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Biking Across America- Washington to Maine 2012


June 7 2012  I am sitting in Anacortes Washington waiting for a break in the weather to begin the big ride from here to Maine. The mountain pass we have to cross has 10 feet of roadside snow and there has been fresh snow falling the last few days. It looks like the weather will improve in the next couple days and we can head east. We have spent the time prepping our bikes and sorting and resorting our gear. We are both eager to get the ride started.


Friday, June 15, 2012   We finally got the break we were looking for and left Anatcortes early Sunday morning headed east.  Our destination was Marblemount, Wash.  A tiny logging village at the foothills of the Cascades.  One small log hotel with a matching restaurant across the road all owned by the same gentleman and the only show in town. Think big $$.  Slept really well and woke ready to head into the North Cascades also known as the Alps of the West. 



The North Cascades Moutains are the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen in the U.S.  They are also butt kicking mountains!!!  There is no where in Indiana or surrounding states we could have ever trained for these monsters not to mention the 5,500 foot elevation.  The combination of the two made it the hardest thing we have ever attempted. 


At the end of our second day we were more than ready to hit the beds in a teeny tiny village called Mazama, Wash. at a horse ranch.  It was a great location we were totally relaxing on the front porch reliving the extreme hard climbs of the day and breathing a sigh of relief that those monster montains were behind us when Paul got up to go inside only to realize he had locked us out of our room.  The owners had left for the evening so there was no one there to let us in.  Never fear while he was out trying to find some way to get in I climbed through the widow and I have the bruises to prove it. Guess that makes me one up! LOL  What a way to end a crazy day.  Headed for Brewster, Washington and the high desert in the morning.


Oh silly me I guess all I heard was the word "desert" and in my minds eye all I saw was flat and straight.  Well I was half right!  It was straight but certainly NOT flat.  We climbed all day long.  We would climb for miles only to give it all back in a very short downward sloping road and then back to climbing.  If we were just climbling with our stripped down bikes it would be a piece of cake but we are carrying at least 50-60 pounds of gear in our panniers so the added weight can take its toll.  In fact while we were in the mountains we stopped on a mountain side and I started pitching clothes, toiletries, etc out of my bags.  If anyone would like 3 brand new Under Armour shirts they are laying on highway 20 in the Northern Cascades.  All through the high desert we passed acres and acres of apple and cherry trees.  Cherries were almost ripe and looked delicious.  Finally our destination for the day was the Grand Coulee Dam and what an amazing site it was.


We are eighty miles from Spokane but before we head out in the morning we are going to the dam tonight to watch the lazer light show they project on the dam.  Hope you are all enjoying your summer.


June 17  Tomorrow morning we will be leaving Washington behind and entering Idaho. Before I do though I want to say how great the people in Washington have been to us. They have provided advice , recommended. route changes and been a great help in getting across this gorgeous state. Every place we stopped for a break people came up ,introduced themselves and made us feel so welcome . To all of you in Washington that helped us thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will miss you.


June 25 Well we are back in civilization after a week of getting from Spokane WA to Missoula Montana. We left Spokane a week ago in a chilly rain headed for the mountains of the Idaho panhandle. It rained on us for 2 1/2 days and the temps never got out of the 50's. We did have a very nice 25 mile bike trail along the Spokane River that took us out of Washington and into Idaho.


The scenery along the trail was wonderful even in the rain. We stopped for a short break in Post Falls Idaho and were happy to find that the folks in Idaho are as friendly as in Washington. Every time we stop people come up to talk to us and wish us a safe trip.


From Sandpoint Idaho we headed east along the Clarks Fork River into Montana and back into the 1970's. For the next 150 miles the scenery was wonderful but cell coverage was spotty at best , WIFI was unheard of and stores were happy to take a personal check but did not accept debit or credit cards.


We spent our first night in Montana in Noxon , a town with a motel , a tiny store and Toby's tavern. While we were in the store getting some snacks for our dinner  one of the locals came out of Toby's Tavern and read the sign on the back of Paul's bike. He immediatly grabbed us and insisted on having us come into Toby's for a Montana Beer. The Moose Drool beer was good and cold but the people inside were just wonderful. They wanted to know all about us and our route . Thank you for the beer and the many laughs Derald.


From Noxon MT we continued following the Clarks Fork River through more wonderful scenery but also through very high mountains and many many tough climbs.



Yesterday  we had to ride 75 miles through high elevations , several very tough climbs and the edge of the Flathead Indian Reservation because there was no Motels for us to stay. It was our first hot weather and it took a toll on us. We finally got to a motel just outside Missoula and were sound asleep by 8 PM. We only have 25 miles to cover today then a rest day in Lincoln MT then we tackle the Rockies and the Continental Divide. Once we get over that our next challenge will be the heat crossing the Great Plains. It would be a lie to say we are loving all parts of this ride. It is the most physically challenging thing either of us have ever attempted but we are making it and getting stronger all the time. I will update again when we  are across the last high mountian pass.


July 4th  I am sorry about the delay in posting an update but much has happened in the last week and we traveled through the half of Montana that has no internet and no cell service.  Getting over the last big mountain range was really not bad since we were already at over 4000 ft elevation. The thin air was difficult to deal with but that is all behind us now. Once we dropped over the mountains  the trees disappeared and we were onto the great plains with mile after mile of nothing.


The towns in eastern Montana are a full days ride apart and often had no services other than a gas station and a few old buildings.


The lack of services and the distance between towns meant we had to carry enough food and water to get us through the bad lands on our own. With no trees for shade the best we could get was a nice guard rail to rest against for lunch.


In Circle Montana Paul had a box waiting for him of supplies he had shipped before leaving for this trip. In it were some lighter weight clothes , bike chain oil , maps , new sox , sunscreen . It all weighed 5 pounds. In return he shipped off a 7 pound box of stuff we would not be needing like heavier clothes , full finger gloves , maps we already used , long pants and a long sleeve shirt.  He was happy to come out of the deal with 2 less pounds to carry.


As we got closer to Glendive MT and the North Dakota border we kept hearing more and more warnings about riding trhough that state. Western ND is experiencing an oil boom with a flood of people pouring in from all over the USA trying to land  one of the good paying jobs. While it is great for the economy it also has a very dark side. Some of the people unable to find jobs turn to crime .  We heard stories of gear getting stolen and people being robbed in broad daylight. In addition to that we found out that I-94 that we would have had to ride on was under construction with mile after mile of traffic being routed to the shoulder that we would have been on. After much discussion we decided to rent a trck at the border and drive across North Dakota.  After seeing the construction projects along the way we certainly made the right decision. It took us only 6 hours to drive to Fargo ND which would have taken us 5 days to ride.  We hated to cut out a state from our ride but we also wanted to be safe. The next day we crossed the Red River and were in Minnesota and the mid west.


It is great to be in the mid west and to have flat roads to ride. It is horrible to be in the mid west and have heat AND humidity. It has been in the mid 90's every day with heat index near or above 100. We only ride 5 hours a day starting at the crack of dawn until the sun forces us off the road. It is very pretty to see the sun rise though and traffic is lightest then too.



We are riding on Highway 10 across MN and it has been one of the best roads we have had. It has wide shoulders , gentle grades and the trucks give us plenty of room. It is also nice to have small towns  close together with places to get cold drinks and snacks. Sometimes it is not easy to find a place to sit in the shade but we always make do with what we can find.


Yesterday we crossed the Mississippi River at Little Falls Minnesota. We are spending a rest day there today doing maintenance on the bikes , our laundry, eating and resting and staying out of the heat. Hopefully this heat wave lets up some as we head into Wisconsin later this week.


July 13 We have been on the road over a month now. We left Minnesota and are well across Wisconsin and I can't help but do a little reflecting.  This has been by far the hardest thing I have ever attempted...mentally and physically.  There have been a few days when I woke up and the last thing I want to do is get back on my bike.  Physically I have a few minor aches and mentally I'm just down and homesick.  Luckily a couple of ibuprofen makes the minor aches disappear but mentally I have to search deep down in my soul and find the will and courage to put on my bike clothes and hit the road AGAIN.  Don't get me wrong I am not sorry in any way that I am doing this it's just the trials along the way.  The first 2 1/2 weeks were the worst.  There were several days when I would ride and try my best to figure out a way to get home.  Thankfully I wasn't able to come up with a plan.  I had some really stern talks with myself and with the encouragment from Paul (tough love) and friends everything is really good.  Being in the midwest has had a big positive effect on both of us.  We feel like we have made it through the roughest part and the finish line is reachable.  The people we have met along the way have also been a big boast to our goal.  People drive down the road giving us thumbs up and words of encouragement.  Every time we stop people come up to us wanting details of our trip. They usually ask lots of questions.  One question that comes up all the time is "are you doing this for a cause?" and my response is always the same "cause we're insane."  They laugh, wish us well and walk away shaking their heads. This is such a great country with wonderful caring people.  Here's a perfect example....yesterday afternoon as we're approaching our destination of Neilsville, Wi. a car pulled off the road in front of us a guy got out and we stopped to talk with him. His name was Rick and he had lived in Neillsville most of his life.  He invited to take us to dinner.  What a great evening it was.  He picked us up at our motel and we drove several miles to the Wildcat Supper Club.  It was a delicioius meal then he took us to see his beautirul stone home built in the 1800's.  He showed us around town and then dropped us back off at our motel.  We had such a great time and really enjoyed Rick's company.  I really enjoyed riding in a car, something I will never take for granted again. LOL


We are really enjoying our ride through Wisconsin.  The rolling green country side with the massive farms are amazing.  We have seen lots of Sandhill Cranes and one giant cow!!!



Today was a much needed rest day and tomorrow we are on the road again.  We should be  on the shores of Lake Michigan in a few days. 


July 18 As we headed out for our last 3 days of riding in Wisconsin we realized how happy we would be to be exiting this state. The people of Wisconsin are friendly and very helpful but put them behind the wheel of a vehicle and LOOK OUT!  They seemed to be hell bent to run us over.   We headed east on St. Rd. 10. A great 2 lane road but in many areas we didn't have 12" of shoulder to ride on with extremely heavy traffic.  A new state road 10 is under construction that will have 4 lanes and a 4' wide shoulder.  As always Paul is  looking out for us and he spied the new road still under construction so we rode over to take a look and see if there was any possible way to get us out of the traffic.  By it being Saturday there was no construction going on so we headed out on the unopened road and were able to travel for over 15 miles with the 4 lanes to ourselves....HEAVEN!!!


The city of Eau Claire, Wis. has the worst drivers to this point on our trip and I feel extremely lucky we got out of there with our limbs all attached.  Paul did leave clouds of profanity and a stream of road rage through the entire city. We always makes eye contact with drivers  turning across our path  and that usaully is enough for them to allow us to flow safely. In Wisconsin he woudl make eye contact with the driver and they would still turn right in front of us. Even when we were walking our bikes across an interesection in a crosswalk with the WALK signal Wisconsin drivers would turn right in front of us. It infuriated Paul all the way across the state.  Trust me when I say we truly feared for our lives in Wisconsin.


It was great when Paul found us this rails to trails bike path that we were able to travel on for several miles around a detour that had us traveling elbow to elbow with semi-trucks..  The shade from the 100 degree temps was much needed but an occasional bite from a hungry deer fly kept us alert.  Paul was entertained by watching them buzz my helmet and then dive in for a bite.  I on the other hand found little humor in it.  At this point it didn't matter much as we were so close to the shores of Lake Michigan we could almost smell it.



We have reached the shore of Lake Michigan at Manitowoc, Wis. and our ship to take us across the lake to Ludington, Mchigani. has arrived.  Out of the several hundred people waiting to board the Badger for the 4 hour crossing there was no one any happier than Paul and me to be headed to Michigan.  The Badger built in 1953 is the only coal powered ship still in existence in the U.S. although the EPA is about to put a hault to that.  By December 2012 her engines have to be converted to natural gas.


With our bikes all tucked away aboard the ship next stop......MICHIGAN!!


We have had a much needed rest day in Ludington and last night a string of strong thunderstorms came through bringing cooler weather. For the last 2 weeks our temperature has been in the 90's with heat index near or above 100 every day. We are so excited about riding in cool weather across Michigan.


July 23  The first day out of Ludington, Mi was  rough.  We rode in pouring rain for over an hour. Behind me I could hear Paul  laughing hystericaly.  When we stopped my first question to him was "what the heck did you find so funny in this weather?"  He just knew that all the cars passing us must have been thinking.... wow look at those poor miserable bicyclist having to ride in this down pour.  He thought it funny to make them wonder what he was laughing about.  The next day we did get a big reward!  We stopped in Reed City for a break and a friendly Michigan man came up and ask us if we were riding the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail.  NO! We had been riding on a two lane state road that had at best 8" of shoulder.  He told us all about the trail and we couldn't wait to ride it.  The trail is 50 miles long, paved in excellent condition thru gorgeous forest over rivers and past many farms.  We rode on the trail that day for another 30 miles and 20 miles the next day to Midland, MI. where it ended.  I can't tell you how much we loved it..... no cars or semi-trucks to dodge.  THANK YOU Michigan !!!!!!   Here is the trail website   www.lmb.org/pmrt


In Clare, Mi. we found the greatest bakery ever.  What a great story behind this shop.  Several years ago the owners were going to shut down the landmark bakery. When the local patrons aka police that were regulars got wind of the bakery's demise and decided it only fitting that they purchase it.  Nine of the local men in blue went together and are now the proud owners.  If you are ever in or near Clare, Michigan it is a must stop.  These were the best doughnuts and pasteries either of us have ever eaten. 



And they have a sense of humor.


We have a couple more days of riding in Michigan then it's into Canada.  The forecast is for cooler weather but with increase chances of rain and thunderstorms.  I'll take the chance of rain over the 98+ degree days we have been riding in.


July 26,  Today should have been the day we entered Canada. We were both looking so forward to it but it was not to be.  We left Caro, Michigan on the 24th with lower temperatures and overcast skies which was making the ride enjoyable.  Fifteen miles into the ride we had the chance to turn off the major road we had been traveling on with heavy traffic and ride on an excellent county road that was quiet and smooth.  We were both enjoying the quiet countryside when we rounded a corner and right in front of us were railroad tracks.  We have crossed hundreds of railroad tracks on our bike trips but this wasn't just any track.  A large portion of these tracks ran parallel on the road.  We were traveling between 14-15 mph which left us no time to make any adjustments.  The railroad ties were rotted and falling apart.  I made it over the first rail but wasn't so lucky on the other rail.  My wheel went down  between the rail and the crosstie.  As much as I can remember my front wheel came to an abrupt stop which whipped my bike around.  I remember hoping my feet were going to unclip from the pedels fast and the next thing I remember was my helmet making two good bounces on the pavement/crossing and I was so thankful I had it on and it stayed on.  We NEVER ride without our helmets and never will.  I remember turning my head just in time to see Paul within a foot of me.  Everything happend in what seemed to be a split second and Paul had no choice but to run over me.  I saw his front wheel coming and thought "OH this is going to hurt" and then the back wheel crossed over me and I thought "well that didn't hurt so much."  Paul was able to unclip from his peddles before his bike went down.  His back took a good wrenching.  Before I could collect my thoughts Paul was in my face asking me if I was alright and went right into assessing the damage.  He immedialty had our first aid kit out cleaning my road rash on my knee and elbow....what a trooper he is!!!   I soon realized that was the least of my injuries as the pain in my shoulder was beginning to throb. We checked out the damage on our bikes and decided we could limp 1/4 mile to a country store.  The clerk at the store told us that bikes wreck on that crossing all the time.  She also helped us get a ride to the next town.  A pickup truck stopped at the store and were more than happy to help us out.  They took us to a bed & breakfast just outside Marlette, Michigan where we were greated by Jim and Naomi.  They are the greatest people and treated us like family.  WOW they begged us to take their motor home back to Indiana with us.  We are going back to Indiana for a few weeks while we heal.  We have left our bikes with Jim and Naomi and in 3-4 weeks we will return to their home to restart and complete our ride.  This is the greatest adventure ever and even with all the hard work and pain we are having a ball. I will post again when we're back on the road.

 

A Trip Unfinished

    Well it took far longer for the shoulder to heal than I ever would have expected. By the time I could get on a bike again it was to late in the season to finish the trip before the onset of bad weather. While I am disappointed that I did not get to complete this journey this year I am very proud  that I was able to ride 3000 miles, see the sights I did and meet the great people of this country. Some day I will take up where I crashed and finish this trip. Please do not let my mishap discourage you. Even with the pain and the long recovery this trip was worth every bit of it. I knew and accepted the risks when I began and would do it all over again. This is not the end of this trip just a long pause......