My Metallic Steed Awaits

My Metallic Steed Awaits


Pokey is my metallic steed.  He is a 2011 Surly Long Haul Trucker with cantilever brakes.  In 2012 Pokey and I made our way across Oregon from Florence to Hells Canyon on the Idaho border.  In 2013 Pokey and I pedaled from Klamath Falls up to Crater Lake and over to the Willamette Valley.  In May 2014 Pokey and I will begin our journey across the United States beginning in Yorktown Virginia and ending in Florence on the Oregon Coast.

Oregon, Postscript

The TransAm Relinquishes It’s Hold


Hills, Humidity, Heat, Hounds, Headwinds, and much more… The TransAm will test you.  It takes stamina, willpower, and determination to complete the 4,300 mile distance.

Arriving at the end of the journey was actually just another day of the journey.  That’s how I approached the entirety of the trip. Each day had a goal.  Each day had it’s challenges, it’s ups & downs (literally), and it’s joy.  If you look at the entirety of the distance and the challenges of the terrain and weather as a whole it is overwhelming, but one day at a time makes it is manageable.

The end of the trip seemed to come abruptly.  Perhaps because it was like any other day of the trip.  We had 83 miles to ride from Eugene to our ending point in Florence and we went about it like we had for the previous 74 days.  Suddenly there was no more road to ride.  Suddenly there was a parking lot and the ocean ahead.  There were friends and family welcoming us.  Our British colleagues from the road met us there to toast our arrival.  It seemed surreal.

In my mind, I am still on the road…


Terry & Paul join us in a toast. All four of us having completed the TranAm journey. We originally met on Day #3 in Mineral, Virgina.

Total Miles to date:  4,318

Total Miles left to go: Incalculable





Our benevolent hosts in Sisters, the last big pass, and another century


We arrived in Sisters in the early afternoon of July 18th.  After a lunch at The Gallery Cafe, we rode to our host’s house.  Jim Naibert and his wife Jill were there to greet us.  After parking our bikes in their garage, they showed us to our private room and gave us time and space to shower and relax a while.  Later we sat on the porch and talked cycling.  As we chatted a pair of east-bound cyclists (Sandrine & Neil) arrived. Jim and Jill were hosting them as well.


Later in the evening Jim took all four of us to town to shop and get a meal.  We chatted with Sandrine and Neil about our experiences and answered questions the best we could.  We warned them of the closure on highway 26 east of Prineville as well.  Not sure what the solution will be for them.

Neil - Jim - Sandrine

The next morning we were up early as usual.  We slipped out of the house as quietly as we could while everyone slept.  We were off to do the last big pass of the trip, McKenzie Pass.  We stopped at a bakery in Sisters to fuel-up on coffee and sweets (it was the only place open at 6am), and then we hit 242 to the pass.

The climb was nicely graded and we were at the summit by 9am.  Along the way we passed a recent wreck on the right side of the road.  We checked to make sure no one was occupying the car and when on.


McKenzie Pass is 5,000 feet in elevation and is a unique lava field  landscape of rock.


We rode 5 miles along the summit ridge of McKenzie Pass and then enjoyed the long descent to McKenzie Bridge on Hwy 126.  It was a relief to know that for once we would not have to regain all the elevation we were losing as we rode down from Mckenzie Pass to 2,000 feet at McKenzie Bridge.  The landscape also changed to a familiar lush, green forest.


We could smell the barn!  Despite the headwinds we pushed on to Eugene and finished the day at 4pm with exactly 100 miles on our tripometers.  We stayed at the Travelers Inn in Eugene right next to Barnhart Dorm (where my daughter Laura once lodged) on the U of O campus.


We were tired from our long ride, but also pensive.  This was our last night together on the trip.  It felt strange not washing laundry in the sink as usual… no need!  Tomorrow we would be able to use our own laundry facilities at home.

Sunday, July 20th we packed as usual, ate breakfast at a nearby Pancake House, and set-off on our last day of the trip.  In most ways it felt just like any other day on the trail.  We rode through a quiet downtown Eugene and onto the bike path heading west.20140720_074831

As we approached Fern Lake and Hwy 36 heading to the coast it began to drizzle.  The drizzle persisted for a couple of hours and soaked us through.  We did not mind much.  We had ridden in such hot, harsh terrain up until now that it felt refreshing to be wet and cool.  The drizzle stopped by the time we reached Triangle Lake.  We stopped at the small store there and I enjoyed a cup of coffee while Jerry chose to wear a cup of cocoa.

At the intersection of Hwy 36 and Hwy 126 we stopped for a sandwich and were surprised when Sue (Jerry’s wife) stepped in the door.  She had seen our bikes in front of the cafe and stopped-in on her way to our ending point at Driftwood Shores Resort.  After a relatively brief reunion and a bite to eat we were heading down the road again toward Florence in a buffeting headwind.  As we were ticking-off the last miles of Hwy 101 I was surprised to see Almut (my wife) sitting in her car on the side of the road at the Welcome to Florence sign.  She had originally been scheduled to work this day, but had suddenly got the day off.

After another short reunion we were back on our bikes riding the final miles in Florence.

Miles to Date: 4,300


The Best Laid Plans…


Leaving Mitchell for Ochoco Pass on Tuesday morning, July 15th we rode in confidence and high spirits.   Only 2 major passes left between us and the coast.  After 10 miles of climbing, a car driving down from the pass stops and the driver rolls down the window, “The pass is closed due to a wildfire,” the driver says.  “I’m a Senator and they did not let me through,  so they sure as hell are not letting you two through!”  It was Ted Ferrioli.  A bit  arrogant and cocky, but I guess that is typical of politicians.


Suddenly our morning took a left turn.  We rode on and arrived 5 miles below the pass at a gravel lot where ODOT had set-up a barricade.  We could see smoke on the horizon above us.  After talking with the crew there, we decided to stay put and wait for the pass to open.


A 4-Engine plane drops fire retardant near Ochoco Pass.


The fire grows in scale

We found a shady spot in the gravel shed where we could get out of the 105 degree temperature and sat down to wait.  A few hours later we were joined by Mike and the Brits.


We waited 13 hours and the fire only got worse.  We spoke with the fire crews as they came and went and from their reports and what we could see, the chance of our getting over the pass continued to decline.   We resolved to spend the night in the gravel shed, but as we were getting settled the operations chief made a decision.   “Okay, pack your bikes.  We are taking you over the pass.  You have no choice.  Be ready in 5 minutes.”  We hurriedly packed our things and walked towards the waiting ODOT truck.  On the way Jerry and I decided we DID have a choice, albeit a difficult one.  We elected to ride back down to Mitchell and take an alternate route around the pass.  It would add about 100 additional miles and two days of riding, but we were determined to complete our journey across the states without assistance.  The Brits opted to take the ride, and wisely so.  I think the heat was affecting our decision making capabilities.

We rode down to Mitchell at nightfall feeling a bit depressed as we lost all the elevation we had gained that morning.   We went back to the Historic Oregon Hotel for another night, arriving late.


Mitchell Oregon

The next morning we visited the ICC in Mitchell for the local wildfires burning around us.  A big operation.   We learned that the Hwy 26 pass remained closed.


The Fire ICC at the high school in Mitchell

Resigned to our fate, we headed north towards Fossil.   It was hilly.  We rode over two small pass-like hills then suddenly we were screaming down into a deep canyon towards the John Day river.  Oh no!  We both knew what this meant…


The climb out of the canyon was long and steep.  We were dripping sweat as we crested the lip hours later.

We rode on to Fossil in the 100+ degree heat arriving just before the peak temperature of the day and ticking past 4,000 miles on our odometers.


We stayed at a horse ranch B&B in Fossil that was one of the only air conditioned options available.


View from the B&B

The next morning (Thursday, July 17th) we headed west towards the tiny town of Antelope and Hwy 97 as we continued our detour.   We climbed up out of Fossil and then… oh-no!  Not again!  Down we rocketed into yet another canyon.


The climb out of the second canyon of our detour was 8+ miles of 6% grade at 5mph.  One of the hardest climbs of our trip in hot weather with a headwind.   Ugh!

Antelope was basically a dying town with no cafe or store.  Just a post office.


We rode on in a hot headwind towards Hwy 97.  On the way we passed evidence of a fresh wildfire to the north and saw planes flying low to drop fire retardant.  We had just missed another road closure.

Hwy 97 was hilly and full of truck traffic with a shoulder sprinkled with copious amounts of glass.  The most we had seen on any road the entire trip.


We rode into Madras and collapsed in another motel.  We had eeked out 70 miles in the most difficult of conditions.


Madras Oregon

Friday came early as we got yet another early start.  We rode up 97 and rejoined the TransAm route on Hwy 126 between Redmond and Sisters.   Our detour had worn us down.  We had climbed approximately 8,000 feet of elevation in the two day detour.  The equivalent of Hoosier Pass.

Detour Profile

Elevation Profile of our detour

We were happy to be back on route as we headed to our Warm Showers host in Sisters.

As of 1:00PM on July, 21st the pass on Hwy 26 remains closed due to the wildfire hazard.

4,100 miles to date.




Our last night in Idaho was spent with Warm Showers Hosts Leslie & Bob McMicheal.  These wonderful hosts in Cambridge provided us with indoor accomodations, beer and wine, and a nice meal. 


Leslie & Bob

We were fortunate enough to hear Bob play the bag pipes as well.  He is quite good!  Google his name in conjunction with ‘bag pipes’ and you will get numerous results.  


Bob on the pipes

Many thanks go to these wonderful folks for their kind hospitality.

We entered Oregon through Hells Canyon on Thursday 7/10.  It was incredibly hot!  Around 105F.  We rode to Halfway and stayed in a room above the Stockman Saloon for $40.  We were happy to be out of the afternoon sun, but the room had no AC and it did not cool off until late at night.


Stockman's Saloon

From Halfway we rode to Baker City.  We got up EARLY to beat the heat.  On the way there we noticed many motorcycles on the road.  At a roadside pull off we spoke with two of them.  Turned out that there was a big 3-Day motorcycle rally going on, and ground zero was… Baker City!  Ugh!  Our hopes of easy accomodation were suddenly dashed. We pedaled on to Baker City through swarms of loud motorcycles.  On arrival we stopped at the city Library to get out of the heat and research a place to stay.  The Rodeway Inn had ONE room.  $205.  @#$!&*X!

We paid the extortion as we had almost no other options.  


Motorcycle Rally shutdown downtown Baker City


We were happy to leave Baker City, but the three 5,000ft+ passes that awaited us were challenges as well.  The high heat and loud swarms of motorcycles continued as we cranked over Sumpter Pass, then Tipton, and finally Dixie Pass.  We arrived in Prairie City late in the afternoon and camped at the Depot Park.


Jerry resting after climbing 3 Passes

From Prairie City we headed to Dayville the next day where we stayed in the Presbyterian Church. It was an easier ride and mostly downhill.   The heat spell continued however and sleeping in an unairconditioned church on the floor was restless.   Still, it was nice to have a place to stay free and have a shower and kitchen at our disposal.


Dayville Church

It turned out that the church had been accomodating cyclists since the first official TransAm ride in 1976.

Today we rode over Keyes Pass into the town of Mitchell.   The heat continues and local firefighters are responding to the ‘Service Creek’ wildfire just west of here as well as 3 others started by lightening strikes.  We are holed-up in the historic Oregon Hotel.  The hotel has a bunkroom for cyclists at $22 a person.


Tomorrow… Prineville.  3 days after that, Florence on the coast.  Hard to comprehend that we have been on the road 68 days and will be finished in 4 more days.  

3,900 miles to date.



Idaho, Pacific Time Zone, and other considerations

The Idaho border greeted us at Lolo Pass.  The time zone also changed from Mountain time to Pacific Time (for a while).  We actually go back into Mountain Time for a while and then return to Pacific Time again in a few days as we ride south toward Hells Canyon.

It was a 42 mile climb out of Missoula to reach it.  We rode down off the pass into the deep forests down Highway 12 next to the Lochsa River.  As we did we left all cell reception behind.  We have been more isolated over the last 3 days than we have on the entire trip.  The temperatures are in the 90s and the wind is, of course, a headwind.  We have not had a significant tailwind for weeks.  We even had to pedal long downhills because it.


It has been two months now since we started our trip.  We have logged over 3,500 miles.  The view of the landscape and the feel of landscape is quite different on a bicycle compared to a car.  Over the miles we have been witness to many interesting events and scenes, some tranquil and uplifting, some frightful and disturbing.

I want to take a moment to discuss a topic that some readers may find objectionable.  If you have a weak stomach do not scroll down further!


I wish to draw attention to a topic that many would rather not face.  On a bicycle it is not possible to avoid viewing the result of carelessness on the part of some drivers.  The horrifying carnage we see on the roadside of our nations highways.  The frightful waste I am speaking about is, of course, Bungee Cords…

I have seen hundreds of these cords decaying on our nation’s roadside.  When I consider that I am riding but one route across the country, I can only assume that the total wasteful loss of Bungee Cords across our nation’s roadways must be astronomical.

It is almost unbearable to look upon these cords, left to waste away on the roadside, without feeling a sense of despair.  Carelessness.  Many of these cords could still be in useful service were it not for the lack of careful binding when they were last employed.

I can only steel my nerves, turn my head, and ride past these unfortunate cords.

What a senseless waste of elasticity…



Training Advice for those planning to do the Wyoming / Montana portion of the TransAm


Do you still have your assistant available?  You are going to need him.  For this portion of the trail you will need to train a little differently and again aquire a few items prior to training:

* A Large Wind Tunnel / Environmental chamber of the type used by NASA for experiemental aircraft.

* Discard the stationary bike. For this training you will need your actual fully loaded tour bike.

* A 16″ wide, 8′ long belt treadmill with a 4″ wide white line painted down the center. 

* A rotating table large enough to hold the treadmill.

* 5,348 hungry mosquitoes.

* A flour sack full of cottonwood fluff.

* A diamondback rattle snake.

* A spray bottle of mosquito repellent with enough left in it to cover 1/2 of your body.

* A diesel truck airhorn.

– In addition to the above your assistant will need to dress for the part.  He will need a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a buckle large enough to cover most of his bulging belly.   If his belly does not bulge, then he can stuff a pillow under his shirt to simulate the proper look.  He will also need to place about half a pound of tobacco in his cheek and carry a can of beer. 

Once the above has been procured, set-up the taining in the following way:

Place the rotating table in the wind tunnel. Place the treadmill atop the rotating table.  Place your loaded tour bike atop the treadmill facing the wind tunnel fan.   Place the rattle snake in the chamber on the ‘shoulder’ side of the treadmill.  Add the 5,348 mosquitoes to the chamber. Add the bag of cottonwood fluff to the chamber.  Simple enough, yes?

Now, sunscreen-up, climb on your tour bike, and begin pedaling.  The key is to keep the bike centered on the white line (representing the fog line) on the treadmill as you pedal.  You will have approximately 6 inches on either side of the line to deviate before falling off the treadmill and hurting yourself.  Simple enough, yes?


The 'shoulder' on state highway 93 - Posted speed limit = 70 MPH

Next have your assistant turn the wind tunnel fan on and set it to 40mph.  That should be a good starting point to simulate a Wyoming headwind.  Start pedaling, and remember, don’t deviate more than 6″ on either side of the fog line.  Going off the left side would result in being flattened by a semi tractor trailer, an RV, or one of many pickups pulling horse trailers going 80mph.


Jerry riding the vacuum wake of an RV that passed giving minimal clearance

Going off the right side would result in at least an 8″ drop, falling off your bike, and getting bitten by the rattlesnake. 


A friend awaits on the shoulder

What???  You are only going 4 mph as hard as you pedal?  PEDAL FASTER!

Your assistant will ‘help’ you by rotating the turn table abruptly from time to time to simulate a sudden cross-wind.  He will also turn-on the precipitation function of the chamber during one of these sudden wind direction changes and pelt you with sideways rain & pea-size hail. Now stay upright and on the line! 

The cottonwood fluff will stick easily to your sunscreened body as they blow about in the chamber and they are fun to inhale too! 

As you train you may take as many breaks as you like.  With each break your assistant will turn the fan down to 10 mph and the mosquitoes will be free to feast.  You never have enough mosquito spray to effectively stop them all, so think carefully about which parts of your body you want to protect.  The mosquitoes tend to bite you on your butt because it is in a wind ‘eddy’ as you ride.  They also bite anywhere you cannot see and reach.  Ankles, hairline, and shoulders are some of their favorite spots. (Hint: Best to spray the parts of your body you cannot easily reach. You can always flail about trying to hit those you can see. It is a better use of the spray and more entertaining for passersby that way)

It’s your choice:  Pedal in the 40 mph wind or stop and be eaten alive. 

To finish the experience, your assistant will need to change the temperature of the chamber from about 90 degrees to 38 degrees every so often.  He should also step into the chamber, take a swig of beer, and hollar ‘Get out of the road!’ while tobacco juice spits from his mouth.  He should sound the diesel airhorn for about 15 seconds each time to simulate the Wyoming and Montana resident attitude towards cyclists.


A Montana resident inspects his rig before heading out to hunt cyclists

There now.  Ready for the Big Sky Country?


The Tetons, Yellowstone, and a timely break.


It is about 140 miles from Lander to Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons with Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet of elevation in between.  We took two days to cover the distance.   It is a gradual (mostly) 100 mile, 4,300 foot climb from Lander to Togwotee Pass. 


When we crested the pass and began down the other side the Tetons loomed before us.


We had planned to eat at one of two resorts on the way down from the pass to Colter Bay campground,  but both were closed, so we ate out of our panniers.

Colter Bay is a large, well established campground with all the services you want… for a special price.  We camped in the hiker/biker loop for $12.  We ate at the restaurant there, and I paid $4.75 for a shower (without towel – that would have been another $.50)


The Tetons across Jackson Lake

The next day we rode into Yellowstone with the plan to meet my good friend Bonnie Schwartz at Madison Junction and take a day of rest.  Bonnie had agreed to pick us up at Madison and haul us to her place in Mammoth.



Negotiating our entrance fee

The first part of the ride took us to Grant Village up the south entrance road.  No shoulder and HEAVY tourist traffic.   Perhaps some of the heaviest we have yet to have experienced.  Many RVs!  Most vehicles treated us respectfully and safely,  some drove past without giving us an inch of room.  I was only honked at twice.  Quite an improvement over past days.  I guess most people are more tolerant of bicycles in a National Park than on an ordinary highway.

We had a very plain hamburger in Grants Village for lunch costing $10.  From Grants we rode to Old Faithful crossing the Continental Divide twice more on two passes along the way.  We stopped for the typical tourist shot at Old Faithful then rode on (downhill thankfully) to Madison Junction completing a 79 mile day and three substantial hill climbs.


Bonnie arrived at the junction as we did.  Good timing!   We unloaded our panniers from our bikes, locked the bikes in storage at Madison Junction and enjoyed the ride to Mammoth.

The next day turned out to be unseasonably rainy with thunderstorms most of the day.  We were delighted with such timing!  We lounged at Bonnie’s place and were entertained by her 3 Golden Retrievers and the elk that frequent her lawn.




The original plan was to just take one day off, but the rainy weather continued into the next day and we happily took-up Bonnie on her gracious invitation to stay on.

Today we head back out on the road.  The weather is still iffy and it would be easy to lounge another day, but we are getting too comfortable and its not going to get any easier!  We also do not want to wear out our welcome.  We did not get to see or do much around Mammoth due to the nasty weather.  It would have been fun to hike the hot springs trail at least.  Perhaps I will return another time and take care of unfinished business.


Wyoming – Remote desolation, Storms.


From Rawlins to Lander there is 132 miles of sagebrush, wind, and mosquitoes.  In this desolate wilderness our touring maps indicated few services, and of those, most were no longer in existence.  

We found ourselves in the parking lot of the defunct ‘Ante Lope Cafe’ at a point on our map labeled ‘Lamont’ at the end of a long day of being battered by gusting crosswinds.  Camping behind the cafe was an option indicated on the map, with water and food available at the cafe.  “Ummm… I don’t think so….”

The only other option indicated on our maps was to call the private number of a woman in the area that allowed camping on her property.  As I was preparing to call with the limited cell service I had, two eastbound tour cyclists appeared.   They too wore a concerned look.  We shared what we knew.  No water.  No food.  No obvious place to get either. 

We called the private number.  The woman who answered the phone told us we were ‘there.’  That we were at her place.  “See the house with the flag?,” she asked, “just ride up to it.”  Looking around, the only place in sight was a single-widetrailer with a collection of old cars and rusting artifacts scattered about it.  There was a U.S. flag flying in front of it and we saw a figure out front waving to us. 

We rode up to place and met ‘L.B.’  She showed us around the property.  There were places that appeared to have once been camping spots , debris of all sorts, an old truck trailer, inoperative cars, an outhouse with a cracked seat and no roof.  Closer to the trailer was a sitting area with a wood-burning stove.  Strings of Christmas lights outlined the area.  Several cats, chickens,  and at least one rooster roamed the grounds.



L.B. said she welcomed cyclists there for free, but did have a donation jar in an old mailbox that also had cyclist guest books in it dating back a few years.  Water was available in gallon milk containers sitting in the bed of a pickup truck sitting amidst the clutter. 


With the 2 eastbound riders (John & Grant), there were 7 of us at the place for the night.  John and Grant chose to stay the night in the back of the truck trailer.   Inside the trailer were two well worn mattresses.   Terry & Jerry chose to sleep in the back of an old Suburban.   The rest of us put up our tents, anchoring the guy lines with rocks since driving stakes into the hard ground was virtually impossible.


Jerry & Terry's overnight accomodations


My overnight accomodations

After setting-up our overnight accomodations,  we cooked our dinner on camp stoves, ate, then L.B. started a fire in the wood stove and we sat around the stove as a group in conversation.   It was quite an interesting evening.


The motley crew after dinner

The next morning L.B. made coffee and bacon for us.  It was really quite good!  We left a donation in the jar in the mailbox before leaving.

We studied our maps the morning after our night in Lamont.  It was 92 miles to the next reliable services in Lander… and the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.  Ugh…

Jerry and I headed out early ahead of the others.  As soon as we climbed out of the valley we were in the wind switched directions 180 degrees!   Whoot!

A long ride it was, but we averaged 14mph and were determined to make it happen. 

Along the way the skies darkened and thunderstorms moved in.  We had no cover.  We found a cut in the road and ditched our bikes.  We moved away from them and then separated ourselves by about 50 yards and hunkered down to weather the storm.  We remained in position for maybe half an hour while watching lightening flash,
listening to thunder, and being pelted by wind blown rain and hail.


Storm clouds gathering


Jerry waiting out the storm

The remainder of our ride into Lander was smooth.   We were happy to be in a town again after camping out in the Wyoming high desert for 3 nights. 

Up next… the Tetons and Yellowstone.


3 Mountain Passes to Wyoming – The Continental Divide


Sitting in my hastily pitched tent I breathe a sigh of relief.  The swarming mosquitoes cannot feast on me anymore this evening.The buggers are thick in Wyoming.


Our camp at Saratoga Lake

We crossed into Wyoming this morning saying goodbye to Colorado and the three mountain passes we crossed to get here.  The highest pass of the three was Hossier Pass at 11,542 feet.  The other two were Current Creek Pass at 9,404 feet a day before Hoosier Pass, and Willow Creek Pass at 9,621 feet before entering Wyoming.


The climbs are all day long to the passes, but the grade is so much easier than in the Appalachians and Ozarks.  The day before we crossed Current Creek Pass we stayed at a ‘hostel’ in Guffey.  A most bizzarre place.  The hostel was run by Bill.  He is a collector of sorts.  Mainly skeletons it seems, but also antiques of great variety.   Guffey is maybe 3 blocks long and looks like a place that time forgot.


Bills Garage in Guffey


Bill provided camping for the first ever TransAm riders back in 1976 and has an original certificate to prove it.


Bill let us stay in a miners cabin he keeps in rustic condition.  No electic or water, but bunks and tables and chairs.  It got cold up there at altitude and we were grateful for the cabin.  The multiple skeletons around the place made for constant jokes as we settled-in at night.



The scenery has been beautiful.   We went through Breckenridge and Frisco among other places.  As we made our way to Wyoming the landscape became more  representative of an old west movie.  Wind and mosquitoes are the present challenges. 


Any speed under 15mph and we get swarmed by mosquitoes.  It is necessary to spray every inch of your body with DEET or suffer the ichy consequences.  

2,700 miles and counting.
Average = 58 miles/day
Mosquito bites last 24 hrs = 30+