Month: August 2014

Whitewater to Washington

Dear Friends,

I last checked in during my layover in Missoula, Montana and what a stop that was! The artist responsible for the cover art of The Fox Trails lives in the city and I had the pleasure of signing over a special copy of the book to her. Thank you,Teshia.



Leaving Missoula late in the afternoon of the 20th, I pedaled about 30 miles to the city of Alberton where I had a chance meeting with three whitewater rafting guides: Austin, Alex and Andrew. “You should camp here tonight and we’ll take you rafting tomorrow…” Don’t mind if I do.  Tomorrow actually became tomorrow but a little rain wouldn’t stop us from floating down the Clark Fork in the Alberton Gorge. Austin Crisp has been guiding whitewater expeditions professionally for over 10 years and Western Waters is lucky to have him.

Austin Crisp

Austin Crisp

My new friends Andrew and Alex…What a job they have…


Andrew 6′ 10” and still growing


The lovely Alex

My first time rafting whitewater would prove to be an amazing addition to the excitement of this bicycle tour!

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At Sandy Beaches, we find one of the largest exposures of Argillite in the world. This Precambrian layer dates back even before Glacial Lake Missoula and shimmers green and purple on the cliff side. This particular stretch of the Clark Fork river is gorgeous. A very talented photographer named Mike Malament runs Montana River Photography and from June until September, he stands on the rocks at the gnarly Tumbleweed rapid and takes the photographs of all boats that pass. You can see his work here… Mike was kind enough to let me use a few of the pictures he captured of my float and they’re awesome!

Thats me in the front, submerged

That’s me in the front, submerged

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I stayed here in Alberton for three beautiful nights before moving on.


Anxious for the road and some serious progress, I pushed the pedals over 100 miles -up and over Lookout Pass and into Idaho. Farewell, Montana and welcome to Pacific Standard Time.



I’ve been reading Annie Dillard and she’s been an inspiration with her style and voice. Lovely reading…

Upon entering Idaho, I rode the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alene’s through the panhandle and then climbed over Forth of July Pass. In my explorations of freedom, nothing compares to the rush of barreling down a mountain pass at top speeds, not even skydiving. You have to earn it though.

I picked up the Centennial Bike Trail and rode that out of Coeur d’ Alene and entered Washington en route to Spokane for a visit with relatives. My father has a sister named Teresa that he didn’t meet until 2001. She was given up for adoption by her mother before she met and married my grandfather. After all those years, she decided to track down her birth mother who is unfortunately deceased but she was able to find my father and my great grandmother. Teresa and my uncle Mike live on the north hill in an unbelievable home and to stay in this luxury was quite the contrast to what I’ve been used to on this tour.

The view from the balcony above Spokandyland

The view from the balcony above Spokandyland

I had the pleasure of plugging in and playing my uncle's Les Paul gold top

I had the pleasure of plugging in and playing my uncle’s Les Paul gold top

It just so happened that my cousin Cameron was home on break from school and I’d stay with them for three nights. Teresa made a scrap book with photos and the original letters of correspondence that she had with Catholic Charities, my father, and my Great Grandma during the process of finding us. Reading the hand-written letters from my Great Grandma was a surreal experience. Teresa and Mike were extremely gracious and accommodating during my visit. Their son Cameron is nearing the end of college and the beginning of paying back $200,000 in student loans. He lives in L.A. and studies acupuncture. How does one go about paying back such a debt? We had some deep conversations. He admires my explorations of freedom and I enjoyed his company thoroughly. 

I had breakfast with Teresa and said farewell, leaving Spokane that afternoon and pedaling 60 miles after lunch. I arrived in the quaint town of Creston with the setting sun and found an empty roadside chapel.


It was still and peaceful inside and a beautiful calm came over me. I stayed the night here in meditation and prayed for friends and family back home. In order to experience the freedom of travel and meeting new friends like I do, one has to sacrifice a piece of home. To those of you reading this, I know that I haven’t been the best at keeping in touch with calls and letters but do know that I love you and I think about you. No matter how far I go, you can always reach me. 

From Creston, I began the hardest miles of this trip thus far. I pedaled north toward the Grand Coulee Dam and hit a heavy wind and some hilly roads.


At the top of this one, a concerned high school teacher from Wilbur stopped to make sure I was alright, even offering me a ride all the way to Okanogan, 80 miles north. I politely declined and told him, “I’m content with cycling.” Little did I know…

From the hilly wheat fields, I descended into the Columbia River gorge for the first time on one of the craziest downhill stretches I’ve ever encountered. What goes up, must come down. I thought I’d be able to bike on top of the Grand Coulee Dam but ever since 9/11, armed guards keep this monstrosity on lock down. Being the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States, you can see why they might think a guy like me on a bike might be a threat to national security.

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I’ve never seen so many power lines. Climbing out of the Columbia River Gorge was insane. The heat came and beamed down on me as I crawled up hills more desolate than any of North Dakota’s Badlands. There were no trees, no crops and no animals for miles, only sage brush. I ran out of water and didn’t sweat for 2 hours.

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The wind blew relentlessly, right in my face and all I could do is breathe it in and imagine its power entering my muscles to keep me going. At one point a dust devil came and rocked my world with its tornadic pelting. A red cloud lingered overhead and threatened to rain blood down where the wind-storms stirred the earth. This is the point where I think back to that nice school teacher from Wilbur and the ride he offered me in the morning…but these struggles are a part of my freedom too and I have to remind myself of this often. I stopped at a farm in desperation and took alms for water. The farmer filled my canteen, letting me know that I’d see Bridgeport in about 20 miles and that it’s mostly downhill from here. Once again I descended the Columbia River Gorge and the landscape came alive with orchards and fruit as far as the eye could see. What a relief! I pushed up the river before dark after 90 unforgiving miles and put the punky in Brewster for the night. I camped right on the Columbia River in the open air under a sea of stars and woke up to this glorious rising sun…

Sunrise on the big river

Sunrise on the big river

My legs are taxed so I decided it would be best to rest today in preparation for the road to come. I’ll be riding one of America’s most scenic roads, the Cascade HWY as I proceed through the remainder of Washington. Definitely not the easiest trail I could’ve chosen but I love the mountains and I’ll pedal into them with enthusiasm and presence. In 80 miles I’ll make the Washington and Rainy Pass, back-to-back. Yee-hah. Blow me a kiss on the wind and wish me the best of luck. Until next time…

Happy Trails,



Miss oula la

Dear friends,

Sunday August 17th, I arrived in Missoula and this is what I rolled into:

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..The Naked Bike went through the city and twisted the titties of religious groups and city officials. First amendment, man. I watched these girls jump off the bridge into the Clark Fork River and it was something else to chase after them, jiggling and making eye contact with a father and his children, passing by them to follow suit and take my naked leap into the cold water. Freedom is what we’re splashing around in here. What a way to welcome a touring cyclist!

Missoula is also home to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association.

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They were excited to see me and Julie Huck takes a Polaroid to add to the collection on the travel board.


Hundreds of touring cyclists make it to Missoula for a visit each summer and I’m merely one of them. Or am I? My unorthadox approach to traveling by bicycle catches the eye of Greg Siple, Art Director and photographer in charge of the adventure archives. Greg occasionally does a photo shoot with a cyclist like myself. He uses an old camera with black and white film to preserve the history in a consistent fashion. We speak about my journey and my explorations of freedom with this timely arrival. After the photos, we winch my bicycle onto the scale and its weight reads 123 pounds. I guessed 150 but Greg says the average is between 50 and 70 pounds, the highest ever being 280. The more I have with me, the less free I feel though, real baggage or not and my habits of consumption seem to weigh me down whenever I enter a larger city. Eating exotically, smoking and drinking and women specifically: these are the temptations that taunt me most and they seem to be right in line with the desires of the young majority as well. I take a snapshot of myself and the culture in modern-day Montana’s big cities along the 90, and I save those details for The Fox Trails archives.


I saw the confluence of three powerful rivers become the Missouri back in Three Forks.


I climbed over mountain passes, braved the storms and bathed in the mountain rain.

it looks like the spaceship from independence day

the spaceship from independence day?

…and that rain came and flowed in tiny streams that joined together to form a mini-missouri, and the humble river shows me the microcosm of the life cycle and the magic of water.


Today marks one month on the road. Half of this time has been on the saddle observing the land and half has been spent in the company of wild characters in new cities. I’m moving on through Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, WA is the next stop. The biggest hills are behind me now but I continue to climb the mountain of self and in order to reach the summit..I’ll have to lose some baggage, peel off more layers and face the freedom song for real. Missoula, you beautiful mirror.. thank you for the reflections.

Yellowstone or the Bozeman Pass?

Dear Friends,

We last spoke in Miles City. That was a hot day. 90 something with a blazing sun but I caught a tailwind and let it shove me west over the hills. Wild horses in Rosebud and I found this decorative sign too..


As you can see, I am hauling some dangerous weight there dangling from my handlebars. I wouldn’t recommend any cyclist should attempt what I do.

Climbing high, I descended a monster downhill into Forsyth. With my phone recording video, I held on with one-hand at 30 mpr until I had to bite my phone and cling on for dear life. The video wasn’t even that cool. 

F is for Fox

F is for Fox

The wind is a such factor. I hope we can work together like that more often. At the local fishing access, I meet Rob and Shannon from Billings and they catch a half dozen catfish while I sip my beer by the river. I did get a little tipsy but do remember singing a song before bed by the fire, standing on my head. Still though, I’m up with the sun in the morning and I pushed on to Hysham to spend some time in the Treasure County Museum. I’ve been following the frontage roads along the 94 and this Old Highway 10 is one of the oldest interstate highway routes in the nation. It dates back 1912.

The Yellowstone Trail

The Yellowstone Trail

Another scorching day and I stop at the Howery Island Recreation Area for a cool down in the river where I meet a couple of kids from Minneapolis. Small world. I camp in Custer for the night. Poor Custer. The city they named after him only has 145 residents.

August 10th comes and it’s Poppa Fox’s birthday so I give him a call with the new sun. Down the road I reach Pompeys Pillar National Monument where William Clark left his signature on the rock in 1806. This signature is the only remaining physical evidence of the Corps of Discovery’s trip.030

032The view from up top was worth the climb.


I found it most enjoyable that my entrance into the park was free since I operate a human powered vehicle. Cars pay $7.00. Back to it.

Trucks were flying by me on the frontage road. The 312 is a nightmare but I arrived safely in Billings, which is the largest city in Montana with a population of 105,000 people. I roll up on a bike trail right away and start to explore. Along the river down by the tracks, I find the jungle. 8 traveling kids sit around passing a bottle and I pull up and join them. They’re welcoming and friendly. They all have tattoos, depictions of train cars and whatnot -these kids ride the rails. Boxcar babies. “We don’t ride boxcars, we ride the grainers,” says Montana Blue. I see two three-legged dogs hobbling around. Blue has a heart on his arm and inside reads: Mama Tried. He also has “Fuck, Fuck” right across the forearm and some train tracks below his eye. Look for yourself…


These kids have some crazy stories. They’ve been all over.


I break out the guitar and we all pass it around and sing a few songs while we have a drink.


Pretty soon a train rolls in and they’re all off for the races. I camp alone that night and wonder where they’ll go and what they’ll do. I watch the sunrise on the river. I could use some extra funding for the road so I looked for a cash job in town while I had coffee at the bakery. I got anxious though and prepared to leave and just then a man walks up, wondering if I need any work. He wears sandals and his hair is grey and longer than mine. Yes, it turns out he smokes pot too but he puts me to work with Adventure Gardens and work we do. I’ve always enjoyed landscaping and working in the shade with a hippie boss isn’t too bad. He paid me cash at the end of the day and even bought me dinner at the Golden Corral. Thanks Mike White.

My friend Rob who I met back in Forsyth gives me a ring and we hook up to have a beer at his favorite microbrewery, Angry Hanks. I haven’t had an IPA since Minnesota. I crashed at his place that night and found out Robin Williams died. Damn. If you’ve never seen the movie What Dreams May Come, that’s definitely one of my favorite Williams flicks. If today is what you make it then I have no time for sadness. I pass through Laurel and Park City, meeting some nice folks. I couldn’t resist taking this photo when I saw the sign…


Coming down a gnarly hill, I reach top speed and zing around a corner to find a herd of free range cattle. I zig-zagged through without any beef..


This country is beautiful,


the rain can come at any moment though.


…and so I made it to Big Timber which put my day at a little over 80 miles. Not too bad for all the breaks and down time I took. Big Timber is about 50 miles from the Bozeman Pass. I expected to see that today but I find myself in Livingston at the library, relaxing and preparing for camp. The wind was ridiculous out there..


I’d rather be writing or playing my guitar when the wind is this strong. It was such a battle to remain positive in thought and spirit. Rather than fight it, I decided to rest and do some maintenance on myself and the machine. Bozeman Pass and her nearly 6,000 feet will still be there tomorrow but I’m still undecided on something..should I go south and see Yellowstone again or push over the mountain to Bozeman??? I’ll have to sleep on that..suggestions and comments welcome. Until next time..

Happy Trails,


Miles City, Montana

Dear friends,

Reporting live from Miles City, Big Sky Country. North Dakota was full of learning. From Custer’s trail to the Mandan Indians and Fort Abraham Lincoln on to the oil fields and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands…

Welcome to Montana.

Welcome to Montana.

I battled much rain in North Dakota before I pedaled into Mountain Time. My first sunset in Montana was breathtaking and I look forward to the change. I stayed in Wibaux right across the border and slept well.



Leaving camp around 7 a.m. I did 30 miles before breakfast and reached my crossroads at Glendive. Which route should I take across this huge state? I have three options: The Northern Tier, the middle road (200), or the Yellowstone River. Although longer and out of my way, (being that I’m aiming for northern Washington) I chose the Yellowstone River route. I’m in no hurry and this trail should provide for the best riding and the most interesting historical sites.

The Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River

Having the Yellowstone at my side is comforting. This river in particular is special, not only because it was the return route of Lewis and Clark but it’s also the longest free flowing river in the lower 48 states. Undammed and natural, I’ll follow this wild water for the better part of its 650 mile course. I stopped in the city of Terry and saw the amazing photographs of Evyln Cameron. She really captured the spirit of frontier life with her pictures. Seven miles west of Terry, I found my camp for the night where the Powder River and the Yellowstone unite. It was a gorgeous evening.

Where the Powder meets Yellowstone

Where the Powder meets Yellowstone

I love a good fire at the end of the day. With no one in sight, I swam naked in the river and dried myself by the fire. What a freedom this is. Captain Clark and his men camped very close to this location on the night of July 30th, 1806. America went and got itself in a big damn hurry since then. Moving slowly, I hope I can capture a beautiful glimpse of the wild before it’s forgotten. I know I’m on the right trail. I’m laying low in Miles City for the afternoon and catching up on correspondence and writing. I send my love back home and I wish you all the best.

Happy Trails,


Bismarck, North Dakota

Hello Friends,

Greetings from Bismarck, North Dakota. A 25 MPR western wind convinced me to take a break in the capital city and I’ve been here since (last Saturday). I pedaled into the Fort Sibley campsite that first night and met a wolf of a man named Burl. He hooked me up with a job at the Lincoln Oaks Nursery and I hunkered down for the week and planted some trees. The characters that I met during my stay at the campsite as well as my time in the field = mind blowing and the generosity of strangers continues to amaze me.

This part of the country has many jobs from the oil boom but the cost of living is rising and in turn, so is the homeless population. Many of the workers at the nursery are homeless people staying at the shelter, employed through the temp agency. It was a pleasure for me to spend some time with them and to hear their side of the story. Employment and consumption have a twisted relationship but I dug deep and I shared myself with those who were willing to receive. I could write a whole book about the Bismarck experience…I met a struggling mother with five unruly kids. They camped next to me and I could have moved but I stayed and gave those children my love, playing with them and demonstrating patience and understanding. A social worker came out and helped the family move into a trailer home the other day and they were so happy! I also had a touchy conversation with a Native about his drinking problem. To see him grow over the last few days has been pleasing..Most memorably though, I met a gorgeous young lady who hasn’t been treated that well. We went for dinner and a drink and I held the door for her like a gentleman. She told me it was the first time that someone has ever taken her out for a real date. She deserves that.  I believe I’ve left what will be a lasting impression on their lives, as they have mine.

My week in Bismarck has given me an unexpected glimpse at life in America through a new lens. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I saw here and what it means to me but my time to go has come. I’ll be pedaling west with the sunrise tomorrow morning, aiming at Dickinson and then I’ll pass through Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Badlands en route to the big state of Montana where I’ll follow the Yellowstone River as I approach the mountains. I imagine seeing the ocean in early September and I’ll face many challenges in the next month. Tomorrow, I’m back on the road and ready for whatever it brings..