A final note

A month and a half after my return, I have finally finished writing about the journey. For those who enjoyed it along the way, thank you for reading. Just as the strength from people at home and along our path kept us pedaling, the support from readers who told me they really enjoyed the blog kept me writing. I did spend a lot of time to try to make the writing entertaining to read, realizing at times 8 hours of bike riding can be somewhat mundane. Thanks to those who noticed.

I must say it occasionally felt a bit selfish to continually write about me me me, but I know that for many people the blog helped them feel as if they were experiencing the trip with us. In truth, I'm glad people enjoyed it as much as they did, because it kept me on top of my diary/journal. Years from now, we'll be able to relive some memories that may have otherwise faded.

The trip was certainly life changing. Biking for 6-9 hours 6 days out the week leaves a lot of time for thinking. Paul and I each saw one another and ourselves in all ranges of emotion, though overwhelmingly positive, eager, and adventurous. At times the physical challenges were intimidating, however Paul and I would both say that the mental trials far outweighed the physical. Biking for days into seemingly endless winds, not seeing the sun for a week, seeing the same person every minute of every day for 4 months, and figuring out safe, efficient routes and places to eat and sleep every day in new territory often wore on us. Yet in the grand scheme of things, these are but mere inconveniences, which helped us gain a perspective and appreciation of how fortunate we are for all that we have. Still, these trying times instilled a toughness, a newfound confidence, and a mind-over-matter mentality in me that further assures me and hopefully others how some truly amazing things are attainable when one follows a passion by which he is driven.

Along the way, we saw, tasted, felt, heard, and smelled some amazing things; but in the end, it was the great people that we met who left the biggest impact on us. The hospitality and generosity that was ingrained in the fiber of so many of the people we met along the way was reason enough for such a lengthy trip.

Since having returned, I have been unable to put the bike down. After navigating some long-stretching desolate land, I have also gained a new appreciation of living in a place in which everything you need is within a few miles. I hope to never need a car again.

For fun, I've compiled a few stats and anecdotes to quantify and conceptualize highlights of the trip after the fact. Here goes:

We biked…

a total of 6013 miles from Key West to Seattle to San Diego.

equivalent to 381 million inches

for over 460 hours, 1.67 million seconds, or 19 ¼ days of straight riding

This required roughly…

2.2 million revolutions of the pedals

4.66 million revolutions of the wheel (more for the front)

I burned… (we'll use me since it sounds more impressive because Paul is much lighter)

on average about 6,000 calories a riding day (therefore ate that much daily as well)

and a total of 5.4 million calories from biking alone.

I drank…

a loooot of water. Don't have any reasonable stats on that, but a gallon on a riding day is not out of the question. It depended a lot on the air and weather.

a ton of chocolate milk (maybe literally)

a lot of dessert things from Sonic

some Fat Tires

I ate…

countless peanut butter sandwiches.

bunch of Clif Bars towards the end.

so many other amazing things that I wrote about in each and every blog

We went through…

6 tubes each

2 tires each

one bike that held up very well for both of us

I took…

roughly 5,000 pictures which equates to nearly 1 a mile. In reality I took many more, but many were really really bad.

Shortest day "“ about 30 miles

Longest day "“ about 130 miles

My very hesitant favorite place "“ Boulder, Colorado (close 2nd = 30 places in California)

Paul and I…

snorkled in the Florida Keys

biked through the everglades (nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes)

saw roadkill alligator

spelunked in Florida caves

each fell a couple times (my last one embarrassingly late in Fort Collins, Colorado)

stayed in about 25 separate homes

went to both Disney parks

almost barfed from too much sweet tea

recited nearly all of dumb and dumber chronologically one morning ride

had a beer on bourbon st. in New Orleans

crossed 3 time zones

crossed the Mississippi in Mississippi

hijacked 1 fire station

narrowly averted 1 (almost 2) tornadoes

passed a billion …cows…horses…haystacks…other cropfields

went cliff jumping in Pueblo, Colorado

went white water rafting in Colorado

went over the royal gorge

saw the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

got pulled over on the highway and got back on when the cops left

went to a water park in Denver

went to the art museum in Denver

went rafting in rapids in Boulder

drove up the flatirons in Boulder

went to red rocks outside of Denver

went to New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins

went to 4th of July fireworks in Fort Collins

biked over the highest continuously paved highway in the United States (12,183 ft.)

biked over rabbit ears pass into Steamboat Springs

saw lots of snow in the summer

went to Rocky Mountain, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Sequoia, Grand Canyon national parks

went in hot springs in Oregon and Steamboat Springs

played frisbee golf in Steamboat and Santa Cruz

slept in a diner (just Paul on this one)

crossed the continental divide like 10 times

saw bison, bears, elk, and many deer

made many fewer fires than we should have

were met by the late, great Marky Mark Celgarski for a wonderful week

received $125 fine at GNP and consequently a warrant for my arrest in Montana (shhh)

saw an amazing Native American pow wow

went to Gonzaga

went to Pike's Market and got fish thrown in Seattle

rode most of the pacific coast

met Meghan and other friends in Oregon

saw Prefontaine's old stomping grounds

went to the bar that Moe's from the Simpsons is modeled after

saw Manny get traded to the Dodgers on TV

watched the olympics begin the night we got into California

saw redwoods and sequoias

stayed in someone's apartment who never met us when they weren't there

ate in-n-out burger

rode over the Golden Gate Bridge

went to visit Google campus in Mountain View (not Paul… he chose to shower)

Ghirardelli, BYOB comedy, watched Sea Lions in San Francisco

got kicked off "a division 1 football field" in Fresno

saw the biggest tree in the world in Sequoia National Park the General Sherman

rode through Big Sur

saw California Condors

went out on State St. in Santa Barbara

camped in Malibu

went to a Dodgers game where Manny didn't homer (the amazing part)

went down Rodeo drove, and west Hollywood

conquered muscle beach

rolled through the O.C. …. Huntington and Laguna beaches

sailed in San Diego

did nearly all of Balboa Park in San Diego, including the Zoo (this was just me)

caught a ride from San Diego to Phoenix using Craigslist

hiked in Sedona

hiked 6 miles into the Grand Canyon

road through nearly all climates and terrains

continually joked as if girls were hitting on us because of our cool bikes

sarcastically mocked bad advice to keep us sane

had the times of our lives.

biked through 14 states, and finished in the 15th in Arizona in car

A special thanks goes out to:

all of the people that hosted us

those that supported us from home

those that called to see how things were going, commented on the blog, or just read and enjoyed hearing about us

Marky Mark Ceglarski for fueling us at just the right time

Mark Addesso for meeting us in Arizona, and also for the super complex code for the tracking system

I would strongly recommend bike touring to anyone who has any amount of time to dedicate to traveling. We have seen people of all shapes (some quite heavy) and ages (65 and one over 70) touring. It truly is the best way to experience the feel of a place, and people are very helpful and generous to a traveling biker.  One piece of advice would be to maybe try a shorter tour at first in case you don't like it.  We were fortunate.

Finally, a huge thanks to my partner in crime (literally at times) Paul Yovino, who showed up at my going away party, and decided he was coming along the next day. I cannot imagine the trip without you brother, and I couldn't have been blessed with a better partner.

Life was and is great.

Day 121, September 16th 2008, beginning in Sedona, Arizona and ending in Boston, Massachusetts

Excited to be home, I woke at 3:50 and couldn't sleep. After absorbing jesting ridicule and mockery from me on the subject, Mark would later suggest that maybe there was some energy at the vortex in Sedona and that it was the reason for my early rise. There may have been other reasons, but it's best to keep an open mind. At any rate, I made it down to the lobby well before breakfast, which made the lobby guy a bit uneasy. They had a TV and I watched news about the 6th worst day in stock market history while I wrote on my laptop.

When breakfast time rolled around, I had first pick at the wide assortment of two different kinds of muffins they had. Yum.

I returned to the room around 7:00 and roused the troops. We gathered our stuff, and headed out for the last time. They picked up some food as we checked out of the hotel, and we were off. Paul wanted to get a shirt to wear since most of his clothes were ruined, and Mark needed a coffee so we stopped on our way out of town. It only took Paul about half an hour to choose a t-shirt to wear. It was then that I realized that the shorts I got for the trip, were still drying outside at the hotel. It wasn't far to turn back for them, but they were all but completely stained and destroyed anyway, so I scrapped them. Goodbye still somewhat gray generic shorts, you have served me well. I will cherish the times we shared. After the mourning, we got back in the car, and were off to Phoenix.

We arrived in less than two hours with hardly any traffic of significance. When we dropped off the car, I made sure we got a final picture. When we walked out to our terminals, I had to take a separate tram so I said goodbye to my brothers. For Mark, it wasn't so weird, I hadn't seen him in a while, and I would see him again in a week. For Paul, the person I had spent nearly every waking moment with for the last 4 months exactly, it was a bit odd to say the least. I would see him again soon as well, but I'm sure for a while things would feel a little different. Mark and I were returning home, while Paul was visiting a friend in Salt Lake City before he made the eventual re-entry.

When I got on my tram I began speaking with a woman who was also flying to Salt Lake City. We got to talking, and guess where her husband was from. Monroe, CT, the same place Paul is from. What are the chances? It never ceases to amaze me.

I arrived in my terminal with plenty of extra time, and was able to upload the last of the photos on my camera. The trip was over and I, a changed man for sure, was flying home to see family and friends for the first time in months.

And so the journey ends….

Life was good.

p.s. Maybe some trip stats and whatnot to come.

Day 120, September 15th 2008, beginning in the Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona

Mark got up at about 4:30, and headed out to watch the sunrise and grab some food. He had felt a lot better after the Tylenol and plenty of sleep. When Mark returned, I got up. We decided that we would head back to Sedona for the day since we had seen the canyon, and needed to head back towards Phoenix for our flights the following day. Paul and I snacked on some of the remaining food from the day before, and we packed up and left the Grand Canyon.

We came in from the south, so we decided to take the eastern exit to leave the canyon. We stopped at a cool vista point to take a departure picture [PICTURE] before leaving the park. In fact, Mark stopped at virtually every single pull off there was exiting the park. Paul and I began throwing rocks at one of the stops. Man was that fun; there is nowhere better to throw rocks than the Grand Canyon… or so we thought.

When we finally got out of the park, we drove for a bit and came upon two separate Native American booths. Mark of course bought something from each place as he was in uber tourist mode. The second reservation (not sure if that's the right name), bordered the Little Colorado River Canyon. Paul and I, infused with the desire to throw more rocks, found a nice spot at the edge of the canyon and began tossing. It was difficult to follow, but on just the right toss, we could see the rocks hit the Little Colorado River. Among hundreds of throws, it only happened a handful of times, but when it did it was worth it.

We left the Little Colorado and headed back towards Flagstaff. It was about the right time for lunch, so we stopped back at the Mexican restaurant Ai Caramba for some foodski. We met the wife, of the man (the owners) who had served us the first time. She was as pleasant as he.

Before we ate, I returned a phone call from Bank of America about potential fraudulent use of my card. Upon returning the call, it unfortunately wasn't fraudulent use, and were all of my actual transactions. I found it really funny that on the day before the end of the trip, after having traveled the country constantly spending money in different states, it was only then they found suspicious activity. Apparently it was because I made a few small, consecutive purchases at one place, which identity thiefs will do to "test" a card. Oh well, nice that they are watching.

When we finished eating, we headed towards Sedona. We missed our turn at one point, and had to continue on missing a rock slide that we were considering going to. Instead we saw beautiful yellow meadows. When we got near Sedona, we stopped at a visitor's center to make sure we picked the best hike. We decided on a hike up to Cathedral Rock, a fairly well known place in Sedona. As Mark had told me, and the people at the visitor's center had reinforced, Sedona is regarded as a very spiritual place. People claim and even map out where these "vortexes" or particularly strong spiritual areas where you can feel the energy exist. Sure enough, there was said to be a powerful one at the top of Cathedral Rock. Here we go.

Much of the path was a nice stroll, but the last quarter mile or more was a fairly vertical ascent . Mark, a new man from his rest and drugs, and Paul with his sandals had no trouble. When we made it to the top, we stayed for a while. We investigated all of the rock, and relaxed enjoying the breeze. Mark left his mark (pun intended)

look closely
look closely

atop the cathedral as the rest of us enjoyed the views. { I began vibing off the energy from the vortex , while Danielson and Mark posed for pictures before heading back down.

We had to hurry down, because Mark wanted to get a nice shot of the red rocks glow as the sun was setting. We made it in time, and he did not disappoint.

We got back in the car, and headed for downtown Sedona for a place to stay and eat. After a little searching, we ended up in a Super 8 motel. We went to a restaurant down the street, and filled up. All this hiking, and only trail mix to snack on made for some big appetites.

After dinner, we headed back to the motel. We went swimming briefly in the pool, where we met some Canadians who were doing a summer tour. They were cool eh, but so was the pool, so we didn't last long before heading back to the room.

As we settled in, so did the feeling of the end of the trip. We finished up the Jamie Foxx standup on my computer for Mark, and then followed it up with the movie "Grandma's Boy". I couldn't believe that tomorrow night I would be back on the east coast returning to normal life. A bit sad that this tremendous journey was coming to a close, but more excited to see family and friends again, I played an all too familiar role of falling asleep to the movie.

Home awaited the following day.

Life was good.

…. stay tuned for the completely anti-climactic and more or less boring flight home the following day…

Day 119, September 14th 2008, beginning in the Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona

Mark and I got up at 6:00 to make it down the road to the Bright Angel Lodge. We had placed ourselves on a waiting list for the Phantom Ranch, which is a hotel on the canyon floor. Mark felt the need to, and I quote, "freshen up" before we left, so we used the bathroom. When we got over to the Bright Angel Lodge, it was approaching 6:30, which was when they started calling names on the waiting list. We didn't park in the right spot, and weren't quite sure of its location so we got out to look around. Time was ticking, so we split up. I assume we both figured out where it was about the same time, and we both ended up running. I heard my name called from right outside the door as I barged into the room. It was destiny!! Or not… they only had one vacancy, meaning like one cot. Damn.

We had missed one opportunity, but our other option would be to camp in the canyon. The back country camping place didn't open until 8:00, so we got some breakfast in the meantime. We also both got our first glimpse of the canyon. What a magnificent hole! It was truly majestic, and can never be expressed in words.

Breakfast was good.

After breakfast, Mark drove over to the back country permit place and I walked. He beat me there, and I knew when I walked in that things weren't looking good. There was a large line and people had numbers well ahead of us. It turned out that there were no additional permits going out for that day, let alone the 13 we would have needed to be included. We were S.O.L.

We hastily headed back to the campsite as we would need to do all of the hiking in one day. To trump that thought, I came up with the brilliant idea of "stealth camping", (not sure if I used that term before) or camping where you're not supposed to, in the canyon. Paul was still sleeping off an illness he seemed to have picked up in the prior few days, but it was not a democratic descion; he was in. Mark was hesitant to the idea at best, but nevertheless, we packed all we would need to do such a thing, and headed out. We would need food that would last us two days, as the only way to get food in the canyon is through a reservation at the Phantom Ranch. We stopped at the market that was closed the night before and stocked up on all sorts of Clif bars and trail mixes.

We renewed our campsite in case it didn't work out, and so we had a place to keep the car, and we got in the bus to head over to the Bright Angel trail. We chose it because it had water, and would take us all the way down. Due to delays with the bus, and all the stuff we tried to do in the morning, we didn't start until about 10:00. It was Paul's first time seeing the Grand Canyon as we began our hike down. By the way, the always prepared Paul was wearing sandals.

The tour guide told us the first 1.5 miles of hiking is the vertical difference of the Sears Tower. It didn't seem that bad, as we all felt good at our first rest stop 1.5 miles in. By the time we got to our next stop however, 3 miles in, Mark was feeling sick. He took some pictures of me and decided he couldn't go any farther. Stealth camping was off. Damnit.

After a bit of deliberation, Paul and I decided that we would snag the camera and hike down to Plateau Point, a spot 6 miles into the canyon. We agreed, and went our separate ways. Knowing we would return, and the fact that no one would want to carry extra weight, I left all of our stuff, minus the camera, in the 3 mile rest station. Good move.

With no weight, and Paul in his sandals, we virtually flew down the path to the next few stops. Along the way we saw the donkey riders , again more vegetation than expected , and the Colorado River, which we hadn't seen yet.

When we got down to Plateau point, we met a stoner who was waiting about 5 hours to watch the sunset, and asked us if we were doing the same. Probably not buddy. I did one of my favorite poses of the trip { , and we hung out for a while enjoying the views. Time was not on our side however, and the sun went down shortly after 6:00, so we quickly headed back up the canyon.

We stopped to pick up the bag in the 3 mile marker and noticed a rather tame fury friend. Have you ever seen a squirrel so tame?

The rest of the walk up was pretty quick, and quit similar to the walk down. We had fun looking ahead for people and trying to catch up to them. Another memorable thing was the amount of donkey (I hope) waste , and the lovely aroma that came with it. Yummy.

We marched out of the top of the canyon with time to spare. We were quite sweaty, and fairly tired though. It was nice to see the bus stop, and we parked it on the benches, and waited for it to arrive. The bus came and quickly dropped us back off at the campground. Mark had gotten back in his sleeping bag and was resting when we got back. He was not feeling too hot at all. On the contrary, when I felt his head, it was burning up. On the contrary, it wasn't literally burning, but merely above average in temperature.

We set up the tent for Mark to get in as he wasn't going anywhere. Paul and I went to go get food at the deli in the market, and Mark asked for some Tylenol. We went to the market, and got some food. It was good. Then we perused the gift shops for a while. I ended up getting a 24 pack of postcards to send to all the people we had brought us into their homes. I didn't do the exact counting on the spot, but figured to play it safe. When I got home, and eventually filled them all out, it turned out not to be enough. Crazy isn't it? Anyway, we also got some wood and a lighter to build a fire.

When we returned we began building the fire. I was only able to find a big bottle of Tylenol, so I didn't get it. Mark really needed though, so I went back and picked just that up. He popped the Tylenol and was out again. Yikes, and I have to sleep in the tent with these two sickos.

When we got the fire to a good blaze, we played burn the receipt game. Paul's wallet was about as thick as a Christmas Ham, and it sure as shit wasn't from money, as he ran out I think in Florida. For some reason, he had stock piled receipts from much of the trip. We spent a long time going through them one by one remembering where we were and what we were doing. It was a warm, reflective moment around the campfire that gave us some laughs, and maybe even a tear (…what, Paul… not me obviously). The farthest back receipt he had saved was from a motel in Louisiana. Ha, how lame… back in our motel days.

After that we let our limited supply of wood burn down, and we went to bed. Mark must have been having a dream he was a chainsaw, because he was doing a hell of an impersonation in his sleep. He also conveniently turned our tight 3 man tent, into a one person dictatorship all while we were sitting around the fire. Oh well, no worries, the poor guy needed some R and R to get back to an enjoyable vacation. I really felt bad for him, and hoped that the next day would be a more enjoyable one.

I must say that the Grand Canyon is everything it's cracked up to be and more. I wasn't able to do it this trip, but I do plan to do a rim to rim hike and stay in the Phantom Ranch at some point, to get the full effect of the grandeur that is the Grand Canyon. But for the present, I was quite happy with what we had seen and done.

Life was good.

Day 118, September 13th 2008, beginning in Phoenix, Arizona

We got up at 7:00, Mark showered up, and we hit the road. The parking that we were promised was free the night before, was not, so we and by we I mean Mark, paid and we left. We were heading towards some ruins, and possibly Sedona on the way to the Grand Canyon, where we would make it that night.

After a lot of searching, we finally happened upon an Old County Buffet for breakfast. Perfect. We were all really hungry, and there seemed to be nothing for miles. We feasted like bike in the old days when we biked across the country. It was good just what we needed for the long day of car riding ahead of us.

We left the OCB and headed for the first set of ruins Mark had researched. They didn't exist. He printed out the directions, and we followed them, but there was nothing there. There were a few more that he had "researched" that were now called into question. We were able to stop at a visitor's center on our way towards Sedona to ask for some local advice. There we got some maps, and such, but the lady we spoke to was unaware of any Indian ruins.

With her directions we headed towards Sedona, coming over a beautiful pass with a long reaching view of a large valley. Like so many others, this picture doesn't nearly due justice to the richness of the colors that can be seen first hand. On the other side of the mountain was a small town by the name of Jerome. It was built into the side of the mountain, likely for some protection many years ago, and was a tourist haven. The road was lined with cars occupying every single parking spot available.

We continued down the mountain, and stopped at gas station to get some drinks for the rest of the day as well as some more advice from people with maps in a little booth out front of the store. They instructed us to check out the Indian ruins that were in Sedona. So we did. We missed the turn for them and ended up stopping in one last tourist center in Sedona. We righted the ship, and were heading towards the Pulatki cliff dwellings. It took a while to get there, since once we got off the main road, it was a pretty bumpy ride suitable for a jeep, not the compact Mark got.

On our way into the dwellings we spotted some Prickly Pear cacti. They were not nearly as sweet at their milkshake form, so our stop didn't last long. We got to the dwellings which were actually pretty neat. The cliff side apparently acted as a nice safe haven in terms of weather, which helped preserve the ruins as water virtually never reach the area to erode anything. There was also a lot of art on the walls that was interpreted by the local rangers to the best of their ability. Some ideas seemed logical while others, an absolute guess.

It was a nifty stop. Our next was in Sedona. Sedona is apparently known for their turquoise, so he wanted to get some for his wife. The store was a bit of a bust, but feeling the need to shop like most women, Mark bought a book instead.

We left there and headed for Flagstaff on our way to the Canyon. On our way to Flagstaff, we drove through the Oak Creek Canyon. It was a beautiful place with actual running water, and it was really heavily forested. A bit out of place compared to its surroundings.

When we got to Flagstaff, we stopped at a Mexican joint. The service was second to none at the restaurant, and the food was delicious too. Good people.

After that, we headed to the Canyon. I took over behind the wheel, since Mark was sick of driving. The sun began going down as we drove towards the canyon. We again drove through some forests, well the paved part at least, and enjoyed the twilight scenery.

When we pulled into the Grand Canyon, we quickly navigated to our campground. Much to our chagrin, the Canyon walls were not lit at night by artificial lighting, a true crime to humanity. Some crap about preserving nature meant we would have to wait until the stupid sun rose to actually see anything. On our way to our campsite we passed a market which we planned on returning to after setting up the tent.

Paul wasn't feeling too hot, so he decided to call it a night early while Mark and I headed down to the market. When we got there, the market had closed. There was a restaurant still opened, where Mark and I got a beer. It was a nice way to finish the day after an energy depleting day of sitting down. It wasn't the end of Mark's day however, when he noticed a gift shop was still open. Unable to resist his urge to splurge (just thought of that), he went and bought something for all of the members of his immediate family. I loved giving him a hard time, and then he pointed out that I'm cheap so it all works.

After that, we headed back and tried to get to bed early. We had to get up for 6:00 to figure out where we would be sleeping in the canyon the following night. We were right near the edge of this massive hole, but couldn't see it as it was nearly completely dark. The Grand Canyon lay ahead the next day. Lovely.

Life was good.

Day 117, September 12th 2008, beginning in San Diego, California

We got up early so that we were ready for Kelly. Paul told me he woke up earlier, at about 2:00 when Saul was pumping his tire in our room. Somehow I didn't wake up, but found it funny that Paul did. This guy was an avid biker. Good for him. I did wake up a little before 5:00 when a friend on the east coast was not sensitive to the time difference, and gave a call on the way to work. Sometimes Connor can be a little absent minded.

We ate the remaining cereal, and packed up our few remaining goods. Kelly called (thank god), and arrived to pick us up a few minutes later. Paul informed me that apparently Kelly was an attractive woman. I took him for his word, since I clearly did not have an opinion.

I smoothed over the "axe murder" situation quickly, and she told me that she tried to text back, and thought it was funny. Quite the relief.

I sat in the back before our first stop because I figured Paul the aggressive guy that he is, would probably be hitting on her. Within minutes, we were already in the desert. It would have been a pretty tough ride, as the temperature soared well into the 90's, and the hills leaving San Diego were not pleasant. I think we made the right choice.

After about two hours into the trip, we were approaching Arizona. We stopped very briefly at a rest stop where we got water, and used the bathrooms. When we got back in, I sat up front. I saw a sign for Dateland, AZ with "world famous" (yeah, I'm sure) milkshakes. It seemed like a good place to stop for hunger, time, and gas purposes. As we approached Arizona, we dipped down close enough to Mexico to see the border fence, a stark black wall amidst rolling sandy desert.

We crossed a bridge, and entered "The Grand Canyon State" , my last state before returning home. Dateland was another 45 minutes over the border. It was a lot of the same stuff… desert.

When we got there, it basically consisted of this one restaurant and a gas station. All we needed. We ate our food, while reading these books that were sold at the restaurant that were intended to be comedy. I think it was a local author, and remember how unfunny they were. It was really bad. However, after the meal, it was desert dessert time. You like how I did that? They had traditional milkshakes, as well as prickly pear cactus shake, and I believe a pomegranate-date shake. Both were good, and although I may have liked a vanilla better, I figured when in Rome… and got the prickly pear cactus shake. Yum.

We left Dateland with about two hours to left to Scottsdale, right outside of Phoenix. Mark would be arriving in Phoenix around midnight, and us about 3:00 in the afternoon. With all the extra time, Kelly invited us to hang out with her at the Hyatt, the hotel at which she was considering working. Sounds like a plan. Kelly had lived in San Diego for a while and was working at a Hyatt there, and was thinking about moving. She had lived in many places throughout the states, but had never been to Phoenix. Oddly enough, Kelly was originally from Falmouth, Mass on the Cape, a place where Meghan has family, and I had been to in the last year or so. Nifty, I'm not going to say small word again…. …. ….. tiny world?

When we arrived at the hotel, we were in awe. I think the best word to describe it would be ballin' (I can't wait to look back at this 20 years from now and realize how stupid that sounds). It had a massive pool that wrapped around much of the backside of the hotel. The pool had a beach section where the floor was filled with sand. There were several hot tubs. It was incredible. We dropped our stuff in her room and went down the pool.

When we settled up, Kelly only asked for $20 between the two of us. She assured me that it was fine, so I didn't fit it. For most of the rest of the day we hung out by the pool, oh yeah that I forgot to mention had a water slide too! We had a few drinks, and relaxed in the beautiful Arizona air.

We were saddened by how early the sun was going down now that it was mid September. When it was getting dark, we headed back to the room. Kelly was able to get us a discount at another Hyatt right near the airport. She considered letting us take her car there while she went out, but we thought it would just complicate things for the next day, so we decided against it.

Kelly got ready to go out since she was meeting some friends. Before she left, we went down to the bar to have a drink with her before we said goodbye. At this point, my camera, again, stopped functioning. Are you kidding me, right before the Grand Canyon. Ahhhh!

There was a nice band playing some music down by the bar, and rich people filled the room while Paul and I set in mesh shorts and t-shirts carrying around our remaining panniers in hand. Kelly left (awaiting on pictures from her), and we sat and listened to the band.

Figuring a cab ride would likely run us about $50, we decided to wait for Mark to arrive and pick us up in his rental car. Sorry Mark, but you know I'm cheap. Paul reminded me that Mark's original plan was to pick us up wherever we were, so the next town over wasn't so bad relatively speaking.

Mark gave us a call and there he was out front. I was glad he had made it… a man of his word from about 6 months prior. We GPSed our way to the other Hyatt, and made our way up to our room. It must have felt like 3:30 am for Mark, but he didn't show signs of it. Instead of going straight to bed like I expected us all to do, we stayed up for a while, and watched a stand up Jamie Foxx performance, that Paul and I had become quite familiar with over the past month or so. Mark, who had not known of Foxx's comedic career before his big time acting, enjoyed it thoroughly.

It was fun to enjoy it with him, but did get us all to bed quite late, and we would be up early the next morning so as not to waste Arizona.

What else can I say on this broken record of a blog, but again things worked out. Thanks to Kelly, who was fun to ride with and evidently quite affordable as well. We were excited to end the trip with what would likely be the most spectacular sight we would have seen. Time would tell.

Life was good.

Day 116, September 11th 2008, beginning in San Diego, California

The day had finally come. No, not quite the end of the trip, but it WAS time to send the bikes home. After well over 6,000 miles of riding, it was time to send ol' bessy back to the east coast. She had done good by me over the past four months.

Paul wasn't feeling so hot, so he slept in a bit. When he got up, we took that last fateful ride down to a bike shop that was right down the street. It ended up being nearly as much of a production to disassemble the bikes, as it had been to assemble them, way back in mid May. I had to switch my box twice, once because the first was ripped, and the second one wasn't big enough.  There were a few casualties from the trip, namely the effect of Paul smashing into the back of me, braking my rack. If you look closely, you can see the bungee cords that I left on the broken rack that we threw away.  Damnit By box 3, about an hour after Paul was done, I was ready to say goodbye to the bike.

We carried the heavy, awkward boxes over a block and a half to a shipping business. My bike cost another $45 to ship than did Paul's due to an oversize charge. Great. As we were down the street walking away, I realized I hadn't taken a picture of the fully packaged bikes. I ran back and quickly snapped this picture which caused a worker there to look at me with an odd look on his face.

After the bikes were out of our hands, we went to the beach. Paul grabbed some Subway on the way, and we hung out by the beach while he ate it. A homeless guy approached Paul ,while we were sitting there and he had eaten half of his sandwich, asking for the remainder. Paul offered his cookies instead since he wanted to finish the sandwich, and the guy refused. I couldn't believe it. A bum with a selective appetite. He must really have it tough. We had good material from that interaction for the next few days.

Beautiful beach isn't it? 😉

After that unpleasant scene a littler earlier, my friend Paul and I…. walked along the beach like the romantic couple we were. There is a spot in north OB where you step out of San Diego and land in heaven. It's called dog beach, and it's exactly what it sounds like. We spent the next hour or so watching all these dogs playing together with balls and charging out into the ocean against waves that were much taller than they. Man, what a great spot.

When many of the pooches made their way home, we did too. We scooped up some cereal that would double for dinner that night and breakfast the following morning before we left for Phoenix. I got a text message from the woman, Kelly who was driving us the next day asking our full names. I was assuming that it was for security purposes since she had never met us. I responded with humor maybe a bit too son, as I have so many times in the past when it was not necessarily tactful if you will… a lesson I seem incapable of learning. It went something along the lines of "my name is Chris Russo, and his Paul Yovino. If you google Paul Yovino, you may find an axe murderer by that name. Don't worry… it's a different guy" Kelly unfortunately never responded to that one, which was a bit disconcerting as we needed to be in Phoenix the following night. I sent another nonsense message that was just sort of confirming that we were still on, and I never heard back. We kept our fingers crossed.

We got back, had our gourmet dinner, and again watched some movies. The movies Meghan had brought to Oregon on my hard drive had finally paid off, as we watched 4 in the past two nights. The featured films of the night were a not well known, but a gem comedy "Wet Hot American Summer", followed by "Madagascar", the animated movie. Both good selections. I don't remember as I write now, but if history serves correct, I likely fell asleep to the second one.

So the next day we would be saying bye to California. We had been in the state for over a month, and had loved every minute of it. If you haven't been, go!!!! You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't. Better yet, bike there. Okay I'll stop.

Arizona Ahoy!

Life was good.

Day 115, September 10th 2008, beginning in San Diego, California

After the late night, I got up a little later than I had hoped. I had to get my money's worth, so I rode back down to Balboa Park. I started with the Natural History Museum . They had a big water theme to many of their exhibits. San Diego is basically in the desert, hence the reason I assume. The exhibit was very informative on water consumption, the cycle, future threats of not enough fresh water, and potential solutions to this soon to be problem.

There were some other cool exhibits that I went to before catching an hour long Planet Earth special on the big screen. It was great. Who doesn't love planet earth? Well I supposed American automobile manufacturers. Baaaazing.

After the show, I headed over to the Zoo. I have been before, but the amazing diversity of animals they have there I'm sure will never cease to amaze me. I saw lions , and tigers , and bears … good golly…. ha, not what you expected eh?  I even timed it well, as the zoo was experimenting with new, exciting, more natural feeding methods for the tigers. The San Diego Zoo is quite large, and requires more than 3 sentences to cover on foot, but that's the beauty of imagination. Use it.

After I finished with the zoo, I walked back to the museums to go to visit the last one I would go to in Balboa. It was a science museum, so I was pretty excited, but a bit disappointed overall. I do remember having a little fun as there was a machine made tornado that was in the open air that people could disrupt and watch it reform.

I left the science museum and was feeling a little tired. There was an outdoor amphitheater with some benches that I rode over to. I laid out on one of the beaches in the nice warm sun and rested for a little while. Yep… I was an official bum. It felt great!

Once I was restored from the rest and vitamin D, I biked back to Saul's. We had made plans to have lobster tacos down at a restaurant near this farmer's market. I got back first, and then Saul returned from work on his bike. No shower required (my kind of guy), and we were off. The restaurant was right down the street. The lobster tacos were very good.

After the tacos we walked around the farmer's market. There was a lot of good stuff, from food to crafts. I guess that would make it more than a farmer's market. Anyway, there were tons of people out, which made it fun to pretend we were thinking about buying stuff.

We went back to Saul's place after and relaxed. Saul was early to bed, as he had to get up at some ungodly hour for work in the morning. We put on some movies on my computer since he didn't have a tv there. We started with Donnie Darko, a personal favorite, and ended with Boiler room… which I didn't quite make it to the en….

Life was good

Day 114, September 9th 2008, beginning in San Diego, California

I got up at a decent hour to make it out to Balboa Park, a large park a little northeast of downtown San Diego that is home to 15 museums, a bunch of cool gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. We had the time, so I figured I would check it out. Paul wasn't interested in going, so he stayed at Luke's and I biked down to the park.

When I got there , I was told that I would need at least a couple days to see everything that the Balboa passport would get me into. I would have to come back the next day to finish up. It dawned on me that I forgot the bike lock that Paul had, so I spent most of the day asking to park the bike in the lobby, or praying for the best leaving it out front of the museums unlocked. It ended up fine of course.

My first stop was the Museum of Man . I was pretty engaged in this one show about breaking ancient Mayan code. It's amazing how many different things really smart people in this world dedicate their lives to. Quite entertaining.

I spent the rest of the day hopping around from museum to museum taking in as much as I could as fast as I could. After the Museum of Man, I visited the sports , automotive , model railroad , art , photography (irony?), Air and Space , San Diego history, and Mingei International museums. It was a bit tiring, but I saw a lot of pretty neat stuff (a good amount of lame stuff too) ….come on.

Around 5:00, when most of the museums were closing, I headed back to Luke's place to see what Paul was up to. On my way back, I stopped at the crest of a large hill exiting the park. The hill was probably within half a mile from the airport's runway, and was good for some up close views of planes flying overhead.

When I grew bored of that, I headed back. When I got back Paul and Cody were there. They had gone to the beach for most of the day while I was gone. I received a text from a friend Laura who used to work with me in Westport, CT. She had packed up, knowing no one, and moved to San Diego just after New Years. She invited us to come meet her out at the bar she worked at in Pacific Beach, just a bit north of where we were. We had also arranged to stay with someone else for the next few nights, as we were spending 5 days in San Diego, and didn't want to occupy one person's couch for all of that time. We said goodbye to Luke and friends , thanks for everything guys, and headed a mile down the street to our new friend Saul's place.

When we got there we chatted with Saul for a while. We invited him to come to the bar with us, but he was meeting some friends for dinner, so after we got settled in, we went our separate ways. Since we were going to be doing some night riding to the bar, I spent a while trying to mount a light I had onto the back of my seat. It was a pretty ridiculous setup, but it would be legal for the time being.

We took off en route the bar on the bicycles. We stopped at a point about halfway to grab some pizza. It was a bit sub par, but would do the trick for the night. We rolled another few miles to her place, which was called Tavern on the Beach. There was definitely a stark difference in the feel of PB and OB. It was a much younger, wild, party atmosphere. The bar was filled with college kids on a Tuesday night. I didn't bring my camera, so I unfortunately didn't get any pictures with Laura who was certainly working the scene. She was zipping around the room, getting drink orders by the score. She kept bringing us rounds of stuff nearly every time she came back. She showed us a good time, and I was even happier when she came back with a bill that was about 1/3 of what it should have been. We made sure to take care of her on the tip end. We ended up staying past close, sobering up a bit before our ride back home. As it was a Tuesday night, the streets were virtually empty, but we talked to some of her coworkers for a while about the amazing thing we had just accomplished.

Afterwards, we made our way back to Saul's house. It was pretty late and I had intended on getting up to finish of Balboa Park, which would still take me most of the day since I hadn't even gone to the Zoo yet. It was nice to catch up with Laura, and something tells me she won't be moving back to the east coast any time soon. Thanks again Laura. Beddy bye.

Life was good.

Day 113, September 8th 2008, beginning in San Diego, California

I woke up pretty early and did some more research trying to figure out how we were getting from San Diego to Phoenix, where we would be meeting a friend to travel to the Grand Canyon. Luke and Steve went off to work, and Paul, Carlos and I went out to breakfast. Carlos took us to this really good breakfast spot. Yum.

After breakfast, Carlos took us site seeing a bit. We stopped along the bay at this cool spot. We posed for a success picture along the bay as we had conquered the USA, and then went up to Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma with some great overlooks over the city. Before sailing, we went down to one more spot that was on the ocean. Carlos's car began overheating, so we let it sit with the hood up, while we checked out one of his favorite spots. The pictures will not do it justice, but knowing this in advance, I took about a thousand.

After that, we got back in the car. It quickly overheated again, and Carlos said that he would have to head home and we would miss out on the sailing trip. It was unfortunate, but seemed like the right thing.

At the last minute, after we had already started heading back, he turned around and said screw it. It was time for sailing. Carlos took us out in the San Diego Bay around Coronado Island. We were out for 2 hours or more, just enjoying the sun and perfect weather. Carlos taught Paul and I all about how to swing the boom and jib and this and that. Paul and I did our respective jobs of keeping the ship afloat

Keeping a lookout for rebel pirates (is there any other kind)
Keeping a lookout for rebel pirates (is there any other kind)
Look at that guy... hard at work
Look at that guy... hard at work

It was an absolute blast, and I hope to be able to do it again next summer.

When we got back, I noticed an email on my phone. It was someone offering a ride to Phoenix from San Diego on Friday, when we needed it! Sweetness. I called the emailer, Kelly, and she confirmed that it was going to happen. Perfect, everything worked out. Notice a theme here?

Carlos's car survived the trip back safe and sound. Paul and I hung out with Cody and his dog Suzy for a while. When Luke and Steve returned it was football, football, football, so Paul and I went to grab some food with Carlos. They had been talking about how good the Mexican was (my favorite) as we were about 10 miles from the country, so he took us to one of their favorites. We rode there on the bikes. I got a Vegan burrito that was delicious.

When we came back, the guys were watching 300. What a shock… I think every football fan worships that movie. It's a decently long movie, and by the time it was over, I was pretty tired. Time for bed. We were really enjoying San Diego, and now that we had a ride to Phoenix we were truly relaxing.

Life was good.

Day 112, September 7th 2008, beginning in San Clemente, California

When I woke up, I had to go to the bathroom, so I went to the campground community restrooms. Apparently I didn't lock my door too well, because I had a visitor during my relief of duty. Yikes. Paul broke the tent down while I was in the bathroom, and we were nearly ready to roll when I got back.

Once we started biking, it wasn't long before we had entered a military area called Camp Pendleton. There were tanks and planes and whatnot all over. It was a relatively nice ride through the camp as traffic was very light, and the terrain was agreeable.

We exited the camp on the south end and pulled into a town called Oceanside. We stopped there with about 30 miles remaining in our trip. Weird, after all this time. I got a disappointing sandwich at a gas station (is it really disappointing though… I mean, how high could my expectations have been looking back?)

When we left Oceanside, we biked along the beach for a while. We turned slightly inland, and rose up our last hill. When we got to the top, we just passed a woman. On the way down the other side, I was struck from behind again. I was sure Paul was determined to not let us finish the tour unscathed. Paul had a different take on the situation and suggested it was my fault. Being the understanding person I always am, I was surprised even at myself that a smart ass comment, again suggesting it was clearly his fault, came out. Paul then did what he had a few other times on the trip when he was completely incensed with me. I got the silent treatment for about 10 minutes. I only write about this here to point out how very little we squabbled, and how funny it usually was since I have not written about it before, and can count on three fingers the amount of times something like this happened throughout the trip. Good stuff. Agree to disagree buddy. Curious, does anyone know who is at fault in a back-end accident on the road? Ha…. jokes.

Knowing that I was looking for a soccer fields, and hopefully competitors, Paul followed me as I pulled off the road into UCSD campus in La Jolla, just north of San Diego. We were shocked to see no students or anyone around campus, but when we got to the soccer field, it was full. The guys there informed us school wasn't in for another few weeks. Ah… made sense. There were about 15 of us when we got going, and it was a good, skilled game. Lots of fun.

When the game ended, we headed out to finish the last leg of our day, week, month, and trip. After some riding we made a quick stop to get some food at a grocer, while we tried to figure out where we'd stay. We decided to keep biking until I found somewhere I could get online. We pulled up to Mission Beach, past Pacific Beach (which I would later find out to call PB) , where I saw a bunch of hotels. Figuring I could steal someone's internet connection, I stopped on a bench on the beach in front of a group of the hotels. Sure enough, I got on, and was able to get a few numbers of the warmshowers list. Although it was already getting late, I was able to secure us a spot to stay that night with a guy named Luke from the list. A glove save, and a beauty.

Since we were all set, we relaxed along the bike path and waited a while to leave, so that Luke would be home.  We watched some surfers do their thing When we ready to go, we only had a few miles to make it into Ocean Beach , where Luke and friends lived. It only took us a few minutes to cover the final miles of our trip. We rolled into OB swelling with a sense of accomplishment, and to a lesser degree hunger. We pulled up to the house, and I checked the odometer that read 6013 miles. Holy shit.

We met the three guys who lived there, Steve, Cody, and Luke right off the bat. Everyone was really friendly; we knew we were in good hands. Steve began grilling, and a friend Carlos stopped by as well. After we got settled in and showered up, we went to grab beer with Carlos. On the walk, Carlos offered to take us sailing the following day, as he worked on ships in the harbor and had some special privileges. I had never gone before, and was really excited.

We returned with the beer to plenty of good grilled meat and veggies. Some more friends came over. To make things better, they had on demand HBO. That means, Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Larry David, voted the best show on TV by geniuses everywhere. Oh it was great.

We were floating on cloud 34 I think, after having finished one of the most amazing things either of us had ever done. We were among NEW friends, and just enjoying life.

Life was preTTTTTy good.

Day 111, September 6th 2008, beginning in Redondo Beach, California

I again woke up and did some writing, eager to catch up (much like I am now). Mimi got up early as well and began making stuff for breakfast. We were in need of a few ingredients, that I swung out to pick up on the bike down the street.

When I got back, Mimi decided to cook up a storm. She bought some extra stuff they wouldn't normally eat and decided to cook it all for us before we left, including steak! Everyone in the house came up to eat, and we had a nice large breakfast. We watched some tennis for a while during and after, as we delayed our departure a little. Mimi kept insisting that we could stay another day if we wanted, but it was time for us to keep going, otherwise we might not ever leave.

We said goodbye , and I again promised I would return. Mimi said not to promise, and that men always do that, so I'm determined to make good on it. When we got back to the road heading south, we encountered some of the most challenging riding of the trip. This time it was not the terrain, but rather the populous area. The book had warned of the difficulty of riding this certain section, and it was a little hairy at times, but we clearly made it out fine.

When we exited the busy area, we were out of L.A. County, and had entered the O.C. (Orange county), home of fabulous shows like "The O.C.", and "Laguna Beach" that primarily focus on Americans obsession with people with real intelligence, good acting ability, and worth rather than superficial glamor. Gotta love it.

We stopped at Huntington Beach, a well known, massively popular and massively massive beach. It was really a very beautiful beach, with very beautiful people everywhere. Okay, I'll stop doing the double double thing. Paul and I put out the vibe near the volleyball court, but unfortunately all the girls were so intimidated by us that none of them mustered up the courage to approach us.  Understandable. It was really embarrassing… for them.

However, as we seemed to be much better at attracting old men, we began talking to this guy named Carl who was planning on doing a trip from San Diego to Florida… sort of reverse of what we did. Good luck man.

After we had had our fill of Huntington, we biked it another 15 or so down to Laguna Beach. When we made it to Laguna, we located some food at a grocer and made our way towards the beach. We found this cool small street facing the ocean with little benches to sit at overlooking the ocean. There were tons of surfers that made for a nice sight to drink our chocolate milk and eat our food too.

We hung in Laguna for a while, until the smell of money that permeated the air became too much for us. We biked a bit more as the sun was setting stopping at a diner that was somewhat expensive. I opted for a remaining Clif bar while Paul ordered some food. We hung out there for a long time; fortunately, we had a really nice waitress.

Leaving the diner, we headed out in the darkness for a couple mile ride to the state beach where we intended on camping. We had a difficult time locating the hiker/biker sections at the park, which was a bit frustrating. The campground was packed with rowdy campers likely getting their last of the summer camping in. Nonetheless, once we had the tent setup, and I put on a movie on the laptop, Paul was out in roughly 12 seconds. I shut the computer and quickly followed suit.

We could feel the end approaching. We had pretty much all but decided for sure that we would be done biking in San Diego, which was about 60 miles away. We would be done the next day. A time of reflection was upon us, but not yet. Time for sleep, we were still enjoying every moment. Life was good.

Day 110, September 5th 2008, beginning in Redondo Beach, California

I got up and wrote some blogs since I had been falling behind. Danielle had gone to class, and Miriam to work. The house was vacant as we prepared to leave. Something didn't feel right since Paul and I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. After some deliberating, we decided to stay to another day, and say goodbye the right way.

After I wrote a blog or two, Paul used the computer to make a Facebook invitation to a coming home party at his house. Now I realize why everyone organizes their entire life through Facebook since it only took him about 3 hours to get halfway done with it. Sweet. We did sort of model the invitation on a Top Gun theme, so we figured an appropriate picture was necessary with our new shades.

Danielle returned from school and asked us if we would want to meet her friend out for some food later. We planned on it for later. In the meantime, Paul hung out at the house while I went for a bike ride. Withdrawals I guess. I rolled down to Hermosa Beach, where we had been two nights prior. There were loads of people all over the bike paths to Hermosa, and I enjoyed just casually strolling (unusual for me) amidst the hoards.

When I returned, Mimi had returned from work, and decided to come along to grab some food. We drove back to Hermosa where we met Danielle's friend Triana at a Brazilian restaurant. They were hosting a party there, and told us at the door basically, ‘…well, you can eat here, but the party's in 45 minutes, and we're going to rush you out.' We decided it was fine, and ate there with no problems. Maura's party was not disturbed by our presence.

After our awkward dinner, we went over to the bar where Triana worked for some "discount" drinks. Triana was running a buy one get one special that we didn't see any signs for, and seemed to only apply to us. Odd.

After a couple drinks, and hanging out for a while, we headed back to the Lenglets to regroup. When we got there, we lost any ambition to head back out for the night, as Jeff Foxworthy's sheer charm (dork) was enough to keep us in watching "Are you smarter than a 5th grader". That southern charm will never get old. After that we watched some silly dog show that lasted like three hours. Good old American television. Danielle didn't quite make it for the whole episode. The rest of us retired shortly after she and Shana.

As the next day was the weekend, Mimi promised to make us breakfast the following morning before we left. Good deal.

Life was good.

Day 109, September 4th 2008, beginning in Redondo Beach, California

Eager for the idea of breakfast the girls had conjured up in my head the night before, I roused everyone so we could get going to breakfast. Mimi agreed to let us use her car to get to Disney… oh yeah, I forgot to mention. We were going to Disney. A coast to coast Disney tour is really what it came down to as we nearly started and nearly ended with Disney. … Anyway, back to my ever elusive train of thought. Everyone came to, and we headed off to breakfast.

The breakfast was really good and we were treated with some extra goodies. Unfortunately not everyone eats as quickly as I, so I waited around the table with visions of Mickey and Pluto dancing in my head, while the normal humans finished their food. We went back home with Danielle and said bye to Tamara.

We hopped in Mimi's mini cooper, and floored it (just kidding) to Disney. We didn't hit any traffic, so we made good time. Half of the wait was driving around these massive parking structures once we got into the park. It was a Thursday in September, not exactly peak season.

We were very appreciative for the tickets from Marky Mark Ceglarski, our former (and forever) teammate on the trip who had procured a couple of tickets, before we entered the park. However, we were much more appreciative once we got there. They were accepting cash,credit, or your soul. Thanks again.

The Thursday in September worked to our advantage once inside as lines were virtually non existent. We did pretty much everything in both parks with time left over to spare. I wasn't as trigger happy as the first Disney escapade of the trip, so I don't have pictures from every 5 steps, which must have been a factor.

After we were all parked out, we went to Downtown Disney to get some food. We got some Jamba Juice and Mexican. Two of my most favorite foods. Downtown Disney has such a nice ambiance, we just sat around taking it in for a while. Paul even tried out to act as an over zealous Mickey fan for a Disney commercial. Still waiting on a callback. I think he sold it.

There were also amazing musicians all over, and one particular violinist (is that right?) who was really talented. He was so good that broke ass Paul bought his CD for something like $15. The guy was amazing. We actually talked to him for a while about our bike trip in between his sessions.

We left DD, and headed back to Redondo. I figured I should replace Paul's shades and the ones that I had lost, so we went to the place where those who care most about optics go…. Target. We were able to get a couple of aviators for $12 total, that would come to use as both protection from the sun, and for Top Gun lookalike poses. Very important. Side note: you should know that as I'm writing this in Boston I have since misplaced my shades again.

Anyway, when we got back from Target, everyone was in bed. We were pretty tired too, so we flicked on the tele and fell asleep to something we would turn off at 4:00 in the morning. Disney was a lot of fun, and tomorrow we would be back on the road for new experiences.

Life was good.

Day 108, September 3rd 2008, beginning in Westlake Village, California

Peter got up really early for work and I had intended on getting up with him to say goodbye. When I woke up, Shannon had already left for school, and I missed both of them. I was upset to say the least. Susan prepared some breakfast for us while we collected our items and prepared to go. We said goodbye to Lancelot and were on our way… back to the coast.

Susan dropped us off on the 1 near Pepperdine on her way. We said our goodbyes, and I promised to return with Meghan sometime soon. We really had a great time with the west side Ceglarskis… clearly… we ended up spending 3 extra days with them than we intended. Back to life on the road… sort of.

From there Paul and I made a quick ride to Paul Beach, or as the locals call it, Muscle Beach. We played around on the gym stuff they have there for a while. It was loads of fun, and equally as fun to watch the regulars do the rings. Paul did a pretty good job himself.

After hanging out on the beach for a few hours we left there with only another 15 miles or so to Redondo Beach, where we would be staying with the Lenglets, old friends of Paul's family. Nearly the entire way to Redondo was a beach path, so we pedaled slowly and enjoyed the scenery.

When we got close, I plugged the address into the ol' GPS. I made a slight error with the address which routed us inland. While we were riding, someone yelled to Paul that he had a flat tire. He looked down to inspect, mind you while we were going about 20mph, and didn't realize we were approaching a red light. Fortunately for him, he was directly behind me, and smashed into the back of my bike. We had gone unscathed for nearly the entire trip. I kept joking that he was trying to end it early. Amazingly neither of us fell, but the damage was done. He had broken a spoke of mine, and bent the rear rack that our bags sit on pretty badly. The rim would need fixing, but was ridable temporarily.

I then realized I put in the wrong address so we turned around and headed the right way. Turns out she was a few blocks off the ocean as opposed to a few miles inland. Much better. Miriam left a key for us to get in since we arrived before she was back from work. We let ourselves in and scared the crap out of their dog Shana. When Miriam (Mimi) returned Shana was much more relaxed and fun. Mimi was extremely nice form the get go. She insisted on making us dinner, but if we had plans we could do whatever we wanted. We found out that she had made us dinner on Sunday when we were supposed to come. We felt bad, but her daughter Danielle didn't mind.

We agreed to be fed, tough choice, but first order of business for me was fixing the bike. I went online and found a close bike shop. Paul and I headed down to the shop. I went in and talked to a guy who said it would be ready Friday around 2:00. It was Wednesday and we planned on going to Disney the following day, and leave Redondo on Friday. I was a little concerned they might delay, but what was I going to do?

After we left the shop, we kicked the soccer ball around on the beach for a while. After an hour or so I got a call from the bike shop saying my bike was ready. Great news. Out of the courtesy from trying to run me off the road, Paul paid for the relatively cheap repair. We got back on our bikes, and headed home for some dinner. Wait… is that dog wearing shoes?

By then, Mimi's daughter Danielle was home. She is our age and is attending USC graduate school to become a professional writer. How exciting. Mimi's brother also lived with in the very large condo, with his wife Nina, and two sons. We all had a big family dinner plus us. The food was lovely. Thanks Mimi. Tony's son Tre thought we were pretty cool too … so cool he wanted to wear Maverick's mask (although that term has become significantly less cool in recent times).   Sunset from inside the condo

Danielle called some friends and decided she would take us out. A hot spot in their area is called Hermosa Beach. We rode right through it earlier in the day en route Redondo. We went bar hopping to a few different places, and ran into one of Danielle's friends that was celebrating a birthday. One highlight for me was playing old school Pacman at the last place we went to. Two player style. I emerged victorious, but it was likely due to my relative sobriety. To end the night, we went out on a long fishing pier at the end of the strip at Hermosa. It smelled a bit of fish guts, but was nice under the stars.

Paul, Danielle, Danielle's friend Tamara, and I all jumped in a cab and headed back to her house. Tamara decided to stay the night, so we planned on breakfast the next morning at a diner they both work at. They claimed the food was great, and we would get it cheap since they were an inside job. Worked for me.

Paul and I again got couches to lay our heads down on. It seems we went in streaks when it came to pampered sleeping vs. camping. Oh well, no complaints…. we had it good now. What a fun night.

Life was good.

Day 107, September 2nd 2008, beginning in Westlake Village, California

I got up with everyone before they went off to work. Peter said I don't sleep much because I don't want to miss anything… something his mother use to say to him. Sounds about right. I saw everyone off, and when Paul was ready, we grabbed the truck and headed out.

Our first stop was at Sport's Authority down the street. I was in dire need of some new kicks. Sure enough, I found some cheap sneaks that would fit the bill weighing in at a hefty $23. I'll take it. Now I was ready for Rodeo.

We cruised down towards Pepperdine University which has to be one of the most beautiful campi (tehe) in the nation. We then road the 1 into L.A. and made our way to Rodeo Dr. Some of the highlights were me un-popping the collar on a mannequin, and Paul looking super fly. [PICTURE] On one pair of sunglasses that was on sale a tag read "look good, feel rich… you can always lie about the price tag". It was funny, they would brag about how expensive their stuff is, versus us bragging about what a good deal we got on something. We determined stores for wealthy people were really lame, so we left after a short stint on Rodeo.

We rolled through Hollywood , and up through Beverly Hills to check out some of the mansions. We came to a really nice view of the city at one spot. Gorgeous… beautiful golden fur.

We wanted to beat rush hour, so we headed back to Westlake. We rolled through Bel-air and said hello to Carlton, who is still living with Philip, Vivia, and Hillary. When we got back to the Cegs' house, we decided to make dinner for them. Paul stayed true to the fazzOOL, but we needed ingredients. We went to the grocery store with Shannon to pick up the stuff. She is quite the spazz, and was a lot of fun at the store. She, being a Ceglarski, was able to squeeze into the freezer in the frozen food section, and shut the door behind her. It was hilarious.

We got back and prepared the food. And by we, I mean Paul. Everyone loved the meal. Even Shannon ate her whole serving, and she is known to be extremely picky. Paul done good. We had a nice long dinner, where we chatted about some of Peter and Susan's early days. (nothing to do with anything, just love that picture) Entertaining stuff to say the least. We broke the news to them that we actually intended on leaving the next day, which they were slightly disappointed by, but was likely the right move, or else they might start charging us rent. Baaaaazing.

After insisting that it would be too dangerous to ride down to the coast from their house in the morning, I finally relented to Susan's demand to bring us to the coast. We would leave with her at 9:00 the next morning.

Another night on the couch was nice, and we were going to stay with another family the following day after a very short riding day. Man, soCal was treating us well.

Life was good.

Day 106, September 1st 2008, beginning in Leo Carillo campground, Malibu, California

I got up first again. We had planned on heading back to the Ceglarskis' house late morning or early afternoon. I felt good, and didn't want to "cheat" so I decided to bike it back. They lived, conveniently, on the other side of a mountain from the campground. Paul was perfectly okay with taking a ride in the car, so he did. We broke everything down, and helped pack up. It took a couple hours since they had quite the setup. Peter hugged it out with the tent because he would miss it as it was likely there last camping excursion for a while. I left when we were nearly done to get a head start. I left my bags with them to lighten the load a bit, and headed for the hills.

The ride was quite nice, with hardly any traffic. As it was Malibu, the few cars that passed were worth more than my parents house. I saw a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and the new 6 figure Audi. Nifty, money well spent too. I cruised up the hill fast enough, to fly down the other side and make it to the Cegs house before they got there. Ha, I was hoping I could do it.

When they came home, Paul and I went swimming for a while, and threw all our filthy clothes in the laundry. We hung around until it was time to leave for the Dodgers game. We got the tickets from Susan's work (thanks so much) and Peter decided to man up and come with us. We were fortunate to hit hardly any traffic, rarely ever the case in southern California. We got to the game with plenty of time and made our way over to our seats, on the left field side, in close proximity to "Hollywood Manny".  https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3260/2824499742_3d8241d60d.jpg?v=0

The game was exciting; we finally made it to a big league park after planning on it in Seattle. Along with tickets came entrance to this restaurant down right field line that gave a great view of the field. We got a massive dessert that was fit for the three of us. Dee-lish.

After the dessert we went back to our original seats to watch the rest of the game. The sun had set, and cast different shades of purple across the horizon. It was amazing. I was among a crowd of others who stopped to take a picture of it as we were exiting the park it was that remarkable.

We got in the car, and headed back to Westlake Village. Peter had offered for us to take his truck the following day to go and checkout some of L.A. since we would only ride the coast going through it. Sounded like a plan.

We got back to their house and relaxed to some TV on a big comfortable couch. We weren't sleeping outside for the first time in many moons. Lovely.

Life was good.

Day 105, August 31st 2008, beginning and ending in Leo Carillo Campground, Malibu, California

The next morning I got up a bit earlier than the rest of our site. We had a long night. As I strolled over to our neighboring campers, I was questioned about the fun we had the night before. I had to defend Peter's honor by insisting we were all in on the noise, which was true to a degree.

When I came back, our site was stirring a bit. We had some bagels and cereal for breakfast. After breakfast Paul and I played with the younger kids (to get them out of their parent's hair for a bit). We played a digging game with the girls, and threw rocks at a tree with the boys. We ended up hurling boulders until our arms were hanging. Ouch.

After that we sought retribution for the punishment we received the previous day in the game of Sequence. We played for a while with Susan and Peter. Peter then had to leave to bring the girls home, so our game was on pause. Too be continued.

In the meantime, we met some more of the typical camping crew and their children. One of Susan's friends Linda stopped in to drop off her son Andy. While she was there she helped feed the addiction and sat in for a game of Sequence in Peter's absence.

Peter returned around dinner time. He and Paul went and picked up a veggie to go with the steaks Susan had. He chose well with green beans, and also got some really soft, big cookies for dessert. Well done. After dinner, you guessed it… more Sequence. Paul and I had caught up and now were leading the series. What an addicting game! Beware.

When we finally put down the board game, we made our way over to one of the other campsite's fire. A kid by the name of Geome we had met earlier (a friend of one of the crew), was playing a guitar. He played and sang a John Mayer song, as well as just strummed some freestyle stuff. I had never heard of it, but he actually had a healthy scholarship at U.S.C for guitar. He had studied classical, as well as contemporary stuff, and was really talented and fun to listen to.

When Geome stopped playing, we returned to the Ceglarski fire. Most everyone was getting ready to go to bed, but Peter, Paul and I were still up. Peter again found it necessary to heat the entire campground so we relaxed at a reasonably safe distance from the blaze.

We would be heading back to the Ceglarski's place the following day, and off to a Dodger's game to see Hollywood Manny. We were looking forward to it, but we were also enjoying the moment as we had not had so much fun camping throughout the entire trip.

Life was good.

Day 104, August 30th 2008, beginning and ending in Leo Carillo Campground, Malibu, California

We awoke in the morning to Peter preparing his fluffy eggs. He was talked up to be sort of a big deal when it comes to scrambled eggs, and they did not disappoint. Somehow he makes perfectly fluffy, voluminous eggs without a hint of brown on them. He's a sorcerer of the skillet.

After breakfast Paul and I decided to head for the beach. Zuma beach, a popular beach in Malibu, was a 5 miles ride down the road. There is a Starbucks there that apparently you are nearly guaranteed to see someone famous getting an absolutely essential latte, but it was on the wrong side of the street. We'd stop on the way back.

When we arrived, I hit something coming off the road into the parking lot, and popped a flat. It was official. After all this time behind, I had finally caught up to Paul. We each had 6 flats for the trip.

When we got on the beach, we were amazed out how full it was. We juggled the soccer ball for a while in hopes to attract some fellow ballers… beach soccer is fun. It was to no avail, so we went in the ocean. Paul didn't really like his sunglasses, so he let me wear them. The waves were quite strong. So strong that one ripped the sunglasses off my face, and I never found them again. Sorry buddy. I managed to lose my and Paul's sunglasses in the past few weeks. Oops.

We hung out for a while after the loss and tried to rekindle our friendship. After hours of pleading, we hugged it out, and were done with the beach. I called Peter since we were too far away to walk, and he gladly came and picked us up in his pickup truck. We didn't stop at the Starbucks, I figured I would just ask Meghan who was there that day instead of WASTING my time.

We made it back to the campsite and shortly after, Shannon, Peter and Susan's daughter, arrived with a car full of her friends. Poor Peter. They were a nice group of boisterous girls, I must say. We played a board game called Apples to Apples with them, which is actually much better when you know well the people with whom you are playing. It was fun nonetheless.

After that game, we played another game called Sequence with Peter and Susan. It's sort of connect 4 with cards (and you have to connect 5). It's a bit strategy and a bit fortune. Sequence also proved to be a fun game. We ended up playing for a couple hours, and by the time we were sick of it, it was dinner time. Susan made a plethora of cream chicken for the 10 or so mouths at the site. It was delicious.

After dinner Peter made another raging inferno that was flirting with the bounds of legality. As we were camping, there were no laundry facilities for us to clean our clothes. Although I had showered, I had run out of anything that was remotely clean. Parsa, one of Shannon's friends, was willing to help out with some extra clothes that she had brought.

We had some drinks around the fire and entertained one another for a while. It somehow surfaced that Peter was especially good at bird calls, so we had to get it out of him. It was getting late, but as a seasoned camper, Peter knew well how to handle the park rangers should they show up. On a particularly loud crow caw  (I think his best), we actually were visited by the rangers. It was pretty funny that amongst all the teenagers and young adults, it was Peter who was the main source of the noisemaking. After he handled the rangers, we continued on through the night staying up late and joking around by the fire. Paul and I were the last ones standing, as the fire dwindled. Bed time.

Life was good.

Day 103, August 29th 2008, beginning in Santa Barbara, California

We woke to people playing volleyball nearby. No one seemed to care if we camped there all day and night. We both had to use the bathroom, so we quickly packed up and went into town to do just that. Afterwards, we rode a few more miles down the coast to eat breakfast in a small town called Summerland.

We decided to eat at what seemed to be a popular restaurant namely because it promised wireless internet access. The service was atrocious, however the food was pretty good. Not worth the time though.

Filled up, we hit the road, heading for Malibu, where we spend the next couple nights with the Ceglarskis. As we rode, we enjoyed a slight tailwind, but more notably, very flat land which was nearly effortless to bike. After 750 miles, we finally hit the California we had envisioned. We came upon a great surprise when we crossed an intersection who resident we expected to be on the North Pole. Apparently good ole Kris Kringle finally wised up and began hitting the waves of southern California. We also passed through the town of Ventura and came upon a person who seemed to be homeless, riding a bike with a flat tire. We offered a tube, and some help. He tried it quickly, but it wasn't the right match. We felt bad, but we tried. He was walking it. We rode a few more miles to a Subway outside of Oxnard.

We each got a foot long sub, with some cookies. While we were eating, a touring cyclist came up the street the other way (into the wind) and stopped by. I went outside to great him. He told me he was just stopping because he saw us, but wasn't getting food. He said he had his tent stolen at Leo Carillo campground, the place we were going to that night, and that he had to buy a new one for $250. He also mentioned that he only had $8 until he got a check that cleared on Tuesday, 4 days from then Friday. He also said he came from Denver, went to San Diego, was heading for San Francisco, and then Ohio. As he was leaving, I offered him half my sandwich which he accepted. I also gave him a Clif bar out of the bag. He was appreciative and went off on his way. Then I started thinking… If you knew you only had $250 for a few days, and you were on the road, wouldn't you put the tent on hold, and make sure you had food to eat? Also, what the hell was up with that whack route? Anyway, he seemed like a credible guy though, and I'm sure he didn't put it to waste. Just trying to pay it forward.

We left there and continued down the coast towards Malibu. We passed some a large Naval area with huge fighter planes. Apparently not noteworthy enough to take a picture. We enjoyed a nice tailwind as we biked along gently rolling hills. There was a nice bike lane on the busy 1 , and along the way we passed what my best guess at what heaven looks like.

After the easy ride, we came to Leo Carillo campground where we were to meet Peter and Susan Ceglarski for the first time. Peter had told me which site they were, so we navigated back to them. We were greeted by the Cegs (Peter and Susan)as well as some of their camping friends. They are pretty hardcore campers, and have garnered a handful of loyal camping partners that always go with them. They were all very interested and impressed with our trip, and wanted to hear all about it in front of an atlas. First thing was first however; it had been a long time since either of us had showered, and we were among new company.

When we returned from the showers, Susan had quite the spread out. I must say, their version of camping was a little more fun and satisfying than the one we had gotten used to along the way. After we stuffed ourselves with appetizers, we had some dogs.

After dinner, we made a fire and had some drinks. Peter proved to nurture his inner pyro over the years, and insisted on having a raging fire at all times. It was nice. We chatted all night learning about one another as we shared some stories from the trip.

Those Ceglarskis are made of good stuff I say; it would sure be a fun few days off with them I could tell. No riding tomorrow.

Life was good.

Day 102, August 28th 2008, beginning in Gaviota State Park, California

When we woke there were people walking around on the beach. It was a little weird, but it was good; it forced Paul to get up and moving. Lauren jotted down stuff from the book, and took digital pictures in case her notes were a little fuzzy. I also was happily surprised to see that my camera began working again.

We left the campground of unfriendly folks and hit the road. Paul and I were only going to ride about 35 miles on the day to Santa Barbara, and Lauren was going to try to push all the way to L.A. We rode most of the way there to the town of Goleta. This is where UC Santa Barbara is. We got tons of food from a Natural Cafe, and as a gesture for the good times, we picked up Lauren's bill. She, without us knowing, went across the street and picked up a couple tubes for us, since she knew we had used up the last one with her the day before. Awww.

After we finished up, we rode with her into Santa Barbara , where we went our separate ways. Paul and I went to State St., the "hopping" (if you will) spot in town. It was pretty cool, and reminiscent of Steamboat Springs as even chain shops adopted the look and feel of the town. We cruised along State St. mostly people watching, and stopping for the occasional bite of food. As we made our way all the way down it, we came to the beach. The beach had a long nice bike path that we rode along. We stopped and watched a bunch of skaters do their best at a cool skate park right along the beach. Some seemed a little past their prime.

When we got to the beaches, we were a bit disappointed to see that they were surprisingly empty. Summer was coming to a close sadly, and many people were back at school and the like. We lied down on the beach anyway and got comfortable. I fell asleep for a while tired from the early mornings and late nights lately. When I got up, we went in the water for a bit. It was nice to be able to swim in bearable water.

When it lost its fine we headed back to State st. Paul decided he would get his haircut. On our way, we stopped at a Trader Joe's grocery store. We got to talking to a guy selling newspaper subscriptions out front, and he ended up giving us a $15 gift certificate to Trader Joe's. They were incentive for new subscribers, but he was so inspired by our story that he gave it to us anyway. Sweet. We went in and got a bunch of Clif bars for future riding, and some chocolate milk, with money still remaining on the card.

After that Paul got his haircut while I went to Staples. I tried to find a reasonably priced replacement for my hands-free phone thing, but Staples wasn't interested in selling them. No offense to anyone who has one, but I refused to get the blue tooth, leave it on your ear like you're someone important even if you don't have a call set, so I was out of luck.

I waited for Paul to get out of his haircut thing outside of some cafe that had wireless internet access. After he arrived, we, both hungry began searching around for some grub. I spotted a Cold Stone Creamery, and once it was in my head, I couldn't help it. It would end up being my dinner. I ate it in a restaurant with Paul where he ordered some Mexican food.

After we ate, we cruised up and down State st. looking for a fun bar. We were told that it would be a big night for going out as it was first weekend back at school for the UC kids as well as Santa Barbara Community College. We found a spot where we could easily see our bikes, and Paul hung by the bar and put out the vibe. We got some happy hour specials, and again people watched for a while. Those California girls…

We started getting hungry again, so we headed across the street to this casual looking diner. By this time, thousands of scantily clad girls, and wobbling guys littered the streets. I was a bit worried about the bikes, but there were so many other cyclists that I think it helped distract attention, whereas they would normally stand out more. Anyway, when we got in this diner, we were pleased to hear that there would be some comedians coming in free of charge. Great news!

Some of the acts were funny, some were really awkward. It made for an interesting show. There were many occasions when I was the only one laughing. At times it was because I thought it was funny, and other times, I just felt bad for them. https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3097/2823626525_170dd0e818.jpg?v=0

We stayed for the whole show, and made our way to another bar when it was over. It was kind of loud, and the band was pretty bad. However, they did close with the song "Ball and Chain" by Social Distortion that I like a lot. All in all, we were a little disappointed with the musical selection of the bars we had gone to.

On our way home (the beach) we passed a bar that was playing the song "California Love", a song that we love, and a feeling which we both had. It was really quite late, and was likely closing, so we kept on our way.

We thought we might have to get out of town a bit for good cover, but the Santa Barbara beach is pretty long, and there were plenty of good places for cover, as well as other human beings who were sleeping on it. We set up the tent on the nice dry sand again. For the third night in a row, we didn't use our pads.

Another beautiful calm night on the beach under the stars in SoCal.

Life was good.

Day 101, August 27th 2008, beginning just north of Cayucos, California

The decision to sleep outside of the tent didn't go completely unpunished, as our stuff did get a little wet from the overnight cooling. Nothing major though. However, I think due to the wetness, the camera was not working, and wouldn't for the rest of the day. Too bad.

Lauren had some ambitious riding goals for the next few days, so we weren't sure how much longer we would ride with her since we were in the no-rush Cali mentality. Once we all got up, we packed and headed for the town of Cayucos that was a few miles away. When we got in, we stopped at a grocer. Lauren went to a coffee shop to get some Joe, and we met her over there. We hung around for a while not quite ready to ride and enjoying the conversation we were having with the locals. Something hit me, and I realized I no longer had my second set of shorts. Yikes, not a lot of riding days left, but one pair of shorts could be a bit too aromatic. I remembered laying them on the back of the bike when we left to dry, but I never tied them down. They must be at the path near where we camped.

I enjoy the challenge of catching up sometimes, so I insisted that they head on without me while I backtracked the 2.5 miles to the campsite. I was conducting some hurry up offense as I pedaled viciously back to the site. Sure enough the shorts were sitting all the way down the trail right near where we camped. I picked them up, and tucked them away; now it was time to play catch up.

Lauren had a copy of the route from the book since she was planning on splitting from us at some point, so they knew where to go while I hung on to my copy. I kept on pedaling at a much higher rate than we normally did, and I was loving it. They were no slouches either however, as it took me over 15 miles from our resting place to catch them.

We were about to head into the Los Osos Valley as I pulled ahead of them. The book mentioned that it was a common riding ground for trainers, et al. We rode alongside a guy that Lauren mentioned was likely riding a $10,000 bike. Ha, I was keeping up with him with weight. We got to talking and wouldn't you know it, he used to work in Westport and Darien. Not a surprise after hearing the ticket on the bike.

As we dipped into the valley, the temperature increased by 22 degrees, a change the book noted might happen. There were a few more bikers we saw training from Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, so the book didn't lie. When we came upon Pismo beach, it was fairly cloudy. We grabbed some food instead of hitting the beach.

We decided before we left that we were going to ride another 44 miles to the town of Lompoc. I popped my 5th flat about a 1/3 of the way to Lompoc. It actually broke up the trip nicely, but I had nearly caught Paul who was still one ahead of me by one. I replaced the tire with the last tube we had and we continued on. In the miles ahead, we conquered the 2nd to last sizable hill of the trip. Again Lauren left Paul in the dust, and I had a good laugh.

We descended the large hill into Lompoc. We had all built up a nice appetite and were in the mood for pizza. We found an Italian place, and posted up for a while. I spoke to Peter Ceglarski, Mark's brother on the phone. His daughter goes to school in Santa Barbara, our destination for the following evening. I hoped that we could meet her.

Since Lauren was willing to ride more, I was able to convince Paul that we should conquer our last major hill that night. With our stomachs full, we made our way out of town, in near complete darkness. Fortunately Lauren had a light, and so did Paul, so we had two for three people. Not bad. The grade of the hill wasn't too bad, and the ride was pretty enjoyable. We got into discussing what the song "Lady In Red" was all about, and eventually determined we probably gave it more thought than Chris De Burgh did when writing it (listening now as I write). It made the time pass quickly however, and before we knew it, we were flying down the other side. We were done with hills for the trip as the southern Californian coast is much flatter! Paul couldn't have been happier.

We ended up pulling into a campground in Gaviota State Park after another 2.5 hours and 25 miles of riding since Lompoc. Well done. It also put us over 100 mile mark, which was nice to do as we forgot to on our 100th day (would have made more sense). Instead of taking a camping spot, we headed out to the beach. The sand was nice, and the waves soothing. We were laughing at how poorly received by the guests that were still awake; no one responded to our hellos, but we didn't care. Jolly as ever we set up our tent content with our effort that day, and looking forward to what lied ahead.

Fairly tired, no one had difficulty falling asleep, however, tonight we decided to sleep in the tent. I had hope for the camera.

Life was good.

Day 100, August 26th 2008, beginning in Big Sur, California

We woke in our serene setting amongst the trees in Big Sur. We went down to the campground's general store and picked up some cereal. We ate quickly and got ready to go. As we got on the bikes and began pedaling, I noticed we were at an interesting milestone in terms of mileage within our trip. It took me about 20 takes, but I finally grabbed a good shot, while I was riding. I hope you appreciate it.

As we ascended along the bluffs of Big Sur, we were in awe at the beauty. Beautiful bright blue water and wonderous wild waves nestled in a little alliteration was the recipe for an amazing ride. Wow, we were spoiled. Sad to think that many people even living in the United States will never see the ocean let alone a sight like Big Sur.

After the intial climb, we came to a pullout where we saw a woman with a nice camera on a tripod. We got off the bikes out of interest, and as luck would have it, she was observing the California Condors that are native to the area. They are fairly ugly birds, but are cool due to their massive 10 foot wing span! No typo… ten feet, look it up.

When we were all condored out, we rode more until we hit the small town of Lucia. We had been warned about how Big Sur had been a victim of fires, and was shutdown for a while, and as a result the prices at the stores were extremely high. We were still surprised to see 20 oz. Powerades that were sometimes as little as 80 cents at grocery stores, were $3.50 here. Wow, clearly we weren't going to buy anything. While we were there however, we did run into a distantly familiar face. Sure enough, it was a girl we had met as we were picking up our bikes at the bike shop where we left them in Portland, Oregon nearly a month ago. Lauren had been riding with a friend down the coast, who had since left her. She, another group of bikers and us were all stopped there, and as we groaned at the prices decided to ride to the next town. It couldn't be worse.

We rode the next 11 miles or so of the roller coaster coast we were so used to and arrived in Gorda. There was a general store in Gorda that was much more reasonable where we bought some food, which we enjoyed out in the sun. I pointed out some Half Baked ice cream in the store that Lauren ended up buying. It was a real shame when she couldn't finish it, but me and my chivalrous ways came to the rescue.

We left Gorda heading towards two massive hills according to our Handy dandy Pacific coast riding book. We came to a mutual agreement that Lauren was now allowed into our exclusive club, so we all rode together for the remainder of the day. Lauren proved to be a very strong rider, and was actually able to climb faster than Paul (ha, sorry buddy).

After some riding, we arrived in San Simeon at a general store. There were a couple other tourists there as was noted by the bikes outside. We went in and Lauren immediately began talking to them. The place was shutting down however, so we couldn't get much decent food. Lauren, who had driven the coast before, recalled a Mexican restaurant down the road, so we headed there. We snapped a quick picture out front of the future of transportation , and headed to the restaurant.

We passed a huge tourist spot of Sea Lion watching along our way with several large buses, and mucho Sea Lions. We pulled into the restaurant and sat on a table in the back overlooking the ocean. It was awesome. Lauren actually ended up eating more than we did at the restaurant. We were shocked. We waddled back to our bikes with our tails between our legs, and proceeded on into the evening feeling like less of a man than I had all trip.

We rode until we hit the town of Cambria. Here we pulled off the 1 through town where Lauren picked up some wine at a liquor store. As we were exiting town, we stopped and tried to help a kid who was walking his bike. We had the tools, but Lauren, the best bike expert on the trip (further emasculating) determined it was not fixable with what we had and we continued out of town.

It began getting dark, so we started looking for places to drop the tent. We were enjoying nice tailwinds and very light traffic so we weren't very picky. As the sun went down, we came upon a few good spots that threatened with large fines for overnight camping. We weren't looking to pick up a fine in California, because we would probably have to actually pay that one. We eventually came upon a path, that led about a quarter mile out to the ocean.

We made our way out to the spot and set up by just putting down floor mat. Lauren insisted we try it as she had sent her tent home a few days ago, and had been just sleeping bagging it. So we did. The sun set , and since we were a decent ways outside of any heavily settled areas, we saw the most amazing night sky of the entrire trip. We could clearly see arms of the Milky Way, which looked like clouds. We were so amazed, we called a friend from UConn who is getting his Ph.D. in astrophysics. He was glad to have heard from us as we sprung the news on what we had been up to for the past few months.

We talked for a while about whatever as we listened to the waves crash, and gazed into the night sky. It was certainly one of the most memorable nights of the trip.

Life was good.

Day 99, August 25th 2008, beginning in Santa Cruz, California

We woke at 8:00 not bothered. Good, we made it through the night. This would be our first time using the book we got from Mike and Sean of bicycling the Pacific Coast. We both got ready to leave and used the bathrooms that were property of the marina.

The sun burned through the clouds as we left heading back down the coast. We passed massive fields of strawberries that filled the air with their scent. Emmmm. Man I really envy those evil aliens that are stealing all of our good jobs.  This looks like fun. There were many other things growing in this apparent oasis of cultivation as we passed by miles and miles of fields and fruit stands. We stopped at one stand and I got some strawberries while Paul got a peach. They were succulent.

After our break, we had to navigate many small side roads. Thank goodness for the book, we would not have made it through the day without it. We rode for another 15 miles or so into downtown Monterey. We ate at a cafe where the soup de'jour sounded good, so I had it, and Paul got a sandwich. We left there and road on a bike path along the beach. Some aspiring tourist ran into us, and wanted to make sure we did the 17-mile ride along the water around Pebble Beach golf course. He was on bike, and was overly helpful… you know the type.

We heeded his advice and began our ride around the 17-mile drive. Three words. "w", "o", "w". The scenery was beautiful, and the houses were even more impressive. Paul put a down payment on one , which held us up for a bit.

When we made our way all around the course, we headed down into Carmel-By-The-Sea. There were more luxurious homes, and fortunately a Safeway as we approached the 1 again. We stopped in Safeway for a while, and got way too many grapes along with a half gallon of chocolate milk. You know me, I forced down grapes well passed enjoyment, until I was purple in the face. Chocolate milk doesn't exactly sit light in the stomach either. After I screwed around online for a while, we got back on the road.

It was about 6:00, and the days didn't last nearly as long as they did for the past few months. We began pedaling towards Big Sur as the sun slowly descended. As we approached the north end of the Big Sur area (still confused as to where exactly Big Sur is), we came to an amazing vista point. The wind was very strong, and was nearly pushing us up the hill to it. The views from the top were great, and seem to instill a power within us. AHHHH!!!!

After we enjoyed the view with others, we kept on our way. We passed a few potential campgrounds, and came to a grocery store. We got a little more food there, and talked to the locals who suggested we go up the hill about another 1.5 miles to the Big Sur campground where we could camp with the redwoods. "Okay" we said, jaded from our amazing tree experiences in the recent past, as we hopped back on the bikes for our lest leg of the night. It was near pitch black, but there was very little traffic on the road, so we were fine.

We located the campground, and there were no attendants up front, so we would sleep for free. We set up the tent while I played some tunes for us. It was pleasantly warm, and very quiet in the woods.

Life was good.

Day 98, August 24th 2008, beginning in Fresno, California

Marge had a "field trip" with some of her kids to a San Francisco Giants game that the bus was leaving for around 8:30. She was up and out early, so I said goodbye, but we weren't up to take a goodbye picture. She again left us her key to lock up with and slide under the door. Paul and I didn't do much before Henry came to pick us up.

He arrived at 12:45, but we made him wait for a bit as we collected the last of our goods, making sure we didn't leave anything. We hadn't lost anything throughout the whole trip, but somewhere in between Santa Cruz and leaving Fresno to head back, I lost my sunglasses and hands-free earpiece. Damn.

We got in the car with a slightly different mood this time around.   Sidenote– I find even the deserted areas of California to be beautiful. What an amazing state.  return from sidenote — We took the same stop in McDonald's that we did on the way in. I asked Henry what made him decide to stay last minute, and he said he was drinking with friends. I replied, "Oh that's what we were going to be doing to".   We never received an apology or anything from him. That was a little upsetting, so when we got back into San Jose, I decided to include the McDonald's that I bought on the way to Fresno as part of our payment.

No worries, we were back in San Jose, and had to catch a bus back to our bikes in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately we hadn't timed it well, and we would have to wait a little under two hours to catch the next bus. It eventually came, and the only seats available were with the misfits in the back. We were with two older guys who were way too into their music, a drug dealer, and an extremely loud chick on the cell phone. She was hella loud (take that California). Again the driver must have been paid by the mph. Thank god, we couldn't wait to get off that bus.

When we got to Santa Cruz, we made our way to where Mike lived. We said hi to the neighbors, and I went to work putting the other tires on my new rim. It was pretty tough, and made me scared that it was a bigger rim, but I eventually got it on, and everything ran smoothly. It was sick, but I actually missed the bike in Fresno.

We began searching around for places to eat, and get wireless simultaneously. After stopping at a couple cafes, we were told to head downtown to Woodstock pizza, they had good food, and internet access. We hung around there until about 11:00, which was hopping, even on a Sunday night. The pizza was pretty good, and the internet was awesome. I mean, I'm not a nerd.

Around the time we were getting ready to leave it dawned on us we didn't have a place to stay. We started heading south out of town, and came upon a beach. The sand was dry, and the beach was long. There were massive fire pits left with tons of wood burning. However, it was a state beach, and was surely monitored. We would have definitely been kicked off, but it was the campers dream of a spot. We reluctantly decided to move on, after a while of hanging out by the fires.

As we were passing the marina at the southern end of town, Paul saw some grass tucked away behind the parking lot. We found a spot decently well hidden, until morning at least, in between people's yards and the parking lot. After we were all set up inside the tent and comfortable, I realized that I forgot my wallet, computer, and camera, which I normally bring inside. We're both pretty heavy sleepers, so someone could easily steal the stuff, if they were quiet enough. It was one of those things were it wasn't worth me getting up to go get it, but at the same time I probably should have because it bothered me all night as I jumped at any sound nearby.

On the bright side, we had a good place to sleep, and the next day we were heading towards Big Sur, one of the most majestic places along the Pacific coast.

Life was good.

Day 97, August 23rd 2008, beginning in Fresno, California

Marge had a luncheon with coworkers in Reedley that she was leaving for around 9:00 (for some reason). I got up and made us some more chocolate chip pancakes, finishing off the batter. I said bye to Marge and forgot the goodbye photo again! Oops. Our ride wasn't coming until about 1:00 so we had some time. Paul ran a load of wash, as we picked the place up. I still had the rim issue to resolve and was in pursuit of a bike shop. I found one that was 2.5 miles down the road that I decided to run to. It was fine barring the fact that it's a little awkward to run carrying a bike rim, oh yeah, and the 100 degree heat didn't help either.

When I arrived at the bike shop a sweaty mess, they were unable to assist me because they didn't have a rim that fit. They gave me the number to their Clovis store, but we would be leaving within an hour or so (so I thought), so it was useless. Then I received a call from Henry, our driver, telling us that he was going to stay another day. This meant we would miss Mike and Mia as they flew off to Europe. It was the first time in the trip that things didn't work out for the best. It was pretty unfortunate, but life goes on.

On a positive note, it meant I could go to the Clovis store and get a new rim and have the bike ready to ride when we got back. I walked back to Marge's place where Paul and I hung out. It was a pretty uneventful remainder of the afternoon. When Marge returned, we all ended up taking a nap.

We all woke around 6:00, so I called the Clovis store that closed at 7:00. They had a rim that would fit my tire, so I asked to borrow the car to get there. It took me a while to find it because google gave me the wrong address on my phone. Damn.

When I got there, 15 minutes before they closed, I headed over to the mechanics. They were good guys and helped me immediately. They made sure the rim they sold me was true (bike term), and the right size (which I wasn't even sure about). I got to talking about touring with one of the guys. They ended up giving me a beer, and we hung out for a while. They were a fun group, and had fixed me up with a nice new room.

When I left there I called and figured out what we wanted to eat for dinner. Marge was going to make a pasta, and wanted me to pick up some stuff. I stopped by a grocery store on the way back, which took forever, but was delightfully inexpensive, and went back to the apartment.

Marge cooked up a delicious meal, that we feasted on while… you guessed it… watching the olympics. It was quite a nice dinner, and wasn't so bad to spend an extra day in Fresno with a friend. Unfortunately we would miss Mike heading to Europe, but something tells me we would see him again.

We ate a late dinner, so the rest of the night consisted of watching olympics until we all fell asleep. We were fortunate to have gotten a ride into Fresno, and I was glad to see old friends. Tomorrow was back to Santa Cruz, and the pacific ocean where it's not 100 degrees everyday.

Life was good.

Day 96, August 22nd 2008, beginning and ending in Fresno, California

I woke up at 6:00 to go shopping for some breakfast items. I was going to make chocolate chip pancakes, a personal favorite of both Marge's and mine. I picked up all the stuff I needed and headed back to the house. Marge usually leaves around 8:00, so I wanted to have it ready in plenty of time. We ate my delicious flapjacks and ended up being a few minutes late. Her work was on the way to the park, so we rode with her.

We got to her work in Reedley where she works as a recreation coordinator for the city. We dropped her off, filled up some gas, and were on our way. It would not have been a fun bike ride as we ascended from near sea level to over 8,000 feet into the park. We stopped at a few groves throughout the park playing around in some of the trees.

Once we were about halfway through, we saw a bear cup cross the street. Finally we had seen a damn bear! Sure enough right behind it, here comes momma bear. We watched the mother dig in a beehive while the cub observed. If you look closely you can see the bees flying around it's head. It was getting stung repeatedly, but didn't seem to mind.

After the bears made their way out of sight, we went over to the General Sherman tree, the biggest tree in the world. A few quick stats on the tree is that it is 275′ tall, 52,000 cubic feet, and 2200 years old. It was quite the tree and grows everyday.

After we left the General Sherman area, we were close to the exit, so we left the Generals Highway, and the park.

We headed back towards Reedley. The descent back down into the valley was very long and windy. Once we finally returned to flat ground, Paul nodded off. I got a little hungry while we were driving (plenty more of those), but decided to wait until we got back to eat.

When we returned to Reedley we got more Jamba Juice. Paul also got a sandwich. I checked out an Athlete's Foot for sneakers to no avail again. We left that plaza and headed to a bike shop across town. The shop we stopped at did not have a rim that would fit my bike, and was a pretty bad shop in general. As a final stop, and part of the deal, we took her car to the car wash. I don't think I ever washed my car when I had one, so it had been a while for me. They're fun.

We left there and headed back to Marge's work. She introduced us to some of her co workers, and gave us some pretzels and graham crackers. We juggled the soccer ball while she finished up her work day. When she was done, we hopped in the car, and headed back to Fresno.

When we got back, they showered up, and we went down to Chukchansi stadium, where the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, play. The game was a good one, we had good seats, and the Grizzlies won, so I got to pretend to be a really devoted, obnoxious fan. Always a good time.

After the game was over, they had fireworks. It was a really impressive showing, maybe even better than the ones we saw on the 4th.

When the fireworks were over, we went back to Marge's. She was really tired, and fell asleep early. We had talked to a friend who is actually a captain of the Fresno State football team, who called and woke her up. I wanted to see him before we left the next day, so we got Marge in motion and headed over.

We got there and ended up hanging out well past 2:00, probably not what Marge was hoping for. Ike had a really amazing memory as we recounted some things that happened in our short friendship that one fine summer. It was fun catching up, and I'm glad Marge manned up and brought us there. Good luck on the field this year brother.

We went back to Marge's and again went to sleep quickly. I actually did eventually give in to showering before I went to sleep, mostly for Marge's couch's benefit. Tomorrow we would head out of Fresno to see Mike off before his European adventure. It was nice catching up with old friends, but the train keeps on moving.

Life was good.

Day 95, August 21st 2008, beginning and ending in Fresno, California

Marge got up and went to work, while we slept in. When we got up, we ate some of her food, and headed to downtown Fresno with the soccer ball. There wasn't much going on there during the day, so we headed up to the Fresno State area, where I spent most of my time while living there. We jumped on the bus for a dollar. I really despised not having the bike, but Paul was much happier.

First stop was Jamba Juice, where I had countless smoothies in the past. They were especially refreshing in Fresno, because the summertime high is often triple digits. This day was a cool 95.

After Jamba, we went over to Bulldogs stadium, where the division 1 football teams played. I used to run stadiums there as part of a morning workout with some friends. When we got there, we rolled the soccer goals out to the field and began playing. The grounds keeper had a different idea. He thought we were pretty crazy for thinking we could just play soccer on this field, and we found it pretty humorous how mad he was. He was convinced the S.W.A.T. team was coming after us, and he was doing us a favor by shooing us out.

We left the field and headed down Shaw Ave. I called Marshall, an old Fresno friend that I worked out with to tell him about just getting kicked out of Bulldogs stadium. He didn't respond, but another friend, Loren, called back a few minutes later. He wasn't able to get my number from the last message I had left, and was unable to call me back. It made me feel better since I thought people were intentionally not returning my calls. He told me about a bbq they were having at the church that evening. I told him I would run it by Marge and Paul, but would likely see them later. I was happy I would see them, it would have been a shame not to after having come all this way.

Continuing down Shaw, we stopped at the fashion fair mall because my shoes were in such bad shape; I could hardly walk in them. I didn't find a pair of shoes cheap enough, so I stuck with what I had. I couldn't take the annoyance anymore, and took my shoes off and walked barefoot. However, when there was no grass, the pavement and sidewalk were very hot (as I mentioned earlier 95 degrees). It was quite a pain; I needed to resolve the shoe issue soon.

When we got hungry we walked over to the closest In-n-out burger and stuffed our faces. Animal style baby. We caught the bus back to Marge's and she came back from work shortly after we got there. Another old friend Randy was in town, and he was trying to make plans for the evening. We would see if we could squeeze the bbq in beforehand.

Marge got ready to go, like girls do, and Paul and I went as is, like guys do. When we got there, to my surprise, Loren and Kerri had two children since I left. Eli and Asher seemed to be a handful of fun. We ate some food, and caught up on what was going on in one another's lives. After the bbq, they held a college church session which we reluctantly attended. I didn't mean to drag them into it, but would have felt bad leaving then.

After the discourse was over, we played some ping pong with Loren. They also had a drum set that I was banging on while people were trying to carry conversations. It was really fun and made me want to get a drumset.

We made our way out, and I said goodbye to everyone in hopes that I would see them again before we got out of Dodge. We rolled over to some bar where we met Randy, another one of Marge's friends who I befriended 3 years back. We had a good time at the bar. It was another one where they served free peanuts. I love those places… and peanuts. Marge had such a good time that I ended up having to drive us home. In the car ride home we belted out some songs as we rode back across town.

Everyone fell asleep shortly after we got back. Earlier in the night I was able to convince Marge to let us borrow her car to go to Sequoia National Park. Goody goody gumdrops.

Life was good.

Day 94, August 20th 2008, beginning in Santa Cruz, California

Paul and I went to grab some breakfast foods from Trader Joe's when we got up. We grabbed some cereal and pastries. When we got back, Mike had come back over with his friend Leif. Leif had biked the coast as well down from Oregon. Paul and I quickly ate out cereal as we were making plans to leave. Sean wanted to sell his bike now that the trip was over, and Mike had all the prepping utensils at his place. Paul was going to meet a friend from home who was spending a few days in California before heading off to Australia to study abroad. Leif and Mike biked over, and we planned on playing frisbee golf up a bit of a mountain, so we decided we'd drive. Mike's car was over at his house so we headed over there, while Paul headed downtown to meet up with his friend.

When we got to Mike's he offered me his bike pump to make sure my tires were nice and tight. Since I had just put on the new tire yesterday, I thought it was a good idea. As I pumped the tire to around 80 psi, the tire itself popped out of the rim a bit and the tube exploded. It sounded like a gunshot, and scared the crap out of me and Mike who was inside the house. He came rushing out and asked if I was okay. It was pretty funny actually. I was in no rush to put a new tube in because we wouldn't be riding for a few days. However, when I began looking at the rim, I noticed some cracking in it. It seems as though I uncovered a new problem by popping the tire. It looked like it would probably need replacing… great. Mike's landlords pulled into the driveway shortly after that and gave us the okay to store the bikes in their garage while we spent a few days in Fresno. At least that was good. I could maybe find a replacement rim in Fresno.

After my decision to delay my problem until later, Leif, Mike and I headed out to frisbee golf. The course is apparently really well known among frolfers nationwide. It was a lot of fun, but these seasoned vets were a lot better than I. It was a lot less forested than the Steamboat Springs course however, so much less time was dedicated to searching for the discs. Thank god.

When we were done we headed back to Mike's place. Sean was finishing up with the bike, and Paul called because his friend had left. We were going to head to the beach, so we drove over to meet Paul back at Sean's.

We made our way down to Booby Cove, a small section of beachfront near where the surfers ride. They call it booby cove because of the Blue Footed Booby that instinctively flocks there seasonally. Before you Google what a Blue Footed Booby is, let me save you the time and tell you its a bird. However, the naming of the area may have more to do with the UC Santa Cruz college nearby than the blue footed version.

When we got down there, we were happy to see some big "sets", what Californians call waves in succession. I guess it's easier to say. It was an amazingly beautiful spot that we had to climb down into. We played in the huge waves for a while like little children. It was a great time. We never did see any UCSC girls, but strangely enough David Hasselhoff made an appearance.

We hung out and dried off on the rocks before we headed back to Sean's. When we returned, Paul had to drive his stuff over to Mike's to be stored, while I hung out with Sean before we caught the bus into San Jose. Mike would be around on the weekend when we returned so we would see him again before he departed for Europe.

Paul called when he was ready, and I said goodbye to Sean. We planned on maybe meeting up again in L.A. since we were both heading that way after Fresno. I walked over to the bus station carrying a couple bags and a rim to replace. The bus would take us to San Jose where we were meeting our carpool guy to take us into Fresno. We grabbed some pizza and finished the milk we had bought that morning before getting on the bus. I forced the last few drops down so as not to waste and thought I might explode.

The bus was under an hour thanks to the Wildcat Sandra Bullock. We felt like we were in Speed 2, as we went over mountains and through valleys the bus never seemed to go under 100. That said, we were in San Jose early and had to wait for Henry to come pick us up. After not much waiting, Henry showed up. Nice, a Honda. Henry is a nice young Vietnamese guy who moved here in '94 with his parents and presently works as a dental hygienist.

We hit very little traffic the whole way as we were well past rush hour. It can get bad in California. After we took a halfway pit stop at Micky D's, we got back in the car to finish out the short remainder. When we close to Fresno, I asked Henry what kind of music he liked, as he had not put any on yet. Turns out he had a penchant for techno and was glad I asked, as he morphed the car into a rave club for the last 20 minutes of the ride. Not bad stuff, though.

We made it to my friend Marge's house with no problems. I hadn't seen her in 3 years, but we kept in touch over the phone. It was already getting late, and Marge had to work the next day, so we just hung out in her place for a bit catching up, and, you guessed it, watching olympics.

We were in good shape, we each had our couch to sleep on, while Marge went upstairs. Good old nostalgic Fresno. We didn't have much planned for the next day, but that was just fine.

Life was good.

Day 93, August 19th 2008, beginning in San Francisco, California

It was Monday, so Ryan headed off to work. We said goodbye to him, but forgot to take the going away picture. Sorry folks. You can see the back of his head in some of the other pictures I took as a consolation. Paul went back to sleep in Ryan's bed, and I farted around on the computer for a while. When Paul got up, we packed up and headed out the door. We said bye to Ryan's roommates Matt and Matt, and were on our way. Destination Santa Cruz.

It was quite the climb to get out of San Francisco, and when we got on the 1, we realized it was not fit for bicycles. We got off the first exit, and made our way along side roads until it was safe to return. We made about 20 miles to a small town when Paul noticed my tire was quite low. I was hoping the tire would make it to Santa Cruz, where I had planned on replacing it that night, but it was a bit too ambitious. I replaced the tube and tire, and we were down to no spares again.

After we got some drinks and ate, we hit the road again. We rode another 30 miles to a small town with a gas station and restaurant. We went to the restaurant and each got a burger. We ate outside, because it was so sunny and beautiful. We took our time, we only had another 25 to Santa Cruz. It was late afternoon, and the winds picked up heavily in our favor. I mentioned after that it was probably the fastest 25 miles we had done in the whole trip. We were cruising to the Cruz. The same winds we were enjoying were a perfect source of entertainment for a hoard of kite surfers we noticed as soon as we got into Santa Cruz county.

When we got into town, we made our way to where our friend Sean was staying. We unloaded our stuff inside, and Paul showered up. We headed out on the town with Sean to get some food. He first took us to this famous surfing spot where we watched the surfers surf, and the waves crash into the rocks. It was a serene setting, and entertaining at the same time.

After that, we went and got some falafels downtown near the famous Santa Cruz boardwalk. When we were done, we headed out to the boardwalk, but quickly got kicked off since there is no biking allowed. We swung by Mike's house, and he wasn't there. Mike doesn't have a cell phone, imagine that… so at times its difficult to reach him. Remember those days?

We went back to Sean's friend's apartment that we were staying at, and shortly after got a call from Mike. They had rented fern gully, a movie we had talked about on the trip. It's a cartoon about clear cutting forests, and it reminded them of Washington as there was so much of it done up there. Mike and his girlfriend Mia joined the party. Mike was hardly recognizable to us after shaving his beard that had been growing for a few months into the trip. It was pretty funny to see since the bearded Mike was the only one Paul and I knew. Sean's was still in full effect as you can see. Mike also brought over their photos from the trip, and we all checked them out. They had some pretty funny ones those silly guys.

We then put on the movie, which mind you is intended for 3-8 year olds. Here we were, 5 adults watching fern gully intently. We took a brief pause to get some pizza down the street, and anxiously returned to the movie. When it was over, Mike and Mia went back to their place. Paul was out, and Sean through on some Family Guy. We were under a roof again, man we were getting spoiled. Tomorrow would see us of to Fresno. Should be fun.

Life was good.

Day 92, August 18th 2008, beginning and ending in San Francisco, California

I woke up and even though I was fairly hungry, I forced myself to have a small bowl of cereal for breakfast. I showered, and put on one of Ryan's nicest shirts, since none of mine were clean, and so as not to look foolish at Google. Paul got up after a while, and I mentioned to him he would not have enough time to shower if he wanted to go to Google. He seemed to think he would, or maybe he just didn't want to go, but either way, I had to leave without him. Sorry brother.

I biked down to the train station, and hoped on the train with the bike heading south to Mountain View. The ride was nearly an hour on the train, longer than I thought, but I made it just fine. I had to bike another couple miles to the office, and there I was. The same company that had rejected me months ago, stood before me in all its glory. No hard feelings, G.

When Kimmy came out, she had me park my bike out front and she signed me in. We then jumped on the Google bikes that people use as transportation between buildings. She took me to the main cafeteria area where there was maybe 10 ethnicities of gourmet food for free for all employees and visitors. No pictures were allowed inside so I took one after of the outdoor dining area. The food was amazing, and we kept getting more and more.

Every building thereafter, there was something for me to eat, whether it be a smoothie, or snack bar. It was painful to walk after a while. Among the many other ridiculous benefits Google gives its employees, there was a foam pit, a pool, video games (which I never saw), and a ping pong table. Before I left,  Kimmy caught me in a candid photo in Ryan's finest in the middle of campus. This attire was actually more the norm than an actual suit, so I didn't look like as much of an ass as I had planned.  Sort of par for the course

After spending about 2 hours with Kimmy, we finished the visit with a nice game of ping pong. She was a good host, and apparently had a lax boss, which made for a good visit for me.

I left the campus, and headed back on my train to return to San Francisco. It reminded me of the metro north train I used to take. Tear. I got off, and biked back to Ryan's. Paul called me on the way, and was heading to the Golden Gate Park with the soccer ball. It's a truly massive park a few miles long. When I got back to the apartment, I saw that I received an email about a rideshare into Fresno, a place in the central valley, where I used to live a few summer ago. Good news.

With that I responded, and headed out to meet Paul. We kicked it around in the park for a while, while a little girl's soccer practice was being held.

Once we got bored of that, we headed back to Ryan's. We decided we (and by we I mean Paul) were going to make dinner that night, so we stopped at a grocery store on the way. Paul made his pasta fazool specialty. Everyone loved it again, and it was good to get some pasta in that night, since we were riding again the next day.

We repeated the same olympic process as we had the few nights preceding. We figured we would take advantage when we had a tv. I then burned the stuff from the cds I bought onto my computer so I could leave them with Ryan, and not carry the weight on the bike.

We rested easy excited to get back on the bikes and see Mike and Sean again in Santa Cruz. Should be a good time.

Life was good.

Day 91, August 17th 2008, beginning and ending in San Francisco, California

Paul and I started off the day at the pork store, this restaurant Matt had suggested the day before for breakfast when the line was too long. A short wait got us in, and it was certainly worth it. It was quite good, it had to be because people were packed like sardines in this little place for their food.

Ryan went to his LSAT prep class to go over the one answer he got wrong (my boy's wicked smaat), so Paul and I headed down to this apparently well known music shop called Amoeba. Sean, one of the guys we had stayed with in Oregon spoke wonders about it. We could see why when we got there.  https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3074/2790409622_5fc1fa3a75.jpg?v=0 This place was massive, and they had some really amazing deals if you were willing to dig a while for some music.

I ended up buying some R.E.M., classical music, Killers, and Color Me Badd cds for a total of maybe $8 or so. Cool. We were there for a while perusing other possibilities, but eventually ducked out. By that time, Ryan had returned from class. We grabbed some pizza with him for lunch.

When we were done with lunch, Paul and I wanted to do touristy stuff, so Ryan stayed home. We got on the bikes, and headed back to where I was the day before, so that Paul could see it.

We went to Ghirardelli's , and fisherman's wharf. We saw the same kid on the multi-instrument machine I had seen the day before. Must get boring for him doing the same thing everyday. It's a job though, some are much worse.

After that, we headed down to pier 39, a popular tourist area of shops and whatnot out on this pier. We watched sea lions battle for dominance in the best drying spots. This was really entertaining, because they played king of the mountain and playfully kept pushing each other off the platform back into the sea.

Along the way we came across some of those guys who paint themselves silver and act like robots for money. I took a picture of this particularly good one. We kept riding along the embarcadero down towards the financial district and then headed back to the apartment.

When we got back, Ryan took us to this Thai place. I got some dish with yellow curry in it that was absolutely amazing. I recommend yellow curry if you go to Thai, and you like freedom. If not, just get whatever Mccain gets when he eats Thai. Oh a political joke (wow he's versatile).

After the meal we returned to Ryan's and hung out and watched more olympics. Ryan's friend Kimmy called me in regards to my visit to Google the next day. She works there and called to confirm I would be there around noon, and told me to make sure I did not eat for the whole day. I was uber excited, technology and food… what more could I ask for?

Life was good.

Day 90, August 16th 2008, beginning in San Francisco, California

I woke shortly after Ryan left for his exam. His roommate Matt needed help setting up for a yard sale, so I helped him with that. Matt had lived there for a few years and had seen many roommates come and go, often leaving a bunch of stuff. By the time we were done, there was quite an eclectic collection of crap.

When Paul got up, we went to get some breakfast down the street. We ate and when we returned, Matt had already sold off some stuff. He gave us some money to pick up beer, for what I thought would be later. Matt had a different idea. For the next few hours we hung out around the yard sale, which are extremely popular on Saturday mornings in the area, having drinks and meeting all the freaks who wanted this crap. It was fun, but at some point we had to cut Matt off from feeding us drinks. It was hardly noon.

After that whole ordeal, I left on bike to cruise the city, while Paul stuck around the apartment with Matt and Ryan who had just returned from his test. I went to the bay, and traveled along the embarcadero until I hit Ghirardelli Square. If you don't know Ghirardelli, they have amazing chocolate, and at this one they make huge ice cream dessert things. I got one of those and saw some B.C. Eagles as well as Rutgers Scarlet Knight fans. Yippee.

I left there and kept on riding along the bay. I stopped when I saw a crowd forming. This kid from Wichita Kansas was playing guitar, a drum, symbol, and harmonica all at once. He was really quite impressive, and was in great fiscal shape after the show too. Good for him.
Ryan and Paul decided to come out and meet me near Union Square. They got some Philly cheese steaks at a little place as I spectated, still stuffed from Ghirardelli. After that, we went to China town
and sampled a whole bunch of different teas pretending we were seriously considering purchasing each one.

After we were all tead off, we went to the massive Westfield mall. We got some Jamba Juice, and the Paul and Ryan got some cream puffs. We people watched for a bit, since we had decided to go to this BYOB comedy show down the street, and had plenty of time.

We left the mall, picked up some booze, and went to the show. We were pretty early, so we hung in the lobby area, and caught some of the tail end of the previous show. Once we were let in, we were pleased to see they had some brownies made for the guests. Nice. It was also cool that they had 5 different comedians doing short routines. A few of the comedians were people hanging out in the lobby before the show, which was funny, because you never would think looking at them, though their certainly is no mold to how comedians typically look. All of them were quite funny, and the tickets were only $12. It was a really good find by me I must say.

We returned to Ryan's apartment after the show. Ryan stayed in, and Paul and I went to a bar down the street. There we met a girl Anna who had done a bike trip down the coast to Mexico from San Francisco. What are the chances? We talked to her and her friends for a while. Good peeps. We left the bar as it was closing and walked back the 100 feet to Ryan's apartment.

Time for bed, what would San Francisco bring tomorrow, some gentle people? Get it? You're sharp if you do.

Life was good.

Day 89, August 15th 2008, beginning in Petaluma, California

I got up around 6:45 because I wanted to see John off to work since we would leave before he returned. The kids were all already up and they were watching Home Alone 2, so I joined the party. I said goodbye to John as he headed off to work with a promise that I would return to California (ehh hemm… Meghan).

After the movie was over Nolan and Grace felt compelled to continually jump on my back. I let them go to their little hearts' content. Turns out small children jumping on the back can be quite therapeutic to the weary traveler. Once they grew tired of it, they decided to search for another victim. Paul was sleeping peacefully in his bed, he would do just fine. They looked to me to see if it was okay and I obviously consented to any shennanigans they felt necessary. Nolan began throwing whatever objects were within reach at Paul , and eventually they were jumping all over him too. Just what Paul wanted on a day where we weren't leaving until after noon.

Eileen went for a run and left the kids with us. After we supervised the kids' knife tossing competition in the kitchen, which was preceded by their downstairs obstacle course scissor race (close one Ian), we had had enough excitement and began packing our stuff to have ready before the soccer game. Eileen returned to a safe and happy home, as we ate most of what they had remaining in the house. We tinkered with the bikes a bit before heading out to the pickup game we had seen the day before.

We rolled down the road to the soccer game, and weren't late as I feared we might have been. The skill level was pretty high, although it was to be expected from the Monday through Friday mid afternoon entirely Spanish speaking crew. We had a lot of fun as we baked on the turf field. It was fun getting a chance to play some competitive soccer; I missed it dearly.

We got back to the house and hung around for a bit. I would find out later through the grapevine that the children thought I smelled particularly ripe after the soccer game. What can I say, I leave it all out on the field (except apparently the aroma). After we cooled off, and were ready to go we said goodbye to everyone besides John who was still at work, and hit the road for San Francisco. Our short stay in Petaluma would not soon be forgotten; thanks for everything Hosbeins! You rock… red rock!

We got back on the 101 heading south towards San Fran, which was less than 40 miles away. We got one of the best tailwinds we had so far for the first 12 miles or so, which completely turns around after that. Boo. We began noticing how heavy traffic became as we approached the city, and a driver instructed us to use a bike path instead of the 101 which would have been disastrous if we continued much farther. We heeded her advice and rode right along the freeway on a path meant for us.

As we rode for a while, we were having a tough time following the path. Fortunately, someone on a bike noticed that and came to our help. He was actually a warmshowers host in the area, and ended up riding with us nearly into the city, taking us along a path we would have never known otherwise. What a find.

When we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, the wind picked up significantly, and made it difficult to right the ship at times. Unfortunately, the fog was very thick as we crossed over, yielding not the most scenic pictures ever taken from the most famous bridge in the states. After crossing the bridge, we made our way to my friend Ryan's apartment. We dropped off our stuff at his place, changed quickly, and left to get some food. I hadn't seen Ryan, who also went to UConn, since he left for San Francisco nearly two years ago.

Ryan's apartment is in the Haight and Ashbury area, where hippies allegedly started in the 60's. It's a pretty vibrant neighborhood, where I had popcorn thrown at me within a few minutes for refusing to give a stranger beer money. After that, we got Mexican at this place right down the street on Haight. The burritos were amazing, and the people had this rapid and precise wrapping technique that added to the experience. Good spot.

After we filled ourselves, we headed back to Ryan's place. We weren't planning on partying as Ryan had an LSAT prep exam to take for his class the following morning. We stayed in and watched some Olympics. Fine by me. After a while, one of their roommates Matt returned to crash on the couch which left the floor for us. Matt is currently interning for Lucas Arts, doing artwork for some of their video games. Cool stuff, nice guy. He was one of the most amazed people at what we had accomplished that we had come across. He was "truly jealous". We all fell asleep to the olympic games in the living room.

Life was good.

Day 88, August 14th 2008, beginning in Petaluma, California

I woke around 8 to the good news that Ian's suitcase was in at REI. That means we would open the store up at 10:00 to get it; Ian would have it no other way. Eileen made us some chocolate chip pancakes before we left. Yum.

We got to REI a few minutes after it opened… it would have to do. Ian is a big fan of REI, he recently got a knife from them that he was particularly fond of, and know it could easily be stored safely in his camouflage duffel bag/suitcase. It was a win win. I also picked up a box of Clif bars since they were nice and cheap. Nolan repeatedly honked the horns on the bikes; there is something for everyone at REI.

We left and headed back to the house. Ian and Grace had to be dropped off at a friend's house, so Eileen left Nolan with us. Paul and I had a catch while Nolan played with a few of his thousands of toys. We went back inside and I wrote a blog that took a long time.

By the time I was done, Eileen was ready to pick the kids back up, so Paul and I rode our bikes down to an In-n-out burger. On the way, we saw a large pickup game of soccer that I hoped would not be over by the time we got back. I considered skipping lunch, but I don't think Paul would have been happy about that as it was his first time having it. For those of you easterners who don't know, in-n-out is a delicious fast food joint that makes amazing burgers, fries, and shakes. Animal style, which does not appear on the menu, is a must. It's basically a large unhealthy goop of heaven/mystery sauce on your fries and burger. I have had it before, and now In-n-out had a new fan to add to the base.

On the way home, much to my chagrin, the soccer game was over. There were a few remaining guys hanging out, and I asked them when they would play again. He told me they play Monday through Friday starting around noon. Nice that they have that time, but hey it was soccer, I was happy. We would be back tomorrow.

We returned to the house to hang with Eileen and the kids. Grace and Paul jammed on the keyboard for a while before our adult duties had to be taken care of.  Boohoo.

We were in charge of getting some goods for dinner at Trader Joe's so Nolan and Grace came with us to show us the way. When we got there, we found out the real reason they came. They wanted to find Henrietta, a stuffed animal, within the store to get a free prize. They were successful, and ended up getting some lollipops for their efforts. When we left, I delegated duties as I saw fit. Nolan seemed to be best fit for carrying the milk. Amazingly enough, after I thought I picked the best man for the job, he ended up dropping the milk which we would have to put in a different container when we got home. Grace did a better job with the olive oil, and milk after Nolan gave up.

We came back home, and shortly after John arrived. He brought Grace to her soccer practice, while Eileen got dinner going. Paul played the ever challenging game of Jenga with Nolan , while the adults prepared the food. I think someone forgot to tell Nolan the point of the game was to keep the blocks off the ground. Oh well. I was responsible for some zucchini dish, so I looked up some recipe online and went to town. (didn't even know she had the camera… it's how i prepare all meals). I would be lying if I said it wasn't the best dish amongst the grilled veggies, kabobs, and San Francisco sour dough bread. Wink wink.  Dinner was another hit for supermom, who was gaining a respect for our eating ability as we polished off plate after plate.

After dinner we watched more olympics and skyped with the Cegs again. In the break of some olympic action I was actually able to capture this candid photo unbeknownst to the person who appears in it. Yep, that's Eileen playing webkins while no one else is around.  Not a kid in sight.  She claims her sister Anne Marie likes it as well, but I think she just said that because she's a doctor and it would make her look less pathetic  Either way, what a relaxing stay at the Hosbeins. It was too bad that we would be leaving the following day, but such is the life of traveling men.

We wouldn't rush out the next day however; we would stick around at least for the soccer match. For now it was bed time… in a bed of all places. Lovely.

Life was good.

Day 87, August 13th 2008, beginning in Anchor Bay, California

Paul and I got up at a pretty decent hour, which was good otherwise we may have been caught by the authorities in the area. We had the tent all broken down by 7:30, though the market we had intended on eating didn't open until 8:00. Paul went to a coffee shop to use the bathroom, however the town had enforced a no public bathroom policy on all of the businesses, so he was forced to walk down to the campground we should have stayed at the night before.

When the market opened we bought some food and hung out for a while. I used the bathroom after I finished eating and using the internet at the coffee shop. By the time we were ready to leave it was about 9:40. Getting ready early (for us) seemed to do no good. On the other hand, we had covered enough miles in the past few days to get us to Petaluma a day early, where we would be staying with Meghan's family to be pampered, or so we were promised 😉

We intended on riding 30 miles to Fort Ross for our first stop, but when we got there, and found no refreshments we just kept on runnnnning (Forrest Gump style). We had to go another quite hilly 11 miles to a town called Jenner. There were some beautiful vista views, including one where cows were grazing on the edge of a bluff [PICTURE]. Bet you don't see that everyday.

We arrived in Jenner, and went to a gas station to get some food. We relaxed outside for a long time in the warm sun as we dried our sweaty and dewy clothing. Ahhhh. When we finally left there, our legs were pleased that the ensuing 30 miles were much flatter. We began turning inland, and weren't sure of our exact path. When we came up to a sign that said Valley Ford, I knew we were in good shape.

We stopped there and got some quick snacks and drinks. I made a phone call to the Hosbeins to tell them we would be in town soon. Eileen informed us the beers were chilled and they had stocked up on food as well. With the good news, we quickly got back on the bikes, and headed for Petaluma. Before we left however, I noticed an extreme eyesore. Disappointing…

We arrived at the house before John got home from work and were greeted by the new and improved (less shy) Hosbein children and Eileen. It had been a while since I had seen them. It wasn't all smiles however, as we were greeted with the bad news that Tulip, the family cat, was missing. Apparently she had a run in with a madwoman behind the wheel earlier that morning, and had fled the scene. The kids, especially Grace, were not happy. We insisted that we were good luck with this sort of thing, like we were for Squishy in Oklahoma City.

When John got home we chit chatted the night away while sipping on Fat Tires (Eileen heard through the grapevines) and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Eileen made my dream dinner including some steak (Tri tip "“ Cali style), potatoes, and the ever important Broccoli and cheese side, a special recipe that the Hosbeins had passed down for generations. Before we feasted, we Skyped (video phone call via the internet) with the Ceglarski's who were vacationing in Cape Cod at the time. It was fun to see them all together, the big happy, loving family that they are.

When dinner was ready, we kicked them to the digital curb quickly and rushed into the kitchen. The food was excellent, a touch better than the chocolate milk / clif bar dinner the past few nights brought. I think the Hosbeins were a little disappointed in how much we ate, but we still had time to prove ourselves as we were spending the next day with them.

After dinner, a pleasant surprise strolled in. Tulip had returned after a bit of searching for her. Eileen, a.k.a the madwoman from earlier was perhaps more relieved than Grace when the damn thing came back. Yay, mom is still a friend, not an enemy.

After the kids went to bed, we watched some olympic games for a while. I finally showered, and everyone got ready for bed. Paul and I had our cute little setup in the guest room, with one of those beds that pulls out from under the other so you can be nice and close. Lovely.

We had no big plans for the next day, and were happy to be off the bikes with friends.

Life was good.

Day 86, August 12th 2008, beginning in Piercy, California

When we got up, we decided we were going to climb all the way over Leggett before stopping for food. There were two hills to Leggett. After we passed the first, there was a sign that said there were no services for a 27 miles. We had already gone 18.  There also was a “you forgot your school lunch boys” sign as well .  Not sure how often that is necessary, but lucky for those boys who weren't going hungry today  Anyway… The second hill of Leggett was much steeper and seemingly endless. The descent down the hill was fun and very windy through a dense forest. It leveled off for a while, and then we hit the coast. For the next 10 miles or so until we hit Westport, we rode along beautiful bluffs. This was the most picturesque part of our California ride SO FAR.

By the time we hit the market in Westport we had gone 45 miles. We were due for a nice long stop. Fortunately the lazy workers at the store felt the same way and took about 30 minutes to make a couple of sandwiches for us. We also got some cereal and milk and spilled some to the pleasant surprise of the canine workers at the store. We relaxed outside for a while, while eating our food and people watching. Not the best in the brightest in Westport I must say, not like the Connecticut version (when I was there at least).

When we finally left Westport, we figured we would do another long ride to Mendocino. We had magnificent tailwinds that helped push us along the way. More beautiful scenery lined our trip to Mendocino, and we again stopped at a market when we got there. More and more hippies populated this town as well. Much of northern California, or norCal if you wear your sunglasses backwards on your head when they aren't protecting your eyes, seemed very hippy/laid back. Apparently they grow a lot of this substance known as Marijuana; maybe that has something to do with it as well.

After we fueled up, we skipped town heading for Manchester, which would make a century (100 miles) for us that day. When we arrived in Manchester, we found nothing there, so we continued on to the next town called Point Arena. There was a small Mexican joint in Point Arena that we stopped at. The odometer read 103.1; it was time for some food.

After we filled up there, we stepped outside and began of thinking of a place to sleep. The winds were strong heading south, and the near full moon lit up the ground well. We got back on the bikes and took advantage of our favorable conditions. While we were riding, we nearly hit a deer that was crossing the road. Shortly after that we saw the most amazing, and enduring shooting star either of us had ever seen. The lack of light pollution helped make the sky shimmer extra bright. It was a very enjoyable ride, but a little tough for me without a headlight.

We decided to stop at a very small nook near some restaurants, right past a campground where normal people might stop. It was a great spot, elevated right near the ocean where we could hear sea lions and waves crashing for much of the night. We had done nearly 120 miles and would have breakfast right near the tent in the morning.

Life was good.

Day 85, August 11th 2008, beginning in Arcata, California

French toast was on the menu again since we had some bread and eggs leftover. We also had a lot of fruit to eat. We were slow in leaving as we vacuumed and tidied up to try to make it better than we left it. The watermelon was particularly juicy, and we ate about half of one and packed the remainder.

Our first ride was about 35 miles to Scotia, which was a town right before the avenue of the giants, a section of road off of the 101 giving good views of massive redwoods. We had to stop several times along the route to tinkle, and we didn't realize until later on that it was from the extremely juicy watermelon. Stuff was good though.

We rolled into Scotia and stopped at a market, where we finished off the watermelon and got more food. We ate outside in the beautiful weather. The next 30 miles of riding would be through a forest of redwood trees. We saw thousands of thousand year old trees along the entire road, and it turned out to be a very lightly trafficked alternative to the 101. Again, it was a very peaceful ride. We stopped in a section where we saw probably the largest ones of the day and took some pictures.

As we approached the end of the avenue, we ran into a few familiar faces getting some food at a pizza shop. It was Andy and Melissa again . We had caught back up to them after falling behind on our day off. They had already eaten, but weren't going much farther on the day. We kept on going up to Garberville from there, which was another 11 miles or so.

We stopped and ate at a Mexican/Italian place, weird right? While we were eating, I called the Hosbein's, family of Meghan's that I know well, who live in lovely Petaluma California to let them know we would be rolling into town soon. They were excited to have us in a few days.

We left the restaurant with the hopes of covering a few more miles since we had a nice climb ahead of us for the following day. A night time tailwind balanced out the difficulty to see, however after less than 10 miles we decided to call it a night. It was a good riding day for starting after noon.

As we found a spot in a pull off well off the road, a few officers came and asked us what we were doing. We explained and they said they would let it slide as long as we got out at a decent time in the morning and put the tent up in a safe spot far enough from the road. We obliged, and in no time were ready for bed.

Tomorrow would start with our most difficult climb remaining in the trip over Legget hill. But we were in sunny California and loving it.

Life was good.

Day 84, August 10th 2008, beginning in Arcata, California

Mike and Sean were up early ready to go. I made some French toast for Mike and myself, while Sean (vegan) had cereal. They finally showered up, and packed their stuff. They hit the road, but it would not be the last time we would see them hopefully. They would both be in Santa Cruz when we made it there, so we planned to meet back up there. So long men.

Paul and I were taking the day off. I wanted to make it to the visitor's center on the north side of town, and we had to wash our clothes. Other than that, it was play time. We packed some fruit like the soccer moms we were and headed out to a field near the house with the soccer ball. We played there for a few hours on this huge open field with soccer goals. We met a couple guys there who were from the area that we kicked it with for a bit. One was from Minnesota, who shared a passion for hockey. Once we grew tires of kicking, we went our separate ways, and Paul and I went back to the apartment. Paul got more food for dinner, while I biked up to the visitor's center to get tourist materials. On my way, I ran into a woman who was carting her dog around in a trailer. We got to talking about bike touring, and she invited me to a barbecue she was having. They were a bit out of the way, and Paul had probably already bought some food, so although it was a nice offer, I didn't end up going.

When I got back, Paul already had dinner brewing pasta fazool, his specialty while the olympics played on the tv. When there was a lull in the action, with our food and beer in front of us, we put on planet earth, which they had on dvd. What an amazing series. A comfortable breeze blowing through the house, combined with 3 fat tires and a relaxing show were enough to put me to sleep.

When I came to, we decided we needed desert and a different movie. We went back to the grocery store which had the west coast version of redbox and we picked up some ice cream and Juno. We watched Juno, which I stayed up for, and some more olympics. It's a pretty charming movie I must say, I don't think I've spoken with anyone who hasn't liked it. After that Planet Earth came back on, and it was Paul's turn to fall asleep to it. I turned it off, did some more writing on the computer and went to bed myself.

So far California has brought us nothing but sunshine and beauty. What a great state, and we were just at the tip of the ice berg. Back on the bikes tomorrow!

Life was good.

Day 83, August 9th 2008, beginning in Crescent City, California

Hey guys… haven't seen you in a while… I woke up quite hungry and fairly early. I decided I would try my hand at the breakfast buffet trick again at one of the hotels we saw last night on the way to our beach front stay. I was successful again, and filled up on lovely breakfast foods. After I had gotten my fill, I decided to try to get internet access at another motel so as to not blow my transient cover.

I made my way to a super 8 and just asked if I could use their internet. I charged the computer while checking on stuff. Paul called after a while, and I told him where I was. He packed everything up and came over. I directed him to the place that I got food, but we had a miscommunication and he ended up going to the super 8 place where he had to pay. Imagine that… poor child.

After Paul returned disgruntled, we hit the road. After only a few miles we began ascending into a redwood forest . The trees were huge

We stopped at a market on the other side to get an idea of what lied ahead. We got some crappy maps of the area and ate some food. As we were enjoying some watermelon out front, we saw Mike and Sean. Ha, we had caught up to them even after they had done their century the day before. We flagged them down and they decided to join forces with us for the rest of the day.

When we all got back on the bikes it was only a few miles before we were back in the depths of the redwoods. This ride was one of the most enjoyable of the trip since it was primarily downhill and rolling through gigantic majestic living things. The trees seemed to cast a serenity on everything below them as it is cooler and eerily quiet while we rolled through.

The next time we came to a clearing there were a bunch of cars stopped. We quickly noticed some elk were crossing the road . It was fun watching how gracefully they stepped over the fences as they crossed the road. They are beautiful animals. We continued on after that and made a pit stop to get some food at another market. I got some bread and chocolate milk, and after I paid everyone else decided they would get burritos next door. Thanks guys.

I took my food next door and ate with them while they all ordered their massive burritos. Sean got a smothered one, which meant unpackable because of sogginess while Mike and Paul intelligently got dry ones. When their food came, a couple other bikers, Andy and Melissa showed up as well to get some burritos. Sean and Mike had met them earlier, but Paul and I hadn't. They had a bunch of stuff stolen in Eugene Oregon on their tour including Melissa's bike. Bummer. On a positive note, they got a whole bunch of press about it and the large biking community of Eugene pitched in and got them back on the road by giving Melissa a new bike among other things that were stolen. I had actually read about them in an email on this touring email list I'm on. It was funny to have actually met them after having already heard about them. Odd.

Paul and Mike each ate half of their burritos and packed the rest while Sean painfully put down the entire thing. He was hurting so much that when we went outside Sean passed out on the ground and took a quick nap. I must admit the sun felt nice and relaxing.

I had cell service for one of the first times that day, and made a phone call to Katie Querna's (warmshowers host in Spokane) friend Reagan who lives in Arcata, the town we intended on reaching that evening. Reagan and her husband Luke had agreed to have a friend leave a key for us to crash at their apartment. Yes you read correctly… they never met us and were opening their home to us passing through on the word of their friend that we were okay guys. Sweet.

After Sean came to, the 6 of us set out towards Arcata. I began chatting with Melissa about their ride, and it turns out they were coming from Indiana. Their goal for the trip was to collect information about people's/businesses' practices for sustainability in terms of energy and consumption. They are interviewing people and have a video camera and everything packed on the bikes. I was very interested to hear about it, but with all the equipment I just mentioned, and the hilly terrain we began running into, they quickly fell behind the pack. Hopefully we would see them again.

The ride to Arcata was quite hilly, but also fueled by nice tailwinds and good company. We all chatted the whole way about this that and the other thing like old women, and before we knew it, we had arrived in Arcata. It was beginning to get dark, and although it wasn't our place to offer it, we had empathized with the guy's dirtiness, and offered for them to shower up and sleep in the apartment with us. They agreed, and we navigated to the apartment, which was right off of the 101.

Between the four of us, we hadn't showered in a collective 32 days, an average of 8 days apiece. Yummy. Oddly enough, although we talked about how nice it was going to be, no one jumped at the chance to take one once we got inside of Reagan's and Luke's place (hope it was okay guys). Paul was the first to shower, and after he got out we went to the grocery store to pick up some food. We got the food, and when we returned I showered. Then we made some food, and flicked on the olympics. We were captivated by some amazing gymnasts, and Sean and Mike actually never made it into the shower that night. They ended up sleeping in their sleeping bags on the ground (fear not Reagan and Luke) and decided to shower the next morning before leaving.

After the boys went to bed, Paul and I put on the best of Will Ferrell volume 2. I was happy they had that dvd since Paul and I had watched the first volume on my computer. That Will Ferrell is a funny character.

It was a good ending to a good day, and Paul and I had earned a rest day in Arcata the following day. Ah, sweet California. We were loving it.

Life was good.

Day 82, August 8th 2008, beginning in Port Orford, Oregon

I got up early and headed into a coffee shop hoping for some wireless. I chose the only one in America that doesn't have internet access. I wrote a blog while enjoying a smoothie that I bought. It was a very small town, one of those places where everyone knew each other. They had no problem completely ignoring me in the corner, which was fine since I was actually able to write a complete blog. Is it weird talking about completing a blog, while writing a blog?

After I finished I headed outside, and Paul came in to get some stuff. By this time, it was late enough for people to be on the beach, so our hidden spot at night, was an entirely visible eye sore. It felt a little weird packing up our stuff here, but we had no problems, and certainly no self-respect left on the trip to worry about.

Once we got on the road, after about 10 miles, I began snapping pictures of this warm thing that was peeking out from behind the clouds. I forgot what it was called at the time, but after another 10 miles, it came all the way through, and I remembered… the sun! I remember talking about how we could imagine how ancient religions worshiped the sun. We weren't far from it.

We stopped in a town called Gold Beach at a market. We got some food and soaked up the sun out front on the sidewalk in front of the parking lot. We took out the tent and dried it out in about 5 minutes from the beating sun. What a beautiful thing. A couple of "exotic", young ladies came up and asked if they could sit with us. Of course. They were from Brookings, the last town that we would hit before the great state of California. They were preparing for a hitchhike to New York City the next week. They were an interesting couple, and I do mean couple. They very nice, and were certainly good entertainment for our ephemeral stay in Gold Beach.

We hit the road with the sun still shining. What a feeling. After a while, we caught up to these kids who we had seen earlier in the day riding south (like the rest of us). Turns out they had started in northern Oregon, and were finishing their tour that day at the border. One of them will be playing hockey at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island. Cool.

Once we got into Brookings, we could smell the California border… it was only 6 miles away. We bought some wartermelons at a Safeway, and hung out for a bit while I tried unsuccessfully to get online.

Anxious to get into Cali, we got back on the bikes, and headed to the promise land. The Oregon bike path signs stopped right before the final turn back onto the 101. Lame. We navigated just fine despite their attempted deception, and soon enough were at the border. Paul and I left our mark on Oregon , and greeted sunny California with some affection.

We had about another 20 to Crescent City, the first actual town over the border in Califronia. Lovely. I couldn't contain my excitement, and ending putting a good distance in between Paul and myself. By the time he got into town, I had the computer setup and was online camped out in front of a pizza hut. When he arrived, we decided to eat there.

Get this. I asked a worker if I could plug in my laptop to charge it. She said, I don't know, let me get my manager. Really, is this a managerial level decision? Then the manager proceeded to tell me they didn't have a website and asked if I needed a phone line, which I decoded as him meaning they didn't have a wireless router. Let's back it up, I'm just trying to plug in my computer to charge it. And, no I'm good with the phone line, it's not 1997. After we settled that debacle, we were pleased to see that the opening ceremonies for the olympics were on the tv. We ended up watching the whole thing, while I was online. We were there for a few hours.

It was quite late by the time we left, and we were in need of a place to crash. After deciding to pass up some crazy, yet generous bum who offered "his place" we headed down the road slightly out of town. We found a nice little beach front area that was decently protected from plain view, and called it a night there. We hadn't learned our lesson from the previous, messy beach spot, but it was hella (atrocious California slang) comfortable .

Another free night on the beach in sunny California. Wait, what… we are in California. It still hadn't sunk in, and had been 3 years since I had been there. I went, went back, back to Cali, Cali. Goody, so much to do, so much to see.

Life was good.

Day 81, August 7th 2008, beginning in Winchester Bay, Oregon

We woke up and packed up the tent. The beach was a very comfortable place to sleep, but it did come at a cost; the sand was very sticky from the morning moisture leaving a mess of the tent that was tough to get off.

We rolled down the street to a market in town and bought some milk and cereal. We had to pull teeth to get some plastic spoons and bowls from the guy working there, but his wife came to the rescue and helped us out. We took it next door to a bakery and asked if it would be all right if we ate in there if we bought some pastries or something. The woman working there said, "we don't usually do this but…" Since Subway the day before, I never felt like such a burden on people for asking for so little. It's funny some people will let you stay in the apartment when they've never even met you, and others make you feel like they're bending over backwards giving you a place to sit. We've met all kinds.

After talking to the bakery people for a while, they had us sign their guestbook they had kept at an older store. The woman knew we were bikers leaving a minute later, yet told us to help spread the word, since they were new in town. Yeah, 500 miles away in a week, we'll be clamoring about this bakery that served doughnuts in Winchester Bay! Freaks.

From there we biked about 25 miles to the small town of Charleston.  Along the way Paul felt an odd sensation that he was close to home. Not sure why. We encountered some people yelling at us for biking on the road and reducing gas emissions and therefore the price of their gas. Sorry. It was funny too, because as I left them with some choice words, we passed a sign on the road that said "Oregon Coast Bike Route". Ha, as I pointed to the sign with a finger that will go unspecified.

The sun poked through for about 30 seconds in Charleston and lifted our spirits. It was amazing to see it; we missed it dearly.

After we left Charleston we ascended this very steep road called 7 devils rd. It was continually up and down, and I didn't realize until devil number 7 that they were actually referring to the hills on the road. Their was writing on the road for bikers that said something to the effect of "having fun yet?" It was a challenge, but the humor helped. What didn't help was the jokester government worker at devil 1 who told me I was almost there.

Once we made it down the other side of the devils, we ran into some other touring cyclists. After we helped them off the ground (get it?), we talked to them for a bit and found out they were part of a larger group heading into Bandon, where we planned on stopping as well. We cruised ahead and met up with some of the rest of the group and rode with them into Bandon.

When everyone arrived in town, one of the group asked us if we wanted to eat Mexican with them. I wasn't that hungry, but we decided we would be social with them. They told us about how they were from Seattle and were doing the trip to help promote sustainable housing, a going green initiative, which was really cool. They had a pretty relaxed pace, and were doing some volunteering along the way as well. They were finishing up in San Francisco.

After exchanging some stories, we discovered that we actually met the same person throughout our travels. You may remember Evershed, who we met in Montana, who was riding to Oregon to go to a bicycle building school basically. They had met him later on along the Oregon coast where he staked the claim that he had done the tour alone, and insisted that was the only way to do it. When we met him, he was with Evan, the stronger rider who planned on parting ways somewhere in Oregon as Even continued down to Tierra Del Fuego, the southern tip of Argentina. Apparently Evershed was boasting a lot to them, trying to be impressive, and I was glad we could "evershed" some light on the subject. We had a good laugh about it… not the pun, just the dishonesty.

Once we were all done, we went our separate ways as they were staying with some couchsurfers in the area. They were a cool group, but made me realize what a chore more than 1 partner would be. Lots of conflicting ideas.

We rolled to a small town of Langlois, where the owner of a store was closing up shop and came out to ask us if we would like anything before he left. We were okay, but he also informed us that the campground we thought we were going to was 4.5 miles inland. There's no way we were going too add 9 miles to sleep at some campground, so we kept on after that going a greater distance than we had originally planned.

We made it into Port Orford and stopped at a grocer. We got some food, and sat outside for a bit. There we met a guy, and after we got to talking, I asked him where we could camp in the area. He mentioned a spot down the road a mile or so where we could likely fly under the radar and sleep on or near the beach. We figured we'd probably go with that instead of paying to camp. After talking to him for a bit, I looked at his sleeve and noticed the familiar UConn Husky emblem. I brought up the fact that Paul and I both went to UConn, and as Paul would note after the fact, I opened a whole new can of worms. He was a nice guy, but went on for about another 20 minutes about the history of Waterbury, where he was from. He just kept going… this guy might be able to outlast the energizer bunny. It was another small world moment though, so that was cool.

To his credit, the spot that our fellow Connecticutian spoke of was a great place to camp. We were able to again get behind something too block our view from the road, and camped on top of some really comfortable vegetation. This was even better than the beach, and no need to worry about cleanup. It was also a really beautiful place to fall asleep as we listened to the waves crush all night.

Life was good.

Day 80, August 6th 2008, begiinning in somewhere, Oregon

I woke up and saw the other two groups of bikers off while writing and conversing with them. When Paul got up, we packed up and got ready to go. I got us some tea from a little hut in the campgrounds to warm us on the cool dreary morning.

We left the campgrounds and headed to a small town called Yachats. It was a fairly flat stretch of the Oregon coast so we made great time. When we arrived we looked at the map I got at the tourist center in Astoria which had topographical information. Sure enough, we had just rode undoubtedly the flattest area of the coast in Oregon; the rest of the state would be far hillier. In all, the map claimed there would be 16,000 feet of climbing and descent in Oregon.

In Yachats, I bought a gallon of chocolate milk and some bananas, and took it across the street where Paul went to grab a sandwich. They had wireless and outlets again at this place, and again with the crummy weather we were more sluggish and willing to hang around inside. For the second day in a row it was at about 2 that we left our first stop.

Our next stop would be in Florence, which was about another 25 miles. Mandy (Eugene) had told us to stop at Mo's for their clam chowder, so we did. It was rather delicious… a good call by Mandy.

We kept on trucking through the crappy weather after Florence for another 25 miles to Reedsport. We stopped at a Safeway grocer, and got some Half Baked ice cream. It was fairly cold out, so we sought shelter inside a Subway. When we sat down and began eating, a manager came over, and asked us if we would be buying anything. When we said no, we were all set, she gasped as if we threatened to murder her family. A few minutes later, after we saw her get off the phone, she came over and told us we would have to leave since we were violating a health code by bringing our own food into the store. Part of me really wanted to go off on her, but she was clearly not worth it. Next time you guys are in Reedsport, Oregon, do not give the Subway any of your business. At any rate, we cooperated and sat out front finishing up our stuff.

After we were done, we headed back into Safeway to warm up. Here we were in early August, probably the warmest time of the year, and we found ourselves warming up in a grocery store. We marked off the Oregon coast as somewhere we would not choose to live after the trip. I think we were just a bit sick of the sunless, dreary weather.

We left Reedsport, looking to cover a few more miles bringing us into Winchester Bay. Once we got into the area, we had a tough time locating the hiker biker campgrounds. There were tons of Rvs everywhere, but no tents in sight. We did however find a nice stretch of beach that would be free to sleep on. There was a nice drop off from the road that would provide good coverage in terms of visibility. We finally were crashing on the beach, although it wasn't the ocean. We setup the tent and didn't even use our pads because the sand was so malleable, and comfortable.

Once inside Paul began creating a drawing on a postcard that he was sending to a friend. To this day, I don't know who it was, but I always joke that it's one of his 5 boyfriends that always call him while we're on the road. If you were the recipient let me know so I can make fun of him. Thanks.

We saw more beauty again today shrouded in a haze that lasted the whole day. Waa waa waa about the weather, I know, but we were so spoiled with sun throughout the trip we missed it. However, we were sleeping on a lovely, soft sandy spot and weren't paying for it. Hopefully the cops wouldn't wake us at 3:00, but only time would tell.

Life was good.

Day 79, August 5th 2008, beginning in Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

We woke up late, which we are finding happens more and more in the cloudier, darker, colder mornings. We packed up and left the Cape Lookout campground heading south. We ascended a pretty good hill right out of the campground, man this coast is much hillier than the east coast, or at least the part I'm familiar with.

The weather was yucky again, and with the large climb, we decided to stop at a grocer only 15 miles into the ride in Pacific City.  The view was amazing , it was just too bad the sun was nowhere to be found.  We hung around too long at this place, but they had some outlets where we could charge stuff so it was okay. We saw some of the guys we camped right near stroll in as well so we talked to them for two shakes of a Persian kitten's whiskers. They arrived after us and left before us. It was 2:00 by the time we got back on the road and we had only gone 15 miles… Yikes!

Once we got back on we logged about 25 miles before our next stop at a fairly decent sized town called Lincoln. We went to a Safeway (grocer) in Lincoln where we met another couple of bikers heading down the coast to San Francisco, just like the other two Sean and Mike we had just met. Could no one man up all the way to San Diego? Jeez. They had actually run into Sean and Mike earlier, who were easily recognized by their massive beards. They watched our stuff out front , while we ran in and grabbed some food. Inside, I finalized plans with a former coworker Mark, to meet us out at the end of our trip in the Grand Canyon. He booked his flight that day; it was official. I was excited, but it is still a long way with a lot more riding to do before then.

When we stepped outside someone noticed us and stopped by to ask about our trip. Or maybe it was to brag about the one he went on. He claimed to have done Beaverton, Oregon, which is right near Portland, to Washington D.C. In 23 days. To this day I'm not positive, but I believe he said he was self supported, and that they did on average 135 mile days. And I thought we were fast. After he left, an interesting, precocious, young fellow, akin to Macaulay Culkin's (spelling's got to be off) character in Home Alone, began chatting our ears off as he was waiting for the bus. He had all sorts of things to ask us and tell us. It was fairly entertaining, although I can't remember any specific things that he said. The people you meet…

We left Lincoln after another nice long stop heading towards Newport which was about 20 miles away. Paul hadn't eaten much at our previous stop, and was nearing exhaustion after the continuous climbing and falling we had found the coast to be, contrary to what we had expected. He had fallen well behind, and needed the power of senior nutri grain to give him the strength to make it to Newport. As we passed a place called Depoe bay, we saw Sean and Mike's bikes again; Aha! We had passed them after they had left us earlier that morning.

As we approached Newport, the very beginning of town had a buffet. Count it. We got in and got into the action quick like. There was a pizza bar, as well as every other food you would expect at a buffet. Their dessert and fruit bars were really good too. I ate more than any human should eat in one sitting, which was probably about equivalent to what everyone else in the restaurant had who likely didn't get any exercise that day. You Americans make me sick. We again hung around watching more Will Ferrell. It was a lazy day, and I was living up to my "let's take it slow down the coast" mentality. We eventually rolled ourselves out of the restaurant somehow managing to fit through the doors with 6 miles left on our day to a campground. We got there early enough where we actually had to pay to sleep. How disappointing… it had been a while on the road. When we were talking to the person at the front, we discovered that "the bearded" guys had come in before us. Ha, we couldn't lose these guys.

We made our way into the hiker/biker section and set up shop. Sure enough Sean and Mike were there, and they were hanging out with these two other cyclists Arthur and Drew. Arthur and drew came from Beaverton and were heading down the coast to wherever life took them. Interesting guys, and oddly enough, they both smoked. They had a fire, so once we were ready, we all huddled around it exchanging stories. We found out that Mike and Sean are both from California, Mike Santa Cruz, and Sean from the L.A. Area, and had started their trip in Victoria B.C.

Sean had us rolling for a while as he told us one story about how he had passed out some cyclists who had passed Mike and him earlier that day and the wisecrack he came up with as they passed was "rabbit and the hare". He mentioned how he annunciated it really well and said it twice. When the passees eventually caught back up, Mike had informed Sean that he what he meant to say was "tortoise and the hare" referring to the "slow and steady wins the race" children's allegory. Apparently they had a good laugh after that.

Sean also told us a few other stories that were entertaining, but too long for bloggage. Eventually the fire died down, and we all got tired. Mike and Sean were committed to doing their first century (100 mile day) of their tour to make up for the short ride that day.

Despite the crappy weather, we were in good spirits to meet up with some people sharing the same battle down the hilly coast of Oregon. Hopefully the weather would clear, but rain or shine, nothing could mask the rugged beauty of the Oregon coast.

Life was good.

Day 78, August 4th 2008, beginning in Astoria, Oregon

We slept in a bit tired from… well nothing, not really sure why we slept in. I headed over to the Holiday Inn Express again to "use the internet". On my way over, I stopped by the visitor's center and ran into some luck. I picked up a "cycling the Oregon coast" map as well as a mile by mile point of interest magazine. What a perfect stop, glad I decided to do it. I slyly slunk in Grinch style to the buffet and was golden again.

Paul called when he got up, and met me there as breakfast was closing. We were allowed to stay for a while after so no worries. While we were eating, we saw a news story about a cessna propellor plane that had crashed into a house in Gearhart, probably our first stop of the ride that day. We finished off what little was left at the buffet and headed back to our campground.

We quickly packaged everything up, and hit the road. Gearhart, about 15 miles in would be our first stop remembering that I told Paul we could take it slow now that we were on the coast. Once we got into town, we made our way to the beach there, but didn't go in because it was overcast. We developed a slight hunger, so I got a cinny roll at this bakery and Paul got an ice cream. Gearhart is a small town apparently of wealthy people because everything was really expensive.

The size of the town also seemed to have an effect on the general mood which was a bit somber because of the plane crash. I went into a grocery store, and saw a woman getting interviewed about the incident as well as virtually everyone talking about it. There I heard the sad news that some children had been in the house, and that the pilot wasn't experienced and there were several casualties. It was not a great place to be at the time, so we left and headed over to Seaside, the more developed sister town.

When we rolled into Seaside, about two miles down the road, it was a 180 degree turnaround. It was a Monday, and still bustling with tourists even on this crummy day. The strip leading to the beach was lined with little shops, and people. We made it to the beach and were surprised to see people suntanning in fog . There we met a woman who rode the Oregon coast with a friend who was 65! They were doing it as a memory of a previous biking trip they had gone on. When chatting with her, we found out that the weather might be better down the road about 10 miles to a place called Canon beach. With that news, we hung out there for a few minutes, and rode along a street near the beach until meeting back up with the 101 at the end.

The Pacific is amazing in how little coves and inlets can have completely different weather while only being separated by a few miles. Canon beach was an absolute spectacle, without a doubt the most beautiful beach I had ever been to. Rocks were jutting out of the water maybe 150 feet into the air with birds swirling all around them. Breathtaking. The weather was gorgeous too. The sand was amazingly soft, and the sun was shining. We were on top of the world. We could see the mist engulfing the land where we had come from, and clouds in the distance, but not where we were. We took out the soccer ball, and parked it on the beach for a while. I took a dip in the water; it was quite frigid. We were so happy to be enjoying the ocean, after all, it is the summer and it was mid May last time we got to.

After a few hours of hanging out, we headed out to get some food. We were looking to get some pizza, but at $25 for a large, we decided against it. We rolled down the street, to get out of the main tourist trap, and found a really good burrito shop.

Once we filled up, we kept on down the road. We left the tropical micro climate, and were back in the yuckiness. No fun. I wanted to make it to this cheese factory in Tillamook, about 40 miles away, before it closed that evening, so we would have to make a quick stop in between. As we rode, we decided to just straight shot it.

When we got there, we went in and did the self-guided tour where we saw them making cheese. It was pretty cool I guess and we got some free samples of cheese which is always nice. They apparently had amazing ice cream too, but we were really hungry for dinner first, and their real food options weren't that great, so we left.

Still in the mood for pizza, and especially after seeing all that cheese being made, we stopped at a pizza place in town. We ordered their large pizza, which according to the menu and waitress feeds 4-6 people. Paul and I split it, and I ended up eating about ¾ of it. It was the first time in the trip we had bad food, and probably the first time in my life I didn't thoroughly enjoy the pizza. But, we paid for it, so it was going down the hatch. Me need calories.

By the time we left the pizza place, it was getting dark. We had another 12 miles or so to this campground near the water. We went down some very lightly trafficked back road to get there. It had to be the road that was in the worst condition of the trip, and of course we could hardly see. It's as if it were Sim City, and they turned transit down to zero, and let the simulation run for like 1000 years. Awful. But we made it.

We crawled in to this campground as it was past check in time, and navigated our way to the hiker/biker section which was through a path, again difficult to traverse in the near complete darkness. We put on some Pearl Jam, one of our favorites, set the tent up, and went to bed.

The Oregon coast had lived up to its name thus far, although other than our stay at Canon beach, it was a pretty misty, cloudy day. We were on the ocean and could hear waves crashing as we went to sleep.

Life was good.

Day 77, August 3rd 2008, beginning in Eugene, Oregon

We woke up and had leftovers from the day before. It was still a full meal, and still quite good. We sadly had to depart from Eugene, and even worse, Meghan was heading home. We bundled up all of our clean clothing, said goodbye to Mandy and Joel, and hit the road for Portland.

Meghan brought us back to the bike shop where we left the bikes a couple days earlier. We unloaded all our crap from the car, and had to see Meghan off quickly for her to make her flight. I had a great time with Meghan there, as we all did, and it was tough watching her leave this time for the next month and a half. She made her back to the airport, and we hopped inside to pick up the bikes.

Since the store was so helpful, and we needed brake pads, we decided to buy from them. They also had a stand there for public use, hence the co-op, so we were able to put the brakes on easily. It took a while, and some helpful tips from Lionel, one of the workers there, for me to get both sets of brake pads on and at the right distance from the wheel.

By the time I was done, it was lunch time. Paul and I had discussed going to the farmer's market downtown to check it out and get some food before our bus back to Astoria that night. Lionel, the guy who worked there, was heading down there to get a burrito, so we tagged along with him.

We began talking about the trip as he showed us the way to the market. Because of his helpfulness, I bought his burrito for him, and he took us near the Willamette river, which runs through the heart of the city, to eat them.

Lionel had to head back to this thing called "work", and we went back to the market to check some stuff out. After walking around for a while checking out all of the unique shops and people , we pumped up the soccer ball and juggled a bit while being entertained by this hoola hooping chick, and some young drummers who were so not into the mainstream, which I'm sure was "totally lame".

After a while, we went searching for a field to play soccer on. We started heading down the waterfront area where there were more little shops and a couple of really good looking ice cream stores. We stopped in one, and got some. We took it outside and ate it under the sun by the water and people watched for a while. It was very relaxing.

When we left there, we continued on our pursuit for some greenery to shoot around or juggle on. We headed towards a college in the city, and ended up juggling for a while in some park nearby.

We kicked around for about an hour, and then headed back to the amtrak station where we would catch our bus to get back to Astoria, right over the border into Oregon. We made it to the station in plenty of time, so we got some food, and I called my former boss to see how things were going. Things were going well, and I was happy to hear he began riding his bike to work occasionally. He won't admit it, but I am surely the sole inspiration.

Paul bought our tickets for the bus, and was told by employee inside we wouldn't need the special bike pass since the bus wasn't nearly full. The bus driver felt otherwise, and after a somewhat heated dispute between Paul and this guy, we ended up having to buy the passes. I had never seen him so angry, it was fairly entertaining.

After that whole charade was over, we made it back to Astoria on time. We figured we'd head back to our friend Cassy's place to ask to pitch the tent again. We knocked and I think we woke her up, but she agreed that it would be cool again. We offered to take her to breakfast in the morning, but she mentioned she would be a little busy, so it seemed like it might be a hassle.

Once the tent was up, we headed back to the mini mart to charge some stuff and hang out. We put on the best of Will Ferrell, which I now had on my computer thanks to Meghan bringing my hard drive from home. We yucked it up at the good old mini mart to skit after skit of Will just being Will. Good stuff.

We chatted about heading down the coast and how it was going to be great. I told Paul how now that we're out here, I don't mind taking it slow. He agreed, but didn't believe I had the capacity to put in shorter days. We would see who would prove to be right. Once we got tired enough, we left Will to be continued and headed back to our tents.

Tomorrow would bring some beautiful pacific riding after a nice long 4 days off. We were charged up and ready to take on Oregon.

Life was good.

Day 76, August 2nd 2008, beginning in Eugene, Oregon

When we got up we began making plans for the day. We had a few options: vineyard, hot springs, or rock slides.  We figured we'd stay in town with friends instead of heading back to Portland to do touristy stuff. The Oregonians claimed it was the first time that they hadn't had sun the entire summer, and since it was a bit cloudy, we opted for the hot springs. To prepare us for a relaxing day, Joel and Mandy cooked up an absolute feast for breakfast (my favorite meal). This was no joke, but perhaps a bit much for us on a non riding day. Who was going to turn down this smorgasbord though?

Needless to say (although I am saying it… sort of a weird saying don't you think?) we were all a bit sluggish getting out of there. It didn't help that I noticed that Joel had a modified Game Cube (Nintendo system) either. He had basically every game from Sega and Super Nintendo. Of course that meant Super Punch Out was going in. I disregarded the sharing lessons I learned as a youngster and hogged the game for a while until Bald Bull and Piston Hurricane were too much for me to handle. Oh sweet nostalgia.

Once I finally put the steaming controller down and was dragged out the door, we were on our way to the hot springs. It was about an hour ride through some nice country to get there. The weather had changed, and it turned out to be a beautiful day from then on.

When we arrived at the parking area to the springs, we noticed many a hippy, not uncommon to all of Oregon. When we got to the pathway to the springs, Joel ended up paying for everyone's entry. What a guy.

It was a quick walk to the springs, which by the way Burns we definitely didn't need sneakers, and we were there. The springs were definitely a "loose" environment to phrase it delicately. Most people had no clothing on, and many were WELL past their prime shall we say. That was expected there, and I imagine it is much like a nude beach in Europe or whatever. It really wasn't that weird, and fairly comfortable. The springs were amazing, and quite hot up near the top which was the only pool available when we got there.

We spent a long time soaking in the springs, they were very relaxing. We of course posed for some pictures, being careful not to accidentally capture any wandering family jewels.

After the springs we headed back to the car. Before we got back however, the lake looked too good to not go in. The water was cool, but not too cold. Mandy, Joel, and Burns swam to a waterfall pretty far away, while Paul, Meghan, and I relaxed in the crystal clear water. When we arrived back at the parking lot, we saw the same hippies we did on the way in. Meghan, never afraid to ask anything, inquired of the young child, who was CLEARLY not in any conventional school, what grade he was in. As we all grimaced, he responded that he wasn't sure but knew he was home schooled and was 9 years old. Oh Meghan, what won't she say?

Once we were done frolicking, we got back in the cars and headed back. We stopped for a snack on the way back to Joel's place where there was a roast waiting for us. We got a quick walking tour of the campus, and stopped at the campus shop where Meghan got some paraphernalia and Paul picked up a tank top for some California riding. We also saw the famous track at the school where many famous Ducks have run in the past. It has been rebuilt but I believe Prefontaine ran there before, although those in the know say he wasn't really all THAT.

The girls went to Mandy's to do girl stuff I guess, and we headed back to Joel's where the food resided. Once they came back, we all ate some of the delicious roast that was stewing with peppers, onions, and potatoes. Damn, these runners know how to eat.

Not in a particularly party-hardy move, we decided to go see a movie after dinner. The theaters were actually fairly cheap there, tickets were something like $6.50 for students. Wall-E was the decision for the movie. I was excited… I heard good things.

When we got there, Meghan ended up paying for everyone, except Burns who had already bought his ticket. HA. After paying for everyone, Meghan ended up being the only one who didn't thoroughly enjoy it. Actually, to quote her Meghan said, "… that movie was beat." Classic. I think we all convinced her she should have liked it more after. I think she resists the nerdy, technology stuff and prefers fluffy bunnies.

After the movie, we went to McMenamins , a popular chain of breweries throughout Oregon which was actually suggested to me from a former couchsurfer in Montana (thanks Ted). They actually had happy hour on Saturday night, so we lucked out with some really cheap appetizers. We also all, besides Mandy, got their beer milkshakes. Joel and Burns never had them since they got to Oregon a year ago, and they are both heading back east shortly. They took a while to make, but they were well worth the wait.

After our fill at the restaurant, we went back to crash again at Joel's. It was another great day, and we were glad we had stayed the extra day with friends instead of going back to Portland. However, that did mean we'd have to get up and get going early to get Meghan back to the airport.

Eugene was a great stop for us, especially having Meghan with us, and in such great company with our hosts. It was a place I wouldn't mind having stayed for a few weeks for sure, but the tour must go on. Thanks guys.

Life was good.

Day 75, August 1st 2008, beginning in Portland, Oregon

With our hidden maiden held captive in the room (to avoid the hefty $10 surcharge) Paul and I went to check out what breakfast there was. We had arrived too late, breakfast was over. Oh well… there was fine cuisine down the road… Denny's. Turns out Denny's Friday morning crew is not nearly as sharp as the weekend team and we suffered because of it. With the wait before anyone noticed us, combined with the extremely long time it took to get our food once we ordered, we were there for 2 hours. The home of the grand slam disappointed this time around, but we're not giving up on you just yet Denny's.

Before we left the parking lot, Meghan had an accident trying to hold up my bike, which I've been told is quite heavy. She would survive, but the bike had won this battle.

We had to stow the bikes somewhere since they wouldn't fit in Meghan's rental and the plans were to head south to Eugene to meet up with some friends. I called a bike coop which was right down the street and they gladly agreed to hang on to our bikes for the weekend. Meghan followed us and we rolled down to the shop where we dropped off the bikes and took little receipts for pickup on Sunday. They were cool guys down there so we figured we'd buy something when we returned.

After the bike coop we went to the science museum in Portland. [PICTURES] It was a lot of fun. We saw two movies, one planetarium show about extreme planets. Paul and I particularly like this sort of crap, and Meghan seemed to enjoy it as well. We also saw an IMAX about dinosaurs. Another hit. There were tons of logic games; many were quite tough and left us stumped for a while. They also had a segment about the developmental processes of children in the womb. Very neat, and amazing how early on some things form. Fingernails by 6 weeks or something crazy like that. We also took a run at the aging machine, a little computerized simulation of what you will look like as you age, and incidentally Meghan and I have since decided to start seeing other people. is that Mrs. Bansavage???

After the museum we were Eugene bound. We grabbed some Burger King and have apparently become completely inept at ordering via drive thru since it's been so long as it took us about 10 minutes to place a 4 item order. We eventually got it right.

It was about a 2 hour drive or extremely long biking day. We have certainly found that 70 mph will get you places faster than 15. Fun.

We arrived at Joel's place, where Mandy (both friends from Uconn) tends to spend most of her time without much trouble. It was nice to be greeted warmly by familiar faces after a long time. They introduced us to their friend Gered, but everyone calls him Burns (last name… go figure). We went inside and the girls chit chatted back and forth I'm pretty sure for 30-35 minutes without breathing while Joel gave us some of his home made brew which was delicious as well as some traditional American Lager (Bud Light).

We hung for a while having a few beers while playing Texas Hold 'em. I don't think Gered lost a hand, and was making everyone else drink a lot more than he had to.

After everyone started getting hungry we headed out to a bar to get some food and drinks. We saw an Olympian on her way to Beijing and no doubt celebrating before her departure who was a friend of Joel's and Burns's. The area is sort of a hub for runners; both Joel and Burns were there training for running. Fun. Meghan and I got sampler's there trying all of their different beers, and we all got some food.  We also saw Manny looking good in Blue.

We left there and headed to another bar for a bit where we met Hannah, one of their friends. The place was okay. Joel bought us more drinks, but we didn't stay too long because we felt the music was a bit, to use the technical term, whack.

Last but not least was Max's tavern, which is what Moe's in the Simpsons is modeled after. We saw many bicycles all over the place, and people were taking them out for the night. Many a hippy on bike, it's a good thing. Joel decided to pose by some for our entertainment.

Max's was one of those bars with free (my favorite four letter word) peanuts. That always makes for a good time throwing them around and whatnot. Joel and Gered again treated us to some lovely fruity concoction of two different beers. It was really good…some sort of raspberry thing.

We headed back to Joel's apartment after the peanut tossing lost its luster. Apparently our presence caused Mandy to party harder than she had in a while. Joel welcomed us to stay forever because of it.

We also went for a late night dip in the apartment jacuzzi which was a no-no. We are oh so mischievous though. It was a relaxing ending to the night. We were all plenty tired and ready for bed after that little excursion, so we headed back to Joel's apartment and crashed.

We were very fortunate again to be with such great hosts who showed us a great time in Eugene. We may have to change our plans and hang out for another night instead of heading back to Portland. Time would tell, but one thing was for sure….

Life was good.

Day 74, July 31st 2008, beginning in Astoria, Oregon

I woke to my alarm at 6:00. I wanted to jump online to check some stuff out like motels in Portland and the bus tickets. I saw a Holiday Inn express on the way into our humble abode the night before so I headed over there.

Borrowing a page from Katie Querna's (our Spokane host) touring guide, I walked in "as if I owned the place" and sat down in the breakfast area. At first I broke out the laptop just to get on their wireless network. After a while of realizing I could get away with free food, and personally justifying it as a buffet that they were going to throw out anyway, I dug in. I got a blog up, did some fruitless motel research, and uploaded some photos all the while stuffing my face with Holiday Inn's best.

Paul stuck true to the once in a trip alarm which he had already exhausted, so I called him at 7:15 to make sure he was up. He said he was awake, but later admitted I woke him with the call. We had to be at the bus in an hour, and it takes a bit to rouse him, not to mention the tent needed to be broken down. The early bird got the worm, Paul wouldn't have time to make it over and would have to pay for his food at mini mart.

I headed back shortly after we spoke. We quickly broke down the tent and waited back at the mini mart. When the bus arrived we headed outside and loaded our stuff up. The driver informed us we had to get the tickets inside; I wish they had mentioned that when I asked 30 different bus questions to the woman behind the desk. After purchasing our tickets, we ended up being a couple of the last people to board.

The bus ride was nice and relaxing. Paul hadn't charged his iPod, and for some insane reason wasn't able to fall back to sleep within seconds so he pretty much stared into space for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I wrote a blog and enjoyed not having to climb the two passes that the bus went over.

When we arrived in Portland, we wanted to get some food and find a motel before Meghan got there. I found a place that we headed toward that was pretty cheap. We stopped at a little deli on the way and got some food. When we got to the motel, we basically turned right around. This place was in disrepair and looked terrible from the outside; god knows what the interior looked like. We left, and decided we should get a place downtown and spend a bit more if needed. Looking through a lodging magazine I picked up, we found a couple reasonably priced places downtown right next to one another.

The first motel refused to honor the offer, but the second one did. We ended up staying at the Shilo Inn. It had free transportation over the bridge to the hotter spots downtown, so it was a much better choice. Paul showered up and I headed out to pick up some Fat Tire for Meghan to try.

When I returned I decided Meghan would appreciate me showering, so I did. Since we weren't supposed to have a car or another guest, Meghan had to wait in the parking lot for a few minutes when she arrived. Oh, so close. Eventually, we gave up and she just came in.

The princess had arrived (fake picture taken after the fact) We hung out for a while in the room where we had a couple drinks and just chatted like Meghan occasionally likes to do. Red Robin was right down the street, so when we got hungry we headed over to it.

We had a waiter who was hitting on Meghan, but it was cool because he is gay. We filled up on their massive burgers and delicious steak fries. We headed back to the motel and tried to plan the evening. We figured we would just head downtown, and walk around.

Once we made our way out of the motel, we decided to walk there. It was only about a mile, and we needed the exercise (wink). It was a pretty slow start for a Thursday so we got some ice cream at Ben and Jerry's and people watched for a while. After the ice cream we stumbled upon a brewery that had a lot of people in it so we went in. We stuck there for a while getting a couple of pitchers and some food. It was a cool place, and everything was quite good. Portland is famous for their big time brewery scene, and this place delivered.

We were all fairly tired that day, and when combined with drinks we were ready for bed shortly after midnight. We began to walk back the way we came but were halted by construction. We waited around for the free light rail, and were back at the motel in minutes.

Tomorrow we were heading to Eugene to meet up with Mandy and Joel, friends from UConn. They were excited for the arrival of some easterners as well so it would definitely prove to be a good time. For now beddy by.

Life was good.

Day 73, July 30th 2008, beginning at the intersection of 107 and 101 outside of Montesano, Washington

The Scottish group was gone before I got up, as I woke to the Canadian group getting ready to leave. It was somewhat cold and cloudy which makes it a little harder to get out of the tent in the morning. However, we didn't have rain and there was some sign of sun, so it was a vast improvement from the day before.

Ahead of us was a relatively short day into Oregon, which was a nice way to end the week as we would be taking the next 4 days off. We made a 17 mile stretch over some very annoying hills to our first stop at a cafe in Raymond that had wifi and some outlets to charge out stuff. Perfect. Our waitress explained to me how big their pancakes were suggesting I might not be able to finish to, so we went one at a time. I was able to easily finish off the second one, and we hung out for a bit since we were in no rush. We met another cycling tourist outside who couldn't believe that we were going to make it to Astoria, another 52 miles that day.

Once we finally got back on the bikes we got our first real glimpse of the Pacific. We weren't close enough to get in, but its vast beauty was rewarding from the road. From sea to shining sea. We kept hopping in and out of views of the ocean as we made a 35 mile leg to Naselle. We were getting close to a break and therefore were fairly excited.

Stopping in a motel restaurant, we took one look at the expensive menu and were out the door before our waters came to the table. We went to a market next store where we could save some money instead.

After we filled up there, we mentally prepared for Oregon and got back in the saddle. We cruised uphill for a bit, which made for a nice lookout into Oregon across the Astoria bridge when we crested the top of the hill. Unfortunately, the camera wasn't ready and we began flying downhill.

We traversed the four mile bridge into Oregon. When we rolled into Astoria, we had to figure out where the bus came to head into Portland since we were catching it early the next morning. We stopped at a gas station that had some seating and outlets. Again we could charge our electronics, and get some food in the process.

We sat down near a few mothers with their kids. I inquired as to where we could get away with putting a tent down in town. If all else failed for us, one of the mothers, Cassie, offered her backyard which was right next door to the gas station. Without her knowing, we would look no further, as we also found out that the bus stop was at the mini mart where we were at the time. Things could not have worked at better.

With all the good news we relaxed while our things charged and we people watched all the interesting folks coming in and out of the mini mart. By the time we left the mini mart to go set up the tent, it was fairly late. Cassie lives at the bottom level of a two family home that is fenced in. As we began trespassing, of course the neighbors from upstairs had company that was leaving. There was a very awkward 3 seconds where we sort of stared at one another as I am climbing over their fence with a bike and my belongings. I eventually began explaining myself, and she was relieved as Cassie had mentioned us. "Oh, you're the bikers… at first I was like what the [expletive]" was what she said.

It was all gravy, so we quickly erected the tent. It was nighty night time. Meghan arrives tomorrow! I was very excited, but biking all day every day makes it sometimes easier than normal to fall asleep. It was the longest I had gone without seeing my worse half (; ever, tomorrow would bring a brighter day.

Life was really good.

Day 72, July 29th 2008, beginning in Brinnon, Washington

I woke up at 7:00 to some slight rain coming in so I quickly put on the rain cover. It was so cold and dreary that I ended up going back to sleep for a bit. After waking, Paul and I packed up and headed down the street about a mile to a breakfast place. It was fairly busy, and the service was pretty slow. By the time we got out of there it was nearly noon. Slow start.

It was a bit cold when we left so we had the jackets on. After warming up from riding for a while, we both shed our rain gear (big mistake) and packed it in the bike. Shortly after this brilliant decision the rain started, but it started as mist. It wasn't enough to stop and put the jackets on so we kept riding. After a while, a good amount of water had accumulated on our bodies, and it was too late. Then the rain picked up and never stopped. We were able to ride about 30 miles soaked to the bone.

We stopped at a small casino, which we have been seeing all over since maybe Wyoming. They had a restaurant, and we were both hungry and in need of a dry place to stay for a while. We both asked for hot waters, and each got a hot chocolate. I got a plate of fettucini Alfredo, and we also got a massive brownie and ice cream dessert. It was very good, and we even got refills on our hot chocolates.

It was just what the doctor ordered, but made for a difficult time getting back on the bike. Once we finally built up the courage, we left the jackets on this time. Wow what a difference. I tucked my hood under my helmet like my partner Ali "“ G does from time to time and I was set. The pants and jacket make all the difference in the world.

We were traveling down the east 101 (it splits in Washington around the Olympics) and had to make it to the west 101 which rode closer to the coast. My directional senses kicked in and I stopped us on the 101. I mentioned to Paul that I thought we had to turn, so we pulled off the exit and checked the closest convenience store for a map. We made a sharp turn off the exit and Paul actually slipped on a paint line. He was able to clip out and put a foot down while saving his bike with his hand. It was a pretty smooth move, and there were tons of spectators to watch.

Once in the store, I quickly looked through a map and discovered that this was the turn we needed to take and we'd be on our way. The owner of the store asked me if I planned to buy the map, and that they were for sale (suggesting put it down or purchase it). I retorted that I was aware and kept on looking. Grumpy expletive. We were apparently too far west for Western hospitality.

We left there and continued on for a total of a 43 mile trip form the casino to a stop in Montesano. Dry and comfortable, although the rain never let up, we pulled into a subway for some food. We got to talking to the Subway faithful, and I did a little bragging about the proud point in my life as a Subway employee, a.k.a. certified sandwich artist. I was able to get wireless while in Subway, and posted a blog while we were there. We asked a few cops if there was any place local to camp, and there was right on the other side of the river from where we were. Backtracking is hardly ever an option for us.

We decided to keep on our path to where 108 (which we were on) met back up with the 101. As we approached the intersection, we noticed a few houses with their lights still on. We considered asking them if we could pitch a tent in their yard, but we continued on to the intersection which was actually a park and ride sort of carpool area. There was another camper there, so we decided to pitch the tent on a patch of grass off to the side. As we were setting up, a man came out of the camper and we began chatting with him. He was from Scotland and his group was meeting some folks in Seattle in a few weeks and was doing some touring before then. He offered us some tea, to which we agreed and he climbed back into the camper for a while.

While he was doing this, a hippy looking van rolled in with 5 people in it. The group was from British Columbia (that's Canada for people about to look that up), and they were certainly a jovial bunch. They offered us beer, and told us how everything is cheaper in the states, so it was basically free for them. While the Canadians were setting up, the Scotties fellow came out with some tea for us and a Twix. He was more of a quiet fellow and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the Canadian presence, so he went back inside. We were appreciative of the tea and treat.

I pumped up the soccerball (that's not one word? I'm getting a red squiggly line) and Paul and I went and juggled under a light on the 101, while the Canadians cooked up some dinner. We played for a while, stopping when the occasional logging truck pulled through, and picking back up right after it left.

We returned to the little fire they had made to cook their meat for some warmth. They offered us some soup that they had leftover, and I finished it off. They shared some funny border hopping stories with us as they had been to the states a bunch of times, and were heading back to California this time. They were even singing the same Biggy song Paul and I were talking about (I'm going going, back back, to Cali Cali). Mom and Dad, you must know this one. The most amazing thing I heard from them was that they found Americans to be really amazingly nice and helpful in general. If only that were the diplomatic view globally… it was funny to have heard since the opposite is usually what is told.

After a while of chatting, we all retired as it was after midnight and they planned on making it to San Francisco, or something ridiculously far compared to what one could possibly do on a bicycle. Tear. We were glad that we chose this spot to sleep. More interesting folks, and we were the minority as American citizens. Cool.

Tomorrow would bring a new state, Oregon, and the next day would bring rest but more importantly, Meghan!

Life was good.

Day 71, July 28th 2008, beginning in Lynnwood, Washington

Paul got up before me today, and was rearing to go. I was working for a bit and told him how I was in no rush, so after showering and getting ready for the day he went back to sleep in the bed. After finishing up another blog, I went upstairs to the lovely sight of Kyle making breakfast for us again. He had under promised and over delivered since he had now made breakfast for us both mornings we were there.

He had already had some made, so I dug in while Paul and Allison still slept. He had sliced up some apples and had some really good Guava juice as well. A truly dynamite breakfast. After I had eaten my share and Kyle had some he went to get Allison and I woke up Paul. This is when I discovered that he was fully dressed in his riding shorts and jersey asleep in bed. It was hilarious, and I wish I were equipped with the camera as it would have been a priceless shot.

Once Paul ate we packed up our things and headed out. The Hutchisons were going to go to the beach for the day, so they got prepared as well. When we were set to go, Terra was unfortunately not feeling good, so we took the departure picture with Kyle and Allison and headed for Whidbey Island.

We started on this bike trail Kyle pointed out to us which was really nice riding. Soon enough, we lost the trail and just rode the roads which also had bike lanes on them. We passed the Boeing building, although I'm not sure it was the really big one as it didn't seem that huge. As we entered Mukilteo, we were at a fairly high elevation and as Kyle told us it was downhill all the way to the bay where the ferry was. When we rolled over the hill it was a beautiful view down into the bay from above. Water again.

We boarded the ferry with fairly good timing, although it came every half hour so it was hard to be off. We rolled onto it first on the bikes followed by a bunch of cars. It was a nice quick ferry ride, but it was cool for the time being to be on a boat.

In no time we were on the other side and away we went, before all of the cars. Whidbey Island is quite hilly, and we were going up and down for most of it. Much of our ride was inland, so we didn't see a lot of water as we were riding, but the few shots were nice.

We pulled into a small shop in the town of Greenbank, and had our lunch there. Kyle had packed us each some fish, chips, and a snack pack. Awesome. Paul thought the fish might have upset his stomach the night before so I saved his fish to eat later. I pulled out the ferry schedule to check when the next ferry off the island to Port Townsend was, and realized we had under an hour to go another ten miles.

We weren't sure of the terrain, so we rushed out of there at about 2:10. We pedaled fiercely for a while, and we made it to the port in plenty of time as the topography was agreeable. It was a bit longer of a ferry this time back to the mainland, and we enjoyed the view as the bay side of Port Townsend is beautiful from the boat.

Once on the island we decided to check out Port Townsend as you have to backtrack a bit from the ferry to do so. It was a very cool, small town that had lots of little shops and people everywhere. We ended up going to an ice cream shop that had wifi. We got some ice cream and also figured out that we would take an amtrak bus from Astoria, our first stop in Oregon, to Portland, where Meghan was flying into.

We got back on the bikes and after about 10 miles we got on the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway… the 101. We would be riding this road primarily for most of the rest of our trip. It is supposed to be the best ride in the states; we'd have to see.

After a while on the 101, we stopped in a small town called Quilcene, which seemed to have a school and one shop, a general store. We got some chocolate milk, and I made peanut butter sandwich from my leftovers… the bare essentials.

Once we filled up, we would make one more push before bed. It brought us many lovely hills, and we realized that although we weren't quite on the coast yet, we probably didn't have as flat a journey ahead of us as we originally thought. Either way, we wanted to cover a bit more ground, so we passed up two campsites and made it to the one we had picked out earlier that was farther away.

The campground was a tiny state park. There was enough light left, so I attempted to inflate the soccer ball to no avail. Turns out the $10 Nike pump was no good. I knew it was a ripoff when I bought it, but there were no other options. Resourceful-like, I took the needle out and held it tightly up against the head of the bike pump that we used for our tires. I was able to get plenty of air in it that way, and we were all set. By the time I figured this all out however, it was dark. So the ball sat inflated by the wayside all night. Poor guy.

Instead after setting up the tent, a fire was the next priority. Paul and I got a small thing going and I scrounged around for more wood. I was able to bust up a good sized log with a big rock in no time, and we had a blaze going. It was nice. We enjoyed that for a while, but unfortunately had no s'mores ingredients, so it eventually lost its luster. With the help of my bladder, I put the fire out and we went to bed. We would have one more night in Washington, and then Oregon would have to prepare for two studly bikers to coming rolling in. Hopefully two days was enough time. Meghan was also coming in three days; I was very excited since I hadn't seen her in 73 days.

Life was good.

Day 70, July 27th 2008, beginning in Lynnwood, Washington

I awoke to a unfamiliar, blaring alarm in the distance. I got up to see where it was coming from. Sure enough, it was Paul's phone alarm. He was sound asleep with his head about a foot away from the alarm. Man, this kid could sleep. It was also funny because it was the first time he set his alarm on the trip. Mind you, this is now the end of week 10. It was going off at 6:30, still a bit early, so I shut it off and returned to the couch where I had apparently fallen asleep with one hand on the computer, according to Kyle.

I got back up at around 7:30, and Paul was already showering. Nice. Due to time constraints, I made the sacrifice and skipped mine for the morning. Kyle was up, and came down to see what our plan was. We decided that we would check out the city for the day, and return with some fish from the world's famous pike's market, for dinner. He thought that would be a good idea, but told us not to come back just for dinner if we were having a great time in the city. He also told us he would make some pancakes before we got going. Good stuff.

We went upstairs pushing the clock around 8:15-8:20, and began eating breakfast. Paul had to hurry a bit, as eating against the clock is a norm for me. We actually we ready to go, out the door at about 8:35. Kyle drove us since it was raining (go figure), and he knew the timing of the lights well enough that he could get us there in 4 or 5 minutes. We flew down the streets and made it just in time. We said we'd call him once we figured out our dinner plans and the timing of everything later that day. Good stuff. The bus pulled up as soon as I stepped out of the car, and we were off. Thank Kyle.

We went to pay the bus driver, but we didn't have exact change, so he sent us back so as not to hold up the schedule. Our ride would be for free. Score. It took about 45 minutes to get into downtown Seattle , which was still fairly quiet since we got there around 9:30 in the morning. The stop dropped us off right in front of Pike's market, which we intended on ending with to get the fish, but we figured since it was right there we might as well check it out.

People were still setting up some booths, but once we got into the market place it was somewhat already bustling. We saw the fish tossing right off the bat, and it made me excited for later in the day when it would be our turn. The market is huge with multiple levels of cool stores on the inside as well as equally as many booths setup outside selling everything you could imagine.

After walking most of it, we began getting hungry and stopped at a bakery we had seen earlier. They were selling yesterday's bread really cheap, so we bought a loaf and also got some fresh fruit from one of the many fruit stands. The bread was good, and a frugal choice as many of the other restaurants in the area were outrageously expensive.

Once we got our fill of the market, we headed over to where the rest of the tourists were; the space needle. Instead of taking the monorail the headed over, we decided to walk since we had plenty of time, and less cash. It was a nice walk, and really wasn't far at all. We stopped at Patagonia, a sort of outdoorsman's clothing store. Some of the stuff was all right I guess, but when we saw a $34 pair of boxer shorts, we decided it probably wasn't for us.

When we got close to the space needle, we headed into a bar for a beer. Sure enough, our new favorite, Fat Tire, was on the menu. Paul grabbed us a couple, and we inquired about the two museums we were interested in that were right next to the space needle. The line to go to the top of the space needle was extremely long, and it also was around $15 a person. We passed on that, since it wasn't a great viewing day anyway, and after talking to the bartender were sold on the Experience Music Projects, a music museum where you can play some of the instruments.

We settled up at the bar and headed over. When we got to the museum, we realized the admission doubled for the music museum, and a history of science fiction museum that Paul was a little less thrilled about than I. Either way, with Paul's student id, $12 got us into both. Not bad.

We started our tour in the science fiction museum, which was filled with Star Wars freaks. It was pretty much exactly the crowd you would expect to be in a science fiction museum. I would say the excitement of people looking at robots and Star Wars stuff was more entertaining than the actual material itself. Some of the exhibits did tickle my inner nerd a little, I suppose. Paul really wasn't feeling it, so I met him in the lobby in between the two after I grew tired of people watching. There was a good quote on the wall that I snapped a picture of on the way out however. The one in the middle… I'm not that much of a nerd. Who doesn't like inspirational quotes?

The music museum was much more entertaining, and something for which we both shared a passion. It started with a Jimi Hendrix section and continued through to guitar. Some of the great 90's rock bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, et. al. were from Seattle, so there was some small stuff on them too. The whole grunge movement has been credited to Seattle. We went upstairs and were happy to see the instrument section where visitors could jam on them. The place was mobbed with little selfish kids, and parents who apparently hadn't gotten to the sharing lessons yet, so it was pretty difficult to get to anything. After a while, we each got a chance to get on a drumset, which was fun.

After many seconds of drumming before the mob took over, we developed an appetite and headed over to the restaurant inside the museum that smelled delicious. Again, no surprise, everything was really expensive, so we turned in our menus and headed back downtown. We'd catch something cheaper before the market.

We stopped at this pizza joint, and got a large between the two of us. Paul noticed across the street this guy that was stretching. He was wearing sandals, and appeared to have just rolled out of bed, so we weren't sure the reason. We were fairly sure he was trying to pick up girls, and we watched as he stretched every part of his body for the next 35 minutes. You see all kinds in the city. At one point, he seemed to be doing the tonto dance from Fresh Prince, which led us to believe that maybe he was a street performer of some sort. Not the case, as eventually with his lack of success, he stopped.

When we were finished, we walked back downtown to pick up the fish and head back to the Hutchison's house with our catch. I had Paul prepared with the camera on video for the ultimate touristy event. I bought us some Alaskan Sockeye salmon, which according to them was good. They did the whole toss thing and people were yelling all over the place. It was fun. Video to come, eventually. They fileted the fish and iced it up for traveling purposes.

We picked up some lemons, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes for the meal, and headed over to the bus stop to wait. We had managed to stay dry the whole day in Seattle, and even had some decent sunshine for a while. It was a cool city, and nice to see that many people in the same spot again. It hadn't been since Denver we had seen a city of comparable size.

We got back on the bus, with proper change this time, and headed back to the Hutchison's house in Lynnwood. We called Kyle when we were at the stop before the final stop so that he would have time to come pick us up. When we got back, Kyle had a nice potato dish prepared, and was just awaiting our final ingredients to complete the meal. He grilled up the salmon and within minutes we were eating. We got a chance to talk to Terra and Allison a lot more at dinner. Once Allison warmed up to us, she was very talkative and was actually a great eater. She ate almost everything on her plate including vegetables and vitamins. She's definitely a big fan of bread as well. It was nice to chat with Terra as well since we really appreciated them having us in their house as Terra was feeling a little under the weather; and to be under the weather in Seattle can be rough 😉 We also learned that Kyle took the bikes for a quick test ride to make sure everything was running properly. He ended up tightening our brakes for us, suggesting new pads ASAP, and checking over everything else which was in good working order. Thanks Kyle.

Even though she wasn't feeling good, Terra still insisted we relax and have a beer instead of helping clean up. She was very empathetic to our general hunger and desire to rest, as she was likely witness to Kyle's appetite and tiredness on many of his rides in the past. We were spoiled yet again.

Kyle had also gotten a pie for dessert, so we dug in after a nice healthy meal. Yum. After dessert and everything, I attempted to get another blog up for the next day so that I could hang out with the Hutchisons before bedtime. My computer began acting up for the first time on the trip. I had a lot of difficulty with is as it kept freezing up, causing me to lose progress and waste a lot of time. It took me most of the rest of the night to get anything done. I think the linux machine recognized I was in a Microsoft household and got mad at me (wink wink Kyle).

After I eventually got something up, Kyle came down and showed me the website for the ferries we would be taking the following day. He also showed me a site called bikely.com that had general bike paths people could post. We checked one out that would take Paul and I past the Boeing building, which is apparently massive, and towards Mukilteo where the ferry launch is. It seemed like a plan. Thanks again Kyle.

We were in no massive rush the next morning so we would get up when we felt like it and get on the road. Well fed, well rested, with Seattle under our belt, we were ready to start heading down the coast. Tomorrow would bring an interesting day with two ferry rides.

Life was good.

Day 69, July 26th 2008, beginning in Cole's Corner, Washignton

My mother gave us a nice early wake up call at 6:30, which was actually a good thing since we wanted to be in the restaurant for 7:00. Not sure she calculated the now 3 hour difference, but I was already awake. After we chatted, Paul and I broke our stuff down and went into the restaurant.

We were the first or second one's in the place and were greeted by our server Flo, who no doubt had had her share of coffee that morning. Flo (like the tv show) was very intrigued by our now lengthy journey, and thought we were all the rage. Everyone, guest or worker, was notified when they came in all about us.

The banana pancakes were delicious of course, and I shared with them the story of how my apartment won an iron chef in college by making banana chocolate chip pancakes. I suggested they give it a try at some point.

When we were leaving, Flo insisted on filling up our water bottles herself with some ice. She also gave us some postcards that we could send for free, she only asked that we send one back to them when we reached our final destination. She also gave us some free gum, and reduced the check since the service was a little slow. Wow. As a top off, Flo requested a picture with us once we were all prepared to head out on the bikes. We posed with another co worker Jill and were on our way. Hopefully they're keeping up with the blog, because I promised them they would be on it as long as they were patient.

We set out to conquer Steven's pass, perhaps our last mountain pass of the trip, but almost certainly the last one until San Diego. The climb was fairly gradual, with some sections even dropping back down for much of it. It picked up a bit right at the end, but we were pros by now. Nothing was stopping us heading for the coast.

Once on top we relieved ourselves, and rolled right back down the other side. What goes up, must come down. It was a fun ride, as it always is down the other side. We noticed some cyclists along the way and of course cheered them on as we could empathize with the struggle of climbing.

After we descended and began to flatten out, we decided to stop in a town called Skykomish. There we ate at a deli, and noticed some of the cyclists who were just ascending the same side of the mountain. They had turned around. From that alone, I knew they must have been training for something, and I also noticed the aerodynamic handlebars, so I gathered they were training for an ironman. Sure enough, they were. I chatted with a few guys and a woman; the guys had down the mountain 3 times that day already. They were interested in our trip, and suggested stopping in Sedona Arizona praising how beautiful it is. Maybe we would work it in to the path.

Rested from the break, and eager to get try to get to Kyle's and Terra's (our hosts for the next two evenings) before 5:00 to catch them before the headed out for the evening, we got back on the road. We made it into Monroe (Paul's hometown) after another 30 miles or so, and stopped to call Kyle. Checking out distance and the timing, it was unlikely we would make it in time. Too bad. Oh well, we'd catch them on their way back from Kyle's mother's birthday they were celebrating at their church.

With that news, we decided to break in Monroe, since Paul missed it so, and got some watermelon from a grocer and McDonald's desserts. Good stuff. We relaxed for a while, since we were in no rush.

We got back on the road to finish out our last leg before our rest/touristy day in Seattle. Contrary to what we expected, as we approached the coast the terrain actually became much hillier. The rollercoaster ride into Lynnwood was nearly as tiring as climbing Steven's pass earlier that day. Man, we never finish easily.

When we were within a mile or so of their house, we stopped at a 7-11 and called Kyle again as he suggested so that he could direct us to some good local cuisine. We headed up to this busy area north of his house, and ended up eating at a Thai place that Kyle recommended. It was very good, although even the 2 out of 5 stars was a little too hot for me. We relaxed there content, as we still had some time before they would return home, and we had virtually finished a coast to coast southeast to northwest tour. We were proud.

Still a little hungry, and with extra time, we made a stop at a Walgreen's on our way to the Hutchison's house. Knowing how much milk we'd likely go through, we bought 2 gallons for the next two days, some Raisin Bran Crunch cereal, and also some chewy Chips Ahoy as a treat. The milk was only $2.69 a gallon! I couldn't believe how cheap it was.

We made our way down the Hutchison's street, and headed to their backyard to plop our stuff before they arrived home. I was working on the fence for a while to no avail. We were also quite aware of the large dog in the backyard that was barking it's head off that Kyle had never mentioned earlier. I decided to call Kyle one more time. Turns out we were at 827 not 821, the numbers just looked really similar. Oops, hope the cops aren't on their way.

We easily got in next door, and awaited their arrival. They showed up after a few minutes, meanwhile we had polished off all but one rack of chewies, and invited the two strangers in from the deck to their lovely house. They were certainly prepared to have us, and Kyle showed us to the downstairs where we would have our own bedroom and bathroom for the duration of our stay. Again we were uber spoiled. We said a quick hello to Terra, Kyle's wife, but she was a bit preoccupied with getting their two year old daughter Allison into bed. She was not making it easy for mom.

Kyle set us up getting our laundry going and had towels laid out, ready for us when we get there. We both showered up (it had been a few days)…separately… and were happy to be in a great, warn house. Kyle, a pretty avid biker himself, often doing 20 mile commutes to and from work, chatted for a bit with us about our trip and also our plans for Seattle in the morning. We planned on heading out via a bus that stopped about 1.5 miles from their house at 8:40. Kyle assured us he would make breakfast for us once before we left, but we did have the cereal that we bought for a quick wake up the next morning.

After I went back downstairs, I spent some time writing to get a blog up. I was really tired, and apparently had fallen asleep while doing some writing as Kyle was witness to when he came downstairs to shut out the lights.

Proud of ourselves, and ready to see Seattle, I must have been grinning as I dozed off.

Life was good.

Day 68, July 25th 2008, beginning in Coulee City, Washington

We arose from the campground and were in search of food. We checked out a gas station/ deli across the street who had some good pastries so we stuck with it. After examining the map for a bit, we saw that the easier detour would add another 30 miles to our day. It was too much to consider revising our path, so we continued on our route, knowing it would be a tough day.

Waterville was our first destination, which was about 41 miles away. It took us nearly four hours to make it there from when we set out. These were work days though, we knew what we had coming.

It felt good to have gotten that ride out of the way since it would probably our longest no service stretch for the remainder of the trip. Once in Waterville, we stopped at a grocer to do the usual fruit, etc. we like for lunch stops. We sat outside the store on a bench eating our food. Across the way was an ice cream place, so Paul headed over there for a little lunch dessert shortly after our meal. We filled up our bottles at the next door diner, and after surfing the net for a bit, we got back on the bikes.

We figured we'd make one more stop before the final stretch of the evening, so we just got on and road. We ended up going another 40 miles, not nearly as difficult, to a cool town called Leavenworth. It was a very fun looking little place right before the climb began to Stevens Pass that we wished we had more time to check out.

We ended up stopping at another gas station deli thing. I was quite hungry when I pulled in and made some impulse decisions instead of getting real food. By the time I got a sandwich from the deli, I was halfway full. We also thought milk would be a good choice this time around, so we got a gallon. On top of that, the deli woman gave us some fruit she was going to feed to her pigs. We couldn't turn away free food, so of course we indulged. I ended up having to pack some canteloupe, which is quite heavy.

Before riding towards Stevens pass, we stopped on some benches in front of McDonald's to try to polish off the milk. At this point, Paul stopped helping me, and I wasn't going to see the milk go to waste. I forced down the remainder of the gallon as we talked to some folks who were from Arizona and just thought that it was the best thing in the world what we were doing. Those people are great.

After the milk nearly came up 3 times, I finished off the gallon, and we were on our way. The sun was setting, but we still had ample light and shoulder to make a safe ride for the next 15 miles or so we thought we'd go to camp for the night. When we made it to a little area with a few stores we stopped and inquired where we could camp for the night. I was trying to communicate the fact that we were done riding for the day, but the attendant kept telling me of places that were 5 miles away. We weren't hearing it. Something like, you can camp out back and here's a bunch of free food was more along the lines of what we were thinking.

We gave up on him and went next door to this diner. There were RVs and whatnot behind the place so we thought we might be all right. All you have to do is ask, a lesson I have seen proven true time and time again on this trip. I can't say how many times I've heard "We're not supposed to but…" It was like music to our ears; they would let us camp next to the diner for free. We promised to eat there in the morning.

After setting up the tent on their nice flat garden area right next to the building, the woman who told us we could camp there came out and said something along the lines, "oh I didn't mean there". Oops, we moved it over near the dumpster. Shortly after that move, out comes another employee who mentioned that they sometimes have bears sifting through their trash, and that it might not be a good idea to camp too close to the dumpster. Man, I thought we left the threat of bears in Montana. We couldn't evade these damn things.

We moved the tent a little more and sealed up all our bags nicely and tucked them under this bench that we hoped would be enough of a deterrent for a bear. Excited about the banana pancakes the diner was advertising out front, we went to bed with plans to get up early. We were heading into Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle, to stay with a warmshowers host family. We would try to make it into town before their evening plans, but it would be tough. One more day until Seattle and a rest day. Fun.

Life was good.

Day 67, July 24th 2008, beginning in Spokane, Washington

I fortunately woke up before Christie had left for the day so I was able to see her off and thank her for their hospitality. She again insisted we eat everything in sight, and I did my best to keep up with my end of the deal. She warned us that the dogs had been sprayed by a skunk the night before, so they were not allowed in the house. Poor pooches. After Christie left, Paul and I hung around for a while, cherishing our time off the bike, and picking at food for most of the morning.

After we stuffed ourselves we headed out to our bikes to do some routine maintenance. We didn't hit the road until about 12:30 and we planned on going about 100 miles. The terrain would be flatter than what we had been riding recently, and with the day off we should be able to hack it.

We departed the empty Querna household and were on our way out of Spokane. We had a nice long climb to get out, but most of our 38 mile ride to Davenport for our first stop was flat and fast with a nice wide shoulder.

In Davenport, we picked up some bread to last us through any long stretches in the middle of the state, and also some fruit for a short term fix. We met some folks who were actually from Connecticut in the grocer which is always cool. One had even had some family in Southington. Hah, small world. After the grocer we went to subway to do the $5 sub ordeal that we have umpteen times to date. Good stuff. Very packable too.

We'd have to cover another long 35 mile stretch to Almira in order to make it to Coulee City, where we planned on camping for the night, before sunset. Back on the road. My knee began hurting a bit before we got into Almira, which was a little concerning as it was the first time that had happened on the trip. I biked through it (I'm a hockey player) into Almira, a small town.

We both looked around and saw some people, but not anywhere that seemed to be open for food. We eventually stumbled upon this broken down looking building, which was actually a decent diner, that had nearly the entire town's population in it. Paul ordered some food there so I felt okay making two peanut butter sandwiches and eating nutri grain bars we had purchased elsewhere.

The locals were really nice, and this one guy talked to me for about 20 minutes while we were trying to leave about god knows what; among the topics were his plans for a cross country motorcycle trip.

After that, we were back on the road for another 20 miles to campgrounds in Coulee City. My friend in Almira told me it would be a nice downhill ride for most of the way. I think he was the first person along the trip to actually know the terrain of which he spoke. It was a nice easy ride all the way to Coulee. The knee pain seemed to transfer to a lower thigh pain… muscular, a good thing. Hopefully rest would see it subside.

When we got into Coulee, we stopped at a gas station/deli/creamery. They had it all. I got a scoop of birthday cake, and a scoop of cookie dough in a waffle cone. Dynamite combo. We hung out there for a while as others were doing the same. We asked some workers where to camp, and sure enough it was a quarter mile down the same road we were on. As we were leaving, we got to talking to some guy who tried to convince us of riding a different path than what we had intended for the following day. He did seem to know what he was talking about, but the detour he would have us take would be more miles. I'd have to check the map on my computer when we arrived at the camp site.

We were both pretty tired, so by the time we got there and set up, I decided to do the decision making in the morning. We had a couple days of riding left before truly completing an impressive cross country trip which would land us in Seattle. We would not stop there of course, but we would be back on the ocean. How exciting. Soon enough.

Life was good.

Day 66, July 23rd 2008, beginning and ending in Spokane, Washington

I woke up when Christie returned with her walk with the dogs Caya and Frank. Katie shortly after returned from a morning run. Christie began preparing huckleberry pancakes, what she called a local special. By the time they were ready, Paul made his way downstairs and the boys were all at the table for "the last meal".

It was another great one. We conversed in the kitchen again for a while, and at one point I snuck out and climbed upstairs to nerd it up on the computer. We still didn't have a plan of how we were getting to the Seattle area from Spokane, although Katie and her sister had just done it a few weeks before us.

Mark planned on making his way down to the local bike shop at 10:00 to drop off the bike for shipping home. After that Christie would bring him to the airport and they would ship him back to Bristol, CT or at least Windsor Locks.

When the time came, Paul and I decided to bike down with him to the bike shop, he'd need my navigation abilities anyhow ;O Mark said his goodbyes, and we said a maybe goodbye to Katie who wouldn't be staying the night. We took the picture then and headed down towards the shop about 1 mile away.

At the shop Paul and I pumped up our tires in preparation as our tour was far from over, and Mark made the necessary arrangements to ship his bike off, no doubt not as concerned with its prompt delivery this time around.

We all wept for a good half hour as we maintained a strong three man group hug. It was a hell of a week. Mark certainly did not choose an easy one, although as he said it was more timing than anything. His vacation in the Cape in a few weeks would likely be a bit more relaxing. Christie showed up to cart Mark off and we paused for one last photo op. Kaching. So long Marco Polo, it was a pleasure riding with you. Catch you on the flip side.

After we parted ways with the man, the myth, the legend, we made our way to a downtown sports store. We were in search of a soccer ball, and a soccer ball we found. Inspired by Evan and Ever from Glacier, we picked up a ball and pump and were eager to test them out. I tried a shameless attempt at getting a discount on one of the items as the packaging was opened, but to no avail.

We left there disgruntled, eager to play, and hungry. We dealt with the hunger first, figuring the disgruntledness would wear off, and the day was nice enough that we had the rest of it to play. We got some quick food and were ready to pump up the ball and kick around. We first went through this park which was on the south side of Gonzaga, and then remembered the nets and field we saw at the university on the way in the day before. We made our way over to the fields that had some available nets that would be fun for hours.

We spent a long time kicking around hoping to attract some people to join in on a game, but as school was not in, the people were there mostly for basketball camps and the like. It was fun either way, and we were quite satisfied with the decision to buy.

After the two man game's fun wore thin, we headed back to the Querna's. On the way over we saw a few people kicking around on the actual fields that the ‘Zags play at. They were actually on their d-1 team, and hence preTTy preTTy good. We were hoping there would be some sort of pickup game in the area, but they were just planning on shooting on their goalie later on. Oh well. If someone were to make a website where people could find out things like this…. Hmmm, only if.

We biked back up to the Querna's, whose house rested on top of Mt. Everest, which oddly enough is in Spokane Washington, contrary to popular facts. Katie had fortunately not left yet, so I had a chance to pick her mind quickly on their route to Seattle. She explained how some parts were a bit like the moon, and others were quite nice. It did mean one more challenging pass, but she assured that it was an easy one. She also mentioned that she liked to be lied to while riding to keep her spirits up, so we considered she may be doing the same for us. Ha. Either way, it seemed like the best plan, so we stuck to it.

We said our final goodbye to Katie, as she departed for Priest Lake in northern Idaho with some friends. After Katie left, we chatted with her mother who had some ideas about us traversing the islands of Northwestern Washington. We had been told by Jeff and his family about a jazz festival in the San Juan Islands, but they were a bit more north of where we wanted to go. After some searching, and Christie making a phone call to some friends who live on the San Juans, we couldn't find anything jamon it, so we decided against traveling up to them. It also would put us in a crunch for time to meet Meghan in Portland, Oregon in a week. Instead Christie thought a ferry onto Whidbey island, and a ferry off of it to the west into Port Townsend would be a nice ride. We agreed, and decided to do it as well. Once again, our hosts had determined our riding future.

Christie headed out for a school board meeting and left the boys all alone in the house. They insisted that we act is if it were our house and to help ourselves to anything. We felt like relaxing, so we put in a movie. This time it was about this guy who moved to Alaska where he built all his own stuff, including his house with some tools. No electricity. In the wild. It was pretty interesting, but this guy was all alone for 35 years. It was a bit much for my liking, but amazing that he survived the frigid winters up to his 80's.

After the movie was over, Kit returned from work. It would be a man's dinner tonight, hence very simple. Kit grilled up some brats and burgers and we ate them. Novel, eh? They were good. Christie came back after Kit went up to bed (he gets up for work at 3) and we talked with her for a while.

Once the food had settled, we kicked the ball around in the backyard. We said goodbye and thanks to Christie in case we didn't get up before she left the following morning. When we finished with soccer we went inside and put in a classic, VHS style: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. That was Jim Carrey's first big film from 1994, where he was ONLY paid $350,000 for his role. Crazy.

We repeated the routine of the night before and fell asleep towards the end. When it was over, we headed upstairs for beddy bye. We'd be back on the bikes the next day heading for the ocean.

Life was good.

Day 65, July 22nd 2008, beginning in Cataldo, Idaho

I awoke at 5:40 to Mark fiddling around with his bike. No, not yet pal. I went back to sleep, and apparently so did he… outside the tent however… for some reason. Maybe he and Paul had a squabble… I wouldn't pry.

Once we all rose at a reasonable hour we headed to our last road breakfast with mark down the street at the Mission Inn. They also had a really cheap, awesome jukebox, but I'm not sure my crew was ready for my antics in the morning, so I resisted. Mark met some guy named Floyd out front of the restaurant who was down on his luck. Of course he offered to buy him breakfast, so Floyd sat and enjoyed a meal with us courtesy of Mark. Floyd seemed kind hearted and had actually lived in Key West and Seattle. Where we came from and where we going to (short term at least).

After we all finished and were swollen from the meal, we headed out on the interstate highway, another potentially illegal thing (still not sure) we had coaxed honest Mark into. It would make for the shortest path to our destination, so I think his legs would do the talking. It did however mean one more pass, fourth of July. It would be a celebration.

Mark decided to march on and hope for the best with the bike instead of trying to make it to one of the bike shops along our path. It would prove to be the right choice. We ascended 4th of July muy rapido, with Mark leading the whole way. Afraid to switch gears, Lance Ceglarski (a.k.a Mark Armstrong) climbed the whole not in his lowest gear. He really left it all out there for his last hoorah (sp?). Impressive.

After we made it down the other side, we easily found the spot to get onto the bike trail that Joe had pointed out to us on the map the night before. It would be smooth sailing all the way into Spokane, or so we thought. We rolled on the trail for a while until it came into a town.

Couer d'Alene was the name, and ask me again I'll tell you the same. We got some little things at the gas station, where there were some odd workers to say the least, and we continued on our way.

The path became a bit difficult to follow after this point, fortunately quick thinking Chris had picked up a map of it at the entrance. The trail makers did their best of cutting through Couer d'Alene, but we were left without signs and a clue of where to go a few times. However, it was nice to pass through this park area with there were large gatherings of these things called humans that we hadn't seen much of in the few days prior. We all agreed it was nice to be back in some population.

We kept on keeping on and came to the Washington border. It began to rain right before we got in so it was a good time to stop and put on the coats anyway.   At least Ali G thought so. I called Christie to see which way we should go off the trail. I wrote down all the directions she said on a map, and we headed to the end of the Centennial trail into Spokane.

When we eventually arrived in Spokane I attempted to follow the directions (I really did Christie), but ended up sticking to my comfort zone, the gps on my phone. We rolled through Gonzaga, the former home of the beautiful Adam Morrison, who Paul didn't know (really though?). Very nice campus, we'd have to come back. The bike path basically ended after that, and it was city traveling. I took us through some perhaps not ideal biking areas, but we were heading in the right direction. As we got closer, as Christie warned us, the grade of the hills were pretty severe. As Paul and I always say, we never finish easy (should be easily). We scaled the tough hills to their house and we were done. Woohoo! Mark had finished his week strongly, the bike made it, and Paul and I would have our first break day since Steamboat Springs in Colorado.

We were greeted out front by Christie, the non-nudist. She was even more pleasant in person than on the phone and had us all set up with storage for the bikes, laundry, and showers in no time. Supermom to the rescue, we needed it. Katie (who had just gotten back the week before form a NYC to Seattle ride with her sister Emily) was inside preparing loads of food. It's great to have a touring cyclist's perspective as they're empathetic to the insatiable appetite.

Before showering, I went into Mark and Paul's room and shook Mark's hand, congratulating him on finishing out the week with us. I can only speak for myself, but I think we all had a great time. Now it was time to relax and enjoy the final night with Mark on the team.

After we all showered up, the kitchen was filled with great hors d'oeuvres. I was the first to attack, the others better hurry. They did. Christie had made two different dips that were both amazing. I could go on forever, but needless to say, they could cook, and there was plenty of food.

Kit, Jamie's father, came back from work and we were ready to eat. We were in the kitchen for hours enjoying one another's company. The Querna's are great conversationalists, and Katie "can really fill a room" to quote her mother.

After a few beers and some great stories, the Querna's were ready for bed. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man (and woman after 1970) healthy, wealthy and wise. Mark went to bed shortly after they did. There was an inflatable mattress and two beds upstairs. We insisted Mark not sleep on the inflatable mattress as he had a long day of traveling the next day and had earned the spot all week.

Katie was sort of into documentaries were "people take themselves way too seriously". That left us with two options, a documentary about professional Scrabble players, and Fistfull of Quarters, the King of Kong, a documentary about nerds battling for the bout of highest Donkey Kong score on the original arcade Donkey Kong. We went with the ladder.

What a superb choice. Although it was a bit theatrical, these guys were definitely still freaks. It was fairly entertaining, and I dozed off towards the end. When we retired upstairs Mark was of course on the inflatable mattress and I almost picked him up and put him in the bed, but I restrained. We only had plans to see Mark off the following day, and we'd figure it out after that. A day off the bikes sounded like music to the ears.

Life was good.

Day 64, July 21st 2008, beginning in Plains, Montana

Karen had mentioned she was going for an early walk, and had hoped she would catch us before we left. I heard her leave for the walk as I was getting up. It was one of my proudest days yet on tour as I found out I had gotten up before Mark. I went online to get a blog up and check my email. I had received an email from Katie Querna, the daughter of a warmshowers host in Spokane. She mentioned that we could stay with them the night before Mark had to fly home. At the end of her email she included a little factoid that read, "p.s. My parents are nudists… have fun!". Not sure of how to take that, I decided to play a joke on Paul and Mark. I told them that we were all set, but left out the nudists part. I figured the trip was about new experiences, so what the hell. I planned on telling them right before we rolled up to their door. It would be good.

I had just finished up a blog, and was getting ready to submit when the power went out at the Schusters. Damn. It never came back on while we were there, so I was unable to get the post up that day.

Jamie's father Tom was up shortly after having gotten a whole two hours of sleep, so we had a chance to meet him before we got going. We were all in the kitchen for a while eating bagels, muffins and some fruit that Jamie had prepared for us. We talked about the route we were taking to see if we could avoid the interstate, but it didn't look like that was happening. We hung around for a bit longer pushing the boundaries of overstaying our welcome as we often do. I went upstairs to grab my laundry that was done and it was neatly folded in a nice stack. I wonder who the culprit of that was… senior organization himself. I took the nice folded pile, and jammed it into the chaos that are my panniers, and I was the last one ready to go. We went outside to take a picture with them and then we were on our way. Man, it was hard to leave these great hosts sometimes.

Our first stop was a relatively easy ride to a small town called Thompson Falls. We grabbed some more supplies (bread, peanut butter, nutri grain bars) at the grocer that Jamie told us about, and also got a nice big pineapple that we cut up with Paul's knife. It was delicious, but the acid was burning our lips as we all were chapped up really badly.

We set out for Thompson's Pass, about 22 miles ahead again our highest remaining pass at 4852. We had a decent climb to it as we were around 2,300 in elevation at Thomspon Falls. The ride was fairly nice for the first 16 miles or so, but the final stretch, the grade really picked up. We found out later that some sections were 8-9%, that's pretty rough. I pedaled a bit ahead because I wanted to take pictures of Mark conquering his last pass. Sure enough, right before the top, he had a mechanical issue with his bike and was forced to walk up the last section. Bummer.

Thompson's pass was a cool milestone for us because we were changing states and time zones. However, neither sign was at the summit. Really disappointed, we rolled down the other side into Idaho. I never spun the pedals until we were about 100 feet from our stop in this place called Murray. Murray was a tiny town over the pass of maybe 50. There was one bar open that we could tell, and we were all longing for some food after the nice climb. Mark was a bit concerned about his bike as something was not quite right with his cassette (rear gears). We asked inside if there would be anyone close that could help, already knowing the answer. The closest place would be another 30 miles towards where we were going and a cut back on the interstate highway a few miles.

We pondered what we'd do as we ordered from the fine bar's delicasy of hot pockets and other freezer foods. Paul got a questionable bbq sandwich, while Mark and I both got bean burritos. They were good enough. I couldn't believe it, but I was actually able to pick up a weak enough wireless signal on my computer, and found that we were 30 miles away from our next town.

Hoping Mark's bike would hold up, he took it easy on the shifting and kept his fingers crossed. We continued slightly downhill for a while, and then came to a crossroads where the signs were a bit vague. Heading down the road we thought was right, I stopped at the first house and asked the locals if we were heading in the right direction. They confirmed, and we continued on.

It was a fairly nice consistent ride all the way to our next stop in Enaville. Everyone waved to us, and we had a good feeling about Idaho. There was this cool bar/restaurant called the Snake Pit that we stopped at once we got into Enaville which was fairly legendary in the area. The Snake Pit was cool, and filled with people. We hadn't seen many in a while, so it was very nice. The service wasn't the best, but we met a really nice guy named Joe who worked there. He was a cyclist and noticed our gear. We got to talking to him about things and how mark had some mechanical issues. Before we knew it, he was on the phone with a guy the next town over. He was going to put Mark on the phone, who admittedly "didn't know shit about bicycles", so I took it for him. After talking to this nice guy for a while, it came down to one of two things. I wasn't able to fix either, by looking at the bike, so we just hoped to make it through one more day.

We also asked Joe where to camp in the area, and within seconds he was back on the phone asking a local campground if they had room. They did, and he told us where to go after we were done eating. What a guy. Our dinners finally arrived after talking to Joe for a bit more, and we all put them down with ease. Good place.

I actually had cell service for the first time in a while, so after I finished dinner I went to call up our warmshowers hosts in Spokane for the following night to confirm that we were real humans and not just digital entities.

I spoke with Christie Querna, Katie's mother when I called. We would be their first guests, as their daughters had just returned from a cycling trip, and were eager to return the favors they had received through warmshowers along the trip. Christie, could not have been more excited to have heard from me. We talked for a while, and she clued me in on the fact that they weren't actually nudists and that Katie had been playing a joke on us. Touche. I also let her know about the joke I had intended on playing on Paul and Mark. We laughed for a while, and she raved about how cool the Snake Pit was. It wasn't hard to tell they would be great hosts as well. I was excited for Spokane.

I returned back to the restaurant to confess to my teammates about what I had planned on doing to them about the nudists. They took it well and we had a good laugh. Here comes Joe the superhero again. After we had already paid he came around and brought us each a bowl of their huckleberry ice cream. It was magnificent, and a nice touch. Thanks for everything Joe.

Before we left, Joe told us what to look for to pick up the centennial trail, a bike path that lead all the way to Spokane after we crossed one more pass on the interstate. I wrote it down on our map, and we set off toward the campground.

We rode a bike path about 5 miles toward the campground which was right on the other side of the interstate where we would need to be in the morning. Perfect.

Once at the campsite, we set up our tents and got ready for bed. Paul and Mark showered while I did some writing. I was picking up wireless from the house, so I went to ask the woman if I could use her password. She didn't know it, and her husband wasn't around. Damn, it would have been perfect. Oh well, I'd have to wait for Spokane.

Day 5 down for Mark, with one easy day with a low pass the following day. It looked like he would make it, but we were a little worried about his rear gears. One more night of camping and the next night at a warmshowers host. We had a nice balanced week for Mark. By midday the next day we would be in a state that bordered the ocean for the first time in two months. Wooohooo!

Life was good.

Day 63, July 20th 2008, beginning in Kalispell, Montana

I awoke and quickly jumped back on the computer. Mark and Ted were up, probably chatting about running or something, and they began preparing breakfast. After a while, pancakes were up. We had some blueberries, strawberries and bananas to garnish them if we pleased. It was a great breakfast to start off a nice long day. After breakfast, I kept on writing. Ted was looking to leave on his own bike ride for the day, since he was training for another iron man, and I was cutting it close. I finally finished up a post, and we were ready to leave.

We took a picture, and hit the road towards a trail that was near his house that would dump us out near Flathead Lake. Ted also left us Jamie's phone number so that we could call her to see if we could stay with them that coming evening.

Although we were riding along a lake, the terrain was quite up and down. It was a very pretty area which was nice, but also brought a lot of traffic. We had plenty of shoulder though, so it was an enjoyable ride. I took a bathroom break at one point and heard a voicemail from Jamie confirming that it would be agreeable by all parties if we stayed with her folks that evening. She was actually planning on being there as well, which was nice.

We continued on to a junction where we had to turn off the road we were on. We looked around for a bit and saw nothing. Mark noticed some cars pulling down one sttreet, so we decided to check it out. A bit over a hill from where we were searching was a massive native american pow wow. The festival is held only one weekend a year, and we happened to be there at the right time. There was food everywhere. Every member was dressed differently with really ornate and colorful apparel. It was a very nice treat. I'm pretty sure I spotted Steven Spielberg, or maybe his evil twin. What do you think?

They held a ceremony where they were separated into age groups, and each would walk in to the tent area singing and dancing. Lots of energy, lots of fun.

Once that was over, we had to get back on the road to make decent time. We cruised downhill for a while with a nice tailwind after we had climbed a large hill right outside of Elmo, where we had stopped. We were averaging above 20 mph for a while until the terrain leveled off and we turned out of the wind. Our next stop would be Hot Springs

Hot Springs had hot springs, go figure, but they were a few miles off the road and we were sort of behind schedule after the pow wow. It may have made our legs like rubber as well, so it probably was a good decision, although too bad we couldn't enjoy them at the end of the day. We ended up stopping at a little bar where we got a couple pizzas. We filled up and were back on the road in no time.

We set out to make our final leg of the day into Plains from Hot Springs. Ted had mentioned how we would get up over a hill and it was easy cruising into Plains. After about hill 23 we were wondering if he was just telling us that to keep our spirits up. It was a massive climb out of Hot Springs to Plains. Sometimes its better not knowing. Eventually, like we always do, we gave all the elevation gain back as we cruised down the other side heading into Plains.

We stopped at a Subway to fill up since the water was really sulfury and gross from Hot Springs. I had finally gotten back into cell range, and was able to communicate with Jamie. She said we had about 7 miles to go to her street where she would meet us on her bike and ride us back towards her house. Perfect.

Arriving at Buffalo Hill Rd., Jamie greeted us with a smile and congratulated us for making it that far. It had been about a 95 mile day, and we were ready to relax. We made our way back to her parents house, where she played an excellent hostess. She showed us to the laundry right away, and had been preparing some amazing food for our arrival. Her mother was at a barbecue, and would return a bit later, and her father we would have to meet in the morning since he was an engineer for a train that goes from Spokane, Wa to Missoula, MT and he would be returning late.

Jamie also had some steak for us, and tasked Paul with the job of preparing it since she admittedly was no grilling expert. Soon enough we had a Smorgasbord of delectables that we all enjoyed, complete with good company. Paul, apparently in need of watching his weight, sat down and broke a bench they had on their deck where we ate. He felt bad, but we would find out later that it was already broken. He was cleared.

Karen, Jamie's mother came home and we all chatted outside for a bit. She is a really sweet, sincere woman as well, and seem to enjoy our company too. Jamie topped off the feast with some angel food cake with strawberries and blueberries in the middle. It was to die for. Man she's a great cook.

After we went inside Jamie had suggested we relax in front of the tv. I went into the room first but was not followed. After a solid 7 or 8 seconds, I had dozed off in this really comfortable chair they had, while the others were in the kitchen. Man I was beat.

I did wake up in enough time for Karen to show me to the couch she had set up for me with blankets and pillows and the like. Man these people were good. Hopefully Tom, Jamie's father, wouldn't be startled when he came through their living room and saw me on their couch. Not sure she had gotten the word to him yet.

Paul and Mark went upstairs to sleep in some spare bedrooms they had and I stayed put where I was. We were so happy to be among great hosts two nights in a row, now it was time to go back to sleep for me.

Life was good.

Day 62, July 19th 2008, beginning in Glacier National Park at Rising Sun Campgrounds

I woke up nice and early around 6:20, shortly after Mark since we wanted to beat the breakfast rush at the restaurant right near the campsite. We also wanted an early start so that we could make it over Logan pass early enough that we could make it into Kalispell at a decent hour that evening to welcome Mark to his first couchsurfing/warmshowers experience. Fun.

I woke Paul pretending that it was 9:30. He knew we wanted to get an early start, and I didn't tell him I was joking until he was fully awake and out of bed. Good tactic.

In the restaurant our server was a pretty awkward guy. He kept second guessing everything, and always seemed uneasy. It was actually pretty entertaining, and I think I laughed out loud when I heard him explaining to another table that he was a school teacher. Good times. The food was really expensive, but we had to get something.  It did have a nice window with a picturesque view.

After our meal, we finished packing everything up and headed out towards the pass. We all had our jackets on to start as we were at elevation and nearly in Canada at the time. A few miles into the ride, it had warmed enough, and the jackets were off. From there until the top we stopped roughly once a mile to pull out for some nice pictures of the gorgeous park. At one point, I saw another lovely looking stream that I felt compelled to dip my head under to cool off. Refreshing!  p.s. chicks dig the ‘stache.

After about an hour and a half, we made it through a tunnel and were right near the top. We stopped one last time to take some more photos before the pass. Mark jumped out on a snowy area and we snapped one for his homies at home. Right then, we saw Evan, one of the bikers we camped next to the night before, rolling by us. We congratulated one another at the top.

We were very surprised, and disappointed to see no food at the vistor's center on top. We had some of what we packed, and a bit more pride as we had conquered another pass (our highest remaining), and Mark's first. Hooray.

We enjoyed our time on top of the mountain, remembering that growth and happiness occurred while climbing it, and headed down the west side. The view was breathtaking over the pass as you could see the road snaking its way around the interior of the mountains. We were loving reaping the rewards of a long climb, however the road was pretty mangled as construction was going on all over the park. We had to be very careful, and we definitely ran into some rough sections.

I stopped at a spot called the weeping wall, were snow melt showers run along the face of the mountain right near the road. One section is pretty much a frigid waterfall that I again felt necessary to get under. This wasn't as good of an idea as I had though as it turned out since we would be cruising 30mph+ down the other side. It made for a exhilarating, shivering descent.

We actually had to stop at a traffic light due to the construction, that was a blessing for me at the time since it gave me a chance to warm up. After we made it through, we continued an amazing descent among crystal clear creeks. One looked so nice, Paul decided it would be a good idea to jump into it. The water was cold and the current was stronger than he expected and it ended up washing him down a little farther than he intended. It was pretty funny. At this point, Mark must have been second guessing the buffoons he was traveling with, but he would never say it if we asked.

After we leveled off for a bit, we cruised into a service area called Lake McDonald. We got some ice cream there before we left the park. We had read in the paper, and I had received an email from Chris Tolli warning about biking certain sections of the park at certain hours. It just so happened that as we were leaving ready to head out of West Glacier we had come across one of the sections in one of the time slots that would qualify for a "violation". We figured it wasn't a big deal and kept trucking through. It couldn't have been more than 100 feet before we were pulled over by a park ranger.

We weren't going to play dumb, and when the ranger had asked for all of our licenses we gladly obliged. He stated that he was going to give us all citations as he took them away. Damn, no warning? What he should have warned us about was the number next to the dollar sign on the citation. We had racked nearly $400 in fines between the three of us when all was said and done! Yikes. We had two options: pay or appear in court. I can't speak for everyone else, but I am planning on with option 3… don't get pulled over in Montana. Yeah, that works.

The ranger had a second guy come along who would put us in cargo and lug us to the west side of the restricted area. After the anger subsided from the amount of the fine, we had a chuckle in the bed as in reality he was giving us a free ride. Thanks.

I made final contact with Ted, our host for the evening in West Glacier, and we headed towards Kalispell. After a bit over halfway, we stopped at an A + W for some food. To my surprise, Mark out ordered me for the first time. He was finally part of the binge eating family. Tear. After filling up there, we made our final stretch of the day to Ted's house. We took a long, empty road that Ted suggested which helped us avoid a lot of traffic, and was s till a pretty direct route to his house.

Shortly after we got into the town of Kalispell, we had our first run in of discourteous drivers to bikers. A group of teenagers drove by and splashed Paul in the face with some water. "Oh Fiddlesticks" (or something along those lines) Paul yelled out as we turned around and discovered what had happened. I must say, it was pretty mean, but as it was only water there was a slight mischievous little boy part of me that thought it was at least a little funny. He survived.

Shortly after that we were close to Ted's house, and he actually met us out on his bike. Turns out Ted does triathlons and has completed an iron man as well. What a match for Mark Anthony (his actual middle name). Ted fed us some recovery drinks, which were pretty good and we changed up and prepared a load of laundry. We were ready for that after 3 sweaty days and two camping nights.

I took the rare initiative of first shower, so that I could head out with Ted to grab some food for the occasion. We went out and grabbed some pizzas, beer, fruit, and milk… the beer essentials.

We returned with the bevy of goodies and we had a feast. A late comer to the soirée, Jamie, Ted's friend came over. She had already eaten, and like Ted was a teacher in Kalispell. Also like Ted, she loved exercise, so much that she had gotten a 3:11 in a marathon. Jamie had just recently won one that was held the previous weekend in Kalispell. Wow.

We had a great time shooting the poop around the table, and Jamie in particular thought it was really amusing, in fact hilarious how ill prepared Paul and I were on this whole thing. She found the "wing it" mentality more comical than inspiring, as she laughed at (but yes I know was impressed) at what we had achieved and how we had done it.

After getting to talking about it a lot, Ted had convinced us to change our path to Spokane, since he had biked the area and really recommended we stay off a certain road I had planned on taking us over. The new path would also finish off going into Spokane on a paved bike path. Nice. Conveniently enough, Jamie's parents lived right along the new path we had laid out, roughly a long day's length away from where we sat in Kalispell. She had offered their house as a place to sleep for the following night provided someone would actually be there. Hmmm, it seemed like it would work really well. We would have to get a hold of her the following day, but hopefully it would work out.

It was starting to get late so Jamie headed home. I farted around on the computer researching our path a bit and blogging as well. Soon enough it became difficult to keep my eyes open, so I called it a night.

Spirits were high as we had potentially found another great place to stay for the following night which would also make for a good ride into Spokane at the end of Mark's week. We had conquered a pass along the most beautiful road in the states, and slept easily with full bellies in a comfortable home. Sound familiar?

Life was good.

Day 61, July 18th 2008, beginning in Dupuyer, Montana

We awoke unscathed by bear claws and teeth, and our bags were unharmed as well. Unfortunately, we had no visitors that night. We packed everything up and headed back to the bar where Cheri, the owner, said she would open for us at 8:00. Sure enough she was there, and I ended up getting the same exact thing I got for dinner the night before. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The two other followed suit.

Cheri and her boyfriend Albert were doing a walk for breast cancer in Seattle in a early August. Mark spotted the sign on the way out, and decided to make a contribution to the walk. He said he was being a good samaritan for a change, yet I wasn't sure I knew him in any other light.

We had a 39 mile stretch with no services to get us into Browning, a town a bit southeast of our entrance into Glacier National Park. As we began getting closer to the Rockies again, the terrain became more hilly. Mark got his first taste of the wild west. Yikes. We breaked for some snacks a little over halfway on top of a hill. Although definitely not my favorite setting, there is a certain peace in being surrounded by nothingness. I can only imagine in somewhere like Alaska.

Once we got to Browning, we stopped for some food at a Subway. We filled up on chips and cookies and saved the remainder of our sandwiches for later. Mark went across the street to pick up some sweatpants and a hat as he was a bit chilly the night before (rookie). He was successful in his mission and looking at the gps, we were disappointed to see that we were much farther away from the park entrance than we had thought judging from the map. We also noticed that there was a non major road that seemed to shave off a few miles from what we had intended on. We gambled and went with it.

We began to run into some pretty serious wind for a while, so we slowed down the pace and chatted like old women. Eventually we ran back into the same road we had turned off, and the change of direction, plus mountain cover helped kill off the wind. We stopped briefly at a sign that showed us we had 15 miles to go to St. Mary. We actually couldn't read it so I took a picture and we zoomed in to see it.

This is where the climb really started. We had a couple large hills as damn near cartographer Paul accurately predicted from looking at the map. After the slow going rise, we zipped down a good 1500 feet or more to St. Mary's, the east side park entrance.

In St. Mary's we grabbed some dinner. We bought a large cheese pizza, and the waitress accidentally brought out a pepperoni… A fortunate mistake for us, as pepperoni cost another couple bucks. We put down the pizza easily as Paul and I were finally joined by someone with a comparable appetite.

Before leaving St. Mary's we picked up some s'more stuff since we intended on making a fire that night to make sure senior el marko made it through the night (; Exciting, we'd have a real camping experience complete with s'moreage.

We rolled down the street to the park entrance where I got us all in with my fancy pass that we purchased at Rocky Mountain National Park. We asked up front where the closest campground was, and the response of 6 miles was music to our ears. We wanted to get some more work in before the day's end to start chipping away at Logan Pass, our highest remaining elevation in the trip at 6,680′ that we would cover the following day.

Even before the park, as we descended upon Glacier, we could see it magnificent beauty; but it was truly at its best up close… and we hadn't seen anything yet. The water looked so nice and pure, I was set on getting in it before the sun had gone beyond the mountains that evening.

We quickly made our way to the campground, where we saw two other sets of cycling tourists. We ended up camping next to two, Evan and Evershed, who were coming from Wisconsin. Evershed was going to a 2 week intensive bicycle training school, and Evan had plans of biking all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego in South America, the southernmost city in the world! Craziness, but he would get 3 consecutive summers out of it. Not bad.

After we plopped our stuff down and chatted a bit, I headed towards the lake. Determined to go in for a dip, I paid no mind to the fact that the sun's warming qualities would have to wait for another day as it was hidden behind the mountains. Nevertheless, with my training in mind, I jumped in the lake. I had experienced much colder waters. However, when we began biking back, the wind picked up something awful, and did make it a chilly ride. No biggy though.

When we returned to the site, Ever and Evan were breaking out their soccer ball. Awesome, Paul and I had just been talking about how we wanted to get one for the trip. We kicked it around for a while, and I told them how we were definitely getting one now that they had inspired us.

Afterwards Paul and Mark showered like normal people, and I set up my tent and began theirs. Mark returned with a bundle of wood just in time… my s'mores stomach was completely empty. It was fun making another fire that we got going nicely in no time. We had bought plenty of s'mores fixins so we invited over the neighbors in attempts to pay forward at least s'more favors we had received in the past. Evan was satisfied with just eating the marshmallows, which was fine with us as we had an extra 50 or so.

We poked around with the fire for a while as boys will, and made sure all of our stuff was packed really well and secured in the bear box. It was a little difficult to keep track as Evershed and I had the same exact bags, but better have a slight mix up than attract a 600 pound beast to the party.

With 3,000′ and change of elevation gain the next day, we tried to get good rest. Mark's climbing ability would be tested for his second day in a row, but if he could keep pace with what he had already shone us, he would be fine. Eager to see what some have called "the most beautiful ride in the states", it was beddy time. All bundled up, some more than others, we went to bed under the full moon.

Life was good.

Day 60, July 17th 2008, beginning in Great Falls, Montana

I awoke around 6:20, no doubt hours after Mark was awake twiddling his thumbs in bed. I roused Paul, and we headed out for some breakfast before we finished packing. We had spec'ed out a good breakfast spot the night before, which was nice and close.

We got about halfway to the diner before I realized we had left the remaining milk from last night. I ran back and brought it into the diner so we could have some milk with our breakfast at a reasonable price. Score.

Mark didn't have the bikers appetite yet, and got a significantly smaller meal than we had. I helped him finish the last of his pancake, and we went back to the hotel to pack up and leave. We got dressed, packed up, checked out, and we were on the road for the first time with captain Mark .

We figured we'd have some long stretched without services so we decided to pick up some nutri grain and nature valley bars. We rode about 10 miles along a stretch where we shared the road with a busy highway, but with ample shoulder. Mark spotted a tractor on the road in the distance, a vehicle that we were going faster than. We would get a chance to pass if it didn't pull into the field adjacent to the highway. Sure enough, it didn't and we got a taste of what passing felt like. It was nice.

After the tractor we stopped to get those snacks, and to ask the locals where good stops would be ahead of us. With plenty of goodies for the next few days, we were gone like a flash. We paid though…

We were enjoying some nice, easy terrain for biking; a good way for Marky Mark to start the week (little did he know what lied ahead). Another 20 miles passed by and we took our first real stop in Fairfield. For miles before pulling in, we could see massive towers for some sort of grain processing. Mark asked and apparently the area produces a lot of malting barley for Anheiser Busch, which I heard was just bought out by someone. They are huge.

We got some fruit at a grocer, and had a few other light snacks. They had some sort of Christmas in July thing going on that weekend coming up according to this girl who was painting some grinch stuff on one of the shop windows. Apparently all 12 people from the town come out and have a celebration; must be interesting.

We peaced out of Fairfield and made another nice long stretch of flat riding to Bynum, which was a dinosaur bone excavation area. There was some museum that we didn't go to, but we did go to the other building in town, which was a bar. In the bar we all got burgers with fries and loads of water.

I found a jukebox that played 5 songs for a dollar. Jackpot. They had some good ones on there. Once the burger had vanished, I felt incomplete, so I ordered a big hot dog as well. The hot dog was good as well, and we were ready for our last stretch of the day to the town of Dupuyer that was on one map we had and not the other. Yikes. We had been warned by someone in the bar about the Grizzlies in Dupuyer and to be careful if camping. Double yikes.

We began hitting some hills towards Dupuyer as we were fast approaching the Rockies again. There were some fun up and downs and some windy sections. As Paul and I say, we never finish easy. We had been efficient all day, however, and we were able to get into Dupuyer by around 5:00.

Again the town consisted of 2-3 stores 2 of which were bars that were open. Score. We entered the first bar, and asked about camping in the area. They said two blocks down there was a residence that had camping in their yard; we would check it out after we ate. They big boys ordered some food, and I wasn't really hungry yet from the recent meal in Bynum. With some serious teeth pulling, Paul and Mark eventually convinced me to order a meal, and as most of the dinner options were out, I ended up getting breakfast for dinner. No problem. Everyone's food was good, except Mark got jipped (sp?) a little on his chicken, again not a big issue as his appetite hadn't kicked in. Besides, I saw him eying the apple pie ala mode, one of Mark's favorites, on the specials board. We'd be back.

We strolled down the street to check out the campgrounds. As we pulled in, the owner stopped by as he was about to leave town. We asked him if we were okay, and were to settle up. He let us pick the spot, and told us we wouldn't have to pay for the night. Gravy.

We began setting up the tents, and that's when the mosquitoes began coming out. They were in full force, and were drawing blood from all of us at an unhealthy rate. We had unfortunately run out of bug spray, so we tried to setup as quickly as we could. I struggled a bit with the one man tent I had originally purchased for the trip before Paul was part of the plan. Mark brought it so we would have plenty of room. I eventually got it up well after they were done with the other tent.

After our beds were made, we sought refuge back at the bar we had come from. Figuring 30 minutes was enough time in between our meals and dessert, we ordered the pie and ice cream for all of us. The portions were hearty, and it was great way to end Mark's first day. There was an officer there who we began talking to who also warned about the grizzlies in the area. They were quite common apparently, as we had now heard it twice, but what could we do? We knew the drill.

The family that owned the place was very nice, and made arrangements with us to open earlier the following day for breakfast so we could get on the road at a decent hour. Thanks. We decided for 8:00, and went back to our mosquito infested, grizzly meal campground. We packed all of our smelly stuff carefully and tightly in the panniers and I stuck them under a large propane tank near the house and away from the tents where a grizzly might not be able to reach. We hopped in the tents with our fingers crossed that Mark's first day on the road wouldn't be his last.

The next day we would be in Glacier National Park, potentially the most beautiful place in our ride thus far. Day 1 of Mark's trip was down and he was holding his own with the boys. We were happy to have him, and his first day was a fairly easy, nice start. But what would tomorrow bring? We shall see.

Life was good.

Day 59, July 16th 2008, beginning outside of White Sulphur Springs Montana towards Kings Hill Pass

It was cool again in the morning when we got up, especially with the cloud cover. We ate some remaining nutri grain bars and made some peanut butter sandwiches. A few minutes after we left camp it began to rain. We already had our jackets on as it was cool enough, so we were fine. The rain was short lived which made for nice weather for our ascent to the top of Kings Hill Pass at 7393′.

We weren't sure how far we had to go, but the grades weren't too tough. I had a mental goal to make it to the top in an hour of biking time. I missed it by 3 seconds, but was still happy with the easy 9 mile ride to the summit. Paul followed shortly after, and we hung out a bit up top as we shed the jackets to dry out our under shirts as the sun shone through.

Once dry enough, we put the jackets back on for our long descent that we expected to last most of the day. We cruised downhill for a good 15-20 miles. Passing a small town with some food. At the very bottom of the hill we came to a small bar in Monarch. We figured there would be more ahead and as we stopped to take our jackets off for good, we decided to march on after having covered nearly 30 miles.

We continued on prepared to stop at the next convenient food location. The miles kept falling off as we kept a good pace, and the food places kept not showing up. We passed one that would have been a mile turn off the road we were on so we kept going forward. I assured Paul that there would be a few spots in between, as the map suggested and as they never materialized, his patience began to grow a bit thin.

This continued for miles, and we began getting close enough to get to Great Falls that we decided we would do it all in one stretch. We ended up traveling about 75 miles straight all the way to Great Falls. We were pooped. We stopped at a gas station and asked if anyone in town had a buffet. They gave us some advice that was down the street in the direction of our hotel so we took. We found an all you can eat Chinese buffet a few blocks down and headed in there. They had nice comfortable seats, and we just gorged and took our time. It was a nice reward.

After about an hour and a half passed, we decided to get up and check in to the hotel. We had made it in plenty of time to make it to the bike shop after checking in to get Mark's bike.

We located the hotel with no problems and checked in. We were in need of showers, yet this particular room didn't come with a shower curtain. Seriously? It took them a while to get us one, so I decided to substitute with a pool hop. The pool was actually quite gross, but it was nice and cool and refreshing as the sun was shining pretty strongly later in the day.

Once we were ready, we headed for the bike shop. We ended up going the wrong way, as they had a confusing downtown street scheme, but fortunately ran into a farmer's market on our errant path. We got some carrot cake there, and left for the correct way to the bike shop.

We had no problem getting the bike once we located the shop as the owner was ready for some Italian name to come and pick it up. We also inflated his tires, which he had somehow missed, and did the same for mine.

We wanted to greet Mark with our favorite new beer, Fat Tire, and figured we deserved a relaxing evening in Great Falls too. We made a couple stops and eventually found a 12 pack and picked up some milk and cereal for a snack later.

Fully loaded we passed a dog on the way back to the hotel. I pet him and he seemed like a tame good boy, but when Paul went to, he snapped at him. In one fluid motion Paul retreated with the petting hand, and also caught the 12 pack of Fat Tire that was in bad shape. It was a legendary move, but should have something to worry about as the dog apparently sensed evil? Remains to be seen.

We returned to the hotel and did exactly as planned. We cracked a few beers and watched Big Daddy… Classic. After a while of that, we got too hungry for just cereal, so we went to go take advantage of Subway's 5 dollar foot longs as we hadn't in a while. They were closed at 7:30 everyday of the week. We couldn't believe it, so we got some Hardees instead.

Returning to the hotel, we did a load of laundry and put the tv back on. American History X, one of my favorites was on, so we watched that as well. We had a few more beers and made sure to save one for Mark's arrival.

Ring ring… we get a call from the lobby. "Mark wants to know if he can come to his room." He had arrived! After flying all day, the exhaustion hadn't shown at all as Mark was geared up for his week with the boys. We gave him his inaugural beer, of which he had maybe 2 ounces. Eventually reality took over, and he fell asleep with the lights on. Rest assured he would be the first one up in the morning as he was still on east coast time and gets up at 3:00 AM as it is.

After having been packed two weeks in advance, toothbrush and all, Mark had finally arrived. I'm not sure who was more excited, Paul and I with our new partner, or Mark beginning his week long journey with us that would take us all through the supposedly most scenic road in the states through Glacier National Park.

After some late night work doing my best to have the week planned as much as possible for Mark's visit, I went to bed. It should make for an interesting trip in the next week, and we were honored for Mark to take a week's vacation out of his year to join us out on the trip. We'd have to make it worth his while.

Lfe was good.

Day 58, July 15th 2008, beginning in Livingston, Montana

I awoke fairly early and headed back to the restaurant to get some breakfast and get back online. I let Paul sleep and figured we'd go back to setup the tent. After maybe a half an hour, here comes Paul in the door. However, he had broken down the tent and gotten everything out of the campsite and headed, as I had not expected him to do. Good guy, and we were out early enough that there was no one to pay… freebie. Nice.

I had finished mine and Paul got exactly what I did, as we often do. After my hour plus of internet, I was satiated. We headed about 30 miles down the road to our next city, Wilsall.

Wilsall consisted of one diner next to a general store. We went to the diner and got some food. We stuck out like sore thumbs, and we talked to nearly the whole restaurant about our trip. They ate it up. Very nice folks in Montana.

We had asked some people about Ringling, which was a small town ahead of us and they assured as that there was at least a bar there. It was 20 miles, but another 20 to White Sulphur Springs to a city that would definitely have some services if you will.

When we arrived in Ringling, we were slightly surprised to see that the bar was shutdown. The post office was only open on very select hours, and these were the only two non residential buildings. As we were looking around for water, a man called from a home in the distance, "You guys need some water?" "Hell Yes!".

He took us into his house where he gave us some sulfury water which wasn't so hot. He was a very nice guy, and told us some of the history of Ringling. The city currently has a population of 14. There were 3 kids in the school, which had to be shutdown because there were too few. The bar made no money of course, same idea. He was still there with his two golden retrievers. He recorded some music for Angel Records, and had some guitars and the internet to occupy him. He had lived in Miami before, and decided to switch it up a bit when he moved out here. Great guy, and it's interesting the settings in which you can meet the most normal people. To each his own.

After we headed out of Ringling, we pedaled hard and made good time to White Sulphur Springs for some dinner. We went to this Irish tavern suggested to us by the man in Ringling. We relaxed for a while watching the All Star game (damn Cliff Lee is good) and feasting on everything in sight. Again the people were great… good advice from Ringling.

Once we were done with our meals and desserts, we wanted to make it part of the way up our climb to Kings Hill Pass the following day which was 7393′, again our highest remaining elevation. We took off with plenty of sunlight left as the sun went down almost at 10:00 up here. The ride wasn't too challenging, and before we knew it, we covered another 20 miles and had located the campground we were looking for to make it an easy ride the following morning.

It was a national forest campground set back off the road. This had to be bear laden country, and we did our best to prepare for it. We hadn't had the authentic camping experience yet building our own fire and we figured that night was the right night, as it started getting rather chilly as the sun descended.

We happened upon a nice stash from some previous campers as we were scavenging for wood… jackpot. We were all set. We got the fire roaring up nicely for a while , and just as we started putting it out and decided to go to bed it had started raining. With the rain cover already on, we were in good shape and it was time for bed anyway.

We had accomplished what we needed for the day, and put ourselves in good position to make it to Great Falls in time to get Mark's bike and relax for the rest of the day. Once we crossed the pass we would be dropping 4,000′ in elevation to Great Falls, piece of cake.

Warmed from the fire, and excited for Mark's arrival we went to bed.

Life was good

Day 57, July 14th 2008, starting in Yellowstone, Wyoming

Rise and shine. Nothing was damaged from the bear attack, even though I had accidentally left out a bag with toothpaste and the like in it. A park ranger made his way over to our section to see how we were doing and we told him about the bear. He was a bit skeptical as they hadn't had bears in a while, and I showed him the tracks over by the bear box. After we sifted around the evidence for a while, we figured it was probably the same bison from the night before, as they like to scratch their backs up against the bear boxes (big metal things to hide food from bears).

The bison had found a nice spot to sleep again right next to our neighbors tent and it just so happened to be on Susan's side, the one most afraid of the often gentle beasts. Not sure she slept so well. At any rate, they had to move their tent to a new site as they were only allowed in the hiker/biker section for one night, and were planning on staying for a few more. I had the genius idea of not breaking down the tent, so six of us carried the tent completely setup across the campgrounds to their new site. When I returned Paul was getting up.

We broke down the tent and started packing. Before we were finished Jeff and Susan returned and warned us to wear sunscreen. Jeff had a riding buddy who had recently died from skin cancer, so it hit home with them. They were really wonderful people we were fortunate to camp next to.

Once we were ready we said goodbye to Jeff and Susan + family (never got their last name), and headed for the north entrance of the park. We were dropping 1200 feet in elevation so we basically coasted the whole way to Mammoth Springs, the final exhibit we would see before departure into Montana.

The springs were very beautiful. Thousands of years of mineral deposits collected up in this one area from mineral-laden water that rushed up to the surface everyday. The pictures cannot capture the true color and beauty, but they are still nice.

After we walked around the springs, we returned to our bikes and rolled down the hill to a little village right before the exit. I had some letters to mail and we were going to get some food. As we pulled into the restaurant, who are the first people we see… Jeff and Susan's family.

Greeting us with a surprise, we said hi again as we got in line for some food. The place was packed, so once we got our food we ate outside. While we went to get some ice cream, we said bye to J+S's family, who were leaving and unhappy that they had missed the crumbled Oreos as a topping for their ice cream.

When we finished our food, we headed over to the general store for some supplies for our likely sparsely populated ride to come. Who do we see when we walk in the door? Of course, J+S+family. It was still at funny at this point, and they again left before us as we said our final goodbye. Would the be our last meeting for a while? Nope. As we we got our bikes and started heading out of the park, they were pulling out of their parking spot. Jeff promised it was the last time, and he was right. We hoped to keep in contact with them.

Before leaving the park we saw our last Yellowstone wildlife as a herd of Elk were just chilling by the exit.  Fun. 

As we exited the park, there was a crappy little sign that said entering Montana that wasn't worth a picture, and also a sign that signified us crossing the 45th parallel of latitude. Our first stop in the great state of Montana was Gardiner, right outside of the park. We got some stuff at a gas station, and got free maps from the attendant. We had left the tourists behind and entered some western hospitality.

After that stop, Paul and I made a nice, easy ride to a rest stop about 30 miles from Gardiner. I spoke with Mark, Meghan's father on the phone to finalize his plans for meeting us out for a week long ride two days later. We hoped we could get to Great Falls in time to pick up his bike from the shop and have it ready for him at the hotel.

We left for Livingston, where we planned on camping that night. We had another nice easy ride to Livingston with some built up hunger. I was hoping to stop somewhere where they would have wireless as it was one of the biggest cities we had seen in a while. We stopped at Clarks, a motel/restaurant which just so happened to have high speed internet. It was helpful to upload some photos and whatnot while we ate.

We ended up closing the place down and were kicked out into the bar area right next door. At the bar we met a bartender who had recently finished her masters classes and was working on her thesis in some biological field at Eastern Illinois. Her bus that she bought broke down and Livingston, and she decided to stay for a while. She was a really interesting person, and quite attractive apparently (according to Paul). Not sure why he wasn't hitting on her, but to each his own. She gave us as much free stuff around the bar as she could, and also let us roll the dice in this game to potentially win a cash prize. Neither of us won anything, and Kim had to shut the bar down as well, so we were back on the streets.

There was a campsite about 100 feet from the bar where we setup shop and hit the sleeping bags. We were in a good mood after leaving the bar since we had such a good time with Kim, we were full, and had a nice cheap place to sleep.

Life was good.


Another post coming later today…  Trying to catch up now that we're back in civilization.  Thanks for reading!

Day 56, July 13th 2008, starting in between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, Wyoming

I awoke at 6:00 paralyzed from the cold, and curled up tighter awaiting the sun to take over. When I got back up around 7:00 it was still too cold so I took my computer to the lodge where we had eaten the night before. I wasn't able to get online, so I wrote some stuff and sifted through some photos.

After a while, Paul rolled in. He had been hiding out in the bathroom, which was warm from the showers. He was really roughing it as there is not much on him to protect from the cold. We both hung out there for a while, mouths watering over the buffet that we would soon feast on. We waited until it was warm enough to venture back out and pack all of our bags before we would eat and be on our way.

We returned from the site, armed with appetites… the buffet didn't know what hit it. It eventually recovered upon our departure, but we were on to the next thing by then… Yellowstone, about a 2 mile ride from the lodge

When we arrived at Yellowstone, we saw Mike again (the young biker who had stuck with John) and he was awaiting John at the entrance as he could get him in for free. We figured we might see them if they could catch up (unlikely) and we entered the park.

We had a nice few mile climb as we came into the park, but made frequent stops at all the natural beauty along the way. There had been a fire sometime recently in the park, and there were many areas where all the trees were scorched, or very small from the rebirth after the destruction.

Stopping at the first little village when we got in, we had cell service for the first time since the Hatchet Lodge the day before. We got some food there, and made some calls while we rested after our first trip of the day. The gift shop had these really interestingly patterned Native American blankets that we both wanted really badly, but could not afford. They were made in Oregon, so we figured we'd wait until then, since we'd be there in a few weeks.

Our next stop would be the park's landmark exhibition, Old Faithful. For those who don't know, Old Faithful is a geyser that erupts steaming hot water out of the earth periodically. We had 17 miles to go to Old Faithful that could have doubled for an enjoyable rollercoaster track. Not as fun on the bike though, as we crossed the continental divide two more times! Since I can climb a little faster than Paul, I decided to pull ahead thinking that maybe I'd be able to see Old Faithful erupt twice as it goes off every 90 minutes or so.

Arriving near Old Faithful, I took the car route which unfortunately is about 2 miles more than I had to go to get near the geysers. Damn. I did see the tail end of a blast from Old Faithful which was sort of bittersweet as it meant we'd have to wait about another hour and a half to see it go again since Paul wasn't there yet. I attempted to cut pull off at the same place where I missed the shortcut but I was too late. Eventually, we both met back up and got us some good seats for the next eruption.

It was quite the spectacle, and the crowds had gathered for a while when it finally went off at around 5:10 pm. The eruption lasts for a few minutes, and I do have some video of that, that I will get up on youtube whenever we get a rest day. Pretty neat.

We made our way through the masses to navigate out of the area to head towards Grand Prismatic, a lake that is a few miles down the road and is lined with many different colors from all the mineral deposits built up over time. After a bit of riding, and no signs, I looked at the map. We missed it! Damn! Unfortunately, we were on somewhat of a schedule, so we wouldn't be able to backtrack.

Even though we missed the grand prismatic, there were many other geysers and scenery along the road that were great to ride along.

We arrived at Madison junction which is on the west side of the park for a quick bathroom break where we saw a massive bison. Sweet, our first. These things are huge, and are potentially dangerous as every once in a while they will end up killing someone in the park by way of the gore. They are pretty tame normally however, as they are vegetarians.

From there we headed to Norris junction which had camping that was hopefully not full as we didn't feel like riding much more for the day. After a few miles of riding toward Norris, we were held up by a bison who was meandering the road like a drunkard . If you'll refer back a paragraph, you'll know that we didn't want to take our chances riding by this thing as it could run up to 30 miles per hour. Snap.

It was really quite humorous as he was just sauntering down the road in no hurry to get out of the way of the line of cars he had created. After about 20 minutes, we were able to use cars as blockers and made a break for it around the bison down a downhill stretch of road. Phew, crisis averted.

As we approached the campgrounds, we were forced to do the same thing as there was a bison hanging out near the registration point. There was a scary sign that said campground full, but when we spoke to a worker inside, he told us there was one more hiker/biker spot for $5 left. Score, however it was at the extreme end of the campground. Oh well, at least we had a place.

When we got all the way in to our site, we were fortunate to be placed next to some great neighbors. Jeff and Susan, and Mike, Natalie, and Henry were from Wisconsin. Jeff had done some massive bike riding tours as well as backpacking in South America, so we had plenty to talk about. There were also two other children that were visiting from Scotland Roury and Roana (sp??) who had made friends with our neighbors and were hanging out. Very interesting and well spoken young people I must say. Rona (let's try that one) had to do homework at one point as she was taking Latin at the age of 12. Yeah.

Paul and I had badly wanted a fire lately, but it was getting dark and difficult to make our own, so we joined in on theirs. They just so happened to have tons of delicious s'mores as well, which we obviously devoured. After a bit of just hanging out, Rorry (?) says very calmly to the group "hey look, a bison". This massive 1200 pound beast had walked down the hill and was hanging out about 5 feet away from the table that we were sitting at.

Naturally everyone freaked out, while Roury and I played it smooth. Again, usually nice but powerful enough to respect we sat on the other side of the table and let it sniff around. There was steam coming off its back, and it was breathing so heavily it was really quite funny. I wanted to get a picture of it, but Susan thought the flash might not be such a great idea so we opted against it.

Eventually it made its way on over towards Rorry and Rona's tent, which was about 150 feet away and made a bed for itself. This massive thing was snoring loudly and was feet from their tent. Hilarious… it wasn't our tent.

After a bit, the fire died down and it was getting late. We thanked them for the s'mores and warmth as we all went to bed.

At about 3:00 in the morning we heard howling wolves. Awesome, but please don't eat us. Then we heard the bear box rattling and some huffing and puffing. Oh boy, a bear was right in our site sniffing around. I woke Paul, and we both sat in silence a bit afraid as these things actually do eat meat. Quite the wildlife adventure as promised in Yellowstone. After a while, it seemed to leave so we went back to sleep.

Happy to not have been a bear meal, we rested with smiles on our faces. We'd finish out the park the following day and head into a new state, Montana!

Life was good.

Day 55, July 12th 2008, beginning in Dubois, Wyoming

We got up and packed all of our stuff with plans to roll down the street to a breakfast shop across from where we had dinner the night before. As we donned the normal gear and headed for the road, we didn't make it to the end of the driveway before stopping. Turns out we had chosen a good night to stay in a motel as it had dipped BELOW freezing that night. Yes, in the middle of July. Later we had heard that night it go down to 24 in Yellowstone. Yikes, we had planned on camping there.

Quickly putting on our warm gear, we shivered all the way to the restaurant. We hoped it would warm quickly. There were two other touring bikes outside of the restaurant and it wasn't difficult to tell who their owners were once we got in. Again a few retirees were doing the trans America trip to Virginia. Tailwinds… those bastards. They offered us a spot at their table but they were almost nearly done, so it would have been a bit awkward. We kindly declined.

We of course stuffed our faces (I had to finish some of Paul's), and headed outside. It had not warmed up enough to get on the bikes, so we stalled more. We hung out in a heated gas station down the street and picked up some nutri-grain bars.

Eventually we shed the skirts (no offense independent women) and got in the saddle. Shortly after traveling down the road a bit, we approached a steep hill. This was a great opportunity to warm up, and by the time we had reached the top, the sun finally took over and the temperature had gone up about 8 degrees in 10 minutes. Sweating profusely at the top, we tied our perspiration soaked stuff to the backs of the bikes to air out and we were on our way.

We continued on our way and had to stop at a construction spot that we were warned about by other bikers in the days past. The construction was at the base of our incline over Togwotee pass, which would drop us off near the Tetons once we had descended it. We got a free 7 mile ride up a fairly gradual part of the day. Ha, we had done enough mountains recently and weren't too proud to take the free ride.

Once we were dropped off, we got out and were about to get on the bikes. Under us, we noticed some jagged gravel. We had also gotten the adhesive stuff on our tires so large pieces of stone were sticking. We weren't comfortable riding on it, so we began walking the bikes uphill. The worker told us it would be for about 5 miles.

No worries, we were fine with spending an hour and half just walking them up towards the top. We were passed by countless people with empty pickups who could have easily given us a ride the few miles up the hill to the good pavement. We joked how we were clearly out of the southern hospitality, as we have a few times in the past, and kept going.

A friendly worker rode alongside us for a while explaining how they were not allowed to pick us up, and also informed us that it was only a total of 3 miles of gravel and that we had about half a mile to go.

Once we got to the good pavement, we stopped for a bit near an abandoned trailer that made for a good seat. We snacked a bit there, and met yet more bikers who were coming down the pass. I don't have to tell you by now what path they were going, but they were very friendly and we chatted with them for a bit.

They explained that the pass was another 4-6 miles, and knowing to err on the side of the longer distance (especially from someone who was zipping downhill from a mountain pass), we figured 6. Much less than we had thought.

We were very pleased at the ease we had ascended the pass, and were surprised when we had reached the top so quickly. Once again we had crossed the continental divide, and Paul and I both dunked our heads in this stream. It seemed all the water looked so fresh and clean among the mountains.

After our brief triumph at the top, the fun began. We cruised downhill for miles upon miles giving up all the elevation we had gained in a much speedier fashion. Once we began to level off, we decided to get some food at the Hatchet Resort. It was the first time we had cell service in a while, so after ordering some food, Paul and I were both on our cell phones. Wouldn't you know it, an idiot doing the same thing we were on a bicycle comes in and pulls up a chair at our table… a bit forward.

John was a great guy, again in his 60's from Scottsdale, Arizona who had done some touring in the past. He was actually heading west like us, a real man, it's nice to meet another. We all ate together and shared some stories. He told us to stop at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a beautiful view before we headed north towards Yellowstone. He also asked if we had seen another tourer Mike as we came over the pass as John had spent some time with him and was wondering where he was. We hadn't seen him.

John departed before us, but was carrying quite the load, so we figured we would catch him on the way into the parks. A minute after John was out of sight, here comes Mike. Mike was from Maryland, yet didn't know where Connecticut was (really though?). We thought that was funny, and then we informed him John was looking for him so he continued on to catch up.

We hung around for a while trying to get some wireless internet from the locals to no avail. Eventually, we got back on the road with a short stretch to the Tetons. Sure enough, we caught up to Mike and John right before Jackson Lake Lodge. We all went inside for a drink of water and to see the amazing view John spoke of. It was worth it.

After that final stop for us, we headed out of the parking lot. As we had a faster pace, we quickly pulled away and thought we might see them in Yellowstone the following day. The Grand Tetons were grand and beautiful. We got a nice brief view of the park, and continued on our way.

We had a nice long climb out of the park, that sent us cruising down towards Yellowstone. We were about done for the day so we pulled off at the first campsite which was sandwiched between both parks. The key selling point was the restaurant.

We got ourselves a spot, setup the tent, and headed for the restaurant. We got a surfeit of food there and were served by a girl from NYC. The workers were there from all over the world as a summer job. Juliana, our server, went to school in the city and was planning on hitchhiking back with her brother from Denver. Cool.

After dinner we messed around in THEIR gift shop for a bit. After we grew bored, we headed back to the tent and went to sleep. We were happy to have conquered our highest remaining elevation, and were excited about Yellowstone for the following day.

Life was good.

Day 54, July 11th 2008, beginning in Lander, Wyoming

As planned I woke up around 6:00. I managed to get Paul up by 6:20, and we began packing. We had prepared enough the night before, so while snacking on some pizza, which two separate people called "the breakfast of champions", we quickly broke everything down and were ready to go. After a quick bathroom break we were on the road.

We would make one stop at Fort Washakie, before a long stretch to Dubois. After Dubois we'd have a climb over Togwotee pass and would be right near the Tetons. If we could beat enough of the wind in the morning it would be doable.

Fort Washakie was 14 miles away, slightly uphill, and we made great time as our plan had worked. We stopped quickly at a general store where Paul got some cinnamon rolls, and I just filled up on tons of water. We were doing all right. But what was this we saw coming down the road? Ridiculous Wyoming wind starting around 9:30… great. Clearly Poseidon (closest reference I could think of) was not messing around today as he had turned up the dial on us. I still say we were destined to stay in Colorado.

The winds were fierce to quite fierce, and we would have to take short stops again as the wind dries the body out and drains energy at a much higher rate than normal riding. We came to a rest stop after about 20 miles that we had to stop at.

Exhausted from the battle, we hung out there for a while. We met yet more bikers, who were of course heading the other way. Good for them says Chris cursing under his breath. Once we built up the courage to face the wind again we ventured out.

We came to a general store that was roughly 10 miles down the road which we decided would be a perfect time for a break. Here we were nearly 8 weeks into the trip, and could hardly make it 10 miles without stopping. Would this wind get the best of us?

We bought a half gallon of milk and made some sandwiches, as we sat outside. The wind felt really great combined with the sun when sitting there, but it was our worst enemy in the saddle. Once we finally manned up, and headed towards Dubois with about 30 miles to go, figuring on one more stop before the end of the day.

Sure enough we stopped about 7 miles short of Dubois to rest the booties and relieve ourselves. After a few minutes we got back on to finish out the day. We had hoped to have a chance at reaching the pass as we had planned on earlier in the week, but we were unaware of the gale force impediments we would be facing that put those chances out of question.

We finished out the remainder and found ourselves a motel in Dubois , as it had been a solid 3 days without a shower, and with the pass to cover the following day we figured we'd need our best sleep.

I wish I had taken some pictures of the inside of the hotel since it was our coolest yet. There were word carvings and whatnot, and it just had the general feel of a mountainy/outdoorsy place. Pretty cool.

Of course once showered, food was the prime operative. Taking the advice of the manager, we went down the street to a place called Payas. We got a delicious Hawaiian pizza there, and headed back.

The return trip was a bit chilly we had both noticed, but no worries; we had a motel to sleep in that night. When we got inside, it took us together about 1 minute to fall asleep. The combination of the wind, and the lack of sleep the night before made quick work of the boys.

As the visions of sugarplums danced, we would be prepared to tackle the highest remaining elevation of the trip… 9658 feet. We were good at it by now; it would be cake.

Life was good.

Day 53, July 10th 2008, beginning in Muddy Gap, Wyoming

I again arose before Paul to the sounds of humorous honking truck drivers, and did some more blog work. Paul got up around 8:00 and we quickly packed up and left towards the gas station. We arrived around 8:45 and were happy to see quite a bit of food. The sign out front said they were open until 10:00 each night, so we could have easily made it the night before. Oh well.

Paul ate a lot as well, but I put down a big thing of banana bread, a muffin, Snickers, 3 nutri grain bars, and a banana. They actually had internet at this place too! In the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, I was online. Nice. Since I had caught up on a bunch of blogs, and wasn't sure when I would be back online again, I spent a lot of time there uploading photos and scheduling blog postings. I was also able to charge my camera battery and two cell phone batteries. By the time I was done with all my stuff, we had been there for nearly four hours! Damn, it was time to hit the road.

We had made it a few miles into the trip before the wind picked up something fierce. Our first stop was in Jeffrey City, at a little diner. Again, it was a very weird place, but they were open and serving inexpensive food.

There was a female cycling tourer there when we arrived talking to people about her amazing feats after having gone around 1000 miles. We laughed under our breath, but let her have her moment… I was getting really sick of talking about myself (yes, there is a certain point). Since Rawlins, we had been on the traditional trans-america tour that many cyclists take starting in Estoria, Oregon ending in Virginia, and she was the first we had run into. I hoped she was okay, as I am a lot bigger (get it?). We chatted with her for a bit, and headed back into the wind.

Shortly after we were on the road, we ran into another cyclist who was actually with the woman, Julie we had just spoken to at the restaurant. We exchanged good lucks and kept on going. A few more miles down, we met up with two male cyclists who were brothers, one was carrying his dog in tow. How awesome! They were also doing the trans-am, and as we were talking to them for a bit, here come two more female cyclists. They had started separately, but had met up with the guys we were talking to on the way. I guess the trans-am route is a popular one. All were going west to east, and we were super jealous this particular day due to the intense wind.

After the nice little stops meeting with bikers, we made it through the grueling wind to a rest stop. There was no food there, a bit upsetting, but of course plenty of water. We hung around for a while, and tried to wait out the wind a bit, as we had seen some sort of pattern where it died down in the evening.

Getting ready to leave, we noticed a young woman pull in with a horse. She opened some sort of trailer and out came 5 puppies and their mother. We had to go over and pet them, they were really adorable. She explained to us about the winds of Wyoming… they don't stop. She did mention we were especially better off early in the morning as it was usually the calmest then. Thanks.

We took off from there around 7:00, with 40 miles to go. We had planned on riding into a bit of darkness, but we would have a nice shoulder the whole way and very light traffic. The wind slowly and continually diminished as our trip continued on. Before we got into town, we hit pockets of very cold air which seemed to be near little valleys of the mountains. We would roll through them, and it had to drop 15 degrees, and then roll right out seconds later. Odd.

We got into Lander right around 10:00 as we had planned, equipped with feverish appetites, and in need of a place to stay. Lander had stoplights! We had gotten back to somewhat of a town. Stopping at the first gas station, we asked what was open for food. A grocer and dominoes were basically our only choices. We got to dominoes first, but it was delivery only at the time. There phone number was on the outside of the store, but no area code. Ugh.

Next stop was Safeway grocer. When we rolled into the parking lot I hit a bump that knocked my cell phone out of my front pouch. Of course it tumbled forward directly under my tire, causing me to scratch the sh-t out of it, and fall in the process. Fortunately, I had spectators as well, as someone was walking by across the street and asked if I was okay. I was pretty frustrated, but for some reason, it brought great joy to Paul.

After that incident, we bought some really hearty bread and some bars to be better prepared for some more desolate stretches through Wyoming. We were also able to get their area code, and we ordered two large pizzas from Dominoes.

We ate them outside of Dominoes, with a big two liter bottle of Barq's Root Beer. Did we finish it all? Not even close; we hardly finished one. We were stuffed, and had nearly an entire pizza to save. I packed it on the back of the bike, and we headed toward the city park. The brother bikers we had met earlier that day had told us about free camping at the park, because there was some rock climbing festival going on that weekend.

We made our way to the park, and found ourselves a nice spot to sleep on some fluffy grass. It was our best camping spot in a while. We tried to go to bed as soon as possible as we were getting up at 6:00 to try to beat the brutal wind we had faced that day. Well fed, with a comfortable spot to sleep, we would be ready for the next day that would take us over our highest elevation remaining in the trip, Togwotee Pass  at 9658 feet.

Life was good.

Day 52, July 9th 2008, beginning in a remote area close to Baggs, Wyoming

I awoke in the middle of nowhere… oh yeah, that's where we chose to sleep the night before. I did the typical morning routine where I tried to take care of some stuff while Pauly bear got some more sleep (he likes that stuff). This morning's work was catching up on some blogging. After a couple hours and countless horn honkings from jokester truck drivers, Paul got up, so we packed up and left. I hadn't had any of the water since the prior night's dinner, so I was looking good enough to make the long stretch of 40 miles to Creston Junction, labeled on the map as a food stop. Paul had only had a little. We made a decent pace towards Creston Junction, althought it was a bit uphill from where we had started.

Riding in from a distance, the junction did not look like much, which was a bit concerning. When pulling up to the junction, it still didn't look like much. There was a beaten up old firework selling store, and that was it. No food, no water, and we were running low. There may have been a few expletives released at this point, but the important thing was that we had to ride another 26 miles to Rawlins, before we could have any refreshments.

We conserved our water as best as possible along the trip, but it was tough since the dry air dries out the mouth quickly. Fortunately, we had the first tailwind we enjoyed since maybe Louisiana, which was a bit concerning for our future in Wyoming, as it was heading directly east. Oh well, we'll enjoy it now. The miles couldn't go by fast enough. When we neared Rawlins, I saw a sign that I saw buffet on it pointing towards a restaurant/gas station (typical trucker stop). We nearly passed it as the sign cycled through all sorts of gas specials and whatnot. As we got very close, I noticed buffet again, for sure this time. We were ecstatic. We actually crossed the interstate over the median to take the most direct route.

The buffet was all we could have hoped for, and more. After feasting on insane amounts of food, shameless Paul actually fell asleep in the booth. While Paul slept, I plugged my computer in an outlet and blogged more. I had a lot of catching up to do, and was making a lot of progress.

When Paul awoke, he and I both got round two of our buffet before we left. We filled our bottles, and headed out again. We headed to the north end of Rawlins, and picked up some cheap granola like bars at a dollar store. We were unsure about what was ahead of us, but we knew there would be nothing for at least 30 miles.

The wind that we enjoyed heading to Rawlins, was now a head on enemy. It slowed our progress a bit, but we eventually made it to Lamont, a speck on the map. There was a restaurant called Grandma's Diner in Lamont, but it was either abandoned or closed for the day upon our arrival. There was someone inside whose attention we were able to get. Clearly the restaurant wasn't open, but the man who came to the door pointed us to a spicket that was outside, as he watched a widescreen tv inside. Come on, clearly we were out of that southern hospitality. He did tell us there was a gas station 11 miles up the road, but it would be closed by the time we got to it. I was still quite thankful, as water was all we really needed; we had food on us, and could get some first thing in the morning.

We headed over to the spicket which was guarded by two boxers… the canine version. The male, was pretty friendly. The female was pregnant, and wasn't backing down, but eventually (after a lot of thinking) we outsmarted her. When Paul, couldn't operate the spicket, a young kid came out hobbling on one badly injured foot and showed him how to do it. We felt for him as he explained he was going to work through it, and we were nearly sure he would never have it properly treated. We were happy to have the water, but very weirded out by the whole place.

Once we were filled up, we figured we would camp as close the gas station as possible while still being somewhat hidden. The wind had died down as it was nearly dusk, and we made the 10.5 mile trip nice and quickly. Much like the night prior, we pulled a safe distance off the road and set up our tent. Another nice cool night would make for a good rest. An earshot from a gas station, we would load up in the morning to make our next stretch through the grand state of Wyoming.

Life was good.

Day 51, July 8th 2008, beginning in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I obviously woke up well before Paul, so I headed over to a local bagel shop in hopes that I could eat while getting online. The food was great, but the wireless was protected. I wrote in the journal instead… digital of course. When I got back, Cole had his father on the phone and handed it to me. I talked to him for a while about our path, as he and I basically were thinking the same thing. He did get me thinking of a different path, however, but I would have to check the mileage difference once I could get online. Unfortunately, by the time we were ready to leave, no one was around to get a picture. We would have to keep in touch, and not rely on a photo as a memory.

14 hours later when Paul got up (jokes), he got some food at the bagel shop and met me at the library. I ended up deciding on a different path through Wyoming, which seemed more populated and actually a bit shorter than the original one I had considered.

After scheduling a few blogs, we set out for Craig, Colorado, our last town before Wyoming… tear. Once in Craig, we stopped at a grocer which had super cheap gatorades, good pastries, and good fruit. We ate and hung out for a bit, as our day would consist of mostly two long stretches, with one in the bag.

We left Craig for a Baggs, Wyoming. The entire ride seemed to be uphill with a headwind. I think Colorado wanted us to stay. It took us a long time to finally cross the border, which was quite the hill. Baggs was downhill from there, where we would make our last stop for food and the like for another 51 miles. As we entered, the city sign said population 348. Yikes, would there be food? Sure enough there was a Mexican American joint. We each got massive burritos there and stocked up on some water.

The plan was to ride another 10 miles or so before dark, and set up camp on the side of the road. We would get enough water to last us for our long ride the following morning to Creston Junction, which was 51 miles from Baggs. We didn't have any water on our short trip to end the day, and we found a good spot to pitch the tent.

We went to sleep under the Wyoming sky for the first time. The stars were out in full force, and it really was beautiful. We had planned well enough that we wouldn't be too thirsty or hungry before we would make it to Creston Junction, which had food according to my biking map. Feeling connected with nature, we went to sleep.

Life was good.

Day 50, July 7th 2008, beginning in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

When Paul woke up, we headed to the best breakfast spot in town, which was right across the street. As the offer was on the table to stay another day, we thought we should. It would be a nice reward after two of our toughest days back to back. On top of that, we had a schedule to meet Meghan's father Mark in Montana the following week. We figured we would be able to do it easily enough, as we would speed through Wyoming. Chris also mentioned he could get work off and show us around if we wanted.

We came back after breakfast and called Chris who had gone to work that we were going to stick around. He thought he might not be able to get off until 5. We figured we'd show ourselves around for a bit, and maybe one of his roommates, or random stragglers like us would be around at some point.

Rusty, the dinner comic, told us to stop by BAP, a local shop down the road that sold all sorts of gear for camping, and biking. He said they might hook us up with some free stuff if we mentioned his name. They carried Big Agnes stuff, which is the brand of our tent, so we had another in. We walked over to BAP, and began chatting with the guy who was working at the time as we perused the store. He found our trip quite interesting, and there was tons of cool stuff, but we were not successful in getting any free stuff.

I received a call from Chris that he would be able to get out of work at noon… score. He had put in his three week notice that he was going to go back to school for his masters at Fort Fun! Good for him. We headed back to their place empty handed, but happy Chris could show us around. We hung around until Chris showed up.

Chris took us frisbee golfing, which started up near one of the lifts at the ski resort. For those of you who don't know, you throw frisbees towards a "hole" which is a basket with chains on the side with the object of getting it into the basket. Same as golf, pretty simple, and in that vein, can be nearly as frustrating as real golf. Paul and I, the rookies, lost our frisbees a few times. We spent most of our time looking for the damn things. It really is a fun game otherwise, however, probably a lot more fun when you're good.

After that, Chris took us to Fish Creek waterfall. The ride there was nice as it was pretty scenic, and there were tons of ridiculously wealthy people's homes along the way and they weren't even living in them at the time. We took a quick walk down to the waterfall, which was nice, and then headed back to his place.

I had to go to the library to get online, and so did Chris. When I got there, I spoke with Mark to confirm his plans for meeting us in Montana. Plans had changed a bit, and he would be meeting us in a little over a week, before Glacier National Park. We were excited to have him, and Glacier would be a great time. I took care of a few other things while online there, and we headed back.

Chris and Noah then took us up to Strawberry Park, where the natural hot springs were. We drove up this windy dirt road with their bikes in the bike as there was a good mountain biking path on the way back to their house. Chris, who I had met less than 24 hours ago, left us with the keys, and showed us how to sneak in and avoid paying the fee. Sorry mom and dad, but we have to conserve, and we couldn't miss this.

We whacked our way through the bushes in sandals, and earned every bit of that $10 entry fee. The springs were absolutely amazing. I would guess the source water was 130 degrees or more. There were a few pools that the water ran through, each getting a bit cooler than the previous. Even the first pool had to be mixed with a snow melt river running along side to make it cool enough to get in. Paul and I submerged ourselves in the cold river first to get the full effect. We hung out there for a while soaking our travel weary muscles. We were again so glad that we had not sped through this town, and had stayed the extra day.

We returned to some of the same crew as the day prior. Noah was balancing on a slack rope they had out in front of the house tied to two trees. Impressive, that stuff's tough. We got a frisbee toss going in the street near their house. Then, a guy Pauly rolled by on his bike. Noah had worked with Pauly at a restaurant, and they flagged him down. Pauly had done some touring doing freestyle frisbee in the 80's. He could do the most amazing things I have ever seen with a frisbee. Throws, spins, rolls, you name it. Ridiculous.

Chris and Cole (another roommate) had a volleyball game which they skateboarded over to. A few minutes later we followed suit. The fields were across the way, down another underground bike path, a few minutes from there place. It was a cool spot where a bunch of people were hanging out doing outdoorsy stuff on a Monday night. We juggled around the volleyball soccer style for a while, as I simultaneously tried to cheer obnoxiously again for Chris's team.

I wanted to get Pauly on video, so after the game was over we went onto the tennis courts which were lit. Pauly put on a show for us for about 20 minutes again doing the most insane stuff you could imagine with a frisbee. I got a lot of footage [YOUTUBE LINK], and he had quite the crowd. We hung out for a bit more, and headed back to Chris's place.

We snacked on some of the leftover food from the night before which was still delectable. We shot the poop for a while. Cole, whose father rode his motorcycle through Wyoming frequently offered us some help on our path into Wyoming. He had to bring his girlfriend to the airport the next morning quite early, and said he would call his father to ask him for some advice and leave us a not in the morning. Great. After talking about where we had planned on going, Noah mentioned that he would be running a hotel in central Cali at Sequoia National Park in August. I had just talked about how we would have to find a way to get to the park to Paul earlier that day. He offered us a place to stay if we were in the area. Double great.

With all the good news, we called it a night. We would have great memories of Colorado, all of the great people we had met, great sights we had seen, and great challenges we had overcome. Sadly we would be riding into Wyoming the following day. We were excited to live new adventures, but it would be tough to leave Colorado. A comfortable place to sleep, and a list of new friends made it easier.

Life was good.

Day 49, July 6th 2008, beginning in Grand Lake, Colorado

We slept in until 9 that morning, we deserved it. We packed up and headed for some food in Granby. It was a decently easy ride to Granby, and we got some breakfast at a small restaurant with a bar.

We left there and had to cover 30 miles to Klemming. It was a nice ride, although we dealt with a lot of headwinds. At Klemming we had to figure out if there was anything in between there and Steamboat Springs, our destination for the night. We stopped at a grocer and asked that question. As we had suspected, there was nothing. We would have to cover 53 miles over two passes with no stopping. We made sure to really fill up on water, and got some bread and nature valley bars again to help stave off the hunger should it strike.

I called ahead to a friend of Sarah's (the couchsurfer we stayed with in Fort Collins) who lived in Steamboat and was willing to host us. When I called he answered and said he'd gladly take us in, and to call when we were in town. After I got off with him, we began talking with a guy who used to live in Steamboat. He explained that the climb there was fairly gradual, and that after the passes it was all downhill to Steamboat.

With those two pieces of good news, we were ready to take on our longest stretch yet. It was a challenging ride again, as some of the elevation gains would be given back to quick downhill runs along the way. When we eventually made it to the first pass, we met 9 other bikers who were there biking from Cleveland, Ohio. Cool. They were resting on the Continental Divide , an imaginary line where water that falls on either side either eventually makes its way to the Pacific or the Atlantic.

The next pass was another few miles and a roughly 650 foot rise. We found it slow, but fairly easy. Ahhhh, we were at the top time to cruise… or so we thought. We went down shortly and began to climb again. What, we just passed the pass? Fairly challenging biking continued for about 3 more miles. At one point Paul yelled an obscenity in frustration that is not proper for a public blog. I laughed pretty hard on the inside.

Eventually, we came to a sign that said Rabbit Ears pass west summit. Now it made sense, there was an east and west peak. It was a 7% grade downhill for about 7 miles . I maxed out at a scary 43.5 mph! I was really cruising. The views as we descended were absolutely beautiful; everything was green and lush. Steamboat is a gorgeous place.

When we rolled into the downtown area, I checked my voicemail. Chris, the person we were staying with, had left me a message calling for a dinner party at their place. He mentioned they were having lasagna… shucks.

We easily navigated to their house as they were one street off of main street, quite the prime location in the town. We were greeted with a bevy of people, as they all had some friends to join in on the feast after they had returned from a hike to the natural hot springs. Chris shares the place with three other people, two girls and a guy. There place is really cool; a stream runs through the backyard with nice cold snow melt water. They had a hammock right next to the stream. Awesome.

The cooks, of which there were about 4, started with a nice huge bowl of guacamole and chips, and some garlic dip with pitas. Yum. Then came out the fruit salad. Delicious. The main course was lasagna, garlic bread, and the best leafy salad I've ever had with apples in it! Dinner was really fun because the food was so good, and there were some jokesters at the table. Rusty, one guy we met asked if his mom knew that they took her silverware. We got a good laugh out of that one as it was e pluribus unum (look it up).

After we all feasted, I assumed the role of disposal again until I was in sheer pain. We were all sedated by the food, a movie was the only option for which anyone had enough energy. Superbad was the choice. Nice, no thinking required. We all had a good laugh, and I actually fell asleep through some of it (my signature move… wonder where I get it from mom and dad). I was roused at one point from all the laughter and watched the rest while the few remaining champs hung out.

We were really happy that we were fortunate to meet so many cool people who spent so much time cooking, and just being generous. We had a nice pull out couch begin enough for Paul and me to sleep on without it being weird. It was a shame that we would be on our way the next day. Or would we?

Life was good.

Day 48, July 5th 2008, beginning in Fort Collins, Colorado

Before taking Trail Ridge Road head on, I made some final weight reductions and mailed a few things home. Lori and Sarah suggested this breakfast spot that was on our way out of town. We packed up our stuff and took our departure picture as it may be our last depending on whether or not we survived the day.

All packed up, we rolled down to the breakfast spot well rested after about a week of very little riding. As we ordered a nice, full breakfast, we mentioned how we should have eaten better the day prior… perhaps some pasta or something. Oh well, nothing we could do now

After we got our food, Matt, Lori and Sarah all came to get some breakfast as well. They just couldn't get enough of us. Before we left we tanked our bodies up with as much water as they would hold, and filled up our water bottles. Tons of water is required at elevation, and we were certainly going to push those limits.

We said our second goodbye, and headed for Estes Park, our first stop. Shortly after we left the restaurant, we began our climb, that would last for another 60 miles or so. The ride to Estes was pretty beautiful as we began wrapping around the mountain.

Once we got into Estes we stopped for food. We were proud, we had done 35 miles of our 80 mile day and had risen about 2500 feet. It was a good start. We stopped at a restaurant where we each got an Elk burger, tasty, and again drank as much water as we could.

When we left we had about 10 miles to go to Rocky Mountain National Park entrance. One of the toughest rides of the day was the grade going to the entrance of the park. We have found that many times the road can be very deceptive depending on the surrounding scenery. Sometimes a downhill section will appear uphill, or even a seemingly flat section will actually be quite the climb. This case was the latter.

I decided to pull ahead of Paul to buy our tickets at the park entrance. I ended up getting the "America the Beautiful" pass which for $80 will get me and 3 others entrance to any national park for the next year. The cost of entry was at least $20 per person for just Rocky Mountain, and we planned on visiting at least another 4 national parks on our tour. Good deal. We asked the workers where we could get water, just to plan the rest of our trip through the park. They let us know in about 5-6 miles there would be a stop, Hidden Valley where there was water. Perfect.

We took a while to travel those 5-6 miles but we got there, and were feeling pretty good. When we took the road off to Hidden Valley, we were pleased to find a deliciously cold water fountain. Man was it good. We repeated the hydrating process, and noticed a sign that said we were at 9400 feet. Awesome, we had already covered 4500 feet of our roughly 7300 needed to ascend to the top. It was sunny and early afternoon and we were feeling confident.

From our position we estimated that the top was only 15 miles away. The next hydration chance would be a mile after that where they had a snack bar. Yikes.

We continued our dominance up the mountain and stopped at our first patch of snow roughly 10,200 feet up. We posed by it, and continued our ascent. We met another biker who said he wasn't going over the top but was going to turn around once he started hitting the rain. Damn, rain was coming? Nothing we could do.

The next cool thing to see was a sign that said two miles from sea level. Shortly after that there was a scenic lookout where I decided it was time to don some warmer clothing as the sun had faded and it was getting a bit nippy. This was around the point where our confidence turned into sheer exhaustion.

We had 7 miles to go to the top, and progress was slowing. After a grueling few miles where we stopped every half mile to remain conscious, we stopped for Paul to put on warmer clothing. We were struggling. We were okay in the water department but began having an intense hunger set in. We actually ate some peanut butter with our hands out of the container since we no longer had any bread or a knife. It made us feel a little better.

We got to a sign that said 11,765 feet of elevation which energized us a bit as we only had another 400 or so feet to climb. We could do it. Shortly after that, we stopped where there was a gathering of Elk and people. Some nice folks noticed our condition and offered us some gatorades which we gladly accepted. Although we still had ample water, the sugar helped. The nice folks let us know that the top was no more than a mile ahead. Hallelulah (sp?).

When we turned the next corner, we thought we had made it. I asked someone who said yes we were at the top, er no… but it was just ahead. We saw one of the ugliest sights we had seen in a good many moons. Before the apex, I estimated we had a nice 400 foot descent before climbing right back up a ridiculous grade at 12,000 feet. Without struggle…

So we had no choice but to get moving. The beginning part of our final climb was pretty challenging, but it did smooth out. Once at what we were pretty sure was the top, we took pictures. We were irate that there was no sign, no proof that we had ascended an ungodly height in one day while packing everything we needed on our bikes. Oh well.

As we turned the next corner, the snack bar was visible, and it was quite clear we had beaten Trail Ridge as it was all downhill for visible miles. We were fortunate to have avoided any rain as it may have made us quite cold. Paul and I were pretty disappointed with the fanfare upon our amazing feat, so I celebrated by myself. Nearly uncontrollably as we began our descent to the snack shop, I began screaming as loud as I could and fist pumping in success at passing cars. It was truly an amazing feeling and unquestionably the most challenging thing I had ever done.

We made it to the snack shop 5 minutes before they closed, phew and got some snickers and nature valley bars to fill up on before we would stop for dinner. I checked the map the night before, and we would be all the way downhill to Grand Lake where we would get some food before staying with a couchsurfer I had talked to earlier in the day who lives in Granby.

Flying down the hill at an average of 34 mph, we hit the bottom quickly. I managed to get a few videos of us going down which are fairly cool. Bug me about the videos soon, as I will be posting them on youtube… they're not ready yet though. We were not at Grand Lake however. Apparently I didn't read the map properly because from the bottom of the national park it was another damn climb to Grand Lake, about 10 miles or more. To add to that, we had some headwinds to aggravate the possibilities of insanity. Really, now? Come on.

We of course made it to Grand Lake after some self complaining and were in search of a buffet. There wasn't one, but a gas station attendant (they're the best to ask) told us to head down the street to a pizza shop as it would be one of the only reasonably priced places in the city. We split a massive pizza there and finally rested. We were so proud of ourselves, but were both near delirious and very visibly spent. There was no way we'd make it to Granby unless it was coasting the entire way, which it wasn't.

Instead we decided we'd find a place to camp somewhere in Grand Lake. First I wanted to get online, so we went to this ice cream shop where I was able to do that temporarily. We hung out there for a bit, just trying to make sense of what we had just done.

We left there around there closing time in pursuit of a place to sleep. We headed to the edge of town and I went to check for my phone. Gone. The GPS, and tracking for the trip was in jeopardy without that damn thing. We turned around and headed back to the ice cream shop. They were closed, but were still there. Sure enough they had it. A nice girl who was working there went and called my mother and Meghan to see if she could locate me. Relieved, I thanked her and we headed back out of town to sleep. Man we were out of it.

It took a lot of searching before we found a suitable spot near the road to camp. By the time we finally were all set, it was well after midnight. We were wiped clean, but very proud of what we had accomplished that day. We hoped we'd have no troubles with the spot, as we badly needed some good rest. We had conquered the greatest challenge of our tour in one day.

Life was good.

Day 47, July 4th 2008, beginning and ending in Fort Collins, Colorado

Sarah had to work at the emergency vet hospital for most of the day, so we didn't have much for plans. That's okay once in a while my father tells me, and we wouldn't head to A.J.'s party until later in the evening so we just hung around for most of the day. Matt and Lori were putting a bamboo floor in the kitchen, so Paul decided to help out. I was working on something else while super guest had to steal the show.

Matt fired some stuff up on the grill for lunch and we all dug in. I spent a bit more time doing some work, and then we headed down to A.J.'s party. A.J.'s brother Justin happened to work for New Belgium, and is often able to procure some frothy beverages for said occasions. He equipped Paul and me upon arrival. We played Polish horseshoes with Justin and his girlfriend. The game uses a frisbee, two beer bottles, and two PVC pipes. The pipes go in the ground and the beer bottles rest on top and the object of the game is to knock the bottles off the pipes. I don't mean to gloat, but even after switching up teams, my team remained victorious. Clearly I was the x factor.

Our biking stomachs started to take over after a while, so we headed to City Park, where the fireworks were that night. They had some booths set up and we got regular food and some extremely melted ice cream, which was still good.

We stuck around for the firework show which was pretty impressive, and decided against going back to the party as we had the most challenging day of our tour ahead of us. We were going to tackle Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park topping out at 12,183 feet. Fort Collins is at about 4,900… do the math. That's right, we were going to have to climb 50,000 feet to the top, not too shabby.

When we made it back to Sarah's we all chatted for a bit, and we tried to get the best rest we possibly could for the challenge that layeth ahead. Without struggle, there is no progress.

Life was good.

Day 46, July 3rd 2008, beginning and ending in Fort Collins, Colorado

When we got up in the morning, Lori offered to make us some breakfast. She prepared us her Southwestern Special. I know I talk about food a lot, but damn was this good, and it wasn't the stomachs talking since we hadn't biked that much the day prior. The dish was a heavenly medley of scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, cilantro (fresh from her garden), black beans, potatoes, and maybe some garlic if I remember correctly… a hell of a way to start the day.

I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog that Lori and Sarah collectively had 4 dogs at the house. Two of them with theirs… Pumba (Chow wolf mix), and Cody (Yorky), they were dog sitting Mimi (Pug), and Matt's dog Thai Pan (Border Collie). They also had three cats, Sox, the most social, dog-like cat, and two others whose names escape me. Everyone coexisted in a big happy family.

As we planned, we went for a hike with two of Sarah's and Lori's friends from work, Sue and Ahsley which we met at Sue's house. They each brought their own dogs, Jackson (big boy… not sure of the breed) and Candy (Greyhound) respectfully. Mimi was deemed not fit enough for the event, so she stayed home.

When we left for the Poudre Canyon, the weather looked miserable. It was a good 25 minute ride up to the hiking spot, and just as we stepped out of the car, it cleared up and was another beautiful day from there on in. The hike was a fairly tame one, and enjoyable. The dogs expended the most energy and had the most fun. They hit every little creek and stream possible, and I had to actually rescue Cody at one point. It was pretty humorous.

Once we were done, decided by how exhausted the dogs were, we headed back to Fort fun to get some food downtown. We ate at a place called Coppersmith's. I played the role of garbage disposal, as I have assumed many times on and before the trip. I hate wasting stuff, and love food so it works out. My food, and those whose I finished was a nice treat after the hike.

Fort Collins is well known for their micro breweries, and after our late lunch we started our brewery tour at the most acclaimed in the area, New Belgium. We met a few people there, and ended up staying until 6:00, when all of the other places stopped serving, so our tour would end at one. Turns out I like fruity, girly beers, who knew. It was a good time and it looks like we'll have to make it back to Fort Collins to finish up (Meghan).

From the brewery we headed back to Sue's to pick up the pooches who were waiting so patiently to go home. When we returned back to Sarah's place she had called a few friends and decided we'd go to trivia night at a bar. We headed to trivia night via bicycle in case anyone was a bit tipsy at the end of the night, better to be on bicycle than behind the wheel. Fort Collins, much like Boulder basically begs you to ride your bike. There are tons of bike paths, even ones that go underground under streets and stuff. It is really pretty cool, and may only require gas to go to $8.00/gallon before other towns begin adopting the idea.

Trivia night was a blasty, but my pride was hurting a bit because I did not contribute one answer that no one else knew. Apparently burning bags of poop and the human response (you won't get it parents) is not a popular trivia topic in Colorado. Go figure. When it was all over, we came in second, and the team was rewarded a $25 certificate, which would be used next week, when we were 400 miles away. Bummer, but yeah team.

A.J., the guy posing the trivia questions announced to the bar that he was having a 4th of July party the following day. Afterwards, he came and sat with us and was intrigued by the tour and insisted we show up. We didn't have much planned, so we figured we would.

We then headed to a bar called Lucky Joe's. It is one of those bars that has peanuts in barrels and you can throw them on the floor when you're done (or in people's drinks if you are sly enough). Sarah had two friends there who are twins and comprise a two man band, who were celebrating their birthday by playing at LJ's as I like to call it. That sentence was way too long. By the time we got there, they were playing a bunch of cover songs, which are always hits towards the end of the night at a bar. They also had a guest performance from Slash from Guns ‘n Roses which was nice.

We left when the bar closed, as we had no other option. We safely headed back on the bike paths, although some more crooked than others (ehhemmm… Sarah). When we got back, everyone seemed to quickly fall asleep again. It must be something in the air. I tried to write a blog, but was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.

Oh well, the next day (although really that day) was the 4th of July. Hooray fireworks!

Life was good.

Day 45, July 2nd 2008, beginning in Boulder, Colorado

We rose slowly and I spent some time online since we only had to ride a short distance to FoCo (Fort Collins, come on stay with me). We took our traditional goodbye picture with Russ, who showed us such a great time, and just like that we were off. We rode all the way to Fort Collins with no stops. We even passed out some guy on a speedy road bike with no gear climbing uphill. Ahhhhh, we are animals.

We passed an Olive Garden entering town. Remembering there lunch special, which had unlimited in the description, we stopped there. We called out couchsurfer Sarah and invited her to come as it was a mile from her house, but she had an appointment at the vet, and is coincidentally enough in vet school.

We finished lunch quickly enough to meet Sarah at her house right before she left for the vet. She introduced us to her roommate Lori before she left. Lori, from Breckenridge, who was there while Dumb and Dumber was being shot, was also going to be starting vet school in the fall. Other interesting fact we learned about Lori was that she was on the U.S. ski team, and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Lori, Paul, and I chatted for a while, while watching SportsCenter on ESPN. When Sarah returned, she informed us that she had a staff meeting she had to hop to for about an hour. As it was near downtown, she offered to drop us off while at the meeting and meet up with us afterward. It was a plan. For the first time in Colorado history, it began to rain.

Nothing major of course, so we walked around anyway. Definitely a cool downtown area where we got one of our favorite foods to hold us over… ice cream. Shortly after Sarah called and met us right near where she had dropped us off. She took us to this independent film theater to check out what they would be playing. They had a special that night for free entrance on what seemed to be a cool movie starting at 9:30. All they said is beer sales were encouraged. Cool, we agreed we'd catch it.

Lori had a softball game that we headed to after the theater. I cheered obnoxiously for their team as if I were a die hard fan that had been following "The Scumbags" (their acutal team name) for years. The Scumbags appreciated as apparently I was their only fan in history. It was a lot of fun, and they ended up winning, as I've heard they usually do.

After the softball game, the team and their fanbase went to a Pizza Pub called Old Chicago's. The team is definitely a collection of characters, and the pizza was good. We'd have to eat quickly to make the movie. One of the local brewers, New Belgium, has a beer called Fat Tire that everyone had been raving about since we got to Colorado. Paul decided he'd get a glass fit for a king full of the stuff. When we decided it was about time to leave for the movie, Paul received his second massive pitcher-like glass of Fat Tire , removing any chance of us making it to the movie. We were having such a good time there, no worries.

After a while of story telling and inquiries about our trip, and invitations to parties, we headed back to Sarah's and Lori's place. Paul fell asleep quickly, perhaps with New Belgium's assistance, and Sarah and I chatted for a while. I found out that she went to South Africa twice, nearly doing her masters there before deciding on Vet school. She is a driven girl with cool experiences; refreshing at our age right fogies?!? She was also willing to trust strangers, because we had met a few hours ago and now she was letting us sleep in her house. However, as Sarah mentioned, she always had Lori there to kick anyone's ass if need be. Seriously.

Before bed, we tentatively planned a hike and a brewery tour for the following day. We were happy to be in Fort Collins and above all with such good company.

Life was good.

Day 44, July 1st 2008, beginning and ending in Boulder, Colorado

Russ went golfing early in the morning, well before Paul and I were up. He would be back in time to head out to tailgate at Red Rocks. Paul and I went out for breakfast. On our way back, we picked up some milk since we were gravely indebted to Russ.

When we came back to Russ's, Paul received a phone call that some other friends from home were actually in Boulder. Since we had some time before Russ's return, we went down to meet them on Pearl St., the downtown shopping area of Boulder.

We met up with them and walked around for a bit. We were a bit strapped on time though, so we just got a quick ice cream and said goodbye. They seemed very nice, and were really happy to see "little Pauly" that far from home.

Quickly returning to Russ's, we were anxious to see Red Rocks. We printed out the tickets and hit the road. We picked up some sandwiches and beer and were on our way.

Fortunately we didn't hit hardly any traffic, which had been somewhat of a concern as it was nearly rush hour. We got in with plenty of time to tailgate and see the venue. It was a really beautiful place overlooking Denver.

Being the mischievous, young man I am, I was able to sneak in my camera (along with 85% of the rest of the crowd) to get some interior photos. The show was great. Snoop was entertaining and even slowed it down with a saxophone at one point. 311 came on after Snoop and rocked the Rocks. We enjoyed the concert through the clouds of smoke, which I'm not sure was entirely tobacco.

Red Rocks was a nice way to cap off the Boulder / Denver experience. We somehow beat all the traffic out and made it back to Boulder quickly. We were heading into Fort Collins the next day, and were excited for more new experiences there, while we would cherish the great ones we just had in Boulder. Fort Collins (Fort Fun) was ranked the #1 place to live in America by Money magazine in 2006. I was definitely excited to put it to the test. We rested easily, as we'd make it to the Fort by mid afternoon as it was only 45 miles away.

Life was good.

Day 43, June 30th, beginning and ending in Boulder, Colorado

Well rested, we got up and I began blogging. Man it's tough keeping up with it, but it's worth it… right?

Danny, Russ's roommate had noticed a problem with the sink. It appeared to be clogged. They spent a while trying to fix it. Danny went out and bought a snake to no avail. Russ didn't want to leave until they had figured out what they were going to do, so I kept on writing occasionally mixing in a guitar hero song.

They had decided a plumber would be necessary and were able to get one for the following day. It was already mid afternoon by that time. We went to get some food at Jimmy John's, a good sandwich place popular out here. There we decided that we would go to Red Rocks to see 311 and Snoop Dogg. Red Rocks is this really cool outdoor concert venue a bit west of Denver that many people had told us we had to see when we were around. It would be a cool experience.

After we ate, we checked out a couple spots for soccer where Russ thought nets might be available. Neither had nets, but we kicked around for a while anyway. We decided we'd play an actual game later, when people were off of work.

After that we again headed back to Russ's where I continued work from earlier. We hung out for a few hours. I had a small snack before we headed back to the soccer fields, this time with 7 people. We started playing around 7, when it started getting cooler; this was a good thing. We played until it got dark, and I couldn't have been happier. I really miss the game. At the end of the game we made plans for tacos at the J & G residence (sick of writing it). Awesome.

We showered up at Russ's (I actually did this time), and headed over. They were cooking up a feast with some guacamole dip, a personal favorite. Man was it good. I thinking cooking for someone is one of the nicest things people can do.

After dinner we played this board game similar to balderdash. One person read a question, and everyone else had to answer the question. The reader then collected all the responses and someone read them to the reader who then had to guess who wrote each. It was a lot of fun, and difficult to play with people you don't know very well.

Once the game was over, everyone headed back to their respective sleeping quarters. We were pretty excited about Red Rocks the next day, but now it was time for sleepy.

Life was good.

Day 42, June 29th 2008, beginning and ending in Boulder, Colorado

When we got up, we had some cereal, a rarity on the trip. We owed Russ tons of milk as we had nearly devoured the two gallons that were there when we arrived. Russ had planned to show us around Boulder a bit, so we got ready and jumped in his car, no bike's for the day.

Russ took us up the flat irons, the mountains on the west side of town that have these faces that look like old school irons (like the piece in Monopoly). It was a very windy drive up to the top rising a few thousand feet. We passed a few crazy bikers on the way who were climbing it for a nice day of rest as it was Sunday. Fun. The views from the top were amazing. We could see Denver from where we were. Once we got to the top, we met some people who were planning there wedding. One of the couple's mother (awkward sounding?) positioned us around the seating area to get a feel of what it would be like with people sitting there. One of Russ's friends had actually been married there the year prior. Very cool place.

Once hunger, started taking over, we headed back down the mountains to town. Russ took us to this pizza by the slice place. They had delivery via bicycle, which was cool, and the slices were massive and good. The Euro Cup final was on the tv, Spain vs. Germany. When there was a brief break in the action we headed back to Russ's to finish it.

Once the Spaniards prevailed for the first time in 40 some odd years, we were headed out to go tubing. We had to pick up some tubes at Russ's friends Garret and Jake's house. They had 4 tubes, 3 nice ones, and one spare tire looking one. We weren't really sure what we had gotten ourselves into, but it was a beautiful day so why not be on the water.

A quick 3 minute drive from their house, and we were there. The tubing area was a nice little rapid section of a river that ran through town. It was littered with hundreds of people as spectators, tubers, kayakers, and rafters were all out having a good time. There were also tons of dogs of all different kinds getting sticks and just enjoying the cold water. It was very entertaining (to me especially for those who know how much I enjoy dogs) watching them have a blast.

Paul and I were definitely the rookies in the bunch. We had a difficult time traversing the river as the currents were so strong. As the water was snowmelt, it was quite cold, but felt very nice with the strong shining sun. I was a bit acclimated to it, as I mentioned before, I had been swimming in the Long Island Sound over the winter. Paul… not so much. He tried to stay as dry as possible.

As we all prepared to get in, Chris got the short straw. Ending up with the tire tube, I swore under my breath and we headed for the "initiation" as they called it, a huge rapid near the top. The whole ride down was great. I managed quite well with the tire tube, as I sunk nice and low in it. People were flipping left and right, including all of the pros that we were with. I was quite proud of my performance, as I always am regardless of the outcome.

As I entered the last rapid that we would ride into, some guys on the side told me to move to the left. I sort of thought they were joking with me and trying to get me to flip, so I somewhat took their advice. It was a fairly violent rapid. As I got down into it and stayed up, I cheered and the same people who had warned me yelled "No, you're not done!". Before I knew it I was sucked out of the tube, which didn't go anywhere, while I flew down deep into the water and got a nice raspberry on my backside. It was a bit scary, as I resurfaced about 20 feet downstream after being tossed around for maybe 7 seconds. Exhilaration.

After that experience, I was ready to be a full time spectator. Sitting in the sun, and letting it burn off the cold water while I reveled in other's misfortunes was a nice reward to end our tubing excursion.

After tubing we headed back to Russ's with plans to go back to Jake's and Garret's for a barbecue. Russ and Paul showered up, and I of course had already gotten mine in the river so I was set to go.

We headed back to Jake's and Garret's. They cooked up some brats and burgers that were very good. After we ate we put on Top Gun. I had commented on it earlier as I was perusing their DVD collection, and was happy it was going on. One of the girls had never seen it, and Jake was a pretty hardcore fan (he watched a 6 hour documentary on it), so we had to watch it.

After the movie we headed back to Russ's. We crashed again on his comfortable couches in his tv room. We had plans to play soccer the following day, I couldn't wait. Another day off the bikes in beautiful Boulder. We were having a blast there; it was our favorite spot so far on the tour.

Life was good.

Day 41, June 28th 2008, beginning in Denver, Colorado

When Paul and I awoke, we decided we'd hit a breakfast place. Lauren had some essays to write, so she met up with Seth to work on them. We made plans with Caroline to meet at the art museum after we were done with breakfast.

We rode to the breakfast place which would leave us only about a mile and a half from the museum. After filling up, we called Caroline and headed over.

The museum was pretty cool. I haven't been to too many art museum's in my day, and definitely saw a lot of cool stuff. I especially enjoyed the contemporary stuff. One blue cylinder was reflective and also did very neat things with sound reflection that I could not get over. Caroline's favorite exhibit was one that featured a bunch of quilts from Gee's Bend, a place tucked away from other civilization in Alabama.  We all enjoyed a certain one with a bunch of random thoughts written in words in a huge sort of river looking like pattern.

After the museum, Caroline took us to this vegetarian place where we got a good pizza made with fake sausage. Once we filled up there, we were employed to help Caroline fix her flat tire on her bike that was parked outside of the museum. We all headed back to their house and Paul and I organized all of our stuff to get going. Unfortunately we didn't get to see Lauren, as she was busy preparing for Bolivia, but she did call. We told Caroline to keep singing, and that we hoped to see them again.

As we headed for Boulder, it dawned on us… we would finally get a day of rest completely off of the bike. Boulder was a quick ride, slightly uphill for a little while. When nearing town, I developed a lead on Paul, and pulled off a scenic overlook. We were a few miles out and could see the whole city. When he caught up with me, Paul nearly cried tears of joy at the beautiful sight ahead. It was a nice view, but more importantly completely downhill into Boulder. We were nearly done.

We immediately noticed that the town was mobbed with bikers. It was definitely a viable, and catered to mode of transportation, which was refreshing. We easily navigated to Russ's house, a friend from Bristol who we would be staying with for our duration.

Russ was happy to see us, and us him. We were ready to relax for the first time in a while, and had a fun night planned as many of the students were back in town for summer classes. Guitar hero, lying on Russ's hearth, looked so lonely upon our arrival. We remedied the situation by jamming on it for a bit before we ate. Paul won't admit it, but he definitely learned a few things watching me play. Hey, I'm here to teach.

Russ cooked up some pasta and Garlic bread that was tasty. We got some booze for the festivities, and Russ had some people over prior to our departure (some call it pregaming).

We hung out for a while, and then headed to a bar down the street that had an open rooftop. We had a lot of fun being the crazy guys who biked across the country. We ended up going to another bar a while after which was fun too. It was just a good night. We were happy to be in Boulder, which seemed like a really cool place.

When last call lights came on, we headed back to Russ's with many of the people from the large crew that headed to the bar. We hung out for a bit and fell asleep quickly thereafter. No alarm for the following day. Ahhh…

Life was good.

Day 40, June 27th 2008, beginning in Denver, Colorado

I woke up and popped about a hundred mini muffins, since that was all that supplied for the continental breakfast at the ever luxurious Knights Inn. I wasn't quite satisfied, but by the time Paul got up, there was nothing left for him. We would get some food on the way to Water World.

Halfway through our short trip to Water World there was a train obstructing the road. We waited along with a few cars for a few minutes before we decided to lift the bikes and walk around the train, an option the cars did not have.

We stopped at a Mexican bakery across the street from the park and got some delicious, inexpensive pastries. While we were enjoying our food, a received a phone call from an unknown number. Who else could it be but Lauren, the Denver couchsurfer. She was very apologetic, and sounded very sweet over the phone. She was running around crazy trying to prepare for a trip to Bolivia and had accidentally given me her old area code for her current cell phone number. Lauren also gave me her roommate Caroline's number who called us separately as well. After hearing how nice both sounded, and figuring that there was more we wanted to see from Denver, we decided that we would head back there way after the water park. But for now, it was time for some fun. Bellies full we entered the park.

As we went to purchase our tickets, someone was selling a ticket they couldn't use. The regular ticket price was $35 and I only had $22 in my wallet. The person gladly accepted and I had just gotten a nice discount. This was the first time I was happy to have less money rather than more in my wallet.

Upon entry we stopped in at guest services to see what we could do about our fully loaded bikes. They showed us where to lock up the bikes up front, and suggested the large lockers for our bags. When we tried to get big lockers, they had already run out. We then had to return to guest services, whose line developed nicely during this period, and plead that they help out some poor travelers. We were able to coax the employees into allowing us to stow our stuff in the back room, since we were pretty much out of options. Phew. We locked up everything except for a small waterproof bag with my wallet and some sunscreen in it.

Eventually, after what seemed like forever, we were ready to get wet on the beautiful 90+ degree day. For the couple hours before we ate, we hit pretty much every ride in the park. Turns out it was the largest water park in Denver. There were definitely a lot of cool ones, including a continuous wave creator that people would "surf" with buggy boards. It was a fun park, but not quite the fu experience we thought would be required, which worked out anyway since we would be heading back into Denver.

After we ate we hit a few more rides. As we were leaving I realized that I had carried the lotion/wallet bag around all day, but had never applied any. I was a bit burnt, but nothing to worry about.

We collected our bags and bikes and made our way back into downtown Denver. We made it in almost no time and met Caroline, Bryn, Sophie (Brynn's dog) and Seth at the house. Seth and Bryn were both friends of Lauren's and Caroline's.

After shooting it for a while, we decided to head out to get some food. They had suggested a Mexican place which sounded lovely. We met Lauren there after she had gotten off from work. We filled up with massive smothered burritos at the restaurant, and walked back to their house.

Bryn went back to her own house, and Caroline and Seth had gone to a coffee shop to hang out, so we hung out and had a few beers with Lauren before going out. She is a very interesting girl, who is well traveled, energetic, and genuinely fun to be around.

After a while, we headed to the local bar area that was walking distance from her house. We scooped up Caroline and Seth on the way, and went out for a few drinks. We talked about a some important stuff about what we were all trying to do with ourselves, and some not important stuff too. We had a great time, and before we knew it, we were closing down the bar.

We walked home, feeling that we made the right choice to turn around. The girls were very sweet, and easy to get along with. When we got back to the house, Paul and I, interested in the guitar, suggested maybe Lauren play some for us. Perhaps aided by the alcohol, she gladly picked it up and began strumming. Shortly after that, Caroline who had retired for the night, came down and joined in. They played for us for a while, singing too. We loved it. They are both musically talented and have great singing voices. Some of the songs were interrupted by their laughter as they insisted that the alcohol wasn't helping, but we agreed we could have listened to them all night.

After the playing had finally ceased, we were all quite tired as it was getting quite late, and we all went to bed. We had a short ride to Boulder the next day, which would allow us to do something in Denver before leaving. Paul and I were interested in the art museum as it was supposed to be quite good, which we expressed to the girls. Caroline, who is an art teacher and hadn't been to the museum in a while, was home to come along. With our plans set for the day and one more easy day of riding before the end of our long stretch since Oklahoma City, we rested easy.

Life was good.

Day 39, June 26th 2008, beginning in Colorado Springs, Colorado

We wouldn't be getting much sleep, but we stuck to our plan of rising with the sun, and packing up before we were seen. Unfortunately, some people like to rise before the sun to walk their dogs or go jogging. Those people (and I know a few) were in full force this morning. Before the alarm had even gone off, we could here a lot of commotion outside.

We packed up our stuff saying hello in embarrassment to the exercisers passing by and headed into town to go to a coffee shop. Landing at Brueger's Bagels, we found ourselves a nice comfortable spot. The shop had wifi, so I was able to track the shipment, while uploading some pictures. We got a completely unsatisfying, yet expensive breakfast, and also rested a bit since the shop wouldn't open until 9:00.

After growing impatient waiting for the shipment status update to read "Delivered", we headed down to the shop. Fortunately, the tires had made it a few minutes before we had arrived, and I immediately went to work. We also bought some tubes since we were fresh out, and headed towards Denver.

We stopped before we left "the Springs" at a Great Harvest to get some food. We tried some delicious free bread samples, and got to talking to the owner as he noticed our bikes out front. They ended up AGAIN, giving us some free food, along with packing our sandwiches extra big for the trip into Denver. Thanks guys.

Denver was under 70 miles to the center and we head planned on taking the light rail earlier than that to get to downtown, so it would not be a long riding day. Shortly after I had gotten rolling on my nice new tire, the tire itself actually popped out of the rim a bit. It did not pop the tube, however I would have to deflate the tube completely and use the hand pump to pump the tire back up, which cannot provide nearly as much pressure as a larger foot pump.

After fixing the tire, we approached the first interstate that we planned on riding. Some of the interstates in Colorado are actually ridable, as opposed to most states where riders are strictly prohibited from riding on them.

Climbing for much of the way out of Denver, we were able to tell a decent difference in the thinness of the air. Each breath was becoming less and less efficient. We peaked out somewhere in the mid 7000 feet above sea level. It was a bit scary as we plan on ascending another 5,000 feet when we head into the Rockies.

After a while of riding, we stopped in a city called Castle Rock. I figured I would call Lauren, the couchsurfer we would be staying with, to let her know our approximate arrival time. Lauren had left two numbers in the email she sent me. First I tried the cell phone. There was some fairly hardcore hip hop playing as a ring-back tone (what you hear on the calling end instead of the traditional ring) and the voicemail said to leave a message for Justin. I figured it probably wasn't her, but left a message in case that was the cell she was using. You never know. The next number I tried was a big brother big sister number and they said no Lauren worked there. Huh. What was going on? Two wrong numbers, had I been scammed on couchsurfing?

We kept faith, and headed for downtown Denver. After about 5 miles, we were pulled over (for the second time of the trip) on I-25. Many resources I had read, and the bike map we were using given to us by the state of Colorado, showed the areas of I-25 that were legal to ride, but the local officer insisted that riding on any interstate in Colorado was against the law. The officer called in one of his younger, lower ranking partners to help us out with a safe route to the light rail transportation to downtown, which was only 4 miles ahead by way of the interstate.

We spent a long time chatting with them, and as we were waiting for the younger officer's GPS to start working, the older officer went to check on a path for us with his car. The path would add about 10-15 miles to our trip. Not fun. While we awaited word from the older officer, the younger one, who was still with us said, paraphrasing a bit "Now I didn't tell you this, but if I were you guys I would wait till the cops cleared out (referring to himself) and jump back on the interstate, (which was plenty safe enough as it had immense shoulders and was the suggested path by the biking maps) head up one more exit to Castle Pines Parkway", which was a scenic route that would get us to the light rail with minimal added distance. As the older officer radioed in, suggesting the path that he had just driven, the younger officer said, "Now I'm telling you to go back east. You guys can do what you want". Appreciating his understanding, we made a break for the interstate as soon as we lost sight of his car. We pedaled as quickly as we could as we didn't want to see the older officer since we meant no disrespect as he was trying to help us out, but we also didn't want to add an unnecessary hour to our ride after we had already lost so much time stopped on the highway.

Checking the map afterwards, it was a much better path than what the senior officer had suggested, but still added some time, distance, and challenge to the trip as we rolled through some hilly developments. When we arrived at the light rail hub, we got some tickets and were relieved to see other bikers getting on and off the train. The ride was quick and painless into downtown, much less crowded than we had both thought.

Once there, we quickly made it to the 16th street mall. It is the the cool downtown section of Denver blocked off from traffic, and has free shuttles running up and down it. We had to walk our bikes. It is a cool spot.

We still were without a place to stay for the evening, so we began trying to figure out where we would stay, before we got any food. When speaking to information, they had suggested a hostel down the road a few blocks. We were a bit uneasy about sharing the room with others, since we had a lot of stuff on us, but headed there to check it out.

I asked to check my email before we signed in, which seemed to be a big production. Eventually, they let me use an old computer they had there to do it. I left a message with Lauren on couchsurfing to call me immediately, as that was my only way to contact here, still harboring hope that she existed. After some pretty inhospitable service, we decided against the hostel right before we were about to check in as we were getting a bad vibe from the workers.

Leaving there, we were running out of options. Paul called a few motels, but even on a Thursday, they were mostly over $100. We had also considered biking over to the address Lauren had left us, but it was already dark, and we weren't sure if it was even real… we didn't know what to think.

Giving her a little more time to respond, we headed back to 16th for a bit to get some food and hopefully jump online to find some cheaper motel options. We stopped at Jamba Juice, and each got massively filling smoothies.

Paul received a call from some family friends from back home who would actually be flying into Denver the next morning, and we were willing to take us to a timeshare they had in the Vail area for a few days to relax. We were in need of a break as we hadn't rested a full day since Oklahoma City, and Vail was close to Breckenridge, a few areas we wanted to see (namely because Aspen scenes in Dumb and Dumber were really shot in Breckenridge). Although we were badly in need of a rest day, after a lot of deliberating, we decided against it, and continued on our path towards Boulder.

I was able to find some cheaper motels a bit outside of the downtown area online, so we headed towards them. Unable to match the prices I had seen online, we shopped around a bit once we arrived at the first motel, as there were 4 others within a 2 block radius. We eventually settled on the cheapest available, and finally unloaded our stuff in the room.

We were definitely a bit frustrated and disappointed as things hadn't turned out smoothly in terms of lodging lately, but we were still of course in high spirits. The following day we had plans to go the country's biggest waterpark, "Water World"! We were excited about that, as it was supposed to be a beautiful day (go figure), but at the same time we felt like we were short changing Denver, a seemingly great place, as we intended on continuing on to Boulder the following night since weekend lodging in Denver would be way out of our price range.

Rolling with the punches, we would do what we had done all trip, and take it a day at a time. Who knows maybe Lauren existed and would call; maybe other couchsurfers would contact me. Either way we were going to an awesome water park, and we were excited.

Life was good.

Day 38, June 25th 2008, beginning in Colorado Springs, Colorado

I woke up much earlier than Paul, and got my first breakfast. Checking the tracking information for my tires online, it appeared that they would not arrive until the following day, negating the chance of us staying with the hosts 25 miles north. We had already changed days on them a few times, and I began to feel guilty. What to do?

I contacted UPS and they told me that it could be rerouted if the bike sender agreed to it. I called the bike shop in New Orleans who sent them, and they told me that it could result in a delay and it would be a $10 charge. I figured if it would delay it made no sense to reroute it, so they checked for me before going through with it. Turns out it would cause another day delay, so we'd have to figure out where we were going to stay again, as the bike shop was downtown and it would make no sense to go all the way up to sleep and come back. Ugh.

Paul got up after I got off the phone, and got some breakfast. Shortly after he returned, I decided to get my second breakfast. Cost effective eating is what I like to call it. We didn't have a lot planned for the day other than going to the Garden of the Gods. So we hung out by the pool for a bit before we departed for the garden.

The Garden of the Gods was pretty cool. The nicest part about it was that it was free. It was also a very bike friendly park, as the bike lanes were bigger than the car lanes. Excessive? Either way, we snapped some cool pics, and rolled through it in about an hour.

With most of the rest of the day ahead of us we headed back the way we came, stopping in a little sub town of the Springs called Old Colorado City. It was a very cool place full of little side shops and people walking around. We got some really good ice cream from a local creamery that made their own waffle cones. Yum.

After that, Paul decided he would get his haircut, and I would try to find out a less expensive place for us to stay again that night. I called the city, to see if we could set up the tent in any of the parks. No dice. We tried Jenny's friend again. No dice. I was pretty resolved that we wouldn't be spending that night in a motel, yet our options were limited. I spied a nice, empty looking spot on the map that wasn't a park, that might suit. It was near downtown, where we had planned to meet up with Jenny, John and their friend that evening.

So we headed back after a while to scope out our spot. As we were passing Colorado College, we saw a game of ultimate frisbee going on. We figured maybe we could meet some college kids, they'd know the good spot to go out that night, and maybe we could tag along. Paul exclusively, even thought some of the girls were cute. Being the painfully shy person I am, I eventually mustered up enough courage to ask to join in.
Turns out they had just finished their JUNIOR years in high school. Paul mentioned later that when he heard that he felt like he got shot in the chest. It was really funny. But actually, it was pretty cool. They were from all over the country, and were spending two weeks as some art school the college was holding. They must have been pretty talented.

We played for maybe an hour, to an hour and a half. It was a lot of fun, and we both expressed how we felt like we could run forever. It was a good feeling.

After that, we just went downtown, stinky and sweaty we'd be going out to a bar soon. Oh well. Jenny and her friend Alicia called and said to meet us at Phantom, a place we had stopped at the night before. Unfortunately, John wasn't able to get off of work earlier enough, so he couldn't make it.

We got some food there, but it was a little rich for the biking tourist's blood, so we went to the bar of a very fancy Antlers Hilton down the street, which for some odd reason happened to be much cheaper. We had a great time there just enjoying each other's company as we were one of the only groups there.

As we departed and said our goodbyes, Paul and I hung out outside the Phantom for a bit, where our bikes were locked up with everything on them. We would have to set up the tent in near complete darkness in the sketchy plot of land we had picked out.

Nearly pros, we had no problem setting up the tent after we found a spot that was hidden well enough. It was already late, and we would have to be up early so as not to be seen. We would not be getting much sleep. But hey, it was free.

The tire had survived, and the next shipment would be coming in the following day. We would be heading into Denver the following evening.

Life was good……….

…. Until


Blasted in the face by a stream of water, I awoke immediately to the pleasure of a long distance sprinkler stream. 2:00 on the dot, Paul and I quickly sprung into action and put on our rain cover. The soothing sounds of water pressure smacking against the thick canvas of the rain cover would ease us into a relaxing sleep for the remainder of the evening. Living and breathing…

Life was good.

Day 37, June 24th 2008, beginning in Canon City, Colorado

After waking up and packing, we stopped by the buffet again. We'd get in as many as these things as possible while the opportunity was there. After that, we stopped at Coldstone again to get online. We were there before they opened, and Stacey, the same girl we had seen at the gorge was working. She opened the doors and offered us some ice cream before we left. We didn't have any, as we were full, but it was a nice gesture. We talked to her again for a bit, and left.

Our first stop would be Penrose, just outside of Canon City. We filled up our water bottles there. You really need water at that altitude. We'd have to climb back out of the foothills to get to Colorado Springs.

The first half had us working up a nice sweat. There were some pretty intense hills, but we conquered. The second half of the ride would be a nice downhill cruise into "the Springs" as the locals say. There are 5 military bases in the Springs, the coolest being Norad. Norad, the worst acronym ever, stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command. There base is a hollowed out mountain front. You can tell from all of the antennas on top. Pretty cool.

Once we got all the way in, we stopped at a Panera where I would be able to get online, and we could also get some good food. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, a van stopped and asked us, "Do you guys need a place to stay?". We said no, (bad move), as we had already had couchsurfing people that we had arranged to stay with. We spoke to him for a few minutes, and then went on into Panera. As soon as he had pulled away we thought, shoot, we should have at least gotten his number in case things had fallen through with our present hosts.

While getting some food inside, I hopped online. We found out that the hosts we were staying with were actually 25 miles north of downtown. Yikes. We wanted to see some of the Springs, and riding all the way up that day would have made it a chore to come back. We contacted one person on the warmshowers website (hosts for bikers) who seemed eager to host cyclists. He shot us down. We called Jenny, our new friend from Pueblo, who mentioned that her friend might be able to host us, shot down. Hmmmm, we decided that we would just camp. We looked up a few sites that were looking to charge close to $40 for a tent site. Get out of here. Instead we found a cheap motel right in the downtown area, and figured we'd head over there from Panera.

As we rolled over to the motel, and pulled out all of our negotiating stops again, we settled up in a decent place and showered. We headed out to the downtown bar scene and got some food. We went to an Irish place (go figure), where they were playing live music. A young couple burst onto the scene dancing up a storm right next to our table. It was pretty entertaining and quite odd, but they were pretty good, and quite intense.

We did a bit of bar hopping, as we were a little disappointed with the crowd, but it was a Tuesday night. After a while of that, we decided to head back to the motel. I would be getting in a badly needed tire shipment the following day, and we were going to go to the Garden of the Gods, a natural garden of rock formations on the west side of the city. It would be fun, but we were still awaiting a badly needed day of rest where we didn't look at the bikes at all. Either way, we had a nice bed to sleep on and breakfast in the morning, and we were in Colorado the Beautiful.

Life was good.

Day 36, June 23th 2008, beginning and ending in Canon City, Colorado

We did get up right at 6:00 and were quick to knock the tent down, and get our personals together. As I had just put a new tire on the day prior, I was doing some checking up and pumping to make sure my pressure was good… it would help up the hill. Paul decided to do the same, since his rear tire was perfect and he enjoys making things more interesting sometimes. Sure enough, he deflated and couldn't get it back. No big deal, we only had expensive non refundable tickets awaiting us atop an 8 mile hill.

Eventually Maverick was able to remedy the situation, and we headed over to the buffet with a tighter schedule. We absolutely stuffed ourselves again figuring we wouldn't be eating for a while, again right before a massive climb. Oh well, we'd need it.

As we were on the roads trying to make good time, apparently an officer mistakenly thought we weren't completely abiding the traffic laws (imagine that), so we got pulled over. He pointed to the sidewalk, and although I have never had a problem with authority in the past (Halo), I gestured that we were not going to do that. He quickly sprang out of the car, and explained how he had seen us run a few lights (completely safely mom and dad, and Nina). As we stated we were in a bit of a rush, he was understanding, but demanded we follow the same rules as the cars. There were only a few more lights before the hill anyway, so we respectfully obliged.

Quite the challenge, was the 8 mile hill, and appropriately named. We started getting a taste of what we'd be in for for a while. We arrived at the place with plenty of time, so we did all right despite Paul's attempts. Being on a budget, we decided against the wetsuits, even though the water was 45 degrees. We were the only ones, it was hilarious. It was a bright, sunny day (of course) and we figured we'd be fine. I had already been acclimated as I had swam in the Long Island Sound every month throughout the winter. Paul did however get booties to protect his feet in the case of getting ejected from the raft.

Unfortunately, I couldn't bring the camera, as it would for sure get ruined, so we don't have any pictures of the rafting. It was a great time, however. Paul and I were in front paddling with 4 other riders and an instructor. No one ever got thrown out unfortunately, but I did take a swim in one section that was particularly calm. The water felt nice, and Paul had to yank me back in when I was done.

Rafting was a blast, and afterwards, the bus brought us back to the top. We got a late lunch, and then headed for the Royal Gorge. This was another 4 mile ride up an ever more challenging ascent.

Once we finally arrived, we were amazed at some of the spectacles. The bridge crossing the gorge was surprisingly rickety in appearance. There were often large gaps between the wooden planks, and cars that passed shook it quite a bit. There was a helicopter there doing amazing tricks like driving directly at the wall, and also a gondola type thing going straight across the gorge. Scary. Along the bridge, there were flags from each state. As we contemplated a picture next to the Connecticut flag, we noticed a familiar face walking by. One of the Cold Stone employees was there with her boyfriend, and passed us at just the right time to take our picture on the bridge.

After that, we hung out for a while, watching a movie about the gorge and emaging in the great passtime of people watching. It was fun. We then headed back into Canon City. We figured we'd camp again that night, and make the trip to Colorado Springs the following morning.

As buffet style was our favorite meal option, we had one again for dinner. Afterwards, we stopped in Walmart to check for tubes since we were fresh out, and would be in bad shape if we popped a flat before Colorado Springs. Paul and I both hadn't played Guitar Hero in a while, and when I spied it in the electronics section, we would wait our turn along the other 10 year olds for a chance to rock. I gained another fan who asked if I would be in the tournament the coming weekend. After the no that left him in disappointment, and no dice on the right tubes, we left.

While setting up the tent at the same site, I realized I needed to get online for the following day's post. We again went back to Cold Stone to see if I could get some wifi. Able to attain a signal, I uploaded some stuff, and finished the blog entry. It was hopping again there, but this time I didn't get anything.

Returning to the site, tired from a long day, we fell asleep quickly. The following day we would head into Colorado Springs, the second biggest city in Colorado, to stay with couchsurfers again. What a great state.

Life was good.

Day 35, June 22nd 2008, beginning in Pueblo, Colorado

When the morning came, we arose slowly. We met John, Jenny's boyfriend who had to work late the night prior. We all went out to breakfast at a place called Patti's. Paul got a smothered burrito, which is a burrito with chili (often green) on the outside that is quite popular in the area. After breakfast they gave us a quick tour of Pueblo, explaining how it was a large steel mill town and important hub for transportation back in the day. They took us past a canal along a bridge that is fed by the Arkansas river I believe. Along the bridge, there is the Guinness world record largest mural in the world. Some of the art was really cool.

We got back to their place and decided that we would go cliff jumping at "the res" what us Pueblo insiders call the reservoir, which happens to be where John works. Since John was the inside guy, he called ahead to make sure that boat patrol wouldn't be in the area. We were clear. Deciding against starting with a smaller drop, we went for the biggest cliff off the bat. At first John and Paul went. Yikes. We were up there. Without thinking, the best way to do it, I leaped off as well. Man, how exhilarating! We estimated that we were over 50 feet, but as our stories will grow greater with time, you can expect that height to grow as well.

As soon as I swam to shore, the boat patrol had showed up. They didn't punish us, but mentioned there would be no swimming. I was practically relieved that I wouldn't be allowed to face the drop again.

We headed back to their house shortly after, and collected our stuff. They had convinced us to head towards Canon City to do some rafting and see the Royal Gorge, the tallest suspension bridge in the world, before Colorado Springs.  Initially planning on a day of rest in Pueblo, we would have to wait (much to the chagrin of a certain riding partner whose name will go unmentioned) We collected our stuff, and took a picture We had a really great time with Jenny and John, and were very appreciative. We hoped we would see them again in our travels or perhaps after.

Once on the road we would have to stop in Pueblo West for some food as it would be the only place to do that prior to arriving in Canon City, about 35 miles away. We would be climbing a bit as well, as we were heading into the mountains.

We stopped at a Little Ceaser's who had a nice deal on a large pizza pizza. We met a manager type figure, who was interested in our trip. He told the workers to "hook these guys up". Sweet, what did that mean? Once we had ordered, he came over and swiped his card. He bought our meal for us. We couldn't believe it. Another generous person to add to the list.

Filled to the brim, we headed into the mountains… not an ideal combination. As we pedaled to the very beginning of the range, we began seeing the tip of the iceberg of the beauty of Colorado. The scenery does come at a cost however. It was a tough 35 mile stretch.

We booked a ticket to go the gorge as well as a rafting on the Arkansas below it. The rapids under the Gorge were nearly double the water volume they allow because of the record snowfall from the winter (the Arkansas is fed from snow melt), and were consequently shut down, but wasn't where we were heading anyway, just a tidbit. The bus for the tour was on top of what the locals called 8 mile hill. Not feeling up to it at the time, we found a campsite nearby, and would take the trip early in the morning as the tickets were non-refundable and we had to be there by 8:45.

We visited a local Best Western which happened to have a breakfast buffet, that I found out was available to anyone for $7. What a deal, especially for two beasts like us. And really I mean, Paul… he's huge.

Noticing a cold stone on the way in, we figured we'd replace a potentially nutritious dinner with a heaping mound of ice cream plus mix ins. It's such a jolly atmosphere, I always end up talking to the employees there for a while. We stuck around outside for a while, since of course it was absolutely beautiful, and a happening spot. We also met a guy there doing a tour of Colorado, north to south, to help raise money for a homeless shelter in Glenwood Springs.

We retired at a decent time as we would be getting up at 6:00 sharp to pack quickly and get a quick buffet (or so I thought) before we took on the 8 mile hill. The air was so dry and comfortable, it was a pleasure camping. The following day would bring both of our first, real rafting experience, and the Royal Gorge would be a cool sight as well.

Life was good.

Day 34, June 21st 2008, beginning in John Martin Reservoir State Park, Colorado

The storms had stopped at some point early in the morning, and amazingly nearly all of our stuff had dried due to the low humidity. No dew, no nothing. We couldn't wait to get off of the high plains and into the foothills of the mountains, which we could not see yet. To cap off our long week we would need to do a 100 mile day to get into Pueblo.

Our first target of the day was Las Animas, which is Spanish for "the animas". When we were a few miles out Paul informed me that my tire looked low. It wasn't completely full, but it had gotten a puncture and was leaking air slowly. To save time, I pumped it enough to get us into town so that I could repair it while we ate.

We stopped at a small pizza shop and ordered a large pizza that we split. Feeling extra glutinous, we also got carrot cake as a top off. As my tire was in a state of disrepair, I was forced to use the notorious spare that Paul managed to get 6 flats on in 5 days (or whatever it was). A year from now, it'll probably be 12 flats in an hour… the beauty of embellishment. We were in need of a bike shop, and Pueblo was the closest one.

With the repair, and the long day, we would have to make a few long stretches to arrive safely in Pueblo and meet our couchsurfer Jenny by dark. We departed for La Junta, with plans of doing a long stretch after that stop. By the time we got to La Junta, we felt so good, we decided not to stop until Swink. When we got to Swink, we decided not to stop until Rocky Ford, known for their melons.

Unfortunately Rocky Ford's farmers market was not open when we arrived, so we went to Sonic of course. Too much Sonic discussion, I'm through with it. When we left Rocky Ford we intended on doing roughly 30 miles to a town outside of Pueblo.

To stay with the overachieving theme of the day, and with the mountains appearing on the skyline, we kept on riding until a gas station 5 miles outside of the city.

We were pretty exhausted from the week, but happy to be back where people were.

When we spoke to Jenny, she was heading to a barbecue, which she invited us to. We decided why the heck not, and headed to the party, which was close to Jenny's house anyhow.

Arriving in our gear out front, we were a bit of a spectacle. Everyone was very welcoming at the party, and we were offered tons of food and beer upon entry. The gathering was to celebrate a birthday for one of the girls that was traveling as well. They had gotten a pinata for the party, which turned out to be quite entertaining. After a few people got some aggression out, this was all that was remaining.

Later on, when the party was brought back inside, they put some Michael Jackson on Mike's (home owner) vinyl record player. It sounded great, and influenced Paul enough to want to buy one once he returns home. We hit the dance floor for a bit, and just had a good time. It was a fun time for everyone, and just what Paul and I were looking for.

Once people started heading home, we followed suit and went to Jenny's place. Ahhhh, after a massive week, and a good time, we were able to relax with no schedule for the following day. We patted ourselves on the back for the long week and rested easy.

Life was good.

Day 33, June 20th 2008, beginning in Syracuse, Kansas

We got our good breafest at the typical small diner down the street. There an old woman came up to us while we were eating and grabbed me by the shoulder to ask me where we were from. It was funny, and she also mentioned that she had traveled every state west of the Mississippi, and Kansas was her favorite. A bit surprised by that, we thought to each his own, and went back to the motel.

Trying to locate more couchsurfers and plan our path through Colorado, I spent some time on the laptop before we departed. Once we finally got out the door, I had a brake situation that took another 20 minutes or so to resolve. Once that was rectified, we hopped on the seats for a farewell to Kansas ride, as our first stop would be in Holly, Colorado.

Shortly into the ride, we entered "Colorful Colorado". Maybe it was reality, or maybe perception, but we immediately noticed the low humidity and how nice it felt even with the sun shining strongly around noon. There were also tons of prairie dogs that seemed to start right over the border as well. After fueling up in Holly we headed to Lamar. There was an information center there, oddly about 40 miles into the state.

We stopped at a Walmart because I will accept only the finest in clothing, and was in need of a decent looking shirt to wear out. Mind you this is over a month into the trip. Paul and I each grabbed a shirt, and some delicious fruit. As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed intense winds. What, we're in Colorado, I thought we were supposed to be out of this stuff. Sure enough there were tornado warnings in the area. We surveyed the area a bit, and found a nice break to head down the road about a mile to the visitor's center.

Upon arriving there, we were informed that tornadoes had touched down north of where we were, and Holly, where we had come from earlier that day! Craziness, but it was just a bit windy in Lamar at the time. We picked up tons of materials at the center, most of which would have to be shed before we tackled the Rockies head on, but would suit well for the time being.

Taking one of the worker's advice from the visitor's center, we went to a trucker's diner a bit ouf town. It was a cool place, with tons of souvenirs and a large dining area. The food was really good, and we both got milkshakes to top it off. There were two large flags outside, a U.S. And Colorado's awesome flag, and both were blowing furiously toward the direction we were heading. Sweet.

As we approached the campgrounds that we would be staying at that night, we were a bit disappointed to see a crappy gravel road we'd have to ride into the campground for 3 miles. We were really disappointed with the park on arrival. The young woman working at the front desk stuck us away from everyone else when we asked to be near the bathrooms. It was somewhat funny, but a little annoying too. They charged for showers as well. This was the first time we had seen this, and Paul was pretty angry, me not so much.

As we prepared for bed, the winds began to pickup. I'm no meteorologist, but I would say the winds were gusting to somewhere in the 40 mph range, throughout the night.  We would not have much sleep throughout the night, as we were fairly certain the tent would come down. It was pretty miserable sleep, but we didn't get swept up by a tornado, and we would be in Pueblo the following night with a couchsurfer, and some rest after a long week.

Life was good.

Day 32, June 19th 2008, beginning in Dodge City, Kansas

Our morning ride was probably the coldest yet. We were shivering for our entire first leg, but it was short enough not to stop and change. We went to a grocer, and they had the air conditioning on so I turned around as soon as we I got in. Paul got some stuff, and we wised up and put on more clothes before we left for our next haul.

Garden City, where we were heading, seemed to have a lot going on. And this is Kansas, so there would be nothing before it. The first time the trip felt like work was on this ride. There was a constant cold rain, continual climbing, and strong headwinds that had us going under 10 miles an hour for much of the leg. We agreed it was one of the most mentally challenging parts of the trip, because without any services at all, we had no choice but to work through it. Paranoid of Kansas storms, we had another slight scare as there seemed to be very low hanging clouds, and winds began to strengthen. Pedaling through again, it did not materialize into anything significant, other than a rapid increase in heart rate.

After that we saw the sun pop for about 5 seconds right before we got into Garden City, which would be the last time we would see it all day. We stopped at a lunch buffet place, which was perfect. We feasted on some hot food, and waited out the storm. We were so cold that we got a hot pot of water from the kind waitress to warm ourselves up. We ended up staying for two and a half hours while the Poseidon did his work.

When we hit the streets, the road we were on was nearly flooded. It was sort of cool but we got a bit wet. As the weather cleared, our attitudes improved again. We made a nice stretch to stop at Lakin, another hopping spot, our last stop before Syracuse, Kansas. The time lost with the storm would not allow us get into Colorado that day. Disappointing.

In Lakin we got some snacks, and hung out for a bit before heading out. When I rolled my bike off the pavement in front of the store I noticed it felt soft. I had finally gotten my first flat! It was the first time in my life that I had a flat rear. Now I knew what 1/6 of Paul's frustration felt like.

After a quick fix, with some help from the pro (Paul), we were back on the road. We were running low on tubes and would have to make it back to civilization (just joking Kansas, nothing but love) to get to a bike shop.

While riding to Syracuse, we crossed  into mountain time! How exciting. Little mental accomplishments like that can be so empowering. We practically flew the rest of the way to Syracuse. As we got our motel, we noticed a good looking Mexican place. The motel manager recommended the place as well. But remember, we're in Kansas, so it's not as if we were choosing from hundreds of options.

We also asked her about breakfast and the like, the typical motel questions. The manager said breakfast without the k. Breafest, quite funny, and we still laugh about it today.

We rolled over to the Mexican place, and filled up. Damn, I write about food a lot. But it's so good, and we eat a lot.

We returned to the motel, and I did some writing and the like. Both of us could hardly contain our excitement to enter Colorado the following morning. We were actually going to make it for sure the next day. Although I have already said it, we had a lot of expectations for the state. We could hardly fall alseep, but eventually were able to.

Life was good.

Day 31, June 18th 2008, beginning in Woodward, Oklahoma

All business again, we pounded the pavement at torrid pace. We were looking at another 100+ mile day and a new state. As we were leaving Woodward, I noticed a sign on a motel. It had nothing to do with the motel, which was great, but an amazing quote nonetheless… and appropriate. "…everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." Nice, right? Gave a nice feel to the ride.

As we continued through the sparsely populated area, we noticed another humorous sign. I'm a bit upset I didn't get a picture, but apparently the "not so high security" prison in the area had some escapee issues. The sign read "don't pick up hitchhikers they may be escaping inmates". I thought that was comical. As if they were in the act… I don't know just worded a bit funny.

Buffalo Oklahoma would be our last stop in the state, and a good choice. We rolled up to an all you can eat pizza buffet. We met a couple guys there that we talked to for a while whose profession was to follow storms and do repairs on dented cars after the hail had done its damage. Funny, the different opportunities in different areas of the country. We filled our water bottles with the best ice ever. Small chunky ice, like riverside restaurant in Bristol for those of you who know. Oh its so good. I've never appreciated water and ice so much as I do now.

As we checked the map, it appeared that Sitka, Kansas would be our next stop, about 25 miles away. The next stop after that would be another 25 as the towns were growing even fewer and farther in between. The gps didn't show too much development in Sitka, but there were signs for it 27 miles away so we figured there had to be at least a gas station.

The day prior, I said to Paul “if Oklahoma is so windy, why don't they have more wind generators?”.  Sure enough, as we approached the border we could see a line of them for miles. It's pretty neat how far away you can see things when there are no building to block your sight.  It took us a good 10 miles to reach them, and they were massive.

Yeah, about Sitka… Wrong. We would have to do a 52 mile stretch with no refreshments. Yikes. And southwestern Kansas is not as flat as you might imagine.

It turns out Bucklin would be where we would land. When we finally saw humans, we did a little dance (in our heads). We stopped at a small grocer and got about 5 pounds of grapes. They were quite juicy and a good choice. We also got some ice cream. At this point we reserved a spot in a campground in Dodge City.

There were reports of storms ahead. They must have contributed to the winds we received on the way in, some sort of pressure thing. We traveled nearly 20 mph the whole way in. When we stopped to get a bite in Subway, more people had warned us of the bad storms coming. We also noticed a cheap motel on the way in, and when we put two and two together, we nixed the camping idea. Getting good at the motel bargaining, especially on weekdays, I was able to talk the manager down a whole 200 pennies! Patting myself on the back, I felt like the ultimate negotiator.

We settled down and showered up to prepare ourselves for Colorado! Woooo. We couldn't wait, we were looking forward to Colorado the most. It would probably be the most challenging, as we would soon find out John Denver was not full of it, but also the most happening.

With mountains to conquer in our future, we slept feeling as strong as the Titans (good simile?). Let's do it.

Life was good.

Day 30, June 17th 2008, beginning in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Awaking to the alarm extremely tired still, it was a blessing that their was hail in the area. We would have to let the storm pass, snooze. Once it had passed, we said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts and would surely miss the welcoming house, and Oklahoma City in general. Cool place.

We decided to start the day with Jamba Juice with an energy boost (little things they put in the drinks) to keep us rocking all day. We weren't on the road until 11:00 with hopes of covering 130 miles. Taking the advice of the Hutchens, our first stop would be for lunch, some 25 miles away at Eischens Bar.

There they had a very short menu basically fried chicken and fried okra. We got those two things, and not being that hungry from the recent Jamba, had to bring some with us. Our next stop would be another 38 miles in Watonga.

Right before arriving in Watonga, the weather turned for the worse. It made for a pretty miserable ride as there was nothing around, and a cold rain began. We missed most of it as we stopped at yet but another Sonic. Getting ice cream in the cold was a bad choice and both of us had to put on our jackets and pants we became so cold.

As we left, a bit disgruntled with the crappy weather, and uneventful day of just covering miles the weather turned back again. Within minutes it was far too warm for our colder gear, and we had to stop to shed it. The sun made such a difference and gave us a new lease on the day. Moods changed, we pedaled hard and fast, as we would need to, to make it to Woodward by sunset.

Our last stop before Woodward was Seiling. We stopped at a deli gas station there and decided we'd finish up our Eischens chicken and okra from earlier in the day. Someone who was at Eischens the same time we were and recognized us made a comment about us waiting that long to finish it up. Ha, what are the chances. Here we were 100 miles away, in the middle of nowhere. We filled up our waterbottles with some powerade and made a break for the last roughly 30 miles.

We rolled into Woodward as the sun was setting.  As agreed Paul would lead us in.  I had lead the entire day, as we are faster when I am leading, and it wasn't until the odometer read 122.5 miles that I would see Paul's back.

Woodward  was a cool, small town that seem to be sort of a hub for truckers and people passing through. Again, against what we thought we might be able to do with the late start and the weather, we were back in civilization. We found a motel to lay down our heads. We would need the rest because we planned on doing over 100 miles the following day to get us through the less than exciting northwestern Oklahoma and western Kansas. Day 1 of our big week was down.

Life was good.

Day 29, June 16th 2008, beginning and ending in Oklahoma City again

I awoke to an unfamiliar, furry pug in my face. Squishy was home! Of course it's a happy ending.  Someone had found Squishy and Bryce had picked him up. Shelby and Janie (his biggest fans) could rest easy. The morning was quite stormy, dispelling any trace chance of us leaving that day, to which the Hutchens were glad to enjoy our company for one more day, or so they said.

Adhering to the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto, we returned to Jimmy's egg and we all got the exact same thing (I think), except this time Railey and Cooper came with us. Yum.

When we returned to the house, I figured I would try to get some work done so I rolled down the street to Starbucks to get online. They charge for their internet! Whack. Even some Burger Kings have free wifi. Anyway, I did some work for a while like the other cool people you see with laptops at cafes. Paul had plans to make dinner as a thank you for hosting us, so I returned around dinner time.

Priding himself on his guineau abilities, he made some pasta and sausage soup. It was delicious, although he wasn't 100% satisfied with his work. Everyone filled up on his meal, and Shelby Paul and I decided we'd have to top it off with some Jamba Juice, a smoothie making company right down the street. I was excited.   I hadn't had any since Fresno, California a few years ago (check that, maybe once in Boston, not sure).

They were just as lovely as I remembered. Go if you are ever near one.

After Jamba, Shelby had to return a movie at Blockbuster, so we stopped in to check out another. We ended up renting Swingers, a must see early Vince Vaughn Jon Favreau flick. I had explained a lot of the parallels to Paul along the trip, and it was only 99 cents, an easy decision. We again had a late night, as we stayed up watching the movie. We had good laughs, and well fed, were ready for possibly our longest day yet. We were looking at roughly 130 miles to Woodward, Oklahoma.

We could do it.

Everyone rested easily, and Squishy was home.

Life was good.

Day 28, June 15th 2008, beginning and ending in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Ahhh, a day off. I naturally got up hours before Paul, so I did some work on the computer. When most of the rest of the house awoke, we came to the realization that Squishy, Shelby's favorite dog, a pug, waas missing. The Hutchens have run into this situation before, and were confident that Squishy would make his way home.

We went to a late breakfast at Jimmy's Egg, their favorite local breakfast spot. If chocolate pancakes are an option, as they were, I look no further. We all filled ourselves up and planned the rest of the day. Paul and I had to make a stop at a local bike shop to get some stuff, and Shelby would have to go into Chili's to work at 4:00.

When we returned to their house, Bryce brought us to the bike shop while running a few errands of his own. I had spoken to John, the owner of the bike shop, the day prior. After dropping Jim Foreman's name, he was willing to meet us on his day off at the shop to help us out. What a guy.

Once we got to the bike shop, John was able to diagnose my issues within seconds, and Paul was able to replace the crappy rear tire we bought in Tallahassee, with a much higher quality one, made right in Oklahoma City. We bought a few more things and John offered us a cold beer out of his fridge while we waited for Bryce to return. I forget the exact name of the beer, but it was brewed in Wisconsin, and I think it was the best I have ever had.

Bryce scooped us up, and we stopped for a beer on the return trip on him. When we arrived back at their house, the family was getting a little more worried as Squishy had not shown up. Fortunately Squishy did have tags on, but sometimes did slip out of his collar. Janie went to the 7-11 down the street to post a missing dog sign. Apparently they have done that on numerous occasions and have also found dogs posted there.

It was approaching time for Shelby to head to work, and nearing dinner time. Tired with her job at Chili's, Shelby decided to call it quits right then, and join us downtown for dinner and a movie. Shortly after that, Bryce's son Cooper was dropped off by his mother. An inquisitive, adorable little boy who looks exactly like Bryce, Cooper was excited to see some new faces in the house.

Shelby's grandmother took Railey, and Janie, Bryce, myself, Paul, Kavon, Shelby, and Cooper headed downtown to a restaurant on a canal. There was a very good saxophonist there playing as we ate right on the water while canal boats drifted by. Cooper was running around living it up on the canal with the ducks

After dinner Janie, Shelby, Paul, and I went to see "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". Shelby and Paul had already seen it, vouching for its hilarity. It was very funny, and a little gushy too for the ladies. The whole evening was enjoyable and had sold Paul and I on the charm of Oklahoma City.

It was fairly late by the time we got back. We hung out for a bit and Shelby began getting quite concerned that Squishy was not going to return. Kavon and Shelby went out at around 1:00 in pursuit as the threat of storms was looming. They returned without success, and we hung out for a bit more before everyone retired.

Paul and I had enjoyed the area so much we were considering staying an extra day. We would decide in the morning, but at the moment, it was time for rest.

Life was good.

Day 27, June 14th 2008, beginning in Ada, Oklahoma

Ahh, the morning comes and I practically sprang out of bed ready to feast after dreaming about all of the sweet pastries, fruit and cereal we would be having. We were promised a plentiful buffet, and that was what we got. As a man who understands value, I made sure I got my money's worth. I must have eaten at least 2,000 calories worth of breakfast.

Shortly after breakfast we filled our water bottles at a fountain in the motel and hit the road. The water was pretty terrible. Some places around here don't have great water. In some towns people don't even drink it. Another thing most of us take for granted. Either way, we were excited, we would be in Oklahoma City by the end of the day, and staying with old family friends of Paul's, the Hutchens, from Monroe that he hadn't seen in 8 years! Thanks Nina.

Our first stop brought us to a gas station in Asher. As we were chatting with a few motorcyclists a police officer pulled up and said, "… you have bikers, and then you have REAL bikers" (referring to us of course).

Swelling with pride, we left and headed for Noble, a small town about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City. There we met an owner of a recumbent bicycle shop. You may have never seen them, but they are the bikes you sit down in and the pedals are in front of you and higher than the seat . He was helpful in giving us directions into the city. We fueled up at a gas station, and went for it.

We had planned on taking a bus from Moore, but first we would call up the nice guy by the name of Jim Foreman who has his own website and helped give us detailed directions throughout Oklahoma when the state DOT could not. I called him while biking and we decided to meet up at a Burger King right near his house. We didn't get anything, but just sat down with him for a few minutes and chatted. He was appreciative of us taking the time, and we were of course appreciative of the help he had already given us. From there we determined, with Jim's help, that we would avoid the buses and bike the whole way. It would save us time anyway. It meant another 25 miles of riding though, apparently Oklahoma City is one of the largest metropolitans in the country.

Leaving Jim in the dust as we burned rubber up the road, we were going to bike through Oklahoma City. As it was the end of our week, we were ready for rest. It was a very pleasant ride, and we made good time thanks to the flatness and some tailwinds.

The streets are a bit confusing, and when we got to what we thought was their house we stopped, and got off the bikes, and rested them against the garage. Before Paul rang the doorbell I had him wait a minute while I double checked the street sign. Sure enough, we were one street off. Imagine two exhausted, sweaty bikers showing up at your house looking for a place to stay. Who knows if Paul would even recognize them after all the years. Silliness averted.

Pulling into the actual Hutchens's house, we were greeted with the whole squad including 5 dogs (or so we thought… to be continued), Janie (the mother), Shelby (the daughter), and Bryce (older son). Tyler, who is our age, was on a trip west, and we had unfortunately missed him by a day. We also met Railey (sorry if spelling is wrong), Shelby's child with Kavon, her husband.

Bryce had prepared a delicious meal that we feasted on shortly after our arrival. Just what the doctor ordered. Paul and I had a couple servings each, but were still hungry and didn't want to be impolite, so we waited "patiently". We hovered like vultures in the kitchen until the girls noticed us and realized we wanted to finish off their half eaten dishes. They of course allowed us and within seconds watched food magically disappear before their eyes. Shortly after that we each made ourselves massive bowls of ice cream. That's where it stopped for me, but not Paul. Later that night Paul polished off a 3 taco meal at America's finest, most nutrititious, Mexican establishment, Taco Bell.

Our greatest craving was yet to be satiated. We noticed the Hutchens's extensive movie collection, and mentioned how we really needed to see Dumb and Dumber. They just so happened to have it on VHS… old school… nice touch. In fact, they are nearly as big of fans of the movie as we. We of course recited all the lines, but did notice a few we missed when we did the whole movie from memory that morning.

We would have some time off, and nice comfortable place to sleep with a great family to spend some time with. The long day had finally ended and…

Life was good.

Day 26, June 13th 2008, beginning in McGee Creek State Park, Oklahoma

Started the day off with a half gallon of milk and a box of cheerios at the convenience store. It was gone in no time, emmmm. We talked for a while and said goodbye to the nice folks who let us stay on their land for free, and continued on our way into Atoka, OK. With some help from the Ceglarski's back home (thanks), we would be picking up our jerseys at the post office in Atoka. We located the post office with no problem where our jerseys were anxiously awaiting the arrival of two sweaty men to slip into them. Wish granted. The jerseys look amazing. I think Paul was even more excited than I to put them on. So vibrant. We swapped out a bunch of the stuff we were riding with for the new stuff, and came at a net loss in weight. This will be quite helpful for the upcoming Rocky mountains.

After donning the new gear, we decided to show off at a local Italian restaurant. Paul and I both got the same thing, as we do nearly everywhere (even though we both eat pretty much anything) and of course ate everything in sight.

With full stomachs, we headed toward Coalgate. With one Sonic boost (smoothie), we were charged up enough to make it another 35 miles to our destination for the day, Ada.

Ada was definitely the most developed town we had come across after having been in Oklahoma. There were many options for hotels, and places to eat. We ended up staying at a best western, although more expensive, it came with a buffet breakfast. We'd be sure to get our money's worth. The pool and internet didn't hurt either.

Heeding our eternally hungry stomachs advice, we sought food. After a bit of scanning we landed at yet another Italian place. A nice pasta dinner would make for a good choice the day before our last day of riding for the week. Again delicious, again spotless plate.

Again an early retreat back to the motel to relax for the rest of the day. I went swimming for a bit, and did some writing while Paul watched some TV. Both eager to gorge on the buffet the following morning, we fell asleep with smiles on our faces, stomachs churning in preparation.

Life was good.

Day 25, June 12th 2008, beginning in Idabel, Oklahoma

We awoke to some horrific, terrible news. The restaurant was not open for breakfast. We love a big hearty breakfast, pretty disappointing. They had some complimentary doughnuts out, so Paul and I each ate 4 to get us ready for the day. Healthy.

We made a long a ride into Hugo to start the day. On the way we saw a dead baby horse in one of the farms. It was pretty sad, but interesting to see all of the adult horses circled around it in mourning. Once in Hugo, we ate at a place called Dos Amigos. Oh man I love Italian, but clearly this was Mexican, so I guess that's unrelated. We would be staying with friends of Paul's the following night, who had moved from Connecticut to Oklahoma City. I suggested Paul contact them while we ate lunch to make sure they were ready for our arrival. Paul's mother had given Paul their phone number an estimated 5 times up to that point. Did Paul take it down anywhere? No. I challenged him saying that I could find their phone number faster than he could. After "unintentionally" giving me the wrong spelling of their last name, I was still able to find it faster than he calling his mother, using the internet on my cell phone. Swelling with pride, we were still unable to get a hold of the Hutchens, the family we would be gracing with our sweaty presence the following night.

We rolled on 26's to Antlers. There we stopped at a small grocer where we got some delicious watermelon and some drinks. There happened to be an attractive worker there that Paul took a notice to. It was time to build some confidence, after his previous episode that landed him with some spare ribs (not entirely unsuccessful I guess). After inhaling a mouthful of succulent watermelon, Paul noticed the young woman heading back into the store with a shopping cart. Springing into action, he decided he would be chivalrous and hold the door for her. As he attempted to do this, he began choking on his watermelon, and the door swung in so he could hardly hold it for her. It ended in her having to open the door for herself and Paul nearly spitting his mouthful of watermelon as she laughed at his puny existence. It was wonderful. Strike two. We decided then and there that Paul's new nickname would be Rico Suave.

Mcgee Creek state park, our destination was only about 15 miles away. Stopping at a gas station right before the park we figured we'd try get some stuff for the evening. After speaking to the nice owners for a while, they offered for us to stay on their land next to the store for free, instead of going the mile into the park and paying the fee.

We thought it sounded like a great idea, but headed into the park first just to see it. It was a beautiful lake. I went for a shower in the lake while Paul was on the phone. There were maybe 30 people there swimming and having a good time. It was a really nice spot and the water was nice and cool.

The sun was descending, so we headed back to the convenience store to set up camp. With the lovely sounds of frogs croaking we were ready for bed. A nice cool night, and some comfortable grass made for a lovely camping experience.

Life was good.

Day 24, June 11th 2008, beginning at Lake Milwood State Park, Arkansas

It was Paul's birthday, and a cause for a celebration. We had an unusual plan… ride our bikes all day… what would anyone rather do for their 23rd birthday? A short cruise into Ashdown for breakfast would have us prepared to enter a new state. I got a stack of pancakes that could double for a seat cushion. I know I have mentioned the fluffiness before, but these topped all others. People really know how to flip some flapjacks down here.

We weren't feeling the southern hospitality at this particular diner, however. We were getting looks without the warm greetings and general interest we were so accustomed to. We would unfairly hold it against Arkansas for the remainder of the trip. Life's tough.

Right before we crossed the border we got off the bikes and took some pictures of the bales of hay that were massive and were everywhere. We figured when in Rome… Strolling into Tom, Oklahoma, we were a bit disappointed to not see a "Welcome to Oklahoma" sign.

When we stoppedat a gas station in town we heard the words I have been waiting to hear verbatim… "Ya'll ain't from around here, are ya?". How could she tell? She was a nice woman who pulled a map out of her glove compartment and gave it to us. Quite nice. Inside the store we spoke to the owners for a while. They told us about a group of people who set the Guinness record for traveling the fastest through each state in the continental U.S., ending in Tom Oklahoma of all places. The record setters ended up at their store. Cool.

Idabel was our next destination, it was the county seat so their would surely be something to eat. The entire downtown was littered with insurance, and computer stores. The very few food places had already closed at 2:00 on a weekday. Odd. As the next stop would be another 40 miles or so, we needed something. We went to a gas station and got 4 giant Snicker. The attendant there told us that there was a hotel with a diner in it down the road. However, it opened at 6:00 and it was only about 3:00. We had also only covered about 65 miles, and a stop there would be our shortest day yet.

After some deliberating, we decided to do it. After all, it was Paul's birthday, and he decided the thought of a real meal sounded good enough to wait for. They had a pool, and a bar, so the kid would be able to have a drink on his birthday. Nifty.

We went for a refreshing swim, and relaxed until dinner. Dinner wasn't bad, nothing to write home about… (but apparently something to write publicly about) but not bad. The bar was our next stop. The kid had to have at least one drink for his birthday celebration. Having never celebrated his birthday with Paul, I imagined this would be his most thrilling yet.

The bar was sort of a weird scene. There were a few locals there, a pretty unhappy looking bunch all of which were smoking. They smoke in bars I guess pretty much everywhere but Connecticut. Neither Paul or I are much fans for that, so it was a little off-putting. They did have a jukebox at the bar, and not surprisingly it was about 96% country. After scanning all of the songs we did come across one talented artist by the name of Curtis Jackson. Some of you may know him as 50 cent (he's sort of from my hometown… no big deal… I've been to his house). I don't recall the exact song, but I had double dared Paul (which is borderline irresistible) to put on the 50 cent song to see how it went over. I envisioned it ending up with us getting kicked out, but it would never come to fruition as Paul (and I) lacked the gaul.

After our one beer we decided we had had enough and went back to the motel to get some sleep. Well fed, and an easy day of riding we relaxed for a few and called it a night.

Life was good.

Day 23, June 10th 2008, beginning in Bradley, Arkansas

Since we were up screwing around until after 1:00 the night before, we had gotten a late start. Breakfast in the town we were in, Bradley, was nice and inexpensive. We were on the road at 10:00 and wouldn't stop until we got to Hope, 40 miles away. It was by far the coolest day we had yet as it must have been low 70's in the morning when we started. Probably the cold front responsible for the tornado warnings.
Once in Hope, we wanted to get something small, since we were still somewhat full from our breakfast. They had personal pizzas at a gas station we stopped at, and we figured those would do. We also were both craving milk, and they had a good sized bottle in between a half gallon and a pint so we went for it. As Paul was drinking his first sip, he said "UH uh", but it was too late. We both spit it back in our cups, as the milk was old and bad. One of the attendants mentioned that buttermilk always tasted bad to her, and that we could get another. The second one, with a much later expiration date still tasted awful. I guess we didn't really know what to expect from buttermilk, so if you're ever considering it…. don't. We ended up going with whole milk. So creamy, yum.
With the late start, we decided to make it to a campground another 30 miles or so. We made one more stop in between, and rolled into Lake Milwood state park, about 25 miles from the Oklahoma border.
The park had a nice lake on it, and was quite spacious. There was hardly anyone there. The food thing was again a concern, but we did have peanut butter and bread. They had a small shop on a marina where we were able to get drinks and refill on peanut butter.
Not having gone very far (around 70-75 miles), and the cooler weather made for a relaxing evening camping. We wrote some things down, and called it a night. We would be in another new state tomorrow, Oklahoma "…where the wind comes sweeping down the plain" (hopefully east to west). Exciting.
Life was good.

Friday Special

Another blog is coming.  That's right, two in one day!  For those of you at work, one more story before you head home for the week  I also need to catch the blog up to our trip a bit because we will be in Colorado today and I think the blog is still in Connecticut.  Thanks again for all of the comments.  I read them all, keep 'em coming

Day 22, June 9th 2008, beginning in Farmerville, Louisiana

The unfamiliar site of an empty tent scared me. Paul got up first? This was the first time in the trip this had happened. Paul gets on average about 2 more hours of a sleep each night, so I was quite shocked. He really enjoyed the showers there (he's much more into that thing than I), so he took a long one to start off the morning.

As we were packing up, the Ball's came over to give us a couple more soda's and tell us how much they enjoyed spending time with us. We realized that we were definitely giving people something, even if just conversation. As we said our 10,000th thank you of the trip, they acted as if we were the ones doing them the favors.

When we made it the front office to pay for our second night, the attendant there said it was "all right" and sent us on our way. This state park seemed as magical as Disney to us, and a hell of a lot cheaper (sort of… thanks Mark). Long live the D'arbonne.

We did the usual stuff where the riding was concerned. Broke up the day with 15-30 miles stops where we'd fill up, including another Sonic smoothie, and more online time at Mickey D's. We would be exiting Louisiana into Arkansas, and were excited about that, our 5th state.

Springhill, where we'd say our goodbyes to Louisiana, turned out to be a very cool town. We were fortunate enough to pass a visitor center, that was OPEN this time, and stepped in. We were immediately greeted with cold water and a nice woman eager to help with our travels. As she had a ribbon cutting downtown in a few minutes, she had passed us on to the other worker in the office, Jan. Jan, turns out, is a saint… with connections. Although there was lodging in Springhill, we really wanted to make it into Arkansas that evening to reach mileage goals that we had. Jan had a certain person in mind that would be able to help us out who lived in Bradley, Arkansas, 15 miles away. Jan was unable to find his number however, so what did she do? She found a Bradley phone book and called any old number asking how she could find this man (Jim). Sure enough, the first person was able to get us a number. We didn't speak to Jim, but rather someone who helped with the parks that told us we could set up our tent that evening. We were all set.

With the good news, we decided to eat in downtown Springhill, as we had enough light to get us to Bradley after eating. Taking Jan's advice, the person responsible for much of the restoration of the downtown, we ate at a place called soups and scoops. She recommended we go there because the owner Christine was an interesting woman, and the food was good. Both proved to be true. We had spoken to Christine's daughter who's name escapes me for a while. She was living in New Jersey, and visiting to help her mom. The mother showed up later with Christine's baby, and it happened to be her other daughter Amy's 21st birthday. The whole clan ended up showing up, and invited us for cake, to which we had to turn down for safety's sake in making it to Bradley before darkness. Although we immediately regretted our decision (much like Ron Burgundy) after leaving, it would prove to be the smartest thing we had done yet.

When we left, it was calm. After a few minutes a slight rain had begun. It was actually quite refreshing in the heat, and we welcomed it. As we continued to travel, the clouds began to look more menacing. Brrr… a cool breeze. Wait a minute, there was a bad concoction brewing. As we came to a clearing, we looked up at some ugly, ugly clouds. The winds had picked up quite a bit, but the rain had subsided. Looking what seemed to be directly overhead, Paul and I both saw swirling clouds. Insert repetitive expletives. We were under what we thought could be a tornado. I was considering ducking into the woods (probably not a good idea), while Paul thought we might be able to elude it. We went with his idea, and pedaled like we never had before. The wind was blowing us a bit side to side, and at one point, we weren't even moving. Things slowly got better as we kept pedaling, such that I was comfortable enough to take out the camera and start shooting footage.

We made it into town unscathed, and had to hide out at a gas station while the storm subsided. The sky really opened up, and the attendant told us that there were tornado warnings in the area. Lesson learned, we would be like hawks on the weather reports looking forward, with the realization of how quickly a seemingly tame situation could turn life-threatening (not that ours was by any stretch). We called Richard, our contact in Bradley, and spoke to his wife. She told us how to get to the park, but with the rain coming down in buckets, it wasn't the first thing on our list. A police officer had rolled in, and noticed our desperate situation. We spoke to him for a bit, and he had us sit tight, as he did another round.

Upon his return, he had secured us a spot at a fire station down the road. Showers and a.c. free of charge. Awesome. Once the rain died, he showed us over to the station. There were some cookies and sodas in the fridge. We were free to use whatever we needed including all the food they had. It was a volunteer place, so no one else was there. It was ours.

There was a meeting room in the building as well, where they had some sort of town meetings. Paul and I decided to take some pictures in some fire gear, as well as act out a scene at the meeting table. We were just having fun, but stayed up way too late.

Again, we had a free, safe place to stay. On top of which, we were still alive! Great success.

Life was good.

Day 21, June 8th 2008, beginning and ending in Farmerville, Louisiana (rest)

Hunger strikes, as it always does, early this time. Only thing is, it was our day off, and we really didn't want to ride back up hill to town 5 miles away. Whatever shall two lilttle boys do? There must be something over by the visitors center and pool right? If not we can try to see if people were going into town, or if anyone had any breakfast on site that we could give them so money for. Something…

So I headed out to check it out; I wanted to see the pool area anyway. There sure was something by the pool, 2 miles of pavement. I walked for about 30 minutes up and down massive hills while being pursued by horseflies (when do we get rid of these damn things?). I actually took my sandals off to walk so I could swat them as they came in for their attack. Does the candy bar machine work at the pool? Of course not. The only good I got out of it was a map of the campground that showed the 2 miles I covered by foot on the roads could have been done with ¼ mile path through the woods. Hindsight is 20/20. I tried Paul's cell a few times to see if he could initiate plan b, but no answer. Ugh.

I ventured back through the woods hungrier than when I arrived. Little did I know this particular path was the breeding capital of the world for horseflies. I kid you not, within a hundred yards into the path, I was running full speed and flailing my arms like a madman. These things are relentless, and they buzz by your head just to aggravate you, I'm sure of it. I made one stop halfway through on the path where I could get in a good athletic stance and got the sandal out. Now, I'm so non-violent, I wouldn't hurt a fly. And I didn't, these things are horses with wings. Oh yeah, horses are nice too. Well, if they're after my blood, they're going down. Anyway, I could feel them coming off the sandal, and hear them bouncing through the woods after I hit them. That's how big these things are! I had to do the same as I left the path, except there humans so me. I forgot what I even said, but I'm sure I was quite the scene. This all took place in about a 40 second sprint as the path was 20 times faster than the road.

I was unsuccessful on my mission, so it looks like we'd have to ask around, or mooch worst case scenario. As I returned, battered and bruised, and sweating like all get out, where was Paul? Talking to our neighbors? Figuring out a food situation? No, Paul was peacefully resting in the tent. I had a few choice words for what I thought about him at that moment, and shortly after my rant, we trounce

We had devised a solid plan b. We needed change and detergent for the laundry. Since we only had cash, we'd ask the rv-ers to exchange some coinage for our bills, and then slyly ask if they knew if there was any food around other than going back into town. Envisioning… "oh you're heading in to town, well we just rode 550 miles this past week, cool if we tag along"?

The very first couple we spoke to didn't have any detergent, but we got to talking to them and before you know it, they offered us ham sandwiches to which we kindly accepted. We conversed with them for a while. They found our trip quite interesting, and we were charmed by their southern hospitality. They would be meeting up with some family at the park soon, so they offered to take us to a gas station a bit before town. Insisting it was their pleasure, we again accepted thinking to ourselves that we had a lot of paying back to do for all of the favors people had done for us so far.

Shortly after picking up what we needed and returning from the store, the Ball's (last name) family had arrived. It was nearly time for lunch. They invited us back over for more food, insisting they had extra. Again we obliged, and got to meet their grandchildren, and great grandchildren. A charming family that all lives on the same street! Each child gets 20 acres, not bad. What a nice lunch.

We went our separate ways after lunch. We went to the pool, they went fishing. Paul got a taste of the horseflies on the way there, but it wasn't as bad. The pool was pretty packed, oddly enough with many people who couldn't swim (nothing new to Ceglarski family who owns stock in page pool, or the other 3 workers who have worked there in the past 8 years). As it was 95ish like every other day, we wasted no time getting in. I quickly spotted a particularly publicly affectionate couple among the hoards, one hanging on to the other one, who himself could hardly swim, and mentioned to Paul how they should get a room. Before I know it, as I was standing near a wall, here they come… me cornered, we got tied up in a three way bear hug. Gross. We had a good laugh afterwards as Paul saw it unfold, and I cowered helplessly surrounded by Northern Louisiana's non-buoyant version of Romeo and Juliet.

With more blogging to catch up on, we returned to the site. The horseflies were back with a vengeance. Not nearly as interested in Paul's flesh, it went pretty much the same as it did the first time for me. He was witness to one of the most efficient horsefly massacres Louisiana has ever seen as the sandal collected casualties. Sorry for the morbidity, but it was actually a sort of fun.

We decided that we had to get back to town. It was the only way we could get back online which we needed to do badly for many reasons. Since the Ball's had done so much already, we couldn't ask them, so we hit the road on bikes (novel). It wasn't nearly as bad as we remembered; we were in town in no time.

A sonic smoothie would start the evening off just right. As I was unable to pickup any free wireless, I headed to McDonald's, who has wireless in most of their locations (not sure if I mentioned this yet).

After spending the full two hours blogging, picturing, and planning our next few days, Paul and I got to talking to the owner, Gerry. He was very into what we were doing, and was impressed with the fact that a lot of people talk about doing stuff like this, but we were actually doing it. Hearing stuff like that is inspirational to us because we see its effect in others. People that we pass along the way just seem to be instilled with hope, just the idea that we're capable of so much, that it makes them feel better about themselves. Through talking to Gerry, we learned he had an interesting story as well. He's a cancer survivor who has stopped treatment after remission, and feels 100% better. Gerry insisted (I need a synonym for insisted… anyone?) whatever we wanted was on the house. We would have our third free meal of the day, without asking. We only asked for a 10 piece to split, sinc we still had food we had purchased earlier, and he gave us each a ten piece meal with fries and a drink. What a guy.

We'd still need to get back 5 miles, except now it was pitch black. Of course Gerry offered to bring us back in his truck. Even though we had accepted so many favors, just this day, we thought to ourselves… what would our parents want us to do? Needless to say, we got in the truck, and Gerry dropped us off at our campsite. We asked if there was anything we could do to repay the favors, and he just asked that we be safe. Are these people for real? Amazing.

What a day off! What a long entry, if you've read this far you deserve a reward. Here it is, you ready? More blogs. Enjoy.

Even though it was boiling hot still, what did we have to complain about. Nothing, we rested easy eager to get back on the road and enter a new state the following day.

Life was good.

Day 20, June 7th 2008, beginning in Winnsboro, Louisiana

We arose to Bobby's again, for breakfast. ‘ Twas delicious again. We ate outside as we try to do anywhere that has outside eating because every place has their thermostat set to 65 degrees or lower. You think they'd be used to the heat.

Our first stop, becoming our most popular, was McDonalds. We hardly ever eat there, but they can rarely resist two adorable, sweaty faces asking for water. McDonalds have flat panels now, has anyone noticed this? We saw Hillary's resignation (suspension) on one of them, and left (a little happier… just kidding).

Back on the road through some hills we stopped again for some food at a small gas station/deli. There the sole worker, answering phones, cashiering, and making sandwiches, told us that there were springs coming up on our path. Maybe we'd have a chance to see some now.

We left there with high hopes and about 20 to go for our next service stop. We saw a Sonic, one of our favorites, but kept going assuming there would be plenty of stuff in the town coming up, judging by the size of the dot on the map. Wrong. There was a gas station where we got some water at, but that was about it.

There were campgrounds at Farmerville, another 20 from where we were. We headed thataway and travelled over our most challenging hills. Back to back to back to back to back… you get the point. We never found the mythical springs that were allegedly at the top of one of the hills just before Farmerville, but apparently they weren't blue springs, just somewhere you could get natural water for free.

In Farmerville, we stopped at a Walmart, yes civilization at last, and got some lube for our chains, batteries, and Paul got shorts. We got a sonic smoothie (told you it's becoming one of our favorites), and found a nice, inexpensive Mexican (my favorite) restaurant. We filled up there and made it the last 5 miles to the campgrounds.

The campgrounds, D'Arbonne Lake state park, were quite nice, and very spacious. Our site was down a massive hill, and we dreaded the thought of leaving. They had laundry facilities, phew, and a pool. Nice place to spend the following day off. The temperature cooled to a frosty 85 and the humidity dropped all the way down to 90% to make for a comfortable sleep that night. But, we could get up whenever we wanted tomorrow, and they had a pool!

Life was good.

Day 19, June 6th 2008, beginning in Liberty, Mississippi

When's the last time you were greeted in the morning to a crocodile leaping out of a lake near your tent, that you had to outrun to save your life? I bet never, right? Yeah me either, in fact that would be nearly impossible since crocodiles live in salt water and alligators in fresh.

So Paul woke up to more good news… another flat.. count it #5! We discovered another hole in his rear tube, which happened to be the same wheel as all his other issues. Becoming efficient at repair jobs, Paul and I were on the road shortly after the discovery.

With no food on us, we'd have to make it about 20 miles for breakfast. We made it to a small place, the only thing in miles in either direction, and had to settle for lunch sandwiches. We bought a gallon of fruit punch too, but also water as to not repeat the sweet tea episode of day 10 Liberty road was shortly after this.  A scenic ascent into the highest altitude we had pedaled yet, liberty road brought us into the historic town of Natchez, Mississippi. This was the first settled town on the Mississippi river.

Right before we entered Natchez we crossed a 20-30 foot bridge over a small stream. While looking at my gps I said, we just crossed the Mississippi. I had been planning it for about 20 miles, since I knew he'd buy it, and he did. He'd soon see the silliness of his gullibility (that's a word?).

When arriving in Natchez, first order of business was to pick up some spare tubes to replace the stash Paul had depleted. Check. Next was to feed ourselves. Natchez proved to be a charming small town, with a cool little main street area.

We ate at another buffet place about to close called Vaughn's. They had some more delicious food, especially this sweet corn / potato mix. As an interesting young girl approached the door, the waitress warned us that she was autistic and would come talk to us. Shortly thereafter Anne had invited herself to sit down with us while we were both eating. We of course obliged, and proceeded to have a half hour conversation about music and video games. Anne especially likes the music of video games, something to which a fellow nerd could certainly relate. Anne really enjoyed our company, and asked for a hug before we left. At that point we also noticed a map with pushpins for people to place for their hometown. Paul and I added our Connecticutian pins and left town heading for the real Mississippi.

Crossing the mighty Mississippi was quick, fun, and humbling… and educational for Paul. We needed to get biking maps available at the tourists center in Vidalia, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi, to help us navigate the remainder of Louisiana. As luck would have it, it was closed. We'd have to use the regular map we had and take some good guesses.

So we headed west, feeling a little down on our luck. Things would turn for the worse, however; Paul got his 6th flat on a nail. What luck! I felt bad for him as I ate his Snickers watching him replace his tube. Yum… oh yeah, Paul was fine.

Google said there were no motels or campgrounds as far as we wanted to go so we thought we might be camping in the closest wooded area. Paul had faith in "the homeland", and that Google was wrong, so we headed to a small town called Sicily Island.

Once there we spoke to someone who suggested that maybe it wasn't the safest area to pitch a tent. Our only lodging option would be Winnsboro, another 23 miles up the road. Well, what else could we do? As the sun descended ever closer to the horizon, we pedaled as fast as we could towards Winnsboro. Averaging around 18 mph, we made it there in an hour and 15 minutes. As we saw the city signs we shouted in triumph as a wave of success had surged over us. We were all set. Or were we?

Just so happens that there was some sort of rifle show going on in town (of course there was) and the two motels I called were completely booked. The third of the three in town had a room for us. Phew. Right next door to the motel was a place still open calleld Bobby's family diner. The food was very good, and the banana milkshakes were dynamite.

Bellies full, showers, and a nice place to sleep, we rested easy.

Life was good.

Day 18 (June 5th 2008)

We actually rose up at a decent hour and were on the road by 715. The path we took was not the best, and required a lot of stopping at lights throughout the city. Once we were exiting, and traffic thinned, we were able to make great time. We picked up some nice tailwinds off the gulf and were cruising at a consistent 20+ miles per hour. Our first stop would be in Laplace, about 25 miles out.

According to a nice man who spoke to me on the phone for 25 minutes the previous day about bike paths throughout Louisiana, the Airline motor restaurant would be a good place to grab some food. Boy was he right; great food. Fluffiest pancakes in Louisiana. One of the servers there was amazed at what we were doing. He was going to give us a huge Atlas to help us out. Those things aren't cheap… or light. It would be too bulky and heavy, but it was the sincerity and thought that counted. Another employee, a biker, was quite interested in what we were doing as well. So interested that she (Nicole) went in the back on a computer and looked up campgrounds and motels in the area we expected to be that night. Seeing a theme here? These people are great. Pretty sure Paul actually fell in love with Nicole even though she was pregnant and engaged… but he was "flying" to Aspin and out of her life.

As is our ephemeral nature, we soon were forced to hit the road and continued to benefit from the tailwinds heading north. We were able to cover 30 miles in almost no time and stopped in a small town called Ponchatoula. This is where our Sonic smoothie addiction began.

Wasting no time, we filled up our bottles at Subway next door, and skipped town. Another 20 miles or so would land us in a really small town called Roseland where we ate at a mom and pop called "the front porch". The workers were actually sitting on the front porch upon our arrival and some scurried in as we came with appetites aplenty. We had covered about 75 miles by 1:30, and were ready to reward ourselves. The Front Porch was an all you can eat buffet, lucky us. We got our first taste of gumbo, a sort of thick soup with meat and veggies usually served with rice. I hope it's not our last because it was delish.

With full bellies we didn't want to ride out right away so we stuck around for a bit… of course… on the front porch.  The folks were oddly enough really friendly and we talked to them for a while about what we were doing. Once we eventually mustered up the courage to get back on the road, we wanted to make one more stop prior to Osyka, MS. Ha another state in a day.

We actually made it all the way to Osyka without stopping by 4:30. We had already reached our goal for the day with help from the winds, and stopped at a small gas station. Much like the rest of the towns, Osyka was small, where everyone knew everyone. This particular area seemed very tightly knit, and we got to talking to a few folks for a while. One of the guys we spoke the most to, Mark, actually shared stories of his bike riding days, when he had ridden to Houston Texas leaving with $7 and arriving with $700. Perhaps embellished, who knows, but they were a very entertaining crew. Mark was quite the character. He had made his own song about Osyka, and also gave me a cross of Jesus to keep me safe along the way.

After enjoying the Osykans company for a while, we started to head out when one of them, Jamie, had pointed out that Paul's rear was flat. I knew from riding behind him it could not have been a glutial comment, and sure enough, flat #3 for Paul in two days! A staple was the culprit. We patched the flat and hit the road.

With repairs taking a bit, and the conversation, we had eaten up most of our remaining daylight. We still planned on making it to a small town called Liberty. About 7 miles into the trip Paul had busted another flat. #4 in two days of riding. The kid was suffering; what else could go wrong? We again considered asking a local if we could camp in his lawn, but still had some light left so we hit the road.

As we were getting ready to leave after the fix, Paul's sunglasses fell off his bike and toppled down into a ditch on the side of the road. I stopped him as I had to take a picture, as we were both laughing out of frustration, and his general misfortune.

I know you're concerned… we made it to Liberty, fear not. We had some light left and made it to a gas station to get some drinks and little snacks for the night. Mind you at this point, we still didn't know where we were staying for the night. Fortunately, the attendant knew of a campground right down the road. As we ventured that way in near complete darkness, we found the vacant campgrounds. It had a rodeo ring, just like you would expect from any campground, and also a nice place for us to lay down our heads. Big day, and likely a free sleep that night. Tomorrow we would be back in Louisiana, sleep for now.

Life was good.

Day 17 (June 4th 2008)

We slept in again after the draining day, and again, both of our hosts had to work. Instead of being a burden on them, and also with the thought of sleeping in a nice bed for our upcoming day, we found a motel in the french quarter, and headed over there.

Shortly after our arrival we picked up some breakfast at a place down the street. Bicycle theft and crime in general is a major problem in New Orleans, so we ensured we were able to see the bikes from where we sat.

After breakfast, we headed back to the motel. The motel had wireless and we used the internet access to figure out where to travel in our ensuing three days.

By the time we were done with all that we had to check out the world famous Bourbon St. Things didn't work out with Allison, she had been sick that day, so Paul and I went on our own to check it out. We planned to eat there, but once again were greeted with reality, our budget, and capitalism, so we got a $2.00 beer instead. Wait a minute… something is missing. I forgot my damn camera. Are you serious… ugghh. Bourbon St. of all places.

I was pretty upset, and repeatedly cursing myself. I dropped a few self inflicted “f bombs” and it takes a lot to get a “fiddlesticks” out of me. What could we do? Nada, let it slide. Shortly after that realization, we witnessed the best break dancers I had ever seen. These guys were amazing, and quite comical too. I'd say check out the pics… but…. yeah.

The streets were also littered with those motionless guys that paint their bodies in silver. Some were much better than others. Sex was evident in pretty much every direction. If you've never been, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff they get away with on that street. Wild. I cannot fathom Mardi Gras. Although brief, I feel like we got the best Bourbon St. experience we could expect on a typical Wednesday evening.

After retiring back to the motel, we were once again comforted with playoff hockey. While trying to transfer photos to my computer from previous days when I hadn't forgotten my camera, I apparently deleted a necessary file. The memory card was wiped. I lost about 4 days worth of photos… pretty disappointing. To add to that the Red Wings would win the game and Stanley Cup. Those young Penguins proved a lot this year though. Is hockey not dead? We were, so we slept like rocks in the motel in preparation for another long day of riding, with the challenge of getting out of New Orleans safely. Visions of sugarplums danced in our heads.

Life was good.

Day 16

We got an early start to the day, which would be a long one on one road, highway 90, the whole way. Ten miles in we came across another group of tourers. There were three guys roughly the same age doing a trip from Little Rock to somewhere in Florida. They were doing the trip for one of the member's 60th birthday; impressive. They gave us a map of Kansas, useful in a few weeks, and we were on our way.

We made our first stop in McDonalds another 30 miles late in Biloxi, MS. Hooray, another state. After spending 2 weeks in Florida we'd be in and out of 4 states in 24 hours. We filled our bottles with powerade this time, and set out for Bay St. Louis, MS.

We hit some bad construction that we dealt with on 90 for about 10 miles and eventually wised up and took a parallel road. Much better. In Bay St. Louis we got grinders, or Po-boys, as they're called down here. We were making good enough time to make it in to New Orleans, and as luck would have it, we were able to stay at a friend's place from Uconn, who was doing non-profit work in education.

Another 15 miles or so would get us to a last necessary stop into some strong winds. A bait shop about 25 miles out from our destination would allow us to fill up once more and make a final push to New Orleans. We were pretty tired and relaxed a bit while filling up with some powerade and Snickers (definitely my favorite candy).

As we made our journey into New Orleans parish (Louisiana's name for counties), we hit our first mechanical failure. Paul busted a flat. The road was littered with debris and it was only a matter of time, but it could have been worse, it could have been me! Good thing we had picked up the extra tire in Tallahassee. As this was our first flat, it took a bit to fix it, and it looked like we wouldn't make it before dark. About 13 miles to destination we were only able to ride another 4 miles or so before it was too dark and we stopped at a gas station. We called Allison, the friend we were staying with, and she was able to have her roommate pick us up. Nice.

We zoomed into the city tired from a long day, and weren't up for much. Hungry, we polished off most of the reserves we had and went to sleep. We had an air conditioner, and some chairs, more than enough to fall asleep in on our longest day yet.

Life was good.

Day 15

By the time Paul got up, Ryan and Lacey had already gone to work. Yep, that's right, they left strangers at their house to wake and leave as they pleased. Lacey had started a new book for the couchsurfers that they hosted to sign and write a little note, and we were the first. How exciting, but a lot of pressure. I felt like we did a good job with it, and were ready to leave. Paul also left them a package to ship home for him with a bunch of stuff he found he didn't need (mine's coming soon Meghan).

We rode to the east side of Pensacola to get some breakfast and found an IHOP, we were pumped. We had a lovely server Debby there who hooked us up with all the potential side options that you just don't get with a rookie server. She was a master of her craft.

After leaving IHOP stuffed, and water bottles filled, we headed towards the Mobile Bay Ferry, or so we thought. After about 20 miles of riding Paul and I found it funny how residential of an area it was to have a ferry connection to Alabama. You would think there would be signs too, right? The dead end was a tipoff that something was awry , and a fellow biker notified us that we had missed our turn 6 miles back. Damn…, but considering that was the worst we had done in our travels thus far, we were okay with it. Did we have an option? The other road was just across the bay, and we considered trying to flag down some motor boats, but no, we'd be fine.

Once we corrected our path, we made the ferry that ran every hour and a half by 5 minutes. Man our timing has been good. Things just seem to work out, even when they don't (stay with me). Saying our goodbyes to Florida, we celebrated after finally making it out of our first state. Some of the folks noticed out exhaustion, and offered us some of their gatorade they had in a small room on the boat. Nice.

After leaving the ferry, onto Dauphin Island, Alabama we stopped at a restaurant and polished off a nice large pizza to ourselves. After just talking to a few waitresses, we had people printing out maps for us and offering us a ride into town from outside of the city. That southern hospitality, man it's something.

We decided to ride a bit more, starting with a nice challenging bridge into the mainland. We were going to take it easy, and stay in Forest Gump's shrimping business town of Bayou La Batre. We figured we owed him that after being part of the inspiration for the trip. Using my savvy business skills I learned at Uconn, I was able to bargain down the price of the motel a bit. Nice. After settling in, we stopped at a grocery store and bought some nice fruit, bread, and milk for that night and also to eat breakfast at the motel in the morning to save a little time and money.

A good rest was most important tonight, as we would need to cover nearly 130 miles to get into New Orleans! Yikes. We could do it. The Stanley cup finals were on; what a great way to fall asleep and mentally prepare for the task at hand.

Life was good.

Day 14

Day of rest. We got to sleep in, so naturally, I got up at 6. Ahhhh, how refreshing. The plan for the day was to grab some breakfast and hit the beach. I had some work to do, so I brought the laptop, and Ryan convinced Paul to give surfing a try, pre-Cali. Sounded good to us.

We went to a breakfast place, and got us a feast. The appetite never abates. Ryan's sister Michelle (I think) was moving at the time, so we stopped by on the way back from breakfast and helped out for a few minutes. Moving sucks, especially when you have things. I hope things have gone well for her since.

After quickly returning to Ryan and Lacey's place, we headed out back over the Pensacola bridge, in a car this time. The unfamiliar feeling of not exerting energy while traveling on a road was lovely. The windows were down and the gulf breeze blowing through was simply wonderful.

A quick pit stop to pickup Paul's rental board that we strapped to the car and we were off. When we arrived, Ryan felt it was necessary to walk a mile down the beach so Paul could get his own spot to try to surf. Lacey and I slowly followed behind as she explained how he always does this, while Paul excited to hit the waves was nearly skipping through the sand.

I stuck around for a bit while Paul tried to figure out the surfing thing on his own. It wasn't the best conditions for surfing, but he managed to have some success while I was around. I then set off to get a bit of work done on the website.

Paul worked at catching some waves after some schooling from a local 12 year old who seemed to have a much better idea of what he was doing. Apparently I missed Paul getting up a few times, but I'll let Ryan and Lacey's pictures do the talking when I see them.

After we got enough of our Pensacola beach experience, we returned to Ryan and Lacey's apartment. Lacey took a quick nap, and Ryan helped his sister finish up the moving out process. Being a huge milk fan, and hardly ever getting a chance to have some on the trip, I pretty much decimated their supply the prior night. I went to a local grocer to replenish the goods, and also picked up a little slice of heaven in the form of a pint of ice cream made by Ben and Jerry themselves called "Half Baked", for an after dinner treat.

After returning, Paul and I, hungry as always, headed down to a local pizza pub that they had suggested. We got a couple drinks and an appetizer and awaited Lacey and Ryan's arrival for dinner. The food was good, but we came a day early as they had half prices on their pizzas the following day 🙁 We were excited to get back and dig in to that bucket of deliciousness, however.

Sure enough we polished that off with no help from our gracious hosts (sorry). Belly's full (for at least an hour) we were ready to rest for a big day ahead of us with plans to make it to New Orleans in two days (210 miles).

Life was good.

Day 13

Turns out leaving peanut butter and bread on the ground in a campsite is a big nono. The bag was saturated with these damn things, and they just so happen to be the friendly red ones that like to hang on to you when you go near them. After beating my bags wtihout mercy, and chucking the bread, we were ready to roll (literally).

We were on our last day of riding before our rest day and our destination was Pensacola, Florida, where we would be staying. We stopped at starbucks to check my email and get some breakfast. Someone had responded to our couchsurfing request (another site that connects you with people who host travelers) and we would have a place to stay. Nice! Excited about our lodging luck, we headed towards Pensacola.

Fort Walton Beach was a small place we stopped to get some water, and take in the scenery. The gulf beaches are definitely the most beautiful in Florida, as advertised. We decided to continue on and get into Pensacola early enough to maybe go to the beach there.

The bridge was fun crossing into Pensacola. It was pretty long, and we zipped along it. We found Ryan and Lacey's place, our first couchsurfer host, with no problems. Ryan was home, and we chatted with him for a while about life and such. We were able to shower up, and relax as the next day would be a day of rest. Lacey is into journalismn and photography and hopes to do a sort of documentary about the homeless / poverty-stricken in the Pensacola area. Ryan is into architectural modeling and plans to create a much more realistic depiction of construction for companies in the area using computer technologies not adopted by some of the firms yet. They are both intelligent, involved young individuals who were excellent hosts. As they were our age, it was nice to be able to relate on some of the same things.

For dinner, Ryan cooked an amazing Mexican chicken dish with cous cous. Man, it hit the spot. It was very good. Paul and I each had two beers, and were about ready for bed after that. We had a nice comfortable couch and air mattress in a nice home, and we were going to check out the beach tomorrow.

Life was good.

Day 12

After rising and packing up we left the campgrounds, not yet having paid. The Ned Flanders in me turned us to the front desk to let them know that we had come in after dark and could maybe settle up. The ever so kind woman at the front made us pay the full fare (nearly). I asked if this called for a "good samaritan" discount to which she kindly obliged and knocked a whopping 10% off. We still ended up paying over $25 to put our tent down for a few hours. Either way, much cheaper than a motel, so we're still doing all right.

We left there and headed for the Florida caverns. It was about 7 miles to the caverns, and we passed the blue springs rd on the way. It would be tough to backtrack on such a long day, but well worth it to dip in the cool completely blue, drinkable springs. We arrived at the caverns within 5 minutes of a tour departure. This was helpful because we wanted to make good time because we had about 100 miles worth of biking ahead of us to reach Grayton beach state park on the beautiful gulf coast.

The caves were truly amazing. See the pictures . As an experienced spelunker, having visited caves in multiple countries (one other in Ireland a few months ago), I was impressed with some of the formations. They have a name for each little room depending on the formations, and told us cool stories about the cave diggers. It was a nice refreshing 68 degrees inside, which is constant year round.

After exiting the cave we were greeted with some bad news; the springs would not be opened for visiting until the following day. I was really upset, but for some reason Paul got over the idea of not backtracking rather quickly.

We continued heading southwest for the coast. Along the way we were chased by dogs on a few occasions, along their respective owners' yards. Dogs seem to love us passing by, but they can be a bit scary, depending on size and willingness to leave the yard. Gary Speary, on of our first hosts in Sebring, FL had to get surgery on his collarbone from a dog running out in front of him on one of his tours. I have since been riding with the mace in the front pouch ready for the pooches.

Stopping for lunch, we ate at a nice little diner in quite a "country" part of Florida. I was pretty excited to see that I could substitute corn bread for my french fries as a side with my burger. The waitress must have mistaken my saying cornbread with "fried up ball of grease". Pretty disappointing, especially when the waitress brought out Paul's gallon of fries for his side, realizing what I was missing out on. I guess cornbread is not universal for delicious, sweet bread as I once thought it was.

As we continued towards the gulf coast, the winds began to pick up from the water. The trek down to the gulf was pretty tiresome, but worth it once we arrived. The beaches on the gulf are beautiful, and it was a nice ride to the campsite. We were so tired, and enjoying the ride so much that we forgot to stop at the city (Sunnyside) where the Truman show (with Jim Carey) was shot.

Arriving at the campground nearing dusk, we were relieved to hear that although they didn't have any traditional campsites open they would stick us in this hidden part and charge us half price, since we clearly were quite tired having ridden 100+ miles. Sweet.

Complete with appetites of two men each, we showered up, and headed into the little touristy section with food and bars and stuff. It was a really cool, small town area with little shops and a few nice places to eat. In fact, one place was so nice, that although we were let in the door, once we looked at the numbers next to the dollar signs on the menu, we decided in probably wasn't for us. Pretty embarrassing, but actually quite funny.

After finding a reasonably priced establishment, we ate there and I headed to starbucks, where I was able to get online, while Paul pursued a bartender we met. Paul was working on his courting skills, while I worked on my nerd skills. So far I'm winning. Would he be successful, returning with a number… something? Yes, he was! Although the girl had just moved to the area with her boyfriend (bummer), they were willing to give us two full racks of ribs! . What a catch. These would have been nice a few hours before, when we were hungry… sadly they ended up going to waste, but a small triumph nonetheless with Paul facing his fears.

We headed back into the campgrounds in complete darkness. We could not see 5 feet ahead of us. After eventually making it into our site safely, I dozed off quickly. Being that the only barrier between us and a lake with alligators in it were some shrubs, I naturely began dreaming about alligators charging the tent. At the moment the alligator was about to reach us I received a text message, which gives a nice, loud alert. The phone was about two inches from my ear so I sprang into the air, surprising Paul a bit as he was writing in his journal. My bad dude…. We were both still alive.

Life was good.

Day 11

After spending a good portion of the morning catching up on blogging and the like, we left the Floyd's house. Realizing about a mile down the road that we never said goodbye to Bonnie, we had to turn around. We made our way back, said our goodbyes, took some pictures, and headed downtown to the bike shop since Paul and I needed to pick up a spare tire (as I'm losing the one around my waist), and pump up the ones we were rolling on. We also ended up buying some other backup materials, because you never know.

We got some Quizno's (who fortunately is piggy-backing on the $5 sub deal at Subway) with Gene, whose sub I almost forgot to pay for after he let a few strangers sleep in his house the night before. Instead of buying drinks, we asked if it would be okay to fill our bottles with water. They were fine with it and we figured out that we could just do that from now on instead of paying for water or powerade at gas stations… a big money saver. We filled up and Gene showed us where to head on our way out of town. It was already 3, and we had about 75 miles to go… yikes!

Our destination was Marianna, FL where there were caverns and a natural blue spring that was 65 degrees, emm…. how refreshing. It was a pretty uneventful ride to Marianna. We rode up near the Georgia border, and could tell because they had advertisements for peaches at all of the stores. We were making decent time, but the hills and late departure would force us to see the caverns and springs the following day.

After putting in some work to get to a gas station outside of town, we were instructed the campground would be about 6 or 7 more miles up on the right, we'd make it easily be dark. So we naturally procrastinated and stuck around for a while.

By the time we made it to the campgrounds the office was closed. We went in anyway, setup shop, and took a dip in the pool to clean our clothes a bit. We changed and went up the street to a nice little diner where the folks there helped us out on how to get to the caverns and springs the following morning.

After leaving the diner we returned to the campsite, ready for bed, and greeted by the most boisterous wildlife under the mason-dixon. I'm pretty sure everything was nocturnal that night, and had something to say. The chance of rain also forced us to use the rain cover which allows the tent to double for a nice humid oven suitable for bread-making on a summer night in Florida. While not the best sleep ever, we managed just fine, and were excited about the site-seeing the following day.

Life was good.

Sorry, but stick with me.

Sorry, its been so long.  It's been a hectic week.  Another new blogging technique will be a post a day  I have some backed now, and have just caught up on a lot of writing.  It has been very inspiring, and energizing to hear all the followers of the blog.  People seem to really enjoy it, and are anxiously awaiting our next episode.  I'd like to get a chance to respond to comments as well, but time is our biggest enemey.  It has been tough keeping up with everything.  I really appreciate all the fanfare, and know that we read each one.  They really help keep us going, and I cannot say enough, but keep on commenting. and following the blog.

It should make for a better read getting a new post a day.


Sorry, running into many issues with navigation and time.  Leaving New Orleans soon, hopefully tonight I can catch up on the past week.  Stay tuned…

Day 10

After breakfast at the Cypress Inn diner, we headed out, a little before 8.  The morning was surprisingly cool, almost cold we both said.  Not sure what the exact temperature was, but we weren't used to anything below 70 for the past few weeks  We eventually warmed up as the sun caught up, but it was quite surprising, and nice.

Paul and I had a long day ahead of us.  To pass the time, I decided that we would recite, to the best of our ability, Dumb and Dumber, from start to finish.  Boy was that fun  The miles just seemed to go as we laughed thinking about all of the great parts of the movie.  Before we knew it we had covered 45 miles, and still had some of the movie to go.

We made our first stop in Perry, one of the only towns in between Tallahassee. our destination that night, and Cross City.  We stopped at McDonalds just to get some sweet tea.  One dollar will get you unlimited sweet tea  Unlimited seems like a good thing when you're really thirsty and on a bike, but they put a lot of sugar in that SWEET tea.  About a mile down the road after McDonald's we had to stop.  The sweet tea wanted to come back out.  It took me every once of concentration to keep it down, but I was able to.  Everything is good in moderation, a lesson reinforced but the super sweet tea.

We stopped at a gas station right before leaving town to get a plastic knife to spread our peanut butter on the bread we bought the day before.  We ended up talking to one of the attendant's for about an hour about god knows what.  People are just friendly and interested in what you're doing, and willing to talk to strangers  Imagine that New England?  It ended up being a nice rest, and we headed out to cover some more miles of our long day.

We finished up dumb and dumber along the next miles, truly impressed with ourselves and our ability to follow the whole movie.  Our next stop was a small place that made their own Pecan brittle, which was apparently a big thing in the area as we saw a few very similar places.  They had free samples that were delicious, but we didn't end up buying any  We had had enough sugar for the week.  There we met people who noticed our bikes and wished us luck on our journey.  Someone said she would pray for us!  A complete stranger, how cool.  We decided we should start keeping track of how many people wish us luck, and tell us to be safe.  It's a nice feeling.

After this stop we started encountering some challenging hills for the rest of our ride into Tallahassee.  You wouldn't think it, but as one of our hosts sons mentioned, Tallahassee is considered the foothills of the Appalachian.  With only one more stop, it did not make for an easy finish to a long day  We did eventually make it in, accidentally biking down a dirt road (which our host Gene had warned us about).  The sun was still up upon our arrival.

Gene and his family were great hosts again.  2 for 2.  We were greeted outside by Gene and 2 of the 3 boys that lived at the house  They were all very nice, and interested in what we were doing.  The Floyd's are getting prepared to go on their trip starting at the end of the week, and he has a site as well.  I'll tell you that internet…. Oddly enough their trip will bring them right past my house in Connecticut, and maybe they'll get to meet my family.

The Floyds fed us well (great dinner), and allowed us to do our laundry too.  We were allowed to bring our bikes inside the house to keep them safe, while theirs remained outside.  A truly selfless act, but nothing new for Gene who has done much volunteering in the past including emergency aid throughout New Orleans and Mississippi after hurricane Katrina.

Just like the Speary's, Gene especially was interested in our trip, and spent a good amount of time helping us plan ahead, pointing out good places to go.  Finding the warmshowers list was such a blessing.  I can't imagine the trip without the two experiences we've had staying in complete strangers' houses so far.

Again Paul and I were well fed and had a nice place to sleep to prepare us for the next day.

Life was good.

Day 9

After rising up from Beverly Hills (the name of the city the rv park was in), we headed out of town to get some breakfast.  We rode for about 10 miles and got to a Dunkin Donuts where we stuffed our faces.  It was a good thing, because we wouldn't have too much ahead of us for a while.

The majority of the ride was through the woods.  This part of Florida's main industry was logging.  The trees where systematically planted in a lattice that was very cool to see as we rode by  Rows upon rows and columns upon columns of tall, thin trees seemed to go on forever.  It was a very natural, pine smelling area and was a pleasure to ride through.

We made the average stops.  We stopped at a BBQ place about 10 miles prior to our destination for the evening.  It was some pretty good southern cooking, and right along our path  We got amazing sweet tea there (man this stuff is good down here…. try it out at McDonalds).   Shortly after we headed into Cross City.

Cross city was a charming small town, everything you would expect from a country southern town.  Everyone knew everyone, and we stuck out like sore thumbs… but that's the way we like it.  After securing our motel spot we grabbed some food at a local diner  We got a good meal, and noticed they'd be open early tomorrow for our first triple digit mileage day on the road… we'd be back.

We went out to grab some ice cream after the diner, and saw some of the same folks that were in the diner at the gas station where we got our ice cream.  We got to talking with them for a while.  They were interested in us since we were outsiders, and the whole cross-country bike riding thing…, and they told us a little about what things were like down here  It was cool a cool exchange, and Paul actual got a phone number out of it, ha.

We didn't get to bed as soon as we wanted, surprise surprise, so the start wouldn't be at the break of dawn like we expected we'd need for a 102 mile day.  Either way, we were ready to give it a shot.

Life was good.

Day 8

Back on the road.  After stuffing ourselves at the motel, we hit the road.  After riding for a while, we met up with a crew of 25 or so firefighters biking  to honor 9 members that died in a fire  They had a supported motorcade, and would take up a lane.  It was pretty cool.  I have pictures.  They have a website … what a novel idea.  We traveled with them, with a nice draft, for about 5 miles.  During this, we made friends with the riders, but I did get yelled at by one of the drivers, as I started getting into the pack.  It was pretty funny.

We left them as we were on our way west, and they were going to South Carolina.  It was another day of smooth riding where we put in a lot of miles.  At our lunch stop we bought some watermelon off the back of a truck  It was good, but a little warm.

We traveled much of our day on the rails to trails Withlacoochie trail (pointed out to us by Gary and Carol).  This means its an old railroad track that is no longer in use and turned into a biking/walking path with no vehicle entrance.  It was a nice easy ride and right towards the end we came to a pasta place at a reasonable price  We filled up there, and stepped outside to a beautiful sound.  There was an 18 year old kid playing the saxophone outside of an ice cream shop.  Man he was talented.  We only had a few miles left in the day to travel, so Paul and I relaxed and listened for an hour.  We were both in awe, and a bit jealous of his musical prowess.

We left our tips, wished him luck in his career, and headed to the rv park that we would be staying in that night.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the owner, originally from Massachusetts.  She offered us free ice cream for making it the distance we had (over 90 miles)  We were very thankful, showered up, and watched the large screen tv in their clubhouse.  Paul dozed off like a little baby like he does in the clubhouse.  I woke him, and we headed back to the tent.

It was a nice cool night.  There were hardly any mosquitoes, a nice change from the everglades, and we had a good sleep that actually required a sleeping bag!

Life was good.

Day 7 (Disney)

The day started with the “contintental” breakfast at our motel.  This had to be the best continental breakfast I had ever had.  They had a belgian waffle maker!  We really filled up on that, and headed into Walt's world.

Picking up flyers on the way in, we noticed extended park hours.  How fortunate!  We were going to try to do all four parks, and go to the main stuff so Paul could get the most complete Disney experience packed into one day  But wait a minute…. why the extended hours?  Memorial day (expletive) weekend.

I have never seen Disney so crowded.  If it weren't for fast pass, we would have never made it through. A big help was later in the day when we were finishing up at Hollywood Studios (used to be MGM) and planning on heading to Epcot to end our romantic date under the fireworks.  We had fast passed Rock'n rollercoaster and waited in line at the Tower of Terror.

A pleasingly short wait at tower of Terror, a terrifying trip up and down in an abandoned elevator, and then we were off to Rock'n rollercoaster.

Our fast pass time was hours away and the wait was about 90 minutes in line.  It was a must see, so we were dedicated to it.  When we got to the front of the line, what to our wondering eyes should appear but two people who had fast pass tickets for now  They just so happened to choose us going into the standby line, and we were able to get right on with the fastpass.

After an amazing ride, we left the park, and in the vein of paying it forward, gave our fast pass tickets to a couple people entering the park in the hopes that they could use them later.

We ended up eating at Mexico (restaurant in Epcot) and watching the fireworks before heading back to our motel.  All in all we did pretty well, and saw almost all the major attractions in each park.

On the way back, we were in the tram with a high school group that was from Buffalo, NY on a senior trip.  We got to talking to the chaperone's and it turned out one knew Paul's aunt.  This of course prompted me to singing “it's a small world after all…”, to which the entire group of 48 high school students chimed in  It was cool to see people from New England.  We had a good time talking with the students about hockey and stuff, but we had to get going after a couple ambitious high school girls starting hitting on us (mostly me, not so much Paul of course).

We then waited for our bus, which ended up being an hour late and headed in the wrong direction.  We eventually got back, exhausted on our day of rest, but committed to doing big mileage the following day.  It would likely be another late start however, but at least the breakfast would be good.

Life was good.

Day 6

After eating a hearty breakfast, and awaiting Gary and Carol's return, we were ready to head north towards Kissimmee.  We looked at some final bike issues, took our pictures, inflated our tires, and headed out of their development, again with their assistance.  We said our goodbyes and were on the road, headed for Disney!

Thanks to the Ceglarski family, with a real unified effort, we were able to secure some Disney tickets at the last minute, and had them shipped to the motel that we would be staying at the following two nights.  What a great few days it would be.

It turned out to be quite a trying day, for Paul at least.  We hit some more headwinds, which are a little tougher on him because he's pretty light.  He also fell twice on the same road maybe 3 miles apart  Needless to say, he was not a happy camper.  On top of this we started hitting some challenging hills.  In Florida, hills?  They actually do have them, and they can be steep at times.

On a high note, as we were passing by some road workers, they noticed the loaded bikes, and asked “How far ya'll going?” we answered, “the Pacific”, one of the workers replied “allllrighy then”.  Just the way he said it was quite humorous, and memorable.

The remainder of the day was pretty uneventful.  We had a nice quiet ride into Kissimme, and again arrived there with plenty of daylight left, and…. you guessed it a 50,000 gallon shower.  Those are the best kind.

We got to bed at a decent hour as the following day would be a long one.  Not very restful for our first day off, but hey, who needs rest?  Paul had never been to Disney!  We thought a Sunday in May at Disney, we're all set, crowds shouldn't be too bad  We'd have to wait and see the next morning, as we would be catching the first bus in.

Life was good.

Day 5

With 60 miles to our destination, we set out early heading towards Gary and Carol's house in Sebring, FL.  We figured we'd get there decently early and be able to relax for the remainder of the day.

Again our path was pretty sparsely populated… with humans at least, but boy there were lots of orange groves.  For miles on end and as far as they eye could see, there were trees upon trees filled with oranges.  Paul and I wanted to cross the fence and pick a few (which we found out would have been punishable up to $1000), but we didn't.

Every so often a giant truck would pass through filled with oranges carrying behind it the sweet smell of fresh Florida oranges.  EMMMMM EMMMMMMM (Chappelle).  Unfortunately, as Paul and I have found, most any oranges we have been able to get in Florida were not Florida oranges oddly enough, but are shipped in from California  So should we have risked the fine?  Our bank accounts made the final decision.

Paul and I made the usual gas station refilling stops, and were making great time.  We were really starting to get good at this biking thing, and we were able to get to Sebring by mid afternoon.

Gary met us outside of his development and rode us in to where they lived.  Thank god, Paul and I would have never navigated the labyrinth they called their neighborhood.  We got to their house a few minutes later, and met his wife.

Gary and Carol were a bit odd to say the least.  JUST KIDDING!!!!!, I know they're reading so I wanted to scare them.  I cannot begin to describe how inviting, and hospitable they were, and how enjoyable our stay was at their lovely home  They fed us a delicious feast, helped us fix up our bikes which actually already needed a lot of work, and gave us pointers about things to look for in terms of bike maintenance along the tour.

We also learned a lot from them.  They had become avid cyclists in the past years and had gone on a path into Colorado, like we were planning, from their house.  They compiled a massive color-coded list of all the amenities we might need along our trip, and the path to get us there, that they gave to us  I don't know what we would have done without them.

What did they ask in return for the multitude of services they provided for us?  Pass along the good deed they did for us at a time when someone else is in need.  There are people who think this way in our country?   How refreshing!  Maybe Haley Joel Osment had something there.

In hindsight, Gary and Carol were as excited to host us as we were to stay with them.  An enjoyable time was had by all, and we all learned from one another.  Paul and I can only hope to be half as fortunate at the next house we stay at.

Gary and Carol would be going on their Saturday morning bicycle route and would return around 10 the following morning.  They wanted to see us off, so we were able to sleep in.  Life was good.

Day 4

I've decided it's lame lumping multiple days in one posts… and makes for too long of a read, ergo day-by-day posting.

Continued from the previous post…. Since we got a late start and normal breakfast places weren't open we ate breakfast at Subway (thank god for the $5 footlongs…. we've been abusing that one), and departed Everglades City.  Not a whole lot going on down in this neck of the woods, but it makes for good, safe riding.  We made our first stop at about 30 miles where the first gas station was, located in Sunniland  Fueled up quickly and hit the road.

Shortly after, Paul and I received our first rain traveling through a small town called Immockalee.  It was Florida style, torrential downpour for 5 minutes, and clear a few minutes later.  It was actually quite refreshing, and a nice way to beat the heat.

After Immockalee we only had another 20 to go to reach our destination La Belle, for the evening.  On our path to La Belle, among lots of nothing, we saw little kids and dogs playing in farmlands in between the surrounding towns.  They seemed very happy, and it was humbling to imagine what life could be like in different settings.

Once we arrived in La Belle, we found a pizza restaurant, that had about 10 different kinds of pizzas in a buffet.  We of course made the most of our money there.  La Belle is a nice, small, southern town with enough going on to satisfy all needs  We shacked up at a motel in town that had a pool.  For those who know me know that I view a pool as a perfectly good substitute for a shower.  It also doubled as a washing machine since I went in with clothes on.

Before bed, I spoke with the family that would be hosting us the following night.  We found them on a site called warmshowers, a site where hosts who are willing to put up travelers for a night plot their location on a map so that people can easily find them along their paths.  Gary, our host, was very impressed with the mileage we had been putting in at the outset of our trip, especially with no training for either of us, and was eager to meet us the following evening  We were excited as well.

We called it a night for our third day in a row in a bed (can't get used to this), and prepared for the next day.

Days 1-3

So the journey has begun…

Paul and I set out for our first loaded day expecting to do about 50 miles.  We made our first stop about 30 miles from the campground at Bahia Honda state park.  It was a very relaxing, beautiful park with some historic old bridge that we joked about riding on on the way into the park as it ran along the road we took in  Not sure what we'd do about the 30 foot gap in the middle.  As we came to a stop upon arrival, Paul had his first fall.  He cut up his leg on his gears and was bleeding a bit.  He was fine, but did ruin a pair of socks.  After that we met a fellow tourer who was quick to give us amateurs pointers, and also offered us a free place to stay for the night at the park, but we of course kindly declined.

After taking a dip in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico in our biker shorts, we headed east towards the middle of the keys.  Having taken the same road over at night on a first night getting into Key West, we were unable to appreciate the beauty of the keys.  This was not the case during the middle of the day in the blazing Florida sun on bike  Shortly after Bahia Honda, we crossed the 7-mile bridge, (which got its name from its coming second to Detroit in the setting for Eminem's movie) which was quite a site.  After the bridge and about another 20 miles we arrived at Long Key State park where we would stay that night.  The campsite was right on the water, and was very nice.  We met a group of bike tourers there, whose names we would curse in the ensuing days, but were generally helpful.  Day 1 was over, and we had traveled over 60 miles, and had beaten our goal.  Life was good.

Day 2

After rising, Paul and I headed to another state park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef state park.  This was about 35 miles from where we were, and was done in one straight shot, less a quick gas station stop.  John Pennekamp was nice as well, and we decided to do a snorkeling tour there  We saw a barracuda, and some string rays, but no sharks… damn… sorta.  We also met some nice european ladies there (they are all over since they're rich as hell now) that Paul apparently thought were attractive, I of course had no opinion.  Much to his chagrin, they weren't on our boat and we thought we'd never see them again.

We left John Pennekamp with the intention of doing two 15 mile runs that would keep us alive in the intense record-setting Florida heat.  We followed the path that two separate tourers suggested that would circumvent the dangerous construction going on on route 1.  The path would cost us ten extra miles but would be a safer ride  The folks that advised us to take this path failed to mention that there would be no shade (95+ degrees, and more on pavement) for about 30 miles.  This is the beginning of our cursing the kind touring group.

We were able to stop at a toll booth and get some refreshing cold water from one of the guys working at it.  This was a life saver as we were both pretty much out and had to travel another 15 scorching miles.  To this piont, Paul and I are pretty sure that location provides the only cold water in Florida.

We eventually made it to the mainland after this less than desirable experience.  We wanted pasta (we had already agreed on it), and a cheap place to stay with the internet.  The first place we stopped in town was a motel for $45 a night with free wireless which was next store to an Italian restaurant that just so happened to have an all-you-can-eat special on Tuesday nights for $6.25!!!!!!  We were in heaven  Things just seem to work out.  I was able to fix the tracking on the site (which still needs some work), and fall asleep way before doing stuff I wanted to do, but that was just fine.

Day 3

Day 3 began with us traveling north for 20 miles to meet up with route 41 which we would head west on.  We stopped at a gas station where we fueled up (ha) and met a handful of people who were interested in what we were doing.  We find this to be the case everywhere  There were also a couple of “needy” girls asking for monetary handouts so they could fill up their car.  After collecting about $20 from generous strangers, the girls took off without filling their tank.  Some people!

Anyway, remember the touring group whose names we would curse?  They insisted upon how lucky we were to be riding now with a nice tailwind from southeast to northwest, it would really help us out for the next week!  Man were they wrong  We were riding straight into it.  I am no Hilton Cadderly (sp?  and is he still around), but we must have been riding into 15-20 mph consistent winds.  We were not able to keep nearly the pace we had been getting used to, and had to work harder for it.

About 15 miles into the trip, I wanted to take my camera out while riding (not a good idea) to take a picture of a sign for a town with population 0008, while I was drafting Paul (you can see where this is going).  Turns out if you put your front wheel into the side of someone elses panniers and then turn you will indeed fly off the bike.  The camera and everything was intact, and I ended up with a few cuts and bruises, no biggy, I'm a bike rider.

Shortly after that we stopped at some random place with boat tours and alligator wrestling.  We weren't that interested but decided to stop anyway for maybe a drink.  As we inquired about some stuff and looked around we noticed two familiar looking faces… the Europeans from the day before!  Paul and I had joked earlier that's a lovely accent you have… New Jersey… and wouldn't you know it they were from Austria!  They were doing an American tour and for some reason decided the everglades would be a good place to go  They were heading west like us, but stayed for the fan boat tour and we left on our bikes.

We made it another 15 miles or so to ANOTHER state park, where we took a a tram tour around the park, through a piece of the everglades.  We saw tons of alligators, and one was 14 feet long.  It was a good place to spend the hot part of the day  I got bit from a horse fly, that immediately drew blood.  The bugs are no joke down here.  After about 10 different renditions of the horsefly being more of a horse than a fly joke, Paul was growing tired, and we left.

We decided to head to a campground that was another 18 miles away and would be no small task after being drained from the headwind that was still strong.  We were assured by 3 people this would be the place to stay since there wasn't much after it for a while.  I can easily confirm the second part, but it turns out the campground was closed as well  We were very hungry, and were running out of options.  We tried the visitor center, nothing…. we stopped at a truck stop… nothing…. we rode another 12 miles and saw a cop with ap ickup truck yes, he'll come to our rescue.  Nope, keep on riding fellas sorry, be safe on this road with no lights!  We got into “town” which consisted of one building and hopped a fence to get to a vending machine.  It didn't take anything but singles of which we had one.  Are you effing kidding me?  We were getting desparate.  After traveling about 25 extra miles than we intended we eventually made it to a closed gas station with two people still there.  We expressed our situation through the art of body language, through the glass and the attendant opened the door.  He was the first nice person we had met that evening and was very understanding and helpful.  We bought $25 worth of crap: two snickers, 3 gatorades, oreos, teddy grahams, chipwich, smartfood, and pop tarts.  Again heaven, and it made us appreciate the comfort of having three meals a day, among many other things, that we all take for granted in this country.  The attendant instructed us to head south 3 miles to Everglade city, oddly enough where the Austrians were staying that night, and there would be lodging there.  We got a very nice place, with wireless access that I am writing this on right now.  It is now the morning, and we will be heading north sometime soon to continue the journey.  I will keep you posted.

still haven't though of a cool signoff, any suggestions?

– Chris


Sorry, its been so long since my last post, but it's been tough finding an internet connection, and enough energy at the end of the day to take care of these things.  Nevertheless, after three full days I do have some traveling experiences I'd like to share.

Key West Arrival

After finally making the drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, and realizing the campgrounds were closed, Paul and I were in need of some lodging.  We were looking for a cheap motel and with Meghan's help realized our cheapest option would be a comfort inn @  $265 a night!  For those of you who know me well… ut uh  So we decided to make like the hippies we've become and camp on the side of the road (yes mom a safe enough distance away).  We were greeted in the morning with red ants, one of Florida's many lovely insects, that happened to like Paul quite a bit.  After that lovely experience we were ready to build our bikes and see Key West

Key West vacation day

The day consisted of us putting back together our bikes, and then a bit of minor site seeing.  We saw the southernmost point of the contiguous U.S. (pictures to come), and most of the rest of the island… it's quite small.  Neither of us were wowed by Key West, but it was nice  We headed out early to a campsite just off the island, and missed the sunset show, which is unfortunate, but hey business is business.  We made it easily enough to our campsite, set up shop, and prepared for the first day of our journey…


And so the journey begins…

Last night in CT for quite some time.  I am anxiously awaiting what lies ahead, but will surely miss those who have made the past… well month really… a special one for me.  For those of you who aren't exactly sure what the hell it is I'm doing, or why I'm doing it… I am riding my bike across/around the country this summer  As for the second part, I'll tell you when I find out.

In reality the reason is two-fold.  One I am trying to “spread the word” about the website I am working on, but I also just felt like doing it.  You can track my progress on the home page (for now) thanks to Mark Addesso, and will hopefully have a super alpha version of the site up soon enough for people to check out. It will be a continuous work in progress and I would appreciate any input people may have (good or bad) once it's up  Please write to me at suggestions@wikicommunity.org with your thoughts and I will make sure my many assistants finds time to look through it.

As a final note, to those who haven't heard yet, I acquired a free-agent fresh off the employment market in a late season blockbuster move.  Paul Yovino, a fellow UConn grad/hockey player will be joining me for the first two months of the trip.  It should make for a hell of a time, and more restful nights for my family and Meghan.

Much love to those back home… and let me know what part of the country you want to see.  Don't forget your bike!

Haven't thought of a cool tag line yet, but when I do…..

– Chris