Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Have a great one!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
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
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
Monday, July 7, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
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
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
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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