This web page describes the bicycle vacation that Kathy and I took across the western United States from May 26th to June 19th. It includes more than 40 pictures that we took during our trip plus the text from a journal that we wrote in each day. I wrote most of the journal entries in the evening, right before going to sleep. If my writing style seems dull to you, please keep in mind that I was generally exhausted at the end of the day.
Sunday, May 26
In November of last year Kathy and I decided to buy a tandem bicycle. We got married in August 2001, and we bought the tandem because we thought it would give us a hobby that we could do as a couple. I've always loved bicycling, and Kathy likes it too now that she owns a nice bicycle — we bought her a bike in September.
For the last few years I've dreamed of bicycling across the United States, carrying my own camping gear and camping in the woods at night. Kathy planned on letting me make the trip this year, but she began to wish that she could come with me, and I knew that I would miss her. So we changed our plans. Kathy and I will try to bicycle from San Francisco, CA, back to our home in Fort Collins, CO. If the trip goes well then we will bicycle from Fort Collins out to the east coast some other year.
We will ride our tandem. We will carry camping gear in four panniers and a single-wheel trailer, and camp in the woods whenever possible. Our intended route will take us up the coast of California, then across California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. It's almost 1600 miles. We've done a lot of physical training, but it's hard to be prepared for a trip like this one. We plan on taking about four weeks to finish. If we don't make it all the way back to Fort Collins, that will be all right, but I really do hope that we finish the whole trip.
Our equipment spread out in our living room.
Sunday, May 26
Touring San Francisco
We've been touring San Francisco by foot today. Yesterday we rented a car in Fort Collins, loaded our gear into it, attached our bicycle frame to the back with a trunk-mounted bike rack, and drove to San Francisco. We drove from 11:00a.m. Saturday to 3:30a.m. today. I drove the whole way, and was glad that our car had cruise control. The weather was dry, and our trip was trouble-free. We really liked the mountain scenery on our way out.
When we arrived we didn't want to waste money on an extra night at a hotel, so we parked at a city park near the Golden Gate Bridge and tried to sleep until daylight. Kathy slept better than I did in those bucket seats. In the morning we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, then drove to Fisherman's Wharf, put fenders and wheels back on our bike, turned in our rental car, checked in to the Marriott hotel, and mailed our bike rack back to our friends Dave and Ingrid in Fort Collins.
I was happy to turn in the rental car as soon as possible. San Francisco's streets are narrow, traffic is bad, and parking is both expensive and hard to find. The best way to see the city is by walking or taking public transit. We rode a cable car over San Francisco's steep hills just for the experience. We also walked along Fisherman's Wharf and saw the sailboats, the tourist-trap shops, and even swimmers. We saw about a dozen people swimming across the bay without wet suits — just swimming trunks. It looked like they were following the path of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm sure that the water was frigid. Tomorrow we will begin our bicycle trip, so we will try to sleep well tonight.
Our drive out was beautiful. It seems that most of the people we've talked to think that Nevada is very flat and boring. We didn't think so. We had many basins to go through — mountains all around. I-80 had some hills to go up and down too. (So much for being flat!)
Preparing our bicycle for travel
Our loaded rental car
Mountains and a water-filled basin near Salt Lake City
Michael and Kathy by Golden Gate Bridge in the morning
Another view of Golden Gate Bridge
Michael on a pier by the bay.
Monday, May 27
Distance: 61.8 miles
Maximum speed: 41.5 mph
Average speed: 10.7 mph
Riding time: 5 hours 43 minutes
This morning we got out of bed at around 7:30 a.m. and prepared for our first riding day. It was nice to have the amenities of a hotel, but we would have left town faster if we'd been staying in a tent. The hassle of hauling our gear and bike down through the elevator and then having to check out took quite a while. After leaving the hotel we walked our bike out of the Fisherman's Wharf area. We tried bicycling, but I had trouble controlling the bike on the narrow sidewalk and ran over an old woman's foot. She seemed to be O.K., but very unhappy with us.
We found a bike path that we rode to Golden Gate Bridge, and then we rode across the bridge. Kathy had never seen an ocean until yesterday, so she loved the view. We met another bike tourist north of the bridge and rode with him for a while. He showed us a safe route from the bridge to Highway 1, the coastal highway. We discovered that Hwy 1 is much more hilly than we expected. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the most severe, with long steep hills and tight turns in the road. Most of the rest of the road was also steep, with constantly rolling hills. However, the views from some of these hills were spectacular.
Kathy in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
We ate lunch at Stinson State Beach today - our first visit to a California beach, and Kathy's first visit to an ocean beach. We walked out to the water and had another couple take our picture. We will ride past several more beaches tomorrow.
I was set on biking at least 60 miles today, even with all the hills. I pushed Kathy harder than I wanted to, but she was happy to achieve 60 miles. If we average 60 miles per day we will finish our trip in just under four weeks. As soon as we passed 60 miles I started looking for a property owner who would let us set up our tent on his land. We found Tony, a dairy farmer who told us to set up in his back yard. We thanked him, set up our tent, made dinner, and pulled out our sleeping bags. Kathy is already asleep — I’ve never seen her fall asleep so fast.
We'll be sore tomorrow, so I hope the road is less hilly.
Our first campsite. We're in a dairy farmer's back yard.
Tuesday, May 28
Distance: 61.7 miles
Maximum speed: 38.9 mph
Average speed: 10.7 mph
Riding time: 5 hours 32 minutes
This morning started out great. We slept in for a while, then Kathy made grits for breakfast, and then I took a shower. For reasons I don't understand, Tony has a showerhead mounted to the outside of his house. I put on my swimming trunks and took a hot shower outside. After all our morning preparations we got off to a late start.
The hills today were not as bad as yesterday, but they were still steep and we were much more tired. Some hills were small enough that our downhill momentum could carry us a significant way up the next hill. The roads have very sharp turns, especially at the bottoms of hills, because the road tries to closely follow the coastline.
We stopped at Gleason's Beach today and watched a bunch of people trying to surf. The waves looked good, but no surfer could keep his balance for more than a few seconds. Kathy and I took our shoes off and ran out into the water then ran right back out because the water was so cold. The surfers had wet suits, but they were probably still cold.
At Fort Ross beach we could hear seals barking, but we couldn't see them because they were at the bottom of bluffs in an off-limits zone. During our ride we came across a baby deer, still covered with spots, walking along the road. We were happy to see him until we saw why he was there — his mother lie dead next to the road, probably hit by a car.
It took us a long time to reach 60 miles today. When we finally hit 60 miles I asked a homeowner near the road where we might be able to camp. He told us that the Anchor Bay campground was just 1 mile up the road, so we went for it. Anchor Bay is a private campground that charges $30/night for small tent sites. That was more than I felt we could pay so the campground host, Ron, offered to share his personal campsite with us. I gave him $10. We had fun talking with him while we set up our tent and made dinner. It will be nice to have access to bathrooms and showers in the morning.
Michael in front of Bodega Harbor
The beach at Anchor Bay Campground. The beach is framed by steep cliffs on its left and right (not pictured.)
Wednesday, May 29
Distance: 60.7 miles
Maximum speed: 41.2 mph
Average speed: 9.9 mph
Riding time: 6 hours 6 minutes
Today we continued north along Highway 1. The hills were no worse than yesterday, but we had a powerful headwind that sapped our energy all day long. We saw several other bike tourists pass us in the opposite direction. A couple of them yelled, "Where are you going?" and we yelled back, "Colorado!" Kathy talked with a bike tourist while I was refilling our water bottles at a restaurant in Fort Bragg. He had started in Seattle and had planned to reach Santa Cruz, but he was running out of time and money and thought that today would be his last riding day. He had been averaging only 30 miles per day even though he looked younger than me.
After reaching Fort Bragg we turned east on Highway 20 and continued about 6 miles before stopping. We were exhausted, so we decided to set up camp near the road in Jackson State Forest rather than look for a campground. Since this is our first attempt at camping in the woods, we are both a little nervous. We hung our food (not really high enough) to keep animals away, and we have bear repellant spray in our tent. A few minutes ago we heard what might have been a raccoon or bear chewing at our trailer, but neither of us wanted to get out and shoo the animal away. I'll check our gear for damage in the morning. I can also hear mosquitoes buzzing around our tent, desperately wanting to bite us. Bugs haven't bothered us during the day, but they do come out at night.
Thursday, May 30
Distance: 63.3 miles
Maximum speed: 42.8 mph
Average speed: 11.4 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 32 minutes
I did not sleep well last night. I was comfortable, but every forest noise sounded like an animal either getting into our food or digging through our trailer. The stress of this kept me awake. Kathy slept better than I did. I checked our food and trailer this morning and it was all untouched. The next time we camp in the woods I'll hang our food much higher so that I don't worry about it all night.
Kathy making breakfast in Jackson State Forest
Today began with about 20 miles of steep uphill on Highway 20. However, since the grade of the hill was fairly constant, we were able to get into a good rhythm and climb for long periods without breaks. We had very little wind today, a welcome change from yesterday's headwind. Near the top of our climb were lots of redwood trees. We'd been hoping to see redwoods before leaving the coastal region of California. The rest of today's ride had several more large climbs, but was dominated by downhill.
Looking up at a redwood tree, and Kathy in front of a redwood tree.
We stopped at a Safeway in Willits and bought lunch plus additional food for tomorrow. We ate our lunch on a bench outside the store and it tasted SO good! Cold orange juice is great when you've been drinking warm water and Cool-Aid for several days. Pasta salad, yogurt, plums, cherries, and nectarines — I felt like I could eat forever.
Kathy and I had planned to camp at Clear Lake State Park today even though it would require a long ride — about 75 miles. We desperately needed showers tonight. However, at about 61 miles we met a woman riding a recumbent trike. Her panniers were loaded with water bottles because she's practicing for a fully loaded bike tour in June. When she heard where we were planning to camp she offered to let us stay at her nearby ranch instead. We accepted.
The woman's name is Dolly, and she lives on the ranch with her domestic partner, Elaine, as she has for the last 30 years. The ranch is beautiful, and Dolly and Elaine have been wonderful hosts. They invited us in to take showers, and then they served us dinner, giving us plenty of food for our large appetites. Down the hill from the house is a raised wooden platform that we placed our tent on. A nearby out building has running water and will be handy in the morning. Dolly has already invited us to have breakfast with them tomorrow morning.
Kathy setting up camp on Dolly and Elaine's ranch
This has been the best day of our bike trip so far. The terrain was reasonable, the views were good, we started riding this morning slightly earlier than the other mornings, and Dolly and Elaine made the end of our day better than any other evening. We've been very blessed on our trip so far. Perfect weather, high quality roads, and gracious hosts. I know that harder days are coming, but it has been nice to have good conditions these first few days while our bodies are adjusting to so much time on the bike.
Friday, May 31
Distance: 70.0 miles
Maximum speed: 43.4 mph
Average speed: 12.7 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 30 minutes
This morning Kathy and I got up too late to eat with Dolly and Elaine, but Dolly sent us off with bananas and oranges and asked us to send her e-mail when we finish our trip. The first 20 miles today were mostly downhill or flat as we rode past Clear Lake. It is a huge lake, perhaps 20 miles across from east to west and 10 miles across from north to south. The next 20 miles or more of our trip had lots of uphill. These hills may not be as steep as hills we've covered on other days, but our bodies are so worn out that we had to use our lowest gear ratio most of the time. On top of that, it was quite hot. We don’t have a thermometer, but I was told that the temperature in Sacramento was over 100 degrees F today, and it was probably similar on Hwy 20. Our final stretch today was in California's central plain, which is very flat. We had a headwind but we still made good time on our way to Colusa.
Pushing the bike up a steep hill
Eating lunch at a national forest fire station
Tonight we are camping at Colusa State Park, which is right on the Sacramento River. It has lots of trees, green grass (rare in this part of California right now,) large tent sites with picnic tables, bathrooms and showers and it only costs $10. We really like the showers. During our dinner a man from the next campsite came to us and gave us fresh strawberries. He said that he and his wife had bought more than they could eat. They also own a Co-motion tandem bicycle, but they have never used it for loaded touring.
Setting up camp at Colusa State Park
I think I'll say a few things about our physical condition. Our legs are in a constant state of recovery. Walking is difficult when we first get off the bike and if we sit down on the ground it is impossible to simply stand up again the way we normally do. My knees frequently hurt, but not badly. Because our legs are so weak most of our weight is on our bottoms while we ride, and our bottoms are now extremely sore. I hope that this problem goes away as our legs get stronger. Right now I sit on a small, hard, "competition" saddle. I could purchase a larger, softer, "sport" saddle, like the one that Kathy uses, but I hope that is not necessary. We don't have sunburns yet, but we are getting farmer's tans despite our use of SPF 45 sunscreen. Kathy has started to get a rash on her legs, especially where the elastic bands of her bike shorts touch her, but we’re not worried about that yet. Biting bugs haven't bothered us much despite all the time we spend setting up camp and cooking in the evenings. There are plenty of mosquitoes here in Colusa, but that's to be expected since our campground is right by the river. Despite our aches and pains, we are still enjoying this unusual vacation.
Saturday, June 1
Distance: 65.4 miles
Maximum speed: 43.1 mph
Average speed: 10.7 mph
Riding time: 6 hours, 3 minutes
This morning our bottoms were so sore that I wrapped our spare inner tubes around our saddles and partially inflated them to provide some padding. This gave us relief for a while, but soon became more uncomfortable than the bare saddles, so we took the tubes off. Our legs seemed stronger today, which helped take our weight off of our saddles. We also walked up some of the steep inclines to give our butts and knees a break.
The first 40 miles today zipped by since we were still in California's central plain. It is very flat and has an altitude of about 50 feet. We stopped at an Albertson's in Marysville and ate lunch during this stretch. On the road some guy in a pickup truck yelled, "I saw you guys in Fort Bragg!" A man in another truck yelled, "You guys are making great time!" He must have seen us a previous day. Kathy and I must be an unusual sight along this road.
The flat, central plain of California. Kathy took this picture while we were riding.
The last 25 miles today were almost all uphill. We took many breaks, walked the bike up some steep hills, and still got exhausted. When we got to Nevada City we were ready to quit. We went into town a little ways, refilled our water bottles, and asked an old man on a bicycle if he knew where we could set up our tent. He volunteered his own yard and we accepted. His name is Charlie. Charlie doesn't normally bike much, but the motor on his car burned out recently so biking is his temporary means of getting around. Charlie says that Nevada City has an altitude of about 2500 feet, so we did quite a bit of climbing today.
Climbing into the Sierra Nevadas
Sunday, June 2
Distance: 50.4 miles
Maximum speed: 46.1 mph
Average speed: 8.9 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 40 minutes
This morning we didn't get up when Kathy's watch alarm sounded, so we didn't get the early start that we wanted. We hit the road at 10 a.m., more than 1 hour later than yesterday.
Today's ride was almost all up as we climbed the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We took frequent breaks, which slowed our progress a lot. The breaks were always for our bottoms, not our legs. My knees didn't hurt at all today, but in another desperate bid to help my aching bottom I put on a second pair of bike shorts partway through the day. It seemed to help, and Kathy may do the same tomorrow. We ate lunch at a rest stop atop a scenic mountain ridge, and while we were there four different people asked us where we were going, where had we started, have we used hotels, etc. Everyone seems impressed by our journey.
Checking our progress on the map
Standing by a scenic overlook in the Sierras
Although our ride was all up today, it wasn't impossibly steep. Highway 20 and then Interstate 80 follow a mountain ridge up to Donner Pass. We only walked the bike when our bottoms needed a break. We crossed Donner Pass right at the end of our ride — its altitude is 7239 feet. Then we had a 5-mile downhill ride to Donner State Park, where we set up camp. It's a huge, beautiful park next to the very large Donner Lake. It has showers and bathrooms and costs $12. There's also a museum here about the westward migration and the Donner Party Crossing. It's hard to imagine a group of settlers starving to death in this area since right now there is very little snow pack, and there's a busy interstate highway lined with gas stations, hotels, and ski resorts.
Kathy at Donner Summit
We spent our final 15 or 20 miles on I-80 today. I was worried that this would be dangerous, but the road has wide shoulders that made the ride fairly safe. We will leave I-80 tomorrow when we go to Lake Tahoe.
Today I learned that Sierra Nevada means "snow-covered range" in Spanish, and that the slope of the Sierra Nevadas is much more gradual on the west side than on the east. I'm glad that we're traveling from west to east.
Monday, June 3
Distance: 75.3 miles
Maximum speed: 52.2 mph
Average speed: 13.2 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 41 minutes
This morning did not start out well. We wanted to tour the Donner Memorial Museum, but it charges an entry fee so we decided not to enter. We wouldn't have had much time to look around anyway. Since we were running late we decided not to look at Donner Lake and we hit the road at 10:20 a.m.
Our plan was to take Hwy 267 from I-80 to Lake Tahoe. However, poor road signs, road construction, and bad directions changed our plans. We wandered around for about 8 miles before taking Hwy 89 to Lake Tahoe. This added another 8 miles to the length of our trip because 89 connects to Lake Tahoe on the far west side. When we got to the lake we went around the north end on Hwy 28 until it connected with Hwy 50, pausing at King's Beach for lunch. The lake is very scenic, with clear blue water surrounded by snow-covered mountains. We had another biker take our picture by the Lake. He told us that Lake Tahoe is 1600 feet deep at its deepest point — the second deepest lake in North America.
Views of Lake Tahoe from King's Beach in California and from Lake Tahoe State Park in Nevada
For some reason I was depressed all afternoon, I felt like we weren't moving as fast as we should be, and that my body wasn't putting out much power. I might have been dehydrated, and we were probably doing a lot more climbing than I realized. I've had a hard time perceiving uphill vs. downhill this entire trip because of my new prescription sunglasses. They make slight uphills look like slight downhills. This was very clear to me today as we rode Hwy 89 to Lake Tahoe. Highway 89 parallels the Truckee River, which flows out of Lake Tahoe. I felt that we were definitely riding downhill until I noticed that the Truckee River appeared to be flowing uphill.
Kathy encouraged me through the afternoon. My depression finally eased when we reached the top of Hwy 50 and started descending to Carson City. The road has a 6% downhill grade for 9 miles, and the road surface is perfect. We quit pedaling and coasted down at 40-47 mph. On the final stretch I ducked down to reduce our wind drag and we hit our top speed of 52.2 mph. Kathy thought the descent was a lot of fun. As we lost altitude we saw the vegetation change from alpine forest to more of a desert scrub.
In Carson City we bought more stove fuel at a sporting goods store, got lots of food at the grocery store, then ate dinner at a barbeque restaurant to celebrate our crossing of the Sierra Nevadas. It was a nice restaurant, and pricey ($27 before tip,) but it was a good celebration.
After dinner we hurried on to Dayton State Park about 15 miles down the road. It was already past sunset so we turned on our headlight and taillight and I put clear lenses in my sunglasses. We rolled into camp at about 9:15 p.m. and set up our tent. We are tired but happy. Our average daily mileage is still at or above 60 miles, so we are still on schedule.
Tuesday, June 4
Distance: 60.8 miles
Maximum speed: 28.9 mph
Average speed: 16.9 mph
Riding time: 3 hours 35 minutes
We didn't get to spend as much time riding as we wanted to today, but we still managed to put in 60 miles. This worked out because Highway 50 is relatively flat in Nevada. There are mountain ranges everywhere, but the road always seems to hit them in a low spot and the slope of the road never gets much steeper than a typical highway overpass. The desert scenery looks great to us, with mountain ranges covered by desert shrubs separated by flat basins. There is lots of wide-open territory here.
This morning we got our latest start yet because we were tired from setting up camp so late last night. We hit the road at about 11 a.m. We traveled at a good speed, but we decided to stop at Lahontan State Park to use the showers there. The park is next to Lahontan Reservoir, a giant reservoir in the desert created by diverting water from the Truckee River. For various reasons, it took us a long time to find the showers and then use the showers. When we got ready to leave we discovered our first flat tire of the trip. I couldn't locate the puncture, so I replaced the tube with one of our two spares. By the time we left the park it was 4 p.m. and we had traveled only 32 miles. We pedaled hard for about 17 miles before stopping in the town of Fallon — our last major town for several days. We found a laundromat, changed into our street clothes, and threw all of our biking clothes in the wash. It was all very dirty. While our clothes were washing we biked up the road to stock up on food at Wal-Mart and Safeway. We also bought more sunscreen and shampoo. We then biked back to the laundromat and ate our lunch/dinner while our clothes were drying. By the time we left the laundromat it was probably past 8:30 and it was definitely past sunset. We turned on our lights and rode out of town.
We had hoped to reach the town of Salt Wells, but just after we exceeded 60 miles we decided to turn off on a dirt road and camp in the desert. We stopped pedaling at about 9:30 p.m. and set up the tent in a sandy area. We can see a lot of stars here, but the view is somewhat diminished by lights from a giant Navy base south of the highway. We could see and loudly hear Navy jets doing training exercises, but that seems to have stopped now.
Tomorrow we should begin to see the truly "lonely" parts of Highway 50. I think we’ll enjoy it as long as we have water and don’t have flat tires.
Wednesday, June 5
Distance: 75.1 miles
Maximum speed: 41.5 mph
Average speed: 13.5 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 33 minutes
Today could have been an excellent riding day, but 3 flat tires created big interruptions for us and turned it into a mediocre riding day. We discovered our first flat when we looked at our bike in the morning. We walked the bike to a nearby picnic area and I replaced the tube with our last spare tube because I could not find the leak.
Kathy stretching in the morning in the Nevada desert
We started riding at about 9 a.m. The hills were steeper and longer today, but still not as hard as the hills in California. On one long stretch of Hwy 50 the ground was tan dirt on both sides of the road, but on the dirt banks right next to the road people had arranged dark rocks to spell messages. Some people had written their names or hometowns, others wrote messages of the form "John loves Mary" and I saw one message that said, "Jehovah is Lord." The messages went on for at least 2 miles on both sides of the road. Farther along we came to Sand Mountain, a giant and steep white sand dune.
Sand Mountain in the distance
Kathy calling from the most remote pay phone we've ever seen. No buildings are visible from it in any direction.
At about 27 miles we hit the frustrating part of our trip. Our rear tire went flat again. This time I was able to patch the tube — a good thing, since we had no more spare tubes. Five miles down the road, about ¼ mile from the one-building town of Middlegate, our rear tire went flat again. We walked the bike to the restaurant/gas station/mini-mart/hotel building and I used the bathroom sink to find and patch leaks in all of our tubes. Kathy found the source of our problem: some ply threads on the rear tire had broken from the bead, and the ends of the threads were gradually wearing holes in our tubes. We covered the broken threads with duct tape and didn't get any more flats for the rest of the day.
Kathy on highway 50 in Nevada, often called "The loneliest road in America." For long stretches the only signs of civilization are the road and the power lines next to it.
After leaving Middlegate we rode another 12 or 13 miles to the restaurant/RV park town of Cold Springs. We decided to cook and eat our dinner there on the front porch and then ride for the rest of the evening. In the evenings it cools off and there tends to be a west wind that helps us speed along. After fixing dinner we entered the restaurant to get ice cream and load up with water — the towns become pretty scarce farther east. The staff was very kind and asked us to sign their guest book. When we left Cold Springs we made very good time, but Austin, our original goal, was out of reach. As it got dark I didn't bother to put on our headlight until we heard ourselves pass very close to a rattling rattlesnake. Eventually we stopped and set up camp by a "point of historical interest" — the crumbling foundation of an old Pony Express building.
I'm a little nervous about sleeping here. We are somewhat visible from the highway, and we heard some gunshots very close by even though it was well past dark. I could hear one of the bullets whiz through the air near us. Kathy thinks someone was firing from his car. I hope that shooting at historical sites is not a hobby around here.
Austin is 27 miles away. If we can pedal 97 miles tomorrow then we will reach the next town, Eureka. It may not be possible, but we will try.
We also passed the "Shoe Tree" just east of Middlegate. Apparantly the story is that a newly married couple was crossing Nevada and, being short on money, camped out under this tree. They each blamed the other for being so short on cash and argued the entire night. Eventually the bride threatened to walk home, and her husband said, "Not without your shoes, you won’t!" He then threw her shoes up in the tree. The next morning they made up and threw his shoes up in the tree as well. After they had had their first baby and he grew out of his first pair of shoes, they came back and threw his shoes into the tree too. Since then, passersby have carried on the tradition, throwing their shoes into the tree.
The Shoe Tree. They may be hard to see, but there are hundreds of shoes hanging from its branches.
Thursday, June 6
Distance by bicycle: 8.2 miles
Distance by truck: 168 miles
Maximum speed: 22mph
Average speed and riding time: Unknown
Today had a very unfortunate beginning but a fairly happy ending. Kathy and I woke up to a pleasant morning and cooked breakfast. While we were still eating and packing some trucks showed up to re-gravel and blade the road that we were camped by, but the drivers didn't mind our presence. We hit the road at about 9 a.m. 8.25 miles later, just as we were cresting the Mt. Airy summit about 19 miles west of Austin, our rear tire blew out. The tire ply had completely torn away from the bead for a two-inch length and that created the blowout. I patched the tube and closed the tire tear with duck tape and cloth, but the tube immediately blew out again. I fixed the tube again but realized that I could not safely inflate the tire. I had so much confidence in these tires before our trip began that we didn't bother to pack a spare tire. With no other choice, we hitched a ride to Austin in a pickup truck to visit the bike shop there. Unfortunately, the bike shop was closed today and it was such a small operation that I doubt it would have had the tires we needed. We hitched another ride 149 miles to Ely, the next town with a bike shop. With a population of over 5000, Ely is by far the largest Nevada town east of Fallon. I thanked our driver with $20.
The closed bike shop in Austin (population 650)
We found the bike shop in Ely but quickly realized that they could not help us. The only 700 mm tire that they had was a 20c racing tire, and they told us that an ordered tire would arrive on Tuesday at the earliest. The shop seemed focused on mountain and BMX bikes. Eventually we decided to call Tandem Cycle Works, the Denver shop where we bought our bicycle. They have the tires we need and will FedEx 2 of them (a replacement and a spare) to us in Ely.
Since we needed a shipping address, Bev, a county treasurer at the courthouse that we were calling from, offered to let us use her home address. Then she offered to let us shower at her home and sleep in her guestroom. We gladly accepted. She and her husband Dan are members of the Elks club, which was hosting a hamburger dinner tonight. We went with them and ate a great dinner for $4 a piece ($8 total). While we were there we met the district attorney who offered to loan us his car tomorrow so that we can visit Great Basin National Park. That should be a great use of our time tomorrow while we're waiting for our tires to arrive. Since we traveled about 176 miles today, we can take a couple days to visit the park, see some local museums, and rest. Kathy in particular has some sores that may benefit from a rest.
We've been very fortunate to meet nice, helpful people all along our route.
Friday, June 7
Distance: 0 miles
This morning Kathy and I woke up early and went to the courthouse to borrow a car from Richard Sears, the White Pines county district attorney. We drove the car to Great Basin National Park, which was about 70 miles away.
Despite the name Great Basin, the park is mostly made up of mountains. Great Basin refers to most of Nevada, for which water flows in but never flows out. That makes the lowlands very high in salt, which explains why most of the lowlands have very little vegetation. When we got to the park we drove up to the Wheeler Peak trailhead and hiked up the trail a ways to take some pictures. We didn't have time to hike the whole trail — it’s 4 miles long and goes above 13,000 feet altitude. Instead, we returned to the park entrance and took a tour of Lehman Cave. It's a long cave with many narrow passages and impressive rock formations. I took several pictures, but I'll be lucky if any of them turn out well — caves are hard to photograph.
Kathy in front of Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, and rock formations in Lehman Cave
More pictures of Lehman Cave. The camera flash for the first picture blinded Kathy for a while since the room was very dark.
When we returned to Ely we got some depressing news. Our tires won't arrive until Monday. They won't even reach Nevada until Monday, so I can't speed up the process by renting a car and driving to a FedEx office. Our tires will arrive on Monday at around noon, which will put us about 2 days behind schedule. It will be difficult to get back on schedule in the mountains of Utah and Colorado, so we're a bit depressed about our trip right now.
Saturday, June 8
Distance: 0 miles
This morning our tires arrived at a FedEx office in Salt Lake City. I made some calls to figure out if I could rent a car and pick up the tires there. Salt Lake City is about 240 miles from Ely. I ultimately learned that I couldn't do it because the FedEx staff in Salt Lake City was unwilling to search through a shipping container for our package. They said that doing that would take 20 to 30 minutes and they didn't have time for it. So Kathy and I are still stranded here until sometime Monday morning.
While I was making and waiting for phone calls, Kathy went with Bev to the local train museum and took a ride on a restored steam-powered train. The train museum depends on volunteer labor, and this morning Bev was the narrator and Dan was the engineer. During the ride Dan had Kathy come into the locomotive to shovel coal and sound the horn. She felt like she was on a school field trip. Bev and Kathy picked me up at around noon so that I could join them for an afternoon ride on a diesel-powered train. The route we followed was one that Dan used to drive professionally before he retired. He drove trains carrying copper ore to a smelting plant in McGill. The mining operations here stopped a number of years ago because the market prices of copper and precious metals became so low.
Bev, Dan, and their son Ambro are at the racetrack tonight where Ambro will be racing in Dan's hotrod. Before she left, Bev made dinner for Kathy and me. Kathy helped cook, but it was very generous of Bev to feed us. We made a trip to the grocery store today, so we have our own food, and Bev was already pressed for time because she needed to get to the racetrack. We are in an unfortunate situation, but we are incredibly fortunate that Bev and Dan are taking care of us until our tires arrive.
Sunday, June 9
Distance: 0 miles
Today was fairly uneventful. Since we are still waiting for our tires to arrive tomorrow morning, we did what we could to make tomorrow and the rest of our week go well. We washed all our dirty laundry, I cleaned and re-oiled the drive train of our bike, we repacked our panniers, and we ate a lot.
This evening we ate dinner with Bev, Dan, and Ambro. Bev made pasta and I ate plenty in hopes that carbo-loading will give me extra energy tomorrow. It was nice to have a real dinner conversation with this family that has done so much for us. I took a picture of them standing by their racecar, and promised to send Bev an e-mail message at the end of our trip to let her know how our journey went.
Dan, Bev, and Ambro by their race car
Distance: 73.8 miles
Maximum speed: 46.7 mph
Average speed: 13.7 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 17 minutes
This morning FedEx gave us a little bit of a scare. When I called FedEx at 9 a.m. the representative told me that our package hadn't left Salt Lake City yet and that our package would arrive at around 4:30 p.m. That arrival time would have ruined today as a travel day. I was so upset that Kathy started reading psalms to me from our mini-bible to cheer me up. However, the FedEx rep was wrong. The morning FedEx truck had our package. Bev and Dan know the FedEx delivery woman personally, so she called us at the house and Dan and I met her at her first delivery location in Ely. After changing the tire, packing, and loading up the bike, Kathy and I hit the road at 12:30 p.m.
Installing our new tire
Today we crossed two mountain passes — Conner's Pass and Sacramento Pass. They're big for Nevada, but probably nothing compared to what we’ll face in Utah. Climbing was harder today because we were carrying an additional 240 ounces of water in the dromedary bag in our trailer. We are in a pretty remote area, and water sources are scarce. Towards the end of our ride we crossed the Nevada/Utah border. A café/casino/hotel complex called the "Border Café" is built right there. We stopped there to cook and eat dinner on a picnic table then went inside to use the bathroom, get water, and make phone calls. It's a nice place, as far as businesses on Highway 50 go. It looked like the video poker and slot machines were on the Nevada side of the building, while the café and mini-mart were on the Utah side. We stayed inside a few extra minutes to recover from the wind — we had a cold headwind towards the end of the day.
When we left the Border Café it was already past sunset. The cold headwind was now a cold crosswind. We pedaled at about 15 mph for another 8 miles then walked our bike off the road and set up our tent in the desert. It's always easy to find a place to pitch a tent in Nevada. In the basins there are desert shrubs, but there are also open patches of sand or dirt that make good tent sites. Tonight we are technically in Utah, but it looks the same as Nevada at this point. It's nice to be back in the Mountain Time Zone again — the switch occurred at the Utah border. We never changed our watches to Pacific Time.
Tuesday, June 11
Distance: 80.3 miles
Maximum speed: 38.9 mph
Average speed: 13.9 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 45 minutes
Today we really wanted to make it to the town of Delta so that we could take showers, and we succeeded. The route was more hilly than we expected, we crossed two passes early in the day, but overall the route was flat. We got started shortly after 9 a.m. There was very little wind today.
Our first morning in Utah. It's easy to find a flat place to set up a tent in the desert.
The stretch between the Utah/Nevada border and Hinkley, a town 6 miles before Delta, was our longest stretch with no services — 83 miles with no buildings or other places to get water. Our dromedary bag was very useful today because it gave us enough water to drink and cook and still not worry about running out. We are now biking on the combined Highway50/Highway 6. We passed through the Sevier Desert and off to our right we saw Sevier Lake, a giant dry lakebed that is white and flat and has nothing growing in it. It looks dramatic against the backdrop of mountains.
We rolled into Delta at about 5:30 p.m., and unusually early arrival given the number of miles that we rode. We briefly thought about showering, eating, and then biking more, but we decided against it. Our legs and bottoms are very worn out. We set up camp at Antelope RV park ($15), showered, and then ate dinner at a restaurant.
The weather was good for us today, dry and cool, but we're beginning to hear that parts of Utah and much of Colorado have very bad weather — forest fire. We hope that the fire and smoke won't interrupt our trip, but we know that most of Colorado is extremely dry and ready to burst into flame.
Wednesday, June 12
Distance: 80.6 miles
Maximum speed: 44.4 mph
Average speed: 12.5 mph
Riding time: 6 hours, 25 minutes
Kathy and I took it easy this morning because we had put in a long day yesterday. We slept in until 7 a.m., packed up camp, then rode just a little ways to a grocery store in Delta to get breakfast food. We took the food to the city park and ate breakfast. My breakfast included, among other things, an 8" apple pie and some crab salad. I've figured out that I'm happier eating too many calories rather than too few. Kathy also likes to eat a lot, but if she eats too much she makes herself sick. When we got back on our bike it was 11 a.m.
We took a break after 17 miles in the tiny town of Lynndyl and then set out for the next town, Eureka, 36 miles down the road. It's nice to once again have small towns to take breaks in — they have water, bathrooms, shade trees, and picnic tables. Our ride from Lynndyl to Eureka felt very slow, and I wasn't sure why. We had a slight headwind, but that didn't explain it. I assumed that our bodies were just worn out. However, once we reached Eureka we learned that our ride had been a long, gradual uphill.
In Eureka we sat down by an old church to eat a late lunch, supplementing our meal with a half-gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream (it was cheaper than buying two ice cream sandwiches.) We soon found out that the old church was no longer a church, but a privately owned large-group facility. The owner saw us sitting outside and invited us in. He bought the property many years ago when it was falling apart, then did an incredible job of restoring and renovating it so that he could host his family's reunions there. It has a huge kitchen, bathrooms and showers, a ballroom/basketball court, "living room" gathering area, dining area, and a loft for sleeping on. It still has stained-glass windows and from the outside looks like a beautiful old church. He invited us to spend the night there but we declined since we wanted to put in more miles before evening.
After Eureka our ride was mostly downhill. The population density and retail/service stores increased as we reached the small towns that are south of Provo (and Salt Lake City.) We couldn't find a campground, but a farmer between the towns of Payson and Salem offered to let us set up our tent in his pasture. His name is David. While we were setting up camp David's grandchildren came out and gave us each a cold diet Coke. That was a wonderful gift after today's long ride. Kathy made pasta for dinner. Tomorrow we should encounter some genuine Utah mountain passes. I hope it goes well.
Thursday, June 13
Distance: 101.8 miles
Maximum speed: 50.3 mph
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Riding time: 8 hours, 15 minutes
We made very good progress today even though we didn’t plan to travel nearly so far. We knew before we started this trip that we would face two major climbs in Utah. We did both of those climbs today and still put in our longest mileage day yet.
The day started out very well. We packed up camp, left a note on David’s front door to thank him for letting us use his property, then rode 6 miles to Spanish Fork and stopped at the One Man Band diner for breakfast. After ordering I noticed a breakfast entrée sitting on the counter. A previous customer had placed an order, grown tired of waiting, and left. The cook let us have the extra entrée for free, so we ate a large breakfast.
Our first climb was up to Soldier Summit, a mountain pass in Uinta National Forest. It was a long climb, but gradual, and we rarely needed to use our lowest gear ratio. Along this climb we had our first encounter with a bike tourist traveling in the same direction as us. He said that he had just gotten out of college and was biking from Salt Lake City to Telluride to visit some friends. He was riding a Lemond racing bike and pulling his camping gear in a BOB trailer. I don't think that he brought any cooking gear, but was eating at restaurants and mini-marts instead. He looked quite fit, but we easily caught up with him and then passed him as we climbed Soldier Summit. He isn't able to take descents quickly either — he said that the BOB trailer starts shaking so much that he limits his speed to about 25 mph. The shaking is probably due to the quick-turning geometry of his racing bike and the lack of loaded panniers to add inertia to his bike frame.
As we descended from Soldier Summit we found and took a short cut — a paved country road that took us from Highway 6 to Highway 191 without having to descend Price Canyon and then regain the altitude. There were a lot of cows on the open range and one of them panicked us because she jumped into the road when our bike startled her. However, she quickly jumped out of the way again and we did not collide.
We then began our second major climb up Indian Canyon in Ashley National Forest. The forest here looks a lot like Colorado, with tall dense pine trees and steep hills. The road was so steep in places (a sign said "8% grade") that we got off our bike and walked up the hill for the final 5 or 6 miles before the summit. We didn't see any places where we wanted to camp on the way up, so we decided to ride down the hill to Duchesne even thought it was past 9 p.m. and Duchesne was another 26 miles away. We raced down through the canyon in the dark. The headlight helped, but I was worried that a cow would suddenly appear and collide with us. We rolled into Duchesne at about 10:15 p.m.
When we arrived we found a nice restaurant/bar that was still open and ordered salads and chicken wings. A couple guys at the bar who work for the Utah State Forest Service had seen us walking up Indian Canyon and talked to us for a while. Chaz got a Ph.D. in forestry at CSU, so he asked a lot of questions about what Fort Collins is like now. We also talked a lot about how forests are managed to control disease, pests, and fires, and to produce lumber. Chaz is not someone you'd expect to have a Ph.D. He rides a motorcycle and dresses, smokes, drinks, and swears like a typical biker. But he and his co-worker Mike are good guys. As we prepared to leave Chaz offered to let us sleep on the floor of their hotel room across the street. We gladly accepted, took showers at the hotel, and then went to bed. Chaz and Mike came to the hotel a little while after we did, chatted for a while, and then went to bed as well.
Friday, June 14
Distance: 57.7 miles
Maximum speed: 39.8 mph
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Riding time: 4 hours, 39 minutes
This morning Chaz and Mike packed up and left their hotel room at 8 a.m., telling Kathy and me that we were free to stay until the checkout time of 11 a.m. We were wiped out from our previous day, so we rested for a while then slowly got up. We ate at a pizza place across the street then began riding at 1:30 p.m., our latest start yet.
We wanted to reach Jensen today, the town closest to Dinosaur National Monument, but by the time we reached Vernal it was already sunset. Vernal is a relatively large town, so we stopped at Wal-mart to get supplies then ate at Golden Corral (they have an all-you-can-eat buffet.) During our meal we were trying to figure out where to camp and another customer pointed out that there was an RV park across the street, so we camped there. If we had noticed the park ourselves we would have set up camp and cooked our own meal.
Dinosaur National Monument is still quite a ways down the road, but we'll try to get there quickly tomorrow so that we can enjoy a full afternoon there.
Saturday, June 15
Distance: 36.7 miles
Maximum speed: 32.1 mph
Average speed: 13.4 mph
Riding time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Non-progress distance (not included in the normal distance): 14 miles
This morning we showered at the RV park then rode about 16 miles to the town of Jensen, the town closest to the Utah entrance of Dinosaur National Monument. I asked if there was a place where I could rent a car and I was told not in Jensen, only in Naples, a town we had passed 8 miles earlier. Dinosaur National Monument is a huge place with 3 separate entrances that lead to very different attractions. That's why we wanted a car. After calling the car rental place in Naples we decided to forget the car and ride our bike 7 miles into the Monument to see the dinosaur quarry museum. The other two entrances provide views of the Green River Canyon and Yampa River Canyon, but we decided that we've already seen plenty of nature’s beauty over the last 3 weeks.
The dinosaur quarry museum has some impressive dinosaur skeletons and other fossils. This location has yielded more dinosaur bones than any other place in the world. One wall of the museum is actually a rock face of the quarry with exposed bones visible all over it. We spent a long time touring the museum and eating our lunch, and then we rode back out to Highway 40.
Standing in front of an allosaurus skeleton at the dinosaur quarry
We had planned for this to be a rest day, but we realized that if we put in some extra miles this afternoon we might reach Steamboat Springs over the next two days. Steamboat would be a nice place to end a day's ride because it has lots of services, and because we could spend the whole next day conquering Rabbit Ears Pass — the toughest mountain pass that we will encounter on this trip. So with this in mind we kept biking to Dinosaur, CO. We cooked and ate dinner there but we didn't really like the town, so we rode an extra two miles to the first Colorado entrance of Dinosaur National Monument. We set up our tent on the grass next to the parking lot, and I hope this doesn't upset any park rangers. There are bathrooms and picnic tables here, so it should be a nice place to eat breakfast in the morning.
Kathy standing in front of Blue Mountain, just west of the Colorado border. Blue Mountain is a popular spot for hang gliding competitions.
It was really nice to enter Colorado today. I know that some of our toughest days still lie ahead, but we are nearing the end of our trip and we are beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment. Now we just need to pray that Colorado's forest fires don't interfere with our plans.
Kathy at the Colorado border
Sunday, June 16
Distance: 88.2 mph
Maximum speed: 52.6 mph
Average speed: 13.5 mph
Riding time: 6 hours, 31 hours
Last night I woke up at 2:30 a.m. and needed to go outside to pee. When I unzipped the tent I was shocked by what I saw. Even though the bright parking lot lights of the visitor's center lit up the ground and trees around me, I could see the stars and the Milky Way the clearest that I've ever seen them. The Milky Way wasn't visible earlier in the evening because the moon hadn't set yet. Kathy wanted to see the stars but didn't have the energy to get out of her sleeping bag. We'll look at the stars on other nights, but the view may not be as good as we reach more densely populated areas.
Our ride from morning until dinnertime at 5 p.m. was up, down, up, down, etc. Some hills had such steep inclines that we walked them, and one downhill was so steep that we set a new top speed record of 52.6 mph. We did have a tailwind most of the day, and we were thankful for that. When we ate dinner at a park in the small town of Maybell a local resident told us that the rest of the road to Craig would be much less hilly. With Craig only 30 miles away, we decided to continue as far as we could. We made very good time and rolled into Craig at dusk. After buying some groceries and eating a quart of "celebration ice cream," we rode a few more miles and checked into the only campground in Craig — KOA. At $22.90 for a tent site, it's the most expensive camping fee of our trip so far. It does have a laundromat, which could be handy in the morning — all of our clothes are dirty.
Monday, June 17
Distance: 49.7 miles
Maximum speed: 37.5 mph
Average speed: 12.6 mph
Riding time: 3 hours, 55 minutes
This morning I got up very slowly, exhausted from our long, late ride last night. Kathy did much better than me, showering and starting our laundry while I was still waking up. When we finally started riding at around 12:30 p.m. our butts were aching and our legs were weak, but the road was relatively flat and a strong tailwind helped us along. A flat tire delayed us for a while, but we arrived in Steamboat Springs at around 4:30 p.m.
The land we’ve passed today and yesterday is much greener than what we saw farther west the previous week. There is lots of green grass rather than shrubs and sand. East of Maybell all the way to Steamboat Springs the land is fairly flat and much of it is farmed or used by ranchers.
In Steamboat Springs we found a bike shop and bought new tubes and a new handlebar plug (we lost one,) then we went to our main destination — Mazolla's Restaurant. Mazolla's was recommended to us by Kendra and Larry (Kathy's sister and brother-in-law,) who've eaten there several times. We each ordered a calzone, and I also ordered the salad bar.
Dinner was good but after dinner we had no time left to enjoy the town. That's the unfortunate effect of taking a long bike tour on a limited schedule — most of our sightseeing must be done from the bicycle. We loaded up with extra water then rode out of town towards Rabbit Ears Pass, the most difficult climb of our trip. Since the road was steep and it was towards the end of our day, we put on our running shoes and walked up the hill until we found a place to set up our tent in the forest.
Views from highway 40 as we climb towards Rabbit Ears Pass
Since we are in a real forest tonight, and not a desert, we hung our food as a precaution. I hope that strange forest noises don't keep me awake all night.
Tuesday, June 18
Distance: 58.1 miles
Maximum speed: 43.7 mph
Average speed: 11.2 mph
Riding time: 5 hours, 9 minutes
We saw something unusual this morning. While we were eating breakfast a flock of what we think were blue herons flew by. There were probably 30 to 40 of them flying in a line, much like geese fly. We thought they were geese at first, but then we saw that they were much too big and that they had long necks that were folded back in an "S" shape. They flew back and forth over the valley below us, so we watched them for a few minutes.
During breakfast I also saw that our rear tire was flat. The flat appeared to be caused by the Mr. Tuffy tire liner that had gradually cut through the tube. That's the first flat I've ever seen caused by a tire liner. I replaced the tube and we started walking up the hill at 11 a.m. We decided to save our legs and bottoms by walking until we were past the steep incline of Rabbit Ears Pass. After 5 miles of walking the road leveled off somewhat and we started biking.
The scenery near the top of the pass was great. Large meadows, tall pine trees, and in the distance snow-covered peaks. Despite all the warnings about extreme fire danger, the forest did not seem so dry. The grass was green and all the creeks were flowing. We stopped at a National Forest campground to eat our lunch at a picnic table.
Kathy pointing at the stone "Rabbit Ears" from the top of Rabbit Ears Pass
After coming down from the pass we turned onto Hwy 14 east and went 35 miles to Walden. The area around Walden is called North Park. It's a large, relatively flat area surrounded by mountains. We had a good view of the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park as we rode east.
Walden must be a popular place for bike tourists to pass through. Two tourists traveling different routes talked to us there, and a city employee told us that many bike tourists set up their tents in the city park. Walden has a very nice city park that I've never noticed all the times that I've driven through here. We cooked and ate our dinner at the park, then got back on the bike to put in a few more miles.
After about 7 miles it was past sunset so we stopped and found a place to camp. There are no trees here, just grass and shrubs. There are only 95 miles left between Fort Collins and us, much of it downhill. We hope that tomorrow we can cross Cameron Pass and ride all the way down to our house.
Wednesday, June 19
Distance: 97.6 miles
Maximum speed: 49.7 mph
Average speed: 15.4 mph
Riding time: 6 hours, 19 minutes
Breakfast today was pretty slim because we didn't have much food left. We ate a little bit of oatmeal, some apples, dried apricots, and I had a Powerbar. We had several packages of seasoned rice left, but they required cooking oil and we were nearly out of cooking oil. Most of the morning I felt slow and tired, but I gradually got stronger towards noon.
We discovered that Cameron Pass is not difficult to cross when you approach it from the west. Most of the climb is so gradual that it almost feels level, and only the final two miles or so are steep. Along the way we passed scenic ranches and farms - the kinds of farms that show up on postcards. They looked wonderful today, but at an altitude of about 10,000 feet I wonder what it's like to live on these properties in the winter.
We passed a KOA on the way up, but rather than stop there for food we continued on to the Coyote Café that we saw advertised along the road. Unfortunately, the Coyote Café recently closed down for good. We stopped at a Colorado State Forest visitor's center and ate what we had left for lunch — a few Powerbars, 2 granola bars, and a handful of peanuts. The visitor's center had an interesting display that included a stuffed moose. Apparently this area (North Park) is the best place in Colorado to see moose since it has a herd of more than 500. We never saw live moose, though we did see a group of mountain goats later in the day. They were crossing the road and jumped out of the way when they saw us approaching.
Michael on highway 14 on the way up to Cameron Pass.
After lunch we pedaled 8 more miles to the top of Cameron Pass. At 10,276 feet, it's the highest point of our whole trip. We stopped and took pictures, happy to know that we had finished our last major climb. The view from there is really good since the snow-covered mountain peaks are so close. Highway 14 is downhill nearly all the way from Cameron Pass to Fort Collins. We were hoping to roll most of the way home, relaxing and sightseeing, but an approaching weather system prevented that. We pedaled against a strong headwind most of the way down, we were rained on a little bit, and we saw plenty of lightning bolts in the distance. The downhill slope and our excitement about nearing our finish line helped us maintain a good speed.
Michael and Kathy at the top of Cameron Pass
We finally reached a place where we could buy food at the junction of Highway 14 and highway 287. It was a gas station/mini-mart. We used the bathrooms but didn't get food — we were only 15 miles from home! We got on the bike again and continued in the light rain. The wind died down and we were now in very familiar territory, so we picked up speed.
It seemed like nearly all the traffic lights were green for us. We rolled onto our driveway at about 6 p.m., smooched, then took pictures again. We finished! This trip was a huge endeavor for us, and we were both very happy to have finished it the way we wanted to, on our bicycle at our own home. We went inside, called friends and family, and showered. For dinner we ordered carry-out sandwiches from Mancino's, a restaurant across the street. As I walked out our front door to get the food I saw a great image for the end of our trip — the sun had come back out again, creating a giant rainbow in front of our house.
Michael in front of our house, the finish line for our bicycle tour
The days since we finished our bicycle tour have been fun. In an effort to conserve vacation time I went back to work the day after we finished, but Kathy took the day off to relax and to cook an excellent dinner over our outdoor grill. Many of our friends from work and church have been eager to hear about our trip, and we've enjoyed retelling the story of the things we saw and did. Last weekend was a holiday weekend because of the 4th of July, and that gave us more time to relax and reflect.
Overall our trip went much better than we expected. In particular, we were never held back by weather. We encountered rain only on the evening of our first riding day and the afternoon of our last riding day. The rain never made us stop, and I didn't even bother to put on my rain jacket. We crossed several high mountain passes, but we never encountered cold weather. The only cool weather we faced was in San Francisco, and we never used most of our cold-weather clothing. We faced some hot weather, but it was never unbearably hot. We did have a major tire problem in Nevada, but we had no flat tires in all of California and Utah. Other than flat tires we had no mechanical trouble. We never crashed or had any other injuries, not even sunburns. Whenever we were in difficult situations there were always helpful people nearby that helped solve our problems.
Our bicycle odometer shows that we pedaled and walked our bike 1411 miles over the course of our trip. If we ignore June 6th – 9th, during which we rode only 8 miles, then our average mileage was 70 miles per day (some of these miles were for side trips, and I didn't record them in our daily mileage in the journal.) The weight of all the gear we carried with us (4 loaded panniers, a loaded trailer, and our typical load of water) was 129 pounds. We finished our trip ahead of schedule, since we finished in 24 days. We assumed that we would need a full 4 weeks.
We think that there are a couple reasons why our trip went this well. The first is prayer. Our families, friends, and even our neighbors prayed for us frequently throughout our trip. They mostly prayed for our safety. My mother prayed for our marriage, since she thought that this difficult trip would put a big strain on our relationship. We finished our trip safely, and Kathy and I think that this was a great experience to share in our first year of marriage.
The second reason why our trip went well is because the people we met along the way wanted to help us. Some offered us food, water, or a place to sleep; others offered to take our picture with our camera or to help us find the best route on our map. Many just wanted to talk to us and wish us well. There must be something inspiring about the sight of a couple riding their bicycle across the country. Many people told us their own biking stories, and said that they wished they had the time and energy to take a trip like ours. Other people were impressed that we were taking the trip as a couple, on a single bicycle, since they thought that would be stressful.
We haven't made any plans for another bicycle tour yet, but we will. Bike touring is a great way to see the countryside.