Friday, August 24, 2007

Apartment Purgatory

As my life strays further and further from the interesting realm of travel and more into the mundane world of domesticity, it has become easier for me to not update these blogs. My explorations are no longer the intrepid maneuvers of a nomadic traveler across vast stretches of the American wilderness. I have recently been entrenched in the frustrating search for an apartment in the hostile environment of Chicago's west side. "Hostile" doesn't refer to gang-bangers or street thugs, it refers to something more insidious, the yuppie condo developers.

My old neighborhood was undergoing a lot of gentrification while we were living there, so I know I shouldn't be surprised that after almost two years of being away, the neighborhoods have changed. When we moved; PROGRESS was on its way. When we came back, we realized PROGRESS was here. Old buildings came down to make way for new poorly constructed tacky brick units complete with hard wood floors, granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. Many of the old buildings which remain are being gutted and the inside apartments are being transformed to compete with the new development. Property values go up, taxes go up, rents go up. 30% of the available apartments have been gobbled up and spit out into condoland and the remaining units are more expensive and more desirable to the general market.

I know this is going to sound stupid and obnoxiously like an urban pioneer, but...I kind of miss our corner gangbanger/drug dealers keeping the equilibrium. There was obvious I mean, sure we had to deal with a shoot out now and then, but apart from the risk of a stray bullet, I never was worried the guns would be pointed at me. Because of what the visible street violence, the rents were low because the environment wasn't acceptable to the average renter. It didn't bother us though. As long as I didn't start dealing drugs which would impede on their business, they left us alone. In fact, they were actually kind of nice to have around. Our corner gang-banger, Alex, was always very friendly to me. He always said hello to me as I went past, and would hold the door open when I came home with an armful of groceries. He was always letting me know he was keeping an eye on the building for us so we didn't have to worry about anyone breaking in, that he was "very protective of his territory". It was sort of comforting considering he was out there on the corner almost all the time. This just came with small price of him always trying to look down my shirt or up my skirt as I went upstairs, but that was OK. And of course, we all knew if we were on the street when the guns came out, to quickly run up another block or into the alley. All in all, not too much a price to pay for a cheap apartment in an OK building.

With the development, the gangbangers have been pushed west. I am not condoning gang activity, I am just saying objectively for my personal situation, it wasn't a total negative. So with the development, it looks like Ira and will also have to go west. In the past Western (2400 W) was the borderline. No one wanted to live west of Western. I keep hearing Kedzie (3200 W) is the new Western. Well five years ago, we moved to 2658 W. Cortez, but that neighborhood is not what it once was. So now, we are fleeing to 3238 W. Augusta.

Ira and I have finally signed a lease. Well, Ira is the only one who has actually signed. I was out of town that day, so I was able to get out of the signing process. Luckily for me, that means if I don't like the place I can just leave and stick Ira with it. Whuh ha ha.

I am really not that excited about it. After looking at apartment after apartment, we finally just compromised on a place which wasn't perfect. It is a small 2ND floor flat with two bedrooms and a enclosed back porch. The block is in an industrial section of Augusta and has no trees or greenery. The apartment is in slightly rough shape. The front and rear entrances of the apartment smell of Cat Urine. This is a big problem for me. So, along with the lease, we signed an agreement that the landlord with clean the entrances and use enzyme treatment to rid the urine smell as much as possible. If they do not do a satisfactory job, we can break our lease.

I keep focusing on the negatives, which is frustrating Ira to no end. There are some positives though. The building has a back yard which was very important to Ira. We were able to negotiate the price down to $675, which for a Chicago 2bdrm is a good deal. It has a nice eat in Kitchen with new appliances. We also have the freedom of being able to paint the walls however we wish. The apartment will also be conducive to our entertaining. I made sure to communicate when looking at apartments that Ira and I like to have parties and need a place where noise won't be an issue.

People keep asking me about our situation. Have you found an apartment yet? Whats going on. Have you begun looking for a job yet. AHHHH. I can't take it anymore. To answer everyone in one fell swoop; I am not sure exactly what is going on. I keep responding "We have sort of signed a lease" and am answered in return with quizzical looks. We found a place which is OK, we decided we could take it, if the landlord agreed to fix some things before we move in. If the things are not done to our liking, we can break the lease. Until we know more, we are essentially in a holding pattern. I am not going to look for a job, until we get moved and settled in our new place. Right now, I am just sitting around, which in turn is depressing me. I've been really anti-social lately because I am sick of trying to give answers which are ambiguous to even myself. How can you help? Stop asking me questions!!!

We need to get settled. Maybe we could have kept looking, but I was getting the feeling that the apartments being listed were just more of the same. We decided to just pick one that was OK and work with that. The rent is low, which will work well for the time I am unemployed. I am just sick of this purgatory of maybe having an apartment, but maybe not, just waiting around to see how things go. I've been without a home for a long time. I just want my own space. Can you tell I am feeling cranky?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago

I've been back in Chicago almost a whole week after spending the previous one in Michigan with my parents. I have been done riding for 15 days. People keep asking me if it feels strange to be done with the trip. I've been hesitant to reply because I didn't know the answer. I would say, "well, it hasn't really sunk in yet", or "the trip won't really be over until I have an apartment and a job".

To repeat, I have been back in Chicago almost a whole week now, and I guess I can answer, that yes, it does feel strange; it feels disassociating and it feels uncomfortable, on many different levels.

Ira and I are both bone tired of the nomadic life. We want a home, an apartment, a safe place which is totally ours. Upon coming back to the city, Ira started back at his old job, doing tech support for a small computer company. He is temporarily staying with our friend Andy. I, however, am staying just a mile south with my Aunt Dottie. While I love Andy, I cannot live at his place. It is the ultimate bachelor pad. Now, when I say "bachelor pad", I don't refer to leopard print throw rugs, Martini shakers on a tiki style bar and light switches programed to throw on records of sultry french jazz while turning couches into beds. I mean bachelor pad as in a stinky bathroom with 2 years of scum in the tub, dirty dishes in the sink which will be cleaned with towels so crusty they stand on their own and a bike shop with random greasy components littering the floor where the non-existent dining room table should be. I've spent nights there, but I always end up waking up and feeling an utter sense of depression at how pointless life seems.

I know this seems extreme, but it is true. Its not just Andy's apartment which makes me feel this way. I find no fault in the way Andy lives. Its his life, and he can set up his apartment in any way he chooses. The way he chooses just isn't a way which makes me comfortable. When you don't have any place of your own, no safe haven to be yourself, you end up staying at someone Else's home and entering into their own version of what a safe haven is. You start living their life and it can be incredibly disassociating and hard.

When I was on the road, I experienced this sensation many times. It was both wonderful and hard. I enjoyed traveling around different regions of our country and experiencing first hand how differently people live their lives but, always only for short periods of time. Ira and I made a rule (which we only broke twice), that we would not stay with one host for longer then five days. We discovered five days was around the period of time where we went from just experiencing someones life in a periferal way, to starting to live their life. When this happened it got both oppressive for us, and annoying to our hosts.

On my return to Chicago, I knew before it would be easiest for me to cope with the reintegration to normal life by placing myself in a more safe and comfortable place. My Aunts house, besides being having family ties where I can count on a little coddling, is also located in my old neighborhood not to far away from where Ira is staying. I felt would be the best place for me. So, Ira and I are temporarily living separately.

While Ira and I are both incredibly appreciative of the hospitality shown to us by our hosts, we are both crying to get a place of our own. I long to be surrounded by my stuff; I want to have all of clothing to wear again; I want to see my pictures hanging on the wall; I want to cook a real meal and leave the dirty dishes in the sink if I want. The apartment hunt must begin immediately. We both decided, since Ira is already back working full time, and I am still gainfully unemployed, I will use my time to hunt through every corner of the appropriate neighborhoods for a place to hang our hat and hearts.

I have been looking for the past three days. My experiences with that is a blog post in its own right. To be brief, our neighborhood has changed in the past year or so we have been gone. We can't find anything near our old apartment and have been shoved, most indelicately west. All the apartments I have been looking at are small, cramped, and tacky. The buildings are gross or the amenities aren't to suit. One way or the other, after inquiring about 31 places and viewing 15 I've only found two so far which at best are on the maybe list.

Its hard because after a year on the road, having 8 hours a day to sit around and think, Ira and I both have a pretty clear and defined idea of what we want in our new apartment. As trite as this sounds, if I had a nickel for every time one of us said, "when we get back, I want.... in our new place", I would be rich. We spent so much time thinking of this dream place, it is making it hard for me to compromise with something lesser. Not that I had any grand or unrealistic tastes, it was just based on a city which existed 2 years ago.

The city is a fickle mistress; she never stays the same. You may come back to her and remember all the subtle details of her style and appearance, but she may not remember you at all. You may come running back with open arms to the places you once felt so attached to and which are intimately part of your memories, but the city has no arms to hug. It only has a stiff nod to give you as its 12 lanes of traffic speed on by without so much as a hello. Upon first getting into the city, (I came by train) I felt I was on the final home stretch of my trip. As I passed buildings, streets and landmarks so familiar to myself, I was overcome with emotion as if all the landscape in its familiarity was welcoming me home.

As I have been back for a handful of days now, I don't feel the same way. I feel how the city has changed on me, subtly, yet in so much a real way. Of the community of friends with whom we were so tightly knit, most still live here, but scattered about. I am mourning the loss of my comfort zone, my community and my home as I knew them to be.

I feel adrift and alienated. It is hard having to feel as though you are starting new in a place which is so familiar. I feel lost and pointless, being unemployed and homeless. I know, all of you pull out your fiddles. Play me your sympathetic songs. I can hear you crying "get over it!!! Did you think it was going to be easy? Just do the work, and you'll get re acclimated; you'll get your community back". I know it; I hear the wisdom in this. So everyday I've been getting out of bed and spending all day scouring the apartment listings, calling and recalling numbers, taking notes, hiking and biking all over town to view units and find signs advertising new leads. But its not fun!!!(especially in this 90 degree weather).

So, is it strange to be back? Yes it is totally, totally weird. Every time I get down, I keep thinking of how positive I felt when I first got back. I know I feel lost and alone because I have re-entered a city which has changed and I am searching for my friends whom have also changed. But I must not let it get me down. I have also changed. I need to just let go of the past Chicago and become part of the New City.

On the train, as we were pulling into Chicago, I quickly penned a couple of lines I was going to use as the finale to a sentimental post of being back. When things weren't going as smooth as I had hoped, I was planning on using them in a sarcastic way. However, upon rereading them, I feel they stand on their own. While sentimental, the words are essentially true, so I will leave them as is, and you can make of them, and the rest of this post, as you will.

"feels strange riding into Chicago. Not coming for a visit-but coming back...HOME. Home, the concept I've questioned 1000 times over this trip. Whatever the future holds and however many times the definition of the word changes, I know I've done the right thing coming back here. As I watch the familiar buildings and landscape file by I feel as if the city itself is welcoming me home. I feel the end of this journey. And the beginning of another."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

hiding from you and the future.

I've been at my parents house for the past 10 days or so. I don't know why, but I feel as though I've been hiding. Every time I think about the blog, I get this feeling of guilt, like I used to have when my final projects where due. I knew I should be working on them, yet I would put it off just one more day, the whole time knowing I was screwing myself over. I've been trying to figure out why I've been avoiding the blog, why I feel this guilt.

My last week on the road was jam packed full of emotions and experiences I don't feel I did full justice to in my last post. When I wrote my last post, I remember forcing myself to sit down and the experience was more just like me vomiting out all the words and just walking away. I haven't read that post so I know it is probably full of errors and run on sentences. I knew I needed to document it, but there was too much to talk about, that I just tried to get as much down as possible.

Now after the fact, I feel like I am getting more and more behind. I haven't updated the blog with pictures or filled in the blanks of what I wanted to talk about with my last week of riding and now I have been off the road for almost two weeks and I haven't updated with what I have been doing and feeling lately.

Besides the guilt of feeling behind, I have also been hesitating to write anything, because my emotions are so jumbled about how I feel being done. I am happy but also sad. I am excited at the prospect of my knew "getting back to a regular life" life but I am afraid I will find myself becoming bored with the monotony after the initial excitement wears off. I am not really looking forward to looking for a job. I am glad to be done with the heavy athletic work for a while, but I am not glad about the prospect of getting re-fat (I don't want the 20 lbs I shed back again).

All in all, I am in for a lifestyle change. I am trying to focus on the positives and accept the negatives as part of the experience. It is hard. So I guess it seems easier to hide on my parents deck, by the deck, beer in hand then spend too much time looking my future in the face. So while I am sorry, I haven't updated this sooner, I am also giving myself a break because I know the future will come whether I have completely thought it through or not. I guess, I was just all wowing myself to relax (of course I was feeling guilty about stuff, but I went to catholic school so...) and not worry too much, because one thing I learned on this trip was, Ira and I are really good at taking care of ourselves. We can improvise well with what we have to make things work. And after all this time on the road, all the fights and headaches, all the "I'm not sure I want to be involved with you anymore"s, we still love each other and still work well as a team. So we are going to forge ahead. Every day of the trip, we would wake up not knowing where we were going to find food and water or where we were going to sleep that night. And every day, not matter how much I stressed and worried, we always found food and water and a place to sleep. So keeping that in mind, I am trying to stay positive and not stress, because in this new phase of our lives, I know we'll find what we need to make it, and we'll always find a place to sleep.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ok, so I cheated.

I wanted to announce I have made it back to my parents house in Flint. I know I haven't posted in a week. Perhaps you may have been wondering what I have been up to and where I was at. The long and short of it is I was on a mass exodus from Canada.

When I last spoke with you, I was on Prince Edward Island. The day after my last post, I went and toured all of the L. M. Montgomery sights, (author of Anne of Green Gables) touring Green Gables and her birthplace. After visiting these sights, I was ready to start heading west, back home.

I spent one more night on Prince Edward Island. Waking up the next morning, I rode to the bridge which connects the Island to New Brunswick and the mainland. From here, it was 60 miles to Moncton, where planned to take the bus across part of the way across New Brunswick to cut off some days of the trip. However, being done with all my sight seeing, I realized I just wanted to get home. I was really tired, and being on my own was making things harder. It takes more energy to travel alone, because beside having to be responsible for everything on my own, I also felt like I had to be "on" all the time. I had to be constantly aware of what was going on around me. I didn't have the energy for any more traveling. I didn't want to hang out in new cities, I didn't want to talk to anyone for any reason. I just wanted to get back to the U.S., I wanted to get back to the Midwest, to where things were familiar.

I got to Moncton around 4 and went over to the bus station to find out the bus schedule. The buses in the direction I wanted to go leave twice a day. One had already left earlier on in the day, and the second was to leave in an hour. Without really thinking about it, I bought a ticket on the later bus. Once on the bus, I kept extending my destinations. Originally I was going to get off in Fredericton, which was half way across New Brunswick. However, I decided while we were riding, that the landscape was pretty hilly and I was tired. I would take the bus all the way across New Brunswick to Edmonston. I would get off the bus there, ride a nice 80 mile bike trail I had heard of across Quebec, where I would get the train to either Montreal or Toronto. By taking the late bus, I wouldn't get to Edmonston until 11:30 at night. I had no where to stay, my bike was partially disassembled in a box and I was alone. The closer we got to Edmonston, the more I realized this wasn't a good idea. I found out the bus I was on went all the way to Montreal. When we got to Edomonston, I went in the bus station and bought a ticket to Montreal and got back on the bus. I arrived at Montreal at 6 a.m. the next morning. I was having so much fun on the bus, I figured, what the hell and bought a ticket to Toronto. So 36 hours after leaving Prince Edward Island, and $165.00 later, I had skipped ahead 850 miles or so.

I arrived in Toronto around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and immediately started biking. For the next two and a half days, I biked as hard and as fast as I could to get back to Michigan. I had horrible head winds which made every peddle stroke agonizingly hard. The wind was helping me to feel more and more satisfied in my decision to take the bus. I was wondering why I didn't just take it all the way.

My last days, I was riding like a madwoman to get home. The day after I left Toronto, I biked 80 miles into 20 mph head winds. I was averaging 8 mph. I usually go around 12mph. It took me 12 hours with a couple of breaks included to achieve this. My last riding day in Canada wins the record for the most miles ridden on this trip. I left Stratford at 6:30 a.m. My goal for the day was Sarnia, which is on the Canadian side of the border, Port Huron, MI being on the US side. Despite another headwind, my aching butt (my boils were back in effect and stinging like no body's business) and a total lack of food (I ran out of food and paper money. None of the stores and gas stations I went to accepted credit cards and the atm's wouldn't accept my American card. I was reduced to drinking some whiskey I had with my as my only source of sustenance for 40 miles.) I arrived at Sarnia around 4. I had already ridden 90 miles that day, but I couldn't stop when I was so close to being back in the USA.

I crossed the bridge, with the help of the bridge authority and made my way back into Michigan. I was going to find a place to camp and then ride the 30 miles north along Lake Huron to my Grandmothers cottage the next morning. When I started to ride north, I realized, the wind had shifted and was not coming from the south giving me a nice tail wind. I had so much adrenaline pumping in my veins, I decided, what was another 30 miles. So I didn't stop and camp, but rode north, ending the day at my Grandma's cottage. From Stratford to Port Sanillac, I rode 128 miles in one day, loaded with head winds. I was really tired.

I rested there for two days and then yesterday I hitched a ride back to Port Huron, where I finished my trip by riding 70 miles to my parents house in Flint.

So, 9216 miles of actual riding and this trip is over for me. I have completed the line. When Ira and I left Chicago, we rode to my parents house. So by riding back here, I have closed that gap. I rode a little over 600 miles on my own.

I was feeling a little bad about cheating and taking the bus, feeling like I wasn't being tough enough to stick with it. I know I will never look back and regret taking the bus though. I was so exhausted, I just wanted to get home. I wanted the experience of traveling alone, but at the same time I wasn't making the best decisions. When complaining of fatigue in emails, all my friends kept encouraging me to just come home. I knew emotionally, the trip was over for me. The last week was incredibly hard, and the trials and tribulations where more then I have described above.

I am glad to be done, and I am ready to move on. I am looking forward to reestablishing my life in Chicago, and having a home which doesn't move around. I am looking forward to waking up in the same place everyday and not having pack up all my belongings every day. Thank you all for coming along this journey with me, and please stay tuned. I have pictures to post that I never got a chance to do of this past week as well as previous days. Plus, I may be done traveling, but the trip isn't really over yet. All of the post trip details have yet to be ironed out. So if anyone knows of any good 2 bedrooms in Humboldt Park or any good paying interesting jobs, let me know. When I get things set up, I'll be keeping you posted.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Charlottetown, PEI

I spent the day roaming around the city.

First I went to the Farmers makert. It is more of a multi-cultural food fair then a real farmers market, since I only saw two or three vegitable stands.

The man in the kilt bbq'd up an awesome sundried tomato sausage which I ate with onions and saurkraut. YUM!

In case you are wondering about the kilt... The maritime provinces all have a huge Scottish population. The accent here actually has a bit of a celtic ring to it, It sounds like a mix of a Canadian accent and an irish accent. Everyone's name here starts with Mac.

Then I rode across town to ride through Vicoria Park, and all the beautiful old houses surrounding it.

Here is a better view of the lighthouse.

Then I went downtown.

And I went to the...

People here on the island love Anne of Green Gables a lot, which is good because so do I. Aren't these little girls cute!!!

They love Anne so much, most of the farm houses are painted white with green trim.

When I was done at the Anne Store, I went over the the Bluesfest going on in the street. I watched this awesome band- The Saddle River String Band. They play classic blues tunes with a bluegrass style. The frontman was even play the kazoo. It was really a lot of fun!!

Then it was icecream time. Cow's ice cream has been voted to be Canada's number one ice cream, and it was goooood! I had gooey mooey. Vanilla with caramel and chocolate caramel cups. Here is my host Savanah (on the right) with Stephanie. They are both totally enjoying their selections.

Then it was off home, to play with the kittens!

Because I can't resist...These guys above look big at 11 weeks compared to how small they were when Todd and Savanah found them in the ditch at two weeks. UHHHH!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Taking care of business.

I obtained a bike box yesterday in preparation for my flight to Chicago. This is one of those straight forward statements describing a task anything but straight forward. I'm staying in Dartmouth, Halifax's twin city across the river.

Travel between the cities includes the Angus L. McDonald Bridge, a mile long suspension structure over 150 feet high. The idea of crossing it on a windy day with a billboard sized box attached to my bicycle was nothing short of terrifying. Unfortunately, the closest bike shop in Dartmouth was too far away, so across the McDonald it was. I've learned to call ahead before making long bike trips in foreign cities, and the shop said no problem, I could stop by and pick up a box. Upon arrival, all of the boxes were too small, so I rerouted to the train station and got a huge one for six bucks. Perfect, except that was the moment the rain began. Maritime weather is fickle and unconcerned with anyone's plans to move large pieces of cardboard across town. One hand was on my handlebars, the other held tenuously to my cardboard sail. The first gust of wind almost laid me in the middle of the street. The rain was light but persistant so I pedaled toward the bridge before my cargo could turn to six-dollar mush. How I actually made the crossing, I'm not sure. I stopped a couple of times when gusts threw me into a swerve on the wet steel platform. I survived the gale without injury and only minor spattering on the box. It's the size of a Chicago bedroom, so I put my bike and so much gear in there that I'll only have one other bag to check. Everything's been double and triple checked.

All I could think of yesterday was how miserable Andrea must be in the rain. I'm having some major survivor's guilt! It's good to see that some nice people helped her out, but I still feel a little bad for being dry.

First Night On the Road

After I left the town I posted my last blog entry, it started to rain. It was a light drizzle so I thought I could ride it out. However, it kept coming and coming, getting more and more heavy every minute. I eventually ended up totally soaked. I decided I couldn't go any further and had to find a place to stay for the night. I finally found a nice house off the side of the road with the lights on in the windows. I decided this looked like a good place to start.

When I knocked on the door, I think I was looking particularly pathetic, dripping water all over the porch. Ross answered the door and as I explained my situation, he initially looked at me in a confused sort of way, wondering who I was and where I came from. He finally replied that yes, I could camp in yard if I wanted to do that.

The MacCallum Family: Pam, Mary, her son Dawson, and Ross.

He invited me in, and his wife, Pam offered to cook me up some dinner, even though they and their daughter and grandson had already eaten. I thanked them profusely just for letting me come in let alone the food. They served me up a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, and Rhubarb pie to boot! Fresh rhubarb from the patch, you can't get any better. Except when you drink it with Chocolate milk!

I had a very wet night outside, but I got through it all right. They let me come in this morning to shower, and gave me breakfast with chocolate milk! So even though the weather was total crap, I had a very good evening.

Its been raining on me all day unfortunatly and everything I own is wet, but I have a house lined up to stay at tonight on Prince Edward Island, so I'll be ok.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

All by myself

I am half way through my first day on the road alone. It doesn't feel too different. I usually ride in front of Ira, so I couldn't ever see him before. We would rarely talk while riding. It has been nice being able to ride at my own pace. I notice, today I have not stopped as much as we usually would. I eat far less then Ira so I don't need to stop all the time to munch. I got my full days riding done by 1:30. I am hanging out at the Library because it is a little drizzly outside. I plan on riding twenty miles or so more tonight. I know its going to be weird not having Ira around, and I'll miss my partner in crime. Right now though, it feels pretty good to be independant.

I should be on Prince Edward Island by tomorrow! I'll keep you posted.

Ruminations on a dreary maritime day.

We've spent a few days in Halifax, although the reality of things hasn't sunk in yet. This is the end of the line for me. We've been living out of panniers for ten months out of the last year, shopping at a different grocery store every day, driven forward by the promise of something new. That has been my source of comfort and inspiration for a long time now, my reliance on something just over the horizon. Every day on the road has it's low points, be it rain, bugs, or exhaustion. At these stressful ravines I shut everything out by dreaming of a domestic life in the city. In a few days my realities will switch, I'll return to comfort and have life on the road to dream about. I may have learned enough from the hardships of travel to make me content with a commonplace existence, but for now it's speculation. I don't envy Andrea's ride home- I'm sick of touring and the thought of senic roadsides makes me nausous. It's clear that we need some time appart, if we ever hope to have a day without bickering. These last few weeks have been hard. Andrea left on her bike this morning, and I'm getting on a plane this Saturday. How's that for a reality check? The tour is over, but far from digested, feeling like a stomach full of the best and worst foods I can imagine, all mixed together, waiting to be broken into components to fuel the rest of my life.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Not too crazy excited.

Although I have made the decision to ride home from Halifax, I would describe my present attitude about the rest of the trip as just "lets get this stupid thing over with". When I've talked to my sister and different friends, everyone asks me, "why don't you just come home?" I guess the answer is because I feel like I have to do this part of the ride myself; alone. I need to prove to myself I can do it. If I don't take this opportunity now, I feel like I will regret it forever. Plus, I have to go to Prince Edward Island. It has always been a dream for me to go there.

But I really don't want to ride too much anymore. So this is my plan. I will leave Halifax and ride the 150 kilometers to P.E.I. and spend three days or so on the Island. Then I will come back via the bridge to New Brunswick, where I will ride North West into Quebec. This should take me 5 days. Then in Riviere-Du-Loup, I will get on the train (yes you heard me...the train) to Toronto. This will cut off 5 days or so of riding and then I won't have to speak to the French Fries as much. (Does that make me sound like an arrogant and ignorant Amurican? Sorry, I've been on the road for a god damn year and I want to be somewhere familiar. I don't have the energy or desire to experience any cultures anymore. I don't want to be akwardly bumbling along with each person I meet on the road with "Bounjour. Parle vu Englaise? or however the hell its spelled).

Ok, so off the train at Toronto. And then I will ride across through Sarnia to my parents house in Flint. That will be the end of my ride. From there I will take the train or be driven to Chicago. I think I've reached a happy medium. I will be biking enough to prove myself I can do it, but be zooming across the land quickly enough to not be on the road for too much longer.

I just want to get home. So hopefully soon, I will be there having drinks with all you midwestern folk. Save some room for me, I's a commin.

Ok, With My Last Post Said and Done...

I am not done riding yet. I didn't post this information yet because I have family members who read this blog and I didn't want to worry them until it was too late. I know Halifax was to be our end goal, but I have decided I am not quite ready to pack it up and go back to Chicago. When Ira began talking about how ready he was to go home and proposed a shortcut to get to Halifax by skipping Prnce Edward Island, I realized how done Ira felt about this trip. I really wanted to go to P.E.I and I didn't want to give it up, however, I knew Ira wanted to be done. It opend up a new idea in my head. So we took the shortcut to Halifax. Ira's plan remains to fly out of Halifax for Chicago on July 7. However, tomorrow, July 5th, I will start my ride back to the Midwest alone.

Why am I doing this? Will I be safe alone on the road? Am I totally crazy?

There are many different reasons why I need to do this. I felt as though flying out of Halifax would not be true closure for me. I don't have to be back at any particular time for a job (unlike Ira, who needs to be back by mid-late July to get his job back). I've proven to myself I was capable of doing this in a team effort environment with Ira, but I feel it is important for me to have this experience on my own; to prove I am capable of handling the road alone.

Every time I write the word alone, I can feel certain relatives and friends shiver. I know I will be causeing extra worry to my friends and family by doing this. However, I have to live my life on my own terms. I feel like I need to do this. I know I will have to do things differently then when Ira and I were together. I will need to have my street smart head on all the time. I feel confident, after living in Chicago for almost 10 years, and constantly navigating the city alone, I can handle this. I just need to be smart and keep my eyes open. One thing I realized over the past year on the road is that 98% of the people you meet are good people. Sure there are always that 2% you need to be wary of, but you would need to be wary of them anywhere. I am a firm believer that if something bad is going to happen to you, it will happen no matter where you are. Sure I can hear some of you saying, "yes maybe but your risks rise dramatically of getting hit by a car if you walk out into the middle of the road, then if you just stay on the sidewalk." While this is also a good point, I can not let it deter me from my decisions.

Ira and I are not breaking up. My wanting to do this has nothing to do with my not wanting to be with him, I just want to try this on my own. He knows this is something I feel strongly about. He knows this pretty well by now, as he has tried to argue me out of doing it and has lost each argument (lost it in my mind anyway). He is reconcilled and is supportive of me because he knows I can do it. Besides his initial worry about my safty is the worry that my family is going to be pissed at him for letting me do this. He is concerned people will think he is abbandoning me. I told him, I feel as though my family knows me pretty well and understands how headstrong I am. Once I make a decision, I go for it. So any of you who are reading this...don't get mad at Ira, ok?

I am a control freak thusly I like having complete control over my own life. I need to live on my own terms and not on others. This is something I feel strongly about. If something bad happens (which could have happened at any time before or during this trip) I'll accept the consequences of my actions, and I hope my loved ones understand this. Although I really don't like this song or Frank Sinatra all that much (or the guidos who sing this song every week at karaoke) I do want to look back on my life and know "I did it myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"

(God what a cheesy way to end that post. oh well)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The emphasis lately has been on the completion of the tour, but I'd like to touch
on how rad Halifax is. We haven't even dug into the insider scene, just hitting
pubs on the waterfront and crusing around on unloaded bikes.

I'm going to diverge and talk about that picture: Mussels! There's a half kilo inthat bowl, seasoned "Bangkok" style with curry coconut and ginger, courtesy of the Halifax Ale House. I've overlooked mussels for too long and the Canadian coast is a perfect place to rectify that. We've ordered them two times, and they've been some tasty little sea creatures.

I'll catch up on the picture-posting later.

There will be more about this town too in the next couple days, as hinted above. My wireless signal is crap right now so I gotta go...

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Halifax. The word is so loaded. We've been traveling North America for the last year. Inundated with the same questions over and over. "Where are you heading" is always the first of second question asked. Halifax, Nova Scotia, the answer. When we left on the first half of the trip, I was uncertain of my own capabilities of crossing the mountains to get to the west coast, let alone getting to the east coast as well. Halifax became this word I repeated so many times, it lost its meaning as a city and came to embody the hopes and dreams I had of the completion of my goal; the ultimate proof to myself and everyone else that I was capable of achieving the lofty ambitions I had set upon myself.

We pulled into Halifax yesterday June 30, 2007 at 3:30 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time.

Our last night before arriving, we were camped in Hubbards, Nova Scotia a shy 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Knowing this was our last week of riding together on this trip, we've been riding Nova Scotia really slow, doing only about 40-50 miles a day. We got to Hubbards and found a cute park right on the bay to set up our tent for the night. I sat on a park bench watching the rapids of the small creek pouring and spurting forward, fighting its way into the ocean. There is something so meditative of the sight and sound of moving water. As I sat there, I became very contemplative of our trip. I thought of the day ahead, the short ride to our end goal; to Halifax. I thought of our past 300 odd days on the road. We've traveled over 8,000 miles through 30 U.S. States and 2 Canadian Provinces. (8,000 miles is approx 12,000 Kilometers-I have enjoyed doing this conversion here in Canada because being five digits sounds so much more impressive then just four.)

As I sat, I perused select memories of our trip, different days, different places; plucking each one from the streaming mass as I might lean down and scoop a glass of water from the gurgling streamlet. Memories surged through me, like the beautiful sunsets in the Badlands, or a sunrise over the Missouri River; our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and flying in a plane over coastal Maine. I began grouping memories, thinking about keystone events and places. I thought about how we have been on every edge of the United states, North, South, East and West. We have ridden over the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. We've visited places steeped in American History like the Alamo, Mount Rushmore and Mount Vernon. We've seen the immense natural grandeur of our country, visiting every national park, landmark and shoreline along the way, including Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Redwood forests. We crossed our countries two mountain ranges, the Rockies and the Appalachians. In the Rockies we crossed the Great Divide three times. I swam on every border of the U.S; Lake Superior in the North, the Pacific on the west, the Gulf Coast to the south and the Atlantic to the east. We camped on beautiful pristine beaches in the Outer Banks; we camped in the dark pine forests of Northern Maine, and in between two 20 ft towering hay stacks in Montana. We've seen battlegrounds from the Spanish American War, the Civil War, the Revolutionary war, the French and Indian war not to mention all the smaller squirmishes against the different Native American tribes through the west.

We've experienced the many different regions of our country from the Midwest to the west, the Pacific Northwest to the West Coast. We traveled through Texas which is a region of its own, through the bayous and panhandles of the gulf. We traveled through the Deep South and the Colonial South. We crossed through the Appalachians, "Down East", and New England. Each has its own distinct culture, accent and food. We've experienced the amazing kindness and generosity of randam acts of kindness throughout the country as complete strangers would invite us into their homes for a good meal and a warm bed. As people have opened their homes and their lives to us, we've celebrated with people as we happened upon different local festivals, like the Sweet Pea music festival in Boseman, Montana. We've also mourned with people as they've shared their experiences of devistaion like in the areas of Southern Louisiana so brutally damaged by Hurricane's Catrina and Rita.

As I sat categorizing all these places, these people and experiences, more and more memories flooded me, until there were so many, I could not single any one out in particular. They began to wash over me and I felt myself sinking deeply under the weight of all this mass.

When we started this trip, it was so difficult to wrap my mind around the huge goal we had set out to accomplish. In order to stay sane, we needed to segment the trip into a connection of many smaller goals. We left Chicago for my parents house in Flint MI. We left Flint for my hometown in the Upper Peninsula. From there we headed to Ira's Parents house in Wisconsin and then on to Minneapolis. This was our trip, a connect the dots of all our smaller goals.

Our final goal connected the dots of Bar Harbor Maine to Halifax. We left Bar Harbor on Monday, taking the ferry to Nova Scotia. We had spent the previous five days riding along the beautiful Atlantic coast, all the while fighting the fog, rainy drizzle and hoards of evil insects set of biting every inch of our body and sucking every drop of our blood. Sitting on the park bench that night, I had my invaluble bottle of Deepwoods Off at my side which still wasn't enough to keep the bugs off. Although the landscape is physically beautiful, Nova Scotia can be relentless. I can deal with bugs, having grown up in the U.P. We have the same bugs there as here, but I guess I have been away long enough where I have forgotten the true horror of literally being crawing with bugs. On previous nights, before I finally had to break down and get the bugspray, knats and noseeums (no-see-um, a very small bug which you can hardly see, hence the name which viciously bites like a mosquitto but leaves large welts like the black flies)swarmed around me, crawling everywhere including all over my face, even into my eyes.

I sat feeling totally exhausted and sick of being stuck outdoors at the whim of the elements. I was ready to get to Halifax. I needed to get back to a place where I could be safely inside. I hate the feeling of having nowhere to go to escape the elements. I guess we could go to a grocery store and wander around for a while, but that was the only optoin. The library in town was closed and the church across the street was locked. So I sat outside, occasionally respraying the deet all over me to keep the evil insects at bay.

Later that night, as I was lying in bed, I thought about the next day, wondering if I was going to feel an amazing sense of accomplishment. I knew I wouldn't. I was preparing myself for a very anticlimactic day. I remember feeling disappointment when we got to San Francisco last fall. We arrived, we were excited to get the city and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, but once we were in the city, I didn't really feel the sense of accomplishment. We took a couple of token pictures; ones I forced Ira to sit through. Then we just wanted to find our way to the place we were staying. Once we got there, we just wanted to shower and relax. The first half of trip was over; and that was that. I felt disaapointed I wasn't more excited about the accomplishment. The only thing I was excited about, was not having to ride my bike for a while and the constant access I had to a bathroom.

I was preparing myself for the same thing when we arrived in Halifax and I was not disappointed. We arrived, found our way to our host's house and immediatly set to getting clean and relaxing. Ira and I spoke breifly about how great it was and that was that.

I don't realy feel disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm for being at our end goal. Don't get me wrong, we are both really glad. But Halifax, no matter how great and wonderful, is just another city. To reach the goal is wonderful but looking back reaching our goal was never really our goal. The experience of reaching the goal was the true focal point. Cheesy but true: "The Journey is the Destination".

So we are in Halifax, inside a house. I took a bath this morning and I might take another tonight. I know in the future, I may miss this lifestyle we've been living, but right now, I am ready to go back to a regular life. We experienced so much in the past year, had such an amazing journey. I can spend a lot of time now rexperiencing it again through my memories, our blog and all our pictures. It will take a while for the real accomplishment to sink in, and all the ways it will effect my life. Its ok, I don't feel the immediate rush of satisfaction of a job well done. Right now, I am just glad to be away from the bugs. So Ira and I are going to sit around and relax and enjoy hanging out in the city it took us 8,000 miles to reach.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


We're camped in a town, down by this river that has a huge military ship floating in it. The ship is gray in the moonlight, menacing, and out of place in such a quaint little town. Suprisingly I'm getting an unlocked wireless signal right in our tent, so i'm lying here in my sleeping bag posting on the n800. Last night we camped in the wonderfuly remote Thomas Raddall Provincial Park. We had a little moonlit cove all to ourselves, until the mosquitoes came out and murdered us. The trade-off for Nova Scotia being so idyllic is that the bugs are savage at dusk, sending us on a four-alarm scramble into the tent. Not so relaxing after a day of riding. Our actual site last night was an exception, miraculously, so we had a campfire and looked at the full moon. The coyotes spent all night cackling in the woods, but nothing visited our tent.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Ancient Mariners

Most people on the Nova Scotia coast make their living as fisherman; lobster mostly.
The sea plays a huge role in the lives of the people here and they are very proud of their maritime heritage. Here is a memorial we passed yesterday

We've been touring a lot of lighthouses as we go along the coast.

This is the Seal Island Lighthouse.

You can climb to the top and see the lens. This lens took 1000 watt bulbs and could be seen for 18 miles.

A whale skeleton was laid out for display in this driveway.

We've been visiting museums which display many of the antique methods of fishing. In the front you can see an unopened can of lobster from the 1890's. Yum!

Whaling used to be a huge business in this area. On display at the museum we visited today was an antique whale harpoon gun.

And last but not least, mutant lobster claws!

Barrington, NS

I can't think of a more Canadian food than poutine, so we ordered some for lunch. Though not on the menu, I overheared the waitress talking about lobster poutine! I regret not ordering it. All that people seem to do around here is fish for lobster. Villages will often be nothing more than some houses near a fishery. Maybe a shop selling industrial marine supplies, but not even groceries or a gas station.

It makes me sad to think about how impoverished the area is, and how dangerous a fisherman's life must be. There are monuments in every town to those who went out to sea and never came back. Every fisherman's yard is heaped with lobster traps, bouys, and giant coils of rope, making it easy to see how many rely on the trade.

Tonight we are camped by a huge old lighthouse. The coastal Highway 3 is marked as "The Lighthouse Route", and we've been making a point to visit as many of them as possible. They are short, wide, and octagonal on this part of the coast.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

East of Yarmouth, NS

We're camping on a ridge overlooking an inlet. The sunset glow on the water is beautiful. There are a billion mosquitoes outside the tent, a humming cloud fixed on carrying us away. We cooked in the tent and killed any that entered. Nova Scotians are the most outgoing people we've met on tour. They shout greetings from across yards or fields, welcoming us to the province and wishing us good luck. I have high hopes for this week. We have five days to ride around 250 miles, so the focus will be on taking in the scenery. The swarm outside is bloodthirsty. If the mosquitoes had scissors, we'd be fucked!

I took this picture the morning after I wrote this post. The mosquitoes were almost as bad!

Monday, June 25, 2007

CAT to Nova Scotia!

We just rode a huge catamaran ferry from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth, so the Canadian portion of our trip has officially begun.

I came to the woods because I wanted to swim deliberatly

I just wanted to back track a moment...

Since we didn't plan our route too carefully through Massachusettes, we weren't sure what to expect. We knew we didn;'t want to ride through Boston, so we rode straight north from Providence, which put us to the west of the urban sprawl. I was really happily surprised at how beautiful and pastoral the woods are in the area. I got really excited when we past a sign which read, "Welcome to Thoreau's Walden Pond".

It was a beautiful warm day, so we stopped for a swim. I've heard rumors that the pond was very polluted, but I could find no trace of it while we were there. The woods are all in tact around the water. The roads which lead out around it to the site of Thoreau's cabin are inaccessible by car and bicycle, so you can only get there by walking.

On the whole we found the experience to be most transcendental. Here is a pic where I am transcending gravity and my poor gymnastic skills to do a perfect hand stand.

Ira overcomes his fears in the wild blue yonder.

Flying with Brent was my first time in a small prop plane. Sitting in the cockpit was like being in a small, older car, dangling thousands of feet off of the ground.

Brent, our host on Mt. Desert Island, is an avid aviator and offered to take us flying our second day in town.

I couldn't pass up the experience so I stifled my fear of heights and climbed in. My knees almost touched the controls, but the veiw was amazing. I thought about hippy mafia drug-runners flying across Mexico, or Alaskan bush pilots hopping between glacial lakes.

We looped along the coastline and over the ocean, the plane swaying as we moved from one airmass to another. Brent pointed out the odd shape of towns on the island, the way they fork out organicly in the crotch of natural harbors, instead of following roads or railroad tracks like anywhere inland.

(not a great example of what I was describing above, but isn't this river cool?)

By this time I was feeling at ease and looking down at the old mansions in the woods, and the blunt-nosed lobster boats with their constellations of bouys. We looped back into the wind and the plane slowed down, working hard to pull us back to the airstrip.

Fancy little shack, eh?

I was hanging onto my seat the whole time, palms sweating, but knowing I'd made the right choice to go up. Brent is president of his flying club, and a masterful pilot, so I felt bad about my obvious signs of fear. I didn't want to make him feel bad about the trip, which was an awesome experience.

One of the highlights was listening to the pilots talk to ground control. Every transmission was ended with "Bah Habah", as locals refer to the town in their thick Maine accent. Andrea and I agree that our first time flying in a small plane was a total success, and I think I could be persuaded to try it again. Andrea wasn't the slightest bit nervous the entire time, and was ecstatic to be in the air. She can't believe that I get so worked up over heights.

Check out the flickr set of our aerial tour.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Acadia National Park

We are currently staying on Mount Desert Island home of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

The island in incredibly beautiful with tons of trails through the mountains and miles of beautiful rocky shoreline.

We've been so busy while we've been here added with having only access to dial-up, we haven't been able to post as much about everything. I just wanted to quickly touch on things so you all won't think we've died.

We've been hiking, biking, swimming and flying all over the place. When I say flying I mean literally flying. Brent, our host here on the island has a pilot's license and we were lucky enough to talk him into taking us flying in his club's four seater plane the other day. We've never flown in such a small plane before and to have a personal tour of coastal Maine was really amazing!

Sunset on Pretty Pond, near the cabin we are staying at.

Sunset on Bar Harbor.

I don't have time to post all the pics, so click here to view our set on flickr.