Hello, I am Bob, President of Journeys of Solutions. In 2009 I biked from Yorktown VA to San Francisco with vehicle support from my wife Sally in what I called Bike Journeys of Solutions. Why? Well because I had always wanted to ride across the country, and it was an opportunity to raise some funds for Journeys of Solutions. We had such a great experience that I have been thinking about doing it one more time ever since. After ten years we decided this is the year, Bike Journeys of Solutions 2.0.
The route will go west to east, starting in Anacortes WA back to Rochester, and then hopefully on to finish in Bar Harbor, ME. The route goes through the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and finally Maine.
I will be maintaining this blog to document the trip. Once again I encourage readers to consider supporting Journeys of Solutions with a donation. If you are new to Journeys of Solutions, check out our web site at www.journeysofsolutions.org.
If all goes according to plan, the ride will start on Tuesday 6/4. Check this space for the first day’s post.
https://journeysofsolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/Bob-Kuehl.jpg15362048Lindsay Reardonhttp://journeysofsol.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/JOShorizontalCMYK-med-2.pngLindsay Reardon2019-08-28 15:14:412019-08-27 15:53:33Announcing: Bike Journeys Of Solutions 2.0
Anacortes to Concrete WA, 55 miles, fair with a tailwind.
And so it begins. On the first day of riding we started at the ferry terminal in Anacortes WA on Puget Sound. We will be following Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route. The riding started later than will be the usual case at 10 AM as we drove to the start from Kirkland. Thanks to Kurt, Jill, Liam, and Henry for hosting us last night. The route today was varied with lots of directions to navigate, traversing neighborhoods, bike paths, quiet country roads, and busy highways. The route will follow WA 20 for most of the way across WA. This first day will be the most congested and urban area for quite a while as we head east. Unfortunately, I had to deal with a flat tire at the end of the ride. Hopefully, that will get it over with for many miles to come. Of course one reward for a day of cycling is food; buffalo meat stroganoff and “forest berry” pie.
In case you may be wondering how did we get here, I drove our truck out over six days and Sally flew in yesterday. She needed to support the Nellis Tavern Rhubarb fest.
Concrete WA to Rainy Pass (almost); 70 miles, mostly cloudy, 50-60s, brief showers, mostly tailwind
The first half of the day continued east along the Skagit River valley on Rt 20 and one long side road, with a very gentle continuous climb. A pleasant ride through tall evergreen forest. The traffic was light and the shoulders were reasonably wide. I have one of those bright flashing tail lights to make me visible. I met the SAG driver for lunch at the North Cascades NP visitor center. Lunch equals PB&J, an apple, some chips, and many cookies. The second half of the day involved several steeper climbs of 400-500 feet but then an unfortunate drop to lose the elevation gained as the road dipped into stream drainages. The goal was to reach Rainy Pass with a stretch goal the next pass, Washington Pass. The climb was moderate with step sections. Time and energy ended the quest about five miles short of the goal. We always start the next day from the exact location from which we left off the day before. We are just below the snow line, and there is plenty of snow in the higher elevations. That means there are many waterfalls with plenty of water. When riding by one close to the road, you get a blast of cold air like opening a refrigerator door. Tonight and last night WIFI service was only available outdoors. Tonight I am writing from a picnic table, last night is was a basketball court.
Scenes from the road. Seattle Power and Light has a series of dams for hydro electric power that creates large reservoirs.
Easy Pass CG to Upper Beaver Creek Rd (Twisp, WA); 59 miles; 40’s up high, 60’s in the valley, cloudy and then sunny, mostly tailwinds.
The day started with a 6 mile climb to Rainy Pass at 4855 feet in North Cascades NP. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses here. We thought about you Jim R. I arrived in snow flurries, how cool is that. Then a short down and another 4 mile climb to Washington Pass at 5477 feet. My climbing speed is slow these days. Then the descent – fairly steep and cold at the beginning, then more gradual and warmer at lower elevations. In fact the last 30 miles of the ride were basically downhill. Lunch at the Mazama General Store around the corner from where we stayed last night. The ride ended just east of Twisp 5 miles up the next pass that will be tackled first thing tomorrow. We are thinking pizza for dinner tonight. One other thing, the skies are hazy up high from fires in Canada. Some photos from the road.
Upper Beaver Creek Road (Twisp) to Talkire Lake Road (Tonasket), 65 miles, partly cloudy, threatening storms, 40-60’s
Another day, another pass to cross. This one is called Loup Loup Pass at 4020 feet. The climb gained 2000 feet in about 7.5 miles, so a steady up. After the climb it was essentially all downhill the rest of the day. After the descent the route followed the Okanogan River valley. There were large thunderheads on all sides but we managed to thread the needle so no rain. The valley landscape is open range land with orchards. We enjoyed fresh picked cherries for lunch. One of the “perks” of this experience is the fact that you burn plenty of calories. On a typical day like today I probably burned 3000+. That means that you need to replenish those calories. We try to eat in local restaurants. Tonight in Tonasket it was Shannons. The Friday night special is prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli with cheese, salad, and garlic bread. Clean plate for me.
Talkire Lake Road to Sherman Pass (Republic), 52.4 miles, mostly cloudy, scattered showers, 40-60s
So not so many miles today but for good reason. It was a two pass day. Wauconde Pass (4310 ft) was first up, 22 miles up but with some flat sections, an elevation gain of ~2000 feet. Then a descent to Republic, where we are spending the night. We arrived just in time to catch their annual Prospectors’ Day celebration. Music, arts and crafts, food trucks, a gun fight reenactment on Main St, a beard contest, a parade, and so much more. After lunch Sally enjoyed the festival while I tackled the second pass. This climb was challenging, 3000 ft in elevation gain over 16 miles to Sherman Pass at 5575 feet. If I remember right, this will be the highest point of the entire trip, so glad to have it behind me. It will be last pass of any consequence for the next few days. Lot’s of pasta for dinner tonight. The photos are from the road today and one of the parade.
Sherman Pass to Tacoma Creek Rd (Ione); 62 miles, mostly sunny, 40-70s
Best way to start a day is a 20 mile descent from Sherman Pass. The pass sported a little fresh snow along the sides of the road at 8 AM. We had a little bit of a late start as we had breakfast at a guest ranch a few miles from Republic where we stayed last night to let it warm up a bit at the pass. The large main lodge was constructed out of logs from the property by the owners. Very much a cowboy motif in every way including all of the staff dressed in cowboy gear, hat included. The route crossed the Columbia River ( Roosevelt Lake) at Kettle Falls, then on to Colville for lunch in a lush green town park with large trees. The balance of the ride continued on side roads and WA Rt 20, climbing in stages 1500 feet through ranches and then forest. We are staying tonight in Ione with a nice view of the Pend Oreille River. We are only 20 miles from the Canadian border.
Tacoma Creek Rd to Newport WA, 72 miles, mostly sunny 50-70s
The day started with a nice 1000′ descent and then the rest of the day’s riding was welcome flat with some rolling hills on a quiet side road along the Pend Oreille River. Occasionally there are wildlife sightings, mostly mule deer. Today it was a turkey hen with her brood of at least ten chicks, not that I stopped to count. Cyclists among you know that occasionally there are close encounters with insects as you ride along. Today I had a bee fly into my open shirt. As I was madly flaying around to squash it before it could sting me, a logging truck passed me of course. Just another day in the saddle. The route briefly crossed over into Idaho and then back into WA as we are staying in a nice B&B in Newport WA. Newport is right on the border. Tomorrow we leave WA behind for good, one state down. For the week we have come 435 miles, right on schedule. The photo is our lunch spot.
Newport WA to Sandpoint ID, 35 miles, sunny and 70’s
Today’s ride was a “rest day” as we needed to recharge the batteries and take care of some chores like laundry and an oil change for the truck. Sandpoint is on Lake Pend Oreille, a large lake (reservoir). It is somewhat of a resort town and the largest town we have been in since the start, and the largest town we will see for awhile. In addition to the chores we relaxed at the town beach and then drove up to the Mt Schweitzer ski area for a view of the lake and valley. The ride itself was hilly in places with a finish on a bike trail that has seen better days.
Sandpoint ID to Cabinet Range view point on MT 56, 61 miles, sunny 70-90’s
The route today followed ID State Route 200 into Montana. Some truck traffic and narrow shoulders but most drivers are courteous and pass with a wide berth. The route is following river valleys so no major climbs, just a few hills of a 100 -200 feet at a time. I had a wonderful stop at a local bakery for a cherry turnover. We have now gained back an hour as MT is in the Mountain Time Zone. Ten miles east of the the state line, the route turned north on MT State Route 56 along the crystal clear Bull River. It just looks like a classic MT trout stream. This is a very nice ride, light traffic, a few hills, and views of high mountains in the distance. The end of the ride was dictated by the mileage goal as there are no services of any kind along Route 56. We are staying 18 miles away from the finish of today’s ride near Noxon, MT, in a motel that is part of a convenience store operation. The only food available was in a local bar, Toby’s Tavern. What a cool place, 50+ years of memorabilia from floor to ceiling. This is the value of having a support vehicle. Thanks Sally. Note the photo of the old cars lining the edge of a quarry along RT 200. You never know what may pop up next.
Cabinet Range view point on MT 56 to Koocanusa Lodge, 61 miles, sunny 60-90’s
The route today went through just one town, Libby MT. Libby was our lunch spot at the town park. The rest of the route followed highways and back roads in fairly remote areas with no services or even many residences. Only one 500′ climb but at the end of day when it was hot. It has been in the high 80’s pushing 90 in the afternoons. (Sorry about all that rain in the ROC.) For awhile the route followed a major rail line so the occasional train provided some entertainment. Hundreds of containers from China and Korea judging by the names. Life is simple on the road. Also we finally saw two other loaded cyclists on the route today so I am not the only one pursuing this endeavor. The last part of the route paralleled Lake Koocanusa which is a reservoir behind a dam of the Koocanusa River. The route will follow it for another 35 miles, Luckily in this remote area there was a lodge just off the route at the right distance I wanted to cover. We are in Cabin #8 at the Lake Koocanusa Resort. And they have a restaurant! But there is no Internet so this will be posted tomorrow.
In other news, Denise from Woman Tours ( a Rochester company) is scouting the route for a future trip. She was in the group with Sally when Sally rode cross country in 2006. She knew were we riding and caught up with us today for a short chat.
Koocanusa Lodge to Fortine, MT; 60 miles, sunny with scattered afternoon thundershowers, 60-70’s
Today’s route followed MT State Route 37 for 40 miles along Lake Koocanusa to the town of Eureka and then on to the small town of Fortine. We are staying in Eureka. There were afternoon thundershowers in the area but they missed me while riding. Just a few claps of thunder in the distance. Today was an exercise of going up a few hundred feet and then going down, and repeat. I lost track of how many times. For fun I mapped the route to learn I climbed 4300 feet. Not a bad day’s work. I have been cautious on the descents. The shoulders of major highways in MT have rumble strips about a foot into the shoulder that leaves about two feet of clear shoulder. The shoulders tend to be “dirty” with small stones and chunks of wood from the logging trucks. While there is light traffic, riding in the driving lane is risky unless there is a clear sight line. So unfortunately, you can’t always let it rip.
Fortine, MT to West Glacier, MT; 69 miles, sunny, brief afternoon shower, 70’s high
The route today followed US Highway 93 for 30 miles or so to Whitefish, MT with one stretch of delightful side road through flattish range and farm land. 93 is a heavily traveled road but on a Saturday there was less traffic and no semi-trucks. The shoulder is narrow but adequate in most places. However, there was one stretch just before Whitefish that is hilly, curvy, rough, and without a shoulder. I hope this was the worst stretch of road on the trip not to be repeated. Just before West Glacier the route included 2-3 miles of gravel not suited to my skinny road bike tires. I was ferried across it. Now for you naysayers who will claim I didn’t do the whole distance, my response is that it’s my ride and I can make the rules! No different than taking a ferry across a body of water in my opinion.
After dinner, we drove as far as you can into Glacier Park and did a short hike. The Going-to-the-Sun highway is closed before Logan Pass as they are still removing snow. It makes my decision to take the alternative route over the much easier Marias Pass guilt free.
We have now met some fellow bikers. A father and his seven year old son who is riding his own bike. They started from Seattle. A solo rider from Picton, ON who is self sustained and riding as far as Minneapolis. And finally a couple from Seattle who are riding to Boston.
West Glacier, MT to East Glacier, MT; 57 miles, mostly cloudy, 50-60’s
Today’s route followed US Highway 2 over the Continental Divide at Marias Pass at 5216′. If you read yesterday’s blog post you might remember I called it easier than Logan Pass in Glacier NP. Easier turned out to be relative. While the net elevation gain was roughly 2000′, the actual climbing elevation gain over the 43 miles to the pass was 5500′. Let’s just say that I am tired tonight. RT 2 carried more traffic than I expected. I think much of it was local people returning from their weekend camping trips at the end of the weekend. Part way up was the town of Essex. We smartly met there at 9:30 and had a nice breakfast at the Izaak Walton Inn just off the route. I started at 7 after a first breakfast of a banana and those little powdered donuts you can buy at convenience stores. Not enough, so breakfast number two saved my bacon so to speak. I sometimes find it hard to eat enough while riding. Tonight we are staying in East Glacier and had dinner at the Glacier Park Lodge on the other side of the tracks. Earlier I had an Indian Taco at a local Indian run stand as a snack. It is a taco with Indian flat bread. Tomorrow is a needed zero mile rest day and we will visit Glacier NP. The mountain passes are now behind us as we begin the long trek across the great plains. It is all down hill from here!
Today was a rest day so we toured Glacier NP and did some short trail walks. Wildlife sightings included a moose and a herd of mountain sheep. We had dinner tonight in a great Mexican restaurant called Serrano’s just around the corner. We invited a young German woman to join us at dinner who has been hiking the Continental Divide Trail. She made it as far as Colorado before snow stopped her. She hitched up here to try going south from Canada. I think she will run into the same problem going south. Some photos from today.
East Glacier to Shelby, MT; 72 miles, sunny, tailwind, then a PM storm
Today’s weather was a tale of two extremes. The ride started in fair weather with a 10-15 mph tailwind. The route will follow US RT 2 for several days. The terrain is gently rolling plains. What a contrast to the last two weeks of forests and mountains. The road has varying width shoulders with the danged rumble strips near the traffic lane. The traffic itself is light. All and all the AM went well to arrive in Cut Bank, MT after 47 miles. Looking back you could see the mountains disappearing in the mirror. After a quick lunch the goal was to ride another 24 miles to reach Shelby for the overnight. Scattered storms were predicted and there was one off in the distance that didn’t look too threatening. Well, said storm caught up with me about 6 miles from Shelby with no shelter of any kind for miles. Wind and rain of course, a few lightening flashes, but the worst was hail. I was pelted with hail big enough to raise welts on my back and a lump on my head as I bent over after stopping to protect myself. Fortunately a guy stopped and let me get in his car until the worst was over. We learned our lesson, the SAG driver needs to stay closer when there is threatening weather. The storms out here don’t mess around.
Wonderful tailwind all day today, this west to east thing is working out well so far (I know sooner or later there will be headwind). The ride continued east across the plains. There are some cattle ranches but now we are seeing vast wheat fields, some planted, some fallow. There are little towns about every 10 miles or so to mark progress. I saw one pronghorn antelope prance across the road in front. Very low traffic at first but it picked up after noon. Another ferry was required to get through nine miles of road construction gravel and mud. I did a lot of coasting today, as the elevation slowly drops. The small complaint I have is the shoulder width varies from wide and rideable to narrow with the ever present rumble strip. The latter is essentially unrideable so one must ride along the white line. We are staying in Havre tonight, the nearest town with any services. The ride will resume tomorrow in Kremlin, 18 miles west. The last photo was taken at our lunch spot in Chester, MT.
A cold front came through last night so cooler temperatures. Snow in the mountains so we dodged that bullet. Today’s route for the most part was FLAT along the Milk River valley. There are some trees so it actually looks like Iowa river bottoms in some ways for you RAGBRAI veterans. As you may have noticed the route is paralleled by the BNSF rail line. There are constant freight trains passing to provide entertainment. Amtrak also uses the line. Lower mileage today because I actually had to pedal all day instead of those welcome free miles of coasting downhill. We are staying tonight in Chinook, MT. The distance between towns with overnight accommodations don’t nicely align with the distance I want to cover each day so we do the shuttle to and from end/start points.
Harlem, MT to Wagner, MT; 42 miles, rain, wind, and 40’s
Today was not a great weather day. In fact it made me homesick for Rochester weather in early April. We were confronted with a good old fashioned low pressure Northeaster. Light to moderate rain at first that became heavier midday. Light wind out of the NW at first growing to 25 MPH with higher gusts. Not much to block it around here. For awhile it was okay riding with the tailwind. I layered up with all of my rain and cycling gear and was wet but warm enough. However, as the shoulder narrowed and the wind gusts increased we decided to abandon the ride 8 miles short of our goal of Malta, MT where we are staying. It didn’t seem prudent to keep riding in those conditions as the wind surge of passing large trucks threatened to knock me off the road. The forecast calls for more rain tomorrow so we shall see how much forward progress we can make. Photo credits to the SAG driver, I wasn’t in the mood.
We had one of those road experiences that you can only get cycle touring. Lunch time is usually around 10:30-11:00. Sally found a store in Dodson, MT and talked the elderly owner into keeping the store open for us. He was very gracious to let us bring the bike in and dry off, and eat our lunch with some drinks we bought from him. It’s Friday so we will be having prime rib for dinner tonight. We have Friday fish fry in NY, in MT they have prime rib.
The good news is there was a strong tailwind all day. The bad news is it rained almost all day and I had not one but two flats. Those little stones on wet shoulders are the problem. Plus it is past time to put on new tires. Further the first flat was between towns and my bike pump failed so I had to SOS my SAG driver for assistance. However, that led to a pleasant experience of lunch in a very nice cafe run by a very nice lady in the town of Hindsdale. The second flat was in the overnight town of Glasgow so no big deal. It turns out that Galsgow is close enough to the Williston, ND oil patch that we had a little trouble finding a place to stay. I will be doing bike maintenance tonight; tires, clean, and lub. And a new pump was purchased in Glasgow.
Glasgow, MT to Wolf Point, MT; 67 miles, sunny, W wind, and 50-70’s
A very welcome change in the weather today, just perfect biking conditions. The route today continued to follow US 2 east for the first 20 miles, then followed quiet back roads until almost reaching Wolf Point at 50 miles. The back roads are a relief from the erratic US 2 shoulders and fast traffic. We finally are leaving US 2 behind at Wolf Point after following it for 460 miles from West Glacier. The locals call US 2 the “Hi-Line”, I guess because it is the main travel route across northern Montana. Many businesses are branded with the name. We have also seen signs that urge support for “Four for 2” to make it into a four lane road. From personal experience I think there is much they could do to just improve the current two lane version. We now turn south for 100 miles before continuing east again. The Northern Tier route we are following used to continue on US 2 across North Dakota but was changed a few years back due to unsafe biking conditions through the Williston, ND oil boom region. We are also leaving the railroad behind with its frequent passing trains. I rode a little extra past Wolf Point as tomorrow is a long stretch between towns. In so doing we crossed the Missouri River.
Wolf Point, MT to Glendive, MT; 93 miles, partly cloudy, 15-20 mph winds from the west
Today’s ride headed south on MT 13 for 40 miles or so. There was a cross wind, it was quite hilly but the road surface was good, and there was light traffic. Scattered showers were predicted and of course I was rained on for about 300 yards as I approached Circle, MT where we had lunch in a nice local deli. The plan was to continue riding for another 20 miles or so toward the bigger town of Glendive and then do a shuttle for an overnight stay. Well, the route turned east on MT 200 S at Circle and it was tailwind heaven. There was one long climb to a high spot at about 55 miles but then it was downhill or level thereafter with a tailwind push. I do not recall any past rides where I had such favorable conditions for so long. I literally was coasting for minutes at a time at 20+ mph. All I had to do is hang on. So we easily made it all the way to Glendive for the evening. The landscape changed as we headed east from wheat fields to drier range land. The Yellowstone River goes through Glendive and I crossed it on an old road bridge converted to a bike path.
Glendive, MT to Medora, ND; 64 miles, sunny, west winds, and 70-80’s
Yesterday it seemed as though there was a continuous descent into Glendive for the last 20 miles. Well today starting out it seemed as though there was a continuous climb for 20 miles out of Glendive. Perhaps something to do with the Yellowstone River going through Glendive. Today’s route alternated between I-94 and parallel quiet but hilly back roads. Back east bicycles are prohibited from interstate highways and we wouldn’t think about riding on I-390 in Rochester. Here bikes are permitted on interstates and in some places it is the only option. The shoulders are wide and once you get used to vehicles whizzing past at 80 mph (the Montana speed limit), it was fine. In fact I felt safer on I-94 than some stretches of US 2. A milestone was achieved as we exited Montana and entered North Dakota. It took us 13 days to cover almost 800 miles to cross Montana. We are closing in on the 1/3 point of the trip. I had a nice chat today with a fully loaded guy heading west. He started in Atlanta and is heading to Oregon on the Lewis and Clark route. He was delayed in Missouri due to the flooding there. We are staying in Medora, ND tonight, home of an outdoor patriotic musical with a Western theme that includes horses and a Teddy Roosevelt appearance. Sally and I saw it several years ago so not this time. But Sally did have brief chat with Teddy in town (impersonator actor). We did visit Theodore Roosevelt NP but alas no bison were seen. So as compensation I had a Buffalo burger for dinner. Quiz: which photos were taken in MT today and which in ND?
Medora is located in the bottom of the North Dakota bad lands which means today’s ride started with a several miles long climb out. There was a 10 mile or so stretch on I-94 again, but then back roads the rest of the day. The terrain was nicely rolling to keep things interesting. Although this area is not the oil fracking hot spot of northwest ND, there are scattered conventional oil wells operating in the fields. We reached Dickinson, ND after about 40 miles. Dickinson is a major milestone as it ends this Adventure Cycling map section we are using. It started in Cutbank, MT and totaled over 500 miles. The new map section ends in Fargo, ND, a mere 343 miles away. More on the maps we are using in a future post.
We took a planned break in Dickinson to deal with a mechanical. Not the bike fortunately, but we noticed yesterday that the truck steering started to be stiff and erratic. It seemed like a good idea to get it checked out so we went to the local Toyota dealer. They were very accommodating to fit us in and we learned the problem requires the replacement of the steering wheel shaft mechanism. They could get the required parts by next Monday, but we requested them to have them delivered to the Fargo dealership instead so we can keep moving. The roads in ND are straight so what could possibly go wrong. Actually, the symptoms have gone away for the moment of course. After dealing with the truck I rode another 20 miles in late afternoon to take advantage of the good weather.
Richardton, ND to Mandan, ND; 70 miles, sunny, 10 mph East wind, and 70-80’s
Another beautiful day for cycling. While I experienced my first sustained day long head wind on the trip, it was more like a breeze and no big deal. The route mainly followed old highways that parallel I-94 with very little traffic and good pavement. There was one last 12 mile stretch on I-94 to avoid a stretch of gravel road. This is the last stretch of Interstate for the ride and I won’t miss the experience. The ride was hilly with long 100-200 foot climbs and descents that made the miles go by. I do have to comment further about rumble strips (deep groves in the pavement). I acknowledge and appreciate the safety rationale for vehicles. Not that I’m complaining but they can be a pain for cyclists. Yesterday I learned that ND deploys cross lane rumble strips on back roads before stop signs like Iowa. I learned that after a good shake when I didn’t see the first one I encountered going downhill. ND spares no expense, there are usually five sets of the things before a stop sign. On I-94 today the rumble strips were perpendicular to the driving lane on the shoulder stretching across almost the entire width of the shoulder. There was just enough space left to squeeze by at the edge of the shoulder. If the photos look a little repetitious, well that’s the plains. It is actually very green and beautiful land to ride through.
I don’t stop that often to take photos so I refer my readers to the SAG driver’s Facebook posts for a more comprehensive collection of photos (Sally Kuehl).
Mandan, NT to Hazelton, ND; 54 miles, early storm, then clearing, 10-20 mph wind out of SE/SW, 70-80’s
Today was not entirely routine. We were delayed for two hours or so in the morning to let a storm line pass through. The first several miles weaved its way through commercial streets, residential streets, and bike paths through the south side of Mandan and Bismarck, and crossed the Missouri River. The river is somewhat wider than the last time we crossed it in MT. There was a long climb out of the river valley once the route left the cities. The hilly route zigzagged for awhile south and then east with the strongest headwinds on the south legs. Today was the first day we noticed any humidity, a sign we are making eastward progress. Another sign is that we crossed into the Central Time Zone yesterday. We are staying in a small local motel tonight in the small town of Sterling, ND. The route from here to Fargo will be south of I-94, with only small towns and limited services. In fact we have no Internet service tonight so this will be posted tomorrow.
Braddock Rd at US 83 to junction of ND 30 and 46; 60 miles, mostly cloudy, 20-30 mph winds SE/E
Today was one of those days when you just put your head down and pedal. Strong headwinds were present for 52 miles before the last eight miles provided a vector of tailwind, thank goodness. Average speed was between 8 and 9 mph. Actually the weather did not exactly match the forecast. We started early to finish earlier since there was a heat warning for the afternoon. Instead we got wind and a little cold front passed around noon that actually lowered the temperature, and changed the wind direction and increased the speed. The route followed state highways with virtually no traffic. I did look up from the pavement long enough to capture some photos. One observation, it is bird nesting time. As you ride along you flush them off their nests in the long grass along the road, and they then harass you by flying just over your head or in front of you for a 100 yards or so until you have crossed their safety boundary. There are many ponds of various sizes along the road as well, “prairie potholes”. You know the wind is blowing hard when there are whitecaps on some of them.
Today is our 45th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to my life partner and SAG driver. Thank you for sharing these adventures. Ten years ago this day, when I first crossed the country, we celebrated by camping in Utah far from any town. Tonight we are in a motel in Jamestown, ND, a definite improvement.
Junction of ND 30 and 46 to Little Yellowstone Park; 70 miles, sunny, N wind at 10-12 mph, 70-80’s
Much better riding conditions than yesterday. Today’s route followed straight as an arrow ND 46 east for the entire day without passing through any towns. The map warned, “No services for the next 78 miles”. After a few initial hills, the land flattened with only two river valleys to descend and climb. The land is looking more eastern with farms and more tree lines. As the crow flies we are about 50 miles from the MN border. The day turned warm in the afternoon so finding a cafe at 60 miles was very welcome to get a cold drink. I talked with two west bounder cyclists at mid day. One was from the Bronx, and they started in Chicago.
So how do we know the route? We are using maps from the non-profit Adventure Cycling. They map various routes across the county. We are currently following the “Northern Tier” route which is why we see other bike travelers. Each map covers around 400 miles of travel. For example, we are currently following Map 4 from Dickinson, ND to Fargo, ND. Each map divides the route into 25-30 mile sections with detailed instructions on one side. The other side contains information on the history and culture of the area, information about services, and information about road and traffic conditions that may be encountered. I have found them to be quite accurate. See the photo below for an idea of what they look like.
Little Yellowstone Park to Fargo, ND; 68 miles, partly cloudy, wind E/NE at 10 mph, 70-80’s
Today’s ride was straight and flat for 40 miles continuing on ND 46, then a zigzag of back roads to the outskirts of Fargo, before finishing in the city on a bike path. It is hard to come up with any interesting observations as the ride was pretty routine through farm country. We had a nice and early 7:15 AM start as we had a 1 PM appointment at the Fargo Toyota dealer. Remember that little episode back in Medora when the truck steering was binding and we had it looked at in Dickinson? And we ordered parts to be delivered here in Fargo so we wouldn’t lose time. And then the steering worked fine all across the state. Well we talked to the dealer here and jointly decided, never mind. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It must have been a pebble or something that caused the problem. What could possibly go wrong, eh? After the dealer visit we had time for more riding to complete the day. The water tower says “The City of Fargo Far More”.
Fargo, ND to Fergus Falls, MN; 59 miles, sunny, S/SE wind at 10 mph, 70-80’s
A beautiful day for riding although a bit warm in the afternoon. We are now in Minnesota after crossing the Red River from Fargo, 200 yards into the ride. I always thought the Red River was larger given the history of Fargo flooding. Since there was no “Welcome to Minnesota” sign on the county road I was on, I substituted the photo of the grain elevator which is the first object I found that said “Minn”. The first half of the ride was flat but on mainly very nice county roads with low traffic in farm fields. One local crop is sugar beets just to keep you informed. Then construction appeared, what we call tar and feather, otherwise know as oil and loose stone. The flagman let me through and for most of it I could ride on the finished surface on the left side of the road. After while I wondered why no traffic was coming at me. Well it turns out they closed the road as they were applying a new layer to the entire road. So I had to slowly make my way across fresh oil for three miles. Talk about stone accumulation on the tires! But all’s well that ends well and we continued on to Fergus Falls.
The Adventure Cycling map for MN provides a north or south route option. The north option goes to Bemidji and then south. It is prime resort territory and we were concerned we might have trouble finding lodging or even camping spots this week. So we are taking the south route, which is called the “Trails Alternative”. It is shorter, but best of all, starting tomorrow I will be following paved bike trails for almost 100 miles on the ” Central Lakes Trail” and the “Lake Wobegon Trail”. So excited to be visiting Lake Webegon. The tunnel is the start of the trail in Fergus Falls. Not sure what kind of birds were nesting but they were large and not Bald Eagles.
Fergus Falls, MN to Melrose, MN; 76 miles, mostly cloudy, SE 10+ mph headwind, 70-80’s
Today I set a personal record for the longest continuous bike ride on a paved bike trail. It wasn’t hard figuring out where to go. The trail pavement conditions were mainly fair to good. The trail went through several small towns spaced out by 8-12 miles so services were readily available. Each town had a small parking area, open picnic shelter, and porta-potty. Bike/walker/runner traffic was busiest near the larger towns. At one point I passed a line of young day campers and their counselors out for a ride. I politely taught them the meaning of ride right. The trail crossed open farm lands and the occasional shaded woods. The latter was a welcome change from the last couple of weeks of open prairie. This being the land of 10,000 lakes, there were several along the route as well. I recommend the MN bike trail system to any of you readers who enjoy riding bike trails. We decided not to ride tomorrow on the 4th, so we will see what small town celebrations we can find.
Melrose, MN to Milaca, MN; 76 miles, mostly cloudy, winds 10 mph NE, and 70’s
Yesterday we celebrated the 4th by doing laundry and then basically doing nothing by hanging out for awhile at Birch Lake at a state forest access site. We had a nice conversation with a local couple there and learned more about life in the area. No fireworks shows were held nearby so a quiet evening with ice cream at DQ.
Today it was back to riding. Rain was forecast for the afternoon so I had an early start right from the motel. I finished the bike trail portion of the ride with another 27 miles of great trail riding, much through old railroad cuts in wooded areas. There were many squirrels doing their best to get run over. Every cross country ride needs to ride across at least one covered bridge. The one in the photo was on the trail so check that off. Finally it was back to the roads after 104 miles of trails. We crossed the Mississippi River. It is always a key milestone to be east of the Mississippi. The county roads were for the most part in good condition with shoulders when it mattered and very light traffic. So we made good time and beat the rain to our destination town.
Milaca, MN to Osceola, WI; 73 miles, sunny, winds 5-10 N, 70-80’s
Today’s ride continued to follow a series of MN county roads in a generally southeastern direction to cross the St, Croix River into our next state of Wisconsin. The St Croix is a National Scenic River and there were lot’s of people on the water where we crossed. The ride was pretty routine with a gentle roll at times to make it more interesting. Occasionally the route passed one of the 10,000 lakes. The photo is of lake #4367. We had lunch in a nice cafe in Harris, MN just after crossing I-35. There was a backup due to construction on I-35 so many people were bailing to detour around the backup through Harris that made biking more difficult that it normally would have been. I crossed paths with a self supported touring couple from the Netherlands heading west. They started in Boston and are following the northern route I will be using. She of course pointed out that the Netherlands will be playing the US in the Women’s World Cup soccer final. Looking ahead our route leaves the Northern Tier route we have been following since WA and begins the “North Lakes” route that will take us across northern WI and the Upper Peninsula of MI.
Osceola, WI to Haugen, WI; 67 miles, sunny, 5-10 mph S wind, 70-80’s
Wisconsin is different from MN just across the river. The roads are much more rolling and as we left the St. Croix River behind, the land transitioned to a 50-50 mix of farms and forests. There was a nice stone dust trail, the Gandy Dancer Trail, for about six miles early in the ride. The rest of today’s ride followed various county roads. Some were lightly traveled, others were quite busy with a mix of local vehicles and lake cottage country traffic. We had to detour around a car show event that blocked the main street of Balsam Lake. We lunched in the town of Cumberland. US 63 is a main highway that goes through town with it’s one stop light. This being the last day of the long holiday there was a long steady stream of cars going through town as people head south back to the cities. The wildlife highlight for the day was having two Sandhill Cranes fly across the road in front of me and land in a field next to the road. (An eye test – see if you can find them in the photo of the corn stubble.) Their calls are a weird kind of clack. The wildlife lowlight was discovering those pesky deer flies ( the big ones with stripped bodies that like to get in your hair and ears) can stay up with you at 13 mph to buzz around looking for a sneak attack. Not fair. And to add a little spice, two large black dogs gave halfhearted chase. This is the first real dog encounter for the entire trip so far, and it wasn’t that close.
Haugen, WI to Moose Lake, WI; 69 miles, sunny, 5-10 S wind, 70-80’s
First a brief note about our improved social life. We have not seen anyone we know since leaving Seattle where we were hosted by Sally’s nephew Kurt and family the day before we started the ride. Last night we had dinner with Kathy and Herb in Rice Lake. Kathy is a high school classmate of Sally. They have a cabin on a lake we passed by today. They were returning home to the Twin Cities after spending the weekend up north and stopped on their way to meet us for dinner. They hosted us at their cabin back in 2012 when I skied the Birkie cross country ski race in Hayward. We enjoyed seeing them and catching up.
Today’s ride was a tour of lake country mainly in the forest. The roads and scenery reminded me of riding in the western Adirondacks. The terrain was rolling/hilly. I am not sure where the dividing line is between the two but there were long shallow hills and steep short hills. It was nice being surrounded by forest again and some of the roads were quite fun to ride. Many of the lakes are surrounded by vacation “cabins”. Some of them are quite large and expensive looking from the road. The route went in and out of an Indian Reservation and a National Forest. We are staying in Hayward tonight as it is the largest town around. As we continue east the region is less populated so it’s possible I might miss a day or so if we do not have Internet coverage.
Moose Lake, WI to Mercer, WI; 72 miles, 10-15+ mph S, sunny, 70-80’s
Today’s route combined state highways and county roads. The first 30 miles or so were on WI 77 through the Chequamegon National Forest. It was good riding with smooth pavement, nice rolling hills, little traffic, and a nice tail wind. There was a 16 mile stretch where there were warning signs for elk crossings. Doing my research, in 1995 elk were reintroduced into the national forest and currently number around 185. The warning signs are the kind that start blinking if the sensors detect movement. The engineers did not consider all test cases, since I seemed to be setting them off as I rode along, and I certainly did not see any elk. However, the SAG driver (Sally) was much more successful as she saw an elk along a side road she was exploring. I keep hoping for a bear sighting on one of the county roads but no luck so far. In case you are wondering as I was, are there any moose in WI, the answer is yes but only about 50 or so. A few logging trucks started to appear, the first we have seen since leaving the mountains of the West. The county roads keep you on your toes as the pavement quality varies widely, and there may be a steep hill to climb just around the next curve.
Mercer, WI to Conover, WI; 60 miles, sunny, 10+ winds NW, 70-80’s
Today’s ride started out on a nice bike trail out of Mercer along US 51. It connected to the “Heart of Vilas Co. Bike Trail” except I didn’t right away. I missed the turn and rode on a trail that was the plausible correct route until it wasn’t. I actually had to break down and get out my phone to figure out where in heck I was. After backtracking and finally getting back on the correct trail, it was a very nice ride. The trail must be fairly new with good pavement, signage, and cool bridges. Lot’s of people were riding as the area has numerous lakes and is a tourist center. In my defense, one critical sign was missing to point out the turn I missed. After the bike path, the route turned onto County K which was designated as a “Rustic Route”. That translates into a low traffic quiet ride on mostly good pavement through the forest past the occasional lake populated with “cabins” and “resorts”. Towards the end of the ride I met up with a young touring couple heading west on the route I have and will be following. We had a nice chat comparing notes about the ride ahead. The town of Conover where we stopped is a decision point, go south and take a ferry across Lake Michigan, or continue east to the MI Upper Peninsula and Mackinaw. We will be doing the latter.
Conover, WI to the Michigamme River, MI; 63 miles, sunny, 10-15 mph N, and 50-70’s
The weather was 10 degrees cooler today so great weather for biking. The route continued east on county roads until we crossed the Brule River and entered Michigan. But Wisconsin had one last surprise (no not one of those Wisconsin Badgers) as a black bear galloped across the road about 200 yards ahead of me earlier in the morning. Now we need to see a moose. I think there is a better chance in the UP (Upper Peninsula). As we have all noticed, when you cross a state line there are differences. When you are biking you tend to focus on things like the pavement quality, signage, the terrain, the availability of services, and the traffic. It was immediately obvious that in Michigan so far the roads are rougher, more densely populated, and definitely hillier than WI. But strangely, there were no flies buzzing around my head, they all seemed to stay in WI. Curious. We shall see what tomorrow brings. We passed through the town of Crystal Falls, MI late in the ride. The photo loses the perspective of looking down the steep hill on main street toward the hill climb as the road leaves town. We stay in a variety of places, ranging from chains to mom and pop motels. We prefer the latter. Tonight we are staying in a motel/fishing camp a few miles east of Crystal Falls on the Michigamme River.
Michigamme River, MI to Wells, MI; 73 miles, sunny, 10 mph SW, 50-70’s
Today’s ride was back on a more major road, state road M-69. The first 15 miles were somewhat busy, especially with full and empty logging trucks. They thinned out once I passed the Louisiana Pacific pulp plant. However, at least one loaded truck went flying past the plant, and in general loaded trucks seemed to come and go somewhat randomly. While the shoulder was somewhat narrow, the pavement was good, and there were only moderate rollers. So I could make pretty good time and distance until we reached Escanaba and Little Bay de Noc, which is a sub-bay of Green Bay, which is part of Lake Michigan. Wells is just east of Escanaba. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the ride, other than we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone and reached the Great Lakes. And yes, Lake Michigan is high just like Lake Ontario. The three photos sum up the extent of the scenery today.
Wells. MI to Gulliver, MI; 78 miles, sunny 10-20 NW mostly tailwind, 60-70’s
We became reacquainted with US 2 today. If you have been a consistent reader of the blog and have a good memory, you will remember that we rode US 2 in Montana for days. US 2 more or less parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline between Escanaba and Mackinac our next destination. The ride started out on a very nice new bike trail out of Wells and then followed some parallel side roads. At about 10 miles the route joined US 2. It follows the lake shore or cuts across the forest between bays. As US 2 is the major east-west highway along the lake it has a high volume of “recreational and commercial” traffic as the map says. I can verify that by experience today. The good news is that it has a wide shoulder. Two observations about riding along a busy highway. You always need to be alert to the traffic of course, but you also need to watch where you are going to avoid the shoulder debris; stones, chunks of dead tires, hunks of wood off logging trucks, road kill in various stages of decomposition, and miscellaneous stuff like bolts and random hunks of unidentifiable metal. I wonder, where do all these parts come from, and does it matter that they’re lying in the road instead of where they came from. You do not hear the sounds of nature such as bird songs as was true on low traffic county roads unless there is a temporary lull in the action. Instead it is the whoosh of wind as vehicles pass including a little push when semi-trucks pass, the roar of engines, and the sizzle of tires on the pavement. Tonight we are staying in the “Dreamland Motel” that is not close to anything, and that has an attached restaurant and bakery. Perfect.
Gulliver, MI to St. Ignace, MI; 68 miles, sunny, slight breeze SW, 50-70’s
We were fortunate to have another beautiful day for riding. The route continued on US 2 to St. Ignace. This being a going -home-after -the -weekend day the traffic was even greater than yesterday. In St. Ignace it got backed up to go over the Mackinac Bridge to the lower peninsula of Michigan. The bridge goes over the Mackinac Strait which separates Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Actually, they are really just one lake. I made good time so we had plenty of time to take a passenger ferry to Mackinac Island for dinner. For those who don’t know, the island is vehicle free. One gets around by walking, riding a bike, or by horse drawn carriage. There is a nine mile bike loop around the island. Tempting, but common sense prevailed. Bikes are not allowed on the bridge. The official Adventure Cycle route provides two options to get across the straight. The first is to ferry to the island then take another ferry across the straight to Mackinaw City. The second is to get a ride from someone from the bridge authority. To save time and money we will drive across first thing tomorrow and rejoin the route in Mackinaw City.
Mackinaw City, MI to Charlevoix, MI; 72 miles, rain in AM then clearing, 5-10 mph S, and 60-70’s
Today we started down the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. There are large bays to circumnavigate so at times we were losing ground by going west. I had an early morning surprise encounter with a bear cub on a bike trail probably no further than half a mile from Mackinaw City. He/she popped out of the woods probably only 30 feet in front of me and took off like a shot after seeing me. I immediately stopped and listened and watched to see if mom was around. No sound so I continued glad for the experience. The route followed rolling back roads, a welcome change from the busy highways of the last two days. One road is called the Tunnel of Trees Road. It is rather narrow and as the name implies goes through the forest near the lake. That’s when it started to rain. It had to happen sometime. There were many expensive second homes every now and then back in the trees on the lake. These bays are a big summer resort area. We had lunch/breakfast in the town of Harbor Springs that was over flowing with visitors in stark contrast to the beginning of the day. The remaining 30 miles of the ride was much more congested but followed a good paved bike trail with short stretches on side roads along the lake shore to Charlevoix. The bike path keeps bikes off of busy US 31.
Charlevoix, MI to Bingham, MI; 70 miles, sunny, 10-15 mph SW, 60-80’s
The route today followed back roads when available with short stretches on US 31. US 31 is also known historically as the “Dixie Highway”, because it was developed in the early 20th century to connect the Midwest with the South. There was a lot of variety in the riding. Some roads were hilly in farms and orchards. This is prime cherry growing territory and the trees are loaded with ripe red cherries. Some roads were more flat in the trees along Lake Michigan or Torch Lake with frequent lake side homes. We had lunch at a great picnic area next to the water. After lunch I came upon some “road magic” of a cooler of cold water, like trail magic on the Appalachian Trail. My route follows the US 35 Bike Route that explains the sign. This is the first time on this trip or my earlier cross county trip that I have encountered such a thing. As we neared Traverse City the route followed the “TART” bike trail through the city. It was a little confusing at times to discern where the trail was going. I have personal evidence that indeed Lake Michigan is as high as Lake Ontario above long term averages. It is not fake news. The bike path goes under US 31 along a canal in the city. The path was 2-3″ underwater due to the high water. No problem for my high water bike. Sally and I met up not long after that by a small beach just north of the city. By then it was hot so I got a short swim in. It was cold but refreshing. I finished the day after the swim with another 10 mile on the bike trail.
Bingham, MI to Frankfort, MI; 67 miles, sunny, 5-10 mph NW, 70-80’s
I rode to the end of the TART bike trail to start the morning. Then over the hill from the bay to the lake to ride along M-22. The route paralleled the Lake Michigan shoreline with the occasional large lake just inland from Lake Michigan. M-22 was a delight to ride, nice rolling terrain, good shoulders, light traffic, and plenty of shade. For you cyclists, I recommend this area to explore by bike on some great day trips. The highlight of the day was passing by Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore. It is best known for tall sand dunes along the shoreline. While we did not climb any, we did take advantage of a nice spot to have lunch in the park. The small towns along the route are all busy with tourists as it is the season, but it is not over crowded. The last 10 miles of the ride had more serious ups and downs but the tailwind helped make them go by quickly. Otherwise, a pretty routine ride today.
Frankfort, MI to Lake County line (Free Soil, MI); 69 miles, brief rain showers, cloudy, 10-12 mph S, 70’s humid
We continued south following state road M22 along the lake shore. There were three serious climbs up and over the lake bluffs between towns at lake level. The weather was overcast and it actually rained a couple of times enough to make the road and me wet. It was actually welcome to help stay cooler in the humid air. The traffic was much less as we have moved south of the more popular tourist areas. At the city of Manistee we left Lake Michigan behind and 15 miles south of the city made a left turn to start the easterly trek across Michigan toward Ontario. That left turn seemed like a real milestone of progress toward NY. This part of Michigan still has plenty of forest but farms are becoming more frequent. We are staying tonight in the town of Wolf Lake in Lake County. So there must be some lakes around here. The area is remote enough that it necessary to drive off route to find a place to stay.
Lake County line to Lake George, MI; 70 miles, clouds then partly cloudy, 10-12 SW, 70-90’s, humid
The route today zigzagged to the east with a very generous tailwind for the east bound legs. The landscape continued to be mostly forest, with the occasional farm, and small lakes. There were several river crossings, such as the Muskegon River, on their way to Lake Michigan. There was one nice short segment of a rail trail to avoid a busy highway into the town of Leroy. It’s always a puzzle on how local road maintenance is managed between counties and even townships. Segments of the same road go from good to poor and back again in the space of a few miles. Today’s weather was reminiscent of those trips across Iowa on RAGBRAI (Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), hot and humid. Those readers who have done RAGBRAI can relate I am sure. The good news is there wasn’t an “extreme heat advisory” here, only a “high heat advisory”. By starting early and keeping hydrated, it really wasn’t that bad as we were off the road by 2:30. Looks like more of the same tomorrow to look forward to.
Lake George, MI to Bay City, MI; 68 miles, 5-6 mph SW, cloudy, 70-80’s
The day started cloudy and cooler than predicted as it had rained overnight. However, there was a big black cloud to the west that threatened rain and worse, with storms predicted later in the day. Funny (and lucky) thing, it never did rain while I was riding. That black cloud just seemed to sit there all day. It did finally storm late afternoon while we were eating dinner. So while it was humid, the sun never really came out so the temperatures were not as high as yesterday. The route joined the Pere Marquette Rail Trail in Clare and I rode it for 30 miles or so to Midland, MI. It is another well maintained paved trail with small towns along the way. Anytime the route goes through a larger city like Midland more attention is needed to follow the cue sheet as there are many turns to navigate through bike friendlier streets. Until of course one of those streets is under construction and closed. Then one relies on dead reckoning to get back on route (the phone is the last resort). I may have mentioned our Adventure Cycling route is coexistent with US Bike Route 20. The latter is well signed to make route finding easier. I have three wildlife observations from today. I happened to look over into a woods as I passed by to see a deer calmly sitting just off the road as though it had nothing better to do than watch the traffic go by. At one point I came upon a mass tiny frog (half an inch at best, maybe tree frogs?) migration across the road. I hope I did not end any frog lives prematurely. Lastly, it appears to be a good year for rabbits, at least along the bike trail. They have been breeding like, well, rabbits.
Bay City, MI to Fish Lake Rd (North Branch, MI); 73 miles, 5-8 NE, sunny, 70-80’s
Some days are routine meaning you ride the route according to the directions in a reasonable amount of time without any impediments. Fortunately most days are routine. In Bay City the route followed a bike path along the river. Until it ended at an intersection with no signage. My dead reckoning took over (works two out of three times) and I found the trail after navigating city streets. Then the trail was fenced off due to the tall ships festival underway. It apparently has a pirate theme. Repeat the process of re-finding the trail. Then it was closed due to high water in the river, so more route finding. But once I cleared Bay City things were back on track. We passed through Frankenmuth, MI. It is a tourist town known for Bavarian traditions. The route passed through a covered bridge, the second of the trip. And then east of town, the road was closed with no detour marked. Google Map provided guidance on a reasonable detour that only added a couple of miles to the trip. The remainder of the ride was routine on county roads and two more nice rail trails. The storms of yesterday knocked out power that has not been restored in some of the towns we passed through. The trails had a lot of tree debris on them. Day’s like today are all part of the adventure of course, so not complaining, just reporting.
North Branch, MI to Marine City, MI; 77 miles, partly cloudy, 10-15 NW wind, 60-70’s
The first 5o miles of today’s ride felt a lot like eastern North Dakota. This part of Michigan is mostly farms, and the roads were flat and straight as an arrow for several miles at a time following state highways. Traffic was moderately heavy and the shoulders were somewhat narrow, so not a premium cycling experience. However, there was a generous tail wind so I made good time. The remainder of the ride was a combination of short bike trail segments and local highways from Port Huron down to Marine City on the St. Clair River. The St. Clair River flows out of Lake Huron and divides Michigan from Ontario in Canada. The river is high too. The prescribed route would have us cross the river from Marine City into Canada on the family run Blue Water Ferry. However, it is closed down due to ice damage a year ago (we knew in advance). So we packed up, and drove north to cross the border over the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario, then south along the river to the town of Sombra, Ontario where the ferry would have delivered us. We are headed to New York through Ontario along Lake Erie.
So Ontario is not actually a US state as you may have noticed. Since I have plenty of time to think about stuff when I am riding, it occurred to me I can’t really call this a cross country trip. It is really a cross continent trip. I kind of like the sound of that.
Sombra, ON to New Glasgow, ON; 67 miles, sunny, 10-15 mph N wind, 60-70’s
The ride started at the Ontario side of the closed ferry in Somba. The route followed the St. Clair river a few miles before heading east and south on county roads before turning east to parallel the shore of Lake Erie. I enjoyed a nice tailwind on the south legs. This is flat farm land similar to Michigan. This is the most southerly part of Canada so agriculture is big. We had lunch with an unobscured view of a fine looking soybean field. The roads have been generally good with moderate local traffic. Although, they sure move a lot of dirt and rocks around judging by the volume of large trucks doing so. We passed through many small towns and cross roads. The Lake Erie shoreline is about a mile away from the road we are following so not many views from the bike. You have to like progressive Canada, eh. We have seen several large solar farms and there are many windmills along the lake shore.
New Glasgow, ON to Port Rowan, ON; 78 miles; sunny, 10 mph NW, 60-70’s
Yet another good day for cycling. Overall we have been very fortunate to have good weather much of the time. On today’s ride we continued to follow county roads along Lake Erie. The land is mostly flat. However, I learned that when you arrive at a town with “Port” in it, it means that there is a river involved going to the lake. And that means there is a steep hill down to the level of the lake. And that means a steep climb out of the mini-valley to continue east. The lake shore is on a bluff otherwise. In the town of Port Bruce we encountered the dreaded “Road Closed” sign due to bridge repair. Fear not, there was an alternative temporary bridge. The route there took us along the local beach and the discovery of a local food stand we stopped at, that we would not have found otherwise. In reference to the photo of corn, those readers familiar with riding across Iowa will understand the context. For others, please use your imagination. Windmills continue to be located along the shoreline, although I saw at least one sign against new windmills so there is some controversy. And I added a photo of our trusty SAG wagon that just turned over 100,000 miles.
Port Rowan, ON to Lowbanks, ON; 73 miles, sunny, SW at 5-10 mph, 60-70’s
Today’s ride continued to follow the Lake Erie shore line on local, low traffic side roads. The terrain was a little more rolling than the pancake flat farm land earlier. There were gullies every now and then with short but steep grades to spin up. Momentum from the down was good enough to get half way up the up. There are many cottages along the lake shore with the occasional public access beach. We noticed that it was becoming more commercialized as we head closer to the Niagara River. We passed one giant industrial plant that I believe is an iron ore smelter. We had our share of road construction to deal with, but only the SAG wagon had to actually detour. We had lunch at Peacock Point in a nice local park overlooking the lake. Down the road I had to stop and take a picture of one person’s solution to launching their boat in high water, a garden tractor.
Lowbanks, ON to Wilson, NY; 78 miles, sunny, PM pop-up storm, 5-10 SW, 60-80’s
The first ten miles or so continued to follow Lakeshore Dr along the lake until we reached the city of Port Colborne. Port Colborne is the southern terminus of the Welland Canal. It is the bypass of Niagara Falls for St. Lawrence Seaway shipping. I next rode an eighteen mile bike path to Fort Erie which is just across the start of the Niagara River from Buffalo. Fort Erie is the end of the Lake Erie Connector map section that we have followed for 505 miles from Wolf Lake, Michigan. We have now rejoined the Northern Tier route that will take us to Maine eventually. From Fort Erie we biked to Queenston, ON on the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara River. Niagara Falls was busy of course with plenty of tourists. Once we reached Queenston the bike was ferried across the Lewiston Bridge back into the US and NY state. About the time I was ready to continue riding a pop-up storm struck. We waited until the worst was past then continued to ride east on NY 18. This is familiar territory so we are not following the maps.
Wilson, NY to Braddock Hts, NY(Rochester); 65 miles, sunny, 8-10 SW, 60-80’s
Part 1 of the trip has been completed, Anacortes, WA to Rochester, NY and home. So far we have covered 3485 miles in 54 days. We will take two days off at home to rest and catch up on real life. Part 2 of the ride to end at Bar Harbor, ME will resume on Tuesday 7/30 for a couple of days. Then back to Rochester to host our daughter and her husband over a long weekend before continuing the ride where we left off to the finish. Watch this space for future posts. And thank you for following the ride.
Webster, NY to Fulton, NY; 74 miles, 5-10 SW, sun and clouds, 70-80’s, muggy, dodged all of the rain showers
We resumed the ride today from the east side of the Irondequoit Bay outlet in Webster, NY. The bridge over the outlet is swung open for boating in the summer. To avoid a long detour on very busy roads, I rode the 12 miles from our house to the west side yesterday, We wouldn’t want to miss any miles. Since this is our home territory and we know all the roads, I am not going to follow the Adventure Cycling route through New York. We will rejoin it at Ticonderoga, NY where we will take a ferry into Vermont. Instead today I followed Lake Road, then Ridge Road, and state highways to Fulton. From Fulton we will head to Rome, NY tomorrow and then cross the Adirondacks south of the Adventure Cycling route on NY 8. Sorry, no photos today, I guess everything is too familiar to inspire a shot. I hope to do better tomorrow.
Fulton, NY to Hinckley Dam, NY; 70 miles, 5-10 SW, 60-70s, muggy
We continued east on NY 49 along the north shore of Oneida Lake through Rome, NY to the Hinckley Dam on the West Canada Creek just short of entering the Adirondack Park. Part of the route followed the Erie Canal trail to Rome along the original Erie Canal. The weather was better with lower temperatures. The day did have its challenges, in this case with road construction on NY 49. Our tax dollars were at work to mill and repave. Milling is where a machine scrapes off the top layer of asphalt to make room for a new layer. The result of milling is a very grooved road surface that results in a very vibrating ride on a stiff road bike. I made it through a stretch of six miles and was very glad when it was over. But wait, 20 miles down the road there was another stretch of 3-4 miles. I graciously accepted a ferry across that one from the SAG driver. But wait, there was another one toward the end of the day east of Rome. That was only a mile that I rode through. And to put a cherry on the day, I got a flat tire about a mile away from finishing for the day. All part of the adventure of doing a long road trip by bike.
These two days give us a good start toward the end of the ride in Maine. We are now home for a few days to entertain guests and will resume the ride early next week.
Hinckley Dam, NY to Baker Mills, NY; 65 miles, 10 SW wind, sunny with threatening storms in PM
We are back on the road after a nice long weekend with family. We drove to where we ended the last ride and started riding at 10:30 AM. The route followed NY 365 to NY 8 in the Adirondack Park. The terrain is now rolling/hilly through forest. We stopped for lunch after 25 miles at the Morehouse Lake camp of our friends Jim and Ida. They are graciously hosting us for the night. After lunch Jim joined me to ride another 40 miles toward ME. This is the first time the entire trip that I have had someone ride with me so it was a welcome change to have company. Late afternoon threatened storms but we managed to dodge them so our weather luck continues. It did rain on the drive back to their camp.
Baker Mills, NY to Cornwall, VT; 72 miles, mostly cloudy, calm, 70’s and muggy
Mid afternoon storms were forecast but once again we dodged them somehow. The ride continued on NY 8 with plenty of ups and downs. After crossing the Hudson River there was a more interesting climb to go over the ridge between Brant Lake on the west and Lake George on the east. According to the mapping tool I used to map the route we have been following through the Adirondacks, it was a 4 mile climb with an elevation gain of almost 900 feet. A little taste of what is ahead in VT and NH. We turned north at Lake George and continued on to Ticonderoga. There we took a ferry (finally a real ferry ride) across Lake Champlain to Vermont. Vermont has its own vibe compared to the more tourist and park atmosphere of NY just across the lake. A political boundary does change things. Riding to finish the day we passed dairy farms, orchards, and had vista views of the Green Mountains. They must be crossed tomorrow. And yes it is hilly in VT.
Cornwall, VT to Sharon, VT; 61 miles, 5-10 SW, rain early, then sunny, 70-80’s, muggy
We delayed riding a bit this morning to let the heaviest rain pass. I decided to ride the “Covered Bridge” alternative to avoid riding through busy Middlebury. It was nice riding on back roads but no covered bridges. Next up was the 10 mile climb to the Middlebury Gap. It wasn’t too bad as there were stretches of lower grade between the steeper pitches. The downhill was quite exciting on a steep and curvy road. The remainder of the day followed VT 100 and VT 107. Both follow the White River valley and I was riding downstream in both cases. So it was essentially downhill the remainder of the ride with a few up hills as a reminder that you are riding in VT after all. There are not a lot of lodging options in this part of VT besides B&B’s. Since we do not have a fixed destination in mind at the start of the day, our accommodation search is always just-in-time. The Adventure Cycling maps list possible lodging options. In Sharon we called the one and only B&B and it was our luck that it is run by a cycling couple who welcomed us with open arms. They have also done cross country trips so we had much in common.
Sharon, VT to Big Rock Campground (Lincoln, NH); 72 miles, 5-10 SW, sunny, 60-70’s
Today was a day of “major climbs” as described by the Adventure Cycle map profile. That equates to 3.5 climbs for a total of almost 6000 feet of elevation gain. The half climb includes going halfway up the Kancamagus Pass east of Lincoln, NH at the end of the day because well the riding was still going strong at that point. We crossed the Connecticut River from Vermont to New Hampshire so one more state to go. The day also featured not one but two legitimate covered bridges unlike those replicas earlier in the trip. One of the climbs crossed the Appalachian Trail at the summit and we thought about our good friends Marji and Jim who hiked past there on their way to completing a through hike. Lincoln is very busy at the height of tourist season in the White Mts, a big change from the quiet small towns we have been staying in.
Big Rock Campground NH to Naples, ME; 75 miles, partly cloudy, 10-15 NW, and 50-70s
The first six miles completed the climb to the Kancamagus Pass. The grade really only became somewhat steep at 9% within a mile of the pass. Based on the map profile and my observation descending, the climb is much harder going west bound than east bound as it is steeper for a much longer distance. We descended to Conway, NH and the route included a side road with yet another covered bridge. From Conway it was then a short ride to cross over into Maine at Fryeburg. This being a weekend, the main roads were very busy with backups at every light. A fortuitous bike trail allowed a bypass of road construction just over the state line. From Fryeburg the route followed less traveled state roads and back roads to Naples through lake country. While the biggest climbs are history, there were and will be many hills to ride up in ME all the way to the end of the ride. Today there were more downs than ups as we traveled away from the mountains toward the coast.
Naples, ME to Damariscotta, ME; 76 miles, sunny, 10 W, 60-70’s
The ride continued to follow less traveled state roads and country roads towards the coast. Yes, it is hilly in Maine, very little flat sections. In particular there are these short really steep sections that challenge my lowest gearing. Not complaining, just reporting. This was what I call a slow day due to the hills, but also due to many route turns and the time it takes to make sure you have made the correct turn. Some roads are unsigned so keeping track of mileage is important, something I have mental lapses about at times. Cell coverage is not always available as a backup. The scenery has been forests, lakes, and the occasional little Maine town. We had a nice chat with a couple from Madison, WI we met on the road that were completing their self contained cross county trip today in Brunswick. They had started on 5/30 so they have made good time. We rode through Brunswick, Bath, and Wiscasset along Highway 1 on the way to Damariscotta where we are staying tonight with friends of Sally. I have now seen tide water on the east coast so technically I have crossed the continent. However, there are still miles to go to reach the final goal of Bar Harbor.
Damariscotta, ME to Bucksport, ME; 69 miles, sunny, 10 SW, 60-70’s
The ups and downs continued, especially on the state roads. There were longer stretches of riding on US 1 with a generous shoulder and less traffic than yesterday. The route is following the coast line by cutting across the headland peninsulas. US 1 has flatter hills and more traffic. The state roads have less traffic but more hills including the “steeps”, those short sections of high gradient. Along the way I spotted a beast that looks like it must be in the cattle family, but I have no clue what it is. We passed through the bay towns of Rockport, Camden, Belfast, and Searsport before arriving in Bucksport. This is the second year in a row I have biked to Belfast. Last year it was the end town for the Trek Across Maine charity ride I participated in. Belfast has a working ship yard and a large boat was being hauled into a large building for some dry dock work as I rode by. At the end of the ride I rode over this magnificent bridge to Verona Island just across from Bucksport over the Penobscot River where it empties into Penobscot Bay.
Bucksport, ME to Bar Harbor, Me; 46 miles, mostly cloudy, calm, and 70’s
The bike ride across the continent is now finished. The official Adventure Cycle Northern Tier route eastern end point is the town pier in Bar Harbor. The route followed US 1 and then turned off on a great quiet back road before reaching Ellsworth and the tourist traffic on ME 3. Then it was over a couple of hills through Acadia NP to town.
The total distance as measured on my bike cyclometer is 4179 miles. It has been a great experience to again complete a long cycle tour. There is the feeling of personal accomplishment but also the chance to see the sweep of our country coast to coast, and to meet people one would not otherwise come in contact with. I am thankful to have the health and fitness to undertake such a journey, and that it was completed safely and without any serious events (besides four flat tires). A big thank you to Sally for supporting me along the way, I could not have done it without her. It will take some time for me to further reflect on all we have experienced.
Thank you for following the journey on the blog ( and a special shout out to Millie my biggest fan). I would be remiss if I did not mention that the trip was a fundraiser for Journeys of Solutions and there is a Donate button at the top of the page.