Random notes on Montana, don’t ride too close to the road or you’re bound to get run over and don’t ride too close to the shoulder as you are bound to startle a snake that will then start to rattle. I didn’t go back to investigate the markings on said snake as my legs got a boost of adrenaline. Riding on I90 was not fun but it was one of the few ways to get back on track and recommended by Adventure Cycling, the mountain passes I got to ride through after that were amazing, it baffles me that we dare to put roads through some of these mountains. Stop in Missoula if you cycle through to get some free ice cream and soda from the Adventure Cycling office, you may even get your portrait taken like my cousins did. Thanks to Kay and Bryan in Missoula for putting me up for the night and the beer.
I slid through the pan handle of Idaho and camped the night at a state campground. The campers next to me had a little 4 year old girl who upon seeing me set up my tent invited me to share the fire with them. She was super charming and we made smores and shared stories late into the night. That was about all I saw of Idaho, I was mostly glad to be out of Montana where the speed limits are a little out of control.
I’ve now crossed the Sherman, Wauconda , and Loup Loup passes leaving me only the Washington pass tomorrow, it’s supposed to be a brutal uphill since it’s the only one mentioned in my maps. Other than that I’ve now officially gone through a hail storm, on crossing the Wauconda pass last night it started a crazy lightning storm with heaps of rain coming down. I decided to try and lose as much altitude as possible with the remaining light I had left, on the way down it starts hailing like I’ve never seen before, the whole road was white with pea sized hail. As I learned from Gina, hail is rain the bounces and tends to hurt as I’m doing 30 mph down a 5% hill. After a while it stopped only to have the road washed out as I turned a corner, I didn’t have enough time to stop and almost ate it fishtailing across the road but managed to hang on. I finally went about 10 miles in the pouring rain before it started to let up and I found a place in a ranch yard.
I’ve crossed the divide, the continental that is. The elevation gain on it is just over 2300 ft in a shade over 6 miles. To put this into perspective that is like riding from Kahului to my house in Kula except int Maui you get 14 miles to do the same gain meaning the slope of the MacDonald pass is something fierce at times. Once I got to the top I considered camping at 6000 ft or barrel to the bottom as the sun was setting anyway. It’s hard to pass up a long downhill like that after spending a few hours churning up the hill so I figured it was worth it to go down for a while. I think I would have made my Uncle Bill proud by passing a Winnabego on the way down.
Getting out of South Dakota wasn’t easy, the road was busy and the winds didn’t want to let go but I was definitely glad to have the end of the plains. As many a tourer has said they prefer mountains over wind, at least mountains end while the wind will grind away at you all day. I know I’ve said I wouldn’t complain about the wind after Denmark but the distances I’m having to grind out against the wind here is extreme.
My impression of Sturgis is that the place is a little to commercialized for it to be as roughneck as it’s made out to be. I do hear that 600,000 bikes attended this years bike rally taking over the town and the outlying area. South Dakotans tell me that it’s really just lawyers and bankers who get to play dress up for a week and pretend to be bikers. Not exactly what I would consider hard core. Thanks goes to my aunt Carol for putting me up for the night.
Making it into Billings was a welcome sight, mostly because I would have a bed to sleep in and knowledgeable advice on bike maintenance. My uncle Bill managed to have the bike stripped down within hours of me making it there and a cleaner bike hours later I tested going up the bluff they live below. We squeezed in a ride the next day and I managed to keep up with my uncle who is a pretty serious rider and all around bike guy. Good food and a comfortable bed is always welcome.
By my estimate I have 2 days to Washington and then it’s all downhill from there, I wish this were true. But in the grand scheme of things one state doesn’t seem to compare to much anymore.
Getting to visit the Minnesota state fair for a second time was just as much fun as the first time around. I’ll try and recount what was consumed over and 8 hr period. We started with a chocolate malt with raspberries, and then moved over to the corn booth and each had a corn. After that I had read about the grilled chocolate banana and marshmallow sandwiches (probably the most unhealthy thing I tried this year.) After that I had a polish sausage wrapped in a dough and baked (called a Twisted Sister) and had a frozen mocha for dessert. I split a order of fries with Aunt Patty and had some Tom Thumb mini doughnuts. To top it all off I finished the night with some roasted cinnamon almonds. I’m probably forgetting some things in this list but that is only a small sample of whats to be had at the fair, good times and good food.
Minnesota, like Michigan, for me is good for the soul and the stomach. Good family there who roll out welcome mats when I get there is more than I can ask for. I did try to get up on water skiis again this time around but the results were the same as last time, except I pulled a muscle in my leg and decided that was enough tries this time around. I hope that third time is a charm, it just means I’ll have to make it back to the lake again someday to try again. Thanks to all the Minnesota gang for the hospitality and what seems to be an endless supply of ice cream.
I broke down one night and paid for camping on my first night in South Dakota at a small state park next to Watertown. As it turns out I’ve found my new favorite greeting. “Want some steak?” After I had setup camp for the night and just as I was about to break out the bagels and peanut butter for dinner a little kid about 7 years old walks up to me from across the road and asked me the question. I looked him dead in the eyes and replied, “yes.” He said he would fix me a plate but instead I followed him across the way to where his family was set up, there was about 10 of them camped at a few sites and had just finished dinner with a couple spare steaks on the grill along with potatoes and salads and desserts. I gave my story of where I started and where I was going and got the usual responses. I’m glad I stopped there, it was worth the camping fee that night.
The rest of South Dakota was plain, and just rolling hills most of the time. I rode through another thunder storm and watched lightning crash a few miles off in the distance. Super cool. The wind on the other hand was reminiscent of Denmark, the only major difference here is I had another 350 miles to go against the wind. That thought almost crushed me. Fortunately the day after I got passed Pierre the wind turned in my direction and I churned out a 130 miles to try and gain back some of that lost mileage. The road less traveled is what I chose to do in South Dakota meeting only a few cars every couple of miles after passing Pierre. It also means there is not much to see either, plains on either side of me occasionally punctuated with some cows. Towns are probably populated by no more than 20 people and I’m constantly worried about my water supply. I’m kinda glad that I almost have this state behind me, only one more long state to go and it’s a doozy.
I cheated, I accepted the fact pretty easily. Let me explain. Leaving Michigan gets harder each time I visit, there is certainly something beautiful about the lakes, rolling hills, fresh corn, and family there. My cousin Jim offered to drive me from Ann Arbor up past the Macinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, I rationalized this offer to stay an extra day at my auntie and uncles house and not be behind in my schedule across the continent. As a good friend asked me, ‘whats more important, peddling or people?’ An easy question for me to answer. I’d list everyone in Michigan that I saw to thank them but then this post would get too long, suffice to say that I appreciated all the food, beer, and conversation with everyone there along with the bike rides and lawn mowings (even if I do break windows.)
Hands down Wisconsin was the nicest state to ride so far this trip. 99% of the ride through the state is done on county roads that are barely trafficked, even on weekends. It’s all rolling hills through the state with forest on both sides of the road for a greater part. I didn’t start seeing cows or farms until the last days ride and only one sign in the entire state for cheese for sale. This isn’t the typical route through Wisconsin. One guy I met said that the average population of Northern Wisconsin was 5 people per square mile. I’m not sure where the defining line of north and south Wisconsin is but I believe it as stretches of Wisconsin were fairly empty.
While I don’t stop at every diner I see, I do treat myself once in a while just to see if I can find the diners of old. I like to find the diners where theres a bunch of old boys bellied up to a table, pancakes are the size of your plate and a no-nonsense waitress serving endless cups of weak coffee. The old boys gab about nothing more important that whats going on in town or the weather. It proves to me that life really can be that simple and trouble free. It’s rare to find these establishments and I’ve only managed to find a few of them, if you stop in Butternut Wisconsin look for Jumbo’s and step into what feels like someones kitchen, it provided enough energy that day to ride forever.
At this point in the ride I’m guessing it’s more or less halfway through the ride, I could say this because I’m crossing the Mississippi or that I have about 22 days of riding left, this is a rough estimate of days left, but I hope pretty close to accurate as any longer and I’ll be riding through snow somewhere above 6000ft. I leave the Adventure Cycling route for a greater portion of the remainder meaning I have no clue where towns, grocery stores, or gas stations are. This gives me a little bit of anxiety because I rely on the latter two for water and food which probably means I’ll stop at every one I see to fill water.
Adding Pennsylvania to my list of states I’ve rolled through on this trip is something of a sham. I did manage to camp over night in the state so it counts but I think the total mileage in the state came out to just a shade over 45 miles.
Speaking of mileage, I’ve now managed to throw in 3 days of 130 miles or more. The last two days before making it to my grandmothers old farm I churned out two consecutive days of very long distance riding. This was done mostly in the hope of getting an extra day off or at least get to some good food earlier. I don’t especially like going those distances, each time I’ve done it by the end of the day it feels like all will to peddle is gone and somehow my feet keep going round in circles.
Ohio turns out to be really quite flat which kinda helped with the long distances and peddling my way through Cleveland didn’t turn out to be as hard as I had imagined. And as I was rolling through there I realized as I was going by Browns stadium that I think I had been there with some fellow UH band members when we were at either the big dance or another NCAA tournament, I can’t honestly say I remember which.
I don’t regret pushing hard the last two days before getting to Manchester (I arrived a week ago today.) After being greeted by my aunt my first question was if there was beer in the fridge. I’m glad my family knows me well and is willing to pull out the stops when I get here. My cousin had the fridge well stocked with Bells for my arrival and we got straight to bbq’ing and drinking a few beers with cousins, aunts and uncles. A great way to end the day and start a break in Michigan.
After a week off the cycle (minus a ride with my cousin through the UofM and some byways of Michigan) it’s time I get back on the cycle. The family managed to squeeze in a great bbq at the old farm with lots of people, food, and beer. I got to mow some lawns while I was here and spend a lot of time visiting people.
I’ve added a few pictures I’ve taken along the road.
Time, which was my amigo is once again the enemy. The days which were so long in Europe have become noticeably shorter here and I’ve had more than a few locals tell me that I’m headed in the wrong direction. They go on to explain that most tourers they see this time of year are headed in the other direction just about finishing in Bar Harbor. So I definitely feel the pressure to keep up the distance each day.
Riding along the Erie canal was a nice change of pace and gave my legs some rest after the hills and mountains of the Adarondacs. The towns along the canal are small and quiet by 8:30p except for the trains that parallel the canal, which I think use their horn far too much.
I inquired at the state park I rode by last night what the cost of setting up my little tent would be, the answer was 26$ for one night. I scoffed at that and rode away, so far the average across the states I’ve been has been 24$ a night. Far too expensive for me, and a good incentive to free camp as I go along. Along the Erie canal a few towns have embraced the hiker/biker and provide the town common for camping which I think is a great idea to bring custom to these little towns which otherwise wouldn’t see that money, if only more towns would embrace the hiker/biker they might see the benifits too.
The ride past Niagara Falls was cool, I won’t enthuse too much about it but it was a big waterfall. I’ll give it that, touristy to the max. Hot dogs for 5$, you must be kidding me. There wasn’t as many people as I thought might be there which was nice, because if it was wall to wall people I wouldn’t have even bothered to stop. I did meet a few cyclists along the cycle path and we had a nice chat, they shared some homemade cookies and told me how to best get through Buffalo. The border crossings weren’t as bad as they were made out to be, though the guy on the American side didn’t believe the photo was me for a very long time. I had to explain that I had been cycling fairly seriously and the drivers license looked no better. After a while he lightened up and let me pass.
I’m just about done with New York at this point and the ride through Pennsylvania should be done in just a few hours (I think the total distance through Pennsylvania is 40 miles.) After that it’s Ohio and Cleveland. Another big city to navigate, I got minorly lost yesterday after going through Buffalo but some locals pointed me onto the right road and I got through with little pain. Just a few days away from a real roof over my head again and my hammock!
Friday is Pieday, thats all it took to get me into a diner in New Hampshire. I may bemoan the state of some foods in America but there are a few things we do great, and pie would be one of them. There were about 6 pies on the shelf but the girl didn’t get far past chocolate peanut butter pie. Three of my favorite things together: chocolate, peanut butter, and pie… it didn’t stand a chance.
I think I’ve got most of the appalachin mountains out of the way at this point, the title is a reference to what a guy told me at a gas station as I explained what I was doing. He was also on a bike but just said jeeze, you gotta cross the green and the white. I figured he meant mountains. I surprised myself by getting over them fairly easily, which isn’t to say I don’t huff and puff but at least I don’t stop like I used to.
The scenery along the mountain sides are remarkable and the towns are quaint enough, with a diner here and there. Though I might complain that I can never find a diner when I want a cup of coffee in the morning.
I’m in the middle of the Blue Mountain Ranges, which I belive John Denver sang about? Though I could be wrong. Nice agian with little traffic, except for logging trucks which I love so much. I start the Erie Canal the day after tomorrow which will take me straight into Buffalo basically.
Lets forget about the nonsense I have to deal with for a while. I’m still trying to ride hard each day.
This is certainly a different story than it was when I set off 2 years ago. I have yet to walk my bike up any hills and I’m hitting my targets of near 100 miles a day, sometimes I get over that mark. I do have to say that the terrain is fairly tame and I don’t hit anything over 1000ft for a couple more days, so that will be a better test to see how I handle things.
Passing through New Hampshire (the Live Free or Die state) was fairly uneventful, although people were quite proud to point out the motto of the state. To me it seems more appropriate for Texas than rural New Hampshire, but they like it.
Getting into Maine (I’m not sure of the state motto, I’m guessing the Lobster State or the Tree State) one of the first things I see commonly is signs for Lobsters, I think I even found a chair making shop that sells lobsters. Who here doesn’t sell lobsters I am not sure. Another thing I found as I got nearer to Bar Harbor was signs for blueberries, I guess they are in season. Lo and behold I start seeing blue things in low shrubs on the side of a quiet road. After dumping the bike I gorged myself on free blueberries for quite a while.
Getting to Bar Harbor was something of a quandary for me, mostly because now that I am here I have to backtrack several days to get where I already was, but I thought it more important to do the whole ride instead of leaving off the tail. And had I not come here, I wouldn’t have gotten a free meal of blueberries!
I have only run into one cycling tourer so far, he was on his first or second day from Bar Harbor headed to Florida, Chris is his name and I’ve linked his blog. He is riding for cerebral palsy of which his son suffers from. We had a nice chat and we went our ways. A lot of the route so far has been on US1 which isn’t so much fun to ride. I’m hoping as I get back into New Hampshire and Vermont it’ll be more back roads and rural riding.
Alrighty, enough messing around. Time to ride over the mountain I just came over. wheeeeee.
This is too cool not to share. The reason I made it down to New York City instead of heading straight for the west coast is the event of having the Bride of Rock aka Janice competing in the national Air Guitar Championships.
First I have to say that I think the campaign for this years competition is genius. It’s simply Believe, think about it a moment… To top it off Fatima is featured in one of the posters and I believe he was also plastered to the side of a bus at some point. You can’t tell me that after looking at that image you don’t believe he isn’t a rock star.
On to the Bride. She took the Los Angeles regional with a stunning performance which Alastair simply summed up with “Blimey, wasn’t expecting that bit at the end!”
At the nationals I got recruited to help her to the stage, she stood on a chair while a couple of us lifted the chair to the stage. She rocked out to Bulls on Parade and did a great performance. Unfortunately the judges were pretty cynical and she came in 9th place out of 18 (I think she missed round 2 by just a fraction of a point.) The plan for round 2, had she made it, would have been pretty amazing as well as it included magic tricks and doppelgangers.
In the end Romeo Dance Cheetah took the night, even though I thought Dreamcatcher was the clear winner.
New York City was crazy as is anything having to do with Fatima and Janice, the food and the people were great. My first night there I stayed at a hostel near Bed Stuy, a somewhat notorious area which turned out to be perfectly fine. I do have to thank my NYC hosts for putting me up as well, Dan and Liza were perfectly gracious about letting us take over the apartment. Now, it’s time to ride.