Saturday, December 11, 2010

JUST THE BASICS: The time has come to write what we expect will be our final post about our 2010 cross-country bicycle tour. It’s taken a while to do a bit of editing and to think about what we want to say. It will probably take much longer to figure out what making this journey has meant to us, but this is what we can say right now!

Here’s what follows:

Just the Basics – for the Last Time:

Gifts:

Fun Facts: Lots of them!

Big Questions: Why did you do it? Would you do it again? What was especially wonderful? Were there any downsides? How much weight did you lose? How about bathrooms? Do you have a next trip in the works?

Especially For Cyclists: Health and Safety; Finding Our Way; Layover Days; Choosing Where and When to Spend the Night; Managing Responsibilities Away from Home; Stuff We Found Useful; Renting Cars.

JUST THE BASICS - FOR THE LAST TIME: The ride was many things – a great way to learn about a big cross-section of our country, a physical, mental and emotional challenge, and, most of all, BIG FUN.

It also affirmed our core belief that people are generally resilient and kind and want to be helpful. We are so grateful for the many gifts we received on the trip – material gifts, gifts of time and service, and, best of all, the stories folks told us about their lives, their work, their communities and the things they cared about.

We had wondrous adventures. All the way across the country we had the sense that we were riding through a wildflower garden. We saw moose and bears and mountain goats and antelope. We crossed the Continental Divide and immediately saw a creek flowing east. We waded across the Mississippi at its source and watched it grow for 500 miles. We rode through the Rockies and then the Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains with their fall colors.

Our hearts overflowed with joy.

GIFTS: THANK YOU! We begin our section on gifts with some big thank-yous:

To our Readers: Thank you for the gift of your presence on this ride. We originally imagined that we were writing this travelogue for ourselves, to have a written record to reinforce our memories. We also saw it as a way to let family and friends know where we were, and that we were safe each evening. In the end, it was our readers that made it what it was. We are so pleased to have had the chance to share our great adventure with you. Our desire to be faithful reporters for you – and for the wonderful folks whom we encountered along the way – has definitely informed the writing. We thank you all.

To the Folks We Met: We hope we have faithfully shared your stories and are deeply grateful for the privilege of meeting you and for the help you so readily offered.

To Family (especially) and Friends: Thank you for your frequent help and your encouragement before, and during the ride – and for never once suggesting that it was too dangerous or too silly or too selfish, or that we were too old, or in any way not likely to be adequate to the effort! We love you all.

Our posts note at least 93 gifts we received during our journey, starting on Day 6 with the gift of a bottle of wine for our dinner from our hosts Ed and Phyllis Thiemann at the Brickhaven B and B near Corbett, OR. The last one, noted on Day 154, was when Conroy, NH librarians Glynis and Lindsey copied and drew maps for us and devoted lots of time to helping determine our route for the last two days of the trip.

Many of the gifts were material items: Home dried apples from a motel housekeeper in Moses Lake, WA, who warned us to eat them instead of potato chips and candy; Beverages such as free coffee, ice water, soda, beer, Gatorade and homemade apple cider; and neck coolers from hosts Todd and Sally at the Frontier motel in Marquette, IA.

Actually, material gifts started coming before the ride began, as early as Christmas, 2009, when son Sven and his wife Tina gave us a Kindle so we’d always have books to read; and son Hank and his wife Heather gave us two inspiring books written by other cross-country riders; and our friends Ash and Nick gave us insulated water bottles – something we had never used and really loved on this trip. When our granddaughter Isabel came to visit in the spring she brought bandanas and new toilet kits which saw daily use on the trip; and Becky’s colleagues at the Benton City Food Bank gave her a white biking shirt which served as her “dress shirt” for dinner throughout the trip! The last material gift was post-trip: Our daughter-in-law Heather designed wonderful trip-memory shirts, with a map of the U.S. on the front, showing the ride, and a list of all the places we stayed on the back – see the post which precedes this one!

Between these pre-trip and post-trip material gifts were a host of others – we hope we listed them all in our travelogue.

Other gifts were of time and service, some major, such as the help we got from Mark Christiansen, who helped us replace Becky’s tire when we broke down at Lookout Pass, including driving us and our bikes down to the bike shop in Kellogg, ID and then back up to the pass the next morning so we could start up where we had left off. Some gifts of service were pure fun – like our trip to Carl and Wanda Erickson’s farm in Hitterdal, MN, and the guys in the bar in Saco, MT coaching Becky on playing pool.

Many folks took the time to offer us a word of encouragement or to ask questions about the ride (we love talking about it – Steve, Dud, Janie and Ephraim, you were the champion question-askers!), or to offer help with directions, or to let us know they would pray for us. Most of all, many folks gifted us with their stories – explaining their work, or describing their towns or telling us something about their lives – truly wonderful gifts, and we hope we have done them justice in sharing their stories.

At the end of the ride came more gifts of time and service – Riley’s sister Dawn and her husband Ron picked us up in Portland, ME after we had shipped our bikes home and drove us to Hank and Heather’s place in the Boston area. When we got off the train in Portland, OR, on our way home, our friends Ash and Nick met us, gave us hospitality for the night, and then Nick drove us out to Seaside, OR on the coast to pick up the truck we had parked there back in May at the beginning of our ride!

We have been so very lucky.

FUN FACTS: But first a disclaimer: We wouldn’t testify in court that these figures are accurate. Some stuff never made it into the travelogue and we may have screwed up counting the stuff that was there. Oh well.

Time, Distance and Weather:
* The trip lasted 158 days, of which 116 were cycling days and 42 were layover days.

* We rode at least 4400 miles, of which Riley pedaled every single one and Becky pedaled all but 22 (about 0.5% of the total).

* Twenty of the layover days were chosen primarily due to weather – 14 because of rain and storms, six because of heat. Nine layover days were due to a desire to avoid heavy holiday traffic (Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends) or weekend traffic in resort areas (Glacier National Park and the Mille Lacs region in MN). Another nine were chosen primarily for R & R, three were for health reasons, and one was due to inability to find housing at our next desired stop.

* On at least 24 days some of the ride was on one or more of the 21 off-road bike trails we mentioned in our travelogue.

Weight on the Bikes: At the beginning of the trip, Riley was carrying about 70 pounds of gear and Becky had about 45. Twice we made a conscious effort to get rid of stuff; at the end of the trip Riley had about 53 pounds of gear and Becky had about 25. We also carried up to 11 pounds of water at a time – Riley carrying most of it.

States: We rode in 16 different states: OR, WA, ID, MT, ND, MN, WI, IA, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, VT, NH, ME.
* We spent the most nights in Montana (25); next came Minnesota (20) and New York (19).

* At the other end of the range, we spent only one night in Pennsylvania; Vermont and Maine each had two nights.

* Not too surprisingly, we took the most layover days in Minnesota and Montana – 7 out of the 20 days we spent in MN, and six out of the 25 days we spent in MT. North Dakota had five layover days (with 17 days total), as did New York (out of 19 days). We took four in Washington (out of 12 days there) and four in New Hampshire – including fully half of our eight nights there!

Lodging:
* We stayed in 94 motels and 16 Bed and Breakfasts.

* We spent three nights with family and friends.

* The most nights we spent in one place were four, which we did twice. The first time was at a Super 8 in Williston, North Dakota, in July – due to extreme heat. The second time was at the White Deer Motel in Conway, New Hampshire, just 71 miles short of our goal – due to the need to stay off the roads over the Columbus Day weekend, coupled with the end of the fall colors viewing season and the 150 year old Fryeburg Fair in nearby Fryeburg, Maine.

* We also spent one night in the Community Center in a park in Monroeville, Indiana. Incredibly, this town of 1200 folks has been hosting long distance cyclists since 1975 or 1976 and the entire community is very proud of this and extremely welcoming to cyclists – over 1300 of whom have spent the night there!

Camping: We camped only seven nights, all of them between July 7th and August 18th. We had camped frequently on two previous cycle tours – one on the Oregon coast and one in Brittany in Northern France – and had thought we would camp much more often on this trip, but ended up not doing so.

In the early weeks and the final weeks of our journey it seemed too chilly. In the middle, it was often too hot, and the presence of tons of mosquitoes and noisy cicadas were major disincentives. As it happened, it also rained every one of the nights we did camp – go figure!

In the end, it must also be said that we may be getting soft in our old age. It’s nice to sleep in a bed and have in-room indoor plumbing at night! The rain also discouraged us – drying off the tent really slows down getting off in the morning.

We were, however, really glad we had all our camping stuff, despite the weight it added to our loads. The times we camped we had no viable alternative and we always felt we had a margin of safety should we have a breakdown or other emergency and be stuck somewhere. We also made frequent use of our “camp” cooking equipment and supplies for roadside lunches, and for cooking and eating in cabins and even in hotels.

On less ambitious future trips we anticipate doing more camping!

Miscellaneous Fun Facts:

* We visited at least 41 museums and “learning events” such as fairs. We also read a ton of informational roadside signs, such as historical markers and the informational sections of maps and brochures.

* We mentioned nature and natural history at least 84 times in our posts.

* Thirteen of the posts mentioned our own cooking and 115 of the posts said positive things about the food we were eating – whether in restaurants or our own cooking. This was despite the fact that we also had (and wrote about) some eating challenges, such as inadequate access to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a diet that was heavy on fried food and had a heavy emphasis on meat, which is not how we eat at home.

OK – we know we are spoiled when it comes to eating. We currently live in the midst of Southeast Washington’s agricultural area and our permanent home is in Southern California where we have tons of locally grown produce year-round, and easy access to an incredible bounty of cultural-diversity-fueled food items from many cuisines.

* We sent at least 418 postcards to a total of at least 86 different individuals, families and groups. How do we know, you ask? Because Becky created a table to keep track, that’s why! Our eight grandchildren and two young nephews led the list of recipients, with 15-20 each.

BIG QUESTIONS: Here are some we’ve been asked regularly.

Why did you do it? We love taking bike trips. When we go on vacation we bike. We bike at home as often as our lives permit. We love adventure. We love being outside and learning about nature, geography, and history. We love doing things together. We wanted to get to know our country in an intimate way and hoped to meet wonderful people and happen on local fairs and wonderful little museums and festivals. We wondered if we had the physical and mental ability to do it. We wanted something to remember when we’re sitting in our rocking chairs when we’re 90. We know there’s no such thing as forever – we both were widowed when we were in our 40s – so do it while you can! Given all that, making the trip was a logical choice.

What was especially wonderful? See the previous question. Also, see Just the Basics – for the Last Time, and Gifts, above!

Would you do it again? No. However, we do heartily recommend making the trip to others who are considering doing so.

Surprised? There are several reasons, among which safety is probably the most important.

We didn’t say a lot about safety concerns in our travelogue, although regular readers will be aware that we rode very conservatively, (see our comments on managing traffic in Especially for Cyclists, below), but we spent a lot of time riding in places where we wouldn’t normally choose to ride – narrow, curvy roads with a fair amount of traffic, busy city streets, suburban areas with lots of fast drivers, et cetera. Riley looked at a variety of statistics before we left and made a rough estimate that the chance of being killed while biking across the country was on the order of the chance of being killed in a car accident within a period of five years while driving the number of miles we typically drive per year. A not insignificant risk, but very acceptable in light of the enormous satisfaction the trip promised. We figure that making another such ride would double the risks but not the satisfactions.

We also think that we wouldn’t want to again devote that much money and time to what was essentially a pretty self-indulgent activity – we’re not in the habit of taking 158 day vacations!

Other folks might make a different cost-benefits analysis and decision – it’s very personal.

Were there any downsides? Sure. In sort-of-ranked order:

* Traffic and road conditions – although drivers, including truck drivers and folks on motorcycles, were almost uniformly courteous and usually went out of their way to maintain as safe a distance from us as possible.

* Bad weather – although, we were really lucky in this regard. Modern weather forecasting has gotten really good and since we brought a computer and regularly looked at short- and long-range forecasts, we were generally able to lay over when bad weather was coming.

* Mosquitoes, cicadas and bedbugs – we would manage to take a cross-country trip just as the nation was seeing a resurgence of bedbugs! We actually think we may have encountered them only twice, in the Midwest’s heat wave – but it made us nervous!

* Crummy motels – we didn’t stay in many and we didn’t write about them and Riley wasn’t bothered anyway, but it must be said that Becky found them discouraging.

* Lack of a variety of fresh fruits and, especially, vegetables. Much of the time we were lucky to have access to canned corn, peas, and green beans and Becky was once heard to say she would never again eat iceberg lettuce. On the plus side, an increasing number of convenience stores now offer apples, oranges and bananas, in addition to sugary treats – not that we didn’t enjoy those!

* Too much meat and fried food – although they were a necessary source of calories and often tasty.

How much weight did you lose? Not much! Riley lost a few pounds but Becky’s weight hardly changed – however, our contours changed quite a bit. We have less visible fat and more visible muscles.

How about bathrooms? Lots of people asked – and we worried about it some before the trip! Not a problem in motels, of course – except for that one hotel with the bathrooms down the hall and doors that didn’t lock. . . . On the road: Gas stations, convenience stores, parks, public buildings, roadside rest stops, and behind roadside bushes, rocks and such.

Do you have a next trip in the works? No big one next summer – Riley will be very busy finishing his research project. After that . . . ? We’re currently tossing around a few ideas:

Pittsburgh, PA to Washington DC – mainly on off-road trails! “The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail offers 135 miles of hiking and biking between Cumberland, MD, and Duquesne, PA, near Pittsburgh. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, creating a continuous trail experience, 320 miles long, to Washington, DC.” (from the GAP website at: http://www.atatrail.org/ ). For information on the Canal Towpath, go to: http://bikewashington.org/canal/

East Coast Greenway: “The East Coast Greenway is a developing trail system, spanning nearly 3,000 miles as it winds its way between Canada and Key West, linking all the major cities of the eastern seaboard. Over 25 percent of the route is already on safe, traffic-free paths.” and “A complete travel route composed of carefully chosen and field-checked on-road linkages among completed trails has been defined and mapped, allowing experienced cyclists to use the route today.”(http://www.greenway.org/index.shtml).

Or? We’re also giving some thought to biking in Ireland. . . .

ESPECIALLY FOR CYCLISTS:

Staying Healthy: We stayed amazingly healthy. We had no bike accidents and only one fairly minor injury. We started the trip with colds but took it a bit easy and were soon over them.

* Avoid getting overtired. We are older (64 and 70) and had the luxury of being able to take our time, but one reason we had such a great trip was that we stayed healthy, and getting enough rest mattered. We rarely set an alarm, even though this cost us some early starts.

* Pay attention to messages from your body – and your health care providers. When Riley thought he was catching a cold we took a layover day and he slept it off. When Becky’s left knee got really cranky after we got through the Rockies, we took a day off, went to a clinic, saw a nurse practitioner and got her a cortisone shot. When her cut finger throbbed all night we took a day off and saw a doctor – luckily, as the cut was considerably longer and deeper than we thought. We then faithfully changed the dressing three times a day, working hard to maintain very clean conditions even on the road and in campsites, and she took all the antibiotics as prescribed.

* Wear a helmet!

* Drink lots of water.

* Carry food. We always carry an emergency can of beans when cycling. On this trip Becky faithfully carried our emergency can of beans all the way across the country – it was one piece of weight she refused to let Riley take off her bike. That can of beans now sits, unused, in a place of honor on the back of our kitchen stove. We also typically had bread, peanut butter, fruit and vegetables as weather permitted, energy bars, nuts, trail mix and some candy – at minimum!

* A Ziploc quart container (not bag) is the perfect size for carrying about half a loaf of raisin bread or something similar. We’d fill it with as much bread as would fit and then use the bag the bread came in to store the rest of the bread, eating the bread from the bag first, while the rest stayed fresh and un-squished in the box.

* Dress appropriately: Stay dry/cool/warm, wear hats in the sun – do what it takes.

* Eat! Try for a balanced diet but this is not the time to worry about your weight.

* Use sunscreen.

* Stop for frequent rests, especially when it’s very hot.

* Take vitamins and any meds you take faithfully – this sometimes requires an effort on the road, but it’s worth it.

* Change toothbrushes more frequently than usual – they often don’t have time to dry before you pack ‘em away. We bought new ones every 2 months, about twice as frequently as we do at home.

Safety: Dealing with Traffic, Road Conditions and Bikes: We are old enough to know that accidents happen and that life is not forever. We were very careful.

* We bought and used rearview mirrors. We’d tried mirrors years ago but they weren’t very good. Now they’re great and we wouldn’t ride without ‘em. We carried spares.

* Use appropriate reflectors, headlights and tail lights.

* Stay focused! Know where you are and what’s around you all the time – ride mindfully.

* If riding with a partner, work together. Riley typically rode in front and carefully watched for hazards and decided how to respond. Becky rode in back and watched the traffic behind us.

* Be pro-active in avoiding the danger of collisions. Any time we thought that oncoming and overtaking vehicles might pass each other beside one of us, we got off our bikes and waited for them to pass unless we had a really wide shoulder. If we couldn’t see around a curve or over a hill, and had concerns about the shoulders and visibility, we got off and walked.

* We chose not to ride after dark – at home we sometimes do, but only in familiar situations which we know to be reasonably safe.

* Stop off the road and where folks can see you. During our ride we heard about an experienced young woman cyclist leading a trip west of us who was killed when she stopped just over the crest of a hill and was hit by an extra-wide piece of farm machinery coming over the hill. She was far enough off the road to be safe from normal traffic, but not from a large, wide vehicle just cresting the hill and unaware of her presence.

* At the same time, try not to be too fearful – if you are focused and taking sensible precautions, we think you will actually be safer if you are relaxed and not always on hyper alert.

* If the going gets too tough don’t be afraid to get off and walk your bike – really steep grades, unmanageable gravel, et cetera.

* Keep your bike in top condition. We had ours serviced regularly, cleaned the chains, checked the air in our tires, and did visual checks after stops to be sure that no straps or panniers were dangling, and so on. Between us we had 3 flats and replaced 3 tires. We each had a chain replaced plus some work done on Riley’s gears, and we replaced one set of Becky’s brakes.

Finding Our Way: We primarily used Adventure Cycling maps, and highly recommend them. We used sections of both their Lewis and Clark and Northern Tier route maps. The routes are designed to be as safe and interesting as possible and there is lots of information about points of interest and services – places to stay, groceries, restaurants, post offices, libraries, bike shops, and campgrounds.

The maps also provide nice introductions to local geography, history, natural history and agriculture and industry. Find them at: http://www.adventurecycling.org/ Virtually all the long-distance cycle tourers we met on this trip, including the Europeans, were using these maps.

A word of warning: If your mapped route takes you near a U.S. border, be sure to look at the map/s in that area in some detail before leaving! We failed to note in advance that the Northern Tier route goes into Canada, and didn’t bring our passports – we had to re-route ourselves for that section of the ride!

We also used:
* Map-My-Ride: We paid the extra amount for the upgrade version: http://www.mapmyride.com/

* Google’s bike-routing feature: Free and surprisingly useful.

* Local maps – some of which we were able to give away as we went along, some of which we discarded.

* Information in phone books, brochures, informational displays and newspapers.

* Libraries.

* Local informants: A particularly good way to find off-road trails in out of the way places, and interesting (sometimes safer) alternate routes.

* Observation: We found a couple of trails ourselves, for example.

Choosing Layover Days:
* Our original intention was to take two days off for every five days that we rode. In the end we took slightly fewer than that.

* As noted above, weather, health concerns, and traffic safety issues determined 33 out of our 42 layover days. Only nine were strictly for R & R. That said, the need for some R & R certainly weighted some of the decisions that were made for other reasons.

* In addition, there were several days when we went less than 20 miles and did quite a bit of playing or errand-running, almost as though they were layover days.

Choosing Where and When to Spend the Night:
* By-and-large, we did not make reservations more than a day or two in advance – we felt there were many unknowns and wanted maximum flexibility. This generally served us well, but it meant that we spent a surprising amount of time (mostly Riley’s time) finding lodging.

* A word of advice: Be pro-active about reservations and check with local innkeepers about problems ahead! Even though in the past we were once almost caught without a place to stay on a 100 mile+ Memorial Day weekend ride, and another time had to go 25 miles in pouring rain because a motel we’d planned on was taken for the entire summer by road workers, we almost got caught out over the Fourth of July in Williston, ND (some people never learn). It turned out that there were a lot of town centennials in North Dakota this year and that the oil boom means that many motels are full of oil field, construction, and road workers. We were saved by Diane, motel manager at the King’s Inn in Culbertson, ND, who went to work on our behalf and pretty much laid out our next week of lodging for us!

Stuff we Found Useful:
* Ortlieb waterproof panniers: We wish we’d replaced all our panniers with these – they really kept stuff dry and are very visible from behind!

* Waterproof stuff sacks of various sizes: Good for waterproofing and for keeping stuff organized.
* High Quality Camping Gear: Even though we camped far less than we thought we would, we would definitely carry camping gear again – see our comments under Camping earlier in this post. We have cycle-toured and back-packed for years, but we bought lots of new, high quality, lightweight camping gear for this ride – the best and lightest we could afford. Virtually all of it came from REI.

* Satellite phone: This was a real comfort to us, our family and friends. We had poor cell phone reception in much of the country and sometimes no computer access either – in these situations “Sattie” was really useful. We never had the kind of emergency we’d had in mind when we bought the phone but if we had, it could have been lifesaving. This was an expensive purchase, but the price of both phones and service is falling.

* “Nettie” – our lightweight Toshiba Netbook computer: We had a Verizon “aircard” and plan, and almost always had Internet access – vital for writing our travelogue, checking weather forecasts, finding lodging, staying on top of personal business, having access to Riley’s colleagues, learning about the places we were . . . . how did we ever tour without one?

* Kindle personal reader: A great companion and a real weight-saver; we carried fewer books than usual.

* Becky’s PALM Pilot: Contact information for family and friends, health histories, recipes, et cetera. Yes – we were carrying 6 chargers for all this electronic gear – very embarrassing.

* 6 water bottles – 2 insulated: Having cold beverages really helped on those days when it was still 101° at 6 at night!

* 2 hand towels and a pack towel; and camp suds which we often used for washing dishes and hand washing clothes in motels.

* Relatively large stove: We started off with a tiny stove and saw right away that we needed a bigger one – which we bought en route.

* Plastic tablecloth and foam sit-upons: We always have these on our bikes and they really facilitate camping, picnics, roadside naps, et cetera.

* Fancy wool biking socks.

* Not many clothes: We had about 4 sets each of underwear and socks, 2 pairs of shorts or capris, and one of long pants, a couple of short-sleeved shirts and one long sleeved, Becky’s swimming suit, waterproof windbreakers and rain pants, lightweight waterproof ponchos, and cold weather stuff to layer – more for Becky than for Riley; she feels the cold more.

* Biking gloves: We each went through one pair and bought new ones.

* We each had only one pair of shoes, which we wore the entire time – standard biking shoes with clips for so-called “clipless” pedals. Becky’s are Pearl Izuma, Riley’s are Shimano. They were fine for walking and hiking.

* We carried some disposable hand and foot warmers. Definitely worth it although not often needed.

* Spare tires and tubes, a patch kit, a chain repair tool, a chain cleaning kit, standard bike tools, and a tire pump.

* Mirrors/spare mirrors.

* Straps, not bungee cords: A bike tour business owner in France convinced us of this; he knew a man who had terrible injuries caused by a bungee cord which sprang loose and caught in his bike spokes.

* Household scissors for emergency haircuts, cutting paper, and other cutting for which a Swiss Army knife really isn’t the solution.

* Roll of plastic tape – almost as useful as duct tape! We used ours to tape the spines of books (when biking we often pull heavy books apart into sections so we both can read the same book at the same time and we throw the sections away as the 2nd reader finishes). We taped notes up, used tape to hold down our paper scrabble board, taped a broken mirror together . . . .

* Postcard stamps in rolls of 100 in a plastic holder.

* Olive oil in a small plastic bottle, and spices: We carried cinnamon, cumin seeds, curry powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes in a special campers’ spice bottle set, in addition to salt and pepper in disposable cardboard shakers.

Managing Responsibilities Away from Home:
* We had all our bills paid automatically and our income on direct deposit.

* Two friends took care of all our mail – actually opening it and emailing us brief summaries so we could decide if action was required.

* We used the Internet: For example, to renew registration on one of our cars; it expired during the time we were gone and we left too early for the online system to allow us to renew before we left.

* We had spreadsheets on our netbook to track bill paying and charitable and political donations as we went along. We downloaded credit card and bank statements and used them to be sure everything was being paid – and that we weren’t running out of money in any account! The spreadsheets included contact information for payees, et cetera. We also had a WORD document with additional information about bill-paying and other financial matters.

* We had tenants in our 2 “homes.” We are on a three year out-of-town job assignment so already have a tenant in our “real home,” but we also got a sub-letter for our current apartment. This brought in a little money but mainly meant someone was in the home, which we feel is a good idea. It meant some prep work and getting the approval of the property management company but was worth it. After our tenant left a friend regularly checked the apartment.

* Arrange for mail drops. Three times our “mail helpers” forwarded important mail or other items to us at post offices we designated as we went along. It’s easy to do: Use the Internet to locate a post office in a small town (the sort with only one post office!), and estimate when you’ll be there. Have your friend send it to:
Your Name, General Delivery,
United States Post Office
Post Office Address.

General Delivery mail will be held for 30 days at any post office.

* We created an address list as a WORD document on our netbook, which included folks to whom we’d want to send postcards, but was amended as we went along to include new friends, contact information for the two medical clinics we visited, information on getting our absentee ballots, and so on.

Renting Cars: We rented cars several times to take side trips. Enterprise car rental offices were happy to store our bikes and unneeded gear while we had the cars.

WHEW!!! Enjoy your ride!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still Editing - Stay Tuned


Today's Photo: Our son Hank, his wife Heather, and their kids - Owen, Jonah and Carina. At the end of our trip when we arrived to see them they were wearing these shirts, which Heather had designed and ordered. On the back they say: "Riley and Becky's Excellent Adventure Pedaling to Portland 2010," followed by a month-by-month listing of all the places we spent the night the entire trip!

Just the Basics: As Cousin Steve has pointed out to us, we're a bit slow in getting back to finishing this story - true fact! But we intend to do it. Our ride ended on October 13th and we then spent about two weeks visiting family in Boston and Ohio, and getting back to our home in Richland, WA, arriving home on Friday, 10/29. A big chunk of our trip home was on the train from Chicago to Portland and we had a great time. Much of the way we were reprising our trip - Amtrak was a regular companion, especially in Montana and North Dakota. We even had snow in North Dakota and each managed to get the other with a snowball when we got out to stretch our legs in Minot, ND.

As you can imagine - we've been busy since we got home! Of course we have been dealing with mail and computers and house cleaning and unpacking (we had a tenant while we were away so had more unpacking and such than you might imagine), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In addition, we spent much of three afternoons before the election (10/31 and 11/1 and 2) doing door-to-door canvassing for the senatorial candidate of our choice - I know, we're nuts!

We've also been having fun, of course! On the 5th we attended a local little theater production of Bell, Book and Candle. = ) = )
Riley has reassembled our bikes, which we shipped home from Maine, and we've been for three early morning "breakfast rides." The first such ride was to our favorite bagel place - Some Bagels. On the way home, after riding more than 4000 miles without an accident, Becky took a fall. Something caused her chain to slip off and she was freewheeling as she turned a corner to start up a steep little hill and down she went before she could unclip a pedal and put her foot down. Very embarrassing, but it appears there was no serious damage - just a couple of bumped knees.

The next two rides were to a favorite spot for breakfast picnics along the Columbia River bike trail. We had the same type of breakfast we often eat there in the summer - yogurt, with frozen blueberries and granola, and, of course, coffee. It's already pretty cold and we wished we could have had nice hot oatmeal instead - Becky actually ate with her gloves on the first day. So . . . Riley has created a hot oatmeal carrier for us. He bought a new gallon paint can and lined it with foam and a piece of plastic cut from one of our flexible cutting boards, and our two lidded camping bowls just fit nicely into it. Tomorrow morning we're making old fashioned oatmeal with raisins and walnuts and trying it out! The container fits snugly into one of Riley's panniers and will stay upright . . . we think it will work!

We've also had a wonderful time cooking and eating. Becky has made: Lemony lentil soup with Swiss chard, ratatouille, eggplant and polenta with mozzarella cheese and spaghetti sauce, a lovely roasted free-range chicken which has provided three dinners and two lunches, chicken tacos with all kinds of fresh veggies, cilantro-lime coleslaw, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and whole-wheat cranberry orange bread (most of those two items went to campaign headquarters to feed hungry canvassers) . . . you get the idea! Tomorrow: Jamaican black bean soup with brown rice, topped with sliced radishes and green onions, plain yogurt and fresh cilantro. YUM!

Today Riley got our desktop computers fully up and functioning - there were major problems with our cable service and an elderly router - so tomorrow Becky will be back to editing the blog. As she works she's tracking things like the gifts we received, the reasons we took layover days, and so on - some of that data will make it into our final "report." There are lots of other things demanding her attention, of course, so it may be a couple of weeks before that "final post."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We're Editing!

Hi, Dear Readers! We're reading through our Blog and making minor edits as we think about what to include in one final post of reflections on the trip.

We think that this means followers will get lots of notices of new posts - but there won't be anything new of substance until we do our "Final Post." We hope this doesn't turn out to be a major pain!

We are currently in Ohio for a family funeral, having spent a week in Boston with family.

On Tuesday, 10/26/10, we board Amtrak's Empire Builder Train in Chicago, heading for Portland, OR, where friends will meet us and drive us to the coast to pick up the truck we parked there more than 5 months ago - then we drive back to our home in Richland, WA and life in the real world!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 158, 10/13/10 - Cornish to Portland, ME





Just the Basics: After 4,390 miles - 39 of them today - we have come to the end of our bike ride across this amazing country. We'll be back with a wrap up later, but for now, Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward said it more eloquently than we ever could (we do have a comment at the end):

America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

We have been privileged to see the beauty and the effort - and the work still to be done - across a vast cross-sectional slice of this country in a unique and deeply personal way - and hope to see our country fulfill it's great promise. We'll try to do our part. Thanks for sharing this adventure with us!

Today's Pictures: (1) Pouring water from the Atlantic on our front wheels - as we poured water from the Pacific on the rear wheels on May 9th; and (2) We are very happy!

Day 157, 10/12/10 - Conway, NH to Cornish, ME




Just the Basics: 32 rather hilly miles, on a variety of roads - heavily traveled road with and without good shoulders, a back road which had virtually no traffic - but was mostly dirt; and some city streets. Riley got a haircut this morning and we didn't actually leave Conway until 10:30 a.m. or later; we arrived in Cornish before 5 p.m.

The fall colors continue to be breathtaking - the view from our motel room tonight is unbelievable.

We had oatmeal, English muffins and coffee for breakfast in Conway; Shepherd's Pie and coffee for lunch in Freyberg; and baked haddock stuffed with crab and topped with Newburg sauce tonight in Cornish.

Tonight we are at the Midway Country Lodging Motel in Cornish, which is modestly priced and utterly charming, as are our friendly hosts, Ron and Eileen McKinney.

About Those Numbers: Somehow we screwed up the numbering on the posts. We will go back and sort it out later, but a look at the calendar has convinced us that this is Day #157, whatever our earlier numbering may suggest!

Today's Photos: (1) Speaks for Itself; (2) The Seco River near Hiram, ME

Tomorrow: This journey's end! Barring the unexpected, we expect to arrive in Portland, ME some time tomorrow afternoon. We will head for the beach and splash water from the Atlantic onto our front tires, just as we had splashed water from the Pacific onto our rear tires 158 days ago when this journey began. We have wondered how we will feel at that moment - we thought perhaps the day would seem like any other on the ride. Tonight at dinner, however, we looked at each other and started to laugh at the realization that this day had finally almost arrived - we expect it to be pretty emotional.
We will spend Wednesday night at the La Quinta in Portland and Riley's sister Dawn and her husband Ron will pick us up Thursday and take us to Boston - they live there, as do two of our kids and their families.

For Those Who Want More: See you tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Days 154-56, 10/9-11/10, Conway, NH












Just the Basics: We are spending the entire Columbus Day Weekend in Conway at the White Deer Motel - a charming modest motel with super-helpful managers, just outside Conway. It is hard to sit here for 3 days knowing that we are only 2 riding days from finishing the trip in Portland, ME, but traffic is a huge problem during this period: (1) Columbus Day is a holiday in NY and almost all the New England States. Schools are closed and families are on the road. (2) The 150th Fryeburg, ME fair is occurring a few miles from here and is heavily attended with resultant traffic jams. (3) We are still in the fall colors season and there are lots of "leaf peepers" on the roads driving out to see the fall colors.

We have, in fact, had a fine time in Conroy - see For Those Who Want More, below.

Today's Photos: (1) Becky at a roadside viewpoint on the Kancamagus Highway (10/8); (2) Riley at Kancamagus Pass (10/8); (3) Rainbow from the Highway (10/8); (4) Librarians Glynis and Lindsey at the wonderful Conroy Library (10/9); and (5) Scene from Boulder Loop Trail (10/10)

Tomorrow: We go about 29 miles to Cornish, ME, where we will stay at the Midway Country Lodging (not a typo!)

For Those Who Want More: Despite having 3! layover days, we are running late and need to get to dinner and then pack for our final 2 days of riding, starting tomorrow. Here are some regrettably brief highlights of our stay in Conway.

The White Deer Motel: The motel is somewhat modest but clean and comfortable and the managing couple are great. Our first 2 nights were spent in a pretty small room but then we were moved to a bigger one which has been a great place for us to sit and work today - we have spent almost all day in our room.

Johnathan's Seafood Restaurant is across the street and the only nearby restaurant - we've had 4 great dinners there - Becky has had haddock 3 different ways - all great - and Riley has had it once; we've both had a stuffed Quahog appetizer - YUM! Riley has had a lobster stew and sole with grapes in addition to the afore-mentioned halibut. Tonight B had clam strips and fries and R had fried sole and a baked potato - their fried items are quite light and non-greasy. The entire staff is very friendly - it feels like home.

Bea's Cafe: Three great breakfasts, so far - only open for breakfast and lunch, down the road from the motel. We've had great oatmeal and Riley has had corned beef hash and eggs - one egg broke as it was slipped onto the plate so they put on a 3rd one to compensate! - and a Belgian waffle with blueberries; Becky has had creamed dried beef on toast and their specialty, Garden Fries - home fries and lots of veggies and bacon, topped with melted cheddar.

The Riverstones Bakery, next door - great fair trade coffee, wonderful pastries, and a tip jar whose contents go to the local domestic violence shelter!

The Conway Library: Saturday morning we slept in, went to breakfast, and headed for a car rental place - we intended to rent a car for the weekend. It wasn't where Google thought it was so we headed back towards town and the library to do some research. It is a great library. There were already half a dozen patrons outside waiting to be let in when it opened at 10 - one of them observed to Becky that you'd think it was the local watering hole! - she replied that folks must be thirsty for knowledge. We later learned from the librarians that the library is very well used - on Thursdays, typically their busiest day, they have 6 staff on duty!

They are supported by town taxes and neighboring towns without libraries provide vouchers to their citizens to purchase non-citizen library cards @$70/year. There are computers, a nice meeting room downstairs, a busy periodicals room, a great children's room with computers reserved for those under 12 and for parents whose kids would be best amused in the children's room while mom or dad is on the computer - very clever!

Glynis and Lindsey, the two librarians on duty were great! It turned out that they were both cyclists (Lindsey and her husband once cycled to Virginia from Portland, ME!). They suggested a route to Portland from here and got out an atlas to copy maps, as well as a number of local tour books, and they called the car rental place in town for us and found that no cars were available.

The 150th Freyburg Fair, Freyburg ME: The Fair was too far from here for us to walk - perhaps 7 miles - but we learned that it would cost $50 to take a cab - traffic was so bad the cabbie would have to inch along for miles starting somewhere within 2 miles of the fair. We compromised - for $25 they took us to where the congestion began and then we walked. Ditto coming home.

Fair Highlights:

Wood & Energy: A whole aisle was devoted to outside-the-house furnaces, which heat the house with either hot water or hot air. Some of these burned chopped wood - 6 cords will heat a large Maine house for a year. One vendor said that a 10 acre wood lot would supply a house indefinitely, harvesting one acre each year. Many of the furnaces used wood pellets, made from excess wood cuttings at lumber yards. A vendor quoted an estimate that 50,000 houses can be heated annually with these without exhausting this wood supply in Maine. (Bags of wood pellets are to be found on sale at many stores we have seen). Other heaters burned used motor oil.

Animals: Draft horses, cattle, oxen, donkeys, goats, pigs, sheep, poultry, rabbits, and 4-H animals - we saw 3 draft horses being led into the barn and they were HUGE!

Arts, Homemaking and Crafts: All the usual delights were there: Baking; jams and jellies (including both rhubarb jam and rhubarb jelly); pickles and relishes; preserved veggies; quilts, knitting, crocheting and sewing; photography; carpentry and so on.

New to us was a Christmas tree judging - not decorated trees, just trees; this is Maine, after all! Ditto a very clear wreath-making demonstration by a woman whose family owns a Christmas tree farm and whose family makes and sells 300 wreaths a year. With classic New England frugality, she took apart a wreath made in a previous demonstration and salvaged almost enough greens from it to make the wreath she was demonstrating for us! She had also rewound bits of wire back onto the spool and succeeded in re-using some of those - although it got tricky enough that she ended up cutting some of the bits off and continuing with new wire!

There were numerous crafters spinning (various methods), weaving, dyeing and doing various forms of needlework - and a place making cotton candy out of maple sugar!

Performers: We enjoyed the Fryeberg Fair Boys in something like their 29th year at the Fair - a vocalist and a pianist were being featured in a performance of rock and country numbers, both originals and covers - they were good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 153, 10/8/10 - North Woodstock to Conway, NH

Just the Basics: 39 miles and a 2000 foot climb up and over Kancamagus Pass in the White Mountains. Now we are at the White Deer Motel in Conway, very near the Maine border. We will be here 3 days and 4 nights, due to holiday weekend traffic - we will not resume our trip until Tuesday - and then will have only 2 days to go! Since we are staying put we may not blog every day.

We pretty much climbed steadily from North Woodstock to the Pass, over about 15 miles. The climb itself was easier than we expected - the only times we ended up walking were not due to trouble biking, but, rather, to traffic and road conditions - for example, we'd get off our bikes when there was a lot of traffic and then be unable to start up again because we were in very low gears, there was NO shoulder, and we didn't have a good view of the road in order to determine when it was safe to start.

Coming down was initially very challenging - the first 4 miles there was a 7% grade, NO shoulder, some rough pavement, and lots of cars. After that it was not so bad and practically down all the way to Conway! It sprinkled most of the last 2-3 hours of the trip but our biking clothes are light weight and dry quickly moving through the air, even as they continue to get wet again. We were beginning to feel sort of damp and chilly by the end of the ride - but then we got to our motel and hot showers.

A few highlights:
  • We biked all day in GORGEOUS country -which only got better as the day wore on.
  • The fall colors got better as we came down from the pass;
  • There were quite a few Forest Service campgrounds, picnic areas and scenic waysides with vault toilets.
  • We had 2-3 miles of bike path coming out of Lincoln, which was nice.
  • About 5 of the last 8 miles into Conway were on a very lightly traveled back road with a lovely covered bridge, some campgrounds, and lots of cabin-type homes.
  • We saw another lovely rainbow.

Today's Photos: We'll post 'em tomorrow!

Tomorrow: Staying put in Conway through Monday, 10/11, to escape holiday traffic.

For Those Who Want More: Nothing more tonight!