Monthly Archives: May 2015

Yellowstones and boofs abound! 6

Stink biking through beautiful Montana, only slightly intimidated by the daunting mountains ahead.

Stink biking through beautiful Montana, only slightly intimidated by the daunting mountains ahead.

So, let’s see, we left off in Ennis, Montana the other day. We rolled out of town with some great tailwinds and the miles just blew by. I had to stop for water (yes everyone, I am being very mindful about staying hydrated) in a teensy town called Cameron. I was given a mighty “Welcome to Cameron, Montana!” as I entered the bar by the building’s five occupants, who were chowing down on a delicious looking meal. One was an avid cycle tourist himself, and was happy to meet me.

The barman had me go out back to RV campspots to fill my water, but I vowed to go back in an give out a few Within Biking Distance cards to the folks inside after filling up, but before I could, they came pouring out of the bar and just had to ask what the mailbox was all about. So, naturally, everyone got to meet Beefy and he got lots of pets & treats out of it. This is actually how we end up talking to a lot of people.

Who needs tripods when fence posts abound?

Who needs tripods when fence posts abound?

Finally we cleared out though, and biked through some gorgeous views, with rain always somewhere on the horizon (and once a beautiful, yet short rainbow). The rain was always in sight, but never seemed tk be above us. What can I say, we’re charmed…

Tiny pretty rainbow

Tiny pretty rainbow

We found a perfect ditch campsite, just after the turnoff to a “money-money” state park campground, set up camp early, and climbed into the tent to play maps, eat PB&J bagels (the jelly aspect thanks to the unwitting diner back in Ennis… sorry, can’t resist free tableside jams), and get our snooze on.

Our roadside ditch campsite for the night.

Our roadside ditch campsite for the night.

In the morning we headed out, and took the road past Quake Lake, wherein Stink stopped to dunk & wash her hair during our lunch break. It was crazy buggy out there and all the little gitters kept getting in my PB and on my bagel, but I suffered no serious mosquito bites so was pleased with the results.

We rode on, & ahead saw two tourists coming our way and cross the road to come chat with us. They were Steven & Jonn, two younger guys from Virgina, who looked so fresh & clean & had so little crap packed all over their bikes, that we had to ask, “What’s your tour style?” to which we got the answer to our question: they had raised money beforehand to be able to eat out for the duration of their trip. So at their second month of travel, they looked quite fresher than us two, who had been traveling for less than three weeks. I am sure there are other factors, but I like to think about it in those terms.

They were real nice dudes, and Stink was able to pass off this rubber ducky I had found on the side of the road to them. Steven quickly named him Herbert & actually enjoyed him, unlike soooomebody, who thought the duck a mere nuisance… not naming names.

Finally we said bye to our new-found friends and scooted along. To our luck, we also met up with the Cotton-Eyed-Joes (an older couple we kept seeing touring around, sometimes in different directions than the last time, so that we didn’t know where did they come from, where did they go?), and finally got their names & route (Steve & Patty, going from Missoula to Colorado, I believe). So I rode with them for a bit chatting, then went on my merry way to catch up to Stink. We then got to talk & speculate all about the people we had met that day, which proves mighty interesting on the road.

Stink found a men’s XXL down Patagonia jacket on the roadside (score!) and we finished up our ride by rolling into West Yellowstone (the fairly touristy, and I mean like, the camera wielding, RV renting type touristy, town and hit up a McDonald’s for free wifi, apple pie, and french fries. America, yo, America.

blown up, yo

blown up, yo

After blowing that place up for several hours, pointedly ignoring the “Please limit the duration of your stay to a 20-30 minute meal” sign, and abusing their bathroom (TMI? sorry), we rolled out to the grocery store down the road. We held off buying much, because of the inflated tour-town price of everything, but did go in for a box of chocolate graham crackers , a small loaf of pumpernickel bread, & a couple apples to tide us over through Yellowstone. I swiftly noticed that they had no over-ripe bananas on display & deduced that their dumpster would be bountiful. Yet, when we went out back to check, it was too overflowing with trashbags (and oddly enough, copiers & fax machines) to do much digging. Give it time though, we’ll find our motherload one day.

While sitting on the bench outside the mart, Beefy got many “oohs” and “ahhs” from folks curious about our spectacle. Then we moved on and scouted around for: A. a diner to sit & drink our fill of refillable coffees, and B. somewhere sneaky to camp that night. We found a couple of tubes at a construction site, and sharing a knowing glance, we agreed that they were definitely worthy of being our home for the night. We then found a covered open-air mall to sit, watch lightning, hear thunder, let Beef run around, and to munch on pumpernickel-peanutbutter-bikergelpacket-matzo bread sandwiches, till we decided that we really ought to get moving and stop snacking on weird foods… We found a diner that was warm with a nice wait time in the lobby & lo-and-behold, they had a veggie burger, which I quickly succumbed to my desires of eating, while guzzling down two full carafes of freshly ground, delicious hot coffee.

We stayed there forever, taking our time eating (Stink opted to have an apple betty with huge scoops of ice cream for dinner), drinking, journaling, and being generally weird in a public place after so much time on the road. One lady stopped by our booth on the way out and asked, “Excuse me, where are you from?” and as we answered, she just nodded & walked away, leaving us maddeningly curious as to WHY she wanted to know where we were from? Did we look local? foreign? escaped from a mental hospital? We’ll never know, I suppose…

With bellies fit to burst, we paid our check, took maybe a few too many free mints, and waddled on out of there, to head back to our lovely, sweet, dry, cozy home-tubes for the night. We unpacked, climbed in (some more gracefully than others) and tried to go to sleep. Only thing was, was that we had guzzled more coffee than appropriate for nine o’clock at night, and after each lying restlessly in our respective tubes for what seemed like an hour, I burst out laughing as the words “tube sister” floated through my mind (this was a term of unknown origins from my cross country running days in highschool; you would be assigned a secret tube sister at the beginning of the season to give gifts & encouraging notes to before each race, and finally reveal your true identity at final meet). So then we both got to laughing, and all hope for sleep was lost. Stink got up to whiz at a conveniently located porta-potty, grabbed our journaling equipment so we could at least do something productive with our time, and crawled back in her tube. I had also taken a picture of her emerging that set me off, a cackling tube in the night.

totally tubula, dude

totally tubula, dude

Anyways, I eventually dozed off, whereas Stink, sick to her stomach from coffees & ice cream dinners, didn’t sleep a wink, and at about 5 in the morning, wandered over to a nearby hotel lobby to sit by the fire & employ copious amounts of self-discipline to not partake in the free continental breakfast happening just feet away. She came back around 6, when I woke up and backward army crawled out of my own tube to pack up, and again, hit the McDonald’s in town.

Tube, sweet tube. Beef's house is wrapped up in tarps for warmth.

Tube, sweet tube. Beef’s house is wrapped up in tarps for warmth.

After a greasy breakfast of an egg mcmuffin, hashbrown, and OJ for Stink (nothing cures a stomach ache coffee hangover quite like greasy foods, you see), and an apple pie for me (small pies have proven to be my weakness for this trip), plus chocolate grahams, peanut butter, and one especially mushy banana for the boths of us, we headed out again, this time for good, to cross the gates into the land of Yellowstone!

Hullo yellowstone... We are weird.

Hullo yellowstone… We are weird.

The nice ranger lady let me try on her hat.

The nice ranger lady let me try on her hat.

We begrudgingly paid the $12 (each!) entrance fee and rumbled through to the wilderness beyond (which, you know, was very similar looking to the wilderness on the outside of the park…) and were quickly rewarded with the very inconspicuous entrance sign to our 5th state: Wyoming!

Wyoming! State #5 of 48!

Wyoming! State #5 of 48!

After our obligatory photoshoot, we trundled on and soon caught sight of our first buffaloes! A whole herd of them in fact! And crossing a river, quite nearby, with babies too, who ran & jumped & played & generally looked like happy cow-pig little creatures. This alone, for me at least, made the exorbitant entrance fees quite worth it, as we stood & watched the creatures lumber around munching grass for some time.

Boofs boffin'

Boofs boffin’

... and beefin'

… and beefin’

Eventually we rolled on, stopping at view points along the way, as a bicyclist can so easily do, and checked out the sights & sounds of Yellowstone. While viewing one boiling bubbling hot pool of vivid colored waters, an older Indian (like, eastern India Indian) woman, who when I said good morning to, looked me in the eyes and uttered the mysterious words, “Strange are the ways of the nature.” “Uhm, yes, quite right,” I replied, a bit bewildered & enjoying the odd phrasing.

quite strange, indeed

quite strange, indeed

We saw more sights, and it began to drizzle, then out-right pour on us, sending the tourists flocking back to their cozy RVs and minivans, and us scrambling to dawn (or is it don?) raincoats and cover our more perishable gear. This kind of nixed the picture taking for much of the time, but we did see bubbling mud pots, steaming holes in the ground, and more boofs (buffaloes) wandering the land.






Stink stank

Stink stank

We climbed an 8% grade for three miles (with Stink, still feeling queasy from her restless night in the tube, nearly throwing up a few different times) and finally reached Canyon Village, our would-be campground for the night (I say would-be for a reason, but we’ll get to that in a moment). We staked out a picnic table, I cleaned out Beef’s house, letting him roam free on the table top, and feasted on more mushy bananas and bagels.

A woman from Oklahoma (! home sweet!) approached because she saw Beef & was a rat person herself. Her name was Donna and she was an excellent rat petter, if Beef’s happy chitterings have any merit in this writing. Her daughters (I think, I never clarified) also came over and saw that she had once again ‘found a rat’ while on their travels. It was great to chat with another rat person, who understood all things rat that perhaps dog and cat people just don’t comprehend. (Shout out to the rat folks we met back in Portland too, as they continue to follow along our tales and send encouraging words). We exchanged information and Beefy got his final goodbye scritches before they headed on their way.

beef is a bonified tour rat now

beef is a bonified tour rat now

We also met a man, JT (James Thomas, for those not inclined for abbreviations) who was traveling around Yellowstone for his second or so week, taking it all in in a very laid back style that was easy to relate to. Chatting for awhile about the shared joys of being travelers, he too gave Beef pets and attention. He mentioned that he wasn’t able to shower at the Canyon campground as it wasn’t open yet, when we assured him that we saw that morning a sign clearly indicating that it would be open today…

straight koo-koo banan.

straight koo-koo banan.

JT moved on after awhile, and we went about checking out the overpriced general store (eyeing all the treats but not daring to splurge on the ridiculously overpriced goods when we had already dropped nearly three days funds just to enter the park), and schmoozed on over to the visitors center to take advantage of bathrooms with running water and fantastically powerful hand driers. As we were walking back out of the building, we stopped at the front desk to ask about where to go get our campsite, when the lady, quite regrettably, told us that, despite the misleading sign at the park entrance, Canyon campground wouldn’t be open till the 29th… This meant we had 20 more miles to do, to get to the next available tent campsite. We were crestfallen. We were so ready to just set up camp and decompress, when this obstacle chose to fall in our path. The lady at the desk was truly sad for us, as we slowly dragged our feet out the door, to the darkening outside where it had just begun to slightly rain once again…

With nothing left to do but to pack up and take on the unexpected 20 extra miles, we climbed back aboard the bikes and took off. Begrudgingly , we stopped to view the various sights along the way, more or less just wanting to get through the rolling hills, set up camp, and finally devour the Mountain House freeze-dried preprepared meals we had been carrying with us since we left home. (Stink’s mom had purchased them for us prior to leaving, and we had been savoring the idea of feasting on them once we reached Yellowstone).

Finally, after once quickly rectified wrong turn, we reached Bridge Bay, paid an additional $7.98 each for hiker/biker camping, walked to our site, set up camp, and Stink started a fire (we collected leftover half burnt logs from unoccupied sites around us, as we are nothing but cheap & resourceful). We boiled up some water, added it to our bagged meals, waited the 10 minutes and devoured with gusto. Stink had the turkey tetrazzini and I had the burrito bowl (or should I say bag?). Either way, they were quite filling, warm, delicious, & nutritious, especially compared to some of the slop that passed for food that we had been eating for the past few weeks.

After dinner, I stood over the warm fire till I was nearly collapsing into it from exhaustion, then joined Stink in the tent. In the morning it was a bit soggy, as it always seems to be, and we slowly packed up, having to collect our bags of food & utensils from the bear-proof storage bin across the way. We were surprised that so much junk had fit onto our bikes! We rolled out after breakfast of more banana (I admit, I buy bananas left & right), chocolate graham crackers, peanut butter, and a biker gel pack, that I steadfastly continue to treat solely as a inventively new packaged type of jelly, rather than the slurp up power boost squeeze tube of energy goop that it is intended to be used as. Our tour style relies intensively on putting various things on bread & crackers.

We biked out to Fisherman’s Bridge, Stink got a giant chocolate milk (she had earned the splurge by suffering through the previous day on zero sleep and a churning stomach) and I found my favorite boxed pies and got an apple one (I am serious, those pies are now a weakness). We loitered, used bathrooms, browsed overpriced gift shops, and eventually headed out to conquer Sylvan Pass, one mighty climb before we could coast on out of Yellowstone for good.

we made it!

we made it!

Chocolate milk is apparently Stink’s mojo drink and we chugged along the road just fine, each tuning into our ipods for the long ascent. We were surrounded by beautiful views of Yellowstone Lake, snowcapped mountains, and forests, new and old. Finally we reached the peak, where I took a long relieving whiz in the snow (don’t have the skills to write my name though), dawned gloves and coats for the chilly descent & took off down the mountain. Tears streamed out of the corners of our eyes as we sped down, taking the lane as there was practically no traffic, and completely disregarding our brakes as who would want to be cautious on such a well earned downhill challenge as this? We coasted on out the east exit of the park, gave some grazing buffaloes a final goodbye wave, and cruised on.

We stopped for snacks, then again in a few miles at a lodge to take a power nap on the warm sunny asphalt of their parking lot. Eventually we perked up from our sleepiness, and continued on, to the changing landscape of Wyoming. There were rock formations popping up everywhere that caught the imagination, allowing you to envision mighty creatures and stone solid faces in the earth. I swear I saw a giant foot complete with protruding big toe, and a hand raising from the surrounding rocks on opposite sides of the road.

We stopped to climb in a large crack in the rock wall paralleling the road at one point, and also saw mountain goats climbing directly overhead carefully picking their way through the steep edges. Soon after, passing through a meadow, a whole herd of mountain goats surprised us right on the edge of the road, too quickly we passed to take a picture, but the sight of them will prove memory enough.

The riding was good, basically downhill with a tailwind, and we covered many miles, going through Wapiti even though it was above our necessary miles for the day. There was a long area of road construction going on but we were given free reign to ride through at our own pace over the alternating freshly paved and bumpy gravelly bits of road, with me sometimes racing with the drivers slowly following the pilot cars that were guiding them through the work zone.

We stopped at the Buffalo Bill State Park at the end of the reservoir just 15 miles shy of Cody, WY. We were a bit wide eyed when the man at the ticket box told us there was no lowered hiker/biker rate and that it’d be $17.25 to camp there that night, but when he saw our hesitant faces, he offered to let us pay the in-state rate of $10 total for a tent site. Thanks sir!

We scooted around the park to our site, set our gear to dry (and de-stinkify… the tubes and our tent had been rank with the smell of our feet… and farts, all night long). Stink whipped up another fire and we ate our remaining Mountain House meals (Stink had spaghetti with meat sauce, and I had the vegetarian chilli… which apparently had me farting in my sleep all that night. SORRY!) and we were able to chill out for a bit, journal , and call folks back home with our newly re-found cellphone signals.

In the morning, we rolled out, and soon arrived at the Buffalo Bill Dam, which was quite impressive, and had a nice visitors center to loiter around in, while reading about the history of it’s construction. A nice old man who worked there offered to open up the service road that followed the river in the canyon for us, instead of taking the narrow, dark, fallen-rock-filled tunnel that the highway took. We jumped at the opportunity, as the lady told us we should consider ourselves lucky because they only opened the road once a year.

It was a steep winding downhill, following the rushing river as it was spilled from the dam, and was quite enjoyable to speed down. We climbed up out of the canyon then soon rolled into Cody! We had arranged to stay with a Warm Showers host here, so took our time stocking up on foods and snacks (I struggled to put back a box of poptarts that my empty stomach was telling me I ought to purchase, but my budgeted and nutrition-wise mind won out and I placed it back on the shelves with only a few backward glances). We loaded up the bikes with what seemed like an impossible amount of food, and took off to find our home for the night.

Speedy scoots!

Speedy scoots!

this is for you, cody.

this is for you, cody.

Blaise was our host, who was working late at the ER, so we had free roam of the house most of the day. Showers were taken, grimed scrubed off, clothes washed, even my sleeping bag which at this point reeked of rotten feet. We lunched on a bagged salad, discounted bread from Wal-Mart (which we toasted! we had a toaster!), coffee, and a huge jug of chocolate almond milk I had thankfully insisted on purchasing. Delicious.

We then walked (walking becomes a treat while on tour as well) down to the post office to send off cards & get more stamps. Eventually, another bike tourist arrived (he and another dude were scheduled to stay here for the night as well). His name was Andrew and we quickly got to chatting all things tour: weirdest campsites, fart-alert hand signals, foods to feast upon, and other such ways of the road. He headed out for a bit to get groceries, and while he was out, the fella he had been riding with, Robert, arrived at the house. They had met in the road during their respective solo trips, and had been riding together for a few days since they were heading in the same direction.

We all hung about and eventually our gracious host, Blaise, arrived home & was greeted with a full house of cyclists. It’s a bit funny because he had only just recently created a Warm Showers account, and we were his first tourists, coincidentally enough all arriving at the same night (it’s not often that you’ll get more than one biker or couple coming through at a time). So we all had a good time talking about maps, roads, routes, and tour styles till it turned late, and people turned in to bed. Us cyclists all chose to crash in heaps on the livingroom floor, and awoke this morning to have Stink whip up some scrambled eggs and toast with coffee for breakfast. Blaise keeps some happy chickens in the backyard that I was more than delighted to eat the products of. Thanks chickens! Thanks Blaise!

So here I am now, furiously typing this all out so that we may eventually actually get out and back on the road where we belong. Much love to everyone and I hoped you have all enjoyed the latest installment of Within Biking Distance!


Montana pictures! 3

the hunqapillar, a woolly mammoth bicycle by Rivendell Bicycle Works

the hunqapillar, a woolly mammoth bicycle by Rivendell Bicycle Works

Bill Ohrman made wonderful stuff...

Bill Ohrman made wonderful stuff…

Polar bear sculpture by Bill Orhman. They all had little doors you could peek in & see their hearts...

Polar bear sculpture by Bill Orhman. They all had little doors you could peek in & see their hearts…



Stink looking like a cave troll in a huge iron bucket used for Butte's mining/smelting industry.

Stink looking like a cave troll in a huge iron bucket used for Butte’s mining/smelting industry.

We passed up some wisdom...

We passed up some wisdom…

...and some good opportunities.

…and some good opportunities.

Beef got to sneak around & steal food from us

Beef got to sneak around & steal food from us

as we feasted on 10 corn, 98 cent bag of frozen broccoli, and instant rice. A meal fit for kings! Also, Beef loved eating the corn off the cob...

as we feasted on 10 corn, 98 cent bag of frozen broccoli, and instant rice. A meal fit for kings! Also, Beef loved eating the corn off the cob…

Also, there was some beautiful (& tail windy) riding after yesterday's post.

Also, there was some beautiful (& tail windy) riding after yesterday’s post.

Montana’s a Big One 4

Big Beautiful Mountains in Big Beautiful Montana

Big Beautiful Mountains in Big Beautiful Montana

There are a few things I have learned thus far:
Yelling at the wind is futile
Rain comes when it wants too, and only then
Any meal can be made with a base of instant mashed potatoes
Yelling at the wind does not make it stop

We have been dealing with a lot of wind, winds that would make a grown man cry. Headwinds, crosswinds, and then the ever welcome but ever evasive tail winds. Riding a loaded bike in the wind is like riding a boulder. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but panniers do catch wind like a sail. It takes a lot of arm strength to keep on the road, and a lot of care to read the wind gusts around corners, and anticipate the gusts of traffic, especially as trucks pass. (Every driver thus far has passed us with care)Yesterday we headed south and got pushed 40 miles by the wind, but then we turned to the east/northeast and got blasted by some of the most gnarly cross winds I have ever faced.

But back to Missoula–after a glorious morning at Jack and Cindi Babon’s, we rode back to Adventure Cycling Headquarters because it is a great place. We also took some time to walk around downtown Missoula, where Beefy was mistaken for a ferret by a ragamuffin fellow.

Picture or a picture Greg Simple took of Liz and Beef at ACHQ

Picture or a picture Greg Simple took of Liz and Beef at ACHQ

Leaving Missoula by bicycle is a tricky affair if you are trying to avoid freeway but we were able to do so with the help of a kindly gas station attendant and some brain power (and a little harmonica). We were trying to make it out to Nimrod Warm Springs, but were unable to find it. I wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about hitting the road again but was quickly encouraged by the corns on the cobs that Lizzy had somehow acquired.

We were trying to make it out to Helena, then to Bozeman, Livingston, and Northgate Yellowstone, but traffic was weird and there were so many people telling us so many different ways to get from A to B that I got a teensy bit overwhelmed. To top it off, most people told us that we would be safer on the freeway here in Montana, which was a big bummer to me and, as it turns out, a falsehood. We did take hwy 12 to Drummond (America’s bull shipping Capitol) but when we got there I took another look at the map and found a new way using hwy 1.

The man who ran the store at Drummond was extremely nice and kept trying to give us grapefruit and coffee. There was also a home spun Frosty Freeze where I bought the most fabulous ice cream sandwich I have ever eaten, and to which all future ice cream sandwiches will be compared, I even let Lizzy watch me eat it (she can’t eat dairy).

When we left town, we ran into a lovely little art exhibit. A rancher named Bill Ohrman had become a local celebrity for his insanely detailed and accurate metal sculptures, and his paintings and poems all symbolizing the need to care for animals in a respectful and compassionate way.

We left there in a rainstorm which persisted throughout the evening. We ended up in a little town called Phillipsburg. After debating whether to push on or stop for a quick loiter, we were approached by a man named Jim. He was an Easterner who moved to Helena, and was building a ski home in Phillipsburg. He had just put the roof on his home and offered the cover to us for the night, we couldn’t resist. He also told us to stop in the town Brewery, which closed at 8. I went into the Food Farm grocery store and found a delicious looking pizza in a bag which I barely had the strength to pass by. Lizzy suggested that we ask a local to see if there was a real pizza place. After a quick investigation, we learned that the best pizza was at “Friday Night Pizza at the Laundromat, right at the four way, almost out of town,” which was confusing for us out-of-towers. It turned out to be a pizza order window at the town laundromat building, and it was called Friday Night Pizza, which was open even on Thursdays, lucky us. The woman who ran the business was a former tourist herself and offered to drive our pizza to us at the brewery free of charge.

The Brewery was the only happening place in town, since I don’t drink I can’t comment on their brew, but I was given a delightful handful of caramel corn which I shared with Beef. We did stay at Jim’s that night, and in the morning he showed up with steaming cups of coffee for us. He too was a cyclist and had toured all through Ireland and some parts of Bolivia. We accepted his coffee and took off to climb the steep pass out of town. During that climb, we met a Corvette Club. It was kind of comical, them with their Vetts all lighted up on the side of a mountain in ranch-hand no-where, and us, two dusty ladies and a rat. They took a picture of us so that they could prove to their friends back home that we were real.


Out of Veiw–Corvette club

That afternoon turned blustery and I got a good taste of some hail. Funny stuff, painful. We rode into some serious mining country and headwind, eventually making it to Butte, which we promptly named “Butt,” and for good reason. We did however meet some good folks at the McDonalds who were wearing Bible Quizzing shirts. They were driving through the area from Minnesota, and gave us $ 20 for healthcare!

As we left Butte, we met a cyclist who gave us directions to a campspot, and then further down the road, a man stopped his car, jumped out, and forced cookies and beverages upon us. Ok, maybe it wasn’t forced. . . He said he was a baker/chef originally from Seattle, and after trying 830 times he created a pie called the, the-I don’t remember but it was a really long name and it sounded really delicious.

The next day we crossed the Continental Divide without knowing it. Lizzy is a quicker hill climber than I, so she generally passes me and meets me at the summit of long grades. But for some reason, when I got to the top of this hill, I didn’t see her. I figured that she had ridden on without me because the road was nice and we were both listening to our music and such. I don’t know why I thought that. Anyway, I took chase after her for miles and miles, not realizing that she was behind me trying to catch up to me. It was a comedy of errors, but we got a lot of quick miles out of it.

We headed south toward Twin Bridges and got about 40 miles of tail wind. Fantastic! I can’t get over how big and beautiful Montana is. I don’t even have a metaphor for it. It kind of just is. We kept riding through Twin Bridges instead of stopping for lunch because the wind was so obliging, but right as we left town, the road swung east and we were blasted by obnoxious cross winds.

We knew that there was a town coming up called Virginia City, and that it was merely 23 miles away, so we went for it. But 23 miles in a cross/headwind is really not 23 miles. It felt like we were riding forever and we might have been. At one point, I simply gave up on the side of the road. Well, actually the wind blew me off the road and I just didn’t get back on it.

We had been riding through some country that had been heavily mined in the early 1800s, and then for copper in the 1920s if I got the story correctly. Either way, the side of the road was inundated with heaps upon heaps of rock. It made for an erie waste scenery, but sure enough a little creek was trying to cut its way through, and slowly but surely there were birds and other living things creeping around. When we stopped, we couldn’t get out of the wind and it was a very cold wind, so we decided to go one more mile and see if the town was around the next bend. Lo and behold, there was–but it was not the town on the map! We were crushed to find that we had wheeled right into an 1840s living history gold miner’s town with no wifi, gas station, or anyplace warm for windswept, weary, road beat cyclists and a rat. We tracked down a man who told us that the real town was only another half mile away, so with dreams of gas stations in our minds we hopped back on the bikes. A windy mile up the hill later, we found ourselves in yet ANOTHER touristy gold mine town, but at least this one had a pizza shop.

Grumpiness aside, it might have been fun if we had kids with us, we’re driving an RV, and had loads of cash to spend on tootsie rolls and lemon drops cherry picked from a fishbowl in “Ye ‘Ol Sweets Shoppe,” but we are cheap and were freezing off our own tootsies. We did buy a slice of pizza from a pizza place, but more for the sake of being in a warm, not windy building.

We did find a place to free camp by a lake outside of town, where we soon discovered during the cooking of our dinner, that many Ye Olde Dogges had been using as a bathroom. It was at the very least wind blocked.

We left in the morning knowing that we had a steep 3-4 mile climb out of there, and into Ennis, which we knew had a gas station at the very least. We’ve been categorizing towns from small to big as: 1) post office, 2) gas station, 3) McDonald’s, and 4)Walmart. Ennis is a larger scale gas station town, it even has a library. Anyways, right as we rolled down the mountain into town, about 14 miles from our start, I realized I had left my wallet at Virginia City. Don’t ask, and don’t say it. I asked a lady running the drug store if she knew the phone number for any churches around because I figured I could ask someone to drive me there and back again if I paid gas. She instead called up her son, who drove me there and back, and delighted me with conversation about Montana beauty, and the politics of fracking. Thanks Ken and Esther sooooooooooo much! Without them, I’d probably still be climbing out of that terrible phony town–and on a break day too!

Meanwhile, Lizzy was entertaining some small children in the park, who had been left there by their mom. They were quite taken with Beefy, and thought it was hilarious to pretend to sleep. Not sure where they came from, not sure where they went, but at least we don’t look too crazy homeless scary or I’m sure they wouldn’t have been allowed to hang with us. Some locals did ask if they were ours, and looked questioningly at our bikes–no, we aren’t traveling with kiddos.

We also met some fellow bike tourists who gave me a great map of Yellowstone. I think we might have scared them a bit because we were full of energy and they had just rolled into town against a horrific headwind. Of course, I told them all about Ian Hibbel’s bike since they were planning on stopping at Adventure Cycling Headquarters. I’m pretty sure they had no idea who I was talking about. Poor people.

We are now preparing to take on Yellowstone, it should be cold, windy, miserable, but beautiful. And most of all, worth every stroke. Thanks to everyone for your support!

PS we are experiencing technical difficulties, and that is why we have few pics posted.


Blasting through states like nobody’s business 14

So, we’ve been out in the boonies for the last few days, worrying our parents sick, but now we’re back in civilization AND in a whole new state!

Let’s see where we left off…

We entered Idaho!

entering idaho

tripods are for the weak and the well-prepared

We biked up several miles of 7% grade in Lewiston, Idaho to get some drugs for Beefy. He’s had wheezy old rat man breathing for awhile now, and my vet figured we should try him on another round of antibiotics. The ride up to the vet’s office here was a true test of our love & patience for the smelly little dude. But, he sounds a bit better, so, worth it in our eyes.

After we sped back down the 7% (by the way, downhills like these are the bomb) we scooted on out of Lewiston & into the soggy wilderness for what seemed like a whole week. We camped about 30 miles out, next to a river, and at 7:30 the next morning as we climbed out of soaked tent, packed up, and mounted our cycles to roll ever on, a rancher man tending his cattle across the road commented on how tough WE were! I couldn’t believe a real life rancherman said this to us!


teensy scoot outside of Lewiston, Idaho somewhere

Stink’s new commuter. (this is for you Heather)

We biked on for 73 miles in the rain and eventually got to Lowell, and, tempted by the sight of greasy burgers, ate our first restaurant meal of the road. I literally had a burger with all the fixings, sans the burger aspect. Totally worth it. Thank you to our friends & family who insisted we take their monies, as we used this fund to get a good meal in.

That night, we camped in the rain again, but awoke to sunshine, in what appeared to be back home in Oregon again. We laid out all our crap to dry, did a quick trip back to town for water, did some bike maintenance, then rolled off again.

waking up upside Lowell, Idaho

waking up with a “suite” view

We were traveling along the Clearwater & Lochsa Rivers, and got to see lots of folks riding the rapids, and even surfing (somehow!!) the waves. The road was winding, windy, and had a narrow shoulder, but we carried on.

The Lochsa River in Idaho

the Lochsa River being all purty & stuff.

camping behind a gravel heap along the Lochsa River in Idaho

home sweet gravel-y home.. for the night

Denali my bicycle touring pet rat


That night, we camped behind a mountain of gravel in a road maintenance station, and cooked up some schlup, endearingly called “The Dinner”. (Winco bulk dehydrated refired beans, instant mashed potatoes, quick rice, nutritional yeast, and a last minute, but very necessary addition of a carrot. Eaten over matzo crackers, with ketchup……..). Then, time for bed again, and zonked out.

"The Dinner"

“The Dinner”

The morning was (surprise!) chill & windy again, and our monumental task of biking 34 miles, then 12 more up and over Lolo Pass, then the remainder of our daily 55, loomed large over us (literally). But, we packed up, got warned by a cop of the dangerous roads, and trudged on.

I counted miles to the lodge/gas station that we would find 12 below the pass, and when we finally arrived, some fool man was grinding & cutting his way through concrete making a complete rucus! I was ready to relax before the big climb! He was totally just doing his job, but I enjoyed having something to grump about.


We staked out a picnic table out back, feasted on all the snacks in our bags (seriously feasted), then packed up, plugged in our headphones, and rolled out. I blasted Built to Spill (of Idaho origins) in one ear, and left the other open to listen to Stink’s comical grumblings and protests against the prevailing headwinds. (“Wind! If you don’t stop, I’m gunna punch you right in the face!!” *the wind uninterestedly continues, and Stink defiantly punches the ambivalent air in front of her*)

But alas, after what felt like, and probably was, hours of slow climbing, we reached the pass! There was a ranger station up there, and we parked the bikes, excitedly guzzled free coffees (I was so happy!) and got to chat with a few different folks who stopped to stare at our tricked out mobile homes.

Lolo Pass - Mountains of Fun

Lolo Pass – Mountains of Fun!

Among these, we met John, a motocyclist, who will soon been riding all the way down to the tip of South America, and a couple, David & Melinda, who were on their way to the Lolo Hot Springs. I said that if it was free and along our way, that we’d assuredly be soaking it up. We then walked off to check out the minimal (but still existent!) snow, and by the time we got back to our bikes, found a note & gift of hot spring entrance money from them! Those sneaky dogs were too nice!

Entering Montana by bicycle

I’m pretty sure this is taken straight from a old highschool German textbox. Seriously. Check out those angles and that major 90’s-ness.

We finally rolled out, got our obligatory “new state” picture in front of the Montana sign, and speed down our well earned downhill. About 7 miles in, we reached the hot spings, and went in awe to the doors. We checked in, showered the grime off our staaanky bodies, and proceeded to soak our achey knees/bums in 105 degree waters. Niiiiice.

While there, we started chatting with this nice man Steve, from Beaverton, about his son’s extensive bicycle travels around the U.S. & Europe. His style of dumpster diving & sneaky camping jives quite nicely with our own. After a bit, Stink & I headed to the outdoor pool to cool our rapidly boiling brains (don’t worry, I made sure we drank lots of water for the duration of the soak!) and Steve came out and told us he’d like to pledge two cents per mile to the patients of Watsi, and to meet him at the restaurant next door & he’d buy dinner for us!! Woah! Generosity overload in Montana!

We finished up with another soak, rolled next door, chatted with a couple local kids about Beefy and all things rat, stepped inside the restaurant, and lo-and-behold! There was David & Melinda! Our hot spring providers! We had a great conversation with them about fibonacci numbers among other things, and then went over to join Steve & his parents at their table.

They had just finished eating, so his parents headed back to their cabin, but Steve sat & talked with us as we wolfed down a philly steak sandwich and a taco salad respectively. Then hugs & goodbyes and we left under cover of night to camp in a ditch just down the road.

Once again, morning was cold, wet (condensation wise), & windy. We walked back to the cafe for potty usage, and saw a fellow bike tourist roll past. Then we returned to our stealth spot (having a bit of trouble finding it ourselves…), packed up, and got ready to roll out, when we noticed that my kickstand had mashed in & was rubbing my back tire (quick fix) and that Stink’s rear wheel wasn’t, well… wasn’t really attached to the bike… Wonder how long we’d been traveling like that for…

Anyways, mounted up, and rolled 27 windy miles to Lolo, and got our first cell reception in days! Blew up a McDonald’s for their free wifi, and sent out some cards in the post office next door. (By “blew up” I do not mean that we literally blew up McDonald’s. This term refers to the remarkable speed and nonchalantness in which a bicycle tourist will take out every single item from their bags and have them scattered on every available surface within moments of pulling to a stop. This is also called “getting our loiter on”).

Somehow, we spent like 3 hours there, catching up with worried family, writing journal entries (that I can never seem to catch up on), and attempting to contact Missoula press for an interview so we can spread the word about Watsi. (By the way, I was quite succinctly informed that Missoula gets hundreds of tourist riding through every year and they do not print such frivolous stories in their newspaper. Sorry, that sounds sassy… I’m being a bit sassy about that.)

The doors to Adventure Cycling headquarters in Missoula, Montana

check dem handles out, yo.

We then FINALLY headed out to do the last 10 or so miles to Missoula, first to visit the Adventure Cycling headquarters (which folks had been urging us to go see) and see if the rumors were true about the free ice cream…. And they were! We were greeted at the door by displays of bikes from history that had done long treks (with their owners) and, most importantly, off up and around a corner, Stink caught a glimpse of a bike she instantly recognized as her cycling hero, Ian Hibell’s. It was actually a really beautiful moment & I thought she might cry. A man stepped forth and explained how Ian’s bike had come rest there at the headquarters (he had known Ian personally back in the days of their transcontinental touring) and gave us a personal tour of the other cycles on display throughout the building. This man, Greg Siple, has also created, and continues to create a collection of photographs and essays about the bicyclists who’ve passed through their doors since 1982. He had us write about what we were doing, and why, and the most unusual thing we were bringing along (my pet rat Beefy for me, which Greg said was a first) and then led us out back to take our portraits to join the other cyclists of history.

Ian Hibell's bicycle on which he traveled from Europe to South Africa

This is Ian’s bike. Stink was in love. Straight up.

After we finished up, Stink gave a call to her pastor’s wife’s parents (the Babons), who live here in Missoula, and we started heading their way. We arrived to friendly faces and a welcome home, with dinner, showers, laundry, beds, and best of all, really excellent company. Cindy & Jack have a great dynamic, love their kids and grandchildren, and have a loveable old dog named Jäger, who for unknown reasons, refuses to walk on hard floors, unless he has at least one foot on carpeting at all times. This baffles me, and I love it.

But okay, this is a very long winded post (wherein I do actually talk about the wind quite a few times) and I’m up at one in the morning writing it, so I’m now drawing it to a close. We’ll add pictures & post it in the morning, but for now, much love from Stink, Beef, and I, and to all a goodnight!

P.S. We’ve renamed Meriwether Lewis & William Clark to Billy Clark and Mary-Lou. Please enjoy, and use responsibly, by which I mean, anytime you think/read/see the names Lewis & Clark ever again.

P.P.S Here is a video of Stink playing an elephant piano named Mary in downtown Lewiston, Idaho: