Category Archives: Cross Country Bike Trip Journal – 2014

Shoe of the day #5

It’s been a while since we served up some shoe of the day to you. We haven’t had as much luck spotting shoes on the country back roads we’ve been taking lately. It seems that shoes are mostly lost on interstates and busier highways. I’ll also admit that I’ve passed up a lot of shoes because I’ve been cycling at a great pace and didn’t want to stop to get a picture…sorry!

Today the universe provided us with a bountiful gift to make up for our laziness and to reward your patience with us. I give to you the extremely rare, roadside shoe tree.

 

 

 

Riding Bikes in Minnesota is Great! A Six Day MN Recap

After our fast-track tour through North Dakota Dustin and I got back in the saddle in Fargo and headed toward Moorhead to start exploring the land of 10,000 lakes.

…And, in the six days it took to ride across Minnesota, I think we truly saw at least 6,421 lakes, indeed. And only about 100 mosquitoes! Minnesota is amazing!

While traveling across Minnesota we stayed in Pelican Rapids; Dalton; Sauk Centre; Ramey and Dalbo.

Since we we are using the North Lakes maps to enter the U.P of Michigan, we took the Trails Alternate in Northern Tier map number 5 (a detail that will only matter to other cyclists traveling the Northern Tier).

While we were (and are still currently) bummed about missing Bemidji and nothern Minnesota (we’ve made plans the visit northern Wisconsin for a future holiday), the Trails Alternate was great; lots of bike paths (!) and no lack of scenery. Here’s a MN day by day break down.

Pelican Rapids, MN

From Fargo, ND we headed south then east through Downer, MN (yes, a real place) and Cormorant before finally landing in Pelican Rapids to camp in a downtown city park.

Pros of Pelican Rapics and the city park camping experience:

  • The camp site — despite being, literally, a city park in the middle of the “city” — was actually really pretty and right on the Pelican River (I thought at the time this was a lake, but looking at the map now, it’s clear it’s a river). The grass was green, there were park benches, and generally we felt safe.
  • The camp site was right next to Pelican Rapid’s river suspension bridge; a bridge they are very proud of for right reason (it’s pretty cool).
  • The camp site was right next to a city pool that was really warm, not full of poo, and cheap (only $2 to swim) so we got to take a dip with some city kids, and that was fun.
  • We camped right by the Pelican Rapids giant pelican!
  • There were flush toilets and showers (ok, a single shower) in the camp group. No quarters required.
  • On the way into Pelican Rapids, Dustin saved this turtle from near road-side death:

If you’re reading, the turtle heroism was for you, Virginia Nussey!

Cons of Pelican Rapids:

  • Apparently the men’s bathroom was much funkier than the women’s and Dustin dropped his pants in some water….. that turned out to be poop based on the way it was drying. So, we spent a while at the Pelican Rapids laundry mat (which, by the way, if you’re cycling through, I don’t recommend. The laundry mat was overpriced and I saw a man washing some large canvas thing that potently smelled like gasline even after he was done washing it. Yikes. There are no pictures of this laundry mat because it was forgettable.)

Dalton, MN

From Pelican Rapids, we took CR3 and the Otter Trail Scenic Byway southward through Edwards and Fergus Falls, then hopped onto the Central Lakes State Trail — the first of many bike trails we would take through Minnesota. We planned to ride all the way to Alexandria on MN day two, but instead ended up sleeping in a city park off the bike trail in Dalton because of some super heavy suprise rain fall.

Dalton — the city, the people who live there, and the park — were all great. There is actually a giant sign ini the park that says “no overnight camping,” despite the ACA map saying that camping is available. So, we called the city clerk, and, after offering to let us sleep in her front yard (amazing), she said that even though they recently discontinued camping in the park it was fine for us to sleep there. And if anyone said anything to us about it, to tell them that Sandra [names changed to protect the innocent] at City Hall said it was ok.

One highlight of the Dalton city park was definitly the bored teenager grafiti scrawled in the covered picinic area including, a personal favorite: “Cheyanne and her new boyfriend are gay.” Hilarious.

A Sidebar about Minnesota’s Amazing Bike Trails

Apparently, Minnesota is amazing. I mean, if being bike friendly is a criteria you use for judging amazingness (as it should be). Using the Central Lakes Trail, the Lake Wobegon Trail and the Soo Line, you can ride Rails to Trails bike paths all the way across Minnesota — and then in the winter, you can ride snowmobiles on the bike paths (if you’re into that).

I love the Rails to Trails program, and I loved the number of people I saw cycling all over the state because of the convenience the paths provide. From moms with kids and grocery bags, to walkers, you could tell the bike trails were really inspiring people to get out and get active. I love it.

Some bike path pictures that prove Minnesota is the shit for bike riding:

(In my personal and humble opinion that is.)

Sauk Centre, MN

From Dalton we were back on the bike trail headed toward the Wobegon bike trail and Sauk Centre. Along the way we stopped at the Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria and stood witness to (supposed) evidence that the vikings were in the United States long before mister Columbus landed here. This museum was also a Native American + natural history museum, so we saw many interesting non-viking artifacts as well — oh, and a gigantic 40 year old statue of a viking named “Big Ol” (the museum had kind of a lot going on).

After the viking/Native American museum, we ended up camping at the Sinclair Lewis Campground, which was pleasant. Actually, it was very pleasant and I would highly recommend it if you’re trekking the Northern Tier. The shower was really clean and hot; we were right next to a beautiful lake; the grass in the tent camping area was green; mosquitoes weren’t bad; and we were about a five-minute walk from the “downtown” area where you can find a coffee shop, a grocery store, a movie theatre and some other schtuff.

One of my favorite parts of our stay in Sauk Centre was meeting Dick and Joyce Stock, a couple of lovely snow birds who rode bikes “before it was cool.” They invited us down to their campsite to share a campfire and a sunset by the lake and we had a great time. Dustin and I shared stories about our trip, and they told us about ther travels, and we all watched the lake as ducks and white pelicans swam around in the mirror-calm water and the sunset changed colors in the distance. In the morning they invited us over for toast and coffee (two of my favorite things!) but we had to politely decline since we had a long day of riding ahead of us.

Although I dropped the ball again and didn’t get a picture with Dick and Joyce, we will definitly keep in touch with them via snail mail.

After realizing that Minnesota was much shorter length-wise then Montana, and that, accordingly, we were almost done with the lake of 10,000 lakes and we hadn’t yet taken any time to hang out on the lake (!), Dustin and I decided to take a day off in the Centre of the Sauk. During this time, worth mentioning, I was able to cook up my day-by-day tour plan to get Dust and I to KT and Justin’s White Lake, MI wedding on time. Can’t believe it’s almost wedding + Michigan + KT time!!

Off-Roadin’ On the Way to The Ramey-Ish Rum Shack

Leaving Sauk Centre, we hopped back on the Woebegon Trail toward the Soo Line. After asking for some bikepath help in Holdingford (heads up, the “Wobegon Spur” isn’t labeled and may or may not be a real thing; we had to take the 3 to get to the Soo Line Trail), we we found the Soo Line, took that to Nature road.

Some keg pigs outside Osakis, MN

Adding to the adventure we found ourselves faced with a road closed ahead detour sign…. which we decided to ignore. Sometimes these detours will take you 25 miles around in circles that work just fine for cars, but add hours of riding to a bike tour. So we decided to chance it and found ourselves faced with a gigantor whole in the ground about 10 miles in. So, naturally…….. we walked aroud the giant hole and the construction through the tall grass on the sides. Ah, the magic of bike touring. On the other side of the giant hole the road was business as usual. (I must say, that tall grass adventure was a real bitch, though. It was like dragging 40 pounds through a thick forest with four-foot pokey grass. Dust and I felt like real off-road bad-asses when we made it out alive on the other side.

After our off-roadin’ adventure, we were about 20 miles from the days final destination: a tiny bar named the Rum Shack at the corner of CR 22 and CR 7 (which is why I call it the “Ramey-ish” Rum Shack; it’s not really in Ramey, it’s more or less in between towns) . This is where we met John and Ted, a couple of touring dudes we would lend up inadvertantly trailing for a few days, and where we experienced our first raging Minnesota lightening storm. Oh — and where I ate half of the world’s largest most delicious pizza ever and the most amazing Billy’Os-esque-salty-free bar popcorn.

The owner of the Rum Shack was ridiculously nice and, aside from allowing us to sleep behind his bar for free, actually invited us to sleep inside his house in the basement if the storm got too bad. A combination of laziness and fear kept us in our tent, but the offer really warmed our hearts (even more than the pizza. And that pizza made us pretty darn warm and happy).

Dalbo, MN

From the Rum Shack we continued on to the most magical place on Earth…. Don Olson’s Adventure Cyclist Bunkhouse. That place was so magical it deserves it’s own post. Here’s a teaser picture to hold you over:

 

 

To be continued….

 

 

Let Go and Let God: Some Thoughts With 1,800 Down and 1,800 To Go

Today I took about an hour in the post office. See, I’ve had this growing hobo-santa-esque grocery bag of hobo-esque goods intended for the post office tied precariously to my back rack for about a week now and I’ve tried to go to the post office several times but irregular small town hours and bad planning have had me just missing the office hours for a few weeks now. So, today when I was at the post office…. let’s just say I had a lot to do.

Why does this matter?

Because after I was done taking an absurdly long time in the post office, I came outside to meet Dustin — who had been waiting (baking) patiently in the sun for me outside with the bikes — and we were just about to ride away when a gentleman was walking into the post office just as we were rolling our bikes toward the next 10 miles. He asked where we were going and where we had been and where we were planning too stay tonight. We told him about our there’s and our then’s and our plans for the night: to stay in the Hayward KOA and go tubing/canoeing on the river. Then he told us that we were welcomed to stay at the KOA… or — for free — we could just stay at his house on the river right behind the KOA in one of his four extra rooms.

It was like the sky parted and magic rained down upon us. A bed in a real house? With a warm shower? And tubing on the river? Right down the street? For free?

It was an amazing let go and let God moment for me.

See, the only reason Dustin and I are even in Hayward, WI — a town about 25 miles off the ACA route — is because we tried to go canoeing in Interstate State Park three days ago and got rained out, then we tried to go swimming in a lake in Cumberland, WI and arrived too late in the evening, and then we tried to go swimming at the lake in Edgewater (the next 200ish-person town over) and that lake was so green with ectoplasm-colored……who knows what…. we couldn’t bear to slim ourselves with it, so, having been canoe/lake swimming-foiled THREE TIMES we decided that we needed a lake day and the Hayward KOA was just the answer. So we travelled 25 miles out of our way to stay at the KOA. Which lead us right to Kris and his warm bed, magic filled house behind the KOA.

And now, here I am, sitting in an incredibly beautiful — incredibly inspiring — house. All because we got lake foiled three really frustrating times; and all because I took at least an hour trying to figure out which overpriced USPS bubble mailer to send my Afrian Porcupine quills home in (yes, I have those), and all because Kris — the nicest politican you’ll ever meet — happened to be wandering into the post office at exactly the time that I was happening to almost be rolling away.

It’s just one of those everything fits together just as it should moments. A let go and let God moment, as I’ve taken to calling them.

That bad frustraing stuff? Yeah… it’s frustrating and bad. But if the post office wasn’t closed three times, you wouldn’t ever be at the fourth post office where the magic is going to happen! It’s like a magic eye. You can’t see the big picture when you’re in it; when it’s happening; when you’re at the third post office getting rejected by an awkward 7-1:37pm open hours sign; when you’re too close. It’s when you relax your eyes and stop trying and slowly step back from it all that that big beautiful pirate ship I like to call grateful clarity and perspective really pops out at ya. Or, God’s plan if you prefer to go that route — which, these days, I do. (You can choose what you call the pirate ship; just make sure your eyes are open or you’ll miss it.)

The point is that I just feel really grateful.

Greateful to be here. Greateful for all the hospitality — for all the humanity — I’ve seen from total strangers on this route.

I met a guy (Donn Olson) in Dalbo, MN who turned his 100-year-old barn (and a wheat silo!) into a bunkhouse for travelling bicyclists. He turned his whole barn (and a wheat silo!) into a bunkhouse! Just so cyclists could have a place to sleep for the night.Don Olson doesn’t cycle; he just really appreciates the adventure and is happy to offer a haven for weary bums in the middle of nowhere. He stocks the bunkhouse with eggs and bread and homemade jam (homemade) and offers it as a free gift. He has a coffee maker and a toaster and he built a shower and an outhouse that he cleans himself, just because he knows you — a total stranger on a bike — need a break.

Moving slowly seeing the country on County roads named only with letters, seeing unjaded animals as interested in us as we are in them, and meeting people like Don Olson, and Kris, and Chuck (a fellow who gave us a bed and a shower in Whitefish, MT), and Scott (an excellent cohert who offered us a futon and a shower in Twisp, WA) — people who have opened their homes to us, cooked us meals, and trusted us alone with their laptops and their irreplaceable relics — it becomes hard not to feel an overwhelming gratitude to a power greater than yourself every day.

My friend Amanda says her parents go for a run every Sunday morning and call it church. She says they take that time to connect with the universe; to be grateful for the day; to coalesce with their higher power as they understand Him. I like that a lot.

That is how I feel on this bike ride.

Every day I try my best to be open; to be connected; to tackle what I face (and who knows what I’ll face) the best I can; and to remember that no matter how bad it is it can’t be worse than the mosquitoes in Eastern Montana, that this too will pass, and that whatever craptastic failblog of a canoe-day disaster is happening, it’s all part God’s big-picture plan.

Some God Pics:

 

 

UHaulin’ Across North Dakota

So… we might or might not have rented a UHaul truck and drove 480 miles across North Dakota. Ok. We did. And I don’t regret it.

Here’s the deal: My best friend is getting married in Michigan in early August and, knowing this, we’ve been planning to ride as far as we can and then, if necessary, rent a car or hitch a ride to make it to her big day on time. So, having been pushed back a few days because of the glorious rain storm we experienced back in Libby, MT, we decided that if we have to skip some terrain to make it to the wedding on time, we’d rather skip North Dakota than Wisconsin or Michigan (my home state).

Besides….those plains were getting just about one million blades of grass too long and, come Wolf Point, MT, it was getting clear that there was no chance that I was actually going to be seeing any buffalo roam where the buffalo were supposed to be roaming. (In fact, all I was seeing was dead prairie dogs; lots and lots of dead prairie dogs.)

So, in Wolf Point when we met Matt — a fellow bike tourer travelling lone wolf — who was interested in splitting the cost of a UHaul to UHaul-ass across the last 400 miles of the plains, it was pretty much on.

Here are some highlights from the UHaul extravaganza:

  • Originally we had planned to pick up the UHaul in DIckinson, ND, but to save four days of riding (it would have taken us four days to bike ride from Wolf Point to Dickinson), and because our new UHaul split-mate was ready to go meow, we decided to try to get the UHaul July 3rd from Wolf Point.
  • We made a reservation to pick up a 10′ UHaul truck from Wolf Point. At this time we learned that the reservations you make on the UHaul website are all entirely theoretical. See, you tell UHaul what they want, they guarentee they will have it for you, then a nice (?) woman named Annie calls you and tells you the 10-foot truck you want, is actually a 26-foot truck — unless, of course, you want to wait four days to pick your truck up. So….
  • We drove a 26-foot truck — the biggest truck UHaul makes (!!) — from Wolf Point, MT, to DIcksinson, ND. This was entirely hilarious. The world’s most giant truck completely empty except for three touring bikes and three scrawny bike tourers strapped in the front seat.
  • The 26-foot truck ate gas as fast as I have been eating Pop-Tarts on this tour (re: relentlessly and really, really fast without regret), so that was a real pain. Dustin might or might not have scraped the back bumper pulling out of a gas station once.
  • After long haul truckin’ that 26-footer to Dickinson we threw Matt and his bike out the back and told him to meet us down the street at a gas station where we would come and retrieve him in our new 10-foot truck. (See, there’s only two seats in the 10-foot truck so we were going to have to do something bojjanketey to get all three of us and our bikes transported in this truck and we thought UHaul would prefer to relieve themselves of allliability with the ignorance is bliss policy.)
  • With our new significantly more fuel-efficient 10-foot truck in posession, we drove down the street to pick up Matt. We ended up putting a camp chair in the middle of the pilot and co-pilot seats in the cab of the truck. It worked surprisingly well, and I’d consider it yet another selliing-point #win for the REI backacking chair with back support (as aforementioned in my 10 Luxury Items I’m Glad I Brough On Tour post). Matt sat in the bojjankety middle seat on day one and I sat in it on day two. Having sat in both the real co-pilot chair and the bojankety middle seat I can say the middle seat is hands-down more fun; infinitely more dangerous and precarious — but also infinitly more fun.
  • Good news: WE ALL SURVIVED!!!! No one got catapulted out the bojankety middle seat.
  • Some pictures:

Some Thoughts on Bismark, ND

We ended up living in UHaul trucks for two days. The first night we camped in Bismark, ND. Dustin and I slept in the UHaul like a glorified double wide, and Matt slept in his hammock outside (Oh, did I mention that Matt sleeps in a hammock with a mosquitoe net rather than a tent?)

Bismarck was…… lackluster. The ride to Bismark was pretty alright (we saw some really amazing canyons; if I were to do it all over again I would ride my bike to Dickinson and then take the UHaul across from there), but Bismark itself (which I have been calling Bizmarkie) was kind of a bust.

If you are in Bismark, don’t eat at Peacock Alley. I am only mentioning the name of the restraunt here because the food was that bad. The prices weren’t low and my salad looked like clearance-rack bag lettuce and the burgers came out cold and plated with about nine french fries. It was the most dissapoiting meal I’ve ever over-paid for.

Spending the Fourth (and Beyond) in Fargo

After our night in Bismark we long-haul-trucked our ass on to Fargo, then onto West Fargo and a magical place called Bonanzaville. (Ok, we didn’t actually go into the Bonanzaville, but we did camp in the fairgrounds right next to it.)

Fargo was good. We’ve been wondering where we were going to be for the Fourth of July for a month now and Fargo was the lucky (and unexpected!) winner. With about an hour of summer thunderstorm rain (complete with thunder and lightning) followed by two full hours of fireworks, Fargo’s Fourth celebration did not let me down.

Dustin and Matt were also able to (finally!) buy some of their own fireworks from a roadside stand (aptly named “Joe Blow Fireworks”) and I lit a sparkler.

That night Dustin and I slept in the UHaul double wide again and Matt, again, slept in his hammock house slung between the UHaul door and a tree.

When we woke up on July 5th in Fargo, it was time for Matt to ramble onward toward Minneapolis, so we said our goodbyes and Dust and I rambled on to the local laundry mat to clean our well overdue for a cleaning clothes.

We also made a stop at the Scheels — which, if you’ve never heard of it before — is apparently the world’s largest “all sport” shop, complete with a ferris wheel inside. I bought a new pair of socks because one pair of the two pairs of socks that I brought had acquired a funk that wouldn’t leave, even fresh from the washer (mailed those babys home to be dealt with later). We also acquired from summer sleep mats with a 1.8 R rating (the mats we were previously sleeping on had a 3.8 R rating and they were making us way too hot at night).

After proverbially emptying my wallet at Scheels, we went to the post office to mail home our old mats and to return our UHaul home.

Lucky for us, this also happened to be what I can only assume to be the hottest most humid day Fargo, ND, has ever seen. Seriously. It was like moving in slow motion through an air wall made of hot butter. Fortunatly we only had to ride 4 miles from the UHaul drop-off location to our city park campground home for the night.

 

Here are three highlights from that night in the city campground worth mentioning:

  • This campsite had showers (yay!) but was also ragingly infested with mosquitos that only come out after the sun sets like little vampire demons.
  • We met a guy who”s been travelling for two years (!) with his dog. He says he just wanders around walking and hitching rides. He used to be in the Coast Guard, he’s from Hawaii and he sells jewelry made out of (real) pearls to make money. Meeting him was a pretty solid high-point of this campsite.
  • There was an incredible lightening storm happening somewhere in the distance that night, so as we laid on the lawn (soaked in deet) chatting, we could see the sky lighting up every minute or so with huge, brilliant streaks of lightening. It was pretty incredible.

After Fargo…

After Fargo we’re back on bikes full time scooting through Minnesota. More on that, Pelican Rapids, Dalton and the Central Lakes bike trail in the next entry……

 

213 Miles of Mosquito Hell: Havre, MT to Wolfpoint, MT

Today as we rolled into Wolfpoint, MT Dustin and I thought of a new slogan we’re going to submit to the Eastern Montana Chamber of Commerce: “Eastern Montana: Where wheat grass, casinos, and Mosquitos the size of pickup trucks are with you every step of the way.

Since our last post we’ve traveled through Chinook, Harlem, Dodson, Malta, Saco, Glasgow, Oswego and Wolfpoint, MT (where I am currently writing this blog post). Here are some highlights.

Havre to Dodson

Leaving Havre we had a crazy 30mph tailwind which had us moving in our manliest cogs at around 18-20mph. We originally planned to camp in Harlem after Havre, but — after stopping in Harlem for lunch and in Hindsight missing a very poignant Harlem Shake opportunity — we decided to pushed onward to Dodson to make it a 73-mile day.

In Dodson we paid $5 to camp at the “Stagecoach B&B” — aka — a woman’s backyard in a town of 124 (Dodson, MT). The Mosquitoes were very hungry in said backyard and that 30mph tailwind was now just a 30mph all over everything everywhere cluster-eff wind so we double staked the tent and hid inside eating road snacks and sandwiches for dinner. Then…….. we fell asleep at like 7pm. And slept all night. For like 13 hours. It was amazing.

On a mostquito hell scale of 1-5, with 1 being a standard day in Michigan, 3 being a swarm of skeeters around your head Pig Pen-style and 5 being a rabid relentless attack of Mosquitos that bite you through your clothes and refuse to die Bebe’s Kid’s style, our night in Dodson was probably a 2.5.

Dodson to Saco

In the am we packed up from the che le backyard and headed toward Saco, MT. Still chugging along on the highline (US2), we rode most of this day alongside the Milk River (which, fun fact, was named such by Meriwether Lewis who said it had the color of tea with milk in it) and the freight train (which, actually, is always beside you in a Eastern Montana on the highline, I think…). We saw some dive bars and some casinos. There were some cows. There was a lot of grass. And there were Mosquitos. About 1,000 of them that bit every last inch of my ass through my shorts, actually.

On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale (see scale reference above) I’d give this ride a misery rating of 4.

Our night in Saco (population 197) was pretty alright. We slept in a city park for free. I imagine it was free because our tent was literally about…7.5 feet from the railroad tracks, where every 2 hours or so a freight train rambled by blaring its freight train horn (which they have to do when they pass through towns). It was kind of funny. It actually shook the ground we were sleeping on it was so close. But! It didn’t rain. And our tent didn’t get blown over by 30mph winds. And I read about 100 pages of my book. So the night was overall successful.

Saco to Glasgow

This day. Sigh. This day was the worse day ever. Seriously the worst day — in my opinion — that we’ve had this whole trip. On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale this day was a 7. They were riding on our pannier by the dozens; they were on my face; they were eating me non-stop. If you smacked two off, three more appeared. I felt like that messed up wildebeest you see on the Discovery channel with Mosquitos covering it’s eyes and swarming him like a giant steak dinner. We had to stop on the side of the road to reapply Off repellant twice. They bit me through my gloves (!!) and my shoulders look ridiculous. I tried riding on the roadside rumble strip to try to machine gun bounce them off my pannier Rambo-style but it was no use. Apparently Mosquitos in eastern Montana actually have the ability to RIDE ON YOU and bite you. If it didn’t suck so bad it would be amazing.

I’ve never been so happy to see the end of a day. When we arrived in Glasgow I bought more Off and some doughnuts and we ate crap for dinner because it was too mosquito-ey to cook. On the plus side: we camped in an RV Park where we got to take long warm showers in the pm and the am.

Glasgow to Wolfpoint

From Glasgow we rode 54 miles to Wolfpoint, where — as previously mentioned — I am right now. On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale the ride here was only about a 2, but the campsite we’re in is easily a 4. I can see those buggers swarming around inside the vestibule of my tent looking hungry. Luckily, I am safe inside the tent. Another eastbound cycle traveler pulled up to camp next to us. It looks like he’s sleeping in a hammock, which seems entirely crazy to me, but he seems alright.

Today the weather was hot and I managed to get myself a dandy shoulder sunburn (sorry mom!) But! On the plus side, I also managed to eat some yogurt that wasn’t refrigerated all night and not get massive food poisoning, so bonus for me! I’ve really been testing the limits of consumption on this trip. I ate some day-old cheese in Glacier, I eat jelly that hasn’t been refrigerated in weeks every day, and today- old yogurt. All successfully. Possum stomach isn’t letting me down yet!

On that note….come to think of it, cycle touring really tends to expand all of your boundaries regarding what it ok and what isn’t. I’ve actually been wearing the same shirt for about a week now. It doesn’t smell so I just keep wearing it. I’ll go a week without showering when I have to (thank you baby wipes!) I’m sleeping in a tent the size of a twin bed with a full-size man (only one person can sit cross legged in the tent at a time). Sometimes I pay $60 to sleep in a no-tell Motel (with an m) and it’s the greatest thing ever. (Eeeevvveeerrrrrrr.) I eat a lot of Pop Tarts (which totally should not be considered reasonable “breakfast food” by any measure).

Oh, and I ride my bike 50-80 miles a day every day. Even when it’s pouring down rain or there’s a swarm of rabid relentless mosquitoes.

So life on the road is interesting and really can only be described as an adventure.

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I sure will be happy to get out of these plains, though. If you’re planning a tour, you might consider riding from Anacortes to the Continental Divide and then teleporting to Minnesota. šŸ˜‰ Unless you’re really into dive bars, wheat grass, casinos and mosquitoes that is. If you love those things, you’ll love Eastern Montana.

Tomorrow…. On to Circle where I hear the townsfolk may be….. extra shitty. I’ll let you know if this rumor ends up being true. After Circle, Glendive! Then onward to North Dakota.

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West Glacier National Park to Havre, MT

West Glacier, Lake McDonald and Glacier NP

From Whitefish we started our journey to Glacier National Park. A part of the trip we’ve been anticipating for nearly a year now. Since we got that awful storm the week prior (remember, when it was raining for 244 hours straight and I lived in a groceery store?), we heard that the weather in Glacier had been pretty bad with avalanches wreaking havok and causing road closures, so we didn’t know what to expect.

The ride down the 486 to Blankenship road and the 2 was great. the 486 and Blankenship are scenic, and you’re only on US2 for about 2 miles before you hit West Glacier and enter West Glacier National Park.

Once you turn left off US 2 into West Glacier, you’re on the infamous Going-to-the-sun road and you’re basically in Glacier National Park. Once in Glacier National Park……. you’re basically in Disney Land. Which means there’s tourists everywhere and RVs and traffic and little kids eating Chicken in a Bisquit crackers and it’s kind of an Americian mess. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing.)

We knew going into West Glacier that Sherman Pass was closed and that we would not be able to ride down the Sun road and over the pass to continue our journey eastbounnd (bummer!) but we did want to explore the Sun road anyway just as an up and down daytrip since we’d heard so much about it. I am so glad we did!! Seriously. The scenery on both sides of the sun road from Avalanche campsite to the Loop is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Highlights:

  • The Sun road from Avalanche Campsite to Sherman Pass was closed to cars but open to bicycles and hikers (amazing!) This meant we could explore 16 miles of Going-To-The-Sun road without any fear of getting run over (!!) We could stop whenever we wanted to; we could use the whole lane; we could swerve all over looking at waterfalls without having to worry about Cruise America (or CanaDream) running us off the road. It was better than anything else I could have ever asked for.
  • The weather was perfect. No rain; not a cloud in the sky.
  • The elevation from Avalanche to the Loop is no big deal. We couldn’t ride from the Loop to Sherman Pass, so I don’t know what it’s like up there, but the Sun road up to the loop is not even comparable to a climb like Washington Pass. (We saw people riding the road with their families on cruiser bikes with four year olds and baby wagons. You can do it.)
  • We camped on Lake McDonald at the Sprague Creek campsite ($10 per night for two people in hiker/biker camping!) and it was amazing. That lake looks like a postcard. If it’s not full, skip Apgar and camp at Sprague Creek for sure (and if it says it’s full… the hiker/biker spots probably aren’t full so check it out anyway).

Cut Bank, MT

As mentioned, due to a huge storm and lots of snow, we couldn’t get over Sherman Pass on the Sun road, which means to continue eastbound we had to go down the Sun road and all the way back out to West Glacier to get back on US2.

Good ol’ US2….. also known as Maria’s Alterate. Also known as the Highline. Also known as the longest, flattest road ever to run straight across Montana from West Glacier to infinity and beyond.

Highlights:

  • Riding on US2 from West Glacier to Cut Bank is……… alright.
  • After climbing Maria’s Pass we crossed the Continental Divide (!) which was exciting
  • East Glacier is….. not West Glacier. There’s an Amtrak station there and a convenience store and one (beautiful!) view of a big snowey mountain, and then it’s done.
  • The scenery turns real plains-ey real fast.
  • Shortly after East Glacier US2 takes you into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation where not much changes scenery-wise.
  • A big truck blew by and shot wet garbage juice all over us.
  • Cut Bank was exciting for us because it was the end of Map 2 (out of 12) and on our way into town we rolled over 1,000 riding miles!!!!!! (We celebrated with a hotel room and a shower and some bathtub laundry.)

Shelby, Chester and Havre, MT

From Cut Bank we headed toward Shelby, MT and then on to Havre, MT. All on the US2…the road that never ends. On the bright side…. at least I don’t have to navigate anymore! Now we just turn left and keep going. It’s like playing roller derby (with less hitting).

Highlights:

  • Arriving in Shelby was exciting because two of my best friends are named Shelby. (That was pretty much the most exciting part.)
  • From Shelby we rode 45 miles in relentless non stop rain to Chester, MT. Seriously, it started raining before we left, there were supposed to be “scattered thunderstorms” throughout the day, and it never stoppedĀ raining!

The sweet shower cap I wear when it rains.

  • In Shelby Dustin rolled my glasses up in tent and I didn’t realize I wasn’t wearing them until we were about five miles into the ride, so that was…say……exciting not knowing whether my glasses were at the campsite or smashed inside the tent I have bungee-corded to the back of my bike. (Good thing I couldn’t see anything anyway because of the rain!)

Glasses rolled in tent. Found: not broken! #Win!

  • We played the name game (also known as “drink while you think”) for four hours. We played so long that we couldn’t think of any more S namesĀ and I was using shit like “Sonya from Mortal Kombat” and “Sylvester the cat.” Oh, and “Stonewall Steve Jackson” which was a rain-brain mashup of Stonewall Jackson and Stonecold Steve Austin that Dustin and I still find really, really funny. The game kept us moving and not dieing on the side of the highway.
  • Since it was raining cats and bigger cats, the traffic wasn’t too bad. That’s a bonus!
  • When we got to Chester we stayed in the MX Motel in a clown-car room where I had to shower with sandles and step around my panniers to pee. (But it wasn’t in the rain!! So that was awesome.)

Do you think they sell beer there?

  • After Chester we pushed onward 60 miles to Havre — “the gem of the highline” — a “college town” with a population of 7,000-ish and a Walmart. I say “college town” in quotation marks because I haven’t seen a college yet (?). What I have seen are lots and lots of “Lucky Lils” Casinos and dark dive bars. Like… one every block. But! They have handmade pie here and an IGA with fresh produce and doughnuts so I’m not going to kick the little big city out of bed for eating crackers.
  • I saw antelope on the side of the road between Chester and Havre!! (So cool!!!!!)

From Havre, MT we’ll turn left and continue down US 2 toward Chinook, MT and then onward through the rest of Eastern MT until we hit Glendive where we’re going to rent a UHaul to haul us across North Dakota and into Fargo (a manuever we’re taking for a couple reasons, but primarily so that I can make it to Michigan to see my best friend get married August 7th). More on all that as it transpires…..

I’m going to try to be better about updating this blog on a more regular basis so the posts don’t have to be so epic. Until then…. comment! I (we) love to hear from you. It makes us feel loved and it brings a little bit of home to whatever small town we happen to be in.

Sandpoint, ID to Whitefish, MT, Rain or Shine (or More Rain…)

Some of you may have noticed it’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. Ok, it’s been 425 miles and two states since I’ve updated this blog. I tend to blame the lapse in posts on the Internet (which is a legitimate excuse; we’ve rarely had phone service over the past couple weeks), but I also have lots and lots of rain to blame as well as…… supreme, utter laziness. WIth that backstory out of the way here’s a highlight reel of what we’ve been doing over the past couple weeks. Since a lot has happened in 425 miles, I’ve broken this beast into two posts: Sandpoint to Whitefish and West Glacier to Havre, MT.

Sandpoint, ID

After we conquered the Cascades, Eastern Washington came and went and we found ourselves crossing our first state line into Idaho. Coming into this trip, I didn’t expect much from Idaho but Dustin and I ended up loving Sandpoint enough to stay an extra day there just to explore. Sandpoint is a real hidden gem with a suprisingly progressive culture and lots of young people. It’s been added to our “places we would consider moving to” list.

Highlights:

  • Sandpoint, ID is in the Northern “panhandle” of Idaho and has a population of 7,200, the Kootenai River and lots of community
  • We saw a bunch of Osprey with nests.
  • We met a new friend (Warren) who was gracious enough to share his home (and his shower) with us for two days.
  • Two technicians at the local bike shop (Greasy Fingers; highly recommended) told us about a critical mass-esque full moon bike ride and invited us to come along, so we did that.
  • We saw this cinnamon bear (a brown-colored black bear; truly the bear enigma) between Libby and Rexford.
  • And this Bald Eagle:
  • And this stuff:

Libby, MT

When we lefft Sandpoint it was raining. Warren said we could stay with him as long as we needed to (and that we were crazy) but we decided to ride in the rain because the weather forecast was predicting rain for another five days and, since we knew we couldn’t just live in Sandpoint for five days, we thought now seemed like as good a time as any to get soaking wet. So we powered through in the rain to Clark Fort (where we camped in a mosquito infested USFS campground) and then onto LIbby.

In Libby we woke up to pouring rain pounding down on our tent. After lots of deliberating and mileage calculating and weather.com confering, we decided that it made more sense to hold tight in Libby and then ride two long days once the rain lets up, rather than riding four short really wet days (since you can’t ride that many miles in the rain anyway). And thus started our life living in the Libby, MT Rosaurs (Re: the local grocery store).

Highlights:

  • We made it to Montana!!!
  • We slept in a tent, but more or less otherwise lived in a grocery store for two full days.
  • On one of those days it rained for 24 straight hours. Seriously. It was pouring rain when we woke up in the tent, it rained while we walked to our grocery store home, it rained all day while I read my book next to the window in the grocery store deli, and it rained all night. Inconvenicne aside, it was really pretty amazing.
  • I read 150 pages of Water for Elephants (a book I purchased at the Colville Salvation Army because I needed a book to read and it was the only one they had that was not a cook book or an Alminac. I strongly considered buying one of those grocery store romance novels since I’ve never read one, but this is actualy turning out to be a good light read.)
  • We took bathroom sink showers and drank a lot of coffee. (This is what happens when you live in a groceery store deli.) We also learned a lot about the people of Libby and their eating habits.
  • We ate at this old school sit-in Pizza Hut:
  • Dustin drew this picture of a hard partyin’ moose and a bear stealing a four wheeler:
  • I caught this giant fish:
  • Dustin and I spent a lot of time singing Kootenai Joe as we rode along the Kootenai river.
  • We saw this:

Rexford, MT

After two days in Libby the weather finally started to break and it was time to ramble onto Rexford, MT — population 105. We actually wanted to ride to Eureka — populaton 1,037 — but it turns out the ride from Libby to Rexford involves a lot of what Dustin and I have taken to calling “Bart Simpsons” (jagged up and down hills, one after the other).

On the ACA Northern Tier maps there are two routes you can take from Libby to Eureka/Rexford: The main route and the west side alternate. Since it was going to be raining on and off all day, who knows how hard, we decided to take the main route because there were more lodging opportunities.

Highlights:

  • The ride was beautiful! Even in the rain with all the unexpected mountain climbing, the ride was really pretty. This whole route runs alongside Lake Koocanusa, which is really beautiful. The mountains were really pretty; the foliage was pretty; the lake was pretty. It was work — but worth it.
  • Traffic wasn’t bad (probably because of the rain)
  • This:

(All those vertical lines are marks from the drill bits they shove drive down into the mountain to stuff full of explosives and blow the mountain up to make the road. Crazy!)

  • We slept in our tent behind a bar in Rexford and got to take untimed showers in the am.
  • It did not rain all night and it was dry when we woke up in the morning!

Whitefish, MT

From Rexford we trekked 72 miles (!) to Whitefish, MT. It didn’t rain (yay!) but we were on the 93 for a while and that suuuuuuuuucked. That road is really rough with a really crappy, broken shoulder, lots of gravel and a fair amount of impatient traffic. When we got to Whitefish we tried a couple campsites and found them to be full, so we turned to Warmshowers.com and ended up staying in a beautiful house with three other cycling tourists.

Highlights:

  • There’s some good climbs from Eureka to Fortine, MT, including one steep climb that the ACA describes as “At the Historical Village turn right, then continue uphill onto unsigned Old Highway/Tobacco Road.” Word to the wise: When the ACA says something is “uphill” they are serious. (Also, I find directions like “turn right at the Historical Village” really funny and satisfying).
  • The trek from Eureka to Stryker is pretty and scenic. It’s after Stryker when you get closer to Whitefish that the traffic clusterEff starts.
  • Dustin and I said “Stryker?? Damn near killed her!” about 200 times and thought it was equally funny each time.
  • Farm to Market road (an ACA detour off the 93) is really beautiful with lots of cows, a wide road and little to no traffic. If you’re thinking of skipping the Farm to Market road detour and just staying on the 93 (which you can do, you will still end up in Whitefish…) don’t do it. Seriously. The 93 sucks and there’s lots of traffic and a crappy shoulder and Farm to Market is beautiful.
  • Between Twin Bridges Road and Whitefish the traffic shit really hits the fan. Beware.
  • We are so grateful we got to meet Chuck — our warm showers host — and his other THREE warm showers guests (!), Patrick, Maria and Andrew. Patrick and Marie are riding recumbent bikes just about around the world on a year-long adventure, and Andrew is riding solo East to West from Vermont to Seattle. (Worth mentioning: Maria also told us she’s a champion rollerblader and that she and her husband (the aforementioned Patrick) have ROLLERBLADE TOURED. Like, went on a 300-mile tour on rollerblades pushing a cart with Ortileb panniers on it in front of them (they showed us a picture. It was/is amazing).
  • We ate some really bomb ice cream in waffle cones in Whitefish and saw a Solstice sunset that pictures will never do justice.
  • Oh, and we got to share the 2014 summer solstice with four other bike tourers eating a perfect hand-cooked dinner. How special is that?? (And it only rained for like five minutes — which yielded a rainbow!)
  • I got this glove tan:

Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

Shoe Of The Day #4

Shoes are still scarce in these parts. Not scarce: beer cans, dead birds and deer bones (both fresh and sun dried). We did find this gem roadside right outside Idaho, but nothing yet in Montana.

 

Shoe Of The Day #3

World's second largest Converse; found between Omak and Republic, WA (where the streets have no names and all the stories are told by animal bones).

 

Days 5-8: Twisp + Climbing Loup Loup, Wauconda and Sherman Pass

Day five we took a much needed rest day after climbing Washington Pass. After riding 10 miles from Winthrop to Twisp we spent most of the day doing laundry and updating the blog (much like I am doing again today..!), and then in the evening we met up with our WarmShowers.com futon host, Scott.

Some highlights from Twisp

  • This grocery store that was more like a natural history museum:
  • Meeting Scott! Scott was excellent; so glad we got to meet him. He lives in a tiny house that he built himself up on a hill. The house is built partially underground so it keeps the heat when it’s cold, and the hot out when it’s hot. On our night off we went to hear some local Jazz, we scoped out a local salmon restoration project and we spent the day enjoying Twisp.

Twisp has officially made it on our “places we would consider moving to” list. It’s small but the scenery is spectacular and the community seems to be rich with progressive-thinking, environmentally-conscious folks. Scott says a lot of people move there (especially people from California) and then leave because they can’t adjust to the lifestyle. I’ve been thinking a lot about what “adjusting to the lifestyle” really means — and about what lifestyle I want — since we left Twisp (lots of hours in the saddle means lots of time to think). I’ll let you know when I come up with some answers šŸ™‚

Climbing Loup Loup, Wacounda and Sherman Passes

After a very nice day of rest and a warm shower, we headed back on the road to tackle days 5-8 and the next three passes of the Cascade Mountain range; Loup Loup, Wauconda and Sherman passes. Here’s a short breakdown of each:

Loup Loup Pass (4020′)

  • The West to East climbing mileage is short(ish), but the “shoulder” is all gravel and rough pavement. It’s a real front-wheel slidin’ crotch vibrator — which makes climbing just a smidge harder than it needs to be.
  • Of all four passes (Washington, Loup Loup, Wauconda and Sherman), traffic was probably the worst on this pass. Cars and trucks flew by fast and they seemed, say, less pleased that they had to maneuver around a couple slow-moving cyclists (we got a few red neck long honks; these are very different from the toot toot “good job” honks).
  • We saw a spaced our carivan of Tesla cars in all different colors going up the pass. This was unexpected and kind of awesome.
  • I found a tiny Alaska motorcycle license plate.
  • The descent down the pass was awesome!!! We thought it might be gravelley and scary based on the ascent, but the road was (for some reason?) much better on the other side. This ascent was curvy and we were flying down at 30-plus-mph. I think this ascent was even faster than Washington Pass. Loved it; I can see why motorcyclists love it, too.

Sweet gravel shoulder, Loup Loup!

Wauconda Pass (4310′)

  • Between Loup Loup and Wauconda, we passed through Omak and Okanogan. This is pretty much all I have to say about those two places:

Oh, and this:

Best picture of me ever taken.

The terrain was pretty dry. It looked like a good place to leave a body. We saw lots and lots of animal bones, some of which I may or may not have collected. And Dustin took this picture of me with a fisheye lens, which I find hilarious because it makes me look like a little person in a big world.

  • Climbing Wacounda wasn’t bad. The elevation was manageable, the shoulder was decentĀ and the gravel was sparse (excellent!)
  • I found this bird:
  • We stopped for lunch at a “cafe” + post office + gas stationn combination that was near the top of the pass. Neither the cafe nor the post office were open, so we ate our sac lunch at the picinic table and enjoyed these gems:

I “think” they “forgot” the “quotation marks.” Example: No quotation marks —> “quotation marks.”

Notice these hand-written post office hours are stuck to the door with (hopefully not used) band-aids.

  • The descent down Wauconda was excellent. Fast; safe; lots of shoulder; no traffic! We descended for about 12 miles (!) which I’ll take any day.

My crazy drunk eye is so stoked to be at the top of Wauconda Pass!

Sherman Pass (5575′)

Between Wauconda and Sherman passes we camped in Republic, WA at the state fairgrounds. Other than a little tikes rodeo, the place was pretty vacant so we made the “camp kitchen” cabin our home for the night.

At the Republic fairgrounds we took warm showers (25 cents for three minutes!) and we found this guy, who we aptly named “wizard eyebrows”:

After a good night’s sleep and some IT Band rolling with The Stick, we rolled out early in the am on day eight to tackle the last pass of the Cascade mountain range.
Some highlights:
  • The climb wasn’t bad. The traffic wasn’t bad. The shoulder wasn’t bad. The sceney/terrain wasn’t bad.
  • We saw this creepy abandoned mine on the way up (we speculate bears probably live in there now):
  • We ate lunch at the top of the pass and learned all about the native americans that used to climb the pass via foot.
  • Dustin wore this dongle-ey tripod on his helmet to capture the descent down our last pass. (And he made that face.)
  • We descended — again at about 30mph — and crossed over the Columbia River Louis and Clark-style. (I am sure there was less road construction when Louis and Clark were crossing the river….. maybe…)
Our descent down Sherman shot us into Pend Orielle county where we finished our last leg of Washington and headed head-first into Idaho for a very excellent minute. More on that later! For now… our laundry is done and Dustin is giving me that “I’m really hungry” look, so…. more blogging to come later today!

 

 

 

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