Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weekend Update.

We were mentioned on the Gaper's Block webzine this week- thanks Naz! Also, we are flattered by all of the replies and comments. A week of lying by the pool and being pampered by Andrea's family has made me fat and lazy, it'll feel nice to be back in the saddle in a couple days.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Well, Ira and I have been in Flint now a couple of days. All along the way, after hearing we were headed toward Flint, people kept asking if we had our guns with us. I know it has a rough reputation, but Flint is actually a cool town. Run down of course, but not as crazy as people think. There are some rough neighborhoods, but a lot of the area is pretty rural, like where my parents live. Here is great photo of a yard near my parents house.

An old tree stump becomes a buried cowpoke. Awesome.

After first getting to Flint, my sister, her fiance, Jason, and some or our Flint friends were immediately off to the Frankenmouth Beer Fest in Frankenmouth MI.

My sister and I enjoying some beers!

They call this town little Bavaria, and because of their strong German heritage they love beer. Ira and I went last year to their Octoberfest and we highly recommend it!! Their beer fest also did not disappoint. Collected in one building were 50 different breweries all displaying their various brews for sample tasting. The breweries were mostly local Michigan and Great Lake states microbrews, but there were other national and a couple of international breweries present (Unibroue, Hofbrauhaus, Guinness, Newcastle, etc). Beside the general tasting area, they also had a small pole barn off to the side in which they were conducting two different classes in which we enthusiastically enrolled. Beer 101, and Beer and Sausage Pairing. Both were incredibly informative and delicious. The sausage in the second class was supplied by Kerns, a local sausage company. It was so good even Ira (everyone prepare yourselves) tried some. (Ira is a vegetarian for all you who don't know). Overall we had a great time. Lots of beer was drunk. Of course they only give you four ounces at time, but after 20 samples the ounces really begin to add up. My favorites were the Unibroue, a brewery from Quebec, Dragonmead Mircobrewery from Detroit, and Founders brewery. Bells was there of course, and we enjoyed drinking old favorites like Oberon. They were sampling their more common beers. Luckily though, we stopped by the brewery in Kalamazoo on our way here and enjoyed excellent hospitality and a few crazy brews which were excellent and not so common. Ira enjoying his Bells brew (in Kzoo) with our incredibly cool bartender, Wade.

After leaving the beer fest that night, we were still itchin' for some excitement so we meandered back to Flint to the Dakota Lounge for a little bit of bull riding. None of us were able to stay up long. Ira gave it a good try, but he kept complaining his Chrome biking knickers were slippery because he kept sliding the rear end of the bull before falling off. I was a bit surprised considering he purchased those pants a month ago and has worn them every day and not laundered them. They should have been gritty enough to hold him on.

We've spent most of this week just relaxing around my parents house along with a little bit of yard work. I don't know why, but I really think this picture of Ira with the weed whacker is a little sinister, but to most of you out there, it's just a guy with a weed whacker.

We helped my dad open the pool this week to get ready for some lounging on Memorial day weekend.

On Tuesday we hit the open road again. To the U.P.!!!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I should have packed my boots.

Our first five days of riding are officially over, giving us a week to recover in Flint. We rode rolling hills for the last few days and saw a lot of fields and rusted out farm implements.

There were nothing but small farms between Kalamazoo and Howell. It looked and smelled like the part of Wisconsin were I grew up.

What has eight wheels and is full of liquid shit?

This is the biggest tractor I've seen on the trip so far. I've heard they have titanic gps-guided machines for field work out on the Plains, but with it's six foot tall dualies in the front and rear, this manure hauler is the current title-holder. Imagine the torque this thing generates- sheer gearhead boner material.

The rural character of this place is pretty saturated. For long stretches, lone extended-cab three-quarter-ton pickups are the only traffic, and they are all caked in mud from the dirt roads and cornfields. The people are amazingly helpful when we get lost and ask for directions- quiet guys with burned-red faces, worn out camo and insulated flannel shirts, and stars 'n' stripes belt buckles, unexpectedly patient and interested in our trip. Their dogs are all either well-behaved or chained to something.

This place wasn't open when we rode through.

I'd like to think that this is some kind of local line-dancing hotspot.

We got soaked by rain on the way into Charlotte (pronounced shur-LOT) and ended up in a motel off the freeway. Watching the Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search on CMT was the perfect way to finish the day.

What up, Dukes of Hazzard? Everyone has some old car in the yard out here.

These people were neighbors.

This is the court house in Mason, which is a county seat. Historically this square was a meeting place for farmers and business people. Cool old architecture all around downtown Mason.

Not pictured but playing a key role are the cubic yards of fried food and gallons of cheap domestic beer that have fueled us through Southern Michigan. The little bars and cafes are great, but they make me very thankful for fruit and vegetables, and sometimes they make me want to puke french fries.

Andrea will post the rest of the S. Michigan story later...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dunelands and Michigan Wine Country

We've been talking about this trip for a year, and you're all waiting for results! Hopefully our first week won't disappoint. It's been hard and exciting, and we took pictures.

The first night was at the Indiana Dunes at Beverly Shores. It rained a little and we ate a lot of eggs. The lake was beautiful the next morning.

The gas station where we bought the wood and eggs has the best softserv ice cream anywhere.

Here's the lake. All along the Indiana shore there are beautiful cottages. If you are rich and from Chicago, you may have one.

Wow, huge cooling tower. The mist made this look very ominous. It is some sort of power plant with water cascading out of the base. We got lost here and a guy in a pickup guided us down a dirt road to a village of pastel houses that looked like Loompa Land.

Andrea loves Michigan. This is the border. Shortly after we stopped for beers at the American Legion and watched a one-armed badass shoot pool. The tab was two fifty for both beers and they served us even though we are not vetrans.

This whole area was super pretty. There are so many old cottages and vacation homes. It is a little get-away for anyone who can afford it- I had fantasies about living in one of these places and zipping around in a antique British roadster. This fence is ancient and the house behind it is almost too far back to see.

We've been camping out for the past three nights. This is one of the nice moments. The a raccoon stole our trailmix this night and we fought over how I lost Andrea's flashlight.

I had no idea that Michigan had so many vineyards. It looks like France or something, there are some hilltops where grape vines are all you can see in every direction. It makes my feel justified in wearing my euro cycling cap.

This place was full of old people and the menu was super cheap. The party at the rear table were talking about all of the animals they had seen, and what was required to kill them. Standard small town fair, growing up in Northern Wisconsin I am used to this, except these old ladies were talking about totally innocuous creatures like squirrels, and the way to take care of them was "find a guy who's got a gun". I had an awesome chocolate malt that cost a dollar twenty-five.

I'm smiling cause there's no rain, I'm surrounded by grape vines, and I've only been riding thirty miles so my shoulders don't feel like someone's been stabbing them with a screwdriver yet. We've been averaging sixty mile days, which some people may think is pansy, but look at all of the stuff we are carrying. Try putting all of the stuff in you car, bedroom, dresser, and kitchen in a bag and dragging it up hills. It's actually more fun than it sounds.

Cheers, we will be in Flint soon and you will get another update!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The clock is ticking...

It's been a busy and stressfull week, but we have stayed our course and are leaving Saturday morning. Not much time to post right now, but things are stampedeing toward the critical point were we must have our apartment empty and be ready to leave. Depending on the time, our next post may be from the road.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Andrea Checking In...

Hello, this is Andrea checking in. People have been wondering where I was and why I haven't posted yet. The answer is connected with a clarification and correction I feel needs to be made on Ira's previous posts. In the past posts where he speaks of all the work "we" have been doing packing etc, replace the "we" with "Andrea" and you have it about right. I haven't had a chance to post because while Ira has been putzing on the computer, I have been the one doing all the organizing.
Just joking, Ira. The real reason is I am not the best writer in the world and am slightly afraid of this whole new blogging world. To warn you all, I do not spell very well either. All you english majors can go crazy with your red pens. Anyhow, just felt like I needed to get that out of the way.

The past couple of weeks have been strange indeed. We've been planning this trip for the past year and it is very surreal to be finally getting so close to our goal. I have been done with work for the past week and a half. Friday, April 21 was my last day.
Here are two pictures of my last day. I am unemployed in the lower picture. It felt good to be done with work. However, though I have no set schedule or pay check, I am still doing a lot of work at home. You can see from Ira's previous logs, packing and moving is always busy. Especially when you have Uhaul putting crinks in the works. The moving is done, but now we must get ready for our apartment sale this weekend. Then cleaning the apartment to get our security deposit back. And then... the road.

Ira's logs previously have been mostly about our gear. This has probably been one of the most difficult aspects of this trip particularly for myself. Finding the right gear for such a prolonged trip is very difficult. When you add my indecisive yet exacting nature with the fact finding cycling gear for women is much more difficult then for men, it has become next to impossible. However, we are starting to get there. The most difficult items to decide on were shoes, a saddle, jerseys, shorts and of course a swim suit. So reviewing that list, I realize, I am a total girl. The two things I care most about are the comfort of my butt and privates and my fashion asthetic on the bike. Well so be it. I won't go into description of all my gear, but I am sure you are all wondering most about the most important piece of gear I mentioned above, which would be my swimsuit. After trying on many swimsuits which made me look like a beached whale in spandex, I found this wonderful little number off the Esther Williams website.
I got a red and white polka dot fabric instead of the floral print. It's great. The bottoms come with a built in girddle! You've got the love the 50's designs. But believe it or not, the suit is incredibly comfortable! Hopefully I will have lots of excusses of using it.

Well, enough prattling. I need to get back to organizing my sale. More later.

Monday, May 01, 2006

In this post you can see our empty living room...

We moved all of our stuff on Sunday morning, in the rain. It was so wet that I started to notice fish swimming through the gutters as I carried boxes across the street to the U-Haul. By the time I had been working for a couple hours, there were large sea mamals such seals and manatees lined up on the sidewalk watching the progress. It was seriously that wet- requiring cardboard on the floors and plastic wrapped around every box.

Renting the U-Haul truck was a catastrophy, due to their thouroughly poor job of documenting our reservation. Andrea called a week before we needed the truck, they assured her that it would be ready, and then it was not. They even lied to cover their tracks. This was revealed by the exasperated owner of our storage space, who arranged for us to use the truck overnight, provided that we return it in the morning when they opened so that the people who now had our original reservation could use it. We started loading at 6:30 AM and finished at 11:30 AM, which actually turned out fine.

Compare this photo to the previous post:

It feels very strange to have everything gone.

Twelve more days and we will be on the road.