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.


the bookfinder said...

Congratulations on achieving your goal! Now time to get that dog sled team assembled...

brent said...

good work Ira and Anrea. i think about some of the adventures you guys told me, im stealing your memories, har har. and theres nothing you can do about it.

LaFemmeAnkita said...

wow... you guys officially have the lafemme *stamp of awesomeness*

andrea, you basically had it already with the karaoke prowess, and the mint juleps & scones w/ strawberries, but being a real live adventurer put you over the edge.

Anonymous said...

You guys are like Memory Millionaires. You have a ton of awesome/gnarly experiences to reflect on. No one can ever take this from you. You get to treasure this forever.

Molly Crist said...

I ran into Nate today for the first time in years and I heard about your amazing journey. I'm so proud and jealous of you both! This is amazing and such an fantastic way to live life. Your writing is beautiful. I would have completely expected something like this out of you though Andrea. You're such a passionate person who always knew about the important things in life. I just did a 180 mile bike ride to raise money for a charity and I thought that was good! Obviously you are busy but if you get the time, I'd love to catch up!
Molly Crist