The Dakotas

Bob and I are currently in a Motel in Mobridge, South Dakota, so called because it features a bridge across the Missouri (MO) River. Because we’re planning as we go, we were pleasantly surprised that we’ve arrived during this town’s largest annual celebration, July 2-4. In addition to US Independence Day, they also have a nightly rodeo + tent dance, and hold high school class reunions. I biked down to the parade yesterday – it was a typical small town parade, but it was cool that each graduating class had their own float. Last night I went to the rodeo while Bob hung out with Sammy in the hotel. I was able to enjoy mutton busting for the first time (last time, I was the kid on the sheep).

Today is our first rest day since Miles City, Montana. Since then we’ve covered 428 miles (689 km). That included our leg through North Dakota – the one I had dread the most, but which honestly turned out to be one of the best thus far. It’s a rainy day here, off and on, which is helping us remain focused on route planning (more on that later). But the sun has come out for a moment, so I’m cooking up some burgers on the Coleman.

The country flattened out significantly in eastern Montana. While the scenery may not have been as exciting as the west, everyone we met out there was very friendly. As I mentioned, I’d been dreading North Dakota, and those feelings felt confirmed when I crossed the border on the shoulder of I-94, only to find it construction that made it a 2 lane with no shoulder. But things quickly improved at Beach, ND, where I caught Old Highway 10, and could go miles without any vehicle traffic.

We stayed the night in Medora, which is just outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While I arrived pretty late, I talked Bob into going into the park and driving around before dinner. This isn’t a park you hear about much, but it was beautiful, with a lot of wildlife. We were welcomed by a herd of buffalo right at the entrance, and saw more inside, along with several wild horses. The next morning I pulled into a rest stop just outside of Medora and found more buffalo roaming the parking lot.

The next day was a slog. It started with 15mph headwinds which grew to 25mph+ by lunch. I tried to get ahead of it by starting early, but that plan was hindered by my phone not automatically changing timezones so my alarm went off an hour late, and then I got a flat a couple hours in that took a while to fix. It finished with about 10 miles of gravel that I wasn’t expecting. There was also a surprise highway closure for bridge work that my routing services didn’t know about, and Bob got to watch my GPS icon frogger up an exit ramp and across both lanes of the interstate to get across. It ended up taking me 13.5 hours door to door. But it was cool, with low humidity, traffic was low and the gravel was actually really fun now that I have appropriate tires.

In other news, I have developed a terrible donut habit. I blame Denise for getting that started, and the bakeries in Dickinson and Mandan for keeping it going. Luckily the one across the street from me is closed for the holiday.

My friends Heather and Curtis drove out to meet us in Bismarck. Curtis is working on a goal of biking 100 miles in each of the states, and this was his chance to capture North Dakota. Curtis and I road together to the North/South Dakota border – 80 miles of no towns, beautiful farmland, nice roads and very little traffic. Having Curtis to talk to made the ride fly by. Here we are in Middle Dakota, doing our best Mount Rushmore impersonation:

After this morning’s planning session, we now have a target destination – Portland, Maine. That will put the total mileage at about 4300. That means we should be crossing the half-way mark in the next week! We’ll be travelling south to Fort Thompson over the next 2 days, then start travelling northeast to Minnesota. We expect to land in Minneapolis around July 18. Whitney is flying in to spend the weekend with us, and we’ll be hosted by our friends Chris and Doug, and also catch up with the Madetzkes. Then we’ll move on to Wisconsin, where my mom plans to fly in and meet us for a Brewers game. From there we plan to ferry over Lake Michigan, where we hope to meet up with some of Bob’s friends Jimmy and Jean who should be travelling back west at that time, and I’ll ride into Canada for a section to see Niagara falls. From Buffalo to our finish in Maine we plan to mostly follow the “Northern Tier” bike route. We’re hoping to finish with enough time that I can drive back to Colorado with Bob and still have a week or so to catch up with the family before I start back at work in September.

But before all of that, we need to finish celebrating our rest day and the 4th in the most American way possible – with fajitas and margaritas!

From a coffee shop in Miles City, Montana

I just arrived in Miles City, ahead of Bob for a change. It was a pretty short ride, which is good because thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon.

We stayed at the hot springs in Bozeman which was quite relaxing. Denise met up with us there and kept me “carbed up” by providing s’mores and donuts.

The next night, we stayed in Livingston at a somewhat scary looking RV Park, then I had a long ride to Denise’s house in Billings. The temperature hovered around 98F/37C, do I had to stop several times to cool down in the shade, including a short nap in a city park. I think such siestas will be part of the game plan for future such days. I packed my hydration pack with ice in the morning, and replenished when Bob met me for our PB&J stop. Cold water sips helped a lot, as did the cold Corona Denise handed me when I got there 🙂

Billings was a good time and Denise was a wonderful host. She’s turned her backyard into a cozy hangout area with a fire pit. She also took us out to a cidery and a bar her family runs.

Our fundraising for the MS society got a $100 boost from Jenny and Mark from Washington who we met at a dog -friendly patio in Livingston.

BikeMS Colorado is this weekend (go Team Left Hand!). I’m hoping to cross the $5K boundary before then. We bought some art supplies to try to bring attention to our QR code on the trailer, but not sure what we’ll do yet.

Afternoon storms are forecast for the next few days, so we’ll be trying to get an early start. Tomorrow we’ll stay in Glendive, MT, finally crossing the longitude of Fort Collins. Then on Saturday we should finish our tour of Montana and cross into North Dakota. We’ll stay in Medora, near Teddy Roosevelt National Park. If you’ve got recommendations for things to do there, please let us know. And I’m very excited that my friends Heather and Curtis from Denver will be making the trek to meet us in Bismarck, with Curtis planning to ride with me to South Dakota!

We stopped at the brewery in town and met a man who was excited about what we were doing. He’s a Vietnam vet, who had ridden his Gary Fisher over. He gave us detailed cycling directions into North Dakota, places where I can avoid the interstate by carrying my bike to and from gravel roads. He suggested a historic hotel in Terry, and a photo museum there that, if it’s not open yet, we should just ask the guy at the upholstery shop to open up for us. There’s a good buffet place in Fallon and we should definitely spend some money at the only business left in Sentinel Butte – a gas station -because of the high number of veterans in that town percapita. He also suggested walking up from our campsite to see where the Tongue flows into the Yellowstone. I plan to do as much of that as I can. Here a picture of the latter:

Rides since the last post:

I’m finishing up this post after making my nest in the bed of Bob’s pickup for the night, because this site doesn’t allow tent camping. I’ve 4 large tubs of things next to me that we prioritized as having the most negative impact to the trip if stolen, with most replaceable bins slid under the truck outside. My foot pump neatly tucked in beside me.

From a brewery near Bozeman…

We’ve completed our first 1,000 miles (powered by roughly 16 PB&Js):

We’ve also now raised over $4,000! Thanks to everyone who has helped us get this far. We have also, finally, broke our streak and received donations from the first 2 new people we met along the way!

Stanley – the truck driver cyclist!
Teresa, who has MS in her family. She also has an excellent taste in travel trailers.

It turns out the problem with my bike was a broken axle – the head had cracked. Luckily the next day was our first planned rest day, and Missoula is a bicycle town. Although every bike shop I visited tried their best to help us out, no one in town had a compatible axle in stock. Thanks to Dan at MTCX and Jane at Big Sky Bikes in particular for spending so much time on it.

While most of the rest day was spent at bike shops, doing laundry and other chores, we did have some good food and drinks at Tamarack Brewing, and a pretty amazing sandwich (the Beach Boy) at Tagliare Deli. We also stopped by Adventure Cycling, which is the company that produces the maps I’m (mostly) following. We talked to them about some possibly routes to the east coast, now that we’re staying up north. They keep a board of polaroids of cyclists who pass through:

Denise insisted we get a photo w/ Monte, the University of Montana’s mascot, where she went to school:

Things have been going fairly well since then – cold nights in the mountains, but things are getting pretty hot again down in the plains. A lot of great scenery along the way:

We’ve had to make some adjustments to our planned route and plans. Because of the good weather, health, and my pessimism in planning this section, we’re quite a bit ahead of where we expected to be. But the options we’re now looking at for out east also look like they’ll be pushing things pretty close to the wire. So, we’re now planning to skip RAGBRAI, and continue into Minnesota, arriving in the twin cities a week earlier than we expected. That should also let us see Twins and Brewers baseball along the way.

We’re currently en route to Bozeman Hot Springs, where we’ll meet up with our friend Denise and camp. We’ll stay at a far less exciting RV park in Livingston tomorrow, and then meet up again with Denise at her house in Billings for 2 rest days where I hope to get my bike going again. Then we’re off to North Dakota, most likely going south from Bismarck to Pierre, South Dakota along the Missouri, and then east into Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Michigan.

I’m currently enjoy the A/C at 406 Brewing in Manhattan, MT, but I’ve got about 20 miles to go to meet up with Denise and Bob, so time to get back on the road!

Missoula, MT

“Daily” photo, Friday morning before leaving Kooskia

We landed at Powell campground Friday night. We didn’t expect cell service up there – and campgrounds are first-come, so we devised a simple plan where Bob would go to the furthest campground first, then drive back until he found an open spot. He’d then tape one of our donation cards to the sign, and we’d use his old walkie-talkies to make contact. Well, that didn’t work out. We both missed the last campground due to poor signage and had to turnaround. Our radios were on different channels, and I didn’t notice the card he taped up there. But it worked out – he got a spot at the first (furthest) campground and was easy to find. We’ll do it better next time.

The ride up there was awesome. Each bend of the river opened up an incredible view.

We already planned to stay in Missoula Sunday->Tuesday to wait out the storm (Winter Storm Warning in mid-June!), and some less severe weather was also forecast for Saturday, so we decided just to stay put for another night.

We woke up to rain in the morning, giving Bob a chance to test out his shelter setup. After the rain turned into hail we determined it to be a success, and less bulky than an ez-up. But we do need to adjust a couple things in case of heavier rain.

We also sat down and planned out the next week of riding, which should put us in Bozeman next weekend.

Today was a fairly short climb to the top of Lolo Pass and the Idaho/Montana border, followed by a mostly-downhill mile ride into Missoula. It was the shortest day so far, though pretty chilly. I accidentally left my new-for-this-trip cycling jacket at Chark’s place in Oregon (thanks for shipping it to Billings!), but I had sufficient layering.

Lots of animal spotting during the descent:

The last 5 miles I suffered a mechanical – I think I may have stripped out my hub, if that’s a thing. If it had to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time/place. Tomorrow is a rest day, and Missoula has several bike shops – including an Orbea dealer that can hopefully fix it under warranty. I just hope they can squeeze me in.

We had dinner at a brewery in Missoula and I walked around and passed out our donation cards. Everyone was very cool – especially, I realized towards the end, that I was interrupting Father’s Day dinners. These folks were very cool, and shared a story about a friend of theirs with MS:

I’ve been fighting my introversion and doing more reach out – it’s also a great excuse to visit breweries 🙂 Sadly MS fundraising this year has been down across the board. I’m hopeful things turnaround ahead of the Colorado ride (June 29). Please help by donating!

fyi, more frequent pics/short updates on Instagram.

Idaho

We passed into Idaho yesterday, and stayed the night at Hell’s Gate campground in Lewiston. Today we followed the Clearwater River into Kooskia where we are waiting for the camp hosts to show up so we can get change for the coin operated shower.

It’s pretty here, nice to watch the transition from deciduous to evergreen trees slowly progress as we go.

Bob and I are getting a good routine down. In the morning, I tear down my tent, make coffee and oatmeal while he packs up the trailer and organizes bins. We pick a meet up spot after 60 miles or so and I head out while he finishes things up. When we meet, we eat lunch (usually PB&J and a banana). Lately I’ve also tried to find a brewery or coffee shop nearby with people so I can hand out fundraiser cards, and then we get back on the road to the chosen campsite. Bob drops a pin that I can follow to the spot.

We planned to take a daily photo, but we’ve missed a lot of those. Here some we took yesterday:

Tomorrow we’ll keep climbing US 12 for about 80 miles, there’s a few campsite options up there. I expect to not have any Internet until Saturday when we descend into Missoula for our first rest day.

Walla Walla, Washington

We’re 4 days and 410 miles in. The wind out of the west – and being near sea level – have gotten us off to a good start. Bob and I are camping at the Lewis and Clark Trail campgrounds tonight near Walla Walla, which reminds me of bugs bunny cartoons every time I say it.

That was me cleaning up my drivetrain earlier. It s very close to dark now, and Bob has just started a camp fire.

Last night we crossed into Washington state and stayed in Plymouth. Here’s a photo just before I went to bed and the sprinkler system starting spraying the tent:

The mileage was pleasantly less than I thought, as the planned route involved backtracking to get around the interstate – instead Bob just drove me back to the previous day’s stopping point.

Tomorrow we go to Clarkston/Lewiston on the Idaho border, which should be the easiest day so far (~75 miles w/ 1 rist canyon’s worth of climbing, my personal unit of measurement). We had planned to take a rest day there, but the weather forecast shows a storm coming in early next week. So we’re adjusting, and will try to push through and get over the continental divide by the weekend. I’m looking forward to the switch to shorter mileage/climbing – different muscles and less sitting. We should end up in Missoula, before the storm, which should be a good place to weather it.

The people we’ve ran into have been very kind (well, except for the guy who told me to get the fuck off the road when I stopped to look at the map). Yesterday Bob’s dog needed some heartworm meds, which required an exam, and the techs at The Dalles Vet Hospital were able to switch some things around to quickly get her in (thanks Hailey and Lisa!). Today we stopped at the Laht Neppur brewery in Waitsburg, where I enjoyed a very good IPA (the ice water was also very good), and the folks there seemed excited for our trip and the fundraiser.

Now it is almost completely dark – so time for bed. Good night!

Days 1&2: Oregon

After a few days with the Johnsons (thanks again Chark!), we drove out to the coast. We didn’t know if our camp site had ocean access, so we stopped in Seaside for photos:

turns out they did have beach access, so I took some more the next day while Bob finished packing up:

Yesterday I biked into Portland. It was a long day but the weather was perfect. Bob met me a couple times, here’s the PB&J stop:

Today I biked out of Portland through The Gorge, on the historic highway and various bike trails. The views were beautiful and traffic was usually light.

We’re just over 200 miles in. Thanks to everyone who continues to donate! We’re attempting our longest day yet tomorrow due the scarcity of campsites, then plan to lower the milage quite a bit to rest, with our first rest/hotel day planned for the Washington/Idaho border.

Greetings from Keizer, Oregon

We drove into Oregon on Tuesday, and have been staying with our friends Cheryl and Mark – who have been amazing hosts that make very good pizza. We’re mostly doing last minute errands, picking up things we forgot to pack (like an ice chest 🤦‍♂️).

Bob decided we should put a fundraising decal on the trailer, so we spent a couple hours at a coffee shop struggling through designing one, and a local shop is printing it.. The weather was nasty when we got in, reminding Bob why he moved away. But since then it has been beautiful. I went out on a short ride yesterday morning.

We only had a couple overnights planned ahead of time – risky to make campsite reservations ahead of a weather forecast. But with the next week’s looking good we spent the morning working out the first week’s overnights.

Tomorrow Bob is attending his nephew’s graduation, then we’ll drive out to the coast to camp. Saturday morning we start our journey east, with a 120 mile ride into Portland.

Donations continue to roll in for BikeMS, we’re just short of $3500 thanks to contributions from friends in Minnesota (see you in July!) family, and colleagues from Canonical and HP. Love it!

One of Bob’s friends works at a winery, and he’s offered a tour this evening. Should be a good way to cap off this preamble to an epic trip!

We’re off!

We’re on our way to the west coast! Thanks to Brandon and everyone at Burk’s Tavern for the amazing fundraiser/send-off party. It was a blast, and wonderful to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

That fundraiser pushed us over the $3000 mark for BikeMS! Thank you so much to everyone who donated (you can also donate here). We’ll be making our way out to Oregon slowly over the next few days and then stay with some friends until the weekend. Weather forecast is looking good for our planned June 8 departure!

You can follow Bob’s Instagram account. I’ve set one up as well, that I’ll try to update with these posts (once I figure out how).

Taking a summer off

In just 8 days I’ll pause my employment at Canonical to attempt something I’ve been wanting to do for years: ride my bike across a continent. I’ve done a few long distance/multi day rides in the past, but nothing close to this.

I’m cheating. For one, I picked my own continent. For another, I’ll have vehicle and in-person moral support. One of my oldest friends (and his dog Sammie) will be driving, carrying my stuff, and camping with me each night.

Sammie

I’ll be missing the BikeMS Colorado ride this year, but I my goal is to raise more for the MS Society than any of my 6 previous years. Hopefully more than all 6 years put together! Thanks to several of you, I’m off to a good start. My friend Brandon is hosting a send-off fundraiser at his tavern in Loveland on May 30:

Also, if you are, or know someone, along the route who can provide our suggest a place for us to park/camp along the way, please get in touch. Showers would be amazing!