Tuesday, August 7, 2007

You're WHERE?

I can't believe that New York is so far away, and Seattle is so close. We're currently in Missoula, Montana, about 80 miles south of Kalispell, and about 140 from Glaicer National Park. I could so do without Glacier, and just book it the hell to Seattle, but I guess I have to stick with these guys.

Our social group dynamic is different from other biker's. For now at least. Maybe it's just what we're enamoured with and it's something that we can't let go of, but there are very few things that would split us up as a group. We most recently met up with a group of bikers who did split up, through personal drama and a bunch of other crap. Great people though. We're currently staying/working at a volunteer bike shop here. I'll go into more detail about that in another entry.

The past couple of days have been awesome. So many meals paid for by strangers. The only problem is I'm running out of cash, and I'm expected to pay for three-four days in Seattle, plus food for three people for X amount of days because Kevin is out of money. Note to everyone: either leave with nothing and make money along the way, or start off with at least a grand per person.

I can't even write a lot right now- I'm too excited to get to get there. I also need a shower. 2 weeks without one does something to the brain.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wyoming- you only need one pancake

Lots to say and very little time to say it. Let's give this a shot.

Wyoming > Badlands. Biking through Bighorn Mountain and coming down the otherside through Ten Sleep Canyon was probably the most beautiful natural thing I've ever seen in my entire life. The whole of Wyoming outshone the wonder of South Dakota a million times. And Wyoming hasn't tried to kill us yet. South Dakota, get your act together.

I forgot to mention my horrible bike failure. The bike I am using was outfitted with an ancient wheel/hub technology, the Malliard Heilo-chromatic. Annnd the shop we tried to stop at and get it fixed didn't like us at all. So I ended up buying a new wheel. Even though the old one isn't rideable, I shipped it home anyway. At this point in time, I am poor. Yeehaw.

On that note, mother, father, I love you both very much.

We're about 40 miles outside of Yellowstone National Park, and Grizzly Bears. Mmm, bears. We'll skin a few and go to jail for it. Actually, I'm not sure which I'm scared of more- the federal penitentiary system or a grizzly bear.

Ahhhh, and now the beautiful french girl behind me has asked to use the computer. Choices choices.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

South Dakota tried to kill us

South Dakota is hot. Ow.

Our last few days in Iowa were nice. We stopped by the official campsite of the beginning of RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) and talked with some of the bikers there. We left that place, and proceeded to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sioux Falls is a nice place- nice people, nice city (which I am sure has it's nice problems as well). Beautiful downtown, something that wasn't so big you'd get lost in, but wasn't small enough that you'd get bored easily.

But we had a problem. Refer to the first and second sentences of this post. Biking in 105+ heat is not something that we were prepared for. Quite the contrary, none of us were used to this type of hellish punishment. We camped out at a truck stop in Sioux Falls after trying in vain to hitch a ride with truckers. This turned out to be one of the more interesting nights we've had.

Earlier that night we met a man who went by the name of Prospecter, which was uncannily fitting considering his appearence- bushy beard from ear to nose/chin to ear; tanned, weathered skin; a slight build that could carry himself and a bag around, but not much more. He was probably in his mid to late thirties. He had been arrested and incarcerated 39 different times for what he refered to as "homeless shit"- sleeping on benches and yelling at the police when he was so rudely interrupted, climbing fences, sleeping under bridges, etc. This man was a hitchhiker by trade. After we had the tent set up, we went to bed. Or tried to. Prospector and his friend were up drinking, which didn't bother us in the least, but they were a little loud.

"You boys are gonna get it.. you're really gonna get it. You know when you get back to the lifestyle you lived, it's not going to be the same. You won't have that excitement of not knowing what's going to happen next- normal life will be boring. And you'll have to do all the dumb and boring shit you had to do when you left. Hell man, if I'm not broke when I wake up in the morning, I don't have to do shit." This man wasn't crazy, I promise. He was wisened. He embodied the restlessness that so many of us have felt for so long but have not known what to do. Or rather, not had the courage to do.

Cool guy. But he ripped our tent. I'm coming after you.

The next day we hitched a ride to a tourist trap of a town called Wall. This place is a FAR cry from the mid-western hospitality we encountered in Iowa and it's easier compadres. Everyone here knows you have money, and they want it. And if you're trying to do something for free, they give you a wary eye and say "I'm watching you" (I hope the librarian who said that can read this). We promptly left for the Badlands the next day.

And we should have left more promptly. 1pm, we thought we were okay. We got a little more than halfway through the Badlands, and Reed was starting to feel dehydrated. As did Kevin. I was alright, until the last 20 minutes of the ride, when I felt like I was going to pass out. Thank you, Cedar Pass Lodge. We got in there, drank some water, and Kevin passed out. I'm not sure if it was voluntary or involuntary, but he was on one of the benches, so it looked alright (later, I would be told that we were making the place look bad, and that the staff tried to keep it "upbeat". I reminded the woman of the subjugated people whose customs, beads, crafts, and the like were being exploited to raise money for her smoking habit, and she decided she needed to look at the stores vast selection of post cards). We left, and camped in the Badlands campground, sans gratis.

We saw the Minuteman National Reserve or whatever you wanna call it- a decomissioned Cold War rocket facility which was now open to the public. SO COOL, and scary at the same time. The two people down in the capsule were responsible for two keys that would decimate hundreds of acres of land for hundreds of years, with no thanks from anyone. The capsule was a suicide chamber. If the USSR had targeted that station, the sand which surrounded the escape hatch would have turned to a ten foot layer of glass. So they had two options from there- shooting themselves, or slow starvation or suffocation. They were dead when they walked through the eight ton door.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It is really nice to be on flat land. I hope this keeps up.. forever.

Our last day in Wisconsin, we stayed at the beautiful campgrounds in Cassville (right on the Mississippi River), and lo and behold, they had showers. So we used those. I was walking down to the kybo in the morning and saw Kevin walking out after his shower. From my perspective, there was nothing that noted impending doom as the three children on Huffies (or whatever those crazy kids are riding now-a-days) BLAZED BY AT LIGHTNING/walking SPEED annnnd one of them right into Kevin as he rounded the corner. Considering our circumstances, I'm sure anyone could appreciate the juicy, juicy irony.

Iowa's been great so far. First day in we biked to a town called Decorah in the northeast. We stopped off at the local bikeshop, Oneota River Cycles (www.oneotarivercycles.com). What can I say about Deke? You have to meet him. If you are ever in Iowa, go to Oneota River Cycles. If you are in the United States, go to Iowa, then see step one.

Reed's bike (520 Trek, circa 1982ish):
-Back tire rubbing against rear break

Kevin's bike (2006ish Jamis.. I don't know)
-4 flats (rear wheel)
-One broken seat-post rack
-Three spokes popped
-One jackass riding the bike

Carter's Bike (520 Trek, circa 1985ish):
-One popped spoke
-One flat tire
-Back brake rubbing for 80+ miles against rim (yay)
-Two FUBAR'd brake lines (who needs brakes anyway?)

Kevin would also like everyone to know that he broke the sound barrier going down a hill at 47 mph. Let's all give him a round of applause.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Putting the "sin" back in Wisconsin

So, we've taken a look at major cities, and seen a lot of farmland so far. I even have a highlight reel going. Wisconsin, unfortunately for whoever cares about this state, has not made it into the final cut.

It's not that it's not beautiful- it is. Fields of grass and soy and corn stretching for miles, swaying in the breeze. Then it looks like an ocean of green, the light hitting the underside of the plants just right so it looks like they're trying to make white caps- white caps only come in twenty plus mile headwinds.

Oh, and no one told us ONLY southern Wisconsin was hilly. Apparently the rest of the state is like a fine piece of china, weathered smooth by millions of years of being buried under the deepest ocean. Oh no, southern Wisconsin is like an amoeba trying to crawl over an acne-stricken fifteen year old's face.

Okay. So anyway. We'll go with a highlight reel.

-There was a little boy at one of the gas stations we stopped off at along the Canalway Trail. He asked us where we were going, and we told him Seattle, to which he responded "Is that going to take like, the whole day?"
-The adorable couple we met in Port Dover, and how, when prompted by two 40+ year old women asking if our butts were firm, the husband shouted to them "Get back in your cages, ya cougars." We still quote that.
-"..tonight's your night."
-"Did you just say let's launch over it?"
-"You guys want orange juice and beer for breakfast?"
-While passing through Ontario, we were accosted by a rather large dog who didn't appreciate us passing in front of his lawn. He starts tearing towards Reed, who had just passed the dog's line of attack, when I see the dog eat a faceplant into the embankment he was almost clear of, and his body twist around. He walks back across the lawn, dejected, while the three of us share a hearty laugh.
-Waking up in Rodney to find that we were sleeping in the middle of a harness track.
-All of Ypsilanti
-All of Chicago
-"Are those almonds?"
-"Hey Kevin, you ever tried to eat a road flare?"
-"You wanna come with us?"
-"..we DO have peanutbutter."

I'm at a loss. Ask questions and I'll answer them!

Monday, July 9, 2007

You darn kids with your makeout parties and your flaming carbombs.

It's weird being back in a big city for an extended period of time. Getting used to all of the little backwards suburbs we see scrolling past us for the brief amount of time we have the privledge of using their roads; all of the delapidated towns we've passed through, where you could imagine the inhabitants giving directions in their coarse, country drawl, using the charred remains of Ma and Pa Grocery/Tractor Parts/"Party" store as some nostalgic landmark you feel should have some significance to you; it is a little taxing on the.. whatever you wanna call it. Michigan is a tarp draped over a bungee pit, with colleges pinning it down on all edges to keep it from vanishing into obscurity.. oh wait.

The past two days we cranked out close to two hundred and fifty miles. It sometimes seems that we're lazy and don't want to do huge distances in a day, but then I realize that we are fully loaded with packs, and then 100 miles in a day seems like a much bigger endeavor than originally projected. We made it from Ypsilanti, MI to Gary, IN in two days, where we were picked up.

We are staying in a nice suburb in northern Chicago called Evanston. It's not quite the white picket fence, two-cars-in-every-garage, Johnny-America place, but it's just close enough for me to feel spoiled on the trip. But screw it, we needed a nice break. We've gotten plenty of tours around the city so far, but haven't really been downtown. It's a great place- like a New York City Jr. Today we went to the Art Institue of Chciago and Christ on a salt lick, they had a HUGE Jeff Wall exhibit and I almost shit myself.

The day before, Niels (Reed's uncle, who has been the most generous host I could imagine) took us sailing on Lake Michican in his boat. Yeah, it was awesome. More awesome than what you were doing that day. We also went to see Transformers with Andrew (Reed's cousin, and an awesome guy in general), and then home to sleep. Great day.

I never realized the lack of support, and in all actuality, the abundance of skepticism at our actually completing this trip. It reinforces what I've thought for awhile, but could never bring it into any light.

Biking for long periods of time gives you a lot of thinking time. Which is awesome. You can sing songs, but eventually you end up repeating one stanza over and over again and then you go crazy.. but if you really concentrate, you get a chance to think about a lot of things. For instance, I've been able to re-evaluate a lot of relationships within the spectrum of people whose first and last name I know. It's been enlightening, although with this new form of introspection, I've gained a more objective view on life than I initially thought. I've found it easier to trust myself.

I'll write more tomorrow before we leave, because I am tired as all sin

Thursday, July 5, 2007

She can only clean like two dishes before *SPLURT!*

Ahh, electronics. I don't really miss a computer not being at my fingertips, I realized today that even the most modest creature comforts really go a long way. Clean clothes, for instance.

We're in Ypsilanti (Yip-sel-aun-tee), MI, right outside of Eastern Michigan State University, staying with the illustrious former Saratoga Springs crew coach, Jason Boyce. He's been so great to us, and it really brings back so many memories of SSRA seeing him again. He's one of the few people that I feel comfortable around who has an age greater than 10 years my own.

Last night we stayed in Detroit, with the two of the co-owners of Back Alley Bikes (http://backalleybikes.org/). They ran one of the many volunteer/DIY bike shops that are starting to spring up around the country. We took some epic pictures of the front of the shop (it was closed, and we stopped by as we were leaving their apartment). Thanks so much to Ben, Chelsea, and Adrian for letting us crash at their place, and thanks to John for hooking us up with them (http://www.warmshowerslist.com/ is pretty amazing).

Getting in to Canada was easy. Getting out, not so much. They HATE bikes- can't ride across the bridge, or through the tunnel, or stuff your bike in a cab and cross, or stuff it in a bus and cross.. but we stuffed our bikes in a bus and did it anyway. Props to Windsor Greyhound for breakin' the rulez. Customs, oh boy. "Do you have proof of citizenship?" "No. I have my New York driver's license." "How do I know you're a US citizen?" "(because I'm white and I love Jesus?) ..." "Where were your parents born?" "(where were YOUR parents born?) Rye, New York and Albany, New York." "Are you bringing anything that you bought in Canada back to the states?" "(nope, I finished the last of the whiskey on the bus over here) No sir." "Okay, you're through." "(oh, I was so looking forward to the full body cavity search.) Thank you sir."

Going through Canada was.. flat.. pancake flat. And.. corny. Not in the comical sense, more in the sense of we were watching corn grow. Field. After field. Of corn. The Town of Eagle was comprised of two opposing abandoned antique shops on opposite sides of highway 3. People were, for the most part, genuinely nice and helpful- mostly awed.

People see biking all this way as a huge deal. When you're doing it, it all seems so tiny. Instead of going in a circle around town, you're heading west. If you counted up all the steps you've taken in your lifetime up until now, going in circles, you probably could have walked to California.. if you're a bit older, maybe back. I guess that's why it hasn't set in what we're doing- for us, it's just the daily grind with new people. We live it day to day, and experience it for ourselves. The awe-struck look on people's faces as they imagine what swash-buckling adventures we must have reminds me of "All Quiet on the Western Front". Dulce et decorum est pro patria.. bikes?

..but it's still really fucking cool to ride along Riverside Dr. in Windsor and see the TOWERING CITY OF DETROIT READY TO EAT YOU.