Saturday, October 29, 2011

Half way there!!

We recently passed the half-way marker on a mile-long bridge across the Missouri River.  We're due for a little rest.  The only other full day off that we've taken since the beginning of the trip was in Missoula.  But a little time here in Sioux Falls should help rejuvenate us for the second half.  Our route from here is currently TBD, with the Great Lake ferries closed for the winter, it seems like a more southerly route may be in order. We'll keep you posted!

I want to take a minute for a huge shout out to all of the people who have helped us along our path thus far.  The open hearts and generosity of the people we meet is astounding.  From the countless convenient store clerks who look the other way as we picnic and loiter in their booths to the ever-present curious local who is always willing to take time to tell us about the best roads, upcoming weather conditions, and the amenities of small towns to come.  We have gotten a warm, and often curious, welcome everywhere we've stopped.  Even the places that were the most challenging have bright points of gracious hospitality.  In my last post I somehow forgot to mention David and Patti in Ryegate, MT.  They were amazing hosts during tough times ... Thank you so much!!  After this trip I know I will not hesitate to open my home to travellers as a tribute to the many generous folks who have welcomed us indoors and out of the cold.  To mention just a few of the most recent:  The Pizza Ranch crew of Platte, SD and the owner of the the HorizINN in Parkston, SD who gave us a room for the price of camping.  At present, I am writing from the lovely home of DeeAnn and David of Sioux City, SD.  Strangers a day ago, they have fed us, sheltered us, done our laundry, helped us run errands around town, and given us the space for a much needed day off from cycling.  Amazing.  Gives me so much faith in the goodness of people. 

Also a huge loving acknowledgement of Carolyn, Emily, and Nathaniel.  This trip wouldn't mean nearly as much without the companions I share these days with.  I am learning so much from each of them.  Carolyn always takes time to think of the people around her, and uses her incredible inner strength and determination to keep the group motivated.  Emily has one of the most gentle hearts and good-natured attitudes that I've ever known.  Nathaniel brings music into our lives, and often leads our draft lines on windy days.  I am so blessed to have met each one of them.  My heart is growing as much as any muscle in my body.
With Thanks,


Up, Over, and Through

An Ode to Montana

We made our break from Missoula, though it was hard to leave our once upon a time home. Believe it or not, there is a picnic table underneath and behind all our stuff! We have a tendency to sprawl...

Flynn helps me bundle up on one of our coldest mornings. I like my coat sleeves over my mittens, thank you!

Cycling through a frozen world.

We knew it would get cold, but we weren't expecting it to happen literally overnight. Is it really going to be winter from here on out?

The frost wouldn't melt off my handlebars... actually, it seemed to be creeping up my mittens and arms as we rode.

Finally, the sun broke through and we caught a glimpse of the Blackfoot River- we knew it was out there! We felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as colors started to emerge from underneath the frost.

Flynn's first flat ever! She fixed it like she'd been doing it all her life.

Potential stow-away? Darth Vader was very hard to leave beind.

Montana, we love you! The western half, at least...

Crossing the Continental Divide- YES!

Big smiles for a big day. Another huge hurdle behind us!

Showing off those rock hard thighs. Vanna White, you have some competition!

Enjoying a wonderfully relaxing evening with the Waniata's in Helena, Montana. Tea, ice cream, Shelby the dog and great performances by Dale and Nathaniel topped off our stay in the capitol.

Thank you SO much, Dale, Carol and Shelby! Your kindness, hospitality, and wam conversation was a blessing to some road weary travelers. Also, your lawn was incredibly comfortable!

Lovely ladies strike a pose while poor Nathaniel attacks his broken rack with duct tape, glue and zip ties. Good thing we had no idea that this was only the beginning of our mechanial problems in Eastern Montana.

Flynn models the "I-just-rode-over-a-huge-mountain-pass-in-freezing-rain-and-crazy-hail-and-hurdled-downhill-for-miles-in-frigid-temperatures" look. So hot!

We experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets we'd ever seen while approaching White Sulfur Springs in some vicious crosswinds.

Lesson here? Don't lean over the back of my bike during strong crosswinds or else you'll get a flag whipping to the face

Not a whole lot of help to be found at Visitor Information.

Another one of our beautiful lunch spots. Many thanks to this hay bale for being our wind block.

Post-lunch attack mode. Little did we know that this would be a 90 mile day, and the day we crossed the 1,000 mile mark in our trip. Tailwinds- we love you! This day is still recalled as one of the best days yet.

The only thing that could have made the day any better? Rolling into the small town of Ryegate, Montana looking for a place to stay and deciding on the somewhat abandoned looking sports field next to the road. We decided to stay undercover and wait for dark to really set up for the night. We thought we were done for when a truck pulled up. We were sure they wer coming to tell us to leave and we gave the "just stopping to warm up" story. Little did we know that David and Patti wished to welcome us into their beautiful log home for homemade stew, showers, the most comfortable beds in the world and great company. We were speechless!

Puppy love!

Cheers to Patti and David- we will never forgot these wonderful people in Ryegate, Montana! We were overwhelmed by their generosity and can never thank them enough.

And the flat tire total continues to rise. We're getting really good at patching our tubes at this point.

Apple pie? A la mode? AND coffee? Words can't describe the joy.

Who says stopping for groceries can't be fun? Or that these quarter rides are just for kids?

Eastern Montana/West Dakota. The love-hate relationship has already begun. Its gray, its windy, the water is hardly drinkable, we have a twice broken rack, a broken spoke, and twelve flat tires before we make it out.

Experimenting with food combinations. Peanut butter and canned oysters, anyone?

Dirty? The word has taken on a whole new meaning, which says a lot considering three of us just spent the summer working in the woods. The five second rule has been modified to be more like the five minute rule, and good hygiene has been redefined to include baby wipe showers and some occasional hand sanitizer.

Bunk N Biscuit? What does that even mean? Not that it matters, because all we cared about is the whole "Only place to sleep in 100 miles".

I think we blend in perfectly.

Another Montana sunset, this one happening to be at our lodgings in the Ingomar City Park across the street from the saloon where we sampled the local fare and beverages while crocheting the evening away.

"Miles City: We rock, no matter how you roll."

Nathaniel, aka Sisqo. He earned his nickname with this get-up, which brings to mind the infamous "Thong Song" by Sisqo. Its even better when he's in the saddle.

Ice cream lovers? I finally found my place in the world!

I think you can guess where we stopped. Double chocolate malt? Espresso Heath shake? Mhmmm.

The agony of another flat tire. A picture is worth a thousand words. And, yes, those are Daisey Dukes. 

Another reason why three is a great number- good backrests!

Our fine accomodations in the Post Office. Hey, it was heated! What more is there to say?

How could anyone find us threatening?

We love to be appreciated, especially with food!

At long last we found ourselves at the border. The border of much more than Wyoming and Montana, mind you! It was the border with our sanity, our tolerance for nasty headwinds, time and patience consuming bike issues, feeling like we weren't making any progress, unbearable water, canned and packaged food and the endless questioning of our ability to do this trip both by others and ourselves. But we made it. It might not have been pretty, or graceful, or easy to bear at times, but we made it out alive and kicking and still pedaling together!

When we stayed with Patti and David in Ryegate, I came across a collection of The Farside comics by Gary Larson. There was one that seemed especially relevent. Imagine a drawing of a couple driving in their car. Outside is a barren, dry, cracked desert landscape with a few scraggly shrubs that are barely surviving. They are passing a sign, the only evidence of human presence besides the rough road ahead, that states "Entering the Middle". You then notice that the woman is holding a map titled "Nowhere" that depicts a confusing and nonsensical network of winding roads. The comic bears the caption, "Well this is just going from bad to worse".

Its easy to replace the couple and the car with four riders on bikes inching their way across the plains. However, I like to imagine that the caption reads "This is going from good to great", despite the fact that we were unquestionably just entering the middle of Nowhere.


Where have we been?

Here are some photos from earlier in the trip that will hopefully paint a better picture of where we've been and what types of challenges we've been facing. These catch us up to our stay in Missoula about three weeks ago.

Our fine accomodations on the Austin's front lawn.

Most delicious breakfast ever!

The biggest thanks to this awesome family- we loved our stay in Walla Walla!

Cruising out of Walla Walla into the unknown.

A beautiful day for biking.

Duck eggs for breakfast that we bought from a farm along the way- yum!

Its easier to forget to clip out than you think.

Desperate apple scavenging= sweet rewards!

An example of one of the many crossroads we found ourselves at in Idaho.

A beautiful and timeless (albeit rainy) ride along the Lochsa River before Lolo Pass.

Is that a steady cold downpour we feel? Meh, nothing we can't handle.

Especially since we had a great lunch and a warm fireplace to warm us up before the big ascent!

After weeks of pedaling, we made it to Lolo Pass and the Montana border. The fact that it was 40 degrees out, windy and pouring couldn't dampen our spirits, though the hand dryer in the visitor's center bathroom played a big role in that, as did the hypothermia dance.

We love having our picture taken! We're also really excited to have made it to our very own Missoula, Montana and the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters.

Weighing the bikes. We'll finally have an answer for all those people who ask us how much we're carrying.

Important order of business- cold smoke and slices at The Bridge. Enjoying all the good things in life!

Thanks so much to 333 Knowles for hosting us for a few days! Our first day off couldn't have been better.

Nathaniel! Who knew there were other cyclists out there as crazy as us?