Thursday, June 26, 2008

If you can't stand the Heat, get out of the Nevada

We Left the KOA (kampgrounds of America) in Ely, Nevada early in the morning and headed towards Baker, our last stop in Nevada. Here's the problem with Nevada, we wake up at 4 AM and we can't scrounge together enough layers to keep ourselves warm, but roughly by 7 AM we can't shed enough layers to prevent ourselves from sweating in the hot and extremely dry Nevada desert. Our biking schedule of 4AM- 2PM has been an interesting transition but proves to be the only way to make it to our destination before the heat gets too strong, and our cheddar cheese attains its liquid state. Our travels this day took us through the Great Basin, apparently a vast valley expanding 500 miles in each direction. As always, our bike route took us up mountains and through valleys. Without exception, mountains surrounded us in every direction. The valleys consist of endless, straight roads that allow us to see our destination (excitingly enough the next mountain) but we never seem to get any closer. After many lonely days on the country's loneliest Highway 50, we finally veered off its course and arrived at Baker several miles later. I am sure everyone has heard of Baker, NV, but for those of you who aren't into visiting towns with population circa 80 and unpaved roads, let us clue you in. We found one supermarket, and there was definitely nothing super about it. Imagine your living room, then imagine something smaller, and that might give you a good idea of its size. Now, open your refrigerator and remove roughly half its contents. This may give you a better idea of the number of items available at this store. To complete the picture, our purchase of 2 small watermelons, 4 drinks, and ice cream did some serious damage to their inventory. No more watermelons in Baker, no more ice teas, and only one more selection of ice cream. We must say, however, that the people were very friendly, both of them. We learned from some of our biking companions that 1 of the 2 restaurants in Baker offered free camping provided that you eat there. We have not made many restaurant stops, so this little treat to ourselves worked out nicely. The Electrolux Cafe contained 3 tables and was staffed by a waiter, a cook, and a receptionist, the owner serving all 3 of these roles since in reality he was the only person there. Luckily for us, Anne Marie and Peter (our fellow CT cross country bikers who have followed our same course, with Anne Marie's parents and daughter following in their mini van) entered the very same restaurant (luck we know, considering there are only 2) and offered to pay for our dinner that evening. As always, we accepted their offer and thanked them for their kindness. We are still biking with them, and every day we see their van pass us on our route. Hopefully they keep following us, or vis a versa. All being said and done, Baker was an interesting little town with a nice visitors center and a nice scenic view of the mountains. Staying true to Nevada's theme, the night for camping was very hot and it took some effort to fall asleep.

We were all sound asleep in Baker, when suddenly the alarm goes off and Russ jumps out of his tent to fire up the stove for our morning oatmeal. He really is good at getting us started in the mornings, usually one of the first up and getting things moving. This particular night in Baker, when Russ started to wake everyone up for the morning there were mixed reactions among the group. Sarah decided she would sleep for 5 more minutes since she felt she had at most gotten an hour or so of sleep. Jen, although hesitantly, began to wake up and go through her morning routine. Alex rolled over once and no intention of getting up at that moment. Dan, being the kind sole that he is, starts getting up, however, after several minutes decides to first consult his watch and then his timer. These processes took roughly 3-5 minutes, but after that, Dan timidly spoke from his tent these words of wisdom, "Russ, I looked at my watch and I think it's only 9 PM." Alex's immediate response was, "Thank goodness, I don't think I would have been able to bike a single mile right now." The group let out a collective sigh and convinced Russ to extinguish the stove flame and head back to bed. In Russ' defense, the cell phone and thus alarm service was sketchy at best in Baker. At the real 4AM wakeup time, we woke up and headed for Milford, Utah. 7 miles into the ride, we crossed the Nevada-Utah border, but more excitingly for DMo, we crossed the time zone. We then crossed the usual mountains and valleys. This morning was particularly pretty as in the early hours we passed "the most beautiful cows" as Sarah put it as well as saw much wildlife on and around the road, including rabbits, antelopes, and deer. We were told mountain lions existed, but luckily for us they are shy creatures and don't have much use for bikes, at least not a touring bike. So, now lets talk about Milford, Utah.

Milford was a pleasant surprise to us. Despite yet another windy descent into town (the head winds once again turned downhills into uphills and we may as well have been riding stationary bikes because getting anywhere was difficult). Our frustration at the wind was quickly dissipated as we pulled into the first diner and rewarded our strong ride with a round of ice cream and milk shakes. The diner was called Penny's Diner and immediately came to our liking as the waitress refilled our shakes at no charge. Thank you Penny's Diner. Once again, we ran into Anne Marie, Pete, and family (our CT friends) at the diner and had our daily chat with them. We biked around the cute town of Milford and settled with our tents in the outfield of the town's baseball field. As we quickly learned, baseball games were scheduled for that evening. No worries, however, the kids playing were small and we were out of their batting range. We got creative and headed to the town pool to clean up with some showers and a quick dip in the pool for some of us. The next step was once again the diner for dinner. The same waitress gave us a great deal on our bill and helped us enjoy the evening. With the exception of Daniel, burgers were had at the table, some bigger than others. The burger Russ ordered deserves special mention. The name was Monster Burger and the diner allows you to place any topping you desire on it. Bad news, they were not expecting hungry bikers. Russ ordered the following combination: we start with a .5 lb burger, add jack cheese, add onions and mushrooms, add bacon as well as sunny side up egg, followed by breakfast ham, and mashed hash brown. Just like any other burger, it also included lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Let's just say many napkins were used. Our evening ended with the conclusion of a little league baseball games and a sunset against the beautiful mountains as the backdrop. Dan called it a humble little town, and that it was.

Another early morning ride was scheduled for Cedar City. It was supposed to be a short and easy day. However, after making good time up the mountain, the wind had something else in mind. As usual our last stretch into town, this time about 20 miles, took much longer than it should have. Instead of rolling down into the valley we pedaled to prevent ourselves from being pushed back up the mountain. Cedar City, being one of the larger towns we have seen in a while, had much promise. However, the presence of the Shakespeare Festival put a damper on our hopes of finding hotel accommodations. The camp site in town proved to be no better and competed in price with many of the hotel rooms. Currently, our sleeping situation has not yet been resolved and we are actively working on lodging for the night. Best Western, however, in the meantime, has graciously let us use their laundry and pool services despite not being able to donate a room this evening due to the busy night in Cedar City. We nonetheless appreciate their efforts and help thus far. Perhaps they will finally cave if we set up temporary camp in their lobby. All of us our near exhaustion, but we plan on pushing on one more day before a day off in Bryce Canyon National Park. Tomorrow's lineup includes an 18 mile up hill and gains an additional 4,000 feet of elevation. Our day off can not come soon enough and we will certainly need it after tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008


We're in Ely, which is not pronounced like you'd expect. It was an 80 mile day with no services (but we didn't see a "Next Gas 80 miles" sign). There was absolutely nothing between Eureka and Ely, except 5 bikers and three passes. We totally rocked today - we got out of camp quickly and hammered out the uphills like John Henry hammers railroad ties. Unfortunately, we only have 15 minutes on the computer here at the KOA so this is all you get. Tomorrow we are headed to Baker, only four miles from the Utah border! Nevada has been long, straight, and beautiful, just like Alex. Until next time, Russ, Jen, Sarah, Dan, and Alex.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lonliest, Longest, Straightest Highway in America

The midnight ride of Coast to Coast began at 1:23 a.m. Saturday morning, much later than that of paul Revere. Strapped with headlights, reflective bands, and bike lights, the team rolled out of the Best Western and down Route 50 towards Austin following pseudo members of the taliban ie US Navy in costume. There were approximately 10 cars that passed us before sunrise, costing Russ to lose a pivotal bet to Dan. The road was straight, long, and dark, but luckily there was a full moon to additionally light our way. We passed through the salt flats, which felt like old snow to walk on: crusty on top, but easy to sink through.

Around dawn we sailed down a long downhill into a huge valley- ie the Centroid Naval Base. Centroid is clearly a name established from the 1970s when the first computer came to Nevada. By this time, we had ridden approximately 5 hours and still had miles to go. As the sun rose, so did the temperature. We cruised through the only other two dots on the map- historic Middlegate, which had been recommended for its food, and Cold Springs, which we don't recommend. At Cold Springs, we still had 50 miles to go, and it was 10 a.m. Sarah was dilligently counting down the miles until we hit 25, so we could enjoy our PB & J. We hunched under the one shrub in the entire state for shade, and quickly gobbled down our meal, in order to hit the road again. The heat was exhausting. Our last 25 miles were a downhill with some nice cloud coverage(like you care), but then the windstorm began. We had cross winds, which blew us across the lanes and required us to focus hard to stay on task, about as hard as Dan Morris rides his uphills, which for those not in the know is extremely hard. The final climb into Austin was not our steepest to date, but felt that way after 118 miles ni 15 hours. it was approximately 3 miles and a serious mountain town as most are in Nevada because of its prolific mining. We spent our night at the local Baptist church (sans proselytising) and enjoyed the music from a lovely family reunion just across the street. this morning we rolled out of austin and up and over the pass to reach Eureka. Todays ride was perfect. We had 60 miles of flats with a nice tail wind and clouds over head. We are camping at the local park and enjoying the amenities of the swimming pool and we will attempt our first barbaque of the trip. 2 long days, we're tired, bedtime................

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fast and Steady

Preface: loving the hotel and the internet, not loving the fact that the pictures won't upload.....

And so on we blog. This morning we rolled out of The Plaza just after sunrise to avoid the brutal heat of Nevada, and after averaging 12 m.p.h. rolled into Fallon, NV, around noon. Our ride this morning, through a large basin, was the longest stretch of flat we have seen to date and included a gradual downhill slant allowing us to bust out some easy miles. The scenery was terribly arid and desolate, which made it biker friendly and an interesting contrast to the environs of California. While previously we were surrounded by ginormous pines towering above us, steep climbs, and subsequent downhills, this morning's basin didn't even offer a small bush to pee behind. Towns were few and far between with populations less than 100, and yet each had its own casino with an all you can eat buffet. We don't think many mammals naturally live in the area, although there were a fair number of squished snakes on the road and significant rumble strips.

We were so fast this morning, we had lunch after we arrived in Fallon. Lodgings were donated generously to us by the Best Western in town, and they even stocked our room with water and chips, which was a nice treat!! Let's take this moment to talk a moment about food. So while cycling on average 8 hours a day (today being a magnificent exception!) we estimate we are burning roughly 7,000 calories. The question thus becomes, how do we replace all of this energy?!? The simple answer is quantity and frequency. Our day begins with breakfast, which usually includes bagels, cereal, juice and/or, and including, fruit. This morning breakfast was provided continentally by the hotel and even included a toaster for Dan's bagel. Each day we all travel with at least 2 servings of fruit and 2 power/cliff bars, a camel back full of water and a minimum of 2-3 water bottles. Lunch is sandwiches, more fruit, granola bars, and usually a dessert of sorts. Once again fruit and bars are stocked and we head out for an afternoon of more cycling. Dinner consists of vegetables and starches if we are near towns, but if away from grocery stores, lots of pasta, nuts, left over lunch foods, squished treats found in paniers, and another sweet. Last night, Alex and Dan prepared a super healthy dinner of salad with tons of vegetables and barbaque chicken on top. (Salad as a dinner is still under some debate by members of the team, but was accepted yesterday since there was meat. It is traditionally thought that salad is not a meal, but rather an appetizer.) For dessert we had the last of the Mama Morris cookies, which will be greatly missed!! Obviously our diets have some variation when we are closer to civilization occasionally including ice cream and cheesecake for example, but these splurges are rare. It is of note also that watermelon is consumed at least once a day as it is Dan's favorite food and assists in the hydrating process.

All right, well that is that for now. The plan for the afternoon is to catch some ZZZs, hit the hotel pool, shop, and prepare some dinner. Tomorrow will begin our climb out of the basin heading through some salt flats and also the equivalent of the Top Gun training region with all sorts of loud planes soaring overhead; it will be our longest day pushing us just over 100 miles! Camping is in the cards, so once again, don't hold your breath for the next post; it's looking like you all will next hear from us in Utah. Sorry there are no photos for you to enjoy. Hope all is well. Till next time. Signing out, Jen, Sarah, Alex, Russ, and Dan

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The World is Not Flat

It's been two days since we last posted an update, so we have quite a bit to report. We are writing now from the marvelous Plaza Hotel, situated in the center of Carson City, Nevada, on our day off before we start the ride across the loneliest road in America, highway 50.

We left off last time at Mark and Dawn's abode in Rescue, California. We still reminisce about the generous hospitality they gave us. They fueled us with a wonderful dinner, drinks, and good company. In addition, Mark spoke with some of his cycling buddies (not the elite cyclists ,aka 'roadies') and found us a route through the Sierras that would be "more scenic", more shady, and with less car traffic. As we learned, the route definitely was all of those things, but it certainly wasn't easy. But hey, it's hard to make a 5000 foot climb easy. We parted ways after Mark supplied us with a fuel canister for future hot dinners (none yet!), clean clothes, inspiration and best wishes.

Our early start out of Rescue began with a nice climb passing many farms, one of which gave us some delicious cold blueberries to keep us pedaling. We stopped at Sly Park for a nice picnic lunch that was much deserved and met Joel, another generous Californian. We then reached a road that we would get to know very well over the next two days, the Mormon Emigrant Trail. It is hard to describe in words the amazing beauty and strenuous difficulty of this road. After every steep climb, we were rewarded by gorgeous views. We continued our climb towards the top of the Sierras and right when we thought we couldn't go any farther, there was Joel with water, granola bars, dogs, and good company, which pushed us an additional 5 miles up the mountains to our campsite. Our campsite was just a spot we picked out on the side of the road that had a beautiful view of the Sierras. For most of us this was the first time we actually 'camped". There was no campground, no running water, no bathrooms, but lots of wild animals. Luckily our hanging bear bag remained intact in the morning as did we.

We woke up early the next morning after having had no difficulty falling asleep due to our state of exhaustion. We road up to Kirkwood where we stopped at Kirkwood Inn for some delicious food, that even Dan joined in on. We also had the additional company of Pat, Jeff, and Jim who brought good conversation to our table. We then geared up and pushed through the final 6 miles to the top of the Sierra Mountains known as Carson Pass (Elevation 8,574ft). After much celebration we began our descent. We cruised down (well, Russ sped down) the mountain to Woodfords which we planned as our camping destination. However, we came to find that Woodfords has a population of 150 and after a pow wow decided to push forward another 30+ miles to Carson City, Nevada! This turned out to be a bit ambitious as we did not roll into Carson City until 8pm. Along the journey, we passed the California/Nevada state line (1 state down, 10 to go)!

Our first night in Carson City was in a motel donated by a nice gentleman named Matthew. After a tough first 5 days we decided a day off was in order, so here we are in Carson City writing to you from the Plaza Hotel with the nicest Staff (If you ever find yourself in Carson City give a thank you to Mike, Shawn, and Colleen). They generously donated a beautiful suite and are helping us raise some additional funds for Lea's Foundation. (Which is a great segue to remind you that if you have not yet donated but would like to you can go to and click on coast to coast and then the donate button). Wishing you the best from the road, Sarah, Dan, Jen, Alex, and Russ. With miles of desert in the near future and few sparsely populated towns, you will probably not hear from us until Utah.

Three of the riders with Mike and Shawn at the Plaza Hotel (

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rescue Me!

Greetings from Rescue, CA!

There's so much to talk about, I don't know where I'll begin. The Rea-Wilkes family started off our day with tons of fresh fruit, muffins, and croissants - they are amazing hosts. Riding through Davis was a treat. Someone told us that you need to ride 50 miles in any direction to get to the nearest hill, even though we know from yesterday that this isn't the case. Regardless, there was a lot of flat ground today. We started off on a Davis bike path, which was great until we hit some construction. Not wishing to deal with a potentially crippling detour, we forged ahead on the side of the construction zone. Coast to Coast mountain biking!

After the half-mile stretch of off-roading, we joined back up on the bike path, and it was pretty much entirely separate from the roads for 30 miles until Folsom. California is the most biker-friendly state imaginable - bike lanes paralleling highways, bike lanes in the roads, bike lanes along the rivers!

We had bike lanes through Sacramento, and despite minor route-finding challenges, we found a path along the American River - one of the finest rivers you can imagine. We didn't want to leave the path, but had to make a detour onto a scary tram-laden street in downtown Sacramento to find an REI. Of course, the store was out of fuel bottles, ensuring at least a few more nights of cold dinners (or so we thought!). Our efforts were rewarded by one Amy Flores, a classmate of ours at UCHC, who treated us to a delicious burrito lunch. Suffice it to say that, like the riding, the Mexican food is better out west.

The American River trail is GORGEOUS! About 20 miles of pretty flat, two-lane bike route with a sparkling turquoise river to the side. We met a local ranger names Tom who gave us a lot of great information and encouragement, and the locals advised us that the river is dangerous, but we couldn't resist forever; eventually we found a safe spot to swim.
The water was, as we all agreed, "refreshing". It might have been 90 degrees today, but the water is coming straight from snow melt, and was probably checking in at around 60 degrees - the perfect temp for hot, sticky bikers, especially those wearing 1920's-style onsies.

Along the American River trail, one rider took particular interest in our over-laden bikes, and even offered us a place to stay! Mark and Dawn are proving that Californians are the friendliest people in the nation: after finishing off the day with lots of large rolling foothills, they offered their backyard for camping, and we had BBQ chicken and corn on the cob for dinner! Above and beyond, they even offered a fuel bottle and bike maintenance help - Mark wants to open a bike shop, and we all agree he would be a great owner. After a night of great conversation, it's off to bed to begin climbing the SIERRAS tomorrow - it should be a long, hard day.

One a personal note, I think it's both surprising and refreshing how generous everyone has been so far - I don't know if it's California, or that people like to support good causes, but we have been treated perfectly out here. It really shows the true character of Americans, and makes a strong statement about the greatness of this country, that everyone has been so kind. We're looking forward to seeing the rest of this great country.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Pacific

sleeping in the airport...sorry but the pictures won't cut and paste so they are all up top!

Fearless leader Jay guiding through the urban jungle!

From one coast...

tearing up the Napa scenery

The evening started at JFK, at least for part of the group. Sarah and Alex conveniently chose to attend the Dave Matthews Concert the night before the early flight to San Francisco. The end result, however, was the same for all of us. We got little or no sleep prior to our flight.

Our hopes were high for American Airlines but in the end we were left disappointed. $100 per bike box they wanted. By the end of our somewhat unusual check in, we negotiated the price of $100 for all 5 boxes. Although at a price, I think we can call this our first successful negotiation in the name of Coast to Coast. Before we knew it, we were boarding the plane. I think all of our thoughts were the same, we are actually going to be doing what we had been talking about for the past several months, biking from coast to coast. A shock to all of us and quickly reality set in. There was no turning around now.

Thank goodness there was an in-flight movie on our 5+ hour plus flight. I don't think any of us made it past the opening credits. Lacking in sleep, it did not take us long close our eyes and sleep our way to California. Before we knew it, out the plane windows we saw mountainous Colorado scenery. Luckily for us we won't have to bike across the Rockies. Just kidding of course, we will be there in a about 2-3 weeks. A short while later we landed at San Francisco International airport. All of us were in good spirits and ready to assemble our bikes, providing all of them made it safely on the flight with us. It worked out, everyone's box arrived and we began assembling immediately at baggage claim. We isolated ourselves in a corner if you will in attempts to stay out of other passengers way. It didn't take long for people to come up to us and ask us where we were biking and what it was we planned to do. Many people were interested to hear our story and wished us luck. It took a bit longer than expected to assemble our bikes and load our gear. Luckily for us, Russ' friend J was there to meet us at the airport. He became our official tour guide of San Fran and more importantly he got us out of the airport highway system.

We owe Jay many thanks, he took us on a great route through San Fran. We avoided the main city center but made our way directly to the Golden Gate Bridge. I think it is important to note here that we had a great, large burrito for lunch on the way. With our stomachs full, we pedaled toward the San Francisco Bay amidst windy conditions and a thick fog. Our first sight of the bridge was pretty amazing. We stopped for some quick pictures and crossed the bridge. Our big moment came shortly after crossing the bridge. We headed to the water to wet our rear tires in the Pacific waters. Again, Jay came through by finding us the perfect spot.

After officially marking the start if you will of our coast to coast ride we parted ways with our tour guide Jay and biked our own way to San Raphael. We encountered a few testing uphills before our descent into the valley. By now, with the daylight starting to dwindle, we made a quick stop at the grocery store where once again we lucked out and two very interested gentleman, Scott and Mark, began talking of us and trying to decide how they could best help us find our campsight for the night. In the end, with much helpful advice from Scott, Mark trailed us in his mini van to the the China Camp campground. We quickly set up our tents as we ended the riding for the day with roughly 50 miles under our belt. We had a nice candlelight dinner (except not by candle but rather by head lamps). It was great, the food was cold but we didn't care. There's only one type of food after a long day of biking, and that is good food.

In the morning we got up on the earlier side, and began biking again. Our destination was Napa valley. We found some beautiful but hilly riding in that direction. Napa was pretty incredible, with vineyards and mountainous landscape surrounding us as we biked farther toward Davis.

That, however, was not as easy as it sounded. We had some rather steep climbs in front of us at that point. Our toughest climb to date was after leaving Napa. We were faced with a 6 mile uphill climb that seemed to never end. Even the two experienced riders of the group, Russ and Jen, had to admit that it was difficult. Jen adds, she readily agrees with this statement. Did I say steep, well that's what it was, real steep.

Finally, after completing our first full day of cycling, we made it to our end destination Davis. The more than generous Wilkes family took us in for the night. To be quite frank they spoiled us beyond anything we could have imagined. An elaborate dinner was waiting for us and refreshments to start. While they finished the preparations of our meal, they let us take a dip in their beautiful pool. What a house by the way. A great back porch was the setting of our dinner. We all ate too much but could not help ourselves. It was just too good. Of course they offered us more than just dinner, a great desert followed. As if that weren't enough, they continued being excellent hosts by offering us beds, showers, and great conversation. The Wilkes residence gets five stars in our book and we certainly recommend it to anyone fortunate enough to be offered a stay. More coming soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Training Trip Report

Riders learn many important biking lessons
photography skills do not improve

Bethlehem, NH - The five coast to coast riders and some friends went on a two-day training trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
From left to right: Swicka, Hannah, Sarah, Alex, LMN, Russ, and Dan

"We decided to test our stamina and grit by finding the most climbing in NH, and then by picking the rainiest, coldest weekend in Spring," said Sarah of the trip. And the riders know how to pick them - with about 110 miles in two days and five big climbs, the trip was certainly a foreshadowing of things to come.

Dan reports, "the first thirty miles were not too bad, except for the 50 degree temps, wet pavement, and 20-mph head wind. Then we got to the first climb, and it poured on us." The blinding rain prevented the climbers from overheating on the five mile uphill over Bear Notch, but cooled them off a little too quickly on the downhill. Luckily, they arrived at their campsite shortly thereafter, shivering and soaked.

The climb up to Bear Notch wound its way up wet hills

The next day resulted in partially cloudy skies, and partially dried pavement, with four more massive uphills. Everyone did great, and they arrived at the Bethlehem town line, one mile from their starting point, at around 4 PM. "With only one mile to go," says Sarah, "I thought we had done an excellent job all weekend, but we had not tested the group's ability to deal with injury. I decided to take one for the team, and on an 11% downhill, slammed my front brakes as hard as I could, flipping over the bike and head-butting the pavement." Sarah cracked her helmet and broke her glasses and rear rack, but walked away with only minor scrapes.

Everyone is glad that Sarah is OK, and everyone, including Sarah, came away from the weekend with a great handle on what bike touring takes. We are ready!

We leave on Saturday, June 14! Stay tuned for more posts, and let us know you are supporting us!