Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ups and Downs

David asked that I title these last few days in Wisconsin, "Ups and Downs." It seemed approriate to me, given the the highs and lows we've experienced lately, so there you go.

Believe it or not, we spent our first 5 days in Wisconsin trying to find milk that wasn't from Texas or Minnesota. This is extremely frustrating when you are biking through America's Dairyland and constantly breathing in the smell of cows. So on Wednesday when we biked passed a roadside sign for a creamery and bakery, we took a chance. We wound up at Farmstead Creamery and Cafe. I knew we had found a small piece of heaven when we walked in to see a plate of fresh-baked blueberry muffins being put on the counter. They had such an impressive selection of local dairy goods that we had trouble narrowing down our choice to a large glass bottle of chocolate milk. We were excited to find the milk was non-homogenized, because it was a new experience for us and we kinda liked the floating bits of extra cream :) David had coffee with his blueberry muffin and I picked out the most amazing looking loaf of bread I have ever seen to bring with us for our PB&J power snacks. I couldn't say no to their strawberry rhubarb jam and fresh-picked carrots, and they even enticed me with a fresh chocolate chip cookie as we were leaving. Overall, it was exactly what we had been looking for and exactly what we needed to prepare us for what lay ahead!

A few miles later we came across a road closed sign, and of course we assumed it couldn't apply to us, so we biked the extra few miles to find the road completely torn away. A bit dismayed that we'd have to return over the hilly terrain we had just conquered, we found an alternate route around the lakes that brightened our outlook. Just when it looked like we had made it through the wilderness, I thought to myself how I wished I had taken a picture of the road closure sign for the blog. And that's when we happened upon our second road closure sign of the day (great photo op, not so great for morale). Another few miles out of our way (all hills, of course,) and we were redirected to a major highway, where we were forced to bike for 9 miles in 90+ degree heat with no shade and plenty of fast moving cars - oh joy. Once we were back on our map, the heat and the hills seemed intensified by our poor spirits and we barely made it to our campsite in Birchwood, WI. We've biked 1,660 miles and are exactly 4 weeks in. We're tired of camping and believe it or not, our tent actually smells like cows. We miss our dog like crazy. We're exhausted and my quads are perpetually sore and some days I get bored of getting back on the bike. When David and I eat out together, we spend most of our meal on our cell phone ignoring each other and I feel like I need to expalin to everyone how we spend every waking moment together. I also feel I should do some explaining when the waitress offers me a box halfway through a callzone the size of my head and I turn her down and then go on to order a triple-icecream-scooped fry bread dessert with caramel and chocolate. But I don't, haha.

Anyway, we are immensely looking forward to getting back to the West and getting to see our friends and family in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
And then getting back to New Mexico!


Hopefully this post doesn't seem too discouraging to you. As I publish this, it is now 3 days later and things are looking way, way up for us. From this post on, we're due for a rest day in St. Croix, WI, and then on into Minnesota, where something truly magical awaits us :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Wisconsin Wanderings

<p>We're officially halfway done! (For those of you wondering how we can be halfway done but still in Wisconsin: Don't worry, it will make sense soon.) We clocked 1,500 miles today and I have a picture as proof!</p>
<p>But it wasn't an uneventful journey to 1,500, worry not. Somewhere back in Michigan, we ran into a fellow tourer headed in the opposite direction who gave us some invauable tips about the road ahead. One thing he mentioned was a Wisconsin town called Boulder Junction. Unfortunaely, neither David nor I could remember what exactly he had said about it, but we made plans to spend some time there nevertheless. We passed through Eagle River (the hockey capitol of Wisconsin as well as the snowmobiling capitol of the world) on our way into Boulder Junction and arrived around 2pm. The town was small but cute, and seemed to be set up for outdoors enthusaists.

We had a late lunch and drink at the Boulder Beer Bar and then checked out the sporting goods store. I got bored fast and stepped outside only to be distracted by a buillding with a sign that read "bakery." I have barely missed a chance to buy a brownie, cookie, or cinnamon roll since we began this trip, so I walked on over to the Dancing Bear Coffee Shop and Bakery. David and and I split a nutty mocha, 2 donut holes, and 2 pie crust twists. We found a deer-shaped cribbage board and played a full game (I outpegged David in the final hand).

While sipping, munching, and cribagging, Carolyn from the Dancing Bear introduced herself and had a seat right next to us. She had a few questions about our trip, and she repaid our answers handsomely with 2 fantastic oatmeal and M&M cookies - on the house! She also gave us the info of two of her friends who live in Los Alamos, of all places, so we're looking forward to tracking them down.

That evening, we enjoyed a hotel, more cheese, a real bed, a shower WITHOUT a toad in it, and tv reruns. This is much less exciting to read about than it was for us to experience, because it was all probably one of the greatest things we've ever done.

Oh, and yes, there was a toad in the shower at our last campground. And I still took my shower, thank you very much.

So Boulder Junction was yesterday, and now we're all set up in a campground in Chequamegon National Forest. As I'm writing this David is sitting next to me on our private dock on Day Lake, near the town of Clam Lake, WI. He is udating our written journal, which we'll let people read when we get back. It has all of David's perspectives, plus a few more technical details like miles completed, average speed, and weather. Anyway, he's writing about today as the sun sets on the empty lake and he just said to me, "nothing interesting happened today, did it?" And when I think about it, I realize he's right. So here's my update for today:

We pedaled. A lot. And ate. A lot. And now we're camping.

Our plans for the next few nights include Birchwood, Amery, St. Croix Falls, and then into Dalbo, Minnesota! The fall colors are already starting to make their way out and we're looking forward to enjoying those along the way.

Our special thanks to the sponsors who got us here today! My Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom who literally went the extra mile by biking alongside us in New York, our high school friends Gavin, Ryann, and their baby girl Rylee Shnieder, and Adam Neill from Merrick (and his dogs!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Squeaky Cheese and Fresh Legs (a.k.a. We <3 Wisconsin)

When I last wrote, we had just biked a half day into Luddington and were about to enjoy a full day of rest. The next morning, we boarded the S.S. Badger for a 5 hour crossing of 60 miles across Lake Michigan. By the time we docked, we had 48 hours of rest in our legs, giving us just enough of an itch to ride to convince us to decide to take on the 45 mile trek to the nearest campsite despite our late start.

Wow, what a difference rest can make! We cranked out the first 45 in no time, conquering a slight uphill grade with a 15.5 mph average without a second thought! I kept checking to make sure our trailer was still attached, because I couldn't believe we were going that fast (about 3-5 mph faster than usual). We opted to skip our first camping option and easily made it an extra 11 miles to another with time for a dip in the swimming pool before dinner.

Oh, and everywhere smells like cows :) I like to imagine their moos are how they cheer "goooooo!" to us, lol.

Saturday was another solid day, and with an early start we were able to get in 85 miles. I actually kept a food photo journal of the day which I hope to make into a separate post on how much we eat. One highlight was finally finding cheese curds at a Farmer's Market in Shawano! Growing up, my family would visit Tillamook and we LOVED eating "squeaky cheese." Cheese curds are only good fresh from the dairy, and ours were from cows milked late the previous night. The cheese is delicious and it makes a satisfying squeak on your teeth, which is kinda fun.

I also bought an amazing $3 pie from girls wearing bonnets and dresses. We see them all over, crossing paths with us in their horse and buggies or on their farms where their barefoot children wave enthusiastically at us. Are they Amish? I've never seen them in the West, so I'm a little naive but they make great pies!

We crossed with another unique culture group when we arrived at our campground. Our first warning might have been the directions to the "camp office and bar." Our second could have been the rows and rows of motorcycles parked out front. We parked our bike alongside all the other "bikes" and waded into the bar. Turns out a group of 80 motorcycles was doing a tour of Wisconsin for charity, and we had stumbled into their second to last stop of the day. After about 20 minutes of pushing our way to the bar, meanwhile mingling with a few fellow "bikers" (don't forget we're wearing spandex shorts and helmets here), we caught the attention of a bar tender and she gave us quick instructions to our camp site, with a warning that there was a wedding reception going on nearby too.

And now here we are, in our tent, showered, fed, and ready for bed by 9, listening to Katy Perry and Sir Mixalot while drunk bar patrons make their way to their trucks/golf carts/atv's (seriously, David helped a man up off the ground who then got in his truck and drove away... at 7pm). We also overheard a 12 year old boy and girl compare guns and hunting stories. Oh Wisconsin! Well, we wouldn't change a thing, cuz when you can't bike another mile more, you take what you can get!

Anyway, the chicken dance is on and I think it might make a good lullaby :)


It's morning now and we got hit by a pretty persistent rain late last night. We're sheltering in the bar, eating breakfast and drinking oj with half the local populace it seems. Somehow, they already know us as the two crazy kids who biked here (on the wrong kind of bikes) cuz they keep asking us what we'll do about the rain, lol. Well, it appears to have let up a little so we should be on the road soon!

Oh, but I almost forgot to thank our sponsors. We owe our gratitude to Joyce Jones, Doug Eisenbrandt, Matthew and April Young and family, and Michele Winkels and Ted Miller for our last few miles in Michigan and our most recent adventures in Wisconsin. Thanks again for sponsoring miles and supporting our efforts to provide clean water to those who need it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Musings from Michigan

We are officially 21 days and 1,121 miles into our trip! Today is our SECOND rest day, even though we should be on our third by now. We have officially decided to tone down our pace though, so things should be getting even more enjoyable soon. We have also been camping 7 out of the last 8 days, so David has promised me a few more hotels soon too. In reality, most of the campsites we have stayed at are cheaper and better located than hotels, plus they've mostly had showers, so I'm quite content.  Not having to set up camp a few nights would certainly be welcome rest, though.

We see at least one group of fellow cross country tourers each day, typically retired age and either solo men or groups of 2-3, especially if there are women. Our friends from New Hampshire who we camped with a few nights early on were the only people our age we've seen. I guess not many people working for a living can convince their boss to let them leave for 2 months and still come back, so thank you employers! Anyway, these other cyclists often have all kinds of good information on the route to come, including a barn outfitted with bunks and food for cyclists and a city park you can camp in and get $2 off breakfast in the nearby cafe the next morning!

Another thing we've noticed is that when all you wear is spandex and you ride around on a fully-loaded tandem with a trailer, you get odd looks when you pull into Le Roy, population 300 and buy your body weight in jerky, breakfast sandwiches, poptarts, and carrots. Inevitably, people will ask questions, and when they do, here's how the conversation goes:

Stranger: "Where are you biking from?"
David: "Just past Pultneyville this morning, and we're headed to Wallaceburg tonight."
Stranger: "I've never heard of either of those places..."
Leanne: "Basically, we started in Portland, Maine and we're headed to Portland, Oregon."
Stranger: "Wow, that's far! Don't most people go the opposite direction?"
Leanne: "Well, we're from Washington so we wanted to finish back at home."
Stranger: "But your jersey says New York..."
Leanne: "Yes, my aunt and uncle gave them to us, and they're from New York."
Stranger: "They're from New York, but your from Washington? So why does his jersey say New Mexico?"
David: "We live in New Mexico."
Stranger: "You're from Washington, but you're living in New Mexico, so how did you end up in Maine?!"

And on and on it goes :)

All in all, the trip has been great, the sights and people have been entertaining, our destinations delightful, and the weather has been phenomonal (knock on wood, because apparently we keep missing heat waves and downpours left and right!).

So no, Duane, we haven't needed rain pants :)

Today we have enjoyed a slow-paced morning at Ludington State Park. Our plans for the rest of the day include body surfing on Lake Michigan, attempting to smooth over some of our more horrendous tan lines, and checking out some local breweries and cafes. Loving it! The miles that brought us to this mini vacation were sponsored by David's parents, Richard and Karen Smith (who we are STOKED to be meeting in Walla Walla for wine tasting and a sag wagon to the finish line!), his grandparents, Alan and Connie Creighton, and his co-worker, Johnny A! Thanks to all of you for getting us this far! P.S. We just checked into our hotel for the night only to be told by the front desk worker that they "don't allow trailers, and certainly not bikes" into their dingy, $60 a night rooms (pic below). Ummm, excuse me? Those two things are essentially my life right now, and I don't appreciate having their feelings hurt! I'm a little peeved, to say the least. Oh well, at least we were able to stuff all our possessions into a garbage sack for the night :(

Monday, August 20, 2012

We Biked 1000 Miles (To Fall Down at Your Door)

The picture below is David at our 1000th mile. Pretty exciting for Day 17, since it means we're a third done! Today, we're also celebrating being officially halfway done with our sponsorships, which means you guys have officially paid for half of the well repairs we're working towards, so thanks for that!

We are now 3 days into Michigan and camped just outside Clare. One of the pictures is what our planning process for the next few days looked like tonight. David had a momentous day, seeing his first foreign made car since entering Michigan as well as our first ever Curling Center.

As always, I have to make a food update. Michele, you'll be happy to hear we ate at our first ever Big Boy, and we loved it! It helps to be able to eat as many burgers and shakes as we want, too :)

The scenery has been mostly corn, but today we finally made it onto a forested trail. The people are incredibly nice and everyone is always asking about our trip. We're looking forward to a day off on Thursday and a ferry ride across Lake Michigan!

Our latest miles have been sponsored by my Uncle Jack and Aunt Linda in the Middle East, the Carver family (with Linda praying for us and Nathan as our standby dog sitter!) and Justin, Lacy, Laila, and Austin Jones, who we just found out are relocating to Oak Ridge (so sad they'll be gone before we return!) Anyway, thanks so much to all you lovely people!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two Loonies on a Toonie

Hooray Canada!
We're back in the U.S.! We found an awesome internet cafe so I'm typing on a real computer too! Anyway, since leaving Niagara Falls, we hung out in Ontario for 4 days, biking along Lake Erie. We really enjoyed the scenery, and even got to camp out on a beack with fresh water waves! It was incredible. Plus, we made blueberry pancakes on the beach and got sand EVERYWHERE, which is something I think everyone should do before they die. Unforutanetly, a wind and rain storm hovered over us that night from about 8pm-1:30am... during which time we actually feared being blown away and/or flooded into the lake. But we survived! And biked anouther 85 miles the next day (we had biked 100 miles that day).

Hopefully you don't mind the grit!
Canadians were really great people, who actually say "eh"... a lot. One local biked along with us for 20 miles or so, and told us all about where we were biking through. Another woman found a can of almonds in her car when we arrived in her middle-of-nowhere town looking for food and there was absolutely nothing. Oh, and the inkeeper who has biked all over Asia and Africa and told us about the free camping on the beach.Another woman simply taught me that $1 coins are called "loonies" and $2 coins are "toonies," which is invaluable because that is so awesome! Which also explains the title of this post. We thought "toonie" was a good nick name for our tandem, and we're kinda crazy, so "two loonies on a toonie!"

We've biked about 900 miles so far! Miles sponsored by my dad and step mom, Karl and Zelda Iams, brought us back into the U.S.

AND ALL OF YOU GUYS HAVE HELPED US RAISE ALMOST HALF THE MONEY TO REBUILD THE WELL IN NICARAGUA! That's pretty incredible, and we're stoked to be a part of it!

The sign read "Bus Parking Only"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rest Day in Niagara Falls

We had our first rest day in Niagara Falls today and it was amazing! A day off our bikes and a chance to see one of nature's greatest wonders. As usual, we ate well, but we also took the ferry into the falls and caught an IMAX movie. The walking was good for our legs, but so was sitting in our hotel room watching reruns of the Big Bang Theory :)

We'll stay in Canada for another 4 days as we continue our trek west. David's phone is still out of commission too, so we'll be a little out of touch for a while.

We still owe thanks to a few people for sponsoring the miles that got us here! Our friends Katie and Tyson, Mike and Rita Brake (who are about to have a baby as I post this!), Carla and Scott Gustafson, and Ryan and Kim Caulfield. Thanks to all of you guys for getting us this far!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Adventures in the Adirondacks

We're dry now, and that's a good thing.

500 miles, 4 states, and 8 days in, and there are actually quite a few things that we now know to be good, and here are a few:
  • Awesome relatives who drive out of their way to bike along side you and offer encouragement. Thank you so much, Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom, for the company, the lunch (best lemonade ever!), and the AWESOME New York Jerseys - you were right, Aunt Karen, people in this state have been nicer to us since we started wearing them :)

Riding with my Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom
Chocolate milk in the morning and lemonade in the afternoon. Everyday. They are my medicine and I promise to forgive them if I end up with stomach acid problems or lactose intolerance by the end of this trip.
  • Campground neighbors that invite you over for a glass of wine after a hard day of biking. And then let you stay for dinner. And then offer you more wine. And then you make s'mores together... even though you kinda smell funny :) Thanks again to Mary Alice Moore and her wonderful and highly entertaining family for taking us in for the night and being our family while we're so far from our home and families! And almost more importantly, that teriyaki chicken you sent with us the next morning may very well have saved our lives when we were losing steam at the end of the day.
  • Respites in the rain. That when we're huddled under a tarp on the side of the road with no break between the flashes of lightning and the boom of thunder, I can tell David it will only be a few more minutes and actually be right. That once the rain stops, we can bike fast enough to air dry our jackets, and that if David has to finish cooking our mac and cheese inside our tent, the storm will pass and we can enjoy hot chocolate while our smelly socks air out. And sometimes, just an old man to offer his porch to you while you wait it out.

I'm glad for two miles, because I can keep anything up for 2 miles, so when a destination gets to be within 2 miles, I know we can do it. I'm glad to be at the end of a 95 mile day rather than the beginning.

I'm also glad that mosquito bites heal, that campgrounds have showers, and that New York boys with mohawks. I'm glad for soap and even the sketchiest of motels in a rain storm and for giving people chances to surprise you. And down hill stretches - long, steady, and fast.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eating Well in Vermont!

We're taking a break in Middlebury, VT right now and enjoying a buffet of freshly picked blueberries, a baguette, and a wheel of local cheese. We enjoyed a basket of onion rings for lunch yesterday and having been LOVING the Vermont chocolate milk. Well, mostly we just love being able to eat whatever we want, when we want :) we finished things of with maple glazed chicken wings and fish and chips for dinner last night.

We had our eye on a you-pick blueberry farm this morning and we were about to pass it by because it was closed when the owner raced ahead of us in her car, flash the open sign at us, and said "you looked like you-pickers, so I tried to hurry!" Neither of us had ever you-picked before and it was so much fun! And now we have 3 lbs of fresh blueberries to snack on for a while ("Fruit: Nature's original fruit snack")

Anyway, 20 more miles today and we'll be in Ticonderoga, NY (pencils, anyone?) where we'll meet up with my Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom!

These first 175 miles have been brought to you by Joanne, John, Jacinta, Kathy, Ashley, and Anthony Lestone and my mom and step dad, Mark and Linda Selby! Thanks so much, you guys!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We're Really Doing It!

134 miles done! We're halfway through the Adirondacks and feeling good. Our highest mountain pass this side of the Mississippi: check! 2 lakes swam in: check! A load of laundry running right now: check!

We've been living off of Maine Lobster, New Hampshire chocolate milk, and beef jerky. Needless to say, we're eating well. Watching the Olympics right now and running out of cell battery, so this will be all for now. 70 mile day tomorrow from North Haverhill, NH to Rochestor, VT. 4 days, 3 states :) Oh, and the humidity has not exactly been agreeable for us, lol.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

27% Donated / Flying to Portland!


Our trip is 27% sponsored!

$815 has already been donated to rebuild a well in Nicaragua! That's enough support from our friends and family to get us from Portland, Maine (where we're flying to TODAY!) to Flint, Michigan. That's our first two weeks, but there are still lots of miles available for sponsorship. $3000 will pay for the complete repairs of our sponsored well, and we'd love to have you be a part of that project.

Plus, your belief in and support of our trip means the world to us :)

You can donate online through our Crowdrise links or by mailing a check written out to Living Water International to:

David & Leanne Smith
C/O Deziree Iams
2296 A 36th St
Los Alamos, NM 87544

I'm trying not to jinx us, but everything appears to be packed and ready! They even started putting our bike together yesterday, so it should be good-to-go when we show up on Friday. Our flight today leaves at noon and lands in Portland at midnight. Here's to a safe flight, a good night's rest, and a seamless beginning to our trip across the country!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bad Hair Day

One of the last things David and I wanted to do before our trip was get our hair cut. Made sense, because the longer we waited, the less likely we'd be to have to mess with it during the trip. For me, that meant making an appointment and getting some friends to help me find a short, simple cut that would require no maintenance, keep me cool, and improve our aerodynamics!

Since David cuts his own hair, he doesn't need to bother with appointments. Unfortunately, on Monday night when David was getting ready for a last pre-trip trim, his razor didn't seem to be working. He removed the attachment comb (used to choose how long you want your hair cut), messed around with it, and immediately tested it out by running the now-worker yet completely-unprotected razor straight over his head. We're hoping the resulting "racing stripe" will help us bike faster.

David trimmed the rest of his hair down as far as I was willing to let him (even with helmets, I don't want to start our trip with him completely bald!). His plan is to wear a hat for his last two days of work. Other than that, we are now completely packed and anxious to leave!