Sunday, October 5, 2008

Colorado, then Home

On the return trip we stopped in Colorado to visit Belinda's parents and we saw the the fall colors in Colorado. The aspens were resplendent. We are home now and want to thank everyone who followed the blog; your comments helped us keeping going day by day. We really felt we were sharing our journey with others.

The Black Hills of South Dakota

On the way to the trailhead for Harney Peak, we passed over the Needles Hwy. The picture above is of the 'Eye of the Needle'. After a good hike we came to Harney Peak, highest point between the Pyrenees and the Rockies. At the top is the fire lookout built by the CCC. It is really like a little castle.

On our way out of Custer State Park we saw a herd of buffalo. This cow caught our attention as she is some what askew.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mt. Rushmore, SD

Monday, Sept. 15th, we drove to the Black Hills of S.Dakota, and at Custer State Park we rendesvoused with Ray and Brenda. We camped there with our friends for five days and explored the area. One of our first orders of fun was to visit Mt. Rushmore. The above photo gives an idea of the setting and scale.

In this next picture you will notice a person rappelling down Washington's forehead. We were told that he was inspecting for cracks in the stone that would have to be filled to prevent freezing water from defacing (har, har, har..) the sculpture.

As we drove away, we rounded a corner and were presented with this profile of Washington. It is an amazing monument that makes you think about the contributions of each of these men. The sculptor felt they represented the beginning, the growth, and ideals of our country. He worked on the monument for 17 years and the work on it ended in October 1941.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Niagara Falls, NY to Rapid City, SD

The great westward trek has progressed. From Amherst, Massachusetts we had gone straight east across NY to Niagara Falls. We headed southwest from Niagara along Lake Erie passing briefly through Pennsylvania and then into Ohio. It started raining quite seriously the night we spent outside of Cleveland due to a cold front from the north. We passed through Indiana passing up the RV Hall of Fame, before heading into Illinois. There are some very unusual museums in the midwest. The rain continued to get worse as the moisture from Hurricane Ike began to run into the cold front. We spent the night just west of Chicago and in the morning the streets were full of water. The rain continued to get worse and flooding had started in Chicago. We just kept heading west and soon were in Wisconsin. The Mississippi River separates Wisconsin from Minnesota and is fairly large, but not the gargantuan river we saw at Chester, Illinois. In Minnesota the hardwood forestland finally began to open up into farmland. As we listened to the radio we realized we had gotten out of Illinois in the nick of time before serious winds and flooding due to Ike occurred. We passed through southern Minnesota into South Dakota in a day and knew we were in the west again. The air was drier and the landscape more like Kansas and eastern Colorado and there were signs for cowboy attractions. After spending the night in Sioux Falls, our westward path brought us to the Missouri River at the point where Lewis and Clark had crossed it.

This was a coincidence in the trip since we had crossed the Mississippi on the bikes at Chester, Illinois another spot where Lewis and Clark had passed on their journey of exploration. Our next destination was the Badlands in western South Dakota.

The Badlands have been the richest source of mammalian fossils from around 25 million years ago. After the inland seas dried up and became grasslands, many species of mammals including ancestors of the horse, rhinoceros, bison, wolf, pig, and mountain lion lived on these plains. The animals were killed or covered by layers of ash and sediment from various volcanic events and uncovered during the erosion of the Badlands in the last million years.

It is a very unique landscape that is surrounded by plains. At one of the overlooks, we looked back and saw our bikes from this angle.

It made us feel nostalgic for the slower pace we had on the trip east. During the last 5 days we had passed through 6 states without getting a good feel for the people, places or landscapes in those states. Travel by bicycle is so intimate and rewarding that we know it will be a part of our future for many years to come.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Niagara Falls

The falls drain 4 of the 5 Great Lakes and the flow is enormous. Every second 2/3 of an acre foot of water passes over the Falls. We rode the Maid of the Mist boat which goes as close as possible to the Canadian side of the falls which is known as the Horseshoe Falls. The boat goes into the falls as far as possible given the incredible current from the amount of water. The captain took the boat in until the current stalled our forward progress and the spray from the falls was like rain at that time. We also went on the Cave of the Winds tour which goes to the base of the American falls. We went to the bottom of the falls and then went up a series of stairs parallel to the falls. The amount of water and the sound of that much water falling was impressive.

The Niagara Falls are really one of the wonders of the natural world. The amount of water flowing over the falls is truly amazing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Visiting in Amherst, MA

On Wednesday Sept. 3 we headed north from Williamsburg to see Dave's cousin Bob in Amherst, Massachusetts. We arrived on Thursday and spent the next 5 days sightseeing and having a good time with Bob and Linda. One of the most amazing things in the Amherst area is the Peace Pagoda. It took a long time to build and was built by hand on a large hill that can be seen from all around. It has 4 Buddhas, one on each side, and the site also has two other Buddhist temples (Cambodian and Indian, both in construction). A group of Japanese has constructed these pagodas all around the world with donations and there are two in the U.S.; the other one in the U.S. is in Seattle.

While we were at Bob and Linda's, Jack was in fine company. Dusty, Sabrina, and Pico graciously allowed Jack to sleep in all their beds, tear up all their toys, and chase them when they went on a barking spree. He also learned how to use their dog doors and really enjoyed chasing the ball when Bob threw it.

We really enjoyed visiting with Bob and Linda and eating large amounts of fresh vegetables from their overflowing garden. They have super green thumbs and are pictured here with some of their bounty.

Tomorrow we stop in at Niagara Falls, then on to Cleveland as we head west to California.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Trip Statistics and Some Opinions

As we travelled farther east people seemed to be really surprised at our trip. We kept explaining that it wasn't that hard if you thought of it as a bunch of small trips. This idea, the fact of the day after day travel, left us with some impressions to share with you. We also wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the trip.

Total miles ridden = 4033
Total trip miles (between destinations) = 3934
Total miscellaneous miles (shopping, laundry, sightseeing) = 99

Longest day (miles) = 78.4, Eureka, NV to Ely, NV
Longest day (hours) = 8:01 hours spent riding, excluding breaks, meals, etc. , Rico, CO over Lizard Head Pass (10,000 ft. +) to Ridgway, CO, tent was erected in dusk and dinner eaten in the dark
Shortest day (miles) = 14.9, 3000 ft. climb from Cedar City, UT to Cedar Cyn. Campground
Shortest day (hours) = 2:01 hours spent climbing Carson Pass in snowstorm to Sorenson's Resort just east of Carson Pass over the Sierra Nevada in California

Days of riding = 88
Trip duration = May 12 - Sept. 1
Number of tires worn out = 7, 5 bicycle, 2 trailer
Number of flats = more than 10, lost track
Least number of flats = trailer had no flats during entire trip (thorn proof tubes)

Most difficult terrain - Utah, the Ozarks of Missouri were very difficult as well
Least difficult terrain - Coastal plain of Virginia (the Tidewater), flatter than Kansas.
Worst climb - 4500 ft. in 28 miles from Cedar City, UT to the top of Cedar Breaks Natl. Monument (10,222 ft.)
Best descent - 2000 ft. in 14 miles from Natural Bridges Natl. Monument, UT to the bottom of Comb Wash, UT. Dave hit 47 mph with trailer and Belinda hit 42 mph.

Most extremes - California, rode in 100 degree weather and freezing temperatures in full snowstorm
Most rain - Nevada (the desert), due to late spring storm
Highest heat and Humidity - Missouri

Roadkill - whose frequency impressed us
Nevada - pronghorn antelope
Utah - bungees (1000's)
Kansas - turtles
Missouri - armadillos
New roadkill sightings (for Dave and Belinda) - badger, porcupine, river otter

Cultural Observations
Kansas - best city parks (showers and pools), most museums (1 per town) and most American flags
Missouri - most unusual mailboxes
Kentucky - most convenience stores
Virginia - most cemetaries
USA - Americans are nice people

motels, private campgrounds, county fairgrounds, national recreation areas, national monuments, state parks, city parks, historical parks, courthouse lawns, volunteer fire departments, log cabins, hunting lodge, bed and breakfasts, private homes , churches, historical society, a biker hostel and a few campsites where we just pulled off the road a ways and found a tentsite and called it a day.

Possible titles for books based on trip
How to Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in a Convenience Store
The Good Karma of Waving at Patient Drivers

Monday, September 1, 2008

Williamsburg to Yorktown

Today dawned clear with a forecast of temperatures in the 80's and low humidity. The Colonial Parkway heads southeast from Williamsburg on the old road to Yorktown. Tall trees bordered the road until we crossed King's creek heading out to the York River. We could smell the saltwater and soon came across beautiful white sand beaches along the river.

We soon reached Yorktown and the victory monument. It is huge and has large inscriptions on each side. We really outnumbered the British at Yorktown and it was the culmination of the seven years of the Revolutionary War. We had 5500 Continental army troops, 7000 French troops, and 3000 militiamen. The British had 7250 troops and were cut off from supplies and retreat on the York River by a blockade of French ships. The British held out in a siege for 19 days before surrendering. We have now finished our coast to coast bike ride and are working up some interesting trip statistics to share. We look forward to continue sharing our adventures with y'all (oh my gosh, how long have we been in the South?) as we make our way back home.

Colonial Williamsburg

Sunday started with rain in the forecast. We went sightseeing in Colonial Williamsburg. It was the capital of Virginia before and after the Revolutionary War. The most impressive original building is the Governor's palace; it was the largest building in the town and had large formal English gardens in the back. Approximately 1/3 of the buildings are original (the brick ones) and 2/3 have been restored (the wood ones) since 1926 when John D. Rockefeller Jr. took an interest in preserving Williamsburg.

One of the unique aspects of Williamsburg is the people who represent the craftsmen, proprietors, townsfolk and historical figures. There was a blacksmith (pictured above), a shoemaker, saddlemaker, cabinetmaker, and apothecary that were practicing their trade in their shops. They showed us their work and answered questions about the town from a historical perspective.The magazine and armoury were housed in one building and the collection of flintlocks was gorgeous. There were also Brown Besses, a famous musket, on display.The capital building reminded us of buildings in Amsterdam. This was where the Declaration of Independence was presented to the people of Virginia. We finished the day with a briefing from General Washington on the strategy for the siege of Yorktown.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ashland to Williamsburg

Thursday morning we awoke to pouring rain. We had ridden Wednesday in a light rain all day and had thoroughly dried off Wednesday night. Now the forecast was for significant rainfall for the next couple of days. We decided to push on since we had confirmed with a church in Glendale that we could stay inside and we had a fairly short mileage to complete if it kept raining. Into the pouring rain we rode and kept on following the Trans-am signs (see above) that we had seen at every intersection since we entered Virginia. The 76 stands for 1976 the first year the route was ridden in celebration of the bicentennial. Well we were thoroughly drenched before we reached Mechanicsville on one of the small county roads. We stopped for lunch as the rain let up for the rest of the day.
The route had us skirting Richmond to the northeast and we soon came upon the signs marking the Civil War battlefields and recounting the battles that occurred before the fall of Richmond. One of the battlefields we passed was Cold Harbour where 17,000 were killed. There were 7 days of battles around Richmond and it was clear that the North had surrounded Richmond by the location of the battlefields. This house served as a battle headquarters and the church we stayed in had served as a field hospital for the Confederate army. Friday morning we headed east from Glendale and joined Hwy 5 headed for Williamsburg. The riding was incredibly easy; the coastal plain of Virginia is flatter than Kansas! Along the James River we passed the old plantations from the early days (1726 +) and soon reached Williamsburg. We're resting today and taking care of business at the post office. Tomorrow we go to Yorktown, site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Charlottesville to Ashland

Bob and Donna sent us on our way Tuesday morning near Tom Jefferson's house with fond farewells under an overcast sky. After a steep descent we rode through gently rolling countryside. The overcast kept temperatures cool and it was a good day for riding. As we rode along we couldn't help noticing the brown grass and dying corn fields due to lack of rain. The last signifacant rain was on July 4th. The rain we will get this week will be too late for many of the farmers of Virginia.

As we rode the small back roads we thought that, except for the road pavement, it would be hard to tell just what century we were in. We passed old plantation houses and a log cabin. The Piedmont of Virginia is a beautiful and historic place. We ended the day in Mineral, where we kept dry from the overnight rain thanks to the hospitality of the firefighters of the Mineral Fire Station.

We left Mineral in a light rain which persisted all day. We wound past Lake Anna as we turned south towards Ashland. Just outside of Coatesville we passed the historic home of Patrick Henry. We reached Ashland at about three o'clock and were very glad to get a motel room and get out of the rain.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Afton to Charlottesville

We left the Cookie Lady on Sunday with our thanks and rode from Afton to Charlottesville on a rolling Hwy. 250. Once in town we called Bob from the University of Virginia and he came to pick us up. After a wonderful dinner with Bob and Donna, we had a great conversation late into the wee hours, solving most of the world's problems.

Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Bob and Donna, we have stayed over a day to see Monticello. Thomas Jefferson was truly a great thinker and that fact is reflected in the home he built.

We have four days of riding to reach Williamsburg where we will headquarter for sightseeing and an unloaded daytrip on the bikes the last 13 miles to Yorktown. Yes we can almost smell that sea air now!

Vesuvius to Afton

Saturday morning Buck, who owns Gertie's Store, offered to give us a lift up the infamous four mile long Vesuvius Hill. We were glad for the lift because we had heard that there were pitches of 23% slope on this hill. We didn't think we could even push the trailer up these steep pitches. Four miles later Buck deposited us on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We rode along this scenic wonder for 27 miles with views like this of the Shenandoah Valley. On the Parkway a couple, Bob and Donna, on a motorcycle stopped to talk to us. It turns out that Bob rode a recumbent bicycle across the Trans-Am trail a couple of years ago. Well ,they invited us to stay at their house in Charlottesville when we got there on Sunday.

At Rockfish Gap we turned east and dropped steeply off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode on Hwy. 750 to the small town of Afton, where resides June Curry, the Cookie Lady. We visited with June for about two hours before taking up residence in her Bike House Hostel. June is 87 years old, and for the past 32 years she has given water, food, and shelter to bicyclists crossing the country like us. The Bike House is filled with mementos and cards of bicyclists honoring her generosity. June is much beloved by bikers around the world.

Buchanan to Vesuvius

Friday morning we left Buchanan later than we wanted because the restaurant didn't open on time. As it was our only chance at to get breakfast we had to wait. After a good breakfast we rode along Hwy. 11 to Lexington where we saw Stonewall Jackson's grave and had a great lunch at an Irish Pub. Leaving Lexington we climbed over a big ridge and then rode up the beautiful valley of the South River to Vesuvius. In Vesuvius we camped behind Gertie's Store and had huge club sandwiches for dinner in the store. The owners are really nice and made us feel like we had been regulars for years. Also camping with us was a young couple, Liz and Brendan, traveling west, who quickly became Jack's latest victims, er.. ball throwin' buddies.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Catawba to Buchanan

Well, we left Bill and Annie's this morning much refreshed. Their hospitality was unrivaled and we are grateful for that and for the chance to make new friends. Flash was used when taking the above picture so that explains why Jack looks demonic (although Bill and Annie's cats may believe that Belinda was holding a demon). On the bikes we had a good start with seven miles of downhill and an overcast sky to keep the temperature down. We noticed this mailbox early as we made our way down Bradshaw Rd.

We zigzaged our way out to Hwy. 11 which was gently rolling all the way to our destination, Buchanan. Our motel for the night is about two miles northeast of town and has the following view just outside our door. When we got to Buchanan, the sun was out and it was hot enough to take a swim, so we did. We usually just jump in with our cycling shorts on, giving them a rinse at the same time as refreshing ourselves.

Tomorrow we go to Vesuvius and from there (on Saturday) cross over the Eastern Divide and will stay at the famous "Cookie Lady's" Biker Hostel in Afton. June Curry, aka "The Cookie Lady", started by giving water to hot cyclists passing by her house in the early days of the Bike Centennial and is much renowned amongst touring cyclists.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rest Day at Bill and Annies

Our total mileage for Monday and Tuesday was 116 miles and we jumped at the invitation for a rest day with Bill and Annie. Their home is just outside Salem and very near to Roanoke. Annie took us sightseeing in Roanoke and to the top of Mill Mountain to see panorama of the Roanoke River Valley.

On the top of Mill Mountain is the largest star in the world. It was erected in 1949 and can be seen from 60 miles away on a clear night.

We headed downtown for lunch in the Old Market Place. There were many great shops, restaurants, and a daily farmer's market in the downtown. Roanoke has many amenities and seems like a much larger city. We drove through Roanoke College where Bill was at work and admired the historic buildings. Tomorrow we continue on with approx. 340 miles to Yorktown.