Archive for the ‘Western Logs’ Category

Reststop, Boise

June 14, 2008

Jean writes – We are in a hotel in Boise, two blocks from a bike shop. How convenient! Everyone is pretty tired and sore (the biker’s, that is) and want to take this day to rest and recover from five days of hard riding. I think we’re going back to where¬†they stopped in order to get Peter’s friend to Boise to the airport. Privately, I wish they’d move forward from here but since I’m just the keeper of the chuck wagon, I don’t have much of a say. But, we’ve completed one week of riding and only have 5 more to go. Can’t believe it. We’ll miss Brian¬†a lot but so glad he could join us for awhile.

We’re getting the news of all the flooding in the midwest and wonder how everyone is. Our current situation seems minor in comparison to what so many are suffering. We hope that’s the end of the rain and things dry up for a whole host of reasons.¬†Our personal plans are to come through Cedar Rapids but with things so horrible there, we may alter those plans and take a different route. Probably the local DOT will help us out.

Well, this is short – I’m going out for a walk to get EXERCISE so talk to you later. Love your comments and look forward to hearing from everyone.

Day whatever #1

June 15, 2008

Peter writes: Well, here I sit in a La Quinta Inn in Caldwell, Idaho, writing after yet another long day in the saddle. We’ve had quite an adventure since the last time I wrote, the day of the big Cascades ride. My dad filled in some of the details of our rides through central and eastern Oregon, so I won’t go into the gory details, but basically there are two Oregons: the part that gets rain and the part that doesn’t. It’s kind of hard to believe that a single state contains climates that can pour buckets of rain on you for days on end and climates that don’t see rain for weeks or months on end. Our ride from Bend to Burns on day, umm, let me count, I think day 4, was an intense ride¬†through rolling hills and flats¬†across the high desert. After the cold and rain and snow of days 1-3, initially we were all grateful for sunny skies and 75 degrees. Unfortunately our beautiful road conditions didn’t last, as the smooth 4-foot aprons of the Sisters to Bend run were replaced by hideous roads with 2-foot shoulders. I think I’ve vented my spleen already at these roads, so I’ll save the gory details, but I’m getting the sense that the west is mostly these rough roads. If that turns out to be true, we’re going to get a thorough bone rattling. The highlight of the day was a lunch at¬†a restaurant/post office/out of order gas station/saloon/knife shop. A true experience, in every respect. Life out on the desert is solitary, but everyone we’ve met out on the road has been thoroughly pleasant.

After Burns, we had an interesting few days. On day, umm, 5, we did a short ride of 60 miles to Juntura, Oregon (which had something like 2,000 vertical feet of climbing, which nowadays ain’t much, to be frank). Then we loaded up the van with all of us and Brian, and headed to Boise to drop him off at the airport. Brian occupied what we came to call the Mercury capsule in the van. Basically, he took one seat in the last row of the van, surrounded on 3 sides by¬†luggage, food, helmets, camping gear, bottles, a huge box of Clif bars, shoes, baubles, bags, and assorted trip detritus. He couldn’t see anything besides the back of my head in the middle seat and a small sliver of window, out of which I suspect he pondered the odd state of his existence. Brian’s a good friend and a very¬†strong rider. I hope he enjoyed the riding and, just as importantly, doesn’t think my family is too weird. We’ve given him plenty of ammunition to make a determination on the latter score.

After a rest day yesterday in Boise (which, by the way, has a pretty cool downtown), today we did something that took real guts, or perhaps more accurately phrased, lack of brains, by¬†piling into the van and GOING BACKWARDS to Juntura (120 miles from Boise, roughly) and restarting the ride where we left off two days before. The ride today wasn’t too bad, being more downhill than up,¬†and ending on the Oregon/Idaho border, where we’ll pick up tomorrow for our run across the potato state.

The most interesting part of today’s ride occurred at one of our rest stops, which we take every 10-20 miles, depending on the state of the roads, the amount of climbing, the weather, and/or the degree of suffering going on in our shorts (trust me, your butt hurts on a ride like this). As my mother normally does, she drives ahead and finds a suitable place to park the van by the road. When we reach her, we get off the bikes, unload the food and drink, and try to recover for 15 minutes or so. As I was in the middle of eating yet another Clif bar (the mere thought of them now makes me want to retch), I turned to gaze out at our surroundings and, whoa, noticed the bottom half of a mule deer’s leg (complete with hoof) lying not 15 feet from the van. The trouble was, there wasn’t any sign of the rest of the mule deer, which in this particular case constituted the remaining 95% of the animal. Nor was there any blood on the road, any bones, or any signs that this mule deer had met its fate where we stood. And, to make things a bit stranger, the leg looked like it had come off the unlucky creature not 10 minutes previously, as it looked mighty fresh to us. Dad thinks a car hit only the leg of the poor beast, clipping it clean off and¬†punting it into the air while the rest of the animal limped into the bushes on 3 legs. My personal theory is alien abduction.

Well, that’s it for me for the evening. We’ve had quite a ride already. My odometer reads 400+ miles, just for Oregon. A week’s gone by and we’re still here, albeit with quite a bit of soreness, a desire to ride on smooth midwestern roads, and some interesting sunburn marks. But everyone appears to be¬†healthy, and we all¬†seem to be getting stronger as the days progress.¬†¬†

Oh, a note to Stu: turns out my mother accidentally erased your comment to a previous blog post. The answer to your question is that we are all riding standard road bikes. My dad rides a Trek Pilot, Ian is riding a LeMond Reno, and I’m on a Specialized Sequoia.

Over to Nyssa

June 16, 2008

Jean writes – We’re getting ready to leave the hotel and head for Nyssa. Our problem this morning, as every morning, is getting grandson Ian up at this early hour (8:00 a.m.) We’re threatening to throw water on him, leave him behind, make him ride with me all day (that should get him up but doesn’t!) and other sorts of devious plans but with no luck. Once up, however, he charges forth and leads the pack now with each ride. But then he’s only 17 – I’ve forgotten how important it is to stay up all night and sleep all day! So, once we accomplish this, we’re ready to shove off and begin yet another day of sunny weather riding through desolate but beautiful country. I, for one, am loving this so far.

Further Clarification on “Comments”

June 18, 2008

We are hearing from a lot of people! Some we just met, some we’ve known forever and others who we have not heard from in zillions of years. We really do appreciate your e-mails and comments!!

There still is some confusion on posting your writings. Again, here’s the point!

We do not publish e-mails  This is a private communication between us.

We do publish (most) of the “Comments”¬† See the “home” page for directions.

Some of the e-mails are and have been hillarious, inspirational, etc…. ¬†but you make the call. If you want the e-mail published then you should¬†let us know.

Peter’s random thoughts — Bearded Men Wanted

June 18, 2008

I’ve decided that our days on the road are simply too eventful to cover all the interesting, thought-provoking, and just plain odd experiences we’ve had, so this post is the first in a series devoted to some of the things that happen inside my head while I’m riding. When you’re in the saddle 7 or 8 hours a day, trust me, a lot happens inside your head. Not all of it is good, mind you: a substantial percentage is devoted to concentrating on each little pebble or stone or glass shard on the road ten feet in front of you, or on whichever guy’s wheel is one foot in front of you, or on just how much pain you’re in. However, once in awhile your mind wanders from such mundane things and shifts to things that range from the profound to the incredibly absurd.

I want to talk about the latter here. On our ride from Juntura to Nyssa in eastern Oregon, some three days ago now, we passed through a little burg called Vale, which is exactly the kind of town we encounter every day: small and dusty. There was, however, one thing in particular that caught my attention and got me doing a little thinking. Two hand-lettered identical posters had been placed in a store window in the middle of the town. They read:

Bearded Men Wanted


Patriotic Beard Contest

Seeing this sign made me think of two questions. First, why are bearded men wanted in Vale, Oregon? Second, what exactly is a patriotic beard?

Now, after much pondering I came to the conclusion that the first question has two possible answers: that there are many, many bearded men in and around Vale, Oregon, and therefore the contest organizers are looking for only the most spectacular beards in a well-bearded country, or that there are very, very few bearded men in and around Vale, Oregon, in which case bearded men are the equivalent of circus freaks. After further musing on this important subject, I came to the conclusion that the latter must be true. How did I arrive at this? Well, on an empirical level I don’t recall seeing any beards in and around Vale, Oregon. Even more importantly, we seem to be deep in Mormon country. Beards are discouraged among the Mormons. But then where are the bearded men for the contest?

The second question, namely, what exactly a patriotic beard is, seemed to me to be a much simpler one. A patriotic beard is either a beard that someone has dyed red, white, and blue, and that may or may not contain stars, or is one that has been groomed into some kind of iconic shape or figure representing the U.S. of A., like the Liberty Bell or Mount Rushmore or Elvis. I suspect the winner of the Patriotic Beard Contest is the one who manages to pull off the particularly difficult trick of succeeding at the three-colors-plus-stars dying process while retaining the beard’s carefully-groomed shape of the Statue of Liberty.

So here I was, riding along, thinking about the riddle of the Bearded Men Wanted for Patriotic Beard Contest. Another 30 miles down the road, just over the border in Idaho (on the next day’s ride), I saw a sign that read “Bearded Dragons Sold Here” (I’m not making that up — it’s honest-to-God true), which frankly confounded the whole subject so seriously that I proceeded to give up on the bearded man puzzle altogether and shifted my attention to the Snake River, which I’ll write about tomorrow.

Days whatever #2-4

June 18, 2008

Since my last post (the ride from Juntura, Oregon) we’ve ridden three days across Idaho. I’m sitting here in a hotel in Idaho Falls, which is on the eastern edge of the state. It’s hard to believe that we’ve come this far in the past ten days.

The first day of our ride across Idaho took us from the Oregon/Idaho border to Mountain Home, which is a bit southeast of Boise. Nothing too spectacular to report here, except for the amount of irrigation that we were introduced to in Idaho. Basically, we began to notice that the amount of irrigated land increased dramatically at the far eastern edge of Oregon, and picked up significantly in Idaho. Most of this goes to growing onions and potatoes, which in turn are shipped all over the country to make tater tots and french fries. Now, western Idaho doesn’t have a climate that is much different from eastern Oregon, so the water’s got to come from somewhere. The Snake River, the valley of which we rode through on this first Idaho day, simply doesn’t have enough water for all of this, so the obvious answer is an aquifer. Turns out that’s true, as much of southern Idaho sits atop a gigantic aquifer and makes it possible to have cities and agriculture here. Yet another reminder of how so much of the west is built atop a foundation that can’t possibly last forever.

The second day took us almost due east, from Mountain Home over a couple of big passes to a town called Arco. The two climbs were absolutely gigantic, and in terms of length and grade rivaled the Cascades climbs on day three of the trip. The difference here was that these climbs were in arid country, which meant it was much hotter, at least on the lower slopes. However, upon reaching the top of the second climb (at about 5,500 feet) we were treated to breathtaking views. The rest of the ride on this day was a very pleasant affair, as the high elevation on the plateau that we’d climbed kept temperatures down. Moreover, we were given a huge tailwind that allowed us to maintain speeds of 22-23 mph for the entire day. Those were about the best cycling conditions possible. Another highlight of the day was seeing Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is a gigantic lava bed that resulted from a series of huge eruptions millions of years ago. Basically, the landscape consists of many, many square miles of fantastic black lava rock formations. While Craters of the Moon is one of the most desolate and forbidding landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s also one of the most fascinating and strangely beautiful.

Today we rode from Arco down to Idaho Falls. Nothing too special to report about today’s ride, more gentle up-and-down riding. Our tailwind abandoned us, replaced by a strong crosswind. Not enough to make our lives miserable, but enough to remind us that someday soon we are going to face a wicked headwind. So here we are in Idaho Falls, which lo and behold actually does have a waterfall (kind of a huge lateral waterfall, meaning it’s about 15 feet high but maybe a kilometer long). We are once again on the Snake River, which is kind of an apt end to our trip across Idaho.

Tomorrow we take another day off, then on Friday we head over the Tetons to Jackson, Wyoming. The climb over the pass tops out at something like 8,500 feet, which is around 4,000 feet higher than we are right now. And the grade reaches 9%, which means it will be a huge sufferfest. But we are stronger riders now than we were even one week ago, so my guess is we’ll get over the top.

The Fast and the Furious: Boise Edition

June 18, 2008

Well, let me start by saying that Boise is a very hip city. I was actually surprised at how modernized everything was and how young everyone in the city was. Boise was far from the western cow town that i was expecting. With that being said, I have a story to tell. Being that our hotel was on main street, I figured that most of the people looking for something to do would end up driving past where we were staying. Little did I know that around eight o’clock every night the entire state of Idaho would come out with their cars and cruise the ave. until the wee hours of the morning. Not only was the main drag inundated with cars of all shapes, sizes and noise intensities, but it also rapidly filled with drunk and giddy bar hoppers. I think that the most surprising part of that entire experience was the fact that it took about half an hour of cruising (or three to four sightings of the same cars) for me to finally spot a cop in the midst of all of this chaos. The greatest part of that was the fact that about ten minutes later I saw him go screaming down the street driving other direction with his lights flashing and his sirens blaring. Well that’s about it for now. I’m kind of down right now because the hotel we are in just ran out of my life essence; COFFEE. Oh well, I guess I should sleep at some point. On the coffee note, the three bubs are now hovering around 2 to 3 cups of steaming joe a day. Today i am at 5. YIKES! Whatever! Have fun everybody! Catch you on the flip-side, of the Teton’s that is…

Idaho Falls

June 18, 2008

Jean writes – We arrived in Idaho Falls about 3:00 this afternoon and got a hotel right across from the falls. They’re beautiful and the sound they create is heaven. It will be good sleeping tonight! Thanks Ralph for the tip!

I’ve been asked about my days and what they consist of. You must think I’m bored out of my mind (I know I’d think that if I were you), but I’m not, at least not yet. When we get up (all in one room with 4 bikes and way too much luggage), someone always seems to know where we can get a cheap cup of coffee (and out here where there’s lots of country and not much else, that’s a miracle in itself). So we all drink coffee while having showers, packing up, cleaning water/gatoraid bottles, finding lost keys, draining the ice chest, phoning those who might have forgotten we exist, etc, etc. Then I prepare breakfast, which always consists of cereal, juice, yogart, bananas and sometimes bakery (that is, if our motel doesn’t have a complimentary breakfast). Once we are organized and the car repacked, I usually leave with the bikers; they on their bikes and me in the car. I gas up if needed, buy ice for our ice chest, and head out on the highway where they are riding.

Once on the road, I usually drive ahead for about 3 to 5 miles and then find a spot on the side of the road, pull over, and wait for them to arrive. This gives me a chance to read, nap, take pictures, make phone calls, or just do nothing. Since there’s so much country in between towns, I feel I need to be close in case they have flat tires, break chains, or get hurt somehow. They’ve experienced the first two already. Cell phones don’t work in all places. (I can’t imagine riding across the U.S. without support – meaning a vehicle in tow). By the way, there are lots of signs on fence posts and we’re not sure why because there’s usually no structure around to warrant them and they say things like, Private Proterty, Keep Out, Enter At Your Own Risk, Beware of Dog, and other threatening things but today, one sign topped them all. This sign said something like, “KEEP OUT! Trespassers Will Be Shot, Survivers Will Be Shot Again!” And I was parked right next to it. Think I didn’t keep watch on what went on around me!

When they catch up to me, they may want a snack or lunch when it’s that time of day. (Remember we said we brought table and chairs along with all that camping gear? This stuff that takes up so much of the room in our van? Well, we decided to use the table set at lunch time since, realistically, we may never experience camping on this trip. (None of us are eager to get everything out of the van at the end of a long day, then pitch a tent, build fires, sing songs, watch for bears, and then sleep, probably uncomfortably, for about 6 hours only to repack and put it all back in the van exactly the same way it came out. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle in there. And to be honest, we’re just too hot, too tired, and probably too lazy to do all that). Anyway, you can picture the 4 of us, at the side of the road, sitting in our sling-backed chairs, table full of food, among sage brush, miles of plains, and distant mountains, enjoying a meal fit for a biker – peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, carrots, snow peas, cheese/crackers and more bananas. Potassium, you know. All we need are candles and a lacy table cloth. In the evenings, after dinner, (we do eat out for that meal), I shop for food, get some exercise, and then fall into bed only to get up and do it all over again.

So my days are full – I haven’t played golf yet but threaten to do that once we hit the midwest – and I am ready for yet another. Goodnight and talk with you tomorrow if we find a motel wired to do that.

Dan’s view from Idaho

June 19, 2008

To begin, some answers to your questions. ¬†Who¬†rides the front? Who is the best climber? What’s the pecking order? Well, Peter is by far the best pace setter. He can go fast enough to keep Ian in check (sometimes) and slow enough so he does not “drop” me (sometimes). Ian is the best climber. Ian is, in fact, what every biker wants to look like. Tall, thin but muscular (not scrawny) and no body fat. In fact, left unchecked by his uncle and grandfather, Ian could be in Iowa tonite. Mind you, he was not like this in the beginning. What a difference a¬†week makes. Me? Well, I hang on the best I can but I have made every climb, even topped first once!

Idaho has been a very pleasant surprise. First however, the small town of Vale, Oregon is worthy of mention beyond “patriotic beards” as Peter writes. Vale has made a serious commitment to¬†MURALS on the sides of town buildings. These are not the¬†results of some local amateur contest to help “spruce-up” the town. These are nice works. Some of the best I have seen anywhere and… there are lot’s of them (I will post some in Gallery’s). Vale impressed me as a town that¬†knows what it¬†is, what it was,¬†and has made¬†a¬†respectable artistic statement.¬†

Boise. I was offered a job at Boise State right after graduate school so I have often wondered what kind of life we might of led had I taken it. From what we saw, Boise is currently a pretty impressive community. One curious observation of note is there appeared to be an abundance of tattoos.. on everyone.. in places and on the people displaying them that I really did not want to see. Therefore, the logic follows, had I taken the Boise job, Julie, Peter and Eric would have been inked? I made the right choice, case closed.

Idaho was supposed to be a rather boring “slog”. Not for me. Not for us. With the snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains to our left, rolling green foothills and plains in front and to the right, yellow and lavender spring wild flowers, the smells of sage and lupin and brilliant cloudless skies, strong tailwinds day after day; well, it’s hard to top this!¬†¬†Artistically, the Sawtooth Range¬†(specifically¬†a small valley¬†near Sun Valley) is the location for my first major environmental sculpture in 1981.¬†It was¬†a significant¬†sculpture for me as it framed many of the compositional tools I have used over the past 25 years.¬†My impressions back then, as now,¬†consist¬†of concern for the massive use of water for agriculture. This arid land cannot be a garden indefinitely. What will these people eventually drink?

Looking Down on Snow

June 23, 2008

Jean reminds¬†me there is more to this trip¬†than biking… and people do not necessarily always care to read about biking. True. However, this entry is entirely about biking. So do not¬†read any further if you do not want to read about this biking.

The past 4 days have been extremes of lazy rest days in two of¬†our most fabluous National Parks; Teton and Yellowstone, OR, some pretty awesome climbing. Climbing Teton Pass (elev. 8,500′)¬†on June 20th and today it was the Continental Divide (elev. 9,700′). The highest elevations we have done to date. Teton Pass¬†was shorter and more brutal. My wounded GPS was showing grades of¬†9.5% and 10% in the last¬†four miles.¬†¬†We were all blowing hard, stopping¬†four times in the last¬†three miles for oxygen. Naturally, the ride to the floor at Jackson WY. was a rush! (What we do is to wait for a no-traffic break,¬†start everyone at 100yd intervals and then start Jean in the van. She holds back traffic since it is¬†no-passing and 45mph limit. So we have the entire lane. Try to imagine!) The Continental Divide was different today. Starting at 6,900′ we climbed for about 17 miles at an average of 5-6% grade. The end was steeper, naturally. To my cycling¬†friends at home, try to imagine riding the Ellison¬†Bay hill that’s seventeen miles long at 9,000′.

Which brings me to the point. Today, on the last large climb, as on each large climb preceeding it. The Cascades, Tetons and now the Divide I have always looked down on snow. At times just a little here and there in the woods, but today I looked down on a solid snow field that was 1,000′ below me. Pretty awesome. It’s all downhill from here, right?!¬†

News! Yesterday, my sister Lyss,¬†her daughter¬†Mararget and children and a friend joined us in Yellowstone for¬†a week of riding, adventure and family. Particularly Peter, Margaret’s son, who is 15 and has proven to be a fine rider. Great!¬†¬†

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