I made it to the ocean!

wp-1469738068087.jpegOn Tuesday, I rode like I was on a mission. For days, people had been telling me how close I was getting to the ocean and finally I had reached the breaking point. I didn’t want to hear about how spectacular the Pacific was anymore, I just needed to see it for myself. So I did a mega day, ending my ride at the 125 mile mark.

Yesterday, early in the afternoon I reached the Oregon coast. Oddly enough, my first ever glimpse of the ocean was not from the seat of my bicycle but from the vantage point of a car. While I was registering to camp for the night, I asked how to best reach the beach on my bike. The lady, named Kim, picked up on my excitement and questioned me,

“Do you want to see the best view of the ocean?”

I said yes. She took Liz (a fellow tent camper) and I in her tiny red bug and we went on a sightseeing tour. First we stopped at a graveyard. Kim explained that the early pioneers had a habit of selecting land with choice views of the coast on which to bury their dead. We walked past gravestones to take in the sweeping vastness of the world’s biggest ocean. Then we went to see a herd of sea lions. Along the way, we chatted about our travels.wp-1469738144761.jpeg

Liz is Australian. Until recently, she lived in a houseboat. One day she went to a friend’s birthday party. When she returned, her boat and all her possessions had sunk beneath the waves. Her outlook on her loss?

“It was just stuff. Not having that stuff anymore freed me up to travel.”

I was quickly learning that Liz was a gem. While talking about the ocean she mentioned how the mere sight of the ocean makes her soul soar with joy. It makes her taste freedom.

There was something in the tone of her voice that I instantly identified. I blurted,

“That is how snow makes me feel.”

All three of us were surprised by my outburst. I guess my longing for vast stretches of sparkling snow is never quite buried even while meeting a new ocean.

After Kim’s tour, I ate my supper on the beach and then strolled along the coast, letting the cold waves nip at my toes. Before turning back, I faced the thundering water and sang my heart out to God. I tried to take in the significance of the moment: I had made it to the ocean!

But it all felt so unbelievable, all I did was ride my bike for goodness sake! Had I really made it across to the other side of a continent? How had this happened?

It all started when two young people decided to go on an epic adventure on their bikes. They rode thousands of miles, on a mission to explore new places.

In case you are confused, I am not talking about Noah and myself. I am talking about my parents.

In 1982, they were preparing to move from Montana to Maine. Before the move, they decided to explore the Pacific coast and along the way celebrate their 1st anniversary. Because my parent are smart, they choose bicycles as their mode of exploration.

So for ten weeks, they rode on steel frame, ten-speed bikes along the Pacific coast, all the way to the Grand Canyon. My mom carried 90 pounds of stuff in her panniers and my dad carted around a whopping 120 pounds in his panniers. That’s how you get in shape on a bike tour!wp-1467584708770.jpegwp-1467584678938.jpegwp-1467584598505.jpeg

wp-1469738755497.jpeg

Thirty-four years later and still awesome!

I have been hearing stories about their tour ever since I can remember. While I was planning our tour from New York to Colorado, those stories gave me confidence.

-Confidence that Noah and I would have fun and make memories that we can recount for decades.

-Confidence that if our parents could ride 2,000 miles without cellphones, the internet or bicycle-specific maps, then we could certainly make it with those resources!

This entire trip, I have felt a bit like I am re-living a part of our family’s history. This feeling intensified when I hit Santiam Pass on Monday. Santiam Pass was the first mountain pass my parents climbed on their tour and it was the final mountain pass of my tour. As I spun up the incline, I imagined where they may have rested or what they said to each other when they saw Mt. Washington off in the distance. It felt surreal to be “walking in their footsteps” or rather, riding in their pedalstrokes!

Then last night, after meandering up and down the sandy beach, I stood next to my bike, looking out into the ocean until darkness fell. I thought about what had compelled me to ride all the way to the Pacific. It was a love for my bike and the excitement of riding new roads and seeing new things, new places, new animals and meeting new people. But it goes deeper than that.

All along, it was in my blood.

 

Advertisements

Dragged from New York

It is a beautiful day out and I am in the middle of Oregon, just a few hundred miles from the coast. I feel like I am gonna explode from excitement, I get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time in the next few days!

But before I arrive in Astoria and finish up my tour I thought I would share exactly what I have been dragging along with me from Northern New York. My philosophy in gathering gear for this trip was the idea of traveling “medium-light”. I don’t have a proper touring bike so I wanted a load that wouldn’t strain my road bike (or myself) beyond our capabilities. It probably wasn’t the wisest choice to bring a road bike but the cool thing about bike touring is that you don’t need to have the perfect setup to make it work.  I have seen all kinds of people, with all kinds of setups, on all kinds of bikes riding across the USA.

So let me introduce you to my gear. This is the complete list of stuff I have (unless I missed something), but I didn’t get pictures of quite everything and it isn’t perfectly organized either…that’s my bad. I also don’t have the time to jot down all the details about each piece, so if you want more specifics about an item, just ask.

I hope this is not my only bike touring expedition so critiques and suggestions are welcome!

wp-1469468358097.jpegMy Clothes
Two Sugoi Icefil jerseys
Two pairs of Garneau shorts
Long sleeve shirt
Wool socks
2 pairs of ankle socks
Pearl Izumi cycling gloves
Full finger gloves
Sunglasses
Columbia Arcadia II Rain Jacket
Rain pants
Tee-Shirt
Pair of Capri’s
Underwear

wp-1469468376054.jpegCare Items
Sunscreen
Toothbrush and tooth powder
Comb
Extra hair tie
Shampoo
(I have been using the shampoo as all-purpose soap, from doing laundry to washing my bike.)
Lip balm
Deodorant
Chamois Cream
Razor
First Aid Kit
Pack towel

wp-1469468288326.jpegProtection Program
(I am just being silly, the knife is used for food prep.)
Counter Assault Bear Spray
ResQLink+ Beacon
Knife
wp-1469468308712.jpegFood
Fork and spoon
Can Opener
Sardines
Tuna
Creamy Peanut Butter
Random snacks
Salt/Pepper/Sugar Packets

wp-1469468327822.jpegwp-1469468230636.jpegStuff for the bike
Bike Levers
Mini Pump with gorilla tape wrapped around it
Two Park Tool patch kits
Spare Tire
Spare Tube
Cornstarch
Chain Lube
New Shoe Cleats
Random extra screws and bolts
Allen Key set
Zip ties
Cables for brakes and shifters
Bungee Cords
2 Fiber Fix Kits
(Thanks for the suggestion, Rootchopper and Doug!)
Chain break tool
Spare Brake Pads
Tool with flat and philip screwdrivers
2 Sets of bike lights
Bike Lock
Taco Seasoning
Gatorade powder
ReplaceSR tablets
(I take 3-6 a day so that I don’t have to worry about buying sports drinks for electrolytes.)
wp-1469468206549.jpegTech
Tablet with Case
USB charging cords
Battery Pack
Camera
(I lost my phone a few days ago…)

Sleep System
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 Tent
Marmot Sleeping bag
Thermarest Prolite Womens
DIY Groundcloth
(aka tarp cut to size, thanks mom!)

wp-1469468271315.jpegOther Stuff
Maps
Wallet with Bike Lock key
Bug clip thing
(I haven’t used this yet, I have my doubts whether it would keep bugs away.)
Chemical handwarmers
Pens
Paper
Glue Stick
People’s info and notes
Microfiber wipes
Passport

Hydration
Two 28 ounce water bottles
2 Liter Water bag

wp-1469468253103.jpegMore Other Stuff

Helmet
Sleeve for map
Bike Computer
Schwalbe Marathon Tires (28mm)
(No flats yet!!)
Saddlebag with super secret stash of Clif bars
(If you guess what kind of Clif bars I have in my stash, you can have a free one! You just have to come to Oregon to get it.)
Worn out bike shoes
Sneakers

Yellowstone-how to trap a tourist


wp-1468238868801.jpegThis day is starting out strangely. I am holed up in my tent waiting for the rain to stop. I don’t mind riding in rain, but it is 40 degrees out. I don’t mind riding in cool temperatures, but I don’t have the proper gear with me to handle hours of cold rain. The rain is supposedly going to back off by mid-morning so I am marooned in my tent until then. In the meantime I will tell you my impressions of Yellowstone.

I have spent the past four days meandering slowly through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I expected to see beautiful things and interesting wildlife and my expectations were met. But there was one thing I did not expect and when I started exploring Yellowstone, I was taken aback.

Yellowstone is creepy.

Really creepy. Aside from the now normal, “Bear and Wolves Crossing” signs, every bathroom in the park was draped with the many ways that Yellowstone wildlife could kill me.

Bears and wolves are in a special, “Super Dangerous” category.

But meeting up with moose or bison could also be fatal, according to the reassuring signs in the restrooms.wp-1468239071799.jpegwp-1468239281981.jpeg

But the wildlife was nothing compared to the dangers of the geothermal features. Most of Yellowstone is located on a caldera and portions of the caldera have a very thin crust. Signs warn that merely stepping on innocent-looking portions of earth could be fatal. And of course, the actual geysers, mudpots, fireholes and whatever else are also dangerous, filled with boiling water. At least one spring is so acidic it will dissolve skin.

Then, after telling me these things they expected me to walk around the boardwalks to view the danger up close and personal. Which I did, of course. I mean everyone else was doing it and they weren’t dead yet. So I joined the throngs of people and tempted fate by leaning over the railing to get a good look at what hot magma can do to water. The steam and the stench of sulphur overwhelmed my senses. Yellowstone, I decided, was very bizarre.wp-1468239428496.jpegwp-1468239022963.jpegwp-1468238959265.jpeg

I saw one guy step off the boardwalk and walk right to the edge of a mudpot, smiling widely for a photo. I shuddered, wondering if I was about to see a tragedy unfold. But an older gentlemen yelled at him to get back on the boardwalk and when he made it back to safety, I cheered silently.

wp-1468238815311.jpegYellowstone is a tourist trap in the fullest sense of the word. Once you enter the park you are trapped: surrounded by many dangers. To escape the labyrinth, you must navigate through high-volume traffic, large masses of people, unpredictable wildlife and boiling hot water, all while traveling on unstable ground.

Honestly, it was loads of fun.

 

Cycling up Pike’s Peak

wp-1467245211437.jpegThe second leg of the bike tour began today. I said a tearful goodbye to Noah and Eli early this morning and then headed out to the great big world all by my lonesome.

As I rode out the driveway I had two alternate plans for the day forming in my mind. Plan one: ride the 65 miles to Hartsel, Colorado and rejoin the Transam Trail. Plan two: ride up to the summit of Pike’s Peak and spend the night in a campground ten miles away from my brother’s house.

The entire time my family and I were visiting in Silverthorne, I had planned to ride up Pike’s Peak, but when Noah and I returned to Colorado Springs with Eli, I made a grave mistake.

I googled, “cycling up Pike’s Peak”.

Suddenly I realized that the climb would be really tough. I got scared.

So this morning I made a deal with myself. I would ride up to the toll gate (using the road to the summit costs $12) and ask the rangers if they could hold on to my heavy panniers while I rode to the top. If they refused, I would turn around and ride to Hartsel.

wp-1467245404240.jpegBut the lady collecting the tolls was super awesome and did not hesitate in allowing my panniers to hang out with her in the tollbooth. I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or petrified, but either way it was time to climb.

I made the turtle my role model for my ascent, I had 19 miles of road to travel before the summit and those 19 miles were the slowest I have ever ridden. It took me five hours in total! Halfway up the mountain, I met a young, thin guy who was also climbing to the top. We chatted for a bit, complaining over the price of water (3 bucks a bottle!!!), and encouraging each other that we could indeed make it to the top of this stupid road. He was going faster than I and I tried keeping up with him for a few minutes but then I realized that I would not finish the climb unless I did it at my own gentle pace. The thin alpine air was my enemy and I wasn’t letting it beat me down.

wp-1467245323922.jpegI rode up switchback after switchback, wondering which bend in the road would be the one that would trigger extreme suffering. But physically and mentally I was doing great. Many of the people passing in their cars cheered for me as they left me far behind and it meant the world to me on that lonely mountain. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Then the thunderstorm came. I have never been afraid of lightning before, but above the tree line there was no shelter and I felt so exposed to the furious power of the storm. The thunder ricocheted its explosive blasts across the mountain range. I prayed for safety with each pedal stroke and then, just like in every snowstorm, I felt the overwhelming presence of God. He had been with me the entire time, I just hadn’t been paying attention.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything was easy-peasy, pumpkin pie. Oh no, because that is when hail/sheet stuff began a barrage against me. I stopped to put on another layer of clothes, those things hurt!

With four miles to go, things looked bleak.

But my pace was so slow that the storm only lasted for three miles. Then the sky cleared and the people coming down the mountain kept yelling out of their cars, “You are almost there!”

And suddenly I had finished the last switchback and I was clear up to the highest point of the mountain. I couldn’t control the dry, weird sobs that came from the back of throat.

First, I felt relief.

Then, I felt happy.

And then, I got scared.

I had a mountain to descend, and it was wet. I began seriously considering trying to find someone who could haul my bike and I back down the switchbacks. As Noah will readily confirm, I have terrible descending skills. One curve on a hill? Cool, I got that. But if things are more complicated than that, I crawl down hills at speeds that would only make snails proud.

But while I was eating greasy doughnuts and hot dogs, the road dried up. I bought a warm, very expensive, hoodie (my clothes were so soaked that I would have frozen in the first five minutes of my ride back), took a few pictures and shakily got back on the bike.

It was time to fly. Within a few miles my fears dissipated like the water on the road. This was fun! Even though I remained very cautious, I was passing car after car. I sang happily all the way down to the tollbooth.

Climb every Mountain. It’s worth it!

wp-1467245280232.jpeg

 

 

 

 

Life after the tour.

wp-1466727043445.jpegThirty-four days isn’t much time. But Noah and I changed so much over the past month, that coming back to civilization has been a bit of a shock. We no longer need to scrounge around for water, food, showers, wifi, electrical outlets or bathrooms. Everything we need (and much more) is available to us 24/7. We have pillows again, real mattresses, a kitchen to cook in, fluffy bath towels…it is insane how much stuff I took for granted before this trip.

And what have I been doing with unlimited wifi? Mainly keeping up with the  TransAm race, to be honest. I cheered so hard when Lael Wilcox sealed the win. Seeing a woman win a endurance race like this is unbelievably cool.

It is also weird that suddenly riding my bike is just a part of my day instead of the main activity of each day. Riding at the higher altitude (9,500 ft) means fantastic views and cool descents but my lungs are constantly telling me that they hate me for bringing them here. I haven’t felt this out of shape in a long time, which is rather ironic because technically I am in the best shape of my life.

The condo we are staying in has a really great view of Bear Mountain and so today all seven of us decided to climb the 3,000+ ft to the summit. I have hiked in the Adirondacks before but I have never attempted to scale a mountain like this. It was pretty intense-and then we got to the boulders. Instead of bothering to find the trail, we clambered staight up the rocks.

wp-1466726876221.jpeg

Little marmot friend

wp-1466726988087.jpeg

wp-1466727129766.jpeg

Flowers at 12,000 ft

I am deeply afraid of heights and the possibility of falling makes me shudder in fear, so climbing up the mountainside in this manner was terrifying. Every time I felt a rock shift or made the mistake of looking down, I could feel the panic setting in.

“God, help me!”

And He did, one boulder at a time. I made it the end of the rocky section and rejoined my brothers with a spring in my step.

“That is the scariest thing I have ever done in my whole life!” I exclaimed.

“Well then, you need to do more scary things.” One of my brothers responded. He may be on to something. Before I started winter biking I avoided scary situations like the plague. But riding in snowstorms taught me that some “scary” situations are not scary at all. They are just fun mixed with adrenaline. Winter biking started a snowball effect in my life, slowly I gained the courage to do things that I never thought possible. But I still have some fears to overcome, maybe I need to keep climbing up mountains until heights no longer disturb me.

wp-1466727098574.jpeg

We found snow! 

And then we made it to the summit and it was beautiful! (I just had to keep reminding myself that I was safe and there was no danger of falling…)  We saw a pika and a ptarmigan and lots of mountain goat droppings, but no actual goats.

I twisted my ankle on the way down, so the rest of the hike was rather painful. It is a mild sprain though, so I should be good to go biking this evening.

Speaking of biking, I have figured out what I am doing after hanging out in Colorado with my brother and the rest of the family. Originally, I was thinking of biking back home and/or doing some organized rides out here, but now there is only one thing that I really want to do.

I ordered the next two maps of the TransAmerican Trail which will take me up to Yellowstone park. I had no other option: I have the gear, the time and the resources to keep riding  the trail…the temptation to continue touring was more than I could resist. In a week or so I will be on the road again and I am very excited indeed!

Tour Completed!

wp-1466469022118.jpeg

34 days.
2,320 miles.

We made it to our brother’s house early this afternoon. He is not actually here, he is working right now, but he stopped in last night at the city park where we were camping to hang out for a few hours which was super awesome. It has been such a long time since we have seen him!wp-1466468961818.jpeg

My parents and two of my other brothers are coming to Colorado tomorrow (they are flying in a plane…how weird is that, everyone knows that the best way to get to Colorado is to bike here) and we are all going to Silverthorne, Colorado together.

The mountains are breathtaking, I haven’t seen mountains like these since I was ten years old and I am having a hard time believing that these things are actually real. They are so big!

wp-1466468880547.jpeg

We can see Pike’s Peak from my brother’s balcony, it’s insane. (I will take better pictures of the mountains at some point…I am just feeling lazy today)

After settling in at my brother’s house, I went for a two-mile ride to the grocery store and back-it was the most scenic grocery store run I have ever been on in my life. I was so awestruck that I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention to traffic. If I had caused an accident I would have blamed it on the mountains, how dare they be that enchanting!

After I post this, I am going to figure out where I want to ride tomorrow-I can’t wait to get an even closer look at these intimidating, magnificent peaks.

I thought this tour was gonna be fun.
But I didn’t realise it would be this much fun.
I thought we would make some cool memories.
But I never dreamed we would make this many cool memories.
I thought my brother would make a great riding partner.
But I didn’t imagine just how great he would be.
I prayed that God would bless us.
And I feel blessed all the way down to the tips of my toes.

 

Cycling In Kansas

wp-1466106860502.jpegThis is the sixth day we have been riding in Kansas. Contrary to a former personally held belief, riding through Kansas is not boring. At all.

First of all, we have met some really great animals. We saw prairie dogs yesterday, a whole colony all chattering their heads off. Randomly seeing a herd of Zebras was awesome, even though they just wanted to bite our fingers off. My favorite was the wild mustangs which you see in the picture above.

wp-1466012849996.jpeg

Noah and I had stopped in a tiny diner in a tiny town to ask to use the restroom and the smiling owner said, “Of course!” and pulled out a registry where thousands of other cyclists that have stopped in at this diner have signed their names over the decades. (The registry thing is a common occurrence, many small-town stores, libraries, churches, city halls and restaurants have guestbooks for us cyclists to sign, it is really neat to read through the pages.)

The owner chatted with us for a while and mentioned where we could find a herd of wild horses. These mustangs originally lived in Colorado but to preserve the herd they now live on a ranch here in Kansas. Noah and I watched the horses gallop across their “range”, and we could still tell how untamed and free their spirits were. (And how ungroomed by humans they are, if you look closely at the photo you can see how many of the horses tails are matted.)

Also, the people of Kansas have been amazing. From the friendly cops, to the waving motorists and the random strangers who ask us where we are from and where we are headed-everyone has been wonderful. Of course, some folks go even beyond that, giving us a place to stay for the night, a free meal or both!wp-1466013066574.jpeg

Meeting up with other touring cyclists is always a joy, it is a great feeling to know that there are others who are traveling “along with” you. Some cyclists we only see in passing: they are headed east, while we are headed west-but even so we usually stop and chat for a few minutes and it is fascinating to discover how global cycle touring is, we have met people from all over the world!

But some cyclists are going our direction so we get to see these folks frequently. Ayana is a young lady from Israel and she has been great to hang out with. We met Dan and Brianne and their two children, Aaron and Connor in Fordsville, KY  and they have been looking out for us ever since on the road. Dan is great fun to ride with and I have really enjoying talking with Brianne. I can’t even explain how awesome their family is (and their dog!) we are really gonna miss them when we reach Colorado!

And finally the past few days have been filled with heady excitement as the TransAm racers have started to fly by us! The TransAm race is one of the most intense endurance races that exists- and each racer is completely on their own. They carry everything they need for the trip, they have to stop to get food and water and find places to rest, just like Noah and I and yet some of them will cycle 4,400 miles in under 20 days.  They are insanely talented athletes and it has been ridiculously cool to see them racing.

wp-1466012623259.jpeg

Steffan

wp-1466012746872.jpeg

Lael and Evan

wp-1466013310972.jpeg

Kai

wp-1466013275564.jpeg

Sarah

They are super friendly as well, everyone smiles and waves. We have also chatted with Steffan, Sarah, Ken and Markku. One thing that blows me away is how open they are about sharing their struggles in this race. Whether it is the headwind, homesickness, heat or just the overwhelming feeling of pain that comes with pushing your body to its absolute limits, these cyclists are giving their all to do the best they can in this race. As a woman cyclist it has been so inspiring to me to see Lael, Sarah and Janie riding across the nation at top speed.

So if you ever want to have immersive experience in an epic race, ride the TransAmerican trail during the TransAm race. I would recommend Kansas as the ultimate state to meet the racers in, the flat terrain and long stretches of open road make it easy to spot the riders coming and cheer them on. (Also, if possible, have someone who can text you about who you will meet up with next. Thanks so much, Dad!!)

Noah and I are plodding very slowly across Kansas compared to the racers, but I gotta admit, we are making good progress. Today was a 64 mile day which is pretty average for us, but the three days before that we rode 77, 85 and 90 miles-and it has been really hot out too! It is so weird, yesterday was our 90 mile day and it should have been really rough but a magical thing happened. The last 20 miles of our day we had the most perfect tailwind I have ever experienced. We ended our 90 mile day soaring down the road at 20 to 25+ mph and we got to our campground before we even knew what had happened. (The only sad thing was that there was no where to get food in town so to celebrate our epic ride we ate clif bars and trail mix…)wp-1466107560898.jpeg