american journeys   


Gary and Peter Ride Across America In 2004
 June 12 - August 21, 2004

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Day 48 (Saturday, August 7, 2004): 
We stayed overnight in Soda Springs, ID, and walked two blocks to see the town geyser blow 100 feet into the air at 8:00 PM last evening (8/6). This morning we went to the Geyser View Restaurant in the Soda Springs Hotel for breakfast at 7:00 AM: This is a well preserved old hotel that is worth a visit just to see how hotels in this part of the world looked in the 1920's.

Peter and Gary wheeled onto US Rt. 30W at 7:55 AM. The air temperature was very cool, and there was no wind. The road was flat with only a small shoulder, but there was very little traffic. We flew along so easily that Gary was sure that this was going to be a 100 mile day. However, the conditions changed after about 10 miles when we encountered Fish Creek Mountain. Before I tell about the mountain, I want to mention two things: First, We are still on the path that the Oregon and the California Emigrant Trails, and it was near Soda Springs that these two trails parted. Story boards along the road tell interesting bits of the story of these trails, and a few of the storyboards are shown in the picture gallery to entice you to make your own visit to this area. Second, Idaho is the potato state, and we encountered potato fields for the first time on this trip as we approached Fish Creek Mountain (see photos).

Fish Creek Mountain rises abruptly from a broad flat valley and US Rt. 30W climbs up the side of this mountain on a 1.5 mile long roadbed graded at about 4% going up from the east and at about 5% going down toward the west (our direction of travel). Peter rode up this mountain slowly but with no problems, whereas Gary had to get off his bike after about 1/3 rd mile because he could not breathe fast enough to get the oxygen his body needed. When the summit of over 8,000 feet was reached, we had another shock: A mighty headwind was blowing up the valley that we were going to descend into. As a result, our descent was rather slow (never more than 20 MPH) even though we were going down a steep incline. And this headwind stayed with us the rest of the day: Sometimes these winds were mild and at times they were so strong that we had difficulty making forward progress.

The scenery all day was beautiful. The mountains around were semi-arid, but they do have patches of trees. Where the ground was flat enough, there were fields of wheat or barley or hay. About18 miles from Pocatello, ID (our destination for the day), US Rt. 30 joined I-15N, and we rode up onto the shoulder of this interstate highway with the confidence of bicycle riders who had experience riding on interstate highways. This road took us north through a long broad valley that may have been the bed of a rushing river in ages past: Ridges of rocks from ancient volcanic activity ran parallel to the road, and sagebrush grew where there was enough soil. And the headwinds blew as we pedaled along up a long gradual grade with a few significant hills thrown in for good measure.

We arrived in Pocatello at 2:15 PM. (Gary took a picture of the "Welcome to Pocatello" sign for Barbara Brekus because this is her hometown.) We had ridden 53 miles this day bringing our mileage for the trip to date up to 2,768 miles. We are on schedule, and we expect to arrive in Newport, OR (the official end of our ride), on Sunday, August 22, 2004.

Day 49 (Sunday, August 8, 2004):  I forgot to mention in my comments for yesterday that Peter had a spoke incident that was interesting and troublesome too. Near the end of our riding day, Peter rode over a stick lying on the shoulder of the road, and the stick flew up and lodged in the spokes of his rear wheel. When the stick reached the rear forks, it locked up the rear wheel causing this wheel to skid along on the pavement until Peter was able to stop his machine completely. The damage done was one spoke broken at the nipple (in the rear wheel) and the part of the tire that had skidded on the road was worn down to the spiral wire in the center of the rubber (Peter has English style tiring on his ordinary bicycle). Peter spent a couple of hours replacing the spoke, and retiring, his rear wheel. Gary did his update for our web-site and then cleaned and polished his bicycle.

Peter and Gary rode out of the Thunderbird Motel in Pocatello, ID (where we had stayed the night), at 8:00 AM. We rode past the restaurant where we had had breakfast and stopped to show off our bicycles to the staff who had been asking about them. We then drove through he center of town with almost no traffic since it was early on Sunday morning, which is one of my favorite things to do.

After riding about 5 miles we were at the north end of town (on US Rt. 30N), and we came upon a huge Simplot potato processing factory. For those who do not know what the Simplot Company is, this is one of the largest potato processing companies (a private company owed by Mr. Simplot) in America, and they make all the French fries for McDonalds besides having many other customers.

Immediately after passing the Simplot factory, we turned left onto I-86W. This took us past many fields of potatoes and rotation crops such as hay and wheat, into Snake River country that was spectacular, and then up a gradual rise of many miles through country that was very arid and devoid of physical features (I.e., typical high desert). About 65 miles from Pocatello, I-86 terminated when it joined I-84 that goes west and north to Boise, ID, and beyond. We rode on the shoulder of this interstate highway for 14 miles into Burley, ID (our day's destination), and we were not impressed: The surface of the shoulders was very rough, the traffic level was high, and the bridges over streams, crossroads, and canals, were narrow without shoulder space for bicycles forcing us onto the main roadbed. We survived, but this part of our ride was not fun.

We arrived in Burley, ID, at 4:30 PM having ridden 78 miles for today bringing our total mileage for the ride to date up to 2,846 miles.

A beer and a glass of wine helped Gary and Irene relax: Peter made himself a cup of hot coffee to accomplish the same effect. After relaxing, Gary had a shower and changed into regular clothes before he went outside the motel room to repair a spoke (front wheel) that had broken just before we left I-86 and got onto I-84: This makes 3 broken spokes (all in the front wheel) for Gary on this trip.

Note: Our sag wagon is having problems: On two occasions on the road, it would not start after Irene had sat waiting for Peter and Gary to arrive on their bicycles. We will take time out tomorrow morning to have the car checked out at the Chrysler dealer in Burley. We have time since our destination tomorrow is Twin Falls, ID, which is only about 36 miles from Burley.

Day 50 (Monday, August 9, 2004):  Our day started with a visit to the Chrysler dealer on Burley, ID, to have our sag wagon made reliable. You will recall that Irene has had trouble starting our sag wagon on two occasions, and we do not want her to be stranded in some desolate place while Peter and Gary are riding off into oblivion. The prognosis was that the battery was not strong enough to withstand the hours of listening to audio books that Irene is using to fill in the hours. (After this, will Irene be "well read" or "well listened"? The solution was to buy a more powerful battery for the car, which, of course, cost a lot of money. But the cost is worth it if it keeps our sag wagon on the go.

Peter and Gary rode out of the Best Western Motel on Burley, ID, at 8:00 AM, but the first stop was only about 0.1 miles down the road at the local Chrysler dealer. This stop was for 1 hour while the sag wagon was diagnosed during which time Peter amazed the staff of the dealership with his riding skills and tricks. At 9:00 AM we rode out of the Chrysler dealership (Bonanza Motors), and onto US Rt. 30W heading for Twin Falls, ID (our destination for this day)

This day's riding was entirely different from yesterday. We started by riding over the Snake River on a low wide bridge in the city of Burley, and we were in rich farm country almost immediately. And the secret of the agricultural richness of this area is WATER from the Snake River. I will not go into this story in detail, but, in riding through this high desert country, it is not difficult to see the difference between what it looks like when water is not present in contrast to what it becomes when water is present. Potato is king out here, but potatoes can only be grown on a piece of land two or three years after which a rotation crop must be grown there, so you see many different crops on either side of the road (most common are barley, alfalfa, hay, beans, sugar beet, and corn). Outside of Burley, I noticed a McCains potato processing plant, and I took a picture of this plant to show my Canadian friends that the cross border invasion of business is not all one way.

We arrived at the Best Western Motel in Twin Falls at 2:00 PM after having ridden up and down Blue Lakes Blvd. only to find out that our motel was 1.2 miles west of this road on US Rt. 93. Our mileage for the day was 39 miles (not counting the 3 miles extra that we did going up and down Blue Lakes Blvd.) which brings our total mileage for the trip up to 2,885 miles.

About 5:00 PM (when it had cooled down), we drove to the Snake River Gorge on the edge of Twin Falls: This is a 1,000 foot deep gorge that the Snake River dug in the earth over the centuries when it was a raging river. Today, the Snake River is only a small tame river due to the removal of most of the water from this river to irrigate the thousands of acres of farmland that has been developed on both sides of the river. Next we drove up to Shoshone Falls (on the Snake River about 4 miles east of Twin Falls) to see a virtual trickle of water going over what had been one of the biggest, and highest, falls in America. Water and food are necessary to feed our burgeoning masses, but there is a price that must be paid.

Day 51 (Tuesday, August 10, 2004):  Knowing that the day was going to be hot (I forgot to mention that it got fairly hot yesterday in the afternoon), we rushed through our morning routine, and we rode out of the Best Western Motel in Twin Falls, ID, at 7:15 AM. The advantages of an early start were in full force today (I.e., only light traffic, cool air temperature, long shadows that accentuate everything (see photo of shadows cast on the road by Peter and Gary).

Today's route followed US Rt. 30 all the way to Bliss, ID (our destination for the day). This road took us through small farm towns like Buhl and Hagerman, it sometimes ran along the Snake River and sometimes on the bluff overlooking the river, and we saw many springs gushing large volumes of water from north wall of the river's gorge (see photo of a roadside sign that explains the geology of these springs). And for lunch we picnicked in a roadside park near the river. The one big test of our abilities of this day was a 1.5 mile pull out of the Snake River gorge about 4 miles from the end of our day's ride. Both Gary and Peter managed to ride the entire hill, but Gary was soaked in sweat and panting furiously by the time the top was reached. As we approached the town of Bliss, we were stopped by a reporter for the county newspaper: Someone who saw us pass through Hagerman had called the newspaper, and the photographer was sent out to find us and to get our story.

We ended our riding day on arrival at the Y Inn Motel in Bliss, ID, at 1:30 PM. We had ridden 43 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,928 miles. It was a short day, but we wanted to avoid the heat of the day and the next motel was about 40 miles further on. Stopping early has some advantages: Gary gets his writing for the web page done early, Peter had time to retire his rear wheel again (this is the fifth time on this trip), and we could all do some reading and relaxing.

Day 52 (Wednesday, August 11, 2004):  Last night Peter occupied himself for a couple of hours changing the rubber on his wheels. The used rubber that he had put on his rear wheel three days ago had worn through to the wire so this had to be discarded. He finally decided to put the new good rubber that he had purchased from Tony Huntington on his front wheel, and to use the lousy rubber that he had put new on his front wheel only a week ago on his rear wheel. I think that this arrangement will get Peter to the end of our ride across America with only one more change of the rear wheel rubber: Anyway, let's hope it does. The first picture for today shows how great Peter looks with his newly shod ordinary bicycle at the start of our ride this day.

Peter and Gary were up early, had their breakfast, and they rode out of the Y Inn Motel in Bliss, ID, at 7:25 AM. We rode out onto US Rt. 30W which joined I-84W almost immediately. A few miles down I-84W we encountered 12 miles of road reconstruction that had both directions of traffic forced onto the two eastbound lanes with orange traffic cones separating the two directions of traffic. The shoulder that we had to ride on was never wider than 2 feet which meant that there was only a few inches separating trucks going 65+ MPH from the ends of our handlebars. If we were hit on a regular stretch of the road, we would be tossed out onto the gravel and dirt alongside the road (there was a chance that we would survive the event, but if we were hit while crossing the two long bridges over the Snake River that we had to cross, it is almost certain that we would be dead in the water that was about 80 feet below the road. This 12 miles of road was the scariest of all that we have encountered so far on this ride across America. We were photographed by a construction worker who was overheard to say, "Well, that's the weirdest thing that I've ever seen going down my highway job."

Soon after riding out of the reconstruction area, we saw a sign at the side of the road that announced "FREQUENT HIGH WINDS". And sure enough, as we entered this stretch of the road, we encountered a fairly high wind, and it was a tail wind that carried us all the way into Boise. With this tail wind blowing us along, we arrived at Mountain Home, ID (44 miles from our starting point and the town that was to have been our destination for the day) at 11:00 AM. Since it was so early, we decided to push on to Boise, ID, which was 40 miles further up the road.

This stretch of our route was through high dry desert, which has a beauty of its own, but, in the absence of other objects of interest to focus on, I began to think about the debris that collects along side of the road. This train of though started when we spotted a dead owl on the shoulder: We have seen a lot of road kill on this trip, but there was something about the owl that made both Peter and Gary take special notice. In fact, the greatest amount of debris on the shoulders of our highways is remnants of truck tires: The breakdown of a truck tire tread appears to start with a big chunk of tread coming off followed by large numbers of smaller pieces of tread: All these tread pieces are strips of rubber with metal wires protruding from the ends of the strips. I shudder to think what might happen if one of these pieces of tire tread got entangled in one of our wheels. Other debris on the shoulders of our nation's highways in significant amounts are pieces of rubber tie down straps with metal hooks attached, nuts and bolts of all sizes, a few tools that Peter is particularly adept at spotting (and collecting), small pieces of 2x4 wood, and stones and road construction material of various sizes. All of these objects are potential causes of headers for ordinary bicycle riders, so a watchful eye on the surface being traversed at all times is recommended. A case in point: Irene was trying to get in touch with Gary via cell phone today, and, Gary, in response, was trying to operate his cell phone while he was riding along: Suddenly, Gary's bicycle went crazy: His front wheel had hit a piece of wood 2x4, and the next thing he knew he was riding his ordinary bicycle in the gravel off the shoulder of the road: Luckily, no damage was done: The bicycle came to a halt in the sand and gravel, Gary dismounted and wheeled his bicycle back onto the shoulder of the road where he remounted and rode away as if nothing had happened.

Riding into Boise, ID, on I-84 W was an experience. Boise is a fairly large city, and this is a very busy highway through this city. Riding on the straight-aways is not too bad, but at every mile there is an exit and an entry point that must be crossed, Cars have no trouble with this because they are traveling 65 MPH or more, but ordinary bicycle riders going at only 13 MPH have to be very careful not to be hit by the cars and trucks that are either exiting or entering the interstate highway. It was a very interesting experience, but Gary is sitting here composing these "Comments", drinking a glass of wine, being very thankful that everything has worked out so well so far. I believe that Thomas Stevens must have had moments like this as he sat writing his journal at the end of a day's ride.

We arrived at the Comfort Inn at Exit 53 on I-84W in Boise, ID (our day's destination) at 3:30 PM. We rode 83 miles today bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 3,011 miles (another record day).

This was only the second day of our 52 days of riding that we had a real headwind for a significant part of the day: There is no question but that wind plays a critical role in a bicycle rider's life. We are now ahead of our schedule, so we have extra time in case the Oregon hills (they come tomorrow) are more than we anticipate.

Day 53 (Thursday, August 12, 2004):  Peter had breakfast at the Perkins Restaurant because of his dietary problems (he is allergic to wheat gluten) next to our motel, and Gary and Irene ate the continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn where we were staying (in Boise, ID). At 7:35 AM breakfast was finished, the sag wagon was packed, and the bicycle riders were off on their ordinary bicycles.

We rode through the town of Boise to get to US Rt. 20W: This was over 10 miles of urban riding that reminded Gary of riding in NJ to some extent: The traffic volume was too low, but when we got to US Rt. 20 it was lined with strip malls and businesses just like the major roads in northern NJ. However, within about 12 miles from our motel, we were in farmland which is hard to find in New Jersey today. On our way out of town (Boise) we passed a large Hewlett-Packard plant, and Gary wondered if his laptop computer, on which these comments are being written, was made here.

We arrived in Caldwell, ID, after traveling 26 miles (at 10:15 AM), and we stopped at a Flying J truck stop for something to eat. These truck stops intrigue Gary because they are promoting their WIFI services for truckers (and whoever will subscribe). At this point, US Rt. 20 merged with I-84 so we were back on the interstate highway for about 3 miles: This was enough to remind us that we do not want to ride on the interstate highways unless we have to (too much high speed traffic very dangerous exits and entrances that must be crossed).

The remainder of our route took us through farm country in the Malheur River Valley to Vale, OR (our destination for the day). When we entered Oregon, there was a noticeable change in the highway system with respect to bicycles. First, there was a sign notifying motorists that they were to share the roadway with bicycles. Second, the shoulders on the roads were uniformly wide enough for a bicycle to ride on. Third, the Oregon Highway Patrol gave us a friendly wave as we passed one another. And, fourth, all the towns that we passed through had bike lanes on the city streets. I am impressed.

The weather on this day was noteworthy: There was a slight wind, but it was of little consequence because it was so slight. The road had its ups and downs, but these perturbations were hardly worth mentioning. The noteworthy feature of the day was the heat: The temperature climbed to above 100 degrees F by the time we went to dinner at 6:00 PM. However, we had finished with our ride for the day at 4:00 PM when it was only about 95 degrees F. These high temperatures remind Gary of his birthplace in Thermal, California, but they are seriously high for ordinary bicyclers to deal with.

We are now in the Malheur River Valley of Oregon. The pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail passed through here, and the local people are proud of this historical fact. Diversion of water from the Malheur River started in the 1880's, and today over 330,000 acres of farmland exist because of this water. This area is first in the production of onions in the state, and it ranks near the top in production for several other crops and livestock. Again, water is the magic element.

We rode into the Bates Motel in Vale, OR, at 3:30 PM. Our mileage for the day was 71 miles bringing our total mileage ridden to date up to 3,082 miles. Having entered Oregon, we are now in the 10th state of our trip (and the final state), and we are ready to tackle some of the most serious hills (mountains) of our entire trip.

Which brings me to my philosophical point for the day: By the end of days like the last two, my bottom hurts. Why is this so after I have ridden over 3,000 miles in 53 almost consecutive days? My theory is that (a) I have lost enough weight on my waist and seat so that the padding in my seat is insufficient for the kind of treatment that it is getting, (b) the heat is causing me to sweat enough so that my seat is irritated, and riding so many miles continuously cuts off the circulation in the seat enough to bring on the symptoms that are being experienced. Certainly, Thomas Stevens did not complain of his seat hurting, but he walked a good portion of the miles that he traveled. The solution: Do more walking at intervals. I will have a good chance to try this out tomorrow since we have a large mountain pass to cross. I will give you a report with tomorrow's comments about how this theory works out in practice.

Day 54 (Friday, August 13, 2004):  We are now in territory where places to eat along the way and accommodations are few and far between. We had learned the day before that there is one motel in Juntura, OR (our intended destination for this day), and that this motel does not take reservations. To accommodate to this situation, it was decided that Irene would drive directly to Juntura to secure a room at the motel if possible. (If she was not successful, Irene was going to drive to Burns, OR, reserve a motel room and then drive back to Juntura to pick us up. This would have necessitated our being ferried back to Juntura tomorrow so that we could continue our ride without interruption.) Peter and Gary would ride without sag support to Juntura where they would meet Irene and learn where they were going to sleep this night.

Peter and Gary rode out of the Bates Motel in Vale, OR, at 7:30 AM, and onto US Rt. 20W. The morning air was cool and still, and the road was almost flat (tilted slightly upwards). After about 6 miles of riding, we arrived at our first, and only, big hill of the day. Peter rode (slowly) up the entire hill (about 1.5 miles) but Gary walked most of the way hoping that this would save his seat (I mean his butt: See comments from yesterday.). Walking up this hill provided an opportunity to observe the countryside even more closely than can be done from the high seat of an ordinary bicycle. Things noticed include: (a) the Vale Valley is a big valley, (b) a rabbit ran out from a bush that he/she was sheltering under when Gary stopped to take a photo, (c) the walls of the cut at the top of this big hill are already showing signs of wind erosion even though they cannot be more than 50 years old, and (d) this is BLM country (BLM = Bureau of Land Management which is somewhat controversial for some people).

US Rt. 20W follows the Malheur River westward through passageways in the dry mountains in this eastern part of Oregon. The countryside is not spectacular, but it is very interesting and beautiful in its own way. Peter left Gary behind when he "sprinted" up the big hill at the beginning of this day's ride, so Gary had time to study the environs of the road on his own. Gary stopped for lunch twice and took photos of his bicycle each time showing scenes of the country through which we were riding. The Malheur River was almost always in sight, but Gary had a difficult time capturing the significance of this river as it flowed through these dry mountains. Both Peter and Gary had several experiences with people along the way who spoke with us about our bicycles at stopping points, or who made special efforts to get photos of us as we rode past. Our bicycles are definitely ambassadors of good will and promote understanding our heritage.

We arrived in Juntura at 1:15 PM to learn that we did have a room in the motel. Thank you Irene. Our mileage for the day was 53 miles bringing our total mileage for the ride to date up to 3,135 miles. The temperature was more than 90 degrees F when we arrived at Juntura, and we took refuge in our air conditioned motel room while the temperature outside continued to rise until about 7:00 PM. Tomorrow we will start as soon after breakfast (breakfast starts at 7:00 AM) as possible in order to get to Burns, OR, after climbing two mountain passes, before the temperature gets to be unbearable.

Note: I think that I have solved my sore seat problem. I had checked the pad in my 1980's Descente lycra shorts several times, and I thought that this was not the problem. However, today, I moved the pad away from my sore spot while I was riding, and, lo and behold, the hurt went away. Tomorrow I will ride in another pair of lycra shorts with the expectation that the sore bottom problem has gone away.

Day 55 (Saturday, August 14, 2004):  After eating our dinner in Juntura, OR (population less than 200), we met a man named Shorty who was confined to a mechanized wheel chair due to an accident in his home (near Eugene, OR) that had damaged his spinal cord. Shorty had been the earth moving equipment driver when the bridges over the Malheur River were first being built, and he had developed a love affair with Juntura when he came here over 30 years ago. Shorty told us that in the past Juntura had three banks and an Opera House. The cause of this prosperity was sheep and the railroad: The railroad went on to Burns, OR, but it stopped in Juntura to load livestock for the eastern markets, and sheep were the livestock: The town was a white sea of sheep at its heyday. Coyotes were the change agents in Juntura: Before sheep there were very few coyotes n the area, but after sheep came in the coyote population increased dramatically. The result was that sheep farming became less profitable than raising cattle, and the economy went over to cattle raising which meant far less people needed, and the decline of the town. Shorty also showed us some very large cottonwood trees in which the local turkey buzzards roosted for the night: We witnessed dozens of these large black birds coming in to roost for the night, and, from under the roosting trees we could get an up close view of these interesting birds. Shorty and his friend Fred were in Juntura for the start of the elk hunting season: We wished these two luck with their hunting and went to our room and to bed.

We stayed the night at the Oasis Motel in Juntura, OR. Peter and Gary were up and on the road at 7:35 AM (MST). The day started with a road (US Rt. 20W) that was going up at a reasonable incline (about 1%), and the air was warm (not hot) and still. But, the sky was overcast and looked like there might be a storm brewing. Sure enough, before we had reached the first hill (Drinkwater Mountain Gap), a strong headwind had come up that made forward progress, especially uphill progress, very difficult. As usual, Peter rode (slowly) up the hill, but Gary chose (was forced) to walk up. Drinkwater Gap was 4,280 feet high, and we had to pedal hard to get down the back side because of the strong headwind (Our wind machine friend from Medicine Bow, WY, would have been pleased with the winds that I am sure were above 38 MPH). Only a few miles later we encountered Stinkwater Gap that was 4,848 feet high. Again, Peter rode up the hill while Gary walked up, and the wind continued to attack us strongly from the front. By the time we got to the top of Stinkwater Gap, Gary was thinking that he might have to walk the last 30 miles of this day's "ride" into Burns, OR (our destination for the day), and that would take 10 hours at the rate of 3 MPH (at this rate Gary would arrive at the motel at about 10 PM). Luckily, the situation turned out to be not so glum after all. The headwinds continued throughout the day, but the road from the bottom of Stinkwater Gap into Burns (almost 30 miles) was virtually flat so we could make progress as though we were going up a 1% or 2% grade which is normal for us on the east to west ride.

The best came about 3 miles outside of Burns as we turned to the southwest to come into town. The headwind that we had been fighting all day-long became a tailwind, and we fairly flew through town and into our motel (the Best Inn on the west side of Burns). It was a magnificent entry into town, and this fast easy ride made us feel good the rest of the evening.

Highlights of this day's ride were: (a) we crossed into the Pacific Standard Time Zone, (b) we rode over two of the most difficult mountain passes on our route, (c) we met some interesting people along the way including two motorcyclists that were returning from the annual Harley-Davidson Meet in Stergis, ND, and stopped in the middle of road up to Stinkwater Gap to inquire about Gary's bicycle, and (d) we were still in a good mood even after one of the hardest days of this trip.

We arrived at the Best Inn Motel in Burns, OR, at 3:30 PM (PST). Our mileage for the day was 59 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 3,194 miles.

Day 56 (Sunday, August 15, 2004):  We started our day with a continental breakfast at 6:30 AM that came with our room at the Best Inn in Burns, OR. This morning we were with a bunch of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders that were returning from the Annual HD Gathering in Stergis, ND, and we had a good time talking about the early development of bicycles and motorcycles.

At 7:20 AM, Peter and Gary rode out of the motel onto US Rt. 20W to continue our ride across America. Just as we were leaving town, we encountered a covey of quail that appeared to enjoy running alongside our bicycles rather than away from us as is usually the case. The air temperature was cool, there was almost no air movement, and the road was nearly flat: The signs were favorable for a good day of cycling.

In fact, our way was generally gradually up, and after 10 miles the road tilted upwards more noticeably until we had crossed the one mountain (really a ridge) gap for the day at 4,596 feet elevation. The road was hilly, but the hills were rather small, and we managed most of these without difficulty. I can best describe the scenery as being big, lots of the same hills and dry desert vegetation (two pictures in the gallery attempt to give you a sense of this grand monotony).

Two incidents were worth reporting: first, Peter with his eagle eyes spotted a dollar bill in a ditch alongside the road, and when he had finished scouring the weeds, he had recovered $61.00 in bills of assorted denominations. Peter wants Glen Norcliffe and Ron Miller to declare that he is the undisputed champion money finder on high wheel bicycle trips. The second incident was coming across two different taxidermist shops set up on the road: These shops are in response to the opening of antelope hunting season that occurred yesterday. When the picture was taken that is in our gallery for today, a successful hunter was signing up to have the antelope that he had killed only this morning made into a perpetual trophy at a cost of $375: Memorializing one's accomplishments can be expensive.

Our riding day ended in Hampton, OR, where Irene picked us up and ferried us into Bend, OR, for the night. This arrangement was necessary because there were no lodgings between Burns and Bend a distance of 124 miles. Our mileage for the day was 65 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 3,259 miles. Tomorrow we will be ferried back to Hampton to continue our ride from the point where we left off today.

Day 57 (Monday, August 16, 2004):  We overnighted in the Red Lion Inn North in Bend, OR, and we got up extra early (5:30 AM) so that we could be ferried back to Hampton, OR, to begin our day's ride from the place that we finished yesterday. We arrived in Hampton at 7:45 AM (see first photo in today's gallery), unloaded and reassembled our bicycles, and we were out on US Rt. 20 heading west by 8:00 AM. It had rained around Hampton during the night leaving some pools of water alongside the road, and making the morning air cool refreshing to take into our lungs. There was practically no wind and the road was straight without any steep ups and downs: We were feeling good and we fairly flew along our way back to Bend.

In this area, US Rt. 20 passes through typical high desert. The road is a straight line for 10's of miles, and there is little in the countryside except sagebrush and other desert plants (no trees here), but in this area we did pass some irrigated fields of alfalfa. For a distance of about 2 miles we passed water pumps on the south side of the road that were spaced about 1/4th mile apart. These pumps were attached to the center of a pivot irrigation system with a reach of about 1/8th mile making a 1/4th mile diameter circular irrigated field. Where water was being applied, the field was green with growing alfalfa, but the desert resumed within inches of the edge of these irrigated circles of land. Two pictures in the gallery show this story: On one side of the road is a pump attached to a circular irrigation system, and across the road is the desert.

Another story seen in the landscape was the presence of a Fiber Optic Cable buried in the ground alongside of US Rt. 20 indicated by orange posts every few hundred yards warning of the dangers of digging along this line. We have passed such posts before, but today it struck home that we are a wired together society whether we want to be or not.

A third story seen from the high seat of a slow moving ordinary bicycle, but mostly missed by occupants of fast moving cars, is the blooming of the desert. The colors tend to be subtle, and the space between blooming plants may be rather large, but the show is worth the effort to catch. Present by the road today, and for the past couple of days, are desert lupine, a grease bush (I think it is a grease bush), a type of knapweed, and a couple of flowering plants that I am unfamiliar with. I wish my pictures of these plants were better.

We stopped at a place called Mullican, OR, for food and refreshments. Mullican is26 miles from Bend, and it originated as a stop along the old stage route from Auburn to Boise and points East. Today Mullican is a small country store with a couple of out-buildings. Inside this store we found a couple who are working to restore the store to its original condition, and a man named Bill Lewis who was there to deliver some old newspaper clippings for use determining what the restoration should look like If you are ever in this part of the world, it would be worth your time to visit the store in Mullican, OR, to see haw this project is coming along.

The last story for today is about the animals in the area. This story is pieced together from accounts given to us by several people that we have met along our way. Sheep were the first animals to be raised in this part of the world. The sheep caused the coyote population to increase to the point that it was no longer economic to raise sheep, and the sheep were replaced with cattle who could take care of themselves. Today, the coyotes are joined with the cougars as a growing threat to the profitability of cattle ranching, and the growing numbers of deer, antelope, and elk are blamed for this. So, there is program to "thin" the herds of these hoofed animals in an effort to starve the coyotes and cougars into reasonably small populations that can be tolerated. Beaver are also a problem: the beaver had been trapped nearly to extinction in pioneer days, but the few that managed to survive have given rise to other generations of beavers that now cause problems when the build their dams in the farmers irrigation canals: The solution is to shoot the beaver whenever you see one: In this part of the Beaver State, the only good beaver is a dead beaver. Setting all of this down is meant to be a "report of life in rural America", but it is important to understand that how the food on our tables is produced is complicated, and that it does have consequences.

We rode into the Red Lion Inn North in Bend, OR, at 3:00 PM. Our mileage for the day was 63 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 3,322 miles. We can see the Cascade Mountains from our motel in Bend: Tomorrow we will be riding over the McKenzie Pass on our way to the Pacific Ocean.

Day 58 (Tuesday, August 17, 2004):  A note about the Last Day of our Ride: The last day of our "Ride Across America" will be Saturday, August 21, 2004, when we plan to ride into Newport, OR, between 3 and 4 PM. Originally we had planned to arrive in Newport on Sunday, August 22nd, but we are moving this up by one day because we are ahead of our original schedule. Mike Walker from Tacoma, WA, and Ed Berry from Corvallis, OR, (and maybe their wives also) are planning on riding the last mile or two with Gary and Peter into Newport and on into the Pacific Ocean for the traditional dipping of the front wheels into the ocean across the continent from where this ride started. We invite all Wheelmen and friends to join us for the final mile or two of our ride: Contact Mike Walker (Phone: 206-914-2099) for more information.

Comments on Today's Ride: Peter and Gary rode out of the Red Lion Inn North in Bend, OR, at 7:20 AM onto US Rt. 20W. Today's ride takes us almost immediately out of the desert that we have been in for many days, and puts us into forested land and the mountains. Our first destination (20 miles out) was Sisters, OR, where we turned onto OR Rt. 242 (the McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway). (Note: James McKenzie informed us that this Pass was named for another McKenzie who did not realize that he had gone far enough when he got to Kansas.) It is 15 miles to McKenzie Pass (5,325 feet elevation) on this road, and the road starts up immediately although the rate of ascent is gradual at first but increases steadily until the road is climbing at a 5 to 6% grade to the top. Before reaching the top of the pass, one comes to Windy Overlook where one can see many of the important peaks in Oregon's Cascade Mountains, and a very large ancient lava flow that supports virtually no plant life (it reminded Gary of a moonscape).

When the top of McKenzie Pass was finally reached, the lava bed was all around, and many of Oregon's important mountain peaks were visible (Mts. Washington, The Three Sisters, Hood, Jefferson, Belknap Crater, etc.). There were also a lot of people at the parking lot at the top, including about 26 bicyclists, and it seemed that everyone wanted to ask questions about our bicycles and to take pictures. We met cyclists from many states, and one from Germany. Prior to this occasion, we had only met 5 cycle tourists on our Ride Across America, and this number more than tripled at this one stop. We gave out The Wheelmen web-site address to many people so another consequence of our trip to McKenzie Pass may be a flood of new viewers of our Wheelmen internet web-site. Finally, Peter guesses that we are the first to ride ordinary bicycles up to the McKenzie Pass: Does anyone reading these comments have an opinion on this subject?

Coming down from McKenzie Pass was a blast. We had been warned by many people that the road going down the west face of this Pass was very steep (up to 9% grades) in places, and that the road had many switch backs requiring tight turning while descending on a steep roadbed. Peter descended rapidly while keeping his feet on the pedals all the way. Gary's feet will not go around as fast as Peter's so he descended more slowly keeping control of the pedals at all times. We both made it down the mountain (About 12 miles of steep road, 22 miles all together) without incident, but knowing that we had had a memorable riding experience.

We arrived at Belknap Hot Springs Resort at 3:45 PM. Our mileage for the day was 60 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date p to 3,382 miles.

Day 59 (Wednesday, August 18, 2004):  We stayed in Belknap Hot Springs Resort the night before this day, and I took a picture of the RV's in this resort that we will be using the next time that we do this trip.

The continental breakfast that came with the room at the Belknap Springs Resort only opened at 7:30 Am, but, in spite of this, Peter and Gary were able to start their ride at 8:05 AM: We rode out of the Resort, and onto OR Rt. 126W heading towards Eugene, OR (our destination for the day). This day should have been one of our easiest days (the road followed the McKenzie River down the mountain), but our leg muscles were extremely sore because of the tension under which they operated on the way up to the McKenzie Pass, but, more importantly, on the way they had to control our descent on the way down from this Pass (5% to 9% grades for about 15 miles). In spite of the sore muscles, we cruised along covering the 57 miles to our Best Western Motel in Eugene, OR, by 2:30 PM. Our total mileage for the trip to date is now 3,439 miles, and we are only one day from the Pacific Ocean at Florence, OR. However, our final destination is Newport, OR, which we will ride into on Saturday, August 21st, at about 3:00 PM. We are looking forward to meeting Mike Walker of Tacoma, WA, and Ed Berry of Corvallis, OR (and maybe their wives), a couple of miles outside of Newport so that we can all ride in together.

The ride today followed the McKenzie River all the way into Eugene, and it should have been one of our easiest days. However, two things came to bear to make this an ordinary difficult day of riding: First, our muscles were exceedingly sore: Pumping up to McKenzie Pass and then using our legs to control our ordinary bicycles on the long, steep way down put a strain on our legs that 58 days of cycling across the country did not condition us to do without some lingering pain. Second, we faced a strong headwind for the final 12 miles of the day's ride into and through Springfield and Eugene, OR. We are not complaining, but only reporting how it is.

We passed a covered bride over the McKenzie River that was called the Goodpasture Bridge. Goodpasture was my mother's maiden name so I took a picture of this bridge that is included in today's picture gallery.

McKenzie is used to name everything from restaurants to auto-body shops, to shopping centers in this area. Peter noticed that a regional fire district was named McKenzie, and we stopped to take a picture of its headquarters for Wheelmen James McKenzie who is a distinguished fireman in Lawrence, KS: James, this photo is dedicated to you.

I had several things that I wanted to do in Eugene, but I was just too tired and sore. So, the story for the day is about how we do our laundry. Occasionally, Irene does laundry in a Laundromat, but our usual method for washing our riding clothes is to use the shower method: When we undress to take our daily shower after riding, we throw our clothes onto the floor of the shower. While we shower, the water and soap suds fall onto our clothes, and this mixture is forced through our riding clothes by stomping on our clothes as we shower. After showering, the washed clothes are wrung out and hung out to dry (see the last two photos in today's gallery of photos). It may be a crude primitive method, but our riding clothes are clean and dry for each day's ride.

Day 60 (Thursday, August 19, 2004):  Today is a very special day. It is not the end of our ride (that will be on Saturday, August 21st, when we ride into Newport, OR), but it is the day that we will finally reach the Pacific Ocean.

Two days after riding over the McKenzie Pass (elevation = 5,325 feet), and then riding down from this Pass, we are still feeling the consequences: Peter is nearly back to normal, but Gary's leg muscles are so sore that he woke up worrying that he would not be able to do this day's ride. However, after limbering up and having breakfast, we were both ready to go. Irene took our picture in front of the hotel (the Best Western Motel in Eugene , OR) at 6:45 AM, and we were on our way.

The first 8 miles of our way was on busy city streets full of early morning commuter traffic. The streets we were traveling on sometimes had bike lanes, but there were long stretches where we had to take the outside traffic lane so that we would not be squeezed against the curb. Drivers were generally cooperative, but only experienced riders will feel comfortable in this situation. Educating both car drivers and bicycle riders is critical to making it possible to "share the road".

After leaving the Eugene City limits, we were back on OR Rt. 126, and in a rural setting with open spaces and farms going into the hills. However, the traffic into town continued to be heavy which I interpreted to be due to commuters going from the countryside to work in the city. How long can this American dream of living in the country (or the suburbs) while we derive our income in the cities survive the dwindling worldwide supplies of petroleum?

The road to Florence, OR (our destination for the day), was beautiful and interesting at the same time. I took many pictures of along our ride that show scenes in front, and on the sides, of the road. The contrast between the scenery here in western Oregon and the countryside that we rode through in eastern Oregon is very striking (compare the pictures in our picture gallery).

We ate lunch in Walton, OR, at a small restaurant that had good food and interesting patrons that were into conversation. A bicycle tourist who lives in Eugene, OR, is pictured in our gallery of photos: This person was very interested in our bicycles. He and his wife had ridden across America from Newport News, VA, back to Oregon, and they had tail winds most of the way. (The moral: Tailwinds are the luck of the day, and we did not have much luck in this respect although we have had luck on this trip in almost every other way.)

The last 10 miles of our ride into Florence, OR, was along the Siuslaw River Estuary, and we had to fight a howling headwind all the way. By the time we got to US Hwy. 101, we were exhausted, but we had to push on 4 more miles straight into the raging head wind to get to the Pacific Ocean so that we could put the front wheels of our ordinary bicycles into the water of this ocean on the opposite side of the North American continent from where we had started this ride in Perth Amboy, NJ, on June 12th. We took pictures, and we engaged some visitors to the beach who got excited about what we had done. Then the Editor of the local newspaper (The Siuslaw News) arrived: He had heard that we had arrived in town and he was out looking for us. Altogether, our arrival at the Pacific Ocean was a happy occasion with a touch of ceremony.

After the washing of our wheels in the Ocean, we wheeled back into town and to our motel for the night. Our mileage for the day was 70 miles bringing the total mileage for our ride to date to 3,509 miles.

Tomorrow will be a rest day (the first rest day since we left Baldwin City, KS, on July 13th, and we will use the time to rest and to shine up our bicycles for the final day of riding into Newport, OR.

Before leaving this, I want to list the records that were accomplished on this "Ride Across America" (please send me any corrections to this list that you may know of). I do this to demonstrate how easy it is to set records (you must simply define the terms narrowly enough):

a. This was the first ever transcontinental ride on ordinary bicycles from Perth Amboy, NJ, to Florence, OR, and Newport, OR., via Baldwin City, KS. (Accomplished from June 12, 2004 through August 21, 2004.)

b. This was the fastest ride ever on ordinary bicycles from Perth Amboy, NJ, to Newport, OR (61 riding days, and 71 days in all).

c. We are the oldest (69 years old) persons ever to ride across America on ordinary bicycles.

d. We are the first to ride ordinary bicycles across America going from East to West since 1888. (An interval of 115 years during which the conditions for making this ride have changed dramatically.)

e. We are the first to ride ordinary bicycles over the McKenzie Pass (elevation = 5,324 feet) in Oregon: Accomplished on August 17, 2004.
 
f. We were the first to have our Ride Across America reported daily on the World Wide Web on The Wheelmen website at
http://www.thewheelmen.org.

Day 61 (Saturday, August 21, 2004):  Yesterday was a rest day in Florence, OR. We all got caught up on our sleep, did correspondence, and spent an afternoon exploring the historic old town of Florence. This is a very picturesque small seaside port town perched on the edge of the Suislaw River estuary. The day was sunny and warm, and we had a relaxing day of strolling in and out of the shops and watching the tide go out from the town's boardwalk. Gary''s leg muscles certainly appreciated having a day off from pushing his 54" ordinary over the hilly roads in this part of the country.

This was a very special day of our ride because it was the last day. We had chosen Newport, OR, as the terminus for our ride in the very beginning, and today was the day that we would reach this final destination. It was even more special because four Wheelmen (Mike and Daphne Walker of Tacoma, WA, and Ed and Erlinda Berry of Corvallis, OR) were going to meet us near the end of our ride in Newport to ride with us to the ocean for the ceremonial dipping of the front wheels of our ordinary bicycles into the Pacific Ocean.

We woke up on this ride day to find our part of the world enmeshed in fog, and the air temperature was almost cold (this was the coolest day of our entire ride). By 7:20 AM Gary and Peter were ready to ride, and we rode out of the Holiday Inn Express in Florence onto US Hwy.101 heading north towards Newport, OR (the final destination for our "Ride Across America"). This highway runs parallel to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and the road winds over the hills that come down to the sea when it is not traversing the very edge of the sea itself. Parking areas are scattered along this highway that enable travelers to pull over frequently to take in spectacular views of the ocean, the beach, the rocks and cliffs, and the estuaries of the many streams that empty into the ocean along the way. At one stop (just after the stop for the commercial "Sea Lion Caves" stop, we stood on a cliff about 300 feet above the sea and watched dozens of sea lions in the water before us as they swam, dived, and talked to each other: At this stop we also met a motorcyclist from Pennsylvania, and we enjoyed the scene together. About 10:30 AM we stopped at a pull-over to have some cheese and crackers, but so many people came over to ask about the bicycles (and as soon as one person left two more would come up) that we could not find time to eat, so we left and went to a small (one car only) pull-out further up the road to have our snack.

US Hwy. 101 between Florence and Newport is a two lane road, and the shoulder varies from wide and smooth to none. Signs warn motorists that bicycles may be on the road, and there were times when we had to be on the road he road. The most notable experience was when we rounded the Cape of Perpetua where the road is cut into the side of a tall, sheer rock face that comes to the very edge of the road (no shoulder of any kind here): Gary wanted to stop and take a picture of this dramatic situation, but there was traffic behind him and there was no place to pull over.

Gary and Irene went crazy with their cameras so there are more pictures in our photo gallery for today than for any other day on this ride. However, you must come here yourself to get the full impact of this beautiful place.

We arrived at the bridge that goes into Newport at 1:00 PM (an hour earlier than we had expected). This bridge is a 1/4th miles long, narrow two lane bridge (no shoulders) that carries a steady stream of traffic across the river that flows through Newport. We had the option to walk our ordinary bicycles over this bridge using the narrow walkway, or to ride over knowing that we would hold up traffic as we struggled up the long incline leading to the high point of the bridge that was near the north end of the bridge (I.e., almost 1/4th mile of reasonably steep uphill riding from the south end of the bridge where we were): We decided that riding over this bridge would be a fitting end for our ride, so we rode: At 2:00 PM we waited for a gap in the traffic, and then rode out onto the road leading up onto the bridge. Irene followed us over with the bridge with the lights on the sag wagon flashing. Huffing and puffing, we rode as fast as we could, and, once over the bridge, we pulled into the first parking lot available to catch our breath and wait to make contact with the Wheelmen that were coming to join us for the end of our ride. However, we were only in the parking lot a minute or two when an Oregon State Policeman drove up to tell us that we should not be riding on the bridge because it creates a problem with held up traffic.  We explained that we had just ridden across America, and that Newport was the terminus of our ride, and the policeman then congratulated us and said "No problem. Enjoy your stay in Oregon."

As soon as the policeman left, our Wheelmen friends arrived. We all went to the Waves Motel in Newport (Gary and Peter rode their bicycles of course) where Ed and Erlinda Berry and Mike and Daphne Walker assembled their bicycles for the grand ride down to the nearby Nye Beach for the ceremonial dipping of the wheels of our bicycles into the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to Daphne's efforts, the local press was on hand at Nye Beach to take pictures and to interview us about our ride across America. At the beach we pushed our bicycles across about 20 yards of soft sand and into the gently lapping water of the waves. Pictures were taken, and then a crowd gathered to find out what was going on. Back on the hard surface of the nearby public parking lot, Peter gave a demonstration of his riding skills and tricks, and more photos were taken by everyone present. Everyone seemed to be having a good time at this spontaneous festive occasion.

After the ceremony at the beach, we went back to our motel, showered and changed our clothes, and then the seven of us gathered in Mike and Daphne's room for a small party. We felt great to have successfully completed our ride across America, but it was the camaraderie of being with friends that made this occasion so special for Peter, Irene, and Gary. In fact, of all the wonderful things that have happened on this ride (and many wonderful things have happened), the best thing that happened was meeting with, and being with, Wheelmen and friends along the way. We thank you all for being so wonderful and for making our trip so much more than it would have been without you.




LIST OF WHEELMEN AND FRIENDS ENCOUNTERED ALONG THE RIDE
 (Note: an asterisk (*) next to a person's name means that this person actually rode with us for some distance.)

 

June 27/28: (*) Bob and Ruth Balcomb, Findlay, OH. Home stay and ride together to edge of town.

June 30-July 2: (*) Tammy Halley, Tammy Hanson, (*) Cigdem Tunar (from Chicago), Steve Carter, and (*) Carolyn Carter, Indianapolis, IN. Home stay with Tammy Halley and Tammy Hanson, and ride into and out of town.

July 2/3: Curt Debaun and Family, Terre Haute, IN. Home stay and guidance in and out of town.

July 3: (*) Bill Wendling and Family, and Marty Potts and his mother, Altamont, IL. Greetings as we rode through and short ride together as we left town.

July 5/9: (*) Charles and Jean Harper (Muscatine, IA) and Mary Darting (sister of Charles), St Charles, MO. Home stay with Mary Darting. Charlie Harper rode with us for three days on the KATY Trail from St. Charles, MO.

July 10/12: (*) Glen Norcliffe (Maple, ON, Canada). Joined us in Sedalia, MO, for ride to the Meet including a Century Ride on 7/12.

July 13/19: (*) All Wheelmen and Friends at the 2004 Wheelmen Meet in Baldwin City, KS.

July 19/20: Keith and Gay Stewart, Manhattan, KS. Home stay.

July 28/29: (*) Paul Brekus and Barbara Brekus (Denver, CO) - Came to Kimball, NE, so the Paul could ride with us to Cheyenne, WY, and Barbara helped with the sag wagon.

July 29: (*) Jeff Nye (Colorado Springs, CO) - Jeff drove out to meet us as we left Kimball, NE, and he rode 20 miles with us to the Wyoming border.

August 21/22. (*) Mike and (*) Daphne Walker (Tacoma, WA) and (*) Ed and (*) Erlinda Berry (Corvallis, OR) - Newport, OR - Rode with us in Newport to ocean for ceremonial dipping of wheels in the water of the Pacific Ocean.

June 12 - August 22: Karen Turner (Plymouth, MI) - Karen was with us via the internet all the way. She took daily postings from Gary, and she entered this information and pictures into our "Ride Across America" page on The Wheelmen website. Without Karen, our website would have been a shadow of what it is, and for this we thank Karen very much.



 

THE MACHINES THAT WE RODE ACROSS AMERICA

Gary: 54" Whitney/Victory Ordinary Bicycle



Peter: 50" Coventry Machinists Ordinary Bicycle (highly restored)

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