Heading Home

Make America Bike Again Tour – Day 42

There are no more miles to pedal. Robert is at the airport three hours early. He’s eager and anxious to get home. Sad to be leaving the Northern Tier Trail and the satisfactions of life astride a bicycle seat.

In the beginning there were five cyclists, all at least 60; aging men motivated toward continued growth and the experience of life to the fullest. As planned, Frank went as far as Missoula, Mt. and then, back home to California. Unplanned, my chain broke on the southeastern plains of Montana. It was the 23rd day. We were few miles west of the Musselshell River. Unable to repair the chain, Robert and I hitchhiked ahead, leaving Don, Frosty, and Gerry on the road of the Lewis and Clark Trail, and with the smoke from a prairie grass fire filling the sky ahead. Their goal, to cross the continent from west to east, ending at Bar Harbor, Maine.

From the beginning, our goal has been a more modest one. To reach Akron, Ohio with enough time to return to Denver for Lee’s wedding. Here’s some pictures of father and daughter together.

 

 

(These were taken at Norfolk, Virginia in 2007. Lee was still in the Navy. Robert, still practicing law.)

Lee’s marriage is truly a milestone and not to be missed. It is the daughters and sons who inherit the earth. They stand and blossom, while fathers age, commemorate events if they can, and pass away.

In terms of priorities, it just doesn’t get much higher than family. So, Robert’s decision to leave the bicycle trail in Minneapolis – after 2,096 miles – is the right one. So too, his decision to ride on alone after my chain replacement in Medora, North Dakota.

A coast to coast ride need not be completed in one pyrrhic effort. The trail will be there next year, and many more after that. And to my friends, Don, Frosty, and Gerry, be safe and travel well.

Thanks to everyone who has read and enjoyed this blog. Even though the bicycle journey has reached a temporary resolution, the blogging goes on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting Out The Storm

Make America Bike Again – Day 40

“You’re going to get wet out there if you leave today!”

It is the lighthearted voice of Donn Olsen, a cheerful generous man and the owner/operator of the Bicycle Bunkhouse. It’s early morning. Grey billowing clouds fill the sky and the sun, nowhere to be seen.

 

We’re seating at the table in this remarkably dry and cozy space. There’s a hot shower, a fully stock kitchen, and plenty of cots for any number of sleeping cyclists. Donn likes large groups.

So much to be thankful for.

His farm lies along the Northern Tier bicycle trail (Adventure Cycling Association,) just outside of Dalbo, Minnesota. Donn was born there. And, he returned here after his service in the military. His is the signature bicycle hostel, offering bunks, a stocked kitchen, and a hot shower to anyone who can pedal there. Guests are expected to share the accommodations. He only charges for the food and snacks used. Donations accepted. Among the bicycle touring community, his hospitality is legend.

To do the Bicycle Bunkhouse justice, here’s what his renovated barn looks like when the sun is shining.

IMG_1534

In response to Donn’s warning, Robert explains our situation and the looming deadline of Friday’s flight back to Denver. They talk about the options. Our host advises us to go off the Northern Tier route. He produces a different map to explain the difference. His suggestion would cut the distance to the airport in half, an easy day’s ride away.

This continuing appearance of trail angels is one of great and unexpected luxuries of travel, balanced astride a bicycle seat. The encounters can become moments of great satisfaction and happiness. In all my years of city life, there is nothing to compare.

Thank you, Donn for your gifts.

 

 

 

Honor The Local Gods

Make America Bike Again – Day 39

From Alice’s Attic there’s only about 80 miles of county highway to cover. Then, nothing but asphalt all the way to the airport through Minneapolis’ extensive bicycle trail system. We have two full days to do it. After the miles Robert and I have covered, should be like a downhill slide.

Except for one thing. The weather report calls for two days of rain and thunder showers.

We have to be at the airport on Friday morning. At least, Robert does. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be disassembled, boxed up, and shipped back to Denver by then. I know it seems unfair. But, really, I could use a break. I’ve been holding him up by the shorts every day for the last 39 days.

You get the picture.IMG_1540

Can you see the water drops falling off the roof? It’s raining right now!

We have encountered local spirits in every state we’ve crossed. If they like you, they simply don’t want you to leave. And, they generally like us the touring cyclists. We move so slowly across the land.

(I know these things. Daedalus, my namesake, was descended from a line of demigods. One reaching all the way back to Hephaestus and Demeter. She is the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. He’s the god of craftsmen and artists, metals and the forge, and by logical extension, volcanoes.)

Out of Oregon we faced high winds. Idaho, it was brush and forest fires. Exiting Montana I had a broken chain. A flat tire on the way out of North Dakota. Now, two days of rain.

Robert’s the one with the opposable thumbs. I do hope he finds a way to appease the local gods.

Trail Angel

Make America Bike Again – Days 37& 38

Day 38 was a blue sky day that ended in the cozy shelter of a renovated barn called Alice’s Attic.

IMG_1529

It’s an eclectic patchwork of flowers, fields, folk art and shadow. (Find out more at: http://www.alicesattic.com)

IMG_1531

Here’s Alice and Robert having morning coffee.

For cyclists on the Northern Tier Trail it’s a welcoming place, and Alice, a Trail Angel of distinction!

What happened to day 37? If you’re curious, think rain, mosquitos and history at Charles Lindberg State Park.

 

 

Changing Strategy

Make America Bike Again – Day 36

Last night there was another storm.     We were alongside the Paul Bunyan trail in a primitive campsite. Once again rain pounded on the rain fly of the tent. There was no sleeping through it.

IMG_1513

It was that night, when it occurred to Robert that the arithmetic of miles to go, wasn’t enough For us to get to Akron on time for Lee’s wedding. He is the father of the bride after all!

With the loving support of his partner Marceil, we choose to exit the bicycle tour for the higher priority. Akron loved ones were advised. A Thanksgiving visit scheduled.

Nothing left to do, but get to Minneapolis by Friday the 11th. How difficult could that be, after bicycling over 2,000 miles from Astoria?

 

 

 

 

Goodbye North Dakota

Make America Bike Again Tour – Day 31

Today’s goal is to reach Fargo. About 60 miles. The land is a flat, green and covered with ripening crops. Should be smooth pedaling.

IMG_1502Here I am flat on my back, tires up and derailers exposed to the sun. How embarrassing. The rear tire went flat. Robert had a spare tube. Good thing.

Must be the local gods. They always seem to want us to stay longer. See more and do more.

On to Minnesota!

 

Why Bicycle Tourism?

IMG_1496.JPGMake America Bike Again – Day 30

As I depart Gackle, ND and last night’s accommodations at the Honey Hub Cyclists Respite, I think about how restful and peaceful it was. The hosts run Miller Honey Farms and a touring bicyclist hostel. They are welcoming, thoughtful, and generous people. I’m grateful for their kindnesses. I would rather have had this experience for one night – than a month at an all inclusive Trump Hotel.

Why Akron?

Make America Bike Again – Day 28

I’m “Just another kid from Akron.” My parents and my sister still live there. It’s my hometown. I’m returning like a salmon on a bicycle. The family is clapping and cheering. I’m more than half way.

IMG_1478Grey skies over North Dakota sunflowers.

And there’s a deadline. My daughter is getting married on August 26th. Not in Akron. The wedding is in Denver. I can’t miss that.

Someday I’ll finish it. This coast to coast bicycle tour. There’s always next summer!