Days 61 -70: The Finish Line

Training for months, slowly building up the mileage. I just wanted to finish. Just wanted to cross that finish line. Beaten down after 20 miles, I only had 6.2 miles left to go. Any distance runner says the real workout is the last few miles, the first 3/4 is just to tire you out and get you to that workout point. That’s exactly how I felt after my first marathon.

I just moved to Baltimore back in 2009. Early one morning I woke up to the sounds of cheers coming from the street. I had no idea what was going on, but i was intrigued. Heading outside, I see roads blocked, people cheering, and a runner or two running down the street. It turns out it was the weekend of the Baltimore Marathon, and I had no clue I happened to live on the final mile of the race, on Eutaw St right outside of Camden Yards. I was inspired. I started the morning not knowing what to expect from the echoing cheers. I left that morning telling myself “Next year I’m going to run this.”

I started training 16 weeks before the 2010 Baltimore Marathon. The training was tough. I couldn’t run 3 miles without stopping. 26.2 seemed daunting. Almost impossible. But slowly and surely I built up the mileage. Sixteen weeks later I lined up for the big race. Unsure if I could really finish. But ready to go out and try.

26.2 miles is flat out insane. Every training plan to run a marathon maxs out at a 20 mile training run, anything after that and you’re literally just injuring yourself. The starting gun went off, and the first 20 miles went just like the training. But the last 6.2 were all foreign, all new, and all brutal. But the last 6.2 miles was the real race, the first 20 was all just routine.

Day 61 left out of Ennis, MT. I spent the morning in a local coffee shop, catching up on all my real world obligations. And spent the rest of the day climbing over one of the biggest passes of the trip. A long, steep, relentless 2,500 ft climb uphill road that seemed never ending. And I enjoyed every second of it. It was one of the first times I was riding by myself uphill, the past few weeks I was always with a group facing these climbs. It was a refreshing change of pace, I was really was able to get into a rhythm slowly but methodically climbing up this mountain. I felt unstoppable, from that point forward I knew whatever the road was in front of me, it was surpassable.

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I spent the night of Day 61 in Dillon, Mt. I stopped at a local fundraiser at a brewery to help raise money for the family of fallen local firefighters in the area. From what I gathered, the firefighters were in the process of performing a controlled burn in the Desoto National Forest, when suddenly, their helicopter lost power. They crashed into the area they just set ablaze. Only one of the four people in the helicopter survived. The survivor suffered serious 3rd degree burns, but was able to attend the event. Although I missed his speech, I heard it was moving. Wish I got a chance to talk with him, but he was overwhelmed and still recovering. I spent the night talking to locals about this great event to bring the community together over this tragic event.

Day 62 was another hilly day out of Dillon, MT. I was heading to the flat and historic Bitterroot Valley, part of the path of Lewis and Clark, guided by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe in 1877. In order to get to the Valley, however, I spent my day climbing over 4,000 ft in elevation. Several big passes came one after another. But much like yesterday, I was still riding solo. I felt great climbing these mountains one after another, at my own speed. I was rewarded after a long 105 mile day with a 10+ mile 6% downhill into the valley. I arrived at Sula, MT with the only store in town closed for the night. There was camping available for $20 a night, but I decide to save the money and camp hidden off the side of the road instead. Running low on food and water, I cooked one of my emergency freeze dried meals, rationed my remaining water, and tucked into my tent for the night to avoid the awful bugs in the area.

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Day 63 was spent in the valley heading north toward Missoula, MT. Home of Adventure Cycling, the organization who makes countless bike routes across the U.S including the infamous TransAmerican Trail back in 1976. I learned Tom was a few miles behind me at a camp ground. Isaiah, Ronnie, Vaughn, Ben, and Naomi were 20+ miles ahead of me, but we were all planning on meeting up in Missoula for the night. With the end point set, a dead flat ride along the valley, and almost no wind, I decide to make it a race to Missoula. My goal was to average 18 MPH for 80 miles. Once again, this is load down in weight, and on a bike as aerodynamic as a sail. I spent 4 hours of my ride watching meticulously my average speed hover anywhere between 17.8 and 18.1. It was stressful, but 75 miles in I was at 18.0 MPH even. One final hill getting into Missoula brought the average down to 17.9 MPH for 80 miles. What a bummer! But by far the fastest ride of my trip. I almost wished I had further to go today, I was finished with my ride by 2 PM. But I had to check out the Adventure Cycling Headquarters, and meet up with the rest of the group.

Missoula was a cool town, and extremely biker friendly. We met (briefly) a guy named Bruce, who was kind enough to let everyone and everyone camp out in his yard. Literally, his entire front yard was full of 15-20 tents. Stories have it that people stayed there for up to a month. It was a biker safe haven. A perfect place to spend a rest day. It was a great night, as the rest of the group rolled into town. Most the people I rode with along the trip happened to be here the same night. We all set our tents up, and head to a chinese buffet to load up on calories. It was bittersweet, we knew riding together was coming to an end. Turns out it would be the last night we were all together. Tom, Glen, Isaiah, Vaughn, Ronnie, Ben, Naomi, and I all grabbed dinner, and then headed back to Bruce’s place to camp out for the night.

Half of the Tents at Bruce's House that Night
Half of the Tents at Bruce’s House that Night
There’s good and bad with having and open door policy like Bruce had. It made it incredibly easy to find a place to stay for the night. But the word was out, combine 15 young cyclists and there is bound to be some excitement. Drinking and partying went on until 3 am. For the first time in my life, I felt like being an old man, debating coming out of my tent and telling these guys to “quiet down! Some of us are trying to sleep!” It was an exhausting night, and I woke up less rested than when I went to sleep the night before. Turns out Tom got so sick of the noise that he left at 5 AM, and the dinner before would be the last time I see him. Good riding with you buddy

I woke up Day 64 exhausted, and in no motivation to ride. Looking back I’ve ridden 17 days without a full rest day, with one or two partial days while enjoying the National Parks. I decide to take a rest day in Missoula, which would give me a day off the saddle, a day to plan my exit strategy, and a chance to visit Adventure Cycling, which reopened the following morning. For one of the first times in my trip, I felt stressed. Stressed to what was coming after this trip. I had no flight home. No job lined up. And the realization that this trip was in its home stretch. I sent out my job resume everywhere, and considered taking faster routes to the west to finish up my trip. I decided to finish my trip taking the Lewis and Clark trail instead of the TransAm trail. It was 100 miles shorter, slightly flatter, and followed the route Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific. Sign me up. And after talking about it with Isaiah, Ronnie, and Vaughn, they were considering it too. But we still had time before the TransAm deviated from the Lewis and Clark Trail, so they still had time to decide for sure.

Day 65 started with a goal to finish this trip as quickly as I could. I told myself I was ready to push myself. Going into Missoula I pushed how fast I could travel. But from here on in I wanted to test my endurance, how long I could ride for. I’ve said countless times throughout the trip, everyone is pretty much traveling at the same speed. Everyone’s bike is heavy, every bike isn’t aerodynamic. It all comes down to how long you’re physically pedaling that determines how many miles per day you go. It all comes down to what time you wake up and get started, and how long your breaks are. That determines your miles per day much more than the speed your traveling at.

The day started with meeting Isaiah, Ronnie, Vaughn, Ben, and Naomi at Adventure Cycling. They had a few gimmicks to try and get people to stop on in, including a official bike weigh in, and getting your picture on their wall. I got the bike and gear weighed in, officially coming in at 93 lbs. Man, that’s heavier than I thought! We take our group photo.  And last we have to say goodbye to our Aussie friends Ben and Naomi, who are heading north from Missoula. It was great riding with them, and they brought a lot of excitement to any town were at for the night. Wish you guys the best in your continued travels.

Official Bike Weigh In
Official Bike Weigh In

Farewell Photo Outside Adventure Cycling
Farewell Photo Outside Adventure Cycling

Making the Wall of Fame at Adventure Cycling
Making the Wall of Fame at Adventure Cycling
After finishing all the Adventure Cycling activities and saying our farewells, it was another late morning to start. I went back southwest into Clearwood National Forest, aiming to get past Lolo Pass, the border between Montana and Idaho. At an attitude of 5,233 ft, the pass was a reminder how we were slowly descending from the thin air of the midwest. The climb was slow, gradual, and easy. From this pass, William Clark was quoted saying:

“From this mountain I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see.”

From there, we followed the Crooked Fork River through Clearwood National Forest. It was a gorgeous ride. The river and road weaved through the dense forest. I told Isaiah how each turn could be described the same way, and yet it was never boring. Each turn left me wondering what came around the bend. I would definitely recommend it if you’re ever looking for a weekend ride out west. The park was around 120 miles wide, so we had to camp out in the park overnight. We slept next to the river, cooked a meal together, and plotted our next day.

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Heading Up To Lolo Pass
Heading Up To Lolo Pass

“There’s nothing but potatoes in Idaho???” Fighting over the last scraps of real food

Decent of Lolo Pass
Decent of Lolo Pass
Day 66 continued our ride along the beautiful Crooked Fork River and Clearwood Forest. We arrived 60 miles down the road to a town called Kooska, ID, and the other 3 guys needed to decide if they were going to continue the TransAmerican Trail, or head west down the Lewis and Clark with me. After much discussion, they opt for the Lewis and Clark Trail. But we also realized that unless I wanted to wait until after the 4th of July to finish, that I would be aiming at a much faster finish than they were planning on. It was tempting to finish with a group, but at the same time I had that race mentality brewing in my head. I spend the last two days only doing 70-80 mile days, which was lower than the average I was hoping to push myself to do. I made the hard decision to split from them the following morning, and get to the Pacific as fast as I could. Isaiah, Ronnie, and Vaughn spent some time that night telling stories about the memories of our trip, how hard it was to believe how long ago we all met, and what our plans were for once this was all over with. We all went to bed for the night, knowing by the time they woke up the following morning, that I’d be gone. And by 5:30 AM day 67, I was on the road. I was all alone now, and ready to push myself to the limit.

I remember that starting gun go off back in 2010. The first marathon I ran. 13.1 miles in and I felt great. Barely winded. Surely if the first half was so easy, the second half would be too. That’s obviously not how any endurance event goes, The first half merely bends you. The last half is what breaks you.

Crooked Fork River
Crooked Fork River

Waterfall in Clearwater National Forest
Waterfall in Clearwater National Forest

More Barren Land Entering Kamiah, ID
More Barren Land Entering Kamiah, ID
I set off day 67 with my eyes set on a 200 mile day. It was ambitious. I remember back in Kansas I told Tom I was hoping to have a 150 mile day. He looked at me like I was crazy. “150?!” he said, “that’s crazy.” Weeks later 150 wasn’t good enough anymore, I had my eyes set on 200. For those keeping track at home, I was aiming for 3x my longest ride ever before starting this trip. I woke up at 4:30 AM, packed my gear, and set off by 5. After a quick breakfast, I hit the road. The Lewis and Clark Trail followed the flat river to a town Lewiston, ID, and Clarkston, WA. I was flying, hitting 70 miles before 11 AM. But that was when all the fun began. The scenery was unlike anything I’ve seen. The Snake River passes both these towns, and provides the valley with plenty of fresh water. But anything above the river received none of the fresh water, and the mountains surrounding the water was as barren as could be. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Sunrise Day 67
Sunrise Day 67

Valley Slowly Becoming More Barren
Valley Slowly Becoming More Barren

Caught a Deer Trying to Beat the Heat
Caught a Deer Trying to Beat the Heat

Washington State! State #13
Washington State! State #13

Clarkston, WA
Clarkston, WA

Clarkston, WA
Clarkston, WA
I slowly pass Clarkston, WA and enter an a 2,500 ft climb into the dry barren land known as Hell’s Canyon. Named appropriately, it was scorching. and completely unexpected, I had plenty of water, but still managed to run low towards the end of the pass. It was exhausting, and set my pace back for my 200 mile day.

Climb from Hell's Canyon
Climb from Hell’s Canyon
On top of the pass, I run into two cyclists, a father daughter team. I was racing to get to 200 miles, and considered blowing past them. But I decided I could use a short rest, and talk to them for a few minutes. After a few minutes talking with the pair, I learn the father is a dentist! What a small world, I ask if he retired, and he tells me he just sold his practice in Daytona Beach. What an even smaller world, I have family 20 minutes from there. I say my last name to see if they were his patients, and he doesn’t recall the name. All of a sudden the daughter chimes in “was your mom or grandma a teacher??” Turns out my grandma was the girls 4th grade teacher! What are the odds of that?! It’s crazy who you might run into in the world, hard to imagine that I’d have any connection with someone out in the middle of a desert. Unreal!

Joe and Kelly Valenzi, my Grandma taught Kelly in 4th Grade!
Joe and Kelly Valenzi, my Grandma taught Kelly in 4th Grade!

On Top of the Climb
On Top of the Climb

On Top of the Climb
On Top of the Climb
I continue the rest of my ride with two more large passes. I should have checked the elevation profile before declaring my 200 mile ride. But still, after 15 hours of riding, I was at 165 miles and ready to push for 200 miles, even if it meant I would be riding until midnight that night. But fate made that decision easy for me, right as I entered Walla Walla, my rear tire blew out. It was the end of the ride for me, and I was just glad I was lucky enough to have this happen while I was 2 miles away from a bike shop. I’ll have to wait until another day to take a crack at 200.

Sunset in Walla Walla
Sunset in Walla Walla

The End of my 200 Mile Attempt
The End of my 200 Mile Attempt
Day 68 was a short day, as the route took me 59 miles down the road to Umatilla, OR. Past Umatilla was 70 miles of no services. No water, no food. 59 miles was a comparatively short day. But I weighed my options. Stop in town, stock up on food and water for camping, and start early the follow day sounded like a good plan. As opposed to head out to the middle of no where, and hope I had enough supplies to last the night and the rest of the ride the following day. I enjoyed a leisurely pace, and got to rest up some of the soreness from the 165 mile ride the day before. I get to town, realizing I only have 300 miles to go. I realize my ambitious goal of finishing in 70 days is just on pace. I just need to average 150 miles the next two days.

Entering the Columbia Gorge
Entering the Columbia Gorge

Entering the Columbia Gorge
Entering the Columbia Gorge

Entering the Columbia Gorge
Entering the Columbia Gorge

Oregon!!! Almost there!
Oregon!!! Almost there!
My night was set thinking about the home stretch, and what I’ve been through up to this point. I call it an early night, and get to bed around 10. That was until, turns out my camping spot must have been a hotspot for local kids to party and drink. I woke up at midnight hearing a ton of yelling, and kids doing what kids do. They couldn’t have been more than 100 ft away from me, luckily they didn’t see me or my bike. I weighted my options, get out and yell out them. But I’d risk them ignoring me, and just cause me more problems. I could move my camp, but at midnight that didn’t seem like a great solution. Or I could grin and bear it. I opted to endure the hourly wake up calls and just sleep the best I could. Enjoy what I little sleep I had until my 4:30 AM alarm the next morning

Day 69 started feeling drained. I was supposed to feel rested after only doing 59 miles the day before. Instead I felt the opposite. Exhausted, drained, fatigued. Not the way you want to orchestrate a big finish. It felt like mile 20 back in 2010 during the marathon. Everything ached. It was a struggle to start moving. I desperately wanted to just snooze and go back to bed. But I knew the 5 AM start was the only way I could finish by day 70. Today was the set up day, I was looking to set myself up to make tomorrow a manageable day. I made a less vocal attempt at 200 miles again, hoping to get to Portland, OR, and make it a “short” 100 mile ride to finish up the following day. However, the thought of 200 miles was short lived. I entered the Columbia River Gorge, which was incredible. The river was all I needed to follow to the Pacific. The surrounding land was dry and barren, much like Lewiston several miles back. There was a tremendous amount of water, and yet nothing was living on the surrounding mountains. I was exposed with no shade, no water, no food for this 70 mile stretch. And by 11 AM, it was scorching outside. I watched the temperature slowly rise. in the 90’s by 11 AM. 95 degrees by noon. At its peak, I was riding in 108 degrees. 200 miles was impossible in such conditions, I spent my time stopping frequently for water at any stop I could. I spent an hour grabbing lunch in the middle of the day, including a 40 oz milkshake in the middle of the ride. The gorge slowly became more lush and tropical. Trees started to cover the once vacant mountains. I had a place to stay in a town 120 miles up the road. But I though in my head what that would mean to finish tomorrow. I would need a 180 day to finish tomorrow. A day forecasted to be even warmer than today. I knew I needed an extra 20 miles to give me a chance to finish the following day. And I was tested almost immediately after pushing for those 20 miles.

Right after passing the town I had a place to stay for the night, I had my serious accident of the trip. For the past thousand miles, I’ve been having issues with my pedals coming unclipped while riding. It was annoying, but manageable up to this point. Going up a hill, my foot quickly came unclipped. As you can imagine, if you expect to have the force of your pedal there, and there is nothing there, you lose your balance. Think any time you expect there is another step on the staircase, but there really isn’t. You lose balance. Thats exactly what happened on a small two lane road. I lost balance. I tried to catch myself, but fell to the ground, landing on my left and and hip. A few cars behind me saw me fall, and stop in time to avoid a bigger accident. I’m pretty frustrated at this point, mostly that I let this equipment issue go so long without correcting it. Luckily, only minor damage to the bike, and a sore hip and scraped up hand for me. One guy asked if I needed a lift. I politely turn him down, at 3,950 miles now isn’t the time to catch a ride.

The next 20 miles were painful, but I knew I needed them to set up tomorrow. My hand hurt so much I could barely hold the handlebar. My hip felt sore every rotation of the pedal. But I grin and bear it to Stevenson, WA, and call it a night after 141 miles in a blistering 108 degree day. Easily one of the hardest days of my life. I couldn’t breath through my mouth without my throat drying out immediately, feeling like I was choking from the heat. But I was determined to get another 20 miles at the end of the day, and didn’t a spill stop me from doing it. Everyone asked me how I was biking on a humid 108 degree day, and I just told them its the same as any other day, you just pedal. I didn’t let and of this get in my way. It was pain coming down the home stretch of my marathon. It was all unfamiliar after 20 miles of running, it was all new for me. But I kept pushing mile after mile to get closer to that finish line on Eutaw St.

I grabbed dinner at a local restaurant, absolutely exhausted and in need of a good meal. I had no clue where I was going to sleep, but getting out of the heat was all I cared about right now. This was the second time in the past three days I’ve biked from sunrise to sunset, and had the same plan for the following day. I met a guy named Mike, who told me about the area, and all the amazing things the Columbia River Gorge has to offer. Mike was an outdoor enthusiast, doing a little bit of every. Seemed like a great guy. I asked him if I could camp in his backyard. He offered me a better offer, sleeping on his couch. I had another 4:30 AM wake up planned, so I felt bad setting my alarm this early in his house. But he insisted, and I accepted the invite. After a shower, I crashed immediately. I was definitely glad I could get a few hours rest without kids waking me up in the middle of the night. I said thanks to the hospitality from Mike, and called it a night.

Sunrise Selfies
Sunrise Selfies

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

Mt Hood
Mt Hood
Day 70, was another 4:30 AM wake up. Third day I’ve woken up and beat the sunrise. I collected my belongings from Mike’s place, grab another gas station breakfast, and hit the road. I cross the Bridge of the Gods, a bridge connecting Washington and Oregon east of Oregon. Its part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Rumor has it, its mentioned in the book Wild. I crossed the bridge as the sun rose, and reflected what the next few hours could bring me. I was 165 miles away from what I started 70 days ago. 165 miles from finishing a dream of mine for 6 years. I set off on a mission that nothing would stop me today. It was the home stretch.

Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods
Those final 6.2 miles back in 2010 were some of the most physically demanding minutes of my life. My body was past its breaking point. It was simply a matter of enduring it. Finding a way to muster up whatever energy you had left in you. This time around, it was more mental fatigue than physical. Sure, I was sore, my knees ached the first 10 miles. But it paled in comparison to barely getting any sleep the past few days. The mental drag of spending over 14 hours a day on the saddle. I was on the cusp of the my breaking point, but refusing to give in to finishing at anything less than 110%.

I posted in my last post here that I dared whatever obstacle out there to bring it on. I knew there would be something unexpected. And 10 miles in I was faced with just that. A 30 foot staircase part of the “bike trail.” I complain about it for a second, then lug that 93 lbs bike up those steps and keep on my way. Nothings slowing me down.

“The Bike Path???” Thanks Oregon!!!
I climb up a hill on the Oregon side of the gorge. Two beautiful waterfalls come within sight of my path. As badly as I want to push it today, I know I need to stop for these wonders. I snap a few photos, take a moment to admire them, and head on my way.

Didn't TLC Teach us Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls??
Didn’t TLC Teach us Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls??

The Vista House
The Vista House
On the top of the climb I run into a local cyclist in town. I can’t remember his name, but I started chatting with him riding along the gorge. He was out for a morning workout, yet decided to ride at the slower touring bike pace, to stay and hear my story. I told him I was hoping to finish my journey today, and he said he’d thought about biking cross country himself. When I asked him why he never did, he told me “he can’t now with his wife and kids. I should have done it when I was younger.”

It’s truly amazed me along the trip how many people have told me they’ve thought about biking the country. But instead of hearing all these success stories, I kept hearing about people who always thought about it, but never took the leap. It always reminds me of the quote “Life passes most people by while they’re making grand plans for it.” Its just a reminder that the planning is just one aspect of a story, but actually taking the action is what makes the story. Bring those plans to action.

I noticed two age groups throughout my trip, the young recent graduate, or the 50+ year old who is close to retirement, or already retired. It makes sense, when else could you take time off work, away from family, etc. to be away from home for 3 months. My morning riding partner missed his earlier window, but seemed optimistic he might try to complete the ride later in his life. Lets hope he can bring that idea to action later down the road, when life settles back down.

Having someone to ride with for the morning lifted my spirits. It was just what I needed. I noticed my pace when much quicker, I felt like I had more energy. Next thing I knew, I was already 30 miles into the ride. He gave me some energy bars, and wished me luck today. He congratulated me on today, and I told him I still had plenty of riding left before I finished. He smiled and said congrats again, he must have been able to tell how determined I was to finish it all today.

I pass through Portland, and breathe a sigh of relief. The city traffic was one thing that could have slowed me down. Lucky for me, the bike lanes in Portland were great. I got through most the city without having to slow down at all. The land flattened out and I was on my way to Astoria, OR. A nasty headwind caught me for a 15 mile stretch as I changed directions out of Portland. It was killing my pace. I decide to stop and take a rest for 10 minutes, and it turned out to be a great decision. I came back stronger, focused to take an hour and hit this wind as hard as I could. I tucked into a more aerodynamic position, focused on the music playing, and knew I had to beat this wind.

I watched the ETA on my phone hover between 8:15 PM and 8:45 PM all day. It was stressful, every second I stopped was a second I needed to earn back. I had to get to Seaside, OR before sunset to take the pictures, which was at 9:10 PM. Not much margin of error on a 165 mile ride in 90 degrees of heat.

The hills were rolling, gently but noticeable. Gradual enough that they were manageable. But steep enough to be annoying. My body was aching at this point, every rest stop I took was a struggle to get started back up. I arrive at Astoria around 7:15 PM. Just 18 miles away from the Pacific.

Astoria, OR
Astoria, OR

Astoria, OR
Astoria, OR
I spent the last hour of my ride thinking about that home stretch down Eutaw street during my first marathon. I was drained, bruised, but coming back to familiar territory. Crowds cheering. Running through the gates of Camden Yards, into the footsteps of Ravens Stadium. If the last 6.2 miles of a marathon is the actual race, than the final mile is all the glory. All the cheering, all the excitement, all the time to soak up what you just accomplished. This final stretch of 18 miles was all my glory, encapsulating all the hard work I put in the past 4,000 miles. I owned the moment. I took a few minutes to text friends in family telling them I was an hour away from finishing. And I savored the last few miles as much as I could, while still trying to beat out the sunset that was rapidly approaching.

I arrive to Seaside, OR with just minutes to spare. It was surreal. I arrive to see the sun barely above the horizon, with a statue of Lewis and Clark and a waving American flag overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was perfect. They say a sunset on the Pacific can’t compare to anything on the east coast. Maybe it was just how much that moment meant to me, but I can assure you it was one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen in my life. It was beyond words, and ingrained into my memory.

Lewis and Clark Overlooking the Pacific
Lewis and Clark Overlooking the Pacific

First Arrival in Seaside, OR
First Arrival in Seaside, OR

First Arrival in Seaside, OR
First Arrival in Seaside, OR
The sky glowed a vivid orange. The ripples of the ocean glistened the majestic colors of the ski. There was one lone cloud above the horizon, glowing vividly the brightest orange color I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been the spiritual type, but it radiated in a way I felt had to be beyond fate. A picture didn’t capture its true beauty, and will just be a reminder of the image ingrained in my mind.

image
Lone Ominous Cloud
I dragged my bike the few hundred feet to the shore. The first time I’ve ever been upset about a wide beach! I barely make it in time to dip my tires in the water, but make it just in time for some amazing pictures. For those who asked, no I didn’t wait to take those pictures. This is literally the second I got into town and got to the coast.

As I dragged my bike to the water, it really hit me, I was finally done. One of the biggest accomplishments of my life. Probably the most mentally grueling experience I’ve ever been apart of. I teared up getting close to the shore, and I just tried to let my emotions roll. In 70 days I pushed myself to the limit, and sprinted down the last 4 days for a finish to remember.

Wheels in the Pacific!
Wheels in the Pacific!

Made it to the Pacific!
Made it to the Pacific!

Tire Marks in the Sand
Tire Marks in the Sand
The final stretch of the marathon was full of cheers and celebration. A medal to mark my accomplishment. A band playing at the finish line. a flood of congratulations, and crowd of people to “tell your tale” of the course with.

It was the first reminder of how far I’ve come since then. When I started into these challenges back in 2010, it was all about the personal accolades of finishing these goals. I needed that cheering, I needed that extra boost to finish that race. I finished that marathon to a crowd full of people cheering be on.

I arrived to the Pacific with no one there cheering me on. A crowd of people stood watching the sunset, not one with the slightest clue I just finished my 4,141 mile journey. And honestly, it was perfect. Back in 2009 the roaring cheer was what motivated me to run that marathon a year later. But now? The silence of my arrival let me truly reflect on what I’d accomplished over the past 70 days. That reflection; both the reflection of journey, as well as that incredible sunset reflecting over the Pacific, motivated me for whats yet to come in my life.

530 miles in the final 4 days. 4,141 miles in total. Surf City, NJ to Seaside, OR. Coast to Coast in 70 days!!!

Lewis and Clark Statue the Next Day
Lewis and Clark Statue the Next Day

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Thanks for following everyone! See you all on the next adventure!

Day 70 Blurb: 162 Miles Left!

Finished up yesterday in Stevenson, WA. 47 miles east of Portland. 

Day 69 was brutal, historic high temps forcasted for the day. A high of 108 degrees! Hell on earth. 

I managed to have my second longest ride of the trip during this heat wave, 141 miles in total.

Got an early start yesterday, 5:30 AM. The night before was a long night, I found a spot off the bike path to camp. There were abandoned tunnels nearby the path, which some local kids decided to use to drink and hang out at all night. Luckily they didn’t find my tent, but I barely slept at all.

Well it’s 4:30 AM and I’m in position to make a run to finish it all late night. 162 miles left. In another 100+ day.

I feel like this trip has been testing me. It’s almost comical at this point, everyday there’s a new thing thrown at me, almost as if to see if I can keep pushing through after its all said and done. The heat was the first killer day I’ve had like that. I couldn’t breathe out my mouth without my throat drying instantly. At the peak of the day I was stopping every 20 miles to refill 40 oz of water. 

Also absolutely ate it 120 miles in, I’ve been having issues with my cleats staying locked in to the pedals. It’s been manageable, but hitting the bottom of a hill yesterday I was spinning hard. Cleat popped out, and with that much pedaling suddenly being disengaged, you lose all your balance, and I ended up down on the pavement.

Just a few scratches and a sore hip, could have been a lot worse. And my pride bruised form the 5 cars around me that watched it all.

But add it to the list of things that won’t slow me down. I set out 20 more miles after that to so I could still have a shot at finishing today.

Hail, headwind, hills, dogs, shitty roads, freezing cold weather, rain hasn’t  been enough to stop me. Heat waves. Equipment failing. Two more things to add to the list of failed attempts to keep me down.

I’m amped, it’s going to be a tough day again out there today. But with 162 miles, I’m ready for another 12+ hour day pedaling, to see if I can finish it all tonight. A 4 AM wake up this morning, and about to hit the road now. Let’s do this!
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Day 67 Blurb: 370 Miles Left!

Over the past few days, the group I’ve been riding with has slowly been splitting up. In Missoula, MT we left Ben and Naomi, the Australian couple I met on a cold rainy day back in Kansas. They were shooting north from Missoula to get up to Seattle

Yesterday, I split up from Isaiah, Ronnie, and Vaughn, who are eventually shooting to Southern Oregon. Great guys to travel and ride with

Tom stayed on the TransAmerican Trail, and didn’t take a rest day in Missolua, so it’s unlikely I’ll be riding with him.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been riding with these guys for almost 5 weeks. Planning rides, finding a place to eat/sleep ect with these strangers who became great friends. It’s bittersweet splitting paths with them; it means we are really that close to finishing what we set out to do, but yet it would have been amazing to cross that finish line with the people who helped get you there

After two mid 70 mile rides, it was time to crank it and give it a go at a day of epic mileage. I had my sight on 200 miles in one day. Woke up at 4:30 AM, packed my camping gear, and set off from Kamiah, ID. The ride started beautifully along a river. Flat as can be. 

That all changed west of Clarkston, WA. The route skewed away from the river, and into barren land I went. It was wild to see how much water was in a nearby lake, and yet how dry all the land was surrounding it.

These past few days have been the first few days at an elevation below 4,000 feet in almost a month. The positive? I definitely noticed an easier time breathing, felt as though I was getting a more full breath as I breathed in. The downside? The humidity, and temperature has been off the charts. First few days it really felt like summer on the trip. Hot, muggy. 

I hit the big hill in the dry, humid air that seemed to last forever. I should have planned the elevation better before shooting for 200 miles, I was on pace until the hills hit. On the bright side, I was impressed with how long I could sustain miles of 6-8% grade, something I never would have been able to do months ago

After almost fifteen hours of riding, I was ready to get my night gear, bike till midnight, and hit the 200 miles, despite the hills and wind from the day. But my bike had other places. The entire tire blew out right as I entered Willa Willa, WA, and it was a sign I was done for the night. 165 miles certainly isn’t anything to be ashamed of, especially in less than ideal conditions

4,000 ft of ascent yesterday, but those were the last main climbs of the trip. I may try again for 200 tomorrow, into Portland. But I’ll have to check the conditions.

Well I’m closing into the Oregon Coast! Should be entering Oregon later today.

Just a few more days left, if I haul it I could be in Saturday, 3 days of riding to do 370 miles. 

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Pictures out of order, Willa Willa, WA
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Amazing People I’ve Had the Privilege of Riding With
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No food in Idaho except Potatoes? Fighting over the last ration of real food
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Clearwood National Park, 100 miles of Beauty
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Sunrise
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Caught a Deer Taking a Dip
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Clarkston, WA
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Clarkston, WA
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Miles of 6-8% grade
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Stop Following Man, You Cant Keep up with Me
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Sunset
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Only Thing that Could Have Stopped My 200 Mile Day
 

Day 66 Blurb

3,609 miles down, 538 left to go. Will be in Kamaiah, ID tonight. Going for 200 miles tomorrow! 

Will be waking up 4:30 AM to hit the road. Follow me on Endomondo, join the site and add me if you haven’t already. As long as I have cell service, it should be tracking me in real time.
Decided to finish the tour on the Lewis and Clak Trail, following their journey across the U.S. Will bring me to the beach town of Seaside, OR somewhere between Saturday and Monday

A more detailed recap of the last few days to come. But for now I’ll be focusing on my long ride of the trip!

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Days 57 to 60: “The Ride is the Training”

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I was stressed. Sweating bullets. Minutes passed by like seconds, time was flying by. I was losing my window of opportunity.

It was Homecoming Weekend, 2010. I was just a year removed from graduating from the University of Delaware. It was October, and I was planning my first long distance tour. From Baltimore, MD back to UD, 70+ miles. I was set to leave after an exam in Baltimore. “The test started at 10, I’ll be on the road by 11 AM” I told myself.
The test went way longer than I thought. Every minute longer I spent on my periodontics exam, my window of sunlight grew smaller. Pass my exam vs bike into another state for homecoming weekend; I couldn’t tell which one I cared about more. 

My bike way packed, my gear loaded. The night before the exam I gave myself a cut off of six hours of sunlight before I scrapped the bike and opted for the car. I didn’t finish the exam until noon. Only five hours of sunlight left in the day, but 70 miles in five hours seems reasonable. I loaded my bags and set off to Delaware. 

Day 57 was an amazing rest day spent out of Jackson, WY. Isaiah, Vaughn, Ronnie, Tom, and I survived our creepy overnight stay in town. We went out for breakfast, then hit up the local Starbucks to have a group meeting to figure out which route we would finish up on. A couple days ago I heard of a route that cuts out this northern stretch of Montana, saving 300 miles or so. The problem with that? It cuts off Yellowstone park.

I few days ago I was leaning to saving the miles, and taking the shortcut. That all changed when I was approaching the Teton Mountains a day ago. To see the beauty of these mountains, knowing I got here with two wheels and my own sweat and tears (figuratively speaking of course), made them that much more majestic. I knew I needed to bike to Yellowstone, and opted for the longer TransAmerican Route.

The rest of the group decided the same path. Isaiah, Ronnie and Vaughn decided to leave Jackson early to get to campsite in Colter Bay. Tom and I decided to rent a car to see all the places of the Teton we couldn’t see by bike. The mountains were incredible. Unlike any of the Rockies we’ve seen passing through. We finally hit the road at 7 PM. It wasn’t long before we saw a biker with a broken derailer on the road. We stop to help, but that slows our plans to meet up with the guys at Colter Bay. We stayed just 20 miles up the road at Jenny Lake, one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. Through the park I got within a few feet of elk and antelope, it seemed surreal. 

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Jackson, WY
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Teton Mountains
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Teton Mountains
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Teton Wildlife

Day 58 was a ride into Yellowstone. We take a few pictures around Jenny Lake and the Teton’s, and off we went. The road to Yellowstone was more hilly than I expected. It slowed us down substainally. The views slowed us down as well, every few minutes it seemed like we needed to stop and take it all in. It was getting late, and we planned on stopping at a campground on the southern portion of the park. They gave us the bad news that the campground wasn’t open yet, and we booked a room at the historic Old Faitful Inn. It was 20 more miles away from us now, with storms on the horizon. We take off to get to our only shelter. And it wasn’t long before the sky opened. First rain. Then hail! Tiny pieces the size of peas came flying down at us. They hurt! We took cover, let it pass, and came back to a bike covered in snow and ice. We pedaled on to the Old Faithful Inn, which was a gorgeous hotel. I gotta get back here!

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Lake Jenny
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Elk
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One last view of the Tetons
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Welcome to Yellowstone!
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Yellowstone National Park

Hail Storm Video

Day 59 I start my day walking over to see Old Faithful! Hard to imagine this predictably goes off every 90 minutes. I watch it erupt, and then it was time to hit the road. Once again Tom and I were planning a short day of 30 miles, and then to rent a car to see the sights we missed by park. On our ride today, we saw these bubbling pools of water, steam everywhere, and views that looked unearth like. It was all incredible, and was a pleasant reminder how we were sitting atop a active volcano. A little scary when you really think about it.

Tom and I rented a car, and head back into Yellowstone with an easier mode of transportation. We still haven’t been able to sync up with the other guys in our group, cell phone service was awful in Yellowstone, and they had an interesting stay in the park. Looking for shelter during the hail storm, they had to sleep in a park bathroom. They got kicked out at 5 AM, and with nowhere to go in the park, they were on the fast track to leave the park. We should sync back up in the next couple days.

Tom and I drive to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was unbelievable! 1200 ft in depth, with a waterfall and all. You could spend all day here alone. On the way around the park, the bison seemed to wake up and start grazing. They were everywhere, even walking on the road holding up traffic! There wasn’t enough daylight to see Manmouth Hot Springs today, and we had no where to sleep that night. We decided to sleep in the car by the Manmouth Hot Springs, and return the car the next day.

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Old Faithful Inn
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Old Faithful
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Old Faithful
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Hot Springs
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Hot Springs
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Hot Springs
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Wild Bison
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Wild Bison
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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Day 60 woke up to a very sore body and restless sleep. Sleeping in cars is far from ideal, but beats the alternative of camping in bear country. We were some of the first to see the Manmouth Hot Springs today, it was relaxing to see all this without mobs of people everywhere. The springs were trickles of steaming water, and rock mounds of every color. I was shocked how a the different parts of Yellowstone could look so different. We return the rental car, load our bikes up, and leave around 11:30. We get 70 miles to a town called Ennis, with a population of 700 and a trout population of 11,000. A fishing hotspot. The ride was uneventful, got into town and camped behind a local distillary that offers camping to passing cyclists. 

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Manmouth Hot Springs
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Manmouth Hot Springs
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Manmouth Hot Springs
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Manmouth Hot Springs
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Bison Herd
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Bands of Clouds in Big Sky Country
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Quake Lake, a lake formed by and Earthquake! Trees in the water

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The 70 miles into Ennis seemed easy. Granted, it was all downhill, but it felt like too short of a day. Yellowstone was our last major attraction of the trip. The last thing that could really slow me down.

That ride back to homecoming five years ago was a struggle. More hills than I’ve ever seen. Traffic everywhere. Zero experience riding for that distance. It was a disaster. I left too late after my exam, didn’t have any lights for my bike. It was a cold October evening, my hands and feet were going numb. I wasn’t ready for a long trip then. I had zero training. And 50 miles into the ride, I had to have one of my friends come pick me up. It was a failure.

I had the vision of that trip, that failure, while I was planning for this cross country trip. I prepared more for this trip, but still I felt vastly underprepared. I at least had all the gear this time around, but there were still some questions about the engine itself. I was the one who had to power this, all the gear in the world won’t change that.

“The ride is the training.” That’s was the one phrase I heard when I was questioning if I should attempt this trip. No cyclist is used to lugging 70 lbs of weight on a bike, up mountains and through the elements. You just need to go out and do it, and the ride will train you into shape.

The first leg of this trip was brutal. I had major bike issues I wasn’t even aware of while riding, I was exhausted, fatigued, doubting myself mentally and physically. But this was all part of the training.

At this point, I’ve been through it all. 70 miles today felt like a short day. I’m stronger. A better rider. I went through the Rockies wondering if that’s all it’s got. I’ve been rained on. Hailed on. Faced headwind for days. Had dogs chase me. Drivers yell at me. I’ve gashed my leg, wrapped it up and kept riding. I rolled my ankle and kept pedaling on. I’ve been through it all, and it’s not slowing me down.

3,100 miles of this trip are down, 1,080 miles left to go. The major sights are over. The last thousand miles of the ride isn’t training anymore, it’s race day. And I’m hungry to finish what I’ve started, and do it as quick as I can. 

I’m hoping to finish by the end of June. Ideally, the weekend of the 27th. I’ve considered pushing myself for a 200 mile day. There’s nothing left out here to slow me down. And after 3,100 miles of training, nothing out here that could. 

It’s the home stretch, the finish line in sight. The Pacific is my checkered flag. Bring it on

Days 53 to 56: I’ll Take the Thousand Words

Just seven miles short of 3,000 miles into into my trip, its hard to believe I’m getting to the home stretch of the ride. Deciding to continue the TransAm Trail up to Oregon might have been one of the best choices of my trip, I’ve rode through some of the most beautiful parts of the country these past two weeks. The Rockies, Hoosier Pass, the Tetan mountains. The miles and miles of unnamed sights along the way. It’s been surreal. Three firths of the country are now just a memory, and soon the last quarter of it will be as well.

Day 53 left Rawling, WY for one of the first great looks at what the Wyoming country side looks like. Plateaus of red rock emerged. Valleys appeared out of no where, steep declines giving us 40+ MPH descents to the road below. It was a fun ride, until a turn into the headwind slowed our pace. I rode with Isaiah and Ronnie for the ride, and we all struggled into the wind. Everyone told us Kansas wind was the worst, but Wyoming topped it by far. It made it almost impossible to ride. We had 3 miles to go until our lunch stop in Jeffrey City, at 3:30 PM. The wind was making me feel defeated, I coul tell I was falling into a rut. I had to decide whether I would beat the wind, or be beaten by it. I told Isaiah let’s crank out the last 3 miles, and we hauled it at the whooping speed of 12 MPH. It was exhausting, but lifted my spirits that I wouldn’t be beaten by a strong headwind. 

I was ready to stop for lunch, and camp out further up the road. But with rain in the forecast, the rest of the group decided to stay in town for the night and hope the wind faired better the next morning. I was disappointed, but rewarded when I unbelievable free jazz concert was playing in the one and only resturant in town. They wer unbelievable, it seemed like the most the town came to watch. A whopping 93 of them town. We spent the night in a church, thanks to an invitation from a local in town.

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Wyoming. Plains
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Approaching a. Big Decline
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The next morning we woke up early for a short 58 mile ride to Lander. We were all excited, everyone said how great of a town it was. We all had big expectations. The amazing roads and rock formations became more noticeable. The rocks got taller. Mountains appeared to have a rainbow of layers in them. It was unlike anything on the east coast. The pictures didn’t do it justice. 

During the ride, I got my first flat tire of the ride. With all the weight on my back tire, it sounded like a gunshot under my bike. I wanted to be upset about it, but 2500 miles without a flat is more than I could have hoped for. Took a few minutes to fix, but made a short ride a little bit longer.

Once we got in town, we ate lunch at the Middle Fork restaurant. The food was average, but I got an amazing phone call as I was finishing up. My grandma, who by doctors was given “just a few days” and wasn’t able to eat, was actually awake, eating, and able to talk! Unbelievable! She was as excited as ever about hearing about my trip. It was a conversation I didn’t think I’d get to have with her, and I hope her turn around continues. Goes to show you that no matter what a doctor may tell you, there’s always exceptions out there. Was a great way to start my day in Lander.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Lander, we were underwelmed. It was a nice small town, but nothing more than that. We played trivia and grabbed food at night. We weren’t doing so well in trivia, but had one last question to double or nothing. The category? “Chemistry in alcohol” The question? Draw the molecular equation of alcohol. Finally my chemistry degree paid off! We doubled our score, went from last to first place, won a $40 gift card, and became Lander Trivia Champs for the night! Thanks UD Chem department

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Day 55 started with checking the TransAm Race leaderboard. The race started June 6th, and is a 24/7 race across the TransAm trail. Most riders average 3 hours sleep a night, and 250 miles a day. An unreal pace. I check the leaderboard to find that Jesse Carlsson, currently in 1st place, was up the road from me 9 minutes ago! I suspect he is grabbing breakfast in Lander, so I race over to go find him. To my luck, he’s just finishing up at a local diner. I introduce myself, congratulate him on what he’s done so far, and get a quick picture with him. Keep in mind this is all technically in the middle of the race! Really nice of him, was great to meet him for just a few minutes. He’s currently on pace to win this year, and to finish in just 15 days. Unreal!

The rest of the day was spent heading to Dubois, with more amazing views along the way. Another day of strong headwinds, was a challenging day. It seems like the valleys channel any wind to come right in your face, and it was another day where the Wyoming wind showed its force. We met a women named Jacky, the mayor of Dubois daughter, who offered us a place to stay that night! She pulled over on the road to invite us to her place. We kindly took her up on this, and spent the night on our sleeping pads in her home. Another great surprise of hospitality along the way. The next morning she drove us to an overlook in town. Was an often overlooked area as far as tourism goes, but beautiful. 

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Jesse Carlsson and Me
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Biker Gang

Day 56 was going to be a tough, long day to Jackson, WY. It started with a 3,000 climb to a mountain pass west of us. We left Debois to start a 30 mile incline to the pass. Yet another day of headwind, made the hard climb harder, and the eventual descent so much less rewarding. We climb the pass, and get to what has to be the most beautiful street sign I’ve ever seen. “6% grade for next 17 miles”!!!! Should have been a 40 MPH free fall.. Yet with the wind it was sometimes a struggle to get to 18 MPH. On a 6% decline, you do the math there, that’s how strong the wind was. On the decline we get the first view of the Teton mountains, which look like something out of this world. We decide to push the 86 miles to Jackson, and arrived at 9:30 PM. A quant western town, driven by tourism. Expensive, but we crashed with a touring cyclist named Gary. Was definitely one of the more awkward room accomadating, Tom, Isaiah, Ronnie and I stayed in Gary’s “apartment”, which was a one room converted garage with no running water. But beat paying $200 for a hotel or camping 10 miles out of town. So can’t complain too much.

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Hack Monument
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Atop the Pass
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6% for 17 miles?!?
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Teton Mountains
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Teton Mountains
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At Sunset
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On the 30 mile ride next to the Teton Mountains, every picture I took came out awful, and yet it was one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. With the sun setting behind the mountains, the camera couldn’t block out the sunlight and capture the depth of the colors or the Tetons.

It reminded me of most pictures I’ve taken along the way. I see something amazing, take a snap, and every time it never seems to do it justice. I told Isaiah along the ride that the pictures are just to remind you of what you’ve seen, it’s never going to be better than the story you could tell or the memory you have of what you saw.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. And yet everyone I take never does it justice of the beauty out there in this country. Go out and see it for yourself, a picture will never compare to the memory in your mind.

No matter what how much those pictures might be worth, I’d rather have the thousand words. The pictures along the way will just start the story.

Days 47 to 52: Carpe Diem

“Seize the day.” I’ve always thought Carpe Diem was a powerful statement. Think about it. To do everything possible to make the most of a day. Give it all you got. Live it. Own it. Seize it. 

It’s a purely conceptual idea. Never truly obtainable, but certainly possible to come close. And that’s the way it should be, there’s always a little bit more that you could have done.

Day 47 started with much debate on if I should stay in Denver or head back on the road. If you missed the last blog post, take a look and you’ll see why. I ultimately decided to press on, and opted to head out to Oregon. No deserts, beautiful national parks, and the possibly of having more people to ride with swayed my decision to head on the traditional TransAmerican Trail ending in OR.

My riding partner Tom took a few days off while I was visiting Denver. Rather than meeting in Pueblo, we opted to meet at the end of our night at our final destination for the night. It seemed easier than coordinating meeting in the morning. Well luck would have it, as I was driving down the road, I see a yellow recumbent bike sticking out of a cars truck. What are the odds, it’s Tom! I race up to catch up with him, and flag him down. It took a minute for him to recognize me, I guess he’s not used to seeing me off a bike! But turns out I won’t be riding alone, we drove back to return the rental cars and started the ride.

We set our sights on Canon City, CO. 56 miles out of Pueblo, it was a short day. Somehow the ride seemed tougher after a few days off. I felt like my heart was pounding, and I had a tough time breathing. I didn’t know if it was because of the altitude, too much caffeine, dehydration, or some combination of the above. One slow 9% grade hill seemed unbearable. And I had to stop several times going up it. Still at the foothills of the Rockies, I hoped it was a one day only issue. I muster up the strength to finish the day, rewarded with ever approaching views of the snow capped mountains. We arrived in Canon City to meet Scott, a bike shop owner who talked to us for an hour or so about our trip. He even invited us to camp in his yard! But we opted of a motel instead, and crashed for the night.

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Rockies in the Distance
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Road to the Rockies
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Scott, Tom, and me

The next morning we left for one of the biggest climbs of the trip. 4,000 ft of ascending in 30 miles. There were several long steady climbs, testing your endurance. Luckily whatever funk I was in the day before was long gone, I felt great riding up the the mountains. I drastic contrast to the feeling I had going up the Appalachian, which I had to stop throughout the ascent. We stopped in Guffy, where we rain into Josh and Ryan, two cyclists we were riding with earlier in the trip. We decided to spend the night in town, after being convinced by locals who were telling us about the town. They were pretty convincing, and it helped they bought our meal and pitchers of beer.. Always a good way to get people to stick around. We tried Rocky Mountain Oysters for the first time here. If you don’t know what they are, google them at your own discretion. Tasted like any other deep fried food, but not bad at all. 

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Leaving Canon City
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Getting Closer!
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Guffy, CO
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Bills House, owner of the bike hostel
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Rocky Mountain Oysters

Day 49 was the big day., planning on being the day we arrive to Hoosier Pass, highest point alone the TransAm trail. Another big climb of 4,000 ft. And almost immediately the breathtaking views began. Every mile closer the views seemed to get better and better. It was like being a kid on Christmas, the entire ride I was smiling ear to ear. Quick but strong storms passed through every half hour during the ascent. Howling wind and 40 degree pouring rain came and went. But once again I felt strong during the ride, and we made it all the way to the top! Incredible views. There was still snow at the top of the pass, so of course we stopped and made snow angels. But the biggest celebration was the beers we brought to the top! It’s all downhill from here!

We ended the ride coasting down to Breckenridge, CO. All those hours pedaling uphill were undone in minutes, we flew down the mountain at a lost 40 mph. Breckenridge was a gorgeous small ski town, really quaint feeling. We checked into a ski resort, and enjoyed the hot tubs to end one of the best rides of the trip so far.

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50 miles away
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Beginning to Pass Snow Capped Mountains
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More Snow Caps
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Ten Miles from the Pass
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Americas Highest Altitude Bar
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Almost to the Summit!
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Hoosier Pass, 11,539 ft
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Enjoying a beer at the Summit
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Finally Heading Downhill
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Every turn Brought a New View
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Wild Fox in Breckenridge
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The following morning we took off from Breckenridge to continue our descent down the mountain. This side of the mountain seemed built around the outdoor lifestyle. We passed several small ski towns, lakes big enough to sail in, and traveled miles down well maintained bike paths. These towns tucked away under the mountain seemed like an amazing getaway, I have a feeling it won’t be my last time in these towns. A vacation back is a must.

The rest of day 50 was spent getting to a town called Hot Sulfur Springs. At one point, we started heading east for 15 miles or so. Seemed like it went agains rule #1 I had on the trip, always go west. But I quickly forgot about this as we turned a corner and road into the bottom of a canyon. It was gorgeous, pictures didn’t do it justice. A few miles of weaving through the canyon was a great ending to the day. 

We set up camp for the night at the local camp ground in Hot Sulfur Spring. We quickly learned that this campground was used by more than just people passing through town. Most the people here seemed to be more “permanent” short term residents. All the lots were taken, and we shared a camp site with two guys who have been sleeping in their BMW for the past week there. Something didn’t add up there, but they were nice, and let us stay on their staked out land.

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Bike Path out of Breckenridge
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Frisco, CO
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Frisco Bike Path
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Silverthorn Lake
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One Last View of the Rockies
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Hot Sulfur Springs Canyon
 

Day 51 we had out sights set on Wyoming. The landscape was changing, everything was flattening out again. About halfway through our trip, I get a text from guys we were riding with before we split up in Pueblo. We took some rest days, but finally caught back up with them! We met Isaiah, Ronnie, and Vaughn as they were finishing lunch. We didn’t want to keep them waiting, but we picked a town to meet up in later that night to sync back up.

Tom and I finish our lunch, and make way to the Wyoming sign. It was a long day, we logged almost 110 miles that day. But officially entered state #11 of the trip. Colorado will be missed, it’s been the best state of the trip thus far.

As we arrived to our camp in Riverside, WY, I see Isaiah, Ronnie, and Vaughn just checking in. Then i look to my left and to my surprise I see a guy named Glen, who was actually Tom’s original riding partner! I met him way back in Kentucky, it was wild to see him again halfway across the country. We walk over to our campsite, and to my surprise I see yet another familiar face. The Australian couple, Ben and Naomi, I met that rainy day in Kansas! They were great people, was hoping to meet back up with them. But with no American cell phone, it’s been impossible to stay in touch with them.

All of us shared a campsite, and it was really cool to reconnect with all these people I’ve met at various points of my trip. It reminds me of all the stories I’ve had alone the way

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Looks like a wall
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Continental Divide
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Antelope
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Welcome to Wyoming
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Changing Terrain
Day 52 was planned to be a short day to Rawlins, WY. We woke up that morning to hear all this moo-ing. We had no clue where it was coming from, but it was getting closer. One of the most confusing ways I’ve ever woken up. We get out of our tents to see that a herd of cows was being corralled down a public street! A few hundred cattle at least, unreal.

That cow herding woke us up bright an early for our short 61 miles day, which gave us plenty of time to get there and catch up on laundry, blogging, and anything else we’ve put off these last few days. The ride was uneventful, with exception to the route taking us on a 13 miles stretch down I-80. Wide shoulders made it manageable, but cars going 70 mph past you was not the most relaxing ride. We arrived to town, I grabbed dinner with the Ben and Naomi, and called it a night.

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Cattle taking over the Street
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Group riding
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Antelope
We are heading into a stretch of the trip 130 miles with only one stop for water. We stocked up on food and water to plan for everything we might need for the next two days. We are considering making it one long ride, but we will see how we feel.

Looking back at this leg of the trip, I started it from Pueblo trying to decide if I should stay in Denver or go. It was a hard choice to keep moving, but I knew that was the best decision, to do everything I could to seize that day. And I was rewarded by some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. I would have regretted just sitting around in Denver waiting, and it’s a further reminder to myself to just keep moving, and not take time worrying about things outside your control. Keep moving. Keep pedaling. Keep living