Thursday, July 31, 2008

onward to pennsylvania

Dinner at Tony and Joan's wonderful home was delicious - we enjoyed tasty chicken kabobs, potato gratin, and salad with pie for dessert. We should note that Tony was surprised how much we could eat - he ended up firing up the grill a second time just to satisfy our appetites! We also enjoyed getting the extensive tour of Tony's slot car collection. For those young blog readers out there, slot cars are awesome - they are small race cars (a little bigger than the matchbox variety) that race around an electronic track at the push of a button. As we learned from our demo try, Russ may have found a new career in this sport.

Quick aside - a weight update. To correct an earlier reported post, we had an accurate weigh-in at Tony and Joan's residence.
Alex: 150 (down), DMo: 153 (down), Russ: 159 (up), Sarah and Jen: no change. (DH would be proud)

We left North Canton under a clear Monday morning sky ready for our last ride through Ohio. The group was excited to know that Dan's Uncle Marvin would be meeting us along the ride and assisting us by carrying our gear. The plan had been to meet at the intersection of route 5 and another smaller numbered road. This, however, turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Having been detoured from our original route and giving Uncle Marvin coordinates that didn't exist, it took us some time to find a common meeting place. Nevertheless, after Dan and Uncle Marvin exchanged multiple rounds of cellular communication, we finally found ourselves traveling down the same road. Jen and Russ were riding ahead and nearly missed Uncle Marvin in his blue Toyota Highlander. However, from the back of the pack, Alex and Dan spotted the bright, luminescent and orange Miami Dolphins attire from miles away. Uncle Marvin wanted to follow us along the way by driving behind us. After several miles on Route 5, however, it was made clear that we do not bike as fast as cars tend to travel. He quickly, and smartly, decided to meet us at our lunch destination.

We stopped to eat at Caesar's where we proceeded to order and finish an entire sheet of pizza (24 slices) with a side of PB and J. We found ourselves moving quickly without gear and, thus, had a relatively easy ride. Staying true to most days, we stopped for ice cream/shakes at a local establishment. This time Lickety Split was the lucky winner. A peanut butter bananaramma was ordered. Part of the group opted for a quick power nap instead. After ice cream, we climbed into Pennsylvania toward Cianci's Inn in Greenville. Finding the hotel was tricky because we had misunderstood Uncle Marvin and thought he had said Cialis Inn (this got a few laughs). Luckily for us, this was the only hotel in town. After a grocery stop at the famed Giant Eagle, we ate a nice dinner at the Stone Arch Family Restaurant. As if one ice cream stop for the day had not been enough, members of the group ordered pie for dessert and then walked all the way across the parking lot to Dairy Queen for dessert number two.

Tuesday was a great day - our first day riding for the whole day without gear. We departed Greenville with the ups and downs of the Alleghany Mountains ahead of us. Our lunch conference with Uncle Marvin took place at the Washington House, a wonderful establishment in the town of Fryburg (P.S. if you are interested in checking this town out, it is just past Venus on the map). If this was even possible, we out did ourselves again for lunch this time, ordering monster-sized burgers, entire pizza pies, and triple-stacked BLT's. The cook was so generous that she made us complementary appetizers to satisfy our hunger prior to the meal - deep fried squash and cauliflower that had been picked that morning (essentially defeating the purpose of eating a healthy vegetable).
Our ride to Marienville was fairly easy, except for the fact that our stomachs were stuffed full - why do we do this to ourselves every day? The answer alludes us, but this trend continues, day after day. Uncle Marvin had wisely selected the brand-new Microtel Inn in Marienville for us to stay the night, despite them having hung up on him 3 times the night before on the phone. Microtel offered us 2 rooms, an extra conference room to hold our bicycles, and continental breakfasts for all. The only alternative in town, the Bucktail Hotel, offered fewer amenities, and, when we checked it out later that evening, we noticed that there were no cars at all near the premises. Uncle Marvin comes through again.

After a few intense discussions of Civil War and WWII history with Marvin and the sleepy bikers, talk of dinner surfaced. While the girls opted to sleep, the men traveled to the local Italian restaurant, Betina's. Despite the recommendation by John at the hotel to sample the ice cream at a state favorite 40 miles away, we opted for the good stuff 1/4 mile down the road - and we of course notified the proper authorities that we were "taking some home" for Jen and Sarah.

On Wednesday morning, we left Marienville, but not after a photo-op with Uncle Marvin. It was great to spend time with him, and we are so appreciative of everything he did for us - we were truly spoiled for a few days. Now, it was onwards with our gear once again on our bikes. After a flat tire on Jen's bike and a couple of worthy uphills, we found ourselves stopped with another flat on Jen's bike (more to follow) in the center of a town. While the tire situation was being evaluated, Sarah, Alex and Dan headed to the local Pizzeria to find a restroom (it is much more difficult to tend to nature's calling in the middle of busy towns we have found). While taking care of business, we spoke with the owner of the Pizzeria and told her all about our trip. They would have offered to make us pizza had we been there longer or closer to lunch time. After declining the cookie we had been offered (we forget why we would ever decline food, but probably because we were too hungry to process this information correctly), we headed back outside to see how progress on the bike was going. Soon thereafter, the owner came out to us to offer some wraps (chicken, turkey, and vegetable) for the road. This time we certainly said yes. The group kept riding and was looking forward to the lunch break. The only other stop came when there was yet another flat on Jen's tire. This time it was decided that perhaps the ridiculously skinny tire on the back of the bike might need to be replaced as it was clearly not cut out to do the work it was being asked to do. Shame on you tire which is skinny.

Per usual, we stopped for lunch at a drive in (complete with selection of 24 ice cream flavors of course) in Smethport. After finishing wraps, PB and J, and several day old Tabouli (in questionable condition at best) we proceeded to order dairy products. On the way to the front window to order, we were stopped by some locals who questioned us about our trip. We had a pleasant conversation with Becky and Marcia who both generously made donations to Lea's. They warned us about the uphills to come and the rain that was expected. After thanking them, we finished our ice creams just as the rain began. It was just light at first but more was to follow. We headed out quickly to try to avoid the worst of what was to come. However, after only a few seconds, Alex needed to pull over in order to put on his rain jacket as it started pouring down heavily. Luckily for the group, the process of putting on the jacket took some time. On try number one, Alex left his Camelbak on making it hard to put on the jacket. Try number two and some real quick thinking took place immediately following try number one. This time the Camelbak was successfully removed and the Jacket put on just before actual soaking occurred. In the meantime, Dan waited patiently behind Alex in proper group formation and accumulated significant moisture on his forehead along with streams of water pouring down his sunglasses (he promptly thought about installing small windshield wipers, then opted not to since that would have taken additional time). As the commotion went on, this allowed Becky enough time to leave the drive in and pull up behind us. She got out of her car in the soaking rain only to slip Dan an additional donation for a hotel room that night. We thanked her yet again for her kindness and followed her down the road.

Although the hard rain only lasted for about fifteen minutes, it was enough to leave us drenched. Immediately following lunch, we had some pretty decent uphills to conquer before arriving at Coudersport. On the longest uphill since Colorado, we found ourselves amidst a procession of automobiles. First to pass us was a cop car, followed by an oversized load car. After that, we simply heard noise for about five minutes. All of us were wondering what might be trying to make its way up the hill (and why the heck was it traveling at roughly our speed?). Only DMo can answer this question. As the enormous truck carrying portions of a bridge eventually passed us, we were greeted by a long line of cars that had been stuck behind these two massive semis. Dan was happy to get many a thumbs up from passengers in those cars. At the top, a group bathroom break was established (luckily by that point the traffic had cleared up). It was notable that the bathroom lineup was in boy-girl-boy formation.

After the majority of the hills were conquered, we rode through Port Alleghany and were somewhat surprised to find ourselves in Buffalo Bills territory. We marched onward to our final stop that day in Coudersport. Still wet from the ride, we attempted to situate ourselves at the Westgate Inn. We were, however, denied a donated room and so went on to get groceries instead. At the store, a nice lady at the register called other hotels in the area to try to help us find a place to stay. She was finally able to negotiate a room at a reduced price. Before heading to the proposed hotel several miles down the road, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at the local Erway's Restaurant. As we were finishing our meals, we received a call from Dr. Keat Sanford, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. After informing Dr. Sanford of our situation, he generously informed us that he would be putting us up for the next two nights in Coudersport at the Westgate Inn (which we had just previously been rejected from). We were all ecstatic to hear the news as we sat in the restaurant and were even more surprised when a waitress came up to our table and asked if we were the group from Connecticut. Apparently, Dr. Sanford had asked the hotel when making reservations where a good place to eat was. They had suggested Erway's which we coincidentally happened to be sitting in already. The waitress proceeded to explain to us that Dr. Sanford was on the phone and in the process of setting up a tab for us to cover our food expenses throughout our stay in Coudersport. The waitress explained to us that she had to convince Dr. Sanford to lower the amount of money on the tab because she did not think that there was any possible way for us to run up a tab to that amount at their restaurant. Thank you Dr. Sanford, you have certainly made our stay in Coudersport as comfortable as possible. Not to mention, when we entered the suite at the Westgate Inn, we found a gigantic room with three beds, two tables, plenty of space to fit our bikes, a kitchenette, and premium cable television. Plus, it's Shark Week which makes the TV all the more essential. Again, thank you for your generosity and support Dr. Sanford.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Goodness Gracious

What does that expression even mean? Noun followed by adjective? Come on.

Regardless, we have been impressing ourselves with our own abilities. That's right. From Carmel, where we had a great time with Arjun and Sandy the dog (who only moved once the entire day, to eat our sandwiches), we rode onward towards Ohio, reaching the border in the early afternoon. We rolled on to Piqua just pushing us over 3,000 miles or ~5,000 kilometers and had a lovely stay at the Knight's Inn. And by lovely, we mean dirty and 9 hours too long.
We had heard that Ohio gets progressively hillier as you head east, so we decided to throw in some long miles on the west side since they may end up being our last flat days of the trip. 115 to Piqua was followed by 115 to Apple Valley (outside of Mont Vernon- home of Kenyon College). We ended up camping in Apple Valley, since it was the Knox County Fair, which filled up all the hotels in Mt. Vernon. We pitched our tents in the fading light of day, only to be abruptly rained on during dinner. Per usual we were in bed before dark and were sleeping soundly until the police woke us up at 10pm demanding our camping permits. (please note, this is the second time on the trip police have awoken us). Russ motioned to our neighbors stating that they were sleeping with the permits, which earned us a get out of jail free card.

The weather and drivers here in Ohio are definitively east coast. The temperature is cooler, and clouds roll through every day; there is noticeable humidity, but mild in comparison to the tropical rain forest we battled in Missouri. We love that, but the drivers on the other hand are terrible and bound to get worse. As is typical of east coasters, they pretend they cannot see us and come within inches of our handlebars, and on top of it, they don't slow down. The people here are also more guarded and not as eager to invite five stinky bikers into their homes for the night.

All of these rules are an exception tonight however in North Canton, Ohio, where we are graciously being hosted by Sarah's cousin once removed (now that's technical). Having cranked out 2 long days, today was only 80 miles giving us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery in Amish/Mennonite country of Holmes County, where to our dismay every bakery, produce stand, and dried meat shop was closed since today is Sunday. The riding however was shaded and spectacular! Note the extremely wide shoulder on Amish Country roads, presumably for the buggies!

Since there was little to snack upon in the early morning hours, we made a pit stop at a local Creamery, where everyone ordered ice cream. Russ and Dan decided to "super size me" with the monster size shake- why a styrofoam cup exists in this size is beyond comprehension...

Russ tried to figure out how so much volume can fit into the stomach, but left without an answer.

We finally rolled into Canton around 3:30, and if any of you know anything about Canton, OH, you know it is the home to the pro football hall of fame. Having lost Dan and Alex for 3 hours to such an enticing attraction, Russ, Jen, and Sarah headed instead to the alluring air conditioned home with hosts, food, and showers. Dan declares that this visit was certainly a capstone experience and that he will probably blow up that picture of him next to Dan Marino, so he can hang it on his wall back at 5S as a poster. (Please note Dan Marino was not actually present for the picture.)

Everyone is gathered around the dinner table, so it is time to eat (again). Only 7 days of riding remain. How the miles add up.....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moving Along Through the Midwest

We left off with you in St. Louis, Missouri, with a great stay with Daniel's brother Josh and his college buddies. For dinner on Sunday night, we took a trip down to the popular college hangout "the Loop" for an evening of Thai food and ice cream. We were joined by Jen's friend Marissa, who is a fourth-year medical student at St Louis University - thanks for the ice cream and the ride, Marissa!

Well, it was back to riding on Monday morning, and Jen helped us navigate the streets of St Louis, through the beautiful Forest Park (Dan got a flat tire here), north on the Shoreline bike trail on the banks of the Mississippi, and of course our historic crossing of the great river of North America via the Old Chain of Rocks bridge. It's amazing how vast and wide our country is west of the Mississippi - we know from experience...

Our ride through the state of Illinois was pretty, pretty, pretty good. We had bike trails for the first twenty miles, following the original Route 66. As the temperature rose and the humidity got worse, we started to get tired. But we pushed through to our destination for the day, Altamont, Illinois. When we arrived, we did our usual routine: supermarket, scout out for places to stay, and set up camp - but when we checked out the town park, we realized that the water spigots were not working and local neighbors were skeptical that we were allowed to camp for the night. Luckily, we met up with Mary-Jane at the local supermarket, and she insisted that we stay at her wonderful home just outside town. When we arrived, we met her husband Dave, cooled off in their outdoor pool, and cooked a wonderful meal with them - pasta, garlic bread, iced tea, and wonderful peach pie homemade by Mary-Jane. We had a great visit with them and we appreciated their warm welcome to the state of Illinois.

The next day we had our first cloudy day of the entire trip! We all were proud of Dan, who only reapplied the SPF 50 three times during the day. Under cooler skies, we breezed into Indiana, where a road sign was one of two welcomes we received.

The other welcome was not a warm one: Indiana roads are crap. We got jolted right into Terre Haute, which has the highest concentration of fast food joints in the entire world. Paradoxically, we climbed out of Terre Haute 15 more miles to Brazil.

We noted a sharp contrast between Indiana and the other states we had seen. In Indiana, lots of people yelled at us from their cars. We called the police and sheriff and were strictly verboten from camping within city limits. Over the past few weeks we have been steadily improving at searching out the generous people at supermarkets and even getting invited to camp in back yards. Unfortunately, people at the supermarket in Brazil were wary of us. The nicer shoppers asked us where we were going, but never considered helping us out. Most just avoided us. After seeing us at the supermarket, then again at the church, one family eventually found a family member to let us camp in their yard. Just to give you an idea of what we mean when we say they were "wary" of us, this nice woman let us camp in her yard, but we were told the dogs were "trained to kill" and were not invited into the locked house to use the bathrooms. Regardless, thank you for the use of your yard and garden hose, Marsha!

After that strange evening, we rode the remaining 60 miles into Indianapolis, continuing our "America's Worst Roads" tour over potholes and sunken railroad tracks right into downtown Indy. We were treated with cooler temperatures all day, which again was a trip first. After lunch in the park, we took the Monon bike trail 15 miles to Carmel, north of the city, to stay with Arjun, Alex' high school friend. Arjun has been a great host, and we were all excited to see how Alex spent his high school years, sitting in a semi circle in someone's driveway.
We are off to Ohio withing the next two days, then Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. We are all getting excited as we approach our destination, but we aren't quite ready to leave Carmel: Arjun's sister Priya has been bragging about getting her first tattoo since we arrived, but keeps putting it off when the time comes. We think she's all talk.

Some questions have been posed by our loyal readers, and the best will be answered right now.

  1. We did indeed go to Ted Drewe's frozen custard in St. Louis. After raising money and awareness for Lea's Foundation, our second goal is to try every ice cream place in the country. Today we tried Handel's Ice Cream, which has received numerous national accolades. We were all very impressed. We should note that we have been impressed by every ice cream place so far, though.
  2. We all help write every blog entry, and that is why we don't sign a name. If it's grammatically lacking, it's usually Alex' contribution. If it's boring but well-written, it's usually Jen's. If it is long-winded and documentary-like, it's probably Russ' or Dan's. If it doesn't make sense, it's probably Sarah's.
  3. Some of us have some knee pain, and most of us have issues with our rear ends. Dan has been wearing two pairs of bike shorts for the past two weeks.
  4. We are always tired. We ride a lot, and when we aren't riding, we are either sleeping or eating. There is no time for anything else. For instance, as I am typing this I am also eating. As soon as I hit submit, I'm going to bed.
We will try to answer all questions as they come.

Have a great one!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

MO riding, MO cruising.

Last time, we went through Kansas. Here are some pictures from that:

Kansas Sunrise
We obviously didn't stay here...

Eastern Kansas was green!

We entered Missouri not knowing what to expect, and our first night was a disappointment: after finding nice town parks throughout Kansas, we found none in Harrisonville. Luckily, Missouri only got better. That night, Dan's friend Dan paid us a visit. Dan (not the one on our trip) was a friend of Dan's(the rider) from college. Dan(not the rider) lives in Kansas City. Dan hadn't seen Dan in over a year! Dan(K.C.) brought us some necessary bike supplies, including new peddles for Alex since his were officially stubborn. Thanks, Dan!

Our next day we hit 99 miles on our way to Versailles, the friendliest town in America. If you are asking directions there, be sure you pronounce it "ver-sails" and not "ver-sigh" because using the latter pronunciation will only get you blank stares from people who live within 5 miles of the town. We found a park and as luck would have it there was a concert for the town! We set up our tents and then cooked to the sound of classic rock covers. Despite initially being scared away from us (possibly because we were taking showers - soap and shampoo included - under a drinking spigot) the locals soon made us feel like one of them. We met literally half the police force, and we can't say enough about Officer Hunter. The local newspaper reporter interviewed us, then introduced us to the town mayor. Mayor Terry then got us up on the stage and introduced us to the whole crowd, and basically got us a standing ovation. More importantly, the introduction got us free beef brisket sandwiches (2nd dinner) and multiple invitations for places to stay.

The town doctor, Dr. Mary, had the best offer: a swimming pool, a house, laundry, and she even threw in two homemade pies to sweeten the deal. We couldn't pass her up, so we packed up our tents and got ready to ride some more to her home. The prospect of riding some more after showering and eating two dinners was not appealing, but Officer Hunter came through: he offered a police escort to the house. We left the park with the sirens and lights of the patrol car leading the way, and everyone at the concert applauding us! We truly felt like celebrities leaving the park.

Some of us might have been upset about the extra miles, but the despair subsided when we realized that Mary was married to Bill, the chef of the soon-to-be-infamous beef brisket. He came home with extra BBQ, so we had a quick 3rd dinner before moving on to the pies. There are two things to note here. First, the brisket was the BEST brisket any of us had ever tasted. It melted in your mouth and had an amazing flavor. Second, Versailles is right in Mennonite country. I don't know what exactly the Mennonites are, but they surely know how to bake. Both pies were quickly devoured, and Dr. Mary even prepared us a large zip lock bag of brisket to take with us, which became known over the next few days as "beef bag". Keep this in mind as you read on...

To secure the award for friendliest town in America, Dr. Mary took us to an all-you-can-eat Mennonite breakfast buffet. Continuing with the superlatives, the buffet had the BEST donut holes of the trip- still warm with a perfect glaze! They even rivaled the apple fritters in Rescue, CA (sorry Mark and Dawn).

After breakfast, we were ready to keep riding, sad to leave Versailles behind. Our luck held as we immediately passed a bike shop and refilled some important supplies. The Mennonites ride bikes as primary transportation (or horse and buggy), so the shop was well-stocked, staffed with a friendly guy named Mark, and reasonably priced. Dan weighed himself at the store and found he has gained 15 pounds since the trip started - don't worry Mrs. Morris, I'm sure Dan isn't eating any junk food.

Missouri has an unpaved bike trail that runs the entire width of the state, and we began utilizing it selectively after Jefferson City. It's pretty and shaded, but slower than the roads. The Katy Trail, as it's called, follows a railroad bed, so it is flat. When we chose wisely, we avoided hilly road sections and took the trail. When we chose poorly, Dan and Russ ended up biking a mile uphill, only to turn around to take the Katy Trail.

Dan and Russ had a fun encouter on the Katy trail outside of Jeff City: two germans, Michael and Maria, who were on their fifth month of a round trip cross-country bike trip, having started in Las Vegas and gone east, they were now headed west. We chatted energetically for twenty minutes before arriving at the mandatory exchange of food. Not having the whole group, Dan and Russ had limited options, and settled on the beef bag. The germans were hesitant at first, but as soon as they tasted beef bag, they couldn't stop. Imagine two germans reaching dirty unwashed hands into a bag of brisket that had been stewing in the sun on the top of russ' bag all day. This proves how good the brisket was. Needless to say, the rest of the group finished beef bag later that day.

We ended in Hermann, another beautiful town with friendly people. The Hermann Haus hotel, and Kate in particular, were amazingly accommodating and supportive of our cause. They let us use the hotel kitchen to cook a meal, and Kate even got up early to make us breakfast! Of course, the air-conditioned room and showers were unbelievable.

The next day we awoke bright-eyed for two reasons. It was cloudy, and we were headed to St. Louis. The energy faded within the first 15 miles, as we made the ill-fated decision to stay on the road instead of the Katy Trail outside of Hermann. we had extremely steep, rolling hills instead of flats. This would have been OK, but the clouds kept the humidity in what we could only estimate as the 190-200% range. We weren't dripping sweat; our sweat faucets were turned to "deluge" mode. We learned from our mistakes, and rode the Katy for about 45 more miles into the St. Louis suburbs, from where we took and eerily empty main road right into St. Louis.

We took today off in St. Louis, and stayed with some very nice U Washington students: Danny, Mark, Aaditya, Adam, Roger. We are lucky to have found them: they live with Dan's brother Josh! They have been excellent hosts, taking us to a famous frozen custard stand last night and cooking us dinner! Today, Dan and Russ went with Josh to an exciting Cardinals game while the other three went to see Batman. But seriously, we obviously stopped to see Josh, and he has been a great host. We are sad to leave, but this has been a great break. Next stop: Indianapolis(in a few days).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Show Me!

Sorry for the infrequent updates, but there has not been much internet around these parts. Also, this computer is not letting me put pictures on the post, so getready for a boring, journal-worthy entry...

When our loyal readers were last left hanging, we were in Scott City on a day off - thanks to Stefanie for letting Dan and Alex take all day to write the blog! Every town in Kansas has a great little park where camping is, at worse, condoned. On our second night in Scott City's greens, we had some company: a fellow X-C biker by the name of James, and the family and friends of a two-year-old celebrating a birthday. We grilled some sausages(tofu for Dan "I think I'm sick of Tofu" Morris) and congratulated the birthday boy by eating a large percentage of his cake and ice cream, which would have been perfect if we had also been given soda in road cones like everyone else at the party (construction theme).

It turns out our day off was a great decision- the next day we had winds in our favor, and with the added company of James we rode an easy 90 miles to La Crosse before 1 PM. Again, we had a great grilled dinner in the town park, and Dan had a lovely conversation with a nice local by the name of Don. The next day we kept true to last year's riders' plan and stopped in Lindsborg, Little Sweden. Unfortunately it was Monday and everything was closed, so most of us had fried chicken for dinner (guess what Dan had...) Still, we enjoyed the music in the streets and the great company we had at the Viking Motel. Our neighbors for the night were old friends who see each other once a year, and we spent hours chatting and snacking with them, but failed to convince anyone to come riding with us.. Alex had a trip-defining moment when he was amicably forced to eat a sardine, and he will never admit that he loved every bite of it. Overall, Little Sweden was a lot of fun; our only regret was only drinking 6 of the requisite 10 smoothies to "get one free". I think our Swedish readers will agree that Lindsborg feels just like Sweden.

From Lindsborg we had a long 110-mile day to Osage City. We were about to camp in another park but Sharon ran into the road and forced us to stay in her yard,and then forced us to shower, do laundry, and eat her cherry cobbler. We couldn't resist her charm, but it turned out OK in the end: we went to sleep well-fed and clean!

Today was another big day: we entered Missouri (the Show Me state)! Kansas does not deserve it's reputation: it is full of great people who drive courteously, cute towns with great parks and pools, and smooth roads. The eastern part is actually fairly rolling, so it isn't 100% flat. Also, there are trees, which I never knew. We rolled into Harrisonville, MO today and the riding was more of the same: nice rolling hills with lush green fields. We are staying in a hotel courtesy of the Steenbergens tonight, which is nice especially because the humidity picked up overnight somewhere outside of Scott City. We are definitely getting close.

Overall, our spirits are high, and we are excited to head to St. Louis. Keep those comments coming. We miss you all, and hope everyone is doing well!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

let the flats begin

It seems like forever since we last wrote, and we have many new events to report - we are in a new time zone, we are in a new state, and we are in the Great Plains!

Let's start where we left off, it was Monday night and we stayed at the very generous Waterwheel Inn just outside of Gunnison, Colorado. We had an excellent dinner of Mexican food supplied by Russ' friends Dana and Louise who reside in Crested Butte, Colorado. For the first time, Alex had trouble finishing his burito. It may have been attributed to the pre-dinner meal he had, but that is not a true excuse for not finishing a burito. As we crept into bed for the night, we took in some words of wisdom from the great classic Star Wars movie on TV, Return of the Jedi.

Tuesday's adventure took us out of the green Gunnison valley and in the direction of what would be our last Rocky Mountain climb. On our way, we ran into three bikers heading West, two of which were from Indiana University bring about a great deal of excitement for Alex. After a quick conversation with our fellow cyclists, we learned the following. There are many stories circulating the biking routes surrounding Monarch Pass. Some fear it, some laugh at it, and others (such oursevles) do not know what to think of it. In any case, our approach to the pass seemed harmless as we traversed a relatively flat terrain. As we approached the final climb, however, the road becamse abruptly steeper and we were forced to pedal a bit harder. After a fairly short approach, we saw the green sign that would change our lives forever... 7 Miles to Summit. Of course, a seven mile climb is no match for cyclists with our climbing history, or so we thought. We had done many climbs longer than this, and the Rocky Moutains, thus far, had not impressed us too much relatively to other moutains we have climbed. From the start, Sarah took the lead and managed to stay ahead of the group all the way to the summit. To this day, nobody is sure of what may have motivated her to sprint up the moutain, but our best guess is that ice cream was being sold at the top. Dan, on the other hand, led from the back making sure that no indivdual or Clif Bar was left behind. The climb turned out to be quite challenging, having a steep and constant uphill grade. At very few points, if any, did the moutain allow us to break and replenish the strengh in our leg muscles. Monarch Pass as we discovered was not a joking matter and made us respect the Rocky Moutains once again. Along our ascent, we saw many scenic views along the moutain road. As the seemingly endless road curved and twisted along the moutain range, we saw picturesque views of the valleys and the peaks of the moutains above. Sarah, Jen, and Alex were the first to set eyes on the Continental Divide marker atop of the pass boasting its elevation of 11,312 ft. As Russ and Dan made their final push up the moutain, the remaining three got into formation to make a ceremonial tunnel for the others to ride through as they reached the top. Although short in length, the tunnel served its celebratory purpose and both Russ and Dan were rewarded with an additional pat on their sore behinds.

Having reached the top, the group settled into the Monarch Pass Food/Gift shop to eat lunch. As usual, the group was waiting on Daniel to deliver the PB and J sandwiches which were tucked away in his pannier, but he had struck up a conversation with Joel and his two sons who had come to the Rockies from St. Louis for a boy scout trip. Sarah had also met a Texan family atop of Monarch pass only to discover that the one of the parents worked with her Uncle. It IS a small world afterall (at least when you're off the bike). As always, anything and everything tasted good after a strenuous climb through a pass. As lunch concluded and we began to get ready for the descent, we suddenly became aware that the weather had turned on us. Dark clowds approaching, and it seemed that rain might hit us at any moment. After several moments of indicision insde the gift shop, a unanimous push was made to begin the descent before the rain truly set in. It would be a ten mile descent, and the weather was getting cool atop of the pass. In addition, the downhill always makes it seem a lot cooler than it is. Everyone bundled up in rain jacket, gloves, fleeces, and long pants. Almost everyone that is. Alex simply threw on his long sleaved UnderArmour shirt (we think he is unofficially sponsored or owns substantial number of UnderArmour shares, his portfolio is "strong, to quite strong") and his rain jacket. It is noteable that several people stopped on the downhill to put on more layers. Alex stopped too but only to inform everyone that he it wasn't actually that cold (his self diagnosis was that either he had alreadly lost all sensory feeling in his legs by that point or that he was Swiss). The downhill brought us closer to Salida, our final destination. There were several portions of the downhill that exposed us to wet roads and some light rain. As the descent came to an end, however, and we hit the flat stretches we really got hit hard by the downpour. Our first time really getting hit hard by rain! Some people would be upset, we thought it was pretty great because it felt quite refreshing (and for those of us who hadn't showered in a while it didn't just feel refreshing it in fact was clensing). Dan claims that he was separated from the group on the last stretch into Salida. We can't verify this because we were too far ahead of him.

As we reached Salida, we decided it would be best to stop at a local bike store we had heard about and wait out the weather before possibly pushing on an additional 30 miles or so. At the bike store, we became involved in a major conversation with employees about which route would be best to take to Pueblo the next day. It seemed that everyone had some input but nobody had an actual idea. Having spent too much time at the bike store, the group felt that it would be best to stick to our original plan and stay in Solida for the night. Being a fairly large town, we figured we could surely find a hotel to stay for the evening. We learned not to figure that afternoon, because it turns out all hotels turned us down. At the last hotel, Daniel once again delivered one of his finest speeches to the owner only to be rejected one more time leaving us roomless. Luckily for us, however, Alyse was behind us in line waiting to speak to the motel owner about some flyers she was handing out. Without hesitation, Alyse offered us her house and hot tub if we wanted. After we began talking with Alyse, we discovered that she had taken part in Walt Diseny marathon walk benefiting Leukemia and Lymphoma. We were very excited to hear her offer us her home and were set on going. Soon, thereafter, we discovered that it was 7 miles back in the direction we had just came from. Our hearts sunk a little since it had been a long day and a 7 mile trek backward (adding on additonal miles to our 100+ day to follow) seemed to be the last thing on our minds. We decided to go for it though, and we are extremely glad that we did. Before we able to settle in for the evening, however, Dan and his bike decided to have a flat tire on the short 7 mile stretch back. It was Dan's first flat of the trip, and since he had just gotten a detailed tutorial from Russell about how to change a flat, was eager to put his new skills to work. He began slowly taking the tire off the wheel, and after a few minutes of this slow, tedious work, Russ stepped in to get the job moving quicker. A team effort.

Alyse and her husband Jim owned a beautiful home in Poncha Springs, CO that faced the Rocky Moutains and Monarch Pass that we had just descended earlier that day. Their home contained many windows to observe the beautiful views that surrounded their property. Jim was smoking a chicken on his special grill as we arrived and their courtyard contained many more grills, firepits, and a nice hot tub (which we were unfortunately too tired to use). Alyse, on her way home, stopped by a mexican restaurant to pick up especially for us some delicious salsa and chips. Alyse also made a nice pasta dinner for us that evening to which we were only prepared enough to contribute some pasta sauce and garlic break that we had just baught in town. We learned that Jim was a retired Urologist who trained in California and praticed for the majority of his career Canyon City, CO. After retiring from the field, he and his wife moved to Poncho Springs and their home has become their hobby. They are continually remodeling and adding on to their house. It looks great! Jim also told us about his hobby of riding his Jeep through treacherous terrains in Moab. Let's just say Dan's Toyota would not make it on those paths. We were extremely grateful for Alyse and Jim's hospitality, and they were extremely generous to us. They even got up early with us in the morning, and Alyse fixed us up an incredible breakfast that included everything from fruit salad to back to nuts for our cereal. In short, it was the best (and only) 7 miles that we have ridden West all trip.

Our ride on Wednesday was unbelievable, as Dan would say. We began with our very familiar 7 mile stretch back into Salida. After all of the discussion surrounding our route to Pueblo, we decided to deviate from the suggested Adventure cycling route, which would have taken us over another mountain pass, and take the more direct, hopefully flatter route on Highway 50. It turned out to be a wise decision, but we did encounter a lot of traffic. The group rode close together for the first half of the day, which was a beautiful ride through the canyons and followed the downstream flow of the Arkansas River. We saw some brave whitewater rafters on the river who were navigating the strong rapids. After a quick pit stop, Alex pointed up to the sky and Dan looked up and up trying to see what he was pointing to - a longhorn deer! Perched on the side of the mountain cliff! Unbelievable.

On this ride, Russ also had another flat tire - this time it was his little bob tire that gave out. He has successfully gotten flats in all 3 of his tires - way to go Russ!

As usual, when we arrived at the town of Canon City (by the way there is an accent over the n which makes it sound like canyon) we showed up to the park where there was some excitement going on. The farmer's market was in town, and we assembled quite a gourmet feast. Asiago bread, fresh goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil ("leaves") were eaten. As I mentioned before, we took the "flat" route to Pueblo, which was not flat. Let's just say there was a 30 mile, steady, slow, uphill, boring climb into a town which consists of miles and miles of commercial strip malls. Okay, it was pretty exciting to ride alongside those 70-mph semis rolling by, with only a few rumble strips separating us from them. But we were happy when we arrived in Pueblo, and were greeted by Russ' aunt Mary and his cousin Ashley. They were so kind to us. They had bought us drinks and snacks that we still have not finished. They put us up in the high quality Quality Inn in Pueblo, and they took us out to the fanciest restaurant we have ever been to, and probably ever will, wearing shorts and t-shirts (yes, mom, most of us don't wear underwear on this trip). Dessert followed at the high class Dairy queen establishment near the hotel. We had trouble falling asleep due the size of our bellies.

Thursday we set out for Eads, Colorado. Haven't heard of it? Don't worry, no one we talked to had. There's not much to speak of about our ride to Eads. It was flat, long, hot, and long - did we say it was long? I can't tell you how many times at the breaks we said to each other - are we in Kansas? No, we were still in eastern Colorado, but it was sure hard to tell.

When we arrived in Eads, we were exhausted. It was around 6 pm, and unfortunately the sole grocery store in town had already closed! Great, so we had pasta for dinner, but no pasta sauce. Luckily, Alex and Dan met some local Eads residents - Leroy and Shy (no she wasn't shy) - at the still open gas station in town. They offered up a number of wild ideas, but eventually offered us some sauce. We also met another important character, a through cyclist by the name of Steve. He asked where the park to camp was, and then told us he was off to get a beer. We didn't see him until the morning - must of been a good night.

On the 3-block ride back from the gas station, just past the railroad tracks, Alex turns to Daniel and says, you hear that? Another flat tire. Luckily, good old Chuck came to the rescue. Together, the three of us changed the flat and we made our way back to the town park, where dinner was cooking. We could go on and on about Eads, but let's just say, that in the words of Leroy, "we will never forget Eads."

Friday morning we left after our sub-par breakfast of cream of wheat (let's just say that when you've been spoiled in hotels and people's homes for a week, warmed up wheat just doesn't cut it). Again, not another exciting day. Flat, hot, and of course, long. A few key points:

-we crossed into Kansas (finally)

-we entered central time zone

-Alex and Dan successfully named all of the U.S. state capitals (in Jeopardy form) and all of the countries that we know in the World

- we passed through Leoti, Kansas, home of the NFL player Steve Tasker

- we arrived in Scott City, Kansas, named for Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, our home for the night

After a dinner of tacos and extremely spicy salsa in the Scott City town park, we entered our tents prepared (sort of) for another day of riding the next day. But when the alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, the wind was blowing strong outside (in the wrong direction if course). In our state of exhuastion, we quickly decided to take our day off sooner rather than later. At this point, it seems like it may have been the right move. The winds have not let up and we certainly have enjoyed the break after having ridden for 100+ miles the last 3 days. So we are writing today from the great Scott City library, and we are happy to be here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

another great day

Our experience at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose was excellent. Thanks to Erin and Karen at the hotel, we were able to cook quite a nice gourmet dinner in the hotel courtyard and do our laundry - we were so happy! After our excellent feast (we should note that Dan may be making an impression on everyone, as the main dish was tofu with vegetables), we enjoyed a movie night of sorts in our hotel room along with dessert.
We began the day today by taking full advantage of the excellent hotel continental breakfast and departed in the cool Colorado morning with some clouds threatening overhead. The weather stayed dry for our first challenge of the day, a slow steady 15-mile climb to the top of Cerro Summit, where we celebrated with some refreshing watermelon (thanks for carrying it the whole way up, Russ!).

We called this first climb a nice "warm-up" for the day ahead of us. On our way up, we looked on with envy as a number of riders in similarly clothed uniforms sped down the hill in the opposite direction, en route to San Diego - key point: they were not carrying any gear!

After a nice descent into the small town of Cimarron, we began our second and steeper climb of the day. The sun had begun to beat down, and we were feeling the burn!

Finally, we made it to the top, and we had another celebration - this time by eating some of the snacks we had been carrying with us for a few days now - still tasty!

We enjoyed the downhill into a gorgeous valley with Blue Mesa Reservoir as a nice backdrop. Unfortunately, it began to rain a bit, which postponed our much needed lunch break. During lunch, we were lucky to run into Ann and Dave, who were heading in the opposite direction with all of their gear, in the middle of a nice 2-week bike tour of Colorado. It was so nice to chat with them - they told us about their hometown of San Diego, and their previous bike tour experiences. Dan was excited to hear that they met as students at Kalamazoo College in Southwest Michigan! We hope they have a great rest of their trip.

We finished the last flat 25 miles quickly, arriving in Gunnison, Colorado around 4 pm. We are fortunate to have a room donated at the beautiful Waterwheel Inn, where Coast to Coast riders from last year stayed.

We are excited about tomorrow's big climb up to Monarch Pass and for the beautiful views that will surely come! Let's hope for good weather.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Colorado Cruising

First, some pictures from Rico and Telluride:

Heading up to Rico, at about mile 100 on the day. Notice the trees!

Glen Baer with the house where he was born.

The riders falling in line behind the Freemasons in the 4th of July parade.

Leaving Rico, we had some spectacular scenery on an easy uphill.

This sign was the only way we could tell that it was not actually flat.

Riding into Telluride on the 4th.

Today was a perfect day. After a great dinner and then catching a beautiful sunset from the top of the gondola, we retired to Stuart's abode. We got to sleep a little and even woke up after sunrise. Breakfast was at our favorite Telluride hangout, Baked in Telluride (we're practically locals already), and we hit the road. The only bad part of this day was saying goodbye to Stuart, who will be sorely missed. We can't wait to take him up on his offer to be our preceptor on an away rotation, despite his insistence that he will not give us free time to ski or hike...
A long smooth downhill (about 10 miles) led to another "pass" (Dallas Divide), which we quickly surmounted. The divide held spectacular views and the promise of a downhill all the way to our destination.

As if the great pace and scenery weren't enough, we rolled passed Ralph Lauren's ranch and into the cute little town of Ridgeway at around 11 AM, to find a FREE town BBQ in the making. We chatted with the locals and stuffed ourselves on homemade desserts. After an hour, we decided it was time to ride the 1.5 miles to the Orvis Hot Springs, where we soaked for another hour. Sorry there are no pictures, but it was a "clothing optional" resort, and pictures are strictly forbidden.

Full, rested, and relaxed, we left Ridgeway with a storm hot on our tail. We averaged about 17 MPH even with a headwind for the next few hours to avoid all but a 5-minute pelting, and finished at Montrose with plenty of time to find a great hotel (Holiday Inn Express!) to donate a room.

Jen with the storm in hot pursuit. Those trees were blown clear into the sky seconds later.

So to summarize: pastries, BBQ, hot springs, and fast riding - it's the perfect combination! We are ready for two more days of climbing to surpass Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Happy 4th of July!

Stop holding your breath - the suspense is over. We did continue on to Rico on the evening of the 3rd, making our total for the day 121 miles. The map showed an intimidating steady uphill from Dolores to Rico, and we were all pretty tired after our 80 miles in the morning. The best way to motivate a group of hungry, tired cyclists to bike 40 uphill miles at the end of the day is, of course, to offer free food and lodging to them. Christy Baer and her family provided that motivation and more - they graciously offered their floor space despite the fact that their entire extended family was in Rico for the long weekend. Topping it off, they passed us on the road with about 14 miles left and took all of our gear! As it turned out, the 40 miles were not steep at all, and the novelty of trees, shade, and a running river next to the road inspired us to push on and arrive before dark.

You all need to meet Glen Baer, whose house was our home base in Rico. Born and raised in the same home, he gave us an absorbing history of the town, including his grandfather's attempts to mine silver in the 1800s and his own time later spent at the sulfuric acid plant. Glen is also a freemason, and arranged for us to sleep on the plush carpeting of the Mason's lodge in town. There were a few highlights of our stay in Rico: meeting the Baers, who are wonderful; homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast; and biking in the 4th of July parade in the morning.

With our daily caloric needs met by 10 AM, we sped off after the parade and made quick work of our first Rocky Mountain pass. We're not sure if it was the gravy, our fitness, or something else, but the pass was so easy that we are convinced it was downhill the whole way.

Everything was going in our favor until we arrived in Telluride. Being the 4th of July and a long weekend, you can imagine that this resort town is stuffed full of people. All of the campgrounds are full, all of the hotels are full, and all of the clandestine campgrounds ouside of town are occupied. Randy, Christa, and Emmitt raised our spirits right away. Overhearing our plight, this generous family (husband, wife, and dog) suggested a great restaurant AND offered to pick up the bill. To give you an idea of what great people they are, Christa even said, "and don't think you have to drink water - the margaritas are excellent!". And they were, Christa, they were. Thank you Randy and Christa!

We lounged around in the town park all afternoon and then eventually made our way to he restaurant, where we encountered Stuart and his dog Millie (everyone in Telluride either has a huge cute dog or a scarlett "A" (for animal hater) emblazoned on their shirt). Stuart is the next in the long line of amazing, kind people we have met so far. An ER doc working on a nearby Navajo reservation, he is up for the weekend and offered his floor to us for both our nights in town. He also acted as tour guide, taking us to the fireworks and then a brewery afterwards. This was exciting for three reasons. First, we got to see the town. Second, last night was the first night we have stayed awake past 10 PM. Finally, Stuart is a great guy and fun to chat with.

Today is our day off and we started it off right - fresh pastries until we couldn't take it anymore. Now the food coma and tired bodies are catching up to us, so it's off to bed for a nap. Everyone is great here. We hope you are all doing well too. Tomorrow we are off for Montrose, and we hear rumors of a hot springs along the way.

All the best,
Russ, Jen, Sarah, Dan, and Alex

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Welcome to Colorful Colorado

Our last stop in the state of Utah was Blanding. We were joined by Dan's parents, Joel and Robin, and were spoiled for about 2 days by their company. During their visit/accompaniment we were well fed, hydrated, and for once clean (of course excluding our infamous night at NOT so recreational Hite Recreation Center).
One of the hardest things on this trip has been getting out of the Comfort Inn beds in Blanding, Utah. With the air condition running and our exhausted bodies resting on those amazing mattresses under soft covers, we found it near impossible to finally get ourselves to get out of bed at 4 AM (already a late start for us). We got ready in record time, however, and our biggest problem seemed to be that the yogurts we had bought the night before were slightly frozen. No problem, however, Jen claimed that she loved "a good frozen yogurt for breakfast."
It was to be a nice, easy flat ride of moderate length to Dolores, Colorado. There was a short uphill out of Blanding, and then flats the rest of the way. Wrong! Nothing seems to come too easy out West. Although it was relatively flat, there were ups and downs the entire way. The temperature was on our side with temperatures a little cooler, and the landscape became greener leaving Utah and coming into Colorado. About 40 miles into our ride, we crossed into Colorado. A group picture at the border can be seen above. We also briefly stopped at the border to snack in the parking lot of the Stateline Tavern, "Hunters Welcome!" the sign read. As you can imagine, we were all thrilled that this little tavern catered to our kind.
We made good time heading in the direction of Dolores. Climbing miles upon miles of rolling hills, we saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. Seeing the snow covered peaks in the distance was quite the sight for us. As the day went on, we edged our way closer and closer to the foot of the Rockies. Quite beautiful we must say, but now we have to climb them. More on that to follow. In the words of Daniel, "It's all downhill from here." Sure it is Dan, except for 2 major mountain chains which still stand in our way. The group seems optimistic, however, and is considering a late afternoon climb into the Mountains to Rico. This would make it a 120 mile day for us but has the benefit of 2 easy days to follow (one day being our off day in Telluride). Check back soon to see if we made it to Rico or quit and turned back around down the mountain to Dolores.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Busy Bees

We're pretty sure Utah is the Beehive state, and we've been busy as bees since our last post.

We left off searching for a place to stay in Cedar City, and Russ really came through by getting the parks service to let us camp on their nice green lawns. We should have been suspicious of the fact that they had living grass, but were too tired to think about it until we were woken up at 2:30 AM by the sprinkler system. We should note that this happened to be the night that Russ and Jen went without a tent fly due to the heat. We moved our soaking tents to a dry area and shivered away the remaining two hours to our wakeup. The long climb up to Cedar Break National Monument took us five hours and really tired us out, but we still had 60 miles to go. It was so beautiful at the lookout points - Utah is so unbelievable! More about this later. We enjoyed 40 miles of downhill that took us from high alpine meadows to red rock canyons, and after a nice picnic lunch on the shore of Panguitch Lake, into the town of Panguitch.

We had our usual routine of milkshakes (at a nice diner in Panguitch) before taking a two-hour nap to avoid the hottest part of the day. We met a number of nice residents of Panguitch, including the Newell family with their three children who were supportive of our ride. Then we were off, to ride the last 20 miles on a beautiful bike path through red canyons to Bryce Canyon National Park, where we had our much-needed day of rest.

After sleeping a little later the next morning, we went for a short hike in Bryce (strong work on that hike!) then met Jen's mom and stepfather, who treated us to a wonderful ALL YOU CAN EAT dinner. We would have broken about even, so we took all of the decorative fruit on our way out (the last orange was finished four days later) to make sure we got what we paid for.

The next in our string of poorly-informed assumptions was that after leaving the Great Basin and climbing over Cedar Breaks we would be out of the desert. It turns out that as you move east, Utah gets drier and hotter. We have been seeing temperatures in above 105 every afternoon, with no shade in sight. Our first day back was no exception. We started biking against a striking backdrop.After an indescribable downhill through a steep slickrock canyon (you can see Jen in the picture below), which changed to red rock (there's Sarah),we arrived at the base of our next 20+ mile climb at 1 PM, with triple-digit temperatures. We wisely decided to wait a few hours at a conveniently-placed campground before continuing onto Boulder in the evening, The road to Boulder was intense:no shoulder, and steep drops on both sides. Did we mention the ridiculous slope?
Yeah, we were going in the hard direction. We found a small oasis in Boulder - a real grocery store with lots of health foods! Dan was in heaven, and after some discussion with the owner (a very nice woman by the name of Donna) we got permission to camp in the backyard of the health food store. And let's not forget the fabulous dinner we had at the Burr Trail eatery in Boulder, with local beef for the meat-eaters and delicious entrees and dessert for all.

Despite losing a few slices of our PB and J sandwiches (Dan insists that it was the hungry black cat that was hanging around the store), our experience in Boulder was a great one.

Our ride the next day also was full of pleasant surprises. We began with a steep steep (did I say steep!) climb to an elevation above 9000 feet. After a great downhill, we coasted our way to the small town of Torrey, Utah. We asked Jen what time it was, and she exclaimed "Taco Time" - as we entered a local eatery/gas station for some mexican food and cold drinks.

The scenery of this ride was "unbelievable" as Dan would say. What began as a climb through the woods, with cattle in the middle of the road, and unfortunately placed cattle guards (which snagged on to Sarah's front tire - no injuries, thank goodness), continued with the amazing boulders, cliffs, and rocks of the Capitol Reef National Park (so beautiful - we couldn't believe we hadn't heard of it before!), and then desert everywhere, hot and dry. When we saw the first tree and patch of shaded lawn in several hours, we knew we had made it to Caineville and it was time for lunch - and another one of our afternoon naps.

We awoke from our naps slightly refreshed - that heat is a killer! and Dan's "all-natural" bug repellant was no match for the flies that went after us during the nap - and continued on to Hanksville, our destination for the day. But on the way we stopped in at an organic farm nestled on the side of the desolate road, all by itself. Sharon, a recent college graduate out of salt lake city, utah, and a self-proclaimed vegan, greeted us with a warm welcome and invited us to try some homemade whole grain bread, some freshly made goat cheese, and some cold iced tea. We were so happy to have stopped!

We found a nice campground in Hanksville to lay our heads to rest for the night. Thanks to the generosity of Elliott, a former schoolteacher from northern Utah who owns the campground, we had our campsite for free. Elliott told Russ and Dan about the time 30 years ago when he bought the property that became the campground - as he recalled it, he was drunk from a night at the bar, but luckily, the the campground turned out to be a successful venture.

We left Hanksville for a short day of riding, to our destination at the Hite Recreation Area, in the middle of nowhere, Utah. With about 15 miles left in our ride, we got a visit from the Morris folks, Robin and Joel, who greeted us on the side of the road in their rented Jeep Cherokee. They had driven down from a family wedding in Denver, and boy were we happy to see them! They brought water, french bread, hummus, grapes, and dessert for lunch - and of course a huge watermelon.

When we arrived at the Hite Recreation center, let's just say it wasn't what we were expecting out of a recreation area. For all of those LOST fans out there, imagine Dharma Initiative Station 12 - that's about what Hite looked like. No trees, no shade, no grass. A couple of picnic tables perched on a concrete slab that was hot enough to cook eggs. Luckily we found the one air conditioned mini mart to have out picnic.

After the Morris' left with most of our gear - we wanted to ride the next day with a trimmed down load, we had our usual afternoon nap - with our sleeping pads on top of the outdoor picnic tables to avoid the angry red ants on the ground - and then had a quick dinner of microwaved burritos. Our "night" of "camping" at Hite went something like this: drenched in sweat on top of our sleeping pads, we tried to soak up as many hours of sleep as possible before our wake up time of 1 am.

We were eager to leave Hite early in the morning, and began a steady climb in the dark with the stars shining overhead. With less gear we made great time, arriving in the city of Blanding Utah before 11:30 am (for all of you Jeopardy fans, it's called the "the home base for adventure"). Here we are writing from Blanding, in the lobby of the Comfort Inn, where we certainly are comfortable after showers and laundry everyone is clean and happy. Tonight we will go to dinner with Dan's parents before they say goodbye tomorrow morning.

Today is our last day in Utah - we had no idea the amazing beauty to be found in this state. We will surely miss the great views, amazing landforms, and red rocks, but certainly not the intense heat.

We promise to write soon...
Have a happy july 4th :-)

Dan, Russ, Jen, Sarah, and Alex