On July 9, Jeff awoke looking forward to completing his cycling journey in Montana, and ready to begin the Trans America Trail Route in Idaho. The plan was to visit the Adventure Cycling office in Missoula (the originators of the Trans America Trail), to let them know he is three quarters through the ride with only about 900 miles to go of the 4,200 mile trek. The finish line was in sight. However, life sometimes makes other plans. Over the past several days, Jeff was having vision problems. He decided to lay over a day in Missoula and get things checked out. Thank goodness for this, as he was diagnosed with a detached retina and had surgery the same day. This is a very serious situation, especially for a man who makes his living with his eyes. So Jeff’s health now takes precedence and per doctor’s orders, Jeff will not be getting back on the bike for a few weeks. The good news is that for all the rural communities Jeff has been cycling through, Missoula has excellent medical facilities and two of the five retinal surgeons in the whole State of Montana. The prognosis is good and when Jeff recovers, he will certainly be making plans for how he will complete the remaining miles of the Quest for the West. Thank you all for following Jeff’s journey, and we will keep you posted when it resumes.
It is with great sadness we share that John Egbers, the Trans America Race Across America cyclist Jeff met and photographed on June 14, succumbed to the injuries he suffered when he was hit by a car that same day near Scott City, Kansas. John fought valiantly to recover from a host of terrible injuries. His heart stopped on July 5. His wife, Susan, kept a Caring Bridge blog on John's fight to recover from his catastrophic injuries. In reporting the news of his passing, she said "Wherever his next ride takes him, we find comfort in knowing he is pedaling his ass off."
Riding through Montana's long, grueling mountain passes can be tough work. Unless you've got a young, strong woman to draft behind. Jeff first met Alex in Virginia City, Montana while savoring some Huckleberry ice cream. Alex had been on the road for only 10 days on her quest from Park City, Utah to Jasper, Western Alberta Canada. Alex lives in Park City and cycling is her passion. While attending the University of Utah, majoring in product design, she is spending her summer off trying out some long distance cycling. Alex departed from Park City and immediately got sunburned. Thus, she slathered up with a combo sunscreen and bug repellant. Need we mention there are more mosquitoes per square inch in this part of Montana than any other place on the Trans Am thus far? Look closely and you'll see that bug splatter isn't limited to windshields.
Jackson, Montana is located at the foot of the Big Hole Divide between the Bitterroot and Pioneer Mountain Ranges in Southwestern Montana. The population of Jackson is 38, but Rose's Cantina in Jackson's tiny downtown serves population surges of thirsty and hungry travelers passing through on their way to Dillon or Missoula. Jeff met Jim at the Cantina while stopping for lunch on his way to Wisdom. That's Wisdom, Montana, not some new, enlightened state of being. Jim was having lunch with his son and daughter-in-law. He is 89 years old and has lived somewhere between Jackson and Wisdom for close to 60 years. When asked if he is retired he replied "No. I can't afford to retire!"
The Beaverhead Brewery in Dillon, Montana, sponsors a street festival on July 4th, featuring local musicians providing entertainment to accompany food and beverages served up by the Brewery and local food trucks. Jeff and Karen capped off their Independence Day by pulling up their camp chairs in a shady spot in the park where they listened to music while enjoying a brew and tasty BBQ. A local group played covers while encouraging the crowd to sing along. Upon being approached by Jeff in the aftermath of their set, they confessed they're simply a bunch of guys from Dillon who enjoy playing and singing together and they don't even have a name.
Small town America is the ideal place to celebrate July 4th. Ennis, Montana, population 838 and a fly fishing haven, does it up right. A rodeo kicks things off the evening of July 3, firefighters sponsor a pancake breakfast the morning of July 4th, followed by a parade, classic car show and BBQ in the City Park. After filling up on pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage, Jeff and Karen made their way to the parade on their bicycles and were enjoying the action when they were approached by Doug, who makes it a tradition to visit family in nearby Alder the week of July 4th. He was attracted by Buddy hitching a ride in a basket on Karen's bike. Doug is an environmental engineer working for a chemical company in Houston, Texas. For two cross country nomads enjoying a patriotic holiday in Ennis, Doug provided the connection that made Jeff and Karen feel right at home.
Riding a bicycle through the Wind River Range near Dubois, Wyoming can be a lonely experience. Vast expanses of rangeland lay before and behind you, with only a few outposts to serve the needs of travelers. Crowheart is a tiny community in the middle of the Wind River Indian Reservation, and Jeff made a stop there on his 74 mile journey from Lander to Dubois. While perched on the side of the road, he did what any tech savvy cyclist would do -- he tested cell coverage and tried to make a phone call. This action intrigued a passing motorist who knew cell coverage in Crowheart was sketchy. Deb was on her way home to Nebraska, and saw what she thought was a stranded traveler trying to access his lifeline. With typical Midwest hospitality, she stopped to assess the situation and offer assistance if needed. Jeff declined her offer to toss his bicycle in the back of her pickup truck, and parted ways with Deb encouraged that he's never really alone on his two wheeled journey West.
Lander, Wyoming is a renowned location for hunting and fishing. It's also near the convergence of a number of historic trails -- the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Pioneer Trail, the Pony Express Trail and the Trans America Bicycle Trail. If you're a smart business person and you're angling for cyclists, what do you feature in your historic downtown Lander bike shop? Free ice cream sandwiches and beer for Trans America Trail cyclists, of course! Jeff took the bait. At Gannett Peak Sports, Jeff was reeled in by Mike, who lives in, works in and loves Lander. Mike says Lander is a great place for cycling and at Gannett they like to chum the Trans Am riders, learn about their travels, assist them with their ride needs, and wish them Happy Trails.
Hot Diggity Dog (With a Nacho Twist) is one of the interesting food options on the main street of Saratoga, Wyoming. The proprietors are a mother and daughter duo, Darlene and Sophia. At 10:30 a.m. on June 25, Jeff was riding through Saratoga and hunger had already set in. He stopped for a hot dog snack, opting out of the jalapeño twist. In addition to its gourmet hot dogs, Saratoga is also known for its hot springs. It's a tasty and soothing destination for hikers, bikers, fishermen and outdoorsy folks visiting this very scenic and rural outpost in Southern Wyoming.
Anyone who knows Jeff understands that he is meticulous with his possessions, planning and processes. When he met Jack and Nate, who were traveling together East on the Trans Am, he had to concede there's more than one way to approach an epic task. These two young men were riding old touring bikes loaded with their possessions. They had discarded their front panniers and opted for stacking and strapping items all over their bikes. Rather than bicycle helmets, their headwear consisted of hipster hats. Jack chose flip flops for his cycling shoes. And yet, they were making great progress as they pedal across America. Jeff wished the pair best of luck as they continue their journey.
The Summer Solstice has passed, and with it, like two wheeled ships sailing the highway, lots of cyclists taking to the road on the Trans Am challenge. With warmer temperatures, Jeff is seeing more cyclists heading West to East. On June 23, he met Keith, who started the Trans Am in Astoria Oregon. Jeff and Keith were headed in opposite directions, each one questioning the other about what lies ahead. Keith was riding a bicycle fully contained but a little unconventional for this type of long distance touring. The two cyclists met near Willow Creek Pass between Granby and Rand Colorado, yet another line of demarcation for the twists and turns of the Continental Divide. In jest, Keith offered $20 for the other half of Jeff's PB&J. A commonality for all Trans Am riders -- bottomless appetite.
Guffy, Colorado, population 98, rests in the Rocky Mountain clouds at 8,658 ft. As Jeff followed the Trans Am route toward Brekenridge on June 19, the turnoff to Guffy was off route, and promised another 1.4 miles of climbing. But Guffy's Rolling Thunder Cloud Cafe had come highly recommended for its baked goods and atmosphere, so Jeff took the right hand turn and headed up the mountain. There he met the owners, Wayne and Geordi, who retired from southern California to Guffy and bought the cafe, a home and 22 acres nearby. They run the cafe in the summer, and spend winters at their home in Pahrump, NV. Wayne is a retired motorcycle racer, bicycle shop manager, raconteur and (now) cook. Geordi is a retired music professor, who still puts her PhD to work by playing tunes on a piano for guests in the cafe.
Under normal circumstances, most of us try not to make eye contact with State Troopers. Why test your luck? However, when you're riding a bicycle, odds are you aren't exceeding the speed limit or disobeying any traffic laws. When Jeff met Daniel, a Colorado State Trooper, he discovered a really nice guy who enjoys his job because he likes to help people. Daniel admitted he sees a fair number of cyclists on the highway near Sugar City, Colorado. However, he had never actually talked to one. Jeff was the first, and Daniel gave him good advice about who to call when cycling on Colorado highways if he ever needed help.
A sad addendum to this post about John Egbers. Later in the day of June 14, after Jeff photographed John for this blog, John was hit by a car near Scott City, Kansas. He was hit from behind, and sustained considerable injuries, including multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung. Please see the Facebook page for the Trans Am Bike Race for more information. A Go Fund Me site has been established to help John and his family with medical and travel expenses. https://www.gofundme.com/john-egbers-medical-expenses
On day 45, Jeff is now riding in the eastern plains of Colorado. Over the last several days, bicycle riders have been whizzing by heading East. Who are these people on sleek bikes, traveling light? Turns out they are competitors in the 5th Trans Am Bike Race which began June 2 in Astoria, Oregon. While Jeff has maintained a slow and steady mantra, these cyclists are smoking it. The leader is at at mile 3,327 on day 13 of the race! They will end in Yorktown where Jeff began his ride. The rules of this race say that riders must be self supported with re-supply allowed only from resources on the route, available to all competitors. Each rider carries a transmitter that allows race officials and family members to know where they are at any given moment. Jeff encountered John on the ride route, and he was willing to stop long enough to share that this is his second attempt at the Trans Am Bike Race. Last year, he attempted it but crashed and broke his wrist. This year, he is hoping to average around 200 miles a day. John is 64 years old and lives in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.
On June 13, Day 44 of the Trans Am, Jeff cycled out of Kansas. Imagine riding your bicycle across Kansas. If you’ve ever seen a dog trotting with its nose to the ground, you will understand that riding a bicycle allows you to experience perfume of a different order. New mown hay, stockyards, livestock transports, oil storage tanks, roadkill, asphalt and dust from blowing topsoil. Your near vision, far vision and peripheral vision reveal miles and miles of flat landscape. The unobstructed view ahead is cornfields and hayfields on one side, wheat fields on the other. Occasionally, a mirage glimmers in the distance. A farmhouse in the middle of seeming nothingness. Oil wells dot the farmland. Humans taking everything from Mother Earth. The wind blows constantly. It plays a wicked game by changing directions, with gusts occasionally sending your bicycle a couple of feet sideways. Open fields, ready for planting, stir up frequent dust storms, forming a canvas for stark white grain elevators rising like Transformers in the distance. Goodbye Kansas. Jeff rode into the arms of Colorado, and he’s back in the West!
When a hungry cyclist rolls into Dighton, Kansas and he only has a few moments to spare, he hopes he won't strike out in his quest for food before he has to split. Where do the locals send him? To the Dighton Bowl and Diner! At 9:30 on the morning of June 12, Regina (who was born and raised in Dighton) presented Jeff the menu options -- breakfast or breakfast. Curtis flips the flapjacks and is a skilled juggler. After all, in addition to his job as a cook at the Dighton Bowl, he's also a county commissioner (up for re-election). Doyle is the jovial owner of the bowling alley. No pins were falling on a Tuesday morning in early June. Too many folks working their fields. Come winter, the bowling alley really heats up, providing entertainment and comfort food to the good citizens of Dighton.
So you're riding out of Newton Kansas at 6:00 a.m. to beat the predicted 100 degree temps you're going to encounter by Noon. Your goal is to ride to Sterling Kansas, about 60 miles away. You meet a guy by the name of Kevin, decked out with a head lamp, riding at the crack of dawn. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and he loves to meet Trans Am cyclists and help them find their way out of the twists and turns of Newton. Eureka! Kevin is a triathlete and father of two. He led Jeff for five miles to Hesston, where he then bid him a fond adieu.
Another day off, another bike shop. But, Holy Cow, what a bike shop! The Bicycle X-Change in downtown Wichita, Kansas is considered one of America's top 100 bike shops. The inventory is massive, including hundreds of bikes and thousands of accessories. Jay is one of the friendly and knowledgeable employees at Bicycle X-Change. Small world -- Jeff and Karen learned that Jay received his PhD in Neuropsychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. What better evidence of his loyalty to the Pack than an official Wolfpack tattoo. Jay is a Professor of Psychology at Bethany College in Wichita. During his summers off, he works at the bike shop to "support his cycling habit."
Jeff started his ride on June 7 in Eureka, Kansas with a wee bit of trepidation. Morning thunderstorms and rain framed the opening act. Riding in the rain was welcome respite from sun and high temps the day before. But today was a 74 mile day, with a 40 mile stretch of farmland and no services for the last half of the ride. Finding a place at the ride's midpoint to refill water bottles and get a bite to eat was mission critical. Queue Jennifer and Rick, who bought the Cassoday Country Store in April 2018. The store was closed and they decided to buy it and bring it back to life. Both Jennifer and Rick love to cook, and Jeff feasted on their delicious lunch buffet before tackling that long, dry stretch to Newton, Kansas.
Benedict Kansas isn't the kind of place you'd guess to be a fishing paradise. Out in the middle of farm country, it's a tiny town of 96 people. The Verdigris River runs through Benedict, and there's not much competition for landing trophy size fish. As Jeff cycled through town looking for the community store to grab a drink and a snack, he asked a young man for directions. In return, the fellow asked "Hey, do you want to see what I just caught?" With a magician's flourish and from the back of his pickup truck, he produced a 30 lb. catfish! Now that's a good day of fishing.