Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 43, Paterson, WA

We're almost there! We are approximately 190 miles from Portland, and ready to be there. Since I last checked in from Idaho, we have been through a lot. After Lewiston, we had a huge pass to get through, which was much lower than the passes in the Rockies, but seemed so much more difficult. I think that can most likely be attributed to our exhaustion from our 120 mile day before, to the hot sun beating down on us, and to the flat tire I got somewhere along the hill. I have no idea how long I was riding on it before I realized it was flat, but after I changed it, the ride got much smoother. But by that point I was so exhausted that I truly felt full of rage, and I finally began to swear. A friend had asked me if I swore while biking out of frustration, and the answer is generally no, but that day not only did i swear, but I did it in spoken word. It was my first foray into spoken word (I must admit that I stole heavily from Ani's verse patterns), and let me tell you, it is amazingly cathartic while barrelling down a hill at 25 mph. But don't worry, I got all the rage out, and then started to do rational spoken word, where I reasoned out why I was upset instead of just blindly blaming.

After my bout of spoken word, the day was fairly uneventful, until we got to Dodge...we were about 55 miles from Lewiston, at our next check point, and Ross and I waited, and waited, and waited, but no Armin. Finally we left a note at the rest area at 7pm, all ready to head on to Dayton for the night, when Ross got a flat. We decided that with the flat, and the light fading, we would just set up behind the rest stop for the night. We made a pretty good go of dinner, even without Armin's pot, and then were able to get in touch with Armin, to find that he was already in Dayton, not having seen us at the rest stop. As Armin had stated back in July that he might leave the group, I thought perhaps the time had come. But we decided that we would meet up the next day, Ross and I catching up to Armin along the way.

The plan was going smoothly to meet Armin, as Ross and I left camp unusually early at 6:30. But before I could even get to the 1000 foot climb we had to ascend before Dayton, I had two flat tires. While changing the rear tire for the second time, another biker on his way to St. Louis stopped and chatted with me, helping pass the time. I got on the road again, but by the time I got to Dayton Ross had already been waiting for an hour and a half, and had moved on to try to catch Armin. Thus began my 130 mile day of biking alone. On the phone Ross told me that he was going to make it to his friend's house in Paterson that night, which was news to me since I thought we had decided to take two more days to get there, as it was 120+ miles, and none of us thought we were up for that again. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it, and as we had already lost Armin, I spent the day with visions of finishing the trip alone. I kept debating if I would press on quickly , or stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It was a long hot day of biking, with the sun beating heavily, and the skin gods showing their wrath once again upon my wrists (why skin gods, why? what have i done to anger you?). But the roads were fast.

At about 7:30 I made it to Ross' friend Sheila's house in Paterson, where Ross had been for about an hour, and where Armin had just arrived. Ross' friend Carey also biked (motorcycle that is) down from Spokane to hang out with us for the night, and I actually ran into him on the road and gave him directions. Given that he has a desk job, he has followed all of our blogs religiously. It's a strange feeling to talk to someone you've never met before but who knows so much about you already from your own descriptions. It puts so much more pressure on you knowing that strangers you might meet one day are reading your words...

Anyway, as usual I digress. Sheila and Harold fed us a great dinner, followed with cheesecake AND ice cream, which was so much more sweet for having just biked for 9 and a half hours. After some lively conversation we headed to bed, where sleep just enveloped me. Sheila made us eggs and fresh muffins for breakfast, which were delicious, and we are starting to think about heading out soon. We are about 190 miles from Portland, which we could easily do in two days, but we may decide to take three, so that we can actually finish biking before sunset, which we haven't done since before Missoula, and so that we can enjoy our last few days on the bike. So most likely at this point you'll be hearing from me in Portland.

A Few Follow up Thoughts on Idaho
There were just a few things I forgot to mention about Idaho before:

-Your shoulders suck, and your drivers are rude. Your logging trucks are the worst of all, but it's so hard to hate them as they smell of delicious pine, making Christmas memories the strongest as your life passes before your eyes every time a truck passes.
-Lewison is an ugly, ugly city, but the people are really friendly.
-Old Country Buffet is a fortress. It is on a hill, on top of a hill. (I know this, because I passed it on my enormous climb up to the library).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 41, Lewiston, ID

Just a short update today, as time is really short. But first, thanks to everyone for emails and comments. I will post pictures soon, because we will be in Portland soon, and then I will have time to sift through all my photos and see which turned out halfway decent. After leaving Missoula we did our last pass through the Rockies, and came through Lolo Pass into Idaho. The scenery during this bit of the trip was just gorgeous, although I'm not sure my pics can do it justice. On top of being gorgeous, after climbing up to the top of the pass, we had essentially 100 miles of downhill, all paralleling the Lochse River. Like I said-gorgeous and hopefully I was able to capture some of it in photos. I was so torn between just enjoying the downhill and getting some good pictures.

After our first night through the pass, we were determined to make it to Lewiston, ID, where the fore mentioned OCB waited for us. So we woke up yesterday morning, after putting in 100 miles the day before, and embarked on a 120 mile quest for the OCB
(the whole time the voices of my parents' were going through my head-my dad saying, oh you can make it before dark, you know you can, think of all that good dessert, and my mom saying, well, this is just ridiculous, why kill yourself for bad, cheap food?) . Let me just say right now that we failed. We pulled into Lewiston about 8:00, and called OCB to find out that they closed at 8:30! After 13 hours on the road, and 9 hours of actual riding we failed! Well, my butt hurt, and we were all hungry, but we held it together. We got directions to a place to camp, which turned out to be illegal, but we did it anyway, too tired to move on. The ground was so dry that I couldn't really stake in my tent (I'll have to put a picture of this up, because it looks ridiculous), and when I stepped out of my shoes onto the ground, and then into my pants, I got dry grass/hay stuck to the inside of my running tights, making everything very itchy indeed. Oh, and did I mention we were right across from a paper factory, with the smell of pulp strong in the air? Oh, what a way to end a 120 mile day. I probably don't even have to mention that we all slept VERY soundly nevertheless. And now that we're out of the mountains, I would venture to say that it is almost warm in the mornings.

Right now, surprise, surprise, Armin is at the bike shop, and Ross is with him, getting something fixed on his bike. After a stop at the grocery store, where I bought too much food as usual, and a stop at the post office, I climbed a MASSIVE hill, for about 3 miles to get to the library, just so I could update you all. But it's time to go back down the hill now and head on to Washington. Either tomorrow night or the next we are staying with a friend of Ross', and then on to Portland. I think we should be there by the weekend!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Chilling in Missoula

Well, it's clear that all I have to do is mention a little crying and everyone reaches out and posts on my blog. I am going to milk this for all it's worth... Well, actually things have been going really well. We made it through our first pass of the Rockies, and I've got admit that so far it really hasn't been that bad. The grades seem less challenging than the grades of the PA mountains, but maybe I'm just in better shape. After making Roger's Pass, we spent the night at a primitive campground along the Blackfoot River. You want to talk about cold in the morning...brrr. It must've been 35 degrees, but I kept everything together, sort of kept my hands warm, and amazingly DIDN'T cry! As I warmed up we got closer and closer to Missoula, and after Ross stopped at a local bike shop to get a broken spoke fixed, we headed over to the Adventure Cycling Headquarters, located in the heart of Missoula. They took our pictures there, gave us ice cream and free drinks, and provided us with internet access! I even met a man from Winooski, VT there who is on his 10th cross country trip. This time he left the east coast on August 2nd, and is already in Missoula! Turns out he also knows my sister's work partner, and her husband...small world.

The only thing the people at Adventure Cycling couldn't tell us was where to camp. Apparently finding a place to stay here is difficult. So, I went to, where I had become a member about a week ago, and found about 5 different people in the Missoula area who were willing to host touring cyclists. I got in touch with Maryann, and she agreed to let us camp on her lawn. So we spent last night at Maryann's, where she told us about her own cycling adventures, and about life in Missoula, and we will spend tonight there as well, as we took the day off today to rest and do some laundry. Missoula is really a great city. If you haven't been here before, you really should check it out. There are beautiful parks, friendly people, LOTS of folks on bikes, and a great farmers market that we meandered around this morning. We also found some good night life last night, with a few local bands.

So nothing else too exciting right now. Life is good but calm, and we're back on the road tomorrow morning, with about 8 or 10 days before we hit Portland. We are also really looking forward to eating at the Old Country Buffet in Lewiston, ID. Mmm. Sometimes at night as we are eating our mac and cheese, I make Armin tell me about the splendors of OCB, and I just get so excited thinking about all the all you can eat food, especially that dessert bar. Only during a cross country bike trip could something that would normally make me feel so sick make me feel so happy. I'll let you know how it goes. Off to do laundry now, and to find a nice coffee shop...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 36 Great Falls, MT

Well, it's official. Montana has become the first state to make me cry. After battling two days of intense 20-30 mph headwinds, we woke up this morning to some of the coldest weather we'd seen yet. I got on the road and after a little under 2 miles of biking, I pulled over at the top of a slight incline and just started blubbering. My hands were so numb that it was impossible to shift, and I was sure that they would never be warm again. So, I got off my bike, stuck my hands in my armpits, and quickly pulled myself together, not really sure how Ross would handle the situation if he came upon me crying. But overall I figure crying means I'm truly hard core-you can make me cry Montana, but I'll keep on keepin' on, and I won't even dislike you for it. Let's face it, the rest of the morning was great-a little chilly, no winds, and averaging 14mph! I even saw a doe and fawn hopping along the side of the road, over a fence and off into the grasslands. After a stop at the local Target, where I bought way too much food, I'm feeling 100% again, and ready to battle our first pass of the Rocky's tomorrow. Montana really is an incredible state.

We are currently in Great Falls, taking a few hours off as Armin heads to the local bike shop. "What's this?" you say. "Armin's having bike problems?" Oh, well apparently you haven't been paying attention. After a detour to Williston, ND, where Armin got his rear wheel fixed and his rear deraileur cable reattached, and incidentally where we ran into a great number of other cross country cyclists since Williston is on the Adventure Cycling Association's maps, we headed on to Montana. We went out to dinner in Richey at the local VFW (we eat out every fourth night), and then we headed across the street to the other bar in the small town of 200, where we indulged in free chili dog happy hour, and where the locals started buying the entire bar rounds of drinks. I was on my way to being pretty drunk two Ranier beers in (no, not Ranier Ice, don't worry JVC folks), when Armin, Ross, and I started chatting with the locals. Man on man! There are about a thousand dissertation questions waiting to be answered in Richey, from the gender dynamics (I did receive one marriage proposal that night), to the farming and railroad industry issues, to the apparent marshall law in a town where we were told driving drunk was the norm. I could go on and on speculating about that town. I would've loved to have spent a few more days there observing, but the next morning it was time to move on, so that Armin could break a few spokes and we could have our first day of truly battling winds.

After our next night in Winnett, MT, Ross and I had breakfast out at the local cafe (which the locals seems to pronounce more like cufe), since it's pancakes had been written up in gourmet magazine. The owner of the cafe, Buck Wood, was just as surly and ornery as any stereotype would suggest of an old Montanan, but I think he kind of liked us (as Armin points out, probably all men like me here because there are just so few women), and his pancakes were awesome. Ross and I caught up with Armin, who had left early because of his wheel problems, and after 7 hours of riding, were able to make it the 57 miles to Lewistown that night. Armin got his wheel repaired by a really cool man named Marc, who ran a side business out of his garage. Armin met up with us at our campground, where Linda, a nice woman whose camper was parked at the camp ground, had been giving Ross and I cake and ice cream, and all other sorts of food to carry with us on our trip. By the time Armin got to us it was about 9pm, and dark, but we pulled our act together, boiled up some mac and cheese, and set out on the road the next morning nearly refreshed, and ready to face more wind. We made it to Geyser last night, with no bike problems, but with some minimal hills that scared the crap out of me because the wind kept trying to blow me backwards as I climbed them. As I was climbing them I realized there was no other choice but to keep pedaling, because if I stopped i would surely fall over. This was later proven to me when I stopped at the bottom of a hill, and then was blown over trying to get back on my bike, after my left cleat was already clicked in. Oh the drama! No major injuries though, and Armin and I even tried out drafting off of one another for the first time yesterday, which definitely helped a couple miles go by more easily.

After a good, but uneventful dinner out in Geyser last night, we are back on the road today, warmed up finally, and I think Armin's bike might even be ready now. If i'm not mistaken, he bought himself a BOB trailer so that his rear wheel won't be strapped down with so much weight. I'll check in from Missoula and let you know how that's working out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day 34 (?) Lewistown, MT

We're in Montana! We've been here fore 3 days or so now, and there is so much to tell, but the library closes in 5 minutes, so just a quick hello to let you know that we are safe and sound, and battling intense headwinds. After 6 hours and 45 minutes of riding time today we officially rode 55 miles, at an average of 8 miles per hour. Yes that's right. EIGHT. Man am I beat. Montana is officially trying to kick my ass, but you know how I love a challenge...

For those of you following our route, we're on route 200 in Montana, right through the middle of the state until we hit Missoula. Hopefully there I'll have more time to update on all the crazy and interesting folks we've met and things we've seen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 30 (?) Back in North Dakota

Why Armin is the Strongest Person I Know

Well, we're back on the road now, and I think, not accounting for our breaks in Chicago, and Bismarck (8 days altogether), we have put in 30 days of biking and have gone a little over 2100 miles! When we left Bismarck we had about 1300 miles to go til Portland. We left Bismarck two days ago, putting in an easy 100 mile day, and then got up yesterday morning to be confronted with hills and head winds (I guess the wind gods didn't hear you Patrcik). The riding was beautiful, as we went through the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but we all felt exhausted, and my chafed (sp?) butt was not helping the situation.

But even as I begin to complain about my chafed butt, I must stop myself. Because as we were all tired, Armin also had to deal with the fact that he lost the use of his back cassette half way through the day. This meant he had exactly three gears to get him up a HUGE hill, that required being in granny gear, and caused me to chant the most ridiculous mantras to myself (they are too embarrasing to even go into). I wanted to cry at one point ( I didn't), but not Armin, even though he had to stop and rest after every third pedal. When we finally set up camp for the night at a small park in Watford City (the Catholic priest denied us housing on his property, explaining that he just had no lawn space-he did), Ross, Armin, and I inspected the damage and found that Armin's shift cable had broken. So we made some calls, talked to our informational sources (thanks Suz), and found that there was a bike shop 45 miles north in Williston. And here we are in Williston. On the way up here, Armin also encountered a broken spoke, and his rear wheel became so untrue, causing his brakes to rub against his tire, so that he had to hitch the last 20 miles to Willison. And still, no major emotional breakdown! How does he do it? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I could learn a thing or two from him. He's definitely my hero today.

So once this is all sorted out we'll be moving on to Montana. We should be there tonight or tomorrow, ready to encounter the smokey air from all the forest fires...

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the wedding was great. Alison and Joe make an amazing couple and it was great to see all my college friends. Well worth the 30 hours of driving :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back in Chicago (Don't worry, I'm not quitting)

For those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise to you that in the midst of my cross-country bike trip, I am taking a mini road trip. In the past I've been known for crazy traveling feets-waking up in Boston at 4am to make a 9am meeting in Burlington; leaving Burlington at 4am to make a 9am class at Brandeis; flying from the West coast to the East coast for one day for a wedding; flying into Boston from Israel, just to leave a day and a half later for San Francisco, and then coming back to town to adopt a dog...the list goes on, and I keep telling myself you are getting older, these trips can be exhausting, it's time to slow down and enjoy life. So, I decided to bike cross country, which surprisingly enough, does not feel like a crazy traveling feet. We get up, we eat, we pedal, we sleep. It's not chaotic, or crazy. It's routine. But what was chaotic was when we got into Bismarck on Thursday, and I rented a car on Friday morning (where incidentally the man was SO nice, and gave me a free upgrade so I'd have cruise control, and a great weekend rate), to undo in 14 hours of driving what it had taken us 12 days to do on bikes-leave Chicago. So, with bike gear and bike in car, I backtracked our steps, ate way too much fast food (gross!), rolled out of the car last night at 11:30, crashed on Bern's futon, and am ready to wedding it up. With the awesome tan lines I'm sporting right now, I'm sure to be the most attractive person at the wedding, after the happy couple of course ;) Oh what I won't do for friends. But I tell you, right now I prefer traveling by bike.

So since I last posted in St. Cloud we had 5 really intense days. We did our first 100+ mile day, and then followed that with a 90 mile day, a couple 80 mile days and a 70 mile day to get us into Bismarck. We designated our first night in North Dakota, in the town of Wyndmere, our unofficial half way point, and went to the one open local restaurant to celebrate, where most of the meals seemed to follow the pattern of fried, with a side of fried, and salad consisting of ice berg lettuce and dressing, which incidentally they charged 25 cents for. While everyone has been really friendly in MN and ND, this place was the exception. They didn't seem to know what to do with us. I followed this celebratory dinner up with a pint of Edy's ice cream, explaining to Armin that I have always been able to eat a pint of ice cream, but only now can I do it without guilt. Since then I've really upped my ice cream eating. I haven't done a whole pint again, but if there is Ben and Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie, watch out!

nlike what everyone had told us, North Dakota has not been flat or boring (I think you have to get off of Rt 94 to experience this side of the state). Perhaps it is my childhood love for watching Little House on the Prairie, but I find the rolling hills, and marsh land really beautiful. There has been great wildlife around the marshes, primarily birds, and lots of sunflower fields too. However, towns are few and far between, and when you do hit them they often consist of 90 people (As the agribusiness has become more mechanized, the farms take fewer and fewer people to run them, and so the towns keep shrinking.), and the land is really exposed. This means that any sun, rain, or wind really hits us, and yes, we have gotten all three. That northwest wind has really challenged us in the mornings, but by the afternoon it has turned in our favor a few times. We saw one huge wind farm, with hundreds of turbines in Edgeley ( if you want to check it out Patrick), which was really cool, but was a constant reminder as we saw it approaching on the horizon that where there are wind farms there is wind. Sigh.

That has been ND thus far. I think it is fair to say that Armin, Ross, and I were all pretty beat when we rolled into Bismarck on Thursday afternoon. We went straight to the bike shop in town-as Armin was down 6 spokes, and hung out in McDonald's drinking too much mellow yellow as his bike was getting fixed, before "sleeping" on the lawn of our first mega church (neither Armin or I could actually sleep because of the copious amounts of mellow yellow in our system). In the morning we packed up, helped ourself to a very nice hotel continental breakfast (Mom and Dad forgive me, it was only once, and it's part of the adventure. And you know what they say-"it's only an adventure if someone gets a scar, or a free breakfast" that how it goes Anthony?), and then you know the rest...driving. I'll be here in Chicago until Monday morning before driving back to Bismarck, where Armin and Ross are so kindly waiting for me and exploring the splendors of the Capitol City. Thank you again. And then I'm happily looking forward to getting back on the road. I haven't had any more thoughts of quitting since that painful day in Wisconsin, and my rashes are all cleared up, but I am fully aware that getting on the bike again will probably hurt for the first couple days.

Finally, thanks to everyone for your posts. I love them, even if I don't respond to them individually. And to everyone who hasn't finished HP7 yet, I apologize for posting a spoiler without warning. I'm going back to change that posts title right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Day 21-In St. Cloud, MN (Warning: HP 7 Spoiler)

Things are still going well. The first two days after leaving Chicago were pretty rough, and I honestly did consider leaving the trip. I kept thinking about Oliver, going for runs with my sisters, starting my dissertation, going to camp, hanging at my parent's pool, hanging with the fam, and about the disgusting rashes raking my body. I was miserable. But then I realized if I left, unlike Ron, I would have no deluminator to get me back to Hermione and Harry, er I mean Ross and Armin, so I had to be really sure about leaving. Armin and Ross also said they didn't feel so great on the second day on the road after Chicago, and as misery loves company I knew I couldn't leave.

So, we've been continuing on, following the Mississippi River through Wisconsin, and then hitting Ross' Aunt and Uncle's place outside of St. Paul the day after the bridge collapse. We weren't close to that area, but what a terrible tragedy. So scary and sad for all those people.

Wisconsin was gorgeous, and a little hilly, and Minnesota has also been really nice. All the people have been super friendly, and the cheese delicious. Ross' aunt and uncle treated us like royalty. After an amazing dinner of grilled chicken and potatoes, watermelon, musk mellon (so much better than cantaloupe i've found, even though they've only changed the name, as far as i can tell), sweet corn, salad, and ice cream, and a breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh jam, watermellon and musk mellon, we left their house on Friday morning. We had a short 60 mile day, spending last night in Big Lake. The most exciting thing for me about the day, aside from the luxury of having energy at the end of the night since we only rode 60 miles, was that I finally got my first flat 1385 miles into the trip. I know this may not sound like something to be excited about, but it was starting to unnerve me that I hadn't had one, and it was ever so satisfying to change it myself and to get back on the road. Not to mention that 4 people stopped to ask if I needed any help! I love the people here.

So, we are in St. Cloud today, and have had a REALLY short day. We rode 25 miles, and are planning to stay here for the night with Ross' cousin. His family has been great to us, as have all of our hosts. A special thanks again to everyone hosting us in Chicago, especially the Shafer's and Bernadette.

More updates to explore the splendors of St. Cloud, and absorb the great local accent.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 18 I think-somewhere in Wisconsin

No time to write, as the library closes in 7 minutes, and Armin is patiently waiting his turn. But we are in Wisconsin, riding along 35 North, up the Mississippi. It is beautiful and hot! We will be in St. Paul tomorrow night, staying with Ross' uncle. Hopefully I'll have more time then to post.