Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A New Adventure!....Coming soon

What: Short Bike Trip
Whom: Kitty and George
Where: Mountain biking From DC to Pittsburg PA., about 330 miles, no car, no hotels.
When: September '09, just before Jamelle's wedding.
How: Bringing along all our camping gear via a bike trailer (B.O.B)
Why: Why not?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kitty's Summary

Here is my overview of George’s Bike and My Drive and Explore across America Tour. This was an absolutely great trip. Initially, I did have a hard time dealing with not being able to bike. But once I had my attitude adjustment, I really enjoyed the sight seeing. What was really great was that you never knew what the day will bring, which is usually true for everyday, but the days were really unpredictable on this trip.

What I learned about myself: is that I love nature and wildlife but am selfish about it in a sense that I would rather be on my own there (well… it’s better with George but its fine to be on my own as well). I don’t particularly enjoy touristy places, even though I am a tourist there (hmmm…). I am however, paranoid about getting lost in the woods; it must be because I am fully aware of my poor sense of directionality.

What I learned about George: I think that I already knew this but the trip just confirmed it for me once again... Commitment and Dedication. He gives a new meaning to these terms. I am not sure how many people out there will get up at 4:30 (several times on their vacation) to get the miles in. He took NO days off for soreness or mood (not feeling like riding today). Peddled hard and stayed mentally focused the entire trip, regardless of the weather: the wind, the rain, and cold. Speeding cars & trucks and rude & dangerous drivers did bring him down some but did not stop him from getting to the finish line safely.

What I learned about our great country: There is just so much Land (vast empty land) here and so many beautiful places to see. Almost every state had some areas and views that were absolutely breathtaking. People overall are pretty nice and friendly but there are always those who break that mold. I also saw sure signs of Global Warming (every state has been having some kind of extreme weather in the last year or so). Another thing I saw (and wish that I could do something to change) was the overcrowded and stinky Slaughterhouses for cows. I have some ideas as to what needs to be done but how that can be accomplished is beyond me. May be one day that can be a project I can take on, during my extra time.

Some Favorites:
Places: Yellow Stone and Grand Tetons National Park; Mammoth Caves; Lava River Cave; Rocky Mountain National Park; Portland City Park; Garden of the Gods; Some scenic overlooks on the Oregon coast.
Hikes: Interstate Park (in VA crossing over to KY); Small Random Hike in Montana (no name I think); Clear Lake Loop Trail in OR.
City: Bend, OR.
Prettiest States: Oregon (we are not counting NC or VA in this, since they are like our backyard). Idaho gets the second place award. Missouri third place.
Best Overnight Stay: Cabin in Toronto State Park, KS
Best B&B: Myers B&B, Marion, KY
Best Hotel Lobby: Old Faithful Inn, WY
Best Generic Hotel Room: The Vintage Hotel, Portland, OR

This trip resulted in:
Miles Driven: 22,000. This includes going back to NC and back to CO in the middle of the trip and also sight seeing to Portland, then Seattle, before getting back home. (Wow….. that is a lot of miles, especially for a bike tour. Talk about supporting the gas companies)
Falls: Two, both Kitty (hmmm... good thing that I was not mainly biking, can't imagine how many falls I would have had then).
Food Consumption: Lots of junk food such as Sugar filled snacks (Snickers, Twix, Ho Ho's, Ding Dongs); Peanut Butter; Bananas; French Fries. (George is going to stay away from Peanut butter products for a long time now).
Causalities: All causalities happened during driving (obviously animals would like for us to ride our bikes more): Two birds and one squirrel by me. One bird by George.
Violations: For Kitty: One parking ticket in VA and One pull over for tailgating in KS (but no ticket). For George: Speeding ticket in WA (the very first state on our drive back)

Well, that’s the wrap up from me…..
P.S. After seeing big part of this country, I realize more than ever that we live in a really beautiful place. I am thankful and feel lucky to love where we live... Hillsborough, NC.

George’s final thoughts

Yellowstone NP (Old Faithful inn)

This was really a fun trip and I learned a lot from my travels.
There were many things I enjoyed but at the same time there were also places and things I didn’t care for. Here is a brief list of likes and dislikes:
Most Scenic State: Virginia
Most enjoyed riding through: 1-Missouri, 2-Kansas, 3-Virginia(wasn't in tour mode to start)
Friendliest state: Kansas
Toughest climbs: Missouri (Ozarks)
Most Solar and Wind use: Kansas (wind) and Wyoming (Solar)
Most Dangerous riding states (In order) 1-Montanna,2(tie)-Idaho and Eastern Kentucky
Least friendly state: Colorado (where even bikers don’t say hello) but Virginia is a close 2nd.

Overall I really enjoyed Kansas and eastward, I did have issues with Eastern Kentucky as the roads were very unsafe due to a storms and narrow and windy roads. There were also the dog issues in that area. I found the western states with the exception of Oregon less scenic; they are basically high deserts with little vegetation. Anywhere there were trees, there was a national park. Of course Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons can’t be beat, they were just awesome and the most enjoyable days of the whole trip. I would definitely go back there. But when it comes down to it.... my favorite state in which I would live in, is my home state of North Carolina. It is full of beauty and where we see plenty of wild life in our own backyard, not to mention the great climate.

Some favorite times along the trail: As I biked along the road in the middle of cow country, these cows would run along side of me, the birds in Kansas also seemed to follow along. In the mornings after rain, riding along streams with no traffic or people around. I also liked riding along railroads for some odd reason.

Physically, I didn't find this very difficult. I actually gained a pound, perhaps in leg muscle but maybe just in my head. Some days I felt like I did nothing even after 75 miles of riding, at times I felt like I was sitting on a couch all day. I enjoyed climbing mountains but disliked the wind.

Would I do this again?
Probably not, while it was enjoyable most of the time, I really dislike cars now and some of the morons that drive them, its just too dangerous out there to be riding on a road bike. My favorite activity continues to be mountain biking and my plan now is to find a mountain bike trail that goes North to South though the US or at least some trail where we can get lost for a couple of hundred miles. If we fail to find a Mountain bike trail there is always Back Packing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mission Complete

Eugene OR to Pacific Ocean (Florence OR)
Total Miles: 89

Final Numbers:
Total tour miles: about 3,400 miles rode (Odometer corrected)
Total days: 57 (53 actually on bike and 4 zero days(sight seeing/rest days))
Total full days rode: 46 days
Total days shorten due to circumstances: 7 (2 due to wind, 2 Heavy Rain, 1 Mechanical issue, 1 road conditions, 1 sight seeing)

*more details to be posted including Kitty and Georges final comments that will contain a list of likes and didn't likes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6: Day 54

Another early and very cold start of the day. George felt that this is the coldest he has been since the start of the trip. Not that the temps were the lowest, but his body has gotten used to the heat and is no longer acclimated to the cold. To add injury to assault: there was a pretty brutal head wind, since he still had the Santiam pass to go over and the steep downhill with the cold wind can be pretty torturous; and there was the heavy traffic (as the McKenzie pass is closed, Santiam pass is the only way in and out of Sisters). I was concerned about George, so I decided to forgo my plans of climbing the Black Butte Observation Tower, and check on him after I checked out of the hotel. Of course, he did not really need any help but warmth, which there wasn't much I could do about. I was then rewarded by randomly finding this awesome hike. It was a very easy hike (so no real workout or anything) but filled with great, breathtaking, picturesque views of the bluest lake ("Clear Lake") I have ever seen. It was a pleasure to be on a very well groomed, marked, and single track hiking (parts of it allowed mountain bikes) trail where ATV's are not allowed (which is unusual for the western states). The hike started out with this lush green forest, which reminded of a park (Little River, easy loop) back home, except for tress (instead of the deciduous trees, this park had pine trees of course). Soon the trail lead me to the lake and it went alongside this beautiful lake on one side, with lava rocks on the other. Most part of today's ride was very pretty (going by McKenzie River), but there was a lot of traffic. George seems to be getting pretty sick of the cars, buzzing by him all the time and is just looking to do the mileage to get to the finish line, which is pretty much in sight now...woohoo...

We went from Sisters, OR to Eugene, OR
Total Miles: 93

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5: Day 53

Today was a short ride day and what a great idea that was. George rode early to get into the town of Sisters, which is short for Three Sisters (named after a chain of three mountains in the area). The views of the mountains are nice in the town and the town is quite cute. George did decide to go a bit longer towards the Santiam pass. The original plan for him was to take the McKenzie pass, which is suppose to be very pretty. The pass gets a lot of snow and it usually does not open 'till early July. We had met some TranAmers (in Wyoming) who said that they were on the pass the day it opened. They had just plowed it and no cars were allowed to get on it at that time. But turns out that the pass is now closed for construction and they do not let cars or bikes on it. So, basically, the pass is closed in winter due to snow and in summer for construction... go figure. Thus we have to take the longer (by about 20 miles), less steep but heavier traffic, Santiam pass. George ended the ride by 10:30 and the traffic was pretty bad on it already. So, he will get out there early again tomorrow to get through that area. He only has about 180 miles (wow, that's all) left 'till we get to our final destination of Florence (yeah..). I did a quick drive through tour of the "Smith Rock Park", which has nice views of the cliffs. This park is known as one of the best places for rock climbing. Later in the day, we went sight seeing around Bend area to the Lava Monument and Lave River Caves, and drove up to the Pilot Butte Mountain Summit. The Lava River Cave was the bomb. We finally found a cave (which we have been searching for, for a long time)that you can go around in, without a guided tour. There are no lights there and you have to bring a flashlight (which of course we forgot), as obviously its very dark in there. Its about 1/2 mile one way and we rented a lantern for this. The ending part of the cave was awesome as it was really narrow and low, we had to crawl (on our hands and knees) to get to the end. This was especially tricky while trying to hold on to the lantern and my bag (that among other things, had the camera for this posted picture, in it). We had a great time in there. This is as close as we are going get to Spelunking (caving) on this trip.

We went from Redmond, OR to Sisters, OR
Total Miles: 37

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4: Day 52

Better scenery day today, especially as George went through the Ochoco Pass (which was a pretty good hill, but not a problem for mountain goat). Another very hot day and we were done with the ride part by 11:30 am. George saw some really big horn deer (the kind we see in NC) and lot more cows as well. He also saw a big RV that had gone off the road and shoulder down into a gully and needed a crane to get it out. Another example of some people driving big RV’s who are not able to control them. I did some little hikes in the Ochoco National Forest and got to watch part of 4th of July parade of the town of Redmond. George is planning to take tomorrow off (well, make it a very short day of about 19 miles) to check out the area of Sisters, which is suppose to be a really cool town. We did go to another really neat town (so far that's probably the best town we have visit on this trip so far), Bend.

We traveled from Mitchell, OR to Redmond, OR
Total Miles: 65

July 3: Day 51

Today was another good day of riding with some nice views of canyons (in John Day's Fossil Bed area). George got going early and ended by noon to avoid the heat and the traffic. Since this is 4th of July weekend and we are in somewhat touristy area, we figure that stopping by noon would be a good idea for next couple of days. The road continues to be pretty good and there is not much traffic. I went for a hike which was pretty good and lead me to a really high peak with great 360 degree views of the forest around the area and other mountain peaks. There was also some snow by the peaks, very strange to see as it has been so hot in this area lately. I was a bit freaked out as I had to drive on a very narrow and curvy mountain road (completely away from any kind of civilization) for about 8 miles to get to the trail head. I need to start letting George know where I might be hiking, in case something happens, he knows where to look for me. The fact that I have just starting listening to an audio book written by Stephen King about a little girl who gets lost when going on a hike (on the AT)with her family. Of course, she made the fatal error, which I never do, of leaving the marked trail while looking for a short cut. Anyways, all went well with George’s bike ride and my hike. We stayed in a very little town, where everybody knows everyone’s name, which was interesting. We also went site seeing at the Painted Hills. It is very hot and dry in this area, barely any plants grow and little wild life, so it seems. I met this really nice local couple, who said that it never rains here in summer, which we believe as rain has not been an issue with the bike tour lately (mainly since we hit the western states).

We went from pass Mt. Vernon, OR to Mitchell, OR
Total Miles: 63

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2: Day 50

Another great day of riding but it was suppose to be really hot today. So, George started really early and finished by noon. The roads are still pretty wide with a good shoulder. Oregon, so far, is pretty bike friendly. We also saw a caution sign with picture of bike on it. I went for a run in the morning before it got hot and that was good enough for me.

We went from Unity, OR to pass Mt. Vernon, OR
Total Miles: 66

July 1: Day 49

First day of riding in Oregon and it was good riding. The roads are wide and had some shoulder, but to top it off the speed limit was 55 mph... yeah. Also, the route kind a parallel's the interstate, which makes the route lot less crowded. It was a bit of a tough day, not because of all the climbing (there was a lot of it) as the mountain goat is all cool with that, but it was hot and also still the high desert country, lacking in any big trees. The scenery will change some tomorrow and I know that as all I did today was drive forward and back to check out the area and to see where to stay. I did not mind this as much today as there was not much to do in the area. It was way too hot to run and no hiking in the area (Turns out that there was a LOT of hiking in the area but I had no internet to be able to research that. I figured this out two days later when we had the internet). I could not go for a bike ride as my tailbone is more soar... why, because... one, my donut has a hole in it and it deflated. I figure it was time to retire that thing. Two, I had a little spill, yes again, yesterday (while walking backwards on to a pretty big rock) and my back is a bit bruised up and also tailbone hurts a bit more. Ironic, that George is the one who is on the bike tour but I am the one who has had a couple of falls. Well, better me than him, since I am already not biking much. We stayed in a cabin with no running water at a state park, the closest we have come to camping.Its still pretty cold at night and first thing in the morning for us to be able to do real camping.

We went from Ontario, OR to Unity, OR
Total Miles: 72

June: 30: Day 48

George got to ride big part of his ride today but then had to get in the car for the rest of Idaho as the roads were very curvy, narrow and no shoulder, with high speed, and heavy truck traffic. I was the official “Road Scout” (not happily though as it was third day in a row of me mainly driving around in the car, my least favorite thing to do) today. We crossed over to Oregon via car. We tried to do some research about the speed limits in Oregon, including for our new route (which meets up with our old route in about 105 miles) here. Most people do not know the speed limit of back roads but some tuckers did say that the maximum speed on the freeway in Oregon is 55 mph (which they thought was really slow but we loved the sound of that). May be this means that the speed on the back roads will be lower too. Looking at the big picture of our route that we had chosen as it included “Yellowstone Park”, turns out that the association which makes the maps “Adventure Cycling (AC)” kind of messed us up. They are located in Missoula, Montana and it looks like that AC made up the route to make sure that cyclists would stop by their home town. But in doing so, you not only have to go about 400 miles out of the way but also have to ride through these dangerous roads of Montana and Idaho. We had seen that we were going out of the way but wanted to keep going on that route as we wanted to see Montana (turns out that it was not all that it was cracked up to be). In the hindsight (which is always 20/20), we could have gone a different route and saved us all that driving distance. Oh well, but at the end of the day, the good thing is that if George gets to ride through the rest of Oregon, we will be very happy. He is technically already at the mileage (about 50 miles short) that it takes to go from coast to coast on a bike (if you do no detours), which is pretty cool, if you ask me. As for Idaho, its prettier than other western states so far but some parts are pretty bare. People are very nice and friendly. Someone asked George if he was ok, when he was taking a break, which has not happened since Kansas. Roads, of course get thumbs down.
Little soap box: We talked with a local from Idaho. He was very apologetic that the roads are so dangerous for cyclists and gave us some insight on this issue. He said that the reason for the high speed limit is economical. Of course, we should have known that. He said that the when the speed limit was changed from 50 mph to 65 mph, there were about 200,000 more deaths on the roads that year. But they would not change the speed limit as the factories who want the trucks to get the stuff out and back to them faster and they do not seem to care that its killing more people. He said that he has talked to several truck drivers and they all have said the same thing that they have the pressure of getting to places faster in order to keep their jobs. So, that is the skinny on these high speeds, especially in Montana and Idaho.

We traveled from to Grangeville ID Ontario, OR
Total Miles: 60