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.