Vol. 29, No. 65          Sunday, August 21, 1988

On the Road
Deafness no big barrier on cross-country journey

On May 15, two 23-year-old Gallaudet University students set out from Yorktown, Virginia on a coast-to-coast bicycle journey. One of them, Daniel Brubaker, is a Kansas School for the Deaf graduate and the son of Olathe residents Richard and Joan Brubaker. The other traveler, Dan Smith, is from Kansas City, Kansas. Both men are deaf, and communicated with strangers throughout their journey with paper and pen.

They stopped in Olathe in June, for a few days of visiting with their families, before pedaling on through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and beyond. On July 25, they reached their destination, Victoria, British Columbia, after 70 days on the road and 4,220 miles.

"Hooray! We made it!" they wrote in a journal of the highlights of their trip. Following are excerpts from their journals:

CITY OF A THOUSAND BICYCLISTS: Breckenridge, Colorado; Missoula, Montana; Vancouver, BC - Those cities are really a bicyclist's paradise; you get to see a bicyclist every minute or two.

BEST PLACE TO STAY: The Cookie Lady's House in Afton, Virginia - June Curry, known as the Cookie Lady to bicyclists and hikers, has still remained an unforgettable person. Thinking of her warms our hearts, no doubt about that!

BEST DESSERT: Apple strudel at the Bavarian Inn in Canon City, Colorado and huckleberry shake at the Bison Inn Cafe in Ravalli, Montana.

WORST HEADWINDS: Herington, Kansas - The headwinds were between 30 and 35 mph and reduced our average of 12 mph to a slow crawl of 4 to 5 mph, an equivalent of going up a 6 percent grade road. Fierce gusts of winds continued unmercifully, slowly wearing us out.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: Eads, Colorado - Smith: My favorite! We were sleeping at a city park. I was on the top of a picnic table while Dan slept underneath. Around 3 a.m., we were rudely awakened. Dan thought it was raining, then it stopped, gosh, what a brief, hard rain, still half asleep.

What actually happened was the automatic water sprinklers had been activated, and I quickly covered the one nearest us with a garbage can. It was much later when Dan realized what was happening.

SUICIDE HILLS: The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and the North Cascade Mountains in Washington State - They were the most dreaded parts of our trip. We were caught off guard in the Blue Ridges, but we were more mentally prepared when we approached the North Cascades. We went only 34 miles in a whole day of biking at the Blue Ridges.

The North Cascades were even worse. We had to go over five passes in three days within a 180-mile range. It began with Kettle Falls near the Columbia River, at approximately 1,500 feet, up to Sherman Pass at 5,575 feet; down to Republic at about 2,750 feet, then up to Waconda Pass at 4,310 feet; and so on.

They practically exhausted us, especially our poor knees. I (Brubaker) had been waiting at the summit of the Sherman Pass for 45 minutes for Danny to catch up. I imagined him huffing and puffing and probably lying down for another little nap. I hadn't seen him for seven miles.

Then I was amazed to see him walking his bike, and found he had walked the whole seven miles. He had this big sheepish grin and said, "So what! It's more important to listen to my body." I couldn't disagree.

MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENERY: Lake Pen D'Oreille in northern Idaho and Chuckanut Drive before Bellingham, Washington, which winds along the Samish Bay shoreline with magnificent views of Puget Sound. Saw several bald eagles there.

MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES: Breckenridge, Colorado and Vancouver, BC - Smith: I'm seriously thinking about a honeymoon in either one of those cities - just kidding. But I would not mind living in both cities, so picturesque.

WORST SCENERY EVER: Coal mining strips in eastern Kentucky and the wheatfields of western Kansas - You could see a town eight or nine miles away, and it's not so pleasant to see a grain elevator in the distance, and you're growling inside, knowing you'll have your lunch in an hour or so.

INTERESTING OMENS: Jefferson City, Missouri and Dixon, Montana - Brubaker: In Jefferson City, Danny's seatpost bolt broke in half, and we had a hard time finding a replacement. In less than two hours, I had a flat tire due to worn out tire treads. In Dixon, Danny's seatpost bolt broke in half and in less than two hours, I had a flat tire due to a hole in the tire.

VACUUM CURSE: Missoula, Montana - Smith: Apparently we were vacuumed to Missoulaa because we had to return to this town three times after our initial departure. First was because I was not feeling well. The second time we took a wrong route, going south instead of north. We got lost and wasted 20 miles. The third time was after Dan got a flat tire in Dixon; we had to hitchhike 45 miles back to Missoula for a replacement tire.

PLACES WE VISITED: Royal Gorge Bridge at Canon City, Colorado; Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks; Bison National Range near Dixon, Montana; several attractions in Vancouver, BC.

HOTTEST DAY: 107 degrees Fahrenheit at Great Bend, Kansas - Brubaker: I felt like towing a coffin!

COLDEST DAY: Below freezing at the Grand Tetons, Wyoming - The campout was downright freezing. We had to sleep close to each other to keep ourselves warm because our sleeping bags could only withstand the cold down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Our water bottles froze, and my wet towel became as stiff as if it had been dipped in starch 200 times.

But the early morning scenery at the Grand Tetons was breathtaking, so calm and serene in contrast to the carnival-like atmosphere of neighboring Yellowstone.

WORST CONFRONTATION: Canon City, Colorado - Brubaker: As I was up front biking along the route, I saw an 18-wheeler coming up through the side-view mirror on the end of the handlebar. After passing us, the driver stopped a mile ahead. The man came out of the cab, so mad he was pounding a hammer on his palm as he came towards us. Wow! I stopped a good distance away. He bellowed, only to find out that we were deaf and couldn't read lips. (I could catch some obscene words though.)

He mumbled for a while, then said we should stay over the solid white line near the shoulder, which was ridiculous, because it was shoulderless with tall weeds and a sandy surface.

He got angry because we had arrogantly ignored his horn blasts, which we couldn't hear, to give him the right of way. What a pig he was; he doesn't own the road. We did try our best to keep as close as possible to the shoulder - what more does he want?

FONDEST PEOPLE: Too numerous to list - Several friendly people invited us to their homes for a hot shower and a night's sleep. This is one of the unforgettable moments of the trip - strangers inviting strangers to their homes. We felt very much at home; there are not enough words to express our appreciation.

MOST VIVID IMPACT ON US: The reputation of Gallaudet University - Nearly everyone had heard what had happened at Gallaudet University, and asked how the new president is.

ONLY RIDE TAKEN: Yellowstone National Park - We had no choice. The road construction outlawed bicycles, and it was either a 20-mile bus ride for $4.80, or a 77-mile detour to Old Faithful.

OUR WEIGHT LOSS: In spite of our hearty meals and countless snacks, we lost weight. Smith went from 165 to 145. Brubaker dropped from 160 to 143 pounds.

MOST MILES PER DAY: 130 miles, before getting into Sandpoint, Idaho. Perfect tailwind, which was rare.


PLACES WE SLEPT: A firehouse, funeral parlor, pizza parlor, concession stand, fairgrounds, under a grandstand, picnic shelters, courthouse, school bus, several hostels, two tepees, a caboose and in an old Air Force barracks.

FASTEST SPEED: 47 mph on a downhill slope just before the Wyoming border - Brubaker: I didn't realize how fast we were going, and after finding out, I started to worry whether my bike was going to fall apart. There's a big difference between riding inside a car and being on a bike at 47 mph.

FAVORITE COMMENTS: "Oh my God, that long!" with pant, pant, pant.

"Are you bicycling across America backwards?" - This is a bicyclist's comment in Breckenridge, Colorado. It is well known that going west - against the headwinds - is harder than going east - with the tailwinds.

"Are you either brave or crazy?" - to which we replied, "Both!"

ONE LAST FAVORITE AND HEART-TOUCHING COMMENT: Yellowstone National Park - Brubaker: My "brother" Danny was writing some postcards to family and friends and what he said in one sentence really touched my heart dearly. He said, "I've got a feeling that our trip is going to be over very soon, but it will be forever in our hearts."

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