Saturday, August 11, 2012

We made it!

Well we did it!! I'm sitting on my parents front porch drinking iced tea with Barry Manilow's song 'Looks Like We Made It' stuck in my head. It's one of my favorite places in the world but could someone please change the music! We rolled into Belmar, NJ August 9th at about 2:30 pm after an 80 mile ride thru some great NJ terrain. No, that is not an oxymoron. It is the garden state and despite it's bad rap we had some of the best riding of our trip. Thanks to my brother Bob, and his able body assistant Lara, we had a great last day of the tour. They did a fantastic job route researching and putting the cue sheets together. The notes were clear and only a yellow brick road would have made it easier.
It started in the early misty fog with the beautiful orange sun coming up thru the corn fields. Although there was some congestion in the Princeton area most of the day was spent connecting small, rural roads. Coming occasionally to a busy, high trafficked intersection we would either cross it or ride the road briefly and then disappear back into the quiet streets again. Just long enough to remind you that you are traveling thru one of the most densely populated states. We had a great receiving party at the beach feeling like celebrities with our friends clapping for us and their cameras going off. I guess there is going to be a small article/picture in The Coast Star, the town's local paper. What next a guest appearance on a reality TV show? Jerseylicious takes to the road on bikes!
One of the highlight of our last week was meeting my sister Peg and brother-in-law Mike at Watkins Glen NY for a little camp. Thankfully it was the week before NASCAR racing in the area! I'm sure the roads in the Finger Lakes of NY get a little scarier for a bike during race week. We also learned that in wine country it's a little hard to find cold water but that wine slushies also rehydrate nicely on a hot day.
I'm sure a degree of depression will set in, but right now doing nothing feels so right it's hard to be sad. It's great to tell the stories to my family and relive the best, the worst or the oddest moments. I never would have thought in the beginning that we would have camped next to a casino, a bar were you could bring your beers to the tent, a sewer treatment plant or next to a clown named Skeeter ( yes in full costume ). Never did I think that we would eat hundreds of French fries, countless burgers, eat a pastie or that a cold Miller Lite could taste soooo good after a hot ride. Never did I think that when you are standing in front of a market, watching the bikes while John shopped for dinner, that a Native American would name me Freckles, that numerous tatooed, pierced scary looking teens would politely ask me about our trip and wish us well, that people would cheer from cars, or that 2 -200 lb Irish Wolf Hounds would chase after us hoping to catch us for dinner. Thankfully they were too fat and we had a slight downhill advantage. Never did I think that out of all the planning and projects that John accomplished before the trip my favorite would be a simple pillow case that my puff jacket packed into so it doubled as a pillow. And never did I think (it took 2000 miles for me to realize I was doing it) that I would bike close to 4500 miles across this country and despite wanting a break from riding and camping I still like touring and look forward to future cycling adventures.
John and I learned a lot this trip like 4 months might be a titch long for a cycling vacation, that we both love to eat and drink too much to lose significant weight on vacation, but mostly that we compliment each other nicely and under stress each of us can step up to the plate to make things work! It's nice to have that reinforced after 20 years together and especially after the last few weeks when we were both more then a little road weary, we were down right crusty!!
What else is on the bucket list? Who knows! But hopefully it be will something that challenges me both mentally and physically. Something that reassures my belief that people are good, this country is beautiful and our future is hopeful. But mostly something with John that we can enjoy together.
Thank you to everyone that helped us pull this endeavor off by welcoming us into your homes or neighborhoods, by caring for our lives that we left behind in Utah and by all your well wishes, thoughts and prayers. Your efforts and interest made this an experience of a lifetime. It has reinforced our knowledge that we live in a wonderful place. That we have wonderful family and friends scattered all over this country who have impacted our lives in many terrific ways.
Bottom line We did it! The bikes have seen better days, the tent looks like a battlefield where the mosquitos were victorious and our tan lines I'm sure will look great on the beach. What was the best part, the simplicity of the day--ride, eat, sleep. What was you hardest part, the simplicity-- you have to make all those things and all the day to day routines happen yourself ( or hope your husband does it ). We did it! Did I say that yet? Kate

Monday, July 30, 2012

Oh Canada!

We made it back to the states, surviving the expense of Canada! It took us four days of riding to get thru to Fort Erie, Ontario. Now we are relaxing at our friend Scott's and our new friend Donna's house near Buffalo, NY trying to figure out the route to NJ. Done with the Adventure Cycling maps John will put his skills to the test and start the route selection. I have complete confidence in him but I'm sure he wishes, at times, that his wife was a little more like Sacajawea and not Lucille Ball. Oh well, I is who I is whether I know which way is east.
Scott showed us a great time being our personal guide and bike security thru Fort Erie and Niagara Falls. We get a little twichy in the more populated areas about the safety of our gear and with his experience in touring Scott was very accommodating to our needs. We learned a good lesson in one of campgrounds in Michigan about leaving stuff unattended, which did work out in the end, but gave us a shake to start paying more attention. The bad weather held off with only Scott getting soggy on his bike ride over to meet us. We continued to luck out and only got a spritz. Niagara Falls was beautiful and a pretty ride down the river. Clifton Hill, on the Canadian side of Niagara, was a total zoo feeling like a really crazy carnival. Tons of people wandering up and down the road bumping into each other too busy gawking at the wax museum figures in the windows to be looking around. It was great people watching and felt invigorating to be in a diverse mix of people (even if there was too many of them). I'm sure we added our own element to the crowd with the bright colored Lycra ( I hope we took our rearview mirrors off of our sun glasses). We have felt many times in many places that we were a freak show.
Canada was a little change for us, great in some ways but some challenges on the roads. The roads were so narrow there wasn't even room for the white line that we try to stay to the right of. The first day or two it caused huge road stress for me because it seemed no matter how secondary the roads were huge trucks were barreling down on us. I'm not sure if my nerves were fried after 3 months but I ditched my bike into the gravel shoulder quite a few times. My trust of the Canadian truck drivers just wasn't there causing anger mixed with tears at times. Thankfully the roads got way smaller hugging Lake Erie's coast thru some nice quiet neighborhoods and we could relax and enjoy the area. So all ended well north of the border and now we are on to the final leg of the trip. The final leg, never thought I'd say that! 500-600 miles maybe and no matter how much I don't want it to end I can't wait for it to end. A little screwy huh?! The plane tickets for home are booked and Belmar is looking good and close. Hopefully the next couple of weeks go as smoothly as the past few months. Have we suffered enough on the trip? Probably not but we will take our good luck and good decision making and continue down the road. See you all sooner or later. Kate

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Great Lakes

Well we made it over The Bridge! Actually we ferried around it to Mackinac Island and spent the day doing the tourist thing. The Island was crowded but had a great bike loop that followed the coastline. Since cars aren't allowed it was a nice change of pace, except for the smell of the horse poo.
I'd say the Trolls have it when it comes to the roads that we got to sample and the beaches we got to see. I think the route we took thru the upper peninsula might not have been the best one to judge the whole by though. We rode route 2 till we crossed over The Bridge which was a little busy and had road construction in some places. That's never a great experience on the bike. But living below The Bridge seems to have it's advantages. Now being a Jersey Beach girl it may sound strange for me to say but comparing some of these beaches and resort towns along Lake Michigan to the Jersey Shore has been interesting. The town of Harbor Springs was a little crowded and touristy when we went thru but one stretch of road along the waterfront had beautiful old houses that reminded me a little of Spring Lake in N.J. with outstanding views of the lake. For you all not from N.J. it's a well to do town with big old Victorian homes on the coast. I don't think you'd see it on any of those shows starring Snooki or The Situation. Also there were nice smaller beaches and sections that could pass for any number of island resorts, except for that great salt air smell was missing. The blue shade of the water with sail boats ancored close to shore at times even had me thinking about the Mediterranean coast. OK maybe it's the heat or I just haven't been home to Belmar yet but the area has a great feel to it. We have also been sampling our fair share of ice cream and this cute town of Alden had the best so far at a place called Higgins. Dad you would have loved their fresh cherry flavor!
The route we have been following, so far, on The Mitten has been a little convoluted for us who want to go east. At times we find ourselves heading west and it's hard to relax and go with the advice on the maps. Tomorrow after the first part of the day we start in earnest heading east with a little southern drift. We'll get to ride along Lake Erie after crossing into Canada for a brief period. Locals have said it looks like a great route to follow.
Hopefully we'll be avoiding most of the big cities, Traverse City almost killed us in more ways then one. John has been doing 99% of the navigating using the maps and iPhone and has been doing great. However complicated routes through busy big cities tend to set him off, between the aggressive drivers and a lot of unsigned intersections and how on the bike paths you have to yield to every cross street even though the road you are following does not. Paired with a hot humid day and two cars that tried to run him over in a cross walk, when his chain sucked he cracked like a teen age girl who got a zit on prom night. Okay he never cried but man did he pitch a fit! Times called for me to get us out of the city. Uh-oh, me who can't navigate my way out of a closet. I love my parents but couldn't I get my Dad's sense of direction and my Mom's ability to spell instead of the other way around. Luckily we made it thru to ride another day!
It's getting hot for real now and the humidity is an interesting factor that we don't usually have to deal with in Utah. I think my summer cold has just turned into mold in my lungs, nothing is drying very easily anymore. Maybe that will mean more hotels! Wish us well with the Canooks. Kate

Monday, July 9, 2012

Colds in a heat wave

We are kinda back on our bikes after a wonderful Independence Day on Black Oak Lake. The Hoffman's were a warm welcoming group of people that we can now call friends. They shared their home and summer traditions with us and it was amazing to be part of a group again. The fireworks were awesome receiving an A+ using the high standards set by my Dad years ago. A great band was playing at the Gateway Lodge, a hotel that threw you back in time having a great rustic, nostalgic feel to it. We got to see two parades on the Fourth, one on land and one on the lake. The parade on the lake was especially enjoyable since it was 90 and sunny and we were wet from the lake wearing swimsuits. The heat wave hitting most of the country was present bring the area the hottest Forth since the 1930's. Luckily each night a rain storm would pass by and cool the place off making for great sleeping. Surprisingly there were few biting flies and even fewer mosquitoes.We will give credit, I guess, to the spiders. They were fast setting up and they were everywhere but I don't think they were interested in us. We milked our stay another day because of the heat but bucked up and peddled out on Friday the Sixth.
Ironically with our first exposure to any length of heat we got summer colds. Hopefully we didn't infect our new friends with Whooping Cough! We had set reservations in a hotel 2 days after we left Land O Lakes so we pushed forward, John mostly being over the cold but myself hacking and coughing my way thru the rides. We have all been in these shoes before when you can't stop coughing and you are so embarrassed you not only feel like you are dying but wish you would. Oh well, the ride goes on and after 3 nights in a hotel and a bottle of NyQuil I think we will be back on our feet again in the morning. Thanks to Mother Tericia for all your healing oils and concoctions at the cottage. We are still using the rosemary oil which seems to work nicely. I wonder if my great boss Julia would pay me sick time for this week instead of vacation? I think not!
We have crossed into Michigan and are heading to 'The Bridge'. People keep asking if we are going over 'The Bridge' and at first I thought wow they really like talking about their bridges but then realized they were talking about 'The Bridge'. The Mackinac Bridge! It is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere at about 5 miles long. We can't ride it, I guess in 1957 they didn't consider bike lanes important. We will probably ferry around it to Mackinac Island or we could get shuttled across. It will be the first of the trip where we will have to rely on motors. As an aside I guess The Bridge also separates the Yoopers from the Trolls. I'll let you know if I see any differences between the folks that live on the Upper Peninsula from those that live below The Bridge .
Funny how the trip feels like it's flying by, only maybe 1400 miles left to go. But looking back the Cascades seem like a whole different ride, was that last year? It's the same sensation I had as a kid when the ride to anyplace fun seemed to take so long but on the drive home it all seemed to have gone by so quickly. The trick for us now, as it has been, is to enjoy the now and not look to far forward. Maybe even slow down and milk it for all it's worth. When is the next time we'll get to cross The Bridge and hang out with Trolls! Till next time. Kate

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The North Woods

We have been riding in Wisconsin for about four days now. Off to a slow start on some busier roads we finally got to some great county roads, ones with letters for names not numbers. The F, the K, the Ff, county S, you get the idea. The counties use the same letters throughout the state so the postal service must have hell of a time with mail delivery. The roads are small single lane roads that roll smoothly. They have little traffic and lots of shade and the drivers in Wisconsin are all business, no cap taps here! They are going to the lake! Yielding to the bikes and merging nicely, half are towing a small motor boat or the canoe is on top. Why ride a bike when you can play on the water?
At first I didn't quite get it, lakes are nice and all but it's not the beach. The north woods are beautiful but between mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies why bother. Many a night we have been trapped in the tent with those nasty bugs trying to get at us, taking any interest away in the greatness that may be outside. Plus most of the places we would camp at would be on the lake but you couldn't see it through the trees, so the pay off just wasn't there. One night at the Saint Croix State Park, after riding 60 miles, instead of sitting in the hot humid tent surrounded by mosquitoes we went for a bike ride. You say what a ride after a ride? Well it was the only way to see the park (walking with the swarms wasn't an option), cool down(creating our own fan) and escape the little f****** (sorry for the language Mom).
But like so many other parts of this trip things came together. Other times it was luck, chance or simple planning but this time it was our friend and neighbor Mark and his family's magical cottage on Black Oak Lake in Land O Lakes, Wisconsin. Allowing us to experience the area the right way and understanding why everybody is in a hurry to get to the lake. I'm not sure if I can do the cottage justice but the place has that feel of those old jeans that you value more then anything and would never think of getting rid of. It's simple elegance is seen thru the beautiful beams in the ceiling and the scattered family relics thru the rooms. Built in 1916 it still holds that time's vib depite electricity and modern plumbing. It's family's love of it's ancestors is felt in it's upkeep as well as photos. Mark's brother David is curator,not a caretaker, of this gem. Caretaking implies upgrades to keep things current. Curator is more accurate. Everything has been kept in good working order but has been left in period, so to speak.
I had been wondering why these homes didn't have screened in porches, and I still don't know why most look like they don't, but this cottage had a charming screened in porch with a view of the lake, a nice cool breeze and a rocker to boot, heaven! The lake is clean and quiet, with it having that neighhood feel. Other families that have been coming here as long as the Hoffman's boat by welcoming everyone back home.
So we've crashed their Fourth of July party for a few days, hoping not to step on too many toes. The timing also was perfect in that I think John and I needed to mix it up with some friends and give each other a break. Twenty four seven is hard to do no matter how much you like and love someone! So this break is great timing to recharge the batteries. Hopefully a few days off the bikes during the busy holiday drive time will also keep us a little safer.
It sounds like there is a parade and fireworks in town and with flags decorating our bikes we are celebrating our independence in more ways then one. But we also are thankful that we have great friends and family helping us to achieve this goal. So grab your kazoo and have a great yankee doodle dandy time this Fourth. Kate