Tour 2013 — Aftermath: Piecing Together the Pictures

Even in the age of instant digital photography, we still have to take the time to assemble our photo albums either during or after a vacation tour. Although the day-to-day blogs have features selected photos, I decided to group all of the photos that were fit to print (and some that are questionable, but fall under the category of “art” or convey a sense of the journey not captured otherwise) into a group of video montages.

To do this, I merged photos from our still cameras and phones, renaming them as needed to fit them in the proper sequence. I wrote a short Perl script that uses ImageMagick to crop and resize the photos into wide-screen format suitable for the movie software, then renames them in the sequence pattern needed by the film editor. I then created an image sequence film, specifying the number of frames per photos to generate a fairly rapid slideshow sequence, and set it to music obtained from the royalty-free selections on, with titles. I use the OpenShot video editor on Ubuntu Linux, and upload to the Vimeo video streaming site. I ended up with three short clips, averaging three minutes each, of the Michigan, Wisconsin, and train trip portions of our tour.

Michigan montage from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

Wisconsin montage from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

Train montage from Larye Parkins on Vimeo.

I have an hour or more of video footage taking with the GoPro handlebar camera that I am working on editing down to short films representing the stages of our tour, as well, but that will take a bit more time…

Tour 2013–Days 22-24: Homeward Bound, by Train

DSCF0772_20130920_170557 On Friday, we awoke to find that Matt had pulled a case overnight and had not been home. He texted us at 7:30am to let us know he should be home by noon. Noon came and went, and he wasn’t answering text messages. We planned to be at the Amtak station, 40 miles away, for check-in by 3:30pm. By 1:45pm, we started checking taxi fares ($95). Fortunately, Matt checked in just then, to let us know he was finally on his way home, not being able to call until he reached his car to recharge his phone. We arrived in plenty of time, and started the last stage of our journey.






Soon, we passed over the Wisconsin Dells, vacation destination for many, and headed ever westward, crossing the Mississippi just after dark, then north to Minneapolis/St. Paul.


Dawn found us in North Dakota, between Grand Forks and Devils Lake, where Judy has cousins.


Eastern North Dakota is one of the flattest regions in North America: the water table has been rising steadily for the last 20 years, turning farmland into marsh and marsh into lakes, swallowing up roads, highways, and railway tracks in the process.


Progress was slow throughout the state due to construction to raise the track bed and add additional rail capacity.


New rail capacity is needed in North Dakota because of the oil boom.  The western half of the state has been transformed by the oil drilling, pipeline, trucking, and rail expansion.






Finally, we passed into the Big Sky Country of Montana, where we still feel at home.  The “Highline” region along the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railway line and US 2 is pretty this time of year.


A scheduled stop in Havre, Montana for refueling also turned into an unscheduled layover, as all electrical power on the train failed a few miles short of Havre.


We stood, with the other passengers and crew, on the platform until after sunset before the maintenance crew finally restored power to the sleeper cars and lounge: the coach passengers crowded into the lounge car or slept in the dark coach cars, where there was no ventilation or running water, for the overnight trip to Spokane.


The Empire Builder, Amtrak service between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, splits in two at Spokane, one half going on to Seattle through the Cascades, and the other half to Portland through the Columbia Gorge. Normally, this takes place in the middle of the night. However, since we were now more than six hours behind schedule, we were treated to a daylight tour of eastern Washington.


We passed through the village of Odessa, where Judy’s brother Tom lives.


Then, the winding descent into the Columbia basin and a stop in Wenatchee (usually the point of dawn and dark on west-bound and east-bound trains) before ascending into the Cascades.




Up the Wenatchee River to Cashmere and Leavenworth.


Near Stevens Pass, the train passes through a 7.5-mile tunnel, emerging on the rainy side of the mountains and descending to Puget Sound.


Near Naval Base Everett, the track turns and follows the shore of Puget Sound into Seattle.






A view of the Edmonds-Kingston ferry lets us know we are close to home at last. Of course, our journey was complicated yet again by football: Since we were six hours late arriving, we exited King Street Station and looked up into the stands at Safeco stadium adjacent to the station, where 65,000 Seahawks fans roared in unison. While the game was still in progress, the outcome was certain, and droves of fans were already spilling into the streets to avoid the massive traffic jams, which, of course, they instantly created. Mark finally got close enough to the station for us to load up our luggage and work our way out toward the freeway, which involved a diversion through Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach.

There was one casualty of the trip: one of our bike cases had the slide handle pulled loose at the bottom, which made for some exciting maneuvering getting out of the train station. Finally home, I emptied the case, removed the handle assembly, and made a dimpled washer from scrap aircraft aluminum to repair where the countersunk screw had torn through the plastic suitcase body.


Our trek home, by train:

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Tour 2013–Days 20,21: Last Ride (Tour de Madison); Packing Up


On Wednesday, Matt dropped us off on a bike trail on the west side of Madison, on his way to work. We followed the very nice rail trail downhill, through the University, and onto the north shore of Lake Monona. We stopped at Machinery Row Bicycles for maps, directions, and a recommendation for lunch. The Badung Indonesian Restaurant was just across the street, and was excellent. We then rode up to the Capitol Square.


After topping off our lunch with the first Starbucks coffee we had since Mackinac Island, we walked around the Capitol and then headed back to the bike trail.







The trail crossed Monona Bay along John Nolan Drive and wound through several parks before ducking under the US12/18 freeway and becoming the Capital State Trail, which required a trail pass ($).



The trail wound along marshy areas, through a wooded Disc Golf course, and a meadow, where we left the trail to head south on hilly country roads back to Oregon.

Wednesday ride from Madison back to Oregon:

The next morning, we took one last ride, looping through the Lerner Conservation Park and to the grocery before a last stop at the Firefly Coffeehouse. Then the bike came apart and disappeared into its trailer cases, disguised as ordinary luggage. We juggled a few pieces to get the weight to less than 50 pounds (23Kg) each, and squeezed the rest of our gear into the remaining duffle bag (since we had shipped the large one home with the camping gear), with a tote bag and computer backpack for carry-on.

Thursday morning ride to push the odometer over 700Km (435 miles) for the trip, a nice round number to celebrate the upcoming 70th birthday.

Tour 2013 — Days 17-19: With Family in the City of Oregon, Wisconsin

Reflections on the end of a bicycle tour. Lunch at the Firefly Coffeehouse, Oregon, Wisconsin.

We were rescued Saturday night from Green Bay Packer country and price-inflated, oversold, and unavailable game-weekend lodging by our son, Matt, who put in a 33-hour all-nighter between work and driving 500 miles round trip between work, errands, and picking us up.  We somehow wedged the tandem in the back of his van–from which half of the back seat had been removed–only having to rotate Judy’s “chopper” handlebar ends down to clear the overhead, and turn the front wheel full right, and the trailer fit beside the bike.


Sunday, we spent some quality time with our grandson, “CJ,” watching him building intricate worlds in the “Minecraft” video game, until he relinquished the set to older brother Travis and joined us on the floor building Legos, something us old folks can actually understand and keep up with…  Later, after Travis had left for work, we went to dinner.


Monday, I caught up on work, finally (but quickly) resolving an operational issue between a test system and production system at a customer site that cropped up last week when we were in bike survival mode and Internet wasteland.  Incredibly, we had managed to handle a wave of help requests from all of our clients over the last two weeks, while riding 6-8 hours a day with limited Internet access overnight.  Just as there is no retirement in the 21st century, there is no such thing as a vacation, only the late-20th-century pre-Internet quaint prediction of “Faxing from the Beach,” which is more a curse than a modern marvel.


Restless after a whole day with no bike riding, we took a brief tour of the city of Oregon, taking lunch at the Firefly Coffeehouse and  finding even the steepest hills on the south end of town no obstacle without the trailer behind us.  Later, granddaughter Ashley dropped by to visit between college classes and work, and grandson Travis dropped off his schoolbooks before heading for work also.

Kingston gets a haircut

Tuesday, Matt had the day off (from his day job, but not his night job), so we visited until he left for work, then suited up and rode to the Library to print out our train tickets for Friday and explore the other half of the city, before stopping for lunch at a new Italian deli downtown, where a check of email  on the phone (“Faxing from the Beach,” redux) spurred us to wolf down the rest of lunch and sprint back to our computer in time for a conference call with a major client–big contract changes coming up.  Maybe this is time to wrap up loose ends and actually contemplate traditional retirement.  But, then, the bike needs an overhaul after this trip, and we need to save up gas money to visit the rest of the grandchildren this winter, and we still haven’t paid off the bathroom remodel from last year, or the car, and the airplane kit is short a propeller, radio, and instruments…


Meanwhile, our local, short rides around town have tipped our logbook over the 400-mile mark for this tour, and over the 1000-mile mark for the season, probably a record for annual mileage, if not close to it, since the 1980s, and absolutely the record for longest tour, ever. But, we have decided that the “star” tours we’ve taken over the intervening years are more our style–that’s where you travel to a destination, then ride out and back each day to explore a particular area, rather than point-to-point travel. That way, you need not carry all of your gear every day. We have another day to ride locally before we pack the bike for the train trip home.

Monday’s short loop ride…

Tuesday’s ride, cut short by emergent work duties…

Tour 2013 – Day 16: Oconto, Wisconsin


Today we are scheduled to be picked up by our son, Matt, who is on-call for work this weekend and pulled an all-nighter on Friday night, so we don’t expect him until after 6:00pm.  We are “camped out” in the lobby of the Riverview Inn, where we stayed last night.


This morning, we took the opportunity of a “no-ride” day to ride about 8 miles, touring the city of Oconto (Population 4300) to get another look at the historic old Victorian houses and other prominent buildings, plus the old downtown main street we missed when we came in yesterday. Even at the slow pace of bicycle travel, sometimes it takes a bit more time and side paths to actually see the small towns we pass through.


We noticed a prominent building at the “Y” between Main and Chicago at the west end of downtown: overnight, we found it was the first ever Christian Science church, so we needed a photo and closer look.  We also went back an circled by Beyer House, now a museum, and discovered that, in addition to a guest house we saw yesterday, there is a carriage house, large gazebo, and a World War II battle tank at the back of the two square-block property.

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We also checked out the Catholic Church, Oconto County Court House, and a few other prominent houses on Main before heading to the municipal airport west of town to check out the fly-in, tractor, and custom car show to be held later in the day.  We returned to our hotel via a short bike trail along the freeway and along the river.

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We packed up for car travel, checked out, and sat in the lobby to await pickup at the end of the day–had we known we would be waiting all day, we might have spent the day at the fly-in, but it was nice to be indoors most of the day, after two weeks out in the sun and wind and rain.

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The morning’s excursion puts our total mileage at just about 390 miles. Despite coming up short on our goal, this has been the longest bike tour we have ever taken, exceeding the 1987 Seattle-to-Portland (200 miles in two days), 1988 Glacier N.P. and Canadian Parks tour (310 miles in two segments, 40 and 270, respectively), and 2011 Florida Keys tour (160 tandem + 76 single), as well as many other two-day 100-150 mile weekend tours in the mid 1980s and mid 2000s and the 2007 Skagit/Klamath Falls/Rogue River segmented tour, approximately 225 miles total over two weeks.