We finished!

On July 30, we completed our trip as we rolled into Boston! Thanks to all of those who followed us this summer and kept in touch. We are still quite amazed that three flat tires were the only real mechanical issues that came up throughout the entire trip. The bikes served us well! Our next big challenge…figuring out what to do with our expanded appetites now that we aren’t as active.

Boston!

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We’re still alive!

(Jesse)

So you probably want an explanation. No posts since July 15th! Yeah…that’s pretty bad. Sorry to leave you wondering. So basically, once we got into Canada, internet access was scarce, and when we did have it, we used it to catch up on emails. Sorry folks. The good news is, we’re all still very much alive and kicking, or spinning, and are nearing the end of our wondrous journey. Also, in the last few weeks, we’ve been traveling a bit differently, with couples going at different paces and taking rest days at different locations, allowing for some alone time. Currently, Greg, Kristina, Maria, and I are at Bethany Birches camp in Plymouth, Vermont, and Dave and Anna are on their way from NY and will join us tomorrow. We will all depart the camp Thursday morning for our final 2 days of pedaling where we will arrive in Boston! Thanks to all of those who have expressed concern…I wish we had a more exciting story to share about why we hadn’t posted for a while, but then again, maybe it’s good that I don’t.

And now, one thing that I’ll really miss about Canada: POUTINE!

In short, it’s basically, french fries, cheese, and chicken gravy. In long, let’s see, where to start…the potatoes, which are said to be “fresh cut!” (but who knows, most poutine is found in a “chip stand” which is usually a gutted bread truck transformed into a little snack bar with one little window through which money enters and greasy treats are expelled) are delicately sliced thick and given a nice, slippery bath in some oil, which is probably overly used so that the fries disappear once they get about an inch into it, but I don’t care because they taste so good. These fries, are then piled high in a box, covered in shredded cheese (we hear it can come as cheese curds or chunks as well), and then doused with chicken gravy, that’s right, chicken gravy! (I know, why hadn’t I thought of that before, right? or eh?) One thing that I forgot to mention, is that a sheet of tin foil is also placed between the box and the greasy tenderness, keeping the consumer’s lap grease-free. The box is then slid through the small window, and the options continue…there’s salt, pepper, and other spices to add on, a bottle of white vinegar, etc. (we didn’t use any of these because we were very hungry and just wanted to indulge as soon as possible). Poutine, you will be missed, and your ability to send consumers signing up for a 15-20 minute appointment with the nearest bathroom’s porcelain throne is an ability that not every treat can boast about. I only was able to enjoy poutine once, partly because of how it made me feel when I had to ride many miles afterward, and partly because we just didn’t pass many chip stands at the right time, although, I firmly believe that it’s always the right time for poutine, so I guess that’s not a good excuse either. Another thing I’ll miss…butter tarts…but don’t get me started…

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Day 30: July 15, Bruce Mines, Ontario to Spanish, Ontario (78 mi.)

(Kristina)

We woke up to a hazy, humid morning, and left our campsite in Bruce Mines to hop back on Highway 17, the tran-scanadian highway. We more or less followed the northern coast of Lake Huron today, sometimes being close to the water, other times being more inland, and also following a river for a while before lunch. After eating at the grocery store in Blind River, Greg and I opted to follow a smaller road along the coast that parallels the highway for a small segment. After spending days upon days on highways 20, 2, 28, and now 17, any chance to get off the bigger roads is very welcome and refreshing. We were able to ride right along the waters edge for some time; the lake was still beautiful on this cloudy day.
We ran into some rain in the late morning and mid-afternoon, and now, after having set up camp here at Mitchell’s Campground in Spanish, the rain has settled in to a slow drizzle. Tonight’s dinner will be egg noodle pasta with peas, chicken hot dogs, and cheese sauce. Our campground is right next to a boat marina, and I’m hoping the weather will clear up enough to allow me to sit on the dock for a while. Later this evening, we might head into town to get either fish and chips or poutine, popular local snacks/dishes.

On another note, many thanks to all who sent birthday wishes my way a few days ago. I had a wonderful birthday in Munising, MI, including an evening boat cruise with Greg to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a Dairy Queen blizzard, time with Seth and Theresa, and a lovely sunset over Lake Superior.

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We made a local newspaper!

Crookston article!

Unfortunately, the photographer did not stick around to hear about much of our journey, or for Anna to come out of the grocery store, which is why she is not pictured.

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July 10, Kimball, WI to Covington, MI (92.2 mi)

(Greg)
It seems to have become my duty to report our entrances into uncharted territories, so here it is: NEW STATE! State number seven for the trip rolled around after only three miles this morning, and we were graciously bid entrance to the Upper Peninsula with a large sign reading “Welcome to Pure Michigan.” This left me wondering what travelers find when entering the mitten half of Michigan: “Welcome to Diluted Michigan?” “Welcome to Crusty-old-Mutt Michigan?” I’ll have to go check it out some day, I guess.

We continued at our brisk pace today, topping the 90-mile mark for the sixth day in a row. With the three hundred-plus days, we’ve averaged over 100 miles a day for six days. No wonder it seems the states are flying by.

We are working against a bit of a time crunch, but we’re still trying to experience the natural and local world as we go. Tomorrow we’ll ride another 100 mile day to put us in Munising, which is home (or close to home) to some painted rocks that are rumored to be spectacular. We plan to take a rest day on the 12th, which we will use to see some of the gorgeous lakeside vistas the Upper Peninsula has to offer, as well as celebrate birthdays for Jesse (11th) and Kristina (12th). If anyone wants to come to Munising to deliver a cake, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

Some highlights from today, experienced both vicariously and personally:

At lunch, Jesse and Maria reported having seen some of the most exciting wildlife of the trip thus far. Their sightings included moose-butt (no antlers were seen) and wolf-on-the-road. As for myself, I saw deer in various forms: deer-on-the-road, deer-leg, full-deer-carcass-on-the-side-of-the-road-with-cleaned-ribs-sticking-out. Pretty cool.

Kristina and I stopped for ice cream at a little shop along Michigan Highway 28. I got an ice cream cone so we could fill water bottles, and we chatted with the owners. They were amazed by our trip, and they wished us safe travels and plenty of adventures. A little boy came into the shop with his dad. He exclaimed that the reason he was getting bigger was because he had a chainsaw.

We found lodging at a “Multi-Purpose Building” here in Covington. It’s kind of a like a church without the sanctuary: kitchen, bathrooms, (showers!), small fellowship hall, and gym. Some of us we sleep in the gym, since rain is predicted for tonight.

There are boxcars all along the highway. We’ve been seeing them for miles, and a woman at the local restaurant told us that they continue for even more miles. Speaking of the restaurant, we’re headed there now for some celebratory beverages (milkshakes!) and socializing with local folk.

All is well on the Upper Peninsula.

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July 9 – Superior to Kimball, Wisconsin [96ish mi.]

(Jesse)
Today started unlike any other so far. I’m not sure what time it was at all, but sometime during the middle of the night, I woke up and heard some pots and pans getting knocked over. I quickly grabbed my headlamp, unzipped my tent, and tried to find what had caused the raucous. No luck…probably a water bottle that had fallen over and knocked some dishes over. Back to my tent, headlamp off, and back to sleep. A little later, I heard something rustling around outside of our tent. The thing was pretty close to where Maria’s head was peacefully resting, so I decided to wake her up and tell her that something was outside of the tent by her head. I unzipped my side of the tent, peeked out, and saw a shadow which was cast from one of the park lights in the distance. The shadow moved, as shadows do when living things are creating them, and I got back in my tent and grabbed my headlamp as I heard the thing squeak a few times. A mouse? Rat? What could it be? I was hoping it was the long-awaited moose that none of us has seen yet, but the squeak pretty much ruled that out. I heard it rustle again, and peeked out again, this time with my headlamp, in the direction of the sound. The beam of light grazed the dewy grass and then found what it was looking for…the thing. And the thing looked at me, with its two reflective eyes, slick, black coat, and white stripe. Back to my tent I went in a flash! “Skunk!” I told Maria. It was at that point that I realized that I have no clue about what to do when confronted by such a creature. I apologize that this story doesn’t have a more riveting ending, but I ended up deciding to just zip up my tent and hope it went away, which I guess it did, because I didn’t hear (or thankfully smell) it for the rest of the night. The thing wanted the snacks that were in our handlebar bags, which were right outside of our tent, but under the rain fly, as well as the bag of trail mix that was in a pot on the picnic table.

When I woke up again, it was time to get up, and I’m glad I did, because Papa Seth and Mother Theresa had made us breakfast sandwiches that consisted of English muffins that we filled with eggs, bacon, and cheese! Speaking of these two wonderful friends, we have been eating like kings and queens, with each meal topping the last. I’m not sure how we will ever go back to doing our own shopping and cooking…it’s probably best just not to think about that yet.

Today we also got a great look at Lake Superior (did I mention we’re in Wisconsin?) as we ate lunch at a small park with a sandy beach and a pavilion that suited out group quite nicely. And after we had gone the planned 87-or-so miles, we decided to pedal for another 8 to get to a park instead of camping in a lady’s yard (her name is Madonna) who graciously offered as our destination town wasn’t much of a town after all, just 3 bars and a post office. We are all glad we did go those extra miles because we ended up in the nice town park of Kimball, which has a small river (or refreshing shower in our case) and picnic tables on which we dined, once again, until our bellies bulged with delight.
We will soon all crawl into our tents for the nightly recharging, and I hope that nothing wakes me…unless of course, it is that moose.

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July 7-8, Fosston, MN to Deer River, MN (103 miles) to Superior, WI (110 miles)

[Seth and Theresa, Seth Typing]

How much fun is this!  We’ve been traveling with “the gang” since Greg’s last entry, and have seen a lot of very cool places and people.  A man from Austria who makes cow tongue and frontier sausage, and many, many cool couples who are, well, rather aged in years and still driving cross country together.  We have adopted the role of what they callparenting: Buying plenty of carbs, carrying bags, and preparing meals.  Fortunately, we LOVE doing this.  Yesterday morning, Jesse handed us a wad of cash and told us to go find them some calories.  We would like to believe that since our arrival they are are eating great instead of just good.The last 36 hours have been an exciting whirlwind.  This morning, we woke up and made french toast at 6:15 in Deer River, MN.The night before we drove into the not so booming metropolis of Deer River, stopped at town hall, andasked if there was a place some wayfaring strangers could pitch a few tents for a night.  Littledid we know that we would sleep in our own fort… White Oak.  If you ever make it up to Deer River during the first full weekend of August, go to White Oak and you’ll get to see where we camped as well asa “Rendezvous”, a full scale recreation of a fur trading post, with lots of trade houses within a fullsize recreated fort.  Our small section, the three acres they showed us to (thanks), included a bon fire ring where we made s’mores and mountain pies, our own picnic pavillion, toilets, and more grass than we knew what to do with.  Today they hit the road again, fueled by…well…a great breakfeast, yes indeed, and cranked out fifty few miles before lunch. They finished the day even stronger, capping off Minnesota and entering Wisconsin with Lake Superior in view. Tonight we pitched at Northland Camping and RV Park.  Unlike last night, tonight we have showers,a pool, and a sauna.  We sweet talked to owner lady into a sweet deal.  To celebrate Jesse and Maria’s Anniversary, we had steak (which was cheaper than chicken at the store) which we make over the fire andthree full pounds of Linguine. (wow… you wouldn’t believe how much they can eat!!!) We finished the meal with a cake from the local grocery and dreams about where us other three couples might be on our 4th anniversaries.  Who knows where any of us will be in a few years. Tonight, THIS couple will dream of what tomorrows meals and how we’ll spend the cash from Jesse.  We wonder if our little silver Saturn could possibly be packed any fuller than it was today…doubtful.

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Day 22: July 6, Turtle River State Park, ND to Fosston, MN (96.2)

[Greg]

Another state! After what felt like an eternity in Montana and only a few days in North Dakota, we’re now in our fifth state of the trip. Minnesota welcomed us across the Red River with sunny skies and winds that were often (though not always) at our backs. We enjoyed excellent riding conditions, a pit stop at Cabella’s, and strong legs in the morning, and by mid-day we were greeted by our second visitors of the trip–Seth and Theresa Crissman–who are making a cross-country trip of their by car.

Seth and Theresa have been trekking all around the USA since mid-June, and we heard about some of their travels as we lunched outside Hugo’s Supermarket. Earlier, inside the store, someone asked Jesse where we were headed, and when we explained what we were doing, the inquirer announced that he would call the newspaper to have them come interview us. We were all excited about our first local press, but when the “press” arrived, she was a nervous-looking high school-age intern who awkwardly asked where we were riding, took a group picture that omitted one of our group, then left without asking any questions or even finding out our names. If anyone is in Crookston, MN, feel free to check out the local paper. You may or may not see our picture in it, most likely with a descriptive caption reading “Bikers.”

A report on the state of our bodies: they are awesome. I haven’t conducted any official examinations, but everyone must be feeling OK. Today was the first time that we didn’t take it easy after doing a 100/almost 100 mile day. In the past two days we covered 211 miles, which is no small feat on the lumbering pack mules we ride. We didn’t even have to sit on our seats too long; today we averaged over 14 miles an hour and spent less than 7 hours on our behinds.

All is well in Fosston, which served as a Faux Boston for us today. Spirits up, bodies strong, hearts and minds open to the experience of traveling across the continent, one pedal at a time.

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July 5: Knox, ND to Turtle River State Park, ND (115 miles)

(Kristina)

After a good breakfast of eggs, fruit, and toast, and a group picture, we left the comforts of Bill and Nancy’s home and headed east once again into the prairie grasses of North Dakota.  While some may find the flatlands boring, I have come to really enjoy traveling across the Great Plains. Here are several glimpses from today that may help you understand why.

We passed through Devil’s Lake today, an area known for hunting and fishing. The lake has grown considerably in the past 10 years, and has been encroaching on the highways, even flooding out some parts. For lunch we stopped to eat at a sandy dirt road bi-secting two marshy ponds bordered by tall marsh grasses, with a few ducks playing in the water.

On the prairie, you can see for miles in all directions; the sky is huge, and there is often nothing to block the path of the sun. After a water stop at a gas stations along Route 2, we looked behind us to see a huge storm gathering in the distance, still a mile or so away. We took off, racing to outrun the rain. The storm moved northeast, drawing near yet passing to our left.  I was happy to trade a few raindrops for the priviledge of watching the storm move…glorious, awe-inspiring, deep blue clouds above the hazy appearance of the downpour, contrasted against the bright blue sky directly ahead. (We did finally get drenched, but only within the last 5 or so miles of the day, so….oh well.) With the coming of the storm, the winds changed, and as we fled the storm, the winds pushed us along for our last 20 miles of the day. Tailwinds are awesome.

This afternoon I heard a buzzing to my left and was delighted to see a stunning blue and black dragonfly to my left. It kept pace with me for about a half mile, staying with me at 15 mph, before finally diving away. That is something you just can’t quite experience in a car.

Oh, the beauty of bicycle travel.

Tomorrow, we head out of North Dakota and into Minnesota. My good friends Seth and Theresa Crissman will meet us around the border to hang out with us for a few days and help support us. They are on their own adventure–a road trip out west–and we are all looking forward to having them join us.

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July 3: Granville, ND to Knox, ND (62 miles) and July 4: Surprise rest day, Knox, ND (0 miles)

(Anna)

Today we left the quaint little town of Granville (pop. 250).  Dave and I treated ourselves to breakfast at the Liberty Diner, which was quite hopping on a Saturday morning– we estimate that we saw at east 10% of the residents of Granville.  Full of waffles, biscuits and gravy, and coffee, we set off on a fairly short 60-something mile jaunt down highway 2 to our destination– Knox, ND or more specifically, the house of Bill and Nancy Nix.  Now your mother probably taught you never to take candy from strangers, and even more not to get in a vehicle with a stranger.  But what if a stranger in a pickup demanded that you come to his house for dinner and sleep in his cabin?  We just couldn’t refuse the offer of a warm bed, homecooked food and the chance to get to know interesting people and so we changed our route ever so slightly to include Knox (pop. 25?).

We met up for lunch in Rugby, a small town whose claim to fame is being the geographic center of North America.  While you’d think that would mean we are halfway through our journey, we still have a few days before we reach our halfway point.  We bought groceries at the local supermarket and ate in a peaceful green park.  We arrived at the Nix residence midafternoon where Bill greeted us heartily and showed us to his “bunkhouse,” which is a cabin he built for his children and their friends to use when they came to visit for hunting and fishing trips.  With two bunkbeds, a couch and a cot, and more hunting and archery paraphenelia than I have ever seen before, the bunkhouse was a welcoming alternative to our tents.

Now Bill Nix is what you might call a “character.”  He’s a self-described redneck and political conservative (which he defines as, “I think everyone should get a job.”)  He doesn’t like Obama, socialized healthcare or vegetarians (“vegheads”). He got caught dodging the draft and spent 2 years in Vietnam, (as well as some time in Orange County prison).  He loves traditional bowhunting and the great outdoors. He’s got a lot of opinions, and he’ll tell you each and every one for as long as you’ll listen. Somehow, inspite of his rough edges, Bill is an instantly likable person with a sophistication and intelligence that shines through his many stories, jokes and pieces of advice.  He loves to help people and has a special place in his heart for adventurers and wayward kids.

After heavenly hot showers, we spent the evening getting to know Bill & Nancy and eating tasty hot meal of meaty spaghetti and garlic bread, followed by root beer floats!  Before long we headed out to the bunkhouse and slept ridiculously well in the quiet comfy cabin.  We were having such a nice time that we decided to take a shorter day the next day so we could spend the morning with the Nixes.

Over our breakfast of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, Bill began to describe the delicious fish fry we would have to celebrate the fourth of July if only we would stay another night.  He bribed us with promises of archery lessons and pineapple upside-down cake.  Finally, we succumbed and decided to take a rest day.  We had decided to alter our route slightly, which made our new route about 120 miles shorter, so we felt that we could still easily maintain our schedule.

We spent the day lazing in the yard, writing postcards, reading, napping and just enjoying sitting on something softer than a bicycle seat.  Greg and Dave borrowed the dog clippers for haircuts.  Bill produced a guitar and Greg commenced to play and sing some of his original songs, which greatly impressed Bill.  He wants Greg to send a CD so Bill can finangle his friends at the nearby radio station to play Greg’s music, especially the recently composed “North Dakota rag.”  He brought out a bow and arrows and we had target practice with lots of advice from Bill (“Be the arrow…”)  True to their promise, Bill and Nancy fried up more fish than we could possibly eat.  They also whipped up a pineapple upside-down cake in a dutch oven and baked it over the fire.  Truly a delicious dessert with vanilla icecream.

After another restful night in the bunkhouse, we were awoken at 6am by Bill ringing a big bell outside the door.  We ate another wonderful breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit and took some photos with our new friends.  We bid them farewell, promising to return someday for all the wonderful North Dakota experiences they had described to us– visiting ancient petroglyphs, bow hunting, ice fishing, and just walking among the golden leaves of fall. We feel blessed to be among the wayward adventurers “rescued” by the Nixes and all feel a renewed desire to look for opportunities to extend hospitality and random acts of kindness and other actions that turn strangers into friends.

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