Author Archives: Chelsea A.

A Lesson About Discontent I Learned From My Cat This Morning

Every morning (and night for that matter) when I come into the kitchen my cat stands by her food and water dishes and meow screams at me. “GIVE!” “GIVE”! “I NEED!” “I AM STARVING” “HEEEEYYYYYYYYY” (things I imagine her saying as her tiny face is screaming at me). Hearing the demand, I look down at her situation and 9.5 times out of 10 she has a bowl of food at least half full, a clean looking bowl of water and a nice little plot of cat wheat grass; everything a kitty could need.

So, I think to myself: she doesn’t need food and water, so she must want attention. So I proceed to talk to the cat. “Hello squeaks! I love you! How was your day today? Did you pretend to apathetically play with any toys? Did you nap in the sun? My day was alright…” (I was an only child so I am very skilled in carrying on single-sided conversations.) As she continues to squeak at me I say “I hear you squeaks. You don’t need anything. Stop squeaking” — and the like. The point being to let her know that I hear her, and to give her the fifth element she may be lacking (love). (Not seeing dead people. That’s the sixth element.)

9.5 times out of 10 she will continue squeaking relentlessly (which is actually more like cat yelling). After trying to just ignore her for a while I give her an ice cube. Marley (my cat’s real name; we just call her squeaks because she yells and squeaks so much) loves ice cubes. 9.5 times out of 10 this makes her happy. She merrily drinks the water with the ice in it and forgets about how discontent she is for about 15 minutes.

Then…. squeeeeeeeeeeeaaakkkk!

*sigh*

This scenario happens to me daily, in a number of configurations. Sometimes it’s the morning, sometimes it’s night, sometimes I appease her by picking up her bowl and spinning around and setting the bowl back down again. Sometimes I pick her up and snuggle her and tell her I love her a hundred times, sometimes I pick her up and toss her out of the room. There must be a rubiks cube worth of me-versus-my-spoiled-cat options.

So, what did I learn from this rigmarole today?

Three things, actually:

1) My cat is spoiled. And it’s probably (entirely) my fault. There are many things my cat has taught me about raising children; this is one of them. (The lesson, in brief: Don’t spoil your children or you end up with Veruca from The Chocolate Factory.)

willy-wonka

2) I am my cat’s slave bitch. She says SQUEAK! I say Ice Cube, M’Lady? Snuggles? How may I serve you?

oy.

3) “Cats and dogs often absorb our vibes and after a while begin to act, obsess, relax, and even look like us.”

See, my cat’s problem is that she is infinitely discontent with what she currently has. She doesn’t even know what she wants, she just wants something that is not what she currently has.

Never mind that she has everything she needs and more — food, water, shelter, a plethora of toys she’s not interested in, WHEAT GRASS, fresh water with ice cubes, two humans who regularly contort themselves in bed so that they don’t disturb her tiny sleeping body that takes up a less-than-tiny amount of bed space, infinite snuggles and love, no dogs to bite her, expensive prescription food, and a spot in the sun where she sleeps all day long in perfect silence. Never mind all that luxury. My cat has a bad case of first-world perspective disorder. IE: “what I have will never be what I want” disorder, also sometimes referred to as “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome in folk songs.

It’s actually really sad.

So what did I learn from my cat?

I don’t want to be like my cat.

Marley

Marley.

I can’t give my cat perspective, because she is a cat, but she has given me a world of perspective.

While I’d say that I don’t have perspective disorder as bad as my cat (I don’t wake up every day screaming; not literally, at least) I do find myself squeaking at the world more often than I’d like to admit. Staring at my half-full proverbial food bowl wishing it was filled with something else. Squeaking entitled demands; “I know I have everything I need but if only I had that — then I would be happy! Whhhhyyyyyy! Squeeeeaaakkkkk! Serve me, world!”

I (and my cat) need to be more humble and less entitled.

It’s funny because I don’t even know exactly what I want … and I fear sometimes I am asking the world simply to pick up my food bowl, spin around, and set it right back where it was, exactly the same amount full.

My world is filled with so much wheat grass but it doesn’t consistently bring me joy because I am too busy begging for an ice cube (or for my food bowl to be picked up and spun around and set right back in the same place).

Insight Leads to Action

Here are my takeaways from all of this: Before I start screaming for something new — or something else — I need to take a look at what’s already on my plate right in front of my face. Take an inventory of what I already have; spend a moment in gratitude — in recognition — before seeking anything else.

I respect my cat’s diligence, and refusal to give up hope. (You can’t win the lottery unless you play, right?) And that is actually a lesson within a lesson I take from this — the power of persistently seeking what you want — but my prayer for myself is that I may find an eloquent balance between striving and presencing in my life. And that I may find the wisdom to scream for change — rather than just screaming to have my food bowl picked up, spun around, and set down in exactly the same place as it was before.

A balance and wisdom that allows me to:

  • Be aware of what I currently have
  • Live in gratitude for what’s already on my proverbial plate
  • Not be afraid to ask, but ask thoughtfully; asking the world to please, please, please pick up my bowl and spin around and put it right back in the same place doesn’t make much sense

Nerding out about Daniel Pink, Lateralization, and the Evolution of Google

Nine years ago Daniel Pink released his book A Whole New Mind, and with it the idea that we, as a modern society, are collectively moving away from the logical and computer-like “Information Age,” and towards a more empathetic, context-driven “Conceptual Age.” Pink’s book focuses on the creative, narrative, and conceptual power of those who work to master “right brain skills” and emphasizes the heightened importance of a left-brainer’s ability to understand the subtleties of human interaction in a world where outsourced engineers are writing software that writes software.

He emphasizes that both the analytical left side of the brain and the perceptive right side rely on one another and need to work together, but stresses the particular importance of right-brain cognitive abilities that only humans can accomplish with grace — like meaning interpretation, empathy, storytelling, and the act of piecing together seemingly unrelated things in meaningful, symphonic ways.

In the years since A Whole New Mind was published there’s been quite the controversy about the legitimacy of “lateralization,” and whether it’s accurate to describe people as predominantly “left-brained” or “right-brained.” As it turns out, yes —some skills are controlled by the left side of the brain and others are controlled by the right side, but largely humans actually use both sides of their brain equally. So the right isn’t more important than the left and there are no “right brained” or “left brained” people; only whole brained people who excel by flexing both their conceptual and their calculative mind muscles.

Que sera sera.

As I am re-reading A Whole New Mind in the year 2015 I can’t help but think of Google, where the engine was when Pink was writing this book in 2006, and where it is today. Actually, more specifically, I can’t help but notice how the linear, logic-based, exact-match, HTML-munching left-brain Google engine of 2009 has developed into a personalized, responsive, concept-driven, right-brained Conceptual Age idealization.

Right and Left semantics aside, I love how cleanly Pink’s shift to an age of conceptual importance coincides with Google’s shift to the age of “the Star Trek Computer.” It’s as if Amit Singhal and Daniel Pink sat down over coffee in 2009 and collectively agreed that data is good, but knowledge is better.

star_trek_computer-now-you-know

( … this is out of the box for what I usually write about in this blog, but it was on my mind today so I thought I’d share… )

Coffee with 838 Friends

communitybuilding

While I was on my bike tour I spent countless hours thinking about community and how, when I got back to my homebase, I was going to spend countless hours actively working towards building and strengthening my own.

Then, upon returning, I felt myself ever so slowly slipping down into the rabbit hole of self-inflicted isolation. Again! Still! I am an introvert. A big fat type A introvert and it turns out building a community is even harder than conference networking.

I’ve been feeling like I am so close yet so far away from all the people surrounding me. Like I want to establish roots and build up and out, but I can’t wrap my head around how.

Then I heard a story on the radio about this guy who has decided to have coffee with all of his Facebook friends, and it hit me like an epiphany. That’s what I need to do!

I spend a fair amount of time every week having conversations with friends, family and acquaintances through comments and messages on Facebook, but I rarely get to have face-to-face conversations with these people — even though many of them live in the same city as me! It’s so easy to make excuses; to stay in a book (a real one, not the Face); to sleep in; to direct the conversation in writing from a distance. But, as I’ve learned more than ever recently, “easy” isn’t the way to live your life.

I don’t want to live an easy, default life. I want to live an active, thoughtful, connected, abundant life. I want to make myself available to those around me, and I want to be an active part of a community.

So,  I’ve decided I am going to actively work on having a face-to-face coffee date with every one of my 838 Facebook friends.

20 Ventura FriendsI’m scheduling coffee dates 2-3 times a week; preferably in the morning hours before work (from 6:30am-8am), but also in the after work hours (6:30pm) and on weekends.

I am starting with the people who live near me — those in Ventura County. After I’ve met with a good chunk of the Venturites,  I will branch out to begin having Skype dates with the out of towners (IE: a lot of people I grew up with in Michigan!)

Looking at my friend’s list, I’ve written down the top 20 Ventura County friends that appear and, as we speak, I am actively working on scheduling dates with all 20. (The people you see circled to in the image to the left are folks who I have on the calendar; those crossed out I have already had a coffee date with; and the rest are my next targets.)

The two dates I’ve had so far have been really incredible. Like, life-changing incredible. Not because anything out of the ordinary happened; more than anything it’s just the feeling of connectedness I already have — after only two face-to-face meetups!. It really can only be described as life altering. I want to write full blog posts about each of my coffee dates, so I won’t go into them too much here in the intro, but…. please keep an eye on the 838 Coffees section of the blog for more coffee date updates coming soon!

5 Resolutions For Fighting Post-Tour Funk

It’s been a month (to the day!) since Dustin and I finished our cross-country tour in Bar Harbor, Maine. After spending three days in Acadia National Park, and seven days with family in Atlanta, we’re back home in our rental nearish the beach in Ventura, California. We’re both back to work. Our bicycles have arrived on our porch in pieces and since been put back together. My cat is starting to not hate me again. The security deposit has been paid to the subleassors. Our long underwear has been replaced by shorts as the brisk fall of Maine has been shockingly replaced by a raging California heat wave.

We’re back home.

And it’s weird.

It’s like everything is the same. But we are different.

It’s funny; so many times on this tour we found ourselves facing discomfort — whether it was mosquito hell in Montana, waking up soaking wet with sweat in….every state up until the fall happened somewhere around Michigan, or grimacing through the burn of a mountain climb that feels as shitty as the elevation profile has suggested. Some days were just uncomfortable.

Now, being home, waking up in a bed, eating from a refrigerator, taking showers every day, we’re finding ourselves facing a whole new kind of discomfort.

The-disease-of-discontentment-e1331568466872

We understand living the life of a travelling bike hobo isn’t a sustainable option with our bank accounts looking as barron as they currently do, so our immediate task at hand is one we’ve always struggled with: fighting funk and finding balance.

I’ll admit, I’m in kind of a funk right now. My Western Lizard Brain is in full effect and I am having a hard time not feeling sorry for myself for no reason. So I am writing this blog post.

Here are three things I’ve found that really get me into a funk:

1) Putting things off.

“I’ll do that in an hour!”

No you won’t. Do it now. In an hour you’ll say another hour. And then you won’t do it. Ever.

2) Thinking about how green the grass is on the other side.

“If only I was in Portland! Then I could grow an amazing food forest!”

You can grow an amazing food forest here. Right now. Seriously. Just go outside and do it. There and That are not the answer. Setting down your cat, getting off your ass, and carpe’ing some diem is the answer. Being anywhere else other than where you are now is not going to magically create results; being active with what you have a la Picasso in his blue period is going to create results. The past and the future are both illusions; now is the time.

Another iteration of this experience looks like this:

While at home: “I want to be on a bike tour!” While on bike tour: “I want to be wake up in a room I can stand in!”

What an excellent lesson in learning to be happy just where you are when you’re there for however long you happen to be there.

3) Isolating.

“I’m an introvert. I don’t feel like being around people right now.” An hour later… “I am lonely. But I still don’t want to be around anyone.

In response to these identified funk factors…

Here are five things I am working on to create more funk-free balance in my life:

1) Do Not: Isolate

Do: Build community! It’s like jumping in a pool; once you’re in it’s fine. Don’t think so much about jumping in… just start running and let gravity do it’s job.

Another way to think about this: Show up! That’s how I accomplished my bike tour; I just showed up every day and put one foot in front of the other. Show up to be a part of the community; go to a yoga class; meet a friend for coffee; just do something.

2) Do Not: Consume like a maniac

Do: Find abundance in the things you have and actively work on wanting less, despite abundant resources abound

Just because there are two Targets within three miles of your house and they’re both open until 11pm (oh, sweet sweet Target…) that does not mean you need to go to either of them. Spend that time in the community (or your garden!) (or on your bike!)  instead.

3) Do Not: Find yourself overwhelmed by options and, in response, take no action

Do: Be decisive about how to spend your time. Make weekly commitments and stick to them.

4) Do Not: Get depressed missing life on the road.

Do: Live in gratitude for the time you had on the road; spend time planning your next adventure; make time for small adventures.

5) Do Not: Let your bike collect dust.

Do: Ride that bitch. The best ideas come from movement, so move [that bike].

Expect more [less emo] posts like this post-tour

I know this post isn’t like the posts I usually write, but I actually feel better having crapped it out. So, thanks for reading anonymous stranger out in Internet land. And thanks to my 35 loyal followers, who, I will not resent if you decide to un-follow me post bike tour as my posts begin to expand in focus (expect more posts on gardening and life off tour between miles).

blog-hug

Thanks for the creepy blog hug, guys. I needed that.

Adirondack Park is Amazing

[Written August 31, 2014. Published September 13 with excellent WiFi]

 

Today, riding on Blue Ridge Road from Newcomb to Blue Ridge, New York, might have been my favorite day of our ride so far. And that's really saying a lot because the Cascade mountains in Washington and Glacier National Park in Montana were both pretty breathtaking.

Ah, where to start. First, it is the Blue Ridge Road, not the Blue Ridge Parkway I am talking about. The Blue Ridge Road we traversed today is a small road that connects Newcomb, NY, (known as “the heart of the Adirondacks”) to New Haven, NY, aproximatly 50 miles west of Ticonderoga. The road is condition is perfect in some places, rocky in others, and it has a shoulder about 90% of the time. All along the road is Adirondack state forest (mixed with some private land) and it feels like riding through a rain forest. In fact, it feels a lot like more like hiking — looking at deer and other wildlife left and right — than pavement bicycle touring.

Today, Sunday August 31st — right smack in the middle of Labor Day Weekend — we were lucky enough to ride on the road in five hours of rain. Usually when I say “lucky” and “rain” in the same sentence I am being sarcastic, but today I really felt lucky to be riding in the rain. The rain, although relentless, was warm, misty and on-again off-again (as opposed to the cold and pouring variety of rain we saw in St. Ignace and through much of Montana) and it really added a level of rain forest effect to the whole experience.

All along the Blue Ridge Road there's a ton of elevation gain and loss — some of it really steep (like 3mph mountain climbing steep and 37mph descending steep) — but, seriously, all of it……. so worth it. I was even climbing with a smile on my face today the scenery is so amazing.

Today, flying down the otherside of one of our steeper climbs with the rain mist in my face and the wind in my ears, all I could see all around me was forest and winding road and I thought for a second that my heart would explode it was so beautiful. It was one of those moments where all you can do is yell because words could never express what you just experienced.

The leaves are changing right now and the holiday weekend mixed with the rain meant minimal traffic and maximum Chelsea in the woods alone time. What a blessing.

Today it really felt like we were in the right place at the right time.

Like we'll never be in this place like this ever again.

Like everything was in its right place

 

So grateful to be here!

 

Some Adirondack Park Pictures…

 

 

 

Sometimes Bike Touring Sucks.

Sometimes it’s hour 6.5 of your riding day, you’re climbing up a mountain going 3mph, it’s too hot to wear a jacket but too cold not to wear one, you smell like five-day old socks and at least one — if not both — of your knees hurt. Sometimes it rains for days and you live inside rain clothes that feel like glorified sauna suits. Sometimes your whole body is sore and you think about how far you’ve come and strongly consider all the reasons why it would be ok to just rent a car and drive home to your cat. Sometimes you just want to sleep in a freaking bed and not have to do planks and yoga poses to get dressed in your three-foot tall nylons shelter sheet of a house. Sometimes, believe it or not, you are tired of seeing wheat fields that expand as far as the eye can see east, west, behind and ahead. Sometimes you just want to go somewhere where everyone knows your name Cheers-style and you can’t because you live in the middle of nowhere 89% of the time and the other 11% no one knows who you are (not to mention 5 of those 11% they are not glad you came).

Sometimes you want to punch bike touring in the face (at least as many times as your bike seat is punching you in the crotch) then……

Just when you need it, at the top of that steep miserable hill, you see the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen and you remember why you’re doing this tour; why you love moving slowly; how “it’s about the journey not the destination” finally really, truly means something to you; why you’re grateful not miserable.

Sometimes it’s the sun peeking through the clouds

Or a field of cows even more beautiful than the last 289 fields of cows before

Or a mountain top so close and so beautiful it makes you feel like your heart might explode
Or a waterfall rainbow
Or the the most beautiful blue bird you’ve ever seen

And suddenly you wouldn’t trade all the bus rides, hot showers and memory foam beds in the world for the peddle-power moment you’re having right that second.

The Moral Of The Story….

Bike touring is incredible and expansive and it builds you up and stretches your mind and your body and breaks you down and rebuilds you into a new, stronger mettle-filled, mountain-climbing, problem-solving, silver-lining-seeking, vulture appreciating love beast that reads Thoreau and finally really gets it.

But it requires a lot; it requires you to leave behind your creature comforts, redefine your boundaries and adjust the way you live. It truly brings out the best and the worst in you and forces you to come face to face with both head on.

So, when that time on your tour comes when you hate your tent and the ACA and elevation and you just want to go home, I encourage you to push just a little farther, get your eyes off the pavement and remember that you get back what you put in ten-fold so something spectacular is just around the bend.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Funny Things About My Niagra Falls Hotel Room

1) Someone tried to have a Blue Valentine evening here and ended up punching a hole through the bathroom door. (If you don’t get the reference, watch the movie. Or don’t. It’s pretty intense.)
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2) This trumpet with ribbon romantic “art”
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3) There is a heart-shaped jacuzzi in the middle of the room. After hand washing this beast myself, I soaked my sore body in this baby and watched Jurassic Park. It was awesome. And funny.

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4) The rest of the room was clearly designed by one of the Designing Women in 1985. Oh yeah black marble with mirrors.

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All. Of. This.
Totally not worth the price, but, really, nothing in Niagra Falls Canada is.

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Oh, Canada…. 7 Days and 300 Miles Trekking Across Southern Ontario

{Written August 22nd right outside Niagra Falls, ON. Published September 2nd in Ticonderoga, New York, with hotel WiFi.}

Oh, Canada….

Dustin and I have been riding slowly across southern Ontario for a few days now and here's what I think about Ontario in short form:

  • Canada is huge! Dustin and I are traveling along the southern most tip of Ontario basically following. Lake Erie from Port Lambton to the Lewiston-Queenston bridge outside Niagra Falls. I would love to come back another time and explore the northern icy portion of the province sometime.
  • The people are very nice. Exhibit A: We met a man on the ferry from Port Huron to Sabria and he invited us to his house for lunch and ended up letting us throw our mats down to sleep in his garage. Exhibit B: We stayed at the Fin and Feather trailer park in Booth's Harbour and a nice man gave us a couple litre bottles of much needed (and much appreciated!) soda. Exhibit C: We stayed at a trailer park on annual pig roast night (score, finally!) and we needed to bring a side to attend so one of the people who lived in said trailer park gave us two sides to contribute, just cause. Exhibit D: As we were leaving the world's third most expensive campsite ever a lady stopped us on the road asked if she could take our picture, told us she was proud of us and gave us $20 — just cause.

  • The produce is beautiful and abundant. We've been travelling mostly through fields of corn and other produce and, as a result, we've seen a lot of road-side stands selling beautiful heirloom tomatoes and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the stands operate on the honor system; take a tomato (or a bag full) and leave your money in the provided vessel. I love that.
  • Lake Erie is beautiful (but sometimes it smells like a turned over outhouse). We've been riding along Lake Erie nearly the entire time we've been in Canada (~300 miles — or 492 kilometers as the Canucks say) and it's been really lovely. Lots of canadian geese (which Dustin pointed out, are just normal geese here), lots of beautiful panoramic views — and also….. lots of poo smell. (Why does Lake Erie smell like poo, Canada? Is it the algae? The goose poo? The steel plant? Inquiring minds need to know!)
  • There are a lot of wind turbines. For real; they're everywhere! And those suckers are HUGE when you really get close to them.

  • People are torn as to whether or not they like/support/hate the wind turbines. Nearly every yard has a sign supporting or opposing the wind turbines. I tend to agree with the “wind turbines = green energy” perspective, but apparently there is some controversy about whether the turbines will give the people who live below them cancer which causes some pushback. Sounds like propaganda to me… (Do you know anything about this?)
  • Everything costs way more in Canada than in the states. For no particularly good reason. Seriously, what the heck, Canada? Why does it cost $34 to stay the night in your “conservation area” that, based on the permanent-housing trailers and litter, more closely resembles a trailer park? $2.50 for a soda?? What the heck, Canada. $46 to pitch a tent 20 miles outside Niagra?? Psh. Outrageous.
  • Along with “eh,” the people also say “yous” here. e.g: “Are yous going to camp here?” “Do yous need anything?” This is not a complaint, just an observation. I like it.
  • There are some nice bike trails in Canada including the Waterfront Trail, which we rode along much of Lake Erie, and the Friendship Trail which we road for a while toward the Niagra Parkway Trail.

Tomorrow we're headed into Niagra Falls and quite frankly….. I'm scared. Or, more appropriately, my pocket book is scared. I see $6 sodas in my future and hotel rooms that had better include dinner and a movie built into the price…. The plan is to get in, see the Maid of the Mist, take 47 pictures of the falls, sleep in a real bed, and get the heck out of dodge. Wish us luck. I'll let you know how it goes. 🙂

Some Ontario Pictures For Your Viewing Pleasure:

 

 

Michigan! My Michigan. 6 Days Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

For some people Michigan is by no means the highlight of a cross-country bike tour. In fact, many of the people we met touring along the way were taking the Manitowic alternate to spend 300ish more miles in Wiscconsin and avoid Michigan's upper peninsula all together. Me, on the other hand, I was raised in Michigan so I've been looking forward to cycling the state since this adventure was just a twinkle in my eye.

Our tour across the lower portion of the upper peninsual of Michigan — which consisted of stops in Crystal Falls, Escanaba, Rapid River, Manistique, Naubinway and St. Ignace — was…. full of ups and downs.

Ups:

  • The lake at Runkle Lake Park in Crystal Falls was beautiful. There was a tiny small dock where Dustin and I sat to drink our coffee in the morning. The bathrooms there had showers and the whole shebang only cost $12. The woman who took our money did the entire transaction with a Mild 100 hanging out of her mouth — and she never had to ash once. Her house (the RV that served as the campsite office) smelled like aged wood and cigarette smoke, a smell a remember fondly and associate very closely with the U.P. It made me feel comfortable in a weird Sweet Home Alabama way.
  • In Escanaba we washed our really smelly down sleeping bag finally! That whole ordeal was a total pain the butt worth a whole blog post of its own one day…

  • We did something a little different and stayed in a cabin in Rapid River, MI. That was fun in a weird way. The cabin had about a dozen '90s VHS tapes (not rewound, by the way) in it, including Fried Green Tomatoes, Joe Versus the Volcano and Buckmaster 7 Volume 2. We watched the first of the three, but got just as much enjoyment just looking at the cover of Buckmaster 7 Volume 2. There was a kitchen in the cabin so we cooked a real dinner — which was awesome — and the cabin was near a lake so I got to sit by the lake and watch our down sleeping bag (theoretically) dry.

  • We saw a giant bald eagle in a tree right next to the road right outside Naubinway and the Hog Island State Forest Campground. It was amazing and it stayed put for a really long time looking regal so we got to take a lot of pictures and then just stand there and stare quietly up at its majestic beauty for a long time. It was really amazing.
  • Hog Island SF CG was really pretty. The campsite wasn't too full and we got to camp in a spot with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. The view was so nice it more or less made up for the pit toilets.
  • The view of the Mackinaw Bridge coming into St. Ignace was really spectacular and fun.
  • In St. Ignace I bought this sweet Truckin' vinyl sticker to put on my pannier and we gorged ourselves on Mackinaw Island Fudge. #Win
  • We found a moderatly cheap St. Ignace hotel to stay in, which allowed us to take a day off out of the rain, and to dry out our tent as well as our clothes.

  • The Mackinaw Bridge Authority hauled us and our bikes across the Mackinaw bridge for $5 a person. This was much better than the $30+ the ferries were asking.
 

Downs:

  • We spent a lot of time riding on craptastic highways in Michigan. Busy roads or roads with little to no shoulder. At one point in St. Ignace the shoulder basically went away while I was riding up a hill on what seemed to be a full-scale highway. It wasn't the most relaxing of riding conditions.

  • There's no falls in Crystal Falls. Don't be fooled. There's actually not much of anything there. Oh, and the “Four Seasons” you see in the ACA map — it's a baby motel that happened to be sold out when we were there. It's not a “Four Seasons” proper.
  • We rolled into Escanaba the week of the Trapper Convention so everything was booked to the gills with trappers. This was a total pain in the ass at the time because we'd really been planning to take a day off in Escanaba. The woman at the Hiawatha Motel told us this covention happens about once every 10 years and people come from all over to attend; we have really funny timing, Dustin and I do. Also– we didn't get to see any cool trappin's!! WTH.
  • The aforementioned Rapid River cabin…. well, that gem smelled just a tinge like poo all the time. I think there was something up with the plumbing. Not a deal breaker, but for sure a downer.
  • We were really looking forward to going to Mackinaw Island until we learned the ferry is about $30 per person. Woah. How disappointing.
  • It rained like crazy while we were touring through the UP. One day it rained so hard we (and a bunch of motorcyclists) had to actually pull off the road and seek shelter under an awning. We thought we might actuallly get hit by lightning the thunder was so loud. (Pro: We did not get hit by lightning.) The rain really cramped our style riding through Michigan's moustache (assuming the LP in the beard).
  • I feel like there's a lot of beauty to be seen in the upper peninsula of Michigan and the route we were on just didn't do it justice. Every day I was like, “Yeah!! Today is the day! Show me your majestic awesomeness UP!” And every day…. it just didn't blow my hair back. Too much riding on the highway trying not to get run over by trucks. Not enough natural beauty.
  • Oh, and at the Norrmandy Motel — the motel we stayed in while in St. Ignace — I found the world's largest toenail on the floor right next to my face while I was stretching and then I discovered what I hope hope hope is old chocolate stuck to our blanket that we'd been sleeping in for the last two nights. I think it was really poo, but to save myself from the reality that I slept in motel poo for two nights, I am going to really ride our this chocolate theory. This was definitely what I'd consider a “down” of the upper peninsula experience.

Some U.P. Pictures…

 

 

Bicycle Touring Wisconsin West to East in 8 Days: A Recap

After Dustin and I left Don Olson’s Adventure Cycling Bunkhouse, we headed east toward Wisconsin. On our way toward the state line we hit a landmark incident — Dustin rode completely through his back tire and we needed to buy a new one!

wpid-Photo-20140814152658.jpg The folks at Outdoor Edge in Cambridge, MN, were excellent. Really nice people. Ok, ok, enough about MN in a WI post… Heads up, this post is super long because — as you’ve noticed — I haven’t updated this blog in weeks. Apologies! And, you’re welcome if you’re looking for a one-stop “all about Wisconsin touring” post. 🙂

Wisconsn Day One: The Lindstrom to Osceola Cluster$@&#

From Dalbo, we got Dustin a new tire in Cambridge, MN, then we were off to spend what we thought would be one more night in MN in the city of Lindstrom (population 4,442). After all the luxury at the Adventure Cyclist Bunkhouse we were feeling pretty lazy so we planned to make it a short day — 50 miles from Dalbo to Lindstrom plus a couple for the tire detour. Piece of cake. So we’re trekking, and finallly we pull up to the Hillcrest RV Park at the intersection of CR9 and CR20 right outside Lindstrom, MN. We’re thinking we’re in the middle of nowhere and we won’t have any problems finding a plot to pitch our baby tent in. Boy were we wrong. Turns out Lindstrom is having their “town parade” today and everyone from all the surrounding middle of nowhere places have come in to participate in the parade and hang out in Lindstrom — so there’s no camping. The woman at the campground directs us 10 miles SW to Chisago City where we can find a big hotel and a little hotel. When we arrive in Chisago City we find both the little AND the big hotel full! Turns out there’s a wedding in town and the wedding party has everything occupied. After helping us call several local hotels/motels — and getting rejected by several local hotels/motels — the woman behind the big hotel reception desk offers to let us stay at her house. She says she and her husband have backpacked out of the country before and she understands what it’s like to be tired and S.O.L. The catch: her house is eight miles in the wrong direction. Hrm. So I go outside to consult with Dustin who, since having to trek 10 miles out of the way to Chisago City, is turning into quite the bear. (The man hates backtracking; who can blame him?) Being a man who hates backtracking, we decide that if we have to ride another eight miles it should be in the right direction, so we thank the lady for her Don Olson-esque kindness and push onward toward Osceola, Wisconsin. (A new state!) wpid-Photo-20140814152659.jpg 16 miles later we arrive in Osceola, are greeted by a Dairy Queen (a luxury that’s become quite a theme for us on this tour) and the River Valley Inn & Suites. With hour short 50-mile day rolling over into a 77-mile day, it would be accurate to say that we have never been so happy to see an overpriced hotel in all our days.

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The shower is warm, the bed is King-size, and the Continental breakfast includes cereal with milk, so I am happy.

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Wisconsin Day Two: Interstate State Park + St. Croix Falls

The next morning we wake up for the first time in Wisconsin and push off toward Interstate State Park where I am told they have many camping spots (yay!) We plan to canoe in the state park but are foiled by rain. Despite the rain, the park is beautiful and we stay for two nights. The park is better described with pictures:

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I would definitely return to Interstate State Park again!

Wisconsin Day 3: Cumberland, WI

From Interstate SP we entered what I call the land of CR-random letter. From CR G to CR DD, all the random letters were represented in roads we traversed. Silos were abound (Wisconsin apparently makes lots off cheese did you know that? ;)) Our third night we spend in Cumberland, WI, at “Country Quiet” RV Park. We slept right on the lake and witness an amazing sunset. Dustin said the water in the lake was really warm and we considered staying to take a lake day but then decided to press onward hoping our next stop, Edgewater on Lake Chetac, would yield a beautiful place to swim the day away.

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Wisconsin Day 4: Edgewater + Lake Chetac

The ride to Lake Chetac was beautiful. Lake Chetac itself, on the other hand……… was less beautiful. We refer to this as the “Ectoplasm green boat scum lake” in our discussion of Edgewater. Pros of Edgewater: – They had a convenience store where we could buy french onion dip and chips (a craving Dustin and I both had been carrying about for a while). – They had a bar where we ate some deep-fried cheese. (As you can tell, Dustin and I are both on a very low-calorie touring diet…) Wisconsin Day 5: A Hayward Detour for River Tubing After our Interstate State Park canoe day being foiled by rain, and then our Edgewater lake day being foiled by green boat scum, we had reached our limit and we needed a lake day with some GD tubing/kayaking/canoeing/family-freakin-fun. So we took the long way east to swoop through the Hayward KOA where they have both tubing and kayaking built into the ridiculous camping price. At this point there was no price that could be put on the value of some good ol’ river tubing, for real. So, we trekked into Hayward where we were met by a crapton of people. Apparently Hayward has become quite a tourist destination (??). I did not see this coming. Walking our bikes past the Jersey Shore-style t-shirt shops and candy slangers we made our way to the post office so that I could take care of about 6 weeks worth of backed up mailing I had to do (hobo bag bike was getting out of control). This is important to the story because it was outside the post office (and after, literally, I was in there for an hour) that I met Kris Mayberry — the Mother Theresa of Wisconsin. I wrote a whole post inspired by Kris Mayberry earlier in the blog (the Let Go and Let God post). Please take the time to read that post if you’re interested in hearing a story about a stranger inviting a couple of other total strangers back to his house and being totally awesome. Or, here’s the Cliffs Notes recap: Kris Mayberry lives in Hayward on the river right behind the KOA; he offered to let us stay for free; fed us a lot of really amazing food including fresh from Georgia peaches; he lent us tubes and we river rafted for free on his property. He is awesome; Life was good. Commence river rafting photos:

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Wisconsin Day 6: Glidden City Park with Stef and Brendan

After Hayward the plan was to ride to Clam Lake. Instead, we ran into Stef and Brendan — two newly weds cycle touring the Northern Tier as their honeymoon trip (our kind of people!) — and rode past Clam Lake to a free city park in Gliddon. The ride between Hayward and Gliddon was pretty alright. The elevation wasn’t crazy yet and we spent most of our riding hours on county roads named after letters (CR AA; CR G; etc.) Camping in the city park with Stef and Brendan was super fun! Up until this point we hadn’t really camped with any other cyclists; we see them aall the time on the side of the road and stop and chat for a few minutes, or we camp near them and they do thheir business and we do ours, but this time our forces combined and we actually camped together and spet the evening sharing and comparing road stories. As mentioned… it was really fun. Turns out Stef and Brendan are a lot like us and they’ve been tackling a lot of the same challenges that we have — which is always nice to hear; I always find it reassuring to know my issues are common ones that can be solved. I don’t know why we didn’t take any pictures with Stef and Brenden (that was dumb), but you can read all about their journey on their blog: PedalingBS.com.

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Wisconsin Day 7: Big Lake State Park with Dinosaur Kid

After parting ways with Stef and Brenden in Gliddon (they were headed toward the Manitowic alternate, and we were headed toward the U.P. of Michigan. Plus… they ride way more miles than we do every day; like 100+ miles. They are human machines), we headed onward to Big Lake State Park outside of Boulder Junction, WI.   The “Big Lake” was pleasant — not filled with green boar grime — but, it’s funny, the most memorable part of this day way the camp host’s red-haired grandson. He was about 8 and awesome. The kid just wanted to talk. He told me he was going to be a police man, then he told me, alternately, his plan was to open a fish museum. He also told me that dinosaurs still existed very deep under the ocean. All of this he told me breathing very little while his grandfather tried desperately to talk over him (to Dustin) about our trip and our camp registration. It was really funny. I liked that ki

Wisconsin Day 8: Star Lake Lake Day!!

Our last and final day in Wisconsin was supposed to be our first day in Michigan, but we got distracted by the Wisconsin Northwoods, the elevation of the state’s backroads, Star Lake and the promise of our infamous lake day (!) Stef and Brended had mentioned they might stop at Star Lake to have a lake day because they heard the lake was beautiful. We didn’t see them at the lake but I hope they did stop because the lake WAS beautiful!! It was warm and pleasant and everything we’d hoped for in a lake day. We took lake baths with the Bronners and we did cannonballs and backflips and we tested the waterproof claim of my Lifeproof iPhone case (which, by the way, was totally waterproof and allowed us to takee UNDERWATER pictures!! Awesome.) We hung out in the sun and we went to a FISH FRY at a bar. (Which, by the way, sucked. Ok, it was alright. But not what I had built it up in my mind to be.) I took some great nature photos and our lake day ended up being the perfect ending to our tour through Wisconsin. If you don’t believe me, check out these best-day-ever photos:

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Some Other Pictures of Wisconsin…

Here are some other pictures from our trek across Wisconsin that didn’t quite fit into the narrative above, but I find worth sharing. You can also find more pictures of our entire journey on our Flickr account. Enjoy! image   image

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