Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rising Out of Nowhere, Wyoming

One of our first views of the Teton Range
Mt. Moran to the Right looking from Jackson Lake
Mt. Moran again.
The Pinnacles (I think). A small pond at the top of Togawotee Pass where we ate lunch
Another of our first views of the Tetons
The sun shining on Grand Teton
Rory and Rob
Jenny Lake Campsite
My first Grizzly sighting ever, and hopefully my last!

The Teton Range...the only way I could describe it while looking at it was "majestic." It really is quite...majestic. We were descending down a pass, and ran straight into them. Obviously we saw them from quite a long distance at first, but they really do just sneak up out of nowhere and BAM...the Tetons. There really aren't any foothills or anything, just flats all the way up until the mountain begins. It really is breathtaking. We saw the range, and then had to go over about 2 miles of gravel to continue into the Grand Teton National Park. All these construction workers were asking me how the ride on the gravel was and all I could tell them was,I didn't notice and I could care less...I'm looking at the Tetons right now. I would venture to say they're more captivating than the Colorado Rockies by a long shot. I mean its a pretty small range all things considered, but they're just so rugged and fractured you really can't take your eyes off of them. We've been riding with an Irish guy Rory for the last few days. We met him in Virginia actually and we've been at a pretty similar pace since then, but haven't really ridden with him at all until the last few days. Anyways, he and I were riding into the Jenny Lake campsite when these people jumped out of a van and stopped us in the road. We had no idea what they were saying at first, and then they told us a bear was about to cross the road. And it did... It was just a juvenile, no real danger really, so he and I got to snapping pictures. The went into the woods a bit, then kind of walked in our general direction towards a clearing to our left. Sensing no real danger looking at him through the camera lens, we snapped another picture when Rory finally looks up and goes "Christ mate, he's pretty close and we're soft and vulnerable. We ought to get out of here!" Oh yeah, that's probably a good idea... So we booked it down the road, and everything turned out fine.
This place is incredible. We're in for a lot more wildlife when we hit Yellowstone in a few days. But for now, its time to kick it and relax in Jackson. You know, blow all our money on food, beer, and bike stuff, then live off of peanut butter and crackers for a week. Pretty standard really...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An Expletive Hurricane

Six states down, three more to go!
This is 23 miles of road
The small silver spec in the distance is a tractor trailer
You have to catch the cowfish with steel fly line and you have to be very careful when taking them off the line, as they can get you with their horns...
It was impossible for me to show the scale of this...
(you have to tilt your head to see this one, by the way)
Wyoming welcomes you. Cool, thanks Wyoming. What a welcome too. Little did we know, southern Wyoming is like a hurricane...a god-awful, exhausting, demoralizing wind-machine that will leave you cursing the heavens all day until your throat is parched and your voice is nearly gone. The harder the hurricane-like winds blew the more expletives I blew right back, as if I could counter the wind by cursing it. It nearly broke us all. There were a few points in the first two days that I just wanted to throw my bike in a ditch, making sure it was irreparably damaged, and hitch a ride to town. Oh yeah, not to mention...Wyoming is completely empty. There's nothing in the part we've been riding through for 4o to 50 miles at a time. When we do finally come to a town...I use the word town very very loosely here...its usually a closed gas station or a closed cafe of some sort. There are a few houses scattered about, very few. Wyoming was awful from Rawlins to Lander. But for some reason, after Lander, everything got a lot more beautiful, and much much calmer with respect to the wind. We went through the Wind River Indian Reservation, which we were told by some Eastbounders from California that it would be dirty and very much like a ghetto. Not at all the truth. There's more ghetto places in the suburbs of Durham than in the town through which we passed. I don't have a clue what those kids were talking about, but they're in for a major shock when they see eastern Kentucky. Fortunately, we escaped the wind around Wind River all day. If the wind did blow, it was pushing us forward instead of ramming us like a freight train like it had been the last two days. Its a good thing too, because we were all pretty exhausted after jousting with the wind all day for two solid days. The scenery got much nicer too. There were some pretty incredible geologic structures. However, we have yet to see anything as incredible as what we will see in a few days until we leave Yellowstone. We're planning on spending a day or two around Jackson and the Grand Tetons, and then Yellowstone!! This is one of the biggest parts of the trip for all of us, and we're getting really really excited about it. I think we're going to see the Tetons in the distance tomorrow from the top of Togwotee Pass. I can't wait...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

Well, maybe not quite a thousand, some of these pictures are just what you see, an amazing landscape. For a quick synopsis for those of whom I haven't been able to talk to in the last week or so, we met this guy Donald in Pueblo. Amazing dude, let us stay in his yard, and he took us out boogie boarding on the river... which I didn't even know was possible until last week. Anyways, he told us how to go through the real heart of the Colorado Rockies after looking at where our map took us. And, seeing as how the whole point of the trip was to see some incredible scenery, we followed his advise. So this is what we've been seeing pretty much non-stop for the last few can't take a bad picture here.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Crossing into Colorado

Kansas Prarie Scenes
Big Cloud over Kansas
Yes, that's right, Colorado already. In a month we've been able to get to Colorado from Virginia on a bicycle loaded with gear. It's pretty incredible. Mind-bottling [sic] even. So what happened to Kansas you may ask... Kansas flew by. We had a tail wind pretty much the entire way, only one pretty hot day, and even a few showers and a pool session or two. Kansas was the most dreaded part of the trip. From other people's journals, and books I'd had three preconceptions about Kansas. It's super hot, the wind is killer, and the scenery is god-awful boring. Well, in my experience, it worked out so none of the above three were true. It was really only hot one day, as mentioned. The wind was always blowing us forward, and the scenery was actually pretty awesome. I mean, to look out and be able to see miles and miles to the horizon is pretty cool. I never really got bored with it. Not to mention, the people in Kansas are, in general, really really nice. I can't say that I thought that was true the first few days as we met a girl who had her bicycle trailer stolen and saw an episode of Jerry Springer at a state park. A whole group of dumb rednecks were drinking heavily lakeside on a Sunday night, you know, the beginning of a recipe for a nice family outing. Well, I guess calling a friend of yours a sissy when he's on the last beer of a thirty rack calls for a fight. Maybe not so much a fight as a brouhaha. the guy got sucker punched, and kicked in the face karate style about 4 times...that is once per occasion on four separate occasions. Ahh...Kansas. Welcome to the state with the nicest people you'll meet along the trail... Well, a few days later it redeemed itself. I broke a spoke on my bike in Buhler KS. So Jake, Bonnie (the girl we temporarily adopted on account of a stolen trailer) and I at lunch and tried to fix it with this temporary spoke I had. It broke immediately, maybe because we're dumb, but I think it was just too old. So I talked to the girl working at the diner and asked her if she could maybe give me a ride to the next town over with a bike shop. She called her dad, a pastor/cyclist/mobile bike mechanic, and within 15 minutes he was there with a bike stand, about 60 spokes, and all the tools necessary. He had me back on the road in about 45 minutes and didn't so much as ask for a thanks. I felt like I was in a movie, and Todd (the pastor/mobile bike mechanic) was like batman for down and out bike mechanics..."what?!? a cyclist is in trouble....I'll be RIGHT there!!" With an immediacy I was up and running, armed with two spare spokes that are the highest quality spokes on the market all gratis. THEN...he offered Bonnie an old rack and set of panniers (bike bags) that he had laying around, he gave her a cookset and a new seat too. All for free...all she has to do is send them back to him whenever she's finished w/ them. So...Kansas has some nice people after all.
Eastern Colorado ended up being more like how I imagined Kansas than Kansas was. They actually had more sunflowers in Colorado than were in Kansas...and Kansas has roadsigns with sunflowers around the highway numbers. Silly Kansas. But, other than that, eastern Colorado is barren. There's lots of grasslands sure...but that's it. We were hard pressed to find a tree on the horizon for about two days. It was pretty amazing actually. It really was like being in the middle of the ocean, except there's land everywhere instead of water. We stayed last night in Ordway CO at a lady named Gillian's house. She was awesome, and we got showers for the first time in a day or two. She just leaves her house open for bikers, and leaves them notes with instructions etc. She took us to breakfast with a group of about 15 other cyclists going from NY to San Diego. They're all Rob and I let them know we were going to school at UNC in 2005. They took it well I suppose. Anyways, we're on the threshold of the Rockies and were sitting at about 4700 feet elevation. We're all giddy with excitement and I imagine our day off will be met with ambivalence...although its much needed. We have done about 650 miles in the last 7 days, and for a few days before that we were doing about 80 or so a day. So yeah, rest day...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hippies and Indians

We left Salem MO in the morning and we originally planned to do about an 80 mile day. So close to halfway through we stopped in a KFC/Taco Bell to eat some lunch. While we were there, a Native American man comes up to us and tells us that he owned the hotel across the street and he would love it if we came over, signed his register and had a beer...even if we didn't stay in the motel. So when we heard the word beer, we all stopped eating, threw away our food, and sprinted across the street, ignoring all traffic and traffic laws. We went inside and he had a huge list of possible free beers we could choose from. They were all good beers too...I think the only mass-produced American pilsner was Miller High-Life. So we had our free beer, and ended up running into about 4 or 5 other cyclists on the route. We all, having tied on a one-beer buzz, decided to camp out for free behind the motel, which he offered for us. It turned out to be a good decision because there were about 14 cyclists in total that ended up staying there that night. The owners cooked us all dinner and hosted some crazy games in front of the hotel in the yard. It was probably the most entertaining night we've had thus far. So we all drank until about 1 AM. I think when we meet other bikers we bring them down to our level. Everyone was talking about how they'd get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and ride off for the day, but we got them all drinking hard and I think we may have left earlier the next morning than 3/4 of the riders we were with. We're definitely bad influences on other bikers...

Skirting the Ozarks...There's no Such Thing as Cheating When You're Bicycling Across the Country!

We left Farmington and headed through the Northern tip of the Ozarks on a more direct route than that which was mapped for us. The only problem with the route that we decided to take was the massive amount of tractor trailers. It's not really that big of a deal, it's kind of annoying, but I'm sure we annoy them too. The ride was pretty hilly, but mostly it was roller coaster hills that weren't too terrible on the legs. I've seen much worse. We heard from some other bikers that said they went the Transam route through the Ozarks and supposedly it was pretty tough. I would have liked to see them, but then again, we saw some pretty sizable hills ourselves.
We made it to Salem in good spirits, spent the night in a city park and departed pretty early the next morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Crossing the Not-quite-as-mighty-as-I-had-imagined Mississippi

We left Illinois today with a renewed vigor. Jacob had a new bike, mine was adjusted to my body a little better than before, and we were all full of energy from a day's break. It almost felt like our first day of riding again...considering we're now in the traditionally defined "west," as in west of the Mississippi.
The first part of the ride was very pleasant. We rode along a levee for a while. That was gorgeous. We got to see the cornfields from a new perspective (that is, above them, not from eye level.) That was awesome, because the tops of the plants were an incredible golden color that wavered gently with the breeze. We also caw a coal loading station on the river. We crossed the Mississippi in Chester Illinois and went into Missouri. Here come the Ozarks. Not so bad today...but they're going to make themselves present tomorrow.
We rode another 100 mile day...well I think it was actually 98 or so, but I round up when its that close to 100. The terrain definitely got a little more rolly...but nothing unmanageable for me. I forgot how much I missed the short rollers. You can get going really fast on them with minimal effort. There are some parts where you have to get down into the lowest gears and grind it up a hill, but that's not usually more than a 5 minutes at the most of grinding before you get a steep downhill. We spent the night in a city park in Farmington MO. The town isn't remarkable, but it was okay. Their Mexican food was good. Although I like most all Mexican food, so I guess I'm not a very good judge. We spent the night in another city park under a pavilion.