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Ride to Choose

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S: Ride to Choose By Alexa Humphreys

BC: Biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine the journey began July 2nd, 2010. Our itinerary, while evolving along the way, was heavily influenced by the recommendations from people like you. From Portland, OR we headed east, exploring small towns and national landmarks, overlooked trails and major cities. Our goal was not to race through the countryside or to beat any cycling records. Instead, we sought to appreciate the uniqueness of every country road, busy city and smiling face we encountered. Creating a visual representation of our journey was important as well. We wanted to get people excited about a concept of travel that is accomplished through dedication and willpower, without adding to our carbon footprint. | Self sufficiency was an important theme of our journey. We traveled light, fueled by healthy food and the natural high that accompanies a blend of athleticism and exploration. We camped much of the time, and were guests to those who opened their homes to us. We incorporated hiking, fishing, urban picnicking, and socializing into our array of activities. Our intent was to redefine how we travel. We believed it was our right to choose how we travel, interact with our country and the people in it. It is our right as Americans to travel across our country and know that other Americans will be neighborly. We will not give up these rights, so we chose to ride! This journey was made possible by people like you who chose to help this become a reality. People donated their time, energy, advice, electronics, and funds to make this trip a reality.

FC: Ride to Choose "Two women, two bicycles, 7 flat tires, 17 states, and 3,606.9 miles" | Summer 2010 | Portland, | Oregon | to | Portland, | Maine

1: Our Intent | This is how we saw it... | Mission Statement: challenging society norms of how Americans, particularly women, travel. Goals: Travel from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, in approximately 10 weeks. Discover as much of America as possible during the journey, interact with Americans from all walks of life, and document our travels for the benefit of other travel enthusiasts. Objective: Inspire Americans to be confident in their ability to travel despite current economic trends. | It is an American's Right to Choose It is a right for Americans to choose how they live their lives, what they do with their spare time, and how they see their country. It is an American's right to choose how to travel across America regardless of what foreign oil companies charge for gas. It is an American's right to remain on American soil and enjoy their beautiful country by traveling through it, the way American families have done for hundreds of years. It's the right of Americans to choose the way they live and experience the American way of life. It may be on a bike trekking across the country, in a raft floating down a river, at a New York coffee shop talking amongst friends, or on a California beach watching a sunset. But one thing all Americans have, is the right to choose. The right to choose Americans have fought for in the military, in picket lines, working mundane jobs, and in the home. But they've fought for this right and they will not give it up. An American's right to choose is paid for everyday by the way the United States people live their lives. We invoke that right to see our country and experience the open road. The right to choose allows us to jump on a couple of bikes and set out to see some of the most breathtaking sights on American soil. | We expected this journey to be exhilarating at moments and arduous at others. Covering over 3,500 miles on a bicycle is a task only a tiny percentage of our population has ever even considered. We looked forward to the personal growth that would undoubtedly accompany our journey. We were also excited to become a resource for other biking enthusiasts. We wanted to get people excited about traveling with their own sheer willpower as their fuel, while intimately exploring this expansive country.

2: With the launch of our trip close at hand, we were doing our best to use our last days wisely. While mostly filled with running errands, tracking down equipment, and eating everything that crossed our paths; we also did our best to savor Oregon. One such afternoon was spent with Jamie and Katherine McCleary (my parents) at Carlton Winemaker's Studio. It was actually Jess' first wine tasting experience, and she was enamored by the swirling reds and terms such at "legs". | Katherine and Jamie educating us on the subtleties of wine tasting | We'll miss you Oregon! | A gorgeous photo to remember the day by

3: I was living in San Diego, CA and Jess in Corvallis, OR prior to the start of our journey. Consequently Jess and I decided to hold off on buying the necessary gear for our trip until I was also in Oregon. I didn't want to buy things at a higher price in Cali and then have to transport it all North. So we decided I would come up to Oregon the week before leaving and buy everything we needed. This may not have been the smartest decision... Our week before the trip was a flurry of seeking, comparing, deliberating, and purchasing the "right" equipment. We had been given great advice no products from other cyclists who had made similar journeys, but time was against us. At the top of our preparation to-do list was to have our bikes tuned-up before we set out. Justin and Chris, owners of Kinetic Performance in Portland, OR offered to service oru bikes and get us any last minute items. "Last minute" including waterproof panniers, pannier racks, pedals, and a new seat, among other things. We were shocked at what Chris and Justin achieved. In a mere three days the accomplished what would have taken other cycling shops WEEKS. They sought out the equipment we needed with the dedication of a search and rescue team. They worked on our bikes day and night until every spoke was in alignment and our bikes ran like fine-tuned machines. | Satisfied customers

4: Despite our pledge to get a full night's sleep before our big first day, the hours melted into morning and we found ourselves packing our last few items. My mind was swirling with the possibilities for our trip, my stomach felt the rapid flutter of frenzied butterflies... | Day 1 | I couldn't believe it! The morning I had been envisioning every day for three months was upon us. Now, I realize in the grand scheme of things 3 months isn't a long time. Small children somehow last the twelve months of anticipation before Christmas. But sometimes I'm more impatient than a small child. I like results. | Despite all our time invested in preparation the weeks before, we still had a list of to-dos for the morning of. A few last supplies and a few last goodbyes. In particular picking up two pairs of cycling shoe clips (details, details) and saying goodbye to Jess' mom. | We then drove to Portland, our bikes and bags consuming the interior of Jess' car. Once in Portland we scouted for our launching pad. A spacious Home Depot parking lot looked like it would suffice. | Bear Mace; never leave home without it | Special thanks to Tiffany and Jake for escorting us to Portland

5: With an exchange of hugs and "good lucks!" from Jake and Tiffany we hopped on our bikes and headed North. Both Jess and I were uncontrollably smiling as we cycled on. We are really doing this! As we made our way over the I-205 bridge into Washington, ominous gray clouds unleashed the downpour they had been threatening the entire day. The rain pelted us with little mercy as we ascended the crest of the bridge as if asking the question... Are you ready to turn back? We pedaled on. | Our first day of cycling was invigorating but not without its challenges. Crossing the I-205 bridge tested our balance as we tilted our helmets against the icy, verging on horizontal rain. The inclines of Highway 14 tested our conditions and endurance. As dusk descended upon us, we weighed our options for sleeping arrangements. We slept well that night, lulled by the hum of mosquitoes and the rumbling of a not-so-distant train. | Anyone see the little green Buddha? | In Washington and about to hop on Highway 14 | "Teece" taking a break next to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge

6: Day 2 | Mother Nature was much kinder to us our second day of cycling. The steep inclines of the Cascades gave way to smaller hills and even more gorgeous scenery. Such breath-taking sights as Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam made for an awe-inspiring morning. | We were about 20 miles into our day when Jess acknowledged that she was not feeling well. Her mind fever the night prior had metamorphosed into a nagging headache and sore throat. Deciding it would be best to retire early we pulled off at a sign that read "Home Valley Campground." We were pleased to find the camp sites well-kept and the camp hosts inviting. We spent the better part of our evening chatting about politics, health & wellness, Quinoa, and Bigfoot. | Fun Fact: Skamania County (where our campsite was located) has had more reported Bigfoot sightings than any other county in Washington | Jess was super excited when she found organic chicken dogs at a local market. They were chocked full of sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and an assortment of herb. Even I, the vegetarian by nature, partook. I would also like to mention that Jess has fire building skills to vie with any boy scout (or troop leader for that matter!). I began unpacking one of my bags when I turned around to a blazing fire. All hail fire goddess Jess! | Fire Goddess Jess | Bonneville Dam | Some Roadside Pretties | Bridge of the Gods

7: We awoke to a cheerful "You girls want some eggs?!" Both Jess and I could barely pull ourselves out of the deep REM cycle we were lodged in. "Yeah, that sounds good, we'll be over in a minute." I managed to respond with my crackly morning voice. We crawled out of our tent and began our day. | Seeing as Highway 14 has a very narrow shoulder and even narrower tunnels, someone devised this "push-here-in-hopes-cars-will-not-run-you-down-in-the-tunnel button." But due to my firm belief in the frequency of oblivious drivers, we still entered the tunnels with caution. As we later found out, this is one of the most dangerous highways to bike along in the state. Oh well, beauty is worth a little danger in my book. | As the evergreen forests of the Cascades melted into high Eastern Washington desert, we began to notice a change. A ferocious Easterly wind became our accidental new traveling companion. The aggressive tailwind was a blessing that picked up our pace and hurled us along the coast. We were so relieved NOT to be traveling west. | Our entertainment as we took five for a Cliff Bar | These were our wonderful camp hosts! Vern on the left is the official host of Home Valley Campsite. "Ranger" Rick on the right sent us off for our day with full stomachs and a couple new fishing lures guaranteed to entice trout. | Day 3 | Cycling along the Gorge

8: Our next stop was just west of Lyle, WA at the local chamber of commerce. We were greeted by Marsha, who gave us great ideas of things to see, and wineries to visit in the area. | We met up with Jess' mom and dad in Murdock, Washington, and then made our way over to the Dalles for dinner. As we enjoyed our meals and talked of our next destinations, we could see fireworks across the gorge. The plumes of fireworks lit up the Washington sky before dissolving into darkness. All in all, it was a great day. | Marsha and Jess | Christy, Jess & Chris | Days 4 & 5 In an unfortunate turn of events, Jess came down with Strep Throat. We ended up spending an extra two days in the Dalles, OR to allow her time to recover. But she pulled through like the rockstar she is! | The Beautiful Columbia Gorge

9: Day 6 | Crisis averted, Jess is better! After two days of rest and relaxation, Jess awoke feeling almost back to her old self and ready to hit the road. In celebration (and perhaps to go along with the theme of "traveling light") Jess cut several inches off her locks. It was time to get back in the saddle... | Jess Making the Cut | Silly bovine cut-out in from of "Cousins" in the Dalles, OR | Miles out of the Dalles and loving the view | Beautiful countryside near Maryhill, WA

10: agreeing that it was in good fashion to try the local fare, Jess and I escaped the blistering heat by relaxing at Maryhill Winery over a glass of Pinot Grigio. But, being the responsible cycles we are, we literally had one glass of wine between the two of us. | Rules were made... | On the road again | Cooling our worn-out tootsies in the Columbia | The fire goddess strikes again!

11: Day 7 | We left Maryhill State Park that morning in good spirits. Jess' energy level was up and we were excited to put some miles behind us. The main concern ahead of us was the high heat of the day. It was predicted to be over 100. Oh joy... | The Stone Henge War Memorial perched above the Columbia Gorge. Funny story behind this to-scale replica. The creator was under the faulty impression that the original Stone Henge in the UK was created as a war memorial. In reality, it is a mystery as to who and how they created the stonework. A little research goes a long way. | "As we moved east the gorge morphed into a much calmer animal, but no less gorgeous." | Arriving in the tiny town of Roosevelt, we knew we needed to rest. It was a long, hot, tiring day, and we needed to charge our batteries as well as our electronics'. Directed to the local pub (the only pub for that matter) we walked into M&T Pub and Grill seeking shelter form the intense heat, and perhaps a brewskie. | After a round of drinks, a game of pool, and some stimulating international conversation Jess and I decided to continue under the cool of night. We were excited for our first taste of night cycling! | The colossal towering wind mills kept us company through much of Southestern Washington | Absorbing the cool, escaping the heat | Night Rider | Jess doing what she does best, making friends

12: Day 8 | Jess and her little buddy buddha, who coincidentally is named "Buddy" | Since the previous night we finished our last 15 miles in the dark, we had only a vague idea as to what our camping area actually looked like. We were surprised by the beautiful view we were greeted with in the morning. It was the perfect setting for some early morning streeeeetching... | Beans, it's what's for breakfast! | The shining face that greeted us as we took shelter from the 111 degree heat in Paterson, WA

13: Needing an additional break from the heat, we stopped at Umatilla Park in Plymouth, WA. The park was beautiful, and a nearly perfect resting lace if it weren't for the exceptionally aggressive mosquitoes. | Jess looking particularly menacing | Tired, dehydrated, and sore... and loving it! | Slightly oxymoronic moment in Umatilla, WA | DIZZY?

14: Day 9 | Determined to beat the heat, we left early from Hat Rock Park. So early in fact, that our neighboring campers were still strewn about their site like plastic red cups after a frat party. We quietly walked our bikes to the park entrance and glided off. | We were blessed this day with flat terrain and partial shade. After 100 degree plus days, I never thought I'd be so happy to see a sky full of clouds. | Our midway point of the day was Touchet, WA. At first we thought perhaps the name was pronounced with a French flare, like "touche", then we speculated the locals must have a simpler pronunciation, like "touch it". We finally asked a local and she informed us that the small town's name was actually pronounced "too-chee." | We stopped at a small store and feasted on sandwiches the size of our heads as we outlined the rest of our day. Our destination was Walla Walla, WA, but our lodging for the evening was still up in the air. "Let's give couchsurfing a try!" we agreed in unison. However, we both had our doubts that a city as small as Walla Walla would have many internationally-minded hosts. We logged onto and sent 3 requests to perspective hosts in Walla Walla moments before hitting the road .

15: A few miles down the road, success! We received a text from Tessa, a student of Whitman University, that we were welcome to stay the night with her and her roommates. We were both thrilled by the idea of sleeping under a roof for a night. Not that we don't love camping, but it's still nice to mix it up. | We arrived at the two story green house with its spacious porch drenched with sweat and hoping our host wouldn't turn us away for our lack of hygiene. Instead, Tessa welcomed us in like old friends and introduced us to her posse of undergrad buds. Before long we were eating scrumptious slices of pizza from Sweet Basil, a recommendation from a gentleman earlier that day. | Tessa & co. were also kind enough to give us an impromptu tour of Whitman's campus. It was as gorgeous as I'd heard, and took me back to my first year at Willamette University. | Jess and I atop "Styx" a Whitman sculpture by Deborah Butterfield, the same talented artist who created the equine statues visible when driving away from Portland International Airport. | What a great day in Walla Walla! | Left to right: Jess, me, Nina, Tessa, Keith, Jack & Anastasia

16: Day 10 | We said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts and to Walla Walla. As much as we wanted to stay and watch the World Cup from the comfort of Tessa's comfy living room we had a lot of miles to put behind us. | Cycling has made me much more aware of the sounds, sights, and smells that can be overlooked while driving in an enclosed metal contraption. The smell of freshly cut cedar when a logging truck drives by, the sound of cicadas in a field, the sickly sweet smell of road kill; many of these we are immune to with the windows rolled up and the AC turned high. As we cycled east I was lulled by the siren song of wheat fields, the wind dancing through the dry grains. | Jess, in her try-to-burn-me-now sun gear | The beautiful wheat fields brought to mind "Fields of Gold"

17: This cracked us up, at the Lewis and Clark campground in Washington (where we camped that night) they had an interesting name for our style of camp site. So much for "hiker/biker" or "dry" site. They called it "primitive," as if it were where the sent the cavemen to sleep. | Cooling Off | Denise and Josh, another couple of long-distance cyclists headed to Colorado. Although they are much more hard-core than us, they built their bikes themselves! | Sure, I look like I'm happy, but my legs were killing me this day | Jess frolicking in a lavender garden

18: Day 11 | After leaving Lewis and Clark State Park, we headed to the nearby town of Dayton to forage for breakfast. We happened upon a Mom and Pop A-frame diner on the main strip and stopped to feast before our long day ahead. | Our midday resting place was Pomeroy, a quaint town that seemed to have exactly one of everything; one grocery store, one bar, one diner, one coffee shop, and one very convenient USBank. When inquring about the food at the bar, two locals suggested we purchase our own alcohol and consume it in the local park. In the park? We thought. Like in the open? They assured us that the local authorities were very relaxed about such activities. For a moment I felt we had happened upon a small town in Europe. | Fed and rested we continued east on Highway 12 and began our climb to Alpowa Summit. By the time we began our ascent the heat had lessened and the wind had picked up. Atop the summit we shielded ourselves as the warm wind whipped at us from every direction. It was a wild ride down the other side, to say the least. | Exploring Pomeroy | Wyatt's Roost, what a cool fort! | Atop Alpowa Summit | A couple of fixer-uppers in Dodge, WA

19: Day 12 | We awoke in Chief Timothy State Park, a beautiful campground just west of Clarkston, WA. I couldn't wait to get on the road, we were crossing into Idaho today! | When we came back from our morning showers we were happy to see a fanciful herd of white rabbits grazing by our site. | Jess chillin at our site | Jess' new found friend Tony, who escorted her to the local bookstore for her coveted Spanish book | We crossed over the river from Clarkston and landed in the middle of Lewiston, and Idaho! It felt so good to be in a new state after our extended stay in Washington. And I must say, coolest font ever on Idaho's welcome sign. | Beautiful Lewiston, despite one local's assurance that it is the "armpit" of Idaho

20: Jess and "Buddy" entertaining themselves while I cycled 3 miles back to retrieve my lost glove | Fun fact for all my horse loving friends: there is a recent attempt to restore the Nez Perce horses to their original luster before settlers seized and watered down the breed. There is a progressive breeding program in Idaho that is crossing Appaloosas and Akhal Tekes to recreate the endurance of the original breed. | We set up camp at an adorable campsite in Lenore, ID, a "town" that consisted of a post office and one-lane wooden bridge | We've seen a number of these bovine locals on our journey | As we cycled by, I day dreamed of the beautiful Nez Perce horses perched atop the immense hills | Urban picnicing, cyclist style

21: Day 13 | That evening as we cycled towards Kooskia, stopping at a convenience store to purchase some night crawlers. We hadn't done much fishing on the trip with my 2.5' ice fishing pole, and decided it was about time to get serious. We purchased night crawlers and a lure set-up that the store clerk highly recommended. | We arrived at our intended boondocking destination near Kooskia and I threw in the first line with an impressively large night crawler. Soon becoming antsy I broke off the line with the night crawler still attached, tied the end around a piece of drift wood and stuck it in the sand. Jess and I spent the next hour taking turns with the lure and legitimate fishing pole with no success. Without warning jerry-rigged drift wood pole was jerked out of the sand and flew towards the river. I grabbed it and brought the line in with a swiftness that amazed me. So swift in fact I began to doubt there was actually a fish on the end. Suddenly a slick green body broke the surface. It had just caught our first fish of the trip with a piece of drift wood. Go Irony. | We started our day with a sense of accomplishment, we were in a new state! | I wish I could say we were always this exuberant in the morning | Our trusty GPS (aka me) | Jess the flower child in Kamiah, ID | Our first catch | Jess getting her teacher on, in front of a historic schoolhouse in Kamiah, ID | The beautiful Clearwater River which accompanied us along most of Highway 12

22: Day 14 | One thing Jess and I both noticed about our journey along Highway 12 was the convenient amount of facilities available to travelers. It felt like we couldn't go 3 miles without spotting a restroom, and it is legal to camp for free anywhere along the river so long as it's not a national park. If it weren't for the lack of shoulder on the highway, it would be a touring cyclists' paradise. | Jess and I had eaten lunch at a rustic diner in Lowell, ID where game heads and skins covered the walls. We ate on place-mats that educated us on US presidents and geography, and the huckleberry vinaigrette was delicious. We were still chuckling about the educational place mats when Jess realized she had left her camera battery charging at the restaurant. She had decided to pedal six miles back for the battery when Katie and her father Deb stepped in a saved the day, giving Jess a ride back to the quaint town of Lowell and saving us an additional hour of cycling. | Strutting my stuff outside of the porta-potty | Katie, Jess & Deb | Admiring the Clearwater River | Jess and her good luck charm

23: Day 15 | The beautiful Lochsa river we followed for the day. It's amazing how the close proximity of a cool refreshing river can make the hot days soooo much more manageable | Ms. Buff Legs showing off our midway resting place for the day, Jerry Johnson Hot Springs | One of the soothing pools at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. There were about a half a dozen pools in all, ranging from warm, to hot, to super hot, to medium with an essence of sulfur, to quite chilly. Aside from the token nude guy, it was like a wonderful public spa. | We cycled into Lochsa Lodge campgrounds, and found the very last open campsite. As we cycled around almost every camper smiled and waved. It was such a friendly place! Our camp host was a bubbly woman who drove a Gator like a pro and was being assisted by her young grandson by the day. When we asked if we could buy some wood from her she cheerfully replied, "No, but we can give you some!" Definitely one of our favorite campgrounds of the trip. | Enjoying the sunset | Lochsa Lodge Campgrounds

24: Day 16 | Our favorite Austrian-American cyclist, Roman | Jess, Alexa, Dennis | Another fellow cyclist we met as we were leaving Lochsa Lodge. Dennis was a physical therapist by trade who was heading back to Portland, OR where we had started from. We had some good laughs that morning sharing stories from the road. | After a long windy climb with little shoulder, we were elated to have reached the top of Lolo Pass, the final dividing incline between Idaho and Montana. We felt on top of the world! | Trying to leave to begin our day but meeting too many cool people! | Happy to be crossing into state number 4 of the trip | One thing we notice a few miles into Montana were the standardized roadside crosses. | Jess and Emily in Lolo, MT bonding over teacher talk | We met up with Roman and Eric, two cyclists we'd met eearlier that day, at Iron Horse in Missoula to celebrate crossing Lolo Pass. Thank god for American-sized portions at this restaurant as we were famished! | Jess, Eric, Alexa, & Roman | Our Biker Gang

25: Day 17 | Our first stop of the day was a bicycle shop for a few minor adjustments. A quick look online confirmed that many of the bicycle shops in Missoula, MT were closed on Sunday. Thankfully the oldest bicycle shop in town "Bicycle Hangar" was open and not far from the downtown area. | A labyrinth of bikes | John and Herb working their magic | Beautiful Montana farmland | This one's for you Luke! | As we cycled through Hamilton, the sun began to set and we didn't have sleeping arrangements in mind. As darkness fell and we hadn't yet cycled our 50 mile daily average, Jess suggested we stop and ask someone where the next campground was, just so we had a destination in mind. We pulled over at an RV park on the outskirts of town and walked our bikes into what appeared to be a ghost town of immense RVs. Every light was out but one, and we approached the occupants hesitantly. Our questions turned into a wonderful evening of conversation as husband Rob and wife Ash invited us to pitch our tent on their site. Their adorable kids Lexi and Preston dancing about in glee at having new company. Apparently these strange girls and their bikes were very entertaining. Ash and Rob made us feel at home, setting citronella candles around our tent, offering insight on a shortcut for the upcoming day, giving us orthopedic insoles for our cycling shoes, and discussing everything from politics to education until the wee hours of the night. Amazing what one pesky question can turn into!

26: Day 18 | Our wonderful hosts: Lexi and Rob (Ash and Preston not pictured) | In a ploy to get ahead of Eric and Roman, two mildly competitive cyclists, we chose to take Skalkaho Pass as a shortcut to Butte, MT. This was the comforting sing that greeted us bright and early this glorious morning. | We did a lot of this on the way up. Partly for the mobility benefits, partly for an excuse to stop and catch our breath! | A view nearly worth the climb | The impressive Skalkaho Waterfall

27: We coasted down the other side of Skalkaho Pass and descended into rolling farmland. The cows turned to stare at us in their usual mid-chew glossy eyed way. We stopped at a ranch-style home and asked the residents if we could borrow their hose to replenish our water supply. They gladly obliged and suggested a campground for the night. | We arrived at the campground and soon found ourselves covered in creatures. Not the blood-thirsty mosquitoes or pesky flies we'd encountered previously. Instead, small caterpillars were descending on tiny silky strings from the trees above. Our tent and belongings were soon draped in these delicate larvae... we did our best to treat lightly this night. | Road warriors after a 3,600 foot climb | Happy to be on level ground again | Planning the next step

28: Day 19 | As much as I love our trip and the strength I feel from cycling, there is one thing I do not enjoy: steep inclines first thing in the morning. It's as if my muscles begin to riot without a flat or downhill warm-up period. This particular morning we were faced with a bit of a climb and I was not loving it. At least there was a beautiful view once we reached the top. | A beautiful waterfall to accent our morning | Georgetown Lake | The quaint Georgetown Lake store, where we stopped for refreshments | Marina store mascot hard at work | Wait, it gets better... as we were cycling along Interstate 90 (yes, bicycles are allowed to cycle on interstates in Montana) we saw a sign directing us to Wisdom. "Jess, do you need any wisdom?" I shouted in Jest. "Nope, I'm good" was her response. Coming upon a sign that directed towards Opportunity, however, was even harder to pass up. We happily pedaled on knowing that we had plenty of opportunity ahead of us. | As the sun was setting we arrived in Butte, "The Richest Hill on Earth"

29: Day 20 | We broke down our camp with vigor excited for the day ahead. We were meeting Jess' friend Jessie for breakfast and then "hitting the slopes" to cross the continental divide. | Jessie and Jess | We joined Jessie for breakfast at the Montana Club. Going out for breakfast is a special treat, because it is a great way to supplement our diet with eggs. Eggs are one of the few things we hadn't tried to cook over a fire. Although we have successfully593324 made garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni, soup, the fish we caught, and pasta with red sauce to name a few. Jess and I keep joking that we are going to bake a cake over the hot coals one of these days. | It was a mildly arduous climb as we rose above Butte and into the clouds. We cycled to the crest of yet another incline and there it was, the green sign we had been yearning for since just after Butte: “Continental Divide Elevation 6393.” We shouted for joy and then happily reaped our reward of coasting for miles down the opposite side. | Success | We paused for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a definite staple of the trip) and began chatting with Laura and Ross, a Canadian couple on route to Yellowstone with their kids. We exchanged travel stories and spoke of our dislike of inclines, apparently their VW took its time over hills as well. We hoped we would run into them again in Yellowstone. | Laura, Ross & Co. | In awe in the Big Sky state

30: So far without exception, cows peacefully grazing alongside the road will stop, raise their heads, and fall under some sort of trance when we cycle by. This phenomena doesn't happen with the countless cars and semi trucks that pass; as if these loud vehicles blend into the roadside milieu. But when two girls on bikes slowly pedal by look out! Every head raises and for a moment even chewing cud is put on hold. I wish I knew what was going on in their heads. | Our Audience | We stopped at an A&W in Whitehall, MT for an icy treat. After chatting with locals about the area and road conditions, we left to find a shift in weather. A gust of wind swept across the parking lot lifting dirt and debris in a mini sandstorm. We hopped on our bikes and cycled with a sense of urgency; the sky becoming ominous. | Foreboding Skies | The sky grew darker around us, jagged bolts of lightning added to the mix. We were surrounded by impending darkness except for the clear strip of sky in front of us. As we pedaled along I grew concerned about the durability of our $30 tent. It had been good to us in fair weather, but we hadn't camped in a heavy storm yet. As we sped down the interstate I saw a spot of blue next to the guard rail. “Jess I think I see a tarp!” It was indeed a brand new tarp that would fit our tent perfectly. As I grabbed the prize the first large drop of rain splashed on my arm. We cycled on. | We arrived in Cardwell, MT just before the downpour. We took shelter at the local bar and were taken care of by Jeannie, our bartender extraordinaire! | Jess, Jeannie and I | While waiting out the storm we befriended two local cowboys: Jim and Bob. We passed the time swapping stories and talking about Montana. By the end of the evening we had invitations to help with a cattle drive. We were ecstatic! We couldn't turn down trading our bikes for horses for a day. We fell asleep that night thinking of the beautiful Montana countryside we would be witnessing from the saddle. | Cowboy Bob “helping” us cook

31: Day 21

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