Friday, July 31, 2009

The Perilous Path

7/30/09 - Day 5 of Riding

Today started out.... perfectly. We asked a local where to go for coffee in Mullan, and were pointed in the direction of The Bitter Root.
The coffee house has only been open a few months, but the service was fantastic, the coffee was good, and their cinnamon rolls were HUGE! Plus, they had free Wi-fi. We sat in there for a few hours, enjoying the quiet and the luxury of the internet.

We weren't in a rush. We knew that today was going to be cake. Riding (slightly) downhill. On a paved trail. We've braved through so many other, more difficult trails. This would be no problem. But after our ride yesterday, we needed to make sure to start off with some bikey stretching.

There were a few challenges during our 58 mile ride today.

  • Sometimes on the path, there are small sticks and leaves. And even pinecones. We had to watch out for those.
  • The kamikazi grasshoppers were back with a vengence. Spattering through the spokes, into our faces, smacking our legs as they jumped at us. We would recommend you wear sunglasses.
  • Sometimes we did have to pedal. Even though it's mostly downhill, there are some flatter spots. And leading up to a gorgeous footbridge there's usually a little incline.
  • There was plenty of wildlife. We didn't run across any Idaho Bears. We did, however, run across plenty of Idaho Gators in the swamp-land. But we rang our bells and called "hey, gator!" and they didn't bother us.
  • More concerning than the gators, though, were the Pturd-dactiles. They were all over the swamp-land! When they take off, they hypnotize you with their beauty. And then they crop-dust their generous amounts of poo. We saw plenty of evidence that the trail was a regular target, but luckily we were able to avoid getting poo-ed on. We didn't get a picture of one because we were cowering in fear, but here's an artist's rendering. The ones we saw were... bluish greyish.
  • We weren't able to avoid the bees, though. About 10 miles into our ride, a bee flew into my hair and couldn't get out. I screamed and totally freaked out, but managed to stop without crashing my bike. The boys caught up with me as I was ruffling my hair wildly and twitching. I had to explain that I wasn't going crazy.

    Shortly after that, it happened again. Except the bee flew in my ear, got stuck, and stung me. Ugh. Kyle pulled out the first aid and we decided I should keep my hair UP. At about mile 45, Eric got stung on his chin when a bee got caught in his chinstrap. He managed to be a lot more calm about it than I was when I got stung. Whatever.
  • Boredom was a big challenge during our ride today. The boys would get bored of going downhill in a straight line, and would make up their own wavy lines. Or would race. Eric would go fast, then slow. It would have been quite ironic if we didn't crash on any of the other majorly difficult trails, but instead crashed on the tamest one.
  • It was a hot day, and while we were pretty certain we would have access to water along the trail, that wasn't the case. Most of the water is undrinkable - even when filtered. And while they have built bathrooms along the trail, they are pit toilets and there's no water. Praise God for the Park Ranger that we came across at around mile 40! He had a giant.... thing... of water in the back of his little truck, and we gratefully filled up our water bottles and had enough to make it the rest of the way.
  • Ben and Kyle discovered that they both had sweat spots on their butts towards the end of the ride. This developed into a competition of who could get a picture of the other person's butt. They walked backwards, they did track-stands, pretty much anything to keep their butts away from each other. But Kyle won. We came across a bald eagle's nest, and Ben stopped to take pictures. While Ben took pictures of the bald eagle...

    Kyle took pictures of Ben's butt.
We did hit the milestone of 200 cumulative miles today. We had to have a little celebration.
So you can see that the Trail of Coeur D'Alenes has its own treachery. But we felt pretty accomplished as we rolled into Harrison and found our adorable hotel, the Lakeview Lodge. It's been undergoing renovations, but the inside of our room is beautiful and the outside front is looking nice. The back is still not done but there's a deck with a perfect view of the lake. After we all cleaned up, we had ice cream, then ate dinner at an established bar/grill called One Shot Charlie's. The sunset from the view of our deck was amazing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's a good day to die.

I know - sounds overly dramatic, doesn't it? But this blog is being updated today (which is actually the day after) - the day it's posted - because I could not stay conscious long enough to do anything but eat yesterday. Yesterday was, hands down, the hardest ride I've ever been on. And I'm sure our whole group can say the same...

Now - yesterday was also the crowning acheivement on our bike ride. The reason we went riding on this whole adventure - to connect to the Route of the Hiawatha. And it was amazing. But because we were doing this unsupported, we didn't do it the way most people do - starting at the top, and riding to the bottom, and then get picked up. We started at the bottom. NO - we started 10 miles from the bottom, and rode gravel trails for 10 miles to reach the Hiawatha trail.

Suffice it to say, it was a hard ride. By the time we reached the Hiawatha, we had already climbed several steep inclines on loaded bikes, over very rough terrain. After getting to the trail, we had done enough riding that most people would be done... but not us. No, no.... we finally arrived, and had the 17-mile ride on the Hiawatha... uphill.

Now, the previous day was 35 miles on these old gravel roads... and I knew that this ride would be tough - but, wow. Tired as we were, we were able to slow down and enjoy the sights. Amazing sights. This is a trip well worth the wait. Lots of high trestles, and tunnels, and lots of terrific views... But my favorite spot couldn't be caught on camera... it's a 1.7 mile long tunnel, which took us over (technically thru) the continental divide, out of Idaho, and into Montana.

Montana was beautiful. But promptly after finishing the ride... and thoroughly exhausted, we faced the sobering reality that we were only halfway finished... and biking the next 25 miles meant trekking off into the bitterroot mountain wilderness to hopefully end up in Mullan... back in Idaho.

So we began climbing the grade up the NorPac trail to summit at Lookout Ski Resort. We quickly realized how tired we were when none of us could move our bikes faster than 5mph. On the gravel roads, we couldn't really go faster than 7 safely, but to not have the energy to move past 5mph is frightning - in the middle of the wilderness. So we took breaks. We drank Gatorade and ate energy and protein bars. And got back on the bikes... 5mph. We stopped and did it again. Then again. Practically nothing helped. About 20 miles away from Mullan, I distinctly remember thinking "oh this was a terrible mistake. I'm going to have to stay the night. We can't get back." And then just a few miles later we reached the top of the pass!!!

We were all so exhausted that we strongly considered just taking I-90 (which was accessible at that point) all the way into Mullan - because from Lookout, the highway route took only 5 miles, but the NorPac took 12. After a very long break, and a good amount of reassuring, we took the NorPac. And it was all downhill. All 12 miles.

I really can't say the terror that goes through your head when you feel like you may have had to camp the night in the wilderness because you just can't physically continue. But I felt like we were all pretty close yesterday. Thank you so much for the prayers and thoughts. Praise God for being sooo good!

I don't know if I would ever choose to do quite that route again, without much, much better conditioning. But just to recap: we crossed the continental divide. Twice. We rode 52 miles. On rocky trails. Uphill 3/4 of the way. With loaded touring bikes. I would rather have ridden a century.

My favorite moment was when, just shortly after leaving Lookout pass, we got cell service. Kyle called his folks to say that we were all alright, and nobody even knew that they should be worried. :)

The Trestle of Doom

7/28/09 - Day 3 of riding

Ben is a big, fat liar. It wasn't uneventful.

I haven't had the opportunity to write a blog yet. It's not that I don't want to. But, unfortunately, there's this looming spirit over my head when I have free time - the evil Anatomy and Physiology Mid-term spirit. I am missing a mid-term while we're on our bikation and have arranged to take it the day after we return from Spokane. So I've been diligently studying while on this trip so I don't completely fail the mid-term. *Sigh* It's sad that even while on bikation I still have responsibilities. Other than taking care of my legs, feet, butt, and hands.

Being the only girl on this trip has been an adventure in itself. I went into this trip determined to work just as hard as the boys, so I wouldn't be the weakest link. I've been perfectly willing to pee in the wilderness (or... more). I didn't freak out and crash my bike when I came within a millimeter of running over a snake. I've been fine with eating a few bugs and dealing with the kamikazi grasshoppers. And with sleeping at Big Eddy's.

I must admit, though, that the gravel miles have really been a challenge for me. Granted, there are different qualities of gravel roads. You have the small rocks that are compact, which are a breeze. You have the roads that haven't been "maintained" in a while and most of the rocks are gone or well embedded into the ground - "ahhhhhhh". But the ride from Big Eddy to Calder was brutal. This road was either recently re-rocked, or it's just travelled so little that the rocks never get broken down. They were huge. There were places that you could ride at about 7 mph (did you know that's about the speed that a butterfly flies?). But much of this stretch was ridden at about 4 mph. Maybe 5. My arms were getting weak from having to work so hard to keep my bike upright - any large rock that you hit makes your loaded bike want to buck you off.

Ben kept reassuring us. "In just a few we should come up to a trestle. It's impassable by cars, but pedestrians and bikel-ists can cross." Shortly after that, we came across a very worn down bridge-ish-thing. Oh, so that was it. That was cake. Now we should see Calder soon. Bump, jostle, bump, bump. I still don't see Calder. Hmmm... maybe the trestle was further out from Calder than Ben thought.

Then, about a mile later, we hit it. Not Calder. The wall.

Ben and Eric were riding ahead, and stopped abruptly at what looked like a pile of construction rock, with cement dividers on top. Kyle and I weren't far behind, and as we approached Ben and Eric were off their bikes peering over the wall. Ben says, "We can get over the wall, no problem." And Eric says, "Sure, but then how are we going to get over THAT?" I tried to stay calm as I got off my bike and climbed the wall of rock to check out the view past the cement barrier. Oh. That back there, that wasn't the trestle Ben read about. And in my opinion, it's not just impassable by car. It's pretty impassable. Period. We've ridden over a few trestles already. With boards layed down perpendicularly to the trestle boards so bikel-ists and pedestrians can pass safely. Not so here. No boards, just big beams with large gaps in between. And a giant gap in the middle. And no railings on either side.

I tried to keep myself calm as Ben laid out the plan. We haul our gear over the trestle first, then the bikes. It's like we're fording a river. Except if we fall, we go about 20 feet before we hit the water. Can we just go around? Nope. And then I knew. I was going to FREAK OUT if I had to carry my heavy gear across that thing and try to stay balanced enough to not fall over the edge or through the beams. I don't even go past the third step on our ladder at home. There's just no way I'd be able to do this.

That's when I decided. It's time. I've been holding it at bay on this trip, but I needed to let it out now. I flexed my girl muscles.

They were very gracious about it, really. Ben told me it was fine, he'd carry my stuff over and I could just walk across the trestle and wait on the other side with all the gear. I felt bad, but I knew my limits. I was able to climb over the rock wall with no problem. As I started across the trestle, though, I could feel my legs start to shake with just the first few steps across the beams. Ok. So I'm going to crawl. I got down in a crouch and tried to pull myself together. Deep breaths.

I was able to stand up after Kyle and Eric got behind me and encouraged me to keep going, that it really wasn't that bad. I can do this. I can do this. Wait. What is that? These beams have been burned! Oh, so it's an impassable, rock-walled, huge gapped, BURNT OUT trestle. I started to feel myself shaking again. I pulled together enough courage to look ahead and see how far I still had to go - oh, that's still pretty far. About halfway. Maybe more. Yup. I'm going to die.

Then Eric saved me. He shifted his gear into one arm, and held my hand with his free hand. He waited patiently while I slowly walked with him across the beams. Kyle was behind me, encouraging me the whole time. I made it across, and didn't die. Ben carried my gear and my bike across, and fell down the side of the rock wall on the other side.
Praise God that Kyle was there to help Ben back up and assist with getting Lulu back up.

Yup. I'm a girl. I admit it. And I'm blessed to be surrounded by some amazing boys.

bloggity blah blah

7/28/09 - Day 3 of riding.

It was boring... and very uneventful.

The only thing to report is that we discovered that miles on a bike are not all the same... No, really. One mile on gravel is roughly equal to three miles on a bike. There's just no other way to quantify it. Our ride today was only 35 miles or so (which should be short!) but the same amount of force that would be propelling our loaded touring bikes up to 12mph got us all the way up to 6.

So, it was a long, hot, hard 35 miles. The only thing good about this ride is that we left Big Eddy's in the dust... OOH, OOh - I forgot that... Last night there was a HUGE thunderstorm - lightning cracking across the sky everywhere. Claps of thunder that would just make you curl under your covers cowering! The nice thing was that it cools everything down (remember, no AC?). The horrible part is that it felt like the final chapter of the horror movie that we were living in. I really expected to see the silhouette of Eddy through the window backlight by a bolt of lightning! Or maybe hear the creak of the door that locks but doesn't close... So, needless to say, we were all low on sleep today -- except for Eric, who, halfway through today said "What? There was a thunderstorm last night?" (how does that happen?!?!?)

Notice the dark "amber" color of the hummingbird feeders...
drunken hummingbirds fight a lot...

After arriving in Avery, I began to realize the peril of our journey. 35 gravel miles = the hardest day on the trail yet. Avery (where we knew we could resupply for food and water), was a very small town, with a General Store about the size of my son's bedroom. Everything was 3x what it should normally cost... and after talking to the natives, we discovered that NONE of the 3 trails we were taking tomorrow were any better maintained than the one we just came on. And, unlike I was led to believe by lying maps, none of them are paved.

Oh, and to boot - no civilization. For 50 miles. Almost completely uphill. Gravel miles. We... Are gonna... Die. No, seriously. I'm really worried about tomorrow. Beginning to think this is NOT a smart idea.

We are so tired, and achey already... if there was any way to actually make it tomorrow, we needed a big meal tonight, so we opted for a very, very big, beefy meal - two hamburgers each for dinner...

Ok, now I'm done. Time for bed.

Sleeping in a Horror Movie: The Big Eddy

07/27/09 - Day 2 - special update

Ok, this is a special blog entry - not about the day riding, but the location we are staying. This morning, we left the Hampton Inn from the "Riverstone Community" (primier yuppity yup bridgeport-esque place in Couer D'Alene) - which was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. We were pampered.

Tonight we have arrived at The Big Eddy Resort. First of all, there were no choices at all in where we stayed. This was it. We were/are riding into the sticks, Idaho. No cell service. No internet. Nothing. Well, the day before we left, I located Big Eddy Resort on some satellite imagery, and was so sure I was in the wrong place that I spent almost 4 hours confirming that, indeed, the little shack I was viewing from Google street view was the resort.

The resort has 4 rooms on the upper floor - or so it appeared... Upon more research, I discovered that Big Eddy is an RV resort. In fact, it is a mecca for RV/ATV/dirt biking, and gun shooting. Well, we finally arrived tonight. Kim and I walked into the bar/store/motel lobby/restaurant. After reopening our eyes from the sting of cigarette smoke, we found the manager and said we were checking in. He said - the room? We said "yes" and he handed us the key, and said "room 4." No waiver. No papers. No ID. Didn't even ask for our name.

So after we found an appropriate place to lock up our bikes, we went to our room......

It looked like something out of a creeper movie... NO JOKE. I think people get murdered here every month. Probably from the gun totin', ATV drivin', beer drinkin' crew (right below our room!!!) First of all - there is no A/C. Quite possibly the only motel this side of the Cascades without A/C. The decor hasn't been updated since the '60's, which probably explains the love for wall paneling - on every wall, and the ceiling (It only gets updated with new paneling when it rots out from the roof leaks). It also explains why the couch has been so nicely re-upholstored with a throw blanket. Nobody yet has had the courage to look under the blanket... although Kim just found a mouse dropping on the top of the blanket.

The headboard of one bed is broken, which is an "upgrade" from the other bed that has no headboard or bedskirt... The TV in the room has a VCR hooked up to it - nix that - the VCR is not actually hooked up to anything; but neither is the TV. Granted, the TV takes over 5 minutes to warm up, so we don't know if we get any channels at all...

Upon exploring the rest of the diggs, we discovered a door... When I checked the door, it was locked. When Kim checked the door, we discovered that while the door is, indeed, locked, IT DOES NOT CLOSE. And the open door revealed that our neighbors are not fellow travelers, but possibly Big Eddy himself - units 1, 2, and 3 have been merged into one giant living area - complete with messy beds, stairs going down, and ashtrays! There is only one room here.

The door... that locks but doesn't close.

When I finally ventured up enough courage to shower, there were more discoveries... Like when I reached in to turn on the water in the shower, I felt a drip of blood drop on my back!! I screamed... totally freaked out, until I realized that they were Eric's gloves that were drip drying on the curtain rod. The shower itself was pleasant and cooling (remember, no A/C?), although it's a new-fangled kind of shower - the temperature is only approximate. It gets significantly hotter and colder than the actual setting.

Tonight, before we go to bed, I will brace a chair against the door that does not close, check for bedbugs, and then pray fervently that I do not get shot by a local for looking like a 'sissy.' We have all agreed that Kyle's purse will not make an appearance during our stay, and that I do not garden... I'm more like a farmer...

Yep... a farmer. I even have the tan lines to prove it.

Just to be clear: we left this hotel this morning:

Pull Over NOW!

7/27/09 - Day 2 of riding

Today was a great ride. A little of everything for everyone. In fact, so much happened today that I really have a hard time remembering that all the events only happened today! We started with a mission. Eric, we discovered, is a little harder on his hardware than I am. Although we have the same bike buckets - built the same way, by the same person (me), mine have held up fine. But at the end of yesterday, it was clear that Eric's weren't up for the rest of the trip. And since we are biking out of the range of any normal human contact... and bike shops... we really needed to fix this problem. Yesterday we decided that the best solution would be to find some bungee cords to relieve the lateral stress on the hooks... now all we needed in CDA was a hardware store, right? No dice. None were open within biking range. So we decided that we should wait for Plummer - which, we confirmed, had a hardware store.

So, after getting up (at 5:15 am!!!), eating breakfast, and checking out of the resort we were staying in, we caught a free bus shuttle down to Plummer. With the exception of Kyle's near-meltdown about his bike (and rightfully so, I might add...) we set off. The first 6 miles were beautiful - on a short leg of the Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes. Then we cut across on a short road, and connected to Hwy 5 to get to St Maries; where we will pick up the Old Milwaukee Railroad multi-use trail.

Hwy 5 was a zoo. Now, mind you, we are used to riding on country roads - even highways... but this one was full of logging trucks! Did you know that because logging trucks carry trees (which, by nature are skinny), they feel like they don't take up much of the lane, therefore they don't yeild any of the lane to a cyclist? Interesting... We spent about 10 miles getting buzzed by all the logging trucks, and taking it in stride. Of course this was the moment I realized that Chad would never, ever, ever go on this trip - at least not the way we went. Neither would he ever let Tyha go (sorry Tyha).

Note: Idaho drivers don't yield the roadway to people, or bikes...

So, we were taking it in stride... up one hill, down another, buzzed by a logging truck, etc... until we began climbing one hill... and never went down. In fact, we never leveled off! We kept climbing and climbing and climbing. Now, biking in heat (yes, it was in the 90's today) is one thing... but if you're actually moving, you have a breeze to cool you off... it's pleasant. Kinda. But biking up a monster hill in the heat is very, very different. I am convinced it is the longest, hardest climb I have yet made on a bike.

After the hill of death, we were a bit tired, and pedaling a bit slower.. but still going a good pace. Unfortunately, this stretch of road is filled with blind corners and switchbacks, and NO shoulder, because pavement is at a premium. I always get a little panicked when biking on roads like that... but nothing - NOTHING beats our experience at the turnout area. All four of us were pedaling around a corner with a generous shoulder, when I called out "car" for the other bikes in the lead. When I turned around to confirm with my eyes what my ears had heard, it was a lead truck, with the sign "oversized load" on it. Oh, (insertanykindofbadwordyouwantrighthere) and yelled "WIDE LOAD!!! PULL OVER NOW!!!" After pulling over, we all saw two halves of a mobile home take up both lanes and about 6 feet of the shoulder as it negotiated the switchback corner that we were on. After several minutes of shaking in our boots, we finally thanked God for giving us a turnout area, and continued on...

After arriving in St. Maries and having lunch - ooh, and finding a great coffee house... we continued on the Milwaukee Road - which is a gravel road. Almost 20 miles on a gravel road. Note to self: Gravel roads take much, much more energy and time than paved roads. In touring, there should be miles, and then "gravel miles" which are roughly 3x as difficult as normal miles. Yep. We were tired when we pulled in to Big Eddy Motel. Aah, what a day!

Ooh, two things along the way are worthy of note: First, when we started our ride, there were grasshoppers everywhere... I mean everywhere! All over the trail, flying through the air, etc... Even trying my hardest, I couldn't avoid hitting them. If I dodged a grasshopper, he would make an attempt to jump out of the way, and fly under my wheel - or worse yet, one actually jumped into my spokes - and came out the other side in pieces... (no joke!). I had 3 grasshoppers fly into my face - with one bouncing off my bottom lip, while my mouth was open.

As if gajillions of grasshoppers wasn't enough, on the Milwaukee trail, we found the corpses of hundreds of dead, dried up frogs. Everywhere... So, a plague of locusts, and a plague of frogs. What exactly is in store for us on this trip? Oh, yeah - Big Eddy... that's what :)


7/27/09 - Day 2 of riding

This morning we took a bus from Coeur D'Alene to Plummer, where we picked up the trail that brought us to Big Eddy's Resort near Calder, Idaho. It was one of those shorter transit buses that you usually see older people on. On the front and back there were double bike racks like you see on the Portland Tri-Met buses. As the bus pulled up to the stop we grabbed our bikes to put them on the racks. I went for the back with Eric. I dropped down the rack and lifted my bike into place. As I pulled the hook over the tire, I realized that the bar for the hook was broken at the base.
"Ben, come here".
"Yeah, what?"
"Look at this". I shook my bike back and forth to show him that it wasn't secure. By then the bus driver had made his way to the back of the bus to join us.
"Can we put the bike in the bus?" Ben asked the bus driver, pointing out our dilemma. "No." the bus driver quickly responded. We decided to lock my bike to Eric's and hope for the best. As we set off to Plummer, my stomach began to turn. I sat in the back of the bus where I could watch my bike. My heart panicked as I watched the two bikes bounce up and down violently on the bumps. One bump was so bad that Eric's back tire actually came out of the rack and landed next to my front wheel. My anxiety reached its peak as I literally thought my bike would soon be bouncing on the road as we left it in the dust. I totally flipped out. Ben and Kim had to calm me down. "Just give it to God." Kim told me as I sad there with sweat dripping down my forehead. It took a lot of energy to keep myself from looking back to make sure my bike was still there. Every bump sent sheer panic through my body. This was my livelihood for the next 7 days. If my bike actually flew off that rack we'd be finished. We don't have the tools to repair a mangled frame. Would we get refunds for our hotels? Would we just have someone come pick us up? What about all that planning? That would be it; we'd be done. And it was only the second day of our trip.

When we finally stopped at a casino half-way, and I was able to go rescue my bike, I was so relieved to find my bike was unharmed. We moved to another bus, and my bike was safely secured to the front rack for the rest of the trip to Plummer. It took a while to relax, but I experienced that high that sometimes comes with a great sense of relief; like I had lost a child in the mall, and had finally found him.

The day was full of the unknown and anxiety. We set off on a new trail that sent us literally out to the middle of nowhere. At one point, Eric slid off the road. My mind raced again as I thought of all the possibilities. Did he break his leg? Will we have to turn back? Now what? Will we really have to eat him? Thankfully, he only had a couple of scraped up knees. We continued on the trail into the wilderness.

As we rode further into the mountains, my mind would drift off to different things that might spell disaster for this ride. Kim almost ran over a snake. It was just a garden snake, but then I started thinking about what would happen if we ran into a rattlesnake. What other animals might we run into out here? Who would we call if we got stranded? We didn't even have cell phone service. Eric's rack lost a screw. His bike bucket had just been repaired that morning with some bungee cords. Would those even hold? What if he didn't have a way to carry all his stuff? How could we fit all that stuff into the rest of the panniers and racks? Or maybe we'd get ran off the road by a giant mobile home (see Ben's blog). So many things could go wrong. Are we going to survive another 7 days?

My anxiety didn't subside when we stopped for the night. As you can read in Ben's blog, The Big Eddy Resort is not the most comfortable place to stay. What if we really do get murdered as we sleep? What if I never stop sweating? Will our bikes still be on the railings that we locked them to in the morning?

So many things could have gone wrong today. So many things could ruin our bikation. But I realized that my anxiety alone just might keep me from having a good time. How many things could go wrong? How many of those things did I really have any control over? I found myself today realizing again that I had to give it over to God.

And of course, this has a greater application in life. I find myself constantly worrying about several things in my life. Will I be alone for the rest of my life? Will I ever find a career that is satisfying? What exactly is God's will for me? Will I fail at it when I figure it out? And my mind wanders, finding every possible problem I could run into, and then frets about it. I have such a hard time giving those things over to God. It's so terrifying to live my life without looking out the back window after each bump.

At the end of the day, I have to just close my eyes and give it over to God. I have to trust that He truly is bigger than this world and everything is possible through Him. I only have control of so much in this world; the rest is up to God.

Sorry Eric. You're in God's hands now.

New Posts...

Hey! We're still alive! We've been out of contact because we've been literally in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service and no internet. But we've been continuing our blog along the way, and now that we've found internet we want to post them for you. They're in order, but we've added the dates and which day of riding they are. There are more to come, so please keep posted...

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Spokan't keep my bike up without a kickstand

Surly, Long Haul Trucker: $1000
Kickstand: $20
Feeling supported: Priceless

So, we have completed our first day of biking, and thanks to an amazing product called Chamois Butt'r; Kim, Eric and I are feeling great. Ben, on the other hand, will be sure to apply some tomorrow. :)

We started our ride in the beautiful city of Spokan't. That's right: Spokan't. Because in Spokane, you just can't. For example, you spokan't turn left onto most streets. A lot of their intersections are controlled with curb size barriers, telling you where you can and spokan't turn. You also spokan't bike on many of the streets. We didn't get any pictures, but there are actual signs on some of their streets that forbid bikes from the road (I would like them to try something like that in Portland and see what happens - Ha!). Anyway, you get the point.

Throughout the morning, we were reminded that we spokan't do a lot of things. You spokan't always expect the weather to turn out the way you'd planned. We were planning on having a very hot, dry ride today, but we were greeted in the morning with rain (though it did clear up - Mom, I wore sunscreen). You also spokan't expect the toaster to work in your hotel. Ben was trying to toast his english muffin, but he spokouldn't.

Other things you spokan't do when riding in Spokane:

1) You spokan't forget to get Starbucks before the ride. I mean, you need your coffee, and you spokan't expect good coffee at your hotel.

2) You spokan't spend less than 45 mins at the beginning of your ride on one stinkin' street, picking up bike computers that are flying off handlebars, and taking on and off jackets, and adjusting panniers....

And most importantly,
3) You spokan't forget your bikey stretches before the ride. Below are some very convenient stretches that you can do with your bike. Try them before your next 60 mile ride:

However, once we started getting on the Continental Trail and headed out East from Spokan't, we started feeling a bit more optimistic. The wretched Spokan't curse loosened its grip from us. Our moods lightened and our spirits were high again. But there was one thing that I still spokouldn't do: Prop my bike up. Why? Because I didn't have a kickstand. Whenever we stopped, I just had to rest my bike bucket on something low and just hope that it didn't slip and fall.

Trying to get into my panniers was quite the task. If I pulled on something just a little too hard, the whole bike would shift, and the front wheel would just roll out, sending the whole bike to the ground. It was quite annoying.

I became more and more frustrated by the situation, and I started to long for a kickstand. Thankfully, we were able to find a bike shop in Coeur d'alene, and I was able to buy myself a kickstand.

Ah, the beauty of being able to just kick that thing out and prop my bike up. No more grasping in shear panic as my bike pummels to the ground. No more worrying whether I'll be able to find something to lean my bike against. My kickstand is there for me, and it gives me the support I need.

One other thing I realized that I still spokan't do is deny the fact that this trip would be nothing without these other three people I'm with. Where would we be if Ben and Kim didn't scope out all the directions, and if Kim didn't get all the hotels booked and all the details planned out? You have to realize that Ben's already riden half of this route...on Google Earth. And though I still think it would have been nice to have a hot single lady along with us, having Eric around is fun. I mean, for once in my life, I'm not the one getting picked on the most (Ben has a couple of counts going on for how many times one of Eric's bike buckets falls off his rack while riding - which has happened 3 times so far, and how many times Eric rubs tires with the bike in front of him - 2 times for that). And though his sense of humor is a bit quirky, it's good to have Eric along for the ride. New friendships are exciting.

It's these kinds of friendships that we all need to keep our lives from toppling to the ground. Like a good kickstand, these are the friends that will be here for me to keep me from slipping. They're here for me to lean on when I need them. And whether it's a sweaty sixty-mile bike ride, or me trying to dig through my past and clean up my life, I know I can do it without fear of being left standing alone.

That feeling of being supported is truly priceless.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stuck in a car

There are just some things that you never know about someone until you've spent SEVERAL hours in a car with them. For example, I always knew that Kim is narcoleptic when we drive anywhere, but I never knew Eric and Kyle's quirks.

Eric is pretty nondescript. He actually stops talking for hours at a time (I've always thought about doing that, but never had the courage to try). Kyle, on the other hand, has nothing better to do than focus on being OCD. I personally found the highlight of my trip to be Kyle's 'pursuit of the perfect picture of nothing.' Normally people take pictures of interesting things or maybe interesting people or something like that.
Not Kyle. Nope. He really wanted to capture nothing... as some sort of holy pilgrimage to show how desolate the landscape turned. At any given moment, he would be found complaining "oh, that's almost the perfect shot, but theres that building/car/tree in the way." Or "Ugh, there's too much greenery in this picture!!" This frustration led him to compulsively pick up his camera everytime I said "Look Kyle, there's nothing - take a picture!"
In doing so, of course, he missed the picture of the dinosaur skull. For the briefest of periods he was considering photoshopping the pictures, in order to show how desolate it really was.

For what it's worth, the drive was uneventful and safe. And nobody has run out of food...

Strangely, there is beauty to be had when you're picking up the camera to look for it. This first picture is mine, and the second is Kim's:

Me no likey the drivey...

The drive from Portland to Eastern Washington is quite a depressing drive. If you've ever had the pleasure of coming out this way, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. The beautiful bluffs and evergreens of the Columbia Gorge soon give way to the vast sprawl of dry grasses and empty hills that are found in the eastern parts of Oregon and Washington. Some say that it has its own kind of beauty, but for me it kind of feels like a slow march to death. Green gives way to brown. Tall everygreens give way to low, stubby shrubs. Waterfalls give way to barren cliff faces and rocks. Everything turns dry and brittle. The only thing more depressing than the drive is what you find at the end of it all. It's not like the boring drive South through California where you get palm trees and Disneyland at the end. This drive has Spokane at the end of it. Yeah, not much of a prize for enduring the most painful 6 hours of driving known to man. Okay, I take that back; Iowa may have been worse. But I just have to remind myself that I get to hop on my bike tomorrow. And not only that, get to ride into some beautiful, mountainous, country scenery. It may just make up for all the dry nothingness of Eastern Washington.

Pretty vs. Ugly

Okay. To be fair, Spokane does seem like a decent little city. The downtown has a lot of cool older brick buildings, and the waterfront area is nice as well. It also has cool things like this:

And this:

The groups' spirits are high. Ben and Kim have only argued once so far, and that was over how a certain picture should be taken. Of course Kim's version came out a lot better...and Ben pouted, spending the next ten minutes trying to take a better picture. He never did. What makes it worse is that it was a picture of a barn...on a hill. Definetely not an award winning shot either way.

Besides that, the trip has been pretty uneventful so far. We did witness the worst parking lot engineering at the Dalles' Jack In The Box. We believe the genius behind the Oregon City Taco Bell parking lot has fled east to find a job with more suckers who are willing to give him a job. This moron put the drive-thru and the exit on the same path, essentially trapping everybody in the parking lot. The only way to get out without waiting for an hour or so is to back out from the way you came in; which is exactly what we did. Good driving, Ben!

Yep, that's been the highlights so far. No rattlesnakes, no accidents, no flat far so good. But then again, we haven't even gotten on our bikes yet.

So, I was trying to think of a clever way to end this blog entry. I wanted to find a way to bring back this whole thing to the beginning, tying it all together with a nice bow and everything. But I figured instead I'd give you the sensation of disappointment that this drive produces. It starts off good, but then dwindles down to complete boringness. Sorry; my inspiration has faded with the color.

May the following pictures inspire the deepest parts of your hearts:

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