Sunday, July 27, 2008


I made it.

After relaxing for a few days, I'll post some final thoughts on the trip and what I hope will be helpful information for anyone planning their own ride on the Transamerica Trail.

For those of you who were waiting to make a donation to the Appalachia Habitat for Humanity until you were sure that I would actually make it to Astoria, now is the time to send in your check or donate online. I'll keep the link active for a few more days.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. Your support helped me get through the tough days.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Pacific

I arrived at the Pacific yesterday afternoon. Although I hadn't reached my final destination, I was officially on the western shores of the country. I'm not certain but I may have heard angels singing.

After a six mile ride out of Monmouth yesterday morning, I stopped at the Eola Hills Winery. Eola Hills is an avid supporter of cycling, hosting bike tours of Oregon wine country every Sunday in August. These forty mile rides stop at four wineries for tastings, include a lunch stop and then end with a barbecue back at Eola Hills, where they offer unlimited food and wine. My next few rides will be more along those lines. I sampled a few red wines before starting my last stretch to the coast.

The highway heading west was extremely busy. I worried that my last few days were going to be full of unpleasant, stressful riding. Fortunately, as I approached the coast, my route moved onto less traveled roads. One stretch of road, Old Scenic Highway 101, was narrow, winding, and overgrown. Two cars passed me over the course of ten miles.

I hit the coast at Neskowin, OR. I pedaled off route so I could get my first look at the ocean and then followed the coast for twenty-five miles. The road rose and fell, providing great viewpoints at its peaks. Monolithic remnants of an earlier shoreline rise from the coastal waters.

I camped out at Cape Lookout, an Oregon State Park. Hikers and bikers pay a quarter of the price and have guaranteed spots at many Oregon parks. Four dollars secured me a spot within 100 feet of the ocean, where I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves.

For the first time on my trip there was a critical mass of campers in the hiker/biker section of a park. In fact, I have probably seen as many cyclists with touring gear in the past two days as I have during the previous seventy-two days. Most of these bikers are on short trips down the Oregon coast and wonder why I would cycle up the coast, against the wind.

I was up and out of the campground before anyone else was stirring. The skies were overcast and it soon began to drizzle. That early in the morning the roads were wonderfully quiet. Mist over the water made everything seem even more peaceful.

Continuing my free sample tour, I stopped in Tillamook at the Tillamook Cheese Factory welcome center. I watched workers process the sharp cheddar from an observation deck and then tried a variety of cheeses. The place was a madhouse, so I didn't stay long.

Outside the Tillamook center, I met Len, a fellow cyclist, who was heading down to San Diego. Len told me that he had been diagnosed with stage four lymphoma five years ago. He credited cycling with the fact that he was still around. Between chemo treatments he tries to take a long ride -- this was his fourth trip down the western coast. In September after he finishes this ride, he has another treatment scheduled. Despite his diagnosis, he looked healthy and strong and was tackling the tough hills along the Oregon coast.

Oregon has designated much of Highway 101 as an official bike route. The state has done a great job with signage, including a button-activated warning sign that cyclists are in the upcoming tunnel.

On the advice of a few cyclists I met back in Wyoming, I decided to stay in Seaside tonight, a town sixteen miles south of Astoria. I have heard that Astoria does not have easy access to the ocean, so I've enjoyed Seaside's two miles of beach.

The town suffers a bit from Niagara Falls syndrome, but on the upside that means multiple places to buy fudge. I had dinner at a sushi bar. When the sushi chef found out I was wrapping up my cross-country tour, sushi and beer were on the house.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Appalachia Habitat For Humanity

Over the course of my cross-country ride, people have been incredibly hospitable and generous. It has been inspiring to see strangers repeatedly go out of their way to help me and fellow cyclists. To honor those who've been so generous, I've decided to try to fund raise during my ride across Oregon, the final leg of this trip. I've chosen an organization, the Appalachia Habitat for Humanity, that serves residents of one of the poorest areas that I traveled through on the Transamerica Trail. The Appalachia Habitat is the second oldest affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. While this branch doesn't have its own website, I have talked with several employees of the organization and they stressed how important every donation is to the work that they do. The organization completes sixteen to eighteen major projects a year.

So, if you have enjoyed this blog, or even if you haven't, and you're so inclined, please make a donation, how ever large or small. You can make a donation online by clicking the "Donate" button on the side of this blog and following the instructions. If you are more comfortable with the analog world than a digital one, you can also donate by sending a check to:

Appalachia Habitat for Humanity
P.O. Box 36
135 E Robbins Rd
Robbins, TN 37852

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for continuing to follow my travels and for your comments and emails.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Willamette Valley

After sleeping on it, I decided to ask a few more people about McKenzie Pass before climbing up there yesterday. The last thing I wanted to happen was to reach the summit, only to find that I couldn't get through and had to go back and take the Santiam Pass. At a local bike store, an employee told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to get across the pass due to snow and bridge work. While cyclists are allowed to ride up the road, they have to turn around at some point and retrace their path. He spoke with enough authority to convince me that I would have to take the Santiam Pass.

I got a late start because I woke up to find my rear tire partially deflated. It seems the tire had a slow leak. (Did I mention my luck is running out?) I couldn't find a hole in the tube, so I fully inflated the tire and headed out of town. The road was busy, but manageable. On the way up I had clear views of Mount Washington.

Toward the top of the pass, the land was barren. Five years ago, a fire burned over 90,000 acres leaving dead, charred trees covering the mountain sides.

In the Cascades, I passed a series of lakes, waterfalls, and campgrounds.

As I descended, the road ran alongside the McKenzie River. On the westside of the mountains, the land was considerably lusher. Nurseries and orchards became common.

My options for lodging at the 80 mile mark did not pan out. I was in a stretch with no other campgrounds, motels, or cabins, so I had to push on thirty more miles. When I arrived at my destination, Coburg, OR, I was told that the one motel in town had burned to the ground. Fortunately, there were several motels five miles down the road. IHOP, which was next to my motel, never looked so inviting.

When I talk to people about my trip these days, they often tell me how close I am. And today I began the last of the twelve maps that outline my route. So it's starting to sink in that my ride is coming to an end.

The roads I pedaled today were more like those from the East than the roads I have traveled out West. They were quieter back-roads that usually only exist as unpaved, dirt roads in many of the western states. The fields and farm houses I passed reminded me of my rides through Virginia.

As I've moved into western Oregon the wind has picked up and this afternoon it significantly slowed my progress. I was also delayed by a stop in Corvallis, which has to be one of the most bicycle friendly towns in the U.S. I stopped at Corvallis Cyclery to get what I hope is my last new tire tube of the trip. One of the mechanics had just returned from an Adventure Cycling tour of Washington and had done the Northern Tier route a few year ago, so we exchanged notes. Having failed to make it to a winery that I wanted to try before closing time, I decided to cut a few miles from my day so I can hit it tomorrow. For those keeping score at home, I'm about 177 miles from Astoria.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Passing On

Before reaching Oregon, I met several Oregonians during my ride. Clearly proud of their state, they always wanted to see my maps to check the route that I was going to take across Oregon. Several of them told me that the road through John Day and Dayville is beautiful. I wasn't disappointed. Compared with Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, eastern Oregon's landscape is more subtle. Nonetheless, it's beautiful to ride through.

The last few days have been defined by a series of passes. On Sunday, I rode over a trio of summits -- Sumpter, Tipton and Dixie. For each pass I climbed to 5000 to 5200 feet and then dropped between 1000 and 1200 feet before climbing to the next pass. Fortunately, in Baker City I was able to fully inflate my new tire tubes with a bike store's floor pump, making the climbs much easier.

At one point in the ride, the setting reminded me of northern Michigan -- a first on this trip. Pine trees lined both sides of the road and the sound of motor boats rose from a lake just beyond the trees.

After spending the night in John Day, I rode through the John Day valley yesterday. The valley is home to fossil beds that preserve its history as a tropical jungle where saber-tooth tiger and giant sloths once lived. While I wasn't able to see any of these remains, I did ride through Picture Gorge, named for the prehistoric pictographs on its face. The overcast skies muted the color of the Gorge's red rocks.

Of course, where there is a valley, there are also mountains. My day ended with climbs up two more passes. My destination was a U.S. Forest Service campground at the top of Ochoco Pass. As I neared the summit, the clouds darkened and I raced to beat the rain. I managed to set up my tent just before a short rainstorm.

This morning my day began with a gradual decline from 4700 feet. As I headed west toward the Cascades, the relatively quiet roads became busier. However, I still managed to see some wildlife.

The scenery became more dramatic when the snow-capped mountains of the Sisters range came into view.

While I was taking a picture of the mountains, a woman got out of her car and walked over to me. She invited me to camp out at her property. I just happened to be stopped right near her house where she and her husband have hosted cyclists for twenty-five years. Unfortunately, I had to push on, but the gesture boosted my spirits.

Tomorrow I have my last big climb. McKenzie Pass, the more scenic, less trafficked route is currently closed, allegedly due to snow and logging. This means that all cars are driving up the Santiam Pass, a route twenty miles longer than McKenzie. I wasn't looking forward to pedaling up to this busy summit. But tonight I heard conflicting reports about whether bicyclists can ride over the McKenzie Pass. Some say that it is open to cyclists, others say that loggers at the top may not take kindly to our presence. Given the prospect of a thirty-five mile car-free ride, I think I'll take the risk.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oregon Trail

I crossed into Oregon, my tenth and final state, yesterday. It was a great feeling.

On Thursday, I tried to wait out the Idaho heat, but when I got back on my bike at 5pm, it was still sizzling. As I climbed to 4200 feet, the land changed from dry and brown to a lush green meadow with forest in the distance. I rode until dark, using a dirt bike path for the last few miles into the Evergreen Campground, where I was the lone camper.

Ever since Kentucky, I had heard from several bikers that the upcoming stretch of Interstate 95 in Idaho was one of the worst stretches of road -- narrow, no shoulders and a stream of high-speed trucks. I opted to avoid this road by riding the Weiser River Trail. The few miles that I rode the night before should have been a good indication that this was not going to be like the Katy Trail, the other rails-to-trails path that I took across Missouri. The Weiser Trail was rough. The surface was uneven, quickly changing from loose rocks to potholed dirt to a harder-packed surface. Though I have fatter tires on my Surly than many touring riders, my bike could barely handle the bumpy ride. In the end, the thirty-five miles on the trail probably took me twice as long as they would have on the road. Nonetheless, the path was a welcome change of pace. I startled many deer and cattle as I pedaled along.

I do need to get to the coast soon though because my luck is beginning to run out. After getting only two flats between the coast of Virginia and central Idaho, on the Weiser Trail I had my second flat in two days.

After leaving the bike trail, I had thirty more miles to the Oregon border. I rode along the Brownlee Reservoir with the evening sun reflecting off its surface.

It's strange to see such a large body of water with essentially no shore. Campers and fishermen had already settled into the area for the weekend. I camped in Oxbow, OR, at a site run by Idaho Power, which operates the dams in the area.

This morning I was on the road by 6:30 am. My first order of business was getting something to eat as there were no stores or restaurants in Oxbow last night. I rolled up to a store three miles down the road happy to find that the door was wide open and the lights were on. One of the negative aspects of the trip that I haven't mentioned is that I am, at times, at the mercy of rude store or restaurant owners because they are the only option for miles around. If I want to eat I have to deal with them. Such was the case this morning.

When I walked into the store the woman barked, "We're not open." Funny way of showing it, I thought, after walking through the open entryway. "What do you want?" she asked. I told her I just wanted some food, thinking that was a reasonable request for a place that advertised "Groceries" on a billboard down the road and on a large sign in front of her store. "We don't have food," she told me tersely, "we're just a pitstop." Understanding a pitstop to be a place that would have something to eat, I played a game of "Who's on first?" with her trying to understand what that meant. Once it was established that she had absolutely nothing to eat in her store I resigned myself to just getting a drink, food would have to wait for another twenty miles, which as it was uphill meant about an hour and a half. As I walked to the cooler she reprimanded me for walking on her floors (you're kidding me right?) and not on scattered mats and holding the cooler door open too long as I retrieved a Gatorade. It was far too early in the morning for me to handle this woman. As much as I needed a few calories, food and a drink would have to wait until the next town.

Fortunately, run-ins like those are almost always quickly countered by more positive experiences. As I rolled into Halfway, OR, further down the road, I met a couple selling baked goods on the corner. We discussed my trip as I ate a delicious cinnamon roll and homemade cookies before heading to the local cafe where I had the rest of my breakfast.

In town I met an Australian couple headed East. Experienced bike tourists, they're taking a leisurely pace of about forty miles a day, which had them a little concerned about making their flight back in early November.

Today's ride was desolate and hot. It was certainly one of the hottest rides I've had thus far. The landscape is reminiscent of eastern Colorado, covered in desert-like brush. The dusty rock hills intensify the afternoon sun. A few mountains appeared on the horizon to the north with just a little snow left on their peaks. I rode alongside the famous Oregon Trail, whose wagon ruts can still be seen running across the land.

I arrived in Baker City by mid-day. This weekend is the town's Miners Jubilee, an annual celebration of its mining heritage. Vendors were set up in the park and Main Street shut down for a street dance, which seems to be a big summer event in many of the towns I have passed through.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Before this trip, Idaho was a state that I was barely aware of. You'd say "Idaho," I'd say "potato" and that's about where the word associations would end. But after my past few days in this state, I know I will be back. While I have yet to see a potato field, I have traveled through canyons, along rivers, and past golden hills. The terrain has far surpassed any expectations that I had.

As I left Missoula on Tuesday, it looked like bad weather was finally going to catch up with me. The Weather Channel was calling for rain in western Montana and in Idaho and the sky was thick with clouds. A light drizzle fell as I retraced thirteen miles out of Missoula. However, after I turned west toward the Idaho border, the clouds began to break up. Within the hour the sun was shining.

To get to the Idaho/Montana border, I had to climb to Lolo Pass at 5,235 feet. I had yet to see a bull moose on this trip and, unlike a grizzly, which I also have yet to see, I wanted to see a moose. I finally did at the top of the pass.

After reaching the pass the remainder of my day was spent descending through Lochsa Canyon. U.S. 12, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, meanders along the Lochsa River with mountains rising on each side.

This stretch of winding road stands out among many outstanding rides. National forest surrounds the canyon, so there were several NFS campgrounds to choose from. As the sun set behind the mountains I set up camp at Wilderness campground.

Yesterday I finished my ride through the canyon and once again began climbing. I hit a low of 1200 feet and rose to 4300 feet. Unfortunately, I have a lot more ascending and descending between here and the Pacific. Once again much of my riding was along rivers, which provide a beautiful setting for biking.

As I approached the steepest part of my climb on a busier U.S. highway, a guy on a motorcycle rode up next to me. He told me that he had biked the Transamerica thirty years ago and he wanted to warn me that at the top of the hill the road was covered in gravel and that I should take an alternate route. Sure enough, for the seven mile 7% grade descent, crews had covered the road in an inch of loose gravel. This seemed like a great way to kill bikers and motorcyclists. Fortunately, after a mile I was able to turn off onto Old 95, a stretch of switchbacks that took me down into White Bird, my destination for the night. Old 95 provided unimpeded views of the surrounding hills.

White Bird offered two options for dinner, I chose the one that my hotel clerk described as "classier," which I believe meant that I had less chance of getting caught in a bar fight. As I ate my burger at the empty bar, to my great surprise, my Uncle John walked in. My uncle had emailed me earlier in the week that he may try to fly out to Idaho to see me on the road, but I hadn't heard from him so I assumed he hadn't made it out. In fact, he flew into Missoula, went to Adventure Cycling and bought a map, and followed the route I have taken over the past two days, stopping occasionally to ask people if they had seen me pass by. Two rafting guides told him that they had seen me eating breakfast and put him on track toward White Bird. It was great to see him. We had a few $1.75 drafts at the bar and caught up, as some locals came and went.

This morning I rode out of White Bird with the plan to meet my uncle for breakfast either twenty or thirty miles down the road before he returned to Missoula. He drove the stretch of road stopping occasionally to take pictures. Fortunately, he was behind me when I had my third flat tire. A sharp metal pin worked its way through my rear tire. With my uncle's help, I replaced the tube quickly and was back on the road.

I had been warned that this section of Idaho heats up. A sheriff's deputy pulled over as I was taking a picture to recommend places where I could swim. Since my uncle and I ate and he headed back, I have been sitting out the afternoon heat in the Riggins Public Library/City Hall.

My last 100 miles in Idaho includes a stretch on a rails-to-trails bike path that will be a welcome break from the increasing truck traffic. Then, tomorrow, I cross the Oregon border.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mad About Missoula

Missoula ranks up there with Charlottesville, VA, and Columbia, MO, as one of the best towns I've traveled through. I had a nice and easy ride into town from Hamilton yesterday. Fifteen miles of bike path provided a reprieve from a busy, four-lane highway. Once in Missoula, bike lanes abounded and bikers were everywhere.

Missoula sits surrounded by mountains and has the Clark Fork River running through it. The historic downtown is lively and walkable. As the city houses the University of Montana, there's an abundance of young folks. Access to the outdoors couldn't be easier. Kayakers can drop in the river near the center of town and hiking and biking trails traverse the city.

A few downtown corners played host to groups of "gypsy" kids. When I lived in Tucson, during the winter months the downtown was home to a significant number of these wanderers, who were usually traveling with pets. Some were street performers, others were talentless. They disappeared from Tucson in the summer when it got too hot. I think I now know where some of them ended up.

It just so happens that the free weekly, the Missoula Independent, released its Best of Missoula issue a few days ago, so I've been working my way through the list today. So far I've been to the best coffeehouse, eaten the best meal under $7, had the best milkshake, taken one of the best day hikes, and sampled beers at the best brewery. Tonight, a trip to the best pizza place and a movie at the best theater, a restored movie house, are on the itinerary.

My hike took me up a surrounding hill, providing great views of the city. A herd of sheep was grazing on the trail, a quarter mile from the neighborhood below.

This morning also included a visit to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association. The ACA is a non-profit organization that promotes bicycle tourism. The organization developed and mapped the Transamerica Trail and numerous other bike routes throughout the States.

One of the ACA's cartographers greeted me, took my picture to add to the wall of cyclists who have passed through this season, and offered me free drinks and ice cream. It was fun to see photos of the riders who preceded me, some of whom were familiar faces. The office was decorated with bikes that the founders rode on various trips, including this one that was used on a trip from Anchorage to the Tierra del Fuego.

I've also caught up on some reading today. One interesting article, relevant to this blog, that I read was on the relative risk of biking. The article is here. The conclusion -- safer than most people probably think, but not as safe as it could be.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Big Hole Valley

Back in Virginia and Kentucky, good biking weather was often warm air, but overcast skies, so it wasn't too hot. Since I hit the Rockies in Colorado, I've had the reverse weather combination, brisk air but full sun to keep me warm. Yesterday the balance shifted and I had my first cold day of riding since early May. The sky was clear and the sun was blazing, but it wasn't enough to warm the cold wind blowing from the northwest.

I intended to arrive in Jackson, MT, on Thursday, but was slowed by the winds. After an even slower ride yesterday, Jackson became my destination last night. Several eastbound riders recommended that I stop at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge, where for $10 I could camp and use the springs.

Jackson, which is in the Big Hole Valley, is the only town that I hit on my forty-nine mile ride from Dillon. The uphill ride took me over two passes and through quiet terrain. Occasionally, I passed herds of grazing cattle.

The Jackson Lodge has a bar, restaurant and a number of cabins. I overheard the bartender tell a couple sitting at the bar that the lodge employs half the town's residents. It's not much of an exaggeration. Thirty-eight people live in Jackson and the lodge has fifteen employees. After setting up camp, I soaked in the hot springs, which I had all to myself. The water was considerably cooler than the Saratoga springs, so I could comfortably swim around the large pool.

I spent the evening at the bar talking with the lodge's chef and two ranch hands, who worked nearby. The ranchers had spent the afternoon shooting beaver that were building dams in creeks and flooding grazing lands. Greg, the chef, told me that the valley only has fourteen non-frost days a year and yesterday wasn't one of them. A group of women arrived at the bar in puffy, winter coats -- a strange sight for July 11.

Despite a late start (even by my standards), I still managed to travel a good distance today, riding until 8:30pm. Western Montana has long summer days, as it doesn't get completely dark until after 10pm. After today's ride, Montana is quickly ascending on my list of favorite states on the route. I continued my ride through the Big Hole Valley -- "the Land of 10,000 Haystacks." A guy, standing next to his truck and holding a pair of binoculars, asked if I was ready for a cold beer as I rode by. On any other day I would have taken him up on his offer, but not today. I stopped to chat. I assumed he was out counting cattle as I have seen other ranchers doing, but he was on a bird-watching tour. An avid kayaker, he had four kayaks on the top of his truck.

I also stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield, where in August 1877, the U.S. Army conducted a dawn raid on five bands of Nez Perce Indians, who refused to be forced onto a reservation. After losing about sixty tribe members, many woman and children, the Nez Perce warriors rallied and held off the army, allowing the tribe to escape. But by September of that year, after a few more battles in Idaho and Montana, the remaining Nez Perce surrendered. At the battlefield visitor center, a quote on the wall from one U.S. soldier struck me. While asserting that the Indians had to conform to the will of the white man, he said, "But power is not justice and force is not law."

After leaving the battlefield, I had to climb to Chief Joseph pass at 7240 feet. I then had an exhilarating descent into the Bitterroot Valley. One six-mile stretch of narrow, winding road was particularly stunning. The road ran alongside the east fork of the Bitterroot River and grass-covered hills rose to the east and west. I passed a group of big horned sheep many of which were calves. The evening light kept me from ending my ride earlier.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Glory Days

Yesterday was a perfect day of riding. I continue to be graced with good weather and this corner of Montana is stunning. I rode through valleys, over mountains, beside lakes and rivers. The color palette was all blues, greens, and browns, with a little white on a few mountaintops. This area is a mecca of fly fishing and I passed many fishermen casting their lines in the middle of the Madison River. It's hard to imagine a more idyllic spot to fish.

I rode along the shore of Hebgen Lake and then Quake Lake, which was formed in 1959 when an earthquake triggered a landslide that blocked the Madison River. The drowned trees still poke out of the lake.

Perhaps it was the contrast with the more hectic Yellowstone, but it all seemed serene.

My two possible lunch stops were both closed, so I had to ride an extra thirty miles to Cameron, MT, before I could eat. It turned out in my favor because the KBear Cafe, provided the first noteworthy food in some time. Homemade chips and salsa, fresh baked goods, and quality burgers. My meal fueled me through the final leg of my ride, which included my toughest climb in recent weeks – 2000 feet in about eight miles. The climb provided great views of the Madison Valley below.

After reaching the pass, I coasted into Virginia City, a former mining town that has been well preserved. It was a good day for food, as I had a great dinner at Bandito's, an upscale Mexican fusion restaurant. I ate at the bar and talked with the owner, Scott, about mountain biking, travel, and life in Montana.

My ride today was cut short by strong afternoon winds. I passed several eastbound riders that were enjoying their tailwinds. I called it quits in Dillon, MT. As I walked around town looking for a restaurant or cafe, clouds of dust blew through the streets. I took advantage of my early finish by visiting the local theater to see "Hancock."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I couldn't bring myself to trade the warmth of my tent for the cold, damp air outside yesterday morning. I finally emerged at 8:30 am. I was staying in a section of the campground reserved for hikers and bikers. As I was packing up, I talked briefly with a motorcyclist from Illinois who was camping a few sites over. After telling him about my cross-country ride, he told me about a friend who bought a bike in Anchorage, threw away the seat and then road all the way to the Midwest standing up. When he got home he joined the Navy Seals and I imagine he's now busy crushing insurgents with his thighs. It seems everyone has a story about someone who has taken on a challenge that can honestly be described as crazy.

I entered Yellowstone park yesterday. Though my ride was short, the climbs, including another pass over the Continental Divide, tired me. The damage from the '88 fire still scars the landscape when riding in from the south entrance. Charred, lifeless trees remain with new growth rising around their trunks.

The roads are narrow and not in the best condition, evidence of inadequate funding the parks have received over the years. As I climbed toward the Continental Divide, a gorge opened up to my right providing gorgeous views and a few minutes of harrowing riding. I stopped to view the falls and lakes along the roadside.

Last night I had another campsite in a hiker/biker ghetto, this time at Grant Village. Since hikers and bikers only pay a fraction of the price, Xanterra, the contractor that runs the campgrounds and lodges, puts multiple hikers and bikers at group sites. I was sharing a site with a guy named Jeff, who was spending his summer vacation hitchhiking from Seattle to New Jersey. In the site across from me was a group on a week-long, supported bike tour led by Cycle America. And a few sites down were Ross and Justin, who were riding cross-country east to west on their own route. At breakfast this morning I met yet another rider, Allan, who is biking a modified Transam. He was a fountain of helpful information about my final states.

Today I continued my ride through Yellowstone. My route took me through the park's geyser basins, and past one of its star attractions, Old Faithful. I arrived about 45 minute before the next scheduled eruption, so I waited on a bench with throngs of others. A few restless tourists tried unsuccessfully to start the wave. After a few false starts, the geyser exploded.

I took a quick tour of the impressive timber lobby at Old Faithful Inn and then continued on, stopping at some of the mineral basins and hot pools found throughout the area.

Although the section of park that I traveled does not provide prime wildlife-watching, I did see bison, elk, and a nesting bald eagle.

I read an article last week about a teen who was tossed in the air by an aggravated bison. His family was warned several times that they should stand further back when taking the bison's picture, but they didn't listen. Eventually the bison decided the photo op was over. I thought of this article as I watched a couple of tourists step within a few feet a bison so that they could get nice and close for a picture. I lingered to see if it was the same testy bison.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to bike through a portion of Yellowstone, but I'm not itching to do it again soon. It was exhausting dealing with the constant flow of traffic on the narrow roads. But it was nice to meet so many people interested in the trip and quick with an encouraging word.

I ended the day in a new state: Montana. I'm spending the night in a rustic but historic log hotel in West Yellowstone, MT. While Jackson was touristy and ritzy, West Yellowstone is touristy and kitschy. The adventure cycling group, whom I last saw in Illinois, is here. Before dinner, I ran into Caitlyn, their leader, and caught up on their trip.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back On Track

What a whirlwind the past week has been. I've spent four days in transit, five days in Puerto Rico with friends and family, several late nights celebrating my cousin's nuptials, and now I'm back in the Grand Tetons National Park at Colter Bay campground. I've gone from sunsets in San Juan back to sunsets in the Tetons. Thanks, Gongui and Rebecca, for your hospitality in San Juan. And congratulations, Kevin and Marita. You throw a great wedding!

I landed at the Jackson airport at 2pm today. As I walked onto the tarmac, a light rain was falling and it was in the 50's -- a bit of a shock after a week of 80's and 90's. By 3:30pm I had reclaimed my bike, repacked my panniers and was all geared up. Once again, the weather worked itself out. The rain had stopped, the clouds had lifted and it felt 20 degrees warmer.

Getting back on my bike was a lot like reuniting with a good friend that I haven't seen in quite some time. Before seeing each other again I wonder whether we'll be able to recapture the connection we once had. I worry that we may have changed too much and we'll no longer have anything in common, that our conversation will be nothing but awkward small talk. But then we meet and it's like no time has passed. Within minutes, we're laughing at the same jokes and finishing one another's sentences. That's how it felt pedaling my first few miles today. Now I realize I'm writing about steel and rubber, but after several thousands miles you develop a bond with your bike.

Today's ride was an easy reintroduction -- 45 miles through beautiful country. For much of the ride I was retracing my path out of Jackson through the Grand Tetons. After pitching my tent at the campground, I headed to the Chuckwagon restaurant at Colter Bay. As I finished dessert, I heard my name. It was Cam and Don, who I last saw in Kentucky. They noticed my bike parked outside and were looking around the restaurant to see if it was mine. We sat and talked, exchanging stories about our rides across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Rain returned as I left the restaurant and I've been listening to the patter of raindrops on my tent throughout the night.