Monday, November 28, 2011

In Appreciation of Mountains

Reading through my entries between September and November 2011, there really isn't much mention of mountains. I talk about passes, I mention steep climbs, but really - take out the names of the places and you could almost miss the fact that I rode through the Rockies, Bitterroots, Cascades, and the Coastal Range. Or, somehow I did it without noticing that mountains are amazing.


The mountainous regions were not quite what I expected. In Western Kansas, I was twitchy with excitment to see the Rockies. Riding towards Pueblo, my breath caught and I stared in disbelief at the first faint outline of mountain peaks in the distance. Slowly, they grew larger, but remained hazy and indistinct. Then, all the sudden I'm climbing, but despite the steep incline, it just didn't look that big. That was my experience through a lot of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana; either I'm far away and it's hard to judge the size of the mountain, or I'm up on it and there is nothing to compare it to. All in all, mountains felt smaller than I expected.

There were, of course, exceptions to this.

Waking up in Guffey was the first - I had ridden in after dark, and never saw the transition from scrubby, red hills to alpine mountains. The rest of the day I rode in awe, feeling I was in a different world, loving the cold air and stubby alpine plants and the sheep grazing on steep slopes. Riding down Kenosha pass was a 12 mile drop out of the high country, through walls of conifers and bald gray stone. It felt like riding down a mountain should feel. On Togwatee pass at dusk, I looked behind - and below - myself to see nothing but cloudy peaks to the visible horizon and a total absence of flat land. The jagged teeth of the Tetons were clear and distinct against the sky. Idaho was incredible, hands down. Riding down the west side of Lolo pass on a rainy day, through gaps in the thick clouds, I could see clumps of green and brown improbably high in the sky. Those looked for all the world like floating islands. In Oregon, finally, there were the three sisters and the surrounding solitary mountains.

All in all, what I found most striking about mountains were not their individual size, but their mass in numbers. I had pictured a mountain range as being like a river - you cross it, then it's done and you ride towards the next. I hadn't quite understood that from Colorado to Oregon, you never really get out of the mountains. Like anyone who quietly assumes that what is familiar is normal, I had somehow possessed a belief that mountains were irregularies in a mostly flat country. Having ridden through the western US, now, I'm starting to think the midwest is a strange, sheltered little region.

So, to summarize. YES, THERE WERE MOUNTAINS. Lots and lots of mountains. If I don't mention how awesome they are, it's because most of the TransAm posts were written months later, heavily abbreviated. By that point I'd seen an awful lot of mountains. What should I even say? Just assume I appreciated them at the time, okay?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Route so Far...

Lanesboro, MN to Astoria, OR
Currently in San Diego, CA.
Approximate Riding Distance 4,300mi.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Catching Up

Instead of haphazardly trying to inserts posts here and there as inspiration strikes(it doesn't often), I've started on a bigger project: Starting from back in August, I'm trying to piece together events from photos and memory, and write convincing journal entries.

I got a good start today, but it's hard to get done. It's not just that I'm a poor writing, or that I don't usually enjoy writing... see, it just doesn't take long for recent events to feel long since done and finished. I'm already stricken by nostalgia. Writing about hot, slow days and warm nights in Kansas makes me remember how good I had it before things started getting cold, wet, and harried. I miss tying up my hammock under picnic shelters and listening to Ryan and Alex on their guitars. I miss thunderstorms, little prairie towns, and coyotes. I think I need to get back on the road again, soon.

New/old entries written/edited today:
Aug 21st Chanute, KS
Aug 22nd Eureka, KS
Aug 27th Larned, KS
Aug 28th Ness City, KS
Aug 29th Scott City, KS
Aug 30th Sheridan Lake, CO

Monday, November 14, 2011

Post-flurries in the Forecast

To those interested, keep an eye out for 'new' entries appearing. For now I'm working on October and November mainly. Thats all!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A word about Portland

Portland. It's classy, guys. No, not really classy in the classic sense; No snobbish refinement could I find. My four days of Portland experience tell me it's a very open, fun, accepting city. Eventually I want to see Portland at it's bikey best, because November weather seems to be cutting down the cyclist pack right now. I ridden much, either. It is cold, after all, and being from Minnesota doesn't actually make me any more tolerant of weather.

What I did get to experience in full glory where the Portland food carts. I had no idea what a treat I was in for. Have some more info, here. On 10th and Alder, an entire city block is ringed in colorful carts offering food from all corners of the world. I ran across two other 'hubs', each with an additional 10 carts or so. On top of that, smaller, more mobile stands occupy sidewalks and parks.

I could happily settle into the daily routine of walking down to the food carts every day for breakfast(Banana-honey-pecan belgian waffles!), lunch(The best sushi rice I've ever eaten. Or maybe a bulgogi taco?), and dinner(Never did get a chance to try the Saimin). As it was, my time and funds where limited, but I hope I'll have another chance! Here is hoping for similar offerings in California.

Food street!

So maybe the fish wasn't the best here, but the rice was amazing. Perfectly soft, sticky and fluffy.

Best taco ever, with a price tag of $1.25. Viva Portland!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Japanese Garden and Atrophied Legs

Apparently, riding 4300 miles on a bicycle, carrying approximately 150 pounds, leaves one fairly well out of shape. A modest amount of walking has left me aching and burning from ankle to hip, and I'm exhausted. That being said, in the face of the world-renowned Portland Japanese Garden I forgot about my misery for a while. Thank you Michelle - had you not treated me to tickets, I would have slunk away from the $10 entry fee and missed out horribly.

Note: A great many of last weeks photos where corrupted on my memory card. Just a few survived of the gardens, but even the best of them didn't really do it justice.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


After a short day of riding, sun but cold wind, I sat in the Monmouth library feeling negative. It got dark. Rain started. I felt mildly feverish and very lethargic. My thoughts where pretty much this:

I don't want to do this. I want to be warm and safe. I want the opportunity to be lazy. I don't want to go back outside, I don't want to ride all day and crawl into a tent. I don't even want to find Ryan's friend's place in town.

I was composing this post in my head already, because I know all this negativity is a passing thing and maybe writing it down will get it out. Then, I went out in the rain and found the house. Soon after I got there, Michelle told me she and Ryan had decided to take the train to LA instead of riding down the coast. My initial reaction was uncertain, and I don't think I hid my concern well. As soon as she said it, I knew I didn't want to ride down the coast alone in rainy november. I want to be warm, dry, but still moving. Taking a train down means I can ride in southern California, Nevada, or Arizona until I run out of funds. That is a very good thing. It's just... The abruptness of the change left me feeling a bit imposed.

That was a few hours ago. I called my mother so she could listen to me talk myself through it, bringing my emotional reaction up in line with my logical response. Then I got online and sketched out some routes around the area I'll be. Next I need to look at any technical difficulties in moving my bike and trailer via train.

So, as it now stands, my vague outline of a plan is this: I'll ride to Astoria. It would be nice if this part included some sun and enjoyment. I'll go to Portland with Ryan and Michelle. I've put out some requests for a warmshowers host there. I also need, badly, to have my cracked rim replaced. After a day or two in bike paradise, I'll take the Amtrak to San Diego, and resume resting and chilling out Jeff, the first prexisting family/friend type I'll meet up with since leaving Minnesota. At some point, then, I'd like to ride up to LA, meet with with Ryan and Michelle, and visit Alex in Santa Barbara. Around this time I'll also be looking for work options. From there, I'll head east towards either Arizona or Nevada, and possibly a job. Sounds pretty simple, eh?