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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.

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An amazing year!

As the year draws to a close and we reflect on 2016, we feel humbled and grateful for the experiences we have been so fortunate to enjoy.  We traveled to new parts of this country as well as the world and we enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures.   Our exposure to other ways of living continue to somehow make the world seem smaller to us.

Reflection Pool – Vienna, Austria

Our year began with our first trip ever to SE Asia.  Throughout Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia we saw natural beauty while we also learned about ancient architecture, religions, culture and food.  In May we started our cross country bicycle trip in Maine and managed to ride just over 2,000 miles to the west.  We were able to take our time exploring several new states across the northern part of the United States.

After recuperating from our bicycle trip we headed back to Europe for two more months of travel.  We started in the green north of Ireland and Scotland before we headed to the continent where we learned more about several countries in Eastern Europe.   We continued to be amazed by how eager people are to share with us the passion for their homes, country, customs and of course, food.

We’ve been blessed to spend real time with family and friends during the year but we still miss crossing paths with so many others.

Until next time, we hope this finds everyone with great peace and joy in your hearts.

The world is an amazing place!

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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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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!