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El fin.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


67 days, over 4,000 miles, 117 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I can now say I biked across the United States of America and it won’t be a lie.  I started my journey at Point Pleasant Beach, NJ on August 13th.  It was summer and rained for two days straight.  I got a flat before I had gone 50 miles.  Despite that I made it out of New Jersey and across Penn “what does flat mean” sylvania.  I blitzed through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois as fast as I could before I finally slowed down in Iowa.  I also started meeting incredibly friendly strangers who helped me along my way. Corn gave way to cattle as Iowa became Nebraska and then Colorado.  The Rockies proved to be fairly easy, but the next two states made up for it.  Utah was one of my hardest states, but also one of the most beautiful.  In Nevada I developed a love/hate relationship with Summit signs.  And California was a welcome return to warm weather. 

Today, Tuesday October 18, my journey ended at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes, CA just around sunset.  Not that you can tell from my picture due to the heavy fog.  It was exciting to finish, but I don’t think I’ve completely processed what it is I just did.  Looking back its hard to imagine that all those miles, each one difficult in its own way, added up to take me here.  Part of me is saying “holy crap, I can’t believe I just bike across the country, on a bicycle!”  But another part of me is going “ok, that was fun, what’s next?” 

I’d like to thank everyone who enjoyed the blog: friends, family, and people I don’t know but somehow found their way here. I’d especially like to thank everyone who let me be their guest: Greg, Christine, Dick, Polly, Jon, Suzanne, Tom, Jane, Todd, Dana, Tracey, Gia, Short, Deb, Bruce, Joan, David, Marsha, Ben, Randy, Lois, Mark, Jan, Keith, Rosa, Terri Ann, Lyman, Lynn, Jodie, Wally, Scott, Pam, and anyone I might have accidentally left out.  People were always suprised that I was riding by myself, but you all made sure I wasn’t lonely.

This will be the last official blog post.  I’ll probably do one more followup once I get home in a couple weeks, update the map and stats page, upload more photos, etc.  Thanks for sharing my journey with me.  I’ll be back for Part II: Eurotrip.

Sooooo close

Monday, October 17th, 2011


This should be my penultimate post.  I’ve made it into California and over the Sierra Nevada’s. I think yesterday had more downhill than any other day of my trip.  I went from 8,500ft at the top of Carson Pass down to around 2,000ft.  Its been weeks since I was below 3,500ft and I finally got to enjoy the payoff on all those interminable climbs.

My host last night was a homeless guy named Wally.  I was getting ready to setup camp in a local park when he came by and warned me that the cops would make me leave, so he invited me to his campsite.  There we had dinner with his neighbors Johnny Rotten and Annette. He cooked some awesome burgers.  We stayed up pretty late and talked about his life and my travels.  In the morning he wouldn’t let me leave without giving me some snacks for my ride.  I’ve met a lot of people on my journey and the one thing they all have in common is incredible hospitality.

Out of the wild

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

I arrived in Carson City today, capitol of Nevada.  Ever since I got into Fallon yesterday the loneliest road in America hasn’t been nearly that lonely.  Way more traffic than I’m used to seeing, and I actually passed through some suburbs.  I think I’m finally back to civilization existing more than every 60 miles.  Which is nice, though it was really easy knowing exactly which way I was going.  West on Route 50.  My map was mostly a reminder of him much farther I had to go.  Now I have to go back to figuring out what roads to take.

That’s helped by the following the Western Express cycling route.  Its also helped by Jody, my host for tonight.  She has biked across the country 3 times, and gave me some advice for getting over the Sierra Nevada’s, my final mountain range (I think.)  Very friendly, she had a lot of great stories about her trips.  Her fiance, Adrian, is in IT so we also talked a little shop, but talked more about winter camping and outdoorsiness in general.  A fun evening, and they even got me a Halloween cupcake.  Less than a week to go!

Middle(gate) of nowhere

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011


This post comes to you from Middlegate Station, Nevada.  Originally a stop for stagecoaches and the Pony Express, its now a bar and motel.  Its also one of the few islands of civilization on the 110 mile stretch between the towns of Austin and Fallon.  A very friendly place, I’m currently relaxing and getting drunk on $1 draught beers.

In bicycling news yesterdays ride was no fun.  A nasty headwind meant that even on flat stretches I could only go about 10mph.  Add in a couple of passes, including one that I ended my day with, and it was one of my slowest days.  It must have been karma for stealing breakfast.

Remember the coffee shop I mentioned in my last post? Well I stopped in for breakfast, hung out for a couple hours, and then completely forgot to pay.  I’m going to send them a check once I get back, but I still feel bad, especially given how helpful and friendly the owner Margie was.

Today’s ride went much better.  No wind, and fairly easy passes.  I can’t wait till I can ride a whole day without seeing a sign that says “Blah Blah Summit, Elev. A billion ft.”  Its made worse by the fact that my map frequently leaves out passes, and usually the higher ones.  My last pass should be this weekend, so I shouldn’t have to wait long.

Its the final countdown

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

*dun nuh nuh nuh….dun nuh nah nah nuh….*

I made it to Eureka, NV yesterday.  I could have done the ride from Ely to Eureka in one day but decided to break it up by stopping at the Illipah Reservoir, about 40 miles from both towns.  That’s my campsite above.  Fairly uneventful couple of days, though I did get some surprise rain yesterday.  It was supposed to be clear all week but all the mountain ranges make for some unpredictable weather.

Route 50 through Nevada is part of the Western Express, a bicycle route designed by the American Cycle Association.  As a result they get a lot of cyclists coming through.  The woman who runs the coffee shop I stopped in to warm up informed me that I had 9 days left before reaching San Francisco, based on other cyclists experinces. So its last leg of my trip, at least across the country.  I’ll still have a week long ride down the coast to LA, but the end is near.

2 months ago…

Sunday, October 9th, 2011


In a land far, far away (New Jersey,) I began my journey.  And as you can see I also have 2 states to go.  Its been a cold and arduous couple of days.  The “short” ride to Milford ended up being my first snow day.  There is a decent ascent between Cedar City and Milford which was high enough for the rain to become snow.  That was interesting.  I stopped in a town about 10 miles away from Milford and hung out at a gas station for a couple hours till I warmed up.

That night was below freezing.  I know because I woke up in middle of the night with ice on my tent.  I wasn’t very cold, despite the fact that my sleeping bag is only rated to 35°, because I’ve learned a couple tricks for dealing with the cold.  The primary trick is to wear almost all the clothes I brought.  Two thermal shirts, both bicycling shirts, a fleece, wind jacket, thermal pants, bicycle shorts (just one pair,) leg warmers, regular pants, gloves, and socks.  The other trick is to put my feet in plastic bags under said socks.  It creates a vapor barrier that keeps them warm.

The following day was the 80+ mile ride of nothing but climbs.  Water wasn’t a problem because I don’t drink that much when it never gets above 50°.  The 3 climbs did make for a slow day, but not too difficult. I made it into Baker,NV around sunset and ended up camping about 20 meters from Route 50, the Loneliest Road In America.  Freezing again, but again wore all my clothes and did fine. Woke up early and headed out for Ely, NV. 

It looked to be an easy 50 mile day, but then I noticed the 7,100 and 7,700 feet summits.  What I’ve learned is that while some places like Iowa have rolling hills, Nevada has rolling mountains.  Its just range after range, and I have to bike over all of them.  Eventually I made it into Ely and started looking for a place to camp.

While looking for a place I also checked the weather and saw it was going to be in the mid 20s tonight.  While I would have been ok I probably wouldn’t have been that comfortable.  So I decided to get a hotel.  A women in the McDonald’s recommended the historic Hotel Nevada and the $35 casino rate sealed the deal.  While checking in I saw they had Texas Hold’em and how could I resist? I played for about 3 hours and made enough to cover my hotel bill with a little extra.  Mostly just folded a run of really bad cards, but eventually doubled up with AA.  Pretty nice getting a free room.

Waiting out the weather

Thursday, October 6th, 2011


I’m still in Cedar City this morning.  Due to some nasty weather going through the region I stayed an extra day with Lynn and his family.  Yesterday had winds up to 40 MPH.  While it would have been a tailwind practically making members fly to my next stop, the cold and the rain would have made for an unhappy day.  In addition my stop after that, Baker, NV, had a winter storm warning!  Given that that ride will be one of the hardest, 80+ miles with no service and 3 passes to climb, I felt there was no reason to make it worse.  I felt even better about my decision when I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground.  It melted pretty quick, but still.

So instead I used the day to get some work done on my bike.  My pedals have been slowly deteriorating and two days ago half of the right pedal completely broke off.  Those have been replaced and I also picked up some new tubes.  I had to throw out my spare a couple days ago because the valve broke.  It had 8 patches on it.  Fortunately I’ve been flat free since replacing my rear tire, but I feel much better now. Especially since I don’t know when I’ll be seeing another bike shop as I enter the desolate wasteland known as Nevada.

I know I’ve said this a bunch of times, but all my Warmshowers hosts have been great.  I felt like I was a member of the family yesterday as I ate dinner and afterwards played Scrabble with Lynn’s kids, Ian and Adrienne. (Which I won btw.  Adrienne is in 1st grade, but Ian is in college and needs to learn to not open up the triple word square so easily.)
This morning we all left at the same time, me to head to Milford, and they were going to Salt Lake City to pick up the other member of their family who was returning from his mission in Brazil.

As I said I’m about to head into more remote areas so I’m not sure what kind of Internet access I’ll have. I apologize in advance if posts aren’t as regular.  Enjoy another shot of Bryce Canyon in the meantime.

Thrills, chills, and more hills

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011


Right after I wrote and uploaded yesterday’s post it started to rain.  So I hauled ass to my campsite for the night and threw up my tent as quick as possible.  Woke up at 6am today in order to get on the first shuttle through Bryce Canyon.  Totally worth it.  Bryce was awesome, as you can see behind me.  Spent 3 hours checking it out and taking pictures of hoodoos.  That’s the first thrill. 

I then embarked on my 80+ mile ride to Cedar City.  The first part was nice, including I think the first bike trail I’ve seen in Utah.  After that things got nasty.  20 mile ride south with the worst headwind I’ve dealt with so far.  Going downhill I was only doing 10mph.  It felt like if I stopped peddaling I would have rolled backwards. I then headed west into Dixie National Forest.  The trees blocked a lot of the wind, which made me feel a little better as I slowly made my way up to Midway Summit.  I gained about 2,500ft elevation to get to the top.  It also rained…again.  Not so much as last time, though the elevation made it cold enough on its own. 

After getting to the top my efforts were rewarded with the second thrill.  The final 15 miles were all downhill.  I didn’t have to pedal at all and went between 25-30mph the whole way.  Very fun, but so very cold.  Its an odd sensation when your body is sweating but you can’t feel your toes. 

Tonight I’m staying with Lynn and his family.  His son Ian has done some short tours and we swapped stories.  Once again, thanks to them for putting me up.

5mi @ 8% + rain = :(

Monday, October 3rd, 2011


Wow, I think yesterday sucked even more than Friday.  I went over Boulder Mountain which included a 5 mile ride up an 8% grade.  Plus 10 more miles at 5-7% grades.  Did I mention it was raining and cold? I could barely feel my fingers.  It was so bad that after I got off the mountain (a bone-chilling ride, though it did help dry me out) that I couldn’t unbuckled my helmet with one hand.  I had to use both hands and kinda jam them into the buckle. It took about 30 seconds to finally get it off.

The ride today was much better.  Lots of downhill or very gradual uphills.  Only the ride to the entrance of Bryce Canyon NP was particularly steep.  I swear, its like my rides are Star Trek movies, or Windows releases. (Note for non-nerds.  Its generally accepted that every even numbered Trek movie is better than odd numbered ones.  Likewise Windows generally alternates good versions with bad.  See Windows XP vs Vista.)

I got in too late to see Bryce Canyon so I’m going to camp nearby and wake up early to see it via shuttle.  I would love to bike it, but I already have an 80 mile ride ahead of me tomorrow.

Ups and downs

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011


The last two days have been rough.  Friday had a 60 mile ride from Green River to Hanksville with nothing in between.  No towns, no gas stations, no water, no shade.  Lots of sun and hills though.  Wasn’t even scenic.  It was made even worse by the fact that I got more flats that day than my entire first month on the road.  Four or five, I honestly lost count.  It was overall a sucktastic day with a capital FML. 

I think the biggest problem is my rear tire is a mere shadow of its former self.  So this morning I replaced it with the spare I’ve been carrying for 3000 miles.  No flats today, though I suspect slow leaks in both front and rear tires.  I’ll know more in the morning.

Today was better.  I rode through Capitol Reef NP which has petroglyphs, cool rocks, and a Mormon schoolhouse.  Plus some other stuff, but I only saw what was on the main road.  It was still not an easy day being mostly uphill and 1300ft elevation gained in the last 11 miles.  But at least it was much prettier than yesterday.  I’m also staying with Lyman, another Warmshowers friend, who cooked a huge meal of pesto with chicken.  He is very friendly and apparently gets people staying weekly.  So a big thanks for putting up so many tired and hungry cyclists.