Part VII – Virginia

July 31st – Breakers Interstate Park to Damascas, VA – 62 miles

Can’t believe I’m in the last state. Breakfast at state park restaurant and off. Cold rainy morning. Ride hatters gap, beautiful scenery. Ride into Damascus.

"The Place" - Free hostel for bikers and hikers.

“The Place” – Free hostel for bikers and hikers.

Great town with lots of outdoor activities offered.  It’s the intersection of the Trans America bike trail as well as the Appalachian hiking trail. Stay at “the place”, a house that was turned into a Hostel by the local church for bike tourers and hikers.  Basic setup with plywood cots, that make me regret getting a cheaper air mattress.  There are some hikers there too, we eat pizza an exorbitant amount of pizza and crash out.

August 1st – Damascas to Wyethville, VA – 68 miles

Left Damascas on a cold and rainy morning.  Run into the students with the support car again and they seem to be doing well. Virginia gets nicer as you get more eastward, both in terms of scenery and condition of the roads and communities.  Get to Wyethville and just can’t decide if we want to sleep in the bright, noisy city park or shell out for a motel.  Rain starts coming down and it makes that decision easier.

August 2nd – Wyethville to Christianburg – 76 miles

For breakfast I went to my very first “Waffle House” restaturant.  Waffle’s and grits!  This day marks the first day that we are entirely on our last map, from the setof 12 from the Adventure Cycling Association. IMG_2254 Wet days again.  Stop at my first coffee shop that I see serves espresso since Kansas!  Very happy.  When we role into Christianburg we stay at the “Budget Motel”, for $30 for 2 of us.  Truly scary place.  A pickup truck outside has  a bullet hole in it!  We couldn’t figure out if it came from the inside or the outside.

 

August 3rd – Christianburg to campground outside Lexington, VA – 90 miles.

Nice roads and rolling hills.  We met a guy who was touring the other way, only averaging about 30 miles a day.  He’d been in Virginia for more than 9 days.  He just didn’t realize he could go any farther.  I told him he needed to at least double his mileage the next day or he wouldn’t see half the things he’s capable of.  Really dug this part of Virginia.  Nice roads and wide shoulders, hills mellowed a bit as well.  Stopped at a campground about 8 miles from Vesuvius, VA, where the biggest single climb of the trip apparently resides.  At our campground we met 3 guys and a son that have been piecing together a cross country ride, two weeks at a time, for a couple of years.  Their teenage son was driving a support truck and they all seemed to be having a great time.

August 4th.  Vesuvius Climb and Blue Ridge Pkwy to Charlotsville, VA- 58 miles

This was a relatively short day, but with a hell of a climb, both out of Vesuvius and on the Blue Ridge parkway.

The base of the rides biggest single climb, but wasn't that tough after 58 days of training.

The base of the rides biggest single climb, but wasn’t that tough after 58 days of training.

Great riding though.  Great views on the Parkway.  Lot’s of car clubs all out, so suddenly you are being passed by 50 Porsche 911’s or old school Corvettes.  Saw lot’s of hikers coming from and getting on the Appalachian trail as well.  We rolled in to Charlottesville.  Seems like a great little University town.  Wish I could have spent more time there, but we were too close to the finish to waste time now!

 

August 5th – Charlottesville to outside Ashland, VA – 89 miles.

Tough morning ride. Seemed to be going fast but took a while. A sneek dog attack nearly threw me off my bike.  Not now! Not so close to the end!  Luckily I outran him. More suburban riding. Lunch in Mineral where we ran into the guys from the campground we met the other day (we can easily keep up with a group that has a support vehicle, it seems, and we get comped at the campground outside Ashland.  The people working there were so happy that we stopped there on our last leg that they let us stay free!  Can’t believe I’ve got one more day to go.

August 6th – outside Ashland, VA to Yorktown, VA – 110 miles.

Today’s the day, we don’t need any coaching to be on our bikes and ready to go at first light.  We ride hard all day, we just keep chugging until we see the ocean.  The route goes on the Old Colonial Highway, which is made up of pave stone, so there were some bumpy miles in there that we could have done without.

My trusty Trek, at the end of the race

My trusty Trek, at the end of the race

We chug out to Yorktown with our heads down.  On the final stretch Anthony and I lose each other.  I wind up at the Yorktown monument, the official end of the race, on my own.

I can’t believe it’s over.  All those miles.  Having never really bike toured before I never thought I’d stick the whole thing through.  Anthony and I meet up for one final lunch, then he is off to catch a plane, and I’m spending the night in Williamsburg.  It’s a 10 mile ride back in the direction I just came from.  I ride it and barely even notice the 10 miles.

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Part VI – Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky

July 18  – Day 40- Pittsburgh Ks to Ash Grove, MO – 68 miles

Finally out of Kansas! IMG_2080 The scenery changes immediately once you cross the State line.  The terrain becomes hills, the road kill changes from prairie dogs to armadillos,  and there was a fat, shirtless man sitting on his front porch, holding a rifle, that gave us a toothless greeting!  We stopped at a bar called “Shaved Beaver ” (can’t make this stuff up), because it was too good to miss.  Within 2 minutes of being there an argument starts and they two men involved take it outside.  They offer to let us camp in back of the bar, which is tempting, except we would continue to drink all night and it would probably give me a hang over for the next few days.  Even after 2 weak beers, the 10 mile ride to Ash Grove was pretty miserable.

Classy all the way in Missouri.

Classy all the way in Missouri.

In Ash Grove we find that they have an empty house in the town park that they let cyclists stay in for free.  Once again, fantastic generosity by these small towns.  Road magic!

July 19 – Day 41 – Ash Grove, MO to Hartville, MO – 78 miles

Rolling ups and downs all the way.  We’d been warned that despite the lack of altitude, Missouri was the state with the most hills on the ride.  Rolling hills where you get to the top of one, and you can see 4 more in the distance that you’ll need to climb.  My pedal broke in late morning and tried to fix it in  Marshfield, MO  but no luck.  It really sucks having a town where Wal Mart is your only bicycle resource.  Wal Mart sucks!  There selection of goods and quality sucks. I hate that so many people have few other choices of places to spend their money in their communities.  While I’m ranting, Dollar General sucks too!  So I am riding with only 1 good pedal that I can clip into. .  Camping at courthouse in Hartville. Camping there sucked (I was going through a bad attitude those few days).  You are next to the courthouse, where you awkwardly put your tent between the building and parking lot. It was loud and lit up by parking lot lights.  At first we were told if we needed to use the restrooms, just buzz the buzzer to the police station entrance and they’ll let you in.  Well, they did once in the evening, but the next morning they screamed through the loudspeaker that the building didn’t open until later.  That’s a cruel thing to do to your bladder!

July 20th –  Hartville to Eminence –  80 miles

Left early in fog. Rolling hills after breakfast at JD’s diner.  Jumped in the Jacks Fork river then climbed steeps into eminence.IMG_2094 Resort town w tubes, canoes and rednecks. Stayed at the arrowhead campground for $5 each. Camped next to redneck family where everyone, including the 13 year old daughter, chainsmoked. Campground actually had a karaoke setup. Good blues band was playing in town. Dinner at cafe, good steaks.

 

 

July 21st – Eminence to Farmington, IL – 86 miles.

Leaving the campground in Eminence gave us a stark contrast to how we were spending our summer.  The campground was a party zone.  Lot’s of beer cans strewn about, people who didn’t make it into their tents sleeping in truck beds.  Didn’t miss partying at all, and was glad to hit the crux of the Missouri hills.  They were tough hills and no shoulder but lite traffic.  Anthony and I had a great day riding, we were psyched up and hit it hard.  When we were outside of Farmington,  Wayne, a TransAm race fan,  met us at a gas station and took us into town.  “Al’s Place” is a hostel run by the town. Very nice place.  The best hostel we stayed in.

The deluxe accomodations provided by the people of Farmington, Mo.  Suggested donation of $20.

The deluxe accomodations provided by the people of Farmington, Mo. Suggested donation of $20.

An old county jail that was converted with air conditioning and new furniture. Met Roy from Norway there. 4 of us went to Chinese for dinner.

Could have stayed there for a week.  Finally got to replace my pedals so I was able to click in for maximum pedaling efficiency!

 

July 22nd – Farmington Mo. to Chester IL – 45 miles

We got a late start out of Farmington.  Who could blame us as the place was so posh, plus the bike shop had our rides overnight for some work. IMG_2122 Fairly uneventful ride until we got to the Mississippi River.  The bridge crossing was a bit harrowing as it was just two lanes each way with no pedestrian path.  So we had to share the road with the disgruntled traffic.

We read that the Eagles club had a bunkhouse that bikers could stay in for free.  In stark contrast to Farmington, this was basically a yard shed that you could buy at Home Depot with some plywood bunks in it.  Oh well, it had an AC unit to keep it cool and we met Randy and Tammy, a couple from the Bay Area there and shared the shed.  At a Mexican restaurant that night I had a “Margarona”, a large margarita with a bottle of Corona turned upside down in it, my new favorite summer drink!

July 23rd – Chester to Eddyville, IL – 106 miles.

Hottest and most lost ride yet. Kept missing turns and adding miles. Stayed in Carbondale, IL for a couple of hours in order to beat the heat. Ended up riding in the pleasant evening until about 8:30 PM to a campground at Eddyville. Campground was set up for RV’s and horses, but was deserted. Not another human there which was a bit spooky, but it saves on your campground fees!  Sandwich for dinner and out early.

July 24th – Eddyville, IL to Sebree, KY  86 miles.

Up at 4:45 am for an early start.  Rode through early rains, and Anthony shredded a tire on glass on the shoulder of the road.  Got it fixed with a spare and ended up in a deluge that we had to wait out in a tiny town with one diner, they didn’t seem to mind.

Ferry to Kentucky

Ferry to Kentucky

Then we got to the Ohio river, which doesn’t have a bridge, but a ferry (free of charge) to deliver you into Kentucky.  We ended up in Sebree KY, which had a hostel in the basement of it’s church for bike tours.  Again a very nice place.  There we ran into Randy and Tammy, who were also staying there and touring a modified Trans Am route.  As well as a character named Sam, who was from Florida, riding a $20 Huffy to North Dakota to try and find work.  Sam was an ex-Meth addict (which he mentions within 3 minutes of meeting you), and his bike setup was a bungy cord for his duffle bag on the back of his bike.  No helmet, no lights, riding in work-boots.  It’s amazing what one can accomplish when you don’t know any better.  Sebree was not much of a town. The only restaurant was a pizza parlor, with no restrooms, lot’s of flies, and a puzzled look on their face when we ordered a pizza from them.

July 25 – Sebree  to Big Clifty, KY – 102 miles.

Rode out of Sebree, saying goodbye to Sam, who didn’t remember meeting us the night before.  Hot and rolling hills, meals from a gas station and adventures in following the map.  Pretty much a great day on the road.  Leading up to Big Clifty was one of the most pleasant downgrade sections of the trip.  It wasn’t too steep that you had to apply your breaks (thus wasting the benefit of gravity), and was so gradual that you barely noticed you hadn’t pedaled for the last half hour.  Of course, all good things come to an end, with an uphill climb. We ended up in Big Clifty, where the maps said there was a convenience store that you could camp at.  When we got there the store was long closed down, stuff piled everywhere outside and in.  The owner, Lee, and his wife were there picking through stuff.  They welcomed us to camp alongside the store for the night, even though it was closed.

Camping outside the derelict general store in Big Clifty, KY

Camping outside the derelict general store in Big Clifty, KY

They even cooked some pasta for us.  Randy and Tammy were there as well.  Randy was touring on a hard-tail mountain bike with front suspension, which isn’t very efficient as far as losing power to the shocks, but they still hauled ass and beat us there.  I was able to make up a quite comfortable bed out of a lounger and mattress that Lee had outside his store, also got to feed his neighbors horse, who was quite fond of watermelon.  In fact he charged the gate like a warhorse when he saw it.

July 26 – Big Clifty to Bardstown, KY – 61 miles

Another pleasant but tough Kentucky ride.  Stopped for breakfast in Elizabethtown.  The cafe had a guest book of bike tourers that went back to the 70’s!  Living history there!  Got out early and arrived in Bardstown after passing the resort filled Sympson lake area.  Ended with a big climb up to Bardstown.

Whiskey barrels everywhere!  It's like the mother ship calling me home!

Whiskey barrels everywhere! It’s like the mother ship calling me home!

Anthony had to find where his new spare tire was delivered and I was able to take the distillery tour for Bards 1792 Bourbon.  I am more of a Maker’s Mark man, and had never heard of Bards 1792 before, but the Makers Mark distillery was 16 miles away, and I’ll be damned if I was riding 32 miles r/t that I didn’t have to, Maker’s isn’t that good.  Tour was good, with plenty of samples.  Bardstown was a fun town.

July 27th – Bardstown to Berea, KY – 95 miles.

Tough day in the Kentucky heat.  First run in with unchained dogs chasing after me.  Get’s the blood pumping for sure.  Stopped for lunch in Harrodsburg.  At the town’s little cafe we got more “you guys are crazy” comments.  I just couldn’t help thinking that your crazy NOT to be on your  bike, zooming across the country.  No better way to spend your time!  After sweating out the late afternoon we got our second room in a row, with thunderstorms and a rainy night, we have no stomach for camping.  Lucky we did as it poured down all night..

July 28th – Berea to Booneville, KY – 70 miles.

Rainy morning in Berea. Thought about taking a rest day but pushed in. Nice ride into eastern KY but then it started to rain and blow.   More rolling hills and dogs.  Outside of Booneville a sheriff stopped us and told us of a tornado warning. Then a local said a tornado is coming!  I was pretty sure there wasn’t an actual tornado coming, which there wasn’t.  We went into town and waited it out at a mini-mall.  It did get a little hairy when I could see clouds starting to circle themselves, but nothing came of it. My rear derailleur was acting funny, you know when your instincts are saying that something is wrong, but you push it under the rug thinking everything will be alright?  Well, don’t do that while bike touring.

The Booneville pavilion that we waited out the tornados in.  Not the best idea I've ever had.

The Booneville pavilion that we waited out the tornados in. Not the best idea I’ve ever had.

We were going to stay at a b&b we cheaped out and went to a church that had a pavilion and free camping. At a dairy shack and met Joe, the hick stoner who is just like Rob Courdry’s character in Hot Tub Time Machine. Stayed at the church right on the picnic tables. I didn’t tell Anthony that the tornado warning had been extended because I figured it was clearing up, then  and a wild storm kicked up in the middle of the night.  All we could do was hunker down in our sleeping bags that were on the picnic tables, hoping the pavilion wouldn’t get picked up in a tornado and send us to Oz.

July 29th.  Booneville, KY to Buckhorn Lake State Park -31 miles

Anthony and I start out the day ready to be rid of Booneville.  Before we are out of town my rear derailleur cable shreds.  I go to fix it and find that instead of packing a break and derailleur cable, I have a rode bike and mountain bike brake cables instead.  Damn,  Anthony doesn’t have one either!

"You kids go on, I'll be fine!"- Anthony and a group of Chinese students riding the Trans Am trail.

“You kids go on, I’ll be fine!”- Anthony and a group of Chinese students riding the Trans Am trail.

Oh, here comes a group of Chinese students, with a support car, that we’ve heard was around.  Obviously they’ll have one!  No luck.  Booneville is the start of the Eastern Kentucky hills.  No way I can ride it if I rig my  derailleur to only be in one gear.  SHIT!  I’m thinking I am going to have to get into the students support car until we can find a bike shop (there are none for a couple of riding days), and that will disqualify me from the TransAmerica Race!.  Instead, I sent Anthony on with the students and limp back into town.  I go to the county courthouse and start asking if someone knows someone who could give me a lift to London, KY (nearest bike shop)  and back that day (about 80 miles r/t).  I start to think that this is ridiculous, then a receptionist calls her husband and says he’s on vacation and not doing anything so he’ll do it, plus we can go on a food run at the same time (only one diner in Booneville).

My camp at Buckhorn Lake State Park, KY

My camp at Buckhorn Lake State Park, KY

So Wade shows up, we dump my stuff in his car and are on our way. We get to the bike shop where I am able to fix the cable (their mechanic has the day off), we stop by for a huge KFC run for the office workers, and I’m back in Booneville by 2pm, thanks to small town generosity!
I ride 30 miles of Eastern Kentucky hills to make it to Lake Buckhorn state park.  I’m the only person in the campground, and it’s lit up like a Costco parking lot.  I can’t believe anyone wants huge lights in their campground, but whatever, at least I’m back on the road!

July 30th- Buckhorn Lake, KY to Breaks Interstate Park, VA  – 117 miles.

Out of the campground early.  Text Anthony that I’m aiming for Breaks Park that night.  Ride more the Eastern Kentucky hills, dealing with dogs giving chase.  Sometimes you figure you can out run them, which gives you an adrenaline shot, other times, when there is more danger of either getting bit, getting in a wreck or hurting the dog, it’s better to just stop.  Every time I stopped the dog would just give up the chase and look at me like I let him down, then wander away.  Still, stopping your pace 10-15 times a day gets to be a pain in the ass.  I ride into Hazard, KY (no sign of the Duke boys), for breakfast, then haul ass up and down the hills to make up time.  Long day and tough riding.  Got lost and was on a dangerous highway for about 8 miles.

Loving Virginia! Our last state and out of the wilds of Kentucky.

The last stretch of this long day brings me into Virginia, the last state on the ride!  Can’t believe it. Also can’t believe it took me 8 extra miles to find the campground and Anthony.  I asked directions from one guy, his southern accent was so thick that I literally couldn’t understand a thing he said.  I finally arrive, broken and tired, but know that the end is near.

 

Read Part VII – Virginia and the end of the TransAmerica Trail!

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Part V – Kansas, oh you Kansas!

July 9 – Day 30 – Eads to Leoti, KS – 79 miles

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Crossed into Kansas today, and somehow it got even flatter!  Road into Leoti and was checking out the parks for camping when I noticed my iPhone was gone. My precious iPhone!  After all we had been through, the good times and bad, my precious iPhone was out there all alone!  I had it on a handlebar mounted case and I didn’t snap it shut.  I rode around looking for it, then went into a Library and started to bother all my friends who have me on “Find Your Friends” to see if they can find it.  No luck.  One last re-trace of my steps and I find it laying face down in some sand in the middle of a residential street.  I swear to it that I’ll never leave it again!  After that adrenaline rush I find a motel that has an all you can eat Taco bar for dinner.  Business shouldn’t offer all you can eat to touring cyclists, it’s bad for business!

July 10 – Day 31- Leoti to Ness City, KS. 82 miles

2:30 AM in my motel room, my tire spontaneously pops, scaring the crap out of me.  I change the tire right there, another crappy nights sleep.

Kansas, as far as the eye can see.

Kansas, as far as the eye can see.

Can’t get back to sleep so I’m on the road by 6 AM.  Hot and dry ride to Ness City.  Lots of head winds and not much else.  I arrived at Ness City and per the note on the map checked in at the police station before going to the park to camp.  When I told them I was going to camp at the park they stared at me blankly and said “OK”.  The park had a nice pool and shower area for free.  Problem was there was a double header little league game, so the lights were on and lots of people around, I didn’t want to crawl into my tent.  So I watched the games and talked with the residents.  It was about 11:30 when the lights went out and I put up my tent.  Then, at about 4:30 in the morning, I hear what sounds like a woodchipper being started about 18 inches from my head, and it doesn’t let up.  I finally break out of my tent and circling around the park is a pickup truck with what I assume is a gas powered fumigator, spreading caustic fumes all about in a futile attempt to control the mosquitos.  Lovely way to wake up.  Kansas, why don’t you want me to sleep!  To add insult to injury, after a quick breakfast, I ride out of town and run into the same Truck-O-Death while it is fumigating the side of the road just outside of town.

July 11 – Day 32-Ness City to Larned Ks. – 95 miles

Another tough Kansas day.  Headwinds, even a swarm of Locusts! Getting apocalyptical out here! (I was later told they were grasshoppers, but while they are smacking against your face they feel like locusts!)  Even though I had plenty of water, on days like this it gets hot, and is less than refreshing when your water bottle has been in the sun.  There was a rest stop outside of Fort Larned Historical Center, and I was envisioning water fountains dispensing chilled, refreshing water by the gallon.  I was so hot and bothered that while riding through the walkways to the rest stop, I caught an edge and made a slow motion, dramatic tumble on to the grass.  My only real fall on the Trans America ride, done on a footpath and in full view of several carloads of families trying to enjoy their picnic in the park. I popped up with the “I don’t know what you are looking at, I meant to do that” look that cyclists all know.  Struggled into Larned, met my second and last couple on the trip that was ridding a tandem.  I didn’t note their names but they were from Pennsylvania, asked me if their would be a tailwind for them further on.  I lied and said their would be, but I knew nobody was going to get a good ride today.  Made it to Larned,  checked out the park to camp in.

Nobody told me there'd be camels!

Nobody told me there’d be camels!

Thermometer said it was 98 degrees.  Decided to splurge for a cheap motel and pass out immediately.  Finally a good nights sleep.

July 12 – Day 33- Larned to Hutchinson Ks. – 70 miles.

Absolutely nothing exciting happened on this day. Kansas must be getting to me.  Had lunch in a tiny cafe in Sterling, Kansas.  Completely uneventful.  Such is the exciting life of a bicycle tourer.

July 13 through 15 – Hutchinson to Netwon Ks. – 32 miles

Finally a welcome respite.

"An oasis in the grass desert" - The famous and welcoming Newton Bike Shop

“An oasis in the grass desert” – The famous and welcoming Newton Bike Shop

Ride into Newton, and stop at the infamous Newton Bike Shop.  James and his wife Heather run a bike shop that is just about 1/2 way along the Trans America Trail.  It’s not just a first class bike shop, but they also run it as a hostel for people bike touring with a bunk room, kitchen and bike wash station.  They have generously hosted every Trans America racer that has made it this far, and they have kept up on the race and knew I was coming.  Even though it was Sunday and they were closed, James was there to let me in.  I wasn’t staying over that night, but they let me rest for a few hours, and even gave me the key to the shop when they went out.  That is, they gave a perfect stranger, the keys to their business, when they weren’t even there!  This place was amazing.  My uncle Bill was meeting me there later that day, so I was able to clean up and watch some Netflix shows while I waited.

Bill and his wife Kathy, along with their adorable son and my cousin William, showed up to get me and bring me to their house in Abilene, KS.  It was a welcome break from riding the plains of Kansas.

My Uncle Bill and Aunt Kathy in Sips Espresso, Abeline, KS.

My Uncle Bill and Aunt Kathy in Sips Espresso, Abeline, KS.

In Abilene I wallowed in Kathy and Bill’s generosity.  Both at their home and their lovely cafe, Sips Espresso.  I was also glad to spend some time with the gregarious Will, who loved going through my bike gear and helped me dry out my tent.

On the 15th Bill dropped me back off  at the Newton Bike Shop.  There I was waylaid for a night while I had some mechanical issues fixed, and got a pair of Aero bars installed to try to stop the handlebar palsy that was making my right hand more and more useless.

My cousin Will, trying out my gear, getting ready for his first tour.

My cousin Will, trying out my gear, getting ready for his first tour.

IMG_2058Staying there for a night was great.  I met back up with Anthony, who I hadn’t seen since Oregon, and about 5 other cyclists who were all heading West.  It was surreal to be in the bike shop all night.  Just working on our bikes and swapping stories.  I can’t get over what a wonderful place James has made for so many cyclists.  Just about everyone who rides the trail will stop there, as everyone you run into down the road you make sure they know about it.

July 16 – Day 37- Newton to Toronto, KS. 100 miles

Anthony and I rode out of Newton together.  Getting out of the flats into some rolling hills was a welcome change. Camped at the completely deserted and quite stunning Cross Timbers State Park.

July 17 – Day 37 – Toronto to Pittsburgh, KS – 102 miles

We rode out of Toronto and completed our 2nd century ride together to Pittsburgh, KS.  First, surprise, there is a Pittsburgh, Ks!  I’ve always wondered what the founding fathers of cities like this, and Portland for that matter, thought when they just named it the same as another well known city.  Were they just out of ideas?  Anyway, this Pittsburgh had a fantastic bike camp with a pavilion, great showers and amazingly, free WiFi!  We demolished an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, because that’s what us bikers do!

Alas, I was to leave the grass desert after all.  Next up, Missouri!

 Click here to continue.

 

 

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Part IV – Wyoming and Colorado

June 26 – Day 21 Colter Bay to Dubois, WY –  66 miles.

Left Colter Bay and ran into some riders on the Continental Divide Trail.  That is a ride from Canada to Mexico, mostly on dirt roads or single track.  Seeing them made me feel better  better about my ride.  They were all caked with dirt and freezing, and that was at 10 in the morning.  From there it was up the Towgee pass, 9548 feet with rain,

Top of the Togwotee Pass

Top of the Togwotee Pass

some sleet, frozen hands and misery.  Actually had a guy stop me to ask for me to call a tow truck for his stuck camper when I came into cell range.  Luckily he got another ride and passed me soon after because I was so exhausted and cold I wasn’t thinking to straight.  I got to the top and some motorcyclists had stopped there, one asked me “Are you saying that’s how real men do it?”  Your words buddy, not mine.  I donned my baklava and heavy gloves for the descent into Dubois, WY.  A much more pleasant experience than going up.  Checked into a cheap motel in Dubois, soon found out that neither the hot water or internet was working.  You get what you pay for out here.

Cold downhills necessitate dorky clothing.

Cold downhills necessitate dorky clothing.

 

June 28- Day 22. Dubois WY  to Lander. 76 miles

That is 76 miles of downhill with wind at my back. The hardest day riding followed by the best day riding.  There seemed to be hours at a time that I barely needed to push on the pedals.  Met the British couple on the way. They were fighting my tailwind. Said they have been biking for 3 years straight, but sheepishly said they hadn’t done Russia or South America yet.  Slackers!! Lander was a decent place. Camped for free in the park.  Tents everywhere in that city park, very popular spot.

British couple who have been cycling around the world for 3 years straight.

June 29- Day 23 – Lander Wy to Rawlins, WY – 129 miles.

This is an infamous stretch of the trail, known as the most desolate run on the whole ride.  Not much between Lander and Rawlins except Jeffery City, an all but abandoned plutonium mining town.  Early start from Lander and had fairly good winds for the first 3rd.  Then they turned against me.  Harsh winds and hot temps.  I could have camped in Jeffery, but I was there only around 2:30 pm, and the place was just to weird.  Looked like it was built in 1985 and abandoned in 1987.  Their is a restaurant that I stopped in for a rest, and the bartender told me he ran a pottery shop across the street.  Hey, you know what they say.

Just a fraction of the long haul between Lander and Rawlins, WY

Just a fraction of the long haul between Lander and Rawlins, WY

Location, location location!  About 15 miles outside of Rawlins, they were doing roadwork, and just before the uphill they said they’d have to put my bike in a truck and drive me a few miles up the hill because they were ferrying cars along a single lane.  Oh well, don’t know if that technically disqualified me from the race or not, but at that point I wasn’t going to argue.  Got into the campground in Rawlins at 8pm.  Long day for me, pitifully short for the serious racers.

June 30- Day 22 – July 1st Rawlins to riverside WY. 65 miles.

Day started out with a 10 mile ride on a loud interstate.  Road through Sarasota and had a dip in the extremely hot, thermal pools there. Ice cream for lunch and camped at a cute camp in Riverside.

July 1-Day 23  – Riverside, WY to Walden Co. 68 miles.

Left riverside. Eventually crossed into CO.

Much more exciting sign than Wyoming

Much more exciting sign than Wyoming

Met some other way travelers and as we were talking on the side of the road, a truck pulled up and asked us if we knew where the road to Riverside was.  We told him he missed it about 10 miles back.  Then this grown man, in his working automobile, in front of 3 other grown men who were strangers to him, threw a hissyfit.  Banging on his steering wheel and looking like we just told him his pet chinchilla fell down the garbage disposal.  We couldn’t help but laugh right there and let him know that he had a car and would be back on track in 10 minutes.   I pulled into Walden co. For lunch. Was thinking of moving on but didn’t think id make it to Kremmling that day so stayed there. Went to library to kill time, then camped in park. Spoke to Debbie B. And we decided tome meet at Dillon res next day.

July 2 – Walden to Dillon, CO –  101 miles

Woke up to 36 degrees and a wet tent in Walden.  Went to the local breakfast place but never got warm.  Riding out of town a Minivan driver looking at his phone coming the opposite way nearly took me out.  It was a crappy morning.

Out of Walden, it took me climbing this pass before I was warm again

Out of Walden, it took me climbing this pass before I was warm again

Long haul to Kremmling. Lunch at the coffee shop then longer haul to Dillon. Crappy shoulders and increasing traffic, but beautiful Colorado scenery. Finally made it to Silverthorne and met Debbie at Wendy’s. Went to Breckenridge for food and drinks. Then the long drive back to Longmont.  She drove 2 hours after work to get me, then got to drive 2 more back while I was so tired I was babbling.

July 3 – 5 Day 25- 27 Visiting Boulder

My biggest rest of the trip.  3 days in the Boulder area, staying with my old roomie Debbie, July 4th fireworks, seeing my HS friend Jen, MLB game (Rockies vs. Dodgers).  Great 3 days of rest.

July 6 – Day 28 Breckenridge to Duffey CO –  71 miles.

Bob's Hostel, in Guffey, CO.

Bob’s Hostel, in Guffey, CO.

Time to say goodbye to my lazy weekend. Debbie drove me to Breckenridge and we said goodbye. Miss that girl. Rode up the Hoosier pass to the highest point on the trip. Then downhill (then more up) to Guffey Co.

Stayed at Bob’s hostel which turned out to be a much of shacks with plywood bunks in them.

Crazy Western art in Guffey, Co.

Crazy Western art in Guffey, Co.

It seems quaint and authentic but it was actually quite uncomfortable. However a 10 bucks they can’t complain much.  Guffey was a great little town,lots of rustic art all over the place and crazy characters.

July 7- Day 28 Guffey to Pueblo, Co –  72 miles

Road from Guffey down through Canyon city into Pueblo Colorado. Tough ride past Canyon city very dry and hot. Missed Anthony and Pueblo and stayed at a seedy Rodeway Inn, cheapest place in town and you get what you pay for. Got caught in a rainstorm in the way in which cooled things off a bit. Pueblo seems to have a nice downtown but suffers from Sprawl. ,,,,k

July 8 – Day 29 – Pueblo to Eads CO.  114 Miles

Another big day.  Eastern Colorado, eh, not that great.  Very flat. All the small towns seem to be pretty much dead.  Several towns where I couldn’t buy a coke, which is the minimum standard for civilization as far as I’m concerned.  Got a flat tire for the first time on the way there. Camp in the park in Eads with two Swiss guys who were on recumbents. Very loud Park and a crappy night sleep.

Click here for Part V

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Part III – Idaho and Montana

June 15th – Day 9 Oxbow Or. to New Meadow, ID – 86 Miles

IMG_1773

IMG_1774 The first riders that I met that were coming West. I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to be almost finished at that point.

Finally finished my first state. Road out of Oxbow and into Idaho. Ran into my first group of riders going west. Four riders who left Yorktown Va. in April. They had hit some really cold weather coming over the Rockies that early. Otherwise they were in good spirits and happy about the trip. Gave me a peak into what would be possible if I could push through the aches, pains and doubts one gets at the beginning of the trail.  It was a tough first day riding in Idaho, lots of climbs, heavy truck traffic and no shoulders. I ended up taking a break from the road and took the Eisner river trail for about 10 miles outside of New Meadow, ID. It’s a rails to trails conversion and was packed gravel. Not the most comfortable surface to ride on, but beat having more logging truck encounters.

June 16 -Day 10 New Meadow, ID to Grangeville, ID – 80 miles

Leaving New Meadow I was treated to a long and fairly steep downhill ride. It was lousy weather and cold, but my gear kept me warm and I was happy to be covering so many miles. The route included a crazy religious compound and huge crowds of RV’s packed into the areas where it was legal to fish.

Crazy religous compound, best part about it was it was for sale.  Even souls have a price out here.

Crazy religous compound, best part about it was it was for sale. Even souls have a price out here.

Stopped for lunch in White Bird, ID. The only tavern there had pizzas, which I was craving, but didn’t have any in the single serving size. I ordered a medium figuring my metabolism was up to the challenge. About halfway through it I was stuffed with mozzarella to the gills. Now plenty of people had mentioned the challenge of the McKenzie Pass, but nobody mentioned the White Bird climb. It was about 12 miles of switchbacks and a 12 percent grade. I don’t really know what grade percentages are referring to, but I now know that 12% is a steep one. It’s really a beautiful road and was completely devoid of traffic when I climbed it in the early afternoon.

Arial view of the White Bird Climb.  12 miles of that! Wish I could've gone down it.

Arial view of the White Bird Climb. 12 miles of that! Wish I could’ve gone down it.

I’m surprised it wasn’t busy with motorcycle or sport car traffic, and I’m sure it would have been a fun road to go down, however up, with a belly full of pizza, not so fun. Ended the day in Grangeville, ID.

June 17 – Day 11 – Grangeville ID to Lowell, ID. 48 miles

Left Grangeville and for the first and only time, my GPX app led me on about 4 miles of Gravel roads. I couldn’t figure out where I’d gone wrong when looking at the map, but no other rider mentioned getting turned onto gravel. It was downhill to Koosokia, then started a 99 mile climb following the Lochsa river. It wasn’t too steep, but you know it when you are on a 99 mile uphil. About a third the way up it I stopped in Dillon, a tiny town with one diner and an attached motel. I got a room there and met Andrew

Andrew and the tandem he and his wife had ridden since Virginia

Andrew and the tandem he and his wife had ridden since Virginia

and Jujata, a newlywed couple that was riding a tandem eastward on the trail. I have to commend them as that is a LOT of together time for a couple. Tandems are often referred to as “divorce cycles”. I also met Judd, who is a geology instructor from California who was going my way.

 

June 18 – Day 12 Lowell, ID to Powell, ID – 66 miles

Riding with Judd we ventured the 66 miles of climbs we had ahead of us. IMG_1790It was following a fairly calm river, so the climb wasn’t all that egregious. I really started to feel my biking legs as we covered the 66 miles in good time, doing an average of 13 mph, which is very good going uphill. This was also 66 miles of absolutely nothing, no towns or gas stations to be seen. We arrived fairly early at the Lochsa Lodge,

Party at the Lochsa Lodge

a very nice place to end up after a wet ride. Sharing a reasonably priced cabin we were able to clean up, then blow a bunch of money at the bar! We met several other riders there. Including Patricia, a retired correction officer from Rochester, Mn, and Mike and Janet,who were riding the trail from Eugene, OR to Kansas in order to attend Janet’s 50th high school reunion. Now that is inspiration! Great dinner in the lodge, and much ice cream was consumed

When you are riding across the country, this is called "fuel"

When you are riding across the country, this is called “fuel”

June 19 – Powell, Id to Missoula Mt – 56 Miles

Judd and I left Powell together, we had a big climb to the LOLO pass in the morning. I passed into my third state and we were blessed

The Bear Butt is Montana's choice for your first impression of their state.

The Bear Butt is Montana’s choice for your first impression of their state.

with miles of downhill and even a tailwind. We felt sorry for the many bikers out for the day from Missoula fighting uphill with a headwind, but what are you going to do? We stopped at the Lolo hot springs for a soak, then peddled into Missoula where we visited the Adventure Cycling Associations headquarters. Free ice cream and a place to unwind for awhile while we did some more planning. We got a room in Missoula for the night.

June 20 Day 14 Missoula

My first rest day! Judd’s wife was meeting him that day and we parted ways. I wish I could say I did something productive during

At the Adventure Cycling headquarters.  They produce amazing maps of routes all over the US.

At the Adventure Cycling headquarters. They produce amazing maps of routes all over the US.

my rest day, but mostly it consisted of eating, napping and strolling around Missoula.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 21 – Day 15 Missoula to Lost Trail Campground -93 miles.

Outside of Missoula, riders are treated to a 34 mile bike trail along the main highway, quite a treat to spend a few hours not worrying about auto traffic. I confess I didn’t really scout out much of the trail through Montana, I came to the state thinking it would only take about two or three days to ride through. Turns out the trail goes through more of it that I thought! I pulled into the Lost Lake Campground, which was a nice place with a natural hot spring fed pool. Mike and Janet were there as well.

June 22 – Day 16 – Trail Campground to Jackson Mt – 53 miles

Only did 53 miles today, felt longer. Left the campground on my own straight into a lot of climbing, then up to a high plain, surrounded by mountains. First day I felt really out there, on my own drifting through this amazing territory. Road into Willow, which I was warned not to stop at because of the mosquitoes, and that advice was sound. Friendly place, the people at the general store chased me down in their car to give me back the sunglasses I left there, but the mosquitoes made it a place your glad to ride away from. I calculated that a mosquito can bite you at up to 7 mph. Rode into Jackson and inquired at the Jackson Hot spring resort, the only place in town to stay. Campgrounds were a steep $30 for a tent spot, but that included more hot spring time and access to their lodge. Patricia showed up, followed by Mike and Janet. It was great to have familiar faces around, bicyclists are fast friends due to we just shared the same stretch of road and could go over what we went through during the previous days. Lousy night sleep because despite the $30 charged to put up your tent, there is a house directly behind the campground, I mean reach out and touch it directly. And whoever lives there probably likes to fall asleep with the TV on and window open. They may also be hard of hearing, as the tv was loud down in the campground.

June 23 – Jackson Mt. to Twin Bridges Mt – 74 miles

Cold and wet morning at the Jackson Lodge campground. Patricia seemed to have the ability to be packed up and on the road while the rest of us are still put-zing around. Always takes at least an hour for me to pack up. Up to 2 hours if I cook breakfast and try to dry things out beforehand. Rode past Dillon Mt into Twin Bridges. Got to pass the participants of Ride Montana, and annual, supported ride across the state, going the opposite direction. Stopped at one of their rest stops and chatted with some riders. I felt very smug..l.”Oh, you are riding across one state, and have a truck taking your stuff? How quaint….”. Twin Bridges has a bikers camp, a park with a common building, small kitchen area, camp spots and showers. All for a suggested donation of $5. Very nice thing to arrive at after a hard days riding, and the generosity of some of these small towns continutes to amaze me. I was eating dinner at the local pizza place when in walked Patricia. I’d past her early in the morning and she caught up. Times like that you realize how nice it is to see a familiar face. At the bikers camp there was a guy named Churchill, he had built a dugout canoe and was taking it from Idaho, down the Missouri river to St. Louis. If he was a piece of Ikea furniture, I’d say that there were a few pieces left

Patricia, always the first on the road.

Patricia, always the first on the road.

over after he was put together. He’d forgotten his life vest, and wanted to know if I knew how to get one in that tiny town. Plus he forgot his stove. He had some food to cook so I let him use mine. When I got it back the ignitor was broken off, so I’d need to light it with a lighter. No biggie, but just proves that no good deed goes unpunished. Not sure what became of him.

Twin Bridges biker's camp

Twin Bridges biker’s camp

June 24th -Twin Bridges to Cameron Mt. – 85 miles

Left twin bridges, rode through Virginia city, up a pass then through Ennis. Great ride following the Madison river.

At the end got caught in a bunch of storms and drenched. Riding till late and found a campground for five dollars. A dinner at the restaurant there and crashed. Attitude went from a great day crusing down the river to drenched and exhausted.

June 25th – Cameron Mt. to West Yellowstone Mt. – 33 Miles

I woke up cold and cranky. Plus I learned that this was the day that Mike Hall from Great Britan had finished the race! Travelling at an average of 220 miles a day, moving 21 out of every 24 hours, he was done, I was still in Montana. Having the benefit of not doing much research, for some reason I thought I’d only be in Montana for two or three days. Here I was 6 days in and someone was already done with the whole country! So being cranky, I only pedaled 33 miles to West Yellowstone. I bought a replacement for my back tire, which was treacherously low, and after replacing it I was in no mood to continue. So I reached into the budget and got a room in this expensive, touristy, and tacky town. Much ice cream was consumed.

June 26  – West Yellowstone Mt. to Colter Bay WY – 86 miles

Entered Yellowstone park and crossed in Wyoming, State # 4! Yellowstone is a crappy place to ride. No shoulders, heavy tourist traffic, and on this day, lightning storms and downpours. I got honked at several times by cars passing me, had a woman turn from the opposing lane, across the road and into the opposing shoulder, which I happen to be riding in, and head straight for me until I yelled my loudest. I gave her a WTF look and she rolled down the window and said “There’s and elk over there!” Oh, well, they by all means hit me head on! I’m not proud, but I was so pissed off at that point that I rode toward the elk and gave it a holler so it rolled off. The child occupants of the back of her mini-van were probably a bit disappointed that I scared away the scarce wildlife that they were promised (OK, I am a little proud I did that). The weather cleared in the afternoon and I got a campground at Colter Bay. I was warned that they had a grizzly come through the camp a few nights ago. Lovely! Luckily I was put a few spots away from a church camp group that was having their final night talent show in front of their fire. Let me tell you, a bunch of middle school age kids signing their skits will keep the hungriest of bears away.

Part IV -Wyoming and Colorado

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Part II – Riding through Oregon

Day 1 – Astoria to Gariabaldi – 60 miles

Astoria, the starting point of the race.

Astoria, the starting point of the race.

Riding out of the Maritime Museum parking lot, adrenaline was flowing. I quickly got lost for the first time of many, got back on track and chatted with a few more racers who varied between complete newbies like me, to veteran racers. I was introduced to the phenomenon of riding with someone and then they are suddenly hundreds of yards ahead, pulling away no matter how hard you pedal they are out of reach. As well as thinking someone is still right behind you, to find that they’ve fallen so far back that you were talking to yourself for the last 20 minutes. At several turns there were other riders that were figuring out their gps devices or what was going to fall off of their rigs. I used a map that was published on-line in a “gpx” format and an app on my I-phone called “GPX-Viewer” as well as map and compass for navigation, and I was very happy with it once I figured out the particulars.

Biking along the Oregon Coast along 101 was said to be the most traffic congested part of the trip. I didn’t find this to be true. I’d often seen people touring along this route and thought it must be miserable, with the combination of no shoulders and tractor trailers. This Saturday proved to be the opposite. It was quite pleasant and the hills weren’t to bad.

IMG_1665

A café in Manzanita seemed to serve as the first unintentional gathering point on day 1. Met many riders here that I wouldn’t see again.

I finished with 60 miles, from Astoria to Garibaldi that day. About 60 miles, less than 1/3rd of what some riders would do before they stopped for a rest, but for me it was probably in the top 5 days of mileage I’d ever done! I also treated myself to a nice hotel, not yet realizing the hit that lodging would put on my budget.

 

 

 

Day 2 – Garibaldi to Rickreal – 86 miles

Leaving Garibaldi early, spent the dawn hours pedaling through Tillamook, then along the Oregon coast through Pacific City and turning inland just north of Lincoln. I was getting a bit annoyed at how south the route went, when I really wanted to go east, and being a Portlander I could have skipped the scenic Oregon Coast route as I’ve seen it all before. Oh well, not by bicycle. Once I turned inland I felt better, although the terrain turned to steeper hills through the coast range, and I  began my soon to be routine of eating lunch out of gas stations.  After smashing my previous distance record of 78 miles, ended up doing 84 miles and landing at the Polk County fairgrounds in Rickreall, Or. I arrived in the late afternoon on a Sunday, and the weekend event at the fairground was a gun show, so it was a bit disconcerting riding around when there were a dozen or so RV’s being loaded up with the heavy armaments that didn’t sell. A nice man in a golf cart noticed me wandering around, I asked where the campground was, and he pointed to a large patch of dirt, “Right there”.

Ah, the glory of bike camping!

Ah, the glory of bike camping!

A dirt field to pitch my tent and showers far away enough that I had to ride my bike to get there, but at $11 the price was right. In the showers there were empty tubes of Chamois Butt’r which was a sign of racers that had been there the past two nights.  That product is designed for cyclist to apply liberally to the areas prone to saddle sores (i.e. your ass). My coworkers gave me a large tube as a joke going away present.  Little did they know it would be one of my most valuable possessions, as already I was suffering from saddle sores, and a sore ass is a tough way to start out a full day of riding.

Day 3 – Rickreall, OR to McKenzie Hwy stealth camp – 108 miles

Road from fairgrounds down to Corvallis. Had breakfast, hen rode to Harrisburg. From there took a wrong turn to Junction city. Had about six or 7 miles onto the trip to get back on track. Was in Eugene decided to push on.  Up the McKenzie highway, lots of hills.  Tried to camp at some water department area but was told by a local they patrolled it.  Did about nine extra miles trying to find a place to sleep,  and stealth camped at a park in Lincoln County.

Stealth camp in the woods.  The real money saver!

Stealth camp in the woods. The real money saver!

First bivouac was good, but I would discover that I like having a goal to get to, instead of just pedaling until I feel like I should stop.  Also stealth camping always had me second guessing if there is a better spot just up the road or not. More record crushing with my first century ride!

Day 4 – Up the McKenzie pass to Sisters, OR

Left the stealth camp and headed up the McKenzie Hwy.  Turned out to be pretty much a full day of uphill.  Met up with a fellow racer, Cynthia and we rode together much of the day. Hellish climb up to the pass, once the main Route 126 diverges from the road up the pass, it’s another 11 miles up a small forest rd, then the road closes to cars and it’s another 11 up to the pass, all very steep.  Refereed to as a killer of men.  We had the choice to take a route that bypassed this part and had less climbing, but was all car traffic.  I would have none of that as I thought I should ride without car concerns as much as possible.  After several hours of climbing I’d come to regret that decision.  Up on the pass was one of only two times on my entire ride that I ran out of water and had to filter some.  Finally got to the Pass and was greeted with fast and fun downhill into Sisters.

Who climbed up on of the toughest climbs of the whole trail today?  This guy!

Who climbed up on of the toughest climbs of the whole trail today? This guy!

Met my good buddy Dean there and he had a beer waiting!  Stayed at his house and wasn’t much of a house guest as I was out like a light early.  McKenzie pass, in my opinion, was the hardest climb of the trip in terms of grade. Wasn’t the highest, and I’d have problems in Wyoming because of the weather, but it was a killer.

Day 5  Sisters to Mitchel, Or – 86 miles.

From Redmond on, you are really coming into the desolate parts of Oregon.  One benefit is that traffic quiets down quite a bit.  And pedaling into the vast scrub brush, I even got my first shouts of encouragement from a van full of campers who stopped to ask where I was going and wish me well, great encouragement! Rode a fun route on Hwy 26 through Prineville Or, past pasture and forest land, up the steep Ochoco pass, which was tough but had a screaming 4 mile downhill as a payoff.  Road into Mitchell, Or and was greeted by a Espresso stand, and after chatting with the owner a bit, I convinced her to go off menu and make me a root-beer float with 2 shots of espresso.  This is where I deemed this trip the “Eat whatever the hell I want” tour.

Mitchell is a funky little town. IMG_1730 Had a beer in the only tavern and the patrons were very interested in the race, many of them had seen bikers zooming in to get supplies and zooming out, a couple had bivouac’d in the town.  Mitchell was the first town I stayed in that allowed camping in the town park and provided public restrooms.  I would continue to be amazed by the generosity of small towns to bikers and hikers travelling through.

I met a group who were walking from Boise to the Oregon Coast.  One of them sprained his ankle days before they started, instead of postponing he started out in a wheelchair,

Intrepid group walking from Boise to the Oregon coast.

Intrepid group walking from Boise to the Oregon coast.

then used the wheelchair to carry his gear, then when the wheelchair came apart, kept going using crutches.  They had a lot of good info about the road ahead.

Day 6 -Mitchell Or. to Prairie City –  82 miles

From Mitchel it was off to more of Eastern Oregon.  Beautiful country, and when I could ignore my worsening saddle sores and weird muscle cramps that would spontaneously pop up, I began to appreciate both the ability to see the landscape so much better on a bike than in a car, as well as the magnitude of the task of riding across the country.  I rode 82 miles, a decent distance for riding in what is becoming more and more desert, but that’s about and hours drive for a quick moving car.  I ran into a man I’d heard about,  I ended up pulling into Prairie City,  commenting on Facebook how good it was to see the Wallowa Mts. again, and then being corrected that they were the Elkhorn Mts., oh well, the bike maps are pretty limited in detail off the road!

Day 7 – Prairie City to Baker City- 68 Miles

Anthony, a fellow racer, caught up to me in Prairie City, and we rode out together.  Weather was on and off rain, and we had 3 summits to do before Baker City,which was our goal.  Coming down the first pass I was glad I’d stuffed my packs with things like a fleece jacket, face mask and warmer gloves. Got to be a pain putting them on for the downhill then taking them off for the up.  After the passes the weather mellowed and the route followed the Powder River, which I discovered is my favorite terrain to bike, following the flow of a river.  You are basically going downhill, not enough that you fly down it and it’s over quickly, but enough grade to give you an ego boost when you realize how fast you are clicking away the miles.  During a 5 mile flat stretch into Baker City, I had my first killer headwind, accompanied by a brief hailstorm!  That’s when my mantra of “Just keep pedaling” was born.  Got my first cheap motel room in Baker City and it felt like a palace.

Day 8 – Baker City to Oxbow OR –  72 miles

From Baker City I rode out on my own into deep Eastern Oregon.  This was one of my best biking days of the trip.  Deep canyons, tough climbs and screaming downhills, beautiful countryside and very few cars. IMG_1737 Even had my first two rattlesnake encounters!  First was when I practically put my foot down on this guy during a stop.  Luckily he was already dead, however at the time I didn’t know that. A little later in the day I rode towards what I thought was a piece of trash in the road, turned out that was a live rattlesnake that started to move when I was just a few feet from it!  Nothing shows you just how fast you can sprint, and how much like a child you can scream like being surprised by a rattler!  Otherwise the day was blissful in every way.  I even got a free scoop of ice cream in Richland, OR after lunch.   I finished the day in Oxbow, OR, camping next to a dam on the Oregon/Idaho boarder.

Part III – Idaho and Montana

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Trans Am Bike Race – Part 1

On Friday, June 6th, I was in Astoria and ready for the 5am start of the inaugural TransAmerica Bike Race. Being from Portland it was an easy day drive for me. Slept late and took my time. On the way there passed 2 different bikers that were obviously going for the race (can tell by their bikes), and it really started to sink in how unprepared, mentally, physically, and in the ability to travel lightly I was. These racers barely carry anything on their bikes. A handlebar bag, a small bag under the seat, and a bag under the crossbar, looking like this fully loaded bikepacking bike. I had this:

20140612-175009-64209483.jpg

Yep, that’s two packed panniers in addition to a handlebar bag, crossbar and trunk bag. But being comfortable counts for something, right?

Then I met up with a group of riders who were having dinner in Astoria. This was the first time I actually met anyone in the race. My attitude didn’t improve. Most of them were dressed in their riding clothes (kits), and even had their riding shoes on. A few had a light pair of flip-flops on, which is the secondary footwear I brought along. But I was in the set of casual clothes I brought. Apparently there is no room for that for the long distance racers who have gathered for this race. My conversations went something like this.

“So Foster, how long do you think it will take you?”

“I’m giving myself 60 days, averaging about 75 miles a day with a few rest days. What about you”

“20 days”

“uhhh…..” With that confused look on my face when I try to do math. ” That’s what, 200 miles a day”

“About 210, no rest days.”

“OK, I won’t be seeing you after tonight, have a great race”.

The race started on Saturday at 5am, to give us time to spread out before the traffic starts. I figured it wouldn’t start exactly at 5, so I got there about 3 minutes early. Lo and behold it was just about to start, I was there hear Nathan, the organizer, yelling out some last minute instructions, but then it started. I did get some laughs by waiting until people started out of the parking lot, and blurting out “Wait, where are we going?”

Could have been my finest moment.

Click here for Part II – Riding through Oregon

 

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