Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, It's Time...

A series of photos:
1st: Bikers meeting bikers. You can see how strong the wind was that day--it was a headwind for over 60 miles. Ouch. But it kept the mosquitos and heat away. Notice also how colorful bikers are--drivers appreciate our visibility and we appreciate their willingness to slow down and give us room.
2nd: A majestic piece of rock. This was a view from the southeastern side of Togwotee Pass--along my long descent from that pass.
3rd: The Grand Tetons. A beautiful mountain range.
4th: Top of Togwotee Pass in Wyoming. It was a loooooooong climb. But it was an even loooooonger ride down. I rode my breaks for the first 9 mile down, but then the grade lessened and I enjoyed 25 miles of a downward slope (always a few straights and uphills, but in general, it was all downhill). I stayed in Dubois, WY after this day's climb and had a wonderful burger at the Cowboy Cafe and a good stay at Trails End Motel. My neighbor that night was a woman from Bozeman, MT and her two's a small world.
One of the best aspects of this trip so far has been pulling into a small town and meeting people--cyclists, tourists, and locals. The tourists will thin out as I start to cross the plains--as will the cyclists because I am mapping my own route from Colorado on. It will be sad to no longer see other Trans Am cyclists--I've liked most I've met. As I said earlier, they are a mature and relaxed bunch. They are always smiling and each one I've met (with the expection of the three twenty year old guys) are patching together their own rides--deviating from the "guide". I've gotten some great pointers are routes and sites to see. In addition, they don't try to mooch gear, cash or dope (not that I have any) like a good number of PCT hikers did this year.
Two women cyclists I met the other day helped me plan my route across Colorado and Kansas--their tour is similar to mine and I hope to meet them again on the Katy Trail in MO.

On the road and back online

Hmm, well, I haven't been able to access this blog due to password or username issues. Blogspot switched to google email and I use yahoo, that caused a conflict. In fact, I am not really sure how I got logged in here now...oh well.

Ok, no pictures to load at the moment, I left them in my hotel room and I am in the lobby using this computer--but I think I took some nice photos so far and will post them soon.

I left Bozeman last Wednesday, June 18th. It's now the 25th--so I've been on the road for a full week now. It's been great!

The trip through Wyoming has been fantastic. Roads are in good shape--the shoulders wide and usually clean, the weather has cooperated, the drivers have been exceptionally considerate and the views outstanding. I didn't expect things to be so nice.

I've met a good number of cyclists. You can tell a fellow touring cyclist from afar--loaded bikes stand out. When they are heading towards me, we always cross over for a chat. Everyone is smiling and immediately shares their views of the road behind them (and therefore ahead of me). Cyclists are a laid back bunch. Most are older (meaning 40+) which suits me fine. I did run into a group of three just-out-of-college-testosterone-loaded-super-cyclists though. They have bretheren in the thru-hiking community as well--their age and status in life leads them to brag a bit more than may be appropriate about their mileage and pace. Oh well, boys will be boys. The other cyclists and I just wave nicely to them and encourage them on to even higher mileage and virile efforts--thereby helping them to move on...

So, here are a few stats for anyone interested.

I do 70-75 miles per day average.
My average mph is 12.
I try to get to finish the day in mid afternoon latest--this avoids the standard rocky mountain afternoon thunderstorm.
I've stayed in motels/hotels far more often than I expected.

Why the last? Well, one downside to cycling is that campsites are few and far between and usually found amidst fields of RV's. And because I finish my day's miles early, sitting in a tent in the heat, with bugs and RV motors running, is unenviable to say the least.

I did have a nice secluded camp just south of Yellowstone--I saw a thing path leading into the woods as my day ended so walked my bike down it and found a flat spot.

Ok, back to biking. Let's see. I usually get on the road between 7 and 9 AM--that will change as summer hits in earnest. I will try to be on road by 6 AM. I stop every 20 miles or so--usually at a gas station or a small, middle-of-nowhere, store. I hydrate, eat a snack, stretch a bit and then push on.

There have been some big climbs over the past few weeks--one was 23 miles long and others have been done with a headwind. A headwind is when the wind is hitting you straight on--making even a 6 mph pace quite the effort. But, at some point, I'll catch a tailwind--I look forward to that day! The climbs--they have been a challenge but definetly doable. I am rarely so fatigued at the end of the day that I can't move--I have sore thighs and a sore bum from the saddle, but that is about all.

If memory serves--I am 500 miles into the trip. I am in Laramie, WY. I will hit Colorado tomorrow and visit my Aunt and Uncle south of Fort Collins.

And by the way, I followed the mapped Transamerica route by Adventure Cycling through Wyoming, but from here on out, I will just use road maps and my GPS. It feels GREAT to do that. I am not sure of food, water and shelter each day, but something will always turn up.

I plan to cross northeastern Colorado, northern Kansas and then link up with the Katy Trail in Missouri. The Katy Trail is a rails-to-trail bike path. It's 275 miles along the Missouri river--through Missouri wine country and spotted with nie river side towns, BB's and other views. Other cyclists I've met going westbound (who also deviated from the "official" route--oOOoooooOOOohh the horror!!) tell me good things about the Katy Trail. I got the idea to ride it from my dad who likes Hermann, MO--a winery rich town along that trail.

From Missouri I will cross Illinois into Kentucky where I will bike along the Kentucky/Ohio border (along the Ohio river). My general destination is Northern Virginia from where I can visit Harpers Ferry, the Shenandoah's, Antietam and Gettsyburg.

Fun fun.

Ok, enough rambling. I will see if I can get back on later and post some pictures and perhaps a few day specific accounts of the ride so far.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Bike Mechanic


Something might break. It could happen.

Almost forgot...

Pictured: Touring bikes outside of Adventure Cycling in Missoula, MT. Many routes are planned and mapped by Adventure Cycling.

Oh yes, I just now realized that I haven't posted about what I am doing--or why I created this blog in the first place.

After my aborted experience on the PCT, I didn't want to repeat the kind of guidebook and rule driven adventure it offered. So I left the PCT and extended my original bike ride plans of around 700 miles to a much longer one. How long? I do not know. I want this trip to be open ended--not subject to or confined by a specific route. I've enjoyed reading other such blogs so I created my own. Plus, it will be a good place to rant and relieve stress.

The trip plan? In general, I will head east along what is known as the Transamerica Bike Route. See for details.

The TransAm route ends in Virginia...a state I love. I've vacationed there, I've hiked there, and I've biked there. If I ever leave Montana, Virginia will be high on my list of places to live. In fact, one of the primary reasons I selected the TransAmerica route is it's route throughVirginia, though I must profess a familair feeling of foolishness for deciding to spend the majority of trip just getting there...

I did a similarly senseless thing when I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2005: I wanted to see Maine. But Maine was the terminus of the AT and by the time I arrived, some 2000 tortuous miles later, I was beat to hell and just wanted to finish.

Lessons learned are soon forgotten.

There is another reason for this trip though. I have wanted to bike across America for many years. So it's time to do it. If I enjoy it, I may go further, or, I may not.

The Day Before

Pictured: The Hyalite Resevoir, my usual destination on training rides. Mid June. Snow, Sleet, Rain, Wind, Storms and even some Ice on the water.

I procrastinated again. I convinced myself that one more day was needed to re-check the gear, to re-do my ipod playlists, to pick my toes, to, well, to do whatever.

But tomorrow is it--up before dawn, on the bike, and on the road.

The weather has been perfect. Prior to this sunny spell, Montana experienced an inordinate amount of rain fall (nothing compared to what hit the midwest). It rained everyday, sometimes all day. I biked most of those days--in fact, I came to believe that it was me triggering the rain. I would ride up to the Hyalite Resevoir under sunny skies and just as I arrived and settled on a picnic table for a rest and candy bar the sky would darken, thunder would boom, and the rain would start. In a cavalier (read: stupid) manner, I would continue to sit on the table, ignoring the storm, believing myself immune to the ravages of nature. Then lightening would strike and instantly convert me into a coward-on-two-wheels.

But the weather forecast looks good for another week as far south and east as I plan to go within that time. And forecasts are never wrong.

I should swap out my rear inner tube. It has two punctures (now patched). But again, the cavalier side of me (this time read: procrastinator) prevailed. I imagine the inevitable repair of the inevitable flat alongside the inevitably busy road will be easier than any preventative maintenance adminstered inside the comfort of my own home.


The longer I linger here at home, the more things I tend to stuff into my saddlebags. Tomorrow is a must go day. It's like having no self-control at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The longer you linger; the greater your regrets.
A few random thoughts:

1. I packed way too many shirts. When I hike, I have two tee-shirts. One for hiking, one for camp. Now I have five. Why, I do not know. Patrick and Kristen, please expect a rather heavy package to arrive at your house containing many unnecessary items.

2. I bought ear plugs. A bike trip won't have the blessed solitude of a hike--it's harder to find a secluded patch of ground upon which to camp.

3. I don't miss the PCT. I am glad I left it. But I also hope to someday forget that fact, and to see parts of that trail off-season, and, if I do it as a thru-hiker, I will do so in disguise (I'll carry sheets of fabric softener and rub them all over me before any other thru-hikers see me!)

4. I need to get cycling. I dislike idleness. If I am not working, I should be doing something semi-productive. It's the Protestant work-ethic taught to me by my parents (or was it...inflicted?).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Change of Pace

Pictured: Specialized Tri-Cross Comp bike. It's designed for both road and trail. Saddle bags are Ortlieb (water-proof, simple, single compartments). A Topeak handlebar bag and a Northface hydration/day-pack covered in a blue water-proof bag complete the carrying capacity. I added those super-cool-every-kid-wants-them fenders. All I need now are tassles to hang from my handlebars and a sissy bar. Maybe an Ace of Spades for my spokes too.

Originally, I planned to hike more miles than I biked this year. I enjoy hiking. From day and overnight hikes here in Montana to my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2005, I've always enjoyed hiking. So I set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this year--from Mexico to Canada. Then I was going to bike from the western coast of Washington to Glacier National Park in Montana, and then go back to hiking as I trekked down the Contintental Divide Trail through Montana and back home to Bozeman, MT. The plan was exciting--I was eager to start.

Yet best laid plans...

I prepared myself for hardships--foul weather, aches, pains, hunger, blisters, and fatigue. However, I was not prepared for the boredom induced by 700 miles of desert terrain and I was woefully unprepared for a thru-hiking culture as narrow as it was bookish. So I bailed from that world of a two-yard-wide trail with its rules and regulations copied straight from a tax-code instruction manual and hatched a new scheme. I would do what I thought about several years ago: I would bike across America. After liberating myself from hiker purity land, I came back to Bozeman to prepare. Some of things I did:

  • Added touring gears to my Specialized Tri-Cross Comp Bike

  • Re-did my gear load. I used most of my backpacking gear and added in some items for bike repair and a much larger tent (versus my tarp and bivy used on trail)

  • Got in some training ride (never enough)

  • Got rained on, snowed on, hailed on, sleeted on and frozen all while on the bike

  • Went to Adventure Cycling in Missoula, MT to buy maps

  • Ate snickers bars and drank pepsi (a left over habit from my month on the PCT)

That last one was by far my favorite.

The plan is pretty simple. Bike east. If time permits, I hope to get back to Montana for a late summer, early autumn hike thru Glacier, the Bob Marshal and other parts of the Continental Divide.

The trip, in whatever form it takes, must adhere to one principle: Impurity!

America is a vast and interesting place. Whether by car, foot or pedal, it's worth a look.

Testing One Three...err...

Pictured: A view from a hike in the Hyalite. Bozeman's backyard.

My first test of the blogspot process. I plan to use this blog to record a pending bike trip.

So far, Blogspot is easy. It allows picture's free. So it turns out that my economics professors all lied.

I used this year as well--it was a natural site to use on my PCT attempt. However, Trailjournals, much like the PCT itself, is a highly linear and narrow thing. It feels more form-like, more guided, and more constraining than what I wanted. I felt like I was balancing a budget when I used it. There are, however, benefits to Trailjournals. One of which is easy access to many other journals. It offers hours if not months of fun reads as you follow along with hundreds of hikers. It's a site that remains on my favorites list.

Hmm, but back to Blogspot. I need to figure out how to delete posts. You know, in case I post some off-the-wall-rant (what, me, rant? Noooo, get outta town!) and then regret it in the morning. Like for example, my frequent rants about "Global Warmingists " and how they like to point out that at one time, the mountains and valleys in the picture above were all covered in thick ICE fields! Glorious, picturesque, abundant ICE. You know, back in the good 'ole days before the advent of the SUV. Coincidentally, life was extinguished under all that ice. But nevermind the grim facts, they get in the way of a good "cause" or "protest".

See what I did there? An impromtu rant. I couldn't help myself. Now, let's say that I don't want to offend a portion of possible readers (hah, as if), well, I might want to rescind the rant after a good night's sleep and a healthy dose of coffee.

But, well, that is what mornings are for; regrets. And breakfast. And coffee. Actually, just hold the first, double up on the second and add hashbrowns to the third, then we're good to go.