Save the date! Join us on Wednesday, November 17th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at Barnes and Noble in Canton for our annual bookfair! FVAM students will entertain you with a musical presentation along with their displayed artwork! You won’t want to miss author’s, Mary Cashman and Cynthia Whipple when they read their book, Merrilee Mannerly.
Awesome and awful, at the same time, is how some people decsribe my bike ride across America. I expected the first couple of weeks to be difficult because of starting up in the mountainous terrain, the next couple of weeks I would feel stronger and the last couple to be cruising into the east coast.
The scenery was awesome in Washington which made up for the awful weather a few days. The awful weather made for a most exciting and challenging ride through the wind/rain storm. The weather and land changes over the mountain passes were distinct and dramatic from the coastline to the Idaho border.
Idaho lived up to its reputation of picturesque landscape. I think that the ride around the Couer d Alenes was the prettiest, most pleasant day of the entire trip. The sky and water was blue and clear. The trees and air were green and crisp. The animals were at home. The company and conversation with Bob were interesting. It was the epitome of a long distance bike ride, just as I imagined it to be.
It was great to see the little places as much as the well known places along the way, commercialized or not. There was a sense of the ‘west’, the open road mentality, the big sky, joined by our country roads. These roads were clearly built for cars, but could be shared with bicyclists, with some cooperation. Just pass through Sturgis or Keystone SD to see that. You can see the motorcycles in one and Mt Rushmore in the other and plenty of good roads and badlands in between with native people residng there and visitors passing through the state. The lights of the towns didn’t reach out or distort the colors of the land and set a stage for taking pictures of the Milky Way in the night sky. It was awesome to capture the mass of stars in a photo, thanks to Arne.
Nearly halfway across at this point. The fields stretch on through several states, connecting the west to the east, changing slightly from cornfields to pastures. I didn’t take any pictures of those poor, dead, little froggies who couldn’t cross the road, but I did stop to take pictures of other animals and the hues and lines of the land. The cows and horses knew that I was taking their picture, no doubt. Some of ‘em didn’t like it. They showed me their back end. The smell of sweat, manure and urine, no, not me, was potent! There were some days that were so hot that I didn’t know if I was sweating or drooling down my chin! Wiping it off only served to smear it in deeper. My skin felt like putty!! Truly awful.
Closing in on the east, the land and people became more varied. The lakes were laaaarge and lovely, surrounded by trees around MN and WI. Even though we have ridden through too many towns to keep track (I have much more sympathy for musicians performing in different towns every night and not knowing where they are that night) the riding here was steady enough to look around and have a little time to spare to check out local signs, banners and murals depicting their communities. Pride in the hometowns were evident. Particularly awesome was riding over the bridges in and out of the USA and Canada.
I say that starting early each day and riding for hours made for some very long days, while crossing the country in six weeks seems a very short time!! I look at the map to remember all the places we passed. I have ridden a little nearly everyday since I returned. I feel stronger and faster on my old routes. People ask what is next. I would do another ride some day, up or down the coastlines, maybe, with a smaller group, maybe, self-contained, to make it more of an adventure…
In any case, I feel fortunate to have done this ride and I will keep looking for fun things to do and carry on.
The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Rachel Carson
I wondered what I would write about this week. It seemed like all we did was ride through more corn and soybean fileds. What else could I say about that?
It is helpful to have a decent sense of direction bicycling along these states. The roads are named by letter or number, like county road, CR H by 536 Ave. Why do they call it an avenue?
We passed the majority of SD where one road with no turns could take you through the entire state. In Mitchell, we had to stop at the Corn Palace. You guessed it, murals made entirely from corn cobs depicting scenes around SD, namely motorcycle riders, cowboys and indians decorate this community center. The roads cut through fields from one farm to another. As we passed through more flat fields with every inch tilled with corn or soybean, we saw a few of the 10.000 lakes in MN. Out west we saw a lot of deer (dead) on the side of the road, then grasshoppers, dead and alive; here, it is dead frogs all over the side of the road! The towns were coming in closer proximity and the population of the towns grew from 70 to nearly 5,000 in MN and to 7,000 in WI. There was a dramatic change in the scenery from one day into the next between MN and WI. Suddenly, there were trees. The trees grew in size and proximity as we headed eastward.
Starting in Sioux Falls on Monday, the weather was very wet from the storm crossing the states that dropped seven inches of rain in Milwaukee, causing flash floods and sink holes before striking NYC on Friday. The water falls were wide and rocky and somewhat brown. Some people say that the color is from the animals, particularly, cows and suggest that planting prairie grass could filter some of the run off. We were on a curvy bike path along the river for awhile. People in front of the pack were moving along at their usual pace in the rain. Someone said I don’t know how they do that with these wet conditions. I wondered why they do that in those conditions. At least four people fell off their bikes in the next hour and scraped themselves from head to toe.
I have another picture entering into another state. Welcome to MN. We stayed in Worthington, Mankato and Rochester. It is still few and far between places. There are few convenience stores and most of what we pass looks local and old fashioned. There are few chains businesses. The most settled place is Rochester, with a distinct neighborhoods and town/city around the Mayo Clinic. As I headed out of Rochester, up a small hill, a pick up truck carrying a small sized trailer was heading down. Near the top of the hill, the truck started braking. The brakes screeched. The trailer started fishtailing. The truck went across the lanes, still screeching and flopping, out of control, screeching, lands in a gulley on the other side of the road facing the opposite direction. Given a minute difference, it would have struck an oncoming car or one of the riders. To me, it was reminiscent of the Avon mountain crash. I am very surprised that people weren’t more surprised and shaken by it.
It was some pretty flat riding in MN. Some people find that dull, constantly pedaling. Someone calculated that we make about 25,000 to 30,000 rotations during these 100 mile days. I didn’t question his math. Several people are feeling achy knees from this overuse! The roads were flat, but had many ridges, breaks and gaps. It felt like bumping down a flight of stairs.
We had a couple hundred mile days in a row. The weather was nice both days. Everyone finished the first day in record time which encouraged us to do another.
We crossed the Mississippi River in La Crosse and had another photo op, Welcome to WI. There were several houseboats along a marina. Thoughts of Mark Twain came to mind immediately. There was an impressive statue of Native Americans playing lacrosse. Do you think that the game originated here? We stopped in LaCrosse, Wisconsin Dells, Fond du lac and Manitowoc.
WI boasts the oldest rails to trails path. It was built in 1965 over rails that were built in 1873. We rode on the trails for about 35 miles between Sparta and Elroy.
My camera went caput this morning. You will have to picture this:
The bike path looks like an old wagon trail. Trees make a canopy over the trail. It is a wet morning. Mist is hanging in the air. The temperature just dropped about 15 degrees. We come upon an arched opening lined by big rocks, about 25 feet high by 20 feet wide. There are huge, solid, wooden doors attached to the opening. We look around. The path takes us through the tunnel. We walk our bikes into the flat blackness along the uneven rail bed lit only by our handlebar lights. Water drips down on us. Water is splashing from the sides. We walk ten or fifteen minutes through the cool, dank tunnel, unable to adjust to any differences in the darkness. Barely visibe is a grey opening ahead. Stepping out of the tunnel, it is as grey at the exit as the entrance. The path continues for many more miles and two more tunnels.
The doors were to keep the tunnel warm in the winter so that the limestone would not crack and tumble down. In the old days, men had the job of opening and closing the doors when the trains were coming.
WI, America’s dairyland was as I imagined it. There are red barns, cow farms, cheese factories, homes flying the US flag. The rolling hills are nice to ride around and the smell of manure makes ya go fast! I didn’t expect to see the rows of wind turbines. They propel gently and evenly. I consider that Americn ingenuity at work. People cheered us on here. One boy asked where we were going and wished that we would win the race.
Happinesss is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.” Zeno
Everyone is ‘wallcome’ at Wall Drug Store/restaurant/ice cream/gift shop in Wall, SD. They put the drugstore on the map. They let you know it’s coming for miles, that there is a western welcome waiting for you, that there is free ice water, strong coffee, homemade donuts and buffalo burgers. In addition to the drugs, gifts, shops, there is a family photo gallery, quite extensive, black and whites over several generations. It’s all good.
The town is built between the Badlands and Grasslands. A lot of these areas are part of Native American reservations. Different towns and highways run through the reservations. You see little of the Indian communities of themselves, besides little casinos scattered around. The Badlands almost look like sand castles with layers of different color sediment. The Grasslands change from green grass to amber waves of grain. There are big rolls of hay laid across the fields for sale. And – there are grasshoppers all along the road, snapping at you, as high as your face and strong enough to feel like they are stinging you. The wind blows across the fields uninterrupted by any hills or trees. That was a tough day of riding.
We ride through many very small towns. These places seem old fashioned since everything closes up by 5 or 6 pm and there is little variety or choices in shopping or people or work. It is a slow, quiet lifestyle that has some appeal for it’s simplicity. It almost feels like a different country than the busy east or west coasts or 24 hour city life. You can see why there would be different voting patterns across the US.
There is still plenty of grit on the roads as we go from one place to another. I just had a flat tire from little stones getting stuck in the tire near the end of the day of riding. It is a luxury to end the day in a hotel instead of camping. It is nice to finish the ride at an earlier part of the day before the heat is too hot and to feel like there is more to your day than just pedaling all day long. It’s a bit like a kidstuff – we are told what hour to get up and get started, what to eat, where to go, where to stay. We pass by and see some new places. I have taken a bunch of pictures. Maybe I can get to organize and send some soon.
It’s been another week and another state, all SD. We went from mountain time to central time. This week we will pass through two states, MN and WI, still flat as we continue eastward.
“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the right to do the same.” Voltaire
“In the wilderness is the preservation of the world.” Henry David Thoreau
Sunday, Independence Day off in Jackson was patriotic, starting with a local parade in town, a performance organized by the Grand Teton Summer concert series, a western rodeo and ending with more fireworks. The hit of the rodeo was when the children’s winner of pulling the ribbon off the calf was asked where she was from and replied that she was from America. That won a big applause.
With Arne and his jeep, we drove along the same route that the cyclists continued to pedal. This was through Dubois, Riverton, Worland, Buffalo, Gillette, to Devil’s Tower, all in WY. There were some very long mtns to climb. The first day, the first mtn was very, very long and ended in gravel for a mile, as they were repaving the road. Arne and I continued in the car all the way to Buffalo in one day what would have taken four days of bicycling.
The ride passes by Thermopolis, named for its Hot Springs. which I now had time to stop and enjoy. Hot Springs are another favorite thing to do of mine. The water temp comes into the pool about 135* and dissipates through the pool at about 105* It was a beautiful day to soak for a short while.
We continued through Worland and over the Bighorn Mtns. That climbed back up to about 9,000 feet. It went down about twenty degrees as the top which was just hitting the couds. A smooth downhill brought us to Buffalo, yet another small, one street town.
Continuing on to Devil’s Tower on a grey, misty day, we passed some more deer and elk. The Tower is a big, impressive rock formation in the middle of nowhere. Everybody looks at it, walks around it, takes pictures of it.
Moving right along, we passed by Aladdin, WY, population 15. There was a general store and cafe. That’s it. The building was big and old and patched together. It had old and new products for sale, from clothing to jewelry, snacks to cigarettes, cards and cookbooks, old saddle bags and old typewriters, etc. It was very friendly.
Next stop, Sturgis, SD. The town is preparing for the annual motorcycle rally coming up in a few weeks. They are expecting about 650,000 participants this year. It brings in business for miles throughout the area. The Motorcycle Museum was full of classic bikes and pics and memorabilia.
Into Rapid City, SD, a hub for the Black Hills, Mt Rushmore, the Badlands. sites of Custer and Crazy Horse and more hot springs and many attractions, such as the Geology, Journey, Crystal Museums, waterparks, etc.
We had another great day of sunshine and temps in the 70′s to view Mt Rushmore early in the morning. It is fun to see and walk around the base. It fits into the mountain side. Many faces of the mountain seem suitable for sculpture. One of the original drillers sits in the gift shop talking about his experience working with the crew. In Rapid City, there are life sized bronze statues of every Pres on nearly every street corner downtown. (There are four not yet done.) It’s a simple, little city, accustomed to tourists.
It’s interesting to drive around the Badlands. The layers and colors of the sediment are seen clearly in the rock formations. It goes on for a far as you can see. Much later, we returned for some night shots of the Milky Way; it looked good far away from the city lights. Looking eastward, the land is starting to flatten for the next part of my ride starting week 4.
Every second is of infinite value.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright
Sunday, we had a relaxing day off between week one and two in the quiet, big town, little city of Missoula, Montana, home of Adventure Cycling, where you can see many bicycles of every style, color and size all over the streets. We walked the town, heard some music at a summer fair, saw the carousel, watched some white water kayakers preparing for competition next week. It was easy to fit it all in the day because it was light out until 10:30 pm!
We are headed for Lincoln, then Townsend, followed by Ennis, West Yellowstone is next, back into Idaho to Ashton, and ending in Jackson, WY. It is difficult to keep track of days and places where we go each day! Most of these places are very small, without internet connection for me to update. I have no idea what is going on in the world.
We were ready to ride again Monday morning. It was an easy route. Now, we had to share the road with motorcycles, tractor trailers and rv/mobilehomes. Those are the ones to watch for on the road! They don’t know the size of their vehicles or side mirrors! They are unwilling or unable to move over six inches to the left – and we all know how much is six inches – in order to pass the CMT3. The truckers zoom along in Montana where the speed limit is 70 mph and where speeding tickets do not exist – or so I am told - you may get an emissions inefficiency ticket that does not go on your driving record. The whole drafting thing is not what it is cracked up to be. They know the size of their rigs and can maneuver them well, but depending on the space between it and you, the draft pushes you sideways more often than it pulls you forward and you have to be prepared to hold on to the bars at that point!
Tuesday, we had to contend with some wet weather again. There was some rain in the morning and afternoon. I was a couple miles from camp when the wind starting blowing things sideways. We aren’t in Kansas any more! (No, I never was on this trip) The sag wagon came along to pick people up, but there was no lightning, so I persevered. The wheels were all over the place. I had to follow the little, yellow arrows marking the route. I pushed forward a mile, watching out for ruts, gravel and debris, oh my, when the weather cleared. I pulled into the site and saw all the tents that had been set up were blown down the field. A good guess is that the wind was blowing at least fifty miles an hour. There was a little rain and sunshine for awhile and two complete, rainbows, one on top of the other, over the site afterwards!
Wednesday, still in Montana, the weather seemed to clear up. But, by afternoon, I passed a herd of cows where many were lieing down, a sign of inclement weather coming by. I was back in camp by the time the hailstorm came down. Others claimed that there were marble sized to golf ball sized hail.
The wind can be wonderful and keep you cool and keep the bugs from flying in your face. The wind can be cold and brutal and push you around. Thursday, we had a nice route to ride, had it not been for the constant wind beating me up for 60 of the 74 miles. It was a battle to move forward. Yesterday, I went down hill at 41.5 mph. Today, I could barely go 10 mph downhill! We passed antelope playing in the field and an authentic cattle drive. The calves were moving about 8 mph according to my triopometer. I had to go faster than them to not get caught in the pass. Really, I think that riding 75 miles a day or more is enough exercise without going any faster! These head winds blow from every which way. I am still waiting to feel tailwinds!!!
I have my share of goofy tan lines. My helmet straps have cut a line across my cheeks. Others have polka dot hands from their riding gloves. My hands are tan, creased and dry, like leather, old leather!
We are staying in the town of West Yellowstone, home of Yogi and Boo Boo. There are an awful lot of tree stumps that look like bears! I didn’t see them, but I did see Old Faithful late at night. Spurting upward about fifty feet every hour didn’t compare to the geyser I saw in Iceland several years ago which shot sky high every five minutes. Look what happened there a few months ago…
I had been anticipating going over Teton Pass from ID into WY all week. We received our cue sheets of the route with mileage and grade on it for our last day of riding this week before our rest day in Jackson. I have to stop calling these ‘hills’. They are mountains! This Pass was about ten miles long, and really, only the last two’n'half miles were tough, steep! I made good time because I was trying to catch Bob to tell him about a time change for his bike drop off. I never would have gone that fast, otherwise. I was also encouraged that my friend, Arne, who had planned to meet us in Jackson, was driving by the Pass at the same time that we were heading up it; so I knew that Bob would make it to the store on time. They took the bike apart, sent it and returned to the summit just after I reached the top. It was a nice view that you can hardly notice when you are huffing and puffing up it. I try to pace myself and concentrate on my pedling, my knees, my back and breathing. I keep an eye on the tripometer and wonder if it is working because it hasn’t moved a tenth of a mile and I know that I moved ahead at least five inches in the last minute, ha!!!
We arrived in Jackson and headed out to see the sights shortly after unloading everything. It was a beautiful, sunny day as we walked 2 miles around the base of the Grand Teton Mtn range. We ate at the Mangy Moose, heard some local music outdoors, saw some antique cars and my favorite, fireworks! It was a great spot to see them, dark outside, nothing to interrupt the view and a nice display.
There are about 85 people on this tour. Over half are over 50 years old. There are a bunch who are in their forties and thirties and just a handful under 30. There are many who have done this before. The oldest is 81. The youngest is 17 years. There are many more men than women. There are a few from Australia, Holland, one from France. Several are from CT, TX and many other states scattered throughout the USA.
If you like trains, WA state is a good place to see them. There are freight trains coming and going all day and night. You can see a bunch in Montana, too. There were a couple carrying over 100 cars. On the first day, within the first five miles of the ride, a woman fell over the tracks and broke her arm. She was out for the summer.
At the end of one of our long rides, we stayed at the Grand Culee Dam. They had a laser show on the dam wall telling some of the history of Lewis and Clark, FDR, building it and irrigating the land and the use of the power. It is tremendous.
On the Trail of the Couer d Alenes, named after the Indian tribe, we saw a deer munching on bushes, as docile as could be. Then, I have some pics of a moose eating in the water along the trail.
All of these states have massive amounts of crystal clear, cold water in falls, rivers and lakes. It’s spectacular. The colors are lush.
We had to share the road in Montana with a lot of big ol motorcycles. We are in Missoula, the home of Adventure Cycling Assoc, who are great at promoting cycling lanes and safety and mapping and trips all around.
Last night, we acknowledged the youngest girl on the trip who forfeited her high school graduation to start this trip. I think it was her gift for graduation. I would recommend it, especially when you are younger! I did a few century rides around New England twenty years ago, I was much stronger and faster. Also, it is a great way to see our country, meet people, talk about what you might want to do in life and see where you might want to live. It’s an adventure.
JUST IN….”IKE ON HER BIKE”
“There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.” Han Suyin
This is exactly what I expected. Hard hills, high mileage, sore muscles – what fun!
We started in wet, cold weather in Everett, WA. Not only were our feet soaked and webbed, but it made the bikes gritty and hard to switch gears uphill or down. It’s tough to hang on to those bars going down hill at 30 miles an hour over rough roads full of traffic. It can be death defying! Once we were over Steven’s Pass, the weather cleared.
We stayed at the Boys and Girls Club in Everett. They had great programs and facilities for kids and families. Next, we stayed in a school in Skykomish, WA that covered grades K-12 and each graduating class was very lucky if there were a total of ten. It was grey, wet and cold in the middle of June. I would go postal if I had to live there. They could use some books other than romance novels to broaden their horizons. Name and addr to follow if you are interested.
On the third day, we did 107 miles. There was a 7 mile, 6% grade to start. I thought that I had trained well enough for that, but it tired me out. At the half way mark, I took an energy drink full of potassium and caffeine. It worked wonders! Is that the kick that you espresso/starbucks/caffiends get? I bought a couple on sale to try them - I would pay full price for that boost!
One day after another of miles and field and hours and pedaling. You better have a good thought in your head!
We had the most beautiful day around the Trail of the Couer d Alenes in Idaho! The scenery is all I heard that it would be. The trail and ride and weather were so beautiful that the 95 miles were great.
We went over the Continental Divide by way of Hamilton’s Pass today. We came into Montana and into the Mountain time zone. One more day of 101 miles to Missoula to finish the first week of riding.
Eileen Spalla, a member of the FVAM Board of Directors, will be riding her bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic over the next six weeks. She will be accompanied by her brother for the first half of the trip. For the second half of the trip, Eileen will join a group of riders that she meets in the Midwest, continuing her ride heading East.
Eileen is a teacher with the Hartford Montessori Magnet School. Eileen’s Bike Across the USA has been in the planning stages for several years now! The summer of 2010 is the culmination of her dream and hard work making this Bike Across the USA a reality.
Eileen decided to make this ride a fund raising event and will donate all of the funds raised to FVAM. If you would like to pledge your support and make a donation, please contact us!
Stay tuned to the FVAM blog for Eileen’s updates as she bikes across the USA!
On Friday, May 28th ……FVAM elementary students performed Wonka Jr and transported their audience into the magical journey of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The performance ended with a standing ovation! Congratulations to the FVAM students for a fantastic performance, to the theatre staff for their incredible work and our wonderful FVAM parents for their helping hands and support!! An evening filled with memories!!!!!!!!!!!