Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 41: Gee Brief: The Return of the Methodists!!!

July 31
Coeur D'Alene to Spokane, Washington

Due to a number of factors, but mostly because my wife loves me, we decided to do a short ride today from Coeur D'Alene (I am so tired of typing that impossible to type name) to Spokane. Factor 1 - Today was Jenard's first day back on the road after his mishap and discovering the crack in his top tube. Better to take a short day to test him out. Factor 2 - There's a beautiful bike path from CDA to Spokane that would make today's 40 ride that much more pleasant. Factor 3 - Day 40 was a particularly grueling day and a mini-break would be nice.  Factor 4 - My wife suggested it and I jumped at the chance. She rocks!

So there I was enjoying the wonderful bike path when I came across the man below. His name is Mike.  He was fixing a flat tire. I stopped to make sure he was OK. We started to chat and discovered that we both had Treks. So we talked about the ins and outs of owning carbon fiber bikes. We also swapped crash stories. His definitely topped any I had ever had, although, I think I've had MORE crashes than him. However, his had put him in the hospital and took three months to completely recover from.  We talked about cycling and touring in general. He was mentioned that I was taking the dream trip that he would someday like to do. He seemed to be a great guy and I hope that this happens for him someday. After we stopped chatting and I was sure he was OK, I bid him goodbye and started down the path. After about 1000 feet, I stopped. I realized that in our conversation, he had mentioned something about the Moody Bible Institute. "No... I thought....he couldn't be." I simply had to know. 

Just a brief catch up, for those who are joining the blog late. Toward the beginning of the trip, I was running into an unusually high number of ministers.

So, I had to know, were the Methodists back?  I rode back to him and said, "I know this is a weird question, but, are you a minister?" His eyes opened a little wider and he said, "Yes I am".

And that started a conversation which lasted for the next couple hours or so. Since he too was headed to Spokane, I asked him if he wanted to ride together for a while. We road and traded life stories, theories on economics and charity, and of course, God. The most wonderful part of the conversation was that it was a preaching.  Just a sharing of ideas and stories. It was a truly wonderful couple of hours.

When we reached Spokane, I called J and she came and picked me up at the spot that Mike and I stopped for a break. I introduced J to Mike, we talked for a bit more, and then he asked us if it would be OK if we prayed. J and I said, that would be nice. I honestly don't remember the specific words he said, but they were honest, straight from the heart, and I remember tears welling up in my eyes. Mike is a truly blessed man, and he spreads that blessing to others. He certainly did to J and I. Thanks Mike!

After checking in to our motel, which is the coolest LOOKING motel we've stayed in yet, we went to a Pho restaurant named Pho Van. The meal was superb. We both tried something OTHER than Pho!
Great noodle soup!
Cool castle like motel!!!

Day 40: Coeur d'Arlene, ID: Day 41: Coeur d'Arlene to Spokane, WA (J's Version)

Good afternoon! We are in Washington State!!! WOO HOO! So exciting! Just a few more days now. We're slightly nervous because from Spokane (pronounced Spo-CAN not Spo-CANE) to
Portland doesn't really look like much. Chris, our bike guy from yesterday pretty much said there's nothing but desert. I mean, we are no stranger to desolate regions while cycling, so we'll see. Also, the ocean is still about 50-90 miles west of Portland depending which way you go. Man, I wish I had a billion dollars to fly people out to surprise G on the beach when he gets to the Pacific!

The bruise from G's fall finally surfaced. It looks really bad. I'm not even going to take a picture of it. He filled you in in his latest post about the condition of Jenard. I, originally, talked on the phone with Chris when Jenard was done and when Chris said, "There's a crack in the frame," my heart dropped for G. Cracked frames are not good in the bike world; however, luckily the crack is in a good spot, so he can still ride Jenard. Chris' shop specializes in Trek bicycles, so Jenard was with family. It was slightly creepy because I always thought Jenard was original, but there's others just like him/her with slight variations.
The Trek family!

Jenard's Red Badge of Courage

Jenard's little sister

Bike Shop Talk. I think they were talking about tires here.

After picking up Jenard, we went to another favorite type of restaurant that we like. Ever been to a
Get the joke regarding the name?
Brazilian Steakhouse? They are AMAZING. The meat is served Rodizio style meaning the servers come around with spits of meat and you use these mini tongs and take a piece of meat off. Usually there are about 20 different types of meats/marinades in rotation at once, so you get an amazing variety. If you want more you keep your token on green and when you want the servers to slow down yellow, and can you guess what red means? I'm ready to pop! There's also a buffet of sides like veggies and potato salad. I'll be honest, I was surprised Coeur d'Arlene, Idaho had a Brazilian Steakhouse. Let alone the BEST one we've ever eaten! (There's 3 in CT that I know of. Stamford, Waterbury, and West Haven)

The restaurant was along the beach front lake/river area of Coeur d'Arlene and was in an extremely lively area and so picturesque. Our hotel was about 2 miles from this area, so up until that point we had no idea that this part of the city existed. G kept saying, "We are in the cool area!" and even asked our waiter, "Are we in the cool part of town?" 

Since the area was so "cool" not to overuse the word, I stayed there for a few extra hours in the
morning to explore while G was riding. I had to walk off all the meat I ate the previous night. 2 miles along the boardwalk type of area. Absolutely gorgeous! G didn't get on the road until 9:30 because we decided to do a half day today, so we could get a few errands done later. We want to go to a Verizon store and see how much it would be to break our At&t contract OR just get a few prepaid phones from them. As I keep saying the At&t service is almost non existent in certain parts here but Verizon gets service and if we are in the desert we need to be able to communicate. From Coeur d'Arlene to Spokane is about 40 miles. He's not doing the highway either today but an actual bike trail.

Three things I learned/Tips;Advice
1. Find a specialized bike shop. Since our bikes are from Trek, it's a lot better to find a bike shop like we did this past time that actually works on Treks and sells them. Makes sense right? I'm sure other bike shops that aren't Trek based could have helped us, but overall you want a service guy who knows the brand. 

Mustard marinated steak
2. Yelp: Make Yelp your best friend. It helps you to locate motels and restaurants and basically anything that's around the area. Read the reviews, look at the pictures, and take it all in! Without Yelp our trip would NOT have been as good. If you don't already have the APP download it now!

3. Triple A or AARP: Discounts! Most hotels give you at least a 5% discount off the hotel rate for just mentioning you have either of those discounts. This whole time no one even ever asked to see the card. My word was enough. That doesn't mean cheat the system. If you are planning a long trip and don't have either of those, invest in it for a year, just to get the discounts. It'll add up over time. I think triple A is 50 bucks a year and AARP (if that applies to you) is maybe 20 a year. 

Coeur d'Arlene pictures

Have a great day!

Day 41 Roadpics 1

Woo hooo!

Day 40 Gee Brief: I HATE being a grown up...I HATE IT HATE IT HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

July 30
Haugen-ish, MT to Coeur D'Arlene-ish, ID

Okay, so maybe you're thinking... "Uh, G, you really don't have anything to worry about because you HAVEN'T grown up yet!" That may be true, but today, I did a very grown up thing.

Rather than risk my life on a 4 mile (not 3) stretch of shoulderless road where trucks were banging mirrors at the center line and knocking over highway markers on the non-existent shoulders, I decided, with J's explicit approval, to SKIP that stretch. So, I now can only brag that I cycled MOST of the way from Maine to Oregon. To be honest, those four miles haunted me for much of the morning, until I realized that one of my other possible routes would have had me taking a ferry across two of the Great Lakes. That would have been justifiable, since the Great Lakes were an impassable part of the route by bicycle. I then connected the idea of those 4 miles ALSO being impassable. Thus, I did not technically "skip" them, I just took a "land" ferry over them. I'm good with that.

Another beautiful Montana morning.
Back to the morning: J drove me out to the spot where I crashed yesterday, I road about 8 miles and then she picked me up, and drove me past the dangerous area. She then dropped me off and I proceeded on my way. I rode Rootbeer while J took Jenard off to a shop in Coeur D'Arlene (try typing THAT name three times fast) hopefully to be fixed. Given my acquiescence to skipping the four miles rather than dying, I got a pretty generous and heart felt smile from her. (See above smiling pic).

However, before I left, I just had to get the official report from the NTSB on my crash yesterday. However, it seems that my particular incident was big enough for them, so, went to a smaller organization known as the "GTSB" - Gee Transportation and Safety Board. Here's the findings of the GTSB:

Dated: July 30th, 2014  - Official, GTSB report

On the matter of the case of Montana v Jenard, we find evidence of need for improvement on both parts. On the side of Jenard, we find the fact that Jenard is just a bicycle being driven by one said "G", to be in complete exoneration of any fault on the part of Jenard. As a matter of record, the mere fact that Jenard did not disintegrate on impact speaks highly of Jenard's construction and fiber (carbon fiber to be more exact). On the side of Montana, we feel that deep abyss-like grooves, compounded by full length speed bumps encouraged the driver of Jenard to attempt navigating Jenard BETWEEN the speed bumps and the groove, thus increasing the likelihood that Jenard would become stuck in the road. We feel that Montana should follow the lead of Wyoming in creating more cycle friendly roads. We also feel that Jenard's driver should be more careful when cycling around a groove in the road that could swallow a Mini-Cooper.
Deep abyss like groove, much bigger than Jenard's wheel

Full length speed bumps, leaving cyclist no where else to go but toward the groove as they try to navigate around the speed bump.

Rootbeer on deck, ready for action.

Early morning video: Why I bike.

Beautiful Montana/Idaho Road
Kind of what it looked like as I was falling

I freed my inner child by eating these AWESOME spaghettios.....

......on this bench.....

....a this cool local motel and general store.

Our third to last state!!!!
And our FINAL time zone change!

Just before Wallace, Idaho, which by the way looked like a really cool town, I found a bike path that traveled MOST of the way to Coeur D'Alene. It was beautiful and smooth and safe. As I already said, I think when people cycle for charity type causes, the majority of them are doing it because cycling itself is a fun thing. Well, imagine all the economic and social good we could do for society by connecting all of the US with cycling paths. People would be healthier, insurance rates would go down, the air would be just goes on and on. So if you're looking for something to donate to, donate to these folks.  Rails to Trails Conservancy.

 Here's a video of the bike path.

The ride to Coeur D'Alene fell into the "heaven and hell" category. The heaven was the gorgeous bike path.  The hell part was no fault of the road (as in Iowa), it was mine. I've streamlined my water down to just two bottles, and forgot to replenish in a town called Cataldo. After Cataldo there was a HUGE hill, during which I discovered I was almost out of water. I hoped beyond hope that the pay off for the huge hill would be a down hill ride into Coeur D'Alene. Nope. The sign at the top said, "%6 grade for 4 miles" and at the end of that 4 miles EXACTLY the hill was done, and I eventually found myself climbing two more hills. I called J and told her to pick me up at exit 17 rather than the predetermined exit 13. I will not make the same mistake on Day 41.

I ran across a few adventurous boys at a local swimming hole. 

After J picked me up, we went straight to the bike shop and got the news that Jenard does indeed have a crack in his frame, however, the placement of it suggests that the crack was NOT caused by my specific crash. Jenard is definitely rideable, and will make it to Portland, Oregon just fine. He has some new handlebar tape which I like a lot. The bike shop we used was called Bicycle Sales and Service. Chris was the lead guy on fixing up Jenard. We talked for a long time about possible trails into Spokane and different cycling stuff. He was very helpful and friendly. I definitely recommend this place if you're in the Coeur D'Alene area!

I've got lot's more videos to post, but they load so SLOW! So for now, here's a few pics from the day.

Scrap metal horse and cowboy

VFW post in Idaho

More beautiful road

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 39: Missoula, MT to Haugan, MT: Day 40: Coeur d'Arlene, ID (J's Version)

Good morning! Yesterday afternoon was a bit hectic. After I left Caffe Dolce, I met up with G at a rest stop. He told me find a place in Haugan, MT because Wallace, ID would be too much. I Googled Haugen, MT to Spokane, WA and it was 110 miles which would mean we'd skip staying over in Idaho all I thought...

There was only one hotel off the highway in Haugan, and it was very nice. The Silver Lincoln Inn was a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Apparently, the Lincoln family knew what they were doing in the 1950s because their land consisted of owning a hotel, restaurant, and large souvenir shop in the middle of nothing. The only thing that was not fun was the lack of cell phone service I was getting. Nada! But, Verizon gets service there. Oye. So, I emailed G (using the wifi) and said I was in a no cell area. I was following him on the GPS tracker, but it did stop for a while, but I've learned that could be because of a million different reasons, so I didn't think much of it.

About an hour later, the phone in the hotel room rings!! Whenever that happens which is rare, it always is bad news. NO one knows i'm even here! I say, "Hello? Hello?" The reception was horrible. Then I hear, "J, it's me. I'm okay but..."

Initially, this all happened so fast, that I didn't even get to really process, why the heck is G calling me at the hotel??? Luckily, he started off with "I'm okay." He was talking very fast, and all I heard was something about him falling off the bike, but HE WAS OKAY. Apparently, he was about 15 miles east of Haugan and was still getting service there and called my cell which went straight to voicemail.
Tough guy

Broken Derailleur

I drove out to get him and thank the Lord for watching over him! His falling was definitely worse than the mountain experience because he fell and possibly could have had no way of getting in touch with me; however, because I wasn't a witness to it all and found out about it as an after event knowing that he was okay, I was rather calm about the whole thing. It wasn't until an hour after we got back to the hotel that it all played out in my head and my worries came about. "I'm done. This trip is too dangerous! I want you alive!"

Both of us are slightly superstitious, but we honestly think the two quarter necklaces that L had hand made for us are our guardian angles. We put them on every morning before we start our day like clock work.

Thankfully, G was okay from the fall (cracked road; he explains it better in his entry), but Jenard took quite the beating. Root beer came out of the bull pen, and G is riding him/her (I keep forgetting) today. This morning I drove all the way ahead to our next destination in Coeur d'Arlene, Idaho to a bike shop that G called last night (long distance from the hotel room) and explained the situation and what needed to be replaced on Jenard. I really felt like I was dropping off a patient at the doctor's. The girl took notes on her pad of paper, and I felt good about it. Hopefully, Jenard will be fixed by the end of today.

When I pulled up to the bike shop though (Bike Sales and Services in Coeur d' Arlene) this morning
BEAUTIFUL scenery so far in Idaho
it was 10:30, and they were closed. The girl said last night they open at 10, so I was rather miffed that I made sure to get their on time. STUPID me forgot that as soon as we reached Idaho we were in Pacific Time! It was only 9:30!! Crazy that back home everyone is 3 hours ahead of us. Not all of Idaho is in the Pacific Time Zone, but the part that we are in (north) is. Coeur d'Arlene is actually only about 20 miles from the Washington State border.

Since I had half an hour to kill I went to a local coffee shop. Surprise. Surprise. The Grumpy Monkey was fabulous. I had my usual black coffee and had a chicken salad for my breakfast. The salad was perfect. Artichokes, feta, the special olives I like that I can't remember the name for, etc. Now, i'm at a Starbucks waiting for Jenard to be done.

I almost forgot. This morning I had to drive back to the spot that G fell, so he could start from
there. Luckily, he took his sensible pills this morning, and he opted NOT to drive on dangerous
You can see the orange construction signs ahead
narrow construction area with NO shoulder. Instead, I drove ahead 8 miles and waited on the side for him. (The construction site was only 4 miles) While I was waiting, I experimented with the SXM Sirius radio that came with the truck. It's really cool! There's a million different radio channels. One of the channels plays old Jack Benny radio programs when all they had was radio. I read about them in history books.

Three things I learned/tips:
1. Use a GPS tracker: Safety. Safety. Safety. The tracker is so useful to keep track of where the person you're supporting is. Although, when you're in an area of no cell service it stinks. Like right now his tracker is at a stop, but I don't know if he really did stop or if he lost service and this is the last spot that he was before it stopped working. It helps the roadie support crew have an idea of how far away the person is. Honestly, we
There he is!!! (To the left)
didn't do this BUT G should have had a GPS tracker on me, too. Knock on wood nothing shady has happened to me, but unfortunately stuff happens.

2. Sunscreen. Always wear the strongest sun protection that you can. You're outside for hours on end, so it makes sense. Also, put on the special sun screen chap stick for your lips. Speaking of the sun, wear a hat under your helmet that has a visor to block out sun.

3. Have an alternate route/know your limits: Construction, closed roads, floods, etc. There are many factors that could affect your route, so make sure you have a physical map with you and have another route planned ahead of time. Also, know your limitations. Will you ride in the rain? On the highway? On a dirt road? In 90 degree weather? These questions are particularly important if you're cycling with another person. You might be okay with bad weather, but maybe he/she isn't.

PS. Remember way back many moons ago I told you about the geo cache that G's nephew and niece left for us in Idaho? I looked back on their original message, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be anywhere near where they left it. At the time, it seemed like Idaho was forever away.

PPS. This guy next to me came into SBKS, and he has been working but never even bought anything. That's annoying.
G does a funny Joel Osteen impression.
Have a good day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 35 through 39 Gee Brief The Five People You Meet in Montana

I've provided a synopsis for the past five days below based on the people I've met. At the end of the synopsis is a montage of pics. It's the quickest way to get caught up......hopefully.

Day 35 - Columbus, MT to Bozeman, MT
On the road from Columbus to Bozeman, I met ......the ROAD. I know that you may not look at the road as a person, but after 5 weeks of just me, Jenard and the road, the lines get a little blurred as to what is intelligent life, and what is not. The meeting was  brief and light, however it would be a precursor of things to come. What happened was due to the soft, grey sand that can be found just off the shoulder of I-90 in much of Montana. The sand LOOKS exactly like the road. Even when you can see that it's sand, and not road, it looks very tightly packed. But it isn't.  The pic is of the indentation that my front wheel left in the sand. It dug in, turning my wheel left and basically stopping my bike. We all went down, but I was going fairly slowly, so it was a brief encounter with the road, and non-eventful....this time.

Day 36 - Rest in Bozeman
In Bozeman, I met Corey. J's already told you about him being the first non-Asian sushi chef we've ever met. She's told you about how good the sushi was. She's also told you how he is a rock climber and a cyclist and just basically a cool person. The thing is, I met him too and the fact that J already wrote about him should not stop ME from writing so......he had on a really cool hat...OK?  Did J tell you THAT? I don't think so!

Day 37 - Bozeman, MT to Butte, MT
On the road from Bozeman to Butte I met James Brock. I had just passed a sign that said something to the effect of "this hill goes up for 8 miles". The sign did not lie; it wasn't a particularly grueling slope, it was just VERY long. and I was on mile 2 or 3. As I made my way, turtle like up the slope, I came upon James. He was talking on a cell phone to Triple A. His car had broken down. I wanted to make sure he wasn't stranded out in the middle of nowhere without help, so I waited until he got off the phone to make sure. Turns out James was on a cross country, change your life, get a new job somewhere else type of journey. He was on a shoe-string budget to get to Washington where he had family waiting for him. You probably can't see the bike strapped to the top of his car, but he's a cyclist too. We shared some conversation, and did a fellow cyclist "fist bump" and then I was on my way. Best of luck to you in Washington James!

Day 38 - Butte, MT to Clinton, MT
I met TWO people on Day 38: one in Butte by phone, the other in Missoula in person. I don't have a pic for either one.

The Butte phone guy was a cycle shop owner to whom J had taken one of Jenard's wheels. The the tube in the wheel had gone flat that morning. I had tried to fix it, but the Specialized Armadillo tire is a particularly tough tire to put on a wheel since it's extra stiff to resist punctures and pinch flats. After an hour and a half, I succeeded in getting the tire on to the wheel, only to discover that I had put a hole in my new tube while doing it!  To cut my losses, I took a good wheel off of Rootbeer and hit the road. The plan was for J to take the flat tire to a Butte bike shop to get it fixed.  J  did so, and the shop owner fixed it, but not before asking her, "Can't he put the tube on himself?"

My answer to this man, if I ever see him in person will be, "Yes, and I can do the EXACT same quality job that YOU can!" Why would I say this? Because at the end of the day, when J and I met up and she gave me the was FLAT! Mr. Macho had put a hole in the tube exactly like I did!

The second person I met that day was another bike shop owner or worker in Missoula who was much more low keyed and succeeded in doing what I and the Butte guy couldn't: fixing my flat without putting a hole in the tube. Thank you Missoula Bicycle Works! I never got the name of the guy that helped me, but if you're ever in Missoula, MT I recommend this shop without reservation.

Day 39 - Clinton, MT to 17 miles west of Haugen, MT
On day 39 (today) (YAY I'm caught up!!!!) I once again met .....THE ROAD. This time, I met it HARD. I only had about 17 miles to go. The road was actually quite nice, however, it had a very DEEP groove that separated the shoulder from the right lane. Unfortunately, the groove was wide enough to accommodate Jenard's front tire. The moment the groove caught the tire, I knew there was going to be a crash. So I braced myself. This time, I was going a LOT faster than my fall on Day 35. Jenard and I fell down hard on the right side with both my body and Jenard's establishing multiple contact points with the road: my right angle bone, Jenard's rear derailer, my right hip bone, Jenard's front right brake lever, my right shoulder, and HEAD.

I'm fairly sure you can guess which of the contact points concerned me the most: Yup you guessed right! It was Jenard's derailleur! The hanger that connects the derailleur with the frame of the bike was broken, leaving me dead in the water. So I called J, she came and brought me back to our motel for the night. From there I called a bike shop in Coeur D'Alene (France used to own quite a bit of this territory) and made an appointment for them to fix Jenard. Tomorrow, J will be taking Jenard to the shop, and Rootbeer will once again be on the road.

I know, you want to know about the HEAD part of my crash. To be honest, that concerned me a bit too. When I felt the impact, I was fairly sure that I would be getting a concussion, passing out, or at least maybe a nasty bump. Know what I got? NOTHING. The helmet took the entire shock and kept my noggin intact. I am now a FIRM believer of helmets...on bicycles AND motorcycles. Without a helmet today, I would not be writing to you this evening.

I know, you're probably also thinking...dang...that wasn't the best piece of luck was it, crashing like that? As it turned out, just a mile or two down the road from where I crashed, construction had turned the road into a two lane ordeal with NO shoulder. I'm not talking about even a skinny yellow line...I'm talking about major traffic with trucks going 55 miles an hour past each other and the barriers with NO space on either side.  Had I not crashed, I could have found myself in the middle of this mess with absolutely no way out and the ensuing crash could have been much much more serious. This is not a "silver lining" story. It's true. I'm glad I crashed; it may have saved my life.

I know the rule was one continuous line from Maine to Oregon. But I'd like to live to tell the tale. I've already checked the map and there is no viable alternative route that I can take from the point I left off in order to get around the construction area. We will see what the traffic conditions look like tomorrow morning when J takes me out there, but I am seriously considering having her just drive me the three miles past the danger area. On a journey of about 3,400 miles, I think my ego can sustain losing 3 miles of bragging rights.

Here's some pics from days 35 through 39.

They were right it was Awesome!

This the nicest most polite sign I've ever read that's basically telling you not to throw bad stuff down the toilet

This fence was put there to keep falling rocks from hitting the road. It was definitely needed, since there were very large bulges in the wire mesh, where it had done its job!

Rootbeer donting a wheel to Jenard. They were both under anesthesia so neither one of them felt a thing.