Friday, October 17, 2008

Stanley's getting manly!

For those of you that know Stanley, you know that, for all his good looks and charming personality, he has a woosy bark and pees like a girl. His new buddy Otis, must be having a positive effect on him, because today, while on a hike up whiskey hill (fitting, I know), I saw him lift his leg for the first time ever!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My new place

Thank you to Kerin, a Branford native for putting me up in Frisco for a few days until I was able to move into my new place. She showed me one hell of a time and even helped me fulfill one of my goals on my gasoline free adventure - riding a horse. I rode Rusty, a horse with a similar personality to Stanley, and had an awesome time while climbing Buffalo Mountain.
On Friday, I returned to my new hometown, Eagle-Vail, right between Vail and Beaver Creek. Stanley and I are living with a woman named Jen, a Jersey native (everyone in this area is actually from somewhere else) and her dog, Otis, in a charming old house. The house was originally owned by a lettuce and potato farmer. When he passed away, his will stated that his heirs could do anything they wanted with the land, except for knocking down his house. The heirs subsequently subdivided the land, and built a golf course, pool and tennis court around the house. We also have an awesome mountain to hike right out the back door. Here are some pics...

Front of the house

Stanley and Otis


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I love Colorado! And so does Stanley! I'm into the beautiful scenery, fresh air, night sky and awesome people and Stanley's into the fact that everyone has a dog for him to play with, he rarely needs a leash and the fact that everywhere we go there are rivers and lakes with clean, cold mountain run-off.

Since I wrote from Island Acre State Park last week, I've couchsurfed a few times with great people who have all showed me one hell of a time.

In Rifle, I stayed with Carrie and Drew and had a great time watching the VP debate at a local bar with a bunch of their friends. That's where I learned that I'm no longer voting for "change." Evidently, McCain and Palin are for change and Obama and Biden are for "significant change" which I have decided to vote for. One funny story came from Drew who carpools to work with a woman named Christie. On the same day that I was to arrive at Drew and Carrie's, Christie was telling Drew about the wild site she saw the evening before... A "crazy" guy riding his bike down the interstate (there were about 10 total miles where I had to do so) trailering a big white dog. Imagine Drew's surprise when he got home to find the "crazy" guy and white dog hanging out with his fiancee on the back porch!

One footnote from that story is that Stanley and I were coming from tasting wine at a local Colorado winery which reminded my of a little known fact that I learned on this trip... There is at least one vineyard and winery in all 50 states. Did anyone besides Lauren and Ike know that?

In Rifle, I had the entire back wheel of my bike rebuilt by Andy, the very knowledgable owner of C3 Bike Shop. Stan and I hung out there for a few hours and he promised that his work would be the end of my wheel problems. So far he's been right and it's made the climbs into the rockies 10 times easier.

Since I got a late start, I didn't get very far that day, but Drew and Carrie had introduced me to one of their friends, Carmen, that let me stay at her house in New Castle. Carmen works with Carrie at Coal Ranch High School - home of the Fighting Doritos. Carrie and Drew came over after work and we all went in Glenwood Springs, a cool mountain town with hot springs. We might have had too good a time though as I woke up with one hell of a hangover. It could have been the altitude or the amazing homemade concoction of vodka and fresh peaches that Carrie brought out with us. This was one of the best cocktails I've ever tasted!

In any event, this was no morning to be hungover as I had to beat a huge storm while riding over 40 miles up to Eagle to meet my next couchsurfing host. The storm was supposed to dump 6-12" of the white stuff in the higher elevations, while raining hard for days straight at the lower elevations that I was at. Those lower elevations we between 5400 in New Castle and 6600 in Eagle.

A portion of the day's ride was through the majestic Glenwood Canyon where they have built a bike path through the canyon along the Colorado River. Everywhere you looked, was perfect and I used a valuable tip that someone at a rest stop in Nevada had given me. This gentleman had been riding his motorcycle many years ago when he noticed someone waving franticly at him. He stopped to see what was wrong, and the frantic person just pointed behind him at an amazing end to end rainbow. From that day on, the gentleman at the Nevada rest stop always checked out the views behind him, as well as what lied ahead and I was glad that I ran into him because I've seen some preety great scenery by stopping once in awhile to see the view behind me.

Most of the day was a steady light rain and I realized that it was the first time I'd seen rain since my trip began over 6 weeks prior. It didn't dampen our spirits though as Stanley spent the day jumping in and out of the river and I took in the scenery, enjoyed the fresh air and pretended like I had some idea of what Robert Hunter was talking about when he spoke of the "cool Colorado rain."

When we finally got to Eagle, I met up with Heather and her boyfriend Dorian at the Restaurant they work at and she hooked me up with a burrito and a beer before sending me off to her place for a hot shower and some relaxation. Heather was another great host and she and Dorian took me on a cool hike through the aspens full of vibrant fall colors and up to Lake Creek. We were high above Edwards, CO looking at the newly snowcapped mountain peaks and listening to the water rushing through the creek. It made me remember my great hikes with Lauren and Rob in which we discussed the fact that the beautiful hikes in CT were always marred by the highway noise or view of some commercial building.

Colorado was feeling so much like home that, when Stanley asked me if we could stay and live there, I happily obliged. I'm not sure if that means that Colorado will be my home forever (which would mean an abrubt ending to the gasoloine free adventure) or just a stop for the winter which would mean that I would pick back up the biking on my way back to CT. No matter what, I will be continuing to fight the good fight and do things that help put an end to global warming and help reduce our unnecessary uses of our finite natural resources. I will not be bringing my car out here and will mostly use my feet, bike (until winter sets in) or public transportation. I will also be looking into what I can do to help the progress of viable alternative energy sources.

Amazingly enough, I have inspired myself to do more for the environment, and research things further, as much as I had hoped to inspire others. One example of that last part is the fact that I blindly love natural gas, a clean burning, renewable energy source. While in Western Colorado, I saw the process of mining natural gas in action. Between the hundreds of tractor trailers and the burden of construction among other things, the natural gas might be more harmful to the environment that it's counterparts. This I don't know yet, but is something I'll be researching as soon as I'm settled which will be soon as I found an awesome house in Eagle-Vail, which I'll be moving into this weekend.

I would like to thank everyone that followed along and kept me going along the way, even when the going got tough. People that I knew before, like Sprotzer who made efforts to reduce his carbon footprint, or people I met along the way like Mike Woods, the PG & E employee that helped me out in Ione, CA and called weeks later to check in and see how Stanley and I were doing. It feels good to read the e-mais and know that this trip has inspired people to think and act differently!

The adventure will not end and I won't stop blogging (that word still hasn't gotten old), although I'll have to change the name to Todd and Stanley's Environmentally Friendly Adventure.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


So I'm not as good a bike mechanic as I think I am. It might not be as much me as it is that I don't have a truing machine. I'm not even sure if I spelled that right, but I now know that to replace and tighten spokes, I should have one.

Since the last time I wrote to any people that actually log onto the world wide web to read this blog, I "fixed" my bike well enough to ride it to Green River, UT, a "town" about 50 miles outside of Wellington.

I'm assuming that you all realize that my liberal use of quotations means that any word in donned in that sort of punctuation means the complete opposite of the dictionary definition of that word. For example, "fixed" means that, while I might be able to replace a spoke or two, there's no way that I can, or will, ever be able to fix the wobbling of the wheel or extra broken spokes that comes with hap-hazardly tightening and loosening parts of the wheel at random.

Also, in this case "town" means a gas staion and Arby's. I wouldn't normally care, but I was expecting that any "town" that made the map so prominently, would have a bike shop. Green River did not and that led to more hitchiking.

This time, I staked out a truck stop/gas station for a few minutes looking for a pickup truck with an empty bed so I could hitch a ride and still fit Stan, the bike and trailer in the back.

A few minutes in, I found Steve who had a diesel truck but wasn't running bio, bringing my lucky streak of being completely gasoline free to an end. Steve claims that, because regular diesel is the bi-product of gasoline, I'm not breaking my own rule, but I whole heartedly disagree because that if you ran the whole world on diesel, you'd still have to refine the same amount of petroeum.

Now, Stan and I lay in a tent for the first time in ages (since Ione) and find little cell coverage. But, hopefully there's enough to post this as I have enjoed the writing of it.

Also, I checked out the date today and I can't believe that it's already October. That means that back at home in New Haven, Sally's Pizza is back from their vacation, Yale football tailgate parties are rocking and the leaves are changing into vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red.

Hopefully, Colorado will fill those voids. I'm sure it will do it's best!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

(Bloggers note: I guess I forgot to push post last night, but here is my post from yesterday...) I pulled into my motel in Wellington, UT at 7:21, precicely the time that my phone said sunset would occur there. That's significant because on the Jewish calendar the day starts at sundown meaning I ended my ride at exactly new years! While there was no ball dropping or big Rosh Hashana parade (probably because I'm the only Jewish person in Wellington tonight), it was definitely a cool way to close out the year 5768.

It was a day in which I went almost 90 miles - 25 of which were in a pickup truck run on biodiesel. That was actually a really lucky story. I had intended to be climbing a huge hill most of the day on US-6 which I guess is the third deadliest stretch of highway in America. I stopped off at the last bit of civilization to grab some provisions, fix a spoke and make some bike adjustments for the big climb. While there, the owners of the convenience store fell in love with Stanley and kept feeding him fried chicken and dog biscuits. The woman even gave him a free bag of treats for the ride. Evidently they were pretty concerned for our safety because they decided to ask some of their regular customers with pickup trucks to give us a ride to the summit. One of the first people they asked happened to be an electrician that was running his truck on bio so we threw our stuff in the back and enjoyed a nice ride up the hill with David. He turned out to be a big environmentalist and I learned a lot about the wind power projects in the area, natural gas conversions for cars and more.

The rest of the day was spent riding through beautiful mountains and rock formations in the Uinta National Forest, which looked familiar from my past west coast road trips, but seemed totally different on bike. It made me remember how nice it was to feel so close to nature a la Labor Day Weekend.

Since we got a ride for part of the day and also went downhill for 8 miles, we had plenty of time to enjoy the Utah nature, learn about historical facts and get my bike mended. Since I ended up getting the ride, I hadn't had a chance to take care of my bike repairs. The biggest problem was that the wheel was getting looser from a missing spoke. I had actually forgotten about it until I ran over a big rock and got a flat 8 miles from Price in a town called Helper.I figured I'd knock off two birds with one stone and fix the flat and spokes. Unfortunately, since I'm a pretty novice cyclist and bike mechanic, I didn't have the proper tool to get the cartridge off the wheel. I fixed the flat and went to visit Fuzzy's Bike Shop about 10 miles south in Price. He didn't have time to fix it himself, but hooked me up with a good deal on a bunch of spokes and a tool to do the work myself. I set off for my uneventful ride into Wellington, where I now sit and blog.

I shall do my repairs and set off for Green River or points east further tomorrow. Then... Colorado!!!! Certainly, one of, if not my actual, favorite state that I've been to. For those of you that don't know me well, that would be all states but Hawaii, Alaska and North Dakota. Please let me know if you have any friends in Colorado to hang out with and possibly even stay with. I already have friends in Denver and Summit County, but not many west of there.
Until next time...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Salt Lake City

Just a short post tonight and I'll try to use paragraphs. I guess it doesn't do it automatically and people are finding it difficult to read. I got back on the road today after a weekend w/ the ever adorable Caron who is the newly crowned valedictorian of the Baruch College Education Administration program.

The short but sweet weekend was the culmination of a fun week in Salt Lake City in which Jessica was a great host. She and I once argued about whether or not we'd be good partners on the amazing race - I took the side in which I thought we wouldn't be good partners since we'd both try to lead to much. This led to us being "mortal enemies" for a week or so in the summer of 2005. I think the whole thing was just me being a jerk because the argument took place as I was quitting a fairly impressive cigarette habit. I'm pretty sure I lost many friends during that time. In any event, we've decided that we're going to apply to the show and give it a try. We figure that "mortal enemies" have never been cast, so maybe cbs is ready for us.

Time for sleep since I've got a hellish climb up Soldier Summit tomorrow. I should be way up in the Wasatch Mountains at sundown celebrating the Jewish New Year. Although B'Nai Jacob was a decent synagogue, I think it will probably be the coolest place I've ever wrung in the new year.

Thanks to all my new SLC friends for making the week so pleasurable! Bryce, Jessie, et al. And, Stanley thanks George for showing him such a good time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not so stucka in Winnemucca

What a crazy week! Tons of ups and downs, and at certain times, my trip felt like more of an adventure than a gasoline free adventure. When I left Tahoe on Monday morning, I was feeling great and somehow not hungover after a whole day of watching football Tahoe style which, as far as I can tell, is finishing all the alcohol in the house before the daytime games are over, then buy some more for Sunday Night Football. Even though I was leaving Lake Tahoe, a place that embodies everything I love in life - beautiful scenery, refreshing water and friendly people, it felt great to be back on the open road. With the lake at our backs, Stanley and I took off for Reno along a bike path winding its way along the Truckee River. Stan ran and swam and I pedaled until it started getting a bit warmer and I had to throw him in the trailer for the last 6 or 7 miles into Truckee.
While preparing for this leg of our journey, I discovered the section of Google Maps that gives the walking route to a specific location, which I figured would be a good biking route too. It looked awesome! We'd be traveling by two large lakes and through a nature reserve while adding only 3 miles to the overall trip. This meant that Truckee would be the last dose of civilization until just outside of Reno (about 25 miles), so I had to fill up the water jugs and pick up enough food for my next two meals. I followed the directions north towards Prosser Dam Reservoir and, about 10 miles outside of Truckee, found myself on a dirt road with beautiful natural surroundings. Since I opted for the "Hybrid" style bike (part road, part mountain, but best at neither), I was able to continue on without much distraction. Stan was in heaven, constantly darting ahead, then coming back to show me the stick he'd found, an area of the lake he wanted to swim in or the deer that were playing in the woods. It was good that he loved it so much since the dirt road would have made it difficult to pull him in the trailer. The only bad part was that we were using way more water than I had prepared for when I thought we'd be on mostly paved roads. On paved roads, Stan would be in the trailer more using less water so I only brought us each a gallon. As the dirt road continued, we were getting lower and lower on water, but I figured it wouldn't be a big problem since the second reservoir was only 10+ miles ahead and someone told me that paved roads started again ahead. Unfortunately, the water wasn't very clean and the paved roads only lasted for a few miles. We came to the end of the pavement and were faced with a very rough gravel road that would go for 9 miles and over a summit before ending up at the bike path that would take me into Reno. Without enough clean water and, with the amount of running Stan had already done, I decided to flag down the next truck and ask for a ride to the bike path. The ended up meeting up with a prison Psychologist named Dave who was nice enough to give us a ride and provide me with a cold beer to boot. We went about 10 miles and I was telling him how it was the most gas I had used in almost a month. I was feeling a little bad about the situaton as it could have been avoided if I had done more research into the route, but I never would have thought that Google would send anyone down a dirt road.
Dave dropped me off at the bike path and we headed off towards Jess and Teddy's house in Reno. I didn't know Jess and Ted before staying at their house and was connected with them through The Couchsurfing Project. Couchsurfing is a global network of likeminded travelers that host people when they come through their hometown and are hosted by others while traveling. A Couchsufer can visit a website, find someone that fits their personality and connect with them through the website or e-mail. Some hosts show the visiters around town, give them a clean towel and/or cook a nice dinner. Jess and Ted hosted me and Sam, another traveler, on the same night and were amazing hosts. I should think that we will remain in touch and continue on as friends for a long time to come. We enjoyed great conversation and plenty of food and wine. It was a great first experience with the organization and I will definitely continue to meet couchsurfers along my trail to Connecticut and beyond.
Between Reno and Salt Lake City there are 520 miles and I would have 10 travel days to get there in time to meet up with my girlfriend, Caron, who would be there to visit me. I know that goes against what I'm trying to accomplish here, but it's been a long time since we've seen each other and I've always said that this trip is meant to inspire people to realize the impact they have on the environment and then do what you can to neutralize that impact. While we both still have a long way to go, Caron and I have both greatly reduced our carbon footprints and will be purchasing carbon offsets for the flight as well as the other gas I've used this week. Hopefully other people reading this blog are doing the same with their flights and other areas in which they are contributing to global warming. Not that carbon offsets are proven to be the answer to global warming, but it seems like it's the best plan that we currently have until other technology catches up. Hybrid cars and solar water heaters are already here and widely used and more cost effective versions of wind and solar power along with a fully electric car from Chevy are just around the corner and will also be a big help.
Back to the trip... the preferred method of biking through Nevada is along the highway which started off great for me, but bad for Stanley as it meant traveling in the trailer all day long. We had exits every couple hours and small towns to stop at each night. We were flying through the state, averaging over 10 miles per hour and feeling pretty safe on I-80 since the roads were smooth and the shoulders wide. Everything looked the same, so there's not much to comment on until we started having major issues. It seems as though the trailer's tires aren't tough enough for long, fast rides on the hot pavement and the thousands of little pieces of tractor trailer tires that had burst and ended up on the side of the road were no help. The tires have metal wires in them which had pierced the trailer tires and become a real problem. Fortunately, the tire popped at an exit, unfortunately, the exit had no services and no cell phone coverage. The tubes were shot and I had no extra tubes for the trailer, only the bike. Luckily, even though the only thing off the exit was an onion chopping plant, the sign said "Hot Springs," so a nice young couple from Columbus, Ohio was bamboozled into thinking that there was something cool and pulled off to have a look. They had both been repairing bikes in LA all summer and helped me rig something together with duct tape so I could move on to the next big town. As I started east again, it was getting dark and I realized I wouldn't make it to the next town in time, so once again I flagged down a pickup truck to assist.
Chad, an archeological equipment salesman, pulled over and gave Stanley and I a ride to Winnemucca. He went above and beyond the call of duty and brought me to Wal-Mart for tubes and then dropped me at the Motel 6, but not before we stopped by a taco shop that his sister owned for some dinner. I had flashbacks to the Goleta, CA Motel 6 where Stanley had his digestion problems and hoped that he wouldn't have a repeat performance.
As I'm writing this, the US is closing in on their first Ryder Cup victory in nine years and the crowd Kentucky is electric! I feel really good for the entire team, especially Captain Paul Azinger, who is a cancer survivor. On the flip side, the Mets just blew a late lead against the Braves and have, for the second straight year, squandered a comfortable lead in the standings over the Phillies. Luckily, the Brewers are doing their best impression of last year's Mets, so the Mets might still make the playoffs as a wildcard.
Thankfully, there was no repeat Motel 6 perfomance by Stanley and his stomach, so we were able to leave the room without incident. As we started east once again, I noticed that the back wheel on my bike was wobbling and I stopped into Winnemucca's only bike shop to have it checked out. I figured that I could have a few other things looked at and adjusted at the same time as nothing was in tip top shape after so many miles and so much stress on the bike with the trailer and 80lbs dog. The knowledgable shop owner recommended a new wheel, brakes and several other repairs. He didn't have the right size hybrid wheel and thought it would take clear into next week to receive the part. He recommended getting the bike to Salt Lake City where there were many more shops and I'd have better luck. I checked into ways to get there and found out that there was a Greyhound that left from a convenience store parking lot at 10:10pm that night. I boxed up the bike, transferred everything I owned from bike paniers to a rucksack that I bought at Wal-Mart and still had a few hours to kill in Winnemucca before the bus. Stanley and I wandered around town trying to find like-minded individuals to hang out with. We patronized a few establishments, shooting the shit with miners and degenerate gamblers before settling into a small bar blasting 80's power ballads and offering shuffleboard and billiards. It turned out that the bar owner had just settled a divorce that morning and it was her first day owning the bar outright. We celebrated with shots and a few beers until it came time to get back to the convenience store bus stop. When the Greyhound pulled up, the driver decided that he didn't want to attempt to fit my boxed up bike in the luggage bins and said that I could only ride to SLC without my bike. He actually wanted me to leave the bike at the convenience store where, at some point, when someone could fit it in the luggage compartment, it would follow me to Salt Lake City. That wasn't acceptable to me, so Stanley and I went back to the bar to be with our new friends. All day, I had been joking that I was "stucka in Winnemucca" and now I really was.
As soon as I got back to the bar, Eileen, the bar owner, poured me a cold beer and I struck up a conversation with a miner named Kevin that was wearing a cycling shirt. It turns out that he was driving to Salt Lake City on Friday morning to visit his daughters and do some cycling and offered Stanley and I a ride. At the same time, Eileen offered me a room in the yet to be completed inn/boarding house above the bar. It was great and the people welcomed me with open arms. Over the next 36 hours, I came to appreciate the town and it's people and saw first hand how booming the area was. I felt as though I was part of the gold rush of the 1800s, except that, instead of arriving on horses, everyone was arriving in gas guzzling pickup trucks. The companies will hire almost anyone and people are earning so much money down in the mines that they'll actually fly in from their real homes as far away as the midwest to work for two weeks a month. It was cool for a few days, but I was ready to go when Kevin showed up Friday morning. One more thing I'll remember about my time in Winnemucca is that's where Stanley officially became well behaved and cool enough that he can walk around town without a leash.
When we arrived in Salt Lake City, Kevin dropped me at my friend, Jessica's house where I was to stay for a few days until I could get my bike fixed. I met Jess when she went to Yale Midwifery school and she just happened to move to from Portland, OR to SLC a few months ago for a new career opportunity. Evidently, the Mormons love for big families creates a lot of positions for Mid-Wifes in the area. She also has a dog named George. George and Stanley have developed an instant friendship.
Once I got settled in, I checked out Craigslist and found a bike repair guy named Ben who went to town on my bike and made it as good as new. In addition, Jess offered to let me stay with her until Caron comes in next weekend so now I'm on vacation in Salt Lake City. How ironic is it that I'd be on vacation in a town that serves beer with reduced alcohol and metered cocktails?
From here, I will be going southeast towards I-70 in Colorado and then will conquer the Rocky Mountains before getting into the Great Plains. I anticipate following the path of 70 most of the way back to the east, so if you know anyone, or anything, along the way that I might want to visit, please feel free to e-mail me at toddaltschuler at yahoo dot com.