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Posts tagged ‘rest day’

Different Names

Unsurprisingly, Washington State was named for the honest President, American hero and amateur cherry-tree butcher known as George Washington.  One might assume that the names of other places across the Americas are logically assigned as well; however, one would be sorely mistaken.  Our inner romantics cry out for a Jasper of the Canadian Rockies that must have been named for those opaque stone walls of a heavenly New Jerusalem; or perhaps for a Portland that was framed as a majestic gateway to Oregon’s western shores.  In reality, Jasper was named after an unremarkable fur-trading post, and Portland is Portland because of the strange coincidence of a lost coin-toss, a New England city, and an isle near Dorset, England.

The Gorge closer to Portland.

The names and town signs and landscape changes with every mile we pedal.  Vast geographical differences can mask the wondrous commonalities shared by the people we encounter.  Small anecdotes from our days riding through the Inland Empire illustrate much of this goodness.  A marine biologist and schoolteacher sheltered us from cold rain in the mountainous apogee of the Columbia Gorge.  A bar owner let us camp in his beer garden, sheltered from the ruthless winds that were arrayed daily against us on the flat desert plains of central Washington.  Perfect strangers offered donations, directions, and invariably a prediction of our impending doom in Mexico.

I wonder when this strange mixture of luck and providence will run out.  I wouldn’t mind being lucky and good…but usually I don’t count on either.  When I consider our journey I recognize that there really is no such thing as an expiration of luck or providence.  The deepest depths of frustration and misery that we encountered (which seemed rather unlucky at the time) are rooted now so firmly in our most spectacular rides and relationships.  It was bad luck that gave us headwinds on the Columbia, but that same bad luck that gave us a beautiful tent site on a sandy patch of land in the Gorge.

Sunrise, camping on the Columbia Gorge.

A weekend in Portland brought us time to rest, to eat unheard of amounts of food, to race our Trolls for fun, and to explore what the city had to offer.  We will miss Portland and its roses, its food carts, its bicycles, its swing, and its indelible urban culture.  We’ll be back someday without a doubt.  Yet there is no remorse in leaving, no sense of loss as we once more saddle up and ride towards Bend.  The names and faces will change but I am confident that there will always be a few for whom this goodness that we so enjoy will remain unaltered.

Obscene amounts of exquisite food with the Pfeiffers.

If I could offer you one highlight from our  weekend in Portlandia it would be our continuing tradition of doing non-restful things on rest days.  Case in point: cyclocross racing at Cross Crusade here in Portland.  The local ‘cross scene in Portland is arguably the best in the nation and we couldn’t pass up the chance to race and experience the spectacle.  We leave for Bend with just a little bit of fear in our legs but no regrets.  David and Nathan received their initiation to the world of bicycle racing and we all pushed our limits.  Onward through Oregon and on the road once more, Argentina is still very far away.

























Milestones & Kindness

Since before this trip began, all of us had our milestones to look forward to: the first day of riding, the day we reach the Rockies, the day we reach the ocean, the day we reach Argentina.  Add to that the day we build a house with Habitat in North Dakota.  Yet I had my own personal milestone that was a little less inspiring: I was waiting for our first healthy dose of misery.

Breaks were short during a tough ride to Cantwell.

This might seem like a strange and negative milestone but it is important.  Anyone who has taken a journey with a group knows that nothing binds you together quite like adversity.  I remember during the summer of 2008 with Bike and Build when our negative milestone arrived inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  We went camping for the first time in the great outdoors, unaware that a severe thunderstorm was about to wreak havoc on our ramshackle campsite at 2AM.  By the next morning, we had taken refuge inside of a cinder-block latrine and barely slept while a park ranger recovered some of our belongings that had been blown three miles away in the storm winds.  We were exhausted, terrified, and sleep-deprived, but Hurricane Teddy became a legendary and happy memory that brought us closer together in retrospect.

On Saturday, we got cozy with misery.  We rode our bikes 100 miles from Trapper’s Creek (just above sea level on a flat valley) to Cantwell, AK in the mountains of Denali.  We had planned an early start for a long day of riding, but a missed alarm meant that we weren’t on the road till noon.  With serious mountain climbing and heavy touring bicycles, it took all of our strength to maintain a 10mph pace when we included rest stops and refueling.  We climbed close to 8000 vertical feet over the course of the day.  It was raining and in the low 40s.  Cold set in if we stopped.  My hands were so cold that I could barely open the Snickers bars necessary to my suffering, and I struggled hopelessly while the wrapper mocked me with its “Fun Size” designation.  There was nothing fun about those Snickers bars.  Pure life-saving necessity was their redemption.  We pushed on and on through the mountains with the mile markers passing by far too slowly.  There was no civilization between Trappers Creek and Cantwell.  We were tired, hungry, wet, and cold.  We had no choice but to make it to Cantwell where we heard of a lodge that could hopefully feed us and take us in.

Rest Day = Best Day.

We arrived in Cantwell at 11PM at night, just as daylight was failing.  We turned onto the Denali Highway and after a mile and a cruel little climb we arrived at the Cantwell Lodge which had transitioned into a bar with country music and lots of drinking and smoking.  We walked inside with our riding spandex and rain gear, chilled to the bone, white as ghosts.  We ordered food for six. After we demolished the best double cheese burger, mountain of potato salad, and spicy wing basket in Alaska, we passed out in a discounted double bunk room.

Bound South's best friend.

We woke up for church on Sunday morning.  We has passed Cantwell Bible Church on the way to the Lodge and took a guess on start time of the service.  We were ten minutes late in keeping with a proud Berg tradition.  Within their congregation of twenty we were a spectacle.  A couple in the church offered to take us in for the remaining duration of our rest day.  Rest was much needed after the century into Cantwell and we were treated to uncommon kindness.  Our hosts were superhuman.  While we passed out for an afternoon nap, they went for a vigorous mountain hike.  They have a team of more than a dozen sled dogs that are full of joy and vigor.  Bob, originally a farmkid from Nebraska, has climbed the Seven Summits and is a tremendous role model in is community.  His wife Janie is an accomplished veterinarian, spectacular cook, and nonchalantly describes her adventures mushing a dog sled through the Denali Wilderness in -40 degree temperatures for fun.

This journey is as much as about the people we meet as the places we see.  We have been so blessed and now we press eastward, leaving behind the challenges and rare comforts of Cantwell to ride the remote gravel passes of the Denali Highway.  The most desolate wilderness of our trip lies between us and Whitehorse.