Monday, August 20, 2012

Thank You

So long and thanks for all the fishes!

            Words of thanks to all who helped us put this trip together. It has been a wonderful, frightening, exciting, strengthening and marvelous journey.

            To all the vendors and reps who contributed in many different ways from allowing us discount pricing on items to giving us gear, let me give a shout out to you all and if I forget anyone, it isn't because we aren't appreciative. Nope it is just that after 20 days on a bicycle my mind has gone a little blurry.

ü  Pearl Izumi: for shorts and bibs, gloves and socks. And the wind jacket that was so handy

ü  Light and Motion: The Urban 300 that led us through the dark tunnels on the C&O trail.

ü  Gore Bike Wear: from jackets to jerseys, bibs and shorts  your products are always great

ü  Ortlieb: your panniers are wonderful and Diana just sat and waited every time Karyn had to put her rain covers on. Much kudos to the waterproof factor.

ü  Arkel: The ability to segregate content through different pockets made the OCiD-ness of Karyn a little better.

ü  Sugoi: Your shorts were very comfortable and many days they were worn back to back (washed of course)

ü  Louis Garneau: Your Evo Mondo bibs were just what I was looking for in a women’s bib. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to try them out.

ü  Terry: I have always loved your shorts and chamois set ups the cover ups are wonderful and fashionable too.

ü  Bontrager: When the going ruins a tire it is Bontrager to the rescue. Between your folded tire and the jerseys (yes the ones Sarah and I traded with each other) we appreciate your help and support

ü  Shimano: pedals and shoes are second to none out there thanks for helping out

ü  Sidi: They were the perfect fir for the very tiny feet of Diana and Sarah.

ü  Keith Bontrgaer , Gary Fisher and The Sonoran Pirates for re-tweeting status updates from us to get the word out.

ü  Garmin: for allowing us to see where we went and keeping track of our total miles (I love my Edge 800)

ü  Show Your Strength: For the most awesomely cool shirt. I was scared to bring it out on the trail (camping is dirty business) but when I was able to wear it I had great reviews. “Women No Limits” that says it all.

ü  Trek Bicycles: For making great touring bikes, for the support and the recognition when we got to Trek World 2012, Oh and a HUGE thanks for sending our bikes back to us so we could fly home.

ü  Race Pace Bicycles: Alex thanks for giving us the opportunity to take three weeks off to fulfill a dream that Diana started and so many people got behind.
            Also a special thanks to Jon Rogers, our Trek rep, who helped make it all possible.

Thank you to our families, they supported us from the beginning of this scheme all the way through to the end and knowing they were there made it easier to get through some of the tough moments. I also want to thank Kendal C. for all his research into campsites and routes once we hit Wisconsin. The maps were invaluable. And another thank you to Athena S. for keeping the home front moving along.

Thank you to our husband and significant others: You gave us love and a great send off. You took our calls every day and joined us in Toledo, Ohio to ride along for a week. Thank you for believing in us all the way.

And a special thank you to Raymond Smith, who took care of all our blogging and Facebook updates. I wrote, he edited and posted. He made sure everyone knew where we were on the map and took care of making sure the pictures were updated. Most, if not all, of the technical info would have been lost without him. He also put together a most awesome video of our experience, check it out!

To our campground hosts:

The Hostel on Main in Rockwood, PA. This was the night we made it to town and were stopped by a train landing us in a storm we had just outrun. The owner made us sandwiches (that the teenagers ate, see post) and were friendly and kind with a comfortable hostel for us to wait out the storm in.

Harts Content Campground in Beaverfalls, PA. But even more importantly to Cody and Josh. They were beyond awesome. They fed us, gave us beer (Sarah and I) moonshine (Sarah) and ice cream (all of us). They left us cereal and coffee. They took care of strangers making them into friends and we couldnt be more thankful.

To the little old lady who stopped in the middle of a deserted old country road to tell me I looked hot and would I like a cold Pepsi. That day was hot and the most climb we had done, with extremely steep grades and the touch of kindness was just what I needed.

KOA Campground in Salem/Lisbon, OH. with Barb and John, Wayne and Wilema and a score of others at this campsite that took care of us. Barb stayed late to make sure we had food and she was up bright and early so we could have coffee and a little breakfast. The campsite was awesome but even more so thanks to the hosts.

Thanks to the firemen in Mckeesport, PA. They refilled water bottles with much needed cold water.

Sunset Lake Campground, where we had the whole campground to ourselves. Well, except for the RVs but they were around the edge. The whole grassy field was ours. They very kindly gave us soap for laundry and Sarah got to play fetch with their dog.

Jean, Keith, Kim, Dave and family. Thank you, thank you. For sharing food (homemade beans), smores, yummy drinks and conversation with us. You made us breakfast the next morning and made sure we had cold water. Then to top it all off Jean, Kim and their mom drove out to find us. We were 26 miles down the road already and they took off on an adventure to find us and bring us fresh water making a long hot day so much better. You all were awesome!

Theo, the host of Eaton County Fairground, a wonderfully friendly man that made sure we had a place to camp and firewood, (our first and only fire of the entire trip) He also gave us some really tasty apple pie moonshine.

Kelly Green-Shift and her husband Mike shift for opening their home to all of us. Food, laundry and a dry place to sleep was a little bit of heaven to weary Trekers. Kelly made sure we had everything we needed for snacks, went with us to dinner and made sure we had breakfast--an absolutely awesome lady.

Evert of West Michigan Bike & Fitness for the ride into Muskegon, MI and the ferry terminal. It was a rainy day and we would have surely been wet but thanks to him and the enclosed trailer from his store we were able to make it with plenty of time to spare.

And a final thanks to Bob Klitzke, just a man on a bike who noticed us looking a little lost in Wakeusha, WI and gave us the best route to find the Glacial-Drumlin Trail. That might have taken us hours and a lot of Google maps without his help.

Im sure I have left out people, I tried to keep track of all the great people and all the wonderful help we had along our grand adventure so if I forgot to mention you by name know that we appreciate everything you did for us to make our goal possible.

Thanks again

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Final Push

​We are here!

​We got off the ferry in Milwaukee, WI. We were in the state we had worked so hard to get to. The end was in sight.

​It was already seven o'clock, so we hit up a hotel and cleaned up for dinner. It was definitely a moment where realization and exhaustion all started to hit us. We only had about 80 to 90 miles left after almost three weeks. Three weeks is a long time to be away from your bed, your home, your family: your very life. It is almost as if everything seems to go into a suspended animation, except everyone else is still moving forward with their lives. It is just you that are suspended.

​Adding to the strangeness of the life we had come to be living, we walked the riverfront of Milwaukee on our way to dinner, and there were baby bunnies being raised underneath a small decorative plant. Two young men were trying to feed them cheese curds. We didn't want to break their hearts and tell them that rabbits don't actually eat cheese curds... they are  herbivores.

​Dinner was not pub food. It is nice sometimes to eat something that isn't camp food and not fried. It seems like our biggest concerns everyday are how far we are going, where are we going to sleep and most importantly when/what are we going to eat? Diana and Sarah were really good about breakfast. I hate breakfast. For me, to eat oatmeal in the morning was my idea of hell. Even real food (I consider real food to be eggs and toast etc.) was hard to stomach, no pun intended. I might want a snack before noon but not really much more than, and usually not even that. I think that may have made it harder to fuel my body, but I found I didn't feel better by putting food into it.

​It didn't change in 20 days of riding and probably won't ever. Dinner was good, breakfast was fine and off we headed towards Madison.

​Diana had a very painful day. Her stomach, due to the Crohn's, made her pain level one of the highest it had been. As always, she was a complete rockstar. We did sixty miles, a lot of it flat, which usually helped the pain, but that day it wasn't meant to be. We stopped as she needed to, but she got it done. She never gave up, not that I ever had a doubt. Her strength is always a source of inspiration.
​We made it to Sandhill Station Campground and set up camp. It was the coldest night we had been outside in yet. The temperature dropped to 51 degrees. We woke in the morning to wet, dewey tents. Standing around in the morning trying to get everything dry and ready to pack was just a reminder that we had missed or brushed by every bad incident with weather that we could have. We had barely been rained on, or it had rained while we were inside. We had missed the bugs and heat we had been told to expect and even the wind was nothing like we had been told to expect. Two things to learn from this: first, never believe anyone until you've been there yourself and second, sometimes you just get lucky. I think that both of those scenarios are true.  

​By 9:30 we were doing our last 25 miles into Madison. We went straight to a pub called Dexter's for food and beer. Or in Diana's case, she picked every cider/mead in the lineup. She kept trying to pick a beer to drink but everyone she picked was honey, cider or mead. It made Sarah and I laugh. The waitress would bring her drink, she would say this is good. I would taste it and say Diana, cider, not beer. She would smile and say but I like this!

​There were so many things we learned about touring, cycling and ourselves along this way. Some things we need to get better at, some things we did get better at and some things we will never do again. I'm not telling you which is which. That is the best part about being on tour. You can leave the real world behind when you get on your bike and then you have to leave the touring world behind when you get off your bike. The lines blur a little but we all try to make it happen.
​We are here!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We are here!
Right around 1000 traveling miles.
We three ladies did what we set out to do!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Run Up the Colors and Set Sail

     Day 17
     ​We have made it to Middleville, Michigan. We are staying the night with Kelly Green-Shift and Mike Shift.  Kelly works for "West Michigan Bike & Fitness" and Mike is a Trek rep. They were nice enough to open their house to some wayward trekers... clean showers and laundry, food for us to snack on and a place to sleep. It was like a little touch of bliss.

     ​We took off out of Toledo on Monday and headed west-ish with a little north thrown in for fun.  We made our way to the "Irish Hills Kampground"-- a nice little spot set on the side of the road. It took a while to realize that there was nothing actually Irish about the campground, it was the area that was called "Irish Hills"... small disappointment factor.

     ​The next day we made it Jackson, Michigan and had an awesome lunch at The "Pickle Barrel" deli. And I do mean awesome! The vegetarian selection was one of the best I have seen on this trip so far. Jackson was originally named Jacksonopolis in 1829 when it was founded. Thank goodness they shortened it to Jackson. it is a neat town, for the hour and half we were there, with a rich history, claiming the beginnings of the Republican Party.  At least the very first meeting where they referred to themselves as "Republicans" was held under the "Oaks" (A local landmark) in 1854. Okay, history lesson over. If you are in Jackson, Michigan hit up "The Pickle Barrel" deli.  The rest of it is up to your discretion.

​     From there we made our way to the Eaton County Fairgrounds in Charlotte, Michigan.  The camp host, Theo, was most awesome, he charged us ten dollars, we gave him twenty, and he repaid us by giving us a bunch of firewood and apple pie moonshine. That night we had the first campfire of the entire trip.  As usual, exhaustion took over very fast and after showers we biked about a mile to the local pub for a meal and beer.  We biked back, lit the fire enjoyed it for ten minutes or less and then passed out. You know us big partying types; down for the count by ten.

​     We hit up "The Gravel" restaurant, still in Charlotte, for some real breakfast and gorged ourselves on egg omelets and potatoes with lots of fake jam for our over-buttered toast.  It was as tasty as small town dinner food can be.

​     It was a quick day if you consider 38 miles a short day.  Some days we do and some days we don't.  This one wasn't too bad.  We stopped five miles short of our destination at a up-scale German Restaurant/pub, where we drank beer, soda and water while taking a mini break.  Diana and I wanted a little something sweet and ran across the street for some ice cream. We brought it back and ate in the front window of the pub while watching a young lady across the street hula-hoop.

     ​And damn, could she hula-hoop! Her name is Avalon and she is sixteen. She was able to keep two hula-hoops going on different body parts (legs, belly, arms, even one leg at a time) on different rotating axis for over an hour while we drank and watched.  We made sure we gave her tip money.

​     We rolled on into Kelly and Mike's, showered, did some laundry and when Kelly got home we hit up our favorite kind of restaurant: The Walldorff Brew Pub & Bistro.  The beer and food were good and the company was great.  We had a nice time talking to Kelly about various rides and races.  A bed indoors was a plus since it rained when we went to bed.  Evert picked us up in the morning and gave us a ride into Muskegon, Michigan.

     Thank you West Michigan Bike & Fitness for giving us a lift to the "Lake-Express" ferry terminal.  I managed to end up with my second UTI of the trip which has a  tendency to turn me into, shall we say, less than a nice person. I apologize to my girls but I know they have my back even when I am that (cough, cough) less than a nice person. It is one of those common occurrences that is rarely discussed in the biking world, but I am prone to UTI's and, I know that others end up with them also. There is little to be done but start a course of antibiotics and beg everyone's forgiveness... and be super grateful I didn't have to ride my bike today.

     ​I met this great older couple in the ferry terminal and was regaled with stories of her life on a bicycle while she was a child and teenager growing up in England. It was neat to hear her memories, and De and her husband, Neil were interested in our endeavors as well.

​     So, here we sit on the "Lake-Express" high speed ferry headed into another major thunderstorm: grateful we are inside and our bikes are lashed securely, we hope, to the inside of the vessel.  I say we hope because the crewman told me to lean mine against the side and told Diana to tie up her own. Neither one of those are very reassuring scenarios. We have a hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin tonight and then around 80 more miles on into Madison. Our bike adventure is almost over...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Storm Chasers

​     Day 13, maybe, or 14...something like that. They all tend to blur together after awhile.

     We are just outside of Toledo, Ohio. For those of you who have been following the weather, there was a huge storm last night. Major downpours and tornado winds... not tornados just the wind. We are staying in a hotel for the night, getting ready to do a good size push for our last week, oh and it's Diana's Birthday! Happy Birthday D!!!  We are safe and resting well having just escaped the storms again. Our luck has been remarkably good with the weather. Knock on whatever wood is handy right now.

     We left Akron on Wednesday and pushed forward, or upward, northwest even. Our first flat occurred that day going under an overpass. We are spending time on some of the more traveled roads, they tend to be flatter but they do have more debris on the sides. So, we were doing a fast run to get through an area that has lots of vehicles coming on and off the exits. Sarah ran over something in our maneuvers and put a gash in her Schwalbe tire, puncturing the tube too. She tried to boot the tire but it was too compromised.

​     She pulled out a Bontrager tire. Yay, Bontrager to the rescue! The heat and frustration were complete, though, as her seat pack was not cooperating and she did a quick toss and throw of the seat pack across the ground.

     ​Picture... hot, dry grass by the side of a road next to a freeway entrance. All of us in black riding kits, tube flat, old tire with a gash, boot unusable, new Bontrager folding tire refusing to unfold and a stupid seat pack pissing off Sarah. All was good quick enough, but those of you who know her can picture the scene quite well, I'm sure. Oh and there was a bike shop about a mile away in the wrong direction. Why are they always in the wrong direction?

​     After the diversion of that little catastrophe, we moved on to the Sunset Lake Campground. We had the WHOLE campground to ourselves. It was like camping euphoria. There were RV's around the outside but the whole of the camping area was empty. The owners were really nice, as most everyone has been, and interested in what we were doing engaging in friendly conversation and well wishes.

​     The next morning we pushed forward. When we left it was 99 degrees, it was a hot damn day. Our route was mostly back roads, some of them in better shape than others as we went. We managed to finally find a drive through liquor and snack store, I find them to be a strange phenomena. In many counties you can't buy alcohol at all and then you run into one where you don't even have to get out of your car to load up on beer... weird. And then a Subway for some food.

​     It was a day in which keeping ourselves hydrated was hard to do. At one point we stopped to get some fresh produce from someone selling it on the side of the road and asked for water out of his hose because all of our water bottles were close to empty. We did forty miles in about four hours. That is cooking when you are carrying all your own gear. For those who are joining us now in the blog accounts, it is true. Our bikes and gear are about 80 pounds give or take a little, we have no support vehicle just the power of our legs, so it is pretty quick to average ten miles an hour when it is over a hundred degrees.

​     We camped that night at a Lazy J RV and campground and, though the proprietors were friendly enough we felt that they took advantage of us by making us pay for more than one camp site. Here we were on bicycles and carrying all our gear and there were campers using full hook-ups next to us that paid less than we did. There was no karma points being won by the proprietors for that.

​     We did meet another great family. Jean and Keith live in Racine, WI and Kim and her husband Dave live close to Frederick, MD. They were camping with their kids and parents in the same campground. They invited us down for food. We had already eaten but Sarah couldn't turn down the beans. Drinks and some s'mores for Diana and I and conversation for all. They were the  friendliest bunch we have run into since Cody and Josh. The next morning they fed us breakfast before we took off. Pancakes, yummy! They filled our water bottles and wished us well and we went to pedaling again. We were looking at 56 miles for the day with the threat of thunderstorms and tornadoes coming at us. We put down our mileage pretty quickly again, note to all you photo lovers, quick days mean no pics. Sorry about that.

​     Twenty-six miles into our day Jean, Kim and their mom showed up to bring us fresh water. Yeah they drove fifty miles, round trip, out of their way to bring us water. That was AWESOME!!! We'd had a head wind all day and it was hot again so they were the best part of our day and we can't thank them enough!

​     It has been interesting to see how differently people treat you when you are on a loaded bike. The other day, in Kent, Sarah and I were riding downtown without any bags and some kids threw firecrackers at us thinking it was funny.  When you are loaded down and as wide as a motorcycle people move over for you, wait for you to get going and are genuinely interested in what you are doing. Diana's husband did some research and based on what he could find, he came to the conclusion that the three of us are .0063 percent of the population (or just over half of 1/100th of a percent) of people in the United States willing to take on an adventure like this. That is pretty cool! So I guess we'll keep trekingalong, at least for another week.