Welcome friends!

We'll keep you up to date on our crazy tandem adventures... in the hope that you'll help us reach our goal of a dollar raised per kilometer ridden. 100% of donations will go to either Oxfam or Kiva, your choice. (In the case of Kiva your "donation" is actually a loan so you'll get it back!)

Mid-May to mid-August 2010
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Bolinas, California

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Urban escapades

Since we started our last blog post 2 days ride north of New York, it feels like we've been riding through one big city. Yesterday was the first day back in the countryside, having left Philadelphia and headed straight inland. The entire population of Canada is less than the population of greater New York and Philadelphia. Continuing to follow the coast would have led us through more of the continuous city, into Baltimore, but we needed some fresh air and open roads! (Not that we won't get enough of that when we officially turn west in a few days!)

All that said, the day before we reached New York (following the Hudson River Valley) we did find a hidden oasis in a suburban town park! We stopped for a picnic supper as lacrosse and soccer players gathered for evening practices. There were some trails leading away from the playing fields that didn't seem well used, so we followed one into the woods and emerged at the top of a cliff just as the sun was setting behind the Catskill mountains beyond the river. Further along, we found that the trail switchbacked its way down the hill and came out at the base of a waterfall! Even better (for a hot and sticky pair of cyclists), people had built a rock dam to create a perfect swimming hole! After our dip we set up camp tucked away in the woods.

New York New York

Being typical tourists... the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was great fun, and we also enjoyed people-watching in Times Square, Central Park, and in the subway!

We really enjoyed Chinatown, especially this park where people of all ages were gathered to play (and watch) Chinese chess and other games, shell (and sell) nuts and socialize.

Our fantastic hosts, Jane's mum's cousin Ger and her husband Pete. Love and thanks!

The George Washington Bridge to New Jersey, an incredible piece of engineering. We didn't ride the bike around New York City, and riding across this bridge reminded us why. Even on bicycles New Yorkers keep up their reputation for always being in a hurry, even on their Saturday morning ride! That was nothing compared to the bridges we would soon find ourselves on (by mistake, having got off the recommended cycling route), which didn't have a separate space for pedestrians and cyclists. Let's just say it got a bit HAIRY!!! But we made it through alive, and were soon back on the route we were supposed to be on.

The above-mentioned route led us straight into the middle of a street fair! Jane was looking at some cheap sunglasses (having lost 2 pairs already so far) when a bunch of people started talking to Eric... this is normal, but in this case we ended up with something of a crowd gathered round, asking questions and taking pictures. In the end one woman, whose affection for the colour purple reminded us of Eric's mom Shirley, gave us each a big hug! All the stress of New Jersey highways fell right off us after that!

Lady Luck was definitely with us at that street fair, because a bit further along we saw a booth for the East Coast Greenway (a cycling route that connects stretches of trails (mostly rails-to-trails) from Maine to Florida, with the goal of one day developing a completely off road route the whole way). We'd seen signs for it at various spots along our route and wanted to check out the maps. Chatting with the fellow at the booth, we learned that he and his wife had cycled from Maine to Florida on a semi-recumbent tandem. She rides in front, pedalling with her arms (she uses a wheelchair) and he rides upright in the back. In the end they invited us to stay at their house, and the stories we heard that evening were nothing short of inspirational. The next morning we met their daughter's family too at an all-you-can-eat Father's Day fundraiser breakfast! Great (and late!!) start to the day!!

We switched onto the East Coast Greenway at that point, and it took us on some gorgeous trails in New Jersey. In Pennsylvania though, long stretches of trail are not yet completed and the alternate on-road routes were pretty busy with traffic. After Philadephia we headed inland back to the Adventure Cycling Association route.

Philadelphia's historic district was great fun! Eric slept under a tree while Jane wandered around Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell... and got drawn into a re-enactment of the War of Independence! She was "recruited" to the Continental Army to fight the Red Coats. Hip hip, HaZAH! After passing the tooth inspection (they had to have at least 2 teeth, 1 up and 1 down, to open the gunpowder packets), she learned how to march, attach a bayonnet to her musket, and CHARGE! alongside her fellow recruits (mostly children and their parents) towards the (terribly frightened) onlookers. ;-)

David was the first fellow cycling tourist we've talked to so far (we've seen others but only in passing), and the first Canadian we've talked to since Maine (where a group of young Quebecois girls were causing a rucous in a campground bathroom). A great chance to share experiences people who haven't done it simply don't understand!

We get a little bored sometimes... ;-)

Back to the countryside, straight into Amish country! We feel right at home among the buggies and bicycles.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pros and Cons of Self-supported Tandem Cycling Honeymoons in the United States

Phew! How come no one told us cycling to California would be HARD?!?! Haha. Honestly, we didn't have a clue what to expect. The past 4 weeks have flown by, and the learning curve has been as steep as some of the hills we've climbed. We thought we'd have time to read novels in the evenings! And write blog posts! You might think we haven't get very far yet - doesn't help that we didn't pick the most direct route - but most of the time lately we've felt that all we do is bike, eat, and sleep. Everything else is getting ready to do one of those 3 things.

We're having fun, but we think we might take it a bit easier from now on (maybe 70 kms/day) because getting 100 km behind us in a day sometimes makes us pretty cranky. That way, if we have to get on a train for the last leg of the journey (to make it to the wedding), at least we won't have been too exhausted to enjoy the terrain we did cycle through.

Today we're taking a much needed rest day at Hyde Park, where Franklin D. Roosevelt lived by the shores of the Hudson River. It is beautiful! Tomorrow we head south along the river straight to the Bronx. Route to be determined. ;-)

Pro #1: Getting to know each other even better.
We share many laughs over silly little things like Eric's fantastic tan lines.
Pro # 2: The opportunity to be spontaneous (and anonymous!).
We planned to go swimming in every state... we've officially managed it in New Hampshire and New York... Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut have poured enough rain on us that we are counting it as swimming on a bicycle.

Pro # 3: The scenery.



Con #1: Rain several days in a row. It soaks you through. And if you don't find dry places to stay you will be damp for days. Luckily we have found various dry places, such as an RV campground that let us take over the rec hall for the night, and some people who've graciously invited us to stay in their homes. Tonight we've splurged on a motel...
Let's just say that smile isn't always there when we're soaked to the bone...

Sudden thunderstorms hit Boston three times the day we explored it. Luckily we found shelter quickly but witnessed one woman get caught in it, drenched in seconds as the wall of water crashed down the street she was halfway across. No cars stopped and she was almost blown in front of one by a gust of wind. She clung to a pole until a gap in traffic allowed her to sprint across.

Pro # 4: The people we meet!!
Paul and his homemade quadruple bike! Rye, New Hampshire

Phil and Lindsay showing us the sights and delights of Boston, Mass. Also met Phil's great roommates and 2 other friends visiting - it was a full house. Felt a lot like the place Jane lived in on North St. Halifax... but with a decidedly bicycle-inspired atmosphere (see Pro #5)

Bernie (right), who introduced us to pesto and strawberries on pizza, and his parents who made sure we had everything we could possibly want, including a huge bag of homemade cookies to take with us. ;-) - Northborough, Mass.

Ron who found us by a roadside stand eating strawberries and worrying about where we would sleep, and invited us to stay in the apartment above his country decor and furniture store, where we watched the sunset over corn fields in a gorgeous Connecticut valley.

Con #2: Bike repairs... Eric has done several roadside fixes while Jane perfects her "hold the bike" skills. Nothing serious yet, though some unidentifiable noises led us to a little bike shop where bike mechanic Bob spent 2 1/2 hours fixing various squeaks and ticks... a very kind fellow who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the challenge in the end, despite having said at one point in the thick of a tricky repair, "You guys are making my life difficult!"

It's easy to forget that your hands are covered in grease when you go to wipe sweat off your face...

Pro #5: The ideas we're collecting for our future home. Bicycle chandeliers!!

Con #3: The mood swings.
Rain, bike repairs, the stress of not knowing where we'll sleep each night, the necessity to come to agreement on so many minor choices... in a good mood all these things are perfectly manageable. But fatigue, hunger, and inexplicable dips in mood (hormones? too little space and time to ourselves?) have led us to a good few little arguments. We're proud to say, however, that only one argument got bad enough that Jane jumped off the (slowly) moving bicycle and stormed away to cool off... ;-)

Anyone who has seen Eric in a bad mood can imagine his tone of voice when his hard boiled egg took twice as long to peel as mine did: "Some eggs peel, like, amazing. And some eggs peel like shit."

Roadside stands are much easier to stop at on a bicycle than on a car, and a great chance to boost the blood sugar!! This one was an honour system Italian cookies stand. ;-)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What is adventure, but a series of moments you would never have expected?

We have finally settled into something of a rhythm, pedaling 40 – 60 miles a day (oh yeah, and our minds have switched to miles – still working on Fahrenheit!) for 4 or 5 days, then taking a rest day… though our first “rest” day involved biking 20 miles to get to what we wanted to visit anyway, and then hiking up a mountain! We were pretty tired and tempted to spend our day in Acadia National Park chilling at the campground, but were so glad we didn’t. It was one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve ever done. We’ll have to go back there one day and recommend it to everyone.

Today we are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the public library. It’s amazing how a thunderstorm can start and stop again in a matter of minutes, and wreak so much havoc! It could drizzle all day and we’d be fine, but throw a thunderstorm into an otherwise dry day and we’re soaked to the bone.

It’s fascinating to think about the significance of each little decision. Who are we not meeting by working out our way on the map instead of asking directions? What parade are we not seeing by bypassing a town rather than going through it? To stay here, or at that other campground down the road? To have a picnic, or stop at that cafĂ© for soup? Often we don’t agree on the decision – and if one of us makes a wrong choice we *try* not to rub it in too much… ;-) One of those little decisions yesterday gave us a good reminder of what a small world it is and how we’re not too far from home yet. A very foggy afternoon, threatening rain, 10 miles from where we planned to go, and a recommendation to stay at a campground a half mile back the way we came: so back we went, found a gorgeous site, only 2 other groups in the whole campground – and we ended up sharing a campfire with a couple of guys visiting from north of Boston. Talk migrated from the Red Sox to where we’re from and what we (used to) do. Turns out one of the guys, Jeffrey, has extended family (mostly D’Eons) in Pubnico (a small Acadian fishing town near Yarmouth) and his uncle is Jean-Guy D’Entremont, our friend Alain’s dad!

Jane: For me, this trip didn’t seem real until after we left. I had thought about the fact that we would drive along some pretty roads, but the pleasure of riding through some of the quiet back roads lined with trees, the sun shining through the branches, the sounds of birds and the ever changing smells of the forest; a deer looking at us, not a bit startled because we’re so quiet… these are things I hadn’t taken the time to anticipate, and I am often in wonder.

So far our adventure has been packed with unexpected moments. One thing we’ve come to expect though, is people shouting at Eric, “She’s not pedaling!” ;-)