Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Life After the Ride

Over 1 month after our trip, and you may wonder how we're doing! Well, here's the update on a few different things:

The Well

We are still blown away and incredibly blessed to know that our friends and family helped us raised above and beyond the cost of rebuilding the well in Nicaragua! Thanks again to everyone, and we pray that the well will be a huge blessing to the people of Nicaragua.

Real Life

The stagnancy of work and the complexity of "real life" was a tad bit overwhelming at first, but we are finally getting used to life out of the saddle. But our trip wasn't without effect! David and I now feel closer than ever, and we have a greater passion for the people around us. We also have quite a few new inside jokes, and a ton of stories to keep us smiling. We're so glad we did what we did when we did it. It was an awesome accomplishment but we're already looking forward to whatever adventure life has next for us.

New Muscles

While biking became easier with daily (all-day) practice, I'm afraid running became harder. My first few runs after our trip were laborious and felt like sprints. My body had become used to the slow and steady aerobic exercise of cycling, and all my stabilizing muscles had grown quite weak with disuse.

Not to mention clothes that no longer fit. Who knew my back muscles would develop so much that I would have to get a bridesmaid dress altered for my best friend Kat's wedding a week after the trip. That, and none of my jeans fit anymore due to my bulging thighs, haha.

Here are the numbers behind the changes:
  • My calves gained almost 1 inch
    • Before the trip, the right was 1/4 inch smaller than the left, and that evened out by the end
  • My quads gained almost 2 full inches in size each
  • My waist gained 1 inch, and my chest/back gained 1.5 inches
  • I gained about 10 lbs by the end, while David lost 10 and has probably lost even more since then


Of course, our dog has fully forgiven us for leaving her with her Auntie Dez for two months and we've given her enough hugs and kisses to make it up to her.

Planning Your Own Trip?
Email me at, or keep an eye out for future informational posts for prospective bicycle tourists, i.e. tips on packing, planning, training, and surviving :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Other Ocean

Portland to St. Helens, OR

We spent our time in Portland with our good friend, Abigail Tjaden. She took us out to an awesome Indian street food restaurant called Bollywood. Afterwards, she treated us to ice cream at Salt & Straw. It was a very "Portland" establishment, the kind where they name their dairy cows, experiment with flavors like lavender with honey and pear with blue cheese, and make a product that is 1% milk fat away from being butter. It was awesome!
Highway 30: Like a dream!

We spent the night in "Fort Awesome" where she lives. No joke - she lives in a house with a name, and a historical (sort of) sign to vouch for it!

The next morning was a slower start after Abby made a couple of fresh quiches for her neighbors, and even shared with us. We had an easy day out of Portland and made the most of the designated bike lanes and bridges as we left town. Our route took us by the University of Portland, where I had attended my freshman year of college. The area was also familiar to me because we followed about miles 19-24 of the Portland Marathon - something I remember all too well from running it with my friend, Kristin, in 2007. As we biked, we would remain on Highway 30 until we were nearly at the ocean. Highway 30 has an awesome shoulder, and the stretch we were on is actually part of the Seattle to Portland annual bike ride.

As we approached our destination of St. Helens, WA a strange car pulled in front of us and waved us down. It was, of course, David's parents who would be joining us for the remainder of the trip. We were so glad to see more familiar faces, and maybe a little excited to hand them our heavy bags and trailer. Over dinner I explained to everyone how St. Helens is actually the hometown of my good friend, Katee Sackhoff, who you might know as Starbuck from Battlestar Gallactica. So yeah, I was pretty stoked about that.

St. Helens to Seaside, OR

The next morning we made quick work of the 70 miles to Astoria. We felt great and were FAST on the relatively flat and wide-shouldered Highway 30. We met my dad and step-mom in Astoria, where my dad was saddled up and ready to join us for our FINAL leg of 23 miles to Seaside, OR and the Pacific Ocean. Earlier that day, a truck driver asked us where we were biking to. "The ocean," I said. When he asked where we had biked from, I couldn't help but grin. "The other ocean." Yep, the glee was finally starting to sink in!
Our final mileage was 3,060 miles

My dad kept pretty good pace with us as we took off, eager to see our journey's end. The only thing louder than his protests at how fast we were was our own bike's screams of agony. We had opted out of a pricey and lengthy repair in Portland and our bike was hurting because of it. She kept jumping gears, especially as we climbed the bigger hills, and the grinding ca-thunk of metal on metal had me shuddering every time. Towards the end I began stroking her frame and coaxing her towards the ocean. "We're so close, girl! I'll carry you if that's what it takes, but we are making it to that ocean!" Once we hit our last hill and began our fast downhill cruise into town, I knew we were golden.

The Pacific Ocean

It felt fitting to have our picture taken at the statue of Lewis and Clark gazing upon the Pacific. The statue marked their journeys end, and after following their route for so many miles, I felt a little bit of comradery with them. We were at our journey's end too. Except we had a room in a Shiloh Inn. And that inn (this is for you, Rita!) had a steam room. So yeah, maybe a little better off than good ol' Meriwether - who probably also didn't have parents to take him out for scallops and champagne.

Anyway, it felt weird, being done. Some people have likened our arrival at the Pacific Ocean to the end of Forest Gump's jog across the country, where he stops in his tracks and says "I'm pretty tired... I think I'll go home now." We had run out of country to cross, so we supposed might as well go home. And we did. Keep an eye out for a future post: "We're Done... What Now?!"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Portland to Portland

The Dalles to St. Helens, OR
September 21
67 miles (and about 19 years off my life)

The next morning at Leif and Sara's, we woke up two times. The first was to Leif's blaring early alarm clock in the living room where we slept, but the second time was a sweeter awakening. I checked my phone and saw that a new donation had been made to our cause. It's been one of my favorite parts of the trip, seeing our friends, family, and co-workers coming alongside throughout our journey  Everyone who sponsored miles not only put money towards rebuilding a clean water well for a village who needs it, but also gave us great encouragement for every pedal stroke along the way. On this particular moment, two friends of ours had donated enough money to sponsor all our remaining miles and complete our goal of $3000!

"Bike in Tunnel" button!
We were super-charged by this despite a growing sense of road weariness that had been accumulating over the past few days. Our planning for the day had found that the Historic Columbia River Highway (the route suggested by our map) was closed for a single mile stretch that would force us onto I-84 for most of the day. Having not relished our experience on the interstate the previous day, we opted for the alternate route on the Washington side of the Columbia River, Highway 14. Due to the change in route (and often un-bike friendly bridges over the river), Leif and Sara gave us a ride back into Washington.

So windy!
Our first 20 miles were windy as we faced off against a strong west wind as it funneled through the gorge along Hood River. The road, although narrower and with more turns than the Oregon side, had only light traffic all morning. Shortly after our lunch break the weekend rush became more evident as we got nearer to Portland. Around one particularly narrow corner a car behind us slowed down to wait. Always aware of the traffic around us, we whipped around the corner at 20 mph and got as far to the right as we could. After the first car passed us, the second one pulled us over.

We slowed down at the nearest pullout and waited to see what the unmarked police car wanted with us... and it wasn't good. He told us the road wasn't safe for bikes, and that it was only going to get more windy and more narrow and more steep. He asked us if we had even seen the car behind us, which of course we had, but he still didn't think we had gotten over far enough or fast enough. We agreed with him that cars have the right of way, but he didn't understand that we can't bike in a ditch and neither can we fit on a roadway on a blind corner with two cars passing us at the same time.

We made it safely to our highest point
but still had 10 more miles of treachery
I am already a healthy amount of nervous being on any road, but his "words of caution" nearly sent me over the edge. He drove off without any offer of help and I very nearly broke down in tears. We didn't even want to be on the road and if there had been any other way, we would have taken it! We still had 26 miles before we could get on a side street and off the highway, so we began pedaling like our lives depended on it. I counted down every single mile. For the most part, cars were aware of us and gave us plenty of space. David expertly guided us up and down that narrow stretch, all the while doing a fair amount of work to soothe my nerves. When we broke out of the narrow valley and into open land, the shoulder widened and I praised God for protecting us for those 26 miles (that turned out to be some of the fastest we'd ever pedaled!).

Having trouble rotating pics via Blogger...
but we made it off Highway 14 and back into Oregon!

As we happily cruised along on the glorious shoulder at day's end, I decided that putting our lives in the hands of about 300 strangers in cars each day is not my favorite way to live. We entered Portland on a bike lane over the I-205 bridge. From there, it was all designated bike lanes for us until we reached the hotel that David's parents had booked for us. It was quite the treat, and we even mustered up enough courage to venture out onto the road once more (this time on foot) to grab some Chinese food before crashing on our super plush king sized-bed. We were happy to be alive!

These miles (and then some!) were brought to you by our outrageous friends, Haydn and Sarah Roberts. Thanks for donating enough money to complete our fundraising goal and propel us to the coast and the completion of our trip!

Safe again in the Portland Shiloh -
thanks Mom and Dad Smith!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Homestretch

Clarkston, WA to the Dalles, OR
30, 70, 92, 81 miles
September 17-20

After visiting the new Resonate office in Pullman and doing even more catching up with good friends, Jordan's newly-wed wife, Rebecca, picked us up to drive us back down into Clarkston to resume our journey. We had restocked our food supplies of fruit, jerky, and trail mix at the Co-Op, so we were ready to ride with full hearts and full munitions.

We we're climbing our way out of Clarkston at 3:30pm. It was a late start for us, so we had already decided to only do 30 miles that day. It was an intense afternoon of climbing before arriving in Pomeroy. We camped at the county fairground. It turned out to be pretty nice, with a corner of grass where cyclists could camp for free with access to water, restrooms, and showers. Cattle mooed us to sleep, shrill coyotes entertained us throughout the night, and a rooster woke us in the morning.

Our goal for the next day was to arrive in Walla Walla, WA in the early afternoon in order to be able to enjoy the town and even do some wine tasting. It was another hard day of riding that reminded us of the dangerous beauty of "the Palouse": the rolling hills we love to watch go by from our car windows move much slower and are slightly less fun to see approach on the horizon when you're on a tandem bicycle pulling the weight of everything you own. We were grateful for warmer weather as well, but the afternoon heat was getting to us. But we won our battle against those hills and pulled into Walla Walla around 2pm. Our favorite wine tasting destination was called Forgeron. They were harvesting and crushing their grapes while we were there, so we got to eat a few chardonnay and merlot grapes right off the vine and drink their freshly pressed juice.

We got up early the next morning to try to beat the heat as we made our way to Crow Butte State Park, 80 miles away. This leg of our journey was truly taking us into "middle of nowhere Washington." Our morning leaving Walla Walla was cool and scenic as we sped past vineyards and orchards. We reached the Columbia River by late morning and followed it a few miles to the Oregon border. At first, we enjoyed the familiarity of the Columbia and the large sweeping views of its wide expanse. Unfortunately, the dry dirt and dead grass all around it was less than engaging and eventually wore away our excitement over the miles and miles to come.

We crossed back into Oregon at Umatilla after a nice long afternoon coffee break to cool our muscles and warm our spirits. Highway 14 in Washington was fairly shoulderless but had limited traffic. We enjoyed smelling the onion, carrot, and potato trucks go by. We were exhausted when we arrived at Crow Butte State Park, which is on an island in the Columbia. David set up his hammock and we had a restful evening. The camp host even pulled up in his golf cart to tell us camping was free for cyclists, so we pretty much love bike camping in Washington now :)

The next morning we were back on highway 14. We slowly made our way into "civilization," i.e. places with gas stations and roadside cafes. We crossed the Columbia back into Oregon on a narrow, single lane bridge at a town called Biggs. Our destination of the day was The Dalles, OR, where our friends Leif and Sarah live. We were excited to see them (and eat at my #1 favorite fast food chain, Burgerville!) but we still had a section on Interstate 84 to get through, and I was NOT looking forward to biking on the freeway.

There's something you need to understand before I write about our next 100 miles to Portland, because this makes a huge difference. The Columbia River, like most rivers, is a great route for bikers because rivers generally cut through the hills and mountains to get to their destinations in a nice and steady slope. The Columbia in particular has it's own gigantic gorge, with the Cascade mountains and all kinds of rolling hills on either side. This means its passageway is narrow and there are very few roads on either side. At times, I-84 (fast and busy) is the only way of getting through the gorge on the Oregon side and Highway 14 (narrow and windy) is the only passage on the Washington side. Neither option is great for bikes.

So anyway, we were forced onto 84 for an 11 mile stretch. The shoulder was wide and we had a rumble strip of protection but I hated the speed and sounds of the cars whipping by us. 3 times the road narrowed over a bridge and we were forced into the lane of traffic (sorry moms, I'm only writing about this at all because we made it out alive and will never bike on interstates again!). All 3 times God truly watched over us because despite the consistently  busy rush of cars, not a single car approached us while we were on the road. Thank you, Lord and thank you everyone who has been praying for us!

We moved quick though, and made it off the freeway at about 20 mph. We were rewarded with a first dinner trip to BURGERVILLE! Leif picked us up from there and took us to his home, where we hung out with him and Sarah and met their son, Liam and dog, Moose. We had such a great time catching up with them :)

So, SPOILER ALERT! I am actually typing this from Portland, OR, which means we have successfully biked from Portland to Portland! I say this because when I post about our next day, I want you to know we survived. Our day into Portland was a tad bit harrowing, to say the least, so stay tuned for the story!

These miles have been sponsored by our church family Tom and Crystal Dufresne, UI Chem-E survivor Adam and his lovely wife Kelly, a new friend Ethan Zuck, and Dr. Tommy and Nancy Thomas. Thank you, each of you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Welcome to Idaho

Missoula, MT to Lewiston, ID
September 12-16
40, 88, 40 miles

Our ride out of Missoula was a slow and steady climb, but the wind was at a dead calm and the weather was pleasant. We were in familiar country for the first time ever, on familiar highway 12 even, and the forest and riverside scenery were idyllic. We stayed at Lolo Hot Springs and warmed ourselves up in the hot pool.

The morning we left Lolo Hot Springs was cold. So very, very cold. The cafe was closed but when they saw us shivering on the front step, they let us in for some coffee. We ate our peanut butter and trail mix quesadillas and tried to warm up over our cups. We only had 7 more miles to Lolo Pass but we ran into some pretty heavy construction almost immediately. The flagger was directing cars to follow a pilot truck, which we were about to follow until she waved us to a halt and gave us a thorough warning of the dangers ahead. Apparently, we had about 5 miles of one way road with construction vehicles and lines of traffic competing to get through, all uphill and with no shoulder. Since we weren't about to take a 200 mile detour, we told her we'd be careful and as we pedaled onward, we could hear her radio ahead that some "pedal pushers" were on their way through. It sounded kinda derogatory coming from her.

One thing that flagger lady had managed to give us was the adrenaline to charge up that mountain pass like we never had before. All of the construction vehicles and pilot cars were slow moving and courteous, and we always had enough grass to move off the road when necessary. We were rewarded at the top with an extra hour as we crossed into the Pacific time zone and Idaho!

Our excitement for an entirely downhill day from that point on quickly faded as we blasted through the next 10 miles at a solid 30 mph coast in the 40 degree weather. I got cold again, and quickly. By the time we made it to the Lochsa Lodge, which we weren't even sure would be open, my lips were numb and my fingers weren't working. We stumbled through the door and I immediately peeled off my coat and shoes and curled up in their fireplace. We ordered french toast, huckleberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, sausage, eggs, toast, hot chocolate, and coffee. We stayed there at least an hour and even then I didn't want to leave because I was still shivering.

Nevertheless, we continued our downhill trek into Lowell in great time. Highway 12 is narrow and windy there, and we had a few uncomfortable moments with semis, but all in all we loved the river views despite the thick, thick smoke from nearby fires.

Lowell was a lowpoint for us which meant our next day into Winchester totalled about 4000 feet of climbing throughout the day. We finally broke out of the forest and into the rolling hills of the Palouse. It was a long, hard day of climbing. One of my favorite moments was in a grocery store in Kamiah, ID when an old man told David in his cycling outfit to "put some clothes on, boy!"

That night in Winchester our motel had a hot tub and a BBQ, so we took full advantage of both! We bought two thick 12 oz steaks from the butcher as he cut the meat right in front of us, then grilled them up and downed one each.

The next morning we had another great start to the day with the biggest plate of biscuits and gravy we've seen yet and something called "The Whole Hog." And yep, David ate the whole thing.

This day's biking would benefit from all our climbing the day before. We cruised down almost 40 miles to meet our friend Jordan in Lewiston. He gave us a ride up to Moscow/Pullman, where David and I went to school. We got to hang out at his place, make peach cobbler, see all our friends, and eat out at a few favorite places. It was a wonderful rest and such a great encouragement!

Our time in Idaho was sponsored by our biggest fans Josh and Amy Martin, our friends and purveyors of green chile Nathan and Tracy McCranie, and my grandma Nancy! Thank you all for your support in getting us this far.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moves Like Meriwether

Augusta, MT to Missoula, MT
September 9-11
56, 58, and 82 miles

We're following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark! We've been stocking up on every brochure, map, and roadside sign we can. Who knew history could be so interesting when you're out living it? Sure, we have paved roads and modern ammenities, but seeing the same wilderness and wildlife as a historical expedition of over 200 years ago, now that's pretty cool!

We actually crossed Lolo Pass on the EXACT SAME DAY as Lewis and Clark, 207 years later. We expected there to be some kind of parade, but I guess 207 years isn't as significant to anyone else as it was to us.

We joined the Lewis and Clark Route in Great Falls and into Augusta. From there, we had another short day of under 60 miles, but we knew we'd be crossing the Continental Divide. We prepared with a giant breakfast at a diner.

We sat across from the cutest little old lady who turned out to be a long haul truck drive. She told us all about driving the ice roads to Alaska in '76 and how you couldn't go faster than 15 mph or you'd risk creating a wave under the thin ice. When I told her about our trip, she just looked at me and said, "Aren't we just blessed?" I wasn't sure what she meant until she continued after a moment of contemplation. "Just think of the things we get to see. I've been to every state, visited every city, and driven every road in this country. I've seen it all, and all of it is fantastic!" Yes, we are very blessed indeed.

Once we hit the road, we finally saw the Rockies revealed from the previous day's smoke from a few nearby fires. We took a thousand pictures, and then the deer and antelope came out, so we took a few more pictures. We saw something moving against a hillside a few hundred yards off but neither of us could make it out. It didn't bounce like the deer or trot like the coyotes, but instead it moved so fluidly I thought it might be a low flying eagle. When it finally crested the hill, David and I decided it must have been a mountain lion, and since that is the exact distance at which I have always wanted to see a mountain lion, I was happy with our decision.

As we pressed onward and upward, the terrain turned more mountainous. And unfortunately, we had another force beside gravity working against us. It turns out that when the weather service issues a red flag warning for wind in your area, and that wind happens too be heading in the exact opposite direction as you (no matter which way you turn), then consider yourself, well... warned. Both Monday and Tuesday were miserably windy for us, from Augusta to Missoula.

We trudged our way slow and steady to the top and celebrated with a tuna fish picnic and short nap in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind. Even going downhill, we couldn't pick up speed into the wind. When we finally arrived in Lincoln, we stayed inside most of the evening. We stayed in a motel that had a bunkhouse just for bikers and hikers, so it was perfect for us.

We started the next morning with another huge breakfast. We got to swap stories with some mountain bikers doing a 2 month trip down the Great Divide Trail. When we finally left, the wind was bad. So, so bad. And cold. I hardly want to talk about the 82 miles until Missoula, but by the strength of God we kept pedaling.

We got into Missoula and biked immediately to the headquarters of the comany that makes our maps. They took our picture and put it on the wall with the hundred of other cyclist who have passed through their office this year. They gave us a tour, free ice cream, and internet access.

We were staying in a hostel that night and were greatly looking forward to having a kitchen. We spent our whole night shopping and making pasta with bechamel sauce, broccoli, and chicken. I even made a blackberry pie, which I flipped upside-down onto the bottom of the oven when I was taking it out. Le sigh.
Our next morning we had a half day so we slept in (until 7:30am), drank coffee, made a quiche, and ran errands. By noon we were ready for an easy 40 my uphill climb to Lolo Pass.

These adventures across Montana have been sponsored by an old friend and a new friend, Laura and Richard Burke, our friends in Denver Travis and Jill, and my friend from high school Melissa Reseck and her husband Danny. Thanks to you all, dear friends!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Times, Great Falls, MT

Havre, MT to Augusta, MT
Friday, 9/6 -9/9
117 and 57 miles

No, my advertising genius did not come up with the title of this post. It is the ACTUAL town slogan of Great Falls, MT. And believe me, if we had a dollar for every overly-cheesy phrase we've seen etched into a town's welcome sign, well, let's just say we might be able to finally afford enough Chinese food to kill this crazy craving we've had all trip.

So we departed Havre, MT (slogan: "Havre: It's the People!") shortly before 8 am with our sights set on reaching Great Falls that evening. We were off-route and our best bet of getting back on the trail was getting on Highway 87, buckling down, and cranking out the 115 miles all in one day. As an added incentive, David's sister Stacie had volunteered to make the 3 hour drive from Bozeman to meet us for the night. We had plenty of motivation and lots of rest, unfortunately a mild but persistent headwind on top of a very steady uphill climb were not going to make things easy for us.

Nevertheless, we made hourly goals (ok, ok, those of you who know us at all can guess that it was mostly me making the goals) and seemed to be making good progress. When we checked in with 70 miles by 2pm (what may be a new record), it finally dawned on us how much stronger of cyclists we finally are. With 70 miles already under our belts, we still felt great and knew we could push out another 45 easily despite the less-than-ideal circumstances. We were pumped!

Our final hurdle was an empty water supply around mile 75 with only a tiny blip of a town on our map in the next 40 miles. Experience has taught us that tiny towns are wildcards, with fluctuating populations and transient businesses that can very easily fall into ghost-town status. We neared the edge of Carter, MT with high hopes of a water spiget and a restroom but we didn't let ourselves get too excited at the sight of a bar until we confirmed that it was in fact OPEN!

With pro-gun paraphenalia plastered on the walls and country music blaring, we sat at the bar and drank a Rainier, then ordered warm blackberry rhubarb pie with ice cream and washed it down with lemonade in a mason jar. Longmire would have been proud! And so would Katee Sackhoff, a good friend of mine who happens to star in that show :)

We were 100% rejuvenated and despite overall fatigue, we still made it to our motel in Great Falls by 6. Stacie brought her rat terrier, Dori, and a few Montana gifts for us as well! Huckleberry taffy and gummy bears and two local brews to try. It was the perfect Montana welcome.

Our must-see tourist stop of the night was the Sip 'N Dip, a post-WWII era tiki bar that probably hasn't seen many updates since. The main attraction is a large tank behind the bar where a woman dressed as a mermaid swims back and forth, waving to the customers. Yes, seriously. She even has a hoop that she can swim through. You might not believe this, but it was actually quite awkward and a tad bit overrated, but you can check out the pics below to decide for yourself.

The next morning was a trip to the largest Farmer's Market we've ever seen besides Pike Place, which was quite impressive for Montana. We bought Flathead Cherries and (spoiler alert!) scored some pretty sweet gifts for Dez and Rita, so look forward to those, ladies!

We took Dori to see the Giant Springs and not-so-great-falls. We are now officially on the Lewis and Clark Trail, so it was the beginning of being able to read up on their notes as they passed through the same places we are, including the Giant Springs. Who knew history could be interesting!

We had to say goodbye to Stacie and Dori (one of them has some studying to do), and we spent the rest of our day watching a local-access televised lecture about Thomas Jefferson and none other than Lewis and Clark - so interesting! And yes, then we watched more Big Bang Theory reruns.

Today we continued our gradual climb towards the Rockies. There are a number of small fires in the mountains here so we are sadly unable to see much to the west besides a thin veil of haze, but we know we're close. We are staying the night in a dorm-style bunk house used mainly by hunters and firemen, but it suits our needs and the price is right. The last pic is of David on our balcony overlooking "downtown" Augusta, MT, where he fried me a steak and even made garlic mashed potatoes.

Tomorrow we cross the Continental Divide for the third time in our lives. We'll end up in Lincoln, MT at another bunkhouse before coasting our way into Missoula the next day.

In Montana, we've seen more horses than people, we've mostly been passed by cars with dogs riding shot gun, and in the newspaper we found a quote by the governor using a hunting analogy to express his distrust of Mitt Romney. Never change, Montana, never change!

Our lovely sponsors of this section of the trip are our friend from Resonate and fellow cycling tourist, Erika Ottenbreit; our church friends and David's comrades in music, Nathan and Amy Yost and their family; and David's co-workers Scott and Carla Gustafson, who are some of our best followers and encouragers :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How the West Was Won

Fargo felt like the West finally. After weeks in the East, New England, Canada, and the Midwest, it was a good feeling. For the first time we began to see a few things that reminded us of familiar places, like a Moxie Java, Pita Pit, a Seattle coffee house, and Walla Walla onions.

There is an elderly population of people who are so sweet, you mistake them for your own grandparents, and it gets you a bit nostalgic for home when the woman behind the counter adds an extra dollop of whipped cream to your pie, just for you. The younger population is also extremely welcoming and polite, not to mention incredibly proud of their hometown. We received numerous greetings and kind offers of help throughout our brief stay in Fargo.

It was a leisurely stay of sipping coffee, eating Pad Thai with NDSU students (Go Bisons!), wandering in parks and of course, catching up on errands. We even watched the NFL opening game while eating 10 different flavors of $0.25 wings and caught a flick at the Indie Theater, "The Fargo."

But of course, the answer to my original statement: How the West Was Won... For us, this time at least, the West will be won not by pedal, but by train. That's right, in Fargo, ND we boarded a 694 mile shortcut across North Dakota that will take us into Havre, MT this afternoon.

Cheating? Maybe. But a few weeks ago David and I had a decision to make. Our original goal of 80-100 miles a day was making us miserable, but so was the prospect of slowing down and being away from home and work for an extra 2 weeks beyond the 8 we had originally scheduled. We were killing ourselves on the bike to stay on schedule, meanwhile bypassing every unique place and quaint town we passed through. One particularly dark 100-mile day, David and I seperately began making unspoken plans on how to get to the nearest airport. This wasn't a vacation for us and it wasn't fun, and what would be the point of crossing the entire country by bike if we were going to loathe each passing moment more and more?

And so, somewhere in Ontario, we hatched a plan to skip what we had heard from other tourers was the worst part of the trip: North Dakota. Our plan would save us 600-700 miles and about 8 days cycling - just enough to let us reduce our daily miles to 70 instead of 85, giving us even more time to enjoy the wonderful country we are attempting to cross.

Besides, how were we supposed to know we were crossing the U.S. at the longest spot possible? Haha.

Anyway, our original goal and the amount we had pledged to bike to raise money for the well repair is 3000, and that is how long our new route will be, so no worries there!

Unfortunately, Amtrak wasn't so pleased with our tandem and trailer but David was able to spend an afternoon boxing our bike up (again) and we had everything ready to go for our 3:30am departure, the only one of the day. Allow me a quick note on God's blessing on this trip, because as of THIS COMING MONDAY, tandem bicycles will be completely prohibited on Amtrak trains - what amazing timing is that?! Anyway, we skipped the cost of a motel for the night and slept in the station and on the train as best as we could, but we're still glad not to be biking today once we arrive in Montana at 3pm. We'll need the afternoon to reassemble our bike and gear and stock up on a few supplies. Plus time to do exactly what we hoped to achieve with this shortcut: enjoy towns like Havre, MT!

Next stop is Great Falls, MT after a 110 mile day (possibbly a new record for us) where we hope to meet up with David's sister, Stacie, and our dog-niece Dori :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Many Miles in Minnesota

Finally in Fargo, ND! Which, if you're keeping track, mean we CROSSED MINNESOTA IN 72 HOURS. Which I'm pretty stoked about. Here's how it happened:

We left the barn in full spirits and with full munitions. Our friends Evan and Wren left behind us, but we had all agreed to meet up in Bowlus at Jordie's Trailside Cafe after about 63 miles to chat about whether we wanted to stay the night there or catch the paved trail and press on another 35 miles. I was leaning towards the more leisurely option, but instead we had one of our fastest mornings ever, despite only an 8am start, and wound up in Bowlus at 1pm. 30 miles by 9am and 60 miles by 1pm are sort of daily goals for us, and to have beaten one so easily really threw us off.

Snacks on the trail

So we shared a meal with Wren and Evan and decided it would be a waste of such a good start to quit so soon. We jumped on the Lake Wobegon trail, our 100 mile bike-highway-piece-of-heaven and cruised through an easy 39 miles! The trail was flat, so scenic, and all ours! Safe from cars, David and I each plugged into some good music and cranked out a 16 mph average for the day - our fastest yet!

We camped that night and slept extremely well after 102 miles.

Rice Krispie Snatching Dog!

The next morning we were excited for another 67 miles of trail. I pushed hard and we got up to an almost 17 mph average. Once more, we had the option to camp there or go another 40 miles to the next campground, and since we had already done 70 miles by 1pm - another new record, we followed Wren and Evan's lead and decided to make it a long day so we'd be set up with an easy 25 miles into Fargo the next morning. We ended the day exhausted and wobbly, but the 107 on our odometer registered as our longest ride ever.

We camped in Barnesville that night and made friends with a wandering stray dog. It felt nice to have a dog hanging out since we miss our dog Latah so much, but when it started to hail I got worried for it. I called the non-emergency police number as I invited to the dog into the vestibule of our tent (the front area you can see in the pic). The woman on the phone was just telling me she would send someone right over when I began screaming inchorently because the dog had just grabbed my rice krispie treat and was bolting down the road. While chasing after it, I assured her I was alright and that I'd hang around to wait for the officer to come. Unfortunately, the rice krispie was gone forever and the cop refused to take the dog in for questioning, so he got off the hook a little too easily.

Our friends, Wren and Evan! They're gonna be famous some day :)

The next morning we did the final 25 miles into North Dakota and we've been hanging out in Fargo ever since. We've gone to 3 different bakeries already, one of which I've noted in my journal as the best pie we've tasted across the country. Mostly, we've been running errands and getting our bike tuned up and ready for another 1,000 miles.

We've loved having Wren and Evan to pedal and camp with, but we're parting ways in Fargo, sadly.

Hopefully, my next post will have a few more pics from Fargo, but until then, here's an article (
) about us and an awesome pic of some horses we saw on the trail!

We'd like to thanks David's boss Jim Friar, our high school friend Ryan Hayes, fellow Merrick employee,David Munger and his wife Marta, and David's wonderful Grams, Ruth Smith, for sponsoring the miles that got us here! We're at about 2,000 miles and $2,000 sponsored, so we're still looking for people to help get us home!

Our next mail stop will be Saturday, September 16th at the following address:

David and Leanne Smith
C/O Jordan Nelson
313 S Main St, Apt 332
Moscow, ID 83843

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cyclist Heaven!

So when I left off our story, we were wearily dragging ourselves into a rest day in St Croix Falls, WI. After a great local meal, a walk on the river, comfy theater seats for the Bourne Legacy and a cheap hotel room (never mind the AC unit froze over), our spirits were lifted and we were ready to cross into Minnesota.

It was Saturday of Labor Day weekend and we had a 70 mile day ahead of us into Dalbo, MN. We had been looking forward to this stop in particular because a fellow tourer we crossed paths with in Michigan told us there was a barn set up for tourers to stay in, and that there was even some food there. We were intrigued by the concept of cyclist-only lodging but we didn't let ourselves get our hopes up. We had a quick day and pulled into the barn shortly after 2pm. It looked nice on the outside, and since the side was opened up, we let ourselves in. And I was blown away.

We were amazed to see couches, beds, a tv, and table and chairs set out for us, but what caught my eye was the food. Drawers of snacks, a freezer of ice cream and frozen pizza, a fridge full of every refreshing (non-alcoholic) beverage you crave on a hot day of riding. And yes, Mike, CEREAL! I ate 3 boxes right away while David checked out the rest of the facility. There was a pine shower and outhouse side by side that were cleaner than most of the public restrooms we see, and farm land all around us. All of this, just for cyclists, on a donation-only basis. We were in love!

Donn, the owner, came out with his wife to great us with huge baskets of fresh picked apples and tomatoes. Donn then proceeded to pull out his maps and show us a short cut to Fargo... ON 100 MILES OF PAVED TRAIL - an absolute utopia for cyclists! He told us we were the 137th cyclists to stay that summer. After so long on an alternate route through the great lakes, it was wonderful to be back on the main trail and get to read the guest book entries of 135 people just as crazy as us, and see their pictures all over the walls of the barn!

The icing on the cake though was arriving at the barn to find our friends Wren and Evan, who we met in Vermont and are biking across the country too. We had camped with them in New York and continually crossed paths with them until the ferry across Lake Michigan one week previously, which was the last time we saw them. Another cyclist, Kyle, showed up too. He was heading East and could only stay for a few hours before pressing on in an attempt to catch up with someone else. All the same, it was so much fun to share battle stories (i.e. wipeouts, sketchy campgrounds, weather, roadkill, alternate routes, etc), but it was also nice to have someone other than David to talk to :)

Oh, and the crazy part to me is that Donn isn't even a cyclist! 7 years ago he saw two bikers walking through sand to get around a detour and he offered them a place to stay. When they told him he lived on a major cross country biking route, he called the map makers and told them he was a "biker-friendly farmer," and he's never been able to say no since! He calls the barn his hobby, and he seems to take great joy in providing what comforts he can to cyclists. A truly remarkable example of selfless servanthood in action!
I had planned on adding more about the next day, but I think Donn Olstead Farm deserves a post all to itself. Check out the blog tomorrow to read about THE CONTINUATION OF MY BEST DAY EVER! A.K.A. Biking is fun again :)

The miles that brought us here were sponsored by David's coworker, Steve Meyers and his wife Galyn, our friends/co-cyclists/family in Christ, Duane and LeAnne Parsons, and our amazing BFFs Connor and Kristin Wittman!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ups and Downs

David asked that I title these last few days in Wisconsin, "Ups and Downs." It seemed approriate to me, given the the highs and lows we've experienced lately, so there you go.

Believe it or not, we spent our first 5 days in Wisconsin trying to find milk that wasn't from Texas or Minnesota. This is extremely frustrating when you are biking through America's Dairyland and constantly breathing in the smell of cows. So on Wednesday when we biked passed a roadside sign for a creamery and bakery, we took a chance. We wound up at Farmstead Creamery and Cafe. I knew we had found a small piece of heaven when we walked in to see a plate of fresh-baked blueberry muffins being put on the counter. They had such an impressive selection of local dairy goods that we had trouble narrowing down our choice to a large glass bottle of chocolate milk. We were excited to find the milk was non-homogenized, because it was a new experience for us and we kinda liked the floating bits of extra cream :) David had coffee with his blueberry muffin and I picked out the most amazing looking loaf of bread I have ever seen to bring with us for our PB&J power snacks. I couldn't say no to their strawberry rhubarb jam and fresh-picked carrots, and they even enticed me with a fresh chocolate chip cookie as we were leaving. Overall, it was exactly what we had been looking for and exactly what we needed to prepare us for what lay ahead!

A few miles later we came across a road closed sign, and of course we assumed it couldn't apply to us, so we biked the extra few miles to find the road completely torn away. A bit dismayed that we'd have to return over the hilly terrain we had just conquered, we found an alternate route around the lakes that brightened our outlook. Just when it looked like we had made it through the wilderness, I thought to myself how I wished I had taken a picture of the road closure sign for the blog. And that's when we happened upon our second road closure sign of the day (great photo op, not so great for morale). Another few miles out of our way (all hills, of course,) and we were redirected to a major highway, where we were forced to bike for 9 miles in 90+ degree heat with no shade and plenty of fast moving cars - oh joy. Once we were back on our map, the heat and the hills seemed intensified by our poor spirits and we barely made it to our campsite in Birchwood, WI. We've biked 1,660 miles and are exactly 4 weeks in. We're tired of camping and believe it or not, our tent actually smells like cows. We miss our dog like crazy. We're exhausted and my quads are perpetually sore and some days I get bored of getting back on the bike. When David and I eat out together, we spend most of our meal on our cell phone ignoring each other and I feel like I need to expalin to everyone how we spend every waking moment together. I also feel I should do some explaining when the waitress offers me a box halfway through a callzone the size of my head and I turn her down and then go on to order a triple-icecream-scooped fry bread dessert with caramel and chocolate. But I don't, haha.

Anyway, we are immensely looking forward to getting back to the West and getting to see our friends and family in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
And then getting back to New Mexico!


Hopefully this post doesn't seem too discouraging to you. As I publish this, it is now 3 days later and things are looking way, way up for us. From this post on, we're due for a rest day in St. Croix, WI, and then on into Minnesota, where something truly magical awaits us :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Wisconsin Wanderings

<p>We're officially halfway done! (For those of you wondering how we can be halfway done but still in Wisconsin: Don't worry, it will make sense soon.) We clocked 1,500 miles today and I have a picture as proof!</p>
<p>But it wasn't an uneventful journey to 1,500, worry not. Somewhere back in Michigan, we ran into a fellow tourer headed in the opposite direction who gave us some invauable tips about the road ahead. One thing he mentioned was a Wisconsin town called Boulder Junction. Unfortunaely, neither David nor I could remember what exactly he had said about it, but we made plans to spend some time there nevertheless. We passed through Eagle River (the hockey capitol of Wisconsin as well as the snowmobiling capitol of the world) on our way into Boulder Junction and arrived around 2pm. The town was small but cute, and seemed to be set up for outdoors enthusaists.

We had a late lunch and drink at the Boulder Beer Bar and then checked out the sporting goods store. I got bored fast and stepped outside only to be distracted by a buillding with a sign that read "bakery." I have barely missed a chance to buy a brownie, cookie, or cinnamon roll since we began this trip, so I walked on over to the Dancing Bear Coffee Shop and Bakery. David and and I split a nutty mocha, 2 donut holes, and 2 pie crust twists. We found a deer-shaped cribbage board and played a full game (I outpegged David in the final hand).

While sipping, munching, and cribagging, Carolyn from the Dancing Bear introduced herself and had a seat right next to us. She had a few questions about our trip, and she repaid our answers handsomely with 2 fantastic oatmeal and M&M cookies - on the house! She also gave us the info of two of her friends who live in Los Alamos, of all places, so we're looking forward to tracking them down.

That evening, we enjoyed a hotel, more cheese, a real bed, a shower WITHOUT a toad in it, and tv reruns. This is much less exciting to read about than it was for us to experience, because it was all probably one of the greatest things we've ever done.

Oh, and yes, there was a toad in the shower at our last campground. And I still took my shower, thank you very much.

So Boulder Junction was yesterday, and now we're all set up in a campground in Chequamegon National Forest. As I'm writing this David is sitting next to me on our private dock on Day Lake, near the town of Clam Lake, WI. He is udating our written journal, which we'll let people read when we get back. It has all of David's perspectives, plus a few more technical details like miles completed, average speed, and weather. Anyway, he's writing about today as the sun sets on the empty lake and he just said to me, "nothing interesting happened today, did it?" And when I think about it, I realize he's right. So here's my update for today:

We pedaled. A lot. And ate. A lot. And now we're camping.

Our plans for the next few nights include Birchwood, Amery, St. Croix Falls, and then into Dalbo, Minnesota! The fall colors are already starting to make their way out and we're looking forward to enjoying those along the way.

Our special thanks to the sponsors who got us here today! My Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom who literally went the extra mile by biking alongside us in New York, our high school friends Gavin, Ryann, and their baby girl Rylee Shnieder, and Adam Neill from Merrick (and his dogs!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Squeaky Cheese and Fresh Legs (a.k.a. We <3 Wisconsin)

When I last wrote, we had just biked a half day into Luddington and were about to enjoy a full day of rest. The next morning, we boarded the S.S. Badger for a 5 hour crossing of 60 miles across Lake Michigan. By the time we docked, we had 48 hours of rest in our legs, giving us just enough of an itch to ride to convince us to decide to take on the 45 mile trek to the nearest campsite despite our late start.

Wow, what a difference rest can make! We cranked out the first 45 in no time, conquering a slight uphill grade with a 15.5 mph average without a second thought! I kept checking to make sure our trailer was still attached, because I couldn't believe we were going that fast (about 3-5 mph faster than usual). We opted to skip our first camping option and easily made it an extra 11 miles to another with time for a dip in the swimming pool before dinner.

Oh, and everywhere smells like cows :) I like to imagine their moos are how they cheer "goooooo!" to us, lol.

Saturday was another solid day, and with an early start we were able to get in 85 miles. I actually kept a food photo journal of the day which I hope to make into a separate post on how much we eat. One highlight was finally finding cheese curds at a Farmer's Market in Shawano! Growing up, my family would visit Tillamook and we LOVED eating "squeaky cheese." Cheese curds are only good fresh from the dairy, and ours were from cows milked late the previous night. The cheese is delicious and it makes a satisfying squeak on your teeth, which is kinda fun.

I also bought an amazing $3 pie from girls wearing bonnets and dresses. We see them all over, crossing paths with us in their horse and buggies or on their farms where their barefoot children wave enthusiastically at us. Are they Amish? I've never seen them in the West, so I'm a little naive but they make great pies!

We crossed with another unique culture group when we arrived at our campground. Our first warning might have been the directions to the "camp office and bar." Our second could have been the rows and rows of motorcycles parked out front. We parked our bike alongside all the other "bikes" and waded into the bar. Turns out a group of 80 motorcycles was doing a tour of Wisconsin for charity, and we had stumbled into their second to last stop of the day. After about 20 minutes of pushing our way to the bar, meanwhile mingling with a few fellow "bikers" (don't forget we're wearing spandex shorts and helmets here), we caught the attention of a bar tender and she gave us quick instructions to our camp site, with a warning that there was a wedding reception going on nearby too.

And now here we are, in our tent, showered, fed, and ready for bed by 9, listening to Katy Perry and Sir Mixalot while drunk bar patrons make their way to their trucks/golf carts/atv's (seriously, David helped a man up off the ground who then got in his truck and drove away... at 7pm). We also overheard a 12 year old boy and girl compare guns and hunting stories. Oh Wisconsin! Well, we wouldn't change a thing, cuz when you can't bike another mile more, you take what you can get!

Anyway, the chicken dance is on and I think it might make a good lullaby :)


It's morning now and we got hit by a pretty persistent rain late last night. We're sheltering in the bar, eating breakfast and drinking oj with half the local populace it seems. Somehow, they already know us as the two crazy kids who biked here (on the wrong kind of bikes) cuz they keep asking us what we'll do about the rain, lol. Well, it appears to have let up a little so we should be on the road soon!

Oh, but I almost forgot to thank our sponsors. We owe our gratitude to Joyce Jones, Doug Eisenbrandt, Matthew and April Young and family, and Michele Winkels and Ted Miller for our last few miles in Michigan and our most recent adventures in Wisconsin. Thanks again for sponsoring miles and supporting our efforts to provide clean water to those who need it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Musings from Michigan

We are officially 21 days and 1,121 miles into our trip! Today is our SECOND rest day, even though we should be on our third by now. We have officially decided to tone down our pace though, so things should be getting even more enjoyable soon. We have also been camping 7 out of the last 8 days, so David has promised me a few more hotels soon too. In reality, most of the campsites we have stayed at are cheaper and better located than hotels, plus they've mostly had showers, so I'm quite content.  Not having to set up camp a few nights would certainly be welcome rest, though.

We see at least one group of fellow cross country tourers each day, typically retired age and either solo men or groups of 2-3, especially if there are women. Our friends from New Hampshire who we camped with a few nights early on were the only people our age we've seen. I guess not many people working for a living can convince their boss to let them leave for 2 months and still come back, so thank you employers! Anyway, these other cyclists often have all kinds of good information on the route to come, including a barn outfitted with bunks and food for cyclists and a city park you can camp in and get $2 off breakfast in the nearby cafe the next morning!

Another thing we've noticed is that when all you wear is spandex and you ride around on a fully-loaded tandem with a trailer, you get odd looks when you pull into Le Roy, population 300 and buy your body weight in jerky, breakfast sandwiches, poptarts, and carrots. Inevitably, people will ask questions, and when they do, here's how the conversation goes:

Stranger: "Where are you biking from?"
David: "Just past Pultneyville this morning, and we're headed to Wallaceburg tonight."
Stranger: "I've never heard of either of those places..."
Leanne: "Basically, we started in Portland, Maine and we're headed to Portland, Oregon."
Stranger: "Wow, that's far! Don't most people go the opposite direction?"
Leanne: "Well, we're from Washington so we wanted to finish back at home."
Stranger: "But your jersey says New York..."
Leanne: "Yes, my aunt and uncle gave them to us, and they're from New York."
Stranger: "They're from New York, but your from Washington? So why does his jersey say New Mexico?"
David: "We live in New Mexico."
Stranger: "You're from Washington, but you're living in New Mexico, so how did you end up in Maine?!"

And on and on it goes :)

All in all, the trip has been great, the sights and people have been entertaining, our destinations delightful, and the weather has been phenomonal (knock on wood, because apparently we keep missing heat waves and downpours left and right!).

So no, Duane, we haven't needed rain pants :)

Today we have enjoyed a slow-paced morning at Ludington State Park. Our plans for the rest of the day include body surfing on Lake Michigan, attempting to smooth over some of our more horrendous tan lines, and checking out some local breweries and cafes. Loving it! The miles that brought us to this mini vacation were sponsored by David's parents, Richard and Karen Smith (who we are STOKED to be meeting in Walla Walla for wine tasting and a sag wagon to the finish line!), his grandparents, Alan and Connie Creighton, and his co-worker, Johnny A! Thanks to all of you for getting us this far! P.S. We just checked into our hotel for the night only to be told by the front desk worker that they "don't allow trailers, and certainly not bikes" into their dingy, $60 a night rooms (pic below). Ummm, excuse me? Those two things are essentially my life right now, and I don't appreciate having their feelings hurt! I'm a little peeved, to say the least. Oh well, at least we were able to stuff all our possessions into a garbage sack for the night :(