Sunday, June 29, 2008

Photos: North Dakota

Beer take-out in North Dakota...just back the truck
up to the bar door!

A great breakfast place in Stanley, ND.

Before eating the "Big Rig" breakfast -- french toast
or pancakes, three eggs, three bacon, four links or one
large sausage patty.

After the "Big Rig" -- a breakfast well appreciated by
cross-country bike riders!

With our Warmshowers host in Williston, Anna
Hoffman (her husband Doug is not in the photo).

Sonia in front of the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot.

A different kind of garden gnome popping out of a
"gnome hole" cover in a yard in Williston.

High art, North Dakota style!

The first to ride on a partially-completed Highway 2,
still under construction and closed to cars (bikes,
however, can squeeze between the "Road Closed"

Outside the Snow White ice cream shop in Ray, ND.

Riding on a very windy day between Williston and
Epping, ND.

Gus leaning against the wind between Williston and
Stanley, ND.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

VENDING MACHINE in front of bait shop in Stanley, North Dakota was dispensing "a dozen jumbo leeches". Hopefully in a container.

Wind, you say? You don't KNOW wind!

Ode to the West Wind

by Percey Shelly

(I remembered this poem from high school, but had to google it to get it correct. OK, Shelly may be a wind bag, but this part of the poem does fit our day today)

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

if I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free

Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even

I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,

As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed

Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

And from one of the greatest poets of our generation, Bob Seger, from Against the Wind:

Against the wind

I'm still runnin' against the wind

I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind

Yesterday and today we fought the winds, at least while travelling north. When we left Williston, ND yesterday, we decided to leave the Adventure Cycling route and head north and then east on Route 2. This would put us another day ahead and would allow us to have a rest day in Minot, which we were all in need of.

We had to ride 14 miles north of Williston before heading east to Stanley where we planned to spend the night in the city park (I love how the cities in Montana and North Dakota allow camping in their parks. I wish Walla Walla would do this). We encountered a BRUTAL wind from the west, I'm guessing 25 miles per hour with higher gusts. As we rode north, it was all I could do to keep the loaded bike going forward and not sideways! At one point I looked ahead and Alison was leaning her bike into the wind. I then noticed we were also riding at an angle to the ground. That 14 miles (with some back country navigating so we could take advantage of the tailwind occasionally) took us about 2 1/4 hours!

Once we got to Highway 2 heading east, however, we had a sweet tailwind. I wish I had a sail on the bike! We stopped in the town of Ray for ice cream (at Snow White Ice Cream - highly recommended if you are out this way). While sitting eating our ice cream we spoke with a man who grew up in Stanley and was back visiting relatives. He and his wife were so impressed with the kids that they wanted a picture of all of us by our bikes! This has happened several times now. The kids are getting their 15 minutes of fame!

Just as we were about to get on our bikes it started to rain. We waited it out (and had another ice cream cone!). Once we got on our bikes we were able to cruise at 25 mph on the flats with no problems. But, alas, the next rain system caught us. We got the rain gear on again and headed off. Once we reached Stanley we were all wet and cold and decided to see if the small motel on the west end of town had any rooms. We were told by our hosts in Williston that because of a recent oil boom in this area (more on that in a later post) that there were not rooms to be found in any of the towns between Williston and Minot. When we pulled up to the motel the "No Vacancy" sign was lit. I went inside anyway to see if they could suggest another place. The man at the desk said they did have a room left. There was much rejoicing! We unloaded the bikes, got hot showers, and settled in for a well-deserved rest.

When we got up in the morning I anticipated an easy ride to Minot. What did I say in the last post about this type of anticipation? Unfortunately, the wind had shifted and we now had a partial side and tailwind. The hills didn't help our progress any, but at least the sun was out! I think it was worth the push to Minot by compressing a three day ride into two. This way we get to take tomorrow off!

I hope to upload some photos tomorrow. Thanks for all the comments!

~ Dan

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Photos...

Finally into North Dakota!

At the border.

Leaving Montana as we entered, in the rain.
Yes, it really WAS that dark!

Sonia and Dan ride in the rain.

Being chased by the storm.

Waiting out the first storm.
Camping at the city park in Culbertson.

The day before the big storm; riding the
backroads of the Fort Peck Reservation on
BIA Highway 1.

Mile 600 in Montana.

My rain gear is...suboptimal.

My Columbia rain-sheeting guaranteed weather proof gortex waterproof you will be blissfully happy in a downpour raincoat is a lie. Leaks like a sieve. I think I'm actually drier when I don't wear raingear. I tried out my hypothesis today but decided against riding naked down Route 2. There are probably some women who would NOT get arrested for that stunt. I am not among them.

Quite a pelting downpour today. Rain hurts on a fast downhill, I learned. And the dang mosquitos were eating me up on the slow crawl up the next hill. Misery index today: 7.

Joy at discovering the library was open until 8pm in Williston, North Dakota: 9

We love you guys and thanks for the great comments! --Alison

Quote of the Day

Alison: "How do Dan and Gus climb those hills so fast? They look like a car."

Sonia: "That IS a car, Mom. Gus and Dad stopped to pee."

Quote of the Day

"If it rains again, I am riding naked."

So Close to the Lightning...

...we could smell the ozone! Today was another crazy day. But let me start with yesterday.

We left Wolf Point early (by about 7:30 AM) to beat the heat and arrived in Culbertson, MT by mid-afternoon. The city park was fantastic -- a lot of space to set up tents, trees for shade, a bathroom, and a huge covered picnic area. On the way into town Gus and I spotted the city swimming pool...Alison and Sonia spotted the local ice cream place. What a great team; swimming and ice cream after climbing some monster hills that seemed to have no end made for a great combination.

After setting up tents we headed for Scoops (I had been thinking about a root beer float for about 20 miles) and then to the pool. We were all pretty happy after a long day of biking.

We got up today rather early as well and thought we would have a pretty easy ride. Whenever this thought pops into my head I need to tell Alison to smack me! About 15 miles from Culbertson we took a break at a little mini-mart in Bainville ("The first and last stop in Montana" - depending on your direction of travel, I guess!). We saw a massive storm approaching quickly from the west, which was odd because we battled a strong headwind for the entire 15 miles. We decided to let the storm pass over, which it did rather quickly. The sun came out and we hit the road again. Another storm, however, was nipping at our heels and we tried to pedal as quickly as we could. Unfortunately, the road to the border (another nine miles) was very hilly; the uphills were steep and the downhills were tempered by the strong headwind.

Just before reaching the boarder the storm hit. We got on our rain gear (except for Alison who has sworn off the stuff -- she'll explain it in her post) and pedaled to what looked like a restaurant at the top of the hill right at the Montana-North Dakota border. When we got there the rain was hitting full force. And the building wasn't a restaurant; it was a casino and no one under 21 could enter (we snuck the kids into the foyer while we tried to wait out the rest of the storm). There seemed to be no let-up in sight, so we decided to go on.

A few miles down the road stood three radio towers, seeming guards to the western part of North Dakota. By this point the lighting was getting closer. And then the towers seemed to be under a barrage of bolts from the sky. We saw all three towers hit at least twice each! The last hit was a tower about a fifth of a mile away. We could even smell the ozone from the lightning burning its way through the air. Quite amazing!

We pushed on to Wiliston where we are staying with Anna and Doug Hoffman, people from the group. Three cyclists from Washington state are also staying in their back yard tonight.

Tomorrow we are probably going to modify our plans a bit to cut some mileage to Minot. It might not be as scenic but our legs will thank us!

Thanks again for all the comments to our posts. We love hearing from all of you, even those of you we have never met!

~ Dan

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pictures (finally)!

A pancake only a bike rider could appreciate!

Fixing flat number four in the pouring rain!

Rolling Eastern Montana landscape.

Breakfast stop (the Cafe, not the bar!) Note James and Graham: two young guys doing hundred mile days, partying in the bar all night, then camping in bivy sacks by the highway "with one foot on the road and one foot on the railroad tracks."

Alison and Gus emerge from a cloud of smoke.

Five minutes later we were poured on!

Hell is a Very Rainy Place...

...and full of unseen sharp objects that cause flat tires! Today we had six, yes SIX, flat tires. How is that possible you ask? Well, we are still trying to figure it out. We found very small, sharp rocks each time we changed a flat. And not only did we have the flats, they all happened in what is the WORST thunderstorm I have ever biked in. The lightning seemed like it was right on top of us at times!

Have you ever tried to repair a puncture in the rain? Well, don't even bother. It is impossible. Just as we were trying to figure out our options along came a motor home (often the nemesis of bikers due to their large size, big mirrors, and sometimes inattentive drivers). Alison flagged the driver, they pulled over, and I ran up to them hoping I could just sit inside and get a dry place to patch the tube. The people were from Quebec, spoke little English, but when I showed them the tube they understood. The inner tube gods must have been smiling on us as they had a spare tube just the size we needed!

We got that tire back on (flat number five), and headed down the road in the driving rain and howling wind, just to have another on Alison's bike go flat. We saw a town about a mile ahead. Sonia and I rode there hoping, again, for a dry place to patch the tube. Alison and Gus pushed the bike to town and met us. Again, the tube gods smiled as the rain stopped, the sun came out, we found a small mini-mart to buy a couple of cold Cokes, and I was able to patch the tube. The rest of the ride was a breeze with good tires, a tailwind, and a lot of down-hill.

The quote of the day inspired the title of this post. Sonia said, "Hell must be a very rainy place"!

Today we are in Wolf Point, Montana. Just two more days and we hit state number four, North Dakota.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Kickstand Addendum

My dad fixed the kickstand with a steel end of a fake Christmas tree branch and some ingenuity. I love that man! Thank you, Dad. Glad you made it back to Hood River safely. Love, Alison

Quote of the Day

Mom: Look, honey, they have public transportation buses in little Glasgow, Montana. Isn't that great?

Sonia: That's someone's RV, Mom.

Big Sky Country

Desolate? Forbidding? There was never a country that in its good moments was more beautiful...Even in drought, or dust storm or blizzard it is the reverse of monotonous, once you have submitted to it with all the senses. You don't get out of the wind, but learn to lean and squint against it. You don't escape sky and sun, but wear them in your eyeballs and on your back. You become acutely aware of yourself. The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small.
~ Wallace Stegner,
Wolf Willow

Riding day after day in Montana east of Glacier National Park has given me an appreciation of what Stegner means by submission to the senses. As we rode toward Glacier the eyes and mind were overwhelmed with the tall landscape; the mountains and snow, the rushing streams and cold mountain air. Crossing Marias Pass there was an immediate change in terrain (in a car it must seem almost instantaneous; on a bike it took a bit longer to notice, but no more than a few miles). Peaks and craggy mountain rock gave way to the broad expanses of the Montana plains. Oceans of green lay before us, our small bicycle-boats cast upon and ocean that once was thick with buffalo and native grasses. It is here that the mind starts to notice small, almost imperceptible beauty (certainly unseen from any passing car). Today a pair of bright orange butterflies flew in perfect synchronicity across the path of the bike Gus and I were riding. A dusty brown bird with a long bill and an uncanny human sounding laugh flew along with us for a half mile or so. Was it mocking us and our journey? Was it warning us to not tilt against windmills? Or was it rejoicing in our exploration? Or was it just a bird trying to warn us away?

Big Sky Country indeed. We have leaned against the occasional headwinds...we have worn the sun on our backs (and our arms, and legs, and noses). I am acutely aware of my place in this landscape, and I realize, as Stegner says, just how small I am. But there is no place I would rather be than with my family on this adventure.

The Ride

Today was our longest ride yet with loaded bikes. We rode 74 miles from Malta to Glasgow, MT. At this point I would like to pay my respects to some nameless bureaucrat, somewhere in the Montana Department of Transportation, who decided to place a rest stop in the middle of nowhere but just precisely where we needed it today at about 55 miles for much needed respite and cold water. The concrete picnic tables, probably thought only to be functional to withstand the Montana winters, were cool resting places for our hot, weary bodies (laying down on a cold concrete slab might be the last thing most people would find pleasant and refreshing, but trust me, it was!).

Yesterday we visited a dinosaur museum in Malta (back in the day, way back!) Malta was near the beach of a giant inland ocean. This has resulted in many dinosaur fossils being found here. The woman at the museum took a lot of time with us (since we were the only ones there). We learned that to tell a rock from a fossil you need to put your tongue to it. If your tongue sticks, it is a fossil (due to the porous nature of the fossilized bone). We must have looked very funny licking rocks. So far the kids have not applied this skill to any other rocks on the road...but there is always tomorrow.

Sorry, no pictures today. The hotel computer won't let us upload any.

Thanks for all the comments!


Quote of the day

A popular t-shirt here in Glasgow, Montana, shows a giant mosquito with the words, "Got Blood?"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We're in Havre!

Quote of the Day 1: while taking a rest stop Gus said "Dad, look at the log in the river." My reply, "Get your log back on the bike so we can ride!"

Quote of the Day 2: Remarking on the landscape Sonia said: "I thought where we were riding yesterday had nothing. This has even more than nothing!"

We reached
Havre (pronounced have-er) safe and sound despite: (1) a grass fire on both sides of the road we were riding on which produced choking smoke and almost zero visibility; and (2) road construction in Havre! We finally reached the library after riding for about a mile on a torn up road with gravel and many holes and then taking a "short cut" across the new but not yet opened road, through a couple of parking lots, and onto a back street. I would have stopped to take pictures but I was afraid we would be chased down by the construction workers!

Today we rode for the first time with all the gear on the bikes (I have four bags plus the trailer and Alison has two bags). Even with that we still averaged about 15 mph for the 63 miles to
Havre from Chester, MT. The bike is slower going up hill but a lot faster going down!

Tonight we are staying in a dorm at Montana State University in
Havre. That should be fun! And hopefully tonight we will be able to find a meal that consists of more than fried food. Although last night in Chester we ate at the Grand Cafe and Bar where they served delicious broasted chicken.

I hope to be able to post more pictures later tonight if the library on the campus is open.

One mechanical issue today: Alison's kick stand broke. We're not sure why; it is very heavy-duty. We stopped at the bike shop in Havre and asked if they had one. The guy had never even seen a recumbent tandem before. The kickstand is from RANS, but we won't be able to find one anywhere near here I am sure. This is really more of an inconvenience than a mechanical problem.

Thanks again for all the comments and support!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chester, Montana

Beautiful 42 mile ride from Shelby to Chester, Montana. Lovely town of 700 people with well-kept lawns and streets. 70 degrees and sunny with a tailwind on the ride today. Not a tree in sight on this side of the Continental Divide. My dad is loving bird-watching and reading while he waits along the road every ten miles for us to catch up. Today is laundry day. Olfactory relief. We are one day ahead of schedule, so we looked at the maps and decided to break up the 84 mile day in North Dakota into two days. We will be back on the regular schedule by Turtle River State Park, ND. Kids are happy and continue to notice things that we take for granted: clouds, wind in tall grass, roadkill.

We think of home often and appreciate your comments to us. xxoo, Alison

Guys night out. On the motel porch.

Huckleberry ice cream in East Glacier, Montana.

We are humbled by the magnitude and beauty of Glacier Park.

There were cars stopped in the middle of the road, which was infuriating Alison, until we realized that the hold-up was caused by a MOOSE!

East side of Glacier Park. We cheated. We drove there with Gramps.

St. Mary, Montana, on the east side of Glacier National Park.

6-18-08 Happy 70th Birthday to Jim Kirby: Dad, Gramps, campground scout, fire-starter and bird-identifier. We love you.

"Dad, your arms are like the three-color ice cream: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate!"

Quote of the Day

Mom, where on your sunburn should I slap all the mosquitos?

"I'm getting bread, water, and three months on a bicycle? I'm the Prisoner of Azkaban!"

Quote of the Day

"I blew my nose and a dead gnat came out."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"These mountains aren't so tough."

Reward for the first week of cycling: Big Sky Waterpark, Columbia Falls, Montana.

This bridge over Lake Koocanusa hummed loudly in the wind as we crossed!

Gus' version of speedy heat relief.

"we set out biding a lasting adieu ..." ~ Meriwether Lewis

We bid our own adieu to Glacier National Park
and the Rocky Mountains

A Bit of History

The road we were on today went within four miles of Camp Disappointment, so named by Meriwether Lewis after realizing that the Marias River did not extend above 50 degrees north latitude, which would have given the United States greater claim to the northern territory, also claimed by the British. He wrote in his journal "we set out biding a last adieu to this place I now call camp disappointment". We also bid farewell with disappointment, but for different reasons. These will be the last mountains we see until we reach the Adirondacks.

Also near this area is the site of the only violent encounter between the Corps of Discovery and the native peoples they met along the way. On July 26, Lewis and George Drouillard and the Field brothers, Joseph and Reubin, met with eight members of the Blackfeet tribe known as the Piegans. They made camp together that night. The next morning Lewis and his men were awoken by the sound of the Piegans attempting to steal some of the Corps weapons (according to Lewis -- there is no Piegan account of the event). During the struggle, Lewis and his men killed two of the Piegans.

Interesting History Fact Part II (if you like this kind of stuff; if not, just skip!): We are now in Shelby, Montana (a full day ahead of schedule -- more on that later). Shelby is known for one thing: The Fight that Wouldn't End. On July 4, 1923 Jack Dempsey, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, fought local favorite Tommy Gibbons. The fight lasted the scheduled 15 rounds, so I'm not sure why the poster in the lobby of our Comfort Inn calls it the fight that wouldn't end. Maybe the town of Shelby hoped it wouldn't end so that more people would pay to see it. This part of the country was so out of the way in 1923 that Dempsey demanded a guaranteed purse in order to fight. The town build a stadium just to hold the event, with local banks putting up the funds to do so. Attendance at the fight, however, was far below what was needed to pay all the bills, and several local banks went out of business due to the loans they made to hold the fight.

Now, for the Riding

The last several days we have had spectacular riding conditions. Yesterday we rode from a small motel near Essex (The Half-Way House) to East Glacier. There we stayed with members Sam and Jo. Sam is a ranger in Glacier National Park and was working when we arrived. Jo was an incredible host and made us feel right at home. We got to drive into the park with the kids and Jim Kirby (our support team for the first couple of weeks of the trip), ate at an great restaurant (the Park Cafe -- excellent pies!), and saw some amazing vistas within the park. Unfortunately, the Going to the Sun Road is not completely open due to all of the snow this winter (and as recently as last week).

This morning we had one of our longest rides: 74 miles. For the first 45 miles we averaged over 17 miles per hour due to a 3000 foot elevation drop and a strong tailwind! After lunch we lost most of the tailwind and had a slight elevation gain to Shelby, but still managed about 15 mph.

Photos, Finally!

We are finally able to upload photos. We hope you enjoy them! And thanks for all of the comments!

~ Dan

Alison and Sonia ride in the rain on Day 3 - Sonia
shows her displeasure with a thumbs down! After
getting off the bike she said "I hate you all!"

Alison forgot her flip-flops; necessity is the mother
of invention.

After three days of rain our gear dries in the yurt.
Sonia dubbed this the REI display wall.

Finally, a dry ride on Day 4 - Alison and Sonia are
dwarfed by a bluff along the Kootenai River.

Gus delights in shaking the swinging bridge over the
Kootenai Falls.

Lunch with a view: taking a break above Lake Koocanusa.

Bike surgery: Dan's bike gets two bottom brackets!

Our first view of Glacier National Park.


The reward after 18 miles of climbing!