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A Superior run

It’s hard for us to believe that our last tour check-in was almost a month ago.  Time living on the road goes slow.  Each day as we travel our plotted route not knowing who we will meet, what we will see, what we will eat and often where we will sleep we still manage to find ways to enjoy our experiences.  To be clear there are days we get wet, days we get hot, days we get tired and days we talk about ending the tour. Luckily we have each other for support.  Somehow we continue moving forward while simultaneously adding to our collection of memories.  For us this experience slowly becomes almost epic when we look at the bigger picture.  We find that sensation amusing since all we are doing is bike riding.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, Michigan

During the past several weeks we traversed the south shore of Lake Superior from west to east starting in Minnesota just south of Duluth and ending in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan where we crossed the border into Canada.  Along the way we crossed the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  We felt the powerful influences of the massive Lake Superior with her impacts on lumber, iron ore, shipping and fishing industries.  We have been treated to several spectacular sunsets including a favorite along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.   When we were riding directly along the lakeshore we welcomed the cooling effect of the water.   A bonus stop on our path was a stay with our nephew Skyler and his girlfriend Ellie in Ashland, WI.  It was nice to catch up with them where they actually live.   Somehow we did not get a picture with them.  🙁

The Bigfoot Hideaway’s interesting decor – Crystal Falls, MI

Thanks to more rain than we prefer we’ve stayed in several Mom and Pop motels along the way with names such as The Loon’s Nest, Bigfoot Hideaway and Fox River Inn.  To us these small and affordable places offer an individual charm that makes them more inviting than typical chain motels. We also landed at some nice private campgrounds where we’ve had the opportunity chat with a few owners.  At the beautiful Silver Lake RV Resort the owner Pete stopped by our campsite to ask us about our trip.  We had an interesting conversation about the efforts we all make to enjoy the time we have.  Later that evening our campground neighbors invited us to join them at their campfire.  At the Kritter’s North Country Campground the owner Larry shared with us his leap of faith story to leave the corporate world and buy a campground.   It’s been three years since he made the decision for himself and his family.  His positive energy and smile told us that he made the right decision.  He also dropped off a couple of cold ones for us to enjoy!

Tim and Jellet let us camp in their yard.

Friendly, generous and kind people continue to cross our path.  In Hinckley, Minnesota we were invited by Tim and Jellet to camp in their yard.  Their neighbors Susie and Scott invited us over to their home for a BBQ dinner.  We were treated like good friends.  Tim and Jellet even made breakfast for us before we left their house.  In Herbster, Wisconsin we were forced to retreat to the campground pavilion during a torrential rainstorm.  Maggie, one of our camping neighbors, left the safety of her camper to bring us a hot pot of coffee to warm our bones.  The night before our other neighbor Brian shared with us Wisconsin beer complemented with some nice Wisconsin cheese.  We met Brian the day before when we both stopped at a Windmill historical site.  Had it not been for this chance meeting with Brian we would never have known about the campground in Herbster located right on the shore of Lake Superior.

Barb & Dan – our Warmshowers hosts in Conover, WI

In Conover, Wisconsin we were fortunate to be hosted by Barb, Dan and their dog Gus.  They invited their friend Diane to join us for dinner.  We had a relaxing evening with great conversation.  If we ever win the lottery their beautiful lake home situated just right in the woods is a perfect model for us.  The day before our Pictured Rocks Sunset Cruise we stopped to check out a roadside art exhibit called Lakenenland.  As we were leaving the exhibit two couples asked us about our trip.  During the course of our conversation we discovered that they were signed up for the same cruise.  Our new friends Doug, Bev, Dean and Donna invited us to join them for dinner before the cruise.   We shared a picture perfect evening with them.  During our last night in Michigan we camped at Brimley State Park.  We felt like sardines in this VERY popular campground.  While we were setting up our tiny tent between mammoth RVs we greeted by our neighbors Ken and Connie.  Before we knew it we were invited over to join them and their close friends Ken and Sandy for snacks, beer and cocktails.  We had an enjoyable conversation about our families and we entertained them a bit with stories about our journey. Just yesterday we stopped along the road for a quick break with David, our touring partner for the day.  Shortly after stopping we saw a pickup truck approaching us with a large dog running along the side.  The truck pulled into the drive where we had stopped.  The gentleman got out of his truck, asked us if we were riding the trail and then asked if we needed any water.  Roger happened to be the owner of the yard where we stopped.  Before we knew it we were invited inside to see Roger’s beautiful converted Church home.  Roger has since checked in with us to see how we are doing using Facebook Messenger.  You just can’t make this stuff up.  What is it about simply riding a bicycle that permits us to experience simple kindness from others?

By now our family knows that we have changed our course once again.   Our original plan was to head to Mackinaw Island and turn southeast towards Washington, DC.  Well, since we are now in Ontario, Canada that’s not going to happen.  Instead we plan to ride a few days along the north shore of Lake Huron then turn south to Manitoulin Island.  From there we will ride south a few days along the Bruce Peninsula before we head northeast towards Ottawa.  From Ottawa we then proceed to Montreal and finally Quebec City.  In Quebec we hope to ride portions of the famous Route Verte.  Only time will tell if we continue this path.

We updated our photos albums today so feel free to take a look.

Thanks for reading our brief update.  We hope all of you are well.

Jacque & John

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A month on the road

Tomorrow will be 4 weeks since we left home.  As we reflect on our experiences it seems like ages since we left Kat & Will’s home in Seattle.  We managed to deviate several times from our intended route thanks to advice from several of our Warmshowers hosts.  Our biggest detour was another Amtrak ride across the Great Plains.  Apparently crossing that huge expanse of open space does not appeal to us. Today we are enjoying a day off in Milaca, Minnesota due to rain.  Tomorrow we head towards another rail trail that will take us north to Duluth.  Physically we are in much better shape.   Our spirits are high and we look forward to our continued roll eastward to points unknown.

So, rather than reinventing the wheel each time we post we have decided to copy our periodical Facebook posts here on our blog. We’ve also consolidated our pictures on our PHOTOS page.   We hope you enjoy!


June 8 – After 4 days on the road we can say so far so good.  Admittedly we are tired.  We’ve been hosted by three wonderful host families along the way and we spent an afternoon with a good friend.  Our ride out of the Seattle metro area was a breeze thanks to an excellent trail system.

Iron Horse Trail

 

We crossed Snoqualmie pass traffic free by using the gravel Iron Horse rail trail.  Today we are taking a day off to rest and watch the rain.  Tomorrow we cross another mountain pass before dropping into the Columbia River valley.

 


June 9 – Officially crossed the Cascades today.  Enjoying a cold one to commemorate the event.

Made it over the Cascades.

 


June 10 – A few sights from the past few days.  We rode over the Cascades into apple and cherry country. Tomorrow we ride along the Columbia River before turning east again.

June 10 – Teamwork.  A well oiled machine.  Tent Video

 


June 12 – We made nice progress today thanks to favorable winds.  The insanely unhealthy hamburger at the end of the day was worth every mile.

 


June 13 – Just over a week into our trip and we are knocking on the Idaho border.   A sign that our touring legs may be coming back is two consecutive evenings where we did not want to crawl into bed before 8 o’clock.  We’ve rolled along the Columbia River and climbed up to the central Washington plateau.  We rode with the wind across fields of flowing wheat.  Friendly people continue to cross our path.

Apple Orchards – Wenatchee River Valley

Columbia River

Leaving Odessa, Washington

 

June 13 – Today’s wind in the fields and how the passing truck made me move.

 


June 16 – We spent Wednesday night in Spokane with Warmshowers hosts Satish, Annie and Brian.  They treated us to an evening of great conversation and a nice BBQ dinner.  The next morning we continued east on the Centennial Trail.  The traffic free ride took us across the Idaho border to Post Falls.  We decided to spend a couple days catching up with our friend Karen.  She has even promised us a musical performance on Saturday!  On Sunday we resume pedaling.

Washington Idaho border. There was no border security.

Our friend Karen showing off her amazing voice!

 


June 21 – Sometimes when you are on a bike tour you get tired. Pickup trucks that give you a lift that also include a sweet lap dog named Roxy are wonderful.  Regrouping in Kalispell today.

Roxy

 


June 23 – We made it this far by turning the cranks. Tomorrow we go way east of Glacier National Park while relaxing on Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

Glacier National Park

June 23 – Since our Post Falls, Idaho stop last week we managed to cover a few more miles.  We are now sitting in Whitefish, Montana.  To get here we rode 50 miles of Idaho’s famous paved Trail of the Coeur D’Alene.  We also enjoyed an 80 mile truck ride to avoid a relatively sketchy section of highway thanks to the kindness of Plains, Montana resident Kelly.  Interestingly, the day before, he passed us on the highway while driving his farm tractor.  He even had the audacity to taunt us with a “I’m winning” yell as his tractor “sped” past us.  For some reason we thought we might see him again.  Little did we know that he would offer to give us a lift.  After saying so long to Kelly in Kalispell we were treated to a wonderful stay at the home of hosts Betty & Thom.  They are very active hosts for fellow bicycle travelers thanks to their generosity and close proximity to Glacier National Park.  They had some great stories to tell about hosting fellow cyclists.

So here we are in Whitefish waiting for another train.  Last year we ended our tour here before taking the train to Portland.  This year we have decided to once again forgo the Great Plains so our shortcut tomorrow will be a train ride to Fargo.  From Fargo we continue east across Minnesota.

Trail of the Coeur d’Alene

Had to send some excess luggage home…again.

Great Northern Railroad mascot – Whitefish, Montana

 


June 30 – Last week’s train ride from Whitefish to Fargo was for the most part uneventful.  We enjoyed (again) watching the Great Plains go by from the comfort of a reclining seat.  On this trip we were permitted to roll our bikes into the train baggage car without the need to box them up.  That turned out to be very good because we arrived in Fargo just after 3am.  With no need to put our bikes back together we simply loaded our gear and hit the road for a middle of the night ghost town ride to our hotel.  Jacque enjoyed riding the night time streets.  We arrived at our hotel to find an unattended front desk.  Thirty minutes later we found someone to check us in.  The next afternoon we started our ride across Minnesota with a retrace of last year’s route along the Central Lakes and Lake Wobegon rail trails.  We said hello to the Rothsay giant Prairie Chicken, Otto the Otter in Fergus Falls and Big Ole the Viking in Alexandria.  We never saw signs for the largest ball of twine. Maybe next time.

Taking a break on the trail

Our hosts Jen & Jan – Bowlus, Minnesota

On day three we left last year’s route with a northeast turn onto a beautiful tree covered section of the Lake Wobegon trail.  We ended the day at the home of Warmshowers hosts Jen and Jan who live in the small farming community town of Bowlus, MN.  They welcomed us with cold beer, gave us a place to pitch our tent and made their home available to get cleaned up.  They had plans with their bicycle club so we had the evening to ourselves.  Another cycling guest Nancy was also staying with us.  The three of us walked a couple of short blocks for dinner at Jordie’s.  The restaurant is a real gem for Bowlus.  Overnight we were treated to thunderstorms.  The tent did it’s job and kept us dry.  The weather forecast for the day was also poor.  Jen and Jan graciously permitted us to stay another day.  They even played tour guide taking us to the Minnesota Fishing Museum (Little Falls) and a couple of Mississippi river viewpoints.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bowlus.

After Bowlus we left the quiet traffic free rail trails and rode on roads to Milaca, MN.  We passed miles of farms on gently rolling terrain. We also experienced first-hand more “Minnesota Nice”.  Along the way a local in Gilman unlocked the city park bathroom for our personal use.  Upon our arrival in Milaca another local spontaneously hollered at us “Welcome to Milaca”.  At the laundromat a customer welcomed us to camp in her yard.  Earlier in the day we called the Hinckley Visitors Center to see if they have a campground (tomorrow nights destination).  We left a message on their answering machine.  Our own reasearch suggested the answer would be no.  Shortly after leaving our message we received a return call from Tim.  He confirmed our suspicions.  No campgrounds in Hinckley.  However, he offered to let us set up our tent in his backyard!  We accepted his kind offer so tomorrow we get to meet more friendly folks.  As mentioned previously, “Minnesota Nice”!

So there’s our update.  In Hinkley we ride north on the Williard Munger rail trail (thanks to Jen and Jan’s suggestion) towards Duluth and Lake Superior.  From there we continue east.

The people we meet continue to be the best part of bicycle travel.

 

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Another bike ride

A week from today Jacque and I embark on another bicycle tour beginning in Seattle, Washington.  We shipped our bicycles and gear ahead a few days ago.  If all goes as planned we should start our slow roll next Sunday afternoon. Last year’s tour effectively ended in the middle of North Dakota.  We threw in the towel after succumbing to the gruesome prospect of crossing the Great Plains with strong prevailing winds in our faces.  Here’s to an easterly direction helping us out with fair winds! Within a week of ending our tour last summer we had some regret.  This year when we are feeling “tour weary” we have committed to taking a few days off the bikes before we make a decision to end our tour.  We have no specific distance, destination or time planned for this trip.  I have jokingly talked about making this year’s trip a “where the wind blows” tour with the idea that we ride each day in the direction of the wind. Seriously though we are shooting for last year’s end point.  So, stay tuned for pictures and short updates along the way!

Map key: Green represents our goal to finish last year’s tour.  Red is our feeling great, why not keep on until we reach Washington D.C.? Blue is our crazy, wishful thinking idea to keep going until we reach Santa Rosa Beach, Florida which happens to be the new home of our son Scott and his girlfriend Margie.

Oh yeah, one last note.   We had a fabulous three months in the Asia-Pacific region this winter.  See our pics here.