Wheresoever You May Go…

I am so overwhelmed at my mass following of blog readers that have rode right alongside me in spirit on my ride across America. I want to thank each and every one of you for being so supportive and encouraging. I am in complete and total awe of the army of people that I had behind me through every single mile, every single pedal. “Thank you” simply isn’t enough.

🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲

What a transition it has been being thrown back into normal life!

It’s been great seeing my family, friends, and coworkers, and catching up with everyone and getting back to the things I normally do…like finding animals, “helping” hang bat boxes, trying to learn the banjo, eating cake, and teaching!

Despite getting a little tired of answering people’s questions while I was on tour, I have really enjoyed being asked questions about my trip since I’ve been home, as it’s been a great way to take a deep breath and reflect. One of my blog readers commented, “You are forever changed,” and she’s right. I am.

I often catch myself day dreaming about a specific day, a person we met, an interesting place…

Or sometimes just the plain-old feeling of being on tour.

But the thing is, it isn’t just a plain-old feeling. It’s feeling free and content. It’s feeling tired and dirty. It’s feeling a smile come across your face as you’re flying down a hill with the pink sunset in the distance. It’s feeling the big, fat, salty crocodile tears fall down your cheeks when you feel like you can’t go any further. It’s feeling happy, frustrated, determined, and all the feelings in between.

It’s feeling alive.

And whether I felt happy, tired, excited, free, exhausted, grateful, homesick, proud, down, and the list goes on…the point is that I felt.

I felt alive. And sometimes that feeling gets lost in normal every day life…and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you take the time to do things that make you feel alive.

So, if you haven’t already, figure out what makes you feel alive and go do it. And keep doing it. Whether it’s riding your bike, jumping out of a plane, applying for your dream job, being silly, doing something kind for someone, spending time with your soul mate, building furniture, playing music, painting, hiking, running, traveling, cooking, eating, reading—whatever. Figure it out, do it, and do it often. We get only one life, and you deserve so much more than to spend it feeling numb, stuck in the same old routine.

Shake things up a little. Just go for it.

Give it all you’ve got, and then some. Be relentless. Be fearless. Be fierce. And I promise amazing things will happen. Your life will be forever changed. You’ll experience things you’ve never imagined experiencing, you’ll meet people you’ve never even thought of meeting, you’ll feel alive, and you’ll achieve the biggest dreams you’ve ever dreamt.

And no matter what, always remember- wheresoever you may go, go with all your heart.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Traveling Home

Mil…

Tota…..

Oops. 😊

After our emotional time at Heceta Beach, we had to get to the local bike shop before it closed. We took one last long good look at the Pacific Ocean, which for me was actually blankly staring into the oblivion, taking in everything that I had accomplished.

Now what….?

We pushed our bikes back through the sand, and gathered a few shell fragments to take back home with us. A lady offered to help us push our bikes, but we gratefully declined. It was a workout getting it back to the pavement!We rode back to highway 101, with *gasp* a tailwind!

Once I had phone service, I called my parents and Craig. I had pulled myself together at that point, so I could actually talk!

It was a weird feeling riding to the bike shop. We weren’t working towards our goal anymore…we were just simply riding our bikes down the road. It felt kind of sad.

We arrived to the bike shop and rolled our bikes inside. We talked to the owner and immediately started unloading all of our gear off our bikes.

It was odd seeing my bike without all the gear on it. It looked sad and empty.

I know this may sound strange to some of you, and that’s ok…but I felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind. My bike was my life all summer. My bike got me to where I needed to be, it carried all my gear, and it was good to me. I feel a connection with my bike almost as if it were a human (don’t laugh!!!). I feel like my bike is a part of who I am. I felt sad just leaving it in some strange bike shop all the way on the other side of the country. I can’t wait until I get it back!

Now that you think I’m some kind of bike hippie, I’ll move on…πŸ˜‚

We went through all of our gear outside of the bike shop, trying to combine our bags so we had less to carry.

Then, we walked to Subway across the street. Our panniers were so heavy we had to stop a few times! We were laughing and giggling at how ridiculous it was to be carrying our panniers everywhere. We wanted our bikes back!!!

How inefficient is this?! This is taking forever to just walk down the street!

We grabbed some food at Subway and talked about how weird it felt to not have our bikes and how we couldn’t believe our tour was over.

Something I haven’t really talked a lot about is how it feels to be a bike tourist.

Despite being physically exhausted, it feels amazing. You roll into a store or a gas station and you are the coolest person there. People stare at you, people ask questions, people tell you that you’re amazing, people give you money and buy you things and ask to take their picture with you. They go out to their car to bring their kids in to meet you. People friendly honk at you and wave at you and give you thumbs up out the window all the time.

Everywhere you go. Every single day.

It’s like being the most popular kid in school, or like being a superhero. It’s like having your own parade celebrating you every day.

It feels great.

When we walked into Subway with our bags, we got some strange looks…but that’s it. No special treatment, no questions, nothing.

Although deep down I knew I would be forever changed by this trip, to everyone else we were just normal people.

We took a taxi back Eugene to a hotel. Our driver was really nice, and we discussed deep sea fishing and the local foliage. He pointed out the different types of trees as we winded down the highway.

It was strange riding the route in a car. All of the scenery that I was able to fully immerse myself in a few hours ago, just whizzed by through the smudged glass window. I wanted to tell the taxi driver to slow down…I couldn’t take in all of the scenery.

In just an hour, we had drove what took us a day in a half on a bike.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our hotel room, watching Shark Week, and eating breadsticks and chicken wings…intermittently reflecting on our trip, mixed in with bouts of silence. We didn’t know what to say or think. We were happy and sad, all at the same time.

I woke up at 6:30, around our normal time, and went back to sleep. We hadn’t slept in like this since our only (!!!) rest day back home. I woke up around 9:30 and took a shower, put on makeup, and blow dried my hair for the first time since I had been home.

It’s been so nice to just be myself during this trip, not worrying about how I look and appreciating my body not for its physical appearance, but for its physical and mental strength, and what it has allowed me to accomplish.

But that’s another blog post…πŸ˜‰

We took a taxi to the airport.

We sat around for a while waiting for our check-in time, reflecting on our trip and feeling extremely tired. We have had only one rest day our entire trip, so we haven’t really even had time to sit and do nothing…and just feel tired.

While we were in line for check-in, a woman saw our panniers and asked if we were cyclists. I told her about our trip, and everyone in line turned towards us to hear our conversation. One last taste of bike tourist superheroism…for now.

We got some pictures with our plane to Seattle, like a couple of tourists. πŸ˜‚

After a quick plane ride, we quickly made our way through the Seattle airport, hopped onto a train, and then hopped onto a larger plane to Nashville. So many types of transportation!!! Bikes, cars, planes, trains.

Ever since we have been in the Pacific Northwest, I have had tons of people comment on my accent.

“Let me guess…..Australia!”

ummmmmm……nope.

They ALL guess Australia! Maybe it’s the combination of my voice and my tan. πŸ˜‚ We had 3 people in Oregon ask if I was from Australia, and one man even asked if I was from England. *A little boy on the plane just asked if I was from London!!* I don’t get it! πŸ˜‚πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

It was nice to board the plane to Nashville and hear some of that southern twang for the first time in a long time.

😊

Now, I have found a goal to accomplish on the plane ride home: get my headphones out of my panniers without the smell wafting out. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ No clue what it is. #biketour

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Day 63: Veneta, OR ➑️ Heceta Beach, OR

Miles: 58.5

Final Mileage: 3,727.3

*More blog posts to come after today, faithful followers, so keep checking back πŸ˜‰*

I have sat here and sat here trying to come up with words to start my blog about the final day of our bike tour: the day we reached the Pacific Coast and officially rode our bikes across the entire United States of America.

It was chilly this morning, and when my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., I didn’t want to get up.

I didn’t want to get up because, well, it was cold, and I was pretty content in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to get up because it was the very last day of the trip I have dreamt about my entire life. If I got up and got ready, we would have to start the day, which meant the day would soon be over.

And I know that time doesn’t work that way, but it just seemed like I could postpone it just…

a little…

bit…

longer.

Isn’t it funny how that works? A few days ago I was desperate to get to the coast. I was exhausted, frustrated, hot, thirsty, and just wanted to be home. And today I woke up wanting more time…one more day.

We ate breakfast and hit the road, one last time. It was freezing. I could see my breath.

But it was a beautiful ride. The sun was rising and was casting a pink hue on the foggy Cascades. It gave me peace.

About 20 miles into our ride, we stopped and ate breakfast at a small cafe. It was delicious. Holy hash browns…😍😍😍

Today’s ride felt…different. We were focused and quiet. On the surface, we were trying to get to the bike shop that was shipping our bikes before they closed. Deep down, however, I felt like today’s ride was meditative. I tried to soak in the entire ride, all while reflecting on the trip as a whole and what we were about to accomplish, and the emotions that would come with it.

I was happy and at peace.

I was full of anticipation.

I was nervous.

I was scared.

I was sad.

All. At. The. Same. Time.

So, all I could do was ride in silence, taking in the scenery while attempting to process my emotions.

I was distracted from my deep thinking for a small chunk of time today.

A tunnel!

Oh…….a TUNNEL….

When you’re in a car, tunnels are exciting. When you’re on a bike, tunnels are terrifying.

There’s usually no shoulder, they’re dark, and cars fly through them. They aren’t conducive to safe bike riding.

But this one was special!

Oregon is super bike friendly. There hasn’t been a single road without a huge shoulder, and all of the towns and cities have bike lanes. We have even passed signs stating that cyclists can use the full lane if they wish.

To ensure the safety of cyclists, this tunnel had a button to push. When you pushed the button, the lights on the sign on top of the tunnel would flash, indicating to drivers that there were cyclists to watch out for in the tunnel.

Well……I pushed the button. It didn’t work.

The tunnel reminded me of going down those dark blue slides at Venture River (they terrify me). The tunnel was very dark, there was no room inside, and it descended at a 7% grade into pitch black darkness, only to spit you out on the other side of the mountain.

Masherra and I nervously chuckled.

Oh boy. This shall be interesting.

I decided it would be safest for me to ride in the back since I have a flashing LED light.

We took off. We flew through the tunnel.

A fourth of the way through the tunnel, I checked my mirror and noticed headlights peering through the darkness like a monster.

Do they see us?

Can we get over?

I hope they see us.

They passed us.

Phew.

Then, two more headlights appear. I hear a slow rumble coming up behind me, and the same thoughts go through my head. This time, it was a huge dump truck.

The cars flying through the tunnel were honking. I honestly don’t know if they were honking at us, or honking because they were in a tunnel.

The rumble got closer and louder. I didn’t have hardly any room to get over. I was honestly terrified. I knew they could see my light…it’s impossible not to…but I was still scared.

A huge gust of wind slapped me from the side and I let out a sigh of relief. It passed us.

As we neared the end of the tunnel, I noticed the car behind me was hanging back.

Thank goodness. They have our back.

We made it out of the tunnel and pulled over on the side of the road. Nervous and full of adrenaline, we burst into laughter. That was terrifyingly insane.

Onward!

As we neared Florence, I could smell the salt in the air!

I was riding along, perfectly fine, then tears started rolling down my cheeks. They were tears of joy, tears of sadness, and tears of pride. They were tears because, what am I going to do after this? What will ever top this?

I pulled up our location on my phone. More tears.

I tried to refocus, and it worked. I tried to focus on the ride and making good time so we could make it to the bike shop before they closed.

And then there it was: the Florence sign.

Stay calm, don’t cry….there’s still 5 more miles.

We pedaled through town towards Heceta Beach, the closest place to access the ocean. It felt surreal to see the sign pointing us towards the beach.

The road to the beach was twisty and curvy. For 2.5 miles, I went around each curve looking for the ocean. I could smell the salt in the air; we were so close.

And then, there it was.

I didn’t even have time to attempt to hold back my tears, they just started flowing. I was so proud, relieved, and elated, completely filled with euphoria. I was sad, scared, and reluctant, unsure of how I could ever top this trip. Once I dipped my tire into the ocean, my trip of a lifetime would be over.

My entire trip flashed through my mind: all the places, the people, the friends, the trials, the hardships, the accomplishments.

What will I have to look forward to after this?

Crocodile tears flowing down my cheeks, I rolled my bike through the sand towards the ocean. I changed into my Kentucky Strong shirt, because you have to be Kentucky Strong to be able to ride across the nation on your bike.

A thick fog was hanging around the water. As we got closer, the fog lifted. It was as if someone pulled the stage curtains open for us.

Families who were gathered on the beach stared at us in bewilderment as we struggled to push our bikes through the sand, crying and wiping tears away as we made our way to the water.

As I neared my way to the crashing waves, I felt like I was in a dream. The colors were hazy, yet vivid. The seagulls were squawking in the distance, and a cool, salty breeze brushed across my face. I wanted to savor that feeling, so I walked slowly, almost in a trancelike state. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I felt.

Mash and I stood and stared at the ocean as the waves crashed in, and then retreated back. We both simultaneously dipped our front tires into the Pacific Ocean, officially signifying the end of our coast-to-coast trip of a lifetime. We did it.

Still crying, we stood there as the waves came up around us. My shoes were completely submerged and full of sand, but it didn’t matter. I wondered if this was how my dad felt when he completed his cross country tour 37 years ago. I was now a second generation cross country bike tourist. πŸ’šπŸ’ͺπŸ»πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ

I tried to call my parents and Craig, but couldn’t get a call out. They probably wouldn’t have even understood a word I would have said anyway.

A couple of people gathered around us, asking us what we were doing.

“We just……*sniff*…..rode…..*sniff*…….our bikes…….*sniiiiiiiiif*…AcrossTheUnitedStates….*SSSNNIIFFF*”

They congratulated us and asked us all the typical questions. We couldn’t carry on a coherent conversation, so our answers were all one word answers. They understood.

They graciously offered to take pictures of us, so we definitely took them up on their offer!

I couldn’t believe it. I dreamt a dream, followed it with all my heart, and worked my tail off for it…for in life, you can be one that wishes to do, or one that does.

Some dreams really do come true.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 62: McKenzie Bridge, OR ➑️ Veneta, OR

Miles: 67.1

Total: 3,668.8

Someone tell me how we gained 1,047 feet today!?

I mean….that’s not a lot anyway, but we were going downhill for most of the day.

It was neat to watch the altitude on my altimeter decrease throughout the day! We haven’t been below 4,000 ft since Kansas, and since yesterday we have lost a ton of elevation!

We are getting pretty close to sea level. πŸ˜‰

So, today wasn’t as pretty as yesterday, but it was still a nice, beautiful ride!

We stopped at a gas station to eat lunch.

A man started asking us about our trip. When we found out we were riding across the country, he told us to hurry up and decide what we wanted to eat so he could pay for it! πŸ˜‚ We quickly decided. πŸ˜‰

We went outside and sat at a table and chatted and ate our food. He served in the military and now trains service dogs. He was really nice to talk to and very encouraging. He even offered for us to stay on his ranch, and gave us his phone number in case we ran into any trouble!

There were so many towns today! We town-hopped from one town to the next. We stopped a million times today. It was nice to finally have towns to stop in!

We stopped at the post office in a small town called Walterville, where my mom had a package sent for me to pick up. It may or not include a certain shirt to wear tomorrow. πŸ˜‰

We also went through all our panniers and shipped home a ton of stuff so we don’t have to worry about it tomorrow. I sent home all of my cooking supplies, basically all my clothes, a couple of water bottles, all my maps…almost 7 lbs of stuff! Masherra sent home 10 lbs…haha!! Needless to say, we felt a tad bit lighter. 😊

It took us foreeeeeeveer to navigate through Springfield and Eugene. Our gps took us on a bike path, which was nice, but we would occasionally get back on the road, and then back on the bike path. All that mixed with stopping every block at the stop lights really slowed us down.

We’ve got camp set up under a pavilion at a city park- possibly our last night of camping. Although we are super excited to be getting back home to our loved ones, Mash and I felt a little sad today. I don’t even know how to describe how I feel. It’s odd. πŸ˜‚

I’m not going to lie, I’m laying in my tent as I write this and actually feel nervous about tomorrow. You know that feeling you get in your stomach? Yeah. I have that.

Maybe it’s excitement.

Maybe it’s a little bit of everything.

I’ve climbed over the Appalachians, the Ozarks, the Rockies, and the Cascades. I’ve climbed mountains. Now I’m ready to move them. πŸ’ͺ🏻

It’s Pacific Coast Eve, folks…and I can’t believe it.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 61: Bend, OR ➑️ McKenzie Bridge, OR

Miles: 66.3

Total: 3,601.7

Today was my favorite day, I’m pretty sure.

We left Bend this morning and headed towards Sisters. The scenery was already starting to get better!

Sisters was a pretty nice little town! It was one of those towns where everything was quaint and perfect…you know, one of those towns with beautiful flowers on every corner.

Although it was 10 a.m., Masherra and I stopped at Subway to get some food before we climbed McKenzie Pass. We also contacted the bike shop in Florence and found out that they would ship our bikes for us at a decent price. Once we finalized where we were shipping our bikes from, we went ahead and booked plane tickets! We felt so relieved after working out some of the end-of-the-bike-trip logistics.

I can’t believe we are almost finished. Masherra and I both shed a few tears at lunch, over different things, and then laughed about it. We have two days of riding left…and then this trip of a lifetime will come to a close.

It’s bittersweet.

The past couple of weeks have been tough. Riding through the desert just made me want to be home. I was ready to be done. Today, however, as the scenery became more and more beautiful, I found myself not wanting the trip to end. I found myself worrying about getting back to normal life.

I tried to soak in every moment of today.

When we left Sisters, our climb started almost immediately. We are now back on the official TransAmerica route, so we saw more bikers today!

This guy was headed west as well. He congratulated us as he rode past us. We congratulated him as well. It was a neat feeling.

The climb up to McKenzie Pass was about 15 miles. It started out at a pretty low grade, and would occasionally get steep, and then get easier. It took some time and patience, but it wasn’t too bad of a climb! You know what they say….2.5 hours up, 30 minutes down!

As we were climbing, so many cars passed us waving and friendly honking. One car with a bike rack on the back passed us with a child’s arm stuck out the window giving us a thumbs up.

Several cyclists on road bikes passed us as they were making their descent.

“Way to go!”

“Right on!”

“Oh my gosh!” (in reference to climbing the pass with a loaded touring bike)

It feels so great to have support, even when it’s from total strangers.

As we were climbing, we started riding through 2,000 year old lava beds! If you remember from my last post, the Three Sisters used to be volcanoes, and one still has the potential to erupt one day.

Anyway, climbing up to Mckenzie Pass was amazing. There were several moments where I said, “wow” out loud.

Once we made it to the top, we climbed up to an observatory.

And then, we headed down.

The descent from McKenzie Pass was my absolute favorite. The entire 12 miles down.

This is way better than any amusement park ride ever.

We descended from an ancient lava flow into a thick, lush, green forest, with the tallest trees you’ve ever seen, and the thickest ferns you could ever imagine. Everything was covered in moss, and the air smelled like one of those evergreen scented candles. The ride down was beautiful.

The road winded and twisted every which way. It was an absolute blast.

You could hear the wind blowing through the tall evergreens, almost sounding like a huge crowd applauding. The sun shown down like a spotlight, filtered by the thick ceiling of leaves. Hundreds of little tiny ‘helicopters’ floated to the ground like confetti.

What a great send-off.

I didn’t take many pictures on the way down. I wanted to soak in every single moment, and I’m so glad that I did.

As we neared McKenzie Bridge, we stopped to take a look at the McKenzie River.

You could feel the coolness of the water as you approached the bank. Across the river was pretty much my dream cottage.

We ate supper at a little restaurant and then found a place to stealth camp. It was definitely my favorite place we have camped.

We are in the forest on a bank above a small creek, nestled in between the ferns and tall trees. The sun has just set and it’s pitch black. Our tents are glowing in the dark and the creek is rolling in the background. Above me tower pine tree silhouettes, tiny stars peeking through the branches.

Perfect.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 60: Hampton, OR ➑️ Bend, OR

Miles: 63

Total: 3,535.4

Wow! I can’t believe we have been on the road for 60 days! It has been interesting watching people’s reactions about our trip.

In Virginia, people’s reactions were pretty subtle. In Kansas and Colorado, people would say, “wow!” and be amazed at how far we had come. In Oregon, people’s eyes bug out and they make sure that they heard us correctly.

Vir-GINIA?!”

“Yes sir, we started on the coast of Virginia”. 😊πŸ’ͺ🏻

It seems that the closer we get to the coast, the harder it is to pedal! But, I felt pretty good all day, for the most part.

It was another day of riding past sagebrush and dead grass…but over time it started to get a bit prettier!

The people in this area of Oregon are extremely nice and helpful. Our only stop today was at a Cafe in a small blip in the road called Brothers. During the first 10 minutes of sitting inside the cafe, two people came in who were out of gas. The nearest gas station was 60 miles in either direction.

Apparently, the cafe owner gets around 50 people a day who run into that predicament (that just goes to show you how little there is out here), so they keep extra gas cans with gas to help people out. I thought that was really nice. The lady who owned the cafe told us that she just really wants to help people when she can; that’s what Kent said as well (the guy from the cafe who cooked for us after the cafe was closed).

Oh! The guy sitting in the background is originally from Carbondale! I love running into people from our area!

Although we were still in the high desert, the terrain started to change today.

We came over a hill and there were suddenly snow capped mountains in the distance, hazy because they were so far away.

Where did those come from?!

We got closer and closer to the mountains as we rode today, but couldn’t ever get a good picture. The mountains that you see are called the Three Sisters. They are three volcanic peaks that form a complex volcano. Two of the peaks haven’t erupted in 14,000 years, but one erupted about 2,000 years ago. I can’t wait to get closer to them and get some better pictures.

During the last 20 miles or so of our ride today, I started feeling really sick. I’m not really sure what made me feel so sick, but it wasn’t fun. I felt nauseous, jittery, and like I had nothing left in me to even pedal a mile. As I got closer to Bend, I found a driveway to someone’s house with a little shade and had to stop and get off my bike for a little bit. I called my parents and talked to them for a few minutes, hoping that resting in the shade and drinking water would help. It’s absolutely no fun to be out in the desert, all the way across the country from your home, and feeling like you have food poisoning or something.

My friend, Rachel, texted me this picture this morning, and I definitely thought of it as I was sitting in the driveway wondering how in the world I was going to keep on going.

I decided I better hop back on my bike and try to make a little more progress. I eventually made it to town, and got a cold drink and some food and started feeling better. Thank goodness. And thank goodness for friends who send you quotes that keep you going!

Here were some cute animals I saw from the window of Taco Bell:

The birds would sit on his steering wheel and would walk along the wheel as he turned it. It was a really odd sight to see, but interesting!

So, I have been in contact with several places today about shipping our bikes. It’s been quite interesting, and it’s almost like trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle. All our shipping options in Florence close around 2 or 3 on Saturday, the day we will be arriving….so we are going to have to get up really early on our last day to make it to town before everything closes. Then we have to get to Eugene, which will be a piece of cake unless we don’t make it to Florence in time to ship our bikes….in which case we will have to figure out how to get our bikes to Eugene. Oh, and we can’t book our flight home until we figure out for sure our shipping options, and the prices keep going up. 😳

But, getting home is part of the adventure, too…right?!

Tomorrow, we climb our last pass: McKenzie Pass. We will be gaining about 2,000 feet over 12 miles….which doesn’t sound too bad….it just depends on how the elevation gain is dispersed. Hopefully it’s an even climb over the 12 miles.

Looking forward to some better scenery!

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 59: Burns, Oregon ➑️ Hampton, Oregon

Miles: 66.7

Total: 3,472.4

Pete and Repeat were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?

Repeat.

Pete and repeat were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?

Repe…….

Ok. You get the picture. The scenery looked the same allllll daaaaaay lonnnng, and I’m pretty sure the same Schwab Tires semi truck passed me 15 different times……the same Subaru Outback……and the same RV.

Today, we pressed onward through the high desert. Honestly, all of my pictures of the landscape from today look exactly the same….because, well, the scenery didn’t change at all.

Hills.

Sagebrush.

Dead grass.

Pavement.

Today, the only stop between Burns and Hampton was a small gas station.

The good part: there was food other than chips that we could actually heat up in the microwave. I got to fill out some post cards, and I got the cutest little Oregon bike magnet (because I’m a nerd and collect magnets). OH! And there were fountain drinks, which means we had ice- lots of ice!!!

The bad part: the gas station was only 23 miles into our 67 mile day. So, after we left the gas station, it was going to be a long ride of nothing. BUT, we are used to it…we just don’t like it. 😬

So, I’m just going to be honest here….as always. I struggled today.

The ride wasn’t even a difficult ride. It was a little toasty, and the wind was in our face all day, but we’ve had much worse. We had some of the typical long, drawn-out hills here and there, as well as a few rollers, but it was flat for a good portion of the day too.

But my body just didn’t want to function today. It’s frustrating when you can’t go as fast as you want because your body just doesn’t let you. It’s hard to even explain. At this point, my legs don’t hurt, and my muscles don’t burn. It’s just an overall fatigued feeling. I was a little sore from my crash yesterday, but I’m always a little sore at this point. πŸ˜‚

Complaining doesn’t fix it, although Craig listened to me complain a bit today. There’s probably a moment most days he listens to me complain πŸ˜‚. I mean….I have to get it out of my system so I can push on. 😊

I had quite a boost today when Rachel, the editor of the Marshall County Tribune, sent me the link to the article she wrote about our bike trip! She did a fantastic job telling our story- she deserves a huge shoutout!!! πŸ’š I know my parents got probably a million copies of the article. I bet they ran out of quarters. πŸ˜‚ I won’t post the rest of the article! Go support the Marshall County Tribune!

It was really special for Rachel to have written this article, because my dad had one written about his bike trip!

As we pedaled on, I noticed something strange in my mirror. I am constantly checking my mirror, watching traffic to make sure the vehicles are getting over.

But I saw a huge plume of smoke.

About 1/4 of a mile behind me, the field was on fire! A semi truck was pulled over on the side of the road.

What in the world?! I literally just rode by that area 2 minutes ago and now the field is on fire!

I have no clue what happened. It didn’t look like the vehicle was on fire- just the field. Oregon is under the highest fire alert/burn ban there is, so I knew it was really bad that the field was on fire.

The wind was blowing hard and you could see the fire moving across the field. We were actually thankful for our headwind, because if the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, the fire would have been moving towards us.

I really hope they were able to get it under control, but the nearest towns with fire stations are 60 miles in either direction. 😳

Our destination tonight was Hampton. It’s not even really a town. There is just a cafe amidst the fields of sagebrush. We were banking on the cafe being open; we couldn’t cook our food with the burn ban.

The cafe was closed.

I looked through the window and saw a man sitting at a table, so we went in. It was the owner.

He asked us if we were on bikes, and we said that we were. He told us he would go ahead and cook for us, even if they were closed!!!

And he did!

Someone else even walked in, and he told them the cafe was closed…….but not for bikers!! 😁 Ok, he didn’t say that last part…but I was thinking it!

He told us he was also a farmer. He grows lots of alfalfa, which is used in hay. Hay is a big deal around here- I can’t tell you how many semis hauling hay pass us each day. He told us that thousands of years ago, there were volcanos in the area, and he explained how there is lots of nitrogen in the soil which apparently is good for growing alfalfa!

Oh, and he also told us that he would make breakfast for us in the morning….and they don’t even serve breakfast! How nice is that?!

He is letting us camp on the front porch of his cafe, and he even left the back door unlocked so we can have access to the restrooms and drinks!

😊

Tomorrow’s plan: contact the Florence bike shop about shipping our bikes, find a bus route going from Florence to Eugene, booking a flight home before the prices continue to rise, all while biking 60+ miles out in the middle of nowhere.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 58: Juntura, OR ➑️ Burns, OR

Miles: 60.1

Total: 3405.7

We woke up in a panic. Our phones said it was 6:00, and the clock in our hotel room said it was 7:00.

We have been teetering between the Mountain Time Zone and the Pacific Time Zone over the past day. It’s interesting because I’m a car, the time on your phone changes relatively fast. When you’re traveling on a bike, however, it takes hours to actually pass through a time zone. You go half the day not knowing what time it actually is.

But today, we made it official!

We started climbing pretty early today. We knew we had two passes to climb, but we didn’t know much about them.

The first one was long, but it wasn’t too bad. We had a nice surprise at the top: the name of the pass! It was the perfect opportunity for a silly picture.

As silly as it sounds, we were super excited about getting over the next pass because it was named “Stinking Water Pass”. We had a few funny picture ideas for that one, but when we got to the top, the sign only said “summit”. 😟

Stinking Water Pass really stunk…and I’m not talking about the smell. It was long and pretty darn steep. I never thought I was going to get to the top. Lately I have been able to ride over most of the passes without stopping, but I had to stop 4 or 5 times on this one!

It was a relief to get over Stinking Water Pass. We made it to the gas station, our halfway point. We heated up some food in a microwave, ate, and relaxed for a bit. Masherra and I both picked out some earrings that were made locally by a Native American woman (I have a thing for earrings). Oh!!! And I found a Chaco Taco! I’ve been looking for one the whole trip. It was so good!

We only had 23 miles left after the gas station- and it was mostly flat!

So, let’s take a minute to talk about pavement. When you bike across America, you ride on all different types of pavement. Sometimes it’s new and smooth, sometimes it almost feels sticky and is hard to ride on, and sometimes it looks like gravel even though it’s paved.

Today, when I was riding on the shoulder, I became a bit more acquainted with the pavement. There was some dark, loose gravel that blended in with the surface of the pavement. I hit the loose gravel and my bike immediately skidded and I fell off sideways over my bike. I twisted my body so I could catch myself. It was a hard fall.

I stood up quickly and picked my bike up; I didn’t want anyone stopping to see if I was ok. As I stood up, blood trickled all down my leg. My leg was all scratched up.

I reached into my handlebar bag for a napkin, and immediately felt pain on my hand.

The gashes aren’t super big, but they’re deep. My hands feel bruised where I caught myself, and one of my fingers feels like it’s jammed. I’ve also got a bruise coming in pretty nicely on the side of my thigh.

I mean…a tiger’s gotta earn her stripes somehow, right? πŸ˜‰ I’m thankful it wasn’t anything worse than some scrapes and bruises!!

So, we’ve got two more days of biking through the high desert, and then everything should start to green up again!! We are excited for some trees and greenness!!

Here in the next couple of days, we will start working out the logistics of shipping our bikes home and getting plane tickets.

I cannot believe we have 5 days left. I still have extremely mixed emotions about the trip ending. As I mentioned before, and probably will again, this is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and my body is absolutely exhausted and ready for a break. I’m so ready to see those dear to my heart πŸ’š, but it’s going to be hard closing the book on a dream I’ve had my entire life.

I can’t even fathom or even begin to process the emotions I’m going to feel when I dip that front tire into the Pacific Ocean.

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²

Day 56 and 57

Nampa, ID ➑️ Vale, ID: 61.5

Vale, OR ➑️ Juntura, OR: 55.5

Total: 3,345.6

Well, we were pretty excited to say goodbye to Idaho. After much discussion, Mash and I decided that, if we had to choose between Virginia and Idaho, we would rather ride across Virginia again.

I can’t believe I just typed that. 😳

Needless to say, we were extremely excited to get to Oregon…our last state line!!! When I saw the Oregon sign, I allllmost got emotional…but I was immediately distracted by the not-so-picturesque background of a neighborhood. Oh well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?

Shortly after riding into Oregon, we stopped at a gas station to wait out the heat. It was around 100 degrees, and there was no way we were riding in the heat. We learned that lesson in Kansas. While we were stopped, we got the biggest drinks we could find, filled out some postcards, and did some route planning.

We knew that the next few days were going to be pretty desolate, but when we started looking closer to our route and the “towns” we would be passing through, we started to get worried.

What we discovered: 4 more days of basically nothing.

The towns we saw were tiny. They either had a gas station, or a diner…but not both…and who knows if they are actually open.

We wrote out our route plan for the next few days on a napkin, and started calling the gas stations and diners that we would be going by to make sure they would be open so we could at least get water. One lady even told us to call her and that she would get us anything we need.

After it cooled off a bit, we rode the remaining 23 miles to Vale. Vale is a town that is located on the Oregon Trail (the road we have been riding on closely follows the Oregon Trail), and there were all kinds of neat murals depicting scenes of the pioneers, fur traders, and Native Americans. The murals reminded me of the murals in Paducah!

We ate supper at Mal’s Diner, which has apparently been operating since 1941. It was all decked out in 50’s decor and it reminded me of my 50’s musical I did at Sharpe during my first year.

While we were eating, a elderly man asked to join us and started talking to us about our trip. Honestly, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but this man was really nice, and was super charismatic, and 2 minutes into our conversation, I was sold. He was a great person to talk to.

He wore a tucked-in plaid shirt, a straw fedora, and his blue eyes brightly shown through his large glasses. He had the biggest grin you’ve ever seen; a gap between his two front teeth. He was a farmer. And boy, he could talk.

Something that I’ve come to realize on this trip: there’s always a piece of home everywhere you go….and in the little Oregon town of Vale, the combination of the murals and the conversation with the friendly farmer really reminded me of home.

We listened as he told us about, well, everything. He told us that he grew up in Jentura (the town we are in tonight) and how his niece went to school there. He told us how she was the only participant in the Christmas musical last year.

…because she is the only student in the entire school.

He also told us how the first ‘Miss Congeniality’ was from Jentura. He was full of stories and information. He was great to talk to.

Oh, and he told us to watch out for the wolves. 😳😳😳

After we left the diner, we camped behind a school. We got up pretty early, loaded up on plenty of water just in case the gas station was closed, and reluctantly headed away from our ‘safe place’: an actual town with actual stores and with actual food.

We still have about 3 more days in the high desert, but the landscape has definitely changed. Today, there were lots of huge, colorful hills and canyons, a small river winding in between them like a snake.

At one point, Masherra stopped and was pointing down below…

OTTERS!!!!

Animals are pretty much the best, but otters?!?! They were floating down the river too fast, so I didn’t get a picture, but they were super cute.

On a side note, Craig informed me that otter mates hold hands when they sleep so they don’t get separated!!!!!! πŸ˜πŸ’šπŸ˜πŸ’š

Then we saw a fox!!!!

Oh, and then a huge deer leaped out in front of us. He had the prettiest antlers and he was leaping like a reindeer across the road and through the field. I didn’t get a picture of him either, but he was the prettiest deer of all the deers.

Anyway.

We stopped at the only gas station that we would come across today, and went inside. It was owned by a man who actually lived in a house attached to a gas station. The actual store part was so tiny, only 5 people could comfortably walk around.

A lady walked in and asked, “Are you two girls the bikers?”

She told us that she recognized us, and said that she was certain that she had seen a picture of me and my bike on Facebook. She told us she was from Florida, has lived in Virginia, and now lives here in Oregon.

Who knows…but it was interesting!

She actually bought my drink and gave us $20!

I think I was half asleep or something in that picture. Or maybe exhausted from biking thousands of miles. πŸ˜¬πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

We continued on, and the landscape stayed the same. It was fun to look at for a while, and I don’t want you to think I didn’t appreciate the scenery, because I did…but after a while it felt like I was riding through a high desert labyrinth, snaking around the base of ginormous hills.

We finally made it to Juntura and ate at another, you guessed it, diner!

Is there a world record for the number of diners someone has eaten at in one summer??

We decided to put the $20 the lady gave us earlier in the day towards one of the 6 hotel rooms located by the diner. It was surprisingly clean.

Speaking of clean, we got to shower for the first time in almost a week! That means we should be pretty good to go for the next week until we get home. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Well…..maybe I need to shower before getting on the plane.😁

πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²AspenπŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ

Day 53, 54, and 55!

Arco, ID ➑️ Shoshone, ID: 84.5

Shoshone, ID ➑️ Mountain Home, ID: 78.5

Mountain Home, ID ➑️ Nampa, ID: 69.4

Total: 3,228.6

Oh, Idaho…you had us fooled…

Your lush greenness quickly disappeared

Your temperatures were hot

Your towns were far apart

Return, I will not.

Well, at least to this part of Idaho.

You guys, the past few days have been rough. We have had some good moments, like seeing Craters of the Moon National Monument.

It was really neat seeing the ancient lava flows and the cinder cone buttes! I would definitely love to go back and explore the area when I have more time.

We crossed one of our last milestones of the trip- our 3,000th mile! Wow!

It has still not set in how far we have come. When I pull up the map to see our location, all I can think is holy cow!

So, I’m going to cut to the chase about Idaho. The areas that we have been riding through have had absolutely no services. I mean…there’s literally nothing!

The wind has been in our face the entire time, and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s really hard to ride into the wind all day long. Combine that with the heat, occasional long climbs, and no shade- phew! It’s not easy.

Not only has it been physically difficult, but it is psychologically difficult. I found myself trying to stay focused and to not get worked up over being out in the middle of nowhere with nothing…but it’s hard to not feel uncomfortable and worried when all of your water is blazing hot, and all you want is a cold drink…but you have to ride 35 miles into the wind and heat to get it….after already riding 40 miles.

I’ve listened to lots of music and podcasts the past few days trying to keep my mind off of everything. I don’t want people to think I’m miserable- But I also don’t want to sugar coat things… it has definitely been difficult!! BUT, the personal growth I have experienced from day to day has been rewarding.

I did it yesterday, and I can do it again today.

Yesterday, at the end of our long, hot, windy ride, I could tell my back tire felt a little ‘bouncy’, and sure enough, it was losing air.

Really? Right now?

A man pulled over while he saw me taking my back tire off. I was expecting him to ask us if we needed help.

“Oh, well you girls don’t need any help. You got it taken care of.”

That’s right, mister. We’ve got this. πŸ’ͺ🏻

Craig had a good outlook on my 3rd flat tire- one flat tire per every thousand miles. Not too bad.

At this point in the trip, we have lost so much strength in our hands that it took both of us to be able to get the tire lever in so I could open up my tire and pull my tube out to patch it. It took me a few minutes to find the hole, and then we found a thorn in my tire. It wasn’t before long and we were headed into town.

Forget food, forget cleaning off the bike grease…all we wanted was an ice cold drink.

So, that gets us caught up to today (Day 55).

Good ol’ Google Maps decided to take us down a dirt road this morning. It had all kinds of huge ruts, loose gravel, and even sand! It wasn’t fun to ride on at all.

I came up to an area that was all rutted up. The ruts were all filled with water. As I tried to avoid the ruts and the water, I hit other ruts that blended in, and totally lost control.

Let me tell you, I have laughed so hard about this all day and I wish I had it on film. I hit a giant rut and almost fell of my bike on the left side…and then I hit another rut and almost fell off on the other side. While I’m trying to regain control of my bike, I hit another rut so hard that I came off my saddle and was sitting on my back rack/panniers and was stretched out still holding onto my handlebars. Haha!!! At that point I gave up and hopped/kind of fell off my bike as it fell over. Mud was slung all over my leg. I just left it there. I mean…who has time to get mud off their leg?

I rode about a quarter mile down the dirt road and noticed my mirror was missing. Forget riding, I walked back and found it at ground zero.

After we got off the dirt road, we had to get on the interstate for the rest of the day (it’s legal to ride on the interstate in Idaho). It wasn’t too bad at first, but when we got to Boise, it was complete chaos. Who knows how many lanes of traffic, cars flying by you, a shoulder covered in glass and debris.

I’m hoping neither of us wake up with a flat, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

When we got to Nampa, we got some pizza and had fun with the ducks!

So….tomorrow is a BIG day!

Oregon.

I absolutely cannot believe we will be crossing into Oregon tomorrow. Our last state line.

Well, on this tour, anyway… πŸ˜‰

As we get closer and closer to the coast, I can’t help reflecting on my trip. Over the past couple of days I have been answering interview questions about the trip via email with the editor of the Marshall County Tribune. It seems like I’ve been on the road for so long, yet it all seems like a blur. The trip I have spent over a year preparing for, and a life dreaming about, is about a week from coming to an end…and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I absolutely can’t wait to return home and get back to normal life and see all the people I care about whom I’ve missed all summer…but, I’m going to be honest, I’m nervous about the transition back to normal life.

Last night, I slept in my tent on a baseball field. I kept my fly off and stared up at the stars, thinking and reflecting on my trip; what I’ve learned, what I’ve gained, trying to decide what the big ‘take-away’ is.

But today, while I was riding and listening to music…trying to not fall off my bike while riding through the ruts, the perfect song came on, and I told myself that the trip isn’t over yet. Because it’s not.

🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡

And I will try, and I will stumble

But I will fly, he told me so

Proud and high or low and humble

Many miles before I go

Many miles before I go

🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡🎡

πŸŒ²πŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈAspenπŸš΅πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒ²