Journal

June 6, 2000

Day 2... Cape Lookout State Park, OR. We left Portland yesterday in 80 degree weather and climbed a couple of killer hills before getting to our campground which unfortunately was closed. We stayed there anyway and spent forever filtering water! Today, our ride started off with about five painful miles of climbing and to top it off, it rained most of the morning. Tested my rain gear, and I think my feet are going to get a little cold... ugh. A couple of us stopped for real Tillamook ice cream in Tillamook... yum! We pitched camp at the beach and did a wheel dipping in the Pacific Ocean and finally showered... yippee! The people I'm travelling with are cool so far, and I'm having fun.

June 8, 2000

Well, we finally had a break in the rain! Yippee! The coast is much more beautiful when I'm not freezing cold and soaking wet. We finally turned east after reaching Florence, OR. Tonight we're camping on an elementary school property in Mapleton. We got to use their hot tub, they brought us apples and chips and invited us to see the 6th grade production of Romeo and Juliet (hysterical). I've already burned through one set of brakes... these crazy coastal descents in the rain are a killer! My knees are getting pretty sore, so I'm looking forward to our first layover day on Saturday in Eugene. I'm having a great time!

June 10, 2000

We rolled into Eugene yesterday in yet another rainstorm after yet another ugly climb. The hostel we're supposed to stay in is disgusting, so I set my networking wheels in motion and now I'm staying with some family friend near the hostel. The people I'm staying with have been so nice, and it was great to have some yummy cold cereal instead of sticky oatmeal for breakfast! The weather is supposed to clear up in the next couple of days, so cross your fingers. Today we're laying over in Eugene and I'll spend a good chunk of the day cleaning my bike and buying a few things at REI. I'm dying for another pair of waterproof socks to keep my poor feet dry and warm! Everything I own is beginning to stink because it has been so wet for the last week. We're looking forward to getting over the Cascades where it doesn't rain as much. Unfortunately we have about 8,000 feet of climbing before we get there... yikes!

June 12, 2000

We had a great layover in Eugene yesterday, and I spent some time at their "Saturday Market" which is a great collection of crafts and food made predominantly by overgrown hippies. I picked up some parts for my trailer because part of the attachment came loose and fell off when I took off the trailer. Ugh. I'm finally getting used to steering a fully loaded bike, and when I rode it yesterday without the stuff on it I could barely control it! I even found myself climbing in my big ring because it was so easy. A little bit about the group I'm travelling with. There are 13 people and only 2 women. Half of the group is over 50, and the oldest person is 68 (and is the strongest cyclist!). Sibylle, my sole female companion is from Germany, and she'll only be riding with us for a month. After that, I'll be surrounded by testosterone! There are 2 men younger than me (18 and 22). today we had still more rain, but the route was fairly painless... 1500 feet of climbing over 63 miles. Tomorrow we conquer McKenzie Pass (3000 feet in 20 miles). Tonight we're staying in a Dominican monks retreat recommended to us by a woman in the McKenzie Bridge general store. What a treat! The lodge is right on the river. We were freezing our butts off at the end of the ride, and this place is giving us hot showers and our own rooms! I don't think camping in this weather would be at all tolerable.

June 14, 2000

Climbing Santiam Pass was probably the hardest cycling I have ever done. We started the day in the rain (of course) and started climbing immediately. Since McKenzie Pass was still snowed in, we had to cross Santiam Pass... the busy main thoroughfare through the Cascades. The temperature dropped and the wind picked up as we neared the top of the pass. I was really scared with the traffic so close and poor visibility. At a couple of points I had to get off and walk my bike, not because of the hill, but because I couldn't control the bike in the wind! By the time we got to the top, I was freezing cold, soaking wet and a little freaked out. but I still had a positive outlook on things to keep me going. I put on all of my warm gear, wrang out my gloves and started the descent. I had to stop a couple of times to do jumping jacks by the side of the road to keep warm. I must have looked really silly to the cars going by! Just as everyone said, a couple miles past the summit, the rain broke and the air warmed up. We had a tail wind all the way into Sisters. We stayed on a ranch owned by a couple who just love hosting cyclists. They let us use their kitchen and bathrooms... brave people. The skies cleared up and we had a beautiful view of the desert with the snowcapped Cascades in the distance. Today started out clear and cool. No rain in sight... yippee!!! We tackled 71 miles with a 2000 foot, 16 mile climb at the very end. Tonight we're camping at Ochoco Pass. One person dropped from our group this morning. He decided that the distances we're travelling are too long and he'll try it again on his own. We were really sad to see him go, especially since we didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. And then there were twelve...

June 19, 2000

We're almost to the end of our travels in Oregon! We've come over 700 miles so far and I'm finally getting into the groove of things. Tonight we're in Halfway, a.k.a. half.com... the world's first dot com city (the sign says so). Someone actually paid them $70K to change the city's name for a year. This isn't exactly a bustling mecca of internet activity, though. As I was talking on the pay phone on Main Street, a tractor lumbered down the street carrying big rolls of hay.

It hasn't rained since we left the Cascades, and we've been enjoying the weather tremendously. It was a little hot during our climb today, but I'll gladly be hot rather than sopping wet and cold. I'm sure I'll change my tune come August.

I'm learning to accept a different standard of cleanliness on this trip. No matter how often I wash them, I feel like my hands are always dirty. And it isn't particularly easy to get dishes really clean when you're using cold water and a bucket. A couple of mornings ago, I opened my rack pack and found dozens of squirmy little earwigs munching on a tasty morsel I left unwrapped! I managed to get most of them out, but I wasn't very careful about where I dumped them. That night when I opened my sleeping bag, I had at least 8 little friends wanting to sleep with me. I was quite a sight rustling around in my tent, hunting earwigs!

I never realized how many mountain ranges are between the Cascades and the Rockies. Somehow I just thought it was flat (I should have paid more attention to those geography lessons). Every day has at least one painful climb. But I'm getting stronger and I'm not quite as tired at the end of each day. It's 9 pm... time to get to bed. ;)

June 22, 2000

After a 40 mile easy descent through the little Salmon River Valley this morning, we took a raft trip down the Salmon River. This area is beautiful with steep hills on either side of the river. Apparently these hills are as high as the Grand Canyon, but less steep. The trip was fairly easy... the toughest rapid was class 3, but it was a fun change from cycling! We lost 2 people off the side of the boat at one point, but luckily we saved them (ok, it really wasn't that dangerous). Yesterday we stayed at a hot springs where we had to take intolerably hot showers. Never have I so longed for a cold shower! Tonight we're camping at a gorgeous campground right on the river, but there is a huge herd of cattle mooing on the other side. It sounds like they're about to stampede!

June 29, 2000

It's been a while since I wrote in, but I haven't been able to get hold of the email machine! We've had a few wonderful days of cycling with clear skies and headwinds. The other night, just as we were finishing dinner, it started to sprinkle. We all dove into our tents, and a couple of hours later we had a huge, but short, storm. It sounded like a herd of elephants was stampeding by my tent. Of course I was so paranoid that the tent was going to leak (it didn't) that I could barely sleep all night. In Lowell, Idaho, we shared a campground with the 100 plus people in the Cycle America group. It was quite crazy, and I'm very glad that I didn't do one of those huge supported tours. It's bad enough sharing a campground with 6 snoring men... I can't imagine sharing it with 60! We had a layover day in Missoula, MT, the Adventure Cycling headquarters. It was kind of fun seeing the first bike to cross the TransAm Trail. One more person left the group due to personal issues, and one will be leaving us this week to venture off on his own toward the Northern Tier route. Today we had our longest climb of the entire trip (but not the highest pass), and we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time. I was actually surprised that the 4000 foot climb seemed easier than I had expected! I guess I'm getting stronger. We rolled into camp this afternoon, only to find the site infested with mosquitoes! If we stood still for more than 10 seconds, we were eaten alive! So Sibyll and I hopped back on our bikes and rode into town to get a motel room. We're heading into Yellowstone and the Tetons later this week, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them!

June 30, 2000

Well, we're in the middle of our first real thunderstorm! It was in the 80s all day long, but as soon as we got into camp, the clouds rolled in and the thunder started. So far the rain has been minimal, but it doesn't look good. Today we rode 75 miles with a big climb at the end... ugh. I stopped in Nevada City, a preserved and restored town from the Montana gold rush days. It was really cool, and I felt like I could truly imagine what the town originally looked like. Yesterday we were in Big "Mosquito" Hole Valley. We rolled into our campsite and within 10 seconds, swarms of mosquitoes were attacking us. Yuck! The only way to escape them was to start riding again, so we rode into town and didn't stop until we got to a motel! Aaah... luxury! I've never seen such ugly carpet... it was even worse than my house! As we rode out of town the next morning, the mosquitoes were so thick that they sounded like rain against my jacket. I had to ride with my head down and my mouth barely open to avoid eating them!! We rode through the area where the rainbow gathering is happening. Some people describe it as a huge, peaceful, "family" gathering, others say it's just a bunch of gypsies. I think it's a little of both, but one thing is for sure, I've never been around so many people who don't bathe! PU! Today Sibylle went home to Germany. I was really sad to see her go, and I wish she could have stayed with us.

July 5, 2000

A couple of days ago, we set out for a 75 mile ride. After a 6 mile stretch of bone shaking, mind numbing gravel road into a really strong headwind, we decided that we would stop after 35 miles. My legs were absolutely exhausted! We averaged less than 7 mph, and at one point I struggled to keep up 5 mph on a downhill. The next day, I was completely pooped, so I ended up just poking along for the rest of the ride. I had a great conversation with the guy who sells candy and fish bait by the reservoir. Yesterday, we rode through Yellowstone. The geothermal areas were spectacular, but I was a little disappointed by Old Faithful. There were thousands of tourists all crowded along a viewing boardwalk complaining that the eruption was late. Last night we had a short rainstorm, and when I woke up this morning the water on my tent was frozen solid, and I had breakfast cooking duty. I was up for almost an hour trying to negotiate pots sliding off the frozen table before most of the rest of the group ventured out of their tents. Our short ride into Grand Teton was beautiful, and as we came out of the last pass, the view of the Tetons was spectacular. The last couple of days, we've been above 8,000 feet, and I've really been noticing the effects of altitude. I can feel my heart beating and I'm breathing really hard on hills that don't look very steep. I'm a little worried about the 11,000 foot peak that we'll hit sometime next week. Our little group is now down to 8. Two more people packed up and headed home this week. It's discouraging to have people leave, but hopefully those of us who remain will all make it to Virginia.

July 8, 2000

I have to say that I'm very disappointed in the patriotism of the national parks. For Independence Day, they didn't do anything... not a firework or picnic or anything! Oh well. On our layover in the Tetons, I took a breakfast cruise on the lake (yum) then did a 9 mile hike (good thing my hiking muscles are different from my biking muscles!). As we were getting packed to leave the Tetons, a bear came cruising through our campsite! It took me a few seconds to realize that I had a bag full of food in my hand, which I promptly set down and headed for the safety of the bathrooms! There are signs all over the park explaining what to do around bears, but I was amazed that almost everyone either ran after the bear to get pictures or tried to scare it away. I personally have no interest in getting eaten by a bear! The landscape over the last few days has been beautiful, but today we entered the desert. The sagebrush is peppered with occasional irrigated pastureland, but there isn't much else out here. Darrin decided to blaze his own trail on his own schedule and he left the group. Jim will be going home some time this week, and our intrepid little band of travelers will be down to six! The smaller group is much easier to deal with, but now I have to cook every third day... blech. How I long for Jing Jing delivery!

July 13, 2000

I've had an atrocious cold for the last 4 days, and I'm really miserable. I'm surviving on a steady diet of Nyquil and Dayquil, but all I really want to do is crawl into my tent and sleep. Hopefully it will go away soon. I cooked dinner a couple of days ago and made burritos and strawberry shortcake... two things that I miss terribly. You wouldn't believe how expensive strawberries are out here in the boonies! I cleaned my bike over the weekend, and when I started riding, the brake started dragging. Not ten minutes after I fixed it, I dropped the chain and got it all jammed while trying to get it back on. I don't think I'll clean my bike anymore! We stayed in Jeffery City a couple of nights ago... not much of a city, just the remnants of a town centered around a now closed uranium mine. There was no grocery store, so we ate out. Of course, the only meat free options were grilled cheese (imitation processed cheese food) and iceberg salad with eye-talian dressing. Most of Wyoming turned out to be fairly boring scenery-wise. We stayed in Rawlins, Wyoming which, as far as I could tell, consisted solely of RV parks, cheap motels and fast food restaurants. I was happy to leave. Today we entered Colorado and finally saw big trees again. We'll be doing our last push over the Colorado Rockies, and next week we'll be in the plains! Hopefully the winds will be at our backs for the rest of Colorado and Kansas.

July 18, 2000

Thankfully, my cold is starting to get better. I'm still not 100%, but I can make it through the day drug free. Mom came out to visit me in Frisco, CO near Breckenridge. We ate lots of yummy food, vegged out at the hotel, saw a pro women's criterium, explored the area, saw chicken run (so funny!), and just had a great time! She spoiled me rotten, and I have to admit that I loved every minute of it. It was really nice to see her. Yesterday we climbed over Hoosier Pass, our highest pass of the trip at 11,542 feet... over 2 miles above sea level! We were sharing the road with cyclists on the Courage Classic, a three day supported tour. They really provided a lot of encouragement as they went zipping past me, and it made the climb much more tolerable. The last couple of miles I was huffing and puffing for want of oxygen, but I made it to the top and celebrated with a Clif Bar (I wish I'd had some champagne)! We stayed in the most atrocious town last night, Hartsel, CO. We had to camp in the rocky yard of the old turn-of-the-century schoolhouse without running water or bathrooms! All of the tap water in town is contaminated, so we had to buy drinking and cooking water. The woman at the mercantile was kind enough to give us tap water for washing dishes (she assured me it was safe for that), but warned me that it would turn colors (it did... orange to be exact). We boiled the water for dishwashing in the morning and it left a slimy yellow scum on the lid of the pot! I don't know how anyone could live in a town without drinkable water. We ate dinner out, and I ordered a veggie burger with cheese. I asked the waitress what types of cheese they had and was told "white American or yellow American". They had Monterey Jack listed elsewhere on the menu, but that turned out just to be white American (truth in advertising?). Today we got into town early (40 miles of downhill go pretty fast), so we took a train ride through the royal gorge of the Arkansas River. The train runs through this tiny gorge with 1000 ft. cliffs on either side. I'm amazed that they could actually build train tracks through it! Tomorrow we'll be in Pueblo and out of the Rockies for good. Yee-haw!

July 20, 2000

I made it half way!!!! Wah-hoo! What a great feeling to make it this far. In the last two days I've been chased by two rather ferocious looking (and sounding) dogs. When we were in the Tetons, a woman on the west-bound trip gave me her dog pepper spray and warned me to keep it handy... it was good advice. When I pulled out the can and pointed it at the dog, he backed off immediately. I'm not looking forward to the day when I actually have to use the stuff. Last night we stayed with two wonderful women in Pueblo. They had beds enough for everyone and made us green chile and pesto pasta (with basil picked fresh from the garden, yum) for dinner. They even hired a masseuse to give us all massages. Debbie snapped digital pictures of us all afternoon and then made greeting cards out of the pictures... what fun! I had great fun at the mail stop and enjoyed all of my cards and packages tremendously. I always feel great after a mail stop (PS. TNT folks... I still haven't heard how Tahoe went!). Today we're in another bustling metropolis, camped in the town park without benefit of showers or bathrooms. We have our longest day tomorrow (84 miles), and our next campground doesn't have showers either. I'll be scaring away the locals by the time we get to the next town!

July 22, 2000

I made it through our two 80 miles days in a row, but boy is my tush sore! We had head winds for all of the first day and most of the second day which made for really slow riding. I only averaged 10.5 mph... ugh! Towards the end of yesterday I was stopping every 5 miles or so just to get off my seat. After the 84 mile day, we stayed in a really primitive, but comfortable camp in the town of Sheridan Lake (population 6 and dropping fast). The park had a real outhouse with holes carved out of a wooden plank for seats! We'd set up camp and cooked dinner when a nice woman came by to chat. As she left, she told us that there was a tornado watch in effect for the county, and if the weather turned nasty we could go into the church for shelter. This worried me a little, but I climbed into my tent to do some reading. About 20 minutes later, the winds started blowing like crazy and these huge pitch black clouds were headed our way. Everything was being blown away, so we all scrambled to grab our gear and get it tied down. At this point I really started to worry... I've never been in a tornado before, it was getting dark, and there was no way I was going to sleep. Just then, a man pulled up in his huge truck and offered to help us move down to the church. It turns out that we'd talked to his wife earlier and he was the pastor of the church. We gladly accepted his offer and literally threw our gear into the back of his truck! I'm very grateful to these wonderful people who gave us shelter on a rather scary night! As we unloaded, the storm front was right over head and there was so much lightning in the clouds that the sky was lit up almost as bright as day. It was quite a show. We all slept in the basement (just in case), but in the end, the storm passed over with no rain in our area (whew). I said I was looking for adventure and excitement on this trip, and mother nature certainly delivered. From now on, I'll be sure to ask about the weather wherever we go!

July 25, 2000

Yet another ridiculously windy day here in Kansas. I'd really been looking forward to the flat roads out here on the plains, but the winds make it just as hard as the hills! Pllbbtt.... The winds aren't as bad on my legs as they are on my neck, arms, and hands. I get SO tense trying to control my bike and keep it in a relatively straight line. I do a lot of singing to keep my mind off how slow I'm riding. I've just about exhausted my repertoire of Gershwin and Rogers & Hammerstein! Today, I was considering bailing out halfway because I was so freaked out by the winds blowing me into traffic. But we got onto a relatively traffic-free road and I felt a little safer. So far, Kansas wins for friendliest locals. People on the roads give us tons of room, oncoming drivers almost always wave (one guy started tooting his horn and waving his arm out the window from 1/4 mile away!), and the people I talk to in town are just so nice. I met a couple restoring the old bank building in Ness City, and they gave me a personal tour of the work they were doing, then invited me over to see the remodeling they're doing on their house. I stayed up way past my bedtime (OK... it was only 9pm). Last night we stayed in a town that was downwind of a feed lot (acres and acres of cows with corresponding cow manure), and it absolutely STUNK! Tonight we got into Nickerson and two very bored but very nice 13-year-old boys acted as our tour guides all afternoon, all for a couple of sodas! Overall, I'm having a great time in Kansas!

July 29, 2000

A day in the life of a cross country cyclist...

5:30 Wake up (hopefully) and pack up everything inside my tent
6:00 Eat breakfast: 5-6 bowls of cold cereal with milk and 2 cups of OJ
6:30 Pack lunch, brush teeth, etc.
7:00 Finish packing bike
7:30 Hit the road!
9:00 Eat Clif Bar
10:00 Eat bagel and granola bar
11:00 Eat banana
12:00 Lunch break (preferably at a quickie mart). Buy Diet Pepsi and salty snack of choice (usually Doritos). Eat PB&J sandwich.
1:00 Eat another granola bar and anything else I managed to get my hands on in the morning.
2:00 If I'm lucky, I'm in town by now. Try to find town park.
2:30 Set up tent, and begin shower search.
3:00 Take shower (usually a cold one at a community pool) and hand wash clothes as necessary.
4:00 Begin search for good ice cream and either relax or explore the town we're in. If I'm cooking, then I go grocery shopping.
5:00 Write letters and postcards and do whatever maintenance necessary on my bike, or start cooking.
7:00 Dinner: some form of pasta, rice or potatoes.
8:00 Get ready for bed
8:30 Crawl into very small tent, write in my journal and read for a while
9:15 If all goes well, I'm completely sacked out!

We discovered the country's friendliest town... Buhler, KS. I sat on a bench in front of the market for about 20 minutes (getting my daily caffeine and chocolate fix) and every single person walking by stopped to chat. One guy even stuck out his hand, said "Welcome to Buhler!" and gave us a brief history of the town! Of course, the only thing I could think of as: "Buuueller...Buuueller". Its starting to get more humid and I don't like it one bit! We've been lucky to have mostly cool days, but I know it won't last. I've thought of buying one of those spray bottle/fan things to keep myself cool (a portable air conditioner would be nice, too). The road kill in Kansas consists mainly of squished turtles, snakes, armadillos, and birds. Nothing is grosser (bad grammar, I know) than a splattered armadillo! I got my first flat yesterday. I was truly hoping to make it the whole way without one... wishful thinking. I got attacked by mosquitoes while I was stopped to fix the flat (pump, pump, slap), and it was raining. Oh well. I'm having a great time in Kansas, and I'm looking forward to hitting a new state tomorrow!

August 1, 2000

We've hit the hills again now that we're in Missouri, and boy are they STEEP! Its like no one out here has heard of grading roads, and they just ran a pavement truck in a straight line regardless of hills. One minute I'm screaming down a hill in my highest gear, and 20 seconds later I'm standing up in my lowest gear struggling to get to the top. So far the hills are pretty short, but they are rumored to get longer as we work our way through Missourri. The last couple of days, I've been gallantly saving turtles from certain destruction in the middle of the highways. I'm sure they wander right back into the middle of the road after I'm gone, but I feel better. During our layover day on Saturday, I got my bike cleaned and tuned up. It runs so nicely now, and it sparkles! The Ozark hills (we aren't to the mountains yet), are really pretty, and the weather has been holding out for us. Its humid, but not too hot, and it cools down in the evenings so that I actually can sleep. I'm getting used to showering in the city park pool (absolutely no privacy), but I long for a shower with hot water! I'll never get used to these cold showers, but I'm thankful I cut my hair so I have less time under the cold water.

August 9, 2000

I've got a lot to catch up on since I haven't written in for a while, so here goes...

We hit the Ozark Mountains and jeez are they steep! The roads are windy and narrow with no shoulders, and the drivers in Missouri are significantly less considerate than in Kansas. It all combines to make some pretty scary riding.

In Ash Grove, MO, I stupidly pitched my tent right under a street lamp. It was so bright that I could read my book in the middle of the night! I put my just-washed bike shorts over my face to try to block the light. But every time I moved, they fell off and I thought it was morning! Not a very good night's sleep, to say the least.

I got a surprise e-mail from dad saying that he would be coming out to Eminence in just two days! He didn't get in until 2am and he had to drive all the way from Memphis. Eminence is in the heart of the Ozark National Riverway, a beautiful stretch of wild river. In the morning we went to the Round Springs Cavern, a huge network of caves with stalactites and stalagmites and an underground creek. We were the only ones who showed up, so we got our own personal tour of the caves! Later, we rented a canoe and did a 10-mile canoe trip down the Current River. It was gorgeous, and we only ran into a couple other groups of people.

Since then, it's been HOT!!!!! Not only is it hot, but it's absolutely intolerably hot. I feel like either my skin will melt or I'll just spontaneously combust. Sleeping is nearly impossible (I haven't used my sleeping bag for a week). When I'm riding, sweat just streams off my body... arms, nose, cheeks, back, legs, eyelids, everywhere. Even after I shower, I'm instantaneously sweaty and miserable.

We're in Southern Baptist territory, and every other lawn has a sign with the ten commandments on it. Toto... I don't think we're in California anymore. Speaking of lawns, I've seen the most flagrant abuse of lawn ornaments out here. Concrete squirrels, skunks, deer, rabbits and even elves exist in disturbing still life.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois to be greeted by a giant statue of Popeye! Apparently, Chester is the home of the creator of Popeye. The people of Chester don't let you forget it either... Popeye paraphernalia is everywhere! I did some wash that night, and about half way to our next stop, I realized that I'd left my brand new bike shorts, bathing suit and a pair of socks hanging in a tree to dry! It was too far to go back so I had to do some emergency shopping in Carbondale (thankfully they had a bike shop!). We'd headed out under threatening skies, and about 10 miles out a huge storm hit. Within about 10 seconds, we were absolutely soaked. Hal and I sought shelter in a few different barns throughout the day because we were out on the floodplain, and there was little out there higher than us... we were lightning rods on bicycles! At one point the lightning and thunder were instantaneous. Way too close for comfort. But at least it was a little cooler in the rain.

Today we have a layover in Dixon Springs State Park. The main attraction here is the swimming pool... seriously. I hiked all of the trails in the park this morning in about an hour and a half, and nearly got eaten alive by bugs! The rest of the day we spent in and out of the pool, trying not to overheat. It's about 8pm right now, and I'm still dripping with sweat. I feel like such a babe! Please send me cool, dry thoughts!

August 14, 2000

So, it turns out that the reason we were so hot is because the heat index (heat-humidity equivalent of wind chill factor) was 110!! Thankfully it has cooled off a little in the last couple of days. In fact, I even had to break out my jacket this morning. We stayed in Marion a couple of nights ago and decided to get a hotel to escape the heat and get a good nights sleep. We had a bit of a run in with a rather psychotic motel owner who called the cops on us! The whole story is too long for this update, but suffice it to say that the cop sympathized with up and helped us find other accommodations. We ended up at the most wonderful bed and breakfast. It felt great to be in a house instead of a park or motel. In Utica, we planned to stay in the park, but the fire chief stopped by and let us stay in the fire house instead! I just wanted to take one of those big trucks for a quick spin around the block, but I didn't think it would go over too well. Yesterday we got a nice early start, only to get surrounded by fog about a mile from town. So we ended up sitting next to a soybean field for about an hour until the fog lifted enough to let cars see us. Today we went to Lincoln's birthplace. I knew he came from humble beginnings, but I had no idea how humble. The tiny log cabin is now surrounded by a huge Greek style monument. We went out to dinner tonight at the world's worst restaurant. They had a lovely selection of excessively salty macaroni and cheese, boxed mashed potatoes, canned green beans and corn, and all the deep fried frozen meats you can imagine. Everything tasted as if it had been sitting on the warming bar all day. And the restaurant/museum was a shrine to some local country singer from the 70s who owned the bar. The decor included a Dolly Parton doll, Elvis paintings, cowboy boot piñatas, and a wall mural of two deer in a forest. Frightening. Three weeks to go... I can't wait to get home!

August 16, 2000

If ever there were a day that I wanted to hang up my bike and call it a trip, it was yesterday. 2 nights ago I got slammed by another cold (can you say "sleep deprivation" boys and girls?). In the morning, I decided to wear my long sleeve jersey since it has been cooler the last couple of days. We had a hilly 75 miler ahead of us and I felt like my head was going to explode. I stopped a couple of times along the way to refill with water and was making pretty slow time. Midway through the day, I was getting way too hot, so I lopped of the sleeves of my jersey (while I was still in it) with my extremely dull, 1/2" long pocket knife scissors. The edges were so jagged that I looked like a bicycle pirate. But I felt much better. I rode for about 20 more miles and stopped to cool off at a little market in the middle of nowhere. I got up to the register with my Klondike Bar and Diet Pepsi, only to realize that my wallet was gone!!! I had left it at the last place I'd stopped. I panicked and burst into tears while dumping the entire contents of my handlebar bag out on the store counter. How could I be so stupid. All of my money, my ID, my credit cards, and my travelers checks were in my wallet. I was broke, tired, sick, and identity-less!!! The exceedingly kind woman at the market calmed me down and let me have the ice cream and soda free of charge. Once I regained my composure, I decided to ride on to Berea. I couldn't go back because I would never make it before dark. I got into town after 5 pm, so the store where I'd left my wallet was already closed. I had to fret all night long before learning the fate of that little mesh bag. My lucky star didn't fail me though, and the store had found my wallet. Franklin and I rented a car and returned to the scene of the disappearance. I couldn't rent the car on my own because I had no driver's license, no credit card, and no insurance (I cancelled it thinking that I wouldn't need to drive while I was gone!). Everything was still there, and I ended up enjoying my layover day in Berea after all. Berea is the arts and crafts capital of Kentucky, so I had fun seeing all of the hand made stuff. And we had a mail stop today so I got to enjoy letters and cookies from my wonderful friends and family. I'm in a nice motel tonight... I decided to treat myself since I'm still sick. Tomorrow we hit the Appalachians. Wish me luck! to go... I can't wait to get home!

August 21, 2000

The further we get into the Appalachians, the more I feel like I'm in a foreign country. I sat in a cafe the other day listening to a conversation between 3 men, and I had no idea what they were saying because the dialect here is so strong! Illiteracy is alive and well here, as evidenced by a cafe menu containing items like "biscuts", "top sirlion", "baked potatoe" (has Dan Quayle eaten here?) and "chicken rings" (wings... it took me a while to figure that one out). The Appalachian mountains have some killer grades, and I actually had to walk my bike for the first time since the storm on Santiam Pass. The area is gorgeous, with steep mountains on either side of tiny mountain streams. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be illegal to litter in eastern Kentucky. Trash is everywhere... toilets in the creeks, diapers on the roadside, and cans and bottles everywhere else. Its really too bad.

On a sad note, about a mile before the end of our 72 mile, painfully hilly day into Pippa Passes, John got run off the road by an oncoming car in the wrong lane. It didn't appear to be malicious, but nonetheless, John was hurt pretty badly. He'll be spending a few days in the hospital recovering from a broken rib, punctured lung, hematoma on his side, and lots of road rash. I'm really sad that he can't continue (but not as sad as he is). It just isn't as much fun without him to joke with! But I'm carrying the little stuffed dog that he's been taking pictures with (apparently motorcyclists do this) the rest of the way to the ocean.

We finally hit Virginia yesterday (yipee! yipee! yipee!). Does this mean I can come home now? My sign does say "Virginia or Bust"... it doesn't specifically say which part ;)

The constant cycling seems to be taking its toll on my body. I'm developing some painful calluses on my palms, and the ball of my right foot aches constantly while I'm riding. My knees seem to be hanging in there, but my shoulders have permanent knots in them. Too bad there aren't any cute eligible bachelors on the trip to give me a shoulder massage. Watercourse Way is calling my name as soon as I get home. Just 2 more weeks!

August 23, 2000

Our group had another close call with a car the other day... Greg got his handlebar mirror destroyed by a car driving too close! Thankfully, Greg's elbows were tucked in, or it might have been a lot worse. He was pretty shaken up, but not injured. What's with the drivers out here?!?

A few days ago, while stopping for a snack at the bottom of a hill, an older man came up and invited me to take a break and join him for a cold soda. How could I turn down his offer on such a hot day? I ended up spending about half an hour chatting and hanging out on his oh-so-comfortable porch swing. I was right in the middle of one of the more poverty stricken areas of the Appalachians, and his generosity was really overwhelming. He kept trying to feed me more food! I got a little local history from someone who had lived in the same house his whole life.

We stayed in Elk Garden the other night and had to do all of our grocery shopping at a gas station mini-mart. Next time you're filling up with gas, go into the mini-mart and see if you can find enough nourishing food to feed 5 hungry cyclists. It's a real trick! When we got to the church at which we were staying, we found a huge box and refrigerator full of food labeled "Food for Cyclists Only". How great is that? So we ended up eating pretty well after all.

The huge mountains and steep hillsides of Kentucky have given way to rolling grassy hills in Virginia. For the last couple of days, the climbs have been surprisingly easy (knock on wood). We've had a few good ones, but nothing close to the one I walked up the other day.

We spent 2 nights in Damascus where the Appalachian Trail and the TransAm trail meet. The trail actually goes straight through the middle of town on a special brick walkway. I got a surprise care package today from the Early Stages Support group at the Alzheimer's Association. I was truly touched by their thoughtfulness and by the fact that they're following my trip! They even sent me a new pair of gloves which I desperately needed, but hadn't been able to find!

Today we had a blazing tail wind for about 20 miles and I LOVED IT!!! I wish we'd had this wind when we were trudging through Kansas.

August 29, 2000

Sorry it's been so long since my last update. I haven't seen a library in days!

I think this trip may end as it began...soaking wet! We've had rain almost every day for the last week. I guess its better than the stifling heat of Illinois.

On our way to Lexington, VA I got passed by a few recreational cyclists from Roanoke. I was ready to dump my bike and steal one of theirs! I am so sick of carrying all of this gear! I long for the day I can ride a nice, light bike again. That same day, we got to see one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the natural bridge. It turns out that I've been to two others of the 7 Natural Wonders: Yellowstone Park (on this trip) and the Valley of 10,000 Smokes (on last years trip to Alaska). Only 4 more wonders to go!

When I got into Lexington, they were having their annual community festival, so I spent some time wandering around and buying souvenirs. I even found a store that sells good wine (jug wine is all you can buy in most of these small towns), so I bought a bottle of good Chianti and Hal, Rudy and I shared it after dinner. Yummy! On our layover day, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around the historic downtown area. Then I toured Stonewall Jackson's house, got rained on while in shorts and a tank top, saw Space Cowboys (don't bother), saw the chapel where Robert E. Lee is buried, and took my own walking tour of the great architecture of the area. All in all, a great layover day.

Yesterday we set out to climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway...the last big climb on our trip. When we got to the bottom of Mt. Vesuvius (really!), it was pouring rain and the mountain was socked in with fog. We decided to go around it instead; partly because it's dangerous to ride in the fog, but mostly because it wouldn't be worth the climb up to the ridge if we weren't going to see anything! So we ended up having an easy ride on a gloomy, rainy day. Last night we stayed with a legend of the TransAm Trail: The Cookie Lady. She has set up a hostel/museum dedicated to the TransAm trail and she provides shelter, food, and great entertainment to cyclists passing through. She's just a riot, and the "Bike House" is a shrine to the trail with postcards, articles about her guests and herself, and mementos of the trail. It was a lot of fun.

Today I'm off to visit Monticello. Only 3 1/2 more days left!!!

September 5, 2000

I MADE IT!!! On September 1st at 12:58pm, I rolled into Yorktown, VA with the world's biggest grin on my face! We left Adkin's Store (that's the name of the town) in the pouring rain, and it rained solidly for the next 3 hours. I had to pull off the road a couple of times because the visibility in the rain was so bad. I could feel the water sloshing around in my shoes every time I took a pedal stroke. But at least it was warm and I could resign myself to being soaked through. We all regrouped in Jamestown for our group wheel dipping in the James River, but Greg and I headed for Yorktown where we would meet our families and dip our wheels in Chesapeake Bay... the next best thing to the actual ocean. About 15 miles from Yorktown, I stopped for a leisurely lunch with a young woman I'd met cycling in Williamsburg. I'd promised my Mom that I wouldn't get to Yorktown before 1 pm, so I had to kill some time (I guess I was riding faster than usual because I was so excited to finish). I hit the road again a little before noon. About 10 miles from Yorktown, a carful of screaming family members came zipping by. My mom, sister, aunt and cousin were all hanging out of the car snapping pictures. I'm not sure who was driving, but it's a good thing no one was in front of them! They stopped about a mile up to the road to cheer me on. I started to really get pumped! About 5 miles from the end, something started rubbing one of my wheels. I stopped 4 times to try adjusting things, then had to stop again when the rubbing sound started acting like a brake. I turned out that the screw that holds the BOB fender onto the BOB frame had come loose and was digging a ridge in the tire. Its a good thing that I stopped when I did or it might have sliced the tire in two! I finally got it fixed and started out with about 1 1/2 miles to go. Unfortunately I missed the short cut turn and took a 2 mile detour! Sheesh. This felt like the longest 15 (now 17) mile ride of my life. I finally made it down to the waterfront where I was greeted by my very excited family. Barbara, Kevin, and Libby were holding up a HUGE sign that Libby and Geoff (her man) had made. Mom whipped off my helmet and crowned me with a tiara! After lots of hugs, pictures and a couple of homemade lemon bars (yum!), I dipped my wheel in the bay. The sand was so deep and soft that Libby had to help me push the bike down to the water! Then I dipped the majority of myself in the bay and did a little victory dance. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful, difficult, challenging, fun, annoying, cold, hot, sticky, windy, goofy, tiring, painful, and exciting trip!