Thursday, June 28, 2012

Townsend Day 11

Day 11

We made it to Townsend.   Located along the Missouri River, it's the center of a cattle raising county.

Avon was seriously cold this morning.   We had frost on most of our tents and on anything that was left outside.  Glad that I exchanged the original sleeping bag for something a bit more heavy duty.   The bag was just fine, but my face was cold several times during the night, as I think it got down to the mid 20's.   When we unloaded the truck this afternoon in Townsend, there was still lots of condensation from the frost that had been on the luggage.

Last night we were sitting around as the sun was going down.  Sarah spied this animal moving around and we each got some pictures of it.   It was a little prairie dog.  I dug out my new lens that I had not used before and took some pictures, and here he is.

Prairie dog peeking out of his burrow

Liz, Reesh, Cam, Sarah, Jeffrey and Ben chilling...

Today we started that cold ride ( I said it was cold before, yep it was cold ! )  out to McDonald Pass.  We climbed up the pass and the highway department had been chip sealing the road, and they were providing pilot cars to guide folks down the road.   We descended at 25 mph, sitting "butts back" ( as I yelled that out ) and rode right on down.  Think everyone handled it quite well.

Steve rolling up the top of McDonald Pass

Montana State Capitol Building in Helena

Pretty lawn in front of the Capitol

Open Skies ..  A photo cannot do this justice

Jeffrey and Yuji checking out Montana horses

Crossing the Missouri at the Townsend city limits

The ride to Townsend went pretty well.   In a few places the shoulder was pretty narrow, with the pavement edge being separated from the "rumble strip" by about 1 foot.  So we're trying to roll along at 18 mph holding ourselves into a 1 foot wide corridor.   Takes a bit of concentration to get used to !

I led 

Found Townsend, then found a coffee shop and got myself a grilled ham and cheese, and an iced tea.   Wonderful.   Tonight we stay in the local high school, with tent pitched on a lawn in front of their library.   These small towns have been very nice to us.  We are in the library right now, using the WiFi and getting batteries charged.   Each day, I need to recharge the Garmin, the cell phone, my MagicShine light, maybe my iPod, and sometimes the laptop.   Hmmmmm......

Tomorrow, it's about 100 miles to Harlowton.... that will be 3 Centuries in one week for us !   


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Day 10

Up early this morning for a ride to Avon, MT.  Avon is a little place of about 150 people, and I didn't think that we would have access to the Internet or cell service.   Everything seems to be working out just fine, as we are camped at EchoValley campground and they have a good wifi setup, and my ATT connection seems to be ok.

This was another beautiful ride this morning.  We had a bit of a tailwind, and some of us sailed along at 20-22 mph as we went up Hwy 200 for about 60 miles, and then took Hwy 141 to Avon.  

Passed the Bob Marshall wilderness, rode along a beautiful little creek, a reservoir where the wind was making small waves, saw a dog taking a bath in a creek, encountered a little bit of headwind, and got to Avon in pretty good time.

I rode with Sarah, Liz, Jeffrey, Rob, Steve and Doron for the whole trip, and Sarah and I came into Avon together and decided to stop at the Avon Cafe.   Ordered a cheeseburger and ice tea, and it was delicious.    

Doron checking out the Bob Marshall Wilderness sign

Sarah, Liz and Jeffrey 

Just a neat little farm with a creek running by it.  The dog was playing in the stream as we came by. 

Big Ride Checkpoint in Montana beauty !

Sarah had a great ride today.  Avon Cafe was delicious after 95 miles !
I think tonight it's spaghetti and an assortment of pies from the Avon Cafe that they are bringing to the campground here.   Then it's an early bed and tomorrow we ride through Helena, on our way to Townsend.   Helena should be cool, it's the capitol of Montana.  I believe they have some fires in the Helena area, so hopefully they will get those under control.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Day 08

We're in Montana !   Welcome to Big Sky Country !

We spent the night at the Thompson Falls High School and were able to use the library to recharge electronics and check email and such.  Breakfast was a Mimmie's Cafe with eggs, hash browns, bacon and coffee.   Everything I am eating now is delicious, as our bodies are starting so say "FEED ME".

Rolled out with Katy Perry playing on my speakers.   Ok, I am one of the oldest riders on this gig, and I have been told I have some cool music ( and I know some of the words... the 20 somethings did not expect that ! ).   This was a 105 mile day, going to Missoula.   Charlton told us that there was a 30% chance of severe weather, and so we wanted to roll early, get it done, and be in Missoula before afternoon weather broke.

Eddy on the Clark Fork river
More gorgeous scenery along the river.  A big eddy and as I was taking a photo, the train started coming through.  We have seen a lot of trains.  They are much shorter than the ones along I-10 in the southwest, the gradients probably account for a lot of that.

Here Comes the Train !

Rob at Checkpoint
 Rob and Sarah have been riding with me most of the last few days.   Great people, love them all !

Sarah ( we had 2 biker chicks today )

Rockies in the background
Some old guy, with snow covered mountains in the background.

Jeffry's Thumbs Up !
Jeffry is from Tempe ( ok, Alaska orginally, but living in Tempe now, he's the other Arizona guy on the Big Ride )

Liz's Guns 
Liz looking awesome at the Checkpoint.

Rolling at beginning of a very long climb
And here we go.   Liz, Sarah, Rob, Yugi and Doron rolling up the beginning of this really long climb.   It was started to get warm and we were about 70 something miles into the ride for the day.  The climb was interesting, the topology looked like it was  flat, but we're pedaling with some effort and only doing 14 mph.   A bit of an optical illusion, as we were going up a 2.5% grade.

Rob & Liz & Rockies in the background with snow
 Ouch !   Stuff is starting to hurt.  Scenery is beautiful, but a lot of glass along the road.

Wildlife crossing just ahead of us
I had heard about these wildlife crossings.   Sky Island in Tucson has been working with ADOT to get one or two built along new construction for the Oracle highway.   There is tall fencing on either side of the road to funnel wildlife to use the overpass which is grassed and has small trees on it.   I wanted to inspect his a bit more, but managed to flat and got preoccupied with putting a tube in.

Today, I had the first problem with my tubeless tire setup.   I am running Hutchinson tires without inner tubes.   Love the feel of the ride of the bike, and the Stans sealant has been taking care of leaks.   But all good things must come to an end, and I managed to hit something that holed the tire.  Sarah told me "you're leaking ! " as white stuff was spraying out.   I turned the wheel so the leak was down, and it sealed almost instantly !!!   Rode about 35 miles or so, and then I hit something else that put a cut on the tire.   I "think" that the first impact caused me to loose enough sealant that the second impact could not seal because there was nothing left to do the job.   Regardless, I flatted on the other side of the crossing in front of the above pictures.   Put a tube in the thing and rode into Missoula without any problem.

Day 09

Got up this morning and worked on the bike and have a new Hutchinson tire mounted and a new shot of Stans, so we can see how well it holds up.   Best case scenario is that leaks are fixed, worst case is that I end up running tubes like everyone else.  Had to run inside when the weather tanked, and hail came down and it got really cold really quickly !   The sun is out and all sparkly now, very quick weather changes up here.

Today in Missoula, we have a Team meeting at an ice cream place where we get to meet the mayor and help support some clean air initatives for Montana.   That's what the ride is really about, helping ALA get the word out about Clean Air legislation.

Tomorrow morning we roll for Avon, MT.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Spokane and Sandpoint

Day 05

This was an off day.   We got to Spokane at the end of the ride from Odessa and were setup at one of the dorms at Gonzaga University.   Had some bike issues to deal with and I headed to a local shop and they took care of it straight away.  Then dinner in the Gonzaga cafeteria.  Several of us went out to buy beer and bring it back to the dorm.    Since it's a Catholic university, we tried very hard to collect all of our bottles and caps and whatnot and keep it cleaned up ( sorta like hiding stuff in high school ).

Bing was a Zaggie !

The next morning we did a bike wash on the lawn outside of the dorm, and attended to chores.  I got to see the biggest Red Flyer wagon in the world, and also looked at the Spokane Falls.    There is a dam and some rapids there that make a great tourist destination.  Breakfast was at Wolfie's with some really great eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.   Steve, Rick and I had supper at Wolfie's again, with shakes, burgers and fries, and it hit the spot.   Was great to have an off day and just hang around.   Even wandered downstairs and caught 10 minutes of an old Seinfeld episode.

Hanging Out at the Dorm
One sad thing.  Molly needed to go back to Seattle to get her thumb worked on.  She had a hard fall on Day 01, and has been riding bandaged up.   The docs here in Spokane said she needed to get some surgery on it, and she needed to go back to Seattle for that.  She is planning to rejoin the Big Ride in Billings, and we all hope to see her back with us.  Love you Molly !

Day 06

Back on the road this morning to Sandpoint, ID.  We breakfasted at Gonzaga again, and the ladies in the cafeteria heard that we were going to DC, and were doing 70 miles today.  They seemed genuinely impressed.

As we headed up State 2 on our way to Newport, a deer ran across our path and the path of a car in the outside lane.   Rick decided that he didn't want to be in front any longer and then we separated out and some of us really picked up speed and rolled along at 22 mph or so to our first Checkpoint.  It felt really good.

Todd and I ran across a couple who are touring the country on their bicycles.  They are from Tucson and have been on the road for 3 1/2 years.   Wish I could remember their names.

More rain, and we rolled into Newport, as is was beginning to thunder pretty closely.  Newport was having a rodeo parade and we caught a little bit of that.   Doron and Steve went to Kelley's Saloon and I followed and had a really great cheeseburger.   The place was full of motorcyclists.  Apparently they used to have a room with a tame bear in it, and when a drunk got particularly belligerent they would put him in that room.  It had a big bar that had traveled around the Cape, and then from Seattle to Newport in a 3 month trip.  

Corolis Steam Engine behind me

We watched a bit of the rodeo parade, and then set off for Sandpoint, ID about 30 miles away and got our first state crossing of the trip.  There are several more to come.   Got ourselves setup at the SouthWest Athletic Center.   Doron, Steve, Rob and I are blogging ourselves, and some of the others have hit the pool.   This is like summer camp !

IDAHO State Line  WooHoo !

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seattle to Spokane

This is the Time of My Life !

We have been cycling for 4 days now.  Started in Seattle and rode to Easton, WA.   Got up the next morning and went to Vantage, WA.   Crossed the Columbia and rode to Odessa, WA.   And then traveled to Spokane.    I didn't have good Internet connections at Easton, Vantage or Odessa, so we're sitting in a Starbucks in Spokane and trying to remember the last four days.

Day 01

On Monday morning, the Team got together for a presentation of a "big check" to the American Lung Association for over $ 130,000 that we collectively raised to help fight lung diseases.  

Getting ready to cross the USA
It was lightly raining, and after the presentation, we headed out, lead by Noel ( an alumni who had done the ride before ).   We followed the Burke-Gilman trail, around the Univ of Washington, and the lake, then over onto Redmond Way then to Snoqualmie Pass and the Snoqualmie Falls.

Jim and Yugi watching the Falls
The falls are impressive to say the least, and a picture just doesn't do it justice.  We had a lunch stop in the town of Snoqualmie and then we started out for the pass to get to Easton.   We had light rain that sometimes turned a bit heavy.  Everyone had "rooster tails" of dirt and stuff on their backs from their bicycle, and dirt and mud on their fronts from following the bicycle ahead.  We looked quite the mess !

The route took us up I-90 for a while, with 70 mph truck traffic rumbling along and us over several feet on the shoulder.  Not too bad, but really noisy.  I followed Jeffry for quite a while, as we climbed, and then we got to exit I-90 for a quieter Forest Service road.

Working our way up to the Summit
And it got colder as we climbed, in the rain.   Amazing how cold for mid June, and for someone from Tucson...  brrrrrr !

Molly going under I-90

We climbed more.  Finally got to the top of this thing, and started heading down the other side.   There was serious construction on I-90 so our support staff shuttled us around a 7 mile piece of dangerous road.  When we came down off the summit, we were all cold and wet, and got colder from the descent to where the shuttle pickup was.  Yugi was in shorts and was really cold, and shivering, and a couple of riders were getting close to some serious chills.  But Steve and Lynne, and Laura got us all loaded up with our bikes and down the road we went.   We got dropped off with a little bit of sun picking out, and made our ride downhill to Easton, and a campground in the woods.

Molly had a pretty bad fall on the road as she tried to go around a piece of construction equipment parked on the shoulder, and the rumble strips caught her.   Some of the alumni setup her tent for her and she got back to camp and started feeling a little better after getting warmed up.  She got a bang on her head, and broke her thumb, which is being looked at here in Spokane as I write this.  Molly is a super trouper, as she has been riding for the last three days with her thumb in a big bandage !

Setup camp in a light drizzle,  got a hot shower ( and yep, the girls shower did not have hot water again this year )   Began to feel alive again, and then stood by the fire that the Alumni had built and drank a couple of beers, with our first day under our belts.   The Alumni had a nice dinner prepared for us, and it really hit the spot.   Food has become a very important aspect of our lives on the Big Ride.    Then the first night in my new tent and it worked out pretty well.

Day 02

I and Molly and Steve and Sharon had breakfast duty, so we got up earlier and Charlton showed up how to lay out a breakfast of cereal, milk, coffee, OJ, bagels, jam and yogurt to get everyone started.  Steve and I were the last ones out of camp, and he flatted just about 2 miles up the road.  We got that taken care of and had a good ride to our first  Checkpoint.  Took a pretty detour up a dirt road, that I think everyone rode instead of walking, even with our narrow skinny tires.

Then we got to follow along a beautiful gorge with a river and railroad track near the river, on the road to Thorpe.  I was so captured by the beauty of the place that I was riding through, that I manged to miss an important turn.

The turnoff was for Thorpe Road, and I rode right on past it.   I then saw Gene and Larissa going by and Larissa took probably one of the coolest pictures ever taken of me.   Course, they had missed the turn and saw me and assumed they were on the right road, and since I saw them, I "knew" that I was on the right road.   Well, they figured it out and came back, after I had gone about 8 miles down this road.   I doubled back, rode most of it in a headwind, and then they picked me up and I shuttled back to where I should have been in the first place.   I got to the lunch stop in Ellensburg while quite a few people were still there, so I didn't get too far out from the main group.

Had a good ride with the group in the afternoon getting to Vantage.   Got to see a big section of wind generators turning in the ever present wind.   Vantage sits down along the Columbia River, and we got to camp on grass, with dry conditions.   We had a dinner provided at a restaurant, and it was "spot on", just the right thing.   Got a chance to wash some clothes and relax a bit.

Day 03

Up early on Big Ride Time.  That means that we awake at about 5:00 am.   Start packing our tents and our other junk so that we can load the gear truck at 5:45, when Charlton unlocks it.   We cannot go for breakfast until our junk is on the truck.   Then we eat and are free to hit the road on our own schedule.   This is done to try to get us on the road before afternoon wind and weather changes, and is a great plan, and everyone is getting used to it.   It also means that we go to bed early.  The camp is a quiet zone at 8:30 pm everynight, so people can get to bed.

We were conveyed out of Vantage across the Columbia with Lynne driving the van in the front and Gene with his "Blue Thunder" following behind us.   We rode through George, WA  ( George Washington ! ), got chased by a dog, and then more morning riding through beautiful fields of mustard.

The afternoon ride was breezy.   And we had a little group together riding in the wind.   My speakers seem to be working pretty well... the riders near me can hear the music and I have tried to jazz it up a bit and come up with a combo of oldies and hip/hop that makes riding easier.    We got to Odessa and helped to unload the truck, and then got showers at the high school.      Camped on the grass at the school, and Sarah, Rob, I and Steve got our names taken by the lady from the Odessa newspaper as we rode into town.


Odessa is a really pretty little town.  Named after the Odessa from Russia and settled by people who were persecuted from there.   After supper in the school cafeteria, some of us headed for a beer.  We stumbled onto  Chiefs Bar.   It's ran by Mike, an ex-Navy Chief.   Nice guy, who had returned to Odessa after a career in the Navy.   Camilo had been stationed at some of the same places as Mike and they hit it up well together.    One pitcher of beer was pretty much it for us, as we all know that we have to get our butts up early in the morning and hit the trail again.

Day 04

Excited to be rolling to Spokane and a well deserved day of rest.   And as Charlton says, "some of you need to get your bikes fixed and some of you need to get the right gear, and if you think that you are going to get across the country with a half-hearted effort you are wrong"   Charlton knows what this ride is going to require of us.   There are going to be some testing days on us out there, and we have to be disciplined about it and have our stuff together.

I rolled out and passed a few riders and caught Yugi along the road and we rode to the first checkpoint. We hooked up with Todd, Doron, Liz, Sarah, Steve, Rob, Ben, Jeffrey ( think I have them all ) and the ten of us started a two line pace line working our way towards our lunch stop in windy conditions.   The wind took a lot out of us as we rode along, and we stopped a few times and tried to keep those who were feeling stronger from beating up the rest of us by going too fast.   10 or 11 mph seemed to be pretty good, considering the rollers and the headwind that we caught.  The rotating line worked well, and we tried to get Yugi to understand how to do it correctly.  He's 18 and from China, in the US as an exchange student.

We looked really strong getting to Reardan and had lunch there.   Sharon and I rode together for a while until I blew up a hill and then charged on into Spokane.   I was feeling really strong at that point. The rest of the group caught up with me at the Checkpoint going into Spokane.    

We are staying at one of the off campus dorms.   I got my bike looked at last night and believe I have the issue with shifting figured out, but will test it later.   Today is a good day to eat and checkout bike stuff, as tomorrow, we pack the truck at 5:45, get breakfast, and take State 2 up to Newport and then into Sandpoint, Idaho.

One important thing about this ride is the people.   This is a great bunch.   We are young and old, we come from all over the US.   Some are stronger riders than other and we help out each other when we can, and I think we are binding well together.   Sitting around a dorm room table last night, eating ice cream and watching some of the younger ones sip a bit of Jack Daniels, and having a few beers in the lounge.  This is awesome, and I feel 20 years younger and in the best shape of my life.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Seattle Saturday & Technology Issues

We're here !   

Got to Seattle on Friday around 5pm.  Molly picked me up at the airport, and we swung by SpeedyReedy to get my bicycle.  I was out riding around Fremont on the streets by 6 pm.    Then I met Sarah and we got her bicycle assembled, and then met Rick and the three of us went out for some dinner.  Back to Seattle Pacific and the dorm, made up my bunk bed and out like a light !

This morning was a bit drizzly.  We got up and rode over to SpeedyReedy across the Fremont bridge for some tuneups on Rick and Sarah's bikes, and to pickup Reese's bike.

Reese and Sarah getting bikes & gear

Then I needed to address some technology issues.   I managed to forget my charger for my Macbook and the cable to charge my Garmin, so Rick and I set off for the Apple store near the University of Washington.  We managed to take a route up a couple of good hills, found the store, came back to another bike store where Sarah and Reese were finishing with some stuff on Reese's bike, and then came back towards SPU.    We caught part of the "naked bike" parade.  It's part of the Fremont Fair, lots of people get dressed up ( or actually undressed/painted ) and ride their bicycles up a parade route.  We watched for a bit, took some pictures that won't be posted, and headed back to SPU.   I eagerly tore open the Apple power adapter and realized that a Magsafe 2 power adapter will NOT work on an older MacBook Pro.  Curses !   Foiled by technology !

So Rick and I headed back to the Apple store via the Burke-Gilman bike path.  This place is wall-to-wall cyclists, joggers, making our Rillito path at home look unpopulated !   I exchanged and bought the right part this time, we got a hot dog and a coke and headed back to SPU.   Tonight is a get together at Molly's where we'll meet most of the rest of the Team.

Dino float in the parade
I can't vouch for the rest of Seattle, but this is a real active place.   People are walking, running, jogging, cycling, rowing crew boats, just doing stuff all over the place.  Of course, it is not 104 degrees.  It's really nice, pretty, a bit humid, but today was overcast and just a pleasant day.  

Tomorrow has a possible trip to REI for a pad that I should have bought and might or might not need, and a meeting of everyone here at SPU followed by a dinner.  Monday is the big day, the real start.