The Victory Lap

Having done a number of tours, I can’t help but compare the experiences in my mind while I’m riding along. So while cranking along, probably in rain or a headwind based on this ride, I flashed back a bit to the 07 and 10 rides that had 5 massive all-day passes right before the ocean. That didn’t happen this time. And it was awesome. We had been pushing some pretty big miles for a while and were hitting around 70 a day for quite some time through South Dakota and Wyoming. We knew we were planning on finishing on August 15th, so we sat down one night and did some simple math and found out that with two days off, we had to average only 53 miles per day, and didn’t have any real passes in the way either….and thus the Lucky 13 ride took on a whole new flavor.

Flashing back to Wisdom, Montana, we had just crushed 18 miles of 2% downhill in about 55 minutes from Jackson, Wyoming. In case you were wondering 2% downhill early in the morning with no wind or heat is about as ideal as it gets. So we roll into town for some breakfast and have some flat tire issues that take us a few minutes to fix up before we headed out….oh wait. We had just realized that we had time to burn and the charming town of 114 sat high in the Montana mountains with home made pizza in a saloon and a camp framed by a split rail fence and shadowed by some lofty mountains, so after 18 not-so-brutal miles we called it a day and relaxed a bit in the Wild West.

The next day took us over the continental divide at Chief Joseph Pass. Having already done quite a bit of climbing in days past to get to the shelf, we really only had to bump up another 1000 to make it over. Our start that morning was a bit unexpectedly delayed by our camp being iced over and it being way too cold for us to ride with the clothes we had. Having baked in the Wyoming desert so recently we didn’t expect it to get that cold but oh well, some socks on the hands got us through the morning. Also, with all of our spare time the day before we realized that Missoula was 120 miles away and that after the pass it was mostly down hill for almost 100 miles. We have never done 120 miles in a day on any bike trip in the past, so the gauntlet was thrown. So after dropping pretty steeply down the pass for a few miles we set our minds to cranking out 20 mile segments all afternoon long. After a seemingly endless day, we rolled into Missoula at dusk, set up camp at a YMCA and absolutely demolished a Denny’s.

After some time in Missoula and at the Adventure Cycling headquarters we headed over Lolo pass, really not that hard when still comparing to the Big Horns, and dropped into Idaho. We pulled into the Lochsa Lodge for quite a tasty lunch of chicken wraps on the back porch and pried a bit of information from the staff. We planned on wilderness camping at Weir Creek that night so stocked up on some food and they told us we could get breakfast 15 miles into the next day at Wilderness Gateway Camp. So we stuffed our provisions in the panniers and enjoyed some gradual downhill overlooking the Lochsa River. Once we reached our camp for the night, we pushed our bikes over into the woods and set up our tents on the serene shore of Weir Creek for the evening. We’d heard there were some hot springs just up creek so we made our way up to explore and found some people chilling/roasting in quite a toasty hot spring pool perched over the creek and nestled deep in the lush valley. We quickly made friends, as we try to do, and soon learned that tomorrow’s resupply at Wilderness Gateway didn’t actually have any food. Once they realized our slight dilemma, they mentioned that they were staying there and happened to have quite a bit of extra French Toast that we could indulge in the next morning. So after the most amazing night’s sleep ever next to the creek, and motivated by hot breakfast, we stashed our tents and hit the road. When they said they had extra French Toast, they weren’t kidding. We were basically forced to eat seven slices each and two dutch ovens full of ham and eggs. While sitting in a massive food coma for well over an hour we met Mike Walk…more on him later.

The time on the Lochsa river was some of the best riding on the trip, pristine riding along the river, gentle downhill, and mountains engulfing us from all around. After a particularly peaceful day of riding we rolled into the tiny town of Kooskia, tucked in the valley at he confluence of two rivers. We set up camp in a perfect biker town park and headed to the river to swim. While soaking in the bathwater like rapids, AK and I were so enamored with the town that, after two days of pretty easy riding, we decided to take another day off. The afternoon was spent reveling in our decision to stay for another day, playing basketball at the park, customary spades and of course food. There was a little Chinese cafe in downtown, one of two restaurants, and we actually ate there three times in our short stay in Kooskia.

On the road the morning after Kooskia, and back to our French Toast Family, Mike Walk lived 30 miles into the day and offered to cook us yet another breakfast, so being the hungry bikers that we are, we obliged him. We rolled into in house that sat riverfront, found out that he owned a cafe for a number of years, and proceeded to gorge on fresh huckleberry pancakes with home made huckleberry syrup. He also mentioned that he had been voted the best burgers in 200 miles a couple years ago, so we put that info in the memory banks. While food-comaed on his back porch we had scouted some places to camp down river and I stood up to head out, folded my map…… and then AK mentioned that it was getting awfully hot. So after a leisurely 30 miles, we decided to call it quits for the day, stripped our jerseys off and headed down to the river for a mid morning swim. The afternoon progressed with lots of swimming, napping, card playing, and eventually we headed to the store to get supplies for the famous burger. That night, Mike Walk got to work, and did what he is known for, engineered (as he calls it) a dozen half pound burgers that put such a hurting on people that some bikers actually fell asleep in their chairs at the dinner table. I think they were also voted best meal of the trip and we are trying to replicate them at our homecoming party this Sunday.

But now for real, we really did need to get down to biking after so much goofing off…and we realized that we actually had biked over 3000 miles so we had the guns to crush out a bunch of big days over some remaining hills and into the Columbia River Gorge. It was good that we didn’t have to average too many miles, because along the way we realized that the Columbia River Gorge happens to be one of the best place on Earth to wind surf and kite board due to the consistent gusting winds they get out of the west. Getting up early didn’t really do anything since the winds are constant all day long, so we would just get up, hop into a draft train, and systematically knock out miles getting ever closer to that coast line. At least we had lots of windsurfers ripping up the open water to look at while we slowly labored down river.

In our final night in Clatskanie, Oregon, we were so close that we could almost taste the salty air. As was fitting for the trip, rain drove us into a pavilion during the late afternoon so the cards came out one last time (almost) and we hit up a long pizza dinner on our final night. Then as darkness set in we gathered around the picnic tables and had our customary journal night where we sat literally for hours and recounted story after story and laughed long into the night… and didn’t even scratch the surface of all the stories and adventures from the ten week journey. Morning came but the rain hadn’t left, so we ventured out yet again into the wet for our final morning of riding.

We crested one last hill and were greeted by the smell of salt in the air as we dropped sharply into Astoria, Oregon, a mere 18 miles from our final destination of Seaside. The parents and families had gathered out in the cold damp afternoon in Seaside to welcome us…but we’re actually a bunch of ungrateful jerks, so we pulled off at a McDonald’s for a couple hours and lingered long over some burgers and McFlurries and pulled the cards out for what was really the last time, got in one last hand of spades, and cherished that solidarity that would be gone within the hour never to be attained again with the Lucky 13ers.

When we did actually decide to press on to Seaside, we road a relaxing and scenic 18 miles down Highway 101. As we approached our final turn, a motorcycle cop chirped his siren, pulled out in the road, and stopped traffic for us. He followed us down the promenade, stopping traffic at all the intersections and attracting people from the shops to come out and cheer us on as we cruised into the round-about and ended our journey at the base of the iconic Lewis and Clark Statue. The many cheers were mixed with quite a few tears as moms long separated from their sons gave them strong sobbing embraces…despite their absolutely atrocious odor(the bikers that is, the moms smelled fine). Then unexpectedly, the hardest part of the trip was upon us. To truly complete the journey we had to dip our tires in the pacific, and Oregon has done an annoyingly good job of preserving their coast line, so we had to push our loaded touring bikes hundreds of yards through deep white sand so we could dip our tires in the western waters and then dive in fully clothed to the chilly waters of the Pacific. The welcoming committee really went all out on this one, so after some time rejoicing on the beach we hit up a restaurant in Seaside where we had the entire upstairs and patios checked out, followed up the next day by a huge bonfire on the beach, and all the while parents trying to extract from the bikers what really happened on the bike trip….sorry, those stories only get told to the next generation on subsequent trips.

In addition to biking from one ocean to another…a pretty solid feat for a high school guy if I do say so myself (and an old dude)… the Lucky 13 crew was wonderfully successful in their quest to raise money for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Victory Junction. To date, the crew raised $33,911 and with that we will be sending two campers to Victory Junction next year. There’s still time to donate as well, so head on over to www.Lucky13BikeTrip.com and bust out that credit card for an online donation if you feel so inclined.

Well, back to reality I guess it is…as is always the case with the conclusion of a bike trip. I have to work in 6 hours so I didn’t leave myself too much time for sleeping and my beard is absolutely out of control right now so I’ll need to spend some time taming it before I put myself in front of clients bright and early tomorrow morning.

Biked it. Liked it (I wouldn’t keep doing these if I didn’t) and will actually be back on a bike as soon as this endless rain in Chapel Hill stops….I need to stretch these legs out after some serious car and plane time these last couple days. Oh, and photos are coming soon too, so check back on the Lucky 13 site and Troop site some time this weekend.

Brian

Is Wyoming Possible?

I just got out of a Jacuzzi a minute ago so the answer to Wyoming being possible is obviously yes, it was…and more on the Jacuzzi later. I’m sure all the nervous moms would like to think that AK and I have this whole thing planned out, down to the minute, from start to finish. But actually, in our last day in South Dakota we realized that we needed to actually plan how we were going to get across Wyoming so we sat down after dinner to take a look. What we found is that there were alot of curvy hilly roads and not really a whole lot of towns or places to get water. When we finished putting together a route, we’d found about 8 places to get water and food if we were lucky on the 7 day traverse of Wyoming through Yellowstone park. So we stocked up on some extra water bottles and set out across the vast Wyoming plains.

Most days we’d get up at 5am to avoid the intense heat and tough winds, stock up at the local gas station and set out into the wide open. The stretches proved long and pretty hilly and some days I’d set my bike up perpendicular to the sun so I could lie in the shade of the panniers and drink warm water. When we finally arrived at one of our precious water spots we’d lounge for extended periods of time and guzzle anything we could get our hands on. Just today we had a lunch stop in the middle of the day and counted back that it had been Eagles Butte two states back in South Dakota where we had had a real lunch in the middle of the day and not a snack of granola bars on the side of the road.

Then out of nowhere, the Little Bighorn Mountains happened. One day we’re cruising along in some rolling hills, and then the next day we’re on a 35 mile long uphill with over 8400 vertical feet of climbing in one day. I’ve thought back to big passes I’ve climbed over the years, and really I can’t think of one that was tougher or longer. When we finally bombed down hill into the town of Tensleep, I laid on the floor of the gas station and drank a liter of the most refreshing and earned Mountain Dew of my life.

Then what seemed like only a few short hours later…more like two days…we set out from Cody, where we had our first showers in 11 days and laundry in 16 days, and headed towards Yellowstone. What promised to be a moderate day of 55 miles turned into a battle of climbing uphill all day at 8mph while a 20mph head wind did everything in its power to drive us back to Cody. There was no tent camping allowed in the area due to such a high concentration of bears, and there was only one room at this lodge, so we piled 11 people into a single the night…I won’t even go into the smell we generated. The next day we entered Yellowstone park, climbed a huge pass, and then biked 84 miles over rolling hills and out into West Yellowstone. With all the passes, miles, and wind, I arrived so exhausted that I could barely shove two slices of pizza in my face before crashing in my tent for 12 hours and kicking off three off days.

For our three day Yellowstone retreat we rented a van and spent our days driving, not biking, up huge hills in the park…which didn’t matter because I just mashed the gas a bit harder. At one point on the way to Old Faithful the sun really beat down and it got hot in the van so we cranked up the AC….what a great invention. And later in the day on our way to some more boiling springs I noticed the grass laying down hard next to us in a monstrous head wind, but with the beauty of engines I wasn’t slowed to a crawling 6 mph, but was able to keep crushing at 45. After some great site seeing, some super legit tacos at the local taco bus, and three extended long nights of sleep, we actually had to reacquaint ourselves with our bikes and head northwest towards Missoula.

Today started off with a pass in the morning, about a tenth of the Big Horns so it was really no biggie. We rolled over some Montana hills and found ourselves in Dillon late in the afternoon. Doing our normal routine of crushing calories and cold beverages on the curb of a gas station a random dude walked up, chatted us up about the bike trip, and then proceeded to buy us 6 hotel rooms at the Best Western. He had just finished base jumping 35 times over a long weekend and had to fly to Albania in a few minutes…no lie, this guy actually existed… and now I just got out of the Jacuzzi and am going to watch some baseball here in a few minutes. We have two passes tomorrow, but after a night in a queen and a hot continental, we should be good to go.

Up next, Missoula and then off into the Columbia River Gorge.

We’re bikin’ it and we’re likin’ it.

Brian

Appeasing Aeolus

So I have 2 gigs of data a month out here on my iPhone and near the end of every billing period I go over my allotment. I’m not listening to Pandora or participating in the all-the-rage Snapchat trend. I use a bit of data checking our maps for the day, but otherwise I am constantly refreshing the weather apps on the phone and scrutinizing the daily temps, radar, and most importantly, the hourly wind shifts. Wind out here rules supreme. I dictates whether we roll into town for a relaxing lunch or pull up short and not even make our destination at all.

We left Minneapolis last week well rested and in high spirits. Aidan and I couldn’t help flashing back to the 2010 day after Minnie, where a strong westerly wind did everything to prevent our arrival in Silver Lake MN. As we approached the long straight shot west, our attention was constantly on tree tops and flags looking for some indication of how the day would fair. Luckily, our sacrifices of Mike and Ikes and Mountain Dew to Aeolus were well received, and our passage to Silver Lake was relaxing. Flashing back yet again, the 2010 ride to Clara City was one of the toughest with blasting winds in the face on a 65 mile exposed stretch of road due west. But this year we woke to a comfortable 10mph direct tail wind and rode giddily at 18 into Clara City for an early lunch followed by pool time, bball, spades, and some napping.

Unfortunately, our Mike and Ike good will wore off after Clara City and the following day we were greeted by a storm in the morning and then an every increasing head wind throughout the day. Our path took us dead west, trending uphill, into the wind all day. We cranked at an arduous 9mph for every mile, with no coasting, gliding, or relief from the grind in any way. The sun bore down for the last 9 miles, and at 7:30pm, a sharp contrast to our noon arrival the day before, we ever so slowly rolled into Goodwin, SD. Thankfully, Troop 209 from Watertown SD was waiting there for us with dinner on the table. Many of the riders quietly scarfed their food down and barely set their tents up before collapsing for the evening with the sun still a few hours off the horizon.

With wind always on our mind, we got to the long remote stretches of South Dakota and had a 102 mile day coming up. We anxiously watched the wind reports as the day approached. The weather was calling for a breezy day, which in SD translates to winds at around 25 with gusts up to 40. They were calling for wind out of the South which isn’t exactly a game ending headwind, but does make the day pretty tiring….as if 102 miles wasn’t tiring enough. We battled through the day, 15 miles at a time, and eventually rolled into Gettysburg to catch the last few innings of a legion game and also munched on some dinner and drinks that Gettysburg had waiting for us in the park….our reputation is preceding us at this point.

Back to constantly refreshing the phone for a wind report, the next day was promising 70 miles, with no shade or shelter of any kind for the last 50, hills, 94 degree heat, and a 15 mile an hour wind in the face to boot. The following day promised cooler temps and an easterly wind so we opted to pull short at an RV park after 19 and wait out the heat and the wind in the shade of some trees reading and overlooking the Missouri River. iPhone wind predictions proved accurate and we blasted 95 miles by three in the afternoon, being careful to watch out for Skinwalkers in the area which we were warned about many times….don’t worry we had to look it up too.

In my life, I’ve biked for a sum total of two days in Wyoming. Both days have resulted in miserable blasting headwinds. Once was in 2010 going into Alzada, and the other was yesterday. The morning started off as innocuous as any…and then we crossed the border in Wyoming. The hills started immediately, the sun ramped it up quite a few degrees, and the wind bore down in our face as we labored up hills at 5mph. We arrived in Sundance rather shocked…mainly hoping that this wasn’t an indicator of times to come in Wyoming. From here we head a bit further off the grid than we have in the past. We scrutinized the maps for the week to come and found 8 spots that we think have water and/or food. Little Bighorn looms in front of us and promises at least 4000 vertical and is then followed by a 133 mile stretch of no towns into Yellowstone. We are taking a day off in Sundace right now, tuning the bikes for the impending climbs, lots of riders are sending home large boxes of creature comforts to free up space for needed provisions, and doing whatever we can to appease Aeolus for this coming week.

Wyoming claims to be Forever the Wild West and right now it’s definitely shaping up to be that. Heading out for some big and long days in the mountains, next stop, Yellowstone National Park.

We’re bikin’ it….as longs as there’s not a wind….and likin’ it…..if we have a tail wind.

Brian

Green Giant meets Land O Lakes

It might be a bit presumptuous to take the name of the Green Giant, especially before we really get out into the Great Plains of South Dakota, but we have been crushing it pretty hard as of late. Our departure from the Jansen clan and Mequon last week finally yielded a break in the storms and gave way to clear skies, cool days, and actually a favorable breeze most days.

Our first full day in Wisconsin saw us climbing some pretty steep and continuous hills in the morning and gave us flashbacks to our old Pennsylvania days, but as we crossed over the mid-continental divide, the hills moved to our rear view mirror and long stretches of flat opened up in front of us. We’ve been in a good habit lately of getting up and riding 10+ miles before breakfast, miles before you eat and really wake up in the morning don’t really count, so it’s nice to prime the biker appetite for some gas station breakfast sandwiches with an hour long morning spin. Our day into Reedsburg, WI gave us 17 good miles before our Kwik Trip breakfast and later in the day the roads and winds were in our favor so we were able to average about 16mph all morning. We kept our breaks short and when 1pm rolled around, we hit up a Subway in our destination town of Reedsburg with 62 miles under our belt for the day. When we can put over 60 down before lunch, we’ve officially gotten in good shape and are a pretty strong crew of riders. We reveled in our new found strength by heading right to the city pool, setting up our tents, swimming for a while, beating the local ultimate team that was practicing in the city park, playing some cards, eating some tasty diner food, and just generally relaxing for a long summer afternoon.

Our next day was yet another day on a rails to trails path, so not only was it super flat, but also shady, traffic free, and had a handy tail wind that allowed us to cruise along easily at 17 mph. Despite a few long zombie tunnels from the old rail days that we had to walk our bikes through during the day, we arrived in West Salem with plenty of time for some basketball at the local courts…where there have been unfortunately few locals for us to test our stacked team against.

As we made our way to the Mississippi, the days stayed cool and the winds in our favor. Even traditionally long hot sections along the river got crushed out. Our arrival in Wabasha was eaier than year’s past and as is the case with every town, we headed straight for the city pool and the famed Wabasha water slides, notorious for abusing bikers and locals alike with their oddly sharp angles. The time however, the dreaded red slide had been closed off….four people had gotten concussions this year on the red slide alone…..so we were left to tempt injury on the yellow and blue slides.

After blowing out some locals at the Afton, MN courts, we got an early start with Dean Rice’s house in Minneapolis on our minds. A couple hours of our new found solid pace, and we were rolling into Dean’s at lunch time. We’re currently here taking two days off, sleeping quite a bit, eating an absurd amount of food, working on the bikes, and watching some movies. The trees are blowing hard outside and we’re a bit worried about what South Dakota holds for us. Long stretches of absolutely nothing, with plenty of chance for the wind to just howl and the sun to really crank up the heat on us. Only one way to find out, the bikes are tuned up and we ride west at 6am tomorrow morning.

Next stop….we don’t know where, we’re just going to hammer out as many big days across the plains as we can and see where we end up.

We’re bikin’ it and we’re likin’ it.

Brian

Bike Trip Used Car Salesmen

So for our entire time through PA, all we talked about was; ‘just get to Cleveland, it’s flat and sunny out there.’  Now that we’re there, it feels kind of like a sleazy used car deal.  It seemed like a great idea when it was on the lot, but when we signed the paperwork and drove it home, sure the hills were over but the sunny now means it’s just 90+ degrees all day, and he definitely didn’t mention that since the hills are gone there would be a constant head wind, whose sole mission was to keep you out of Clyde and Napoleon OH giving the blazing sun all the more time to bake you into the asphalt.

And then after you’ve driven that shiny lemon that seemed like such a good idea just a few days ago, you realize that not only did you trade in cool weather and bike paths for heat and wind, but the storms that we battled all through Pennsylvania have not even nearly or remotely gone away.  At least the storms in PA were mostly drizzles through a forest, but now that we’re out west, the storms rip through with a vengeance.  Napoleon, Ohio had us battening down all of our gear and tents while under a huge pavilion since the rain was driving in sideways and huge lightning strikes pounded the surrounding plains.  One clap of thunder even hit so hard that magnified by the tin roof, it knocked a rider off a bench.  The next morning in Hillsdale, Michigan we delayed our start by three hours while a huge system raged overhead.  There was surely not much complaining about the extra sleep that morning as we sat tight inside our pavilions in the state fair grounds.  With our delayed start we made a mad dash to Richland, MI and took cover at the town park, which was thankfully the town tornado shelter as well.  We stashed the bikes in the bathroom and took cover in dugouts and pavilions while lightning and rain pounded the small Michigan farm town.  And the next morning we got an early start to race a 450 mile wide storm cell that built up speed coming across the lake and we thankfully kept just north of it as we dashed to Holland Michigan.  I’m not sure how we did these trips without iPhones in the past, it almost feels like cheating now.  We can bring up live weather radar at all times, and use google satellite imaging to look for pavilions in our next town, so really with some planning and luck, we’re able to hop from pavilion to pavilion between storm cells. So far so good.

Another unique part of this trip has been our contact with Scouts along the way as well. We got written up in a popular Scouting blog and have been getting some great hospitality along the way. Two days ago, after 5 days of big miles and storm dodging we arrived early into Holland, Michigan where a Scouter had read about us and offered to host us for the day. We got to the Mitchem’s house around lunch time after a 55 mile day and proceeded to swim in a backyard pool for a bit, crush some hot dogs, go swimming at the Lake Michigan beaches, nap (finally), clean some bikes, gorge on a huge pot luck style dinner from the local scout families, get rained on of course, give a rider a Mohawk, and then crash in his back yard so we could get up at 5am the next day to catch the Muskegon ferry. With our early departure from Holland Michigan, we were able to catch the 10:30am ferry from Muskegon to Milwaukee. We made it with a whole minute to spare….Arthur always gets a flat when we need to be somewhere fast. After waiting out a post ferry rain storm, we arrived and took over Tom Jansen’s house, rider Jack Jansen’s uncle. We’re currently on a much needed day off. Unlike Cleveland where we bounced around downtown all day with movies and a Tribe game, today involved a lot of sleeping in which was much needed, and eating some serious food.

 

On a random food and generosity of people note. While we were watching the storm approach on the radar while in Richland, MI and wondering where we were going to stay, a guy drove up and asked where we came from, ‘Maryland’ we replied. Then he asked where we were headed, when we said ‘Oregon,’ he said, ‘OK, I need to pull over.’ He got out of his car and we found out he is an avid cyclist in the area and he proceeded to buy the whole group a massive dinner and dessert at the local sub shop, and then just stepped out and was on his way. As is the case with most bike trips, this is becoming quite the theme…we’re not complaining.

 

Sounds like it’s going to be hilly next week as we make our way through Wisconsin. Hoping for some dry weather in there maybe. Next stop, the ever classic Rice Ranch of Minneapolis.

 

We’re bikin’ it….dodgin’ storms…..and likin’ it.

 

Brian

Swedish Fish Fueled Biking Trails

So last Monday June 10th we pushed off from Havre de Grace and thus began the Lucky 13 Biketrip….and thus began the rain.  After a couple shockingly big and steep hills, the rain settled in for the afternoon and soaked us, our bikes, and everything we owned quite thoroughly.  Nothing like kicking off a 10 week journey with sopping wet gear.  After the longest 40 miles of our lives we rolled into Stewartstown PA, settled into a pavilion and dined on some of the best small town chinese food we’d ever had.  Keeping with the 2013 tradition of constant storms, some tornadoes touched down in the area just to keep things exciting so we ended up scoring a place to stay in the local Scout House in Stewartstown.

As we made our way farther west past Gettysburg the rain followed us in step, keeping us wet on a daily basis.  Rather than draw the story way out, I’ll just cut to the end….it rained on us the first 8 days of the trip…..there was lots of complaining.  After day three, we hopped on the C&O canal trail in Williamsport MD with hopes of following the trail for hundreds of miles, almost all the way until Cleveland.  Some of the trail almost felt like cheating since it was dead flat with no traffic and zero navigation involved….especially knowing that just outside of the trail corridor were PA’s countless 14% hills that we labored over for weeks in the 2010 ride.  This time we simply got up and road our obligatory 55 miles over crushed limestone in a serene forest.  The main catch was that with all the rain, the trail was often puddled and since we ride in somewhat of a pack we sprayed each other and or bikes with an absurd amount of mud.

As we got off the C&O canal we hopped on the Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland MD the trip changed up a bit.  We heard there was a slight uphill grade that afternoon, but it was supposedly better paved and was a railroad bed so it couldn’t be that steep, so we went in confident, maybe even a bit cocky about the afternoon.  Well what we did learn, trains don’t go up steep hills, but the surely do go up long ones.  Our afternoon was spent on a crushed gravel on a constant 2% uphill and after a few hours cranking away in the saddle at 8mph.  After a couple hours the crew stepped into a 7Eleven with wobbly legs and overall exhaustion in their eyes so we grabbed some subs at a local shop and headed back out on the trail to camp in the woods a mile out of town.  During this time on the railroad beds we found that Arthur bikes at all times with a huge bag of Swedish Fish so on our numerous breaks, we gather round, and Arthur refuels us with red gummy fish….maybe a Mike and Ike if he runs low on occasion. Climbing strong on cherry flavored fish energy we eventually crossed over the continental divide and found the unthinkable on a bike trip, an actual 100 mile downhill.  Everyone always claims that ‘it’s all downhill from here’ or that it’s ‘flat as a pancake just ahead’….they always lie.  But this was an actual sign, showing and actual 100 mile downhill, so for the next two days we enjoyed a very small but constant and relaxing downhill grade.

Now even though we’re heading downhill quite a bit, we still are early in the trip, getting rained on every day, and need our rest.  So the main drawback of being on a railroad lines is that trains tend to run on those railroads.  Turns out the local CSX line is still very active, so while in these small PA towns our camping spots are literally right next to the rail lines.  So every night, every 30 minutes, huge freight trains roar next to our camp blaring their whistle and rousing the entire bike crew from their nap that they just got going since the last train blasted through only 30 minutes prior.  Oh well, what’s a few sleepless nights, we’re in Cleveland now so all the worries of the first week are far behind.  Pam DiMauro makes a killer sauce, someone ranked it as just OK and almost got relocated to the Cleveland slums for the night.  All other bikers learned that when you’re at a DiMauro house and they started the sauce and meatballs the day before, it’s the best thing you’ve ever had, no questions.  We’re posted up here today on a day off, heading into downtown for some chinese food, World War Z on opening day, and a Tribe game with dollar hot dog night.  Up next the mid west.

We’re bikin it….well not today….and we’re likin it.

Brian

Feeling Lucky

June 9, 2013 – It’s that time of year again, and if you’ve been following along with the annual rotations, a bike trip is up this year. The crew that read the epic tales of Cycle 20Ten has been honing their biking skills for the last three years….or so they’ve told me….and are ready to try their hand at a cross country ride.  So as the rain finally gave us a couple-hour-break for once this spring, the sun did pop out so it could ramp the humidity way up and remind me that the bike trip is in fact tomorrow.

This year is a crew of 12 cyclists dubbed Lucky 13… I know I know, I really lobbied to try and get one more person out here but I just couldn’t seem to talk anyone into quitting their job, my skills are getting soft.  So in the morning we load up and head to Maryland and push off from Havre de Grace.  So I admit, we made a mistake with the route last time and ended up climbing every hill in Pennsylvania on our way through, so this time we’re picking up some old rails to trails sections and hopefully bypassing super steep Appalachia roads that dump us in dilapidated abandoned coal towns, but we’ll see.  For that matter, we’re exploring lots of new sections of the country on this tour, up into Michigan and over into Wisconsin.  Google Maps has a new bike trails feature, so this time our route features hundreds of miles of dedicated bike paths, so we’re looking forward to exploring some traffic and stress free days as we make our journey across the states.

Now I was saying that we learned lessons from previous rides, but if it’s been long enough, we just disregard those lessons completely.  In 2005 we learned that by leaving from San Fran, you have to climb 30 passes to clear the mountains, but if you stay north you only have to climb 6 passes.  But that’s been 8 years ago so obviously those lessons are now null.  So we’re staying south this time and heading through Wyoming, Yellowstone, Idaho, and then following Lewis and Clark’s trail all the way out to Astoria.  I’ve checked out the maps and the hills look way big, so stay tuned for endless complaining later in the summer.

In years past we’ve teamed up with UNC’s Lineberger Cancer Center to raise money for them and this year is no exception.  This time we’ve added another element to our cause.  Aidan Kelley, the other guide on this summer’s trip, was a counselor last summer at Victory Junction, a camp for chronically ill children, and he wanted to find a way to incorporate them into this summer’s efforts.  So we talked to Lineberger and for every 15k that we raise this summer they are going to send a pediatric oncology patient to Victory Junction.  Our goal for the summer is to raise 30k so we cand send two campers to VJ and we already have $21,500, so we’re off to a great start.  We’ve even had a camper from Victory Junction that’s in 4th grade host a bake sale to help the cause.  How can you help you might be asking, well you can donate online on our site, www.Lucky13BikeTrip.com

Speaking of our site, once you’re done donating all the extra cash you found laying around the house, you could spend some time exploring the site and see that you can track us live this summer with a real time GPS, get hourly photos through our Flickr feed, and even follow hourly musings on our Twitter account at @Lucky13BikeTrip.  And if you’re not into all the tech stuff, you can even sign up and get our weekly printed newsletter mailed right to your door…..not really on that last part, it’s all online these days.

So follow along this summer as the Lucky 13er’s press their…. luck (couldn’t resist) on this westward journey. The 3700 mile ride will take about ten weeks and once we shake the office/class out of our legs and leave the Appalachians behind we’ll be averaging about 70 a day.  With all these bike paths I have high hopes of quaint small towns equipped with inviting city pools, lush town parks to sleep in, and tasty diners that welcome hungry famished riders.

Off to PA in the morning.

We’re bikin it and I’ll let you know next week how many people in the crew are in fact likin’ it.

Brian