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It’s Jenny’s Birthday!

July 15, 2010

Today, ladies and gentlemen, little Jenny Murphy turns 23 years old! We will be partying it up in Missoula, MT. Come join us! Just look for three girls who look like they’re wearing pajamas in public.

More extensive trip update coming soon, I promise!
Janelle

A Comprehensive, Long-Awaited Update: WYOMING!

July 10, 2010

As you can see from the last post, our 40 mile Fourth of July Parade was awesome. Yes, as Lee noted in the comments, Janelle was without patriotic makeup and was labeled a communist sheep for the day while she rode in her very wooly looking gray fleece. Granted, it was difficult to get in the spirit for the Ride for Independence since we woke up that morning to cold weather and grey skies. Joey and I braved the dreary morning for our country, and it was a good thing we did because Rawlins, WY (our destination for the Fourth) didn’t have much to offer for an Independence Day celebration. We met up with our route friends Will, Joe, and John, went out for dinner at a Chinese food restaurant (the only place we found open,) and most of the riders crawled into their tents early to escape the freezing gusts of winds that began that night. Joe and I stuck out the cold, determined to see some fireworks, but only caught the top half of a display that was blocked by some hills. So, all in all our fourth was a bit of a bust. . . but we did have fun celebrating during our parade, waving to oncoming traffic, and singing patriotic songs ( classics like the National Anthem, Grand Old Flag, and Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus.)

The next day we rode with headwinds for at least 50 miles and finally pedaled into Jeffrey City, which used to be a uranium mining town with around 5,000 people and in 20 years has dropped to a population of 50. We found our route buddies at the one bar in town and tiredly decided to partake in a buffet dinner (some hot plates with chicken and cold hamburgers.) We set up camp near an abandoned Lions’ Club Lodge, and by the time we were in our tent and had escaped the swarms of mosquitos next to the lodge, Joey vowed that if there were headwinds the next day we would hitch a ride to Lander (our next destination.)

When we woke the next morning there were cloudy skies but no winds, and we were so excited to get to Lander that we wrote a song about all the great things we hoped to find there as we rode through the 49 degree weather *please see lyrics below. Dubbed ‘The Land of Milk and Honey,’ Lander was everything we had wished for and more! We had great coffee upon riding into town at Old Town Coffee, stocked up on Cliff Bars at a great outdoor store, did laundry, relaxed in the city hot tub, and had a tastey burger and local brew at the Lander Brewing Co. We had a hard time leaving the next day (especially after eating the never ending Cowboy Pancakes at the Ox Bow Family Restaurant) but we finally headed out and rode in beautiful weather to Dubois.

On the way we ran into four east bound guys who had stayed in Dubois the night before and camped in the yard of ‘Black Matt’ (so called because he usually wears all black.) They said he was really cool and suggested we try to find him. Riding into town, we had our minds set on finding Matt. As Joey stood in line at the local grocery store and struck up a conversation with the man in front of her, I came up and asked the guy if he knew anyone named Matt who hosts cyclists. He said, “I’m Matt. Black Matt? Did those other bikers tell you about me?” . . . it was magical. He offered his backyard for our tents and we met him at his humble house/woodshop. That’s right, 3/4 of his home was a studio where he builds furniture! We spent the evening talking and hearing about all the the things he designs (clocks, wooden sunglasses, tents for the roof of cars, tables, his dream house, and leather suits.) You can see some of his work at his website: http://www.matthewcampbelldesigns.com. Thanks to Matt we fell in love with Dubois and spent the next morning around town having coffee and rooting through a local thrift store’s free bin (for those who know my love of dumpster diving, you can
imagine how exciting this was to me.)

Now we have headed further north in Wyoming and are camping in the National Parks that fill the Northern part of the state. A change from the small towns we had been enjoying, we will write soon about our adventures in the wilderness. . . and all we have learned about protecting out food from bears.

Lander Lander

Lander Lander, the land of milk and honey
It’s 72 degrees and always sunny
They’ve got every flavor of Gatorade and Cliff Bar
Who’s excited for Lander? WE ARE!

Lander Lander, land of steamy showers
All the parks are filled with beautiful wildflowers
They’ve got bike shops and laundry mats galore
The grass is so soft you won’t mind sleeping on the floor

Lander Lander, is full of friendly people
Here is the church and here is the steeple
It’s so nice it will make you want to stay
You’ll be here till your hair turns grey

The only thing about Lander that is really such a pitty
Is that it’s closest neighbor is Jeffery City

Who’s excited for Lander, WE ARE!

A Successful Parade!

July 7, 2010

Our parade from Saratoga to Rawlins was the highlight of our Fourth! We have been busy riding through Wyoming facing blustering winds, camping in ghost towns, and living large in a land of milk and honey. All of this will be expanded on soon . . . but for now here are a few pictures from our Ride for Independence!

Please Stay Tuned for the Bike Parade

July 4, 2010

On our way out of Breckenridge, starting at 7am, we got hopelessly lost on an optional bike path. Four hours later and a whopping 15 miles out of town we found ourselves scouring the sale racks at Target for some sort of cute and versatile sundress. Janelle, nonplussed by Target’s clothing selection, decided pay a visit to the in-store Pizza Hut for second breakfast. All told, a successful morning.

It was 11:30am by the time we hit the road again and headed to what we hoped would be a luxurious spa of a town: Hot Sulpher Springs, CO. Well, not quite the Utopia we had in mind. Suffice it to say we spent at least an hour sitting under the overhang of an abandoned Phillips 66 station (to get out of the rain) eating old cereal out of the bag and paying multiple visits to the Dari-Delite, directly across the street, for soft serve ice cream and erroneously optimistic weather forcasts. Either we looked too homeless or not homeless enough because no one took pity and invited us in for the evening. Confident that it was going to pour but unwilling to pay for a motel room, we proceeded to the town park to set up camp. Distracted by some friendly neighbors and the Anchor Steam beers they offered us, we failed to pitch our tent promptly and paid the price when we were scrambling in a torrential downpour to cram all of our belongings and ourselves into the already puddle-filled shelter. After mopping the floor dry and laying out our sleeping bags, the rain showed no sign of slowing so at 8:30 pm it was off to bed with us. The next morning we dragged our sorry, wet, cold selves to eat some diner breakfast and with the aid of a serendipitously located coin laundry room, felt human once again!

The ride to Walden, CO was as uneventful as the town itself. Convinced we would again be dumped on, we got a motel room, ate copious amounts of fruit and whole milk and laid in bed watching a very disturbing episode of 20/20. It never did rain…

This morning we headed out (after two breakfasts) and endured an unexpectedly hilly and head-windy ride into Wyoming. When we arrived in Saratoga, WY, I was minorly dissapointed to discover that I’d let my fleece fly off my bike – to be absorbed into the wilderness and never heard from again – but much more delighted to come upon Saratoga’s FREE 24 HOUR hot springs. We soaked (and I steamed away my grief) in the egg-smelling, mineral-tastic, almost-unbearably-hot water and exfoliated our sun-baked legs and arms with the special sand on the bottom of the pool. Mmm.

(also there were taxidermied heads in the grocery store…lots of them)

Tomorrow, for the 4th of July, we will ride our “floats” (read: bikes) on our own personal parade route from Saratoga to Rawlins, WY. Jenny is spearheading the event and has insisted that we each submit our “float” designs at least half an hour prior to the parade. We have also obtained some special costumes. I won’t say what they are, but I will say brace yourself for fringe and body paint.

We Rocked the Rockies

July 1, 2010

Guesssssssssssssss whaaaaaaaaaaaat! We’re on top of the Rocky Mountains.  Oh wait, we’re ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.  No, we didn’t take an escalator, like I suggested. We actually rode our bikes 6,842 ft UP. 

Let’s start from Pueblo, Colorado, which sits at a mere 4,692 ft above sea level.  After a night on the town in Pueblo (aka watching trashy television in our lovely motel room), we found a delicious brunch at the Shamrock Brewing Company, then hopped over to Solar Roast Coffee to work on some crafts and mail.  When it started to rain and the coffeeshop closed, we were forced to go back to the pub and drink more beer (well, root beer for me) until the skies cleared.  Drats.  At sunset we took a short ride out to the Lake Pueblo State Park and met some other cyclists, who were also riding various ACA routes.  We woke up the next morning to the sunrise over the resevoir, with the Rocky Mountains in the background.  It was stunning, to say the least.

On Monday, we completed our first giant climb to Wetmore (6,128 ft), then lost it all again on the way to Florence (5,191 ft).  Then back up again, surprisingly quickly, to Cañon City (5,332 ft), where we camped just outside the city, near the Royal Gorge, with our new (accidental) bike clique – Joe, Will, Siemen, and John.
After agonizing over some frightening elevation charts, we began Tuesday’s ride with full knowledge that it would be the toughest of the Rockies.  We rode first to Guffey (8,600 ft), then to Hartsel (9,420 ft), then to Fairplay (9,953 ft) – climbing a total of 4,621 ft over the course of about 65 miles.  We were pretty happy to set up camp at the end of the day…despite the fact that the “campground” we had called ahead about was actually just the grassy median of an RV parking lot.

In the morning we made some scrambled pancakes.  There’s a reason why this is not common practice.  Scrambled pancakes are terrible.  Motivated by promises of a hot tub in Breckenridge, we started the last major climb of the Rockies, to Hoosier Pass.  Twelve miles and 1,439 ft later, we were standing on top of the Rocky Mountains, at 11,392 ft above sea level!

 

It was downhill (in a good way) from there – we coasted all the way to the beautiful mountain home (with hot tub!!) of Lee and John, friends of friends, who were kind enough to host us for the night. After a delicious dinner made by Lee, we’re hitting the hay before a long (downhill!) ride tomorrow.

 

Janelle

Colorado is on Fire, Literally.

June 27, 2010

Four Causes of Wildfires on the Colorado Prairie as explained by Cathy Anderson (resident of Arlington, CO and volunteer firefighter and member of the Prairie Horizons Trail Working Group AND a skilled snake killer):

1. Lightning
2. Argo-Pyros
Farmers that burn the stuble from their fields as a ceremony to celebrate a bountiful harvest
3. Buttheads
People throwing cigarette butts out of car windows and into fields
4. Cabezas de Caca, or in good ol’ country girl terms, an old “sheet towel and blanket” (or something like that)
A person who is just plain dumb.

All of this was explained to us by Cathy as we stood with a field of wheat blazing in the background. She informed us that a combine had sparked the fire and the Crowley County Fire Department was taking care of it.

Later, Trent (introduced on ‘Who’s Who. . .’ post) informed us that he had been accused of starting the fire and was questioned by the police in Sugar City. . . but we knew the truth thanks to Cathy.

As we began our ride into ‘Colorful Colorado’, we found ourselves excited and enchanted by the characters we met along Highway 96.

In Eads, we got to share a pitcher and stories from the road at a log cabin establishment, Jan’s Bar, with Daniel. A recent graduate from the University of Vermont, he was riding from the east coast to his home town of Denver, CO

On our way to Ordway, we met Blake, a confident nine-year-old who claimed to be strong and dangerous, chewed beef jerky like chewing tobacco, and helped Janelle open her string cheese with the large knife he kept on his belt loop.

At a pit stop in Sugar city, we chatted with resident, Harold, while he leaned on the handle bars of his bike with a cigarette in hand. An older gentleman, he claimed he could ride to Ordway (five miles away) in ten mintues and revealed he had been to all but two of the fifty states working for a carnival for twenty years.

That night in Ordway we ate our best meal out yet at Martin’s on Main! The pulled pork sandwiches on fresh baked bread were delicious, and we might have over-indulged in the free refill soda fountain (just three or four glasses each). The service was what really made the place shine. We could tell they people that ran the place took pride in the food they prepared and the atmosphere they created.

When we headed out of Ordway, we stopped at a JR’s Convienence Store for a quick breakfast. Waiting for our order, we struck up a conversation with Don Taylor, a resident of Ordway on his way to ‘rodeo’ some cattle on a friend’s ranch. We told him all about our trip, and he thought it sounded like something his own daughter would do. As he walked by our table to head out, he let us know that breakfast was on him and kindly said goodbye.

Tonight, we are in one of the biggest towns we have stayed in so far, Pueblo, CO. Population over 100,000! We are looking forward to a day of rest in this big city, but are excited for all the interesting people we will contiue to meet as our journey takes us up through the Rockies. . . we can see them waiting for us in the distance. Eek!

“Wheat Harvest Coming; Maybe This Weekend” -Ness County Newspaper

June 22, 2010

Well, we’re still here in Kansas…and yes, it is still hot, and still windy and you still can’t buy beer on Sundays.  But even in a state as flat as this, and on a road as straight as highway 96 (which we are riding on for approximately 300 miles) we are constantly amazed about how many new experiences we’ve been able to have each day!

On Sunday we left Nickerson very early in the morning and made it to Larned, KS by 1:15 PM.  After checking in at the police station and pitching our tent adjacent to a strange and tiny, fenced-in goose pond, we headed over to Larned’s huge and amazing public pool, complete with a water basketball court and a several-stories-high spiraling water slide.   It would be so easy to capitalize on our desperation – a cool body of water to plunge into after hours of riding in 100 degree weather – but somehow we’ve been allowed to swim and shower at almost every public pool for free. After splish-splashing around and calling our dads to wish them a happy father’s day, we were ready for an early dinner.  Bruce (please see Who’s Who post), who had watched us cook up a gourmet veggie stir-fry the previous night, offered to pitch in for our groceries in order to partake in our dinnertime feast. A delicious spinach, salmon, white bean, cucumber, avocado and parmesan salad was had by all – or at least us four.

During dinner, a new addition to our bike gang pulled up to the park pavillion.  Isaac, who just graduated high school in Columbia, MO, had ridden over 100 miles that day in the  punishing Kansas heat wearing his green Vans hightops. The last few miles were “no fun”, he said…

Up again at 5:30am on Monday to put some miles behind us before the heat became unbearable.  The ride from Larned to Ness City, KS was pleasant – triumphant even – and again we arrived in the very early afternoon.  More importantly, there was ANOTHER public pool that we could swim in for free!  This one also had waterslides which were smaller but decidedly more violent than the previous pool’s slides.  Please note: the amount of time I have devoted to talking about pools and water slides here is no mistake.  Pools and water slides are our lifeblood in Kansas.  That, and ice cold Gatorade, which we have all developed a nasty habit for these days.

Today’s ride  from Ness City to Scott City, KS was on the shorter side but was extremely hot and windy.  Luckily, it is also wheat harvesting time, and every few minutes a convoy of flatbed trucks carrying all manner of gargantuan  insect-like farming equipment  (this is ‘oversized load’ country) would speed past us, nearly knocking us off the road.  “Run, wheat!” Janelle yelled to the fields, “They’re coming for you!”  Just moments after we had perfected our drafting technique, we heard the high pitched ‘WOOP’ of a police siren. We were being pulled over by the Sheriff of Dighton, a small farming town we had just passed through, who had received complaints about how much space we were taking up on the road: exactly half of one lane.  I won’t elaborate too much on why this was infinitely maddening; suffice it to say that the Sheriff told us “sucks for you” in exactly those words.  In spite of our anger, we rode single file the rest of the way to Scott City.

When we arrived we were, you guessed it: hot and exhausted.  The forecast said thunderstorms and, unwilling to endure the heat of our tent’s rainfly, we headed to the chamber of commerce to get some help finding an open motel room.  No such luck.  Just when we thought we were out of options, a woman who happened to be taking photos for the local newspaper, generously volunteered to let us stay with her and her fiancee for the night.  Minutes later, we were being shown around a lovely house, being offered free reign of the computer, the TV and the Wii, and being asked what kind of pizza we’d like to have for dinner.  After two weeks in a tent, staying in someone’s real-life home is incomparably cozy and wonderful.

Kansas still has one more day to make its final impression, but as far as I’m concerned, Kathy and Rod have tipped the scales irreversibly in its favor. We owe them big time and have promised to shower them (via airmail) with gifts from the rest of our travels!