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....

Thursday, June 7, 2007

the road to lo-rad

Well then. Two inordinately long posts, followed by this: A quickie. Just to give adequate heads-up to the six of you who actually read this, our next postal stop after Pueblo:

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
106 5th St.
Rawlins, WY 82301

As I mentioned in my last post, we'll be taking a detour from the route to spend a few days "vacationing" in Denver (indoor pool! hot tub! seriously!), so we expect to be in the greater Rawlins area around the 19th. Mothers take heed: Energy bars and scented stationery are needed!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

which way does the tall grass bend?

Dave and I are currently sitting side by side in an air conditioned library in Great Bend, KS, the winds outside peaking, fatally, at approximately 55mph, the wind-blown dirt from the highway roads still crumming our eyes like sand on grapes, our mileage today embarassingly truncated, but, considering the bike-tipping speed of the gusts, totally satisfying.

So then: Kansas. After a day apart, our dear Gary Dey caught back up with us--Gary the Intrepid, Gare bear, our adopted Third, our resident hang-glider-cum-African-hitchhiker-cum-continental-cyclist-cum-scuba-diver with the endearing Ohio accent--and so we are once more a trio, a rambling pack; the glorious border of Colorado looms ahead, the promise of Denver and our planned two-day vacation there like honey on sweet bread. (Confidential to Danielle Slavick, aka Don-yell, aka The First! The Paver of Ways!: When we get there, we expect warm meals and freshly made beds and small talk over large beers)

But the people want lists, and so lists I provide:
Collective number of miles ridden: 2,040
Number of days on the road: 32
Most miles ridden in a single day: 102
Number of bees that have hit our eyes (like seriously: bees-on-eyeball contact)
Nick: 0
Dave: 2
Number of times Nick has awoken in the middle of the night to Dave swatting at his arm and saying "Shoo! Go away!" because Dave, waking and seeing Nick's arm draped across his eyes, had thought, in the haze of half-sleep, that Nick's arm was A FREAKING CAT : 1
Number of panic attacks brought on by personal crises:
Nick: 0
Dave: 1 (had thought he'd lost his wallet, had stared at the brick wall with an open mouth for minutes, minutes)
Number of suicidal box turtles that we have rescued from the highway: 3
Number of suicidal box turtles that were so scared when we picked them up that they peed: 3
Number of motels we've stayed in to date: 2
Percentage of those motels that have given us free beer upon check-in: 100%
Chafing: very much so
Number of knees that are operating at optimal capacity:
Nick: 0
Dave: 0
On an index of 1-10 (10 being extremely beardy), our self-assessed beardiness as of right now:
Nick: 3
Dave: 6
Number of times our food has been devoured in the night by bratty woodland creatures: 3
Songs we find ourselves singing to ourselves the most:
Nick: Sufjan Stevens, "The Mistress Witch from McClure"; Death Cab for Cutie, "Photobooth"
Dave: Seals & Crofts, "Summer Breeze"; Pedro the Lion, "Big Trucks"

We have been out now for over a month; I have spent this time pumping my awkwardly tanned legs, looking over at the passing scenery (flooded farm fields, slowly-rising stalks of green, the toy-ridden lawns of paint-peeled mobile homes) and reflecting on open spaces and the cleaning of slates. I have unstuffed my bones and unwrapped my marrow. I have filled hollows and fibrous pores with kneaded clay and water. I have trailed kerosene over the hinged concrete plates of every bridge we've crossed and am waiting for that moment at trip's end when, with ten states behind us, with unfathomable hours spent thinking and waxing and singing aloud, with the palimpsest of my travels bright and burning in my mind, I will kneel and kiss the soft soil of Portland and reach quickly, gladly, tiredly, for the box of matches.

Alos: I think Gary is plotting my and Dave's deaths....

the jasmine in my mind

i think i was right to be anxious.
but for tonight, we are motelling it, hard. and it's good.

(at the counter, checking into the room)
gary: "where do we get the continental breakfast?"
crabby motel man: "i sell rooms, not food...but it's got an icebox and a microwave."
"oh yeah? is the icebox full of beer?"
"actually, some fellas left a bunch of beers here the other night! i'll go grab them for you!"
true story.

despite the rowdy winds, kansas has been pretty good. it seems like each small town we hit is stocked with a diner-boothful of winsome, spirited old timers. they ask questions and respond with adages and belly laughs, jibes and guffaws, pushing us on through the wind.

two older men approached us yesterday afternoon on different occasions while we were scraping our plates at Joey's Cafe in Buhler, KS. The first, Norman Adrian, came in and immediately began the routine questions. Our answers ("Oregon" and "Yorktown, Virginia" and "Brooklyn", respectively) seemed to garner a sort of distant marvel, one that must be the byproduct of living a long life as a plains farmer. It's like you grow up your whole life being able to see for miles in each direction...this is the yeast of imagination, the flatness, i mean. And the imagination is your get-out-of-jail-free card. The prarie is the prison. The farm gets passed down the generations and you can't refuse it. So you take it, but all the while you dream of coastline, islands, bustling cities, snowy mountains. After a few minutes of easy conversation, Norman got up and dropped a business card in front of us. "Well, take care and i hope to see you in heaven." As the door clanged shut behind him, we read the Bible verse on the card. His business was God's work. A get-out-of-jail-free card.
The other guy who came in was less of a mystical figure, but just as important. "Biker Jim" McIvers. He saw our bikes outside. He walked in, got a coffee, and sat right down with us. He's biked cross country. He went from Wyoming to Buhler Kansas in 7 days. At first, his wife didn't like it, but that don't stop him. Did we need anything for our bikes? How many miles did we do? He just wanted to bike all day. Retired around 20 years ago and did his first cross country in '91. He was probably in his 70's. I'd seen his business card at the Pippa Passes Bike Hostel (Kentucky), but i didn't make the connection until he pulled one out for each of us. We waved goodbyes and thanks for the help. About four blocks away, he pulled over in his truck and hopped out. "Well there's some road work over here, so maybe we should get the bikes around this culvert. Then you can get on down this road, let me help you." Thank you, Biker Jim.
But the Clara Bartons of Kansas are not all old men. Two nights ago, after our first 100+ mile day, we arrived at the home of Liz and Heidi in Newton, KS. We walked in to the smell of vegetable lasagna, bread with homemade pesto, and garden greens (courtesy of Liz's folks). We had never actually met these girls, but we felt like we knew them already. They did the TransAm trail from West to East last year. Thus, nick and i started our trip reading the gushing journal entries that they left at the end of their trip (the cyclist logs in the churches and bike hostels in Eastern Virginia). Someone had left their phone numbers in a cyclist log in Kentucky, saying "these girls want to host transam bikers", so of course we had to call them. Not only did they put the three of us up for the night, but they made a feast! and we stayed up way past our bed time, sipping wine and telling stories. It was very tempting to take the next day off, hanging around Newton (loitering at both Liz and Heidi's workplaces), but after gorging at the Bread Basket for all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, we stepped out into a wind from the east.!!!! so that afternoon we rode the easiest and quickest 65 miles of our lives.

but the winds have changed.

i'm going back to the motel for some TV!
much loves.
much daves.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

everybody knows it's loads of fun


We've arrived at one of the most ill-hyped states that we will cross. Horror stories abound and i feel a tightening in my chest. Nick is sneezing. Gary's bike is broken and the folks at Tailwinds Cycles (Pittsburg, KS) are on lunch break. Oh dear. Only one thing to do, however. Just put my head down and push through it, singing Sam Cooke into the wind and chewing gum in rhythm with my pedaling. I don't think it will actually be that bad....i mean, it's flat.

Last night, we stayed in Golden City, MO. We were very excited about this stay because our map listed the "Golden City Bike Hostel", which we envisioned, of course, as a glistening oasis of bike-friendliness. A place where the sweet old ladies would be awaiting our arrival with steaming trays of muffins and crowds of delicious microbrews peering out of golden ice buckets. But i called ahead and the slow friendly drawl on the other end answered "Wyatt Funeral Home". Needless to say, we made a beeline for the pavilion in the city park, as the clouds wrinkled their dark brow for the second downpour of the day. But we didn't "build the house" (klaus putting up his tent) without going to Cooky's first. This is an old-timey cafe whose name reverberates in the ears of cyclists within a 100 mile radius. This was a place that was worth all the hype and more. After a delicious early dinner, we went and set up camp, waited a few hours, then went back for pie. Dutch Peach, Dutch Cherry, Dutch mixed berry, and German Chocolate - all a smashing i think yesterday's dutch crusts may be the only things thrusting us towards Kansas against our wills. Now it's off to Walnut, KS, without our dear travelling companion of the last week, Gare Bear.

So long friends. I dream of New York streets and fine coffees, but we are persevering. Colorado will be good!


Friday, June 1, 2007

visions! colors! small points of light!

No time to wax romantic! We've miles to ride! In the meantime, some eyecandy:

Entering Misery:

Our dear German friend, Walli (Klaus to be pictured soon!):

Gary (aka Gare-bear):

Robert! Diener! From Berlin!:

Chester, IL, birthplace of Popeye:

Mother-effing PONY, the ruler of everything: