Welcome to a story, or stories I should say. A compilation of adventure tales. An ongoing itch to see, smell, and touch the world, or at least the deserted roads and rarely trampled mountains of America. Characters within the descriptive paragraphs of these stories carve out the coming and going companions in life; vital life people and pieces that parallel a universe for moments, days, years. And then spear off, leaving granules of magnificent memories of magical places. They leave a lasting trace, a gained sense of courage to stand tall on oxygen deprived mountains and shout absurdities like: I love you Ralph! Ralph is a teenage reindeer stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 20 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He is the instigator. The inspiration. And the imagination. He breathes creativity. Laughter. His is a dear companion. And yes, at 4lbs he tags along atop a pack or strapped to a rack. In delirium of 107 degree heat, the small possession of material belongings gain a persona. Innate objects become friends of the road and trails. And as for the humans who accompany, their presence reads priceless. Without O'Reilly, a 29 year old New Hampshirian with superior taste buds, the mathematical six foot four inch tall German, or handful of organic peanut butter and 99 cent jam eating munchkins, there would be a lot less excitement. The encounters we make with our specie, encapsulating the world with their awkward ways and over consumerist love, somehow we have managed to become overly adored creatures. Their generous hearts restore a faith that goodness prevails in the upheaval of a sometimes lost humanity. As for myself, I'm just the navigator, paddling up the stream of life munching on Clif Bars, with an iPhone documenting the frailties and goodies underneath all the simplified complexities in the world we reside. So again, I welcome you to get lost and dream a little through this typed text and your imagination. My name is Kristen Gentilucci. I live in Berkeley California and I love dogs.

Heading to Alaska on a Bicycle

The following trek compliments the Utah escape. It started as a need to seek Alaska via bicycle. Running from something; exploring something greater than the fish bowl that society could provide. But roads took us in different directions. Banff Canada became a detour and the next thing we knew 40 days, 3100 miles, 6 states and 2 countries later, we road one massive loop. And found way more than what we originally sought or ever dreamed. 

Returning to civilization is never easy after living under stars, espically Utah's vast alien rock forms and blanketing starry sky. But bug bits healed, cracked lips mended, and a snobby nose for only high quality wine returned. Adaptation to social norms crept back, but so did the need for long mindless miles. After a solemn day worth of pedaling roads connecting roads of our hometown, through blanketed golden hillsides that thirsted for water and forest infused tunnels that winded like snakes beneath damp redwood pine needles, the miles drank every ounce of fuel. A stop was needed to restore muscles with some sugary protein infused plastic wrapped dense bar of carrot flavor. Upon return home that evening, Ralph sniffed me out like a search dog on a mission. He knew of that smell all too well, carrot cake Clif bars, and having sat in a laundry basket for way too many days, too dirty from the Utah dirt to share a bed or pillow with me, he demanded a reward.
But first let me introduce Papsi, another dear friend, who hogs the big golden dog's corner of our apartment with two wheels and a stellar frame. She is built only of plastic and the fanciest of Italian parts, light as a feather, but fierce as a Mammoths jaw, she beats any fogy up a mountain. Her frame reads Ritte, built in Los Angeles, adopted from Portland, she is a Belgian mutt of glory. Papsi has never spent a night in the cold, or carried any load of any weight, but has her share of travel. Open roads of very long distances over California's backyard mountains, she shifts to precision, hits corners at exact angles, and thrives on thrills for speed. She seeks long smooth rolling roads that give way to room for head space and effortlessly flow like the wind. P and I have had our journeys. Deep in thought, sometimes 5 hours of pulling the mind in all directions. Ideas pinching through at the tissue creases of the brain. She doesn't let the world go by without microscopic observation. As if then we are sensitized to the things and people around us. Unable to walk through life in a state of oblivion and constantly reminding us that kindness is free and happiness is simple.

Long rides with Papsi spark the questions: is riding millions of miles, the urge to pick up and just go, a constant run from something? Seeking something greater than society can provide us? Can the stars answer that question or are they simply the most beautiful distraction out there? Have we lost direction in the whirlwind of our busy emotional lives? Or are the delusions of happiness sought in what the masses partake in? Are all of the miles and hours on the backs of Papsi and Bianchi galloping to find something greater or fleeting from something unwanted? Maybe they are intertwined- needing each other to spark the inspiration to search for something yet unknown. 

I've known one too many youngsters who passed away this year, and realized we take for granted the picture of ourselves old and gray. Maybe all it took was hearing about a friend on the side of a road in Kentucky, at age 24, cycling from Maryland to Portland, struck dead by a car. Life is in the moments we choose now, and it is too short to waste. Too many un-lived dreams drown in the background. Sometimes the only option is to take the open road that calls your name loud in the distance. Uncertain of its direction, there are lots of comforts to toss into the wind, but journey doesn't happen by sitting back and waiting. Only regrets will remain like an unused new pair of running shoes sitting in a dark closet. 

This was all stewing for days, like the perfect farmer's veggie braise. As if the brain was a porous sponge, absorbing every ounce of desire within. There was nothing to fight, the inkling was too strong to ignore, and too many coincidences collided. Sometimes you just gotta go, be a little selfish, quite your job, and do something completely out of the norm.

Friends and family were flabbergasted, but with an all too supportive curiosity. Without a set plan beyond wandering north on Bianchi with the Utahan comrades, could we reach Alaska, 3000 miles north, before the bitter cold of autumn turned trees a deathly yellow? Or where would we end up? Casing summer, long days, warm nights, and friendly strangers in small towns, up the continent of North America on bicycles, suddenly a world became an all to huge backyard of freedom. Where spontaneity can run wild, control is handed over to life's circumstances, and once again so grateful for a healthy physical form that can pedal to infinitely and beyond, we will see, smell, and touch the corners and crannies of this planet.

Ralph and I sat down for a serious talk. This was no longer an excursion around a desert state for a handful of days, but a serious undertaking of miles and gear. Bianchi would have to be upgraded, shedding her birth parts for a few lower gears, and Ralph, love the dude, but the reality was he was simply a materialized bulk of non-necessities. Our talk turned into weeps, then sobs, and I was left pillow-less for the night, as this stubborn reindeer refused to share a bed. Trying to bribe him with a stamped boxed plane ride to see his dear German friend in a far away town of Munich, nothing satisfied his adventure-protesting soul as he insisted this story would be incomplete and dull without his boisterous input. Desperation set in as he did laps around the squareness of our apartment, trying to trade a single pound of carrot poof for a ride on Bianchi's back. There was nothing left to say, I was about to once again haul a stuffed reindeer thousands of miles up the North American coastline in search of something unknown. Staring deep into Ralph's eyes, somehow this mass of furry weight became an all too real catalyst to a childhood imagination of a fairy tale world that we were about to once again escape to. 

Hopefully it doesn't have to be all mapped out, literally and figuratively. Besides gear and determination, not much else was routed, and tomorrow we depart. The hands of time tick like a race car, hopping on the fast wagon of life, loaded with torn out pages, atlas maps navigate any paved lace of an asphalt commute through 1/2 a country. Bianchi no loner made the cut for a handful of reasons. So, purchased with crisp bills from the bicycle touring piggy bank, hot fancy dinners were out, canned veggies in, and the finest bottles of whiskey were traded for the security of knowing, stranded, was not in this blog's dictionary. Zeb toddling home to meet his crew is a solid 2-wheeled prince of shinny black steel, guarding Clif Bars and warm socks. With white panniers clinched to his sides, he read like a Zebra gracefully galloping through the grasslands of a wild Safari. And yes, the furry bulky friend Ralph, life long companion as a practical pillow and creative inspiration for an untamed imagination, was still somehow tagging along too. And as intriguingly daunting the idea of traveling solo, with only a stuffed reindeer and Zeb, I am glad some portion of a friendly soul, O'Reilly and Action Boy decided to trudge along, because laughter and fears are best when shared in company. 

To be completely honest, our posse is fully equipped, but we added a connect the dots of detours. Yosemite, Lassen, Eastern Oregon, Boise, Montana, Jasper Lake, Banff, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland. Somehow Alaska was just placed wrong on the map. And as exciting it would be to have bragging rights that our gang conquered a massive section of the North American continent via bicycle, sometimes gravity redirects magnetic yearnings. And there is no space for resistance. 

Maybe there is some wisdom laying under a quiet rock on a snow-capped mountain in Banff, unknowingly calling names. And maybe giving up everything and everyone for a segment in time to humbly sleep under many weeks worth of stars and vulnerably travel through empty space is just the reminder that life is never linear and when life throws it's curve ball, humanity naturally reaches its hand out. 

Summer. San Francisco has left me pondering the bubble delusion of this city. Foggy bone chilling summer nights wrapped in down comforters sipping warm tea was the norm of my hometown. But just over the hill summer seeped under shirtless skin and sucked the last bits of winter moisture from any living creature. In exchange for a bike touring dinner of canned veggies macerated in tubular shaped pasta and neon powdered cheese, we hitched a ride with a famous New Mexican born chef, Alia Persons, to the base of Yosemite. The thought of dodging cars for days through suburban city chaos was not appealing. And an air-conditioned ride out of mayhem was well worth the transition to 106 degrees tree heaven. 

Groveland CA, on the skirts of Yosemite national park, I forgot summer consisted of a heat so intense sweat drips at a standstill. Down a gnarly dirt road of unwanted grades, we hit camp in 4 wheels at the base of a burned forest. Mica glittered the river like a birthday party. Vibrant green foliage popped the burnt black tree twigs like a mint chocolate chip candy bar wrapped in a fancy label with a golden ticket inside. 

Minor details reminded us we were about to be headed to nomads land. Our campsite lacked water, for miles upon miles, and we were left to boil multiple pots for hydration. The river cooled lightweight aluminum filled with our handcrafted deliciousness of stone-rubbed mineral Pellegrino. The moon pierced through tired eyes as if a spotlight has chased us down. Reality kicked in, whatever we were about to embark on, I don't really know what to expect, except to go with the flow of life.

Miles: 62
Elevation gain: 6000 ft
Elevation max 9945 ft
Temperature: 95 and thundershowers 

Dear Yosemite,
Knowing that hwy 120 winds from the western sierras to the eastern side, was rain, thunder, lightening a passive aggressive welcome to your home? As if the 9945 feet summit alone didn't lack enough oxygen to convince our crew we were out of shape and that Canada was an entire country away. The 40 mile climb slowed us to a snails pace, and tourists navigated by in colorful gas mobiles wearing plates from all the states. You thought you could outsmart us on day 1, roaring thunder through pine needles, bouncing lightening off mountain peaks, and coloring a sky to signal a war zone of hail about to let loss, bombing ice cold pellets. But you were wrong simply because of Smurf blue bagginess, the one item that always gets a laugh and then envy on these type of trips. Rain pant they are, and never happier to see them buried in the bag cradling my material life. 

Your harsh welcome made colors come to life, unbleached by the blistering mountain rays. Porcelain speckled rocks jetting from valleys and cliffs, and scrappy trees hung for life between slated meteors sized geological formations. Your trails, the veins that guide mammals through your core, attract the most interesting of sorts. Meeting an Italian and German, two young girls laced in worn boots, we shared tales of a similar journey to Canada. They, by foot, were hiking the PCT, 2500 miles, 6 months north from Mexico to Canada, and I stood there stunned in awe. As if suddenly, 2500 miles in a mere 6 weeks on 75lb bikes northbound was a luxury ride in the park. Taking the pampered life of fresh milk in tea everyday over too many Clif bars and raisins, I was content to be traveling via bicycle. 

Ralph had spent most the day atop the compacted down fluffy mummy home. Strapped to the top, his legs dangled in the breeze and large mascot body and bright red nose drew a lot of attention. Entertaining himself beneath the giant trees, he spent the morning in glee, getting friendly waves and directing air-conditioned buggies safely around us. But summer turned to winter, and hibernation called him into Mrs. White, his friendly dry pannier. Down the Sierras we flew, breaking 50mph speed limits, drenched in mountain fresh droplets, the day spent going up was well worth the 10 minutes going down to camp. 

The five of us lay pooped under birch and pines sprinkled with purple wild flowers and a soothing river. After pitching tent, the only energy left was enough to muster up our departing gift of homemade bread, thanks William, veggies, and grey poupon sandwiches. We were far from bear proof anything, but too tired to care, as Ralph assured us he was well rested for a watch dog evening. As water drips in sporadic moments all that is left is to carefully pack away the vivid scenic beauty into the depths of lasting memories and fall fast asleep. 

Day 2. Yosemite to somewhere in Nevada
Miles: 92
Elevation gain: 3800ft
Elevation loss: 40 miles down
Temperature: 92 then thunder showers 
Ralph smells like a wet dog, O'Reilly is passed out at 5:30pm, and we are parked behind a Douglas fur off a dirt fire road in Nevada. Falling asleep was easy until an inquisitive state took hold upon a neon green rain fly where carrot butts littered our sides. Being eaten alive by massive ants and sneaky Mosquitoes, curiosity took an twilight wander. 

Stalking our campsite for story of history, a desolated house, scattered with old shattered linoleum bits, disaster stood within remnants of a concrete foundation. The fascinating list that decrepit and abandon buildings hide for wild imaginations: rusty nails, a headless angel, 3 toddler size wooden Jesus death poles pinned with sun burnt plastic flowers lay in rummage of someone's past life. This is the kind of place where one wonders where the decaying body lies. Rusted tin cans that must have been from the days when canned veggies lined the cabinets with pride, bullet shells withstood frozen winters, yellow and red cassette tapes still playable, and a San Francisco Chronicle dated August 1st 1991, about the Gulf War. Coffee cups, disintegrating iron bed frames, and torn carpet mounds trashed the land like a feverish tornado swept through here 23 years ago. 

Tired eyes were suddenly adrenalized and the day recapped itself like a faint daydream. By noon we have already started our caloric cravings, like a pregnant lady and farmer, for copious amounts of grey poupon and jugs of grapefruit juice. The afternoon heat turned to clouds, grey sky's turned mountains a vibrant dusk blue. Jagged riffs of geometric historic lava draped the landscape; just a tease to what could possibly lay miles of blisters within, only accessible to a weathered hiking boot. Happy to be cruising down the peoples hwy, and not solemnly gripping for shelter on a lightening infested mountain, the remains of a torrential downpour refreshed skin layered in sweat, rejuvenated depleted minds, and suddenly Canada didn't seem so far away. 

Having routed ourselves along the scenic hwy 95 west to Tahoe, a mother and daughter at the carrot re-supply shop advised us any other road then this terrifying shoulderless, windy, steep, curvy, trafficked pass death route through the mountain. So the day was spent 88 miles along HWY 395, the corridor on the eastern Sierras, with a shoulder wide enough for an Amish Wagon and their horses. That's how we made it to some unknown fire road in Nevada, sleeping under some rainy stars, and with no complaints except a few murderous nightmares. 

Day 3. Nevada, California, and Tahoe City.
Miles: 76 
Elevation gain: 4000ft
Temperature: 92 degrees F

After a morning of creatively chasing oblivion and an embarrassing tantrum at the Tahoe Post Office, peace was found in the silence of white noise after a refreshing clear lake bath. 

Zeb is heavy, too heavy and it is hot, too hot for leg warmers, wool socks, and gloves. Hoping Canada will be toasty warm, we ditched our extra layers in a cardboard box headed back to the bay. I hadn't told Ralph the news yet, but he caught on like a sly monkey as I eyed him and then the array of boxes, matching size to size. I had a grand plan for my funny little deer, it would cost me $45 to get him to Munich, where his German friend would pick him up and they would travel the world on business class. It would be a grand summer for him; he was just too big to tag along on this trip. But a moment later in wails, weeps and then obnoxious sobs, making quite a scene, Ralph refused his temporary traveling cardboard home. 

"It was once as tree, Ralph, like the tall ones in the forest, and Fritz, your stuffed parrot friend, who squawks only German syllables will be waiting at the front door, and on Saturday mornings your tall pal will walk you to the fresh carrot juice market." 

But the heart throbbing woes were too much to take. This reindeer was stuck with me now, and the only way to mend his broken heart was to prance down the organic carrot isle of an oversized Safeway. Strapped back in to fluffy down, carrot in hand, eyes as red as his nose, and sniffles running down his furry face, I kissed him on the head and off we went. 

After the reindeer fiasco, I lost my partner in crime, O'Reilly. Just one of those days. The bombastic kid knew the route, but his sense of navigation is like a house cat on the run. This isn't the first time oblivion to street signs has steered him wrong, and it was the last time our posse was about to enter a race on touring bikes to chase down nonsensical wandering eyes. Baking at the base of a 9 mile, 2500ft climb, straight up a Sierra hump, Ralph has his ways of flagging down friendly old men. The news, that Action Boy and the young Irish Gent aboard had passed the solemn asphalt wall headed straight up a mountain of his reprisal, gunned the beige pick up's engine in search of the missing crew. 

Regrouped and depleted at mile 62, the coffee joint called the boys names. Waiting for a pricey pour-over organic fair-trade black caffeination, the shop dudes put the fear of bears walking off with passports and Power Bars in nightmares. So the pedaling continued electrified by banana sugars till a Tahoe City campsite was found. Dinner was inhaled, sitting like a normal human for the first time in days, and neighbors gifted us with a 1/2 drunken bottle of 2 Buck Chuck. When fuel reset senses, this campsite suddenly appeared grungier than a battered trailer park. Being raised by a dad who led the greatest of backpacking trips, my childhood backyard was a campsite. And nothing experienced eyes had seen compared. A hefty fee for a 1/2 trashed lawn, shirtless neighbors labeled with tattooed, barking wild dogs, and a port a potty that stank like hoarder's bathrooms, we locked our bikes, and crawled our gear up the perpendicular embankment, happily bum camping in a meadow of trees. 

Nature is starting to seep into our skin. Noticing the gradual waning movements of our gravitational moons, time finally slows. Days get lost in sunsets, and perched on a pine tree knoll, in a wet brightly light bowling match of deceased grandparents, 5 horizontal outlaws sleep in 11 hour increments under neon mesh. 

Miles: 81
Elevation gain: too delirious to know
Temperate. 104 degrees 

It is priceless. No matter how rigid a budget, the one irresistible luxury comes in the form of morning early grey tea, doused with almond milk and honey, or roasted bean infused water lightened with cream and sprinkled with brown sugar. The warm awakening could be sipped for hours, bicycles waiting patiently outside. Seeking the busy flow of sleepy dawn beings brings an excitement to the day and curiosity amongst caffeinated addicts. 

We've adopted street lingo, road names that tear any night hungry creature to shreds. Freddy and Betty, the 80s duo speak in British accents to pass the time, anchoring drifting minds, meticulously spewing words in correct pronunciation from chapped lips.

It was hot...too hot. 104 degrees to be exact and like chopped onions we sautéed in a pan of singing butter. The California desert sucked consciousness from the important crannies of the brain, sun bleached arm hair contracted swarthy skin, and dehydration overheats refrigerators to the point of nausea. We passed through towns with populations of 120, and entire houses for rent at $345. 

Home was found, next to a creek, off a deserted state road leading to a mysterious Lake. Exhaustion overcame any urge to fight Mosquitoes who petulantly chipped away at precious salty skin. Bodies cooling in the shallow coolness of the river, the sky black beneath the sunny trees.  Thunder began to crackled through rustling trees in the distance, then rain drummed at the walls of our tent, and lightening was counted in Mississippi’s nearing the core. 

Famous 1960's Campbell’s tomato soup and fresh bread had been carefully selected at the last stop in town. But the biting bloodthirsty insects and cool afternoon rain showered canned us into our mesh home with a loaf of sourdough, bottle of cheap Chardonnay, and Henry, the favorite honey bear. Recollecting the day, Ralph was pinched by barbwire, water was rationed down to the last drop, and naps washed over us under Aspen trees. From the help of locals, somehow we found the only road headed over the mountain that wasn't a four-lane channel of massive transit. Grappling with the notion that tomorrow's wake up climb would include no warm beverages until noon, a long dirt road and mountain pass awaited unstretched muscles. 

Day 5. The odd town of Susanville
Miles: 74
Elevation: up, down, flat
High: 107 degrees F 

Northern California is so weird, but it sure has some pretty gems. Our stale morning of no sugary caffeine dampened back-mountain roads that turned into a sandy gravel ski slope. We had cut out a section of the melancholic HWY 395 at the expense of trudging 17 miles at a near grandmas pace along a dirt mountain summit. The views were spectacular, prairie lands with wild horses, and wide open fall mustard meadows that intertwined like a woven braid throughout the peak's valley. Nothing quite topped sliding down the sandy road to be reunited with pavement in the town of Doyle. With a population of 50, the gas station iced mocha latte concocted of unpronounceable ingredients, restored blood sugar like a fat line of cocaine. 

Quite happy to live in an era where roads are paved, the melodic horse and buggy size shoulder cadenced pedal strokes into an almost meditative state. O'Reilly, jazzed on Red Bull and coffee took off like an unstoppable Indy racecar while Ralph and I cruised along miles behind. 

We like to talk to strangers, and Ralph especially is quite the showoff to any interested human. In the distance on the shoulder there softly shimmered a minty green Subaru in the cloudy sun. Thinking the gentleman standing on the side of the hwy had car troubles or some important news about our posse ahead, he flagged us down to chat. But chat quickly turned to snarls. Scanning him from head to toe, he was old but fit, had piercing blue eyes, deep cut wrinkles and funny glasses. His plaid shirt, lake something hat, and whiskered smile made him look pretty innocent, but quickly radar antennas stood up. There we were standing in the emergency shoulder of the 4 lane 395 HWY discussing shelter from the lightening strikes that awaited moments in the future. You see Stan had been sitting in his AC vehicle for some time, and at 107 degrees, our bicycle crew was quite happy to get wet. The conversation got creepy as cars whizzed by, asking if camp was by the lake ahead for the night. Knowing that had been our plan, unease jointed a cranky stomach. There aren't many roads out here, one in and two out. "As far as WE get," I explained ready to ride off. Suddenly surprised I was not traveling alone, freaky gramps hopped back into his mint green guzzler and wished me luck. Creepiness rushed through me and as much as his friendly grandpa smile gifted pity in his direction, and wanting to believe he was just excited about our travels north via bicycle, blood began boil as he drove off. I've had my share of disgusting old men, inappropriately flirting with girls their daughter's age, and something about this poor old foggie made fists curl and a surge to smash his face. Happy to see O'Reilly drowning himself in ice water at the gas station, we tagged along into the town of Susanville. Sure enough Minty Green was parked on the shoulder ahead, Stan waving a too friendly hello in the distance and a sinister breeze fluttered the air. Creepy just got too weird, as O'Reilly's face read the situation far from normal. Unknowing the Ralph was ready to pounce out of his polyester straps, Stan, excitedly pulled out photocopies of maps of places for us to camp or his friends house to crash in. If the whole story in itself wasn't enough, Susanville was a town of 2 prisons, and a string of motels lined with crack heads. Six days without a soapy shower, O'Reilly agreeing we had met a serial killer, and the thought of awakening to tea in a bed on my birthday was well worth the splurge to escape Stan and sleep safely.

Returning to reality was a bit overwhelming. Shower water turned brown, the AC plumbed our dehydrated, and sugar filled raisin bodies back to a human state. We strolled across the street to purchase canned and plastic wrapped calories returning with 10 items and 20 yellow plastic bags. Our white walled rectangular box with a bed, sitting at the base of Lassen National park, was trashed within hours. Panniers exploded over the dark blue carpet and a wet chamois dripped clean water from wooden hangers. Orange juice was chugged and the noise of the air conditioner ran on high till dawn. 

Day 6. Off the Grid
Miles: 117
Elevation gain: gradual up, flat, tilt downward, gravity worked in our favor and the headwind wrestled him like a brother. Something like 4000ft. 
Temperature: high 102

Transported into a horror film, Susanville was too eerie of a town. Crannied at the base of the majestic Lassen Sierras, the streets breathed a drug-riddled disparity as the thunderstorm loomed in the distance. Nightmares haunted the comforts of a bed and Stan's face became the unforgettable unease that settled in the parking lots until dawn. 

Beside a row of fast food joints and $5.99 steak houses, the one birthday wish stood green and bold on our way out of town. Starbucks, the homiest joint in this town, stocked full of earl grey tea, real fake milk, and bees’ vomit. It was paradise at 7am and before I could pronounce seeped dried black leaves, a vanilla triple shot soy latte was placed in tan hands, a mistake by the kid in a green apron. Espresso is consumed on my watch about 5 times a year, and metabolizing 3 shots either erupts a panic attack or murders a 100-mile day. Although nothing compares to a fresh roasted bean from our hometown, O'Reilly savored his Joe, knowing the enjoyment would be many days away. We want out of California by Sunday and the map was scattered with pinpoints of tiny ghostlike towns. 

And that was exactly what we found. Abandoned shacks, rows of rusted orange 1920's trucks and forlorn cement mixers. Boarded planks sealed broken cafe windows with old time horse tie-ups. Signs leaving this town showed their green faces and we flew up the 395 fabling folklores about the bastard offsprings of periwinkle beasts.

Unaware that California has segments of complete desolation without water, service, or human interaction for stretches of 80 miles, the provocative musk of distant forest fires lured us onward. 

I've officially lost my privileges to talk to strangers. With nothing to stop for but shackled ransomed gas stations, we delicately fondled ancient antiques like kids in a dusty attic. Zooming up, a dirty, wife beater colored Pontiac, smoking from oil dehydration, suddenly killed our time warped buzz. Naively wanting to help, life quickly teaches that not everyone is a friend. He sat there, watching us with comatose heroin eyes and nodding silently when we asked if help was needed. A red and drunken zombie's face starred callously and in the moments of silence, nothing but the words "get the hell out" ran like a sprint through minds, and out we got. If I had ever thought of doing this alone, I would be a proud owner of a sawed off shotgun by the time the California boarder approached ready to exhausted ammunition and annihilate creepy old men and bears. 

The miles flaked off in dosed increments. And so, hour-long siestas relieved imploded muscles in mid afternoon heat. Somehow Alturas, the only functional town within a century was a looming mirage to a birthday finale. And that beer tasted "so fucking good!"

Suburban camping on a birthday night on a cycling trek to Canada gave us amnesty in a local park against miscreants and the boys in blue. This early settler of a pilgrimage town full of 1800 pioneering vehicles and in darkness something about sleeping in the bed of a wagon thrilled dreary bikes. It was a glorious end to an all too epic day. 

Tomorrow morning high noon, a new state! 

Miles: 93
Elevation gain: Mostly flat, maybe 2000ft
High: 102 degrees F  

Oregon, friendly desolate beauty. The 395 is or new home. All nothingness up here, except pretty land and poverty. Coasting for carless miles along a grassland valley floor, scenery scapes change and so do thought patterns. Working in a industry where Jackson's are thrown around like coins, these towns live on a different wavelength. Unmatchable, the economic depression here is Isolated from information, people work hard, play less, and live in toppling buildings that any big city would red flag and evict innocent tenants. Their faces read a hard life and yet they smile with opposition that somehow they have it all.

With nothing but ramshackled barns and observant cows to stop for, the miles fly. The Sierras prepared us for massive hills, but the flat terrains allow pedals to churn like a Ben and Jerry's factory turning out cherry Garcia for sugar starved America. 

There are some things that are unpleasantly adaptable. Water bottles hot enough to steep tea, long hot days, restless nights, constant hunger, porous skin caked in sunscreen and dirt like a salty, sun baked lakebed. And there are some things that never wear in. Mosquito bites that make you want to rip your skin off, unfriendly towns and bad drivers, stinky shorts, aching saddle sores, caffeineless mornings, and grossly over sized horse flies. There are those moments when 8-hour days tick by without a human in sight to relieve your mental thought cycle, to share in the excitement and curiosity of a sweaty open road, to find a reason to stop and observe, and be taken away by breathtaking scenery. 

It was one of those days, there is nothing to do but ride. And stocked with enough water and food to survive a 36-hour drought in the desert heat, we missed our own specie interactions. But then suddenly Oregon opened it green gate, majestic charcoal ash plateaus caked in lively neon green moss guide a road along a spanning pink algae infested lake. Like wrinkles, the water has a tale of a roasting sun overhead that leaves rings of reflective white salt lands. The hillside rocks are sponged with Gatorade orange lichen and artistic signs and suddenly completely content another soul is far from sight, we had this nature's castle all to ourselves. 

The miles dragged when butts ached, tummies rumbled, and at 5pm it was still 95 degrees out. But deep inside there is a competitive urge, to test human limits, and win the internal struggle of wanting to quit. I was that kid, betting parents that a 7 year old could give up candy, sweets and desserts for a month if rewarded with the soft purple hippo beanie baby. Sure enough, there he was one afternoon school day buckled into the backseat of our burgundy 1980s leaky oil minivan. There is a wholesome reward that comes with the exhaustion from perseverance. Nature’s beauty is gifted and absorbed in mindless relaxation. We eat like famished beings. Sriracha is our Russian caviar and completes the most elegant of dishes. It's called Road Risotto, and prepared by the culinary chef himself, it is something that fixes any hard days work. $1.49 boxed Kraft Mac n Cheese is boiled and stirred into starchy sauce over our little Mama Joad stove, garnished with $.89 canned peas and all their liquidy salt juice. Like a new battery out of the box, with a good nights sleep, anything is conquerable. 

The stars opened their iron palace gates at dusk. The view drifting off into dreamland was like a friends homemade pie. One of those places that burns a lasting imagine deep in the walls of memory. The sun spewed rays of pink across the sky, the flamingo colored lake quieted to a nightly blue haze. Nestled in a hillside cliff, we slept alone with the stars and a refreshing summer night’s breeze. 

Field notes: 395 N from Alturas. No shoulder in few places, but not enough cars or corners to be concerned. Large enough town to restock any needs. Bike shop with horrible hours. The historic Niles Hotel has good coffee and beer. First town with water and food is Lakeview (60 miles). After crossing the Oregon border, shoulder is wide and road well paved. 23 miles north is a small gas station with not much. No services for the next 90 miles except a rest station 1/2 way. Turn right on HWY 20. 

Miles: 101
Elevation gain: gradual rolling desert mounds. Maybe 3000ft total. 
High: 85 degrees F and cloudy 

We were freaking beat, maybe a bit insane. But the thought that Boise may be just 48 hours away made the entire United States shrink to the size of a summer camp and so resistance to slow was unstoppable. Strapped to this stretch of road we were unhinged only to eat and sleep in a trapped myriad of thistled foxtails. The backseat reindeer fertilizes the imagination to unlock combinations of literary expression. Stories mosey through minds, memories of Ralph a young lad in childhood days when hot tubs were overflowing with carrots. You see, Ralph had had a long night, guarding his fine stash of orange roots from cute wild jackrabbits. Not long after the first hour of pedaling, our mascot has talked himself to sleep. But in the midst he reminded us of the days when Grandma would plump him and Hazel (the longest living buck toothed guinea pig) with afternoon carrot snacks while they patiently awaited my arrival from the education bungalow. 

Memories ran long and sweet while transfixed cows stared at the two wheeled alien life forms. With the posse in tact and cohesive, strangers were welcomed into conversation. Jon was a friendly 78-year-old dad, lugging his life from California to Montana. At the only rest stop within hundreds of miles, we spent an hour chatting about his 2 daughters, drinking his lemon lime sodas, and graciously accepting his ice-cold water supply. He told us stories of warfare in Germany during WWII, while checking to made sure we were traveling with enough weapons and warm clothes. Gifting us a Swiss Army knife, we now had 3 damaging blades against those wild bears, but as he pulled out his $3000 rifle collection, we suddenly paused with worry. His whole back seat was loaded with enough ammo to start a militia of his own. Even with our posse of 5 armed with 3 blades of steel, it would have been a hold up on the 395. But Jon turned out to be one of those cool dudes, just had a passion for shootable bullets. His lightheaded spirits once again offered us anything we could possibly need, like a father making sure we had enough to buy food and stay warm. "We have plenty," knowing we were living the dream out of two panniers and $25 a day. 

Flats turned to rolling hills and mid day naps were needed for our trio, Ralph, Zeb and I. O'Reilly and action boy had been steadily inhaling caffeine by the hour. And at 6 cups, the truth of his caffeinated past came out. All those coffee beans he stole from the counter top as a kid, while mom was in the shower, fueled his addiction at an early age. But happy to curl up with a book at a gas station bench, we both go to rest in our own glory. With warnings that cities of rattle snakes live in wild fields all around, we pushed forward to a green grassy manicured lawn in town, imagining horses with braces to keep spirits high. It wasn't the heat that dragged miles out and at 85 degrees and having adapted to our new lizard skin in scorching days of heat, it was now jacket weather. Days of never ending miles finally collaborated and when about to collapse, the only thing dreamt of was a day off at the movies. But after sandwiches and beer, tomorrow awaited with excitement. 

Field log: 395 N to the 20. Probably one of the most beautiful roads around. Hwy 20 has a very small shoulder and a handful of cars. It wasn't pleasant but so worth the 100 miles of the 395. Riley has a small campsite and so does Heins and Burns. 

Miles: 61
Elevation gain: 4000ish feet 
Temperature: 90 and cloudy

We awoke to a string of flats. 10 puncture wounds to be exact and it was O'Reilly's unlucky day. Not that either of us complained about a leisurely morning microscopically pinpointing pricks of metal in rubber casings. Leisure trailed to a homey cafe, and we bathed in laziness until noon. 8 cups of coffee, 4 cups of tea later, jitters forced the stubborn laziness onto the road. As a patch and tube collection dwindled to scraps, Ralph got his hooves ready to prance 80 miles ahead retrieving a precious spare tube and tire. 

Feels a bit like the Oregon Trail wound through the south land of New Zealand minus the hoard of sheep. Grades steepened as the Rockies came into a distant mountainous view. Like settlers of the west, with broken wagon wheels and weary bodies, held up by flash floods our posse was delayed and Boise was now another day away. 

A monsoon swept our trails into the smallest town a valley of a mountain range could offer. No gas, just a tiny 1960s red barstooled diner with neon electric signs filled with a plethora of fire fighters (600 to be exact), the crackle of fries and burgers and the friendliest moms around. Hundreds of tent homes lay hammered to the ground across the flooded road as if nested in Burning Man's camp city. Lightening flickered like lights switches, striking the crisp brittle grasses on the hillsides and fires erupted as power went short. The locals haul a long days work into this cafe, greased up as cowboys, dirt ridden work boots and dusty plaid shirts, sprinkled in rain, conversing over hail across the rectangle room. As the storm passed Ralph was left dripping as we rescued him from the last bits of the storm. And perched on the fake marble countertop he beggingly eyed O'Reilly dunking crispy warm fried Idaho potatoes into Hunts sugared tomatoes. And got a few pats from the owners. 

Headed to make some nightly neighbor friends in fire camp city, hospitality interrupted our departure. The screen door slammed and seconds later a key to a room in the back motel was handed over to us, as she smiled at Ralph, nothing asked in return. A town we never planned to get stranded in turned into quite a warming memory. The sun peaked through the moist leaves of a humid freshness until the blunt center of a bone-shaking storm skittered furious bolts. Vibrants electrifying the sky for detailed seconds glimpse photographic shots of blue currents. The air smelled of voltage fumes and strikes tensed muscles in vein. With locals stunned in awe at the massacre above, and electricity ready to splinter our little room to shreds. I thanked my four-legged lassie friend in Heaven that we were in more than the metal-poled tent. Light danced in strands with force and the bowling orchestra overhead was playing the finale. Tire and tube worries were left for a morning revived with coffee and tea in a loving cafe and so many thanks that we had a roof overhead. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miles: 77
Elevation gain: who cares? 3500ft?
Temperature: 101 degree F

Waking in a bed was sheer pleasure, and we were warmly greeted with a happy face pancake at breakfast in the cafe. Tire troubles continued all day, flat upon flat until defeated. As if an arrowhead speared through O'Reilly's tire, the entire patch kit along with Clif Bar wrapping for extra sealant, the holes were just too despairing. Cooking like a rotisserie chicken between the manure brown canyon walls sprinkled with dried wheat, hitching a ride was nearly impossible. Finally a friendly sort who had seen us downing French fries in the cafe the previous night, pulled up with a wave and in we went, 55 miles to nearest bicycle hospital around. 

Mobile again, we darted towards Boise. The slopes of thunder-stormed mountains were rich with farmlands and forest fire tycoons. Passing the pulsing of electric grasshoppers, we plowed by threshed cereal smells malting from fresh rains.  The wheat stalks tangoed with the headwind, contrasting the green tops of watery eye onion fields. 

Boise is just a morning's coffee ride away, and a bit daunting the complexities of city life await. We live in simple terms, single HWYs for days, lack of McDonalds or signs of American life for miles, and sleeping on the river of the Oregon/Idaho border, all dreams referenced tea and showers. We finally captured summer and reclaimed lost childhood dreams. We anxiously denied sunsets as if playtime lasted to infinity. We were ecstatic and blissful. When every worry in life is condensed down to the present, every happy moment is complete and saving. 

Field notes: hwy 20 all the way to 281 was an ample shoulder. Mediums traffic road. No services from Juntura to vale, 52 miles. Great bike shop in Ontario, East Oregon Cyclery. 281 S has an good shoulder, but is a heavily trafficked road. Lots of farmlands so camping can be a bit tricky. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Day 11. Funny Face Day
Miles: 39
Temperature: 82 degrees F

Deep in sleep, a tired body slumped in a baroque castle amidst a stinking onion field. Beyond a gator filled moat lay a dream world where butlers were making green eggs and ham and baking bagel shaped bran muffins. And just as quickly as saliva glands came to life, the alarm clock sounded and the park sprinklers aimed directly into our tent with the precision of a sniper rifle. The nightly turbulence continued into dawn, were we discovered staples that steal precious air were stocking O’Reilly. But loaded with enough rubber tubes to match Ralph in size, no amount of staples would win this warfare. Just as oil runs like blood pulsing through cars, tubes fuel a forward two wheeled motion, like cells absorb the banana's nutrients to pedal onward. 

Cities fashion a certain type of culture, unseen in the outskirts of America. Sitting for hours in small town Cafés peering over paper coffee cups, over caffeinated, a true side of our weird breed is exposed. We get to know a side of town that's friendly, isolated, naive and happy with big screen TVs, barefoot summers, and idle conversations. 

Our condiment supply has grown to a diverse array of daily necessities. French's yellow paint colored mustard, stone-ground Dijon, chocolate malty vitamin packed Ovaltine, the magical world of Sriracha, and of course Henry's viscous golden syrup. We could turn any bland British meal into the French delicacy of foie gras. 

It was a day of city exploration. With Iowan farmland in my bloodline, the monotonous cornfields annoyingly itched with repetition. We rode by a farmhouse, seemingly flooded in a photosynthesized sea of green that was creeping quietly and constantly toward the sky. And then plummeting by Walmarts whose gluttony consumed city blocks. And 4-wheeled tornadoes made of twisted steel tormented us just for fun. Home was a hostel where we bargained for camping and were then bestowed another bed by a generous stranger. 

Field Notes: 20 east to 95s (95 has a shoulder large enough to haul an oversize truck hauling a house. Old Hwy 30 to Cleveland Blvd (84 business loop) good shoulder busy roads. Ustick Rd all the way into Boise - not many cars, flat and straight. Great beautiful Hostel in Nampa. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Miles: 58
Elevation gain: 1st mountain climb of the Rockies
Temperature: high 92

Sitting with hot chocolate in a wooden stool at a kitchen table, the sounds of cereal being munched away droned out the awaiting city in the backdrop. The stash of quite sporadic book collections Hostels behold is always an intriguing mix of romance counterbalanced by self-help. Without a pulsing urge to do more than sit read and write, Alan Alda's superlative memoir had quite the pickings of long lost words and orgasmic phrases. 

But as afternoon hits brains gets frisky waiting like antsy kids to pedal onwards. This city is full of bustling life and noise. The brick walls swirled around and buses, lights, commotion were trivial noises in the background of a visual chaos. Boise is a historic town, revamped brick buildings line well groomed streets with parallel cycling lanes. Bikes stack like lovers on all block corners and friendly strangers buy us melt in your mouth bagels. And there is something about these Blue Sky bagels, their gluttonous softness that is metabolized like high fructose corn syrup. The variation mix of hipster, outdoorsy, tattooed, bicycle junkie, businessmen and housewives, makes a stew of a lovely town, minus the one common thread - diversity lacks and everyone is white. 

Curiosity had the power to engage us completely. People watching for hours, it sent us to a zone where time stopped and we floated through that intimate space between dots on the face of a watch. But Nature is an intoxicating, tantalizing puzzle, and a pyrotechnic display. Sometimes like city traffic, thoughts get suck in a ruminant cycle on trips like these. Knowing that the answer lies in mountain views, the itch of pursuit north was too much to withstand. With some advice from the local bike shop, we planned a detour into Montana off main roads, to the pointy Rockies, scenic bliss, and Glacier National Park. 

The last stop in town caused a teary eyed heartbreak. My new adopted mother, O'Reilly's mother, had sent us a childhood favorite, homemade Congo Bars straight out of the 375 degree oven, and to our dismantled disappointment, Boise Idaho post office put them on a truck back to New Hampshire along with a stack of letter from friends. 2 summers ago, leading a cross country bike trip and setting up general delivery drops at over 20 stops for 33 mothers to send their precious cargo state to state, never had I seen this devastation. Trying to keep reality in check, and my 29 year old self from having a complete meltdown over 5 days of excitement a package containing mom's Congo madness was not the end of the world, Ralph starred at me with his big oval eyes, and puffy pillow body. Italian roots kicked in and loaded with a splurge on a bottle of Sambuca, we hit the road escaping sadness in hopes to find some big trees and a river. 

40 miles later, the whirlwind cycle of a spinning mind pedaled to sanity and we sat by a river in a woodsy valley, chatting up a local swimmer. Reheating cabbage and rice for dinner, he thrilled us with the offer to deliver fresh coffee upon sunrise to our nesting river beach and the day ended in happiness. 

Field notes: Ustick rd turns into a bike land that intersects with the greenbelt bike way along the river which goes straight into downtown Boise. State street, not great but gets you there to hwy 55N. Busy road is small shoulder. Sucked. Locals say early morning weekdays are a good time to travel this road. Not Friday at rush hour. Good camping along river. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Miles: 98
Elevation gain: no longer counting in feet, but mountains summited. That would be 2.  Maybe 4,500ft? 
Elevation Max: just shy of 8000
Temperature: low 90s

Good Lordy, people are freaking incredible. 7:10am on the dot, our river friend, Todd rolled up in his boxy off-roader, unloading Token, his smiley black lab, a Thermos jug of steaming black coffee, box of sugar, little bottle of fresh cold milk, a 6 shot espresso latte, real mugs, and homemade breakfast sandwiches. Seriously people are freaking incredible. The morning washes by as we chatted over scenic views, mountain ranges to come, and Token rolling in foxtails without a care in the world. Truly we had seen the best in people. And if you're reading, Thank you bunches Todd!!!! 

The Oregon flats have killed Sierra trained legs and suddenly we are out of shape again. Ralph was passed out strapped to his buggy as we rolled into Chevron for icy cold water. Oh the scene the stuffed red nosed deer missed, shelves stocked with Carrot Cake Clif Bar. It had been a sandy night on our River beach bank and as sunrise lifted over the mountain, Ralph awoke covered head to toe in miniature granules of sandy rocks. But priceless, the smile on his face when his spying nose sniffed out that orangey brow rice syrup bar in my back pocket. And so we were best buds again. 

Passing over two peaks was a trek of climbing, we ate milk and cereal straight from bags and breathed in the wildfire smoke like packs of cigarettes. Hanger took over at mile 80 (hanger is a state of anger cause by hunger.) O'Reilly had taken off down the mountain and after climbing 25 miles, out of water, fuel, and passing some of the most beautiful scenery around, I was tired of trying to chase down the boys ahead and too frustrated and hungry to care. Opening whitey on the side of the road, whitey is the lovely white pannier, all that was left was an empty bag of bagels, Sambuca, and canned Campbell's tomato soup. Curing the trees that starred, they echoed my splatter of words back into ears. So plopped on grassy knoll, deciding to horizontally relax, sipping the only sugars I had, syrupy Sambuca, I starred into one of the most beautiful meadows witnessed in life. Sitting there realizing, this was the Rocky Mountains, 1000 miles north, Todd was right, this was some of the most scenic country in this land. The sun warmed a sweaty back, Ralph sighed with content, belly full of carrot cake, and everything to survive aboard Zeb, no longer was there a single hurry. It felt amazing and the race boys would just have to anxiously wait. 

Suddenly a red Subaru pulled up like an ambulance ready to save the world. Embarrassment turned Ralph bright pink. The car door swung open and O'Reilly yelled in distress, "OMG are you Ok?" I was fine enjoying a meadow sunset view after being long ditched by my posse. Having led enough bike tours, once certified in wilderness first aid, and knowing my own body's limits on a bicycle down to calculation, I was angry my team was no longer a team. I was going to make it, but on my own watch now. 

The kind kindergarten teacher who O'Reilly fetched a ride with offer up her cabin, hot bath, beers, and a warm cooked meal. The past 24 hours had been an overload of hospitality. But we had cycled 100 miles to sleep at this something amazing Stanley Lake, so I stubbornly turned down the offer. Clearly she thought Ralph was nuts, convincing her we just had to sleep on a watery blue natural pool instead of a warm bed. But this nice little lady begged, pleading as though it meant something deeper than offering relaxation, and no no longer existed in my vocabulary. 

Not knowing her offer came with verbal directions spoken to a navigationally disaster of a boy, we passed deer valley road. Forgetting the name we then searched for dry creek road, and finally found the epic cabin on iron creek road. And there we were, hours later munching on fresh Bing cherries and strawberries, hearing the story of why she persistently begged to fed us. Her ex husband, having passing away yesterday, her and her daughter came to spend the weekend in the cabin they build together in 1978. This lovely lady Christy simply wanted to share her children's book fantasy log cabin with someone in need and took us in like her own children. We chatted over boiling rice and sautéing garlic and life stories of hardships came out. Reserved, I still wanted to pour my heart and soul out to her kindness. The whole reason I took this trip was to be inspired by people just like her. Life is hard, but happiness exists in the simplest of things and people's generosities.

After a year of a heartbreaks from an all too beloved physically damaging relationship, a compilation of life events forked: addictions, a yearning to heal strained family relations, days spent trapped in obsessive calculations, and an anger that ran so deep it wanted to harm, or at least punch bastards in the face. But with a heart too big to handle it all, the fur of my 80lb 4-legged companion of a golden retriever was drowned in tears and Bianchi carelessly zoomed through red lights on the city streets of Oakland. It ain't all peachy, but knowing compassion exists deep in all of us, and inner turmoil’s grow only when watered with silence, strangers hugged goodnight like family. Constantly being reminded that at times people hold you up, and all you can do it give back when roots ground. To use pains, sorrows, and insights as stepping stones to the next crying soul. And I guess I owed O'Reilly an apology for flagging down a magical evening in worry that Ralph, Zeb and I had been injured. 

Field notes: turn right at the town of Banks. Shoulder all the way to Stanley is glorious and so is the scenery. Not water for last 47 miles into Stanley. We drank straight from the crystal clear river. I'll tell you tomorrow if that was a good idea. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Miles: 75
Elevation gain: flatter
Temperature: 102

Good News: We don't have Giardia. We are now owners of water purifier tablets thanks to our Cabin Mom. We had our first breakfast of Idaho potatoes, once again thanks to our Cabin Mom, pan seared to perfection. We're in the Wild West surrounded by dead deer and drunk dudes. Beers are cheap and quick to come, but we're young healthy and in shape, and thankfully kidless. We swam a lot. This state is full of amazing big adults who spend weekends repelling into old mines and stealing rusty treasures. We sit in AC. 

Bad news: it's freaking hot. Too hot. And the nights are cold, frosty cold. Legs are out of juice, brains are mush, mouths dry as cotton balls, and the whole town smokes packs of Red's inside, sipping bud lights. Our bartender was blown away by our undertaking and gave us too many free cigarettes, freakishly not knowing the numbered highway two miles away. We've become red necks. Head winds killed us all day, O'Reilly's left butt check hurts, Ralph was chased by a bee, which meant pedal faster, and Action Boy's love was unrequited. A cooling river refreshed clothes but dried in seconds. The sun put us to sleep, staying up way past our 9:30 bedtime in this Mountain Time. 

Field Notes: hwy 75 N has a great shoulder and follows the Salmon River all the way to the 93. Not much traffic. 93 N not ideal for a shoulder and more traffic road, but these Idaho folks are very bike conscious.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Miles: 95
Elevation: a downhill ruined by headwinds and then another freaking mountain 20 miles up. 
Elevation max: 8000ish ft
Temperature: 95 and cloudy and humid 

It's a crazy thought, people plopped in a town, one road in and one road out, unaware of their world beyond a 10-mile radius. They live in a happy, isolated bubble. Trying to understand their world is still too unfathomable. To have never seen or touched the world, and yet they cluelessly vote for presidents. Producing little rascals at young ages, they are born and die in the same house, same town, like caged bunnies. They rarely eat fresh avocados and will never know an affogato. We are strange, alien forms to them. They like us, but living completely opposite lives, we chat in awe of each other. 

Some days are just inexcusably hard. Mile 3 hit and exhaustion was an understatement. We were caffeinated, chocolate powdered up and on the road by a record setting time of 6:50am, but naptime came before schools started. It took 45 miles to warm up, and after passing through a magnificent gorge along a silky river, two coffees, and the breathtaking shade of a parasol sky, nothing could jolt a tired brain awake. Nothing but a sign falling straight out of the blueness above. Ralph can vouch, it came out of nowhere. Bright orange and squared, plastered with the words "Road Work Ahead". It took the skin right off my left shoulder down to red flesh, and suddenly adrenaline became a fabulous catalyst to stay awake. 

Two goals today: simple and sweet. Pedal and huckleberry milkshakes. These berries grow like wildflowers in secret hideouts. A magical mystery fruit, the kind in classic fables. Imagining tales of talking bears living in tree houses spending summer afternoons frolicking on hillsides with baskets full of blue dots, I yearned to try this new fruit. But by the time we made it to milkshakes, the local bakery reeled our noses right down Main Street. The gluten house ranked top 5 on my list, and like any solid Italian would know, bread is the hearth of life, the body of Christ. Odd Fellows' Bakery clearly saw our carbo needs, handing us a baguette on the house, it miraculously disappeared before the posse left town. Salmon, Idaho, quite the talkative town of fun, curious, heartwarming people. Our stench, overloaded bikes, the click of special shoes as we pace sidewalks for coffee houses draws attention like a sore thumb. So we get lots of questions and the farther we get, the more interesting the reactions. Today finally felt like the backyard fence had been hopped and wilderness trails were awaiting with oversized dandelions. People are eager to hear our story, and firefights generously hand over Clif bars like it's Halloween. 

After quite the obnoxious morning, Montana surreally appeared at dusk. That mystery state on the map, we had made it and snored only an inch over the border. Some days are easier than others, but like life pride, joy, excitement, rewards, calmness, content, and quietness rarely come without hard work. Brains screaming to stop many times, 14 hours later, the moment knowing defeat didn't win, makes it all worth doing the next day. It just happens, get up and go, work hard, and be rewarded. 

O'Reilly officially has intestinal parasites with his daily caloric intake and weight loss:  
7 bagels
2 cliff bars 
Coffee (4 cups)
Sugar GU packet
Bowl of rice
3 plums
Handful of grapes
1 banana
5 cheese sticks
1 large chocolate milkshake
2 roast beef sandwiches 
1 beer
2 shots whiskey 
1 big peanut butter cookie

Mosquitoes stalk us worse than a bad nightmare. They love the elbows, and already eaten to the bone, shields are still needed. They buzz like swarms around the nylon home, and we laugh in safety, wondering if they ever sleep. Dreaming of the sleep bag and tent all day, the sun lives a long life up in these mountains. Dusk keeps the sky awake until 10:30pm and pitched on the deck of a ski resort snooze came before the sun even fell over the ridge completely. 

Field notes: 93N is a busy and gorgeous road but it does have a small/medium shoulder. Salmon is a decent size town, population 3000.  Odd Fellows' Bakery is a must. There is also a bike shop in town with weird hours. Rest stop after the 20-mile climb on the Montana border has nice bathrooms and plenty of water. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Miles: 97
Elevation gain: none. Downhill in a horrid funnel of a headwind. 
Temperature: 100 degrees and deathly hot 

The welcome sign to Montana was plastered with a big black bear. A nerve-wracking nights sleep was wrestled with nightmares of negotiating our gourmet bagel breakfast with mommy and her cubs. 

It should have been an all down hill day, but these unfortunate daily headwinds have slowed the wheedled boys to a pathetic crawl. The heat sucked motivation from every pore and at mile 85 shelter was found at a gas station stocked full of IPAs, ice water, and AC. We poured into the ice cold store like a dog in a fur coat drenched in the boiling sun all day. 2 hours, 2 beers, and 2 ice creams later we were normal enough to enter the massive town of Missoula, population 60,000. 

Realizing that Montana must be the state where the west supply of oxygen is produced, they could title it tree and Mosquito Capitol. Groceries and beer are ridiculously cheap, and people are friendly but poor. The locals call it big sky for a reason; as though the hemisphere was on stilts. Vastly encased in the soft green porcupine mountains, horses line front yards as an average house pet. 

The one downfall of bike touring is rolling into cities without a solid plan is an overwhelming nightmare. On the skirts of town a narrow path lead down to the Mosquito infested river and after failing at our first try to find a trail into the national forest, this might have been the gold mine to a nights sleep. Old tattered blue tarps and filthy blankets lay under a dirty clearing along the stagnant river water. Garbage littered the dense growth, ripped magazine pages and empty beer cans. Unaware that Missoula was at one time the second largest meth town in the America, little did we know where the trail led. Walking into the home of the town’s runaways, they had that look of oblivion, lost in an unhealthy drug binge, torn clothes, and wreckless. They lived without love in angry states and we left. Home was found at an overflowing KOA campsite at the opposite edge of town as dusk fell. Packed in like sardines, NO VACANCY was all they said to Ralph. A pair of hitch-hiking college kids took us in to share a plot of grass on their overpriced grassy lot. 99-cent cans of corn and peas were snacked on and asleep next to the company of 80 campervans and tents, we were ready to leave the city before we had even seen it. 

There a certain mindset that comes with treks like this. At the end of exhaustion, no matter how hard the day, there is a fleeting moment that makes it all worth it. The mind shuts off, and silence is seen in the most beautiful places in America. It isn't something that can be found or experienced in a car, for us at least. It is gifted earned. Humanity wouldn't display its greatness, showers could never feel like Christmas, and warm coffee with real milk and sugar wouldn't make or break a day. You don't need a lot to experience the pleasure of life; somewhere I'm wondering if too many Americans have missed that. 

Field notes: 93N after Sula for 10ish miles there is no shoulder and it's tight and windy, but after that the shoulder is so large it makes up for the last. After Hamilton there is a bike path all the way to 6 miles outside of Missoula. 

Miles: 66
Elevation gain: massive rolling hills. 4000ft perhaps?
Temperature: low 90s with an after storm rolling by

Book in hand, sweet liquid consumption tableside, relaxation took over the leather chairs of Starbucks all morning. Unable to budge, we could have lounged here all day in the coffee infused AC, watching the interesting sorts of this town without moving more than a finger muscle. Teens in wife beater, business women in high heals with bleached blond hair and the perfectly crimped curls tantalizing men while they order vente non fat vanilla lattes, old men with dense glasses hidden in newspapers, and students in jean cut offs and pink Jan sport backpacks jotting away in college ruled notebooks. Athletic moms with pre teen daughters type away at fancy phones waiting to order and suited bachelors rush into the hot sun with trays of labeled coffees. Thinking we must have seen the whole town walk through this corporation, and getting overly annoyed with the fake smiley faces and high pitched personalized name call of the green apron wearing staff, it was time to pedal. 

Leaving the city was treacherous. Chaos and confinement within a cement cavity, cars whizzing by, intercepting HWYs laced with hairy roads made over caffeinated stomachs anxious. Sense of direction was twisted like a drunken haze, and escape seemed like a mountain range away. 20 miles from the ungodly chatter of dirty noise, we hit blue glacier like mountains nestled in summer-weathered, long-gassed, pale and smooth mustard fields. They chirped with millions of wild playing crickets, and we soared like birds through a vast Indian reservation.  

The weather just gets to you out here. The mornings are temperate, but the heat of the day hits at 6pm, and at 9:30 it's still 90 degrees outside. In this kind of misery, midday stops are a necessity. Walking into the only AC in miles, candy lined the isles of gas station heaven. There they were staring back, the first inclination should have been ice water, but these round bean shapes sugary flavored morels call out like a whining toddler. 2 minutes later, perched on shady cement, pear exploded on taste buds. It is a weird concept, Jelly Bellys. Something about packing bursts of fake flavor into a bean shape, was like an unreal hallucinogenic mouth sensation. Finding those moments that scream America, this ranked as like the prize winning pig at a county fair. Sometimes you just gotta let those absurdities wander through the towns this country was built on and enjoy that sugary glee with laughter. 

We become spoiled, lazy yuppies, tent camping at these RV parks. But the thought of flushable toilets, fresh teeth brushing water, and soapy showers makes for too sound good nights sleep. Leaving the hunt for a hidden sleeping post in the woods, desolate Canada days lay less than 150 miles ahead. So we soak up this American life in leisure. 

Field notes: hwy 93N starting 6 miles outside of Missoula all the way to Flathead Lake has a very sketchy shoulder in some places. It is worth taking an extra day or 100 miles to reroute this whole section. It was pretty, but the traffic was so bad views couldn't be enjoyed. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Miles: 65
Elevation gain: 2500ft
Temperature: high 80s at the lake. Low 90s in the city. 

18 days in, 1400 miles, and almost to the border of Canada it all came to fruition. It is intense out here. Left with simply scenery and a road, we can disconnect from distractions and live many many maybe too many hours in the mind. All day, watching the thoughts go by, truth is buried beneath cluttered complications easily pushed aside in daily life. But on the open road escaping a life as we know it, it's impossible to not run away, to blank something out. It takes a chunk of time to start to adapt with the outside world of trees and rocks. They are on a different rhythm than society and it doesn’t go at 65mph. Humans were not meant to go that fast and only after pedaling along diagonally up a country to another, does one see the millions of pieces missed. Being somewhere never experienced stimulates a nullification city life instills. Hyper aware of the smallest things, it becomes strangely meditative at such a slower pace. It's a beautifully unique feeling, but the idea of home where the comforts of friends and familiarity are packed in a box, start to seem like they are waiting a thousand miles away. 

The zoom of cars never ends on this freaking road. Well maybe for the split second where in between the sound of rubber gripping asphalt for dear life, you hear a cow mooing for apples in the background. Wondering where in the world the never ending flow of flying metal, plastic, glass and gasoline is headed, we realize we are approaching a famous world attraction, Glacier National Park. There is something I must have missed in my upbringing about mobile homes and RV parks. And I thank my mom and dad for that. If it isn't a fat campervan trying to squeeze in the dotted yellow and white lines, it's a pick up hauling a trailer home. People towing beds, sinks, satellite TVs, lawn chairs and toilets around for hundreds of miles. We meet their metal bodies at these paid parks we pitch tent in, but we somehow cannot find their owners. They buzz up and down into some of the most beautiful lands to plug into electric outlets, sit inside, and watch TV. A bit boggled and lost with this concept, our strange road-sharing inhabitants are so encased in their metal moving boxes, that engagement with this species is impossible. Wanting to understand, maybe I should start with purchasing some bug spray and then a television. 

The cars crop-dusted us all day on the awful yet so gorgeous 2 lane swerved hwy 35. The road hugged the ocean sized misty blue lake for 50 miles. Lined with cherry trees draped in deep red blasphemous fruit it, was like riding through a good dream. The ones where every house pitched a fresh fruit stand outside their orchard and plump juicy berries were picked for cities worldwide. It was cherry heaven. Of course we stopped to devour this healthy sugar. Ralph got the first question as our posse pulled up - if he liked cherries. I knew the words about to come out of his mouth, he wanted carrots. But that look of silence from mom was enough to quiet anyone, and minutes later we were eating 120 cherries. Oh boy! These red balls only come to snobby Californians at $10lb, their wound colored blood red juice dripped with energizing sugars. Pits scattered the grass as our mouths turned candy red from a gifted 3lb bag of these blobs. Good news, had my cherry fill for the rest of the year. Bad news, we were about to pass 30 more cherry roadside stands within the hour and I wanted an lifetime's fill of these tree picked berries. 

Leaving the cherry hut, logging truck hustled by without empathy. Frustration turned to anger at these big diesel-mobiles unwilling to give us our righteous road space. We had been fighting their suction winds and rumble for two days now and their powerful force that is dumped when they swish by. Fed up, Zeb and I took over the hwy. They either were forced to now slow the fuck down and pass us gracefully, or blatantly run this trio over. It worked, to Ralph's terrifying fear. See, he sits backwards starring all those logging and diesel monsters tearing down. They hate us, we hate them. Screams wafted off the back of Zeb's rack as though death was certain. "Chill Ralph, we're gonna live, just close your eyes and hang on." For the most part it worked on angry truck drivers who were forced to slow down for some hippy cyclists carrying a stuffed reindeer.

 But every spur moment there would be the one trucker wanting to play chicken. Maybe a mini dare devil, but educated enough to understand mass and ratios, we were the chickens interfering the madmen. Oh how it stirred an anger, when shoved to the gravel, to catch that mother fucking 18-wheeler at the next town gas station. Gerta, our 1900's six inch buck knife blade of steel, would be waiting to slash right through that asshole's back tire. Not just a slash, but a churn so damaging he better have a spare. Imagining that pitch of a sound as air gasps out of over inflated rubber, revenge would have been served. "Oh sorry, were you in a hurry?" would be my last words to them as we roll off at our 12 mph pace. 

We finally made it half alive to our dear friends mother's house in Kalispell. For once we were also 1/2 ready to enter civilization, practically showered, full of cherries, and functional from a shorter 60 mile day. Ms. Karen Dean we call her, and she hugged us all the way to the table of hummus, chairs, and beers. I didn't even know this lady, but within minutes we were somehow home again. After demanding baby photos of her marvelous daughter, and showering with a real fluffy towel, we finally made it to dinner at the old town saloon, scattered with peanut shells, sawdust, and real cowboys. Mrs. Dean was the hippest mom in town as we ate pizza and drank beers like we were in the rowdy old Wild West. Sleep soon followed, and 18 days later, we slept the deepest sleep, unwakable like those rum soaked pirates in a home that felt like home. Thanks Mrs. Dean. 

And sorry for the typos, my editor is still snoring. 

Field Notes: just find another route from Missoula to Glacier National Park. The cherries were delicious but not worth the frightening headache. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Miles: 0!

Heaven presented itself on a gold platter all day. As though we had just hiked the whole Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in a mere 24 hours, relaxation turned muscles to instant potato mush. Morning was greeted with more tree ripe cherries, plucked from the orchard by Mrs. Dean herself. As coffee was served, a white mystery package arrived, carefully labeled from the boy's grand ranch home in New Hampshire. A week after the devastating incident at the post office, the Congo bars had arrived. They were padded for crumble protection  around 15lbs of scones, pure maple syrup, chocolate of everything, granola, chef grade rice, and homemade bars and jam. The spectrum of homey carbness nearly collapsed the table and eyes popped in awe at the miraculousness of moms. Talk about true love. Hearts sang. 

By 5 pm we had napped eaten napped and eaten again, stocked up on floss, bars, and bug spray. Paced isles of the sports store analyzing a million varieties of bear spray and drooling over derringers. The heat caged us in and we cleaned Mrs. Deans house, read, wrote, putzed around to couch bed and back to the couch, ADD(ally) watched The Sandlot like Kevin McAlister in home alone, fell asleep hours before the sun set, and planned to reach Glacier National Park by am sunrise. Hopefully just in time to buy a bag of trail mix and sit on the free shuttle bus, exercise free, like watching a movie, soaking up one more day of leisure before the mountains of Canada made the Rockies look like any hills. 

No photos for today; enjoy the secret stash. 

   The Wild Wild West Saloon:
   River camping:

    Ralph's favorite: carrot hotdogs 

    Road Risotto: 

    Ralph loading up on dessert: 

Field Notes: none. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Miles: 36 (to glacier park)

Glacier National Park: Bonsai dwarflike fairy tale trees stagger their way to the summit. Delicate purple flowers sprinkle the grassy flow of the land. Mountain peaks jet out from white caps that melt away into weeping waterfalls, watering the lush life of summer thousands of feet below. They ran like plump veins feeding the soul of the earth. White butterfly's floated by with the sound of too many tourists and screaming kids echoing in the background. Ice-cold clean water leaked from rocks and moss. Streams flowed wildly, coaxing colored rocks into smooth bodies of stone. Hypothermic snow and ice waters took the edge off sunny heat; it soothed the land where mountain horned goats ran wild. Their furry bodies are reminiscent of wild and weathered dogs. With thick matted fur, they survive fridged temperatures burrowed in winter mountains. They are fearless of humans, as if we had gone to the petting zoo. Summer summit snow embraced freed sandaled feet, and numbed these frost bitten toes. Birkenstocks: not for snow hiking, and even this white powder didn't defer blood sucking Mosquitoes. 

I was not ready to emerge into swarms of people. They were taking too many over-exposed pictures, all fake smiling and clothed in neon colored shirts, acting like they were professional hikers of the woods. The kids shattering screams followed us like magnets, and the thought of ever owning a similar creature was now completely out of the question. Those rascals that won't shut up, giving out pain staking headaches throughout rooms. Have we been removed from society for too long? Surrounded by this massive transit of tree seeking people petting mountain goats, it was all too overwhelming. Too many cars had painlessly driven to this scenic view, polluting scenery with ugly metal, to then tramp on tender soil simply for a thirty-minute view. If you have ever read, Desert Solitude, by Edward Abby, you would know my words exactly. To survive the torture of this pathetic situation, we used a slew of aggressive words with a lighthearted flavor to keep sanity. Landscapes like this are meant to be earned, not just admired as an item of the day. 

Exhaustion has set in worse than narcolepsy. What happened to us? Passed out like drugged surgery patients on the hour bus ride up to Logan Pass, eyelids felt like fishing line weights sinking eyes into deep dreams. No matter how scenic the views, we could have been winning a million dollars, but the soothing drive knocked us down like bowling pins. No longer wanting to be on vacation with families, with too much blond hair and blue eyes, we question how we will return to one hundred mile days, even with 12 hours of starry night sleep. Or better, question how we will ever be able to return to city life. 

Purple fields:

Logan Pass: furry friendly mountain goats

Veins of water:

Summer summits and tan lines:

View of Logan Pass from our campsite:

Field Notes: Hwy 2 will take you all the way to Glacier Park entrance. It has a very wide shoulder, but is the only road into the park from the west. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Miles: 97
Elevation gain: 4500 perhaps 
Temperature: low 90s 

We had settled into 11 hours of sleep Saturday night, but by midnight the lightening storm stole a few of those hours back. Glacier peak and Logan Pass must have been married on that rainy night, lights flashed like it was their wedding day. Thunder wasn't the word for the anger that erupted from the sky. It moved mountains, rumbled the ground, and crackled like a ball flying in a pinball machine, echoing off every granule of rock formation and jumping over peaks and through valleys. 

The morning was off to a slow start, as Action Boy was causing quite a ruckus. Flat fire at .01 of a mile, the list went on as if he had turned into one of those little monsters from yesterday. Zeb too, sprained ankle, creaked his crank all day turn after turn. It was one of those early sleeping mornings where tea was out of the question and coffee was a necessity of life. I get it, the coffee craze. A simple cup of brown water and suddenly the day is tackleable. But the shakes came on in the coffee shop of a tiny Montana town. Thinking I was tripping balls, I was staring at an ex lover and still friend, Mr. Zack and his best friend. Really thinking I must have lost my mind, was this a dream, did I do too many drugs as a kid and all had caught up to me at age 29? Nearly having a panic attack cause by too much coffee and starting to question reality, O'Reilly must have thought I'd seen a ghost upon return to our caffeine table. "Pinch me, are we in Whitefish Montana?" It hurt. Ok this is not a dream, I've not lost my mind, and I was drinking black caffeine in a town of maybe 5,000 while biking to Canada and ran into my old friends. Nothing abnormal about that. Reality questioned itself again while passing a turquoise blue fat lake of unreal water. It glistened in the light like New Mexican jewelry. We were Skipper and Gillian on a grand island of our own, never yet found.  

Days of long miles began again and O'Reilly and Ralph started quite a feud. I have to say, I side with the reindeer on this one. It went on all day and started over ketchup, our favorite condiment. The question being, which is more similar: mashed potatoes and French fries or French fries and corn tortillas? The obvious answer being the two items that are fried and dip able of course. Calling the mediator, our famous Chef Alia, it was confirmed potatoes are to polenta. Road life must have gotten the best of O'Reilly, a trained chef. And on a normal day, I would agree with his culinary judgment. But the past few days have been sore on the taste buds, dousing boxed Chardonnay with maple syrup, mashed potatoes with Dijon and cliff bars smashed between bagels. Scolding me for my dried fruit and nut trail mix sandwiches, we really had lost our minds, and Ralph was the witness. 

We hit Canada at 5pm with passports ready, and Ralph was explicitly told to play dead. He's very good at that command. The next minute we were interrogated by an officer of the law; where we were going, how much money we had, why in the world we would be on bicycles, and finally asking for Ralph's passport? He never got one, due to the fact the US government had some strict rules about American citizens. So there he was, stuck between two government systems and considered an invasive specie, to be left at the immigrations office. There was only one option, turn around, and ride home. A mile backwards, we picked up our hidden stash of "medicinal" carrots and things, and sat drinking beers and dining on free buckets of peanuts to celebrate. 

Suddenly this country that I was fed up of felt like home again. People in their oversized mobile homes, grossly overweight and living the consumerist American dream in drug laden, uneducated cities. We had the friendliest of strangers and most beautifully laid countryside around. Canada would have been neat, a lot of trees I can imagine, but so were the comforts that come with  riding back in the homeland of my loved by hated country. And so, the trek began, 1400 miles back to the coast and down the famous HWY 1. 

Funny how life works out, when you can freely give up exceptions and fly with what is presented on the unpredictable platter. Sometimes familiarity, with all its flaws and trade offs, is too overwhelming comforting. And at moments of hate, wanting to toss it all down the drain, the other side shines though and all the good forgotten is exposed. 

We made it!

Pure happiness! 

We bribed the officer for one photo with his sign:

Best campsite yet:

O'Reilly's New pair of Skin Shorts
color code: tan lines

Field notes: leaving Whitefish, hwy 93N has no shoulder and sucks. 20 miles in the shoulder widens and it's not as bad. 

Monday, August 4, 2014 Day 22. Back to Idaho.
Miles: 87
Elevation gain: 6000 I predict 
Temperature: high 103

A morning slew of phone buzzing messages rolled in wondering the details on Ralph's rejection. They demanded with explanation points, the truth under the cover up as if he had been stuff with our daranger. Honestly, having reached the border of our backyard, it felt completely rewarding to finish this trip full circle and ride all the way home. Canada is expensive, there is one road up to Banff, and it's an offshoot of our horrid route hwy93 just renamed in Canadian terms. Banff and Jasper Lakes may have been exceptionally beautiful, but full of Winnebagos and tourists plus an overpriced plane ticket home for the 5 of us. Even if we had made it to Santa's home, the places that have been most remembered are the intimate settings alone with nature, like camping above a farmer's field on a grassy knoll. Despite the vastness of grand places like Glacier, and perhaps Banff, the background noise of screaming monsters and aloof tourists ruins the quality of the view. Laying ahead, we still had to cross back over 1/2 the Rockies, through the Cascades to Seattle and then down the American coastline. 

The heat of the day out here zaps energy and the lethargic posses seek shade by any cool lake. Naps: ever notorious for reviving states of depletion, the need comes on like a piercing migraine. The next thing we knew, passed out under a tree next to the biggest river lake, hours ceased to exist. Like waking from a time warp, grass blades imprinted on face, helmet still on, O'Reilly was missing, and a half drunk mystery ice cold diet coke lay beside the scene. It was like one of those days, pooped after work, suddenly waking up, fully dressed earring still in. The clock reads midnight, dim lights shine in the corner and the dog is restlessly slumped across the room, giving you that awful look: dinner was 5 hours ago and so was pee time. But oh the powers of multiple sleep cycles, so deep, and hours in, ants could eat one alive, and no amount of awkward stares would ever be noticed. O'Reilly was found in his habitat, refreshingly swimming in the watery lake, and then we were off again. 

But hours later the heat drank the water right out of our veins again. We love people watching in small towns, to see a side of lives that are unfamiliar to ours. These tiny towns don't produce and urge to explore the beyond where family and friends remain for decades. It is never a pulsing desire. Eating dinner on a grocery store bench in Libby Montana became the ultimate people watching stump while the asphalt cooled. The town flocked in, tattooed young moms pulling toddlers, boys on beer runs, retired couples on vacation. The best were the teenage employees shoveling shopping carts around the parking lot on a mission. They befriended us with curiosity and we kept them entertained for hours while drinking a cartoon of cold milk. 

8pm hit, it was still 91 degrees out, and chamois were still glued to the grocery store bench. The decision to set out for a last 20-mile stroll into camp sank the remaining heat of the day over the horizon. Ralph beamed his shinny red nose at cars as dusk fell, trains whistled by, sunset glowed an array of colors, and sleep took hold again under the stars at a very random of stops.  

Koocanusa Bridge and Lake:

Sunset ride to camp:

Ralph's headlamp fits perfectly! 

Field notes: hwy 37S. First 8 miles out of town suck. No shoulder lots of cars. After that there is a wide shoulder with rolling hills and very few cars. Some of the most scenic roads we've been on so far. Definitely take this road if you are in the area. Water and supplied are scare all the way to Libby (67 miles). Hwy2 is a beautiful road with a huge shoulder. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Miles: 98
Elevation gain: a lot of downhill
Temperature: high mid 90s. 

Gotta love the Amish for doing some things seriously borderline perfect. Stumbling across a town population of 350, a little gem called The Pantry grabbed us off the road with its coffee and raw milk signage. We had walked into the 1920s: young women in bonnets kneading fresh bread in the kitchen with wild huckleberry pies plated piping hot from the oven. Hand churned butter stacked in bounty in the fridge and an endless assortment of spices, grains, and dehydrated veggies were perfectly packaged to specific sizes. Raw milk right out of the cow cost a mere $1.79 a pint and coffee cups sat next to a papa bear sized Henry oozing with local honey. The Amish lawn chairs lining the historic street were crafted like a hug, snuggling tired limbs as if it were naptime once again. Even after round two of black caffeine, time lapsed and Ralph and I were deep into shady dreamland until the chatter of voices and men munching on sandwiches seeped into canals of ears. Piecing the puzzle together as sleepiness washed away, O'Reilly returned, Red Bull in hand, refreshed and off we trotted. Giant trees of pine shot upwards to the sky, and the snaking river pulled us downstream all day. 

But the naps just never ended. Sprawled on the cool cement at 5pm behind the bagel re-supply stop of Safeway, clenched by the heat of the day, the grips of sleep took over once again. Surrounded by O'Reilly's head buried deep in book land, sticky BBQ packets, and ants looking for scraps of the nuggets, dreamland overtook with a drool. The ability to fall asleep as fast as a trained dog will sit for an animal biscuit is coming in quite handy. 

A kind, motorcycle-traveling Canadian shared his over spacious campsite with us. Exchanging life stories of winters reaching negative 50 degrees, we were enlightened from the Canadian source that Banff was flooded with the worst influx of tourists, a hell trap. Knowing these motorcycle gals and gents share the same attitude out here, the decision to head home was confirmed with authority. Our two wheeled, motorcycle friends are like teachers. The locals know the roads, hate the trucks, cheer us on, and similarity are seeking blissful silence and solitude. They all smile and wave, Ralph gleaming with waves right back at them. 

Routine has kicked in and we operate like a well-choreographed ballet. O'Reilly's brews morning coffee, Ralph scavenges for bagels and toothpaste, left is the honor of putting our house back into its tiny little bag, and the two-wheeled boys get the morning off to gear up for a long hot day. The miles that drag are not the first or the last, but when that awful number 30 hits. Still too many handfuls away from ending, the sun breaks over the mountain, bagel sugars have long been eaten up, and defeat almost sets in. But the day lingers on and progress is made, and finally headed west again, we chase the sun and follow sunsets. When that quiet period of dusk falls, the wrath of the day lifts and a cool breeze drifts between the wild grasses, all the miserable parts are forgotten. 

One of the million lakes that followed us all day:

Field notes: hwy 56 S is amazing. Medium shoulder, cradled by giant pines. Limited stops for 44 miles. Hwy200 more traffic, but good shoulder. Stop at the pantry in fort, yum! Hwy 2 out of standpoint is a busy road with a wide shoulder. There is a bike path from standpoint to the next town Dover. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Miles: 80
Elevation gain: no clue
Temperature: mid 90

Finally I get my hooves on this phone thing to clear the truth. First, my carrots are not medicinal, I'm a straight edge reindeer, and they don't even own a daranger! Imagine that, trying to pawn off their special cookies as my carrots like I'm some criminal. 

The truth has to be told by someone. Their month of lies, I'm not 4lbs! I'm a handsome 2lbs or 907 grams to be exact. To think of the multiple post office runs, shelling weight by ridding towels, gloves, books, rain pants, cups and lights. They laugh hysterically at me for wearing a headlamp to chase away cars, but here's the laugh of it all. We spent over an hour searching isles of thrift stores for the perfect handcrafted mug today. The mug was nice, hand pottered with a scooping bulb and flared rim. The handle sits comfortably around fingers, like a worn baseball glove. It has a nice glaze, matte shino finish, with random initials D.W. on the foot. It holds a lot of tea, and the 4 boys agreed, no more coffee for the girl. Here they ditched lbs of gear to buy a useless mug that weighs as much as me! 

After the thrift store hunt the word laundry escapes their mouths. Gosh darn wooggies, like seriously!? I'm just getting my natural funk flare on and they're rambling about the freaking laundry mat. That place makes me sick where we go round and round in a fan of heat after being drowned in lavender toxic bubbles. I wreak of the perfume section from Macy's and puked the rest of the day. I'm strapped so tight onto this bike, my lungs have nearly collapsed, and my only dirt rolls happen while walking from bike to tent. O'Reilly stinks worse than me! It's not fair. 

I know I'm not supposed to complain, I'm getting a free ride here, but the heat, it's freak hot out here.  Wrap me in some tin foil and you'd have slow roasted deer for dinner; or deer jerky. Thank goodness moms a vegetarian. But O'Reilly, I've seen his eyes when we gets his grimy hands on that fried chicken. Although he did rescue me from that horrible storm in Juntura, so I guess he has a soft spot for me. 

As for the day, we crossed another state line. Funny how the humans make such a big deal of it, and yet, there is no line marking that we hit another state like the maps portray. The scenery never drastically changes, and the people all look the same. We entered a massive city, flying down busy roads like the ones in Los angles. It's called Spokane, and the outskirts are lined with train tracks, oilrigs, and potholes. Nothing redeeming about this town, until we hit the heart, and it came to life with character. Art, music, nature, hipsters, rednecks, and families. I was so excited about the hotel that was chatted about, but somehow we ended up behind a barn off the hwy. The sunset was pretty freaking magnetic. The sun went from the color of a fresh orange egg yoke to neon pink as it fell beyond the haze of grassy fields in the distance. 

Love, Ralph 

Washington Sunset: 

Field notes: hwy 2 has a big shoulder but sucks as a road. Find another route if possible. Spokane is a cool city, but find the right district. Bicycle friendly if you find the right roads. Camping at riverside state park. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Miles: 84
Elevation: flattish and windy
Temperature: high mid 90s. 

It's six am. We are sitting in the only hangout in town, a grocery store cafe. The posse has regrouped for the day over 1/2 gallon of grapefruit juice. It had been a long restless night behind the barn. 'Seemed like such a brilliant idea. Like the night we slept in a wagon on the front lawn of an insurance company and woke up on Main St. Some things seem more practical in the dark. 

He was red in the face, saddened smeared across his body, but very curious about Ralph. You sit long enough in a place, you really observe people. Something about this fellow broke my heart in. Sitting with his backpack and black coffee, I saw through the facade. 11 years ago I was in those same shoes. I just got lucky. Lucky to have looked 12 at age 18, lucky to be white and an innocent faced girl. Like a fox, I was nimble enough to talk my way out of handcuffs and lucky enough to have people who cared. People who cared who didn't have to and it was more than I could understand at the time. 

Clicking around linoleum titled floors, in funny shoes, and full spandex, helmet on, breaks down human barriers. In normal life fellows like this never much say a word to me, but all guards down, we became friends. Imagine if everyone walked around in spandex and helmets. Maybe that's the answer to world peace. He asked the teddy bears name. "Rudolf and he's 19," I said smiling as if we both knew sorrows can be washed away with the power imagination. On the way out, reminded of the gifts we take for granted every hour, we bought him breakfast. Exiting we passed 5 elderly retired farmers, gathered for the ritual morning coffee, biscuits, and conversation. Dressed in jean overalls and cowboy boots, they laugh in good company. They wear their wrinkles with a lifetime of stories while they chat over insurance policies, voting, and the prices of pastures. 

As if the morning over caffeine and gratitude wasn't enough there suddenly became a brand new wrinkle in brain. Something that can never be forgotten. Like riding up upon a freshly hit coyote. Her spirit was looking down at the body she was given, warm bright red blood drizzled from her mouth. It stained the pavement writing murder into the cracks. "Blindfolds Ralph," but the 19 year old was too feisty to obey and squealed in angst. "And that is why I strap you in till your lungs collapse." Ruthless cars screamed by, shock hit. The left front wheels of a speeding weapon struck the dead bleeding head of the girl we named Francis. The body jumped on impact crumbling her skull in front of our eyes. Blood splashed across action boy and sickening adrenaline ran though veins. Such disregard to life forms: the disconnect that people have flying cars down HWYs. Murderous thoughts of witnessing death ran too scarily through minds to move. And we sat in gasps on the side of the road. The image replayed vividly in slow motion for hours. 

Eastern Washington, no apples here, desert desolate fields flooded with wheat. Towns of nothingness, but silos and mills, smells of grain and oil fill the air. Lincoln county is the 2nd largest county for producing wheat in the world when in full production; 2nd behind somewhere in Russia. And the one open AC hut in town was the local bar, our bartender being the farmer of town that evening, and the crowd all the local grain growers. We drilled the crowd like they were professors of wheat, magical men producing an Italian staple. The facts spilled out: small farm equated to 3200 acres, and big ones...20,000, owned by the Canadians. It's a sore topic. Our lovely government subsides many of these farmers $50 and acre to keep the fields baron. This keeps the prices per bushel high and in rich demand. Fascinating. We could have camped in the bar with knowledge flowing like this from the source. 

But the desert road of sunset magnetically call us west. Silence of asphalt echoed, endless miles could be pinpointed on a road where cars pass once and hour, and suddenly nothing but the current moment mattered. Ralph's belly covered in sticky road tar was forgotten amidst the quilted wheat fields beneath a purple sky. A parried of random white cow mooed in orchestra rhythm as we passed. Beetles the size of potatoes look at us with funny stares. Beauty from every corner blanketed us. Endless pastels change the harshness of the afternoons sun scorch in soft fields and shrubs. The moon rises in the east as the sun vibrantly says goodnight in the west and exhausted, we drift into dreamland in a very magical desert. 

Eastern Washington:

Odessa, the town of wheat:

And exploration:

It just never ends, the flood of wheat: the bike:

magical deserts sunset:

Field notes: hwy 912 W. Good road in the morning. Traffic would be heavy in the evening, people headed home from Spokane. Brookes Rd, good road. Hwy 2, shoulder bigger than traffic lane, but lots of cars. Hwy 28s awesome road. Big shoulder, very few cars. Very few stops, but all tiny town along the way have a fascinating story. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Miles: 68
Elevation: flattish
Temperature: 95ish 

Some days are just hard. They push edges and test the brink of human limits. 2000 miles in every pore is sucked bone dry, mentally stretched and physically empty. There isn't much left to think or say, just tears of tiredness that cling to cheeks. Sick of cars, burnt from the impulsive sun, missing dear friends, stuck in thought, dehydrated, probably hungry if only I could tell, and crashing from caffeine and sugar overload. Some days are just hard, but the wear and tear of near defeat passes with a simple good nights sleep. 

A solid nights worth of dreams was just a short ride and mattress away. But then the day unfolded to a headache. Arising to a blissful morning of silence, the sunrise soothed us in and out of waking sleep. Camp tea and coffee made a leisurely morning, and the coolness of the night still blanketed the land. But it was a desolate and thirsty thirty miles to the first water stop. Ice cold hydration was finally served in an all-American, anywhere crack town. But the coolness set by clouds had cleared and the heat of the day drenched the earth. Bolts loosened and flew of racks but duck tape was handy. O'Reilly's legs just wouldn’t work, but fried chicken loosened legs of stone. We pulled that wild card from our load. Like the one in UNO. Splurge was the word and we needed those moments of personal clean running water, ice and electricity to regroup. To reorganize life. Long sprawling days left panniers rummaged. And a scattered life out of two bags produces a scattered brain. Lacking focus and motivation, laziness and defeat try to claw their way through.

But Arcade Fire, an overplayed radio band, ruined the plan. They were performing at one of the most reputable outdoor venues 20,000 people could flock to. But it was in middle of a desolate sprawling desert. The town, habituated by a mere 3,000, we were the only white people in town. It had a sole McDonalds riddled with hidden gangs and all 80 mattresses in town were booked. The day seemed endless. Action Boy rebelled, deflating outside the air-conditioned red and yellow French fry factory.  Good news: locals gave us pristine directions to a buried campsite ten miles out of town at a lake full of wild herons. A stray husky barks and runs in fear as we search for sleep in his home. Withered, dirty, frail, thin, and scared he needs a friendly hug, but not even my trail of the heartiest 24-grain bread could lure him in. Slice by slice they were stacked like fallen dominos. If he could just let us love him, we would keep him warm and feed him all our goodies. Bad news: we have no daily photos. But I'm sure you will all be excited to hear Ralph is deep in thought today preparing his words of gritty detail. I'm taking the day from this story and will be sitting in a hot shower then lying in an AC room. Probably the best thing since Sriracha was invented. 

Field notes: hwy 28 to soap lake. Lovely!!! A Must! After that it is just unpleasant to Quincy. Good shoulder though. Same for the hwy from Quincy to George. 

Miles: 78
Elevation gain: let's just call it one big mountain
Temperature: high 104

Sorry but Ralph is currently on time out. We returned to our kingdom of a motel room after an emergency Safeway fried chicken run for O'Reilly. From the window, Ralph was doing jumping jacks on the mattress, carrot bits scattered the floor and that reindeer was blasting the AC at 32 degrees. We pulled out every layer as we walked through the palace gates. Wrapped in down jackets, it was over 100 degrees outside. Our sleeping bags are rated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so 32 was apparently a fair compromise for Ralph. Then we compromised; no blog today, but he was allowed to sleep in the freezer of our motel room for the rest of the night. 

That reindeer just had to have the last word. "They left me all alone in the red carpet floral print bedspread motel room with a huge mattress. The carrots, they has like twenty of them, and it is 104 degrees outside. I'm from the North Pole," spilled from his mouth, just as the freezer door shut. 

Things started to piece together. You see, my golden furry eighty-pound four-legged son back in Oakland is not so fond of Ralph. I never quite understood why. Assuming when I left my apartment for the day, they both slept like dogs. But the whole truth came out tonight in hopes that honesty could re-buy his writing privileges. My poor eleven-year-old dog has to deal with Ralph doing gymnastics on the springy bed all day. Apparently he is pretty good, having practiced for nineteen years, but is always arguing with the dog to join.  "Ralph, Rusty is eleven, in your years that's seventy-seven." He was very confused. 

So sorry to disappoint, Ralph will be writing soon don't worry. The day was hot and If only we had known that the magic to relinquish all woes was in the massive sandwich chain of Subway. After a full four feet of veggie delight and turkey mustard bread, we flew up and over mountains. On a high-speed roller coaster we passed the worlds supply of apples in the middle of a desert. The ending days shower beat the invention of Sriracha. The cool clean soapy water is now just one notch under the invention of electricity. Checking on Ralph before we pass out, he is out cold in his natural habitat, a huge smile wiped across this face. 

Over the mountain:

We found Washington apples, and their shipping crates.:

80miles, 104degrees, and one beer later:

It all makes sense now. 

Field notes: hwy 241 to Beverly is amazing. No cars. 24 has an ok shoulder but lots of cars. We took the 243, then hopped back on the 24 to the 241, which again was spectacular with few cars. Very limited stops from George to Sunnyside. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Miles: 85
Elevation: 2 mountain passes. 
Temperature: high 105 

The days are fast, yet drawn out. 
Tranquilized and over stimulated. 
Engaged in every act of the day. 
Sucked into the flow of a motion we've become accustomed to. The load of weight is a part of us now. And Ralph thawed in the 105-degree heat as if punishment was a reward. Here we are in the pure glory of a moment: perched on a farmer's hill staring down in awe at the Columbia River. No one knows we are here, no one cares and it's beautiful. The land cools, the road winds around the cliff. It is traveled by latecomers and goers and mile long trains. They sing to us from a mesmerized amphitheater that always echoes. To memorize a place, where only the now matters, when city life becomes too ordinary, the escape is locked into memory. The only thing to ever give back to this place, the only respectable gift, is the body that has been here. Even if the chance to grow old and grey were unwantingly taken... I know I have lived dreams to the fullest. And this land taught me to give myself back. 

A little rest, a half-gallon of milk and many feet of sandwich has magically turned legs into solid muscle. We were revived, strong, unabated by heat or hills. We had passed the hump of hardness, and were well rewarded for it. Washington had finally opened its palace doors, bugs flew off to the east and camper vans clotted into the arteries of the great unseen highways.

If what you are doing is really important, it's enough; it seeps out of pores, it inspires others without having to say a word. Sometimes we forget the magnitude of what we are doing. But then a stranger will find us downing ice water at a gas station in 105-degree desert heat and their curiosity rejuvenates our story. It's an art of struggle, topped with dares over shots of salt packets. Living a life opposite of most lives we push the most menial home America could fathom. And without much but simple basics we sit staring at infinity, with the values of life shining crystal clear back at us. Worry ceases, stresses are left states behind. A giant rock in its gravitational pull, illuminated by the sun, rises over the earth, and we are so lucky. Lucky to be here and to see these moments and take them with us for a lifetime. 

Today's post was a collaboration of writing styles thanks to O'Reilly. Having gained a deeper appreciation for Mother Earth we both shared similar thoughts. Leaving our newfound glory, a roadside marker reads a line in history. European immigrants "bought" this land from the original people. Funny how the choice of words paints a surreal picture. Bullshit, we killed those Indians for this land, we stole it and barricaded their waterfalls that were fished in for ten thousand years. The sad story continues when we've learned nothing and the same cycle continues 250 years later. War zones killed the most innocent of family's in far away countries. Simply over the want for others to have our ways. 

Source of life: water:


Colombia Gorge:



Field notes: hwy 97S is a medium busy road with a good should and tons of fun. Lots of climbs and fun long decents. No water for 40 miles. Hwy 14 west is beautiful! Follows the Columbia River all the way to the sea. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Miles: 98 
Elevation gain: coasting along the river with one big climb
Temperature: bank sign read 108. Let's just call excruciatingly hot and humid. 

Vines laced and overflowing with dripping blackberries. We overdosed. The heat of the day melted them like a rich sweet pie. We will hit Portland at mile 98. Ralph will be in hibernation in a friend's freezer next to the cartons of organic carrot cake ice cream. A Portland specialty. Zeb and Action boy will rest their worn toes. And O'Reilly and I will be hitting the city streets in jean shorts and sandals. Hopefully Portland gives us a taste of its notorious weather. Of course there's a three-day heat wave running down the cascades as we roll through. See you in a few days. We're on vacation. 

 Field notes: hwy 14 West. Amazing! Shoulder can be a bit sketchy in small places, but so worth the view. Eat lots of blackberries. Crossed the bridge at Stevenson and took the old hwy all the way to Portland. Gorgeous road. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Miles: 70
Elevation: flat bike lanes sling shot out of the city to a headache of navigating around rolling HWYs. 
Temperature: coldest its been. 80 degrees and cloudy. 

The images of Portland ran though our veins with excitement for a real city as the outskirts neared. A massive town full of the original "hipsters" strutting the streets in red plaid flannel. A town where coffee is roasted to perfection, beans picked with utmost political consciousness, breweries renowned for prestige, thrift stores packed with gems, and book stores lined with rare and delicate specialties. 

But Portland wasn't that idealized dream. The fairytale utopia was sown with flaws; the type that come with any major crowd of busy people. Like any massive city we had entered with our posse, it was chaotic, overwhelming, and congested. Without proper time to adapt from the silence of open landscapes into the buzz of bustling humans, hatred is found in any hip city. As quickly as the bike lane shot us into downtown, we wanted to know its path out. 

Seeing old friends is always comforting, but somehow homesickness finally struck. The desire to be in familiarity, the potholed streets and lengthy gum stamped sidewalks of home. The sound of neighbor's voices shouting in the background. The creak of my front door as it swings open. The happy look of my furry friend as I enter his pink carpeted nap space, and that platinum view of the San Francisco skyline. 

It's not home can't be created in the heart while traveling. It exists in the warmth under that purple sleeping bag. Or with the friendly sight of Henry, Mama Jude, Ralph, Action boy, Zeb, sunsets, stars, a neon tent, bike shoes, the smell of fresh air, sunscreen, and Clif bars. But suddenly the itch tugged deeper at heartstrings and O'Reilly socks did more than wreak, they burnt the insides of nostrils. 

The though of sharing laughter with friends and indulging in luxury were loving reminders of what awaited. We ditched Portland in a mere 24 hours, leaving behind all its loveable niche characteristics. Exiting with a morning of coffee stops and cruising neighborhood burrows, a glimpse of warm light shined on this city. Erasing some of the anxiety this town had caused, it had its hidden attractions after all. All those imagined pretty little details masked by interlaced cement grids. But it was too late, the signs that finally read San Francisco appeared like a mirage in the wooded distance. Suburb waterfalls peacefully flooded our franticness. Christmas tree farms dotted hillsides and Ralph sang his famous reindeer song as if we had reached the North Pole. And rained!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Miles: 68
Elevation gain: 2000? I'm a metric reindeer. Ahh, fuck it.
Temperature: high 80! Cloudy, they were in down jackets, and I was fluffing my furry.  

You’re not going to believe it. They stink, like a trail of restaurant garbage dragged to the parking lot. And I wasn't allowed inside last night because I, me, a reindeer, a wild animal who sits on top of a sleeping bag is tooooo dirty. I was even invited inside by our lovely host, grandma best friend from high school, but the girl scuffed me off like a stuffed animal without feelings. Those two really got treated like the king and queen of England. Even with the smelliest socks in town! Their Family friends, might as well just call them family, fed them farm fresh breakfast from the pancake griddle, toppled with bananas and hand picked blueberries. The cookie lady, O'Reilly mom, sent another package with enough sugar and butter combinations to fuel the five of us home. This included the final touch for the masterpiece pancake breakfast, real New Hampshire maple syrup. There they were, sleeping on beds with real pillows, waking to a table of hot coffee and tea. 

I mean you'd think with eight pancakes between the two of them, we would be flying over mountains. I could have trotted faster than their cadence strokes this morning. It was pathetic. 1:00 pm, a two hour lunch break at Safeway and three burnt Starbucks cups of coffee later, we finally had a mini-breeze going. They lived the life of beds and breakfasts for two days, like they were world champs in the Tour de France and couldn't break a mere 10 MPH. I would have better things to say, if having returned from Safeway the lie wasn't, "they were out of carrot cake Clif bars." 

Then at four o'clock, another stop turned into weirdness. A man gets out of his car, pulls O'Reilly's book from hand, reads aloud, then asks, “Do you believe in God?" I'm a reindeer and even I know this answer, yes, duh. But they just shrugged. His response, "the devil all the time man, the devil all the time." I was laughing my red nose off until he said, "Oakland!? Watch out, that's where the blacks are." We were all a glass of wine in, were we drunk? Did we time warp back to 1952? Was this conversation really happening? And like that, he pulled two bud lights from his car, handed them to the humans with a handshake, hopped back in with Scooter (his poodle) and Pudgy (his wife) and waved goodbye. 

Another round of road Risotto steamed with lots of organic carrots. We're all friends again. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Miles: 91
Elevation gain: let's just say the coast is far from flat. 
Temperature: high 68. Goodbye summer. 

The fun wore off. The ground was plastered to my face. Ralph held my hair as if road risotto, cheap wine, and fernet were about to make a not so pleasant reappearance. It all felt so good just hours ago, falling asleep weightless in a old logging row. And suddenly hours later oblivion ended and reality returned. As if the emulsifying headache wasn't enough, some wild animal hissed behind the tent and an oversized slug slimed its way up the nylon walls. Blurred, the lumpy logs that cradled home at daylight became wild bores as darkness blanketed us. The forest came alive with spooky noises and night roamers lay in wait like monsters under the bed ready to steal our morning bagel stash. 

Sunrise. As if a bomb had exploded, trees lay in a wreckage of destruction. Too depressed for any shrub of life to re-root, the quiet campground suddenly became a sad remembrance to our thoughtless use of paper cups and grocery bags. Years of nights under the stars, trees had been murdered in an instant to be husked, hauled, chopped, refined, shredded, boxed, and shipped around the world. Used for a mere particle of an hour, for human pleasures, these happy trees surrender their lives to us and we consume without a thought. 

Sugar. A hated granule to Hollywood, gods gift from heaven for cycle touring. Lack of sugar particles to the brain and collapsing neared as a state of depletion took hold. It hit us like brothers throwing snowballs, without warning. No signs of hungry, or thirst, O'Reilly nearly fainted and puked. We don't know what happened, the grips of a sugar-low drained blood and the brain ceased to function. Neurons stopped firing, and pedaling became impossible. But instant colas and jam sandwiches revived us to reality like states. The addictive sweetness travels through blood streams like an oil spill in the gulf and muscles instantly relax, brain waves return, and consciousness is regained. 

Winchester Bay. Campsite gems are not always the remote perches on top of quiet hills. The Oregon coast is dotted with hundreds of miles state parks. And the people we share them with, are friendly. Sometimes company is nice after all. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Miles: 81
Elevation gain: same old rolling coastal hills. 
Temperature: sunny and 72. 

There we were 7am sitting at the community centers monthly pancake breakfast. Smells of fried bacon filled the warm corners of the 19th century schoolhouse building. Locals of the town flocked in from the damp fog with an appetite. Fishermen rose early for homemade biscuits and gravy and a teenage daughter, tall and adorable, delivered blueberry pancakes with pads of golden butter to smiling faces. 

Not a bad start to the last 8 days jogging down the coastline home. As hours rolled by, narcoleptic naps peacefully refreshed tired minds. Sprawled out on a wooden pizza pub bench, we have become invincible to regulations. No one dares say a word to us about improper manners. Beers are drunk outside gas stations on 100-degree days with pure refreshment and naps can be taken anywhere, without question. The contrast of tan lines, muscles defined into strands beneath thin layers of skin, and bodies clothed in spandex let us get away with almost anything. 

Cycle tourist raft through these tiny populated towns that connect the forested cliffs of Oregon. Our people pass with similar decorations, padded butts, Surly bikes, and wet socks strapped to racks. Some travel light, and some seemed loaded with satellite TVs. Wondering what they had that we could possible need, the afternoon was spent pondering this question. And the sole answer was a camp towel. Already Ms. White was loaded with questionable necessities. Long underwear, a warm hat, a book by Italo Calvino with one page read, bandages, gauze, and condoms, plus packaged freeze dried rice and fart beans in case we were stranded far from a dinner re-supply stop. With three days of food, water, and cooking supplies, the left half of Ms. White was only four fifths full. We even had a 1lb handmade mug and a 2lb-talking reindeer. Dreaming if all the cycle touring luxuries were at fingertips, I couldn't think of much to stash bags with. Maybe a spare tire, rope to hang food from a bears reach, water sacks, brighter lights, a handmade bowl, and dangly earrings for the one time the need to feel semi human to society presented itself. As we arrived at the biker and hiker campsite, suddenly seeing our pal’s array of hanging clothes drying in the sun-hidden fog, clearly we had less because we lived in two outfits. But the last thing I ever want to smell is a Ms. White filled with more than a days worth of dirty clothes. With that said, Good Night. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Miles: 79
Elevation: lots of rolling hills
Temperature: freezing. 58 when I became an icicle. 

And then our posse hit California. Suddenly the grass seemed greener on the other side. Deathly homesick just days ago, the California sign wasn't what I wanted to see. Walking across the border, Oregon and it's traveled miles were fond memories not yet ready to let pass. Instantly the miles started to painfully drag. Hurry ceased to exist and pushing century days was left in past memories. 

Suddenly we have friends, an Australian and Canadian touring the entire Western Coastline. We shared stories of hating cars, never ending hunger, wind destroying days, and cussing the world through hail and heat. Bitching about aggressive attacks at logging trucks was comfort while shooting the shit with creatures our own age. Despite the most painstaking days, there is something that makes it all worth it. We all have different reasons for being out here that overlap in many ways. A mental struggle, to meet people and hear their stories, to know their stories, and to be inspired by them and nature. To forget the hard moments and remember smiles and laughter for a lifetime. It is very enlightening. And it takes away all the frustration in hardest moments. 

We followed our international cycling crew to a warm shower. A magical church opened its speckled grey carpet to us, fed us piles of boxed ramen congealed with tons of preservatives and contrasted with fresh steamed broccoli. Despite this hospitality, we tightly locked all the church doors. Something is wrong with these northern California towns. There is a theme here; lots of drugs. And it starts as soon as you cross the border. Kids that shoot heroin behind Safeway trashcans swagger like nightmares through the automatic doors. Drunks struggle over perfectly level sidewalks. Crack heads on spray painted bicycles shout languages from around the world across angry parking lots. The poor children carrying teddy bears hold daddy's hand as they shop for a boxed creamy 99-cent pasta dinner.  It was like saying "daze ya voo!" to the zombie town of Susanville nearly thirty days ago.

The thoughts of returning to normal life began to daunt tiredness. That big red famous bridge welcoming us home was just five days away. And so was every obstacle that had been forgotten. The hardest days on the road are a piece of homemade birthday cake compare to the overwhelming chaos’s of daily life. But soon to return with fears shed, a new openness, and an awakened curiosity, that back road less traveled is always just a short or very long bike ride away. 

The Foggy West Coast:


Monday, August 18, 2014

Miles: 66
Elevation gain: 4,000ft
Temperature: Cold, foggy, freezing cold. 

Our French Canadian friend is quite the entertainer. His serious concern about the "big climb" were snickering hilarious. This kid has spent the past two and a half months on the road, cycling solo from Montréal to San Francisco. But his red Surly bike was equipped with about anything one could need for a day trip into the corporate world. At 9am our technologically advanced friend had all the statistics for the day. Three major climbs totaling 4,000ft with a north by northwest tailwind. As long as we weren't hitting the Sierras or the Rockies, hills no longer matter and anything without dehydrating 100-degree day was doable. But we got a good kick with Vincent and we gave him serious props for towing his entire life around. 

We hit the skyrocketing redwood forest. Ralph's mouth hung open in awe with a drool puddle pooling for hours. He got lots of waves from backseat kids faces smashed to windows. Trees jetted from a rich soil where they embraced their geographic coordinates for hundreds of generations. They were old, full of stories, and had bark tattered by foggy nights. An interlocking network of roots clenched deep into the center of the earth. Conks revealed tales of hard winters and disease like a deep wound that scares for decades. Their massiveness zapped any ego at an immediate glance, and that magic children feel seeing Santa for the first time at the mall seeped into adulthood. The road weaved through canyons of trees like turning pages in a fairy tale book. Trees too giant to be real, too old to Fathom. You know, kind of like a 19-year-old talking stuffed reindeer paired with a 29-year-old human girl friend. 

Beach camp was full of Hippies pulling up in burgundy ford explorers headed to Burning Man. Wearing Hammer pants and tie died shirts it was like straight out of a movie. Their Labrador sits and stars at the picnic table leavened with food, they forage the beach for campfire driftwood, and their two year old puts sand in every cranny of her ear and nose and drinks from the doggy water bowl. Gosh it's fun to laugh. And I'm sure others say the same about us. Falling asleep cozy and mummified in duck feathers, our neighbors to the left play handwritten music while tripping on acid by the campfire. California sure is weird, but it's home. 

Sunrise in the Redwoods:

Monster Slime trees:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miles: 73
Elevation: ask Vinny
Temperature: freezing then a perfect 72 degrees and sunny. 

Northern California has rippled my skin. Waking up with a hangover probably didn't help my lack of patience. But I quite had it the moment I realized our Burning Man camp neighbors left their dog to shiver in the wet and cold all night. I could only have wondered if their toddler had crawled into the ocean during their sleep. Winston was the furry dudes name, and he gladly accepted my toasty warm sleeping bag upon sunrise. He sat with contentment for hours while coffee and tea were prepared and his owners slept their high off. 

It only got worse. Happy to be at the best and warm cafe in the crafty quaint town of Arcata, instantly disgust and annoyance ripped away any moment of happiness. This pricy town yanked every bad mood to the surface. We were served gourmet coffee with an attitude, as if spandex wasn't the hippy crews’ attire. There ain't no grit to this town, only shadowed societal runaways. Grungy elitists stroll the streets, and cell phones are banned from the cafe. Coffee that was roasted in our hometown of Oakland was served at an outrageous $5 a cup. Reused glass jars were filled with homemade morning smoothies. The locals coax their magic concoctions of every color blended drink and seed imaginable. So liberal, their stench is a denial of flamboyant conservancy: jaded, unopened to the box outside their square town. These people lack realness and friendly hellos. They are proudly pampered in Patagonia jackets as if their alternative ways are the road to enlightenment. As my grandpa, raised in the slums of the Great Depression would say, "you paid how much for those jeans with holes in them!?"

Don't get wrong, I loved my job and the industry, but I know this crowd too well. Having spent years catering to their prudent ways, it was all too reminiscent of an 8-day workweek waiting tables. When burnt out the Rockridge housewife with the word bitch tramp stamped across her forehead sat down for lunch. Politely taking her order while holding back the lash of truths about to spew, she orders a gluten free sandwich, sauce on the side. Two lemons are a necessity with iced tea and it's Splenda not Sweet N Low. As chatter over glamorous royal vacation plans and underpaid nannies trample eaves dropping ears, she can't help but stare you down impatiently waiting for lunch to arrive. And then, icing on the cake is when she nibbles away at a fresh baked wheat loaded chocolate chip cookie as if gluten was only an allergy in "health foods". We needed out. Our exit was completed with a drunk walking a wobbly line to be handcuffed at 10am with a DUI and an overly pregnant women smoking cigarette butts in front of anti abortion billboard. 

Northern California, what a place. I was about to loose it on the 101 headed south. We hasn't seen Vincent and the Australian since we left the deceptive town of Crescent City with our lovely church host. Vinny was off on a blissful back road I thought. Were we even on the right road, this was the freaking freeway? Sure enough guess who rolls up just as we were stopped trying to find a quiet back road: Vinny and the Aussie. The four of us now sized up any car, and now visible to any driver, we cruised down the shoulder. 

Boys...O'Reilly...testosterone. Fucking shit, really? Of course O'Reilly spearheaded it all taking off, at speeds he never matches with our posses of five. And yes, our two international friends chased. Seriously guys, we are on touring bikes pushing 18mph up a coastal hill. Tall skinny boys are annoyingly fast. It wasn't fair, but I had nothing to prove being the girl with a stuffed reindeer and hung on, leaving my bad mood behind. 

Ralph had a new backseat. Over the past five weeks his organs had been pushed all the way down to his butt due to his suspender tight seatbelt. So he now sits facing forward in the side of Mrs. white. And seeing the action ahead he was not having it that we were falling behind. How did we go from cycle touring to strutting manliness? Ralph foraged for vanilla power bars deep in the bag, screaming, "go faster". Yea, I unhappily held on for the 20 miles until O'Reilly pooped himself out. It was time for serious revenge after chasing the instigator down for a half an hour. Thinking over the perfect retaliation prank, brilliance would be purchased come sunrise. It's called morning decaf coffee, my treat.

Sorry, mind the typos, but I'm short an editor tonight due to tomorrow "caffeinated" surprise. 

Our new friend Winston!

Redwood Reading:

Miles: 87
Elevation: Vinny has calculated in the 6000 range. Felt about right
Temperature. 85 in the morning, freezing by the sea. 

It is weird to see the end so near. The roads and city towns are becoming way too familiar. We know this coastline, it's called home. As I passed my job over to eager individuals nearly 40 days ago, the final words to a beloved boss were, " I just gotta go, find something, and maybe it's under a rock in Banff." Quite ironically, we never even made it to Banff, but something was found. It lay beneath all the rocks kicked around to level campsites, rocks used to skip across rivers and lakes, and cairns built along roads and trailheads. Slowly we saw a freedom. A glimpse of a greater picture. That life's 10,000 piece puzzle somehow fit together, that creativity can powerfully unleash anxious minds, and it's a good thing to be a tad bit crazy. It started as an urge to seek something not fully comprehended and it may take a lifetime to reveal. 

Built over the weeks was a never ending visual now stored deep inside. It constantly reminds that when lost, stillness is found in fresh air and timeless landscapes. When the business of life's complexities become that traffic jam on the five lane highway, trapped is only a temporary state. Fears only grow when watered with silence, and wisdom is gifted with perseverance, compassion, and patience. And if you have a dream, live it. 

Today was one of those days that will be remembered not because it was hard, but beautiful. We climbed a million switchbacks and flew like an eagle through forested trees. Rubber tires tugged at Tarmac as they hit mountain corners with crisp precision. Gravity pulled the weight of loaded panniers left and right as angles swerved 2000ft high to the sea. The damp air blanketed the road, and bundled in ever layer we had stashed, the view behind us was a road like a roller coaster carpeted in grey. 

We've fallen in love with our international friends despite our differences; they keep us good company. We know their quirks. Vinny lives off of peanut butter and bagels until we made him his first experience of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese to perfection. A splash of milk, real butter, pepper to finish; he fell in love with the first bite. It's funny how you fall into patterns out here. Walking into a supermarket, every flavor is at a tongues tip, but it's like your the staple has brainwashed you. I swore O'Reilly was about spend the rest of his life chowing on waxed baby cheese rounds smashed between tortillas. I was always staring down the blueberry bagel section with the perfect selection of clover honey. 

I get a lot of questions wondering where to start for a successful trip. I can tell you my story and opinion, but everyone seems to have their own ways of the road. I mean if you ask Vinny he'd tell you five panniers was necessary, packed with laptops and skinny jeans. It's kind of like life, you gotta find the niche that works for you. We personally enjoy the spontaneity of not knowing. Not knowing there is a massive climb ahead, or where camp may be that night. We are in no rush to get from point A to B, as B is the unknown variable like a mathematical equation. Vinny on the other hand has it pinpointed down to an exact precision. He enjoys navigating through space and time. But if we hadn’t been open to listening to strangers and letting go of expectation, we would be in Alaska in two days. Same distance we will have traveled, just straight north. 

There's a few things we've learned out here: a Ask the locals for advice. And Listen to it! It's probably good. If the lawn is green and manicured it's probably because the sprinklers water it at night. Take lots of naps. And stop enough to take it all in. Bring a camp towel and a bright Neon jacket. Bread is your friend, and you can never stock up on too many bars. And just know that at the end of the day, there's gonna a hill, it's gonna rain or be hot, there's gonna be hard days and easy days and days you will remember for a century. Just like the story of life. 

Sunset: Westport CA

HWY 1:

Miles: 89
Elevation gain: without Vinny, I can only estimate 4500ft
Temperature: 70 and cloudy and foggy. 

I wish I could tell you all about the day, but alas, there is only a synopsis. There is this minor detail called worldly affairs that I left behind 6 weeks ago. So instead of writing for the day, I'll be reading my purchase of the New York Times.  

In short, we parted ways with our international friends who decided to bathe in relaxation of a short mileage day. We pedaled all day through wet foggy whiteness, drank some wine, and fell fast asleep without a human in sight. Sunrise will reveal, the green sign with white letters, that San Francisco is less than 100 miles away. 

The final farewell. The Aussie, the French Canadian, and O'Reilly: 

 "Business" meeting: 

Cypress Tunnel: HWY 1:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Miles: 63
Elevation gain: who cares
Temperature: check the weather channel. Nothing surprising. 

And there we woke, to our last day. Pure Exhaustion would have to wait before it could take over like ice cream melting down a cone on a 100 degree day. The side effect of exhaustion had already done some damage. There is this natural instinct when reaching the tree soiled home for the night, to sit. Sit and completely relax. Muscles grasp quietness and embrace stillness as if a warm blanket was thrust over us in the night. Regaining a sugar conscious state, exhaustion has caused our collapse into a bed of dying poison oak. And it he'd worse than any sore tired bone. 

Wild raccoons eyed our tent like bandits in the night. They were fearless of our vicious yells and Buck knife. Their eyes pieced like reflectors and they patiently waited for tired eyes to fall asleep, returning to the hunt for Clif    bars and hummus. 

We were surprised Ralph didn't get into O'Reilly's breakfast. Carrot Walnut muffins, it was a first for him. But he patiently waited like an obedient dog, sitting upon command 'till more than crumbs were gifted to him. 

You'd think the last full day would be like reeling in an obedient fish, but these legs know this road all too well. They know every roller, pothole, grade, and curve to come. It was as though the word 'home' made bodies shut down. Eyes stared at motionless legs, the brain blamed the legs and the legs blamed the brain for lack of forward motion. It was too late, exhaustion had taken hold. We made it to the base of our mountain that is truly home. It's called Mt. Tamalpais. Whiskey: golden, mapley and smooth was sipped with smiles of celebration. Baffled by the 3,000 miles, we made it. It was bitter sweet. Sadness to end, happiness to rest, tired bodies to mend. It has already been decided that, when we are asked, "pray tell, how was your trip?" we will smile, conjure a deep look of longing and reflection, gracefully sigh and say, "oh my... It was wonderful".

Tent Breakfast with Ralph:

Big Trees:

Mt. Tam:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Miles: 43 

In the final moments there was a great wind, a red bridge moving slowly, and a heavy sky surrounding the movement. The bridge held thousands of us, and we moved in only two directions. And who of us thought to jump? How many of us looked down on the cold water and wanted to-   Bike tour is over. We went home. The bay was exceptional in its glow. The way a proud man moves when he has known a great woman and then a good strong spirit. It winked and winked at me again every time I looked up. It whispered in French. Its breath was brine. And urine. Cities never know when to shut up. 

The ferry showed us home. We were elated to be powered by engines. The laughter is contagious now and has plagued us to no end. It is hard to tell exactly what is funny and what is devastating and when to cry. It's hard to know where our home lives, though we've called for it out loud in our sleep. Yelled in bed for new tongues. Asked for forgiveness on make shift mattresses and swore to be more like our mothers and fathers. But we rode into San Francisco like it was our own city, like she was the queen of hobos and suites and I was the king. It was glorious. The celebration echoed all the way to Oakland. 
We sat and drank with our friends who upon our arrival began to behave like mad dogs. It's strange to think that we have been gone and everything still exists here. All the people look the same and say the same things and smile identically. 

The Oakland hills, naked under a black and starless sky, was our final camp; the earth rocked us to sleep with its gently shifting plates. For all we knew, the city lay in ruin, every building for miles felled by the mighty quake, but we went peacefully back to sleep. The entire bay was burning down all around us. And lying next to us, Ralph smelled like every day we have been gone, and every mile we have traveled.

The cliché tourist pose:

Home sweet Home:


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just when you think it's over...

You see, Ralph was bombarded by congratulations at the finale. They came in emails and text messages from friends, family, and travelers in distant states. It was something to laugh about, that this cotton polyester reindeer actually tugged at people's hearts. That somehow he had a character that brought him to life. 

But all the attention went straight to that reindeer's antlers. He wanted more; to begin a new chapter with new encounters in the endless sunsets. I was approached with that look, as if I had committed a sin by not explaining the size of the globe. His studded black button eyes popped as if Mr. Columbus had sailed into America. Ralph never chose to tag along to the school house as a kid, he hated Math and early mornings. Consequently it took him a shameful 19 years to discover the thing we call an atlas. "We've been smashed into the center left corner of this North America thing. There's so much more to explore."

Having a rational conversation with this deer in a state of hysteria was as rough as convincing the Cookie Monster he had devoured enough cookies for a day. The logic of this reindeer had ridiculous reasoning for another couch gripping adventure. He just didn't let up. Furiously racking my brain, he was right, I was jobless, And yes, my dear furry 80lb friend had been injected with glee by his human girlfriend. Yes my family was just on the other side of those spike-tall Sierra Mountains. So Ralph and I comprised: cheap Monsanto carrots and no more teasing of Rusty the dog in exchange for one last stretch. Just one more week! One more week hiking mountains in solitude, living natures interwoven sensations, and running as free as the wind. 

In a mere sunrise to sunset we were transplanted back to the same road we began in Yosemite 43 days prior. I lay beneath the giants. Milking every last drop of fresh air and open space, Oakland was just a preliminary end. Zeb was repacked full of a weeks worth of a backpacking cycle touring mess, bursting at the seams. Without an editor to decipher my verbal lumps and to carry the tent and wine, oh that great O'Reilly to laugh with until tears of canned salted corn ran from happy eyes, the stuffed deer and I were alone in vastness. The tent illuminated with Ralph, a book, and my own company. Mosquitoes still viciously sucked sweet blood, and one thing was certain in these woods - the bear canister. That piece of plastic junk I swore I would never haul again. Its bulky pathetic ness couldn't convince me that bears were dangerous. But they are when they've trashed your food cache miles from civilization. 

These legs haven't walked more than a mile in six weeks. They had clanked around supermarkets, into woods to pee, and ice cold gas stations, twenty steps a day at most. Muscles unused for weeks were about to be awakened. Ralph set the fire within and I just couldn't resist. The urge to see more before winter blanketed and quieted scenic trails. Zeb, now burdened with a pair of running shoes and pack, was about to be tied to a tree. And Ralph and I continued to suck every ounce of summer from the year.  

Show up carless and mention the words Edward Abby and the magic golden ticket is revealed. Campsites in the most touristy overbooked national park were gifted to us. It isn't hard to find people living off the grid here. And listening to their stories, fragments of a lifetime shared only with trees and rocks, it's fascinating. Thinking my journey was epic, I somehow stood once again bewildered. So thankful and gracious to all the people I met, for their stories, their generosity, and for our friends who eagerly encouraged us not to give up or stop writing even when thumbs felt paralyzed. So thankful to know there is something greater out there that nature teaches us; something not found in cars or squared walls and comfy chairs. And it is worth every drop of sweat and discomfort. 

Those Sierra walls hide a gem within. Passes reveal a deep magic below. Burnt mustard painted meadows and deep crispy blue lakes. Streams ran dry from a weathered year of drought as if its blue pigment were sucked clean from veins. But life still showed a rugged vibrance. 

Having spent seven weeks in perpetual motion of seeing, listening, observing, and engaging, returning to the fish bowl
of society wasn't an ease. It's hard to give it all up, that majestic scenery which immediately instills a peace and quiet within. Unknowing how to replicate such a moment in time within grey cement city streets lined in bland colors. Smog congestion from chaotic metal moving aliens tormented inner spaces. It all  seemed daunting. 

But greeted by warm arms of family on the other side of thousands of feet of volcanic rock, Ralph and I were presented with a package. A trophy. An airy brown cardboard box strong enough to travel many miles. Inside lay a pair of new premium wool hiking socks, a Vons Market plastic bag full of 6 apricot Clif bars, and a note:

Dear Ralph, I had also gotten 6 Carrot Cake Clif bars - tried one one day and became hooked - ate them all. 

I looked up at my mom, contemplating the fact I really was about to remind this sixty something educated lady that Ralph was really just full of stuffed flurry. And as I started to say, "Mom, Ralph isn't really..." I was interrupted before I could get to the R word. (That word that brought him to life.) In the most elated voice her words shadowed a smile. Her inked letters sang, "They don't expire till April 2015." Just enough time for Ralph to pinpoint a location of delight, pack up our new socks and apricot sweetness and go. It's only over if you stop dreaming. Ralph only becomes lifeless if you stop imagining. 

Until the next time...

Morgan Pass:

Italy Pass:

Ruby Lake:

Mono Pass:

Summit Lake:

Mary Lake:


Morning sunrise:

Merced River: