Snowcovered mountains & stormy desert: in Utah now

What has happened in the last couple of days?

After my restday in Montrose, I rode to Ridgway which is a nice little town in a valley between a lot of 14000er mountains. I stayed with Wyndham there and got amazing views on the snowcovered mountain-peaks from his house. Ridgway also has hot springs and Wyndham offered to take me there, but I was too lazy. The thing on a bike trip is that as soon as I step off my bike for the day, I don’t want to move anymore – it’s not necessarily about being tired, but it’s just such a good feeling to have arrived for the day that I don’t want to get up anymore. That’s what I really like about my situation now: I can take my time and actually just stay at a place for a day or two without having the pressure to bike again. Of course, I still keep going, but it’s at a slower pace than before and it’s more relaxing. Nevertheless, I did leave the house to get a pot for the stove I had bought in Montrose. So far, I haven’t been carrying a stove with me, because I usually just made sandwiches or stayed at people’s houses where I was able to cook and I didn’t want to carry a stove around without using it. But since I probably don’t have a lot of places to stay in the coming week(s) and will be camping a lot, I decided it was time to get one. In Ridgway, I found a light pot for 1$ at the local thrift-shop – a pretty good deal and now I can cook up some pasta while camping in the desert and I’m looking forward to that experience.

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Ridgway, Colorado

The next day offered another scenic pass for me to cross – the Dallas Divide. It’s about 9000ft (2800m) and was a nice climb towards the snow. A lot of people from Colorado had been telling me that the fall is one of the best times to be in the mountains, because you get to see snowcovered peaks, it’s not that cold yet and also the trees turn into bright orange/yellow colours. I think I might have been a week or so too early for that, but some trees did have these colours already and it was a nice contrast to the white of the snow and the blue sky. On my way up to the pass, a racing cyclist was passing me and started talking to me. I took the opportunity to ask her if she would mind taking a picture of me climbing the mountain – it’s one of my favorite pictures so far, because I obviously cannot take pictures of myself riding and the background is just really cool. The rest of the day was pretty tough with a constant and steep climb up to the little ski-town of Telluride. It’s a really expensive ski area and I would compare it to St. Moritz or Aspen – just not as big. I went there, because I did have a warmshowers-host, but when I got there he told me he couldn’t host me, because his wife said they have had to many cylcists stay there in the past – it wouldn’t have been a problem if he would have told me earlier, but now I had done a 8km detour to get to town and the only option was a pretty expensive campground (my first bad warmshowers experience!). It was still fairly early and I decided to try my luck with couchsurfing since I had seen that there were a few couchsurfers in town. Usually, the reply-rate with couchsurfing is really bad and you either never hear back from them or pretty late. But I got really lucky and had a positive reply from Cameron within 5 minutes of sending my request. He let me stay in his condo, I got my own bedroom with a nice view on the mountains and we had interesting conversations. He told me about the free gondola up the mountain and although I was pretty tired I decided to go and it was a good decision! Cameron also told me I should stay more than one night in Telluride because it’s such a nice hiking spot, but I had to keep moving! It was Wednesday and by the end of the week they were expecting heavy snowfall and I still had to cross one big pass coming out of Telluride.

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Climbing up to Dallas Divide

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Made it 🙂

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Impressions from the climb to Telluride – the rocks now started having a bright red to them

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Nice view from the top of the mountain after the gondola-ride

That pass, called the Lizard Head Pass and 10222ft (3115m) high, was waiting for me the next morning. It was probably the hardest climb so far, since it was not only high up, but it did have a lot of steep grades in it (up to 8%), was long (20km) and there were really strong winds. I managed to get up there in a good time though and as usual: reaching the summit of a pass is one of the best feelings! Usually one of the reasons is because you have a long and nice downhill ahead, but this time the downhill was actually really tough. Because of a cold-front moving in from the Pacific, there were severe winds blowing from south-westerly directions – right in my face. I actually had to pedal going downhill to even go a little over 16km/h. That was pretty frustrating and it ended up being a long day to get to my destination in Dolores. On my descent from Lizard Head Pass, I ran into two cyclists from Arizona – Mark and Sandy. They are on their way from San Diego to the East Coast and we exchanged tips about the upcoming routes for each direction. I got some really valuable information about where to get water in the desert in Utah and since I had been worried about that for the past couple of days, I am more relaxed now and feel good about it. As I was finally getting into Dolores, I was pretty determined to ask my warmshowers-host there if I could take a day off, because I was just really tired. When I got to David and Belinda’s house a little outside of town, they had two friends from California, Bill and John, over and we spent a great evening talking about politics in Germany and the US while having some local beer. I decided that I’d push on one more day before having a restday since although there was a wind-warning in effect I was hoping to have tailwinds and it was at least supposed to be sunny.

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A couple of bright yellow trees on the way to Lizard Head

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Great views climbing up the pass

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Mark and Sandy from Arizona on their way to the East Coast

The next morning started with a trip to the local bike-shop. Dolores has the last bike-shop for a few hundred miles and after getting only my front-tire replaced in Pueblo, I wanted a new rear tire aswell. Nicolas, the owner, was a really cool guy and actually fixed a lot of things on my bike – the only bad experience on this trip so far have been the bike shops and I have the feeling that after each visit, my bike was in worse shape than before (I’m excluding the Newton Bike Shop, the bike shop in Summit and in Dolores from this generalization!). The downside of this repair session friday morning was the fact that I didn’t get to leave Dolores until 1PM and I had 100km ahead and the winds only got stronger during the day. The first 60km were not bad – I mostly had strong tailwinds and the change in scenery was really cool. To my right, I could still see the high mountains in the east and to my left, where I was eventually heading I started seeing bushes and red sand – the first signs that I was entering Utah and the desert! About 40km before Monticello, my destination for the day, things changed since I was turning west and the winds with gusts of up to 80km/h were coming at me from the front and side. I had never biked in such strong winds and it was definitely not a pleasure. Every truck that was passing me pulled me to the side and when it was gone, I got hit by another gust and almost fell off my bike. Also, the barometric-future of my bike-computer was not working properly due to the strong winds and was showing -15% grades when I was going uphill – or at least I think I was going uphill…maybe it was just the wind. It was crazy! 13km into this 40km odyssey, I had one highlight coming up: I crossed the Utah state border. I tried to do my usual routine of taking a picture of myself and the bike infront of the state-sign, but it was pretty complicated since my camera got blown away all the time. Finally, I got it secured with some heavy rocks and got a decent picture. And I’m actually sad I only got two more of these state-sign pictures left – it’s always great to cross into a new state. Somehow, I managed to get the last 27km done which took me a long time and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I would have a nice place to stay and take a restday. Sandstorms were all around me and I was so glad to arrive at Brian’s place in Monticello at about 6pm. Brian is an amazing warmshowers host and one of the very few in this area of the country. He cooked a delicious dinner, we had great conversations and I got to rest after a couple of really hard days. I also had the feeling I was getting a little bit sick, so now I’m recovered and ready to tackle the next tasks. On my restday, I didn’t do anything but chill and eat – the usual! In the evening, two other cyclists, Tony and Tim, came by and we had a good evening sharing stories and tips. Tony lives in Canada and has many years of cycling experience all over the world and it was fun to listen to his crazy lion- and elephant stories from Africa. Tim is 63 and has just discovered his love for touring cycling last year and said he wants to do as many trips as he can while he is still able to do it. This time, he came down from his hometown in Seattle and is actually going the same way as I am for the next week or so and I hope we’ll meet up again since it was really fun talking to him.

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Sandstorms covering up the sky and sun

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Utah!

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Cyclist get-togethet at Brian’s place in Monticello

I think that’s all there is to say about the last couple of days, but I do have two more funny/random encounters from the way:
1. The stop-sign holders have become my best friends on this journey. I always feel so bad for them, because it seems like the most boring job in the world, but it also fascinates me that they are in a good mood and excited to talk to me about my trip. These guys stand at a construction site in the middle of nowhere all day holding a sign in there hand – one side is a ‘stop’-sign, the other one says “slow”. They just have to turn it every couple of minutes for the one-lane-road that’s coming up. Since I’ve been cycling on about 5000km I’ve talked to probably 20 or more of those guys. This week, there was a lady holding a stop-sign close to Telluride and we talked for a bit when I noticed her pretty thick accent which appeared to be German. And it was indeed. She was from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany and has been living in Colorado for 27 years now. It was a nice change to talk to someone in German again and it turned out that she had actually crossed the US on her bike before. It could have been a nice conversation, but then she got the order to turn her sign around and that meant I had to ‘slowly’ move on.

2. On my way up the Lizard Head Pass, I took a break about 5km from the summit. My map told me to do so in order to get some water and snacks before hitting the final stage of the climb. As I was standing there eating a sandwich and drinking some water, a huge truck stopped behind me and the guy stepped outside and came towards me. It was Tucker the Trucker (if the little name-tag saying “Tucker” on his shirt wasn’t a joke). He was a big old guy and was interested in what I was doing, but also worried about me not having enough to eat for my trip. Although I told him I had plenty of food with me, he insisted on giving me some of his food. He disappeared in the his truck-cabin for a little bit and came out with about 5 small packages of smoked oysters and some smoked salami-sausage. What a nice gesture and I still have them in my bag for bad times – then I’ll be thankful for Tucker the Trucker! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture with him, only of his truck.

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Tucker taking off after donating a bunch of food

Alright, that was it for the week. I usually would have waited another day or two with another blog, but I don’t know when I will have internet again to write on here and upload pictures.
A short outlook: today I’m just going about 35km to the last town there is before the desert. After that, I’ll have a stretch of about 200km without any towns. There are two opportunities to fill up water and one little gas station to get some food on the way though and since the temperatures are really nice right now (almost freezing at night, but about 15 degrees C during the day), it shouldn’t be a problem and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next!

Take care and don’t forget to donate if you are reading this blog and enjoying it – Click here 😉 ,

Freddy

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Farmer Freddy in the Rocky Mountains

A lot of things have happened since my last blog-post and the people who follow my facebook-page (www.facebook.com/c2c13) have seen some pictures already, but I’m going to sum up the events of the last week.

The first big step was reaching the 4000km-mark which meant that I had reached 50% of my trip (probably more since it’s going to be a bit less than 8000km). The moment itself was not that special though, since it was a wet and cloudy morning on my way to Pueblo. Reaching Pueblo was still a great feeling. Ever since I had started planning this trip, Pueblo was an important step. I had set myself the goal of reaching it by the middle of September in order to avoid possible snowstorms in the mountains. I accomplished this goal by getting there on September 16th. Also, it definitely feels like I’m getting really close to finishing my trip which is weird since I still have thousands of kms to ride. But there are so many highlights coming up in the remaining states that I have something to look forward to pretty much every day. It is crazy, but I ‘only’ have about 26 days of cycling left until I will get to the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. Since my flight back is on November 15th and I want to get to San Francisco around November 9th, I now am in the luxurious position of being able to take my time, take days off when I’m in a nice area or the weather is bad – until now I was on a pretty tight schedule.

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Time to celebrate – KM 4000

The ride to Pueblo itself was unfortunately not as great as I had thought. I was on a busy highway and since there were so many clouds, I didn’t get to see the Rockies yet. In Pueblo, I stayed with Monty, a couchsurfer, and had two relaxed days. A friend I met on my exchange in Barcelona, Megan, came down from Boulder to hang out for the day and it was nice to see a familiar person again for the first time in several weeks/moths. I also got my bike checked at the local shop and was really looking forward to the mountains.

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Nice park and weather in Pueblo

From Pueblo, I had a fairly easy day to Canon City, but the weather was great and so I did get to see the mountains for the first time and it was amazing. Riding through this desertlike area with big mountains in the background and thinking about where I had started over a month ago was great. In Canon City I stayed with Nic and Leslie. It is a cool story how I got to stay with them and again shows the hospitality of the people and the network you start to build on a trip like this. The two cyclists that stayed at the church with me where I wrote my last blog entry, Jason and Ryan, were sitting infront of the supermarket in Canon City eating a sandwich when Nic and Leslie came up to them and talked for a while. After a bit, they just told them to come to their house to shower and spend the night. So when I was at the church with them a week ago or so and told them I was going through Canon City, they told me I might be able to spend the night at this family’s house. They gave me their email-address and a day later Nic replied telling me I was more than welcome to stay. So instead of staying at a campground, I got to spend a night inside not worrying about thunderstorms and resting for my first big climb the next morning.

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On my way to Canon City

Out of Canon City, I had the first 12km climb and I indeed was in the mountains and will not really leave them until I reach the Pacific. The scenery was beautiful – blue sky, red rocks, creeks, rivers and snow-covered mountains in the distance. It’s actually really hard to pick a few pictures for this blog that capture the views, but I guess there needs to be some kind of incentive to still do a trip like this yourself rather than just reading blogs ;). My day ended in Salida which was the gateway to my highest pass of the trip, Monarch Pass. In Salida, I met this other cyclist from Basque/Spain, Lorenzo. He has been on his bike for 16 years (!!!). When he was 35, he quit his job as a high school teacher and decided to do a trip for not more than 18 months – and he is still on his bike. Every 5 years he goes back to Spain to visit family and friends, but he lives on his bike the rest of the time. He has been to every continent (except Antarctica) multiple times and is on his way from Canada to Mexico right now. It’s just unbelievable and talking to him made me feel like I was just on a quick ride to get some groceries or something. It was really interesting and inspiring to listen to all of his stories – but I don’t think I would ever be able to do that kind of thing. Still another great encounter on the way.

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Impressions from the ride to Salida

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Lorenzo, the crazy Basque who has been biking around the world for 16 years

Then the big day had arrived – Monarch Pass was waiting for me. I had never biked up higher than 2400m before and I think the highest mountain I had ever been on before was 3200m. And this pass was up on 3447m – and I had to ride my bike up there. From Salida it was 40km uphill. The serious climb was about 20km with an average grade of 5%. It’s hard to describe the challenge of riding up a pass on a bicycle to people who haven’t done it before. It’s as if you would go to the gym, get on one of those spinning-bikes, turn it to the highest resistance level and pedal for 4 hours straight. I do like it though, because it is really challenging and you always have to set yourself new goals. You also need to take frequent breaks so you don’t get sick of the altitude. Fortunately, I was feeling great that day, the weather was amazing and I really enjoyed the climb. Finally reaching the pass was probably the biggest moment on this trip so far. I chilled in the restaurant on the pass for a while and started to get a headache – thin air up there! So I decided that it was time for the descent – and that’s when you realize how much you had been climbing. You can just sit on your bike, not pedal and go down the mountain for about 20km at a high speed. I used the descent to relax and just enjoy the beautiful views.

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After about 4 hours of climbing, I reached the hightes point of my tour at 3447m

After the descent, I still had about 50km to go to my destination for the day, Gunnison. It was pretty easy though and when I got there, the “Oktoberfest” was waiting for me. The little town’s bank had organized an Oktoberfest with a little band playing in Lederhosen, lots of German food (at least what they thought was German and catered by the local pizza-place) and beer (not German unfortunately). It was a nice atmosphere and a great way to end this day – Sauerkraut, Bratwurst and a Bretzel with mustard for free, what more could one ask for?!

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Oktoberfest in Gunnison with free “German” food

From Gunnison I took Highway 50 all the way to Montrose, where I am right now. It was another 105km and after the hard day before, I was feeling my legs a little bit and there were still some climbs – but ‘only’ up to 2500m. It was another great ride with beautiful views on the big lake and the cliffs that were bright red with the sun reflecting on them. About 35km out of Gunnison, I spotted 2 other cyclists going the same direction as me just a few hundred meters infront. I started speeding up, caught up with them and rang the bell. Before I said anything, the guy just goes: “Freddy?!”. We rode together for a bit and talked and it turns out that Paul and his wife were on their honeymoon crossing the US and were staying at the same family – that’s how they knew my name.

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There have been worse picknick-spots

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Randomly running into Paul and his wife on highway 50

All three of us took a day off here in Montrose, because the weather was really bad today and it’s a great place to relax, but also work! We are staying at John and Emily’s house and they just moved down here from Oregon and started a little organic farm. So this morning, John took us with him to help him with the morning-chores. We fed the pigs, chickens, turkeys and got to milk the goats! I did not expect to become a farmer on this trip, but it was actually a lot of fun and maybe it is a new career-option. (It actually wasn’t my first experience as a farmer though: Earlier that week, in Ordway, I stayed with Gillian who owns a farm and lets cyclists stay at her place. The one thing she asks for in return is that they work for 15 minutes on her farm. So instead of paying money, I worked on the field for about 15 minutes and it was a nice feeling to at least give back a little bit and not just be a guest and receive.)

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Farmer Freddy milking the goat

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John feeding the pigs

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The view from the backyard

John and Emily also let us have another great experience: Montrose is really close to the Black Canyon National Park, but it still is 20km uphill and therefore not that great to do on a bike especially not in the rain. We talked about it and said that we might not do it because of the weather and John just goes: “Well just take a car – we have two anyways”. So it was time for a little roadtrip. Going up the steep roads, I was glad not to have done it on my bike. Especially since as soon as we got to the Canyon, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. Lightning and thunder everywhere and it was nice to be in a car. Unforunately we didn’t have the best views, but it was still impressive (the canyon is about 700m deep and people say it’s actually nicer than the Grand Canyon – that’s debatable I guess).

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison – 700m drop!

So, this was the weekly update again. By the end of this week, I will probably cross the border to Utah and then it’s only one state before getting to California. Utah is going to be a challenge, because of the mountains, the desert and the distance between places to get water. But I’m looking forward to it and just loving this adventure!

Speaking of challenges: I noticed that I have (almost) caught up to the donations with a bit over 50%. So, if you are following my blog and enjoying it and have a couple of Euros to spare, I’d appreciate if you would donate on http://www.donare.de/Coast-to-Coast-2013 for Make-a-Wish Germany!

Take care,
Freddy

Kansas: rain showers, warm showers, bike showers

After 8 days I left Kansas today and crossed the border to Colorado. Time to take a look at what this state had to offer.

First about the terrain:
To my surprise there were hills in eastern Kansas. Everyone had been telling me how flat Kansas was, but the truth is: it’s not flat until about halfway through. In the east, they have the so-called Flint Hills. They are not real hills with short climbs of 1%-3% but people in Kansas actually refer to them as mountains, but I think they just do that because they want to have some sort of different terrain than the plains in the west. Anyways, although they weren’t steep, the first days here were still tough, because it was really hot and the headwinds kicked in. After Newton, which is pretty much in the center of Kansas, it really did get flat. It’s amazing, because there literally is nothing around and you can see miles and miles ahead. It might sound boring, but it is also fascinating to really not see anything but fields and powerlines for a couple of hours. Of course this is also a challenge, because at times there was not a single house for 20km and you definitely need to make sure to carry enough water and also hope that a thunderstorm doesn’t begin when you are in the middle of nowhere – so far it has worked out.

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Not a whole lot around – this picture sums up Kansas’ scenery

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Nice surprise: an exotic animal farm with zebras and camels

Because of the heat and the winds, I actually did a couple of nightrides. I started at 4 AM and it was a great experience. There was no traffic, no wind and no heat. And the best part were the sunrises. They were simply amazing! The only downside was that I was riding away from them and always had to look back to watch them, but since a car came only about every 20 minutes, it didn’t really matter. There was one scary incidence though: I passed one farm at 5.30AM and it was still pitchblack when a dog started barking and I saw that it was a huge one that wasn’t on a leash and started chasing me. Of course I was an easy target for him, since I had so many lights on me and was the only glowing thing in the dark. But fortunately I was too fast for him and after a while he gave up – at least I think so…I couldn’t see anything.
Another fun thing about the nightriding was the fact that I had no idea how far I had gone already. I don’t have light on my bike-computer and so I just pedaled and pedaled and when I finally had sunlight, it was a nice surprise to see how far I had come. You also invent a lot of games to not get bored, so I started guessing the distance I had travelled and then checked with my flashlight if I was right – I got better at it! (other “fun” games in the Plains include ‘staying on the white strip on the right side of the road’ and ‘estimating how many kms will pass until you see the next house/car’).

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Beautiful sunrise in Kansas

There is not really more to say about the terrain or scenery in Kansas, so I’m gonna explain my headline for this blog entry.

Rain showers:
For the last couple of days, the weather forecast has been pretty bad with thunderstorms, rain and colder temperatures. So far I have been lucky with the thunderstorms, but it is still not the best feeling to see dark clouds all around you when you know the next house is probably an hour away from you. On my way to Ness City, I had my rainiest day so far. I was riding my bike for 4 hours in pouring rain and was soaking wet when I got into town. It didn’t take me a long time to decide that it was time for my first motel-night on this trip. I definitely didn’t feel like camping in my tent and being rained on all night. It was a good decision and I watched the Weather Channel pretty much all afternoon. That’s when I heard about the flash floods in Colorado and that more storms were coming up – so I really hope it’s gonna stay relatively dry here. I also walked around the town a little bit – that’s an exaggeration when you know that there are about 3 streets in the town. But it actually has a tourist attraction or at least claims to have one: the ‘skyscraper of the plains’. It’s an old bank building and after all is a 2- or maybe 3-story house – I guess the term skyscraper is defined differently in the Plains.

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Fort Larned

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The skyscraper of the Plains in Ness City

Warm showers:
As you guys might know, there is this organization called warmshowers, which has the same concept as couchsurfing, just for cyclists. So people open up their homes to touring cyclists, letting them take showers, eat dinner and spend the night at their places. I have been using this throughout the trip and it has been amazing! But in this headline, I’m actually referring to the unbelievable hospitability of ‘random’ people in Kansas.
Two nights in a row, I got invited by people I just randomly met on the street to spend the night at their homes. The first night, I was planning on camping at the city park in Sterling. I didn’t have service to call the police department to check in and asked a guy in the park who was playing with his little son where the police department was. After talking to him about the trip, he told me I was welcome to take a shower at his place and I asked if I could just pitch my tent in his yard. After taking a shower, Dave invited me to stay in the guest-bedroom. I had a great evening talking to him and his wife about all sorts of things, from politics over history to religion.
The next morning I left at 4 AM and actually made it to my destination at 9.30AM already. So I had a whole day to spend in Larned. I was just chilling at the city park when a guy came with two young kids to have picknick. I asked him if he lived closeby because I wanted to leave my bike there to be able to walk around town all day without worrying about my stuff. He did live right next to the park and told me I was more than welcome to do that. A little later on, I left my bike on his front-porch with a thank you not at the door. When I came back after a couple of hours, there was a new note on the door saying that I was welcome to sleep on the couch and take a shower. I should just walk in because he was going to be working for a while. For me as a German just unbelievable: it’s one thing everyone leaves their doors unlocked, but inviting a stranger to go in your house and “make himself at home” while you are not there..a different world, definitely nice though! After I was relaxing in the house for a while, Adam came home after dropping his niece and nephew off and getting his work done and asked if I was hungry. He had brought home a lot of meat and all kinds of food, because he figured I would need some calories. So we had a great dinner and talked about Kansas. The next morning, he also made a delicious breakfast and I was ready for another day of cycling.
So instead of spending 2 nights in my tent at city parks, I had good company, a bed and warm showers just because I met the right people at the right time – that’s what it is all about.

And finally the bike shower:
I had heard from other cyclists about the bike shop in Newton and that it was a great place to stay at. So I decided to do that and it was definitly the right decision. James, the owner, has a great concept: since Newton is pretty much the halfway point for the official Transamerica Trail, he wants to make cyclists feel welcomed and offer them a place to crash and also to get their bikes ready for the second half of their trip. As a touring cyclists, you can spend the night for free, take a shower, use the kitchen, use all tools of the bike shop and also the bike shower. James rebuilt a human shower into a bike shower. You can hang your bike in it and clean it. It’s a great idea and definitely another highlight on my trip. I ended up spending the night at James’ house with this family and it was a great time – as usual.

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Finally getting my bike clean at James’ bike shop in Newton

Now you know what the title is all about. This time, it was really hard for me to write the blog, because it has been a week and the days are so similar that it’s hard to remember everything that has happened.

Another great thing actually happened today though: I am in the town of Sheridan Lake in Colorado with a population of 88 (people here told me it’s probably closer to 40). They do have a gas station with a little convenient store and I was planning on having not a lot to eat since there is no grocery store. At least they have a church where cyclists can stay at, so I went there and just relaxed for a while. Then a man came into the building and I went up to him: “You must be the pastor, I’m a cyclist and would like to spend the night here”. But it wasn’t the pastor. It was Ronnie, who was just getting a microphone for his dad’s 80th birthday party that was going on next door. He asked me if I was hungry – and of course I was. So he invited me to join the party and just come on over whenever. When I headed over there I was surprised to see about 50 people in the room – the whole town was there apparently. I had a great time. They had a buffet with meat, baked beans, potatoe salad and of course a birthday cake – and they had plenty of it so I actually got to eat a lot and feeling great now! But besides the food, it was also nice to talk to the people there. They made me feel like I was part of the family. Talked to a couple of guys that gave me directions and advice for my upcoming days. To others I talked about the differences between Germany and the US. And at the end, I took a picture with the birthday-boy and his wife. He gave me a hug and told me to say hey to my mom and tell her that she has a great son – but of course she knows that already ;).
When I came back from the party, two other cyclists had arrived at the church. They are going East and so we exchanged a lot of stuff about what is coming up for us. So even in a town of 88 people, I ran into the right people at the right time. And who would have thought that I’d get invited to an 80th birthday on my first night in Colorado!?

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Happy 80th Birthday, Dennis!

That’s about it, I think. A short outlook: if the weather is not too bad, I should make it to Pueblo by Monday. I will take a day off and then it’s time for the Rocky Mountains. I cannot believe I have made it this far already, but I also have a long way to go still. On Monday I will reach the 4000km (2500 miles) which means the halfway-point of my tour. But I think it will be a little less than 8000km all in all, but we will see. I think I will be hitting the Pacific Ocean in San Diego in about 2700km – that seems pretty close, right!?

One remark to Colorado: The scenery is not going to change for another 200km, in fact it is getting even less populated (didn’t think that was possible).

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Made it to Colorado. I have been on the same exact road going straight for about 300km now. I hope I’m not going to miss the next turn in another 200km!

And now I just want to say thank you to all the people I have met along the way that have made it such an incredible journey so far. I really appreciate the conversations, company, beds, showers, dinners and whatever else there is I have been able to enjoy. (I just reread that and it sounds like the trip is over already, so I have to stress the ‘so far’ because I’m hoping to meet many more!)

Take care,

Freddy

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BBQ with the sheriff, night in jail and now in Kansas

Good news: everything is going according to my plan and since the last blog-entry I have made it through Illinois and Missouri and have crossed the border to Kansas today! But let me start from the beginning.

After my night in Carbondale, my next destination was the town of Chester. It had a lot to offer! It’s the “hometown” of Popeye the sailor! It has a lot of statues and monuments documenting it, a museum and even the grocery store is called “spinach can”. Besides that, it was also right next to the Mississippi River and the last town before the state of Missouri. For me, crossing the Mississippi was special, because now I really had the feeling that I’m moving far far towards the West. Also, people had been telling me that the humidity gets less west of the river – and it really is true, the days are still hot with about 30-35 degrees, but it doesn’t feel like you go into a sauna when you step outside.

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The town of Chester – home of Popeye

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Not a spectacular picture, but this is the Mississippi

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After crossing the Mississippi, Missouri welcomes me

But there was also a downside to leaving Illinois: after about 10km, the hills started again. I knew that the ‘worst’ and steepest ones were yet to come in the Ozarks Mountains. But I didn’t spend my first night in Missouri in my tent in the mountains, but in a jail! It was my own choice though and I hadn’t comitted a crime – no worries. In Farmington, the old jail has been rebuilt into a cyclists hostel, called Al’s Place. Since a lot of cyclists pass this town every year on their way from coast to coast, it’s another legendary place to stay at on the route and I was really glad I did. After getting the code for the door from the police department, I had a whole jail to myself. But it was a great, luxurious apartment with a kitchen, TV, computer, air-condition and everything a cyclist could ask for. And then there was another treat: On the way to Farmington, I noticed that my pedal was about to break. It didn’t sound very good and I was frustrated, because that would have meant 1 1/2 extra days (It was a Sunday and the local bike shop wasn’t opened til Tuesday 10am due to Labor Day weekend). The jail also had a bike-storage room in the basement and as I put my bike there, I saw 2 extra pedals on the floor – some other cyclist had left them there since he didn’t need them anymore. Those are the stories that make such a journey so special. It might sound stupid, but I was in a really good mood after that because it was so random and lucky that I found a pedal there that actually fit on my bike.

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The old jail I stayed in and the storage room where I was able to fix my pedal-problem

On Labor Day, I hit the Ozark Mountains. The weather was just beautiful – it has been the last couple of weeks – and the scenery aswell. The Ozarks are known as a rollercoaster-ride amongst cyclists. You have a constant steep up and down and if you pedal hard enough downhill, you might get to about half of the next climb. And during the couple of days in this mountain range (by the way: it’s the only one going from west to east instead of north-south on the American continent), I realized what an impact the mood and mind has on your days and cycling. While I was annoyed in the hills of Kentucky, I was in such a good mood in the Ozarks that I was riding faster and easier than ever. I didn’t have to worry about dogs, thunderstorms or anything else and I have to say that those days have been some of my most favorite so far – scenery, weather and not a lot of traffic.

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Just a few impressions of the beautiful days in the Ozarks

When I got to my destination on Labor day, Ellington, I only had one concern: “what are you going to eat?”. Since it was a very small town and it was a holiday I didn’t really have a lot of options. I just got a salad and some tomatoes from the small supermarket and chilled at my campspot at the city park when some people showed up to have a BBQ. And to my surprise, it was the sheriff and his family – (you can tell how small the town is when I tell you that the first person I ran into was the sheriff and the second one the mayor). After a couple of minutes they invited me to join their party and I was really glad! I didn’t have to go to bed hungry, but had lots of food and a nice evening with the sheriff and his family.

I had some more memorable nights:
– in Marshfield, I set up my tent in a city park next to an arena (I’m not sure what kind of arena – it had a lot of sand in it, maybe a rodeo). I was just about to go to sleep when the lights of the arena were turned on shining right on my tent and I hear tractors and other heavy machinery. I look out of my tent and see that the local farmers were getting the field ready for the next event. So instead of getting sleep, I watched them work and wondered why they hadn’t started earlier.

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At first, I thought it was going to be a peaceful night…

– the next day marked my exit of the mountains and I was going to spend it at the local Motorcycle bar in Everton. I had heard about it from other cyclists on the way and you get to camp for free if you eat at the bar – a condition I was more than happy to meet! Not only did I have a delicious pizza and get to share stories with the funny owner, but I also took a shower in a schoolbus. The owner had rebuild an old schoolbus into a “showerbus” with 5 showers. I asked him how he came up with that idea and he said that he was going to rent a shower-cabin for a weekend-event and they wanted 13.000$, so he decided he could get it done cheaper and he sure did. Plus it’s unique and just another thing you wouldn’t see if you didn’t travel on your bike. Because why would anyone go to a town called Everton with 500 inhabitants in the middle of nowhere?!

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The “Shower-bus” of Everton, Missouri

Today was another big day! I finally entered Kansas. As you know I had been dreaming about Kansas for a long time, because it means FLAT. I was really motivated and started early, but had to find out soon that Kansas also means “nothing there”. Before getting to my destination for today, Pittsburg, there was a stretch of 50km without anything – no grocery store, no gas station, just fields of corn. Ok, to be honest, I’m only about 10km behind the border and therefore 40 of those km still belong to Missouri, but I will have to get used to it. The longest stretch without anything on my way through Kansas is about 100km and I will have to plan everything very well so I won’t run out of water or food on that stretch. I’m still looking forward to it and can’t wait for the next couple of days. I saw my first sunset in Kansas earlier and it was amazing – it’s going to be even better when I’m out of the city and get to see it with an ’empty’ horizon.

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First impressions of Kansas

Just a few more random stories that I didn’t include in here:
-in Houston, Missouri, a couple recommended to get breakfast at the local hospital because it was really cheap and good. The next morning, I followed their advice and was not to be disappointed! I got scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuit and gravy and oatmeal – and all ofthat for free! The older lady working there gave me a hug when I was going to pay and said: “breakfast is on me today, young man! Be safe!”

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Finally a good breakfast and for free too 🙂

-in Ashgrove, Missouri, I was taking a really long break because it was early and I only had 12km to go to my final destination. As I was sitting in the city park, the sheriff pulled up and was trying to convince me to stay in his town for the night. He even offered me to stay in a house with kitchen and air-condition, but I still rejected the offer since I wanted to keep moving. Still a funny situation and again showing the hospitality of the people here.

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The sheriff leaving after trying to convince me to stay in his town

-and a story I completely forgot to mention in my last blog about Kentucky. I met my biggest fan there! I was going down a hill, when I saw a car sitting in a driveway on the right and the lady inside was waving and telling me to stop. When I did, she jumped outside and was really excited. She had seen a lot of cyclists go down that road and had always wanted to talk to one and finally it had happened. We talked for a while and she told me that she would be late for church just because of me, but did not mind at all. We took pictures and exchanged numbers and ever since, LaDonna checks on me every couple of days to make sure I’m alright. Just another reason why I liked Kentucky after all!

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Funny meeting with LaDonna somewhere in Kentucky

One last thought:
Since I have a lot of time on my bike, I think a lot. And one of the things that fascinates me the most is the community of the cyclists. Every other day, you meet other cyclists and you start building a network. Sometimes you just talk for a while and exchange advice for the upcoming route, but sometimes you also exchange numbers or emails and keep in touch for further questions. About a week ago I met this couple, Scott and Ashley from Chicago, who are going the same way I am, but at a slower pace. Ever since, we write emails back and forth talking about what is coming up. I also still talk to Peter, the guy I was riding with for a couple of days and who knows..maybe he will catch up at some point. And I even talk to a guy I have never met: the 2 British guys I had met a couple of weeks ago gave me the email-address of Mike, who is about 2 weeks ahead of me heading for San Francisco aswell. So I contacted him and he keeps sending me emails with stuff I should know and be prepared for on the way.
So what I was thinking on my bike is that this whole trip is like a ‘treasure hunt’ on a very big scale. You talk to people and get advice or recommendations for some little town or turn that is thousands of km away from you, but at some point you will be there and remember the words and be thankful for it.

20130907-175749.jpgOne of the last cyclists I have met – Ken from Idaho going from Oregon to Florida – always a nice break to talk to others on the road about the upcoming challenges

Alright, I think that’s it for now. There are so many stories to tell that it’s hard to put them into order. Also, some of them might not even be that great for a neutral reader, but I try to make it as interesting as possible.

A short outlook: I have planned my days for the upcoming weeks and should be in Pueblo, Colorado on September 16th. I will have a restday there and get my bike checked and will then head into the Rockies. I can’t believe I’m that ‘close’ (it’s still about 1000km) and hope everything keeps going well.

Thanks for reading and the next update will hopefully follow from the westside of Kansas or even Colorado!

P.S.: That was the entry I wasn’t able to upload yesterday. I’m actually in Chanute right now and have to say that Kansas isn’t as flat as I have hoped so far and I also experienced the first headwinds (the cyclist’s biggest enemy in Kansas). Therefore I will probably start riding at about 4AM on some days here in Kansas to avoid the heat and the winds that pick up around noon.

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What I’m going to see for the next 1000km – straight roads, powerlines and fields