Saturday, July 27, 2013

Save a Buck or Two

I think after we finish cycling through the United States I will distinctly remember two things about our neighbour to the south: the freak weather and the generosity of its people.  I thought Iran had the title in the bag for the friendliest and most hospitable country but I think I am going to give that award to the United States.  Similar to Iran, almost every day someone offers us something or wants to help out in some way.  Plus we get lots of waves and overall positive vibes.

Leaving Colorado we met a lady outside Walmart who offered us to go to her spa/massage shop to shower and freshen up.  Very kind offer but we kept on since it was early in the day.  When we entered Wyoming we went to their visitor center (which I might add is one of the best I have been to on this whole trip) and this army guy gave us his leftover pizza from the day prior.  Even though it wasn’t hot, it was delicious.  The big act of generosity came in Nebraska.  Going into the State I thought it was going to be dull and I just wanted to speed through it as fast as possible to get to South Dakota.  About 25km from Scottsbluff a man in his truck stopped and chatted with Trevor.  After Trevor explained what we are doing he offered us lunch at his Chili’s restaurant in Scottsbluff.  When I caught up to Trevor he told me there is a free lunch in Scottsbluff.  At the time I was exhausted from battling the winds but knowing there was a free meal waiting for me down the road I quickly jumped back on the saddle and got going.  Can’t let food wait, it must be eaten.  Sure enough we get there and Stan, the owner of Chili’s says we can have anything on the menu!  Sweet deal.  We both had burger and fries and shared some Buffalo wings to start.  But it didn’t stop there.  He also got in touch with a reporter from the Star Herald to come by and interview us!  As Stan put it, there had to be better news stories out there than what made the front page news that day: Newlywed couple jailed for getting it on in a public park.  I always enjoy answering questions about this adventure so it was once again very fun to do.  You can read the well written article by reporter Joe Dutton here:  But wait, there’s still more!  Stan got in touch with Jennifer, the manager of the Scottsbluff Holiday Inn and she kindly offered us a free night at the hotel!  I am not used to sleeping in a bed, having a shower and eating a delicious breakfast buffet but it was all really great and totally unexpected.  They sure are hospitable in Nebraska. 

I really thought as we kept heading North the thunderstorms would die down and the summer I know, i.e. just sun and no rain, would take over.  Seems that hasn’t been the case.  For the most part we have been getting lots of sun but at times there have been some freaky thunder and lightning gong shows.  I always thought the chances of getting hit by lightning are just as good as winning the lottery but after riding near some intense lightning I am beginning to question my perceived chances.  One really shouldn’t take getting hit by lightning lightly.  I saw on the news and spoke with a Wyoming man about numerous incidents where people were hit by lightning in and around the areas we have been cycling.  I admit I worry when we are out in the sticks and there is lightning nearby with nowhere to duck for cover.  We have seen many instances where the lightning bolts have gone mental and the flashes are blinding.  I really hope once we enter Canada all these freak thunderstorms will disappear.  That said, Calgary was recently flooded as was Toronto.  What is going on with all this freak weather around the world?!  Climate change, that is what. 

One of the advantages of cycling for hours on end, every day for a year and four months is that you can listen to podcasts with the hope of educating yourself on various topics.  Trevor downloads podcasts every time we get Wi-Fi and I in turn download them from his laptop.  Our main go to podcasts have been The Bill Good Show (to keep in the know with the issues affecting British Columbia), Freakanomics Radio, 60 Minutes, Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria, PBS News, Frontline, and TedTalks.  Trevor also gets for himself Talkin’ Shit with Eddie Ifft, 99% Invisible, The Critical Path, and his personal favourite, Security Now!  For the past couple of days Trevor has been out of podcasts and wasn’t keen on listening to any of his audiobooks (which by the way, he devised a program early on this trip that converts kindle books or text files into actual audiobooks!  This is also why I call him Super! … Nerd… all kidding aside I wish I had the knowhow to do something like that).  So he decided to hear what was on the radio.  First station, Christian Talk, skip, next station Christian music, skip, next more Christian radio, skip, finally a good song, song then ends, oh wait, this is actually Christian radio again.  So for the past couple of days he has been listening to Christian radio here in Wyoming.  And from what he has told me, it is quite entertaining stuff, just because it is rather far-fetched.  He has come across Glenn Beck radio where they have commercials mocking science; another station had a discussion about poking holes in Darwin’s silly theories about evolution; and another station where the radio host talked about how he prays to Jesus to get rid of the demons that visit him in the night from midnight to 2am, because that is when they come out.  Once this host was visited by a demon, or as Trevor says ‘Boogeyman’ and the demon prevented him from calling out to Jesus.  But he struggled loose and managed to call ‘Jesus!’, and then the demon released his ankle and went away.  Seriously, this stuff is golden and provides endless amounts of entertainment.  Really I should be listening to this but I like to listen to tunes while I cycle.  Just to note, I don’t want to come across as being cynical towards Christianity here, just want to share what we have heard that’s all.   As I always say believe in whatever you want to believe in, it’s all good.  Just respect other people’s beliefs and don’t try desperately to change their beliefs or persuade them to side with your beliefs.  I do believe, I believe in myself.  We have met a few en route who have tried to entice us to turn to the Good Book and have a read through. 

Another interesting fact Trevor picked up on the radio is that Wyoming is the number one state for suicide.  If they were their own country, they would rank 10th in the world according to some radio commercial he stumbled upon.  Cycling through the terrain it was quite dull.  The Rockies are in the far West of the State and the rest of the state is very windy and has lots of barren land.  It was pretty boring most of the time.  So I can see why they hold this unwanted distinction, they have a small population and live a rural lifestyle.  Not a whole lot goes on around here.
Anyway, lucky for us we are back in the Rocky Mountains proper and are about to explore the primetime part of the State.  Downside is we have to watch out for bears disrupting us in the night in search of food.  The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone are next.

The United States is really a diverse country that has it all in many aspects.  I didn’t think they had camels though.  But they do. 

It was nice to visit our building and see how things are going in Cheyenne.  I think our building needs a renovation because I don’t like the design. 

Trevor about to chow down on his delicious burger and fries at Chili’s.  Yummy.  This doesn’t happen very often (that is, eating a proper meal in a restaurant) so I must capture these moments. 

A group photo with the staff at Chili’s restaurant.  And a big thanks to Stan, centered, who really made us feel special that day.  It is experiences like this that really make this trip that much better and rewarding.   

A sad moment for me occurred shortly after we entered South Dakota.  My Schwalbe Marathon tire and I had to say goodbye.  It had been with me from the beginning of this trip and was even with me for the first attempt, or what I now like to call the pre-game warm up of 2011.  It had seen all the things I had seen on this trip.  Shame it came so close to making it back home to Vancouver but it blew up and had a gash in it so I had to let it go.  I was going to take it back with me but thought why?  I don’t want to become one of those hoarders who keeps everything.  It was still tough to say goodbye.  We had been through a lot together.  

Trevor may not get excited over beautiful vistas but he does get thrilled over freak weather.  Our first night in South Dakota Trevor awoke at 2am, not to the boogeyman, but to some hardcore hail.  He was amazed at the size of the hail.  It was as big as a quarter but quickly melted to the size of a nickel, as shown in this picture.

You know I like to think of myself of frugal when it comes to spending money.  And if I may, I would like to share some of my new found wisdom to save you, the reader, money in case you find yourself on a road trip around these parts.  First up, the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Now I understand this is a work in progress much like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but this one is hardly finished and work began on it in 1948.  So at this rate, it won’t be done in my lifetime or yours.  As such, I suggest you do as we did and view it from the information center just outside the entrance gates.  You can clearly see the head and the drawing of the horse.  If it was done, then yes, I would probably pay to see it closer up but since it is far from completion, maybe best to call me when it is done and then I’ll come on by and pay to see it.  Personally it seems somewhat of a scam because they market it as the largest rock sculpture in the world!  Well, this gives me an idea, I’ll buy some huge ass rock, do a tiny bit of carving on it but have an elaborate plan to carve it into the biggest and best rock sculpture in the whole wide world just so I can promote it as such and then charge everyone $10 to see the tiny bit of carving which cost me next to nothing to do.  But people will be satisfied at seeing what will eventually become the biggest and best rock sculpture in the world even though it will never get finished.  But let’s just leave that last bit between you and me.

I did a good deed in Custer, a town en route to Mount Rushmore.  I found a wallet and returned it to a Custer policeman who was gigantic and very intimidating.  I thought I was kind of big but next to this guy I looked like a scrawny weakling.  Anyway, I like to think because of this good deed the weather turned itself around for the better because first thing in the morning the clouds were laying quite low and I was worried that Mount Rushmore would be covered by clouds.  But they weren’t!  As you can see.  It was pretty cool to see this memorial as I have always wanted to see it.  It costs $11 to park a vehicle but if you cycle in, it is absolutely free!  Just another perk to cycling.  But if you must drive I did see one van park it quickly on the hard shoulder and snap a couple of shots.  The view from the road is pretty good too.  Out of the four Presidents, I would say Theodore Roosevelt is my favourite.  Why not Lincoln you ask?  He is usually regarded as the best President of all for he abolished slavery and led the country through the American Civil War.  Or why not Washington, for he was the first President.  And let’s not forget Jefferson, for he was behind the Louisiana Purchase and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.  No, no, I like Theodore the best.  And I’ll explain why.  I can relate to him in that he was an adventurer/explorer when he wasn’t politicking.  He embarked on an African Safari to discover new fauna and flora and explored unchartered territory in the Brazilian jungle.  When he was politicking he was big on conservation and established many national parks and monuments that we have cycled through in the U.S.  For that, I salute him.  On an aside, sad that I know more about the American Presidents than I do our Canadian Prime Ministers.  Shame on me.    

I’m A North American Badass!  Not quite, but trying to be in Sturgis so I can fit right in.  This town is known for its annual motorcycle rally.  Lots of rally merchandise around and of course lots of badass bikers with their biker chicks in the back.

We even have a street named after us in South Dakota!  Unfortunately it is out in the sticks.      

Devil’s Tower National Monument, which I might add was the first national monument established in the U.S.A. and done so by Theodore Roosevelt.  I was thinking I was going to have to fork over $5 to get in but not so.  You can actually get great views of it as you near the entrance, so no need to spend the $5.  Now you can spend that hard earned $5 on yourself because you deserve it.  Unless you are keen to climb it, then I can’t help you there. 

Trevor also gets excited about huge ass clouds that have freak lightning going on in them.  The big cloud cover to the right in the picture looked like an atomic bomb explosion.  Later it went haywire with all this lightning and flashing going in.  Trevor just sat in his tent and watched the show.  Lots of the time cycling we have had to read the clouds in the sky and see if a storm is brewing.  Trevor is pretty good at reading the skies and predicting storms that come our way.  Unfortunately this happens more often than I’d like.    

Did you know that Wyoming is the nation’s number one coal producing State?  I didn’t either going in.  But now I do.  They produce a lot of the dirty fossil fuel that is coal.  I enjoy taking tours and trying to learn new things so I jumped at the free coal mine tour offered in Gillette.  Trevor wasn’t keen so he stuck behind and browsed the Internet while I checked out the Eagle Butte Coal Mine for about 2 hours.  It was pretty cool to see the whole operation at work.  Mining equipment is massive and very expensive.  The tire of a coal haul truck costs over $30,000 and to replace a truck would cost $4.3 million.  Big money.  It seemed most of the vehicles out in the open pit were reclaiming the land as opposed to digging up coal.  So they appear to be very good when it comes to reclamation of land.  Even though I am all for clean renewables, we still need coal for things like steel so I can ride my bike as well as energy so I found this tour quite interesting and informative.  This is how I learn.  I go and check things out.  Regarding energy, I am no scientist or engineer, but with all the wind we have been battling throughout the U.S., they really should invest more heavily in wind turbines.  Just a thought.      

Once again, we were hit by some insane winds and hard rain that actually hurt my arms and face while I was fighting through it.  This picture shows the aftermath.  I would have liked to capture it while I was in the midst of it but I really had to get out of it as quickly as possible.  We parked it at this rest stop out in the middle of nowhere and decided to spend the night there even though there was a ‘no camping’ sign.  Seriously why do they have that sign?  I think if you are a cycling tourist you should be allowed to camp at a rest area if need be.  Surprisingly, the caretaker was around when we were there and asked us what we were doing.  I said we planned to spend the night because of the crazy storm.  After a bit of hemming and hawing he said fine, even though it was against policy.  When we got up the next morning we saw the parking lot full of truckers and other vehicles.  So why are they allowed to sleep there but we can’t technically camp there?!  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.   

The things they can do with antlers these days. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hitting New Highs

Leaving Arizona and entering Utah it really looked like the Wild West.  Monument Valley had been on my radar ever since I watched Back to the Future III again in Southeast Asia.  I had to check this place out and it did not disappoint.  As a result, The Searchers (’56), Hondo (’53) and Stagecoach (’39) are all on my must watch movie list when I get back home.

I don’t know about you but I sure do enjoy getting high.  And so going into Colorado I was quite excited as it is a place where one can do just that quite easily.  As such, we got high like every day!  No we weren’t passing joints around but we were passing Passes.  We cycled through about 10 Passes ranging from 3,200m to 3,700m.  We also cycled up the highest paved road in North America: Mt. Evans at just over 4,300m.  This marked our highest altitude on the trip so it is all downhill from here!  I wish.   

Going through Colorado certainly has tested us both physically and mentally.  Though I would say going up and down hills is a lot more mental than it is physical.  If you know you have a killer hill ahead, you can just put your head down, stick it in a low gear and go slow and steady.  But if you threw a hill at me in a place like Thailand where I don’t expect them I would probably rant and get annoyed.  Having prepared ourselves mentally really helped with the climbs. 

There are lots of pictures in this post as this last stretch of road has provided endless amounts of spectacular scenery.  If you are like Trevor who can’t be bothered to take in the scenery than I guess most of the following pictures will bore you.  Seriously, Trevor annoys me when he asks why I am stopping when we are surrounded by mountains galore and the sun is out.  Open your eyes and take a wild guess. 

We have a fair number of National Parks still ahead and I am super stoked.  Trevor isn’t.  And yes, I just used the word stoked. 

Scavengers looking for free handouts.  Unfortunately for them, their persistence didn’t really pay off.

We met Greg who hails from Wales in Northern Arizona in between Tuba City and Keyanta.  He is the first around the world cyclist we have met in a long while.  Nice chatting with him and I am envious of his climb of Everest a couple of years back.  Another dream of mine.  Anyway, we talked about the hardships of cycling solo.  It is definitely much easier when you have someone to talk to and vent at as opposed to talking with yourself all day long.  Being on the road by yourself for endless amounts of days is a difficult task.  Respect.     

Entering the Monument Valley area we had an intense sandstorm ahead of us.  Obviously you can’t really see the severity of the sand flying across the road but believe me it was on and sand definitely got into my mouth and eyes.  Trevor was in fear and questioned how will we ever get through this?  I stopped right then and there, slapped him a couple of times in the face and told him to buck up.  And then said: a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do……………  Okay, it didn’t quite go down like that.  I just wanted to quote that line even though it was never said word for word in any John Wayne Western films.  I know this because I did some research online. 

Around Monument Valley we lucked out and found some cover in this tunnel.  At first I thought it was a great spot but as I tried to fall asleep I began gasping for air.  Not sure why but I had trouble breathing in the tunnel.  I am guessing there was a lack of oxygen.  Trevor slept fine though. 

Monument Valley.  Definitely an awesome sight to see.  You can just picture Cowboys and Indians battling it out here. 

Enter Utah and more Monument Valley. 

I couldn’t stop looking back at the vistas while cycling up Route 163.  And if I am not mistaken, this is the spot where Forrest Gump stops running.  We can relate to him in that we just want to cycle.  No real cause, just want to cycle. 

Almost ran over this snake in blistering hot Utah.  It was in attack mode when I approached it so I quickly lifted my legs up and swerved around it.  Then hopped off my bike and went back to check it out.  I don’t think it is poisonous or anything, just a harmless snake chilling on the hot tarmac working on its tan.  Happens from time to time. 

Some unique looking rocks that look to me like a nut sack.  Be proud Bluff, Utah!    

Enter the Rocky Mountains proper. 

The scenic stretch of road from Silverton to Ouray is referred to as the Million Dollar Highway.  And it did look like a million bucks that is for sure with nonstop stellar scenery all the way through.

Trevor in Ouray, a town that dubs itself the Switzerland of America.  It was a nice town indeed with mountains galore all around.  I love mountain towns. 

And here is another one: Aspen!  I have always wanted to check this place out, though more so in the winter, as I have always thought it as a rival to Whistler Blackcomb.  I would love to hit the slopes here one day although the price of a lift ticket is well over my budget. 

The thunderstorms will not quit on us in the U.S.  It was a daily occurrence in Colorado.  Rain, rain go away!  We got hit hard going up Independence Pass and it forced us to layer up as it was pretty cold.

Independence Pass!  The highest paved Pass in Colorado at 3,687m.   

Stealth camping has been pretty good in Colorado.  This spot pictured was one of our best overlooking the Twin Lakes with Mt. Elbert (highest peak in the North American Rockies) in the other direction. 

A lot of the hills we have gone up or down don’t always have a guardrail.  So one must be very careful cruising up or down hills.  We cycled by many sharp cliff drops where if you fell off, you’d probably be a goner.  It kind of reminded me of the World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia.  Personally I think if you can handle the roads here in Colorado with no guardrails, you could easily handle the road in Bolivia.  It really wasn’t that dangerous in my view when we cycled down it last year on the backpacking trip.  Driving back up it though, that was scary.        

Also checked out Vail, the second largest ski resort in North America after Whistler Blackcomb (represent).  Their village was pretty nice too although it looked quite expensive.  No surprise as this is also where the stars come out to ski.  Like I said, I love mountain towns.  Fresh air, cold crisp water to drink, usually a river or two flowing through and delicious food smells emanating the air from the many restaurants around.  Unfortunately our budget doesn’t allow us to indulge in those restaurants but they sure smelled good! 

They certainly have some excellent bike paths in and around Aspen and Vail.  Hats off to them for building an infrastructure that accommodates cyclists, walkers, runners, and rollerbladers.  I salute you!  Going up to Vail Pass there was this Triple Bypass race going on with hundreds and hundreds of cyclists.  Usually it is the non-racers like us who should be cheering and encouraging the racers but it was the racers doing just that to us.  Many we passed gave us the thumbs up and I could see some of them stare in awe.  One even said they have nothing on us.  That made me laugh.  Again, quite humbling the support given to us just going up this Pass. 

We met Chris at the Frisco Walmart by chance and he kindly invited us to stay with him and his wife Emma for the night.  Again, I am astounded by the kindness of strangers on this trip.  It was a great evening and we chatted a lot about travel.  They sent us off the next morning with a delicious breakfast which provided us the energy we needed to make another Pass and also gave me a cycling jersey!  A big thanks to both of them for their warm hospitality and taking in a couple of smelly cyclists for the night. 

Loveland Pass, the second highest paved Pass in Colorado at 3,655m.    

The Triple Bypass race was on for 2 straight days so the next day we were cycling with many racers again but this time going up Loveland Pass and some of Mt. Evans.  The support given was incredible.  Even though we weren’t registered for the event people would go and grab us food for us to snack on.  At this one rest stop this man gave me a sweet black windbreaker!  So no more riding around looking like a bum in my yellow ripped jacket.  The windbreaker is really great as it does a much better job protecting me from the rain.  Also late in the day a support crew I spoke with earlier drove up beside us and asked if we wanted the leftover pizza, milks and trail mix.  That was a no brainer.  Of course!  The nice young girl even gave me a t-shirt.  Trevor has never ran a marathon or participated in an event like this so he hasn’t experienced the support and encouragement given in events like these.  I love it and always enjoy the support along the way.  So it was really great cycling this stretch of road when this race was on. 

Riding above the clouds going up Mt. Evans.  Unfortunately the weather going up and down was pretty bad with poor visibility and thundershowers.  To make matters worse there were no guardrails and the drops were quite steep.  They closed the road to vehicles but cyclists like us could weave around the gate and get in, of course at our own risk.  Going up the Park Ranger drove up beside us and asked if we were going to the top and also said the road is closed.  I think she did this just to ensure we were cognizant and weren’t affected by the high altitude.  Anyway, having the mountain all to ourselves became a blessing because we had the whole road to manoeuvre.

Nice to bag one of the many ‘fourteeners’ in Colorado.  Tackling Mt. Evans was not my idea believe it or not.  Nope, it was Trevor’s idea.  As I may have said before, the only 2 things he wanted to do on this trip was hit the antipodal spots and go up Mt. Evans.  I guess his trip is now complete. 

We scrambled up another 40m or so to the summit of Mt. Evans.  Had to watch my footing as behind those rocks is a major drop.  It was really unfortunate with the poor visibility on the mountain.  As Trevor put it, we came all that way to see what we couldn’t see.  Had it been clear skies we could have seen places like the Denver metro, Pike’s Peak and South Park!  Not the television show, the real town! 

Plenty of marmots running around all over the place on the mountain.  Shame I wanted to see some mountain goats but I guess they were in hiding because of the crappy weather. 

I had brief windows to snap photos on Mt. Evans, this being one of them.  Otherwise, you would be seeing pictures of fog thick as pea soup.  Above the treeline kind of reminded me of the Scottish Highlands or somewhere in Ireland.     

Bullwinkle the moose who rarely stuck its head up as it was too busy having its dinner. 

Because Trevor was high, he got the munchies and needed to fuel up on some grub before climbing even higher to 3,713m, the highest point on Trail Ridge Road which is the highest continuous stretch of paved road in the United States!  Okay, that was pretty bad and I know what you are thinking: “Kevin, we get it, you guys got high, not recreationally or medicinally but literally high.  You have proved that point by constantly noting the height in meters even though we can see it in feet.  And we know Colorado recently legalized marijuana, something I wish the powers that be would legalize in my jurisdiction.  Why someone can’t freely smoke an ounce and bounce at the same time is beyond me.  But yeah, we see you are just playing around with the word ‘high’.  The joke is getting old and you need to come up with some new material.”  Ouch, a bit harsh on the criticism, but I appreciate your honesty and agree with your comments.  I will say though in closing, while we both currently do look like stoners, especially Trevor, we don’t partake in the activity but do support the cause.  But it isn’t something we are going to cycle full circle for.  Remember, we just want to cycle.            

Rocky Mountain National Park.  We lucked out and had great weather all day.  That rarely happens.  Usually clouds roll through and thunderstorms ruin the rest of the day.  But not when we went through this park.  Sweet deal.  Given the sunny weather, the only downside was the park was packed with vehicles.  And there were plenty of steep drop-offs with no guardrails.  It was tough for me to not constantly look at the mountains around me while cycling.  Otherwise, I would have likely gone straight off a cliff.    

Even saw one of Santa’s reindeer!  Actually wait, that can’t be, because this is an elk.  

Last photo I promise because Trevor is getting bored taking in the views.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Getting Kicked on Route 66

Every time I think there won’t be any more troubles ahead, I am proven wrong.  Seems the United States, a country I thought we would breeze through, enjoys throwing crap at us.  This time it was the wind we were battling, although we did continue to endure extreme heat with consistent temperatures over 40°C and regular thunderstorms. 

There were two particular occasions where the wind really frightened me.  The first happened camping our last night in the Texan Panhandle.  Going into camp the weather was stable and there were no signs a massive storm would be brewing in a couple of hours.  As the night grew on I noticed a lot of flashing in the distance but thought nothing of it.  Then later we heard thunder and then raindrops.  Then the wind picked up.  Next thing we know we are in the middle of a severe storm with some of the strongest winds we have ever experienced, so strong that both of us were sitting up in our tents trying to hold everything together.  My tent pegs were blown off and my fly was flapping around like crazy.  As usual my tent got flooded, but so did Trevor’s for a change, except his later dried as a result of the strong winds blowing through.  I was very worried as we were technically still in Tornado Alley and in a location where we were vulnerable as there was no storm shelter around.  I was seriously considering packing up shop and getting out of there in the dark, severe storm and all.  The wind was so bad that I ended up having to move my tent with thunder, lightning and wind going ballistic all around me, to another spot where there were some bushes to act as cover.  I really hated doing this for obvious reasons but also I was paranoid about any rattlesnakes I may step on.  I don’t think they are a huge concern but I did see a number of signs earlier in the day to watch out for them and any other snakes slithering about.  It was a long night and I ended up finally getting some shut eye around 2 am when the storm and fierce winds finally settled down.    

The second incident was in New Mexico shortly after we exited Albuquerque.  The heat was on pretty much all day long and I was roasting.  Then all of a sudden the weather did a complete 360 on us.  Out from nowhere we were hit by an insane dust storm.  Never had both of us experienced crosswinds so fierce.  There were signs leading up cautioning about dangerous crosswinds in the area.  Tumbleweed and all things loose were flying across the road at high speeds.  Kind of what you would see when a tornado hits.  Visibility was horrible and cycling in it was dangerous to say the least.  We needed to get out fast.  As luck would have it I also had a flat in the making.  So things were not looking great.  We had to stop and remove tumbleweed that got stuck in our wheels and drive chain.  We battled the wind by leaning into it so we wouldn’t get knocked over.  Sometime later we escaped the dust storm and were still in one piece.  Relief.  I had the GoPro rolling in the thick of it and Trevor yelled at me to turn it off as I would need both hands.  Rightfully so but later he would applaud my actions as the footage was kind of cool. 

Interstate 40 holds the honour for the worst stretch of road to get flats on.  And I don’t think it will be beat.  It is absolutely unacceptable how much shredded tires and shard they have on the shoulder.  We broke our daily record with 6 flats (4 for me, 2 for Trevor).  I was so frustrated that I was thinking I should write a letter to the Department of Transportation.  They should take after the Chinese and have street cleaners.  The tarmac is so hot that it results in a lot of exploding tires.  We even saw a passing RV’s tire blow up.  The tire shredded and ended up on the shoulder as they all do waiting for us to pass and puncture our tires.  We are thankfully off the I-40 now and have picked up 3 new tires: 2 Specialized Armadillo’s and 1 Schwalbe Marathon.  Before I thought any tire could do in most terrain but here in the US it appears you need top of the line tires to get through.      

In more positive news the scenery has really picked up.  There was a complete terrain change when we entered New Mexico as we started to really get that Wild West feel.  New Mexico surprised me with all its barren land.  I learned that some many miles south of Albuquerque is Trinity Site, where the testing of the first Atomic Bomb back in 1945 occurred.  Also 30 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences (yes, they called it that after this popular TV show back in the 50’s) is Spaceport America, the first commercial port for space flights.  This is where Virgin Galactic will take off whenever that happens.  I would love to board one of those flights someday.

Another thing that has continued besides the extreme weather is the generosity of Americans.  They are really too kind and giving.  In New Mexico a lady outside the Tourist Information center gave us $20 after hearing about our trip.  Then later that day I was in a supermarket in Tucumcari and 2 ladies gave me $10 each.  Said they have great admiration for what we are doing.  Later in Arizona we met a couple from Jacksonville, Florida who said we should try our hand at Survivor or the Amazing Race, and then gave us $20.  In Flagstaff we went to a McDonald’s to burn some time and this man starts talking with us about our trip.  He is quite impressed and then leaves to throw his garbage away.  Trevor notices that he has a gun with him.  He then returns and sure enough I see the gun in his holster.  I begin to freak out a bit as I always get nervous around guns.  Then he takes out a stack of bills and says he wants to make a contribution to our trip as he likes what we are doing and wishes he had done something similar.  He then places a note with Benjamin Franklin on the table, shook both of our hands and wished us all the best.  Yes, you are reading that correctly, $100.  One minute I am freaking out over the sight of a gun and the next minute I am shocked over the very generous contribution.  Super nice guy.  People just want to buy us lunch or whatever.  I kind of feel like I am a D-list celebrity at times with all the people that approach and speak with us, want to shake our hand or take pictures with or of us.  It is a bit flattering.       
We just passed through the Grand Canyon today and it is a sight to see.  With all the crazy weather we have endured thus far, what will the US throw our way next?

Meet Frederick, half wolf, half German Shepherd, but one whole biter.  Only 6 weeks old, I had to watch where I step so I wouldn’t kick him over.  Funny little guy. 

Katie and I just outside her backdoor.  We were former flatmates back in London in 2005.  Good times.  Huge thanks to her for letting us stay with her a couple of days in Oklahoma City.  We watched a couple of movies, she introduced me to the television program Arrested Development and I watched the NBA and NHL finals.  She is quite the cook and fed us some delicious grub.  All in all, the makings of a great couple of days. 

Riding the Mother Road.

I had some bicycle troubles around Elk City, pretty much halfway between Oklahoma City and Amarillo.  My bottom bracket seized thus preventing me from pedalling.  Things looked pretty bad as I was going nowhere.  Luckily Trevor discovered the bottom bracket just needed tightening.  This allowed us to barely make it to Amarillo where I got it replaced as the bearings were shot.  Had we been screwed in Elk City we would have had to resort to taking the Greyhound back to Oklahoma City and getting it fixed there.  Really sucks in developed countries like this that taking the bus costs so much and they require you pack up your bike in a box.  In developing countries you usually can just throw your bike on and go many miles for very little, much like we did when we had to cross the Rio Parana in Argentina.  But like I said, thankfully we didn’t have to go that route and hop on the Greyhound.   

Trevor annoys me more often than I would like so I ordered him to take a timeout in jail to think about how he pisses me off.  It didn’t work.    

The challenge was set: to eat 72oz of steak and some side dishes in under one hour.  The prize: all of it free.  We both had been contemplating whether we would tackle this challenge since we entered the US as it is something we’ve always wanted to do.  That is, an eat it and it’s free contest.  Unfortunately, that is a lot of food and neither Trevor nor I wanted to stuff our faces and later feel sick just to get a free meal.  I know this may be a shock to some people I used to work with as I had the reputation of eating anything and everything put in front of me.  Anyway, we hung our heads low in defeat and cycled on. 

In response to that hit song that commanded the UK charts back in 2005: this is the way to Amarillo.  And yes, that was another bad joke by yours truly that probably only people who lived in the UK back in 2005 will get. 

Trevor getting his kicks on Route 66 by climbing Cadillac’s at Cadillac Ranch.  

Picked up a very sturdy knife on the road side.  It will provide a bit more piece of mind later when we start camping with bears and wolves.  Hopefully we won’t need to use it since Katie kindly sent us off with some fabric softener sheets which apparently are a deterrent to animals.  Plus it makes my tent and bags smell so fresh and so clean!   

Taking you back to the 50’s with Jayne Mansfield, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.  

We met Harrison in the New Mexican desert walking along Interstate 40.  Much respect to him as he is walking from Florida to California, coast to coast.  That is pretty hardcore. 

Leaving Albuquerque we saw this truck on fire.  I spoke with the driver and he said it overheated and just went up in flames.  The firefighters quickly extinguished the flames but the truck was fried. 

This was taken just after we escaped those violent crosswinds in New Mexico.  As you can see the sky looks quite gloomy in the background.  But we did end up going through a pretty nice rainbow, though we didn’t see any pots of gold at the end of it. 

Passing the Continental Divide, probably will be doing this a few more times.

Enjoying the Wild West scenery. 

A donkey and some longhorns but this ain’t in Texas. 

Meteor Crater.  A bit overpriced in my opinion but I am interested in all things to do with space so this was kind of neat. 

I was about to pose for the camera in Flagstaff to model my new and improved wear when a comical character jumped at the scene for a photo op and then continued walking his dog.  Anyway, my shoes were dying much like Trevor’s but have been brought back to life after Trevor glued them together in Oklahoma City.  So far it is working fine.  I picked up new shorts back in Louisiana after the holes around my rear allowed for too much mooning.  The new shorts I am currently wearing unfortunately are very loose and as a result I have been probably showing off a little too much in the front.  That problem was recently solved after Trevor found one of those straps you hook to the back of your trunk to hold things in place.  Thankfully it is now holding my shorts in place as I use it as a belt and so there will be no more full frontals.  My Vancouver jersey unfortunately couldn’t take me the rest of the way on its own so I am wearing my Singapore jersey but still have my tattered Vancouver jersey to cover my forearms from the sun.  I wanted to represent Vancouver all around the world thus my reluctance to toss it.  Though now I get to represent Singapore as well, so it is a win win.  As for eye wear, Trevor continues to amass a collection of shades.  That is one thing you probably do not need to buy on a bike trip as there are so many lying on the side of the road.  He is currently wearing some Oakley’s but has picked up many others including brands like DKNY (designer!) along the way. 

This picture is for our mom.  You have a town named after you just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.  There is another in Southern New Mexico but we didn’t pass through it.  I also remember seeing one in South America too.  Your name is quite popular when it comes to naming towns.      

Cycling through Grand Canyon National Park is quite something.  Both Trevor and I really enjoyed it.  Definitely would like to return to do some justice to the trails on offer and possibly raft down the Colorado River.  It is an amazing place. 

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