Just like when I left Bar Harbor, there was no fanfair, no parade in my honor, I had gone for a ride that day in July, and now the ride has ended. As simple as that sounds, I am forever changed in ways I have just begun to comprehend. I think it is much easier to understand why people have been making pilgrimages and traveling in other various ways since recorded history began. We may set out to discover new places but we will inevitably discover new places inside ourselves.Read More
September 15: When I wake up it’s (shocker) freezing. I do a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. I hear an unknown animal call while eating in my tent. I elect not to investigate. It takes the first hour of my day to go 4 miles. It’s a pass! Wacouda Pass, somehow I missed it on the map. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as Sherman Pass, just annoying. After Wacouda, I traveled 20 miles downhill. It was amazing. Traveling downhill really gives you the opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery.
I stop for lunch in Tonasket, Washington, eating my signature burger with an egg on it.
Tonasket has a campground but I decide to keep going another 25 miles to Omak. I stop in an outfitter store there and stock up on some more camp meals. I’ve become mildly obsessed with raspberry oatmeal in milk.
I stay in a small, town-run RV park in the middle of town. Even the tent sites have electricity, which is AWESOME. I meet the couples staying on either side across from me and they are super friendly, asking me a lot of questions about my travels.
September 16: I wake up before my alarm even goes off at 5:30. I’m feeling really good. Rested. Strong. I know I have another pass today. Loup (pronounced “Loo,” I think) is the french word for wolf. I am warned by locals that there is a wolf pack living on the mountain. Wonderful.
I arrive at the local diner in Omak before it opens at 7am. I eat my customary giant breakfast. I love breakfast so much these days. Besides having all the foods my body seems to be craving, breakfast is the one time of day I have a plan, the plan hasn’t crashed and burned yet, my bike isn’t broken, and the day is full of promise. Sometimes I even have wifi.
I accidentally travel the wrong way for about 3/4 of a mile. Breakfast bliss has evaporated by 8:30am.
I head out of town, climb a few hundred feet without too much trouble, then lose all that elevation on a large downhill before the start of the pass. Omak has an elevation of 800 feet. The top of Loup Loup pass is 4,020 feet above sea level. Even though I walk a good portion, I am able to ride some too. I still feel good, strong,
On my way to the top, during one of the portions when I am riding, I hear a large animal off to my left. I’ve become pretty used to hearing things moving in the woods along the roads I travel down, so I don’t pay much attention. The rustling is periodic, but moving closer. Definitely closer. I pick my head up and look up in time to see a large, black form moving through the trees towards me at a high rate of speed.
Then the black animal stops short of the road and gives out a loud, indignant, “MOOOOOooooooooo.” It’s a bull. A bull contained by a barely visible fence. Why is there a bull on a mountain. The bull turns and follows me along the fenceline while my heart tries to calm back down to a human rate of beating.
Getting to the top takes between 3 and 4 hours. Riding down the 11 miles on the other side of the pass takes 30 minutes. The west side of the pass is eery, clearly there was a large wildfire here sometime in the last few years. All the dead trees are still standing, like ghostly monuments to man’s inability to preserve our wild spaces.
After the pass, I ride another 11 miles to Winthrop, Washington to stay in the Pine Near RV Park. This is a pretty nice campground. They have coin showers (not ideal) that only take Sacagawea dollar coins… what? Ok, fine, that’s a little weird, but doable. They have an exchange machine you can put dollars or quarters into to get the appropriate coins to operate the showers. I take my shower. Then I go to do a load of laundry and the machines take… quarters. Why. I go root around through my stuff for any stray quarters I still possess that I did not turn into Sacagawea dollars.
I camp next to a band called “The Sky Colony.” They are playing at the local bar tonight. They seem really nice, we talk for a while and they all give Dobby some much-needed male attention.
We have traveled 3,103.1 miles.
September 9: I wake up at 5:30 (living outside has led to becoming an early riser, even when I’ve slept indoors). By 6:30 I’m sitting in a diner considering my options. The evening before I reviewed the wildfire information provided to the town via info boards in front of the grocery store. There is a wildfire directly in the direction I need to go, only 3 miles outside of town. I sit in the diner for 2 hours trying to find a ride past the fire. Feeling the clock ticking away my time until winter, I break down and rent another uhaul. This one is an even bigger box truck than the last because they did not have any of the smaller trucks available. I drive 84 miles to Sandpoint, Idaho. My second-to-last state. I stay at the fairgrounds outside of town. There’s no real tent camping here. I’m required to pay the price for an RV and have to camp out of the way to avoid the sprinklers that will come on at night. The showers, on the other hand, are very nice. I take a long, hot shower. Hot water is something I have come to see as a treat instead of a consistent luxury.
September 10: Due to the distances between campgrounds, this is a short and easy day. I cross into Washington! My last state! I look at the sign at the border in amazement, and a little shock. Surprise that I’ve made it through 10 states yes, but on a smaller scale I just didn’t realize I would enter Washington this evening. I had thought the border was further along and I would cross it in the morning. Turns out the campground where I spent the night was just inside Washington. It seems less smoky here. The border crossing and the lighter sky puts me in high spirits. By the time I set up camp, I am too lazy to heat up the clam chowder soup I have for dinner, so I eat it out of the can, cold, like the heathen I have become.
September 11: This morning I am faced with deciding if I want to bicycle 40 miles or 80 miles to the next campground, which is really no decision at all. It only takes me until 1pm to reach Blueslide resort. I am now on WA route 20, the Cascade Highway, which I will remain on until I reach the Pacific Ocean. The weather is noticeably growing colder by the day, which reminds me that the mountain passes may close any time.
September 12: I spend almost all day walking my bike up a mountain. I rarely keep track of how far I walk anymore. Even the amount of miles I bike in a day doesn’t mean much. I can usually reach my intended destination. The miles are easier, even the walking is easier. I’m so much stronger than I was just a few weeks ago. I reached the top at around 1pm and stop for lunch at a lodging with a restaurant, Beaver Lodge. I ordered one of my favorite meals, a burger with an over-easy egg on top and french fries. While I am eating not one, but TWO cyclists come into the restaurant. They don’t know each other and I’ve never seen either before. The man is Phil, who is from Massachusetts originally but is traveling Eastbound to Havre, Montana. Kayla is from Boston, going west like me, and has been cycling the Northern Tier all summer. A solo cyclist! Westbound! From New England! And she’s FEMALE. This is the first female solo-cyclist I have met, and only the second female cyclist I’ve met at all (excluding myself). All three of us just happen to converge at this hotel restaurant at the top of a mountain. I stay the night at the Bacon Bike Hostel, located just outside of Coleville, Washington. There is no one staying here besides Dobby and myself. This hostel is run by a husband and wife for free. It is basically an entire house with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, a beautiful balcony, and laundry facilities. All they require is that you give them advanced notice of your arrival. There are some amazing people in this world.
I am so excited to get the smell of smoke out of my clothes.
We have traveled 2926.8 miles.
September 6: I wake up the day after the perfect zero ready to go. I have decided to stay on US 2 West instead of following the Northern Tier up to Eureka because of the wildfires in the area. Going off route has yet to be a positive experience for me. I eat another amazing breakfast at the campground’s Sunflower Cafe. Soon after departing, I discover there is a fairly new looking bike path along US 2. The air is very smoky; it is just bad enough to make me feel tired and irritable. I can tell that there are some beautiful sights to see but they are obscured. I connect with a warm showers host in Kila, Montana and learn that she is responsible for the bike path! Helen lobbied and raised the funds to get the 40 mile bike path put in from Glacier to Kila. Kila is a teeny town, adorable in its simplicity and Helen is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Helen earns a living making instrument cases and repairing camping gear. She lives on 40 acres on the side of a mountain, in an off-grid cabin that runs off of solar and propane. There is not toilet, only an outhouse. Helen built this cabin herself 30 years previously, and added onto it as her needs required. She has 2 children (around my age) who have in turn built their own cabins on the property, each choosing materials and locations that seemed to suit their personalities and preferences. Helen feeds me delicious food. She tolerates Dobby running all over her property, even jumping in her small pond and terrifying her fish. After we tour the property, which included walking up to the top of the mountain to look at the stars beginning to emerge, I look at Helen in awe. “How did you create all this?” I ask her. She just looks at me with the constant smile she wears and replies “I just did it.” I only met Helen for a night, but I still think about her sometimes. When I’m face with what I feel are insurmountable odds, or dealing with a challenge I’m not quite sure how to tackle, I think of Helen telling me to “just do it.” She’s right of course. Sure, you can sit and think about how best to handle a situation, but there are times when this pondering won’t do you any good, and you truly won’t know what needs to be done until you try something and see how it goes. I am no longer afraid to tackle things I’ve never done before. I hope one day to attempt to build a home for myself the way Helen did.
September 7: Helen serves up waffles with greek yogurt, maple syrup and peaches. It's amazing. Before I leave, Helen lubes up my chain and gives me cookies for the road. Did I mention how wonderful this woman is? I feel like I’m dragging today, the smoke is heavy and it seems to draw my strength out of my body. I stop for lunch at The Hilltop Hitching Post and then stop for the day around 3pm. I had planned to get further but I just don’t have the strength today. I think learning to listen to your body is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this trip. I stop at a campground at McGregor Lake. It’s a state campground, no showers or flushing toilets. I go for a swim with Dobby in the lake, situated just behind my tent. I clean the smoke off my body, and out of my hair and clothes. The smoke seems to sit on the water, and I can imagine it’s just fog creeping in. While making dinner on the picnic table, I spill 1/2 of a Mountain House meal. I realize what kind of person this trip has made me when I scoop the entree back into the bag and eat it.
September 8: It’s still smoky today, but the flatter ground makes for an easier ride. The air quality is so poor when I arrive in Libby, Montana, that a woman pulls her car over and offers me a mask. Everyone I see outside is wearing one. There are signs in front of all the businesses thanking the firefighters that have come from all over the country to help fight forest fires. I’m so sick of the smoke that I can’t imagine spending another night outside. I stay at the Caboose Motel, watching TV for a few hours and charging all my electronics. The smoky sky, while hazardous to my health, was also causing the death of my electronics. Without the sunny days to charge my solar batteries, I have no way to charge my phone, ipod, GPS, etc.
I realize how novel having four walls around me is becoming. I’m no longer used to having a solid room to hole up in, where I am insulated from Mother Nature and her whims. In the hotel room, I don’t know what the weather is outside. I don’t know how bright or dark the sky is. I can’t hear what animals are nearby. I’m not sure anymore whether or not I prefer the insulation of the hotel room or the immersion of nature.
We have traveled 2808.2 miles.
If you’re going to bicycle through a popular National Park, make sure it’s on a national holiday. Just kidding. Really do your best not to do that.
September 3: Hallelujah almost no wind finds me today! I climbed about 1700 feet total for the day, and complete 25 miles in the first 3 hours. That’s over 8 miles an hour! Compare that to my 5 mile-an-hour struggle in the wind from previous days. I stay the night in East Glacier, where I meet an Irish couple who are taking a year to bicycle circuitously from Canada to Mexico. I find out that the “Going to the Sun Road,” one of the two passes through the mountains in Glacier, is closed due to a wildfire. While this is one of the most iconic roads in the US, part of me is happy the nature is forcing my hand into taking the less challenging Marias Pass.
September 4: Winter is here. I’m not in Westeros but it sure feels like it. I wake up at 5:30am and it is 45 degrees (F). Somehow Montana knows it’s Labor Day and therefore summer must be turned to the off position. I put on all my clothes. Dobby refuses the leave the sleeping bag, which he crawled into with me during the night. I know today I cross the Rocky Mountains. I will be biking through Glacier National Park on Labor Day, one of the biggest travel weekends of the year. I will be going over the biggest mountain pass since the Kancamagus Highway all the way back in New Hampshire.
I could have planned this better.
In anticipation of a brutal day, I eat breakfast at a diner in East Glacier at 6:30am. I am hoping that I can beat some of the traffic. My breakfast covers all the food groups, plus dessert.
In anticlimactic fashion, Marias Pass is…. easy. I do not even get off my bike. This is the only mountain pass that does not require me to drag my bike behind me in order to reach the top. I climb a mere 600 feet to the top, but the ride was incredible. The rivers are both blue and clear, running over smooth volcanic pebbles that span all the colors of the rainbow. My wonderment cannot be dampened by the insane amount of vacationers driving too close and honking at me. I’m not even looking in their direction. The scenery is amazing, and I can’t wait to go back and visit one day.
I have a long lunch at the cafe of a campground in the park. I’m unable to camp within the park boundaries due to the proximity of wildfires. All the wildfires mean that the bear populations are being forced closer to humans than usual, and as a result any soft-sided camping accommodations (like a tent or a pop-up camper) were disallowed until further notice.
I push on until I reach Glacier Campground, located just outside the west gate of the park.
I meet the Irish couple again, they are staying here as well. They offer me a beer, which I accept. Who refuses a beer from an irishman, I think.
September 5: Glacier Campground has an eatery called Sunflower Cafe. It. Is. SO good. This is the end of their season so some of their items have been discontinued but it does not matter. Everything they have is delicious. The cafe is an open air establishment with long picnic tables. I sit down to eat and I am soon joined by the irish couple. We sit and talk late into the morning, and by the time I get up I realize I have already decided to take a zero day.
Naturally I go back to bed. This is one upside to the cooler temperatures: day sleeping in my tent without feeling like a turkey roasting in an oven.
I finally get up and walk to an outfitter store, thinking that it might be time for some warmer clothing. I check the price tags and settle for some Mountain House granola instant breakfasts instead.
The air is very smoky, we hear that the nearest wildfire is a mere 12 miles away. I contemplate my mortality and inability to escape a raging inferno on a bicycle while continuing to laze around. I hear that there are also fires near Eureka, a town on the Northern Tier, meaning I am going to have to go off route.
We have traveled 2,684 miles.
September 1: I left Hingham and the Hi-Way Bar at around 8 am. There was no wind! It was awesome. Compared to the previous day, I felt like I was flying down the flat Montana highway. At some point during the morning I realized it was September. Woah.
The wind picked up again around noon. My pace slowed to a crawl yet again. As the afternoon wore on, the wind became stronger and stronger until I felt like I was battling to remain in the same place, nevermind moving forward.
I reached Galata, my goal for the day, around 5pm. My map had said there was an RV park here, and I was hoping maybe the proprietors would let me set up a tent for the night. I saw no RV park. There was dust blowing down the road, giving the wind a visible shape. Had I not been wearing sunglasses, I doubt I would have been able to see. What I did see was the Galata motel. A small, quaint looking building consisting of one row of rooms, maybe eight total. At this point in the day, I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least check the cost of a room.
The office had been newly converted into a small store. Inside I met Sue, the owner. I was so grateful to be out of the wind. When you’re outside all the time, you get used to what nature is throwing at you, even the unenjoyable parts. Then when you’re removed from the elements, you finally remember what life is like without wind, rain, snow, freezing cold etc. Sue regretfully told me she did not have any clean rooms, as she had been completely rented out by a construction crew paving roads nearby. They were gone for the holiday weekend, (this was the Friday before Labor Day) but Sue hadn’t cleaned the rooms yet. Consequently Sue offered me one of the rooms for the night free. As much as I love free stuff, I felt better earning my keep. I helped clean two of the rooms while Dobby took a nap in our room. Flipping rooms was nothing new, as it was something I had done before when I worked on a ranch in Wyoming. After I had finished cleaning, Dobby and I watched Criminal Minds on TV and then YouTube videos on camper renovations. Free place to stay. Honest work with a wonderfully kind woman. Out of the wind. I couldn’t have asked for more.
We had traveled 2,542.4 miles.
August 31: I headed out of Havre, Montana on US 2, aka the Great Northern Highway, which is a pretty major one-lane-each-way highway going through Montana. There was a "town" about every 7 miles on US 2 after Havre, set between the road and the railroad tracks that ran parallel. I use the term town very loosely here. I imagine these communities exist solely due to those trains that are the lifeblood of the midwest. Each of these towns consisted of maybe twenty to thirty houses and virtually no people. I literally wouldn't see a single person while biking down the one street looking for.... anything. One town, which my Adventure Cycling Association map listed as having a general store, had only one public building and that was a post office. The postal worker was nice enough to let me use the restroom and refill my water. Another town was supposed to have a restaurant. Turns out it had burned down about two years previously.
The day was getting progressively windier as the afternoon wore on. Passing some semblance of a town every seven miles. Battling a headwind. Always a headwind. People I met spoke of tailwinds and I would smile and nod like I knew what those were. Around 3 o'clock I finally came upon a bona fide public establishment. Spencer's Hi-way Bar, located in Hingham, Montana, is located directly on US 2. I left Dobby outside in the shade (out of the wind) with a chew toy and his mat to lay on. After eating lunch and talking to the bar owner and other patrons for an hour, I decided I was fed up with battling nature's insistent air currents for the day. So I sat and talked with the bar owner some more. He told me about a bicycle trip he had taken when he was younger. He told me about buying the bar, about his granddaughters, and about the horses they love to ride that live out back. He told me about his RV park, also set up right outside the back door of the bar. I saw patrons come in to buy various items. You see in Hingham, Hi-way Bar is a bar, restaurant, liquor store, and probably more. It is the only store in that town that I am aware of. It is a truck stop for weary truckers, or a place to stop for lunch while traveling along the seemingly desolate highway. The winds got so bad Spencer lost the top of his flagpole, flying off down the road east. I sat for so long in the bar I ended up eating dinner there too.
Spencer ended up offering me an efficiency for the night, one that he usually rented out. He let me stay there for free. I had my tent, and he had space for me to set it up, but he was concerned stray dogs may bother me or some other trouble may find me. I got to sleep in a bed, take a shower, eat and sleep and be in a shelter. I was out of the wind and dust, clean for the night.
August 29: Upon waking up to another cold morning, I made the decision to rent a U-haul in Valley City. I could say this was a difficult decision. I could say that the reality was if I kept at my current pace I wouldn't make it to the west coast before snow covered the mountain passes. I could (and did) say that I needed to get safely past the wildfires in eastern Montana. While all of these things are true, I will also say I was a little bit sick of biking. I had traveled almost 2500 miles to date on a bicycle, towing almost 100 pounds behind me. That's like trying to run with a parachute attached to your back. I calculated I had approximately 6 weeks left on my trip, which would put me well into October before I finished. Some mountain passes in western Montana and Washington close in early to mid-October, and I really didn't want to take any chances of coming so close to my goal and falling short. I have zero regrets about the decision to drive through some of the route.
I loaded my bike into a 10 foot U-haul truck, (the smallest option you have if you're not bringing the vehicle back to the same U-haul location) rented in Valley City, and laughed at how little space I took up with essentially everything I currently owned. You really don't need nearly as much stuff in your life as you think. I had to reacquaint myself with driving since I hadn't driven a vehicle in almost 2 months. I don't think I exceeded 50 miles per hour for the first 100 miles, which I'm sure made the other drivers on I-90 super happy. I drove most of 600 miles and stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Montana. The great part about all that extra space in the back of the U-haul was that I had plenty of room to set up my sleeping pad and bag, no tent-pitching necessary. I closed the gate to the U-haul, leaving it open just a few inches to allow fresh air and a breeze inside. It was an incredibly peaceful night.
August 30: The next morning, I drove the rest of the way to the U-haul drop-off, located in Havre, Montana. I spent most of the day in the library, updating a severely out-of-date blog (like I'm doing right now). While sitting in the library, my phone went off with an alert about a wildfire twenty miles south of town. I returned the U-haul around 4:30 and biked back into town to Havre RV Park. The tent camping was really just a grassy area next to a gas station but it was quiet, had the nicest showers and even had laundry! I thought I might not want to get back on the bike, but it was like coming home. I might officially be a cyclist! Sitting outside my tent eating dinner, back up against a tree trunk, the ash falling on my tent was reminiscent of snow.
August 27: The first day I didn't wear bike shorts. Not only was the chill of the morning foreshadowing the onset of winter, it was cool enough to spend the entire day in leggings. No bike shorts also meant I spent the day with no padding while riding. It took almost 2 months, but my butt had finally become seemingly impervious to 8 or more hours per day spent on a bicycle seat.
Dobby is officially too tall for his trailer, meaning when the front is closed he cannot stand up without ducking his head. This will most likely be Dobby's one and only long distance bicycle trip. I ride with the top up as much as weather and sun glare permit, but Dobby once again proved that Murphy's Law ("anything that can go wrong, will go wrong") must have been originally intended for animals. I will remind the audience that this is the same animal who almost strangled himself to death in Buffalo, NY. While riding down a semi-busy road (this is North Dakota, so "busy" is relative) Dobby became so interested in something he saw across the road that he leaned too far out of the front of the trailer... and fell out. Yup. This clumsy puppy of mine literally fell head first out of the stupid trailer. Face planted into blacktop. Fortunately I'm a slow bicyclist and he got away with two very small scrapes on his chin and front leg. This is one of those situations where, once you've discovered that your charge is not severely harmed, you bust out laughing. Or maybe that's just me.
At the end of the day we crossed into North Dakota! Fargo, ND is located right on the state border, which is delineated by a river. I stayed in a campground located on that river. Even though the campground was located in the middle of downtown Fargo, it was relatively peaceful and I enjoyed getting to walk Dobby around the city park.
August 28: This was my longest day to date. I bicycled 72.4 miles, literally bicycling past sunset. I reached my ambitious destination of Valley City, ND only to find that the campground was full. Not wanting to spend $100 or more on a hotel, I called the police department and inquired about pitching my tent in the local park and was given permission to do so. I ordered pizza delivered to my tent. I ate the entire thing.
Minnesota was unbelievably beautiful. I rode north along the Mississippi River for quite some time. The weather was mild, even a little chilly some mornings. I would argue this is the most bicycle-friendly state on this route. Even Minneapolis (which isn't technically on the route but I went through it anyway) is able to be completely traversed by bike paths and trails.
- I got my bike chain replaced in Winona and got to go in a camping supplies store (it's like Christmas)
- I met another cyclist going West! He left Bar Harbor about two weeks after I did. So what has taken me seven weeks to traverse only took him five. Cue daydreams where I unhitch Dobby's trailer and leave it on the side of the road. Just kidding, I love my dog and even if it extends my trip and pain level I wouldn't give up bringing him along for anything.
- I took another zero day at the Treasure Island Casino campground due to inclement weather, but the sky cleared up just enough to see the eclipse. A woman in camp had welding goggles so I could actually look!
- Dobby got stung by a bee he tried to eat and his face blew up. I tried not to laugh. I really did.
- I stayed in a hotel outside Minneapolis where I reacquainted myself with how awesome beds are.
- In St. Cloud, I got my trailer hitch re-epoxyed onto the ogre as it had finally worn out.
- Lake Wobegon Trail and Central Lakes Trail exhibited one gorgeous body of water after another.
- In Alexandria, I got a new brake pad.
- On the 26th, one trailer tire went flat. Twice. I never figured out exactly what caused it but my best guess is a small piece of glass or similar sharp object got between the tire tube and the sidewall.
We have traveled 2,343 miles.
Iowa's phrase is "Fields of Opportunity." Fields. Get it? It's punny.
- First view of Mississippi River
- Outside Wyoming, IA (confusing, isn't it?) the chain on my bike finally gave out. I probably could have gotten it fixed enough to get me the next few days to a bike shop but a good samaritan I had actually met in the previous town offered me a ride to a hardware store where the owner fixes bikes. He only had 9 speed chain links (I have a 10 speed) which means it was slightly wider than it should be, but it worked.
- I got to take my first shower in a week
- Took another zero day in Lansing at the Red Barn Resort Campground where I got to do laundry and hangout on the covered back porch of the resort restaurant while it poured rain on and off all day. A limb fell from a tree onto my tent. We weren't inside the tent and it only ripped a small hole in my rain fly. Like most everything in existence, it was easily fixed by duct tape.
We have traveled 1,931 miles.
August 7: On reaching Buffalo, Indiana I stopped at a convenience store and ended up speaking with a woman named Tammy. She wanted to meet Dobby. After she heard about my trip, she offered me a place to camp in her yard as she lived very close by. She and her family live on an island in the middle of a river. You cross halfway across a bridge before turning into their driveway. It was so cool and Tammy reminded me a lot of my own mom. She invited me to eat dinner with her family, washed my clothes, and let me sit on their couch and watch TV. I can't remember the last time I sat down and watched TV. Due to being surrounded on all sides by water, Dobby got to run free around the property, and run he did.
August 8: I crossed the border into Illinois around 5pm. The town of Iroquois , IL has a population of 150 people and a main street comprised of 6 buildings. It was so cute. The park right in town has cyclist-only lodging comprised of a building with a cot, refrigerator, shower, air conditioning, and a garage to keep your bike in! It was so relaxing and there was a cafe right nearby for dinner and breakfast the following day.
We have traveled 1,511 miles.
Ok, so you know how I made fun of my mom for thinking I got kidnapped back in New York? Like most moms, her biggest fear about my trip, unfounded though they may be, is someone murdering or harming me in some fashion. It's pretty easy to laugh her off and dissuade her fears with a "that will never happen."
Clearly I have not been murdered, but I did experience a period of genuine fear on my last day in Ohio.
I was pretty exhausted, mentally and physically. My muscles had been telling me for a few days now it was time to take a day off. It had been almost an entire month since my last zero day. I planned to bike only 15 miles and take the rest of the day and the next day to recuperate. Instead, I saw on the map that the town of Munroeville, Indiana had a cyclists-only, free lodging option. All I had to do was bike 60 miles. Challenge accepted.
Unfortunately, (it's funny how often a sentence begins with that word on this blog) Ohio is very flat and full of corn and soybean fields. In the last two counties, there are zero wind breaks. I had to bike 60 miles in 17-27 mph winds. Those exact numbers com from me being so frustrated I looked up exactly what the wind conditions were.
Around noon, I stopped in a gas station to "refuel." The woman behind the counter informs me that a convicted rapist just escaped police custody a few miles down the road. Oh, and he has a gun. No big deal. We were in the middle of nowhere. Just an intersection in farm country. I asked her if she knew anyone who could give me a ride to the next town and she said no, not that I had much hope anyway. What could I do? I kept biking.
So I biked through the search area for this convict. Every once in a while some sheriff or other would drive by and ask me if I knew that there was an escaped convict in the vicinity. I told them yes, but I wasn't from around there and had nowhere to go. I kept biking, slowly, into 20mph winds. I'll admit I experienced fear. Not panic, but I was wary. I didn't see any people other than the police at this time since I'm guessing the residents were all smart enough to stay indoors.
I arrived in Munroeville, Indiana around 6pm, fully intact and unharassed. I contacted Warren the "bike guy" and he got me settled. Due to the Harvest Festival occurring in the town of 1300 people, my rest day the next day was not as restful as I hoped, (the cyclist only lodging was in the middle of said festival) but people were very friendly and curious.
I apologize to my loving mother whose irrational fears actually held some merit this one time.
We have traveled 1335 miles.
As you go through life, you can visit places and think "I could live here one day." This also means that you could visit a place and decide "I can check this off of any list regarding where I may want to live one day." Ohio falls into the latter category for me.
There's nothing blatantly wrong with Ohio, I just didn't like the "vibe." I'm sure those who live right on Lake Erie enjoy an incredible view, but that view is almost entirely blocked from the road. There are entire neighborhoods warning travelers about trespassing; It seems they do not want to share their views with anyone else.
That being said, I don't have a lot to say about most of Ohio so here's a brief summary:
- I lost my license somewhere. Good thing I'm not driving a car anytime soon.
- I stayed with very nice Warm Showers hosts Lisa and Steven. It is not their fault at all that I do not like Ohio. They met while taking separate bicycle tours and are incredibly friendly people.
- My muscles got progressively more and more sore, indicating I should probably take a rest day soon.
- I found another camping supply store to stock up on dehydrated meals and replace Dobby's collar.
- I started re-listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks.
- I spent a few hours one day riding with three men traveling from NYC to LA, but our paths separated (which was for the best as I could not have kept up with them long term).
Have I mentioned I hate cities? I hate cities.
Crossing back into the U.S. and finding myself smack in the middle of Buffalo, NY was... disorienting. Annoying. Unpleasant. Sorry Buffalo, I'll take NYC any day. At least New York City has culture and history. Buffalo seems to have... pink-hued concrete.
If enduring city travel wasn't enough, Dobby decided this was the opportune time to have a life or death struggle. Seriously.
I was on a street corner, on the phone with my mom, trying to figure out which way to go to get the hell out of my concrete-filled nightmare, when Dobby starts thrashing around in the trailer. The front was open, so I could see him, and he had somehow wrapped himself up in his tether and twisted his collar to the point where he could barely breathe. These are the situations where you find out how well you can handle an emergency. I may have a biased memory of how this went but that's the only point of view you're going to get.
I "calmly" threw my phone to the ground. I tried to untangle the tether, harness, and collar. I tried to loosen the cinch on his collar. I pleaded with Dobby to quit squirming while gasping for air. Once he started to convulse and foam at the mouth I may have lost it a little. I grabbed my knife and sawed through the collar. I had to cut down towards his neck because there was no room to slip the knife between the collar and his neck. Somehow I avoided cutting him.
He seemed alright once he caught his breath, but refused water. He had lost all the hair on the underside of his neck and the skin was an angry red. Life-or-death situation dispelled, my adrenaline subsided, leaving me shaky. I walked my bike through Buffalo city streets and kept heading west.
My mom convinced me to stay on route 5 west instead of going south to Orchard Park like the route describes. I subsequently rode through a very low income area, ran over a bunch of glass, thought I had a flat tire, and witnessed a drug deal outside of a convenience store.
We hate Buffalo.
We spent one more day in New York along Lake Erie before heading through Pennsylvania to Ohio.
We have traveled 938 miles.
After completing the Erie Canal Trail, Dobby and I headed to Canada! I've only been to Canada once and I was four years old so I have only pieces of memories of Niagara Falls (mostly disappointment that we couldn't ride the ferry due to my newborn cousin).
Crossing the border was much easier than I anticipated. I had researched that to bring a dog into Canada you needed proof of a rabies vaccination, which I brought with me. Going through customs (basically a toll booth) was so low-key, I didn't realize I was being interviewed; I just thought the border agent was extra friendly. I was disappointed he didn't "sound Canadian" until partway through our conversation he ended a sentence with "Aye?" I did my best to hide my gleeful smile so as not to portray how excited this monosyllable made me.
Unfortunately once I made it though customs, I missed some vital turn, because I ended up on a freeway. Luckily there was an ample shoulder until I could get to the next exit a few miles away. I experienced a moment of panic when I saw the speed limit signs since they were in kilometers and I did not know the conversion, then laughed at myself as I realized that at no point was I going to be breaking the speed limit while on a bicycle. I found the appropriate trail eventually (without GPS since I had no cell service in Canada) and followed the Niagara River. The river was one of the most beautiful shades of blue-green I have ever seen in nature, but there were way too many people around for my comfort level so I did not get too close to the falls. I spent the night in a campground and headed back into the U.S. (via Buffalo) the following day.
Reentering the U.S. proved no more difficult. I rode up to the customs building, rang a buzzer, and spoke to a customs agent for maybe ten minutes. He asked me if Dobby was vaccinated and if I had any cigars, alcohol, or weapons. I told him I had a knife. He checked my passport but did not check any bags or Dobby's certificate. I was almost disappointed that my level of preparation for border crossings had been unnecessary.
We have traveled 893 miles.