Cross Country Bicycle Trip

Cross Country Bicycle Trip

I finished my masters degree in May 2013, and had the opportunity to take a cross country bicycle trip. After flying with my bike to Los Angeles, I took off for Boston. I decided to post to my website each day to keep my friends and family informed, and to make something of a scrap book to look back at after the trip was over. These pages document my trip. I hope they are as fun to read as they were to live.

Josh Orndorff Wed, 05/15/2013 - 19:05

Day 0 -- Preparation

Day 0 -- Preparation

I flew Frontier airlines to Los Angeles a few days ago. I've picked up the last few bike accessories, and gotten myself excited about the trip. The bike is ready to go with lights, installed bags, and a puncture proof rear tire. I saw my old friends, and got some yogurt land. I'm a bit nervous, but I think I'm ready to go. Tomorrow I'll get a ride to Santa Monica pier, take a picture, and take off for Boston.

My packing list is as follows:

  • Topeak alien II multi tool
  • Hand air pump
  • Diamond Back 7 speed hybrid bike
  • Clip-in bike shoes
  • Bike lock
  • M-Wave paniers
  • Headlight / taillight set
  • One man tent
  • Synthetic sleeping bag
  • Inflatable raft to use as a pillow
  • several zip ties
  • 1 pair of cycling gloves
  • 1 cycling top
  • 1 spandex top
  • 2 cycling bottoms
  • 2 casual shirts
  • 1 pair of jean shorts
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 1 pair of cheap flip flops
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • 4 ~liter water bottles
  • Wish me luck everyone.

    Today's distance: 0 km
    Trip odometer: 0 km

Josh Orndorff Fri, 05/03/2013 - 20:50

Day 1-- Santa Monica CA to Beaumont CA -- A long initiation

Day 1-- Santa Monica CA to Beaumont CA -- A long initiation

I guess it's time to admit a few things. First, my training for this event was insufficient. Second, my planning for this event was also insufficient.

This morning my friend Amanda made me breakfast and drove me to the Santa Monica Pier to start my adventure. I got some good pictures there and accidentally got my feet wet in the ocean and then took off for Los Angeles. Downtown was great. Every road had bike lanes, and in no time I was cruising past my old house in Arcadia. I made a quick stop at the library to refill my bottles and check the map. As the day continued I cruised through the suburbs to the east. The wind was at my back and I was feeling strong.

As I was cruising up the hill in Glendora I heard a loud snap and pulled over to check on my bike. Everything seemed fine so I kept going but not long later my back wheel started to rub the brakes. Looking again I realized I had broken a spoke. I grabbed the phone to find a local bike shop, and after disconnecting my rear brake I rode in to see what they could do. They fixed it up quickly and even gave me a 50 percent discount after I told them about my trip. But they did warm me that my bike was maybe not built for such a long trip and some of the components were a little low end. I had suspected that earlier, but the mechanic in LA assured me that it would be fine. The guys today said it might be okay, but I should stop into a shop every few days.

After a lunch stop at Subway around 1:00 I continued heading east happy that my average speed was around 22 km/h. I ran into another cyclist and he seemed excited about my trip but cautioned me about the very long desert stretch I had planned for day three.

Everything changed around 4:00. Google had directed me onto a gravel path, so I had to backtrack a bit to get on the right track. It was a small setback, but frustrating. When I got on the correct desert road to Beaumont, the hills began, but worse the wind switched to be in my face. My legs got tired, my breathing got quick, my spirit sank, and I spent nearly two hours in second gear. At one point I even decided to walk for about ten minutes. My increased rate of checking the map and forgetting to turn off GPS drained my phone to below 15%.

When I finally came over the last hill with the wind howling in my face and saw a gas station, I felt some relief. I bought a huge gatorade, chugged it, laid down on the sidewalk and started calling hotels. I didn't quite make it to the campground in Banning, but I did ride 168km today. Although I was thinking of reasons to quit this trip, a gatorade and a rest stop had encouraged me to press on. As my friend Karl Hein says, "if you can make it one day, you can make it two". And I made it one day!

I'll have about nine hours of sleep tonight instead of about six last night, and the ride should be shorter tomorrow (although I am going to reconsider my route a bit after my new cycling friend's warning). I'll also be sure to apply my sunscreen more evenly tomorrow, and drink more gatorade instead of just water.

Today's distance: 168 km
Trip odometer: 168 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 05/05/2013 - 00:04

Day 2 -- Beaumont CA to Mojave Desert CA -- Lots of wind

Day 2 -- Beaumont CA to Mojave Desert CA -- Lots of wind

This morning I woke up to a small continental breakfast that I knew wouldn't hold me over for long. Before leaving Beaumont I stopped at a convenience store and picked up nail clippers since my shoes were hurting my toe nails, and band aids to prevent or treat the blisters that may show up in the next few days.

Riding out of town the road was slightly downhill and the wind was at my back. It felt great, and I hardly had to pedal. Naturally, I hoped that would last all day. After about 10 km of easy coasting, I turned a corner to an uphill, and at the top found a gate and guard shack. It turned out to be tribal land, and I wasn't allowed in. I told the guard I didn't know how else to go hoping he would let me pass through, but instead he gave me alternate directions. His directions involved getting on the interstate for a "little bit", and then carrying my bike through a cut in the fence to a frontage road which he assured me was paved. Naturally I was skeptical. But lacking a better option I decided to follow his advice. It turned out I was only on the interstate for about 200m, and I did manage to spot the cut in the fence. His route was probably faster and flatter than my original anyway. The frontage road was technically paved, but hadn't been maintained in years, so I went slow to avoid potholes. About two hours of cruising with the wind later I stopped at Ruby's diner for brunch.

Around noon I followed another road Google suggested, and a few km later it turned to dirt. I didn't have another route, and the downhill and wind made turning back nearly impossible, so I proceeded slowly for about half an hour. It made the frontage road look good.

When the dirt ended I turned north on twenty nine palms highway and started my climb. It was steep and long, but the wind had become gentle (probably because the mountains blocked it) and it was at my side. Eventually I made it to Yucca Valley which seemed like a funny name since I had to climb so much to get there.

I met several interesting people at rest stops along the way that gave me some encouragement.

Despite starting a little later than yesterday, I reached Twenty-nine Palms at about 4:00 and have been resting for the last hour. I'm debating whether I should get to bed super early, or head out and try to get a head start on tomorrow's ~150 km stretch of desert.

Update: After dinner and a phone charging at Andrea's restaurant, I did end up riding about 40 km farther into the desert after stocking up on food, water, and gatorade. I'm glad I did it because it made the tough Mojave stretch a little shorter, and because camping in the desert was amazing. The sky is huge and clear and beautiful.

I set up my tent on a slight incline which made it a tiny bit hard to sleep, but my tiredness took care of that. I went to bed around 10:00.

Today's distance: 149 km
Average speed: 25.8 km/h
Trip odometer: 317 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 05/05/2013 - 21:29

Day 3 -- Mojave desert to Parker AZ -- Lots of sand

Day 3 -- Mojave desert to Parker AZ -- Lots of sand

Today I woke up in the Mojave and was struck by the beauty of the distant mountains. I hadn't noticed it so much the night before because the sun had set before I made camp.

After some water, granola bars, and a bearclaw for breakfast, I got back on the bike around 8:00. I rode past sand, sand, sand, and more sand. And at one point I made a left turn. The desert was actually quite beautiful, and despite the two big climbs today it was a net elevation loss which was good on the legs. I took rest stops at the 40, 70, and 90 km marks to eat some sandwiches I had picked up the previous night and let the legs rest. By 1:30 I arrived at Vidal Junction, my planned stop for the night. The stop is nothing but a single gas station, but a much needed one. In the parking lot I met another cyclist named Ray who was going from the San Francisco bay area to Columbus, OH. He ride a recumbant bike which he spoke highly of, and it looked good to me because it has a full seat, and by day three my butt is getting sore.

I rested for a few hours at Vidal Junction, but since it was early I decided to ride another 30 km into Parker AZ where I had dinner and stopped at the library to charge my phone and post this update.

I don't yet have a definite place to stay tonight, but there is a campground on the map that is another 20 km down my route. Maybe I'll head there.

Update: I ended up going to the campground and it was closed when I got there. It was mostly for RVs, like most of the campgrounds around here, but everyone I talked to in town assured me they did allow tents in summer. There was a self pay station, but no prices posted and it seemed like it was only for preexisting reservations. I decided I'd just camp there and figure out how to pay in the morning. I set up my tent, got a much needed shower, and went to bed around 10:00.

Today's distance: 150 km
Average speed: 24 km/h
Trip odometer: 467 km.

Josh Orndorff Mon, 05/06/2013 - 22:14

Day 4 -- Parker AZ to Lake Havasu AZ -- A short day

Day 4 -- Parker AZ to Lake Havasu AZ -- A short day

By 11:00 in the morning I had already arrived in my final city for the day. Today was planned to be a shorter day, and pressing on across the river yesterday made it that much shorter.

I woke up to the sound of birds squawking like crazy. The sun was bright outside the tent and I wondered if I had slept through my alarm, but it turned out to only be 7:00. I guess I'm pretty far east in the time zone because the sun was up by 8:00, and up before I was. As I tore down and brushed my teeth a few other campers said hi or good morning and I realized that I wasn't horribly out of place at the RV park like I feared I might be. I decided the best plan of action when I reached the guard shack would be to just wave at the guard and ride out as if I was just going for a little ride and my RV was still in the park. When I got there, there wasn't even a guard present. So thanks for the free camp and shower La Paz County Park.

The ride in was hilly but scenic, and since I knew it was a short ride I didn't mind the hills to much. After a short break outside a grocery store I decided to head to a bike shop for a little routine maintenance. But on the way to the shop I heard the familiar snap and felt my rear wheel start to wobble. I had broken another spoke. I pushed my bike the last 2 km to the shop where the mechanic told me what the guys back in California had already told me. My packs were too heavy and my wheel too cheap for this kind of riding. The shop owner didn't have a replacement wheel that would fit my bike, so instead he relaced the wheel replacing every spoke and checking the tension by hand. He also oiled my chain, adjusted my gears, and installed some vertical grips on my handlebars to help my palm soreness.

After that was all in order, my cousin Linda and her husband Kevin showed me around the city and took me out for dinner.

They told me all about the city's history including the London bridge. The city's founder bought the original London bridge after it was "falling down", shipped it out here, rebuilt it in the dessert, and then dug a channel under it. It was really cool to see, and they were great tour guides.

I rode and pushed a total of 55 km today with an average speed of 18.6 km/h. And don't worry, it was only so slow because of the pushing :-)

A real shower with shampoo and a towel and everything was great, as was doing my laundry. I'm looking forward to sleeping in a real bed too. Tomorrow is less that 100 km, but it is a slow climb the whole way, so I'll need my sleep.

Today's distance: 55km
Average speed: 18.6 km/h
Trip odometer: 522 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 05/07/2013 - 14:20

Day 5 -- Lake Havasu AZ to Kingman AZ -- An uphill climb

Day 5 -- Lake Havasu AZ to Kingman AZ -- An uphill climb

After sleeping through a few alarms this morning, I woke up and had breakfast with Kevin before hitting the road at about 9:00. Today's route featured a lot more straight roads, a lot more sand, and my return to historic route 66. The first third of the ride was on route 95 and featured up and down hills with a slight net elevation gain. The rest of the route was on I-40. Riding bicycles on I-40 is actually legal in Arizona as long as it is on the shoulder. At first the shoulder was very rough despite the lanes being nicely paved and I couldn't help worrying that I would break another spoke. But eventually even the shoulder had a nice smooth surface to ride on, and the gradual uphill climb didn't feel too taxing.

Although the ride was scenic and not too long, I was feeling a little bummed for a while because I started to have some neck, back, and arm pain. I'm hoping it is just a fluke and not the beginning of a bigger problem caused by my biking posture. I was also a little disappointed when I took a rest and my bike computer reset. Luckily I took note of it before the break so my totals can continue.

I made it to Kingman around 2:00, and took a look around their downtown area which emphasizes route 66 and the heavily used railroad that runs through town. After that I headed a few more km up the hill to meet my host, Bonita, who I meet on couch surfing. Tomorrow will be more uphill and entirely on route 66.

Today's distance: 96 km
Trip odometer: 618 km

Josh Orndorff Wed, 05/08/2013 - 23:29

Day 6 -- Kingman AZ to Seligman AZ -- First rain

Day 6 -- Kingman AZ to Seligman AZ -- First rain

After heading North for the last two days, it was good to make some actual eastward progress again today. Quite a day it was though. The entire route was on the original route 66, and it was not the same as interstate 40 at all. It was a steady uphill climb, and the wind blew from every possible direction at some point during my ride today.

I knew there was a chance of rain, and around the 55 km mark the sky was looking very ominous. I passed an animal rescue attraction called "keepers of the wild" and thought of stopping, but decided not to because I hadn't felt any rain yet. Sure enough, about ten strokes later the first few drops hit my face so I turned around and asked if I could hide from the rain there. The woman was very friendly and let me eat my lunch on their covered patio while the rain passed. Of course it didn't do anything but lightly sprinkle...yet.

About an hour after I restarted the real rain came and I got to test out my water proof saddle bag covers for the first and hopefully last time. The rain fell steadily for about an hour, and I made sure to keep moving so I wouldn't get cold. When I finally made it to the next stop a few motorists said, "so, you made it through the rain huh?" and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Finally as I came into Seligman, the sky cleared and the road leveled out. The last little bit was even a tiny bit downhill.

I got dinner at a local diner before heading to the campground. When I was setting up my tent the sky turned dark again, and the wind really picked up. I was nervous that the slowly separating seams on my cheap tent wouldn't be waterproof, and while I was considering going to the motel next door instead, I broke a zipper on my saddle bag. Needless to say, my mood was pretty grim for a little while, but talking with my parents and a few friends helped, and the dark clouds held back their rain for the evening which helped even more.

Today, like day one, was mentally taxing, but I made it through. In fact, tomorrow I'll have made it through an entire week. And you know what Karl would say about that right?

Today's total distance: 141 km
Trip odometer: 765 km

Josh Orndorff Fri, 05/10/2013 - 01:03

Day 7 -- Seligman AZ to Flagstaff AZ -- More uphill

Day 7 -- Seligman AZ to Flagstaff AZ -- More uphill

Today was shorter than yesterday, but was entirely uphill. The beginning was old route 66 and not I 40. That segment, like a lot of yesterdays ride, had old Burma shave signs. Look them up. The rest of the ride was on the interstate. The hardest part was from Ash Fork to Williams. I finished the climb and pulled into a gas station right as the rain began. I waited out the rest of the weather while eating lunch and charging my phone at Dennys.

My last break was in Parks AZ where I chatted with a friendly Dutch tourist for a while before starting again. In Flagstaff I stopped at a bike shop where I finally picked up a proper touring wheel. I was bummed to drop so much money on the bike again since I just had the wheel relaced a few days ago, but I think this was the proper and hopefully final fix. I'll try to pick up a proper tent tomorrow before I leave too.

After the bike shop, I headed to my host Steve's house. I met him through his daughter's friend's brother's friend. Luckily there was a graduation party tonight where I got to meet several of the links in that chain and eat some good food. I also got some good suggestions about my route for the next few days which is not yet fully decided.

Total distance: 123 km
Trip Odometer: 882 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 05/11/2013 - 01:15

Day 8 -- Flagstaff AZ to Holbrook AZ -- Interstate

Day 8 -- Flagstaff AZ to Holbrook AZ -- Interstate

My day started by going to the camping store with Steve. I picked up a new high quality tiny single person tent and some sleeping pants for cold nights.

After that I hit the road. By the time I got out of the neighborhood and on to the main route it was almost 10:00. I ended up taking I 40 all day today. I actually had a route through the reservation to the North all picked out last night, but my unfamiliarity with the area and worries about water stop frequency and cell service for emergencies scared me into staying on the main road.

Most of the ride was downhill, and I lost a lot of elevation, but it was still a hard day of riding. Several people told me that the prevailing winds are from the west, and I hoped today would not be an exception, but it sure was. The wind howled right in my face the whole time. I think I must be getting used to that though because my average speed was at 23.4 km/h, and the wind didn't ruin my mood as it sometimes had.

I stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Winslow AZ, and then pounded out the final two hours to Holbrook. When I got into town I stopped at the Safeway and bought bagels, cheese, and lunch meat. That was dinner tonight, and will be lunch tomorrow as I make the uphill hopefully-wind-at-back haul into Gallup NM.

Today's distance: 150 km
Trip odometer: 1032 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 05/11/2013 - 23:33

Day 9 -- Holbrook AZ to Gallup NM -- Time change

Day 9 -- Holbrook AZ to Gallup NM -- Time change

I entered mountain time today! One zone down and three to go. Too bad that last one is so darn big.

Today started with a few other campers taking interest in my trip over all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. I was excited and rearing to go after telling them about my trip, and that feeling remained as I realized that although the wind was mostly a gentle breeze, it was partially at my back.

I left the campground around 9:00 and despite being another day of almost entirely interstate, it started well. But that all changed at 11:07 when the wind suddenly changed from a gentle tail breeze to head-on kick-me-in-the-face gusting terror and remained as such for the rest of the day. Wind aside, there were some scenic areas today, and it felt good to enter state number three.

After arriving in Gallup, I had pizza and watched a movie with my host Phil, my friend Jessi's husband. Of course I like my new tent, but it will be nice to sleep in their guest bed.

Total distance: 159 km
Average speed: 23.5 km/h
Trip odometer: 1191 km

As a final thought, the last time I was in Gallup, I hopped in a car and drove to LA in a few hours. I sure didn't appreciate it as much that time.

Josh Orndorff Mon, 05/13/2013 - 02:10

Day 10 -- A day of rest

Day 10 -- A day of rest

Today's total distance was 0.0km! That's right, I took a day to let my body recover, plan the route more carefully, and catch up on emails, the job hunt, and other aspects of life that missed the memo stating I would be off the grid for six weeks. I stayed with Phil in Gallup, NM again, and he let me use his computer all day long.

Aside from catching up on all that stuff, it was good to let my body rest for a few reasons. The most obvious is probably that my legs were tired. I jumped into this with less training than I should have, gained a lot of elevation, fought the wind, and had two longish days in a row before getting here. I actually think my legs were holding up quite well considering all that, but it was still good to let them rest for a day. Hopefully they will be nice and fresh when I start again in the morning because I have several long days again this week. But I'll be crossing the continental divide soon, and the wind is forecast to be more at my back, so hopefully that will help. Second, my arms and lips were starting to get roughed up by the sun. I've been using sun screen, and I still will continue to use it, but I think it still helped to give them a day of shade. Third, I started to feel some blisters forming near the end of the ride yesterday. They feel and look good today, so hopefully the day off just turned those hot spots into tough spots that will be relatively blister proof as I continue riding.

Today's distance: 0 km
Trip odometer: 1191 km

Josh Orndorff Mon, 05/13/2013 - 23:40

Day 11 -- Gallup NM to Route 66 travel center NM -- Crossing the divide

Day 11 -- Gallup NM to Route 66 travel center NM -- Crossing the divide

It was a little difficult to get back on the bike after a day of rest, but I managed to leave Gallup around 8:30. The wind was gentle and behind me to begin with just like before, and I decided I should appreciate it while I could because you never know when it will suddenly change. Today's route was mostly frontage roads and the old 66 so it was nice to get off the freeway for a while.

The wind made the initial uphill totally manageable and it wasn't long before I crossed the continental divide. That felt good because it should be generally downhill from here to the Mississippi. The downhill combined with the wind kept my average speed at 29 km/h for the day, a significant increase from the last several days.

After getting sprinkled on a few times, I arrived at my planned destination, Casa Blanca NM at about 3:00, and rested for an hour before deciding to press on.

Shortly after I took off again the sky turned dark and I could tell it was raining off to the north. I decided to stay on the highway to get to my new destination as fast as possible and hopefully beat the rain. Again I got sprinkled on a bit, but the hill and wind helped me move fast enough not to get hit. I even got some good use out of my new, higher, 7th gear.

I arrived at the travel center around 6:00, stood by my bike relaxing for a bit, took a "shower" with some wet paper towels, and made my way to the buffet for dinner where I'm posting this on the free wifi. After dinner I'll find a secret camp site out back or just down the road.

Today's distance: 198 km (I thought about riding around the parking lot a few times to get 200, but didn't.)
Average speed: 29 km/h
Trip odometer: 1389 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 05/14/2013 - 21:45

Day 12 -- Travel center to Moriarty NM -- Off the interstate

Day 12 -- Travel center to Moriarty NM -- Off the interstate

The campsite I found last night was mostly sand but contained a little gravel too and consequently I slept lightly. I woke up in time to see a gorgeous desert sunrise over the mountains that I would later be riding through. The entire eastern sky glowed.

I tore down my camp, ate some egg rolls that I had snuck out of last night's buffet for breakfast, and put on my cycling outfit pretty quickly. But because my phone hadn't charged all night I hung around the travel center for an extra half hour while it charged to 70%. A few people saw me standing by my bike and asked about the trip, and as always it felt good to tell them about it.

Maybe this should go without saying, but my legs didn't feel real fresh at the beginning of the morning. Most likely because of the long day yesterday. There was a small local uphill on the frontage road to begin the day and I slogged up it at about 12 km/h. After the initial uphill I got into a groove and held a good pace. As I got into Albuquerque the road became steeper and steeper downhill until I crossed the Rio Grande.

Working through the city's various regions and neighborhoods was interesting. It was easy riding with lots of bike lanes just like LA. I'm glad it was a short day though because all the turns and traffic lights were time consuming.

As I left the city I began the ~25 km climb into the pass through the Sandia mountains. I guess it isn't all straight downhill after the continental divide. But the climb was gradual and scenic and I didn't mind it. The old 66 followed more or less along the freeway the entire time and wad marked as a bike route. It felt good to be off the interstate again. In fact, this is the first time since day 4 that I haven't used any interstate at all. (Edit: No it isn't. Day 6 into Seligman didn't feature any interstate either. How forgetful of me.)

After the Sandias I cruised downhill into Edgewood and stopped at a grocery store to restock on granola bars and get some lunch meat for tonight and tomorrow. The final 15 km into Moriarty were straight downhill and I didn't have to pedal at all. That felt great.

I arrived at my hotel around 2:00. Being so early I considered going on farther, but there aren't many cities in the next stretch and I wanted a good place to stay tonight and tomorrow's ride isn't super far anyway. Tomorrow will start with another gradual uphill, and then be lots of downhill. And I should be well rested.

Today's distance: 91 km (my odometer actually says 91.000)
Average speed: [crap, I accidentally reset it - probably around 25 km/h]
Trip odometer: 1480 km

Josh Orndorff Wed, 05/15/2013 - 18:57

Day 13 -- Moriarty NM to Santa Rosa NM -- A free ride

Day 13 -- Moriarty NM to Santa Rosa NM -- A free ride

After sleeping through several alarms, I got up and had a quick breakfast around 7:30. I packed up the bike and got on the road by 8:30.

The first hour of the ride was a local uphill but the wind was at my back, so the climb to Cline's Corner didn't seem so bad. I guess that stop is a pretty historic place, but the google reviews were terrible, so I was planning on not stopping. As I neared the top of the hill I began to feel hungry and decided to have the first of my sandwiches when I reached the top. It was then that I realized I had left all of my delicious deli sandwiches in the refrigerator at the hotel. I briefly considered going back for them but decided the two hour round trip journey wasn't worth it. I decided to go to Cline's Corner after all. It wasn't great, but wasn't so bad either.

After getting back on the road, the wind really picked up at my back, and combining with the downhill I hardly had to pedal except for a few small local uphills. I quickly cruised into my next rest stop, the day's halfway point, and got a milk shake at Dairy Queen.

The second half of the trip was also fast with the wind so strong at my back. I arrived in Santa Rosa around 1:00 pm and stopped at a grocery store to get new sandwiches. Hopefully I won't be so forgetful this time. I also reached the highest stopped of the entire trip at 70 km/h. I don't know if I'll be able to beat that. Maybe it depends what the Appalachians have to offer.

After asking around at the grocery, I found out the cool local spot to see was the blue hole, an underwater sink hole and spring. I biked over, talked to some local people, and went for a swim. The water is always clean and always the same temperature because it is constantly flowing up from underground. The sign says it is 81 feet deep, but one person I met says that's how deep it goes before it narrows into caves which the city gated off because some people had dove in and not come out. I have no idea how true that is.

After cooling down in the blue hole I rode to my campground and set up camp. I was a bit irritated that the wind kept blowing my stuff away but then I remembered how much good the wind had done for me today and decided that a few blowing camping items was a small price to pay. I hope it keeps blowing like this for a while.

Today's distance: 137 km
Average speed: 32 km/h.
Trip odometer: 1617 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 05/16/2013 - 19:23

Day 14 -- Santa Rosa NM to Vega TX -- Everything is bigger, especially the pigs

Day 14 -- Santa Rosa NM to Vega TX -- Everything is bigger, especially the pigs

Whew, what a long day. I rode 223 km today and managed to hold an average speed of 29.8 km/h. But let's start from the beginning.

It all started when I woke up and found the sandwiches I made last night were stolen. What's up with these sandwiches? Maybe it just isn't meant to be. I think it might have been the neighbor's dog, but she said it wasn't, so who knows maybe it was wild animals. But it was definitely something with little dog shaped paws in the sand. I tried to get breakfast at Denny's, but the waitress said, "just a moment sir," and then gossiped with her coworker for nearly a minute. It probably wasn't a big deal, but my patience was unreasonably short after finding my food vanished, so I left and bought some pre-made sandwiches from a gas station instead.

I hit the road around 8:30 and spent most of the day on frontage roads and old 66, but did follow the interstate occasionally when the smaller roads ended our turned to dirt.

The craziest event of the day (which actually happened in New Mexico despite the title) was when I was riding down a frontage road and saw what looked like an animal on the left. It was far away, so I wasn't sure what it was, but it sort of looked like a horse or cow, or it maybe just an old shed. As I got closer I determined it was definitely an animal, and I didn't want to scare it so I slowed down. As I passed it I became increasingly scared as I realized it wasn't a horse or anything I had ever seen before, but it was a pig that was taller on all fours than I was standing straight up! It looked at me right in the eye and kept on walking. It was really quite friendly I guess, but it was so massive and unfamiliar that I was genuinely scared. When I was a safe distance I snapped a blurry indistinct picture of it. It will probably end up with all the other blurry pictures of Bigfoot, Nessy, etc.

When I reached Tucumcari I stopped at the Alco for some granola bars, gatorade, and a bottle refill. Everyone there was very nice and helpful, and they even told me where to expect the next few water stops. As I cruised through the next few hours with the wind at least partly behind me, I met several interesting people. First were two motorcyclists who were riding the route from Chicago to LA, and about 100 m later, a Swiss couple who were bicycling the same thing. They even let me look at their route 66 map that showed where the original route still existed and where I would have to take the freeway.

I didn't have a specific destination in mind for the night and figured I'd make a camp somewhere near the state line, but when I reached it it was still early, and I figured there was no point setting up camp just to stand in the sun for a few more hours, so I kept going.

I had seen signs for Stuckey's pecan shop all day and decided to press on the additional 30 km to see what it was about. When I got there I had a "famous" pecan log and a strawberry milkshake. The pecan log was fine, but the shake was amazing partly because it helped cool me off. The temperature reached 36 degrees today (body temperature is 37 for reference) so it was easily the hottest ride so far. While I was at the pecan shop I asked the clerk if she knew anywhere to camp expecting her to say no, but she had a place in mind and even called them up to make sure they took tents. It turned out the campground was another 25 km down the road, but I had time and energy, so figured it would definitely be worth the shower.

I decided to rest at the pecan shop for a while before tackling the final stretch, and that's when I met the final interesting person of the day. An Englishman who had flown to Chicago to drive the route to LA. He told me about his various trips to the states, and we chatted in general for quite a while before going off in opposite directions.

The final stretch to the campground wasn't too bad considering how far I had come, and it felt good to rest at a picnic table when I got there. It felt even better to rinse off all the caked on salt from the day, and shave again.

Some general reflection: the days and sights and mesas and campgrounds and rest stops are starting to blur together a bit. It actually didn't feel like I've been out here for two weeks already. Earlier today I talked to my mom and she asked if I was enjoying the trip and my answer was a little wishy washy. But as I thought about it more throughout the day I thought back to the brutal first day, the Joshua trees, the London bridge, the couch surfing, the graduation party in Flagstaff, Phil's clocks, the ridiculous amount of intrastate highway that I've bicycled, and all the people I've met along the way, and I realized that I really am enjoying it. I hope I have the endurance to make it to Boston, and I hope the next four weeks are as good as the last two.

Today's distance: 223 km
Average speed: 29.8 km/h
Trip odometer: 1840 km

Josh Orndorff Fri, 05/17/2013 - 23:16

Day 15 -- Vega TX to Amarillo TX -- Goodbye interstate

Day 15 -- Vega TX to Amarillo TX -- Goodbye interstate

I'll have to apologize in advance that I don't have many pictures today. Because yesterday was so long today became very short.

I allowed myself to sleep in until after 8:00 to make up for the long ride yesterday and the time change. When I finally got up I walked into dairy queen for breakfast. The lady seemed shocked to see me, and then told me they were closed for another hour. I guess they forgot to lock the door the night before. Instead I went to the cafe and had sausage gravy. The girl working there filled my bottles with ice water and told me where I expect water stops on today's ride. I finally hit the road just after 10:00.

The ride was short enough that I didn't even need to stop for water before I made it to Amarillo.

Less than two hours after I left I pulled up to the bike shop in Amarillo to get some routine maintenance and ended up getting a new chain too. From there I went to Walmart to get sandwich material for one last try. That ride was a pain. Unlike some other big cities oh the trip, Amarillo is not very bike friendly, and I had to fight with traffic and drivers the whole time.

Next I called the campground I had planned to stay at to confirm they had vacancy and I found out the price was nearly $30. After considering a hotel instead and calling around a bit I found another campground for half the price with a pool.

It is still super windy, but the wind is forecast to be from the southwest tomorrow which means it will be at my back. I hope that works out. It was at my side today which was fine especially for a short ride, but it would be great to catch another free ride tomorrow.

Today's distance (including riding around the city): 73 km
Average speed: 25 km/h (After the ride to Amarillo it was 30 km/h, but riding the city brought it down)
Trip odometer: 1913 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 05/18/2013 - 19:30

Day 16 -- Amarillo TX to Higgins TX -- Family at the donut shop

Day 16 -- Amarillo TX to Higgins TX -- Family at the donut shop

Today was a nice enjoyable ride. I left the RV park in Amarillo after having a complimentary donut around 8:30. It was a short haul to highway 60 and a nice ride for the rest of the day.

My first stop was Pampa where I filled my bottles and chatted with some motorcyclists for a while. Then I passed through Miami before things got hilly. It wasn't long climbs and descents like before, but a consistent up and down as I cruised through what looked like little mesas here in northern Texas.

I arrived in my planned destination, Canadian, around 3:30 and hung out recovering for a while. It was hot again and I could tell I was a bit dehydrated, so I made sure to chug lots of water at the gas station before looking for a place for dinner. There were lots of restaurants including one that had been recommended, but they were all closed on Sunday. I ended up getting dinner at Dairy Queen and having a hilarious conversation with the cashier about what size milk shake comes with their value meal. Let's just say I still don't know the answer, she still doesn't understand the question, and I'm still not sure what I paid for, but the price seemed fair, and we both had a good laugh, so I guess it was a win-win.

There is rain forecasted on my route tomorrow, and I didn't have a place to stay in Canadian, so I decided to go farther east. The next town, Higgins, was about 40 km farther down the road, and I made it there in good time. The town was smaller so I didn't expect to find a place to stay, but when I asked a man if he knew a place I could fill my bottles he led me to the donut shop cafe where I made lots of friends, and the owner offered me to camp in her front yard.

There was one large table of people who I initially assumed were family, but I came to find that it is just a great small town where everyone gets along like family, and they didn't hesitate to include me. Hopefully I beat the rain tomorrow.

Today's distance: 207 km
Average speed:27.7 km/h
Trip odometer: 2120 km

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot to mention this. I ended up throwing away the lunch meat. I finally didn't forget it or have it stolen, and I threw it away. The meat package started swelling up like the sandwich I posted the other day, and mom suggested it was probably because it was growing bacteria. Thinking back, the last time I ate a bunch of warm meat was the ride into Gallup, after which I felt pretty sick. So I didn't want to chance it again.

Josh Orndorff Sun, 05/19/2013 - 21:24

Day 17 -- Higgins TX to Seiling OK -- Rolling rolling rolling

Day 17 -- Higgins TX to Seiling OK -- Rolling rolling rolling

The morning in Higgins was the best of the trip so far. I tore down my camp and headed to the donut shop for breakfast. Some of the familiar faces from last night were there again including, of course, Kay, the owner who had let me camp on her yard and use her shower. I ordered a breakfast burrito and chatted with the gang for a while and then changed into my cycling clothes preparing to leave. Finally I asked to fill my bottles and went to pay for my breakfast, and Kay wouldn't let me. She told me to come back sometime and I could buy a meal then. If you ever get close to Higgins Texas go to the donut shop cafe. It is well worth it.

I must have hit the road around 8:00, and it was an exhausting ride. For one thing I got spoiled the last few days with perfectly flat terrain, and today was lots and lots of rolling hills. For another thing the wind was back to its old tricks coming fast from the north east.

I took one rest stop in Vici, OK where I rested until noon, before pressing on the last 35 km to Seiling. The total distance today was only 102 km but it was tiring. After checking into the Seiling motel at 1:30, I got a shower and a nap. That rain I was worried about never came. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same.

I walked to a local restaurant for dinner and ordered way too much. I guess I still haven't learned that my appetite is smaller after I bike all day. On the walk back I found five bucks on the ground.

Today's distance: 35 km
Average speed: 22.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 2222 km

Josh Orndorff Mon, 05/20/2013 - 19:12

Day 18 -- Seiling OK to Stillwater OK -- Oklahoma rainstorm

Day 18 -- Seiling OK to Stillwater OK -- Oklahoma rainstorm

It was hard to get out of bed this morning. I finally managed to get everything together and leave the hotel room by 9:00. I made a quick trip to Subway where I ate half a sub for breakfast and saved the other half for later.

When I left town the sky was mostly clear, but there were dark clouds ahead to the east. I came to the first town of the day, Canton, and cruised through after a quick bathroom stop. About 70 km into the ride I came to the town of Okeene where I stopped again to ask if anyone had seen a weather forecast because the sky was getting darker. The lady at the gas station acted like I was crazy to even consider riding a bicycle in the same state that a tornado once happened in, let alone just a few days later and a hundred miles away. The more rational manager had seen the forecast and assured me it was safe outside but cautioned that I might get wet. I decided to press on the next 30 km into Hennessey anyway. That turned out to be a mistake though, because by the time I got there I was totally soaked. And it turns out the waterproof covers for my panniers, while certainly helpful, were really more water resistant. As I neared the city, a semi coming the opposite way splashed a hard wall of water into me and my speedometer went to zero. I was afraid it wasn't so waterproof either.

When I finally arrived at the Sinclair station in Hennessey, I ate the second half of my sub, ran my hands under warm water for about five minutes and bought an extra super huge hot chocolate. The attendants were nice enough to let me hang around for about two hours while the rain stopped and the sky started to clear. During that time I checked out my speedometer and found that it wasn't permanently broken. The stream of water had just displaced the magnet on my front wheel; an easy fix.

I decided I wasn't going to camp because my clothes and sleeping bag were soaked. The forecast showed that the rain had all moved east, but that side of the sky was still dark and I was hesitant to ride farther. I debated for a while whether I should ride into Stillwater or get a hotel in Hennessey for the night. That decision became very easy when the only hotel in town was locked up and the owner was nowhere to be found. I would ride the next 75 km into Stillwater.

The last stretch was not so bad, and I cruised through the rolling hills at a pretty good speed. I stopped briefly to take a roadside break and check the map, laying my bike down on the grass. When I got back on it I heard the all-too-familiar ping. Another broken spoke. This time it was the front wheel. Good thing too because I might have ridden back to Flagstaff to personally kick the guy's ass who sold me that touring wheel if I had broken a back spoke already. I checked the map again. Another 12 km to the city. It was farther than I wanted to walk since it was already getting a bit late, so I disconnected my front brake and rode slowly on my bent wheel to the Motel 6 where I hung my clothes and sleeping bag to dry for the night.

After a good dinner of Mexican food, I'm ready for bed. The bike shop opens at 10:00 tomorrow so I'll get the spoke fixed then.

Today's distance: 173 km (There is a little uncertainty here because the odometer stopped working for a little bit.)
Average speed: 16.2 km/h
Trip odometer: 2395 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 05/21/2013 - 22:08

Day 19 -- Stillwater OK to Tulsa OK -- The best bike shop

Day 19 -- Stillwater OK to Tulsa OK -- The best bike shop

After a subway breakfast I went to district bicycles in Stillwater to get my spoke fixed. This is unquestionably the best bike shop I've ever been to. The fixed my spoke quickly, were super friendly, and even gave me a granola bar on the way out. I got back on the road around 11:00.

The ride was lots more rolling hills with a little assistance from the wind. I cruised through several towns without even stopping, and finally rested in Sand Springs right before I got into Tulsa. I can tell I've moved from the southwest to the central because the roadkill had turned from snakes to armadillos.

The laststretch into the city was surprisingly industrial, but I was happy to find lots of bike lanes and bike routes once I got in town.

My hosts, Tom and Jean, fixed a great feast of hamburgers, beans, and potato salad. We chatted about my travels for a while and looked at the map to check out my future route. I'll try to check out the historic blue whale tomorrow.

Today's distance: 108 km
Average speed: I accidentally reset it.
Trip odometer: 2503 km

Josh Orndorff Wed, 05/22/2013 - 22:12

Day 20 -- Tulsa OK to Fairland OK -- Threatening skies

Day 20 -- Tulsa OK to Fairland OK -- Threatening skies

Today started out pretty typically. I had a homemade breakfast of eggs and fried potatoes, said goodbye to my hosts, spent an embarrassingly long time looking for a missing glove, and hit the road around 8:30.

The skies were darker than I expected from the forecast and the wind was right in my face. I could tell it would be a hard day quickly because I couldn't get my speed much over 20 km/h and with about 160 km to ride that isn't what you hope for.

I intended to stop and see the blue whale, a historical route 66 attraction just outside of Tulsa, since I'm back on the route now, but I couldn't manage to find it and knew I didn't have much time to spend looking.

I stopped briefly in each small town I went through to chug a gatorade and eat a granola bar. It was important to chug the gatorade because on wind-in-face days it's hard to relax my riding posture long enough to really use my bottles while riding. I spent most of the day in third or forth gear and about 75% of it out of the saddle. In one small town I figured I should have something that resembled lunch so I counted up the loose change I've accumulated so far on the trip and found it was 99 cents. I asked the cashiers if I could get any of their hot items with that much. One said no but the other said he would get me a deal. He gave me about four bucks worth of chicken bites which helped my mood considerably.

Asking around about the weather forecast, I found out that I probably wouldn't get rained on heavily, but might get a little wet. I pressed on through several more small towns, and near the end of the ride the sky began to lighten a little.

I made it to the campground around 6:30 which means it was about ten hours on the bike. This may have been the hardest day yet, but luckily I've built up a considerable amount of mental toughness compared to day one and was able to buckle down and keep riding. I finally got to camp in Oklahoma. Which reminds me, another way I know I'm out of the west is that the mosquitos are back. I'll have to add repellent to my supplies the next time I find a store.

Today's distance: 159 km
Average speed: 20.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 2662 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 05/23/2013 - 21:07

Day 21 -- Fairland OK to Strafford MO -- Not according to plan

Day 21 -- Fairland OK to Strafford MO -- Not according to plan

Wow, what a crazy day. Just about nothing today went according to plan.

I woke up feeling pretty discouraged for several reasons. It was cold. I was itchy from all the mosquito bites. The wind was fast and east. My bike had started making a concerning squeaking sound the previous day. And worst of all, my formerly broken arm had started hurting and was a little swollen.

But after a little moping around I managed to get on the road. It was slow going as expected, even slower than yesterday. I was averaging about 19 km/h when I rolled into the first town, Neosho. I planned to get breakfast and some granola bars at the subway/Walmart that I saw on the map, but when I got to the expected location, it was a neighborhood. I ended up wasting about half an hour there before finally getting back to the main road and picking up a sandwich from a gas station.

A little while later I found an ice cream place called Baum's and got a milkshake and some trail mix which made me feel a little better.

After hours of slowly grinding and pedaling down the road the wind finally slowed a tiny bit and shifted from directly in my face to only partially in my face. And a few minutes later I saw a sign saying Springfield (my intended destination) was only 18 miles ahead. Things were starting to look up. I even stopped to take a picture of the sign. I got back on my bike with a slightly improved outlook. But everybody knows what happened next right...

Ping. Broken spoke. Front wheel again. Luckily mom had found me a list of bike shops in Springfield already to get the squeak fixed. Unlucky my phone was dying and my wheel was bent. I pushed the bike back a short ways to the small town of Billings and found an electric outlet on the side of a bar. I looked at the list of shops and saw that one of them was open until 7:00. It was already 5:00 so it would be tight, but I was determined. I managed to roll into the shop at quarter 'til and I bought a new front wheel and rear tire. But I kept a small piece of the old tire to say it made it from ocean to ocean. The mechanic also lubed up my whole drive train and seat post so everything is nice and quiet. He didn't even charge me labor. I have to say I've gotten lucky to find some really great bike shops on this trip.

After leaving the shop I was feeling much better, and my bike hadn't ridden so well since the day I bought it. Quiet and smooth. I was excited to ride it and I had already gone past my intended campground to get to the shop, so I decided to go a bit farther. I had called another campground earlier, but they closed at 8:00. I called again, and she said they could stay open late for me. I told her I would be about an hour, but that turned out to be an underestimate. I called her a few times with updates so she stayed up and waited for me. I rolled in about 9:30. She and her husband were very friendly, and the place even cost less than the planned campground.

I'm excited for a few shorter days coming up and to ride the newly upgraded and tuned bike. I am a bit worried about rain and my arm though. I guess I'll have to feel those out.

Total distance: 191 km
Average speed: 20.1 km/h
Trip odometer: 2853 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 05/25/2013 - 00:12

Day 22 -- Strafford MO to Richland MO --My first flat

Day 22 -- Strafford MO to Richland MO --My first flat

It was a cold morning and it took me a few minutes to get out of bed. When I finally did, I tore down my camp quickly. I pushed my bike through the gravel driveway and hopped on at the paved road. But when I started riding I felt a bump. Looking down I saw that my rear tire was flat. I was surprised because it felt fine last night. Few people were up at the campground, and the owners weren't around so I decided to just reinflate it with my hand pump. The pump couldn't quite get up to the pressure requirements of the new tire and I didn't want to tire my arm getting close so I just got it decently full and rode off to the town of Marshfield.

When I got there I stopped in an auto parts shop/garage and asked if they could top me off. The mechanic filled it up and tried to measure the pressure with his gauge, but couldn't get a reading. He tried to let some air back out and that wouldn't work either. I figured something was wrong with my valve, but didn't know what it could be. Anyway, my tire was full for now so after breakfast at subway I pressed on to the next city.

As I rode the tire slowly leaked and when I reached a gas station with an air machine I decided to figure it out. This time I was able to deflate the tire and take it off the wheel. Everything looked fine except that the stem was a bit crooked and I couldn't find a leak in my tube, so I put it back together being careful to keep the stem straight. When I went to refill it I found I needed a dollar for the air machine. Probably should have figured that. I asked the cashier if I could get cash back and when she said no I asked if she could just turn the machine on for me. No again. I told her my story and I guess she felt bad, probably that I was too stupid to check the price before I disassembled my wheel, and gave me a dollar. I thanked her several times and refilled the tire. Everything seemed fine on the test lap around the parking lot so I headed into Lebanon.

A quick stop at a grocery store and I started on the last 30 km stretch to the campground. The owners were super nice and upgraded me from a basic site to a site with water and electric for free. The site only cost $7! (that's excitement not a factorial for you math types) The place was nice with a pool and a river. Since I arrived early I even managed to make friends with the people at the next site who were here celebrating the upcoming wedding of two of their friends.

It never ended up raining and the skies are clear now so I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow either. Arriving early gave the legs a nice chance to rest, and I'm hoping that will happen for the next few days into St .Louis too.

Today's distance: 95 km
Average speed: 22.2 km/h
Trip odometer: 2948 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 05/25/2013 - 20:09

Day 23 --Richland MO to Cuba MO -- Country roads

Day 23 --Richland MO to Cuba MO -- Country roads

My tire was flat again when I woke up today. Looking more carefully, the stem of my tube seemed to have gotten cut from riding crooked through the wheel the other day. I replaced it and reinflated it with the campground's air compressor. That puncture proof tube served me well, but now that I'm out of thorn territory, I might not miss it's extra weight anyway. By 8:30 I had said goodbye to my friends from the night before and hit the road.

A lot of the route today was winding rolling country roads. Some of it was even through national forest. It was very scenic, and I quite enjoyed riding it.

The weather forecast called for rain again, so I stopped only briefly to fill a bottle or eat a granola bar in each city I passed through. I hoped I could reach the ladybug campground and be set up before the rain came.

In Rolla I went through the Missouri University of Science and Technology and in St. James I stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

I rolled into the campground around 3:00 after riding only 107 km. Three short days in a row have helped my legs feel better and more fresh. I think my arm is starting to feel better too. The next two days are supposed to be even shorter so they should feel great. Although I'm thinking of combining them into one long day to get to St. Louis sooner. We'll see how the weather looks before making that call. For now the sky looks nice and blue with just a few clouds. Maybe I didn't have to rush after all.

It was a side wind today, but fairly hilly too.

Today's distance: 107 km
Average speed: 22.5 km/h
Trip odometer: 3055 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 05/26/2013 - 18:38

Day 24 -- Cuba MO to Robertsville MO -- Riding the storm out

Day 24 -- Cuba MO to Robertsville MO -- Riding the storm out

I woke up around 4:00 to the feeling of raindrops hitting my face through the screen on my tent. It was only lightly sprinkling, but I knew I had to get my bike and packs covered quickly or my clothes would be wet and heavy, and my drive train would be squeaky.

I jumped out of the tent quickly zipping it behind me to keep my sleeping bag dry. I thought briefly about whether I should wear more than my boxer shorts, but decided it didn't matter because everyone was asleep anyway. It only took a few minutes to gather the clothes I had laid out to dry, repack my food, and put the rain covers on my packs. The last thing I needed to do was find cover for the whole bike. I remembered the campground owner telling me "those two trailers" were unoccupied, and I was fairly sure I knew which two he meant. So I stashed my bike under the front of one trailer hoping nobody was inside. Finally I hand-squeegeed as much water as I could from my chest and back and hopped back into the sleeping bag.

By the time I woke up again at 7:00 the rain had stopped. I laid my tent over a picnic take to dry as I packed everything else and got ready for the day. As I was taking off the owner gave me a free orange juice and wished me luck.

I had decided that I was going to try to reduce my costs for the rest of the trip which meant I would be buying more food at grocery stores (now that they are more frequent) and less at restaurants and gas stations. As I rolled into the downtown area in Cuba, I realized that might be hard today because stores might be closed for memorial day. Luckily Mace was open so I bought a banana and yogurt for breakfast, sandwich meat and tortillas for lunch and dinner, and granola bars for snacks. I know I said I wouldn't try meat again after so much spoiled before, but I decided to give it one more shot.

The route followed pretty closely to the interstate today, and featured a lot more rolling hills. I'm considering all these hills training for when I get to the big guys in Pennsylvania. As I entered each new town I kept my eye on the sky and the forecast deciding whether I should press on or wait out some rain. And each time I decided to press on because the rain was still far enough behind me. In the last town, St. Claire, I saw a big storm brewing behind me on the radar but still thought I could beat it, so I set out on the last stretch.

I made it to the campground and had time to chat with the camp hosts for a while before the storm hit. And boy did it ever hit. It rained and thundered like crazy. Luckily there was a covered corridor outside the bath house to hide my bike and ride the storm out. While I was hanging around there, I met another camper, Diane, who was also from Ohio, and camping for a few days while she visited St. Louis. When the rain finally stopped it turned to blue sites and sunshine. It's astonishing how quickly and completely the entire sky can change.

Today's distance: 89 km
Average speed: 25.4 km/h
Trip odometer: 3144 km

I have one more short day tomorrow before I set off to cover Illinois. It was good to get my speed back up to a reasonable clip again today.

Josh Orndorff Mon, 05/27/2013 - 20:36

Day 25 -- Robertsville MO to St. Louis MO -- More rain and a mini railroad

Day 25 -- Robertsville MO to St. Louis MO -- More rain and a mini railroad

Waking up to the feeling of rain through my tent screen was a disappointment because I thought the last of the storm had passed last night. But I used it as an excuse to sleep in longer which felt pretty good. When it tapered off, I carried my whole tent, sleeping bag and all, still set up to the corridor where I had hung out the previous day. I packed up there, and had the great idea of leaving my sleeping bag in the tent all the time. I would make setting up and tearing down camp easier, and the waterproof tent would keep the sleeping bag dry if I got caught in rain. I wish I had thought of that earlier.

I took off around 8:30 but didn't get far before the rain set in again. I stopped at the 11 km mark and waited at a gas station. Eventually the gas station got boring so when the rain lightened I moved on to a subway and waited for it to stop entirely. Subway is a better waiting place because I could have breakfast and use their wifi while charging my phone.

As the day pressed on it was more of the same. I kept a close eye on the radar and waited when I had to. For the most part I stayed reasonably dry, and I also kept the rain covers on my packs all day. My second good idea if the day was to keep my phone in my shirt's back pocket when the rain covers are on so I can still easily take pictures and check the map.

As I neared the city, the route took me on a bike trail. At first I was hesitant about riding an unpaved trail since I've had so much wheel trouble already. But eventually it turned paved, and wound through some very scenic woods. The weirdest thing about the trail was that it followed along a tiny set of railroad tracks. I have no idea what they were for.

When I finally got into St. Louis I rode through Washington University, then stopped at a bike shop to get my front wheel trued and drive train oiled. I figured I'd need it after the rain today.

Finally I headed to my friend Sarah's house where I'll be spending the night. We're making stir fry for dinner and heading to trivia night at a bar later.

My arm has started feeling better the last few days, and my legs are feeling a little more fresh. Tomorrow is an average length day, so hopefully my body will handle it well after these few short days.

Today's distance: 82 km
Average speed: 22.6 km/h
Trip odometer: 3226 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 05/28/2013 - 20:02

Day 26 -- St. Louis MO to Effingham IL -- From west to east

Day 26 -- St. Louis MO to Effingham IL -- From west to east

Today was a big event in the trip because I crossed the continent's natural seam, the Mississippi river. After riding downtown and taking some pictures of the arch, I rode upstream on the Missouri side of the river for a few km and then crossed into Illinois.

The area immediately across from St. Louis was pretty industrial and run down, but not long after it turned into fields and country roads. Madison county even had a nice network of bike paths that were built over old railroad tracks. As I neared the edge of the county the trail turned from paved to cinder, but it was solid enough that I could ride without to much worry.

It felt nice to have a day without worrying about rain, and my legs felt fresh after the last few short days. Consequently, I crossed quickly through the towns, and ended up riding a good bit farther than I had planned.

I ended up camping at a nice campground in Effingham where I spent a while chatting with the owner and other campers about my trip. I really enjoy the alone time that this trip gives me to think, but it always feels nice to talk with people in the evening after a long ride by myself.

The bike seems to be in good shape, and my formerly broken arm continues to feel better. I'll try to make it to Terre Haute tomorrow which will put me a day ahead of schedule. But I might get into rain again.

Today's distance: 178 km
Average speed got reset again. I'm not even sure how it happened this time.
Trip odometer: 3404 km

Josh Orndorff Wed, 05/29/2013 - 22:14

Day 27 -- Effingham IL to Terre Haute IN -- The final time zone

Day 27 -- Effingham IL to Terre Haute IN -- The final time zone

Let me start by thanking all the Illinois drivers I encountered. I know I only spent one night there, but it was the first state I passed through that didn't have any dumb ass drivers. Nobody flew by a few cm from my handlebars. Nobody blasted their horn or yelled, "get of the road." Nobody pulled over like they wanted to fight. So thanks Illinois, and keep up the good work!

It turns out I didn't need to stash my bike in the campground laundry room after all because it didn't rain overnight. The forecast this morning said I would have until about 1:00 to get into Terre Haute before the chance of rain went way up, so I was trying to move quickly all day.

I followed the old national road which runs roughly along the track of interstate 70 all day. I stopped briefly in each town to fill my bottles, but did a good job keeping the stops short, and a great job reducing my costs. In fact I think this is the first day I didn't spend any money since I arrived in Kingman, AZ.

The wind seemed to be mostly at my side, but I knew it was at least partially at my back because I was able to hold about 28 km/h for long stretches. I realized just how much it was at my back when I passed a couple of riders, Allie and Alec, going the opposite direction. They were almost doing my route in reverse, heading from Connecticut to San Francisco. They were really friendly and we chatted about our routes and experiences for several minutes before heading off in opposite directions. I wished we could have ridden together for a while, but it would have been some serious backtracking for one of us.

I ended up making it into Terre Haute around 3:00 eastern time, but still managed to beat the rain. There were a few small showers this evening, but nothing too serious. Let's hope tomorrow is the same. For the evening I'll be hanging out and eating pizza with my host, Roger, who is a friend of a friend of a friend. One time zone to go!

Today's distance: 115 km
Average speed: 24 km/h
Trip odometer: 3519 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 05/30/2013 - 19:45

Day 28 -- Terre Haute IN to Indianapolis IN -- A rainy forecast

Day 28 -- Terre Haute IN to Indianapolis IN -- A rainy forecast

When my alarm went off at 7:00 I heard rain outside the window. If I had to wait it out somewhere bed seemed like a good place. I finally got up just before eight and Roger made me eggs and sausage for breakfast. The radar looked rainy all day and I decided I would just have to ride through it. So I put the rain covers on my packs, thanked Roger for hosting me, and headed out.

As I rode through fields and countryside watching the cloud patterns change above me, I got less traffic than I expected. Since I had prepared myself mentally to ride in it all day long it was actually nice to only get in real heavy rain for about half an hour.

As I neared the outskirts of Indy I stopped at a gas station to fill my bottles and it started pouring. Going out into the rain is much harder than continuing to ride when you're already out there and it starts, so I decided to wait a few minutes and see if it passed. After about five minutes I decided is go inside and get a hot chocolate. But in the half minute it took me to dig out my debit card the rain totally stopped. I canceled the hot chocolate and headed out again. After a quick stop at Meijer where I picked up some groceries and my own bottle of chain oil, I arrived at Wes's house.

I took a much needed shower, and then met several of his friends. The whole group of us went out for pizza for dinner. When we got home we decided to do 200 pullups between the group of 8. Maybe now my arm muscles will not feel neglected compared to my legs.

Total distance: 125 km
Average speed: 24.8 km/h
Trip odometer: 3644 km

Josh Orndorff Fri, 05/31/2013 - 23:40

Day 29 -- Indianapolis IN to Richmond IN -- The biggest garage sale I've ever seen

Day 29 -- Indianapolis IN to Richmond IN -- The biggest garage sale I've ever seen

It was another rainy morning, but after staying up late with my new friends in Indianapolis, I didn't mind an excuse to sleep in an extra half hour. When I finally got up just before 8:00 the radar looked grim. I figured I would have to ride in the rain all day, so I prepared myself mentally as I prepared the bike. I rode through downtown Indy enjoying the sculptures and monuments, but the rain prevented me from taking too many pictures.

Not long after I left the city the rain slowed to little more than a sprinkle and the sky began to lighten. It was a pleasant surprise because I was expecting to be wet all day. I called my parents who were planning to meet up with me later in the day and found out that they were on the road. We decided to meet up around Richmond, my previously planned destination.

As I continued riding down the old national road I passed a lot of garage sales. I couldn't believe how many people were having sales on a day that was forecast to be rainy, but I later found out that this weekend is the annual old national road garage sale. All across the eastern part of the United States people were decorating the roadside with tables and tents. Several of the towns along the way had banners and fund raisers going.

When I made it into Richmond I crossed paths with my parents in their truck, and Dad jumped out to ride the last few kilometers with me. We will ride the beginning of my route to Dayton together tomorrow too. After I got a shower we had dinner at a local sandwich shop, and played games for a while. Lately I've been getting a lot of encouragement from people following my blog and the support feels great. The ride into Dayton tomorrow should give my legs a chance to rest, and the chance of rain is lower than it has been which is encouraging.

Total distance: 134 km
Average speed: 24.5 km/h
Trip odometer: 3778 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 06/01/2013 - 23:56

Day 30 -- Richmond IN to Dayton OH -- A riding partner

Day 30 -- Richmond IN to Dayton OH -- A riding partner

Today was planned to be a short day, and my host in Dayton was expecting to get home around 8:00 pm so I was able to sleep in until 9:30 before waking up and having continental breakfast at the hotel.

The sky was a little cloudy, but there was no rain in the forecast. That hasn't happened in a while, so I was excited to head out and stay dry all day long. My dad decided to ride with me for a while today and we took off a little before 11:00. We entered Ohio almost immediately and continued along the national road passing more garage sales for a while. We also rode a nice paved bike path for a while.

After a few water and rest stops we entered Dayton and met up with my mom at Sinclair community college. The three of us had dinner together and I said goodbye to my parents around 4:30.

I hung around downtown Dayton and the University of Dayton for a while and headed over to meet my host, Jason, and his girlfriend, Emily, about 8:00. We went to a bar and got a drink while they had dinner. I was still way too full of pasta to get any more food.

I also got a call from a good friend asking me to stand in his wedding! How exciting!

Today's distance: 67 km
Average speed: 17 km/h
Trip odometer: 3845 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 06/02/2013 - 19:02

Day 31 -- Dayton OH to Columbus OH -- Meeting up with my inspiration

Day 31 -- Dayton OH to Columbus OH -- Meeting up with my inspiration

Today was an excellent way to round out my first month of riding. I woke up and finished off the leftover spaghetti warehouse for breakfast then said goodbye to Jason around 8:30.

There was no rain on the forecast today which made me excited to get out and ride. Today's route consisted almost entirely of bike trails along which I was able to cruise despite a slight head wind.

Today was also the first time I've adjusted my own spokes. I heard a knocking coming from my rear wheel and looked several times to see if something was hitting the spokes. Eventually I checked all the spokes' tensions and discovered that a few of them on the right side were loose. I knew that adjusting them could be tricky so I was hesitant at first, but I decided to tighten them up anyway. When I was done they all had good tension and the wheel still looked nice and true. Best of all the knocking was gone and I didn't have to spend time or money at a shop. Hopefully the wheel will prove to be strong the next few days.

I was planning on staying with two college friends tonight. David Doornbos, who had done a cross country trip last year and was a huge part of my inspiration for this trip, and his wife Jesi Hale. I thought I might be able to meet up with Jesi and ride the last bit together, but I made it into Columbus too quickly.

After a few missed turns in the city, I arrived at their house and spent a few fours catching up with Jesi. We picked David up from work around 7:00 and took a tour around the Ohio State campus.

When the three of us returned home we had a feast of grilled steak, shrimp, and veggies, and shared stories about our cross country adventures. David's stories about crossing the mountains got me excited to see what Pennsylvania has to offer.

Tomorrow night I'll meet up with my dad again in Newcomerstown. Maybe I can convince him to ride along again.

Today's distance: 121 km
Average speed: 23.1 km/h
Trip odometer: 3966 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 06/04/2013 - 00:38

Day 32 -- Columbus OH to Newcomerstown OH -- Slow going

Day 32 -- Columbus OH to Newcomerstown OH -- Slow going

I said goodbye to David and Jesi last night because they would both be leaving for work before I wanted to get up. I slept in until about 7:45 enjoying the air mattress and cool breeze in their upstairs room, but got ready quickly, leaving around 8:30. From there the day was very slow-going.

Leaving metropolitan areas is always slow , and today was no exception. The road I chose to leave Columbus was filled with red lights for over an hour. Then when I finally got out of the city, the bike trail I had planned to take was closed for pavement repair. I considered riding it anyway, but ultimately decided not to. That was the right decision because I saw the work equipment on the trail from the road a few minutes later. I also got slowed down because today's route was full of turns from one small road to another which meant frequent stops to check the map. A slight headwind was not strong enough to wear me out, but did make the ride take longer than usual.

Despite the longer-than-expected ride time my spirit was high and the weather was nice. The past few days without threat of rain have been refreshing and I think I'll have one more of them before going back to obsessively checking the radar. The terrain slowly transitioned from perfectly flat, which it has been since I crossed the Mississippi, to gently rolling, and by the end of the day I even had one moderate climb. The hills were totally manageable, but they were a reminder that I'm only a day away from the Appalachian foothills and then the mountains.

I met up with dad at the Hampton Inn for the night around 6:30. We had dinner at a local restaurant, hung out in the hot tub, and then looked over the route for the next few days. I've actually caught up with the part of the route that seemed so far away that I didn't bother to thoroughly plan it in Gallup. So I'll be doing some real-time planning the next few days.

Total distance: ~149 km (my bike computer cut out a few times today)
Average speed: 22.6 km/h
Trip odometer: 4115 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 06/04/2013 - 18:34

Day 33 -- Newcomerstown OH to Canonsburg PA -- A three state day

Day 33 -- Newcomerstown OH to Canonsburg PA -- A three state day

I was slow to get out of bed this morning. Dad left for work early, but I slept in until almost 8:00. By the time I had breakfast, packed up, and called a few campgrounds, I didn't hit the road until almost 9:30.

It turned out the campground I had planned didn't have showers or electricity so I decided I would just ride toward Pittsburgh and see how far I got. It is nice feeling to ride off without any particular destination. I could ride as far as I wanted or stop as early as I wanted, and that sort of freedom to do what feels best in the moment is part of what this trip is about.

I took a wrong turn about 200m after leaving the hotel, but after that the ride went pretty smoothly. I passed through the remainder of the Ohio plains and entered the Appalachian foothills in short time. There were a few climbs but I didn't yet feel I was in the thick of the mountains. Near the end of Ohio I stopped at a subway and got lunch on the gift card my parents had given me a few days earlier. Next I headed into the border city of Steubenville OH. I passed within blocks of the place I had done a service trip back in high school and was surprised to find that I actually recognized some of the buildings.

Next I crossed the Ohio river into West Virginia. Then about 10 wild and wonderful kilometers later I left into Pennsylvania. Although it was by far the shortest state I've passed through so far, West Virginia offered most of the scenery I've seen so far on the trip. It had a gorgeous layered cliff juxtaposed immediately with a huge industrial monstrosity. Then a brutal uphill climb at the top of which I rested to let my side cramp pass. Then a fast switch-backed downhill, and an unpaved bike path. In fact I think the only things West Virginia didn't have were large open fields and pigsquatch. Seriously though, some of the climbs were pretty steep and I'm beginning to worry that my seven gears might not go low enough. I guess the next few days will tell for sure.

The path that I picked up in West Virginia continued into Pennsylvania, and I followed it almost to Pittsburgh. Eventually I got off it and headed to the southwest suburb of Canonsburg where my college friend Aaron Goodman lives.

I haven't seen Aaron in a few years, so it was awesome to meet up with him again. The two of us went out to fat head's saloon for dinner and to watch the penguins hockey game. I ordered the quadruple bypass burger, and it was totally delicious. Afterward he showed me a great view of the city and the three rivers from the Duquesne incline. This was a fun night.

Tomorrow will be a light day where I meet my high school friend Michelle for lunch and a tour of Pitt, then head to the east suburbs to stay with a new friend Pilang. I won't really get outside of Pittsburgh, but I will basically cross it so there well still be a decent bit of riding. It should be a fun day though and I'm sure I'll be happy to be on the east side when I finally leave the city the next day.

Total distance: 158 km
Average speed: 22.1 km/h
Trip odometer: 4273 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 06/06/2013 - 00:07

Day 34 -- Canonsburg PA to Verona PA -- Friends in Pittsburgh

Day 34 -- Canonsburg PA to Verona PA -- Friends in Pittsburgh

Since most people probably aren't familiar with the cities in the title today, I basically rode from the southwest suburbs of Pittsburgh through downtown to the east suburbs. It wasn't quite like the rest day in Gallup when I didn't even touch my bike, but it was a short day, and hopefully put most of the slowness that comes with leaving a metro area behind me.

I woke up this morning and had a quick breakfast with Aaron before saying goodbye and heading out. The ride into downturn was nice until the rain started. I had to check the map on my phone often being in the city, and after a while the rain stopped the touch screen from working. I was afraid the phone was permanently broken which would have been bad news for the trip, buy luckily it recovered after it dried off.

I made it into downtown by noon and met my friend Michelle for lunch. We went to a place called "Joe Mamas" which was of course awesome. Then she showed me around Pitt and her physics lab. I haven't seen her in at least three years, and never outside of our high school circle, so it was really cool to get a glimpse of what she is up to now.

I stopped briefly at the library to catch up on email and whatnot, and then rode one more hour to Pilang's house in Verona where I would spend the night. The timing wasn't great because she is working nights at the hospital, but we got to hang out for little while before she had to leave.

Tonight marks one whole week in which I haven't camped. I wonder if my tent is starting to miss me. I'll be camping again tomorrow night in Ebensburg.

Total distance: 56 km
Average speed: 19.7 km/h
Trip odometer: 4329 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 06/06/2013 - 20:19

Day 35 -- Verona PA to Ebensburg PA -- Tunnel terrain

Day 35 -- Verona PA to Ebensburg PA -- Tunnel terrain

I said goodbye to Pilang as she was getting home from her overnight shift at the hospital. After using more of my subway gift card for breakfast and taking a quick stop at the grocery store for granola bars, I was on my way.

I decided not to follow the google suggested route for the first part of today's ride. I saw a road that looked a bit shorter and would eliminate several turns so I went for it. In hindsight google probably already knew what I would come to learn. After about half an hour of riding I saw some confusing detour signs that had the eastbound traffic heading backward along the westbound route. I didn't know what to make of that, so I pressed on. A little later I saw a "road closed ahead" sign. After confirming for myself that the road really was impassable I turned back to the map to find an alternate route. It was back to the originally suggested route for me. Luckily the detour only added about 5 km to my ride. Unlucky my exploration of the construction zone led to mud caked around my clips which I had to scrape off before I could clip back into my pedals.

The middle section of today's ride was on the unpaved West Penn Trail. My tolerance for unpaved trails had increased after a few good experiences the last two weeks, so I didn't hesitate much this time. But this particular trail had a few stretches that I would consider mountain bike terrain, and one that I would consider hiking terrain. In my situation, the latter was more of a portage than anything. My thicker hybrid tires and new double walked rims seemed to hold up fine though.

I passed through a few small towns and followed a state highway for a short time before stopping at a Sheetz -- a sure sign that I've reached the north east -- to finish the second half of my sub.

The final stretch was on the Ghost Town Trail, and in an intermittent drizzle. The trail was also unpaved but a little more tame than earlier in the day. The old railroad trails are nice because they are typically pretty level, but unpaved surfaces are slow which made today's ride take a while.

I arrived at the crappiest campground I've stayed at so far around 5:30, and just before the real rain let loose.

Today's distance: 124 km
Average speed: 19.1 km/h
Trip odometer: 4453 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 06/08/2013 - 15:47

Day 36 -- Ebensburg PA to State College PA --Bicycling directions are in beta

Day 36 -- Ebensburg PA to State College PA --Bicycling directions are in beta

This morning was one of the toughest of the trip. I woke up in a wet sleeping bag and had to get ready in the cold. And although yesterday's ride was mostly on bike trails, the few steep climbs caused my formerly broken arm to be sore again. I guess I must be getting tougher mentally because I managed to get going without wishing for a nicer day too long. I started by heading to Walmart to get granola bars and breakfast at the subway.

The day turned out to be nicer than expected though and the rain stopped after less than two hours. I ran into more closed roads today, but the detours were convenient and didn't require much backtracking. I was even able to hold a pretty good speed for most of the ride. Of course it helped that I had a huge downhill during which I didn't have to pedal at all for about 10 minutes.

The day's real surprise came when google's directions led me to a road that was gated off. Unlike the construction areas, rerouting around this one would have required a long detour. So I decided to push my bike through the woods around the gate and see what was ahead. The road eventually turned unpaved, and then to more of a dirt trail but as I got deeper in, turning around became less appealing so I pressed on. Every time I came to what looked like a new intersection on the map, the road got smaller rather than turning paved. Eventually I approached the back of a farm house and the road became their driveway, and then the driveway connected to a real road. I guess that's why the bicycling directions are still in beta. After all the bumping along I had a few loose spokes again and tightened them myself.

I made it into State College around 3:00 and stopped at a bike shop to get my wheels and crank shaft bearings checked out. The mechanic said I had done well on my wheels, but the bearings did need replaced. He also tried to sell me new brake pads, but I passed. I figured they would just slow me down. While he changed the bearing, I hung out at the library.

I arrived at my friend Reuben's house around 5:00 and met his roommates and friends. I got to clean and dry my laundry and dry my tent and sleeping bag outside which was much needed.

As usual, I had a great time meeting his friends and going out to dinner with them.

One week to go.

Today's distance: 116 km
Average speed: 24.0 km/h
Trip odometer: 4569 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 06/08/2013 - 15:56

Day 37 -- State College PA to Nescopeck PA --Appalachians continue

Day 37 -- State College PA to Nescopeck PA --Appalachians continue

I managed to get up and say goodbye to Reuben in decent time this morning, and headed out with an idea for a stopping point, but no definite plans. I had worried somewhat that today would be hard because I had planned to go about 160 km and with the hills that might have been tough. To my surprise it didn't feel significantly harder than previous days of the same distance. And apart from a few steep climbs the terrain wasn't a lot harder than the rolling hills of Missouri. Of course it helped that it was sunny and beautiful today too.

The hills rolled by one after another, and by 4:00 I was stopping at a grocery store for dinner in Berwick before pressing on a few more kilometers to my stop for the night. I ended up going even a tiny bit farther than planned because I managed to find a cheaper campground where the owner said I could use the wifi from his house.

Tomorrow might be rainy again, but the ride is shorter and I'll be staying at the very first campground I found when I was planning this trip.

Today's distance: 164 km
Trip odometer: 4733 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 06/09/2013 - 19:23

Day 38 -- Nescopeck PA to East Stroudsburg PA -- Monsoon season part I

Day 38 -- Nescopeck PA to East Stroudsburg PA -- Monsoon season part I

I woke to the sound of rain on the pavilion roof under which I had pitched my tent. The forecast had predicted rain all day, but I decided to sleep a while longer anyway to see if it lightened up. It didn't much, so about 8:30 I got up, and just after 9:00 I rode into the wet beginning of what I'm calling monsoon season. This was the heaviest rain I've been in on the trip. It wasn't just a drizzle, but a truly heavy rain and at times even a downpour, and it persisted all day long with a single brief exception during which I was able to appreciate one of the most strikingly beautiful Appalachian scenes I've seen. Apart from the everpresent rain, today was characterized by two extended events which I'll share.

As I worked up one of the morning's steeper climbs I was frustrated with the cold, the slight headwind, the fact that my gatorade powder was buried under my rain cover, and several other little things that really weren't such a big deal. I thought to myself that the situation couldn't get any worse; not even in the way that it does on TV when one thinks that because it was already raining. But I was forgetting the one way that it can always get worse on a bike, the issue that had almost become a unifying theme on this trip. Ping. Another broken spoke. That sure puts the buried gatorade in perspective. I got out my phone, doing my best to use the touch screen through a plastic bag to keep it dry, and rerouted away from a probably-unpaved bike path preferring the road to the nearest city. When I arrived in White Haven, I took cover under an awning on the from of an Italian restaurant and searched for a bike shop. Cell service was spotty to say the least, and there were no open wifi networks, so I didn't make much progress. Just then someone walked out of the restaurant and I asked if there was a shop in town. He said there wasn't, but told me where to find the nearest one in the next town. Then he explained that he was the delivery guy for the restaurant and after he finished that delivery he could take me there. I thanked him a lot and told him if I didn't figure something else out I would take his offer when he got back. While he was gone I checked out my wheel and saw that it still looked fairly straight. I decided I could ride to the place he described. On my way there the delivery driver pulled up beside me to be sure I was okay and could make it. What a guy. When I reached the shop I replaced the spoke and brake pads.

I left the shop about 2:30 and had decided on a hotel 50 km farther up the road. It was mostly downhill and I figured if I was lucky I'd be there in two hours. But I wasn't quite as lucky as I had hoped. Halfway there I saw the signs for construction ahead and a posted detour. I got out my map and saw that the detour would add at least 10km to my ride, possibly more depending how it was routed. I flagged down a driver and he told me it would add more like 20km, but made a few alternate suggestions. I asked if it was totally closed or if a bicycle might be able get through. He said a bridge was out, then paused, then added, "I mean it isn't a roaring river or anything". Interesting. I didn't feel totally confident that I understood his directions, and my phone screen had gotten wet enough that I couldn't use it anymore so I knocked on the door of the corner house. The guy who lived there made a few more suggestions, and then said, "I'm not sure how much water is in the creek". I found it interesting that both the people had implied I might be able to ford the river, and figured it would be rude not to check it out. By the time the conversation was over I was shivering uncontrollably and knew I needed to get moving again. I rushed downhill to the construction site catching a few glimpses of the creek on way. It looked a little fast to me, but I was almost there, so I kept going. On my way there I thought about how cool it would be to title this post "fording the river". But when I got there I realized what maybe should have been obvious from the beginning: pushing my bike across a river in a construction zone after twelve hours of hard rain was a bad idea. I backtracked to the best route the guy in the house had suggested. It was a good route, although I can see why it wasn't the posted detour. It had what the guy aptly described as "a hell of a climb" that a semi truck never could have completed. Finally I cruised back down all that altitude to my hotel in East Stroudsburg.

Monsoon season part II will come tomorrow. But I'm not quite as excited that part II will follow immediately in this case as I am when a Happy Days rerun is continued.

Total distance: 113 km
Average speed: 21.8 km/h
Trip odometer: 4846 km

Josh Orndorff Mon, 06/10/2013 - 23:37

Day 39 -- East Stroudsburg PA to New Milford CT -- A four state day

Day 39 -- East Stroudsburg PA to New Milford CT -- A four state day

It looks like mother nature decided to postpone (or hopefully cancel) monsoon season part II, so instead I'll recount my four state day -- something I didn't expect to happen on this trip.

I woke up with my alarm at 7:00 and groggily thought, "it's raining I'll sleep in". When the next alarm went off I actually bothered to look outside and discovered that it wasn't raining at all. In fact there were large patches of blue sky showing. I got ready in a hurry expecting that the nice weather would end shortly. After a hilariously cheap continental breakfast and a trip to the grocery store I was on my way.

I was hoping that the rain would hold out until I reached the New Jersey border about an hour into the ride. Sure enough it did. I crossed the toll bridge (which I didn't have to pay for) over the Delaware river in the dry.

My route through New Jersey was on very small back roads mostly through wooded areas. On one such road I rolled over the crest of a small hill and saw what looked like a person walking down the road the same direction I was going. They were walking in the middle of the lane, but the roads really were not heavily trafficed so I wasn't too surprised. As I got closer I realized it wasn't a walker because it wasn't moving. I started thinking maybe it was a garbage can that had blown out there. But how could it still be standing upright? Or maybe it was a ... It started to move. As it turned sideways to look at me I realized it was a black bear. Standing right in the middle of the road. I didn't think to hit the brakes or anything, I just kept rolling toward it. It didn't seem afraid or upset it just wandered off to the side and I rolled past it. I stated to reach for my camera, but by the time I could it had walked into the bushes alongside the road. I swear I got at most 30m away from the thing. I didn't even have time to realize how scary that was until after we had crossed paths.

The rain was still holding out when I reached New York and after climbing and descending the only ridge I had planned to cross today, I rolled into my planned destination of Newburgh. It was only 2:15, and I still felt good and I started to realize I might be able to make this a four state day. I hung outside a gas station for about an hour looking for possible routes and stopping points and checking the weather. Finally I decided to go for it. It would be a long day but not my longest. And with this surprise nice weather I thought it would be a waste not to ride more.

An hour after I took off again a little bit of monsoon finally came, but it only rained hard for about 15 minutes then cleared up again. The addition to my route also added another ridge crossing and I really had to work for this one with the weight of my wet packs. By the time I finally reached Connecticut I was tired and ready to be done. The last 8 km stretch into New Milford was along an unpaved but fairly scenic riverside road. It was a good relaxing end to a long day.

Today's distance: 201 km
Average speed: 23.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 5047 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 06/11/2013 - 23:39

Day 40 -- New Milford CT to Stafford Springs CT -- New England hills

Day 40 -- New Milford CT to Stafford Springs CT -- New England hills

I was very slow getting up this morning and didn't even get out of bed until almost 9:00. By the time I found a campground I liked and plotted my route it was 9:40. But today didn't have to be as long as yesterday, and with no rain in the forecast, it didn't hurt much to sleep in.

Connecticut is much hillier than I expected. The terrain I crossed today was not significantly different than most of my Pennsylvania days. But by now my legs are trained for it and I was able to move quickly through the small towns and winding roads. During some of the steeper climbs I thought about how easy it would be to turn and ride south for a few hours until I hit the water and celebrate my trip a little early, but never actually considered the idea. It does seem cool that I'm within a days riding distance of the water now though.

When I got to downtown Stafford Springs I had a quick milkshake before heading on to my campground. I've had some good and bad campgrounds on this trip, but I think this one, my last one, is the best. Which says a lot because some of the campgrounds in Missouri were pretty awesome. The owner knocked the price from $30 to $20 for me, let me set up in a cabin and use his cot for free. And even let me ride along on his trip to the grocery store.

Since I had a few longer days this week I managed to get one more day ahead of schedule. Just two more short days to go.

Total distance: 134 km
Average speed: 22.2 km/h
Trip odometer: 5181 km

Josh Orndorff Wed, 06/12/2013 - 21:06

Day 41 -- Stafford Springs CT to Douglas MA -- Final state

Day 41 -- Stafford Springs CT to Douglas MA -- Final state

I set my alarm early expecting rain in the afternoon. Although I was a little sleepy, I managed to be packed up and on the road by 8:00. The terrain was still hilly and my legs were sluggish at first, but they warmed up eventually and I was on my way. I passed from town to town and the short ride went by quickly.

My route passed through the north west corner of Rhode Island. As I approached the state line the road turned unpaved, then flooded, then rocky and unridable. I was bummed that I would have to push the bike for a kilometer or so as the sprinkles started to fall, but there was no other option. When the road turned uphill and water ran down the other way it felt like I was pushing the bike up a creek which made me laugh.

Not long later I entered Massachusetts and traveled the short distance to my friend Annika's house. She worked in the afternoon today and I made it to her place just before she had to leave. I spent the afternoon showering, doing laundry, and catching up on some emails from the past few weeks.

When Annika and Mike got home for the evening we went shopping, made dinner, chatted for a while, and played games. Dinner was grilled chicken which Mike injected with butter and olive oil. Delicious. It was a great time catching up with them partly because I haven't seen them for a while, and also because they used to live in Los Angeles and knew some of the same crew I saw at the beginning of the trip. I guess it's been a long ride since LA. I can't believe it's only one more day to Boston.

Today's distance: 65 km
Average speed: 20.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 5246 km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 06/13/2013 - 23:35

Day 42 -- Douglas MA to Boston MA --Finish line (oh my gosh, I actually made it)

Day 42 -- Douglas MA to Boston MA --Finish line (oh my gosh, I actually made it)

The final day started around 8:00 with a breakfast of pancakes complete with Mike's homemade syrup. It was a delicious way to start the day, and I was excited to finally be reaching the Atlantic. But the weather forecast looked wet, and there was a steady drizzle outside the breakfast room window. I took my time getting ready not wanting to go out into the rain, but just before 9:00, my planned departure time, a bike trip miracle happened: a bit of sun showed through the clouds. The rain slowed and stopped, and suddenly I was excited to head out and finish the adventure.

I followed route 16, another winding, scenic New England road, for a while passing through several small towns. The road also happened to be Annika's route to work and as she passed she stopped to take a few pictures. As I rode, the sky got clearer and my excitement continued to grow.

By the time I reached the outskirts of Boston there were large patches of blue above me, and I stopped to call Maggie who planned to met me at Old Harbor beach. She was on track to get there the same time I did. My first glimpse of the ocean through the trees was exciting, and I had a hard time believing it was real. I rode along the beach and met Maggie, and we headed to the boardwalk. As I pushed my bike to the water's edge I was suddenly hesitant to dip the wheels. Reaching the ocean would be the end of this trip that has occupied the last six weeks. After a moment of nostalgia I rolled the bike in and celebrated. I even made sure to dip the section of my original rear tire that I replaced in Missouri.

And so the trip had come to an end. It feels like just a few days ago I was wheeling the bike off the end of the boardwalk in Santa Monica to dip a wheel in the Pacific. It's been a long, hard, awesome ride since then. A ride that was worth every pedal stroke, detour, and broken spoke of the way. Thanks for sharing in the adventure everyone. We made it!

Total distance: 81 km
Average speed: 22.1 km/h
Trip odometer: 5327 km

Josh Orndorff Sat, 06/15/2013 - 02:04

Wrapping up and thanks

Wrapping up and thanks

After savoring the feeling of standing in the Atlantic. Maggie and I picked up a bike box from a local shop and checked into our hotel in downtown Boston. We spent the evening packing up my bike for the train ride back to Ohio, and generally enjoying the feeling of completion. She treated me to a celebration dinner at a Japanese hot pot restaurant and after hanging around for a while got dessert and calculated some data about the trip (shared in the next post).

The next morning we got breakfast and carried my bike to the train station. It was the end of an amazing experience.

I want to thank everyone who helped out along the way on this trip in ways large or small including all the people on this list and anyone else who I may have forgotten to mention.

My parents
Maggie Nguyen
Amanda Mitchell and her parents
Anna Wu
Charlotte Sandy
Linda and Kevin Nitschke
Bonita Chavez
Kevin Hardegree-Ullman
The entire Mogk family
Paige and Steve Hannah
Phil and Jessi Mickelson
The worker at Stuckey's who suggested a campground
Kay and everyone else I chatted with in Higgins
The owners and mechanic at District Bicycles
Jean and Tom Thornbrough
The owners and campers at Gasconade hills resort
The owners at Ladybug RV park
The camp hosts at Robertsville state park
Sarah Dugan
Lynn Marsh
Chad Jaggard
Roger Bear
Wes Robinson, and everyone I met in Indianapolis
Jason Roland and Emily
David Dornbos and Jesi Hale
Aaron Goodman
Michelle Tomczyk
Pilang Thach and her roommates
Reuben Bushnell and his friends and roommates
The guy who offered to drive me to a bike shop in the next town
The owner of Paradise campground resort
Ray, the owner of Wildnerness lake Campground
Annika and Mike Bangma
And everyone who encouraged me and commented on this journal, and sent me supportive messages along the way.

Josh Orndorff Mon, 06/17/2013 - 20:38

Statistics and suggestions

Statistics and suggestions

I've kept pretty good track of my progress, riding trends, and expenses on this trip, and that data is summarized in a few representative figures here. The raw data is also available is you want to do your own analysis. Hopefully this data will be interesting in its own right as well as helpful to others who want to take similar trips in the future.

How far do you ride each day?

Distance summarized by day

My average distance was 127 km/day for the entire trip, and 130km/day for the 41 days that I actually rode. For me these numbers were mostly determined by the knowing how far my total route was and knowing how many days I had to complete the trip before I had other commitments. It is probably a good idea to figure out how far you can ride and how far you enjoy riding during your training, but I didn't have enough training to do that. I found it very helpful to vary the distance I rode each day to provide short recovery days, and to make long presses on days when the weather was favorable.

How fast do you typically ride?

Speed summarized by day

My speed varied a lot based on several factors. The biggest factor was wind. Next were, rain, hills, heat, and leg freshness. I basically rode as fast as I felt comfortable with given the days conditions. Only a few times did I have to go extra fast to get somewhere by a certain deadline.

Where do you stay?

Lodging given by days and as percentage

As the figure shows, I stayed at a combination of campgrounds, friends' houses, and hotels. Avoid hotels whenever you can because they are expensive, and they don't provide as many opportunities to meet interesting people. Stay with friends or friends of friends as often as possible, and don't hesitate to set up a tent on the side of the road or in the desert.

How much does it cost

Daily expenses by category

A lot. In my case $2724.31. Of course there are some judgment calls for what expenses count and don't count toward that total, but I think I did a good job making those calls and that is a representative total. It could be done more cheaply (see suggestions) and if I do another trip it will be.

What would you do differently?
Well, for one thing, I would take time to see more parks, monuments, and landmarks along the way, but I think I did a decent job of that anyway. But the biggest thing I would do differently is to do it more cheaply. Avoid hotels whenever you can. Buy food from grocery stores not gas stations or restaurants. Of course it feels nice to treat yourself once in a while, and I would encourage that, but remember that over six weeks that adds up. Carry gatorade powder so you don't have to spend a few dollars a day on it.

Also, spend money on quality gear up front. I bought a lot of cheap stuff which was more expensive in the long run because I ended up buying the good stuff after the cheap stuff broke anyway. Buying quality will also save you the frustration of watching your gear break as you travel or being stuck in a leaky tent one night. Specifically, buy a good bike. I had about $300 in my bike before I started and put over $700 in it along the way. If I had bought a nice bike to start with I would have spent less time in shops and had a nicer bike at the end of the trip.

Josh Orndorff Mon, 06/17/2013 - 21:01