Monday, July 23, 2007

small spaces, swelling

As of today, Dave and I have been in the greater Portland metropolitan area for fully seven days; we have hung up our scuffed and cracking helmets, have slipped comfortably (thankfully) into soft-soled civilian shoes and non-synthetic clothing and small city spaces. We have told the same stories over and again and enjoyed the telling every time; we speak in the voices of new friends and laugh at the familiarity of them; we sip leisurely from mugs of (good, so very good) coffee, letting the slowness and simplicity of Portland leak into our bones, our joints, our clean tired lungs. And, in the interest of having girls once more think we're acceptably attractive, we have both shaved and/or trimmed our beards....

Quickly: Having thought about it for a long while, I want briefly to concede the relative smallness of our having done something like this. Or, well, to put it better: I recognize that we (I) have a tendency to imbue more importance, more gravity, more stomach and viscera, to an episode like this than perhaps is warranted, appealing to the post-trip prospect of a heightened sense of self or of an altered heart or maybe even of some ineffable internal shift, whatever the hell that could be. I mean, if you take it plainly, for what it is, one could say that we spent the last almost-three months just...sort of...biking around. A lot. But for all its smallness, and despite the predictability of this admission, you should all be glad to know that, in fact, this trip has been a changing thing for the both of us, something that we have already looked back to as one of the defining moments in our respective lives, something luminous and sky-filling. This has been a time of greening leaves and small reflections and large lumbering hopes for the future. And we both end this episode with a distinct sense of...well, of thankfulness, i suppose.

For an exhaustive photo gallery of the trip (and for numerous photos of Davey in various funny/unintentionally seductive poses), please visit my Flickr account:

Tour de Bro

Our monolithic trip has ended, yes, but for the bored at work: take heart! The Summer of Unrelenting Optimism is still motoring along, and in the coming weeks Dave and I will be visiting both Seattle and San Francisco, immersing ourselves in the small joys to be found there, posting when we can, letting this trip linger as long and as enjoyably as possible.

Until then: thank you all for your letters and your support and for your respective contributions to our lives. You are the fabric; we, the garments.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

a seat in the crook of the arm of the tree

i just picked three baskets of raspberries. where could i be?

For our last night of camping, Drew, Kevin, Heather and Ryan drove down from Seattle to meet us in Ranier, OR. Guitars and beers and everything and love and we ended up circled around the campfire in our sleeping bags. Yesterday, after a long breakfast we left for Portland. The last 50 miles of the whole trip. Four hours later, i found myself ordering another americano from Right now i'm with my oldest and dearest - sara - and her youngest and dearest - elynore - picking raspberries in a drizzly backyard in Vancouver, Washington. We still have Paul Sellars for a couple more days. Tonight we will doff fine beers with moustachioed Paul Hegland...a new friend with whom we had the pleasure of finishing our journey. Last night we clinked glasses with my old freund Ani, who is the original Portland-carrot-dangler, whose talk of fountains of beer and mountains of green pulled me through the long dry legs of Wyoming.

My hands are still numb.

My bike has lost 70 pounds.

I've probably gained a few.

I was just handed a big mug of tea and a bowl of cherries.

I'm probably the luckiest man on earth.

We both still have beards.


Saturday, July 14, 2007


arrived at the pacific ocean yesterday. absolutely surreal.

two more days of biking, beloved ones.

our hearts are light and lean lazily to the west...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

desert lions

oregonoregonoregon! our tenth and last state, our dove and olive branch. for me, it is like a sluggish, grandiose homecoming: this is my state of birth and upbringing, the only state about which i can successfully answer mundane trivia, (state bird: western meadowlark, state flower: oregon grape, state tree: douglas fir...) and it feels strange finally to have arrived, to know that we are less than a week away from the end of the trip, that these flagging days will be sipped and drunk up and then gone.

eastern oregon, in its desert sparseness and unimaginable heat (100+ degrees the last five days) has been trying, with great effort, to kill us. when we descended into hell's canyon two days ago, it was about 110 degrees outside; roughly 118 down in the canyon. yesterday, while biking, i felt dizzy and lightheaded and watery and thought i was going to pass out; paul, for his part, was stung impolitely by a wasp less than two minutes after crossing into oregon; and dave, our boyish hero, was also stung by a bee...on his upper lip. (the swelling has lessened. still, though: bulbous left cheek, plump lip, misshaped mouth) but we are indefatigable! we are armed with thunderous thighs and electrolytes. and we are in EFFING OREGON, so, really, there is nothing that can deaden our spirits at this point. we have skin like sunlight, we chew iron nails and break bodies out of boredom.

to catch up: we spent independence day in grangeville, ID, with our new friend Paul, a Brit, who, for reasons owing to his heritage, had no real reason to think that July 4th was a holiday at all. we are slowly turning him, however: already he has been coaxed into consuming peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate malts, american microbrews, a chili burger, cheesecake, root beer floats, etc, none of which he tried before this trip. he will have tried grits before we're through with him.

there is more to tell but it is late, we have sung long songs to ourselves today (115 mile ride, a new record), and so we now slump to sleep. i leave you, as usual, with the address for the next post and with a small selection of photos.

there is love.

Our final post:
David Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
35230 Brooten RD
Pacific City, OR 97135-9100

We will arrive in Pacific City on the morning of the 14th. The day before the last day of our trip. Send quickly, dearest loves; we've no time to dally!

And now:
entering oregon:

jumping high-five:


dave kissing the Oregon soil:

the policemen:

adventure cycling office:

we bleed at the shins for all the scratching. we are desert lions with small reflections.


Thursday, July 5, 2007


Today in Riggins, Idaho, it is 100 degrees. haha. so hot that you feel hot on your skin when you ride your bike. So it's perfect that we're riding into the area on the Idaho/Oregon border called "hells canyon". It's going to be great. We caught Paul Sellers...the elusive Brit who started in Yorktown just two days before us. Met him in Missoula and we'll probably finish out with him. In fact, we'll probably ride into Astoria, Oregon with Paul's severed head on a flagpole, mounted on the back of nick's bike. Sort of a totemistic gesture...we just love him so darn much.
We've still got 34 miles of grunting in this severe heat to get to New Meadows tonight. Tomorrow, we bust into Oregon. Nick bought a gun at the supermarket in Grangeville so we could shoot something as we cross the border. Just kidding i guess.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Short One

We took a day off in Missoula yesterday. Drank too much coffee, saw a movie with our friends Jim and Stephanie, wrote letters at Butterfly Herbs, got a sneak Sunday tour of the Adventure Cycling office from our host Julie (we camped in her yard, God bless her) and today, we're going to Idaho.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Quickly now: Our next post:

David Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
300 W Main St. STE 100
Grangeville, ID 83530

We'll be there hopefully by July 4th. Celebration!

We have arrived in Montana, having just left Yellowstone, which, despite the overbearing presence of Recreational Vehicles and camera-wielding tourists and the murderously branded marketing aspect of it all, was beautiful. The worst thing I saw while in the park: A huge RV, one of those miserably gigantic 40-foot Class A deals that take up the entire road, hauling, on its trailer, a Hummer. An effing Hummer. Seriously.

Well then: We have capered the gorgeous open glades and the deep-running dales of southern Wyoming, our lungs having acclimated as best they can to the thin mountain air of the Rockies, the dryness of the area occasionally manifesting itself via red droplets of blood that drip thickly from Dave´s nose. Forgive a litle self-indulgence, but, an inner monologue: This trip, at times, has reminded me of that part in Catcher in the Rye where Holden is walking up Fifth Avenue, block after block, sleep deprived, reflecting meanderingly on his sister and on Christmas and on New York, and he finds himself suddenly overwhelmed with the fear, once he steps off the curb onto the street, that he´ll never get to the other side. That he´ll just vanish and nobody will see him again. Terrified, he appeals to his deceased sibling for help, muttering: "Allie, don´t let me disappear. Allie, don´t let me disappear. Allie, don´t let me disappear. Please, Allie." Sometimes, after hours of biking, my legs fatigued from the endless pumping, my hands numb from the buzzbuzz vibrations of the handlebars, I look out into the distance, past the barbed wire fences lining the county roads, and I absorb the ocean of sulking sagebrush plains that extend as far as my weak eyes are capable of seeing, open spaces flanked on either side by bluish mountains in the distance, by looming buttes and red mesas and dry sandy hillocks, and I look at these things and feel the openness of everything; I reflect prolongedly on how far my legs have taken me so far, on how far they have yet to take me, on all the roads traveled and people met and food eaten and sunblock applied, reflecting too on how quickly these past two months have passed and how rapidly the years tick by--the unforgiving fluctuations of insentient calendars, the joys and the sorrows of the persons entering and leaving my life, our lives, and how in twenty years everything I know will be completely different, in forty years this trip will be a vague cloudy fading distant memory, in sixty years I will be dead or forgotten or both--and I get a strange feeling of being swallowed up by it all, as if the magnitude of all these things we´re seeing is washing me out, bleaching, like a figure in a too-bright photograph, a notion not too far off from Holden´s fear of vanishing.

During one of our days in Kansas, our dearly departed Gary was describing how he used to hang glide, explaining how you launch from a cliff. What you do is stand a few feet away from the ledge, your hang glider harnessed to your chest, a person on either side of you holding the wings in place as the wind shakes and rocks the glider turbulently, and then, the moment of calm: the wind curling up under the wings evenly, forcefully, the glider lifting up just barely as it the wings catch the deflected wind. That is when you jump.

My heart, as of late, has been untroubled, untroubled.

Allie, please don´t let me disappear...

Now then:

Wyoming Bleak:

Grand Tetons:

Royal Gorge:


Saturday, June 23, 2007


Last night, after 88 miles of wyoming emptiness (Jeffrey City, seriously) we arrived at our camping destination: The Mormon Historical Handcart Society. We blew over the hill at 5pm and saw a few dots, four miles away, which looked like oasis! The camping was free and considering the area, it was lovely. I guess it wasn't cost us an earful of Mormon history, but that was quite interesting. This was at a spot called the 6th crossing. You see, in May of 1856, 5 handcart companies set out for what Brigham Young called "Zion" (Salt Lake City). I think they crossed the Sweetwater River about 9 times in Wyoming. Well, i think i've forgotten most of the story (we watched a 12 minute video too!). We rolled up on youth group. They had about 60 kids from Idaho in old-timey mormon garb and they were taking them out walking the trail 9 miles at a time with actual handcarts, huge things. They camped at night and we got them right after dinner. So we're sitting there and i says to nick let's yogi and Summer sent us beer bread so starting small i decided we could ask for butter. So i walk over in my slouchingest unthreatening and go "do you guys have any butter you could spare?" Yes. one pound. and how's about salad? and rolls and chicken and a gallon of milk and apples and oranges oh my goodness. Yes, it's all true. The mormons fed us.

We've been rolling with Sharon and Craig for the last four or five days. It's nice to have a crew and they're a blast. Today, we did a short hot one to Lander, WY, which is a cool town with a movie theater. Maybe we'll go for a picture tonight. Man the mostquitoes here are wild. Two Eggs. Two Pancakes. Hash Browns. Biscuit. Coffee, please. Grand Tetons in two days and i can't wait, but i wait all day trying to breathe the 2s and 4s and stomping out the 1s and 3s with my legs. I mean you can really think because nobody's out there your wheels just turn and you wonder how many times they will have turned between atlantic and pacific and how many people are behind you riding the same roads, going the same way. i'm getting tan with red in it. I've got this little peice of paper in the clear plastic of my handlebar bag that says Don't Let your Heart (sign) be troubled. I think it was the cover to a tract. So i don't. Well. i guess state number eight is next and Nick and i have changed not just beards but hearts which aren't troubled most of the time. Riding next to the BNSF train is the best. It's the real west, massive miles of train plowing through the rockies like a dragged axe through a field of anthills, the only thing moving in a still life of grey mountains somewhere in Colorado. Sometimes we ride next to the rails for miles and if the train goes your way you forget about the road in front of your wheels and focus on the invisible legs that can push faster than you. The train is it's own mountain with intricate peaks and pockets. You can always find the spot you would hop into. Nick told me you want to find the car with two stacked boxes, the larger one on top. You get on the back of that car and the lip of the top hangs over you like an awning. I stop pedaling when i find that one and i lay back with my hat pulled over my eyes. I don't care which way the wind blows.

thanks for the mail. we love you.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

sooner or later you'll bare your teeth...



as you keepers of tabs know, we cut lengthwise across the mountainous terrains of kentucky and missouri more or less unscathed, surviving dog after unleashed dog, all of them giving chase, a few of them frighteningly ferocious but thankfully slow, neither dave nor myself ever really coming close to being seriously hurt by any of them. and now of course we are in colorado. but, well...a quick anecdote: dave and i had just made ourselves dinner in fairplay, CO, a typical traveler's meal of pasta and broccoli and bread, our tummies adequately sated, the gorgeous colorado rockies providing a breathtaking and picturesque backdrop for our big night before we face hoosier pass (the highest elevation point on the route), and so, somewhat zenned out, i walk towards the campground bathroom to wash the dishes, the sun to the west just beginning to sink heavily behind a distant mountain, when, quickly, instantaneously, like a flood of light from a camera flash, a dog bursts out from behind a trailer and BITES ME. like, bite-bite. as in: the breaking of skin. the drawing of blood. bites me. i wasn't even on my bike!

but that is neither here nor there, that is just funny: we move on: we progress to the present: we are here in walden, CO; last night in kremmling we opted for a motel for the third time on this trip because of the overwhelming and otherwordly mosquito infestation, the mosquitoes swarming around us like flies to roadkill, our legs pimpled with bug bites, the sheer ridiculousness of the scene almost comical. i am sitting in the small town library and wearing my zories and the certifiably offensive smell of my feet and my armpits are clouding around me invisibly, fatally, and i feel actual pity for the young lady sitting across from me, knowing that there is no possible way that she does not notice. as i alluded to above, we have cleared hoosier pass, the highest point of the trail at 11,500(ish) feet, the ride outlandishly beautiful. we are still breathing deeply the air of Denver, though, our five-night-and-six-day vacation there one of the absolute highlights of the trip so far.

and, as it often the case, i am running out of internet time, SO, i leave you with two things: (1) a photographic ode to Denver and vicinity, and (2) the next mail stop address, for those who are interested.

so then, our ode to denver: (and, specifically, an ode to the dutchess of Denver, Danielle Slavick: Danielle: disliker of fruit in general, bestower of questionable nicknames, archetype, template)


rachel's and joe's house:

hoosier pass:

for Momma Ulrich:

and, lastly, the next mail stop:

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
208 S Main ST
Sheridan, MT 59749-9701

we'll be there in seven or eight days.

our love for you all bursts forth from our hearts. like camera flashes. or unleashed dogs.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

great stories of gold (or "how the west was won on twenty dollars a day")

nobody told us that living in denver is so easy. we've been here a couple days, and i think we'll stay a couple more. nick and i spent the morning searching for the shrouded face of old ghost bum moriarty, rubbernecking larimer and colfax in the spirit of kerouac. walls of alleyways worn from the eternal sunk shoulder blades of the same forever bums, tucked in on summer afternoons. our eyes trace the shell of man from the gray toes peeking from decades old and grinning tennis shoes to the breeze of sleep, parting the years of beard beneath the nostrils. ballin that jack, crosslegged, digging picnic girls in the grass on lincoln.

we haven't checked the weather since sunday. we've walked miles of city sidewalk and spent too much on coffee...real coffee. we haven't rubbed chamois butt'r or sunblock on anything for what seems like an eternity. and the kitchen...four whole burners and miles of counter space... i'm becoming an expert flapjack flipper and general breakfast guru (having sampled pancakes in every small town for the last 2400 miles). i've also managed to lose weight. 8 or 9 hours a day on a bike matched with voracious gluttony has somehow reduced my figure to an all-time slight. gary says i'll gain it right back, though. right away.

the real thing the real question is "where will we land?" that is what we talk about and that is what we think about when we're not talking. "land" in the long run. there is land...dirt separated by water and we'll be somewhere between two bodies...sometime...and there is the gentle fall that we feel as the slow hands of days somersault away. we will be put somewhere by time...talking about it is just like talking about someone you don't see anymore or like truly beleiving that you remember particular serves from a certain match of the women's french open, watched from a motel room with three beds in Great Bend, Kansas as the screaming wind outside carries sand and pebbles for several city blocks at a gust.

you can see what kind of refreshing clarity denver is bringing us. denver is a hoot.
tonight, we're going out to dinner with danielle and rachel.

love dave

...we lose weeks like buttons, like pencils. -Dave Eggers

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

holidays and hand grenades

arrived in denver two days ago, leave tomorrow afternoon; enjoying, thoroughly, a few days out of the saddle. our butts are rejoicing, our livers perhaps not.

quickly now, my recent encounter with a horse, as it tried, seriously, to knock me off:

me laughing at nearly being beheaded:

and now, a photo of davey after he ate so much food at a country buffet that he felt immobile and grossly ill:

and, lastly, our brave young boys had a bit of a spill....

danielle is driving us around like any good chauffeur would...

...and life, as it has consistently been these last several weeks, is sort of incomprehensibly awesome.

more soon! until then, there is a gated and heat-controlled swimming pool that requires my rapt attention....