Monday, June 8, 2009

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!
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That's all we have time for now! Coming soon... Our three fantastic days in Glacier!

1 comment:

Bob Hamilton 1 said...

Hi Guys,
I Hope all is going well for you. I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet you all in Colville, WA. I'm waiting for more updates. Sounds like you are having a good trip so far. Be smart, be careful, watch for Bears, and Keep On Peddeling!
God Bless, Bob Hamilton