Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tour Complete!

Despite the lack of updates, we've successfully completed our tour (2690 total miles) and are back home in Michigan. It was a busy arrival in Seattle around June 15, and between visiting friends and family and computers that wouldn't let us update this blog, we didn't get around to posting a final "we're here". Jay drove back with his sister and Jeff took the train to Minneapolis, where he picked up his car and drove the rest of the way.

Thanks to all who supported us during the way, both by donating to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and by helping us out along the way with your kind hospitality! Be sure to look us up if you're in Michigan.

Jay Prescott
Jeff Dambrun

Monday, May 28, 2007

Glacier National Park

Greetings to all from Glacier National Park. Today we're coming to you from East Glacier, MT, just before the continental divide and on the eastern side of the park. Tomorrow we'll be crossing the divide and heading into the park for a couple days of hiking and biking before continuing on to Idaho and Washington.

We've had a busy week:

Monday, May 28, 2007: East Glacier, MT (45 miles)
After a 10-mile stretch of dirt highway out of Cut Bank, with NW winds at 30 mph gusting to 40 mph, we saw the worst weather of the trip. After a cold and windy (but partly sunny) start, the skies darkened, the mountains disappeared, and it started to hail/freezing rain. We made it 15 miles before we took shelter at a farm. The farmer let us use his dryer and fed us sandwiches and described his 40,000 acre farm to us, then he took us for a ride in his GPS tractor. That was exciting, especially for Jay. He also had a DVD player in the tractor and showed us a Shakira concert. That was interesting. Since the weather wasn't letting up, he offered to drive us the remaining miles into East Glacier, which we graciously accepted.

Sunday, May 27, 2007: Cut Bank, MT (71 miles)
We met our first west-east bike tourers today, and they were happy to have west winds as we fought our way to Shelby for huckleberry milkshakes. Also in Shelby, I ate a chicken, bacon, and ranch foot long sub from Subway that was 1100 calories. The last 20 miles were extremely difficult into the wind and rain, but we finally made it to Cut Bank, where we ate Pizza Hut and had ice cream at McDonalds.

Saturday, May 26, 2007: Chester, MT (66 miles)
Today was a bike maintenance day as Jay took his bike to the shop to cure a broken spoke and I purchased some new tires. The bike shop owner was also a tax consultant and was mourning the loss of his alcoholic mother by downing Black Velvet and showing up at the shop extremely hungover. After some world famous ox-dogs at the Oxford Bar, served to use by a Vietnam veteran, we got a late start and had a ride to Chester through the prairie dog graveyards. There were literally spots with 10-12 dead prairie dogs on the road, flattened by traffic. Each of us nearly hit one on our bikes.

Friday, May 25, 2007: Havre, MT (112 miles)
I bathed this morning in the bacteria-infested luke warm cesspool while Jay watched on in horror. We got an early start and made good miles with an east wind, and we also saw our first mountains of the trip, the Bear's Paw in central Montana. There was pure sunshine all day except for our arrival in Havre, during which there was sunshine while it downpoured simultaneously.

Thursday, May 24, 2007: Buffalo Hot Springs, MT (105 miles)
Mary set us on our way with a healthy dose of granola for breakfast, and we had a hot dog brunch before leaving Wolf Point. After a day of rest, it is impossible to describe the glorious feeling awaiting us on the bikes. Our butts had a whole day to relax, and getting back on the saddles felt like sitting in comfortable leather couches. Our legs also felt renewed strength, making an easy 105 miles under clear skies and light winds. Our excitement for the hot springs died as we arrived and noticed there was a health department warning posted on the doorway, yet people we're still swimming (toothless people, we might add). This place had sort of a Deliverance-esque feel to it, and we camped in a yard in the back and tried not to stir the pot.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007: Weather/Rest Day
Today we awoke to torrential downpours and extreme wind. The hotel workers were digging channels in the dirt parking lot with shovels to drain the massive puddles that were forming. After milking the continental breakfast for all it was worth, we went back to bed for a couple of hours before heading over to a warm showers stay with Mary Madison, aka Red Hot Mama. Mary is a twice widowed 73-year old who is still bike touring despite her recent knee replacement. For her 70th birthday she rode from Montana to Maine and back (solo) and she also rode to her 50th high school reunion and back (solo). She gave us a car to use for the day and was extremely hospitable, and we spent the remainder of the day either eating, reading, or both.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007: Wolf Point, MT (99 miles)
This day was completed in four increments, each roughly 25 miles and all of which included substantial rain. There isn't much to mention here, because it would be depressing to read about how miserable we felt riding in the rain the entire day, but it was uplifting to finally leave North Dakota and enter Montana.

Monday, May 21, 2007: Williston, ND (74 miles)
Today was not too hot and not too cold, and we had a hard time deciding what to wear. Several clothing changes were made throughout the day. This was definitely the prettiest day of North Dakota riding, with almost badland like appearances. We also passed a stretch of fence that was roughly a mile in length in which there was some form of footwear on every fence post. Lots of posts had boots, some had tennis shoes, others had high heels. It was a little different. We made it into Williston and had some Dairy Queen, then we connected with Anna Hoffman, another warm showers stay. Anna was very friendly and cooked us an elk roast and potatoes. Her house felt sort of like a coffee shop, and we spent the rest of the evening reading, writing, and listening to James Taylor, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, and Ray Charles.

Sunday, May 20, 2007: New Town, ND (78 miles)
The Fogartys fed us a beautiful, amazing breakfast of waffles and fruit (with fresh, super tasty strawberries) before we took off into a not so fun headwind heading south out of Minot. We eventually turned west onto a strech of road with more road-side crosses than we'd ever seen before, a gas station closed for high school graduation, lots of tribal police with people in the backseats, and a couple of older gents riding for the Tyler Hamilton Foundation. We arrived in New Town after being chased by several dogs (chased, or stalked) and we couldn't find a single place to stay. Eventually someone showed up at the cheapest hotel in town, so we took a room, ate some ice cream, and didn't visit any more of New Town, ever.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Western North Dakota

Greetings from Minot, ND. Jay and I have been cruising along, enjoying the gently rolling North Dakota scenery, fighting the wind some days and feeling extremely fortunate to have well deserved tailwinds on other days. Whether we're riding with the wind or against it, we've found that ice cream is a constant during our travels. All these small towns in the boonies seem to have their own variation of the "Blizzard" that Dairy Queen is famous for, and often the small town version is better. Whether it's called the Storm, Twist, Freeze, or other random name, we'll eat it.

We've covered about 320 miles since our last update -- here's how they break down:

Saturday, May 19, 2007: Minot, ND (65 miles)
This morning was a cold one at 37 degrees. We waited until about 10am for it to warm up, which it 38 degrees. Luckily there was an east wind and our route was pretty much due east until Minot. We rode the flat US2 all 65 miles into Minot in just over 3 hours...a tailwind can do wonderful things. It's a nice day when you can ride 65 miles and not feel like you've done any work. Tonight is our first warm showers stay (, and the family has been extremely kind so far. We ate a wonderful turkey dinner and have very comfortable beds, and the rumor is we'll be getting ice cream in just a bit.

Friday, May 18, 2007: Rugby, ND (127 miles)
This was a beast of a day. We had favorable wind setting out, so we decided to shoot for the stars, or in our case, Rugby, about 130 miles away. We were cruising along nicely in nearly 90 degree weather through the Spirit Lake Nation Indian reservation when pretty suddenly a classic plains storm brewed up to the northwest and caught us in rain, hail, and ominous lightning around mile 112. We deemed the riding unsafe and pulled off at a farm house for shelter, where a nice couple gave us lemonade and some delicious dessert bars. We watched the weather, and after realizing it wasn't about to let up, the husband drove us the rest of the 15 miles into Rugby, where some warm, comfortable motel beds (The Hub Motel) awaited us. Before bed, we ate an entire large stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut. And we didn't even think we were hungry...

Thursday, May 17, 2007: Pekin, ND (78 miles)
Today we fought extremely strong south winds. Our route was mostly west and north, so the north stretches were a breeze, but the west stretches found us riding our bikes at an angle at a slow 7 mph to try and keep our balance. After arriving in Pekin (pronounced Peek-inn), the local residents asked us how we found this particular area of North Dakota to be. Our response, naturally, was, "Well, it's a little desolate compared to what we're used to", to which they replied, "Desolate!? Wait until you see Montana!".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007: Page, ND (54 miles)

The biggest accomplishment of today was making it out of Fargo/Moorhead in one piece! Those metro areas will get you on a bike. The winds were mighty strong today, and we decided to take an easy day given our late arrival to Moorhead last night. We made it to Page, a cute little town that had one room available for rent in the same building the housed the bank. The local cafe also had cheeseburger night, so I enjoyed a couple of those while Jay enjoyed a chicken sandwich. Trains and cattle are becoming more common than people around these parts.

Now, a few pictures for your enjoyment:

Jeff saying goodbye to Jay in Painesdale, MI.

A beautiful northern Minnesota field.

Jay and Jeff in front of a Minnesota farm.

A funny pair, sort of like Jay and Jeff.

Entering North Dakota through Fargo.

A common view here in North Dakota, straight roads.

Setting up camp for the night.

Have a great day, and we'll hit you up in Montana!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hello from Moorhead, MN / Fargo, ND

Howdy everyone,

Jay and I have been on the road 4 days now since we met up in Minneapolis, and this was day 9 for me after leaving Houghton on May 7. I've biked over 750 miles so far. Tonight Jay and I are staying at the University of Minnesota Moorhead campus in their dorms, so I'm able to give an update on the ride so far. It's pretty late, so I'm not able to go into much detail about each day, but at any rate you'll be able to tell where we are and where we've been.

Jay and I are both feeling really good so far. We haven't had any real technical problems yet (I had one flat tire), we're eating healthy (and LOTS), and we've been getting lots of good sleep at motels or campgrounds. We have yet to see any other bicycle tourists, but everyone tells us people usually ride this route from west to east because it's easier! We just reply that we like a challenge, so we're riding it backwards. We're on the cusp of North Dakota, and we hope to make it to Minot, ND in 4 days, where hopefully we'll be able to update again.

Tuesday, May 15: Battle Lake, MN to Moorhead, MN (97.5 miles)
Almost 11 hours on the road today (including breaks), with over 8 hours of actual ride time. Pretty strong, mostly NNW winds gave us a little trouble and kept us slow today. Jay's summed up the day during the ride: "I bought these extra gears for mountains, not wind!". Really pretty, rolling farmland up until about mile 40, then it started to flatten out until a generally flat Fargo/Moorhead area. Tonight we're at the University of Minnesota Moorhead campus dorms.

Monday, May 14: Long Prairie, MN to Battle Lake, MN (65 miles)
Whew, today was a toughie. We left Long Prairie and about 7 miles into the ride my front tire went flat. Luckily it was a hole in the tube and an easy fix, but the winds today weren't so nice. Really strong, 25 mph NW winds beat us up today. We cashed in early after 65 miles, after figuring we'd pedaled more than we would on a 100 mile day.

Sunday, May 13: Springvale, MN to Long Prairie, MN (107 miles)
We learned the joy of a strong tail wind today. From about mile 40 to mile 70 we had 15-25 mph winds from the east pushing us along. We were able to sustain speeds of around 25 mph (we think 15-16 mph is a good average on a loaded bike!) without much effort at all. A crazy, really nice lady today flagged us down in front of her house and gave us coffee, water, cookies, and cupcakes, and said she always likes to take care of the bikers she sees ride by.

Saturday, May 12: Minneapolis to Springvale, MN (107 miles)
Jay and I said our goodbyes to Katie, Joe, and Joe's family today as we pedaled away from Minneapolis. A local MS benefit ride found lots of bikers on the trail from St. Paul to Stillwater, so it was cool to see so many people out riding. We were also able to sample the free snacks and gatorade at one of their rest stops...not a bad deal at all. We had a gorgeous day and made a great find at a campground: $2.50/person to camp! We slept well tonight after some good miles, an entire pizza, and some hot showers.

Friday, May 11: Rest day
Today I was able to rest and change the pedals on my bike after the old ones fell apart. Katie and I drove into Minneapolis to meet up with Jay and Joe, eat some pasta, and get prepped for the ride tomorrow.

Thurdsay, May 10: Luck, WI to Prescott, WI (88 miles)
I started wondering today when the sunshine will end. Is it normally like this in the midwest? The hills grew in stature yet again today, with some resembling small mountains just southeast of the Twin Cities. My left pedal practically fell apart (for reasons unknown) around mile 60, but I was able to keep it together until the ride was over. I made it to Katie's aunt and uncle's home today and just about collapsed after all those hill in the St. Croix river valley.

Wednesday, May 9: Lac Coute Oreilles, WI to Luck, WI (95 miles)
Another fantastic day for I'm wondering why I didn't even think of bringing sunscreen. More beautiful Wisconsin countryside today, this time getting a bit bigger in the hill department. I met up with Chase, a friend from school, at his parents' cottage north of St. Croix Falls, where he treated me to Alaskan wild salmon and grilled vegetables, and a cheese/salmon omelet for breakfast. A couple of perfect meals to fuel my legs and some great fellowship.

Tuesday, May 8: Wakefield, MI to Lac Coute Oreilles, WI (97 miles)
I woke up to beautiful sunshine today, and the riding conditions were perfect. I traveled through the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin, but didn't have any luck seeing the elusive elk that habituate the area. I arrived at my campsite on a small finger of Lac Coute Oreilles lake to discover that I had dropped a sandal somewhere! I checked out the side of the road for a few miles back, just to the grocery store, but had no luck. After getting back to my campsite after buying groceries, I discovered that there were loons on this part of the lake, so falling asleep listening to them made losing a sandal seem not too bad.

Monday, May 7: Houghton, MI to Wakefield, MI (108 miles)
Today I locked my door as on a normal day, except this time my bike was loaded to take me to Seattle. I met up with Jay and Dave Watkins, who escorted my out of town. After they headed back to town, I had a nice long day to realize how great it's going to be to be on the bike for the next month with no other priorities. Reality set in at mile 40, when it started to rain and the wind picked up. I faced rain and wind for the next 65 miles (thank goodness for fenders!), but finally made it to Wakefield, where I was able to find a nice cheap hotel to dry off, take a bath, and clean my bike up.