Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 22, 2016

Day 10: Idaho in sight, but first, flat tire mayhem and more pie porn

Day 10
Destination: Ontario, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 45. Total: 572

Brogan, Ore

Starting line for Day 10: Brogan, Ore. It was a beautiful day, except for that wind and those damned “goatheads.”

Well, that’s Oregon, folks. … Among the things I learned about this fine state:
1. It’s got lots of ups and downs.
2. The climate fluctuates wildly.
3. It has unsurpassed beauty in all its forms, from veritable rain forests to high desert plains.
4. The people are friendly. We met four old boys today at a little restaurant in Vale, Ore., (the Starlite Cafe; check it out if you’re there) who reminded me of my Uncle Richard and some of his Northern Wisconsin brethren. They were good-humored and charming. Easy with a laugh and fast with words of encouragement and good cheer. … It warmed my heart to chat with them for a few minutes.

old farts club

A younger fart shares a laugh with the Old Farts Club (OFC) of the Starlite Cafe in Vale, Ore.

5. And the state is polluted with something called “goat heads” or “puncture vines.”

My cousin Sally asked me why I’ve had so many punctures. It turns out, the likely culprit are those nasty goat heads. … Luckily, I’ve brought along some spare tires and tubes — and in this instance, I even had my filmmaker wife, Melody Gilbert, along to document my clumsy effort. But in fast-motion, I look pretty efficient. (See the video here):

Today’s ride, after yesterday’s hard-charging 80 miles, was 45 but it was a hard 45. I rode into a steady wind all day (so much for the prevailing westerly breezes). I fixed one flat tire on the road. I limped into Ontario, Ore. (at the border with Idaho) with a slow leak from the rear tire from another puncture from those damned “goat heads.”

puncture vine

These little buggers will puncture even the hardiest of tires — and they do a number on the bottom of feet, too.

Why had I never heard of goat heads? Everyone out here sure knows about them, mostly, it seems, from stepping on them. (Something Melody has done a couple of times already!)

There was a little more pie today. I think this might be a daily feature, at least for a while. Damn, I like a good piece of pie in the midst of a ride. And coffee — even on the hottest of days — hits the spot for some reason. I guess I’m a true Northern Wisconsin Finn after all.


Pie with coffee

Lemon Meringue was the flavor of the day.

It’s on to Idaho tomorrow!

The finishing stats for Oregon:
572 miles ridden
30,611 vertical feet (or so) climbed
Longest ride: 88 miles
Days ridden: 10

For more on our trip, including extra pictures and videos, please check out our website,

Oh, and one more thing: I’ve been very lucky to have my loving and devoted wife sharing in the joys, and the trials and tribulations of this journey. … I realize there are many who make this trip cross-country trip “unsupported.” And to them, I say congratulations and great job! But I love sharing the road with Melody, even though I’m often grumpy when she breaks out her many cameras. … In the end, she’s been my partner for 30 years and we’ll add this great adventure to our ever-expanding catalogue of great life experiences. My, how lucky we are. My, how lucky I am.


Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 22, 2016

Days 8-9: The good, the sad, and the power of pie

Day 8
Destination: Prairie City, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 55 miles. Total: 447

Yorem and Mark and wagon

Yoram and Mark and an old wagon in Prairie City, Ore.

My new riding buddy, Yoram Ephraim of Israel, and I used this as a nice and easy training ride. After our 88-mile run the day before, we were happy to pull into Prairie City in the early afternoon. We set up camp at the Prairie City Depot and RV park. Melody, me and Yoram set up our camp under the shade of some sweet old trees and within earshot of the gurgling stream that passed nearby. The campground had decent bathrooms — and even showers! — so we were set for the evening. We had a couple of beers, we ate some brats and hot dogs from the grill, and we talked until the mosquitoes went into attack mode.

saying goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy, but we loved sharing part of the ride with Yoram. We will most certainly meet again.

Day 9
Destination: Brogan, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 80. Total: 527

I told Yoram I was feeling melancholy as we parted early today. We made one nice climb, up to about 5,400 feet, descended and said goodbye. I’ll miss that guy. He is a special one. Luckily for Yoram, he was able to connect with a couple of other bikers who were going his way, so while that group headed north to Baker City, I headed east and south, aiming for Ironside. The riding has changed dramatically from the first week. There’s still plenty of climbing, but now I’m in high desert and the terrain is hilly, dry and desolate. I rode for miles and miles, and my only companions were herds of grazing cattle, scores of prairie dogs, and an occasional mule deer. But it was spectacular. I had three more hard climbs — and lots of smaller ones — and I’m feeling stronger every day. I loved my two days with Yoram and I miss our conversations — and I KNOW he would have loved some of the authentic Americana I experienced.

About 35-40 miles into my ride, I was kind of bonking. I stopped into the Water Hole bar in the little town of Unity. But I didn’t want beer (I know, shock!). I had one thing on my mind. Pie. Pie and ice cream. Pie, ice cream and a cup of coffee. I walked into the door and a couple of bored regulars looked toward me — and then turned back to their beers. … But I’m sure I was a sight for the jeans and cowboy hat crowd.

I said hello and asked the man behind the bar:

“Hey, do you have any pie?”

He said, rather proudly: “Why, yes. Dutch apple OK?”

I said, “Absolutely. With ice cream?”

“Coming right up.”

Met and the pie

To me, pie and ice cream is like jet fuel. Today, it did its job.

When the pie arrived, it was gigantic, stuffed with apples with a generous dollop of ice cream. The coffee came and I started in on it, not sure if I’d be able to finish. In about five minutes, I had reduced the huge serving to a stain on the plate. Feeling rejuvenated, I paid — $5.50 for the works — and set off … for where I was not sure.

Once I started rolling, I didn’t stop until I had logged 80 miles and crossed into the Mountain time zone. I’m closing in on Boise and I’m feeling stronger every day.

Riding through the high desert

No more rain, rain forests or even clouds in the sky. High desert and feeling more powerful by the day. Here I come, Idaho!

(For more on the journey, including extra photos and videos, go to our website:

Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 19, 2016

Day 7: A new friend and a long ride

Yoram and Mark at cafe

Yoram and Mark in front of the Sidewalk Cafe in Mitchell, Ore. “Classic burgers” were the order of the day. And a milk shake for me.

Day 7
Destination: Dayville, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 88 miles. Total: 392

This will be short. It was a long day. I met and befriended a guy from Israel, Yoram Ephraim, and we rode together. We crossed two peaks of about 4,500 feet or more. We rode 86-88 miles, depending on the device used. We finally, FINALLY got some great weather. For the first time in a week I applied sunscreen. And we watched Oregon transform from rain forest to high desert. We followed trickling streams and water falls. We saw birds of prey soaring over our path. And we caught the attention of cattle, who would ignore the cars and trucks passing on the road but raise their heads in curiosity — and sometimes alarm — as we passed on our bicycles. It was a magical day. It was an exhausting day. It was a great day to make a new friend. And now, it’ll be a good night to get some sleep.

John Jay River

One shot along the John Jay River during a day of spectacular views.

Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 18, 2016

Day 6: Short and sweet(ish)

When the air goes out of your tire, the wind goes out of your sails.

Day 6 destination: Prineville, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 40. Total: 304

A short day of easy riding. I rode 20 miles in the rain to Redmond, Ore., where I feasted on a great breakfast. Upon leaving the restaurant, I put my gloves and helmet on and prepared to depart. Pffffft. Flat tire. Tube was damaged, but so was the tire — pierced by a sharp stone that was still embedded in the tire.

But I seem to have some luck in such matters. I was in a town with many bike shops. So I ambled over to Hutch’s bike shop. They gave me a new tire, just in case (I can make the damaged one functional for a while in a pinch) and tube. And after all that, I decided to settle on Prineville for a stop. That meant it was a 40-mile day. Sort of like a rest day. Tomorrow is 85 miles or so, but the weather — finally — should be much improved. I’m ready to be done with cold and rain.

A happy camper getting ready to hit the road once again.

Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 17, 2016

Day 5: Grinding. Just grinding.

Day 5 destination: Sisters, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 60. Total: 264

I was all smiles at the beginning of the ride. That didn’t last long.

I knew today’s ride would chew me up a bit. I was climbing from around 1,000 feet to 4,700 feet. … That might not sound like much, but trust me, it was much. Add to that a steady downpour, a balky shifter, a chain that locked up once, and traffic. So much traffic. It was a hard day.

I was on Hwy. 126. It’s a well-traveled road. Lots of trucks. And if you remember my post from Day 2, they do a bit of logging here in Oregon. My route went around Mount Washington and instead of taking McKinley Pass, my route-maker sent me along 126 and Hwy 20. It was a 60-mile trip and it included 40 miles of climbing. I guess it was a more gentle ascent than the 5,300-plus summit on McKinley Pass, so that must have been the reason for the route plan.

There wasn’t much shoulder on this road, but I didn’t care at this point. I had made it to the top.

In any event, I survived. I had a close call from some sort of truck hauling a trailer and I felt some hard breezes from some of the big rigs whizzing by. But mostly I felt the pain of the climb. It was probably the hardest biking day I’ve ever had (save for one seven-hour ride in 100-degree heat in Bulgaria a few years ago). But it’s in the books.

When I arrived in Sisters, I tracked down a bike shop to give my bike a once-over. I lucked into the Blazin’ Saddles bike shop, a great name!, and Erik took care of me. He said my shifter cable was stretched out. My chain was starting to go and the bike needed a good, thorough cleaning from the past four days of rain and road muck. I opted for a new chain and Erik did the rest. Good as new. Tomorrow, the journey continues.

Erik at Blazin’ Saddles got my bike cleaned up and fixed up in no time. Great indy bike shop if you’re coming through Sisters!



Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 16, 2016

Days 3/4: Friends visit, I climb, get wet

Mark and Curt

Curt brought along a nut brown ale “because I’m a Brown and you’re a nut.” Former newspaper guys love pun humor. It’s a fact.

I’m going to combine posts for the past two days, mostly because my “blogging time” yesterday was lost to the great cause of sharing beers and chatter with friends Curt and Adele Brown, who showed up on their way to visit their daughter in Portland.

We had planned to camp, but they had suffered some tent mishaps in the days before arriving (and it was looking dark, cold and rainy), so we hung out at the Bluewolf Motel in Oakridge. It was a great spot and we had lots of laughs and then everyone had a good night’s sleep.

Day 3
About 6 miles past Westfir, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 55. Total: 150

The ride from Cottage Grove, Ore., to about 10 miles past Westfir/Oakridge was, well, it was a little hairy. … There’s only one logical path to get there. A 19-mile trek along Hwy 58 along the Dexter Reservoir. It’s a nice road, but there is no shoulder — and lots of truck traffic. Logging trucks. Fuel tankers. Motorhomes. Even cars and pickups whizzed by me as I teetered along the tightrope of the white traffic line that marked the edge of the road (there was absolutely no road shoulder in spots). This made Melody super nervous and there were a few times that I got a stirring “blow by,” but after those thrilling 19 miles, I was able to peel off toward Westfir and the West Cascades “Oregon Scenic Byway.” After about 10 miles of riding, Melody picked me up so we could drive back to Oakridge and meet Curt and Adele.

Cascades sign

A most beautiful ride.

Day 4
Rainbow, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 54. Total: 204
We woke to a beautiful day, but before departing, we had a little breakfast with Curt and Adele. That set the foundation for a testing ride up to 3,800 feet and then a flying downhill trek — in parts during a steady downpour — that led me to Rainbow and a great cup of coffee and a piece of pie as we bid Curt and Adele farewell. They had taken Melody hiking in the Willamette National Forest. That’s where I met Leigh Knox and her dog Gaia at the Kiahanie. It was early in the day, but I hadn’t really seen anyone (except for the occasional visit by Melody with her cameras), so it was nice to stop and visit. Leigh is a volunteer at the campground, where she spends the summer, cleaning outhouses and making sure campers get a great, friendly experience in the big woods. The location is spectacular, but Leigh said it’s been kind of cold and rainy and devoid of people. She was as happy to see me as I was her, it turns out. After a nice visit, we parted ways and I got busy climbing to 3,800 feet over the next 20 miles or so. It was a beautiful day — until it wasn’t. As I hit the peak, I stopped to admire the views and wipe the sweat off my brow. I looked up and the skies turned ominous, so I slammed down the mountain at about 35 miles per hour. But I couldn’t outrun the rain, so I slow-rolled my way past some beautiful sites while trying not to kill myself. By the time I got to Rainbow, the Browns and Melody pulled up alongside and we had a little pie, ice cream and coffee before they headed off to Portland and we landed a little cabin along the Mackenzie River. Unbelievably beautiful day, in spite of the fluky weather. This is, without question, the most beautiful part of the country I’ve ever seen. More climbing and beauty tomorrow. I peak out at nearly 5000 feet tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Leigh and Gaia

Leigh and Gaia, two gems who make the park system run smoothly.


Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 14, 2016

Day 2: Hills, rain, logging trucks and dogs

Riding in the rain

It was wet and cold, but the scenery was spectacular heading east from the Oregon coast.

I put Day 1 on our “55andalive” website. For all future updates, I’ll post the full blog here and Melody will link to it from our website.

Cottage Grove, Ore.
Today’s mileage: 70. Total: 95

We worked out the kinks today. I was able to get the “ridewithgps” app to work, even with no 3G signal. That was good, because when you’re lost in the forest, the disembodied voice of technology is a great relief. I took zero wrong turns and finished the day 12 miles past what I had planned as my Day 2 stopping point. So, progress.

I also had several visits from Melody, who was leveling cameras of all sorts at me throughout the day. She also brought me lunch, which was lovely. I’m definitely living the high life, compared to bikes “riding heavy” and fending for themselves. But I’m not going to apologize. It’s a pretty sweet deal that I’ve got here.

There was plenty of climbing today. I climbed around 7,000 vertical feet, which is quite a bit more than a usual ride around Chicago. (Understatement intended.) But the big climbs will start on Thursday, where I’m going uphill for about 25 miles (and more than 3,000 feet) and Saturday, where I’ll top out just short of 5,000 feet. Good tests for an old man with gravity handicaps, if you know what I mean.

Today’s ride took me through active logging sites. I had to dodge some big logging trucks, and of course (for those who know me) I was chased by a couple of dogs. They broke away from what looked like a friendly campsite that I was thinking I’d visit (they had a nice fire and I was cold and wet). But, no. I turned on the jets and put those pooches in my rear-view mirror (shades of Bulgaria).

I’m sore, tired and feeling good. The forest and river views were special. I saw some beautiful stands of old timber. Soaring birds of prey. A few deer (maybe mule deer?). No bears, though. And plenty of rain. My rain gear stood the test, though, and the bike was solid throughout. Day 2 was a good one.

Orange speck

That orange speck you see slogging his way up the hill. Yup, that’s me.

Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 13, 2016

Bittersweet beginnings

no peds on GG Bridge

My last ride before the XC trek took me across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Oregon trails come next, starting, well, today.

I’m riding my bike across the country.  If you’ve been reading along, you know that already. The journey starts today (Monday, June 13) near Winchester Bay, Ore. Beyond that, though, Melody is joining me on this trek to provide support – and to bring her considerable storytelling skills into (mostly) rural America to spark a conversation about what makes us tick. How do we find joy in our lives? When should we chase a dream? What makes us feel alive?

Maybe, during this 11-week (or so), 3,200-mile journey we’ll learn a few other things. Why do we hate? Who should we trust? How much more can we take?

I could offer a theory or two, but it won’t mean spit. To answer these questions, we need to talk to people to find out what’s going on in their lives, in their families, in their hearts and souls.

Listen, I’m sick of reading about mass murders. I’m tired of hate-mongering and  fear-mongering. I’m angry that the political and economic elites pit poor folks against working folks. I’m desperately sad that we succumb so easily to that manipulation. But I’m also tired of the same old people spinning the same old bullshit. Thoughts and prayers. Angry diatribes. And yet day after day, week after week, year after year, the story remains the same.

Why? Well to me it’s clear: Nothing changes because we’re expendable. Those who need us to be their cannon fodder always win in the end. And we always lose when we play their game. So I’m changing the game. At least for this summer. I’m climbing on my bike. I’m going to pedal. And Melody and I are going to talk to people. We’ll share those stories on our website or on a barstool somewhere near you (preferable).

And those stories will be true; they’ll be real. This summer, we’ll sweat, we’ll laugh, we’ll cry and we’ll listen. What comes after that? Who knows? But first things first; I’m climbing on that bike tomorrow and I’m going to ride as fast as my chubby little legs can propel me. If we’re passing by a neighborhood near you, come along for the wide.



Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 7, 2016

Here we go

This will be short(er than usual. I think.). We’re pulling away from Chicago sometime in the next hour or so. We’re not the best with early starts, so we’re waiting out the early-morning rush hour and soon heading to I-80 for the LONG drive to San Francisco.

We loaded the car last night ..

Loading up

I can say, with some surprise, that all of this — and MORE — fits into a 2012 Nissan Altima. Who knew?

Melody will post more pics today, which I’m sure will end up on various social media channels, including her instagram page.

I’ll load up my NEW bike (well, new frame anyway — a good picture of the broken frame is below) … If you read previous entries, you’ll understand. But the new frame was great, took it out for a long ride on Sunday and it’s tip-top. So good to go.

busted bike frame

We’ve got about 32 hours of driving until we reach San Francisco, where Melody is screening “The Summer Help” on Saturday and Sunday (send your SF friends!).

So, Nebraska tonight. Salt Lake City, perhaps, on Wednesday. Lake Tahoe, maybe, on Thursday. And San Fran on Friday. We spend the weekend there and head up to Oregon. The bike ride starts Monday with the ceremonial dipping of the rear tire in the Pacific Ocean. Then off we go.

You can keep following the ride here. But we’ve also started a website that will house all aspects of the journey, the ride, the people we meet along the way, words, photos, video. Check it out and follow along.

And one final note. Our dear friend Ken Carpenter started this “gofundme” site for us. We had no idea he was planning this, but we are grateful for the support and will do our best to spend some of the money wisely — and the rest on beer. (JK) Please, too, send Ken good thoughts (and prayers if you’ve got ’em) as he battles cancer. He’s one tough SOB with a heart of gold.

See you on the road!

Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | June 2, 2016

A quick update on the “bike situation”

My new favorite bike shop guy Troy from Mox Multisport was able to connect with the good people at Felt and they warrantied my fractured bike. Amazing. This is not a new bike, but a quality manufacturer stands behind its product and they stepped up big time. It goes without saying that I am now a Felt customer for life. This is huge for me.

As I write this, Troy is in the process of disassembling my old and broken bike and reassembling the really solid components on this new frame. It’s a Felt Z85 aluminum frame with carbon fiber fork. Bike geeks can check out the details here.


Now, I don’t get out of this thing free and clear, but I am able to avoid buying a completely new rig. I was given the option of using the frame that was coming from Felt to trade up to a new all carbon fiber bike. … I’ll probably be kicking myself sometime down the road for not being able to pull the trigger on that particular transaction, but budgets are budgets and we’re trying not to run ourselves any further into the ground. So, I’m on the hook for shipping and the labor to put the new bike together. Wanted to mention, too, that I’ll be buying all my future bikes and bike gear from Mox Multisport. These guys are making it happen! We’ll be on the road to the West Coast on Tuesday as planned

I did spring for new shoes and clips, as the ones I had been using were coming apart at the seams. And I think the new, wider clip will provide some comfort in the three months of hard riding ahead. But that’s the update on the bike front. I’m a happy camper today.


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