Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Holidays - It's almost Tour2k7!

We celebrated Xmas in Flint, MI with Andrea's family. That's Emmit in the picture, he's Andrea's sister's new puppy. We hope you all are having a fun and safe holiday season, and look forward to seeing everyone soon.

I got a mapping GPS for Christmas this year, to use on the second half of our trip. It is WASS enabled and I just loaded it with a bunch of detailed maps, so I'm doubtlessly going to be spending time outdoors soon. Maybe I'll track down a geocache or two.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The hardest part of touring.

It's not the physical pain or emotional distress. It's not the frustration of trashing your drive train on the open road, a hundred and fifty miles from nowhere. It's not the bears, raccoons, squirrels, or any other animal that steals your food. Same for the sun, rain, and cold. The most frustrating, discouraging, and menial aspect of this trip is the money-saving part. It's nice to be in the city if you have late-night oil to burn and money to blow on drinks, food, music, and endless entertainment. When you're socking all of your cash away for another five months of touring, these temptations make you feel depressed, lousy, and wishing you were living in some little snowbound cabin in the North Woods, where the California Clipper, the Maproom, Stella's, the Innertown, and the handful of good friends who all deserve proper attention at the forementioned establishments were safely out of range. I've started a disgusting coffee-drinking habit because it's the only way i can socialize on my self-imposed budget. For the first time in years I've gone for a week without resting my elbows on one of Chicago's heavily lacquered bars.

In times like these it's crucial not to lose sight of goals. Being ground to a bloody pulp by workweeks with no reward must be balanced against something tangible, so I find myself filling a notebook with lists and plans for the next few months, and looking back through our photos and my journals from the road. I'm organizing my gear, going through checklists, and reading maps at the Harold Washington Library. I'm forcing myself to stop in the middle of the day and visualize my time in the city as an island that I'll be rescued from in a matter of months, and to remember that the rescue ship with be loaded down with the bounty of freedom on the open road, and that the air will be clear and sweet like the sea, and not at all cold like Chicago winters.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Getting patriotic about snow.

Most of my life right now is focused on work and winter. I've returned to my job at the help desk and am attached to a computer during daylight hours. It feels good to be welcomed back and to be indoors as temperatures dip into the teens. This is a great time to ask me questions that require long written answers, or to keep my company on instant messenger.

We got our first big snow this week, officially announcing the start of winter. I'm a steadfast bicycle commuter, even when snot freezes to my scarf and I have to wear long underwear. I get smug satisfaction from harsh weather because it culls the weak from an otherwise pampered flock of urbanites. We are Chicagoans and will go to work in any weather goddammit! Bring on the black slush, ice, and frigid blasts of lake-effect snow, we will wrap ourselves in layers, stand atop snow-drifts, wade through frozen slop, and make it to the office on time.

Here are more snow pictures.

The other thing that keeps me going is the resumption of our tour in February. North Padre Island is one of the first places on the list.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Steel rails to the lake.

Last Saturday morning I put on a backpack, rode the train to Beverly Shores, IN, and hiked off into the woods. With my pack hidden under a pile of leaves, I set off to trek the perimeter of the Indiana Dunes State Park. I returned to my equipment at dusk and camped on an out-of-the-way wooded ridge outside of the park. There was light rain all night long and I could hear coyotes howling in the distance. I had seen some big sand formations, dunes and blowouts filled with dead trees, as well as twisted oak forests, white tail deer, and a lone coyote on the train tracks. In the morning I met a raccoon in a dumpster and then boarded the train back to the city.

Here are a few photos from my hike.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Escape from Chicago

Lake Michigan gets cold and choppy in the winter months. Andy & I rode to Wilmette this afternoon because we spend all week sitting on our butts at work. Their streets are made of brick and they have the Baha'i Temple. The above picture was taken at Gillson Park, from which you can see the temple.

Ira meditates on life in the workforce.

I get up early every morning before work so I have a couple hours to cook a huge breakfast and see unindentured daylight. I'm living with my friend Andy, who I met as a college freshman and have known longer than anyone in Chicago. We both eat a lot, ride bikes everywhere, and love to drink beer. In short, typical Wisconsin emigrants to Chicago. I think that on an average we go through four or five cartons of eggs, a bag of potatoes, a few sixpacks, and over two hundred miles in the saddle per week.

Wednesday morning, Andy and I were listening to NPR and watching school kids flock down the sidewalk, a school of pint-sized antagonistic tugboats with humorously foul mouths. As I polished off a giant omelet smothered in hot sauce, an essay came on the air about a woman who worked as a secretary, a job viewed by many as demeaning and unglamorous. One line stood out profoundly and I wish I'd captured it verbatim. In essence, she said, "People who climb mountains or go on strenuous adventures through Africa always get recognition of their efforts, but something like working as a secretary for years is just as difficult and never gets recognition."

I thought about that all week at work. Reflecting on my own adventure of the last five months with all it's physical and mental fatigue, I can't remember any day as awfully boring as my recent hours spent on data entry and telephone reception. These things really help you assess your goals in life. There has to be a pay-off! Someone we met on the bike ride gave this advice: "Spend your young, able bodied years doing difficult, adventurous things so when you're past your prime you'll feel good about kicking back and relaxing." One of the guys I just started working with has a goal to travel the country and drink a micro brewed beer from every state in the union. He only has seven left! He also plays in a rock band and has golfed his way across Wisconsin, both North-South and East-West.

"I want future generations to remember that I accomplished singular goals", he told me. "I don't want my life to be summed up by my job."

Anyway, this is turning into more of an essay than I had planned. The important information is this: I am going to work hard and save some money, because if I accomplish that goal I'll get to see the other half of the country by bicycle, and every hour spent behind the computer or telephone will be payed back in spades.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Life as usual

I've been feeling very bad lately that I haven't written anything in quite a while. Especially after leaving my last post, about how we're going to be updating this blog with more information which we glossed over before. My current excuse strongly hinges on my parents slow dial-up service. For some unknown reason, DSL is unavailable in the part of Flint township my parents live in. Anyway, it's not that I don't want to fulfill this promise of posting often. I really do,however, my life has been very strange for the past couple of weeks ever since returning to the Midwest.

When I say strange, I don't mean to infer any incredibly interesting strange events have been occurring. It is more that I am returning to all of my old haunts and finding my old comfortable life gone and I am placed in a world which is both incredibly familiar yet strange because the role I used to play in it has disappeared and I must redefine what my mundane every day life is in these new arenas.

The plan I had set up upon return to the Midwest was to spend a week in Chicago and then continue on to my parents house in Flint, Michigan where I knew I would be guaranteed a free place to stay and pretty confident about a job at the Borders book store my brother and sister both work for.

Arriving in Chicago, I wasn't sure on a place to stay. Ira and I had given up our apartment when we left so I spent the week floating around from place to place trying to be as graciously thankful as I could of the hospitality being offered. It was so incredibly wonderful to see everyone again, yet slightly sad and distressing to be experiencing elements of my old life as a visitor. I traveled 4700 miles around the country for 160 days, each night being unsure of the location and conditions of my evening resting place only to have the same experience in the place I considered home, shook my nerves quite a bit.

I spent the week endlessly moving from one corner of the city to the other in order to see as many people as possible. I succeeded in drinking far too much and tiring myself out completely. By the time I finally arrived in Flint, I was completely pooped. Although tired, I was very much looking forward to having my own room again and feeling completely comfortable in a space I could consider my own again. The day after arriving, I organized all my things in my room (my sisters old room in the basement) and did what I could to make myself feel in control of my own surroundings.

I've been in flint for a week now, and I already scored the job at borders thanks to my sister putting in a good word for me with her boss. You might think I would be settled in just fine. I am living with my parents and brother whom I love very much as well as have the financial security they provide me. I also have a job with which I can supplement my bank account for the sake of the trip which so far is all going according to plan. Yet, I still feel awkward, and out of my element.

I have never really lived in Flint. My parents moved here when I was a freshman in College. I have been visiting here periodically over the past couple of years enough to be acquainted with all of my sister's friends, but I only have a social life outside of my family here vicariously through my family.

I was looking forward to exploring flint more then I had in the past. I brought comuting fix gear bicycle back from Chicago to allow myself some independence as well as some consistency from my old life. Flint is not a bicycle friendly city as all my parents and friends here like to remind me. Things are very spread out and streets have no shoulder to speak of. The average speed limit on roads through town here is about 45 mph with all the streets around my parents house in the township being 50. Although a lot of the GM shops have closed Flint is still a car city. My sister always says "even homeless people here have cars." While I like a challenge, I am very uncomfortable about riding here, especially after dark. Many of the streets don't have street lights. When you combine this with the high speed limits and no shoulders, makes me nervous of commuting anywhere.

I am completely comfortable here at my parents house and I'm really enjoying the chance of being able to hang out with my younger brother as an adult. The opportunity of calling up my sister to go out for drinks or hang out and watch a movie at her house is great too. I just need to be patient about not having my environment exaclty the way I used to in Chicago. I know Flint is very different, and has a lot of great things going on, although it may seem I've been focusing only the negative. Flint is the way it is, and I can't expect to bend it the way I want it to be.

As a control freak, I always want things to be how I want or expect them. I was concerned about this tendency of mine on our road trip, but it didn't get in the way too much. When you are constantly moving around, you don't really have time to get too stressed out if you don't like a certain place. If you don't like it, you just leave and go to the next place. Ira and I had set up a rule that we never stayed with anyone longer then five days. After five days, depression usually set in. The longer we stayed with people, the more it felt as though we were trying to live their lives. I like living my own life and so we would leave and continue on with our reality of the time, which was constant movement.

Now, I AM living other people's lives. I'm living my families lives. It seems strange to say, but my family lives a much different life then I do. I've been out of the house for 8 years. I've always noticed the difference of our lives upon coming back for visits, but now living here, it is very noticeable. Neither lifestyle is better then the other, its just different for me. Its not that there are any large changes except maybe I am going to be driving more the cycling. But more subtle things.

I think the average person underestimates how important the mundane aspects of our life are. Sure maybe people can feel bored with their life at times, but these same boring elements also give us structure and a comfort in the knowledge of what we can expect things to be. With that knowledge comes a certain confidence. We don't have to waste time worrying about how the little details of things are going to pan out because based on our past day to day experience probably already know. This is why the first couple days of a new job are so stressful and tiring. Once you become accustomed to the new job's flow, you look back and laugh at how you once were so worried about fitting in.

I am just experiencing this worry and stress of the unknown right now. The strangeness comes in because the unknown details are completely surrounded by people and environments I have intimate knowledge of. Perhaps I take my family and friends for granted. I shouldn't be surprised they are constantly changing. I have been gone doing my own things, changing in my own way. Of course they are changing as well based on their experiences in an environment which I only have a superficial knowledge of.

So I've been busy lately. Not really busy doing anything of note. I have been busy worrying and stressing about setting up a new mundane life for myself. And although the word mundane carries with it negative connotations, I use it here as a completely unemotional term to describe the feeling of being comfortable with one's ordinary daily life. After being on the road for so long, I am looking forward to getting back (even if it is only for three months) to a more regular and slightly more predictable life.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wild Chicago

We're temporarily back in the Midwest, Chicago in my case. Andrea is working on a post describing our flight back and the celebration that ensued, I'll leave it at that so as not to steal her thunder.

It would be futile to try and replicate my touring lifestyle while inside the third-largest city in the nation, but I can't help but noticed my changed perspective. It's maddening to know that the closest natural landscape is seventy miles away, after spending five months in the most remote and wild the lower forty eight has to offer. To sooth my nerves I threw a leg over my trusty swiss-army-knife city bike and pointed it toward Labaugh Woods, the only place on the North Side with over an acre of dirt.

Labaugh has roughly five miles of single-track trails that follow a river through the Jefferson Park area. It's the only mountain biking (to use the term loosely) in Chicago that is an easy ride from my appartment.

I got muddy, fell down, was poked by sticks, and bounded over the mostly flat, wooded trails like a slightly-out-of-shape whitetail deer. I ride an old road bike with riser-bars, fat tires, and a fixed-gear drivetrain; not particularly fast, but like duct tape, good for almost everything.

I was taking a breather by this railroad crossing and an actual whitetail deer snuck up on me. He had eight points on his rack and was completely fearless. This is the only clear picture I got pefore he wandered down the enbankment.

I followed him into the woods and tried to get a few more shots, but this was the best that turned out.

Despite my nature experience, Kedzie Ave. was never more than a short ride away. You can't ever get out of this place.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't love us and leave us.

We've gotten a lot of comments on our "Mission Accomplished; Phase I" post. Thanks to all who have been keeping up with us, especially to those who've been with us since the begining. I should have been more clear in the last post, because although this is the final destination of Phase I, there is definitly going to be a Phase II. I wanted to clarify for those of you who may have tuned in more recently and aren't privy to all our plans.

We are not done riding. We are taking our mid-day siesta. In February, we will fly to Austin, TX and ride the Gulf Coast, up the East Coast to the Maritime Provinces. We have another six months of riding planned.

The blog will not be inactive for the three months siesta, however. We plan to fill it up with odds and ends, outtakes, and good stuff we didn't have time to put in. There is soooo much other stuff that happened besides what we had time to write up with our hour time limit at the library. So please stay tuned. IT'S FAR FROM OVER!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Phase I: Mission Accomplished

WE MADE IT. SAN FRANCISCO! On October 13, 2006 at ~Noon, PCT, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into the city. It completes this leg of our trip. We've cycled upwards of 4700 miles and my knees are feeling a little creeky.

Do we feel proud of ourselves?
Yes of course.

Does it feel good to be done? Yes, of course.

Was it everything you thought it would be? What part?

The final stretch. Was riding into San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge triumphant? Actually, it was slightly anti-climactic. We rode over, I was taking pictures the whole way. We reached the other side and that was that. I tried to get some people to get photo's of us by the bridge, but I felt ackward asking anyone to share in the moment which I felt was pretty personal. Plus, I wanted the photo to be composed just so, and the random tourists I was asking kept placing our figures right in front of the bridge so you couldn't see it. With the onset of digital camera's the new common courtesy after taking a picture for a stranger is to wait until they have viewed it and offer to talk another if they don't like it. But what are you going to say..."You have no sense of composition. Come on, don't place the foreground so it obscures the background, which we want to be a focal point. Get it right with this next shot." No, of course not. I would just smile and say, "looks great, thanks!" I wandered around aimlessly trying to decide what to do, and Ira was getting irritated at me. We had made plans to be at our hosts house in Ashbury Heights at 12:30, we had no idea of how to get there and it looked like we were going to be running late. All of this and I was being wishy-woshy about a picture. Finally we rode away from the bustling crowd along Lincoln Blvd to a better viewpoint to the west of the bridge. We set up our bike-pod (which is how Ira and I shoot almost all of the pics with us together...the bikes are leaned up against each other so they are putting pressure on the other and holding themselves up freestanding) and I was able to set up the shot. I was in a hurry because Ira was feeling antsy and so I couldn't compose a good shot either. Ira's hand is blocking part of the view. Oh well.

How did you celebrate? We toasted on shots of bourbon when we got to our host's house.

That's it? That's it. We have a week to relax in San Fran before we go back to Chicago and that will be celebritory in itself. I guess it hasn't hit in yet, what we have done. The cliche here is true. The journey was the destination. We are done and now the journey of my reminicing over it is about to begin.

you think you want to see me; you've missed me on this trip. Think hard on whether you really want me back because you know I will be one of those obnoxious people who will turn every single converstation and comment around just so I can get the topic over to our trip again. I will be the old lady telling here grandkids the stories over and over and over about how (in shakey voice) I biked from Chicago to San Francisco in 2006, and bicycles weren't as they are now, you actually had to pedal them yourself." Or whatever. All I am saying is a word of warming, please practice hiding your boredom and yawns because when I get back, you will need this skill after having to listen to me for the 3rd straight hour.

Back on topic. The Circumference of the earth is ~24,902 miles. Therefore, we have ridden ~18% of it so far. Not bad.

Here is a map of our final route
If any dialog boxes come up, keep pressing "continue".

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Complete Oregon Coast Slideshow

I have finally got all the good Oregon pics together. It took a while, there were hundreds of them. Here it is.

Oregon Coast Slideshow

Thursday, October 12, 2006

For some reason we're having lousy luck uploading photos, which I realize are the reason most people check our blog.

The coast basicly looks like this. When we get a chance there will be many more pictures of it.

We're still touring the breweries! There are a million of them on the coast. These guys make Scrimshaw, which is great.

Two things: 1) You can see the fog in this picture, it's present every morning and then burns off by early afternoon for a brilliant clear day. 2) We're in Marin County and it's a beautiful place. Fairfax is our location, and it's twenty miles from SF.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ira vs. the Gualala bear

We're in Bodega Bay, two days out of SF! Humbolt and Mendocino counties had enough hills to make us thoroughly miserable, but it looks like smooth sailing now. Sorry, still no pictures.

A bear raided our camp last night and ate all of my granola bars! Somehow, despite the bear on the state flag and every government seal, I managed to convince myself that it was ok to leave the food in my pannier, and the little bastard ate all three of them. I had to lay there in the tent and listen to him snuffling around and chomping on my food, afraid to go out and interfer, risking dismemberment. As soon as he left, I went outside in only my boxer shorts and surveyed the expected carnage. It sounded like he was shredding everything! It turned out he was nice enough to unzip my bag and only eat the food, leaving everything else intact. There were a couple muddy paw-prints on my pannier and one on the container of Gatorade powder that he had unsucessfuly tried to access. I'm glad we're not dealing with any more nature for a while.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We have entered that fabled land to the west, ruled by Arnold Schwarzenegger and home to more American mythology than any other state in the union.

There is a northern part of California that most Californians don't even realize exists. That's how the guys we met in Del Norte county described their home. It's comfortingly rural up there, and if it wasn't for the ocean it'd feel just like the North Woods of Wisconsin. Anyway, it's been really nice up here and we've been in the Redwood Parks for the last couple of days, but we are tired out, tired of riding, and tired of being on the road. SF is only about a week away but we'd really like to be there now.

This library won't let us upload pictures but soon there'll be some great ones of the North Coast and the Redwoods, as well as our daring and dangerous cliff camping.

See you soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What feels like sun and smells like sawdust?

My eyeballs and face are getting fried, due to the trickery of overcast days. Wearing sunglasses and sunblock every day is no fun, and somehow I convinced myself that because it's autum and and cold outside I was safe from the UV rays. Two days in a row, my face is swollen and my eyes feel like too much TV.

This is a couple days ago, when it was sunny. There were seals splashing around in the waves below this cliff.

Oregon seems to think they have too many trees, because they've decided to clear-cut them whenever they get a chance. The hilltops look worse than the top of my head. I can't fault them for making money, but it looks like crap and I can't image that it's great for the watersheds. Be careful, guys! You could end up like the Northern Midwest, which used to be covered by soaring two-hundred-foot White Pines and was completely deforested in the 1800's. Now we have to travel all the way out here just to see big trees.

We met an interesting group of Canadian bicycle tourists yesterday(sorry, no pictures). They are skilled in various aspects of communication arts and are shooting a documentary of their ride from Vancouver to Panama. I hope we will get to see it. They have a blog too.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Oregon Coast

We are at long last on our final stretch of the trip, one which we have been anxiously awaiting. Everyone we've talked to along the way, upon hearing we are planning to ride along the Oregon and California coast can't stop telling us how amazing it is, especially the Oregon coast. Click here to see a slideshow of our coastal images.

As you can see they aren't mistaken.

We debated over a route for a long time and finally it was decided we would ride down to Portland and then ride northwest up to Canon Beach so we wouldn't miss any of the coast. However, we were kidnapped by cousin's of Ira's and they forced us into staying at their house. They poured beer down our throats and force fed us food until we couldn't take it anymore, locked us in their dungeon where the only place to sleep was a king sized bed and the only place to clean up was a hot tub on the porch and our own private bath. They only released us the next day on the condition we take their car and tour up the northern coast to save us some time so they could keep us locked up a couple more days then originally planned. How have Ira and I dwelt with the deplorable conditions??? All I can say is, Ira and I both have a strong desire to survive no matter what.

Here are our pictures so far of our tour (in a car) of the coast from Licoln City North to Canon Beach. It was very foggy in the morning, but it cleared somewhat by the evening. Most of my pictures look slightly dull because of the layer of fog. We started at the beach at Cascade head where we were greeted by a typical ocean beach. 6 ft reeds blowing in the wind in rolling sand dunes and the wide open ocean.

Sitting here on the edge of this much open water, it is impossible to feel in awe of how small we are in comparison to the magnificence of nature.

Next we took a hike down the point at Cape Lookout which lead us 2 miles through a rainforest to amazing vistas of the ocean standing on the edge of 100 ft cliffs. However, it was very foggy so our view of the ocean was severely limited to what was basically the water at the base of the cliff.

From there we continued north to the lighthouse at Cape Meares, which is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon and the only one where you can climb right up next to the lens.

The cliffs along the coast also fill one with a sense of awe. The eternal violence with which the waves lash against the rocks, and the grace of the water as it eases itself back out to sea.

Once you get further north around Cannon Beach, you begin to see the famous sea haystacks, or large rock piles jutting out of the ocean.

I can hardly wait to see more.


Portland was a chance to see friends and soak up some culture.

I had a high-energy, armor piercing headache for the first day of our visit, but it went away in time to meet Nate for a pint at the Alberta Street Public House.

Favorite Portland things:

-Relaxing in Laurelhurst Park

-The skatepark, and locals ripping it up.

-Big lazy houses with huge trees hanging over the street

-Curteous drivers

-Visiting Lara

-Everyone rides a bike, not just the messengers, roadies, and geeked out commuters. There are totally normal looking people cruising everywhere.

-Powell's Used Bookstore was pretty nice too. I got a great travel writing book(soon I'll have no excuse for poor blogging).

-Mellisa and Jeff, our hosts in the city. High-quality folks!

The was yet another great city experience. We've met the coolest urban folks and the've been taking fantastic care of us.

Days of heat, nights of condensation.

We left Seattle well-rested and feeling better than ever. It was sunny, the Hood Canal was brilliant blue, and the dense forest around us was lush green, with little slivers of blue sky peeking through. Andrea and I weren't even fighting, something increasingly uncommon as the first six months of or trip winds to a close.

The roads we took from Seattle to Portland aren't even on some maps. They are rural, redneck, and residential. There are some pretty little cabins tucked away in the huge evergreens, and a lot of election signs that say (R) or (GOP) on them.

We stayed with a couple of awesome families.

The guy with the screw is Louis, likely the smartest, most precoucious six-year-old in Shelton, WA.

This was shaping up to be one of our worst campsites ever. Notice the large rocks- we are on a roadbed built in a massive swamp. I couldn't pound stakes into the ground, settling for piles of stone at the tent corners. The morning was alive and brilliant. There were so many insects, birds, and bird calls; the trees filled the air with pleasant herbal smells.

I'll remember Western Washington as a endless sequence of bridges.

A tressel outside of Olympia.

A veiw from the Lewis and Clark Bridge, crossing the Columbia River into Oregon.

Entering Portland on the Saint John Bridge.

How to post a comment WITHOUT registering with blogger

Just a quick note on the comments. I've heard people have been having trouble sending comments because they don't know how or they don't want to register their info on the blogger site.

you don't have to do this. If you would like to leave a comment and not sign on, all you have to do is click on the comments at a bottom of a post you would like to remark on. Then you write your comment in the box to your right and if you don't wish to sign in or sign up you select the button "anonymous" under "choose" and "identity". Then you press the "login and publish" button. Even though it says "login", if you chose "anonymous" you don't actually have to login. It will just send it through and we can then publish your comment on our site, no hassle, no questions asked. However if you click anonymous but still wish us to know who is sending the message, just include your name with your text. How easy is that?

thanks again to all who are diligently keeping up. It makes this whole thing worth doing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Love on the Road

Right now, in an empty spare bedroom, Ira is laying in his sleeping gear on a hard wood floor of a North Portland rust colored bungalow reading the Deer Park by Norman Mailer. The bungalow is owned by a 30 something couple, whom we have only just met. Having moved to Portland a year before, they have purchased this house in this up and coming neighborhood where we have been told you would be quite easily shot at 10 years back.

I am in the basement of the North Portland rust colored bungalow on an old futon, also wrapped up in my sleeping gear contemplating the current state of affairs.

Our hosts rent out two downstairs bedrooms which are currently vacant. Ira lays in one. I, as I mentioned above, prefer the basement. As I lay in bed, I think about the fight Ira and I had earlier in the night. Really, it was about nothing and I can't even remember what sparked it. Whatever it was quickly degraded into pot shots about my lacking in "good girlfriend qualities" and his lacking of hair (Ira is going bald rather quickly these days).

I was very upset earlier, but now replaying it my mind, it doesn't conjure up the same heated emotions I felt then. In fact, my reactions earlier seem strange, unnecessarily exaggerated; out of line. As I lie in bed and think about Ira, I don't feel any animosity or lingering anger. In fact, the concept of him now makes me think of his gentle voice, his curious way of being incredibly goofy and sentimental at the same time, his dark deep set eyes, and I realize I should get out of my incredibly comfortable sleeping situation to go upstairs and tell him I love him. It takes a little bit of time to fully convince myself to abandon my warm little sleeping cocoon, but finally love wins the battle. I unzip my sleeping bag, slap my feet on the cold basement cement floor, and pad upstairs to his room to express my feelings.

I open the door and walk into the brightly lit room. Our bags have been casually flopped around the walls of the vacant room and our few belongings are overflowing out of the bags and all over the empty floor. Ira lies in a random position on the floor with a look of false concentration of reading the Deer Park by Norman Mailer clearly showing he is doing his best to ignore my presence even though my very presence is being exaggerated by the echoing of my every movement against the emptiness of the room.

He finally looks up and pierces me with an icy glance before returning once again to the Deer Park by Norman Mailor. "You don't look very happy to see me" I say, knowing immediately what the response will be..."I'm reading". Oh these two words really communicate sooo much more. Ira is constantly getting irritated with me for interrupting him while reading or writing. He has lectured me about it countless times and I for whatever reason, thoughtlessness, a need to be spontaneous or out of sheer pettiness am constantly interrupting him in such cases. I stand there for a while just sort of staring down at him. Obviously this terse reply has hurt my feelings, especially since I left the comfort of my downstairs situation to pad all the way up here to tell him I love him. I spend moments trying to decide whether I will be above pettiness and give him my message of love anyway, or if I will succumb to the pettiness and make a sarcastic remark before stomping out.

Sarcastic laugh. "Oh yeah, I forgot. We are at currently at odds."
I stomp out.

Being on a bicycle tour for 6 months with only your significant other as a companion definitely takes its tool on a relationship. We did surprisingly well for the first 4 months, but during this last one, Ira and I are having a lot of trouble engaging in a civil conversation about anything. Our friends are not surprised.

"Oh yeah, I had some friends who biked across the country together, but they didn't make it to end together. They broke up somewhere around Colorado."


"When I was about your age, my girlfriend at the time and I tried to bike from Vermont where her family lived, to Oregon, but I got so sick of her bitching I encouraged her to take a ride in South Dakota and I continued on by myself."


"My boyfriend at the time, the 'monster', and I biked down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then to California. I am glad I haven't seen him since."

Such were the stories we were inundated with before leaving for this trip. The thing is, Ira and I fight about everything in our regular life. For the past five years of our relationship, we have been consistently embarrassing to be around because of our public and private displays of stubborn spats. In fact our friends have dubbed us "Angria and Irate". So I assumed Ira and I were prepared.

We talked again and again about how important good communication was going to be for this trip. We really did get off to a good start. Sure we had some quality fights along the way, but for the most part we were enjoying our trip and enjoying each others company. For the first couple of months I would truthfully reassure people Ira and I were doing really well, working as a team, etc.

Recently however, Angria and Irate have returned.

I pad back downstairs to my not so warm cocoon. I crawl back inside my bag and zip up. What is going on with us?

Things started to get bad in Montana, but they got better again in Washington to Seattle. We left Seattle and as we headed south so did our relationship. Yesterday morning it all started with a tear in the cook set bag. Ira had put the cook set away the night before and was not too happy to be doing it. He jammed all the pots, spoons and spatula in the bag half hazardly. The next morning revealed the spoon had been jammed down in the bag in such a way as to force it through the mesh creating a rip. In the long run this of course is not a big deal at all. However that morning, it set me off. I lectured Ira about it, how he always half-asses any tasks he doesn't want to do. He in turned responded that although he was the one to put the cook set away last night the whole situation was really my fault because I am on the one who came up with the system of storing all the afore mentioned items in said bag. The system was obviously faulty , I came up with the system, I am to blame. I countered with the statement that if it was done correctly, with care, everything would fit in the bag just fine, but when you just throw stuff around, it’s bound to break. Blah blah blah.

He wouldn't apologize and I wouldn't let it go until he apologized. He wouldn't apologize because he thought I was being totally out of line. I was proceeded to get further and further out of line because he wasn't apologizing.

Finally I got out a piece of paper, wrote out the directions for the days ride, threw it over to him and said "fine, just meet me in Longview". The directions fell on the ground. He turned in disgust and said, I don't need your directions and stomped off with his 100 lb bike in tow.

Good, I thought, finally I'll have some peace. During the 30 mile ride to Longview, Wa, I found myself ceasing to be angry with Ira and once again, begin to focus on his gentle voice, his sweet mannerisms ... When we finally meet up in Longview I apologize for being so crazy earlier that morning and he apologizes for not apologizing earlier. Things are good again until 15 minutes later, we start discussing where we are planning to stay in Portland the next night, something he said he was taking care of, and he tells me he has made no plans. AHHHHH. Fight Fight Fight.

This is a constant recurring theme with us. Fight fight fight, brief make up and then minutes later fight, fight, fight. I've gotten to the point where it seems the best situation is to just not talk at all. This tactic works pretty well.

My sleeping bag is heating up again now from my body heat and I wiggle my toes around in my socks enjoying the warmth. I also am enjoying my solitude. Being away from Ira at night is such a luxury. Normally we are only sleeping inches apart in a tent so small we are constantly bumping elbows, kicking each other and can barely sit up to read a book or for me to fix my hair. Beside the tight quarters, Ira snores. I bought ear plugs but I can still hear his slurpy sloshy snoring through them. The silence of the basement gives me true comfort.

I keep wondering if our relationship is on the outs or not. I wonder if we really don't work together well as a team or if a situation like this would break the bonds of any relationship. I just don't know. What I do know is Ira and I have spent every day for the last 136 days together. We have little social contact with others for days on end. We get up around 7 in the morning, are on our bikes around 8:30 and ride till around 6 or 7 when we are so tired we can't think straight. We have to find a place set up our tent in some out of the way place where we won't be caught and made to pay camping fees. We may not have the everyday work-a-day stress to worry about but never knowing where you are going to sleep at the end of the day can wear on you.

Ira says my fuse is getting so short it is nonexistent. This is probably true. Little things he does are really starting to wear on me. Like this book he is reading right now. It seems he goes out of his way to tell everyone he is reading "The Deer Park, by Norman Mailor". He talks about the book all the time. When he is done reading it, he will ask me if I would like to read it, and I will respond I have no need to because although I may not know the book in a linear fashion, I am pretty familiar with the general story since he has given multiple different people the synopsis, over and over.

Everyone has their "stories". Annecdotes which are funny and cute or ideas which we obsess about. However when you are with the same person all the time, you start really getting annoyed at hearing the same stories over and over again. I don't mean to particularly single Ira out on this. I know I do the same thing. I am conscious of the stories I tell over and over, so I before I begin one of them, I usually preface it with, "Ira, I am sure is getting sick of this story..." As if somehow this sentence will make it less annoying for him. Probably not.

What it all comes down to is, I am getting irritated with Ira over the little things more then anything. I catch myself complaining about something or criticizing him and I realize how petty I am being. I hate this pettiness in myself and it makes me more annoyed and more crabby. It is a never ending cycle.

How can we solve this problem? I have no idea. Sure I can say I need to practice more patience, but how easy is it to be patient when it is almost dark, we have no place to camp, it has started raining and Ira keeps vetoing every camping option? How patient can Ira be of my incessant need to complain about everything and anything that goes wrong? Or my inability to make decisions, depending on him to make a choice, so I can later blame him if something goes wrong. Our fighting all the time isn't anyone's fault. It is a mixture of physical and emotional fatigue, lack of social stimulus and lack of patience.

In three weeks we will be in San Francisco and our passage over the Golden Gate will mark the completion of this half of the trip. Before we start the second half of our planned ride from Austin, Texas to Halifax, Nova Scotia we will have a three month break. We fly back to the Midwest. Ira will stay in Chicago, and I will be going back to Michigan to be with my family. Three months apart. I can't wait. How we will deal with the second half of our trip is like anything else in the future, unknown. However, I am hoping our distance from each over the break will have its needed affect. I will probably start thinking about his gentle voice and his deep-set eyes.

I don't have the energy to dwell on it anymore tonight. I, unconsciously, roll over on my stomach and start drooling on my warm pillow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where did the sun go?

We're back in the States now after Vancouver and a ferry ride to Victoria.

The ferry to Vancouver Island held three hundred cars and the population of a small town. It was a sunny day and we had fun sitting on the deck reading.

We spent two days in Victoria, which has the narrow streets, alleyways, and old buildings of a European city. I should really say more because it was a nice place, but we were feeling scattered for various reasons and didn't get to do much besides sit on the waterfront and eat fried fish.

We've been under a shroud of gray for the last few days and it's weighing on us. The clouds are around all day, with rain shifting between ambient moisture and pissy drizzle. Yuck. People warned us about the rainy season but we were hoping to have a little more time before it set in.

Bob and Cindy have been treating us like royalty during our stay in Poulsbo, WA. They have an awesome dog named Dexter that loves frisbees.

We took the ferry into Seattle to spend the night with some ex-Chicagoans. We had the day to ourselves and met them after work.

Seattle is pretty nice, despite the rain. We spent hours at the aquarium.

It's creepy how much these guys look like the Cthulu.

Allan and Jenny (forementioned Chicago emigrants) showed us around Capitol Hill, the domain of Seattle hipsters. It was really fun and we had some good beers at the Six Arms Brewery.

There's a lot of in-between things I'm leaving out, much of which is notable. I'm hoping we have time to touch on more things in detail. Andrea will probably do a good job of this in the next few days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Our neighbors to the North.

We love Vancouver. The key to a good city visit is having friends to show you around. Amber, Carl, and Co. enthusiasticly offered up all the fun we desired.

Andrea and I spent our afternoons roaming around the city.

Like our native Chicago, Vancouver has a public waterfront. Going for a walk on the seawall was a great way to spend the afternoon and see people. There are stylishly dressed Asians everywhere. The rest of the population(and most of the poor people) are White, Native, or Arabic, almost no one is Black or Latin.

The ethnic markets looked great but we had no time to shop.

After work we met up with our friends and went out for food and drinks.
While we were eating, the sky exploded with rain.

Luckily we were in a car! Everyone told us that the rain offically marked the end of summer.

Sushi is the pizza of Vancouver, by which I mean it is cheap and on every street corner.

We went to a place where it was served deep-fried, in mass quantities, a phenomonon credited to the near-legality of weed in the city.

We spent hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery, veiwing the exhibition of Haida(Pacific native) painting and carving. They are amazing craftsmen and their culture was totally screwed by European invaders.

We have been away from cities and our peer group for so long that we are out of practice! It took us a few days to recover from the partying.

Thanks Amber, Carl, Rich, Steve, Andrea, Jeff, Pete, Joel, and of course Pat! You guys are welcome in Chicago any time (with the notable exception of Pat who is already there)!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Out of the Country

Our trip is now an international trip. Here is Ira crossing into British Columbia.

We were all concerned about crossing the border. We made sure to both use the restroom before trying to cross incase we got detained again like last time. We were detained an hour coming back from Winnipeg four years ago and they wouldn't let us use the potty so we couldn't flush the drugs. Anywho. We were waiting in line and a woman in a uniform came up to us and started asking questions about our trip. I just assumed she was on break chatting with us. After three questions, where are you from, going, how long etc. She waved us through and said have fun. No IDs or anything. Oh you Canadians.

We're in Vancouver right now having an awesome time. More pics to follow.

3 Trillion Gallons of Excitement

We were riding through Washington and seeing a lot of farmland.

When all of a sudden, we came around a corner and there it was....

The Pacific Ocean. Our first view. Neither Ira or I have either been to the west coast, and we were both really excited to see it. We rode along Chuckanut road (Highway 11) which curved and rambles up and down hills along the coast, winding through some very rainforest like surroundings. Ferns and mosses drip over the road with giant cedars towering overhead. If this is what the coast looks like, I am PUMPED about riding down to San Fansisco.

This is maybe the most scenic way to ship freight. So keep that in mind the next time you need to send a package.