Saturday, September 24, 2011

Loneliest Road in America

Route 50: The Loneliest Road in America

So what might you expect from the Loneliest Road in America? Not much. I guess the only thing you would expect from the road was that it'd be pretty lonely. Well, without sounding too disappointed, we were disappointed with this so-called "Loneliness." There were so many cars on the road, we could barely even ride side-by-side to chat away the distances between towns.

Loneliest Road in America? We think not. How about, "Busiest Road in America?"

Well, I guess it's not I-95 in New Haven, CT over the Q Bridge on a Monday morning at 8:30, but it has it's fair share of traffic. At least I understand the traffic on 95 everyone is going to work. But where are these people going? Work probably isn't in the next town 75 miles away with only 300 people living in it. So where are they driving to? When we find out the answer to that, we'll let you know.

Loneliest Road? More like, "Thirstiest Road in America"

Our first test on this road was a span of 85 miles from Milford, UT to Baker, NV. The 85 miles included three big passes to climb up and over without a single town in between and took us over 11 hours from start to finish. Half way through the day, after we had sadly found out the water we were told was supposed to be there was not, we were thirsty. Our first savior was a man with a dirt bike in the back of his truck. He reached in the bed of his truck for his cooler and pulled out a Capri Sun and two mini-cans of soda. Pssshhhh....Gulp...gulp...gulp...ahhhhhh.

Savior #2 was actually three guys in 4 x 4's. They stopped on the side of the road and offered us a choice of ice cold water, soda, or beer. We all took the water.

And savior #3 was Doug, the father of another touring cyclist we met the day before. He rode 30 miles from Baker to find us and give us each a cold water, a Gatorade, and a cookie. We were good to go and made it to Baker with liquid to spare!

Loneliest Road? How about, "Hilliest Road in America"

On Monday, we climbed our 12th summit on Route 50. After 300 miles on this road, here's what we discovered. It goes up for 20 miles, then back down. You never really know when it flattens out except that you get frustrated because it's slow going 20 miles into the wind only to go up for 20 more miles, then back down all too quickly.

Loneliest? Let's try "Hottest, Driest, Sunniest Road in America."

Thankfully, we timed our tip through Nevada right, and instead of 115 degree days, we only felt it in 90's, with one small temperature drop into the 50's during the thunderstorm of the century! It did happen to be on a day where there really was an open cafe half way to the next town. We walked in, the waitress snagged our wet clothes to throw them in the dryer and we enjoyed hot cocoa and Hot Pockets with two other touring cyclists while warming up next to the wood stove.

We added Jesse and Royal to our riding group to finish the ride into Ely where we made it right before the second storm came rubbing through.

"Most McDonalds Deprived Road in America"

Definitely not complaining about this one.  There were, however, too many stores like this.

"Most Unforgiving Road in America"

Just when we thought we were done with Route 50, we were discouraged to find that it was our path to Lake Tahoe. Ok. 10 more miles. How bad could that really be? You might think that after 465 miles on this road we would have known it better. Known it to never cease. Know that each time it gave us a small reprieve from climbing, it was only to rest our legs enough to battle the next hill. Known that it would be unforgiving as always.

The last 10 miles of Route 50 may have been the toughest yet. Having said our goodbyes to Mike in Carson City, we fought our last battle with Route 50 up and up and up and up Spooner Pass. It may only have been 10 miles, but it was a harsh 2,300 feet of elevation gain and brought us up over 7,000ft once again. We reached the top with red faces, cramped hands, and shaky legs.... But we were victorious.

As the hill descended into Lake Tahoe, Route 50 went south and we didn't even give it a passing glance as we turned north.

So I guess we don't really know what to call this road. When in Fallon, a waitress at the coffee shop called it, "The Deadliest Highway in America." At least that wasn't it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We Believe in Miracles

This week has proven to be one of the most inspiring of the trip and we've experienced miracle after miracle as we've ridden through Utah, one of the most beautiful, yet also most intense states. Green River was our first stop after Moab and it was here that we met Richard.  Little did Richard know that he was soon to be a savior of our trip.  I noticed the morning after we rode out of Green River that I had left a pair of bike shorts hanging in a tree at our campsite in Green River State Park.  Richard answered the phone and the first thing he asked was, "We were all wondering how'd you manage to ride out of here without your shorts?" Haha... of course I had another pair.  Anyway, Richard agreed to take the shorts, in his free time, to the post office and use his own money to send them to the post office in Zion.  Of course I sent him the money in an envelope that day to pay him back, but there is no way to pay him back for his generosity. 

One of the biggest miracles we've encountered here is the miracle of Utah! It is unexplainable in words how strangely beautiful the desert can be.  Cliffs, slot canyons, rivers, Hoo-Doos, and oceans of rock create a masterpiece impossible to re-create.  

The harsh landscape was not only candy for our eyes, but a workout for our legs. After our hardest climb of the entire trip, a 20 mile climb up 3,000 feet in elevation with grades as steep as 10 and 11%, we camped in Calf Creek Campground.  The six mile hike that afternoon through the canyon to a waterfall was the only way to end the day.

Along the way, we've had the good fortune of meeting a lively group of bike tourists on the same path as us. 

Being on the road for eight months with only the two of us has made us comfortable with each other.  We know how long it takes for each other to wake up and get on the road.  Adam has dealt with my insanely small bladder and looks for bushes on the side of the road for me to hide behind every half hour or so.  And I am (mostly) happy to stop or ride back and forth for Adam to snap pictures around every corner.  I was nervous at the proposal to ride for a few days with others.  I wasn't sure how this would upset our routine and so I was hesitant. 

Of course, all of my worries ended in silliness and we enjoyed day after day of biking, hiking, and camping with our new family of cyclists.  The meeting of the cyclists proved to be a miracle in disguise and we've found renewed excitement for bike touring... enough to push us through these last months. 

Katie and Cheney, married almost a year and 1/2, have been traveling the world since they got married.  This bike tour from Jackson, MI to Los Angelas, CA is simply the end of their 18-month journey together.  They've traveled through Southeast Asia, experienced Vipassina Meditation (11 days of silence) in India, basked in the sun on the beaches of Zanzibar, and are now biking home.  How can we not be excited to finish our journey after hearing all of what these two have accomplished this year?

We tried a little Meditation of ourselves while visiting Lyman, one of our Warm Showers hosts in Torrey, UT.  Not quite 11 days of silence but the picture is impressive, I think!

Mike has become our new biking buddy through The Loneliest Road in America.  Route 50 in Nevada has spans of over 80 miles with absolutely nothing.  On our map, it describes Nevada as having no shade except for 3 trees East of Fallon.  At least we've got Mike.  Mike's goal for riding this year is to build his faith in God and "show people that God is real and there is still love out there in this crazy world."  We are loving his company and the goodness he has brought to us while riding with him.  

Glen was our camp "Dad."  What would we all have done without him?  He invited us to share his campsite when all the rest were full, bought us all power bars to scarf down at the top of a 6 mile hike in Zion called Angel's Landing, supplied us with Gorilla Tape when squirrels chewed through our food panniers, and was always ready with a joke.  

Sadly, on Tuesday, Adam, Mike and I left our camping cyclist community in Zion but since then, we've been finding miracle upon miracle.  After making it into the Wal-Mart only minutes before the rain pounded Cedar City, we finally settled into a Starbucks to wait out the storm where we met Bob and Nancy.  We shared some great conversation with them, and they invited us to delight in some of the best apple and blueberry danishes we've ever experienced.  

We debated our camping options that night.  Stealth camping along a river bed only a mile or two out of town for free, or fork over the $30 to stay in the local KOA.  Since we hadn't had a shower in four nights, the KOA won, but as we navigated the back roads of Cedar City, we passed a church picnic and were invited to share the meal with them.  Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, burgers, salad, and ice cream for dessert was our dinner that night.  We were inundated with conversations and enjoyed dinner with what seemed like 50 or so others.  Before we could leave, we were offered two bags of leftovers, and a place to camp, shower, and do laundry... all necessities after spending a few nights in a National Park. Enoch was our host and we camped under his peach tree, met his family in the morning, and converted him to become a Warm Showers host. 

All of the food we got from the church gave us more than enough energy to ride 60 miles to Milford, UT, and finish our day carrying our bikes over the train tracks (I made a mistake in directions and we chose this route instead of riding a whole 1/4 mile back).  

We've made it to Nevada now... but that's for another post!  46 states down! And on we go....