Wait, so are you still in Chicago?

Ladies and gentlemen, after months of waiting we are going to bring the blog to an end! Well not completely on this post, but we will at least get a start on filling you all in on the last portions of our adventure. Over the next couple of weeks we will be bringing you all of the details of our excursions between Omaha, NE (our last post) and New York, NY (our final destination). Thank you all for your patience and enjoy!

OMAHA

Arriving into Omaha was quite a shock. After nearly a week of flat Nebraska, we stumbled across the less flat area of Nebraska: Omaha. In comparison to the rest of Nebraska, Omaha resembled the Swiss Alps. Up and down, up and down for nearly 2 hours until we came to the doorstep of a beautiful two story house, the home of Ms. Morgan Harris and her 5 roommates. 

The damsels were more than hospitable, providing us with showers and a delicious feast. But more than the basic amenities, the ladies taught us an invaluable lesson in communication, women can both talk and listen at the same time. During the feast, we sat and listened to a room full of 10 girls manage to carry on approximately 25 separate conversations at the same time. It was truly incredible. Something that we have never experienced before and probably will never experience again. This carried on for approximately 3 hours before the ladies decided enough was enough, and brought the spectacle to an end. Ladies, if you happen to read this, thank you. Not only were you incredible hosts, but your conversation abilities are mind-blowing. 

After the feast, we said good night to the ladies, and were off to bed. We awoke in the morning to the incredible smell of potatoes and eggs in the kitchen. Morgan, being the amazing host that she is, had made us a huge breakfast to fuel us for the day. So after fueling up, we thanked the ladies and ventured onward, into the great unknown that is Iowa. Da-nuh-nuh, da-nuh-nuh!!!!

IOWA

After crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River, we made it into Iowa.  The muddy behemoth that lay as the border between the two states we had seen just 3 weeks earlier at its headwaters in Three Forks, Montana.  The river was now unrecognizable from the fast moving mountain stream at its origin.  

At about this time, we quickly realized that Jordan’s wheel was needing a replacement.  He had lost many spokes and became untrue.  This was apparent due to the fact that as he rode, his wheel rotated like a poorly thrown frisbee on the axle.  

We stopped at a local bike shop where we heard about something called RAGBRAI, occurring a month after we were there.  The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is self explanatory in idea, but in reality the great challenge in the week long ride is to keep up with the party.  It is not uncommon to see many of the 30,000 riders downing brews, singing songs or occasionally sleeping en route.  It sounds like one hell of a time and has even made many lists of things to do before you die.  We will surely do it some day.

After we fixed the travesty that was Jordan’s rear wheel, we continued on our own RAGBRAI.  We found that unlike Nebraska, Iowa is not flatter than a pancake.  It was great practice shifting gears, lowering our gears for the uphill and then descending with great speed to try and gain as much elevation as possible in the following hill.  As much work as it was, we enjoyed the predictability of the theory of gravity over the volatile wrath of the wind gods. It was beautiful and the rolling hills continued over the fairy-tale like landscape.

Just before sunset, we discovered that Jordan had a flat tire.  We all stopped to fix it, each humming as we carried out our duties.  This was not an unfamiliar job for Jordan, who had just as much work experience in replacing tubes as any bike mechanic.  We inflated the tire and Jordan was screwing off the adaptor when BOOM.  The noise rang out accompanied by a blast of air.  Jordan, whose head was right next to the tire, got up off his stomach.  His hair was a mess and he had soot underneath his left eye.  He dug his finger into his ear as he said “What was that?”.  It was apparent by the volume of his voice that Jordan had temporarily lost his hearing.  Jordan’s tube had burst right in his face, releasing a large portion of its contents into his face.  After we realized everyone was ok, we laughed.

Jordan, now looking like a cartoon character who had held onto a stick of dynamite, fixed the tube once more.  We continued on eventually spending the night in the dug out at the baseball stadium of a local high school.

The next day we awoke from some commotion at the school, packed our panniers and rode off to breakfast.  In Iowa, many small towns have little greeting signs with clever slogans designed to capture the town’s spirit and make visitors feel at home. We ventured to the town of Stuart for breakfast and were greeted by our favorite welcome sign which read “Welcome to the town of Stuart: Home to 1700 good eggs and a few stinkers!”  Here is a list of a bunch of the towns and their welcome signs http://dmjuice.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120716/NEWS03/120716011

Stuart had just gained a few more stinkers, but this didn’t stop their hospitality.  While trying to pay for breakfast at the grocery store, the ladies at the counter did not accept the check for our breakfast sandwich.  Furthermore, we received a tip while using the WiFi at a local McDonalds that there was a local bike trail called the Raccoon River Valley Trail that would lead us directly to Des Moines.  This ended up being the best bike trail since the centennial trail back in Idaho and was a great way to shortcut and gain some extra time to get Sam to the city of Chicago in time for his flight.  

While cruising on this trail we ran into a fellow biker whose name was Caleb.  When we asked for some local tips on bike routes, Caleb was a massive help.  He got ahold of his friend Karolyn who knew the Des Moines bike routes well and gave us her address stating,  “She’s really cool, she’s a cyclist and she said she will give you guys lunch too”.  It was a great deal and our hearts were soon set on finding Karolyn.  We met Karolyn down the street from her house where she had biked to meet us.  Karolyn set out a set of lunch meats in a buffet style and we helped ourselves as she looked over the routes and helped us plan the rest of the day.  She got in touch with her friend Carlos, who lived in Grinnell and let us know that we had a place to stay there.  The problem was that Grinnell was 55 miles away from Des Moines, which would bring our daily total close to 130 miles, our largest day by far.  However, the thought of having a place to stay can motivate men to do things they never thought possible, and we were determined to make it to Carlos’.

We continued to bike over the massive rolling hills, thinking each hill ahead of us would be the last hill of the day.  The bike short’s butt pads help significantly, but the inevitable soreness began to take hold.  Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we coasted into the city of Grinnell.  We cruised over to Carlos’ house, who is a landlord during the school year, but lives and works in his old multibedroom house in the summer time.  We were the most physically tired that we had been since the first week in Washington, and Carlos pointed us to a Mexican Restaurant where the servings were meant for two.  

After we gorged ourselves with enchiladas, burritos and fajitas, we went back to Carlos’ fully satisfied.  Along with doing renovations on his two houses, one in Grinnell and one in New Orleans, one of Carlos’ main hobbies was making stop-motion animation movies.  His friend Katie and him had set up a little world of clay figures on a big table, equipped with lights and cameras.  We watched several of these videos, many made with lots of help from elementary school children who bring a hilarious and clever twist on the storyline and animation of the short films.  Check them out at http://www.tinycircus.org/.  We ate ice cream and watched many of these videos until it was time to sleep. 

The next morning we awoke very well rested and headed to the Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet.  Unfortunately, we had not learned from our mistake at the Arby’s that fast food in large quantities does not lead to productive biking afterwards.  We biked slowly but surely until we reached the city of Cedar Rapids.  After finding out that our first choice of a sleeping area, a local set of dugouts, was occupied by people playing baseball, we decided to camp near the river in a clearing/fishing road.  Our eyes dwindled as the fireflies danced over our heads. 

 

ILLINOIS

A relaxing night of sleep turned annoying as I swatted at my face over and over again as gnats flew in circles around my head. Tucking my head into the sleeping bag, I tried to balance the risk of suffocation with the noise level of gnats. Eventually the level of frustrations grew and I hopped out of the bag. The three of us got packed up and ready to bike. We knew this was our last day of biking with Sam and we cherished our last morning of waking up together in a park. We had a ways to go until Chicago though, so after our short sentimental moment, we started Sam’s last day of biking.

It was a blazing hot day as we traveled through the terrain of western Illinois. The sun beat down, sweat droplets dripped down, and Jordan’s tire continued to flatten down. Jordan could not have had more problems with a back tire! While fixing his flat of the day, Sam called his aunt to check in and let her know where we were. To our surprise, she had decided to drive out and pick us up. She was concerned with the heat and worried for our health, came to get us. We still had about 100 miles to go, and didn’t feel right taking up her offer, but we didn’t mind losing our packs. After stripping our 30+ Lbs. packs, and thanking Sam’s aunt, we hit the road again.

Even without the packs, it was a long and tiring day. The sun slowly faded and our legs slowly tired. Just as the sun set, we found a bike path that would take us to the end of the trip. 127 miles later, we arrived in Lake Bluffs, Il. Our longest day yet took us to the suburbs of Chicago, and to Sam’s awesome relatives, SAM”S RELATIVES LAST NAME! They welcomed us into their home, gave us a nice cold Dos Equis, and took us to the back porch for dinner. And oh what a dinner! We each had two full racks of ribs, a bowl of beans, a loaf of bread, an artichoke, and mashed potatoes. It was a feast! Mmmm… Delicious! We sat and digested our meals, showered, and said goodnight, exhausted from our longest day of the trip.

The next day seemed short and bittersweet. We started the day off with celebration, biking down to the shores of Lake Michigan. We might as well have made it to the Atlantic. The lake spread as far as the eye could see to the right, to the left, and in front. It was mind bottling. Carrying our bikes across the sand shore, we walked into the waters. Goosebumps spread up our back as the cold temperature, and the sentimental value of the experience crept up on us. After taking a picture, we swam around a bit, but eventually got back on the bikes and headed for the house.

The next part is what the three of us had not been looking forward to, Sam had packed up his bike and it was time to head to the airport. We got in the car and enjoyed a tour of the city as we headed to Chicago Midway. Arriving at departures, we had to face reality. It was heart breaking; it was like one of the musketeers had decided that building cabins and digging up bones was more important then fighting the Cardinal and his guards, it was like Andy had decided the Indiana Jones toy was more fun to play with then Lance Armstrong action figure. After hugging it out, Sam headed into the Southwest terminal, never to be seen again. (We have heard from him on the phone though, he’s okay!)

Sam’s family housed and stuffed us full of food for another night, treating us to some Chicago style pizza and actual beds, but the next day, it was off to explore the city. To check out our day, Check out the link!

Finished with exploration, we took the train out into another suburb of Chicago and stayed with our friend from NAU, Molly Fitzpatrick, and her awesome family. We were instantly greeted with appetizers and beers, followed by huge and succulent burgers, and topped off with brownies for desert, delicious! We hung out before bed for a while telling stories and reminiscing about our freshman year at college before we fell asleep. It was a great night with some great people! Thanks Fitzpatricks!

The next morning, we were stuffed with food, escorted to the train by Molly, and headed out of the city. It was an easy ride along the lake to get to Indiana. We had a fantastic time in Illinois, and the city of Chicago. It was Michael and Jordan’s first time across the Mississippi River, first time in Illinois, first time in Chicago, and finally, our first time to Lake Michigan!

 

INDIANA

Entering Indiana was uneventful, to say the least. Riding down a residential street, Mike turned and said, “Apparently we just crossed the state line.” No sign, no change in scenery, no parade. This was a pretty good indication of how the rest of the state was, though there were a few exceptions.

After our less-than-extraordinary entrance into Indiana, it was time to catch a break from the relentless heat. A local YMCA proved to be our desert oasis. We stopped in and sat at a little table near the entrance, devouring Clif Bars and water. People passed with the normal puzzled look on their face that says, “Why are they so sweaty? It almost looks like they have been biking outside. Ha, that would be crazy! Its wayyyyyyy too hot out there for that!” We generally look back with a smile that says, “Yeah, we’re that crazy” as sweat drips down our face. Finally a woman stopped by to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind. “Are you guys biking? Where are you coming from?” From this we went on to explain our trip. It turns out we were talking to royalty! We were speaking with the mother of the mayor of Hammond, IN! She tried to get in touch with her son, but was unsuccessful. So instead she took down our information and said that she would try to get an article put into the YMCA newsletter about us. So if you happen to be in Hammond, IN, stop into the YMCA. You never know who you might meet. After our conversation, we got back on the bikes and continued eastward.

The rest of the day, and the remainder of the state, was spent battling an old foe, cars. Indiana is not the most bike friendly state. There are narrow shoulders to say the least, poor signage, and unforgiving truck drivers. With the white line separating the shoulder from traffic as our only ally, we rode and sweat for the remaining sunlight until it was time for a break at a gas station. We were still very unsure as to where we were going to sleep for the night, but once again the goodness of people prevailed.

As we sat sweating on the sidewalk we talked with a guy named, Brad. He told us a little about some touring that he had done in the past, and then he went on his way. About 5 minutes later, he rode back to the gas station and asked if we wanted to stay with him for the night. Yes. We rode to his place where we spent the evening discussing Star Trek and bicycles while watching a Grateful Dead documentary. A little background on our new friend Brad: Brad spent the 80’s and 90’s touring the country (in a car I think) following his favorite band, The Grateful Dead. He made a living making “devil sticks” (we had no idea what they were either but found out that they are sort of like juggling sticks. Don’t worry they aren’t associated with drugs). Following that chapter in his life he spent time owning a pedicab service, farming, and now he does tree work in Rolling Prairies, IN. He was quite the hippie renaissance man. Thanks to Brad and his flower-power mentality though, we had a roof to sleep under for the night.

We woke up early the next morning, thanked Brad for his hospitality, and away we went. The rest of Indiana can be summed up in the number of pictures that we took, one, right as we were leaving the state. Everyone has told us from the beginning to make sure we take tons of pictures. The issue is that we didn’t really see much to take pictures of in the state. We rode down a lot of not very bike friendly roads, saw a lot of trees, saw some farms, and that was about it. Indiana proved to be relatively boring but after two and a half days, we made it out and into Ohio. 

 

This was a very wordy post, but we will post pictures soon. Also be looking for more posts in the coming weeks as we bring the saga that was our trip across the country to an end. Cheers!

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The Plains (part one)

COLORADO

We spent our time in Colorado between Sam’s cousin Matt’s house, Sam’s friend Max’s house, and Jim and Amy Houlihan’s home. We ate plenty of delicious food, explored the beautiful city, and enjoyed the company of incredible people, including Sam’s roommate Daniel and Jordan’s mom Nicole, brother Aaron, and girlfriend Jackie who made the trek out from Arizona. It was awesome to spend some time with people from home and make some new friends in Colorado.

Most vacations end with someone wishing that it would never end, that they could simply stay there forever. We often dream the same thing. But, in Colorado we proved that dreams do come true. The morning of June 3rd came faster than we anticipated. We woke up in the warm, cozy home of Amy and Jim with a list of things to do before we could leave town. Long story short: the list was too long. As the sun crossed the skies, the hopes of leaving dwindled to absolute zero. Our hopes of vacation lasting just one more night prevailed and on the night of the 3rd we found ourselves once again living like kings in the Houlihan’s home.

Waking up on fourth was the reality shock that we deserved. We had delayed the inevitable. As we have been saying since the start, Sam’s adventure spans further than simple bike riding. Sam’s day job might look a lot like Lance Armstrong’s, but Sam spends the remainder of his time living a life that looks a lot more like Indiana Jones digging up lost cities, uncovering buried treasures, and racing the Nazis to supernatural, biblical artifacts. With so many cities to be uncovered, Sam had only a short time to make it to Chicago. 12 days to be exact. This meant that we had to average around 90 miles a day, every day, in order to catch his flight.

After saying our good byes to the city, we quickly found that the road was not as welcoming as Jim and Amy. It was like a never-ending medieval jousting match with the wind. The faster we rode, the more it hurt when the wind connected, which was all the time. The battle drug on all day, and even into the night. In Fort Morgan, it was time for a break for the night. We set up camp in the Fort Morgan public park and prepared to go to sleep, fairly hungry as usual. But this particular night ended a little different. There was another man in the park, stranded in Fort Morgan thanks to a broken axle on his trailer. After a short conversation about interstates and the open road, he dug through his trailer and presented us with military rations for dinner. We were thrilled. These magical little meals provided us with just the right amount of warm, processed soup that we needed to fill up before bed. With our stomachs full, the man dug through his trailer one more time, a lot like Mary Poppins’ hand bag, and pulled out cots for us to sleep on. A warm meal and beds (sort of)? It was a great way to end a long day.

Mmmmm, warm meals

In the morning, the dream was over. We were back on the road, and our archenemy, the wind, was out in full force. The duel lasted the whole day. Finally after 100+ miles, we found shelter in a tower above a high school football field in Ovid, Colorado. Waking up the next morning, we headed towards the Nebraska-Colorado border, stopping just short in a town called Julesburg. As we ate breakfast in the local grocery store, we met a gentleman named Raul. Raul lives in Julesburg, but has traveled the world. He shared with us numerous stories, endlessly emphasizing the need for adventure in life. Raul, if you get a chance to read this, thank you very much for sharing with us about your life. You were truly inspirational, and we are very happy that we got the chance to meet you. After our long conversation with Raul, it was back in the saddle again, and onward to Nebraska.

Riding the flat roads of Eastern CO

Long, straight, flat roads and treacherous winds, that was eastern Colorado. But after two and a half days of riding and around 200 miles of riding, we put Colorado behind us and entered Nebraska, hoping that Nebraska would be more forgiving.

NEBRASKA

Where eastern Colorado ends and Nebraska begins is a matter of longitude.  No mountain range, river or geographical formation represents the border between the states.  Silos water towers continued to dominate the horizon until we reached a sign that read “Welcome to Nebraska!  Home of Arbor Day”.  We felt that the sign was a little bit ironic since there was hardly a tree in sight.

State number 6

As riders, we were used to seeing roadkill.  Swerving to get out of paths of raccoon, possum or skunk remnants was almost an hourly occurrence in some places.  However, one incident we saw on our first day in Nebraska took the cake as the most gruesome.  As we approached the scene there were tire marks of blood on both sides of the road.  Pieces of fur and flesh were scattered as if they were chopped up by a helicopter propeller and laid all over the asphalt.  The horrific massacre continued for at least a hundred feet on the road as the feeling of “what has just happened here?” sunk in.  We zigzagged to avoid the remnants, eventually coming to a stop and confirming and asking each other’s input on what we had just seen.  It looked as if the driver who had hit the small animal(s) had not killed it, then backing up unsatisfied and running it over several other times, peeling out to finish the job.  Whatever had happened, it was not a clean kill and the small mammal had been run over multiple times before biting the dust.  I doubt even the best forensic specialists could have figured out a single scenario.  We can only hope that the little guy is climbing trees and getting into many trashcans in raccoon heaven.

It turns out that Nebraska is really as flat as they say, a slow decline draining water from the Rockies to the Missouri river at its eastern border.  Because of its flatness, we spotted our first fellow bike tourers a few miles ahead of us.  Despite the uninterrupted headwind and long day, we felt rejuvenated as the second wind of seeing other bikers hit us.  We rode quickly eventually getting close enough to shout out “Hey how’s it going?” It turned out the trio of other bikers were doing a cross-country tour themselves starting in San Francisco and finishing in New York.  Jonas, Christopher and Christian had traveled all the way from Sweden to embark on their adventure.  Check out their blog at restlessbikers.com.

Our 3 pack became a 6 pack real quick

We rode with the Swedes and exchanged stories of our journeys.  It was refreshing to hear that they hated the wind as much as we did; Christian had been flung from his bike due to a wind gust in the Rockies.  We stayed that night in Ryan’s (Sam’s Cousin Hope’s Friend) garage in a little town called Hershey with the Swedes.

Nothing like waking up in a garage with some Swedes

The next morning we woke up and rode about 15 miles to Walmart for breakfast.  After a feast of subway breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, and a variety of fruit on sale, we said goodbye to the Swedes, who were going to a bike shop, and continued on our journey.  The unrelenting wind made us want to throw our bikes into the prairie but we knew we had a hot shower and meal at Hope’s in Gothenburg. On the way we saw a tractor relay which was a hilarious group of mostly old farmers who ride their vintage machines across the state of Nebraska.

When we got to Hope’s we had delicious Hawaiian burgers for dinner made from her own cattle.  As if that was not enough, we had some delicious strawberry rhubarb pie alamode for dessert.  This great country meal suited our location in a house surrounded by cornfields.  We never thought we would learn so much about farming in our lives.  Hope sells GPS systems for large tractors and had a wealth of knowledge to share.  Perhaps the most amazing machine we learned about was known as a combine.  This monster machine cuts down the corn stalk, shucks the corn and spins the cob, spitting out everything but the kernels that are loaded in the top.

One of these monstrosities doing work

The next morning we woke up fresh and had another delicious meal of breakfast burritos with chorizo that was absolutely outstanding.  We rode to a town called Lexington where we had the best Little Caesars service we had ever received.  The owner, a biker, gave us discounted large pizzas each, free drinks and even a complimentary half dozen cinnamon rolls.  He even gave us a card for free pizzas at the Omaha location.  We really appreciate the hospitality.  We continued on and stopped by Hope’s work at the Case equipment dealership, and were in awe by all of the awesome farming technology all around us.

Wow…. they’re massive

We continued on that day until nightfall when we hit the town of Wood River.  While sitting outside of a gas station, we were greeted by two guys named Danny and Skylar who offered to let us pitch our tent in their backyards.  While setting up our tent, the neighbors invited us over for some food and drinks.  Gary and April Packer showed us some great hospitality as we munched down on snacks and gave tummy rubs to their little dog (who looked identical to Chewbacca). The Packers own a dog kennel and run a business called pack’s pups (packspups.com).  It was a really fun night.

Hanging out with Gary Packer

The next morning as we were going to get breakfast, we saw some familiar faces across the road.  The trio of Swedes had just woken up from behind a Domino’s pizza joint.  We rode the rest of the day with our European friends, passing through cornfields and small towns.  While eating some dinner outside a grocery store in the town of Schuyler we were approached by a man who at first seemed very hospitable.  He asked us about our journey and mentioned that he downed a warehouse in the next town over.  He said, “Well you guys could maybe sleep inside the warehouse”.  We responded “Yeah, that would be awesome. Do you think we could do that?”  After our acceptance of what seemed to be an offer, he would say “maybe” and tilt back his head laughing at us.  He then said that instead of sleeping in the warehouse that we could sleep in the air-conditioned office.  After our acceptance once again, the same indecision and laugh followed.  Here we are, six bikers exhausted after over 100 miles of riding, eating yogurt and ice cream bars outside of a grocery store, while this man keeps offering us amenities we would really like and then taking them away and laughing.  It continues to be a running joke throughout the trip.  He then said goodbye, got in his car and said that he would maybe go down the highway and find us to let us in.

That night we rode the warehouse and camped outside next to the warehouse.  We ate cookies and watched platoon with the Swedes on Jordan’s laptop.

The next morning we woke early and said goodbye to the Swedes for a second time and we made our way to Omaha.

Our last picture with the Swedes. Good luck guys!

 

 

We are still diligently working on the blog! Stay tuned for more updates soon!

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We are sorry.

We are very, very, VERY sorry for our lack of updates lately. We have been ferociously riding for the last couple of weeks, giving us very little time to post. We are currently in Hancock, Maryland preparing to head into Washington DC. Check back over the next few days! We promise we will post… a lot. Again, we are sorry, and thank you everyone for your support! 

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Here comes the sun… do, do, do, do.

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Day 20- Cody to Shoshoni Woke up in the cabin feeling much more rested, and much warmer then the previous day. Getting our stuff ready to go inside the cabin then cracking the door, we saw the remnants of last … Continue reading

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Yellowstone Adventures

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I woke up and spread my arms out expecting to punch Sam awake, but instead I hit the feathers of a goose that had died long ago. I awoke to the plush down pillows and comforter of my queen size … Continue reading

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Finishing up Montana

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Day 14- Helena to Three Forks We woke up on the morning of May 20thwith nothing but high hopes. We packed our bags, grabbed a bite to eat at a local bagel shop, updated the blog, checked our route, and … Continue reading

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3 States and a Baby Goose

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Day 8- Spokane, WA to Wallace, ID Waking up at 5:30 in the morning is difficult no matter how comfortable the bed. But getting up out of a really comfortable bed is especially no easy task. Sleeping at Phil and … Continue reading

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