Monday, June 22, 2009


As I look back on my trip I am overwhelmed with a feeling of gratefulness. In a strange way I don't think of it as a huge accomplishment. It is simply another journey completed. What many people do not understand is this trip always had a way out. I was constantly surrounded by people. At any point during the trip I could have thumbed a ride, used my credit card to get me just about anything and I even could have taken a flight or train if I got tired of being on the road. My trips in the back country seemed much more like an accomplishment because I had to rely on myself or the people in my crew.

I am not trying to downplay what I have just tackled - I will not forget the days that the wind took every bit of spirit inside of me leaving me in tears on the side of the road, nearly peeing my pants out of fear with the crack of lighting above me and no sign of refuge, starring up at countless intimidating hills, the serious and significant pain in my Achilles tendon and knee, my numb hands and feet on countless mornings when biking should have not been allowed, having to dig deep inside on the days when I did not want to jump on the saddle, hoping and praying that each passing car, RV, and 18 wheeler had a focused driver at the wheel and would not accidentally swerve 1 foot to the right, getting honked or yelled at by angry drivers or they days the universe just did not seem on my side.

With those things being said the overriding emotion and thought is how amazed I am at the generosity of my fellow American citizens. People love to help, and my journey gave people good reason to lend a helping hand. Nearly every single human being I met would have done anything and everything in their power to offer me support. The stories are countless - it seems that every blog I mentioned how many random acts of kindness these beautiful people offered me. It is an exciting message to shout from coast to coast that people in America, in a recession or not, are kind, generous and have beautiful hearts.

As I type these words in a state of gratefulness - I am also feeling sad and scared. The root of my mother's numbness happens to be a tumor that also happens to be cancerous. A bittersweet ending to an epic journey. I have to believe that the "bike trip magic" that seemed to follow me every day on my trip was not just "bike trip magic" but it was the universe taking care of me just like the universe will take care of my mother.

I can't say thank you enough to the hundred of people who showed their support in any and every way possible. I will pass it forward.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 66 - Sedro-Woolley to Orcas Island, WA

Total miles for the day: 48

Total miles to date: 3326

The finale day!

Hilary and I cooked Lindsey and Cormac a yummy breakfast as a small wedding present. They took us out for coffee and we all enjoyed a leisurely morning. I went to the bank to finally get some cash after losing my wallet from 3 days previous. The two parties wished each other well and we went our separate ways.

Hilary and Lindsey kept asking me, "How do you feel about reaching the finish line today...Are you excited?" I answered honestly that the end seemed a bit anticlimactic. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt that the trip was about the journey and not the destination. I guess Hilary was a bit disappointed to hear this and she began to plan a special surprise to make the finish line special for me. I suppose it was a bittersweet ending because I heard some bad news from back home. My mom's left side of her body had gone numb several days back and she had gone through several different tests to investigate the cause of the symptom. I would be lying if I said I was not distracted by this and a bit worried.

With only 15 miles to go to reach the west coast we were bombarded with the salty smell of the ocean and the thick humid air. The industrial coast made for a slightly unromantic last stretch of miles. Two miles before I reached the finish line Hilary said, "Go slow, I am going to go ahead!" I knew she was up to something as she asked me earlier in the day if I had some tape and she would not tell me what it was for. I turned down my final hill to see a sea of car waiting in line to get onto the ferry and off to the right surrounded by balloons and a congrats banner, Hilary stood jumping with her pom pom in hand. I gotta say I love this girl!

As much as she tried she did everything she could to make the end seem magical. We did not have much time to celebrate because we had to decide which island on the San Juan Islands we wanted to visit, buy our tickets and head to the waiting area. Since we had arrived two days early to Anacortes, we thought we would tour an island. We randomly picked Orcas island and off we went on the ferry.

One hour later we rolled off the ferry to discover we landed on what I might consider the most hilly island on the planet! The hills were extremely steep! We had 14 miles to bike to our campsite and they were 14 of the toughest hills I can remember. We celebrated by going to out to dinner to a nice Mexican restaurant. We toted some beer to our campsite to keep the celebration going.

Day 65 - Marblemount to Sedro-Woolley, WA

Miles for the day: 51
Total miles to date: 3278

Hilary and I leisurely woke up in our cabin and when I stepped outside our door for a breathe of fresh air I found a styrofoam box on our doorstep. I looked inside and someone had dropped off a beautiful cinnamon roll as big as my head for a morning treat. Hil and I made guesses about who might have done this small good deed, but never learned who actually planted the food on our porch that morning.

We rolled out by 10:30 and not one mile down the road we encountered two woman in their 60's on their second day biking across the country headed for Maine. It was so exciting to see women since I have mainly only seen men touring. They also inspired me because of their age. I hope when I am in my 60's I too will be attacking fun adventures!

Later in the day we crossed paths with Lindsay and Cormack (pictured) and spent about 15 minutes chatting before going our separate ways. I could tell they were lots of fun and was sad we were not going in the same direction.

We made it to our destination with no problems to speak of, went grocery shopping and set up camp at the local town park. While eating we saw two cyclists approach us - it was Lindsey and Cormac! We were so confused - we met them 25 miles back and going in opposite directions. Just after we spoke with them they got into a small crash and Lindsey's brakes were trashed. They ended up back tracking via hitchhiking to the nearest town with a bike shop and their return ride brought them to Sedro-Woolley. We shared a campsite and then the four of us went to town for a quick beer before bed. After two games of pool and losing both times we called it a night. By the way - this adorable couple pictured are on their honeymoon. That is right, their honeymoon is biking across the country. I love it!

Day 64 - Mazama to Marblemount

Miles for the day: 74
Total miles to date: 3278

As promised Hil and I showed up for breakfast to find the table set and Dennis and Tom cooking french toast over the fire. We spent a fantastic hour together enjoying the food and conversation. After we packed up our bags we took off to conquer Mt. Washington.

I learned quickly why these mountains are called the Cascades. Everywhere you looked water slid down the mountain side in a picturesque fashion. We climbed the mountain from 8:00 and by 11:30 we finally reached the summit. Hilary is as tough as nails and I was floored by her endurance having not had much training on the bike prior to our trip. As we approached the top a motorcycle rider pulled over and took a photo of us and said, "You two are pretty brave!" I felt overwhelmed with emotions as I looked back on the road Hilary and I had accomplished and at the amazing scenery and realizing what we had just accomplished. After we scavenged some water from people pulled over for photo opportunities and a quick lunch we began to descend the 50 mile mountain. In less than 20 minutes we had traveled 10 miles...and then the rain began. Luckily we had warmer temperatures or it would have made for a miserable descent. It was a serious down pour, we even got pelted by some hail. In the duration of the 50 miles we put on our rain gear and removed our rain gear at least 3 times.
We finally reached a town to fill up on some snacks, moments after pushing off the rain started again. As luck would have it were biking next to the tallest metal electric towers I have ridden next to on my entire trip. Oh yeah, by the way, we were also in a lighting storm. I would say it was a wee bit scary. With some tail winds and a slight down hill advantage we busted out the 15 mile stretch and beat the heart of the storm. We found our oasis in the shape of a restaurant carrying a wide variety of beer and some friendly faces. We treated ourselves to a dinner out instead of cooking in the rain. Opting out of camping my good friend, Holly from Ski For Light, sponsored our evening in a cabin rental. Hilary and I were extremely grateful for the refuge and a good night sleep after a tough 74 mile day!
After laundry and other miscellaneous tasks Hilary and I went down hard for a luxurious night of sleep.

Day 63 - Twisp to Mazama

Miles for the day: 28
Total miles to date: 3153

I spent all morning on the computer sorting out credit card information and Hilary patiently waited as she enjoyed a cup of coffee and a mid morning nap. We finally departed for our first day of biking together on this trip. We planned a short day to get Hil's legs warmed up before climbing Mt. Washington. She did not come as fresh as I had hoped. Apparently she had a sore leg from playing a serious game of kickball the day before she arrived.

We had an uneventful 28 mile, but we were both ecstatic about taking yet another adventure together. Hilary impressed me with her strength on the bike. She had worried about slowing me down, but the fears rested when I had to pedal hard to keep up.
We arrived to our campsite elated to find a spot next to the river. Linda (my couchsurfing host from Omak) sent me off with some of her homeland Malaysian curry powder so Hilary and I cooked up a gourmet curry dinner. When we initially arrived I characteristically made the social round meeting the fellow campers. I found Tom and Dennis to be the perfect pair for our evening social hour. The four of us played a card game of hearts, talked over the fire and shared stories. It was also perfect that I made friends with these two because after dinner and before bed it down poured and Hilary and I had no refuge. Tome an Dennis had a large canopy that sheltered us during the brief yet thunderstorm. Before leaving their campsite we accepted their generous invitation to breakfast.

The picture of me meditating by the river with the four cigarettes in my mouth is just a funny photo. We found 4 cigarettes lying on the ground so I took advantage of a humorous moment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 62 - Omak to Twisp, WA

Miles for the day: 40
Total miles to date: 3125

Linda my host cooked up a great breakfast to help me tackle my 2nd to last climb through the North Cascades. I made a plan to meet my couchsurfing host for the evening, Scot, at the top of Loup Loup pass as he is an avid cyclist. Although Loup Loup stands shorter in stature than some of the other climbs, the steepness of the pass had my attention. I made it to the top on time to meet Scot and we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch looking over the mountains. After we grabbed a bite to eat we proceeded to fly at high speeds down the mountain side to arrive to his town of Twisp.

Several hours later after tending to mundane daily tasks my total BFF, Hilary, arrived to town with her gear and bike in tow ready to join me for a week of adventure. Her Mother, Bev, dropped her off and took Hil, Scot and I to the local brewery and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the patio overlooking the town's river.

Introduction of the new character Hilary Law: In May of 2003 Hilary and I met in Breckenridge where we interned at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. We lived in a house of 12 interns and Hilary, another friend Erin and I shared one bedroom. We hit it off that summer and Hilary has been one of my closest friends since. She has been a wonderful travel partner on countless adventures (even backpacking Europe). Hilary and I even attempted and completed our first bicycle tour in 2005.

The picture of the house with Hilary standing in the front is Scot's adorable house.

The night went smoothly until I realized I officially lost my wallet. I had put my Ziploc baggie wallet in my pocket earlier that night and biked to dinner. The slippery sucker must have made its way out of my pocket and onto the roadway. The four of us did everything we could think of to recover the wallet but to no avail. I had a dedicated search and rescue team. Bev with a two hour drive still ahead of her that evening stuck it out and chauffeured us around town trying to locate the all important plastic baggie. We threw in the towel, Bev left Hilary with me and soon after we all hit the hay. My saving grace had to be that I placed my passport in a separate location so I will be able to board the plane at the end of my trip. We

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 61 - Republic to Omak, WA

Miles biked for the day: 68
Total miles to date: 3,085
Other cyclists crossing paths: 9

I had another climb to tackle that day and found little motivation to go outside when I peered through the plastic windows of my yurt to see gloomy fog and clouds all around. It was one of the hardest days to get myself together and saddle up. Nearly one hour into the ride the clouds had lifted and I was happy as a clam and super glad to be on a bike. There seems to be something incredibly medicinal for me when the sun beams down on me.

The highlights of my day have shifted dramatically from counting the silos in the plains to now talking to passing by cyclists. I usually stop to talk to each one passing me and we talk anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. My cup of enthusiasm gets filled up and when I depart from my new friends as they head east and I am usually grinning from ear to ear.
I tackled the pass by 12:00 and stopped in for a nice picnic lunch in front of a convenience store. During the 30 minutes of sitting on this picnic table the clerk from the store kept me company and shared all of the small town gossip of the town of Wauconda (population 100). I proceeded for my 20 mile down hill descent.
One shocking storey: One mile outside of the next small town I had a steep downhill and I was biking about 30 mph when a truck pulled out in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting the truck and when I realized I had a large shoulder to bike on to the right of him. I passed the truck on the shoulder and one quarter mile later I stopped into a convenience store to fill up on water. While shopping in the store an officer fronted me and asked, "Were you just biking down that hill?" After I said I was the biker he said, "I don't know where you come from, but in the state of Washington bicyclists must follow all of the same laws as vehicles. You illegally passed a vehicle on the right. I was going to pull over that truck that cut you off and give him a ticket but when I saw you pass him I decided not to give him a ticket. I could give you a ticket right now." I must have passed through a town with very little crime because the police officer had nothing better to do than track down a cyclists in a convenience store just to show off his authority.
Feeling unwelcome in this town I swiftly departed. It was a hot one and I passed by yard after yard with sprinklers on their lawn. I thought, "How nice it would be to stand in a sprinkler." So that is what I did. I pulled over and stood on the sidewalk of some one's yard and enjoyed the refreshing spray from the sprinkler. The elderly woman of the house came outside and asked, "Are you alright?" I replied, "Yep, just coolin off because it is a hot day." She went back inside after advising me not to drink the water and having a brief conversation about my trip. Just before I left she came back out and said, "Can I give you these cookies? I just baked them, they are snickerdoodles." I exclaimed, "That is my favorite type of cookie!" and gratefully accepted the gift. This was a nice turn around from almost getting a ticket.

I had the world's perfect couchsurfing host, Linda, that evening! She picked me up in town as her house was three miles away up a 6% grade hill. When I arrived she had dinner waiting including seafood curry, fresh fruit salad, and a green salad from her garden. She is from Malaysia and the food she cooked was traditional. She even baked a cake with strawberry rhubarb topping with vanilla ice cream! Her 22 year old son was also at the house and he had also done some bike touring in the past. It was such a pleasant evening all the way around. I thanked her for going above and beyond as host and she replied, "I want to take good care of my guests in hopes that when my son travels other people take just as good care of him.on when he travels"