Sunday, July 20, 2014

1200 mile tour

Our total tour odometer reading is 1200 miles by bike.

We've made the decision to end our tour. Dave's Achilles Tendon seems to be responding to the ice, Ibuprofen and rest but the hip arthritis is still an ongoing problem.

We reached Dickinson on Sunday, July 13. The route between Medora to Dickinson as the map laid it out, had some short stretches on Interstate 94 with most of the route on Old US Highway 10. We started out on the Hwy. 10 section but quickly realized that there was a lot more of the ups and downs on the secondary road. Interstates tend to be built so they cut through many of the hills. While there are terrain changes they tend to be more gradual and long. The interstate wasn't too bad to ride on although not as fun as the less travelled road would have been if the health issues weren't a factor. Dave's ankles were already swelling, but it was his hip that was the most painful. 

Dickinson is in the middle of an oil boom since the shale oilfield known as the Bakken field extends over most of the western half of the state. Even though Adventure Cycling moved the bike route from Williston in the north, to the south, I wonder if they will continue to encounter the road congestion and lack of housing for bicyclists. The saving factor in this area is that the Interstate runs through here which can bear most of the truck traffic. 

Dave and I got into town and tried calling an RV park that was on the Adventure Cycling maps. The woman that answered initially said that they didn't offer tenting, changed her answer to "yes" when I said we were bicyclists. Apparently the owner wants to support pedal powered traveling. However when we began on the route to the campground it was hilly. We started to pass a Rodeway Motel and Dave said that he wanted to stop and see if they had a room. At that point his legs were swollen and his hip was hurting. They had a room downstairs and we were able to maneuver the bike down some steps and into the room. 

After he iced and took a shower and rested I put in to words what we had both been thinking. Dickinson was a big enough town that they would have a U HAUL dealer. The next town that would be big enough after Dickinson would only probably be Bismarck which was 177 miles away through very hilly country. We were both quite depressed about it but couldn't see another option. 

Things we have learned:

At our age you can't ride yourself into shape. We had so much going on this winter with our continuing kitchen cabinet construction and the high turnover and tenant problems that we didn't train like we should have. We thought the 800 miles we put in in May was good training (and it was) but it didn't take the place of the weight I needed to lose this winter. 

The climbs in the west were long but they were also steep and amazed us with the difficulty. And they come right away in the trip. The tandem was probably not the best bike to do a cross country tour on. Loaded with panniers and us it is really difficult to do hills, much less mountains. Dave thinks his Achilles Tendonitis started when we were walking, pushing the tandem on the road to Rainy Pass. We didn't train for that!

It's very difficult to give up a dream.  The same determination it takes to continue each day makes it hard to end prematurely. That being said, we didn't want to screw up our crosscountry ski season this winter so it helps to look beyond the present. 

On a bike we were visible and approachable. I got so used to having people come up to us and talk to us that I missed that when we started to travel in a vehicle again. Even though a U HAUL seems quite distinctive, no one approached us when we went to the campground in Mandan on our drive back to Fergus Falls and Minneapolis. 

I was surprised by how much time we spent on finding lodging and food. On a previous un-supported tour towns were plentiful. 

And lastly, sadly, the towns just east of the North Cascades National Park (on the dry side of the mountains) are having huge wildfires. Twisp, Winthrop, Omak have lost electrical power and citizens are on an alert status that they may need to evacuate. Twisp was the town where we stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast after Peter, one of the owners,  offered us a ride down from Rainy Pass. The last word I've heard is that Highway 20 at Loup Loup pass is closed so I don't know how bicyclists will be able to bike through the Cascades.  Adventure Cycling is recommending that bikers go up to Canada prior to getting near the fire area. Of course not every biker has a passport...

Just the smoke alone makes biking problematic. We could see the haze from the fires in the Canadian Northwest Territories when we were in Montana. I would have hated to bike through smoke. I was using my inhaler because of all the haying around me. See to read about Steve who is biking east to west. We met him in the little town of Saco, fighting a headwind.

We met some bikers from MI in Montana.  They are also biking east to west.  They met a guy doing west to East who just made it through Loup Loup Pass before they closed it. You can read his account at (You'll have to copy and paste, sorry). 

So anyway, I'm living the tour vicariously through others' blogs. Hopefully with the physical therapy that Dave's doctor has prescribed, Dave can heal the shoulder, tendons and hip that are plaguing him. We would like to do a short trip with Lorriann and Dale when they bike through MI and more touring next summer. For now, it's back to finishing our kitchen cabinet building project! And, we also came back with enough summer left to enjoy outdoor concerts so there are compensations. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oh we love those U Haul trucks

Sunday, July 13 Medora, ND to Dickinson, ND
39.5 miles

We did a short day today and found out that even when Dave ices several times and uses Advil in prescription doses, he is still having ankle swelling and leg cramps. He also is having hip pain in the hip that was dislocated previously. (Long story.)

Unfortunately the terrain is still hilly and will be through much of North Dakota and that makes the tendon problem worse.

So, since we are now in a big enough town to have some U Haul dealers we decided to again rent a U Haul and drive to Minneapolis where we can stay with family and he can rest up and see if this improves. Hopefully it will improve enough to continue on, but if not our van is there and we can drive home. 

The U Haul company gives up to 4 days to drive to Minneapolis so we can drive for shorter days and we can stop and camp and Dave can put his feet up and ice.

Hopefully everything will improve, but if not we can still do some traveling later this summer and/or fall with the dogs and our camper.

If it all works out well we could possibly connect again with our traveling buddies, Dale and Lorriann, and do some more biking with them. So we'll see what the future brings.

I'll post more tomorrow about our travels the last couple of days.
The picture is of the Painted Canyon in the Theodore Roosevelt national park.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A new state, North Dakota

July 12th, Glendive, MT to Medora, ND
63 miles, 12.3 average speed. Max 29 mph Time riding 5 hours, trip time 7 hours.
We entered Montana on June 23rd and left it on July 12. We were in Montana for 20 days!

Medora is a cute tourist town I was surprised to see more cowboy boots and hats in Medora than I saw through the whole state of Montana. 

Medora is in a shale oil boom area. One person we met is a rancher and he said that a well near his land had a brine spill which leached into a creek where he had pastured his cows and young calves. They notified him of the spill but didn't advise him whether it would be toxic to his cattle or not. (The company cleaned up the well site itself but not downstream). Every one of his calves died because of the toxins (the brine itself is highly saline plus it has other chemicals in it). The company won't admit to any fault so he is hiring a lawyer. The more frightening thing to him is that the water may not be any good anymore because of the spill and that would make his land worthless. He also does not own the mineral rights on his land so he can't prevent fracking on his land.

It's clear that the oil boom has brought prosperity to North Dakota. The signs are everywhere in the towns, from new hotels, new housing, a brand new community center in Dickinson. We saw well sites in every stage of development.  But, whatever you believe about fracking, spills like this are unacceptable, especially since the company apparently isn't taking responsibility for what happens downstream.

Well anyway...The area around Medora is gorgeous. There were badlands and our route was on lightly travelled Old Highway 10 for the most part. Theodore Roosevelt national park is a place that I would like to visit again sometime. The terrain was rolling and seemed to have more trees, a welcome sight after the immense plains in Montana. 

We had been told that the North Dakotans are friendly. Well it must rub off on others because even though many of the folks we met in the campground are from other places, they were helpful and interested in our tour.

Yes we were glad to leave.