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!