Thursday, July 26, 2007

Editor's note...

Many of you have noticed that our blog posts, well, stopped after July 4th. You can take that as a solid indicator that we've been having a really, really good time. Also, for those who are interested in an update on Erin "Tough Guy" Bougie, she is doing really great - she even rode her bike today, after spending a few days without the neck brace. We van drivers will miss her company, but we're all so happy that she's doing better.

There are a few posts below which can give you an idea of some of the great stuff we've seen and done, but some of the best things aren't included because, well, we were having too much fun at the time to really think about writing a blog entry. Here's a quick summary:

July 6th: We rode into Hartville, WY (population 75), where we were fed incredible food by incredibly nice people for two full days. Our day off was sooo relaxing - we enjoyed visiting the oldest bar in Wyoming, and taking a trip to a nearby park where we swam, picknicked, and gave our bodies a break. Thanks also to the Yale club of Denver, who donated the delicious food which was very deliciously prepared by the wonderful folks in Hartville.

July 11th: We rode into Lander, WY, which was the biggest place we'd seen in a while. This was the day that Erin was injured, so we were all feeling pretty rough, but the town was lovely, and the church folks were so wonderful and supportive. Erin was kept overnight at a hospital in Casper, so while Darrow, Niko, Brian, and Saskia chilled with her there, the rest of us took an unexpected day off in Lander. The town was a lot of fun, especially since a huge climbing festival had just begun. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we had a good day. We were so overjoyed when the van returned with a neck-braced Erin that an impromptu parking lot dance party ensued. We also owe a huge thank-you to the wonderful people in DuBois, who we were never able to meet because we were delayed by the hospital visit. They were so understanding and caring - they even left the picnic dinner they'd prepared us in the fridge so we could enjoy it when we arrived (which for many of us wasn't until two in the morning).

July 13th-16th: We were in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, which were amazing. At different times and in different groups, we hiked, canoed, swam, drank good coffee, saw Old Faithful, made s'mores, ate spaghetti off of Frisbee plates (thank you Youngsville!), went whitewater rafting, and saw an Imax movie about bears.

July 21st: We rode into Missoula, MT, which we'd long been looking forward to - some of us may have been expecting the streets to be lined with granola, and the faucets to flow with espresso. It was indeed a great hippy/outdoorsy/college town, and we had an awesome time tubing, checking out the sights, and hanging out with the wonderful people at the First Baptist Church who made us feel right at home.

So, that's the highlights reel. Tonight we're in Pomeroy, Washington (our first Pacific coast state!), and the people at Pomeroy Church of the Nazarene are really spoiling us. Dinner was awesome, and we're having a great time with the video games, pool tables, and big-screen TV in the church's basement.

Keeping it real,
Jessalee Landfried

July 20th: Wisdom, MT to Hamilton, MT

Wisdom, Montana is home to 150 people and sits 6050 feet above sea level. These are things I had to look up online because Montana’s road signs, unlike their counterparts in Wyoming, do not tell you these things. Mountain passes tend not to be labeled, either, which is frustrating when you come to a crest in the road and think it’s the top but have no way of knowing for sure because there’s no sign, and then you go around a bend and discover that you have another thousand feet to climb and only two miles to do it. The two most fun facts concerning Wisdom, Montana, though, are the following: this town scoffs at the idea of named streets, and it boasts a single church called The Church of the Big Hole. Riding in yesterday, we had fun imagining what this intriguing name might mean. You can guess the sorts of explanations we produced, but the true meaning is only moderately thrilling: Wisdom is in the middle of a plain bordered by mountains on all sides, so this plain is essentially a big hole in the earth. It’s called, not surprisingly, Big Hole Valley. Tricky, those pioneers.

Now, the problem with Big Hole Valley is that with mountains on all sides, water collects on the plain around Wisdom, and when to that you add temperatures near 100oF, you get mosquitoes. When we got up at 6:30 AM this morning (late, by HBC standards), few of us had gotten more than three hours of sleep thanks to a concerted effort by the mosquitoes and the heat to make us as uncomfortable as possible. Those of us who had slept in the church sanctuary woke up in a sweat bath; the few who had slept outside escaped the heat but awoke drenched in rain and dew. At breakfast it became apparent just how lightly some of us had slept when tales of Rob’s early-morning somnambulating surfaced from multiple witnesses. At least three lengthy outbursts of sleep-talking, including an entire one-sided conversation from Brooke, had also been overheard––a rough night overall, but certainly not the fault of The Church of the Big Hole. (Curse you, global warming. Curse you.)

Filling up water bottles after breakfast presented a problem: the tap water smelled an awful lot like sulfur, and questions arose as to whether it was potable at all. Some riders took their chances and went ahead with the tap water while others took the last of the water from the coolers that had accompanied dinner the night before and which had apparently been filled elsewhere, since that water tasted fine. These two things may not be related, but within an hour Kathleen was throwing up and had to ride in the van for the rest of the day. I don’t know if she drank the tap water or the cooler water, but other people were certainly feeling ill as well, while still others, including people who drank from the tap, felt fine. Quite the mystery.

To get out of any big hole, you must climb. One of the ways to climb out of the Big Hole is to follow Route 43 west out of Wisdom towards the Beaverhead Mountains; up, up, up the Beaverhead Mountains; and over Chief Joseph Pass, which, of course, features no sign of any type to mark it. We went this way. However, as we rode across Big Hole Valley towards the Beaverhead Mountains, we couldn’t actually see them for the thick screen of smoke that obscured them from view until we were right at their feet. I’ve been told that seven western states, including this one, are currently on fire and that this is where all the smoke is coming from. My eyes have been stinging for days because of it. Apparently smoke is a common feature of the Montana summer, but typically not until August. This summer has been unusually hot (we know this well, believe me), hence the smoke in July. (Again, curse you, global warming.)

For the first part of the ride along Route 43, I rode with Rob and Lindsay, though I wasn’t technically with them because I decided I would keep a distance of at least one Greyhound bus between us. Odd, yes, but I’ve decided I must do this because the other day, going into Virginia City, I was shocked to learn that some people make negative assumptions when followed closely by another rider. Now, when I ride right behind someone, I’m usually thinking, “Well, I could probably go faster, but I’m not going to pass this person because then I’d be riding alone and that’s not safe.” Similarly, when someone comes up right behind me, I think, “Uh-oh, I’m going too slow and holding this person back, and the only reason they’re not passing me is because they don’t want to ride alone.” Throughout the summer I imagined that this is what everyone else thinks when they’ve got another rider on their heels, but apparently that’s not the case at all, for when I rode right on someone’s heels on the road to Virginia City, I was accused of doing it just so I could draft off this person and not have to work as hard against the headwind. It had never occurred to me that someone might think such a thing. So, as opposed to my perhaps na├»ve and self-deprecating assumption that when someone rides immediately behind me it’s me holding them back, other people are thinking to themselves, “This person behind me is riding on my heels so that my speed will pull them along.” I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a freeloader, so I will keep my distance from now on and fight headwinds myself, unless I’m invited into a paceline. (In a paceline, people ride in a close line and take turns riding at the front to “pull” the rest of the group against the headwind. This allows the group as a whole to go faster in a headwind over longer periods of time than any one rider normally could. One way I amuse myself now is by keeping up with pacelining groups without actually joining them or getting anywhere near them––it’s sort of my own mini bicycle challenge.)

Somewhere on the plain between Wisdom and the Beaverhead Mountains, we happened upon the Big Hole National Battlefield. Most of the group stopped at the visitor center to check it out. The National Park Service lady who worked there was especially accommodating and let us watch a 27-minute video on the battle at an irregular time slot, “because you’ve got a high pass to climb over and a fun downhill to get to,” she said. The video left me depressed and in a bad mood. I won’t get into too much detail, but basically what happened was that in 1877, a few bands of Nez Perce Indians decided to head east into Montana rather than following government orders to move onto a tiny reservation in Idaho that had recently been reduced to one-tenth its original size. (We’re actually going to be staying on this reservation when we get to Kooskia.) In response, the government ordered U.S. troops to pursue these “nontreaty” bands of Nez Perce. The troops attacked the Indians’ camp in the Big Hole Valley one night, killing mostly women and children before the men were able to rout the soldiers and allow the surviving family members to escape with the few possessions they could grab from the melee. It was another embarrassing anecdote from that chapter in American history, and I needed the imminent climb to take my mind off it.

Going into the Beaverhead Mountains, we entered Beaverhead National Forest, which you surely would find stunning if you could get your mind off the six or seven bees that have been pursuing you for the last mile. (Is it our yellow jerseys that attract them, or does our body odor really smell like flowers as we like to believe?) Somewhere in the forest, on the gentle incline before the steep climb to the pass, we happened upon the older gentleman we had met the previous evening in Wisdom. In spite of his age (he’s 70-ish), he’s riding his bicycle from his home in Arkansas all the way to the Oregon coast, making him one of the few east-to-west bikers we’ve met (most go west to east, with the wind), and certainly the oldest. Rather than doing the whole trip in one go, though, he’s broken it into segments, and he spends a few weeks doing each segment before returning home. This staccato approach to biking 4000 miles means it’s actually taken him three years to get this far. (Some people do have real lives, we realize.) He can’t go up steep hills––doctor’s orders––so his wife, who follows him in a truck pulling a trailer that supposedly contains a bed, waited for him at the base of the climb to Chief Joseph Pass to shuttle him up. Most of us OTers, on the other hand, despite having the same luxury available (our lovely van), chose to attack the mountain on the strength of our own two legs. The climb turned out to be only moderately difficult––about the same grade as the climb over the pass on the way to Virginia City, but requiring us to gain only 1000 feet in elevation as opposed to 2000. I rode up next to Rob and was surprised to make it to the top of the pass without sustaining a bee sting. At the pass we ate a quick snack as a group and the bid farewell to the continental divide for the last time before sailing down the other side at over 30 miles per hour. (It was fun, as the National Park Service lady had said.) Rob got some people to join him in a Super Special Mile coming down from the pass, but I did not take part, unfortunately.

Route 43 came to an end at the Idaho border, so we turned north onto Highway 93 towards Hamilton and Missoula. The steep downhill that had begun on Route 43 at the pass continued for a good distance along 93 as well, so we were able to average 30 miles per hour for perhaps ten miles, losing several thousand feet of altitude before the road flattened out. At that point we found ourselves following a northbound river with the Bitterroot Mountains rising up immediately on both sides of us. Around mile 45 we happened upon a lone restaurant that apparently opens only at night, so we took the liberty of claiming its shaded deck as our lunch spot for the day. The van arrived with our food shortly thereafter, and by that time the number of people in it had swollen to seven (including Jessalee, today’s driver), an impressive figure but still short of yesterday’s record of nine. Then again, two of yesterday’s nine were riding in the van not because they were sick, tired, or injured, but because they simply didn’t feel like riding, so I almost feel like that record doesn’t count. Today’s seven included Kathleen, who, as I mentioned before, got ill towards the beginning of the ride; David, who had had to induce vomiting after a sprint on his bike and had subsequently suffered an allergic reaction when climbing stacks of hay; and a few other riders who were just worn out.

I ate lunch rather quickly and ended up being in the first group to leave, along with Severin and John. Seeing that it was already 2:00 and that the afternoon had brought with it a brutal headwind, we decided that the only way we’d be able to make it to the church on time would be by pacelining the last 30 miles into Hamilton. So, in spite of the headwind, we were able to average 20 mph, arriving at Faith Lutheran Church right at 3:30. The pastor welcomed us and led the three of us to the showers, which were actually right at the church––a rare treat, having showers “on premises.” By the time I got out of the shower a good portion of the group had arrived, though Alex (today’s sweep) and a few others didn’t make it in until after 4:30, which is technically later than we’re supposed to be on the road, but concessions are made if you’re close enough. At 5:00 we had a wonderful dinner provided by church members, gave a slide show presentation, and then moved to a front room where the group of riders who had managed to make a post office run between arriving, showering, and eating had lain out our eagerly anticipated mail. Among the dozens of packages piled on the table was one containing edible goodies from our prayer partners back in Youngsville, Pennsylvania, which we were so grateful to receive! David got a fun magazine that he secretly dismembered and redistributed so that each of us, upon rummaging through his or her bag, would be surprised to find a page or two just for him or her. This provided many hours of amusement.

Around 7:00 I walked outside to make some phone calls. Not surprisingly, I found about a third of the group on the lawn doing precisely the same thing. This is an HBC evening ritual. I myself clocked about two hours on my cell phone. At one point a dog appeared out of nowhere and bounded up to me. His name was Hank and he did not know how to sit. After I got off the phone I played with him for a bit before calling the number on his collar to inform his owner that she was missing a dog. I stayed out just long enough to see Hank off but then had to go inside because the smoke from the forest fires was too much for my eyes. I decided to hit the sack, but there were snorers in the room where I had set up my sleeping situation, so I moved my stuff from a space beneath a table in that room to a space between spare pulpits and stacks of bibles and Sunday school supplies in a closet. A night of perfect sleep will certainly be had.

On a note totally unrelated to today’s activities, I would like to mention that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the epic and majestic series, comes out at midnight tonight. So, by this time tomorrow, thousands of people will have read it (including some acquaintances of mine who are, er, dedicated), and they will know the boy wizard’s ultimate fate. Meanwhile I remain in painful ignorance, my fresh UK edition sitting unopened on my bed at home because I pre-ordered it before I knew I would be on a bike thousands of miles away when it arrived. Making it through the next three weeks without having the ending inadvertently spoiled for me will be the real challenge of this trip.

Hamilton, by the way, has a population of 4443 and an elevation of 3572 feet. Now, fondly, good night.

-Clay Chiles

July 18th: Virginia City, MT to Dillon, MT

We left the cozy comforts of Virginia City and set off for Dillon, MT. We had a smooth ride and stopped for lunch at the front of the Potter Ranch. We arrived in Dillon a bit early and explored the sights. Many of us enjoyed easily the best Mexican food of the trip at a bus that had been converted into a restaurant. Yummy burritos! We also found a Patagonia outlet store where some of us scored some great bargains. The dinner crew led by Darrow made awesome homemade pizza for dinner that we inhaled. We then settled in for the night, ready for another great day on the road.

And as an added bonus, a glossary of HBC Central terms:

Headwind – (n.) – the thing I dread the most. A harsh wind in our faces that slows us down considerably.

Altitude – (n.) – the number of feet above sea level we have climbed. I think our highest has been over 9300!

Brodeo, the – (n.) – the nickname for a group of the boys, who often do some silly things like carry spears and shields on their backs while riding.

Ice cream – (n.) – our favorite treat after a long day on the road. Virginia City may have had the best ice cream so far.

Trailer – (n.) – our beloved carrier of food, bags, and assorted things. It is blue and wonderfully painted by our leaders.

America, The United States of – (n.) – that large country we are crossing, which continues to surprise and impress me.

Team – (n.) – the term of affection we have for each other (probably started by Brian), even though this is not in any way, shape, or form, a competition. If it were, we would have lost.

Brew, micro – (n.) – I am a bit of a beer snob and love microbrews, which are beers that are made by local, small breweries. When we hit Chicago I was excited because I could then obtain my favorite, Fat Tire, and am always on the lookout for something new and great to try. Yum!

Interstates – (n.) – Don’t worry folks, we stay off these massive streets that are flooded with cars. We stick to the smaller highways. They are so much prettier.

Chart, the – (n.) – a powerpoint presentation that won me the Talent Show.

You – (n.) – every person that reads this blog, donated to Habitat, provided us with food, warmth, and shelter, wonders where we are, sends us goodies and cards on maildrops, and helps us spread the word about the good work of Habitat. Thanks to you for helping make this venture successful!

Chapstick – (n.) – the term we use with each other when we may say something we shouldn’t in churches. Oops!

Leaders - (n.) – Darrow, Jessalee, Niko, and Rob. The wonderful people who make this thing happen.

Early - (adj.) – As in the time of day we get up and hit the road. Usually we get up around 6. Yikes!

Chamois - (n.) – the pad on our spandex shorts. So important.

Haystack – (n.) – large collections of hay, that we frequently saw in Nebraska. The Brodeo enjoys climbing these, but this often results in rashes.

Alps – (n.) – a considerably harder challenge than the Rockies, which have kicked our butts.

Lunch – (n.) – a meal we eat on the road, which usually consists of peanut butter and jelly, any goodies that have been sent to maildrops, and if we are lucky, leftovers. I try to be as creative as possible when creating my lunch because PBJ is not really my thing.

Lack – (adj.) – as in “lack of employment.” There are a few of us who do not yet have jobs when we are done with this little adventure. So if you are looking for a journalist, social worker, environmental activist, etc. please contact one of us and we will happily be your paid employee.

Estrogen, Team – (n.) – a nickname given to some of the women on the trip as they ride together.

Nebrastika Fantastika – (n.) – Darrow’s name for our time in the great state of Nebraska. She (and others) organized some fun activities like the Talent Show and a photo scavenger hunt.

Gender – (n.) – As in “Gender is an illusion”. A phrase that Sara and Shira have reminded us of repeatedly, often with the use of chalk.

Elevation – (n.) – again, how high we are, which is directly proportional to the amount of oxygen in the air. Less oxygen = harder!

Oregon – (n.) – the great state we are quickly heading towards and which I called home for 5 years.

Town hall – (n.) – A weekly meeting in which we talk about any issues that have come up.
(v.) – to call someone out on something at the townhall meeting.

And as a side note, we love people leaving comments on blogs. In fact, particularly funny, witty, critical, and ridiculous comments are quickly known throughout the group. So if you seek infamy, please charm us with your wit and dazzle us with your prose. And more importantly, call people out!

-Rebecca Rebbe

Editor's note!

Many of you have noticed that our blog posts, well, stopped after July 4th. You can take that as a solid indicator that we've been having a really, really good time. Also, for those who are interested in an update on Erin "Tough Guy" Bougie, she is doing really great - she even rode her bike today, after spending a few days without the neck brace. We van drivers will miss her company, but we're all so happy that she's doing better.

There are a few posts below which can give you an idea of some of the great stuff we've seen and done, but some of the best things aren't included because, well, we were having too much fun at the time to really think about writing a blog entry. Here's a quick summary:

July 6th: We rode into Hartville, WY (population 75), where we were fed incredible food by incredibly nice people for two full days. Our day off was sooo relaxing - we enjoyed visiting the oldest bar in Wyoming, and taking a trip to a nearby park where we swam, picknicked, and gave our bodies a break. Thanks also to the Yale club of Denver, who donated the delicious food which was very deliciously prepared by the wonderful folks in Hartville.

July 11th: We rode into Lander, WY, which was the biggest place we'd seen in a while. This was the day that Erin was injured, so we were all feeling pretty rough, but the town was lovely, and the church folks were so wonderful and supportive. Erin was kept overnight at a hospital in Casper, so while Darrow, Niko, Brian, and Saskia chilled with her there, the rest of us took an unexpected day off in Lander. The town was a lot of fun, especially since a huge climbing festival had just begun. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we had a good day. We were so overjoyed when the van returned with a neck-braced Erin that an impromptu parking lot dance party ensued.

July 13th-16th: We were in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, which were amazing. At different times and in different groups, we hiked, canoed, swam, drank good coffee, saw Old Faithful, made s'mores, ate spaghetti off of Frisbee plates (thank you Youngsville!), went whitewater rafting, and saw an Imax movie about bears.

July 21st: We rode into Missoula, MT, which we'd long been looking forward to - some of us may have been expecting the streets to be lined with granola, and the faucets to flow with espresso. It was indeed a great hippy/outdoorsy/college town, and we had an awesome time tubing, checking out the sights, and hanging out with the wonderful people at the First Baptist Church who made us feel right at home.

So, that's the highlights reel. Tonight we're in Pomeroy, Washington (our first Pacific coast state!), and the people at Pomeroy Church of the Nazarene are really spoiling us. Dinner was awesome, and we're having a great time with the video games, pool tables, and big-screen TV in the church's basement.

Keeping it real,
Jessalee Landfried

July 17th: West Yellowstone, MT to Virginia City, MT

Having wished Yellowstone Park and the Tetons goodbye we set off for Virginia City. After a four day hiatus from the bike, everyone was relieved to be back in the saddle. We left our church under a sunny sky and biked along the Gallatin National Forest. The scenery was much like Yellowstone itself, but with fewer gawking tourists. We passed evergreen forest and gradually descended into a valley running between two mountain ridges. We learned that this scenery had been created during a massive earthquake in 1959. With a strong tailwind behind us some riders pedaled 35 miles--a Tour de France speed! The first 70 miles passed us in a blur. Everything came to a crashing halt, though, when we encountered our first real mountain pass of the trip. Climbing 2000 feet from the humid river valley we entered scrubby mountain terrain. After a panting break at the top, we descended a very steep hill into Virginia City. Described as a “ghost” town in the Montana atlas, the town was in fact charming. Intending to recreate the feel of the Western gold-mining towns, every house downtown was restored to its original Wild West state. We relaxed at the ice cream parlor where the white gold is still made on a 1934-era gas-powered mixer. The Episcopal Church was cozy and we were treated to a generous spaghetti dinner. Some riders relaxed in the evening with a stroll about town while others sat on the church stoop composing postcards.

-Alex Rabin

July 10th: Casper, WY to Shoshone, WY

The day was steezin from the start. It was to be the longest ride of the trip: 98 miles. Trevor woke up with a non-steezin headache and instead of riding, took the van for its steez factor. David ended up being sweep, which he undoubtedly loved and was a completely steezin move on his part. It was chilly when we left Casper, but everyone in the town was already outside (at 7 am) to watch a parade that was to start at 10. Steezin. Before our first snack break, but after being pelted by Trevor with olives out the passenger side window of the van, Brooke took a spill and had a steezin wound on her elbow. This would result in the first of two trips made to the Riverton hospital for HBC Central 2k7 (woo! spring break). She ended up with four stitches and a steezin fish net sleeve.

Because the van was at the hospital, we all ended up stopping at a gas station around mile 50 for some food. It had some steezin Digiorno pizza that the people heated up for us. Shira ended up drinking her first Red Bull ever (let me note, in under a minute), which, in her words, shot her through the rest of the day. We stopped by Hell’s Half Acre, a huge canyon that Native Americans once used to lead buffalo herds into. Apparently, there are still bones at the bottom to prove it. Also, Starship Troopers was filmed there…interestingly steezin. As we were fixin to reach the end of our ride, the surroundings got more and more beautiful with some steezin rock formations. It made the final ten miles almost bearable.

Before reaching our final destination in Shoshone, which was the firehouse we would stay in, all of us stopped at a place that was supposed to be famous for its milkshakes. They weren’t so steezin though, despite the fact that the cups claimed patrons have traveled there from every country in the world to have a taste. While we were consuming this non-steezin dairy, Darrow was off hitting a bird, which ended up getting stuck in the grill of the van. When we finally got settled in at the firehouse, dinner crew made a steezin dinner of spaghetti and all of a sudden, I was serenaded for a second time with the Happy HBC Birthday song. ‘What could this steezin event be taking place for?’ I thought to myself. The purpose was revealed as Darrow presented me with an HBC birthday cake. It was a dog, and though it was labeled as a cake, I think it was strictly constructed of frosting. Nonetheless, it was delicious and I can claim that I have been the only HBC birthday boy or girl to receive a cake on his or her big day. Steezin. Since we would only have to ride around 45 miles the next day, the night was a truly steezin time. Pretty sure that my uncle is the only person in my family to read this, so hey uj. Hold down the fort without me.

-Liz “Steezin” Ferro

July 9th: Douglas, WY to Casper, WY

This morning I expected to wake up to David’s “jam session” however I awoke to the sound of Matt and Erin arguing over who would be sweep that day, bro. They were the only two left to be sweep and whoever was sweep today would not have to be sweep for tomorrow’s 100-mile ride, bro. Unfortunately, it ended up being my HBC birthday and was therefore my decision to choose, bro. I created an amazing game that would make the decision based on luck, bro. Matt picked the wrong hand and had to be sweep tomorrow, bro. Out of rage he let the air out Erin’s tires as well as mine (real original), BRO! I decided to put that incident behind and set out on easy 80-mile day, bro.

We rolled over empty Wyoming hills with a great tailwind, bro. At lunch we stopped at a huge rock covered in etched initials from the 300,000 people who took the Oregon Trail, bro. The town of Casper is the second largest town in Wyoming and had a bike/climbing shop which made everyone happy, bro. The rest of the night was pretty relaxing and uneventful, bro. We all fell asleep soundly except for Matt who dreamed about his 100-mile sweep day, bro.

-Trevor “Bro” Lyons

July 5th: Oshkosh, NE to Scottsbluff, NE

Although it was not my HBC birthday today, I still find myself writing the blog for this exciting day. My brother, Kevin, an HBC alum from '05, joined the trip for a couple days, but being the slacker that he is, I now have the honor of recollecting this glorious day. After thoroughly enjoying our 4th in Oshkosh, we woke up, ate some delicious breakfast burritos, and began our day.

For much of the first 30 miles, there was road work being done on our route, and we all became aware, quite quickly of how important it was to jump over the foot-two foot long holes on the shoulder. Surprisingly, all of our derailers made it through the road work okay, and many of us stopped along the way to read about the Mormon Trail which we were following.

Many of us, myself included, grew-up playing the game, Oregon Trail, on the computer, so we were all very excited to stop for lunch at Chimney Rock, a marker for those traveling west that they had come far, "but the hardest was ahead of them." The visitor center's video described the original Oregon Trail riders "excited, but fearful for the hardest part of the journey was still to come." We, modern day OT'ers, knew exactly what the video narrator was saying and laughed knowing full well the Rockies were ahead. It was pretty darn hot at Chimney Rock, so many riders stopped and enjoyed an ice cream after lunch before continuing their journey.

The scenery continued to be full of interesting rock formations, and after a several tens of miles, we came upon Scottsbluff, one of the biggest and prettiest geological treasures we had encountered so far. Many people, after showers and a great fried chicken dinner, went up to the bluff to watch the sunset. And with that another eventful day on the trail ended.

A personal shout out to Kevin and Dad for visiting. Kevin, I hope I did okay by you with this blog entry.

Over and out.

-Kathleen Abels

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 4th: Ogallala, NE to Oshkosh, NE

Happy Birthday, United States! We are biking across you and doing a good job!

Short ride this morning, 40 miles to the bright lights of Oshkosh, Nebraska. Jessalee took one for the team by cleaning up and pushing us out the door so that we would make it to town in time for the 4th of July parade.

Our ride was hilly but beautiful. We are now in the sandhills of the prairie. Sam and I saw a prairie dog. Some of the bizoys got a picture of themselves pretending to pace line in the middle of a wheat field. We had a quick snack and made it to Oshkosh in time to decorate our bikes with patriotic garb before the parade began.

We had red-white-and-blue streamers, flags, pinwheels, glittery things in the wheels, and our beautiful smiling faces. When we came down main street after the Shriners, we were announced to the crowd. Once we made it through the gauntlet we were able to enjoy cold water and the rest of the parade. One of the best floats was pulled by a llama. We scored lots of candy thrown from the floats.

After the parade ended we enjoyed a cookout with the kind folks of Oshkosh, as well as with numerous visitors who had traveled far to celebrate Independence Day in this fine urban center. Roast beef sandwiches…deeeelicious!!!!!!!

Even better was all the homemade pie awaiting us at the church after lunch!

The afternoon was really, really hot so we headed to the town pool along with the rest of the sweaty community. There was quite the diving competition. Some people tried to even out their crazy bike tan lines. All failed.

Dinner was another cookout with our Methodist hosts. Cinnamon brownies…..yuuuuuuuuuuumy.

The fireworks were wicked impressive. A good time was had by all. We whooped along with the locals in appreciation.

We ate more pie!

Then slept!


Sara Schiffman Joseph
Graduate, the University of North Carolina
Occupation: biker
ASL: 22; gender is an illusion; Nebraska
Status: Butt hurting

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 3rd: North Platte, NE to Ogallala, NE

Our epic and magnificent journey continued on today, despite the fact that the most ridiculous bet ever to occur on an HBC trip was made and carried out. It all started last night at a rodeo in Sutherland, when one of the riders (not to be named) said she would stay there until the remainder of the trip if we would finance her $250. Another rider (also not to be named) said he would also stay behind for the same wager. The terms of the bet were that they would both get jobs in the town and then meet back up with us when we reach the Pacific. What started out as a joke of a bet soon became a reality when at lunch today, the remaining 25 of us gathered our money and came up with the $500. As we departed from lunch to finish the remaining 20 miles of our easy-peasy 51 mile day, we said our good-byes, half sad and half laughing in hopes that we called their bluff. Writing this 9 hours later and with still no sign of them, I'm afraid the 2 fallen riders were very much serious about the bet. We'll see in the morning...

Anyways, time for an update on today's events. We crossed our 2nd time zone and have officially entered Mountain time! Wooh! We experienced, in full force, the effect of head and tail winds. The first 30 miles of today's ride were awful, with most of us averaging 13 mph, but after lunch the winds decided to completely change directions and we were averaged 23 mph easily. The town we entered today, Ogallala, is quite a tourist attraction and before arriving at the church we all stopped at a gift shop and many of us went on a spending spree. I personally bought nothing, because I gave away all my money in the $500 bet. Niko bought a "Got corn?" shirt and many riders got some really cool postcards. Following a hearty sloppy joe dinner provided by the church, many of us decided to go out to eat at Ole's Steak House, known for being one of the best places to get steak in Nebraska. Along with the delicous steak, we also got Rocky Mountain Oysters (aka bull testicles). They were fried and kind of looked like chicken fingers. Many of us enjoyed them, but some of us, cough Matt cough, suddenly became a little girl when it was his turn to try some. In the end, he did try a piece though. During our 2nd dinner, the most insane hail storm exploded from the skies. All of us went outside to experience it and catch it on camera. After the hail stopped, we drove back in silence in awe of the skies, which resembled a strobe light from all the heat lightning. It was one of the most epic sights of the trip in my opinion. Now it's time to see a tornado...

-Nick Kostreski

July 2nd: Kearney, NE to North Platte, NE

The longest day of our trip thus far, the segment from Kearney to North Platte was our first “century,” or hundred-mile day. The day started on a cheerful note as we set out on a Nebraska scavenger hunt. To keep us entertained and alert, a group of riders put together a list of items to spot throughout the countryside. Some of the items on the list included a western license plate, an Israeli flag, a sign from God, and even proof of the gender binary. Our first stop along this hunt was a giant dilapidated replica of a cow pulling a caravan (whose rump our fearless riders kissed). As our bodies ached from the strain of the flat terrain some riders, including Meg and Saskia, took a short nap atop giant bales of hay. Then we continued on our way. And continued. And continued. With only the occasional grain elevator to keep our interest piqued we took full advantage of the rest stops along the way. Rob, Laura, Meg, and I guzzled giant bottles of Surge (a sugary energy drink) and vaulted onto our bikes on a caffeine high. The unrelenting flatness continued so Alexis and I took a quick lottery break to try our luck at some big Nebraska winnings. We took home $40 apiece. Well, not exactly, but we did get our dollar’s worth of fun. Well, five dollar’s worth of fun. No hard feelings for Nebraska, but I don’t recommend playing that state’s scratch tickets.

The unrelenting heat and monotony continued until we reached a well-deserved lunch break after riding a mile in our special birthday clothes. Niko surprised us with a vegetable platter, a rare treat between the usual tuna and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We inhaled the lunch and set off for the next 50 miles of our journey. Corn and wheat followed. That is, until we arrived at the most stunning site of the day: a Stonehenge of abandoned antique cars. Rob, donning his cycling helmet, climbed into a 50’s Chevy and posed for some seductive pinups.

With 90 miles behind us the legs started to give. Alexis discovered a double-shot espresso power gel in her sweaty jersey pocket. Rob and I slurped down the sludge and sped off at 25 miles an hour toward North Platte. Some arrived in the town with an even 100 miles showing on the bike odometers. But as Rob and I pulled into the church at four o’clock we spotted Nick riding in tiny circles around the parking lot in a vain attempt to boost his mileage from 99.36 to 100. Our final stop before dinner included a mandatory Dairy Queen visit. After declining ice cream all together, I went on to order a massive waffle cone with a big dollop of chocolate sauce. Others indulged in lesser ice creams or burger “snacks.”

After a brief shower, we were treated to a hearty meal at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. We then took an exciting trip to the neighboring Rodeo. It was an authentic affair with local cowboys competing for a “day’s pay.” People of all ages gathered at the rodeo where both men and women took part. It was a fitting end to the birthplace of Buffalo Bill. The sun set over North Platte as we curled up in our sleeping bags in the church loft.

-Alex Rabin

Monday, July 9, 2007

July 1st: Central City, NE to Kearney, NE (pronounced "carnie", like the occupation of our dear Nick Kostreski)

I woke up in all my possum glory this morning still smooshed to the road where the truck that mowed me down yesterday had left me. There were some extremely unusual passersby today – strange creatures with two wheels, bright yellow bodies, and strange hard bulbous heads. I overheard some rather bizarre things – apparently stories from the creatures’ previous day - as they spun by:

“So more of the same today, just like yesterday and the day before that – flat and filled with corn.”

“I’m so excited about the hats I bought at Target in Kearney. Did you see the whole aisle of travel-sized products? Everybody was so psyched about it. Can you believe that they had a Target?! And a mall! That town was way bigger than anything we’ve seen since Chicago.”

“Man, I’m sure glad I had all that delicious spaghetti, garlic bread, and cookies from the church last night. It’s fueling me along here. The church and the Habitat for Humanity folks were so generous. Mmmm, and that breakfast was incredible.”

"Wow, it was so nice of David and Jessalee to get me, Darrow, real presents on my HBC birthday!"

“Hey, do you think we can play soccer again today at lunch? There’s nothing better than a pick-up game. And I certainly could use some more bruises on my shins.”

“Hey Alex, how do you think your mohawk will go over with your family and your girl? You should send them a picture.”

“Did the interview with the TV station get put on the air? I really hope Rob’s mullet to make it on television.”

I’ve been mulling all this over ever since they all whizzed by and I haven’t been able to make any sense of it. The strangest thing of all was when three of these creatures approached they yelled “Possum!” and then proceeded to fly directly over me one at a time – odd, very odd. Well, I guess I have the rest of my roadkill life to mull all this over.

-Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz

June 30th: Fremont, NE to Central City, NE

Arlie's Bar appeared around mile 5 of our ride today, with a marquee reading: CARS MOVE THE BODY. BIKES MOVE THE SOUL. We chose an inclusive interpretation of the term 'bikes,' assuming that Harley riders would love to include us in their crew.

After a long, sunny day riding alongside Union Pacific coal trains, we arrived at the Evangelical Free Church and the Presbyterian Church of Central City, NE (located somewhere close to smack dab in the center of the country, according to Central Citians). John rolled up with a sweet pair of antlers duct-taped to his handlebars.

Central City turned out to be eventful enough to rival yesterday's night of glory at the Casey and the Sunshine Band concert. We were lucky enough to have our visit coincide with Central City's annual firemen's dance and barbeque. Alongside the North Platte river, we inhaled bowls of barbequed pork, beef, and (my favorite) meaty beans, and sat on the lawn watching the sun set and talking with locals.

For the evening's climax, Darrow pulled out a pair of scissors. They glinted in the setting sun - melodramatic lighting fitting for such a momentous occasion. With great pomp, in honor of our long, tough week in Nebrastika Fantastika, Alex's locks were shorn into a mohawk, and Rob's into a mullet.

With Alex and Rob looking pretty darn suave, we moved over to the live band. Some of us fumbled through the electric slide, Severin found a few locals to tutor him in the country two-step, and Meg, Lindsay and others spun and frolicked around the dance floor at random. We were a big hit - so much so that on our way out, an extremely nice man handed us $100 for Habitat! The kindness and generosity we find in strangers along this trip is incredibly heartening.

-Brooke Danaher

Sunday, July 8, 2007

June 29th: Dunlap, IA to Fremont, NE

We awoke in Dunlap even earlier than we usually do - my alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. - in order to avoid the heavy truck traffic on US 30, which comprised the first ten miles of our day. The traffic wasn't too bad, and we were off of 30 by 8 a.m. After a long day of riding, we arrived in Fremont, where we were greeted like royalty with delicious Gatorade and inflatable mattresses. Before many of us began a marathon nap session, we picked up our mail drop goodies, and stuffed ourselves with brownies, dried fruit, and Liz's mother's absolutely deadly Seven Layer bars. Rob even received a mysterious package from a man we recently met who is kayaking across the United States.

After logging some solid napping hours, we awoke to a huge and beautiful potluck dinner served by the amazing people at the Salem Lutheran Church in Fremont. We all ate huge quantities of delicious fried chicken, casseroles, fruit salad, and dessert. We were all (not for the first time on this trip) ridiculously full.

Not long after stuffing ourselves, Pastor Mike ushered us outside, where we filled our van and the church's bus, and drove to Omaha, where KC and the Sunshine Band were putting on a free outdoor concert. There were 50,000 people in attendance, but thanks to some calls by Brian's dad, Al Allen (who is clearly a media mogul of some kind), we were ushered all the way through the crowd, straight to the front like rock stars. We proceeded to rock out to some of KC's greatest hits, including "Get Down Tonight", "Shake Your Booty", and "That's the Way I Like It," until we were dripping with sweat (again) and our legs ached (again). Lindsay and I were especially in pain during the chorus of "Get Down Tonight", as "getting down" over and over again required our already aching quads to do more work than they wanted to. But KC played on, and so we danced.

After the concert, we drove back to Fremont, totally tuckered out. It was a most excellent day.

-Jessalee Landfried

Friday, July 6, 2007

June 28th: Jefferson, IA to Dunlap, IA

Our epic adventure to Dunlap, Iowa started like every other day. Everyone woke up promptly at 5 am and neatly packed their bags. We all ran about diligently finishing our morning chores before we could sit down to another amazing meal provided by the church. After thanking the church and packing the trailer we set out on our 86-mile day. The unusually cool temperatures immediately surprised us. A few of us guys had recently shaved our legs and with the absence of our natural leg warmers we were forced to wear synthetic. The ride itself was also a bit of a change from the usual. Instead of constant cornfields, the land was divided by pig farms, which we could recognize from miles by the smell. After about 30 miles we stopped for our first snack break.

Fueled by cookie dough and Chex Mix we set out into the hills with a fierce pace of about 18 mph. Not too long into the ride everyone instantly stopped to see a herd of miniature horses (not to be confused with ponies). After a good amount of time petting these small creatures we set out into the rolling hills of Iowa.

At 60 miles we made out second stop for lunch. When I arrived Nick was chasing Andy around with a dead possum. Most of us took a short nap to recharge before the short 26 miles ahead of us.

We were greeted at the church in Dunlap with smiling locals and ice cream cups. Dinner was an amazing feast of spaghetti and garlic bread. Afterwards Nick, Severin, David and I did some bouldering on a near-by wall. Most people went into town and made friends with the locals. Though there were many exciting things to do in Dunlap most of us retired to our Therma-rests to dream about tomorrow’s ride.

-Trevor Lyons

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

June 27th: Ames, IA to Jefferson, IA

Today began like any normal day on HBC, with the grand task of consuming a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. Okay, maybe not that normal, but definitely typical of our HBC shenanigans of late. Long story short, Darrow dared Brian to finish a huge tub of ice cream during breakfast. Being the manly man Brian is, he stepped up to the challenge -- and with his manliness preserved, Brian proceeded to bike for the rest of the day. We all learned a useful lesson from Brian’s determination, although he did indeed finish the ride: ice cream + 60ish miles = not a very good idea. But he’s still alive!

Ride-wise, our day was perfectly uneventful (a nice change from recent craziness involving ditches and rain). The route from Ames to Jefferson was slightly hilly, with roads surrounded by – drumroll please – miles and miles of corn. I think we’ve all really begun to appreciate the fields of corn we’ve been passing in Iowa: not only do they make excellent pee spots (watching the helmets slowly crop up out of the stalks is one of the funniest daily sights), but they truly have begun to look more and more like oceans as the acreages increase and the fields extend straight into the horizon.

Yet the day took a turn for the better once we all settled down in Jefferson, a small town with a rich history (the seemingly small town actually rests upon 200 million dollars in bank deposits, thriving insurance businesses, beans and corn, was the site of the film Twister, and is home to one of two tofu factories in the world – a fact that Andy was particularly excited about). And during a lovely dinner at the United Methodist Church we learned about some of the delicacies of the Midwest: ham balls, casseroles, and Jefferson’s own award-winning twinkie cake, which we had the pleasure of sampling for dessert. And after dinner, a seemingly-normal HBC day transformed a fantastical adventure when we visited Jefferson’s main attraction, the Mahanay Bell Tower, a 162 foot tall concrete obelisk at the center of town. During a compelling presentation by the tower’s guides, we learned about the history and importance of the tower to the town. Celebrated by the annual Bell Tower Festival, the famous tower attracts both residents and foreigners to Jefferson by the religious and patriotic tunes of its 14 cast bells. We had the pleasure of riding the tower’s elevator to the observation deck, where we had the chance to see the sites of Greene County for miles – an absolutely unforgettable and enthralling experience.

Pumped up from our VIP tour, Trevor, Matt and Nick did what any normal biker would do at 9pm….shave his legs. Actually, in the competitive spirit of “brohood,” the boys got the girls to each shave one leg (yes, seriously) as a contest to see who could outperform the others in best shave. The judges (Severin, Kathleen, and Andy, a shaving veteran) measured the legs by closest shave, remaining hairs, and lack of cuts. In what became an oddly heated competition, Matt’s legs took the title of “best overall,” yet Nick’s legs won the “individual” category. Since this is my blog, I’ll take a second to brag – my leg (Nick’s right leg) received the most votes, making me the individual shaving. Yes, I know, I am incredibly skilled. (Mom, you should be proud).

Happy and hairless, we then went to bed. What a great day to be a bulldog.

(shout out to my friends and family – I miss yous!)

Go Team,
Saskia Leggett

Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 25th: Tama, IA to Ames, IA (plus a day off)

What a great day to be a bobcat!

So I decided to keep the talk of the actual riding to a minimum in this blog entry for two reasons: one, every blog entry only talks about riding, and two, I’m bad at it.

Apparently Iowa is hilly, and no one bothered to inform us of this fact until we were traversing the rolling hills of Iowa. Still, some nice scenery and a nice wind kept spirits high. Dinner in Ames was at individual houses in the community, which was great because I got to give piggyback rides to three adorable girls all night long. Go team!

So since many of the people who have written this blog before me have been kind enough to make sure people knew that I was still alive, I figured I would return the favor in this entry by giving an update on everyone else on the trip.

-So one of my responsibilities as the HBC birthday boy is to choose who gets to ride sweep. I chose my MD buddy Nick. Apparently Trevor wasn’t too happy that Nick was chosen over him, so as playful revenge, Trevor deflated Nick’s tires right before the ride began. To get back at Trevor for this stunt, Nick “accidentally” gave Trevor Benadryl instead of Ibuprofen. Eight drowsy hours later, Trevor arrived in Ames.

-David recently celebrated his 57th birthday. The old man celebrated by watching Matlock and going to bed even though the sun was still out.

-One of the unfortunate side affects of riding your bike across the country is that you get some pretty wicked tan lines. When you hang out with 26 other riders, tan lines are socially acceptable. However, if you were to, say, leave the trip for a few days to attend your roommates wedding, the tan lines are slightly more noticeable. We still love you, though, Liz.

-Another one of the other unfortunate circumstances of this trip is that you are limited to just three t-shirts since packing must be kept as light as possible. As a result, it’s very easy to identify most people because you very quickly become familiar with their entire wardrobe. Meg and Kathleen both brought an identical shirt: a maroon, Haverford shirt that says “Hi, friend,” across the chest. When both of them wear that shirt on the same day, Andy can’t tell them apart, and mixes up their names while doing the slide show.

-Speaking of Andy, he is still trying to think of a way to teach his kitty cat to, a.) learn to ride a bicycle, and b.) become vegan. Convincing him to learn to grow green zebra tomatoes seems to be too much of a stretch, however.

-Lindsay wins the award for having the worse series of events befall her on the trip. While turning in a small town in Iowa, Lindsay turtled (a very awkward thing to do; it’s when you very slowly tip over on your bike as you try in vain to unclip out of your pedals, usually resulting in anyone nearby to stop riding and laugh at you). However, as soon as Lindsay hit the ground, a bird pooped on her. Honorable mention goes to Trevor, who got stung by a bee at the exact moment that he got a flat tire.

-Sara and Shira spent one day writing political graffiti on the road in chalk. Good going, girls! Social revolution is soon coming to the cornfields of Indiana.

-Props go out Rebecca and John, who spent some time with me in a ditch on the side of the road as I took a nap. Sadly, that last sentence is true. Remember kids, always make sure you stay properly hydrated, even in the pouring rain on dirt/muddy roads on a 90-100 mile day in Illinois/Iowa. Go team!

-That same day, Niko also spent some time in a ditch….twice. Unfortunately, Niko was driving the van.

-One time, a few of us were talking, and Matt joined the conversation. At one point, Matt contributed to the conversation in a positive manner, adding a factually accurate statement with no hint of sarcasm or insult. The rest of us – now very confused - looked at each other, and the conversation abruptly ended when no one had any experience with what to do in this situation. Matt hasn’t pulled this stunt again since.

-Sam became the first person on the trip to require stitches, as he took a pretty wicked spill while skateboarding at dinner today. Don’t worry Sam: everything I have learned I have learned from television and movies, and they have taught me that chicks dig scars.

-Pictures will hopefully be added to this blog soon, for the sole reason that Rob is intent on getting a mullet before this trip is over. No joke is necessary here; instead, just imagine Rob with a mullet.

-Saskia said that she thought I was funny today. Saskia is now my favorite person on this trip.

-Brooke, Clay, and Nick are neck and neck in the competition to see who has the coolest bike accessory. Brooke has an iPod dock on her handlebars, which makes her one of the most popular people to ride with. Clay has an entire AM/FM radio. Not to be outdone, Nick recently purchased skull-and-crossbone valve caps. Again, pictures need to be added to this blog soon.

-Alexis reportedly has some pretty awesome trail mix her sister made for her. I say reportedly because I have no had the privilege of tasting this trail mix….and hopefully sucking up to her like this in the blog will increase my chances.

-Severin loves America.

-Erin has mastered the art of communicating with non-verbal sounds and a series of catch phrases. In fact, Erin and Niko are capable of entire conversations without actually saying anything. Bobcat pounce!

-Alex continues to wow church members across the nation with his amazing piano playing ability. It’s good to know that if we run out of money, we can set up shop on a street corner and let Alex tickle the ivories to finance the rest of our trip.

-Laura wins the “On-the-ball” award for being the only person in our chore group to know that it was actually our turn to load the van in the morning two days ago. Go team!

-Jessalee recently had a special visitor for her day off in Evanston; namely, her boyfriend. As a fellow redhead, I must admit that he has earned the Brian Allen Seal of Approval.

-Darrow was far and away my favorite person to ride sweep with. As someone who is admittedly slow, it was nice to ride with someone who couldn’t go more than two miles without having to stop to go to the bathroom. Riding slow + frequent breaks = Happy Brian.

Hopefully I’ve mentioned everyone, and if I haven’t, it’s because I’m too wired off the the Red Bull I got for free in the parking lot of the strip mall in Ames, Iowa. It wasn’t really that sketchy, but I have a flair for the dramatic.

So, in summary, go team!

-Brian Allen

P.S. Thanks go out to the nice woman in Evanston who let us play with her dog for an hour. Go team!

P.P.S. I want to take this opportunity to thank my prayer partner in Youngsville. Not only am I behaving like you told me to, but I’m actually still surviving this trip. Go team!

P.P.P.S Everyone pedaled very hard yesterday and survived another day. Go team!

June 24: Lisbon, IA to Tama, IA

Today we started our first full day in Iowa singing a rocking rendition of Dar Williams' appropriately titled, but actually very depressing song, "Iowa." Actually most people booed, but we listened anyway. Those of us who payed attention to the lyrics were well prepared for the rolling hills of Iowa that we encountered, which were very beautiful. Rob flagged down another bicyclist in the morning who happened to be doing a cross-country ride also, but in the opposite direction of us, and all by himself! After yesterday's stormy ride, today was pretty calm and uneventful, which left everyone with enough energy to conduct a massive cleanup and reorganization effort of the trailer, and laundry crew folded each person's laundry for them, which was amazing.

The midwest feels different from the eastern towns we passed through: They are less old, more spread out, and most of what we see is corn and railroads. The road we have been paralleling is Highway 30, also known as the Lincoln highway, which was the first transcontinental road in the US.

In other new developments, we are learning that farm dogs either really hate or really love bicyclists (we haven't waited around to figure out which) and will chase us to the death. The best way to ward them off is to squirt water bottles at them.

-Shira Miller

P.S. Sara and I went parasailing again today.

June 23rd: Morrison, IL to Lisbon, IA

How do I describe the epic proportions of today's mini-disasters...

Wake up call was early for our 90 mile day, and particularly painful, perhaps especially for those who decided to explore a corn field at midnight last night. The first unpleasant surprise of the day came when we looked out the door and saw the rain and the second unpleasant surprise came when we stepped outside and realized just how cold it actually was. Rebecca, our brave and self-sacrificing social worker, stepped to the plate and heroically volunteered to be sweep for the day. The next problem was the disfunctional lights on the trailer which required myself, Severin, and John working on it and Niko having to later go get the fuse fixed. However, we loaded the trailed and set out into the gray morning, all wondering how we would fare.

One thing about chalk is that it actually stays pretty well in the rain. Sadly for us, this did not seem to be the case today and it was not long before the first people were off route with the van following them. It should also be noted that in an attempt to avoid biking on Route 30, we were trying to take a series of side roads resulting in ridiculously long directions. The lost people were discovered when Rebecca caught up to us as we enjoyed the momentus moment of crossing the Mississippi. This event did not pass with some lasting marks as I managed to tear a sizable hole in my chamois in the upper thigh region while climbing over the road rail, thus requiring me to hike up my leg warmers in order to cover it.

Now pressing on into the west and thouroughly soaked, several of us decided to stop for a warming cup of hot chocolate at the nearest fast food, thus resulting in a total of about 4 minutes of warmth. It was not long after this that we encountered a gravel road, which, thanks to the rain, was actually more of a mud road. Deciding that a 4 mile an hour pace with the leg work of an 18 mile an hour pace was not worth it, we turned around to meet Niko and the van. We then realized that we had lost the front three riders since there were no tracks in the gravel and we had seen no chalk on the road and they could not be reached on cell phones. Most of the group was not gathered munching on brownies and flattened bananas and we turned around to re-route for what would be one of many detours. Lindsey took a pretty skilled fall at this point. It was not approximately 11:30 AM and had gone maybe 20 miles... epically slow progress.

The journey continued and it was not long before we found ourselves biking in a large group along a busy road with Niko blocking a lane behind us. When it sunk in just how inefficient this was, we stopped and ended up walking our bikes along the shoulder back the way we came to get to an exit. A proud moment for everyone. Despite yet another on the fly re-route, we soon found ourselves at lunch eating primarily left-overs from the prior night's dinner. Lunch was brief as we still
have many miles to go, but it was not long after starting again that we encountered yet another gravel road and re-routed again. Meanwhile, the few who were ahead were encountering difficulties of their own, including getting 15 miles off-route and hitching a ride to get back to the right road.

So it is now about 3 pm, having covered about 60 miles of the route but traveled over 75, and we had just passed through the town of Toronto when we came to a fork in the road. We proceeded to take a small detour down the wrong way, but when we returned, it was discovered that the other option was also the wrong way. This was discovered by finding out that Niko was currently stuck in another ditch, this time at a pig farm about a mile down the road, which occured as he was trying to turn around. So the two options in front of us were wrong, and the only other way was the way we came. It was also now nearing 4 pm when we needed to be getting off the roads and since we clearly were not going to come close to finishing the
remaining 30 miles, we headed back to Toronto and passed several happy hours hanging out in a bar eating fries and enjoying classic hits from middle school played on the juke box.

There is still one more untold tale. While we were all happily resting in Toronto, there were several members of our group who had spent the past few hours sitting in the lee ward side of a ditch. Brian had not been feeling well, so when they stopped to take a rest he proceeded to fall asleep in the ditch. Deciding that it was wiser to let him recover, Rebecca and John stayed with him and let him sleep. Remember that it was still cold, wet, and windy, thus required the previously mentioned huddling to get out of the wind. Eventually we were all collected and loaded into the van and set off to collect
Severin and Brooke from the gas station, who seemed to be enjoying the amenities it offered. Although the day can be adequately summed up as a long, wet, and cold ordeal, it will be remembered fondly by us for being long, wet, and cold.

-Meg Dickey-Griffith

June 22nd: DeKalb, IL to Morrison, IL

Our blockbuster journey continued today as we trecked from De Kalb to Morrisson. As we say goodbye to De Kalb, we must thank our wonderful hosts at the De Kalb Church of Christ for generous accommodations. Also, much appreciation to Toby and crew from North Central Cyclery for free tune-ups and leading us out for the first ten miles.

The ride today was 70 miles through a rolling sea of corn. Illinois was kind enough to provide us with generous tailwinds to thrust us along. The burrito stop from yesterday also provided a few riders with the nourishment necessary to spin their legs in circles for long periods of time. The award for quick thinking today goes to Alex, who thwarted an attack by an ferocious Australian cattle dog. He proved to be as able with a water bottle as he is with the piano keys.

Our lunch stop today was through the scenic Dixon, hometown of Ronald Reagan. Glimpses of his childhood home and a large section of the Berlin Wall twinged our American pride, and distracted us into taking an extra long lunch break. After lunch we were motivated to make it to our next church on time, but watchful for communists who stood in our way.

Tomorrow we all look forward to crossing the Mississippi and waving goodbye to the marvelous state of Illinois.

-Matt Morrin

June 21st: Evanston, IL to DeKalb, IL

Our epic journey started in a magnificent fashion. Our 77 mile day started off by actually sleeping somewhat in today (6:30! Woot woot!!) and had a delicious breakfast from the Lutheran church. Next stop: DeKalb, Illinois.

Our progress into the Midwest continues. The scenery is more of the same. Fields of corn sprawl to the horizon, occasionally divided by a patch of trees or a train in the distance. We had a nice lunch at about mile 40. I’ve come to be a big fan of Sam’s sandwich. Ranch, cheese (anything works), peanut butter and jelly all in one sandwich. Though it does not sound particularly appealing, it is filling and complete. I think Sam and I are the only fans—don’t worry, converts will come. Most of us stopped at a Dairy Queen where we enjoyed some ice cream in the hot weather.

Finally we made it to the North Central Cyclery bike shop where we received free tune-ups and fittings. These generous people spent all afternoon fitting most of the riders and giving everyone much needed tune-ups. And probably the best gift of the day was the AMAZING dinner prepared for us by the Church.

Today, we've frolicked in public fountains, gotten ogled by locals who've never before seen bike shorts, and feasted by enthusiastic Churchgoers. And now, mellowed into retirement with exhaustion exacerbated by food coma, we're all heading to bed.

-David Flynn

Friday, June 22, 2007

June 19th: New Buffalo, MI to Evanston, IL

New Buffalo is about seven miles due north of the Indiana border, which would not be so noticeable if both Michigan and western Indiana were in the same time zone. Some of our cell phones picked up signals from across the border, so according to half of them we woke up at 4:00, while the others displayed 5:00. Either way, when we woke up it was dark and stormy, so we all got our rain gear and anticipated a nasty, wet day that actually became very beautiful very quickly. As soon as we ate breakfast and were ready to go it stopped raining entirely, and by the time we had our 30 mile lunch break in Indiana (at 8:50 in the morning) most people had thrown their jackets in the van.

The ride was from the eastern half to the western half of Lake Michigan and almost entirely along the lake, which was gorgeous. We biked through Indiana's lakefront park up until Gary, when forests and streams suddenly turned into factories and steel mills. I got two flats outside of Gary, but four people independently pulled over to check if we were okay, and one of them donated money to Habitat. I'm pretty sure US Steel owns the city of Gary. All of the businesses and trucks seemed affiliated with the nearby US Steel plant, and the promotional signs around the city for Gary had the US Steel logo. It seemed to fit; Gary's city hall was surrounded by smoke stacks, and the city's minor league baseball team whose stadium we passed was apparently called the Railcats.

Riding into Chicago was, as expected, beautiful. By the time we crossed the border from East Chicago, IN to Chicago, IL it was sunny and warm, and the skyline was visible from at least 20 miles away on the route. We took a lot of stops in Chicago—some accidental, like when Meg and Rebecca each ran over a staple five or so miles apart, and some really fun, such as when some riders stopped at a deli and others got Italian ice at Navy Pier. The lakefront bike path was a lot more dangerous than we anticipated. Because it was such a nice day, there were a lot of (amateur) bicyclists out, and when Clay tried to pass two women taking up the entire lane he fell and had to stop riding for the day. Otherwise, the ride was really pleasant, and if some of us hadn't gotten lost a block away from the church in Evanston, we would have made it on (Central) time by the 4:30 deadline.

Some of the riders who still had energy hit the town after dinner, visiting Wrigley Field and a comedy club, Improv Olympic. During one of the prompts at Improv Olympic the troupe asked the audience for "an object that you would normally keep hidden." We shouted out "chamois butter," but instead of asking us what chamois butter actually was they made up an imaginary car-washing concoction that smelled like kittens "with a hint of raspberry." It wasn't until the El ride back to Evanston that we were finally too drained to stay awake.

-Niko Bowie

June 18th: Elkhart, IN to New Buffalo, MI

Today's ride was a short, sweet, and flat 44 miles, which gave us a
great excuse to take a detour. Many of us decided to follow Matt and
Liz to their alma mater, Notre Dame, just a mile down the road from
our main route. It was so beautiful! The main cathedral was
brilliantly painted in blue and gold with jewel-bright stained glass
windows within the walls. We also visited the stadium, famous for the
movie "Rudy" (I, at least, called my friends to brag) and a few other
sites before we were called by the van to get a move-on.

Upon arriving in New Buffalo, we went straight to Redamaks, "the
hamburger that put New Buffalo on the map." According to Kathleen, one
of many who experienced a burger, "the meat melts in your
was incredible!" When we got to the church, friendly Pastor Brad took
us on a tour around town, pointing out the ice cream store, Oinks,
that we would visit later.

I managed to fall asleep in the public library, but everyone else went
to a lovely home just over the Indiana border where a pool and dinner
awaited us. Eventually I came back to consciousness and made it to the
party. The church members were all great to talk with, and this was by
far the best part of the day. They also all (roughly) were related to
each other in some way, which seems pretty remarkable, but then again,
most of them have lived in New Buffalo all their lives. And I can see
why! New Buffalo is a lovely town right on the lake. Apparently it
used to be much smaller, but as our hosts pointed out, tons of housing
is going up for all the Chicagoans who want a relaxing place to stay
over the summer (fun fact: the population of the town in the winter is
1800; in the summer, it is 12,000!).

At the end of the day, we went to Oinks, an ice cream store with some
pretty creative flavors, but their glory lies in the decor. Oinks has
one of every pig-related item manufactured in history....just a slight
exaggeration. They even had a yellow, pig-themed biking jersey, which
we asked to buy, but, alas, they weren't interested in selling.

What's more, Brian's still alive, which makes today, in all, an amazing day!

-Laura Gaynon

June 17th: Angola, IN to Elkhart, IN


Happy Father’s Day! This comes somewhat belated seeing as I’m writing this blog 24 hours after the fact and it probably won’t be posted for several days still, so I apologize for that, but I do hope all you worried/proud/envious fathers out there had a good one. (Particularly one Bill Chiles. Hey, Pops.)

Today began, like many before and many to come, in a darkened room in a church in a small town. This time the town was Angola, Indiana, the church the United Methodist Church. But unlike any day before and probably most to come, I had that darkened room all to myself and I was on a couch, not the floor. The gloriousness of these novelties, particularly the latter, did not, however, compensate for the unpleasantness of being jarred awake by my cell phone alarm at 5:30 AM. Again. Yes, I do look forward to each new day of this trip, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m just not a morning person. I may roll out of my sleeping bag at 5:30 AM (or at 6:00, more likely, seeing as I my fingers always seem to find the snooze button even in the dark), but I’m not truly awake for another two or three hours. So of course I was last to get my bag packed and ready to be put in the trailer.

After finishing our regular morning cleaning routine, we sat down to a rare feast of a breakfast that a few kind members of the church congregation provided. Some highlights: asparagus casserole, broccoli-and-cheese casserole, eggs-and-meat casserole, French toast casserole, and a few other casseroles --- all exceptional, and they certainly beat the bagels we usually settle for. Then we did the old map meeting ritual, and there it was decided (allegedly based on an algorithm but probably randomly) that today I would be the HBC birthday boy, which means 1) I write the blog for the day, and 2) I don’t have to do my chores. It was especially fortuitous that I would be HBC birthday boy on this day because I happen to be on laundry crew for this week, and June 17 was one of the two days this week that laundry crew would be doing laundry. In case you didn’t know, few people like laundry duty because it means while everyone else is (supposedly) out having fun in the town, you’re stuck at a laundromat for three hours. Partay!

By 8:00 AM we were back on the road heading west from Angola towards Elkhart, Indiana, our next stop. For about seven miles we found ourselves weaving between corn fields on some of northern Indiana’s forgotten country roads, not a car in sight. At one point we spotted a doe bounding across a cleared field to our right and watched (should I say “in awe” or is that too cheesy?) as she leaped across the road in front of us and vanished into the trees. We also happened upon a ritzy-looking Clydesdale farm, quite impressive. Then, as indicated on the directions that our fearless leader Niko made for us, we were meant to head west on a road alternately called N 300 W, CR 500 W, E 300 N, W 300 N, E 400 N, W 400 N, etc., etc. for about 18 miles before taking a short crossroad that would lead us to the somewhat busier Route 120, which we would then follow west for another 22 miles or so. (The day’s trip would total 56 miles, a short ride for us by this point.) Well, upon turning onto the road of many names we discovered that it was in fact a dirt road, and thus began day two of our now three-day Dirt Road Debacle. Well, we told ourselves, maybe if we go a little ways it’ll start being paved, but after about three miles of gravel, we realized that was probably not going to happen. At this point we came across a paved crossroad, so Niko decided we would take that road north and then just get on 120 earlier than intended. It seemed like a plan, but we only got a few hundred yards up that road when a car (yes, a car!) rolled up and its driver informed us that if we went any further we would find ourselves on gravel again. He kindly pointed out that the next crossroad down was paved and would lead us to Route 120, so we took it, got on Route 120, and thus saved ourselves perhaps 15 miles of flat tires and aching bottoms.

Route 120 had its own thrills in store for us, namely terrible pavement on the shoulder and a series of dead kitty cats that brought a woeful “Why?!” from Andy. I felt a strange, paternal desire to protect the poor boy from sights such as this, but there was nothing we could do. There was a nice scenery change; flat farmland gave way to woods and lakes and some rolling hills to remind us of the good times we had back in the old Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. At mile 20 we stopped for a much-needed snack break/80s-themed dance party. Lunch was at mile 40 beside a one of the aforementioned lakes. (There are literally thousands in this state.) We made pretty good time between the snack break and lunch, we being most of the group except Saskia, whose tire exploded, quite dramatically, actually. She made it to lunch nonetheless, as you do.

Since this is my blog and I can ramble on about whatever I want, I want to mention something odd: at this lake where we ate lunch, there was a boat labeled with the logo of an alpaca farm. We had seen an alpaca farm back in Pennsylvania, and we had passed another one earlier this day. A few of us began to ponder the reason for having an alpaca farm. The exchange went something like this:

Clay: I would run an alpaca farm to harvest alpaca milk. It might be radioactive like the urine of llamas.
Niko: Alpaca milk? Maybe. I would shear them to make coats for cold people.
Sam: Cold people? Why not poor people? Not all cold people necessarily need coats.
Niko: But cold people need alpaca coats.
Someone: Where do alpacas come from, anyway?
Saskia: Alpacastan.

For some reason I always thought they came from the Andes. Oh well, that’s why Saskia goes to Yale and I…well…I do too. Anyway, the ultimate question remains: why did these alpacas have a boat in Indiana? Food for thought.

Pulling away from lunch, I hit a patch of soft gravel going about three miles per hour, so of course I turtled (HBC jargon for falling over on one’s bike while stopped or traveling at a speed so slow that taking a spill is just embarrassing). My fellows Centralians (OTers? Oregon Trailers?) cheered, I threw my arms up proudly, and off I went, joining up with Sam and Rebecca for the rest of the ride into Elkhart. In spite of a strong headwind, we averaged 20 miles per hour into Elkhart, arriving at the St. Thomas Catholic Church and School at about 1:30 PM just behind Andy and Erin, the first to arrive. They are so fast. Our contact at the church, Tammy, let us in, pointed us to the gym where we would be sleeping, and made us lemonade and iced tea. She also showed us to the showers, which actually were on the premises this time, unlike the three days before when our directions said “showers: on premises” but turned out to be lying to us.

After we had all arrived, showered, and perhaps even napped, we went to the basement for dinner with the eighth grade confirmation class and other church members. It didn’t take long for us ot discover that the 13- and 14-year-olds had not been briefed on who we were and why we were all eating dinner together, because after we had all introduced ourselves and said where we were from, the girls next to me started posing questions like, “Did all of you fly here from where you live?” and “Why did you come here?” I told them we were in fact on a cross-country bike trip and that we were only passing through, and their response went something like, “You’re riding a bicycle across the whole country? That sounds, uh, fun. Not.” So much for positive impressions. I did find out after dinner that the eighth grade girls at the next table over had decided who out of the 13 or 14 guys on our bike trip were the three most attractive and who were the three least attractive. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that more than a few of us actually were curious to know where we landed in the rankings, because the opinions of 14-year-olds are oh-so-important, but no one would say a word other than, “It seems that eighth grade girls aren’t that into masculine guys.”

We ended the day with a DVD, The Pursuit of Happyness, on the church’s big-screen TV. I don’t want to give a review of the film because this blog is already way too long, but I will say the film is aptly titled; the pursuit of happiness occupies about an hour and 45 minutes of the film, while the attainment of happiness only happens in the last 15 minutes of it. Our other options had been Shrek 2 and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. And we thought we were the fun group.

After that I went to bed. The next day I woke up on the floor in a room filled with other people who were also on the floor. And it was also not my birthday anymore. Not much more to say, so I’ll just throw this one out again: Happy Father’s Day!

-Clay Chiles

June 16th: Napoleon, OH to Angola, IN

Our progress into the Midwest continues. The scenery is more of the same. Fields of corn sprawl to the horizon, occasionally divided by a patch of trees or a train in the distance. So many times now we’ve been warned about the boredom waiting for us in the endless cornfields, but so far I’ve actually enjoyed the scenery. It probably helps that I’ve never seen this part of the country before.

A bit of excitement came from our first encounter with dirt roads. After riding along a stretch, I was pretty sure the teeth were falling out of my head. The roads were so bumpy, it felt like we were riding jackhammers instead of bikes. At the end of the day, just about every screw on our bikes needed tightening thanks to all the jostling. Overall we navigated the dirt with success, except for Nick who fell victim to the deep end of gravel and sand.

We crossed our fourth state border, as well. The tiny county roads we’ve been riding on don’t have many signs though, and that includes “Welcome to Indiana” ones. Luckily, with the help of our chalk, we had no problems making our own sign, so the milestone was successfully documented. Also, Sara and Shira did many exciting things!

-Sam Landfried

June 15th: Sandusky, OH to Napoleon, OH

After a day off resting our legs and spiking our adrenaline at Cedar Point Amusement Park – some nice views of Lake Erie from 200 ft up! – we left the lake for Napoleon, OH. So far we have seen the hills of Pennsylvania and have biked along a Great Lake, but this was certainly our first true day in the Midwest. Soy and corn crops stretched for miles on either side of long, straight county roads, few and far between. Meg and I practiced biking without hands on the long bits, while others used the opportunity to ride two and three abreast and talk.

A mother and her kids, seeing us drooping a little as we passed in front of her house, offered us Kool-Aid on their porch. The kids made us guess the flavors of Kool-Aid before we drank them. Rob meanwhile, took the opportunity to duct tape a few American flags to the roof of the van.

Saskia struggled in the afternoon with three flats in half an hour. Just as her group got back on their bikes again, Rebecca noticed a flat on her own tire. A few long trains crossing our path broke up the riding for the day and helped us put some college education to work: 140 cars on one train, 67 on another.

Napoleon appeared out of nowhere with shady streets and a tall town hall. We were of course overjoyed to pick up our maildrop and compare/share goodies sent from home and friends and ready to move on into Indiana tomorrow.

-Alexis Krumme

June 14th: Day off in Sandusky, OH

Today I am old - twenty-three years, to be exact. Last night the group surprised me with a cake, and today we headed to Cedar Point, one of the best roller coaster parks in the country, for our second day off. Most of us spent a full day at the park, although the long lines mean that you can really only do about one ride an hour (the line for The Maverick, the park's newest ride, was an hour and a half - and totally worth it). Nick's carnival experience served him well, as he was able to win a stuffed red dog from one of the stands. Shira and Sara tried one ride out, and then went straight to the beach for the rest of the day, where they charmed the parasailing guy into letting them go for free!

After a long day in the sun, we all ate dinner at Cabana Jack's in downtown Sandusky, where Rob sang "Rock'n'Roll All Night" with the band and Kathleen bemoaned the fact that the band's catalog lacked any Celine Dion. The owner of Cabana Jack's liked our dancing so much that he gave us all free tie-dyed headbands. It was a fantastic and thrilling birthday - it's good to be old!

-Jessalee Landfried

June 13th: Cleveland, OH to Sandusky, OH

Today saw us leaving the cozy comforts of Kim's house through the streets of Cleveland. Cleveland's streets are the only ones that I have seen that can rival the potholes of Boston. As we reached the waterfront, we stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and did a little rocking out with North. We then made our way through downtown with the assistance of Niko blocking traffic with the van for our sea of yellow. We continued riding along the Lake Erie waterfront, which was beautiful. The HBC birthday curse still reigns as I was devasted to suffer my first flat tire. I patched it up and joined our group at a park where we gladly devoured the leftovers from the previous night.

After lunch a few of us spent some time at the waterfront enjoying the beautiful view and weather. As we continued on our way to Sandusky, a few people saw a giant ball in a field and were immediately drawn to it. Of course they played with it and had a great break. Others, found a young local to lead them to a local beach where they enjoyed the cool water that refreshed and energized them for the remainder of the ride. Most of us, stopped at a Dairy Queen where we enjoyed some ice cream in the hot weather.

We pulled into Sandusky and took some great showers at the YMCA across the parking lot of our church. We spread ourselves out across the gym floor and after eating some pizza, shared an early birthday cake for Jessalee's actual birthday the next day, where we will be riding the monster roller coasters of Cedar Point.

P.S. Brian is doing awesome and excited about the day (off) at Cedar Point tomorrow.

--Rebecca Rebbe

Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 12th: Conneaut, OH to Cleveland, OH

We thought we’d left the massive hills behind in Pennsylvania but today’s ride proved us wrong. After having a delicious breakfast of donuts provided to us by our host church, we set out on what looked like a fairly flat day. This was true through the early afternoon as our route wound around Lake Erie lending many picture taking opportunities. However as we approached Cleveland, we were met with the two steepest hills we had yet faced. These hills conveniently hid themselves around corners so the element of surprise was wonderful.

Finally we made it to HubBub bike shop where we received free tune ups and fittings. These generous people spent all afternoon fitting most of the riders and giving everyone much needed tune ups. Having finally put 600 miles on the bikes this trip they were in desperate need of some maintenance.

When all was complete at the bike shop we arrived at our destination for the evening: Kim who was a Central rider from last year. She treated us with the most unbelievable hospitality welcoming us into her brand new home and feeding us a Mexican feast: homemade guacamole, shredded pork burritos, corn salsa, etc. After dinner most watched the NBA finals which we deemed appropriate due to Cleveland’s presence (and unfortunate loss) in the finals. Others enjoyed catching up on much needed sleep and the hot tub!

-Lindsay Collins

PS: Brian is alive and has made it to Cleveland!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 11th: Youngsville, PA to Conneaut, OH

I will get the most important information about the day over with first: Brian is still alive and kicking. His speedometer even broke 18 mph today. Go Team! Now, back to the epic journey. Today was our last day in Pennsylvania. Score. Pennsylvania is a great state but it was definitely time to leave and start exploring other states. Our 77 mile day started off by actually sleeping somewhat in today (6:30! Woot woot!!) and had a delicious breakfast from the Methodist church. We got a little side tracked on the route. First, we passed a house with a “Free Kittens” sign on the lawn. Because of everyone’s love for cute and fuzzy kittens, we had to stop and play with the little rascals. Our second stop of the day was in Corry, Pennsylvania, home of the one and only Liz Ferro. We took a little side trip and visited Liz’s house and her cute dog. Because of our little side trips, the group was a little behind schedule. After scarfing down some lunch, the entire group pedaled quickly towards the Pennsylvania/Ohio border and was more than overjoyed to see the “Welcome to Ohio” sign. Pennsylvania did not want to give Trevor up though. Because of allergies, Trevor was almost blind. He also got stung by a bee and then lost a nose piece off of his sunglasses. When we finally arrived at the Church of Christ in Conneaut, Ohio, Trevor got a flat tire. Rough. The church members provided us with a delicious meal and even volunteered to drive us out to the shore of Lake Erie and watch the sun set. It truly was a great day to be a bobcat.

Go Team!

-Erin Bougie

June 10th: Smethport, PA to Youngsville, PA

The sun rises over Smethport as our most magnificent and epic journey continued. Well, in actuality it was really foggy and we could not see more than twenty feet in front of us. It was also really cold with temperatures cool enough that we could see our breaths. Negatives asides, our day was started with a bountiful and scrumptious hot breakfast provided by the good people at St. Lukes Church. Then our ride began the way every 64 mile bicycle ride should: with a kickin’ dance party.

A few miles into the ride we went past an alpaca farm (not llamas by popular belief!) and of course we had to stop and gawk at the cute/awkward creatures. Me being an avid animal lover decided that I needed a closer look. Several minutes and a whole lot of pain (for me) later we were back on our way rolling up Mt. Jewett before experiencing some much welcome downhill for most of the rest of the ride.

Eventually, the whole group rolled into the little town of Youngsville where we were greeted by a splendid reception by the wonderful people at First United Methodist. Note to blog readers: First United Methodist not only had a map of the US that is tracking our progress, but also had the rest of the bulletin board filled with the groups bios. After some much needed shower and napping action we were treated to an incredible potluck provided by the greatest cooks in Warren County. Not only did we have centerpieces featuring little graham cracker Habitat homes, but there was also a whole room filled with desserts and then Dairy Queen for a pre-bedtime snack.

On a sad note, this is our last night in PA. Goodbye east coast!

-Andy Glaser

P.S. Not only is Brian indeed alive, but he led 15 riders for 10 miles at speeds exceeding 17 miles an hour!

June 9th: Wellsboro, PA to Smethport, PA

In which the brave Oregon Trailers conquer Potato City Hill, only to be undone by wrestling-club chickens.

Today – by which I mean three days ago; graduating college has not done as much as I hoped to improve my punctuality – we biked from the little town of Wellsboro, PA to the littler town of Smethport, PA, passing through some of the most beautiful scenery that we’ve seen on the trip so far. The first half of the day – up to about mile 40 – was a gradual climb, first through an agricultural valley surrounded by mountains, then – as we rode up into those mountains – through state-owned game lands. The last grade – which was apparently called Potato City Hill, although neither potatoes nor a city were anywhere to be seen – looked intimidating on the elevation profile of the day’s route, but ended up being not all that bad. We ate lunch when we got to the top of it, laying in the sun and watching people ride by on their ATVs. (For you city types reading this blog, an ATV – a.k.a. four-wheeler – is a motorized off-road vehicle with four wheels that you sit on top of and steer by using handlebars. So it’s kind of like a bicycle, except that you don’t have to exert yourself and it’s harder to fall off. I confess to feeling small twinges of jealousy as the ATVers rode by, and to stopping and taking a good long look at the next ATV
being offered for sale on the side of the road.)

After lunch, it was a long downhill through the towns of Roulette and Port Allegheny. Being, as usual, somewhat easily distracted, I ended up at the back with Jessalee and Alex. We were almost out of Port Allegheny when we noticed an inordinate number of chickens – hundreds of them, actually! – on two big grills by the side of the road. It turned out that the local youth wrestling club was having a fundraiser, timed to coincide with some sort of town-wide yard sale festival and – evidently – the arrival of the Habitat Bicycle Challenge. Of course we had to stop. We ate a whole chicken between the three of us, washing it down with cans of Mountain Dew. Little did we know – little did our elevation printout suggest – that the next seven miles or so into Smethport would be by far the most mountainous of the day. This provided our formerly-feathered friend with the opportunity to have the last laugh from the insides of our stomachs. Eventually, after much grasping at our stomachs, we made it to Smethport, mildly worse for the wear.

The church in Smethport was one of the friendliest we’ve stayed at so far and definitely the most thematically decorated. There were bicycle-themed tablecloths and several Tour de France posters, and one of the church members who fixed us dinner brought an old cruising bicycle to prop at the end of the serving line. Dinner was, of course, delicious.

The day ended with our first “town hall meeting,” which is HBC-speak for the weekly gathering at which we discuss problems and make group decisions. After hearing horror stories from last year’s leaders, I was expecting the meeting to be several hours of pure pain, most of it probably consumed by impassioned argument over whether to dry our bike shorts for seven minutes or eight. But it was surprisingly peaceful. The only semi-contentious issue was wake-up times, with the question being whether we should wake up really frikkin’ early or really, really frikkin’ early. And so, I am happy to close this blog entry with the news that the 27 riders of HBC Central 2007 still love each other.

-Rob Inglis

June 8th: Towanda, PA to Wellsboro, PA

Last night on the Susquehanna River, Rob and Severin decided to turn the plastic Thule into a raft, and successfully forded the river. This magnificent and epic boat launch/river ford was just another reminder that we were on the Oregon Trail. This morning we woke up really early, and continued biking through the “endless mountains” of Pennsylvania. Although the ride was pretty, I think we are all ready for some flat terrain, and if possible, less road kill. We promptly stopped for lunch at 9:15, and were into Wellsboro by 12:30! After showering, we took on the town, getting ice cream and milk shakes, and also having some bikes looked at by the wonderful Country Ski and Sports outdoor store.

Since more than 60 minutes had gone by, it must have been time for dinner. Pasta and sandwiches were donated by two local restaurants, and we drove 10 miles to see the Grand Canyon… of Pennsylvania. Although I’ve never been to the actual Grand Canyon, I am sure it cannot compare to the wooded valley at which we gazed.

It’s 8:30 now, and I think that’s past my bed time. Brian “Mad Dawg” Allen is still alive and pedaling, for all those curious. Today was our first mail drop, so thank you so much to all for everything!! It seems as though some of the baked goods we received will up our calorie intake to over 5,000. Three more days to Ohio! Yippee. Thanks for reading and for all the support.

-Kathleen Abels

June 7th: Waymart, PA to Towanda, PA

First I want to extend a big thank you for the great send-off this morning at God’s Mountain. We really appreciate everything all of you have done for us. If we receive an equally good welcoming everywhere than we will really be spoiled this summer.

As for the riding, it was our longest ride so far and we felt it. Pennsylvania has a lot of hills (East coasters call them mountains…). We are all exhausted and going to bed early but at least we know now that the group can handle the long rides. We are ready to tackle the rest of them but we all look forward to getting out onto the flatland where we don’t have quite so many hills to climb. The physical difficulty of the trip is finally beginning to set in.

In other news, Rob and I had an exciting adventure crossing the river in Towanda today in our new boat. It was about one hundred yards wide and all we had to paddle with was our hands. Little did you know that we could turn over the top of the luggage carrier on our car and use it to float. It drafts very little but the freeboard is even smaller, an inch max. We got wet.

Yet another amazing meal was received from the Presbyterian Church in Towanda. You can’t imagine how grateful we are for the time and energy complete strangers are spending on our behalf as we work our way across the country.

-Severin Knudsen