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Where did we go?

Where did we go?  What happened to our cross country bicycle adventure?  When we last checked in there was discussion about getting across the northern plains using alternate transportation.   Well, we did manage to rent a car in Jamestown, North Dakota as a means to shuttle our bikes to the Amtrak station in Minot, North Dakota.  Part of our relocation effort required some creativity to shoe horn two bikes into a rental car.

On our way to Minot, ND

On our way to Minot, ND

From Minot we rode the train to East Glacier, Montana.  That was almost two months ago.  Today we are in Tyler, Texas.  Tomorrow morning we leave for Dublin, Ireland thanks to some great airfares.   Dublin will be the start and end points for a two month trip around Europe.   We won’t be taking the bikes.  Instead we will rely on planes, trains, automobiles and a few buses to get from place to place.   But, before we start talking about our upcoming trip we want to capture briefly what we have been up to.   It’s a long overdue story that we will try to make short.

The prospect of crossing the northern plains into a significant prevailing headwind was creating angst for both of us.   In Carrington, North Dakota we made the decision to take the train to East Glacier to avoid the plains.   When we arrived in East Glacier we checked into Brownie’s Hostel.  We took a “day off” to ride into Glacier National Park without gear and to acclimate to elevation change.   From the hostel we then rode just over 30 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain to St. Mary’s Montana.   In St. Mary’s we found a campground to spend the next two days waiting for weather to improve before our ascent up and over Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.   On the day of our ascent we left the campground at 6am with the hope of beating the park traffic.

Our early morning ride up Going to the Sun Road - Glacier National Park

Our early morning ride up Going to the Sun Road – Glacier National Park

Our plan worked to perfection.   The winds were light and the sky was blue.  The ride was epic!   We had the road virtually to ourselves up to the summit of Logan Pass.   The recently repaved roadway both up and down was like smooth glass.   There were a few moments on the way up when Jacque thought about taking a shuttle bus to the top.   She dug deep, kept turning her pedals and before she knew it reached the summit.   We took a few minutes to savor reaching the summit before the plunge down.   As we were descending one of the most beautiful roadways in all of North America the realization of the moment caused both of us to well up just a bit.   I was so incredibly proud of Jacque for her accomplishment.   On the way down we played leap frog with another couple we met in St. Mary’s. Randi and Chris were on their bicycle tour honeymoon!   We ended up sharing a campsite site and a nice lunch in town with the two of them.   For others planning to ride Going to the Sun Road we recommend an east to west direction if you are adverse to traffic.  During our descent we observed heavy traffic volume headed towards us.   An added benefit of an east west direction is being on the mountain side of the road instead of the cliff edge side.    Both of us were very thankful for our chosen direction of travel.

We continued our ride two more days until we reached the Whitefish Bike Retreat.  The retreat caters to Mountain Bikers but all bicyclists are welcome.   It was at the retreat that we contemplated our bicycle tour going forward.   With the exception of our near perfect day on Going to the Sun Road the prior week had been a wet one.   The roadway to the bike retreat also had the unfortunate combination of an unsafe shoulder and a speed limit of 70mph.  The poor shoulder was due to a recent repaving project that made the shoulder unfriendly for bikes.   We knew that 40 more miles were ahead of us on this road. Ultimately it was a combination of feeling stranded at our location along with the past weeks weather and just plain old tiredness that lead us to the decision to end our bicycle tour near Whitefish.   After some internet research we put together our escape plan.  The bike retreat shuttle drove us and our bikes 10 miles back into Whitefish.   In Whitefish we left our bikes at Glacier Cyclery to have them boxed and shipped using Bike Flights.   We caught another Amtrak train to Portland, Oregon.   In Portland we picked up a rental car for a week of auto touring and car camping in the northwest.   We visited several national parks including Mt. Rainier, Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Crater Lake.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

These places are national parks for good reason.   We also spent enough time in the Bend, Oregon area to add it to our list of possible places to settle.   After a week of car touring we returned to Portland to catch our flight to Texas.

After our return to Texas we bounced around what next ideas.   In a week long period we went from purchasing a truck and camper to purchasing a brand new motorhome.   The idea was to take a year to see the country pressing a gas pedal instead of turning bicycle cranks.   We actually test drove a few trucks. After several days of convincing ourselves that we wanted to head in this direction we decided now was not the time.  During this short lived “buy a truck and trailer period” we also considered going back to the northwest to finish our bicycle tour.   After a week or so off the bikes our state of mind for finishing the tour had greatly improved.   In hindsight, we think a week off the bikes during the middle of our tour might have been enough recovery time to continue on.  We had the fitness level to finish but not the mental state to keep going.   We came very close to driving our bikes back to Seattle with a plan to head east towards our stopping point in North Dakota.    After contemplating this plan further we decided to postpone the final leg of the bike tour to next summer.    We want to finish what we started.   So, sometime around the middle of next May we hope to start pedaling east from Seattle.   Our conclusion during discussions about what to do next ultimately came back to active travel while we are still relatively young and able.

Since our return we also enjoyed a two week road trip to see our son Scott in Utah, Jacque’s parents in Kansas and our friends Tim, Monica and Taylor in their new Kansas home.   Tim and Monica also invited us to spend a few days with them at their cabin in northern Arkansas.   On our way to see Scott we drove on many of the New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Utah roads that I took on my first bicycle tour in 1991.   In Kansas we came upon the Geographical Center of the United States and the reported largest ball of twine.   Two more items to cross of our bucket list….

With this very brief history of recent activities we can now talk a bit about our upcoming trip.   After stumbling upon the great airfares to Dublin on Google Flights we decided to take the plunge for another trip abroad.   We booked flights with a two month return and no specific itinerary in mind.  With a bit of internet research for possible destinations and reasonable transportation options we settled in on what we hope will be an interesting trip in 9 countries.    Our itinerary includes Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Spain and Italy.   The majority of our accommodations were found on Airbnb.   In Scotland Jacque looks forward to seeing me drive on the opposite side of the road behind the wheel of a manual transmission vehicle while sitting on the right side.   In Germany we will see what is left of the Berlin wall and stroll past Checkpoint Charlie.   We will explore the medieval town of Erfurt, Germany.  In Stuttgart we will enjoy a beer or two at the Cannstatter Volksfest.   We will spend a day riding the train to Vienna where we will take in sights.   Another week will be spent in Slovenia exploring the city of Ljubljana and the surrounding countryside.   In Budapest, Hungary we look forward to exploring another Eastern European capital that is referred by some as the Paris of the east.   We then fly to Rome to visit the Coliseum (it was closed during our last visit due to an antiquity workers’ strike).   After a brief stay in Rome we fly to the Spanish island of Majorca for a week of slow living.   We then spend 12 days in the Italian cities of Bergamo, San Gimignano, Florence and Milan.   Finally we return to Dublin for a few days of sightseeing.  We expect a few pints of Guinness will be had.

We intend to post photos on our Facebook page Our Life at 10 of the sights we see and the people we meet.  In all our travels, and in all modes of travel, the people we meet continue to make the most impact on us.  People are proud of where they live and want to share their little slice of the world with us.  We are trying to learn as we go.  A smile, Hola or Buenas Tardes goes a long way.

3 replies
  1. Bonnie Brock
    Bonnie Brock says:

    Planes, trains & autos as a travel mode is more my speed. Your new list of countries sounds terrific. Stay safe. Bonnie

    Reply

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