Pat Stark and Bob Paiva's reports from their cross-country bike tour, 2008
Click on photo above for a gallery of all photos received to date from Pat.
Latest report will be listed first, below.
Sep 18 2008
today, Yorktown, end of the route.
It's been beautiful weather for the last few days. Today was cool and sunny. Our route took us directly through the historical village in Williamsburg, then along the Colonial Parkway, lined with tall pines. When we came out on the side of the bay and looked out over the expanse of salt water it felt like we were home. Bob had his picture taken in front of the Victory statue, and I chose to dip my front tire in the bay - had trouble wheeling the beast through the sand but managed with some help. Then, curiously, two men separately inquired about our trip and asked to take our pictures. It was odd to have strangers ask to take your picture.
We came over the Blue Ridge parkway a few days ago, and stopped in Afton where we met the Cookie Lady, June Curry. She talked with us for about an hour, told us some of her favorite stories about TransAm riders. She was amazing, spent decades listening to and providing for tourists, and has a house full of memorabilia. You just can't plan to do something like that, it evolves.
Bob says our total miles were over 3800. I didn't have a single flat tire, carried those four tubes all the way for nothing. My rear tire did require replacement for separating layers. Bob had two flats, and one broken chain. We aren't sure how many times we got rained on, somewhere between 3 and 5. No tornados, no lightening bolts, no accidents with trucks or cars, no hurricanes. Two dogs "zapped" by Bob, a handful yelled at by me. All in all, we were extremely lucky.
And that's how we feel now, extremely lucky. And looking forward to seeing you all. Pat and Bob
Sep 11 2008
Howdy (that's what we say here).
It's been 15 days since I Emailed our "progress report" from Carbondale, IL, and we're in Draper, VA tonight. We're in the Appalachian mountains approaching the Blue Ridge. We have done about 3400 miles, and have about 375 left. We're seeing fewer bike tourists now; I'm sure no one's starting out now. The route continues to be challenging ups and downs, and this route through VA seems more settled.We've almost quit a few times, the trip seems long now. And we DO appreciate all your encouraging replies. My 95 year old father fell and broke his hip at the end of August, but he's doing OK and sister's on scene and Mom say to continue. We're in daily phone contact. Weather has also been of concern - we were forced to take a day off during severe thunderstorms, but the next day was ridable. We sure hope the hurricanes let up when we approach the coast.
Bike touring continues to be odd and interesting. We crossed the Ohio into Kentucky Amish country, and had an interesting conversation with a born again reformed fellow who wanted to talk about McCain's running mate. We camped in a horse camp, with the mules I might add. We attended the Purple Oprey in Sebree, KY - a band of elderly guitars, banjos, violin, drums, etc., with singers popping up from the audience. What fun! We rolled by elegant thoroughbred farms south of Lexington. In Berea we visited the Kentucky artisan center, full of beautiful crafts from hill country, including a rocking chair that warmed my heart. And, we happened upon the Gingerbred Festival in Hindman, where we stayed in a "B&B" at the Historical Society in a "holler", with a VERY colorful proprietor.
Thankfully, our bikes have been holding up well. Bob's chain broke, but he was able to replace it with a spare (old) he had, and later to purchase and replace it with a new one. Our bodies are holding up too, more or less. Our minds are another subject...
With lots of luck and persistance, our next Email will be from Yorktown, VA. We think about home and friends and will be glad to be back. Take care, Pat and Bob
Aug 27 2008
Hello to all! We're in Carbondale, Illinois on a day off. Since our last Email we've completed Kansas, survived the Ozarks and Missouri (some say misery), and crossed the Big Muddy into Illinois. We'll soon be 3/4 of the way, and are estimating 3-4 weeks left. Can you tell I'm tired?
We were joined by my sister
Sandy and her husband Ragnar in eastern Kansas for 3 days. They're fun company,
and Ragnar sagged for us, providing a brief respite from the weight on our bikes.
One day we watched a rancher on a four wheel bike drive a wandering bull back
into his field. He'd (the bull) been visiting the neighboring cows. The
poor rancher said the bulls are so destructive, they knock down the barbed wire
fences and posts... There were several sad days after Sandy &
Ragnar left... But by then my rear tire had begun to make strange noises
we couldn't fix, so we were forced to go off route to find a bike shop. We went
to Springfield and found out that the tread was separating from the inner layer
of the tire, creating a small bubble that made a rubbing noise with each revolution.
It was fixed and we returned to the route. Wending our way into and out of a
big city was a new challenge.
Leaving Springfield we had
our first flat - Bob's rear tire. Now we can talk about how lucky we've been
with the bikes, they are holding up wonderfully. Both have new chains and new
rear tires, and we hope to continue with the luck.
On into the Ozarks - dreadfully
steep hill after hill. It was rainy and foggy for a few days, inspiring new
terror that I'd get rear ended on one of the twisty turns up or down. You just
can't see what's coming! But luck prevailed again and I'm still here, having
survived one painful Ozark at a time. Bob had occasion to use his HALT - we
got some in Springfield after being warned by many bikers about the dogs in
Kentucky that chase bikers for sport. I'm happy to report Bob's accuracy. I
still just yell at them and so far it's enough.
Missouri seemed a strange
state, the people friendly but more reserved. There were more No Trespassing
signs per mile than anywhere we've been, and more than a few Confederate flags
flying. But there was plenty of beautiful countryside, we visited one of the
primary springs in Missouri - Alley Springs. It puts out 65,000,000 gallons
daily, clear beautiful water. This in a lovely green and treed valley. There
was an old mill on site and knowlegable rangers.
More recently we crossed the Big Muddy into Illinois, at Chester, the home of the Popeye cartoonist. I was assisted by a pickup truck driver who "held off" traffic and let me bike across the bridge in front of him. What a saint. Bob just held off traffic by riding in the lane. Rolling farmland continues, and we'll only be in this state another day or two until Kentucky. It would be nice to go home for a few weeks then return to complete the journey, but that's not practical so we'll keep pedaling. Take care, we'll be home before long, Pat and Bob
Aug 14 2008
Here we are again, day off #4, in Newton, Kansas. There was a thunderstorm last night so we were glad to be in a motel. Storms are forecasted for all next week, hopefully we'll be seeing them in the distance. We've progressed through eastern Colorado and western Kansas, through flat semi-arid into flat semi-humid terrain, and have covered 2100 miles. We passed into Kansas and a new time zone 8/8, and met the mileage half way 8/11!!! Terrain is still fairly flat but has some rolling hills now, we're getting into the flint hill area. The fields are much greener, streams full, humidity higher. There's endless healthy miles of corn, sunflowers, soybeans, and Milo (sorghum, an animal feed and ethanol source), and WIND. We're in gnat territory.
We've stopped for bison and cattle of every ilk, and tried to make friends with various success. Mostly they run, often initiated by a juvenile with wide nostrils. We've visited Fort Lared, built to protect traffic on the Santa Fe trail, and benefited from watching the working blacksmith. I have a new coat hook to tote across America! We also cruised through Quivira wildlife refuge where we saw purple swallows, wild turkey families, kestrels, egrets, herons, mourning doves, some birds with startling colors that I'll be looking up at home. The mosquitoes in this area are as big as birds, I figure if you hike the 12 mile nature trail you'll need a transfusion.
People here seem friendlier, especially in the small towns. We were offered and accepted the use of an unlocked church up the road to camp in one rainy day, and another time we were fed by the Scott family of Rush Center. They were dismantling a family reunion when I stopped and asked if they knew anywhere we could get food in the bikable area. The older ladies hopped right to it and gave us sandwiches, great potato salad and yummy lemon cake. A life saver! It's often challenging to get what you need when you need it...We ride with peanut butter and bread in our panniers, but sometimes that's not enough. Town parks here offer free camping, water and bathrooms for the most part. No showers though...I've learned to love the solar shower (dripping bag of warmish water hanging from a tree branch).
Another neat thing has been meeting fellow cycling tourists. We hopscotched for a few days with an Australian-Scot, Japanese man-Roy, and troubled American-Ed, and tried to stay uninvolved in the drama as Scott and Roy tried to disengage from Ed. We also shared a hostel and diner dinner with a young couple Nick and Kristen. At our urging, Nick talked about his Peace Corps experience in Mali. Curiously enough I had just finished and Bob started reading Clive Cussler's book Sahara, which is set in Mali and has a terrible dictator. Turns out Kristen is a Cussler fan, and Nick was able to set us straight on that country. Fun!
Along the way some cafes and one homemade outhouse in the middle of nowhere have biker notebooks where you write about your experience/thoughts, etc. and sign in. Reading every one else's entries makes you think about and measure your own experience. Especially when you're waiting to eat (again). I'm not ready to be profound, seeing this enormous country one pedal at a time is beyond my current measures.
This afternoon my sister Sandy and her husband Ragnar will be joining us for a few days. Sandy has toured with us before and brought a sense of fun and excitement along, and Ragnar is terrific support, so we're excited to see them. Ragnar might just drag our bags for a few days, we'll feel like we're flying for sure. Missing family and friends, Cocojane and Bob's garden, and cooking what I want, about 6 more weeks God willing and the tornados leave us alone, Pat and Bob
Aug 4 2008
Pat mailed a CD of Bob's photos from Boone, CO, to your webmaster (click on thumbnail above for Gallery #1), saying "... We're in Pueblo today and walked about 6 miles on errands - a day OFF the bikes. Hot here. Hope all's well with you - we do miss home (me-my dog, son & friends; Bob-his friends and garden). On to the TransAmerica tomorrow, Pat & Bob."
July 25 2008
Hi everyone, we're on day off #2 in Blanding, UT, and I'm Emailing from the visitor center, pretty nice place.
So far, so good - seems
when I want to quit we're on an impossible uphill and I can't. Then later I
don't want to anymore. So far we've covered 1200 miles, and it's been spectacular
in the intervening 10 days since I last Emailed. Utah is beautiful. Starting
with the climb out of Cedar City to Cedar Breaks, 6,000 feet to 10,500
feet elevation and through about 3 climate zones, over 20 miles, which
nearly killed my knees. On top, the incredible sight of the canyons, and a friendly
ranger who related a story of being present in a traffic tie up on same hill
when someone lost his brakes and ricocheted through the cars. He was a wilderness
first responder, so he went out to help, but miraculously most were out of their
cars and there were no fatalities. We commiserated over the traffic and the
pitch of the road. I have to admit I pushed the best part of the way. Bob rode
the whole thing.
Two days later we were winding through the Red Rock canyon - also awesome - on a 10 mile bike path, good relief from tourist traffic. We noticed a number of screaming emergency vehicles passing in the opposite direction and asked at our lunch restaurant if they knew what happened. The waitress heard that a bus of touring teens had rolled over down an embankment. Once we arrived in Escalante we looked for a newspaper to find out the outcome, but this little town (typical, year round population in the low 100s) doesn't have or receive a newspaper anymore due to the transportation costs. But the person we asked, a gas station proprietress, downloaded and printed off her computer the article published in Salt Lake City. They go out of their way to be nice.
En route to Boulder, we
stopped in a National Forest station and asked for help identifying the "lowly
jimson weed", from the "Back in the saddle again" song. Two rangers
helped us locate a description of the weed the lonely cattle feed on, and we
continued on to Boulder. We just happened to arrive on "school days",
a celebration of the local history. What Luck! We heard oral histories from
elderly people whose families lived in Boulder long ago. We heard a terrific
blue grass group called Riding the Fault Line, and later participated in a cowboy
dutch oven cook-off. Yum. That night we guerilla camped along a stream outside
Boulder as all the rooms and campsites were taken in town. Three other bike
tourists (younger) joined us. Over Boulder mountain the next day we stopped
at a ranger station and were entertained by 8 hummingbirds fighting over 6 spaces
on the feeder. This was high desert spruce and pine mountain top. The highest
forested peak in US.
This great fun was followed
by 2 bad nights, no sleep from first a partying group of "high" Indians
that scared both of us to silence, and the next night by 95 degrees that didn't
quit. I dragged my tent around so much looking for a cooler spot that I wore
a hole in the footprint. But after a 50 mile uphill ride, we were visited in
the shade of a juniper by another hummingbird - buzzing our red panniers. You
all know how much I love birds and this was special. As was finding a live jimson
weed in bloom and considering eating it (it has hallucinogenic properities).
Bob said no.
Natural Bridges Campground,
a primitive site with no food or shower, turned out to be the prettiest so far.
The stars at night were better than I've ever seen. No light pollution on that
mesa, and the few lights are arranged to not shine upwards. The milky way and
all the constellations were THERE.
That's about all for now, lengthy, but Utah deserves it. We're eating like an army of teenage boys, and if you don't eat you feel weak and might cry. Now I carry bread and peanut butter. Today we've seen the Edge of Cedar Museum, devoted to Puebloan cultures and Indian art in the area. Too much to remember it all, but I have great respect for those who lived in this area. And an affection for the sky - you can see multiple weather areas from standing still and turning around. It's beautiful like Utah. Soon we'll be in Colorado. Hope you all are well. We miss friends and family and Miss Jane.
Love, Pat and Bob
July 14 2008
Hi Guys, just a note to let you know how it's going!
We've completed two weeks so far and over 700 miles, AND uncounted uphill distance. We're in Milford, Utah today, finished a short day because the next town has nowhere to camp or stay in a hotel. Last night we "guerilla" camped on top of Wah-Wah pass, altitude 6400 feet, because the distance between services was too far to go in one day. The longest day so far has been 78 miles over 4 mountain passes in Nevada and it nearly killed me, so we're trying harder to limit days to 50 to 60 miles. Where we stop is dictated by the services; out here they're few and far between. Davis, California was a favorite, and Eureka, Nevada, an old mining town with an up-to-date swimming pool was also fine. I'm astounded at the topography so far, geography is everything (Lyn). The weather has been OK, sunny and hot in Nevada, and very dry. We seem to be getting away from the smoke of the California wild fires; believe me it has blown over most of the West, Jeremy in Montana has noted some too.
For the neat things - we watched some baby coyotes popping in and out of a roadside burrow, enjoyed jack rabbits bounding/running over the high dessert, and listened to a coyote serenade when we stopped to document the changing of the time zone/state. And out here WRANGLER means "western ranger against no good liberal environmentalist rich folk." But they are polite on the roads and kind to a fault. Our first breakfast in California a couple about our ages asked about our trip and asked if we'd email them at the end to let them know if we made it, I said OK. When we went to leave the restaurant they had paid our bill. And at least twice people have set us on our way; we would have otherwise been lost had they not.
We're also enjoying meeting other cross-country bikers. If we pass on the road we stop, someone crosses and we have a good old conversation. My favorites so far were James and John who sent home or threw away most of their stuff to lighten their loads, even their rain gear and toothbrush handles. They looked like bums but were so sweet and laughed when I told them that. So far the bikers are mostly men, one sister with her brother, and one couple ahead of us on the same route. We rode for part of the day and two breaks with another James who's on a recumbent pulling a trailer, and walking up the steeper pitches (with me, not Bob). It's the Western Express for those of you who don't know.
We're pushing on to Cedar City tomorrow, and looking forward to Utah's canyons and rock formations. For those of you who know Reddy Freddy, he left the trip in Baker Nevada when a hound puppy snatched him and fled, immensely proud of himself. We think Reddy had gone blind in his one remaining eye anyway, he'd been sitting crooked and staring at the sun. Reddy had a good life and got to see a lot.
Love to you all, Pat and Bob