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September 2002: The End of Plan B



All good things must come to an end.

Over 1.5 years, 15,000 miles, and countless sunsets, mountain vistas, ocean breezes, expansive prairies, canyons, deserts, farms and towns. Dust, bugs, rain, sleet, snow. Instant noodles and oatmeal from a campstove. At least 5,000,000 strokes of the pedal. Wilderness tent sites, hostels, motels. Dozens of flats, 8 sets of tires and 9 sets of chains over 3 bikes and 2 trailers.

Australia, across the USA west to east, the Canadian Rockies, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA off-road along the divide from Mexico to Canada, and finally the Lewis and Clark trail across the great plains.

And still, just 2 T-shirts.

The last leg of our Plan B trip was to cycle back from the Canadian border to Kansas along the Lewis and Clark Trail, through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. These states are part of the Great Plains, North America's breadbasket.

"Man, we're in Wichita, Kansas. What does it matter whether we're on the 1st floor or the 500th floor, it all looks the same." - Kevin Spacey, "The Big Kahuna".

It all looks the same.

Well, not exactly. Montana has rolling hills with a period of about 2 miles - that is, every 2 miles you get one uphill and one downhill of 100 or 200 feet, just enough to let you say, "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas". There were some buttes and rolling hills through North Dakota, and then as we turned south, things began to flatten a bit.

Many of the towns we stopped in were very friendly, but Winnett, MT has to have a special mention. It's the county seat in a county with only 500 people - 100 of them in Winnett. There's not much there, but they all seemed to have a good attitude. By comparison, Jordan, MT, just one day's ride away, seemed a little on edge. We later found that many "Freemen" are based in and around Jordan, and perhaps these homeless, unemployed freaks wearing lycra and riding loaded bicycles didn't fit in.

Across the plains you have one big concern for most of the day: the weather. Specifically, which way the wind is going to blow. When you're fighting it, a 30 mph headwind can really take it out of you. However, if you get lucky, a 30 mph tailwind might push you to your fastest 100 mile ride ever, as it did for us in South Dakota (under 6 hours on our fully loaded mountain bikes). In North Dakota, South Dakota, and Kansas, we heard each state claim to be #1 in the USA in "potential" wind generation resources. (Read: it's windy.)

Heading south from North Dakota, we made good time across the plains, knowing that we were starting to race the arrival of autumn and cold weather. Many days were spent riding with warm riding jackets and/or rain gear.

As we finally passed into Kansas, we found again the people we feel are among the friendliest in the world. It still looks the same as the other states, but for some reason, the Kansans were in a slightly better mood. Maybe the Nebraskans were upset at losing to Iowa State in football the previous weekend!

We have now pulled into Derby, Kansas, the town were we both went to High School, and where Shelley's parents still live. We'll be staying with them for a while to decompress, complete a few long-neglected tasks, and begin to look for a new place to live and work. We're particularly interested in Colorado, perhaps North Carolina, and New Jersey and New York always seem to creep into the final destination list. Perhaps overseas again? Who knows. We just want it to have good cycling places nearby!

It's hard to put into words our thoughts at the end of this 19 month long sabbatical. Highlights? Too many. Best place? Hard to say. When you dream about something, and finally accomplish it, how do you feel? In some ways, we're almost numb. Perhaps it will all sink in during the days to come. More likely, it will become even more special to us over the years, as we recall our slight diversion from Plan A.

While riding these last 2000 miles from Canada back to Kansas, many days were spent riding across the seemingly endless plains, giving ample opportunity for reflection. Some times I'd pick a month to review, just trying to think of all the places we went and people we met during that time. Some nights we'd review our notes and web pages, recalling a cute little town in Spain, or a friendly family in New Zealand, or a great sunset in North Carolina.

We'd like to thank each of you for following along with our trip. It was great to hear from you via email; it really helped to bring a touch of home to us while we were homeless travelers.

Special thanks go out to our parents, who were very supportive of our decision to take this Plan B detour in our lives. (After living overseas for 6 years, they'd become used to our slightly offbeat lifestyle).

Special thanks to our good friend Joe Rutch, who helped us kick off the trip down in Australia some 19 months ago, was there when we finished our first crossing of the USA, and has been our lifeline for the finer points of American culture for the past 7 years.

Thanks to all the friends and family we visited, and whose kind hospitality let us relax from the daily grind of finding a place to sleep - cheers! Ray and Sherry (Dad2 and Mom2), David and Lyn , Rod and Marj, Garry (milk the cow!), Bob and Elinor, Jack and Roxana, Amy, Lanny and Marcia, Kevin and Dianne, Brett and Mindy, Ivan and Isabelle, Guido and Sabine, Jim and Mandy, Cliff and Susan, Tony and Sharon, Wes and Beth, Craig and Krista, Dave and Jo An, Arlo and Sherri Len, and all the friends we met cycling along the trail.

And finally, thanks to Julie and the kids at Derby's El Paso Elementary, who wrote in with some interesting questions. We always got great comments from the kids, and it seems like many of you really enjoyed seeing the questions, too.

Crossing into North Dakota
Great Plains photo opportunity:
crossing a state line.

Cutting wheat in North Dakota
Cutting wheat in North Dakota

Crossing into South Dakota
Is this all there is to shoot?

Nebraska crossing
(Answer: it all looks like the above pictures.)

Ahhh.  Kansas.
Our last state crossing (in the rain).

Finishing in Kansas
Coming in for the finish.


September 2002: The End of Plan B