2013 Cross Country Tour
Following are photos and narrative from my solo cross-country bicycle trip.

Click on any of the images to see a larger, higher resolution view.
Click on the daily stats to see a map and elevation profile of that day's ride.
Day 1 Stats
Like a child on Christmas Day, I could not sleep. I had set an alarm for 4:10am, but at 3:35 I decided it was useless to lie in bed any longer. I ate a decent breakfast: a pork chop, left over from last night's dinner, two fried eggs, a bagel with Nutella, a glass of orange juice, and a couple cups of coffee. The thermometer outside is reading 48 degrees. I'll start out with long sleeves and leg covers to take off the chill, but it is supposed to warm up nicely today.
Atypical Touring Rig This is not exactly a typical touring setup. This isn't even a touring bike. It's actually an aluminum framed race bike that I've been riding since 2002. The bike, including the handlebar feed-bag and luggage rack weighs in at about 40 pounds. The trailer full of gear that I'm towing behind me adds an additional 80 pounds. I also wear a hydration backpack that puts another 15 pounds on my back. My equipment weighs about as much as I do. I have been pulling this rig for the last several months, through all sorts of weather, to physically prepare for this adventure. Since January, I have been averaging 30 miles of riding every day, including several 100+ mile rides in order to train my body. I am positive I am prepared for this.
Just the 'Fax The ride is underway. I rolled out of my house at 5:05am, and have gone about 15 miles so far. I have left the Denver city limits and am passing through Aurora, the next city to the east, still part of the Denver metropolitan area. Colfax Avenue is not usually the most recommended bike-friendly route, but this early on a Saturday morning the lack of traffic makes me feel like I own the road. In 4 more miles I'll cross E-470, the closest thing Denver has to a beltway, and entering the less-developed plains.
Pikes Peak On the left is Pikes Peak in the distance, looking south. On the right, I'm arriving in the town of Bennett, about 32 miles into my journey. It's time for a snack. I must maintain proper nutrition if my body is going to endure what I have planned for the next few weeks. Bennett
Open Road I'll be seeing a lot of this type of wide open road over the next several days. On a normal day-ride from home, I often imagine that there is another person riding with me. Sometimes they're in front of me, and I feel the need to chase them down. Occasionally they will be behind me, and my goal is to outrun them. For this trip, I need to envision a partner who rides slower than me, that I need to wait for. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and with all of the planning that went into this effort, I absolutely cannot afford to burn out early.
50 miles into the trip, I arrive in Byers, Colorado. This is as far as I had previously ridden, so from here on out, everything I see will be new to me. The wind has picked up, blowing from the north at about 20mph. Since I am heading east, this means that I will be leaning to my left to fight it for the rest of the day. The turbulance from passing trucks is not making this battle any easier, and the 80 pound sail that I'm towing only amplifies this effect. I am now entering the scariest part of my trip. The next civilized place I will see is not for another 55 miles, and there is no cellphone reception.
Somewhere in the middle of "no man's land" I stop at a roadside picnic area to eat my leftover pasta with marinara sauce from a Ziploc bag that has been in my backpack for at least 7 hours. As disgusting as this may sound, it is amazing just how satisfying it is. Right now, I couldn't care less about the temperature or texture of what I'm putting into my body. I am craving carbs and calories, and this is doing me right. As I was eating, a man driving a van rolled into the picnic area to let his dog out for a while. He said he was on his way to Nebraska to take his poodle flat-water kayaking. Really, I'm not making this up.
I make it back into civilization, 101 miles into the day. I step into the Anton Supers for a candy bar, refill my Camelbak with water, and mix some gatorade for my water bottles. I'm starting to feel some exhaustion, but I'm still planning on going at least another 30 miles. I strike up some conversation with an old man with a walker, smoking a cigarette. When I tell him where I rode from, and where I'm heading, he looks at me like I'm slightly insane. He tells me that he used to live in Denver, and that the weather is supposed to clear up tonight. I sure hope so, this wind is a bitch!
I arrive in Joes, CO late in the afternoon. On the horizon, I can see what is my planned destination, the Liberty School, about 1.5 miles away. I can tell it's the place I'm looking for, because it has the only trees I've seen all day, everything else has been just grassland and low-lying shrubs. I stop at Joes Mennonite Church where I briefly speak with Jack and Donna, very friendly, helpful folks. I tell them about my plan to camp behind the trees at the school, and they make a few phone calls to try to get permission, but to no avail.
Great Friends As I'm leavng the church and start heading east again, I hear a car horn, and see a Subaru hatchback go by, with arms waving out the windows. My friends Sherri and Bob had planned on driving out to meet me, all the way from Lakewood, CO. Talk about timing! After driving about 150 miles, compared to my 136 miles of riding, we managed to meet up within less than 10 minutes of my final destination. They have with them not 1, but 2 Chipotle burritos, and 3 gallons of drinking water. I have some damn good friends, and I can't thank them enough. They're also going to make some phone calls for me tonight, to let my family know that everything is going according to plan.
We bump into a woman named Betty Sears at the school who says there shouldn't be a problem with me camping there. I don't know exactly what her capacity is at the school, but she's there alone on a Saturday, and has a set of keys. I'll at least sleep easier knowing that I (sort of) have permission to be there. I eat one of my burritos, do the first of many tent-pitching exercises of the trip, and share a shot of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey with Bob. I don't drink much alcohol anymore, but sleeping on the ground can be rough, so I brought a flask with me to use as a sleep-aid. Sherri and Bob wish me well and head back toward the city. I change into street clothes and relax to the sound of cooing doves for an hour as the sun starts to set. I'm asleep before it gets dark.
Day 2 Stats
Daybreak I awake to the morning twilight and the sound of doves' cooing - nature's alarm clock. I start pulling some clothing into my sleeping bag, one piece at a time. This allows the fabric to warm up without freezing myself. The thermometer on my Garmin reads 34 degrees - a little colder than I was hoping to see on this trip, but I am prepared for this. I will be wearing several layers, at least until the sun has some time to warm things up. Camp
There is a minor amount of frost on my tent's rainfly. I hear water sprinklers turn on. Luckily, I had decided to sleep off to the side near the trees, and not in the middle of the athletic field, which is now being saturated with water. I laugh to myself about the potential disaster that has been avoided. I break camp and get everything re-packed as the sun crests the horizon. There's no point in sticking around here any longer. The sooner I get pedalling, the quicker I'll warm up. More importantly, there's no coffee, and no toilet, so my normal morning routine is a little off-balance.
Livestock After only a few miles, I stop on the side of the road to eat that second Chipotle burrito. Although it is close to 15 hours old, and cold, it hits the spot. I'm thouroughly enjoying the vast openness of my surroundings. Having the first (and longest) day successfully completed, all angst I have had about my prepartion is now gone. I can't remember another time in my life when I have been more content with my being. More Open Road
I have spent the last year talking about, and planning for this journey, and for a moment I am stupefied by the realization that I am actually accomplishing this goal. I literally feel an intoxication that brings a tear to my eye.
Idalia is the first town I hit, at mile 19. It's still pretty cold, so I decide to go into the local cafe for a cup of coffee, and to use their bathroom. The waitress grabs the wrong pot, and gives me tea instead of coffee, but I decide not to say anything. I'm just glad to have a hot, caffeinated beverage. Being dressed in spandex bicycle gear, I get a few funny looks from the locals, who all seem to know each other like family. A few of them talk to me. They've see a few bicyclists pass through here before, all having a similar story about crossing the country. Why else would anyone be here? In a town in the middle of nowhere, with a population of less than 100 people, if you aren't a rancher or farmer, you're just passing through.
Time Zone On the left is the indication that I am losing an hour, the clock gets set ahead for the time zone change. The photo on the right is the view from where I came. Taking the time change into consideration, I call this photo "Looking Back in Time." Looking Back in Time
Goodbye, Colorful Colorado This is the first of several state line crossings. The next one won't be for a few days, as Kansas is a fairly large state Welcome to Kansas
St. Francis, 7 miles I'm coming up on St. Francis, KS, which is the largest city I will have encountered since leaving Aurora, CO, on the outskirts of Denver. I cross the Republican River on my way into this town of about 1,300 people. I had scoped out a potential place for lunch here, but even after following the Garmin directions, I somehow miss it. I decide I'll keep riding to Bird City before stopping for lunch. Republican River
Phillipsburg, 127 miles In a car, this sign (left photo) would indicate I would be coming upon a town offering many services in just a couple hours. On the bike, I'll be lucky to get there by tomorrow. As flat as everyone would like to think Kansas is, it actually has its share of rolling hills, and I'm not even close to the "hilly" part of the state yet. Not as Flat as You Think
Cockpit This is the view from the "cockpit." Besides the regular drop-style racing handlebars on this bike, I installed a set of aero-bars. These are designed to make a rider's profile a little smaller, reducing wind drag, enabling me to go a few mph faster, with slightly less effort. The bigger advantage that I use them for is the ability to slightly adjust sitting position, which shifts the pressure points on both my hands and buttocks, avoiding body parts from getting numb - a huge benefit when sitting for hours on a small saddle. My Garmin is another invaluable resource seen here. Not only does it offer a vast supply of data with which to occupy my mind, but it also has mapping, directions, and a limited database of services.
Gravel Grinding As I approach Bird City, KS, I use the Garmin to direct me to a restaurant. It directs me off of the main road, onto a dirt road leading into town. I'm immediately reminded of my friends from Pennsylvania, who also happen to be in Kansas for an all dirt/gravel road bicycle race, called the Dirty Kanza. For this short stretch of dirt, I can't help but feel a kind of bond with them, even though we are hundreds of miles from each other. I will be seeing them when I rech my final destination in a few weeks, and hopefully racing the Dirty Kanza with them next year.
Bird City Park As I roll through Bird City (population 438) I make the realization that I am in Middle-America on a Sunday. I swear every single car in town is in the church parking lot, and all of the eating establishments are closed. That's OK, there's a reason I'm pulling all this extra weight behind me. I find my way to a pavillion in the town park, and make myself a small lunch of hickory smoked tuna wrapped in tortillas. I see a woman putting sunscreen on her two kids, which reminds me, I should do the same before heading back out into the sunny, 80 degree heat.
McDonald, KS McDonald, KS, one of many small communities I'll be passing through. This one is home to 163 people. McDonald, KS
Tires I believe these repurposed tractor tires are filled with some sort of animal feed, to keep it from blowing away in the wind, or washing away in the rain. Gayle, I thought of you when I saw these - I wondered how hard it would be to walk out in the middle of that field and flip one over.
Atwood, KS I see a sign marked "rest area" as I pull into Atwood, KS. The rest area is actually a public town park next to Atwood Lake. I figure I'll relax for a few minutes before heading to the next city before stopping for the day. I start chatting with a group of locals who convince me I'm already in the right place. They say it's legal to set up camp right there in the park, and there are a few different options to get food within a block or two. Historical Marker
Camp There's a public restroom that's open 24/7, that also happens to have a shower - and it's all free. Oh, and their church group is getting ready to sit down for some ice cream, would I care to join them, they have more than enough. You never have to ask me more than once if I want ice cream! I join them for a while, and talk about my trip. I then ride around the corner to pick up a big sandwich to eat for dinner, and come back to set up camp. I pick a spot near the water, away from the families with kids at the playground.
Sunset It is early,I still have a few hours of daylight left. I set up my tent, then sit on a bench overlooking the lake and eat my dinner.I walk over to use the shower, which is cold, but very refreshing after two long days of riding. I make a few phone calls and relax as I watch the sun set.
Day 3 Stats
Sunrise I'm awake fairly early, in time to watch the sun rise over the lake as I tear down my camp. It's a little breezy, but warming up nicely, already 50 degrees with the sun just popping over the horizon. I stop at a convenience store to enjoy a cup of coffee before getting back on US highway 36 heading east out of town.
Irrigation The wind has become much stronger, blowing at 25 to 30mph from the south. This means that I will be leaning to my right for most of the day to compensate. The only consolation is that the turbulence from passing vehicles won't effect me. I stop to take a photo of a massive irrigation system. These are used to water crops in the western United States, where further east there is generally enough rain that such equipment is unnecessary.
Oberlin, KS I stop in Oberlin, KS after riding 28 miles. The wind has been ridiculous today, strong enough that the flag has been ripped from my trailer, pole included. It makes no sense to turn back to look for it, it's probably in a farmer's field, miles north of the highway. I stop for breakfast at the Frontier Restaurant then push on. I pass by Norcatur but don't feel like stopping. My mission is battling this wind, and I'm fighting for every mile today. Norcatur, KS
Wind Break I decide to briefly stop here, in a man-made land cut. This is the best wind-break I'll see all day. I walk off the side of the road and sit against the vertical wall of earth, to get some relief from the the deafening white noise of moving air. I'll have a small snack then continue on with the struggle.
My Road Although the difference between my starting and end points today is a drop of 1,000 feet, the rolling hills will add up so that I will have climbed over a mile in elevation today. Kansas is NOT flat, and this is definitely a factor adding to my struggle today, yet I can still find something to smile about when I see silly things, like my name on a street sign.
Brick Streets I get off the highway and ride some brick streets through Norton, Kansas. I stop at Love's Travel Stop and Country Store for some frozen yogurt, then proceed with my battle with the wind. Norton, KS
Phillipsburg, 26 miles Cow/Calf Capitol Phillips County
Smile I'm getting closer to my goal of Phillipsburg, KS. Did I mention how windy it is today? This video might give a sense as to what I'm referring to.
Phillipsburg Phillipsburg at last! Garmin directs me to a restaurant called the Chubby Pickle where I sit inside and enjoy a burger, fries, and a root beer. The waitress gives me directions to a campground in town. It's back about a mile to the west, but at least that's downhill across town with the wind at my back. She also refers me to a place called Shelly Ann's Cafe for breakfast in the morning. I will definitely go there.
Camp I get to the campsite and am pleased to see that for only $10, I get running water and electricity right next to my tent. This means I can fully replenish power to my Garmin, phone, and music without using the battery-powered USB chargers that I have been using the last couple nights. There is also a bath house with HOT water. I have the place to myself, so I can take as long as I like. My campsite is uphill from a town park, and as it gets dark, I go to sleep to the sound of baseball being played under the lights.
Day 4 Stats
Phillipsburg Campground It rained last night while I was sleeping, but it has stopped long enough ago for the roads to be starting to dry off. It's calm this morning, thankfully. Overcast, so still a little dark as I roll out of the campground. They trust the honor system that campers will pay, and I gladly did. The shower alone was worth it. I stop right away at Shelly Ann's Cafe where I have a typical diner-syle breakfast. I spoke at length with a trucker named Jerry about the route I'm taking. From his experience driving over-the-road, he was a wealth of knowledge about the roads I was planning on taking, and was telling me about where I would start to encounter more traffic, and even places where I would lose the shoulder to ride on. I was happy that he seemed very aware about cyclists along his truck routes.
Agra Cemetery I pass through Agra, Kansas (population: 267), but don't have a reason to stop. Eat Beef
Kensington, Kansas Kensington, Kansas (population: 473) really is the biggest town of its size.. Biggest Town of Its Size
More Open Road Today, I'm enjoying the rolling hills of Kansas. It's still overcast, which keeps the temperature cool, in the 60's, and there's no wind. As interesting as seeing the cabin where lived the writer of the Kansas State Song seems, I'm not going to go 8 miles off course to see it. Besides, I have a different tourist attraction planned for later today. Home on the Range
Wagner Park I stop at a park in Smith Center, Kansas. I'm a little hungry, and tired, but don't feel like going to a restuarant. I sit under a pavillion for a short spell, make myself a snack, oil the bike chain, and now it looks like I'll be needing sunscreen as well. Lunch Pavillion
Old Dutch Mill On the way out I stop to take a few photos of the Old Dutch Mill. Old Dutch Mill
Geographic Center For this, I will ride the 3 miles north and 1 mile west off course. Historical Marker
Landmark This is the location that has been surveyed as the "exact geographic center of the 48 contiguous states." It really is in the middle of nowhere, I take a peek inside the US Center Chapel, and sign the guest log. US Center Chapel
Me in the Middle A vehicle drives up as I'm preparing to leave, which catches me by surprise. This doesn't seem like it would be the most popular tourist attraction. I talk to the man for a few minutes, who is on a vaction with his wife and two grandchildren. They are from Texas, and have been here before, back for a repeat visit. I get him to take the first photo of my trip that actually has me in it, then ride the 4 miles back to the highway.
Historical Marker Occasionally I'll stop to take a photo of the random historical markers I see on the side of the road. I pull into Mankato, Kansas, and I'm really hungry. So far the Garmin has been a pretty good resource for locating public parks, convenience stores, and restaurants, but it just navigated me on an unnecessarily roundabout route to a non-existant place. I give it another shot, and end up at Bob's Inn, where I have a really good pulled pork barbecue sandwich and fries. I've got a craving, so I ask if there's a place to get ice cream nearby, and get directed to Sweden Cream, which is on my way out of town. I stop and get a large chocolate shake, which I put in my water bottle cage and drink on it as I ride for the next several miles.
Belleville, Kansas I stop at a convenience store in Belleville, Kansas, and ask the clerk if there is a campground nearby. There's one on the other side of town, a place called Rocky Pond. I am still craving sugar, so I replace the empty milkshake cup with a frozen slurpee drink, and slowly head north across town, noting a cafe that looks like it will be a good place to stop for breakfast in the morning. I almost decide to go to the RV camping area, because I know there will be electricity and running water, but notice a group of tents not too much further up the road. One of the people there explain to me that tent camping is free, so I decide to join them instead.
Rocky Pond There is an electrical outlet in the pavilion that I can use to recharge my elecronic devices, and there is also a bath house with hot water, so I get another shower. I'm glad I didn't pay for an RV spot, my tent is less than 20 feet from the water's edge. The other folks camping with me are a group of about 10 University of Kansas anthropology students, who have set up base camp here for a few days, while they do some surveys, and exploratory digging in some fields nearby as part of a field trip they're on. They're mostly undergraduate students, with 2 graduate teaching assistants, and their professor, who shows up late, as he is out most of the afternoon getting permission from farm owners to use their fields for their study. They have way too much food, so it looks like I get a free dinner tonight. I return the favor by passing that flask of Stranahan's around their campfire a few times as we share some stories together.
Day 5 Stats
Cuba, Kansas It rained again last night, so everything is a little wet, and there's a fairly strong wind from the north. It looks and feels like the kind of day where it's guaranteed to rain, but it isn't right now. I am gone before any of the other campers are stirring, and immediate stop at the Dinner Bell Cafe for breakfast. I pass by Cuba, Kansas, without stopping.
Washington, Kansas I stop at the Casey's General Store in Washington, Kansas for a little snack, and some Ibuprofen. Both of my legs are giving me pain in the achilles tendon, I must be overstreching them.
Pony Express Highway The wind has changed direction, now blowing from the east. I'm actually thankful to be riding into a headwind. Now I can just head down and crank straight into it, rather than have to worry about being blown off the side of the road. I stop at the Pony Express Service Center, a truck stop, to rest for a few minutes and enjoy a Sioux City Sarsparilla with a grossly oversized candy bar.
Marysville, Kansas I stop at The Wagon Wheel, a restaurant 1 block off the highway in Marysville, Kansas. I have a reuben and fries with iced tea, then get ready to head back out. I check in with my cousin, Eric. He has agreed to play travel agent and look ahead for lodging for me for tonight. I tell him that I think I'll make it as far as Seneca, Kansas. It's feeling like a hotel night, it would be good to find a place to do laundry since I'm wearing my last pair of clean bike shorts.
Home, Kansas There's no place like Home, Kansas. There's no reason for me to stop there either, so I just pass through. The wind has died down, and it's turning out to be a pretty nice day for riding. Auto Tour
Sunset When I get to Seneca, Eric recommends the Settle Inn. I get a room, push my bike and trailer inside, and get my laundry done. I take a very long, hot shower, then order a rather obnoxious amount of Italian food delivered to the room. The sauna is very relaxing for about 15-20minutes, then I spend some time flipping through the channels on TV while I ice up my legs after taking more ibuprofen I set an alarm to avoid sleeping half of tomorrow morning away. Settle Inn, Seneca, Kansas
Day 6 Stats
Fairview, Kansas After a good night's sleep, I hit the continental breakfast and check out around 6:30. Look over the bike real quick, and am on the road before 7:00. I feel incredibly good today, it's like the bike is riding itself. The weather is absolutely perfect. I'm starting to see a slight increase in the amount of traffic on the road. After about 15 miles, I hit road construction, just before Fairview, Kansas.
Cheese Grater Pavement The road surface, which has been surprisingly very good the entire trip so far, has now turned into something that I like to call "cheese grater pavement." The surface has been stripped off by heavy machinery in preparation for re-paving, and for the next 8 miles I grind through the bike-rattling, body-numbing hell. I then hit the buttery-smooth goodness of brand-new asphalt, and get back to making great time. Lewis and Clark Trail
Troy, Kansas Historical Marker Wathena, Kansas
I roll through the next couple towns without stopping, my mind focused on the goal of hitting the next state line.
Elwood, Kansas I stop in Elwood, the last town in Kansas, for some glazed donuts and chocolate milk, then cross the Pony Express Bridge into Missouri. Leaving Kansas
Missouri River I stop on the bridge to take in the view looking down the Missouri River. Missouri River
Missouri State Line I cross the state line into Missouri, and enter St. Joseph, the biggest city I've seen since leaving Denver. I make a few wrong turns, until I remember that I have directions programmed into the Garmin navigator. Anytime there is a lemonade stand, you have to stop, right? I get two brownies and a cup of lemonade for a buck from a nice lady having a garage sale with her daughter. Welcome
Dirt Road As I get to the outskirts of town, the road turns to dirt, and I decide to bail on the Garmin route for avoiding the highway, and turn back toward US36. The shoulder is in horrible condition, so when there is a break in traffic, I switch between getting bounced around in potholes and gravel, to riding on the far right side of the lane of traffic on what is now a 4-lane divided highway. I try to find an alternate route, but only end up riding for 5 miles on a road finished with 3/4" gravel, which is even more unpleasant to ride on, especially with skinny road bike tires.
Stewartsville, Missouri I stop briefly in Stewartsville, Missouri for a snack. Cow
Cameron, Missouri I visit the police station in Cameron, Missouri, figuring it would be a good resource to point me to a legal place to camp for the night. They refer me to Wallace State Park, which is south of town. I ride another 8 miles, after 107 already, including several steep hills along the way.. The campground is very nice, in a heavily wooded area. I get another hot shower at the public bath house, and return to my camp where I eat the rest of my food that I had packed. I need to remember to stop for groceries tomorrow. Camp at Wallace
In the middle of the night I am roused by a loud noise. I hear it again, and wonder what it could be, it sounds like it's right next to my tent. In a panic, I snap fully awake, realizing that I had not fastened the bungees cords over my trailer, and there was some unknown form of wildlife rummaging through my things. I rustle myself out of the tent, and manage to scare whatever it was away before anything gets damaged or goes missing.
Day 7 Stats
Leaving Cameron I feel like I'm waking up in a wildlife preserve, I hear so many birds this morning. I notice it is very humid as I pack up camp. I ride back up to Cameron where I stop at a coffee shop called the Draggin' Dragon. I have a breakast burrito, and a "Shot in the Dark": 2 shots of espresso mixed with coffee. I look over the map a little, to see where I'm headed today, and just enjoy the silence of the empty establishment. The waitress is the only other one here and she has disappeared into the back room. When she returns, I order another breakfast burrito, and a very large apple cinnamon sweet roll.
Hamilton, Missouri Hamilton, Missouri Me in Hamilton
I stop to digest some of that big breakfast in Hamilton, Missouri, the boyhood home of J. C. Penney. One of the locals starts talking with me, and after hearing where I've been, and where I'm going, he gives me a bottle of gatorade. Unexpected, but definitely appreciated. I talk with Eric, and decide to set a goal for Long Branch State Park, in Macon, Missouri, for camping tonight.
Grand River I stop to look south, down the Grand River, into Pershing State Park. I've been noticing a high number of roadkill animals today, many raccoons, a surprising number of turtles, a few snakes, and a frog. The saddest was a very large bird, I'm assuming was an eagle. It looked far too big to be a hawk. Laclede, Missouri
I'm feeling a little tired, and hungry, so out of a kind of habit, I head straight to the campground in the State Park, forgetting all about the necessary grocery stop.
John The man checking people in at the campsite entrance informs me that there is another cyclist at the campground and leads me over to meet him, to suggest that we split the cost of a single site. We agree, and luckily John, who is also on a tour that had started in the Washington, D.C. area about 30 days ago, has a lot of extra food with him. He shares a Mountain House meal with me to save me from having to ride several miles into town to get food, and I'm much obliged.
Maintenance The rear tire of my bike always wears faster than the front, and after 736 miles so far into this trip, it has become visibly noticable, I decide it's time to swap them. I pull the rear tire off and move it to the front rim, and vice-versa.John and I swap tour stories, he being on his 5th or 6th tour in just as many years, has many more to share. I notice that the frame of my trailer has developed a small crack, and will need to keep an eye on it, to see if it gets worse tomorrow.
Day 8 Stats
Sunrise It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day. I head into Macon and end up at South 63 Cafe, at the south end of town. As I sit, I'm slightly disappointed to find out the hard way that smoking is allowed. My hunger outweighs my dislike of cigarette smoke, so I decide to deal with it, and order a big breakfast. I feel very strange in this place, as not a single person, other than the waitress, has said a word to me, or even given me a look to acknowledge my presence. Much different than to outgoing hospitality I have become accustomed to the last few days.
Macon, Missouri As I go to pay my bill, the waitress informs me that the woman just walking out the door, a total stranger, has already paid it for me. I quickly follow her outside to thank her. Her name is Lynn, and she tells me that tomorrow would have been her mother's 90th birthday. Since her mother is no longer with us, Lynn gets a gift for someone else, and this year I get to be that lucky person. Thanks so much. I head back into the main part of town and go to the C & R Supermarket to replenish my food supplies.
Chicago to Kansas City Expressway I stop at the Casey's General Store in Clarence, Missouri. I get to talking to a couple of locals about my plan to go north through Palmyra, Missouri, and crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy, Illinois. They convince me that it would be much better to alter my course, and cross the river at Hannibal, Missouri, then go north to Quincy on the Illinois side. Clarence, Missouri
Shelbina, Missouri I stop briefly to rest in Shelbina, Missouri, where I make a few phone calls from the parking lot of the C & R Market. I stop again in Monroe City, Missouri, where I get Subway for lunch, chased with an ice cream sandwich. Then I am focused once again on the next state line. The traffic is getting heavy, and as I ride through Hannibal, Missouri, the road I'm following, US Highway 36 becomes Interstate 72. The bridge crossing at Quincy is much more narrow, and I would have been forced to ride in the lane of traffic. Here, I have a 10 foot wide shoulder to use as a safety cushion from traffic.
Mississippi River Mississippi River Mississippi River
Illinois State Line It is legal for bicycles to use the interstate highway to cross from Hannibal, Missouri into Illinois, but they must exit immediately in Illinois. I follow Garmin's navigation on a route that seems to be a little out of my way, but eventually gets me to a scenic route called the Great River Road, leading all the way into Quincy. I eat dinner on the outdoor patio of a Mi Jalapeno, a Mexican restaurant. Land of Lincoln
Eric directs me to the Quincy Inn and Suites, which I think looks like a remodeled Super8 Motel. I push the bike and trailer into the room, and take another long, hot shower. Nothing's better after Mexican than ice cream, so I walk around the corner to the HyVee grocery store and bring a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream back to my room. I'm going to alter my plan for tomorrow, as Sherri and Bob have given me the name of some friends of theirs that are offering to put me up for the night, in Colchester, Illinois. I ice my legs again, as I watch some bad TV, then set the alarm before going to bed.
Day 9 Stats
I hit the free breakfast at the hotel before setting off. I should be able to take my time today, as it's going to be a short one.
Lincoln Heritage Trail Historical Marker Love the Land of Lincoln
Mendon, Illinois I'm taking it easy, sightseeing along the way. A quick stop for a snack at the Casey's in Mendon, Illinois. Macomb, Illinois
Bowen, Illinois Bowen, Illinois Augusta, Illinois
x More sightseeing in Bowen, and another stop at Suzy Q's convenience store in Augusta, Illinois. Taking the time to take a few photos of random things I see along the way. The tire on my trailer goes flat, it picked up what looks like a shard of steel from a shredded radial tire you sometimes see on the side of the road. A flat tire is an easy fix, and I'm shortly back underway. Roadside views
George and Holly I meet George and Holly at their home in Colchester, Illinois, very early in the afternoon. They are friends with Bob, the same one who brought me burritos on the first day of this trip. They went to college together at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. Thanks again, Bob and Sherri, for the good reference. x
Fishing on Argyle Lake George and Holly give me a tour of their house, take me out on their boat to go fishing on Argyle Lake, let me do my laundry, give me a warm bed to sleep in, and feed me several meals along the way. I can't thank them enough for welcoming a complete stranger into their home based on the good word of a mutual friend.
Day 10 Stats
Bushnell, Illinois I don't want to overstay my welcome, so I rise early and hit the road. The weather is overcast, foggy, and a light mist slowly turns into a slow drizzle. I stop several times to add, then remove various layers of raingear, as it seems to be clearing up. I stop at LuLu's diner for breakfast in Bushnell, Illinois.
Not Lost I'm using the Garmin more like a compass today. Though I'm not really sure what roads I'm taking, I know I'm heading the right direction, and the path I'm following will eventually link back up with US highway 24, which will put me back on my originally planned course. Sticking to these farm roads has been nice, as there is minimal traffic, and the pavement is in notably good condition.
Eagle Another stop at a Casey's in Canton, Illinois. These stores are becoming addictive, as most of them have soft serve ice cream. The road I'm on leads me to, and then follows the Illinois River. Illinois River Road
Caterpillar Factory I decide to cross the Illinois River at Pekin, Illinois, where I chat briefly with Mike at Little Ade's Bike Shop. He tells me that there is no place that he knows of with camping nearby, so with Eric's help, I decide to shoot for El Paso, Illinois, and get a room there. Riding through East Peoria, Illinois is like running the gauntlet. It feels like Colfax Avenue in Denver during rush hour, except here there are 6 lanes of traffic instead of just 4, no shoulder, and a heavy amount of truck traffic. Illinois River at Pekin
Not until after dealing with that traffic all the way across the city and climbing up out of the Illinois River valley do I stop to look at a map, in Washingtion, Illinois. I determined that I probably could have avoided that headache with an alternate route. Too late now.
I see Uncle Bob's Homemade Ice Cream in Eureka, Illinois, but make the tough decision to pass it by, thinking about getting to a final destination. Just after passing Secor,Illinois, I see a "camping" sign on the side of the road, and follow its lead to the Hickory Hill Campground, only about 1/2 mile off the highway. I get a site for the night, with electricity to recharge my gear. The campground office sells Uncle Bob's ice cream, so I decide to have a pint before taking a hot shower and making myself dinner. I turn in as it starts getting dark.
Day 11 Stats
Chenoa, Illinois I'm on the road before 6:00, heading into El Paso, Illinois to get breakfast. I settle for McDonald's, it's fast, and I'm back on the road quickly. I make some quick stops for snacks at Chenoa, Fairbury, and Forrest Illinois. I didn't bring many sweets with me, and find that ice cream is a great mid-ride snack. Fairbury, Illinois
Chatsworth Wreck Piper City, Illinois Iroqois County, Illinois
Boondocks In Gilman, I turn north on Central Street, which seems to be the local business district, and find myself stopping after a few blocks at a bar/restaurant called Boondocks. This is a fairly large place, with a place for a band, and I can imagine this place packed on a Friday night - if the entire town was there. After a salad, burger, and fries I'm refueled and ready to roll. I have been telling the waitress about my journey, and she offers to refill my Camelbak with ice and water as I pay my bill.
Butterfield Trail Just a few miles outside of Gilman, a woman in a pickup truck pulls up next to me, with my wallet in her hand. I had left in on the bar! She had overheard me tell the waitress I was riding to Pennsylvania, so she grabbed it and chased me. She admitted to me that she had to phone her husband as she was getting in her truck, to ask him if Pennsylvania was east or west, so she would know which direction to drive.
Crescent City, Illinois Watseka, Illinois Sheldon, Illinois
I pass through the next few towns without stopping. About 4 miles past Watseka, I realize I'm still pretty full from lunch, so I pull off the side of the road to take a short nap on some perfectly manicured grass in the shade of some trees. I'm glad for the ice-water in my Camelbak, as the thermometer has crept over 100 degrees.
Indiana Kentland, Indiana Road Signs
When I get to Kentland, Indiana, I'm craving ice cream, so I go in to the McDonald's for some soft serve. I meet another cyclist, Rodney, and his 11 year old daughter, Victoria. He had ridden all of Route 66 last year and loved it so much that he's taking his daughter on a tour this year. They are on their way to Kentucky and have so far covered 120 miles in 2 days.
Goodland, Indiana Remington, Indiana Remington, Indiana
Camp Tonight I'm camping at Caboose Lake, in Remington, Indiana. The woman at the camp office tells me that I have just crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, although I did not see a sign noting that, and my map shows the line as a few miles east yet. I haven't had enough ice cream today, so I buy a couple ice cream sandwiches and eat them before taking a hot shower and cooking some dinner. This is a nice enough campground, but it is right off an interstate highway, so I am lulled to sleep by the sound of diesel engines and truck tires rolling on concrete.
Sunset Sunset Rabbit
Day 12 Stats
Windmill Blade I slept a little later than normal this morning. The weather looks great, but I've been warned of some severe weather that is supposed to be moving in from the west. My plan is to try to stay ahead of it as long as I can, and stop and get a room as soon as it starts looking bad. I stop for breakfast at John's Bakery and Cafe, in Monticello, Indiana. It's starting to get a little overcast, but I'm still holding out hope that the thunderstorms won't hit until later this afternoon. Windmills
Foliage Tunnel I'm now starting to notice a lot more tree growth along the road, as opposed to the normal grassy fields and crops that I have been seeing for most of the trip. At points, the trees are so thick it feels like I'm riding through a tunnel of foliage. Roof Job
Peru, Indiana After a brief stop in Logansport, I decide to bypass the "Circus Hall of Fame" in Peru, and continue onto Wabash, Indiana, where I stop for lunch at a Subway. I continue the rest of the day without stopping until I get to Markle, Indiana, where I get a hotel room at the Guest House Inn International. I clean my laundry, get another hot shower, and have Italian food delivered. Circus Hall of Fame
The weather is still nice, but all of the news stations are warning of a "mega-storm" moving this way, including lightning, hail, and mini-tornadoes. It starts raining just a little bit as I go to bed.
Day 13 Stats
Decatur, Indiana Last night was definitely a good night not to be sleeping in a tent. It is sunny now, but very damp from last night's rain. There are small twigs and leaves strewn all over, I see a tree has fallen in someone's yard, and a crew is replacing a transformer that has been knocked off a pole. After 22 miles, I stop at the West End Restaurant in Decatur, Indiana, for breakfast.
Welcome to Ohio After another 18 miles, I pull into Van Wert, Ohio with a hankering for a breakfast sandwich. After locking my bike up outside a McDonald's, I immediately leave, disappointed that they have switched to their luch menu. On the other side of town, I pick up the Historic Lincoln Highway, which is a very nice road with not much traffic. I am following the old road, which parallels the new highway that has replaced it, US Highway 30. Lincoln Highway
The Corner of Lincoln and Stewart I continue another 16 miles to Delphos, Ohio, where I happen upon Jim's Restaurant, a German eatery. The reuben and fries go down so easy, I decide to treat myself to a slice of pecan pie as well. As a result, the next few hours feel slow and sluggish. I pass through Cairo, Ohio, and this intersection brings a smile to my face. In Williamstown, after 92 miles so far today, I check in with Eric, who tells me the closest campground he can find is another 30 miles away. I decide to go for it to avoid paying for another hotel room.
Camp I stop at the Dairy Treat in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, enticed by their black raspberry soft serve. After a large bowl of that, I order a double cheeseburger with fries and cole slaw. I ride on, and just before Oceola, Ohio, I see a sign for camping, earlier than what Eric had scoped out. I end up at the Foxfire Campground, near Nevada, Ohio. I get an ice cream bar at the campground office, take a hot shower, then enjoy a cup of hot tea as the sun goes down.
Day 14 Stats
Crestline, Ohio I leave camp today with a goal of getting at least as far as to Canton, Ohio. This will guarantee my arrival in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. After only 4 miles, I see Carloyn's Kitchen, not much more than a lone shack on the side of the road. They don't take credit cards, and I realize that I am almost out of cash. I am careful about what I order to make sure I can cover the bill and still leave a respectable tip. Still a little hungry, I ride another 18 miles to Crestline, Ohio, where I use my credit card to get a McD's breakfast sandwich.
Ontario, Ohio Shortly after passing through Hayesville, Ohio, I misread the road signs and end up back on the highway. I follow it as far as Wooster, Ohio, where I stop at the Hero House for a turkey sub and fries for lunch. Eric has located a campground In Paris, Ohio, east of Canton, that I am hoping to reach tonight. I get back on the old Lincoln Highway and continue heading east. Wooster, Ohio
Camp After a brief stop at the McDonald's in East Canton, Ohio, of course for some ice cream, I separate from the Lincoln Highway, and continue east on Ohio route 172. I reach Hidden Valley Lake Park, in Paris, Ohio, and arrive to find out that they also do not take credit cards, and now I don't have a single dollar on me. When I ask where the nearest cash machine might be, Bob, the owner, and his son-in-law just chuckle. They decide to let me stay for free, and I'm much obliged. Bob shares some of his stories about his travels around the country as he shows me around the place, which I have to myself. There's not another soul here. I cook myself some dinner and turn in early.
Day 15 Stats
Foggy There is a fog hanging in the air, and it is very cool.I stop after a few miles to remove a layer as the sun comes out and begins to warm up. I stop at a small grocery store in New Garden, Ohio, for banana and a few other snacks, then remember that I need to hit the cash machine at the bank across the street. Foggy and Hilly
x I stop at the Steel Trolley Diner in Lisbon, Ohio, for a big breakfast. There have been a lot of hills today. So far I've climbed over 1,700 feet within only 23 miles, and I'm expecting more of the same for the remainder of the day as I enter the fringe of the Appalachian Mountains. Shortly after leaving Lisbon, I end up on the highway again, and decide to use the Garmin Navigator, which leads me on a rather roundabout route to the Newell Toll Bridge, in East Liverpool, Ohio.
Newell Toll Bridge Welcome to West Virginia Newell Toll Bridge
Chester, West Virginia I make a map-reading error in Chester, West Virgina, but eventually make my way back onto the Lincoln Highway. I only cover 6 miles in West Virginia, most of which is uphill, as I am climbing out of the Ohio River valley. Stewart Hill
Pennsylvania I feel a great sense of accomplishment, as I cross the last state line of my journey, even though I know I still have several days until I reach my final destination. The hills are getting much steeper, so I'm having to work hard on the climbs. These shorter, steeper hills are different than the long, sustained climbs I'm used to in the Rockies of Colorado. As I approach Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the traffic becomes very nerve-wracking, but I eventually make it to the bike path system near downtown, and it's a familiar route from there to Pam's house in Regent Square.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is a great place for food. First over to Shadyside for some frozen yogurt topped with chocolate chips, then a few slices of pizza from Mineo's in Squirrel Hill. We head downtown to check out the art festival, and then briefly see some free music out at Point State Park, where the three rivers of Pittsburgh meet. We wrap up the evening with an Italian dinner at Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square.
Day 16 Stats
Alex I spend Father's Day with Alex, Pam, and her work colleagues at the Pirates game. I picked a good day to not spend time on the bike, as the game is delayed by rain for a few hours. The weather clears up enough for the game to be played, and the Pirates beat the Dodgers, 6-3. We have a late dinner at NOLA on the Square, a New Orleans restaurant in Market Square, and hit a few bars before returning to Pam's house for the night. Pirates Game
Day 17 Stats
Alex I ride over to Rhett's place in the morning, where we plan on taking Alex for a ride on his new bike. It's fun watching the interaction of father and son, as Rhett teaches (and perhaps I help) Alex about the new concept of shifting gears. I am amazed not only that this 7-year-old boy rides over 12 miles, but after that he is still determined to try to ride up the last hill to get home, rather than walking. World Series
Here is a short video of Alex burning up one of the bike paths near dahntahn (Pittsburghese for "downtown").We have dinner at Burgatory, an out-of-the-ordinary burger joint in Aspinwall. They also happen to serve some of the best milkshakes you'll ever experience, and I recommend the caramel pretzel flavor, with chocolate ice cream.
Day 18 Stats
Rhett and Alex went to Kennywood, and I'm not in the mood for an amusement park, so I'm just spending some time today exploring Pittsburgh on my bicycle. When they return, we play a little street hockey before going to Franktuary for dinner, a gourmet hot dog restaurant in Lawrenceville. I'm hungry for ice cream that night, and unfortunately Alex overhears me asking Rhett if there's a local ice cream shop. We learn the hard way the obvious lesson that you should not give a 7-year-old kid ice cream at 9:00 at night.
Day 19 Stats
Mount Washington Three Rivers Convention Center
Coal Mining I spend another afternoon exploring Pittsburgh, deciding that since I am not pulling the added weight of my trailer, it would be fun to ride some of these hills. I ride up into the neighborhoods of Mount Washington and Allentown on the south side of the Monongahela River before stopping at Cafe on the Strip, in the Strip District, for breakfast. I then ride up into Spring Garden and Reserve Township on the north side of the Allegheny River. The Point
I pass through the neighborhoods of Lawrenceville, Friendship, Squirrel Hill, and Oakland, before cutting back across downtown and taking a second run up Mount Washington before returning to Pam's house. I have a late lunch with Rhett from Szmidt's Old World Deli in Greenfield, and we plan on me altering my trip to go camping with him and Alex for a night before I get back on course to Nazareth via State College. Dinner that night is with Pam and her crew, Downtown, at the Grille on Seventh.
Day 20 Stats
I get an early start toward Laurel Hill State Park, where I plan on meeting Rhett and Alex to camp for the night.I stop in North Versailles for a rather unsatisfying breakfast at Burger King, and continue along the Lincoln Highway to Irwin,Pennsylvania. Here I break off on Arona Road, which runs parallel to Interstate 76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Garmin Navigator leads me the rest of the way, up some of the steepest hills I have seen yet.
Camp At one point, the grade is so steep that my bike is literally coming to a complete stop between pedal strokes. I struggle on, knowing that pushing the bike and trailer while walking up this steep grade would be even more difficult. I make it to the campsite that Rhett has reserved, and he and Alex show up within 15 minutes. We spend a little time at the beach on the lake before cooking some burgers and dogs for dinner. Sand Castle
For the second time on this trip, I get the pleasure of sitting by a campfire, and we roast a few marshmallow before we crawl into our tents for the night.
Day 21 Stats
Dirt Road Rhett and Alex are awake early enough to see me head out. Since I am far from my originally planned and mapped course, I use the Garmin to navigate me in the direction of State College, Pennsylvania. The first few miles of road leaving the State Park are unpaved, then I am following the curvy, hilly back roads of the Pennsylvania Appalachians. After about 14 miles I am lured into stopping at a chance garage sale near Sipesville, Pennsylvania, by a child selling iced tea and brownies. I am given directions to a local restaurant, but when I arrive, it is not yet open for the day.
Lincoln Township A quarter-mile down the road,I stop at Sandi's Bar and Grill, where I sit at the bar and have an ennormous burger with fries while I listen to the only other patrons, 3 cigarette smoking, beer drinking, old men, also sitting at the bar, talking about coal mining. As I continue on, I miss several turns, as I am switching roads fairly often. It is difficult to constantly keep an eye on the small, electronic map as I ride. Luckily the Garmin alerts me of a missed turn with an audible alarm, so I never get more then a few hundred feet off course before realizing, and correcting my error.
When I get to Duncansville, Pennsylvania, I stop at the Subway for lunch. My mother helps me determine that my best plan is to get a room for the night, and take my time getting to State College tomorrow, as my brother won't be home until late in the afternoon. About 1/2 mile down the road, I get a room at the Comfort Inn. I shower, and relax for a while, then walk next door to Hoss' Steak and Sea House for a big dinner.
Day 22 Stats
I let the Garmin plot a new course toward State College, and without looking too closely at it, thoughtlessly start following its directions. While State College is only about 40 mles away to the northeast, I travel about 20 miles southeast, and over a mountain, before realizing that I could have taken a much shorter, easier route. On the downhill side of that mountain I see my speedometer hit 49.2 mph, which is fun, but definitlely a little scary with that trailer wobbling around behind me.
I continue for another 36 miles northeast on Pennsylvania Route 26, and realize that I have been too focused on my goal of getting to State College. I need to stop to eat something, so I pull over into the shade of a garage. The temperature is now in the 90's, and it is very humid, so my clothing is soaked through with sweat. After about another 7 miles, I see a sign that I cannot resist stopping for, "Hershey's Ice Cream" at the Whipple Dam Store.
Climbing the last hill is a challenge that involves several stops to regain energy, as I have not eaten properly today. As I approach State College, I stop to aid a motorcyclist whose bike won't start. The ground cable on the battery cable had come loose, and he doesn't have any tools to get it tight enough to make a good connection. Luckily I am prepared, and we are both back on the road in just a couple minutes. I stop in to catch up on old times with Kim, a friend from high school, on the way to my brother's house.
Day 23 Stats
Mia Today is all about relaxing, recovering, eating, and most importantly, playing with my 2 1/2 year-old neice, Mia. Also, a trip to Penn State wouldn't be complete without ice cream from the Berkey Creamery, the largest university creamery in the country.
Day 24 Stats
Nittany Summit I thank Ben and Emily for putting me up for the last 2 nights and head out as they get ready to leave for work. After a quick stop at McDonald's, where I twist on the spokes to straighten my rear wheel, I decide to climb over Mount Nittany, rather than take the route that would be easier, but more miles.My next stop is for lunch in Mifflinburg, after 48 miles of riding.
Pennsylvania Bike Route J I alter my planned course in Lewisburg to avoid riding along a busy highway. Road construction on my secondary route causes me to further detour, but temporarily coincides with on one of the Pennsylvania cross-state bicycle routes. I stop in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, for a milkshake at Snyder's roadside dairy bar.
Centralia, Pennsylvania It's hard to capture the ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania in a photo. It's a forested area with a small network of paved roads, but no buildings. The coal mine nearby caught fire in 1961, and when it spread, the town was all but abandoned in the early 1990's. The fire still burns today. I put on my raingear and ride through a hard, driving thunderstorm for about 45 minutes, then all of a sudden, it's sunny again. After another stop for ice cream in Ashland, I continue through Frackville, and on to Locust Lake State Park, near Mahanoy City to camp for the night.
Day 25 Stats
Camp I break camp for the last time, and take the back roads to the state highway. I stop after 10 miles for breakfast in Hometown, Pennsylvania. The next 15 miles are a gradual descent into the Lehigh River valley, where I hit a series of steep hills, concluding with the climb over Blue Mountain. Back Road
Blue Mountain My mother and our friend, Mark, meet me at the top of Blue Mountain. They have ridden there on their bicycles and are going to ride the remainder of the journey with me, but not before stopping for ice cream and french fries in Danielsville. Me & Mom
Finish Line Mark and Deby know the easy way home, which adds a few miles, but eliminates all of the hard climbing. Some family and friends are waiting at home for me, with a finsh line tied across the driveway for me to break. Thanks Mike W. for taking these last photos of me making the final approach. This trip has been a huge success, and I hope to be able to do something similar in the future. End of the Line