August 21, 2015
I depart for Portland, Oregon, by plane this afternoon. I will spend two nights in Portland before departing by car for Astoria, Oregon. Astoria is where the trek begins. I will dip the rear wheel of the bike in the Pacific Ocean and when I reach Portland, Maine, I will dip the front tire of the bike in the Atlantic Ocean - Coast to Coast for Skin Cancer!
August 24, 2015
Yesterday was technically the start of the ride across the U.S., but it was really a 30 mile ceremonial ride to the Oregon coast so I could dip the back tire of my bike in the ocean before heading east. We stayed in the Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria, Oregon, last night and had a "social hour" to meet and greet the other riders on the trek. After a glass of wine, or two, they fed us. Salmon, that's all I'm going to say. Oh, and Pinot Noir.
This morning, I got up at 5:00 a.m., drank a cup o' joe and dashed down to the lobby for breakfast. Today was a 100 miler right out of the gate (on the quiet, country backroads) so I did not want to miss the start. The route was très magnifique! Check out my bike.
August 25, 2015
I tried posting an entry yesterday, but the internet in the quaint, if not somewhat antiquated Hood River Hotel, was snail-like. I gave up. Briefly, we entered the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway which is approximately 75 miles long between Troutdale and The Dalles, built through the Columbia River Gorge between 1913 and 1922. It is the first planned scenic roadway in the United States. I'd say the plan was a success. It was stunning.
August 26, 2015
I knew the route today was going to be a challenge because the trek from Hood River to Boardman included 50 miles on I-84. Think Large Marge trucking down the highway at 85 mph, swerving to miss hitting the cyclist cruising on the shoulder. And it wasn't just any shoulder. It was a mine field of steel-belted radials. It was warm. It was windy. It was 106 miles. It was fun.
August 28, 2015
I skipped writing in my journal yesterday altogether. Not because I wanted to but because there is only so much time in a day to get everything done. After biking from Boardman, OR to Walla Walla, WA in 97 degrees, I had to walk a mile in the heat to a laundromat to do, well, laundry. The highlight of that excursion was finding a store that sold Mountain Bars! Yes, Mountain Bars, those chocolaty peanut butter mounds that look like Mt. Rainier. Now don't get carried away. I did not buy or eat one but my guru, Jay, on my insistence, bought two. He must have liked them because they were gone in two bites. Of course, we had just pedaled nearly 100 miles so...Now for today, August 28, day 6 of the trek, 487 miles pedaled, 20,200 total elevation gained. We rode 100 miles today, most of which were delightful, although, the last 15 miles were into a headwind and beaucoup de la fumée from the nearby forest fires. Overall, I'd say I'm doing fairly well so far. Tomorrow, Lewiston to Kooskia, 103 miles with 6,400 feet elevation gain. I'm crossing my fingers.
August 31, 2015
We were without internet and phone service for 2 days hence the delay in my journal entries. But, you need to read about August 29 - Lewiston, ID to Kooskia, ID, 103 miles with 6,900 feet elevation gain. It was a very bizarre day. With all the forest fires burning on all sides of us, the air was full of smoke. As our fellow rider David said, “It was like going from Mordor straight into Mount Doom!” The winds were gusting up to 50 mph, the air was thick with smoke, trees were snapping in front of us, yet somehow, we rode through it all to our final destination - River Dance Lodge. There are many details I am going to leave out like the fire blazing right next to the road, the fire marshall stopping all traffic from going forward, our needing to be shuttled to the lodge because the smoke was too thick, the stage 3 fire warning for the area where we slept meant immediate evacuation was possible, etcetera. Suffice it to say we made it through all of the obstacles and continue to pedal forward. August 30 was probably one of the best days I've had so far. We biked from Kooskia, ID to Lolo, Montana - 91 miles pretty much uphill until the climb intensified. Yes, that's right, a 4.5 mile climb over Lolo Pass which I had prepared for by biking up and down and up and down Snowbowl Road this summer. The training definitely paid off as I felt super strong climbing the mountain. I was overcome by the beauty and the accomplishments I and my fellow cyclists have made and teared up at the crest. Shortly after the picture below, the rumble of thunder brought a downpour and we descended in a freezing rain shower. Take that, you out of control forest fires!
Today, August 31, was an easy 37 miles down the mountain from Lolo to Missoula where we will spend an extra day of rest before setting out for Helena, MT on a 125 mile ride with 6,100 feet elevation gain. I am going to take full advantage of the rest day. Here is my view for the stay. I rather like it.
September 3, 2015
We have covered a lot of ground since I last wrote in this journal. Yesterday, (September 2), we rode 125 miles from Missoula to Helena. We climbed more than 6,000 feet and crossed the continental divide. It was a long, hard day coming off a rest day but the landscape was stunning. What little energy I had after the ride was spent eating dinner, getting a massage, and going to sleep. So much for Helena, Montana. I'm sure it's a nice town, I just didn't get to see much of it. Today, (September 3), was another long day in the saddle, 115 miles from Helena to Bozeman. Not quite as difficult but equally lovely. We have had nearly perfect cycling weather and the wind has been mostly at our backs. Tomorrow is another long day, 112 miles from Bozeman to Columbus. That will be nearly 360 miles in three days!
September 7, 2015
My how the time flies. Here is an abbreviated version of the past few days:
September 4 - Bozeman, MT to Columbus, MT, 112 miles, freezing cold, major headwinds, beautiful scenery, stomach bug but rode nonetheless
September 5 - Columbus, MT to Lovell, WY, 90 miles, headwinds that pushed me backwards, an easy day on paper but ended up being one of the most challenging days due to the wind, windy, windy, windy
September 6 - Lovell, WY to Sheridan, WY, 99 miles, over Bighorn Pass, 20 miles uphill with 12 percent grades at times, 8000 feet elevation gain, considered the most challenging day, absolutely stunning, random chance meeting Ralph (it's a longer story than I have time for right now)
September 7 - Sheridan, WY to Gillette, WY -108 miles, near perfect cycling conditions, found Wyoming to be beautiful, felt stronger than I have on the entire trip thus far, surprised that 108 miles doesn't seem like a big deal
Now for some photos.
September 8, 2015
It was a beautiful day! The weather was ideal, the scenery superb, a mere 75 miles from Gillette to Sundance, WY so I had time to soak in a hot tub, write in my journal, study french and wander the town. Tomorrow we will enter our 6th state, South Dakota. Once we reach Rapid City we will spend a rest day there. I welcome it.
September 9, 2015
Looks like we made it. Unfortunately that song (bad 70's Barry Manilow tune) was playing on the radio when we walked in a store on arrival to Rapid City, SD. Now, it's stuck in my head, but apropos, oui? Rest day number 2 is tomorrow, state number 6 is in the bag. Looks like we made it.
September 10. 2015
Rest day in Rapid City, SD. What should I do? Interviews with local news stations KEVN AND KOTA thanks to Amy Murphy. I will post links to the coverage when I can. Until then, a few pictures from rest day.
September 13, 2015
We are officially one-half of the way across the U.S.A., thank you very much. I've pedaled 1,862 miles and 75,740 feet in elevation. No day was more difficult than yesterday, though. I generally laugh at wind. Of course, I have never bicycled in South Dakota. It was no laughing matter. Do you see a tree in the photo below? Of course you don't because there weren't any. There was nothing to break the wind. For 113 miles the scenery did not change and the headwind remained, well, headwind. It was brutal. I started to doubt my ability to finish but I knew I would never quit so I just kept on going until I reached the hotel. But for the fishbone that got lodged in my throat while eating a most delicious Walleye, I was unscathed from that torturous day. (Not to worry, I eventually dislodged the bone by consuming 25 Saltine crackers) Onward and upward.
September 18, 2015
Where does the time go? It is almost rest day #3 in Madison, Wisconsin which means I will have pedaled over 2,400 miles by this time tomorrow. I could spend time talking about the last few days riding through the lovely state of Iowa but I can sum it up in one word, WINDY. I have very few pictures because it was hard to stay upright on my bike let alone try to snap a picture. I had no idea Iowa was such a beautiful state. I just wish it hadn't blown by so swiftly. Alas, moving eastward, I am now in state #9, Wisconsin.
September 21, 2015
We are now in Milwaukee, WI. We are staying at one of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed in, The Iron Horse. We are in the "warehouse district" which is referred to as Walker's Point. Walker's Point is a neighborhood that lies south of the Menomonee River Valley. Founded by George Walker in 1835 as a fur trading post, the area is now noted for being mostly an industrial neighborhood, with limited housing scattered in pockets throughout the area, particularly on the eastern end of Walker's Point. I took a walkabout this afternoon and am totally enchanted with the area. As for the ride, it was a lovely 90 miles most of which were on bike trails so the ride was safe and fast.
September 26, 2015
Rest day in Cleveland, OH, and I need it. We have pedaled 250 miles in two days. I'm tired. I'm hungry all the time. I'm ready for the final stretch into Portland, ME. We have had really good luck with the weather, save the winds in SD and IA. Since my last entry we have crossed Lake Michigan, biked through Michigan and most of Ohio and tomorrow we will enter Pennsylvania. The next five days are 100+ miles each day. I'm cautiously optimistic I'm going to pedal the entire way to Maine. In nine days time I'll know for sure.
October 6, 2015
I'm sure you are all wondering why I have not written since I left Cleveland, Ohio. Well, it is because I did not have the time. We pedaled 120 miles, then 127 miles then rested in Cleveland for 24 hours before we set out for the final stretch which included five days in a row of 100+ miles. (in the rain!) We had to climb more than 40,000 feet in elevation during the last nine days. Needless to say, the last thing I wanted to do was write about the ride each day. I needed to do laundry so I could re-wear all the rain gear which was soaked, grimmed (such a word?) and gritted from the rain drenched roads. I had some of my best cycling days riding through Pennsylvania and New York in the rain. I'll let the pictures do the talking...
Later that month...
Vermont. Yes, I could call Vermont home. It was the one state of all the states I pedaled through that I could definitely live. It was beautiful. The weather was beautiful. The roads were clean and smooth. The air was crisp. The people were friendly. I could go on and on.
So, here it is, October 6, 2015. I have just completed pedaling 3700 miles in 40 days and 140,000 feet in total elevation gain. I'm sitting in an apartment in Portland, Maine. I have until Saturday, October 10, to explore Portland with zero obligations. For the past year I have either needed to be training to be able to achieve this goal or I have been in the thick of the trek. This is the first time in 10 months I have absolutely no obligations. I welcome it but I also am quite sad that this adventure has come to an end. I have met many wonderful people on this journey, forged new friendships and laughed more than I can remember. Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.