Monday, June 29, 2009

Angels in Frisco

Just wanted to let everyone know...after a long hard day on the road, we were hard-pressed to find a place to camp in Frisco, Colorado. We heard that there was a free campsite, way up in the mountains, 4 miles up a dirt road. We were bracing ourselves for that, and stopped in a local Starbucks to fill up water bottles before hitting the trail.

It just so happens that we met some of the coolest folks in town, who we're meeting at the local brewery in a few minutes. We also met TK and Judy, self-proclaimed sweethearts from Wisconsin, who heard we were camping in the forsest and just wouldn't hear of it! They took us into their home, and we're showering and getting caught up on email.

It's moments like these that make this journey so absolutely wonderful!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Updates from Rawlins, WY

Day 25
June 14, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Overcast, with scattered THUNDERSTORMS!
Town: Dillon, MT
Where we stayed: Parkview Acres Care and Rehabilitation Center

Rachel and I stayed up kinda late last night, catching up on postcards and thank you notes, and I sewed our team patches on Rachel and Greg's shirts for our visit to the assisted living community tonight. Because we were up late, and had such an amazing place to stay, it was really easy to sleep in this morning! Greg got up early and had breakfast with Tom and Paul, the two guys we keep running into out on the road. Rachel and I had coffee with Lon and Kelly, our gracious hosts at the the Hot Springs. We wanted to get a move on as quickly as possible, so we would have plenty of time at the care center to meet residents and get acclimated. Rachel and I ate Raisin Bran in the room, and got packed up for the day. Before we left, Lon and Kelly told us about Bannack State Park---the original territorial capital of Montana---which has been preserved as a living ghost town. We really wanted to visit, but it would add an extra eight miles of cycling to an already busy day. Lon offered to meet us in his car at the turn-off for Bannack, so we wouldn't have to take our bikes off-route. It was such a kind and generous offer, but the thunderstorm clouds all around us made us too nervous, and we declined. The cycling was moderately challenging today: We crossed two mountain passes. We are definitely getting stronger though, because they felt so much more manageable than they would have a few weeks ago. We rolled into Dillon around 4pm, with plenty of time to get cleaned up before having dinner with the residents. The nurses insisted that we sleep in one of the empty rooms at the care center, and really rolled out the welcome wagon for us. I have to say it was one of the more unusual sleeping situations we've ever been in. I know that many people find nursing homes to be very unnerving: We don't care to be reminded of our own mortality. Visiting care centers can be very emotionally intense...and though we elected to make such visits a major part of our trip, it has been all too easy to put off the visits to "the next big town." Staying in the center was one of the best things that could have happened to us. We were all a little thrown at first---all of the beeps and smells and end of life issues---they're a lot easier to deal with when you're just visiting, not spending the night. But after we cleaned up, we came out to the dining room to meet some of the residents, and started feeling more and more comfortable. One of the residents we met, Greg, is a lot younger than most of the other residents, but had lived in the center for 17 years, as a result of his MS. He and his best bud Julie were so engaging and welcoming, asking so many questions about our trip, that very quickly our nerves started to relax. There was about a half hour before dinner started, and so we sat down at the piano to play through a few tunes as the dining room filled up. Julie was so moved by Rachel's voice that she gave her a pair of earrings that were especially meaningful to her. Truly a wonderful woman. At dinner, we sat with a woman who was one of 13 kids from upstate New York. She moved to Dillon a year ago after getting sick, leaving behind her friends, family, and home of 50+ years to be closer to her son. She seemed quite melancholy about her situation, but just kept repeating, "I guess you just have to make the most of it."After dinner, we had a whole lot of emotions and laundry to sort through, so we rode our bikes to the laundromat in town, and picked up some ice cream to help us "eat our feelings." A we sat in our beds together tonight, charged with emotion, we talked about how this trip keeps taking on deeper and deeper meaning for us on a daily basis. Not only did staying in the center help us get more comfortable visiting care centers in the future, but also become more of aging issues in our culture. The learning has only just begun...

Day 26
June 15, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: RAIN, dramatic clouds, crazy sky
Town: Ennis, MT
Where we stayed: Camper's Corner Campground

We woke up this morning, resisting the temptation to use the bed buttons to mechanically upright ourselves. At around 8 we ventured forth from our room in search of COFFEE. We found some, and with it, Greg, the resident we had befriended last night. It was good to see a familiar face, since we didn't recognize any of the morning shift staff and the early-rising residents. We chatted, ate some breakfast, and decided we might as well make some music. We sang a few jazz standards and hymns, and looked up to see a few engaged faces, and one that was sobbing. He was a younger resident, around 50, who we'll call Joe. I shook his hand and fount it trembled. He said "I always shake with this hand cause the Parkinson's does the work for me!" I asked him if he was okay )indicating the balled up kleenexes beside him) and he said, "I'm okay, I talked to God last night. I can give you his number, but you probably don't need it. You're a smart girl, and you'll figure it out." He further explained that he had both Parkinson's and Schizophrenia. He was very sweet and he wanted to make sure I wrote down both his and Greg's names so I could send them postcards, which I will do right after this journal entry. We also met Claire, the director of the center, who set up the event with Mission Control (Uncle Rich). She also went out and bout us delicious snacks for the road, and a special bag of Jelly Belly's for me (for having to put up with two stinky boys, I reckon). We finally got on the road at 11, but Kendal and I had to make a very important stop at the Mexican food bus, which is like the magic school bus, except that you don't acquire as much knowledge as delicious heartburn. The we waited out the first of many rainstorms of the day. The rest of the day was spent getting in and out of our rain gear. We finally go to Nevada City, soaked and wiped out. Greg (our Greg...not Care Center Greg) had been through there about an hour or two earlier, and waited out the storm in the Star Bakery, where he spent an hour enjoying coffee and dessert provided by owners Heather and Mike. According to the locals, we were either 1.5 or 6 miles from the top of a pretty durn steep mountain pass, but we had plenty of daylight left. Turns out we were 4 miles from the top, and had barely any light left, but we took their advice anyway, and split a frozen pizza and 2 local brews. Sort of a bad idea. Four miles of 7% grade later, we zoomed down the other side of the pass in almost total darkness. If you don't focus on all the million things that could go wrong in that situation, it's pretty fun! Kendal did not enjoy it, and Greg was very worried about us. But we made it, and I think we learned our lesson...which goes something like: Don't trust the locals, or don't eat pizza with a mountain pass in front of you...or something like that.

Day 27
June 16, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Calm
Town: West Yellowstone, MT
Where we stayed: Hideaway RV Park

Today was another long slog to the finish line of West Yellowstone. I got a really early start and had breakfast at the Ennis pharmacy, which apparently is the hot spot for the locals, and met an awesome dude named Pierre. He had noticed I was riding a Specialized brand bike by my proprietary seat post and realizing I had a fellow bike nerd to talk to, I quickly asked if I could join him. Pierre was a rancher for a number of years and his father was from the Alsace Lorraine region of France! How cool! We talked about racing and gear, his story and mine and just had a great time. When the time for the check came, he picked it up! Thanks Pierre! I came back to the camp, packed up, and left at 9:30. The 70 mile route was a desolate gradual uphill. The scenery was however quite beautiful in the Maddison Valley. There was a cool contrast between the two mountain ranges. The western one was rolling and hilly and the eastern side was craggy and snowy. Thanks to the elevation difference you could see for miles and even see the patchy storm clouds dump rain in the distance. Upon entering the highway to Quake Lake, I stopped in this world famous fly fishing shop and met the world famous owner, Kelly Gallup. Kelly was from Traverse City Michigan originally, and called me out when I walked in with my maize and blue Michigan shorts. We talked about Michigan and I shared why we were riding. He was excited to hear about it and shared that he lost his father to Alzheimer's a year ago. It's absolutely crazy how many people along this journey have had Alzheimer's in their family. So I head up the winding road to Quake Lake---a lake that was created in 1959 when a 7.3 earthquake caused a mountain slide that blocked a river, and killed 29 campers sleeping in the valley below. Apparently the plate that the lake was located on dropped 20 feet and wreaked havoc on the surrounding areas. There is a memorial and a National Park Service station that explains the tragedy. Riding in this place is a reminder of how crazy a tectonically active place this is, and how insignificant we are in the eyes of mother nature. After 20 or so miles of headwinds and uphills, I was greeted by West Yellowstone: The most kitchy touristy place I have ever seen in my life outside of an amusement park. I was kinda like Las Vagas in Montana. It put my small-town American self into a tail-spin. I regained my bearings and met up with Bonnie and Jim at the RV park who greeted me with open arms. I set up my tent and took a well deserved nap. Awaking two hours later, I met up with the rest of the crew at the Beartooth BBQ and chowed down. Today was tough, but we have a rest day and will get to hang out in Yellowstone tomorrow.

Day 28
June 17, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: FICKLE!
Town: Old Faithful
Where we stayed: My Cousin Adam's Dorm

We woke up this morning with every intention of getting an early start to the day. We had heard that it is safest to cycle in Yellowstone before noon, so we wanted to put in the 30 miles we had planned for the day ASAP. My cousin Adam (on my Dad's side...and therefore NOT Rachel's cousin...she's on my Mom's side...) is working in Yellowstone this summer, and he called me around 7:45 am to make plans for meeting up later in the park. We tried to get an earlier start by having breakfast in a gas station convenience store, instead of cooking. It ended up being a pretty bad idea, when later on we were trying to ride on bellies full of nasty food. Just as we got ready to roll out, we realized that someone had accidentally thrown away the camp to my canteen, thinking it was trash. (Cough Cough, GREG, cough cough...) So we did a little dumpster diving before we really got on the road. Our campsite was relatively close to the entrance to the park, so once we actually got rolling, we were in the park in no time. Adam had put us on a special VIP list to enter the park for free, and so the ranger at the gate just waved us through. We kinda felt famous. We rode the 30 miles to Old Faithful quite leisurely, taking a few moments to stop and look at wildlife as we rode by. One of the first things we saw was a beautiful bald eagle nesting in a tree just off the road. We also saw loads of bison: One in particular was right on the shoulder of the road! For that stretch, we rode right down the middle of the highway, using the cars to our right as a barrier between that beast and our bodies!

We spent some time hiking around the geysers and steam vents around the Fountain Paint Pot Area of the park. Afterwards, we rolled into Old Faithful Village around 3:30, just in time to grab a bite to eat and see the famous geyser erupt. It was really exciting---unlike anything else I've ever seen.

After the eruption, Adam came and found us, and showed us around a bit. We got cleaned up, went and got a bite to eat, and did some Father's Day shopping in the kitchy souvenir shops.

We came back to Adam's dorm to meet some his his friends and co-workers. We got to see a side of the park that most visitors don't: Adam took us to the employee pub, here we played some pool, ate pizza, and danced the night away.

It was such a blast to spend time with family, and see such an iconic place in our country. I can't wait to get out and explore more tomorrow!

Day 29
June 18, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Cold
Town: Old Faithful
Where we stayed: Adam's Dorm

We slept until lunchtime, since the morning was soggy and slow and perfect for sleepin in, in beds with the windows open. Ahhhh!

We picked up Adam's staff-issued-bag-lunch-quota and ate them while we got ready for a hike.

On our way up the trail we stopped off at the post office with the grumpy postmaster, and then at the historic Old Faithful Inn, which is a beautiful old building made entirely of giant logs. Apparently it was the first ever lodge built in a national park, so as you can imagine, the snacks we bought there cost an arm and a leg.

We got on the boardwalk that allows you to safely approach the thermal features of the park, and spent at least 3 hours oohing and ahhing over the hissing, bubbling and sometimes exploding pools of colorful cyanobacteria and the occasional jerk's garbage/lucky pennies. Adam had the uncanny ability to make geysers erupt by pointing his finger-pistols at them and saying "pow pow!", 5-year-old-playing-cowboys style. We were impressed.

We finally dodged all the tourists and got off the boardwalk---Finally, alone with nature! We hiked a 2 mile loop to Mystic Falls. It was a gorgeous trail, up several switchbacks to a great view of the park and geysers below. We only saw a few other humans: It's truly amazing how few people actually WALK in Yellowstone, which is too bad for them, but lovely for us.

We retraced our steps back across the geyser basin, and waited on Riverside Geyser to go off, which ended up being totally worth the wait! It was 75 feet tall, and produced a double rainbow in the mist for nearly 10 minutes! We also waited in front of Grand Geyser, which promised to be a 150+ foot boiling steam explosion, but we got too hungry and cold as the sun set. Apparently, we missed quite a show, according to the regular geyser-watcher we waited with--a really sweet schoolteacher from Montana who escapes from her 11th graders ever summer in Yellowstone.

We booked it back to the lodge and picked up hot cocoa and pizzas to enjoy with Adam's favorite movie--BAD SANTA. It was a real heart-warming fun-for-the-whole-family kind of movie. Just kidding.

Day 30
June 19, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Beautiful!
Town: Old Faithful
Where we stayed: Adam's Dorm

After enjoying a second night's sleep in a bed, we decided to go with Adam and his awesome Aussie friend Pat (who is actually from Maryland but has an Aussie accent) to explore Yellowstone. We had hoped to make it down to the Tetons but we were hesitant to rush anything.

After piling into Adam's swanky sedan, we rolled out to West Yellowstone to take care of some errands and let Aussie Pat out for the first time since he'd gotten there.

The highlight of the West visit was finally being able to enjoy one of the gifts we were given: The well-traveled Dairy Queen gift card that Kendal's friend Elizabeth had sent us. We made the most of West and left super-satisfied.

Our next step was to go to the visitor center at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where we stocked up on snacks and knowledge about the park. The visitor's center was awesome, but apparently the one they are building in Old Faithful Village will eventually put Canyon's to shame.

We left the lodge to see the actual Canyon and the Upper and Lower Falls there, and we were blown away by the sight of it. We joked earlier about why the park was called "Yellowstone" and were looking for yellow stones the day before while hiking in the geyser basin.

We looked in the wrong place. The canyon walls were all sulfur coated sandstone. There were also stains of other minerals from the volcanism that painted the walls. It was stunning, and the falls created a rainbow, to put the cherry on top. We took a few photos, and Kendal nearly needed to change his pants because we were perched right on the edge of a 300+ ft cliff, where just three days earlier, someone had committed suicide (no joke).

We climbed the switchbacks back to the car, and our next stop was Artist's Point. This view gave a grand overview of the falls and the canyon, and was the inspiration for many a painting and photograph. (Hence the name)

It was at this point where we realized that it would not be possible to see Jackson, WY. Oh well. We drove past the Lake and back to Old Faithful. This was a nice preview of what the day held in store for us tomorrow.

We headed back to the lodge and got our laundry and watched a hilarious Aussie show called "We can be Heroes." It was a mock-umentary story about 5 characters (all played by the same actor) and how they were all candidates for the Australian of the Year. All of them are ridiculous and highly quotable. After three episodes, it was bedtime.

Day 31
June 20, 09
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Holy Storms, Batman!
Town: Grand Teton National Park
Where we stayed: Colter Bay Village

Where do I begin? Today was one of our most intense day so far. (Intense, like camping. Thanks for that one, Adam.) It was a fittingly dramatic close to our first month on the road.

We started the day pretty early...for us. Wanting to get out of Yellowstone before the crazy afternoon traffic hit, we got on the road by 10:30 am. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to our new friends at the Old Faithful Community.

But Adam did us a huge favor to help us get out of the park safely: He drove his car behind us (as a sag wagon) through the most dangerous part of the park (no shoulders, winding blind corners, and mostly uphill) signalling to other cars when it was safe to pass us and forcing them to give us a wide berth as they did so. On top of it all, he put all of our gear in his car, letting us ride for 17 glorious miles, unloaded!

It was a HUGE help, especially because we had four mountain passes to cross today, three of which were on the Continental Divide. It made me realize just how much stronger we have gotten, to glide up those mountains, relatively effortlessly.

Adam stayed with us until we got to the safer stretch of road with shoulders. He had to get back to work, so we said our goodbyes. Adam said he felt like he had picked up two new cousins. I replied that I would chose to be friends with him, even if we weren't related!

After Adam left us, things got a little hairy. We had another 20 miles or so left before leaving Yellowstone, and one more time over the Continental Divide. Greg rode ahead, and Rachel and I watched a thunderstorm come across Lewis Lake, and land right on top of us. We got pretty soaked, but took cover at a ranger station and let the worst of it blow over.

At that point, the temperature dropped quite a bit, and the rain kept flowing at a pretty steady shower for the rest of the day and night.

We were about 15 miles from our final destination, climbing our last big pass for the day, when all the dark clouds seemed to come at us at once. The wind kicked up, driving the rain at us with so much force, it felt like needles cutting through our clothes. Lighting started flashing in the distance.

We counted the seconds between lightening and thunder, attempting to assess the danger level as we climbed a nearly tree-less mountain on our METAL bikes in the driving rain. For a while, the lightening seemed a good 5-10 miles away. But suddenly, a clap of thunder sounded right next to us---so close that there was no delay between lightening and thunder. Quite nervous now, we jumped off our bikes, and stuck out our thumbs to any and all cars that passed.

Luckily, within a few minutes, a car pulled over to pick us up. We were so shaken by the nearness of the storm, we hopped right into the car, leaving our bikes on the shoulder of the highway, tires spinning! Linda, our rescuer, said in a gentle Arkansan twang, "Are y'all just gonna leave your stuff like that?" Realizing that we might not get to our bikes again for a while, we took five minutes to load our gear into the trunk of their rental car, and toss our bikes into the bushes on the side of the road.

Dripping wet and FREEZING, we climbed into the car to meet properly Patrick and Linda, who live in Belgium (his home, Linda being from Arkansas), and who are on a long vacation here in the US.
They kindly drove us back in the direction we had just come, since Rachel and I had seen a hotel/resort about 5 miles back. The two angels stayed long enough to make sure we could get a room if we needed it, and then headed back into Yellowstone.

Rachel and I met another mud-covered cyclist named Joe, who lives just a few blocks from Rachel in the Twin Cities! He's traveling ultra-light, and is in a race to cycle the Great Divide Route (Canada->Mexico along the Continental Divide).

We spent about an hour trying to see if Greg had made it through the storm without getting zapped by lightening. We finally got word that he was okay, and were told by some car travelers that the storm was clearing up where we were headed.

Needing a ride back to our abandoned bikes, Rachel turned on her girlish charms, and recruited Steve and Jeremy--two middle-aged construction workers, just off shift--to take us back.

In a very slow cowboy drawl, Steve said, "I'd be happy to drive y'all back to your stuff, but it's gonna take a minute." He was referring to the fact that his backseat of his extended-cab pickup was completely buried in who-knows-what junk. He shoved it all into a pile in the middle, so tall that I couldn't even see Rachel sitting on the other side.

Just as we rolled out, Steve turned to us and said, "Y'all don't mind if I pop one open on the way? Cain't get too messed up only driving five miles!" Before we could respond, Steve cracked open a Coors light and took a long, deep chug.

I guess beggars can't be choosers, so I spent the next five miles trying to remember if there's a law against sitting in the backseat while the driver chugs beer.

Our bikes were just where we had left them, only slightly plastered with twigs and leaves. We saddled up, riding the next 15 miles in a much gentler, but still very cold rain. For a good 2-3 miles, the road had been torn out, leaving only gravel/dirt/potholes. Cars rode through mud puddles, spraying us with grime. We arrived at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, shivering, hungry, and caked in mud.

We met Greg at a restaurant in the village, cleaned up a bit, and had an enormous dinner with John, a solo cycle tourist from Denver who is also riding the TransAm. He's a retired paramedic/firefighter---so he thrilled us with his stories and I asked him all the questions I'd always wanted to ask a firefighter/paramedic. (You'd be surprised how many there were!)

We sat in the warm restaurant as long as we could...and then pondered how to get to our campsite in our dry clothes (it was still raining) when all of our rain gear was soaked all the way through. We did our best with trash-bag-ponchos, and rode our bikes a good 2 miles to our campsite in the rain.

Halfway there, the three of us got separated in the maze-like campground, and it took quite a few frustrated, cold, wet minutes to regroup.

Anyone who has ever done it can tell you that setting up camp in the dark/rain/cold is NOT so fun...especially when you discover that all your sleeping gear is wet from the day's rain. Luckily, I opted for the "Keeps you warm, even when wet" sleeping bag. And I was tired enough that even a puddle of water under my feet/head/everything couldn't keep me from falling asleep. I think it's safe to say that this was our most challenging day so far!

Day 32
June 21, 2009 (Happy Father's Day!)
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Rain, Sun, Hail, Sun, Rain, Hail, Sun...
Town: Dubois, WY
Where we stayed: Twin Pines Lodge

We awoke to a drenched EVERYTHING this morning. The floor of the tent had puddles in all the corners and everything that had been laid out to "dry" was soggier than before. Yuck. Greg left early, and then Kendal and I shoved everything into our panniers and shivered up to the General Store about a mile away, all the while wondering if our toes still existed, as we sure as hell couldn't feel 'em.

Along the way we met two brothers from none other than College Park, Maryland (Kendal's hometown!). They were taking turns bicycling and motorcycling...which sounds like a pretty cool way to travel next trip!

We threw all our wet stuff into the dryers at the laundromat, and then walked around the grocery store in a daze, trying to thaw our brains enough to decide between muffins and chili.

After calling our beloved fathers and chatting up the locals, we were finally warm enough to pedal. The first ten miles were gorgeous. Turns out, behind the fog and thunderclouds of yesterday, were the huge, incredible, majestic, GRAND Tetons! Who knew?

We tried to take video footage, but I don't think it came close to capturing the splendor.

We ran into Paul and Tom again, our Ohio friends we've been leap-frogging on the TransAm trail. Paul was on the mend from nasty sickness in Yellowstone, but Tom's lady-friend Carol was driving sag for them, so they were riding footloose and fancy free.

And then, we climbed Togwotee Pass. After about 10 miles of uphill we got slammed with freezing wind, then rain, then HAIL. Visibility got tough and using our extremities, tougher.

We shivered and sweat another 15 miles to the top of our highest pass to date: 9,658 ft! By then the sun decided to hang for a while, but we were surrounded by sinister clouds, so we didn't stop to celebrate long. We dropped down for ten miles, and man, were SLAMMED again with hail. And boy was I glad I was wearing my helmet: It was like God was shooting paintball guns at us from all directions!

At one point, Kendal, who couldn't see anything through the hail and rain, shouted "Should we try to find shelter?" But I knew if I stopped, I would have an impossible time starting up again.

We finally pulled into Dubois at 8pm. Uncle Rich had arranged CABINS for us, generously donated by Jennifer at the Twin Pines Lodge. We opened the door to our cabin and nearly cried/fainted/soiled our already soiled drawers! Other than being in someones home, the cabins were by far the nicest lodgings we've had. Showers, beds, tea-maker, adorable pictures of deer...

Rich also arranged for us to eat, so we threw off all our stuff in a soggy pile and found three of the driest articles of clothing we had, and booked it to the Rustic Pine Steakhouse, where we gorged on trout, steak, and on-the-house dessert.

I'm writing this snuggled in our cabin, medicating my "altitude sickness" that turned into a sore throat and cough with copious amounts of tea and blankets. Feeling very blessed and grateful to be here!

Day 33
June 22, 2009
Captain: Greg/Kendal
Weather: Clear and Windy!
Town: Ft. Washakie/Lander, WY
Where we stayed: Lander City Park

So this trip being called "The Unforgettable Journey" has been aptly named. Today was on of the most unforgettable. The day started out mellow enough. And by mellow I mean an air-raid siren going off at 6am to call the volunteer fire fighters in the greater Dubois area. No biggie. Back to bed.

WE got up and chowed down on some tasty continental breakfast in the lodge. After getting all my stuff packed up, which was time consuming because I had to dry everything from the day before, I rolled out at 11:30 and left Kendal and Rachel to work on the group laundry and the blog updates. From this point on, we had two epic and distinctly different days. The Kendal/Rachel saga will be told after this one.

So leaving town, I get a glorious downhill/tailwind ride through the wind river valley. There were beautiful wind-eroded rock faces and superb colors with the different layers of sedimentary rock. I even had a fly-over by two stealth bombers. It was cool.

After meeting a couple of cyclists coming the other direction, I found out that Paul and Tom, our friends from before, were up the road only 2-3 miles. I gave it the stick and ran into the right as I was about to pull in for a break. I decided to forgo the break and hang out with my buddies.

Tom and I rode together until the start of the climb, and due to my double gearing, I couldn't chill with Tom. For about 10-15 miles, my tire had been making a thumping sound. I thought it was my hub. Stopped and checked it. Nope. Fine. Continued. It got worse when I was descending. Stopped. Checked. Hub and breaks were great. Weird. I stepped down again for a Cliff bar and waited for Tom so we could draft together. When Tom rolled up, I asked him if my tire looked okay. He told me there was a huge bulge. I looked back couldn't believe I had missed the giant bubble that looked as if it was about to explode!

I quickly took all the air out of the tire and brainstormed what to do. Tom and Paul had been riding load-less since Yellowstone thanks to Tom's lovely lady-friend Carol. Tom called up Carol and she picked me up in her car and brought me into Lander so I could get a new tire. After a call to the manufacturer (Specialized) I walked out of there with a new, better tire, at cost.

We set up camp and listened to the local community band play. It was very nice. After sitting around, Tom, Paul, Carol and I decided to get some pasta and wait for the others.

From here, Kendal will take over...
Same day, different story!

It's true our days were extremely different. Rachel and I didn't leave Dubois until almost 3:30pm. Rachel was feeling extremely under-the-weather, we all three had laundry to do, and the blog hadn't been updated for nearly 2 weeks.

So Rachel sat and used the internet at the lodge to update the blog, I did group laundry, and Greg hit the road. I also stopped by the local gear shop, WIND RIVER GEAR, and had the most wonderful conversation with Margo and Mati, the staff there. My camp stove fuel pump had been broken for weeks, and this was the first gear store we had come to with time to get it fixed.

After spending a half an hour on the phone with the manufacturer trying to follow his instructions to take it apart and put it back together again, the blasted thing snapped in half! Margo, feeling sorry for me, GAVE me a brand new pump, and had the company mail her a replacement.

I then asked Margo to help me pick out a pair of gloves, since I nearly had to amputate frost bitten fingers after the hailstorm yesterday. And would you believe it? She GAVE me a $50 pair of AWESOME gloves, just because she was moved by our mission and wanted to help out. I nearly teared up, and had to hug it out with Margo.

Long story short, we had an insanely late start, especially on a day with 75 miles planned, but the map showed it was all downhill, and there was a 20 mph tailwind blowing in our favor, so we left anyway.

For the first 30 miles, it was a glorious ride. Not a cloud in the sky, strong tailwind, downhill...Who could ask for more?

Then, I got a phone call from my best bud from home, Amelia Ruggieri (not to be confused with Amelia Graber, Rachel's sister, who will be joining TUJ in a few days!!!). Amelia R. is on a VERY long cross-country car road trip with her family. We didn't think we'd ever cross paths on our epic voyages. Well, turns out the Ruggieri's were in the neighborhood, and headed out in our direction!

So in the middle of NOWHERE on highway 287 in the badlands of Wyoming, a red van with Maryland plates pulled up next to me, and out poured 5 of my most-loved family friends! So surreal...

We talked and hugged (and I flexed my calf muscles) for about an hour, and then decided we all had to get was getting dark. At that point, we asked the Ruggieri clan to take our gear off our hands, and deliver it to Lander, where they were planning on having a late dinner. Riding unloaded would make our last 20 miles fly by a lot faster.

Well, as soon as they rolled out, it started getting dark, and FAST. In Wyoming, in the desert, Dark = Cold. And we had no gear, and were 20 miles from Lander.

Luckily, there was a town in between---Ft. Washakie, on the Wind River Indian Reservation (Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes.) We arrived in Ft. Washakie at dusk, about 9:15, with just enough juice left in my phone to call up the Ruggieri's and ask them to pick us up and take us into Lander.

They say that wisdom is the better part of valor.

So we looked for a place to store our bikes in Ft. Washakie, planning on hitching a ride back from Lander in the morning, and riding back into town.

That may sound confusing, but on principle, we've said we're cycling across the country, so personally, I feel that it isn't okay to move forward on the trail in a car, barring emergent circumstances.

So Amelia came back to get us, and we looked for a place to safely store our bikes. Our first stop was at the Indian Health Services Nursing Home, right off the highway. We thought it was a logical choice, given our mission.

The staff there was understandably concerned about blocking fire exits and pathways. They said that we should just leave them outside; that no one would bother them. But Rachel and I didn't love that plan, since we didn't have a lock, and we were right by the highway.

So we went to the only business still open in town, the gas station across the street, to look for a lock. Of course they didn't have one, but the really kind attendant offered to lock them up in the office. She would call her boss and let him know we'd be back for them in the morning.

Feeling much better about this option, we stood on the corner of the gas station, in our spandex, in the cold, dark night, and joyfully got into Amelia's van when she pulled in. I don't know what we would have done without her!

So while Amelia was fetching us, her family was chowing down on some pasta at the same restaurant that Greg had enjoyed earlier, and Amelia took Rachel and I to Subway, where I bought Amelia some cookies. (She ate pasta later.)

She dropped us off at our campsite, where Tom, Paul, Carol, and Greg were waiting for us, with some brews, and our tents already pitched. It certainly made us appreciate our friends, to be in such a stick situation and find a way out, simply because people were there to help us.

Day 34
June 23, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: HOT!
Town: Sweetwater Station, WY
Where we stayed: Mormon Handcart Historic Site

We woke up early this morning, needing to catch a ride with Carol at 7:30 am: She had a flight to catch out of Idaho Falls, and was headed back in the direction of Ft. Washakie (and our bikes). We all woke up a little later than we had planned, and in a flustered rush left our campsite and got on the road. It's only 15 miles between Lander and Ft. Washakie, so it wasn't very long before we rolled up at the gas station from last night.

We walked in and announced to a lady that looked sort of in charge, "We're the cyclists that left our bikes here last night."

She didn't say anything for a second (that felt like minutes) and sort of scurried up the aisle. Finally she said, "We had an incident this morning..."

Our jaws dropped.

She went on to say, "If the night shift had told us, it wouldn't have happened." (She repeated this several times. Damned night shift!)

We didn't know what to ask, so we just waited for an explanation, which came from the kid behind the counter: "Let's just say, one of the bikes was...commandeered."

We looked at each other, then scoured he ceilings of the gas station for a "You're on Candid Camera" sign. Alas, it was for real.

The boy behind the counter went to retrieve the remaining bike, while Rachel and I each silently prayed that it would be our own bike that he wheeled out from the back. I must've prayed harder, because it was Bluebear (my bike) that emerged, not Sarge.

Rachel and I had yet to retrieve our chins from the floor. Neither of us knew what to say or do. As an DC kid, in this moment, I was painfully away of my ignorance of how a Reservation operates. Do we call the police? Are there police?

Because it wasn't my bike that was stolen, my mind went into politically-correct hyper drive: The kind that occurs when a person feels the need to be more gracious and polite than the ridiculous situation requires. My inner monologue wen crazy, and sounded something like:

"Thank you for letting us be on your reservation. So sorry my ancestors screwed you over so badly. If you need Rachel's bike, keep it. I'm sure it can never repay all of the atrocities committed against your people over the centuries. Do you need my bike too?"

Rachel's inner monologue, I'm told, was a little more practical: "What the heck do I do now?"

We took a little sidebar conference outside to nervously laugh and pretend like we knew it would all get worked out. Our counterparts in the gas station did the same. We regrouped in a minute or two, and learned the following:

-Whoever had taken the bike, had done it right in front of the staff, and he worked at the gas station.
-They were maybe calling the police, or maybe not, but they probably were calling the kid's dad.
-They really thought a cup of coffee would smooth things out. We agreed.

In the midst of the morning gas station gossip, I overheard someone say, "I saw Jeremiah ride out, turn left, and crash in the parking lot." Rachel overheard a girl say, "Did you see his face? It was all bloody!" Fearing the worst for both Sarge (her bike) and Jeremiah, Rachel began wondering where the nearest bike store might be.

A small crowd gathered in the gas station---a cast of characters we never quite figured out. But one man, possibly the owner, reassured us that they knew where to find Jeremiah. We were partially convinced, enough to just continue standing awkwardly in the doorway in our spandex shorts and wait.

After several more awkward minutes, word came from the back entrance of the station that Sarge, and Jeremiah, had returned. Relief washed over us both, as the kid behind the counter rolled Sarge out to Rachel, who nearly cried.

As Rachel wheeled the bike past the men's room, a sheepish looking kid with a huge gash on his face poked his head out and said, "Sorry about the bike, I just wanted to borrow it."

Rachel had no idea whether she should punch him for taking it or hug him for bringing it back, so just replied, "Whatever man, I'm just so happy to have it back." As he walked out, the lady behind the counter shouted, "You'd better get outta here, Jeremiah! The law is on your tail!" Whatever that means!

About a hundred "Thank you"s and "Sorry about that"s later, we finally rolled out of the gas station, and took a detour up the road to the Sacajawea Cemetery, where that famous cultural ambassador is buried. I just seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

Several minutes later, we were rolling back to Lander, making up the miles we had been driven by Amelia the night before. After a quick pit-stop in the local reservation casino, we made it back to camp in Lander by 11am.

As if the morning hadn't been eventful enough, we also had a nursing home visit set up for the day. Rachel, still feeling sick and not wanting to infect any residents, took the time to do some grocery shopping, while Greg and I sat and chatted with some residents over lunch.

I talked to a guy named Toughy--famous at the center for being a wild bronc rider in the rodeo. He shared local wisdom with me for about 30 minutes, while Greg chatted it up with a former rodeo cowgirl and her friends at the table across the room. As we got up to leave, Greg hugged one of his lunch companions goodbye, who immediately burst into tears. She told Greg that he reminded her of her son that she had lost to cancer, around his age, years ago.

The exchange really startled Greg, understandably. And immediately following, one of the nurses at the center told us that a cyclist had been killed by a semi earlier that week, riding on the same route we were taking.

It was a lot of information to process, especially on a day that had already been so eventful, so we were a little on edge as we left town around 1pm, headed towards Sweetwater Station.

The riding for the day was through some barren country, with only one shadow of a town halfway in between our start and endpoints. We also climbed a 6% grade for about 5 miles, up to the top of a high plateau called Beaver Rim, which offered a glorious view of the vast open badlands we had just crossed.

There isn't much in Sweetwater Station, our destination for the evening. There's just a highway rest stop, a single house that sells fresh eggs, and a center commemorating Mormon emigration of the mid-1800s. Our maps said we could camp for free at the historic site, so we pulled in there.

What the maps DIDN'T say, is that there are more mosquitoes per cubic foot of space in Sweetwater Station, than there are ants in an anthill. We're talking SWARMS. I practically fell off my bike swatting at them, and frantically dug through my panniers looking for pants and a sweatshirt to cover myself. I only got the pants on before I made a mad-dash for the bathrooms, in a dead sprint for my life.

I was intercepted by a church elder holding a bottle of OFF, for which I was VERY grateful. Rachel and I both sprayed ourselves into oblivion, and the plague started to recede.

Very soon thereafter, we were greeted by Sister Gardner, one of the missionaries/caretakers of the historic site. She had ice cream, pie, and cantaloupe for us inside, whenever we were ready. It sounded like a great plan to me...especially to get away from the skeeters!

We spent a really lovely evening with the Gardners, learning the story of the Mormon emigration and the significance of the site. You can read the detailed version of the story here, but here's a quick synopsis:

Seeking the freedom to practice their religion, a great number of Mormons emigrated from all over the eastern US and Europe to Salt Lake City, pulling all their possessions in hand carts and walking 1300 miles from Iowa City. The Willie Company of 1856 set out too late in the season, and got stuck in a blizzard at Sweetwater Station, and nearly staved/froze to death. They were rescued there in the valley by a team of oxcarts sent from Salt Lake. Some 77 people perished in the crossing.

The Mormon Church now owns the lands around sweetwater station, (The Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail, and California Trails also all run through there) and THOUSANDS of Mormon youth groups come there every summer to relive part of the crossing, pulling handcarts loaded with gear, in pioneer costumes and everything. We saw a whole big group of them leave on a 30 mile trek, and even took a turn pulling one another in the handcarts.

I have to say that I was moved by the whole story. I think of all the times I've thought this trip has been tough, but I realize that every night, I have a warm place to sleep, and food in my belly, and plenty of support from home. I just can't imagine making that crossing all by FOOT, carrying your food and supplies for the whole journey (they only got to eat 12 oz of flour a day!), and facing the life-threatening snow.

With so much to process, I was distracted from the sounds of mosquitoes buzzing around my tent, and fell asleep.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Our first month, in numbers...

We've been on the road about a month now. We thought you might enjoy seeing the trip broken down in numbers. As of today, June 22, we have the following under our belts:

33 days
1406 miles
165,000 calories eaten (each!)
14 mountain passes
5 times over the Continental Divide
9658 ft. of elevation gained (and lost, and gained, and lost....)
150+ cups of coffee
10 bottles of sunscreen
4 tubs of bag balm (bike shorts anti-chaffing lotion)
2 flat tires
6 jars of peanut butter
5 Old Faithful Eruptions
2 HAILSTORMS (in one day!)
2 Bears
Hundreds of new friends!

Internet! Finally!!!!

Day 17
June 6, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: winter wonderland!?
Town: Glacier National Park
Where we stayed: Sprague Creek Campground

We awoke after a deep and rainy sleep in our tents. The weather had become cloudy and snowy overnight, but the scenery was still stunning. All the moutnains got a few inches of snow and the clouds were eerily low. After a coffee stop at the Lake McDonald lodge, we headed out to East Glacier. The winding roads and snow-covered mountains were unlike anything we had seen before, that and the Jeep's seat-warmers were almost overwhelming!

We got to East Glacier and found ourselves in a winter wonderland. On June 6th!! We took a winding road to the park, stopped for a snack at a cafeteria, and said our sad farewells to Camillia.

Upon re-enterring the park, we had to stop every mile or so to take pictures. We were surrounded by incredible mountains sitting in the enormous, beautiful St. Mary Lake, and low and looming clouds.

We got out and hiked around the lake and several majestic waterfalls. We spent the entire hike singing our lungs off, and random outbursts of "BEAR!" and "HEY-HO!" to make sure that we didn't startle any bears ahead of us on the trail. We have many beautiful photos that just barely skim the surface of Glacier's beauty, so check 'em out as soon as we can get them posted!

Day 18
June 7th, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: crisp and clear...32 degrees!!!
Town: Glacier National Park-Kalispell
Where we stayed: Jana and Tanner's

After exploring incredible East Glacier yesterday, I really wanted to do at least one hike in West Glacier before leaving the park. We planned on riding our bikes to Swan Lake today (45 mi) so in order to do any more hiking we had to start REALLY early.

I was really proud of myself for getting up at 6 AM, especially when the temperatures had dipped below freezing the night before, and the thermometer read 32 degrees when we began our hike. In June?? Really??

We drove up Going to the Sun Highway as far as we were able, since it was still closed for snow-clearing, and then hiked 2 miles in to Avalanche Lake, as we had heard it was one of the "must-sees" in the park.

We hiked in sleepy silence, except for the occasional warning outburst of anti-bear noise. when we got to the lake, we were simpy dumbfounded. There was a mountain range that towered over a pristinely still lake, and was reflected so perfectly, you wouldn't know which range was real if you stood on your head. It felt as though we were completely secluded from the rest of the world. Glacier and snow melt from the steep peaks cascaded down in 3 separate waterfalls; 2 more waterfalls were still frozen.

I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to see such a beautiful part of this world. It's so difficult to describe the feeling of such humbling awe that such a place inspires. All I can say is "wow."

We got back to the campsite around 9:30, and tried to plan the rest of our day: We needed to go grocery shopping, return the rental car, pick up my bike from the shop, watch the Tony's...Oh, and put in a full day riding.

We looked around at our beautiful campsite at 9:45 am and realized it felt so wrong to rush out of Glacier when we had barely scratched the surface of its beauty. We decided we really didn't want to leave just yet, and called Jana and Tanner to see if they would mind if we spent the rest of the day exploring, and spend the night with them once more.

It was a Mary Moment well spent. We packed up our camp, and stopped at the visitor center to report the song we had composed about Lake MacDonald:

"Lake MacDonald had a Glacier, eons, eons ago
and on that Glacier there lived a _______(woolly mammoth, sabor-toothed tiger?)
eons, eons ago." It was a huge hit with the rangers. Copyright soon to come.

Just before the West exit to the park, we stopped at the Apgar Lookout Trailhead. We heard that the view from the Lookout was one of the best in the park.

It was a 3 mile hike out (6 out and back) which didn't sound like much to bike-oriented minds. We failed to realize that "Lookout" implied serious elevation gain. We set out without food, water, or extra clothes. Oops.

Despite being totally unprepared, we reached the top in one hungry, thirsty, blistered piece. The view made it absolutely worthwhile; 300 degrees of snow-capped peaks, all of Lake McDonald, and Apgar Village below. We could see rain falling in the valleys, snow on a faroff peak, but beautiful blue sky above us.

We left the park and raced back to Jana and Tanner's house in just enough time to watch the Tony Awards. (My urgent request: Would a football player miss the superbowl?? Never!)
Jana and Tanner came home from a grad party around 9 pm and brought over a couple of friends from church, including a 22-day old baby named Noah. We all oo-ed and ah-ed and passed him around. It was an incredible contrast to staring at such old, majestic grandiose mountains all day, to hold something so incredibly small and vulnerable. Whew.

When their friends left around 11pm, Jana and Tanner pulled out their guitars and all 6 of us jammed until 2 AM! We sang everything from Sam Cooke to Alison Krauss! we were all so impressed by Jana's BEAUTIFUL folksy/country voice, and we all told her to quit her eye doctor job and follow her dream as a singer/songwriter.

We forced ourselves to bed around 2:30, not wanting to part ways with our newfound family.

Day 19
June 8, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Rainy at first, then Beautiful, then FREAKIN' COLD!
Town: Swan Lake
Where we stayed: Swan Lake campgrounds

After a late night of Tony awards, cooing over a beautiful 22 day-old, and singing Sam Cooke and Alison Krauss, we were all VERY slow to wake and get movin'.

Jana very generously had Kendal take her and her car north to Whitefish to drop her off at work, so he could pick up his bike from the shop and bring it back to Kalispell. While he was there, he changed out the back cassette on his bike for easier gears and got an actual fitting, which everyone was vey relieved about, especially his knees.

After puttering around their house for WAY too long, we finally headed out at around, let's say 3pm. It was cold, everyone had swapped their bike gloves for mittens, and put their raingear in accessible places.

We toook a route off the Adventure Cycling maps recommended to us by two old guys at the Enterprise Rent-a-car office, and we were so glad we did! It drizzled on us for the first 10 miles, which made the mountains look super spooky all around us, but eventually the sky cleared to the most gorgeous, crisp blue sky we could ask for.

The route took us on a windy country road through ranches, cherry farms, and pastures...all surrounded by snow peaked mountain ranges. We saw two bald eagles towards the end of the end of the ride: A first for Greg and Kendal, and we had "My Country Tis of Thee" stuck in our heads for way too many miles.

We got to Swan Lake at dusk, and turned into the first campground we saw, which turned out to be a different one than what my dad had set up for us. Oops.

We didn't have cell service, so we didn't find out until the next morning. BUt the camp host was a super badass lady named Vicky who also roofed houses and introduced us to "Liquid Gold"...a never-fail fire starter made with sawdust and diesel. She also taught Greg a thing or two about starting a fire.

We cooked fabulous quesadillas with beans and spinach. It was really really REALLY cold, bu no rain. We were all glad we hadn't ditched our 20 degree sleeping bags just yet!

Day 20
June 9, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: clear skies and really cold
Town: Seeley Lake
Where we stayed: Salmon Lake Campground

I can't believe it, but tomorrow is going to be my last day on the Unforgettable Journey! The past 3 weeks hae flown, yet we've met so many amazing people and had so many crazy adventures, it's hard to believe it's only been 3 weeks!

Before we left this AM, Kendal had a fabulous phone interview on one of Missoula's big radio stations, thanks to my sister Bri, who is now the team's PR extraordinaire! Thanks Breezy!

The ride today was beautiful (surprise, surprise) and relatively flat. We rode 60 miles from Swan Lake to Seeley Lake, and were welcomed to town by Carla and Larry, who tracked us down in their KIA jeep because they were worried we weren't going to make it! the first thing Carla said when she saw us was "You're grounded!" such a mother hen, which was actually sort of lovely, but don't tell our moms! They took our gear to the campsite which was 6 miles ahead while we had and amazing dinner at Pop's Place restaurant in town. They served us HUGE Philly cheesesteaks which we devoured in record time. We resisted temptation to have pie, as Carla had promised us s'mores and hot chocolate would be waiting for us at the campground. Can you believe this woman???? they both were INCREDIBLY sweet.

By the time we arrived at the campsite after 66 miles of riding, my knees were not very happy. Apparently 1,000miles on a fully loaded bike was just about al my joints could handle, so its probably a good thing my dad is meeting me with the truck in Missoula tomorrow.

It is so bittersweet to say goodbye to these three characters that have been my family for the past three weeks. I'm going to miss the excitement and freedom of not knowing where we're going to sleep at the end of the day, but I'm also looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead for me.

I'm so thankful that I was able to be a part of such a wonderful adventure, and am especially gratefule for all the wonderful people that I got to know along the way, including my biking buddies.

I know that Kendal, Rachel, and Greg are going to continue to have unforgettable experiences because of the kind and ambitious people they are. I could go on for hours about how sad I am to go, but since I hate goodbyges, I'll just take the opportunity to thank Kendal, Rachel and Greg for everything and with them the best of luck in the next 3,100 miles!

Day 21
June 10, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: cool, warm, windy
Town: Missoula
Where we stayed: basement of Missoula Church of Christ

Today was one of those days that defined everything this trip is about; meeting and saying goodbye to amazing people we will remember forever, sharing stories and pictures, and a beautiful bike ride!

The day stated off at the crack of dawn. Steph's dad was on a deadline to get back to Eastern WA with enough time to catch a few zzzzz's before work the next day, so we had to get Steph to Missoula in record time. Those of you who follow our spot tracker know that early starts aren't really our "thing". But we were able to unite in the mission of getting to the Adventure Cycling Headquarters before 2pm, and we did it! Carla's pancake and sausage breakfast and 5 cups of hot cocoa each sure helped a lot! We wanted to chat with both she and Larry more, they have led very exciting lives together in some of the most beautiful areas in the country, and are headed to either CO or AL next, and eventually want to work on a game preserve in Africa. Keep us updated, Lucky Ducks!

The trip to Missoula was glorious! There was very little wind and no incline with beautiful weather the whole way. We rolled into town and straight to the Adventure Cycling headquarters: the company that started it all! Steph's dad was there waiting for us right outside. It was great to see him, but sad, as it meant Steph was leaving us.

Getting to Adventure Cycling was like a pilgrimage to Mecca, to meet all the people we had feverishly called in the months leading up to the trip, the people that first routed the TransAmerica Trail, and advised us on how many bike shorts to take and how much money to budget for food. We were greeted by a secretary who didn't quite share our enthusiasm, which is understandable considering how many cross-country cyclists she sees in a day (hundreds, the walls of pictures was there to prove it).

Sarah from AC greeted us and shared a bit more of our giddy excitement. She took us on a tour of the building, pointed out the free ice cream, and pointed out all the historic bikes mounted on the walls that had been ridden across several countries over the past 4 decades!

It was so nice to meet people that really understood what we were experiencing. We shared some highlight stories (the bear in the cascades, of course), we took a horrible team photo. I was looking down and Rachel was closing her eyes, so we drew on it to make it better. kendal and steph looked stunning as usual.

We met Greg, the owner/president/inventor/photographer who had us fill out a form of our story to put on file, and had a photo shoot with us. We used up an entire roll of Greg's old school black and white 35mm film. Old School. We're hoping the photos are gallery-worthy...Only Greg knows!

The day continued on to a burrito joint across the street, and it was our last meal together as a full team +Steph's dad. We miss Steph: Our car has only 3 wheels. Steph, we love!

After quick hugs and well-wishes, we parted ways. The remaining three rode down the street to our residence for the evening, The Missoula Valley Church of Christ basement. We met Frank the Pastor (Best buddy of Past Randy from Sandpoint) and shared stories from our time in Michigan. After getting settled, we explored Missoula and did some well-needed laundry.

So we've been told for days that we needed to hit up the Big Dipper Ice Creamery, and it did not dissapoint. After walking back to put our laundry in the dryer, we were passed by Sarah from Adventure Cycling, and she waved hello. It's always good to see a friendly face, if only for a second.

We headed to a Suchi joint under Camillia's recommendation, and enjoyed some $1 sushi and some complimentary sake by our awesome server Wisper. Wisper, who was a local, also knew one of Kendal's classmates from Michigan. Small world!

As we walked out of the Sushi place, Kendal got a call from Sarah, saying that she wanted to take us out and show us a good time. We were tired but never pass up on the chance to hang out with some new friends.

So we roll out to the Top Hat, a local bar, and expect to meet Sarah, from Adventure Cycling. The person who runs up to us excitingly introducing herself as Sarah, is NOT the same Sarah from Adventure Cycling. She tells us that she is sitting in the back with her friends, and walks away. We all looked at each other, confused, and held a sidebar conference.

We all are like, "Have we met her?" and are confused and wondering if we just forgot (which is easy after meeting as many people that we do). So we come up with a hare-brained scheme with a friendly bar-goer, to have him come up and act like old friends and ask Sarah how she knows us.

So we sit down and chat it up with Sarah and her fire-fighter buddy Hannah. For those who know me, I'm not the most subtle person in the world, so I just asked Sarah..."We haven't met before...How'd you track us down?"

She had found out through our press release that we were going to be in town, and got Kendal's number to hang out. Very cool.

So we talked about touring, enjoyed the local brews, and then had a rather awkward time when the friendly bar-goer came over and didn't know the cat was already out of the bag. After that we danced our butts off to some local jam geezer cover band that rocked and stayed til last call.

Upon leaving the Top Hat, Kendal needed a burrito fix from the local midnight burrito truck, and while we were waiting we saw two dudes get in a pretty serious altercation (from a safe distance, of course.) We made it back to the church and called it a night.

Missoula, you crazy college town...

Day 22
June 11, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: Balmy and Beautiful
Town: Hamilton
Where we stayed:

We woke up this morning in a bit of a haze: we were all out of wack with one of our four wheels missing (we miss you so much, steph!), and we had stayed out a little too late, and danced a little too hard last night.

I was awakened by a phone call from Clark, the program director of the U of Montana college radio station (LINK), whom I had met last night and was really interested in our trip. He came over to the church where we were staying and brought us breakfast!! He then drove me over to the radio studio where we sat and talked about the trip for nearly and hour! I really enjoyed chatting with him, he had great insight on travelling and meeting new people. Clark is going to edit the interview for broadcast on the college station. I'll post a lonk to the interview when it's done.

We all had lots of errands to run in Missoula. Greg shaved his beard and got a haircut, I went to the post office (twice) and Rachel and Greg went grocery shopping. After all that, we got our latest start yet, 4pm!

The route leading away from Missoula was super sketchy: we had to ride on the shoulder of HWY 93 which is very busy (esp. at rush hour!) and sprinkled with broken glass everywhere. Greg got a flat, the second so far for the group!

After awhile we were able to jump on a much-needed bike trail! Rachel and I rode side by side most of the way, chatting up a storm!

This was our first day on the TransAmerica route. Up until now we had been on the Northern Tier to Kalispell, then jumped on the Great Parks North route to get down to Missoula to pick up the TransAmerica, which is the oldest and most traversed of the Adventure Cycling routes. The TransAmerica was the original route ridden by the 1976 "BikeCentennial" cycle tour that was the beginning of the Adventure Cycling organization.

In the afternoon of our glorious ride we ran into a cyclist, Scott, who was carrying at least 2times as much gear as we were. He was cycling from FL to AK!!!! and averaging at least 70+ miles a day. He made me feel a little less hard core...but I realize traveling alone is a very different experience than riding in a group for a cause.

Now that we're on the TransAm, we are going to be seeing a lot more cyclists, and stopping in businesses that are used to cycle tour traffic.

Late in the evening, we arrived at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Hamilton, where the owner, Cheryl, was kind enough to provide us with a free dinner, followed by the best pie EVER! Sunny, our server, took wonderful care of us. The perfect end to a crazy-busy day!

Due to our late start, we didn't finish dinner until after dark. That meant we had to navigate about four miles of highway out of town with full gear and bellies in the dark. It was not an ideal situation, but that's what can be expected from starting at 4 pm! We got to the Angler's Lodge, and rode around the campground for awhile (Rachel ran into a fencepost and fell over, which would have been hilarious in daylight!), and found a campfire burning for us that had been started by an older gentleman named Frank who was sharing our campsite. We got to talking, and when we told him we were raising money for the Alzheimer's Association, he began to tear up. Turns out Frank's wife, Betty, had passed away 2 months ago with Alzheimer's...though Frank said he never agreed with the doctor's diagnosis. He very candidly shared his story with us, tears and all. It was one of those moments that reminded me how this trip is more than anything about giving people the opportunity to share their stories.

Day 23
June 12, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: began hot and sunny, ended in overcast with threats of rain and thunderstorms
Town: a few miles before of Wisdom
Where we stayed: May Creek Campground

Frank made us coffee in the morning on his brand new Coleman Stove. We chatted more about his 4 daughters and their families. He told us "I've been taking care of Betty for 2,100 days of my life (he had the exact number but I can't quite remember it), and now that she doesn't need me, my kids don't need me, my grandkids and great grandkids don't need me, I just don't really know what to do."

But Frank has so much life, so much energy and wisdom and conversation, we couldn't believe that he could just be done with it all. We tried to tell him so, but what to three naiive kids on bicycles know about 76 years of living?

He showed us Betty's picture, and she was wearing a big white hat and a sparkley smile. It was taken 3 years before she died.

We continued chatting with Frank while we started packing up camp. we had a group discussion over whether or not to visit an Assisted Living Facility that day. The facility was 4-6 miles in the opposite direction from where we were headed, and as we had spent so much time enjoying Frank's company, we didn't have a lot left to get over the mountain pass looming ahead of us, so after a feverish debate, we decided it would be safer to wait until Dillon on Sunday, when we could plan ahead and not feel rushed.

We finally hugged Frank goodbye and headed out on our 2nd day of the TransAmerica Train. In our first half hour we ran into about 4 groups of loaded cyclists. It's fun to run into folks that GET what we're doing, but it takes a bit of a toll on our ego... when we proudly state that we are crossing the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic, a statement that previously earned a "wow! cool!" now is responded with "me too, but I started in Alaska!" or "me too, but I'm 70 years old!"
We met two retired guys from Ohio on our same route, one was riding on recumbent, the other was biking with fractured ribs that he acquired on Lolo Pass a few weeks prior. We're hoping to leap frog with them the whole way to Yorktown!

Later in the afternoon, the sky turned dramatic, with smokey black clouds chasing us from behind. The landscape was still recovering from a wildfire that had swept the area a few years ago, and the tree trunks were still stained black up to waist height. The Bitteroot river, however, seemed to be contributing to the lush aftermath of the fire, the wildflowers were everywhere.

At Sula we began to climb. We saw a bunch of signs about the Lewis and Clark expedition, but the mosquitos put a serious damper on our thirst for knowledge.

We finally crossed the continental divide, flirting with the Idaho border (CONFUSING!! didn't we leave Idaho weeks ago??) and cruised down 8 miles to Mary Creek Forest Service Campground. All the water spiggots were covered and the park was empty, except for the Davis family from Missoula and their 3 dogs. They generously shared water and firewood with us, and we cooked ourselves a gourmet dinner of cous cous and lentils and fell asleep.

Day 24
June 13, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: cool and blustery, with scattered T-storms
Town: Jackson
Where we stayed: Jackson Hot Springs Lodge

Today was another glorious day. We woke up early so we could get to Big Hole Battleground and make it the rest of the way to Jackson Hot Springs. While we were getting ready, the Davis neighbors brought us some delicious "monkey bread" they had cooked up in their Dutch Oven. We spent the rest of the morning brainstorming ideas of how we could lug a Dutch Oven on our bicycles (helmet? rack?)
The Big Hole Battlefield was a very moving and powerful place. The tragedy of the massacre that happened there is a painful mark on our country's history. The interactive museum and tour are not to be missed. There are pictures and accounts from both sides of the story of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce evading the U.S. army seven times before finally being captured an taken to Reservations in OK 40 miles from the Canadian border.

We got back on our bikes, feeling emotionally drained but ready to digest all we had seen and heard by pedaling. The ride into Wisdom was glorious. We had a tailwind from the storm brewing behind us, and flew into town. The Bitteroot valley is breathtaking surrounded by storms. You can see the cells from miles away all round us.

When we entered town we ran into Paul and Tom, our TransAm buddies, just as they were finishing up lunch. They headed out just as the storm finally caught up to us, but we decided to wait it out and enjoy some dessert (buttermilk pie was to die for!) Right before we left, Kendal called up WeBe/mission control/Rich who informed us we would be camping at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge and could swim in the springs on the house! This news gave us a much needed powerboost to head out into the rain.

I left before the other two while they did some group grocery shopping, and was greeted with a stiff head wind, a slight incline, and a pack of ranch dogs. great. so i did what I normally do, when a dog comes too close; kick it in high gear! Unfortunately for me, MT ranch dogs are a lot faster and can run a lot longer than Michigan and Arkansian dogs. I out-pedaled all but one and did some zig zagging to try and get in a position to squirt it in the face with my water bottle. Greg:1 Dog:0 Finally a sheriff rolled up and dispersed the dogs with his sirens, and when he passed, gave me a re-assuring thumbs up. I felt great until I realized two of the dogs had not taken the hint, and were still chasing me up the hill. I realized, however, they were more interested in racing each other and watched them bump and rub elbows for position. It was actually really fun to watch. But then I started thinking maybe they were bumping each other to try and get the best angle of intercept on me, so I gave it my all to get ahead of them. I am cycling at full gas, and they are right behind me, and I'm going my hardest 13 mph ever.

Hughie and Louie (affectionately named) chased me for 5 miles. no joke. Fortunately, some ranchers on ATV;s saw me and coralled the dogs. whew. after non-stop headwinds and false flats I finally reached Jackson Hot Springs.

The Hot Springs were (re)discovered by Lewis and Clark and were volcanic hot springs. There is now a Lodge built over the spring. The barman in the Lodge, Lon, was kind enough to let us campin the back and swim. wasting no time, I got my tent up in gale-force winds and bee-lined for the pool. The springs could cook you alive in a half hour, and it was just what I needed. When the rest of the crew rolled in, they set up their tents and took a dip, and were just about to call it a night. On our way through the Lodge to our campsite, we stopped and chatted with Lon about our trip. He saw how beat we all were, and asked Kendal and I how long it's been since we slept in a bed. we both responded "weeks!" He handed us two cabin keys and said "These are yours if you want 'em". It was all we could do not to start dancing atop the bar. Honestly, it felt like Christmas morning! We shared the news with Rachel and she went and hugged Lon. Babies couldn't sleep as well as we did. Thanks Lon!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just enough time for ONE update!

Day 16
June 5, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: Sunny and Beautiful
Town: Glacier National Park, MT
Where we stayed: Sprague Creek Campground

For the first time in 2 weeks I did not wear spandex today. Or sunblock. Or bagbalm. It was our first REAL rest day in two weeks. No bikes whatsoever (except for Kendal who rode his bike several miles to pick up our rental car.) I spent a good portion of the morning laying on the ground, feet elevated with ice on my knees.

We had originally hoped to ride our bikes from Kalispell through Glacier National Park and back as a spur off our route, but since the main highway into the park is partially closed due to snow-cover, we opted to give our joints and muscles a rest and explore the part sans bikes for a few days.

We packed up the car, made a quick run to the grocery store for essentials (PBR, marshmallows, chocolate...) and headed towards the gorgeous wall of mountains that blew us away when we first arrived.

We entered the park from West Glacier, rocking out to the the local oldies radio station, and found camping along the east side of Lake McDonald, 10 feet from shore. In the 20 min that we spent driving to our site, we couldn't stop gasping and gushing over the breathtaking views.

Our new friend Camillia, who we met a few days ago at the Lang Creek Brewery, met us outside Glacier to camp with us for the night. She was an awesome addition to our party and totally kept up with our stupid humor.

We cooked up delicious quesadillas, threw down a few s'mores, and hit the hay just as the rain started to pour.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We are alive and without internet.

Hey everyone! We are currently in Twin Bridges, MT and enduring some cold rain. We decided to warm up in the local library and let you guys know that we're doing well and had an amazing visit to Parkview Acres Care and Rehabilitation Center. We'll get the journal updated when we have some more substantial internet time. Until then, Cheers!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Music Rehearsal at Jana and Tanner's

We had such a blast singing together with Jana and Tanner last night! What amazing new friends! We're going to miss them.
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Looking out over Glacier!

At the top of Apgar last look out over MacDonald Lake before hitting the road again!
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Long overdue daily updates!

Day 8
May 28, 2009
Captain: Stephanie
Weather: Sunny and Beautiful
Town: Colville
Where we stayed: Colville Fairgrounds
Today was definitely one of our most physically challenging days. We crossed our fifth mountain pass, Sherman Pass, at 5575ft. The climb up to the top was grueling. we gained 3500 ft in 18 miles. Ouch. Kendal, Rachel, and I got a pretty late start, so fortunately the sun was already at our backs when we were making the ascent. On the bright side, the views were absolutely beautiful--snowy peaks, green forests, and wild flowers everywhere.
The descent was a welcome relief. 23 miles down the east side of the mountain to the Columbia River. Having grown up near the Columbia in the Tri-Cities, it made me feel at home to see the sagebrush hills alongside the river at the base of the mountains.
Greg reached camp a few hours before the rest of us and had be-friended the locals, prepared dinner, and begun to set up camp. Kendal, Rachel, and I made a quick stop at Ronni-D's diner for a much needed ice cream as soon as we reached Colville. The people we met in the diner were...interesting. After a few awkward conversations where a crazy lady made predictions about whether or not we would make it to Virginia, Kendal said "Everyone's staring at us...I am SO glad I put on pants" (over his spandex shorts).
It should be noted that we decided not to follow the adventure cycling map for a few miles, and instead stayed on hwy 20 through Kettle Falls to save time. We thought that there would probably be a reason Adventure Cycling took us off of Hwy 20, but it ended up being one of my favorite stretches of highway yet. The sun was setting behind us and the green pastures on either side of the highway were glowing and beautiful. It was a really relaxing way to end a tough day of riding.
Our Colville campsite was donated by a sweet woman named Laurie on the Colville Fairgrounds. There were a few folks with RV's also staying around us including a really nice man named Bob, a Vietnam War Vet who had traveled all over and worked really hard on mission projects to help veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He gave us lots of advice, supplies, and cowboy coffee in the morning!
Once again, we've been taken in and supported by generous and kind locals. That is really what is making this adventure so wonderful. Now that we're getting used to cycling (and thankfully we don't have any more big mountain passes till the Rockies) we hope to start visiting assisted living communities in the next couple of days. We're all looking forward to incorporating our music into this already amazing journey.
Day 9
May 29, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: 80's and sunny
Town: 20 miles south of Ione
Where we stayed: Panhandle Campground (USFS)
After a good night's rest, we hung out with our fellow campers in Colville this morning. Bob and his neighbors, Bud and Suzy, all contributed coffee to our cause, and we gorged down on some tasty oatmeal. While the others stayed in town to do some errands, I forged ahead. The route was 60 or so miles and everyone said it was easier than the other passes. I, however, had a sneaking suspicion that this would not be the case. The climb alternated between steep patches and false flats, with some head winds thrown in. It took me 5 1/2 hours. Poor sitz bones. The worst part was the last 20 miles from Ione to the campsite. With the previous passes, you could find a groove and climb, but today it was hard to settle in. I was riding about 2 hours ahead of the others, I had a lot of time for reflection of lessons learned the past 8 days. Here are some highlights:
-Never try to race a butterfly up a mountain. They have a home field advantage, plus they can fly. Stick with ants and beetles, it's better for the ego.
-A Martin Backpacker Guitar is a fantastic travel companion. It doubles as an air brake and a means of getting strangers to stop their cars and talk to you.
-It takes me 6-8 months to use up one tin of Bag Balm (poor man's chamois butter). Right now we are on our way to a can every two weeks.
-34t by 28t is money
-never be afraid to ask a stranger for help. the worst that can happen is they say no.
-I always thought the bones under your pelvis were called "sit bones" because you sit on them, but according to our future nurse-in-residence Stephanie, They are actually "sitz" bones. Who knew?
and finally....
-Greg's Law of Matching Pannier's
states that whatever item you are looking for in matching panniers off the bike will invariably be found in the last bag you check. This Theory has been proven without fail for the last 8 days.
Day 10
May 30, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: warm and sunny
Town: Sandpoint
Where we stayed: Randy and Sandy Hohf's backyard
It was a real challenge waking up and getting started today! All the miles are really taking a toll on my body. This was our last full cycling day, leading up to a well-earned rest day tomorrow! I'm definitely the slowest to get my motor revved each morning, and today was no different. The other three were already up doing yoga when I sat up in my tent. We tried to get out of camp by 10 am, but didn't actually get going until 10:45. Greg, as usual, was hankering for a big breakfast, so he scouted ahead of us for a cafe to have breakfast.
Pretty soon after leaving the campsite, we hit a stretch of construction, where the road had been torn up for about 8 miles. There were all kinds of obstacles; potholes, loose gravel, and rocks to dodge. Since our bikes are 50 pounds heavier than normal and without any suspension, every bump was transferred directly to our bones.
On our way into town along this obstacle course, we crossed through the Kalispel Indian Reservation. Behind Tribal Headquarters, a huge herd of buffalo grazed in the sun. I rode down the road to get a closer look. They are massive creatures, that started me down as I approached, and I understood why so many people revere them as mystical creatures.
We crossed over the Pend Oreille River to the little town of Usk to have brunch. Greg had stopped at a little diner that was swirling in a cloud of cottonwood fluff. It looked like Usk was in the middle of a blizzard!
The rest of the cycling that day was long and uneventful, with the exception of a beautiful waterfall where we stopped to take pictures, and a very short hill on the map that Steph deemed "Stephanie's Pass".
Our first set of maps ended in Sandpoint, Idaho, so it felt very significant as we crossed the long bridge over Lake Pend Oreille into town.
Our hosts in Sandpoint were the Hohf family: Randy, Sandy, Jed, and Zephan. Randy is the minister at the Church of Christ in town. His family welcomed us with such open arms, despite our exhaustion (and smell!), and we could not have been more grateful.
Zeph was on his way out the door to his senior prom when we showed up, all decked out in his tux. We asked him if we could pose for some prom pictures with him. He very patiently posed with us four sweaty weirdos in spandex, and we had a good chuckle making awkward-high-school-couple poses.
That night we enjoyed such a lovely meal with the family: Burgers, fresh fruit, and mixed greens, which were a welcome change from all the dried food we had been eating the past couple of days. We exchanged loads of stories about of travels, and heard all about the Hohf's adventures in China, New Zealand, climbing Mt. Ranier, and living in Antarctica!
The Hohf's eldest son, Jed, is an incredible photographer/videographer, and showed us a some really cool samples of his work, mostly involving climbing Mount Ranier, wake surfing, and spending four months in Antarctica. If you're interested in seeing some of what we saw, visit Jed's blog.
We finished the night thumbing through hymnals and Rachel's music folder to pick out tunes for our first assisted living center visit, and then we retired to our tents in the backyard. What an awesome day!
Day 11
May 30, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: warm and a little muggy
Town: East Hope (eventually)
Where we stayed: Island View Resort and Campground, Game Preserve on the Hope Peninsula
We woke up early on Sunday AM, but Randy had already left to set up for communion at the church. Sandy was up and making pancakes (yayyyyy!!!!!!!!). We groggily began rehearsing some of the songs we picked last night. Poor Jed awoke to the sound of the four of us trying to remember the lyrics to "How Great Thou Art". Sorry Jed! After delicious pancakes and scrambled eggs, the family left for church and we headed for our first Assisted Living Visit, 7 blocks away.
At the Sandpoint LifeCare Center, we checked in and were immediately ushered into the dining room by a lady named Judith. We sang a few hymns, spirituals, and Eva Cassidy covers. The hymns were Kendal's handpicked hits, and many of the residents knew at least 2 verses, which were 2 verses more than Greg or I knew! After 40 minutes of music, we went around and just chatted with the residents. I spoke with a gentleman who requested more Country Western in our repertoire. I also spent a lot of time chatting with a resident who we quickly discovered suffered from Alzheimer's disease. She was quite the character! She asked us what our goal was, and we told her "To cross the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic on bicycles" and without skipping a beat, she replied "That's stupid! You're going to get corns on your ass!" We wholeheartedly agreed. She told us about her many travels, to Rome, Paris, the moon...all by bike. She was my first personal encounter with the disease, and it was such an incredible experience to see both the uninhibited playfulness and the heartbreaking disorientation caused by the disease.
Meanwhile, Kendal was chatting with a woman named Mary who was 97 years young. She had had an incredible life, was engaged at 8 years of age to the love of her life, married at 18, and spent the first years of their marriage traveling the country in a 1924 Model T. Kendal asked her if she had any advice for us, and she replied "Don't rush yourselves. If there's ever anything you want to stop and see, now is the time to do it." We were so grateful to hear that wisdom, and since then we have coined the term "Mary Moments" for every time we make extra stops and detours, which is OFTEN.
Randy had talked about a member of his church who was a resident at the LifeCare Center, so we asked Judith if we could visit her. The woman lived in the Alzheimer's Center within the facility. She was in the very late stages of the disease and was no longer able to create coherent words, but we began to sing the first verse of "Amazing Grace" and it was as if a light switch turned on in her face. She knew every word and sang along with us. It was beautiful. We left the LifeCare Center with a renewed sense of hope and purpose for our journey.
We joined back up with the Hohf family at the house, and all climbed in the family vehicles and headed to a neighborhood restaurant called Hydra, where we got to swap more stories about our travels, goals, and the meaning of life. Jed took us all to the local outdoors store so Greg could buy a new ThermaRest. Steph and I spent too much time drooling over the expensive super comfy shoes. We finally dragged ourselves out and headed back to the house to begin wrapping our heads around the concept of leaving our new family :( We finally got all packed up at around 4:30pm, all the while trying to convince Jed to quit his job, fire up his uncle's old motorcycle, and join us. Unfortunately, the battery was totally dead, otherwise he just might have done it!
Zeph had finally woken up from his post-prom snooze, and joined us for our last minute family pictures and goodbyes. We rode about 18 miles along beautiful lakes and arrived at the Island View Resort, where we were greeted by the awesome hippie owners, Misha and Steve, and more deer than I have ever seen in my life put together. The resort was on a game preserve, and man, did those deer know it. We set up our tents and spent 3 giddy hours trying to plan our next week. We finally gave up, too tired and giggly to make any progress. We fell asleep worrying that a big pregnant doe would sit and crush us in our tents. But none did.
Day 12
June 1, 2009
Captain: Steph
Weather: Hot and Sunny
Town: Bull Fork River Valley
Where we stayed: Mark & Cindy's
I'm writing this entry from a place that I never thought I would be on this journey-the sun drenched deck of a beautiful log home in the mountains near Libby, MT. The home belongs to yet another kind family that was willing to take in a crew of sweaty bikers for the night.
We woke up this morning in East Hope and hit the road fairly early in search of breakfast in Clark Fork, our last real stop in Idaho. As always, we found a local cafe with tasty food and bottomless cups of coffee.
Before leaving town, we rolled across the street to a little grocery store called The Pantry under the premise that we should buy food for the day (but really it was because they had soft serve ice cream, a team favorite.) As we pulled up, we were greeted by a friendly couple, Mike and Jean who had just made the same trek us, riding their bicycles from Seattle to Clark fork; where their daughter lives.
A brief conversation about cycling gear turned into an hour of fascinating stories. I can't express how inspiring and exciting it is for us to find instant camaraderie with people who are as enthusiastic about life as we are. I was thrilled to find out that Jean was also a Fulbright Scholar ( just one of her MANY fantastic accomplishments). We were all inspired by the life and travel and adventure that Mike and Jean continue to lead. We want to be them when we grow up.
Many people told us that the ride from Clark Fork into Western Montana would be one of the most beautiful stretches of road we've ever seen. They were absolutely right. We had to stop often to snap a few photos and pinch ourselves. Around every turn there were rivers and lakes at the base of majestic snow covered mountains. We were convinced that we had somehow been transported into an REI photo shoot.
At about 8:30, we finally arrived at when we thought was the turn to Mark and Cindy's home---a couple that pastor Randy knows and that had invited us to stay for the night in their gorgeous home. As we made the turn, a young boy, who turned out to be Mark and Cindy's youngest son, Pate, drove up in his Polaris Ranger. He invited us to toss our gear in the truck and ride up the gravel road to the house unloaded, which is always a huge treat for us.
When we got to the house, Cindy , who is originally from Dallas, greeted us with a kind of warm, southern hospitality that isn't found just anywhere. We shared a huge pasta dinner and cheesecake for dessert and told a few of our favorite stories from the journey so far, before getting cleaned up and and ready for a fantastic night of indoor sleep.
I'm starting to feel like a broken record, when everyday I have to stop and mention how overwhelmed I am by the kindness and generosity of all the people that we meet along this journey. It's extraordinary that we have not gone a single day without sharing meals, conversations and memories with amazing people.
Day 13
June 2, 2009
Captain: Greg
Weather: Nice/ Windy
Where we Stayed: Keith and Jan
Town: Libby, MT
After spending a delightful evening sleeping in real beds at Cindy's, we felt rested and ready to take on the day. Cindy had prepared a huge spread for breakfast and we happily gorged ourselves on pancakes, bacon, eggs and practically 7 pots of coffee (you see a coffee trend here). The game plan for the day was to go see the Ross Creek Cedars and hit the road to Libby. While the others were getting ready, Pate offered to take Rachael and I to see the spillway. We hopped into the ranger and Pate drove us down the winding dirt road. Pate was an incredible for only being in 6th grade and expertly navigated the treacherous potholes, gravel pits and velocaraptors attacks...
We regrouped back at the house and headed out to the Cedars. we spent a few hours in the park taking pictures and playing with Pate's dog, Cooper (who's abilities rivaled Underdog!) and had a fun relaxed time. After a photo shoot with the family, dogs, taxidermy and a Montana licence plate, (we never saw a welcome to Montana sign so we did an artistic re-interpretation) we said our goodbyes and headed off.
After our second hour of the second day of headwinds in Montana, I came up with a theory which hopefully will explain why Montana has been head-windy. So in Washington, we had predominantly tailwinds. It was awesome. Montana so far has been the opposite. Washington starts with a "w" and Wind starts with a "w". Since "M" is an upside down "w" it must be the opposite of "w". And therefore, States that start with a "w" will have tail winds and visa versa. What this means for our trip is that Wyoming will be awesome, Missouri will be less than awesome and Virgina will be half awesome (because two "v's make a "w".) I think it's a sound theory.
After pondering wind and the alphabet, we arrived at Kootenai falls. This beautiful scene was the location for the movie River Wild with Merrl Streep & and Kevin Bacon (I'm 3 degrees away currently). The falls were awesome and powerful and I had to fight the urge to go Kayaking. Fortunately the urge to get to Libby and eat kept me from doing anything too crazy.
We rolled into Libby and met Keith and Jan, who were world travelers, and Terry and Thesia, who are good friends of the Hoph Family. We had a fantastic Mexican-themed dinner, drank homemade wine, and shared great stories before heading to bed.
Day 14
June 3, 2009
Captain: Kendal
Weather: More sun...How boring!
Where we stayed: Logan State Park
Town: Halfway between Libby and Kalispell, MT
There seems to be a pattern that my day to journal usually ends up being a pretty un-eventful day! We got another slow start this morning from Libby, because there were errands to be run in town. A friend of Cindy's that we had met at her place yesterday, Cliff, stopped by Jan and Keith's house to give us a donation to the cause. We were so grateful.
We actually got on the road around 1pm, and took a slightly different route than the original plan, heading south on highway 2 to Kalispell, instead of North to Eureka. Cindy's daughter Jana lives in Kalispell, so our new southern Mama Cindy just insisted that Kalispell was the way to go. Always gotta trust Mama!
The riding was pretty uneventful except for a brief encounter I had with an older gentleman from Kansas I met named Gene. He had spotted a bald eagle nesting in a tree and pulled over to take some pictures. Unfortunately, the bird was camera shy and I never saw it, though we waited for a good 15 minutes.
Around mile 42 today, we stopped at a little gas station/cafe named Happy's Inn, where we took an extensive break and had lunch. I took off before the ladies, and only got three miles down the road before a guy in a pickup waved me down to tell me that Stephanie had a flat tire and needed to use my bike pump.
I rode back to lend my assistance to the tire change, which of course had to happen in the mos mosquito-infested corner of God's green earth! We were proud of ourselves for getting the tube changed in less than ten minutes!
Greg had scouted out a campsite in Logan State Park, where we cooked up a scrumptious meal of chicken fried rice and condensed split pea soup (gas station "groceries"). Good thing everything tastes better when you're tired!
The sun has set and the moon is giving off so much light that the sky is still glowing. I must get some sleep before we take on Kalispell tomorrow!
Day 15
June 4, 2009
Captain: Rachel
Weather: Still gorgeous
Where we stayed: Jana and Tanner's
Town: Kalispell, MT
We awoke very groggily and itchy this morning after an evening of mosquito warfare at our campsite. We were very slow going and finally got out of the campground at around noon.
When we got on the road, I somehow was leading the pack and noticed a sign that said, "Lang Creek Brewery, Going Out of Business SALE." So naturally, I SLAMMED on my breaks. We agreed that despite the slight mountain pass and 45 miles ahead of us, this was too good of an opportunity to miss.
Together, we forged across a mile stretch of wrist-breaking gravel road to "America's Most Remote Brewery." There, we met Camillia (sorry for the spelling!), the brewery's sales and marketing manager. She put up with us for about 2 hours of "touring" and just a few samples ;)
She made us a list of all the cool places to stop and see from Kalispell down to Missoula, and she's going to meet us outside Glacier National Park to camp with us on Friday! Very rad chick.
We finally dragged our giggly butts out of the brewery around 2pm to commence our journey to Kalispell. When we got cell service in Marion (a gas-station-sized "town"), Kendal found a message from Cindy's daughter, Jana, inviting us to stay with her and her husband. Like mother, like daughter!
About seven miles outside of Kalispell, we found a bike path that took us straight into town, a welcome respite from the receding shoulder of Highway 2. We were starting to get nervous when we realized all of the white crosses alongside the road (there were HUNDREDS) represented people who had died in car accidents. Very sad.
Luckily we arrived at Tanner and Jana's beautiful home in four tired but happy pieces. Together we stayed up until 1:30am eating purgers and pie and reminiscing about childhood TV shows.
Jana had lots of hilarious stories about some of the patients that come into the eye clinic where she works, and tanner told us all about some of his crazy friends that we will hopefuly meet on Saturday. We decided Saturday night we're going to put on our tracker so that Tanner and Jana can find us in Glacier National Park and camp with us for the night. Can't wait!
That's all we have time for now! Coming soon... Our three fantastic days in Glacier!