Cycling Across America:
Bill Westhoff has planned and trained for his bike ride across America for a long time. His journey began on Friday, June 11, 2004. Following is a day-by-day account of the ride and Bill's adventure of a lifetime!
Bill expresses his sincere thanks to those of you who have supported his ride through Team Lung.
On Friday, June 11th Bill and his riding companion took an Amtrak train from Seattle to Bayview, WA. They dipped their tires in the ocean and officially began the journey. The weather was cool and overcast, perfect for an 80-mile ride.
The day began with a 58-mile climb up a very large pass; they made it to the top of the mountain at an altitude of 5,500 feet. The sky was cloudy and the scenery was beautiful, with many streams and creeks winding through the mountainside. They rode a total of 80 miles.
On Sunday they had sunny skies and rode a total of 79 miles. The terrain was arid, with steep climbs.
They climbed 28 miles up the Wauconda Pass and were rewarded for their efforts when they went screaming down the other side. Their legs were feeling the mountain climbs so they decided to stop early, find a room, do laundry and check email.
On Tuesday (June 15th) they tackled Sherman Pass, the highest pass in the state. They rode 5,600 feet up and then dropped back into the Colombia River Valley. Following a short break late in the afternoon, they decided to ride another 25 miles (and up 1,600 feet) to Beaver Lake Lodge. Bill got a flat tire on the way there; luckily their first technical problem of the trip was easily fixed. They stayed in a cabin in the woods...sounds quaint except for the slight inconvenience of having to cross a highway to use the shower and toilet.
The weather was perfect—68 degrees and sunny. A large portion of their route was along the Ponderea River. After traveling 68 miles they stayed over night in Newport, WA, which is on the Washington/Idaho border. After six days of riding Bill and his friends have traveled through the state of Washington, and have 429 miles behind them.
Bill and his riding companion are averaging 70 miles per day. They are in good health and their spirits are high. Bill's riding companion was having technical difficulties so they found a bike shop in Sandpoint, ID. You'll be glad to know that everything was fixed and they were on the road again in no time. They covered most of the state of Idaho in one day (the Northern part of the state is pretty narrow.) The day's highlight was the Green Mountains, a beautiful view of bluffs standing 2000 feet above a lake. They ended the day in Clark Fork, ID with a fabulous Italian meal.
A strong headwind made the day very challenging. They missed a turn and rode about 5 miles before realizing the mistake. While examining the map on the side of the road, a woman in a beat-up old truck stopped and asked if they needed help. They loaded the bikes in the back and hopped in; she dropped them off at the intersection on top of the hill they had just descended. They stayed the night in Libby, MT.
From Libby they made a rapid climb to the Eureka Dam, where they greeted by the pristine Koocanusa Lake. One of the benefits of all this exercise is that Bill can eat what ever he wants to! He had a delicious dinner that included coconut prawns, beer and banana cream pie in Eureka, MT.
They traveled about 60 miles through the west side of the Rocky Mountains. They took a break on the side of the road to enjoy the scenery and another passer-by stopped to make sure they were OK...they seem to have a special charisma for attracting women in their 60's in beat-up old cars. After a delightful lunch in Whitefish, MT they continued on to Columbia Falls, MT.
Bill climbed many mountain passes on his journey East.
With the wind at their backs it was the perfect day for a ride in a breath-taking location. They made their way through the awesome scenery of Glacier Park and completed the climb over the Rockies. Marias Pass is the route of the Great Northern Railroad from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast. After 71 miles they decided to call it a day in East Glacier, MT.
They are traveling on US Highway 2, on marvelously level ground. Bill celebrated his 57th birthday by riding 118 miles (the most miles he's ever ridden in one day!) through Montana.
As they move Eastward the scenery has changed from majestic mountains to grassland and rolling hills. A strong headwind slowed them down. After riding 62 miles they pulled into Havre, MT, where they stayed the night.
The day was sunny and mild. (Bill's tan is coming along nicely.) They met several cyclists that were traveling Westbound on Lewis and Clark's Trail. They stayed the night in Malta, MT, after logging a total of 91 miles.
With more than 1,000 miles behind him, Bill is more than half way home!
At the conclusion of his 18th day Bill was in Minot, ND, and had ridden a total 1,432 miles. Bill and his riding companion were mistaken when they thought this portion of the route would be flat; the number of hills through Montana and the Bad Lands have exceeded their expectations. They continue to average 90 miles per day. The days with the wind at their back are a breeze (literally and figuratively).
An unexpected highlight of Bill's journey has been the people he’s met...
Clint and Patti: It was a warm afternoon and Bill was looking for a cold beverage. They parked the bikes in front of a roadhouse and headed inside. You can imagine how surprised Bill was when he realized that he was standing in someone’s living room! The establishment had closed to the public sometime ago. The owners, Patti and Clint, have about 200 bicyclists stop in each year, so they welcomed them right in and got them a tall glass of ice water. After a refreshing 30-minute break they continued on their way.
Biker Bill: At breakfast in Schenuk, MT, they met Bill, a serious bicyclist who had been following the Lewis and Clark Trail from St. Louis to Oregon. He had a grizzled look, that came from the previous month on the road, fighting headwinds the whole way.
No-Name Lady: In route to Wolf Point, MT, they came across a woman on her bike. She was moving from North Dakota to Alaska. She had one box strapped to the back rack of the bike and was towing a carrier made for kids full of clothes, camping gear and a second box. After talking with her for a couple minutes Bill realized what was in the boxes...she couldn’t leave her cats behind!
They made the 123 mile trip from Minot, ND, to Minnewauken, ND, in 8 hours and 27 minutes. Along the way they had lunch in Rugby, the geographical center of North America. When they got to Minnewauken they couldn’t find a hotel, so they sweet talked a young farmer named Mitch Weed into giving them a ride to Devils Lake.
The day began with a head wind, that just wouldn’t let up. They took an afternoon break in Pekin, ND. While enjoying a Coke they met a gentleman who is a professional gardener; on their way out of town they stopped to see the 1,700 varieties of irises he grows and sells...and they sampled his homemade Blackberry Merlot. After riding 85 miles they ended the day in Cooperstown, ND, which is approximately 100 miles northwest of Fargo.
After 20 days in a row on his bike, Bill and his riding companion decided to take a break (Thursday, July 1). He mentioned something about the bike taking its toll on his back-side. Bill expects to cross into Minnesota tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that the winds are at his back for the last portion of his journey.
Cooperstown, ND, to Fargo, ND—97 miles. We left early, but strong NE winds were already blowing and clouds eventually brought rain. The rain seemed to calm the wind—nothing else does in ND. Outside of Page, ND, we came to a RR crossing that crosses the road at an angle. Bill, my riding companion, was smart enough to walk his bike, but I thought I could ride across. The rain and the slippery rail were not a good combination. I fell off, bent my front wheel and bruised my hip. Fortunately, I could ride, but the bike could not be ridden. Bill is an able mechanic and was able to straighten the wheel enough for the ride to Fargo. Fargo has an excellent bike shop, where after much trying could not straighten the wheel and recommended a new one. I also bought a new seat, seeking more comfort for mine.
Fargo, ND, to Fergus Falls, MN (Yea, we can smell home!)—89 miles. A strong SE Wind was already blowing when we started at 7:00 am. We headed east and south to Cormorant, MN, where we stopped for lunch. The wind switched to SW, but now we were in a very scenic, but hilly countryside, as we headed to Pelican Rapids. We eventually stopped for a coke in Edwards. The town is no longer incorporated, but the “Little Red School House Bar” still exists. As we pulled up, a group of horse-back riders was completing a trail ride. In the confusion of everyone arriving at once, we determined that we would not find a room at our intended destination, Battle Lake. We found a room in Fergus Falls, MN, which was south instead of east of Edwards. This was a fortunate turn of events, because it put us within one day of Annandale, MN (our final stopping place) if the winds were favorable on Sunday, July 4.
Home and Thanks: Day 24
Fergus Falls to South Haven, MN—132 miles. We wake to a strong NW wind, quickly repair a flat on Bill's bike and leave at 7:30 am. We have the perfect conditions to complete the 130+ miles to reach our destination. We head south on Highway 59 to Elbow Lake and take Highway 55 SE toward Annandale. Friends staying at our lake cabin arrive to pick me up just before Bill turns to his place (he finishes with 136 miles for the day). We both arrive around 7:30 pm to our respective families and friends, home cooking, cold drinks, hot showers and Fourth of July fireworks over the lake. We felt very fortunate to be home to families with no serious injuries, close to bike shops when we needed repairs, and numerous kind and interesting people along our route!
Friends and former associates know that I like statistics, so here are a few:
Total miles: 1,958
Days on the road: 24
Riding days: 23
Avg. miles per day: 85
Avg. miles per day through Glacier: 71
Avg. miles per day after mountains: 98
Flats: 3 (Bill M.: 2, Bill W.: 1)
Replaced rear tire: 1 (Bill W. tire in Rugby, ND, threads showing through)
Broken chain: 1 (Bill M.)
Bent wheel:1 (Bill W.)
Sore backsides: 2
Home safe and sound in Minnesota!
At some point we will both complete a ride from Annandale to Minneapolis, making the total ride over 2,000 miles.
To my creator for giving me the healthy lungs to do this ride;
To my wife, Ruth for her understanding and picking up the pieces during my absence;
To my riding partner, Bill, for his sense of humor, his mechanical skills and for words of encouragement when the days got long;
To the American Lung Association of Minnesota, who piqued my interest in distance riding many years ago and who continue to fight for healthy lungs and clean air every day;
To my friends and supporters who offered words of encouragement and generous donations to ALAMN—together we raised over $11,000!