Adventure Recap: The end of the adventure: Washington, DC to Virginia Beach, VA

Adventure Ride Day 55 – Washington, DC to Fredericksburg, Virginia

July 25 – I took one rest day at Annie and Jeff’s house in Silver Spring.  Our original plan had been to make this a longer stay, to play with Jules and possibly scout the area a bit for places we might like to buy a house.  But with Stephanie recuperating in Richmond from hand surgery, I wanted to get down there as quickly as I could.  Jeff helped me work out the best route through DC onto the route through northern Virginia.  As it was not too far out of the way from his regular bicycle commute into work, he led me quickly through the streets of DC, almost to the Treasury building.  I had to document that I’d made it to Washington, DC, so I took a lap around the mall before heading to Virginia.



The route to Fredericksburg and on the Richmond is part of the National Bike Route System and also part of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast route.  The route crosses the Potomac to Arlington and follows the popular route past Reagan National Airport and over paths and wooden bridges over swamp and marshland to Mount Vernon.  Then through the streets of Alexandria before taking a westward turn to go around federal land near the Quantico marine base.  Once around Quantico, the route cris-crosses Interstate 95 to Stafford and then into Fredericksburg.

It was a long day.  Over a hundred miles with steep rolling hllls that added up to about 4500 feet of climbing.  I finally got into Fredericksburg a little after 5 and headed straight for Carl’s Frozen Custard for a recovery ice cream before biking the last few miles to the Best Western for the night.


Miles: 102.54
Avg. speed:   12.7 mph
Ascending feet: 4,573 ft.

Peak elevation:  368 ft.
Ending Elevation:  150 ft.
Net elevation gain:  0 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 56 – Fredericksburg, VA to Richmond, VA

July 26 – I didn’t get out of the Best Western as early as I’d like.  I lost about an hour trying to print my route sheet in their “business center”.  In these 2-star hotels, the printers are not very reliable, and I needed the manager to come rework the cables.  So my focus on the ride today was to try to make time up so I could get to Richmond and my family as early in the afternoon as possible.

The Best Western cracks a joke at breakfast, serving boneless chicken.

And I made good time on this ride.  Mostly gentle rolling hills through historic civil war country.  There were roads travelled by the regiments with, markers all over about troop movements, including the route that Stonewall Jackson apparently took in an ambulance after being wounded in battle.

Miles: 74.96
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 2,737 ft.

Peak elevation:  334 ft.
Ending Elevation:  156 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -74 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 57 – Richmond to Williamsburg, VA

August 3 –  I hadn’t planned to get as far as Richmond as early as I did.  I’d hoped to spend more time with Stephanie exploring Ohio and Pennsylvania, and seeing the sights along the way.  The plan changed with her fall, though, so that I could rejoin her as soon as possible in Richmond to be with her as she recovered.  We didn’t plan to be in Virginia Beach until August 4, so I spent the week in Richmond at brother Bob’s house.  During the week, there was work to be done on the camper, we saw Stephanie’s physical therapist, I got in a training ride around Richmond, and we packed up the camper for the week at the beach.

Relaxing with sister-in-law Carol and Stephanie at a rooftop bar in Richmond.
We attended a Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball game. Stephanie is sporting her stylish blue cast.

On Saturday, everyone headed down to Virginia Beach.  Stephanie, Bob and Carol drove down in a car and the camper.  Others would come from Richmond, Charlottesville, Washington, and Seattle.  I packed a pannier for the bike ride, with an overnight near Williamsburg, with a plan to meet them all for the end of the Excellent Adventure on Sunday.

The ride to Williamsburg was almost entirely on the Virginia Capital Trail, which is a very popular trail that fairly closely follows country roads near the James River to historic Williamsburg.  Near Richmond, the trail runs past a large boathouse for crew racing and lessons.  Today there was a big event happening, with young families and strollers along a portion of the trail and beginning rowers in several boats on the  water.   Once beyond the traffic of Richmond, the trail was uninterrupted the rest of the way.

The day became hot and humid early in the day.  With temperatures in the 90’s most of the day, I was very conscious of drinking fluids often.  I refilled and cooled off at a Dairy Queen along the way.  There was also an enterprising guy beside the trail by a cornfield selling popsicles and cold water from a cooler, and we had a good talk about how selling popsicles fills a niche, but not a very lucrative one.

The Virginia Capital Trail is dotted with historical markers.  Colonial battles and troop movements, Civil War battles and troop movements, historic structures or places where historic structures used to be.

Leaving Richmond, past the Civil War Museum
On the VIrginia Capital Trail to Williamsburg

I didn’t pass through Williamsburg, but turned toward (historic) Jamestown to catch the ferry across the James River to Surry, where I would stay the night.  Jamestown, the site of the first English settlement in America, is a tourist spot with a re-creation of what the village may have looked like.  Of course, there is nothing left of the original settlement.  It was made of wood 400 years ago.

The Jamestown Settlement
Looking back at the Jamestown settlement from the James River.
I crossed the James River by ferry to Surry, VA
I can see the end of the Excellent Adventure coming soon.

My accommodations for the night were in one of 4 efficiency suites above the Surry Seafood Company.  If you ever get near Surry, stop here for dinner.  The view over the inlet is beautiful, and the seafood is first rate.


Miles: 62.86
Avg. speed:   12.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,373 ft.

Peak elevation:  228 ft.
Ending Elevation:  45 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -144 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 58 – Williamsburg to Virginia Beach, VA

August 4 –  I began the last day of the Excellent Adventure early in the morning on Sunday.  The day started reasonably cool as I pedaled up the hill out of the Surry Seafood Company to the road that would take me through swamps and farmland and eventually through Norfolk and Virginia Beach to Sandbridge.

I rolled into the town of Smithfield (apparently famous for its ham, but I didn’t see a packing house anywhere).  There is a cute main street with a lovely brunch place that was open, so I parked my bike and had a very nice breakfast, feeling somewhat out of place as a sweaty bicyclist in shorts and a helmet among people dressed up for brunch after church.  But the staff treated me well.

The roads became busier and busier as I approached Norfolk.  The only way to get across the many rivers and inlets is over a few busy bridges, some of which did not have great bike lanes.  I’ve learned on this trip that on busy bridges like this it’s best just to take a lane and let the traffic slow down behind you, and pedal as hard as you can to get to the other side.  On one of the bridges, my rear tire went flat, so I had to ride on the flat to the other side until I could find a spot to change it.  As I was changing my tire, a frantic message came over my phone from my brother, “Are you OK?”.  He was following me on the RoadID GPS app, which had me stopped in the middle of the road, so he thought I was dead being scraped off the road by the fire department.  No, just changing a tire.

The route took me through industrial parts of Norfolk and into the sprawl of Virginia Beach.  We’ve done this beach vacation in Sandbridge for several years now, so when I got to Indian River Road I knew I was almost done with the ride.   I realized that I would soon be at the Atlantic Ocean.  I wondered what my reaction would be to having completed the Adventure, and thought about the people who had helped me along the way.  I made the turn at the north end of Sandbridge to head down Sandpiper Road to the house we had rented for the week, about 3 miles south.  Left on Kabler, right on Sandfiddler.  Two blocks down, I saw a group of people in the middle of the road.  My family had turned out to celebrate the end of ride with me!.  My brother’s grandkids lined up to give me high-fives as I rolled in.


I got off my bike, hot and sweaty from the ride.  Stephanie and I had an emotional embrace.  The ride that had dominated our lives for months was now over.  She had been my support, and had done so much work to support my dream.  She had worried about me all day every day as I rode alone, through cold and heat, rain and snow and wind, through busy city streets and areas with no cell service and no way to know where I was and no way for me to contact her.  Now it was done.  Maybe we could now relax.


But there was one more thing to do.  The ride was from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, and I had to go the last few yards from the road across the sand to the water.  The family followed me to the shoreline where I dipped the wheel in the Atlantic water, and lifted the bike over my head as the final moment of the Adventure.  Nora and Zac, who were with us at the beginning in Oregon, were there.  Annie and Jeff and Jules, who had travelled with me from Piittsburgh through the Allegheny Mountains, were there.  Bob and Carol, who cared for Stephanie and took care of driving the RV from Chicago to Pittsburgh and on to Richmond and Virginia Beach, were there.  Rosie, our dog, was there, perhaps finally happy that she may finally have a permanent home again and would no longer be uprooted daily to move to a new campsite or hotel. And the rest of our family joined in the celebration, with champagne and laughter.



Miles: 77.37
Avg. speed:   13.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,106 ft.

Peak elevation:  146 ft.
Ending Elevation:  6 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -49 ft.

Adventure Recap: Pittsburgh to Washington, DC

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 50 – Pittsburgh to Connellsville, PA

July 19 – I said good-bye to Bob and Rosie, transferred just enough gear to Annie and Jeff’s car to get me through the ride to DC and Richmond, and headed out in the early morning with Jeff for the Great Allegheny Passage.  This bike trail is built along an old railroad line, and runs 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland.  It’s a finely packed, well-maintained gravel trail that makes the trip through the Allegheny Mountains much easier than taking country roads up and down the hills and mountains.  Jeff and I made good time and finished the 60 mile ride in about 4 ½ hours.  We got to our hotel in Connellsville before check-in time, so we hung out in the air-conditioned lobby, rehydrated, and rode our bikes into town to meet Annie and Jules for a snack at the Kickstand Kitchen, a little place that survives on the bicyclists passing through on the trail.  Later we went out for Mexican and had a great time attempting to contain Jules’s food to the general vicinity of our table.

Jeff and I leaving Pittsburgh via the GAP trail

Miles: 60.72
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 748 ft.

Peak elevation:  903 ft.
Ending Elevation:  875 ft.
Net elevation gain:  144 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 51 – Connellsville, PA to Cumberland, Maryland

July 20 – With a long ride ahead of us on the GAP trail, Jeff and I headed out early again.  The route followed the Youghiogheny River for most of the morning.  We stopped at the Falls Market in Ohiopyle for a cold drink, and had lunch at a funky place in Rockport had antiques and oddities for sale that appeared to be collections of people in town.  Just before the Maryland state line, we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.  You can’t miss it on the GAP Trail.



Much of the GAP Trail follows the Youghiogheny RIver



Jeff enjoying a gourmet lunch in Rockport





It looks like a big hill, but the scale is misleading.  The grade is typically under 2%.



The Mason-Dixon line is also well-marked.  I memorialized the visit with a selfie, which Jeff alertly photobombed.


Jeff making the trek from Pennsylvania to Maryland

The last several miles of the ride were a fast downhill through the Cumberland Gap into Cumberland, where the GAP trail ends and the C&O Canal towpath begins.


Jules having his recovery meal after our ride.

Miles: 92.25
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 3,567 ft.

Peak elevation:  2,587 ft.
Ending Elevation:  617 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -260 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 52 – Cumberland, MD to Clear Spring, MD

July 21 – Annie and Jeff had to get back to work in Washington, so we parted ways in the morning.  I planned to ride on my own for the next 2 or 3 days and meet them again in the DC area.  Jeff had ridden the C&O Canal towpath a few times before, so he cautioned me about the trail, recommending I ride the gravel bike with the wider tires than my road bike.  It turned out to be a very good recommendation.

The towpath is a popular path for cyclists, but most of the riders are recreational riders going short distances.  The National Park Service maintains it, but there are long stretches of the towpath that are bumpy, muddy ruts.  So it was a slow ride.

The C&O canal was built in the 1800’s to facilitate commercial shipping to the developing west.  Eventually, it gave way to land transportation by rail and truck, and the canal became obsolete.  For decades, it sat in a state of decay, disrepair and overgrowth.  Now the towpath used by the horses to pull barges up the canal has been restored into an established trail for hikers and bicyclists.  Old stone locks and lockhouses that could be preserved have been, and signs along the route describe the history of the trail.


A typical section of the towpath. Most of the time it’s like a wagon path, with two of these paths side by side.  It’s not a road bike trail.
One of the old canal locks.
Another canal lock.
A lock-keeper’s house.
The Paw Paw Tunnel.  It’s long and VERY dark.  I walked the bike through.
Throughout the Adventure, I’ve seen species of deer unique to each region. If you look, you’ll a white-tail couple.

I rattled along the trail, until I got to the junction called Little Orleans where there was an establishment with food and drink.  Sign outside said, “welcome, bicyclists”, but there was no place to park the bike.  No credit cards allowed, signs about the Second Amendment, a confederate flag on the wall and a gruff guy taking orders from a chair at the center of the bar.  Lovely ambience.

But I was able to rehydrate and cool off and make my way down the trail to the turnoff to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which is a much better trail for bicycling and parallels the C&O Canal for several miles.  I then turned off to head to Clear Spring, where I checked into my hotel for the night just before a massive thunderstorm passed through.

Miles: 80.76
Avg. speed:   11.4 mph
Ascending feet: 1,138 ft.

Peak elevation:  562 ft.
Ending Elevation:  516 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -9 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 53 – Clear Spring, MD to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

July 22 – There was rain in the forecast for today, but the hourly forecast indicated that I could get as far as Harper’s Ferry before the worst of it, so I headed out from the hotel for the short ride to Harper’s Ferry.  The route took me through Sharpsburg, the site of one of the major battles of the Civil War.  Sometimes called the Battle of Antietam, this conflict involved soldiers from Maryland on both sides.  The positions occupied where I passed were Confederate, and were memorialized along the road.





A mortarless stone wall, likely pre-dating the Civil War.

I made it back onto the towpath and sloshed my way through the mud and fallen branches for several miles.  The last 5 miles, though, were on a freshly resurfaced portion of the path. I rode over the old railroad bridge over the Potomac into Harper’s Ferry, and through the town to the hotel, where they gave me a rag and access to a hose to wash the bike.

Improvements to the towpath heading into Harper’s Ferry
The workers allowed me to be the inaugural rider on the new surface.
The Potomac River



Harper’s Ferry, WV
At Harper’s Ferry, the Shenandoah River (on the right) joins the Potomac.


It was early in the day, so I walked back into Harper’s Ferry to explore.  A little drizzle turned into another big thunderstorm, which stranded me in a bus shelter for a while, before I was able to explore the town, much of which has now become a national park memorializing the roles that Harper’s Ferry played as a launching point for westward exploration (Lewis and Clark gathered provisions here), as the site of John Brown’s famous and ill-fated slave rebellion before the Civil War, and as a strategic prize of the competing armies of the North and South during the Civil War.


The Appalachian Trail runs through Harper’s Ferry, and I hiked a short segment on my way back to my hotel.


Miles: 32.74
Avg. speed:   10.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,509 ft.

Peak elevation:  542 ft.
Ending Elevation:  356 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -183 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 54 – Harper’s Ferry, WV to Washington DC/Silver Spring, MD


July 23 – I started the day riding back through Harper’s Ferry and over the bridge back to the C&O canal towpath.  The trail began as a continuation of the nicely resurfaced path I had experienced at the end of the ride the day before.  But it only lasted 5 miles before I was back on the dirt and gravel towpath.  The thunderstorm from the previous day had downed large tree limbs, in a couple of places completely blocking the trail.  I was able to climb through the branches with my bike and move on.  But it was another muddy ride.

Storm damage on the towpath.
A C&O canal aquaduct. From here, I left the towpath to get on paved roads to Silver Spring.
Time to clean the bike after the ride
It was a muddy day all around.

My intention had been to take the towpath all the way to its end in Georgetown and then ride the Rock Creek Trail north through DC towards Silver Spring, where I would stay with Annie and Jeff.  But the going on the trail was so slow and my skull had been shaken enough.  So I decided to take a more direct route on paved roads through the western and northern suburbs.  In many places, there were excellent bike trails along the sides of the roads and through greenways, which is typical of the DC metro area.  Sometimes this was city cycling.  Everywhere, the traffic was intense.

It was great to pull into Annie and Jeff’s house.  I got to play grandpa with Jules and review the whole experience with Jeff and Annie.  They were great hosts, and I had the next day to rest, do some laundry, and transfer my gear to my Bianchi bike (which they had transported for me and could accept panniers) and which I would use for the ride to Richmond via Fredericksburg and then on to the beach.

Miles: 56.84
Avg. speed:   10.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,710 ft.

Peak elevation:  600 ft.
Ending Elevation:  366 ft.
Net elevation gain:  9 ft.

Adventure Recap: Through Ohio to Pittsburgh

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 46– Brookville, OH to Columbus, OH

July 14 –  Bob and I spent yesterday on a road trip up to the Leisure Travel Vans dealer in Galion, OH to get the air conditioner issue checked out.  They couldn’t fix it without ordering the part from the manufacturer, which would take several days, but they were able to cover the damaged unit so we could travel safely without rain getting into the inside of the camper.  And we got to see lots of Ohio!

Today the goal is to get to Columbus.  About 15 miles along the Wolf Creek trail to Dayton, then up bike trails along the Miami River and Mad River to the Creekside Trail to Xenia.  An Egg McMuffin and iced tea at McDonald’s in Xenia and then over 50 more miles of straight rail-trails to Columbus.  This is the best bicycle infrastructure I’ve seen.  Once in Columbus, the route meandered through the Ohio State University campus.  Oh, excuse me:  THE Ohio State University.  (they tried to copyright THE)

Mad River, Dayton, OH
Wildlife on the Mad River, Dayton, OH
On the trail by the Miami River in Dayton, OH
I think this is an ethanol processing facility. Near South Charleston, OH.
The elaborate county courthouse in London, OH
The Ohio Erie rail trail near Xenia, OH
It’s band camp week at THE Ohio State University
OSU Stadium
Ohio State campus
Ohio State campus

Miles: 99.47
Avg. speed:   13.5 mph
Ascending feet: 1,644 ft.

Peak elevation:  837 ft.
Ending Elevation:  587 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -140 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 47– Columbus, OH to Zanesville, OH

July 15 – The ride out of Columbus took me through the north suburb of Worthington and then east on bike paths and country roads.  The temperature rose into the upper 90’s, so I was glad to stop for lunch and iced tea in Newark at a little coffee shop on the courthouse square.  Just before Newark there were some cool art installations.

Then on to Zanesville along the Panhandle Trail and Newark Road.  Our hotel for the night was across from a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  I’d never been to a Cracker Barrel before, so Bob introduced me to this experience.   Biscuits and gravy, cute things to buy that reflect mom, apple pie, and childhood good times. Another taste of middle America.

A view of the “Y” in Zanesville, OH
Pot farms in Ohio are different than in California.
My first visit to a Cracker Barrel. Apparently, sitting in the rockers is a thing. I don’t know about the biker tan, though.


Miles: 77.88
Avg. speed:   13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,103 ft.

Peak elevation:  930 ft.
Ending Elevation:  569 ft.
Net elevation gain:  7 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 48– Zanesville, OH to St. Clairsville, OH

July 16 – Zanesville was the end of the mid-continent flatland.  Today’s ride started the ascent into the Appalachian Mountains, with more climbing than any single day of the Adventure so far.  All of the route so far had followed fairly gradual grades along rivers and through passes.  Today followed country roads over rolling hills that included some steep but thankfully short ascents.

This part of Ohio has lovely farmland and small towns with rich histories.  I stopped for lunch in Quaker City at an Amish restaurant.  Had a filling meal of meatloaf and sweet potatoes prepared by the bonneted women in the kitchen.  Great fuel for the rest of the hilly ride to St. Clairsville, just about 15 miles west of the West Virginia line.

The Amish restaurant in Quaker City, OH
Hearty Amish fare for hungry people
The hilly farmlands near Quaker City
Quaker City Friends Meeting House
There are signs of fracking throughout this part of the country.
Another in the courthouse photo collection. This one in St Clairsville, OH

Miles: 74.19
Avg. speed:   11.7 mph
Ascending feet: 5,357 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,314 ft.
Ending Elevation:  1,250 ft.
Net elevation gain:  454 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 49– Pittsburgh!

July 17 – The forecast was for scattered showers later in the day around Wheeling, so I hoped to start early enough to miss them before I headed north to Pittsburgh.  I wouldn’t be quite so lucky.

The weather was clear as I entered Wheeling Island, just before the Ohio River crossing into the city of Wheeling.  This town has been flooded many times in its history—events which are memorialized in this monument.

Wheeling Island flood lines


The town of Wheeling harkens back to the days when coal and iron ore shipments plied their way up the Ohio River through locks to the steel mills in Pittsburgh.  It would have been nice to have had more time to explore.  I’m sure there’s a rich history here.  I needed to make time, though, so I turned up the Wheeling Heritage Trail which follows the Ohio upstream.  About 20 miles into the ride, the skies opened up and I was riding in heavy rain, much earlier than the weather forecast had shown.  I paused under some trees for a while to see if it would pass, but it was steady.  So off I went, peering through the raindrops on my glasses.  In about 5 miles the trail emptied onto a heavily travelled road.  Even though I had lights on my bike and a bright yellow jacket for visibility, these are not great conditions for cycling in traffic.  I found a gas station in about a mile that I pulled into to wait for the rain cell to pass over.

The Ohio RIver at Wheeling



The bridge into Wheeling is closed to traffic. Luckily, I made it across.
Locks on the Ohio River north of Wheeling, just before the rain.

The route to Pittsburgh is well-mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association as part of their route from Chicago to New York.  So the bike route takes another rail-trail from just west of the Pennsylvania state line in West Virginia all the way to the Pittsburgh suburb of Noblestown.  Then the ride is through the steep hilly terrain around Pittsburgh, across the Ohio River to the hotel for our time in the city, near Heinz Field (home of the Pirates).

My first sighting of the city of Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh starts a new phase of the Excellent Adventure.  Pittsburgh represents the beginning of the end of the cross-country adventure.  From here, it’s 2 days of riding on the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Maryland, then the C&O canal towpath to DC, two more days to Richmond, and two days to the Atlantic from there.   I’ve ridden 3700 miles to get here, and only a few hundred more to go.

Daughter Annie, son-in-law Jeff, and grandson Jules have driven up from the DC area to meet us.  Bob will head back to Richmond from here, taking Rosie and the RV with him.  Jeff is going to ride with me and guide me through most of  the Great Allegheny Passage, which he has ridden before.

My dad grew up in Pittsburgh, so this is a time for Bob and me to revisit our family heritage.  We maneuvered the camper through the narrow streets and hills of Pittsburgh to the borough of Dormont to find our grandparents’ old house, which still stands, though the neighborhood around it has significantly changed.  Gone are the trolleys that were such a fixture of Pittsburgh for many years.  Gone is the hand-packed ice cream store that we visited as children, and the candy store on the corner, having been replaced by nail salons, a tattoo parlor, and storefronts for real estate agents, insurance brokers, and attorneys.

Our grandfather’s livelihood came from his position of business manager for Mount Lebanon Presbyterian Church, two blocks from their house.  The church appears to be thriving still.  The alley behind the old house still looks about the same as it did 50 years ago, though perhaps a little more dilapidated.  A fearsome guard dog barked at us from an auto repair shop now facing the alley.

We had two days in Pittsburgh, so we decided to drive up north to the tiny town of Connoquenessing, where we remembered going to the “Downs family reunion” as children.  Our great-grandfather William Guthrie Downs and our great-grandmother Amanda lived the final years of their lives in Connoquenessing, with their daughter Sara Ann’s extended families – the Chandlers, Lobaughs and Rearicks.  We hoped to find the old houses we remembered, visit the local cemetery, and maybe even find a lost relative.

Connoquenessing is really just a few little streets, about 3 or 4 churches, and a volunteer fire station.  We parked the RV in the gravel parking lot next to the Methodist church.  We walked down and back on the main street to see if any houses were recognizable to us.  A couple looked somewhat like the places we remembered, but almost 60 years had passed, so we weren’t sure.  As we got back to the parking lot, a woman stopped her car in the street to ask us what we were looking for.  Clearly in this small town where everyone knew everyone we were suspicious characters.  I told her we were retracing our family history.  We suspect that our presence was the talk of the town for the following days.  Later, another woman popped her head out of her door when we passed her house, asking who we were looking for.  We told her we were looking for the houses of the Chandlers and the Rearicks.  Turns out she remembered them both, and that Wendell Rearick’s house was just across the street, though the house had now changed hands.  So at least we were able to make one solid connection.

The suspicious characters casing the town of Connoquenessing, PA
The old Rearick house in Connoquenessing
The old Chandler house (we think) in Connoquenessing

Bob and I joined Annie, Jeff and Jules for a visit to one of the big attractions in Pittsburgh, the Incline Railroad, which is a 19th century cable car transport from river level up the steep cliff of Mt. Washington.  Jules loved the ride!

The Incline
Jules liked the ride!
The family heading up the Incline
At the top of the Incline
A very hot and humid day, but what a clear view!
PIttsburgh’s Three RIvers
You’ve ridden that far? Oh, Grandpa!

The next day, Bob and Rosie headed on to Richmond in the RV, where Stephanie was recuperating from her hand surgery.  Jeff would join me on the ride from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD on the Great Allegheny Passage, with Annie and Jules meeting us in Connellsville, PA and Cumberland.  From there, I would ride on my own for 2 or 3 days to their house in Silver Spring, MD, on the outskirts of DC, before the final rides through Virginia.  I could see the end of the Adventure on the horizon.

Miles: 73.04
Avg. speed:   12.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,567 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,277 ft.
Ending Elevation:  731 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -519 ft.


Adventure Recap: From Chicago through Indiana

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 43– Chicago to Winamac, Indiana

July 10 – The day after Stephanie left for Richmond, Virginia with Carol.  It’s me, brother Bob, and Rosie for the rest of the trip.  It feels strange to not be doing the ride with Stephanie.  It’s not the same.  Everyone is helping me finish the ride across the country, and I am so appreciative of the support, but I also feel that perhaps I should have cut it short to be with Stephanie during her care and recovery.  So my objective now is to finish the trip as quickly as I can to rejoin Stephanie in Richmond.  I’ll be attempting to lengthen a few segments and eliminate some rest days to meet a more accelerated schedule.  Today’s ride will be a century, to get as far into Indiana as I can.

Much of today’s ride was on very nice bike trails.  Bob and I made a plan to meet at Crown Point, IN for lunch, about 40 miles into the ride.  After rolling out of the hotel parking lot near Midway airport in Chicago, and navigating busy Chicago streets for a few miles, I turned onto the Burnham Greenway bike path.  For most of the morning, I was navigating from one bike path to another, and I had long stretches of flat, easy riding that allowed me to make good time, even as the temperature rose into the 90’s.  At one point, I lost the trail and made a u-turn on a side road, hit a sandy spot and slipped to the asphalt.  I hit my hip, which would be sore for a few more days, but otherwise was able to just get back in the saddle and keep on going into Crown Point, where Bob and Rosie and I met at a diner where we could get sandwiches and cold drinks.  We called Stephanie in Richmond to check in.

The Illinois/Indiana state line on the Pennsy Greenway, a fabulous rail trail.
The county courthouse in Crown Point, Indiana

I’d hoped to make good time the rest of the way. The temperature rose to the upper 90’s, and the bike trail gave way to long, straight flat county road.  I needed to stop frequently when there were opportunities to cool down and get ice.  My speed got slower and slower as I grinded my way in the heat down the long Indiana road.  Finally, with about 11 miles to go to Winamac, I decided I’d had enough for the day and called Bob to come pick me up.  I’d start again from this spot tomorrow.

Every little town has its story, and Winamac was no exception.  There were few options for lodging for the night, so we ended up at the Tortuga Inn.   Kind of a bohemian place, there was a barn filled with rusty farm equipment and stuff collected or crafted by the owner.  Our room was in a ramshackle cabin, with hot and cold rusty water.  I took a shower, thinking that the dirt in the water was the detritus of my long bike ride, but in fact was originating from the water pipes themselves.

The Tortuga Inn near Winamac.  Our accommodations for the night.
At least Rosie has her own bed.

Bob and I found a pub where we could get a late meal, where we met a group of local bicyclists.  They shared their knowledge of the trails I’d encounter in Indiana and Ohio, and asked me to share some of my experiences.

A good recovery meal for a bicyclist!

Miles: 96.2
Avg. speed:   14.2 mph
Ascending feet: 1,440 ft.

Peak elevation:  749 ft.
Ending Elevation:  747 ft.
Net elevation gain:  158 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 44– Winamac, IN to Marion, IN

July 11 – Flat country roads to Rochester and Starbucks, then the Nickel Plate rail-trail to Peru and lunch with Bob an Rosie. A combination of bike trails and flat country roads to Converse and a stop for ice cream.  Then the Sweetser Switch Trail to Marion.  These trails are a testament to the work being done by local communities and organizations like the Rails to Trails Conservancy to create and preserve high-quality bike routes all over the country along old railroad rights-of-way.    I made really good time today.

The courthouse in Rochester, Indiana
An Indiana hay field.  Near Peru, Indiana
Converse, Indiana
A hot day.  A long ride.  I deserve mint chip ice cream!
The Sweetser Switch rail/trailhead.

Miles: 90.93
Avg. speed:   14.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,804 ft.

Peak elevation:  818 ft.
Ending Elevation:  809 ft.
Net elevation gain:  169 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 45– Marion, IN to Brookville, Ohio

July 12 – My third straight day of riding over 90 miles through the flatlands of the American Midwest. Most of today’s ride was on the Cardinal Greenway, another rail-trail running from Gaston, IN through Muncie and on to Richmond.  This was another day of fast riding on a trail that gently ascended for much of the way.

For an adventure to be a true adventure, there have to be opportunities to test your abilities to overcome obstacles, right?  We’ve had a few so far (getting through bad weather, bike malfunctions, and a broken wrist).  Today we had another.   The camper met its match with a low bridge.

I expected that at some point this would happen.  The RV is about 10 ½ feet tall, and while highways and most city streets have plenty of clearance for this, there are lightly travelled old roads with old railroad bridges with lower clearance than this.  Bob was trying to follow close to my route on the bike trail, and came upon a bridge which did not have any clearance warning on it.  Crunch, crunch went the rooftop air conditioner and satellite receiver.

The camper after its run-in with the overpass.

Bob was clearly feeling really bad about this (my view was that it could have been me or Stephanie doing the same thing, and this was just bad luck).  There was a point on the trail that our paths crossed, and we surveyed the damage.  Further down the route in Richmond, IN was a Camping World RV center that might be able to do the repair.  Bob headed there and I continued on the bike trail to meet him there.  It was pretty remarkable that they had a satellite unit in stock that they could install that day.  They assessed the damage to the air conditioner, thought that they had a replacement, but after a good bit of back and forth among the installers realized that the unit I needed was not what they had available.  We would have to find another place to get the work done.

The Camping World in Richmond, IN worked hard to get us back on the road fast.

This stop had been surprisingly quick, and I was able to continue on to our planned overnight stop about 35 miles down the road, across the state line in Brookville, OH, just west of Dayton.

Near Eaton, Ohio just across the Indiana state line


A too-frequent example of a roadside memorial.  This for a girl named Olivia.


A covered bridge in western Ohio.  This time the height clearance is marked– and too low for the RV.

After 3 long riding days, my butt was feeling the pain, and with the RV in need of repair, it was a good time to take a rest day the next day.   That meant we’d have time for dinner at Rob’s Restaurant, a place serving the all-you-can eat clientele with a buffet food and dessert bar.  The food choices were of a variety you’d only see in this homespun Midwest country.

Bob anxiously awaiting the output of the pancake machine at our hotel.
I’d like some of that sea-foam green cream salad, please.
Nothing like pink eggs, or marshmallows in the carrot salad.

Miles: 110.95
Avg. speed:   13.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,100 ft.

Peak elevation:  1,085 ft.
Ending Elevation:  911 ft.
Net elevation gain:  200 ft.


Adventure Recap: Wisconsin

The Excellent Adventure started at the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, Oregon on May 1, and ended at the Atlantic Ocean at Sandbridge Beach, Virginia on August 11, 2019.  I’m posting recaps of the Adventure, now that I have time to write about the experience.

Adventure Ride Day 33–Saint Croix Falls, WI to Birchwood, WI

June 20 –   A beautiful day for a ride.  Temperatures in the low 70s. Lightly traveled country roads through Wisconsin woodlands and small farms.  My pace was slower than normal due to the weight of the panniers I was carrying for the two-day ride from the Twin Cities. This was a good lesson for me to pack less and lighter for future rides.  Lunch at a sports bar in Cumberland.  Arrived early at our campsite for the night at Birch Lake.  The family in the next site was very impressed with the accomplishment of bicycling across the country until Stephanie arrived with the camper.  Then they compared our nice Mercedes Sprinter RV to their popup tent trailer and decided they were the ones who were really roughing it.

Stephanie and I drove into the very tiny town of Birchwood to see what we could find for dinner.  We ended up at a family-run  grill, where the menu was burgers, pizza and beer.  This turned out to be the same menu at almost every eating place we entered in Wisconsin.  Our waitress was a young girl who had never strayed far from the town.  She told us about a Korean man she had met locally and was continuing to correspond with in Korea.  She told us she had never seen an Asian person before and she was now obsessed with what she perceived to be Asian culture.  She planned to go meet him in the coming months.  Her naivete was obvious, and we left the restaurant with the hope that she’d make it back.

The campground was on a lovely lake, where the kids could swim while boats and skiers cruised the water.  All night long we heard the sound of frogs and crickets.

Balsam Lake, Wisconsin
Another Wisconsin lake
Our campsite near Birchwood

Miles: 71.68
Avg. speed:  11.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,582 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,395 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,249 ft.
Net elevation gain: 67 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 34–Birchwood, WI to Day Lake, WI

June 21 – Another lovely ride through the northern lake country of Wisconsin.  Country roads over rolling hills through forests, past lakes, vacation cabins and remote campgrounds.

Stephanie and I met at a “bar and grill” along the way.  Of course, the menu was mostly burgers and beer.  Stephanie asked, “What’s the local beer?”  The bartender said, “You’re in Wisconsin.  All beer is local.”  Which is pretty much true.  But he didn’t just give us a Bud Lite.  He gave us New Glarus “Spotted Cow”, which we found is truly the local beer of choice here.  Too bad it doesn’t ship outside of Wisconsin.

Camping tonight at Day Lake campground, a US Forest service campground near Clam Lake.






Stephanie and Rosie at Day Lake Campground

Miles: 70.37
Avg. speed:  13.2 mph
Ascending feet: 2,411 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,478 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,448 ft.
Net elevation gain: 206 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 35–Day Lake, WI to Boulder Junction, WI

June 22 – This morning’s highlight was the ride through lovely Glidden, Wisconsin.  There was a sign on the road to “see the largest black bear- next left”, so I turned into the main street of the town to see what I could find.  The first sight was of the Dead Squirrel Bar and Grill.  Don’t know why their sign is a picture of a happy squirrel, though, instead of a dead squirrel.


A woman on the street asked me what I was looking for and I told her I was looking for the bear.  Turns out she was the development director for the town and she told me where to find the bear as well as everything else there was to visit in her town.  She apologized, after hearing that I was travelling through her town on a cross-country bike ride, that the town newspaper guy was not around so they could put it in their paper!

Anyway, here is the biggest black bear killed in the area, stuffed and given a place of honor in its own little museum.



The rest of the ride was classic northern Wisconsin—long stretches of woods, marsh, and lakes along quiet country roads.  Near the end of the ride, heading into Boulder Junction, a fun bike trail took me closer to town.

The campsite for the night was an RV campground where many families had clearly made camp for the season.  Some RV owners had built decks and fences around their RVs, some had installed fixed PVC pipe for their drainage and water lines in lieu of the typical hoses and “stinky slinkys” that most RVs hook up to the water and sewer.







Miles: 83.16
Avg. speed:  12.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,386 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,673 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,660 ft.
Net elevation gain: 214 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 36–Boulder Junction, WI to Eagle River, WI

June 23 – This was a short, fun ride through the forests and gently rolling terrain past more lakes to Eagle River.  We planned to stay in Eagle River for a couple of days to visit with Jack and Sue.  Sue is a cousin and good friend to Stephanie.  Jack is involved in several ventures, and is an avid collector of Civil War memorabilia.   Their cabin is a fabulous, relaxing place.

Rosie was shy, but happy to sleep on the couch.
Sue, Stephanie, Jack and Rosie

Miles: 33.11
Avg. speed:  14.2 mph
Ascending feet: 1,006 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,800 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,662 ft.
Net elevation gain: 6 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 37– Eagle River, WI to Pickerel, WI

June 26 – During our visit with Jack and Sue, they took us all over this part of Wisconsin, including a trip up to the Michigan Upper Peninsula.  The folks in the U.P. (there aren’t many) might be called “U-pers”, and it feels like being in Canada.  The accents morph from the Norwegian-Wisconsin sound to include Canadian euphemisms (eh?).

Beavers did this.
Lookin’ good, eh?
Sue and Jack all tied up in knots at Bond Falls.
Bond Falls in the Michigan Upper Peninsula


We said good-bye and headed off to our next Wisconsin family visit down in Pickerel, where Stephanie’s Aunt Virgie and Uncle Jim live in their lakeside home.  This was another lovely ride through lake country.

Virg and Jim treated us like royalty at their house, cooking up a great steak dinner for my protein fix.  Rosie had a great time chasing squirrels outside by the lake.  Virg and Stephanie talked about what everyone in the family is doing.  Jim, who owned a trucking company before he retired, showed us his garage of projects and the dump truck he still offers up for local jobs.

Rosie surveying her squirreldom at Pickerel Lake

Miles: 57.05
Avg. speed:  14.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,226 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,680 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,548 ft.
Net elevation gain: -105 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 38– Pickerel, WI to Plover, WI


June 27 – From Pickerel we had one more family stop, to the Stevens Point area where Stephanie’s cousin Dan lives.  Today’s ride was due south along progressively busier roads.  I’m now heading into the heart of the Midwest, and the temperatures are finally warming up to summertime heat.

Dan Kruzitski’s history is as a competitive cyclist.  He’s a great instructor for those attempting to be successful racers.  He offered to ride with me for a few segments of the ride, fitting it into his tough schedule, which involves taking the night shift during the week to haul truck loads across the state.

Dan Kruzitzki – loves his Bianchi bikes!

Dan let us stay at his condo, which was fine for Rosie:



Miles: 81.12
Avg. speed:  13.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,213 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,669 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,090 ft.
Net elevation gain: -558 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 39– Plover, WI to Wisconsin Dells, WI

June 28 – The effort today involved finding paved roads.  Dan  joined me for the first part of this ride out of Plover.  I planned the route using Ridewithgps, which had plotted a course that seemed OK at first, but turned out to follow gravel roads for much of the way.  I’m fine with gravel for a mile or two, but when it turns into 5 or more miles, the loss of time, the effort, and the pounding over loose rocks gets to be too much for me.

After the first couple of miles on gravel, Dan and I plotted a new course that appeared to put me on a paved road, so we headed east to get on that road.  Dan then left me to get back home. (He drives a truck at night and it was bedtime for him.  He’d meet us tomorrow for the ride into Madison.)

I abandoned my original route, which appeared to run along more unpaved roads and trails, and decided to take paved county roads to the Dells.  This added about 10 miles to the planned ride, but it was a lot faster than plowing through gravel, with a lot less shaking for my bones and my head.

Miles: 78.79
Avg. speed:  14.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,290 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,162 ft.
Ending Elevation: 913 ft.
Net elevation gain: -177 ft.

Rather than staying overnight at Wisconsin Dells, Stephanie and I drove down to Spring Green, a few miles farther south and the location of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architecture school.  We had a planned rest day allowing us to go on a walking tour of the buildings and grounds, learning a lot about the man’s life, his talent and his faults, and the events that led to the development of the property in its current state.

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We also had an opportunity to visit “the Little Brown Church” nearby.  The cemetery surrounding this church is where some of Stephanie’s mother’s ancestors are interred.  So we took some time to photograph headstones that might help us flesh out the family tree.

Adventure Ride Day 40– Wisconsin Dells, WI to Madison, WI

June 30 – Stephanie’s cousin Dan Kruzitzki joined me on today’s ride.  I rode 10 miles from Wisconsin Dells to Baraboo to meet him to ride the remaining 50 miles.  He’s such a biking demon that he decided to do a century today, so he drove to Madison and biked the 50 miles BACK to Baraboo to meet me.  He rides at about twice my speed normally, so he was kind enough to slow down for the ride back to Madison.

Rain clouds were threatening all morning.  While we hoped to avoid a storm, we were not so lucky.  The drizzle started as we rode through Devil’s Lake state park, and then it became a steady rain.  The day turned dark, so our front and rear lights were on for safety in the slow-moving traffic.  As we left the park, the rain turned into a torrent, with thunder and lightening coming closer.  We were soaked.  We found shelter around a commercial building to wait out the storm.

After about 15 minutes the rain slowed to a drizzle and we headed on to the ferry to get us across Lake Wisconsin.

We were soaked from the rain as we crossed Lake Wisconsin on the ferry.
Dan’s Bianchi racer and my old Bianchi touring bike.  Maybe if I had his bike I’d go faster?

The rest of the ride was through more Wisconsin farm country until we got to Middleton, which is just outside Madison.  Then we rode through neighborhoods of upscale homes and shopping into Madison.

Dan then left us to head back to his condo in Plover.  We had a couple of planned rest days in Madison.  Stephanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin, so there were old haunts to visit.

We drove the camper to the site of the old cabin lodge run by Stephanie’s grandparents, now a city park.
A heron at Lake Mendota


The old campground.

Erin, Stephanie’s friend from California, and her kids happened to be in Madison at the same time, so we were able to spend some time with them at the UW Union on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Almost everyone is having fun.
Erin and Stephanie’s reunion in Madison.

Miles: 59.6
Avg. speed:  13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 3,077 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,256 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,062 ft.
Net elevation gain: 154 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 41– Madison, WI to Milwaukee

July 3 –  The ride from Madison to Milwaukee followed a couple of long rail trails, where trees provided shade from the hot sun.  Farm country gave way to the industrial city of Waukesha, continuing into Milwaukee.

As I entered Milwaukee, the route took a poorly-maintained city bike path.  There were muddy puddles along the path.  I attempted to avoid one of the puddles and ended up off the path in deep mud, which stopped me cold.  With no time to clip out, I dropped onto the asphalt.  I wasn’t hurt, but the fall was a pretty hard one, and my helmet took quite a blow.  I was only about 7 miles from the end of the day’s route and the hotel, but I wondered if I had hit my head hard enough to warrant getting it checked out.  I called Stephanie to talk it out, and decided to ride the rest of the way in.  The roads in Milwaukee are pretty bad—the weather cracks the pavement, heavy traffic pounds out potholes, and there doesn’t seem to be enough investment in road maintenance to keep the roads in shape.  It’s a problem I’d see throughout this industrial part of the country.

This is who made my ride so fun.  Our date in Milwaukee.

We had a rest day on July 4 in Milwaukee.  Nothing appeared to warrant a visit to the ER.  Stephanie has extended family in Milwaukee and we had a nice lunch with them.

Miles: 95.98
Avg. speed:   12.8 mph
Ascending feet: 1,719 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,083 ft.
Ending Elevation: ft.
Net elevation gain: ft.


Adventure Ride Day 42– Milwaukee to Chicago

July 5 – Another hot, humid day.  I rode bike trails for much of the day, though, so there was a good bit of shade.  Virtually flat almost the entire way.  The areas around the trail were mostly industrial and blue-collar neighborhoods through Racine and Highland Park.  I stopped at the Trek bicycle store in Highland Park to replace my helmet, which had been cracked by my fall on the ride into Milwaukee.

As I entered the northern suburbs of Chicago, the neighborhoods changed remarkably.  The houses on the tree-lined streets were large, gracious homes.  Clearly more affluence here than in southern Wisconsin.

I navigated through Evanston and northern Chicago to the Lakefront Trail along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The hot holiday weekend was an occasion for thousands of people to enjoy the parks and beaches along the lake.

Northwestern University in Evanston, and my new high-visibility bike helmet.

The Chicago skyline appeared.





I made my way through Grant Park and back onto the busy road to our hotel for the next couple of nights near Midway Airport.

Miles: 99.85
Avg. speed:   12.3 mph
Ascending feet: 1,414 ft.

Peak elevation:  703 ft.
Ending Elevation:  619 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -43 ft.

Chicago was a turning point for the ride.  Here, Stephanie fell, broke her wrist, and had to fly to Richmond, VA for surgery.

My brother Bob graciously joined the Adventure in Chicago, driving the RV, caring for Rosie, and providing support along the way.  My focus shifted from the experience of the ride to completing it as quickly as possible so I could rejoin her in Virginia.   See my post The Chicago sidewalk event

The Chicago sidewalk event

July 24 – Steve, where have you been?  Why aren’t you posting?

It’s been over a month since I posted to the blog.  A lot has happened, so I wanted to give you a quick update.  Later, I’ll post a more detailed recap with photos of the trip.

I’ve made it as far as Washington, DC as of July 24.  This is almost, but not quite, the end of the trip.  I have to get from here to Virginia Beach, Virginia to complete my Pacific-to-Atlantic adventure.  I’m about a week ahead of my original schedule, so I plan to take a few extra rest days in Richmond, Virginia before the final rides to the seashore.  I’ve biked over 4,000 miles, ascending over 125,000 feet, in 12 weeks.  It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, though it’s had its share of pain as well as joy.

An accident happened in Chicago on July 6 that changed the experience significantly.  Having arrived in this wonderful city, Stephanie and I were headed to a nice dinner out when she tripped over a displaced piece of sidewalk and fell, breaking her wrist.  The orthopedist in the Northwestern University Hospital emergency room treated her and advised surgery as soon as possible.  We considered how and where we would do this since we were just passing through Chicago with no place for Stephanie to recuperate.  Long story short, we enlisted my brother Bob’s help to line up treatment at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, allowing Stephanie to recuperate at his house.  So Stephanie would fly to Richmond from Chicago.  Bob and his wife, Carol, flew to Chicago, with Carol volunteering to accompany Stephanie back to Richmond, and Bob volunteering to provide support for me in the RV for the rest of the ride.  There was no talk at all of me stopping the cross-country ride, though the thought crossed my mind.  It’s an example of how great my family has been in supporting this effort.  It’s humbling to me, though, to recognize the sacrifices they have all made to help me realize my dream.

Stephanie has now had her surgery and is healing.  Bob drove the RV as far as Pittsburgh, where our father was born almost 100 years ago.  We explored the old streets and towns we visited as boys.  Daughter Annie and her husband, Jeff, joined us in Pittsburgh with our adorable grandson Jules.  Jeff would join me for the ride along the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Maryland.  Bob, meanwhile, headed back to Richmond in the RV, accompanied by our dog, Rosie (who was ecstatic to see Stephanie again!).  After Cumberland, I had two self-supported nights on my own before arriving at Annie and Jeff’s house in Silver Spring (where I am now), and I’ll have one night on my own as I make my way to Richmond through Fredericksburg, VA.

Obviously, the character of the adventure changed a lot when Stephanie’s accident occurred. It was no longer Steve and Stephanie’s Excellent Adventure; rather, it became an adventure for the entire family.  Without Stephanie, the days have been lonelier for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing her again in Richmond in a few days.  In the early parts of my trip, I was awe-inspired by the physical beauty of our country.  Now I’m awed by the love and support of my family for each other.


Adventure update: Across Minnesota and the Mississippi River


Location as of June 19: Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Miles so far: 2,377 miles
Ascending feet: 83,397 ft.
Peak elevation: 7,422 ft.
Current Elevation:  1,249 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 29 –Lake Benton, MN to New Ulm, MN

June 11 – I left the Hole in the Mountain county park campground in Lake Benton in the early morning in a steady rain.  It was one of those days when I might have cancelled the ride were it not for our timetable for meeting family in Minneapolis.  But, hey, I’m an experienced rain rider now, right?

Got my rain gear on for the morning’s ride
The Hole in the Mountain county park in Lake Benton

The rain continued lightly through the morning as I headed down US 14 toward New Ulm for a ride expected to be about 100 miles.  About 31 miles into the ride, I came upon a detour due to road construction.  The state of Minnesota does a lot of road construction during the summer.  Stephanie, who grew up in Minneapolis, told me that Minnesotans know the two seasons here are winter and road construction.  Out here in the country, detours for a closed road can be really long, as the roads are laid out in a grid along the mile marks, and not all of them are paved.  So my detour today took me north by 6 miles to get me to the next eastbound paved road, and then 18 miles east before another 6 mile road south to reconnect to US 14.

Along the route the rain stopped.  The landscape had changed from the prairie of South Dakota into farmland.  The season’s wet spring had delayed planting, and many of the fields were still flooded.  Corn was just sprouting in the fields that had been planted, and we’ve been told the harvest will be later and smaller this year.  The pools of standing water were great for the insect population.  I had to keep pedaling to avoid the fly and gnat bites—next ride I’m using bug spray.

I got through the detour and back on US 14.  The state of Minnesota had graciously provided a narrow shoulder for the road, and proceeded to grind in rumble strips to wake up sleepy drivers drifting off the road.  So most of the way I was riding on the roadway.  But the road was lightly travelled, and the trucks passing by were usually able to swing wide around me as they passed.  This changed after I passed through the town of Sleepy Eye.  From Sleepy Eye to New Ulm, traffic was heavy, so I did my best to stay on the narrow strip of paved shoulder available.  Thanks to the drivers – they all saw me and passed safely.

The available paved shoulder has a rumble strip carved into it.  Luckily, traffic is light and I had no problem sharing the road.

It was almost sundown when I rolled into New Ulm at mile 110 (with 15 miles of detour) and through the town to our hotel for the night.  New Ulm is a city originally settled by German immigrants, and it seriously works at retaining the old German style in its architecture and culture.  For you Californians, you might compare it to Solvang’s Danish style.


Miles: 112.97 miles
Avg. speed: 12.9 mph
Ascending feet: 1,349
Peak elevation: 1,856 ft.
Ending Elevation: 829 ft.
Net elevation gain:  -964 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 30 –New Ulm, MN to Gaylord, MN

June 12 – Today was supposed to be a 92 mile ride into Minneapolis.  But there were strong headwinds all day.  The state of Minnesota also provided another road construction detour adding over 20 unexpected miles to the ride.  Stephanie waited patiently for me to arrive in Gaylord for lunch as my speed dropped through the headwind.  We have almost a week set aside as rest days in Minneapolis, so we decided I would use one of them to complete the rest of the ride into the city.  So I mounted my bike on the RV and we rode into Minneapolis to Stephanie’s mom’s house, agreeing to monitor the wind direction for a better day to do the final 70 miles into the Twin Cities.

Miles: 50.24
Avg. speed: 11.0 mph
Ascending feet: 850 ft.
Peak elevation: 1,026 ft.
Ending Elevation: 999 ft.
Net elevation gain: 169 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 31 – Gaylord, MN to Minneapolis, MN

June 14 – Minneapolis is Stephanie’s home town, so we planned for a long stay of about a week in the area to visit with her mother and her sister’s family.  So we expected that during our stay I’d have an opportunity to complete the ride into Minneapolis from Gaylord.

As hoped, the wind changed from northerly to southerly over the next two days, and I was able to cruise into the Twin Cities area from Gaylord.  For the first time in a thousand miles, I was coming into a large metropolitan area, with a fantastic bicycle trail network, cafes and coffee shops.

On the Dakota Rail Trail heading into the Twin Cities from Gaylord, MN.

I was able to get recommendation of a good bike shop to get new tires for the gravel bike.  Farmstead Bike Shop was busy, but graciously installed the new tires.  I had a good conversation with the owner, Greg, who is a friend of my wife’s cousin Jim Kruzitski (who bicycles almost everywhere he goes, with his litlle dog Pippi in a handlebar bag.)  I told him about the ride across the country and he recounted trips others had taken, and we discussed William Least-Heat Moon’s book Blue Highways.  Moon told the stories of people who live in small towns across the country—the ones who live on the backroads.  I’d met a few of these people and gone through some of these towns as I crossed the prairie and farmland of the western US up to this point.  The benefit of travel, whether to other countries or to the small towns of America, is that there’s an opportunity to learn the perspectives of others.

At the Farmstead Bike Shop, with Greg

Minnesota is the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, and there are vacation cabins all over.  Brother-in-law Jim has one up near Pine City, so I was able to cruise the lake with him in the pontoon boat.

Jim Engelking and me on the pontoon boat



Miles: 73.95
Avg. speed: 14.7 mph
Ascending feet: 1,047 ft.
Peak elevation: 1,023 ft.
Ending Elevation: 862 ft.
Net elevation gain: -249 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 32–Minneapolis, MN to Saint Croix Falls, WI

June 19 – Stephanie was staying an extra day in Minneapolis while I rode on to the next destination on my own.  I would stay in a hotel and carry what I needed for the night and the next day in panniers on my Bianchi bike.  I decided to carry my computer in the event I had good internet access at the hotel, which hadn’t been available for most of our ride since Missoula, Montana.  The extra weight of the loaded panniers was significant.  Going up hills took more effort, and the bike was slower and less maneuverable in general.  Another reason to be glad for having support from Stephanie for most of the ride.

Riding from Minneapolis to St. Paul means crossing the Mississippi River, which I considered to be the symbolic halfway point of my ride across the country.


Much of the ride was on excellent bike trails.  Minneapolis and St. Paul have invested heavily in their parks and trails, and it’s easy to travel across the Twin Cities by bicycle.  Heading north, there are well-paved trails along old railroad lines, which are practically straight and pass through forests and small towns with very gentle grades.  The towns along the way have seen these bike paths as opportunities for park development, with the occasional cafes catering to trail walkers and riders.


I pulled into St. Croix Falls early enough to get some photos uploaded for the blog, and used the hotel business center to print out my cue sheets for my rides coming up through the north lakes of Wisconsin.

Miles: 70.8
Avg. speed:  11.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,428 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,184 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,184 ft.
Net elevation gain: 323 ft.


Adventure update: South Dakota

June 15 -A month of poor internet access has prevented me from putting posts up on the blog.  I’m now able to post, so it’s catch-up time.  This post covers the ride across South Dakota into Minnesota.

Location as of June 10: Lake Benton, Minnesota

Miles so far: 2,069 miles
Ascending feet: 77,451 ft.
Peak elevation: 7,422 ft.
Current Elevation:  1,801 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 23 –Custer, SD to west of Rapid City, SD

June 5 – Our stop in Custer gave us the opportunity to visit a friend from my childhood, now living in Custer.  Back in the day, my family would visit my grandmother in Pittsburgh, PA every other year, and we would all pile in the Plymouth to go for a play date with the Johnston family.  My brother and sister and I were the same ages as three of the Johnston kids.  One of them, Kathy, is now living in Custer, working with her husband, Steve Leonardi, in his gallery.  Steve has made his career as an artist, specializing in drawings and paintings of nature.  I hadn’t seen Kathy in over 30 years, so this was a unique occasion to re-connect.

Custer Is, of course, named for General George Custer, so many people think that the Battle of Little Big Horn must have been fought somewhere nearby.  But no, that battle was in Montana.  Here, General Custer had led an expedition that discovered gold, beginning a rush of prospectors to the area, and the breach of treaties that had promised the land to the native tribes.  The confusion is increased by the presence of the Crazy Horse monument nearby on the way to Mount Rushmore, which appears to have been a reaction to the carving of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills territory.


The ride from Custer to Rapid City was relatively short ride through the Black Hills.  Impressive rock outcroppings along the winding roads eventually lead to Mount Rushmore.  I had never seen Mount Rushmore, so this was an opportunity to check it off my bucket list.  Well, here it is.  Bucket list checked.


Miles: 36.7
Avg. speed: 12.8 mph
Ascending feet: 2,579
Peak elevation: 5,715 ft.
Ending Elevation: 4,253 ft.
Net elevation gain: -1,045 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 24 –Rapid City, SD to Wall, SD

June 6 – After Mount Rushmore, the next big objective was to cross South Dakota.  My plan for the route included a stop in Wall, to see what all the fuss was about with the Wall Drugstore.  If you ask someone from South Dakota what there is to see in the state, Wall Drug will come up.  It made its name with scores of billboards along the roads offering free ice water to travelers on the highway.  It was successful enough that it has now become a tourist attraction of sorts.

There was no clear bicycle route to get from Rapid City to Wall.  South Dakota’s country roads are mostly unpaved, and the route to Wall required either riding on dirt or riding along busy highways with speed limits of up to 80 mph.


The first 40 miles was aided by a tailwind and a good paved road paralleling I-90. At about mile 50, my route (which had been mapped using RidewithGPS) took me onto a dirt road, which ended at a gate with No Trespassing signs mounted on it.  If you look at a detailed map, the road behind the No Trespassing signs appears to exist, but I couldn’t chance it, and turned around to get onto the only other route available to me, which was I-90.


I tried getting off at the next exit for Wasta, which turned out to also have only dirt roads (and no businesses or services).  I could ride dirt roads, but I was concerned that they could deteriorate or turn into no road at all (like the last one), so it was back to the interstate shoulder for me.  I was beginning to see why Wall Drug succeeded in offering free ice water—there are still few services along this route.  I didn’t know if riding a bicycle on the interstate was allowed here, but I figured that I’d have a reasonable case to make that the state of South Dakota offered me no other option.

About 10 miles from Wall, my rear tire went flat again.  But now I was on the shoulder of an interstate highway with no place to pull over.  The road was pretty flat and the wind was at my back, so I could ride on the flat with modest effort.  If I rode on the flat I risked damage to my tire and the wheel rim.  I’d had it with this bike’s tires constantly going flat on me, so I decided that I would ride my Bianchi road bike on the next day’s ride and on to Minneapolis, where I could get new tires and check the wheel rim.  (We’ve been carrying the extra bike on the RV for this kind of problem).  So I slowly rode into Wall on the flat.

Later, Stephanie and I walked into Wall to see what the big deal is with Wall Drug.  I guess if you like to shop in truck stops, you’d like Wall Drug. I’m glad the weather would be good for a bike ride out of town the next day.


Miles: 76.8
Avg. speed: 11.6 mph
Ascending feet: 2,831
Peak elevation: 4,326 ft.
Ending Elevation: 2,816 ft.
Net elevation gain: -1,508 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 25–Wall, SD to Pierre, SD

June 7 – On today’s ride, I was buffeted by high crosswinds from the south as I headed east across the grasslands.  There was one twenty-mile section where I headed north and was able to maintain speeds over 30 mph on the flats.  I was on my Bianchi road bike, which turned out to be perfect for these conditions.  A long 119 mile ride.  I was glad we had a night in a hotel ahead of us, where I could have a long shower and big breakfast.  I got in early enough that we could go to the Cattleman’s restaurant for a steak dinner.  It was nice to be in the city.

South Dakota grassland at Plum Creek
The Plum Creek Waterhole story
The first view of Pierre
The South Dakota capitol building in Pierre
South Dakota capitol building
Ready for my Cattleman’s dinner!
Steak, yam, and Texas toast at Cattleman’s!

Miles: 118.6
Avg. speed: 14.0 mph
Ascending feet: 3,467
Peak elevation: 2,864 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,441 ft.
Net elevation gain: -1,376 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 26–Pierre, SD to Miller, SD

June 8 – After a nice breakfast at the hotel, I got back on the Bianchi and headed through Pierre’s city bike trails.  The rest of my route across South Dakota to Minnesota was a straight shot across the state on US Highway 14.  It was a beautiful day.  A very strong tailwind helped me along across the grassland to our next stop in Miller.  Miller is a very small place, but it has a nice city park where we could hook up the RV.

Miles: 74.5
Avg. speed: 18.2 mph
Ascending feet: 970
Peak elevation: 1,898 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,567 ft.
Net elevation gain: 131 ft.


Adventure Ride Day 27–Miller to DeSmet, SD

June 9 – Today’s ride was another wind-assisted ride along US 14.  Our campsite for the night was at the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet.  This is the place Laura Ingalls Wilder spent “The Long Winter” in her “Little House on the Prairie” books.  There is the restored little 2-room house the Ingalls family lived in, replicas of dugout and stick-build houses, a garden, horse and wagon rides and activities for kids.  The winds were blowing across the grassland.  It was clear that this was a challenging environment for a homesteader to make a life.  The growing season is short, the soil is rocky, and precipitation is low.  It’s easy to imagine the wind howling through tough winters.

The Ingalls Homestead
Camping at the Ingalls Homestead
Little camper on the prairie
South Dakota grassland
South Dakota grassland
South Dakota grassland
A typical South Dakota salad
Nobody said the world’s largest pheasant would be a real one,

Miles: 79.0
Avg. speed: 17.5 mph
Ascending feet: 900 ft.
Peak elevation: 1,783 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,701 ft.
Net elevation gain: 128 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 28–DeSmet, SD to Lake Benton, MN

June 10 – DeSmet was our last stop in South Dakota, and today’s ride would take us into Minnesota.  There was road closure on US 14 that directed me to a detour that added about 10 miles to the ride (and moving out of the tailwind into crosswinds).  The landscape changed rather remarkably as I crossed into Minnesota.  Lakes, woods, and gentle hills appeared.  I began to understand why Minnesota was populated easily and South Dakota was not, so that a Homestead Act was needed to populate the points west into hard-to-farm grasslands of South Dakota.

Brookings, SD courthouse
Our campsite near Lake Benton, MN at Hole in the Mountain County Park

Miles: 77.7
Avg. speed:  17.8 mph
Ascending feet: 1,400 ft.

Peak elevation: 1,964 ft.
Ending Elevation: 1,801 ft.
Net elevation gain: 94 ft.



Adventure Update: Grand Tetons and across Wyoming

June 15 -A month of poor internet access has prevented me from putting posts up on the blog.  I’m now able to post, so it’s catch-up time.  This post covers the ride across Wyoming.

Location as of June 3: Custer, South Dakota

Miles so far: 1,606 miles
Ascending feet: 65,304 ft.
Peak elevation: 7,422 ft.
Current Elevation:  5,375 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 16 – Madison Campground, Yellowstone Park to Colter Bay, Grand Teton National Park, WY

May 24 – During the night, snow had fallen around our campground, turning to rain before stopping around 6 am. The forecast was for a cloudy day in Yellowstone, and rain beginning at our destination in Colter Bay by 4 pm. It was cold outside, and rain started to fall again as I prepped the bike for the ride. Stephanie and I planned that we would meet in two places during the ride- once at Old Faithful and then again at Grants Village. I knew I could be cold and wet, and this is one day I really needed to take advantage of the luxury of having her support me on this ride. I headed off into the cold drizzle, south toward Old Faithful.

By the time I arrived at Old Faithful about an hour and a half later, my gloves were wet, my socks were wet, and my hands and feet were cold. Stephanie and I took a long break at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, where I tossed my gloves and other wet things into a dryer in their guest laundry. I was able to dry out and warm up for the next segment of the ride to Grant Village. This could potentially be one of the more challenging segments of my ride, as I would have to climb a couple of passes over 8,000 feet, which would be slow and cold. We had purchased some disposable hand warming packs, and I put one in each glove to help keep my fingers warm.

The challenge of the ride to Grant Village was part of what made this one of the best rides I’ve experienced so far. As I climbed to the first big pass, snow started falling. The snow on the sides of the road and in the trees got deeper as my altitude increased. At one point it was probably at least a couple of feet deep, with some new snow on top of the melting snowpack from the winter. I was feeling comfortable on the ride, though. The road surface was in good shape, it was not icy, my clothing (with only 3 layers – jersey, insulating layer, rain jacket) was keeping my core relatively warm and dry, and the hand warmers were doing a great job of keeping my fingers from freezing, even though my hands were still sweating through the gloves. My legs, too, felt strong as I climbed. I’m sure they’d been getting stronger from my 3 weeks of riding (and of course the pre-training with Team in Training), and I could handle the steady 5.5% to 7% grade of these hills at a slow but steady pace without tiring.

Stephanie met me at Grant Village, with a sandwich, an opportunity to change out my jersey and socks for dry ones, and a few minutes to warm up in the camper. She is my lifesaver, in more ways than one. Then it was time for the final push out of Yellowstone.

This turned into a fun ride. I saw beautiful snowy mountain vistas, I climbed some of the highest passes I will face on this ride across the country, I handled some pretty cold and wet weather. And I crossed the Continental Divide not once, but three times. After the third crossing, it was time for a long downhill, headed to the southern entrance of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park.










Miles: 78.77
Avg. speed:  11.7 mph
Ascending feet: 4,224 ft.
Peak elevation:  8,519 ft.
Ending Elevation: 6,814 ft.
Net elevation gain: – 20 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 17 – Grand Teton National Park to Dubois, WY

May 27 – Today’s ride would be the start of the ride to the east, out of the national parks across Wyoming toward South Dakota.  Our entire time in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons has been rainy or snowy and cold.  Luckily, I’ve found days to ride that have been at least partially dry.  Today the forecast was for rain all day, and this could possibly be snow as I climb over the high pass that would finally get me to the east side of the Continental Divide for good.  It was no day to be riding over 70 miles.  But I’d seen forecasts of rain be nothing more than scattered showers, and I thought I was prepared for riding in the cold, wet weather.  But I wasn’t really.


It was dry, just below 40 degrees, when I started, but the rain began about 8 miles out.  Still, I was making good times, I had my handwarmers in my gloves, and I was ready for more.  Then, at about 18 miles, it became clear that my front tire was losing pressure.  It seemed to be a slow leak.  It was raining and cold, and I really didn’t want to stop in these conditions to change the tire.  I pumped it up with some CO2 to see if the tire would hold pressure long enough to get over the top of the pass, 15 miles ahead. But a mile further, the tire was clearly flat and I needed to change it.


By this time, I’d passed places that allow me to work under shelter, so I stopped on the roadside and worked behind the guardrail to change the tire.  I had to take off my gloves to work the tire off the wheelrim and remove the tube.  I couldn’t see any puncture or object in the tire or on the wheel that might have damaged the tube.  So I put a new tube in, and worked the tire back onto the rim with my freezing thumbs.  My fingers were now so cold that it was difficult to manage the valve.  I was warming my hands under my armpits when Stephanie drove up in the camper and pulled over.  Thank God.


The temperature had dropped to 37 degrees, and I still had 2,000 feet of elevation to climb to get over the pass.  It would be colder there.  And we knew it would be probably be snowing.  Stephanie and I had a long talk.  It had been important to me to cycle every mile of this ride.  It was heartbreaking for me to admit that these were not conditions suitable for cycling by any reasonable person.  I hadn’t found the cause of the flat, so I might see another before I reached the summit.  I could deal with the weather at this point, but who knew how much colder and miserable it would be as I went higher.  So I decided that today’s ride was not to be.  So the bike went on the rack and we drove the rest of the way to our next planned stop in Dubois, about 40 miles ahead.


As we drove over the pass, it was clear that I’d made the right decision.  It was winter up there, with deep snow and heavy snow coming down.  And almost no place to stop to warm up or dry out.  And in this part of the world, there was no cell phone coverage if I needed to call someone.


Oh no.  My cell phone.  It was nowhere in the camper, and I’d taken it off the bike when loading on the rack.  It was now somewhere back where Stephanie picked me up, or it had fallen onto the road somewhere else.  I asked Stephanie to take me back to see if we could find it.  At that point, it was 20 miles gone.  Now I didn’t just feel depressed about cutting the ride short, I felt really stupid.  We made the trip back to the pickup point, and I went out into the cold wetness to look for the phone.  Nothing.  It could be anywhere, but not here.   And Find My iPhone doesn’t work if there’s no cell signal. What a fiasco.


We drove again over the pass.  This was the third time today.  There’s no way I could ask Stephanie to wait for the weather to clear and bring me back again to satisfy my obsession to ride every mile.  This would have to be the adventure for this 40 miles.  It was enough.  We drove quietly on to Dubois.


Miles: 20.5
Avg. speed: 11.5 mph
Ascending feet: 948
Peak elevation: 7,306
Ending Elevation: 7,306
Net elevation gain: 458



Adventure Ride Day 18 – Dubois to Riverton, WY


May 29 – On the sign entering Dubois, the population is listed at 970 people.  It’s a really small town, where everyone knows everyone else.  Businesses don’t have many customers, and the school has class sizes of less than 10.  Yet there is a main street with businesses, but only a few appear to have enough customers to really thrive.  One of these is the Cowboy Café. It’s the town restaurant, so we sampled it for dinner.  We were told that it has really good chicken-fried steak, so that’s what I ordered.  What’s chicken-fried steak, you ask?  It’s not chicken, and it’s not steak, but it is fried.  The waitress said that it’s beef, so let’s just agree on that, along with a lot of breading and gravy.  It’s fun getting to know the local fare.


The cold and rain from the day before continued, so we decided to stay in Dubois for the day for the weather to clear.  Something I probably should have done before attempting the Togwatee Pass.  So we had a day in Dubois to work on the blog, do some business.  Had a nice breakfast at the Cowboy Café, and pizza for dinner at the other restaurant that was open in town, the Nostalgia Bistro.


The next day, the rain had cleared.  I headed off to Riverton, which was a gentle descent over rolling hills.  Wyoming has so few people and so few towns that the rides go on for miles, with the slowly changing landscape being the feature.  Here are the photos:



One of the things you can see in this landscape, which has not been bulldozed and developed like more populated areas, is how glaciers, water, and wind, have eroded and moved the ancient sedimentary layers.  Round pebbles and boulders left by glaciers can be found beside decaying shale on the side of buttes and mesas that survived the forces of erosion.

Once I got to Riverton, I found  a Verizon store, so I could replace my phone.  This time I bought some lost phone insurance, at least for the rest of the ride.

Miles: 80.4
Avg. speed: 13.6 mph
Ascending feet: 1,562
Peak elevation: 6,931
Ending Elevation: 5,039
Net elevation gain: -1,877


Adventure Ride Day 19 – Riverton to Casper, WY

May 30 – Today’s ride is the longest so far. It had to be, because there is no place to stay between Riverton and Casper.  So we got going early so we could finish the 120 mile ride before the day was done.


The ride went for miles and miles of sagebrush prairie.  Occasionally there would be bison or a few cattle grazing or antelope running away. But this is the story of this part of Wyoming—lots of space, almost no people.


My legs began to get tired around mile 80, and the last miles into Casper went slowly.  But eventually I made it in to the city.  I was glad we had a hotel that night, and a rest day to follow to recuperate.


Casper has a relatively hip block of dinner spots, and we had an opportunity to have some good food and wine the next night.  Our server was excited to learn about our adventure and took the time to explain a bit about Wyoming and Casper to us.  We talked about the horse and gun culture, and about how the economy is heavily influenced by oil and gas extraction and delivery.  The major swings in business in Casper happen as the price of oil moves, bringing people into town when the wells are profitable.


Casper is an area where several major historic trails pass.  Many are ancient trails used by native tribes for trade, and later adopted by the settlers heading to California, Utah, and other points west.  The Pony Express came through Casper until the telegraph made it obsolete.


If you ever make it to Casper, I recommend a visit to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.  This museum, run by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, explains the waves of commerce, conflict, and migration that occurred over the Wyoming trails.  Some were looking to strike it rich in California, some were looking for land for a better life, some were part of the Mormon migration to the Utah area.  Most were passing through Wyoming, but their trails divided buffalo herds, and their numbers irrevocably the historic ecosystem supporting the native population.


Miles: 124.85
Avg. speed: 13.4 mph
Ascending feet: 2,953
Peak elevation: 6,204
Ending Elevation: 5,252
Net elevation gain: 298


Adventure Ride Day 20 – Casper to Douglas, WY


June 1 –  The ride from Casper was through more sagebrush prairie, though with a few more hills.  The importance of making as much as possible of the land resource was more evident.  Oil wells and storage tanks occasionally dotted the prairie, and oil service businesses were frequently near the small towns.  Wind turbines took advantage of the prevailing winds in the space above the land.


Miles: 59.1
Avg. speed: 12.7 mph
Ascending feet: 2,106
Peak elevation: 5,477
Ending Elevation: 4,948
Net elevation gain: -205


Adventure Ride Day 21 – Douglas to Lusk, WY


June 2 – Our last night in Wyoming was in Lusk, a tiny farm town.  We camped in a small RV park, where a thunderstorm passed through.  With the rain came a double rainbow.


Miles: 57.6
Avg. speed: 13.1 mph
Ascending feet: 1,637
Peak elevation: 5,272
Ending Elevation: 4,954
Net elevation gain: 140


Adventure Ride Day 21 – Lusk, WY to Custer, SD


June 3 – This would be my last day in the vast sagebrush and grassland that is this part of Wyoming.  The morning was more long, lonely riding along fairly empty roads.  The roads are low, rolling hills that may rise only 25 feet, but do this for miles and miles.  So with no other features to the landscape, the top of each rolling hill obscures the view beyond.  A bicyclist always hopes that beyond the next horizon is a downhill.  But in Wyoming, when you  reach the crest of the hill, all you see is a miles-long gradual dip of a few feet followed by a miles-long rise to the next 25 foot crest miles down the road.  What strikes you is the long distances and the same-ness.  It’s easy to imagine the drudgery felt by the prairie wagons following these routes over a century ago at a pace of only 15 miles a day.


Just before leaving Wyoming, I spotted a pickup truck on the side of the road, and the driver was crouching by a barb-wire fence that ran along the road.  As I passed, he motioned me over to ask for help in freeing a baby pronghorn antelope, which was seriously wrapped in the barbwire.  The only way to free him was to cut through some hair and skin that was twisted into the wire.  We freed him, but he was weak and could not stand.  We gave him some water and left him for his mother, who was standing a hundred yards away.  Now that our scent was on the baby, though, his prospects to be accepted by his mother may be low.


I then passed into South Dakota on the way to Custer.  Gradually, the landscape evolved into the foothills of the Black Hills.  Pine trees began to dot the landscape, and ancient rock outcrops appeared above the sedimentary layers.  I passed through the tiny town of Edgemont and would not see another town for 40 miles, until almost to Custer.


Miles: 111.5
Avg. speed: 12.3 mph
Ascending feet: 4,583
Peak elevation: 5,437
Ending Elevation: 5,375
Net elevation gain: 502



Montana update: Days 13 – 16

June 15 -A month of poor internet access has prevented me from putting posts up on the blog.  I’m now able to post, so it’s catch-up time.  This post covers the cold, wet days in Montana in May.

Location as of May 23: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Miles so far: 1,073 miles
Ascending feet: 47,291 ft.
Peak elevation: 7,422 ft.
Current Elevation:  6,829 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 13 – Dillon, MT to Ennis, MT

May  18 – We stayed in Dillon for a day to wait out the rain forecast for the day. It looked like there might be a window of opportunity to ride the next day, when showers were forecast only for the late afternoon in West Yellowstone. But this day would be spent in the campground doing laundry while using the WiFi to work and update the blog. Our breakfast was at the Klondike Inn and casino, which was just a little place with a few tables of what appeared to be retired folks exchanging construction tips. Ladies sat and chatted with each other while the men sat at their own tables talking shop, but they all left together. Giant plates of potatoes and eggs would provide us enough for tomorrow’s breakfast as well.

The next day provided the window of dry weather I was looking for to make it to Ennis. I left the KOA campground and headed back into ranch country. I passed Beaverhead Rock, which the native tribes and Lewis & Clark all used as a major landmark. It was a waypoint for hunters heading to the buffalo-hunting grounds to the east, and Sacagawea guided Lewis & Clark past it on their westward trip to meet up with the Shoshone tribe, from whom they hoped to acquire horses for the next part of their journey.

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Beaverhead Rock

I climbed out of ranch land into old gold-mining territory. In Alder Gulch, you can see the remains of massive gold-mining operations at the end of the 19th century, with piles of stones and sand in ribbons along the river downstream from Nevada City and Virginia City. It appears Harvard University played a role in this mining operation, according to this historical marker:

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Continuing the climb through Nevada City and Virginia City. These are now preserved ghost towns, telling some classic stories of the Old West.

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I climbed over another pass and saw beyond me another valley of ranchland bordered by high mountain peaks covered in snow.

The wind was whipping me around as I got higher, and the temperature was dropping. Battling strong crosswinds on the downhill into Ennis and headwinds in the flats, I made it to our campsite for the night. But by now my fingers and face were ice cold. I was glad to have some time to warm up in the camper, and take a long hot shower at the campground. I knew, though, that this cold would continue tomorrow, and I’d need to prepare for a long, cold, possibly wet ride to West Yellowstone.

Miles:  74.87 miles
Avg. speed:  11.5 mph
Ascending feet:  2,779 ft
Peak elevation:  6,944 ft
Ending Elevation:  4,979 ft
Net elevation gain:  -167 ft.

Adventure Ride Day 14 – Ennis, MT to West Yellowstone, MT

May 19 – We woke to a cold, blustery day in Ennis. The wind was still howling as I opened the camper doors to an icy chill. The weather forecast was for rain later in the day. I wanted to make it to the RV Park in West Yellowstone because we had reserved our campsite in Yellowstone National Park for the next 4 nights, and I did not want to risk losing it by being a no-show on the first night. So despite the cold and the wind, I was going to do this 70 mile ride. The problem is that I had not planned on riding in weather this cold and possibly rainy and I needed to figure out how to dress for this.  I needed to stay as warm and dry as possible.  Because I didn’t really have a good warm underlayer to wear under my bike jacket, I decided to wear my big winter coat for the top part of my body, and my baggy rain pants over my tights for the bottom. This was an improvisation, and it’s really a picture of “what not to wear” on a bike ride in traffic.
Can you see what’s wrong with this picture?


Overall: too dark, not high visibility (please keep other opinions to yourself)
Top: Bulky, not layers to handle temperature changes, not breathable so the sweat will stay in. And while the coat is repellent, the look is as well.
Bottom: While the shapeliness of my legs isn’t necessarily a feast for the eyes, a little more form-fitting would at least reduce wind resistance. These have some reflective striping, but not a lot of visibility.
Gloves: Warm as long as they breathe and stay dry. These could be better. Again, dark and invisible.
Feet: Visible rain covers for the shoes. I think these are ready for the runway.

This experience is teaching me what I need for the coming days. With luck, I’ll find some better clothing at a future stop.

Stephanie and I made plans to meet 2 ½ hours into today’s ride, because there would be no town or store along the way that would offer a place to warm up or dry off.

So out on the road I went in frigid, windy weather. I was lucky, today the wind would be at my back, pushing me along. The scenery continued to be the vast pastures, cattle, streams and hillsides of Montana. But the clouds were low, obstructing the mountain peaks still dusted with snow. I made good time with the tailwind, and around mile 35 I came upon an actual official rest stop with a bathroom and heat. By this time my fingers were cold and my improvised garb had become damp with sweat, so this was a good opportunity to air out and warm up. I texted Stephanie, who was just a few minutes behind me after finishing errands in Dillon, so we met at the rest stop, where I could change into some drier clothes and have a sandwich.

(I am so lucky to have Stephanie with me on this ride. Not only is she giving me the physical support for the ride, we are sharing our experiences every day. I can’t imagine how much lonelier and less satisfying this ride would be if I were doing it without her.)

The second half of the ride was completely different from the first. I left behind the cattle ranches and entered the hills and valleys following the Madison river upstream, climbing to Yellowstone. Today was the first day of fishing season, and dedicated anglers all along the way were wading into very cold water on a practically winter day to get their first catches of the season.

Markers around Earthquake Lake told the sad story of the Rocky Mountain earthquake in 1959, which surprised family campers along the Madison River with shaking, followed by an avalanche of crushing boulders, burying families and blocking the river, followed by a rush of water back into the valley submerging campsites. It was called the “Night of Terror”.

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I made it over a couple of passes and the end of the ride was fairly flat around Hebgen Lake to the turn onto the road that would take me into West Yellowstone, about 8 more miles. There were a few scattered showers along the way, but I had successfully beaten the rain (and snow) that would come later. Signs warning of bison along the road were true:

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I was feeling pretty sluggish at the end of the ride into West Yellowstone. About 2 blocks from the RV park I looked down and saw that I was running on a completely flat rear tire (again). I have no idea how long I’d been dragging the flat tire with me—I thought I was just tired and slow. I decided to ride the last two blocks on the flat and check it out in the morning.

Miles:  73.08
Avg. speed: 12.2
Ascending feet: 3,192
Peak elevation:  6,781 ft
Ending Elevation: 6,708 ft
Net elevation gain: 1,793 ft

Rest Day – West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park

May 20 – It was 30 degrees and snowing when we awoke in West Yellowstone.

We’re taking a few days of rest from the ride to see Yellowstone. So this morning I fixed the bike tire (found a small sharp rock that had wedged its way into the tire on the wet road, puncturing the tube). I’d educated myself on tire-changing since the trip to Sula, and had a much easier time getting the tire over the lip of the wheel. The trick is pushing the deflated tire’s lip down into the deep center of the rim on one side so that the tire’s lip is higher on the rim on the other side. Then with the tire all pushed to one side the last bit of the tire’s lip is much easier to ease over the rim. It worked like a breeze and the tire was fixed in minutes.

We took the morning to run errands: I went to a bike shop to find a better cold weather insulating layer and gloves that might breathe better. While I did that, Stephanie restocked our groceries. Then we headed into Yellowstone, stopping first to top off our diesel and propane for the camper. For the next 3 days, we explored the park.

Yellowstone is amazing because of two things: its unique geology, and its preservation of the habitat for wildlife that was once common in the northern plains, but is now rare. People come to see the geysers and hot springs spouting from an ancient caldera, which has exploded several times over the millenia, most recently about 650,000 years ago in a blast many times larger than that of Mt. Saint Helens. Now a crust has evolved over the volcano, and parts of the earth’s mantle are close to the surface, heating ground water that bubbles through mud, or steams through vents, or builds pressure until it explodes into a geyser. The boiling hot environment creates ecosystems of minerals and bacteria that create unique features in the landscape.


The protected habitat in Yellowstone has allowed the population of bison to grow into the thousands, from the brink of extinction early in the 20th century due to unfettered hunting. There are also elk, antelope, grizzly and black bears, wolves and foxes.

This amazing ecology has been preserved for people to enjoy, and this is both a blessing and a curse. We are here so early in the season that visitors are coming in low numbers, relative to the peak summer season. But getting around the park is accomplished only by motor vehicle (or bicycle), and there is essentially one two-lane road that loops around the park. Even though we saw hundreds of bison in our three days here, the sight of even one near the road will bring traffic to a halt, as every car stops in the middle of the road for the photo opportunity. I, of course, took my own photos, and probably contributed to the problem.



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Adventure Ride Day 15 – West Yellowstone, MT to Madison Campground, Yellowstone Park

May 23 – Because of the cold, wet weather on the day we left West Yellowstone, I decided to defer my short 15-mile ride into the park campground until a later day of our visit, hoping that the weather would improve. I considered riding beyond our campground to shorten the next day’s ride south to Grand Teton National Park. We started the day doing some more exploration of the park, including a trip to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

By the time we’d had enough of exploring Yellowstone, and headed back into West Yellowstone to top off the fuel and propane in the camper, it was about 4:00. Time enough for me to do the 15 miles to the campground, but not enough to extend it further. The weather was still cold and wet, so at least I got to try out my new insulating layer. It was a good test—I discovered that there is such a thing as too many layers. I had an underlayer, jersey, arm warmers, vest, the new insulating layer, and the rain jacket. I didn’t get wet from the rain, and the cold could not get it, but by the time I had finished I was wet from sweat that had not been able to breathe out. I decided to reduce the number of layers for the next day’s long and cold ride to the Grand Tetons.


Miles:  14.53 miles
Avg. speed:  11.9 mph
Ascending feet:  449 ft.
Peak elevation:  6,852 ft.
Ending Elevation:  6,829 ft.
Net elevation gain:  162 ft.