This is a BIG post. It answers the question: How many people does it take to get Brett across the continent? Through 5 states, 2 provinces, 4 time zones and 2,400 miles; I continue to be carried along by the generosity of others. These were cold days with warm friends. Also in this post, I will present an extensive Realtime Update about what’s been happening with me, revealing the details of my new job and reveling in the success of my favorite football team.
91 of 92 places had been completed.
Only my home state, Nebraska, was unchecked from my sign.
A bee line back to Nebraska would only have taken a few days, but I had one more stop to make before crossing the finish line. In my first attempt to visit Ombabika, Ontario, place 13 of 92 (this post), I never found the fabled cemetery which I now knew existed. I had decided to revisit it on my way back home. It was only a little over half of a continent away, so I was in the neighborhood. 🙂
Approximate path to Ombabika:
I had been examining the weather forecasts and it appeared that there might be some mild weather the following week. The road going to Ombabika closes in the winter and I knew the first snowfall could come at any time. I set a goal of reaching the Ombabika area in 7 days. This post will be a brief (ha!) summary of this eastward journey.
Friday, October 11th, 2019
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The American border guard didn’t welcome me with as much enthusiasm as I think I deserved. He leered at Annie with a grave expression, slowly moving his eyes around the strange contraption in front of him. After what seemed like minutes, he finally asked a question:
“So did you write all of that stuff?” (Referring to the myriad of signatures decorating Annie’s exterior.)
I couldn’t help it. I had to laugh. I explained briefly about all the dear people whose names have ridden with me on my journey. I was never able to coax a smile out of the guy, but I gave it my best shot.
*begin rant* (feel free to skip over)
I thought I was hitting Seattle at a good time, around 2pm. My previous two experiences of riding around this metro area had been terrible, so I was hoping for less congestion and craziness this time. It was not to be.
Regular readers of this quality publication will note that I do not complain about other drivers very often. Every geographical region has a unique driving culture. Once one is able to understand this culture, it is usually possible to anticipate the actions of other drivers and stay safe. This is absolutely not the case in the Seattle area.
Even though this was my third time through the area, I still could not understand these drivers. I’m used to cars merging into my lane, but I can usually anticipate it happening and plan for a route of escape. Multiple times I had drivers inexplicably merge into me in this stretch. One of the times, I did not have an escape plan. The only thing I could do was lay on my horn, which thankfully alerted the driver to my presence.
I, of course, don’t have sufficient sample size to make a definitive claim, but I would at least posit that the Seattle area is home to the worst drivers in North America. The unpredictability is ever-present and ever-vexing.
Traffic eventually ground to a halt. As much as I was worried about reaching my destination by sunset, the parking lot speeds definitely felt safer. It gradually became clear that the slow down was not just typical congestion. I sat for about two hours with scarcely any movement.
Once traffic finally began crawling along, we were routed to the shoulder to circumvent the scene of an accident. As I passed by, I gulped hard upon seeing a smashed Harley-Davidson laying prone on the pavement. This was a fatal motorcycle accident.
This is the second time that I had passed by the scene of a motorcycle related death. The other was in southern Peru. It messed with my head a little, knowing that it could easily have been me that day. Living on two wheels causes me to constantly reflect on the fragility of my own life. This is healthy, to a point, but can easily go too far. At this moment it definitely felt way too real.
I was actually able to enjoy myself once I got off of the freeway. Though I was short on daylight, I decided to take some county roads and cut directly through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This area is bounded by Mt. St. Helens to the west and Mt. Adams to the east. It was a scenic, exciting ride.
The pavement eventually ended and I reached the peak of the road, a point known as “Baby Shoe Pass.”
With the sun just behind the horizon, I pulled up to one of my favorite homes away from home: My aunt and uncle, Janet (1) and Doug (2), in Trout Lake. 821 days prior, I first enjoyed their hospitality. I used their home as a base of operation to visit song places 5 and 6, Ellensburg and Mattawa (this post).
Their warm welcome was just what I needed and we had a great evening together. It was so nice to catch up with them.
Saturday, October 12th
I had a relaxing morning as I waited for the sun to start warming things up. The local deer were out early, heads along the ground, oblivious to the magnificent view behind them.
One item I was excited to see was an old tire of mine. I executed the first change of my trip here and Doug had kept the tire and used it as a potato planter.
I’m not sure why, but something about this just makes me so happy. That tire dutifully pushed me up to Alaska and back so it is nice to see that it is still serving a purpose.
It was also nice to see some of my Dad’s artwork around. I’ve always liked this piece:
One of the bonuses of revisiting people who hosted me early on was the chance to get their signatures on Annie. I didn’t start this tradition until a few months into my journey, so some “early adopters” missed out.
Even though it was a short visit, it was great to stop in here again.
I enjoyed a familiar ride, south to the Columbia River, then followed it to the east.
Outside of Kennewick, I would get make make a fun re-connection. My friend, John (3), who hosted me in the Tucson, Arizona area, is an Eastern Washintonian. It just so happened that he was in the area and available to meet up for lunch.
The climate was very different from our first meeting, but his generosity was consistent. He paid for my meal and even gave me some gas money to help me along my way. What a guy!
I ground through the rest of Washington and crossed into the panhandle of Idaho. The state is a song place, it was 7 of 92 on my list. I wasn’t there for an extended time the first time and I was in a hurry this time too. A shame, as I know this state is home to many special places and many special people. I did have a special experience with a bear the last time I was here (this post), which was one of my most memorable evenings of the whole journey.
I was extremely fortunate to have a helpful host in Hayden. My new friend, Robert (4), was another one of the wonderful people who became familiar with my story through my thread on the ADV Rider website. So many kind people from this community have encouraged and provided for me along my way. Robert would be the final ADV Rider with whom I would stay on my meandering mission.
We had been in contact for awhile, so I was eager to meet him in person. In addition to offering me lodging, he had also expressed willingness to load Annie into his trailer to get through the mountains if snow blocked my path. Thankfully, I did not have to take him up on it, but it was so thoughtful to offer.
Robert had a warm cup of wassail waiting for me and I had a good time getting to know him and his girlfriend, Vicki (5). She is just getting into motorcycle riding, so it was really fun to hear her perspectives and experiences. I had a good time getting to know them this evening.
Sunday, October 13th
Robert made me a hearty breakfast and we got to spend a little more quality time together.
Though I’ve surely said this before, I was with them for too short of time. Additionally, I was starting to become a bit preoccupied about my return to Ombabika. I’m normally very present and personable, but I had a harder time being social than normal.
I hope to have another chance to get to know Robert and Vicki better. May our wheels roll in the same direction some day!
This would be the shortest riding day on my way to Ombabika. It’s a good thing too, as I had a rough day. It was moderately cold, probably in the 40s most of the day, but I was really chilled for some reason. Uninspired by the nice scenery, I trudged along dutifully. I crossed into Montana and set my sights on Kalispell, my home for the night.
My most significant career, in terms of both time and impact, were the seven years I spent working at People’s City Mission, the homeless shelter in Lincoln. I could write volumes about these experiences, but I don’t think I could ever accurately describe it. The despair, the joy, the humanity, the smells, the violence, the love, the drugs, the sacrifice, the camaraderie, the affliction, the spirituality, the harmonica that was clogging the toilet…. it truly is a place like nowhere else.
I spent the final four years of my tenure serving as the Director of the Men’s Shelter, a position for which I was woefully unequipped. By God’s providence and the Herculean efforts of our dedicated staff, we accomplished a lot through this chapter. Regardless of what happens in the balance of my remaining life, I’m confident that these years will remain the accomplishment of which I am most proud.
One of the aforementioned Herculean staff members was my dear friend Josh (6), who just so happens to reside in Kalispell with his wife, Kayla (7), and son, Micah (8). They fed me a great supper and I appreciated having the wood burning stove to help thaw me out.
I had a funny realization when chatting with them that evening. Micah was born about a month after my trip began. Here was this human being, walking, talking and learning to use the potty; who hadn’t even drawn his first breath when my trip began. This provided a very tangible context about the enormity of this undertaking and made me feel that it was high time to finish it up.
Monday, October 14th
I had decided to take an extra day with them. I was eager to spend more time with them, have a break from my cold riding and take a quick stop into Glacier National Park. The park had seen an incredible amount of snow just a couple of days prior, over three feet in some locations.
Josh had taken the day off so we were able to have the whole family for our excursion. Though some areas of the park were closed, there was enough open for me to get a feel for what the place was like.
I’ll definitely have to come back to visit again, but I was glad to at least get a glimpse of the spectacular views.
Kayla is an artist (her website HERE) who specializes in watercolor. This was my Dad’s preferred medium, so I really enjoyed seeing her work and hearing about her process. It also made me want to add watercolor painting to my list of hobbies. I only have 326 of them currently, so I think I have room.
Josh and Kayla have upstairs tenants and I was able to be at least somewhat useful by assisting in the difficult process of changing out a washing machine. Being crushed during the process would have been an anticlimactic way to end my journey, so I’m glad we were able to complete the task without incident.
Tuesday, October 15th
Josh headed to work before we got around to signatures. Kayla was very adept at forging his however, so I received representation from the entire crew. Thank you guys!
Montana is the fourth largest state in the US, so its size must be respected. Below are a couple of visual reminders of just how vast this state is. It has the size to stretch from Washington DC to Chicago:
Or Paris to Prague:
The temperature was only 26 F (-3 C) when I took off. I knew I had a long ride ahead of me as I would be crossing the majority of the fourth largest state in the US. My day would begin with my final pass through the Rocky Mountains, which I knew would depress temperatures even further. The mountains loomed large as I approached them. It was hard to imagine there was a path through there.
It was a nice ride through the pass, but the temperatures made it hard for me to enjoy myself. This was one of the coldest riding stretches that I had throughout my entire adventure.
With the mountains now behind me, I took a well deserved coffee break. I told myself that I would head out again as soon as I regained feeling and movement in my toes. That took 45 minutes. 🙂 It was time well spent, though, as I met some friendly locals.
After this break, it was warm enough that I could proceed without the risk of reaching a critical level of coldness. 600 mile days usually don’t bother me too much, but the days were getting shorter and I was moving counter to the Earth’s rotation. Eventually it became clear that I would not be reaching my destination in the daylight.
This day also marked the point when I began to have serious concerns about my drive chain. I had nearly replaced it during my down time in Vancouver, but decided it would probably get me the rest of the way. By now it was clear that its condition was making a major dent in my fuel consumption. I was having some of my worst tanks of the trip.
Big sky country:
The sun set and I shivered along. Other than a coyote crossing the edge of my headlight beam, I had no close calls with wildlife. I finally made it to the city of Glendive and navigated to Dawson Community College. So what the heck was I doing here? Was I finally going to enroll in an English class, so that I might finally understand how; to use a semi-colon? Fat;chance!!!
No, I was going to enjoy the hospitality of yet another family member. My second cousin, Karina (9), lives here with her husband, Jon (10), and son, Gareth (11).
They had recently moved here from my home town of Norfolk after Jon got a job at the college. He came up early and Karina and Gareth actually lived with my Mom for about five weeks in the summer. They have access to the cafeteria and had loaded up a wonderful box of food. It was just what I needed after my long on the road.
We had a nice evening talking about our travels and other things. Montana can feel vast, almost daunting. It was such a gift to have familiar people along the way.
This was probably in my top five hardest days of riding due to the cold temperatures, but I really can’t complain. I started the day warm and well cared for, I ended the day warm and well cared for. With these bookends, does it really matter what was in between?
Wednesday, October 16th
The daylight revealed some of the unique rock formations surrounding the area.
We took care of signatures and Gareth was introduced to Sonic.
Thank you guys! I hope to pass through Glendive again soon!
The goal for the day was to get through North Dakota and make some headway into Minnesota. It would not be as productive as I hoped.
The weather was slightly warmer than the day before, warm enough that I wouldn’t have to take designated “warm up” stops. I crossed into North Dakota and rode through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park area. I don’t think I had ever been through there before.
The rest of the ride was pretty uninspiring. But I can’t judge! Any Nebraskan knows better than to judge a state by what one can see from its interstate.
I stopped a little ways outside of Fargo to eat. I sat for about half an hour before it became clear that I had lost the ability to warm up for the day. I coasted into Fargo and did something very uncharacteristic: I got a hotel.
Brad (12) and Elise (13) in Vancouver had given me some money which they had designated be used for lodging during the inevitable cold nights ahead. It was a wonderful gift. I don’t know if I could have gotten any sleep in the tent this night.
Everything I was wearing when I stopped:
Staying at a hotel always sort of feels like cheating. It’s like when you are having problems with a video game so you change it to the easiest difficulty. There is something so unsatisfying about it. That said, there was something extremely satisfying about having a hot bath to help rekindle my interior furnace. It was just what I needed.
Thursday, October 17th
My inability to make better progress the previous day ended up being quite a blessing. As I was in a fairly large city, I decided to make some calls to see if I could locate a new chain for Annie. My efficiency numbers had continued to fall the previous day and I was beginning to feel the situation was critical. I did not want to try taking this chain along the road to Ombabika.
I had a little time to kill before the shops opened, so I had a chance to re-do a previous task. You might not remember, since it has been so long, but Fargo is actually one of my song places (number 11 of 92 for me, THIS POST). I barreled through in July of 2017 and got some nice pictures.
The famous woodchipper (If you get it, you get it):
The above picture isn’t bad, but it is not exactly whimsical. This just will not do. Let them call me careless and irrational. Let them say I lack sense, decency and hygiene. Let them criticize my grammar, hair cut and my insufferable personality. BUT LET NO MAN EVER SAY THAT BRETT RANDEL ANDERSON LACKS WHIMSY!!!!!
That’s better. 🙂
I was able to find my chain in stock at a local shop.
Getting it installed took a huge load off of my mind.
Normally it is not advisable to put an new chain on old sprockets, buy mine were still in decent condition. I knew I only needed about 2,000 more miles to get home.
I also replaced the cramp-buster that I have on my handlebar.
Annie doesn’t have cruise control, so I have to be actively controlling the throttle at all times. This little device keeps me from having to grip the handlebar so tightly. Since I’d lost my previous one somewhere in Montana, I was already starting to feel some elbow pain. Getting this back was great.
This was the best riding day of my final push east. It was a little bit warmer, the stress of my failing chain had been relieved, there were some colorful trees providing wind cover and Ombabika really started to feel like it was within striking distance.
Minnesota, the state, was another one of my early song places (10 of 92). My picture to represent the Land of 10,000 Lakes was the statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji.
Later on, another Paul Bunyan statue served as my backdrop for Bangor, Maine (26 of 92):
After pulling Annie over a few more times to photograph statues of giant lumberjacks, I realized that I had a problem. I resolved to take no more photos of large loggers throughout the course of my journey. That pledge lasted for 750 days. But when I arrived in the town of Akeley, I knew it had to be broken:
This Paul has seen some stuff. So have I.
Riding through the trees was a lot of fun. Though their color warned me I was a little late to be heading north this time of year, their brilliance was undeniable.
I hit Lake Superior at Silver Bay and followed its coast NE.
By Grand Marais, I was short on daylight and explored my lodging options. My friends, Adam (14) and Natalie (15), had also given me a little money to help with lodging, so I wanted to steer clear of my tent. I ended up staying at a place called the Hungry Hippie Hostel, which was out in the country.
I know what you’re thinking: “This is America! Our country was built on God, guns and paying too much for lodging! There are no hostels here!” This nice place is an exception, which will hopefully be further duplicated across the country.
It was only $25 (I think, I actually didn’t get this one logged) for a bed in the shared dorm. I met some nice people and was really glad that I was out of the cold. If you are OK with blatant racism, its a great place to stay:
Friday, October 18th
I found that there was actually a really nice view of the lake the next morning.
A fellow traveler named Kathy adorned Annie with her signature and I was on my way.
This was a big day! My long ride across 2/3 of the continent, just so I could revisit a place that doesn’t exist anymore was coming to an end. (Wow. When you put it that way, it does sound kind of silly.) By the end of the day I would be in Beardmore, the last bit of civilization before the final push to Ombabika.
It was less than an hour to the border.
Crossing into Ontario meant that I was in my fourth time zone in the last five days. I got all of the lag with none of the jet. Passports and documents ready, I took a deep breath. With Annie’s tires planted on foreign soil, the last adventure of this journey was about to begin. Ombabika or bust!
I’ve kept pretty good records throughout this journey. I can tell you the exact number of tires I’ve used (10), gallons of gas that I’ve consumed (1,155) and even the number of words that I’ve written (WE CROSSED 400,000 IN THIS POST. THIS WORD IS NUMBER 400,873). One number that I don’t have, which I may never be able to calculate, is how many people have helped me along in this quest. Counting them in a single post shows just how much this journey is not about me. It belongs to all of us.
Please keep carrying me along, everybody
Real Big Realtime Update: I’ll split it out into categories.
For years I’ve had people ask me what I was going to be doing after the trip. I would normally respond with something like, “I don’t know what it will be, but I’m sure it will be strange and unexpected.” Now that I am employed by a company which primarily produces championship rings, I consider this prognostication thoroughly fulfilled.
My job title is Technical Project Lead. “What does this mean?” you ask. Unfortunately, I have no idea. I find myself in a tense race against my employer to figure this out before they figure out that I don’t know. It will certainly be a close race. 🙂 Basically, I will be helping to develop software platforms which will help us to operate more efficiently. Most of the current ambiguity of my role is due to the fact that they will be building the position around my (alleged) skills.
The leader of our team is my dear friend, Kyle Winchell. Were it not for him, I doubt I would have jumped back into full time work so quickly. His assessment of the company was the real reason that I decided to commit to a position there. The company does a lot of things differently and is innovative in many ways. But I have to say, I will miss having bathroom breaks.
HERE IS OUR WEBSITE if you’d like to see more about what we do.
Can you believe it? The Chiefs are the AFC Champions and heading to the Super Bowl for the first time in my life.
The only unfortunate thing about this monumental accomplishment, is that I don’t think that I will be in attendance at the Super Bowl. Given the lows that I have endured with this team, I can scarcely believe it. Unfortunately, the modern day Super Bowl is not about the fans. It is a corporate schmooze-fest and a way to signify yourself as financially elite. Even the cheapest ticket is still around $4,500, which is just not feasible for the average fan.
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. Part of me just wants to show up in Miami and see what happens. Wherever I am, I will be cheering loudly and irrationally like I have for the previous decades. Getting to see my team in the Super Bowl will be a dream come true, regardless of my vantage point.
Three days ago we had the one year anniversary of my Dad passing away. Looking back, I just can’t begin to fathom all that has transpired in these last twelve months. I feel like I’ve experienced a lifetime’s worth of emotions over this period.
I continued to be impressed by how my Mom has carried herself through this most difficult year. I’ve learned so much about what true faith is just from observing her. She has done much more than just survive and has continued to be a joy and an inspiration to me. You’re the best, Mom! Let’s go out for a ride soon!