What can we say? The trip was amazing! It was an incredible journey, and, we hope, just the first of many grand adventures.
We started in Astoria, OR (on the Pacific coast) on Aug 15, and finished in Rodanthe, NC (on the Atlantic coast) on Nov 22. The trip was 100 days, and we rode 4,641 miles! We had weather ranging from 102 degrees to just 19 degrees, and precipitation ranging from rain, to sleet, to hail (but never any snow). There was even one two-week period where every time it rained, it hailed...every time!
We met a bunch of amazing people, and never once was anyone mean to us. Instead, all across the country, they invited us in for dinner, a bed, a warm shower, encouraging words, and even sent us away with extra food, hugs, warm wishes, and prayers. We made a lot of new friends, got lots of tan lines, had lots of chilly mornings, enjoyed a seemingly never-ending string of totally amazing scenery, ate lots of ice cream, and all-in-all had the time of our lives!
The trip was full of great memories, and we have attempted to list our favorites for you here. However, if you ask us what our favorites are next week, we might pick totally different ones. ;-) (Also, you'll notice April had a harder time paring down her memories than Nathan. Surprise.)
So, without further adieu...
1 - Riding through the Grand Tetons with the fall colors during a storm and camping at the base of the Grand Teton was an amazing experience. Even though the storm meant we got wet, it was so beautiful that it was worth it! Plus, it was kind of fun to ride in rainy weather as long as we stayed dry! (Day 38)
2 - The night ride in the Outer Banks was one of the coolest and most unique riding times we had. Despite our bad experiences with night rides before, this time everything was different. Only ice cream could have made it better! (Day 97)
3 - Our second full day in Missouri was just an all around great day. It started with an awesome sausage and egg breakfast and included such highlights as the hills not being as bad as we expected, my bike getting a Halloween costume, and some free deformed cookies at Subway! Sweet! (Day 66)
4 - Dipping our tires, all three times, were favorite moments of the trip...as long as we overlook getting to the ocean on the west coast, and the fact that our second tire dip wasn't really in the Atlantic ocean on the east coast. The way the fog made it seem like our own private beach in Oregon was great(Day 2), and the excitement of dipping our tires in the York River in Yorktown marked a huge milestone(Day 94). And of course the sense of accomplishment when we finally dipped our tires in the Atlantic in Nags Head. (Day 97)
5 - Perhaps one of the stranger favorite memories, riding in the hail in Montana was actually a lot of fun. It had been a gray and drizzly day all day. After meeting up with April's Grandpa, we were riding to dinner when the skies opened up and we got dumped on. It poured and it hailed and we loved it! I guess being on a bike does strange things! (Day 21)
1 - National parks: 1) Visiting my grandparents at Glacier National Park, and listening to them tell people about our bike trip and how proud they were of us. (Day 22, Day 23, Day 24) 2) Spending a day at Yellowstone with a new friend, Sathish, and seeing the animals, scenery, and even a forest fire. (Day 35) 3) Watching a big storm in the Grand Tetons from across a lake (Day 38), and then camping at the base of THE Grand Teton and watching the sun rise on it in the morning. (Day 39) 4) Getting pampered by Nathan's parents at Mammoth Cave - they got us a hotel room with a jacuzzi! (Day 75, Day 76)
2 - Food!! 1) The two times we ate an entire half-gallon of ice cream in one day (Day 50, Day 64). 2) The time we each ordered our own large pizzas for dinner (and Nathan ordered a cheeseburger, too!!) (Day 86). 2) The time we found the discount grocer and bought 44 snack/power/granola bars for $8!! (Day 44)
3 - All the compliments on our panniers: people wanting to buy them, the bike store telling us they’d sell them if we made them, the lady in Dubois shaking me by the shoulders and telling me I HAD to make and sell them, and realizing God was giving us this big, huge neon sign and helping us find the direction we had been looking for. Then deciding to start a business selling panniers, at first hesitantly and unsure, but then getting ideas and growing in excitement over time. (Many, many days of this.)
4 - The day Evan and his girlfriend Amanda came to visit Nathan and I. It was raining, so we pretty much ate all day (with a break for bowling). Evan was home on leave from serving the Army in Afghanistan, and the combination of Evan's, Nathan's, and my appetites had Amanda in total disbelief! Haha! (Day 80) And then the day Evan called me to say he's proposed to Amanda, and she said "Yes!" Congrats guys!! (Day 86)
5 - Making it to the Atlantic Ocean! (Day 97)
6 - Making it over my first mountain pass: Lolo Pass in Idaho. I didn't think I could do it, but Nathan kept encouraging me the whole way. It was 5 miles to the top, and I made it without ever walking my bike!! Then we met some people on the top who had also become debt free following Dave Ramsey's plan. They had started their own business just like we wanted to do, and they said they were happier and more successful than they ever dreamed. Wow!! (Day 18)
8 - Watching dogs (domestic and wild) come running and snarling at us looking like they wanted to eat us, and then making them stop dead in their tracks and run the OTHER way! Ha!!! Being attacked by dogs was one of my biggest fears before the trip, but we totally learned how to handle them. (This probably happened at least 30 times.)
9 - Downhills in the Rocky Mountains with huge, beautiful, views stretching out forever and ever. I felt like a million bucks coasting down the mountainside! (Many times)
10 - Our ride into Dubois, WY when we had a 30+mph tailwind. It was the best tailwind we ever had; we were flying! The wind literally howled through the canyons, filling the whole place with that cool and creepy "ooOOOooo" sound as it gusted really hard! Nathan didn't like it that much, but I thought was SO neat! (Day 40)
1 - The night that we spent in Jeffery City, WY was one of my least favorite experiences of the whole trip. That place was just downright creepy and we wanted nothing more than for the night to end so that we could get out of there! (Day 43, Day 44)
2 - After a night of rain in Idaho, we awakened to find that the only things we owned that were still dry were the clothes we were wearing. All of our bags had let the rain in. Even one of our dry bags hadn't sealed properly and its contents were just as wet as everything else! Then, to make matters worse, while we were trying to dry our stuff out around a camp fire, our helmets go too close to the flames and partially melted. That was a miserable morning for sure! (Day 17)
3 - Staring a day off by spending 30 minutes on hold with an insurance company should've been an indicator of how the day would go. We spent a hard day battling headwinds and missed our goal by a lot. To top it off, we ended up spending the night with a creepy old man named Larry. Incidentally, our time with Larry generated more feedback from family and friends than any other incident on the whole trip! (Day 53)
4 - My family has long had the power to make vacations "memorable." This was one of those days. After spending an inordinate amount of time applying for health insurance and leaving after noon, April's chain fell off immediately. While I fixed her chain, my tire went flat, and after we finally got going again, it started to rain a cold, biting rain. Yuck! Even we know when enough is enough, so we called it a day and went back to the place we had stayed the night before. (Day 50)
5 - Sometimes you hit a point where there has just been one too many hills in a day. Unfortunately on this particular day, that point came about half way through a very hill day! April started to get angry about the hills and there were a lot of hills to get angry about. Mentally, it was probably one of our lowest days on the trip. (Day 87)
1 - When bad things happened to other people right in front of us. The top ones here are definitely the helicopter crash (Day 16) and when Josiah fell into the fire (Day 69)! Seriously, I am SO glad I am a Christian. I am not sure how I would've handled things like this if I didn't know God.
2 - When cars had to stomp on their brakes so hard their tires would squeal as they tried to either 1) not run into the back of my bike or 2) avoid a head-on collision because they were trying to go around Nathan and I in a dangerous section of road. Ah!! Talk about adrenaline! (Day 65)
3 - Riding through the desert in the state of Washington (I didn't even know they HAD a desert!). We rode for 54 miles in 102 degree weather with no shade or living things (plants, animals) ANYWHERE around us, AAANNNDD we had a headwind! The water in our water bottles went from ice water with chunks of ice in it to warm water with no ice in just 20 minutes, we both got blisters on our ears from the sun, and Nathan got heat rash on his leg pretty bad. (Day 10)
4 - We were riding through Yellowstone after dark to a campground and suddenly realized we were surrounded by HUGE elk! They were only a few feet from us by the time we noticed them, and they were on all sides of us! Fortunately, none of them got spooked and ran at us. When we made it to the campground, the registration ladies said we just rode through the place forest rangers were chasing a bear away (we think the bear is what scared the elk into the road). Major heebee-jeebees! (Day 37)
5 - The day we planned to ride up and over Hoosier Pass in Colorado, but I got sick in the morning, so we left late. Before we left, Nathan had to fix my gears because they weren't working right. Then, less than a mile into our day, my chain fell off. After Nathan fixed my chain, he realized his back tire was flat. It was the first flat of the whole trip. We finally fixed everything and started out again, and it started raining. We kept going, but then a headwind picked up and it made the rain feel like little ice pellets. We decided to call it a day, spend the night there again, and try for Hoosier pass the next day. (Day 50)
6 - The time a wasp flew down my shirt! (Day 64)
7 - The evening we spent with the guy who said he was a Christian, but when we went to his house, he had lots of guns and video cameras, pictures of naked women hanging outside the room we stayed in, and had a tunnel "that used to be for who-knows-what..maybe growin' weed?" in the basement (Day 53)
8 - The evening we spent in Jeffery City, WY. It was a creepy place to begin with, but after we went to bed, I got really scared. (Day 43, Day 44)
9 - The first day of riding when we were trying to find the Pacific Ocean, and Nathan took a 'shortcut' and we wound up pushing our bikes through big, huge sand dunes. We had sand in our shoes for at least a week afterwards. (Day 2)
10 - The day the wind and hills and trucks were so bad that we started yelling at the slightest irritations. I wrote a lengthy blog post (complete with a picture of a fire-breathing dragon) to explain why wind and trucks are so terrible and how much I don't like them. (Day 58)