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. 

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