a new thing. At another,we had been facing a head wind for many miles. The scenery also was monotonous. we were getting low in spirts – we saw “Lynnes – best coffee in town” and had a double shot each. Lynne was so chatty – it was great. She was interested in hearing about the trip, where we were headed, etc. it really raised our spirits for the last 20 miles.

They are working pretty well. We had to buy a new wheel for Chris after his fall. One of my pedals is getting stiff so I bought a new set at REI in Missoula. I hope to avoid using them by greasing the old ones – we will see. We shift to better mountain gears before we left – that has served us well.

Well being and health
We have a few maladies. My bottom really hurts – two sore spots where I hit the seat. I use bandages and antibiotic cream and it is much better.
We have dramatic tan lines at our arms and legs. I think I burned my lips as they are very sensitive.
Sometimes the long days can get to us. For example, Saturday was a long day and the road noise, heat, head wind got to us. We persevered, but those days are tough.

Mon June 28

Mon June 28

79 miles – hot!

Waking and packing in a dorm is so nice. It is easier to find things, no tent or sleeping bag to put away, We enjoy camping but our things get scattered and we get a slow start. Breakfast at the U of Montana cafeteria was great. We never know how much to eat -it can be hard to stop.

We rode a bit thru the Missoula urban area, then got out to the scenery. We followed a river most of the day. The bad news is it was flowing the other way, so it was mostly an uphill day. The day started cool but ended near 95 degrees. I wore a sleeveless jersey with arm warmers, but should have had on my windbreaker. That would have been more comfortable.

By lunch it warmed up and we had a good afternoon ride. We always seem to spend too much time at lunch and then it is hard ot start up again. From now on we plan on eating quick and heading out – maybe taking a PB&J with us.

I got my first flat in the afternoon. Not too bad to change.

The area is a lot less populated – no coffee shops. We got to 78.5 and there was a drive thru place. We stopped for a cool coffee drink and then rode the last half mile. This school did not have much hot water, so we had cold showers. That can be tough. We enjoyed a root beer float before a lasagne dinner.

As a bit of trivia, we are in the town where the Uni-bomber was hiding

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chilly, Beautiful, then Brutal

Sat June 26 - 103 miles from Thompson Falls to Missoula

The day started chilly - we rode to a local Elks place where they served a great breakfast. The usual eggs, bacon, toast and oatmal but then several home made coffee cakes.

The beginning of the ride was along a river - we were in a valley with sun light mountains on the right and shadow on the left. It was cool - mid 50's and very scenic. We looked for big horn sheep in the mountains but never saw any.

By lunch it was warm and sunny - around 80. Both of us were feeling sluggish. We had ridden a good pace with Mark (TX) before lunch, but I was not up for keeping the same pace.

The road after lunch was rough and noisy. Cars were going by fast while we rode in the emergency lane. The noise from them got to us. It was also a strong head wind and a headwind. At one point we had a two mile downhill, but with the wind we never got going fast.

We stopped at a sandwich shop and had a fresh cooked doughnut and an espresso. The couple next to us was fascinated with our trip and kept asking questions. Talking to people has been one of the highlights. I am reading a book called "Travels with Willie" - he is a bicycle adventurer. He talks about how his bicycle is his "passport". When he rides into town people open up quickly and share food, lodging or stories. We are experiencing the "stories" part. It is so nice to meet people and talk to them.

The snack helped me tremendously (we still had 30 miles to go) . . . but Chris was still in low spirits. Noise, headwind, heat, rough road all got him frustrated. I pushed hard and we made it by around 3-4 pm. It was a long, brutal day.

The nice part is we are in Missoula and are staying in a dorm. As I pulled in Jo (UK) had a few extra beers (she is so fast she was able to stop and pick up two six packs) and I enjoyed one.

Chris and I went out for Thai food and ate huge amounts - we have been so hungry. We enjoyed electricity and reading in bed without headlamps.

Sunday I woke early - 5:30 am. That is our typical camp ground wake-up time. I went down to do laundry and found 3 others already doing the same. After a week of getting up early, it is hard to sleep in.

Chris went white water rafting and had a great time. He and Nathan (20 yr old from CA) were the only cyclists who went. I did errands, dried the tent (wet from dew), shopped and napped. It was a nice day.

This week was over 600 miles. The upcoming week is shorter at about 450 miles. However, it has a huge climb up the about 9000 feet before we head into Jackson (Grand Tetons).

Friday, June 25, 2010

pictures - Friday June 25

Chris and the fast paceline crew before the Thompson Pass climb

Road up to 4700 feet for Thompson pass

View from the top of Thompson pass - see our road down below

campsite Friday night

pictures - Thursday June 24

Along a park path - near beginning of bike trail

bridge at start of 45 mile bike path

Andrew and Mark (Texas) along the bike path

Moose along the path

Flowers along the path

Campsite in Kellogg, ID

pictures - Tuesday June 22

Grand Coulee dam - fnal destination

scenery in eastern Washington - after the Cascades

Long winding roads after the cascades

pictures - Monday June 21

Chris at Deception Falls on way up to Stevens Pass

Top of Stevens Pass

Chris along a beautiful river in the Cascades after the sun finally came out.

Andrew riding in Washington State

pictures - Sunday june 20

First night in Skymonish - a "superfund" waste clean up site. All houses and buildings are beign lifted and mioved so the soil beneath can be cleaned. Years ago the railroad dumped fuel and oil into the ground and it has contaminated the river.

Chris's hands were so cold, we had to get food prep gloves and put them under his cycling gloves

entering the cascade mountains

dipping tires in the pacific

Photos - June 19

First night tenting Airport arrival

june 25 - quick update

Two hard days. I will write quick and then fill in more details later. I am sitting ion the Thompson Falls, public library and have not showered yet.I came into town to do a few quick errands - including mailing home a package of extra stuff we don't need.

Thursday 6/24 95 miles
day started slow. then Chris took off after a water break at 16 miles. Mark from Texas and I stuck with him. I don't knw what Chris had for breakfast, but it put Wheaties to shame. We cruised for abut 40 miles, then entered a bike path. it was incredible - 45 miles of barely traveled path. we saw three moose along the way. we had a slight tail wind and went about 20 mph.

we stayed at a school near a ski resort. we were there so early (5 1/2 hours for 95 miles) we had time to go to town. the grocery store lady was interested in our trip and also directed us to a Greek restaurant for an internet connection. The owner there had a nice talk with us.

Friday 6/25 70 miles
tough start - a pace line went by so Mark, Chris and I got on at 22 mph. Way beyond my normal league. I was with it for 25 miles and then realized I was missing some great scenery - plus we had a hard climb coming up. I dropped back and enjoyed the ride along a rushing mountain river, with green mountains all around.

The climb was up to 4800 feet - Thompson Pass. It was 6 miles with steep grades. Lunch at the top was a great break. We had an 11 mle descent - very enjoyable! Near the bottom we stopped at a saloon for coffee - no more espresso drive-thru huts. The bar tebnder gave us all free coffee. he had a big "welcome bikers" banner in front - but I think we ere the wrong kind of biker.

More later when I have time - now I will shower.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday update

Monday June 21
This was a 75 mile day that included climbing Stevens pass. That is one of the ways over the cascades in Washington. The day was drizzly/misty – we climbed 16 miles. On the way to the top, we saw a beautiful waterfall. Chris and I stopped and looked at it – we have enjoyed taking detours to see sights, etc.

The top of the pass was thrilling in that we went by a pacific crest trail sign. There was a ski resort there with bits of snow. We put on wind breakers, filled our water bottles and started the 11 mile descent. We had to stop after 2 miles – we got so cold. I put on wind shells for my hands and Chris put on his hat. The descent was cold and wet – we got pelted by rain drops. By the bottom the weather had changed completely. We could see the mountains around us, it was party sunny and it felt great to ride.

The cascades are so beautiful – we were glad to get good views.

Most of our ride that afternoon was along a river – one of those white, rushing mountain ones. It was incredible to be zipping along just next to it. Chris kept saying things like “this is so beautiful, we don't deserve to experience this” - it was so surreal.

That night we camped at a middle school – very windy where tents almost blew over. The plus side was everything dried quickly.

Chris and I got a ride to a local bike shop and were able to replace his broken front wheel. He had been using a loaner for a few days. When he crashed on the bridge the first day, his wheel had gotten caught in the expansion joint. It bent beyond repair. All is good now, though.

Tuesday June 22
This was a 103 mile day that ended with spectacular views of Coulee Dam.
There was another tough 7 mile climb. We are seeing the climbs here are not as steep as PA hills, but very long. The longest we had experienced was about two miles. Still, our training on Hawk Mountain served us well as we can hold a pretty good pace.

I was pretty tired at lunch at the 58 mile point. The consecutive days of riding was getting to me. We had a nice afternoon ride with three others – that made the riding a lot more enjoyable.

We finished the ride with great views of Coulee dam – it is a pretty amazing structure.

Usually we eat at the school, seerved by a service group or staff. This time we walked to a locla restaurant. That was a different change of pace. Chris was so tired from the day he was asleep by 8 pm.

Wednesday June 23
This was a windy 94 mile day.
It started with a 3 mile climb before breakfast. That was an eye opener that got our hearts pumping without any morning coffee. Afterward we had a six mile climb that ended with spectacular views of rolling green fields. One of the default images on Microsoft computers. The view was like we were on top of a dome. For this climb, I was able to lead Chris – pretty unusual. He had a slow start, but later his energy picked up and he pushed well.

The whole day was basically in a headwind. Chris and I took turns in front to make riding easier. This time at lunch I felt better, so that was a good sign. We stopped at Sandys deli for mornign coffee – that was fun as Chris was able to teach them how to make “dirty espresso” (layer of coffee and sugar brewed. After lunch we hit a low point. Route 2 can have heavy traffic with lots of RVs and trucks. The noise gets to you after a while. The headwind and by now monotonous scenery of green fields was wearing thin. We stopped by a side espresso shack. By now we were seeing less of them. This one was “Lynne's – best coffee in town”. Lynne was so happy to hear about all that we were doing and what the ride was about. That was fun. We ended the ride with a trip through a Spokane park. Beautiful river with lots of people walking about.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

two hard days

it has been hard to find an internet connection. I have one briefly at a restaurant.

Monday was hard wit a 16 mile climb up over the cascades.Then we had an 11 mile downhill that was cold and wet. it wasn't as fun as I thought it might be because it was so cold and we were pelted with rain at 30 mph. we rode 76 miles with about 4500 feet climbing.

Today was a 103 mile ride with 5500 feet of climbing. we had a 7 mile climb right from the start.

both of us are tired, but feel good.

I will write more and post photos later this week.

first few days

Saturday 19th

We made it to the start -bikes and gear are all ok. We got bumped up to first class for our flight. Chris slept the whole trip so he did not get a lot of it that.

We waited around the airport about an hour before getting a ride to Everett. In our van was Mark- the oldest rider on the trip at 81 years old. This will be his fourth trip across the country. He and Chris, the youngest rider, hit it off well as Mark wanted to go around the airport with Chris “looking for fun”. He got both of us a bit unnerved with talk of all the high passes we will be going over. Suddenly our local training trips up Hawk mountain don't sound intense enough.

We are camped at a Boys/Girls club. We are in the outfield with about 30 other tents. We played a bit of ping pong,read and got our bikes ready.

Sunday 20th;

The day started early – we were up around 5:30 am.Partly that was due to noise in the campground and partly due to jet lag. The challenge first thing was just getting re-packed. All the street clothes we traveled in had to now fit in the duffels. Also, things that packed well in a warm dry house did not fit as well in a cold, damp tent. Still we made it all and were on the road a bit after 7.

We all rode to a local marina where we could dip rear tires into the pacific. For those going across the country, tradition is to dip the rear tire in the pacific and the front in the Atlantic. After the marina, we crossed over a high concrete bridge. I saw a fire truck on top and wondered if something happened to a rider. Sure enough, at the top a woman had gone down. There was a metal expansion joint angled across the road. People yelled to us to look and be careful and ride at ninety degrees. We couldn't understand it and looked up at them – that moment of inattention took Chris down. He crashed in what appeared to be simply going over. Unfortunately he bent his wheel beyond fixable. We waited on the side for a while and then got a loaner wheel from the tour van.

From then the ride went better – except for weather. A few miles down the road was the first of many coffee shops we will hit. A warm cup really cheered us up. The ride was misty wet (that's what the metal joint was so slick) but then it really started to rain. We put on all our wet weather gear – jackets, helmet covers. Unfortunately other things were in the vans. We could have used our shoes covers. Chris also had nothing for his hands and that got chilled. Later in the day we got a pair of plastic food prep gloves frm another coffee shop – they worked great t keep the chill off his hands.

Lunch was at a parking area where they set up a trailer with hot soup, sandwiches,snacks etc. It hit the a spot but we were so cold that by the end we really needed coffee. We backtracked a quarter mile and got an espresso. Wow – that really hit the spot. Plus it was only 75 cents for two. Made my day.

Chris and I really want to make sure we enjoy what we are seeing. We stopped numerous times for sights – it included a brief hike ti see a raging river. We are so amazed by the trees here.

Part of the ride was pretty rough along rute 2. it is a busy road the the shoulder was narrow a few times. Many Rvs towing trailers rode by clsoe.

Towards the end of the day, we started the climb to Stevens pass. Monday we will climb from 900 ft to 4200 ft. then it is a 20-30 mile downhill (of course it will be a 16 mile uphill before that)

we are camped in skymonish. Chris and I are under a big roof so the rain won't bug us too much. The town is actually a Superfund cleanup location. 80Yeats ago the railroad depot dumped fuel and oil in the ground on a regulate basis. It worked its way to the nearby river. Now they are basically lifting each house (about 30) and cleaning the soil beneath. Then they re-build foundation and lower the houses again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where is my bike??? Delivered!

Well, a bit of panic is setting in.

Chris and I shipped our bikes last week and they tracked together all week. Earlier this week they both arrived in Seattle at 11:30 pm. Chris's went out to the final destination of Everett a few hours later. Mine has not moved since the 14th. UPS has searched both the Seattle and Everett distribution warehouses and not found it. There is a "lost package" tracer on it, but that does not give a lot of confidence. It may be on a truck headed to Everett and just did not get scanned or it may be lost. . . panic!

This is the high end Independent Fabrication bicycle I bought last fall. It feels great to ride and I love it.

I have already started searching Craig's list in Seattle in case someone stole it and is trying to sell it quick.

My fall back plan is to take my trusty old Bianchi instead. . . at least I know where it is in the garage! It works, but is not quite the same.

More news to follow when I hear something.

9 am Friday - still no news. Multiple daily calls to UPS with west coast warehouse searches have not amounted to anything.

I rode my old Bianchi yesterday and will take that with me on the plane. It works, but is not the same.


2 pm Friday - UPS just called - both bikes were delivered. Even though mine was not scanned, it still traveled through to Everett. The power of the internet is it lets you get up to the minute information. The problem is when that information is wrong!

Now I am ready!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Early morning training

I had a great ride this morning – leaving the house at 5:45 am. I have not done that in a while and it felt great. I read Bill Strickland’s Bicycling magazine blog about early morning rides and it inspired me to head out for 31 miles this morning.
Anne and I then reminisced about the last big ride I did – across Pennsylvania in 1999. Back then I did not want my training to interfere with family time (Chris was 6 and Nancy was 3) so I often went out in the early morning. I drove to work at 4:30 am and left for a 20 mile loop around Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, PA. I would go up the back side of the hill and then ride down the steep, forested hill. The light was dim because of the early hour and the canopy of trees. I would ride through the tunnel of Horse Curve and come out above the reservoir into the blinding sunrise – always an exhilarating rush both from the ride and seeing the burst of sunshine.
My work did not have a shower, so I put my Peace Corps experience to use and took a true bucket bath. I stood in a washtub in a stall in the men’s room and used a cup to dump water from a bucket over me. Yes, I got a few comments, but it got me in shape for that ride . . . and clean for a day of work!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Trip!

Our trip will take us to these locations:

Sat 6/19 Fly to Seattle, drive to Everett, Check-In & Tour Briefing ---

Sun 6/20 Everett, WA - Skykomish 68 miles

Mon 6/21 Skykomish - Wenatchee 76

Tue 6/22 Wenatchee - Electric City 100

Wed 6/23 Electric City - Spokane 96

Thu 6/24 Spokane - Kellogg, ID 98

Fri 6/25 Kellogg - Thompson Falls, MT 68

Sat 6/26 Thompson Falls - Missoula, MT 99

Sun 6/27 Day Off

Mon 6/28 Missoula, MT - Lincoln 80

Tue 6/29 Lincoln - Townsend 92

Wed 6/30 Townsend - Ennis 78

Thu 7/1 Ennis - West Yellowstone 66

Fri 7/2 West Yellowstone - Ashton, ID 56

Sat 7/3 Ashton - Jackson, WY 68 - Anne and Nancy meet us

Sun 7/4 Day Off

Mon 7/5 Jackson, WY - Dubois 98

Tue 7/6 Dubois - Riverton 78

Wed 7/7 Riverton - Worland 92

Thu 7/8 Worland - Buffalo 90

Fri 7/9 Buffalo - Gillette 72

Sat 7/10 Gillette - Devils Tower, WY 68

Sun 7/11 Fly home from Rapid City, SD

Why & how we are going

For years I have been a cyclist. I started in 1977 with my Raleigh Prix when I was a sophomore at Kenwood High School. I joined the school bike club and then raced a bit in college at Penn, but was never very good. I have been a bike commuter and a fitness enthusiast. My intensity has varied over the years. When I look at my yearly bike mileages there are up year and down years.

Over the last year I have been dreaming of riding across the country for my 50th birthday. Then the reality of the cost in terms of time & money started to sink in. Anne and I had a lot of talks about the feasibility. Then we hit on the idea of doing it in sections. We have friends who have hiked the Appalachian Trail in small parts (weekends or week long trips) and decided to ride the country that way. Chris and I will bike about a third of the way this summer. Then in other years I will bike the rest.

For this trip, we are going on a supported tour with Cycle America. They will carry our bags and camping gear during the day so we can ride easier. Since we are going over the Cascades and Rockies, this makes a lot of sense. Chris has also said he is interested in biking the "fun stuff out west" but not the middle of America (too flat!). We will camp each night - maybe at a school or maybe a campground.

For Chris and I, it will undoubtedly be a good bonding experience as it has been a challenging year for us. Chris started riding years ago when I towed him in a Burley trailer. I still remember teaching him to ride a bike when we lived in Bedford, PA. He was slow on it and learned at a later age than sister Nancy. When I turned 40 and did a 40 mile ride to celebrate, he happily accompanied me on the last five miles.

Now he is faster and stronger than me!