About 27 minutes ago this post was going to be titled 20 days in 1 hour, because that is how long the Lincoln City, OR Public Library is giving me to finish this up. That was before I typed half of it and then lost it to the disastrously stupid website construction of Tumblr.com. I was going to give up and leave and finish this in San Francisco but I’m afraid I’ll forget some thing so I’m going to do the really short version here and just touch on the important things that have happened since the last time I updated.
First, I stopped following the Transamerica route. There were a number of reasons that went into making my decision and the one that finally convinced me was, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. This trip was supposed to be fun and following along a preplanned route where you always know where you’re going to sleep, always know where you can get food and water, never go more than 30 miles without going through a town, etc. etc. eventually takes all the adventure out of it. It turned into a daily bike ride and that isn’t what I was looking for. So After crossing Togwotee Pass in WY I turned south and headed for Jackson, WY. Then straight west over Teton Pass into Idaho. I don’t even have a map anymore and I’m having the time of my life. It’s very easy to navigate in the Northwest because there aren’t many roads.
After riding for over three weeks without taking a rest days I finally got a chance to relax in Hailey, ID. It was AMAZING. I arrived in Hailey Friday afternoon planning on staying for two days, then two turned into three because I was having such a great time hanging out with Taina, Will, and Henry Raff. We went to a parade, saw a rodeo, hiked a mountain or two, went mountain biking, played some mini golf (for free…) It was exactly the vacation I had been looking for and when I did finally leave I felt ready to take on the last leg of the trip. There is a lot more I could say but I’m down to 20 minutes on the clock here and I still have a ways to go so I’ll put up a few pictures.
Some calf roping at the Rodeo. This was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, they literally drove Dodge trucks out into the stadium just to celebrate America.
Spent a great “rest” day mountain biking with Will and Henry, we even decided to do a little hiking while we were at it (maybe not intentionally)
Tuesday after Labor Day weekend it was back to the road for me. I headed north out of town and straight into a wildfire. The day I approached it was very windy so the smoke was lifted up into a giant plume (everything in the next picture is smoke, it was a cloudless day).
The route I was taking turns left down highway 21 about another mile down the road from where I took this picture, so I figured I was totally in the clear with all the smoke going the other way right? What I didn’t think of was what all that smoke would do after the wind died down at night. When I woke up the road looked like this for 40 miles.
This is a picture I took of the sun at about 11 am the next day. I’m now about 1000 miles away and my jacket still smells like I was sitting by a campfire all night.
Amazingly enough I took this picture only three or four hours later when I stopped to eat. It’s hard to believe it was the same day.
Shoot, I’ve only got 3 minutes left and I haven’t even made it to Oregon. I’m afraid the rest of the story will have to wait…
A lot has happened in the past few days. I made some route changes, took a little vacation, and have basically hit the reset button before setting out on the last stretch. At the moment I’m a little too tired to write a full post, I’ll try to get to it in the next few days, but in the meantime I can post the rest of my pictures from Wyoming.
Another incredible downhill (and the last one for days, but more on that later)
Red cliffs along the Wind River in western Wyoming
More of the Wind River, though much closer to the headwaters at Togwotee Pass
Don’t know anything about what this is, but it’s cool right?
The Teton Mountains just before sunset
My favorite campsite yet, in Targhee National Forest
Looking back at the Wind River Range from Teton Pass, just before descending into Idaho. Yup, I went to Idaho, not Montana. That is where the story will pick up next time.
To be continued…
Day 22 - 42
Total Mileage - 1946 (3411)
So it’s been about 20 days, whoops. Sorry I haven’t exactly been keeping up to date with this whole blog thing lately! If it makes anyone feel any better I also haven’t taken a rest day, haven’t done laundry, and have only taken two showers in the last 20 days. In fact, I haven’t really done anything but eat, sleep, and ride my bike.
At one point (it feels like a very long time ago but in reality was probably only about ten days ago) I had all these grand ideas about what I was going to write about for the Kentuckillmissansas blog. If you’re wondering what Kentuckillmissansas is, it’s the longest state in the country. It starts in Berea, KY and ends at the border of Colorado. In theory there are a few rivers along the way that mark the boundaries between governments of supposedly different states but I’m not buying it. Anyway, whatever those ideas were, I’ve long since forgotten them and don’t really have much energy to make the state of Kentuckillmissansas sound fun. It wasn’t fun, and that’s really all there is to it. If you want to ride across the country there are a lot of really amazing things you’ll see along the way but BEWARE: There is a huge long stretch of nothing in the middle! Ok, to be completely fair I shouldn’t throw Kansas to the dogs (especially because it doesn’t have any dogs). Kansas got a lot of grief sent it’s way by eastbound riders that I met in the first few weeks of my ride. It was practically all anyone could talk about. Kansas is SO HOT, and SO FLAT, and SO BORING. By the way these are the same people who were telling me that I wasn’t going to make it to the west coast because I’d get caught in snow up in Wyoming and Montana (more on this later). Kansas was flat, I’ll give them that, and apparently only a week before I got there the temperatures had been in the 110 degree range, but when I rode through it it was 85 degrees, the wind was blowing from the east, and the people were incredibly friendly. Not just normal friendly, incredibly friendly. One night while I was sitting in a town park looking over my map this random woman walked up to me, handed me a beer, shook my hand and said “Welcome to Kansas” and then walked away like it was no big deal. I had already been in the state for about 4 days but you get my point, abnormally friendly.
Other than that, only one thing of interest happened between Berea and Colorado, but this was pretty cool. One of those days in Kansas, I forget which one exactly but it doesn’t matter because they all blend together, I ran into this guy.
He’s 92 years old, claims to have a photographic memory, and rides this bike from his house to the county line and back every day (it’s about 12 miles round trip). He’s also nearly blind (despite the photographic memory…) and somehow manages to fill the basket on the back on his tricycle with cans that he picks up along the side of the road. I’m not saying his story fully adds up, but either way he was pretty awesome. We talked for about a half hour, mostly he just told me stories about being in the army while I listened, but it was definitely the most interesting interaction I had in Kansas.
So now onto the “beyond”…
Like I said, I meant to write this long post about riding through the middle of country and all the mental challenges that it posed, but I just don’t feel like it anymore, so deal with it. For the moment let’s pretend like I did, and then we get to the exciting end of the story, and I finally make it to Colorado!
Woohoo! Unfortunately just getting to Colorado doesn’t mean you’re magically transported up into the Rockie Mountains. There are still about 200 miles of flat, dry, desert. Complete with dust storms, tumble weeds, huge trucks, highways with no shoulder, and the beginning of “the bump”. See below for an example of three of these things and then I’ll explain what “the bump” is.
Alright well there is a little bit of a shoulder here but it gets worse, trust me. So “the bump” is this little problem that they have with the highways in Colorado. It turns out that long stretches of asphalt (Colorado state highways) don’t deal very well with the extreme variations in temperature that they experience throughout the year. As a result there is a crack that runs perpendicular to the direction of the road every 20-30 feet, for 400 miles. If anyone has every ridden a bike down a stair case before, it feels almost exactly the same as that when you’re going along at about 15 mph. It’s one of the most annoying things in the whole world, and it lasts for almost the entire state. In particular, I don’t think my wrists will ever fully recover from “the bump”, they just hurt all the time now.
All across Kentuckillmissansas I dreamed of Colorado. I wanted to get back into the mountains and have amazing things to look at again. Unfortunately it was a bit of a let down. There are a grand total of about 70 miles of the Transamerica in Colorado that are actually fun, and they all appear near the top of mountain passes. The rest of the state is comprised of bad roads and the worst drivers in the country (no contest at all). But since we should try to dwell on the positive, here are some pictures of the better moments in Colorado.
This bear surprised me while I was sitting on the side of the road eating lunch. Fortunately, he turned out to be less threatening than any of the dogs in Kentucky. After making it across the road he sat down on his butt and just sort of stared into this lake like he was thinking about something. I waited for almost 20 minutes for him to move along so that I could keep riding (since he was right in my way) but he showed no signs of leaving so eventually I just rode right past him. He passively looked up at me and then went back to whatever he was thinking about.
Crossed the Continental Divide for the first of many times, but this is the highest point on the whole route so it was a pretty cool moment. The bike with the yellow panniers belongs to a mountain biker who was riding the Continental Divide route from Banff, BC down to New Mexico, and we just happened to arrive at the same time (I plan to do that ride one day, it sounds amazing).
The best part of Colorado was 30 miles of Route 125 where it crosses Willow Creek Pass. It’s a beautiful road that follows a river up through some fairly high mountains. It is one of those places where you feel like you ought to see a moose…
About another 50 miles down the road I rather unexpectedly passed this sign.
but I was excited to see it.
Wyoming is my favorite state so far. I don’t know why no one told me how awesome it is, and I don’t know why I spent so much time looking forward to Colorado. If there was some sort of show down between states Colorado might as well just not show up because it’s not even in the same realm of awesome as Wyoming. And I haven’t even gotten to Yellowstone yet! I’ve been riding through the desert of southern Wyoming for two days now and there are so many things to stop and take pictures of I can hardly even get warmed up before I’m getting off the bike again. Here are a few examples, I hope they can do it justice.
The shoulders on Wyoming state highways are generally about 8 feet wide. They basically paved a bike path across the entire state, it’s so nice to ride all day and not have to worry about traffic at all.
For anyone who played Oregon Trail as a kid this is pretty cool. This is called split rock, referring to the gap between those two mountains, and it’s one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon Trail.
One of the top ten best downhills in the country.
Here’s the view from the top. See that little black speck in front of the big sand dune on the left? That’s a Suburban, and it’s only about 1.5 miles down the hill at that point.
So those are the highlights of the last 20 days. I should try to update this thing more often so I don’t have to rush through everything. I’m only about two days from Yellowstone and then I’ll be continuing up into Montana so there should be plenty of good material in the next few weeks. I’ll try to find computers a little more often for the rest of the trip!
Total Mileage 95 (1301)
Do you want to learn how to ride uphill? Well then you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a seasoned racer, a weekend warrior, or just looking to ascend to the next level, this fool proof method is guaranteed to provide results, or else. Just grab your bike, eat a big breakfast, drink some coffee (you’ll definitely want coffee), and head on down to Kentucky. You’ll find yourself riding uphill as if your life depends on it in no time. O, wait, that’s because it does… Because when you have two Rottweilers and a Pitbull coming after you like you’re wearing a meat vest and dragging a wagon full of sausages links it doesn’t matter if your bike weighs fifty pounds, or you’ve been riding up an 8 percent grade for an hour, you’ll take off like you’re in the Fast and the Furious and someone just punched the little red Nitro button on the steering wheel.
And that, is what it’s like to ride into eastern Kentucky, haha. I’m exaggerating a little, but not entirely. The east of the state forms a region known as the Cumberland Plateau, which sits atop a bed of sandstone and has been carved over the last 480 million years by thousands of creeks and rivers into a series of steep walled, canyon like valleys. The result is two different kinds of bike riding. You either cruise along next to a river, winding on flat terrain with nothing but the occasional gentle rise or fall, or you’re crossing between valleys, climbing steep switch backed mountain roads over the tall cliffs that often delineate the border of the next county (it makes sense, before cars, you wouldn’t want to be climbing up and over these things every time you needed to go to the post office.) Here’s a rather extreme example but it gets the point across.
This is Breaks Interstate Park, the “Grand Canyon of the South”. It forms a portion of the border between Kentucky and Virginia and offers a great introduction to the geography of the next few days.
But let’s get back to the dogs. Like I said, I was exaggerating a little. Kentucky has all kinds of dogs, yet all of them seem to be trained (or not trained) to guard their houses as if every slow moving bicyclist is a disguised criminal, coming to take all the Kibbles ‘n Bits. Some are too old and slow to do more than lazily lift their heads and bark, and some are too small to be of any real concern at all. Most will just make a lot of noise and run like hell until they reach the edge of their yard before returning to the sunny spot on the front porch to await the next bike. But every once in a while (by the way did I mention this only happens when going uphill, we’re talking exclusively) you happen upon some young, strong, mean dog with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. When this happens you better hope you hear him coming because you’re going to need all the head start you can get.
This isn’t my first time riding in Kentucky, so it’s not my first experience with these dogs (which really only exist, at least with these attitudes, here for some reason). I’ve come down for the past two years during spring break to rock climb and ride around on the quiet roads in Natural Bridge State Park. The main difference between then and now is the weight I’m carrying, with no bags it’s a joke to have a few barking dogs coming after you when you can quickly sprint away. I always thought they were just having a little fun, something to break up the day, chase a bike, bark a little, lay back down. I figured they didn’t really have any intention of catching you. That was until I accidentally let them catch me. (DISCLAIMER: this actually happened in Virginia, although it was about two miles from the Kentucky border. Just saying it’s not conclusive evidence about the intentions of dogs in Kentucky) Remember that picture of the school bus pickup truck? Well I can’t exactly take pictures from a moving bicycle so I had to stop on the side of the road to get my camera out. Right as I was about to get moving again it came to my attention that the barking which was coming from a farm off to my left wasn’t so much coming from the farm anymore but from the street right in front of me. This is the only time, and the last time, that I ever let dogs get in front of me. I stood there contemplating the best way to handle the situation for a few seconds and decided all I could really do was get on the bike, get up to speed as fast as possible, and see if I could sort of maneuver around them. Surprise, that didn’t work. The whole ordeal probably didn’t last longer than a minute, but it was a very long minute to wait while the bigger dog made repeated attacks at my rear panniers, biting and holding on like he was trying to tear them off, and the little one just barked his head off and blocked any possible hope of escape. I tried yelling, I thought about kicking but my feet were locked into the pedals and I didn’t particularly want to change the point of attack from my bags to my legs anyway. Finally I just stood up and pushed as hard as I could on the pedals, at that point it didn’t matter if I dragged the big one down the street by his teeth or ran the little one over I was just going to get out of there. Somehow I broke free and started racing off down the road, and the dogs finally gave up and ran back home, probably feeling pretty damn good about themselves. It took a few miles for my heart to return to its normal rhythm but when it finally did all I could do was just laugh (despite some fresh holes in my waterproof panniers). Turns out they really do want to catch you… From that point on I was constantly on the lookout for unleashed dogs and never let another one get within biting distance of any part of my bike. Moral of the story, I wasn’t kidding. If you want to ride uphill fast, come to Kentucky.
Day 18 + 19
Total Mileage 97 67 (1465)
The next two days of riding through Kentucky were very similar to the first. In case any got the wrong impression from the last story, I absolutely LOVE Kentucky. It’s one of the best states in the country and I’m so happy to be here (just wanted to clear that up in case anyone was confused). I finished my second major leg of the trip in Berea, KY, home of Berea College, where I met a whole cast of wonderful people. It started with a couple trips to local coffee shops and some asking around (standard procedure at this point). I was directed to a place called the Black Feather Cafe, and with good reason, because there I met Tay (or maybe The or Tea or any number of possible combinations of spelling that I should have asked for but didn’t, I’m sorry.) Who generously offered her backyard for some free camping. I ended up spending the rest of the night sitting on her porch getting to know her friends and roommates. It’s incredible how relieving and pleasant it can be to sit and talk to interesting people after spending so many days in a row living in your own thoughts.
Then it was off to another two days of rest. My friends Ian and Emma came by to pick me up the following afternoon and we drove over to Miguel’s pizza in the Red River Gorge to camp for a few nights and celebrate Emma’s birthday! The birthday celebration turned out to be a bit of a cluster you know what, but we triumphed over the day thanks to the wonders of the smartphone. We tried to do a lot of things, key word is tried because we were repeatedly disappointed by no fault of our own. The mini golf place was closed down, the water park was shut due to thunderstorms.
Here are Ian and Emma looking about as sad as we felt about the mini golf being closed when they were supposed to be open (This was Sunday at 1 pm by the way, check the sign).
The only place we were able to succeed was in going to see the Hunger Games at a movie theatre that only charge $1.50 for admission!
That’s all for now, I’m heading out into western Kentucky today and in theory I’m done with any real mountain climbs until the Rockies! Thanks for reading.
Total Mileage 85 (951)
Welcome to the Appalachian Mountains. Day 13 was a sort of prelude to the steep climbs and fast descents that would characterize my next week of riding. But more on that later. After a great night of sleep in the Mineral Volunteer Fire Dept. I made it my goal to reach Afton, VA so that I could stay at the house of June Curry (the Cookie Lady). Who is the Cookie Lady? Here’s some quick history. The Transamerica bike route has been around for over 40 years, beginning in 1973 as a project to establish a safe bike route across the U.S. It took three years of research and planning to create the route and in 1976 it was officially published for the first time by the organization now known as Adventure Cycling Association, though at the time they were called BikeCentennial (since ‘76 was also the celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S.) In that first summer around 4,000 cyclists made the trip between Yorktown, VA and Astoria, OR (mostly in organized groups led by BikeCentennial guides). This was bound to attract the attention of people who happened to live along the route and, in particular, one woman in Afton, VA who, by a stroke of chance and luck, lived at the top of a very steep hill leading up to the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’d like the more detailed version of the story it can be found here (http://majka.us/cookielady/default.htm) but I’ll summarize to keep this short. June Curry began by simply passing out water to hot, exhausted cyclists who were riding up the hill to Afton. Nearly half of all the cyclists riding the route in the summer of ‘76 stopped at her house to rest. In 1977 June and her husband Harold inherited a second home immediately next to the one in which they lived and made the decision to turn it into a bike house, where cyclists could stay for free. She provided accommodations and food (along with lots of cookies, hence her nickname) and in turn riders signed her log book, sent her postcards, and wrote messages on anything and everything that you could imagine. Today, as a result of 45 years of accumulation, the bike house is absolutely full to the brim with Transamerica paraphernalia dating back to the year of its origination. Very unfortunately, June Curry passed away only a few weeks ago on July 16th. I would have loved to have been able to meet her but her legacy continues and the bike house is, at least for now, still open and accepting touring cyclists. Here are a few pictures that help tell the story.
The Bicycle House has been open to Transamerica riders since 1977
A small sample of the T-shirts, bike parts, and other random items that have been left in the bike house with messages of appreciation for June.
Almost every inch of wall throughout the four room house is covered with post cards from cyclists who have stayed here over the years.
Day 14, 15, 16
Total Mileage 115, 81, 59 (1206)
It took three more days to finish riding through VA. Nothing too exciting happened. The rest of western VA is very beautiful but very rural and there weren’t many interactions to note so I’ll just put up some pictures to give you an idea of what the riding looked like.
View of the Blue Ridge Mountains taken from the Parkway in VA
Looking back at the Blue Ridge Parkway just before the descent into the Shenandoah Valley
Just a farm that I liked.
This is a great hostel in a really nice town in southwestern VA. The Appalachian Trail runs right through Damascus, as does a beautiful winding gravel bike path called the Virginia Creeper Trail and nearly the entire town is geared towards through hikers and long distance cyclists.
Sometimes VA looks like a rainforest. This is VA State Route 80 and it might be the nicest mountain road I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding a bike on (at least up to now).
It’s a little hard to tell but that is a converted school bus/pickup truck. I saw about three of these interesting examples of DIY engineering that only seem to exist in far western VA.
Shortly after taking this picture I had a little run in with two Australian cattle dogs, but that is a story for the next post (following very shortly.)
Day 9 + 10
I wish I could tell you I went to the National Gallery, or strolled down the mall, or went and checked out the International Spy Museum. But I didn’t. I didn’t actually do anything on my two days off except run a few errands, eat a ton of food, and sit on the couch reading. I had plans to do some sight seeing while I was in DC but, as it turned out, Hilary couldn’t get off work, and that was the best possible outcome because for two days I was about two steps above a coma. It was fantastic. I did manage to snap a quick picture in front of the Lincoln Memorial on my way out of town, just to avoid anyone complaining that I did absolutely nothing of interest in DC. And in classic John Work fashion I failed to open my eyes, but I’ll put it up anyway.
Total Mileage: 98 (779)
I left DC feeling great. Two days of rest is a lot of healing time compared to the normal 8 to 10 hours a night that my legs are starting to get used to. The first twenty miles out of the city were equally as nice as the last twenty on the way in, following the Mount Vernon bike trail through Alexandria, VA. At times it looks less like a bike trail and more like a path you might find in some jungle fantasy story (insert Avatar, Hook, or Swiss Family Robinson depending on your age).
Just as I reached Mount Vernon and returned to riding on roads I ran into these two guys (I’ll give you the picture so you can have the same first impression that I did.)
This is Mike and Nate (and here is a link to their blog if you want to check out what they’re doing http://mikeandnate.wordpress.com/). Two hilarious and generous guys from Florida who are doing a 2,500 mile ride from Key West, FL to Niagara Falls to raise money for the wounded warrior project. They sell advertising space on those suits they are wearing both as a means of raising money for their cause and as a future business venture. We talked for a few minutes, shared tips that we had picked up along our respective adventures, and before parting ways they gave me one of those cool little tripods with the grippy bendable feet to help me get into a few more pictures of my own.
The rest of the day was spent riding on the side of scorching hot six lane highways through eastern Virginia that made me more than a little bit angry with whoever designed that section of the route but I’ll just leave it at that. I spent the night in Fredericksburg, VA on the couch of a fellow bike tourist named Adam.
Total Mileage: 87 (866)
I made it to the Transamerica! Here I am using my new tripod, courtesy of Mike and Nate, and getting very excited about finally turning west after a week and a half riding south.
For those who don’t know my full route; I am following a combination of three bike routes that are mapped and planned by an organization called Adventure Cycling Association. So far I’ve been riding the East Coast route, right down through Virginia. The state of Virginia has two major bicycle routes (BR 1 and BR 76) that run North-South and East-West. BR 76 is also the beginning (or for most people the end) of the Transamerica Bike Trail. I’ll take the TransAm all the way over to Astoria, OR before picking up a relatively short section of the West Coast route down to San Francisco. That’s why I was so excited to finally see Bike Route 76 - I’m now on the road that will take me all the way across the country.
I spent the night in the Volunteer Fire Department in Mineral, VA where I was thankfully able to get out of the thunderstorms that roll in just about every evening down here. They have a big empty banquet hall that they offer up to cyclists on the TransAmerica. I’m already starting to notice the increased awareness by both people and communities of the existence of this route now that I’m on the far more well traveled road. It’s always nice to not have to worry about putting up a tent.
That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll be checking back in in a few days.
Day 4 Continued…
Total Mileage: 93 (327)
After leaving Port Jarvis I almost immediately crossed the border into New Jersey and began riding along the Delaware river through an area known as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It’s a mouthful I know. Around 4:30 I pulled into a town just across the river that went by the same name, Delaware Water Gap, PA. There was an old fashioned ice cream parlor called Zoe’s right at the beginning of Main St., one of those places that only sells milk shakes, frappes, and hot dogs and everything is made of wrought iron and marble. I remember thinking it was the type of place my Dad would get super jazzed about. I had more important matters to tend to though, for example finding a place to pitch my tent for the night. I stopped in at an outdoor store that advertised bike rentals and Delaware river kayaking tours figuring they’d be experts on camping opportunities in the area. The woman who worked there pointed out that the Appalachian Trail ran right through the center of this small town and I could probably find some place up near the trailhead to stealth camp for free. Feeling satisfied with that idea I decided to head back up the hill to have a milkshake and a hot dog before bed. I sat down at the bar and met Zoe (the owner of Zoe’s, go figure) who had lived in Delaware, PA her whole life and had lots of interesting facts to share about the area, including that there was a church right across the street that doubled as a free hostel for Appalachian Trail hikers, and that on Thursday nights (it was Thursday night) they had a free hot dog dinner for said hikers and she was sure they’d be happy to include me! This was pretty awesome news, mostly because now I didn’t have to worry about bear bagging my food and I was feeling prepared to eat about 12 hot dogs, which would have pushed me well out of my daily food budget if I had to pay for them. I finished my milk shake, thanked Zoe for her help, and headed across the street to see what the deal was with this hot dog grilling hostel.
I found the place, exactly as it was described, with Appalachian Trail through hikers milling about everywhere. It was probably one of the few places in the country where the majority of people smelled worse than I did so I felt right at home and the hikers were more than welcoming. There didn’t seem to be anyone in charge to ask if it was OK to stay there for the night so I just set right to the task of making camp. Just as I was finishing putting up my tent a man came up and introduced himself as Dave, he was a member of the church and he was coming over to let me know that Bikers weren’t actually allowed to stay, because the fellowship was specifically intended (and funded) for through hikers on the AT. My face must have shown how disappointing that news was because he then followed it up with: “…but if you hide your bike in the woods over there and change out of those clothes we could make an exception for one night, and feel free to join in for the hot dog dinner”. I also had to promise that I wouldn’t tell any of my biker friends about this place although I assured him many of my friends would be more likely to hike the AT than to do a bike trip anyway.
Then it was time for the hot dog dinner. I don’t know what most people imagine when they hear the words “hot dog dinner” but I was pretty much picturing hot dogs (crazy, right?). And there were hot dogs. In fact there were about 150 hot dogs on the grill at one time. But then people started showing up who clearly weren’t hikers, and every one of them was carrying something. By the time this “hot dog dinner” was actually under way it was more like a hot dog feast, there was pulled pork, roast beef, corn, potato salad, black beans, green beans, corn bread, garlic bread, three different kinds of pasta salad, mashed potatoes, cherry and rhubarb pies, cookies, ice cream, lemonade, o and hot dogs. I wish I had taken a picture of everything but I was too hungry to go back to my tent and get the camera and then it was all gone. Here’s a picture of the camping area out behind the church just so you can get an idea of how many people were there (this was actually just the overflow from the bunks inside)…
That’s my tent over on the right with the bike jersey draped on top.
Total Mileage: 65 (392)
At some point in the middle of the night it started to rain. It must have been around 3 am because by 4 am I was finally convinced that I wasn’t dreaming, my head was in fact in a pool of water, and there was a hole in the plastic window of my rain fly, bummer. I sat there in the dark for a few minutes, wishing I had remembered to pick up some duct tape before I left but knowing that I hadn’t, and eventually decided the best course of action was to just pack up and start riding. My stuff was only going to continue to get wet if I stayed and since my book and cell phone and other things I didn’t want getting ruined were in the tent with me there wasn’t much deliberation needed. I was on the road by 4:30, with enough flashing lights that I probably looked like small mobile dance club but not quite enough to allow me to see the wet road in front of me. This made for some exciting downhill riding for the first hour of the journey. The rain was off an on all day long, but mostly on. It did stop for long enough to take this picture as I crossed back over the Delaware river into New Jersey
Riding in the rain was actually kind of nice, for a couple of hours. But after an entire day the novelty has completely worn off, your hands and feet have been in wet gloves and socks for way too long, and really it just becomes a miserable ordeal. I had hoped to make it all the way to Conshohocken, PA but after 65 miles I was in Lambertville, NJ and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Since I started riding so early it was only about 1:00 pm when I went in to a gas station bathroom and did the superman thing (i.e. changed into dry clothes). I spent the rest of the afternoon (luckily the rain stopped for most of it) walking around Lambertville talking to people, trying to figure out where I could possibly put up a tent for the night. Everyone was less than helpful, they all directed me to this campground that was about 15 miles back up the road in the direction I had just come from, which I knew was closed. I decided to try my luck again with the local police, who told me there was a state park about “a mile down the road” that I could try to camp in, but they couldn’t actually tell me it was “OK” to go there and if anyone called they would have to come kick me out in the middle of the night. Thanks guys, super helpful. Around dinner time I finally accepted the fact that I had no better option and set out for this state park. It turned out to be 8 miles away! I know that doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re on a bike, soaking wet and getting continually more pissed off because you were expecting 1 mile, 8 miles is a very long way to go. I finally found it and after spending a few minutes walking down trails I found an old abandoned house that looked like it would make a good hiding place. I set up camp in the backyard and passed out without even eating dinner because I was too exhausted and ready for the day to be over. This is where I slept (by the way no one called the police)…
Total Mileage: 110 (502)
As these things tend to go, I followed my worst day yet with my best. I had patched the hole in my tent with duct tape but it turned out not to be necessary as I woke up to a cool and overcast but dry morning. I rode the 8 miles back to town and crossed the bridge once again into New Hope, PA (ironic?). The weather only got nicer and the terrain flatter as the day went on. I rode through Lancaster County which was some of the most beautiful and easy riding I’ve experienced so far. This picture doesn’t really do it justice.
I was so caught up in riding that I didn’t even really consider camping until about 6 pm, but then I noticed I was once again approaching some hills and thought this would be a good place to call it a day. I was in Clay, PA. Immediately after I made that decision I looked over my shoulder and saw some people sitting outside of Ephrata Community Church, and decided to ask for some advice on where to sleep. Following along with the theme of the day, it turned out I made the right choice. I met Chris, who introduced me to Ed, who right away offered up his back yard. They were just getting ready to head into the church for Saturday night service so I went down the street to a park and cooked myself some dinner to wait until they were done. I came back a little before the service ended and went inside where I had my first introduction to prophetic ministry. I was admittedly reluctant but I gave it a shot and it turned out to be far easier than I expected. Some of the church members prayed for me and wished me good luck on my trip and altogether it was a very positive experience.
I was then introduced to Tim and Derrick, Ed’s housemate, and I got to take a shower and change my clothes which was a real treat because I hadn’t done that in days. They invited me to go try a new craft brewery that had just opened a few towns over and I was more than happy to join them. Here’s a picture of the whole crew that eventually met up at the bar.
From left to right: Tim, Derrick, Chris, Sam, Ed, and Andre (sorry if I got any spellings wrong guys). We sat for a few hours, drank great beer and had some entertaining conversations and eventually decided to call it a night around 11. It was only fitting that such a good day had ended by spending time making new friends with some truly great people. If you guys are reading, thank you very much for being so welcoming and I wish you the best. By the time we got back it was pretty late to go messing around with a tent and Ed was nice enough to offer up his couch which I gladly accepted. Thanks again Ed.
Total Mileage: 104 (606)
Day 7 was hard. I hadn’t had anything to drink since I left Boston and the Appalachian Brewing Company beer sampler is quite a bargain to say the least. I still woke up around my usual time and hit the road by 6. The goal for the day was to make it to Baltimore, where I had arranged to stay with Hilary’s (one of my best friends from school) parents. I made it, but it wasn’t easy. The Susquehanna river valley is not flat like the Delaware. Like much of the Appalachians it’s made up of very very steep though relatively small hills which makes for difficult riding, psychologically at least. Imagine ten to twenty minutes of intense climbing, followed by about 45 seconds of extremely fast downhill where you just barely recover from the last climb and then you do it all over again, and again, and again, and again. I better get used to it though because I have a feeling there is a lot more where that came from in the next few weeks. Otherwise Day 7 was fairly uneventful (cool stuff can’t happen every day I guess). I was extremely appreciative to end the day with a huge home cooked meal and a bedroom with AC (Thank you very much Chris and Jill!)
Total Mileage: 75 (681)
Yesterday I made the ride from Baltimore to Washington, DC. There is a really neat bike path that starts about 14 miles from the DC border in Rock Creek regional park and takes you all the way down into Georgetown and eventually into Washington. There’s even this great underground section with fences and street lights (see below). It was relaxing to get away from traffic after riding through the busy suburbs or Maryland.
I arrived at Hilary’s apartment around 6:30 and so ended my first major leg of the trip. Now it’s time for two straight days of rest and relaxation and doing whatever I feel like in DC (which today is pretty much sitting and doing absolutely nothing because it kind of hurts to move). Looks like I have to end things here since it’s about time to go eat some lunch but thanks for reading this long update!
Update 1 - July 19th
Day 1- Total Mileage: 75
I left Somerville Monday morning at 9:30 and started riding west. Then I spent about 7 hours riding my bike (surprise!). Good, that’s out of the way, and probably the last time I’m going to tell you about riding because it happens every day and frankly it’s not very interesting. I’ll try to keep this as entertaining as possible.
A few people asked me before I left where I was planning on staying for my first night in Mass. I just shrugged it off and said I was sure I would find something. Towards the end of day one I decided it was about time to find a place to sleep and checked google maps for campgrounds (turns out they are pretty scarce in south central Mass.) There was one though, about ten more miles down the road in the direction I was going. Unfortunately when I got there it was shut down and looked as if it had been for about ten years. I was feeling pretty bad and a little bit stupid as I continued to ride, trying not to think about the possibility that I’d get stuck in some hotel on my very first night. Then I noticed a cop car sitting at a stop light and decided to ask for some advice. It turned out I got a lot more than that. I met officer Pat Swain of New Braintree PD who (after running a quick background check to make sure I wasn’t a criminal on the run) called his friend, the Fire Chief, and set me up with a whole yard to myself. I even got a cool white plastic chair to sit in.
I was just on the verge of passing out around 8 when Johanna, Pat’s girlfriend and coincidentally the town manager, came by to check on me. She talked to me for a while and recommended that I keep asking in at places like Police stations and churches when I’m looking for somewhere to stay. Then she gave me $20, which I adamantly refused until she literally threw it into my tent and at that point it was just too awkward to try and fight with her anymore. It was comforting to have met such nice and helpful people on my first day and I fell asleep feeling much more confident than I had only a few hours before.
Day 2-Total Mileage: 75 (150)
I started riding much earlier Tuesday, around 5 am, to avoid as much of the heat as possible. I made it to CT well before lunch time and spent a good part of the afternoon sitting in a river (trying to “ice” my legs and feet which were hurting pretty bad). Two 15 year old kids floated by in an inflatable raft that looked like it was from KMart (this is worth noting because although this section of river was very slow they were taking this thing through some Class 1 whitewater) and we had a short conversation about what I was doing. Their jaws dropped when I said I was riding to California. A while later they passed me on the road (must have been picked up down river somewhere) and became the first people to yell anything positive at me out of a moving vehicle. Almost all yelling comes from jacked pick-up trucks and drunk 18 year-olds. Western CT is very hilly and I was hurting pretty bad so it was good to have some encouragement. The rest of the ride was FTK (hope you’re reading Brian).
Tuesday night I set up camp in a small park in Riverton, CT. There was no police station so there were no police to ask but luckily this also meant there were no police to kick me out of the park. Unfortunately I must have been very close to the den of a family of foxes because they spent all night walking around my tent barking at me (if you’ve never heard a fox bark it’s a very strange sound.) Again I woke up at 4:30 am and made some coffee before hitting the road for day 3.
Day 3 - Total Mileage: 84 (234)
Rode into NY on Route 44. Day 3 was hot, extremely hot. Around lunch time I stopped at a small sandwich shop to get out of the sun for a little while. I met another cyclist from Poughkeepsie, NY who was out for a ride. He was pretty full of himself and immediately started telling me stories about how he rode cross country when he was 16 with nothing but a backpack and some cut-offs. He did give me some good directions though and later I felt sort of bad about how much I disliked him. There weren’t many highlights from day 3 except that I got to ride over the longest pedestrian walkway in the world, called the Walkway over the Hudson, in Poughkeepsie. The same cyclists from before described it as one of the wonders of the world which also annoyed me because he built it up far more than it could live up to in real life, though it was pretty cool. Check it out.
Day 4 - Total Mileage: don’t know yet.
Day 4 is only half over but so far I’m making good time. Ian, you were right, I’m sorry, pop-tarts and coffee are an incredible combination of fuels if you want to ride really far. I’m in Port Jervis, NY (very close to New Jersey border, hence the title of this post) where they seem to be eerily proud of their eviction of an entire race of people. There is a sign about every 1/2 mile noting the site of either a “failed raid” by Native Americans or a “victory” over those Native Americans by some group of Settlers. About to get back on the road and head down into NJ along the Delaware River. Thanks for reading if you made it this far, I’m not sure when I’ll update again but it will probably be a few days (it takes time to accumulate a reasonable list of things worth talking about…)