Friday, August 29, 2014

Straight roads

Originally Posted September 11, 2004 by Chad

SIOUX CITY, IOWA. When we rode down out of the Black Hills into Rapid City last week a chapter of our journey came to an end. That was the last of the mountains we will see for over a thousand miles. I know that the rest of South Dakota is not really flat, and Iowa has its Loess Hills, but there will be no more mountain passes to test our mettle on the way up and our nerves on the way down. Up till now, our route has been dictated by rivers and mountains. We’ve followed the Skagit, Methow, Pend Orielle, Columbia, Clark’s Fork, Yellowstone, Snake, Salt, and Bear rivers. We’ve ridden in the drainage basins of the Columbia, Saskatchewan, Colorado and Mississippi rivers, draining water to the four corners of our continent. We’ve also ridden in the Great Basin, which drains to nowhere. The passes separating these basins were milestones because they are boundaries of climate, geography and lifestyle. They were a challenge to climb that was always rewarded with an exhilarating descent on the other side.

Now we have come to the part of the country where the roads do not follow the rivers. They run straight instead. East and West, North and South. In the west man has adapted to suit the land, but here the land has been adapted to suit man. In the west settlements were islands in a sea of wilderness, here it is the natural areas that are the islands in a ocean of cultivated fields.

We hoped to make our way across these plains quickly and with as little effort as possible by riding the prevailing west winds. However the prevailing winds have not prevailed thus far. We have learned that here the wind assumes the role of the mountains in slowing our progress. It has been blowing hard from the south all week. My shoulders ache every night from fighting against it day in and day out. We are hoping and praying for a change.

Yesterday we pedaled our three thousandth mile just outside of Niobrara, Nebraska. I bought Mags a cake as a reward. Today we continue east from Sioux CIty over the Loess Hills and into America's corn land, I mean heartland.

Original Comments: Straight roads
Dear Chad,

One thing I've appreciated about our entries has been the vocabulary and related geographical, geological, and sociological details that you've troubled yourself to insert. To me it implies your grasp and interest in the big picture of the land the those who inhabit it including the "wild" inhabitants. This entry was particularly fascinating on this point. Probably bikers have a feel like no other group that has crossed the land because you've gone slow enough to notice the small variations but fast enough that you recognize patterns. While I've understood a prime reason for this trip was to free yourselves from the rigors of formal schooling the trip seems in many ways to be continuation of your scholarship but in some ways much deeper.

I feel for your struggle against the wind. Just recently I was riding my bike back to Big Pole from down town Heber and was dealing with a strong wind in my face and side. It really was hampering my progress. Out of the blue here comes Melanie in her car and I take a ride. Had she not come I was contemplating getting off the bike and walking. Makes me think of the task faced by the early handcart pioneers that faced into the prevailing winds you were hoping for as they waded through sand and brush and snow pulling rickety carts loaded with several hundred pounds of food and shelter.

We do also pray for the wind at your backs and all other good things.
Love, Carl

Posted by Carl Harris at September 13, 2004 05:43 AM

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Digging for Prairie Dogs

Originally Posted September 11, 2004 by Mags

Have you ever been so tired that you felt sick? Well, that's how I felt last night as we rode into Sioux City, Iowa. We've bucked the winds of the prairie all week- instead of blowing from the west to the east they blew from the south to the north. The strong cross-wind put a serious damper on any thoughts of a 200 mile day. And we thought it would be easy going once we hit the heartland. Anyways, there is one benefit of the strong winds: pungent odors emerging from Captain Cookie are whisked away before reaching my nose. The highway that we took across Nebraska overlaps some of the camping spots of Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River. At one spot they tried to catch a prairie dog by digging down its hole but after shoveling dirt down 6 feet they gave up. Instead they poured water down another hole and pushed the prairie dog out that way. On Friday we passed by the area where Private George Shannon (one of Lewis and Clark's men) got lost for 17 days. He was almost dead before he got reconnected with the Corps of Discovery. 

Comments: Digging for Prairie Dogs
Dear Margaret,

You've seen a lot of evidence related to the passing of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. Seems you and Chad are a smalleer corps of discovery finding out many new things about the land and all that goes on in connection with the land but also discovering new things about yourselves.

The tiredness has got to me complicated by the alergies. Mom said you were talking on the phone as you soaked in the tub in your first motel since leaving Provo. Well you certainly deserve the motel stop. I sincerely hope your can recuperate sufficiently that the riding can be a pleasure along with a supreme effort.

Our ward's Western Picnic which Mom and I and other members of our ward missionary committee were in charge of turned out to be a wonderful success last Saturday, September 11th. George Korologos's lamb cooked on a spit was done in the Greek Festival tradition and even his father, a life time Greek Orthodox practitioner, said the picnic was more fun than a Greek Festival. George is one of our recent convert baptisms helped through the conversion process by Lew Chappell who preceeded me as ward mission leader. We had about 25 Dutch Oven dishes with a huge variety of foods including some bread that I cooked. There were games for kids and adults including two of the "western" blow up slides, a calf roping station where kids could sit on saddles and rope a wooden animal, rodeo events with stick horses, and lots of other games that our own grandkids loved too. We also had line dancing that Mom and I participated in led by the young women and their leaders. The high light for me was putting up the large handcart pioneer family painting (40 X 30 feet) and our large American flag. The flag was significant because Mom, our MC, lead us in singing the National Anthem, invited a young man to lead us in the pledge and then called on me to lead the gathering in prayer of thanksgiving and tribute to those whose lives are now in harms way and those whose lives have been taken because of political strife. It was a moving experience in part because a number of our non member neighbors were present. It was a moment of sharing deep commitments and feelings. Like some have said there is much more to celebrate that we hold in common than those differences which divide us. Any way the event ended on a high note of Dutch oven coblers and icecream.
I saw the twins last night. There were laying face to face in their hospital setting with all the tubes that sustain them with food and oxegen and also monitor their vital signs. There continues to be progress but it is slow, Glory and Logan are working so hard to help them survive and while it is very taxing they are encouraged. The nurse was really neat with Natasha and Matthew. She let them use the stethscope to listen to the babies hearts and their own. Natasha wants to be a doctor or a nurse.
We congratulate you on your 3,000th mile. We continue to pray for your health, safety, enjoyment, and for the wind to be at your backs.

 Love, Dad

Posted by Carl Harris at September 13, 2004 06:12 AM

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sioux Reservation

Originally Posted September 8, 2004 by Mags

We’ve been stuck in towns beginning with “W” for the last 2 days! Wanblee, White River, Whitten, Wood and today we’re in Winner. We’re traveling Highway 44 in South Dakota where the fields are filled with sunflowers. Fields of crops and grass and gullies filled with trees beginning to turn color. Two days ago while riding through the first “W” town- Wanblee- we stopped at the only gas station in town. (Wanblee is on a Sioux Indian reservation and a large blue water tower is its largest feature.) Sam, a Sioux Indian at the gas station offered to let us camp on his mom’s property. We rode 6 miles past Wanblee to his mom’s house and she let us put up our tent near a circular arena where they perform Sundance ceremonies. Sam said they dance from sunrise to sunset for 4 days straight. Ernestine, Sam’s mom, was a sweetheart- she brought us a blanket, lavendar oil, chairs and Indian skillet bread. In the morning, the inside of our tent was dripping with dew- (I think we’ve finally got back into the humidity again). When we were about to leave Ernestine gave us leather pouches filled with sage to protect us. People are friendly and curious on the reservation but it seems like a depressing place to live in some ways because of the lack of an economy. 

Original Comments: Sioux Reservation
It is so good to see your pictures of the people and places. We appreciate the connection particularly as we just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and our friends asked us, "Do you know where your children are?" Fortunately, we could say Logan, Lindon, Draper and We pulled up your site while we were in McCall, Idaho, and it was fun to ooo and aaaahh about your adventures.

Report on the twins---Chantel had to have another blood transfusion and seems to respond well. Has had to have oxygen now and then. She is very active and different times of the day and tries to pull on the hoses she is connected to. Jadira is gaining weight and learning to swallow. Their beautiful black hair and rosy pink cheeks gives us such joy as we look at them. The parents are doing a marvelous job of being there for the twins and helping the other children get to and from and being happy about the adventures of having their little sisters getting ready to come home. No date for that yet as they have to be able to gain more weight, nurse, etc.

Love, Melanie

Posted by Melanie Harris at September 9, 2004 11:30 AM

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rapid City, SD

Originally Posted September 6, 2004 by Chad

Cassie, Jacklyn, and Megan were the first to welcome us into Rapid City. They didn’t know where Seattle was but they saw that we were thirsty so they sold us some lemonade anyway. I hope they’ve found it on a map by now. Have you girls?

Ben and Shannon were classmates of mine at the University of Washington. They got married in July and are living the American dream in Rapid City. Ben took us all to the Dakota Thunder air show where he is stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The Thunderbirds were there but they didn’t perform because of the nasty weather. I still had fun watching the other spectators and admiring the cockpits of enormous bombers. I saw a kid almost fall through a hole in the floor of one plane. Can you imagine the amount of paperwork that would have caused? I saw Elvis there too. He was hiding out by the Honey Buckets, where people are in too much of a hurry to notice him. I didn’t know he was interested in America’s military might.

Our next stop was Badlands National Park, our last national park for a long time. Ben rode with us for 70 miles while Shannon followed behind in a car loaded with watermelon and other goodies. We all endured a windy night of camping in the park that night. The next day we drove the scenic loop through the park and up into the town of Wall, where we stopped at the drug store.

DO NOT GO TO WALL DRUG, unless you like giant gift shops with overpriced knickknacks and overworked employees from Eastern Europe. I was surprised to learn that they actually do employ 2 pharmacists among all that junk, but I never saw the pharmacy. The most amazing thing I saw there was a size 6XL T-shirt. They had a whole rack of these:

It was hard to leave all the excitement of Rapid City behind, but we had to keep moving east. We’re in Winner, SD now and are headed for Sioux City, Iowa tomorrow.

 Original Comments: Rapid City, SD

I have a great grandfather who helped settle Wall, SD (or someplace near there). I think he was on the right side of the law, but I'm sure he was packing heat. Did you hear that our inspired congressional "representatives" are going to let the ban on assault weapons expire?

I saw Elvis in Philadelphia on the 24th of August. I wasn't surprised that he would hang out in the "City of Brotherly Love", but I'm shocked that he was in scenic South Dakota a couple weeks later. My recollection is that he did serve in the military. You, of course, are too young to know about that. If you took the time to watch (and suffer through) his movies, you would find he was a "big" fan of military might. Or am I getting him confused with John Wayne?

Now you get to glide through the cornfields of the Midwest. May the wind be at your back.


Posted by Doc at September 9, 2004 08:04 AM

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mt. Rushmore

Originally Posted September 4, 2004 by Chad

Iron Mountain road is an ideal road to ride a bike on. It’s curvy, the scenery is spectacular, wildlife is abundant, there's little traffic and the pigtail bridges keep things exciting. The one drawback is that it’s mostly uphill. I don’t know what our bike weighs with all of our gear, and frankly I’d rather not know, but when we crossed the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming I thought we were done hauling it up lung-busting, leg-burning hills. Iron Mountain road put an end to that delusion.

Our motivation for getting to the top was obvious. We wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, the monument to our nation’s persevering past and optimistic future. When we got there, many of our fellow visitors were more impressed with our bike and our trip than with the monument. We had people asking us where we were going and where we came from every two or three minutes. At one point a group of about twenty gathered in a circle around us to listen to us tell about our travels. Even Abe Lincoln was asking us questions, instead of the other way around.

I decided that I’d tell people we were doing this trip to raise awareness of bicycling as an alternate method of transportation. I guess I was pretty convincing, because even George, Tom, Teddy and Abe decided to dust of their bikes and go for a ride—

Monday, August 18, 2014

South Dakota

Originally Posted September 2, 2004 by Chad

We made it to South Dakota on Wednesday. It didn’t look much different than eastern Wyoming.

Mags is a sucker for “cute” bakeries, so when we saw the Fall River Bakery in Hot Springs, we had to stop. As we were leaving I decided we needed to spend a little more time in town so I dropped my water bottle on the sidewalk. It then rolled down into a storm drain. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to retrieve it with a borrowed rake and broom. When we finally got it out the baker washed it off for us with Clorox. That bottle is now the cleanest one we have.

North of Hot Springs, we stopped at Wind Cave National Park and took a tour of the cave. This picture doesn’t do justice to the elaborate boxwork and other formations we saw inside.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Originally Posted August 31, 2004 by Mags

Miles of grass nipped short by cattle. Cow turds and low sagebrush are the texture in the stretch of tan rangeland that enfolds black cows and barbed wire fence. The mountains and trees are behind us. The freezing dew on tents remains in the forest. Here it is dry and still. The land slopes and ascends but is constant with color and shape.

So this pretty much describes our descent from the Snowy Range into Laramie, Wyoming and our ride for the last two days. The land is interesting in a way but bleak. The cows have absolutely no shade – they are slowly baking out there as they fight off the flies. At noon we saw two adult deer with two fawns hunched up under a small bluff that was still in the shade. They just stared as we rode past. The only water comes from the windmills that pump water from wells into metal basins for the cows. The cows crowd around these oases and make mud pits. 

Original Comments: Rangeland

I've loved catching up to you via your prose. Having been around both of you a bit in the recent past helps me understand what you're saying and what you're not saying about the experience. As always I'm surprised how fast you move across the country.

Helping Glory and Logan with their children has been a big part of our recent activities. One of us has been at their home every (almost) afternoon and evening since Jadira and Chantel were born. On the week end we've taken the three older ones to Heber with us. The twins are progressing but very slowly. They still are not really grasping the swallowing technique they need to sustain themselves at home on their mom's milk. Logan and Glory love to be with the twins and find it hard to go home after being at the hospital several times a day.

It is really neat how some of the folks you've met have taken you in and been so sharing. It is really a treat to meet people who've done something like you're doing. The club you're now a member of is really kind of select.

Thanks again for the great Alaska and Wyoming experiences. This has been an unusual and very fun summer for us. But even after 40 years of marriage were still looking over the next horizon for a new adventure almost like you two are.

Love, Dad Harris

Posted by Carl at September 1, 2004 02:56 PM
Margaret, your voice sounded really good. I called the number you used at the library and the very friendly librarian said you two had left only 20 minutes ago. Too bad you missed us and I missed you. The librarian sounded like a member of the family. You two must have really charmed her. She knew your names and seemed to know Chad's mother's name too. The librarian suggested we call Shirley for the low down on where you are and where you are going.

Tomorrow we fly to Boise and drive to McCall, Idaho for several days with Mom's friends at one of the friend's great cabins. Mom has been there before and raves about it. We'll report later.

Love, Dad Carl

Posted by Carl Harris at September 2, 2004 09:36 AM

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Originally Posted August 31, 2004 by Chad

It finally happened. We had to take a ride in a truck yesterday. Did I protest? You bet. Whine? Apparently not enough. Perhaps I should have been more adamant about possible damage to our gear from riding in the truck. Maybe I’m just too much of a purist.

We had just started descending from Morton Pass north of Laramie when we came to the construction site. The kid holding the stop sign was impressed that we had ridden all the way from Seattle, but he didn’t understand that putting our bike in a truck would be such a traumatic event.

The woman driving the pilot truck was less sympathetic. She said our only other option was to ride back to Laramie and on to Cheyenne. I hope she wasn’t serious.

It was all over in about ten minutes. We rode in the back of the truck for about three miles. The road was all dirt but I think we would have been fine. I was bitter. When she let us out she told us to have a nice trip. We said thanks and rode off. She will never understand.

Today we’re in Lusk, Wyoming. It’s hot as Hades outside. We’ll be in the Black Hills of South Dakota tomorrow.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rest day in Laramie

Originally Posted August 29, 2004 by Chad

We were spoiled rotten in Laramie. Like I said before, we met Tom and Sue on Saturday morning when we rode into town. Tom invited us over to do some laundry at his home, then we ended up spending two nights there. They made us a fancy dinner on Sunday night and we swapped stories of bike trips and backpacking adventures. They are some of the organizers of the Tour de Wyoming, the one we accidentally rode with for a day back in July. If we’re anywhere near the state next summer we’re going to come back and ride it with them again.

We went to church this morning at a cookie-cutter LDS stake house. I miss the unique architecture of the old LDS buildings. But the meetings were exactly as we expected they would be, and it was nice to get a taste of regularity after the past two months of change. After church, fellow church members Darren and Pam invited us to their home for lunch. I figured our bike was safe at the church (even with all the Mormons around! Ha Ha.) so we hopped in their car and rode to their home. They gave us Elk meat sandwiches that satisfied a craving we both had but weren’t aware of. Then they filled up a grocery bag with food for the road. We won’t need to go shopping for a few days because of them. They would have loaded us up for the week if we had let them, but we can only carry about two days’ worth of food at a time on the bike. This journey gets better every day.

Original Comments:

hey chad it's been great following your adventure--I look forward to reading it nearly every day. I've nearly fallen off my chair laughing at some of the food experiences that you've had. I sure wish I had the time and money to do what you two are doing--what a great adventure!!! Have you finished your masters program yet? or are you just taking some time off to have some fun. What route are you taking to Maine?? Write if you get a chance--It would be great to hear from you!!!

your cousin alan

Posted by alan gillman at August 30, 2004 11:14 PM

Friday, August 8, 2014

Craig, CO to Laramie, WY

Originally Posted August 28, 2004 by Chad

Right after we left the Craig Library, we got some Chinese carry-out (bad idea) and rode off through Craig looking for a park to eat it in. We saw a young couple with two kids picking crabapples so we pulled up to ask them for directions to the park (good idea).

I could tell immediately that Jim was a likable guy. He told us about two different parks and even suggested that we could camp in one of them. Then his wife, Melany, asked us where we were from and where we were going. Then she said that they had ridden a tandem bike from her parents’ home in Colorado to his parents’ home in Wisconsin. They are the first people besides ourselves we’ve met that have toured on a tandem.

They invited us to their home and let us spend the night in their basement. Jim’s mother, who was visiting from Wisconsin, had made some trifle and made sure that we both had enough. In the morning they made us breakfast of ham and eggs and toast with crabapple jelly. Everything was delicious. Experiences like that are the reason we wanted to come on this trip.

North of Craig, in Baggs, Wyoming we got caught in a thunderstorm. We hid out in the dug-out of the local little league softball field until it passed. Then we started climbing over the continental divide for the last time. Unfortunately for our legs, that wasn’t the last mountain pass we would have to climb. Up next was Snowy Mountain pass between Encampment and Laramie, WY. At 10,847 ft, it was the highest point we’d ridden so far. It rained and hailed on us a few times on the way up, so we were good and wet for the frigid ride down the other side. At the top the temperature felt somewhere in the mid 30’s, and we could see that the rainstorms we had ridden through had been snowstorms at this altitude. The highway passed through terrain that looks like the Wind River Range to the North, where I’ve backpacked many times. The highway looked out of place in such a beautiful location. The place was paradise.

The ride down was misery. Mags had to put her hands inside my jacket to keep them warm. All I could do was grin and bear it as my knuckles went from a pale white to nearly blue. After descending 10 miles and 3000 ft, we found a campground. It wasn’t much, but it was warmer than up on top. We both slept well.

This morning was an easy, if not a bit chilly, 30 mile ride into Laramie, but the valley we had to cross to get there seemed to get wider and wider as we rode along. We could see the city for almost an hour before we finally got there. I guess that is just a taste of what it will be like when we get to South Dakota and Iowa.

We got some free showers at the University of Wyoming and met some other tandem bicyclists out for a group ride. One couple is going to let us spend a night at their home--the streak of kindness continues. We’re going to take a rest day here in Laramie tomorrow. Well, it’s not really a rest, I’ve got to do some upkeep on the bike—most notably I’ll be replacing the back tire. We’ve come over 2,300 miles and it’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom. On Monday we turn north to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Making Bad Food Taste Good

Originally Posted August 25, 2004 by Mags

My dinner last night at the Miner’s Café in Dinosaur, Colorado (Elevation: 5,000 feet ?) 

Salad: Reconstituted iceberg lettuce with tomato shavings
Entrée: Deep fried meat product
Starch side dish: Instant mashed potatoes dredged with mucus gravy
Vegetable side dish: Canned green beans
Bread: Yellow colored, margarine saturated “Texas” toast

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to sample a wide selection of rural western American cuisine. It is in a sorry state. Before Sysco Foods and before 18-wheelers I would like to think that weary travelers crossing the western states were sustained by restaurant food made by grandmas in the back kitchen with flour on their aprons and dough under their fingernails. Perhaps that was never the case but I wonder how did it come to this? The food is dried, canned, frozen, fried, infused with preservatives and color, absolutely drained of any nutrients it originally contained before it hits my plate. Our Aussie friends- Emily and Mick- who met us out at Dinosaur National Monument are equally appalled at the food drought. Yesterday, Emily and I went on the hunt for something edible. We passed by the sketchy cafe in Jensen serving deli sandwiches and ended up at a sketchier restaurant in Naples called “Country Grub”. “Country Grub” is run by women in grease splotched white T-shirts who don’t know the size of a small or large serving of fries- “The large one is just bigger”, the cashier told me. Although their sign boasted of “Homemade Fries” they were the same old frozen sticks of any other restaurant. The menu posted on a white board above the counter can be summarized as follows: grease on a stick, grease between two slices of bread and grease in a bowl. I opted for some grease between two slices of bread and was greeted with rotten lettuce on a bun with tartar sauce and a fish part conglomerate patty. Emily said that even in the smallest towns in Australia there are bakeries selling vegetarian pasties. I know I’ve obsessed a lot in this entry about food but when you’re biking ~100 miles a day you tend to fantasize a lot about food and the food out here is such a disappointment!! However, although the food is terrible it can still taste good when you’ve gone enough miles. My meal at the Miner’s Café last night, mediocre as it was still tasted “good” after riding several miles.

Original Comments: Making Bad Food Taste Good
Mags, I am still having nightmares over the whooshing sound of the deep fryer! am also now craving a vegie pastie! food here is awful too, am yet to eat a decent meal in this country - only a few more days till i'll be tucking into my aunties cooking in England, cannot wait.
yeah, thanks for taking a photo of us guys! we only flew across the world and drove for how long to see you? tsk! i have a cool one of us sitting in style in front of Maverick (mick finally named the people mover), I'll snail mail it to you.
ivy randomly says 'chad? mags?', so know that you are missed by all 3 of us.
keep on having fun

love Em
Posted by Em at August 31, 2004 01:44 PM

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wind At Our Back

Originally Published August 25, 2004 by Chad

We're in Craig, Colorado today. It was an easy 90 miles over rolling hills from where we camped in the city park in downtown Dinosaur, CO. The park is on Brontosaurus Blvd., of course. Today's ride was so easy that we did the first 60 miles on just one Snickers bar between us. That wasn't really by choice; it's just that there was nowhere to buy food between Dinosaur and Maybell.

For the past few days the wind has been a cyclist's dream--strong and steady and right at our back. On some of the flatter sections we cruised at 30 mph for miles at a time, and felt hardly a breeze in our faces. As we descended into the Yampa Valley we broke our all-time speed record by hitting 53 miles per hour. The previous record was 48.

Maybell, Colorado is a tiny town along the Yampa River in the Northwestern part of the state. There is one cafe and one general store. We bought bread for peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches at the general store and went to the park to eat them. Like Dinosaur's, Maybell's city park allowed camping and provided showers. It would have been a great place to stay but we wanted to continue on to Craig where we could find a real grocery store.

We spent most of Monday in Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah. We've got some pictures, but the computers here in the Craig library won't let me upload them. I'll post them as soon as I get a chance. Thanks to all of you who are reading and writing comments. The wind isn't always at our backs, and it's your comments that keep us going when it isn't.

Posted by Chad at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)