Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day #33: It Ain't Over...Until It's Over

Today's Route: Clare, MI to Bay City, MI (62 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1668

As the saying goes, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings."

Lesson Learned: Don't publish a blog posting summarizing the day's events until the day is over. Like, really over.

Three things happened yesterday evening after I posted yesterday's blog entry.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day #32: Fat Bikes and Fat Hearts

Today's Route: Luther, MI to Clare, MI (79 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1606

I stopped by the post office in Luther this morning, ten miles into my ride, to mail home the stuff I enumerated in yesterday's post.

The grand total weight was...drum roll please...6.5 pounds! That's nearly the weight of three liters of water! Maybe it was all mental, but it seemed that Shirley (my Surly bike) and I rode a wee bit faster today.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day #31: A Month on the Road

Today's Route: Traverse City, MI to Luther, MI (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1527

Wowsers! I've been on the road for a month now! That's one-twelfth of a year! For what it's worth, I can't think of a better way to have spent that month.

As you may know, I love to look for inspirational graffiti as I'm biking along. Often times this graffiti appears on streets or on signs. Here is today's graffiti, which I found on the TART bike path along the waterfront in Traverse City.

What do you suppose it means?

Day #30: A Long Day

Today's Route: Boyne City, MI to Traverse City, MI (71 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1461

Day #21 marked my longest bike tour (last year's Pacific Coast trip was 20 days in length). Today marks the most miles traveled while on a bike tour (I travelled 1450 miles of the Pacific Coast).

Although it was an exciting record-setting day, it was a very long, tiring day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day #29: Tree Tunnels, Bona Fide Tourists, and Dirt Bagging

Today's Route: St. Ignace, MI to Boyne City, MI (81 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1390

The alarm this morning was set for 6:00. I heard the first boom of thunder at about 5:40. With the second boom, I woke up quickly. "Jake, let's get packed before it starts raining."

We both entered into speedy packing mode. Within about 15 minutes, we had dressed, broken down the tent, and packed. The rain started to fall literally less than a minute later.

We high-tailed our bikes to the overhang by the campground bathrooms. The flashes of light and the booms of thunder were close together, indicating nearby lightning. Buckets of raindrops were falling on us.

A pool of water begins to accumulate near the bathrooms.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day #28: Parting Ways - Twice Over

Today's Route: Blaney Park, MI to St. Ignace, MI (71 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1309

The theme for today's post is "parting ways." There wasn't just one parting of ways today. Nopsie daisy! There were two.

After spending a few days riding along with us, Mr. Andy has decided to ride 19 miles off-route today to spend the day chillaxing* at a Warm Showers host's digs. A warm shower, a comfortable bed to sleep in, a laundry machine, home-cooked food, good company. Yeah, I can see why Andy made this choice.

* "Chillax" combines "chill" and "relax." Get it? This is a new hip term I learned from Carenna.

Andy, many thanks for your companionship over the last few days. You make one hell of an awesome riding partner. Hope you'll catch up again soon so we can ride together more.

Jake, Andy, and me - parting ways.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day #27: Draft Day & Frog Feet

Today's Route: Escanaba, MI to Blaney Park, MI (86 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1238

Today we decided to stick together as we rode. We knew we had a lot of miles ahead of us, and so we figured it would be most efficient if we were to take turns leading and drafting off of one another.

An awesome sculpture, just outside of Escanaba.

The most popular road kill for today was the porcupine. We saw four of them. I've never seen a live porcupine in the wild. I figured they'd be a wee bit bigger than a hedgehog. But holy smokers, these porks were humongous!

Day #26: Naked Bicyclists

Today's Route: Crystal Falls, MI to Escanaba, MI (83 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1152

Yesterday was the summer solstice - the longest day of the year. Yeah solstice!

I, of course, love the summer solstice for all of the wonderful daylight. But I also love the solstice because of the Fremont Solstice Parade.

Fremont is, without a doubt, the funkiest neighborhood in Seattle. And its annual Solstice Parade is, without a doubt, one of my favorite Seattle events.

Why do I love the Fremont Solstice Parade so? Because of the naked bicyclists, silly! Yes, each year, hundreds of cyclists bike nekkid in the parade.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day #25: Storms, Storms, Go Away!

Today's Route: Phelps, WI to Crystal Falls, MI (50 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1069

Sure enough, it had rained all night long and was still raining when we wiped the sleep from our eyes this morning. We had a cold breakfast in our tents, packed up our soggy homes, and were on our way.

There's not a whole lot to say about today's riding. Other than it being soggy and punctuated occasionally by flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.

The storm that got us.

Day #24: That [Bleep]in' Steve

Today's Route: Boulder Junction, WI to Phelps, WI (54 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1019

We woke up to the hoots and yodels of the nearby loons. I was instantly reminded of the 1981 classic "On Golden Pond," starring the handsome Henry Fonda and the lovely Katharine Hepburn. "The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back!" I love that movie. Especially the soundtrack.

In addition to waking up to the sounds of the loons, we also awoke to the hum of skeeters. Again.

This is a small portion of what the outside of our tent looked like when we awoke this morning:

Mosquitos, everywhere!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day #23: Brach Candy Corn in Northern Wisconsin

Today's Route: Glidden, WI to Boulder Junction, WI (62 miles)
Total Trip Miles : 965

We did it! We got mosquito repellent!

Our repellents of choice.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day #22: Insects, Insects!

Today's Route: Hayward, WI to Glidden, WI (55 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 903

We awoke this morning to find another tick. This time in the tent.

Before I could blink, Jake had his clothes off and requested another tick check. I fulfilled the request, paying particular attention to the warm and/or moist parts of the body where ticks like to sink in their little heads. Jake reciprocated.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day #21: Stealth Camping in Tick Land

Today's Route: Cumberland, WI to Hayward, WI (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 848

My tour last year down the Pacific Coast was 20 days in length. As it is Day #21, this is now the longest trip I've ever been on. I'm starting to feel as though bike touring is just my normal everyday life. Quite frankly, I find myself forgetting that I live somewhere fixed and that I own belongings other than those that fit in my panniers.

Day #20: Getting Into the Touring Groove

Today's Route: Scandia, MN to Cumberland, WI (65 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 782

It's our first full day of touring together, and Jake and I are starting to find our groove. Up until Day #18, I had been traveling by myself. Now that I have a biking partner for the next few weeks, things are...different.

Day #19: And We're Off

Trip Route: St. Paul, MN to Scandia, MN (46 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 717

This is the first day of riding together for Jake and me. We will ride together from Minnesota to New York state.

Andy, a friend of mine, will begin his tour tomorrow. He is riding nearly the exact same route, but he will be a day behind us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day #17: Trains & Pedal Wrenches

Today's Route: Whitefish, MT to St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN (by Amtrak train)
Total Trip Miles: Same as yesterday

If you recall back to an earlier post, I have the great honor of being accompanied by the famous Traveling Pedal Wrench. As promised, I am photographing this magnificent wrench in locations where it plays a key role in my adventure. Here's to you, Traveling Pedal Wrench!

The Traveling Pedal Wrench in Whitefish.

Day #16: Character Building

Today's Route: Bigfork, MT to Whitefish, MT (48 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 671

I fell asleep early last night to the sound of the falling rain. A little while into my sleep, I thought I heard a faint voice saying, "Is anyone home?"

I poked my head out the tent vestibule to find the campground host, with a note in his hand. He had put the note in a ziplock bag and was planning on attaching it to my bike.

Good news and bad news.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day #15: Ghost on Her Ghost Bike

Today's Route: Condon, MT to Bigfork, MT (49 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 623

As you may recall, my next destination is Whitefish, MT. From there, I will take Amtrak to Minneapolis, MN to meet up with Jake for three weeks of riding.

It's about 175 miles from Missoula to Whitefish. I certainly could have made it to Whitefish today, but I wanted to leave some buffer time in case I ran into mechanical problems or inclement weather. In the interest of preparedness, I opted for a few easy days instead of pushing it. So far there have been no mechanical problems (not even a flat tire!) and no inclement weather (I'm 15 days into the ride, and I've only had a half day of riding in the rain - not bad).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day #14: Contrasts

Today's Route: Greenbough, MT to Condon, MT (53 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 574

The following photos can do far better than words to summarize my morning.


Days #10-13: Adventure Cycling Leadership Training Class

Day #10 - Thursday

I spent the morning at Toole Park, along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. My tent was still wet from the prior morning's dew, and so I took advantage of the sun and laid out the tent to dry in the grass. I then got comfortable in the shade of a tree, completed paperwork for the class, and spent a few hours reading some more short stories from my book of anthologies.

I was absolutely flattered to have a nicely bearded Montana man, named Bradford, approach me to offer his phone number in case I needed anything or wanted to hang out while I was in town. He had just come down from a bike ride in the mountains. After completing his very early morning shift. At the local donut shop.

Um, yeah. Welcome to Missoula.

Awhile later I rode over to the hotel to check in before class began at 4pm.

Thursday evening's class was primarily introductions. We took turns introducing ourselves, stating our intentions for the class, and providing some background about our touring experience. To assist in learning each other's names, we had to state all of the names of the people who had previously introduced themselves.

I did my introduction and then stated everyone's name. When I got around to Darryl (remember him from the prior post?), I said, "And this is Darryl. He and I did Warm Showers together last night." This statement seemed entirely harmless to me, but it elicited a loud chuckle from everyone else. Without familiarity with Warm Showers, I suppose it does sound rather funny.

Days #11 and 12 - Friday and Saturday

Both Friday and Saturday were jam-packed with learning and role playing. In modeling the experience of a typical day on tour, we took turns practicing meal planning, shopping, and cooking for 12 people.

Me, Adam, and Jody, making a very tasty African Peanut Stew.

One of the advisors, Joyce, gave a presentation about her beautiful custom-built touring bike and the gear she takes on her tours. I always thought I was an organized packer. But, my golly, it's comforting to know there's someone way more anal than me.

Joyce has color-coded stuff sacks for everything!

We had a fun no-obligation talent show.

Darryl sings some original songs.

Andrew rides his bike backwards.

Day #13 - Sunday

Today's Route: Missoula, MT to Greenbough, MT (31 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 521

'Twas the last day of training! And what a great couple of days it has been!
All in all, the training was quite good - far better than I had expected. I've done a number of leadership courses in the past, and they were always frou-frou. But this one was good. Well organized. Excellent advisors. And a fantastic group of fellow students.

Back (L to R): Adam, Andrew, Sarah, Alex, Christy, Josh, Darryl, Joyce, Art, Scott; Front (L to R): Mimi, Jody, Sue

Like me, Robin, the blonde chick in the back row of the below photo (second from the right), is from Portland. As it turns out, she lives on a houseboat on the same island where Jake and I live. It'll be great to have a new biking friend who lives less than a quarter of a mile away!

Back (L to R): Jerry, Steve J, Ann, Steve G, Danna, Tyler, Robin, Wally; Front (L to R): Neill, Joe

The class is now complete. I look forward to leading some tours with Adventure Cycling next summer! Woohoo!

Mission accomplished!

Update 12/10/2013: For any individuals who are interested in taking Adventure Cycling's Leadership Training Class, please know that taking the course does not guarantee that you will receive a tour leader position.

For one, at the completion of the class, you must be recommended as an eligible tour leader; not all class attendees are "tour guide worthy." Secondly, many eligible leaders graduate from the LTC each year. The pool of eligible leaders grows at a much faster pace than is needed to fill ACA's guide positions. Thus, it can take many years to obtain a tour leader position with ACA.

An email sent on 12/6/2013 by Arlen Hall (ACA Tours Director) with the subject "2014 Tour Leader Assignments" reads:

… If you were not selected for a tour, do not give up waiting for an opportunity. I would like to briefly share my story of success. I took the Leadership Training Course in 2004 in Littleton, Massachusetts. Once I was identified as a potential leader the waiting time began. I hoped to have an assignment in 2004 but was not offered one. I completed the Leadership Preference Survey in 2005 and I waited throughout 2005 as well. I completed it again in 2006 and had to wait again.  In the spring of 2006, I received an email and a phone call. Before the Tours Director could ask if I could... I said "YES I can" and then figured out how to make it work. Between then and 2011, I received more and more assignments until I had to start saying no to few. So... hang in there. …
Suffice it to say, although I was recommended as an eligible tour guide, I did not obtain a tour leader position for the 2014 year. I look forward to an opportunity arising in the coming years.

Update 8/9/2015: I helped staff the Columbia River Gorge event in June. It was great fun! (See Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge.)

After the class ended, I hopped back on the bike to continue the next leg of my journey.

Some folks playing bike polo in Missoula.

I had planned on riding only 30 miles today, as our course evaluations lasted through the middle of the afternoon. It's a good thing I had a short day of riding, as last night Adam and I went to hear Hey Marseilles, a Seattle band that was playing in Missoula. Wowsers! They were fantastic! (My favorite was the cello player. He was quite dreamy to watch, as he was practically making love with his cello. Hubba, hubba!) It was totally worth the 2am bed time and less than four hours of sleep.

Montana definitely has different scenery from Idaho. Big, blue skies. Wide open fields. Lovely tree-covered mountains in the background.

Ah, beautiful Montana.

Tonight I'm staying at The Lubrecht Experimental Forest, a 20,000 acre outdoor classroom and laboratory for the University of Montana's School of Forestry. There is supposed to be a campground here, but I can't find it. (And in all honesty, I haven't tried that hard.) I haven't seen anyone around, so I've decided to make a lovely picnic pavilion my home for the night. The pavilion offers both running water and electricity. I'll take it!

I have the whole pavilion (and perhaps the whole forest) to myself.

It's absolutely gorgeous here. Totally quiet and peaceful. Just me, the birds, and the trees.

I'm going to try Eric's method of sleeping on the picnic table tonight. This will be a first for me.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chewing on Some Photos

While I'm busy with my class, I'll post some photo snacks for you to peruse. These photos were all taken by Eric last weekend.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day #9: Riding on Sunshine

Today's Route: Powell, ID to Missoula, MT (62 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 490

I have been drinking a helluva lot of liquids on this trip. Which is a good thing. Except for when I need to pee in the middle of the night. That means putting on the warm clothes and stumbling out into the darkness to do my thing.

Oh, but last night's middle-of-the-night pee was well worth it. The stars were absolutely amazing! The best I've seen thus far on this trip. The contrast of the bright stars against the black sky was so vivid. And they seemed so close. As if I could just reach up and grab them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day #8: Half 'n' Half

Today's Route: Lowell, ID to Powell, ID (74 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 360

Lots of things can be broken down into halves. Oranges can be cut into halves. Paper can be torn into halves. And rides can be divided into halves.

The first part of today was absolutely amazing. I was in la-la land, drinking in the beautiful Idaho scenery. I was becoming more and more intoxicated with each passing mile.

Day #7: The Amusement Park Ride

Today's Route: Winchester, ID to Lowell, ID (76 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 360

There's not a whole lot to say about Idaho.

Except that it's fucking gorgeous. All of it!

Idaho. Gorgeous. Period.

Day #6: Deciding to Play Hookie

Today's Route: [Somewhere], WA to Winchester, ID (all by car)
Total Trip Miles (by bicycle): same as yesterday

I needed to make it as far as Winchester, ID by the evening. We decided that Eric would drive me to Clarkeston, just shy of the Idaho border, we'd grab a lunch together, and then we'd go our separate ways. That would leave me with the afternoon to bike the remaining 45-ish miles to Winchester.

At lunch, Eric had this look of deep thought on his face. I asked what he was thinking, and he said he'd rather spend another day birding and hanging out rather than going back to work the next day. With a little coaxing, Eric decided to play hookie.

Day #5: In Search of the Green-Tailed Towhee

Today's Route: Walla Walla, WA to [Somewhere], WA (10 by bicycle, many by car) Total Trip Miles (by bicycle): 284

[My apologies for the radio silence. I had a few busy days socializing, followed by a few days with no cell service and super spotty wifi.]

Before leaving my Warm Showers hosts in Walla Walla, Alison took a photo of me, as she does for all cyclists they host.

Although I had pitched my tent in the yard, I sorta wish I had stayed in this little playhouse.