Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pedaling across America: July 2007

Home Sweet Home—for Three Days

(July 2, 2007)


I have done better than expected since last updating my blog. I decided to push myself to get past the soreness of the first week and did 537 miles (not counting ten in back of a red pickup truck in West Virginia) in my second week on the road.

For the record that makes just over 1,000 miles traveled.

People have been universally friendly, discounting one or two morons who yell, “Get off the road, asshole,” somehow convincing themselves they have someplace important to go and something important to say to spice up their brain-dead existences.

After stopping to write at the library in Pulaski, Virginia, I decided to push into the mountains, although a local man warned I faced “twenty miles of nothing” ahead. Pedaling out of town, I happened to see an African American woman watering her flowers. I asked to fill my water bottles to be safe and was rewarded by the kindness of Mrs. Angie Conners, who could not have been more considerate. After talking about where I was headed and where I had come from, and plans to raise money for diabetes, she noted that she and her husband, Willis, a retired army man, were type-2 diabetics themselves.

Then she insisted on providing ice, hustled up the walk and into her house, and came back moments later with a large chunk protected in plastic zip-lock bags. I thanked her and she said she’d pray for my safety.

“May the blood of Jesus protect you through your journey,” she called after me as I pedaled away.

In the next two hours I was happy to have ice, sipping the melt water when I hit hard spots and sticking the bag on my neck to cool down as necessary. Around 7:00 p.m. I ran into three local riders who cautioned me I would be headed up Little Walker Mountain soon and Big Walker Mountain right afterwards. The first was two miles up, with several switchbacks and the second three miles up and steeper.

I climbed over Little Walker with relative ease, then decided to camp on a stream in the valley between the two mountains. “Showering” consisted of jumping in the creek, where two deer had been drinking moments before.

The next day (6-27) I had to go over Big Walker first thing in the morning and it took an hour to climb to the top. Much of the remainder of the day was spent heading down the South Holston River Valley, a beautiful stretch, and then climbing two tough mountains in succession to reach Tazewell, Virginia. Near the top of the second an elderly woman driving a black Ford Ranger offered a lift. I explained I was determined to pedal cross country. So she cackled a bit, revealing a few battered teeth, and went on up the mountain. An hour later, entering Tazewell, I happened to pass her house. From the front porch she shouted cheerfully, “Glad to see you made it!”


Earlier, near Bland, Virginia, I crossed paths with a young man hiking the Appalachian Trail. I asked how he got interested, and he said a college buddy convinced him to go and keep him company. I smiled, looked in both directions, and threw my arms wide, palms up, as if to ask, “Where is your friend?”

The bearded hiker laughed, “That's a story in itself.”

He said they flew to Atlanta from their home in Maine and headed out for the trail. After one week his friend couldn’t do it anymore and quit. So he had been hiking alone for the last forty days. He hoped to finish the trail from start to finish during the summer and fall; and if not he will go home for the winter and complete the journey next year. I told him I thought it sounded like a great adventure. He said the same about my plan to bicycle all the way to Oregon.

As I have admitted, however, if I hadn’t told students I was going to make this trip I might not have lasted through the first week.

The morning of 6-28 was spent in a laundromat, talking to an old fellow, whose history reflects the changing fortunes of America’s workers. As a boy he helped round the family farm, but noted it “was too damn hard.” So he joined the army and did a tour as a military policeman in Korea during the war.

He returned home thinking he might catch on with the state police. One bad decision led to another and he started hanging with friends from high school and “got to actin’ wild” and next you knew he was under arrest. That put the end to his plans in the line of police work. He hired on with Chrysler and had a good paying job till the slowdown of the early 70’s. After that he went to work in the coal mines as a foreman and lasted for twenty-three years. By 1999 he was earning $5,000 per month and doing well enough for his wife to stay home and raise their three children. But it was soon clear he had black lung disease and he had to retire.

Riding that afternoon, I stopped for a drink and a rest. A fellow with a thick mustache pulled his car into the parking lot, noticed my bags, and asked how far I was riding. “To Oregon. At least that's the plan,” I explained. Then I mentioned I was riding for diabetes. He wished me luck and drove off and I continued to work on my 32-oz. Glacier Freeze Gatorade. A few minutes later he pulled back into the lot, got out, and handed me $10. He explained, “Me and the missus got to talking and decided we ought to donate for a good cause.”

By raising money for two rides, one in 2007 and another in 2011, 
and painting a house and donating to JDRF, 
I've given them checks for a total of $35.000.

Entering West Virginia, I worried about the mountains ahead and stopped one night in the town of Justice. Failing to find a camping spot, I booked a room in a motel. Then I ate breakfast at the “Justonian” across the street. Eating alone, you tend to listen in on others’ conversations. Four women nearby were talking about modern teens and their strange piercings. Then they turned to a time when they first had their ears pierced. One admitted she fainted when her sister pierced her ear. “When I woke up, though,” she continued, “the other one was done, too.”

The ladies (and I) all shared a laugh.

Julie Hatfield, who waited on my table (and I think owned the restaurant, but maybe wouldn’t have seated a McCoy) talked to me about my plans. As usual, I mentioned diabetes. When I tried to pay the bill, she shook her head, explaining, “It’s been taken care of.” I offered again but she said she wanted to help a good cause. So I set eight dollars aside for my JDRF fund.

Many of the areas I passed through have seen better days. In Logan County a local told me they’ve lost 25,000 people since the 1970s; and that loss has “devastated the economy.” The region is coming back a little as coal rebounds lately; but there were a lot of empty homes along the roads.

People in this area work hard and often look tired and beat down. You see fellows with dirt on their t-shirts and up and down their work pants. Even their ball caps are smudged and tattered. But these are friendly men, quick to laugh, and all seem to know each other. These coal miners, lumber workers, mechanics and truck drivers are the nuts and bolts of the American economy. My father would have said they were people “who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.”

He would have meant it as a form of praise.

That afternoon I stopped for my usual Gatorade. (I could do a commercial for those folks.) Three fellows in soiled clothing, just off work, questioned me about my journey. One commented, “You picked a hot day to travel.”

I agreed, but replied, “You look like you’ve all been working harder than me.” They laughed and I added, “Go home and have a cold one!”

My ride on 6-29 took me along Highway 10 and for the most part I made good time, putting in 87 miles from the seat of my bike. But one stretch was too dangerous to ride—and a kind-hearted couple, Ray and Frieda Napier, stopped to give me a lift in the back of their red Ford F150.

“We weren’t sure you knew what you were getting into,” Ray explained while I enjoyed the ride. He said they had passed me earlier down the road and turned around to offer a lift. It turns out that Highway 10 between War and Logan, West Virginia is narrow and twisting, with coal trucks thundering past in both directions and no place for bicycle riders of any kind.

Frieda has been involved with citizens groups and has traveled to Washington, D. C. several times to lobby for funds to widen the road. I found her grassroots approach to democracy refreshing. So I promised I would add this line to my blog:


I spent the night at a Ramada Inn in Huntington, West Virginia. In the morning I dawdled over breakfast, and got to talking with Cindi Acree-Hamann, who lives in Cincinnati like me. She works at Children’s Hospital and I told her how thrilled we were with the care provided there for our daughter after she turned up diabetic in 2005. Ms. Acree-Hamann explained that her husband, Captain Gene Hamann, was sleeping in late, and on medical leave from the Cincinnati Police. He was injured by a drunk driver in January and may retire as a result.

Cindi explained that he was a former Marine (like me) and interested in teaching (also like me). He spent time in combat during Vietnam, however, while I sat at a desk in California for two years fiddling over paperwork.

I think it’s safe to say Hamann is the hero in that tale.

By 6-30 I was back in Ohio and feeling confident. I had a short day (riding 67 miles) then found a camping spot in Shawnee National Forest, where I met a group of Boy Scouts led by Frank Duran. It was an impressive group. Duran has them active with scuba diving round Pelee Island in Lake Erie, rock climbing across the state, and practicing for a 70-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in July.

July 1 was spent riding hell-bent for leather. I wanted to be sure I got home and logged 105 miles—blisters—sore buns—and all. I assure you too, southern Ohio has LOTS of hills. I had to be pedaling uphill a mile or more at least ten times during this one day’s ride.

Coming through Milford, Ohio, I looked in my helmet mirror and spotted two gear-laden riders coming up behind me. It turns out they were recent college grads, Steve Cash and Ben Kelchlin, who started from Eastport, Maine a month ago and are aiming for California later this summer. It was fun to share stories and give to and receive advice from two kindred spirits (though their combined ages would be two kindergartners short of my own). We exchanged addresses and hope to cross paths somewhere during our long journeys ahead. They were staying at a friend’s house overnight and headed to St. Louis the next morning.

I headed crosstown to Glendale to spend the next three days at home.

Back on the Road

(July 9, 2007)


It was fun to be home for a few days but no fun to leave at all. Riding all day tends to focus your thoughts: and I realized how anxious I was to get home a few days ago. My wife is one of the finest individuals I’ve ever known and it was good to see Emily, our youngest daughter.

The morning I left for the second leg of my journey Emily was unusually subdued. I think she worries about me. I know I worry more about her than anything. She means the world to her mother and me.

Weather has been tough the last four days, nineties and humid. At least once a day I ask myself, “What were you thinking when you hatched this plan?” Other bits of wisdom include, “I’m WAY too old for this!” “If a bus hit me, I’ll be out of my misery!” “Maybe someone will steal my bike!”

You get the idea.

The people I meet continue to be kind. Passing through Brookville, Indiana, I stopped to eat at the China House where locals told me the buffet was outstanding. (Correct.) As I chained my bicycle to a pole a gentleman named Ken Litchfield approached. “Are you the guy I saw on the news last night?” he asked. Like a defendant on a television drama, I admitted I was. Ken reached in his wallet and pulled out $20 for JDRF. Then he ran down the street and got his camera and took a picture for the local paper. He said he’d try to get a story posted and drum up donations.

Meanwhile, Anne called me to say that one of our neighbors donated $500 and so I’m fast approaching $11,000 raised.

I logged 80 miles on July 6, 83 on the 7th and 82 on the 8th. One night I camped in a cornfield after washing up in a stream.

The next day a preacher named Lester Solomon talked to me in a Dairy Queen in Seymour, Indiana. After hearing my story he took my hand and said a prayer for my well-being. That’s the first time I ever prayed over ice cream. I appreciate Reverend Solomon’s kindness and prayers can’t hurt.

One morning I passed a field and noticed all the cows were watching. Cows don’t get out much and I imagine they’re bored a lot. So I was something to watch, to give the brain something to work on, sort of like watching television for humans. I wonder what they were thinking. How sophisticated is the bovine brain?

Cow #1: Creature with shell on head. Not threat. Need to poo.
Cow #2: Human moving fast. Hope he crash.
Cow #3: I envy that rider his freedom. These other cows are morons. Oh well, nothing to do, except chew the cud.

I slept at a motel my second night out of Cincinnati. They had an exercise room and an elliptical machine. I decided to pass.

On July 8 I met a fellow named Jack L. Hamilton, who asked a lot of questions—what was I carrying—any mechanical problems—what did I do for food—where did I stay—was it hard riding alone? Jack's fiancé, Theresa, was with him and she has a diabetic daughter, now 34, diagnosed senior year in high school.

“I tell her all the time I think there will be a cure in her lifetime,” Theresa said. I agreed, and thinking of my own child, choked up.

The next couple of hours I rode hard—thinking about Emily.

That same afternoon I ran across a nice couple from Bloomington. They mentioned a friend who rode cross country with his sons, to raise money for cerebral palsy. This was years ago and one of the boys suffered from the disease, and used a recumbent bike. Again, when I’m plowing up some hill and feeling sorry for myself, I remember a LOT of people have steeper hills to climb every day.

Right now I’m a mile from the Wabash River, and about to cross into Illinois. A fellow in the library tells me it’s 97 degrees with humidity at 77%. Based on how I’ve been wilting today, I believe him.

You’re not in Kansas Anymore

(July 17, 2007)


I couldn’t update lately because I have been putting effort into pedaling westward. I am now in Overbrook, Kansas and just had lunch at Conrad’s Bar and Grill. The food was great and I had a long talk with the owner, Mary Boos, who has a diabetic daughter. Sadie, now 21, was diagnosed at four, attends college, and has decent control of her disease. Mary donated $100 and gave me a free meal. 

Sitting in the library just now feels good...but outside it feels...not like Saudi Arabia. Lord, it’s hot!

Most days, I bike about eighty miles (531 in my first week back on the road). Sometimes not in the right direction, though. Once I got lost and pedaled in giant rectangles around various corn fields, trying to figure out where I was. Another night I went ten miles out of the way to find a state campground. The campground hosts, Mickey and Patty Smith, gave me coffee the next morning, and we ended up discussing Abraham Lincoln for an hour. I think Mrs. Smith said she dropped out of high school when young. But they both picked up an interest in our 16th president on their own and seemed to know as much as I did.

Another night, near Muscoutah, Illinois, I ran out of light and found myself riding into town as darkness fell. A gentleman on a motorcycle pulled alongside, put it in low gear, and asked where I was headed. When I told him I was riding to raise money for JDRF he reached in his pocket, pulled out a huge wad of bills, and reached them out to me. “Pull off two tens,” he said, “for a good cause.” I thought about grabbing the whole wad but knew I wouldn’t be able to make a getaway. So I took the money without stopping and he told me to have a safe trip and roared away. That night I had to camp in a cornfield again—but felt good about the kindness of strangers I’ve met during this ride.

Probably my best camping spot was one I stumbled on while riding the Katy Trail, not far from Columbia, Missouri. The KT is an old rail line (Kansas and Topeka) paved with gravel and good for bicycling. For twenty miles or so it follows the Missouri River, past cliffs pocked with caves. It was a pleasant ride and I was able to pitch my tent ten feet from the riverbank when night fell. Once again I did the “pioneer shower” by jumping in the Missouri.

Everything looks good. I am in touch with nature. I can hear fish leaping and falling back in the water. I hear geese overhead. A nice couple (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) comes over from another campsite and offers beer, informing me their family and friends are out on a boat and will be pulling in to shore soon. Sure enough, the boat comes in not long after and fifteen young men and women disembark. (They have a floating trampoline they are towing behind their vessel, which looks like fun.) But it quickly becomes apparent their main cargo is BEER. Not counting a LOT of beer they have already polished off!

The group offers me a second beer, which I accept, and later a steak off a grill they set up...but soon it grows dark and I need to rest. So I decline the steak (having eaten at a buffet in Columbia, Missouri earlier) and turn in to sleep. At midnight my neighbors are still partying...and the sounds of nature are drowned out by, “F- this,” and “f-that.” Indeed, the drunks apparently know only one adjective. As in: “f-ing beer! f-ing river! f-ing boat! f-ing steaks!” Thankfully, a storm rolls in with enough rain to chase them away. Or so I imagine. A few of the “f-ing pussies” pack it in and go home. The dedicated drunks ignore the downpour and keep on f-ing drinking. Finally, round 2 a.m. everyone runs out of alcohol and f-ing enthusiasm wanes and everyone (including me) drifts off to sleep.

Riding the next day was hard. And not to seem petty: but I hope the knuckleheads who kept me up had hangovers to die from.

Alcoholics aside, people could not be more considerate. I camped one night at Pere Marquette Park, near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. There I met Ted and Jan Werner, who invited me to their trailer for breakfast. Jan wrote out a donation to JDRF and went further, packing lunch. Ted pumped up my tires; and I’m embarrassed to admit how low the pressure in both was: 25 pounds in the front, 34 in the back. Almost, like riding on flats!

Missouri was beautiful and I enjoyed crossing the state. In fact, as soon as I passed the Mississippi (on a ferry near Grafton) I felt better, like I was making real progress.

Yesterday, July 16, I rode 90 miles. I was excited at lunch to cross paths with a group of bicyclers headed east from Colorado to homes in Milwaukee. Leader was Ron Haggard, a middle school teacher like myself, and the group included another adult (whose name I failed to catch) and four young men, Ron’s students. He has led several rides and had as many as fifteen kids in his groups, and I think he said one year they rode from Florida to Maine. It was a pleasure to talk to people who could relate to what I’m doing. The four young men looked like they were in fine shape and I was impressed with their attitudes. They were wiry fellows, like Pony Express riders. No unnecessary ounces on these young men! Ron wished me luck, paid his bill, then came back and handed me $20 for JDRF. The second leader paid, came back, and donated, too.

I admit I also stopped one afternoon to visit a riverboat casino. A state law requires you to show ID and get a card which is inserted in the slot machines. This limits all losses to $500 in any two-hour that the addicted gambler is...what...protected? Yeah, from losing the house all in one day!

I sat down at a quarter slot, put in my card, fed in a twenty and started gambling. There were no tokens to insert and no jangling when winnings came raining down in a tray. Only a little red light signaled any “wins.” So I started with a credit of 80 and kept hitting “play 3.” Every so often I hit big, for 2 credits. My gambling career was soon ended. It went like this. Play 3, lose. 77 credits left. Play 3, lose. 74. 71. 68. Hit 2. 70. 67. 64. 61. 58. Hit 2. 60. 57. 54. 51...rapidly dwindling to zero. It was as much fun as putting quarters in a Coca-Cola machine and watching nothing come out. And then doing it twenty-five times.

Heck with that...I wasted twenty dollars and was soon pedaling across America again.

I Hate Headwinds

(July 21)


This will be a quick post because the library where I’m sitting closes in twenty-seven minutes. It’s 96° outside and the winds have been blowing hard against me most of my time in Kansas. On top of that my cell phone quit working today after I dropped it in a river while shaving. So I’m going to have a hard time keeping in touch with my family for the next few days. SW Kansas isn’t exactly a place with a lot of cell phone stores.

I am now on the American Cycling Association trail; so I have run into six or seven bicyclers, all headed east, mostly young and thin. One gentleman was close to my age, 52, but had his wife following in an RV. It has been fun to share notes on what to expect, problems and pleasures, aches and pains (at least I have aches and pains).

People continue to be friendly. I ate breakfast at the Copper Oven in Osage City, Kansas a couple days ago. They had breakfast burritos and cinnamon rolls that were among the best I’ve ever eaten. It was worth fighting Kansas’ perpetual head winds just to eat there. On top of that, the owner heard I was riding for diabetes and gave me my meal free.

As always, any savings go into the JDRF fund.

Kansas has a stark beauty I enjoy; but many towns are dying. I passed through Hillsboro and found out their McDonalds shuttered its doors a few months ago. Same thing happened in Lyons—but Lyons is experiencing a boom these days with a new ethanol plant and other construction.

Most mornings I start late because I talk too long at breakfast with locals. Extra bacon and conversation seem more appealing than hopping back in the saddle. At one stop I fell into discussion with a gentleman named Lyle Foureau. He mentioned he liked reading history. So I recommended 
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, 1776 by David McCullough and a couple of other works.

Lyle took notes and donated to JDRF.

I’ve camped out in the woods a couple of times and bathed in “Kansas bathtubs” (lakes along the road). Many areas are still green due to heavy rains and Chase County had beautiful bluestem grass prairies. I spend a lot of time grungy and hot; but I can say I’m proud of getting this far.

Tomorrow I enter Colorado and hope to get my phone fixed in Pueblo.

A 78-year-old truck driver told me one morning about some of the sights in Kansas. It used to be you could go see the embalmed remains of a Civil War veteran, Samuel Dingle (I think was the name). “When I first saw him, he had a full beard and all,” said my informant. “Then I went back a few years later and all his hair had fallen out. The parasites or somethin’ got him.”

Well, I guess I didn’t want to see Dingle anyway.

I am now a little more than halfway done with my trip (in miles anyway) and right about on schedule.

Still no flats, no mechanical problems, just hot and tired a lot.

I love my family and miss them very much.

Met these two somewhere in Kansas. They were heading east, having started in California.
I lost the notes I took and cannot remember their names.

Kansas, heading west.

Colorado High

(July 26)

My ride continues. I am now in Buena Vista, Colorado and will take Route 24 north to Leadville after this posting (and a stop at the local ice cream emporium). The mountain pass coming up will be my biggest challenge so far, rising from 8,000 feet to over 11,000. So I expect to take all afternoon to reach the top.
Scenery is routinely beautiful now and should be for the next thousand miles. Western Kansas and eastern Colorado were so empty that they had an eerie appeal—at least in the mornings. In the early hours each day I could say, “This is great...I’m really doing this ride!” By afternoon, when it was in the mid 90’s, and the wind was kicking up against me, my meditations tended more in the direction of, “What were you thinking when you planned this ride.” 

And of course: profanity!

I rolled into Colorado along Route 96. Twice, before Eads, and right after, were stretches of 50+ miles with NO place to get food or drink. I was nervous about running into trouble but got through in good shape and gained confidence as a result. I also started seeing more riders, all headed east. It appears to me this is a business for young people. Most of the guys and the two girls I’ve seen are fresh out of college and riding before they settle into the working world for forty years. I met two brothers traveling east, Dan Devos and Mike (I think); they seemed to get along better than most brothers, and I enjoyed talking to them both. I lost my map after I jotted down their information. I remember most of their blog address and will try to check it out if I can.

On July 23 I picked up a steady trailing wind and sailed along like a clipper ship, covering 114 miles, the longest one-day ride I’ve ever done. This carried me to Pueblo, Colorado. There I stayed in a motel used mostly for long-term stays. It was across the road from a Payday Loan office, which is never a good sign. I think I was the only person there who could have proved legal status as a citizen. But my immigrant “neighbors” looked like hard-working gentlemen and so have my respect. I was sleeping nicely, too, when the front office delivered an unexpected wake-up call at 5:00 am.

“Juan?” the clerk inquired.

“No. Wrong room,” I answered. 

Moments later—a second call for Juan. “Wrong room!” I said a little more emphatically. And that was that.

I hope Juan made it to work on time.

On the 24th I rode through Canon City and up into the Rocky Mountains, camping near the Royal Gorge Bridge.

The next day I spent the morning checking out the bridge and the adjacent park. This is the highest suspension bridge in the world, 1053 feet above the Arkansas River. It was fun to see but I was surprised to find it isn’t really a useful structure in any normal sense. It’s little more than one lane wide and shakes when a golf cart passes over. Both ends are blocked by tourist attractions, a carousel, an ice cream parlor, a gift shop and more. So there really is no place to go, except on foot across the bridge and back again to the parking lot and then on with vacation! It was impressive, though, and I recommend it.

Royal Gorge Bridge: beautiful but kind of useless.

Yesterday, I followed Highway 50 along the Arkansas River. The Arkansas is the fifth longest river in the USA and there were hundreds of rafts from dozens of companies. A gorgeous ride all the way; and my progress was slowed as I stopped again and again to look around and cool off occasionally in the water.

I was also beginning to have serious concerns about my back tire which showed heavy wear. So I took a different direction and rolled into Salida, Colorado in the afternoon. The people at Absolute Bikes treated me like riding royalty, switched out my tire, gave me three water bottles for free, and supplied a patching kit and two spare tubes.

Salida is a booming town. A local woman told me house values have gone up 400% in the last ten years. I had my fanciest dinner yet at the Dakota Bistro and the food was excellent (I only wish my wife Anne had been with me). The salad was fabulous and I recommend the Steak Sundance and the Fat Tire beer. Salida is a town full of bicycle riders, especially mountain bikers, artist types and boutiques, and reminded me of a smaller Boulder.

At dinner I spoke briefly with a family at the next table and told them I was riding to raise money for JDRF. They were kind and complimentary. When I finished eating and stepped outside to unlock my bicycle, Nancy Gould followed and pressed a donation into my hand. “I’m just so impressed with what you’re doing. Really,” she said. I thanked her, noticed the bill was a hundred, and thanked her again with emphasis. As has been true many times during this journey, I was touched.

The willingness to help shown by strangers and supporters back home in Ohio has been awe-inspiring. Worth riding itself to see!

Riding in a Tutu

(July 31, 2007)


The last few days of riding have been awesome. The 26th I followed Route 24 to Leadville, Colorado, two miles above sea level. I was worried about the climb and altitude but had no trouble and felt almost euphoric, enjoying the scenery and physical experience of being in the mountains. I managed to find a book store and bought two volumes of women’s letters and diaries from the Oregon Trail. (That seemed fitting somehow, considering my own travels.) To finish off a perfect day I camped near a beautiful mountain stream. It was 55 degrees when I pulled into town; a pleasant change from the heat of Kansas and southern Colorado.

Strangers continue to be generous and kind. At the Buena Vista visitors center a woman gave $10 for JDRF. Then the ladies who worked there sent me to the Chafee County newspaper office and they wrote up a brief story about my trip.

When people see my picture circulation will double!

(Or maybe not.)

The next day I dawdled before getting started. I tend to eat gigantic breakfasts and read the paper instead of getting out and riding. I followed Route 24 to the point where it strikes Interstate 70. Then I took a bike trail for several miles, meeting three teachers out for a ride. They were in Colorado for a conference on teaching environmental issues throughout the curriculum. All three were friendly and I rode along slowly, happy to have someone to converse with. Robert, 39, and his wife are expecting their third child. Etna has worked in the private sector, usually for food/chemical companies but got tired of it and tried teaching—and loved her first year. Margaret was a third-year teacher from West Virginia. All seemed dedicated and we made an interesting quartet: one African American (Robert), one Hispanic (Etna), one white woman (Margaret), and one geezer. (That would be me.)

Rain stopped me that day. So I holed up in a motel. Since then I have been rolling. I rode 103 miles on July 28 ending up at Walden. Part of the route was gorgeous, following the Blue River. Then I hit a stretch of 62 miles with no stores—and made the mistake of carrying only two full water bottles.

I treated myself to a terrific prime rib dinner at the River Rock Cafe. Then I camped out in the city park.

The next day I did 97 miles and camped beside the North Platte River. I still haven’t seen a soul going the same direction as me. But I met Robin Geary, a teacher from San Francisco, out for a 990-mile ride. Like me, she was going solo. She says her parents don’t like it. So her brother suggested she tell them she was riding with “Bob and Ed,” two “guys” she “met” along the way. We both laughed at the idea. I’ve been tempted to tell my wife the same thing.

Yesterday and this morning were a challenge. I had to cover the distance from Rawlins to Lander, about 130 miles, with care. To sum up the terrain I can do no better than to quote a traveler on the Oregon Trail who passed the same way: “These everlasting hills have an everlasting curse of barrenness.”

Frankly, I was nervous about this part of the trip. The entire route is sagebrush and without shade. You can stop at Grandma’s Kitchen (32 miles from Rawlins), a store at Muddy Gap (46 miles) or a cafe at Jeffrey City (88 miles) and that’s it. Them’s the choices if you want food or drink!

I happened to get a flat along the way, and as I was fixing it, up rode a young girl, Sarah Brigham, 22. She was heading down to Durango, Colorado, with her bike loaded and wearing a red and black tutu (which she told me she made herself).

Now I’m in the library at Lander trying to get this posted. They have a ½ hour limit on the computers.

So I will have to take a break and add pictures later. 

Sarah was heading south when I talked to her near Jeff City.
She made the tutu herself; but I wanted to tell her to wear a helmet.
It wasn't my place to play "dad," however.

But if YOU ride, wear a helmet for sure.


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