Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 51 - Columbia Falls White Fish, MT

Miles biked today: 61
Total miles to date: 2586

I would summarize my first day without Gretchen and Nicole as bittersweet. I woke up when I wanted to, did not have to wait or feel rushed, cooked for myself, I chose my activities for the day and the route and never once got in a fight with myself. During the ride however, when I stopped for a peanut butter and bagel snack I felt lonely and wished Nicole was there trying to steal all of the PB and laughing at her as the PB ran down her face. I cannot decide if I prefer traveling solo or with companions, so many pros and cons exist for both. I think I had the best of both worlds in that much of my trip has been solo and having the company was so delightful. Us three girls have a shared experience we will reminisce for years to come.

My original plan for the day (it is confusing, so see if you can keep up): Wake up in Columbia Falls, leave Jr. Bob behind and bike 30 miles to the town of Kila. In Kila I would meet up with Becky, my couchsurfing host, who lives in Whitefish. (Columbia Falls is only 10 miles away from Whitefish so this day was more or less supposed to be a layover day). Becky volunteered to help her friend shear some alpacas and I wanted to watch. The plan was to meet at the alpaca farm and Becky would be done by 11:00 or 2:00. After the shearing of the alpacas I was going to throw my bike in the back of her SUV and Becky and I were going to Whitefish for the afternoon and then head back to Columbia Falls for a night float trip on the river with two guys from couchsurfing.

What really happened: I biked the 32 miles to the alpaca farm and arrived by 11:00. Three hours later we ate lunch and realized the shearing would last until 6:00pm! I made a tough choice and told the crew I was going to bike back Columbia Falls (32 miles back from where I started). It was an interesting three hours! I learned a great deal about Alpaca's. It took about 5 hands to shear one alpaca, it was a physically gruelling process with a lot of solid teamwork and communication. I was out of sunscreen and asked Ruth Ann (the owner of the farm) if she had some and she gave me the entire bottle! It is my absolute favorite sunscreen that is a bit pricey, it was the greatest gift she could have given me! I gave some hugs, thanked all of the alpaca crew for a great 3 hours of entertainment and biked back.

I arrived to Columbia Falls by 5:00 after biking 62 miles and reunited with my bob trailer and Kristy (my host from the previous night). Kristy and I met the two boys, Luke and Perkins, at 6:00 for the float trip. We flew down the river since the dams had recently been released. I was quite impressed with the boys rafting skills in the 12 foot aluminum boat. Even though rapids did not exist, there were many wave trains, strong eddys and powerfully flowing water. When we finished our boat trip we loaded the truck up and drove back to Columbia Falls to reunite yet again with Charlie and Bob (my gear). Perkins, Luke, Kristy, myself, Charlie, and Bob loaded the truck and drove to Whitefish. Becky (couchsurfing friend from the alpaca farm) met up with us for pizza and beer. The now party of 5 drank, laughed, danced, played pool and even closed down the bar that night! The funnest part of the entire evening was the fact that these 4 people (with the exception of Luke and Perkins who are childhood friends) had never met and through couchsurfing we all came together and had a blast of an evening. In fact, these four have already made plans to hang out and Kristy might even join Becky's softball party.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 50 - East Glacier to Columbia Falls, MT

Total miles biked: 72

Total miles to date: 2525

The story of the picture of Patrick Swazy: Since Gretchen's bob trailer was named Baby Bob, we often called Gretchen "Baby." Often times Nicole and I would say the quote from Dirty Dancing, "Nobody puts baby in a corner." I walked into a bathroom at a cafe and saw this in the bathroom. It made for a good laugh!

We could not have asked for a better last day on our 8 day trip together. Our morning started a bit rough with someSERIOUS head winds and an 11 miles climb to the top of Marias Pass. Once we reached the summit though, we had more than 30 miles of fun downhill. We stopped to check out some mountain goats and continued to cruise at some high speeds for much of the morning. After lunch the roads flattened out with some rolling hills. With Glacier National Park on our right side for nearly 50 miles, it was by far the most scenic and beautiful ride I have experienced.
We arrived to West Glacier and cooked a hot lunch. We cooked up rice, cream of mushroom and tuna. I might not try this at home, but food on the trail when you are seriously hungry always tastes good. We made it to our final destination and shared a ceremonial beer from the gas station. It seemed fitting since the girls greeted me in Saco, MT with a 28oz. malt liquor nearly 8 days ago. We drank a celebratory 28oz. malt liquor at the arrival of our last town as a trio. After 72 miles in the sun and biking the juice went straight to our bloodstream and we were three loopy girls!
I suppose Gretchen learned a great deal from Nicole and I on this trip, including riding too closely behind the bike in front. When we cruised downtown Gretchen was focusing on the store fronts she kissed Sr. Bob with her bike and went down. Thankfully it was not a bad fall, but she did come away with some scrapes. After riding more than 300 miles, in the last mile together Gretchen goes down in downtown Columbia Falls. I guess she needed to get it out of her system.
We met our couchsurfing host, Kristy, at her house. Gretchen went with Kristy to pick up their car which had been parked in Columbia Falls for the duration of the 8 days. I was thankful for Nicole's craving for steak because it made for an easy decision to choose a restaurant. We did not fight or even discuss at length where to eat - so refreshing! We had a relaxing last evening together and turned in fairly early since we all had long days ahead of us. We loved our host Kristy - she was super cool and provided us with everything three girls could need including a warm and genuine welcoming to her home.

Day 49 - Glacier National Park, MT

Total miles biked: 20
Total miles to date: 2456

We decided to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast. We cooked in the hostel and somehow several hours later we had not gone anywhere or done anything and it actually felt nice. We managed to agree on a plan and motivated ourselves to bike towards the Glacier National Park entrance. We came to a group agreement that we were not interested in paying the park fee for a couple hours of riding around. The cost for a hiker/biker is $12, so for the three of us it would have cost us $36 to get in the park. They charge $25 per vehicle so it would have been cheaper if we were in a car together. We thought we would bend the system and flagged down a truck one mile outside of the gate. When our new friend agreed to get us in the gate with threw our bikes in the back of his boat, jumped in the truck and rode a couple of miles and escaped the steep entrance fee. For the record, we support and do not mind paying entrance fees but we were only going to be in the park for a couple of hours and we thought we could think of better ways to spend $36.

Biking with my two girls, on a sunny day, with perfect temperature, with only a handful of visitors (as this was the first day of the season for this park entrance to be open) in such a glorious park is impossible to describe. The lakes, rivers, steep walls and intimidating mountains all around us brought smiles to us all around! After a 20 mile bike ride without Bob Sr, Jr. and Baby Bob we made it back to our hostel and cooked a quick and healthy lunch.

After lounging and again discussing our afternoon plan to death we pulled ourselves together and went for a hike. The four mile hike we went on was the most I had walked in 49 days. (The following morning my walking muscles even felt a little sore). The walk was short and quick, but memorable because of the beauty of the scenery. When we returned to the hostel we sat on the porch and shared a beer between the three of us, showered up and headed to town for dinner.

The con of traveling with more than 1 person: Looking back on this story we three girls find quite a bit of humor in our evening behavior, but at the time we all three grew increasingly frustrated with one another. We chose to eat out instead of cooking because we thought it would be easier to decide on a place than to decide what to cook and what ingredients to buy etc. You would think with 4 restaurant options how difficult could it be for three girls to pick a place. Nearly an hour and a half later after visiting all 4 restaurants, and some even twice Gretchen finally spoke up and said, "I know I don't want to eat at Serranos." Nicole and I said, "Great, then you need to decide where we are eating." She responds, "But, I don't want to make the decision." For the second time that evening Nicole walked into the Main Street Grill, seated herself and made the decision we would eat there unbeknownst to Gretch and I. Gretchen and I continued to discuss outside the grill and we came up with the decision to eat at the Lodge. When Gretchen and I walked into the grill to look for Nicole, we saw her seated reviewing the menu and she said, "I have decided this is where we are eating!" At the same time Gretchen and I informed her that we had decided on the Lodge. I know this story was a bit dragged out, but you can only imagine how many times this type of scenario happened over the week with these two girls. Nicole won and we ate at the grill.
It was a sad night because Nicole got into our biggest fight that night. We argued about money which is an important and tricky component when traveling with others. We had a long heart to heart and finally worked things out, but it is the nature of the best. We love each other dearly, but just like relationships, they do not always operate as smooth as butter. The three of us turned in early that night because we made plans to wake up early to tackle a big day of riding the following day.

Day 48 - Shelby to East Glacier, MT

Total miles bikes: 12
Total miles to date: 2436

We woke up in our comfy motel and made an amazing breakfast on our porch. The day before we stopped into the Shelby visitor center and they gave us a gift bag including small bags of granola. That morning I went to the grocery store to pick up some breakfast supplies. We made scrambled eggs with our camping stoves and also had granola with milk and 1 banana for each. We calculated the cost of our meal and decided we spent $0.75 each. We took a little pride in our thrifty and delicious breakfast. We boiled the rest of the eggs for our lunch. One advantage to having travel partners is cooking and buying food is much easier and more realistic.

I failed to mention from the two days ago that our couchsurfing host Tyrel provided an excellent service for Gretchen. Since Gretchen has never used her bob trailer before this trip, she did not realize she lacked two very small, yet crucial, pieces of her trailer. They are pins that attach the trailer to the axle of the bike. We improvised and used bobby pins for several days which surprisingly worked quite well. Somehow while talking with Tyrel this came up in conversation and he said, "Well, I can just make some." He constructed two pins that fit perfectly into the trailer and axle and sent us on our way.

Apparently these parts of Montana have consistently strong winds from the east. We thought we would attempt the 48 miles to Glacier National Park and see if we could defeat the wind! After biking for a while we stopped for lunch and made mac n' cheese with tuna. It was fun to make a hot lunch on the road. Nicole, who has biked across America, told me that she would do this often. Several hours later when we had accomplished a whopping 12 miles into the 25mph head winds we decided it would be more fun to make it to make it to Glacier and leisurely bike around the park. We called our trusty friends from East Glacier and they picked us up and hauled us the 36 miles. To entertain ourselves we played a round of stand up spades on the side of highway 2. For over a week my scenary has consisted of flat, farming, indian reservations and down right unappealing terrain. As we drove and we could see the rockies in the far off distance and a rush of excitement came over me. I felt like I was coming home. I miss many aspects of living in the moutains of Colorado - I believe when I am in the mountains I feel like this is where I belong. It was a tremendous sight to behold as we climbed the hills in my friend's truck.

We arrived to our hostel and met the world's cutest hostel workers and they all quickly became our friends. We moved our stuff in and after a long debate of what to do next we biked into "town" and went to the Mercantile. We purchased staples for the evening including a 6 pack of beers. We sat on the front porch of the mercantile and continued to debate about what to do with our remaining hours of the day. Nicole says, "I think I just want to sit on this porch and drink a beer." Two hours and two beers between the three of us later we still sat on that porch and watched the town of East Glacier go by. We made friends with the clerks at the mercantile that offered free samples of fudge and made it our duty to tell all of those who entered they must try and buy some yummy fudge. We met some local characters: a crazy hippy herbalist trying to sell us salve and tell us about Jesus, a young man who had just driven from Texas and was looking for a job, a local forest service ranger and more that I do not have time to share. While lounging on this fine porch, we saw a man across the street trotting along on his horse. Nicole jumped up and ran across the street. She asked if she could hop on the horse and he obliged. I followed in her footsteps and he also let me take his horse for a short trot.

We eventually made it back to the hostel to prepare dinner. I have a longtime friend, Beth, who lives in Glacier National Park and she and her friend Anna met us at the hostel for a home cooked burrito dinner. We ate dinner on the porch with the backdrop of what I believe to be one of America's most majestic National Parks and we watched the sun drop over the mountains. Another amazingly epic days!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 47 - Chester to Shelby, MT

Miles biked for the day: 42
Total miles to date: 2424

We woke up and cooked a huge breakfast including sweet potato hash, Canadian bacon and veggie scrambled eggs. I am thoroughly enjoying the chance to cook more now that I have three people in my party. In order for me to cook by myself proves challenging because I cannot purchase food in a smallest enough quantity and I cannot bring leftovers along with me.

Something else I have found incredibly enjoyable is the opportunity to draft behind each other while heading into the wind. Nicole and I, the more experienced of the 3, enjoying getting as close as possible to the person in front of us. This works great until we collide with the tire in front of us. Nicole and I have already fallen several times from this and put us into a laughing frenzy. Today although might have been the funniest moment when I felt a bump on my tire and as I look over my shoulder I see Nicole riding down the ditch as the last resort to avoid crashing yet again. She was standing in the grass waving as a sign of "everything is OK" and I could no longer pedal because I nearly fell down laughing so hard.

I have been biking on highway 2 for nearly two weeks and until you reach Glacier National Park Montana offers very little in the way of interesting sites. In fact, in our delirious state we have somehow come up with a game of counting silos. Whoever can spot the silos and count them correctly first wins a point. This sounds easy, but with the row of 45 silos we had to count more than 4 times to check for accuracy.

We stopped for lunch and saw a solo touring cyclists coming our way. We crossed the road and started cheering, jumping up and down and looking forward to chatting with a fellow traveler. Our bubbles burst as he rode by at 20mph (since he had tails winds) and he said, "You girls are going the wrong way." In amazement we saw him ride away without stopping to say hello. Our feelings were hurt! Two miles later we saw two more cyclists coming our way and we crossed the road to greet these fellow travelers. These two young men were super cute and sweet! We had a brief 15 minute exchange and wished each other well for the other's journeys.

At one point on the road Nicole felt down and lacking energy until she found her new friend laying in the grass. She picked up this strange plastic object which was unidentifiable while riding by on a bicycle. It was a gorilla squeaky toy (to be pictured soon) with a long red tongue that sticks out when you squeeze him. I am not sure how or why but this new object, later named Kremlin, gave Nicole a burst of energy and entertainment for many more miles down the road. Kremlin is still with us today as our team mascot.

We put in a full day of riding battling some extremely strong headwinds and victoriously completed 42 miles. We opted for a hotel that evening and had a great night in. We appreciated the beds and showers, even Kremlin received a sink bath.

For dinner Nicole and Gretchen went to Pizza Hut to pick up dinner and I went downtown to grab some take out Chinese dinner. When we reunited to eat dinner at the motel we learned of each other's adventures. Nicole chose to wear my sarong (with nothing underneath) on one of the windiest days. As she approached the entrance to Pizza Hut the wind threw her sarong to the side and she full on flashed all of those around her. While we ate our dinner in the motel we saw a cop car pull up to our motel and Nicole feared that they were after her for the accidental streaking incident. In actuality one of our neighbor motel residents had to visit the hospital escorted via an ambulance thus the arrival of the police officer. After we ate our dinner I proposed a trip to the ice cream stand and realized I did not have my wallet (which consists of a plastic bag with my money, credit card and driver's license). After all three of us torn apart the motel room, I thought I would bike back downtown to retrace my steps. I made it to Main Street and I saw a plastic bag flapping in the wind. This plastic bag filled with such necessities had been laying in the middle of Main street for over an hour! It was in that moment I was so thankful that I did not have a real wallet but instead a plastic bag as it just looked like junk lying in the middle of the road. When I returned to the motel we had 5 minutes left until the ice cream stand closed and out of my excitement for not losing my wallet I bought a round of ice cream for the team.

I failed to mention another funny story. We ate breakfast several days ago in a small town diner and noticed the menu had a "Low Calorie Breakfast Plate." We found the title for this plate quite amusing because the breakfast items included: 2 pieces of bacon, one egg, one piece of toast, coffee and juice. We thought to ourselves, "Surely the bacon is Canadian bacon or something "low cal". In our curiosity we asked our friendly waiter, "What kind of bacon is on your low cal breakfast?" She said, "the good kind of bacon." We had to hold in our laughter because the only reason this dish was cleverly labeled Low Calorie is it did not have 6 pieces of bacon on the plate. I think we should talk to some authorities and invest in nutrition education programs to the people of Montana.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 46 - Havre to Chester, MT

Miles traveled today: 68
Total mileage to date: 2382

Knowing we had a big day ahead of us with 64 miles and significant cross winds, we woke up early and left Mike and Pat's house by 7:00am. We headed downtown and enjoyed a nice breakfast at a downtown diner with a fairly minimal debate concerning which restaurant to choose. We played another round of spades while waiting for our meal.

We had nearly ran out of water and arrived to a town that according to the map had a service station (I suppose many years ago they had a service station). Nothing existed in the town so we needed to find someone to help us out. Gretchen, the youngest, least experienced and most shy of the three of us has taken a back seat on making a lot of decisions and does not argue when Nicole or I take the lead. Nicole and I thought that we should encourage Gretchen step it up a little and challenge herself. We gave Gretchen the task of procuring water from a local person. This task proved to be a perfect skill level challenge and although it slightly put Gretchen out of her comfort zone, she passed with flying colors with our bottles filled to the brim with yummy water. We found a small park and enjoyed a lovely mid morning meal.

The weather has been gorgeous (besides the tough winds) with sunny days and 60 degree temperatures.

We moved along to our next town and needed more food to fill our bellies. We stopped into a small town that had a tiny grocery store and tables to sit. Ted, the clerk, sang sweet music to our ears when he told us he had free popcorn from the popcorn machine. We took full advantage of his offer. We bought a frozen pizza and Ted had a pizza oven he let us use. We also played a round of spades with my deck of cards which has become quite the addictive activity for us girls. A 92 year old local character, Lawerence, walked in a joined us for lunch. He was a sweet man with interesting stories about his town. We offered to buy him a soda and he said, "Having the chance to talk with you lovely girls is worth so much more than a soda."

We moved along another 6 miles and Nicole raised the white flag on biking for the day since she had not slept well the three previous nights. Nicole made a friend at a convenience store that happened to be driving to Chester so she hopped in her truck for the remaining 25 miles. Gretchen and I trudged on into the winds on our bikes. I was so proud of Gretchen! We completed 68 miles - her longest day on the bike!

Nicole made it to Chester 4 hours earlier than Gretchen and I and met up with our couchsurfing host, Tyrel, for the evening. The two went grocery shopping and when Gretchen and I arrived we had a cold beer and a spaghetti dinner waiting for us. Nicole even bought ice cream. Tyrel invited a couple of friends over and the 6 of us had a great evening filled with laughter and fun stories.

The naming of the bikes: Nicole being the oldest and most experienced is riding Charlie the bike and pulling Bob Sr. I am riding The Dawg and pulling Bob Jr. and Gretchen is riding Elmo the bike and pulling Baby Bob (aka: B squared). I am not sure why, but we have gotten a kick out of naming our bikes and referring to them as if they are human beings.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 45 - Harlem to Havre, MT

Miles for the day: 47
Total miles to date: 2314

In the morning we lounged around the lobby of the Sherrif's office, made our oatmeal breakfast and departed by 10:15am.

We arrived to Havre by 4:00 and I had been in contact with Roger (the owner of the bike shop in Havre) all day about the potential of Roger repairing my gears. Nicole brought my mountain bike from Colorado for me to use on the trip and she had paid $50 for a tune up before she left. My gears were slipping and since I have no mechanical skills I had an extremely frustrating two days on a bike that was not properly tuned. I asked Roger for help his shop was closed due to memorial day, but when we got into town he drove down to the shop to help me fix my bike. He did not even charge me for the bike repair. We learned that weekend he had a heartbreak of a day with a girl so we cheered him up by taking him for a bike ride around town and treated him to some ice cream. In the picture above Nicole really did reach out and pinch Roger on the bum. An important tool on a bike trip is the odometer which is read with a magnet on the spoke of the front wheel. I had all of the parts but in transport the magnet went missing. Roger made my day when he found a solo magnet hanging around and my odometer now functioned. It was frustrating to have biked 110 miles and to look down and read that I have traveled 0 miles at 0 mph. I cannot imagine doing the trip without an odometer.
Our hosts for the evening, Mike and Pat, were contacted from a previous CS friend. Mike is a pastor at the Luthern Church in town. These two fed us dinner, gave us a MUCH needed shower, and some nice warm beds. Tired from the day we turned in early.

Day 44 - Sleeping Buffalo to Harlem, MT

Total miles for the day: 55

Total miles to date: 2267

We woke up from our most unusual evening and Gretchen and I felt rested while Nicole had trouble sleeping all night. The girls grabbed a cup of coffee from the cafe, I made some oatmeal, the girls ate a breakfast bar and by 9:00 we took off for a 68 mile first day all together. The most miles Gretchen had ever completed in one day was 20 and this was her first ever bike touring day. As a gift from the bike gods on her first day we had (my 2nd day in a row!) some serious tailwinds!

Before we reached our first town I told the girls we needed to buy some olive oil if we planned to cook our meal that evening. Nicole proposed a challenge that we find someone to fill up our 6 oz. plastic bottle with oil. We clearly need tougher challenges because the only cafe in town gladly filled up our bottle with cooking oil (as pictured above).

After the first 2o miles we took a break at the grocery store to load up on food as this was the last decent sized town. While biking Nicole and I made a grocery list: HOP at the BP, the acronym we made up to remember our items when we went into the store. Herring, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter and a Bell Pepper. We sat outside to have a "snack" and 10 minutes later we devoured nearly 1/2 of a jar of peanut butter. With our bellies full of PB we loaded up to cruise in the winds. 20 miles later we stopped for a break at a convenient store and while eating more snacks we noticed two pedal bikers with trailers pull up - more touring cyclists! Tom and Reid joined us for over an hour over a large bag of Cheetos and we all shared stories between the five of us. These two have a pretty interesting story: two years ago these two men and another friend started to bike across America and their friend died in a fatal bike accident along the way. Their friend had the accident near Glacier National Park. Reid and Tom decided two year later they wanted to complete the trip in memory of their friend. They picked up the ride where their friend had died. What impressed us the most was Reid is 73 years old! We enjoyed our time together and went our separate directions.

As we pedaled down the road Nicole hollered at us to stop. She pointed out a HUGE snake on the side of the road and it made some pretty amazing scary noises as we stared at the animal as if it were in a zoo.

Further down the road we noticed a serious wind shift (so much for the tail winds) and the clouds formed a dark sheet above us. We stopped when we noticed some pretty serious lighting. I also voted for stopping as I had been battling with a new bizarre injury on my quad muscle and it had flared up to the point of serious pain at the same moment the lightning grew closer. The three of us stood on the side of the road brainstorming solutions. Moments later a truck pulled over and our new friend Phillip asked if we needed help. We told him our situation and we needed to find shelter from the storm. He agreed to help us and we loaded all three bikes and trailers in his bed and he drove us the 17 miles to the town of Harlem. This town allowed cyclists to camp in the city park situated next to the Sheriff's office. Other touring cyclists also told us that in poor weather the city of Harlem allows cyclists to sleep in the lobby of the Sheriff's office and that is exactly what we did.

After a colorful and heated conversation about finances between the three of us, we thought we could entertain ourselves in a better fashion over cooking dinner with our stoves, drinking some wine, eating a box of cookies and playing cards. Something felt strange about drinking wine in the lobby, but we went with it. We had a great night!

Day 43 - Glasgow to Sleeping Buffalo, MT

Miles for the day: 54

Total miles to date: 2212

Gretchen is pictured wearing an orange vest and Nicole is pictured wearing a blue t-shirt.

I woke up in Glasgow in my favorite campground yet with a voicemail from Nicole and Gretchen to not start my day early because they wanted to ride 10-20 miles with me as we had planned to meet that afternoon. They started their day in West Glacier National Park and I started my day in Glasgow (300 miles apart).

While the girls had their own adventure to manage, I had to figure out how to spend my time. I spent all morning eating breakfast and working on the Internet. I took off around 11:00 thinking this would give the girls enough time to reach me for our short ride together. Before I took my first pedal I glanced at a flag flapping in the wind. I stopped in amazement and cleared my eyes to see if what I thought I saw was really happening - TAILWINDS! I started pedaling and averaged 14-18mph and finished the first 30 miles in no time. I went into the bar (the only establishment in this small town) to pass the time. I met some locals and enjoyed a glass of water. I got back on the bike for another cruising 10 miles smiling from cheek to cheek with the gusts of winds pushing me down the road. I entered the only establishment in this small town and enjoyed a beer and popcorn to wait for Nicole and Gretchen to arrive. I had nearly 2 hours to kill so I got to know nearly the entire town. Once I heard news of their delayed travels I got back on the bike for the remainder 10 miles realizing we would not be biking together that day.

Yet another miracle on this bike journey, between us girls and all of our many friends, Nicole and Gretchen connected together rides over 320 miles. They ran across several unexpected delays and did not reach me until early evening so we did not get a chance to ride together. I met the girls at a convenience store and we had a spirited meeting with Nicole and I nearly tackling one another in our over the top excitement to see each other. They greeted me with a 28oz. beer costing a whopping $1 (it was surprisingly tasty!).

The honeymoon moment of seeing one another soon faded when the three of us had to decide on sleeping arrangements and dinner. The game of communication and compromise now began. The three of us went back on forth on our options repeatedly (although we had slim options). We chose to stay at the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs and eat in their cafe. When we arrived my crazy friend Nicole walked through the doors and ran into the pool with her bike clothes and shoes on and all. At this point, Nicole can do very little to shock me. I cannot explain the multitude of reasons in which this should NOT constitute as a "resort". They showed us the rooms ($50/night) and I am confident they must have filmed at least 10 horror films at their resort. We opted to camp on the lawn instead. We quickly became friends with the owners and they generously offered us free showers and free camping. I painfully agreed to eat at the "cafe" with the girls instead of cooking our meal. When we asked about the items on the menu the choices diminished rapidly and I had my least satisfying meal yet on the trip: two pieces of frozen fish deep fried with a microwaved baked potato.

Creepy night: Of all of the nights on this trip this by far wins the award for the most strange and creepy. I thanked the girls that night for being with me, otherwise I would have felt VERY uncomfortable. One man Joe kept coming around offering us beer and to make a fire. He even asked, "Do you girls know how to set up your tents?" We wanted to sarcastically respond to Joe with, "Well, we thought we would go on a bike tour and bring our own tents and hope each night we would find some kind strangers to put up our tents for us." We had to buy bottled water at the bar and ran into a bar full of some serious drunks! Before going to bed a group of young teenagers roamed around near our tents claiming they were on the search for wounded cat and they even showed us the blood prints on the sidewalk. The whole evening was just weird, weird, weird. In all seriousness, I never thought for one minute we were in any real danger, things just seemed a bit off.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The New Characters

I have two temporary bike partners to introduce:

My BFF Nicole and her friend Gretchen left on Thursday, May 22 from Fort Collins to drive to the west side of Glacier National Park. They dropped their car and grabbed their bikes and bob trailers. They began hitchhiking on Friday and had to stop for the night to avoid hitchhiking at night. I will continue to ride west as per normal today as they will hitchhike east until we meet in the middle. We will then as a group of three continue biking over the next 7 days to bike back to their car. Once we arrive to their car, I will continue west and they will head back to Colorado. I am so very much looking forward to some cycling companions. At the same time it will be an adjustment to have travel partners because for 42 days I have called all of the shots and now I will have to communicate and compromise with two other people.

Once we meet I will step off Charlie and let Nicole ride her bike (the proper owner) and I will jump on my Kona Dawg Deluxe. The Dawg sadly will not ride as smoothly as Charlie because it is a mountain bike, but hopefully the three of us will move at a similar pace since in theory my bike will slow me down but I will probably be in better bike shape.

Introduction of the characters:
Nicole: 36 years old, owner of Charlie the bike, has biked across America and completed several other bike tours, we have been on a couple of bike trips together, we fight and love each other like sisters, we bring a lot of attention to ourselves because when we get together we egg each other on. If I had grown up with Nicole we would have gotten into some serious trouble with each other. Nicole and I travel similarly and believe in the magic of bike touring and have faith in that thing work themselves out in the end.

Gretchen: 22 years old, I do not know anything about her as I have never met her. Traveling via a bicycle I will discover VERY quickly if we are compatible travel mates.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Indian Reservations

I can only post this now that I have completed biking through a handful of Indian Reservations and I hopefully avoided unnecessarily scaring my parents. I have probably biked through 5 different Indian Reservations in Utah, Colorado, Montana and Minnesota. It never failed that before entering these lands those living outside of the reservations would warn me, "I would not ride on the res. if I were you, don't stop anywhere, it is very dangerous, they are crazy people etc." I understand from learning about the statistics that awful crimes occur on a multitude of reservations. In the same breathe if people look into the actual crimes it is typically at night, when the people are drunk or on drugs and frequently between people on the reservations that get mixed up with the wrong people. I am not discrediting the warnings and I understand that people aim to protect me, but it seems to me a great deal of judging and stereotyping goes on against Native Americans. I can only speak about what I have experienced while biking through reservations: very friendly, generous and helpful people, tons of trash (including libation trash and cigarettes) and a general "run down" look to the towns.

I will admit that while biking through the reservations I have my safety antenna up and am aware that people have warned me of potential danger. I also have to admit I have enjoyed all of the interactions between the people I have met while spending time on the reservations.

I do not know the absolute truth, but it hurts my heart that many awful crimes happen on the reservations and many people not living on the reservations make awful stereotypes about people living on the reservations.

Day 42 - Wolf Point to Glasgow, MT

Miles for the day: 60

Miles to date: 2158

Comment of the day: I called a campground to obtain some information and I explained I am cycling into town and would like information on their tent sites. The woman on the other end of the phone asked, "Will you need an RV hookup?" I can look again, but last time I checked Charlie and Bob did not come equipped with a water, electric or sewage outlet.

I learned a serious lesson today. I thought according to I would have mild tailwinds today. I doddled in the morning with JJ because I thought my 60 mile day would go by quickly. I took so much pleasure in the first 10 miles with the boost of wind behind my back....and then the winds changed. The next 50 miles did not treat me as well. I do not regret the time I spent with JJ in the morning though because we had great a chat, I had a relaxing morning and I even got to ride his sweet three wheeler.

At one point during the ride I had nearly ran out of water because I thought I would be moving quicker and 25 miles split the towns in a very desolate area on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. I saw some teenager boys picking up trash on the side of the road and as I drew closer they waved and one boy shouted, "Are you thirsty?" I responded, "As a matter of fact I am!" I gladly accepted the bottle of water and thanked them for their generosity.

I was not paying attention to the road at one point today and when I looked down at the last minute I saw barbed wire just as my front tire, back tire and Bob's tire rolled over a nasty enemy. The cycling gods had my back and somehow protected me from a serious problem and I escaped with air in all three tires.

I arrived to my town with no official place to stay for the evening. I should be shamed because for a moment I gave up on the magic of cycle touring (perhaps out of my hunger and exhaustion) and I became frustrated when the "perfect" place to stay did not present itself immediately. I made it to the library by 5:15 only to find the doors had closed at 5:00. I biked two miles outside of town to find an RV camp about as dumpy as they come. I made a tough choice to back track and ride into town (at least I had 2 miles of some sweet tailwinds!). I found a hotel/campground and for only $18 I received a great tent site with showers, hot tub, lounge, a 24 hour restaurant and Internet. The 4 mile detour proved well worth the lodging find!

I enjoyed the hot tub, cooked dinner on my stove, and even had time for a couple of drinks and met some interesting people. By the end of the night I even received an invitation to a wedding for the following evening but I had to decline in order to stay on schedule.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 41 - Culbertson to Wolf Point, MT

Total miles for the day: 60

Total miles to date: 2098

Jonathan and I woke up in the church and we walked to the motel to meet Margret and Barry for breakfast. We enjoyed our last minutes together before we went our separate ways. Not much to speak about for the 60 miles. First 20 nearly no wind, next 10 some cross winds and the last 30 some fairly significant head/crosswinds. I did have a wild wolf cross my path in the afternoon.

Quick funny story: I convinced myself to stay super hydrated on the ride and drank more water than normal. This of course causes the frequent need to urinate. Currently I am riding in the middle of no where Montana with 20 miles between towns. I frequently drop trow on the side of the road in a ditch, behind trees or wait until I see no traffic coming in either direction. On this particular road I experienced very heavy traffic, flat lands and no trees to speak of. I saw this sign and thought I could crouch behind it. I noticed only when I finished taking care of business and went back to my bike what the sign says, "You Can't Hide From God." The sign I am sure had validity, God probably saw what I did, but at least the truckers and all of the drivers did not see me squatting on the side of the road.

With great relief I arrived to the town of Wolf Point. I saw a truck in a turn lane and I caught the driver starring at me. I looked a little harder and realized it was JJ my host for the evening. He happened to be driving through town so he threw my gear in the truck and dropped me off at the library. His mom invited me over for a home cooked dinner. We got on our bikes and rode to his mom's house. I met more of JJ's family members just in time for his mom to serve us dinner and she hit the town for some casino and bingo action. I felt disappointed not to even eat dinner with her because she seemed like a neat person who raised a great son! I went to bed early this night because the night before I only got a few hours rest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 40 - Williston, ND to Culbertson, MT

Miles biked for the day: 45
Total miles biked to date: 2038

Nick, Micah and I slept in a bit because we stayed up so late talking and enjoyed I yummy bowl of leftover coconut curry for breakfast. Nick and I biked 3 miles together before he split off for the Lewis and Clark trail that will take him to Wyoming. Another day of fighting cross headwinds, and suffering some cold raindrops. I reached Montana and two civil engineers were standing near the Welcome to North Dakota sign. When I reached North Dakota in Fargo no sign existed on that particular route and I needed a photo for my blog. One of the guys jokingly said, "Yes, you can take my photo." So I took their photo and he took a photo of me in front of the sign. Miles later I stopped into a restaurant for a quick bite and a break from the wind and in walk the same two civil engineers. They joined me for lunch and I then learned they both live in the town in which I will be biking to tomorrow. JJ said he has an extra bedroom if I would like to stay at his house. Sweet - another night of free lodging!

I arrived fairly early to my destination town of Culberton, MT. I stopped into to the town's museum. Lorraine and Russell (the most adorable couple who have been married for 61 years who volunteer at the museum) greeted me and gave me a wonderful tour of their amazing museum. I could not believe the quality and the amount of artifacts in this museum. At the completion of the very personal tour (since these two grew up in the town and even have some clothes and artifacts in the museum) we sat down and ate homemade cookies and coffee.

I made my way to my lodging for the evening. Micah (my host from Williston) had a friend who knew the pastor of the Lutheran Church and Al the pastor offered for me to stay in the church.

I changed time zones (mountain time) and had oodles of time in a town with nearly nothing to do so I went searching to find a computer. When I stepped into the local motel to ask the receptionist if the town had a library she asked if I was biking with the other cyclists. "What, there are other cyclists here!?" The receptionist rang up Margaret to meet me in the lobby and she told me her story. Margaret's husband (Berry) is biking across the country from Washington to Maine with a family friend (Jonathan - 19 y/o) and they would be arriving in a couple of hours. Margaret drives from town to town with their gear, arranges for hotels and everything else in between. She had two computers so she generously let me use the computer until the boys arrived. Jonathan on a much tighter budget than the couple had planned to camp in the town's city park, but I invited him to stay with me in the church. When the boys arrived we celebrated and gave hugs all around in the excitement of meeting other cyclists. They also completed their second day in a row of 100 miles days. We cruised in the sag wagon over to the local pizza parlor and enjoyed a fun evening of sharing stories, offering advice and giving some precious cycling information. I introduced Jonathan to couchsurfing and gave him the contacts of all of the people I have stayed with. He commented, "This is like Christmas!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 39 - Fargo to Williston, ND

Total miles biked: 10
Total miles traveled: 400
Total miles biked to date: 1993
My best friend Nicole and her friend Gretchen want to ride 9 
days with me in Montana.  The only way in which do meet them on a certain date in a certain town was to advance ahead 400 miles.  I thought skipping over North Dakota would be the best choice because of the boring scenery, lack of people, lack of towns, and the well known winds (which 
would not be in my favor).
I boarded the train at 4:00am after the long night with the boys in Fargo.  I got a good 4 hour nap in on the train.  I made a poor choice and ate breakfast on the train.  I highly recommend avoiding this because of the cost and poor quality (gross!).  
I, of course, made some friends and chatted it up with many different characters on the train and arrived in Williston, ND by 11:30pm.  Amtrak made me break down my bike and put it in a box and when I arrived to Williston I was SO proud of myself because I put my bike back together all by myself!  My couchsurfing host, Micah, for the evening got off work at 5:00 so I entertained myself until then.  I ate lunch, ran some errands and then headed to the library.  As I was typing my blog I looked over my shoulder and saw a guys in his 20's in bike clothes hopping on a computer.  We looked at each other and knew, I asked him, "Are you bike touring?"  I finally found another person (Nick is his name) just as crazy as I am biking in the wrong direction on the northern tier route in a bit of a harsh season with the cold weather.  We had such a hard time containing our excitement to meet a fellow touring cyclists the librarian had to reprimand us for our loud voices.  Nick had planned to camp at the city pavilion and I invited with (with permission) to stay with me at Micah's house.  We finished our business at the library and headed over to Micah's house.  Micah, Nick and I cruised to the grocery store to pick up some food and I cooked up a yummy coconut curry dinner for the three of us.  The three of us chatted, shared stories, and laughed all night.  It was such a relief to meet someone else who knew exactly what I have been through and to have shared so many similar experiences.  It brought me such pleasure to learn that just as many people provided the same hospitality to Nick as I had experienced.  Sadly Nick was headed for Wyoming and our routes split directions only 3 miles from Williston so I did not pick up a new bike partner.   

Day 37 - Itasca State Park to Detroit Lakes, MN

Miles for the day: 60
Total mileage to date: 1983
I departed my cozy cabin for a 60 mile day in some all too common headwinds. The first 10 miles through the Itasca State Park were probably my favorite and highly memorable stretch of miles. The days previous I had dealt with very cold tempratures, strong winds, snow and rain. As I pedaled on the bike path through the state park housing the headwaters of the Mississippie River I took joy in the sunny warm weather. I felt such so liberated when I took off my rain pants and rain jacket that had been a staple uniform the entire week prior. I biked alongside this awe inspiring lake watching the animals around me rustling about and not having to worry about traffic or people.
The winds picked up but with the warm day, blue bird sky day, little traffic, fantastic roads and beautiful scenary the winds did not irritate me.
I had a bald eagle fly with me for nearly one mile.
I filled up my water bottle at a bar along the way and a group of Harley riders intriqued by my journey fired a bundle questions at me. They gave me their phone numbers and invited me to stay at their houses or if I ran into trouble I could ring them up.
As planned I called my host 10 miles outside of reaching Detroit Lakes to get directions. Maureen said, "when you get into town simply bike 12 miles south of town." I thought to myself, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO.....I can't do 12 more miles directly into the winds!" In a nearly pathetic tone I responded, "What did you say? 12 miles south of town?" I felt a huge sense of relief when she said, "Or we can pick you up in town with our truck as we will be in town finishing some errands." It was not uncommon for me to ride 72 miles in one day, but I was only planning on 60 miles and it took me by surprise. As per normal, everything worked out perfectly, I rolled into town just as they finished their time in the downtown area and I jumped in their truck for the 12 mile ride south of town.
The story of how I found Maureen and Jack proves the power of my couchsurfing community. I contacted Casey (Maureen's daughter) through the couchsurfing website and asked if she could host me in Detroit Lakes. She sadly had to decline since she currently resides in California. She called her mom and asked if she could host her new vagabond cycling friend and Maureen obliged! It was a wonderful treat staying in such a lovely B&B and they did not even charge me for the stay.
If you ever want a fabulous B&B on a quaint lake near Detroit Lakes look no further than Mulberry Row ( These two have a beautiful home and beautiful hearts!
A memorable evening: After a lovely dinner with Maureen and Jack I learned that Jack's sister and brother in law from North Dakota would be arriving in 1 hour. Under "typcial" circumstances this family visit would not surprise me, however, Jack and his sister had not seen eachother in 10 years! Due to a variety of situations the two resolved their issues and decided to see one another again. I think my presence in a strange way offered a good buffer as many strange emotions floated in the air once the two reunited.

Day 38 - Detroit Lakes, MN to Fargo, ND

Mileage of the day: 61
Total mileage to date: 1878

I woke up nice and early in my comfy B&B to the smell of freshly baked blueberry muffins. Maureen and Jack made a delicious breakfast. After a leisurely breakfast I departed for my next adventure towards Fargo.

My couchsurfing host, Tyler, from Fargo planned to meet me halfway and bike about 25 miles. He rallied some friends and by 12:00 I saw a pack of 4 guys on their bikes heading in my direction. I felt overwhelmed with excitement and I even had a tear of joy to have fellow cyclists along for the ride. It felt good riding in a pack and they blocked the wind for me too!

After arriving to the house and getting settled in we took my bike to the local bike shop for some much needed TLC and walked to eat an early dinner. The guys told me it was the best weather day Fargo had seen all year. We walked to the town park and it seemed like everyone in the town of Fargo was outside enjoying the sunshine. We laid around in the park, played some tennis and then walked back downtown. The 3 couchsurfing hosts, (Tyler, Matt and Matt), all graduated from architecture school that week and had a good stretch of celebrating. They took me to all of their favorite college hot spots. At one of the many local bars they had free food, popcorn and peanuts on Monday nights. We stopped in for a few drinks and some free grub. We went back to the house to relax once more and then the adventure came!

The night adventure: There is a local beer called Grain Belt beer and the guys saw an advertisement for a small town bar 15 miles outside of Fargo. On the outside of the bar one sign stated, "Grain Belt Beer on Tap." The guys have talked about biking to this bar for nearly one year to see if they actually have this beer on tap. With only slight encouragement from Tyler and I, we put our bike clothes back on and headed out for a night ride. Fighting against the 30+mph wind we were only 10 miles down the road and then one of the Matt's got a flat tire. We had a CO2 cartridge to air the tire up, but it failed. By that time it was 45 degrees and pitch black. The boys were not as well dressed as me lacking gloves, hats and even long pants. They called their friends in Fargo and within 20 minutes our savior Zach rolled up in his van. To complete our mission Zach drove us the rest of the way to discover if Grain Belt was truly on tap. We showed up around 10:30 in this small town bar with our helmets and bike clothes and received some interesting looks. With excitement we asked, "Do you have Grain Belt on tap?" Darcy the bartender laughed and said, "We have nothing on tap." Apparently the sign was simply an antique decor. We settled for one round of grain belt in bottles. We had one more task to tackle in order to complete our entire mission. At one of the popular college diners they have two for one milkshakes on Mondays. We downed our one beer and cruised back to Fargo and slid in the door at 11:58 just in time to put our order in.

We went back to the house and I packed up my bags. The boys walked me to the Amtrak train station at 2:00am. They helped me break down Charlie and put it in a cardboard box. It was an action packed 14 hours with those amazing college grads! I am super appreciative of everything they did for me!