Monday, April 23, 2007

The Midwest update

Just a few notes to bring you up to speed:

Andrea's sister is getting married this weekend in Michigan, so we flew back for the wedding. The bikes are hanging out in Raleigh, NC untill we get back.

We had a great time in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Our new friends Sarah and Lincoln hosted us and gave us a place to dry out all of our sopping wet gear. I had a chance to lay everything on the floor and take inventory. Some heavy tools went home, and my leaky sleeping mat is being warrenteed. Andrea spent a lot of time with their cute dog Annie.

The wedding is this weekend so check here for some pictures of us dressed to the nines.

In the meantime I'll be soaking up the summer. See you next week.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our horrible night and crappy morning

Last night, we couldn't find anywhere to camp. We were outside of High Point North Carolina in a rural/wooded section of back roads. It was getting dark and looking stormy. We asked a man on a very large tractor/lawn mower if he knew of anywhere in the area to camp and he directed us down to the "new lake" which was just the damned up river. We got down there and found a spot on a rough road going back into the woods. It started to rain just as we arrived, so we quickly rushed to set up the tent and cover the bikes. It had been a hard riding day. I strained my left knee riding in the mountains and it's been pretty hard riding on it for the past couple of days so I was short of temper. We didn't have time to set up the tent before jumping int, so stuff was all over. Ira was wet and we were both just frustrated with everything. We finally got stuff things situated, cooked on our stomaches, elbows and knees everywhere. With dinner ate, we had nothing else to do but off to bed. The rain was on and off until about 1 am when it started to pour buckets for 6 hours straight. My god it rains down here. Although we were on high ground, the earth was mushy and our tent was sinking in the ground due to the weight of us laying in it Somewhere in the middle of the night, we realized the whole floor of our tent was wet, with standing water in places. My shoes and rain coat where both soaked through. I only got three hours of sleep. I laid there all night allowing everything negative in my life to expand to 10 times their importance. I kept thinking about all bad things I've done to others, things others have done to me. I imagined all the people who didn't like me or currently hold grudges against me being realy happy at how absolutely miserable I was. Well, in the morning it got worse. I put on all my wet clothes, wet socks and wet shoes and got up to face the day. As we were getting on the road, I realized my front tire was flat.

We stood in the rain as we tried to repair it. We realized we had no new tubes, only four old ones we couldn't patch, (why don't we throw them away you ask...i don't know) Finally Ira was able to patch one and put my tire back on. We were both wet through, with wet rain gear on. I had to ride 7 1/2 hours today with wet feet. The rest of my can be wet but as long as my feet are dry, I'm ok. Today wasn't ok. I am so glad it is over. We're in Chapel Hill in a nice dry warm apartment and I am totally happy again.

Cherokee Chotchke

While we were staying in the motel over Easter weekend due to the cold, we spent our time in Cherokee shopping at all of the bargain souvenier shops. They all wanted to let us know just how far they could take the discounts. This is the kind of shoping I like to do, because everything is cheap, ridiculous and completely unnecessary.

The irredescent lines shimmer as they spiral around the figures of Jesus and fellow apostles and below an idylic waterfall scene with zebras. Only $16.99

Who doesn't want a wooden keepsake box with hotrod, chopper or beautiful mysterious native moon women images? only $7.99

I bought these amazing bear earings for only $1.00. I win!

They've got everything; hats, giant underpants. What more could you want?

The tension down here between the wolf population and african americans is realy hard to deal with. Only 15.99!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Blue Ridge Parkway

We rode the Blue Ridge parkway out of Asheville. It was beautiful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here's some long-overdue backtracking. First: Ryan Wilson.

Ryan put the fun in Northern Georgia, by proxy.

He's one of our newer friends in Chicago and he really came through with the connections. We don't know most of our hosts before we arrive in their city; friend-of-a-friend is the standard degree of seperation. Ryan knows outstanding people in both Atlanta and Athens, and now we do too.

We stayed with Sayrah and her roomates in Athens, and she and Lauren showed us around town. Above, lunch @ Big City Bakery.

We had so much fun.

We visited Ryan's parents' place the next day. It reminded me of growing up in Northern Wisconsin- paradise.

Second order of business: Tallulah Falls.

We rolled into town and were greeted by a pair of brothers in the process of opening a resturant.

We asked for a place to camp and they fed us some gourmet digs, on the house. Check out the Tallulah Gorge Grill if you're in town.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Great Smokey Mountain National Experience

Well, we're in Appalacia. Being in the mountains again is better then I thought it would be. I've been feeling much stronger as a cyclist and the steep climbs aren't giving me too much trouble. I am not sure if any of you might remember me writting about climbing the mountain passes in the west. I found them to be very challenging. It seems to be so much a mental thing. I now know I can take the hills, that alhtough it may be hard, I can do it. With this knowledge comes the self confidence to get through them in a steady and dignified way. No more hissy fits on the side of the road, which is nice for both myself and Ira.

I was shocked by how easy I could climg the hills.

We got into the Smokey Mountain National Park last Thursday right as the temperatures were starting to drop. We hiked 8 miles on Friday along a babbling creek and enjoyed the wildflowers along the way.

It was starting to get pretty cold and each day we tried to stay active to keep warm but the temps kept droping. On Saturday, we decided to ride up to Newfound Gap (they call passes gaps out here) to the Tennessee and North Carolina Border where you can pick up the Appalacian Trail. We rode the 15 mile climb (rises about 3000 ft.) up to the gap in good time and good spirits. We are becoming such good mountain climbers!

Not only can I climb a mountain competently now, but I can take a picture of myself climbing it and be smiling, sort of.

Upon getting to the gap, we locked the bikes up and got ready to climb the Appalcian trail. I've always been interested in hiking the whole trail, being a "through" hiker", so I was exicited to hike part of the trail at least. 6 miles down, 2169 to go!

Saturday was about 50 degrees. We kept warm riding up to the Gap, but we realized we were gonna freeze our butts off coming down so I brought all my rain gear in an attmept to make myself as windproof as possible. It was a pretty amazing descent in that we were going approx. 45 mph and it was snowing. So here I come blasting down the road, with all my rain gear on, a bandana on my head covering my ears and a bandana over my face. I couldn't wear my sunglasses because they kept fogging up, so I had to be constantly blinking to keep the snow from piercing my eyes. When we ride down a pass, since we are going so fast, I get in the center of the lane to keep cars from cutting me off. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, my adrenaline was pumping like mad. It was one of the most insane descents we had, just because of the weather conditions as well as the road being much steeper in areas then the roads out west.

Saturday night it started to get really cold. So we tucked into our tent as soon as dinner was over to get out of the wind chill and into our sleeping bags. Our bags are rated down to 20 degrees and it been about that the past couple of nights. I had been sleeping burrowed down in my bag with the cord around the opening pulled so tight it was only the size of my fist. Ira woke up around 3 and got up to go use the bathroom. He woke me up spouting explatives and I asked him what was going on, he told me there was a couple inches of snow on the ground.

The next morning, we were so cold, we decided to head into town and get a motel room (our third one for the whole trip). We found out it had gotten down to 14 degrees the night before. Man, we were cold!

So we hunkered down in the motel. We spent Easter laying in bed watch TV.

We said when we got to Austin, we had left the snow behind for the year, but I guess this was not to be so. Snow is really cold, but it can be very pretty.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Under the icy fist of Cherokee, NC

Eighteen degrees at night? I thought we were in the South!? I've got a lot of awesome posting to do about Athens, GA, Ryan Wilson(our latest super hero), the Smokies, and how we've become super-fast riders, but I only have fourteen minutes left on this computer. Andrea took a billion great pictures in the park so look out for that too.

I hope you have warmer gloves on than I do!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Andrea sums it up

Nicely. If you dig her posting here, read her myspace blog too.

Suprise: Atlanta.

We never really plan our routes too far in advance. Up until we rode inland in Mississippi, we were still unsure if we were going to ride the coast or go appalacian. I was torn both ways, but Ira was the determining factor voting to hit the smokey national park. As Atlanta was on the way, we decided to stop by. I don't know what I thought Atlanta was going to be like, but I wasn't really that interested in the city. I was totally amazed being there. The city is beautiful. Greenery everywhere. The south is amazing right now, its all in bloom. The flowering trees are amazing. The roads we've been riding in Alabama are covered with curtains of blooming whisteria vines. The apple and dogwood trees are all exploding as well as the hydrangias.

Not only is the city beautiful but we were lucky enough to fall in with some really fun awesome kids here who knew the best spots to hang out and were in on all the fun parties. We spent the day riding around getting a feel for the texture of Atlanta. Besides all the neighborhoods of nice houses with beautiful gardens, we saw the industrial sections where the urban street art takes over.

As Ira said in his post, we went to the Faster Mustache party and it was Super Fun (it must be capitolized!). Jeremy put a post on the site telling everyone about our trip and a link to our blog. I felt like a rock star. I got free beer and I had a couple people come up to me and ask if I was the girl riding my bike around the country. I've never been randomly recognized in a strange city by unknown people before by my reputation alone so my ego was being stretched a bit. I danced my asspants off. It was great after roughing it on the road, camping off the side of the road dirty and tired, to be in an urban environment hanging out with the beautiful kids of atlanta dancing drinking and having fun.

We didn't bring our camera, so this pic came from a slideshow of the party from the faster mustache site.

We finally rolled into bed at 2:30 am. Our over inflated egos where totally deflated the next morning when we had to get up at 8 to get back on the road. Hung over and sleepy, we rode 70 miles to Athens. All in all, thank you Atlanta- you made everything fun!


Riding through Alabama was an intense experience. While I was surprised by the wild beauty of the woods and pastoral rolling hills of this beautiful land I felt heavy with the tension of race relations. I don't want to go too in depth of this yet I realize this is perhaps what people expect to hear about this state. The black and white relations down here have improved greatly over the last 40 years, but the time of peaceful coexistance hasn't come about with pleasure and smiles. The people seem to live down here in a state of social and conversational segregation of their own choosing. It is a strange and loaded experience to be at a small town gas station (perhaps the only functioning establishment besides the churches in town to meet and socialize) and see two white people and three black people all standing around talking amongst themselves yet completely ignoring the other group. The black people seemed on the whole slightly hesitant or uninterested in engaging us in conversation and conversed in a more formal way then they did when talking amongst themselves. The white people seemed to live in slight fear, and perhaps guilty disgust of the black community. We would occasionaly be given veiled hints and warnings to be careful in certain areas because of the "people who lived there" wink wink. The tension was felt by both of us and we both were releaved to cross the Georgia border where we knew we would be heading into a more urban and enlightened environment.

However, as I said above, Alabama is a beautiful state. Here are some quick pics to demonstrate, although they don't fully capture the open rolling beauty or the pure clean feel of the air as it slid past our skin.


Our first time in Atlanta overwhelmed expectations. The urban texture is diverse and interesting, from the old buildings to the young hip kids to the gritty side-streets and neighborhoods, and everyone took great care of us.

Atlanta has has gardens around every corner- it's the greenest big city i've ever seen. There are houses like this less than a block from dense, walkable neighborhoods. We stayed in Little Five Points area but got a chance to see a large part of the city by bike.

On Saturday we road bikes all over the city with Jeremy and Jessica. We had some good recommendations of things to check out and our hosts had the day off.

Faster Mustache is a non-competitive bike organization and we had a blast at their second birthday party at Lenny's. There was a manic tricycle race and we rocked out to Snowden. It made waking up early and riding to Athens into an adventure! I wish we could have spent more time dancing and partying but we had a schedule to keep.

As we sat out on our hosts' roof in the summery night air, having drinks and chatting with passers by, I felt glad to be back in an urban area and hanging out with people of our generation. Thinking back, the last week of Alabama back roads seemed like an epic journey full of trials, all leading up to this. I realized that I could spend much more time in Atlanta, but that I will never experience the city or the country in quite the juxtaposition that we have acheived on this trip.

Thanks Dan, Kim, Simon, Jeremy, Jessica, Owen, and everyone else who made our stay fun!

Our elevation is about 1000 feet- only 4000 more 'till the Smokies.