The Driest State in America

Nevada has been a mix of the expected and unexpected.  While I was aware there were mountains I had little idea that I’d be climbing over 20,000′ of mountain passes as I crossed the state.  Contrary to the popular belief that the entire state is an endless expanse of flat desert it is instead striped with mountain ranges running north-south and filled with sagebrush and a lack of trees throughout its high desert climate.  Thankfully I was able to take a break in Baker, the entrance to Great Basin National Park, prior to embarking into the abyss.  Despite using my “rest day” to hike a 13,065′ peak and minorly twisting my ankle on the way down I’ve come to arrive at Carson City still in once piece, albeit slightly dehydrated and likely a few pounds lighter.

Looking Across Stella Lake at Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park

To make the trip more enjoyable I managed to join up with two other cyclists who happened to be camping behind the same café as myself in Baker, NV.  Dean (20), is following in his mother’s “pedal-strokes”, who completed a cross country tour from his home state of Virginia to San Francisco last summer while Emil (30) travelled all the way to Virginia from Sweden to complete the epic journey.  Within 10 miles of heading out from Baker we were also joined by Alex (20), who started from where he was living way up north in Vermont.

Endless expanse in Utah with 86 miles between water sources.

Now the four of us will camp in Genoa for the evening, just short of the California border and at the foot of the 3,000’+ climb over Carson Pass and across the Sierra Nevadas into the central valley next to which I grew up.

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Posted in Tour 2011

Time Flies When You’re Riding Your Bike…

…and then suddenly you realize you havn’t updated your blog for nearly two weeks.  Since my last update I found myself in Logan, UT hanging out with hosts Cortni & Rouchelle and eating what might be my first decent plate of west coast style Mexican food in over a year (why east coast why?).  It was a relatively low-key evening but a welcome one after the insane 2000’/8% climb to the top of Logan Canyon.

Miles and miles of nonstop 8% grade with Bear Lake in the background.

My multi-day stay in Salt Lake City with fellow architecture major and cycling teammate Kathryn was interrupted by a 3 day detour via bus to Las Vegas and back for a friend’s birthday.  I’d tell you all about it, but as we all know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  To be honest it was pretty low key as far as Vegas stories go…the highlight definitely being seeing the Cirque du Solei Beatles show.

My first Double Double in over 14 months...and then another and another.

Now I find myself edging in on the fringes of the abyss that is Nevada.  Despite having cities along the edges, the entire center of the state is near empty with minimal (if any) services for travellers.  In my case I’ll be taking route 6, a continuation of my old friend the Grand Army of the Republic Highway from way back in northern Ohio and one of the least travelled highways in the United States.  While I don’t mind the solitude it unfortunately has a stretch of 168 miles between Ely & Tonopah without so much as a gas station as far as the internet can tell.  Reading around on random biking forums it seems as though my best bet will be to convince someone to drop off a gallon or two of water at the remnants of the old gas station midway, a surprisingly common occurrence for the few locals in the area.

Despite looking desolate in photos, the desert is an amazing place to bike. You learn to respect the smallest changes in life and landscape.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Only Thing Holding You Back is Yourself

Every adventure has its theme.  In Switzerland it was Stereo Love by Edward Maya, in the Cabrinha Studio it was Shooting Stars by Bag Raiders, and before that in the Fowler Studio the theme was I’m In Miami by LMFAO.  This summer has veered away from the typical upbeat, electronic-oriented themes and instead is crowned with Welcome Home, Son by Radical Face.  Despite the title implying someone returning home I instead find myself wanting to climb to the tallest and sharpest Teton, bike across the hottest desert, and climb up the tallest mountain pass.

And yet, I oddly enough am en route back to my home, so maybe the title is more fitting than I’d like to believe…an aloha song of sorts.

Posted in Uncategorized

America’s National Zoo and It’s Lesser Known Neighbor

The past week and a half has been a full force whirlwind of emotion, adventure, and scenery unlike any I’ve ever witnessed elsewhere in the world.  While I originally intended to only stay in Sheridan for one night I was easily convinced to stay for another, and then for the entire week until the 3rd of July celebration at a ranch out in the countryside.  After a much needed week off (my knees have been problematic but I just pretend they don’t exist so it’s alright) I ended up hitching a ride with fellow Couchsurfer David up into Yellowstone for a few days.  Some people might view this as cheating, and while I’ve avoided accepting rides at any point up until now it was something I honestly felt was both right for the moment and would overall make the trip a more enjoyable experience.  I will admit that I’m slightly down about missing two of the larger climbs of the trip (I’m not being sarcastic, I actually really enjoy insane climbs), but having someone to hang out and travel with for a few days was a welcome change after a mix of constant Hello, Goodbye’s in every town and Riding Solo for the past two months.

Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park

Needless to be said Yellowstone is breathtaking in its natural beauty, but unfortunately I found it to be somewhat floundered by the presence of constant traffic and an endless supply of tourists (the bad kind).  As a visitor myself, I entirely understand why everyone wants to visit Yellowstone given the amount of unique and unparalleled scenery to be found, but it’s reaching the breaking point where the park service needs to implement stronger visitor population restrictions.  As a national park its purpose is to remain as preserved as possible in its natural state for the benefit of future generations, a goal that will unfortunately remain only half fulfilled given its current visitor numbers (975,000 in July 2010 alone) and absurd extent of lodging developments situated throughout the park.

Approaching the Grand Tetons from the north.

After spending two days travelling around Yellowstone with David I hit the road on my bike again, veering south past the park boundaries and directly into its neighbor, Grand Teton National Park.  I find it odd how hyped Yellowstone is considering how incredibly more scenic I found its smaller cousin.  While smaller and less “tourist friendly” with its lack of roads leading directly to parking lots next to every major attraction as is the case in Yellowstone, the breathtaking majesty that is the Grand Tetons across Lake Jackson is more than enough for me.  Travelling along Park Road I found myself drifting through flat fields that intersect directly into the near perpendicular Tetons, a juxtaposition of horizontal and vertical landscape rarely found to such an extreme degree.  With their steep snow-covered granite faces, the only comparison I can currently make is to the Swiss Alps, but even then they each have their own differences.

The Grand Tetons over Lake Jackson

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Please consider donating to Architecture for Humanity’s fund to help rebuild Sendai, Japan following the Great Tehoku Earthquake & Tsunami this past March. All donations are tax deductible and are received directly by the charity.

Posted in Tour 2011

Interstate Biking the Black Hills

No, not interstate as in “between states” (though that did happen), I mean biking on the actually interstate, as in I-90.  While it’s illegal to bike on the interstate (for good reason) in most states, it’s interestingly enough completely legal in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho.  This was a bit of a shock at first, though once you realize that these states often have a total population less than that of San Francisco it starts to make more sense.  Even when I-90 passes through the largest cities in South Dakota and Wyoming it remains a 2 lane divided highway with shoulders wide enough to drive a small car comfortably.  Despite the fact that cars and semi-trucks are racing past at 60-90mph, I’d honestly have to say that driving on the wide shoulder is by in large no more dangerous than biking around my hometown’s residential streets under the constant threat of soccer moms in minivans attempting to blindly run you down.  Now I can’t say I’d recommend biking on the interstate if there’s a reasonable alternative, but in my case there currently truly hasn’t been one for the past two days of biking without going hundreds of miles out of the way.  The rural highways that often became frontage roads during the Eisenhower era of interstate building were unfortunately absorbed by the interstates out here.

My last stop in South Dakota in the city of Spearfish turned out to be possibly be my favourite place in the entire state.  Nestled amongst the Black Hills, its a small town of 19,000 that has the qualities of both my hometown and feels like something you’d expect to find near Lake Tahoe.  The downtown may be small but is filled with a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops that kept me busy (mostly coffeeshops, I promise) for the 2 days I was in town.  My favourite by far had to be the Alpine Coffee Company on Main St that not only offers bottomless cups of relatively delicious coffee for $1.87, but also shares its central space with the bike shop next door.  As usual I took no pictures of the town or the surrounding area as every time I pulled out my camera I found myself unable to capture a picture that would truly embody what the town is really like, a problem I’ve run into on more than one occasion so far.

Today I get ready to push to the 200 mile mark into Wyoming as I bike to the town of Sheridan, where I’ll have my last stop before heading straight at the Bighorn Mountains and my first 10,000′ mountain pass.

The Martian landscape you find everywhere in Badlands National Park.

 

Looking out from the Pinnacles Overlook in Badlands NP

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Please consider donating to Architecture for Humanity’s fund to help rebuild Sendai, Japan following the Great Tehoku Earthquake & Tsunami this past March. All donations are tax deductible and are received directly by the charity.

Posted in Tour 2011

Les Mauvaises Terres à Traverser

As I sit just outside Badlands National Park, I plan for several days of biking through everything from fast-eroding wasteland, the granite filled Black Hills, the plains of eastern Wyoming, and the extremely steep Bighorn Mountains.  While I my French speaking abilities are on par with that of a cactus plant in the Mexican desert, I put the title in French as it’s one of the origins of the term “badland”, literally translating to “land that is bad to cross.”  Nonetheless it is an amazing landscape of fast eroding peaks that only exist for a short period in the timeline of geological history.

Crossing the 1.5 mile wide Missouri River while a thunderstorm looms up ahead.

The journey across South Dakota has been one that as usual is taking longer than anticipated.  The threat of rain is almost always present, even on days when the skies appear blue and clear.  Despite this I’ve only had one major delay where I found myself stuck in the town of Winner, SD for an extra day as 4-7″ of rain came pouring down from above.  Thankfully I was able to stay out of it and enjoy free wifi at the ever persistent presence of McDonalds.  As much as I normally avoid fast food being able to have free wifi and unlimited [mediocre] coffee has been a bit of a routine amidst this nomadic lifestyle where nothing is constant besides the constantly changing landscape.

Just prior to entering Winner (I’m working backwards, I know) I ran into my first tourist other than myself in over 1000 miles, Daryl from Denver, Colorado.  Despite being a friendly guy, it seems he hasn’t been enjoying the touring life as much as some and is cutting his trip short  of Washington DC in Sioux Falls, where he’ll be renting a truck to go visit his kids up in Fargo, North Dakota.  His blog throughout his trip can be found at SpinforAmerica.com.

To add to the randomness of the people you meet on the road, I had the chance to meet David Richard, founder and president of Wheels for Humanity, who was motorobiking through the northern Midwest with his brother.  Wheels for Humanity is based out of North Hollywood and aims to provide wheelchairs in countries where they might otherwise not be easily available.  With operations in dozens of countries worldwide I’d say they’re meeting their goal rather well.  It’s random happenings like this that just go to show how much smaller the world really is these days.

The amazing Midwest clouds of which I'll never grow tired. Oddly enough 20 minutes after this photo was taken there wasn't a cloud to be seen in the sky.

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Please consider donating to Architecture for Humanity’s fund to help rebuild Sendai, Japan following the Great Tehoku Earthquake & Tsunami this past March. All donations are tax deductible and are received directly by the charity.

Posted in Tour 2011

Take A Seat

In the weeks leading up to my departure my bouts of procrastination gradually became worse and worse as I daydreamed about the adventure I’d soon be embarking upon, much of the procrastination spent reading blogs and websites about touring.  In my perusing of the web I came across Take a Seat , a documentary by Dominic Gill, a British adventurer who flew to northern Alaska with a tandem touring bike and journeyed to the tip of South America over the course of two years inviting anyone who would listen to join him on the second seat of the bike.  Over the course of his adventure he shared the bike with over 200 people ranging from the local who rode for a few blocks to Ernie Greenwald, an older man from Lompoc, California (near San Luis Obispo) that joined him for 3 weeks.

Realizing how little of the United States he’d seen, Ernie and Dominic made plans to do their own tour across America only to have it cancelled last minute when Erniec’s cancer resurged in full force.  Rather than scrap the entire tour Gill instead invited people with disabilities, people who would otherwise never be able to ride a bike, to join him on this trek across the continent.  With temporary companions joining him for segments of ~500 miles that ranged from being blind, having cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, parkinsons, etc. it was hardly an easy task but one that sought to inspire and prove that any disability can be overcome, mental or physical.

So to anyone I’ve laughed at when you say, “I could never do that,” this is why.  It’s not that you can’t, it’s instead that you’re not willing to take the risk put forth the effort.  I don’t mean to sound critical or condescending, but this is the base truth behind the majority of the “cant’s” we make claims to in our lives.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, and [understandably] in many cases we lack the will to accomplish certain tasks.  There’s no “can’t” necessary.

The inspiring show is online for free in 9 episodes via Universal Sports here.

Posted in Ramblings
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Help support Japan in the wake of the Sendai Earthquake by donating any amount to Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization based out of San Francisco that has focused on building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design since its founding in 1999. With over 10 years of experience and more than 88% of donations going directly to funding design/construction costs, it remains one of the most efficient charities worldwide and one with a cause I strongly support. All donations are tax-deductible and all donors will be featured here chronologically (unless otherwise requested to remain anonymous).

 

 

A huge thanks to everyone for their donations to Architecture for Humanity!

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Mileage Log
[0] Alexandria, VA
[1] 60 miles to Indian Flats Campsite, MD
[2] 88 miles to ??? Campsite, MD
[3] 98 miles to Rockwood, PA
[4] 30 miles to Ohiopyle, PA
[5] 72 miles to West Elizabeth, PA
[6] 0 miles (Visited Pittsburgh, PA by car)
[7] 73 miles to East Palestine, OH
[8] 53 miles to Canton, OH
[9] Rest day in Canton, OH
[10] 22 miles to Kent, OH
[11] Cedar Point with Micah!
[12] 62 miles to Sheffield Lake, OH
[13] 85 miles to Bowling Green, OH
[14] Rest day in Bowling Green, OH
[15] 63 miles to Wauseon, OH
[16] 70 miles to LaGrange, IN
[17] 80 miles to La Porte, IN
[18] 85 miles to Chicago, IL
[19-22] Chicago, IL
[23] 83 miles to Milwaukee, WI
[24] Milwaukee, WI
[25] 85 miles to Madison, WI
[26] Madison, WI
[27] 82 miles to Wonewoc, WI
[28] 87 miles to Narnia, WI
[29] 122 miles to Twin Cities, WI
[30-34] Twin Cities, WI
[35] 45 miles to Norwood Young America, MN
[36] 58 miles to Fairfax, MN
[37] 113 miles to Pinestone, MN
[38] 45 miles to Sioux Falls, SD
[39] 41 miles to Bridgewater, SD
[40] 80 miles to Platte, SD
[41] 53 miles to Winner, SD
[42] Stuck in Winner (4+" of rain)
[43] 38 miles to Wood, SD
[44] 93 miles to Interior, SD
[45] 49 miles to Wasta, SD
[46] 93 miles to Spearfish, SD
[47] Rest day in Spearfish
[48] 96 miles to Gillette, WY
[49] 106 miles to Sheridan, WY
[50-55] Adventures in Sheridan (Oops?)
[56-57] Adventures in Yellowstone NP
[58] 60 miles to Grand Teton NP
[59] 50 miles to Jackson, WY
Legal Stuff
My Version: Please note that neither I, Robert Nealan, nor this website are officially related to Architecture for Humanity. While I do very much support their organizations goals and activites, this site is managed entirely by myself and is only associated to Architecture for Humanity insomuch as they are the charity I have chosen to support this summer.

 

Official Version: The Architecture for Humanity name is used with the organization's permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, individual or political permission. For more information about Architecture for Humanity, please visit: www.architectureforhumanity.org
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