Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Colorado Bound!

We have faced a lot of problems on our trip, but the most difficult one was the national park shutdown. We decided that a bike ride to Colorado wasn't going to happen. The distances between state parks was too far in some places, and we were running out of time.
We had about two weeks to find a place to stay, figure out our job situations, get some winter clothes, and find a cheap rental car with enough room for all of our stuff. We stayed busy, but we were able to get it all done!
We enjoyed the visit with my Mom, but we were very excited to get to Colorado! The time to leave was here! Rheann found a great deal on an SUV, 200 dollars for a one way rental to Denver. We packed up that rental car so full, that we could barely close the doors!
The weather was starting to cool down in Dallas, but nowhere near what we were going to face in Colorado!
The drive was cloudy and rainy for most of Texas, but we still enjoyed being out on the open road again!
We crossed through New Mexico, and Rheann snapped a picture of the hills there. The sun was back out, and the scenery was beautiful!
Once we crossed into Colorado, it didn't take long for the temperature to drop outside, it was half of what it was when we left Texas a few hours ago!
When we arrived in Denver, we decided to stay the night there. I didn't want to take a chance driving the mountain pass at night, and Rheann wanted to see an old friend, Jeanette. After being on the road for about 15 hours, we decided to meet up with her for drinks in downtown Denver.
After celebrating our arrival in Denver, Jeanette let us stay at her place. We ended up getting to bed at 3am. It was a very long day, and we were exhausted, but we were headed to Silverthorne tomorrow!

A Thief!!!

Sorry it has been so long since the last post, I have a big update and may have to split it into a couple posts!
I guess I will start with an event in Dallas that happened right before we left. We were shopping for some winter jackets in a thrift store and Rheann's wallet was stolen! She set it down to try on a jacket, and forgot to pick it up before going to the counter, when she returned about 30 seconds later, it was gone! I immediately rushed to see a manger about reviewing the security tapes, she stalled for a bit and then informed me that she didn't have access to it, so I called the police. While waiting for them to arrive, I searched the entire store, because I knew that who ever took it most likely emptied it and then dumped it somewhere. The police arrived about an hour later, and the manager magically had the keys to the door! The police officer took a look. We were then informed that most of the cameras in the store didn't work (surprise!). The camera only saw us in the shoe section, and that was it. So we filed a report, and I continued to search the store for another hour to see if the purse had been dumped, I checked inside of book sacks, behind clothes, on shelves, and everywhere else I could think of with no luck. We were going to have to cancel all of our credit cards, and replace Rheann's I.D. 

The next morning, the store called. They found Rheann's wallet while "cleaning up". They showed me where they found it, and it was in an area that I had checked multiple times before I left. It was also near the section where the video camera was working and saw us earlier, but apparently they couldn't see anyone dump the wallet. This means that the wallet must have been dumped after we left, 2 hours later. This also means the entire time I was checking the store for the wallet, the person who stole it remained in the store with it. You wouldn't steal a wallet, leave the store, then return to the store with the wallet to dump it! The way the manager handled the situation points to either her taking it, or knowing who did it. There is no possible way I somehow missed the wallet in 2 hours of searching, and she was not able to help us for an hour until the police arrived.
Of course, all of the cash in the wallet was gone, a grand total of 21 bucks, but there was something else that was very suspicious. All of Rheann's loose change was gone as well. She had about 20 dollars, mostly pennies, in the wallet! I don't know if you have ever handled a bunch of loose change, but it tends to make noise when you mess around with it. This means that the crook had time to search the wallet, empty it of its cash, silently handle 20 dollars in loose coins, then hide it in a conspicuous place that I was in, that also happens to be a hole in the camera coverage, all while avoiding detection while I'm actively searching the store for over 2 hours! The gift cards in the wallet were also selectively stolen, so the crook only took ones that they wanted! That means that the wallet was taken to a location that they would not be seen or heard by me, which is only two places, the restrooms or the back room of the store. This theft could only have been done by an employee, who had access to the back room, because the bathrooms were locked. You had to get a key from an employee to gain access to them, and no one went to the restrooms during this time.

I don't have any proof of one person doing it, so they are going to get away with the crime, but life has a way of paying people back for their actions. If you are ever in Lewisville, Texas, stay away from Thrift City!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Time to Relax....Almost

Our time here in Dallas so far has been relaxing, but not uneventful. Our first night back in civilization was a good one! We celebrated with a dinner of filet mignon and Alaskan king crab legs! More good news came in the form of new jobs, we received official word that we both have jobs at Vail Reorts in Keystone! I will be working in the ski school, assisting the ski instructors and guests. Rheann will be working in the day care, and will be implementing an art program there!
We went shopping to replenish our supplies, but Rheann and I had some decisions to make about our trip. Due to the national park shut down, we have determined that it would take us too long to reach Colorado by bicycle. Our jobs start on November 1st, so we have decided to rent a car to drive up there. We have found a place to live, and we are so excited to arrive!
This will not be the end of our adventures! We are going to have fun this winter, snowboarding is going to be a blast! We plan on getting back on the bikes in late April. We will be heading to California then! I will still update the blog at least weekly, I'm sure the fun we are having won't stop! Keep following us!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Arrived In Dallas!

Day 14
Roadkill count:4 (last ninja turtle, 2 raccoons, 1 possum)

Last night we stayed in Athens, Tx. We couldn't find a place to camp, so we decided to get another hotel room. Normally, getting a hotel room in a small town, in the middle of Texas, in October wouldn't be a problem, unless you were in the particular small town we were in, in the middle of Texas, at this particular place in time. Apparently, there is a HUGE flea market sale that happens at this very point in time in a town 30 miles away, called Canton. This sale draws such a crowd that hotels fill up in towns for 50 miles! This also causes the hotels to triple their normal rates for the weekend in anticipation of said sale.
Motel 8, not normally known for its first class accommodations, was the first place we checked. They should have changed their name for the weekend to the Ritz because they wanted 100 dollars to rent a room! All they had available was a stinky smoking room with two twin sized beds. There was no way we were paying that much to stay in that room at a Motel 8.
After searching for a little while, we finally found a motel for a reasonable 45 dollars. We walked into our room and quickly regretted our latest decision. We should have camped on the side of the road. Our tent would have been cleaner! You know a place is bad when someone who has been bathing with insects and smells like fish turns their nose up at something!
We showered with flip flops on because of the filth in the shower. We crossed our fingers and our toes in hopes that we wouldn't get bed bugs from the bed. We were pretty sure the sheets haven't been changed in at least a few visits. This place had a nightly rate, and an hourly rate as well, I'm sure.
Once we awoke in the morning, we hurried out of the door and headed to the next town. The scenery was pretty, and the ride was hilly, as usual.
We were headed to a town called "Gun Barrel City". I know what you are thinking. The name of the city doesn't exactly make you grab your kids and pack grandma into the car for a day of family fun, but even the name wouldn't prepare you for this town. Unless you are in the market for a pay day loan or are looking to sell your large gold collection, I definitely don't recommend visiting Gun Barrel City. This place almost beat our motel room from last night for the "most likely place to catch syphillis from the toilet seat" award.
We waited at the edge of town for my Mom to get here. She wanted to meet us and grab a bite to eat. Once she arrived, we hopped in her truck and headed to the next town, Seven Points. We stopped at a brewery for a bite to eat and some barley pop. We enjoyed the break! We headed to my Mom's place soon after.
Now that we have arrived in Dallas, we had a chance to reflect back on all that we have endured. The trip was physically challenging for sure, but the mental side of it was the toughest. We had to overcome multiple challenges ranging from bike problems to park closures. Every day had some new problem to overcome. We had to beat these obstacles while physically exhausted. We had to dig deep to find the strength to do what we had to do. 
Sometimes one of us would feel like giving up. Rheann and I would have to lift each other up; and just when it seemed like it was too difficult for us to bear, someone would come out of nowhere to help us. We encountered many good people on our trip. People were the reason we got through our trip. They were our strength when it felt like we didn't have enough. When it seemed like fate was against us, we thought about everything people had done for us. This kept us going. Consider our faith in the human race restored!
I owe a big thank you to everyone for keeping track of us so far. The blog posts will slow down this week while we take a short break, but we will be back on the road soon! I have enjoyed writing this and I hope you have enjoyed reading!


Day 13
Roadkill count: 9! (Including the ninja turtle, Donatello) 2 dogs, 1 stinky skunk, 1 evil raccoon, a possum, 1 snake pancake, and 2 UFO's

I woke up this morning at 6am ready to ride! Rheann wasn't off to a great start though. Her rear tire was flat, and she couldn't find her gloves. The gloves don't sound like a big deal, but they keep blisters off of our hands. When you are riding as far as we are, small problems have a tendency to get big quickly. Her day wasn't getting off to a good start.

The weather was cool and foggy. We pedaled hard and got some good miles in early. We got 20 miles in before 10am! The scenery wasn't bad, and the roads weren't very busy. It was an enjoyable morning.
We reached a town called Slocum, and Rheann had some more bad luck! Her chain snapped right off of her bike! On top of that, the chain ring got her in the leg! Here is a pic of how it looks right now.
It took me 20 minutes of fighting with the chain before I decided to take a link out and fit the chain back on. We thought that would be the end of it, but we were wrong!
We got about 5 miles down the road when Rheann's chain snapped again! The link that I repaired snapped as well. There wasn't going to be enough chain to keep repairing it like this, so we needed another solution. 
Then out of nowhere, a guy named Chuck stopped to help us. We were frustrated, so we didn't quite give him the warm welcome he deserved, but he offered to help us anyway. He brought us a few miles down the road to a bike shop. I do need to add that he was headed the other way before he stopped! Here is a picture of Mr. Chuck and Rheann.
Chuck is a pastor in Grapeland. He should be wearing a cape in this picture, because he was our hero! We were really in a bind before he showed up!
We stocked up on some bike parts we needed at the Dogwood bike shop in Palestine. After taking a short break while repairing the bikes, we hit the road. We were originally going to Fairfield Lake state park, but now that we caught a ride further north we changed our route. We decided to head towards Athens, Tx.
For the rest of our ride, it was just us and the cows. We would moo at them and they would just stare.
While on the road, we have some weird moments. Riding for hours and hours can get boring sometimes. To deal with it, we have the most random conversations. Sometimes one of us even breaks out into song! Rheann and I are perfect together!
We are almost to Dallas! We went out to celebrate tonight.
I spoke with my mom tonight, since we are so close to her house she is coming out to meet us tomorrow! We are going to catch a ride with her from Gun Barrel City! We will ride 21 miles tomorrow and finally reach Dallas! We are going to take a break for a week or so before heading out to Colorado!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Spider Bro!

Day 12

Yesterday was a day of rest! We stayed for another day at Mission Tejas state park. We couldn't post anything because the wifi was spotty, so I am posting this from my next stop.
Our morning started out fairly normal with some pancakes for breakfast, but then I saw something that I thought was pretty cool!
We run into a lot of spiders and insects while out camping. They jump on us while we shower, throw late night parties in our tent, and even come to eat with us at the table. But this one spider, he was just out in the woods. I call this bad dude "spider bro". You are seeing correctly. This guy is eating a caterpillar that is also eating a bee. Spider bro doesn't care, he ate the bee after he was done! 
After I was finished watching spider bro, Rheann and I went out geocaching. Geocaching is an activity that many people haven't heard about, so let me explain. Geocaching is another word for treasure hunting! In other words, we got to be pirates for the morning! Arrrrrrrggggghhhhh! We borrowed a gps from the ranger station. It already had the locations of our treasure saved on it. We followed the signal until we were close, but couldn't find it. It was hidden, just as any good treasure should be. 
After about 20 minutes of searching the area, Rheann found it! She beat me to the treasure. I didn't want to be a pirate anyway :(
The rule of geocaching is that you get to take one item, but you have to leave one as well. We made off with a glow stick.
If you want to know what we left, you will have to go to the park and find the treasure yerself matey! (Just kidding, I've always wanted to be a pirate!)
After we had our fun treasure hunting, Rheann and I went fishing. We needed to get some bait, so we started looking under logs for grubs. We didn't have much luck, but then some help arrived! The park ranger, Gary, showed up with some worms and a bottle of milk for us! He had overheard us talking about wanting to ride 12 miles into town to get some things, and he went for us! That was amazingly nice of him! 
Armed with our bait, we knew dinner was only a few casts away! I couldn't wait to catch us dinner, but today was definitely Rheann's day, she beat me at fishing as well!
See that face? That face is her grinning so hard because she caught more fish than me. I brought in only two fish, and she hauled in 7! We were only able to keep five, but that was enough for some more fish tacos!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our Strength!

Day 11
Roadkill count: 2 UFO's (Unidentified Flattened Object) and two poor turtles, Leonardo and Michaelangelo.
Yesterday's ride was another tough one. It took us from Zavalla, Texas, to the Mission Tejas State Park. We left Jeanne's house at about 9am. We rode 20 miles through some minor hills to a town called Lufkin.
This town was the largest we have ridden in since we crossed into Texas. There wasn't too much traffic, and we passed through it with no problems. We did stop to eat at a nice BBQ place called "Bryan's". There we met some nice people who helped us out with some ice. 
One of them talked to us for a while, Marcie. She was very encouraging to us. Sometimes the rides get too much for us, but we get through because of the people that helped us. Even if it is just kind words, we draw strength from them and it pushes us ahead.
After we left Lufkin, the hills got a little bigger. We had to brake while riding down them because our trailers are only rated for 25mph. We go a little faster than that sometimes, but the trailer gets speed wobbles if you aren't careful.
I'm not very superstitious, because it's bad luck; but when we were talking to those people in Lufkin, we mentioned how the ride hasn't really presented any major problems yet. Then one of them mentioned the "f" word, 'flat'. I don't like to talk about flats or even mention them, because every time you do one of them seems to pop up soon. This time was no different. We had ridden almost 300 miles with no tire trouble, then we heard a familiar noise about 8 miles past Lufkin!
It was Rheann's bob trailer. The tire had sprung a leak. We pulled over to fix it.
After we fixed the tire, we had no more bike problems for the day. We were still worried about our route to the campsite though, because we started to see a bunch of dirt roads turning off of our road. Dirt roads are awful on our bikes, and take a lot of energy to ride them.
Sure enough, we were 20-something miles out, and the dirt roads started. This one didn't start out too bad. It was lined with trees and was packed firm.
We joked about how worried we were about dirt roads. This one wasn't so bad, we even stopped to take a picture.
All the joking soon stopped though. The terrain got tougher, fast. The road transformed right before our eyes from a tamed pet to a blood frenzied beast! Potholes littered the way. Large, loose rocks were covering the areas not filled with potholes. We had to drop our speed in half. We had to keep our speed to less than 8mph, even downhill, to avoid loosing control. The bumps and rocks threw us everywhere. We struggled to maintain control of the bikes and trailers.
We felt every bump for 20 miles. Normally, 20 miles would take us less than 2 hours, but this road took us almost 4! The rock road was very hilly. We struggled to clump uphill, only to have to hold down our brakes while going downhill. This kind of riding would wear us out quickly, even at full energy; but we had already ridden 40 miles of hills and were already tired.
We were running out of energy. The ride was too much to bear. Every pedal gripped our legs with pain, every bump sent a shock through our arms. We didn't think we could make it. The dirt road was beating us.
Then we began to talk about how far we had come. We talked about all of the people who helped us and encouraged us. We drew our last bit of strength from them. They weren't physically there, but with us in spirit. We pushed our bodies with every last bit of energy we could muster!
We pulled into the campsite, limping in. We had nothing left. We barely had the strength to set up our tent! We both felt dizzy, like we were going to pass out, but we made it! We rode 62 miles (with gear), 20 of it on an awful dirt road! We took showers, ate, and went to bed. 
We passed out at 8pm, and dint wake until 8am this morning. We have decided to take a break today. We need to recover our strength. Rheann is re-plotting our route to make sure we avoid any more of those dirt roads. We were strong enough this time, but barely. We feel so lucky to have made it this far, thank you everyone for all of your help!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All National Park Campsites Shutdown!

Day 10
Roadkill count: 3 (2 squirrels and a snake)

We woke up yesterday morning completely relaxed. I got to watch the Saints win again on Monday night, we slept in an actual bed, and had air conditioning! We had some doughnuts for breakfast and then I grabbed a newspaper from our front step. 
I noticed a small story about the federal government shutting down, but neither of us thought much of it at first. Rheann did a little research on the internet about it. We still weren't alarmed, until she discovered that the national parks are all closed! We were going to be staying in national parks for most of our trip! This was definitely a huge problem for us. All of a sudden, we don't have a place to sleep!
We were in full scramble mode after this discovery. We needed a new route, fast. We decided to head northwest towards some state parks in the area.
We hit the road around 10am and made a supply run to Walmart. We were very low on food, so Rheann did some shopping. She came out with about 20 pounds of food! We filled my sidebags full, they were heavy. We left Jasper worried about how the shutdown was going to affect us.
While leaving Jasper, our minds quickly shifted to the ride when we saw the biggest hill we have encountered yet. This thing was huge! 
While we rode up this gigantic hill, a guy stopped in the middle of the road, took a picture of us, then sped off. He didn't even say hi! We continued on to a town called Zavalla.
We missed our turn off of the highway, but we stopped to get a drink at a store before we could turn around. At this store, we met the nicest people we have encountered on the trip! Joyce and Jeanne welcomed us to the town! Joyce was the owner of the store we stopped at, and she made sure we were stocked to the brim with food! She gave us so much food that we could barely carry it! We talked for a while and enjoyed meeting everyone. Thanks for the fishing tips Johnny!
Jeanne bought us some supplies as well, and we talked for a good while at the store. She loved our trip stories! She pointed us to a state run campsite that was a few miles down the road and we were on our way.
We rode up and down more large hills on our way to Cassel Boykin campsite. The terrain wasn't difficult, so we arrived within a hour of riding. Once we got there, we took a look around.
Before we could even get our bikes unpacked, we noticed a huge storm on the horizon. We moved everything under the pavilion for some shelter from the rain, but I had a feeling we would be dealing with heavy winds as well. 
The sky got really dark, and the rain came. We took shelter just in time! Sure enough, the wind kicked up to about 40 mph and almost blew our tent away! We loaded it up with gear and sat in it to keep it on the ground. While we were in there, we decided to eat some of the food Joyce gave us. We weren't going to be able to cook in this bad storm, so dinner was going to be beef jerky and nuts.
Then we heard someone calling out to us. Rheann peeked out of the tent, it was Jeanne! She had driven all of the way to the campsite to check on us in the storm! She offered to take us in for the night in her home! 
She drove us and our gear about 8 miles to her house. She really went out of her way to help us! We got to get a shower, sit in air conditioning, and sleep in a real bed! Jeanne took us out for a nice dinner as well. She really showed us so much kindness in a really tough time in our trip. We were so worried about having a place to stay, and she just took us in. I wish there was some way we could repay her!
We enjoyed spending the night with Jeanne. We stayed up late sharing stories and talking. She was great company and a genuinely nice person. We can't thank her enough for all she has done for us!
The next ride will be from Zavalla to the Mission Tejas state park. We just checked with them and they will be open! It is going to be a 63 mile day, so we have a long ride ahead of us! Our batteries are fully charged, so we feel as ready as we are going to be!