Anyway, part I of the trip is COMPLETE! A bit less than 2 and a half months after I left anchorage I rolled here into Santa Fe. Major rest stop...motel, bike shop overhaul, update some inoculations, call people, all that. The internet access is not the best here (nor was it in Steamboat) so I am not sure how much I can write just now and add to this site. I'll just see what I can do. Here are a a few tidbits about the first part of the trip.
Favorite highways: Icefields Parkway (Canada); Muncho Lake Provincial Park (Canada); Montrose/Durango road (Colorado); Peace River byway (Canada).
Comments on passes: Sunwapta onn the icefields parkway was the steepest, probably close to 12% in places; but the worst overall so far was Teton pass, which was 10% for six miles. Hoosier pass at 11,500 feet has been my highest point; i camped up there overnight and it got very close to freezing.
Breakdowns: one flat tire, one replaced rear rim. Excellent overall. I'll know more when I talk to the shop folks overhauling my bicycle, tomorrow.
Worst road conditions: Banff/Jasper highway. 150 miles of cracks, potholes, bumps, and washouts. Get with Canada...we pay 5 bucks a day to be on the damn thing!
Worst Weather stretch: (tie) Denali Highway in Alaska and the Yellowhead highway in BC. Plenty of drippy, rainy, dreary weather for days at a stretch.
Most memorable meal: are ya ready for this??????Colter Bay, Tetons, Wyoming.
By the way I bought a sony walkman to get the news from time to time. The clincher was bing in a bar in Colorado, and watching the news show. The first story was a 15 second blurb on the embassy explosions that killed 250 people, including 11 Americans. The NEXT story was 3 and a half minutes about John Elway visiting his wife at the Mayo clinic. She is having colon surgery...NO SHIT! (no pun intended). And we wonder why Amerikan kids think South Park is sophisticated humor.
I thought it would be a good idea to take an extra day here, since the first day was spent running around getting the bike fixed, and yesterday was spent running around getting my medical stuff salted away (my final shots, various medicines, etc). I have not really mellowed out on my opinion of Santa Fe, even though the downtown Plaza is nice, four or five blocks of nice buildings and squares do not, and cannot, make up for a hopelessly sprawled mess that the rest of the city is. Still, I am glad i took an extra day to write to my website, send regular mail, and various other sundry things. It also means I will start part II of the trip on August the 15th, which has a nice apocolyptic ring to it. I will try and reach the Panama canal by October 15th; already have started with the Spanish stuff. Last night I ate a burrito! Th weather here is cooler than I thought it would be with very sharp and cold thunderstorms moving in late in the afternoon and evening; that will be a challenge when I am on the road, as they make travel difficult. My bike looks nice and new with a new Casette in back and various other overhauls.
One thing that has happened since the trip began is that the heavy heart that I carried in the early days seems to have greatly lightened. In part this is 'cause I have lost weight: I am down to 179 pounds and my blood pressure is normal, even without the medicine I normally take for it. Some of it is the weather...it is not cold and drippy overcast for days on end as it was in Alaska and the Yukon. Some of it is the arrival of civilization: there is not 100 mile stretches between roadside lodges and only forests on each isde of you for hundreds of miles. Yes, these are some reasons the pall has lifted. But in large part it is due to me, mentally, having accepted and thrived on the fact that I am now living on the road. The trip looks and feels less intimidating to me now, after about 6000 miles, than it did when I first started. I can tell my heart is lighter since most of the songs that I sing in recent weeks tend to be a bit lighter in tone and style than the sadder ballads I often rang out in the early miles. Of course, Both Sides Now is a sad song in a way, but still even there I have put a snappier voice to it. I have started to lean a bit more to Joan Baez stuff in recent days as the country becomes more Spanish and Southwestern.
My route takes me almost due south now, thru Roswell and Southwest texas, then into Mexico, almost due south of Chihuahua and finally to the pacific coast west of Guadalajara. I plan to avoid the cities and stay in the mountains where the people, the countryside, the climate are friendliest, and the personal and malaria risks are low. I do now know really how much NET access I will have so I anticipate that my submissions between now and San Jose, Costa Rica, will be quite sparse. Hope to see ya all soon.
I will zig zag in parts of Colorado as this state is just spectacular with its beauty; then probably proceed rapidly thru New Mexico and West Texas to Mexico proper. I have pretty mcuh decided to stick it out with this bike all the way to Costa Rica. There I will buy a nitty-gritty-dirt bike and proceed on into the wilds of South America. Will write more later...this system is ridiculously slow.
Went over Teton pass a few days ago. it is marked at 10% for six miles, and it sure felt like it. It still is not as steep as Sunwapta, far north of here on the icefields parkway; but it is much longer. Definitely a sewaty and rugged challenge. More to come on this part when i get to a major stopping point; perhaps Craig, colorado. Hope that rear wheel holds!
Ihave to admit this tour is taking a toll on me physically. I am 44 years old, not 26 like when I first started touring; my knees sometimes ache; my ankles ache in the morning (which worries me more, to be honest); and even my toes are starting get a bit inflamed from the hours of pushing. I am deeply tanned, slimmed down considerably. In fact I am beginning to feel like this is a world tour, though the emotional impact of what I have decided to do has still not really 'dawned' on me, yet. But i fell so comfy on the road and in my tent, that rest days like this almost seem to throw me out of whack. But i will appreciate the variety, I am sure.
The oddest thing is getting used to the rapidly shorter days. This is not Alaska where the sun was setting at 11:30 PM and you could ride till the late hours! Now I try to get to my campsite at about 6 PM, which gives me enough time to set up, cook, clean, shower, write, and meditate on my overall travels. I also do alot of map reading and stargazing, now that I can see stars. Can't wait till mid August for the perseid meteor shower, as I will be in the desert southwest with its clear skies by then. Last time I saw them on a trip I was in a campsite in Japan's Kyushu Island, and they put on quite a show. The Leonids, this November, may be more problematic as I anticipate that central America (where i'll be then) will be cloudier and Hazier. In any case I am not riding for as many hours as before, so my pace has begun to mellow out to about 60-70 miles a day on average, down from the 90-100 mile pace of the Alaska highway. The bike continues to hold up well; I will replace my rear tire here in Missoula, even though it still is in pretty tolerable condition. How the tires didn't go flat amidst all the smashed glass here in Montana is hard to believe. There is a slovenliness to this state born somewhat from its 'rugged individualist' mentality. But the folks are mostly friendly. Western cities suck, in general, and Missoula is not much of an exception. here we have a university town of about 70,000; yet most of the downtown is a massive clog of cars on one way streets, which could easily pass for manhattan. Not much in the way of parks, village greens, etc, that would be familiar to my New England friends.
The terrain is less mountainous than in the Banff/Jasper area, but still alot of mouantains and climbs ahead. Most passes in this section of the Rockies near 7000 feet; as I head thru Colorado the numbers get higher, with many passes over 10,000 feet and more. But the actual major climbs are much less, since the surrounding lowlands and valleys are often at 4000-8000 feet. This will not be true in central and south America, where many climbs begin near sea level in deep Andean valleys and ascend to levels 13,000 fett or more. I got alot of time to get in shape for those.
Its nice to be able to buy food and supplies on a very regular basis, I can cook better, carry less weight overall, and save money since I am not in restaurants as often. Often I buy a few sweet Italian sausage, a pepper, onion, and tomato, and make a stew while I set up my tent. After dinner I have a candy bar and alot of water. Often my need for carbohydrate is so great I have to throw in a box of Mac and Cheese, or two Ramen noodles. In the morning, with the weather warming up, I don't really feel the need for pancakes as much, sometimes cooking my own oatmeal or grabbing yogurt and a few sweet rolls in a grocery store.
nitty gritty of the trip so far....
**minor repairs: in Missoula, new tires, new chain, typical wear and tear.
**Weather conditions: warm with frequent thunderstorms. I continue to have some rain on almost all days. Got a hailstorm the other day and bruised a knuckle.
**Rider: good health but my knees and ankles still complain about the pace, and now some of my toes are getting into the whining game, too. Will try soaking my feet. It might help to change my socks more often than once every two weeks.
**Terrain: the rockies continue. Hot, dry country under brilliant afternoon sun often gives way to late afternoon storms. Hillsides are brownish, valleys often green only where irrigated. It will continue to get warmer as I work my way south. I stay cool and decent by soaking in small streams that come out of the mountains.
**Road conditions: Good, more local traffic since the roads are now in inhabited areas and not national parks. On the other hand they are often narrower and my rear view mirror is doing double time. Some parts of route 93 in Montana were downright dangerous, but believe it or not, the road is much improved. When I was in Polson a lady reached out and slapped my butt! That the best thing since I was seriously mooned on the California Coast highway, years ago.
other things...chain starting to skip, needs to be replaced....rear sprocket is OK...met a guy not far from Lake Louise with over 30,000 miles on his Cannondale...my campsite along the Yellowhead highway was attacked by chipmunks...have started to see dead snakes on the road, a sure sign I am in warmer country...drinking humongous amounts of water, a problem that will only grow larger as I get south...have passed the 2500 mile mark...1 month down, at least 23 to go. I spend alot of time speculating about whether I should add an African rift-valley portion...
next day addendum: (July 11, 1998) Heck, last year at this time I was enjoying the Taste of Northampton, Massachusetts, and now just by coincidence I was in town for the taste of Missoula. Not bad but a bit small for a city of 75,000 people. There are many more restaurants in town than were represented at the Taste. Good luck next year.
Ya got a love a town that calls one of its High schools HellGate. To boot, right across the street is the Cybershock Cafe, where I am on the internet right now. Here it is, high summer with just absolutely GORGEOUS weather, warm, sunny, blue sky with occasional ass-kicking thunderstorms. But at the Cybershock Cafe, there are special blue drapes over the floor-to-ceiling windows so that a few--no, so that QUITE a few-- socially challenged dweebs can play Quake and not have too much glare on the screen. HEAVENS! Glare on the screen. Its open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, serving the cyberjunkies of the high rockies. The kind of place that, as my world tour drags out into the thousands of miles and months of riding, my mind will come back to again and again.
Saw on a map today in a local gas station that it is 2500 miles to Anchorage; and when ya consider I did a side trip or two, and alot of vertical stuff to boot, I dare say I am close to the 3000 mile mark on this tour. Now to put that in perspective folks, thats the distance from the west to the east coast of the USA. And to paraphrase a famous sea captain, I have not yet begun to ride! Actually I have. My bike seems very happy with the new chain I installed today; but none of the local shops had the tires i wanted, so I will get them elsewhere. Nor did they have the style of cycling gloves I want--the old fashioned kind with the woven webbing that gives me such a neat wrist tan. But hey..i don't have any glare on the screen. What more could a 44 year old cyclist want? Not sure when or where my next rest day will be. I don't seem to need many! So this may goodbye until Albuquerque. In one of the Cafes here in Missoula, one of these lost soul, age-of-aquarius females (ya know...the kind with tie dye shirts, baggy jeans that still stick in the crack of their fat ass, painted toenails. and no bra, told me about a great restaurant I should visit when I arrive in Albuquerque. I promptly forgot the name. Have a nice summer all of you, and I'll think of you all as my wheels spin.
The most beautiful part of the Alaska highway is where it enters the Rockies at Muncho lake; bears, moose, stone sheep and fur spiders (!!) can be seen everywhere. I continue to see alot of wildlife but have had no close calls with anything since the dogs way back in Chichistina, Alaska. I recommend southbound riders trying to link up to the Banff/Jasper highway take the side road just north of Fort St. John thru the Peace river country and south on to Prince George. Cut back to Jasper via the Yellowhead highway. Not only will ya see Mt. Robson park but it is far more scenic than the prairie route thru Grande Cache. Campgrounds are everywhere and wild camping is always an option.
Well, roughie, is it a world tour yet?? Its starting to feel like one, and I am starting to feel like I belong on the road. I'll bet by the end of tomorrow--this is a two day rest stop-- I'll be itching to get going just as I was at whitehorse.
nitty gritty of the trip so far:
**major breakdowns: none
**Minor breakdowns: none
**weather conditions: highly variable with frequent rain, but now much warmer.
**Rider: in good health, though my knees are still toughing it out and I am having problems with a few toes that have calluses on them. Deeply tanned arms. I have tan spots on my head the shape of the cuttings in my helmet, so I look kind of weird; but then again, serves me right.
** terrain: sharply mountainous in recent days as I have finally hit the Rockies. I now will be in the mountains for many months and many thousands of miles, for all intents and purposes until the Andes begin to fail in southern Chile/Argentina.
**Road conditions: rough pavement in most of BC; some areas with narrow shoulders; spots of construction. But overall OK. Drivers are courteous, but more rushed here in the south than in the Northern part of the province.
Other things: Bike is holding up well, tires show little wear despite day after day of rough, secondary pavement roads. Will take my first peak inside the bearings early tomorrow...had my first REAL darkness just a few days ago, actually saw stars, until the clouds rolled in and it started raining...have been singing alot on the long stretches., but I don't know many of the words to all the songs. If someone could email me the words to Judy Collins Both Sides Now I would be very grateful. Other songs I chime in with--Joan Baez Kingdom of Childhood; Carol King These are the Good Old Days; U2's I will Follow, especially going downhill; Emerson Lake and Palmer's You Turn Me On....have crossed the continental divide just two times so far; once in the Cassiar mountains and again earlier today as I entered Jasper Park...Mt. Robson, whose picture is elsewhere on this website, was covered with cloud but the lower strata could be seen...brought my clothes to a laundromat; there is a limit to what soap and icy river water can do...My initial worry about Cannondale's Aluminum frames is now largely faded away; not only have I had no problems, but the special TIG welding process needed to repair it if necessary is more widely known among welders than I first thought...Serious cyclists might want to read my review of Ortlieb panniers, supposedly the worlds best. BULLSHIT!!! I probably will make more entries tomorrow, as this is a two day rest stop. I may try and slip in some JPEGs from the earlier part of this trip if possible. Till I write again, take care, all of you.
The weather has been mixed, at times warm and dry, at times very chilly and cold. The bike has held up well, with no minor or major repairs needed. It is dusty here so I have switched to Gun grease as my chain and derailleur lubricant. Old roughie himself is holding up quite well, with some days--the sun sets after 11 PM local time-- involving nearly 10 hours in the saddle and over 90 or 100 miles. Have camped in campgrounds often and wild camped, too. Have seen no bears but alot of Moose! Also had a near disaster with three Rotweilers on a farm who ran out in across the road in toothy pursuit; an oncoming RV killed on instantly and seriously injured the other two. The owner of the dogs got pissed at ME!!!!
Great scenery. The drama here is the vast distances between major stops, the mountain ranges in all directions, and the chilly air making it feel like March or even February back home. Have sung alot of Neil Young and Emerson/Lake & Palmer. Unfortunately one day the song 'Calendar Girl' by Wayne Newton(???) got stuck in my head. Not a high point. Got some pictures of McKinley and the Wrangell Mtns of southeast Alaska, viewed by many as the prettiest part of the state.
Lots of cyclists up here, many on long tours; have not met any 'world tourers' yet. But they are out there. It staggers the imagination to see the amount of weight these guys carry! I got a complement at Canadian customs for my light and efficient pack job.
The nitty gritty of the trip so far:
***Major Bike breakdowns: none
***Minor Bike breakdowns: none (one set of brake pads replaced)
***Weather conditions: good but often very cold, especially at night.
***Rider:in good health, though I was really shook up by that near miss with the Rottweilers. My knees ache from the damp cold from time to time. My face and hands are dry and cracked due to the windy, low humidity air.
***Terrain: mostly rolling hills with a few sharp climbs. No 'passes' as yet, although I have been as high as 4400 feet on the Denali highway. Have generally ridden ALONG, not through, mounatin ranges: th Chugach, Alaska, Wrangell/St. Elias Mountains. I will cross the Cassiar mountains in a few days.
***Road Conditions: Excellent in most places, with wide shoulders, courteous drivers, and decent pavement. 140 miles of Denali Highway was unpaved; some unpaved streteches on Alaska highway.
***Most unusual meal: I snitched a few small coffee cream cartons at a roadside restaurant to add later to my macaroni and cheese that I cook alot for my evening meal. Unfortunately it was cream for 'gourmet' coffee and I ended up with Macaroni and cheese with Hazelnut flavor. Definitely unique.
***Other things: dusty conditions mean i have to clean and relube the chain and derailleurs more often...tires holding up well with no serious signs of wear....i am carrying noticeably less equipment than most riders, who for some god-awful reason are loaded down with tons of crap hanging off their front and rear racks and even slung across their handlebars. Many have the 'low rider' front pannier racks, a sure sign of amateurism to me, since they are no more aerodynamic and much less convenient....in the yukon I climbed to one pass at 1003 meters, descended downhill for a while and then resumed a climb to a second pass--at 1004 meters!!!...it still does not get dark at night, although the sun sets more clearly now than it did a bit further north at Cantwell, Alaska, my northernmost point. As a result I have yet to wake up at night and see stars...A habit I notice on this tour from several others is that I have remarkably powerful and graphic dreams while sleeping in the cool, open air; one of an airline accident; one of a bear attack...I have seen no bears but plenty of moose, who roam the taiga countryside nibbling at the young bushes and undergrowth. They are surly and quick to anger as they are growing their new antlers and many have young with them...I notice the trip is hard on my shoulders, which must endure most of the pounding from the rough roads and long riders. I suppose my fellow cyber-readers can chuckle, since upper body strength is not my strong point...have drunk gallons of water treated with iodine. It sure tastes odd, not that awful, could also just be the water itself from the roadside streams, which probably is pretty safe except for the beaver fever (giardensis) viruses...With the unusual path of the sun, often cloudy skies, winds and mountains in every direction, it is hard to get a perspective on North/South or the direction in which you are actually traveling. Compass needle points 28 degrees east of north.... Because of arrangements to put pictures on this site, it will take quite a while for my JPEGs to appear. For now, I will sign off. Probably will not make any more entries till Jasper, hundreds of miles from here. Also I took along a rather modest, light camera so the photo prints are pretty proletarian in style. Till then enjoy and don't forget to check back every few weeks or so.