31 Aug 2010, 5:55pm
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birds flying backwards

i’m writing from a library in larned, kansas, where i’m supposed to be camping in the backyard of a woman named kathy, so if she calls me i’ll have to take off. i stayed at “elaine’s bed and breakfast bicycle oasis” in tiny bazine last night, and elaine worried about me staying alone in the city park here in larned, so she called up her friend kathy and arranged it. i am not one to turn down hospitality! (the b&b was pretty great. comfy bed, two homecooked meals. nice to treat myself.)

three days ago i crossed the border into kansas. two days ago i crossed into the central time zone, which means i’m closer, as far as time is concerned, to the east coast than to the west coast (yay!). today, i crossed the humidity border. actually theoretically that was yesterday, at the 100th meridian, but boy did i feel it today! also today, i turned off of hwy 96! today i was riding south, directly into the wind, for nineteen miles. i will not complain any more about the sidewind. actually, by the end of the headwindy part, i was feeling pretty zen about it. i think i’m gonna make it. and so on.

the wind in kansas is funny. for something that’s theoretically objective and measurable, it is awfully subjective. no one seems to have the same opinions about it or even know the same “facts” about it. i’ve been told that this strong wind outta the south is due to hurricanes in the gulf right now and i’ve been told that it’s always like this and i’ve been told that i’m lucky i’m going east ’cause the prevailing wind is out of the west and i’ve been told just the opposite. here’s what i know i know about the wind: only what it’s doing right now. and how i feel about it: pretty zen.

today the route went past the fort larned national historic site and then, a few miles later, the santa fe trail center museum. when a. and i would stop at places like this, we used to joke that when people asked us where we were riding to, we should tell them, “here. we rode our bikes from oregon just to visit this very place.” i realized today, though, that it is pretty much true. i mean, i’m sure not riding my bike to yorktown, virginia, to go to yorktown, virginia. the little museums and sites and historical markers and mountains and rivers and, of course, people, are the reasons to do this ride. the reasons we/i didn’t know about specifically.

you think a lot about “why” when you’re plowing into a headwind across the endless kansas plains. here is another reason: a little placard on the wall in elaine and dan’s house last night: “don’t worry when you begin that you don’t have the strength. it is in the journey that god makes you strong.” (or: it’s the journey that makes you strong, it’s in the journey that you make yourself strong, etc.) was i capable (whatever that means) of biking across the country when i started? probably not. am i capable now? i dunno. will i be when i finish? self-evidently. the proof is in the pudding.

and: awhile back, matt posted this link to photos of the “tough guy challenge,” a race in england, on his facebook wall. (yup, of course i check facebook from the road.) the race involves mud, fire, ice, and all kinds of horrible discomfort to the racers. and my reaction, as well as that of everyone else who commented, was “awesome!” but it seemed strange to me that all of us would react so enthusiastically to something so objectively unpleasant. i wrote, “i think it says something about our culture, or our human need for real challenge/engagement of our bodies and so on and the fact that our culture does not provide it, that this looks awesome. i mean, because it’s sort of meaningless, isn’t it? says the woman who is currently engaged in another arguably meaningless and sometimes painful pursuit for reasons i don’t understand intellectually but feel intuitively.” matt replied, very insightfully i thought, that it probably appeals to the part of us that needs something to react to, fight against, and/or overcome right in front of us–because “most harm wrought upon us nowadays is in myriad, small, boring, soul-sucking ways. We can’t punch Enron or BP or Wal-Mart in the face, as much as we’d like to. It’s just not possible, and so we (I, anyway) get itchy for things that we can look at, and understand, and know either You win, or It does.” the fact that i am riding my bicycle across the country makes me feel totally badass, like I Definitely Win. but on another level, it still feels meaningless. i don’t Need to be doing this. and i think one of the big things i am figuring out is, i Need to do something Needed. (but first, i am gonna bike across the freakin’ country.)

oh! today is day 63 of my trip. the other day, i was thinking about how far i’ve come, and how much farther i have to go, and i thought it might be cool if i finished in exactly 100 days–a nice round number. then i counted up all the miles i have left to go, and if i continue at the pace i expect, i will arrive in yorktown on october 7th–day 100! yes! i did not fudge the numbers or calculate differently or anything. so there you go; that’s my goal. i’m looking to buy my train tickets soon. planning to visit philly, nyc, family in upstate new york, boston, my grandparents’ place in maine, and chicago, then take the train cross-country to the sf bay area. i will probably be back in portland around thanksgiving, i figure. i’ll stay for the holidays, and then, i think, i’ll leave again.

i ran into a westbound cyclist the other day who asked me (as folks ocassionally do) what i do that i can take this time off to ride across the country. i said i was between jobs and that, actually, i was sort of using this ride as a vision quest to work on figuring out what i want to do next. he asked me if it’s working (”yeah, sort of”) and told me that in his experience you come home from these trips feeling like anything is possible, but within a couple weeks you end up mired in the same stuff you were before you left. i told him i’d thought of that–and in fact being away from portland has given me some perspective on it that i think i really needed. i LOVE portland, and i feel like it very well may be “home” in one way or another for the rest of my life. but when i am there (at this point in my life), it’s so easy to just hang out, float along, and so on, without really having to live/grow/make things happen that need to happen for me.

so. there’s that.

anyway, kansas is: plains, plains, plains, oil rigs, feedlots, really pretty sunrises. pictures coming. (incidentally my p.o.s. netbook is getting more and more difficult to use–the connection between the screen and the keyboard part is failing, such that in order to see the screen it needs to be at an increasingly acute angle. if it gets much worse i might just send it home to save on weight, and then i’m not sure i’ll be able to post photos anymore–a tragedy!)

28 Aug 2010, 3:46pm
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as you can plainly see

hello from tribune, KANSAS! woo-ee is it windy here. i asked my mom to check the weather forecast last night ’cause i wanted to see if it was supposed to be stormy at all, what with towns and shelter being few and far between out here, and she said clear, highs in the 90s, etc etc, oh and 20 mph winds. which i didn’t really register at all until the winds happened about halfway through today’s ride. i just checked and there is a WIND ADVISORY in effect right now (”gusts up to 45 mph”), which means i can complain with some legitimacy. it was tough! winds outta the south (gusty sidewind for me) are supposed to continue for the next few days, but with a little luck they won’t be as bad as they are today. i was hoping that the mythical TAILWIND would make an appearance, but turns out there are no predictable prevailing winds on the plains. suck on that, westbound cyclists.

i’m tucked in next to the county library here, which is closed but has unprotected wireless and a little outlet on the outside of the building. i think i’m sleeping in the city park tonight, which i have yet to locate. anyway, some quick catch-up (AS ALWAYS) and then maybe i’ll have time to actually go on for a bit about how things are/how things will be/et cetera.

eastward at last, towards pueblo


(oohhh the mountains…)


(outside of a tiny store near wetmore where i filled up my water bottles, with tibetan prayer flags and a photo of the dalai lama hanging behind the counter)

pueblo

in pueblo i stayed with couchsurfing host jenny. my first night in town, she made me a delicious dinner, and my second night, we made it together! including a tasty chocolate-zucchini cake with a huge zucchini from her garden. thank you jenny!

the levees along the arkansas river through pueblo are covered in murals–very cool:

there’s also a riverwalk (along a canal? i am not entirely clear) through downtown.

pueblo to ordway


(go, grass, grow! take back the streets!)

in ordway i stayed at at this sprawling property owned by a woman named gillian who is in new zealand right now, where she’s from, but her friend mark is taking care of things for her. apparently she has been hosting cyclists there for years and years, and two years ago a big fire burned everything to the ground. cyclists who had come through and stayed with her heard about it and some of them got on planes out here to come help rebuild, plant trees, etc. now the trees are small but you can’t tell it was all gone. there’s goats and horses.

i met two retired guys, jose and paul, who are biking from colorado to texas (god bless ‘em, the heat is gonna be killer there) who were also staying at gillian’s. we chatted some and they bought me dinner at the local cafe.

i sorta get the feeling i am gonna be the recipient of EVEN MORE generosity on this leg of the trip, as a woman traveling alone. i am really grateful for that, though “you stay safe now, you hear?” is gonna get pretty old. but i realize that it’s not advice–staying safe would’ve been staying home–so much as a prayer, and i think i can appreciate that.

oh, also in ordway i learned that the communities along us-96 (which i have been following since west of pueblo, and will remain on for at least another few days) in southeast colorado have joined together to welcome transam cyclists by creating the prairie horizons trail. they publish a super-cute little map with a services index and some historical info and stuff. so nice! in tiny arlington, for example, they’ve built an outhouse! with a cyclist logbook in it and everything. love it.

ordway to eads


(there are TONS of medical marijuana dispensaries in colorado–apparently until recently it was/is badly regulated. this one was in tiny sugar city… i couldn’t resist the punny name)

this is what the plains look like here:

this is what i look like here:

these are some abandoned buildings in disrepair (a pretty common sight):


(self portrait!)

this is a sign welcoming cyclists to the prairie horizons trail:

colorado rocks!*

* also wyoming

my campsite in the eads city park


(this is for you, mom)

eads to KANSAS!

i got up before dawn to leave at sunrise, hoping to beat the heat!


(yeah, saw some of this. sure is a smelly operation. ugh!)


(in the distance the blue horizon looks like the ocean, and so i pedal onwards…)

kansas!

hurray!

all the other photos i took in kansas today are of DUST (and WIND). all these fallow fields… didn’t the dust bowl teach us anything, kansas?

oh, and this awesome hastily-taken photo of a real live TUMBLEWEED a-tumblin’ across the road:

ok, i gotta figure out where i’m camping tonight.

25 Aug 2010, 1:51pm
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just one more day off

some quick catch-up & photos–

boulder

boulder to sunrise ranch

marionberry jam

drivin’

hikin’

horsetooth

ice cream

biking south


(co spgs)

garden of the gods

the may museum
(this place was so wacky! it looked like it had remained pretty much exactly the same for thirty years. at least. my favorite was this little display on the wall that looked like it had been clipped from a magazine, about the insecticides we spray on crops to control insect pests, “including DDT.” it said something like, “some people say that these chemicals cause environmental problems and should be outlawed, but they probably won’t be because they are so agriculturally valuable.” all the preserved insects [and some arachnids]–the main draw of the museum–were pretty cool, though. some of them were HUGE! like, grasshoppers the size of your hand. it was more a museum about insect collecting than it was about insects.)

south along 115

small mysteries
(took all three of these photos from one place, and i swear i’d seen the fourth hubcap a bit further down the road. what happened?)

wrong way
(oh oh oh)

(by the way, if for some reason you ever want to see EVEN MORE PICTURES than i post on my blog, you can! all my pictures from this trip are collected here.)

am in pueblo (a city called people) now, spending a day “doing errands” which i guess means sitting along the river reading the omnivore’s dilemma. as always… more later!

23 Aug 2010, 3:53pm
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how does it feel? to be on your own?

written sunday, august 22nd

i’ll be back on the transamerica by the end of tomorrow (KNOCK ON WOOD of course). it’s been a rough couple days here and there (i’m sure i’ll tell you all about it), but THE POINT IS i am completely 100% head-over-heels in love with colorado. i am in colorado springs tonight which no one told me i’d like (quite the opposite in fact) and in fact it is beautiful! (cheyenne canon! manitou springs! garden of the gods!!) i am looking at my transam maps just now and wondering if when i get to canon city (tomorrow’s destination) i shouldn’t just pretend i’m westbound for a bit and go see royal gorge and guffey and all the little western slope towns i missed. climb hoosier pass? hah, and then what? backtrack again? i sort of do want to get to the east coast one of these days. i am just wondering if i shouldn’t do the biking here in holy-crap-gorgeous colorado and do the train riding in kansas and missouri and so on. hah! but i have a hunch that i’ll be back. i guess i’ll leave some stuff to discover next time.

well, i don’t know. i just read this on the back of the kansas map: “NOTE: Be aware that city parks in Kansas close when public school begins in mid-August.” dude! free camping in city parks was kinda kansas’s #1 main attraction for me. also, there are not really any OTHER camping options. the second kansas map (alexander to girard) does not mention anything about it, though. i guess i’ll find out… when i’m in the middle of nowhere far from an amtrak station. or i could scrap my plans and ride down to new mexico or something (a. would be so jealous!). if i could find good route maps. my struggle to find a decent route south to the transam has been a large part of why the last few days have been so exhausting.

so: a dark night of the soul a few nights ago. i reached out to some loved ones and got some of what i needed… including in part i think a good cry at 2:30am alone on my borrowed couch in denver. when i hit the road in the morning (after a delicious french toast breakfast courtesy of matt), i felt better, but then it took me 20-something awful highway miles to get the heck out of denver–and then i got hit by the worst headwind of the trip so far. in conclusion, i turned west (the sidewind was almost as bad–kept throwing me off balance) and i made it to castle rock and i got a motel and i watched o brother where art thou? on tv until i fell asleep.

this morning i merrily followed my google map bicycle directions until they dead-ended on private property. dear google map bicycle directions: we’re over. luckily the spandexed roadies were out in force today (a sunny sunday!) and i was able to ask a couple of them how the heck to get where i was going. the road they put me on was longer and hillier than i had planned for (and i had to backtrack to get to it), but it WAS prettier than any road google has put me on. in palmer lake i got a root beer float and tried to figure out how to take a bus the rest of the way. emotional exhaustion is worse than physical exhaustion. i’m still working on my emotional fitness, i guess, now that the crutch of my companion has been taken away. i believe i will get better at this.

anyway, the bus doesn’t run on sundays, but a couple enjoying some ice cream offered to take me and my bike to the northern edge of colorado springs, and though they probably only saved me a few miles, their kindness really lifted my spirits. they put me on a bike path that took me almost all the way into downtown and made sure i knew where i was going. thank you, mark and denise!

tonight i am staying at my ex-boyfriend landon’s parents’ house in colorado springs. rock and gretchen took me out to dinner, drove me through cheyenne canon, and took me to the garden of the gods (which was apparently thusly named ’cause some dude thought it would be a good place for a BEER garden! hah!). the moon is almost full and have i mentioned that colorado is breathtakingly beautiful? i want to stay and go rock climbing and hike up 14ers and raft down rivers.

tomorrow’s route to canon city is pretty much ONE ROAD the whole way (route 115). it is the only way and i don’t think i will get lost. plus, there’s a cool bug museum on the way.

some things i’ve learned on this trip (a very incomplete list)–

* the trick to riding with slick tires on dirt trails is to pretend you’re going in slow motion. no abrupt turning! no abrupt braking! no abrupt anything!

* when fear is not a factor, people are pretty much universally kind and generous. this fear can take many forms: fear of being hurt physically or emotionally, fear of not having enough, fear of embarrassment (or social censure), etc. i think one of the reasons permaculture is such a powerful idea is because it represents a shift from thinking in terms of (the possibility of) not having enough to thinking in terms of abundance and thus eliminates one of those fears that prevent us from living in a world full of the kindness and generosity of which we are capable. i also think that fear builds on itself and kindness & generosity build on themselves as well. i know which i want to nurture.

* how to ask a green bean whether or not it wants to be harvested. how to harvest basil so it grows more like a bush, and how to harvest it less carefully when it’s growing too vigorously. what a really really fresh organic cucumber tastes like (hint: amazing).

* it is sometimes lonelier to be around people you don’t know very well than it is to be alone. too much alcohol exacerbates this. i think i have learned this lesson several times before, but i guess i needed a refresher course.

* real people almost always give better directions than the internet does, especially in the countryside.

(hi! i am posting this entry from outside a coffeeshop in florence, colorado. i am BACK ON THE TRANSAM! hurray! trying to decide whether to stay here tonight or head west nine miles to canon city. i think i’m gonna hang out here for a little bit, anyway. i’ve been thinking about the emotional fitness thing i kinda came up with above. it makes me feel better about things. some sore muscles but that just means i’m getting stronger. yeah.)

here’s some photos of sunflowers from sunrise ranch (that’s the farm outside of loveland)–

20 Aug 2010, 9:44am
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guts and grace

yesterday was a long-ish day physically (72 miles, somehow), but it didn’t feel like it. emotionally it was the first day i felt what it will be like to be alone. not without a., an absence, but alone… a presence. for much of the day it was lovely–stopping to consult my scrawled directions, drink tea, take shelter from a thunderstorm and read my book about courage; the full fierce double rainbow that lit up the sky after the storm–and sometimes it was hard.

i got a flat that i had to fix twice ’cause the patch didn’t take the first time, and then wasted time looking for a bike shop in lafayette that didn’t exist (i wanted to borrow their floor pump– there’s only so much air i can get in with my little pump–and also i think i need a new rear tire–mine is super worn!), plus there was that thunderstorm i had to wait out. none of that is a big deal at all, but somehow i was running out of daylight, and then i got lost not very far at all from my destination and i was riding on a bike path through some sketchy industrial areas. i called my parents when i couldn’t get myself un-lost by myself, so they knew how far i was and they were worried about daylight too, and even in portland i wouldn’t bike on, say, the springwater corridor alone at night. i biked so fast down that path, dodging dumb rabbits who kept darting out into my headlights in front of me, and i saw a coyote, too (my third on this trip). and then i got off the path, finally, and there were trucks and rain and it was thoroughly dark and i couldn’t find the street i was supposed to turn onto, so i gave up and stopped at the comfort inn on the corner.

mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, my mama said.

i am less than six miles from my friend matt’s apartment (i was gonna crash on his couch). oh well; i’ve got all day today to hang out in denver. and figure out how i’m getting to where i’m going from here. i am pretty eager to be back on the transam.


(photo of me from a wonderful hike above the farm that i took on wednesday with alisha, dave, and yet another matt. more later!)

16 Aug 2010, 5:50pm
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interlude

currently falling in love with colorado on a farm west of loveland.

.

also, this happened–

“on the way to the play, we stopped to look at the stars.
and as usual,
i felt in awe.
and then i felt even deeper in awe at this capacity we have to be
in awe about something.

then i became even more awestruck
at the thought that i was,
in some small way,
a part of that
which i was so in awe about.

and this feeling went on
and on
and on…
my space chums got a word for it:
‘awe infinitum.’

because at the point you can comprehend how
incomprehensible it all is,
you’re about as smart as you need to be.

suddenly i burst into song:
‘awe,
sweet mystery of life,
at last i’ve found thee.’

and i felt so good inside
and my heart felt so full,

i decided i would set time aside each day to do
awe-robics.

because at the moment you are most in awe of all there is
about life that you don’t understand,
you are closer to understanding it all
than at any other time.”

–trudy

(from the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe by jane wagner)

15 Aug 2010, 10:42am
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over the rockies to boulder

written on the evening of august 13th

boulder pretty much rocks. lots of outdoorsy hippie types. there’s tons of bike paths and a wild creek running through the city and a big pedestrian-only area downtown and lots of delicious food. right now i am sitting in a grassy park listening to a band cover led zeppelin at a free concert (seriously, there is wifi EVERYWHERE). a. is joking that i will never leave. he leaves tomorrow to fly home to portland, load his stuff in a van, and drive to his new home in berkeley to start his phd program. i leave at some point to conquer some fears and pedal headlong into my future, whatever it might be. in the meantime, here’s some catching up and photos…

walden to hot sulphur springs–over willow creek pass–


(this guy got himself stuck to my tire)


(in i-can’t-honestly-remember-what-tiny-town, someone had peeled up all the center lines from this newly-repaved road and made them into greetings)

(blurry photo of our eighth continental divide crossing. in colorado they specify which side is which!)


(is this weird geology or is it man-made? in the middle of nowhere?)

we camped for free in hot sulphur springs about half a mile down a dirt road in some kind of city park. ran around doing laundry and so on, chatted with a woman at a burger-and-shakes stand about bike touring and the santiago de compostela pilgrimage, and then headed to the hot springs (of course!). they were nice–24(!) different pools with various temperatures and mineral concentrations, some indoor and some outside–but pricey! $17.50 per person for a day pass. in the hottest pool, we met a guy named ted from denver who bike toured when he was younger and who offered us a place to stay in denver if we need it. there’s really nothing like traveling this way to convince you that people are fundamental generous and good. that’s the truth. fear is the biggest hurdle between us and the amazing world we could live in.

in the morning we ate breakfast at this place:

yeah, seriously. but the service was super-friendly and the food was pretty good. my french toast was more-or-less deep-fried. yum. we also met a young couple from england who were westbound on the transam. we recommended enthusiastically that they stop at the hot springs in saratoga.


(rocks from the hot springs in saratoga; ring tarnished from hot sulphur springs)

hot sulphur springs to grand lake–a pretty short riding day–

in grand lake we completely spoiled ourselves in preemptory celebration of our climb up trail ridge road–bought delicious crepes and huge glasses of sangria at a wine bar, after which, tipsy, we played 18 holes of mini golf down the street (i won).

needless to say we failed to wake up as early as planned the next morning. which was just as well ’cause it was c-c-c-cold! frost on our tent and bikes. but for the climb itself, oh boy did we get lucky with the weather–it was perfect! first sunny storm-free day in weeks, apparently.


(hell yeah–here we go!)


(the colorado river!)


(living sod roof on an ice cellar at an old homestead site in the park!)


(the red/purple color of many of the trees, by the way–and this has been true for several states now–is due to bark beetle infestation. the trees are weak, often because of decades of fire suppression that have allowed them to get much older than they otherwise would, and the beetles flourish. but since they only infest weak trees, it’s more or less a natural ecological process, etc, just unnaturally widespread due to suppression of natural fires.)

(the wind is so harsh that branches can only grow on the leeward side of trees)


(estes park in the distance!)

the first people we met in estes park:
1. a man who rode the transamerica in 1976, the first year, when it was the bikecentennial route
2. a couple from kansas city who dug out their road atlas to give me route ideas and then offered me a place to stay should i pass through kansas city

!!

estes park is a beautiful town, with mountains surrounding it on all sides. we spent the morning in a coffeeshop writing postcards and so on and then hanging out in by the river that runs through town. then we headed off towards boulder–a few miles up out of the valley and then down, down, down all the way to lyons. so much fun!


(a. waves goodbye to the rockies)

we stopped:
1. for black cherry cider at the colorado cherry company (or something like that)
2. at a winery tasting room on the lovely grounds of an inn of some sort, for yummy wine and a bottle for later
yum.

we ate some lunch in lyons (bread, cheese, and fruit mmm), a town about 16 miles from boulder with a good vibe.


(wind sculpture)

heading south towards boulder, the mountains were to our right and to our left the plains began, stretching out so flat to the east that i kept glancing that way and believing for a moment that i was looking at the ocean.


(suicidal grasshoppers are abundant along shoulders in colorado as well… and apparently they eat their dead, which might help explain why they keep coming onto the road even though they die there)

and we made it!

end of the road for a.

now: a. is back in portland; i am outside of loveland. as always, more later…