Wednesday, August 31, 2011

o captain, my captain: floyd

This blog would not be complete without a proper shout out to Floyd, the lil purple Uglydoll who was clipped to my right pannier since we left our front door in Philly on July 1. We named Floyd that same morning as we rode toward Valley Forge on the bike path. He's named after Floyd Landis, the professional American cyclist who was caught juicing at one time or another. Aaron had suggested Lance for a name, but I rejected it. Too easy. Floyd would remind us that sometimes, you've just got to cheat. His other duties included yelling at trucks that came too close to my bike and making sure nothing was stolen from my bag when I went inside gas stations and restaurants.

Floyd's here with me now at the San Francisco airport. We've been here for over seven hours due to our flight being canceled and Southwest doing a piss poor job of rescheduling us. Much more could be said about the infuriating and convoluted details, but the bottom line is that we leave here in an hour and will have to spend the night either in Chicago Midway's airport or possibly in a hotel if we can twist the right arm when we arrive. Flight to Philly departs at 6:55 a.m. Another catless (and perhaps sleepless) night is ahead.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

backpeddling: the arrival

Don't you worry, dear readers, while the journey has ended, there's still blogging left to do. As I've promised, our arrival in San Francisco over the Golden Gate is worth accounting.

I won't say I expected the ride over the bridge to be completely idyllic and free of fog and tourists. But I didn't expect the pedestrian and bike path to be a wall of families and couples on rented mountain bikes wobbling along toward Sausalito, nor did I think the fog would be so thick we wouldn't be able to see most of the bridge nor the city we'd been questing toward for fifty-eight days. But there we were, quickly getting chilly in our usual bike gear as the wind picked up. We rode slowly, stopped for photo ops, then walked the bikes a bit. We were savoring the moment and killing time as well. We'd told our welcoming crew we would arrive at around 4:00. We were a few minutes early, so we jumped back on the bikes at 4:01 or so and wove through the throngs toward the other side of the bay. I had a goofy grin the whole time, and wanted to tell everyone just what the moment was encapsulating: 3800 miles (3811 on Aaron's bike computer when all was said and done), nountains, a heat wave, all the kindness of strangers, all those Gatorades, my meltdowns, Aaron's, the flat tires, broken spokes, broken spirits, and the repairs. But I didn't. Just kept grinning and pedaling.

I wasn't exactly sure where everyone would be and the ramp off the bridge was bottlenecked with walkers and bikers in both directions, so we made our way through and hoped to hear a shout or a cheer. Nothing. We rode around the gift shop. Nobody. We stood in front of the shop facing the bridge where i'd expected the gathering. Slowly, our fans arrived. First Moira and Yuo-Chen, Writers House pals now living in San Francisco, who saw us ride over even though we missed them. Then Jocelyn, my ol' college pal and roomie, who freaking flew here from New York, and her buddy Ethan. Then Ada, my Bennington classmate, who made the trip from Los Angeles, and her friend whose name I keep forgetting. Then Alex, Aaron's friend and mentor from college, who trekked from San Diego. Then Richard and Jill, also of Writers House fame, now living in Oakland, who even brought cupcakes and egg tarts. Of course people were apologetic about missing the arrival itself. Then Jocelyn had a brilliant thought: a redo. We rode back about 200 feet onto the bridge, into the fog, then turned around. The crowd was assembled with their cameras, cheering and whooping. I fist pumped. We slowed our bikes and Yuo-Chen emerged from the crowd wielding a bottle of Korbel. He popped it and sprayed us. It was freezing. And glorious.

We were presented with a trophy and medals which Jocelyn wnd Mo had coordinated over, the champagne was poured and Jill's treats distributed. We moved to the less windy and frigid side of the gift shop. Later in the evening, after we'd showered, Jocelyn, Alex, Richard and Jill went to sushi with us, then Ada and some other of Alex's pals surprised us in a private karaoke room, complete with a triumphant Jamootis banner that Alex had made. We sang a whole bunch. Naturally, Aaron and I closed out the night with a rendition of "We Are the Champions."
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Monday, August 29, 2011

bye, bye love

It's been real. Real real.
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the coolest thing on Aaron's bike

Did I mention we had a flask to get us through those particularly trying moments? This was my birthday gift to Aaron.
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day 60: (does it count as day 60?) ship those bikes

The plan for today is to take a brief break from hedonism and gluttony (alas) and to.ship our bikes back to Philly. Running into some logistical problems right now, i.e. the bike store we were planning to visit just threw away all its boxes. Like 15 minutes ago. Whoops.

Time for me to begin the full court press for my alternative idea: throw the bikes in the bay! Wooooo!
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

the victory lap continues: City View dim sum

More soon on our grand arrival. You know, as soon as I stop eating. Above: my little friends, pork dumplings.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

day 58: we rode our bikes here

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day 58: is that salt water i smell?

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day 57: lagunitas lagunitas lagunitas

It is the last night on the road, barring unforseen circumstances. We rode into Petaluma today not knowing where we'd stay, learning that the one campground in town charged $51 plus tax a night (only possible in the Bay Area, we hear), our only destination being Lagunitas Brewing Co. on the north end of town. It turns out that was all we needed, by a long shot.

A series of fortunate events:

We went on an awesome tour led by a dude named Lewis. When Aaron told him we'd ridden 3700 miles to get here, he said, "No way you did," which is a response I respected. Eventually, we convinced him. We got to talking and within a few minutes he was calling his wife and offering to let us stay in his motor home. That's where I am now.

High on our good fortune, we settled back into the beer sanctuary to get some dinner. Aaron went to check on the bikes. I never check on the bikes because I not so secretly hope they got stolen. A visitor bearing the wonderful gifts pictured above had been by. Yes, soneone tucked big bottles of beer into our bags. We fawned over this for some time. I headed back to our bikes a bit later to fetch another layer. A woman, Cheryl, was leaving the administrative building. She told me the bottle bearer had been Leon, the brewery's CFO and an avid cyclist. He'd told everyone we would either be thrilled about the beer or pissed about the weight. I assured her it was the former. We got to talking, then she was making sure I had a cold six pack to bring to Lewis's, then she was outfitting us in complimentary Lagunitas t-shirts. I told her I would never drink another beer again.
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sorry sonoma: how plans changed

Before I move on to talking about the events of our final days on the road, it's worth going back to explain how things went in wine country. Our original plan had been to stay in Napa our first night, then to bike to Sonoma our second day, stopping at wineries along the way, then spending the evening there. On our first day in Napa, it became clear that traveling around would be less than ideal. It's one thing to bike all day, but what became clear to me was that it would be impossible to be in both Bike Mode and Vacation Mode. It was well into the 90's in the Napa valley, the roads heading into the region had been terrible - we'd ridden on tiny shoulders and had even gotten off our bikes to lift them over barriers at one point - and it was hard to forget that the cars whizzing by were being driven by people who'd spent the better part of the day drinking wine. I may or may not have had a meltdown. Or series of meltdowns. This was not the carefree victory lap we'd been envisioning. Plans changed. We would spend two nights in Napa, in the town of St. Helena where we could walk to many wineries and bike 4 or so miles to others, and we'd forego Sonoma. It's good to have reason to come back though, right?

As I mentioned, that first day in Napa was tough for me. It was the problem of feeling like it was time time to celebrate but having to slog along on the heavy bike in the heat as usual. And for the first time I was self-conscious about being sweaty, having slimy hair, all that. Things got better once we decided to stay in one place, but we still had miles to ride, and, well, wines to taste. As we made our way up the Silverado Trail along the east edge of the valley, a few other cyclists passed us headed south. The last guy in the group shouted with no thought of concern. "YOU'RE DOIN' IT!" he said. Aaron said he thought it was weird. I, however, was brought to tears. More tears. Yup. We're doin' it.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

day 57: lagunitas brewing co. - beer sanctuary

The indulgences continue.
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day 57: chicken and waffles, boon fly cafe, napa, ca

They also have piping hot mini doughnuts which changed my life.
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day 56: not so subtle self portrait at VeloVino

A winery run by the Clif Bar folks. Full circle, indeed.
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day 56: velo vino - yes, bikes and wine

I fell asleep on my phone again last night. Seems that while I'm well trained for biking, I've lost capacity to enjoy wine and stay awake.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

day 56: another day, another winery

I was going to update y'all last night, but I fell asleep on my phone. Physical and mental fatigue have been key players these last few days. I was going to update y'all now, but Aaron says, "Let's go! The tastin's a'wastin'!" So, til soon, pals.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

day 55: here we are at last

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day 54: nearing napa

You know you're getting close to wine country when you start to see piles of squashed grapes along the side of the road. We had a 70 mile slog of it today. If you're generally familiar with this region of California, you might wonder how we rode 70 miles from Sacramento today and still remain 15 miles outside of Napa. If you're truly familiar with this neck of the woods, you know that in a freeway-centric culture like California's, it's very difficult to find secondary roads to, say, cross a river. That was tbe case with us and the moghty Sacramento today. Once we cut south to cross in Rio Vista, we were plagued with Highway 12, a road that was absolutely unbikeable - shoulderless and busy, with center barriers to prevent big vehicles from moving around us. Thanks to a stranger's help - he took Aaron for a drive to show him which country roads to take - we got back on track. In the morning, we'll ride the last 15, have a leisurely breakfast, and spend the rest of the day biking, walking and tasting around Napa. I have to say I'm a little reluctant to go into relaxation mode, as these last days have continued to present difficulties, but let's hope that at some point tomorrow, a surge of giddiness hits me. There's been a lot of " we rode our bikes here" lately.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

day 53: a visit to luke's

If you had told me ten years ago that in the summer of 2011 my gentleman friend and I would ride our bicycles across the country and spend a night in Sacramento, CA with Luke (one of my best buds from high school), his wife Chrissy, and his two lil boys Ian and Caleb, I would have had little to no reason to believe you. I would want to ride a bike that far? Luke - *married*? *Kids*? *Sacramento*? But here we are. And a good visit it's been, especially given the length of our day -- 111 miles, our second longest day after that craziness back in Defiance, OH.

We began our day in Lake Tahoe at 5 a.m., out the door to breakfast by 6, determined to beat as much Highway 50 traffic as we could. If I had been in a full disclosure sort of mood last night, I would have told you how nervous I was to get out of Tahoe on the busy and narrow Hwy. 50. The guys at the bike shop advised against it, but their only alternative was the longer and far more mountainous Rte. 88, affectionately known as the Death Ride. We opted for 50, hence the early start. There were some tense moments, but here we are. We were helped by a 7000+ foot drop in elevation, which sounds more fun to ride than it is.

But now: let's stop worrying about boring things like mountains, deserts, and road quality and start worrying about more important things: for instance, how many bottles of wine will I be able to strap to my rig?
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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Best and Worst of Mootis: the Fashion Edition

In a sense, the photos above speak for themselves. Over the weeks, you've all gotten an idea of the biking attire both Mootis and I have become accustomed to wearing. The focus today is on one garment of Mootis's. I believe it is technically called "bib shorts." Apparently, some male cyclists find the usual elastic waistbanded shorts uncomfortable. The alternative is a model like the one above, which has suspender-like straps that go under the cycling jersey. When Aaron prances about in this getup without his jersey, I refer to it as the "strongman" outfit, as it resembles an old timey weightlifter's ensemble. (I was not granted permission to take a photo of strongman Aaron, alas. My apologies. Instead, I had to sneak this photo in the Laundromat when he wasn't around.)

You can see from the first photo that Aaron's bib shorts are particularly noteworthy because they are "Powered by Chipotle." I've urged him to go into a Chipotle with these on to see if they'll give him free burritos (a.k.a. "power"). Hasn't happened yet, but the trip ain't over.

You can also see that Mootis has combined his strongman shorts with a pair of wool socks. This was on a chilly morning in Idaho. A spectacular sight. I called them his legwarmers.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

day 52: day off in Lake Tahoe

No bike is too big for Aaron Marcus.

We were going to do a short 20-ish mile day today to get over the mountain before tomorrow's trek into Sacramento, but consensus around town was that trying to ride Highway 50 out of here on a Sunday would be a risky endeavour. So, here I am in the Laundromat. Perhaps not the best way to take in the scenery here, but much needed nonetheless. Aaron is playing Lord of the Rings pinball. The fun never stops.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

day 51: welcome to california

Knows how to party.
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day 51: bear xing

When you are riding your bike across the country, this is not what you want to see while peddling at 4.7 miles per hour up a 7100 foot mountain when you're carrying Clif Bars, Sports Beans, peanut butter and other tasty treats.

(But no bear xed. Worry not.)
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you've got a friend in silver springs who's moving to Washington tomorrow.

My pal Bear.
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california here we come

If all goes as we hope, we will cross into California tomorrow after we climb our way up to Lake Tahoe. Hard to say what's more exciting, getting out of Nevada or getting into California.

Is this the beginning of the end? We hope to reach Sacramento by Monday, where we'll see Luke, my dear pal from high school. Then, to Napa and Sonoma, where we have no set plan yet other than to indulge. We're looking to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday the 27th. A small group of spectators might/will be gathered just over the SF side. There will be much rejoicing.
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day 50: this could be our silver springs

Nevada redeemed itself quite a bit tonight, friends. As we were about to leave the Jack in the Box in Fernley this afternoon for the last stretch of the day's ride into Silver Springs, we were approached by a woman and her high school-aged son. The usual chat ensued, but within a few minutes, we were being offered a lawn to camp on when we learned that there was no motel or campground in Silver Springs. What followed was an evening of great hospitality from Robin, her husband Don, Daniel, and Robin's mother Win. Not only do we have a shady spot on the lawn, we had showers, dinner, beer, and a relaxing night out in the backyard. Weiner (the dauchshund, of course) and Bear (the big lug) hung out too.

What's most amazing about this generosity is the timing of it. Not for us, but for this family. On Sunday, they're moving to northeastern Washington state, where they've bought 20 acres and are building a house. Robin and Don have been here in town for thirty years. There is a lot to do that does not include hosting a couple of bicycle riding fools. I'm not usually one to strike up chats with strangers, but if this trip has taught me anything, it's that I should. It has also taught me to always carry toilet paper and electrolyte supplements.
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a kitty condo emporium

If Aaron realy cared about Alfie and Bones, he's strap one of these to his bike for them.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

day 50: flat tire # it-doesn't-even-matter-anymore

Me again. Not a joke. Really happened.
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day 50: flat tire #8, lovelock, nv

I guess my front tire got jealous of all the attention my back tire got yesterday.

To recap: I have had four flat tires in four days. The "feel lucky?" caption I included with the photo of the Welcome to Nevada sign comes to mind. Nope. I don't.
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day 49: Lovelock: Where Your Love Remains Locked

When I first saw the town of Lovelock, Nevada on the map a week or so ago, I wondered if there was anything noteworthy about the place pertaining to its name. We came across a brochure in a travel plaza the other day that indeed, Lovelock wants to be known precisely as the place where Your Love Is Locked - redundancy be damned, I suppose. While we've gotten used to passing through towns that haven't yet celebrated a centennial, it was surprising to come to a place that has just begun to achieve its desired identity in the last few years, for better or worse.

As you can see above, Lovelock is real into, um, locks. Locks that represent love. Various locations around town sell Lovelock locks and people - couples, families, close friends - are encouraged to place a lock on one the many lock chains in the town park. As you can see from my photo, people also bring customized locks.

Aaron was astounded at how many locks wove their way around the small plaza. I was less surprised, and, as usual, somewhat jaded. "It doesn't take much to get a lot of people to do something stupid," I said. This might answer your next question - no, Aaron and I did not immortalize our affection for one another with a Lovelock lock. Since it was a bit after 7:00 when.we were strolling through town, most of the stores were closed so we didn't even have a chance to see how costly it would be to assimilate and declare our feelings. We didn't exactly go out of our way to find a lock either.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

day 49: cheap(est) motel, Lovelock, NV

Guys, we need your help. Here at the Super 10 Motel in Lovelock, our first $30 room of the trip, we found the above pictured sign by the sink. Aaron and I, as you all know, are rule-abiding folks and we'd hate to break any established policy due to a simple misunderstanding. Make sure you read the sign several times. There's a lot to parse. I'm going to go put my washing teeth in the toilet now.

(In truth, this sign gave us a welcomed long laugh after an annoying, tense, and hot day on the bikes. Team morale is slowly creeping back up. Also, the sign distracts us from other gems of the $30 motel room and keeps us from asking questions like, "Why would you even have anything that color near a box spring anyway?")
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day 49: flat tires 6 & 7, outside winnemucca, nv

Yes, the ol' double whammy of flat tires this morning. Both on my cursed rear wheel. First I ran over a staple (pictured above). Then the replacement tube was either punctured or became so during installation.

Obviously, we should have opted for the bottomless mimosas at The Griddle.
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day 49: the best thing nevada has offered me

Caribbean French Toast at The Griddle, Winnemucca, NV. (Caribbean = coconut-encrusted) No syrup needed. Rivals Galena, IL's banana bread french toast.
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day 48: dispatch from winnemucca

First of all, can anyone tell me why I've heard of Winnemucca before? Aaron reminded me it's mentioned in a Johnny Cash song, but that's not ringing a bell.

The good news about Winnemucca: we encountered some nice people here! It all bevan at the RV park where we're camping - Yes! We're camping! - when the owner told us a site would be $18 and we rejoiced, then explained to him that the guy down the street wanted to charge us $28 plus tax for a gravel site (here, they've got grass). "He's an idiot," our guy said. More rejoicing, then a nice chat followed. We also met a nice bike shop owner in town who gave us some route info and showed us some sweet photos of him riding a [bike nerd alert] Surly Pugsley on some nearby sand dunes. Crazy stuff. Why were we in a bike shop? I'm not quite sure - it's just Aaron's thing when we get to a town with one. Bike nerds unite, I s'pose. We then found our way to the Butch Cassidy Saloon - perhaps the first bar we've seen in this state *without* slot machines - where after awhile a nice gentleman bought everyone a round.

I think I'm on to something: after I complained about the wind here on.the blog, we had two relatively mild days. After I complained about the people/culture of Nevada, things looked up a bit. What else? I wish the hills around here were flatter. (Actually, they're not so bad.) Maybe this: I sure wish my right ring finger would stop being so tingly these days (true story - I assume it's from so much handlebar gripping - should I be concerned?). I'll need to come up with some better grievances.

As nice as it is here in this bath house, where I can charge my phone as I type, I think I'll retire to the tent now.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

day 48: jack in the box

Perhaps sensing a pending revolt, Aaron has allowed us to visit a Jack In the Box. Jack himself is pictured above.
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a conversation from day 47

Aaron: Ugh. Why does everything hurt?
Jamie-Lee : Well, I don't know. It might be because you've ridden your bicycle about 3200 miles over the last 47 days with five days off. That might be it.
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day 47: no win, nevada

We're here in Battle Mountain, Nevada, a town whose name sounds like a level from a video game. Once again, we're motel-bound, once again not exactly by choice. The one RV Park in town would have charged us $27 plus tax for a square of shadeless gravel with no access to restrooms. We got permission from the sherriff to pitch our tent in the town park, but she then warned us that the automatic sprinklers are on all over the park for most of the night (since that's the only way to force anything to grow here). If the sprinklers let off a mountain mist-like stream, this would be fine. If, however, they were more laserbeam-like *ticktickticktickticktick* sprinklers, the tent likely wouldn't keep the water out and we'd we kept awake by the ticking anyway. So, the Owl Motel it was. While I've definitely enjoyed our occasional motels, it's frustrating at this point feeling forced into one rather than choosing to splurge. I think I'm also afraid of the trip seeming less "legit." But we're still biking the miles, I assure you. That trip through the tunnel today was a half mile, tops.

But, I suppose there are worse unpredictable problems we could be having. Originally, we thought we'd be traversing Nevada via the smaller U.S. Route 50, also known as "the loneliest road in America," as it has just three towns spaced out over about 250 miles, along with over 20,000 feet of uphill. Once Aaron learned we could ride on the more-traveled Interstate 80, with towns every 50-ish miles, our plans changed. So again, the forced motels maybe aren't so bad. It's not that we can't afford it, it's that we'd rather not. But to be honest, I figured I would have spent more of my savings than I actually have by now.

Next. We think motels and/or Nevada are making us dumb. It's impossible not to watch terrible television in a motel room. What's on right now? "What Not To Wear." (Yes, y'all, Aaron is watching it.) Additionally, the video slot machines aren't doing anyone any good. I'm pretty sure it'd be impossible to strike up a conversation with a stranger over a drink here because everyone parks themselves in front of these moneysucking machines.

Apologies for all the kvetching. It's the itchy part of the trip, where we can practically taste the cabernet waiting in Sonoma, but we've got a few hundred miles of desert between us. Onward!
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(found it! in elko yesterday.)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

day 47: tunnel #1

Pro: we don't have to go over the hill!

Con: No shoulder! Death trap! Time to hitch a ride from a nice dude heading to Santa Cruz!
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flat tire #5: elko, nv

Another slow overnight leak. My bike. Sigh.
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devils and dust (thanks bruce)

We've been seeing dust devils over the last bunch of days. They're small cyclones of, well, what we thought was dust that swirl with the wind across fields and disperse without warning. Yesterday, we learned that they like the road too. We were stopped for a roadside break on our 70 mile trek between towns, in the middle of reslathering ourselves with sunscreen, when we saw the dust cloud coming over the hill toward us. we might have had ten seconds to prepare. "Grab your ... grab your," Aaron said.

I waited a moment. "Grab my what?!" i figured he was about to tell me about a specific part of my body to protect.

"Grab your bike!"

My bike might have lasted two seconds before it tumbled into the gravel, bags and all. To even have a chance of holding it up, I would have had to face the dust directly, not an option. The "dust" consisted of small rocks and as soon as it hit, the sting of the bits pelting us lasted for a good few seconds. Luckily, I kept my eyes and mouth shut. For the rest of the aftenoon, the tiny rocks encrusted my scalp.

Aaron let out a whoop after the dust passed. Our skin still stung. I fetched my bike from down the small embankment. We continued on, in the direction from which the dust came. You should assume at this point that we're always riding into the wind. It's impressive, eally. When the wind blows fom the south, like yesterday, we ride south. When it blows from the west, like today, we ride west. I guess the upside of this is we'll always see the dust coming.    

Monday, August 15, 2011

day 46: redemption

The good folks at the Rodeway Inn have given us a nice little discount having heard our plight about being kept out of the RV Parks. Huzzah! Take that, meanies.

day 46: meanies

Alas, not everyone we've met along the way has been helpful. There are the truck drivers who come too close, who pass in the oncoming lane right as they're going by us, causing incredible winds to practically blow us off the road. There was the lady at the RV park this morning who refused to let us use the restroom even though there was nothing else for miles (we found some nice sagebrush around the corner). Then, there are the RV parks here in Elko, who won't let us purchase a site for the night because we don't have an RV. (Bikes don't count, apparently.) We ask why. "Those are our rules." Sigh.

day 46: bed head

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day 45: "Oh no."

These were Aaron's words when, upon flipping through the channels in the motel room, he came across Barbra Streisand's "One Night Only" special on PBS.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

day 45: buckaroo brew

"Buckaroo Brew is a special beer originally brewed for the Western Folklife Center and the Cowboy Poerty Gathering in Elko, Nevada."

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"We rode our bikes here."

This - "We rode our bikes here." - has become a sort of anthem for us over the last few weeks. We started saying it when the landscape really started to become extraordinary, probably somewhere around South Dakota. For me, this kind of phrase is about as self-congratulatory as I like to get, although I do plan to raise a glass or five to myself if and when we do make it to California. We also seem to need to remind ourselves that admidst the daily annoyances and difficulties we've had, the ups and downs in team morale, the towns we've loved and the ones we've already forgotten, we've been at this project for awhile now. We rode our bikes here. In a way, it's like listening to the applause for a moment before jumping into the next song.

Today, as we all knew would happen, the phrase took an ironic turn. As we wandered about the dim, smoke-filled casinos of ol' Jackpot, we uttered, "We rode our bikes *here*!?" Of course, in a few days, when we're somewhere in the middle of this hilly desolate dustbowl of a state, we'll long for the $16.99 prime rib buffet, when neither of us got the prime rib.
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day 44: image from Jackpot.

(He broke even.)
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Nevada: let's all adjust our expectations

Just a quick note to let you all know that things might get dicey in the next few days in terms of my data signal. We'll be lilypadding from town to town, going 50-70 miles without much to speak of, gaining elevation the whole time. The good ol' uphill desert. We've got it plotted out so we'll always be in a town at night, but who knows if this lil phone will work. Don't fret, friends. If you're missing us too much, just scroll back and replace a previous state's name with "Nevada." Good as new!
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Saturday, August 13, 2011

day 44: not just Nevada. Jackpot, Nevada.

A quaint hamlet where you'll find Poker St., Lady Luck Avenue, Dice Drive, etc.
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day 44: welcome to Nevada

Feel lucky?
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day 44: i broke another spoke.

I tried to explain to Aaron that I did this so Tim wouldn't have sent us the tools in vain. (Yeah, Tim!) He wasn't buying it. "This is spoke #5," he said with waning patience as he got to fixing it. I reminded him that he didn't fix the other four. This was probably not the most helpful thing I could have said.

So, why do I keep doing this? It seems I'm a rough rider, a "masher," as Jeff the bike shop owner in Rapid City said. This is opposed to a "spinner" - I tend to ride the harder gears at a slower cadence to leverage more power from my relatively small frame. This has been the best way to keep up with the relatively larger frame on the bike (usually) ahead of me. An unfortunate side effect of all.this mashing is that I rock my weighted down bike from side to side and create a lot of extra force - and there go the spokes. I tried to blame this on the quality of my wheel. "This is an incredibly strong piece of equipment," he said.

"Well, I'm incredibly stronger," I said.
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The editors would like to add to last evening's post about the foods consumed by our travelers that Chex Mix, in particular the Sweet n'Salty Trail Mix variety, has been essential for us.

Also, above is a photo of the aforementioned Sinclair sign. Dino!
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Friday, August 12, 2011

the usual

Given my mention of "services" in my post last night, plus since we're camping in what is essentially the backyard of a gas station somewhere in south central Idaho tonight (not sure of the town name - now that's vagrant life, right?), I thought I would post about the food-related habits we've fallen into during our trip.

First, gas stations and convenience stores have been essential, hence Aaron's focus on "services." Out west, I've been partial to the gqs station Sinclair, whose logo includes a 8silhouette of a green brontosaurs. When we see one in the distance, I shriek, "Dino!" I've also enjoyed the chain Loaf n'Jug, purely based on the name, but it has faded since Wyoming. But really, anything will do.

A stop at a convenience store begins with finding a spot to lean our bikes, then a visit to the restroom. We've seen all levels of cleanliness, all varieties of paper towel dispensers. Next, the selection of beverage. If it's morning, I'll opt for juice. The best possible option at any time is Naked Juice - Green Machine is our favorite, though you really can't go wrong - but these are only found on rare occasions. The more common choice is a V8 Fusion, either strawberry banana, blueberry pomegranate, or cranberry blackberry. Both Naked Juices and V8 Fusions are good because they contain vegetables, a rare occurrence for us these days, with the exception of good ol' iceberg lettuce.

Later in the day or particularly hot days mean it's Gatorade time. I tend toward red or yellow. Aaron likes orange. We drink anywhere from 32 to 64 ounces of Gatorade a day, I'd say. Sometimes it winds up in he water bottles we keep on the bikes, though we've had mold issues from that. A late afternoon convenience store stop often means that for me, Coca Cola is necessary. This is my gesture of, "I don't care that it's bad for me, I'm riding my dang bike across the dang country and I need some more dang sugar and caffeine." We drink water from our bottles, mistly, refilling as needed. Of course, there are days like today when there are no stores for 50 or so miles. My reacgion: buying a red Gatorade, a cranberry V8 Fusion, and a Coke at about 6 p.m. and drinking them one after another. Delicious.

As for food, the gas station snack favorites are those little toasty peanut butter sandwich crackers. Aaron likes the cheese crackers with peanut butter, but I've always found those odd. The little two pack of Fig Newtons is also a good supplement. "Fruit and cake!" I always declare. And there have certainly been some candy bars on occasion. I've taken this trip as a time to figure out if the Reese's people really need to have all those varieties of treats. Results are inconclusive at this time.

We have meal habits too. Sure I've posted or tweeted about our most interesting meals, but the majority, especially these days, are not. For breakfast, Aaron orders coffee, water, two eggs over easy, hash browns, toast ("rye if you have it"), and one pancake. I order coffee, orange juice, three slices of French toast, and two eggs, usually over easy, sometimes scrambled. Other meals are often a fish sandwich for him and a chicken sandwich for me. Fries, or a baked potato if we're lucky. Tossed salad at dinner with all the iceberg you could want, maybe some carrot slivers, a cucumber slice and a tomato. (I started taking a multivitamin about 2 weeks ago.)

We drink milkshakes and eat ice cream when we want, do a final candy bar stop at a gas station sometimes at the end of the night, and have been enjoying beer just about every night. Tonight is the Black Butte Porter from Bend, OR (pretty good!). After all, if not now, when?

This may be a mundane group of details, but I can't explain how essential these staples have become, especially the gas station convenience stores. When we arrived in Dubois, WY on Saturday after 30 final miles of uphill windy riding, we passed a number of little restaurants and gift shops that probably could have provided us with a drink, a snack and some info about campgrounds, but we continued through town, zombie like, until we found a gas station. There's really no other way to arrive.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

day 42: lunch under the interstate

Tortillas and peanut butter. It ain't all potato museums and motel rooms, kids.
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the best and worst of mootis: volume 4 or 5 or whatever it is

It's that time again, pals. I have to admit that if biking across the country didn't so often get in the way of blogging about biking across the country, there would be so many more glorious Mootis stories here for your enjoyment. It's a real shame, but here I am at the Motel 6 in Chubbuck, Idaho ready to provide you with a few Mootis moments to get you through til next time. (What's with the motel? Well, the campground/RV park was full and we're in a town that's too big to consider pitching our tent just anywhere. It borders an Indian reservation and we've been advised to steer clear of them camping-wise -- and since we did 95 miles today, heading to the next town didn't sound too good.)

But, onward! Mootis!

BEST MOOTIS MOMENT OF LATE: This one just occurred tonight, but I decided it should bump any other potentially superlative Mootis scene from the last bunch of days. When we were checking into the motel, there were two weary and sunburned guys trying to level with the clerks at the front desk. It was clear they weren't getting anywhere. We didn't know what was up, but there were the typical, "I'm sorry, but that's the policy," and "No, there's nothing we can do," responses from the woman behind the desk. As I filled out our form, ol' Mootis learned that the guys have bwen on the road traveling and hitchhiking for well over a year (they looked it, just as we looked and smelled each of the day's miles) and after dealing with some serious sun overexposure, they'd saved enough cash to get a motel room for the night. The problem: they needed a photo ID to register for a room (for accountability reasons: if property is stolen or damaged) and neither of them had any due to some other snafus in their travels. One of the guys mentioned the possibility of one of us "lending" them our ID -- basically putting the room in one of our names, but them paying with their cash, of course. The other guy quickly quieted him, suggesting it wasn't cool or fair to ask that of us. We parted ways and the dudes headed down the street and us toward our room. Maybe 2 minutes passed before Mootis hopped back on his bike to tell the guys he'd put their room in his name. And so he did. Smelly man hugs ensued. Some of you might think the potential risk here is far too great for this to be a praiseworthy moment for Mootis. I hear you - after all, my ID stayed secure in my wallet the whole time. And we don't know the outcome of this yet, but I think there's a good chance Mootis helped some guys who've had a hard go of it recently get some rest. I tip my bike helmet to you, Mootis.

WORST MOOTIS MOMENT OF LATE: This is more a general Mootis topic than a specific Mootis instance. And "worst" is perhaps overkill. Let's be honest: I just need a platform from which to poke fun and this is it. The topic at hand is Mootis's bike lingo. This began before our trip when he began referring ro anything we'd be bringing with us, even the most mundane items (toothbrush, socks, etc.), as "gear." This tendency has continued. Mootis has very specific and, in my opinion, odd terminology for a good deal of things on this trip. First, there's his bizarre inter-cyclist communication. Instead of just crossing a road or saying, "we're good" or "all set," when no traffic is approaching, he lets out a hearty, "Clear!" It reminds me of the doctors in "ER" before using the defribillator paddles. When I'm feeling particularly punchy, I respond with, "Clear. EXECUTE!" as I pedal across the way. Then there are, "car back" and "clear back," terms (which sound remarkably similar, I should add) to inform me if there is traffic in the way if we're merging or making a lefthand turn across a lane. I'm not even going tonget into the hand signals. Just know that there are hand signals.

Other Mootis biking terms include "pass" for the top of any high mountain or hill and "climb" or "climbing" to describe how we ascend said mountains or hills. So, instead of saying, "We'll go up the mountain," Mootis talks about "the climb to the pass." And then there are "frontage roads." These are the small, generally more bike friendly service roads that parallel some highways. Sure, these are all real words. But who talks this way?

My favorite is when Mootis discusses "services."He's confused more than one stranger with this one. "Do you know if there are any services along this road?" he'll ask. Or better: "Are there any services along the climb to the pass?" Blank stares abound. I usually like to sit back and watch, but on this occasion, I've stepped in, perhaps for the sake of my own interest.

"He wants to know if there are any gas stations. Stores. Restaurants. Anything that could help us out."

Mootis nods. "Yes. Services."

Dude. What are you doing?
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

day 41: blackfoot, idaho's lil gem

There are some days when it's been impossible not to question why we would choose to ride our bicycles across the country. There are other days when the reasons are right in front of us.

Did I mention I got a complimentary box of hashbrowns?
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day 41: good morning, idaho

Mexican breakfast at Los Albertos. Muchas gracias.
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assistance needed

Since our night in Hiland, WY, (the night of the Rocky Mountain Oysters), I've been trying to write a joke, but I've only gotten the first line so far. Here it is:

A cowboy, a minister, and a Jew walk into a bar.

Can you help with the rest? Best suggestion wins an order of the famed Rocky Mountain Oysters from the famed Bright Spot in Hiland. My treat.
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