2013 TransAmerica Bicycle Tour

On August 27, 2013, Will Bulla and Jeb Hunt set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Their 76-day journey, which began in Astoria, Oregon and finished in Yorktown, Virginia, took them 4,100 miles across ten states including Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia.

After planning and training for over a year, Will and Jeb followed the TransAmerica bicycle route across America from the Pacific to Atlantic coast. The route followed country roads and highways, through small towns with populations of only a few hundred. Across America, the two witness the hospitality of complete stranger, beheld the beauty of our nation's landscape, and face the physical and mental trails of biking across three mountain ranges and being on the road for nearly three months. The two adventurers, who carried their own gear and camped for the majority of the trip, experienced multiple snow storms and encountered a variety of wildlife. All of these elements made this trip a life-changing experience.

View Photo Gallery of TransAm Bicycle Tour

This blog details the 76-day 2013 bicycle tour of Will Bulla and Jeb Hunt on the TransAmerica Trail.

August 28, 2013

The time is finally here. More than a year of planning has led to this. Will and I are relaxing in a small, musty room of the Astoria Riverside Motel. The youthful, hippy vibe of Portland has given way to the small, seaside town of Astoria, known mainly for its Goonies fame. This is the most terrible place to start a cross-country trip. Why? Because it's cloudy all the time, rainy and cold. As Will describes it"an Alaskan seaport village without the Inuits." While I hope these travel stories result in something positive, we are going to be real about it. When it sucks we are going to say so.

As the levity of the upcoming journey begins to finally sink in, Will asks "What are we going to do if we are running out of battery on our phones? We will only have enough time to post some pictures and then turn them off." That's when the adventure begins. Being forced to unplug will be good for us. It will force us to live in the here and now. It may not be comfortable. It may not be pretty. But it's what we need.

Already the friendliness and hospitality of strangers is encouraging. Well, except for the belligerent steampunk guy who forcefully explained to Will, "You're right in the middle of the farking (okay, he may have used another word) sidewalk. Get out of the way." But there are numerous examples of kindness already in just the first 48 hours.

Charlie and Bonnie have set the standard for hospitality on this trip very high. While Charlie is Will's second cousin, they had never met or talked before this trip. Bonnie is Charlie's very pleasant and welcoming girlfriend. Charlie recently moved to Portland from Ashville, North Carolina and stumbled upon news of our adventure through one of those circulating family reunion email-lists that all of us find in our inbox from time to time. Charlie contacted us and generously offered to pick us and our gear up from the airport. Additionally, he provided us a place to stay for the night and then drove us the scenic two-hour drive to Astoria. As if that wasn't enough, Charlie took time to find a Popeyes Chicken (Will's favorite) for lunch, located an emergency rest stop when Popeyes didn't settle well, and drove us to the Oregon/Washington line so we could add another state to our list of states visited.

It seems having a touring bike is an excellent conversation starter. As we were unloading our bikes and taking them into the room at the motel, an elderly couple stopped us and asked about our journey. After explaining our story, the woman, later to be introduced as Helen, began to explain their story as her husband rummaged through their trunk searching for something. She explained that in 2001 her and her husband traveled over 3000 on the Southern Bike Route across the US from San Diego, California to Melbourne Beach, Florida. "Found it!" exclaimed her husband, as he pulled a book from the car. "When we finished our trip I wrote a book. I know you probably don't want to carry it all the way across the US, but I figure maybe you wanted to peruse it tonight and then you can leave it outside our room." The title reads "Taking the Long Way Home: Adventures of a Retired Couple Bicycling Across America" by G Frank Miller. As it now sits on my motel bed, I curiously find the section of their story that takes them through Pensacola. After browsing through a few other sections, I continue writing.

"Have you seen the forecast for tomorrow?" asked Will. "It is 100% chance of rain with 10-20mph south winds. And yes, we are going due south tomorrow." Who wants to start their journey is the rain? Not me. "What are we going to do?" I'm not sure, I guess we'll see tomorrow. "Well, tomorrow we at least have to make sure to take pictures of our legs. I want before and after pics. And also girlfriends; leg pictures and girlfriends."

September 2, 2013

Day four is coming to a close. Our legs are sore and to say we are sunburnt is too mild. It's been a crazy four days.

Sure enough, it rained on day one. We woke up around 8 am to the sound of pouring rain. "Surely it will pass soon," I thought out loud as I starred out the window. "Let's go ahead and get our stuff together and maybe it'll stop by the time we are ready to start." We'll, it didn't. It kept raining. All day. Some times it just sprinkled. Some times it poured. However one thing did remain constant, a 20-25 mph head wind almost the entire way. The scenery, mostly through lush Oregon forests of douglas fir and spruce trees, was beautiful. It was like a massive forest full of Christmas trees. But the breathtaking scenery didn't make it rain any less. Dogs don't seem to care much about the rain either. We were chased by three dogs, but luckily they were ultimately behind a fence. These close calls did suddenly remind us that we had forgot to purchase an air horn to use as our main defense against dogs. We added that to our list of supplies for the next store run.

After a slow 25 mile ride in the wind and rain we decided we'd had enough. We want to complete this thing and killing ourselves on day one didn't sound like a smart idea. Just the day before the weather had been absolutely beautiful in Portland. We had taken a six mile ride around downtown Portland with Charlie. The whole ride we commented about how nice the city was and how beautiful the weather was. Things can change fast.

The highlight on day one was finding one of those KFC/Taco Bell combo restaurants. We were cold and wet. Having lunch gave us some time to warm up and dry off, a little. We stayed there as long as we possibly could. Half of the time we spent at lunch was waiting on me deciding what to order. Should I order Taco Bell or KFC? I'd never been forced to choose between the two in a situation like this. "You know you can order both, don't you?" Will said. I guess I hadn't really understood that. Liberated by this revelation I ordered Taco Bell. But after seeing Will's delectable combo of both, I wish I would have ordered KFC. There is nothing like warm mashed potatoes when you are cold.

As we dined, we discussed how we would proceed for the day. We both were in agreement that we had put in a valiant effort until then, and we should find some place where we could dry off and regroup. Thankfully there was an inexpensive hostel just down the road in Seaside, Oregon. This quaint hostel was equipped with both dorm and private rooms. For only $5 more than the dorm rooms we were able to get our own room. The owners gave us a tour around the compound. Hostels are a neat place to meet people and experience community. There was a shared cooking area, as well as a community living room and "music room" where they kept a piano and a few other instruments. "Where are you headed?" and "How far have you gone?" were the two most popular questions asked to us on day one. People were impressed by our answer to the first, they weren't impressed with our response to the second. But who cares. This is our trip and we make the rules. We were confident it was the right decision.

The weather for day two was much better. We woke up soon after the sunrise, our bodies having not fully adjusted to the Pacific timezone. The sun quickly dried up the dampness from the day before and we were ready to tackle the day. Day two was our introduction to climbing. Though the elevations aren't nearly as steep as what we will face in the coming weeks, they still were formidable.

Ever since we started planning this trip, we had always intended on staying at Cape Lookout State Park. The pictures we had seen were amazing. We knew it was a beautiful place to camp directly on the Pacific Ocean, with giant rocks directly off the coast. However, in the miles leading up to the park we remembered that it was a Friday and the beginning of a three day weekend. That being said, we knew it would likely be full, but still hoped for the best.

Sure enough, it was full. It was about an hour before dark and we knew we needed to make a camping decision pretty soon. The closest town was behind us, but we both didn't want to go backwards. We pressed forward up a steep incline to try and reach the next city before dark. On the climb we passed another touring biker who was traveling the Pacific Coast route from Alaska to California. He too was looking for a place to stay, but was going the opposite direction. Soon after we parted ways, we reached the summit. On the decent down the scenery changed from lush forest to open fields of dirt and sand. The sun was setting and it provided for an absolutely beautiful sunset.

As the sunset we arrived in the very small town of Sandlake. We had biked 70 miles for the day and were tired. We were running low on water and needed a place to stay. The first person we came across in Sandlake was a teenager sitting on the front porch of a closed market store. "Do you know where we could get some water?" we asked. "No." Alright. Moving on. Across the street was the town's small fire station. The volunteer fireman was outside spraying down his car. We biked over and asked if we could possibly fill up our water bottles for the night. He kindly obliged and led us into a laundry room with a sink.

After we filled all our bottles, we started up a conversation with the man. "Do you know of anywhere we could camp for the night?" we asked. "There is a campground, but it's about six miles down the road. The next biggest city is Pacific City, but that's even farther. You are in the middle of nowhere."

We were running out of options. "Would you mind if we camped behind the fire station?" I asked. "I'm not really sure I'm allowed to do that. I've never let anyone do that and I'm not really the person to make the decision." "Well, is there someone you could call and ask?" I pressed. "Yeah, I could do that."

He walked into the fire station to make a call. Will and I debated where we were going to illegally camp if he wouldn't let us stay. "Sure, no problem." he yelled as he walked out of the station. "You can set up your stuff behind the station on the grassy patch."

We finally had a home for the night. We set up camp and made a dinner of canned chicken and macaroni and cheese. We cleaned up the cooking equipment and turned in for the night. This was day two of a nine week journey. We needed rest.

We woke up a little after sunrise and packed our stuff up. We had decided that we would eat breakfast and lunch on the road and make dinner at camp each night. We knew the next city was Pacific City, directly on the coast and we were hungry. Once we were loaded up, we hit the road.

It was a pleasant ride to Pacific City. Along the ride, four deer were standing in the middle of the road. We stopped. They starred at us. Eventually they decided to move out of the way. "We are in the middle of nowhere, aren't we?" we both agreed.

Pacific City was a beautiful coast town. The Pacific coast of Oregon is very different then the beaches we are used to in Pensacola. First of all, you can drive your vehicle on to the beach. That was different to see people drive down to the water. That shows you the difference in the type of sand. Secondly, there are huge boulders off the coast. I mean big. It's kind of hard to explain. It looks like a little mountain in the sea.

We found a small cafe to have breakfast and planned out the route for the day. By the time we were done with breakfast a low cloud had nearly masked the entire boulder out in the water. You could now only see the very top. However it was still bright sunshine everywhere else. "That's crazy," we thought aloud.

It was time to get going. We had an ambitious goal to make it to the town of Rickreall about 70 miles away by evening. The ride was long, but pleasant. In the small town of Neskowin we stopped at a local Saturday farmers market. We planned on having chicken fajitas for dinner and we needed an onion and a green pepper. We found both and I added them to my handlebar pannier where they would ride for the rest of the day. Soon the small towns gave way to wine country. We passed vineyard, after vineyard. The rolling hills, light breeze and sun made for a great ride. In Grand Ronde we stopped for a few more supplies. We knew we wanted to stay in a hotel while in Eugene, so we went ahead and booked the room for the following night. This turned out to be a very smart idea since it was Labor Day weekend. While Will made the hotel reservation, I tried some chocolate Tillamok ice cream. It was delicious. The hotel room was booked and this provided us some motivation to press forward. We were looking forward to washing our clothes and getting a shower for the first time in a three days.

The roads were kind and we were able to tackle 71 miles and roll in to Rickreall at dusk. We biked up to the local market at the entrance to town and filled our water bottles. We had intentions to stay at the Rickreall fairgrounds, where they had spots for camping. While Will went inside to get water, I waited outside with our bikes. While waiting, a friendly man pedaled up on his well used bike.

"I just saw you all pedal in to town. I live in the house a block away with the dog on the roof." I looked over and sure enough, there was a dog on the roof. "Where are you all staying for the night?" he asked. "We planned on the fairgrounds." "You are more than welcome to stay in my back yard for the night. I try to host bikers whenever I can. Plus you can save like ten bucks." Will walked out of the market with our water and I explained the offer. At that point we thankfully accepted and biked the block to his house. We were greeted by a collection of friendly animals. Brennan called to the dog Halfmoon to get off the roof. An older dog named Star met us in the backyard and was soon joined by his pal Halfmoon. There were also a few friendly cats. We introduced ourselves and told our story. Our host introduced himself as Brennan. An avid touring cyclists himself, Brennan filled the early evening with entertaining stories about his travel around the Pacific and west with his dogs. It was such a friendly atmosphere and much more interesting then I imagine a night at a fairground camp would be. After our planned dinner of fajitas we turned in for the night. Day three complete. I felt like we were finally starting to develop the rhythm of being touring cyclists. The miles are hard but rewarding. If you train enough, your body will adjust to the lifestyle. We weren't there yet, but I now felt like we were getting there.

We woke up next morning to the sound of a crowing rooster. A repetitively crowing rooster. It's not the nicest way to wake up when you are still tired. But Halfmoon helped the atmosphere. Who can not want to wake up when a lovable dog is excited and ready to play. After Brennan saw we were awake, he brought us out fresh honeydew melon from his garden. We ate and thanked him again for his hospitality. We began to pack up our gear and Brennan asked if he and the dogs could join us for a few miles of our ride today. We welcomed the company and he got his bike and dogs ready while we finished packing up.

After a few miles on the rode we shook hands, exchanged email addresses and parted ways. It's people like Brennan who make this trip great. We continued forward and stopped at the next town, Monmouth, at a mom and pop restaurant for breakfast. As we were locking up our bikes, and elderly couple was unlocking theirs. They had ridden from the town of Salem to eat breakfast. We shared stories briefly and invited them to follow us online.

After breakfast we headed on. We needed to make it Eugene before the end of the day because we already had a hotel reservation. We knew there weren't any major climbs, but we still had to cover 72 miles.

The mild weather of the past few days had turned hot. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and we were biking through long stretches of unending farmland. We would stop at the occasional tree for a water brake and a rest in the shade. The average stretch between towns was about 10-15 miles. In the heat it felt much longer. We both were already sunburnt from the previous days, so we made sure to lather up with the sunscreen. It didn't seem to help though. By the end of the day we were more crisp than we started. "I'm pretty sure this is what Kansas is going to be like," Will unenthusiastically commented. We debated which we hated more - climbs or wind. We decided we hated them both.

After what seemed like unending miles on an endless day, we finally arrived in Eugene. Eugene is a much larger town and the home of the University of Oregon. We had traveled 72 miles and were both clearly spent. We had to go off the mapped route to find our hotel. Will used his phone and we let Google guide us to our home for the night. After a ride through town, a beautiful park and a slight detour through a construction zone we arrived at the hotel. We had successfully now completed day four of riding and could also celebrate the completion of the first map. The Adventure Cycling Association maps we are using for this TransAmerica route are divided into twelve maps. We are now on map two. But first we were going to reward ourselves with a little Breaking Bad, pizza, wings and beer. Additionally we had decided to take Labor Day off from riding and rest our legs. We plan on taking our bikes into a local shop this afternoon to get them tuned up slightly before we head towards the mountains. The mountains are calling and we will soon answer. But until then I'm going to watch Pawn Stars until Will wakes up.

September 4, 2013

Will here; get excited. Your eyes are about to see words put into such heavenly phrases you may need to sit, nay, lie down. Anyways, it is now Wednesday night and we are hanging out in a new friend's house after a nice pizza dinner, but we'll get to that later.

After exiting my slumber on Monday morning, we realized we hadn't thought of any significant things to do on our rest day. So all we ended up doing was strolling around town (with no panniers on, mind you) and finding small gems Eugene has to offer i.e. the cheapest laundromat in which we could dry our clothes and a relatively close market where we could score some cheap food.

While waiting for our clothes to dry, we decided to go on a ride around the University of Oregon to check out the campus. Right off the bat we loved it. There were all girl running clubs and buildings with some interesting architecture and more all girl running clubs. Meticulously planning our course in order to run into said running clubs was fairly easy and sent us for a nice 15 miler.

Honestly, Tuesday went by pretty fast. The morning consisted of free continental breakfast and re-packing our bikes up. The afternoon went by with beautiful views from the base of the Cascade mountains as we kept a cool 15 mph pace and talked of making a movie of our transcontinental adventure. We came to the conclusion Jeb would be played by Russell Crowe and I would be played by Ryan Reynolds or Leonardo DiCaprio, naturally.

After we decided on our actors we came to the horrid realization our maps had us starting the climb up the Cascades immediately. We thought we had plenty of time to get at least halfway up the mountain to a campground to set up camp...were we ever mistaken. Not only did we pass the first two campgrounds where we could've easily stayed the night but we also had to end up walking our bikes up 3000 feet while the sun set. Luckily, we found a trailhead with a bathroom (if you could call it that) and a picnic table by a patch of land that looked as if only bears would sleep on. We set up camp and proceeded to cook some three dollar crab fettuccine alfredo.

The night's sleep went pleasantly with no bears or any other large curious animals coming by to see if we had any extra crab meat or if we would make a good midnight snack. However, now it was time to climb. We were painfully low on water and there is none pumped up that high in the mountains so we took it as easily as possible. Around 4000 feet we see a truck pull over beside us with license plates from British Columbia and a (clearly Canadian) man pokes his head out exclaiming "We may be on the wrong road". After I check our maps we find that indeed he and his wife were on the wrong road. After a brief exchange of words we find his name to be Dave and his passenger is his wife Tracy. "I imagine you guys would like a ride up the hill?" Dave asked. I didn't give Jeb time to answer and said yes almost before the question was done. Although it was only another thousand feet to the top, we were in no shape resource-wise to handle it. It ended up taking us twenty minutes by truck to reach the summit of McKenzie Pass but when we did, the views were breathtaking.

The ride down the mountain was well worth the struggle of the morning and night before climb. It was one of those rides you can brag about to anyone you meet; the view, the speed, and the fluidity of the mountain road under the bike is what today's trip was all about.

We stopped in a town on the other side of the mountain called Sisters, Oregon for lunch. Sisters is a place everyone should see. It is a small town filled with old western buildings that resembled Disney parks (or Disney parks resemble it, rather). On top of having such a friendly community, Sisters also bragged some good food and bike shops.

After Sisters we biked to Redmond, Oregon and did nothing but wait at a McDonald's and eat ice cream related treats before making our final leg to Prineville, Oregon.

Prineville boasts an interesting thousand foot drop as it's entrance, a very welcome surprise to both Jeb and I. Since it isn't a huge city, just over nine thousand people, it wasn't too hard to find our place to stay for the night. Earlier today we contacted Paul through couchsurfers online and he agreed to host us at his house. We pulled up to his driveway and were greeted by him, his wife Laura, his three year old daughter Dorian, and his eighteen month old son Elliott. After a quick meet and greet, it was time for dinner: pizza with hummus on the side. Apparently I'm the only human in the world who doesn't like hummus but still, the pizza was a perfect end meal for the day.

September 5, 2013

As much as we wanted to stay at the home of Paul and Laura indefinitely, we knew we had to continue on. Our overnight stay was probably the most ideal first experience anyone could ever have using Couchsurfers and staying with complete strangers. Paul, Laura and the kids were incredibly hospitable. Paul and I had a lot in common. Paul used to lead worship for a Lutheran church and is cofounder of Weiv, an interactive visual music software which can be used in worship settings for churches. (http://weiv.co) Paul was even promoting Weiv at a worship and communications conference that I went to a few years ago in Texas. Not to mention that their house had a rock climbing wall in the backyard. It's hard to imagine a cooler family.

After coffee and breakfast we headed east. Before we left Prineville, we stopped at a gas station to replenish a few supplies and get water. After nearly running out of water the day before, we weren't going to let that happen again. We had extra "platypus pouches" to carry water and we made sure to fill them as well. The gas station we stopped at did have an attached TacoTime which seems to be a popular Mexican fast food restaurant in the west. Though we had just recently eaten breakfast, we couldn't resist the temptation. We knew we weren't going to have many eating options for the rest of the day, so we indulged and had a second breakfast. It's amazing how much food you can eat when you bike 60+ miles a day.

While waiting on our food we talked about our journey with the man who was washing the windows of the gas station. He was very interested in the journey and asked us all kinds of questions. We gave him our cards so that he could follow us and wished him the best. As we were leaving the station after eating, we had another guy in a pickup truck ask us where we were going. When we mentioned that we were heading east towards Virginia, he responded "Oh boy, you know a storms a comin', don't ya?" We had looked at the forecast the night before and we knew there was a chance of scattered thunderstorms where we were heading. However his comments made the whole situation seem a little more ominous.

For the time being, the weather was beautiful. There were more clouds than the past few days, but the clouds provided relief from the intense sun, which was nice. For me the ride started off rough. To the blind eye it looked like we were going down hill, but on the bike it felt the opposite. I've stated calling these "deceptive downhills." Honestly, they are probably very slight inclines, but they just don't look like it. Add the extra water, 60lbs of gear and 15 miles and it starts to wear on you. It wasn't affecting Will much at all. He swallowed a few energy chews, put in his headphones and was establishing a substantial lead. There were a few serious climbs during the day and those tend to be the great equalizers. No matter how fast you get there, they demand slow and monotonous hard work to get to the top. We also tend to not let too much of a distance be established between the two of us. If one person get too far ahead, we normally will stop and take a break until the other gets there.

We knew today was going to be a desolate 50-mile ride between the cities of Prineville and Mitchell, Oregon. However, we didn't know how interesting the scenery was going to be. Already we have seen so much in the state of Oregon. From the Pacific coast, to the vineyards, to the cities, to the beginning of the Cascades, we have already seen a lot. It honestly feels like we have seen so much and it's surreal to think we haven't even left the first state.

We knew were going to have to eat lunch in the middle of nowhere today. We packed tuna and saltines and enjoyed a pleasant lunch overlooking the desolate and dusty rolling hills we were now traveling. As we enjoyed our lunch, we could see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. We hoped that we could make it to Mitchell in time, but were doubtful. We put on our raincoats and double checked our gear was watertight, just in case. After lunch we continued the journey up to the summit of Ochoco Pass, the largest climb of the day. At 4,720 feet, the "deceptive downhills" had actually made our climb to the top less painful than the "straight up" climbs of yesterday. We felt a few raindrops here and there, but for the most part, the rain was holding off.

As we reached the summit, one of the greatest signs you could ever want to see as a cyclist appeared. From a distance, we saw the road sign indicating to trucks that the roadway was about to make some serious declines. To our sheer delight, underneath that sign indicated this decline was for the next 7 miles. We knew this was going to be fun.

Just as we began the descent, the sprinkling started to pick up. This had the potential to be dangerous, combining wet roads with fast downhill speeds. However, due to the direction the storm was heading, we figured if we started the descent quickly, we might be able to outrun it. We were right. After less than a mile the sprinkling let up.

During each of the downhills, I've been keeping track of our max speed. Our previous max was 36 mph. I felt like this decline had the potential to beat that, but it can be tricky. It's not safe trying to take turns at high speeds, so ideally I was hoping for some straightaways to try and reach 40 mph. About halfway down there was barely enough straightway for my cycle computer to reach 40.3 mph. It's a crazy experience going that fast on a bike.

After our seven mile decline, we still had about ten miles before we reached Mitchell. Storms still danced all around us, but we hadn't received the brunt of anything yet. Actually the area at the base of the descent was dry and in need of some rain. We even stopped to take pictures of the dry patched earth and tumbleweed, both unfamiliar sights to Florida boys. In the distance we saw a few lightning strikes and heard some loud thunder. "Maybe we can beat the storm to Mitchell", I said to Will with a hint of optimism. "Don't you even say it," said Will. "You are going to jinx us."

Thankfully I didn't jinx us and we arrived in Mitchell tired, but dry. It's hard to express how small of a town Mitchell is. It is by far the smallest town I have ever visited and stayed in. As we biked down Main Street (the only street in town) most of the shops were closed. We knew we were going to have limited options, so we had called ahead the day before to reserve a room at the only place to lodge in town, The Oregon Hotel. The quaint remodeled home looked like it was going to be a sufficient place to sleep for the evening.

After placing our bikes in the front yard, we proceed inside to the lobby/living room. There was no one in sight, but there was bell that had a sign above it which read "Ring bell for service." As Will gathered his stuff outside I decided to ring the bell. However, it was a dud. I must have held it down or something, because no one was going to hear that ring. Will walked in and noticed there was no one around still. "Did you ring the bell? Will asked. "Sort of." I responded, still trying to figure out what I did wrong. Will just shook his head. I tried the bell again and this time it was much louder and clearer. However, after a few minutes there was still no one. Finally Will started knocking on doors and eventually a middle-aged woman appeared and checked us into our room. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only people at the hotel. Will says there is another two people here, but I have yet to see them.

"If you want dinner, the bar next door closes at 7:30" the middle aged woman informed us. Since we could tell it was the only place to eat in town, we decided we should shower then head to dinner. As we were getting ready, Will commented when a fire truck, sirens blaring, sped down Main Street. I didn't think much of it. We headed next door to eat at the Little Pine Cafe.

We ordered our meals and I tried resisting singing along to the variety of soft rock songs blaring in the bar. As we waited on our food we noticed two other fire trucks speed by. A few minutes later the music stopped and the lights turned off. The power was out. Just like the hotel, we were the only two in the restaurant. Well, actually a man and wife had walked in just a few minutes earlier. "Power's off" observed the waitress. "Happens more often than you think. Thankfully we have a gas grill." I was thankful to hear that. I was hungry.

A few minutes later some kind of city official came into the bar and explained that the power may be out for a while. I assumed that the official was the town's sheriff, but I'm pretty sure I'm just making that up from my stereotype of this small western town. "There are lightning caused fires to both the north and south of town. Power may be out for a while. The station is trying to get them under control." What a crazy experience to be a part of. It couldn't be more quintessential.

Unexpectedly, the power came on about ten minutes later. Will and I ended up hanging out at the bar for a while just chatting about the trip and the unbelievable experience of being in a town this small in the middle of nowhere with just our bikes. We are living the dream and it's rather hard to believe. It was good to decompress for a little bit and understand the amazing experience we are apart of. We made the long trip back to the hotel and have now settled in for the night. There is absolutely no cell phone service, but the hotel does have WiFi. The dim reddish light of the hotel sign is softly highlighting our room as I write. What adventures will tomorrow bring? I don't know, but I better get some sleep so that I'm fully awake to experience them.

September 8, 2013

I had no idea there were so many small towns in America. As we bike on back roads in the middle of nowhere, we a visiting towns with populations of 131 or 250. We are enjoying eating in their one and only restaurants and talking about our journey to those who ask. Not only are we biking across the USA, we are also eating our way across this nation. Because of the amount of energy we use each day, we feel like we are constantly eating. So, if you need us to give you our review of the best chicken fingers or chicken sandwich in the state of Oregon, we have a pretty good understanding now.

After eating a delicious breakfast at one of these mom and pop restaurants in Mitchell, Oregon we began the 40 mile journey to Dayville, Oregon. It was a cloudy day and that made the temperatures quite a bit cooler. It had rained during the night and the roads were still a little wet. We dressed in layers and headed east.

The first seven miles were all uphill. I prefer tackling the climbs in the morning. Our legs are fresher and I prefer getting the pain over with. After a muscle burning seven miles, we experienced a pleasant 33 miles of swift declines and rolling hills. Additionally, these miles we filled with, once again, breathtaking scenery. The landscape was now field with huge canyon cliffs on both sides. Our necks were hurting from staring upwards, trying to see the top. We stopped countless times to take pictures. We thought we found the most picturesque spot to take some photos, then we would go around the next corner and it would be even more amazing. We quickly forgot about the pain from climbing earlier in the day.

The canyon cliffs gave way to farmland and we soon found ourselves in Dayville. Outside of the restaurant in Dayville we meet three cheerful lady cyclists who were cycling around the Dayville region. We chatted for a while and they shared about their TransAmerica trip scheduled for May of 2014. We exchanged information and stopped for lunch. While uploading pictures later in the day, we noticed one of the ladies in the group had already found our Facebook page and had left a comment. It was great to meet them and we look forward to following their adventure next year.

"Are you here for Cycle Oregon?" asked a young man as we walked towards the restaurant in Dayville. "No. We are here for lunch. What is Cycle Oregon?" we asked. The young man explained that Cycle Oregon is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming individuals and communities through bicycling. Each year since 1986, Cycle Oregon has brought cyclists together to enjoy their sport and help local communities. Proceeds from the week long ride go to the Cycle Oregon Fund, which helps preserve and protect the special places of Oregon and supports community development projects in the regions through which they ride. Over 2,300 cyclist were set to converge on the city of John Day (just a few cities down and on our route) starting tomorrow. Though we didn't have the time our money to officially participate, we knew we wanted to at least stop by the next day and check it out.

During lunch we made plans to stay overnight in Mt. Vernon, Oregon which was 23 miles to the east. Our map suggested we try "The Bike Inn" a for donation cyclists only lodge in Mt. Vernon. We called the provided number and scheduled to stay there for the night. It would be a first for us and we didn't know what to expect.

The ride to Mt. Vernon went quickly, with mostly rolling hills and a generous tail wind. "Is that a goat up there?" asked Will as he pointed over towards a cliff near a white house nestled near a cliff side. It looked like it was indeed a goat and we soon realized this was the place we were staying for the night. We followed the sign from the road to the house to a side door. We knocked but no one answered. After knocking a few more times we decided to see if it was unlocked. It was and we slowly proceeded in. Next to the door was a sheet that said welcome and explained the accommodations.

The Bike Inn is the service of a local Mt. Vernon mother and daughter who share a love for cycling and helping the cycling community. It is basically a fully equipped guest house that traveling cyclists can use at their leisure when passing through. It is located on a small farm equipped with goats, rams, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens and probably some other animals we didn't see. We quickly made ourselves at home and unpacked our bikes. Since we had a kitchen and oven for the evening, we quickly biked to the corner market and bought two oven pizzas for dinner. To complete what had now become the perfect evening, we watched a combination of VHS tapes including Back to the Future II, The Return of Jafar before finally settling on Free Willy.

The next morning we repacked our bikes and continued on our way. We traveled an easy eight miles to John Day and visited the Cycle Oregon camp where the cyclists began to gather. After talking with a handful of cyclists and event organizers we continued on our way.

We knew that the day was going to be filled with three intense climbs. We wanted to conquer all three and get as close to Baker City that evening as possible. Half way up the first incline we stopped in the city of Prairie City for lunch. As we locked up our bikes outside the restaurant, we chatted with another group of 4 cyclist who were finishing their meal outside on the deck of the restaurant after a Saturday bike ride. We talked about our trip, Cycle Oregon and other adventures. They wished us well and we proceeded inside.

"Squeeeeeeech." "It's noon," says the lady at the table next to us as I Iooked around trying to figure out what just made that loud whistle-like noise. "What is it?" I asked. "It's the noon break for lunch whistle at the local mill." The made a lot more since now. I am used to church bells chiming the hour, but not mill whistles indicating lunch time. Reminds me of the opening of the Flintstones cartoon.

As we finished eating the waitress brought us our check. "The group of cyclist who were siting outside earlier covered most of your check," the waitress explained. "They didn't want me to tell you all until they left." What a kind gesture. We were completely surprised and so thankful for such unexpected generosity. We knew we still had a lot of climbing to do, so we continued on. A mile or so away from Prairie City we heard the whistle sound again. "Lunch break must be over," I said to myself. "Time to get back to work."

The rest of the afternoon was just that...work. Will and I spent most of the rest of day in silence, panting up the three steep inclines of the day. While the inclines took hours to get up, the declines took minutes. As we struggled up the third incline, the sun was beginning to set. We turned on all our lights and continued biking into the night. We didn't think we would make it all the way to Baker City, but we figured we would camp as close as we could get.

At about 9pm we stopped at a campground about 20 miles outside of Baker City. We made a quick dinner of rice and tuna and then headed to bed. We had spent almost 12 hours biking and we were exhausted. As we each headed to our tents to sleep I said, "Hey Will, look up." Never before had I seen such a big sky with some many stars. "Wow. Just wow."

After what had seemed like five minutes after I laid my head down I heard the strangest breathing sound outside of my tent. Unzipping my door, I could see Jeb was still asleep and there wasn't a sign of anyone else around. "This is it" I thought, "This is how I die. A massive, strange breathed animal of the night murders me." Turns out it was just one of many birds being nosey around our campsite.

Anywho, when we had everything packed up and each ate a hearty meal (yea, right) we hit the road. The early morning was still cold from the night before so it was nice to warm up with a nice hard pedaling. Twenty four miles of hard pedaling to Baker City to be exact. The ride was filled with beautiful scenery while giving us a nice five percent decline and a riverside view.

When we arrived in Baker City we rode around the downtown area and found a nice restaurant to have second breakfast (or real breakfast). After the meal we got supplies and since we knew the day's ride would have no stop for lunch we got some gas station food and packed it up before we headed out.

We knew the next little while would be a slow decline according to the maps but nothing prepared us for the actual route. We couldn't have asked for anything better. The first two miles were flat then we ran into a sign reading 'Richland 39 miles'. We planned on staying the night in Richland so we had plenty of time to ride a measley forty. When we passed the sign though, that all changed. The next 38 miles where completed in two and a half hours and we were in Richland at three in the afternoon. The 'slow decline' turned out to be the biggest rolling hills we've been over on this trip thus far. I even got to use my outermost chain ring (the ring with the most resistance) for about twenty five percent of the ride.

We went through declines mainly in an area called Hell's Canyon. Although it was such a pretty valley, it was hot...very hot. When we got out of the valley, we were in Richland and eating lunch outside of a motel just to sit under some shade.

The next town was only 13 miles away and, according to our maps, only had a 6 mile incline with the decline leading straight into town. Since it was only three o'clock we decided to go for it and man, was that a horrible decision. The first mile was fine. We then turned left and stopped at the view before us. Four miles of uphill with no mercy made us get off our bikes and just start walking.I let Jeb know the only reason I kept going up was because Breaking Bad came on tonight and there was no way I would miss it.

On the long journey to the pass' summit we both noticed the sky and clouds looked as if they were taken straight from the Toy Story movies' wallpaper with a baby blue sky covered in perfectly painted white clouds. Also, Jeb was able to pick up an Oregon license plate which brought up the idea that we should try to collect something from every state we cycle through. We've decided on water bottles.

It's been another long day but also a successful one. We hit our highest amount of miles (80) and had the best ride yet. Now we are lounging around a quaint lodge in Halfway, Oregon with the whole building to ourselves. Nothing to do but watch Breaking Bad, get some laundry done, drink coffee, and blog before a good night's sleep and a ride to Idaho tomorrow.

September 9, 2013

The Pine Valley Lodge and Bed and Breakfast really was a nice place to stay. We had the entire two story house to ourselves for the evening. Not to mention we also were able to do laundry and just lounge around in the comfy leather chairs while snacking on popcorn and reading brochures about the history of Halfway, Oregon.

The city of Halfway got it's name because it was located between post offices in Carson, Oregon and Pine Town, Oregon. They originally asked to be named Midway but postal officials replied that there was already a Midway, Oregon and suggested Halfway. Halfway has a population of about 380.

We slept in the next morning and enjoyed a delicious complimentary breakfast at the lodge. We spent time repacking our panniers and letting our tired legs rest for just a little bit longer. At about 11 am we decided it was time to get on the road. We weren't out of Hells Canyon yet and we were ready to cross our first state line in to Idaho. Hells Canyon is North America's deepest canyon, carved out by the winding Snake River.

Around noon we arrived at the Brownlee Dam and finally crossed in to Idaho. We enjoyed the sights and scenery of Oregon, but we were happy to be moving on to our next state. We will be in Idaho for a much shorter time than the eleven days spent in our first state.

The first roads of Idaho took us back and forth, weaving our way higher above the Brownlee Reservoir. We made sure to stay on the road, because these were some of the steepest drop offs yet. We knew we had a lot of climbing ahead, but first stopped at a gas station/cafe for some lunch and to refill our water bottles before the majority of the ascent. While eating lunch we made friends with the cashier and she asked us to put a pin in the map of the US where we were from. Will placed a pin in Pensacola, the first pin placed anywhere in the panhandle. She said they like to keep track of where people are from and why they are visiting Hells Canyon. After finishing our lunch, filling our water bottles, accidentally spilling the water bottle and refilling it again we headed out.

It was another hot day and we knew it was going to take us a while to get to the summit. We took our time, slowly pedaling up, taking breaks and walking a little. During one of our walk breaks I was slightly ahead of Will and noticed something in the road. "I think there is a bear in the middle of the road," I yelled. Will, thinking I was yelling that I could see the summit (which is something we normally do) got all excited. I stopped in my tracks and waited for Will. "Oh...a bear," Will said. Will held my bike and I slowly walked towards the bear to try and get a picture. He stared at us for a while, but by the time we were about 100 feet away, he scattered off into the woods. We looked into the woods to try and get a closer look, but he was gone. He was a black bear and didn't appear to be a grown adult, but it also wasn't a cub. This was our first encounter with a bear and we talked about it the rest of the way up. Thankfully, the distraction made the climb go by really fast.

Once we arrived at the summit, we knew we'd be in Cambridge, Oregon (our destination for the day) in no time. Sure enough, we quickly made the descent and arrived in Cambridge a little before dark. As we rode down the Main Street we noticed a gathering in their main park. A bluegrass band was providing music and the community had turned out with their blankets and lawn chairs to listen. We noticed a sign advertising "Music in the Park" and stopped for a little while to listen and take a few pictures.

Our appearance drew the attention of a few locals and one of the young ladies came up and started talking to us. She mentioned that many of the touring cyclists that come through town camp in this park and let us know we were welcome to. She even offered us some fresh corn. We asked her where the best place to eat in town was and she suggested a place a few blocks away. We proceeded to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious dinner. The restaurant offered homemade ice cream, so both Will and I decided to indulge. One of the offered flavors was huckleberry. We had seen this advertised a few other times in the past week and were curious what it was. After the waitress described it as a rare, sweet berry, I decided to give it a try. It was unique and tasty. Not sure if I'd call it my new favorite though. It took us a while to pay at the restaurant and once we did we were ready to call it a night. As we were leaving Will admitted, "You know what? I'm actually starting to like these small towns."

To correct Jeb on the previous sentence: I said "I may be starting to like some of these small towns." As a visiting location. I could never live in a place with one restaurant and a motel.

The next morning was pretty easy going, we biked the usual 25 mile ride before breakfast, (it was more of a lunch today, we started a bit later than usual) then we ate. We have been getting sick of eating the same style food every time we go to a local cafe but we lucked out today and found a little pizza place. We decided to stop and it was a very wise decision seeing as I've eaten chicken tenders every day for a week and Jeb has had a chicken sandwich of some sort.

After finishing up our pizza I decided it was as good a time as any to shave my head. It's been blistering hot since we've started this trek and having sweat cover my eyes for every climb is getting old really fast. We found the one hair place that was open in the town on a Tuesday and set our sights on it. When we walked in the lady cutting hair said she was booked all day....in a town of three hundred people....on a Tuesday. Not the most believable thing but who cares, we headed on. Jeb with a shaved head and me with a head of fabulous locks that got in my way.

The next thirty miles was tough terrain with fifteen hundred feet of gradual climbing leading to a mile long plateau then another twelve hundred feet of the same climbing. To both of our delights, we found we have grown into much stronger climbers than when we started in Astoria. Not once did we get off our bikes to walk up steep hills. I'm not saying we're completely ready for the Rockies yet, but we're improving, just ask our quads.

After surprising ourselves on the climbing of the day we arrived in New Meadows, Idaho. A small town (duh) of eight hundred and sixteen people, New Meadows sits at the very last part of a mountain before dropping twenty five hundred feet for 45 miles. We decided this had to be the best place to stay for the night, so we set up camp in the city park (legally) and started making ramen noodles for dinner. I performed culinary magic with said noodles, like I do with all ramen products, and even made some coffee even though it was seven o'clock in the evening.

September 11, 2013

It turned out to get a little colder that night than I was expecting. Halfway through the night I had to go dig through my panniers to find my long socks, running tights and jacket because I couldn't go back to sleep. It got into the mid 40s that night, even though it was in the 70s when we went to bed. We knew to expect that kind of temperature change, but this was the first time I'd experienced it.

After the cold night camping in the New Meadows city park, we woke up on September 11th expecting it to be an easy day. We had studied the maps and knew we didn't have any major climbs and thought the terrain was going to be a slight downhill. However because of a headwind, it was anything but easy. The day was slow going and we took lots of breaks.

One redeeming factor of the day was riding near the Little Salmon River. I enjoy riding next to bodies of water. It provides something to look at while biking endless stretches of pavement. Rivers, especially in the mountains, are always changing. One section may be still, while the next section is filled with rapids. Sometimes those rapids even lead to dramatic waterfalls.

We hadn't showered for a few days so during one of our breaks, we decided to clean up a little. Will washed his hair and I washed my face. A little later at one of the waterfalls, Will even got completely under the waterfall for a pictures sake and bragging rights. The water was frigid, but the hot Idaho sun works quickly and Will was completely dry by our lunch stop.

At our lunch stop, the family who owns the restaurant/market were concerned we had started our transcontinental ride to late. The seems to be a reoccurring theme with the locals we talk to as we travel. "You guys are going to run into snow, sleet, ice, tornados, everything," said the owner. I tend to think she was overacting. I know we are the last of the season and we will probably hit some colder weather, but I expect us to get through the west before the brunt of it.

On top of that, the ride after lunch was scorching hot. We were trying to make it to the town of White Bird before evening. White Bird mountain is a 2500 ft mountain pass we knew we had to tackle the next day. We wanted to stay at the base of the mountain the night before so that we could tackle the arduous climb with fresh legs.

After a very slow and hot ride of 65 miles, we arrived in White Bird around dinner time. We weren't impressed with the town. It was small and rundown. There was an old motel, bar, market, restaurant and that's about it. The restaurant was by far the nicest thing in town. As I got us a table, Will locked up our bikes. Two shirtless country kids on bikes struck up a conversation with Will while he situated our bikes. I'm sure he'll tell that story later.

We split a pizza and cheese sticks. "Do you know what time it is?" I asked the waitress. "We noticed we went through a time change, but really aren't sure what time zone we are in." After struggling to read her watch for a little while, the waitress decided her watch battery had stopped and she went to check the time. "It's about 8 PM," she eventually informed us. It's hard enough keeping track of what city we are in. It's even harder keeping track of the days and time.

After dinner we needed to find a place to stay. It was getting late and our options were very limited. We pedaled down to the local motel and an older stocky lady, dressed in her night gown, answered the door and told us there was a room available. It only cost $25 a person, but they only took cash (which luckily we had). "Do I need to fill out anything?" I asked. "No, you'll be fine unless you really wanted to fill out some paperwork," she said. "No, that's fine. I'm tired."

The room wasn't great, but it was a room. There were as many bugs in the room as there are when we camp outdoors. I decided to sleep in my sleeping bag to be safe. It was nice to have a shower though. You just had to make sure to step over the parade of ants running from the bathroom door to the commode. They didn't seem to be bothering anybody though, so we let the parade continue. Their was a small tv which provided some entertainment and very scarce cell service. Again, we weren't very impressed with the hotel or the town of White Bird.

September 12, 2013

It might not have been the fanciest place to stay, but we did wake up refreshed and ready for new adventures. After showering and repacking our gear we went to look for breakfast. As we were leaving our room, the gruff, stocky motel owner was walking her tiny dog while smoking a cigarette. "You boys heading out?" she asked. "Yes, ma'am." I replied. "We are going to grab something to eat for breakfast, then head on our way."

"Good luck with that," she said. "There isn't nothing open for breakfast around here." Trying to figure out a new plan of attack I responded, "Well, looks like we'll just have to get some breakfast supplies from the general store then." "The store opens at 9." It was only 8:30.

"Which way are you boys headed?" she inquired. "We are going up White Bird today towards Grangeville," Will answered. "You aren't taking the new 95 highway, are you? No biker has ever made it up the new highway." Will and I had actually planned on taking the new highway, but neither of us were going to tell her that. "Yes, ma'am," we replied.

Next to the motel was the bar. It appeared to be the only place open at 8:30. "It seems a little early to be drinking," I joked to Will. "If you had to live in this town you'd probably be there too," he immediately responded. We got our water bottles and walked into the bar to get water for the day. The smoke filled room already had five customers and they seemed to not be on their first drinks. They were kind enough to give us water and I don't think I inhaled a harmful amount of secondhand smoke.

"Which way are you boys headed?" the bartender asked, as if she had been cued by the motel owner. "Up White Bird," we responded. "You better take old 95. It's a longer distance with a bunch of switchbacks, but the elevation is more gradual." I was still pretty sure we were going to take the new highway, but Will and I had 20 minutes to talk about it before the store opened.

Both Will and I agreed that when doing climbs, the shortest distance is the best, no matter the grade incline. The new highway was substantially shorter, but appeared to go straight up at times. From the city of White Bird we could see both roads towering above us. No matter how you looked at them, they both looked intimidating. "If we take the new 95, at least we can say we are the first bikers to complete it'" Will joked.

At 9, an old Buick arrived outside the store and a worn lady proceeded inside. Not wanting to be rude, Will and I waited for the OPEN signed to be turned on. Before that happened, a man in a pickup truck pulled up and went inside. Seconds later he came out with a case of beer. We both just shook our heads and went inside. The options were limited and a lot of the supplies were expired. We pieced together a meal of bad granola bars and chocolate milk. Not the best breakfast before tackling a mountain, but it was going to have to work. The elderly store clerk, who was also a chain smoker, thankfully didn't ask us which route we were taking.

It took us over three hours to travel the ten miles and climb the 2500 feet to reach the top of White Bird. We walked most of it, which we decided was a more efficient use of our energy. We were hot, hungry and ready for a descent and lunch. After climbing so much, you expect an amazing descent. The ride down was anything but that. It lasted for only a few minutes and wasn't that dramatic. The scenery was rather barren and rocky. It eventually turned into a more prairie like setting, but after all we had seen we had expected more.

In the distance we could see a large collection of smoke. It appeared to just be a controlled burn, but we kept our eyes on it. We knew this route in Idaho had been struggling with forest fires, so we were cautious. Thankfully it did turn out to be a controlled burn. We did finally make it to the city of Grangeville and had some lunch. We chose a Mexican restaurant because the idea of endless chips and salsa sounded amazing. Even though it was just the two of us, we went through two baskets of chips and salsa, split a quesadilla appetizer and we both got the special, which was two enchiladas, rice and beans. As I've said before, biking all day makes you hungry.

Grangeville, with a population of around 3,000 was the biggest town we had visited for a while. So after lunch we took advantage of the larger town and ran some errands. I needed some more cash, so I found an ATM. We were running low on fuel for our camp stove, so we got some more at an Ace Hardware Shop. Will was hoping to get new cleats for his cycling shoes at a local cycling shop because his are now almost completely worn off. However after not finding the shop and asking around a little bit, we found out the shop closed a few years ago. So Will is going to have to wait until Missoula.

Will did however find a barber shop. Big Dan's Barber Shop on Main Street. Complete with a deer decal on the window and the classic red, white and blue spinning barber shop sign. "Could you shave my head?" Will asked Big Dan upon arriving in the shop. "Bald?" Big Dan replied. "Um, probably more like a military crew cut."

"Yeah, I can do that. Bald probably wouldn't have looked that good anyways." responded Big Dan as he prepared the chair. About 5 minutes later Will, minus a lot of hair, emerged from the shop. The haircut is perfectly suited for this lifestyle. It's cooler and doesn't require as much cleaning.

After Will's haircut we decided to chill in a local park for a few hours and just rest. We set up our hammocks underneath a covered picnic table area and relaxed after a morning of hard work. The rest was good. Though we are having a wonderful time cycling and enjoying the sport we love, we've decided it's important to take breaks and recharge our batteries (both figuratively and literally).

After our break, we packed up and got back on the road for a few hours. We set our eyes on the town of Stites as our destination for the evening. Earlier Will had contacted a lodge that allows bikers to camp on the lawn and use their showers. This seemed like the perfect set up for us.

As we left the city of Grangeville we finally found the impressive downhill ride we were looking for. With quick turns and at least a 4-5 mile 7% decline, it made for a fun, 30+ mph downhill ride. As the descent slowed, we continued to see a countless number of deer. We have seen lots of deer already on the trip, but this was the greatest concentration over a small period of time. One of these deer even ran out right in front of Will's bike and the two almost collided. Will even had the GoPro camera on, which caught the whole incident.

We arrived in Stites around sunset and followed our normal schedule of finding the local eatery. Will locked up the bikes while I got a table inside, looking for a table near electrical outlets to charge our collection of battery hungry devices. During dinner we meet the former District Attorney of Auburn, Alabama who asked us all kinds of questions about our trip. Turns out that he and his wife even owned a house on the same street that my parents and brother owned a house on in Lake Martin, near Auburn.

Upon leaving, the friendly waitress gives us free to-go "pops" (as she calls them) to drink on our way to camp. We find the lodge and quickly set up camp on the soft grass next to the classic hand-built wooden fence. It's a comfy place to stay and we are thankful that we'll be able to take a shower and clean up in the morning.

September 13, 2013

To start, I'll explain the shirtless kids from White Bird Jeb mentioned earlier: There were two little boys (both wearing only basketball shorts) and a girl who was in a swimsuit-like outfit; I'm not too sure how to describe it but let's just say there weren't any swimming pools or beaches around. The group rides up on bikes like a little White Bird gang and says "We really like your bike". I replied with the typical "Well thank you, I really like it too, it came all the way from London". That got them interested so they asked if I was moving or just going on a bike ride to which I replied "Both kind of, I'm going on a bike ride across the country". This response brought amazed looks to their faces so I decided to go further. "My friend and I are from Florida and we flew up to-" "FLORIDA?!" one little boy asked in awe. "Yes sir, kind of far from home out here in Idaho." "You guys should stay here for a while, this place (the restaurant I was locking the bikes up in front of) is really good and it'd be cool to have people who rode their bikes from Florida stay in town." Since I didn't have the heart to tell them we'd be gone in the morning...or that we hadn't biked from Florida, I just went with it and said I was excited to try out this restaurant. "Okay" said one of the boys, "I gotta see if my mom is working because I want some pickles." And with that departing dialogue, the group disappeared into White Bird's pride and joy of a restaurant.

Now on to Friday the thirteenth. No matter how used to camping you get, you still are going to wake up in the middle of the night to some weird noises. At about 2 am I woke up and couldn't tell what crazy animal was outside my tent. I wasn't about to check, but I did turn on my iPad to see what time it is. I realized that it was Friday the 13th while checking the time. What a terrible day to die from a vicious animal attack. Don't worry, we survive (and I have no idea what the noise was).

After some showers in the neighboring cabins, compliments of the lodge, we got on our way. We had breakfast in the town of Kooskia which was only four miles away. It's the first time I wasn't able to finish my entire meal. It was that big. After a few more cups of coffee we knew it was time to start making our way up LoLo Pass. The ascent to LoLo Pass is a 100-mile climb of about four thousand feet. Because it is stretched over such a long elevation, we knew the climb shouldn't be to bad. But 100 miles is a lot, no matter how many days you break it up in to.

We stopped in Lowell which was the last services for 66 miles. We had lunch and then bought supplies at the general store. We packed extra water, replenished our ramen, bought some oatmeal and a few other snacks. The owner of the little store was very talkative and kind. She gave us an additional map with all the camping spots before LoLo Pass, listed by mile marker. We knew wouldn't make it all the way up in one day, but we weren't sure how far we'd get and where we would stay.

The climb was slow, but steady. A few rolling hills provided a little relief, but not much. About 26 miles into the 66 mile stretch we decided to camp. We found a really nice campsite directly next to the Lochsa River at a US National Park Service campground called Wilderness Gateway. Though we had only gone 55 miles for the day, it felt like much more. Our muscles were sore and we were ready to set up camp.

This was the first time we were able to camp near a substantial body of water. The Lochsa River is a long, quick moving river running down the valley from Lolo Pass. We saw countless fly fisherman standing in the middle of the river as we biked up. Though neither of us have any clue how to fly fish, Will did get out his fishing pole and spent some time tempting the fish. None of them fell for our trap. Will let me try the fishing pole, but after only a few attempts I managed to mess up the line enough to make it unusable the rest of the day. We will catch a fish before the trip is over. Today just wasn't the day.

We also took advantage of the river and extra sunlight and washed some of our clothes. We found two trees and made a clothesline. Wearing the same dirty close over and over gets old after a while. This was the third time in two weeks we were able to at least clean our tanks and cycling shorts a little. They always feel so much better after that. Makes us ride faster too, I think.

Because we were on a mountain side, the ground was very hard and we weren't able to stake our tents down. Our one person tents require tension on the side to stand so we had to improvise. We found plenty of rocks and were able to place them on the corners to keep the tents upright. We spent some time collecting firewood and picking out the perfect rocks to use as campfire chairs. We made a fire and started dinner. For dinner we combined ramen, mashed potatoes and canned chicken. For dessert, an apple and peanut butter. Once the fire died down, we put it completely out with river water and headed to bed. "That's a big sky," "Those are some pink clouds," and "Look at that moon!" are some of the comments mumbled as we each headed to our tents.

September 14, 2013

When we woke up the next morning we noticed a truck had parked near our campsite overnight to get some rest. Before long he had left. Will made the suggestion that we boil some river water to provide us extra water for our bottles. We still half 40 miles uphill in the hot sun before any services and we needed the extra water. We boiled enough to fill a platypus bag between cups of coffee and oatmeal.

The bugs were incredibly bad and annoying the day before when we arrived at the camp. Even after putting on insect repellant, they didn't seem to care. Thankfully they seemed to go away and stay away after the evening. There was a large collection of yellow jackets that were hovering near our camp the next morning. We left some water to boil while Will and I moved our clothes line to a different set of trees that was now being graced by the sunlight peaking its face over the surrounding mountain.

When we came back, there was a boiled yellow jacket in our water. We fished out the yellow jacket and through him to the side. A few minutes later we noticed fellow yellow jackets attempting to pick up the dead yellow jackets body. They were getting to close for comfort and Will stepped on one that got to near. Another yellow jacket now came to check on that dead guy. And then Will stepped on him. This happened 15 more times, just like the first. We decided yellow jackets aren't the smartest.

It appears the campsite we chose is popular with the locals. Today was Saturday and as we were cleaning up, two campers pulled in and wanted out campsites. We had claimed both. One with our tents, and now the other with our clothesline. We made small talk and let him know we'd be on our way in no time.

On the ride up we passed three touring cyclists headed to Los Angeles. Both Will and I independently thought the third cyclist looked and sounded like Drew Branch. I almost called his name aloud, but decided that could have been awkward. We also passed a father fishing off a rock in the river with his two young kids. It seemed like a precious site from afar until you realized the father was in his underwear. I guess you see these kind of things everywhere, not only in the south.

Even though we had boiled a free extra bottles of water, Will still ran out about 5 miles before the restaurant. I realized we were both running low and waited up. Thankfully we were close enough to the station that everything was fine. Will was making all kinds of survival plans in his head.

We ate at a lodge restaurant in Powell and refilled our collection of empty water bottles. The food was overpriced but good. They honestly could have charged twice as much and we still would have paid it. Biking forty miles before your first substantial meal can make you hungry. During some of our rides, we talk about food that we miss. Pita Pit, Moes, and Popeyes had all made the list. For the past few days we had also mentioned that we were craving some Ozones spinach and artichoke dip. To our delight the lodge had said appetizer. We quickly devoured it (even though it too was over priced and not as goods Ozones.)

The summit of Lolo Pass is 5,235 feet and also happens to be the state border between Idaho and Montana. The last four miles of the ascent are much steeper and we walked a good bit of the last part. Our legs were burning from more than 50 miles of nonstop uphill pedaling and they needed a break. Once we finally made it to the summit, we said our goodbyes to Idaho. Both Will and I agreed that the scenery of Oregon was better than Idaho. Let's see what Montana has to offer.

"I just noticed where Montana got its name," Will said, as he looked at the illustration of mountains above the name on the state sign. We both took a collective sigh and refused to think about future climbs on future days. For now we were going to enjoy the ride down.

Eight miles from the summit is Lolo Hot Springs. A small, rustic resort built on a local hot spring. It was getting dark, we decided to pull in there for the night. We had intentions to cook a camp meal, but were allured by the lively restaurant and more reasonably priced food. We found a table and ordered.

In the other room you good hear the music to Sweet Home Alabama blaring. "It's weird to hear that song in the middle of Montana," I mentioned to Will. We later found out it was a wedding reception in the other room. I still thought that song was probably only popular at wedding receptions in the south. I guess I was wrong.

Once we finished we inquired about camping for the night. I went and checked in at the campground while Will finished up dinner. There were no tent camping sites available at this private campground, but the did offer to sell us an RV spot for a few dollars more. I accepted and in addition to having a place to camp we now had running water, a few electrical outlets and showers. Sounded like a good deal to me.

I returned to the restaurant to let Will know the plan. Before I came in, I stopped by my panniers and got a packet of peanut M&Ms that I had bought earlier in the day. They sounded like a nice treat and I brought them in to finish at the table. After sharing a few with Will, we left to head across the street to the campsite. As we got on our bikes we saw our waitress through the window hold up the empty M&M wrapper to a neighboring table and say something. She didn't seem overly thrilled. I guess something like that is frowned upon in the waitressing world.

We found campsite 14, our home for the night. We got showers and put on our warmest clothes. We are the most north we have been and still at 4,500 feet so we knew to expect cold overnight. We were right. My fingers are getting numb as I type this on the iPad the next morning. Overall on Saturday, we ended up going a total of 62 miles, with 54 of that being uphill. Not too bad.

Today we will reach the end of our third map as we arrive in Missoula, Montana. We are on our third state and have nearly gone a thousand miles. Since I'm starting to turn a little shade of blue now, I'm going to stop writing and make some coffee and oatmeal. That will warm me up and probably cause Will to stir out of his tent.

September 15, 2013

We took our time leaving the campground. When I chose the campsite the night before, I did so because it was right next to a creek and little more secluded than some of the other sites. However, it was also probably the last site to receive the morning sun. It's amazing how much a difference the sun can make to warm you up when you are cold. After I made breakfast, both Will and I took our meals over to the middle of the campground where we ate and soaked up the sun. By the time we were done eating, the sun had finally made it over to our little plot of land and we started the process of packing up our belonging and getting ready to move on.

We met a few people while camping at the Lolo Hot Springs campground. Most of the residents were there for a wedding the night before and quickly left the next morning. A Marine, whom we met outside the restaurant next door the night before, came to our campsite and asked us about our gear and inquired more about our trip. He wished us well and we started the brief journey towards Missoula.

Whenever we think we are going to have an easy day of riding, the weather shows us otherwise. Our downhill ride turned into a chore as we faced strong headwinds nearly the entire wide. The ride turned even more serious as we passed through areas recently burned by forest fires. The smell of smoke was still in the air and we couldn't help but stare at the charred remains of what used to be lush forests.

Will expressed his displeasure for the headwind and we eventually made our way to Lolo where we had lunch at a Quiznos Sub Sandwiches. We were finally back in cell phone range after days of being in the wilderness and we took our time checking email, Facebook, Instagram and updating our blog for the first time in days.

While we sat and responded to the outside world via the Internet, I didn't realize that my camelpak water holder was slowly leaking. It was forty-five minutes later, as we were leaving, that I realized what was happening. Three liters of water had leaked out and there was now literally a pool of water underneath our table. Normally I would have taken the time to report such a happening, but the gas station had already been somewhat short with us and we decided to quietly tip-toe out and continue on to Missoula. Probably not our finest moment.

The city of Missoula is only 8 miles from Lolo and we quickly made our way to the outskirts. Missoula, home to the University of Montana, is a much larger city than we have visited lately. It took us another eight or so miles to reach downtown. Our main reason for traveling to Missoula was to visit the Adventure Cycling Association. We knew their offices would be closed on the weekends, but we at least wanted to find their building and stay at a hotel relatively close so we could quickly visit the next morning. We found a reasonably priced Doubletree a few blocks away and booked a room there. I was mainly enticed by their chocolate chip cookies when you check in.

The Adventure Cycling Association is a non-for-profit organization that promotes bicycle travel in the US. They are who we bought our TransAmerica maps from, and they are basically the authority on anything related to bike travel. Visiting their offices and meeting the workers was a big treat for us.

The night before we had meet three other bikers via Instagram who were also visiting the offices of the ACA the next morning. We ended up arriving a few minutes before them, but enjoyed sharing travel stories and comparing gear. The workers at the ACA are incredibly nice and it was a pleasure meeting them all. Upon arrival you are greeted by the staff, who then take a Polaroid of you are your bike for their wall. We were excited to have ours taken, and it made the trip feel even more official. We spent some time looking around their facilities and even bought some bike apparel for the rest of the trip. Will got a sweet cycle cap and TransAmerica jersey, while I bought a different style hat and signed up for their annual membership.

We had some other supplies to acquire, so after leaving the ACA we found a local REI. I am a huge fan of REI and was thrilled that Missoula had one. This was also Will's first experience in the store and he looked like a kid in a candy shop. Will desperately needed some new cleats, so he bought some. He also got some new cycling shorts and pants. I needed to buy a warmer sleeping bag and they had just what I needed. I also bought some new cleats for my shoes which were beginning to wear even though I had replaced them a few days before the beginning of the trip. I guess they just aren't built for the wear and tear of so many miles.

After REI, we ate at the world's busiest Wendy's and then finally left Missoula headed for Hamilton, Montana. We were excited to make it to Hamilton because we were scheduled to stay at the home of "a friend of a friend". A few days before we left for our trip, a coworker of mine, Ginger Raines, mentioned that she had close friends in Hamilton, Montana. I wasn't even sure if Hamilton was on our route, but after reviewing our itinerary I was excited to find out that it was. She contacted her friend Charlotte Oliver, who graciously agreed to host us crazy bikers. We had never met the Oliver's, but I assured Ginger that any friend of hers is a friend of mine.

Soon after passing the Missoula city limits sign, an SUV pulled off the road ahead of us and a friendly women sticks her head out the window. "Are you Jeb and Will?" she asks. A baffled Will answers "Yes" as we both arrive within hearing distance of the vehicle now stopped on the shoulder of the noisy highway. "I'm Charlotte and you'll be staying at our house tonight!" she explained. Immediately I couldn't help but notice how much she reminded me of Ginger. "I hope you are hungry because we have two steaks for you guys for dinner." We both agreed that we were hungry and became even more ready to make our way to Hamilton. We still had a 45 mile bike ride from Missoula to their home in Hamilton, so we hit the road again and said we would see them in a few hours.

We experienced strong winds along the way, but as we turned east towards Hamilton, a head wind became a side wind. While not ideal, we'll take anything over a head wind. Another welcomed part of the ride to Hamilton was a separate paved bike path which stretched the entire forty five mile distance between the two cities. It was nice to have that for a change of pace. We had got used to riding on highways with trucks racing by. Having our own separated area, with incredibly smooth pavement, was a treat.

After our one stop at a gas station about 20 miles outside of Hamilton, Will and I agreed to meet at the Hamilton city sign, where Charlotte's husband, Charlie was going to meet us. We normally don't let too much space get between us, but if one of seems to be moving faster, we will normally set a place to meet. We both headed on and I had soon developed a lead as I hurried towards a comfortable bed and a steak dinner.

At the Hamilton sign, I could see a pick up truck parked and I knew that must be Charlie. I was starting to wonder if this family would pick up any people who stopped and talked to them on the side of the road. Then I remembered we are a rather unique sight to see; two Florida boys pedaling down the rode on fully-loaded shiny blue bikes.

I loaded my bike in the back of the truck and met Charlotte's husband, Charlie, and their beautiful dog Mandy. I had expected Will to be at the truck by the time I had mine loaded. It's unusual for a gap of more than five or ten minutes to develop between us. When we couldn't see him in the distance, we decided we would go look for him. I hopped in the front see, Charlie did a quick U-turn and we kept our eyes on the bike path for the other Florida boy on the shiny blue bike.

There was no sight of him for at least 4 or 5 miles, until finally in the distance we saw the beautiful sight of two wheels spinning forward in the distance. As we passed, we honked, but Will didn't notice. At this point we have become used to cars honking and yelling at us. Most car drivers consider it their responsibility to inform bikers of their road superiority and general ignorance of bike law by yelling stupid stuff out the window. I normally just wave and pretend they are yelling "Good luck"', "You are doing great", or "Would you like my number hottie?"

After we do another U-turn and catch back up to Will, we stop on the side of the road and Will realizes what is going on. I meet Will at the back of the pickup and he is holding an inch long screw in his hand. He still had a smile on his face, so that was good thing. This was Will's second flat tire of the trip. His first was on September 3rd when a staple decided to make itself at home as he crossed a covered bridge in Oregon. Thankfully Will had all the tire supplies he needed to change the flat and was back on the road. However, it takes a good 15-20 minutes to take all the gear off your bike, find you supplies, change the tire and then put everything back together. I have yet to have any flats on the trip and I'm reluctant to mention so in writing. It's bound to happen, I'm sure. Before the trip started I told Will I'd give him a thousand dollars (money I don't really have) if he could make it all the way across the US without one flat tire. We even shook on it. I think that was the thing he was most disappointed about when he got the first flat. When I made the bet, I figured he had a better chance of winning the lottery.

On the way to the Oliver home, Charlie took us through the city of Hamilton, pointing out many of the historic building and interesting sights. Very knowledgeable about the area, he explained the geographical development of the Bitterroot valley and surrounding mountains. It was great to listen to the passion in his voice as he talked about land that he truly loved and respected. Before long we were driving out of downtown into a beautiful canyon where Charlie and Charlotte Oliver have made their home.

As the sun set behind the western mountains we drove under the 4-Cs metal emblem atop the entrance gate of their sprawling property. They were gracious to allow Will and I to stay on the top floor of their guesthouse. We were sharing this house with Keith and Rosemary Baldwin, who had flown in from Vancouver earlier in the day. Residents of London, the Baldwins are close friends of Charlie and Charlotte and completely delightful people. We enjoyed meeting and sharing the guesthouse with them and hearing their stories, told with a beautiful English accent. They were gracious enough to share their lunch with us on Monday and we enjoyed conversations about cycling trips and British royals.

We were also honored to meet Dean and Margo Allen, additional friends of Charlie and Charlotte who live in Hamilton, Montana on the other side of the valley. We had the privilege of visiting their home and dining with them on Monday evening along with Charlie, Charlotte, Rosemary and Keith. All three couples welcomed us into their circle of friends and treated us like we've known each other for years. It was truly a magical camaraderie to be a part of.

On Monday night when we first arrived at the home of Charlie and Charlotte, they prepared an elaborate feast for us including steak, baked potatoes, asparagus, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, apple strudel, ice cream, and any beverage you could want. It is by far the best we have eaten since the beginning of the trip. (honestly, even before then) Dean, Margo, Keith and Rosemary were also a part of this wonderful meal. It was an excellent evening of making new friends, storytelling, and hospitality.

September 17, 2013

Though we hadn't initially planned to take a rest day on Tuesday, we quickly accepted when Charlotte and Charlie invited us to stay for another evening. After a wonderful evening of food and fellowship, we called it a night. The next day we had a wonderful breakfast (including "grabbies" - a delicious breakfast treat of egg and sausage on an english muffin ) and enjoyed a tour of the Oliver's elaborate main home. It was like walking through the pages of Architectural Digest. Just as impressive as their house was the breathtaking view from their back porch, gazebo and expansive boardwalk. Later in the day we were even privileged to take ATVs around the hundreds of acres in their backyard. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Taking an off day also allowed us to do some laundry and run some errands. Charlie let us borrow his classic 1977 Chevy Silverado truck to drive into town so we could visit the bike shop and post office. We felt like classic Montana as we cruised down the streets in our pickup truck with Montana plates. At the bike shop we found a few supplies and then I mailed back some unneeded supplies at the post office. This freed up some space for the larger, warmer sleeping bag I had bought. At the bike shop we even ran into the three bikers we had met the day before at the ACA.

As mentioned early, that evening we had dinner at the home of Dean and Margo Allen, which was also a delicious meal of steak and all the fixings. We have never eaten so good in all our lives. We were lucky that our off day also turned out to be a rain day. While waiting for dinner, it began to rain and hail. It would not have been fun to bike in that weather.

We can't say thank you enough to our new friends for their hospitality. The gentle tones of Charlie's stories were complemented by Charlotte's southern hospitality set into the beautiful hills of Montana. However, as much as we'd like to stay indefinitely in Hamilton, we knew it was time to move on. Tomorrow we hope to make it Jackson, Montana, a city of 38 people. The adventure continues.

September 19, 2013

The cold reality of this trip has set in. And that reality is that it's going to be cold. The weather the past few days has been brisk. On the road leading up to Hamilton I remember stopping in the shade to escape the piercing sun. Now I take every opportunity to be in the sun, in hopes of warming up a little bit. On Wednesday, the sunny hardly been made an appearance. While it didn't rain on us, rain clouds danced all around us as we kept a watchful eye to stay dry. The wind was also cold, but was luckily a tail wind for most of the way.

We took a few minutes to stop by the Big Hole National Battlefield, part of the Nez Perce trail. It was incredibly eye opening and made me aware of a part of American history, which I am much less familiar. It also provided us a brief respite from the cold. After the stop, it was time for a long, but quick descent after the morning climb. We bundled up in all our winter gear, which helped diminish the coldness of going over 30 mph. When we reached the bottom of the descent, we had lunch in Wisdom, Montana.

We spent a while at the lunch spot (which had delicious broccoli and cheese soup) updating the blog and planning out the rest of the day. We decided we should probably keep moving forward to make up for our rest day. However, when we left the restaurant all that changed. The rain clouds had moved closer and now surrounded us. We can handle rain, but we didn't want to battle rain and cold.

We checked the forecast for the next day and saw that it was going to be sunny and slightly warmer, so we decided to call it an early day and stay in Wisdom for the night. We found a lodge and made ourselves a home. We were thankful to be warm and dry. After a little while, Bryan, Chris and Mike, the same guys we had meet in Missoula, and later in Hamilton, pedaled up to the lodge. They too had decided to stay here for the night to escape the weather and get a good rest. They invited us to their room and we enjoyed hours of discussions about our trips. Be sure to check out their website and blog at http://afewthousand.com/.

The next day we headed out about 10 am to make the 64 mile ride to Dillon, Montana. We had sent CouchSurfing requests the night before and were pleased to find out that one of the requests had been accepted. Marybeth in Dillon had agreed to host us for the evening and we were thankful to have another place to escape from the cold.

After picking up some supplies and breakfast at the general store, we hit the road. The group of three hit the road about the same time and we spent the day weaving in and out of their group. It was nice to experience riding with more than just two for a little while. Their group of three did shrink to two, however, when Bryan decided to stop at our lunch spot and figure out a different plan for his own trip. I'm sure that was a hard decision to make, but the road can be brutal. Thankfully we haven't been forced to make a decision like that.

We stopped outside of Jackson, Montana and had a lunch of ramen and chicken, atop a hill overlooking the town of Jackson and the mountains. It was a beautiful view and a great reminder of the amazing experience we are having. After lunch we were faced with two 1,000 foot climbs. The first was the type where you could see the top of the climb for the bottom. I prefer these. I am able to set a goal, pace myself and make it to the top more quickly. I don't like the type where you have no idea how much longer the pain of climbing is going to last. The second climb was similar, but with a few twists and tines to mask the summit.

After reaching the summit of the second mountain, we made the quick, but long descent to Dillon. Marybeth was incredibly gracious and allowed Chris and Mike to also stay at her house. Our host has been so gracious and we are very thankful for Marybeth. We met her outside of the University of Western Montana in Dillon and walked to her house across the street.

After the four of us cleaned up, she recommended we eat at a Mexican food truck on the other side of town. She drove us there and we all dined on some of the finest Mexican food I have tasted. As we entered the food truck, the giant full moon welcomed us to Dillon, as to wish us a pleasant stay. I'm starting to understand why Montana is know for the big sky.

We spent the rest of the evening making final plans for the next day. Chris and Mike are trying to bike a farther distance tomorrow, hoping to make up some lost time from the previous days. Will and I plan on staying at the base of one of the larger climbs about 55 miles away. If our legs are feeling strong, we may follow Chris and Mike though.

It's hard to believe we have now been on the road for three weeks. We have seen so much and still have so much yet to see. I can't say enough about how thankful I am to experience this. I am excited to wake up everyday and experience something new. When you take a chance and work hard, great things happen.

A Moment of Self-Reflection from Jeb

Ever since the beginning of planning this trip, I greatly wanted the experience to have an impact on my life. I had no doubt it would, simply because of the size of this adventurous undertaking. However, I wasn't sure what kind of impact it would have. Before I left home, friends would encourage me to embrace every moment and warned me to not get caught up in making sure that the trip is a life-changing experience. "Just let it happen" they would say. It was excellent advice and I'm trying to do just that.

After more than three weeks though, I thought it was an appropriate time to write a few lines of personal reflection. Personal reflections probably aren't the best things to make "public", but in this case I thought they might be helpful to others as well.
I may add to this list as the trip continues or I may not. We will see.

1. I have an addiction to my cell phone.
The first thing this trip has taught me is that I am addicted to my cell phone. When I am at home, I am always on it. Texting, listening to music, watching videos, and surfing the internet. At dinner, as I walk in between buildings at work, while watching tv and as I lay in bed. I am constantly on my phone.

How does that make the people around me feel when I'm on my phone? When you are on your phone with others around, it makes them feel second-rate and unimportant. It signals that you would rather be somewhere else. While this wasn't my intention, it was actually the loudest message I was communicating. All the texts I was sending at the same time, were communicating less than my actions of using the phone itself.

When I get home, I vow to use my phone less. I want to show those closest to me and the people I value the most, that they are important and worthy of my complete attention. I know it won't be easy to ween myself off, but knowing there is a problem is the first step.

2. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
I want to challenge myself more. This trip hasn't been easy and I know the hardest is yet to come. There are times during the day when I vow to never ride a bike again, but a few hours later it is the most glorious experience ever. That is what it feels like to challenge yourself and I want to do that more. I truly believe I am capable of doing great things and the only person holding me back is me. I want to become less comfortable in my "comfort zone" and learn to push the boundaries of my life. I want to take more risks and live life to the fullest. I know failure will be a part of that equation, but that's how you learn. I'm not ready to sit back and just take the easy road. The view at the top of the summit is well worth the pain of the climb.

3. More love and less judgement.
This is probably the hardest for me so far. I need to learn to love more and judge less. I say this is the hardest, because I thought I was already doing a good job of this. However, this trip has taught me that isn't the case.

I need to learn to love people for who they are and not for who I want them to be. Donald Miller once put a quote on Facebook that said something like "relationships are meant to be enjoyed, not fixed." (paraphrase) This is so true. I try so hard to fix people, when there are so many things in my own life that I need to fix. I know how to mask my fixing in parental or discipleship language, but it still amounts to me judging more and loving less.

God calls us to love. I need to stick to that. There is a place for judgement, but I'm not the one who should be the judge. It's easy to talk about this subject in terms of black and white. It is much harder to live it out in a very gray world. For now, every morning I will remind myself to love more and judge less. With God's help maybe I can do a little better.

September 21, 2013

Watch Video Blog 1 covering September 20-21.

September 20, 2013

It took us a while to get moving in the morning, but once we did we made our way to McDonald's for a quick, cheap breakfast. We try to take advantage of fast food when we can, simply because it tends to be cheaper than the countless mom and pops we've visited in the last three weeks. We also stopped by a Safeway grocery store and replenished our camping food. Lastly, Will stopped by a local outdoor store and bought a beanie, preparing himself for what was surely going to be more cold weather ahead.

Thankfully, once we got on the road we experienced a nice tail wind and knocked out thirty miles in no time. The first town we stopped in was Twin Bridges, Montana. As we arrived at the edge of town, we noticed the one road into town was backed up with traffic. "Is there an accident?" Will asked as we pedaled closer. We could see flashing lights, but couldn't tell what was going on. As we made our way to the front of the line, we began to hear the sounds of a high school marching band. The cop standing at the front of the line saw our confused faces and matter-of-factly stated, "It's the local high school homecoming parade." "Of course," Will and I thought. "Of course."

We made our way in between floats of cheerleaders and a firetruck loaded with football players and found the local general store to grab something for lunch. We picked out a few things and waited at the register. It was at this point that we realized that we were the only ones in the store. No one was in the store, including the cashier. We waited for a few minutes and then came to the conclusion that no one was coming back until after the parade. We put our lunch supplies down and decided to move on. We didn't know how long the parade was and weren't about to stand in line until then.

We made our way out of town and found a gas station that was open and not mesmerized by the parade. We selected lunch, but decided to wait and eat it in the next town. We we're now facing a slight head wind and knew lunch would be a nice break in a little while. As we pedaled into the wind, a car pulled off the road on the left. He motioned for us to come over and we did. He introduced himself as Robert and asked us about our travels. He later explained that he was once the youngest person, at age 14 in the 1950's to travel transcontinentally in the US on a bike. We were impressed. He was nice and invited us to his home to talk bikes, but we decided we should be moving forward. We wished him well, gave him our contact cards and continued on our way.

Less than an hour later we arrived in Sheridan, Montana where we stopped for lunch. We found a curb beneath some trees across from an old United Methodist church and enjoyed our picnic lunch we had gathered earlier. While resting my bike against a tree I did unfortunately step in dog poop. I took off my shoes for the duration of lunch, then walked over and found a water hose to clean my shoes. Meanwhile, Will enjoyed his tuna fish, saltines and Doritos.

After lunch, we got back on the road and set our eyes on Virginia City. We weren't sure how far we were going to make it at the end of the day, but we figured we'd decide when we got to Virginia City. A few miles before Virginia City is Nevada City. Nevada City is a small, old western town with a unique ambience and charm. We passed by quaint general stores, ice cream parlors and saloons. We stopped briefly for some water and decided to push on to Virginia City.

Once in Virginia City, we decided we were feeling good enough and had enough daylight to tackle the 1500 ft ascent and corresponding descent to Ennis, Montana. The climb was long and hard, but we made it to the top. Once at the summit, we switched into our full winter gear because the temperature was dropping as the sun faded. A highway patrolman stopped to check on us and wished us a safe journey down.

The ride down to Ennis was one of my favorite descents yet. I reached a speed of 47 mph (crazy fast for a bike) and both Will and I were in awe of the sun setting over the mountains. It's hard to explain the colors and hues that were present as the cold clear sky collided with the setting sun and the towering mountains. It was one of the most spectacular sights I've seen. I can't imagine living in Ennis and seeing a site like that everyday. Unreal.

We arrived in Ennis right as it was getting dark and quickly found a place to eat at a local pizzeria. It seems like pizzerias are becoming a favorite of ours. There is nothing like a delicious pizza after biking 75 miles. It was Friday night and located next to the pizzeria was the local high school football stadium. A game was in full swing and the stadium seemed to be the place to be on this crisp Friday night. The sound of the announcer's voice filled the air as we enjoyed our food. Montana, pizza, and football definitely created the ambience of being in small town America.

The temperatures were continuing to drop into the low 30s, so we decided to get a cheap cabin for the night instead of camping. While we like to camp as much as possible, ideally it's better to have camp set up before dark to allow time to get warm before bed. The cabin was nice and provided us shelter from the cold.

September 21, 2013

We woke up the next morning feeling good about our ride the previous day. We had gone further than we initially expected and were proud of that. I don't always check the weather report online before leaving, but decided to today. "I think the wind is going to play a factor today," I mentioned to Will. Will doesn't necessarily like to know the weather before we start (or how far we've gone, while we are riding). I normally only try to tell him if he asks. "Don't tell me," he said.

The first 2 miles as we headed north through town were great. Then the road through town takes a quick U and circles to the south. It was at this time that we were meet with a 25-35 mph headwind (as the weather forecast had predicted). Neither of us were happy about it, but we switched into our highest gear and pedaled as hard as we could.

An hour later we had traveled 4 miles. Yes, 4 miles. The wind was brutal. The next town was forty miles away, and at this rate it was going to take at least ten hours. That means we probably wouldn't even make it before dark.

We hadn't been forced to deal with a situation like this yet on the trip. We stopped our bikes and took a break near the entrance of a farm. We spent a little time taking pictures and making a few Instagram videos, hoping the wind would lessen. It just got stronger. Forced with a difficult decision, we decided to turn around and head back to Ennis. We didn't have to pedal a single time into town and the entire ride took less than 10 minutes.

We were now faced with the decision of what to do the rest of the day. One thing we knew we couldn't do was bike south. We had lunch in town and tried to figure out a plan. We are now probably 3 or 4 days behind schedule and this unplanned off day wasn't going to help. After a little convincing we decided to make a sign asking for a ride to West Yellowstone, the town we had hoped to reach today about 70 miles away.

I found an old piece of thin wood behind a hardware store and Will borrowed a sharpie from the hardware store. Will made a sign reading "Wind sucks. Now accepting rides to West Yellowstone." We took our bikes and the sign up to the gas station in the center of town and waited. After more than an hour we had no takers. "I guess I should have written 'Wind blows' on the sign," Will said. I laughed and agreed.

After sitting around for another half hour or so we decided it wasn't going to happen and decided to get another room for the night. Having cased the entire town, we now knew the absolute cheapest motel and booked a room there for the night. The room was located directly next to a fall festival taking place at a brewery in the middle of town. As we set in our room, the sounds of a local country western band filled the air. Children played corn hole and everyone enjoyed BBQ. We thought about joining in the festivities but it cost money to participate. We figured we were getting the same experience from watching out our motel window.

That night we decided to visit the Mexican restaurant across from our motel and hang out on the Main Street since it was Saturday night. We played some pool, listened to some karaoke and ended up staying out pretty late. One local, Cassie, was kind enough to show us around the downtown area for most of the evening. We also met another Will and Ryan (with an "R") who asked us if we wanted to go party with them back in Virginia City. We declined and are pretty sure they were arrested by the end of the night for public intoxication. After we'd had enough, we called it a night and walked back to our motel. Luckily the festival was over and the country western music had stopped.

September 22, 2013

According to the weather forecasts, the wind was supposed to be somewhat lighter today. As we walked on to the Main Street we could see that the giant American flag in the middle of town wasn't stressing in the wind nearly as fast as yesterday. This was encouraging and we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a crowded diner. It was Sunday brunch time and the diner seemed to be where the action was.

The first 10 miles were quick until the wind picked up again. It wasn't as strong as the day before, but it was noticeable. I checked the forecast when we were in cell phone range and it was a 10-15 mph headwind and we were going uphill. But at least we were moving forward.

The only redeeming factor of the tough ride into the wind was finding license plates on the side of the road. Ever since I found the first license plate in Oregon, I've decided to collect them throughout the trip and turn it into an art project when I return home. Up until today we had found four: two from Oregon, one from Washington and one from Montana. However on the windy road towards West Yellowstone I found four more plates including three more from Montana and one from Utah.

We stopped about 20 miles into the ride and had lunch overlooking the Madison River. We placed our bikes against the guardrail and walked around to the grass and used the other side of the guardrail as a back rest. The wind was wearing us down even though we weren't going very far. We came to the realization that we probably still weren't going to make it all the way to West Yellowstone by evening. The slower pace, due to weather, can be demoralizing and it's hard to push through mentally. We helped each other push on and made it to a small lodge (Driftwood Lodge) about 30 miles outside of West Yellowstone by evening.

The owners of the lodge were very kind and suggested we get a cabin for the night instead of camping because of a bad storm heading that way. They gave us an excellent rate and suggested we visit the restaurant while they finished preparing the cabin. As we situated our bikes outside the restaurant, we began chatting with a friendly gentleman who introduced himself as Jack Sammis. He asked all about our trip and seemed genuinely interested. He explained that he and his fiancé were building a house in Ennis and were in town working on the details of the house. We met his lovely fiancé and enjoyed lively conversations with this great couple. We were the only four people in the restaurant and we enjoyed each other's company. To our surprise, Jack even paid for our meal and drinks. We thanked him profusely and then proceeded to our cabin before the rain began.

As the sun set and the rain began we upload our first video blog that we recorded the day before. It takes about 30 minutes to upload and you need a strong wifi connection, which the lodge had. I also called home and checked in with family and friends. As the rain began to fall, we looked up information about Yellowstone National Park because we were determined to make it there tomorrow. We read the Fall edition of the a Yellowstone newspaper and talked about what to do if we encountered a bear. Being from Florida we aren't very aware of bears. It made for an interesting conversation as we called it a night. Tomorrow we were finally making it to the nations first and oldest national park and we were excited. It had taken about 3 days longer than we planned, but hopefully it was going to be worth it.

September 23, 2013

We left the lodge after a hodgepodge breakfast. Will had ramen and chocolate milk and I had a blueberry muffin and chocolate milk from the camp store. Though Will and I are different in a lot of ways, we share some commonalities. One of these is a love for chocolate milk.

The ride to West Yellowstone was cold. This has been a reoccurring theme over the past days. The temperature has been dropping and we've been climbing to higher and higher elevations. The scenery was amazing though. Rushing rivers. Snow capped mountains. Hard to put the beauty into words.

When we finally arrived in West Yellowstone we had a quick lunch at Arby's then visited a few bike shops. Ever since Will's second flat tire, his back tire seems to be slowly losing air. He has to fill it up a few times a day and he was looking to buy a patch kit and replace the tube. We were also running low on C02 cartridges to refill the tubes. After visiting the two bike shops, we had what we needed and headed east to the gates of Yellowstone.

We stopped at the gate and I was excited to get to use my National Parks pass that I had bought earlier in the year. Buying that pass is when I decided that this trip was actually going to happen. Will and I were doing a training ride at Fort Pickens and instead of buying a pass for only Ft. Pickens I bought the nationwide pass. The was back in February. But now it was September, we were in Montana and about to enter Yellowstone.

After passing though the gate we noticed a board which said that all the campgrounds at Yellowstone were full. I knew it was the most visited national park, but I didn't expect everything to be full in the middle of September. Slightly concerned they we wouldn't have a place to stay, we stopped, turned around and looked for a visitors center to ask some questions about camping. We exited the gate we had just entered and got back in line to ask a park ranger. As we waited, a man and women on bikes also exited the park and came up to us to ask us about our bikes and trip. We explained that this was our first time at Yellowstone and were concerned that the campgrounds were full. Thankfully they explained that is only referring to RVs and campers. They never turn hiker/bikers away at any of the campgrounds. This was a relief and we reentered the park and got on our way. A few miles into the park from the west entrance, you cross into Wyoming. This is our fourth state and we took pictures at the classic wooden sign.

The only campground that we were going to be able to reach today was Madison campground. Yellowstone is a massively big park and all the other campgrounds were too far away. On the way to Madison we passed an elk grazing grass right next to the road. We stopped for a few moments just to watch. Passing cars parked and people got out and took pictures. This happened anytime wildlife got close to the road. By the time we got to Madison we had traveled 55 miles for the day and were ready to set up camp. The rangers got us registered and showed us our site. It was a nice setup with tarps already hung and a bathroom with water within walking distance. We also shared the area with two other tour cyclists.

Hannah and Patrick were from Manchester in the UK and on a tour which ends in Calgary. They were spending the next few days in the park and we each discussed our trips. Patrick works at an outdoor store and even gave us a few words of advice about staying warm while camping in such cold temperatures. One key to staying warm was building a fire which Will handled masterfully. I made a dinner of broccoli, chicken and cheese linguini and we shared stories about the day. After dinner we started to hear people talk about a rather large winter storm heading this direction in the coming days. There was even talk of up to an inch of snow. We weren't sure what to expect, but figured we better get in our sleep bags and get warm before it's too old out. "Did you see that shooting star?" Will asked as we walked towards our tents. "No," I said. "Well, there was one and you missed it."

September 24, 2013

An added bonus of staying at the Madison campground was hot coffee made by the park rangers available at 8 am. I never considered myself a coffee drinker until this trip. I have grown to love it and the warmth it provides. I was also glad that I had slept well the night before. It got down to the low thirties and this was the first night I camped with my new, warmer sleeping bag. It works perfectly and I was plenty warm the entire night.

Will, however, didn't sleep as well. The zipper on his sleeping bag had broke which let some cold air in. Additionally Yellowstone provided an orchestra of crazy wild animal noises which can keep even the soundest sleepers up at night. I must have been exhausted, because I didn't hear a thing. After coffee, as I was chatting with Patrick, I mentioned that Will hasn't slept well because of his sleeping bag. Patrick was convinced he could probably fix it, having already fixed a number of zippers during his trip.

"It's a bit knackerd up, isn't it?" Patrick commented, as he worked on the zipper. After using a few tools and bending some metal, he had it back in working order. You could tell from Will's tired face that he was thankful for the help. Will decided to patch his tire this morning and replace the tube. We found the hole and quickly patched it. We added a new tube and pumped it to 85 psi. We were now ready to explore the park.

Patrick and Hannah had suggested we take a primitive bike path off the main road on the way to Old Faithful. We found it on our map and headed that way. After a number of rolling hills we saw a collection of cars parked on the side of the road. We knew there must be wildlife and we saw buffalo as we pedaled closer. Will and I took a few pictures, keeping our distance and posing with our bikes. We then turned down the road towards the bike path.

The bike path was amazing. It was tightly packed gravel and away from all the cars on the main road. It was much more secluded and winded through hot springs and geysers which can be found everywhere in this area of the park. We were the only people on the bike path and we were enjoying the rustic nature. As we crossed a wooden bridge we were shocked to see an entire heard of buffalo blocking our bike path. We got off our bikes and just watched. We took pictures and decided how to proceed. We considered turning around, but I was convinced we could slowly make it passed them without bothering them.

We decided to go one at a time across the path. I slowly started moving forward and as I got about ten feet from the first buffalo, he began to stand up and move. I stopped and got off my bike, not knowing if I should proceed or not. I slowly began to walk backwards towards Will. I stopped for a while and decided to see what they would do. They didn't seem to be aggressively plotting towards me, so I decided to walk my bike towards them and try to make my way to the other side. After about 10 minutes I made it through without incident. I got some great close ups and lived to tell about it. Will then slowly proceeded on his bike through the herd as I snapped some pictures. What an amazing experience. We couldn't believe what we'd just done. (Maybe not the smartest idea)

The bike path weaved around geysers and hot springs for about 6 miles until we reached the main road again. We then followed the signs to Old Faithful. Storm clouds were beginning to collect overhead and we parked our bikes outside the visitors center at Old Faithful. We were surprised to find an approximate time of the next eruption of Old Faithful posted inside. It was about 30 minutes away so we grabbed some lunch at an adjacent eatery then made our way back. The weather was becoming so foul and windy that when it did erupt, it just looked like a wall of water and steam as the wind immediately blew it sideways. As soon as it was over the crowds dispersed and went about doing other things.

The weather was turning very bad and we weren't sure what to do. The next campground we were planning to stay at was 40 miles away. We didn't think we'd make it in this freezing wind and rain. We contemplated riding the 16 miles back to the Madison campground, but weren't excited about going backwards in the wind and freezing rain. We also inquired about the hotel next to Old Faithful, but decided it wasn't an option when the only available rooms were $500. So we stood inside the visitors center and waited.

We had inadvertently put ourselves into a less than ideal situation and weren't sure how to proceed. It appeared for the time being that we were just going to stay in the warmth of the visitors center until they kicked us out. Old Faithful was about to erupt again so we went outside to watch near our bikes. It was a better display than the first time and were glad to see it again. It's also funny to watch the crowds of people gather around and stare at this thing until it erupts every hour and a half.

It was getting late and we needed to make a decision. Running out of options, we were contemplating pulling together most of our money and buying the hotel room for the night. As we stood near our bikes a woman walked up to us from towards the geyser. She asked us about our trip and inquired about if we were planning on camping in this terrible weather. We explained our situation and told her we weren't sure what we were going to do. She then explained that she was contemplating leaving a day early to return home, even though she had paid for a room for the night.

In an incredible act of faith and generosity she offered to give us her room for the evening, free of charge. We couldn't believe it. It's as if an angel had appeared from nowhere. Will waited with the bikes while she showed me the room and I helped her pack up her stuff. The whole time I still couldn't believe what was happening. She even took me down to the front desk and explained to the receptionist the scenario. They couldn't believe her extreme generosity either, but switched the room to our name at her request. "You two are like my children, and I just hope people would treat them the same way in this situation," she explained.

I asked for her name to send her a thank you, but she just wanted to be known as Susie. She is from Northern Idaho and Will and I have decided that must be where angels live. As I helped carry her bags to her car, she wished us well and even gave us some money for dinner and hot chocolate. "Can I give you a hug?" I asked. "Of course." I don't think we will ever forget this story and Susie from Northern Idaho. It's the kind of thing you can't help but pay forward to someone else. Thank you Susie. Hopefully you read this and know how thankful we are.

September 25, 2013

"It's snowing," Will said as he looked out the hotel window the next morning. "It's snowing." We knew it was bound to happen, but we didn't expect it this early. The weather reports were calling for up to a foot of snow in some areas even.

Now we were forced with another problem. We had limited places to stay at Yellowstone and most of them were far away or backwards. The weather was worse than yesterday and wasn't going to change for the next few days. We knew we needed to get out of the park so that we could at least find a cheap place to ride out the winter storm for the next few days.

Will found a Yellowstone transport bus that agreed to take us and our bikes out of the park to the next city to the south. Once we arrived at Moran Junction, the ranger explained the weather had forced them to close the road to Togwotee Pass and the bus wouldn't be allowed to go. So we had a change of plans. The bus driver offered to take us to Jackson Hole, Wyoming which was also on his route. It also happened that Jackson was an alternate stop on our route and we decided this was the best option.

On the way we saw a massive moose and the bus stopped for us to get out and take pictures. Another incredible experience. Jackson is at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains and it's an incredible place to visit. We found the cheapest motel in town and now we are waiting out the storm. It's 100% chance of snow tomorrow and we don't think we will be able to get back on route until Friday. We will try to venture out tomorrow to visit the Tetons if the snow seems rideable. Until then, we are just trying to stay warm and dry. Here's hoping the sun will come out tomorrow.

Watch Video Blog #2

September 28, 2013

Well it's great to say we are finally back on the road. It's been a slow, snow-filled few days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as we waited for the super storm to pass through. It was supposed to be sunny and about 20 degrees warmer today, but that hasn't happened yet. It's still cold as ice and cloudy. The sun makes an appearance for 5 minutes about once every 4 hours.

Before I tell you about today, I will catch you up on the past few days. On Thursday (September 26) we woke up to the sound of wind and snow outside. The snow was starting to collect on the ground and Will and I discussed how we relate the sight of snow with Christmas. I wonder if people who live in the north and see snow much more than us Florida boys see it differently? I tried to keep myself from whistling Christmas tunes as I watched the snow fall and was probably 40% successful in doing so.

Since the weather was still not suitable for biking (or being outside at all) we both went back to bed. I see how people can become depressed in the winter. After spending nearly a month outdoors, I was tired of bring cooped up in a hotel room. I was about to start biking no matter what the weather. But first, I got back under the warm covers to come up with a plan.

We knew checkout was at 11 am and we hadn't secured a place to stay for the night. We were hoping to have a response to couch surfing, but no luck. So at about 10:50 am I put my raincoat over my shorts and t-shirt and walked to the front office to book our same room for another night. Luckily it was still available and we didn't have to switch rooms. Will's bed was right next to the door and when I opened it he could see the entire parking lot and the terrible weather. I left it open for a little while, seeing what kind of response I could get out of him as he lay in bed in front of the whole parking lot. He didn't respond, so I closed the door.

After snacking on lunchables in bed for breakfast, we decided we should probably do something. We had washed our clothes in the bathtub the night before, and they still needed to dry. We loaded them up in a pannier and biked a few miles in the weather to a laundromat. We scrounged together a dollar in quarters and let them dry for 45 minutes while we visited a bike shop. After browsing the bike shop, we retuned to check on the clothes, which still had 29 minutes.

Our breakfast of lunchables had worn off, so we agreed to try something different by visiting the Chinese food restaurant two shops down from the laundromat. Will locked up the bikes and I got a table. "So, it's not a buffet, is it?" Will disappointedly said to the person waiting to be seated at the front door with an orange rain coat and white ball cap. When the person turned around with a confused face, Will realized it wasn't me. Will then looked around and found me sitting at a table in a side room wearing a matching orange raincoat and white ball cap. The guy in the matching clothes was seated near us. "Embarrassing," Will said, as he explained to me what just happened.

Our waitress was friendly and asked us a lot of questions about our bike. Her accent was very thick and we had trouble understanding her at times. But between the two of us I think we understood the majority of the conversation. After lunch we picked up our dry laundry and proceeded to find some warmer biking clothes. After biking in wet, 30 degree temperatures, we had decided that our Florida-bought winter cycling clothes weren't cutting it. We stopped by Sports Authority, but they didn't have what we were looking for. An employee there suggested a local bike shop across the street. We dodged the road construction as we crossed the street and made it to the bike shop. We talked to one of the workers and he showed us their selection. We tried on some winter biking pants and loved them. They also sold wind and waterproof cycling jackets that were much warmed than our thin rain jackets. They had warmer gloves, socks and scull caps to wear underneath our beanies.

The clothes weren't cheap and we were reluctant to spend so much. However, we were convinced that if we didn't figure out how to stay warmer while biking, we may never finish this trip. So we went ahead a splurged for the sake of finishing the trip. "Did you find everything you needed?" asked the store employee. "Sure did," I responded. "I'm about to be a lot warmer and a lot poorer." He laughed and I cried a little. Not really. After Will also checked out, we headed back to the hotel with our bounty.

When we retuned it was only about 3 in the afternoon and we weren't sure what to do with the rest of the day. Even in our new clothes, we decided today wasn't the day to try get back on route. It was still snowing and wet and we had already booked the room for another night. So we just decided to chill in the room and see what was on TV. Thankfully the room had cable and the Breaking Bad marathon was on, leading up to the series finale on Sunday night. I hadn't seen any episodes and Will convinced me to watch a few. By about 1 am and about ten episodes later, I decided I should probably go to bed.

We ordered Dominos pizza and had it delivered so we wouldn't have to leave the room. The only interruption we had the entire evening was a lost lady who walked in the room and said "ice machine?" When she realized we weren't the ice machines, she left and closed the door. We peaked out the window as she discovered the ice machine directly across from our room under the flashing neon ice machine sign.

The next day we decided we had to move forward no matter what the weather. Thankfully the snow had stopped, for the most part, but it was still cold and overcast. If we stayed in Jackson Hole much longer, we were going to run out of money. It was an expensive ski resort town and our wallets were starting to feel it.

The bus that had dropped us in Jackson because of the closed pass had agreed to pick us up on Friday and take us back on to route. We figured we had lost enough time during the past two days, and should probably take advantage of the bus. The only bad thing was that the bus didn't arrive in Jackson until 3. So we still had more time in Jackson to waste.

We stayed in the hotel until checkout at 11 am. At 11 we left wearing all our winter gear and were very pleased that it kept us noticeably warmer. We were convinced we could do this now. We had lunch from the value menu at Wendy's and restocked gas for our camping stove at Ace Hardware. We made our way into downtown Jackson and wasted some time eating homemade ice cream at a local shop. After ice cream we decided to do a second video blog since we had some time to kill. We found a picturesque spot at a park north of town and Will worked his blogging magic. It's apparent that Will likes being on camera.

After recording 2 or 3 takes at the blog, we found a local Starbucks with free internet and edited the video. By the time that was over, we needed to head to the bus pickup point. We arrived about 15 minutes early and waited. About 30 minutes later the bus still hadn't arrived. Will called the company and found out that the pass was still closed and the bus wasn't running until Sunday, which also happened to be there last day.

Well great. Now we were stuck in Jackson, again. Determined not to stay in Jackson, we decide to head north towards the small town of Moose for the night. At the very least that would put us a little closer to being on route and we could ride the rest in the morning. The ride to Moose was actually really nice. The city is right outside Grand Teton National Park and the views of the Teton mountains on the trail are breathtaking. Or maybe the cold weather was breathtaking. Anyways, the Tetons are definitely a sight to see.

Their was a bike trail the entire way between Jackson and Moose and it was nice to not have to ride on the highway. Once in Moose we stopped by the national parks visitor center, one of the nicest we have been in. It closed a few minutes after we arrived. The question of the day, posted at the entrance of the center was "When did the Tetons quit growing?" Both Will and I made our guesses. I guessed that it was a trick question because they hadn't quit growing. I was right.

After the center closed we made our way to the center of Moose, which consisted of a restaurant, store, a few cabins and a gas station. We had dinner and then we needed to find a place to stay. It was getting dark and we really didn't have time to bike to the next campground thirteen miles away.

Next to the restaurant where we ate was an outdoor section of the eatery that had been closed for the winter. This outdoor section included a giant teepee with tables to eat at inside. After checking out a few other options, Will and I determined this was the best camping option. So we waited until it was completely dark and set up our tents.

We knew we were in bear country so we placed our panniers on the other side of the outside restaurant, just to be safe. It was only about 8 pm, but we both retired to our tent and sleeping bags to stay warm. The teepee was a great shield from the wind, but it was loud. As the wind blew, it would pick up the tarp and slam it back down on the supporting poles. That made for a loud evening. But at least it covered up the sound of the wild animals near by. We could see the shadow of one of those animals rummaging in the trash, but couldn't quite tell what it was. So, we just stayed in our tent.

The next morning, Saturday, we got moving a little after sunrise, as to not overstay our uninvited welcome. We packed up our stuff and set our eyes on breakfast at a lodge about 10 or so miles into Grand Teton National Park. After going through the gates of the park, we were struck with magnificent views. As we turned one corner we saw a giant moose only 20 feet away. I scrambled to take a picture, but he had ran away by the time I started taking pictures. I left on the telephoto lens, so I was prepared if it happened again.

By the time we made it to the lodge, breakfast was over and the restaurant was closed until lunch. We weren't excited about that, but decided to bike to the next lodge about 12 miles away to eat. We got there in time for lunch. Finally we could eat. After lunch, we spent some time recording a greeting and video announcements for ICON the following day. ICON is the service at First United Methodist Church of Pensacola, that both Will and I attend. We had a pretty good time doing that. It took us about 10 tries before we were happy with the result.

The forecast had made today out to be sunny. However, it wasn't. I've decided that forecasts in the west are always wrong. We've both quit looking at them now. After the announcement video, we biked to Moran Junction, which is finally back on the main route of our bike trail. We took pictures along the way and took our time making it to the Hatchet Hostel about 8 miles outside of Moran. We settled into our tiny room with shared bathroom and waited until the diner opened next door. I decided to try a bison burger for dinner. It tasted just like beef. Will decided not to eat bison, since he had become such close friends with one in Yellowstone.

Hopefully we will finally make it over the pass tomorrow and finally start to cover some ground again. It's been a slow week and I'm ready to get to Colorado. Here's hoping the weather turns nice and the winds are at our back.

October 1, 2013

Well, we have finally started to cover some ground again and it feels good. I enjoyed our time in Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, but this trip is about biking and moving forward. The past few days have felt more like a typical family vacation (without the family.) It was nice, but not the adventure I had set out for.

On September 29th, Togwotee Pass finally opened again. We made our way over this still very snowy mountain and all the way to Lamont, Wyoming by the end of the day. The scenery on the trip varied greatly, with wide-open meadows, snowy mountaintops, canyonesque cliffs and finally the small town of Lander. “Those cliffs look about like our suntans” I joked to Will as we passed the red-striated cliff sides into town. Over the past four weeks we have developed some of the best bikers tans you could imagine. And thankfully the sun finally decided to show up again, so we can continue working on these horridly unbalanced pieces of art.

At lunch I decided to purchase a book on my iPad. I figured having a book to read would fill in some of the downtime in the morning and evenings. I have trouble committing, when it comes to books, and it took me the better part of an hour to finally decide. I chose “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson. This book had been suggested to me three times in the past few months, but somehow I kept forgetting about it. When I finally stumbled upon it, I was excited to have found the perfect book for the trip. I didn’t want to read something that was directly related to the trip, but I figured this was similar enough an adventure and in the same spirit as what Will and I are doing. I was excited to be transported to the Appalachian Trail while sitting in a small café in Wyoming.

You become surprisingly less modest when biking across the United States. First of all, you are camping a lot of the time and their isn’t much space for privacy. You find inventive ways to change clothes without providing the world a free pep-show. Also, you learn to use the bathroom anywhere. While cycling, Will or I will often stop and give the other person a thumbs-up while passing. This normally means “Keep going, I just need to pee.” We’ve been rather lucky to have outhouses while camping, but today our luck ran out. Behind a ranger station was the perfect place to dig a hole and place some toilet paper. Thankfully, the ranger wasn’t there. “There was more toilet paper buried behind there too,” Will observed. Obviously we weren’t the only ones who heard the call of nature.

By the time we made it to Lander, we were starving again and enjoyed a dinner at Taco Johns, a fast food Mexican restaurant abundant in the West. Will had arranged a couch-surfing house, so after dinner we made our way to the provided address. Our accommodations for the evening were unique, to say the least. A man named Juan was out of town on a cave diving trip, but offered his home for us to stay in even while he was gone. We arrived after dark and shined our flashlights on mailboxes until we finally found the correct street address. We leaned our bikes against the side of the house and made our way to the front door. “Do you think it’s just unlocked?” I asked. Will tried the handle, and sure enough, the door opened. What we saw next wasn’t what I was expecting.

The house was a collection of everything you could think of. Magnets, licenses plates, rubber duckies, dinosaur figurines, climbing equipment and more. You name it and there was probably a pile of them sitting somewhere. I just stood with wide-eyed amazement. Will, seeming cool as a cucumber, was impressed but didn’t seem nearly as caught off guard. “You obviously have never seen an episode of Hoarders, have you?” I hadn’t. We made our way through the house and found two areas to sleep. It was cold now with no heat in the house, so we bundled up and got out our sleeping bags. Will made some phone calls and I transported myself back into the woods of the Appalachian Trail via Bill Bryson. We each claimed our spots and retired for the evening.

Ring-a-ling-a-ling. Ring-a-ling-a-ling. I couldn't remember the last time I had been woken up by the sound of an old style rotary phone. As my eyes slowly opened, I had one of those where-am-I type experiences. My little perch nestled under clothesline in the make shift living room also happened to be near the telephone. After 4 or 5 rings the answering machine picked up. "Hey, this is Juan. I will be out of town til October 1st, but if you leave a message and a callback number I'll return the call. Be sure to leave a callback number. I don't have caller ID." The caller didn't leave a message. Juan won't be calling him back.

The house was surprisingly clean. There weren't piles of dirt or bugs running around. The massive piles of stuff were divided into well organized piles. It was a little much for my OCD tendencies, but it was fun to spend one night there. I got ready and packed up my stuff. The phone hadn't awoken Will (at least not enough to get him out of bed), so I decided to read. At 9:05 the alarm on a wrist watch started going off. At least, I hoped it was a wrist watch. I fully expected a hundred other watch alarms to go off soon after. After the watch alarm, I couldn't stop hearing the ticking of the wall clock I was sitting by. The night before, Will had mentioned that his family had once owned the same clock. It is the kind that has a bird at each hour place and, according to Will, makes the sound of a bird at the chiming of the hour. Thankfully, that function was turned off.

Will woke up around 9:30 am and I made my way outside to sit in the sun and warm up a little. Dogs were barking at the house across the street and a lady was standing on her front porch, calling for her cat. At 10 am, a community church rang it bells. The town of Lander was waking up. Once Will was ready, we headed to the center of town to find a bike shop. The day before, the back rack on my bike had lost two screws and was quite unstable. It would be an easy fix, but I needed the right size hex screws.

The bike shop in Lander was very helpful. They hooked me up with some screws and gave the bike a quick tuneup. Will ventured next door and found himself a few books to read at a local bookstore. We stopped at a McDonald's on the way out of town for breakfast. However, we didn't make it in time for the breakfast menu. So we had a very early lunch. After these few errands, we were ready to venture on.

"Caution: 35 mph wind gusts ahead. Light trailers prohibited" read the neon sign positioned next to the road we were traveling on. "I wonder if a bike is considered a light trailer?" I thought to myself. It was some of the strongest winds we have rode through. Thankfully, for the majority of the time, it wasn't a head wind. During the first half of the day, it was mostly a side wind. Until afternoon. Then it became a tailwind and that was fun. Our average speed for the afternoon cranked up to about 25 mph and we started covering some ground quickly. The rolling hills and 1000 feet inclines were no match for us and the power of the wind. If every day was like this, we would be done with the trip in a few weeks.

"The scenery reminds me of the song 'Home on the Range'" Will commented at one of our break spots. I agreed. Soon after we got back on the road, we even passed the Home on the Range cafe. I guess everyone else agreed too. We had planned to stop in the town of Jeffery City for the evening, but the wind was still blowing and it was only 4 pm. So we decided to press on. We ended up doing a total of 85 mph for the day (our highest) and staying at Muddy Gap Junction for the evening.

The only building at Muddy Gap Junction was a small gas station with an attached trailer labeled "motel." We inquired inside and the cashier offered to let us camp out front. We accepted the offer and struggled with our tents as we set them up in the intense wind. The gas station had limited food options, but we pieced together a menu of lunchables, granola bars and gatorades. We also made the last of our food on the camp stove. We were careful when using the stove for dinner, because of the wind. During lunch earlier in the day, I had accidentally caught the grass on fire underneath the stove because of the intense wind. I had a water bottle near and was able to quickly put it out. It provided a very intense 30 seconds of panic however. I wasn't going to make that mistake again.

After dinner, we cleaned up and hid in the shelter of our tents from the crazy wind. The walls of our modest tents slapped back and forth under the pressure. It was noisy, but the stakes held the tent secure. Eventually the wind calmed down and we both slept peacefully.

"Ding-dong. Ding-dong." "What is it with electronic noises waking me up in the morning?" I thought. This time it was the door bell of the gas station as people walked in and out. Though we were a good 30 yards away, it was as loud as could be inside my tent. It must be after 7 and time to get up. I thought I had gone on this trip to get away from the sounds of an alarm clock. I guess not.

The wind was still blowing hard, but not as hard as the day before. We tried to gauge which direction it was coming from and determined it was a similar direction to the day before. For the most part we were right. We experienced a side wind for most of the day. I finished my book soon after I woke up, a quick read of 300 pages. We pieced together a quick breakfast from the gas station and set our eyes on a hot lunch in Lamont, WY at a cafe listed on our map. Lamont was about 15 miles away and, with a side wind and inclines, would probably take us a few hours to get to.

When we arrived in Lamont we were very disappointed to find the cafe closed. The large street sign next to the restaurant labeled the building "Annalope Cafe," however our map called it "Grandma's Cafe." We figured they might be two different places, but then quickly noticed a box in the window labeled Grandma's. The two large open signs were out done by the handwritten "Closed" sign taped to the window. The place was definitely closed. We were getting low on water and were hungry. We had one bag of ramen left and some peanut butter crackers. Will made the ramen and I snacked on the crackers. There was a house next door and I took our water bottles to fill them up. I knocked on the front door and grandma (I assumed) answered. She was on the phone, but I quietly asked it I could get some water. She led me to the kitchen sink and pointed towards it. I filled up the bottles and left. She was on the phone the entire time and we never said anything. I was thankful for the water though.

The afternoon ride was a bit of a chore. We turned into the wind and had a formidable uphill. On top of that, there was about 15 miles of road construction. Not just a little road construction, but the kind where they tear up the road and repave it. It wasn't fun to ride on. And if that wasn't bad enough, at times it went down to one lane. Imagine a line of 30 trucks following behind a tiny bike, going a max speed of 12 mph. That was our afternoon. We got off our bikes every once in a while to let them pass. Needless to say, we probably made alot of drivers angry today.

We did finally make it Rawlins, Wyoming and have reached the end of the fifth of twelve maps. We were fortunate again to have a couch surfer, Robin, offer their home for us this evening. Robin works out of town and wouldn't be home til after 8 pm. We found a combo KFC/Taco Bell for an early dinner and enjoyed their "happy hour" dollar menu. We slowly made our way towards Robin's house and found a nice railroad park near Main Street to waste a few hours. At a little after 8 pm we traveled the half mile to Robin's house. On the way we heard a car honk and slam on brakes in front of us. Six deer were crossing the street and this car was obviously in a hurry. The deer just stared back and eventually moved. I apologized for the driver to the deer as we passed by.

Robin was very gracious and made us a dinner including chicken and salad. After showing us our beds, we settled down for the evening and called it a night. Robin offered her computer and internet and I have appreciated typing this blog entry on an actual keyboard and not just my iPad. I thought I would be able to finish the blog faster this way, but the cat, Himalayan, had other plans. We are setting our eyes on Colorado and hope to be there by tomorrow. But first I need to turn off this computer and get ready to ride. Will is waiting on me.

October 2, 2013

Before leaving Rawlins, we decided we should find some place to eat breakfast. We didn't get great cell phone coverage, so we just decided to get on our bikes and look for a place the old fashion way, by exploring. We made our way towards an area of Rawlins that had a couple of hotels, figuring a place to eat would probably be near by. After climbing a modest hill, we finally came across a restaurant that appeared to be open for breakfast with a collection of cars outside. It was a few miles, in the opposite direction, from where we had stayed the night before.

There was only two other people in the restaurant and we asked the only worker inside if they were still serving breakfast. He said they were. We grabbed a menu and sat down. "It's a Mexican restaurant that serves breakfast," I mentioned to Will as I looked over the menu. "This must be the place that Robin was referring to last night," he replied. It appears we had accidentally stumbled across the restaurant our hostess from the night before had suggested visiting while in Rawlins.

"I'd like the French Texas Toast and an orange juice" I said to the waiter as he took our orders. It's not often that you get to order French toast using Texas toast at Mexican restaurant serving breakfast in the middle of Wyoming. I was about to experience quite a conglomeration of cultures on my breakfast platter.

The food was delicious, but the service was slow. I'm not complaining. You get used to not being in a hurry when you ride a bike across the country. However, we didn't leave breakfast until almost noon. The process had taken over an hour and a half. We were fueled up and ready to go.

As we were walking to the register to pay our checks, the background music quit and the radio announcer started giving a weather forecast. "There is a winter storm coming Thursday night and Friday. Be sure to make appropriate arrangements and stay up to date on the winter weather heading this way." This wasn't the first we had heard of another snow storm heading our way. However, I was starting to get surprised at the number of people who were mentioning it to us now. It was the first thing everyone said to us when they heard or saw we were riding bikes. I guess these people take their winter weather seriously.

For now the weather was nice. We both had on our long riding pants, but quickly wished we had chosen our shorts instead, as the sun began warming everything up into the mid 60s. No matter how hard I try, a 30 to 40 degree difference between night and day is hard to get used to. We get all bundled up in the morning when we start riding, only to be sweating to death 10 minutes later on our bikes. Then we'll strip down to something cooler, but the sun will go behind the clouds or a cold gust of wind will blow and now we're cold. It's hard to find the perfect temperature balance in this crazy weather. I've made the joke that we are like hormonal women to Will probably five times now. He still doesn't laugh. I guess it really isn't that funny.

"We are riding on the interstate for part of our ride today," Will observed as he looked at the map. "Is that even legal?" I inquired. I've never ridden on the interstate in Florida and I'm pretty sure it's not allowed. I guess in Wyoming they don't care. "This should be an interesting experience."

We set our eyes on the interstate and made our way towards the on ramp. Huge semi trucks passed us at 80 mph. Thankfully there was a very large shoulder to ride on and we were protected by a line of bumps in the asphalt between our lane and theirs. I like to think these bumps are an impenetrable barrier between us and massive cars speeding down the interstate. I know that's not the case, but it's a comforting thought.

The interstate is also a gold mine for finding license plates on the side of the road. As of today I have collected 17 since the beginning of the trip. I'm still not sure how so many people loose them, but it's a fun hobby collecting them. I get pretty excited when I see one and jump off my bike. I've only had a few instances where I thought I saw one and it turned out to be something else. I have to be 75% sure it's a license plate to stop. I've become pretty good at identifying them. They are starting to take up a lot of space in my panniers though. The only state I don't have, that we've traveled through, is Idaho. I'm still hoping to find one. I have a bunch from Colorado.

Instead of replenishing supplies in Rawlins, we decided to wait until the town of Sinclair, about 8 miles outside of Rawlins. This was a bad idea. The place we intended to stop had closed down a week earlier. This is becoming the standard at the places we visit in Wyoming. We've decided that since the federal government has been shut down over budget battles the past few days, Wyoming decided to do the same. There was another place in 15-20 miles, so we decided supplies would have to wait until then.

"You guys are running a little late, don't you think?" quipped the cashier as we entered the next convenience store on our trail. "Excuse me?" I thought. "I haven't seen any bikers come through here in about a month. You guys are really late in the season and you know there is a storm coming." I now understood what he was talking about. "Yeah, we heard about the storm. We are trying to get as far east as possible before it starts." We proceeded to buy a few snacks, refilled our water and headed on our way.

We were no longer riding on the interstate and were now on the road south to the town of Saratoga. We decided we would eat lunch there and hopefully continue on to Riverside before calling it a day. The ride to Saratoga was scenic, with rolling hills and wide open plains. Twenty miles later, at around 4 PM we arrived in Satatoga. We stopped at a Family Dollar and replenished our camping food, including a bag of Halloween candy M&Ms assorted pack, which we were surprised to now see on sale. Then we realized it was October already.

We found a pizza restaurant to have a late lunch, but then discovered they didn't take debit or credit cards. So we found another restaurant that also served pizza. We ordered a large pizza and ten wings. We were hungry. It was some of the best wings and pizza I've ever had. To our surprise, we couldn't even finish the whole pizza. We had four pieces left. This was another first for the trip. "Would you like a to-go box for the pizza." We thought about it for a second and looked at our bikes. The waitress figured out the reason for our hesitation and suggested putting it in a ziplock bag. We took her up on the offer and I strapped the pizza to the back of my bike.

It was getting late and we decided to press on to Riverside. Riverside is 18 miles from Saratoga and we knew some of the ride was going to be in the dark. The sunset over the rolling hills of Wyoming was a breathtaking addition to the days ride. We stopped after sunset and turned on our front and rear lights. We made sure to stay close together, so that passing cars were more likely to see us.

"Don't get to excited," I told Will. "I don't think those lights up there are Riverside." The cluster of lights in the distance seemed too close to still be 10 miles away. However, about 8 miles later I realized I was wrong. "I guess those lights are Riverside." It's pretty hard to gauge distance at night.

We stopped at the entrance of town and looked for Lazy Acres campground. We had ridden 70 miles and were ready to stop for the day. Our map had suggested this campground which had spots for biker camping. We found the campground and made our way to the office, which was closed for the evening. The owners, who live next door, saw us at the office and came out of their house. "I passed you all in my car on the way from Saratoga and I figured you may be heading here." He then registered us to camp and showed us where we could pitch our tent. "Good job on your bike lights, by the way. They are definitely bright and you can see them from a long way off. If you have to bike at night, you guys got the right stuff." That made us smile.

We set up camp and enjoyed the leftover cold pizza as a before bed meal. During dinner I noticed an email from Robin in Rawlins, who informed us that we had left some charging adapters at her house the night before. We were too far away to ride back, so she offered to mail them to our home. We will make do without them. We will have to.

October 3, 2013

Lazy Acres campground in Riverside, WY is a really nice place to camp. I could sort of tell that when we arrived last night in the dark. Now that the sun was up, you could see the beauty of the surroundings. As the name suggests, Riverside is located by a picturesque river in the hills of Wyoming. The campground is located directly on the river and is apparently quite popular. There were probably 30 RVs docked into different spaces.

"You guys know there is a storm coming, right?" Yes we do. We were probably informed about the storm by all 30 of the RV owners as we packed up our stuff and headed out. The winter storm was supposed to hit at about 8 PM and we were hoping to be in a hotel in Walden, Colorado and be nice and warm by then. But first we had to cross the Colorado state line.

I woke up at 6:30 AM, about an hour earlier than normal. I wanted to make sure we were on the road sooner than yesterday, as to not chance the bad weather coming early. We divided our ride into two parts. Part one was the ride to the Colorado state line about 25 miles away. We planned on eating a camp lunch there. After then there was a 25 mile ride to Walden.

The ride to the state line was mostly uphill with only a few small descents. It was a gradual grade, but with the wind, it felt like more. During the entire day we only had about 1000 feet of climbing. But unlike past climbs, we aren't really descending down the other side. We are now slowly making our way to the highest point of the TransAmerica trail, Hoosier Pass, which we will reach early next week.

When we did make it to the state line, we found that a semi truck driver had the same idea to eat lunch there. I had imagined a quiet meal in the middle of nowhere and now all I could hear was the sound of a semi motor 30 feet away. Thankfully he did leave about 15 minutes after we got there. We enjoyed our lunch and took our state sign pictures. It was a little after noon and we pressed on for Walden. The wind and clouds were picking up and the second half of the ride took longer than the first. You could tell there was a storm coming. We definitely didn't want to get caught in it.

When we got to the town of Cowdrey, 9 miles before Walden, we called and booked a hotel room. Thankfully there was vacancy and the hotel was reasonably priced. We now only had 9 miles and I was confident we would beat the storm. I have always considered Colorado to be my favorite of all 50 states, even though I've never visited. I've been joking to Will that I've made Colorado out to be the "promised land" and I sure hope it doesn't disappoint.

The ride to Walden was beautiful. Though our route was moderately hilly, you can once again see mountains in the distance. Walden's elevation is about 8100 feet, which is one of the higher elevations we've stayed. We are both looking forward to visiting Breckenridge in a few days, with an elevation of about 9,600 feet. Hoosier pass, the highest point on our trip, is 11,542 feet. So far, Colorado hasn't disappointed.

After climbing one more hill, we arrived in the quaint town of Walden, the moose viewing capital of Colorado. We found our hotel and checked in. It's a nice, new facility on the edge of town. After dropping off our stuff and cleaning up a little, we headed out in search of food. The options were limited and you could tell the town was getting ready for some snow. The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees in the hour or so since we first arrived in town. We got there just in time. We found another pizza place and decided pizza sounded good, even though we had it the night before.

We ordered pizza and cheese sticks and an hour later we got our food. The restaurant closed at 7, but they didn't bring us our food until 7:10. Thankfully they didn't kick us out until we were done eating. We didn't mind waiting. The two guys who came in after us for a to-go order didn't seem to handle the wait as well as we did. The pizza was ok and ultimately the food didn't settle well with both Will and I. We brought back the leftovers, but we definitely aren't eating the rest now. Yuck. Thankfully we had a hotel room for the night.

"Did you hear there is a hurricane heading towards Pensacola?" I asked Will. I had just found out via a text message from Kyle back in Pensacola that it was likely that they would have to cancel church due to a Tropical Storm/Hurricane Karen possibly making landfall around Pensacola on Sunday. Curious about the details, Will and I turned on The Weather Channel when we got back to the room.

"Two leading stories tonight regarding weather, Tropical Storm Karen and Winter Storm Atlas," announced The Weather Channel. "Atlas is a cool name for a storm," commented Will. I didn't even know they named winter storms. I thought that was just a hurricane thing. However, I do agree that Atlas is a pretty wicked storm name.

We spent a little time texting back and forth with home, checking on their preparations for Karen and telling them about Atlas. At about 9:00 PM we decided we should take advantage of a washer and dryer in the hotel and wash our clothes for the first time in a few weeks. We made sure to get a few dollars in quarters at the gas station when we visited on the way into town. We had just enough change to spend $0.75 on detergent, $1.50 on the washer, and $1.50 on the dryer. We put the clothes in the washer and watched some tv as we struggled to stay wake long enough to put them in the dryer. After an episode of "Beyond Scared Straight" (Will really likes those prison/police reality shows, for some reason) we put the clothes in the dryer. I forgot the quarters in the room, so Will went and got the $1.50 in change. I went back in the room and started watching reruns of "The Fresh Prince of BelAir."

About an hour later I went to check on the clothes. I opened the dryer door and found the clothes to be as wet as when we first placed them in. I walked back to the room. "Did you push the start button?" I asked Will. His surprised look answered the question. Who knew you had to press start after putting in the money? The dryer had no problem taking our money, even though it hadn't dried the clothes. We were out of quarters and we had some wet clothes. We needed an idea.

It was too late to go to the gas station for more quarters and it had already begun to snow. Will came up with the idea to put a dollar in the snack machine and then press the change return button. That didn't work either. It wouldn't give us our money back, no matter how hard we tried. We ended up having to buy some peanut M&Ms. At this point we were getting so tired that we were a little cranky and slightly delusional. We were out of ideas and decided to worry about it in the morning. So we unloaded our wet clothes, put them on a shelf in our room and went to bed. Depending on how severe Atlas turns out to be will determine what we do tomorrow. It is likely we will have to take a snow day and wait until Saturday to hit the road. We will see.

October 4, 2013 - Winter Storm Atlas Edition

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. That's what has happened all night and all morning. We woke up this morning and peeked out the window to find that it was a winter wonderland outside. I'm not sure of the official totals so far, but it is at least 5 or 6 inches worth. We decided there was no real way to bike in this, so we declared today a snow day. School was cancelled for the area schools. Most shops were open, but a few remained closed. Snow plows continually tried to keep the roads clear, as shop owners constantly shoveled snow off their front steps. These are sights we definitely aren't used to in Florida. It's a whole different world up here.

After a breakfast of some camp food, I decided to venture out into the snow to look around and take some pictures. I put on my warmest gear and told Will I'd be back in a while. I made my way to the Main Street and decided to venture into a grave yard directly across from our hotel. The grave yard was completely blanketed, with some gravestones completely covered in snow. It was a neat experience, being the first to disturb the snow as I walked through the middle. It was an old graveyard, with some of the stones remembering those who died in the 1800s.

At the end of the graveyard, on top of a hill, I noticed a city park a few blocks away. I made my way through the persistently blowing snow and found cover under a covered picnic area. After taking some pictures I made my way back to downtown and eventually headed back to the room to get warm. Both Will and I ventured out a little later for lunch and then returned to the city park to record a video blog. We kept the blog short, because we could no longer feel our toes.

We aren't quite sure what we are going to do the rest of the day, but it'll probably involve staying indoors. Tomorrow the high is in the 30s, but the sun will be back. We will hit the road in the morning and look forward to biking through snowy Colorado.

View Blog 3 - Winter Storm Atlas

October 5, 2013

We woke up the next morning by the sun shinning though the curtains of the hotel room. "That's a good sign," I thought to myself. I got out of bed and opened the curtains all the way. Sure enough, it was nothing but blue skies and sunshine. Everything looked so clean and fresh, covered in snow. Ice sickles were hanging from trees, buildings and cars. Most cars had a full head of white hair. The roads were cleared, but excess snow was piled on the sides and middle. It was going to be an amazing day to bike. But it was also going to be an incredibly cold day to bike.

We put on about every piece of biking clothes we had. Two pairs of socks. Running tights underneath our winter biking pants. A tank top, pullover, biking jacket, rain jacket, skull cap, beanie, ski mask and gloves. It all seemed to work for a little while. The bank sign read 22 degrees at 8:30 AM. It felt much colder with the wind on the bike. Thankfully it was supposed to warm up to the mid 30s.

Before we left Walden, we needed to stock up on a few supplies. The night before we had decided to cook chicken fajitas using our camp stove to save a little money. Will set up the stove in the bathtub, so as to not set off the fire alarms. I got some chips from the gas station and we had a feast. But we need to replenish our camping supplies.

It just so happened that Family Dollar was having a grand opening of their Walden store today. The store was only a few blocks from our hotel, so we loaded up and headed that way. We navigated around the snow and made our way to the store.The store was on the other side of the road, so we did a u-turn. Will, understanding the character of ice, made a very wide and slow turn. I, however, did not. The ice caused my bike to slip out from underneath me and I came crashing down on top of my bike. I had so many layers of clothes on, I could hardly feel a thing.

"When I started hearing the noise, I knew exactly what was happening," Will said with a slight laugh. I don't blame him. I would have laughed too. That was our first fall on these bikes during the trip. If that's as bad as it gets, I'll take it. We made our way into the store and found what we needed. Because of the grand opening, they even had a coupon to save $5 off our purchase, which was great. While in the store I slipped about 5 feet twice, catching myself both times. "This is going to be a long day," I thought to myself. I've never been good at ice skating. Will however didn't seem to be having any trouble adjusting.

"I can't get my cleat to clip into my pedal," I complained to Will. "Neither can I," he returned. We stopped and looked at our shoes. Ice had frozen solid into the holes of the cleat, blocking it from clipping into our pedals. We got out of knives and cleaned out the ice. You sure don't have to worry about these kind of things in Florida.

It was an amazing ride. The scenery was unheard of. Everywhere you turned was pure, untouched snow. Towering out of the white snow were vibrant trees of green, yellow, orange and red. In the distance, mountains, also freshly blanked in snow, towered on the horizon. I made numerous stops to take pictures (and to catch my breath.) I admit the cold weather and the elevation made it slightly more laborious to breathe than normal.

After 22 miles we made it to the town of Rand. At this point we were frozen. Our toes were numb. During the ride to Rand I noticed Will shaking his hands violently. "I couldn't feel my fingers," he explained. "Thought it might be frostbite and you were going to have to amputate." I would have hated to get blood in all that pure white snow.

Our map only showed a post office in Rand. We planned on eating lunch on a porch somewhere. Thankfully, their was a gift shop open on Friday through Sunday. To our delight, it was Saturday. "Come on in and get a warm drink," the shop owner welcomed us as we walked in. A fire burned in the fire place. Hot apple cider, coffee and hot chocolate were sitting on a side table. "I hope I'm not making myself too at home," I half apologized as I took of my shoes and stood next to the fire. I slowly began to feel my toes again. This place was heaven.

The family owned shop was a welcomed treat to our cold day. We talked with the workers about our trip and they told us about the store. After browsing around, they suggested we have lunch on the porch next door. We made our way to the porch and had our normal lunch of tuna and crackers.

After lunch, we started our afternoon climb. We were making our way up to a continental divide and our second highest elevation of the trip. Our route took us through Routt National Forest and you could see deer and animal tracks throughout the untouched snow. Will killed the climb, arriving at the top about 20 minutes before I did. When I finally reached the summit of 9,683 feet, we took a picture to commemorate. We only have one higher pass, outside of Breckenridge, in a few days.

The ride down was great, but too cold. As if it wasn't already cold enough, going 20+ mph down hill with wind in 35 degree weather is unbearable. We were both shivering and wondering how much further it was until the next town. As the sun began to set, we reached a T in the road and decided to travel two miles off route to the city of Granby. We found a Mexican restaurant for dinner and a place to stay for the night. With a low in the teens, we decided it was still too cold to camp.

October 6, 2013

The place we stayed prided themselves as a "Bed and Bagel." We were hoping for a more substantial breakfast, but made the best of it. We both went to breakfast twice and took some honey buns, muffins, and cinnamon rolls for the road. It may not have been the best place to stay, but it was warm. Mainly, Will didn't like the neon lights hidden in the soffits. "It's just creepy."

The first half of the day was all downhill. We made it through the towns of Hot Sulphur Springs and Parshall before stopping in Kremmling for lunch. We found a Subway for lunch and studied the route of the afternoon ride. The downhill was over and we were now beginning the long 5,000 feet climb to Hoosier pass tomorrow. I think we were slightly intimidated by thought of the pass and were dreading the afternoon ride.

We stopped at a gas station before heading out of town and had a good conversation with an avid cyclist. He heard about our route for the afternoon and warned us that it had heavy traffic. He was right. The shoulder was small and the traffic was heavy. Thankfully, though, the incline involved rolling hills, which makes it so much easier.

On the way out of town, we passed people getting out of church and heading to lunch. We stopped by a bike shop, but remembered it was Sunday and it was closed. Our favorite thing was that there was no wind. After having head and side winds for the past few weeks, it was nice to have a calm day.

Empowered by the rolling hills and no wind, I established a slight lead over Will. When I could no longer see him, even when at the top of some of the higher hills, I decided to take a break and wait on him. It was getting warmer, so I decided to change out of my biking pants. Will still hadn't arrived, so I had a muffin, which we took from the hotel this morning. Still, no sight of Will. I walked to a spot where I could see better and thought I saw Will coming down the hill. However it wasn't moving. It turns out it was just a sign on the side of the road. At this point I was starting to wonder.

I had stopped near a pull out and a car stopped for the driver to use the restroom. I flagged the car down and asked if they had seen another biker. They had and said he should be coming soon. Thankfully, I did see a tiny red jacket on a blue bike making its way down the hill a few minutes later.

"I had not one, but two flat tires," Will shouted as he got closer. "I changed the first one and a mile later it was flat again." I felt sorry for him. I had made a snowball from some leftover snow on the side of the road, but decided not to use it. I decided Will wasn't in the mood. He admitted he would have ran me over if I had used it. The total of flats for the trip now stands at Will = 4, Jeb = 0.

We biked close for the rest of the day until we arrived in Silverthorne, Colorado. It's a fancier city with outlet mall and fancy shops. It's only 9 miles from Breckenridge.The area we are in now has lots of cities around. It's a nice change. To my delight, we passed a Chipotle, where we had dinner. I love Chipotle, but Pensacola doesn't have one. Will found a Days Inn and we checked in. I made a final run to the 7 eleven for snacks. The hotel has one of those quick, self-made waffle makers and I can't wait to use it in the morning.You know you are in a big city when your hotel has one of those.

October 7, 2013

Make that 5 to 0. The next morning when Will awoke, he discovered his back tire had gone flat during the night. We aren't sure what the problem is, but he is having a time with that back tire. While he was changing the tire again, I did find a short wire which likely had been puncturing the tubes and causing the last 3 flats. It's hard to find those tiny things some times. Just to be overly sure, Will also switched his front tire to the back. Before this trip, he had only had one flat tire in his entire cycling career. I had dozens. It seems like an equilibrium is starting to take effect.

Will and I enjoy different styles of breakfast. Will is very much a bacon and eggs kind of guy. I'm more of a oatmeal, waffle, fruit and yogurt fan. Therefore, continental breakfasts tend to be more my thing. I enjoyed the the do-it-yourself waffle maker so much, I had two. I've always developed a love for coffee during the trip. Will has always been a fan, but I just recently converted. Very seldom do we start the day without coffee now. And I've learned not to speak until spoken to in the morning. I'm very much a morning person, while others on this trip are less so.

Once we finally left the hotel, 5 minute after checkout time, we started our climb to Breckenridge. We had heard the route to Breckenridge from Silverthorne was connected via a beautiful bike path. We heard correctly. The 25 mile ride was one of the most scenic of the entire trip, so far. It's no wonder why Colorado is the healthiest state in the US. The scenery is too pretty to stay indoors and not be active. It is by far my favorite state.

The bike path in Silverthorne started with a quick ascent up the Dillon dam. Because the dam is so much higher than the town, the bike path has a set of about 10-15 switchbacks specially designed for bikers. It was nice. However, we didn't quite realize how many there were and may have been a little too ambitious with our speed at the beginning. By the top we were panting for breath. We took our time on the rest of the path, enjoying the breathtaking scenery (literally) and taking pictures the entire time.

We really weren't in a hurry. It was after noon and we hadn't put in very many miles. We were enjoying ourselves and the surroundings. We knew we had our highest pass of the trip later in the day and both of us were clearly avoiding the inevitable. Thankfully,
the temperature had warmed up considerably, with highs now in the 70s. This was the first day we could wear regular jerseys and tank tops in over a week. It was nice to be out of freezing temperatures for the time being.

We literally passed hundreds of bikers on our way to Breckenridge. Most of them were going the opposite direction, downhill, and on fancy road bikes. They gave us the complimentary biker wave as they passed. My hand began to cramp from waving so much. We made our way around Dillon dam and through the town of Frisco. We lost the bike path in Frisco and ended up on the main highway. Within minutes a car had stopped to show us where the bike path was. "I'm an avid biker too" the driver said, "and I knew you'd prefer to bike on the path. It's absolutely beautiful." We thanked him and quickly found the path again.

Ten miles later we arrived on the outskirts of Breckenridge. The last part of the bike path was perfect. Even though it was uphill, it was rolling hills directly next to a brisk moving stream. I counted three dog owners with golden retrievers or chocolate labs taking a walk next to the stream and playing fetch. Birds flew overhead and seemed to sing a happier than normal tune. Even the car horns on the highway in the distance seemed more melodic. You couldn't ask for a nicer day and a nicer place.

We weren't sure where to eat in Breckenridge, so we stopped briefly to look at our map. While we were stopped, one of the hundred road bikers stopped to chat with us. We told him about our trip and asked him about the Hoosier pass climb. He said is wasn't as bad as we had made it to be, but that it is still very tough. He suggested a few places to eat, then got on his way. Before we could clip in and get on our way, three other road bikers stopped to talk. We chatted again about our story and the city of Breckenridge. They wished us well and continued on. We figured we needed to get on our way, before we were stuck at that spot for the rest of the afternoon. Cyclists love to talk bikes and we love to share about our trip. It's a nice combination.

We found a lunch spot in Breckenridge and had one of the best meals. Afterwards Will stopped in a bike shop on Main Street and got a few supplies. I bought a Colorado water bottle to add to my collection. Well, actually Will bought it. But I promise to pay him back. After that it's time to stop avoiding the inevitable and start heading up Hoosier pass.

Just like the biker had said, the first 10 miles of the climb weren't bad. It was a gradual incline of rolling hills. The last 4 miles were crazy tough, though. Even with a few switch backs, the last three miles was mostly a 9% grade incline. We were panting for breath, as the air got thinner and cooler. We could see the summit sign, though, and we pressed on. When we finally reached the top, we got off our bikes and soaked in the moment. We had finally reached the highest elevation of the trip, on an absolutely beautiful day and were were going to enjoy it. It was a rather surreal moment, five weeks in the making. We really feel like we are starting to make some progress now and accomplish a few things. Needless to say, we were rather happy in the moment.

After taking a flipbook full of pictures, we decided to put on some warmer clothes for the ride down. While packing our bike, 2 gentlemen in a sports car pulled up to the summit. One of the guys came and took a picture of the summit sign and I apologized that my bike was leaning against it. He said it was no problem and asked about the trip. Fifteen minutes later we were posing for pictures and talking like we had know each other for years. One of the guys was from Colorado. The other was from Jersey.

Needless to say, the ride down from the summit was great. We rolled through the town of Alma, which claims to be the highest elevation incorporated town in the US. And they are proud of it. "We get it," Will said as we pass the fourth sign into town announcing Alma's respectable elevation. We continue down the mountain to the town of Fairplay, where we decided to stop for the evening. Fairplay, also known as South Park, plays up their connection with the cartoon of the same name. It was a unique city, with historic buildings and some pictures of Cartman.

We found the cheapest hotel in town and booked it for the night. We were hoping this was our last hotel for a while, since the temperature has been rising and our elevation is dropping. Hotels eat into our budget faster than anything. The hotel we stayed at liked to think of itself as haunted, but we weren't impressed. The floors did creek, but only when someone walked on them. The pictures on the wall were a little creepy, though.

"There are some snacks in the dining room" the receptionist mentioned as we walked in. "This place isn't too bad" we thought. We helped ourselves to cheese puffs, cookies, popcorn and pretzels before making our way up to our room on the second floor. A little later we decided to make dinner to save money. We set up our stove in the bathtub again and made a delicious fettuccine Alfredo with chicken. We've really got this urban camping thing down. We enjoyed our dinner and remembered our achievements of the day. We were feeling good. There was no tv in the room, so we watched a few series on Netflix on my iPad before bed. I suggested the show The Newsroom, which Will hasn't seen. He politely watched it and may have even liked it. I'm not sure though. We both are in agreement that we are excited for the next season of "The Walking Dead" returning this Sunday. We aren't sure where we will be, but we will find a way to watch it. As they say, "Where there is a will, there is a way." Bad joke. I know.

October 8, 2013

To look at the map after Hoosier pass is very encouraging. Over the next two days we will officially leave the Rocky Mountains behind and drop more than 5,000 ft. I honestly will miss them as we enter the less visually enticing scenery of Kansas. The wind has been pleasant the last few days, which also helps for an enjoyable ride. Other than a few little climbs, the ride is smooth going.

After leaving Fairplay, we stopped at Highline Cafe and Saloon in Hartsel, a one restaurant town. I had the beef brisket special and sweet potato fries and it was probably the best food of the trip. What made it taste even better was the price of $7. Food has been more expensive than we planned. We had planned about $8-12 per meal and it's averaging out at $15-$20. That's why we eat fast food and camp food whenever possible. The waitress was incredibly nice and took excellent care of us. We chatted with the motorcycle rider next to us, who thought we were completely crazy for cycling across the US. This is a reoccurring theme.

We made our way to Canon City, which again was mostly downhill, with just a few uphills. The entrance to Canon City has a large maximum security prison. That's an intimidating first site to see. It's a nice facility, with one of the guard towers even built into the surrounding cliff. We later found out that this county of Colorado has 13 prisons. We ended up passing about half of them. We decided we better behave ourselves in this town.

We stopped by a bike shop and looked around right as the owner was closing. We didn't buy anything, but still like to visit the local shops. Our bikes need a little tuneup, but we are going to try to do it on our own when we have the space and time. Thankfully, Canon City had some fast food options, so we settled onTaco Bell for dinner, because it's cheap. During dinner we were trying to figure out where to camp. To our delight, at the same time, we received a Facebook message from a couch surfer offering us a place to stay for the night. Tessa and her two sons had offered us their playroom for the evening and we were extremely grateful. We will have plenty of opportunities to camp when there aren't couchsurfers.

After dinner, and a frosty from Wendy's, we made our way to their house and introduced ourselves. The two boys seemed to enjoy our company and we quickly started watching an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was an episode about a kitten who died at the end of the episode. I didn't know cartoons could get that depressing. They had a lovely home, and it is always nice to take a shower after biking all day. You seem to sleep better that way.

Earlier in the day, we had put a request for donations on Facebook and Instagram. Being close to the halfway point, we started to look at our budget and noticed we were running somewhat over. The unseasonably cold spells and the higher priced food were eating into our supplies. By the end of the day we had received a generous amount of donations and we are very thankful. It will help a lot and will allow us to complete the trip financially. Special thanks to the Safko family, Gloria McMillan, Sally Grace, Jane Reich, Rev. Bob Sweet, Lindsay Blanton, Marsha Blanton, Nancy Butler, Wendy Pineda, Carol Tullius, Joe Webb, Liz Stroff and Janean McCawley. We really can't thank you enough.

October 9, 2013

We woke up to a wonderful breakfast and a competitive game of Hungry Hungry Hippos with the youngest son. The table must have been slanted, because I always seemed to lose. Will always seemed to win. We took our time getting on the road, finally setting off after our second and third cups of coffee. Thanks again to Tessa and her family for allowing us to stay. We enjoyed ourselves and are extremely grateful for the hospitality.

We were heading to Pueblo, about sixty miles away, but first continued our days of celebrations by commemorating having traveled 2,000 miles. In a few days we will celebrate the official halfway point too. We celebrated the only way we knew how, with Gatorade and fruit snacks on the side of the road. I ecstatically rang my bike bell and yelled the entire celebratory mile. I'm sure passing cars thought we were crazy.

We entered back into reality when the place we planned on for lunch was closed. We both decided we could push on to Pueblo and just have lunch and dinner there. On the way to Pueblo I did find two more Colorado license plates, bringing the total to 20. They are starting to take up a lot of space. I probably will have to mail them home soon.

After deciding to push on to Pueblo, I developed a little bit of a lead over Will. I decided to stop at the Welcome to Pueblo sign and wait for Will. However, after waiting 30 minutes, Will still didn't show up. I was getting worried, so I called, but no answer. At that point I started biking back in the opposite direction, outside of town, uphill. About 4 miles later I get a text from Will telling me to meet him at a bike shop in town. At this point I think his bike has fallen apart and he had someone take him to the bike shop. It turns our that I had missed a turn on our route and had made my way to an alternative entrance to the city. It was completely my fault for not knowing the route. We eventually meet up, though it was almost 2 hours after we had planned on being in the city. We had both skipped lunch at this point, and were hungry.

We had another couchsurfer respond, and were thankful to stay at the home of Barbara Hegarty, an avid biker in Pueblo. We made our way to her house and unpacked our bikes. We explained how hungry we were, having skipped lunch, and decided that a buffet was in order. Pueblo, with over 100,000 residents, had a Golden Corral. I'm not normally a fan of buffets, but this seemed like heaven.

Barbara was kind enough to drive us to our feast and pick us up afterwards. We spent over an hour making up for any lost calories over the past 6 weeks. I'm glad Barbara picked us up afterwards, because I could barely walk out because I ate so much. Between Will and I, the restaurant definitely lost money this time.

We had a wonderful evening with Barbara, talking about biking and telling our stories. We noticed pictures of Barbara with President Obama on her mantle and she shared about her experience meeting him. We watched an episode of The Daily Show and looked over the route for the coming days. Will brought in our bikes, tightened our brakes and gave them a needed tuneup. We were also thankful to wash our clothes. It had been a little while and it's always nice to have clean clothes. We have been blessed to meet such kind people during the trip. Thanks again Barbara.

October 10, 2013

We slept in until about 9:30. This is quite a bit later than normal for this trip. Barbara had already gone to work, so we packed up our gear and headed out. Wanting to take full advantage of the food options in Pueblo, we set out in search of a good breakfast. We settled on Village Inn, which serves breakfast all day. This was convenient since it was now nearly 11:30 AM.

On the way to Village Inn we rode by a large park and golf course. A number of golf balls were in the bike lane and this made me smile. A few seconds later I heard a golf ball bounce on the road behind us and make its way into the traffic. These golfers were clearly as good at golf as I am. After dodging golf balls and traffic we made it to Village Inn.

Both Will and I ordered the breakfast combo where you pick four options and customize your own order. Will picked six: eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy, country potatoes and toast. I controlled myself and only picked four: eggs, country potatoes, yogurt and pumpkin pancakes. The pumpkin pancakes may have been the best decision I have made all trip. They were incredible and they even made me somewhat nostalgic. The taste of pumpkin reminded me of the season, and got me excited for Halloween and Thanksgiving. As Will ate his two other sides, I wished I had ordered more.

"Riding conditions may vary in the plains of Eastern Colorado and Kansas. Dust storms can occur without warning and may reduce visibility to less than a few feet." I read this from the riding conditions description on the new map that we are starting today. "I've never been in a dust storm," I told Will. He hadn't either. But it was too beautiful of a day today for a dust storm.

As we headed out of town, we passed a small Baptist church. I'm not normally a fan of the sayings on church signs, but this quote seemed to speak to me today. "Fall colors remind us that God is the author of change." I almost stopped my bike to read it again. That is a fitting title for this journey. I want this trip to impact my life and it is doing just that. I am being pushed in areas where I am weak and learning to trust and live. It's a remarkable thing to be a part of. It's hard to put into words about exactly what is taking place internally. I hope to be able to process it more once it's over. All I know is that God is doing something in me and I won't be the same afterwards.

The map for the next few sections doesn't even have an elevation profile because it's so flat. This is a bit of a change from the first six maps we've ridden. We are used to looking at the maps at the beginning of the day and planning our ride around mountain passes. We won't have to worry about that again until the Appalachians. I'm looking forward to the flat land, but farm land can get boring to look at after a while.

Will listens to his iPod everyday while riding. I have resisted to do so myself, because I want to be a part of the surroundings and have the full experience of the ride. However, today I decided to listen to music for a little while, to liven up the repetitive farmland we were passing for miles. It definitely does affect the ride. I found myself getting faster and slower, to the speed of the beat of the song. I definitely won't ride with earphones in all day, but I may allow myself the experience for a little bit of the ride. I hope the cows and passing cars don't mind me singing.

The flat land proved to be very enjoyable once we left Pueblo. We had a slight tail wind and were averaging speeds between 17-20 mph. "We might even be able to make up some time in Kansas, if this keeps up" Will said. I agreed. We rode on highway 50 for the first 20 miles and the our route took us to highway 96. As soon as we hit 96, we were faced with a brutal head wind. "Where did this come from? we tried to yell to each other, over the sound of the wind. Both 50 and 96 head east, so the wind had just shifted unexpectedly. Our speed went from 20 mph to around 10 mph.

We stopped in Boone at a general store for snacks and to get out of the wind. As we walked into the store, we noticed some dark clouds in the distance. "That doesn't look good" I commented. We spent a few minutes finding the right treats and pieced together a lunch of perfectly unhealthy snack foods. When we came back outside, the wind seemed to have died down. After our snacks we got back on the road. A few minutes later we passed a huge spider in the middle of the road. It was alive and making its way to the other side. I stopped to take a picture. It was clearly a tarantula. Even though they won't hurt you, they are quite intimidating,

"Did you see that?" Will shouted as he pointed at tumbleweed being pushed over the train track. For some reason we love to see tumbleweed. It feels so western. The wind was starting to pick up again and you could see sand and dust collecting to our right and left. We tried to keep ahead of it, but it was catching up. It appeared like we were about to witness a dust storm, just like I read earlier in the day. Suddenly the wind became really intense and visibility reduced. However, the wind had switched directions again and it was a major tailwind. This was completely unexpected, but we loved it. Will and I made quick communication, then decided to make it as quickly as we could to Ordway, where we planned on staying for the night.

The wind continued to grow and before we knew it we were going 25 mph. The wind was so strong it even knocked Will's water bottle off his bike. I was behind him at the time and stopped and picked it up. It wasn't until later that he even noticed it was gone. The storm continued to get even more intense. The ride was definitely feeling rather adventurous at this point.

The wind had pushed dozens of tumbleweeds onto the road and they were bouncing along at about the same pace we were riding. What started out as a single piece of tumbleweed blowing across the railroad tracks was now like playing dodgeball. Some of them were rather large and we would have to swerve to miss them. Sometimes I couldn't swerve, because of oncoming traffic and I just had to ride into them. I unclipped my right foot and tried to kick them away. Sometimes it worked. Other times I just had to run over them. It was like a game of "Frogger." I'm not sure if the bikes or the tumbleweed were the frog.

At this point it began to rain. Everything that was covered in dust was now muddy. My white panniers were now brown. At an upcoming driveway, I noticed a truck stop and a lady step out into the wind and rain. I don't always assume that people have stopped to talk to us, so we both sped by her. I look back and notice that she is motioning towards us. So I stop and turn around. When I turn around I notice just how strong the tailwind is. I can barely make it back to her without being pushed over. When I do make it back, we have to yell over the sound of the wind.

"Do you need a ride?" she asks. "You shouldn't be riding in this type of weather." I let her know that we are just riding to the next town, and at this pace we should be there in only 15 minutes. "It's really bad in Ordway. I just came from there." Feeling overly adventurous and enjoying the hurricane force tailwind, I refuse the ride. "Well, could I at least follow behind you all in my truck?" I told her that wasn't necessary, but she insisted. So we quickly made our way to Ordway, in the wind and rain, with a truck escort behind us.

When we arrived in town, we stopped to ask her if she knew of a place where we could get out of the weather. She suggested the grocery store, where she was also heading. We followed her and left our bikes outside. We went inside to dry off a little and wondered around the store. We didn't buy anything because we didn't really have a plan for the rest of the day. We had thought about camping, but our tents wouldn't even stay up in this wind. There was one hotel, but we weren't ready to commit to that.

As we walked out of the grocery store,Deborah, who was now at the checkout, handed me a piece of paper with her name and number on it. "I want you to give me a call if you get in a bind. There aren't many options around her, especially in this weather. We have a farm a few miles up the street and you are welcome to stay with us." I thanked her, then Will and I went outside to formulate a plan.

She was right. Our options were limited and we didn't really know where to stay. Pressing on, in this weather, didn't seem right. So, as she walked out the door we told her we'd love to stay at the farm, if she was willing. She told us to put our bikes in the back of the truck and pile in.

She drove us to a beautiful farm on the outskirts of town. Deborah and her husband had just moved in a month ago and it was still a work in progress. But they already had at least 8 horses, 4 goats, cats, dogs, geese and more. She was a high school science teacher and a self proclaimed farm girl. When we arrived, she parked by the barn and let us store our bikes there. We then made our way inside out of the wind and rain.

Eventually the wind and rain stopped and it turned out to be a beautiful evening. I hadn't expected to experience one of these storms so soon after reading about them. It was an adventure though. Deborah mentioned that she needed to go milk the goats before dark. We offered to help. I can't say that I was that good at it, but it was definitely interesting to try. I went first and struggled to get much milk out. Will went next and learned from my mistakes. Together we milked less than a cup. Deborah finished the other half gallon. We may not be cut out to be farmers.

Over a delicious dinner of spaghetti, homemade sauce, bread, chips and homemade salsa, we enjoyed learning about their family and their new farm. They own 40+ acres and will soon be planting quinoa, a high protein grain which can grown in difficult conditions. We talked about sustainable eating and farming and the whole conversation was intriguing.

After dinner, we watched a few shows on Netflix and then turned in for the night. Will and I stayed in the guest room downstairs. For breakfast in the morning, they promised fresh farm eggs and the goats milk we helped gather. We are getting the full farm experience. I can't wait until morning.

October 11, 2013

There wasn't any windows in the guest room we stayed in. When you closed the door and turned off the light, the room got really dark. I think that's why we didn't wake up until 9:30 AM. It seems we've started sleeping in more and more. It's not like we are doing anything strenuous during the day.

When we finally stumbled our way upstairs, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, including a fresh egg omelet, hamburger steak, toast and goats milk from yesterday. Will looked at his goats milk with reluctant eyes. I smelled it to see what we were about to drink. Then we both tried it...and loved it. It tastes less milky than regular store milk and incredibly fresh. We both had no problem finishing our entire glass. The rest of the breakfast was wonderful too. The Striegel's were such wonderful hosts and such interesting people. We wish we had more time to spend with them, but we knew needed to get on the road.

"Good thing you didn't stay outside last night" said Deborah. "That wind really picked up again after we went to bed." We had heard the wind and completely agreed. "Thanks again for saving us, even when I thought we didn't need saved." I said. "Oh, mothers know better," she said with a smile. We gave each other hugs and then headed on our way.

Will and I headed east and stopped at the same grocery store we had stopped at the night before. We picked up a few supplies for the day. "I'm not checking up on you," Deborah said as we passed her coming in the front door as we exited. "I needed some cat and dog food." We laughed and waved goodbye.

We have decided to amend our route slightly over the coming days. Our map takes us on a very small highway 96, through incredibly small towns about 50-60 miles apart. Highway 50 runs parallel 96 to the south and includes much larger and more frequent cities. We are going off route for a few days and will stay on 50 through much of Kansas. Will picked up a Colorado map at a gas station and is enjoying the extra sense of adventure of charting our own course. We will meet back up with the route later in Kansas.

Will stopped and started frantically looking for something. I stopped behind him and inquired about what he was doing. "I left my gloves on the back of my bike and forgot they were there. They must have fallen off." We had already gone two miles, but we decided to go back and look for them. Most likely they had fallen off right when we started. Sure enough, they were two miles back in the road, across from the park where we started. Will seemed relieved to find them. We have a limited number of possessions we carry with us on our bikes. When you lose something of break something, it seems to hurt more than normal.

I had decided to listen to music while I rode again today. I was enjoying some external music stimulation until we stopped to turn on 50. I took the headphones out of my ears and let them dangle down from the handlebar bag where my iPhone was. When I started pedaling again, I forgot the headphones where still there and they quickly got caught in the tire, causing one of the earbuds to rip off in milliseconds. That marked the end of me listening to music on this trip. I guess I was intended to learn something in the silence.

I also got my first flat today. Soon after we got on 50, I noticed my back wheel starting to respond differently. It took me about a mile until I actually realized it was flat. I tried to catch up to Will and yell what was happening, but he didn't hear me. We were right on the outskirts of the town of Rocky Ford, so I stopped and started changing my tire. The process can take a little while because you have to unload your bike and find your supplies. About 10 minutes later, in the midst of me changing the tire, I see Will coming around the corner. "I figured something must have happened" he said as he got closer. "I knew today was going to be a good day," he said in jest, now enjoying the fact that he wasn't the only one on the trip to get a flat. I tried to muster a smile.

Soon after changing my tire and breaking my headphones, we arrived in the city of La Junta. One of the first places we passed was a Wendy's and a Walmart. A confident Will bragged "I knew this route was the way to go" as we pulled into the Wendy's. I wasn't aware that we were judging our routes by the number of Wendy's and Walmart's now. But I was hungry, so I wasn't complaining. Will may be on to something.

Biking across the US involves all the scenes. We passed a few stock yards and they are very pungent, to describe it nicely. Or as Will says, "It smells like bull shit." After lunch we got back on the road. Not once, but twice, open air trucks carrying some kind of grain passed us. As they passed us, we were showered with a confetti of home grown goodness. The first time it was funny. The second time it was annoying. It's all part of the experience, I guess.

Since we are charting our own course now, we decided to take old 50 and make a quick visit to Bent's Fort. Bent's Fort was an old fur trading post on the Santa Fe trail. However, we forget that National Parks are stilled closed until we were about 3 miles away. Luckily, old 50 connected to the new 50, so we hadn't gone that far out of the way for nothing. Sure enough, when we arrived at the fort, it was closed and no one was there. This was our first experience with the government shutdown.

The wind had picked up during our ride and we now had a head wind and a slight uphill. It wasn't nearly as bad as some of our previous inclines in Colorado, but it was noticeable. I got tired of feeling like I was going nowhere, so I pushed hard into the wind and developed a pretty good lead over Will. When I got close to the city where we planned on staying for the night, I stopped and waited for Will. I leaned my bike against a post a looked back for a biker on a blue bike in the distance. While I was looking back, my bike rolled forward, off the post and fell to the ground causing my back panniers to fall off.

I bent down to pick up my bike and felt a mosquito land on my arm. I slapped my arm and killed it seeing my own blood now splattered on my arm. Suddenly I felt mosquitos on my arm. I slapped violently and noticed I had now killed 5 mosquitos on my other arm. I looked down and my legs were covered in mosquitos and they were all over my arms again. I must have stopped on top of a huge nest. I tried to get away from them, but I couldn't put on my back panniers fast enough. As I tried to put them on, I continued to get bit. I left my panniers and rode off down the road. That seemed to help, but I still had to go back and get my panniers. When I came back, the mosquito feast on my blood continued. By the time I finally got my panniers back on, I could count between 30-40 mosquito bites on my body. This all happened within 5 minutes.

I've had mosquito bites before, but never so many, so fast. It was actually a rather terrifying experience. I knew I'd be fine, but it was pretty shaken up by it. Once Will caught up, he could see the bites on my arms and legs and asked what happened. I explained the situation, while weaving back and forth on my bike. I needed to focus on riding and not on how much my entire body was itching. During the incident, as I was frantically trying to get away from the mosquitos and put on my panniers, I had cars stop in both direction. I guess I didn't realize that this drama ended up unfolding in the middle of the road.

This story may sound a little dramatic for being just a bunch of mosquito bites. But at the time it seemed really serious. I had some Benadryl in my panniers, so I took two over dinner, once we arrived in town. I texted my sister Jayme, who is a pharmacist, to confirm that I shouldn't do anything else. She suggested Advil for the pain of the bites in addition to Benadryl. Thankfully, a few hours later, I felt much better. The Benadryl did make me drowsy though.

After dinner at a Mexican buffet (who knew that existed?) and dessert at Dairy Queen, we headed down the road to find a place to stay. We found a cheap motel to stay at, which included breakfast. It seemed like the best option, so we checked in and found our room. Tomorrow we set our eyes on Kansas. Hopefully there aren't any mosquitos there.

October 12, 2013

Well, today was a rather uneventful day. We started the day off with a complimentary breakfast at the motel in Las Animas, Colorado. After breakfast we checked out and got on the road. Our route continued on highway 50 and 30 miles later we arrived in Lamar. Once in Lamar, we surveyed our options for lunch before settling on Quiznos. While I was parking my bike, a lady pulled up on shiny red cruiser bike and started asking me some bike related questions.

After talking about bikes for a few minutes, I found out that she had a pretty amazing story. Only a few months before, she was told she would never walk again. But after a miraculous turnaround, she did walk again. As a testament to God she decided to plan a walk from Colorado to Nashville, Tennessee. However, she underestimated the stresses that a walk of that magnitude would have. After walking for a few days, she developed some bad blisters and decided to wait in Lamar until they healed. She later decided to do the rest of the trip on a bike, instead of walking. So she purchased a brand new bike with a basket on the front to carry her belongings.

When she saw Will and I pedal towards Quiznos, she had to come ask some questions. "I really don't know much about bikes," she said and then asked a slew of questions. I was glad to help, but became slightly concerned that this lady may be in over her head. After 10 or 15 minutes I wished her well and headed inside Quiznos. "What was that about?" Will asked as he was already enjoying his toasty sub. "It's a long story that Ill explain over lunch" I responded.

After lunch we set our eyes on making it to Kansas. The terrain has become so flat that we could basically see Kansas. "How far away do you think that big white building is in the distance?" I asked Will. "And by the way, what do you think that big white building is?" We took turns guessing. I guessed four miles. Will guessed five. It turned out to be almost seven miles away. It was a clear day and visibility in eastern Colorado is probably a million miles. I hear visibility increases to a billion miles in Kansas. And the big white building was a grain silo. Will's guess was a hospital, a prison, a silo or a combination of all three. This game thankfully entertained us for a while.

Now that the terrain has become almost entirely flat, wind has become our biggest challenge. We pushed against the wind but still arrived in Holly, Colorado after dark and decided to stay there for the night. The Kansas border is only 3 miles from Holly, but we weren't sure where we'd stay if we continued. When we arrived in Holly we noticed that camping was allowed in the city park. After dinner at Subway we set up camp in the park. I set up my tent near the third base dugout. Will set up his tent a few yards away near the bleachers. The temperature was dropping fast and we wasted no time getting in our tents and sleeping bags. Tomorrow is Sunday and we will definitely make it to Kansas. It's also the premiere of the next season of The Walking Dead. We have a lot to look forward to.

October 13, 2013

"I didn't know it was supposed to rain tonight," I thought to myself as I heard water intensely fall on my tent. I scrambled to find my phone and noticed it was a little after midnight. We'd been lucky to not be camping during any big rainstorms so far during the trip. I guess this will show me how well the tent does in rain. Hopefully I'll stay dry. A few minutes later it stopped. "Well, that wasn't that bad." I feel back asleep.

About two hours later it all happened again. This time I was a little more aware and awake. I noticed the rain was in short little intervals of about 5 seconds every 30 seconds or so. I started to listen closely and realized that it actually wasn't rain at all. It was the sprinkler system for the ball field and evidentially I had set up my tent too close. It was to late and to cold outside to move my tent now. I was just going to have to deal with it. I knew Will was going to love the fact that he set up outside the sprinkler zone. After about 4 or 5 many showers throughout the night, the sprinkler stopped. The tent did a great job keeping me dry. Lesson learned.

I don't know if it was because of my interrupted sleep, or my excitement over The Walking Dead that evening, but I woke up pretty early. It was Sunday morning and I was hoping to be a part of going to church. We haven't been able to stop at very many churches on the trip for worship. We either end up in cities without a church on Sunday morning or aren't there at the right time. This morning I decided to download the podcast of my home church First UMC Pensacola (http://fumcpensacola) and listen to the sermons from the past few weeks. It was great to hear Senior Pastor Dr. Wachob's wise words and soothing voice. I forgot how much I missed being there. Will woke up to find me bundled up on the bleachers staring at the ball field blankly. I don't think he could see that I had earphones in and was at church. He probably thought I was crazy.

I had already packed up my stuff before listening to the podcasts and was ready to go. After Will packed up his bike we started towards the road. It was at this point that I realized I had a flat front tire. We were both less than excited about this. I wasn't happy because I had to change it. Will wasn't happy that I had just realized it, when I could have been changing earlier and he could have slept in longer.

While changing the tire I was able to video live stream ICON (the worship service at First UMC that Will and I help lead the music for in Pensacola) on my phone. It was great to watch and see everyone. Even though we don't have a lot of people use the live stream yet, I think it is a great upcoming ministry. I was very thankful for it this morning. Once more people realize we have it, I think they'll use it. It's especially nice when your traveling or can't make it to church. I don't know why I hadn't used it on the trip before today. Both Will and I felt like we were able to be a part of the service. It was a good way to start the Sunday morning. I didn't even care about the flat tire anymore. Once we replaced it and watched the majority of the service, we finally got on the road.

On the way out of town we passed a small Methodist church who was having a service in a few hours. We didn't stop, but I noticed their sign. "Autumn is an act of God." It reminded a lot of the sign in Pueblo that I liked so much. I think this might be a reoccurring theme. Within minutes we were in Kansas. I knew it wouldn't taken long, since we were only three miles away. We took our borderline pictures and continued on our way.

Over the past few days, Will's bike had started to squeak. It sounded exactly like a cricket was riding on his back pannier and was rubbing his legs together for the entire day. If you thought about it too long, you'd get really annoyed. Will constantly listened to his iPod to cover up the noise. I tried to ride in front or in back far enough away so I wouldn't have to hear it. He is going to get it checked out at the next bike shop.

The wind was blowing pretty intensely from the SSE and we were heading due east. This made it a bad cross wind with a little bit of head wind. It was a terrible combination and made the day very slow going. The worst part was that we had already booked a hotel for the evening in Lakin, Kansas about 50 miles away. We don't normally book places to stay in advance, but tonight we wanted to be sure to have a place to watch The Walking Dead. Yesterday when Will called and scheduled the room, we were confident that 50 miles would be considered an easy day. We both had our mind set on an easy day. It was anything but an easy day.

The 25-30 mph wind slowed us down to a cruising speed of about 7 mph. At that speed you barely feel like you are going anywhere. Also, at that rate, we knew it was going to be after dark when we finally arrived. We just hoped we wouldn't miss The Walking Dead. It was going to be a long, slow, hard day and Will and I weren't happy about it. Neither of us were fond of Kansas at this point.

After battling the wind for hours, we finally arrived in Syracuse, Kansas and decided to have lunch. Syracuse is only 22 miles from Holly, but it felt like we had gone 60. We both were already considering this to be the worst day of the trip. The first restaurant we passed was advertising a Sunday lunch buffet on their sign. We both smiled and stopped. There was no reason to even discuss it. We both knew we were going to eat lunch at the Ramble-N-Restaurant and Supper Club.

The entrance for the restaurant was a little confusing. It appeared to be connected to a larger building and we couldn't quite figure out where the buffet was. We wondered around until we found someone, but it was wasn't the restaurant. "Would you like to buy some jewelry for your girlfriends?" they asked, as we looked down to see a room filled with crafts, mostly jewelry. "No thanks," we said. "We were just looking for the restaurant. "Oh, it's in the other room," they said as they pointed. "You all must be bikers," they said as they looked at our apparel. "I bet you have on those padded shorts, don't you? Turn around so we can have a look." We smiled but didn't turn around. "No really, turn around," they said in a much more insisting tone. I did. They giggled. Will and I walked into the other room where the restaurant was and both agreed that was sufficiently awkward.

We found a table at the restaurant, which wasn't hard, because we were the only two in the room. A middle aged women in a stylish hat finally brought us menus and took our drink orders. We couldn't see a buffet anywhere in sight. We weren't excited about that. Not to mention, we felt violated by the jewelry ladies. This was adding up to definitely be the worst day.

"We saw there was a Sunday lunch buffet on the sign," Will mentioned to the waitress when she returned with our drinks. "We just put it up," she said to our disappointed faces. "However, I'm pretty sure I can make you all some plates from it. It's still warm." Things were looking up. She brought us both plates of lasagna, roast beef, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and rolls. We also helped ourselves to the salad bar. "There is plenty more where that came from," she said. "Eat up!" We did just that. After bringing us dessert, we were pleasantly satisfied.

After waiting around for a little while we asked for the check. "Don't you all worry about the check. I got it" she insisted. "You boys need the energy and it's the least we can do to help." We thanked her and made our way to our bikes. Maybe things were starting to look up.

The wind was still intense and we had 30 miles to go. It was almost 4 PM and we started doing the math. If conditions stayed the same, it was going to be after 8 PM when we arrived. But there was nothing we could do about it, so we slowly started heading east.

Before leaving town, we did stop briefly at a gas station to fill up our water bottles. While Will was inside, a car full of women and one guy walked over to me and asked about the bike trip. I mentioned we were traveling across country and they seemed impressed."Can we have a picture with you?" they asked. It seemed a little over the top, but I liked it. Will walked out as the picture was disbanding. I guess my fan club didn't care about having Will in the picture. I made sure to point that out to Will throughout the rest of the day.

It was a tough, slow 30 mile ride. Cows would lift their heads as we got near and slowly turn their head as we would pass with a snail's pace. After we went by, they would go back to eating grass. I tried to distract myself from the agony of the wind by looking for license plates. I even convinced Will to participate. I rode on the opposite side of the road and together we looked in both ditches. We only found one license plate the entire day and it was pretty old and beat up. After a while, even the license plate hunt couldn't distract us from the chore we were participating in.

At the top of a very tiny Kansas hill, as the sun was setting, a car stopped and an older man jumped out and ran towards my bike. Handing me a granola bar, he said "I just wanted to give you a little encouragement and tell you to keep up the good work." I kept on pedaling and looked back to see him saying the same thing to Will. It's amazing how at your lowest point the tiniest gesture can mean so much. The day had psychologically and physically worn me out. I was tired of the speed we were going and the distance we had to cover because of the room we booked. I was ready to quit. But those simple words from an old man pushed me forward. God knew what I needed. I waited up for Will and talked with him about the old man. He didn't get a granola bar when he talked to the man. I guess he only had one. I broke mine in two and gave him half. We were going to make it after all.

The sun had set and it was now dark. We were less than 10 miles away and thankfully the wind was starting to settle down. We noticed it often settled after the sun set. We hadn't ruled out biking all night in the coming days if the wind continued like this. At about 8:30 PM we finally arrived in Lakin. We made our way to the tiny motel and checked in. The Walking Dead had started at 8, but luckily they do an encore presentation of it at 10. So we settled in a looked for a bite to eat. We panicked briefly because AMC wasn't listed on the channel of stations on top of the TV. Will had even asked before booking the room. But after a quick search of the channels we found it. It must have been an old list.

There was Subway a few blocks away so we decided to grab a quick sandwich for dinner. I was tired of riding my bike, so I walked. That was until Will said he could get there first on his bike. So I ran. As he pulled into the parking lot right after me, I dashed for the door. I barely beat him, but did have a head start. That didn't diminish my bragging about it though.

We brought our sandwiches back to the motel and had just enough time to shower and clean up before the show started. It was a great first episode and we were glad to be able to see it. We are especially grateful to Wendy Pineda, an Instagram follower, who donated money towards the hotel so that we could watch The Walking Dead. As a whole, the day might not have been the best, but thankfully it ended well. Hopefully tomorrow is better.

October 14, 2013

Kansas is flat, windy and has a lot of a Subways. Our options were limited, so we had Subway for breakfast. After breakfast we headed on our way. To our surprise and delight, the wind had shifted ever so slightly, making it a cross and slight tail wind. That little adjustment of just a few degrees made all the difference in the world. Instead of the wind pushing against us, we now had a a slight push at our back. I was so relieved. I wasn't sure if I could take another day like yesterday.

The 25 mile ride to Garden City, Kansas took about half the time that a ride of the same distance took yesterday. Wind does make a difference. Clouds were gathering in the distance, and it looked possible that we might get some rain. When we arrived on the outskirts of Garden City, we had to turn south to reach downtown. Turning south put us directly into a head wind and brought back terrible memories of the day before. Thankfully it was just for a few miles.

We found a McDonald's for lunch and parked our bikes outside. We made our way inside and ordered value meals. While we were inside, it began to rain. By the time we were done eating, the rain stopped. I guess we timed that well. "It's hard enough to walk in cycling shoes," I complained to Will. "It's even worse walking on slippery floors that have just been mopped." He agreed as we slowly and cautiously made our way pass the CAUTION: WET FLOOR sign in the McDonald's lobby.

While in Garden City, we wanted to stop at a bike shop. We were getting low on tubes and Will also had wanted to get his disc brake looked at. Thankfully his bike had quit making the cricket noise though. We made our way down Main Street and found a bike shop. It was closed. "Oh, today is Columbus Day. Bike shops must close for Columbus Day," we thought. We found another bike shop and called to make sure they were open. When someone did answer the phone, we made our way over to their shop.

It was a small shop that was mainly a hardware store. They did sell tubes though and had the right size. The bad thing was they only took cash and we were out. We were down to two tubes and figured we should probably buy more. So we set off in search of an ATM. We found one next to a bank a few blocks away. Will pulled up his bike next to the drive-thru ATM. From a distance, it was a funny picture. You don't often see bikes at a drive thru. After Will was done we headed back to the bike shop. However, I was surprised to see another cyclist pull up to the drive thru ATM once Will left. I guess it happens more often than I thought.

I waited for Will outside the bike shop as he bought the tubes. I couldn't help but hear the birds in nearby trees as I waited. All of a sudden the birds got startled and hundreds of them flew from the tree. It was like a scene from out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" as they searched for another tree to perch. I put my sunglasses on, just to be safe. I wasn't taking any chances.

After Will was finished, we got back on the road. We traveled 60 miles with a generous tail wind and made it all the way to Dodge City, Kansas before dark. That gave us a total of 85 miles for the day. That made us feel better about the dismal distance the day before. We were looking for a place to camp, but in the process ran across a very cheap, but cool looking motel. We decided to stay at the Thunderbird Motel when we discovered it was only $25 a person. It was our reward for traveling 85 miles.

A sweet oriental woman checked us into our room and wished us a good night. I found a Walmart a few miles away from our motel and decided to make a night supply run. Will stayed at the hotel and I bundled up for a chilly ride. The ride to Walmart was uphill and into the wind. I didn't enjoy the ride there, but was looking forward to the ride back. It took me about 45 minutes to gather our list of supplies. While there, I found a small pumpkin and decided to purchase it. It was starting to feel like Halloween and I wanted to participate. I plan on carving the pumpkin sometime in the next few days. Until then, I named the pumpkin Peter and found a spot for him to ride on my bike.

Peter the pumpkin also inspired us to have a social media pumpkin carving contest. We are encouraging everyone to carve a WillJebBike related pumpkin and submit a picture on Facebook or Instagram. We will select the top 3 and the let people vote for their favorite. It'll be a fun way for us to celebrate Halloween. So go find a pumpkin and start carving. You can see the full list of details on our Facebook and Instagram page.

October 15, 2013

In classic Kansas style the head wind had returned and it was going to be another long and slow day. But first we visited IHOP for breakfast. Will chose IHOP, even though he doesn't like pancakes. Neither of us ordered pancakes actually. But it was good. We seem to bike better after a good breakfast.

After breakfast we continued on highway 50. Highway 50 has a relatively steady flow of traffic, but has a large, smooth shoulder for riding. Kansas has actually had some of the best paved roads for bicycle riding. But there are a lot of semi trucks zooming up and down the highway. We started to notice powerful air currents when semis would pass. When a truck passed you in the opposite direction, it would bring along a strong head wind gust a few seconds later. Similarly, when a semi sped by going the same direction, you would get a nice tail wind boost. I started calling this "surfin' the semis." By the end of the day I had become pretty good at surfing. I'd learned to get to the far right of the shoulder and crouch down into a drop position when the semi was oncoming to minimize the head wind. Then I'd get as close to the right lane as safely possible and stand up to maximize my surface for the tailwind when a semi would come in the right lane. Will also noticed that different types of semis brought different types of wind currents and patterns. We have become scientists of the road.

Another thing you have to get used to in Kansas is the extreme visibility. Because it's so flat, you can see for miles. I started to notice today that as soon as we left a town, you could see the next town on the horizon. The towns were normally 15-20 miles away, but it's hard to believe that when you can see it right in front of you. However, when you have been biking for an hour and you still haven't reached it, you learn to not get your hopes up just because you can see something. I guess in this case "seeing isn't believing."

In comparison to Colorado, Kansas is having a license place drought. I found 11 license plates while in Colorado. I've only found one in Kansas and it was old and beat up. One of the reasons may be because Colorado is required to have a tag on both the back and front of their car. Kansas is not. Also, Kansas may use better screws. I'm at least thankful that I have found one though. I still haven't found an Idaho tag, the one state we went through that I didn't collect a tag. I actually found an Oregon in Idaho, but I'm not sure that counts.

Because of the strong head wind, we only made it 45 miles the entire day. We stopped in the town of Kinsley and found a RV park. "They have a really nice bathroom and shower here," Will said after we set up camp. "I never thought I'd be saying that about an RV park. This trip changes you."

One of the only place open for dinner was a pizza restaurant a few blocks away. We enjoyed a large pizza and salad bar and we even had 4 pieces left over that we took back to the campground. When we got back to the campground, it was dark, but still only 8:30. So Will and I decided to stream Netflix on my iPad and watch a movie from our tents. We chose "Into the Wild," a movie about a young man who sets off for the Alaskan wilderness and experiences adventures all across the US. It's a story of self realization and outlandish excitement. It seemed like the perfect movie to watch in the cold from a tent. Will had never seen the movie, but had read the book. I had seen the movie once before. "Before we start the movie I need to put my pants in my pillow," Will said as he motioned for me to pause the movie. "That's another thing I'd never thought I'd be saying. What have I become?"

October 16, 2013

The RV owner had suggested a place nearby for breakfast. Instead of taking the time to set up our camping stove, make oatmeal and then still be hungry, we decided just to visit the restaurant for breakfast. We got our stuff packed up and then biked the few blocks across the street. We parked our bikes and headed for the door. Then we noticed the sign reading "CASH OR CHECKS ONLY." "This town must have something against credit cards." I thought. The RV park only took cash and a Mexican restaurant we thought about going to the night before also only took cash. Needless to say, we were both completely out of cash.

With a wrench now thrown in our plans, we sat outside the restaurant trying to come up with a Plan B. I found a few cereal bars in my panniers and we snacked on them for breakfast. We contemplated setting up our cooking gear, but that didn't seem appropriate to do in a restaurant parking lot. We decided we should probably just get on the road and then eat at the next place.

However, before we could get on our bikes, one of the waitresses came to the door and asked us if we were going to come in. The temperature was still in the 40s and we probably looked pretty cold all bundled up in our winter gear. We explained that we didn't have any cash, but the waitress insisted we come warm up and have some coffee. We reminded her that we didn't have ANY cash, even for coffee, but she insisted for us not to worry about it.

She sat us at a table and instructed another waitress to bring us coffee. It was much warmer inside and the coffee tasted great. Again and again, I have been impressed by the hospitality of the people we meet. So many people have given us ice water when we are hot and coffee when we are cold. They do it out of the kindness of their heart. This trip has really restored my faith in humanity. It also has challenged me to become a nicer person. I have never considered myself to be mean, but I know I can be nicer to complete strangers. That is what we are to these people we are meeting. Complete strangers. They have no reason to help us. But they do anyway.

"Would you like a hot cinnamon roll?" the waitress asked. We didn't want to be imposing, but our eyes let her know the answer was yes. It felt awkward for us not to have a way to repay them for their kindness. Today was to be a lesson in grace. After the cinnamon roll she asked if we'd like some cake. We were getting better at accepting by this point. Will chose chocolate cake. I had lemon.

About an hour and 3 cups of coffee later, we decided we should probably get on the road. It was getting close to lunch time and their wasn't a single table left open. I felt like we were taking up valuable real estate. "Before you go, here are two cheeseburgers and chips for you to take with you for lunch," the waitress (and I'm assuming owner) said as she handed us a bag of food. "You all need the energy for what you are doing. Be safe and God bless." The ladies of Strate's Kountry Kitchen in Kinsley, Kansas were so kind to us. Their kindness was unexpected and undeserved, but so appreciated. Thank you again.

Once we got on the road, we realized something miraculous. For the first time since we'd been in Kansas, we had a day with no wind. We didn't know how long this would last, so we headed east as quickly as we could. With flat roads and no wind we averaged almost 20 mph. Two hours later, we had gone 40 miles and were loving the ground we were covering. We stopped at a gas station in Stafford, Kansas and enjoyed our cheeseburgers and chips, while sitting outside.

The second half of the day went just as well as the first. By sunset we were on the outskirts of Hutchinson, Kansas and had traveled 90 miles in one day. This would be our longest distance of the trip so far. There weren't any RV parks nearby, so we found the cheapest motel to stay in town. After checking in, we found a diner nearby and both enjoyed a club sandwich. We were both feeling good about having just rode 90 miles and we spent the last half of dinner reminiscing about the past 49 days of this trip. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the 50th day. It feels like only yesterday we were starting out in soggy Astoria. As we paid our bill, the song "What a Wonderful World" began playing in the diner. "What a fitting ending to the day," I thought to myself. I would have said it aloud, but Will would call my overly sentimental. Well, actually I did say it aloud. "The words to the song actually say 'I think to myself...what a wonderful world.' Take Louie's advice and keep it to yourself," Will joked. We are fortunate to have this adventure and experience this wonderful land we call home. We've seen trees of green and skies of blue. We have already seen so much and there is more to see. What a wonderful world.

October 17, 2013 - DAY 50

The hotel we stayed in liked to advertise that they had free adult movies. It was on their website, the sign outside, on the night stand and even on the telephone in the room. We assumed adult movies meant a movie not rated G. We weren't quite sure why they were so proud of it. But seriously, this does show the kind of places we are staying when we do get a hotel. They are cheap, mom and pop places, normally costing less than 50 dollars. We have a few places like that in Pensacola, but I'd never think about staying there. They aren't all that bad. I guess I just considered myself "above them" before now. This is another way our perspectives have been changed by this trip.

Since being in Hutchinson, we have now met back up with the regular TransAmerica route and today we are heading south towards Wichita. Wichita is the largest city in Kansas and 40 miles away from Hutchinson. We were fortunate to have another non-windy day. We were getting lucky. On the way down to Wichita, we rode by a huge snake. It looked like it had recently been hit in the road, but it was still moving. Will rode right by it and didn't see it. I rode by afterwards and was terrified. It was between 3 or 4 feet. I'm not sure what kind it was, but I wasn't going to stick around to find out. We also ran into a bunch of spider webs on the trip to Wichita. They must have been floating in the wind, because out of nowhere you would feel a spider web hit you. Both of us would frantically brush them off. Sometimes the spider was with the web and you'd find him climbing up your arm. The brushing would become even more frantic at that point.

"Are you ok?" Will asked as he passed me stopped on the side of the road. I pointed towards the Kansas license plate on the side of the road. Will just shook his head and kept pedaling. "Kids and their toys," I heard Will say as he rode off. I caught up with him a few minutes later and was as happy as could be, having found another plate. Before long we were on the outskirts of Wichita.

We took one of the first exits into Wichita and started looking for a sewing shop or outdoor store. A few days ago Will's zipper on his sleeping bag broke again. This time it really broke, in half. So he was hoping to buy a replacement zipper. We found an alteration shop, but they didn't sell zippers. The sewing shop we passed was closed. But we did find a restaurant for lunch called World Buffet. It was a Chinese buffet and it was their happy hour, meaning you could get an all you can eat buffet for less than 6 bucks. It sounded divine. To sweeten the deal even more, they had fresh sushi on the bar. I'm surprised we didn't stay there until dinner. We did leave there pleasantly stuffed though. Will even got a fortune cookie with two fortunes inside. God bless Wichita.

During lunch we heard the government shutdown was over. We were glad to hear that and were relieved that it hadn't really affected us much. After lunch we found a bike path and made our way across Wichita. We were on the west side of the city and needed to make our way to the east side. It took us about 10 miles to reach the other side, where we stopped at an outdoors store. The 10 mile ride took a long time. We forgot how slow city riding can be, with constant stops and starts at stop lights and the like. We even had to wait for a train. We did get to ride through the campus of Wichita State University though. That was fun. Unfortunately, the outdoor shop we stopped at didn't have a zipper for Will's sleeping bag, so we decided to press on towards our destination for the night.

We made our way to Augusta, Kansas which is 15 miles east of Wichita. We realized that a storm is supposed to go through Kansas tomorrow and decided to get a motel again to ride out the storm. We got to Augusta a little after dark and checked in to the Augusta Inn. Directly across from our motel was a Walmart. We decided to grab sandwiches from Walmart for dinner and bring them back to the room. We had gone 75 miles for the day, right at the average we were hoping for during the trip. We aren't quite sure what we are going to do tomorrow during the rain. Probably get wet.

October 18, 2013

Sure enough, it rained. When we woke up, it was beginning to sprinkle outside. We looked up the forecast and it was supposed to rain all day. It didn't look like we'd get any snow, but the eastern part of Kansas was already. Both Will and I agreed that today would be a great day to take off. We hadn't taken an entire day off since October 4th in Walden, Colorado for Winter Storm Atlas. So after eating the complimentary breakfast, Will inquired into rebooking our room for another night. Sadly, the hotel was full for the coming night. Something about a reunion in town. Who knew Augusta, Kansas was so popular.

Check out time was 11 AM, so we took our time getting ready and packing our stuff. Today is my sister Jayme's birthday so I sent her a "Happy Birthday" text from Kansas. It'll be nice to see friends and family again when we return to Pensacola. My stepmom and dad are also coming to Illinois in a few days and we will get to see them next week. That'll be a nice change. Will and I discussed how it will be weird to start seeing other people we know in the coming weeks. For the past 7 weeks it's just been Will and I. Thankfully we have got along rather well and we are still friends. It took us a few days to adjust to being around each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I think we've adapted pretty well though.

After checking out of the Augusta Inn, we decided it would be a good day to do our laundry. We biked in the wind and rain to Sudzy Buds, a local laundromat. Doing our laundry was the perfect idea because it accomplished something that needed to be done, took a long time on a day we were trying to waste time, and it was inside, dry and warm. We spent a good 2 to 3 hours there. We brought our bikes inside the laundromat out of the rain. We enjoyed lunch of leftover sandwiches from the day before while waiting. There was even a tv to watch and crossword puzzles to complete. I figured we should just stay there all night. It was comfortable.

But after our laundry was done and we figured we had stayed long enough, we ventured out into the cold again. "Ding, ding, ding" rang the bell on the handlebar of my bicycle. Will turned around to see what I wanted. However, I wasn't ringing the bell. The rain had turned to sleet and it was landing on my bell. It landed with enough force and weight that it caused it to ring. This was definitely a day to stay inside.

We made our way to the only other motel in town and thankfully they had a room available. We basically spent the rest of the day in the room. I did venture out to Walmart to buy batteries for my rear light and a new pair of headphones. I picked up milkshakes from Dairy Queen later that evening. I also carved an outline of the US into the pumpkin I had been carrying. I guess I'm a bit of a busy body and have trouble just sitting still. Will enjoyed resting and watching tv all afternoon. I think I could learn to chill from Will.

We went to sleep earlier than normal and agreed to try and be on the road a little earlier than normal to cover as much ground as possible tomorrow. We even talked about trying to bike a century. Biking 100 miles in one day with fully loaded bikes wouldn't be easy, but we wanted to give it a try.

October 19, 2013

We were awake, showered and ready to go by 9 AM. That's really impressive for us. Even when we camp, we don't normally get on the road until 10:30 or 11 AM. We did stop for breakfast at McDonalds, but were on the road out of town by 9:45 AM.

The weather was beautiful. It started out chilly, but we knew it was supposed to warm up to the high 60s. The wind was steady, but from the west and at our backs the entire day. The route was smooth, with rolling hills. It was a beautiful Autumn day in Kansas. I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather be doing than biking today.

We put in 45 miles before lunch. We stopped for a quick bite to eat at a gas station. While at the gas station we had plenty of conversations with people who asked about the trip. We also ran into three other road bikers who were out for a Saturday ride. We left before they did, but they quickly passed us on their road bikes. I was tempted to try and keep up with them. I knew I'd probably regret it later, but I dropped into lowest gear and pedaled as fast and hard as I could. Surprisingly, I could keep up with the lead biker. They were averaging around 25 mph and somehow my fully loaded touring bike was keeping up. I guess my legs have got stronger over the past seven weeks. I was pretty excited about this. After about 7 miles they continued on their route in another direction. I slowed down, caught my breath, wondered how much I'd regret what I just did and waited for Will.

On the ride I did find three more license plates. I found one from Missouri and 2 from Ohio. The 2 from Ohio were within 10 feet of each other and identical. That's a first for the trip. Somehow someone lost both their front and rear license plates. I added them to the stack. The total is now 28.

As the sun set we pulled into Erie, Kansas. It sounds like creepy place to stay during Halloween season. When it was all said and done we traveled 106 miles for the day. This is our highest for the trip and Will's first century. Needless to say, we are feeling pretty good right now. We will see how sore we are in the morning.

October 20, 2013

For some reason we decided to stay up late the night before. Well, I wouldn't say we decided to, it more or less just happened. We don't normally stay up after midnight, but we didn't go to bed until 2 AM. We were up by 7:30 AM getting ready for the day. All this was after biking 100 miles the day before. This is probably where the trouble began.

Surprisingly, I wasn't sore the next day. I thought the race with the road biker or the longer distance would do it. I did make sure to stretch really well afterwards, which probably helped. Will was a little sore, but not much. After a little morning stretch, he was good to go.

The weather was absolutely beautiful. The temperature was rising into the mid-60s with a refreshingly cool, but not too cold or brisk, wind. The wind was light and variable, either at our back or side the whole day. This weather is what I had imagined when day dreaming about taking this trip years ago. It was the perfect Autumn weather and I was loving it.

After a few breakfast biscuits from the gas station (again, surprisingly good) we left Erie and headed east. In a few hours, we made it to Girard where we decided to stop for an early lunch. Our options were limited, but we chose a grill that served hamburger, hotdogs and chicken fingers. The food was alright. Only after we finished eating did I notice an advertisement on the window over where we leaned our bikes. The Catholic Church was having a fall festival including a $6 meal of turkey, dressing, corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, dessert and drink. It was happening right then. I would have much rather eaten there. That also probably explained why we were the only ones in the restaurant.

After lunch, we continued on the road and were soon at the Missouri state line. A few thousand feet before the state line was train tracks and a collection of unused rail cars. We decided to stop there for a little while and play on the train. The rail cars looked in good condition, but didn't seem to be used recently. We were hoping to stand on top of them, but they didn't have a top since they were used to carry coal. We felt like little kids climbing up the ladders of a jungle gym.

After playtime and pictures on the border, we biked our last section of the day to Lamar, Missouri. We decided to stay there because it was Sunday night, aka The Walking Dead was on at 8 PM. We had gone a total of 70 miles for the day and we had even made it in time for the first showing of The Walking Dead. We had done much better than our previous Sunday. Thankfully the weather had cooperated today.

We enjoyed the second episode of The Walking Dead. At this point we should have just said good night and gone to bed. But instead, somehow Will and I got into an argument about something really stupid and trivial. I'm not going to share the details, but clearly we were both irritable, probably due to exhaustion, lack of sleep and being around each other 24/7 for 7 weeks. It was bound to happen. As if the show was foreshadowing the coming fight, one of the characters in The Walking Dead had said the line "When you care about people, hurt is kind of part of the package." For some reason, I wrote it down when she said it. Will and I are great friends, but at this point we could care less. Again, we knew this was bound to happen, but it still isn't enjoyable.

October 21, 2013

When I woke up the next morning, I was trying to get over the argument from the previous night as I packed my stuff. I was ready to go by 9 AM, but Will hadn't begun to stir out of bed yet. A kinder, more understanding Jeb would have found a book and enjoyed it until Will was ready to go. Instead, I decided to bike separately for the day. Before leaving I mentioned the idea to Will as he stirred out of his slumber. I suggested we meet in the city of Fair Grove, MO about 75 miles away that evening and he agreed. I figured the time alone would do us good.

Most of the ride felt normal. We often will bike separately during sections of the days, but will always meet up when we stopped. It did feel a little strange eating lunch alone. When people asked about the trip during the day, I would use the word "we" and they would look around. They thought I had multiple personalities for a while until I explained I had a friend also on this trip a few towns back.

Overall, the ride was pleasant and the weather was still great, though a little colder than the day before. I had read about the terrain of Missouri and it was living up to the descriptions. Flat Kansas was now hilly Missouri. The description called it a self-propelled roller coaster. That is exactly what it was.

At lunch, I did text Will to check on how his ride was going and extended an olive branch of peace. Already, the fresh air, exercise and time alone had helped. I didn't hear back, but decided I'd turn my phone on at each city I passed through. We don't normally keep our phones on because of battery life. I figured Will was probably doing the same thing.

I got back on the road and stopped a few times for water and snacks. I was making pretty good time and hoped to be in Fair Grove by 5 PM. At one of the towns I stopped, I did get a text from Will letting me know that all was well, there were no hard feelings and he was a few towns behind me. That made me feel better. I knew we'd both be fine on our own, but I at least feel better knowing the other person is alright. And I prefer that conflicts be resolved quickly. It looked like things were looking up.

I found my 29th license plate, a Missouri tag. I'll see my parents at the end of the week in Illinois and it'll be nice to have them take the plates home. They are starting to take up some space. I strapped the newest plate to the back of my bike and continued on. I now was in a great mood. I was enjoying the weather, the ride, my recent find, and conflict resolution. I was 10 miles outside of Fair Grove and I was going to enjoy a good hour break before dark to rest and find a place to spend the night.

For some reason, I decided to leave my phone on for the final 10 miles of my trip. My battery was getting low, but I figured I could charge it when I got to town. Within minutes, at around 4:30 PM I received this text from Will:

"My spoke just broke. I'll let you know when I find out where the hell I am."

Of course. The first day in 54 days that we bike separately, something happens. I wasn't sure if his bike was still rideable or not. Because our bikes have so many spokes, you can sometime still ride them with a few broken. However, it's not that great for the bike to do that. After a while, Will figured he was only a few miles from the town of Willard and could make it and stay there for the evening. I was still 10 miles outside of Fair Grove. We were about 25 miles apart. And Will needed to take his bike to a bike shop. There weren't any in Willard. We needed a plan. Honesty, we needed rescued. Creating a plan wasn't going to be easy because we were split up and had spotty cell phone coverage.

My first idea was to text April. April is a good friend of mine that l met while some other friends of mine were attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Eventually April moved to Pensacola and even ran the coffee shop for a while at the church I work. Since then, April got married, lives in DC and travels the world. I'm not sure exactly what she does, but I'm pretty sure it involves promoting world peace and solving world hunger. She is pretty amazing. Also, April grew up in Missouri. Her maiden name is Hammons and her family is in the black walnut business. We were in Hammons country and if anybody could help, it was going to be April.

"Do you know anyone who lives in Springfield?" I texted April. "My whole family lives in Springfield!" was her response. Springfield was the closest and largest city to both Will and I. And they had numerous bike shops for Will to take his bike tomorrow. Within a few hours, April's dad had driven to Willard and picked Will and his bike up. Once I made it to Fair Grove, I got on Hwy 65 and headed the 20 miles south to Springfield. By 8 PM I made it to April's parents' home to find Will enjoying a dinner of delicious leftovers. It made for a long day of 95 miles, but we were back in the same city. "I'm never doing that again," I though. We will bike together for the rest of the trip.

"This isn't exactly how I thought the day would turn out," I told Will. "Me either," he agreed. Thanks to the wonderful Hammons family it turned out fine. They have a beautiful home and have been incredibly hospitable. Mr. Hammons was a saint for picking up Will and we can't thank him enough. We will take his bike into the shop in the morning. None of this would have been possible without April making the connections. She rescued us, all the way from DC, and continued her promotion of world peace, starting with Will and I. I am thankful for friends and their families, both near and far. This country has become a network of people who I know and love. I feel like they are watching out for us, and it's a beautiful thing.

October 22, 2013

The next morning we rode into Springfield to visit three bike shops. The first, Hub Coffee and Bike Shop, was a trendy, hipster friendly store. The coffee selection was good, but the bike supplies weren't. Will had some coffee and I gobbled up some free internet. Then we moved on. The second bike shop, Queen City Cycles, was much more impressive. It was the first Kona dealer we had visited on the trip. We lusted over the new 2014 Sutras and enjoyed looking at their extensive selection of bikes. They even offered free tune ups for touring cyclists. We took advantage of the opportunity and both Will and I let them fine tune our bikes. They pumped up our tires and made sure Will's spokes were in working order.

Our final bike shop of the day was Sunshine Bike Shop. This store was recommended to us by Mr. Hammons. They also had an extensive selection of bikes and accessories. By the time we had visited all three and got our bikes tuned up, it was about 2 PM. We hadn't made any forward progression on the trail and felt the urgency to get back on the road. But first we needed lunch. We took advantage of being in a big town and visited a Golden Corral. After we had eaten our weight in food, we finally got on the road.

Once we were on the road, I turned around briefly to make sure Will was still behind me. He was about 30 feet behind, but had stopped and was motioning for me to come back. I got my hopes up, thinking it was a license plate I had overlooked. However, it was more. Will had noticed a baby snapping turtle attempting to cross the highway as we biked by. I have no idea how he noticed the tiny creature. "You completely missed and rode by a 4 foot snake in Kansas, but somehow you see a baby turtle," I commented to Will.

At this point he had picked up the turtle and carried him safely off of the highway. The turtle, not knowing what to think of the situation, urinated on Will's hand. Even after that, we couldn't get over how cute the little guy was. "Do you wanna keep him?" Will asked. I quickly shook my head yes. We emptied out my handlebar bag and made a bed of grass and leaves. We then placed Andrew Lincoln (Will's temporary name for the turtle) into the front bag. We took a few pictures and asked Instagram followers to help name the guy. We have a lot of suggestions and were trying to decide on a final name.

"You better not fall," Will said. "I'll do my best not to." It was a bumpy ride for Andrew, but he seemed to handle it pretty well. I also found another Missouri plate on the ride. The day was finishing well. The road we were on took us through Amish territory. Will stopped to talk with some Amish people, whose horse and buggy had got between him and me. I didn't know he had stopped, but would have loved to get a picture of that. The Amish aren't that fond of photos though.

It was forecast to be below freezing, so we found a motel. We made Andrew a home in the sink and ordered a pizza from an adjacent gas station. We researched what kind of turtle Andrew was and what they eat. We quickly figured out we had no idea what we were doing with a turtle. We decided we would have to let him go in the morning. We made an ambitious plan for the coming days. We were hoping to make it to Mississippi River by Friday night. It was going to involve a few long days.

October 23 - 25, 2013

Andrew lived through his night in the sink, but I don't think he appreciated it very much. So first thing in the morning we set him free in the woods behind our hotel. I set him next to a tree and then ran inside to get my camera to take a picture before he ran off. However, by the time I got back he was gone. He was clearly in a hurry to get away.

The next few days were long and hilly. As the days progressed, the hills got higher and longer. We wanted to get to Jackson, MO, right outside of Cape Girardeau by Friday night. Friday was our longest day, traveling 88 miles. Most of the ride was through the Mark Twain National Forest. As we rode through the forest, hundreds of leaves were falling on us like confetti. Fall had come to the east and the colors were becoming more vibrant.

I found half of a license plate and 3/4 of a license plate over these few days. I'm not sure where the rest of the plates were, but I took them anyway. On Friday, October 25th, we traveled through the small town of Williamsville, MO. Will felt very at home in a town bearing his name. By 7:30, after riding the last 10 miles in the dark, we did make it to Jackson. It was our longest day for a while at 90 miles. A friend of ours from Pensacola, Jody Neufeld, had arranged for us to stay with family. We biked to the home of Rob and Lisa Friedrich and introduced ourselves. Soon after, Jody's daughter Janet, picked us up and took us out for pizza. After pizza she gave us a quick tour of town and took us back to our home for the evening. It was good to see an old friend and make new ones.

October 26, 2013

We woke up the next morning to he glorious smell of bacon cooking in the kitchen. The Friedrich's had prepared a wonderful breakfast of omelets with fresh veggies, grits, biscuits, bacon, ham and coffee. It was delicious and we devoured it up like it was our last meal. We enjoyed breakfast with Rob, Lisa, their son and a schoolmate of their son who had spent the night. It was a great start to the day and we are very thankful for the Friedrich's hospitality.

After breakfast we packed our bikes and headed towards Cape Girardeau and the Mississippi River. After spending a few minutes riding around downtown, we rode over the expansive bridge crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. Being on the east side of the Mississippi really makes me feel like we are getting closer to home. I guess we are officially now in the east.

The ride through Illinois started off flat and developed into rolling hills. It was an enjoyable ride with a generous tail wind for most of the day. After one stop for lunch, we finished the day in Vienna, Illinois. We found a place to stay and called it a successful day. On the way into town I noticed a United Methodist church with an 8:30 AM service. We made plans to attend in the morning before heading out of town. It was Saturday night at 8:30 PM. We were happy to call it a successful day and retire for the evening.

October 27, 2013

We woke up in enough time to get ready and bike the short distance to Vienna UMC. We arrived a few minutes early and were greeted by the handful of people in attendance. After explaining what we were doing, the congregation was quick to ask us many questions. Soon they introduced me to the pastor.

"Do you know where Pine Forest UMC is?" asked the pastor after hearing I was from Pensacola. I let him know that I did indeed know where Pine Forest was and it was actually the church I grew up in. He had attended a Pastor's Conference in 1998 at Pine Forest. The praise band I was a part of had played at the conference. It is a small world.

The service was meaningful and I knew all the songs but one. During the meet and greet time one of the choir members mentioned she noticed how enthusiastically I was singing. It felt good to be back in a Methodist Church. No matter where you go, it feels like home. It did my soul well.

After the service we were invited to their time of fellowship and breakfast. We quickly accepted and enjoyed a vast array of delicious carbs. It provided the perfect fuel for our ride. We enjoyed our time at the church and the fellowship with the pastor and congregants. A few hours later we stopped for lunch in Golconda, Illinois and enjoyed their Sunday specials. The town had a "boil water" notice posted everywhere, so we were glad we were doing ok on the amount of water we had.

After lunch, Will stopped in the town gas station for an after lunch slice of pizza. He decided to do that instead of having a piece of pie at the diner. I just snacked on my bag of M&Ms. This blog is mostly about what we eat, I know. Just a reminder, biking and eating are about the only things we've been doing for the past two months.

After leaving Golconda, we made our way to Elizabethtown. Both towns are on the Ohio River. We were on our way to Cave In Rock, Illinois (also on the Ohio River). We were particularly excited about this evening because my parents were going to meet us and spend the next week with us on the road. An added bonus was that they brought their camper and we would now have a free, warm place to stay for the next week.

The past few hundred miles of riding has been littered with fuzzy little caterpillar looking things crossing the road. You really have to dodge them or you will crush their tiny little bodies. I don't think I ran over any, but their were a few close calls. I'm not sure why they all were trying to cross the road. That sounds like the start of a bad joke.

As we neared the town of Cave In Rock, Illinois we saw another biker coming over a hill traveling towards us. As he rode closer, I realized it was my dad! What a sight for sore eyes. It was great to see another familiar face and know a warm (and free) place to stay was near. My parents will be traveling with us for the week. My dad will ride with us some and we will be staying in their camper each evening. This part of the trip might just feel like a vacation. Well, a vacation that you bike a lot during.

My dad escorted Will and I to the campground a few miles away where my stepmom, Sharolyn, was also waiting. We then loaded into their truck and headed to find some dinner. Their was a restaurant in the park, but it supposedly closes early on Sunday. We pulled into the parking lot to indeed see the CLOSED sign posted on the door. My dad insisted that we check the door to confirm it was closed. He proceeded inside and soon motioned for us to join. They were closed and cleaning up, but they offered to let us eat from the leftovers on the buffet. We accepted the deal and enjoyed another buffet. To make it even better, it was only $5 each.

After dinner we visited the actual cave in a rock in which the city and park are named. It's a massive cave in the side of a cliff by the water. It's pretty impressive. Will and I still had our biking shoes on as we explored the cave. We were so hungry when we first arrived at the campground that we had decided not to change shoes. Probably not the best decision. And to finish the day off, we watched The Walking Dead in the comfort of my parents camper, which is equipped with satellite. They were even good sports about it, watching with us and not asking any questions during the show. I'm so glad to have them here. It's going to be a great week.

October 28-29, 2013

October 28th is Sharolyn's birthday. I gave her a United Methodist Women cookbook I picked up from a church in Walden, CO. I had been carrying it for weeks now. She seemed to like it. Another added bonus of having my parents around is that we don't have to carry our full load of gear on our bikes this week. We reduced our 4 panniers to 2 and are only carrying essential items for the day. My dad is biking with us some during the day and then is moving the camper to our destination for the night. It's a fun and efficient process we've made. Carrying less weight and not having to worry where we end up is letting us cover more ground this week. Tuesday we even biked another century (100 miles), our second of the trip. We hope to be close to Virginia by the end of the week when my parents leave. We are having good progress, making it all the way to Bardstown by Tuesday night. The weather and winds have cooperated and the lighter load has been nice. Let's hope this continues for the rest of the week.

I'm trying to spend as much time as possible with my parents while they are here, hence the shorter blogs. I'm still taking good notes about what we do during the day and may write more once they leave. Until then, this will have to suffice.

October 30-31, 2013

After Bardstown, we set our eyes on Berea and then on Hazard, KY. It was another ambitious few days, but we again wanted to take advantage of the lighter load we were carrying. Additionally, during these few days we did take a little time to sight see with my parents. On Wednesday, early evening my parents took us to visit Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. This is a beautifully restored shaker town on the outskirts of Lexington. We got there when the shops were starting to close, but we were able to walk the grounds and tour a few of the buildings.

On the way Shaker Village, I realized we were only about 10 miles outside of Wilmore, KY where a good friend of mine, Chase Franklin, lives and works. I texted him on the way and he quickly responded. He met us at the park as we were getting ready to leave. It was good to see a Chase again. I hadn't seen him for a while. He is the type of friend that you pick up right where you left off. There is nothing lost between space and time. Plus he actually knows Will and my parents also. So everyone was happy to see Chase.

We hadn't decided where to camp for the evening, so we asked Chase for suggestions. He quickly suggested the Kentucky Horse Park above Lexington. We didn't have any other options so we headed that way. Chase, Will and I loaded in his car and led my parents, with camper in tow, through the winding hills towards Kentucky Horse Park. It took a while, but when we did arrive at the park where we were greeted with an expansive area of rolling pastures, camping grounds, equestrian parks, horse stadiums, stables and more. This place was impressive. My parents set up camp while Chase, Will and I went for dinner at Golden Corral. We enjoyed fellowship with Chase as we ate more than we should have.

When we arrived back at the park, Chase even hung around for a while as we started laundry and searched for quarters ($7 to wash and dry 2 loads). He tried out my dad's motor assisted bike and took a tour of the camper. Sadly, after a while, Chase did say goodbye. We promised to see each other at Christmas, which now seems strangely soon. I can't believe November is only a few days away.

The next morning my dad and I took a leisurely bike ride around the horse park. It was a beautiful ride along fields of green grass and trees of bright yellow, sunny orange and fiery red. We rode by a gazebo where people were gathered for a horse auction. We rode by training course where riders were exercising the horses. We even rode by the impressive Rolex Stadium that is host to world championship equestrian competitions. It was a neat place to stay and you could tell we were all enjoying the park, especially my parents.

After packing up the camper, we drove to get us back on the trail. We were well north of the TransAmerica having stayed at the Kentucky Horse Park. It was Halloween but none of us had a costume. I guess Will and I decided to be bikers for Halloween. The weather was forecast to be bad in the evening, with rain, chance of tornados and strong wind. My parents wanted to head for home and beat the weather, so after we arrived in Hazard, KY they continued on towards Pensacola. They left us in a hotel (the nicest one we have stayed the entire trip) and we said our goodbyes. It was so good to see them and spend the week with them. My dad was able to ride with us some, which is something I was so glad we were able to share. He even set a record for the most miles he has ridden in a month. They put in a lot of work on their vacation following us around. Most of their trip was spent driving to meet us and setting up and breaking down the camper. They are the best. I couldn't ask for better parents. I love them a lot.

Once they left, Will and I started repacking our panniers. My front rack had come loose and I had to fix that. We left anything we knew we wouldn't need before the end of the trip with my parents. That included my 32 license plates, some clothes I knew I wouldn't need and a few other things. It gave me a lot more space. Early in the day my dad also bought me a new back tire for my bike. 3500 miles had completely worn it out and it was almost ready to completely break apart. Will was smart enough to rotate his tires half way and didn't have the same problem.

My parents also left us with some additional food from the camper. We packed some items and ate the rest for dinner. The hotel we are staying in is located right next to an Applebee's. At about 10:30 PM we decided to walk next door and eat some half priced appetizers. This reminded me of Pensacola. A few years ago, me and my housemates would take advantage of the half priced appetizers after 9 PM. It's a really good deal. Will and I discussed how much waiters probably hate when people come in and get appetizers and water. That is exactly what we did. My before bed snack only cost $4.10.

It was Halloween night, but it didn't feel like it for us. There were no trick or treaters around and no one was in costume. Well one person in Applebee's was. My parents had given us a little candy and that did make it feel a little more like a holiday. I tried to talk Will into trick or treating down the hotel hallway, but he refused. So we just watched the movie Gremlins as we went to bed. Scarier movies were on tv, but that was the scariest one I could handle. We are hoping to be in Virginia in the next few days. We think we might be at the finish line in 10-12 days. It's surreal that it's almost over. Also, congratulations to the winner of the pumpkin carving contest. It was a landslide victory for Martin Tanley. It was an amazing three pumpkins.

November 1, 2013

It is the first day of November. Thanksgiving is at the end of the month and Christmas is soon after. We started this trip in August. I can't believe we have been gone this long. It really has flown by. With less than two weeks left, I'm trying to savor each moment and not take anything for granted.

After a good sleep and a hot breakfast at our hotel (thanks again to my parents) we headed out. It took us a good thirty minutes for us to become fully adjusted to the weight of our bikes again. While I had sent some supplies home with my parents, our fully loaded bikes still probably weigh over 65 lbs. You can feel the difference between loaded and unloaded, especially going up hills. And these hills are becoming mountains. The Appalachian mountains, to be exact. It's our last formidable foe before the finish line. It's been weeks since our last mountains. But this time we are practiced and ready. We have completed the Cascades and the Rockies. Bring on the Appalachians.

As I was pedaling up one of the larger hills, I was surprised when my entire pedal shaft fell of the crank set. The pedal was still hooked to my shoe as the whole left side of the crank dangled along. I hadn't noticed that it had become loose while pedaling, to the point of falling off. Will was in front, but I was able to yell loud enough to get his attention. I unloaded my bike, turned it upside down and inspected the situation. Two screws had become loose, causing the problem. I put the arm back on, tightened the screws and we were good to go. We then continued over the hill.

When my parents left, they also left us with a lot of snacks. The extra space in my panniers where now filled with everything from Sunchips, to Cheetos, to Amish made caramel popcorn and chocolate. Every time we stopped, we snacked. It was great. However, at this rate, the snacks will last about a day, at the most. After we got tired of snacking, we did stop for an actual lunch, at Dairy Queen.

As we continued riding, the fall colors just became more and more impressive. While we have seen fall colors for most of the trip now, it's still hard to get over. I can't help looking at the vibrant palette of reds, yellows, oranges and greens being painted over the hillsides. It's like buckets of the brightest paints were spilled on the trees. It's absolutely breathtaking.

One negative of the small country roads we are on, is the absence of a shoulder. And because of the twist, turns and hills, it made it difficult for cars to pass us safely. We would have a line of traffic backed up behind us as they waited for an opportunity to pass. This made a few motorists unhappy. During the entire trip I think we've had less than five drivers honk angrily or give us the one finger salute. However, we had three in one day today. If there was a shoulder, we would ride on it. The path we are riding is a national bike route. It's not like we could have done anything differently. Some people just need to chill out.

We also had more dog chases today than any other day. Kentucky really needs to look at their leash laws. We probably had between 10-15 chases. None of the dogs really bothered us, but it was getting dangerous for the cars as they ran out in front of them. Sadly, I even saw one small dog get hit by a car right in front of me. It was a tragic site that I've only seen one other time in my entire life. I hope to never see it again. It wasn't really the motorists fault. The dog was too tiny to see from his car and he had just ran from his yard to chase me. I felt more responsible than the car did. I just wish the owners would have kept them fenced up. Then this wouldn't have happened.

At one of our rest stops at a gas station, a nice old man brought both Will and I a bottle of water from inside. It was a really kind gesture and we thanked him. He asked us where we were headed and we told him Virginia. We are getting close to Virginia and to say we are heading to Virginia is no longer impressive. We now need to say that we are headed to Yorktown.

We decided to head to Jenkins for the evening because it was a slightly bigger town. It was off our route, but we figured we could meet back up with the route soon. We knew to make it to Jenkins we would still have to bike into the night a little bit, so we continued on. When we did finally make it, it was almost 9 PM. Overall we had 3 large climbs during the day and had biked for about 8 hours. But we were closer to Virginia.

The only place to eat in town was a Hardee's. I can't remember the last time I ate at a Hardee's. But beggars can't be choosy. So we ate at Hardee's. On top of that, there was no place to stay in Jenkins. No motels and no campgrounds. We were too tired and it was too late to travel anywhere else. So we now had to find a place to stay.

Like most places we had visited the past few days, it seemed like the town was built on a hill. There was very little flat land. I had an idea to stay in the yard of the local United Methodist church. The only problem was the Methodist church really didn't have any flat land for us to camp on. Plan A and Plan B didn't work. We needed a Plan C. It was getting colder and we were both ready for bed. Not to mention, Will was a little annoyed that we had gone off route in order to stop in a town with a place to stay and it ended up not having a place to stay.

We got back on our bikes and explored the rest of the small town. Off of the main road was another small community church on a hill. Next to the church was a parking lot on a higher hill. At the edge of the parking lot was a stretch of grass just barely wide enough to fit our tent and long enough to barely fit both tents. So we quickly set up camp and got inside our tents. We were asleep within minutes.

November 2, 2013

"Cock-a-doodle-doo...Cock-a-doodle-doo" blasted loud enough to wake me from my sleep at about 8 AM. It was a natural alarm clock provided by the city of Jenkins. I was surprised how loud the rooster was. That guy must have a good set of lungs. "Cock-a-doodle-doo...Cock-a-doodle-doo" sounded the alarm again and this time it was even louder. I had enough and couldn't sleep anywhere. I unzipped my tent and peeked my head out. To my surprise I saw a rooster starring at me in the parking lot. I shook my head and told him to quit it. His response was "Cock-a-doodle-doo...Cock-a-doodle-doo."

I started packing up my stuff and figured Will would wake up soon. It was hard to sleep through the noise. I spent about an hour getting ready and Will still didn't stir from his tent. So I decided to go grab breakfast at Hardee's without him. Before I left, I texted him, letting him know where I was. Hardee's was only a few blocks away.

Hardee's was packed. We are talking about 15 people in front of me in line. It was Saturday morning at about 9 AM and Hardee's has good breakfasts. I'm glad I wasn't in a hurry. After a little wait, I ordered and sat down. As I was enjoying my meal, the power went off. A few seconds later it flickered back on, then it went off again. There were plenty of windows, so I had plenty of light to continue eating. The workers automatically went into "emergency mode." I guess the policy of Hardee's in a power outage is to let the people who are inside stay, but not allow anyone new to enter the building, So I was fine to stay and enjoy my meal. A few minutes later Will texted and said he would be there in 10 or so minutes.

When Will arrived the power was still off. He tried to get in, but they wouldn't let him. They had begun selling the leftover food that was already prepared to people who walked up and wanted to buy it. "Do you want me to buy you some of the leftovers?" I asked Will through the window. I was surprised how soundproof the glass was. We couldn't really hear each other, but could read lips. He turned down the offer and instead decided to just find some food at the gas station. He headed the few blocks to the gas station while I cleaned up my tray. By the time I got to my bike, Will was back. "The gas station was closed too. Power is out in the whole town." I smiled and tried really hard not to comment that we wouldn't have had this problem if he'd just had woke up earlier.

During breakfast I met a former high school coach and coal mining man. He was a talker and he told me a lot about the city, for about 30 minutes. It was interesting to learn the history of the small town and meet a coal miner. We were definitely in coal county. We had already passed a dozen coal mines. Not to mention a bunch of semis carrying coal. It reminded me of the movie "October Sky."

Having limited options, Will decided just to make breakfast on the camp stove. We rode back to our old camp site and he made a breakfast of ramen. "I was awake when you left for breakfast," he said. "But you didn't get out of your tent" I responded. "You don't get credit for waking up until you are actually up and moving." Will seemed to disagree.

After breakfast we finally got on the road for the day. As we left town, we noticed the power was back on. Will had timed that perfectly. The ride out of town was straight up. We were very close to Virginia, but it was at the top of the hill. After a while we made it to the top. We were now in our last state. Hard to believe. Virginia is a long state, though, and we are traveling the entire length. So after a little fanfare, we continued on, this time down the other side.

We didn't get quite as far as we were hoping for the day. The climbs and head wind had quickly zapped our energy. So when we arrived in a city with a cheap motel we took it. We vowed to go further the next day after more rest. During our evening we also made a detailed schedule until the end of the trip. Will's parents needed to know when to pick us up. We discovered we had less than 500 miles remaining and about 10 days. We even discussed titles for the book about the trip. We settled on one we both like, but I'm not going to reveal it yet.

Even though our ride was short, we did find a Virginia license plate, completing our collection. We also remembered that we gained an hour of sleep tonight because of a Daylight Saving Time. We vowed to be on the road by 8 AM to make up for the shortened ride and to beat the sunset which is now at 5 PM. So at about 10 PM we were asleep.

November 3, 2013

If you haven't figured this out already, I tend to wake up first. I'm pretty sure I've already said that. Like always, I woke up around 7:00 and took a shower. After my shower, I then go check out the continental breakfast if we are staying in a motel. I didn't expect much out of this motel. The breakfast was in a separate room and I was the only one there. I made myself a bowl of cereal and some toast. The only jelly available was orange marmalade. That seemed like a weird flavor to be the only option. It seems like grape and strawberry would be the regulars. I tried the orange and wasn't impressed. Oranges should just focus on juice and leave jelly to strawberries.

As I was having this fruity debate in my head a Hispanic man walked into the breakfast area. "There are four 'coons in the trash can outside," he said in very accented English. "The trash is too low and they can't get out. They are stuck." I didn't quite know how to respond. I wasn't sure if he wanted my help to rescue the raccoons or what. Will has been looking for a coon skin hat to buy though. Maybe this was our chance to make our own. Before I knew it, the man had disappeared. I assume he went back outside to check on the captive creatures. I'm not sure if he was ever able to rescue them.

After I finished my breakfast I returned back to the room and was impressed to find Will awake. Maybe we would get on the road at a descent time. Will visited the continental breakfast after packing up, but decided he wanted breakfast from the Hardee's across the street. He probably had been craving it since the power outage in Jenkins.

It's amazing what a good nights sleep can do for you. We were making much better time today and covering much more ground. We stayed on the road for most of the day and stopped a few hours before dark in Abingdon, Virginia. We contemplated continuing on to Damascus, but there was cheaper places to stay in Abingdon. We found he Alpine Motel, a small motel that hadn't been remodeled since the 1970s. But it was half the price of the bigger chain hotels nearby. As we walked to our room, we were even surprised to see the words APLINE MOTEL in block letters on the hillside above the hotel. It reminded me of the HOLLYWOOD sign. I couldn't help but laugh.

Before settling down of the day, we did treat ourselves to a meal at the nearby Cracker Barrel. I was getting tired of fast food and camp food and requested to go there. It was a nice change. After dinner we went back to the motel and got ready to watch The Walking Dead.

"You'll never believe this," I told Will as I walked inside from an evening chocolate milk run to the convenience store. "The ALPINE MOTEL Hollywood-esque sign lights up." We both walked outside and starred at it. This place had character. We aren't sure why everyone wouldn't choose this place over the others.

November 4, 2013

There are basically two big climbing days left on our journey. Today and our last mountain in about 4 days. Today's climb was going to be two thousand foot climbs separated by a little valley. We prepared ourselves for the worst, but were relieved when they turned out to be much easier than we thought.

Before the climb, we stopped in the town of Damascus. We were now in Appalachian Trail country. Damascus is definitely a town based around hikers and bikers. An older hippy gentleman greeted us on our arrival into town and asked us about our trip. I mentioned I need to get a replacement cleat for my shoes and he showed us to the bike shop. Actually there are about 5 or 6 bikes shops in town. Sadly none of them had the right type of cleat. I needed a road bike cleat. All the bike shops just carried mountain bike cleats. I was confident I could just make do with what I had. We did find some rad TransAmerica 76 bike stickers though.

As we headed out of town we rode briefly on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is a hike/bike trail that runs parallel to our trail for a while. We could have taken it further, but decided against it, since it isn't paved and our bikes our better suited to paved surfaces. We also passed several sections of the Appalachian Trail throughout the day.

I am somewhat familiar with this area because of a backpacking ministry called "Wilderness Trail" that is based around this area. While biking today we actually rode directly passed the Wilderness Trail property (known simply as "property"). We stopped and visited the grounds for a few minutes. I was surprised to find one worker there while I was visiting. I expected the place to be completely deserted now that the summer is over. He saw me looking around and taking pictures and asked if he could help me with anything. I explained that I was from First UMC Pensacola and had visited a few times over the past years. He invited me to stay as long as I wanted. I just took a few pictures and headed back down the hill. I was surprised how much smaller the property felt when you are on a bike. Walking makes things feel much bigger.

We decided to stay in Troutsdale for the evening. Troutsdale is the next town after passing the Wilderness Trail property. A small baptist church in Troutsdale has a small two room building with bunk beds for hikers and bikers to stay. We are the only ones here and it's nice to have a place that is warm. The temperature has dropped again and the high was only in the 50s today. We arrived at the hostel a few hours before dark. We made ourselves some coffee and oatmeal to warm up. Will recorded another video blog, our first for quite a while after our snack. At 5:30, we made a dinner of broccoli and cheese fettuccine and mashed potatoes. At 7:00 PM, Will got so bored that he agreed to play me in Scrabble. By 8 PM we are in bed. This might be the earliest we have turned in. It's cold outside, but warm in our sleeping bags. Both our cell phones don't get service, so we are completely detached from the outside world. This is a great time to write and think.

Being here reminds me of the adventures of Wilderness Trail with the youth from church. When I chaperoned the trip in the summer of 2012, I never expected to be biking by these trails a year later. It is amazing the difference a year makes. If I listen closely enough I can still hear the sounds of youthful adventure and excitement echoing in the hills. This is definitely a beautiful part of the country. Will agrees. "The map forgot to mention how beautiful the ride was today," Will mentioned at the bottom of our first descent of the day. "After the west, I didn't think the east would have much to offer. I was wrong."

November 5, 2013

The hiker/biker lodge provided by the Baptist church in Troutsdale was such a welcomed place to stay. The small room even had a heater which greatly improved the living conditions. Both Will and I ended up sleeping over 10 hours. We awoke well rested and ready for another day, another adventure.

We made ourselves oatmeal and coffee using the hot water machine inside the lodge. After breakfast we were even able to get a warm shower in the shower facilities attached to the back of the main church building. The congregants of the church had thought of everything and kept this ministry well supplied. Inside the lodge was also a journal where guests could sign in and write something. From the number of entries, I could tell this was a popular place to stay amongst hikers and especially bikers. While Will finished getting ready I wrote an entry in the journal. "Is your journal entry already two pages long?" Will asked once he return to the lodge and still saw me writing. I shook my head in the affirmative. I guess I'm wordy.

The morning ride started out with an expected 500 foot climb that was over before we knew it. The rest of the day was rolling hills, with a few steep climbs, usually right before we got into a town. We did have a slight head wind for most of the day, but it didn't really seem to affect us. Overall, we rode 67 miles for the day, which got us within a few miles of being back on the schedule we created a few days ago.

Today was a day of meeting new people. We stopped in Wytheville for a buffet lunch. We initially planned to eat at a Chinese restaurant but decided against it when we realized they only offered a buffet on Sundays. So we settled on a Shoney's, which was located directly next door. Neither of us had been to a Shoney's in a really long time. Will is not even really sure he has ever been to one. It was ok. "This is no Golden Corral" Will critiqued as he set down with his plate of food. He was right.

We did have the pleasure of meeting Scott Coon and some of his friends during lunch. They asked us all about the trip and we enjoyed answering their questions. After lunch we stopped by a gas station to refill our water bottles. In the brief time we were there, we were stopped by two other individuals. The first guy was an avid local biker and asked if he could buy us lunch. When we told him we had just finished eating, he insisted on giving us $20 for our next meal. How cool.

Our after lunch ride took us on a service road next to the interstate for a few miles. From our route you could see that the traffic was backed up for miles on the interstate. "I'm thankful we aren't stuck in that traffic," I told Will. "I'm thankful we never get stuck in traffic," Will replied. We are trying to make a habit of saying one thing we are thankful for each day in November.

"Was that a truck full of Christmas trees that just passed us?" I asked Will. "It appears so." It was one of a half dozen or so we passed. I didn't realize it, but western Virginia has a lot of Christmas tree farms. It's now the time of year where they cut the trees and start delivering them across the United States. This was just another reminder of how long we've been on this trip.

As we were passing through Draper, VA, we were stopped by a bearded dude on a bike in front of a bike shop. He introduced himself as Thomas Hash and invited us to visit his shop. He told us that he had completed the TransAmerica in 2012 and then had moved to Draper soon thereafter to run this shop. "It'll change your life. Be prepared for that when you get back," he warned. I suspected it would. He was a super cool guy and gave both Will and I free TransAmerica '76 tshirts. They are rad and we are both really stoked about them. He also showed us around the shop next to his store that sold local items from Draper. They already had Christmas trees decorating the displays. It is hard to believe it is November already.

Though we wanted to stay longer, the sun was beginning to set and we still needed to go 7 miles. We quickly traveled to the town of Newbern, where we found refuge at a Super 8. We enjoyed dinner at Arby's and after dinner frostys. We have less than a week to the finish line. Let's do this.

November 6, 2013

Yesterday was Election Day in Virginia. I didn't know that yesterday, but I found it out while eating breakfast at the Super 8. They elected a new governor along with some other offices. We had passed a lot of campaign signs on the road. I forget that some states and offices have off year elections. It all made sense now.

We were looking forward to the day for two reasons. Reason 1: The elevation profile of today's route looked very nice. Their were no major climbs and it was mostly all rolling hills with an overall downhill grade. This held out to be mostly true. Their were a few steeper climbs, but nothing we couldn't handle. Reason 2: Today we would finish map 11 and would start our final map, map 12. Though we still have over 300 miles left, the psychological reward of knowing you are on the final map is exciting.

The day started out really well. We were making good time and the weather was forecast to reach 70. That was a really welcomed change from the past week or so. However, once we turned unto a back road, things started falling apart for me. My left cleat, which had been giving me trouble, decided it was no longer going to work. Instead of clipping in for a little bit, it just slipped off every time I pedaled. I battled with it for a little while to no avail. It was becoming incredibly annoying to the point where I couldn't handle it. I tried to catch up with Will to let him know what was going on, but couldn't pedal fast enough with my dysfunctional cleats. Finally I just decided to stop. I left my right cycling shoe on, but changed into my left tennis shoe. It wasn't the perfect solution, but it worked much better. The tennis shoe, with a flat, non-slippery bottom at least stayed put as I pedaled. I need to buy new cleats at the next bike shop, but I'm really not sure when that will be. I could probably make it to the finish line like this, but I'd rather not.

A few minutes later, as I was riding down on of the more steep hills, a bug flew and hit me directly in between the eyes. How does that even happen? It was with enough force that it left a tiny mark for a little while. The ride was going so nicely until we turned onto this street. Then it all made sense. The TransAmerica map had taken us onto Route 666. I'm not superstitious, but I did find it funny. Who names their road 666? Most hotels skip the 13th floor. Regardless, I was happy when we got on the next, non-satanic road.

Map 11 ended in the town of Christiansburg, where we stopped for lunch. Will found a pizza lunch buffet at a Pizza Inn. It may be hard to believe, but it was our first pizza buffet of the trip. We were both excited. Our waitress was incredibly nice and asked us all about the trip. When she heard we were finishing in Yorktown, she suggested we eat at the Yorktown Pub where she used to work. We made a mental note of that and look forward to having a victory meal there. After lunch, we hurried back to the trail. We were hoping to ride a total of 75 miles for the day and ideally would like to arrive before dark. So we set off again.

The second half of the day was similar to the first, but even prettier. For the first time in weeks we passed at least a half dozen road bikers. The weather was too pretty to resist being outside. Plus the route we were on must be a cycling favorite. The rolling hills were the perfect size, pushing you up the next hill just in time to coast down. We were having so much fun that we hadn't realized we were running low on water.

We were in between Christiansburg and Daleville in the Roanoke Valley. There weren't any gas stations around, so we knew we'd have to figure something else out. We stopped at a Baptist church and walked around the outside, looking for faucet. After walking around the entire perimeter, we couldn't find one. Their was a house next door, so we moved on. I knocked on the front door, but their was no answer. They did have a faucet, so we decided no response meant it was fine. But their outside faucet didn't work. So we went to the next house. At this point I didn't even care about knocking on the front door. You have to be a pretty cruel person to refuse two cyclists water. Plus all the lights were off and their were no cars in the driveway. Thankfully the hose worked and we now had plenty of water.

The rest of the ride to Daleville was rather uneventful. We did have to stop a few times to let cars pass us on the narrow, windy roads. The sunset over the Appalachians was incredibly beautiful and we did arrive to Daleville right as it was getting dark. I'm always thankful when we get to see the sunset while riding. No matter how hard I would try, you can't describe the experience of riding at sunset on a cross country trip. It's amazing and reminds you why we are doing this.

After finding another Super 8 to stay, we ate a Mexican restaurant for dinner. After dinner, one of the people who has been following us on Instagram and lives close to Daleville asked if we could meet. We invited Dan Lucas to our hotel and he was an incredibly cool guy. We talked bikes and told stories about our trip for over an hour. He works at a camp to the north of Daleville that focuses on mountain biking. He invited us to mountain bike if we are ever in the area again. We invited him to road bike in Pensacola if he is ever in our area. As always, it was great to meet someone new.

November 7, 2013

We had checked the weather forecast the night before and we knew there was a 50% chance of rain today. We watched Good Morning America during breakfast and they confirmed that our area of Virginia would likely experience widely scattered showers for the first half of the day. The first Thursday of the trip was a soggy one. It looked like the last Thursday was going to be the same way. We both made sure we had our rain gear ready and hoped for the best.

It wasn't raining when we left Daleville. As we got on the road it started to sprinkle a little bit. With both put on our rain jackets and then it stopped. I was convinced if I took off my jacket it would start raining again. I'm pretty sure that's how it works. So to keep the rain away, I kept my jacket on for a while.

We only had 50 miles to ride today because of the layout of cities and the number of days we have left. Tomorrow we have a huge 2500 ft climb. Instead of tackling it at the end of the day and not having any place to stay, we decided to stay about 20 miles from the base. So we divided our day into two section. We would first go 20 miles to the city of Buchanan and have lunch. We would then travel the other 30 miles to the city of Lexington.

The ride to Buchanan was predominately downhill and went rather fast. We were there within an hour and a half. We ate lunch at a diner that was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. When we walked out after lunch, the sun was out and it was already clearing up. I guess we had missed the brunt of the storm. We have actually been pretty fortunate with rain. Out of 70 something days, it had only rained on 4 of them. It has snowed on 2. That statistic may be wrong, but it's close. When I get home I'll try to verify these statistics.

The 30 mile ride from Buchanan to Lexington during the second half of the day took quite a bit longer. It was a gentle uphill grade, along winding back roads. Being in no hurry to complete 30 miles, and having 5 hours before dark, I decided to take my time. Will got off to a slight head start and after a few turns I could no longer see him. I guess he had decided to push through and see how fast he could ride the 30.

During the ride I reached down to get a sip of water from my water bottle and was surprised when I discovered I wasn't drink water, but instead was drinking carbonated water. Right after lunch Will and I had both filled our water bottles at a gas station and obviously the labels on the soda machine were wrong. Soda water does not taste good when you are expecting clear, refreshing water. Heck, I don't think soda water ever tastes good. I quickly spit it out. Then I stopped and poured out the water bottle. Luckily, I had only filled one bottle, so I still had two bottles of good water.

After the little water escapade, I got back on the road and slowly kept making my way to Lexington. About ten miles from the city I got a second boost of energy and picked up the pace. I was surprised that I still couldn't see Will on the long stretches even with my quickened pace. When I did arrive at the Lexington city limits sign, he wasn't there. I figured he must have continued to the center of downtown. I followed the route signs and ended up near downtown. I passed a graveyard with a sign announcing the tomb of Stonewall Jackson. I decided to stop and check it out while I tried to figure out where Will was. I turned on my phone and within seconds received a text. "I'm behind you. FYI when you get to Lexington. I'll text you when I get to town." I hadn't expected that at all.

I checked out where the nearest bike shop was and discovered it was only a few blocks down the street. I leisurely took my time exploring the grave yard and a few minutes later saw Will riding by. He saw my bike and stopped. I was curious how he had got behind me without me knowing. When he had discovered that his water was soda water, he stopped at a gas station on the route to refill his bottles. While inside the gas station I passed him, not realizing he had stopped. As I hurried to catch him, he slowed down to wait for me.

Will looked around the historic graveyard for a while then we both made our way to the bike shop. Thankfully the shop had SPD-SL cleats I needed (and for $10 less than they sell them in Pensacola.) That is going to make the rest of the ride much more enjoyable. Will bought a pair also, just to have a spare. Will also bought two sweet water bottles. One was a Tour de France bottle and the other for the Discovery Channel racing team.

It was getting close to dark and as soon as the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly. We passed the Virginia Military Institute as we rode to the edge of town to find a place to stay. We found a pseudo buffet for dinner. We called it a pseudo buffet because you order an entree and then can have unlimited sides, salad and dessert from the bar. It was pretty good.

Tomorrow is the big climb so we turned in pretty early. At least I tried to. I was still hungry about 9 PM so I bought a Pepsi and Snickers as a nighttime snack. It probably wasn't the best idea to have so much sugar before bed. I was wide awake until about midnight. As I tried to fall asleep I started reviewing pictures from the beginning of the trip. I started talking to Will about some of the experiences of the past 10 weeks. "You aren't allowed to get sentimental until after tomorrow's climb," Will instructed me. That was probably a good call. I put the pictures away and eventually drifted to sleep.

November 8, 2013

Yesterday's weather was a result of a cold front going through. That means it is really cold this morning. We are talking below freezing. We both put on our warmest clothes and prepared for a day of riding in 40 degree temperatures. I think the high for the day was maybe going to be 50.

Before we headed out, we had breakfast at Waffle House. Today was a big day. We had our last climb of 2500 feet. We heard from other cyclists that it's quite formidable. We wanted to be well fed before we faced that beast. Waffle House was located directly next to our motel and we got cold even in the short walk across the parking lot. Today was going to be cold. Makes sense though. I guess it is November now.

This is one of the first times the place we've stayed is directly on the TranAmerica route. The Super 8 was located on the road right by a TransAmerica sign pointing north. After breakfast, we got on the road and started following the signs. While the route wasn't marked with signs in the West, the East uses turn by turn TransAmerica signs for the most part.

The road had many twists and turns, with a few climbs. After about 10 miles, Will noticed that he hadn't seen a TransAmerica sign for a while. He stopped and looked at the map. Then he looked at his phone to figure out where we were. We were not on the route. We were about ten miles north of where we should be. We aren't really sure how that happened. A little later in the day we visited the Adventure Cycling Association's website and found out that there is some discrepancy between the signs and the map in Lexington. I guess we figured that out the hard way.

We used google maps to figure out the quickest way to get us back on route. Luckily their was a side route that connected the two roads and would only add a few miles to the trip instead of us having to back track. The bad news was that route took us directly over a steep, steep incline. Neither of us were very happy about this. It was quite a physiological downer. When you are prepared for one last big climb and you end up getting lost directly before it, you get frustrated. And climbing big hills aren't the best way to become unfrustrated.

After traveling about 22 hard miles, we did eventually make it to the town of Vesuvius, which is at the base of the mountain we need to climb. Once climbing the mountain we would ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 30 miles before staying in the town of Afton or Waynesboro.

The climb was extremely hard. It was about 2500 ft in 3-4 miles. While we were climbing we had a road construction vehicle stop and inform us that a line painting truck would be coming up the mountain. Sure enough, a few minutes later a very intricate vehicle designed to paint the center yellow line made its way past us. I had never seen this before. It was nice to stop, catch our breath, and take a break as the vehicle passed. Once the truck passed we checked out the fresh paint. Will walked on it and placed his yellow foot print on the road. "I've forever left my mark on this mountain," he said. I didn't want yellow paint on my bike, so I painfully lifted it over the line to get it in the right lane. Then we continued on.

We hadn't eaten lunch before the climb because our maps showed a gas station towards the top. However, when we reached the top there wasn't a gas station. Our maps weren't doing the best today. We had some snacks in our panniers so we ate those. It looked like a substantial meal was going to have to wait until we got in town.

The ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway was beautiful, but still a lot of work. Unlike the mountain summits of our past, this ride kept you on the ridge of the mountains for quite a while. Instead of enjoying a long, fast ride down, we faced thirty miles of ridge climbs and downhill crests. This went on for the better part of the day.

Around 5 PM, as the sun began to set, we made it near the end of the parkway. The lighting was beautiful as the sun was really low in the western sky. The low sun placed intricate shadows unto the rock cliffs beside us as we rode down. As the cliff moved closer and further from the road, the shadow changed size. It was a mesmerizing process to watch as we finally enjoyed an easy descent ride off the parkway. It's really hard to put into words. I wanted to get a video of it, but I was afraid I'd crash while videoing at 30 mph downhill on a bike looking to the right.

During the ride down I had got in front of Will. At some point I could no longer see him behind me, so I stopped. I put on my night gear and figured he had stopped to do the same. A few minutes later, he showed up. He informed me that his tire may be flat because it was really low on air. Instead of changing it, he had just filled it up with a lot of air and hoped it would last the 7 miles to town. Now that the sun had set the temperature was dropping fast again. No one wants to change a tire in the dark and cold.

Thankfully, Will's tire remained inflated and we made it to the town of Waynesboro. We were hoping to find a Chinese buffet and we did. We had been craving a Chinese buffet again for over a week. We visited the restaurant first and figured we'd look for a place to stay while eating. The restaurant was good but Will was disappointed they didn't have fried rice. I've never heard of a Chinese buffet that didn't have fried rice. I even saw a guy have some on his plate, but we could never find where he got it from. It was a mystery. They did have sushi on the bar though. It was great and I think I probably ate 4 rolls worth.

There were two motels in town and we booked a room at the closet one. Overall we had traveled only 60 miles for the day, but were happy to be on the other side of the big climb. The elevation is literally all down hill to the finish line now. We were supposed to meet a follower from our Facebook page who lives in Charlottesville for dinner, but didn't because we didn't make it that far. Will gave him a call once we settled in to our hotel. It looks like he is going to meet up with us tomorrow and may even ride some with us. That'll add another new element. Who knows what other adventures tomorrow will bring.

"Can I borrow your iPad to look at some of the pictures of the trip?" Will asked. I handed it to him and he started walking down memory lane. Oh no, we are both getting sentimental now. It's going to be tough when we reach the finish line and realize this lifestyle and adventure of almost 11 weeks is over. I already miss it.

November 9, 2010

It is never a good sign when you start off the morning with a flat tire. That is exactly what happened to Will. Well, I guess it was flat from last night. He was hoping that it had just lost some air over the day and it wasn't truly flat. Nope. He had a completely flat tire this morning.

I made him a deal. I'd change his tire if he'd hurry up and get ready. Sometimes he isn't in the biggest hurry to leave in the mornings. Like now for instance. I'm completely ready to go, but he is still in bed and hasn't moved. The majority of this entire blog was written during similar situations. I look forward to controlling my own schedule when I get home and leaving in the morning when I'm ready. I will not miss that.

Once Will did get ready, we headed out towards the town of Charlottesville. But first we had to climb back up the hill which was so fun to ride down the night before. Waynesboro was off of our main route by a few miles and at the bottom of Afton Mountain. It was only a few mile climb, but it definitely got the blood moving. After we got back on the route, it was all down hill. The decline was a little scary for me because of my brakes. I desperately needed to tighten them because they weren't really doing much anymore. While going about 30 mph down the hill I put on my brakes to slow me down. Instead, my speed continued to climb to 35 mph. I was praying there were no sharp turns or any other reason I needed to stop.

Outside of town, at a nearby gas station, we had agreed to meet Neal Ammerman. Neal is someone we met through Facebook on our WillJebBike page. We were hoping to meet him the night before in Charlottesville, but didn't make it that far. So he agreed to ride his bike and meet us outside of Afton. As we got near the gas station, he waved at us and we introduced ourselves. He was a spirited, older gentleman and it was a pleasure to meet him in person and share stories. He was kind enough to buy us lunch at the station as we chatted. He told us about the history of the area, suggested alternate routes and listened to our trip stories with great enthusiasm. He was in excellent shape and told us about the 20+ marathons he had run. He was running the Richmond marathon again in just a few weeks.

We could have stayed and talked to him for hours, but we had a bike ride to finish and we were already running late for the day. A few hours later we arrived in Charlottesville. After eating a late second lunch at a Mexican restaurant, we decided we didn't have enough time (or energy) to make it to the next town before dark. So we decided to stay in Charlottesville for the night. We had only gone 35 miles for the day, but were convinced we could make it up the next day and ride the 80 mile ride to Richmond, which would put us back on our schedule of finishing on Tuesday, November 12th.

After our second lunch, Will was kind enough to quickly adjust my brakes so that they actually worked again. He had the same problem when we were in Colorado and already knew how to quickly do it. Since we did have an hour before dark, we visited a few of the area bike shops.

The first shop was a high-end store with a huge selection of bikes. We met a lovely couple who invited us to stay at their place for the evening. We exchanged names and numbers and considered the offer. We ultimately ended up refusing, just because their house was located pretty far away from the route.

The second shop was more of a chain, big box store. The selection was good, but the service didn't seem as personalized. Just like Goldilocks, the third store was just right. The employees were friendly, knowledgeable and experienced. One employee, ToShun, even hooked us up with a new tube of chamois butter. That is probably the nicest, most useful gift you could give a touring cyclist. We exchanged cards and he took a few pictures for their Facebook page.

After leaving the bike shops, we settle at a Red Carpet Inn for the night and found a Cici's pizza buffet for dinner. The only other brief excitement for the evening was when an ambulance, fire rescue and cop car arrived at the motel a few doors from where we were staying. Watching that excitement entertained Will for 30 minutes. We still are not sure what happened. I hope everyone was ok.

November 10, 2013

We had some ground to make up, so we got moving early. We were on the road by 8:30, which is incredibly unusual. We did stop by a Hardee's for breakfast as we headed out of town. The temperature was warming up and the wind was a slight tail wind. It looked like it was going to be a great day.

The day started out with rolling hills which became smaller and smaller as the day progressed. During the ride I found a birthday card and envelope on the side of the road. I looked inside the card and their happened to be a fresh 20 dollar bill. A few miles down I found an Arby's gift card. Will found a Chick-fil-a gift card. It's amazing what you can find on the side if the road. At our next stop we called to see if the gift cards had money on them. My Arby's card was empty. Will's card had 54 cents. He considered it a victory after I found the 20 dollars.

On our way to Richmond we stopped at a gas station which happened to be closed on Sundays. The gas pumps were still available if you paid by credit card. We sat outside the store and enjoyed a snack as a few patrons came and got gas. One lady, Mary, was really interested in the trip and talked to us for a while. She was really nice and enjoyed our time with her.

After our snack, we stopped for a lunch at a BBQ place about 8 miles down the road. I treated myself to cheesecake for dessert, compliments of the birthday money I found. By evening we had made it to Richmond and found a place to stay. We are now only about 75 miles from the finish line. We could do it in one day, but we have decided to divide it into two days so we can see more of the historic sites. The finish line is so close. It's so exciting it's becoming hard to sleep at night.

November 11, 2013

The scariest incident of the entire trip happened today. It was one of those mornings where everything seemed to go wrong. And of course it would happen on the next to last day. To start off, it was the first day that I woke up with a scratchy throat. Will and I have been fortunate to have perfect health during the trip. The scratchy throat wasn't debilitating, just a little uncomfortable. I wasn't going to let it affect the ride though.

After a quick stop at McDonalds for a pre-ride breakfast, we headed towards Williamsburg. But first we had to make it through Richmond. Richmond is a very large city (the capital of Virginia) and we had stayed on the west side last night. We had about 10 miles of city biking before we could enjoy 50 miles of rural biking to Williamsburg. Thankfully the traffic seemed lighter than when we biked into town yesterday. It could be because today is a holiday, Veterans Day.

We made it through downtown relatively easy and in less time than I expected. We passed signs for the marathon next weekend that our friend Neal was running. Then we made it to a big hill at the edge of town. Neal had told us about this hill. It didn't look too bad, but it was pretty steep and out of nowhere. Both Will and I got caught at a stop light at the top of the hill. We both placed one foot on the ground and held our brakes as we waited for the light to turn.

Then all of the sudden I heard a snap and I began to roll forward. The pressure of holding the weight of my bike at that angle had caused my brakes to snap and I was now racing down the hill with no way to stop myself. I dragged my left foot on the ground desperately trying to slow myself down. It wasn't really working, as my speed continued to climb from 20 mph to 25 mph and topping out at 30 mph. There was another stop light halfway down the hill and it was red. I prayed that the motorists saw what was happening and would pause. One car was turning right from the perpendicular road. Luckily I was able to swerve out of their way. I was relieved to make it through the intersection unharmed. I was now nearing the bottom of the hill and knew my speed would greatly decrease once it hit the uphill. Sure enough I began to slow. I then turned into a gas station and got off my bike. The whole situation lasted less than a minute.

My heart was still racing. I was thankful to be at the bottom and unharmed. It was scary, but also incredibly exciting. Things could have been much worse. A few minutes later, Will made it to the gas station. He had watched the entire scene with a bird's eye view from the top of the hill. It looked just as bad from that angle.

Will took a few minutes and looked at our brakes. He was able to fix my front brake so that I could at least stop a little. He looked at both our back brakes and wasn't successful in fixing them. We decided we'd have to take them to a bike shop later. Some of the parts had just worn out after 4000 miles. So now both of us just had semi-functional front brakes. Luckily, the rest of the ride was supposed to be flat.

We continued on and about ten minutes later realized we had missed our turn. We had become so distracted by the hill incident that we had blindly continued on in the same direction we were going. We found an alternate route and reconnected with the right road a few miles later. During that ride, I was surprised to discover that I had completely worn the cleat off the bottom of my left shoe as I dragged it down the hill to slow myself. It would no longer clip into the pedal. So again, I had to change into my tennis shoe on my left foot. These cleats were only a few days old too. It looks like I'll finish the ride wearing two mismatched shoes.

Thankfully, once we got passed the morning drama, the rest of the day went well. The landscape became near completely flat and fast. We had a generous tail wind as we stayed on route 5 most of the day. The route took us past countless historical markers and old plantation homes. It even took us past the one time home of former US President John Tyler.

The wooded landscape also provided plenty of wildlife to look at. We passed countless deer and numerous beavers. After taking a few rest breaks during the 50 mile afternoon ride, we finally arrived in Williamsburg around dark. We are now only 13 miles away from the finish line. We could have pushed on and finished, but we decided we would rather cross the finish line during daytime, so we could see the surroundings and celebrate. So we stopped in Williamsburg.

The motel we chose was right next to a Golden Corral. To our surprise their was no parking anywhere. Being on bikes, we didn't need parking, but it was crazy how many people were there. Them we realized why. Today was Veterans Day and vets ate for free at Golden Corral. I think every vet in the Williamsburg area was there. We contemplated going somewhere else, but decided we had nothing else to do. So we stayed and stood in line. As we walked in, they asked if we were in the military. We told them no. Once I made it to the register, they asked again and I declined. It sounded like they really wanted me to have a free meal. I guess my shorter hair looks like a crew cut.

They didn't have any tables for two available, so they paired Will and I up with a mother and daughter who were complete strangers to us. We introduced ourselves since we were now about to eat dinner together. The mother was a retired vet that started in the Army and then retired from the Navy. We thanked her for her service to the country. We talked about our trip over dinner and how tomorrow we will cross the finish line. 76 days in the making. It is hard to believe we have almost made it. Time to get some rest. Tomorrow is a big day. It's going to feel good.

November 12, 2013 - Day 76

This morning started off like every other morning. We had breakfast, packed our stuff on our bikes and prepared for a day of biking. The only difference today was we were only 15 miles from the end of the TransAmerica trail in Yorktown, Virginia. It was really hard to believe that we were so close to actually completing this thing. Will was even slightly more talkative this morning. I could tell he was excited.

After driving through a few back roads in Williamsburg, we made it unto Colonial National Historic Parkway, an old road controlled by the National Park Service that would take us the entire way to Yorktown. The road was bumpy, made of tightly packed cobblestone-like material, instead of asphalt. Each side of the road was lined with trees.

Riding on the parkway made the entrance to Yorktown feel like a military procession or parade. The brisk tail wind pushed us along and blew a confetti of leaves on us as we rode. I found myself sitting up a little taller on my bike. This was the kind of ending I wanted. Something memorable. Something picturesque. Instead of riding in front or behind Will, I rode next to him. That is until a park ranger pulled up behind us with lights flashing and said we had to ride single file. So I rode single file, for a little bit of the ride. I don't think the park ranger had got the memo that today was the parade heralding the arrival of two transcontinental bike riders.

Within an hour we saw the sign for Yorktown. We followed the signs and arrived at the Victory monument in the center of the city. It seemed like a fitting finish line. When we arrived, we parked our bikes and walked around. This was our moment and we were going to soak it up. Everything about the day seemed important. Ten states and 4100 miles later we were done. We had completed the 76 Trail in 76 days. The date was 11-12-13. It all seemed right.

After we took a few pictures it really started to sink in that we had completed what we set out to do. However, we were still in Yorktown and now had to get home. Our initial plan was to bike back to Williamsburg where we would catch a train to Florida the following day. However the wind was picking up as a cold front was about to go through. So instead we decided to ride 15 more miles southeast to Newport News, Virginia where there was also an Amtrak station. We were like sailboats following the wind.
We beat the bad weather and found a hotel before it began to rain. We even found a KFC/Taco Bell to have lunch. We had eaten lunch at the same restaurant during our first day. I tried to order less food this time, getting used to smaller portions and not biking 75 miles a day. It was a weird feeling. "You know, I've learned a lot on this trip," I told Will. "On day one I didn't even know you could order off of both menus. However, today I just ordered a taco and mashed potatoes. I've come so far." Will seemed proud.

After returning to the hotel and resting for most of the day, we ordered pizza for dinner and had it delivered. Will rode to a near by convenience store to get a few snacks. On his way back it began to snow. That, too, seemed fitting. As he walked back into the hotel, all bundled up to stay warm with his bike, he was stopped by the reception desk attendant and told he couldn't be inside because only paying guests were allowed in the hotel. Will showed him the room key. That shut the attendant up. I only wish I was there to watch the situation go down. We may currently be homeless, but we are heading home.

This isn't the end of the blog. We still have the journey home. After we arrive home, I'll update you about any reflections we may have as we get back to school and work. I am sure it will be an adjustment to go back to "normal" life when we return. I'll also update you about anything bike or travel related we may be doing. While this trip may be coming to a close, the journey is only beginning. Thanks for coming along.