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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 (8173km - 134days)

 

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22 May - Seattle

We flew into Seattle in the early hours of the morning, and what a beautiful sight it was. The interesting thing was that we arrived in Seattle before we actually left Beijing. I was, as usual, dead tired, collected my luggage, hailed a taxi and headed for downtown Seattle. I dropped the bicycle at the bike shop and then went in search of the local hostel.

 

I discovered, with a shock, that I left my backpack with all my valuables in the taxi!!  Needless to say, I was in a flat spin! I contacted the “Yellow Taxi Cabs”, I had no number or name to give them but they had a “lost-and-found” section, where I left my details.

 

As I did not sleep on the plane, I was rather sleepy and went for a bit of a snooze. Upon waking up, I found my bag neatly placed on the table next to my bed!  I was rather pleased about getting the bag back. But then the taxi driver was the sweetest Somali guy ever and we chatted non-stop all the way from the airport. I knew that if someone was going to return the bag, it would be him!!

 

23 May - Seattle

It was time to explore the city. I had a day or two to kill as I waited for my bike to be serviced and I was waiting for my cycling maps to arrive, which I ordered online. Seattle has a lovely waterfront and market area which was a pleasant place to stroll around.

 

I stopped for the obligatory cup of coffee at Starbucks and also took a walk to REI; big mistake!!  What a great store it is. They had just about everything a person needs for the outdoors and very good quality stuff as well. I did not leave without buying something - this time it was a solar panel for charging all my devices.

 

24 May - Seattle

No maps have arrived but my bicycle was ready, they even fixed the broken front rack - what a clever man! I was also looking for a North American map for my Garmin, so I set off to Best Buy which was on the other side of the city and in the process I got to ride all kinds of public transport.

 

I found the map and it seemed that I just had to download the map from the internet; easy! Famous last words!

 

25 May - Seattle

I met up with Mike (a 365-project friend) and we took a walk to the folk festival which was in town. Afterwards, we took a walk up the hill to get some night shots of the city skyline.

 

26 May - Seattle

Still no maps have arrived and I was getting itchy feet and was very keen to get going. It seemed a bit of a waste of money to leave without my maps so I decided to stay one more day to see if it may arrive. In the meantime, I took a rather interesting underground tour. The maps arrived and I was set to go. In fact, it arrived the day before already but no one told me and I did not ask. By the time I got the maps it was already too late to leave, so I paid for one more night and got my stuff ready to leave in the morning.

 

27 May - Seattle – Shelton - 80 km

I took a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton and then headed south on Route 3. The scenery was stunning and quite unfamiliar to me, with the tall pine trees and the snowy mountains in the background. Although it was not warm the sun was out and it was a pleasant day on the road. I did not go very far as it was already late by the time I got to Bremerton.

 

It was Memorial Day and just about every small village I passed had some sort of festival of fete on, complete with corn dogs and lemonade!!

 

Just outside Shelton I spotted a campground and instead of passing by, only to find no camping later on, I pulled in and had an early day.

 

28 May - Shelton – Centralia - 120 km

It was drizzling on and off during the day, but it was not too bad. Although cold, it was still a beautiful ride, past small villages looking like they belong on a movie set. Centralia came as a pleasant surprise with its historic downtown section and old murals. It was a pleasant town. I found a place to camp at a motel and as there was a nearby food store I was set for the night. I find these places quite interesting as there appears to be a rather large amount of homeless, disabled, drug addicts or mentally ill people around. They are all, however, very friendly and eager to help where ever they can.

 

29 May - Centralia – Longview - 115 km

The next morning I first cycled through town to have a look at the old murals and buildings and then headed out of town. It was a great day on the road, the sun was out and the scenery great as the road continued past more small villages.

 

In Longview I had to take a motel room as I could not find any camping and it was getting fairly cold towards the end of the day.

 

30 May - Longview – Fort Stevens State Park - 115 km

From Longview I followed Route 4 along the Columbian River, which also turned out to be the historic “Lewis and Clark Trail”, which is both a cycle and hiking trail. I followed the river until I reached Cathlamet from where one can cross the Columbian river to the state of Oregano. Crossing the river was in two parts, first by bridge to the island in the middle of the river, and then by ferry to the small town of Westport.

 

After crossing the river, I also met other cyclists on their way down south. They told me about state camping just outside of Astoria, so I headed in that direction. In Astoria I stopped and received some really good information about the road and camping further south. I stocked up with food for the night and then headed in the direction of the campsite. Soon the other cyclists arrived and we made a big campfire to keep warm.

 

31 May - Fort Stevens State Park – Nehalem Bay State park - 70 km

I packed up at leisure, then waved good-bye to the other cyclists, and set off in the direction of the next state park. These parks were quite fantastic as they always have a Hike and Bike section where one can camp for a mere $5 or $6 per night. This suited me just fine and I had no intention of rushing down the cost.

 

It was a stunning ride along the coast and the views were quite spectacular. I reached Nehalem Bay in good time, pitched my tent, and just lazed about. Later, the other cyclists (Lam and Jeffery) arrived and again we made a big campfire so we could keep warm and heat up a few sausages.

 

1  June - Nehalem Bay State Park – Cape Lookout SP - 62 km

 

2 June - Cape Lookout SP – Pacific City - 30 km

First thing in the morning the road climbed up and over the hills to Pacific City. Once in Pacific City, I chatted to a rather friendly man who also turned out to be the owner of the Pacific Inn. We chatted for a while and no sooner was I put up in a lovely room….all for free!!! Not only was I given a room but he also offered to do my laundry!!! I must be reeking like high heaven.

 

I had a lovely day enjoying my room and charging all my devices and chilling out watching TV!  Oh, the luxury of a room! That evening I took a walk to the local eatery which was a traditional pub with country music, serving beer on tap and excellent burgers.

 

3 June - Pacific City – Beverly Beach SP - 70 km

I did not think that I would see Lam and Jeffry again but just outside Pacific City the road led up a long hill and I found the pair slowly cycling up the hill. We cycled together for a while, had coffee at McDonalds, and did a bit of shopping at the local grocery store. We agreed to meet at the next Hike and Bike, and then continued on at our own pace again.

 

4 June - Beverly beach SP – Jessie M Honeyman - 70 km

I knew that Lam and Jeffry wanted to stop at the bike shop so I continued on. Along the way I spotted a fudge shop and as no cyclist will cycle past a fudge shop, I stopped and it all looked delicious. I bought two large pieces and while standing outside the shop devouring the one, the lady of the shop came running out with one of her famous chocolate brownies, neatly wrapped for the road! That was so kind of her.

 

Fueled by the fudge and the brownie, I cycled all the way to Bullards Beach.

 

5 June - Jessie M Honeyman - Bullards Beach 112 km

Arriving at camp there were already a few cyclists, some of which I have met before. The wind was quite strong and in trying to put up my tent, two more poles broke. Fortunately, some of the other cyclists could help out with repairing it.

 

6 June - Bullards Beach – Gold Beach - 100 km

I flew into Gold Beach at 45 km/h and was pleased that I was not going in the opposite direction. The wind was howling and first I looked for a place to camp, but decided against it and took a room in the village. I did not think that my tent would withstand the high winds, and until I found a new tent I will have to be rather careful.

 

I took a walk down the main road, and found the grocery store and a laundry. At the laundry I met Steve, a rather interesting man. He appeared to be a homeless person travelling by bicycle. The bicycle was not any kind of touring bike but rather a “trick bike” and he was pulling a trailer with three grates stacked on top of one another. He was the kindest person one could imagine and offered me his last washing powder so I did not have to purchase any from the machine. How kind of him!

 

On my way back to the room, I also found a store selling rather interesting bits and pieces as well as tarot cards! I have been looking for a pack for ages and could not believe that I found it in this tiny village!

 

7 June - Gold Beach – Crescent City - 116 km

The next morning I set off again, and low and behold would I not find Steve along the road (collecting cans) he was quick to offer me a muffin which he bought that morning. He also presented me with a beautiful feather, but I was most impressed that he remembered my name!!! 

 

We chatted for a while before I waved him good-bye and left him to his job of collecting cans. I crossed the state line into California and cycled past farmlands and small villages. Along the way I met a guy cycling north, and not only did he have all his stuff with him but also a crate in the front with a little dog!!  The little thing seemed quite happy just sitting there enjoying the scenery. In Crescent City, I enquired about camping along the coast. The closest one was a wild camp with no water or facilities and the next one seemed too far away. I weakened and took a motel room!

 

8 June - Crescent City - Palm Café & Motel  - 70 km

Just outside Crescent City I met another cyclist, this time a lady. She was not only equipped with four panniers but also with a trailer with two dogs!!!  I can hardly get myself up the hills, let alone with two dogs as well!!

 

It was a beautiful day on the road, the sun was out and the road ran through forests and from time to time along the coast. It was, however, up and over a big climb.  My legs felt tired and although I had a few short days, I have not yet had a day of rest since leaving Seattle. No wonder my legs did not want to cooperate.

 

I also ran into Casy, another cyclist whom I have met before. We chatted for a while and I decided to stay put as I spotted a motel across the road!  It was way too expensive for what it offered but I was tired and prepared to pay the money. The café had spaghetti bolognaise as their daily special which suited me just fine.

 

9 June - Palm Café & Motel - Clam Beach State Park - 40 km

I passed the small and pretty town of Trinidad with its picture perfect harbour and lighthouse. I did some shopping at the local store and then followed the road further south. I met a local cyclist and we cycled together for a while until we reached Clam Beach campsite. It was still early but I felt tired and decided to make it a short day. It was not the best camping place, as it was very exposed and sandy but good enough for me to pitch a tent.

 

10 June - Clam Beach – Humboldt Redwood State Park - 95 km

I followed country roads and was surprised at just how rural the country is outside the big cities.

 

I stopped in Eureka to look for a new tent and found one at Adventures Edge, an outdoor store with quite a good supply of camping stuff. With my new tent strapped to the bike I was eager to try it out. I soon reached the turnoff for the Avenue of the Giants, and what a spectacular site it was. These trees were massive and said to be the tallest trees in the world. Apparently, they can get up to 2000 years old!  Most of the trees in the park are between 400 and 600 years old; that is pretty old for a tree, if you ask me!!

 

I stopped at Red Crescent to do some shopping but found that there was no grocery store. I was pointed down the hill to the previous campsite where I was told there is a small grocery store. I shot down the hill just to find that there was no shop and had to cycle all the way up the hill again and onto the next campsite. I, fortunately, had enough food to see me through so it was not a problem. I was eager to try my tent and was surprised at the ease of pitching it. It was like moving into a new house!!

 

11 June

I decided to stay in the park for the day and do a bit of hiking. First thing, I cycled the four miles up the road to the shop, stocked up with food, and then returned to my spot in the woods.  I was surprised that I was the only cyclist camping at this spot as it was so pretty. Later that day more cyclists arrived, as well as Kat (the lady with the dogs).  We chatted until late as she was such an interesting person, being a Yoga teacher who lived in India for a while.

 

12 June - Humboldt Redwoods SP – Standish-Hickey SP - 80 km

It was time to pack up my tent and in the next village I met a family cycling in the area. They told me to camp at Standish-Hickey SP as there was a large hill to cycle over and that it would be best to tackle the hill on fresh legs. That sounded like sound advice, so I cycled to the campsite and pitched my tent. I was the only one camping there, and I got so used to camping with people that it felt quite lonely.

 

13 June - Standish-Hickey SP – Mendocino - 88 km

The next morning I cycled up and over the mountain (which was not as bad as expected) but not before stopping at the drive-thru tree and snapping a picture or two. I soon came out at the coast again and from thereon it was a hilly ride to the next Hike and Bike.

 

14 June - Mendocino - Manchester Beach KOA - 66 km

It was a short day but I needed to get an Internet connection and I spotted one at the KOA. I pulled in as they normally have Wi-Fi and laundry facilities. The Wi-Fi was a bit of a disappointment as it was only for an hour after which you had to pay. My own phone seems to be quite useless as I never seem to have a connection. The laundry came in handy and I quickly did my laundry and was good for another few days.

 

15 June - Manchester Beach KOA - Bodega Bay Dunes State park - 120 km

It was a rather hilly day but somehow I just put my head down and cycled all the way to Bodega Bay.

 

16 June - Bodega Bay – San Rafael - 134 km

I turned inland to Bodega City where I stopped to look at all the interesting bits and pieces in town. This small town has been the film location for The Birds and the old school house is still in use. It turned out to be a rather long day as I encountered some road works and had to take a detour, which seemed to last forever!!

 

Eventually, I landed up in San Rafael where I took a motel room due to a lack of camping. I was very close to San Francisco but it was already too late to continue and, besides that, I had enough for the day.

 

17 June - San Rafael – San Francisco - 35 km

It was a short ride over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco. Along the way I met a local cyclist and he accompanied me all the way to the hostel. The first one was full so we continued on, past the waterfront to the next one, but not before stopping for coffee and a bagel. The Adelaide Hostel turned out to be very nice (a bit pricy but so are all hostels in SF), with free breakfast and with a very central location.

 

I made use of their Internet to catch up on some online work, but found, to my horror, that I have saved over my daily journal!  I tried whatever I could, but could not retrieve it.

 

I also discovered that the SIM card slot on my phone was faulty; no wonder I never had an Internet connection along the way!  Not only that, the Garmin map I bought in Seattle never loaded on my device so I sent Garmin an email to inquire what to do about the situation. As if that was not enough, my camera lens got stuck (after dropping the camera) and although it still worked I had no auto-focus. I mostly use manual focus but there are always times when auto-focus comes in handy, so I bought a new lens. Not the best quality but it was an 18-200 and therefore just one lens instead of the two I had previously.

 

18 June - San Francisco

I handed my laptop in at the computer shop to see if they could retrieve my lost file. It was a glorious day in San Francisco so I took the streetcar to the waterfront. Besides wondering about and blending in with the other tourists, I also found out about a train back to Seattle. The news was good as it seemed that there was a train everyday at around 22h00. I still had to box the bike, which was available at the station for $15 and $10 for handling. I understood that all I had to do was go down to the AM track office, where they would then take the bike and my bags from me and load it on the train. Although the train is from Emeryville, the ticket included a bus from the Amtrak office to the train station.

 

So, the plan was to go back to Seattle and cycle from there, either to Canada or east, until I get the Canadian visa and can cross into Canada. Failing that, I will just continue east through the USA.  In the meantime, I have asked my sister to forward my new passport to the hostel in Seattle where I will collect it.

 

19 June 2014 - San Francisco

There was no phone call or email from the computer shop so I took a walk to the shop to find out what was happening. Unfortunately, they could not recover my document and I would therefore have to live with a big blank in my journal. They were already busy reloading all my settings and hopefully the laptop would at least perform a bit faster.

 

I also did not hear anything from Garmin about what I could do about the map that did not load on my GPS. I sent them another message, not that it made any difference as they never came back to me.

 

I was kind of eager to get going but I could hardly leave without the laptop. I also desperately had to try and apply for the Canadian visa, which seemed more trouble than what it was worth. It was an online application and rather lengthy. I lost interest in the whole process before even registering!   What a mission!!!

 

20 June 2014 - San Francisco

I took a break from my boring doings and went on the free walking tour of San Francisco. It was fun and informative. Afterwards, I popped in at the computer shop but they were still busy reloading it and advised that I come back the following day. As the following day was a Saturday they only opened at 12h00 which meant that I would have to stay one more day in San Francisco.

 

Back at the hostel I made a serious effort to complete the rather lengthy and complicated online visa application for Canada. My word, it was like applying to become the president of the country!! They wanted all my family information, both dead and alive!!! It was rather late at night by the time I finished the application. As usual, there were a few hiccups to overcome as not all the forms loaded as they should.

 

21 June 2014 - San Francisco

After breakfast I took a walk to the computer shop to pick up my laptop which was reprogrammed and would, hopefully, be operating a bit faster than before.

 

Back at the hostel I reloaded all the visa forms onto my laptop and completed the last bit of information. I still had to load a photo and do the payment of the fee. I still had no idea where I would collect this visa or how long it would take. I could not find the correct information on their website. It gave the estimated processing times for the various offices but not for an online application.

 

Eventually, I uploaded the photos and paid my fees; now it was just a matter of waiting. It appeared that it was going to be a long wait, in the region of three weeks or more.

 

22 June - San Francisco

There was nothing more for me to do in SF so I checked out of the hostel and headed down to the Amtrak station. The bike boxes they sold were quite large and it was easy for me to fit the bicycle into the box once I had removed the pedals and turned the handlebars sideways. I put all my stuff into one bag (which I bought for cheap in China Town) and handed everything in. The train was not due until that evening so I had the whole day to kill.

 

I took a walk back to the hostel and used their lounge and Wi-Fi to try and redo my lost journal. Afterwards, I took a stroll downtown to the Amtrak office where I got a bus to Emeryville at around 9pm.

 

Then it was on the train to Seattle - it was a rather strange set up, being in a double story train! I have never seen a train like that. It was very comfortable with loads of legroom, which was a good thing as I sat next to a rather large person. I also realized how difficult it must be to be that large; everything is double the trouble and one constantly needs to feed the body to maintain such a size.

 

23 June - On the train to Seattle

I had the whole day to try and redo my journal, not an easy task for me as I have the memory of a gold fish!  Between my photos and the help of the Google map I sort of reconstructed the evens of the last month.  It was not exactly perfect but I lost interest long before I got to the end. Fortunately, there was nothing to do on the train and I could not go anywhere.

 

The train ride was very scenic and it was quite a novelty to sit back and watch the scenery go by, without having to peddle one stroke.

 

We arrived in Seattle rather late. Fortunately, the hostel is basically across the road from the train station. I put the bike together again, loaded up my belongings and cycled to the hostel.

 

24 - 25 June -Seattle

First thing in the morning I took a walk to the Canadian Consulate, just to find that they had no information on visas and could not tell me how one goes about collecting a visa from an online application. I have now made up my mind to continue east across the northern states of the US until such time as I can collect the Canadian visa. If that never happens then it is also fine.

  

It was the most glorious day in Seattle and I, for one, made good use of it. I joined the free walking tour of Seattle and had their world famous clam chowder while feeding the seagulls and watching the sun set. I then headed back to the hostel to organise a last few things.

 

26 June - Seattle – Riverbend Camping - 90 km

It was time to start my trek east, and the plan was to first head south to Portland and then east via the Columbian Gorge. I did not study the terrain but, just by looking at the map, it appeared to be the easiest way.

 

Although it was cloudy, it was not cold at all. The strangest thing is that it was warmer in the state of Washington than in San Francisco!  I cycled past the Boeing factory and it all looked very interesting. They did not only have a Museum of Flight but also one of Light…… it all looked very fascinating and I was sorry that I did not do the Boeing tour.

 

It was cherry time and one could buy cherries all along the road. I found it difficult to cycle past these stalls as the cherries were sweet and delicious.

 

I headed south on the old Pacific Highway and soon got to my destination. The campsite was rather expensive at $25 and one still had to use quarters to get a hot shower!  The most expensive shower I have ever had!!

 

27 June - Riverbend Campground – Lewis and Clark SP - 98 km

It rained throughout the night and when I woke in the morning, I could still hear the rain dripping on the tent. I curled up and slept for another hour or so. Upon waking the second time, I found that the rain had abated so I quickly packed up, donned my rain gear and headed down the road. It was not a bad ride and I even found a bike path which lead through the woods for about 15 – 20 miles. It drizzled from time to time, but nothing to complain about.

 

In Toledo I stopped at the supermarket, bought some food for the night, and then headed on down the road in search of a camping spot. I found the Lewis and Clark SP, which was a lovely place to camp amongst the woods. I must admit that there were some mighty strange noises in the woods…. I just closed up the tent and hoped that nothing would carry me away during the night!!

 

28 June - Lewis and Clark SP – Vancouver - 108 km

It rained on and off all day with the result that I did not stop much and hardly took any photos. There is not much one can do, so I pulled my cap down low and headed down the road! Along the way I stopped at a Burger Hut and sat staring in amazement at the people coming and going. Some had, obviously, already had a few burgers too many and the last thing they needed was a LARGE milkshake!!

 

When it started raining again, I turned into the first inexpensive-looking motel and had a fairly comfortable room for the night.

 

29 June - Vancouver – Portland - 60 km

I was going to visit Vicki, a 365-project friend, so took my time in packing up. It was a short ride to their house and no reason to rush. I stopped in Vancouver to look at the Old Fort and then looked for a bicycle path across the river. My map and GPS did not show any bike paths, but I eventually found one.

 

It was a glorious day and the bike path next to the river was jam-packed with cyclists. I stopped at Blue Lake Park, a very large and scenic area. Everyone was out in the park, kids were swimming and people were enjoying the good weather.

 

I cycled to Johan and Vicki’s place and was treated like royalty by these two amazing people. They did not just offer me a bed for the night but also treated me to supper (clam chowder on the floating restaurant). Back at home we chatted away while my laundry was being done.

 

30 June - Portland – The Dalles - 123 km

It was a stunning day, the sun was out and I could even wear my shorts as I waved goodbye to John and Vicki and continued my journey along the Columbia River. The road ran through the Columbia River Gorge and for most of the way I followed the Historic Highway. It was a stunning ride past plenty of waterfalls and scenic areas. Vicki packed plenty for me to eat along the way; it must have been those chocolate chip cookies that gave me the energy as I felt good and I cycled all the way to The Dalles, a small village along the way.

 

1 July - The Dalles - 32 km

I woke with a sore throat and could feel a fat cold coming on. I had no patience for these minor illnesses and was kind of hoping that it would just disappear again, sigh……I’m not superwoman after all!!  LOL. On my way out of town, I stopped at Safeway and loaded up with some stuff that claimed to clear a cold in record time (yes, sure!)

 

I felt rotten and only cycled 30 kilometres to the next campsite and thought it a good idea to stay put for the rest of the day. It was a real pity as it was a fantastic day and it would have been a great day on the road. It was also a wind-free day and I understand that the gorge is a notoriously windy area.

 

2 July - The Dalles – Boardman - 114 km

I was wondering if I should stay for another day, but my restlessness got the better of me and I packed my belongings and headed out. I picked up a strong tailwind and it was an easy ride to Boardman. Good thing too, as I was not feeling all that well.

 

In Boardman, I found a beautiful campsite with a most luxurious lawn right on the river. I cycled to the shops and got myself a whole lot of food, but I had no appetite and only ate a salad.

 

The pedal or bottom bracket of my bike was making the most ungodly noise, but there was no bike shop in town and I hoped that it would see me through to the next town, which was about 30 miles along the road.

 

3 July - Boardman – Pendleton & Shuttle bus to La Grande - 100 km (& 45miles by shuttle bus)

I cycled to the bike shop and was surprised at the well-stocked shop in such a small village. I replaced the pedals and set off with a good tail wind. After leaving the Columbia River, I was in amongst the wheat fields. I was still suffering from a cold and did not feel too energetic but pedalled on over the hills until I could see Pendleton way down in the valley.

 

In Pendleton, I found big road signs indicating that the road between Pendleton and La Grange were off limits for bicycles as they were busy working on the road. There was, however, a shuttle bus service between the two towns. The bus was only at 17h00 so I had some waiting to do.

 

In the process, I missed out on a big climb and was happy that I did not have to slog up that long hill!!  Once in the pretty town of La Grange I found myself a motel room and kicked back for the rest of the evening.

 

4 - 6 July - La Grange – Baker City - 72 km

I was hopeful that my cold would be gone in the morning but, in fact, I felt even worse. I cycled down Highway 84 until I reached the top of the hill. I could see the road stretching out for miles in front of me, all the way to the small historic town of Baker City. I had a strong suspicion that it was going to be the last flat road for a while.

 

I felt positively rotten and booked into the Eldorado Inn and went to sleep. It was a pity that I felt as miserable as I did, as it was Independence Day, and although all countries celebrate their independence, there is no country that celebrates it with as much gusto as the Americans.

 

I woke in the morning feeling all blocked up, my head felt heavy and my chest tight. I knew there was no point in cycling when feeling like that, so I stayed one more day. I took a walk to the shop, got some more flu tablets and went back to bed.

 

The following day I did not feel much better so I stayed one more day.

 

7 July - Baker City – Ontario - 135 km

I felt a million times better and was ever so happy to be back on the bike. The road followed what is known as the “Old Oregon Trail".  The trail was an old wagon route and emigrant trail that runs from east to west across the country, very similar to the “Great Trek” in South Africa.

 

The landscape also reminded me of South Africa as it resembled the Karoo. The road passed through sleepy settlements with abandoned train stations, a railway line, a pub and church!

 

I followed the Snake River and with a name like that I was unwilling to camp on the river bank. I have been extremely lucky with the weather as it was around 30°C during the day – perfect for cycling. I was on a bit of a downhill run and continued to Ontario - my last stop before crossing the state border to the state of Idaho.

 

8 – 9 July - Ontario – Boise - 97 km

I crossed the state border into Idaho and continued on until I reached the turnoff for Boise. I headed downtown and followed the cycle path along the greenbelt until I reached the city centre. From there it was a short ride to Rachel and Patrick’s home. I have never met them and only knew them from Facebook as they have done a fair amount of cycle touring. Not only did they have a beautiful home, they were also the nicest people one could imagine. We chatted and chatted and I was easily convinced to stay another day.

 

Patrick was born and raised in The Nederlands and as Holland was playing in the semi-finals of the World Cup Soccer we went to the local pub to watch the game. Unfortunately, Holland lost but we still had a good time.

 

10 - 13 July - Rafting

I was invited to join Rachel and Patrick on a river rafting trip down the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers. It was a long drive to the start where we camped the first evening. The following day we started our trip, I went with Bobby (and his dog Trixi), Gordy was on his own, Rachel and Patrick were in one boat, and Bob, Ivy and Eve (and Bob’s dog) in another boat. They were all incredibly nice people and we had a total blast on the river.

 

The weather played along and it was in the high 90’s but nice and cool on the river. Bob and Bobby fished from time to time and whatever was caught went back into the river.

 

In the evening, we camped along the riverbank and I was rather impressed with their conservation efforts as not a single scrap of anything was left behind at the places we camped. They were rather well-organised and I could see it was not the first time they did a river trip - even the dogs had lifejackets! 

 

The time passed far too quickly and soon it was time to load the bikes and drive back to the city.

 

14 July - Boise

I had all intensions of using my day in Boise productively and do something useful, like washing my sleeping bag; instead I played with my camera in the garden and just enjoyed being in a real home. Rachel and Patrick is also a Warm Showers host and that evening Sarah (another cyclist) arrived. We had supper together and then it was time for me to pack my bags and get ready to get back on the road.

 

15 July - Boise – Glenn’s Ferry - 125 km

It was time to say goodbye to Rachel and Patrick. I had all intentions of turning off at Mountain Home and following Route 20, but the wind picked up and as soon as I turned off I was straight into the wind. Just there and then I decided to turn around and rather continue down Route 84.

 

It was an extremely desolate area, not much was happening along the way and with a strong tail wind I was blown all the way to Glenn’s Ferry. I reached the “Three Islands SP” early but (as Patrick had warned) the price for camping was so high that I turned around and left again.

 

Glenn’s Ferry turned out to be a rather interesting place, as it was one of the most famous and treacherous river crossings on the Oregon Trail. Not only was it steeped in history, it also turned out to be the home of Equine Dentistry!! 

 

16 July - Glenn’s Ferry – Truck stop - 109 km

It was the first day since leaving Seattle that I had a head wind. I was hoping that it would change, but it stayed east-north-east all day, with the result that the going was a bit slow. I slowly continued on and stopped at each and every gas station to fill my water bottle. There was not much happening along the road, except for the Snake River Gorge which was an interesting landscape.

 

17 July - Truck Stop – American Falls - 135 km

I picked up a nice tailwind and it was an easy day on the road, past farmlands and wind farms, indicating that it was a notoriously windy area. Route 84 (which I have been following for a long time) turned south and I followed Route 86, which veered north in the direction of both Canada and Yellowstone National Park.

 

18 July - American Falls – Idaho Falls - 130 km

Again, I had a really good tail wind and again it was an easy day on the road. From Pocatello, the road headed north through the Indian reservation of Fort Hall and past Blackfoot with its potato museum!! 

 

In Idaho Falls I stopped at Dave’s Bike Shop. They changed the inner tube and also found what was causing the slow puncture. Not only did they change the tube they also did not charge me for it!! What happened to Capitalism??  

 

I then set off in search of a cheap room which turned out to be more difficult than expected. Once I found one, it was way out of town and after off-loading my panniers I had to cycle back into the town to look for food.

 

19 July - Idaho falls – Warm Waters campsite - 110 km

Along the way, I listened to a book I downloaded and what a sad book it was!!  I passed vast fields of seed potatoes and even larger fields of wheat.

 

I met a French family cycling around the area. Unfortunately, their holiday was soon coming to an end and they planned on hiring a car to tour Yellowstone National Park where I was heading.

 

I reached Warm Waters campsite in good time and lazed about for the rest of the day. It was a very popular site and campers where floating on inner tubes downstream, then running back to do it again. It was a great spot with plenty trees next to the river. There were no showers but I guess that is what the river was for.

 

20 – 21 July - Warm Rivers Campsite – Western Yellowstone - 95km

I crossed the continental divide and entered the state of Montana. I understand that the state's name is derived from the Spanish word ‘montaña’ (mountain); I guess I can expect a few hills. I also read that Montana is ranked fourth in size but only 48th in population density, out of the 50 States in the US. The western third of Montana contains 77 named mountain ranges, all forming part of the Rocky Mountains. I sincerely hoped not all 77 were on my path!

 

I reached West Yellowstone and found a good campsite and supermarket in the village.

 

I also stayed the following day, did my laundry, and was just hanging around the campsite. Good thing too, as a storm passed through, complete with thunder, lightning and hail.

 

22 July - West Yellowstone – Norris campsite - 52 km

I had a slow start to the day as I knew it was not going to be a long day on the road. I paid my $12 entry fee to Yellowstone National Park (valid for an entire 7 days) and cycled down the road. I soon entered the state of Wyoming as most of the park is situated in Wyoming. It was the most remarkable day, the scenery surpassed all expectations. Yellowstone is truly one of a kind, a place where the earth bubbles, splatters and steams! Geysers erupted in front of my eyes; truly one of the most surreal places I have visited.

 

I camped at Norris and met a British family travelling in the area; I learned from them that an on-line visa application for Canada takes two months!! I now have little hope of getting the visa in time to cycle there.

 

23 July - Norris Campsite – Gardiner - 42 km

It was a short but interesting day through the Park and I stopped at many sites to have a look. I stayed in Gardiner for the night to rethink my route. The wind picked up and the forecast was 35 miles an hour in an easterly direction. My idea of going to Glacier National Park went out of the window as there was no way I was cycling into that wind.

 

24 July - Gardiner – Big Timber - 152 km

The weather forecast turned out to be spot-on and the wind got stronger and stronger. I flew down the road reaching speeds of 60 km/h!! From Gardiner I headed north to Livingston and was dreading the change, as from Livingston the road veered east.

 

Amazingly, once in Livingston the wind changed and again I had it behind me. I reached Big Timber in good time and booked into a motel as I could not see a campsite in town. If the wind stayed like this I will have little choice but to move with it, wherever it may take me!!

 

That night I sent an email to the Canadian visa office, enquiring exactly how long the visa would take and how I would receive it. In the meantime, I planned on heading east and staying fairly close to the border, just in case the visa came through. I thought of giving it another week and if I did not hear anything from them, I’m would change direction again.

 

25 July - Big Timber – Laurel - 112 km

There was truly not much happening along the road. I was still following the Yellowstone River, which I understood is the longest undammed river in the US. The wind was not as strong as the day before and my legs felt a bit tired after the previous day’s long cycle.

 

I pulled into Laurel and got myself a room. I could easily have carried on to Billings (another 22 miles) but I did not want to pull the ass right out of the chicken (as the saying goes in Afrikaans), so I decided to stay and relax for the rest of the day.

 

That evening I had another look at the map and decided to head for Mount Rushmore National Park. I have given up hope of ever getting the Canadian visa.

 

26 – 27 July - Laurel – Hardin - 105 km + 52 km

My room was cheap as it was next to the railway line. It was a real good deal as it included a good self-serve breakfast. My neighbours complained about the noise from the trains, but I must admit I never heard a thing!

 

I continued on to Billings and then turned slightly south-east in the direction of Mount Rushmore. It was a dreadfully boring road; it was hot, dry and rather lonely. Wheat fields stretched as far as the eye could see. The only bit of excitement was a flat tyre from all the tyre debris along the road.

 

The first village I reached was Hardin with a good campsite and a few places to eat. I suited me just fine - I got myself a beer and a packet of crisps and set up camp for the night.

 

The following morning I packed up and left, but an hour or so down the road I realised that I left my solar charger and phone behind. There was not much I could do but turn around and go back. Upon my return at the campsite, I found the owners frantically phoning around trying to locate me. That was so nice of them!!  I was also invited for a lunch BBQ.

 

28 – 29 July - Hardin – Ranchester - 120km

The going was slow as it was slightly uphill and into a slight breeze. The scenery was unchanged as I cycled past more vast areas of wheat fields. The interesting part is that harvesting was not done by the farmers but by harvesters. The harvesters working in this area employed no less than six South African youngsters to drive the harvesters!

 

Although it was not far it took nearly the entire day to reach my destination and I was dead tired by the time I got there. One of those days!!! I pitched my tent, got some food and a beer, and that was me - done for the day.

 

It rained all night and it was still raining as I woke, so I thought it a good idea to stay put and relax for the day before tackling the (anticipated) hills ahead. The rain abated and I took a walk down to the river and the old battlefield. I always find it sad when a whole tribe has been wiped out; it is so final and cannot be undone.

 

I spent the day in the small town of Ranchester. It had no shop, except for a small store and the gas station, but it had a gunsmith and a taxidermist and no less than two churches!  It also had the Cowboy State Bank; I’m not sure I want to put my hard earned money in a bank with a name like that. In my walkabout town, I had two people praying for me!!  I must look a wreck!! 

 

30 July - Ranchester – Buffalo - 95 km

I felt miles more energetic after a day of rest and it was a pleasure to be on the road. I followed the old “Black Diamond Trail", referring to the coal mining of yester year. Although the peak mining years are long one, there is still coal mining being done in the area.

 

The road climbed slowly to Buffalo and once there I cycled all around town looking for a camping spot. There were no less than two campgrounds, but all were rather expensive. In the end, I settled for “Indian Campground” as they gave me a bit of a discount. Then it was off to the shops for my nightly beer and food.

 

31 July - Buffalo – Gillette - 115 km

I was dreading the ride as the weather forecast predicated a headwind. It turned out not be too bad and around midday the wind changed in my favour. It was a rather barren landscape, with not even a small town or farm to be seen. Thank goodness for a rest area where I could fill up with water before continuing on to Gillette.

 

1 August - Gillette – Upton - 89 km

I woke to a southerly wind - the forecast predicated that by 10h00 the wind will be in a westerly direction, so I took my time in packing up, whiling the time by chatting to the other campers. I had an Egg McMuffin and coffee at McDonalds and by the time I finished the wind was westerly, as predicated.

 

It was an easy cycle to Moorcroft where I swung left onto Route 16. First, I stopped at a small local museum to have a look and then continued on down the road.

 

Clouds gathered and I could hear distant rumbling and I pedalled as quickly as my legs could manage. The sign at the entrance of the next town stated: “Upton, best town on Earth”! I guess it was a bit of an exaggeration as the population of Upton is a mere 1000 and I guess that was for the “greater” Upton area!!

 

With raindrops falling I pulled into the local motel in Upton. The owner offered me a room at half the price, making the room the same price as camping!!  He also offered me the use of the laundry. What a wonderful man (or was it perhaps due to the smell?) 

 

2 August - Upton – Custer - 103 km

I cycled past the local oil fields, apparently also the oldest oil fields in the area. The oil must be very shallow as the drills were half-sized!  I headed in the direction of Mount Rushmore and once past Newcastle the road swung east and headed for the Black Hills. Needless to say, it was a hilly ride and into the wind on top of that. Along the way I got attacked by horse flies, or the like, and was going too slowly uphill to cycle away from them.

 

I carried only slowly until I got the KOA campsite just outside of Custer. I thought it a good enough place but was utterly shocked at the price…. $42 for a campsite. Apparently, there was a huge bike rally on at Sturgis and all the places were full. It was even sadder to find that they only sold beer in 24 packs!!  So no beer for me!!  At least the shower was good but what a price to pay for a shower!!!  I was tired and in no mood for talking to anyone in the campsite. (As if it was their fault that the campsite was expensive and that beer was only sold in 24 packs - LOL!!)

 

3 August - Custer – Rapid City - 87 km

I cycled along and firstly stopped at the very impressive Crazy Horse Memorial. The memorial consists of a mountain carving of Crazy Horse (an Oglala Lakota warrior).

 

The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are only 60 feet (18 m) high. The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is very far from completion.

 

Then it is off to Mount Rushmore where one can see the colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

 

The Sturgis bike rally was on and around 500 000……. that’s right, 500 000 bikers attended the rally. The roads were packed with bikes and all campsites and motels in the area were all filled to the brim! The bikers came in all shapes and sizes. The riders were both men and women, all seemingly tattooed from head to toe, and some of those mammas were big; they sit on a Harley that it looks like a 50cc. The reason for their size soon became obvious as one saw them sitting with a large ice cream cone in one hand and a large Coke in the other.

 

4 August - Rapid City to Wall - 89 km

I had a quick bite at McDonalds and then followed Route 90 in an easterly direction. The road stretched dead straight for miles ahead; unfortunately, the wind came up and it was an unpleasant ride into the wind. At the tiny, but interesting, town of Wall I called it a day and found a campsite for $10 which is considered cheap at this time.

 

Wall is not only situated opposite the entrance to the Badlands National Park but it is also home to “Wall Drug”, a popular road side stop/shop along the way. Wall Drug started off as a Drug store and grew to what it is today; a large and popular roadside attraction. Wall is also home to a large and funky Harley Davidson shop - so the town was bustling with bikers on their way to Sturgis.

 

5 August - Wall

The plan was to cycle through the Badlands National Park but the wind was howling and it was a rather miserable day. I decided to stay put in the campsite and enjoy Wall for the rest of the day.

 

6 August - Wall – 1880 Town - 105 km

There was no change in the weather and not much I could do about it, but I packed up and carried on. It was drizzling as I left Wall, and it was another day into the wind. There was not much happening along the way, so I entertained myself by taking selfies!

 

Towards the end of the day, I caught up with another cyclist, cycling around the USA. He was trying to cycle in all 50 states, which sounded a bit monotonous to me, going around and around in the same country, while the whole continent is there to be cycled, but each to his own. We chatted for a while, and I waved him goodbye and went on my way again.

 

At the end of the day, I ended up in a small roadside town, with its only claim to fame that it was one of the film locations for the movie, Dances with Wolves.

 

7 August - 1880 Town – Kennebec - 105 km

It was a long monotonous day on the road. There was no change of scenery and the road stretched on for miles through farmlands. Still the road was packed with bikers to and from the Sturgis Rally.

 

I followed the old highway which ran parallel with the interstate, making it much quieter. Eventually, I pulled into the KOA at Kennebec but it was so frigging expensive I could just as well have taken a room.

 

8 August - Kennebec – Chamberlain - 55 km

There was no change in either the weather or scenery, and I had no energy to deal with the boredom. As soon as I crossed the Missouri River, I called it a day and set up camp. It was a pleasant campsite on the banks of the river.

 

As it was still early, I cycled to the shop, did a bit of shopping, and had a long shower. I chatted to a few people in the campsite but as I felt tired (and it started drizzling) I retreated early to my tent.

 

I was rather snug and decided to stay another day. There was not much to do but relax and eat. I did at least cycle up the one and only hill to take a few pics of the river.

 

10 August - Chamberlain – Mitchell - 117 km

I felt energized and set off down the road and across the last of the Great Plains of the US. The plains are an enormous expanse of steppes, in some places nearly as desolate as in the frontier days.

 

Nothing much happened along the way except that at one of my fuel stops I met the local priest who bought me a cup of coffee. I guess there is not much for him to do in such a small place which, judging by the large signboards along the way, are rather conservative.

 

The advertising boards along the way indicated that the area was pro-war but anti-abortion! I don’t know how one justifies killing grown men, but God forbid one should choose to have an abortion!! I guess it is all right to kill people from a different race, culture and country.

 

I continued on until I reached Mitchell, a fair size town with no less than three campgrounds. I pitched my tent and then went in search of food in the village.

 

11 August - Mitchell – Sioux Falls - 115 km

I first had coffee with one of the other campers and then chatted for ages to two bikers travelling around the USA. Finally, I left and cycled through the village of Mitchell, which turned out to be quite interesting. It even had a “Corn Palace”!! I guess this is corn country - LOL.

 

All the murals were made of cob and inside they were selling all kinds of corn related things, including racks and racks of T-shirts and other curios. I had a quick bite to eat, and it was 11h00 by the time I left Mitchell.

 

I followed a side road past the small and interesting towns of Alexandria, Emery and Bridgewater. I love these small towns, as they all look like they are straight from a movie set, to such an extent that I’m sometimes quite surprised to find actual people living there.

 

12 August - Sioux Falls – Luverne - 60 km

At first I cycled around Sioux Falls. The city is surrounded by parks and a cycle path runs all the way around the city; what a pleasure it was. I stopped at the falls, took a few pics, and then continued along the road.

 

What a delightfully odd country this is! I have arrived in the Midwest, which is clearly not even close to the “Midwest”, no matter how I turn the map it remains more North / North East. A place where a pie refers to something sweet and dessert-like, instead of the savoury, meaty main meal I'm used to. A place where a scone is a biscuit, and not eaten with jam and cream (like I'm used to), but with egg and bacon or gravy. I love travelling!!

 

I felt lazy and stopped at the small village of Luverne, got myself a room as I needed the internet, and spent the rest of the day on the internet.

 

13 August - Luverne – Jackson - 113 km

It was the most glorious morning as I set off. There was hardly any wind, the sky was a brilliant blue and the temperature was perfect. I cycled past small villages with a population of approximately 200. All was well in the Midwest, the corn was high in the fields, the cattle were fat and the soybeans looked ready to be harvested…...One cannot ask for much more.

 

I also discovered that somewhere along the way I gained another hour - quite miraculously these things happen from time to time.

 

14 August - Jackson – Blue Earth - 84 km

I woke to a beautiful sunrise, packed my tent, had a cup of coffee, and ventured further east. The road led me past more cornfields, soybeans, pig farms and small villages.

 

Not much was happening along the road so I stopped and watched the dare-devil crop-sprayers at work. There was, however, such a strong smell of poison in the air that I only snapped a few pics and then moved upwind to watch for a few more minutes.

 

Once I reached the small village of Blue Earth, I decided to stay there for the night. It was not entirely necessary, but I jumped at the opportunity of a room. The next village was about another 40 miles away, which would have made it a very long day.

 

15 August - Blue Earth – Albert Lee - 75 km

It was one of those days that dragged on forever. I took one of the back roads and there was nothing of interest along the way. Saying that; there is always something happening along the way. On this day, a farmer stopped and gave me $5, saying I must have a cup of coffee. That was so sweet of him and I did exactly that!!

 

There is not much point in cycling if it is not enjoyable, so I pulled into a lovely campsite on the outskirts of Albert Lee.

 

16 August - Albert Lee – Preston - 115 km

I felt more energetic and it was an enjoyable day on the road. The weather was perfect and hardly any wind to speak of. I was on a dirt road through farmlands for most of the day and was very impressed by the farming activities; it all was so neat and well-organized. The homesteads all looked well-maintained and the fields immaculate and well-tended.

 

Minnesota is a rather “roomy” state and I hardly saw anyone, except for a few small villages along the way. In Preston, I discovered that one can camp at the fairground for a reasonable price (sometimes it is even free).

 

I did my usual shopping for food and beer and set up tent. I hardly ever cook in this country as it is very convenient to get food from the supermarket.

 

17 August - Preston – La Crosse - 106 km

I waited, but no one came to collect my camping fee. I discovered a cycle path which ran all the way from Preston to Houston. It was a lovely path that followed the Root River.  Again it ran through the quaintest of villages and I was happy for a change of scenery.

 

Along the way, I met Alex and Jill, a wonderful couple, out for the weekend with their 2-year old son, Lennon. They cycled from La Crosse to Lanesboro, camped there and were on their way back home when I met them. They invited me to camp in their garden for the night and what a great time I had. Jill made a lovely supper and we had a beer or two. I also did my laundry and had a real good shower.

 

18 August - La Crosse – Norwalk - 70 km

All good things come to an end and after a lovely breakfast I was on my way again. I received loads of information from Alex and Jill, and after I visited the outdoor store and computer shop, it was nearly midday by the time I cycled out of town.

 

I soon found the bike path which ran all the way to Reedsburg. It was an interesting trail as, for the most part, it followed the old railway line, now converted into a bike path. Building the railway line through the Wisconsin hills must have been quite a task. Low laying areas were filled in and tunnels dug through the hills, making it a very nice even 3-degree grade.

 

The most extraordinary thing was that the tunnels were real cold inside. To such an extent that condensation was flowing out of the tunnel like smoke! It was a real scary and spooky tunnel as it was long and pitch dark (without being able to see the light at the other end). Water dripped down from the ceiling and bats skirted around my head…..I was pleased to get out on the other side.

 

Shortly after the tunnel, I cycled into the small (and I mean small) village of Norwalk. There I found free camping in the village park with toilets, water and showers.

 

Lightning and thunder made me take cover and I pitched my tent under the covered area in the park. After a shower, I felt like something sweet and walked across the road to a small shop selling milkshakes. Unfortunately, Lisa was closing up just as I got there and instead she invited me for a beer at the local pub. It turned out to be a rather interesting evening!!

 

19 - 21 August - Norwalk – Reedsburg - 73 km

Today the tunnels were not as long and scary. I found the large doors intriguing and read that double doors were built to seal in warmer temperatures during cold weather (and keep the snow out). Tunnel watchmen were hired to open and close the doors.

 

It was an easy and relaxing ride to Reedsburg. I spotted a computer shop and found myself a room close by. I was, however, too late for the computer shop.

 

The following day I took the laptop in to see if they could sort out Skype (which stopped working). While they worked on the computer I took my sleeping bag to the laundry for its yearly wash!!! It is not the washing, but the drying that takes most of the time.

 

Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do about Skype; it looks like I will have to buy a new laptop again.

 

On the morning of the 21st I woke to bucketing rain. I waited a while but it never lit up. At midday, I decided to stay another day and relaxed in front of the TV.

 

22 August - Reedsburg – De Forest KOA - 80 km

It turned out a very interesting day. My first stop was at the Reedsburg Pioneer Village. The Pioneer Log Village is a representation of early Reedsburg and the immediate Sauk County area. It consists of nine original log cabins, some having been moved intact from the surrounding area and others rebuilt from the original logs. Three pioneer homes, an 1873 one-room school, a 1873 log church, a general store and post office, a library and the blacksmith shop, make up the village. Unfortunately, the buildings were closed due to the heat!! Or, at least, that is what they said. It was only 25ᵒC, but I must admit that it was incredibly humid.

 

My next stop was at beautiful Devil’s Lake. Not only does it have a beautiful lake but it is also home to some stunning rock outcrops. I read that “Devil's Lake State Park’s bluffs are part of the Baraboo Range, which scientists believe were formed 1.6 billion years ago, making them one of the most ancient rock outcrops in North America.”

 

I kept crossing the “Ice Age Trail,” a thousand-mile footpath, entirely within Wisconsin. It is said that more than 12 000 years ago, an immense flow of glacial ice formed the landscape here. The glacier retreated and left behind a variety of unique landscape features.

 

Next, I arrived at the Merrimac Ferry, across Lake Wisconsin. Nowadays, it is more of a tourist attraction than anything else. It is more a barge than a ferry as it gets pulled across the river by cables.

 

Once on the other side, I continued on past the small towns of Lodi and Dane. Just past Dane a friendly man stopped and offered to take my panniers to my next destination; how very kind of him.

 

It was incredibly humid as I pitched my tent at De Forest. Unfortunately, I soon had to retreat into the tent to avoid the biting things. Although hot it was fun to lie in the tent watching the fireflies dart around the tent.

 

I can, for the life of me, not imagine winter in Wisconsin. I understand that the average temperature for December, January and February is around 5F!!! Hard to believe that right now it is hot and humid and it looks very tropical.

 

23 August - De Forest – Waukesha - 135 km

I took my time in packing up and cycled along back roads past houses displaying their produce for sale on the pavement…. it all looked rather nice.

 

It was an easy and interesting day on the road, as soon I found myself on a bike path which led me all the way to Waukesha. It was already late by the time I got to Waukesha; I could not find any campground and the only motels were way on the other side of town.

 

24 August - Waukesha – Muskegon - 22 km (ferry)

It was a short ride, partly on a bike path, to the ferry terminal at Milwaukee. I met Bob, another cyclist, along the way and he accompanied me all the way to the ferry terminal. I was just in time to board the ferry, which came at a hefty $100 fee. It was, however, very comfortable and fast - two hours later we arrived at Muskegon, Michigan. By that time, I was too lazy to continue and found myself a room for the night.

 

25 August - Muskegon – Holland - 50 km

It was another short day on the road; it rained for most of the day but it cleared towards the end of the day. I took a room at a motel in Holland as I wanted to reload the map on the Garmin, and for that I needed not only an internet connection, but a fast internet connection. Something went wrong, and once switched on the screen just remained blank.

 

The town of Holland came as a bit of a surprise as it was truly a small Holland, complete with windmills and wooden shoes!  They were even selling apple strudel at the supermarket.

 

26 August - Holland – Covert - 78 km

It rained for most of the day and I was plain miserable. Fortunately, it was not cold and once the thunder and lightning started I took cover in a roadside shop. With the worst over, I set off again but called it a day when I spotted a KOA campsite in Covert.

 

27 August - Covert – Vicksburg - 80 km

I slept well and it was after 8h00 by the time I woke up. I slowly packed up, had some coffee from a small store at the campsite, and it was 10h30 by the time I cycled out of there.

 

It was time to cut across the state of Michigan towards Lake Erie. There was no clear road heading across the state, so I zigzagged through farmlands on country roads. Just before crossing the border into Ohio I met Sharon Wimple who was running for state representative and I wished her well in the elections. Before I left she put a few dollars in my hand and told me to go have a meal. This is the second time this has happened; I must be getting thin… ha-ha.

 

Eventually, I arrived at Vicksburg with a campground on the outskirts of town. It was a rather costly site, but a friendly guy invited me to share his site. He had a friend who also pulled his van there for the night and we made a nice fire and sat around having a few beers. My hosts (unfortunately) proceeded to get completely pissed and I went off to my tent early. While laying there I could hear them chatting away, getting more and more pissed as the hours went by. I fell asleep but woke in the middle of the night with one of them sitting outside my tent telling me how much he liked me and suggested that he lay down next to me!!  I told him to fuck off, that he was crazy and that it was in the middle of the night. I have never seen a drunken man scuttle so fast!

 

28 August - Vicksburg – Jonesville - 93 km

It was another day of zigzagging through farmlands. I preferred cycling through the small towns as they are quite interesting. There was not much I could do as the roads running through the villages were narrow and busy, and the lack of a shoulder made it very uncomfortable.

 

As I cycled into Jonesville I spotted a roadside motel, and as they were very reasonably priced I took a room and updated my photos and journal while watching TV.

 

29 August - Jonesville – Twin Acres Campground Swanton - 115 km

Nothing much happened along the way and I was happy to find a trail through the forest just for a change of scenery. As soon as I crossed the border into Ohio I was back amidst the corn fields and the customary red barns. The day dragged on but, finally, I arrived at Swanton, bought some food in the village and then cycled off to the campsite. It was Labor Day weekend and the campsite was chock-a-block full. Fortunately, they had space for a small tent.

 

30 - 31 August - Swanton – Stony Ride KOA - 33 km

I did not feel like cycling and was stuck on the outskirts of the camp and (although nice) the site had no water, electricity or Wi-Fi. I packed up and cycled the short distance to Stony Ride.

 

Being Labor Day weekend, everything was again chock-a-block full (and nearly double the normal price). I decided to lay low and wait for the storm to pass before continuing.

 

Times like these always give opportunity to haul out the macro lens. What I like about this lens (Canon Macro 100 mm 1:2.8 L) is that when I get the focus right I can zoom in and crop to my heart’s content without losing detail.

 

1 - 2 September - Stony Ride – Norwalk - 92 km

I found a cycle path that followed the old original railroad between New York and Chicago. I cycled past the interesting villages of Elmore, Lindsey, Fremont, Clyde, and Bellevue and finally landed up in the little town of Norwalk.

 

I also stayed in Norwalk the following day as the weather report predicted heavy storms. Nothing, however, came of the bad weather except for a light drizzle.

 

3 September - Norwalk – Motel 6, Middleburg Heights - 77 km

I woke to a beautiful morning and it was good to be on the road again. It felt like each and every dog in the district wanted a piece of me today, especially the little ones, and they are the most dangerous!   I did not go very far as I soon reached the outskirts of Cleveland. As I didn’t want to stay in the city I took a room at Motel 6.

 

4 September - Motel 6 – Geneva state park - 95 km

It was an interesting ride through the city of Cleveland. As I cycled into the city centre, I passed underneath the Hope Memorial Bridge with its “Guardians of Traffic”.  Each of the eight guardians carved on the bridge pylons holds a different vehicle in his hand. Apparently they represent the history of ground transport — from a stagecoach, covered wagon and hay rack, to a 1930’s-era automobile and four types of trucks. In the process, I also got a wonderful view of the city itself.

 

I followed Lakeshore Road that was in a very poor condition (except for a bit through the well-off areas) and going was a bit slow. Fortunately, I was soon out of the city and riding along Lake Erie. I pitched my tent at Geneva State Park - this time I paid for my own site, no more sharing!!

 

5 September - Geneva State Park – Erie - 95 km

The weather was stunning as I set off along Lake Erie. No sooner was I on the road or I crossed the state border into the state of Pennsylvania. The state was founded in 1681 as a Quaker Commonwealth.

 

In the town of Erie, I called it a day and camped at a campsite right on the water. It was a lovely spot but that night a storm came in and I feared that my tent was not going to withstand the high wind. I crawled out into the rain, pegged in the guy ropes as best I could, and waited for the storm to pass. Fortunately, it passed quickly although it rained throughout the night.

 

6 September - Erie – Dunkirk - 87 km

The rained passed and again it was a beautiful day on the road. It was too far to cycle to the falls in one day, so I decided to rather make it two short days. It was, therefore, an easy ride to Dunkirk through the vineyards.  And just like that I left Pennsylvania and crossed the state border into the state of New York!!

 

7 - 10 September - Dunkirk – Buffalo - 87 km

It was a beautiful day again, the sky was blue and there was no wind to speak of. I did not get very far as I spent most of the day talking to people I met along the way.

 

Along the way, I passed a large wooden statue of a Native American. I read that (sadly) only about 1% of the current American population is Native American.  This is even less than Asian Americans, Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans. It somehow does not sound right to me, but that is what I read.

 

Just outside Buffalo I spotted a very professional looking bike shop and decided to take my bike for a much needed service. I found myself a room and checked in.

 

The next morning I was off to the bike shop, just to find that they were closed on a Monday!!  In the meantime, I ordered myself the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, something I have been eyeing for a long time and could, therefore, not leave my abode until it arrived.

 

The following morning I was off to the bike shop and left my sad-looking bike in their capable hands. The bike was going to take a few days and not just one as I thought. Seeing that I had to wait for the lens to be delivered, I could just as well do the whole lot in one go.

 

11 - 14 September - Buffalo – Niagara Falls - 50 km

I packed my bike and cycled along the river to Niagara Falls. It was quite an amazing site - as I got closer the water started flowing faster and I could see “smoke” rising in the distance. I was surprised by the many features of the falls. First, it was not a “waterfall type” area. Nothing lead up to the falls, it was as if the earth just opened up and the water spilled over the precipice to the river below.

 

I found a nice hostel and stayed for three nights.

 

15 September - Niagara Falls – Albion - 88 km

It was time to continue my journey across the country to the east coast. My bike was newly serviced and ran like new (albeit $550 later). My new lens was on my camera, the sun was shining, and there was a slight tail wind. Life was good!

 

16 September - Albion – Newark - 117 km

It was another day along the canal; I met interesting people and watched boats cruising up the canal. It looked very nice and made me want to do the same. The Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, is a waterway running 363 miles from Albany, New York (Hudson River) to Buffalo, New York (Lake Erie) allowing for a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

 

17 September - Newark – De Witte - 105 km

The Erie Canal has an interesting history. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the lack of an efficient and safe transportation network kept populations (and trade) largely confined to coastal areas. Explorers had long searched for a water route to the west. In 1807, Jesse Hawley, a prisoner in the Canandaigua Jail, wrote a series of essays proposing a waterway from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. He described in great detail the route, costs, and benefits of what would become the Erie Canal. 

 

It was another pleasant day along the canal, squirrels darted across the path, grey herons waded in the shallows and I passed numerous old locks along the way.

 

18 September - De Witt – Rome - 60 km

I did not feel like cycling and had a short day. It was lovely, as always, along the trail with beautiful views of the woods and the canal.

 

19 September - Rome – St Johnsville - 87 km

I cycled along the trail passing many locks, some old and some still operating. I watched as they let boats through and chatted to the operator for a while. In St. Johnsville I camped at the Marina - a nice place on the canal.

 

20 September - St Johnsville – Schenectady - 87 km

Again I felt lazy and was slow in packing up. I cycled along and soon stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast. I followed the canal, sometimes flush next to it and sometimes further away.

 

Although it was a beautiful day, I again did not feel like cycling and stopped early in Schenectady. The Imperial Motel was a real dump and not cheap but there was no other option, so I took the room.

 

21 September - Schenectady – Waterford - 40 km

It was a short ride to the end of the Erie Canal Trail; I could not make up my mind what to do next. I could follow the Hudson River north to see some of the fall colours, or I could head straight to Boston and fly out from there.  I was a week or three too early to see the leaves change colour and I was not sure that the detour north would be worth the effort.

 

I found myself a room with internet and had a good look at the map before deciding what to do next.

 

22 September - Waterford – Pittsfield - 76 km

Not much happened along the way, except that I was not all too energetic. The best thing was that I picked up $20 along the way and put it towards a room at the Berkshire Inn, which made for a cheap room at the end of the day.

 

23 September - Pittsfield – Northampton - 70 km

I was not much in the mood for cycling. There was, however, not much I could do but load up the bike and head in the direction of Boston. I always seem to feel a bit lethargic when it comes to the end of a long ride. At the end of the day, I pulled into the Knight Inn, just outside of town and just off the cycle path.

 

24 September - Northampton – Worcester - 105 km

It was a slow day on the road as it was slightly uphill all day, making for rather slow going. It was, however, still beautiful as the fall colours were starting to show themselves. I crept up the hills at a rather slow pace and it was already late by the time I reached Worcester.

 

25 - 30 September - Worcester – Boston - 70 km

It was a much easier day than the previous day and it was slightly downhill into Boston. I sped past small villages and trees in full autumn colours, down cycle paths and right into the heart of Boston. I soon found the hostel I had in mind, which was located in Everett and on the outskirts of the city limits. Although situated on the outskirts, there was a shuttle to the nearest station which made it very convenient.

 

I was happy to reach Boston as it marked the end of my trip through the Americas. It was now time to relax, put my feet up, and see if I could get a flight to another part of the world. Hopefully, to a place where it will be nice and warm.

 

I spent the following day in Boston doing absolutely nothing. I took a very short walk to the local shopping plaza to look for a large and cheap bag, in which I could pack all my belongings (except the bike, of course).

 

I heard rumors that one can get a bike-box at the airport, but I phoned two airlines and the Boston airport, none of whom had boxes for sale. I thought it a bit risky to buy a ticket, cycle to the airport and then find that there was no bike box to be had.

 

I could also not locate a nearby bicycle shop which could box it for me. Eventually, I found Back Bay Cycles, a little further afield, and left the bike in their capable hands for me to box.

 

As always, the longer I stayed, the more I liked the city. Boston is much older than I had expected, founded in 1630 by the English, it is also the place where, between 1765 and 1783, the citizens revolted against the British. Fed up with the high taxes levied by Britain, the Boston Tea Party was formed. I found this all very interesting.

 

Steve, the owner of the hostel, offered to give me a ride to the bike shop, pick up the bike and bring it back to the hostel. He also offered (can you believe this?) to get up at 4h00 and take me to the airport, so I could be in time for my 6h00 flight to Jamaica. I was immensely grateful for his generosity as it is always a hassle to get me and my bike to the airport.  

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