Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Portland or Bust

Helllloooo. I'm writing to you from the basement of the very gracious Girard family. Jacob and I were in quite a bind earlier today and the Girards came swooping to our rescue. I'll explain, but first I'm going to bring you up to speed on our trip.
After Tillamook, we ended up in Manzanita. Not sure where we would be spending the night, we decided to deliberate over a few pints. This turned out to be a very wise course of action because at the San Dune bar we met an awesome couple named Mike and Sandra. After hearing about our trip, they offered to let us stay with them at their house 4 blocks away. Mike showed us to the residence and returned to the bar for some live music by the Oystershooters. Jake and I showered and went back to meet Mike and Sandra. These two were absolutely incredible. Such hospitality to two strangers on the drop of a dime. We had a pancake breakfast and they even packed us bag lunches!
After Manzanita we did the last 45 miles to Astoria. Coming into Astoria we immediately did the brutal climb up to the Astoria column. The ride was really hard; a thorough test of the skills we'd been working on for two months but certainly worth it. The views from the column were incredible. After taking in the views we headed down to the waterfront for some food and refreshments. We consulted some locals about where we might be able to bunk down for the night and once again "road magic" provided us with an unexpected host. Dave is a 20 or 30 something ex (?) hitchhiker who was currently living in Astoria. He consulted his roommates and determined that it would be no problem for Jacob and I to crash on the couch.
The next morning we awoke and caught a bus to Portland where we met up with Cat, a friend from UNC. She let us dump our stuff at her apartment, pointed out some places we should check out in town and set us loose to wreak havoc on Portland. Today, two days later, we felt like we had seen much of what we wanted to see and done much of what we wanted to do. We also felt like we might be becoming a bit of a nuisance for Cat and her roommate Gina. In light of these feelings, we decided to try and head to the airport and move our flight up. You know, get on standby and sleep there if we had to. Unfortunately, Delta airlines sucks and no longer has a standby list.
That about brings us to our moment of despair. I called the Girards out of desperation, not wanting to pester anyone. Dave immediately offered to come pick us up! Amazing. Now we're shacked up in their basement, which suits us just fine because they have two sons about our age. Tomorrow we'll keep pestering Delta to see if they can't help us head back to NC, but at least I'm not sleeping in the park tonight! I'll also be able to upload all the the pictures from Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon, so prepare for about 4 or 5 albums of glorious roadtrip splendor. Until next time, take care!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Final days :(

Well, sorry for the gap in coverage, but I finally reached the Pacific on Monday! We checked out the beach at Florence, but it was too windy and inhospitable to do a wheel-dipping. Tuesday we stayed over in Yachats after battling wind, narrow roads and heavy traffic all day. The wind is unbelieveable and makes riding extremely stressful on such narrow roads with cars constant. The next day we made better headway up the coast until we hit the Rogue Brewery in Newport. Rogue is one of my favorite breweries, but they tend to overcharge on the east coast, so getting to visit the brewery was a treat. We rode just north of Newport and camped at a nice USFS site. They were having a screening of Planet Earth's episode on caves, but all of us passed out and missed it! Thursday Rich woke up early and headed towards Tillamook (he's eager to get home) while Jacob and I took a more scenic route and soaked up the views at Pelican Bay brewpub in Pacific City. We had a heck of a ride uphill in mist/rain/fog, but were rewarded by a hot shower and nice campsite at Cape Lookout (ironic OR has one as well as NC!). Today we've ridden along the scenic route some more and are in Tillamook right now. Tillamook makes awesome cheese, so we are going to visit the creamery and then decide how much farther we want to ride today.
I'm extremely pleased to be done, but feel somewhat disappointed that the trip is coming to an end. I can't wait to get home and share the pictures and stories with as many of you as possible, so give me a call or drop a note sometime soon and we'll get in touch. I'll probably post up here a few more times as well as get the last sets of pictures up, so make sure to keep stopping by. Cheers!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sweet Sweet Oregon

Greetings from Sisters, Or. We're just stopping in the library here to do some quick "bidness" before we crank it over our last major climb of the trip (hurrah!). McKenzie Pass is roughly 1200 feet of elevation in 4 miles. Phew. At least going down the other side will be fun. Last night we goofed around in Bend, Or which is touted as the "gateway to outdoor sports" or something. There are 29 golf courses in the area as well as 2 ski mountains and plenty of fly-fishing, rock-climbing, mountainbiking and hiking. I was considering this one of the places I may move to in the future, but it seems more sprawling than I would like (reminds me of Cary!). Regardless, it is a nice town with a beautiful park and 3 great breweries.
Today we'll be camping just down the other side of the pass and then tomorrow its onwards to Eugene. I've heard good things about Eugene and it being a college town, we may spend an extra day there to explore/mingle. Rich is extremely antsy to see the ocean, so he's been talking of going ahead without us if we decide to stay a day in Eugene. I don't see what one day matters after 2 months, but to each his own!
I'm extremely excited for the wind-down portion of the trip. We're about a week ahead of schedule, so we can take an extremely relaxed pace up the coast. What a blessing, because there is alot I'd like to see and do. The dunes south of Florence are where they supposedly filmed a section of Star Wars, Newport is a cool town that is home to Rogue Brewing Company, Tillamook has a famous cheese factory and Astoria should be pretty nice. Not to mention I'd like to indulge in some seafood along the way.
Hopefully we won't arrive in Portland too early because I imagine after 3 or 4 days there Jake and I will either start to get bored or be completely broke! Either way, I'm looking forward to checking the city out.
That is about all for now, I'll try to update tomorrow afternoon or Monday in Eugene or Florence. Hope the summer is treating you all well!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quick post

Hey folks...I'm about out of time on this internet station, so I'll have to be brief. We're in John Day, OR. We're headed to Bend to check out the Deschutes Brewery in two days, then onward to Eugene and we'll be seeing the Pacific in Florence in about a week!!! I'm so excited. After that, we're going to ride north on 101 to Astoria to soak up the scenery and then dip down to Portland for a few days of debauchery before boarding flights home (except I believe Rich wants to fly home immediately...shame).
Eastern Oregon sucked. Desert, hot, dry and boring. It seems a trend that eastern portions of states are not cool in comparison to the western portions. This area of Oregon is nicer and I look forward to seeing the area around Redmond/Bend. Still can't upload pictures...stay tuned, I promise they are coming!
Kate- I'd really like to come up to the cottage, we'll see if I have the energy by that week of august.
Other Custers- don't worry, its still doorknob and not some gov't spook
Mom- I think the weekend after I get home (either Fri. 17th or Sat. 18th) would be a great time for the party. You'll have to check with the Coats and Rich's parents just to be sure though.
Lisa, I think Rich is about to make a post, so you can rest assured he's alive.
Patrick, good job on the lurking.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lack of posts

Sorry about the lack of posts folks...I know you all are very worried that a bird of prey has ed me up and flown off with me (I hear they are aggressive towards bicyclists). The real reason is that all the towns we've been in have been relatively small except for Ketchum. For whatever reason, Ketchum's internet wasn't working for the 2 days we stayed over there. So as to what we've been up to:
We rode through the Idaho National Laboratory, a huge strange empty research center out in eastern Idaho's desert. Rich's mind is running rampant with conspiracy theories about all the testing going on there. While I doubt they have a lava tube running to the Pacific ocean in which they sail submarines (as one lady told Rich), I'm sure there is plenty of shady government research going on there.
We also got to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument. This was a really cool spot. Its a huge old volcanic hotbed with tons of lava flows. I felt like I was in Hawaii or something. After Craters we headed northwards to Haily, Ketchum and Sun Valley. Alot of stars vacation in this area and I saw The Mint, a bar owned by Bruce Willis, among other things. We stayed a night over in Ketchum and then pressed northwards to a great lake called Redfish Lake. People had told us it was the most beautiful place in the world, but I'd have to say Jenny Lake in the Tetons easily outplaces it. At the lake we met an awesome fellow Carolina alumni named Wiley. Wiley is quite the adventurer and offered to take us out for dinner down in the small town of Stanley. We never turn down a free meal. We swapped stories with Wiley and ended up camping right near Stanley. Yesterday morning we grabbed a pancake breakfast at the local community center, courtesy of Kids across America and parted ways with Wiley. We headed towards Lowman and hit some awesome river and hotsprings action along the way. Feeling quite invigorated by the mountain water, we decided to knock some more miles off and ended up camping just outside of a place called Garden Valley.
Today we plan to press on from here (Emmett, ID) to try and reach Oregon. That would be state number 10. I'm super excited.
I'm also excited about the next few months, but am having a hard time figuring out exactly what I'll be doing. I don't know where I should live, what kind of job I should look for and so many other things! I thought the trip would help me figure things out, not become more confused. I suppose I have at least 2 more weeks to think things over, so maybe I'll have something figured out by the time I get off that airplane in RDU. Until next posting, keep reading and giving me comments. I'm so glad to hear from you all (especially you lurkers out there who have been reading and not commenting). Cheers!

P.S. I can't get pictures to upload here, so stay tuned for a big batch from Yellowstone onward.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The parks!

Hello from Ashton, Idaho. Since the last post we've been through the Tetons, hung out in Jackson for 2 days, back up through the Tetons, through Yellowstone and we are now in Idaho. Phew! It's been an excellent week filled with gorgeous scenery. I posted some of my photos while I was hanging out at some friendly strangers' apartment in Jackson and I'll post the rest when I'm not feeling so lazy. The Tetons and Yellowstone were pretty much as I had expected them; gorgeous and pretty easy riding, but totally overrun with tourists and way too many scary RVs. I really hate RVs. Jackson is still as cool a town as I remember, but now that I'm paying for everything (and not my Dad), the town seems alot more expensive. West Yellowstone is a giant tourist trap.
Idaho is state number 9. That is extremely exciting. I can't wait to see the Pacific after being in farmland and mountains for sooooo long. From here we are heading through Craters of the Moon National Monument and then probably north into the Sawtooth national forest area and then back west towards Oregon. Per Mike's suggestion, we may try to swing over to Crater Lake and then head northwards to reach Astoria. We'll figure that out as we get closer to Oregon I suppose. For now and the next few days, the goal is Craters of the Moon and then possibly Ketchum/Sun Valley. After seeing all these ski resorts, I'm getting the itch mighty bad. Better figure out how to make some good money when I get home to pay for all these ski trips I want to take!!
Anyways, I lost Jacob and Rich somewhere today, so I'm going to head back out into the wonderful 93 degree heat to search for them. Good thing Ashton isn't a very big town!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hmm, the blog won't let me title this. Anyways, I'm in Lander, WY. Wyoming is very windy. It makes doing anything over 80 miles pretty much impossible. Over the next two days we will have to climb about 4000 feet to get into the Tetons. Other than that, not much has been happening. This part of Wyoming is very open and desolate and generally boring. If it weren't for the nice mountains way off in the distance, I would hate it as much as Kansas. Since I don't have much else to add at this point, I'm going to reply to some of the comments I've gotten since the last post!
Uncle Ev- it was great talking with you on the 4th. Hot Sulphur Springs was nice and you're right; this area is gorgeous. I only wish I could swing down through Utah and visit Aunt Linda, Amanda and Ryan.
Mike- We're heading up into Grand Teton and Yellowstone this week. After that we'll be in West Yellowstone, MT and planning on heading straight across into Idaho and then re-meeting the trail in Baker City. Basically we wanted to cut off a large chunk that unneccesarily goes to Missoula. Any suggestions on the area would be appreciated!
Mom and Dad- the beach sounds like a blast for the 4th. I wish I could have teleported there and back or something. Please don't sell the house, I want to go be a bum there in August.
Dave- thanks for the belated offer of lodging, but no apologies are necessary! Your advice on the challenges to come were much appreciated; you were spot-on about Wyoming's windiness. I'll check out your blog, I hope you keep reading mine!
Kyle- awesome to hear from you bro...i've been wondering how your summer was going down in LA. I hope the job isn't stressing you too much. I'll be sure to get in touch once I've settled back down a bit and can possibly visit you (if you'll still be out there).
Thanks for the notes folks...miss you all very much! Stay tuned for the good stuff (Grand Tetons and Yellowstone!!!!)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Okay, recap for CO

Alright, so the last time I wrote much in detail I was in Ordway at Gillian's house. After that we headed into Pueblo and got a cheap motel room for Saturday night. We went out to the bars, enjoyed some fireworks and got to sleep in a bed. All wonderful. The next day we decided to go pay for a movie and then proceed to see all of the summer blockbusters we have been missing. On our way to the theater, we decided to check out this guy we had been told about, so we stopped by his house. His name is Donald and he is the man. He and his wife live and teach in Burma 10 months out of th e year and then return home to Pueblo to just hang out for the 2 months of summer. We asked Donald if we could stash our stuff in his yard or garage while we went to the movies. He thought this idea was silly and insisted that we come surfing with him down on the Arkansas River instead. He was correct; we had way more fun boogie-boarding in the river than we would have had at the movies. I'll just rent them on Blu-ray when I get home! That night Donald set up a projector in his back yard and we watched Suicide Kings on his garage wall.
Monday morning we headed up into the mountains. The scenery was gorgeous. We spent one night in Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the country and had the chance to enjoy a beer in the highest brewery in the country. We were considering staying at the wonderful Leadville Hostel, but opted to camp just outside of town instead. In the morning we had an awesome pancake breakfast at the Hostel for just 5 bucks. We rode over Fremont Pass (11000-something feet) and down into Breckenridge for the 4th of July. The fireworks were cancelled due to extreme dry conditions, but there were still plenty of people around! The fireworks 10 miles away in Frisco were still on, because they fire them over a lake, but we decided to stay in Breckenridge. Thursday we rode from Breckenridge to Hot Sulphur Springs. They were indeed hot and did indeed smell like sulphur. Today we are in Walden, just near the Wyoming border. I would have preferred to ride a bit farther and camp out in the woods, but the temptation of the library, indoor pool and showers proved to be a bit much for us.
The last week has been a real blast and I'm pretty sure from here on out will be much of the same. The next stretch through the middle of Wyoming might get a bit flat and boring, but at least I have the Tetons and Yellowstone to look forward to. We are considering modifying the route a bit and not heading to Missoula. This would allow us to see a bit more of Idaho as well as lolly-gag a bit longer in the two Great Parks.
Right now I really really want to go eat a whole pizza at the local pizza shop I saw when riding into town. This will be a battle between my wallet and my belly. Wish me luck and stay tuned!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I likie the Rockies

Hey folks! Sorry for the lack of posts over the past few days; I've been flying through most towns with libraries and am having such a blast now that the scenery is nice. I would love to upload the pictures I've taken, but only have 10 minutes at this internet station, so they'll have to wait until later. We spent the 4th in Breckenridge. I am quickly falling in love with this region. It is so gorgeous and the weather is wonderful. Perhaps I'll move here, who knows. We should be heading into Wyoming by Saturday so I'm excited to put another state under wraps. Thank you so much for the comments. It is always such a pleasure and highlight for me to hear from people. If you're reading this, post a comment and let me know! I'll write a longer post when I have a chance so that you all have a better idea of what we've been up to, but for now I've got to go put in another 50 miles. Cheers!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Into the great wide open

Finally out of Kansas! Today we cranked 120 miles from Tribune, KS to Ordway, CO. Tomorrow I'll do a quick 50 into Pueblo. Tonight I'm staying at an amazing woman's house. Her name is Gillian and she is at work right now, but she leaves the house open for cyclists to make themselves at home until she gets back. She has all kinds of animals and when I arrived I helped Roory (an awesome Irishman I met back in Virginia) move some firewood and feed the horses.
I'm very excited to finally be out into what I consider the West. No mountains yet, but there is a palpable feeling of newness in the air (or, perhaps, just a lack of the smell of cattle yards. Its strong enough to make me consider being vegetarian). We've done centuries or more the past 3 days and I'm amazed at how well my body holds up after doing 300 miles in just 3 days. The legs don't even really get tired...its just a matter of hand, foot and mental endurance. Speaking of my body, I had a chance to weigh myself at a hospital yesterday. Turns out I'm down to 156 pounds. I believe I regularly weighed in around 170 back home. I wonder how many more pounds will drop with another month of hard riding (and more frugal eating at this point).
I booked my plane ticket today. It is very frustrating to find a good deal these days. There are like a bazillion ticket websites but all of them give you a run-around. I ended up just going to Delta's website. It was easiest and got me a cheaper fare than any of the other stupid travel sites. Now I just have to make it to Oregon on time so I don't have to pay a re-booking fee.
Speaking of making it to Oregon, there has been talk of us splitting up. I have mixed feelings on this. Part of me says go for it, the other says finish the trip together. I suppose it'll be up to the other two, but I'd rather just keep going on the journey whereas I think they'd like to spend a little time visiting friends. We'll talk it over and most likely make a decision before we leave Pueblo this weekend.
I'll put up some pictures I took in Kansas. If you find them boring, you'll have a good idea of what Kansas is like.
Take care...miss you all very much!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So this is Kansas...

I'm about halfway through Kansas and as I had guessed, I'm pretty unimpressed. It has been hot, windy and pretty flat and I only expect it to get more of each. Today was relatively cool because we are being threatened by massive storm clouds. The maps say Kansas natives are among the most friendly people on the trail, but our experiences haven't shown that. Sure, people in towns are just about as friendly as anywhere we've been. But the other night we stayed at a local campground and watched the most redneck, violent excapades we have seen yet. One drunkard scissorkicked another repeatedly. Screaming children, cursing, truck peelouts...all kinds of amazing antics ensued. That night I was either really dehydrated or came down with a stomach bug and struggled all day yesterday. I was feverish, had a terrible feeling all through my insides and was cold-sweating everything I could drink. I managed to finish the 105 miles or so to Newton and feel much better today.
Another interesting thing happened at the Toronto lake campsite. We saw a girl with a bike who had a certain way that made us think she was a biker like us, but she had no gear. Turns out her trailer had been stolen outside of Chanute. We've decided to bring her along with us until Pueblo, where she is going to meet up with family/friends and re-gear I suppose. I must say she looks striking in my boxers and extra shirt (not as striking as me, mind you). Her name is Bonnie but I'm afraid she hasn't popped up in the few photos I've taken of Kansas. It is nice to have some extra company around though.
Tonight we will sleep in Lyons, Kansas. I would prefer to ride an extra 20 miles to Ellinwood, but it really doesn't matter much whether we do them today or tomorrow (I just get antsy sitting around). Everything still looks good to have us in Pueblo by Saturday, which I am starting to realize doesn't make much sense since the 4th is on a Wednesday. I suppose we'll buy some fireworks and have a celebration alone in the middle of nowhere. Sigh.

Hope all is well with you folks scattered about. Thanks for reading, much love!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pony boy!

Well, we got a little sidetracked this week, but it was well worth it. We were sitting in the Houston, MO Taco Bell/KFC after having already wasted a good hour or hour and a half at the library (I say wasted, but it was time well spent to get y'all ssome photos and info). As we were finishing our meal, a Native American-looking guy walks up to our table and politely informs us that the local park is a sketchy place to spend the night and we would be better off camping behind his motel next door. He also added that if we weren't planning on staying in Houston, we should still stop by for a cold beer and sign the biker log. Well, we were NOT planning on staying there, but how could we pass up such hospitality. As we enjoyed our frosty beverages and the company of Pony (check out his website;, more and more bicyclists showed up. We eventually decided to scrap our plans of riding another 39 miles and just stay in Houston.
Pony's wife drove us all to a local swimming hole which was a complete blast and quite a relief on such a hot day. Afterwards, they prepared a fresh salad from their garden and a delicious massive bowl of pasta. All followed by fresh, juicy watermelon! The best meal I've had out here so far. After dinner we played some goofy, shame-inducing games and had a most-appreciated chance to socialize with other bicyclists, both eastbound and westbound. It was really awesome. Today we are riding over to Kansas...I look forward to another state under the belt and one less map. The plan for the next week or so includes no more than 2 days under 90 miles, so it should be a challenge, but I want to get to Pueblo and take a day off. I'm not sure how many public libraries we'll pass on this next big open stretch, but keep tuned and I'll try to post soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Skirting the Ozarks

Hey folks...sorry for the lapse in 'blogging...haven't been around many libraries lately. We've been making some good mileage and I expect it to get better as we hit flatter ground. Since the quick post in Carbondale we've crossed the Mississippi and headed into Missouri. We should be in Kansas by Saturday afternoon at the latest. Missouri is pretty pleasant riding; rolling hills, wooded farms and small, clear streams. Illinois was mostly corn, which was also nice except that for whatever reason the scent of large cornfields is similar to peppered beef jerky, so I was always hungry.
As I mentioned, we should be into Kansas by Saturday afternoon and I'd like to try to do the whole state within 5 or 6 days. Its certainly possible since we can make really good mileage on flatlands. The tricky part will be convincing the other two that we don't need to take any days off (not so tricky since I don't imagine there is much to do or see in Kansas). Another ally in the cause of not taking days off is that hotel rooms are expensive and I believe Jacob and Rich are starting to feel the budget squeeze. I probably would be too, if I ever logged onto my account and checked my balance. I'm ignoring it right now.
Getting into Colorado will be good, but the topography is frightening. It will be cool to be in the Rockies once more however, and as a bonus I think we might be able to meet up with my good friend and ski bud Nick Shaw. He's from Chapel Hill, but lives in Boulder, not too far from where we'll be passing on the bikes.
I wanted to find a doctor's office and weigh myself before I made this post, but we found the library right away, so I suppose that information will have to wait until the next post. I have a feeling that whatever I've lost in fat, I've more than made up for with gigantic leg growth so I don't expect a huge weight difference. Still, it would be interesting to know and its one of the things I think about while I'm riding all day.
To the Engles- I'm glad you are reading along! I know you missed out on my graduation get together, but hopefully you'll be around to come across the street to the return shindig when I get back.
To Mr. Harpham- We were just south of Rollo last night, but now we're pushing on southward and westward into Kansas...sorry I didn't get to check out your old stompin' grounds!

To everyone else- keep reading and I promise I'll keep pedaling ;) Cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2007


Superquick blogpost from the back of a bike store in Carbondale, IL. We are staying here in a hotel tonight because Jacob is buying a bike from a store here. His finally gave up and one of the rear stays cracked clear through. Mammoth Caves was cool, and I'm glad to be out of Kentucky and into a new state. We should be crossing the Mississippi and into Missouri tomorrow. The land is much flatter here, but we will be having to go through the Ozarks soon (hopefully they aren't too hard; I doubt they could be after the Appalachains.) Thanks for all the encouragement and posts, I love reading them. If I had longer I would write a more extensive post. Unfortunately, the library here feels they are justified in charging 5 dollars for an hour of internet access and I don't feel like imposing on the bike store. Take care and keep reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A-spelunkin' we will go

Sorry for the lack of posts...haven't been around a library for a couple of days. Kentucky is starting to be a bit more fun, and certainly more pleasent. The riding has been nice as we go through the rolling hills of bluegrass country and there are starting to be some interesting things to see. For instance, yesterday I saw a boyhood home of Lincoln. More interesting, we got to tour the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, KY (world Bourbon capitol). More well known distilleries such as Maker's Mark and Jim Beam were just out of our bicycling endeavors, but Heaven Hill, unbeknownst to me, is the manufacturer of the well known (at least in poor college student circles) Bourbon Evan Williams. The tour was very interesting, make sure you check out the photos. I swear I smelled like bourbon for the rest of the day.
Some other highlights included watching Jesus, a waiter at a mexican restaurant in Springfield balance various objects on his chin, including a bucket full of ice as a grand finale. My attempts were not so fruitful. Today we will get to head to Mammoth cave and explore the bowels of KY. We'll be slightly behind "schedule", but I'm fairly certain we'll be able to make some good time between Illinois and the Rockies. I am enjoying the trip so far, but I am truly excited about the upcoming stretches and returning to the west. I love being out west.
We've been out for 3 weeks (on Saturday) but it certainly feels like longer to me. I can't imagine how it will feel after another 8 or 9 weeks. I still sorely miss things back home, but am getting more and more adjusted to life on the road and the lack of creature comforts. As always, its not really the things i miss back home, but the people. I hope this post finds all of you doing well. I love reading your comments, emails and getting phonecalls. Until the next library, take care!

P.S. Beve...Troy is coming to Sweden next Thursday...I don't know if he got in touch with you or Jan, but he certainly should!

Monday, June 11, 2007

2 maps down, 10 to go

Alrighty then...we are finally breaking clear of the Appalachain mountains. It is certainly a beautiful landscape, but I welcome the return of more rolling hills and less laborius crankings uphill. Today we are taking a well-deserved day off in Berea, KY. Tonight we will be staying at a campground nearby and then heading out early in the morning. I believe we'll be spending tomorrow night at the Lincoln Homestead National Park. That would be the first interesting thing I've seen in Kentucky (although the fact that you can attend Berea college in exchange for making brooms is pretty interesting I suppose). Other highlights of this stretch include Mammoth Caves (the world's largest cave system, I believe), Lincoln's birthplace and the conclusion of our second state! I'm so excited to be making progress on that it is hard to explain. About a week ago, as most of you had read, I was really frustrated with how hard it was to move through the mountains and how swamped down our trip had become. Now we are into new territory for me and my excitement for what is to come has really peaked.
One concern I have is that my back wheel seems to have come un-trued. I am going to call Sam for suggestions on this and other maintenance issues today. Hopefully he hasn't started his 9-5 job yet. I am also planning on going through my gear and lightening my load a bit (also, finishing up this slightly hefty book I've been reading could help). I'll hit the post office and send home the items I don't need.
I still get struck by pangs of homesickeness once in a while (or nostalgia I suppose) where I think about people back home or the simple pleasure of a lazy day where no matter what, you don't have to get on a bicycle at all. I also think about ski season alot...I guess because whenever we get the chance to crash in a hotel or motel it reminds me of the many ski trips where we have done the same. Nostalgia or not, I am really excited about this next stretch of the trail and hope to really crank out some miles now. Perhaps my nostalgia is in a way getting me excited because I feel that the sooner we crank through the land, the sooner I'll be back and get to share the stories and photos and adventure with all of you. Until then, keep tuned and check out the new batch of photos. Also, make sure you read Rich's blog and see his photos for another, perhaps less "scientific" (as my writing has been called) take on the whole sequence.

P.S. Thanks to those who have been making comments, and if any of you are having difficulties in doing so, drop me an email and I'll do my best to explain it in a step-by-step fashion.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

These mountains...

Hey there. I'm in Haysi, VA and I'm utterly exhausted. We've had a whole string of bad luck and I'm just looking forward to getting out of VA and having one state under my belt. Thanks for all the notes of encouragement! So upon leaving Wytheville (where my last entry was), we took a shortcut to try and save ourselves some hill-climbing. The shortcut went through Marion, VA and everything was going well until after lunch. We ate some Mexican food and were about on the edge of town when Jacob's rear tire blew out. Dry rot or something. We went back to the bike store and much to our dismay they didn't have his tire size (partly because its an outdated size, but mostly because it was a rather small and outdated store!). We went through possible solutions and the best we could come up with was to have Jacob's father overnight the proper tires from a cycle store in Apex. We headed over to Hungry Mother State Park and camped for the night. After a thorough soaking that night, we rolled back to the bike store at about 1130 or 12. Unfortunately, as I was going about 45 mph down a hill I was unable to dodge some glass and quickly heard the "pfffft...pffft....pffft" of my rear tire deflating. I patched it up at the bike store, Jacob got his new tire and we headed out about 4 PM. The first patch gave up after about 7 miles or so, and I threw on a second patch, which made it roughly 50 feet. At this point I was about ready to throw my bike on I-81. I put a new tube in the tire and it seems to be working out. We finally made it out of Marion, but couldn't reach our destination of Rosedale. We spent the night at a church in Meadowview. An incredible guy who lived across the street from the church welcomed us warmly, offering the bathroom and kitchen of the church to us (apparently you don't lock churches when you're out this far). I also awoke to a note saying how they wanted to help us on our journey...and 30 bucks for breakfast!!! There may be quite a few things wrong with America, but I am continually amazed by the kindness Americans are willing to show to complete strangers.
We each ate a rather large breakfast at the local corner store and headed out to conquer some mountains. It was a rough day; three or four tough climbs and 90-95 degree heat. Some awesome descents though...still makes me want to go skiing (and also allows me to realize how fast I must be going when I'm skiing!). Now we'ere here in Haysi and we have to hunt down a place to camp. There is a pavillion across from the library that looks real tempting. It's sitting right on a river too (hobo-bath!!!). The only problem is the police station is right here next to the library...hmmmmmm. I think I saw 3 pizza shops as we rolled down the main drag, pretty impressive for a town with a population of 190. I think I could eat a whole pizza today.
No cellphone service around here and I'm not sure when to expect it, but apparently its still easy to find internet, so drop some notes on the blog or send me an email! I love hearing from all of you, it provides so much encouragement. I'll put up the few pictures I managed to snap, so be sure to scope out the albums on the left. This post is already sort of rambling, so I'll bid you adieu and think my next post out a bit more clearly. Cheers!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Wall

I'm going to try to keep this post short because I am very tired and Wytheville's library has incredibly slow (and thus frustrating) computers. We rode 40 miles today from Radford to Wytheville. Radford is a really nice little college town, I feel like I know somebody who went there because the name is familiar, but I don't know who/why. The ride was pretty pleasent at first, with the first 12 or so miles flying by. The end was brutal. We were on a service road which ran parallel to I-77/81. I definately recognized the stretch from when we drive up to Ohio to visit relatives. I even saw the Bob Evans where we stopped on our last visit (after I failed to win the family over to trying Waffle House).
The title of this post is "The Wall" because on one of our first few days out we met a fellow who had already done a transcontinental trip. He explained that for him the hardest part of the trip was about 8-10 days in. This is when he really started to question why he was out, if he had it in him to go on, etc. Of course, being so excited about the trip, I blew this off and figured it would never hit me. But now that we've been out for 9 days (I'm not sure whether it feels longer or shorter than that...I guess it depends on how tired I am!), I'm starting to understand what he means. There are so many things I miss and think about while I'm sitting in that saddle for 6 or 7 hours a day. This isn't like hiking, where what you really miss is a hot shower and good food. I've had hot showers and good food so far on this trip. What I really miss are creature comforts like constant cell phone coverage, internet, TV, a nice big couch and/or bed or a full kitchen where I can cook. Most of all I miss my friends. I feel like they are all out having fun without me. I guess its easy to lose focus and convince myself that's the case, when in all likelyhood they are just going about normal, daily routines. Nevertheless, I wish I could be in two places at once. Oh, and I probably think about skiing more now than ever before...something about flying down the hills on my bike is getting me really amped for this ski season.
Don't get me wrong, I'm having a blast. The riding is whipping me into shape and the scenery is beautiful (although I'm getting tired of Appalachia...I want some EPIC mountains!). In any case, I'm starting to see what "The Wall" is all about. So what I ask of you all is to drop me a little email, post or even phone call just to keep me in the loop and stave off my mounting insanity that the world is leaving me behind. My phone works almost every night when we're in a moderately populated town, and I've managed to find internet in one way or another almost everyday. So I hope to hear from y'all the meantime, check out the new photos in the album to the left. Peace, love and sprocket grease!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rain sucks

Today was our first day of exclusive rain riding. It was no fun. We were planning on going about 60 miles form Blacksburg to Wytheville, but got lost enroute and probably went about 8 miles extra. Upon arriving at Radford, VA I decided something had to give and consulted the guys. After only 30 miles today, we decided to stay here for the night and then press on to Rural Retreat, VA tomorrow (about 59 miles I believe). We will camp there and then go on to Damascus the next day, which will be about a 50 mile ride. Damascus has a fond place in my heart as I remember being a rather novice AT hiker and arriving there for calzones after reading about them in every shelter logbook. It will be nice to revisit a place from my scouting days. So...the rain forced a slight modification in plans, but we are staying at a super nice La Quinta for only 60 bucks (the kid at the desk hooked us up with the AAA rate since we are being so insane and riding bikes across the country). I'm not totally unhappy with the change in plans, although a setback is never something I like ( I suppose I enjoy sticking to a plan a bit too much...perhaps my father's influence?).
As I mentioned, riding in the rain is no fun. Riding in sunshine may give me a ridiculous biker's tan, but I can fix that with one day shirt off (don't worry, I wear sunscreen mom). Riding in the rain on the other hand is just plain miserable. Wet gloves, heavy shoes, a soaked flapping rain jacket...all pretty unpleasant. Not to mention that when you're climbing hard you go to brush the sweat off your brow and its completely pointless.
Also, I'm writing this from Radford Universitiy's library...pretty nice place, I never realized it was so large although I had heard of the place before. We're about to go to a local bar/restaurant joint and see what is going on, but I'm sure we'll all be lights out by 12am, per usual. Can't live much of a night life when you're riding 60 miles a day!
No photos for this post due to the weather, but tomorrow is supposed to be better, so keep tuned! Much love to all of my avid fans ;)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

One down, 11 to go

Thursday night was interesting. We rolled into a small town called Buchanan and found out that we didn't really have a place to stay. What was the solution? Act like a hobo! We waited until after dark and snuck down by the river where we set up tents and camped very very secretly. The ride for Thursday was pretty uneventful...started out really nice after Vesuvius. We rode along a river in a valley and made great time. Yesterday we left Buchanan and took a shortcut on route 11; probably saved us about 5 or 6 miles. We arrived in a small place called Catawba, which really only consists of a general store (great sub for 4 bucks). In Catawba we decided that in the interest of getting a smaller front sprocket put on jake's bike, we would head to Blacksburg instead of Christiansburg. Our highschool friend Frank Bedoe attended VT and is still living up here. He has been kind enough to let us crash at his place last night and tonight. I really don't like taking days off and sitting around, I get antsy. But the other guys wanted to take a break and I understand that Jacob's bike needs to be upgraded before we hit this next (extremely challenging) section. Since we are a group, I'll just have to compromise. I suppose a little sitting around isn't too bad. Also, once Jacob has that new gear, he's going to be smoking me on the road...he's already kept up just fine with only his 10 speeds!
Tomorrow we'll head out to begin our next map section. I haven't looked at what towns we're going to, but first we have to ride south to Christiansburg to pick the trail back up. They say you hit the "wall" around day 8-10 and start wondering why the hell you're out doing this. I guess I'll find out about that soon enough. I'm really enjoying the challenges of riding and the scenery, but I sorely miss the people and comforts of my daily life back home. That's why it is so nice to hear from y'all through emails, posts on the blog and phone calls.
I'll post some more pictures today and I also got the Blue Ridge photos up...look to the left sidebar for a link to my picasa album. Keep reading and I'll keep riding!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Blue Ridge- 60 miles, about 300 total

Yesterday was pretty amazing. We woke up in Charlottesville and immediately got some tasty bagels at Bodo's bagels. From there we took 250 and shortcut the actual route by a little bit, saving our legs for the climbs ahead. We got slightly lost and pushed our bikes about 2 miles up a gravel state road, only to find out at the top that we were not where we were supposed to be. Luckily, a lady was leaving her mountain home up there and told us that if we continued straight we could cut through a .1 mile stretch of the Shenendoah national forest and be on Skyline drive, which connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Rockfish Gap. Apparently we actually saved ourselves a hell of a climb (to Afton) by pushing our bikes up 611, rather than riding up 691.
The parkway was challenging, but one of the most enjoyable stretches so far for me. It sure sucks to be cranking away up a hill for a couple of miles at a stretch and only be making a 4 or 5 mph pace, but the reward is some spectacular views and awesome downhill cruises. I think I hit about 35 miles per hour, but I know Jacob did more. The views could have been better; storms had made the valleys hazy and visibility poor (check out the photos for today at the end of this post).
Eventually we cruised down into Vesuvius, VA. The descent was sheer insanity. We dropped about 1800 feet in 3 miles down a VERY windy road. Jacob, being slightly insane, passed a truck at about 45 mph. Once down in Vesuvius we headed directly to a country store/deli known as Gertie's. These people were so extremely hospitable and made some excellent grub. We scarfed down some cheesesteak sandwiches and pitched camp in their backyard. An extreme rainstorm awoke me in the middle of the night, after which I had a hard time getting back to sleep and tossed and turned alot. Packing up in the morning was slow as our stuff dried.
Extremely hot today, so we're hanging around Lexington, VA for a bit and then taking an easy 30 miles over to Buchanan for the night. Lexington is real cool; Washington and Lee Uni. is here as well as the Virginia Military Institute. We saw Lee's tomb in a chapel on campus and had some good lunch at a local organic food market.
So far, so good. We should wrap up this, our first, map section tomorrow which is right on course. The next section is supposed to be one of the worst according to people we've spoken with. Hard terrain through the Alleghany mountains, bad truck traffic from coal and concrete plants and dogs. I'm so excited (sarcasm doesn't show in text, does it?).
Please check the pictures and drop me some notes...the highlight of my online visits is reading posts from you all! Much love!

Note: the pictures don't seem to want to upload right may have to wait until I find another library and have more time to finangle things. I'll edit this post with a link when I get them up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On hills and dogs

I'm writing to you from Charlottesville, VA where we have been lucky enough to stay at the Massaro household. Andrew is a friend of Rich and me; he lived with Rich back in sophmore year. Unfortunately, he is off in Illinois visiting a friend, but we still got to crash here and meet his awesome brother Mike and wonderful sister Courtney. A shower, no camp-pitching and clean laundry is always a highlight. In this case, the luxuries are extra appreciated because of how difficult our third day was. We awoke about 630 at Verbeeck's store and cranked out nearly 80 miles through the hills to reach Charlottesville. I would have liked to just take our victory and move on, saving the extra gain in mileage to help take it easy over the mountains. However, our legs dictate that we needed to stay here a day and gain strength before laying siege to Appalachia.
The 80 miles were certainly no joke; plenty of rolling hills and a few dog attacks. The route has been compared to a self-propelled rollercoaster ride. Here are a couple tricks I picked up yesterday: 1) Crank it down the hills and try to take that momentum up the next hill. 2) Just don't look at your bike computer; it will only discourage you 3) Don't look at the top of the hill for the same reason 4) Always, always, ALWAYS save some energy to outsprint scary dogs, like the rottweiler I saw yesterday.
Food and water are continually amazing me on this trip; I can drink and drink and drink all day and it just sweats out immediately. I also eat just about whatever I can/want to when I get to convience stores and country delis. Regardless of how much I eat I'm almost always hungry in just another hour or so.
I've uploaded all my pictures to the account here. Meanwhile, I'm off to fold my laundry and cook some dinner for our gracious hosts. Drop me an email, post on here or even try the cell ( I've managed to keep it charged thus far..signal is patchy however). Would love to hear from anyone, although I have faith that you are reading anyways!

P.S. My fortune cookie today reads: "You should be able to undertake and complete anything". That's encouraging!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 2: 127 miles total

I'm here at Susan Verbeeck's Country Store and she has been kind enough to let me use her dial-up internet to update y'all on my progress. All the libraries I've come across have been closed. Yesterday was our first day and we rode from Yorktown to Glendale, VA. It was a pretty nice ride; great weather and great scenery. Plenty of history in this first stretch- saw historic Yorktown (Cornwallis surrendered to Washington here), Williamsburg (amazingly restored colonial town, the largest of its type...took about 40 years and 40 million dollars, thanks to John Rockefeller), Jamestown and plenty of plantations. One of the cooler plantations was the home of John Tyler, 9th president of US (if i'm not mistaken). His plantation home was 300 feet long, the largest frame house in America, and had a huge ballrom designated for doing the Virginia Reel. We also saw a few battlefields from the civil war, mostly from a series of battles known as the Seven Days Battles. Our day ended at a wonderful "hostel" which was actually just in the back of a Willis United Methodist Church. A night in the A/C with a kitchen and not having to setup/break camp was sooooo awesome.
The second day (today) has been a bit more challenging, totalling only a few more miles (67 as opposed to 63) but many more challenging hills. I look at them as training for the beast known as the Blue Ridge Mountains, but that doesn't make them much easier! I have a feeling I'll be walking the bike up those switchbacks to get over the mountains. Not nearly as much to see today in terms of historic sites...mostly rolling farmland and lots of horses. I'm very fortunate that Mrs. Verbeeck has been so kind; she is letting us camp out back, we have access to her hose and there are plenty of cool beverages on hand. Tomorrow we push onward, perhaps as far as Charlottesville, although I haven't looked at the maps to be certain. I just want to get a good lead on the mileage since the mountains will take their toll on our progress.
Keep checking back, when I get some broadband access I will post pictures. Miss you all already!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shakedown ride

Rich and I took an overnight camping trip to Crosswinds Campground at Jordan lake as a shakedown ride. The ride wasn't as far as I had hoped, only about 30 miles round trip as opposed to 60. This is partly because we chose to go to Crosswinds rather than Poplar point, but I don't think poplar point would have added on more than 5 miles each way.
Regardless, the trip was very helpful. I think (thanks to my Dad's fishing scale) I have the weight about balanced where I want to. I could use a bit more weight up front and less in the back, but I'll have to wait to distribute communal gear before I can fine tune it anyways.

The most important aspect of the trip was to experience what a bike loaded with about 35 pounds of gear handles like. It is very stable at speed and actually seems to carry momentum better than just having me on the bike. Unfortunately, this also means that hauling the load uphill is harder than ever before...I was hitting speeds as low as 5 mph (and this is just the hills around here! I'm scared of Appalachia). Top speeds were around 29 mph, which makes my friend Ken's record of 50 seem completely insane.

I'm heading to Yorktown on Friday evening and plan to actually embark on Saturday morning. I may or may not come up with a reason to post between now and then, but I might stick one more up before I hit the ol' dusty trail.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Packing is difficult

Yesterday I attempted to pack up my belongings and move out. This is always much harder than it needs to be and to complicate matters further, I had to discriminate between what I'd be taking on the bike, what I needed between now and departure and what I needed to box up until August. I also tend to be a packrat, so I find myself getting upset over whether I should throw away that cool bottlecap I found or a funny chinese fortune I've saved. Silly.
Packing a bicycle for a cross country trek is a little more complex than I had imagined. I have to balance the weight on both sides and try to keep a 60/40 front to rear distribution. I think I'll pick up a fishing scale to help out...its either that or just trial and error. I'm also thinking I might be packing a few too many things, so later this evening I'm going to work on paring down the list a bit. Rich and I are going to do an overnight shakedown ride Tuesday and Wednesday. We'll probably just ride out to Jordan lake (about 30 miles), camp out and then ride back the next morning. A short ride is better than no ride! After the shakedown, there is Jacob's graduation/farewell party on Thursday and then I believe we'll be heading up to VA on Friday afternoon/evening (should probably call my father to confirm this, haha).
Keep reading, things should start to get interesting soon!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Keys

Just got back from my scuba certification trip to Key Largo. We sure had a real blast down there. The first dive is so exciting that I thought I would run out of air in like 2 minutes for sure. I didn't, fortunately. The other dives were increasingly more fun as we became more comfortable underwater. My new mask was irking me though, the plastic frame presses really hard against the spot between my eyebrows when I am at depth. I wonder if I'll be able to do any diving in some cool lakes out west or something.
Speaking of out west, its about t-minus one week until departure. This boggles the mind and, quite frankly, scares me. I mean, this has been a goal of mine since last fall at some point, but it didn't really settle until I got home from the Keys and realized I would be gone in a week. The anxiety is almost overwhelming, but I'm going to persevere today and try to be productive. I need to get my front rack attached and start ziploc-ing gear and packing the panniers. Going to have to buckle down and do that soon, because my best friend from middle school is coming to visit. If anyone wants to see some face-melting guitar playing, stop by Isley street later tonight. In the meantime, I hope you all have a fantastic Friday. And please, if you are traveling, check your tire pressure, you know what I mean?

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I went to the final commencement ceremony today. Madeleine Albright's speech was really good and the overcast sky made the ceremony much more bearable. As soon as it was over the clouds broke; perfect for all the celebrations. I wasn't real big on the idea of the ceremony as I felt it was just a bunch of symbolic crap, seeing as how we didn't even recieve our diplomas. But, as much as I hate to admit it, that "symbolic crap" really did help the facts finally soak in on me; I am graduated, I am no longer a student, I must move on! How exciting though, to move on in such an epic way. I can't wait for this trip. Keep reading, only 12 days until departure. I'm off to go eat, drink and be merry....ciao!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First Post!

Okay, so I'll be attempting to use this blog to keep all of you (my friends, family and new aquaintances) updated on my journey. I'll probably just keep a paper journal and post edited versions on here as I am able to in public libraries, etc. I may also attempt to call in journal entries to someone back home, let me know if you think you could help out with this responsibility. I'm also going to look into getting a digital camera so that you can see my smiling face as much as possible and share some of the sights. For now though, just spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested in keeping up with my trip. Much love!