Saturday, July 29, 2006

Little House on the Prairie

No this isn't the uplifting story of a plucky young girl and her family making their living on the unforgiving Great Plains of turn of the century America. This is a different "Little House on the Prairie."

Ours version doesn't have much of a plot. It goes like this...

Two mid-twenties guys wake up, then ride bikes for 8 hours in the middle of a heat wave; they sweat profusely, eat lots of trail mix, and drink lots of gatorade. After that they sleep. Repeat. Since we left the scenery of the Rockies, we have been all about putting miles behind us. We are working on getting another day ahead of schedule and plan to be in Golden City, MO on Monday night (this will put us 2 days ahead on the itinerary posted previously.)

The riding has been pretty fun, although the days are long. We've averaged better than 110 miles per day over the last 4 days. It actually feels kind of good to cover so much distance after all of our 70 mile days through the mountains.


Jeremiah Sweats, Eats Trail-Mix, and Drinks Gatorade (Sheridan Lake, KS)


Ben Celebrates Our Passage Into the Central Standard Time Zone (We are now only 1 hour away from everyone on the East Coast! kind of...)


I don't know who called the Dairy Queen in Scott City, KS and told them to put this sign up but I appreciate it.


Oddly enough there are Camels in Kansas. I don't really have an explanation for this picture. It just feels right to close this Blog entry with Camels.

Peace,

Jeremiah and Ben

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Over and Out

In the last week we have biked most of the way across Colorado. Below, Ben and I celebrate crossing the Continental Divide with a cup of bad coffee on top of Monarch Pass. This is the highest elevation we'll reach on our trip and the start of a BIG downhill (see the second picture below).




I Snap a Picture On-the-Go as we Descend the Rockies


We added on some mileage for a few days and managed to get to our rest day in Pueblo, Colorado a day early. In Pueblo we hung out with Ben's dad, Steve.

The Proud Pop and his Boy

Steve drove us up to Colorado Springs on the rest day. We ate lots of good food and drove to the top of Pike's Peak: a 14,000+ foot mountain. It felt good to take a ride up a mountain instead of pedaling for once. At the top we talked to some very cool people: Carol, from Denver, and Stan, from Ohio.


After our trip to Pike's Peak, Ben's brother, Aris, met us in Colorado Springs for a Ristau family Reunion. Below, we enjoy some drinks and a refined yet casual atmosphere at the Broadmoor. Later, The Ristau Boys and I had a night on the town in Colorado Springs .


The next day was back on the bike. We laid down a huge 120 mile day - with the wind in our faces yet again. Everything I've heard is that the winds blow from the West across the plains. I guess the wind hasn't heard that.

The View in Eastern Colorado (or, What We'll Be Seeing for the Next Week and a Half)

In Eads we had a room donated for the night by the friendly people of the Econolodge - Eads, CO. While doing our blogging in the Econolodge lobby the gentleman below, J.J. Williams, asked us what we were doing. He raises quarter horses in Texas and travels all around the West with his combines during harvest season. He had some very cool stories.
Today we have another big day: 105 mi to Scott City, KS (or 130 mi to Dighton, KS if we are feeling bold). It is threatening to rain right now so its definitely time to get rolling.

Until Next Time,
Here's to New States and New Time Zones!

-Ben and Jeremiah

Odds and ends...

Since we had some technical difficulties lately, here are some pics to catch you up on recent goings-on.


Pretty shady


The Buddha and the boys at Mesa Verde National Park


Thousand-year-old Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park



Blue Mesa Reservoir - the largest lake in Colorado


Black Canyon of the Gunnison River

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Goodbye Desert, Hello Colorado!

Since leaving Blanding, Utah we have had Gerry Tracy, aka Jeremiah's Dad, aka The Buddha, cruising along with us in his sporty Pontiac Vibe (rental). Without the bags the weight of our bikes has dropped from over 80 pounds to about 35. Needless to say, we have been flying! In addition to the decreased weight, the Buddha also brings lots of food and meets us along the way, which enables us to ride faster (and generally makes us happier).

On Tuesday we left Blanding and averaged about 16mph to Dolores, CO. Goodbye Utah, Hello Colorado! I can't explain how happy we have been to get out of the desert. In Colorado the towns are only 20 miles apart (as opposed to 70 in Nevada and Utah). Plus, there is plenty of water meaning trees to provide shade. You folks back on the East Coast may take your trees for granted, but trust me, they make biking MUCH more pleasant.

Below, Ben and I celebrate our passage into the exciting new land of Colorado




After a great stay in Dolores, CO at the Lebanon School House B&B (Thanks, Dad!) we took off for Telluride, Colorado. This involved a 3,500ft climb in elevation to Lizard Head Pass.

Below, we stop for some food and navigation at the only establishment in Rico, CO (pop. 203)




Fortunately road builders in Colorado are much nicer than those in Utah. The cimb really seemed like nothing because it was so gradual: nowhere near as steep as what we saw in the Sierras or in Utah. Even though it was an easy ascent, Lizard Head Pass (10,220 ft) offered some pretty great views:



Below, Ben catches both Tracy's: Jeremiah on Cannondale T800 touring bike, Gerry in sporty Pontic Vibe. Nice.



Here both Tracy's enjoy the calm before the storm.



You can see some grey cloads in the above picture. After snapping it, the thunder struck and it was time to move on. Luckily, Telluride was a quick 12 miles downhill. We got into town just as some showers started. Now we have rest day #3, marking week #3 of the journey complete. On the agenda for tomorrow, some bike maintenance and a lot of eating.

Wishing you all the best!

-Ben and Jeremiah

Monday, July 17, 2006

Utah!

We both felt rejuvinated after our rest day in Panguitch and ready to tackle some more of Utah. Friday (7/14) took us out of Panguitch and on to Calf Creek Campground, just outside of Escalante, UT. Again, the scenery was breathtaking. First, we soared through Bryce Canyon (see above pic). I can only speak for riding a bike because I have never driven it, but there is definitely something about racing down through a canyon at 40mph with the wind blasting by your ears that gives you some kind of high. This put together with the natural beauty made for a great morning.
Until...we got to Henrieville, UT. In the event that anyone is going through Henrieville, DO NOT STOP at the local post office. We swung by to mail a few things, eat some trail mix, and take a short break. The woman at the post office would have none of it. She would not let us use her garbage pail (instead we had to walk 1/2 mile up the road to find "the dumpster"), nor would she allow us to use her hose to fill up our water bottles. As if that weren't enough, she proceeded to threaten calling the sheriff if we did not get off her sidewalk. We were "blocking her customers" (of which there were none). Anyway, I apologize for the rant, but come on lady. Loosen up!!

Jeremiah cruisin'

Back to the trip...from Bryce, we climbed yet more elevation before spiraling down through another Utah canyon. If you look closely in the picture on the bottom left side, you can see where the road ends up.

Eventually, we ended up at Calf Creek Campground, where we took a quick dip. The creek ran right by our campsite.

Calf Creek

Here's the synopsis for Saturday's ride from Calf Creek to Hanksville, UT
Temp: 102 F
Climbing: 6000 feet
Distance: 97 miles

It was one heck of a day! Here's a photo (below) towards the end of the ride (about 25 miles west of Hanskville). It's pretty wild how rapidly the scenery changes, usually depending on the nearest water supply. Here is was very dry and hot!!

Sunday (7/16), we though we had an easy day to a great destination: Hite Recreation Area and Lake Powell. It was only a 50 mile ride from Hanksville. But the temperatures were soaring. Once we got to Hite, the manager of the gas station there quoted is at over 110 degrees. We were lucky that it was such a short ride! The biggest disappointment was the "lake." It turns out that Lake Powell is only a lake when Colorado has several continuous winters with lots of snow. Otherwise the "lake" is really just the Colorado river (see picture below).


To make matters worse, there was no shade to be found. So we hung out in the convenience store all afternoon until he closed up, then found some shade on one side of the store. But it was so hot, that neither of us could fall asleep. I probably slept for about an hour total last night. So rather than face the heat and seeing as how we were both awake, we tried our luck at leaving early...2:15AM early. The now infamous 2AM - 10AM ride. We made it safely, and much more temperately, to Blanding, UT and were off the bikes by 10:15. Tonight, we meet up with Jeremiah's dad and look forward to a few days without the 40lb panniers on the bikes. Thanks Gerry!!

Ben coming through the red rocks


'Til next time, we'll keep pedaling,
Ben and Jeremiah

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The rest of the itinerary...

Some have expressed an interest in having our itinerary posted here. It is only a rough itinerary and depending on how we feel, we may go farther on any given day. Without further adieu, here goes...

7/13 Rest day in Panguitch, UT
7/14 Panguitch, UT to Calf Creek Campground (near Escalante, UT) - 82 miles
7/15 Calf Creek, UT to Caineville, UT - 80
7/16 Cainville, UT to Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, UT - 67
7/17 Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, UT to Blanding, UT - 74
7/18 Blanding, UT to Cortes, CO - 66
7/19 Cortes, CO to Telluride, CO - 67
7/20 Rest day in Telluride, CO
7/21 Telluride, CO to Montrose, CO - 62
7/22 Montrose, CO to Gunnison, CO - 66
7/23 Gunnison, CO to Garfield, CO - 49
7/24 Garfield, CO to Westcliffe, CO - 64
7/25 Westcliffe, CO to Pueblo, CO - 57
7/26 Rest day in Pueblo, CO
7/27 Pueblo, CO to Eads, CO - 112
7/28 Eads, CO to Scott City, KS - 105
7/29 Scott City, KS to Alexander, KS - 75
7/30 Alexander, KS to Nickerson, KS - 103
7/31 Nickerson, KS to Cassoday, KS - 87
8/1 Cassoday, KS to Chanute, KS - 97
8/2 Rest day in Chanute, KS
8/3 Chanute, KS to Golden City, MO - 93
8/4 Golden City, MO to Marshfield, MO - 81
8/5 Marshfield, MO to Summersville, MO - 85
8/6 Summersville, MO to Graniteville, MO - 86
8/7 Graniteville, MO to Chester, IL - 70
8/8 Chester, IL to Eddyville, IL - 102
8/9 Rest day in Eddyville, IL
8/10 Eddyville, IL to Evansville, IN - 77
8/11 Evansville, IL to Louisville, KY - 120
8/12 Rest day in Louisville, KY
8/13 Louisville, KY to Rising Sun, IN - 89
8/14 Rising Sun, IN to Blanchester, OH - 78
8/15 Blanchester, OH to Columbus, OH - 77
8/16 Columbus, OH to Canton, OH - 119
8/17 Canton, OH to Andover, OH - 85
8/18 Andover, OH to Warren, PA - 94
8/19 Rest day in Warren, PA
8/20 Warren, PA to Galeton, PA - 91
8/21 Galeton, PA to Towanda, PA - 73
8/22 Towanda, PA to Niagara, PA - 84
8/23 Niagara, PA to Gardiner, NY - 78
8/24 Gardiner, NY to Farmington, CT - 88
9/2 Farmington, CT to Milford, CT - 42

We'll be leaving at noon on 9/2 to head down to Milford. There will be a party at Archie Moore's in Milford when we get there. People are welcome to participate in the last leg of the bike ride and definitely to celebrate our homecoming with us at Archie Moore's.

All the best,
Jeremiah and Ben

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Against the wind...


Hey gang! Jeremiah and I have successfully made it to another state (Utah) and crossed our first time zone! Just after our last update, we caught some original cowboy music at the Eureka Opera House (see below). Don Edwards was playing the lonley cowboy blues. After the show we had a chance to chat with him a bit about life on the road and get a picture with the man himself.


The two of us with the man himself.

From Eureka, we pressed on to Ely, a bustling metropolis of 4000 people. The ride was uneventful, but pretty. The landscape changed (there were some spotty trees), which was a welcome respite from the aforementioned sea of sagebrush. In Ely, we were put up by the lovely folks at the Bristlecone Motel.

On Sunday (7/9), we had a relatively short day (65 miles). So we decided to stop at a bar in Majors Junction (actually the only free-standing structure there) to catch the final game of the wolrd cup. Go Italia! The people there were pretty suspicious of us when we walked in with our bike gear on, asking about soccer. However, they warmed up to us and eventually we had everybody (all 8 people) in the place cheering for the game. Afterwards, it was on to Baker, our final stop in Nevada.

We stop at the Great Basin National Park Information Center right outside Baker, NV


The next morning, we caught the sunrise during the beginning of our 85 mile trek to the first of two Milfords along our route. Along the way, we ran into a few friends. (Incidentally, the rattler was definitely perturbed by me passing by and coiled to strike. It gave me a good adrenaline rush for the rest of the day).


Finally, after climbing over three 7000 foot mountains, we made it to Milford, UT; not as cool as place as Milford, CT (where Jeremiah grew up) but they did have a gas station that sold frozen burritos! Hmmmm... Although, we were over 2500 miles away, we celebrated the homecoming (of sorts).



Yesterday, (7/11) we took off from Milford and headed to the big city. Cedar City was our destination and it was a mere 50 miles away. We expected a comparatively easy day. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing in our face at 25mph for the entire 5 hour ride. Jeremiah put it best: "The wind is my arch-nemesis." But eventually, after battling the elements for 6 hours, we made it to Cedar City. The population there is 20,000 and there are at least 6 stoplights in town (it's funny how these things excite you when you haven't seen them for a while). Better yet, they have an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet. It might not be there anymore, though, we might have put them out of business.

This morning, we left Cedar City and promptly climbed from 6000 to 10,500 feet (promptly=about 3.5 hours including two rest stops to stretch out and dry-heave). The morning was a bit difficult. Just picture 25 miles uphill with grades as steep as 8% and you'll get the idea. Thank God the weather was in our favor with the wind mostly at our backs. Despite all the whining above, the climb was completely worth it. The vistas were amazing and we had a chance to stop in Cedar Breaks National Park (see pictures). We are both grateful to be out of Nevada and into some different scenery...with trees!!! At day's end, we made it to Panguitch, UT (rhymes with Sanguitch) passing by beautiful Panguitch Lake, a big salt lake surrounded by mountains.




And now for a brief fundraising update. You might be asking yourself why Ben and Jeremiah have been toiling in the desert making their way across the lonliest highway in America on bicycles (if you haven't yet you should, there are stretches of 85+ miles without food, water, or people!). We have hit the $20,000 mark in our fundraising efforts! Thank you so much to all who have donated. Your kindness and generosity is greatly appreciated.

We are still looking to hit our goal of $50,000. Everyone knows of someone who's life has been touched by cancer. The money we are raising will go to very promising research and patient care at the UConn Health Center. If you or anyone you know is interested in donating for this great cause, please see our website at www.leasfoundation.org and click on "coast to coast for a cure." You can also call Jaime Rotatari directly at 860-280-8371 to make a donation. Again, thanks so much for your support.



Tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day here in Panguitch, UT. Our butts, legs, and feet need it...

All the best,
Ben and Jeremiah

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Loneliest Highway in America

On Tuesday July 4th, we left Fallon, NV and rode the 50 miles to Middlegate (it was a short day because we rode extra the day before). We are taking US-50 all the way across Nevada, which has been dubbed "The Loneliest Highway in America." You can see in the picture above that it has certainly earned this title. Below, I cruise sublimely over the first of many ranges we will have to summit in Nevada.

After racing across the salt flats and keeping a worried eye on the weather, we arrived at Middlegate just as the skies opened up. It really poured. Middlegate, NV has a population of 17 and is literally a bar/restaurant/convenience store and about a half-dozen trailers hooked up to a generator (oddly enough they do have DSL internet access wired across the mountains, convenient). While small, Middlegate was a great time. The people were very friendly and offered a "bunkhouse" for us to sleep in and even let us use the town shower behind the store. In addition, they make one mean bacon double cheeseburger and some very tasty french fries.

When the storm passed we got a picture of this rainbow over the mountains.
Unfortunately we could not stay at Middlegate forever and the next day (Wednesday 7/5) we rode on to Austin, NV. Austin is also a cool little town (see picture below). However, it is located on the side of one steep freakin hill. By the time we got there we were beat, which was OK because the following day (Thursday 7/6) was our well-earned day off. If you are ever in Austin, NV be sure to stop by the International Bar and say "Hi" to Fly the bartender there. He will give you a crash course on all things Nevada. For starters the state name is pronounced with all short "a" sounds (like rad).

From Austin we rode to Eureka, NV, a slightly larger town than Austin that Ben describes as being full of hob-knobbing and frivolity. Indeed it does seem to be "bustling" after the peace and quiet of Austin and Middlegate. Tonight we look forward to hearing some "Original Cowboy Music" at the Eureka Opera House.

Tomorrow we ride 75 mi to Ely, NV, a good sized town of about 4,000 people. Until next time,

-Ben and Jeremiah

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Up, Up, and Away

On Sunday, we left from Somerset, CA (at 2,000 ft elevation) and promptly dropped back down almost to sea level. We then spent the rest of the day toiling uphill in the Sierra Nevadas. We averaged about 6 mph and biked for about 8 hours. The scenery was really beatiful but there wasn't much in the way of ammenities. We needed to stop about every hour to refuel and so we ate an awful lot of dried fruit and trail mix.

At about 6:30 we finally reached our destination, Silver Creek Lake in CA (elevation 8,000 ft) . We had planned to ride another 5 miles to Kirkwood but the Lake just looked too inviting. We camped at a beautiful camp ground and had the coolest neighbors. Steve, Nancy, Nick, and Eric were camping nearby and they shared some delicious spaghetti with us and invited us to join in celebrating Eric's birthday. Happy Birthday Eric!

Monday we left early and climbed the last bit of the Sierras. We came over Carson Pass (see picture) at about10 AM and then had a solid 20 miles of downhill. That was exhilarating! We wanted to stop and get some pictures but we were busy cruising down the mountains at speeds topping 40 mph. Not a bad little morning, really.
That afternoon (Monday) we had lunch in Carson City, NV where we noticed the strong West wind blowing down off the Sierras. We decided we should ride while the wind was at our backs. We ended up riding 35 miles farther than planned, to Fallon, NV. Total mileage: 124. The coolest thing about riding down wind is that we were going 20-30 miles per hour, but it was utterly silent. When the wind is going with you there is no wind in your face, and you can't feel it. Its almost eerie, though good for making time.

We ended in Fallon where Pranav Morar, the General Manager at Comfort Inn Fallon offered us a free room. It was excellent to get to sleep in a clean bed after all that riding. Today we go over some smaller mountains up to Middlegate, NV. It will be a short day, but we could use the break!

Happy Independence Day!

-Jeremiah and Ben