Monday, June 22, 2009

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!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Guys, so great to meet you coming through! Crazy that my alter-ego took you out for a night on the town. And, as for the photograph, there may be some exciting news in store for you!