Archive for September 2009

 
 

September 30th, 2009

Day 26 – Our Biggest Fan – Racine to Madison, WI

Miles biked – 23

9/25/09 Waking up in Racine we were treated to coffee made by Paula and then poached eggs and whole grain toast made by John.  Then we hopped in a car, hoping to be dropped off about 25 mile away from New Glarus, WI, for the much talked about tour of the brewery that does distribute outside of WI.  Then we were to ride to Madison where we would have another day off in a town that we more than ready to love.  It seemed like a fair enough plan, but after all was said and done we decided that nice as it was to get a ride part way and visit a brewery that wasn’t originally going to fit into our trip, we think taking a car to help us along may not have been what our “twigs” we meant to do.

After being in the car for about 4 hours, we got out at Belmont, at one of end of a railtrail that would take us straight to New Glarus.  It was 25 miles and it was 1pm.

The rain started about half hour in.  At first, it was a drizzle, before turning into a real downpour, the first rough weather of our trip.  By the end of the trail, we soaked, covered in mud and down one brake handle (Sara’s).  Luckily, our biggest fan, John Rowland, was waiting on the other end of the trail with his truck.  After making some changes to his plans for the evening (thanks John!), he took us to New Glarus for a pretty amazing self guided tour, some tasting samples (including a new favorite, the belgium red made with a pound of Wisconsin cherries per bottle) and a respite from the rain.  Then it was on to Madison, by car.

In Madison we stayed with the coolest people in town, Leah and Ahren, bike friends of our Cambridge friends Matt and Susi.  As usual, the first thing we did upon arrival was shower and start laundry, but this time, since we’d done such a short day of riding, we weren’t starving.  It was a bit strange, but it worked worked out.  Leah and Ahren we out seeing Michael Pollan at a panel discussion about sustainable farming so we didn’t eat until kind of late.  But our feast of local green beans, local garlic and mashed purple potatoes and bratwurst was more than worth the wait.  Quite possibly our best meal yet.  We drank our extra stash of New Glarus, talked about food production, biking and beer (Ahren is also a home brewer) and went to bed with dreams of moving to Madison in our head.

Morning in Racine with John

Morning in Racine with John

New Glarus Brewing Co

New Glarus Brewing Co

Leah making apple crisp

Leah making apple crisp

September 30th, 2009

Day 25 – Fun, Fast and Safe Transit – Grand Haven MI to Racine WI

Miles biked – 15

Ferries taken – 1

9/24/09  We woke up at a very cheerful 6am on day 25, ready to make our way to Muskegon for our much anticipated ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee.  None of us really knew what to expect from this day, because we were about to meet the guy we’d jokingly been calling “Our Biggest Fan”.  A friendly gentleman who’d run across our blog after we’d found some of his bike pictures on Flickr.  We didn’t know this guy from Adam, but he’d seen that we were taking a ferry to Milwaukee and offered to pick us up and let us stay in his home in Racine.  It sounded pretty fabulous, since we didn’t have another plan, but our mental safety detectors were also on alert.  After much discussion the week before, we decided to just take him up on the offer.  We’d checked out his Facebook page, he looked like a nice guy.   His name was also the impeached governor of CT but looking at his pictures, we were pretty sure it wasn’t the same guy, so we were safe.

Leaving Grand Haven, bellies filled with cold pizza and cinnasticks, we loaded up our bikes and road a beautiful 15 miles though western MI to Muskegon.  Possibly some of the most enjoyable riding of the trip, but maybe partially because we knew we only had to go 15 miles.  This ferry, come to find out, is quite the big deal.  We were advised to arrive 45 minutes before the departure so that we could clear security and after spending over $100 dollars a piece on tickets, we didn’t want anything keeping us from getting on that boat.

We made it there will time to spare, got ourselves a cappuccino from the machine at the station and watched the boat pull in.  After strapping our “vehicles” down with the cars, we sat down in the cabin of the boat, which was kind of like a cross between a nice airplane and a nice (but moving) airport.  Sprawled out, we read the paper, ate breakfast at the boat cafe and watched “The Proposal” with no sound.  I’ve always known that these kinds of movies predictable but after watching with no dialog I was truly surprised at how little I feel like we missed.

Periodically, we’d get up to go above deck to check out the lake, which was MAGNIFICENT.  It was pretty cold and windy up there, but also pretty neat.  Like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight.

Getting off the boat, we were immediately greeted by the man himself, John Rowland.  We decided the easiest thing would be to load up our bikes and get to Racine and clean up and then head into Milwaukee and see the sites.  We were quickly put at ease at what a nice guy John was, and had a great time checking out Water Street Brewery, and the actual water front of the city.  We had some great coffee at Alterra, a coffee shop built in an old water pump building on the lake and then went to the Milwaukee Art Museum in time to see the famous Calatrava wings open and close.  Then back to John’s home, where his wife Paula and friend Rod joined us for grilled salmon, quinoa salad and all the fixing.  We were pretty much spoiled all day.

Muskegon to Milwaukee Ferry

Muskegon to Milwaukee Ferry

Bike and Brew does Milwaukee

Bike and Brew does Milwaukee

Water Street Brewery

Water Street Brewery

September 30th, 2009

Day 24 – DZ Nuts is Butternuts – Kalamazoo to Grand Haven

Miles ridden:
Caroline, Sara and Tracy – 81 Anders – 98

9/23/09  Heading out of the Scholl-Anderson home for day 24, the crew prepared for was we expected to be a 70-something mile day- by bike and brew standards, an relatively easy ride)  The plan: 47 miles and then lunch at an apple orchard with Anders’ aunt and 91 year old grandfather and then another 30 or so miles to his grandfather’s house in Grand Haven.   Unlike Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo, where we followed fairly closely to the 94 highway, this ride was very scenic.  We spent a good part of the ride on paved bike paths going through woods that made our journey feel more like a day trip than a cross-continent adventure.   Sara was fighting a little bit of a cold and Tracy had a bit of a cleat issue (she lost a screw and took a few very small slow-mo diggers trying to get out of her pedals) but overall it was a smooth day.  We made it to lunch at Crane’s with plenty of time for sloppy joes and some of the most delicious pie ever (despite it being an apple orchard, we had rhubarb and raspberry, also local).  Even though we didn’t have time to wander the corn maze, Anders family was a pleasure to dine with and we left feeling ready to wrap up the day with a quick stop in at New Holland Brewing company shortly before we arrived in Grand Haven.

Well, quick stops at breweries on kind of a myth.  Since we HAD to get a sampler and try a few different brews and then we couldn’t get right back on our bikes, that would be unsafe.  Luckily, Jeff, the brewer at New Holland, was available to give us the grand tour of the operation.  Turns out, they produce quite a bit of beer, distributing to 12 different states but mostly outside of the pub at a large production location.  There at the pub he made his own recipes, speciality brews only available there.  Sounded like a brewers dream job, free reign to make whatever he wanted with constant feedback from the local crowd.  Unfortunately, we found this out AFTER finishing our sampler and didn’t get a chance to try the special recipes.  The beers we did have were delicious though and we picked up a few bottles to take with us to have with dinner later.  That was at 6pm.  With another 22 miles to go.

We hit the road running (well… pedaling… sorry Caroline) and got going at a pretty good pace (maybe 15-16 miles an hour).  The terrain was ideal, a paved bike path, mostly flat with a few rollers, and gorgeous scenery.  We were right along Lake Michigan, and there were some huge fir trees lining the path.  We were feeling pretty good until about 7:40pm when we had what we thought was 4 more miles.  And then Tracy asked “shouldn’t the lake be on the other side?”

Ouch.

We had taken a wrong turn and we were looping our way back to Holland.  We had about 20 minutes of daylight left and 17 more miles to go.

Standing on the side of the trail, we stood there for a second, pondering what to do, when a gentleman walking his dog asked “do you need anything?”  We explained the situation, he looked at us and said “well, my Tahoe will fit at least 3 of you, I can drive you to Grand Haven”.  So we decided to take the opportunity while it was there.  Anders decided he would be fine riding back, even as it got dark (since it was a path and not the street), and besides, “it was an adventure”.  The girls walked a few houses down and loaded into the Tahoe.  On the ride to Grand Haven (its amazing how short a 17 mile bike ride is in a truck) we found out that the man’s son was prone to just this kind of adventure, and had gotten himself and his bike stuck all kinds of places.  He must have figured it was good karma to help stranded pedalers like his son.  Whatever the reason, the ride was a godsent because we were tired and ready to take a shower and eat some din din.

About an hour later, after we’d washed our bikes, ourselves and ordered Dominoes, Anders arrived, in great spirits because we hadn’t drank the Saison from New Holland yet.  We all sat down to an episode of Glee (a pretty good show if you haven’t seen it!) and decided it was a good day.

Kalamazoo to Grand Haven

Kalamazoo to Grand Haven

New Holland Brewing Co

New Holland Brewing Co

September 24th, 2009

Day 23 – yes, there really is a Kalamazoo

miles ridden – zero

September 22, 2009 - Day off number two was in Anders hometown of Kalamazoo.  We managed (well, some of us more than others) to sleep in quite late before chowing down on a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, cake, coffee, juice and fruit made by our welcoming hosts – Anders parents.  As we ate, we learned that Anders bike trek across country was not just an exciting adventure for him but a family rite of passage.    His parents have crossed states, provinces and continents since long before he was born.  They told us about Bikecentennial, years of TOSRV’s, Hemistour, and a few anecdotes about fighting off bears in Wisconsin and rogue camping all over the place.  Actually, they pretty much made us feel like wusses with our iphones and inflatable mats.  It was very inspiring!  Then we spent some time updating this here blog (yes… these things take time!) and went off to explore the town. Sara, Tracy and Anders had possibly the most delicious meal of the trip yet at Food Dance (Caroline had eaten and went to the local coffee shop to finish a crossword or two) and then Tracy went climbing (Sara joined her but didn’t get up too many walls).  The crew all met up back at the house and then went out to the much talked about Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Cafe to meet up with the crew from kalamabrew.com . It was a great night out, as we met a number of local bikers who do a weekly 30 mile ride and then meet up at the brewery and some not so local bikers, some Harley Davidson employees from Milwaukee who happen to be passing through. It felt like the whole place was bikers or brewers or both!

Kalamabrewwww at Bells

Kalamabrewwww - Bike & Brew running the show at Bell's

September 24th, 2009

Day 22 – the Annamazoo century – Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo

miles ridden – 102.5

Its my experience (having ridden 4 now) that the best way to ride over a hundred miles on a bike in a day, is on very little sleep and if possible, hung over.

Day 22 started at 7:30am with a meet up at the Fleetwood diner in Ann Arbor. Exactly the kind of place you’d imagine – that street car look, old men having breakfast, and us, groggy and in need of breakfast and coffee. We’d plan to hit the road at 7:30am, but managed 8:15am. Not bad, considering none of us went to bed before midnight. A neighboring patron heard us moaning about our lack of Advil and hooked us up from a large bottle she happened to have in her purse and we were off! We did the first 12 miles without even thinking. Stopped for Vitamin Water (a bike and brew staple) and a bathroom break (after the 4 cups of coffee at the diner) and then just kept chugging. We did 50 miles by 12:18pm (18 minutes later than I had been gunning for, but still good, considering we took breaks) and then found the perfect lunch place in a small town just off the route in Albion. A large cafe with no one in there but the waitress/cook and a few regulars having coffee in the back. Nothing on the menu was over 6 dollars and most things were under 3. Awesome.

Bellies full with club sandwiches and second breakfasts we got back on our bikes for another 46 miles. All day, the sky was threatening to open up and right after lunch there was a light drizzle but it ended up being nothing to worry about. We kept up an amazing pace for the rest of the day (with a few restroom breaks) and made it to Ander’s parents house at 5:18pm. 102.5 miles in 9 hours, including breaks. Everyone felt good (sore but good) and Caroline finally did her first century. We stayed up JUST long enough to devour some hummus, chips, stew, Bell’s beer and chocolate cake and then hit the hay just after 8pm. Perfect.

Click here to see more images from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo

Click here to see more images from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo

September 24th, 2009

Day 21 – Shelby Township to Ann Arbor Michigan

Miles ridden – 61

We reluctantly left the Ladopolous’ at 9:30am (only an hour after planned… getting better!) and worked our way down to Ann Arbor. There was some concern that we were too much in the detroit subburbs, but has it turned out, a day of directions to follow (instead of long stretches on the same roads) was exactly what we needed. Having places to turn every few miles made the first 20 miles fly by and then we found an AWESOME bike path. Right next to a road called Pontiac Trail we were able to ride through trees instead of strip malls for about 10 miles with no cars! Suddenly our 21st day was just a “sunday ride”.

We arrived in Ann Harbor about 3pm, repacked our stuff (Ander’s aunt volunteered to take our stuff to Kalamazoo so that we could do our first century a little light) and then hit the town. As it turns out, all four of us have good friends who live in Ann Arbor. Tracy got to go climbing (again), Caroline got to watch the Emmy’s and Sara and Anders when out, got trashed and watched live music until about 1am. And we hit 3 breweries: Arbor Brewing Company, Jolly Pumpkin (amazing pie) and Grizzly Good times:)

Click here for more photos from Day 21

Click here for more photos from Day 21

September 24th, 2009

Day 20 – Back to the USA (where we know people!) – Warwick ON to Shelby Township MI

72.5 miles biked

Our last day in Canada we left our awesome campsite and the very early hour of 10:30am…. Sigh.

Made it 9 miles in a half hour and then stopped at one last Tim Horton’s just in time to get a sausage biscuit before 11am. Then it was off to the border at Sarnia. Again, we had planned to bike across but again we were told that there were no bikes allowed on the bridge. This whole, only-car-owners-can-go-in-and-out-of-Canada thing seems kind of wrong, but that is a whole other discussion. This time we didn’t even need to con a random stranger into taking us a across the border though because someone had Canada customs saw us coming and immediately said “well, I guess I’ll have to drive you.” It was pretty great. She let us pile our bikes into the customs truck and the Tracy and Caroline climbed in the back too (they called dibs, Anders and I got to chat with the custom’s lady in the front of the truck). She drove us very slowly (since there were passengers in the back of the truck) across the bridge into Michigan. It was a beautiful view of Lake Heron at the top of the bridge. At the border, there were surprisingly few questions about why we were in the customs truck and we quickly made it through and started loading our bikes to start riding again. However, US customs didn’t like our unload spot and did tell us we had “2 minutes to get out of the road”.

From the border, we finally got to do the one thing we’d all been waiting for – turn on our phones. We stopped at a BP and looked at maps and plotted our campsite for the night. In a previous version of our plan, we’d though we’d go straight from the border to Ann Arbor, but since we started farther out then the border and much later in the day, that really wasn’t an option, so we picked a campground about 60 miles from where we were. It was about 1:30pm.

3 hours later, we still had 27 miles go (we’d stopped for nachos:) ) and decided it really wouldn’t be safe to ride at dusk or later and we’d better come up with a new plan. Luckily, we had some connections. I made a few phone calls and got us a place for the night at the Ladopolous’ (her roommate Nikki’s parents) in Shelby Township. We went from camping for the night, to staying in a near mansion! Their home was beautiful and despite our last minute stay, they were able to give us everything we needed (showers, laundry, beer…) and more. Thank you Tom and Coleen for your hospitality! You made our return to the states better than we could have imagined.

-sara

Back to the USA!

Back to the USA!

September 23rd, 2009

Day 19 – Chronicles of Sarnia (or, how we learned that it’s just not that serious)

Miles biked – 69

Day 19 was a really strange day. Much of it felt like we were lost in another world. Hitting the road in Stratford, we prepared for what looked like our first day of rain. We were dragging our feet a bit but when the towns power randomly went out (a man on the street said “must be the hydro again”) we decided it was time to go. We had directions to Warwick but dreams of getting across the border at Sarnia. 15 miles down highway 7 we thought for sure we’d be sleeping in the states. And then we turned 16 Mile Road and everything changed. 20 km of dirt road. We probably should have known that a street in Canada named 16 Mile where they measure everything in kilometers was suspicious. After that jaunt, we took a wrong turn and ended up on more dirt roads. Took a lunch break, got back on the dirt road. We did have a great time as we muscled along at 10 miles an hour listening to music and practicing our animal noises though. The whole day was bit surreal. Nothing around for miles and miles. Just the horrible nitrogen smell of industrial farming. When you read that all farm land has turned into corn and soybeans, you think “that’s horrible” but when you bike through it, its a whole other level of understanding.

When we finally made our way off the dirt roads, we got on a hilly paved highway with the roughest winds we’ve experienced yet. We the cross winds a result of the landscape being altered for the industrial farms? Hard to tell, but it made for some tough biking. Again, we were only going about 10 miles an hour, only this time we felt like we were doing enough work to be going 20.

About 60 miles in to the day, we stopped a fruit stand, the only thing we’d seen even resembling commerce in at least an hour. We had no idea how far we were from any where to camp for the night and we needed to fill up our water bottles. The stand had crates of apple and plums and a bucket that said “put your payment here”. Not exactly the helpful stop we were hoping for. We rang the bell and a woman came out who looked at us like we each had three heads. We asked about beverages (she had none) and she told us that the auto repair shop (basically a shack on the side of the road) at the intersection had coffee in the morning so they might be able to help. But she also mentioned that we WERE on the way to Worwick. Thank goodness!

10 miles down the road, we actually made it to Warwick. Picked out a few provisions at the corner store (where the owner was a bit peeved that we walked on this freshly waxed floor with our bike cleats) and got to the nicest campsite any of us had ever been to. Sara got lost at the campsite for about a half an hour (and since we were in Canada, we still didn’t have our phones on) but by the time she found the group, they we set up at a nice spot, right across for some very nice restrooms with clean showers and a laundry room! Amazing. This was the kind of place where people got season passes and spent the summer, and some of those regulars took a liking to us. They hooked us up with piles of firewood, change for the laundry, and gave Caroline a ride in a golf cart! 20 miles from the border, it was the perfect last night in Ontario.

Crossing the border

Crossing the border

September 22nd, 2009

Our Night In Stratford

Each day of this tour presents its own obstacles and objectives, the most pressing usually being the giant question mark that is our accommodations for the night. In Canada, this has proved especially true, as our list of contacts in minimal. We are finding, however, that these “open-ended” days, where we guesstimate potential mileage and hope to find safe camping in a nearby town, usually result in the most jaw-droppingly amazing arrangements. Such was the case when we arrived in Stratford, Ontario. The town is absolutely delightful, but after see the Fairgrounds (the only place to set up camp) we understood why people had somewhat hesitantly directed us there. The Fairgrounds were empty, overgrown, and had a general feeling of neglect. It was to be, we thought, a night where we would really “rough it”. Starving from a day of riding, we were eager to walk the ½ mile to town to grab dinner but did not feel comfortable leaving our bikes or gear unattended. In a moment of rare boldness (ha!) I spotted someone out in their yard about 100 yards away and approached them to ask if it would be possible to leave the bikes in their driveway while we went to get dinner. We were given the ok, and after changing out of our spandex, we wheeled ourselves over. That was when we met Bernice, the owner of home. She offered to let us not only store the bikes, but to camp in her beautiful, safe, cushy-grassed yard!! Later that night, the girls stayed up talking to Bernice and her fantastic daughter, Jodie. It was a wonderful visit and a true testament to the fact that people walk (or bike) into each other’s lives for a reason. Bernice and Jodi provided a haven for us that night for which we are so thankful. They also provided friendship and great company, and I think there was true significance to our lives colliding that day. Whether it be for a moment, a year, or a lifetime, some people are destined to leave a lasting impression on our lives. Their family has been in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you both so much!

To top off a wonderful evening, Jodi woke up early with us, pumped up the tires to her own bike, and rode with us to the best breakfast spot in Stratford…Features diner. It was a GREAT meal, and Tracy impressed us all, along with the waitress, by order and consuming the Paul Bunyan, Features colossal breakfast platter. AMAZING. We parted ways with Jodi to get out on the road, but we promise to be back to Stratford. (And Jodi, when you organize that charity ride, know that we will be there in a heartbeat!)

Click here to see more photos from Toronto to Stratford

Click here to see more photos from Toronto to Stratford

The Paul Bunyan - before

The Paul Bunyan - before

Paul Bunyan - after

Paul Bunyan - after

September 22nd, 2009

Day 18 – The Bleam Team – Toronto to Stratford

Miles biked – 75

Since taking the train in to Toronto ended up working out so well for avoiding the biking through crazy suburban areas, we decided to go ahead and take the Go Train out as well. Our original plan was to bike to London ON for day 18 (about 100 miles outside the city) but since we’ve been on the road we’ve learned to important lessons: one, 100 miles is a long way with 40plus pounds of gear on your bike, and two, we really don’t need to go to any huge breweries on this trip, like Labatt, which was our stop in London. So we did the smart thing and took a train as far out of the city as we could and then biked to the town of Stratford, which Anders claimed was his favorite little town ever. And since they’re claim to fame is a year round Shakespeare festival, Caroline was down so it was decided.

We had big plans to catch the 8:45am train out of Toronto, but right before we were all packed up and ready to go, Anders made a very important realization – we needed directions. One of the hardest things about these days in Ontario is that we have avoided using our phones due to roaming charges. But without phones, we don’t have our fancy google maps app with built in GPS. And who in our generation know where to buy a map, let alone use one? (we do have a road atlas we picked up at a gas station, but despite our 4 college degrees between us, it is pretty useless) So we printed directions for the next few days, hopped on our bikes and took the 9:40am train to Aldershot. Finding our way from there wasn’t too tough, and we got 30 miles under our belt before our lunch stop at a Canadian chain Boston Pizza. We came very close to our first dance party, right there in their patio. Stay tuned for when dance party day comes (any day now, I can feel it!). All day were on mostly small highways and moving along fine until we came to a traffic circle and took the first left, as our directions instructed. 10 miles out of the way, a few unnecessary hills, and one trip to the Mazda dealership (thank you Andrew, you are a life saver!) we ended up with new directions that, unfortunately took us right through Kitchener, a small city we we’re hoping to avoid. What was that training ride lesson again? Oh, right, google maps is often WRONG.

So heading through Kitchener, we ended up on the fairly nice but VERY hilly Bleam Road, for about 25 miles. Caroline promptly decided that we would be known for the day as – THE BLEAM TEAM. Now, the Bleam Team was having a bit of a rough day. The day off of riding in Toronto was not quite enough to heal our worn out quads, and Sara had a bit of a freak out moment when Anders tried to give some tips on getting up hills. But hey, that’s a little of that drama you’ve been craving right? However, wounded egos were healed when we stopped in to our favorite coffee place, Tim Hortons. Sara stood in line, looking somewhat burned out when a older gentleman biker (as in motorcycle) asked, as pretty much everyone who sees us does “where you heading?”
Sara said, “Stratford… eventually Seattle.”
“Oh yeah? Where’d you start?”, the biker responded.
“Brooklyn. We’ve been on the road now for 18 days”, she sighed, thinking about how long that felt.
“How’s today going?”
“Its kind of rough.”
“oh yeah, why, rough roads?”
“No, not really.”
“It just started that way huh?”
“yeah, pretty much.”

Turns out the biker had done many cross country trips and totally understood that some days are just tough. He bought her a large iced coffee and she walked away realizing that if your whole job is to bike all day, life really isn’t too bad.

NIce legs, Anders

NIce legs, Anders