A Recipe for Perfection

Day 21: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stop to Stop: Missoula, MT to Lascha Lodge in Powell, ID

Underway: 7:45 am    Off Bike: 1:45 pm    Ride Time: 5:00 hrs    Stayed At: Campsite
Miles Traveled: 58.3    Total Miles: 1,447.8    Weather: Sunny, calm

First Things First: First time in Idaho; First time in Pacific Time Zone

Mile to Mile: Somehow the ingredients came together today for the perfect biking day.


• Sunny blue skies with puffy white clouds added for flavor
• Low humidity
• Light to calm winds
• Limited traffic
• Windy mountain road
• Easy upstream climb, short grind to the pass and fast race to the finish
• Stunning scenery with a hint of pine

Mix together for five hours at between 78 and 82 degrees taking frequent breaks to take pictures and sample the recipe as it gets better and better with age. Enjoy!

Today was the reason why bicycle touring can become addictive. You work hard for days like today and want to savor them. I left Missoula, fueled by homemade banana bread (thanks Cindy) and Bigga Pizza for breakfast and started south and west following the Lolo River upstream. The grade was so easy that I could peddle at a consistent 12-14 mph paralleling this beautiful, blue stream rushing it’s way past me downhill to Missoula. The last four mile climb to the top of Lolo Pass wasn’t even that bad since I knew, on the other side, I could expect an exciting 6 mile ride down a windy road following the Lascha River downhill towards the Pacific Coast.

I quit early to stay at the beautiful Lascha Lodge – they let bicyclists camp for free behind their little store. Plus, except for a couple camping spots, the next place for services is 66 miles down the road. As I am writing this, a light breeze is keeping me cool in the shade, I am surrounded by pine trees and I can’t wait to have a leisurely dinner at the lodge tonight. The only thing better is if I could share this day with someone- the Lascha Lodge is only a 25 hour drive straight thru dear. Should I stay an extra day and wait for you?

In Passing: Lolo, Fort Fizzle Site, Telephone Butte, Bear Creek, Bitterroot Mountains, Rocky Point, Parachute Hill Road






39 Years

Day 20: Monday, June 16, 2015

Stop to Stop: Campsite 15 West of Ovando to Missoula, MT

Underway: 6:45 am   Off Bike: 10:30 am    Ride Time: 3:27 hrs    Stayed At: House
Miles Traveled:45.4     Total Miles: 1,389.5      Weather: Sunny, tailwind

First Things First: First warm shower host; First flat tire; First care package (thanks – lucky I got a flat before I got the package or I might wonder about a connection).

Mile to Mile: What an amazing day. It has taken me 39 years to get to Missoula and the Adventure Cycling Headquarters and it was everything I had hoped it would be. What a great group of people. This is a sample of how a (busy) day in the life of a cyclist can be…

• Got out of the sleeping bag into the cold (38 degree) morning air, cooked oatmeal and hot chocolate, broke camp, packed up ant hit the road by 6:45 am.
• Followed the river and wind downhill into Mssoula stopping frequently to take pictures and visit with numerous bikers heading north to Alaska or east to Virginia.
• Arrived at Adventure Cycling, got my picture taken for the wall, had an ice cream and pop, got a tour of the offices, bought a T-shirt, plugged in my gadgets to charge, met a young guy traveling east bound on the TranAm and got a lead on a place to stay.
• Started off to pick up my package and noticed I had a flat – a small piece of wire from a shredded tire had punctured the tube. Easy fix in their shady backyard courtyard but I had to take everything off.

• Left everything there and rode 3 miles down to the PO and get my much anticipated care package. Thanks for the great treats! They will inspire me over the next few passes.
• Stopped at a random bike shop on the way back and decided to have my chain and rear gear cluster replaced – less than 20 minutes and $52 later I have piece of mind and smooth shifting gears.
• Stopped at highly recommended Bigga Pizza and feasted on an excellent pepperoni and onion pie – just enough left for breakfast.
• Called Bruce who is the Warm Shower host and he said it would be fine if I stayed the night. (Thanks Bruce).

• Returned to HQ to get my picture taken potentially for something they are working on for the 40th Anniversay of the TransAmerica Trail next year and pack up my stuff. I got my bike weighed – I’m 10 lbs heavier than when I started…Hmmm…I wonder why that is?
• I road off a couple miles to my home for the night, met Beacon who is traveling west bound on a trip to Seattle, took a shower, blogged, went out to a coffee shop with Beacon and headed home to plan tomorrow, repack, lay out my sleeping bag and crash for the night.
Just another really special daon Mike’ Great Bike Adventure…..





Antelope Races

Day 14: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Stop to Stop: Jordan, MT to Hill Oasis Ranch

Underway: 6:55 am    Off Bike: 12:30 pm  n Ride Time: 4:13 hrs    Stayed At: Ranch B&B
Miles Traveled: 52.8    Total Miles: 933     Weather: Sunny, warm with NE breeze

First Things First: First antelope race; First trees in Montana; First B&B rest stop.

Mile to Mile: Today was planned as a “short” 53 mile day to the Hill Ranch Oasis B&B – they allow cyclists. Actually they love to have them. After a late start around 6:55 am, bright sunshine with clear blue sky’s greeted me. And a gentle NE breeze to help me along and kept me cool. What a gift – lets peddle.

The terrain quickly changed from the steep uphills and short downhills to long gradual climbs with long, amazing downhills. My terminal velocity (and when I started braking) was 30.2 mph. Things happen fast at 30 mph so I am trying to keep it in the 26-28 mph range. But it is a blast watching the scenery (and miles) fly by.

Speaking of things speeding by. As I was accelerating down another glorious hill I was startled by movement on the other side of the road. It’s…a…big…xz!?…antelope. Less than 20 feet away racing me down the hill. I was going 20mph and he hardly looked like he was trotting. He crossed the road in front of me and ran along the fence line looking for an opening. After a few minutes I stopped to get the camera out hoping he would stop. He found an opening finally and headed off across the range. It was worth the entire day of brutal headwinds the other day just to get here to see that.

The miles ticked by quickly and I soon found myself at the only civilization before the B&B – Sand Springs – where, even though I was going 20 mph, I stopped to take a break and re- sunscreen. I used the Internet at the convenience store to send a couple messages home and happily hit the road again.

It’s amazing how fast things can change at only 12 mph. I was cranking up a hill and looked up and saw…TREES! Pine trees! Lots of them. I am now in the Montana of my dreams. The sight and smell almost brought tears to my eyes. I hope it lasts for a while.

The turn off to the Hill Ranch B&B was at the end of a two mile downhill stretch and I soon found out why it has “Hill” in its name. The steepest hill yet laid between me and relaxation so I cranked up almost losing traction and soon found myself, sweaty and tired, meeting Delores, the owner and her son Kevin and wife Gala. I get to sleep in a real bed tonight. And have pork BBQ. And do nothing in cool air conditioned comfort.

Dinner was amazing. Great conversation. I felt part of the family. Hey Grandama A – she has a blue plate collection just like yours, the same kinds of carved chairs and knows the difference between ebleskivers and pancakse. I’m beginning to really like this Big Sky Country.

In Passing: Dugout Coulée, Rattlesnake Butte, Castle Butte, Sand Springs, Big Dry Creek

Work Day

Day 13: Monday, June 8, 2015

Stop to Stop: Circle, MT to Jordan, MT

Underway: 6:30 am    Off Bike: 3:30 pm    Ride Time: 6:20 hrs    Stayed At: Park
Miles Traveled: 69.1    Total Miles: 880.2    Weather: Sunny, hot and dry

First Things First: First rattle snake (road kill); First sunburn – missed a couple of critical spots with the sunscreen.

Mile to Mile: Today was a work day – it’s all about the miles. The scenery is beautiful but there is a lot of it so I need to keep moving when conditions are good. After the painful wind yesterday, I decided to improve my odds and leave really early when it is cooler and less windy. I was gone by 6:30 am even though I took the time to make hot chocolate and scrambled eggs. There is something satisfying to have 25+miles in the bank before 9 am.

The terrain started changing from flat , broad grasslands to more hills and valleys with a few cows roaming around trying to find something to eat. I started seeing lots of sagebrush and some type of yucca plant. Mostly just vast expanses of dry grassland in all directions. The changes made for some interesting riding – lonely but interesting. It’s hard to meet people zooming by at 70 mph. This is some of the most rural areas in the country. From Jordon, it is at least 70 miles in any direction to another “town”. The only break today was a brand new wayside rest ,in the middle of nowhere, at about mile 31. A real Oasis with AC, cold water and clean bathrooms.

I finally rolled into Jordon a tired, hungry, sun-baked and grubby old man. I had a nice cold drink at the gas station – feeling a little better. Found the grocery store and stocked up – things are looking up. Noticed the town pool (lots of kids running around in swimsuits) and had a free shower – life is getting good. Found the town park and set up my tent in a shady spot. What more is there you ask. A lot more actually. I stopped by the sheriffs office to ask about camping and met Amari – the under-sheriff here. She said camping was not a problem and she even let me use her phone to call home to arrange a mail drop and to arrange a stop at a ranch tomorrow. Thank you Amari – you made my day. My day ended like every day from now on will (if I can find them again) with a f’real strawberry-banana smoothie from the grocery store. Life is good in Jordon, MT.





Welcome to Montana

Day 12: Sunday, June 7, 2015

Stop to Stop: Glendive, ND to Circle, ND

Underway: 8:30 am    Off Bike: 4:30 pm    Ride Time: 6:00 hrs    Stayed At: Park
Miles Traveled: 50.6    Total Miles: 811.1     Weather: Sunny, warn and …WINDY

First Things First: First track stop shower; First soul crushing day.

Mile to Mile: Today was planned to be an easy day. I wanted to rest my knees a little, get done early and relax a little. The “towns” are a long way apart and most have limited or no service so you have to plan carefully. I was up at 6:30 am but fiddled with important tasks (remember – easy day) and was finally leaving the nearby Albertson’s grocery store at 8:30 am restocked and ready for anything. For a while I thought, “this is going to be easy”. Sunny, warm, calm winds and straight, flat road. What a deal. Well, Montana had some news for me. My luck with the wind finally ran out. After an easy first hour, I started feeling it. Flat tire? No. Brakes rubbing? Am I dragging a boat behind this thing? Nope. Oh, the roaring, hot, dry, in-my-face wind must be the problem.

I was ready to collapse by mile 20. I had already finished half my water and I still had 30 mostly uphill and all upwind miles to go. Lindsay, the “town” I collapsed into had no services (or people as far as I could tell. The only building not in danger of collapsing or blowing away was the post office where I filled my bottles with crappy but wet water. I found a little shade by a decrepit old building and made lunch to see if I could re- energize myself. After much agony, I decided to keep going – tomorrow could be worse. I played mind games all the way to Circle. I counted 600 pedal strokes – about a mile at my sometimes pathetic 6 mph. I counted 1/10 of a mile markers…another mile. Soon I got into the right frame of mind and just pedaled. I was thrilled to see a 10 every once in a while on the speedo. Woohoo. I finally raced into Circle at 11 mph and stopped at the first gas station – the Cenex – I came to and had a big gulp and enjoyed a little AC for a while.

My luck and mood changed in an instant. This station has a beautiful bathroom with a washer/dryer and shower. Better than most we saw on our entire sailing trip. How much is a shower please? Best $5 I have ever spent. I was refreshed, cooled down, rehydrated and even found where the town park is where I can stay for free. Wind, what wind. As I write this, I am at a picnic table, in the shade with a now gentle breeze keeping the bugs away. I’m full, my clothes are rinsed out and almost dry, my electronics are charging and I’m happy again. What a day.



Testing 1…2…3, Testing 1…2…3

Day 11: Saturday, June 6, 2015

Stop to Stop: Medora, ND to Glendive, ND

Underway: 8:30 am    Off Bike: 3:45 pm    Ride Time: 6:09 hrs.   Stayed At: Park
Miles Traveled: 69.4    Total Miles: 760.5 Weather: Partly Sunny, 70’s

First Things First: First overnight thunderstorm; First wet tent.

Mile to Mile: first came the lightning, then came the thunder (it sure sounds louder and more ominous in the hills and canyons) and then came the rain. Light at first and then heavier after each crack of thunder. It stormed steady from about 11 pm to 3 am. I would doze a little, hear a crack of thunder and check for leaks. Surprisingly my $29 Walmart tent held up amazingly well. I think I was lucky there was no wind though or I might be telling a different story. Even with over 2” of rain, nothing leaked in…from the top anyways.

The problem started in one corner. I noticed the foot of the sleeping bag was wet. Ohoh! I just thought it leaked a little around the zipper. Little did I know but my campsite was in the flood zone. A little later, I felt water in a different corner. And then, while feeling around my air mattress the bottom of the tent felt a little funny – kind of like a water bed. That’s not good! I finally forced myself up at about 5:30 am. I was still dry on the mattress – but all around the tent was 2” of water. I waded outside and carried all my bags up to the covered deck by the office and assessed the situation. Luckily, the place I had stored my bags that night happened to be above water by an inch so the only things wet in the tent were my sheet, the end of the sleeping bag and a couple stuff sacks. Plus the shirt, shorts and socks I had left out to dry were now wetter than when they were hung up.

I decided to hang out until 7 am when the office and laundry room opened even though it was light out and I could have been pedaling. The time came and no one showed up. I then realized that a guy the day before had told me it was mountain time here. Crap. My phone was still on MN time. Another hour to waste. I cleaned my bike, reorganized a little, put the tent on a table so it could dry, had cereal for breakfast and finally was able to get all my stuff dry. Three free coffees and a few quarters later, I packed up and was on my way.

The ride to Glendive made the nightmare of the night before fade quickly. Gentle rolling hills, beautiful scenery, a small wind assist and absolutely no traffic made for fast miles. I didn’t see one car for the first hour. – 16 miles with the whole road to myself. Even when I had to ride on the freeway for short distances, traffic was light. It was kind of amazing to, even though I was riding way over on the edge of an 8’ shoulder, almost all trucks and most cars still moved into the fast lane when passing. What a gift. Thank you all for that courtesy.

I was excited to pass into Montana – MONTANA – early afternoon. Amazing. I finally arrived in Glendive fairly early for a 70 mile day. I found the beautiful Jaycees Park, adjusted my brakes, cleaned and lubed the chain, adjusted some spokes to true the rear wheel a little, made dinner (oatmeal), set up the tent, filled water bottles, planned for tomorrow and collapsed into bed at about 9:30 pm. All in all, another great and somewhat bizarre day.



Happy National Donut Day

Day 10: Friday, June 5, 2015

Stop to Stop: Richardton to Medora, ND

Underway: 7:30 am Off Bike: 5:00 pm Ride Time: 6:03 hrs Stayed At: Campsite
Miles Traveled: 72.5 Total Miles: 691.1 Weather: Sunny, SE breeze

First Things First: First time zone change – gained an hour – now on Mountain Time: First 5 mile + downhill –wheee!

Mile to Mile: After a steep climb up and out of the campground, I made good progress toward Medora. It was finally a warm day. It was supposed to be a pretty easy 60 mile day but I decided to stop before Medora to avoid the tourist rush on a Friday – just not feeling it. Well I found a spot to camp along a Forest Service road in some nice rocky scenery. After setting up though, it was hot and I didn’t have any phone service. Also, it got noisy after awhile – it sounded like a bunch of dirt bikes. To make a long story short I bailed on this campsite and headed toward Medora. By the way, the dirt bikes were a bunch of cows let loose to graze. On my way out they blocked the entire road.

The change in terrain here was amazing. As I exited the freeway by the Painted Rock Info Center, the Badlands of ND were just there. Like a mini Grand Canyon.

Thankfully, after my detours and adventures it was a quick 5+ mile coast down the freeway to Medora. I skipped the famous western musical – surprisingly today was the season opener – had a cheap buffet, found a decent campsite near the Missouri River, set up camp (again), took a shower and did some blogging to catch up. I’m planning a relatively short day to Beach, MT – can you believe it…Montana! Should be another great adventure – one day at a time. Happy National Donut Day (I did celebrate at the Donut Hole in Dickinson).




Don’t Stop Now

Day 9: Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stop to Stop: Bismarck, ND to near Richardton, ND

Underway: 8:00 am    Off Bike: 5:15 pm    Ride Time: 6:47 hrs    Stayed At: Campsite
Miles Traveled: 84.5    Total Miles: 618.6    Weather: Overcast, cool, light NE wind

First Things First: First town – New Salem – with music piped through downtown (country of course): first hot chocolate and slushy in the same day.

Mile to Mile: My goal today was Glen Ullin, ND about 56 miles down the road – a nice gentle day. I got a great start fueled by breakfast ala Rachael of scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions, toast, banana and strawberries. The real breakfast of champions. (Thanks for everything Rachael). The ride through downtown Bismarck went fast – it happened to be mostly downhill. In no time I was done with civilization and back into the wilds of ND. The countryside was beautiful. The riding was easy with easy ups and fast downs. The terrain changed gradually and I soon saw my first buttes in western ND – a taste of things to come in the badlands area ahead.

I am pleasantly surprised at how well my body has adapted to it’s new reality. The nightly leg cramps are gone, my shoulders and arms are getting stronger, my sore foot from before the trip is almost back to normal and the feeling in my fingers has started to return. Pretty good for an old guy.

With proper fuel and perfect riding conditions, I was in Glen Ullin way too early in the afternoon to stop now. So I had a snack and rested for a little while and decided to go onto Hebron – they have free camping in the town park. Well, conditions were even better with a little better wind assist so I recalculated and decided to aim for the Schnell Recreational Area near Richardton. The park is a BLM managed park with 6 huge campsites – only $5 per night. I was still flying – in a slushy fueled burst – at sometimes 20-25 mph on flat road right up to the park entrance. I figure the more miles I do under good conditions today, the less I have to do under poor conditions some other day. I was glad to be done and a lot closer to Medora, ND where there are some fun things to do and only a short hop to my next goal – Montana. Can you believe that? It seems like I just left yesterday. That must mean I’m having fun, right?






Day 8: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Stop to Stop: Hazelton, ND to Bismarck, ND

Underway: 8:30 am    Off Bike: 2:40 pm    Ride Time: 4:39 hrs    Stayed At: Home
Miles Traveled: 45.6      Total Miles:     Weather: Overcast with N wind, cool

First Things First: First time staying with a friend. First time washing clothes.

Mile to Mile: Today was a hard slog for several reasons it felt like I had the brakes on all day. First, I didn’t eat enough to give me the proper energy. Second, the route had me fighting serious cold headwinds at least half the day. Third, there were hills – lots of them – with few decent downhills as a reward. I had to pedal down some hills just to maintain momentum. It’s hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re just trying to get there.

I did meet another biker couple – Dave and Ann from the Pacific NW – early in the day. I looked up and they were out in front of me waiting on my side of the road. It’s such a rare event that most people make a special effort to connect. They are going cross country two weeks at a time supported by a friend driving a camper. If you want to do it, there is a way. They gave me some good trail info – take the gravel road out of New Salem (it’s beautiful) and the only restaurant in Richardton just closed. Good things to know.

My goal today was to get to the home of some friends from college of my daughter Sarah and her boy friend Jake – Rachael and Ryan – who lucky for me live in Bismark. It’s interesting to note that this is the biggest city I will go through – population 70,000 – until San Francisco. Crazy. I did not like the return to civilization though – at least riding through It. Lots of noise, traffic, trucks and impatient people. I survived but I will take the middle of no where any day.

It was a relief to finally get to Rachael and Ryan’s Spa and Resort fairly early in the afternoon. I can relax now. Oh wait…I have a few items on my to do list: write today’s blog, upload blogs x 8, upload pics, get adapter to upload pics, wash clothes, charge everything, shower, reorganize bags, plan tomorrow, plan next few days, check email, call Cindy, eat dinner, fix windscreen cook it, repack bags, buy groceries, check weather and sleep. With a lot of help from Rachael. She drove me around doing errands, let me use the washer dryer and even let me multitask while at dinner at Sickies Biker Bar (excellent dinner and lots of bikers – I’m sure I fit right in). Thanks for all the help and hospitality – it was fun to finally meet you.

I finally collapsed into a nice warm bed about 11:15 and didn’t wake up until 6:30 am when my phone beeped after receiving a text from Cindy. Thanks Dear, I was getting up anyway. Another day to remember on the road again.






Wind Games

Day 6: Monday, June 1, 2015

Stop to Stop: Little Yellowstone Park to Gackle, SD

Underway: 7:30 am   Off Bike: 2:50 pm    Ride Time: 5:15 hrs    Stayed At: House
Miles Traveled: 65.2      Total Miles: 425.5      Weather: Partly cloudy, SSE wind, 75+

First Things First: First time having to backtrack to find something that blew off (the map) when a semi went by and I didn’t notice for a mile or so: First time staying at someone’s house I just met while in town.

Mile to Mile: After the coyotes woke me up this morning – a little creepy when you are alone – I actually made my first batch of outmeal, packed and headed for Gackle, ND about 60 miles straight west.. It was still cool and overcast with a SSE breeze giving me a little boost. The terrain is mostly flat with an occasional uphill to another plateau and lots of pothole lakes and ponds mixed in with thousands of acres of farmland. It’s stark but pretty in it’s own way. And lonesome. The only services on the main route were at a little coop store in the middle of no where.

With nothing else to occupy my mind – not even any interesting trash – I started playing games with the wind. She can be beautiful as she dances through the tall grass in ever changing patterns but she also has a dark side. She would try to tip me over with her 20 mph gusts. I would swerve and lean the other way to try to stay upright. It was a tie. I survived and the wind kept blowing to her hearts content. Although tiring, at least I got a little boost once in a while and it wasn’t a headwind. You know the wind is strong when there are white caps on the duck ponds.

I made it to Gackle, ate a hamburger combo and shake at the Tastee Freeze and went looking for a place to stay. There is the Honey Hub – a hostel for cyclists – but no one was there. Someone named Jason at Dani’s Bar supposedly puts people up but he isn’t around right now. There is an old RV Park but that just didn’t sound right. I lucked out though and chatted with a guy mowing the lawn next to the Tastee Freeze. To make a long story short, he invited me to camp out in air conditioned comfort for the night.

Jay lives in Fargo but has this house in Gackle as a hunting and fishing shack. The walls are covered with stuffed birds and deer, the shower is hot and the AC is cold. He fed me one of the best fried fish dinners I’ve ever had (Andy’s Seasoning – Red), we shared some great conversation and went on an amazing tour of the surrounding countryside (which changed my view of SD forever). Talk about amazing – thanks for the hospitality, fresh crappie dinner (and breakfast) and great stories. If you are ever going through Minneapolis, be sure to look us up. Another day to write home about on Mike’s Great Bike Adventure.




Over Hill and Dale

Day 4: Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stop to Stop: Ferguson Falls to Fargo North Dakota

Underway: 7:45 am   Off Bike: 7:15 pm   Ride Time: 7:31 hrs   Stayed At: Campsite
Miles Traveled: 88.3    Total Miles: 287.5     Weather: Sunny and Windy

First Things First: first 80+ mile day (not by choice – error in calculation: First (and probably only) roadkill carp – who knew carp could fly that far: First new state.Mile to Mile: When I woke this morning after a cold and windy night it was 39 degrees. Are we having fun yet? I survived but it was a challenge to stay warm.

At least day dawned bright and sunny – perfect biking weather except for the head winds again. My first stop was the Viking Café in town only about 15 minutes away – a good place to refuel and warm up a little. Highly recommended.

I met several people during the day – once before I left camp, one as I was leaving the restaurant and one lady who stopped in the middle of the road while I was having a snack. It’s always one of the highlights of a trip like this but I need to factor in social time or I may never get anywhere.

Today was an extra long day. I was running out of gas around 45 miles and thought I had “only” 25 0 miles to go. It turns out I miscalculated an I had 40 left – ugh. Luckily the shoulder got better, the terrain flattened out the beautiful but challenging rolling hills from the morning and I started heading more west which cut the headwind. Just think, I’m 1/10 of the way there – only 9/10 to go. It was a good day.

Of course, when I arrived at the city campground they were full – their tent sites are in danger of flooding so I am in an less than ideal RV site near the office and gazebo listening to loud annoying music coming from a grad party. Beggars can’t be choosers – at least the shower was amazing. And I needed it for sure.



Best Laid Plans

Day 2: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stop to Stop: Stanley Eddy Park to Sauk River Park in Melrose, MN

Underway: 7:45 am   Off Bike: 4:00 pm   Ride Time: 5:15 hrs   Stayed At: Pay Campsite
Miles Traveled: 65.3   Total Miles: 120.4    Weather: Sunny and Windy

First Things First: First time someone asked me where I was going: first time spending money – $0.75 for a cold root beer and $9 for my campsite: Passed my first 100 mile mark on a gravel road somewhere.

Mile to Mile: I have been planning for months to stay at a free campsite in St. Joseph, MN. It seemed like a nice spot to aim for right on the Paul Bunyan Trail and I like free too. Well I ended up getting into town before noon – way too early to stop especially with wind assist. So I changed plans on the fly and made great progress heading towards Fargo, ND.

My first night camping was a little uncomfortable. Between the very loud owls owling, the squirrels chirping and the dogs barking, sleep was a bit of a challenge. Also the campsite was sloped a little so every time I moved at night I slid a little farther down hill. I did finally sleep but hopefully tonight is better.

My biggest challenge today was the 20 miles of gravel roads I ended up plowing along. It turns out a bunch of roads are being redone – every one of them on my Google supplied route. Some were okay while others were serious washboard surfaces requiring lots of concentration and luck to navigate while others were so soft it was like riding on ice. I never wiped out but not for lack of trying. At least a serious tailwind helped me out for part of it or I may have given up part way through.

The big payoff came when I got to the Paul Bunyan Trail – now that was well worth the effort getting there. Flat level pavement with no cars, great scenery, bike friendly little towns, strong sometimes helpful wind and only two rollerbladers on the entire 27 mile journey. What more could you ask for. The only real excitement was the near crash with a deer crossing the trail but we missed each other by 15 feet or so.

I am typing this on a beautiful, breezy evening right next to the Sauk River with a kids baseball game going on nearby. I’m clean, tired and full (and only a little lonesome) – life is good.



Prologue – Mike’s Great Bike Adventure

Another great (and slightly crazy) adventure will soon be underway. One of my bucket list items is to ride bike across the country. Hell if I know why but this idea has haunted me since I first tried it in 1976 by participating in the Bikecentennial – a 4,229 mile bike route from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. I made it across Oregon before getting home sick and going home. I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

Until recently, Cindy and I were still trying to figure out what to do with the next 30 years of our lives after our Great Loop trip and RV adventure out west. When I dropped the idea of riding bike across the country on Cindy a couple months ago it was still snowing out and we had a hard time getting motivated to go for our daily walk. I’d like to say she jumped on the idea enthusiastically but actually she laughed hysterically. -  I think she almost had tears in her eyes. Surprisingly, though, she didn’t say no (or hell no) or call the psych ward. She actually listened to the idea. By the time negotiations were complete the new adventure morphed into a 2,800 mile journey that would start at home and stretch across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Oregon before heading down the coast to visit Jessica and Andrew in San Francisco, California. Just think how cool it will be to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge after riding half way across the country. Half of a bucket list adventure is better than no adventure at all right?

The trip will include the following legs starting in Mound, MN and ending in San Francisco, California in late July.

Mound, MN to Albany, MN (91 mi.)
Albany, MN to Fargo, ND (149 mi.)
Fargo, ND to Dickinson, ND (351 mi.)
Dickinson, ND to Great Falls, MT (499 mi.)
Great Falls, MT to Missoula, MT (168 mi.)
Missoula, MT to Baker City, OR (419 mi.)
Baker City, OR to Eugene, OR (333 mi.)
Eugene, OR to Crescent City, CA (473 mi.)
Crescent City, CA to San Francisco, CA (412 mi.)

Lots of obstacles had to be overcome including getting a different bike for Cindy, making or buying the necessary bike touring gear, training, getting in better shape and ignoring all the reasons a trip like this is crazy. Even though I have no doubt Cindy thought I was insane, she started making lists, worrying about everything on the list and threw herself into training. One major concern she had was whether her knees would be able to handle the stress of a trip like this. We were hoping they would get better and stronger with the training. But after lots of hours on the stationary bike and some long road trips, it was clear that, although she could probably handle the physical part of the trip if we limited mileage to 40 or 50 miles a day, she would be in pain most of the time. That is definitely not worth it.

This was a huge obstacle for me too. I was looking forward to sharing this adventure together. Surprisingly, the hardest part of this type of trip is the mental part of it – getting up everyday and pedaling some more even if you’re bored or cold or wet or lonesome. Two people suffering together is a lot more fun.

As I write this prologue, Cindy is staying home and actually ended up getting a job as a call center nurse at the University of Minnesota. The good thing is it will only be a few days a week with normal hours and no unpaid overtime (and no doctors) – the bad thing is a long commute again. She will no doubt stay busy working, taking care of the house, watching out for the Grandmas and, hopefully, sending out care packages so I have something exciting to look forward to along the way while I try to pedal my way to the Pacific Ocean and a reunion sometime in late July in San Francisco.  I can’t wait. Wish us luck.  Mike and Cindy

The Last Word

The Simple Facts

Our Home Away From Home: Aurora, a 1981 22’ Hunter sailboat.

Motor: 8 hp Yacht Twin (Evinrude) outboard. Named Boris – short for Aurora Borealis.

Number of Days, Home Port to Home Port: 400

Miles Traveled: 6,700 miles (officially) along Great Loop route and up and down the Mississippi River– probably more than 7,000 when all the miles traveled into and out of anchorages and detours off the route to get gas and find marinas are included.

Average Speed: 5.5 mph

Number of Countries: 2 – US and Canada

Number of States: 21 – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Michigan and Indiana. Kind of amazing.

Number of Locks: 194 – 102 locks in Canada alone.

Fastest Speed: 9.4 mph on Mississippi River below St. Louis, Mo. (We clocked 9.8 mph for less than a minute riding the current through Elliots Cut but we won’t count that).

Slowest Speed: Zero mph (according to GPS) bypassing Lock 53 on the Ohio River. It took us 20 palpitation inducing minutes to travel a couple football fields. Close Second: First 3 hours of trip up Hudson River out of 79th St. Boat Basin in New York City – we actually went backwards as we tried to get across the river out of wind. It took us 3 hours to travel 4.8 painfully slow miles.

Most Miles Traveled in One Day: We traveled 93 miles from sun up to midnight during our Gulf crossing from Carrabelle, Florida to Steinhatchee, Florida. We also traveled 83 “can’t-stop-now” miles from sun up to sun down from our anchorage near Cedar Creek, North Carolina to our anchorage at the south end of the Alligator River.

Total Amount Spent: $29,086 (not including “dirt house” expenses, airfare home, or health insurance) or $72.71 per day for food, fuel, marina fees, boat stuff, entertainment, etc.

Amount Spent on Human Fuel (Food): Groceries cost $8,170 (28%) and restaurants (and ice cream) added another $4,630 (16%) for a total of $12,800 or $32 per day for both of us.

Amount Spent on Aurora Fuel: We used a total of 1,040 gallons of gas in 400 days at an average cost of $4.12 per gallon or $4,281. Assuming Aurora traveled 7,000 miles, we averaged 6.73 miles per gallons – I used 7 miles per gallon to calculate our range each day

Homes Away From Home: We stayed at marinas over half the time – 216  days (54%) at paid docks and 22 days (6%) on a mooring ball. We also stayed at lock walls 16 times – mostly in Canada using our Canada Parks Pass. Anchorages and free docks were our homes for 85 and 61 days, respectively. We loved every minute of it.

Number of Pics: 18,023

Places We Stayed

Best Marina: Alton Marina in Alton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. It had almost everything – good internet, nice clean bathrooms (with lots of hot water), a hot tub and pool and some amazing AGLCA harbor hosts – Patty and Robert on Orinoco. ($3 margaritas didn’t have anything to do with the voting).

Worst Marina: Timberlake “Marina” near Grafton, Illinois. We expected the dock we were tied off on to float away in the middle of the night.

Most Social Marina: Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. It sometimes took more than 2 hours to make a trip down the dock to the restrooms and back.

Fanciest Marina: Barber Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama – landscaped grounds, unique sculpture gardens, beautiful concrete floating docks, natural cypress benches, an amazing collection of antique outboards, clean and fully functional courtesy cars and some of the cleanest and nicest bathrooms of the trip.

Most Expensive Marina:  Hoffman Marina, Manasquan, NY at $55 (they had a 30’ minimum).

Cheapest Marina: Killarney Mountain Lodge in Ontario, Canada. Boats under 25’ were free. Stayed two nights. Pool and game room included.

Longest Marina Stay: 2 months at Matanza’s Inn and Marina in Fort Myers Beach.

Favorite Anchorage: Blueberry Cove (actually Tie Island) North Channel, Lake Huron – the wild blueberries (and fresh made blueberry muffins) made it unique among dozens of beautiful anchorages.  Close Second: Free anchorage in New York City near Statue of Liberty.

Lumpiest Stay: 79th St. Boat Basin in New York City on a mooring ball. Ocean swells, waves from faraway ferry and ship traffic, severe tidal changes and wind driven chop made for a challenging stay (had to hang on to stay in bunk on occasion). Worth it, though, to stay 6 blocks from Central Park in Manhattan for less than $30/day.

Best Free Dock: Bill and Kate’s Resort and Spa in Hudson, Florida. Free dock, dinner, courtesy truck, Dark and Stormy’s, free kayaks, and great company.

Best Shower Facility: Hoffman Marina at Manasquan, New York. The new, tiled shower stall could have held 10 people comfortably and the large ceiling mounted showerhead felt like you were standing under a waterfall.

Best Courtesy Car: Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Kentucky.

Worst Courtesy Car: Demopolis, Alabama – no speedometer, no odometer, windows didn’t work, no AC. (Still thankful for any car – beggars can’t be choosers).

Most Expensive Laundry: St. Anne De Bellevue (in Quebec, of course) $5 per wash and 25¢ per minute to dry. Spent $22 for two loads.

Most Times Trying to Get Anchor to Hold: 5 tries at Salt Pond anchorage in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.


Most Frequent Visitor:  Our Minnesota (now Florida) friend Cliff Schmidt crossed paths with us six times on our trip – Prescott, Wisconsin, Tampa/Steinhatchee, , Fort Myers Beach x 2, Fort Myers and Tampa. (plus he called us once on the marine radio while driving over the river after seeing us on the Mississippi River).

Visitor Who Travelled the Farthest to Visit: Our daughter Jessica flew in from San Francisco, California to visit us in Fort Myers Beach and New York City.

First Boat Buddies on the Loop: Rob and Ann on Rumpshaker – Keokuk, Iowa to Orange Beach, Alabama.

Boat That Passed Us the Most Times: Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn – we crossed paths at least 10 times.

Longest Time Traveling With A Buddy Boat: Kent and Jane (and Squirt) on Carina. First crossed paths in Carrabelle and traveled together for about 8 adventure filled weeks from the Richelieu Canal in Quebec to Grafton, Illinois at the intersection of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Loopers We Shared Ice Cream With the Most: Eddy and Linda on Spiritus – long walks and talks, happy hour on the fly bridge (every chance we could get), late night Quiddler and Doodle Dice tournaments, breakfast, lunch, dinner and docktails from Carrabelle, Florida to Alton, Missouri and, of course, ice cream, bacon and laughter everywhere in between.

Favorite Overnight Guests: Jess and Sarah stayed with us for a couple nights at Fort Myers Beach – yes, we had 4 people sleeping on our little boat at the same time. Richard, a 30 year old fellow adventurer from England biking diagonally across the US from Washington state to Miami, Florida also stayed overnight with us while we stayed at Green Turtle Bay Marina. We like to say we went to town to buy a T-shirt (in Grand Rivers, Kentucky) and came home with a kid.

Most emotional moment: It’s a tie. Seeing the Statue of Liberty as we motored up the Hudson River from the Atlantic Ocean was amazing. The enthusiastic greeting we got from our Looper friends when we entered the marina in Grafton, Illinois after we crossed our wake on the Great Loop will be something we remember forever.

Canadian Quiddler Champion: Mike on Aurora.

Our Inspiration: Bruce on Tango. Not only was Bruce doing the Loop on a small boat like us (not quite as small as Aurora), but he was doing it alone. We learned the hard way that it was a good idea to follow Bruce’s lead and be conservative about the weather. Many times you could hear us ask each other, “What would Bruce do?”. The smart answer was usually to stay put until a better forecast.

Most Generous Stranger We Never Met: Mo from Dead Lake Marina in Creola, Alabama. We stayed in her slip while waiting for Mobile Bay to settle down after the remnants of Hurricane Sandy passed by.


Best Caramel Rolls: Gateway Bakery and Restaurant in Killarney, Ontario. Bought two fresh-out-of-the-oven rolls each day for three days and one usually didn’t make it back to the boat.

Classiest Breakfast: Kelly’s Restaurant in Dunedin, Florida – the whip cream and white chocolate straws on top of Cindy’s hot chocolate was just the beginning.

Best Breakfast Value: $2.95 for 2 eggs, fried potatoes, bacon and toast at the Lani Kai’s 6th floor rooftop restaurant overlooking the beach and Gulf of Mexico. Close second – El Mambo in Fort Myers – 3 eggs, a pile of bacon, toast and coffee for $3.50.

Best Donuts: Bennet’s in Fort Myers, Florida.

Cheapest Ice Cream: McDonald’s ice cream cones for $1 plus fresh farmers market strawberries.

Best Ice Cream: Hershey Peanut Butter Carmel Cookie Dough at Parson’s General Store in Morehead City. Close second Peanut Butter Cup Gellato at Mariano’s in Chicago, Illinois.

Best Strawberry Margarita: $3 Margaritas at Mel’s Diner in Fort Myers – cheap and good..

Best Boat Dinner: Fresh caught Spanish mackerel blackened on the grill, grilled red potatoes, fancy salads and champagne while anchored a few hundred feet off the white sand, sea shell strewn beach at Three Rook Bar near Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Most Expensive Ice: Anywhere in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: $3.29 for 5 lb bag in Burlington, Vermont (pretty close to Canada).

Cheapest Ice: $2 for 20 pound bags at the Ice Shack at Fort Myers.


Most Locks Traversed In One Day: 9 on the Richelieu Canal System

Tallest Lock:  Kentucky Lock at about 70+ feet.

Coolest Lock: The Big Chute Marine Railway on the Trent Severn Canal System. Close Second: The Peterborough and Kirkfield Lift Locks on the Trent Severn Canal System.

Most Bridges Passed Under In One Day: 67 (32 in the first hour) between Chicago and Jolliet, Illinois.

Longest Delay in “Schedule”: Three weeks waiting in Kingston, New York for the Erie Canal to open after major flooding.

Best Delay of the Trip: Three weeks waiting in Kingston, New York. We made lots of new friends, spent quality time with old friends, enjoyed innumerable docktails, brunches and BBQ’s and met some amazing volunteers.

Worst Boaters: Drunk idiots in Paduka, Kentucky racing back and forth right next to dock in cigarette boats. Close Second: Rude and inconsiderate boaters from Quebec on the Richelieu Canal taking advantage of their construction holiday.

Longest Detour: Our detour into Canada to avoid the closed Erie Canal added over 350 amazing miles to our Loop compared to the Erie Canal/Lake Ontario route.

Most Expensive Gasoline: All of Canada. Worst was $2.20/liter or $8.33/gallon at Ojibway Club near Pointe au Baril, Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Most Challenging Passage: Crossing the Gulf of Mexico. (Note to self – don’t do “doable”). You’ve never experienced true darkness until you have been out of sight of land on an overcast and windy night all by yourself – no stars, no moon, no boat lights and no horizon. (Can you see the waves?)


Coolest Museum: The US Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. The ship models – some over 300 years old was especially amazing.

Best Docktails: Kingston, NY daily for three weeks plus one amazing brunch and two memorable potlucks.

Best Happy Hour: 50¢ wings and 50¢ shrimp at the Lani Kai’s 6th floor open air rooftop restaurant in Fort Myers Beach (at sunset overlooking the Gulf of Mexico).

Biggest Aebleskiver Party: Brunch with 20+ fellow Loopers at the Hudson River Maritime Museum (and Marina) in Kingston, New York.

Best Beach for Shelling: Three Rook Bar just south of Tarpon Springs, Florida. The white sandy beaches were carpeted in cool and huge seashells of all kinds.

Best Surprise Docktail Party: 18 people in Killarney, Ontario – we knew 16 from our long stay in Kingston, NY.

Most Scenic Stretch: All of Georgian Bay.

Favorite Big City: Tough to choose – we loved our visits to Portsmouth, Virginia, Annapolis, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, New York City, Ottawa, Ontario and Chicago, Illinois.

Favorite Laser Light Show: Parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario.


Biggest Storm: Thunderstorm with 50+ mph winds while anchored in cove near St. Catherine Lock on the St. Lawrence River. Bent the Windex wind indicators on Aurora and Carina (masts were stored horizontal on deck). Aurora weathered an even bigger storm all alone – winds 60 mph + tied to a mooring ball in Titusville while we were driving back to the boat from Tampa, Florida.

Wildest Storm: Quick moving squall with high winds and big waves while trapped up against the lock wall at St. Anne De Bellevue, Quebec. The closest we probably came to having real damage to Aurora (and Carina).

Most Rain: Torrential rains over two days while staying in New York City – more than 5 inches of rain fell over a large part of NY state. Same storm caused the flooding and damage to the Erie Canal System.

Number of Days Wearing Rain Gear While Traveling: 7 – pretty darn lucky when you consider we were gone for 400 days.

Hottest Day: 97˚F in July on the Chambly River near the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: 95˚ F on two days in Chicago, Illinois.

Coldest Night: 30˚ F with frost on the deck overnight twice somewhere on the Tom Bigbee River in late October.

Biggest Waves: 5-7’ waves on the Gulf of Mexico during our Gulf Crossing.

Rainiest Travel Day: Dodged numerous thunderstorms and downpours traveling from Kaskaskia Lock to anchorage near Cape Giardeau, Missouri.

Biggest Boosh (Cindy’s Word) Over Bow: Hudson River traveling upriver with the current against a stiff headwind in choppy seas. First time we had a wave break over the bow and send water across the deck (lucky the main hatch was closed). This surprisingly (and thankfully) only happened once the entire trip.

Longest Wait for Good Weather Window: 7+days waiting (with our friends Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn) in Portsmouth, Virginia waiting to start up Chesapeake Bay.

Wild Things Plus

Most Elusive Animal: Alligators – we didn’t see alligators for the first time until Richard and Sally on Boomerang drove us to a park in the Everglades. We first saw alligators from the boat while traveling the rim route near Lake Okeechobee.

Biggest Fish Caught (Using Fishing Pole):  4 pound Spanish mackerel caught near Hudson, Florida in Gulf of Mexico (thanks to Bill in Hudson, Florida).

Biggest Fish “Caught”: 12+ pound Asian carp (one of three) that flew into cockpit while on Illinois River.

The “Est” of It

Deepest Water: 416 foot deep on Lake Champlain in New York. Believe it or not but the Gulf of Mexico was usually less than 50’ deep and often less than 20’ deep.

Largest Neighboring Vessel: The 170’ yacht Battered Bull while docked along the wall at Hudson Maritime Museum Marina in Kingston, NY.

Shortest Passage: 5 minutes from anchorage outside Dunedin, Florida into Municipal Marina.

Highest Sales Tax: 15% in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: 11.3% in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Cheapest Marina Gas: RE Mayo Co $3.89/gallon at shrimp dock in North Carolina.

Scariest 15 Minutes of Trip: Surfing up to Lock 5 on the Mississippi River after running out of gas about 500 feet from lock with 2-3’ rollers and wind driving us toward the concrete wall.

Best Pure Sailing: Fort Myers Beach to Sanibel Island with Jess and Sarah.

Coolest Event: Attending the spring homecoming show for the Blue Angeles in Pensacola, Florida.

Best Additions to Aurora During Trip: Solar panel added in Baltimore, Maryland and steadying sail made from old jib added in Georgian Bay with help from Kent on Carina.

Worst Injuries: Stubbed (probably broken) toe after tripping over a cleat in Charleston, South Carolina (Mike) and miscellaneous minor bonks and dings.

Best Beach: Fort Myers Beach (especially at sunset).

Biggest Repairs to Boris (Our Trusty Outboard): Changed sparkplugs 3 times, installed new thermostat half way through trip and cleaned the carburetor once. Mounting bracket also had to be repaired at Morehead City after a Towboat US boat hit us (while we were docked in a slip) and twisted the bracket.

Craziest Things We Saw: A 10+ foot alligator eating a 4+ foot alligator in 2 bites.

Thanks to everyone – family, friends and fellow Loopers – for making this the most amazing experience we could ever hope for. Fair winds and following seas. Mike and Cindy.


Day 1: Thursday, October 10, 2013

Port to Port: Watergate Marina to Home

Underway: 7:01 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 185      Stayed At: Home

Mile to Mile: We traveled farther today (by car) than we normally traveled in 5 days on the trip – most of it at 60 mph with thousands of cars whizzing by. We are definitely back in the real world. And just yesterday, we were worried about passing one or two tows a day (at 5 mph).

Sarah met us at the marina with our car and we drove her 30 miles west to her morning meeting with a client before going further west to pick up a van and the trailer. Cindy turned around and headed back to pick up Sarah and drop her off at work while I drove the trailer to the marina and started unloading hundreds of pounds of stuff off of Aurora. It’s amazing how much junk is hidden away in all her storage compartments. After packing everything we could fit into plastic bins and trash bags, we motored Aurora to the boat landing and unloaded as much as we could to lighten the load. Thankfully, we had a wonderful, sunny and cool day to work. We pulled Aurora out without incident and soon had everything tied down and secure for the long trip back home.

Less than an hour after leaving the marina, we pulled up the driveway to Aurora’s winter home and had her parked till next spring. Her topsides look great but her bottom needs a good power washing and some new bottom paint. Her centerboard has some stories to tell and will need a little epoxy to fill in the dings and chips from her untimely meetings with wing dams and other unseen obstacles. But, all in all, she is still beautiful.

We spent the next several hours unloading bins from the van and bags full of stuff from the boat. It was really weird being home again. Our house was super clean since we were trying to sell her before we left and everything was in “show” condition. Except for some overgrown weeds in the garden areas, she is just as we left her 400 days ago. We were greeted by a nice surprise too. My brother Gary (who has been kindly taking care of the yard and house while we were gone) had left a wonderful note congratulating us on our Great Loop and stocked the fridge with a take-and-bake pizza, some beer and fresh fish for dinner. What a great homecoming. (Thank you for everything Gary).

We dropped off the van, picked up a second car and returned to St. Paul (again) to pick Sarah up at work and go out to dinner with her and Jake. We were exhausted after a long and busy day but had a great time visiting before heading home for the last time. Even though we won’t be rocked to sleep or serenaded by the gentle slap of water on the hull, we will probably sleep like babies again.

The End

Day 400: Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Snelling Park to Watergate Marina

Underway: 8:23 am      Motor Off: 12:51 pm      Miles Traveled: 17      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time finishing a really Great Loop.

Mile 844 to Mile 845: After 6,714 miles, 170+ locks (we lost count), two countries, innumerable docktails, lots of new friends and an amazing number of sunsets and sunrises, we arrived back at our starting point at Watergate Marina in St. Paul, Minnesota. It will take a long time for this past year to sink in. It doesn’t’ seem real. When I go back and read a blog post from just a few days ago it seems like a dream. Did we really do that? But we had the time of our lives.

Even our last day on the water was a nice mini-adventure. We have always wanted to boat the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul but never took the trouble to trailer our boat to the river. We motored a short way down the Minnesota River and up past the marina all the way to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota campus. We have spent a lot of time around this part of the river – both Cindy and I and both our daughters went to college at the U and Cindy worked there for 30+ years. The river didn’t disappoint. The fall colors were outstanding along this short stretch – the best of the whole trip – and, even though you are traveling through the center of a major metropolitan area, all you see are trees, cliffs and bridges for most of the journey. We also went through Lock #1 on the Mississippi. Now we can say we passed through every lock on the Mississippi between Minneapolis and the Ohio River.

Our personal Great Loop ended (way too soon) when we slowly motored into Watergate Marina 400 days after we started last fall. Lots of emotions were traveling through our brains – elation, relief, happiness, sadness, uncertainty, joy…- but we didn’t really have time to dwell on our feelings just yet. There was work to be done. We were having a little party with a few family and friends later in the evening and we are going to pull the boat out tomorrow so we had boat projects to get done. After kissing Boris for a job well done and getting checked in, we cleared the decks of unused dinghy’s, fenders and empty gas cans and starting scrubbing Aurora for the party (and to keep our minds busy). It was good therapy. After a couple hours of elbow grease and sweat (and some helpful chemicals), it was amazing, after living aboard her for 400 days, how pretty she looked in the bright fall sunshine. How can 32 year old fiberglass look so good? Aurora was ready to turn around and head south again. Hmmm?

We finished our projects in time to get ourselves cleaned up and relax for a few minutes before people started arriving. After hanging out at the boat until sunset, we moved the party up to the marina lounge – Todd, the manager, kindly kept it open for us way past closing time (he happened to have lived for many years just a couple miles past us in Mound) – and enjoyed pizza, beer and champagne with family and friends – our last official docktails. A nice ending to an amazing adventure.

We said our goodbyes and thank you’s and returned to the boat for our last night aboard. We slept like babies. Tomorrow, we start a whole new set of “to do lists” the first item of which will probably be, “now what to we do with the rest of our lives”?