Day 101 – The Finish (March 10, 2021)

Night 00- Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Hey everyone! Sorry for the radio silence… I’ve been pretty reluctant to post in a while for a mountain of reasons, but as stated above, we are back home now. We were in quarantine because we had to fly home, but then we both were able to get tested and are both negative. With that, we began to spring our “secret” on a couple of unsuspecting friends and family. With the last bit of fun over and a bit of needed decompression, I can talk about what happened.

Before I get started, I would like to be upfront about the why we returned. While there isn’t one single reason, I was the one to pull the pin. Trust me when I say I am far more disappointed than anyone (other than maybe Russell), but I believe it to be for the best.

With that out of the way, so we go.

As we approached Del Rio, Texas, I was getting pretty beaten up. The roads were rough and it was the first time I had felt any consistent body pains. At that time it was my wrists. The highway leading into Del Rio was pretty bad. We gave Addison most of our weight so we could speed around the base due to the entrance moving without Googles knowledge. That may have been a mistake because our panniers absorb so much of the vibration. Now that went into our arms and legs. A worthy sacrifice for what turned into a week and a half of R&R. But I had some concerns in the back of my mind that I wasn’t ready to face. One being the ability to return if we really needed. Average vehicle rental was well over 2,000 dollars which would have emptied my food budget and flying seemed pretty sketchy. So, as you know, we pushed forward.

First flag was how much I was eating and needed to eat. It wasn’t bad, but I had this floating around my mind for hours and hours of riding. Some may compare it to hitting “the wall”, but I could push through well enough to not bring it up. Not yet…

The winds and cold between Las Cruces and Tuscon didn’t help my own morale, but I wasn’t asking for help. We just had to ride. Every time we got stopped by weather I was reminded of the cost of waiting. In addition, we were heading into a storm system that would drop 2 years worth of rainfall over the south west and California. The appearance of this wild weather was just the beginning. (Looking at you Polar Vortex)

In Tuscon we stopped in a Campfire Cycling and received some concerning information about the rockies. We had discussed cutting the trip shorter and shorter to avoid the freeze because at our current pace, we would reach any crossing point before they would thaw…in April. We looked at any route and the one that may have saved us would have taken 2 or 3 times longer because of the climbing and endless gravel sections, drastically limiting our average speed. Pair that with my own dwindling funds, and I had to make a call. So I decided to feel it out until the grand canyon. I may have been sitting on this stress because I didn’t want to ruin things for Russell.

It was a day or two after I last posted from the canyon that I finally told him. I was pretty beat up over it and that made me really not want to post. After a few talks we settled on “it would be a shame to come this far and not touch the Pacific.” So the new goal was to get to the coast in two weeks.

With the elephant in the room addressed, things just started happening. Like, things started breaking. Like my bike.

By the time we reached Needles, CA, I was out of tubes, my pump broke, my fender snapped, my shoes were disintegrating, my wrists were hurting again, and now, just as we were about the cross the border, my freehub was giving up the ghost. A bit of an issue because, for those who don’t know, without the thing that makes that clicking noise while coasting, I cannot pedal. Well, I can pedal, but nothing happens.

Some may recall that prior to the trip we both had different bikes. I bought my surly because my sequoia’s freehub fell apart and a replacement was weeks out and probably wouldn’t survive. The surly is built to be hardier and easier to fix on the road. Unfortunately my bike is from 2008 and it’s parts are not necessarily on every shelf. Add to that the explosion of bike sales due to the pandemic, parts are even rarer.

Now stuck in Needles and 3 days of the Mohave Desert ahead of us, I took a day, rented a uhaul, and drove 50 miles to Havasu to shop for parts. It took all day and I ended up coming out of it all with an entirely different wheel and 250$ poorer. This is why I had a wheel on the back of my bike in the beach pictures. My wheel was still good, but the salt shaker sized freehub was gone.

We may have cut the trip short, but the challenges kept coming. The last red flag was the polar vortex.

We had narrowly escaped the cold, but we were on the side of the vortex where the wind just wanted us to go south. Unrelenting cross winds and gusts with record breaking numbers made us really not want to ride. Even driving the empty box truck was treacherous in this wind.

So before heading into the desert, I contacted my uncle in Victorville to come up with contingency plans in case this new wheel failed in the middle if the desert. He was happy to help. See, I say “new wheel”, but it was pretty rough. Pretty bent and warped, Russell spent a good amount of time trying to tune it well enough to get us there. Good thing we had our uhaul bike shop because the wind just wouldn’t stop…. and it never did. So with little faith in my own bike and the worst cross winds of the entire trip, we skipped the desert. Matt drove out and grabbed us. Riding back with him we got to see every inch of the road we would have ridden and the shoulder wasn’t great. Meaning the northern wind would have been bashing us into the road as we fought to stay on the same few inches of crumbling shoulder all while hoping my bike didn’t fail…. I FORGOT MY FAVORITE PART!!! When we took the day off to fix my bike I didn’t ride it once. It was upside down all day and I simply took the rear wheel into stores with me. So when I went to test the new wheel I was a bit perplexed as to how MY FRONT TIRE WENT FLAT. So now I also only had one spare tube.

The trip may have only had a few days left, but it wasn’t done with us.

So we spent a day in Victorville to plan our flights and how we would allocate bike boxes and get the boxes to the airport in the morning. The wind never stopping.

We tried to ride away from Victorville and hoped the wind would die down as we shot down into the valley towards Los Angeles, but it didn’t. It took an hour to go 7 miles. So Matt gave us one last lift and dropped us off somewhere around the Mormon Rocks. From there we still had a full days ride, just no cross winds pushing us into traffic.

From here I think I could write entire daily posts, and I’d like to. We rode to the shore from here over the next two days and then had a day to prep for the flight at 8am. Russell’s parents picked us up in Philly and 3 hours later we were home….
Just like that. 4 months of riding was over. Over 4,000 miles. Only to be stopped by a lack of parts caused by a pandemic and record winds caused by a record polar vortex, the likes millions of people would feel the effects of.

I think I’ll leave it off here. I have so much footage and photos to go through. If you are interested to hear about the daily struggles between the grand canyon and Needles, I wouldn’t mind writing them now that the cat is out of the bag, but I didn’t know how to cancel this show and announce it before it actually ends. Now that it is over, I’m not sure what to tell.

I hope everyone’s doing alright. I’m writing this from a nice warm house just outside of Williamsport. No cold to keep me from writing this morning, just my own thoughts. This has been really fun, but journals are hard. I’ve nearly failed an English class or two because of journals, so this has been a pretty strange thing for me to do. Glad you stuck around. I’m going to go grab some coffee.

Have a great day everyone!

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Day 100 – Pacific Coast Touch! (February 22, 2021)

Night…100ish? – Venice Beach, California

Sorry for going dark with the posting. We are fine and healthy. I hope to bring everyone up to speed over the next couple of days. For now, here we are at the second ocean of our trip. We hit the pacific in Venice Beach and carried our bikes over all that soft sand. More exhausting than most of our recent climbs, we waddled to the water with our bikes under one arm. After some funny looks from people and one willing participant, we had our proof.

If nothing else, we have now ridden from the Atlantic to the pacific.

Thanks for following till now everyone. Like I said, I’ll post everything that has happened these last two weeks or so and I think I have enough footage for a nice video or two. So for now, enjoy your day and know we couldn’t have made it this far without your support. On the same note, we are no longer taking any donations and anything sent to the PayPal will be donated to the Bicycle Recycle shop in Williamsport (and coffee money). Thanks again.

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Day 89/90 – The Grandest of Canyons (February 9, 2021)

Night 89/90- The Grand Canyon

So we have a few waypoints on this route to keep us going in the right direction. New Orleans was our first detour with considerable mileage gained and days attributed to it. The Grand Canyon was the second, much larger, detour on this multi thousand mile trip. So we gave it some time to breathe.

Day one was just a short skip to the camp site just outside of the gate. We rode up in line with the cars and had a ranger tell us about the Greenway just off to the side that we might enjoy more. We had just come to the gate looking for passes or to pay any fees needed, now we had a fun way of getting there. Russell got his veterans pass and everything was just peachy. We decided to hold off on reaching the edge until the second day. For now we would just wander about the woods and hang out. It may be a bit cold up here, but it’ll be fine.

The next morning we were up and flying down the road….or not. It got to the low 20s last night and some things needed to thaw. Another day, another coldest night. (It was the next night)

I’m glad we were told about this Greenway. It was probably my favorite “bike path” yet (Over north DC and into Alexandria). This one was made that much cooler by finding ourselves surrounded by elk. The path moved to within sight of the road and saw some cars had stopped. An elk was just hanging out about 10 ft from the cars. Looking all around, there were about 3 within 20 ft of us and another 10 just wandering around between us and the forest on the other side of traffic. Never seen a wild elk this close. I’m sure they are a bit more docile from all the tourism. This day would be full of animals and would later befriend a crow.

Rolling through the visitor complex, we walked up with our hats down over our eyes so we wouldn’t ruin the surprise. 30 yards later and we made it to the a railing.

Dang.

I spent a day staring at this and still could find an end to new things to see or questions. Counting the bands and cliffs. Wondering about the layers and how weathering changes with altitude. Or trying to imagine the first trickling waters that carved it all out. I could make a day of just watching the people interact and take in the land as well. How are you supposed to visit a big pit? You take pictures. Walk too much. Forget to drink water, maybe? But if you don’t sit on a cliff over looking a sea of cliffs… did you even go to the grand canyon? Enough cliff sitting. It’s time to see some peaks.

Rolling our bikes along the edge, we stopped at a few of these outcroppings. Each one had its own incredible nature and view. The best view was when you would look over and see someone on the peak you were at earlier in the day wearing an alien mask. The guy had been going all around filming for Tiktok or something. Mask, dance, grand canyon. Pretty easy, but they were filming for hours. At one point he went out on this peak that had a boulder separated from the main “walk” even further out. When he decided to jump the gap, we (along with a few other tourists) watched as he made the jump, did his thing, and then had to work his way back over…. all on top of a couple thousand feet of cliffs. Wild.

The geology museum was sort of closed. Most of the exhibits were covered with plastic to keep people from poking the same glass as everyone else. The sight out the window was awesome, but that should be a given by now.

For the rest of the canyon, I think I’ll leave it up to the photos. I have been filming way too much with the GoPro and have barely scratched the surface in editing. That might just have to go onto the cloud for now.

We grabbed lunch back at the visitors center and doubled back to the edge for one last look before we left. We stayed for another 2 hours before heading for the campsite just outside the park. I thought the Greenway was fun going to the canyon… I would fly to the grand canyon just to ride that path back. Just the right amount of speed and cornering. Surround it in more nature than you can ask and you have an amazing ride to end the day.
We returned to our camp and pretty much put out tents right back where they were. Tonight’s challenge is that it is the coldest night of the entire trip. Mid to low teen temperatures… I know folks back home are seeing those temperatures now (and so are friends and family in Texas). With all of my layers and maybe the help of an emergency blanket, I’ll be fine.

Spoilers, I used the blanket and slept comfortably once I pulled my hat over my face. Little bit of frost and condensation to deal with in the morning, but it wasn’t too bad. (I say this in past tense because I’m currently finishing this up while laying in my tent in only shorts in California at a cool 46 degrees tonight)… I’m a bit behind on these posts. We have made headway and had some fun challenges along the way which I cannot wait to write about. Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time now we are back to the warmth of the desert.

Here is to one of the coolest and most complex single sights one can see, as well as one of the great wonders. We have a lot ahead of us and have put so much behind us. This chapter has ended and now we look to our new target, just 500ish miles away, the Pacific Ocean. Till then, wish us well and write to your senator to help push the winds on our backs. May your drinks be the exact temperature you want and Texas gets its power and heat back. Have a great one everyone.

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Day 88 – Road to the Grand Canyon (February 8, 2021)

Night 88- Grand Canyon Junction

(This is 8 days after the fact. Between bad service, filled memory cards, and a combination the cold and my will, I have fallen a bit behind)

The ride was pretty, but keep that snow away from us. The road was just fine. From route 66 (I40) to the end of the day on 64, I can’t say I have any complaints. We did have to ride over a big hill and climb to 7000 feet though. So there is a new personal record. At the halfway point the hill gave gave way and we began flying down its backside. As you do.

Our end point for the day is the last rode leading to the grand canyon. It also has a few small attractions scattered about. Some car collectors throw up a route 66 sign and now it’s a museum. One diner based off of the Flintstones. Closed of course.

Another cheap hotel would get us past the 17 degree night and help us get moving early in the morning. We could have gone further, but we wanted to enjoy our time at the canyon, so we paced ourselves to give us a day at the rim. So tonight’s hotel would be a nice comfort before then.

Sorry I don’t have a ton about this day. So many small things fly by on a regular basis that they cannot always cover up the hours of riding. I was pretty happy with this ride and that’s enough most days. I hope all is well back home and the drinks are hot when they are wanted.

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Day 87 – On Route 66, Gettin’ Kicks (February 7, 2021)

Night 87- Ashfork, Arizona

Hmm, so this day was just a grind over 3 rolling hills. Still climbed 1,400 feet, but was just a day. The scenery is beautiful, but it sweeps by at a mile every 5+ minutes or you are swallowed up by short growth trees and cannot see anything.

So the sights never got old, we just had to ride. Not too many elements to this day. Maybe the motel at the end advertised its lowest rate on route 66 at 23$ a night. Wild.

We check out this room and find a cinder block bunker with enough room under the door to let scorpions in. Dinner was a bowl of Spanish Ramen and a new chain for my bike. Our chains stretch over time and that time seems to be shortened by the amount of load put on it. The chain needed cleaned anyway. This was my dinner.

The curtains were lead shields for light at some point. Now they have some “decorative” holes. Center mass of the window. Pretty dark room otherwise. The next day would be fairly short as we make camp on the outskirts of the grand canyon.

This was just another day. Not as exciting as others. Yet entirely necessary for the cool parts to come and the end of a chapter.

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Day 86 – Climbing in the Mountains (February 6, 2021)

Night 86- Prescott, Arizona

Today we climbed a lot. The wind held off and we just climbed up the side of a mountain. It was one of the most satisfying rides of the trip. We just pushed through the elevation and got to enjoy the ride down the other side.

We started with saguaros and ended with snowy pines. I would do this ride for fun in the future. It was my highest climbing day and one of my favorite downhill sections of all time. I’m bummed I didn’t try (or have time to try) Mount Lemmon. This day’s 6100 feet of elevation will do. (Yes, Strava says “5,9-something”, my phone’s altitude read isn’t always 100%)

After a quick pop in a bike shop for chains, we were off to our host’s place. R. Rice, a nice guy with a son our age off starting a family, and a renewed sense of musicianship. Harmonicas all about and a cello was out as if it was just being practiced. Rice was cool. A retired RN who just wants to keep helping/volunteering. He had toured in the past and knew what we had just finished pedaling.

Food in our bellies and room to sleep… this was a nice day. I liken climbing to be like running. You can go fast and find your limit. You can go your slowest and find your limit. But once you find your groove, it is no longer a challenge. It’s just a ride to the top.

I hope this day was a good day for everyone. I’m back to being behind. Hopefully it makes sense as to why as I catch up. There is quite a bit of footage, but there is actually a lot more. Now I’m days behind.

Also, it’s Prescott, like biscuit.

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Day 85 – The Roping Capital of the World (February 5, 2021)

Night 85- Congress, Arizona

Alright, I say this will be short, but who knows. Keeping track of it all two days ago is a fun memory game. This day didn’t have nothing, just a few big things far in-between.

So we start with a little bit of climbing. Not too bad, just 2,000 feet over 40 miles. The weather was kind with only a few small breezes to make us worry the wind might shift. I guess the road was the only real hazard, but even then it was fine till the end of the day. More on that later.

It was lunch time. I can’t say we were in the middle of nowhere. While riding on this back road highway, we hadn’t seen much due to the brush and terrain around us. Rail beds have followed us in our journey every step of the way, but some are taller and obscure more. So it felt like the middle of nowhere. Suddenly there was a lineup of those big dealership shaped flags with all the crazy buzz words for “attractions here”.

Russell confirmed that was the lunch stop and it just got more interesting as we approached. It was a rancho/rodeo training camp/resort? We just kept turning corners into more and more. From the road we first saw the corral (maybe not the right name, but it was a ring of fencing that was about 25 yards across.) In side where a couple of cowboys roping a young bull. Then the was a parking lot full of horse trailers and trucks with a few horse still being ushered around.

Then we enter the complex. Right in front of us is a BBQ restaurant. Just beyond was the ranching event. Now we could clearly see the audience and the 40 or so people on horseback just walking around watching. In between here and there was a concert stage with seating, an outdoor bar/saloon, water tower with some crazy rock feature built around the bottom, a mini petting zoo…. this place had a lot going on, but was currently fill with cowboys. The BBQ place was good. It was open seating in a big wester dance hall sized room. We just sat and ate mystified by what this place was and what was going on. Why did all the horses start doing laps in the corral? Not all these guys are dressed quite in typical gear, but all knew what they were doing.

Later we would find out that that town is the “roping capital of the world”. A place where ranchers learn how to ride and ranch better. There are massive study events and professional bull keepers for rodeo come here from all over the world.

I thought lunch was just going to be a gas station.

On our way out, about 100 feet down the road, we rode past a hot pink riding crop. Ha, makes sense.

So I grabbed it.

Enough fun? How about danger? The last 15 miles of road seemed to drag on forever. The wind picked up a bit to make it drag more. Then the shoulder disappeared. It was a low traffic road, but one SUV nearly clipped both of us at 30 mph. So now every car was suspect to the same degree. The shoulder would stay gone for the remainder of the trip. Then we got shot at by the ground. A piece of metal had gotten crumpled up and torn into parts in the fast lane. We heard it get kocked around and then we had chunks flying around our heads. Bug soft ball sized chunks of broken metal. Really wakes you up. Oh well, back to balancing on the white line to pass the time/stay alive.

Yeah, that day went from nothing to enough pretty quick.

We pulled right off into our rv court just south of congress. This one had a dry camping option for 12$ and it pretty much amounted to a parking space on a gravel/dirt lot. All good, it’s all we need. Just felt off. Link that spot was a road way or a turning lane for the RVs. This is shop for the night.

Tomorrow we would have the biggest climb of our lives. So tonight, while being watched over by a great horned owl on the water tower next to us, we slept pretty well. Nice night, not too cold yet. That’s pretty much it. I hope you all had a great day. I’m back to playing catch up because of a great couple of hosts that I’d rather talk to than write journals. So have a great day. No matter when you read this.

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Day 84 – A Good Ol’ Phoenix Heart Attack (February 4, 2021)

Night 84- Sun city west, Arizona

Today we would spend cutting through Phoenix. Last time we planned a day for getting out of city was El Paso. There wasn’t nearly the same elevation to conquer or traffic to fight. For the most part our ride was pretty tame. Except for my lunch time heart attack.

We stopped for a quick lunch at a Wendy’s before heading downtown to by this Japanese Zen garden. Just 17 miles, or an hour and a half of riding. It was nice and relaxed. Until I went for my wallet… time stopped. My mind went racing. Retracing steps, doing the math on ride times, what would need to happen next to solve this problem? Then the waves of defeat hit as I went through the ideas of canceling cards, needing ID, what else did I have in there that needed replaced now? No time for panic, but the sun is going down. A few phone calls to the Wendy’s to see if the have it. They were slow going, but they found it. We were back on. Now to retrieve it…. yeah, I got an Uber. It would have taken 3 extra hours to go back. 35 minutes later and I returned to Russell at the Zen garden.

We didn’t get to go inside. Time to ride.

Our hosts for the evening were friends of the Stones. I guess a few of them decided the cold of Michigan was too much for a yearly occurrence and now split their time between here and there. Lucky for us, we had a room. The food was fantastic and the shower felt great. I think 50 miles through a city area is more exhausting than open plains. You’re constantly dodging and interacting with the changing roads while stopping/starting because of all the crossing roads. Legalize the Idaho stop in all states.

Even though we had settled in and showered, my brain was still fried from the stress roller coaster that I hadn’t ride for years. Collin losing his wallet used to be a common gag when I was a kid. Now the consequences of losing that fold of cash and cards is such a staggering inconvenience that I hadn’t shaken the feeling for the rest of the day. (It still worries me and this is 2 days after the fact.)

Sorry for another short post. I fell asleep when trying to write this particular night and now I’m behind. I have some pictures and stuff. So enjoy those and thanks for reading. Have a great day.

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Day 83 – R&R: Ruins and Riding (February 3, 2021)

Night 83- South Phoenix, Arizona

I hate to ruin a good post about the ruins, that was most of our day. The slow approach to Phoenix was just that for the most part. We rode into new roadways with green grass for a while. Random plots of corporate buildings line the out skirts of the city. So the grass can afford to be this green now.

Breakfast with Larry and his pup. Then we rode out to some native ruins just north of Coolidge with the dynamic duo. Pups in carts can act as sirens. This young cattle dog wanted to herd us together from his basket. Having us swerve around behind him was driving him nuts. I think he settled down around the time we arrived.

The museum of the Casa Grande ruins was closed, but the structure was still open. So we took a lap and parted ways with Larry. Time to get rolling.

It is a shame that our urgency is usually towards forward progress. That drive forward doesn’t always lend itself to long visits or unnecessary detours. But that drive gets you through the long grinding roads. I suppose a tour outside a pandemic will be necessary to revisit some of our favorite spots and to really take it in.

For now, we just have to ride some miles. With needs from the REI in south Phoenix, we got a hotel for an easier afternoon time table. No tents means more free time to grab supplies.
In addition, we had a host lined up in the north west part of the city for the following day. Figured a 50 mile day through a city would be enough. So this worked out well. Note to self, Phoenix is wide.

I used to write these in the morning so I would always be searching for coffee. Now that I primarily write them in the evening, I still hope everyone has great mornings. We push to get started too some days.

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Day 82 – Just Miles In Between (February 2, 2021)

Night 82- Coolidge, Arizona

“Oh, you guys are going straight through to Phoenix? It’s really boring.”- how it was told to us. Well, we were going to see about that today. Our destination was a warmshowers host just north up the road. The path was pretty simple. Just miles in-between. So we went.

The roadway was fairly consistent in its shoulder. There was a few sections that had consistent bump strips big enough to rattle you if not prepared. Still able to rattle you a little bit even if you are prepared. That may have been 30-45 minutes of “fun”.

It was awesome weather. Hot if anything. I think it was in the 70s. Yet here we are trying to plan for the unforgiving cold. Only a few days away we will be a few thousand feet higher. So this day’s ride is just a quick grind in the sun. In the afternoon a cloud canopy rolled in like a wave. I think we were keeping up with it for a bit of time.

We got to our host’s house before he (Larry) got back from work. He told us of an excited puppy waiting for us in the back yard. So there was. A young cattle dog with new teeth. Mind your water tight bags…he really wanted to jump on the bikes for some reason.

Larry was cool. An older guy who has been a host for quite some time and has toured as well. His kids are out on their own tours or all ride. What grabbed our attention was was the tandem recumbent bike with a basket in the back. I wanted to ride it, but the basket confirmed our suspicion. The pup knows how to ride. Larry offered to feed us and ride out with us in the morning. So we would get to see the duo in action.

So the weather was hot, but we got showers. It wasn’t a bad day, it just wasn’t a very eventful ride. Just lots of playing with the camera and trying to spot the tiny ground squirrels. I hope it was an okay day for everyone else. We’ve really had the itch to go skiing.

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