87 thoughts on “Blog

  1. Three days ago Isaac and I rolled into Anchorage, took pictures at the “Anchorage Welcomes You sign,” and then looked at each other and said “Now what?” Now, I’m in Los Angeles, Isaac’s back in Richmond, and the Austin to Anchorage Bike Ride is officially complete.

    The last few days of riding were much hillier than either of us expected and we experienced some of the Alaskan rains other cyclists warned us about. We slowed our regimented schedule to spend time enjoying the ride and taking shelter from the weather. In Tok, AK we feasted on a huge platter of fried mushrooms and a large 18″ pizza, finishing both to our waiter’s underwhelmed surprise. I went to a talk about dog mushing where I learned the importance of expensive underwear that wicks away sweat and how to feed sled dogs well (feed them salmon). Isaac and I drafted off one another while riding into the northwards blowing wind once we turned south towards Anchorage. Our route offered us breathtaking views of the 16,000 ft mountains in Wrangell St Elias National Park and the Grizzly Bear RV Park kindly gave us a free night stay in a heated cabin beside a peaceful lake.

    Our final day of riding was a short 43 miles from Palmer, AK to Anchorage. The morning began with blinding bright sunshine, but as we descended closer to the Pacific we rode into thick fog. Reaching Anchorage itself felt like riding into any other city on our trip: overwhelming with noise and traffic, and slightly disorienting as we attempted to navigate our way to the welcome sign. We had no real finish line, but eventually stopped riding at the home of our Warm Showers’s host after eating lunch at Bangkok Thai, picking up mail from the post office (thanks Pippa!), and riding along the Pacific Ocean on a bike trail.

    For me, finishing the ride was neither thrilling or anti-climatic, but simply another part of the journey as a whole. The best part of Anchorage was driving to the top of Flattop Mountain at 9pm and watching the sunset behind the city. From the mountain we could see the mountainous arms of Alaska stretch into the Pacific and even view the silhouette of Denali four hundred miles in the distance. Once I arrived in Los Angeles and watched my brother, Quentin, finish his bike ride from Charleston, South Carolina to Santa Monica, it finally hit me that the Austin to Anchorage trip is over. The ride was a perfect blend of adventure, challenge, and joy, and I’m especially glad to have shared it with Isaac. We started off the ride as acquaintances with a shared interest in cycling, but completing this trip together we developed a rapport that ensures me we will be lifelong friends.

    As I’ve mentioned before one of the things that made the ride especially enjoyable was meeting so many people along the way. I’d like to give a shout out to all the kind people that gave us food or money for meals, the churches that let us take shelter indoors for the night, and all the people who helped us by giving us water, a yard to camp in, or gave me rides in Lake Louise to the bike shop to repair my tire blowout. Thank you to all the Warm Showers hosts for your warmth and hospitality. I am especially thankful for all the time, energy, and support my father, Ben Bentzin, gave us in answering phone calls asking about everything from weather conditions and elevation changes to where we could buy more fuel for our stove. Without his assistance we could not have completed our 162 mile day and his help was invaluable. Finally, thank you to everyone who has made a donation to the World Bicycle Relief in support of our ride. We are 72% of the way to our goal of raising $4,500 and hopefully as we continue to spread the word about our successful ride we will be able to reach our goal. With the help of all our donors we are providing dozens of bicycles to people around the world.

    Over the next few weeks I will work on adding more photos to the gallery and Facebook page and I will create a video with all the footage I have from the bike ride, so keep a look out for those! Our donation page for the World Bicycle Relief will remain open, and thank you again to everyone who has already donated. If you have any questions about our ride or about organizing a bike tour feel free to leave a comment on this page or email me personally at mvbentzin(at)gmail.com. With the closure of this trip I look forward to my next great adventure- moving to Cape Town, South Africa in September!

  2. Hey.

    We are done. 4,500 miles. 9 weeks and 2 days. There will be a more detailed post about the last few days, but we are currently determining how to get our things and ourselves out of Anchorage. It feels odd to be done and now headed in different directions. Also, we are still incredibly hungry; one hour after each meal we are starving again.

    A final note: with necessary apologies to Iordan Trenkov and Jennifer Natyzak, I must announce an eternal, unquestionable love for peanut butter. Peanut butter and I shared an adventure, a journey, that I will remember until I die.

  3. Day 56: Otter Falls, YT to Destruction Bay, YT
    Saturday, July 19th

    Distance: 86.68
    Time: 5:40:39
    Average: 15.26

    Today took us by Lake Kluane, one of the most photographed lakes in the world, a stunning body of water, as well as a number of mountian ranges. We thought we had become numb to mountains after so long in the Rockies; the mountians to Destruction Bay blew that feeling away.

    We camped on an abandoned pavillon after dinner (couscous! With cheesy pasta sauce!) with a young couple we met on the road. The woman, from Swïtzërländ, had been on and off of the bike for almost ten years, travelled the world on a bicycle. Her Canadian boyfriend was on his first tour and was loving his introduction to touring with such an experienced partner. We enjoyed talking to other cyclists for more than the 7 minutes an encounter on the road lasts and chatted well past our bedtime. They were impressed we had gone from being casual aquaintances to touring partners overnight, something those who host us and other touring couples often mention. Megan and I, just aquaintances before the trip, have spent every day since May 23rd together, just us two, and have dealt with situations and decisions as old friends.

    Day 57: Destruction Bay, YT to Lake Creek Campground, YT
    Sunday, July 20th

    Distance: 68.18
    Time: 4:42:05
    Average: 14.50

    Rain.

    We stopped early because of the pouring rain and found a pavillon at a campsite to dry off under and, provided nobody ran us out, sleep under. We had ridden through rain in the morning and when it started again in the afternoon, all I could think about was the day coming down the mountain to Rand, CO (a cold, cold, wet, wet day). A couple in an RV gave us boiling water for couscous, a dehydrated meal, and hot tea, then gave us $20 for a meal when we next reached a restaurant, acts of kindness that make our day. We fell asleep dreading the rain that would still be falling in the morning.

    Day 58: Lake Creek Campground, YT to Seaton Roadhouse Recreation Area, AK
    Monday, July 21st

    Distance: 77.14
    Time: 5:25:25
    Average: 14.22

    We crossed into Alaska today, our last border and last state of the trip. Just across the border, we saw a sign that listed the distances to Alaskan cities with Anchorage (420 miles away), which was surreal after weeks and weeks of only seeing those signs as reminders of how much longer our day would last.

    The few miles in Canada (the last 70 miles, to be exact) were on road under construction; in the northern areas, all construction is done in the summer months so miles of road is torn up at once. We rode on dirt, packed dirt, gravel, old asphalt, all sorts of grit and dust, and spent 3 miles in a pilot car (the car that leads other cars through single-lane construction areas) going through bad roads and construction. We ate lunch 18 miles from the border in Beaver Creek in a restaurant called Buckshot Betty’s and chatted with most of the patrons about our trip.

    The miles past the border were hot and exhausting, but beautiful paved roads. The line dividing Canada and Alaska, the border, is clearly visible by the change in road quality, something we cyclists care about a lot, and we made it about 10 miles into Alaska before calling it quits at a recreation area. We camped next to a pavillon, bathrooms nearby, and ate couscous (our favorite meal). I fell asleep around 7:15 pm and woke up at 10:30 pm to bear bag in one of the trashcans.

    Interesting Meeting of the Day: We met a Japanese man who had been on the road for 5 years. He had been to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa (his favorite country thus far was Madagascar), and was travelling down to Argentina, then back to New York to finish in over seven years. He started when Megan was finishing 10th grade and will finish after I graduate from UVa (fingers crossed) in two years.

    Day 60: Seaton Roadhouse Recreation Area, AK to Tok, AK
    Tuesday, July 22nd

    Distance: 79.36
    Time: 4:43:27
    Average: 16.79

    Today was hilariously easy because of the strong tailwind and anazing view of the Alaska Range to the south. We arrived in Tok and truly feasted, eating a mountain (I use that word too often) of fried mushrooms and a large 18” pizza. I forced myself to finish the food because it was the first true meal since Whitehorse and we are getting desperate for food with flavor.

    We, upon request, were allowed to camp behind the Tok Volunteer Fire Department, unexciting but free. Megan went into town and happened upon a talk on sled dogs and mushing, while I sweated myself to sleep far before the Sun set.

    Day 61: Tok, AK to Grizzy Bear RV Park, AK
    Wednesday, July 23rd

    Distance: 71.74
    Time: 5:31:18
    Average: 12.99

    Closer and closer to Anchorage, this being our first day heading straight toward the final destination. We spent the morning and midday and the afternoon fighting a strong headwind, one of the worst headwind we have faced in since entering Canada, but again, what weather haven’t we already dealt with? We are in a mountainous area but aren’t truly climbing mountains as we were in Colorado with the high elevation and steep grades; today was perfectly flat for 10 miles and hilly the rest of the day, with a thick, grey cloud cover to accompany the headwind.

    We saw a moose this morning, a massive, awkward creature, on the shoulder of the road. We fumbled to take pictures of it, much too far away to capture anything meaningful, and he/she/(other moose pronoun) wandered away into the woods as we passed. As always, the ten minutes after seeing one of the more exotic wildlife is spent scanning the foilage for more; that moose was the only notable animal of the day.

    We lunched on a picnic table outside of a lodge. Part of my lunch was two 35-cent day-old pastries from the Tok grocery store, as well as a hard-boiled egg, soy nuts, and an English muffin with peanut butter and strawberry jelly. How we ride endlessly on this food I don’t know. We were given water by a group from Chicago running a vacation bible school for the children of an Alaskan Indian tribe.

    We made it to the Grizzly Bear RV Park, where after looking around and starting to prepare dinner at a picnic table (essentially loitering, but with the intention of cooking a meal), the owner of the RV Park offered us a cabin on the lake. A cabin. Indoors, heated, dry, windless, no bear bag necessary, beds, electricity, indoors. A cabin. We couldn’t be more thankful and for a while, I couldn’t believe we would be sleeping indoors, on twin beds, in a cabin. After camping and bear bagging and dealing with wet, wet rain, we were generously offered creature comforts from strangers!

    So tomorrow we will head to Glenallen, then spend a few days hanging out in the woods (the SPOT will tell you where), and the Palmer, and we expect to reach Anchorage around noon on the 29th of July. So close. Waking up and packing up to ride 80 miles on a bike has become so natural, so easy; it’s hard to believe we will return to our lives in about a week. Trying to understand the distance we have travelled, let alone the experiences we have had on and off the bicycles, will take some time.

    Now I get to fall asleep in a bed (rare for us), indoors (rare for us), and in darkness (rare for anyone up here in the summer), thanks to the curtains in this amazing cabin.

    1. Happy to have you here… hope the travels are going well. We are wondering if you made it to Anchorage yet…

      Dede

      1. Thank you so much once again for hosting us! We added the Grizzly Lake Campground to our list of official hosts. We made it to Anchorage!!

  4. Day 55: Whitehorse, YT to Otter Falls, YT
    Friday, July 18th

    Distance: 77.06
    Time: 5:32:40
    Average: 13.89

    The journey continues! I think I contradicted myself on the blog and said we were spending one and two rest days in Whitehorse. We just spend one rest day, most of it spent in the kitchen of our WarmShowers host making food, and we rode west on the Alaska Highway to Otter Falls (a gas station/convenience store) today.

    We decided to sleep in until 7 am after staying up until midnight cleaning the kitchen and packing the ridiculous amount of food we bought from WalMart. It was raining lightly as we made breakfast, not ideal but not horrible, and the rain stopped shortly after we stared riding. As Megan mentioned, the first miles of the day are usually thrilling: being on the bike again, heading for a new place, feeling the strongest we will feel over the day, being full from breakfast. This morning was no different; I sang the songs we had listened to while making dozens of pancakes the night before while grinning ear to ear despite the rain, gritty road, and Whitehorse traffic. The feeling, of course, slowly wore off, more quickly today because of the headwind, but a glorious start nonetheless. We rode with a headwind for the first 60 miles, but after about a week with consistent headwinds, the wind annoy us.

    We ate lunch at a rest area and chatted with the RV-ing couples abour our trip and method of travel. One couple even gave us three graham crackers, a true gift, which we ate with our lunches (Isaac – baked beans, a banana, one hard-boiled egg, Megan – bread, cheese, hard-boiled egg). Starting at lunch and continuing to the end of the day, there was rain on the western horizon, giving us the feeling that we were riding towards rain, soon to be drenched, for hours. The rain never came and we finished in the sunshine, starting to make dinner soon after we finished. For fun, we laid out all the food we were carrying on a picnic table and proudly took pictures of it. Right now, I’m carrying four bags of pancakes (plain and chocolate chip), a two-kilogram jar of peanut butter, a dozen hard-boiled eggs, three cans of baked beans and one can of kidney beans, four muffins, six English muffins, two bags of soy nuts, three boxes of couscous, three bananas, dried banana chips, protein bars, a bag of pretzels, a dozen packs of instant oatmeal, tortillas, dehydrated vegetables, and some leftover chocolate chips. Food for a long time.

    For dinner, we cheated and cooked the refried beans for burritos in the gas station’s microwave. Not having to use (and then clean) the cooking equipment was a treat, as was having a picnic table to spread out on. Gas station customers stopped to chat, but we were much more interested in the refried bean and cheese burritos than answering the same questions over and over.

    I lucked out with this WiFi; I overheard the cashier telling a camper at gas station’s RV park the WiFi password. Out here in the nothingness, we have the opportunity to take showers, wash laundry, and use WiFi, provided that we pay ridiculous prices ($8 shower, $5 for 30 minutes of WiFi). Most likely, we won’t have another opportunity to update the blog until Tok and the left turn off the Alaska Highway to Anchorage.

    I’ve more or less run out of Bicycle Touring Tips of the Day, but fun fact: today we left the area in which calling 911 will give one access to emergency services, as marked by a large sign on the side of the road. We have the SPOT, which can summon help if needed, but the sign was yet another reminder that there’s nothing out here!

    1. It was nice to meet you at the Lake Creek Government Campground. My husband and I are amazed and impressed with what you guys are doing. We left that campground and headed north to Alaska….arriving at 6:55 pm on Sunday. Your road ahead is filled with construction and MANY potholes…..but the scenery is beautiful! We saw one Grizzly bear on the side of the road….and a moose in a pond much closer to the Alaska border. We are spending the night in Tok….and then on to further adventures in Alaska. Enjoy the ride!!!!

  5. Well we thought we would spend two rest days in Whitehorse, but after one full day of grocery shopping, bike repairs, and route planning we’re ready to get back on the road! Today, we’ve been especially appreciative of our Warm Showers host and the amenities of a home: access to a full kitchen, washer/dryer, and showers (My desire to shower is infinitely greater than Isaac’s). Over the course of the day we’ve made: oatmeal from scratch, toast, a dozen scrambled eggs, 56 buttermilk and chocolate chip pancakes, baked salmon, a pan of brownies, and two dozen hard boiled eggs, which shows both our obsession with food and access to the first cheap grocery store (Walmart) in weeks. With out host’s house to ourselves, Isaac and I spent the evening cooking pancakes and listening to reggae music and the band Medium Troy via the new bike speaker I just received as a gift (thanks dad!)

    We only have nine days of cycling ahead of us, Isaac and I are preparing for our finish in Anchorage and already reflecting on our new friends and favorite memories. A few days ago we met a couple from Quebec and had lunch with them (peanut butter and jelly for both parties) at a rest stop. They are riding the Pan American route in three years with their seventeen month old daughter in tow. For the next three years they will get to watch every moment of their daughter’s life- an experience many parents don’t get to enjoy (You can check out their blog at http://www.enfant-a-bord.com). Meeting so many other touring cyclists, most of whom are on tours much longer than ours, has ignited my imagination about future tours, especially doing the ‘stans (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc.) or Cairo to Cape Town! Compared to most people we’ve met our tour is a sliver of their trips. We’re also much younger and have higher daily averages and average speeds than many cyclists we meet.

    My favorite part of every day is riding in the mornings. Even though we now have about nineteen hours of daylight every day, we still wake up at 5am every morning and begin riding between 6 and 6:30am. I love watching the clouds shift over the mountains as the morning progresses and enjoying the coloring of the sunshine. Typically Isaac and I are fairly quiet and reflective in the mornings, but after mid-morning snack we ride together and talk. Isaac even decided to no longer wearing his watch, so he can more thouroughly enjoy each day without the distraction of time. With full panniers and happy anticipation we continue our journey tomorrow, heading northwest to ALASKA!

  6. As many of you have noticed, we returned to civilization today! We are staying two days, three nights, in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory. The past 10 days in the wilderness have been extraordinary. Here’s a breakdown of the days:

    Day 44: Smithers, BC to Kitwanga, BC
    Monday, July 7th

    Distance: 72.48
    Time: 4:32:38
    Average: 15.95

    The last day on the Yellowhead and a fantastic reintroduction to bike touring after the music festival. In New Hazelton, we mailed letters to the US and I had an hour and a half conversation with a Swiss cyclist (in German) about setting goals, experiencing natural beauty, accepting the finite time we have to live, being in control of your life and future, the importance of family, etc. That conversation set the tone for the upcoming Stewart-Cassier Highway for me, where I went more slowly and let my mind wander to more important things. We camped (legally) next to a grocery store and fell asleep around 7:00 pm.

    Day 45: Kitwanga, BC to Meziadan Lake, BC
    Tuesday, July 8th

    Distance: 95.57
    Time: 6:38:06
    Average: 14.40

    A long day, according to the distance, but relatively quick for us! The Cassiar Highway has less traffic than most of the backroads of Wyoming and Montana and the winding, twisting road took away our sense of distance. I spent time riding and speaking in German with the Swiss cyclist I met the day before and Megan began teaching me basic French (the plan is for us to exchange foreign languages by Anchorage). We are beginning to reach buggy areas, mosquitoes being the worst of the pest, and most of lunch was spent swatting mosquitoes. We swam/bathed in Meziadan Lake and ate dinner at a campground so we could have access to water, then camped off the road on our own where the bugs were awful but the mood was cheery because we had done 95 miles and didn’t have to ride for another 12 hours.

    Day 46: Meziadan Lake, BC to Ningunsaw Provincial Park, BC
    Wednesday, July 9th

    Distance: 69.06
    Time: 5:07:16
    Average: 13.48

    Waking up to rain, Megan and I quickly agreed to sleep in until 6:00 am. After starting with 12 miles of uphill, we rode a rollercoaster of a road, where we were constantly climbing or descending. We started to run out of gas after 50 miles, but made it to Bell 2 Lodge, where we hung out until we felt ready to continue. The afternoon sunshine and wind were both exhausting and energizing, and we made it to the park we were camping in for the night. While inspecting a potential area to camp in, we saw a bear about 400m away, a powerful reminder that bears are truly everywhere. From Kitwanga to Whitehorse (10 days of riding), we saw 2 or 3 bears per day. Most walk away into the woods when yelled at; others stay where they are just off the road and stare. Riding past bears who are 30 feet away and staring at you is deeply unsettling, to say the least, but we have some sense of security because of our bear spray and safety in numbers.

    That evening, after cheesy broccoli pasta and ramen was cooked and consumed, I bathed in the nearby stream. Right before I undressed, I noticed a wolf watching me from the other side of the stream. When I took notice of it, the wolf ran to the edge of the forest and continued to watch me as I washed off in the freezing water. I didn’t feel unsafe, just incredibly lucky to see a wolf, much more rare to see than bear or moose. Falling asleep having seen a bear and a wolf in the immediate area was only possible because we has cycled so much.

    Day 47: Ningunsaw Provincial Park, BC to Kinaskan Provincial Park, BC
    Thursday, July 10th

    Distance: 62.76
    Time: 4:41:01
    Average: 13.39

    The first two hours were shaded and cool, the chill putting us in one of the best morning moods in recent memory. The traffic on the Cassiar is nonexistent and there’s no indication of civilization other than the road itself and the power lines parallel to the road; the isolation mixed with the immersion in natural beauty creates a sense of exploration like no other.

    The elevation changes of this area of the highway are maddening; looking ahead gives one no indication. Maybe the curve in the road will lead to five miles of downhill or an insane climb or rolling hills. Climbing in the Rockies, constant headwinds in Wyoming, 162 miles in one day on the Yellowhead, were all difficult but straightforward. The Cassiar could be unpredictable and thus occasionally frustrating. We camped for free in Kinaskan Provincial Park, maintained by a friendly German couple, and chatted with two other touring cyclists, one at the beginning of a four year world tour. As we approach Alaska, most of the people we meet are headed south from Prudeau Bay (northern tip of Alaska) to Argentina, a journey that makes us feel like silly day-trippers.

    Day 48: Kinaskan Provincial Park, BC to Dease Lake, BC
    Friday, July 11th

    Distance: 76.84
    Time: 5:44:07
    Average: 13.39

    A great day, ending in a town with a grocery store! We rode the rollercoaster road to Iskut, where we stopped in a ‘grocery store’ (essentially a gas station) just before the start of the day’s two climbs. We climbed, descended, climbed again to Gnat Pass, the highest point we would reach in British Columbia, and descended into Dease Lake. The second larger climb was hilariously steep at times, but we can handle any of these climbs after Colorado and Montana. At the summit we ate celebratory candy bars and descended in 20 minutes what had taken two and a half hours to climb.

    Dease Lake has a population of 450 and was the last grocery store until Teslin five days later. After chatting with a German man obsessed with the incomprehensible desolation of the highways in Canada, we bought plenty of groceries and, using the grocery store’s microwave, I made myself 9 mini frozen bean-and-cheese burritos for dinner (more on that choice tomorrow!) and chatted with the local EMS guy, who was responsible for 2,000 people living in an area the size of France. We camped behind a partially abandoned province government building, using a dishwasher and filing cabinet to store food away from bears. When I fell asleep around 11:00 pm, the sky was bright, the sun still setting, and the mosquitoes everywhere.

    Day 49: Dease Lake, BC to Good Hope Lake, BC
    Saturday, July 12th

    Distance: 86.92
    Time: 6:11:06
    Average: 14.05

    Another day surviving on the Cassiar Highway. There are no services between Dease Lake and the Alaska Highway, 235 km or 146 miles, not even a gas station, just a shop that sells carved jade to tourists in RVs. In the morning we had a few stretches of gravel (on a ‘highway’!) and munched on our new batch of snacks. Every time we resupply at a grocery store, we buy the staples (pasta, peanut butter, bananas) and some new snacks to try (graham crackers, different flavors of trail mix, cheese). When eating is the most enjoyable part of the day, one shops very carefully for the right balance of price, weight, volume, and nutrition. We now pour over the nutrition labels on packaged foods in the store and when eating on the road, partly because we are increasingly mindful of the fuel we burn to ride 100s of miles and partly because we don’t have much better to do.

    We met a group of 3 young male touring cyclists and talked for 45 minutes. It’s occasionally difficult to talk to non-cycling tourists, who can’t relate to most, if not all, of the things we think and do and experience on the bike; talking with other touring cyclists is comfortable, enjoyable, reassurance that we aren’t the only crazy ones. Speaking of the crazy ones, we met an Austrian man, young and energetic, who had hitchhiked from Spain to BC (on sailboats from Spain to Senegal, on a ship to Barbados, then by road to Canada) and was close to starting a hitchhiking adventure from the northern tip of Alaska to Argentina.

    We camped near an abandoned First Nation community center and swam/bathed (a common combination) in the freezing, refreshing Good Hope Lake, then ‘made dinner’ by boiling water for dehydrated meals, instant cheesy rice, and ramen.

    Day 50: Good Hope Lake, BC to Big Creek Campground, YT
    Sunday, July 13th

    Distance: 85.61
    Time: 6:03:01
    Average: 14.14

    The day started with a blazing sunrise and beautiful lakes, slowly gaining elevation through the morning until we were treated to a view of the mountain ranges we had spent days climbing through. Unlike the parts of Colorado and Montana we visited, the mountainous areas here are composed of clearly defined ranges, series of peaks that continue to the horizon and seem to wall us in.

    We made it to the Yukon, one state/province closer to Alaska and Anchorage, and took pictures with the sign. When we reached the junction with the Alaska Highway, we found a restaurant (Wolf It Down) which happened to be showing the World Cup on the first TV we have seen since Prince George. We watched Germany beat Argentina (Der echte Weltmeister siegt endlich!) and then rode on, 24 miles in a headwind to the campground. We met 5 touring cyclists in those 24 miles, the Alaska Highway is a popular route, and camped near a Swedish firefighter starting a two-year tour to Argentina.

    Day 51: Big Creek Campground, YT to Logjam Creek, YT
    Monday, July 14

    Distance: 76.07
    Time: 5:49:19
    Average: 13.06

    From the cyclists the previous day, we heard that a cyclist was barely ahead of us who had started in El Paso at the border and was also headed to Anchorage. We caught up with him 20 miles into the day, chatted for a bit, and rode past him. We also met a group of four women, all from different countries, and an older couple. Eating lunch in a rest area, we met a French couple with a 17-month old cycling from Anchorage to Argentina, expecting to raise their daughter while living on their bikes and travelling across the Americans for three years. Imagine changing diapers and teaching your child French and English while cycling thousands of miles. The couple said they choose to raise their daughter in this way because they could be with her 24/7 for three years.

    That night, we camped on the side of the road with the young man from El Paso, who essentially told us his life story, and he and I talked excitedly about bike touring as only first-time touring cyclists can.

    Day 52: Logjam Creek, YT to Johnson’s Crossing, YT
    Tuesday, July 15

    Distance: 81.56
    Time: 5:36:48
    Average: 14.52

    We rode our bicycles 81 miles.

    Day 53: Johnson’s Crossing, YT to Whitehorse, YT
    Wednesday, July 16th

    Distance: 79.73
    Time: 5:39:21
    Average: 14.09

    The last day until the final stretch to Anchorage! We spent most of the day battling an annoying headwind, but ever since the ride to Jeffrey City (getting blown off the road, travelling at 4 or 5 mph) we have been able to mentally ignore most headwinds. The only notable event of the 45 miles before lunch was a short trek into the woods to watch a porcupine Megan had frightened climb a tree. We ate lunch at a boat launch on Marsh Lake, typical stunningly beautiful Canadian lake with sunshine and gentle waves. I had a can of baked beans and a can of pears for lunch, both of which I had saved since Dease Lake and ate to celebrate our day to Whitehorse.

    When we arrived, we ate lunch and found the house of our WarmShowers host, who was embarking soon on a canoe trip and dehydrating chicken chili to bring along. We ate pizza for dinner and passed out shortly thereafter; the past two days were unusually hard, a result of the 10 days straight of riding and strong headwind. It’s comfortable to be back in civilization for two days (we are spending two nights in Whitehorse), but I won’t forget about the marvelous time on the Cassiar.

    We have 9 days of riding until Anchorage! Again, we might not have many opportunities to post pictures on Facebook (on our profiles or on the page ‘Austin to Anchorage’) or to update the blog.

    Before we left Smithers, our contact at the World Bicycle Relief told us that TREK (a bicycle company) was matching all donations through our trip for the month of July. Please help us reach our goal of raising a dollar for every mile of the ride (4,500 in total) and thank you so much to those who have already donated! As our trip has shown us, bicycles have the power to change lives worldwide.

  7. It’s been a while since either Isaac or I wrote a post because we’ve been away from civilization for over the past week. Despite not taking a rest day for over nine days now we’re both feeling happy, healthy, and strong. We spent a week heading straight north on the Stewart Cassiar highway seeing about two to three bears each day (only black bears thankfully) and were passed by minimal vehicular traffic. The weather has been ideal and the early morning rides past lakes of glass and snow brushed mountains are sublime. We’ve become incredibly creative in handling our least favorite bike trip chore, bear bagging (storing all food away from the reach of bears). In the tiny town of Dease Lake we found an abandoned dish washer which locked, which we used to store all our food in for the night.

    Two days ago we left the Cassiar highway and turned west on the Alaska (Alcan) Highway, and crossed into the Yukon Territory, our last border before we’ll reach Alaska! Isaac and I were both surprised to find that the Alcan is flooded with other cyclists. In the past two days we’ve met over a dozen other bikers of all ages and iteneraries. Exchanging stories, tips, and information with other cyclists is one of the highlights of my day and has made the Alcan headwinds easier to bare. Tomorrow we’ll reach the capital of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse, our last major city before Anchorage!

    1. Kudos to you! So exciting to track this amazing adventure with you. Keep on, keeping on, Megan & Isaac!

  8. Days 42 and 43: Smithers Midsummer Fest

    We spent the weekend at the music festival and had a seriously funky, jazzy, rockin’ great time. We met and befriended locals and other Canadians, camped out, stayed up late, (Megan) danced, wrote letters and in our journals, (I) hackey-sacked and juggled, and enjoyed the rest. Going to bed Saturday night we both agreed we missed riding and wanted to get back on the road, but this was an opportunity to see small-town BC at its finest. I won’t bore you with too many stories and antics and jokes about the festival, but I will say it was weird to stay in one place for so long, to not ride a bike.

    The highlights:

    We saw about three dozen bands. Jazz, rock, rap, hip hop, electronic, some guy messing around with a loop board.

    We stayed up very late; the sun sets around 11pm and begins to rise around 4am. Going to sleep at 12:30 am, there was still a patch of blue sky to the north. I woke up Sunday thinking dawn was beginning, only to find it to be 3:30 am.

    We talked and talked to other people about the bike trip; it’s a conversation starter. I would occasionally tell people we had rode from Texas just to come to Smithers and the music.

    We mostly avoided the expensive festival food, except for a few piece of fried bread and a fantastic breakfast one morning. Oatmeal for breakfast, couscous for dinner, just like being on the road.

    We decided against matching Smithers tattoos because we couldn’t agree on a design. That said, Smithers should be on every bucket list and Megan and I plan on making it here next year. And the next. And so on.

    Sunday afternoon after the festival ended we went grocery shopping in a bulk foods store (a 24-pack of Ramen is now strapped to my bike) and found our WarmShowers host in town. Although we didn’t ride today or yesterday, it’s wonderful to be indoors, in a home, and we talked quite a bit with our host, who had toured all over South America and Europe, abour bike touring and travel. Again, WarmShowers puts us in contact with best kind of people, those who understand our experiences unlike anyone at the music festival ever could and who have stories of their own about touring.

    Tomorrow begins a long stretch of… nothing… on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway heading north. Continue to follow the SPOT, but it’s possible we won’t have WiFi until Whitehorse in 9 or 10 days. Don’t be worried if we stop for a day or seem to be somewhere unplanned along the highway.

    Last note: Trek, a cycling manufacturer, is matching all donations for the month of July!

  9. Day 41: Houston, BC to Smithers, BC
    Friday, July 4th

    Distance: 40.07
    Time: 2:32:23
    Average: 15.77

    Any day under 40 miles is hardly a ride, but every mile is a journey in itself, so I can’t leave today out.

    We woke up in the church, happy to have be so close to Smithers, a place we have been talking about for weeks. The pastor had been friendly and staying indoors was a treat as always.

    We had a small climb (anything that takes less than an hour is a small climb) and then typical Yellowhead highway nothingness until about 16 km outside of Smithers, where we stopped at the Rainbow Park RV Park, where the owner of the RV park had a cabin set aside for WarmShowers cyclists to sleep, shower, use WiFi, and chill out. Megan showered and I read from The Poet and the Butterfly, a collection of emails in book form between two Canadians madly in love with each other. Both pursuits were wastes of time, as the book was awful and we became dirty again when it briefly rained on us.

    Shortly before Smithers, we met John, the owner of the RV park which accomodated cyclists and chatted for a bit. When we arrived in Smithers, we checked out the fairgrounds for the 31st annual Smither Midsummer Fest, bought weekend and camping passes (cheaper with our UVa IDs) and set up camp already brimming with excitement for the weekend. We will be staying at the music festival for two days, three nights in Smithers, which is longer than we have stayed in one place for six weeks, and we will experience much more culture and other people than we have been in the past month. We love riding and seeing natural beauty, but a small-town music festival is a blast of something radically different from the past six weeks.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Always look over the room/area you spent the evening and night in before leaving in the morning. It’s worth the time and not having to go back to get a phone, a wallet, a watch, or a bicycle.

    Fun Fact: (from Wikipedia) Residents of Smithers are called Smithereens which remains a more popularly accepted title than the sometimes used ‘Smitherite’.

    (not from Wikipedia) in the RV park cyclists’ cabin, many people who had signed the guestbook were on 4- or 5-year world tours. As we enter more remote areas, the other cyclists we encounter are more often on true adventures. A cyclist Matthew we met in Smithers is six weeks into a two and a half year trek from Prudhoe Bay, AK (look it up) to the southern tip of Argentina. He spent the first 12 days doing 500 miles on a gravel road completely unsupported (no food or shelter) in extremely cold temperatures. Crazy stuff.

  10. Day 40: Frazer Lake, BC to Houston, BC
    Thursday, July 3rd

    Distance: 93.67
    Time: 6:25:05
    Average: 14.59

    The last of a number of long days. 90 miles isn’t and will never be confused with 80 miles.

    We started early in the already bright morning; I turned around after 10 minutes to backtrack and get my phone from the campsite, but what does a 2-mile detour matter? Megan rode ahead, on the Highway of Tears no less, and I caught her stopped and writing letters about 14 miles into the day. The morning was cloudly and cool, with a steady stream of logging trucks hitting us with walls of air from ahead or from behind. The roads leading away from our highway (Highway 16. The Yellowhead) lead to lakes and saw mills and huge farms; we are getting a taste of the massive rural-ness of parts of Canada.

    We stopped at the visitor center in Burns Lake for lunch, using their WiFi but finding more helpful information from the employee working there. We ate tortillas and peanut butter and drank coffee and orange juice we were ordered before starting on the second half of our day.

    The second 45 miles were increasingly tiring; we stopped for about 30 minutes in Topley (20 miles from our destination Houston) to eat a snack and for me to take a powernap. From then on, we faced a powerful headwind until we arrived at the Fellowship Baptist Church in Houston, BC. Megan was humored to be in Houston, BC, because of its size in comparison to Houston, TX. The pastor of the church couldn’t have been more friendly and talked with us about the trip before heading out for the night.

    We picked up delicious Chinese food from town, a lot of it, for dinner and ate it on the basement floor in the church. After we made phone calls and spent time on Facebook (Wifi is a beautiful thing), we went to bed agreeing that we would sleep in until 6:00 am because of the short day tomorrow. The suggestion to sleep in is always on the tip of our tongues, but who has the courage to admit they need the extra hour?

    We have been talking about Smithers for a while now, the music festival, and will most likely spend two days there to get back on our schedule (the 162-mile day put us ahead). We have arrangments with WarmShowers hosts and churches and flights home that mean we have to be careful about being tok far ahead or behind of our rough schedule.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Have an extra pair of cheap sunglasses to wear in case your main pair is lost or broken. Riding into wind and sunlight can be miserable on the eyes.

    Fun Fact: (leave blank)

  11. Day 39: Prince George, BC to Frazer Lake, BC
    Wednesday, July 2nd

    Distance: 98.57
    Time: 6:58:23
    Average: 14.13

    One of the kindest things a host can do for us is make breakfast. We don’t have to get out the cooking equipment, clean it afterward, eat oatmeal for the 25th time, or wake up as early; all we had to do this morning was pack up our bikes, change clothes, and walk upstairs from our mini-apartment in the basement to the kitchen. David made us scrambled eggs and buttery toast, as well as providing fresh fruit, and we talked about Canadian driving laws, as David was taking the driving test required for taxi drivers that morning. We left in the dim morning light and climbed for about 45 minutes out of Prince George on a busy road. The morning was gloomy, grey clouds and air just cold enough to slow down your thoughts but not enough to justify a jacket. I munched on peanut butter and rolls, Megan ate the last of her day-old muffins from Jasper. We stopped at a trailer dealership (Barsness Trailers) because we had met the owner cycling on the road two days ago and he suggested we stop there for water.

    We ate lunch in Vanderhoof at a Subway restaurant, a chain that serves ‘foot-long’ sandwiches, and talked to the owner about our trip. Before leaving to ride in the hot afternoon sun, Megan dug through two trash cans to find her bike computer, which she found, but as dirty-looking travellers, we need to be careful about digging through trash cans around places that serve food.

    Leaving Vanderhoof, we were slammed with a storm that was rolling north, intense thunder and lightning, that lasted about 20 minutes. We don’t mind getting wet because we dry out quickly in the sun, but the road becomes wet and gritty and it’s tempting to just stop and wait for the road to dry. We continued though, enjoying the sunshine without the sunscreen the rain has washed away and slowly approaching Lake District, an area with hundreds of huge lakes and small towns.

    Arriving in Frazer Lake, we got water and a quart of ice cream (one a necessity and the other to fill our water bottles) and found the White Swan Provincial Park, a lakeside campsite with a small beach, where we made couscous with kidney beans for dinner. We set up our tents, then wrote letters and read in our tents as it sprinkled. The location reminded us of Saratoga, WY and we were treated to a similarly beautiful sunset once the rain stopped.

    For the first time, the end of the trip is in sight, as we are almost 2/3rds of the way there. It’s hard to imagine that looking at the distance we have left, but we will finish the sixth week of nine total this Saturday. I expect the rest of the trip to be just as incredible, only with fewer people and more bears.

    Smithers Music Fest is a few days away!

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: To quickly convert kilometers to miles: Halve the number of kilometers, then add one-tenth of the original number.

    Example One: 5 kilometers. Half: 2.5. One-tenth: 0.5. Miles: 3.

    Example Two: 180 kilometers. Half: 90. One-tenth: 18. Miles: 108.

    Example Three: 67 kilometers. Half: 33.5. One-tenth: 6.7. Miles: 40.2.

    Fun Fact: There are no fun fact available for today. Again, we are on the Highway of Tears, where dozens of people have gone missing and many are found murdered years later. There are signs and posters everywhere, billboards as well, for missing people.

  12. Day 38: Slim Creek Rest Area, BC to Prince George, BC
    Tuesday, July 1st

    Distance: 75.18
    Time: 4:24:30
    Average: 17.05

    A quick day to Prince George on Canada Day!

    The days are beginning to blend together, especially at the beginning of the day when I tell myself, “Alright, only 70/90/162 more miles”. Megan said goodbye to her father and brother and they drove away after taking videos and pictures of us riding together, of which we have none. Megan and I have been riding relatively close recently (which caused our first accident yesterday, no major injuries or damage to the bikes) for a number of reasons: the highways are increasingly desolate, the wildlife is less likely to challenge a group, and this stretch of highway is known as the Highway of Tears for the high amount of kidnappings and murders of travellers, especially of young women.

    We were passes by hundreds of boats and day travellers because of Canada Day. At the Purden Lake Resort, we talked to a couple on motorcycles from Prince George about our tour and their desire to tour on bicycles or motorcycles. There’s a big difference between touring with a motor between your legs and touring with your legs as the motor; when I see groups of motorcycles, I wonder how they stay awake or occupied, with the scenery passing by too quickly to study and the loud noise of the motor putting the rider to sleep.

    Past Mcbride, the route became hilly, not climbs and mountian passes like Colorado and Montana, but a constant incline or decline. After cresting a hill, there is always a downhill to the bottom of a higher hill; the feeling of accomplishment reaching the top is immediately destroyed. Surprisingly, we made good time to Prince George despite the mileage yesterday, but we will be tired tomorrow.

    Upon arriving in Prince George, we found a massive Canada Day festival, thousands of people listening to live music, eating ethnic food, visiting tents and booths for local businesses, being the Canadian version of rowdy. I got two massive plates of fried rice and chow mein and Megan bought Indian food, which we ate among actual Canadians celebrating their country. Instead of sticking around for the maple syrup drinking contest, we left to find our WarmShowers hosts for the night, David and his wife Megumi.

    At their house, we showered and chilled out in the cool basement, then ate the salad and lasagna our hosts had prepared and discussed bike touring, French (Megan and David both speak French), and Canadian culture. Most of our WarmShowers hosts toured on bikes in their earlier days, so they understand the stories and struggles and can share stories of other cyclists they hosted. There’s a grapevine along these highways and bike routes, where cyclists and hosts tell each other about other cyclists and hosts in the direction they came from; we are always hearing about cyclists also headed to Alaska a few days ahead of us.

    I went to the grocery store and found an ATM in Prince George while Megan fell asleep around 7pm; there were supposed to be celebratory fireworks around 11pm which we slept through. Because we won’t be in the US for the Fourth of July, Canada Day was our yearly dose of nationalism and culture. Megan has talked about setting fireworks off of her bike on the 4th.

    A note: after the weekend in Smithers, there will actually be nothing until Whitehorse. No grocery stores. No towns. Probably no WiFi. So enjoy the blog and Facebook posts while they are possible!

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Test your water purification kits while there is still time to purchase new ones! We purified our water for the first time this morning and although I don’t mind the smell and taste the iodine tablets leave in the water, it could be an issue for others.

    Fun Fact: Canada’s sesquicentennial is in 2017, just three years away! Get ready to party, eh!

  13. Day 37: to Jasper, AB to Slim Creek Rest Area, BC
    Monday, June 30th

    Distance: 162.55
    Time: 10:49
    Average: 15.07

    What do you say about a 162-mile day?

    Why would we ride that distance when we don’t have a break until Smithers this weekend? Why do essentially double our normally, already exhausting distance?

    We spent two full rest days in Jasper with Megan’s father and brother, so we were sufficiently rested, bikes tuned up, confident because we made it to Jasper. Megan’s father and brother decided to camp with us one night past Jasper and offered to take our packs. We would be passing into the West Coast time zone, so we had another hour to ride. We wanted to have another extra day to play with in case the Smithers Music Festival is fantastic. We decided to attempt this day around 7pm the night before, then made the lodging adjustments, gave Megan’s father our packs, and woke up early. I couldn’t have been more calm making breakfast and packing two panniers full of food to carry along; it was like waking up and getting ready to leave for a brutal athletic competition.

    We started in light rain, pretty insignificant because we knew we would be out of it eventually. During the first 40 miles, riding for the first time without the full weight of tents, cooking equipment, and other gear, we forced ourselves to slow down. My legs didn’t warm up until 40 miles into the day and, thinking about the day as four 40-mile segments, the following three chunks seemed managable based on the first.

    We stopped for the first time at Mount Robson, where hundreds of Canada Day (think Fourth of July but for Canada and on a different date in July) travellers were stretching their legs and viewing the mountian. A group of young males, some shirtless, were taking pictures and horsing around near Megan and I eating our baked beans, so we took a few pictures with them and told them about our trip. Although we enjoy meeting other travellers our age (these guys were headed to a party in Vancouver for the long weekend), many have no idea what bike touring is and seem confused about the reasons for such a journey. Megan and I are occasionally confused ourselves. It’s for the adventure, for the World Bicycle Relief, for the memories, for the challenge, for the pictures, for the contact with new people and places.

    Around 60 miles, with a century to go, a strong headwind started and continued for another 50 miles. Stopping or finishing short was never an option or consideration, but that headwind was the greatest mental obstacle we faced. The forecast had only mentioned a light headwind, so feeling the power of this headwind and not knowing how long we would ride in it was potentially discouraging, but just like the rain in the morning, we assumed it would eventually pass. With 30 miles to go until Mcbride, BC at 110 for the day, we talked to a touring cyclist headed east who warned us of serious headwinds and hills for the rest of the day. We still weren’t discouraged, but if there had been a good time to break down and give up, it was then.

    Megan’s dad and brother caught us around Mile 95 with lunch from Jasper and we ate at a rest stop. Having support from a car, here in the form of a meal and someone to drive bags and gear, made the day much easier; self-supported tours, as opposed to those with ‘sag wagons’, require much more responsibility and forward-thinking and I doubt we could have done the day without Megan’s father i.e. with our bags and without the lunch and dinner he brought us.

    100 down. 110 down. Mcbride, a tiny gas station and pub of a town. 120 down. The third 40 miles made me anxious; I was chugging water and dark red kidney beans to prepare my body for the last 40, slightly worried that I was over-exerting myself but also hoping to finish before 8:00pm. Doing the time-distance-speed math is second nature, as is realizing that I would be riding another three hours in the best case scenario and calmly accepting that.

    British Columbia’s motto is ‘Beautiful British Columbia’, which Megan and I found absolutely accurate. The sides of the road were covered in wildflowers and streams; in the distance are snow-capped mountians with white streaks, waterfalls, running down to reflective or crystal clear lakes, not to mention the blue skies and fluffy white clouds we have enjoyed for much of the trip. If there’s ever a good distraction from 162 miles of highway shoulder, its 162 miles of untamed natural beauty.

    The last 40 miles were easy; we had stayed hydrated, eaten plenty, and spent our energy carefully. The only incident was our first crash when our wheels touched, where Megan went down but came up with only a circle of road rash and torn shorts on her left leg, no serious injury or damage to the bike. With about 20 miles to go, I felt the familiar urge to push the average speed up and, all things considered, raced to the end, finishing the day with an average speed above 15 mph for 162 miles. We both agreed that there have been many tougher, more exhausting days (Sweetwater, the climbs to Jackson, the climb to Hartsel, the headwinds to Jeffery City, …). Today was simply the longest either of us have travelled under our own power in one day.

    We saw one bear, bounding across the road ahead of us. That’s about as interesting as bear encounters are and as interesting as they should be.

    We ate dinner Megan’s father brought us and found our tents already set up. Normally, we both like to be as self-sufficient as possible, but today we were happy to be taken care of. After dinner, we played the board game Settlers of Catan, a Bentzin family favorite, among thick mosquitos and the setting sun. It was strange to ride that distance and then stay up for another 3 hours eating and playing a board game instead of passing out in my tent, but that part came immediately after the board game ended and Megan and I agreed to sleep in until 6:30.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: My latest snack discovery is beans, cans of baked beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, eaten at pannier-temperature right out of the can. I also bought about 20 day-old rolls for $3.00 at a bakery in Jasper to snack on. The food element of the trip can become repetitive; trying new snacks and foods adds much-needed variety to our diet. The couscous at Marble Canyon, the 4.5 pounds of peanut butter, and salty pretzels are recent positive food-related memories.

    Fun Fact: Canadian Terry Fox attempted to run across Canada (5,000 miles) with a prosthetic leg in order to raise awareness for cancer research. Although he died before finishing the trip, his efforts made him a national hero and famous sportsman.

    1. Your mother (while no doubt one of a few of your greatest champions and cheerleaders) isn’t the only faithful reader of your blog. I catch up every other day or so and very much appreciate your days’ recaps. It’s really great reading. So impressed by your journey and know it is a life-changing experience.

    2. I put my IPAD on my bedside table every night so the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check for a new blog entry!!!!

  14. Just a note, I know I ‘get behind’ on the blog posts. This is because we go through areas without cell or data services AND because I don’t feel like writing on the blog as well as in my journal every night. You can always check our location with the SPOT or on the trip itenary page and expect the daily posts to catch up in the bigger towns or when we have a WarmShowers host and WiFi.

    Also, I haven’t been posting about the rest days, which are usual laundry, restaurant meals, and hanging around bike shops. Because Megan’s father is here to drive us around, we visited a local hot springs and Megan and her family attended the local Catholic Mass Sunday morning.

    Shoutout to my loving, fantastic mother, the only person I know is reading these. To anyone else reading, tell your friends both about AustinToAnchorage and about Arrested Development, a hilarious comedy about a dysfunctional family on Netflix.

  15. Day 34: Coleman Creek, AB to Jasper, AB
    Friday, June 27th

    Distance: 82.99
    Time: 4:59:01
    Average: 16.65
    Max Speed: 53.30

    Finally in Jasper! We made it! In many ways, it feels as though we have arrived at the edge of a great wilderness and are about to throw ourselves in. Jasper, though past the time and distance halfway points, feels like the beginning of the second half of the tour.

    The day started with a climb, a long climb, a cool (temperature) climb. Most climbs have sections of flat or even downhill mixed into the grade; the Icefields Parkway, which we got on at Lake Louise yesterday and will ride into Jasper, was designed with sharp turns and steep grades to minimize its footprint in the national park. So this climb was unforgiving, especially steep, especially fun. The sun was still hidden behind the mountians and climbing up and up toward the line of sunlight on our own mountian, toward the treeline and snow, was a reminder that our days start hours before those of the typical tourist and these early starts mean we view many sunrises and natural scenes at dawn others miss.

    At the top was the Icefields Center, which screamed tourist trap. The Columbia icefields and glacier, the attractions, were underwhelming. We hiked up to the ice with our bikes; I pushed my 85 lbs bike and bags and one point, carried it up the rocky path on my shoulder, only to find a river of melted ice would prevent us from walking on the ice and snow. How disappointing. We hiked back to the road and descended (achieving a new max speed!), feeling sorry for all the people heading up the mountian who would be equally disappointed.

    The next two hours were a loss of elevation, spread over rolling hills. We arrived at a lodge and ate PB tortillas for lunch, talking in our native and foreign languages to tourists. I napped on a bench near the entrance of the lodge/restaurant; sleeping in the middle of the day in a public space, with smelly clothes and scruffy facial hair, eating our of bags and jars, plays up the ‘bum vibe’ of the trip. I hope people can tell from the bikes and use of maps that we have a destination and concrete plans. Megan headed out and I woke up and followed her shortly after.

    We met a cool couple cycling to Vancouver at the Icefields Center and ran into them again 20 miles from Jasper, where they said going off-route to Athabasca Falls was worth the effort. It was, if only for seeing a particularly helpless log caught in a whirlpool created by the falls. Megan and I watched the log circle in its hydrological prison for about 8 minutes, feeling a slight thrill each time it seemed to be on the right path to escape. Seriously, that log was as entertaining as a binged season of Archer on Netflix, 10 hours on Facebook, or a week of cycling through Texas.

    When we arrived at the B&B we were staying at with Megan’s father and brother, they had yet to arrive (they were driving from Texas in three days), so we dropped our bikes off at Freewheel Bikes for tune-ups and repairs and met up with Megan’s father and brother. Then we are dinner in Jasper at Fiddle River Seafood and returned to the B&B to sleep.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Clean your chain and do whatever repairs and maintenance you can before talking the bike in; bike shops make most of their profit through service, performing whatever repairs they can find.

    Fun Fact: Jasper, AB is an exceptional location for star-gazing because of the protection from the light pollution of other cities offered by the surrounding mountains.

  16. Day 33: Marble Canyon, BC to Coleman Creek, AB
    Thursday, June 26th

    Distance: 95.23
    Time: 6:14:41
    Average: 15.25

    In the cold morning, I saw a smaller bear on the side of the road and engaged in a very lopsided staring contest (I have much more willpower to maintain eye contact than a bear has) while trying to get a good picture. Shortly after Megan and I crossed into Alberta and took pictures with the sign. We were 20 miles from Lake Louise and rode there discussing cultural sensitivity in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the value of post-undergrad education.

    At Lake Louise, we got sandwiches at a bakery and left our bags at a bike shop to ride up to the lake. Riding up was a mistake, straight up with or without the added weight is exhausting. We walked around the ridiculously over-photographed lake (I mean, it’s very picturesque and colorful, but there must be dozens of identical lakes within a few miles.) and marvelled at the blue, blue, blue water and distant glacier. We took pictures of ourselves, pictures of other tourists, pictures of other tourists taking pictures, and so on. As usual when we are surrounded by tourists, Megan had a conversation in French, I had one in German, and people stared at our bike shorts and jerseys.

    About 30 kilometers outside Lake Louise, Megan’s back tire shredded from excessive wear and popped the tube. The tire was useless and she had to hitchhike back to Lake Louise to buy a new tire, then hitchhike to me still riding on the road. Why the tire blew out less than two days before Jasper, where two brand new tires she had ordered were waiting, we will never know, but being close to a bike store and around tourists who are happy to help stranded cyclists was lucky. Around 4pm, she caught up with me and we headed on.

    As I was standing on the side of the road eating a banana with peanut butter, I realized how delicious my snack would be to a bear. I traced the path the scent of the peanut butter would take based on the wind and surely enough saw something moving on the edge of the woods. A bear cub! I managed to get some pictures from the bike of the adorable fellow before riding away to escape the mother, whom I never saw. In total, over yesterday and today, I saw seven bears, all on or beside the road, and plenty of other woodland creatures. From the bike with 360 degree visibility and going four times as slow as a car or RV, you see, hear, smell, and feel so much more. Because of how many caloires we eat, you taste more as well.

    When Megan left me to get another tire, we planned on meeting somewhere about 25 miles farther, so being a testosterone-fueled 20-year-old, I decided to crush the remaining miles, to fly, to run up hills in the higher gears, to grit my teeth, to feel it in my legs. That lasted about 15 miles before I chilled out and shortly after, Megan found me and we rode the remaining 10 miles… and then 15 more because we couldn’t find a suitably flat or hidden campsite. We didn’t stop riding until 7:30 pm, which is late to start cooking dinner and setting up the tents. Every day is exhausting to some extent; today was the most tiring since the two climbs to Jackson, MT and the headwind-y last ten miles to Jeffery City, WY.

    Dinner was excellent, mac and cheese, jambalaya, and black bean burritos, with pretzels, chocolate, and plenty of that creamy gold (peanut butter) for dessert. We ate next to the loud river and because the sound of the running water covered all other sounds (as well as the thoughts of bears and slight illegality of our camping site, a picnic area), we both mentioned that we felt as though we were being watched. Despite that erie feeling and the 9:30 daylight, I instantly fell asleep after briefly bathing (for the first time since Eureka, across the border) in the freezing river we ate and camped next to.

    Baanf National Park and the Icefields Parkway are stunning; the peaks of the mountains on either side of the highway are clear and covered in snow. The rivers and lakes are clear or hues of blue and green, meltwater from snow and glaciers high above. One of the best views of the day was of waterfalls pouring off cliffs to fall and mist onto the rock walls, with the streams that water formed spilling out of the forests near the road.

    After today, Megan and I are ready for the rest days in Jasper AND the remaining month of the trip. We are striding past our halfway point and approaching a time when we will start counting mileage down instead of counting up.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: When visiting a tourist attraction far off the road, leave your bikes and packs with a store or locks and hidden. Don’t ride them more than you must, even with the packs off; there are more than enough kind tourists.

    Fun Fact: Canada Day being July 1st, next Tuesday, means the national parks are getting their heaviest traffic of the year. Lots of RVs and lots of people who rarely drive RVs. There are plenty of cyclists on the road however, as the Baanf-Jasper route is very popular for cyclists, casual and touring.

  17. Day 32: Canal Flats, BC to Marble Canyon, BC
    Wednesday, June 25th

    Distance: 88.13
    Time: 6:24:25
    Average: 13.75

    We spent the first hour of the day on a backroad, little traffic and minimal road maintenance, before reaching the idealistic town of Invermere on the lake. Next, we stopped at a grocery store in Radium Hot Springs to buy food for the next few days in the national parks and caught the group of 11 older cyclists we crossed the border with. We bought three days of food, about eight meals and snacks, the weight/mass of which we could feel on the climb out of Radium into Baanf National Park. These climbs mean riding uphill for at least an hour in a very low gear at a high cadence, hoping every curve we come around will bring the pass into view. Of the many challenges of our physical stamina (headwinds, long distances, elevation gain, heavy bikes, dealing with the heat or the cold while riding), the climbs are the most rewarding. While the last ten miles of any given day and enduring a storm are satisfying, knowing that we took these laden bikes up and over mountains is a special feeling.

    At the top of the climb, I passed a park ranger in a car, who told me to continue riding over the pass and descend without stopping because of the nearby bears. I rode another 100 meters, made myself a PB and J tortilla, and turned around in time to see a grizzly bear with two cubs crossing the street. I saw another bear, adorable black cub chewing grass on the side of the road, while descending. At the bottom, Megan and I rode together another 35 miles to the Marble Canyon Campground, which was closed to everyone but stealth campers like us. The last 10 miles were the most beautiful, with forests burnt from wildfires and snowy mountains close to the road, and we say an Overland group very similar to the one Megan rode with from Georgia to California.

    The attraction near our tent site for the night, Marble Canyon, was a river in a deep trench, which we walked next to and crossed over on the way to the falls at the beginning of the canyon. The falls were extrmemly powerful, frighteningly powerful, and worth the 30-minute hike with peanut butter and pretzels in hand. I resisted the youthful urges to leaps over the raging river at the thinnest portions of the trench; a fatality would end the trip instantly and I definitely want to keep going.

    For dinner we cooked couscous and kidney beans, so easy and nutritious, and put up the bear bag. Whenever one of us heads away from camp or we go together to check out a tent site or put up the bear bag, we note that neither of us have made a habit of carrying bear spray everywhere. We are getting better about it as we see more bears on the road and hear about their visits to campsites.

    We slept in a meadow, falling asleep as usual around 9:00 in the daylight. We are a few days away from Jasper!

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Singing to yourself is a good way to make noise when travelling through bear-y areas.

    Fun Fact: Canada has its own versions of Lewis and Clark, Danial Boone, and other Western explorers, who are part of Canadian culture. The more you know!

  18. Day 31: Fort Steele, BC to Canal Flats, BC
    Tuesday, June 24th

    Distance: 46.97
    Time: 2:49.51
    Average: 16.58

    Waking up, making breakfast, and taking down the bear bag (for the first time) in our stealth camping spot were all exciting previews of the absolute wilderness that awaits past Jasper, past Prince George. We made oatmeal as usual, hiked to the highway, and headed north, one of two cardinal directions we frequently travel. The beauty of the early mornings on the road is more difficult to enjoy than that of the later times; the new noises of our bikes, the new pains and soreness, and the logistical details occupy our thoughts. Today, we knew we were only going about 40 miles, we would be done before noon, which put our minds at ease to enjoy our first Canadian morning. The 40 miles were over rather suddenly and, after meeting two fellow bike tourists (tourers?), we found the neighborhood and home of our WarmShowers host.

    Because we arrived around noon, we didn’t expect anyone to be home, but a friendly woman opened the door, made us smoothies with garden-grown fruit, and offered her stand-up paddleboards for use on the nearby Columbia Lake. We decided to wait on the stand-up paddleboards and spent three hours planning the upcoming two weeks. Again, this means calling churches, messaging hosts on WarmShowers, playing with mileages and dates, and endless checking distances on Google Maps to not accidently give ourselves a 120+ mile day. The most exciting planning was in realizing we could spend one of our rest days in Smithers, BC for the Smithers Music Festival. We are excited to happen upon the cultural event and there’s talk of camping with the other festival-goers, T-shirts, and even tattoos. It will be a blast; it’s not this weekend, but the next.

    Because of the rain and our desire to rest our bodies, we spent the rest of the afternoon writing letters and emails to friends and family. Our hosts, experienced cyclists themselves, prepared a delicious.dinner and dessert, and the dinner table discussion was (as usual with WarmShowers) centered on exercise, travel, and nutrition. My heart could hardly stand the thrill when, after hearing about my obsession with peanut butter, our hosts gave me a 2 kg jar of the stuff (that’s 4.4 pounds or 37 degrees Fahrenheit, for the Americans). Having just bought peanut butter in Canal Flats, I now carry almost 7 pounds of peanut butter.

    During the evening and through dinner, the husband played raggae music (which he said was randomly selected from a number of music channels) and we all felt the cool vibes spread throughout the house. As I’ll say and say again, raggae music brings unification, (a phrase that has been shouted at many strangers from a passing bike). It’s the joy of meeting new people and quirks of the stay (fresh fruit smoothies, stand up paddleboarding, raggae music) that make WarmShowers nights so memorable. Tomorrow begins the journey through Baanf National Park!

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Don’t bike downhill with your mouth open, for obvious reasons.

    Fun Fact: Our WarmShowers hosts are experienced tandem riders and once rode a 621-mile course in 4 days on the tandem.

  19. Day 30: Eureka, MT to Fort Steele, BC
    Monday, June 23rd

    Distance: 69.76
    Time: 4:37:49
    Average: 15.06

    Canada. Canada Canada Canada.

    We woke up and bustled around the other cyclists sharing the house, heating up waffles our hosts had made for us and eating the traditional yogurt and fruit. We slept in until 6:00; sleeping in is usually planned around 9:00 pm the evening before when we realize we still have things to do before falling asleep (write letters, blog post, route planning, …) and would be happy to use our procrastination as an excuse to sleep another hour. Although we arrive at our destination in the afternoon, socialization with our hosts and making dinner take a considerable amount of time. It’s impossible to draw yourself away from the interesting people and conversations that arise when travelers meet hosts and/or other travelers.

    Just as we left Eureka, we met a group of 11 cyclists also headed for Alaska. We expected them but only caught them by coincidence. We rode with them to the border (where Megan had to leave the plant Ester she has been carrying since Silverthorne, CO) and we crossed one of the biggest milestones of the trip: leaving the US. Because it was only 7 miles into the day, we didn’t linger for too many photos, only long enough for Megan to declare that Texas had invaded Canada. We rode another 10 miles with the large group, taking to them about bike touring and their backgrounds.

    Megan and I stopped for lunch around 12:00, eating peanut butter and honey tortillas, along with some blueberry pancakes still left from Bigfork. We are riding in the heat again, which makes us sluggish, but the heat is infinitely preferable to rain, so I won’t complain about the weather. Although our plan was to stay in a WarmShowers in Kimberly, we rerouted when we realized how far off of the roads that would take us and decided to follow the large group to Fort Steele.

    The afternoon was hot and gorgeous; the last 25 miles were on essentially traffic-less recently paved roads with a few longer uphills. Megan talked for a while with a woman in the group who had lived in Capetown, South Africa (where Megan is going to find work this fall) and I… rode silently ahead of them. Having new conversation partners on the bike, we both agreed, is fantastic but oddly awkward after a while; this is the first time we have ridden with others, in the same direction, and it’s difficult to judge how willing the others are to ride side by side and chat. We left the group at Fort Steele and continued north, planning on camping off the side of the road.

    We decided to stop for the night near a rest stop and hiked back into the woods to camp, bear spray at the ready. We found a spot, made cheesy pasta and oatmeal, went swimming in the warm sunshine and cool lake, and set up camp like usual for the night. Our first night in Canada. It’s 7:45pm and I’m completely ready to fall asleep, but the sun won’t set for… over two hours. Tomorrow we head to Canal Flats and in the direction of Jasper, where we will have a prolonged break to prepare ourselves and our bikes for the next few weeks.

    Bike Touring Tip of the Day: When you arrive at your night’s destination, locate the fire exits. This will save you precious time should you find yourself escaping from a fire.

    Fun Fact: A ‘Montana windshield’ is a windshield with a crack or cracks caused by the pebble-covered highways. A majority of the windshields in Montana have cracks.

  20. Day 29: Bigfork, MT to Eureka, MT
    Sunday, June 22nd

    Distance: 82.76
    Time: 5:09:28
    Average: 16.04

    Waking up at 5 is rough after the long day yesterday, so I strapped my watch with the alarm on the outside of my tent to force me out of the tent. We started with the pancakes we cooked last night for breakfast, along with the typical oatmeal and yogurt, and headed off in the cool morning. We stopped early to take pictures of a field of bright yellow flowers and appreciate the mountain range in the distance, something that Megan endlessly encourages (stopping to take beautiful pictures) which is growing on me, especially as we approach Canada and promises of unparalleled beauty.

    We passed through Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Olney, and Stryker today, not that those names mean anything to someone not from Northwestern Montana. Riding through forests is peaceful and relatively windless compared to the open plains of Wyoming. Megan and I are miles apart at times and after a month of riding nearly every day, the lack of distractions and unconscious shifting of gears make the miles peel away; yesterday and today passed by quickly and I fear the days will only feel shorter and shorter. Related: it’s 10 pm here and still light outside, not yet dusk.

    For lunch, we ate near a lake and soon fell asleep because we were sitting in the sun. We woke up to a family gathering nearby for a Sunday of boating and drinking and, in what was for me a supreme act of willpower, decided to start riding again instead of continuing to nap. After lunch we rode 36 miles to our WarmShowers host in Eureka, who cooked us dinner and offered a couch and a cot. The hosts, Greg and Michelle, told us about their life of backpacking and living in Montana; a French couple is also staying here, cycling North and South America, and another group of cyclists is still expected to arrive later tonight.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: You can steam vegetables by placing them on top of rice, cutting down on cooking time. The most frustrating part of my day is waiting for dinner to cook.

    Fun Fact: Tomorrow will be the first of two days that Megan and I will need our passports/emergency bribe money.

  21. Day 28: Missoula, MT to Bigfork, MT
    Saturday, June 21st

    Distance: 103.62
    Time: 6:14:44
    Average: 16.58

    Busting out another 100-mile day, this time with spectacular scenery! We left from Missoula early; riding through empty city streets on a Sunday morning was made even better by the ritual of mailing letters through the blue mailboxes. For our younger audience, this means sending physical pieces of paper to friends and family in other parts of the country, who receive them a few days later. I’ve been writing letters to all my closest friends (If you haven’t received anything yet, take that as you may). After a restful rest day in Missoula not thinking about cycling or bikes or mileage, the surprise climb 10 miles into the day was uncomfortable. The climb aside, we made great time to Pablo, stopping to talk to tourists at the scenic turnouts for the Mission Mountain Range. We lunched at a Subway and took their online survey to earn a free cookie.

    Starting at Pablo, we had a view of the Flathead Lake, which was achingly blue to match the sky, bordered by green forest. The natural colors were all but overwhelming, especially the rich blue water of the lake; I saw two rough-looking biker guys posing for pictures in front of the lake. We rode next to the lake for 30 miles, stopping once for Megan to eat ice cream, then again for groceries, and easily finding the First Baptist church which hosted us for the night.

    For dinner, we were allowed to use the kitchen of the church, which turned out perfectly for the meal we had planned to cook. Instead of making pancakes one by one with our cooking gear, the church had a griddle that allowed us to make 6 4-inch pancakes at a time. We ate those (and saved the rest for future snacking) and made scrambled eggs with cheese as well. My food preparation skills/confidence have improved considerably during the trip, but Megan would definitely be the head cook of the duo. We ate dinner with the pastor and his wife, who are also headed to Alaska, on vacation, but will fly and be there in a day.

    We camped behind the church and fell asleep quickly. Rest days are fantastic for physical recovery, but difficult to recover from mentally, because just one day of being a tourist/lounge-arounder makes us reconsider these days of exhaustion. Just joking; we still love riding and being on the bike, the days intense, the nights in tents.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Based on anecdotal and Googled scientific information, smaller diameter wheels are slower. Get larger wheels for touring, or any type of riding.

    Fun Fact: We passed through rattlesnake territory today (and stupidly decided there would be the best place to walk through tall grass to get pictures with some cows. As if we haven’t past tens of thousands of perfectly photogenic cows already).

  22. Day 26: Darby, MT to Missoula, MT
    Thursday, June 19th

    Distance: 65.71
    Time: 3:41:25
    Average: 17.82

    A 66-mile day, with tailwinds on flat highways, is essentially a rest day. We woke up around 5:00 am as planned and went back to sleep after realizing our foolishness of planning to get up so early. When we are camping and wake up to a chilly morning, there isn’t much of a reason to stay lying on the sleeping pad; the WarmShowers hosts in Darby, the Schultz family, gave us beds and a roof, so we slept in until 6:15. We left on our bikes around 7:30 am for Missoula.

    Although we rode on the interstate, the scenery in the Bitterroot Valley was ideal: snow-capped mountains a few miles off the road, a meandering river to the east, the first warming sunlight we’ve had in a while, floating white cottonwood seeds that look like snow. Megan and I rode without leggings again, resuming progress on the hilarious bike shorts tan, and put on sunscreen for the first day since… Dubois?… Wyoming. The Montana weather has been good preparation for colder, wetter days ahead.

    We passed through many small towns on the way to Missoula (Florence, Lolo, Stevensville, Hamilton) and met two touring cyclists. One, loaded down with bags and bags of gear, had been on the road for five years and was travelling “south” with no particular destination in mind. Megan and I don’t know whether to interpret those who have been on the road for extended periods of time as inspirational or as warnings for what we could become. Megan doubts she will do another tour after the 7,500 miles she will have ridden when we reach Anchorage; I… don’t know…

    In Missoula, we visited the headquarters of the American Cycling Association, whose maps we used from Pueblo to Missoula, to have our pictures added to a wall of those of other touring cyclists and to eat free ice cream. The hundreds of pictures of others on different tours, with different routes, bikes, companions, and stories, were fascinating to us: many people do significantly longer, harder tours than our summer-long Austin to Anchorage, some with musical instruments, with children, or even with a lawnmower. The ACA had a bike scale in the back where my bike was weighed at 80 pounds, Megan’s 74. A staff member also gave us a secret mission because we were going to Alaska, which I can’t describe hear but promise is exciting.

    For lunch we ate at Five on Black, a Brazillion Chipolte-type restaurant. If anyone is in Missoula, Montana soon, we both recommend Five on Black (on Higgins Street). We found our WarmShowers lodging, a house owned by a local hydrologist who opens his house to any travellers and visitors in Missoula. The house has a variety of semi-permanent residents and will host a jazz concert tomorrow night, which we will be able to attend for free.

    In the afternoon, we found out Glacier National Park wouldn’t be accessible because of snow and flooding, so we will spend a rest day in Missoula and then head west after Bigfork to correct for the change. Finding new places to stay involves calling churches, bike stores, and campgrounds, which is routine now. We have the 45-second voicemail describing ourselves and requesting a place to tent or sleep practically memorized.

    Megan’s uncle and his family were travelling to Helena to visit family and were passing through Missoula with perfect timing to meet us and treat Megan and I to dinner. We ate at Mackenzie River Pizza Company, delicious food, and told the relatives many of the stories collecting in our brains that don’t make it to the blog or Facebook. Megan and I are amazed the trip is approaching both the time and distance halfway marks; it’s gone by so quickly.

    We walked around Missoula, among people our age for the first time in a while, and got ice cream at Big Dipper Ice Cream, which was recommended to us many times. I bought a cheap quart and ate it in one sitting; Megan ate a huckleberry and chocolate mix. We went to bed late, anticipating sleeping in and spending tomorrow planning and writing letters in the wild house.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Brush your teeth.

    Fun Fact: The house we are staying in had 350 cyclists visit in the last 4 years, with the most at one time being 18.

    1. Thanks for recommendations in Missoula. Wayne and I will be there on the 21st. I presume you will be gone by then? If not, ask your mom for my number and give me a text or call; we’ll treat you to ice cream!

    2. I wish I had been reading and had known you were going to Missoula. I know someone who owns a restaurant there, and she would have given you free empanadas.

  23. Day 25: Jackson, MT to Darby, MT
    Wednesday, June 18th

    Distance: 77.57
    Time: 5:52:01
    Average: 13.18

    Oatmeal, hot delicious oatmeal for breakfast, which was made even better by the cold. The first 18 miles to Wisdom were straight and flat, the dim sunlight illuminating the Big Hole Valley and its 1,000,000 cows, all black and tasty-looking and as intelligent as the grass they eat. Yelling at cows has become a pasttime of mine, an outlet for the anger that builds up in me when a certain cycling partner of mine (not going to name names) hogs our one stove to heat water for her precious coffee.

    We visited the museum for the Big Hole Valley Battle, more for the shelter the building offered than because of our interest in the (depressing) history of white settlers taking land from native populations. Next we climbed Chief Joseph Pass to cross the Continental Divide again and descended to Sula to eat lunch. I had the comically priced $5.75 grilled cheese and were thankful to have just 15 more miles to Darby.

    Our accomodations for the night, provided by the Schultz family through WarmShowers, was fantastic; they cooked us steaks, mushrooms, kale, and mashed yams. We had an opportunity to do laundry and to shower, which Megan says makes her feel human again. I’m not too big on showering, as we had a week without showers and that was going well, but I showered anyway out of respect for our hosts and my travelling partner, who all but insisted I shower.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Drivers and people who ride in cars DO NOT estimate distances well. Here are two examples:
    Issac: How far to Derby?
    Driver: 10 or 15 miles.
    It was actually 31 miles.

    Issac: How far is the restaurant in Sula?
    Driver: It’s just around the bend there
    It was actually 4 miles.

    Fun Fact: We spent about 2 minutes in Idaho today, which is how long most mac and cheese dishes are microwaved before being stirred and heated again (Remember to let the mac and cheese cool before eating). Brushing your teeth takes about 2 minutes as well, unless you’re Stefan Bentzin.

  24. Day 24: Sheridan, WY to Jackson, WY
    Tuesday, June 17th

    Distance: 78.37
    Time: 6:17:21
    Average: 12.46

    We woke up early, made oatmeal and ate bananas and yogurt, and started the ride in the rain. In the rainy, cold weather, we rode to Dillon and tried to not annoy each other by complaining about the cold rain. The weather in Montana is wild and on bicycles, we experience it all.

    In Dillon we ate an early lunch at a knock-off Taco Bell and hung out in a coffee shop imagining Hawaii and Texas weather outside. Sitting for almost two hours took a toll on us in the form of dead legs and the 43 miles to Jackson, including two mountain passes, were daunting. The first pass went smoothly and on the way down we met a group of four Trans Am-ers climbing, one with a dog that walked beside his recumbent bike. We continued and met an Australian woman riding to Washington DC to raise awareness for Martin Luther King Jr., whose story and sacrifice had inspired her as a child. The second pass, despite the tolerable weather, was endless and exhausting, but we made it to the top, made it over.

    There is a moment, less than 10 miles from the day’s destination, when you realize you’re going to finish, when the rest of the day is downhill or flat and presumably windless and with favorable weather. Just like you forget the pain of the climb once you reach the top, the cold, rainy morning and the slow, windy climbing seemed in retrospect as enjoyable as the warn coffee shop and effortless descents when we were approaching Jackson.

    In Jackson, we ate at the only restaurant in the town and talked to the friendly owner about the two Rainbow Gatherings that took place near Jackson in the past 14 years. While setting up tents by the side of the road, a man named Monty pulled up and offered his yard and the use of his bathroom. We set up out tents and began to prepare for bed. Monty then told us he had a pump on the naturally hot water that was used in the town’s hot springs and would fill a tub for us if we wanted. After finding flooded hot springs in Saratoga and Dubois, we were thrilled to have access to the hot water and soaked in it around 10:15 pm, some parts of the western sky still blue and cold southern winds blowing from the mountains. Jackson, like Hartsel CO, sits on a flat, green plain surrounded by snow-capped mountains and was one of the more beautiful locations of the trip.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Keep a pair of socks in your shirt pockets or easily accessible in your bags to quickly change into if your feet become wet.

    Fun Fact: Liquor licenses can be both seasonal and year-round.

  25. Day 23: West Yellowstone, MT to Sheridan, WY
    Monday, June 16th

    Distance: 108.59
    Time: 6:40:12
    Average: 16.28

    After a laid-back day in West Yellowstone (visiting a bike shop getting mail, laundry, cleaning the bikes), we (apparently) felt strong enough for another 100+ mile day at the start of Week Four.

    The morning was cold and clear; after heading north from West Yellowstone, we rode past Earthquake Lake, a lake formed in 1959 by a massive earthquake and.subsequent landslide which killed campers and stranded hundreds of tourists. Past the lake and its associated memorial/visitor center where we met another Trans Am cyclist named Bryan/Brian/Brion, we began to see the dark clouds of an approaching storm over the mountains to the south. We were still about 25 miles from Ennis, but managed to ride, almost surf, the aggressive tailwind that marked the forward edge of the storm to Ennis, only to ride into the drizzle that covered Ennis.

    In town, we were advised to dine at the G Bar, so we dried off, ate delicious food, and found a place to stay for the night in Sheridan, 20 miles past our intended destination of Virginia City but doable because of our rest day. Right out of Ennis was the second steepest climb we’ve dealt with; these roads were not made with cyclists in mind. Just over the top was a hailstorm and, having taken off my bike jersey for the exhausting climb, I rode in the hail down to Virginia City, a historic small town meant of tourists. The hailstorm had drenched us, so we got coffee/hot chocolate in the Virginia City Cremery and chatted with the staff about our tour. A local store owner in Virginia City expressed interest in hosting touring cyclists, which pass through the town often because of its location on the Trans American route, so we directed her to Warmshowers.org, the website Megan and I have used to find lodging. Anyone following our blog who is interested in meeting touring cyclists should look into hosting through the website.

    The last 20 miles were more or less downhill, and we arrived at the Ruby Valley Baptist Church around 5:30 pm. We bought groceries, ate an impressive amount of food (I speak for myself), finished the meal with oven-baked cinnamon rolls Megan bought as a treat. and all but passed out around 9:00 pm. We never met the pastor who had agreed to host us, or anyone else at the church, but we are experienced finding what we needed to cook dinner and spend the night. Churches are ideal because of they have plenty of space, kitchens, and ramps to the doors, perfect for us cyclists.

    A note about Montana weather: it truly changes every 30 minutes. Rain clouds sit on the mountains and right over the valleys, always a breeze away, so predicting the weather is nearly impossible. Instead we layer up when necessary and deal with whatever comes.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: The more accessible your snacks and water are, the more casually (and thus more often) you will eat and drink. A Camelbak and handlebar bag put water and snacks all but into your mouth.

    Fun Fact: Jeffery City, where we stayed about a week ago, is the setting for the song Home on the Range.

  26. Day 21: Colter Bay, WY to West Yellowstone, MT
    Saturday, June 14th

    Distance: 99.10
    Time: 6:22:08
    Average: 15.56

    Another week, another state down! We are in Montana now, one state away from Canada, which is where the real fun begins. Today marks the end of the third week and the completion of about one-third of the total time and distance. It’s been a blast thus far!

    We started early in Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park and quickly arrived in Yellowstone, stopping for the traditional pictures with the sign. We had expected it to snow and rain later in the afternoon, but the snow started around 9am and was positively magical. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook may have seen the Snowshoe in Speedos pictures; I love being shirtless in the snow and cold. Unlike rain, snow doesn’t drench or soak, and Megan (a Texan), who had wanted to avoid the cold, agreed the snow was a treat. To celebrate the first snow of the trip, I rode shirtless in the snow, and briefly in sleet, until around 1pm, when Megan and I arrrived at Old Faithful for lunch.

    The morning’s ride was hilly and full of the characteristic Yellowstone beauty: rivers, forests, lakes, streams, winding roads, etc. When we reached Old Faithful, we entered geyser and volcanic territory, where the landscape looks truly alien. We biked around the smoking land after lunch at the Old Faithful Inn and stopped to see the Morning Glory Hole, Megan’s favorite volcanic attraction. The scale of the volcanic activity surprised me; there are miles of geysers, hot springs, bubbling puddles, hot streams flowing into rivers, colorful and sulfuric pools. It was my first time seeing these rare geological features and worth the excursion.

    We had about 30 more miles from Old Faithful, much of it downhill. 10 miles from the end, we ran into a loooong traffic jam. Able to pedal in the bike lane past miles of idling cars, we reached the source of the jam: a herd of bison walking on the road. Waiting for Megan, I chatted with the cars at the front of the jam, including a few Germans, and inched closer toward the moving herd. Megan arrived, rode straight through the herd, and stupidly, I followed her, coming within 10 feet of a few. We made it through un-bison-ed, and took pictures with the Montana sign in West Yellowstone, our destination for the day.

    In our motel room Megan’s father donated to us because of the cold forecast for the night, we ordered a pizza, showered for the first time in six days, and fell asleep for 11 hours. We are both becoming stronger (I’m finally putting some muscle on my stick legs) and this 99-mile day wasn’t much worse than yesterday’s 67.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Riding shirtless, your colder torso acts as a radiator for the hot blood coming from your legs, removing the heat to use to warm your hands and head.

    Fun Fact: Yellowstone was first toured on bicycles in the late 1800s, on penny-farthings (old bikes with huge front wheels).

  27. Day 20: Dubios, WY to Colter Bay, WY
    Friday, June 13th

    Distance: 67.19
    Time: 5:09:58
    Average: 13.00

    Finally, some breath-taking views. Because we ate dinner late last night, we didn’t sleep much and started out slowly. The first baby hill knocked me out and at 9:15, I stopped riding and slept for an hour and a half on a picnic table outside of a convenience store. Napping before noon is a bad habit and wrecks our rythym, but the alternative was standing on the side of the road not riding, so it was necessary. Shortly after waking up and chatting with a (South) Korean cyclist, I climbed Towtogga Pass and found Megan writing post cards and doing bike repair just over the pass. For those keeping count, this was the fourth time reaching the Continental Divide.

    We descended with the Tetons in view, which my grandfather had promised me would be spectacular. And they were. Like usual, there was a headwind and a flat tire, but we finished with daylight to spare. All anyone in the national parks is talking about right now is the increased bear activity, so we bought bear spray from the store in Colter Bay, the campground in Grand Teton National Park we are staying the night in.

    For dinner, I cooked cheesy rice and pasta, black bean burritos, and some mixed vegetables. The next few days will be lower mileage and wonderful natural scenery; stay tuned!

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Keep a list of the people you meet, however briefly, with names, descriptions, and contact information, to jog your memory of good conversations and chance encounters.

    Fun Fact: This is a quote from a sign outside a ranger station: “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Bears that develop a taste for human food will keep coming back and eventually be killed.

  28. Day 19: Lander, WY to Dubios, WY
    Wednesday, June 12th

    Distance: 77.83
    Time: 5:19:52
    Average: 14.06

    I woke up exhausted because I stayed up until midnight talking with two rock climbers that were camping in the same city park. One was German and I couldn’t be happier to speak auf Deutsch. Er war überrascht dass er einen getroffen hat, der seine Sprache konnte. We discusses the differences in lifestyle between travelling rock climbers and touring cyclists and parted ways happy with our respective sports.

    The road from Lander to Dubios was… flat. Surrounded by plains and distant mountains. Low traffic. Compared to the next few days in national parks, this scenery was plain, but the grinding monotony was broken by meeting about 5 fellow cyclists on the Trans Am. Our luckiest such encounter was with two cute Swiss guys, with whom Megan spoke French, in the gas station town Crowheart.

    We found our lodging in Dubois (Saint Thomas Episcopal Church) after the start of stunning geological features and I ran into the Swiss guys while buying groceries. While we were about to start dinner, a man named Mike we talked to on the way into town invited us to swim in hot springs high in the surrounding mountains, discovered by loggers long ago. We rode about 45 minutes up into mountains, then swam in a dormant geyser (a 30-foot pit with a pool of clear water in the cavernous bottom). When we found the hot springs flooded, we returned to the geyser and swam until the sun began to set. Getting back to the church, we made dinner (spaghetti with marinara sauce, vegetables) and discussed American parenting styles.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: When encountering other touring cyclists, flex your quads and calf muscles to establish yourself as a potential threat, then give them a granola bar or spoonful of peanut butter as an offer of peace.

    Fun Fact: Dubois, WY was settled by bloggers who made railroad ties for the Union Pacific railroads. Or maybe it was loggers.

  29. Headwinds, headwinds, headwinds. That’s been our experience every day in Wyoming and I couldn’t be more ready for a tailwind or just no wind! We made it to Grand Teton National Park and tomorrow we’ll head to see Old Faithful in Yellowstone! The Tetons are beautiful and the forecasted snow for tomorrow seems to have changed to a prediction of light rain. Isaac and I have become accustomed to camping every night and we just bought two cans of bear spray in case we encounter any charging grizzly bears. Many have been seen in the area within the past week and this morning I saw two sets of bear mud tracks on the road.

    While the cycling itself has been taxing lately, we’ve been befriending people across Wyoming and made a place for ourselves among those who live on the road. We are now riding a section of the Trans America bike route, which begins in Oregon and ends in Virginia. Every day we meet other cyclists, mainly headed East bound, and swap tips, stories, and bits of road news with them. Often the people we meet are shocked that we do such high daily mileage and that we’re doing a South to North route while most people are doing West to East. While camping in Lander the other night a man cycled up to us and said “Let me guess, you’re the crazy kids riding from Texas to Alaska.” He turned out to be one of the Warm Showers hosts we had contacted that wasn’t able to host us. It’s been thrilling to become a part of this network of travelers that communicates mainly through word of mouth!

    Besides the other cyclists or campers we meet I’ve enjoyed the unexpected adventures we’ve experienced off the bikes. Last night while asking for directions to a church we met a man named Mike who offered to drive us up into the mountains to some hot springs. We learned about life in Dubois, WY working at a chainsaw manufacturing company and the history of the area. Isaac and I swam in a geyser and watched three elk eating in a meadow while the full moon rose. Our exploration of the National Forest near Dubois has definitely been a highlight for me of the trip so far!

    1. Megan,
      How do you guys keep your electronics charged? Do you normally fill your water bottles with just water or with sports drinks? How many bottles / ounces of water do you carry with you each day? How many other long distance cyclists do you see each day? When / How are you able to talk to them? Do you intentionally stop to talk or do you talk while taking a rest break? Are you posting any pictures or videos along the way?
      Sorry for all the questions, but we are really enjoying following your blogs each day. Be safe,
      Jay Mears

  30. Day Eighteen: Jeffery City, WY to Lander, WY
    Wednesday, June 11th

    Distance: 57.88 miles
    Time: 3:38:46
    Average: 15.87

    Waking up in the camper in front of Monk King Bird Pottery was a reminder of how strange the previous evening had been; Bryon and the rest of Jeffery City was one of the most unique places we have passed through. We stumbled around making oatmeal for breakfast and getting ready for the day. We filled up our bottles at the Split Rock Bar and Cafe and headed west. The mileage has been adding up; the average mileage of our last three days (from Silverthorne to Rand, to Saratoga, to Jeffery City) was around 99 miles. We were both exhausted from the start and my disappointment at the short distance to Lander dissipated. After 25 miles, we reached the top of Beaver Rim and began a 23-mile descent. A note on downhills: the farther and faster we travel downward, the farther and slower we will have to travel upward. After flying for about 45 minutes, we started climbing back up the elevation we had lost and quickly decided it was time for lunch.

    Around 10:15 and 20 miles from Lander, we ate the ever-delicious PB and J (or honey, in Megan’s case) tortillas and whined about how tired we were. When I realized the end of eating would mean a return to riding, I took my sleeping pad off of my bike and laid in on the gravel where we had lunched… and slept for half an hour in the warm sun, using my Camelbak as a pillow, while Megan soldiered on. I woke up, got back on the bike, and cranked out the remaining miles to Lander, pushing to finish the 18 miles in the hour that I had. When I got to Lander and found Megan, we had lunch in the sunshine at the Gannett Grill on Main St, disgusting ourselves with the amount of food we ate and feeling our energy return. Then, we stopped by the local library to use their computers to plan lodging in Montana and Canada, which means looking for hosts on the bicycle-touring-specific website Warm Showers, calling churches, checking campground prices and availability, and playing with our mileage and rest days.

    Tonight we are camping in Lander City Park and cooking dinner for ourselves, which is more a test of our ability to think of something to cook than our culinary skills. In the coming days, we will head toward Yellowstone, where it is supposed to SNOW on our rest day there. SNOW! Megan and I couldn’t be more excited; thinking about the fun and excitement of snow days as a child, combined with the adventurous and transcendental spirit of bike touring, means we are in for a winter wonderland in Yellowstone.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Take pictures of all the places you stay and all the restaurants/eateries you visit. These pictures can be used to revive fading memories or to provide stronger alibis.

    Fun Fact: We are following the Oregon Trial and the Pony Express Trail as we pass through Wyoming, both famous historical trails in Wyoming. (Once we enter Montana, we will be on the Silk Road, which will take us to the Underground Railroad.)

    1. So enjoy your updates. Amazing to think how much ground you’ve covered already. Wayne and I will be in Yellowstone in little over a week – not on bike, but by Subaru – driving from Olympia, WA to Richmond, VA. Yellowstone is one stop; another is my niece’s ranch in eastern Montana. I think of you often whenever I eat peanut butter. Be safe!

  31. Day Seventeen: Saratoga, WY to Jeffery City, WY
    Tuesday, June 10th

    Distance: 111.04
    Time: 7:13:02
    Average: 15.33

    Everything went perfectly, smoothly, until the last ten miles of the 111 mile day.

    We decided to make scrambled eggs for breakfast, pushing our start time to 6:30, almost uncomfortably late for us as we expected to do 88 or 90 miles. Fortunately, we made amazing time to Sinclair (the town/refinery for which the gas station chain is named) and then to Rawlins. When we are going fast, we stop early for lunch, today at our fourth Subway around 10:15 am.

    From there, we climbed to the Continental Divide (our third time over it) and descended to a flat, freshly paved, tailwinded stretch of road with blue skies. All of the roads in Wyoming have been in a relatively flat area with mountains running parallel on either side of the road. After finding no water in Lamont, we raced to Muddy Gap, where we expected to stay the night. Except it was 2:00 pm and having done 89 miles with an average speed above 17 mph, we were itching for more distance. We set off for Jeffery City, 22 miles away.

    The last 11 miles had a mind-numbing headwind; I (about 250 pounds all together) was blown off the road many times and killed my legs trying to outrace rain and hail that came along as well. The headwind was demoralizing, invisible but unrelenting. There’s nothing to do but keep going though, slowly, and I arrived in Jeffery City around 4:30pm.

    Weat stayed at a place called Monk King Bird Pottery, our most interesting lodging yet, owned by a fellow named Byron who offers plenty of beds and camping space to Trans Am cyclists. The pottery sold there is made by shooting wet clay with bullets, patching the holes and firing the pottery in a kiln, then dipping the pottery in silver nitrate to make it appear metallic. There was art for sale as well, both abstract and landscape/wildlife paintings.

    We slept in a trailer without electricity or water, using the bathroom at the bar across the street and a wrench to open the trailer door from the inside. Byron wanted to party with us, but we made dinner and hung out in the trailer for the evening. Around 9:30, locals showed up at Byron’s to drink, smoke cigarettes, and chat next to a fire in the front yard. I spent an hour or so soaking in the Jeffery City atmosphere, staying up late to hear their stories and jokes. Today was a long day, if only for the last ten miles of headwind.

    Bicycle Tip of the Day: Don’t ride into a headwind.

    Fun Fact: Jeffery City, now with a population of 50, once thrived with 6,000 residents when it was home to a uranium mine.

  32. Day Sixteen: Rand, CO to Saratoga, WY
    Monday, June 9th

    Distance: 91.22
    Time: 6:24:37
    Average: 14.18

    Waking up in the abandoned house in Rand wasn’t surprising or unnerving; I woke up many times in the night and was sufficiently unnerved by the specifics of our shelter. By the time we got out of our tents and prepared for the chilly morning, I was ready to get out of that house. Weird things happen to people in abandoned places. The morning was cold, but the clear skies gave us views of the surrounding white peaks we had missed last night.

    We passed through Walden, stopping at a post office and shopping at a Dollar Store. The final stretch of Colorado was pleasant, mountains in the distance, cows and fields on either side. We ate PB and J (Isaac) and PB and honey (Megan) tortillas for lunch a few miles after crossing into Wyoming. Crossing into a new state is always a milestone, one state closer to Canada.

    The only town before Saratoga was Riverside, where we filled our water bottles, Camelbaks, and Platypi for the campground. 18 miles later, in Saratoga, we showered in facilities that maintained hot springs (closed due to flooding) and found the campground.

    What a fantastic dinner. Refried bean, rice, and cheese burritos, with a side of scrambled eggs and fresh fruit. Eating so much warm food (last night I had a can of ranch beans and cold mixed vegetables) put me in a great mood for the purple and orange sunset and subsequent night of deep sleep.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: If ever in doubt, check to make sure you have your passport or wallet or whatever valuable you will later need. When doing so, you might discover a tube of toothpaste has emptied itself inside one of your panniers.

    Fun Fact: Staying in the abandoned house, which clearly had a rodent population, put Megan and I at risk of contracting hantavirus, spread to humans when they inhale dust from mouse droppings. Colorado has the second highest number of reports of hantavirus in the country.

  33. Day Fifteen: Silverthorne, CO to Rand, CO
    Sunday, June 8th

    Distance: 96.13
    Time: 7:06:55
    Average: 13.51

    I’ll start by saying that the morning wasn’t awful. The first 40 miles to.Kremmling, CO flew by, much of it downhill, and the forecast for rain where we would be riding later in the day didn’t sound intimidating. We had a morning of rain on our second day in Texas and that was almost fun. This rain, if we even got caught by it, should and would be managable. Quick note: the five miles before Hot Sulfur Springs was the most stunning rock formations of the trip. By noon, we had met our second Trans Am cyclist, a man named Zane, who was headed by way of the Trans Am to NYC to see family and the clouds to the south and north looked… bad.

    When we started the climb to Willow Creek Pass, the clouds were getting thicker and lower, and by the time we ate our delicious PB and J/honey tortillas, the sky was gloomy. It started to rain 3 miles from the summit. It couldn’t have been more than 50 degrees and we were quickly miserable. By the time I reached the summit, I had seen a moose, regretted my decision to not dig out gloves, and climbed my third mountain pass, the second to the Continental Divide.

    The descent was hell. I was alternatively grinning and wimpering, as the high speed forced rain into my shoes and jacket and the temperature dropped to 40 degrees. It was 12 miles to the next town and the worst 12 miles of the trip thus far. When I met a group of Trans Am cyclists headed the other way (but dressed appropriately), my words were slurred from my numb jaw and I only stopped long enough to give the impression that I was horribly unprepared for the weather before continuing to Rand.

    In Rand, we decided to stay the night instead of continuing to Walden, CO as planned and we were pointed to an abandoned house by the owners of Rand’s general store. The house was erie and filthy, but shelter nonetheless, so we ate dinner and set up our tents indoors (to avoid the rat droppings and dust). Exhausted, we went to bed wearing layers around 7:45.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: This comes from the unofficial rules of camping: (Rule number two) there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.

    Fun Fact: Walden, CO, our planned destination today, is the moose viewing capital of the world, taking that title from Fresno, California in 1991 after the California Moose Ban was enacted.

  34. Day Thirteen: Hartsel, CO to Silverthorne, CO
    Friday, June 6th

    Distance: 59.19
    Time: 4:23:49
    Average Speed: 13.46

    Today was the last day before our second rest day in Silverthorne and the second climb of the trip, today’s to Hoosier Pass at 11,542 feet and the highest point of our trip. We woke up to a cold morning and dealt with another flat tire, then started riding around 6:45 in cold weather. There were patches of snow on the ground around us and the snow-capped mountians, after days of being miles away, were close enough to touch. We passed through Fairplay, CO and sent letters from the post office there, then through Alma, and started the 6-mile climb to Hoosier Pass.

    The climb wasn’t tough; I was somewhat disappointed when the climb ended about 30 minutes sooner than I expected. We spent about 20 minutes at the top, taking pictures for other tourists, many surprised by the scale of our trip and very supportive. The descent was steep and curvy, testing our brakes and handling. We ate lunch in Breckenridge and rode the last 14 miles on beautiful bike trails.

    We passed 1,000 miles near Frisco, CO! Megan stopped to take a picture of the odometer and we are happy to surprise people when they hear how far we have already come. We finished just before the rain in Silverthorne at a hotel where we are staying with Megan’s mother. The rest day is welcomed before more mountain riding.

    For the evening, we met Megan’s cousin Adam and his girlfriend Jessica in Silverthorne and ate dinner with them at Modis in Breckenridge, before having drinks around Breckenridge and later more food (pizza) at Bagalis in Frisco. We headed back to the hotel, while Adam and Jessica left to set up at a campground. The rest day will be typical bike shop visits and hunting for gear (can opener, bug spray, that stuff), before more cycling on Sunday.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Check your tires before descending; getting a flat tire at high speeds puts you at a high risk of crashing.

    Fun Fact: We crossed the Continental Divide for the first time today, our water bottles and Camelbaks filled with water from the Atlantic Ocean watershed, which is now headed for the Pacific Ocean.

  35. Day Twelve: Cañon City, CO to Hartsel, CO
    Thursday, June 5th

    Distance: 60.00
    Time: 7:02:45
    Average Speed: 8.53

    Today was the first day climbing in the Rockies. We passed through Cañon City early in morning and began climbing about 12 miles into the day. With all of our gear and an endless incline, we hovered between 5 and 8 miles per hour, agonizingly slow when you know the top is around 20 miles away. The keys to climbing efficiently were: 1) high cadence, no matter how long you have to set your grats, 2) don’t look back and remind yourself how steep the road is, 3) drink water to acclimate, and 4) treat others how you want to be treated (which applies to almost every situation). Close to the top we stopped at a deserted realty office, lunched, and ended up falling asleep in the warm sun.

    Waking up, we climbed another 45 minutes and crossed the mountain pass, descending into Hartsel, CO. It was a tiny town and we ended up camping behind a real estate office (with the permission of the owner!). We ate dinner at the town’s only bar/restaurant and couldn’t get enough of the Hartsel vibe. After dinner, I sat for about an hour in the town’s general store (the Hartsel Merchantile store) and listened to stories about Hartsel, its families, its history, ranch life, its ghosts, and its traditions. The spirit of hard work and sense of community, the two incredibly intertwined, were what will stick with me about Hartsel, along with stories from Cecil and Suzy at the Merchantile Store.

    It rained gently as we went to bed, not a problem in the tents, and the night was cold. We have been fortunate and thankful to have so many showers and beds thus far, but roughing it (smartphones aside) will be equally enjoyable, a reminder that we humans can tolerate much more discomfort than the 21st century provides us. Tomorrow is the another climb, Hoosier Pass, and a long descent to a rest day with Megan’s mother in Silverthorne.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: When starting again after resting on an incline, DO NOT try to clip in going uphill. Your small gear and heavy bike make this exceedingly hard and therefore dangerous.

    Fun Fact: Hartsel, CO is (according to its residents) the geographic center of Colorado and often refered to as the Heart of Colorado. Leaving in any direction requires you to go over a mountain pass.

  36. Howdy from Hartsel! I haven’t been posting nearly as much as Isaac so I thought I’d add an update to our blog. I’ll begin by answering some of the questions that many people ask about our trip.
    Isaac and I are both riding Surly Long Haul Truckers, a hearty touring bike that I used to ride from Georgia to California and it hasn’t failed me yet! We are carrying about 45 pounds of gear each which includes camping gear, spark bike parts and tools, warm and cool weather clothes, toiletries, reading material, food and water.

    Each morning we wake up at 5 and are on the road around 6 or 6:15. We try and crank out the miles in the morning while it’s cool stopping occasionally to snack, although we generally eat every hour while we are biking. We carrying snacks, maps, and sunscreen in our handlebar bags which we can access while we ride. Around lunch time we’ll stop for lunch at a restaurant or tortillas and peanut butter outside a gas station and refill on water. We typically arrive at our destination between 3 and 6pm, finding our accommodations and stopping at a grocery store to reapply. Typically, we either cook dinner or heat up frozen foods depending on our access to a kitchen. We spend the evenings writing notes, posting on the blog/social media, planning the next day route, and reading before heading to bed at 9 and repeating the process.

    Before the trip Isaac and I only knew each other from the triathlon team and Sustained Dialogue. After almost two weeks on the road we’ve become familiar with one another’s general habits, such as my obsession with dinosaurs and Blue Bell ice cream and Isaac’s fascination with number sequences and how things work (and of course his obsession with peanut butter). We spend most of the time riding far apart but occassionally delve into conversations about why sororities have a minimum GPA, how the Grand Canyon was formed, and what the term “Native American” actually means. We also spent an afternoon memorizing the order of the presidents.

    My favorite part of the trip has been meeting kind, fascinating, intelligent people every day. From gas stations to restaurants to churches to cars on the side of the highway we’ve met people from all walks of life who have offered us food, water, lodging, donations, and prayers. Every converation I’ve had has been uplifting and encouraging, and reminds me that what we’re doing is truly a feat. Off to catch up on reading but thanks to everyone who has left us comments on this blog as well!

  37. Day Eleven: Colorado City, CO to Canon City, CO
    Wednesday, June 4th

    Distance: 73.30
    Time: 4:34:17
    Average Speed: 16.03

    The adventure drags on. We woke up with the sunrise, but we were too busy trying to pack up the bikes and eat breakfast to appreciate the dawn. We typically take an hour and 15 minutes to get started (from alarm to clipping into our pedals on the road), an elaborate routine of packing for the day while keeping out things we need for eating breakfast, changing clothes, and cleaning up our room/site/space. Sunscreen and sunglasses now or later? What snacks go in my handlebar bag? Do we need the stove for lunch? When do I put on my cycling shoes with cleats?

    We made good time to Pueblo and becasue the day’s ride was short , we spread out our maps on a table on the patio of Broadway Cup ‘n Cork (a coffee and wine bar), in Pueblo to look at some logistical issues (routes, lodging, food, water) coming up in the more desolate areas of Montana, Wyoming, and Canada. A Dutch man with bike touring experience chatted with us; he had toured France by bike and now taught park management at a local college. Another woman approached us on the patio, and impressed with our trip, paid for our lunch on the condition that we eat at the Daily Grind Cafe on South Union in Pueblo. Eating there, we met a retired surgeon (whose speciality was newborn babies, or ‘puppies’ as he affectionately called them) and ate lunch with him at a table on the sidewalk. For more than an hour, he shared his experiences with academia, cycling, and medicine/surgery, a wonderful way to spend midday in Pueblo. After essentially five hours of sitting in Pueblo, we left for Canon City.

    The 45 remaining miles were tough, despite the apparent decrease in elevation. Ever-changing winds, horrible roads (cracked and gravely), and the break in Pueblo challenged us, but we had enough distractions. For the first time on the trip, we are surrounded by mountains and hills, and we saw llamas and the adorable town of Florence, where we saw signs for candidates running for coroner.

    We are spending the night in a community center, our first night without showers and our first evening sharing a facility with Youth League Baseball registration. Tomorrow is a serious climb to Hartsel and the following days are in the Rockies.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Google Maps, when set to find routes for bicycles, will provide an elevtion profile for the route. You will find this equally helpful and disheartening.

    Fun Fact: Today we hopped on the Trans Am, a bike route from Oregon to Virginia that is the standard for summer-long bike tours. We expect to encounter fellow touring cyclists (and people who understand touring, unlike most Texans) soon.

  38. It was neat to meet both of you yesterday morning at the Coffee Shop downtown Pueblo, Colorado. Since I sensed your interest in speaking other languages when you get bored with longer stretches, here is some encouragement in German, French and Dutch:

    Isaac: Es war schön, euch beide gestern vor dem Café in Pueblo erfüllen. Also–wenn du auf längeren Strecken Reitgelangweilst, du kannst über die Benennung der gesamte roadkill in Deutsch denken: Schildkröte, Stinktier, Hirsche und so weiter. Wiedersehen!

    C’était agréable de vous rencontrer tous les deux hier à l’extérieur du coffee shop à Pueblo. quand vous vous ennuyez sur de plus longues périodes de conduite, pensez à saluer tous les arbres que vous passez en français: pin, chêne, cactus, Joshua tree, etc. Bon voyage et que Dieu vous accompagne!

    Het was erg leuk jullie gisteren even te spreken buiten het café in Pueblo; ik ga je blog volgen en wens je een spannende en toch veilige reis toe!

    Jeff Stuyt

  39. Day Ten: Raton, NM to Colorado City, CO
    Tuesday, June 3rd

    Distance: 80.52
    Time: 4:57:55
    Average Speed: 16.21
    Max Speed (on descent): 52.43

    The day began with an hour-long climb of Raton Pass, which tops out at 7,834 feet of elevation, and a photo-op with the Welcome to Colorado sign. We then donned jackets for the descent (the speed, altitude, and sweat from the climb made us cold) and sped down to Trinidad, CO. The somewhat small climb and descent were managable and we will have much higher, longer climbs later this week.

    As I am learning, the direction of the wind relative to your direction of travel can be the difference between 4 hours and 6 hours for identical routes, between high-energy excitement to be on a bike tour and misery, absolute misery. Today we had comically strong crosswinds from the west. The wind jerked us around and almost blew us off the road at times. Towards the end of the day, the windspeed approached 30 mph with 40 mph gusts, unpredictable and scary to someone balanced on two wheels, feet clipped in. The short day (80 miles) saved us from dealing with the wind for too long.

    We ate lunch in Walsenburg, CO, at a small Mexican-American place called Tim’s on Main Street. Seeing small towns in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, many still reliant on the same industries they relied on when they were founded, reminds me that exploration westward was an exciting chapter in American history, one that still being written with wind turbines, oil wells, and a massive tourism industry centered around natural beauty.

    Tonight is our first night camping outdoors, the first night we get to hear crickets, swat insects, and fear foraging animals who share my love of peanut butter. We will come to miss the showers and beds we enjoyed the first week of the trip, but for now, camping is new and enjoyable.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Check your tires every night and repair or inflate them as necessary. Dealing with a flat in the morning is not a good way to start your day.

    Fun Fact: One of the states we have traveled through (TX, NM, CO) touches the Atlantic Ocean. Guess which one, then check your guess using a map of the United States and surrounding oceans.

    1. Isaac,
      I am Jay Mears, Caroline Mears’ father. Caroline is a friend of Megan’s from UVA. I am an avid cyclist and have enjoyed reading your daily blogs. We actually just started following you and your blogs tonight, having read through all of your entries for each day. We love your writing style! We feel like we are there with you. When you give us your average pace each day, is that in mgh or kph? I saw your maximum speed of 52 and it made me wonder, is that mph or kph? I’ve been 40 mph on a down hill in the Blue Ridge and found I did not want to go any faster. Keep up the great writing, stay healthy, and stay safe to both of you. Maybe we could talk to both you and Megan one evening on the phone.
      Take care and God speed,
      Jay Mears

      1. Hi Mr. Mears! So good to hear from you and thanks for following our journey! All speeds are in mph and will be in Canada as well. We’re each carrying about 45-55 pounds on our bikes (depending on how much food and water we’re carrying) and so we’re able to reach extremely high speeds when going downhill. My max speed so far was 45mph and reaching those speeds can definitely be nerve racking!

  40. Day Mine: Clayton, NM to Raton, NM
    Monday, June 2st

    Distance: 83.22
    Time: 6:47:25
    Average Speed: 12.38

    Many days start miserably and end well, where the morning feels endless because miles 0 through 40 are just an effort to get halfway and the afternoon feels good because we have, at most, 4 or 5 hours left. Today, we started out of Clayton at 6:00 am with a strong crosswind and a chilling light drizzle. The sun didnt come out until 10:30 and we had a serious headwind for most of the morning as well. Add yesterday’s decision to push the milage. We were dead by noon.

    We ate lunch in the village of Des Moines at Sierra Grande cafe. The large group of locals dining were intrigued by our trip and many had the interesting advice, completely unrelated to our bike trip, that we get as much education (graduate school, PhD) as we could when we were young.

    When we left Des Moines, we were 38 miles from Raton. Most of the ride to Raton was downhill with incredible scenery. After more than a week in Texas, we began to come across larger rock formations. A volcano. Plateuas and hills. 19 miles from Raton, we saw the Rockies, snow-capped and on the horizon, a preview of the comimg days and a reminder of the massive distance we have already covered.

    In Raton, we bought groceries for the next few meals and arrived at our lodging for the night, a Baptist church who graciously offered a kitchen, showers, and a kitchen to us for the night. We cooked pasta with pesto and vegetables, preparing for our first serious climb tomorrow morning, Raton Pass. We will enter Colorado early tomorrow, making this a 3-state tour in just 9 days.

    Bicycle Touring Tip of the Day: Use tape or string to help distinguish between bags of gear. As I have learned, this won’t help you find things faster, but at least I feel organized.

    Fun Fact: I finished my first jar of peanut butter by emptying a packet of uncooked instant oatmeal into it and eating the dry, sticky mixture with delight. Don’t worry; I bought another jar this evening.

    1. Yum! Peanut butter and uncooked oats is a wonderful treat ! Am enjoying following your journey daily. Hang tough.

    2. You guys are doing just great! I’m really enjoying your blog entries and I’m a bit envious. Keep on pedaling!

    3. Isaac & Megan,

      Great job. It looks like you’ve already covered over 800 miles. I’m enjoying the blog and watching your movements on the internet. I check it hourly while working. You’re close to Canon City which is where Sharon, Owen and I went white water rafting 10 days ago. Enjoy the ride and stay safe.

  41. Day Eight: Amarillo, TX to Clayton, NM
    Sunday, June 1st

    Distance: 128.14
    Time: 7:38:57
    Average Speed: 16.78

    We woke up early in Amarillo, 5:00am, in order to ride more in the cool morning and to arrive in Dalhart (our intented destination for the day) with time to spare. Watching the sun rise 45 minutes into the ride was worth the early wake up and we expect to wake up at 5:00 am from now on, except on rest days. We spent the morning winding through relatively untouched land. No farming, no livestock, just the occasional house, with greenish brown land as far as you could see. The atmosphere, not geography, limited how far we could see at some points, the horizon hazy.

    We benifited from a strong tailwind from Amarillo to Dalhart and finished the 80 miles around 12:20 pm. We ate lunch at a Subway and got stared at by Texans, then decided to ride another 46 miles to Clayton. Why? Our legs were fresh from the rest day. The tailwind had been strong. Tomorrow brings headwinds. Egos and endorphins. The 36 miles to the TX/New Mexico border were easy enough (Megan had one flat tire), and we took pictures at the Welcome to New Mexico (Land of Enchantment) sign, our first border crossing. It’s great to be out of Texas, with its boring landscape and heat, and we head for the Rockies with ever-strengthening legs and minds.

    We finished after 12 hours on the road, 7.5 riding. I’m not sure what the 4.5 off the bike was… The last 10 miles were ugly, windy and rocky, and I choked up a bit when I saw the sign for the hotel we are spending the night in. I didn’t cry; I just teared up and made a sound with my throat and was happy to be done. I’ve never biked this far before, not to mention with packs, though the tailwind was significant. It only felt like 85 miles.

    Tonight we are staying in a hotel room donated to us by the Clayton Gospel Church; staying in a hotel (beds, showers, free breakfast) is a blessing. We aren’t preparing ourselves for the rugged accomotations in Canada, but being able to recover from today inside is a treat.

    Touring Cycling Tip of the Day: To wash bike shorts without a washing machine, rinse them in hot water and rub them with soap. Hang them to dry off the back of your bike on the following day’s ride.

    Fun Fact: Tasoca, TX was once the heart of the Wild West frontier, with outlaws and quick draw shoot-outs. The town now consists of the Boys Ranch, a small community that provides group homes and a supportive environment for boys.

    1. So relieved to read that you went beyond your planned destination! When I checked the GPS location and then the route, I wondered … – just so you know you are being followed and I don’t even work for the government!!

      Question of the day: What are you wearing when you are drying your bike shorts?

  42. Day Seven: Rest Day in Amarillo

    Today was our first rest day! We slept in until 8 am and spent the morning organizing our gear and doing laundry for the first time. Pippa Mason, a friend of Megan’s from UVa and barely an acquaintance of mine, drove up from her taxidermy internship in Lubbock, TX to drive us around and spend the day seeing the sights of Amarillo.

    We ate lunch immediately when Pippa arrived at Hummer’s, a burger and specialty beer restaurant recommended by our hosts in Amarillo. It wasn’t until lunch that I realized I wouldn’t be cycling 80-some miles that day, which is more disappointing than it sounds. How can I adopt this touring cyclist identity if I’m stopping every seven or eight days to ‘give my body time to recover’ and ‘explore historical and cultural attractions’? It appears the lazy American attitude has become a part of even the most athletic endeavors.

    We saw the Palo Duro Canyon, the Rhode Island of canyons, which was the site of a 24-hour mountain bike race when we visited. We also visited the Cadillac Ranch, where about 10 Cadillacs are buried nose-first in the desert and funny-looking tourists paint the cars with spray paint cans that litter the site. We spent 30 minutes spraying various signs, symbols, and messages on the cars. Then we made a necessary trip to Wal-Mart, a mom-and-pop retail store unique to Amarillo, for groceries and a few pieces of bike gear.

    We returned to our hosts’ house, made ourselves dinner, and packed up to leave at 6 am tomorrow. Tomorrow is an 80-mile day to Dalhart, which should be easy after the rest.

    In the interest of retaining credibility, I need to say that Pippa isn’t doing a taxidermy internship.

    1. Hahahahaha “taxidermy internship” I’m dying. I’m enjoying reading y’all’s blog in between stuffings and stitchin’s.

      So glad I got to see y’all and I hope Isaac might refer to me as something better than “barely an acquaintance” now!

  43. Thanks to everyone that is following our trip, hosting us, and making donations! I am continually humbled by the generosity and kindness of everyone we come into contact with and everyone cheering us on. We have raised 10% of our fundraising goal for the World Bicycle Relief and have finished week one of our trip! Today we enjoyed our rest day in Amarillo, TX exploring Palo Duro Canyon, spray painting at Cadillac Ranch, and spending time with fell UVA student, Pippa Mason, who graciously chauffeured us for the afternoon. Thank you also to the White Family for hosting us for two nights at their home in Amarillo. We are feeling well rested and prepared for the next leg of our journey out of Texas (finally!) into New Mexico and Colorado.

    If you’d like to send us any mail you can send it to the following address:
    Megan Bentzin or Isaac Mackey
    c/o Freeheel & Wheel
    40 Yellowstone Ave.
    West Yellowstone, MT 59758
    We will be passing through this bike store around June 16th so make sure it arrives before then and we’d love to hear from y’all!

    We are carrying a SPOT GPS tracking device with us and you can follow our hourly progress at this link: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0j8XSrMqJTU64kr93oGcQkpaq7DbEmGVz

    You can also see pictures and other updates about the trip on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/austintoanchorage

  44. Day Six: Plainview, TX to Amarillo, TX
    Friday, May 30th

    Distance: 73.44
    Time: 5:45:09
    Average Speed: 12.77

    We woke up around 5:30am (only manageable because we went to bed around 9:00pm) and got an early start on the day, a good way to avoid riding the heat and to feel proactive. This was our shortest day so far, just over 70 miles, and our legs have recovered from the day to Sweetwater and become acclimated to the mileage. We are now bracing for the Rockies a week away (not sure why we are going through the Rockies…) and are thankful the Texas heat will soon be behind us.

    The day felt short; we had a tailwind and were on a road with absolutely no traffic for 90% of the ride. I know we will miss the flat roads and occasionally beneficial winds of Texas, but there is no variety in the landscape; the most memorable part of this day’s route was seeing tumbleweed for the first time.

    Thus far, Megan and I have been having about two flats a day. Still somewhat inexperienced with patching tubes, I am annoyed both with the time I spend on the side of the road and with the 10 minutes of nervous glancing at my wheels to make sure the patch will hold. Finally, after days of flats, I invested in better tires at Sun Adventure Sports where a fantastic mechanic named Tony showed Megan and I many of the ins and outs of tires, tubes, and bikes. After the initial six days, we are starting to understand the problems specific to touring and continue to seek advice about repair, nutrition, safety, and touring.

    Tonight in Amarillo, TX, we are staying with a friend of the Bentzin’s, who cooked a meal for us and graciously offered beds. Over dinner, we discussed key aspects of Texas culture: cows, feeding cows, selling cows, herding cows, rodeos, cowboys.

    Touring Cycling Tip of the Day: Group all of your gear (clothes, tools, food,…) in plastic bags inside your panniers. This makes your gear easier to organize, less smelly, easier to pack, and water- and dirt-proof.

    Fun Fact: Some colleges in Texas give rodeo scholarships, similar to any other athletic scholarship. Here’s a quote from a website aimed at recruiting collegiate riders: Tarleton State University has no insurance on the rodeo team members and is not liable for any injuries. Students should know the risk of rodeo and traveling.

    1. I hope the knowledge of Texas culture and the habits of cows will weave its way into some aspect of your next academic year!!!! Be safe. Love you.

    2. When I was 7 years old, living in Witchita Falls, TX, my friends and I used to make forts out of tumbleweeds. I’m pretty sure that hanging out in them was how I got lice one summer.

  45. enjoying the blog. no ideas for fighting boredom since i am guessing headphones are not a good idea for safety sake. glad you two are keeping up and only having minor setbacks. i want an armadillo photo, and tumbleweed would be cool, too! sleep well…

  46. Day Five: Post, TX to Plainview, TX
    Thursday, May 29th

    Distance: 77.38
    Time: 6:14:15
    Average Speed: 12.41

    As our average speed suggests, today was fast. Sleeping on beds in Post and having more time to recover from the 108 miles to Sweetwater made us stronger. Having strength is useless, and mildly annoying, when you get three flat tires in the first 30 miles of the day. For those unaquainted with bike repair, changing a flat tire is a lot like solving a Rubik’s cube with your feet; it gets easier with practice, but once the colors are matching (actually, never mind, the comparison breaks down pretty quickly)… Anyway, I spent the morning changing flats while Megan biked ahead.

    The landscape today was what I originally expected Texas to be: very flat, dry dirt, blue sky and unforgiving sun, sparse vegetation, few inhabitants. The only town we passed through was Slaton, TX, after which was 55 miles without water or any other facilities. Texas has been in a drought for over a decade and it shows in the acres of unused land and dried plants. We even saw our first batch of tumbleweed! While it was easily 85 degrees, the wind and our body’s capacity for internal temperature regulation kept us cool.

    The mental games, the weird products of boredom, continued today. Megan spent part of the day memorizing the prologue of Romeo and Juliet and will start tomorrow on the order of US presidents. I sang to myself (Symphony of Science and raggae and whatever else) and marveled at the machine-state (food/water in, legs move, distance covered) we are entering, especially as we become accustomed to the millage, and stared at the ever-changing road in front of my tire.

    Tonight we are staying in a lively YMCA in Plainview, TX. We ate mediocre Mexican food for dinner (Carlitos) and are now preparing for tomorrow and for bed.

    Touring Cycling Tip of the Day (new feature): Eating consistently, especially when you aren’t hungry, prevents binge eating at lunch and afternoon bloating and drowsiness.

    Fun Fact: We ate lunch in an abandoned house build and inhabited by descendents of slaves. The owner of the property it current sits on said people use it now to hide out from the law.

    1. I enjoyed getting to meet y’all last night and hoped you enjoyed our “lively” Y. We certainly were happy to host y’all. Good luck on your ride and I will pray for safe travel for you. Hope your ride to Amarillo has gone smoothly (and that I was right about the service roads). I enjoyed reading your blog posts and will continue to do so. Keep pedaling. By the way, Isaac, load up on those breakfast tacos while you still can. That’s good stuff, man.

  47. Day Four: Sweetwater, TX to Post, TX
    Wednesday, May 28th

    Distance: 81.05
    Time: 7:11:24
    Average Speed: 11.28

    Today was full of moral and ethical dilemmas, complex situational analysis, and information-intensive decision making. Just joking; it was 80 miles on one road and the only stop necessary was for lunch in the one town between Sweetwater and Post. The word of the day was monotony. Monotony with a slight headwind. To pass time, I counted to 1000, then again by 2s (2,4,6…1000) then again by 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. Megan had conversations with herself in French. We talked about Harry Potter, Kim Kardashian, and Peter Stebbins. I’m hysterically bored on the bike; please advise!

    The surroundings today were more wind turbines, shrubs, and roadkill. We saw a number of wellheads (the crane-like machines that rock up and down, pumping money), looking outdated near the wind farms, and more geological features that rise out of and cut through the landscape. Megan and I are both excited to leave Texas and head toward cooler, more hospitable climates.

    Right now, I am eating humus (#IordanTrenkov) and other high protein foods we bought for dinner. We are staying in a Best Western, fantastic accomodations (we were going to camp in the local park), after my father connected me with some kind people in Post, and I expect we will miss these nights (beds and showers) when we travel through Wyoming and Canada.

    Lastly, as a disclaimer for something I said on Day Two, Megan and I haven’t been shoplifting. Shoplifting with bikes as getaway vehicles is a worse exit strategy than, say, cycling to Anchorage, Alaska to avoid an arranged marriage.

    Fun Fact: Despite copious amounts of sunscreen every few hours, Megan and I are burning and getting significant tan lines. This tells me we should start applying it directly to our skin instead of drinking it.

  48. Day Three: Bangs, TX to Sweetwater, TX
    Tuesday, May 27th

    Distance: 108.08
    Time: 9:39:58
    Average Speed: 11.17

    I think I burned more calories today than I have on any other day in my life. That’s not to say other days of exertion were easier (my ribs cook-off with the runner-up from the 2007 season of Top Chef involved more sweat and blood than the actual slaughtering of the cows), but today was notably hard. I woke up sore, changed a flat tire sore, and started sore, knowing but somehow not intimidated by how much distance we would cover. For about a third of the route, we rode into a headwind, part of the way through one of the wind farms started by T. Boone Pickens, where all of the windmills were positioned to receive wind from the direction we were headed. Seeing the signs for Sweetwater, even those designating our position as 50 and 36 miles away, were motivating enough to get us through the wind. We finished the 108 miles just as the night fell, bought pasta and fruit for dinner, and set up ‘camp’ in the gymnasium of the Church of Christ in Sweetwater, TX.

    What did we see today? 4000 windmills (I counted 215 at one point), a 19-year old guy in Subway with a fresh tatoo of his “baby mama’s initials”, bored livestock, a tarantula, mesas (ask your geology friends what those are), Texans, Wingate, TX (Google Maps Street view it), and plenty of creatures that will never, ever make it all the way across the road.

    Doing our highest milage day on the third day of the trip was clearly Megan’s decision, but now that we are past it I know what to expect from my body on the longer days and what to expect from Megan’s decisions. Seriously, doing over 100 miles with 40 pounds of gear is hard. Probably harder than childbirth (I can only say that with anecdotal evidence). Tomorrow will be around 83 miles, which sounds managable.

    Lastly, I’ve started doing things to fight the boredom and make the trip more memorable. 1) This. 2) Taking pictures of all the cemetaries we pass. 3) Eating and drinking. 4) Yelling aggressively or mooing and neighing (depending on my mood) at cows and horses. All of these things barely make a dent in the immense boredom I’m experiencing, so email me or Facebook message me to suggest new habits. Thanks!

  49. Day Two: Lampasas, TX to Bangs, TX
    Monday, May 26th (Memorial Day)

    Distance: 91.10
    Time: 7:12:26
    Average Speed: 12.73

    We started, according to Facebook pictures, in the rain. 22 miles in rain. I had been scared of the rain before the trip, concerned about precipitation, worried about the weather. As it turns out, riding in the rain does two things: it gets everything not in a waterproof bag wet and it builds character. As someone with extraordinarily poor character, I was happy to ride soaked for the marginal gains in personality. Megan and I wondered what the cars passing us thought of the two drenched cyclists heading toward the thunder and lightning. Actually, riding in the rain was entertaining and many times I thought to myself wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.

    Once we got out of the rain and I ate my first scoop of peanut butter of the trip from my personal jar, straight from the bag on my handlebars, the day became more enjoyable. For the people not aquainted with peanut butter, it’s a cheap, fatty, protein-y paste, the perfect snack for dogs, young children, and touring cyclists. We road until around Mills County, which was, according to a sign, hold the coveted title Meat Goat Capital of the World. There we ate PB and honey tortillas, with bananas and ribs from the dinner yesterday for lunch.

    We took an incorrect turn in Early, TX after 65 miles and were alerted to our mistake by Megan’s father who has seen our mistake while following the GPS unit we have and sent a police car to catch us. We, thinking we had been seen shoplifting, tried our best to speed ahead of the cop but ultimately stopped. We weren’t disheartened by the incorrect turn because we were only 16 miles from our WarmShowers host and riding in pleasant weather.

    We finished the 91 miles and were treated to chicken soup and rice by our host, who told us about his research into variety of subjects, including assassinations, drug cartels, and biological weapons. After the truly fascinating conversation and showers, we went to bed as a thunderstorm rolled in.

    Fun Fact: A lot of animals are killed by cars. Skunks, armadillos, snakes, deer, dogs, turtles, frogs, and vultures. All seen dead on the road today, all good sources of protein.

  50. Day One: Austin, TX to Lampasas, TX

    Distance: 83.81
    Time: 6:34:48
    Average Speed: 12.88

    Today was not special or meaningful; May 25th was yet another 24-hour waste of mental and physical energy. Just joking. It was a definite beginning to what will, along with my blond hair and ability to juggle, define me to others for years to come.

    We got breakfast tacos from Magnolia Cafe in Austin and set up our bikes to leave from the Texas State Capitol building in the heart of Austin. At 8:00 am (CDT), we took pictures and rode away. Joining Megan and I for the first day was Quinton, Megan’s brother, who had his own Surly Long Haul Trucker for a cross country trip that starts in June. We slowly left Austin, passing dozens (sets of twelve) of local cyclists on their Sunday morning escape from wives and children and began a tally of the livestock we passed to fight the inevitable boredom. It drizzled and stopped and rained and stopped, our first experience with rain. Overall, the departure felt gentle, because of the how large Austin is and how smooth the morning went.

    The sun, the Texas sun, came out at noon and shortly after, we stopped in Bertram, TX and ate at Highway 29 Barbeque. Then we spent about 35 miles on quiet, scenic roads past miles of identical dense brush and ranches, the perfect reminder that our struggle with boredom might eventually consume us and lead to madness. When we got to Lampasas around 3:45 pm (CDT), we continued northwest on Route 183. As we neared the end of the day, Megan and I noted the ominous dark clouds we were riding toward and suddenly, the rain slammed into us. A motorist stopped near us as we were putting on rain gear and insisted we get in his car, as he had driven through the approaching storm and feared for our safety. We learned he was an avid touring cyclist and high school graduate, and we stayed in his parked car until Megan’s father picked us up. We spent the evening at the ranch house of a family friend, where we ate barbeque and played board and card games.

    Tomorrow, we will drive to the spot on Route 183 we were saved from the torential rain and spend the entire day riding on Route 183 toward Bangs, TX.

    Fun Fact: This was the first day I’ve cycled with panniers (bags on the bike), the first day Megan and I have riden together, and the first day I’ve eaten a breakfast taco.

  51. Megan, our daughter Elizabeth (friend of you Dad’s) sent us info about your trip. Many years ago we were neighborhood friends of your grandmother and Elizabeth knew we’d be interested to hear of your adventure. It’s a very impressive thing you’re doing and for a great cause. Have fun while you’re working hard.
    Best regards,
    Rob and Mary Palmer

  52. The Day Before The Trip Starts (Austin, TX)

    We spent the day making final preparations for our departure tomorrow morning. In the morning we took inventory of our supplies, much of which had been shipped to Austin and never properly inspected, and methodically laid them out on the garage floor while checking them off of our packing lists. Then, we (along with Megan’s cousin Ben) ate lunch at the headquarters of Whole Foods and drove around Austin to a bike shop (Bike Sport Shop on South Lamar) and REI to pick up last minute items (and to true Isaac’s wheels). We spent the alternatively sunny and rainy afternoon in Megan’s garage, adding to the bikes the panniers (bike packs), bike computers, lights, and other gear and continuing with the packing process. To test some of the cooking supplies, we made scrambled eggs, the first of many extraordinarily simple and nutritious ‘meals’, with the help of Megan’s dad and fantasized about the meals we will attempt once on the road.

    Around 4 pm, we began truly packing our panniers. While collecting all of the repair tools, camping gear, clothing, biking accessories, etc. lasted months, it doesn’t seem like we were taking much once it was packed away into neat little bags… and then I got on my bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) to ride my first truly-laden bike. Let’s just say that I’m thankful Texas will be flat and that for every foreboding uphill, there will be an equally kind downhill.

    After a long afternoon of running trip-related errands and packing, we grabbed dinner with Megan’s father, cousin, and brother, and her brother’s girlfriend at the Austin restaurant South Congress Cafe. After finishing the packing and taking care of a number of logistics (Canadian highways!) back home, we prepared for our last relatively comfortable night. From now on, we will be in sleeping bags and on strangers’ couches and I’m not sure which I’m less excited for.

    It’s unbelievable that we are one day away; the start was, of course, inevitable, but it wasn’t until we had everything in the panniers and were talking about what time to leave from the steps of the Texas State Capitol building in Downtown Austin that it began to feel real. Tomorrow, Megan’s brother will accompany us on the first ride, 70 miles to Lampasas, TX, as he will be starting his own cross country cycling tour later this summer. Here’s to a smooth start!

    Fun Fact: Megan and I discovered we have the same blood type, perfect for emergency transfusions.

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