Approaching the End

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It’s been an adventure exploring Utah. Ignorantly, I thought the mountains would disappear after Colorado.  However, I stood corrected the moment we crossed the Utah, Colorado border. Conjuring up all the pedal power stored inside of me, Cheney, Mike, and I pushed ourselves hard through a stretch of road that had no services for 74 miles. It’s amazing how excited I get when I see a gas station or a little convienant store. Generally, over priced and a slim selection, I am perfectly satisfied when I can grab a cold Gatorade and trail mix.
 HWY State route 95 zig zagged through Edge of the Cedars State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Ute Indian Reservation, Mule canyon, and Dark canyon wilderness. We decided to stop at Natural Bridges National Monument for the night and camped underneath a sheet of stars. Natural Bridges National monument is a relatively small park flaunting three huge bridges, Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo, all carved by action of water flowing against cross-bedded sandstone. The largest of the three spans from 270 feet wide and 220 feet high. Such a jaw dropping sight. If the scenery lacked, I have to admit, I would not want to be riding. I’m tired and find myself wanting stability. The energy from the mountains, rivers, creeks and lakes keep my head strong. We had the pleasure of taking a break to swim in Lake Powell and chill out without having to exert all of our energy.  I’m proud to say I did another summit climbing 3,000 feet. I found it harder than Monarch Pass, in Colorado. I think I was so pumped and had done much anticipation built up for Monarch it was not as bad as I expected it to be. so I decided to stop once to take a break. The grade felt steeper and less gradual, many switch backs keeping me at bay.
 Utah’s weather is extremely dry and hot! Most of the route has only rocks for shade. This has been the most difficult route due not only to the terrain, but also due to the lack of water and long mileages between services. Most of the time there are no homes or ranches between services. Cheney, Mike, and I found ourselves seeking shelter under an average sized pine tree when a summer thunderstorm hit the sky. 
One of the most terrifying downhills yet was way too long for my taste and had an excess of sharp curves. It is called Hogsback. It is only a 3 mile stretch, but its narrow two-lane road stretches along a ridge spine with no shoulders or guardrails and has drops on both sides. To add a little more spice to this equation it was a 14 % grade in steepness. Never have to do that again on a bike. 
Bryce Canyon and Zion have been the highlight to this trip. The rocks of Bryce Canyon reveal more than 50 million years of Earth history, going back as far as the Cretaceous period. All in all, it is a dizzying universe of limestone pinnacles, castles, fins, and hoodoos; an ever-changing kaleidoscope of a thousand different colors. we took 5 days to explore Zion National Park. I felt like a kid in a candy store, eyes wide, running in every direction, wanting to do every hike the park offered. it was a blast! The Navajo sandstone looked beautiful against the blue sky and the Virgin River. 
While in Zion, we were also blessed to have the company of 6 other bike tourist. Kate and Amy were from Bend, Oregon doing a Utah loop for the month, Adam and Christy are from Connecticut. They are a couple on their honeymoon riding through all 50 states meanwhile raising money to GiveABike for less fortunate children in third world countries. Pretty exceptional. Mike from New Albany, Ohio has been riding with us since Kansas. He is riding to build his faith in God. And lastly, we met Glen from Canada, who is on his early retirement.  

We all compared notes when it came to cooking methods. We peered into each others morning oatmeal and evening pasta. “Ah, that was she does? Very crafty.”  I realized I was definitely a condiment hoarder but, I had enough crushed red pepper and salt to go around for everyone so yay for me ūüôā
Much love. We are all one. I’m probably going to have one more post left in me as you can see I’ve dwindle away to managing one every three weeks. Sorry.

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Southern Utah

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Tomorrow we head to Zion national park. Today we left Bryce canyon and headed south 27 miles to Hatch city. All downhill and pumped up on a nature high, we stopped in Hatch to set up our tent and have an early dinner.
Utah has been spectacular! I am blown away by the constant changing natural landscapes. Every mile impresses me more and more.
We’ve had the pleasure of meeting back up with Mike and also meeting another couple from Connecticut. They are also on their honeymoon and bike touring the United States. They are pretty exceptional, they have undertaken the task of hitting up all 50 states and have already covered 10’000 miles. Quite the inspiration!!! I’ve been having so much fun. Laughing, eating, and riding with a crew. I never would have thought. Just when It was rounding that time of my month, and everything felt so difficult, we gained some energy from others to keep on pedaling.
I will write more tomorrow with more detail. The weather has gotten colder and my fingers are numb. I must rest my eyes now.
Much love, we are all one 
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Colorful Colorado

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I know I have the tendency to claim that every state I’m riding through is the most beautiful, but really this time around Colorado takes the gold! I am in constant awe. The jagged granite mountains, the dense pine and Aspen trees, the smell of the crisp, cold thin air.¬† It all heightens my awareness and¬†my blood cells come alive. Every new town has its own rustic country feel. The people are grounded and friendly. The terrain¬†has become¬†increasingly more beautiful and so¬†have the roads. We have¬†encountered the most challenging part of our trip. Are we prepared? I don’t know. I don’t even really care, we are here, and we must keep going. My head hangs down, my breathing is hard, I say a few words under my breath not worth repeating and then I look up and smile. I’m continuously blown away.¬† I am blessed, life is grand.

Leaving the busy city of Pueblo, I noticed I had my first flat tire. I had made 1,300.00 miles without having to “really” get my hands dirty. Fortunately, I still didn’t have to because our fellow biker friend, Mike Baker, was a veteran at changing tires. He had experienced¬†15 already.¬† He did it in record time and gave me a¬†tutorial on how to do it. The first small town we arrived at 25 miles in, was Wetmore, CO. We pulled into a convenient store to grab some lunch and take a break. The wind had picked up and the clouds were looking ominous. We asked the nice lady running the store what she thought about the weather. She said yesterday¬† looked darker outside but it never rained. We sat back, ate our sandwiches, glanced outside from time to time and contemplated our next move. The ride ahead of us was about 25 more miles through a steep canyon, 15 miles of climbing and 10 flying downhill, the clouds looked like they were swallowing the mountains. The lady working at the store offered for us to pitch our tent by the horse stables in the back of¬† store. As we were considering this option, she briefed us on any bear or mountain lion encounters. She explained that there are 10 black bears roaming the town of Wetmore, breaking into people’s homes if they cook and leave food out. Then there was the rattlesnake briefing and the lightning bolt briefing. At that point, I looked at Cheney and said “were not in Kansas anymore, lets ride on!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m an outdoors kind of gal, I love wildlife and extreme situations. But this time around just seemed to have them all bundled into one great package, which made riding up a steep canyon a lot more appealing ūüôā We arrived in Westcliffe¬†around night fall. It is significantly colder. We had to change into warm clothes before we seeked¬†out a campsite. We found¬†a RV park that rented primitive cabins, no electricity,¬† no running water or toilets. We didn’t care, it came with linens and a comfy bed, we were sold and they gave us $1o¬†off. Cheney of course had one thing on his mind, beer! We went to a bowling alley/diner, ate some grub, played a few games, and drank a few beers. We awoke the next morning feeling refreshed. It was one of our best nights sleep yet.¬†The Sangre¬†de Cristo¬†mountain range surrounding the valley was visible, the sun was shining bright, and the sky was clear.

We had an easy 56 miles ahead of us through the valley¬†to the town of¬†Salida. Our friend Mike Baker was in Salida¬†waiting to meet up with us, he even¬†arranged a free place for us to stay. The city of¬†Salida¬†felt like a fairytale town nestled comfortably in the verdant¬†Arkansas¬†River Valley. Quaint and historic, it boast of one the largest downtown historic districts¬†in Colorado. It also seemed¬†like a¬† mandatory requirement for everyone in town to own at least two bikes in order¬†to be a resident. It felt safe and progressive, everyone was on the “green” movement, while at the same time exuding a vibrant, cosmopolitan feel to it, particularly for such a small town.

The night before our  biggest climb over Monarch Pass we watched a movie called RAAM (Race Across America) not only did this movie get us pumped up, but we got mentally prepared too.  The 7 RAAM contestants the movie followed, raced from San Diego, California, to Virgina in 9 days, riding over 3,000 miles.

The¬†following morning,¬†Mike, Cheney, and I¬†awoke ready to ride. We set out at 10 am. Mike and I¬†made a pact, that we both wanted to try to¬†make the summit without stopping. We did it! It was unbelievable. We both rode 3 1/2 hours and climbed up to 11, 312 feet, without putting our foot down once and taking a break,¬†so strenuous¬†and hard.¬†Our average pace was¬†3.5 mph and inched ourselves up the mountain. When we saw a sign¬†for Monarch summit we had 6 miles left. It took us 2 hours to complete 6 miles.¬† Some¬†times, I¬†was gripping¬†my handle bars so tightly because to the right I¬†had sheer cliff that dropped off and to my left, I¬†had pickup trucks zooming through the canyon. No shoulder to protect me and blind curves ahead. I¬†wanted to get it over with. There were moments I¬†would yell to Mike to check my back tire because¬†I¬†thought¬†it had a flat. I¬†was moving so slow and I¬†felt so heavy, I¬†was sure something had to be wrong with my bike. I¬†imagined this a couple of times before I¬†surrendered to the fact I¬†was riding through¬†gravity’s rainbow. Every now and again I¬†wanted to shout to the little elves, to stop pulling me back from behind. Now, I¬†must be getting dehydrated¬†if I was having these thoughts. When we reached the top, I¬†felt elated. I¬†was almost about¬†to cry from accomplishment, but I was too focused on getting my butt¬†of the seat for the first time, my¬†butt hated me ūüė¶

After eating lunch and taking a few pictures we made our decent down the mountain.The next 13 miles took 20 minutes. We were all speeding and I continually shared how scared¬†I was. The difference between a male and a female is this sort of thrilling dangerous act gets guys excited and wanting to push it to the edge.¬†I on the other hand think about the consequences if anything were to malfunction and go wrong, so instead of maxing out my speed and taking blind curves as fast¬†as I¬†could, I¬†pumped my brakes and wanted it to be over with. It¬† sure was fun,¬†I just¬† can’t say¬†I enjoyed it the way the guys did.

The next two nights Mike, Cheney,¬†and I¬†stayed at friends of a friend’s house¬†or at Warm Showers. This is a website that¬†offers a warm shower, bed, a place to pitch a tent, food, and sometimes laundry to cyclist riding across the country. Usually the warm shower host has done this in the past, and is now trying to pay forward the generosity¬†they once received while making their own trip.

After making it to Montrose, CO, Cheney¬†and I¬†were lucky enough to have Kate and Alan (Cheney’s¬†godmother) pick us up and drive us to Telluride, CO. Mike went to Moab, Utah and we hope to meet back up in Monticello, UT,¬†in a couple of days. Until then, we are living high. I would¬†love to get a job and reside in Telluride for the next 6 months. Kate¬†and Alan have been gracious hosts and I’m¬†back to taking long baths and sleeping in clean, comfortable¬†beds. I¬†am so grateful for this break in our trip, it is very much-needed¬†after Monarch pass. My butt¬†has forgiven¬†me, but my¬†knees have not.¬†I got a massage¬†yesterday and energy¬†work done on both of them. I¬†hope I¬†can heal up before we start again. As I¬†am sitting here in the living room peering outside, I¬†see the gondola to my left floating to the top of¬† a¬†ski¬†run . Aspen, and¬†pine trees swathe the rest of the mountain. No¬†wonder everyone loves this place, it’s truly magical ūüôā

we are all one!!! love to all.

Against the Wind

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Blown out!
We have entered the high plains in Kansas, where cornfields thin out and cattle feed farms fill in. The wind on this stretch is unforgiving. August 15, was an emotionally trying day for me. If that wasn’t enough to make my day challenging, mother nature also had plans to create a physically trying day as well. The headwind is relentless, brutally hard to ride through and dust bowls darkening the sky.
The early settlers plowed up all of the sod to get to the dirt so they could make mud shelters and simple huts. When the winds blew, which was often, the grass had no chance to re-root itself. Once the roots were gone, there was nothing left to hold the soil in place, leaving loose dirt. Not ideal land to grow crops but, great to stick thousands of cattle in feed farms.  
Cattle feed farms are, C.A.F.O’s= concentrated animal feeding operations, where animals are kept and raised in confine situations. These cattle are subjected to small areas where they are fed, and then they poop, and urinate, in the same area. Sometimes, dead cattle are not noticed and they rot amongst the rest. Instead of cattle being free to graze and or seek other means of food on the rangeland, they are brought grain and corn, making them have to adjust to digesting this type of food, Makes for great fragrance in the air ūüôā
When we arrived in Scotts City, KS, we found a hostel/athletic club. We ended up sleeping on the floor of the entrance way to the gymnastics room. The floor was springy, but I felt uncomfortable being exposed. We were told that nobody would bother us from the hours of 8pm- 3pm the next day. This was not true, It seemed like one disturbance after the other. The most memorable incident happened at 3am when a dog crept in through the gymnastic door and started licking Cheney’s face. It freaked him out and he jumped, waking me up. I freaked out thinking from some odd sleepy reason it was a cayote. The dog scampered off into another room, leaving us having to deal with our new roommate. “Where did he come from and whose damn dog is this?!?!” so here we were, Cheney and I chasing this dog around trying to capture it, me trying to grab it’s tags, and Cheney telling me to get rid of it. We finally got rid of the dog and went to bed. 
The next morning we met our fellow comrade, Mike Baker, from New Albany, OH. He is 24 and cycling to build his faith in God. He already has 4,000 miles under his belt. He started in Columbus, OH, went northeast to New York, down to Florida and now he is on his way to San Francisco. The kinship bikers feel on the road is unexplainable, It’s like we are apart of a fraternity. I love the unspoken connection. We have traveled the last 250 miles with Mike and camped in city parks for free.
The majority of the roads in Kansas are long and flat. Ideal riding if the wind never existed. The wind has been putting my will, heart, and determination to the test! Sometimes, I find myself wanting to stop, throw my bike down, and yell at the wind. “Really?  You’re going to pick up and blow right against me!!!” But, I don’t and I keep going. I laugh rather than getting too frustrated. I did sign myself up for this, so I might as well stay positive. What helps me keep a good frame of mind is taking in my surroundings. HWY 96 is lined with black-eyed susan’s and sunflowers. At times I can only lift my head a little to view the spectacular sea of yellow  lining both sides of the road. This offers a touch of sunshine to my life.  The past 5 days we have been riding on the Prairie Horizon Trail, which is a 140-mile section of the TransAmerican trail traveling through 12 southeastern Colorado communities: Towner, Sheridan Lake, Brandon, Chivington, Eads, Haswell, Arlington, Sugar City, Ordway, Crowley, Olney Springs, and Boone. All of these towns are so small and more than half of the businesses have shut down because of the declining economy. I feel bad for these towns, for there is a melancholy tone to them. 
Last night we made it to Pueblo, Colorado and soon we will climb the mountain ranges. It’s been a good long while since I’ve seen mountains, they are beautiful! Pikes peak, 14,110 ft. high, is beaming infront of me. I have to admit, I’m intimidated, this is going to be HARD!!! In three days we ascend over Monarch Pass 11,312 feet high, one of the highest and most scenic paved roads in Colorado. Wish me luck!!!!

Wildlife spotted: 1 fox- 1 badger- 4 prairie dogs- 5 rabbits- 3 huge bull frogs
Most unusual biker sighting- biker Frank, going to Tennessee from Missoula, Montana. He was 70 and he looked like he was gardening one day and decided to get on a bike and take a ride. He had no biking equipment. Everything looked like it came from his gardening shed. He is my new inspiration while I climb these mountains 

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KANSAS

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Day 22 (of actual riding) we went 82 miles today! I felt great and had a blast. Kansas is surprisingly so much more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Cheney and I rode on a 26 mile stretch by ourselves on the most desolate country road. Not a car in sight for hours.
I experienced the great grasshopper acrobatic show today. They were performing some of their most talked about and dangerous tricks. 100’s of them sat on the sizzling asphalt, when I passed some jumped over me, on me, some did tornado spins in place. Impressive work! Some even tandumly jumped onto my spinning spokes and took a ride for free. I had one with me for 25 miles. I don’t think he realized what he was getting into. And I’m not too sure he survived :/
These jumping insects plagued the country side back in the day becoming the farmers worst enemy. They ate everything in sight, destroying crops, gardens, and eating the leaves and bark off trees. With foliage gone they turned to clothes and when that was gone they started eating each other. The invasion multiplied each year. The farmers were losing so much to these creatures they had to retaliate and take control. They used vacuum cleaners and gas fed scorching machines, pulled behind horses. One day they all vanished without a trace. Now their back, but the numbers are down and chemicals have the upper hand.
What the farmers cannot control now is the weather. I keep noticing acres and acres of dried/dead cornfields. I thought to myself, maybe this is a method? Of course not! A lot of farmers do not use an irrigation system, they rely purely on rainfall. This year, more cornfields have been toasted and killed due to the lack of rain and record heat waves. A very odd and sad sight.
The past three days we have been riding through the Flint Hills. This area is dense with bluesteam grasses, cornfields, oil rigs, and a bounty of cattle.
The houses built in the prairieland all look like they are sinking. This is due to them being literally built into the ground. Must be a tornado proofing system or hoping to avoid too much tornado damage. Some of the cornfields reach a higher height than the house. Makes for interesting architecture.
Last night when we reached the town of Newton, Kansas, we ate at the “Breadbasket”. Around town, the restaurant is known for their German Buffett On Friday and Saturday nights. Cheney and I indulged in sausages, sauerkraut, and fresh breads. This place was very strange to me. The people surrounding me didn’t fit the food. It was like church ice cream social meets hofbrahaus. I kept tripping out. I stared around simultaneously dipping my bratwurst in plum apple sauce then hot mustard, then a scoop of sauerkraut, and finally finishing it off with a bite of wheat bread ūüôā the majority of the people in the restaurant were Mennonites. The Mennonite sect was born in Holland and Switzerland during the reformation. It’s members were the followers of Mennon Simons, a Roman Catholic priest who left the church. Soon the Mennonites became a target for all other religious sects. They were forced to leave and after traveling through Europe and after residing in Russia for quite sometime working in the prairielands they were forced once again in the late 1800’s to flee to America and Canada. Here they were, the Mennonites dining with me at the breadbasket, or more so I was dinning with them!!!  They are very nice people, A good experience all around.
Speaking of nice people, Mennonite or not, the people of Kansas hands down have been the nicest. The response we receive biking is very uplifting. The waves, smiles, honks of enthusiasm, and number of prominent bikers on the road make me feel comfortable.
Last night, we stayed at the Senior center because the town of Nickerson leaves the door unlocked for cyclist. Normally, we would have camped in the park, but since the heat has been so unbearable, the town decicded to offer the senior center to US ūüôā The center had two couches, a pool table, restrooms, bathroom, A/C, a full kitchen, tv, DVD player, and Wii. Apparently, these seniors get down. It was just Cheney and I staying for free in a senior center. Kind of weird again, but so awesome!
Tomorrow we are considering to do a 100 miles. August, 15 marks six years of my sweet sister becca passing away. Please, if you read this tonight or tomorrow give me and my family a little prayer. We will be feeling her loss as we do everyday!
We are all one. Enjoy life and be blessed! Love to all ūüôā

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Back on the saddle

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After a 7 day hiatus in Russell’s Point, Ohio, we are back on the bikes and on the road again. I was antsy to get back and start, It felt great to ride yesterday and today.
Ohio was busy and nonstop work. My granny had a lot of furniture and collectibles to move. Cheney and my dad kicked butt! It was glorious seeing my parents and smelling my granny’s house one last time. I am grateful Cheney had the chance to experience the place that is so special to me.

My dad and Cheney shared shifts driving the U-Haul. On Cheney’s last leg 12 miles outside of Pittsburg, Kansas,  the most magnificent lightning storm surrounded us from all angles. We were all captivated by the consistency and closeness of the lightning. While we were oohed and awed   the tone changed suddenly. My dad and I noticed the female deer first. She was to the left of the truck on the other side of the road. Right when we drove past her, she started to run parallel to us. My dad and I witnessed this and both hoped she would dart left into the corn field. Unfortunately, the deer made the wrong turn and jumped literally right into the uhaul. Thankfully, Cheney is such a stud because he handle the situation so smoothly. The poor deer looked right at us while we drove over it. I feared for the worst. Being powerless as the passenger, I pictured the truck flipping off the road. But, Cheney remained calm and never swerved or braked to the point of an accident. I then bursted into tears and cried my eyes out as we reached Pittsburg. We found a restaurant and shared our deer story. We quickly learned  the three of us had just been initiated to the way of the country roads, and everyone chimed in sharing their stories.

The next morning we set out to be dropped off in Chanute, KS where Cheney and I mounted our saddles and rode 56 miles to Toronto, KS. Impressively, Kansas displays the most friendly consciences drivers. It’s a breath of fresh air having drivers wave and smile giving me ample space to feel comfortable.  We arrived in Toronto with little time to spare. All the places for food (which was 3) were already closed. Toronto has a population of 321. My high school had 3,000 students enrolled and one of my freshmen college classes held 350 students. Its safe to state this town was small and quiet, no reason to keep the shops open past 5pm. We were running short on time, but got the tip that there was a restaurant 2.5 miles north named “Lizard Lips” that usually stays open till 7 pm. It was 6:10 when we ran into our angel JeanMarie. She crossed the street gracefully to check out the two new bikers in town. She sensed our urgency and knew we were hungry. She called Lizard lips to tell them not to shut the grill down and inform them we were in route. When I ran into the shop frazzled, I asked if they were still serving. Peggy (server) and one of the owners Glen said “why yes, JeanMarie called and said you were coming.” I didn’t know for sure JeanMarie called until that moment and I also never got her name until Glen told me. JeanMarie asked me to call once we got there. I did, and she offered for us to stay at her house. We said yes, and got to know this sweet, gracious, talented woman. This is what makes this bike trip so special and unique. The people we have encountered enrich our experience each day.
Today we went 24 miles to the town of Eureka, KS. Easy day preparing ourselves for a 78 miler tomorrow. I must rest now.
We are all one! I hope life is grand, it’s a beautiful thing to be alive. We are all lucky! Love to all ūüôā
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