Category Archives: Cross Country Bike Trip Journal – 2014

Vermont! A better late than never post.

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Now that we’ve been home for a few months and mourned (mostly) the loss of that freedom that one only acquires while on the road, I’ve decided that it’s time to finish, or at least continue our blog/journal from the road. I’m writing this now because I’m really missing the open road, but also because I feel like I must do justice to all these beautiful people and places we visited by sharing them with you who have supported us before and during our journey and continue to support us now that we are back. And yes, this is a post by me (Dustin), so it won’t be as eloquently written as Chelsea’s posts, but it will include lots of pictures 🙂

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After leaving New York and the Adirondack Park we took a ferry across Lake Champlain and into Vermont. The scenery was just like a post card! Rolling green hills and secluded farm houses as far as the eye could see. It felt like we were in a Cabot Cheese commercial. We strolled along the rolling hills, East towards the Green Mountains. The approach of the mountains was bitter sweet. We knew that climbing the mountains would get us to our lovely friends Crystal and Dwayne for some R&R, but it also meant the beginning of mountain climbing for pretty much the rest of the journey. Besides a few climbs in the Adirondacks we hadn’t had any huge mountain passes since the Rockies. I think the promise of home-made fish fry from Crystal and Dwayne was the only thing that got us up and over those Green Mountains.

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Our first night in Vermont we were exhausted from riding uphill all day. We couldn’t find our campsite and it was beginning to get dark, In hind site, I don’t think the campsite still exists (Thanks a lot Adventure Cycling maps). Luckily for us we came across the Pumpkin Patch Bed and Breakfast where the very kind proprietors Rich & Debbie Mathiesen graciously allowed us to camp in their back yard; they even gave us access to a spare room for showering/bathroom needs. Rich also greeted us in the morning and offered up some detour advice regarding a road closure on our route. Thank you so much Rich and Debbie!!

IMG_3632After we left the Pumpkin Patch we headed directly uphill for a long day of climbing, trying to get as close to Crystal and Dwayne’s house as possible so that we could call our rescue wagon (Crystal and her new cargo van) to come pick us up and take us home to the fish fry promise land. When we’d had enough climbing for one day we stopped at a campsite near a river, swam a little, and waited for Crystal to rescue us and take us home to her place where we ate, rested, fished, ate some more, did i say rested, and laughed and carried on together in what will forever be known as the “New England Slam”.

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Leaving Crystal and Dwayne was very hard for us, but we new we had to push on if we were going to get to the East coast and finish our tour before the weather started getting colder. We still had the White Mountains of New Hampshire ahead of us and the dreaded Kancamagus Pass to climb, and then the steep hills of Maine before we’d reach the Atlantic Coast and the end of our Journey. Thank you so much Crystal and Dwayne, and all of our new Vermont friends! We love and miss you and think about you guys constantly.

Some more Vermont pictures:

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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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How Don Olson’s Adventure Cycling Bunkhouse Restored My Faith in Humanity

Do you know where Dalbo, MN is? I assume not since people within a 20-mile radius of Dalbo don't even know where it is.

It's a small town — population 80 — at the intersection of SR47 and SR6 in Eastern Minnesota; the streets are lined with old barns and silos, much like many of the places we've been riding through for the past 10 weeks. There's more or less not a lot going on, so rolling up to Don Olson's Adventure Cyclist bunkhouse in the middle of SR47 to find a 100-year-old barn (completed with silo!) converted into a cyclist's dreamhouse with cots and fresh eggs and a toaster and a shower that Don built himself was like a dream.

You know that scene in Cinderella when she swoops into the castle and spins around and magic is in the air as she finds herself surrounded by so much luxury? That's how I felt entering Don Olson's bunkhouse — like a road cycling Disney princess. There was a refrigerator with cheese in it! Fresh cheese — for free — for me! Just because. (Yes!) There was a toaster so that we could have toasted bread! (Yes!) There were other cyclists!! (Yes!!) Just hanging out looking at maps and drinking coffee — because there was also a coffee maker! (YES!!!) For a cyclist who's been living in a tent the size of a twin-size bed with another adult for 10 weeks, Don Olson's bunkhouse is like Cinderella's magic castle.

If you've never spent 10 weeks living in a tent and off only the things you can carry, you may not be able to relate when I refer to toasted bread, cereal with cold milk and a shower that runs at whatever temperature the sun dictates as “magic.” That's fair. On the other hand, if you have cycle toured The States before and you've never been to Don Olson's bunkhouse, please go. It's free (!) and the experience is priceless.

Why Don Olson Has Restored My Faith in Humanity

So, once the inital Disneyland-esque head rush wore off and I was finished with my actually-quite-warm hose shower and my cereal and my toast and my coffee I found myself sitting in a real piece of apolstered furniture fat, happy and overwhelmed with gratitude for a man who transformed his father's 100-year-old barn into a safehaven for adventureres traversing through the middle of nowhere. Just because.

He told us that he wanted to keep the barn alive and that the best way to keep it standing was to use it, and this — opening it up to shelter strangers — seemed like the best way to use it.

Don hung out with us (while I was there Dustin and I shared the bunkhouse with four other cyclists; Ted and John — a pair riding together who D and I met earlier in our ride when we were sleeping behind a bar in alightning storm (worth mentioning again), Tom — a fellow on a recumbant from MN we'd run into earlier in the trip around the Continental Divide, and John — a teacher from Texas who started riding with Tom around the middle of MN) and he told us stories about the barn, and the military, and past cyclists, and his wife, and his life. He made sure the coffee never ran out and offered to drive us to the store if we needed anything. He gave us real towels (yes!) and eggs and toast, and footed the bill for all of it, asking only that we sign the gustbook before we leave.

I like living in a world where people do nice things for other people just because. Where people trust one another; where no one takes advantage; where the community meets in the middle to share stories in passing. That is the place where I want to live; that's how I want to create my life; those are the people I want to surround myself with.

It's selfless people like Don Olson who pave the path and create footsteps in which to follow.

I loved the toaster and the coffee maker and all the non-Thoreauean creature comforts the Bunkhouse had to offer me, but what I really loved the most about the bunkhouse was the big fat human experience hug I received inside those barn walls. Something that I will keep with me always, and refer back to often, as I return to my normal life and the icy shitstorm that can be shopping at Costco (or other such scenarios that represent civilization is at its worst).

Don Olson reminded me that you choose who want to be, how you want to interact with others, and how you want to embrace your community — and those simply passing through. Don Olson is the Mother Theresa of Minnesota and I will think of him and his bunkhouse often when I am feeling like humanity is spiraling downward, and when I am making my who, how, here and now choices.

 

Thanks, Don!

 

Some Pictures From Don Olson's Adventure Cycling Bunkhouse:

 

 

Michigan Party Details!! 08/09/14

The day has come! For all ya’ll looking for information about my Michigan coming home/half-way party, here are the details:

I rode my bicycle 2,468 miles from Washington state to Michigan… Now it’s time to party Royal Oak BBQ style! My cousin Sara has offered up her backyard for us to BBQ and hug and talk road stories (sneak preview: Dustin had to mace a Rottweiler the other day and we’ve been riding in the rain for six straight days).

Here’s the details:

Address: [Since removed]

Time: 3pm-8pm

We’ll have food and beverages, but please BYOB if you want to booze it up and if you bring something to share (food wise) that would be swell (but it’s not required)

Text me with questions or leave a comment here! I will answer when I have phone service and when it’s not pouring rain.

Shoe of the day #6

ROAD MOCCASIN

This extremely blown-out moccasin/slipper was spotted outside Petoskey, MI. I estimate that it was this well worn down long before it was lost on the road and run over by all manor of vehicles. Because of this, we can only assume that it will be truly missed by its owner.

On a lighter note; the moccasin was spotted right next to this beautiful quarry pond. The torquois water was extremely inviting, like a tropical lagoon, but we had to resist as this water is almost certainly filled with bacteria and/or all manner of industrial pollutants.

 

 

 

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