Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ten Sleep Canyon

Andrea posted a picture of this awesome canyon, but you should look at this video too. Ok so it's short, but you get the idea. There were ten miles of that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Odds then Ends

I realize we have been leaving lots of things out of our updates because we don't have too much time to update, so here are things which never made it on the other posts, which I don't want to leave out completely.

First of all... here is a very very rough idea of where our route has taken us so far.

We didn't mention this in our Black Hills post, but that doesn't mean we missed it.

While in the Black Hills we looked at lots of old bones. We visited the Natural History Museum in Hill City where hilarity ensued...

We also visited the Mamouth Site where there is the most concentration of Mamoth bones on the continent. An ancient sink hole (an cave which had collapsed) filled with water, where Mamoths fell in and died. We visited the site where we watched a dig in progress. Here I am inviting you into my recreation of a prehistoric mamoth bone hut from the Ukranain area. Don't I make a great cave woman hostess?

Here is Ira testing his manhood by pulling on the horns of the bull at the Wall Drug store. He scored just above wimpy which oddly enough was labeled "trucker".

I don't know. He looks pretty manly to me with his teeth gritted and his camo hat.

Here he is after his big win ($10.00) at a Deadwood Casino. I had a better picture where he is looking more triuphant, but he won't let me use it because he says he looks stupid. I must aquiesce becuase if I don't, who knows what horrible picture of me will end up on here.

Here is Jim Fisher. We met him at the same casino. We liked his outfit so much, I had to get a photo. He seemed really pleased. Hey, Ellen... how do you like this usage of houndstooth?

I would really love this picture if those darned wires weren't in the way. When I get home I'm gonna photoshop them out. But for now...

thats all for now folks.

Climb Every Mountain...Ford Every Stream

The hills were alive with the sound of Andrea breathing really hard and cursing under her breath. Ok, enough 3rd person. Yes, Ira and I have successfully completed our first mountain crossing. We took highway 16 over and through the Big Horn Mountain range. We began in Buffalo, WY at an elevation of 4645 ft and crossed at the Powder River pass at 9666 ft climbing a total of 5021 ft in 30 miles. The entire route was about 60 miles so we had about 30 miles uphill which took us about 7 hours and then 30 miles downhill in 45 minutes.

Climbing was very hard, but I have been mentally preparing myself for this for a long time. I knew the mountains were going to be hard. There are no hills in Chicago, so I am not very good a climbing. I have slowly been getting stronger, but I knew this would be the real test.

We went slow and took our time. The weather wasn't too hot, in fact it cooled down enough for us to experience a 20 minute long hail storm which was fun. I say that sarcastically but I would still far rather have this then the heat!

It takes a lot of mental strength to be climbing a hill, feel your strength rapidly depleting and look on to see the road keep curving up indefinitely. I stopped at one point and felt like I couldn't make it another any further. I looked at my map and I read I only had a couple more miles to go till the pass, so Ira forced me to continue. As it turned out, the pass was right around the corner only about 1/2 a mile and as you can see I was incredibly excited.

Then we saw this wonderful sign, and our hearts jumped for joy!!!

The descent was much more attractive then the ascent. We rode down into the Tensleep Valley. The road curves with many cut backs because this side of the mountains is very steep. The Cliffs encircled us in varying shades of reds, pinks, browns, and yellows. The rock formations at the tops were jagged and very interesting to the eye. We had to be very careful not to look too much or we might go zooming off a curve of the road (and a 100 ft cliff) at 40 mph. (Don't worry family, I was wearing my helmet and Ira was carrying the camera so I wasn't tempted to take any photos while riding although I can't say the same for Ira).

It was hard, but I was able to accomplish this mountain crossing, so I feel a little more confident about the future ones. I have heard the Big Horns are steeper then the Rockies, so we hope our future in Yellowstone and through Montana won't be too rough... we hope.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Warning...towns of low to no populations ahead.

Ok, folks. I guess you can see from Ira's post last night, we are not dead. We didn't have cell phone reception or access to a computer in quite a while. Yesterday we pulled into Gillette, WY and finally had reception. I turned on my phone to lots of voice messages, one from my Dad with a very very stressed voice. My Dad is great, but incredibly prone to worrying. I guess he was convinced I was dead, burned up the forest fire, or perhaps just road kill from a passing motorist. I finally got a hold of him and talked him down. So just to warn all out there who might be concerned... there will be days from now on where we can't update regularly. It will probably go down to at the most once a week.

We've been in Wyoming now for a little under a week. Western South Dakota was preparing us for this. The space between towns kept growing little by little. Here in Wyoming, just because a town is listed on the map doesn't mean anything. We went through Alva, population 50 that just had a post office, and Carlisle (the area where all the forest fires were) which had a population of 32 with just a store which didn't look like it had been open for about 20 years just to name a few.
I don't have time for a huge write up, so here is a sum up of the past week and some quick pics of the area I like. We rode through Deadwood SD, west into Wyoming. We rode up 30 miles of dirt roads up into the Bear Lodge Mountains, part of the Wyoming Black Hills which was incredibly beautiful. Then we went over to Devils Tower for two days and headed west through Gillette to Buffalo. Today we will begin riding through our first mountains, the Big Horns. On to the pics.

Here are three images of the Mickelson Trail. A Rails to Trails which runs north-south all through the South Dakota Black Hills.

Ira riding up in the Bear Lodge Mountains (in Wyomings Black Hills).

Here I am battling 35 mph head winds.

Here is the Belle Fouche River which runs near Devils Tower.

Here is Devils Tower after sunset.

Scorched land near Carlisle, WY. Part of the 14,000 acres burned in the past weeks forest fires.

This picture is a bit old, but oh well. This is sunset in Cactus Flat, the night before we rode through the Badlands.

Climbing tomorrow.

Today we're in Buffalo, Wyoming, and about to climb the Bighorn Mountains. It has been high plains desert for the last hundred and fifty miles, with big piles of rock, sage brush, grass, and nothing else. There are some towns out here but most with populations under fifty.

Here's our route for the past few days.

I'd like to take this time to recognize all the bikers we've met on the trip. You guys have definitely been friendly to us throughout our entire ride, always good for a passing wave or chat at the gas station. In addition, you've inspired me to buy a motorcycle when this trip is over.

We'll probably be able to post again when we reach the other side of the mountains. Until then, it looks like we have some gorgeous campsites ahead of us.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I just took my first shower in five days.

Many of you probably think we have dropped off the face of the earth, which is partly true. We've spent the last week in some pretty out-of-the-way places

Here's the brief version:

From Rapid City (thanks again Jeff and Karen) we road to Hill City and got on the Mickelson Trail. Hands down the best Rails to Trails route I've rode. The highlight was seeing a mountain lion cub in the moring during a snack break. We didn't stick around to see the mom. The scenery is off the charts too.

Here's one of the better Black Hills vistas.

The trail ends in Deadwood. Pretty surreal place, slotmachines in every building and tons of Wild Bill history. I won ten bucks on quarter slots.

Andrea entering Wyoming.

We learned of a secluded spot in the Bear Lodge Mountains, thanks to the bikeshop guys in Spearfish(if you read this, please post the name of your shop, you were very helpful). It was a climb up gravel park roads, but worth it. I'll post more pics of all of this stuff soon.

Devil's Tower was awe inspiring. We spent two days camping at the base.

Anyway, this is the first time we've had internet access, not to mention cellphone service. Just wanted to check in, there'll be details later.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Black Hills' last frontier

Two of the world's longest caves are located in the Black Hills, just an hour's drive from where we are spending the weekend.

Naturally, we went out there and checked them out. We are in a pretty awesome transportation situation right now because our friends and hosts Jeff and Karen are letting us borrow their car!

Jewel Cave was the best. We took a "lantern tour": No electric lights, tour group of only thirteen, and everyone got an old fashion oil lantern. We had to crawl through narrow passages and climb ladders, making it the most rigorous cave tour I've ever been on, and also the most fun.

The camera flash ruins the ambiance, but you can get an idea of the type of terrain.

We saw bats, fossils, and lots of crystal formations.

Andrea is on the lookout for our hunky tour guide, whom she had a major crush on.

The next cave was Wind Cave. It is also extraordinary large, and is famous for having ninety percent of the boxwork formations in the world. Pretty big deal if you are a geology geek. Both of these caves were formed by acidic groundwater, and the stone is all sedimentary because the Great Plains area was all below a giant inland sea.

It was easier to walk in Wind Cave but the tour group was huge and there were some bratty kids. Still very fun.

The most exciting thing about these caves is that the majority of the passages have not been explored. In Jewel Cave, something like ninety five percent of the cave is believed to be unexplored. Groups of spelunkers are charting miles of passageways every year, and anyone can volunteer to help. I think I'd be doing this if I lived in the Black Hills.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gluttons for punishment: the Dynamic Duo vs. Badlands Ntl. Park

We cycled Badlands National Park on Wenesday.

It was a tremendous climb with fully loaded bikes and six liters of water each. The temperature in Rapid City was 99 degrees, placing the Badlands somewhere in the hundreds.

Truely spectacular scenery is hard to photograph with a snapshot camera, but below is my attempt. I'll update this post with more photos when we're not so tired.

Two sizes of this image: [1024x136] [3596x480]

Here is part of our water supply.

This is my favorite formation. Pure evil, how much they look like Sno Cones.

The spires, buttes, and palisades go on forever (242,755.94 acres to be exact). We planned to camp in the park at a rustic campsite (no water!) but the heat and exhaustion made us alter our plans and head for town after the senic climb.

We are resting for a couple days outside of Rapid City before cruising the significant locations throughout the Black Hills.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crossing the Missouri River at Sunrise

I like this picture.

waiting out the heat

We are in Kadoka, SD right now waiting out the midday heat. It is 95 today which feels devilishly hot. The locals are all shaking their heads at us. It is supposed to be up to 105 tomorrow and stay high for the next week and a half. Urg! Through Wyoming too. However it is 25 degrees cooler in Yellowstone right now. I have just found my motivation to climb 5000 ft of hilly roads.

Since I have some time to waste, I will write about things I don't have time to regularly.

We are riding highway 16 across SD which was the old main highway before the interstate. Now there is I90 which everyone takes, so 16 is pretty empty of traffic. The people we do see generally all wave at us though. However, they don't wave whole handedly, the just raise their fingers off the steering wheel while leaving the palm in place. I have decided to take up this waving practice from here on out. Its great because 1) I won't only have one hand on my bars, 2) It takes much less energy, 3) I can look nonchalant, and 4) If the person doesn't wave back, I don't feel as big of an idiot.

I have also been monitering Ira's waving habbits. He will always wave to a man on a tractor. The probability he will wave at a passing truck, grows with the trucks age. He generally never waves to cars. Of course, he will always wave to anyone who waves to him first. Whenever I randomly wave at someone, it is usually because we are going down hill and I am in a good mood for that moment.

Here is a picture of Ira and I at Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota.

Here is a pic of Ira being annoyed at me taking so many pictures.

Here is our first glimps of buffalo in S.D.

What else can I ramble about. Bicycle touring long term is different from the week, weekend tours Ira and I have done in the past. Then, we had a short period of time where we deffinatly had to get to our destination by the given time. On this trip, we don't need to stress out about these deadlines. However, psychologically, it seems easier to deal with the discomfort which comes from cycle touring when doing it for a shorter definite period of time. There is no way to get around it, cycle touring is a ritual in pain. Now my aunt was recently lecturing (Ok, Nancy, not lecturing, just communicating) to me I should use the term discomfort instead of pain. One way or the other, it can be very uncomfortable doing this, beside the hard work. Your butt hurts, (I keep getting really painful blisters) your neck aches, you get tired. Now with the heat, we have to deal with heat rashes, the threat of dehydration and being uncomfortably hot in our tent at night therefore being tired all the time. These are the negative sides, obviously. Why, dealing with all of this are we willing to continue on day after day. The answer is, I really don't know. I do enjoy seeing new things. There are obviously moments when I'm really enjoying cycling (mostly when on a downhill grade). I get a great satisfaction of pulling into whatever town we have set as our goal for that day. I get even more excited (the past couple of hottt days) when our destination has a pool we can jump in. (I just realized how many parenthasis I am using). I guess what it comes to is, I find this life style to be slightly addictive. Even though it isn't very fun a lot of the time, I have this drive to keep going. When we hit a stride and ride for 15 or 20 miles straight, in between every other second when I am bemoaning how my butt hurts, I can fall into a meditative trance and really think about things. What things? All kinds of topics, that would be enough for another log.

Enough rambling for now. Sorry if this is very disjointed, but that is how I am feeling right now. Also sorry if the spelling in my past couple of logs has been bad, the spell check on this isn't working at the moment.

Oh Pioneers and the Dunn Family moves north.

We have officially entered the Great Plains. The land here is dry (South Dakota is experiencing a severe drought this summer) and colored in a spectrum of golds and greens. The large expanses of corn fields have given way to wheat and pasture land of the many ranches in the area. I know Montana is called "Big Sky Country" but as other state mottos go, they are more regional then state specific. I should be wearing a hat to protect myself from the glaring degree sun, but I don't like the idea of having a brim crop out any of the amazing view.

The expanse of land, the rolling hills remind me of the great lakes. Seeing the sky meet the horizon miles and miles away. Its hauting here on the desolate plains. 25 miles between towns with populations of 50. We look forward and plan around the very few large cities here with populations around 500. I keep imagining the N.C. Wyeth's painting "Christina's World". None of the pictures truely capture the wide openess here.

Willa Cather also comes to mind. ""When I strike the open plains, something happens. I'm home. I breathe differently. That love of great spaces, of rolling open country like the sea--it's the great passion of my life." I feel similar to a smaller extent. This may because my maternal grandmother, Margaret Dunn (her maiden name) was born here.

My great Grandfather Dunn came to Plankinton South Dakota in the early teens from Missouri looking for land of his own. He had a small farm growing oats, wheat and spelt. He also had about 30-50 head of cattle. My great Gradmother moved down to White Lake (the town 10 miles west of Plankinton) from her family homestead in Dicky, North Dakota, to live with a cousin and find work. She met my great Grandfather and they were soon wed. My Grandmother and her twin, Mildred were born in 1918, the first of 15 children. Around 1925 my grandmother's family had hit on hard times. My great Grandfather had fallen ill, and was having a difficult time keeping up the farm. To make matters worse, anthrax broke out among the cattle killing all of them. This was horrible because all the cattle had to be destroyed. The health department came out to oversee each dead cow was burned and the ashes burried. This completely ruinded the family. My great Grandmother contacted her father who came down from North Dakota to help. They decided their only option was to move back to Dicky to be closer to family. They packed up what they could, and with their four children boarded the train. First they traveled east to Mitchell, South Dakota. Here my Grandmother and her family visited the famous Corn Palace. This is a building whose exterior is completely covered in mosiacs made from corn cobs, husks, and stalks. I remember my Grandmother saying how amazing they all throught it was. From Mitchell, the family boarded a train north. However, my great Grandmother was 9 months pregnant at the time. She went into labor on the train which forced the family to get off at Aberdeen, South Dakota, near the North Dakota border. My great Grandmother was taken to the hospital and there she gave birth to my Grandmother's sisters Maureen and Marian. After the births, my Grandmothers family reboarded the train with thier 6 children and completed their journey to Dicky, North Dakota where my grandmother grew up.

Ira and I were able to retrace some of the steps my family took on their journey. First we visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

It looks different now then when my Grandmother saw it because it has different mosiacs every year. This year was rodeo themed.

Next we rode down highway 16 to Plankinton and White Lake.

The highway parallels the old train tracks my family traveled on. Plankinton and White Lake are very small towns of about 50 people.

They still exist unlike a lot of other small towns that popped up along the railway because the highway and then the interstate was built to parrallel them.

I was excited to travel this route because it enabled me to reach back and relive part of my family's history.

Prairie Schooner

We've traveled through some vast, wide-open spaces in the past few days. The heat and wind have made it hard to appreciate them, but some of the pictures we took are spectacular. Every now and them I look up and think, "Damn, this is one of the best horizons I've ever seen!"

Pheasants flush out of the roadside brush every couple miles. I almost hit the first one I saw- it peeled off and smacked into a wire fence after flying inches in front of my wheel. Andrea has taken to making a gun with her hand, pointing at them and saying "I just got dinner!" Other wildlife include dead rattlesnakes, flies, jackrabbits, little gophers, and this morning, the first mule deer I've ever seen.

The map we have makes it look like someone took the paint bucket tool and clicked west of the Missouri River with a "hills" texture. The change from is very abrupt, and we've been riding rolling hills for the past two days without a change in pace.

This is a Missourri River sunset, the night we camped in Chamberlain.

Definitly worth the ride.

We keep riding past beehives. I wasn't expecting the first one and was hit with a maelstrom of bug bodies. No stings yet, but I keep my mouth shut as we pass and try to keep them out of my sleeves.

Everyone who has been sending us encouragement in the form of comments, emails, myspace messages, keep it up! It means a lot to hear from friends and family while on the road, even though we don't have time online to reply to every one.

Here's the last two days' route, from Chaimberlain to Cactus Flat.