Sunday, August 26, 2012

From there to Fargo

So, it's been a great ride this first half of the trip. We left NYC on July 5th, 2012. We've now gone 2200+ miles. I've had 2 flats (one each 1000 miles), and Arielle has experienced zero.

Here's my first update from NYC - Syracuse "The ride from Coney Island to Syracuse was just 400 miles through Troy, N.Y.. Afterwards, Arielle and I took a break in the Adirondacks with friends and some of my family for my grandmother's birthday. We're back in Syracuse ready to take off. Highlights of the trip so far were swimming at Coney Island and forth of July fireworks on the Hudson. Camping at Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck(complete with lean-to and water pump where we could "shower") was a much appreciated hint from a man at a nearby grocery. The Spotty Dog in Hudson, N.Y. is a book store and bar with Pear hard cider- which was quite tasty!. We stopped at the Troy Bike Rescue and met a woman on a trike tour (she introduced me to primal sticks, like a vegetarian beef jerky which I was able to pick up more at Wegmans here in Syracuse). We stopped along the Erie canal path at lock 15 for a night of camping and they let us shower and cook in their kitchen! We had a great pasta dinner with my father in Sylvan Beach, N.Y.. The next day, we were on the home stretch to Syracuse and along the path in Canastota We saw a large snapping turtle with 3 kids around it "hey! Watch out those things bite!" to which one of the younger(maybe 6 or 7 years old) responded "I can't feel my finger."! Fortunately, we didn't see any blood or missing fingers. I hope you are doing well and enjoying your summer."

Syracuse to Cleveland. It was more difficult than I thought leaving my home to head west. Fortunately, the Erie Canal path was super meditative as we headed west. We stopped in Palmyra to see the Hill Cumorah Pagent at Hill Cumorah (duh!). It was a long day of biking that day, and we were exhausted. It started to rain while we watched their Pagent. I learned a lot about the history of the Mormon religion, and seeing it from them was really great. In Rochester, Arielle stayed with the Little Flower Collective while I attended a wedding with Greg. Between Rochester and Niagara Falls there was a lot of lift bridges and cute towns. The worst port-o-potty I've ever seen was near Niagara Falls. We planned to stay the night in Buffalo that night without a plan. We followed the river to the Naval Base, where we were hoping to camp. We went to the Liberty Hound Restaurant where we met a bunch of employees who hooked us up with some food out of the kitchen. Arielle still talks about that burger she had there. The next day, we biked to Fredonia where we lined up a place to stay with Geoff. He showed us this amazing treehouse that he and his family built. (pictures to come)

We biked through Erie, Pennsylvania where we went to our last Wegmans (a grocery store in the greater New York area), and had some great ice cream. Then headed towards Cleveland. Arielle and I arrived in town and met up with Katie Spotz whom I had met on a bicycle tour that she was on a few years ago. She gave us some Gu and we caught up over some awesome frozen yogurt. We got to Cleveland in a couple days, just in time for critical mass! If you don't know, it's a big bicycle ride for bicycle advocacy in a particular city. It was pouring rain when we set out for the bike ride. There was a lower turn-out than normal for this monthly bike ride. We mingle and talk to other riders about our bike ride across the country. When we were navigating back to where we were staying we took a wrong turn and Arielle took a spill at the bottom of a hill. She describes it as doing the "superman". She scraped both knees, both elbows, and one hip.

We left Cleveland with Arielle's injuries, the worst of which was a hurt knee. It was painful with every pump of the pedal. The first day we biked to Clyde, Ohio. We stayed with a nice grandmother and her two granddaughters. They have a peacock in the backyard with the chickens, and a bunch of fish in the garage. It took two long days to a small town in Ohio where my step-grandparents live and my step-aunt and uncle.  My aunt wrote an article about us for the local news paper and my uncle helped me find a kickstand for my bicycle. It was great to have a final taste of known before venturing to Michigan (or the great beyond). We biked to Michigan from there in one day, stopping in Monclava, Ohio at Freeze Daddys. The owner came out and took our photograph and invited us to swim in his pool (where we also met his whole family).

We didn't even pass a "Welcome to Michigan" sign, I just noticed that all the cars in the driveways had Michigan license plates. Getting to Ann Arbor, I recall was relatively easy. When we arrived, we met up with my friend Nick, who I did not know lived in Ann Arbor until the day before. We went to Zingermans and had Gelato (I think I had ginger and coconut, and it was delicious!). We went to another part of Zingermans and we got bread and cheese. I normally choose a very dense "good for you bread", and this one was great. We then rode off to David's apartment across the river. From there, we went with him to the river where Arielle and he jumped from the railroad tracks into the water (pictures to come). The sun was setting and the light across the water was nice.
The next day, we headed to Lansing. At this point, I'm getting some pain in my knee. We went with some friends we had met to see E.T. in the Park near the University in East Lansing. I ate a large amount of rice cakes and managed to stay awake the whole time, Arielle was not so lucky. From Lansing, we headed to Grand Rapids. We arrived in town in the early evening and went to Spectrum Health hospital who saw me quickly concerning my knee pain. They did a couple Xrays and told me that it was overuse. They gave me some IB profin-type drugs. I felt better within a day. We camped out near Grand Rapids that evening.

We then headed to the coast at Muskegon. We found a last minute host in North Muskegon who was very inspiring. Because upon retirement age, he started bicycle touring. He went to New Hampshire, to Seattle then to Tijuana! The next day we followed the coast to Luddington while at the grocery store we learned that the League of Michigan Bicyclists were doing a ride up the coast too. So we went to the Luddington High School and we were invited to shower, camp, and hang out with the 400+ other bikers there. Their ride was a supported ride with mostly people over the age of 40. They were very interested in our ride.
From Luddington, we rode north together for the day but broke off with the bikers who stopped in Frankfort, MI to go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. We stopped at a restaurant and had our 1,000 mile party (300 miles late) by eating out which we don't normally do. We learned about a remote part of the beach to camp near (though it was frowned upon by local authorities). We went to the beach at sunset, and the view was simply breath-taking. (pictures to come) The next morning, we had breakfast on the beach and decided that it would be a lazy day. By 2p.m. we wanted to see more of the Dunes. We headed north to Empire (and got groceries!). From there we continued north and figured we'd try to find something near the beach again. Upon leaving the state park, we stopped by the side of the road where we met Brooks. Brooks is a 20 something man who does freelance graphic design. He's currently living in Buenas Aires, but he travels to Sleeping Bear Dunes for a family reunion every year. He brings us down a large hill to where the cottages are for his family's reunion. The owner offers us dinner (pasta salad and corn on the cob! Arielle also got chicken) and to camp on the waters edge. We watched the sun go down on Lake Michigan with a fantastic view. Brooks told us that "there was a mother and two cubs that were swimming across the lake, the mother made it to the eastern shore and she waits for the cubs to arrive." That's how the dunes, and the 2 islands were created.
The next day we biked through Traverse City where I had asked a bike shop, Brick Wheels to order me a piece for my bicycle pump. As a result, I wrote them a terrible review for them on Yelp. We headed north from there and met Dan. Dan is from Chicago but lives in Knoxville, Tennessee and he was doing a tour of Lake Michigan. He kept telling us to visit him there. We hung out for an evening on the beach at Elk Rapids. The next morning we ate donuts and continued in our opposite directions.

We headed towards Indian River where we would stay with Dorothy and John. They have a running club in Indian River Michigan which they are very proud of and a beautiful home on the water. We took our time in the morning and Dorothy joined us for a 8 mile ride. We learned a lot about the area and a bike trail to the coast of Lake Huron. From there we took a ferry to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw).
We arrived on Mackinac Island in the early evening. I got the biggest ice cream of my life just off the boat. It was honestly the size of my forearm. I got Mackinac Fudge and 2 other flavors. It was amazing. And everyone who walked by was also amazed by its size as I ate it. We went to a bar called the Seabiscuit where we were each enjoying a beverage. A man of moderate intoxication level came up behind us while sitting at the bar and started talking about the TV. It was high school sports, and he was trying to guess where I was from. I finally had to tell him and I told him and his wife our story. They were amazed at how far we had come. Apparently he owns a construction company in Detroit which he built from the ground up and he kept talking about not wanting to let his kids inherit it. They were on vacation for the day on the island. They bought us lots of food and drinks. Then we met a comedian and his girlfriend, and soon the whole bar knew what we were up to. An older woman sitting around the corner of the bar said that we could camp on their beach on the island. Originally we were going to stealth camp on the island (but that is pretty illegal). Her husband looked mad, we later learned that he is the chairman of the parks on the island. Finally we met a couple who offered to put us up in their cottage (which turned out to be a really nice 4 bedroom home very close to the Grand Hotel). They also had four friesian horses. We attended a breed show the following day. That morning, an animal had tried to get into my food panier and destroyed the zipper in one part. We left the island on a ferry feeling awesome nonetheless.

We arrived in the Upper Peninsula in the early evening and rode for 30 miles along the north shore of Lake Michigan. We camped in a campground there and got poison ivy. We made a large fire and cooked over it for dinner and breakfast the following day. We biked all day the next day and camped in a state forest in the middle of nowhere. We arrived the following day in Marquette, I believe. We were staying with a friend of David's (from Ann Arbor) there, Kevin. Kevin and his wife have a lovely home and an affectionate dog. He had just baked zucchini bread (which was amazing!!) and had homemade blackberry jam. Arielle was having trouble with her pedal (but at the time we were not sure the root of the problem) and we visited a bike shop. We then went to the Rice Paddy, which is an amazingly cheap thai place with pictures of Olympians on the walls that have eatten there too. For sunset, we went to the black rocks, some of the oldest rocks on earth! (pictures to come) Arielle and Kevin jumped in. The next morning we packed up to head out west-bound. We had to go to: the post office, the food cooperative, and a 2nd hand gear shop. At the Food Coop, I met a man named Marlin. He was very interested in our bike tour and was modest about his bicycle touring. Marlin is traveling around Lake Superior on his sailboat, Voyager. (picture to come) He borrowed a bicycle from the Children's museum in Marquette and we biked out to the salvation army. At which point I asked him "hey! do you wanna let us hang out on your boat?" we sunbathed and swam the day to night with beverages on the side. We met some military people guarding a bridge/breakwater for a regatta that was in town and they hooked up for a little bit to Marlin's boat. They chugged over with a desiel boat that Arielle considered to be her jungle gym. In the morning, we left Marquette a little bit sad, but totally satisfied with this new idea of Sailboat touring and how totally reasonable it could be!

We took Route 28 to 2 across towards Ashland, Wisconsin. One day was a very windy and rainy day where we did not accomplish many miles. The second day we woke up in a patch of blackberries which I filled a water bottle with and sent some in a package to my mom (OPPS!). The third evening, we saw a Verizon store in Ironwood, and I suggested to Arielle that she should look into it because she had not had service in the U.P. for the better part of a week with Boost Mobile. She ended up buying a phone and we shared some laughs with the employee who invited us to stay in his condo. He had to work in the evening, so we accepted and I stayed in while Arielle went out on the town (a reoccuring theme).

From Ironwood, we took route 2 West to Wisconsin! We went to the coop in Ashland before heading north to Washburn. Washburn was another inspiring town for us. Marlin's girlfriend and best friend share an apartment there (but they were in Duluth for medical reasons). We cleaned the house a little, showered, made dinner with Ashland Coop veggies and Quinoa. The next day, we took Marlin's advice to take route 13 around the peninsula. We hit the town that is furthest north in Wisconsin on this road. We camped on the beach that night then headed to Duluth the following day.

We crossed a bridge to Minnesota called the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge or "Bong Bridge" which had a bike lane beside a highway. We made it to Duluth around 6pm, just after the post office closed. Marlin's had given us some contact information for a guy named Greg in Duluth. Marlin's girlfriend gave us directions to his house, but we couldn't seem to contact him. We climbed the hill with our loaded down bikes, one of the steepest grades of the trip! We waited outside the apartment for about 3 hours, just enough time to have our 2000 mile party! We ordered pizza for delivery to the doorstep. Around 9pm, with dying phones and sweaty bodies, we tried the doorknob. It was open, what should we do? We went in to greet the dog that had been barking at us through the front window for an hour. She was a cute dog! When Arielle was in the shower, the door opened. "Are you Greg?" "No, I'm Adam, Greg's roommate!" "Is it cool that we're in your apartment?" "Yes!" We had a great couple days with Greg and Adam in Duluth. We went to the Whole Foods Coop, Positively Third Street Bakery (who I wrote a great review for on Yelp). Greg took us to the beach and showed us the boat that he had bought and fixed up with his dad in rural Minnesota over last winter. It was beautiful oak from his family's farm. It was really inspirational being there.

It was hard leaving Lake Superior, but it was time to get going towards Fargo. We took a series of roads out of Duluth, up the winding steep slope. That night we camped by the side of the road in a state forest, north of Floodwood. The second night, we camped in Walker. The next morning we took our time at a gas station near where we had camped. There was a woman there who has really stuck with me. She wasn't well spoken, she has 2 kids at age 21 and apparently her boyfriend is an alcoholic. She's never been away from Walker. I felt really selfish riding across the country and leaving her there. Arielle gave her, her number if she wants to go to New Orleans on a vacation.

The following day we biked to Osage. It was a good day of modest hills and modest wind. We found a bike path from Walker to Park Rapids. When we came to Nevis, there was a small festival on the path! We got ice cream and enjoyed it there. People recognized us from the gas station in Walker and came to talk to us. We biked through the small town of Osage, Minnesota and stopped on a hill to decide what to do. We could see a fire up a driveway so we got off our bikes and walked up. It was an older man and a young girl. They were burning a loveseat. Arielle started: "How far to the next town?" "Too far to bike tonight, why don't you camp here?" "Ok!" We set up our tents on the yard and the girl brought water down for us to drink and use for cooking. We made dinner with the fire. A boy, older than the girl, came down to the fire. We soon learn that there are a bunch of children here. They'v adopted some, and foster others. Good, kind-hearted people. I was impressed by how much energy they must expend for the good of others. His business is bagging ice to sell nearby. I asked him about Hydrofracking and if it's anywhere near here, and he said no then exploded when I told him about what it is, and what it's doing to groundwater. He went so far as to say "I went to Vietnam, I earned my rights to my land. They better not mess with me."

About midday we left the home in Osage and headed west (again!). Today we greeted the headwind. We biked into it all day long until we reached Fargo, North Dakota. We planned to stay with a couple librarians who turned out to be awesome. They made this Indian Dish of cauliflower and potatoes with spices; it was so filling and just what I was craving. We later had ice cream and I started writing this blog entry in their living room. I am finishing it now at North Dakota State University after the Fargo Public Library cut me off after 30 minutes!