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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.

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Catching a train

Apparently changing plans during a bicycle tour is becoming a theme for us.  Last year we rented a minivan in Spokane in order to transport us and our bikes across Washington to the cooler temperatures of the Pacific Northwest.  This year after cycling halfway across America to the friendly town of Carrington, North Dakota we have decided to make another move.

2,000 miles completed

2,000 miles completed

There is an Amtrak we can catch in Minot, ND that will get us to East Glacier, Montana.  From there we will continue our tour to explore parts of the Mountain West. This was not an easy decision for us because we had a goal to bicycle across the United States.  However, we have discovered from experience that we enjoy touring in areas with more frequent towns and services.  We know that as we move further west into eastern Montana the distances between towns will increase and the availability of services will diminish significantly.   The prevailing winds also weigh on our minds.  We think we could cross the next 850 miles on the bikes but we don’t know how much we would enjoy the experience.

The Chieftan - Carrington, ND

The Chieftain – Carrington, ND

So, while we are enjoying our time in friendly North Dakota we are going to say so long to the idea of crossing the northern plans.  Who knows, maybe someday will come back to finish this section.  Currently we have a lead on shuttle transportation to Minot but if not available we will make the 3 or 4 day ride  and then take the half day train ride.  Today we are relaxing at the Chieftain Conference Center while we wait to enjoy this evenings 4th of July parade and celebration.  We wish everyone a happy 4th of July!  See you next time from Montana.

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Rails to Trails and Farmland

When we last checked in we had just entered Michigan and we were camping in the Port Huron KOA figuring out a new route.  We are now in Minnesota with 1,750 miles behind us.  We should be in North Dakota in a couple of days.  The half way point of our tour across America is also on the near horizon.

In Michigan we enjoyed the paved rail to trails. However, there were a few times the unpaved bumpy trails sent us to our phones to find nearby alternative roads.  We passed 1,000 miles on this tour in Brown City and celebrated with a Mexican food lunch.  At the Sutter’s Recreation Area in Lapeer, we knew rain was predicted for overnight. The owner kindly suggested we set up our tent under the pavilion. Instead of stakes we tied the tent off to the picnic table legs.

Camping under the pavilion - Sutter's Recreation Campground

Camping under the pavilion – Sutter’s Recreation Campground

We were able to listen to the rain secure in the knowledge we wouldn’t have to pack a wet tent.  The next morning’s weather forecast showed a 3-4 hour window for us to get to the next town, Frankenmuth, (“Michigan’s Bavaria”).  So we got up early, pedaled hard, stopped only to split a Cliff Bar and pulled into town about 9:30.  Our ride completed.  We wandered into a hotel to ask about a room.  The manager, with a soft spot for cyclists had a room ready then! He said we could still make the breakfast buffet.  Almost immediately after we entered the hotel the heavens opened with the predicted deluge. Pretty sweet to have 30 miles done, full bellies, showers and naps started by noon!

In Auburn our Warm Showers hosts would not be home until late afternoon and we were watching the dark clouds building.  We ducked into the local McDonalds just in time to miss the deluge once again.  The next day we got to enjoy the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, which is on the Rail to Trail Hall of Fame.

Pere Marquette rail trail west of Midland, MI

Pere Marquette rail trail west of Midland, MI

We were able to cruise on traffic free pavement for several days.  At our Warm Showers host Dean and Keri’s home in Coleman we were two of five cyclists staying that night.  It was the most cyclists they had hosted at one time.  Kyle was headed east, Martha and Nate also headed west.

Mechanically gifted Dean was finally able to stop my squeaking seat that John has endured for 1100 miles.  Their 115 pound black lab Hercules enjoyed all the belly rubs he got that night.  I think we were all missing our dogs back home.

5 tour bikes at the home of Dean & Kari - Coleman, WI

5 tour bikes at the home of Dean & Kari – Coleman, WI

We all stayed up late exchanging stories and tips for the road ahead.  We rode with Martha and Nate for part of the next day. They are in their 20s and rode slowly with us for a couple of towns then we said goodbye and sent them on their speedy way.

We have been able to camp more nights as the weather has improved somewhat.  In Evart we thought we were headed to an RV park, but ended up at a city park. Fortunately the park had showers and shade so all was good.

We looked at maps, weather and decided we could make it to Scottville the next night.  During breakfast we wrote to an Airbnb and got an immediate yes reply.  Knowing we had a place to stay, we took off for a longer day.  Our room was in a beautiful Victorian with intricate woodwork and our own balcony.  It put us with 9 miles to go to catch the 8:30 am Ludington ferry across Lake Michigan.

Martha and Nate waiting to board the S.S. Badger for the trip across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin.

Martha and Nate waiting to board the S.S. Badger for the trip across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin.

We got to the ferry with time to spare, and surprisingly found Nate and Martha ready to board as well, so we had several hours onboard the S.S. Badger with our new friends.

We got off the ferry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and set off towards Green Bay to visit our friends Christian and Melody.  On the way we experienced the exhilaration (John) of a rocking tailwind along with the anxiety (Jacque) of a shoulder rumble strip.  I used my improved bike handling skills to say the least.  Friday night was a good time to be indoors as we marveled at the spectacular lightening show.  Saturday we had a chance to sleep in while Christian and the kids completed a 10k race.

Visit to Lambeau Field with Ty, Gracie and Christian - Green Bay, WI

Visit to Lambeau Field with Ty, Gracie and Christian – Green Bay, WI

That afternoon they played tour guide and took us to Lambeau Field and all that is Packerland.  After a wonderful adult dinner and a sound night’s sleep we loaded the bikes onto the van.  Christian took us across the metro area to the Mountain to Bay trailhead and then rode along with us for 12 miles.  It was great to renew ties with Christian, Melody and the kids.

As a side note, all the storms have left fallen tree branches on the trails.  We thought we were cyclocross riders at some points going over and under branches and limbs.  We had to take the bags off and hand them all through for one tree.   Should have packed the chain saw!

We had to portage our gear and bikes across this fallen tree on the Pere Marquette Trail.

We had to portage our gear and bikes across this fallen tree on the Pere Marquette Trail.

We had a Warm Showers stay set up with Kyle’s parents Lisa and Todd in Wausau, but needed one more night before we got there.  Pine Grove campground fit the bill.  We had a nice spot near the pond.  However, we had morning rain that had not been predicted the day before.  As we lay in the tent watching the mosquitoes enjoy the dry space between the rain fly and the tent, Lisa texted an offer to come and pick us up.  We waited. At 10 the dripping stopped so we were able to pack up. We told Lisa we were on the way and hit the road.  We continued on the second day of the Mountain to Bay Trail which is packed limestone and dirt. We had to get off onto roads for breaks from the bumps and some mud, but the roads have more hills, so it’s always something.  We got to Lisa and Todd’s and watched the construction on their street while we had dinner.  We had an enjoyable evening chatting with them about travel, kids and the world while they took us on a quick tour of town and helped us to figure out our route out of town for the next day.

The wind was at our backs when we left Lisa and Todd’s.  Despite their help, we missed our turn as we left Wausau but figured out the right direction- downwind!   We knew we wanted to get as far as we could with the wind because the next day was supposed to be stormy.  The morning did not turn out as we wanted…the wind was great but we kept ending up on dirt and gravel roads.  We don’t make great time on gravel- we can ride on it, just takes more effort and attention.  Thank you Google.

A few of the rollers we enjoyed between Wausau and Thorpe, WI

A few of the rollers we enjoyed between Wausau and Thorpe, WI

We got to Abbotsford for lunch and figured out pavement to Thorp, even if it was 10 miles longer.  We had a motel reserved so knew we could be late getting in as we had a place to stay.  All the rural roads seem to have interesting things, very pretty farmsteads in this part of the state.  One thing is the way all the products of the dairy are used, like the cow manure is used for compost.  They load it into trailers and move to huge piles in the field to age.  However, take my advice, don’t be caught on a bike in a cross wind with a manure trailer around.

We ended with a 72 mile day, fully loaded, a new record for us!  The hotel hot tub was wonderful. Dinner was across the parking lot at the famous Thorpedo Restaurant.

The famous Thorpedo Restaurant - Thorpe, WI

The Thorpedo Restaurant – Thorpe, WI

We waited out the rain the second day in Thorp, which was not as bad as predicted.  We only had 28 miles to go to meet my sister and brother in law, Jana and Terry for several days of camping, fishing and family time.  They drove up from their home in Illinois with their trailer, boat, and all we would need for a nice long weekend.  We are so thankful we were able to work out this visit.

High school mascot in Augusta, WI - with Jana, Terry & Jess

High school mascot in Augusta, WI – with Jana, Terry & Jess

Sandy Hill Campground was our stopping point for four days.  Ron and Ginger own the place and were fascinated with our trip. They talked about our trip with other campers and made all 4 of us feel welcome.  Terry and John got lots of fishing time in while Jana and I talked and hung out with their new puppy Jess. They fed and took care of us for the weekend. We stayed in their trailer in the air conditioning and stayed dry in the thunderstorms.

Back on the bikes again, we started off into the wind, thinking we would have a 26 mile day.  But it was only noon when we were to Eau Claire and near our Warm Showers host.  While eating lunch at Red Robin, we were trying to figure out where we could stay if we went further; it looked like we would need to go 26 more miles to a campground. These were road miles and up and down hills, with a strong headwind.  Nate, one of the managers, is an area cyclist and talked to us about the Chippewa River Trail and the Red Cedar Trail.

Bridge to the Red Cedar State Trail

Bridge to the Red Cedar State Trail

It was 8 miles further, but flat, good surface, shaded and protected from the wind.  So we trusted him, cancelled our host and took off.  The Chippewa River trail was paved and followed the river and a few farm fields.  The Red Cedar was hard packed and mostly in a shady forest.  On the Red Cedar we surpassed the total mileage of last years tour along the Pacific Coast.   We finished the day with 62 miles, in a campground about 7pm, and the trails were just what we needed.  If you are ever in Eau Claire, WI go eat at Red Robin and thank Nate for us!!

We enjoyed a couple more days of riding the rolling hills of Wisconsin before we crossed the St Croix River into Minnesota. The next time we check in we will fill in the details about our lovely time on the Rail Trails in Minnesota and the plains of North Dakota.

 

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Still headed west

Since we last checked in we finished crossing the Adirondack Mountains, we rode along the southern shore of Lake Ontario through miles of apple orchards, we rolled almost 100 miles along the famous Erie Canal towpath, we enjoyed our first visit to majestic Niagara Falls, we rode along fertile farmlands of the north shore of Lake Erie and we crossed in and out of Canada.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

One month into our trip we have 960 miles behind us.  We’ve had many weary days fighting headwinds, we dealt with more than a few days of frigid temperatures some with snow thrown in just for fun.  We even discovered a new arch enemy, the dreaded evil black fly.  On the plus side our bodies have become more adjusted to life on the road and we did have one epic ride with the wind squarely at our backs.   We are tougher than a month ago but we still have room to improve.   Are we having fun?   Absolutely.   Is bicycle touring still demanding for us?   Yep.   But, the scenery and the people we are meeting continue make this journey for us.   As we look at our pictures, much of what we have experienced in the past few weeks already feels like a lifetime ago.   It’s interesting to both of us how our sense of time has slowed.

A day rarely goes by without someone or something of interest crossing our paths.   In the Adirondacks we had a wonderful evening sharing stories over dinner with Cheryl and John, the owners of The Adirondack Inn.   The next day while cycling up Blue Ridge drive we met Frank and Sue Shaw who invited us into their beautiful home for lunch.

The Shaws

The Shaws

We enjoyed learning about the Shaw family and some of the local history.  Later that same afternoon the Shaws drove us and our bikes 15 miles to the excellent Hoot Owl Lodge.   Jacque says they were her road angels.  The same evening two guests of the lodge, Donna and Rachel invited us to join them for dinner.   It was a timely invitation because the closest restaurant was 15 miles away.   Again, we had great conversation with two people with a passion for the outdoors.   Two days later we came across fellow cycle tourist Dave from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.    Over the next few days we were fortunate to share our journey with Dave.   He was a much stronger cyclist so we relied upon him to do some advance scouting for our evening campsites.  We enjoyed Dave’s company immensely and we were sorry to say so long when he reached the end of his journey.

Saying so long to our new friend Dave

Saying so long to our new friend Dave

One evening, while camping on the shores of Lake Ontario we were invited to dinner with Bob and Kelly.   They treated us like family friends.   Along the Erie Canal we met two cycle touring couples from Europe.   Luc and Marleen from Belgium are riding together to Chicago where she will return back home.   Luc intends to continue on an epic solo tour all the way to Alaska!   We look forward to following Luc on his website.   While on the canal path in Rochester we met honeymooners Annika and Stefan from the Netherlands.   They’ve been on the road for two months since leaving Miami.   They have a goal to reach the west coast sometime in the next few months.   In Port Colborne, Ontario we stayed with Warm Showers hosts Janet and Steven.

Janet and Steven - our hosts in Port Colborne, Ontario

Janet and Steven – our hosts in Port Colborne, Ontario

We felt spoiled once again as they went above and beyond to make sure we were well fed and comfortable in their home.   I was happy to discover that Steven loves beer and he likes to share. Steven shared his knowledge of the local roads and gave us several good suggestions for potential places to stay.   Often times our meetings with people seem serendipitous.  After a difficult day of riding into a headwind we stopped at the Kettle Creek Inn in Port Stanley, Ontario.   The Inn was the first accommodation we came upon as we entered town.   Jacque went into inquire about a room and a place to keep our bikes.   As luck would have it the owner herself was a cyclist who had ridden her bicycle all over the world.   The owner took great care to make sure our needs were met.   At our next stop in Ridgetown, Ontario the owner of Dempster House B&B just happened to be on a commission that is studying the benefits of bicycling to her community.   We were once again made to feel welcome as bicycle travelers.  On our last day in Ontario we rode into the town of Sombra to catch a ferry back to the United States.   As we rolled into town we met Mary and Lynn while they were working on flower planters for city beautification.   They were fascinated when we told them a bit about our travels.   At one point they offered us a shower and a place to stay.   We declined their offer but it still amazes us how generous people can be to complete strangers.

As we enjoy a rest day in the Port Huron KOA we are in the process of making a route change.  Instead of heading to the far northern parts of Michigan including the Upper Peninsula we are updating our route maps to take us to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan where we will catch a ferry to Wisconsin.   Remember earlier when I mentioned our new arch enemy the black fly?   Well those little buggers are a big part of our decision to pass on the Upper Peninsula.  The forecast for black flies this year in that area is not a good one.   We will just have to come back to see that beautiful part of the country another time.

We realize our posts here are few and far between so we set up a few other ways to keep track of us for those that are interested.   Each day we upload our rides to Strava where you can see our route map for the day, mileage, elevation profile and other statistical geeky stuff.   We also have a Facebook blog page Our Life at 10 where we post pictures on a more regular basis.   Just search for Our Life at 10 and like our page if you want to follow.   Finally, here on our blog we update an overall tour map.   From the menu select Tour Maps and you will be taken to the correct page.

Thank you for following along on this journey!

 

 

 

 

 

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A bit of progress…

Tomorrow marks 4 calendar weeks since we left Portland, Maine.  This evening we are resting in a small hotel in Port Stanley, Ontario.  Slowly but surely we have managed to put 840 miles behind us.  We crossed 3 mountain ranges, we rode along the shores of Lakes Ontario and Erie, we cycled 100 miles along the Erie Canal and we stopped for a look at Niagara Falls.  We intend to post a more colorful update soon but before we do here is our current progress map.

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Touring through New England

New England in spring is a great place to get in shape on a bicycle tour for those that like training in cold, wet, and windy weather over very steep hills.   There are plenty of hills to be found with grades in excess of 10 percent.   On more than a few hills we have pushed our bikes over the top.  I recall looking down at my Garmin GPS once and seeing 16 percent grade registered on the screen.   Ouch!   We have now been on the road for 10 days and we are just beginning to feel hints that there may be an end in sight to our “pain and suffering period”.  We think the hints may be a tease when we look at the next few days of climbing we have in store in order to cross the Adirondack’s of New York.

Our tour began on May 2nd when we flew from Texas to Portland, Maine.   The hotel driver picked us up at the airport and was kind enough to take us the FedEx location where we had our bikes shipped.  When we arrived at the hotel we threw our bikes and gear in the room and promptly went to sleep.  The next morning we spent a few hours putting the bikes together, put on our rain gear and then we were off to the home of our first Warmshowers Hosts Dave & Cathy.   Both of us felt nervous as we departed the hotel. Earlier in the week Dave had provided us with a couple of nice options to get to their home located in the Maine countryside.   We chose option one which took us along a nice bike path but more importantly to Bayley’s Lobster Pound.   We were in Maine and we wanted a lobster roll.   Bayley's Lobster PoundBayley’s did not disappoint.  When we arrived at Dave & Cathy’s we settled into our accommodation.   We enjoyed a home cooked meal and exchanged bicycle travel stories.   A couple of years ago Dave & Cathy rode their bicycles around most of the perimeter of the United States.   Jacque read their blog almost a year ago so she felt like she already knew them.

Our next day started in the rain as we headed towards the state line of New Hampshire.   We followed roads with rolling hills under the cover of clouds for the entire day.   We reached the home of our hosts Paula & Jim by mid-afternoon with the two of them standing in their driveway as our welcoming committee.  Again, we were treated to another wonderful evening of conversation about bicycle travel.   Paula & Jim took us out for a nice evening car tour of the area.  The valley where they live is beautiful.   On a clear day you can see Mount Washington. The next morning we headed out for our first mountain climb of the trip over Kancamagus Pass also known as “The Kanc”.   We did catch a brief glimpse of Mount Washington just before heading up the canyon.  We were told that the summit would be our highest point on tour until we reach the Rocky Mountains.  Paula & Jim hopped on their tandem and rode the 25 miles to the top with us.   What amazing hosts they were to show us the highlights along the way.   We stopped to see waterfalls and covered bridges on our way to the summit.  The climb was grueling given our physical condition but we persevered.  Paula & Jim beat us to the top by quite a bit but they kindly waited to say so long before we plunged down the other side of the mountain.   Highest point on our route until the Rocky MoutainsOur descent was rapid and before we knew it we reached the town of North Woodstock, NH.   Maybe it was because we were starving but we had one of the best hamburgers ever.   At the restaurant we started looking for accommodation for the night.   I found the Wilderness Inn B&B on the internet so I gave them a call.  Karen answered the phone and I inquired about room availability and cost.   I told Karen that we were traveling by bicycle but that unfortunately the cost of the room was a bit too hard on our budget.  Surprisingly she asked me what our budget was for a night.  I told her our budget and she replied “OK you are staying with us, we want to meet you!”   When we rolled up to the Inn Karen came out to greet us, showed us a place to keep our bicycles and oriented us to her B&B.   Karen and her husband Alan just purchased the B&B last year after careers in the corporate world and teaching.   Their passion for service is top notch.  After getting cleaned up we walked a few blocks down the street to a restaurant recommended by Karen.   During dinner Karen and Alan came in themselves to dine.   They invited us to join them at their table.   We had an enjoyable evening discussing travel, family and enjoyment of living.   After dinner we returned to our room for a restful night.

The next morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast prepared by Alan.   We loaded our bikes, said our goodbyes to Karen and Alan and hit the road again.   On our ride way we passed dairy farms, classic New England churches, old stone walls and a few small towns.   We rode south along the Connecticut River until we reached the bridge to Vermont.   After crossing into Vermont we stopped at a local market for dinner supplies since we planned to camp for two nights.   We quickly discovered that the campground was at the top of a very long and steep hill.   Of course it was.   We have discovered that often our final destination rests on top of a hill.   We had planned to spend two nights camping due to a forecast of significant rain.   After getting checked in we worked through the process of setting up our tent again after the layoff from last summer’s tour.   We then prepared our first camp meal of delicious yellow rice with ham, diced zucchini and mushrooms.   During our meal it occurred to us that we did not buy enough groceries for the next day.  Neither one of us cherished the idea of screaming down the hill to the grocery store only to have a steep grind back up to the campsite.   Our ultimate decision was to live on the limited supply of snacks available in the camp office.   Snuggled inWe were living large at the Rest N’ Nest campground.    A word to the wise while I am on the topic of camping.   We started our trip too early in the season to make the prospects of camping easy.   The National Forest Campgrounds in the area do not open until May 15th and New York State Parks open around May 20th.    Some private campgrounds are open but most seem to wait until the latter part of May to get going.  Our rest day was a wet, cold uneventful day.   We did manage to get some laundry clean and during a short time the sun peaked out just long enough for us to walk around the campground.   A few times we asked ourselves if we were having fun.

On departure day from the Rest N’ Nest we saw blue skies.   Our spirits were up.   We were going to have an opportunity to ride with fewer layers of clothing.   The beautiful stretches of road between Thetford and Bethel, Vermont were lovely again with scattered farmhouses, interesting general stores, and old white churches alongside mountain streams.   New England’s countryside and spring weather quickly reminded us who was in charge.    The hills over the past few days were nothing compared to those we faced on this particular day.  The added bonus for the day was a steady headwind that seemed to get stronger as we grew tired.   After enduring the many steep hills we finally arrived at the Nestled Inn at the top of one last hill.   We were the only guests for the night.  We were hoping that the reason was due to our off season arrival but we suspected otherwise.   To be nice we will only say that it was a place to sleep.   The Inn did at least have a garage available to store our bikes.  The two very cold nights we spent in our tent were more enjoyable.   Fortunately the beer and pizza dinner at the Cockadoodle Doo restaurant was very good.

We awoke to more blue sky and warmer weather which meant we could wear shorts.   Wearing shorts seems to make riding so much easier.   Maybe it’s mental but they just seem less restrictive.   Our original plan was to ride just over 50 miles to Middlebury, Vermont.   After the steep hills and wind of the prior day we elected to take a much shorter day of 20 miles to the town of Rochester.   There was also the prospect of another 1,000 foot climb over Brandon Notch between us and Middlebury.  We heard about the possibility of a hostel in Rochester from another bicycle tourist we had passed a few days earlier.   We enjoyed the short ride to Rochester despite the steady headwind.   When we arrived in Rochester we proceeded straight to Green Mountain Bicycles to inquire about the hostel.   We met the shop owner Doon and asked him about camping possibilities in the area.   Camping behind the home of Doon & AnnieHe immediately offered us a spot in the backyard of his house which coincidentally was next door to his shop.   He also told us we could take a shower in his red building that will at some point become a viable hostel.   Apparently getting the Fire Marshall’s approval for habitation is not a simple undertaking in rural Vermont.   Again, we set up our tent and found a nice café for lunch complete with a maple milkshake.  Doon’s wife Annie later walked down to the yard and visited with us a bit.   We had a several nice chats during the day.   Their family dogs gave us a needed “dog fix”.   Both Doon and Annie were very kind to us two as complete strangers.   Their bike shop is on the Northern Tier bicycle route so bicycle travelers are not an unusual site.   We had a much better nights sleep in the tent but it did get very cold overnight.   Fortunately there was no frost on our tent.

We awoke to another sunny day for our ascent up and over Brandon Gap with the goal to reach the home of our Warmshowers hosts David & Patty in Middlebury, Vermont.   As a side note the Northern Tier bicycle route crosses the Green Mountains over Middlebury Gap.   This route is much shorter than Brandon Gap but David fortunately gave us local information that Middlebury Gap was under construction.   Last week David sent us an email with an alternative route over Brandon Gap.   The route was a bit longer but the climb up Brandon Gap was less painful than Middlebury Gap would have been.   It was David that gave us the tip about the maple milk shakes in Rochester.   We managed the climb over the gap and then rolled quickly down the steep west side. We made a quick stop for a delicious homemade peanut butter cookie.   Top of Brandon GapThere is something extra special and guilt free about eating treats after hours of strenuous activity.   After the cookie stop we made a turn to the north and rode the final 15 miles towards Middlebury.   When we reached Middlebury we had to stop a few times for a bit of map reading.    Of course, as we stopped a car pulled up and asked if we were Jacque and John.   David found us near the main square and gave us the final directions needed to end our day’s ride.    David gave us the quick tour of their beautiful home, showed us our accommodation for the night and left us to get settled.   He had to leave us for a local lacrosse match but before leaving he left us snacks and asked us to make ourselves at home.   Patty arrived later and we were able to visit in the sunroom before dinner.  David prepared us an amazing lasagna dinner and Patty put together a wonderful salad.  Patty even let me help by opening a can of black olives.  Patty told us that David was glad to have guests because it meant he could have dessert.   We had apple pie prepared by a local orchard.   Conversation with David and Patty was easy.   Both are kind generous people that act on their spirit to give back to others.   We were treated like honored guests in their home.

The next morning we had another delicious breakfast before David and Patty sent us on our way.   The day’s goal was to reach New York and the Adirondack Mountains.   David & Patty - Middlebury, VermontIn store for us was our first day to climb over 3,000 feet in elevation.   Jacque was a bit apprehensive.   Fortunately the forecast was the warmest day of our trip so far.   The skies were as blue and winds were light.   We started early and took country roads over rolling hills and apple orchards as we approached the border between Vermont and New York.   The border crossing was a short ferry ride across Lake Champlain.   Information provided to us at the crossing indicated that the ferry is one of the oldest going concerns in the United States.   We enjoyed the ride with one passenger car, walked our bikes off the ferry and said hello to our forth state in just under 10 days.   We made the short ride to the town of Ticonderoga and had an excellent lunch of pulled pork and smoked turkey.   In the back of our minds was the initial climb from the Lake Champlain valley into the Adirondacks.   We made the slow steady climb with the wind at our backs in what seemed like no time compared to some of the climbs over the past week.   Either this climb was easier or we are getting in better shape.   Climbing into the Adirondacks from Ticonderoga, NYWe choose the latter.   After reaching the top of the climb we made the 15 mile ride along the scenic narrow road to where we are resting today at the Adirondack Inn in Schroon Lake, New York.   We decided to take a rest day here due to rain in the forecast.   Tourist season has not started here in Schroon Lake but it is apparent that this little town has much to offer.   There are several nice restaurants, a market, laundry and public library in walking distance.   Our Inn was recently purchased and thoughtfully restored by Cheryl and John who also happen to come from the insurance industry.   They are following a dream of their own here in New York.   Tonight we are joining them for dinner down the road.

So far the challenge for us has been the terrain and weather.   We knew when we started this tour what was in store so we did our best to prepare mentally.   That preparation is much different than actually living the experience.   Bicycle travel (at least initially) is hard for both of us.   We are persevering and we are noticing improvement in our physical conditioning.   We figured it would take a few weeks to get back into living life on the road and that still holds true.   We have learned it is possible to go 2.6 miles per hour on a bicycle without falling over.   In two more weeks we should be somewhere near Niagara Falls.   By that time we may be seasoned again.   What we do know already is that we cherish the time we have had to meet so many wonderful people along the way on our journey.    Thanks for spending time with us.

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Ready to go!

Over the past two months we managed to get in about 400 miles on the bikes including just over 100 miles with loaded panniers.   That’s not enough to get us in the best touring shape but it is more than last year’s preparation.   We managed to find a few hills to climb in East Texas but nothing comparable to what we will soon experience.  Hopefully some of our lessons about pace and diet will carryover from last summer as we transition to daily life on the road.   We made a few minor changes to our travel set up including new handlebars for multiple hand positions and more relaxed cycling posture.   We exchanged lycra bike shorts for more civilian looking shorts.   We increased our collection of high visibility shirts.  Time will tell if the decisions we made to improve overall comfort were good ones.

The logistics for our upcoming trip are also coming together.   Our bags are packed.   We shipped the bicycles ahead to a FedEx store using bikeflights.com. We confirmed this afternoon that our bikes boxes arrived in Portland, Maine.  For us, shipping the bikes ahead was much easier and more economical than checking them as baggage with the airline.   On Tuesday we fly to Portland and check into a hotel near the waterfront.   Wednesday morning we reassemble the bikes at our hotel and then we ride to a suitable spot along Portland’s waterfront for a ceremonially dipping of our rear tires in the Atlantic Ocean.   After the tire dip and a few photos we then have a relatively short first day ride of 20 miles to the home of our first Warm Shower’s host.   Our accommodations for the rest of the week are also lined up with 2 more Warm Showers hosts, 2 campgrounds and a Vermont B&B.   While making our accommodation arrangements we discovered that many campgrounds do not open for the season until the mid-May.   We knew when we set our departure date for the first week of May that it was early but we decided to take our chances with potential for cold weather.  Our fingers are crossed that we have enough warm clothes.   We expect to get wet.

In our last post we mentioned something about western mountains but neglected to give mention to the mountains of the northeast.  As we started putting together our daily routes the realization that we get to cross the White, Green and Adirondack mountain ranges became clear.   From the beginning we have no small task ahead of us.  As it is, we should be pretty seasoned after the first two weeks of pain and suffering.   Our first week has us riding in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.  We then spend two weeks in New York before crossing the US Canada border.

So there you have it.  Our dream to ride bicycles from coast to coast begins in less than a week.   The next time you hear from us we will be on our way!

 

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Up next: Another bike ride

The launch date for our cross country bicycle tour is approaching.  On May 4th we begin our trek in Portland, Maine with a goal to reach the Oregon coast by the end of September.   We intend to be flexible with our time and route as we explore parts of the country that are new to us.   Our aim is an average ride day of 40 miles which will give us about 30 days off the bikes.   We plan to accomplish in just over 120 days what many accomplish in 60 days.   Our motto slow and steady continues on.

We will ride sections of the Northern Tier, Lake Erie Connector, North Lakes, Great Parks and TransAmerica Trail published by Adventure Cycling.  According to our mapping program the estimated distance coast to coast is just under 4,300 miles.   That sure sounds like a lot!

Along the way some sites we will see include the Atlantic Ocean, White Mountains, Erie Canal, Niagara Falls, Great Lakes, Mackinaw Island, Northern Plains, Glacier National Park and more.  We will visit 11 states and spend some time in Canada.  Jacque’s quest to visit all 50 states will be completed on this trip.

2016 Tour Map proposed image

Click image to view an interactive version

We expect this tour will be quite different from our last.   Along the Pacific Coast we were fortunate to have tailwinds almost everyday.  We don’t expect to be so fortunate this time.  The coast had many hiker biker campsites that took the worry out of where we would sleep each night.  On this tour we may need to be more creative finding places to sleep.  We may go more days without a shower.  Last year we had no big mountain ranges to cross.  A quick look at the map shows what is in store this year.  Rocky Mountains and Cascades here we come!  We were fortunate for the most part to avoid summer heat and thunderstorms.   Crossing the northern plains in the middle of the summer may provide opportunities to experience a bit of weather.

What we hope will be the same is the people we come across along the way.  Last year we crossed paths with so many wonderful and generous people that the trip was in some sense restorative.  We found most people were good and caring.  Of course, we also expect a tremendous sense of accomplishment from completing a journey such as this.   As of today our fitness level could be better so initially we know there will be some discomfort.  All in all, we would not being doing this if we did not think the rewards outweighed the challenges.   Right now we are preparing our bikes, gear and rears for the trip.   We are excited!