Thursday, October 4, 2007

Post-Bike Trip Travelling

Well, if anyone is still reading, my trip is officially finished. For my own benefit, and for anyone who is interested in still reading, I’ve decided to briefly catalogue my last 4 weeks here, and even perhaps keep posting from time to time. It seems that I do a fair amount of traveling in my life, and maybe some people are interested in reading about it…

The trip to LA

So we got into Portland on September 1st, and on September 5th I left Portland via train, heading down to LA to see a high school friend who I’ve never had the opportunity to visit in her new setting. The train ride was beautiful, and so fast compared to my bicycle. That being said though, it was a LONG trip AND on the train they don’t look kindly upon one singing as loud as possible or screaming at the top of their lungs-go figure. I left Portland at 2:00 in the afternoon, and after 3 transfers, from train, to bus, to train, to bus again, I arrived in LA at 4pm the next afternoon. I turned 27 on the train alone, but I felt okay about that. It’s sort of nice, sort of empowering to see your birthday come in alone.

LA provided me with a slow onset of culture shock. I could go on and on, in great detail about my time there, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Some highlights included my shocking $12 salad lunch. You really need to watch out for those help yourself salad bars. Apparently they are quite costly. Other highlights included a trip down south to Newport and Laguna Beach, towns where so many of our popular television shows, and reality television shows are filmed today. Try to imagine me in these cookie cutter places, where the towns are just as manicured as the people. Me in my wrap skirts, Gap jeans, navy green maryjane crocs, which I have been wearing non-stop since early July, non-manicured hands with bike glove tan lines, frizzy hair with a middle part, and, of course, my awesome bike short tan lines. Let me just say right now-I blended.

Not only did I physically fit in with the people down there, but ideologically we also seemed to be on the same wavelength. I could really relate to the disgust people seem to feel toward the “fat” models that teen magazines are now portraying. When someone made this comment, my only response, always being the voice of reason, was that they just can’t seem to get it right. They used to be too thin, and now they’re too fat-when will our society learn moderation? Luckily, the new hobo chic look, that we can thank Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for pioneering, apparently hides all these “fat” girls behind frumpy clothing.

Okay, okay. All that sarcasm aside, there were actually some really nice highlights of the LA trip. It was great getting to see Dia, and hang out with her, and after the bike trip I REALLY appreciated the birthday massage Dia and I had on Saturday morning. All of her friends were really friendly, welcoming, and generous. They bought me amazing dinners and drinks, were curious to hear about my bike trip, and shared great gossipy details of their life with me-I really do love the gossip. I also got to finally meet Dia’s 4-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece, and see her brother and sister-in-law, who I hadn’t seen in ages. And did I mention that Dia’s company’s driver took me to the airport on Monday morning? Along with the culture shock, I also got a good degree of pampering while I was down there. All in all, a great trip, in a beautiful place, with lots of ridiculous stories.

On to San Fran

After feeling slightly out of place in LA, I was so happy to move on to San Francisco. I have been to San Francisco enough times now to feel pretty at home there. Dan and Caedmon, the friend I was staying with and his girlfriend, lived right in the Mission, just blocks away from the place in the Castro where I stayed a few years ago when I was in San Fran. It felt nice to be in familiar surroundings. Dan and Caedmon were great hosts, and have done a fair amount of bicycle touring themselves, most recently biking from Seattle to San Francisco earlier this summer ( So there was lots of great conversation about biking, and some slightly uncomfortable conversation about the problem of homelessness in our society. Always the liberal, I did my best to tow my line of compassion, empathy, and the right to housing, but as strongly as I feel about these issues, I really do not enjoy discussing them over a casual dinner setting with someone I’ve just met. Luckily we were able to get past this, and my time in San Francisco was really enjoyable. I did a lot of wandering, and got to catch up with a college friend who is at Berkeley. Politically and socially Dave and I had no disagreements, but he does tend to be a Negative Nancy when it comes to the energy crisis-yep, we had some real uplifting conversations regarding the energy crisis, and food production. My goodness, can’t I be happy anywhere? Clearly staying in one location for more than a day, actually engaging in lengthy dialogue with people and not being on my bike was not agreeing with me…Ross, Armin and I were too tired for lengthy dialogue. Is it time to get back on my bike yet?

Definitely time to get back on my bike

I got back to Portland 9 days after I left, caught up with a few friends I hadn’t seen at the beginning of my stay, and got ready to get back on my bike, including shipping my sleeping bag and tent home-I was through with camping for awhile. Oh, and I also saw HP5, and I got to watch the MTV video music awards with Nicole over a glass of wine. Poor Britney! God, I hope I’m never humiliated on national television like that.

On Saturday, September 15th, I left Portland and did a relatively easy 100-mile day up to Centralia, WA. In Centralia, I got dinner at Shari’s and cookie dough at Safeway, which I enjoyed while watching bad television in my cozy room at Motel 6. Life really couldn’t have been better at this point (ok, the tv choices on a Saturday night actually could be better, but overall I was pretty happy). I got up on Sunday and biked another 50 miles or so up to Shelton, WA, on the Olympic Peninsuala, where my friend Sam was living for the summer, and whom I hadn’t seen in at least 4 years. The ride was a little cold, a little wet, and I got a few bad directions, but it was all worth it once I got to Sam’s. He was renting this magical little place, built by an architect professor back in the 1960s. Sam had created a little garden there, and a drum set made out of various buckets, and had a record player, and projector to boot. It was really amazing. After I took a refreshing bath-there was no shower-we wandered abandoned houses, ate good food, watched some bad, silent, black and whites, and even squeezed in some canoeing the next morning before I left for Tacoma. And finally, I had conversations that left me with nothing to complain about!

Around noon I left Sam’s for Ryan’s house in Tacoma, to encounter my last major crisis of the trip. Once I got to Tacoma, after having texted Ryan all day with updates on my status and ETA, I found out that I had been sending messages to Ryan’s old phone number! I put out distress calls to the 4 people I could think of who would have Ryan’s number and no one answered! Luckily, one of my distress calls called back in 10 minutes, and I was able to get into contact with Ryan. We had a great night, catching up on life in general, and about bike trips in particular, as I got to hear a lot more details about Ryan’s dirt-road cross country trip back in ’01. Apparently he cried too on his tripJ

Ryan’s apartment was in a great location, and in the morning I just had to bike a half mile to jump on the ferry to Vashon Island (thanks for the suggestion friendly bike guys at Revolver Bicycles in Portland). The ride up Vashon Island was about 14 miles, and then I hopped on another ferry bringing me into West Seattle. After some “careful” navigation of the Seattle streets, some stops for directions, and some realization of the importance of Ross’ navigation skills over the past 2 months, I successfully made it to Eric and Sara’s, the friend’s house where my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew were staying. Man does Seattle have some hills!

I folded my bike clothes then, and spent the rest of the week being a Seattle tourist with my sister and her family, and dealing with the hassle of shipping one’s bicycle cross country. I also got to see a friend from graduate school, and see some relatives that live outside Seattle. We had a fantastic time, even weathering some airport scheduling issues pretty bravely. We got into Burlington at midnight on Sunday, 14 hours after we were supposed to, and I have been settling into life here ever since at my other sister’s condo. Settling in has included buying a car (a hybrid in case you were interested. I just couldn’t get a gas-guzzler after the bike trip), getting a job interview, and getting my dog back! I forgot just how cute he was. I’m so happy to have him back.

So, now my biggest challenge is to construct a life here that is slightly less crazy than my life was before I left and to really start my dissertation. In comparison, I think I wish I were biking cross country still. It sounds a hell of a lot easier...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Portland, OR-The End of the Line

We're here! But most of you already know that by now. We rolled into Ryan and Nicole's driveway (Ross' brother and sister-in-law, who have been our gracious Portland hosts) Saturday afternoon about 1pm, and since then I have been relaxing, enjoying Portland, and catching up with people via phone. I have not been blogging, but my fans are clamoring (who are you mattw?) for a wrap up, so here goes...

We finally left Sheila and Harold's house in Paterson at 11am Thursday morning to start on a final, "easy" 3 days. It was our latest start of the trip by far, but we were only going 60 miles...

Our first 30 miles were hot and windy, and fairly uneventful, except for the windmill transport that kept passing us on the highway. I was pretty excited as these huge "wide load" and "long load" trucks kept passing, with huge propeller like objects on them. When we got to our first check in point of the day, about 30 miles in, all the windmill trucks were in the parking lot, and I finally realized that those propellers were actually the blades of the windmill. It was pretty cool. Along the ridge of eastern Washington we had already seen quite a few windmills, and after talking to some of the drivers I found out this one was destined for the same fate. If you can't tell, I am really fascinated and excited about this technology. After constantly hearing about the energy crisis, and then spending all summer biking through the US, seeing some of the countries amazing environmental wonders, utilizing wind power just seems to make so much sense...

Anyway, back to biking. We checked in with one another about 30 miles in, and we all agreed we were feeling lazy, but could make it another 30 miles down the road to Maryhill State park. It would be an earlyish day-at least compared to the night before, and we could set up camp and cook in daylight and maybe even swim in the Columbia! Somehow though, this plan never materialized. We left our rest stop about 3 or 3:30, and the wind turned strongly against us, with some fairly large hills looming ahead of us. Nine miles from our destination, for the first time of the trip, I stopped at a farm house to ask for water, that's how hot and slow the afternoon was going, and the woman I talked to there described the day as if we were "living in a hair dryer." Very pleasant.

Fully watered up, I kept biking, and it kept getting later, and later, and later, and I seemed to be very far from any large signs of civiliazation, but very close to huge highway intersections and crossroads. I finally turned on my rear and front lights, briefly worried about Armin and Ross running out of water, then had my closest run-in with a semi, and turned my mind back to biking and getting to our destination. I followed signs to the state park, rode down a 2 mile hill, and met Ross at the entrance to the state park, right as you could officially say it turned dark. It was really the most scary day of biking I'd encountered yet on the trip. And of course it was the Thursday of Labor Day Weekend, so the campground was completely full. Luckily, Ross had arrived at the park just as the ranger was leaving, and the ranger took pity on us, letting us stay in the vacant group campground free of charge. We got to sleep in a really nice pavilion, and I didn't even have to set up my tent. I just set my sleeping bag right on the concrete. Armin had a less than ideal night though, as it got too dark for him to keep going, and he slept at the top of a pass about 3 or 4 miles from the campground. You'll have to check with him for the details...So much for our easy day.

In the morning Ross and I climbed the hill back up to route 14 and met up with Armin. It was a bit less windy than the day before, and the barren brown wasteland look of eastern Washington slowly began to fade as the pines began to spring up on the side of the road. The wind was much kinder to us, and we were also heading a bit more inland, so the gusts of the gorge couldn't get to us. But we did have to go through 7 tunnels, that really make me fully appreciate the definition of the phrase "wind tunnel." Before entering these short tunnels, we would push a button that turned on a flashing light, alerting drivers that bikers were in the shoulderless tunnels. This was fortunate indeed, as the winds in the last tunnel were so strong that they ground me to a near halt before pushing my front tire about 3 feet to the left. It was a bit scary, and definitely got my adrenaline pumping. But the three of us made it through, and met up in Stevenson WA before dark, found a place to camp on someone's property, and actually got to spend our last night all camping together.

On Saturday morning, Armin left at 6 and Ross and I left at 7, catching up with Armin on the road. We were about 55 miles from Portland. Ross and I stopped at Ross' mom's house in Vancouver, WA, where I had sent a backpack of clothes, and where Ross also had clothes to pick up. Since Armin was down EIGHT spokes at this point, he waited for us in a park, rather than putting any extra miles/strain on his wheels. Ross and I biked the last 5 miles from Vancouver to Portland with backpacks on, always a nice way to end a cross-country bike trip, and a sure way to really aggravate my carpel tunnel. But we made it! We got to Ryan and Nicole's about 1pm. We cracked a beer, did the official weigh-in, showered, and finally made it to Old Country Buffet (Ryan drove us, and was shocked and awed by our massive consumption. Oh, and I could probably add disgusted to that list of adjectives as well). The rest of the day was spent napping, and watching television, before gearing up for going out Saturday night. Nicole and Ryan followed our Saturday night celebrations with a great barbecue on Sunday, with friends and neighbors stopping by, who were more than willing to listen to our stories from the road.

Of course, more than once over the course of the barbecue, we heard the question, "well, what's next?" Well, I am taking a nice, long relaxing train ride to LA on Wednesday, to spend some time with a good friend from high school. Then I'm taking a cheap flight to San Francisco to see a good friend from college, and then I'll be back in Portland by the end of next week. From Portland I think I am going to bike up to Seattle, where my sister and her family will be on vacation. I'll spend a few days with them, and we will visit some relatives who live out there, before all flying back to Vermont on a red-eye September 22nd. I'm looking forward to the next two weeks of traveling, but I can't wait to get back east, just in time for the New England foliage, and to finally really buckle down and focus on my dissertation (I am making a public announcement of that here so that someone will hold me to it !). Ross is staying in Portland, and Armin is still not quite sure of his plans.

So after 3376 miles on the road, this blog is coming to an end. With a generic title like Platonic and Gin, I may continue to post from time to time, but for the most part, I think my foray into the blogging world may be just about complete. I will check for any additional posts though. If there are any questions I failed to answer, or questions about bike trip prep, or anything else, I will do what I can to answer them. I also have a long train ride ahead of me in the next couple days, so I may be inspired to write one more post on bike trip reflections ...

If not though, thanks for reading and posting. Your comments often helped keep the trip exciting and my spirits up-the posts reminded me that what I found monotonous at times was still pretty exciting in the grander scheme of the trip. Also, thanks again to everyone who hosted us along the way. And a special thanks to Ryan and Nicole who have been letting us continue to stay here, fulfilling my Portland whims of Burgerville blackberry milkshakes, and driving me past my old Portland stomping grounds. You guys have been really terrific.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 43, Paterson, WA

We're almost there! We are approximately 190 miles from Portland, and ready to be there. Since I last checked in from Idaho, we have been through a lot. After Lewiston, we had a huge pass to get through, which was much lower than the passes in the Rockies, but seemed so much more difficult. I think that can most likely be attributed to our exhaustion from our 120 mile day before, to the hot sun beating down on us, and to the flat tire I got somewhere along the hill. I have no idea how long I was riding on it before I realized it was flat, but after I changed it, the ride got much smoother. But by that point I was so exhausted that I truly felt full of rage, and I finally began to swear. A friend had asked me if I swore while biking out of frustration, and the answer is generally no, but that day not only did i swear, but I did it in spoken word. It was my first foray into spoken word (I must admit that I stole heavily from Ani's verse patterns), and let me tell you, it is amazingly cathartic while barrelling down a hill at 25 mph. But don't worry, I got all the rage out, and then started to do rational spoken word, where I reasoned out why I was upset instead of just blindly blaming.

After my bout of spoken word, the day was fairly uneventful, until we got to Dodge...we were about 55 miles from Lewiston, at our next check point, and Ross and I waited, and waited, and waited, but no Armin. Finally we left a note at the rest area at 7pm, all ready to head on to Dayton for the night, when Ross got a flat. We decided that with the flat, and the light fading, we would just set up behind the rest stop for the night. We made a pretty good go of dinner, even without Armin's pot, and then were able to get in touch with Armin, to find that he was already in Dayton, not having seen us at the rest stop. As Armin had stated back in July that he might leave the group, I thought perhaps the time had come. But we decided that we would meet up the next day, Ross and I catching up to Armin along the way.

The plan was going smoothly to meet Armin, as Ross and I left camp unusually early at 6:30. But before I could even get to the 1000 foot climb we had to ascend before Dayton, I had two flat tires. While changing the rear tire for the second time, another biker on his way to St. Louis stopped and chatted with me, helping pass the time. I got on the road again, but by the time I got to Dayton Ross had already been waiting for an hour and a half, and had moved on to try to catch Armin. Thus began my 130 mile day of biking alone. On the phone Ross told me that he was going to make it to his friend's house in Paterson that night, which was news to me since I thought we had decided to take two more days to get there, as it was 120+ miles, and none of us thought we were up for that again. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it, and as we had already lost Armin, I spent the day with visions of finishing the trip alone. I kept debating if I would press on quickly , or stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It was a long hot day of biking, with the sun beating heavily, and the skin gods showing their wrath once again upon my wrists (why skin gods, why? what have i done to anger you?). But the roads were fast.

At about 7:30 I made it to Ross' friend Sheila's house in Paterson, where Ross had been for about an hour, and where Armin had just arrived. Ross' friend Carey also biked (motorcycle that is) down from Spokane to hang out with us for the night, and I actually ran into him on the road and gave him directions. Given that he has a desk job, he has followed all of our blogs religiously. It's a strange feeling to talk to someone you've never met before but who knows so much about you already from your own descriptions. It puts so much more pressure on you knowing that strangers you might meet one day are reading your words...

Anyway, as usual I digress. Sheila and Harold fed us a great dinner, followed with cheesecake AND ice cream, which was so much more sweet for having just biked for 9 and a half hours. After some lively conversation we headed to bed, where sleep just enveloped me. Sheila made us eggs and fresh muffins for breakfast, which were delicious, and we are starting to think about heading out soon. We are about 190 miles from Portland, which we could easily do in two days, but we may decide to take three, so that we can actually finish biking before sunset, which we haven't done since before Missoula, and so that we can enjoy our last few days on the bike. So most likely at this point you'll be hearing from me in Portland.

A Few Follow up Thoughts on Idaho
There were just a few things I forgot to mention about Idaho before:

-Your shoulders suck, and your drivers are rude. Your logging trucks are the worst of all, but it's so hard to hate them as they smell of delicious pine, making Christmas memories the strongest as your life passes before your eyes every time a truck passes.
-Lewison is an ugly, ugly city, but the people are really friendly.
-Old Country Buffet is a fortress. It is on a hill, on top of a hill. (I know this, because I passed it on my enormous climb up to the library).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 41, Lewiston, ID

Just a short update today, as time is really short. But first, thanks to everyone for emails and comments. I will post pictures soon, because we will be in Portland soon, and then I will have time to sift through all my photos and see which turned out halfway decent. After leaving Missoula we did our last pass through the Rockies, and came through Lolo Pass into Idaho. The scenery during this bit of the trip was just gorgeous, although I'm not sure my pics can do it justice. On top of being gorgeous, after climbing up to the top of the pass, we had essentially 100 miles of downhill, all paralleling the Lochse River. Like I said-gorgeous and hopefully I was able to capture some of it in photos. I was so torn between just enjoying the downhill and getting some good pictures.

After our first night through the pass, we were determined to make it to Lewiston, ID, where the fore mentioned OCB waited for us. So we woke up yesterday morning, after putting in 100 miles the day before, and embarked on a 120 mile quest for the OCB
(the whole time the voices of my parents' were going through my head-my dad saying, oh you can make it before dark, you know you can, think of all that good dessert, and my mom saying, well, this is just ridiculous, why kill yourself for bad, cheap food?) . Let me just say right now that we failed. We pulled into Lewiston about 8:00, and called OCB to find out that they closed at 8:30! After 13 hours on the road, and 9 hours of actual riding we failed! Well, my butt hurt, and we were all hungry, but we held it together. We got directions to a place to camp, which turned out to be illegal, but we did it anyway, too tired to move on. The ground was so dry that I couldn't really stake in my tent (I'll have to put a picture of this up, because it looks ridiculous), and when I stepped out of my shoes onto the ground, and then into my pants, I got dry grass/hay stuck to the inside of my running tights, making everything very itchy indeed. Oh, and did I mention we were right across from a paper factory, with the smell of pulp strong in the air? Oh, what a way to end a 120 mile day. I probably don't even have to mention that we all slept VERY soundly nevertheless. And now that we're out of the mountains, I would venture to say that it is almost warm in the mornings.

Right now, surprise, surprise, Armin is at the bike shop, and Ross is with him, getting something fixed on his bike. After a stop at the grocery store, where I bought too much food as usual, and a stop at the post office, I climbed a MASSIVE hill, for about 3 miles to get to the library, just so I could update you all. But it's time to go back down the hill now and head on to Washington. Either tomorrow night or the next we are staying with a friend of Ross', and then on to Portland. I think we should be there by the weekend!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Chilling in Missoula

Well, it's clear that all I have to do is mention a little crying and everyone reaches out and posts on my blog. I am going to milk this for all it's worth... Well, actually things have been going really well. We made it through our first pass of the Rockies, and I've got admit that so far it really hasn't been that bad. The grades seem less challenging than the grades of the PA mountains, but maybe I'm just in better shape. After making Roger's Pass, we spent the night at a primitive campground along the Blackfoot River. You want to talk about cold in the morning...brrr. It must've been 35 degrees, but I kept everything together, sort of kept my hands warm, and amazingly DIDN'T cry! As I warmed up we got closer and closer to Missoula, and after Ross stopped at a local bike shop to get a broken spoke fixed, we headed over to the Adventure Cycling Headquarters, located in the heart of Missoula. They took our pictures there, gave us ice cream and free drinks, and provided us with internet access! I even met a man from Winooski, VT there who is on his 10th cross country trip. This time he left the east coast on August 2nd, and is already in Missoula! Turns out he also knows my sister's work partner, and her husband...small world.

The only thing the people at Adventure Cycling couldn't tell us was where to camp. Apparently finding a place to stay here is difficult. So, I went to, where I had become a member about a week ago, and found about 5 different people in the Missoula area who were willing to host touring cyclists. I got in touch with Maryann, and she agreed to let us camp on her lawn. So we spent last night at Maryann's, where she told us about her own cycling adventures, and about life in Missoula, and we will spend tonight there as well, as we took the day off today to rest and do some laundry. Missoula is really a great city. If you haven't been here before, you really should check it out. There are beautiful parks, friendly people, LOTS of folks on bikes, and a great farmers market that we meandered around this morning. We also found some good night life last night, with a few local bands.

So nothing else too exciting right now. Life is good but calm, and we're back on the road tomorrow morning, with about 8 or 10 days before we hit Portland. We are also really looking forward to eating at the Old Country Buffet in Lewiston, ID. Mmm. Sometimes at night as we are eating our mac and cheese, I make Armin tell me about the splendors of OCB, and I just get so excited thinking about all the all you can eat food, especially that dessert bar. Only during a cross country bike trip could something that would normally make me feel so sick make me feel so happy. I'll let you know how it goes. Off to do laundry now, and to find a nice coffee shop...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 36 Great Falls, MT

Well, it's official. Montana has become the first state to make me cry. After battling two days of intense 20-30 mph headwinds, we woke up this morning to some of the coldest weather we'd seen yet. I got on the road and after a little under 2 miles of biking, I pulled over at the top of a slight incline and just started blubbering. My hands were so numb that it was impossible to shift, and I was sure that they would never be warm again. So, I got off my bike, stuck my hands in my armpits, and quickly pulled myself together, not really sure how Ross would handle the situation if he came upon me crying. But overall I figure crying means I'm truly hard core-you can make me cry Montana, but I'll keep on keepin' on, and I won't even dislike you for it. Let's face it, the rest of the morning was great-a little chilly, no winds, and averaging 14mph! I even saw a doe and fawn hopping along the side of the road, over a fence and off into the grasslands. After a stop at the local Target, where I bought way too much food, I'm feeling 100% again, and ready to battle our first pass of the Rocky's tomorrow. Montana really is an incredible state.

We are currently in Great Falls, taking a few hours off as Armin heads to the local bike shop. "What's this?" you say. "Armin's having bike problems?" Oh, well apparently you haven't been paying attention. After a detour to Williston, ND, where Armin got his rear wheel fixed and his rear deraileur cable reattached, and incidentally where we ran into a great number of other cross country cyclists since Williston is on the Adventure Cycling Association's maps, we headed on to Montana. We went out to dinner in Richey at the local VFW (we eat out every fourth night), and then we headed across the street to the other bar in the small town of 200, where we indulged in free chili dog happy hour, and where the locals started buying the entire bar rounds of drinks. I was on my way to being pretty drunk two Ranier beers in (no, not Ranier Ice, don't worry JVC folks), when Armin, Ross, and I started chatting with the locals. Man on man! There are about a thousand dissertation questions waiting to be answered in Richey, from the gender dynamics (I did receive one marriage proposal that night), to the farming and railroad industry issues, to the apparent marshall law in a town where we were told driving drunk was the norm. I could go on and on speculating about that town. I would've loved to have spent a few more days there observing, but the next morning it was time to move on, so that Armin could break a few spokes and we could have our first day of truly battling winds.

After our next night in Winnett, MT, Ross and I had breakfast out at the local cafe (which the locals seems to pronounce more like cufe), since it's pancakes had been written up in gourmet magazine. The owner of the cafe, Buck Wood, was just as surly and ornery as any stereotype would suggest of an old Montanan, but I think he kind of liked us (as Armin points out, probably all men like me here because there are just so few women), and his pancakes were awesome. Ross and I caught up with Armin, who had left early because of his wheel problems, and after 7 hours of riding, were able to make it the 57 miles to Lewistown that night. Armin got his wheel repaired by a really cool man named Marc, who ran a side business out of his garage. Armin met up with us at our campground, where Linda, a nice woman whose camper was parked at the camp ground, had been giving Ross and I cake and ice cream, and all other sorts of food to carry with us on our trip. By the time Armin got to us it was about 9pm, and dark, but we pulled our act together, boiled up some mac and cheese, and set out on the road the next morning nearly refreshed, and ready to face more wind. We made it to Geyser last night, with no bike problems, but with some minimal hills that scared the crap out of me because the wind kept trying to blow me backwards as I climbed them. As I was climbing them I realized there was no other choice but to keep pedaling, because if I stopped i would surely fall over. This was later proven to me when I stopped at the bottom of a hill, and then was blown over trying to get back on my bike, after my left cleat was already clicked in. Oh the drama! No major injuries though, and Armin and I even tried out drafting off of one another for the first time yesterday, which definitely helped a couple miles go by more easily.

After a good, but uneventful dinner out in Geyser last night, we are back on the road today, warmed up finally, and I think Armin's bike might even be ready now. If i'm not mistaken, he bought himself a BOB trailer so that his rear wheel won't be strapped down with so much weight. I'll check in from Missoula and let you know how that's working out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day 34 (?) Lewistown, MT

We're in Montana! We've been here fore 3 days or so now, and there is so much to tell, but the library closes in 5 minutes, so just a quick hello to let you know that we are safe and sound, and battling intense headwinds. After 6 hours and 45 minutes of riding time today we officially rode 55 miles, at an average of 8 miles per hour. Yes that's right. EIGHT. Man am I beat. Montana is officially trying to kick my ass, but you know how I love a challenge...

For those of you following our route, we're on route 200 in Montana, right through the middle of the state until we hit Missoula. Hopefully there I'll have more time to update on all the crazy and interesting folks we've met and things we've seen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 30 (?) Back in North Dakota

Why Armin is the Strongest Person I Know

Well, we're back on the road now, and I think, not accounting for our breaks in Chicago, and Bismarck (8 days altogether), we have put in 30 days of biking and have gone a little over 2100 miles! When we left Bismarck we had about 1300 miles to go til Portland. We left Bismarck two days ago, putting in an easy 100 mile day, and then got up yesterday morning to be confronted with hills and head winds (I guess the wind gods didn't hear you Patrcik). The riding was beautiful, as we went through the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but we all felt exhausted, and my chafed (sp?) butt was not helping the situation.

But even as I begin to complain about my chafed butt, I must stop myself. Because as we were all tired, Armin also had to deal with the fact that he lost the use of his back cassette half way through the day. This meant he had exactly three gears to get him up a HUGE hill, that required being in granny gear, and caused me to chant the most ridiculous mantras to myself (they are too embarrasing to even go into). I wanted to cry at one point ( I didn't), but not Armin, even though he had to stop and rest after every third pedal. When we finally set up camp for the night at a small park in Watford City (the Catholic priest denied us housing on his property, explaining that he just had no lawn space-he did), Ross, Armin, and I inspected the damage and found that Armin's shift cable had broken. So we made some calls, talked to our informational sources (thanks Suz), and found that there was a bike shop 45 miles north in Williston. And here we are in Williston. On the way up here, Armin also encountered a broken spoke, and his rear wheel became so untrue, causing his brakes to rub against his tire, so that he had to hitch the last 20 miles to Willison. And still, no major emotional breakdown! How does he do it? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I could learn a thing or two from him. He's definitely my hero today.

So once this is all sorted out we'll be moving on to Montana. We should be there tonight or tomorrow, ready to encounter the smokey air from all the forest fires...

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the wedding was great. Alison and Joe make an amazing couple and it was great to see all my college friends. Well worth the 30 hours of driving :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back in Chicago (Don't worry, I'm not quitting)

For those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise to you that in the midst of my cross-country bike trip, I am taking a mini road trip. In the past I've been known for crazy traveling feets-waking up in Boston at 4am to make a 9am meeting in Burlington; leaving Burlington at 4am to make a 9am class at Brandeis; flying from the West coast to the East coast for one day for a wedding; flying into Boston from Israel, just to leave a day and a half later for San Francisco, and then coming back to town to adopt a dog...the list goes on, and I keep telling myself you are getting older, these trips can be exhausting, it's time to slow down and enjoy life. So, I decided to bike cross country, which surprisingly enough, does not feel like a crazy traveling feet. We get up, we eat, we pedal, we sleep. It's not chaotic, or crazy. It's routine. But what was chaotic was when we got into Bismarck on Thursday, and I rented a car on Friday morning (where incidentally the man was SO nice, and gave me a free upgrade so I'd have cruise control, and a great weekend rate), to undo in 14 hours of driving what it had taken us 12 days to do on bikes-leave Chicago. So, with bike gear and bike in car, I backtracked our steps, ate way too much fast food (gross!), rolled out of the car last night at 11:30, crashed on Bern's futon, and am ready to wedding it up. With the awesome tan lines I'm sporting right now, I'm sure to be the most attractive person at the wedding, after the happy couple of course ;) Oh what I won't do for friends. But I tell you, right now I prefer traveling by bike.

So since I last posted in St. Cloud we had 5 really intense days. We did our first 100+ mile day, and then followed that with a 90 mile day, a couple 80 mile days and a 70 mile day to get us into Bismarck. We designated our first night in North Dakota, in the town of Wyndmere, our unofficial half way point, and went to the one open local restaurant to celebrate, where most of the meals seemed to follow the pattern of fried, with a side of fried, and salad consisting of ice berg lettuce and dressing, which incidentally they charged 25 cents for. While everyone has been really friendly in MN and ND, this place was the exception. They didn't seem to know what to do with us. I followed this celebratory dinner up with a pint of Edy's ice cream, explaining to Armin that I have always been able to eat a pint of ice cream, but only now can I do it without guilt. Since then I've really upped my ice cream eating. I haven't done a whole pint again, but if there is Ben and Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie, watch out!

nlike what everyone had told us, North Dakota has not been flat or boring (I think you have to get off of Rt 94 to experience this side of the state). Perhaps it is my childhood love for watching Little House on the Prairie, but I find the rolling hills, and marsh land really beautiful. There has been great wildlife around the marshes, primarily birds, and lots of sunflower fields too. However, towns are few and far between, and when you do hit them they often consist of 90 people (As the agribusiness has become more mechanized, the farms take fewer and fewer people to run them, and so the towns keep shrinking.), and the land is really exposed. This means that any sun, rain, or wind really hits us, and yes, we have gotten all three. That northwest wind has really challenged us in the mornings, but by the afternoon it has turned in our favor a few times. We saw one huge wind farm, with hundreds of turbines in Edgeley ( if you want to check it out Patrick), which was really cool, but was a constant reminder as we saw it approaching on the horizon that where there are wind farms there is wind. Sigh.

That has been ND thus far. I think it is fair to say that Armin, Ross, and I were all pretty beat when we rolled into Bismarck on Thursday afternoon. We went straight to the bike shop in town-as Armin was down 6 spokes, and hung out in McDonald's drinking too much mellow yellow as his bike was getting fixed, before "sleeping" on the lawn of our first mega church (neither Armin or I could actually sleep because of the copious amounts of mellow yellow in our system). In the morning we packed up, helped ourself to a very nice hotel continental breakfast (Mom and Dad forgive me, it was only once, and it's part of the adventure. And you know what they say-"it's only an adventure if someone gets a scar, or a free breakfast" that how it goes Anthony?), and then you know the rest...driving. I'll be here in Chicago until Monday morning before driving back to Bismarck, where Armin and Ross are so kindly waiting for me and exploring the splendors of the Capitol City. Thank you again. And then I'm happily looking forward to getting back on the road. I haven't had any more thoughts of quitting since that painful day in Wisconsin, and my rashes are all cleared up, but I am fully aware that getting on the bike again will probably hurt for the first couple days.

Finally, thanks to everyone for your posts. I love them, even if I don't respond to them individually. And to everyone who hasn't finished HP7 yet, I apologize for posting a spoiler without warning. I'm going back to change that posts title right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Day 21-In St. Cloud, MN (Warning: HP 7 Spoiler)

Things are still going well. The first two days after leaving Chicago were pretty rough, and I honestly did consider leaving the trip. I kept thinking about Oliver, going for runs with my sisters, starting my dissertation, going to camp, hanging at my parent's pool, hanging with the fam, and about the disgusting rashes raking my body. I was miserable. But then I realized if I left, unlike Ron, I would have no deluminator to get me back to Hermione and Harry, er I mean Ross and Armin, so I had to be really sure about leaving. Armin and Ross also said they didn't feel so great on the second day on the road after Chicago, and as misery loves company I knew I couldn't leave.

So, we've been continuing on, following the Mississippi River through Wisconsin, and then hitting Ross' Aunt and Uncle's place outside of St. Paul the day after the bridge collapse. We weren't close to that area, but what a terrible tragedy. So scary and sad for all those people.

Wisconsin was gorgeous, and a little hilly, and Minnesota has also been really nice. All the people have been super friendly, and the cheese delicious. Ross' aunt and uncle treated us like royalty. After an amazing dinner of grilled chicken and potatoes, watermelon, musk mellon (so much better than cantaloupe i've found, even though they've only changed the name, as far as i can tell), sweet corn, salad, and ice cream, and a breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh jam, watermellon and musk mellon, we left their house on Friday morning. We had a short 60 mile day, spending last night in Big Lake. The most exciting thing for me about the day, aside from the luxury of having energy at the end of the night since we only rode 60 miles, was that I finally got my first flat 1385 miles into the trip. I know this may not sound like something to be excited about, but it was starting to unnerve me that I hadn't had one, and it was ever so satisfying to change it myself and to get back on the road. Not to mention that 4 people stopped to ask if I needed any help! I love the people here.

So, we are in St. Cloud today, and have had a REALLY short day. We rode 25 miles, and are planning to stay here for the night with Ross' cousin. His family has been great to us, as have all of our hosts. A special thanks again to everyone hosting us in Chicago, especially the Shafer's and Bernadette.

More updates to explore the splendors of St. Cloud, and absorb the great local accent.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 18 I think-somewhere in Wisconsin

No time to write, as the library closes in 7 minutes, and Armin is patiently waiting his turn. But we are in Wisconsin, riding along 35 North, up the Mississippi. It is beautiful and hot! We will be in St. Paul tomorrow night, staying with Ross' uncle. Hopefully I'll have more time then to post.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Relaxing in Chicago-Some Time for Reflection

We made it to Chicago on Tuesday (it is now Saturday), but I was so excited to be showering, reading Harry Potter, and hanging out with Chicago friends, that I haven't had the time to really post until now. I realize it's been just a little over a week now, and of course in that week a lot has happened-we made it through Ohio, where I got to go to a non-denominational church's production of Esther and attempt to match Armin at a $4.99 all you can eat pizza buffet; we made it through a visit to my mom's clownshoes second cousin's house in Elkhart Indiana (Ross's blog will provide more details on this, as I will below); we made it to a bike shop after Armin had been biking without five spokes for 80 miles or more; we made it to the Indiana Dunes, despite another clownshoes type woman's best efforts at killing us (more on that below); and we made it to Chicago, where I got to see friends, where I got to eat breakfast at Orange (omelettes, cinnamon pancakes, and frushi were in abundance), my favorite breakfast place in the world, where I got to eat eggless brownie batter at Kitsch'en and where the all you can eat sushi buffet attempted to best me but failed to win!

So now that I have a little time on my hands before we pedal off again tomorrow morning, I thought I would attempt to gather some of my thoughts and reflections on the trip.

On Rumble Strips
Rumble Strips=Danger Strips. We hit some rumble strips on our first day of riding as we left New Jersey. These devices, ever so helpful to sleepy drivers, are particularly scary when you are on a bike. I was quite sure at least one retina would detach as I hit these the first time, not to mention the pain in my hands. In Ohio, we spent our last 10 miles of a 90 mile day navigating a 12 inch stretch of shoulder bounded by a danger strip on one side, and a patch of gravel on the other. I had never pedaled so quickly and tensely, just ready to be done for the day, and out of harms way from those danger strips!

On Being Hard Core
For those of you who know me well, you of course know that the whole reason I am doing this trip is so that I can be hardcore. In order to assure my hard core status, I bought one of those cool earings that all the hard core kids wear. You know the ones I'm referring to-a silver hoop with a ball bearing closure. Well, in my infinite coolness, I was unable to get the darn thing into the second piercing I have had in my ear for years now, much less slip the ball into place, which for those of you who are not hard core, I must explain does not merely screw in, but must be popped into the hoop, so that the small divots on either side of the ball fit snugly into the hoop, properly ensuring one's hard core status. As I said, in my infinite coolness, I was unable to get this hoop in myself, but after lying on the floor for 30 minutes at my sister's house in Vermont, as my sister struggled with with my ear, and I finally understood why dog's prefer lying up on the bed to nap, my sister was able to get the earing in. The effect was instantaneous-my swollen red ear, with my new hoop made me a hard core kid. Once I put on my spanking new "Biker Chick" jersey, with a picture of a yellow chick on it, well, I was pretty much unstoppable. I was hard core. Hell, I biked to Chicago from New Jersey in two weeks. Clearly I AM hard core.

Well, that's what I thought anyway, until we got to the bike shop in Indiana. Here at this bike shop, our extremely competent bike mechanic Josh, soon to become Armin's new friend crush, shattered my illusions of my hard coreness. Just when you think a silver hoop, a bike jersey, biking cross country, and not showering for 10 days is enough, you meet the cute, friendly bike mechanic who cycles 40 miles a day to work, and mountain cycles, including a trip coming down Colorado's 14,000 Pike's Peak (I have hiked this mountain, and I promise you that not even the silver hoop makes me want to ride a bike down it), all on a UNICYCLE. Oh yes, a unicycle. And of course it is one of Josh's dreams to to cycle cross country, but not on a bike. On a unicycle. Oh Josh, Josh, Josh. You who are the truly hard core, without even trying, or having any fancy piercings. Armin has truly picked a worthy friend crush. As for me, well, I'm just going to go back to bicycling cross country, and I'll try to think of another reason why I am doing this trip, since it surely won't ensure my hard core status...As for mountain unicycling, apparently this small subculture really does exist, and I am sort of convinced Josh is their leader.

Other hard core people we have come across include the family the doing a road trip from California back to California this summer. As the parents saw our loaded bikes they informed us that they had done a cycling trip through Mexico for 3 months years back before they had kids, until the husband fell sick with malaria and they had to bus it home. When their bikes broke down, they would use rocks to pound out derailleurs and the such. But you know, I am perfectly happy hitching to a bike shop when the time comes, speaking English, and bitching about the non-malaria infested mosquitoes that seem to love me so much.

One more side note on being hard core-another one of Ross, Armin and my hard core friends helped inspire this adventure, so much so that I think he'd be amused to know that some days when we are struggling with something or other, we say "WWRJD?" and make our decision from there. Thanks Ryan, and thanks for the package!

On Being Clown Shoes
In attempting to describe some of the wacky, zany people we have met on our adventures, I often refer to individuals as "crazy." Bernadette, a friend who is a mental health professional, and who I am staying with in Chicago, politely pointed this out to me, and it has become my quest to find a new way of properly, and less-offensively describing these people, while still maintaining the color of their personalities and Ross, Armin and my interactions with them. So, another friend suggested a better term might be clown shoes. I think this term really is appropriate in so many instances, as it speaks to the strange comic relief many of the clown shoes people we have met have provided to our trip, as well as their quirky personalities, while also alluding to the fact that their actions and our interactions with them are sometimes just a bit too out of the ordinary to leave us entirely comfortable. If I am being offensive to any clowns out there, I do apologize, but you have to admit guys, a lot of people think you're creepy. I don't want to reinforce stereotypes, but if the clown shoe fits...

Ross seems to attract a lot of clown shoe personalities. While Armin and I are carrying our gear in saddlebags, Ross is towing a bob trailer. As he is the fastest biker of the group, he usually gets to towns first. His trailer really seems to draw the attention of the clown shoes, and I often ride up to find some man or another asking Ross all sorts of questions about his trailer, including if he thinks you could stick a motor in it, so you could motorize your bicycle, and get over some no doubt draconian laws preventing mopeds from going over 30 mph, or some such thing. As Ross does have a degree in electrical engineering, but not law, he can clearly only answer a part of such questions.

My interactions with clown shoe folks had been quite limited, until we hit Indiana. There had been one reporter in a small town in Pennsylvania, where Ross was getting his bike fixed, who was a little clown shoes, but the interview was brief, and a good way to the pass the time as we were waiting for Ross's bike. But in Indiana Ross, Armin, and I went to stay with one of my Mom's second cousins. Sandy and Tom were super friendly folks, but turned out that they were uber helpful in the most unhelpful of ways. They insisted on meeting us at a gas station off of route 20, rather than just giving us directions to their house, as it was too complicated. So, they very kindly met us at the gas station, and then led us, with their flashers on, to their house 10 miles away. At the 5 mile point they said they were going to pull over to give us a breather, as we quickly yelled "no!" We just wanted to get there, and following a car at 12 mph, while others cars were whizzing by at 55mph, hardly seemed safe. Once we got to their house, and settled into the back yard, where we would be camping for the night, Sandy and Tom regaled us with stories about life in Northern Indiana; fed us dinner; introduced us to their 80 year old Dutch neighbor, who wore wooden shoes, and kept fish and pigeons in his back yard; and let us get to bed. In the morning Sandy insisted that we sleep in, as we needed a bike shop, and they wouldn't open til 10. So she got us breakfast, called the bike shops, and told us that they were backed up for days-seeming to imply that we would have to stay there for a few more days. We couldn't handle this. We needed to go. We felt as if our freedom had been taken away from us. After convincing Sandy to give us directions, rather than lead us back to route 20, we decided to chance finding a bike shop along the way, and left Elkhart, IN behind, luckily finding a bike shop 6 miles up the road (see above for details on Josh) that helped us out, and let us get back on the road, able to make our own decisions again, until...

On Clown Shoe Drivers
We were almost to our campground by the Indiana Dunes, biking along a 55mph two lane road, with a decent shoulder, when a car made an erratic turn in front of me, but rather than turning, the car pulled onto the shoulder. I gave the car a wide berth, as the driver side door flew open, with utter disregard for my biking safety, and all of a sudden I hear a woman's crazed voice scream, "Excuse me, Ma'am!" I was petrified. Ross and Armin were far enough behind me that I couldn't see them, and I was convinced one of them had gotten hit. She comes closer, looking a little frenzied, in her early 90s one-piece button up (with several buttons missing) floral skorts outfit, with her long wispy hair whipping around, and proceeds to tell me that there is a much nicer route to be biking on. And then asks me where I'm going. By this time the young boy, maybe 4 or 5, who was in the car with her has climbed out of the car, playing on the shoulder of the road, and Ross and Armin have caught up. Explaining that she is a biker too, otherwise she never would have stopped us, she gives us directions to a bike path and a road that have less "pollution" than the road we're biking on. We are a mere 3 miles from our campground at this point, but rather than asserting myself with kind clown shoes offering advice, I accept this alternate route, just as I accepted Sandy's offer to meet us at the gas station rather than giving us directions to her house. We bike down to the bike path, and it is unpaved shell and limestone, and looks incredibly unappealing to ride on at the end of our day, with our loaded bikes. So we continued on to a different road she recommended, while also realizing the woman is following us with her flashers on. What is going on? Of course, just as this is happening, fate would cause the vegetables i'm carrying on my back rack to come flying out from under my bungy cords, causing Ross, Armin and myself to stop, at which point the woman asks us again where we are going. We are not clear if she is intending to make sure that her directions were correct or if she wants to follow us there, but luckily after this interaction, we didn't see her again.

On Sacrificing Safe Driving Because of Being a "Biker Too"
Other bikers really seem to feel a kinship with us, such as the woman above, as she sacrificed safe driving to provide us with helpful directions. Similarly, a couple in Pennsylvania pulled up to me at the top of a large climb, as I am topping out at 4.5mph. From their large truck, which is pulling some sort of large trailer, they slowed down to my speed, and decided to have a conversation with me. As i struggled to push my pedal around each time, they asked me where I'm going, where I'm coming from, and informed me that they were "bikers too," and that the drivers don't really like bikers out here for the next stretch so we should be careful. Great! If the people that do like bikers are stupid enough to talk to me at the top of a huge hill, where there is little shoulder, what were the other drivers going to be like? Fortunately though they told me this was also the last of the hills, so it seemed as if my luck was turning around. However, the hills seemed to last for at least 10 more miles, but interestingly enough all the cars gave me a wide berth on that road, leaving the "helpful" couple to be the most unsafe car I had to deal with.

On Finding Housing
It often falls to me find housing for us at night, although Armin is certainly not shy about asking. But after our second night of looking for places to pop up our tents, we found that people are generally more receptive to a female asking for lodging. Also, I kind of get a high when someone finally gives us a place to sleep for the night, so I volunteer to go up and talk to people. So far so good, and we've met some really nice folks. We always try to leave a thank you note, and one of Ross' cards with a link to his blog, so that people can follow our progress if they like. Thanks to everyone that has allowed us to sleep on their property so far, or who has pointed us in a helpful direction. What was initially the scariest part of the trip for me has now become the most exciting.

Get Out Now
So, I think that's as much as I can muster right now. We are heading out again tomorrow morning, and it is definitely time. You've been great Chicago, and Chicago friends, but after spending an hour waiting in line today at the post office I realize I am ready to "get out now." This saying is apparently an old running cheer my brother in law's cross country team used to yell to one another. I find it helps me to yell this as I'm climbing a big hill, or when it's time to leave Chicago. So bring on the numb hands, and the sweaty bike clothes. Back to the pedaling.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Ohio-Day 12

So we did it! We made it to Ohio, and we got to keep going. After our bikeshop adventure early in the week we rode our longest day (although the shortest distance to our destination since 20 of those miles were retracing our steps) and stayed at a children's day camp outside of Chardon, just 10 miles east of Cleveland. A very nice woman offered us the spot when we were looking for housing in Chardon (we met her in a knitting shop. Note to other touring cyclists out there-knitters are kind folks. Seek them out if the churches don't come through), and she said the camp was just 10 miles up the road. Well, 4 stop lights later (she said it would be 2) we turned onto Cedar Road and we schlepped into a really nice campsight for the night. However, this experience made me realize just how useless vague references to measure are. As we were looking for Cedar Road and getting fairly frustrated, passersby aided our search by commenting that Cedar Rd was "still a ways," or "just a few miles up." Not helpful people! Not helpful.

But the campsite was great-there was a pool and some pavillions, and we met some people swimming there who were kind enough to invite us to their house for food and even a place to stay. We declined however, as we were already unpacked, and knew we were getting a shower the next night. The woman who invited us told us that her brother had done a non-supported, solo cross country trip in the 80s, going from Cleveland to LA, 260 miles, in 26 days! Armin, Ross, and I all marveled at his accomplishment, and keep discussing the logistics of it. Now that we are in flat, flat, flat Ohio, this seems a little more doable, but after biking 90 miles yesterday, I'm not really sure I want to do another 90 today.

We left the day camp early on Thursday morning, and meandered our way through Cleveland. We hit a lot of traffic, but I was able to overlook this when I saw the gigantic Whole Foods on the road. I called ahead to Ross, and we stopped in for some free samples-bread, cheese, lemon poppy pound cake, brownies, fresh cherries, pineapple, and oranges. It was great. I also picked up some really good dill hummos, some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, a blueberry muffin, and these new Luna Teacakes. I tried those for the first time this morning, and they are quite good.

We got soaked after our Whole Foods excursion, but kept biking through, hitting up a bike shop so Armin could get his gears fixed (he had been missing his first and second chain ring since we entered Ohio), and then headed on out to Westlake, a western suburb of Cleveland. Here one of Armin and Ross's friend's mothers put us up for the evening. She gave us pizza for lunch, let us do wash, shower, and fed us bbq chicken, fresh corn, salad with feta, stuffed tomatoes, and Great Lakes Brewing Company beer. And for dessert we had Mitchell's peach icecream and caramel fudge brownie icecream. It was great. We even got to sleep in a bed. It's amazing how these little things can mean so much after being on the road for 10 days.

We left Westlake early yesterday morning and put in a good 90 miles. It was flat, easy riding, and a little bit boring. The day was fairly uneventful. Although I did stop at Tofts, a local icecreamery in Sandusky Ohio-I had cake batter ice cream with bit of fudge and pieces of cake in it. It was cheap, delicious, and plentiful. After the great icecream the night before I have vowed to start eating more icecream.

We ended last night in Woodville Ohio, where Officer Dave gave us permission to set up our tents in a nice park. We had a nice pavillion again, and fresh water right there, and some friendly middle schoolers going by on BMX bikes that would stop to chat. All and all it was a good night, made even better by my Whole Foods dill hummos, and the ever favorite Mac and Cheese, with canned chicken and green pepper. Mmm. Gotta love it.

We're off to Montpelier Ohio tonight, and then after another 75 mile day tomorrow, we'll hit Elkhart Indiana, where my mom has a second cousin who is letting us stay in her backyard. Then off to Notre Dame, the sanddunes of Indiana, and on to Chicago. We'll see you on Tuesday Chi-town! Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Through PA and Back Again-Day 9

Well, we did it. We made it out ouf PA, and crossed into Ohio. And then Ross broke two spokes :( So, we examined the damage, inquired at an insurance office near where we broke down about local bike shops, and set up camp for the night in their backyard, with their begrudging approval. The plusses of this situation-I got to bike down to the lake we had just passed for a swim, which was the first "shower" I had since last Monday. It was so, so amazing-I can't even beging to describe.

The rest of the night was a bit of a wash as it was raining, so after dinner (couscous, black beans, and green peppers, which i wrapped in a tortilla wrap smothered in hummos-really excited about having finally found hummos. I had been looking for days.), we all went to bed, and slept approximately 12 hours. We are now in Lineville, waiting for the bike shop to open. Well, Armin and I are here, but Ross is still walking his bike the 10 miles to town, hoping to hitch a ride at some point. Sigh. I hope this doesn't happen in the Dakota's!

So, out of PA again later today hopefully, and then tomorrow to a friend of Ross's house outside Cleveland. A real shower? And perhaps laundry? That'd be great.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Through the Endless Mountains-Day 7

Still in PA, but made it through the endless mountains. Our last night there we got to camp out at the base of Denton Ski Mountain. It was my heaven. We ended early for the day, and i did wash in the creek there, and then i climbed up most of the mountain to journal and to get a better view (very smart given my appropriate mary jane croc hiking shoes). We made a fire and sang while Armin played the Ukulele-we are getting quite accomplished with Country Road, and Cracklin' Rosie. We can't wait to hit up karaoke in Chicago. It really was an amazing campground.

The days are going by well, and we are falling into a routine. My right hand is continually numb, so it's a bit of a challenge to type, so I'll keep this short, but just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that we keep on keepin' on, and that we'll be out of PA in the next day and a half-we are in Union City for the night and about to hit up a Chinese Restaurant for dinner!

One last thought: I am in desperate need of a shower. No big food updates for today, as things are fairly repetitive, but if something amazing comes up I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Endless Mountains, PA-Day 5

I am in a place now called the Endless Mountains. When we ask people when they end, they just laugh...I'm tired, but it is beautiful. We are still travelling on Route 6, and really are just paralleling Western NY right now. Two days ago I passed under 81, yesterday we saw signs for Elmira, and today we were close to Corning. I never really how close beautiful parts of PA were.

So, things are going pretty well. We slept in til 6am today, and woke up in a cloud, after spending the night in Mainesburg, a town of 75 people apparently. We stayed in a local park, with a few gazebos and a water hookup, next to the park managers house. It was great, except for a freezing cold morning that left my hands inoperable, and me a bit grumpy. But, after warming up, and heading 20 miles out of Mainesburg, we stopped at a great bike shop in Wellsboro, where they looked at, and hopefully fixed, Armin's tire once and for all (he has gotten a flat every day), and looked at my front deraileur, which has been slipping. They were really helpful, and excited for us and our trip. After that we've continued in the Endless Mountains, in state park territory and near the PA Grand Canyon. Since it's a Saturday, we are seeing all sorts of people biking, camping, etc. It's been nice. A few more miles today before we set up camp.

That's it for now, as Armin and Ross are waiting. but as always, a quick food recap. Pay special attention to last nights dinner:

-Bunny Grahams
-Luna Bar
-Orange Soda (The store in Mainesburg didn't carry any juice)
-Couscous, Rice Pilaf, Corn, Avocado, and Canned Chicken Jumbalaya (our own concoction at our camp site, and actually quite good!)
-Oatmeal with Peanut Butter
-Luna Bar
-Turkey Sandwich
-Kashi Crackers

Friday, July 13, 2007

Still in PA-Day 4

Well, we have been happily pedaling along since I last wrote. The hills keep coming since my last post, but we are starting to fall into a rhythm with them, figuring out how to use our energy the most efficiently and not burn out. It's such a feeling of exhilaration when you get to the top of a mile or a mile and a half climb, and don't need to stop immediately. Of course, this could be because the hills are a more gradual grade than what we saw our second morning. Nevertheless, it's defintely rewarding.

I think we are all getting stronger already, which is really nice because now I find I can enjoy the scenery more, and the little stops, and just let my mind wander more freely over the terrain, without focusing as much on the biking aspect. Yesterday morning was particularly beautiful. After leaving Carbondale at 6am, where a kind couple, Ed and Judy, let us sleep on their lawn, we were on a windy backcountry farmroad that felt just like home, as you're heading up Webster Street Road, on the back way to Titus. The climbs were long, but luckily most of the downhills were equally long, propelling you up most of the hill. There's really nothing better than flying down a road at 35mph, and knowing that afterward you don't even have to endure the work of climbing back up!

After our morning ride, Ross and I waited for Armin for a while in Tuckhonack, a small, friendly town in PA. I stopped briefly at the library, but spent a better part of the time reading HP 6. Can't wait for 7. Armin got lost on his way to Tuckhonack, after a detour to a bike shop, so we left without him, meeting him in Laceyville instead, where the Mayor (THE MAYOR, can you believe that?) gave us permission to sleep by the river. It was beautiful. And refreshing. We had dinner at a restaurant in town (the ONLY restaurant in town) and talked to some friendly local folks, before heading back to the river for bed. Sleep really does feel good. I love crawling into my tent and sleeping bag, reading for 20 minutes and then falling off to sleep...the last two mornings have been a bit cooler though, so when the alarm goes off at 4:30, it's hard to crawl out of bed. Luckily, since I'm the only one setting an alarm, I can snooze as long as I want. Today I finally got out of my cozy cocoon at 4:55, and we were out on the road again by about 6 or 6:15.

So things have been good. My hands are a bit numb at night, and it's hard for me to grip things between my thumb and forefinger, but Armin reminds me that biking cross country is not neccesarily good for you, and this is merely one of the consequences. My butt has also been pretty sore, especially after long climbs, and after an inquiry to the boys, I realized that maybe you're not supposed to be wearing underwear with your bike shorts (sorry if that's too much info)-whoops. I'll let you know if i find out anything conclusively...

Okay, so back to the road for me, but of course, a quick laundry list of food consumed yesterday and today:

-Luna Bar
-Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts (I couldn't resist them. I know I wanted to eat healthy, but now is my chance to eat really bad, good stuff without too many conseqnences.)
-Quaker Cheddar Snack Mix (see above note)
-Peanut Butter Tortilla Wraps
-Trail Mix
-Grilled Chicken, Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, and Bread
-Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwhich
-Power Bar
-Chocolate Chip Cookie (Given to me by a nice lady at the library in Burlington, PA, where I currently am. She had seen me yesterday at a differently library further east, and stopped me today to ask me some questions. We are quickly becoming celebrities around here! That was the second person today to say they had seen us yesterday. So if you happen to be going along PA Route 6 West in the next couple of days you might see us too!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Into PA

Day 2
Well faithful readers, you will be happy to know that we made it safely to PA yesterday. It was a great first day-we left Armin's just a little after scheduled, and meandered our way through Jersey, managing to get lost within the first 15 miles, but a friendly police officer put us quickly back on track, so that we could attempt to bike through a military base without success, requiring a military police escort out. Luckily, a friendly biker, and military personel himself,Click Shrek, stopped to chat with us outside the base and led us to route 15 North, so we could get back on track. As Click led us along, chatitng amicably with Ross, he kept pointing to different spots in the road, and as I got closer I realized that he was pointing out hazards-potholes, drainage grates, etc.- for those behind him to watch out for. What a nice guy!

Route 15 was fairly uneventful, aside from Armin's police escort. 15 was a two lane highwayish road, with a decently sized shoulder that seemed to dissapear here and there. So, when the police saw Armin climbing up at 2mph, they told him it looked a bit unsafe, and that they would follow him to the top-what nice guys!

The rest of the day was pretty steady riding, with a break at a farm stand, where i got some fruit and we were able to fill water, and a break at a 50s car hop, where Ross and I sat in the shade as Armin caught up. We also had an awesome mint chip milkshake. After the car hop, with about 40 miles or so under our belt, we were pretty tired, and it was really warm. So, the afternoon went slowly, with lots of breaks. We crossed the Delaware River to PA, and the 3 of us made it to Milford around 5 or 5:30, and went to a Presbyterian church to ask if we could set up on the lawn for the night. The minister and his wife were very kind, and even showed us where a water spigot was outside so that we could fill our water and cook.

After getting out of my sweaty, itchy riding clothes, the night was great. Armin and Ross made Mac and cheese and green peppers, and I walked to the grocery store for some PA maps. After dinner we read, and sang around the Ukelale. We clearly blended into the small town as we sat in front of the church stretching, eating, singing and journaling. We went to bed early, and woke up early to get on the road again. Today has been a bit rougher than yesterday. Our first 10 miles was essentially all climbing, but after that the hills broke a bit, and I remembered Robbie's advice to just take it one pedal at a time, and I slowed it down a bit. Surprisingly, that really helps. I also started singing. This also really helps, but I can never seem to remember all the words, which is frustrating, so then I go back to the songs I remember my dad singing when I was little-I've Been Working on the Railroad, Oh Give me a Home, etc-yet still I can't remember all the words. Regardless, life is better when you're singing.

Taking a bit of a longer stop in Hawley, PA right now, but back on the road soon, to be just north of Scranton tonight. But of course, before I head back out there, a quick recap of the food I've been eating:

-Trail Mix (Raw almonds, cashews, raisins, and sundrops)
-Luna Bars
-Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake
-Nut Bar
-Cheese Crackers
-Mac and Cheese, with Green Pepper
-Peanut Butter Tortilla Wraps
-Bunny Grahams

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Heading on out

5:07am: Woke up at 4:30, and just did the final weigh in. My saddle bags are packed with 30 pounds. This does not include water, or my tent and sleeping bag, which weigh less then 5 pounds combined, that are bungeed on my back rack. I think we're ready to go-lots of phone calls last night (sorry if I missed anyone), one last diner stop with a yummy rootbeer float, and some good New Jersey pizza. Not nearly enough sleep, but the adrenaline will get us through the morning at least!

We'll be stopping at libraries along the way, and plugging our phones in where we can, so I'll be in touch. In the esteemed words of Clark W. Griswald (thanks Dia), I leave you with a parting thought "This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun... "

Monday, July 9, 2007

Trip Prep

So, I’m biking cross-country. Or, I’m planning on biking cross-country. The point is, regardless of whether the plan is completed, I will be attempting to catalogue a few of my thoughts here for those of you who would like to keep track of my progress, for those of you who are interested in hearing my musings, and for myself to look back at once said plan is accomplished. For those of you who I haven’t touched base with in sometime, I’ll sketch a quick outline of the trip, and update more as I go along. For those who talk to me on a more regular basis, skim through, and check back later for trip updates.

Armin, Ross and I have been “planning” this bike trip since last fall. By planning, I mean that Armin mentioned to me, right as we entered a movie theater to see Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby, that he and Ross were going to bike across the country in the summer, at which point I invited myself along. It may have been the contents of his water bottle, the expectation of the hilarity to ensue from Ricky Bobby, or perhaps some heartache or other inflicted by a girl, but there was no strong resistance from Armin. So I kept thinking about the plan, spent countless painful hours mulling over the decision of which bike to buy, and signed up for a bike maintenance class in Boston, so that I would at least be familiar with the proper language with which one talks about bikes-cassettes, derailleurs, drive trains, v-brakes, etc. I also learned a smidge about maintenance too. As you can see, I am an experienced cyclist (read sarcasm here, in case you missed it).

For the past month I have been crashing with my sister in Vermont, remotely finishing up a final bit of work for my bosses in Boston, getting my gear together for the trip, and actually treating my body kindly, with the proper amounts of sleep, nutrients, and exercise (including one 85 mile bike ride from Williston, VT to Malone, NY). The last few months in Boston really had been tiring (for those of you familiar with my Farewell to Gin letter, you can understand where I’m coming from).

Other trip details? Tips for those thinking of planning their own cross country biking adventure? Well, hmm. I know this won’t calm my mother, but we have taken a fairly laissez-faire attitude with this trip. We will be leaving New Jersey on the morning of July 10th, early. Since the fall, the three of us have spent no more than 4 or 5 hours together, until yesterday when Ross arrived at Armin’s house in Lincoln Park New Jersey. Before that a few emails were exchanged discussing gear to be packed, potential roots, and a little bit about one another’s expectations for the trip. (I would be remiss if I didn’t point out here that there was one other friend who was on these email exchanges, alas graduate student responsibilities called, and he, very sadly, will not be joining us. That was a bit of a low moment.)

What is definite about the trip is our starting point-Armin’s Mom’s place in Lincoln Park, New Jersey; our ending point-Portland, Oregon; one of our stopping points-Chicago, Illinois; and the fact that I have to backtrack to Chicago on August 12th to make it to a wedding. We plan to bike approximately 60 miles per day, roughly getting us to Chicago in two weeks. We expect to be in Portland in two to two and a half months, most likely taking a northern route through Minnesota, the Dakota’s, Montana, and parts of Idaho and Washington. At night we will be camping out at undetermined locations, but if someone is along the way and willing to host three smelly, and hungry bikers, we would more than appreciate the hospitality.

Leaving Home

After a tearful goodbye to my dog Oliver, which left my parents baffled and nervous as I struggled to squeak out between gasps for air, “Dad, you’ll take good care of him, won’t you?” two of my oldest friends (oldest meaning I’ve known them forever, not that they are my oldest friends age wise) dropped me off in Jersey on Friday (Jen and Missy-thank you, thank you, thank you). I have had a great month in Vermont and New York with my family, but it was a relief to leave in the sense that I couldn’t stop running errands, doing work, and thinking about just the right clothing, and other gear, to bring along on the trip (given limited space and weight concerns of carrying my gear, this really had me up in arms, throwing items into my bag at the last minute, some of which still need to be shed before we leave tomorrow morning). This is a lot to think about for me. For example, when not in bike clothing, what one outfit will make me the happiest to be in EVERY night? Will I get sick of one solid color? Will I get sick of something that’s too bright? What if it’s cold? What if it’s just kind of cold? What if it rains? Oh my! As you can tell, it’s a relief that those decisions are sort of behind me.

Of course, I didn't leave everything behind. I had to bring my computer with me to Armin’s to finish up some last minute work that I couldn’t get finished at my parents’ house on Thursday and Friday, despite staying up until well past midnight, and getting up at six in the morning (perhaps making cookies at 10:30 Thursday night contributed to my lack of productivity). But my work is all finished now, after one last conference call with my boss this morning, and my computer is being safely transported by the US post office back to Malone, for just a small fortune. Thanks guys!

Aside from a little work, Jersey has been amazingly enjoyable. Yes, all you Jersey haters out there, you did read that correctly-Jersey has been enjoyable. On Friday night Armin’s sister and her husband had us over for dinner, where Armin and I got to play with his adorable niece and nephew, ages two and one. This made withdrawal from my adorable nephew and niece, ages two and one, who I have gotten to see on a regular basis for the last month, almost bearable. We also played some volleyball, badminton, sat around a fire outside, and ate like royalty (more on that below).

On Saturday, Armin and I jumped in the car for a quick 3-hour trip to Long Beach Island, where we met a friend from Boston at her family’s beach house. After several summer vacations in my youth traveling to the Jersey shore, this was like a little slice of heaven. I got to sit on the sand, read the sixth Harry Potter (in prep for number seven. And yes, I will be carrying that once it is released, I don’t care how heavy it is), and go into some incredibly freezing water with great surf. It was awesome. The only regret-LBI did not have any Johnson’s popcorn, and none of that really amazing custard, whose name eludes me, like they have in Ocean City, Jersey.

From the shore, we headed inland to a party of one of Armin’s college friends. That is where we met Tom, someone rivaling Armin in friendliness, and learned of his plan to host a huge birthday party for himself on September 8, 2007. This came up due to the subtle t-shirt he was wearing, with the date September 8, 2007 emblazoned across the front. Well, of course we had to ask, and were told that he was advertising for the big party he and his brother throw every year for his birthday, where not only close friends are invited, but acquaintances and people in passing. So, if you’re in Jersey on September 8, you should stop by. On my suggestion, Tom is now looking into getting the sight september8, for advertising purposes, so you might try checking there for more info.

Sunday morning we headed back to Armin’s place, where there was some general lazing around, last minute phone catch up time with friends, and wedding prep. Ross got to Armin’s around noon, and then Armin, with his +1, +1, set off for his friend’s wedding. As far as weddings go, it was quite nice-a short, but heartfelt service, in which the minister kept laughing, for some unknown reason, and lots of really good food (more on that below).

After the wedding Armin, Ross, and I looked at some maps, and chose a general route for getting through Jersey, and Pennsylvania. We started watching a bad movie (Le Divorce), stopped watching a bad movie, and lazily took care of some last minute tasks, like downloading some favorite song lyrics, and tabs to carry along on the trip (Armin plans on bringing his ukulele), and starting my blog. Then we all set up our respective tents and slept outside under the Jersey sky, as god intended.

Today has been full of last minute errands, including the post office and grocery store, and general lazing about.


As many of you who blog know, sometimes it can be challenging to find just the right angle for your blog. What is the structure for such an endeavor? For those of you who know me, and I’m assuming if you’ve read this far you know me, I can get a bit long winded, I can get lost in stories within stories, and I LOVE details. Or maybe it’s not even that I love them, it’s more that I just can’t decide which ones to omit, so I include them all (see above ramblings for a prime example, I promise I will make stronger attempts at brevity in the future). But after my time here in Jersey, I realize what is really most important to me about this trip is FOOD. We are biking cross-country, so we are going to be hot, tired, sweaty, cranky, exhilarated, challenged, etc. etc. etc. But we are also going to be hungry. And let’s face it. That is really why I’m embarking on this trip. I love food, and my friends and family love food, and most likely I’m going to be eating a lot of it over the next few months. So I’m going to keep a short running log of what we have and will be eating, in case you’re curious. I’ll try just to limit myself to the highlights, as it’s surely going to get repetitive. I told Armin and Ross that I am going to try to be as healthy as possible as we’re biking-lots of dried nuts and fruit, fresh fruit when we can get it, and foods that have been minimally modified, but well, we’ll just see how that goes. Here’s a short recap though of how things have started. And for all of you that have provided me with this delicious food, many thanks. And a special thanks to Armin's mom, who has fed us and housed us. Your hospitality has been phenomenal, and is much appreciated.

Last supper in Burlington-my sister and her boyfriend had a bbq full of my favorite new hummus, Sabre (mmm, it’s like whipped butter, but in chickpea form), guacamole, corn, and chicken sausage. Schmeck, Schmeck, Schmeck.

Last supper in Malone-my parents made scallop kabobs, grilled potatoes and onions, and salad with fresh greens, blue cheese, and glazed almonds. Yum.

First supper in Jersey-after too many cookies in the car ride down to Jersey, Armin’s sister and her husband made Italian sausage and peppers, shrimp kabobs, couscous, corn, and fresh squash from their garden, followed by watermelon and cheesecake around the fire outside. A+

First breakfast in Jersey-breakfast sandwich ala Armin-scrambled eggs and ham on an English muffin. Mmm.
First lunch in Jersey-really good turkey sandwich on the beach. Delicious.
Second supper in Jersey-cheeseburger and pasta salad at our friend’s beach house (Armin loves pasta salad). Yea!

Breakfast-breakfast sandwich again, but this time we melted mozzarella on top. Mmm, mmm.
Lunch and Dinner (The Wedding!)-Well, I’m not sure I can even do the food justice that we had at this wedding. The food at the cocktail hour was, I know I say it a lot, but I really mean it here, AMAZING. There were four different areas with hot food, one cheese table, and trays coming around with more delicious treats. I will do my best to list them all. Oh, and yes, we sampled just about all of it

The Polish Table:
-Fried Perogies and Onions
-Stuffed Cabbage
-Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

The Italian Table:
-Eggplant Rotini
-Fried Calamari
-Assorted antipasto

The Dip Table:
-Artichoke Dip
-Maryland Crab Dip
-Deep Dish Pizza Dip

The Pasta Bar:
-Tortellini and Penne with red sauce, cream sauce, or vodka sauce.

The Cheese Bar:
-Lots of cheeses and baked brie, do I have to say more? Oh, yes, there was also good wine here and the bar tender was really nice. She complimented my shoes.

Circulating Trays:
-Clams Casino
-Crab Cakes
-Sesame Chicken Skewers
-Coconut Shrimp
-Stuffed Mushrooms
-Scallops wrapped in Bacon (still kicking myself for not trying this one. What’s
the harm in eating a little bacon here and there?)

After the cocktail hour, we were all pretty sure we couldn’t eat much more, but we managed a bit of fruit and salad before our entrees arrived. I had a chicken cordon bleu which was really good, and garnished with fancy whipped potatoes. Armin and Ross had roast beef, which they said was good, but not quite as exciting as the appetizers.

And of course, after dinner there was dessert. Along with the wedding cake (white cake with white frosting, and a layer of strawberry in the middle), there was a whole dessert bar, with Italian cookies, mini lemon bars, cheesecakes, cannolies, and chocolate dipped strawberries. And there was bananas foster. Like I said, AMAZING.


Breakfast-more breakfast sandwiches
Grocery shopping for supplies: trail mix, energy bars, granola bars, peanut butter, whole wheat tortillas, graham crackers, apples, oatmeal, mac and cheese, couscous, cheese crackers, green peppers, gatorade, and tuna!