Monthly Archives: July 2015


Psychobilly Cadillac 2

I know this is long, sorry. . .


Good heavens it’s has a been a week! Maybe more, I really don’t know how long it’s been and I’m struggling to remember what day of the week it is and so forth and so on. I don’t know where to begin, so I guess I should give a little bit of a Watsi update.

Many of you have been praying for and/or financially supporting Phyllis, mother of five from Kenya who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am happy to announce that her medical treatment was fully funded, and her mastectomy was a success. She is currently going through some chemo treatments to make sure all of the cancer cells are cleared, but for now things are looking great for her.

Also, Watsi has changed some formatting for group campaigns and fundraisers (which is what we are doing). In order to better track our effectiveness, we are asking that you join our Watsi team if you are planning on donating to medical treatment through Within Biking Distance. If you haven’t done this and are interested in doing so, please do it 🙂

And now, without further ado, our week:

Lizzy left off in Lebanon, NH, so I suppose I should pick up from there. We left Scott’s and managed to meet up with Chantill and giver her wallet back to her. I had managed to get myself into a conversation with a local coffee crew and one retiree suggested that we take the rail trail following the river. He went so far as to take me outside and give me clear instructions how to get to the trail head, complete with hand signals and landmarks: “go through the mall parking lot, left by the pizza place, right at the park, over the bump, left at the barn . . .” We found it.

The trail runs from Lebanon, NH, to concord, NH, and we were headed to Portland, ME, which is much farther north than Concord, and thus the trail was not on our trajectory. However, it was really hot, the land around us was extremely steep and hilly, and this path ran straight flat in the shade of old growth forests and next to a cheerful stream. So it was that we scrapped our plans for Portland, since we really had no reason for going there other than being able to say “we rode from Portland to Portland” which we will be saying anyway. Another plus of skipping Portland was that we now had a day’s worth of miles that we could spend with friends from the West Coast, Timmy and Maia. More about that later.


We took the trail all the way to Concord and ended up sleeping in a very buggy church parking lot. I actually didn’t sleep as we were right next to the highway, and a little beetle had found its way into the drawstring lining of my sleeping bag which I was sleeping in only because it kept the bugs off, and so I was really sweat hot. I kept hearing the beetle right next to my ear, so I would rustle around trying to shake it off not knowing that it was in my bag. Of course, once I started moving the little guy would stop so it took quite a long time resting and swishing before I realized where he was. Horrified, I tried to get it out of by bag, but couldn’t. I accidentally ended up squishing him in there so now I have a big beetle smashed somewhere in my sleeping bag.

I forced myself to stay ‘in bed’ until 5:45, and then grabbed everything and packed up. (Here I would like to add that at around 2 that morning I got up in a haze of exhaustion and hunger and ate a granola bar. I promptly left the wrapper next to my sleeping mat and when I got up in the morning I found it a quarter inch deep with ants) We headed out to find bathrooms and a McDonld’s as we needed the Internet in order to find a new route to the Atlantic.


It happened to be Lizzy’s birthday, and I felt bad because I couldn’t buy her a big breakfast (vegan) and she bought coffee before I could get it for her. We met another retiree coffee crew there and they entertained us with stories of hiking the AT and Crater Lake, and tips about eating wild berries. I found a route that would take us to Kittery, ME, on the shore of the Atlantic, then down through Salem, Boston, and Plymouth, MA, and then to Myles Standdish State Forest. There we planned to camp with Timmy and Mia, who are currently living in Woods Hole, MA, (near Faulmouth) where they are interning with NOAA, and engineering/researching types of floats to measure currents in the ocean. Sounds quite fun I must say.

That night we made it to the ocean and had a bit of a birthday party for Lizzbit, complete with vegan taco bowls in Hampton. We camped in a church parking lot after dinner. I was awaken by sprinklers two times that night and had to move gear, bikes etc. Lizzy had been smart and was cowboy camping on the asphalt. At one point I picket up the tent by the pole–something I am constantly telling myself not to do, and snapped it. So, when the work crew drove into that parking lot at 5 the next morning, they stumbled upon a pretty pathetic looking duo; Lizzy sprawled out on the black top, me in a haphazard and quite broken tent. We crawled to our bikes in a daze and rode on to Massachusetts.

I was looking forward to Salem because I was really excited to see the site of the original settlement there. I spent a good deal of time researching the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and did a lot of writing concerning the historiography of the Trials, and the event itself as part of my undergraduate studies.

As history reports, a group of teenage girls, the Putnam girls they are called, began to experience strange afflictions. In this time period, witchcraft was not unusual, and though practicing the arts of ‘black magic’ (various incantations or acts that were intended to bring harm to others that involved calling upon the Devil himself and making a convenient with him in blood) was forbidden, it was common to dabble in ‘white magic’ albeit taboo. White magic included placing an upside down horseshoe on the barn as a good luck charm for the fertility of your livestock and so forth. Interestingly enough, the Putnam girls did admit to dabbling in some witchcraft/magic the week before their afflictions began.

No one really knows what caused these afflictions, but they were strange, abnormal, and did happen. Some historians claim that the afflictions were really faked, some say it was the result of ergotism (hallucinations brought on by eating moldy rye) or some other disease–again, no one really knows. The court transcripts of these trials detail the symptoms which included a lot of writhing about and strange bruising. The afflictions spread around town and even affected livestock. The people of Salem were not idiots, but like us, we’re trapped within the historical context of their time. When strange things began to happen, they looked for a cause.

Interestingly enough, Salem was a community wracked with internal strife well before 1692, and had an impressive history of lawsuits. Many things caused contention from livestock quarrels, to church leadership, to the town charter itself. When the strange afflictions began to appear, and after the doctors realized it was beyond their skill to cure, the witch accusations began–and it got ugly as is what happens when fear and bad history mix.

The courts allowed the use of spectral evidence, which meant that anyone who was afflicted could appear at a trial, and if, once they looked upon the face of the accused they cried out in pain or so forth, it was deemed that the ‘specter’ of the accused was afflicting the witness, thus the one accused was obviously a witch. The problem of course is that anyone could potentially pretend anything in order to ‘get rid’ of a problem neighbor.

This is the type of thing historians argue about: was it all fake, were the trails really just an outcry of oppressed women, were the trails really just about socioeconomic conditions within the community, was witchcraft just a tool to get rid of the outcast members of the community–the list goes on and on and on…

It is interesting to note that those who admitted to being a witch were not killed, but were ousted from the community with the idea that they would have some sort of punishment in the future (perhaps). Those who held fast that they were not a witch, that they did not give their soul to the Devil, were the ones who were hanged or crushed. To many of the accused witches, this was an ultimate test of their faith. To save their earthly life, they would essentially have to deny their faith in Christ and claim that they had made an alliance to the Devil, thus, many of the accused witches did not have the option of simply saying they were a witch and going free. I’m telling you, the court transcripts are fascinating and if you get the chance you should read them.

The Salem Trials are interesting in that by the late seventeenth century, witch hunts were largely out of fashion in Europe and never really caught on in the Americas. Salem is an anomaly here. After the better part of a year or so, the accusations simply stopped. It is an extremely complex event, no one that no one will ever have the definitive answer to the cause. I could write about this for hours more but I will stop because I can imagine the exasperated faces of my parents as the read this who had to endure this historical rambling through all of my research.

I digress: we made it to Salem, and I was disappointed to say the least. We found a museum and such, though we didn’t pay to go in. What was bothersome to me (though not surprising) was that the entire town has sprung up a kitchen economy selling novelty witch paraphernalia, and I felt that was deeply disrespectful to those who lost their lives in Salem and were forced to endure the tragic injustice of their neighbor’s accusations.

We rode on, I was miffed by then, and were forced to meander through our first major urban sprawl since Chicago. And someone spit water on me, or at least I have spent a good deal of effort convincing myself it water. And it was hot. And the hills were steep. After turning around, getting lost, meandering and wiggling our way through the heart of the city, we made it to Quincy just outside of Boston. We found a sneaky little spot on a ledge between a Catholic Parish lawn shed and a Chinese grocery store, ate frozen bell pepper strips with black beans on tortillas, and fell sound asleep.


The next morning we rode out to Plymouth so that we could see the Mayflower II and the Plymouth Rock Portico. We leaned our bikes against a rail in a public park that just so happened to be near a museum gift shop. After about and hour and a half spent looking at things, we came back to the bikes. A woman who was a volunteer gardener there (we love gardeners!) approached us, interested in Beef, so Beef got to do his rat ambassador thing. While this was going on, a woman who was working at the gift shop came out, saw Beef, and then warned us that there were many muskrats or weasels about and Beef might draw them up from the water. We kind of laughed a little bit, not sure what she meant by his, or if she was joking. As I was pluging in the GPS coordinates for our camp spot , she came back out and with all seriousness said, “you really need to go now, the weasels are vicious.” We restrained our laughter and left, wondering if there had been weasel attacks that precipitated her warning, or if she happened to intercept some weasel chatter from insider her booth that indicated an impending attack. I don’t know, don’t really care either.


We made it to our real, high class, camp spot at about 1:00, and had a jolly good time making a mess of the place. With so much free time and space, it was hard to decide what to do. Take a nap, wash clothes in the lake, swim in the lake, gather firewood, journal (it’s never journal)… I popped up the tent to let it air out and cook in the sun a bit, we also laid out sleeping bags and mats to air. I took a shower and then decided on a nap. But just 20 minutes after falling into a heavenly sleep an ice cream truck literally parked itself in our campsite, blaring horrid ice cream music, and inviting all of the State Forest camping children to tramp over to our area and buy enough sugar to fuel their yelling and carousing for the evening. And of course, I might add, we happened to pick a camp spot next to a gigantic, cliche’ East Coast family reunion complete with clashing cousins, tattle tailing, hollering moms in eastern accidents–“grab ya juice box and get in the cah”. What a night. I had a great time observing the cubic yards of camping equipment they had brought with them, which included tiki torches for ambience and mosquito net pavilions, and I was perhaps a bit jealous.

Timmy and Maia came bearing great gifts of Oreos, chips, salad, and hot dog buns and condiments, and we had a great time. We swam in the lake and let the schools of blue gill bite Lizzy’s scabs (which are plentiful and great bait), and then headed back to the campfire to eat vegan hot dogs, dumpster potatoes, and baked beans. YUM. We also had a great time watching Timmy and Mia attempt to use the double Enu hammock. It looked. . .snug.


Timmy and Mia had to leave early the next morning for work, and we were sad to see them go. We didn’t even get to try out Tim’s new board game he’d brought. Time is too short.

After seeing Tim and Maia off, Lizzy and I got to spend some time talking with Sabrina and Dexter, and grandmother granddaughter duo from the area who were camping in the yurt behind us, and had offered to let us stay in it that night with them. If we hadn’t had company ourselves we would most definitely have taken them up on the offer.

That day we rode out to Providence, RI (again, there was no state sign) and see my friend Esther from George Fox. Esther has been doing research at Brown University all summer. She and her research partner Emily have been looking at, or trying to find, examples of anomalies of bounded discs in nature. I’m sure there is a better definition for what they’re doing out there, but we didn’t really talk about it that much and that is what I gathered from it. I got really excited to be back in a mathy place complete with whiteboard and chalkboard walls and a mini math library!! Essie showed us around her office, and then walked us back to her house.


We sat around in the basement, the coolest part of the house, and chit chatted bout George Fox, math, topology classes, friends from school and whatever else people talk about. She went to dinner with the house while Lizzy and I stayed home and ate the rest of the vegan hotdogs from the other night. When Esther came back, we got to share some tour highlights with her, give hugs, and then totter off to bed on the 3rd floor. It was hot, very, very hot.

It was so hot I had to go downstairs and retrieve Lizzy’s birthday chocolate. Unfortunately, we found that scarfing loads of chocolate in the heat at 2 in the morning does nothing to cool the body down. After giggling get about Chemeketa for an hour–and it was nonsense I’ll tell you–we headed down to the basement where it was cooler.

You see, we had to make it out to New London, Connecticut before 1:00 the next day, which meant that we had to be on the bikes from Esther’s by 6 in the morning at least. I had planned to have my mom mail Lizzy’s birthday box to New London, thinking that we had until 5 to get there from Providence, and the next morning if we missed it. But, as it turns out, the Post Office doesn’t open on Sunday, and closes early on Saturday. I’m fine with that, I just didn’t know what day of the week it was until my mom called me and told me. . .

So, we clambered on the bikes around 6 the next morning, having total of four hours’ sleep, and the knowledge that we had 60 or so steep miles to the post office. Though I studied the route the night before, I got us lost in the woods of Rhode Island (which is NOT flat mom!!!!) and, trusting Google more than I knew better too, got on some sandy mountain biking trail in the middle of bum truck nowhere. I was not pleased. And it was hot. Once back on the road, I disregarded Google’s advice and headed back to a main road. We made it to New London with an hour to spare.

The Post Lady was extremely nice and pointed us to a food co-op, which we throughly abused. Lizzy napped, I emailed….for hours. I also switched our ferry reservations for that evening so we left and headed to the ferry terminal. Lizzy took a quick pit stop at a comic book shop, and we met a dog that looked just like my dad’s dog Frances, and then we got on the ferry.

We made it to Long Island just as night was falling and decided that since we had no where to stay, we just had to sleep on the beach. It was so warm, with a nice breeze, and I quite liked it. I got to use my new hammock for the first time, it came in Lizzy’s birthday box (thanks Shaun and Em!) I don’t know about Lizzy, but I think it might just have been my most restful night, which is good because we knew we had 70 miles to go the next morning to get to Kevin’s place where we had made arrangements to stay.


That morning however, was one of low motivation. Seeing a knot of rain coming at us did not help matters much. We left late and took lots of breaks. We stopped at the Long Island Congregational Church’s yard sale and Lizzy got a bunny magnet and I got a fancy bowl that I can’t imagine will make it home in one piece, but I will try nonetheless. We talked to the group of men running the sale and they tried to convince us to hang out with them while the rain passed, but we just couldn’t. We also stopped at a puppy petting place. Normally, it goes against principle for me to got to stores that sell puppies, but cycling through that day, looking into the windows into the eyes of a pudgy lab pup, I just had to stop. After some dog therapy, we slowly made it to Huntington. I was feeling icky, fortunately Lizzy wasn’t, but we made it.

Kevin met us and helped ferry our gear and bikes up the stairs to his apartment, and then showed us a little bit around town. We had dinner at a Mexican place around the corner, then came back home to look at his touring pictures. In the morning, he made us some oatmeal and then convinced us to take the train to Manhattan rather than fighting our way 30 miles through not bicycle friendly urban sprawl.


He rode with us out to the train station, let us borrow his and his girlfriend’s bike passes, and then hugged us off. The train was a good idea. I love trains, and it was fun to be inside of one, looking out the windows knowing that we were not going to get lost or hit any surprise potholes.

We made it to Penn Station, took the Underground Kmart freight elevator up, and found ourselves dead in the middle of Manhattan! It was a bit of a shock at first. We had plans to go directly to Chinatown and feast of humbau, but decided it better to drop off our wide-loads of gear at Lizzy’s uncle Mateo’s before hitting the city. It was a good decision. We rode the Hudson greenway to lower Manhattan and then Canal Street to Chianatown and walked around for hours sampling rambutans, tater-tots, and bau. We made a turn into Little Italy to get some cannoli and stumbled into an REI, so of course we had to make a quick visit there. I accidentally exploded the lid of my favorite water bottle at Niagara Falls and was hoping to pick up a replacement lid, but the only one that REI carried was 12 dollars! I left empty handed.


We rode from there back to Kirk and Makario’s building, and then to dinner. We had met some wonderful people when we accidentally stumbled upon the Erie Canal Trail ride who invited us to dinner. We made it up to Washington Heights and lad a lovely time talking bikes and family with all the gals. We also got to celebrate a bit of a birthday party for Leslie’s daughter who is in Hawii. We left from there at around 9:30 and rode back to Kirk and Makario’s.

We were so grateful to be able to stay with Krik and Makario, they have a fancy and relaxing apartment where we could rest safely. It was truly a blessing and I am eternally grateful for their generosity. The next morning I slept in until 8, then went back to be because I could! It was luxurious!!!! Lizzy took off to meet with a friend from home (Al B ) and go to the Natural History Museum. I had made plans to see a friend of mine from home and we were going to eat dinner together later that night, so I stayed home and worked on some business.

Around 6 I left and took the Subway from Harlem to World Trade Center and walked around. I went to Battery Park to watch the sun which was gorgeous, Trinity Church, Brooklyn Bridge, back to Chinatown for some bau and a whole lotta other places too. Unfortunately due to some work issues, I didn’t get to meet Jane for dinner, so I found a dicey pizza place and got a couple slices. They were excellent. I walked around for a few more hours and decided that I should probably at some point figure out how to take the Subway back to Mateo’s. It took me a while to find a Subway entrance, and after chatting with a handful of friendly New Yorkers found myself speeding around under New York. I made it to 117th street, but I was a lot farther East than I realized. So I walked toward what I though was Central Park and found out I was at the Hudson River, so I walked some more and toured Columbia University (quite on accident) and finally gave up and looked at my phone for directions. Needless to say, I got home quite late that night.

In the morning we packed up, said goodbyes and thankyous to Kirk and Mateo, gave them a terrible host gift of cotton candy car airfresheners, and packed out to Morningside park. Kirk and Mateo sent us off with groceries and left over Ethiopian food from the previous night’s dinner, so we sampled some foodstuffs. We met a man named Davis who was cycling through the park. He had been working on Wall Street and after 9/11 had decided to start leaving the grind. He would like to tour and fix up an old house in the Hudson River Valley. I thought that was a fabulous idea. He also told us about a fistfight that had broken out in an IKEA ferry line the other day, “New York is NEVER boring” he told us.

Lizzy and I rode back up toward Washington Heights, crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey (again, no sign), and begrudgingly continued on. Oye. New Jersey. There are fe thinks more frustrating than riding a touring bike through urban sprawl. For miles and miles we had to be on constant guard for pot holes, busses, changing lights, changing street names and so forth. We made it over some scary bridges through scarier industrial areas until finding a Walmart to camp at just outside of Edison. We had hoped to make it to New Brunswick, but just didn’t have it in us. The next morning we pulled ourselves out of bed and rolled to a McDonald’s to use the Internet and get coffee. Some things never change.

So, with all of that said, we made it out of New York alive! We are on our way to DC, which means we are on track to be at the Gulf of Mexico in about a month. We are also almost half way done milage wise. These are things to be excited about, but still, home beckons. I remarked to Lizzy that it was funny that here I am in NYC wishing I was back in McMinnville! How ridiculous is that! So while my homesickness is not debilitating, it still will be good to make that turn West toward the sunset.

Many thanks to all your prayers and to all of those who helped us out in New York, it’s a great place!

–Haley


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hill-ows 3

Still riding, and writing…

We finally had to pull ourselves away from our newfound civil war reenactment drum corps and fife band friends last week, only to trek a few miles and stop once more, to write a blog post, and you know, loiter.

We didn’t actually leave leave till late that afternoon, and our goal of Buffalo was a full 55 miles out. We were excited for Buffalo because I was expecting a package from my dad at the post office there.

(Tangent: I needed a resupply of rat food for Denali. He eats fancy pants Harlan Teklad blocks which I have to order in 40lb bags off the internet. Needless to say, he doesn’t go through it very fast, and even when I had three rats it lasted forever. So I freeze the majority of it, and it stays fresh. Anyways, I was running low on the food I had brought with me, and had asked my fa to send a few little sandwich baggies of it to me awhile back.  When I spoke to him next he told me he had sent the entire bag that was in the freezer, and, thinking that Beefie ate like 1/2 a cup a day, figured that he’d need more, so bought and packed in even more rat food (of questionable origin)…. While I was excited at the prospect of getting a resupply of food, I was… less than excited at the prospect of having to cart around like 15 pounds of it. Anyways, we’ll get back to this later).

So we set out for Buffalo, and at some point while rolling through the beautiful New York countryside, we realized that tomorrow would be Sunday, and in the famous words of Uncle Vernon, “There’s no post on Sunday!”

With nothing to do but keep heading towards Buffalo anyways, we did what we do best, and rolled on. We stopped in Hamburg (just outside Buffalo) that evening, having done 37 miles non-stop from Fredonia.

Not to be disheartened by the prospect of having to wait around Buffalo for a day, we plotted to stay with a Warm Showers host there the next day, and to drop off our bags and scoot out to see Niagara Falls in the meantime.

So, we sneaky camped on the edge of a used car lot with apparently very lax security that night in Hamburg, and in the morning, called up potential hosts. We got in contact with Leslie and Dwight, and their son Elliot, and made arrangements.

After getting a lengthy morning loiter in, we scooted on to Buffalo, eventually wound our way through the city and to our “home” for the night. We met with Dwight (Leslie, Elliot, and Steve, another cyclist staying with them, were all out mountain biking), and slowly unpacked the heaps of gear strapped all over our bicycles. After riding with so much baggage for two months straight, it’s a bit of a shock to see your bike all naked and weightless like that. Definitely not complaining though, and after a quick lunch, we hopped on our skinny little steeds and biked out 20-something miles to Niagara Falls.

We got to ride on a bike path that ran right alongside the rushing Niagara River as it raced towards the falls. I think I liked this part even more than the actual falls, as we were right there next to the rapids, churning and boiling over rocks just feet away.

Once we got to the falls, we appreciated the steep drop, craggy bottom, and the effects of gravity on fast flowing water. It was… fally.

After sitting on our butts, viewing the butts of a hundred tourists, and getting a nice misty breeze for a bit, we were ready to head back.

20-something more miles later, and we were back “home”. The whole gang was now home as well, with an additional couple of people, so we had a full house of interesting folks to chat with. We showered up, then soon enough it was dinnertime. Leslie and Dwight had made quite a spread, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs (even two kinds of vegan dogs!), salad, and tofu-rice-pile-yummy-things.

We had excellent conversation as well, and discussed the prospect of riding down to Ithaca (I had been getting daily phone calls, texts, and emails from my dad and Aunt Joyful who really reaaally wanted us to go there), but unfortunately, we all concluded that the rerouting would add two days of climbing the steep hills of the fingerlakes region. So, let it be known, that at some point in my life, I’ll be back to fulfill my family’s desire of visiting Ithaca! (note: I am constantly planning future bike tours while riding on this one. Will I ever be satisfied????) (Let’s hope not)

After desserts, super good coffee, and more comfortable conversation (staying up late chatting with Leslie and Steve), we finally climbed onto comfy couches, covered up with clean soft sheets, and zonkered the heck out.

I slept in till 9 the next morning, which felt late after having been waking by seven for what seems like forever now. I had breakfast, looked up directions to the post office (which was a full 8 miles back) and scooted on my way. It was nice to zip through town by myself for a bit, not being a tourist, just a commuter on errand for once.

I reached the post office, picked up my package, strapped it on my cyclescoot, and zipped 8 miles back home. Right when I got through the gate, my dad called, and upon hearing that I had just picked up his box, requested that I open it while on the phone. I pulled out my ever handy pocket knife and carefully sliced open the layers of tape.

Much to my surprise (!) it was not in fact full of 15 pounds of rat foods! That sneaky dog had plotted and schemed and lied and sent me a box of goodies, an appropriate amount of rat food, random stuffs (including a couple comic books and a 200 piece puzzle that somehow I will have to complete in one sitting), and notes and letters and drawings from my family back home! (Much love to you all! I miss you!) I had a little shown-and-tell party with Stink, Leslie, Steve, and Beef out on the shady picnic table in the back yard.

We were having a lovely time relaxing with lovely folks, and since we still had yet to repack the bikes and such, I decided it was finally high-time to paint Denali’s mailbox. I had been carting around a can of white spray paint (I needed to paint his house white so that it wouldn’t absorb extra heat from the sunshine) for hundreds of miles, anticipating a time when I could paint the box and let it dry before having to strap it back on the bike. It was a hot day out, and we had time on our hands, so Leslie hooked me up with a tarp, taped up the characteristic red flag of his mailbox, and let me turn her backyard into a paint booth.

While it was drying (quite quickly in the hot sun), we loaded up the bikes, munched some lunch, and talked bikes, touring, and camping gear with Leslie and Steve. It was four o’clock by the time we were ready to roll out, as we may or may not have dilly-dallied a bit to delay having to leave this comfortable paradise we had happened upon.

We finally said our final goodbyes, got hugs, and rolled out the driveway. It was hot hot hot out, and I sure was glad Denali now lived in the Whitehouse, escaping the blazing sun. We rode along, eventually stopping at a Wal-Mart, where Stink bought a tanktop with birthday monies, and I got us some bagels with the gift card Laura, Max, and Sabrina the gum chewing dog from Fredonia had given us. Thanks again guys!

Soon, we were back on the road to get in some more miles since we had left Buffalo so late. After a total of 51 miles that day, we stopped in Le Roy, NY, at a gas station with some convenient picnic tables up front. We cooked up some dinner in the failing light, then scooted out back behind a growth of trees to camp for the night.

The morning had us all soggy with dew, and, much to Stink’s displeasure, the tent and bikes had acquired a collection of slugs and snails overnight. After picking them all off and packing up, we scooted back to the gas station to cook up some oatmeal, then headed back out on the open road.

That day we just packed on the miles. I loaned Stink my iPod so that she could listen to Harry Potter audiobooks, and I cruised to some tunes on her old iPod. Stink is a die-hard Tolkien fan, and as such, had never read the Harry Potter series, so it’s been fun for me to watch the progress of her journey into the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter. Being the way she is, Stink does have some complaints, (“Wouldn’t broomsticks be utterly uncomfortable to ride on?” “How could the invisibility cloak cover three kids and a crated dragon?” “How do the Dursley’s know when to pick up Harry from the train station?”) but I think the story has sufficiently drawn her in.

We rode on to Phleps, NY, climbing hills that were so insanely steep and long that they were laughable. They were just ridiculous, and had the added benefit of giving us endorphin-powered giggle fits at the top of each one.

In Phelps, we stopped at a gas station, were heartily welcomed by an extremely friendly and out-going clerk, and then cooked dinner on the front stoop. The store had a sweet 2 for $1 deal on my favorite (and increasingly difficult to find) brand of sunflower seeds, Spitz. We got to sit and watch all the foot traffic in and out of the convenience store, and chatted with locals. One fella told us we could camp out on a bike path a quarter mile back, so we rolled out in the dark and set up camp under a small information station on the path, glad to be under cover for the inevitable nighttime showers we’ve been getting with increasing frequency.

In the morning we scooted back to the gas station for breakfast, then made our way out on the road.

That day we stopped at a Subway for lunch loitering and purchased a coffee to cover the use of a booth for a few hours. We both completely zonked out and took a trip to snooze-town in the midst of the Subway lunch rush. I think we haven’t been getting very good sleep what with the heat, humidity, and bugs lately, so the nap was well welcomed.

(This is where I would’ve put more details from that day, were I to have recorded any, say, perhaps, in a journal of some sort. Whoops.)

That evening we pulled into Manlius, NY and immediately went to the Price Chopper and browsed the aisles. I got a bag of frozen veggies for dinner and we headed out the doors to a bench by a small stream across the road. I cooked up some “dinner” with rice and beans and my frozen veggies, and Stink had a sandwich with some salad and chicken she picked up at the Price Chopper.

Afterwards, Stink found a park close by on Google maps, so we scooted through neighborhoods in the dark till we arrived at the secluded place. It was super nice because there weren’t any folks around, it was already dark, there weren’t mosquitoes (for once!), and there was a pavilion to sleep under! I got Denali ready for beddy, laid out the tarp and sleeping bag, and soon enough zonked out.

We woke at 6:02 (this is what I set my phone alarm for each night) the next morning and started packing, rushing a bit to get back to the store for bathrooms. Just as we strapped the last bits of junk back on our scoots, dog walkers of all sorts stormed the park, invading our realm! By that I mean a few folks were casually walking through the area… We rode on.

We had an oatmeal breakfast party outside of the gas station next door to the Price Chopper (okay, I keep saying the name because we like it…Let me just add that their logo involves an axe), and then headed out.

That day we jumped onto the Erie Canal Trail, which, as it happened, was having a sort of event. 650 cyclists were en route from Buffalo to Albany, and we had caught them right as they were going through. So, we were soon in the midst of them, experiencing heavy congestion, sometimes in single file on the narrow path, and having to awkwardly fandangle our way along, with plenty of “good morning’s” and “on your left’s” as we passed through the throngs of other cyclists.

We stuck out like sore thumbs due to our wide loads, and I was repeatedly asked what was in the mailbox as we scooted past the pleasure cruisers. Just when we were ready to stop for lunch, we came to refreshment tents full of snacks put on by the event coordinators. We stopped to fill water, and were soon mobbed by inquisitive cyclists, wondering where we were going and what we were doing. They invited us to eat from the snack tables, and perhaps unbeknownst to the coordinating staff, we picked our fill of cookies and crackers and fruits.

It was fun fielding questions from hundreds of other bike-enthusiasts and even Beefie made some friends as we ate our lunch and watched the canal locks raise and lower, allowing pleasure boats passage through.

Soon enough, we scooted on, and out to Rome, where they were all stopping for the day. There was a field of tents and dufflebags (that had been carried by moving truck, rather than peddled along), and an old fort from the revolutionary war. We stopped for a quick tour of the fort (Fort Stanwix for those interested) before heading along.

We cruised out along the canal path again, this time free of other bikes, and I kinda missed all the company. But the path was beautiful and green and we soon got lost in our own thoughts once more (or perhaps Stink got lost within the Harry Potter universe).

Soon enough, we had done above and beyond our miles for the day and found ourselves at a McDonald’s in Herkimer, NY, abusing wifi and charging privileges like nobody’s business. I walked across the road to the Wal-Mart and picked up another bag of frozen veggies for dinner (we weren’t terribly hungry after feasting at lunch and snacking all day, like we do).

Once our gadget’s batteries were all charged, and our own brain batteries sufficiently drained, we packed up and rolled out to a baseball field adjacent to the Wal-Mart. The dugouts were unfortunately locked, so we just locked up the bikes, threw down a tarp in the grass, and zonked out right in the open.

Once again, morning was very dewy, and perhaps it even sprinkled that night. We stuffed away our sodden bags, folded up the tarp and walked our cyclescoots back on over to the Wal-Mart.

I had picked up a discount box of almond milk at some grocery store the day before, so we sat on the curb out front and ate cereal. Lots of cereal. As in we needed to use up the whole carton of milk that morning because the little plastic lid was missing (no wonder it was discounted!)

Before we were ready to go, we decided that we weren’t ready to go, and that a good wifi loiter was needed to get us in the mood for biking in the sun and the humid heat all day. We promptly went to McDonald’s and drank coffee (with almond milk!) and sat around for ages.

Eventually, once the sun was in full blaze, we mustered up the gumption to actually hit the road, and after filling water bottles and getting Denali’s ice cooler all set up, we got the heck outta Dodge. Er, Herkimer or wherever we were.

I dunno much about that day, other than is was probably unbearably hot, humid, and hilly. Okay, seeing as we made it through alive, it might have been just barely bearable….

We did, however, come across two other bike tourists as we were leaving Johnstown. (We stopped for a quick lunch and Stink snuck in a powernap and an ice cream pick-me-up afterwards).

We were just pulling out of the gas station when we noticed them behind us, and decided to turn back and see what they were up to. Their names were Emily and Adam, and as luck would have it, they were heading in the same direction as us, and anticipated ending their day in Saratoga Springs just like us. While we were briefly chatting, it began to rain, so Stink and I prepared for the worst, and they zipped off ahead.

Soon enough we caught up to them on a hill on the way out of town, and after chugging along behind them for a bit and privately, but not at all privately, having a really dorky conversation about the latest events in Harry Potter amongst ourselves, we opted to pass them by and continue on at our own pace.

We got to Saratoga that evening and were thrust into the midst of a bustling main street of fancy shops and fine dining. We locked the bikes up and walked the street, smelling and staring longingly at  the small portioned, artfully arranged, no doubt way out of our budget dishes being served to outdoor seating diners all along the sidewalk. We stopped in a consignment antique/thrift shop and spent time sifting through hundred of old photographs and post cards.

Once more walking along, two fellas on a bench, three or four busy city blocks from our bikes mind you, called out and asked if we were the cyclists as we walked past. In our grubby clothes and grubbier skins, we stood out amongst the throngs of people maneuvering through the sidewalks. We chatted with them for a bit, and they told us they would be riding cross-country on Vespas next year. At first I thought they were joking, but now I think they were serious. How awesome!

Eventually, we headed back to the bikes and towards a Wal-Mart five miles down the road. We stopped at a different grocery store with the same potential for sneaky camping before we got there, and decided to scope out the dumpster situation before deciding what to do for dinner. Out back there were three bins full of “compost” that quite pleased us. We got bananas (one large bunch a-piece), bell peppers, lots of little potatoes, an onion, a couple  peaches, a cup full of blueberries for oatmeal in the morning, and some grapes. While sifting through, we also ate our fill of blueberries and bananas, there being so much we could never have tried to grab it all.

So, will bellies full of fruit, and a bag of produce dangling from the handlebar of each bike, we rolled on in search of a place to camp for the night.

A few blocks away we found ourselves in a huge mall parking lot, that was bordered by some woods with a nature trail running through. Satisfied that we’d be able to pitch a tent somewhere in there, we went and found a picnic table by one of the mall entrances and began cooking a dinner of potatoes, onion, bell peppers, veggie broth, and peanut butter. Try it! You’ll like it!

Once dinner was eaten and pots and cups and spoons all rinsed and packed away, we scooted into the woods, and it began to lightly rain. After a bit of scouting around in the dark, we found an acceptable place to pitch the tent and leaned the bikes up against some trees. The tent was hot and soggy, but eventually we were able to fall asleep.
I think those dense woods were the most “naturey” place we’d camped in awhile, and I do admit I got a bit spooked when I crawled out of the tent in the dead of night to find a spot to pee…

In the morning, we skipped the mall and headed to this Market 32 grocery store (which is owned by Price Chopper, but is the swanky Whole Foods version, complete with a Starbucks inside). We opted for a classy loiter there, rather than hit up a McDonald’s AGAIN, so happily shared a coffee and stocked up on free honey packets while preparing our oatmeal-plus-dumpster-fruits. Stink then zonked out right at the table, and was asked if she was homeless by a lady named Cookie when she woke up.

In desperate need of laundry washing, and in desperate want of sleeping in doors and not in a soggy, smelly, hot tent, we attempted to set up a Warm Showers hosting for the night, but to no avail.

Thinking we might hear back from a lady in Rutland, Vermont, we set out to do a 70 mile day in the humid landscape.

It was hot. I know that for sure.

At one point we caught up to Emily and Adam again, which was good as we got to chat with them for longer as we peddled the same way. They are a husband and wife from Ohio, and Emily had flown out to Oregon with her brother in June and started out there, and, near Wisconsin I think, her brother went home, and Adam joined in for the last leg of the trip. Nice folks!

We eventually passed them, and continued on our way, only to turn back after a bit, realizing we missed our turn. They were taking the same route as us today as well, so we were right behind them again soon enough. At this point, some extremely steep hills appeared, and as Stink & I climbed away, we got a serious case of the giggles at how absurdly steep the hills were, and how we were smack behind these poor people again, and could not stop laughing. It was… pretty goofy.

After the laughing fit was done and over, we said hi’s and bye’s to them and passed by. The terrain remained mountainous, but we were ready, and felt strong climbing along all day. Though at one point my head on my front shifting cable snapped off (it had been increasingly unwilling to shift into high gear lately, which resulted in me having to really yank on the thing). Luckily, I happened to have this bike mechanic person lady with me, and she quickly fixed up my cyclescoot good as new.

We rode on, and soon were on the lookout for a Rails to Trails trail off the main road that we could ride for 10 miles. We passed by the unmarked spot once, headed back and found it, scooted along, then I climbed a giant ridiculously steep mountain of slate, only to find that the path lay back down below, rolled down, started down an extremely overgrown path, realized that the correct one was just on the other side of a deep ditch, headed back,  saw Adam & Emily, looking just as confused as we were at the giant slate mountain, let them know we had scouted out the right way (after multiple attempts) and finally scooted on our way on our well-hidden but highly anticipated bike path.

After a bit we reached a bridge with nice cool looking water below and decided to stop for a swim (it was still hot hot hot out). We unpacked some bathing supplies and changed into skivies for swimming after Emily & Adam had caught up and passed us by. I grabbed Denali’s mailbox and we headed down for a nice refreshing dip.

Well, what would have been a nice dip if this creepy old dude hadn’t come along and literally just stood staring at us from along the top of the bridge… Seriously, dude was straight creepin, hard.

We quickly finished scrubbing grime and I located Denali (who had scampered off into some little burrow when I had my back turned, naughty rat), then headed back up to our bikes.

Turns out, this trail that we thought was out in the boonies like it had been for hours was a little leas than half a mile from a town.  We were… unaware of this when changing into swimming clothes.  Oh well.

We rolled on, got off the trail 10 miles later, and scooted along to West Rutland  where we decided to call it a day (as we hadn’t heard back from the Warm Showers lady in Regular-Normal-Center Rutland). We found a picnic table outside a Price Chopper, cooked up a filling meal of discount whole wheat gnocchi with spaghetti sauce, onion, and dumpster bell pepper.

Stink was plum tuckered, so after dinner, she found a nearby church, and we scooted over to it to make camp in it’s parking lot for the night. Once more, it was a hot, humid, stinky, rainy, buggy night, and we sorely wished we had found a host that day.

We woke up and started packing at 6:02, sans any alarm snoozing since we were in a church parking lot on a Sunday morning. We scooted to a gas station for water & potty, then rolled on to Regular-Normal-Center Rutland for breakfast. We stopped at a Price Chopper to restock on delicious, cheap, good ol quick oats oatmeal, then hit a McDonald’s hard. For hours. Charging, napping (Stink zonked again, we seriously haven’t been getting very good sleep in the weather), finding a Warm Showers host for the night, and starting this blug post.

Only once the sun was full and ready to boil our brains did we head out, around noon it was. We knew we had a mountain pass to climb once we got out of town, but weren’t afraid. We’ve been feeling pretty bike-strong on all the hills lately.

Sure enough, it was steep and hot as heck, prompting to test my limits by attempting to remove my brassiere whilst riding full tilt up a mountain. I was victorious.

Once we got up to the top, it wasn’t even a big enough deal to get a summit picture, so we just jumped at the much anticipated downhill.

The rest of the day was a bit less hilly, being somewhat downhill from the top of the pass. We stopped in various places for water, postcards, a new spare shifting cable, and other various sundries.

At one point I saw that the shoulder of the road was littered with cash monies. I screeched to a stop, called out for Stink (in front of me), and began picking up twenty dollar bills upon twenty dollar bills. Then, looking around, I found a wallet in the middle of the road, and we found various ID’s and cards strewn about. This was all very exciting.

After we had collected all the bits we could find, we rolled on, and I happily imagined finding the owner, Chantell, from Seattle Washington no less, and being able to restore her lost items. I was also entertained by wondering how the heck her wallet had ended up in the middle of the road in bum truck Vermont.

Rolling through a town later that day, we saw a cop doing a routine traffic stop. Stink pulled over and said we ought to give the wallet to the cop, but, I, a bit stubbornly, told her I wanted to try to find the person myself, and that if that didn’t work, then I could take it to the cops. She reluctantly allowed, making note though that it’s owner was probably frantically looking for it and the cop could probably find her faster.

We then saw that we were at a library, and Stink suggested that I go in right then attempt to find Chantell using the computers. But as I was walking to the doors, I had second thoughts about not just giving it to the cop, so I walked back over his way, and flagged him down as he drove past. He got out of the car and I explained the situation to him, but he said he couldn’t take the wallet since it hadn’t been found in the town, and that I’d have to get it back to the owner myself.

With that, I was pleased, and walked back to the library, excited to sleuth it out on the internet, but when I got there, it was closed, and we just had to roll on.

At some unmarked point we passed into New Hampshire (Vermont had been unmarked when we entered as well), and soon weren’t far out from our host, Scott’s house. He called up on the phone and said he’d be heading our way, as he hadn’t gotten to ride all day. Oh, also, by the way, when Stink spoke with him, he had said that a married couple was also going to be staying with him that night. Can you guess who?? Yup, our friendly leap-frogging friends from this week.

When we got into town, we had more steep hills to climb, and soon Scott appearedd and rode with us the rest of the way back to his house, up a series of increasingly steep hills. Keeping up with him left us dripping with sweat when we reached the place, and after saying hullos to Emily & Adam, I jumped into a cold shower and clean clothes!

After that, I let little Beef do some exploring, and watched as he nibbled on a slug, then spazzed out, trying to wipe the slime from his usually very clean-kept handsies. I don’t think he liked the taste either… poor silly rat.

We had yummy tacos for dinner, and chatted about this that and the other thing. We listened to “Alice’s Restaurant”, plotted routes for the next day, I sleuthed around the internet and found the wallet owner, and soon folks were drifting off to bed. I stayed up reals late writing this.

In the morning we were all up and packing early to be out of the house by eight. We said bye, rolled down the hills, and now we find ourselves sitting in a gas station, gobbling up oatmeal, and waiting for Chantell to come meet us.

The end! for now.
Love,
Lizzbutts & Beef


Three Cheers for the Union! Hurrah! 6


Boy howdy what a week! So many things have happened that I have no idea where to begin. Perhaps I should start by saying that our Watsi campaign page doubled (!) this week! That means, you all have funded healthcare for 34 patients around the world, a total of $ 1,980 and counting! 34 lives have been directly impacted by you. Thank you.

The last post left off behind the Walmart in Oregon, OH. Which means I have to catch everyone up on two states, one birthday, two torrential downpours, two host families, one Civil War parade, and the intimate details of eight dinners. I might back off of the food descriptions to save time. . .

We left Oregon in the morning (once again, that’s Oregon, Ohio) and headed out toward Cleveland like a herd of turtles. I don’t really remember much of that day, except that I had a headache, and we saw another of those gigantic natural gas burners. Lizzy and I have decided that they are secretly manufacturing clouds out here. My headache cleared after a while, but my navigation skills were left in a fog. I missed a turn en route to Sandusky, and accidentally led us around a peninsula, a 25 mile detour. To say the least, I was peeved. Lizzy, of course, wasn’t bothered because it was such a “nice ride around the lakeshore.” Grr. Such a positive attitude. I realized my mistake when we hit the road we were supposed to be on but by then it was getting close to dark and we had 25 miles to go before reaching Huron, OH, our planned destination. We rode on into the evening and were assaulted by a thick and unrelenting cloud of gnats and mosquitoes. The onslaught was so fierce that by the time we made Sandusky in the dark, the both of us had buggy beards. We found a church on the edge of town that just so happened to have a private pavilion and soon commandeered the location and fell asleep.

The next day we knew we had to make it to Cleveland because we had arranged a night with warmshowers hosts, Sasha and Even. The morning was a perfect temperature, and since we had been able to get on the road early, we figured we would take our time. I happened to find a fun pair of kooky shorts that day–love ’em or hate ’em everyone has an opinion.

The weather was so nice we couldn’t resist a chance to go for a dip in Lake Erie. We found a free park, and after carefully reading the toxic algae warning signs, decided to jump in. It turns out that we could have just waited a minute and let Erie come to us.

The moment we left the water it started to sprinkle, and then rain. I am no stranger to rain; this rain was spectacular. It turns out that this entire region has been experiencing an inordinate amount of rainfall, and many places are flooding–places such as the bike lanes. It was fun for a while because the water coming off of the road was warm, and we knew we had a place to dry off at that night. It was less fun as we drew closer to Cleveland and the roads became increasingly crumbly. I couldn’t see beneath the flood and ran into something, exploding my front tube. After some soggy, roadside, mechanical work, we once more mounted the cycles for Cleveland and made it to Sasha and Evan’s completely soaked. Evan let us wash our clothes, take showers and dry off, for which we are eternally grateful.

Their home was really cute, so cute that I took some pictures of the inside. Maybe that’s creepy, but take it as a compliment. I did the same thing at Tom and Karen’s. . . We ended up going out for Vietnamese food that night, and in the morning woke up in complete luxury on Sasha and Evan’s couches. They are truly wonderful people and I’m really glad we got the chance to meet. Sasha gave us directions to KoKo’s Bakery in Cleveland’s “Asiatown” (put in quotations because the Cleveland Asiatown is comprised of one bakery) so of course, we had to go and get our bau on. Duuuuuuude. There is nothing like fresh humbau. Get some if you haven’t tried it. Seriously. Get up and get some. Right now. It’s worth the drive. Honest.


During all of this meandering we met really cool people. I got a hug from a stranger, a high five, a handshake, words of encouragement. We like Cleveland. I can’t write about everyone that we meet or it’d take all day, but that doesn’t mean those who remain nameless aren’t important.

We rode out of town into a headwind following the shore on the bike path, and then plodded through some high end historical neighborhoods. We were headed out toward Erie, PA, but I was full of bau, and wasn’t feeling too motivated. We took a few breaks along the way and met a lawyer named J at Aldi’s who bought our groceries and told us about Mediwish International–a Cleveland based nonprofit that sends medical supplies and provides training around the world.

From there, we peddled toward the hills and met a wonderful woman named Mary, who had an appropriately labeled ‘world’s best mom’ birdhouse in her yard. Seeing us struggle up a hill, she was moved with compassion and invited us home for dinner. We had a wonderful and filling time with her and her awesome son, Tom, pun intended. Tom explained the plot line of “Ben Ten” to us, and showed us the finer points of some video games. Mary gave me some “hola granola” for my birthday that was phenomenal. Hola Granola is homemade in Ohio and sales profits go directly to help woman who are trafficking victims. It was bomb granola. That night we made it to Ashtabula, OH. I should clarify, we made it to a truck stop/Denny’s improperly labeled as in Ashtabula, but is really 7 miles out of town.

We camped out behind the truck stop and Lizzy met a cool fellow named Carl, and his dog Champ. Carl relayed to Lizzy a fantastic dream in which Carl’s friend sold Champ to LeBron James for a million dollars. It is a long dream and if you’d like to hear the whole thing ask Lizzy because It’s worth hearing. In the end, Carl got the Champ back, but only after sneaking into a NBA game, attending a circus with LeBron, and taming a lion (or something). It sounded stressful to me.

We woke up the next morning, my birthday, to sprinkles. I thought that we should perhaps feast on pancakes at Denny’s to celebrate but after checking the radar decided to get some miles in before the worst of the rain came. The 7 miles to Ashtabula were insanely perfect. A paved rail-to-trail path took us exactly straight and downhill right to town, and it was beautiful to boot. It was like riding our own, private road through a rainforest. As it was my birthday, Lizzy bought me a Big Breakfast at McDonald’s (just for you daddy, I know how you love Big Breakfast) and surprised me with gifts. One gift was so great, so perfect, so improbable, I still can’t comprehend how: that stinker got me a copy of Ian Hibell’s Into The Remote Places which is one of the best bicycle touring books in the world! Or IS the best touring book. Somehow by bike, thousands of miles, and without damage, it made it into my grimy mitts.

It was pouring when we left, but it didn’t look like it was going to stop so I called ahead to a semi-famous warmshowers host in Erie, Leo, who agreed to let us stay with him. We took off into the deluge and paddled to Pennsylvania. I mean, peddled. . .

We stopped just past the border and met one of the most outstanding citizens I have ever come upon. Lizzy was sitting at the gas station looking pathetically damp, eating cold chili beans and mustard out of a can with a spork (such is life for us) when she was approached by a boy, probably eleven years old or so who had just bought a sandwich. He asked her why she was eating beans and she said, “oh, I was hungry and they’re good.” With that, he walked out the door, got on his bike, and rode away. We’ve had a few unsatisfying conversations of that sort and are used to it, neither of us expected to see him again. But after a while he came back. Lizzy was at the bikes outside and so he came to me and asked where she was. I told him, and he offered his sandwich to us saying that he didn’t want us to be hungry. It was the very sweetest thing that anyone has ever done and it simply melted my heart. We talked to him for a while, mostly about his bike. He has modified a sling to be a BB rifle holster so he can ride armed. Xander: we will never hear from you again, but you are bound for success. Also, Lizzy gave him some candy that we had been carrying with us through the rain. In hindsight, it was probably all sticky and smooshed together.

With melty hearts, we rode into the headwind the last few miles to Leo’s in Erie. Leo lives at the top of an incredibly steep hill. Just throwing that out there. We were very concerned about getting to Erie before 5 pm because we were expecting a mail drop. Leo graciously offered us a ride and we were very fortunate he did because we got four (yes four) boxes in the mail! And Leo gave us a “nickel tour” of Erie, and explained some grievances toward GE, which has up until recently been manufacturing locomotive engines in Erie. Now they have moved to Ft. Worth. We had a great time at Leo’s. He and his girlfriend Bonnie made us dinner, and had me blow out a birthday match on a delicious cake. (They didn’t have candles) Lizzy and I retired to the guest room to open up some mail from home.


I was overwhelmed and surprised to find so many letters from home:

Bob and Myrna Summers, Barbara Rainwater, Heather, Dylan, Kater Potater McInnis, Sam Weigal, Lela McInnis, FaFa, Momma, Tessa, Mark and Debbie Shraepel, Jeff, Shelby, Stephanie Kunkle, Brian Bump, Mary Inscore, Katie Kenning, Trevor, Abby, Clinton and Teresa Spencer, Dug, Ruthy and Holly Wilhelm, Anna Marie and Bellah, Kellen Strong, Lillian, Maddy Meadows, Danni, Naomi Sweet, Rylee, Carson, Addy, Shaun and Emiliy Stong, Sabastian, Quynne, Biggy, Cody, Cindi, Wayland, Beep, Poppet, Hoot, Noodle, the Kennings, Pam and Curtis Stringer, Elisabeth, Mark, Lena and Jane Childers, George Howard, and Jean Meade
Thank you! I might have missed a few, if I did sorry. I’m thanking you too.

I cried a little bit.

Best birthday ever.

I love you all.

I also got a very special box of delicious food from my dear friend Amanda Nystrom.

The next day, we packed up all of our things and went back to the post office because two cards from my Aunt Becky had not come with the other boxes. When we arrived, the postmasters were not too enthusiastic about helping us, and said we had nothing else. So I called my aunt, double checked addresses and such, and then went back in to ask again. Still no. So lizz went in and asked if we could have someone else pick the letters up for us, which is a no. We explained our cycling situation to them and still nothing. So with empty hands, we walked back out and called Aunt Becky to thank her for trying. After I’d hung up the phone, one of the postal people came out with three letters! I don’t know what they were doing the other three times they ‘looked’ for our mail, but I’m grateful nonetheless. We each got a letter from Aunty Becky, and I got another heart lifting letter from dear miss Amanda.

We peddled down the street to use a bathroom and a man told me that I had beautiful shorts. Hmmm. And husky legs. Hmmmm. I’m pretty sure it was a compliment, he was impressed that we’d biked so far. We stumbled upon a Country Fair Gas Station 50th birthday party and got free hot dogs, chips, cookies, waters and high fives. I was on the hunt for post cards which are getting increasingly more difficult to find out here, but to no avail. We rode on until we reached the town of North East Pennsylvania, which is located in the north west corner of the state-go figure- and met another cyclotourist who was very intense and really wanted us to check out New York wineries. I simply abandoned Lizzy to that conversation after 3 attempts to gracefully cut it short. We also stumbled upon a great 2nd hand shop and got a bundle deal on some sweet vintage post cards, so watch your mailboxes!

From there we rode into NY, snapped a picture crossing the border, and enjoyed some beautiful weather. I promptly got a flat. Number two this week, a sign that my tires are wearing thin. I switched my front tire out for my spare, which is essentially a new tire and we rode on. The delay prevented us from traveling as far as I wanted to go that night, but it turned out for the best.

Just as dark was coming we rolled into a time warp and found ourselves in 1863! The town of Fedonia was celebrating the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor to a town son, Alonzo Cushing, who was killed in Gettysburg while heroically defending Union lines against Picketts’s Charge. We happened to roll into the pre-party and met a wonderful and talented troop of musicians, the Calvert Arms Fife & Drum Corps, who let us stay in their camp at the city park. Mark, Mary, Markus, John, Dave, Cody, Jeff–you are some of the coolest people in the world! It was absolutely fantastic. After hearing a concert of the top hits from the 1860s, we cozied up around a campfire and listened to reenactment news. Mary, mom of the group who is a teacher/beekeeper/living history woman/columnist gave us a jar of her honey (yum!). She and Mark live near town and they let us stay in their canvass tent for the night since they wouldn’t be using it. We jumped at the opportunity.

We also were able to meet Rosamond Gallepsi-Burns, whose father was a WWI veteran. Rosamond has written a book, Dear Jen, which is a collection of letters between her father and mother during the war. She wrote the book as a way to get to know her father, who left before she was old enough to remember him. She is currently working on a second book. Rosamond encouraged us to write in our journals, and to laminate everything! I will continue to keep up on my journal, though I don’t think it is in my budget to laminate the hundreds of pages I’m writing.


We also met a couple, Laura and Max, and their energetic, gum chewing spaniel mix pup Sabrina. We had talked with them the night before, and came back in the morning with a gift of Lara Bars and a gift card. We were overwhelmed by their kindness, and by the fact that they had actually gone back home and read our blog the night before. If you are reading this now Laura, you have to go on tour! Send us an email when you go!


In the morning, Mary brought us muffins and eggs, and we got to hear another mini concert, watch a parade, meet Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant who took our business cards and drove away in a Lincoln Penny Mobile, see my great great great great grandpa Robert E Lee, hear cannon fire (it scared the tar out of me the first time), and listen to the heroic mini biography of First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing.

By the time of his death at age 22, Alonzo Cushing had seen combat at Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville and survived. His biography can be read here. Incidentally, His brothers were also recognized for their courage in combat, one in the West, and one for his involvement in the sinking of the USS Ironclad. It was a somber moment for me as I watched the Calvert Arms drummers and knew that were it really 1863, it would be likely that they would suffer the same fate as First Lieutenant Cushing. There has never been such a poignant time in American history, or time so crucial to our existence as a nation. It is worth remembering the passion and valor of those soldiers who fought to determine our fate, whether Confederate or Union. I sometimes wonder if I would have the grit, and I don’t think I would. I’m quite sure that after even hearing the horrible sound of a distant battle I would run for the hills.

I’m quite grateful for having met our new living historians, and for their commitment to keep in remembrance that terrible struggle. I am also grateful for having the honor and opportunity to work closely with Dr. Kerry Irish as his TA through his Colonial America and Civil War courses because I truly believe you cannot know or love this county until you have heard her history, and heard it from accurate sources.

And so, another week has gone down on the books. This had been a fabulous birthday week, this shabbily slapped together blog post does but touch the surface of the wonderful people we have met, the stories we have heard, and the sights we have seen. Everyday I wake up with appreciation for this opportunity and gratitude to the remarkable and kind strangers we get to meet every day. It is good.

Thank you all for following. Stink out.


What’s round on the ends and high in the middle? 5

We left off in our adventures last Sunday in Monroe, Wisconsin, so I’ve got a lot to catch you all up on. Since we decided we were in need of an actual break day, we spent the whole day loitering around town and occupying space at the local McDonald’s. As night began to fall outside, we decided to stop guzzling coffees and head out to make dinner. Once again we were out-loitered by the guy with six composition notebooks and the same affinity for free wifi and drink refills as us. I wanted to go back inside and say bye, but was torn, as I didn’t want to interrupt his ongoing raid. My brother was once a World of Warcraft fanatic as well, so I know to stay back in the midst of heavy gameplay.

As we rolled out, back towards the fairgrounds that had been such a pleasant place to camp the night before (so pleasant in fact, that we declined a short five mile ride out of town to an offered house in favor of staying in town once again) I saw and alerted Stink of a fruit and cheese store off to our right. I had a hunch their dumpsters would be bountiful, and as we pulled up in the sprinkling rain and darkening sky, our minimal efforts were gloriously rewarded.

There, laying perched atop a bed of soft crush ice, lay 15 or more containers of various kinds of yogurts and dips. Just to the other side of the rubbish heap, mine eyes beheld a plethora of fruits; strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, oranges, grapes, and cherries. We stood around picking through, munching, and filling up some spare grocery bags with the cream of the crop.

With full bags dangling from our handlebars, we rode off into the night back to our sweet cozy fairground pavilion. Stink washed up the fruits and checked expiration dates on her yogurts while I cooked up some dinner before bed. Soon enough, we were ready to zonk, and resume our cycling expedition in the morning.

I woke early the next day; there was a fella scooting by on a golf cart. Making eye-contact with him as I sat up out of my sleeping bag, he called out words I was not yet prepared to hear. “You know you need to pay for two nights of camping now, right?” In my stupor I called back a simple no, and attempted to explain that the police had sent us here. I don’t think he understood, and once again requested payment from Stink and I, $24 total to be exact. Without the cognitive power of full wakefulness in me, we paid the man and he zipped off in his stupid little golf cart. I mean his regular little golfcart; I’m having trouble not holding a slight grudge against him for catching me unaware in the morning. All that day I kept coming up with things I wished I had said to him, for example, “Why didn’t you tell us after the first night that we needed to pay!?” and “Who died and put you in charge?” (Not my best argument)

OH well, what’s done is done and I’ve lost all faith in wonderful, cozy, tempting fairgrounds.

That morning our wonderful breakfast of oatmeal and dumpster fruit was slightly soured by the previous events. Also, perhaps because some of the fruits weren’t quite ripe.

We cruised out of town, without hitting up the McDonald’s and soon were on our way through the countryside to get our daily miles in.

We stopped in Beloit to visit the post office, do an interview with the paper, and of course to loiter about in the McDonald’s. There was a discount food pantry across the road I was eying, so at one point I walked over, only to find liqueur and cigarettes lining the shelves. I walked through the aisles to make sure that there really wasn’t any food, and upon finding none but crispy chips and snacks of the gas station variety, prepared to leave. As I stepped towards the door, the man behind the counter called out a “hey!”  and as I turned around and met his stern gaze, I figured out what he was on about. Due to my somewhat… shall we say, road-ragged appearance, and my little browsing stint through the mart, I was being silently accused of shoplifting. Feeling like I needed to maintain my innocence, I offered that I was merely looking around for something to eat, but after getting further stares from the man and the customer on the other side of the counter, I chose to just make my exit.

I indignantly fumed my way over to the Family Dollar next to McDonald’s and bought a package of chocolate chip cookies and ate the whole thing…

Our booth in McDonald’s afforded us a view of the road, and of the Entering Illinois sign just down the street. Eventually we set out to capture a photo and a new state.

That evening we arrived at our destination of Harvard, IL, and whatever we were expecting of the place, it wasn’t that. Harvard was a mini-Mexico, with marts and signs all in Spanish. We stopped at a little bodega and picked up some corn and spaghetti while browsing the aisles of Mexican sweets and treats.

Outside, we walked down an alleyway and found the dumpster of the Swiss Maid Bakery… We were met with trashbags full of doughnuts, bagels, and buns. At one point we heard noises from the open back door right by the bin, and  decided to back down for the time being. We filled a sack and munched as we perused the rest of the street, quite delighted by our sweet find.

We planned to return to the dumpster once the employees were done for the day, to dig about and find bagels for the next few lunches, but each time we came back by, there would be noises from just inside the door, or someone would be bringing out trash, barring our entry.

We sat on a bench on the main street and cooked a disgusting looking meal of spaghetti with dumpster tomatoes and fresh corn, all the while plotting to get our hands on more goodies. Upon completion, we returned to the mother-load, and were able to pluck a few more bagels from its depths, then scooted on our way to the Walmart in town to camp at that night.

While setting up the tent, it began to lightly sprinkle, but looking across the parking lot, we could see huge rain drops quickly coming our way. Complete with an onslaught of mosquitos, we rushed to get our sleeping bags in the tent and our gear secure before the advancing shower hit us. Stink dived in as the first soaking drops fell, but I was caught outside, prepping Beef’s house for the night, when the rain cloud reached us. Within  seconds I was soaked, but within a minute the brunt of the cloud had passed, and moments later, the air was free of rain once more.

Soggy, mosquito bitten, and ready for bed, I walked to the Wal-mart to change into dry clothes, looking dreadfully pitiful as I squish-splashed in my sodden shoes through the entry door, changed, then headed “home” to hit the hay.

The next day we aimed to reach Waukegan, IL for our first glimpse of the great lakes. We stopped in the town of Woodstock to do an interview. At first, Stink wasn’t super pleased, as the meeting place lay about half a mile off course for us, and we would have both up-hill and wind to face heading back to our route. But all thoughts of this vanished as Stephanie, the reporter, gave us a friendly smile and surprised us with a goodie bag from the newspaper office as she stepped out of the car.

We had a nice time, just sitting in the grass chatting with her and letting Beef run around, but soon enough it was time to leave, as we had plenty more miles to do that day. We peeked in the bag as we packed to go and were delighted with hand wipes, cheese & cracker snacks, a copy of the newspaper, cookies, and, most treasured, a loaf of cinnamon bread from the Swiss Maid Bakery we had raided the dumpster of just the night before. If we thought their refuse goods were delicious, the fresh stuff was impossibly better.

Munching a bit, then heading out, we were in cornfields for a few miles, then it seems almost immediately, our road became bustling with traffic and we were thrust into densely populated areas before we knew what hit us; Chicago was coming.

Even as far out as we were, the sprawl of the city had come to meet us. We rode through traffic all day, and on roads with little or no shoulder, but eventually coming to the lake, found a bike path that bore us well. We stopped in a park in Lake Forest to take a good peek at the sea-sized body of water, and a lady approached and asked us what sort of expedition we were on.  As we explained our trip, her companions gathered round and after divulging that we just camp out wherever we can,  one couple, Tom & Karen, invited us to stay in their guest room for the night.

Needing no more encouragement than that, we accepted, and even rode BACK (Noo! We hate going back!) a few miles to their magazine-like home, were we met with good smells, conversation, full kitchen privileges, a claw foot bathtub, and two of the comfiest beds I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping on. Well, I mean I only slept on one, but I am sure Stink’s was equally luxurious.

In the morning, Tom made pancakes, and I whipped up some oatmeal with nuts and blueberries that Karen offered, and soon enough we hugged goodbye and went on our merry way. We would be traveling through the heart of Chicago that day and didn’t quite know what to expect. Stink toured through a few years back with her fa, but in a less savory area than we would be heading.

Once again, we were surrounded by cars, trucks, buses, houses, businesses, and people all day as we rode along; it was a bit overstimulating after enjoying the solemn beauty of rural America for so long. We took a bike path along the lake shore for a good many miles, and even saw a real giant riding by. (We both thought at first that he was on one of those double-decker bikes..) Once in downtown Chicago, we had a bit of downtime before going to our hosts for the night (we scheduled a Warm Showers stay in advance; not hopeful that we’d be able to sneaky camp in such an environment).

While looking around for a grocery mart, I found that we were only a short distance away from Chinatown, so we set out to explore. Strongly smelling of various seafoods and full of curious fodder unknown to us, we were entertained by browsing the many marts along the street. I got some delicious mochi and peanut cakes, and Stink stopped at a couple bakeries for bao (a sweet bun often filled with BBQ pork). I cooked and ate a packet of real ramen in an open square as Stink munched the delicious looking buns. I was sure that even the bread wouldn’t be vegan, but eventually decided to see what google thought on the matter. Soon enough, I found that the bun would be edible by me, if only we could find a bakery that made meatless varieties. With that goal in mind, we hit up the many bakeries of Chinatown and found not one, but two different kinds of vegetarian bao! I purchased and devoured a red bean paste bao from one shop, and a taro root one from another. They were both gloriously delicious, and Stink and I agree that Chinatown browsing is a do-over for the next city we end up in.

By this time, it was late enough to go to our house for the night, so we scooted along and met Laura and her six month old baby, Bayard (named after civil rights activist Bayard Rustin). Laura is a high school art teacher, and a real cool lady, who let us help out and make ourselves at home while she took care of the babe and got dinner prepped. Her husband Corey come home a bit later and we feasted on spaghetti and talked adventure. (Laura and Corey have bike toured, kayaked through the everglades, traveled world round, and even train hopped!)

The next day, we hung about for awhile and cooked up some steel-cut oats from the cupboard, then finally said goodbye to our hosts and once more hit the road. This day was a bit stressful to me, once again because we were constantly in urban areas and dealing with traffic and pot-hole laden roads. Winding our way through the streets, which often enough weren’t marked at all, we took a … less a than optimally efficient route. At some unmarked point, we crossed the Illinois – Indiana border, much to our dismay.

That evening we arrived in Michigan City, IN and after deliberation, decided to call it quits for the day, as we were both zonkered. We stopped at a casino resort and quickly spotted a place in the back parking lot that we could stash the bikes and sneaky camp for the night. “Home” securely positioned in our minds, we set out for the casino doors to win our fortune!

Just kidding.
Our budget does not allow for frivolous spending on such things, however fun some of the games looked. At one point, we sat down next to a fella playing video poker (one of my favorites) and almost immediately he won $1,600 with four aces and a queen. I like to imagine we imparted him with some of our good luck. We roamed around, got free coffee, and took the elevator up to the 23rd floor to take in the nighttime view. Back in the main casino there was an eatery with wifi and outlets for charging. We sat around and relaxed, chatting about what it will be like when we ride back into our hometown some distant chilly December day.

The food joint served burgers and fries among other things, and our mouths were watering for dinner. But before we headed out, Stink’s eagle eye spotted a couple that walked off, abandoning their leftovers and not bothering to bus their trays. After waiting some time to assure that they really weren’t coming back, and with Stink’s encouragement, I walked over to their table and picked up their trays, still laden with french fries and burger dressings (they left their whole pickles, lettuce, tomato, and onion untouched). At first, I felt a small strange tinge of something, akin to embarrassment perhaps? But at Stink’s reminder that this would all just end up in a landfill, I was able to shake the feeling and become giddy with delight at such a find. We munched away, quite pleased with ourselves, before heading back out to the bikes and cowboy camping quite comfortably that night.

We got more free coffee, and even hot water for oatmeal, from the casino in the morning, making me wish that we could spend the night at casinos every night. They’re always a safe bet, and classy to boot!

We biked along that day, with the sprawl of Chicago finally cutting down, and quickly crossed the  Indiana/Michigan border, capturing our 14th state picture in the process. I don’t think anything much interesting happened that day while we rode (yes, I am still guilty of not journaling! help!), but we ending up outside a Walmart in Elkhart, IN for the night. It’s nice to camp outside Walmarts because you’re guaranteed bathroom access all night long. Also, the browsing proves to be mindlessly entertaining.

We hung about a McDonald’s a few blocks away, waiting for nightfall for better sneaky camping. Before we went inside, a fella pulled up in his car and started chatting with us. He was a pro-balloon twister, but also worked in radiology at the local hospital. He liked being able to twist balloons for young and old patients alike, and earning a smile from them in sometimes very stressful situations. He even stood on his head once to get a bad-tempered elderly lady to laugh. He said she clapped and squealed like a little girl, and her family all gave him hugs afterwards, noting that her attitude was completely changed.

Stephen, the dude, had also done some bike touring, when first setting out into the world from his parents home, and though he didn’t even know which direction to take out from his driveway (and was biking on a $50 bike that he manually had to reach down and switch between the two gears) he made it all the way to his destination, Colorado, and found a job. He was reals cool. We’re so lucky that we get to meet wonderful folks all the time.

After night fell, we scooted back to Walmart, and watched some premature fireworks going off in the distant sky with a little boy and his father who were hiking around town trying to get a better view of them. Soon enough we were heading to the back of the store to sleep, as secretly was we could, behind a cargo container.

In the morning, we packed up under the gaze of three or more employees on their smoke breaks, and headed on over to McDonald’s for coffee and loitering.

This was the Fourth of July, so we rode along, soaking in the America-ness of it all, sweating through the countryside, and even going garage saleing. We ended up in Fremont, Indiana that evening. After arriving, we lounged about in front of the grocery mart and I ate pocket pies and Stink drank soda… for America. We talked with folks, and even had one lady regale us with the whole story of the escaped convicts in New York. (We’re totally out of the loop when it comes to national news, being on the road all the time like we are).

After treating ourselves… in honor of America… we scooted down to the local park and convinced ourselves to do some routine bike maintenance (we switched our back tires with our fronts, as the back wears faster, oiled chains, and I patched up my spare tube) while the scent of a thousand BBQs wafted through the air…. We ate a can of chili beans with rice. 🙁

But we did meet a nice lady named Katy who was spending some time with her kid at the park and she ended up giving us some money  and offered to drive 15 miles home and bring us fresh veggies from her garden. (Why? Why does this happen to us? Yesterday we pondered for awhile on why people want to give us stuff; it’s so unexpected, but nice! We are definitely not complaining!)

We scooted to a church parking lot to camp that night, and soon fell asleep after struggling to keep our eyes open to watch the fireworks going off on the other side of town.

In the morning, we went to the gas station for coffee and hot water for convenient oatmeal making. We chatted with some of the local folk, and one older fella felt compelled to give us the entire history of all the murders that had occurred in Fremont… Thank you for the educational conversation? I hope we don’t get murdered on our way out?

While riding that day, we entered Ohio, our 15th state, and snapped a picture for our growing collection. Our goal for the day was to get to a town called Oregon, just for the fun of being able to say we were in Oregon again. We scooted along through the heat, gazing longingly at these swiming-pond type things that everyone in Ohio seems to have. They’re fully outfitted with docks and diving boards, sometimes rope swings and other accoutrements of fine summer fun.

We stopped in one small town along the way to use the mart bathroom and get water and fresh ice for Beefie. When we were about ready to leave, we started chatting with some folks. One guy came up real close to me and told me that he had a brother with red hair, and that he had freckles too. And as he leaned closer to get a good look at me, he added that he couldn’t remember if he had blue eyes or not. I had to laugh. We meet a lot of kooky folks too.

Another couple we were talking with there gave us $10 for dinner. I couldn’t catch their names, even after I had the lady repeat them, but whoever you are, thank you! We went to a great big grocery store in Toledo and bought delicious healthy foods! Any maybe a bit of candy…

As we got nearer the Toledo area, we began to see other cyclists out on the road, just out for the exercise, and so got to wave and smile to lots of folks. We cruised along at a fine clip, and it was nice to see the spandy-pants carbon fiber cyclist types taking a long time to catch up with us. No hard feelings towards them, but it’s nice to know we can hold our own on our 100 plus pounds of steel, gear, and junk.

Riding through this area has been really lovely though, and I’m feeling that I really like Ohio. We spent the night outside of a Walmart in Oregon, OH and chatted a bit with a couple ladies who were walking laps around the super-center. Beef ran around being his adorable self, and soon we were packing up, heading to a sneaky spot, setting up the tent while swatting away mosquitoes, and climbing peacefully into bed.

This morning we got up, had a brief breakfast out in front of the store, and scooted on. The terrain is nice and level, affording me the opportunity to read one of the four books I’m now carting around the country and soon enough we arrived here in…. Actually, I admit, I have no idea what town I’m in.

And on that note, I’m signing out. I’ve gotta whiz like a racehorse and it’s high time for lunch. Love to you all; strangers, friends, and kin alike.

-Lizzbutts