Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Day in the Life

So I'm sitting here on the side of the road waiting for Adam to backtrack five miles to try and find his Leatherman tool that we left at the last flat tire spot. It's a pretty spot by a fence with a grove of trees with Wisteria growing on them, a sight we see often here in Georgia.

We've been hauling lately. And we have been riding through some pretty awesome terrain. We made it to the gulf coast, rode over bridges, found some national parks to enjoy, and have been taking beautiful roads all throughout Georgia.

It's almost overwhelming having all these choices of roads now, but these farm roads of Georgia have been so nice. However, each of the last two weeks we biked around 450 miles and we kept forgetting to take a day off so I am glad for the little break.

In terms of events, the past few weeks have been fairly... well... uneventful. When looking for inspiration on what to blog about this week, we received a message from a friend who had just gotten his haircut which got him thinking about us. I guess that sounds pretty funny, but it's actually really logical. Most people take for granted the fact that when they want a haircut, they drive to the local hair dresser and get one. So while Eric was getting his haircut, he started thinking about what we do if we need a haircut. Do we schedule this in every six weeks? This question was the first of many that rattled off in his brain and eventually made their way to us through a Facebook message. I liked the idea for a blog! So here it is.

I guess we'll start with haircuts. As for me, I actually thought of this before I left CT and got it cut super short, knowing that by the end of the year, it'll be back to normal length. No need to burden myself with getting a haircut. But you ask anyone who knows us and you'll find that Adam is much more high maintenance than I am. We have had to stop to get Adam's hair cut once while in Little Rock. We were about to do a school presentation and had a free morning and a hair salon down the road so we took advantage. I think he even got a massage out of the whole deal... Hmmmmm.

Besides riding our bikes all day, we actually have seriously full schedules. Mornings are fairly routine and we get up around 7:00, get into our cycling gear, make some oatmeal, plug in a Track My Tour, then pack up the tent and bikes.

If we're motivated, we can do all of this in one and a half hours but honestly, it usually takes at least two. We try to ride for a good two hours before a break but we always find reasons to stop. A flat will set us back fifteen minutes. A seemingly quick water fill-up gets us off the bike for a good twenty minutes (we can't seem to go anywhere with people around without being drawn into conversation). Or one of my seven bathroom breaks of the day gives us a reason to stop. I try to avoid stopping too often because Adam has a knack for pushing every stop we take to the fullest extent. I don't know how many minutes I've spent waiting for him to clean his sunglasses on this trip. I think it's just a ploy to get that one extra minute of rest.

When we take breaks, whether it be lunch or just to get off the bike for a few minutes, we fill up our time on the iPhone. Most of the time we'll actually be working by answering an email, checking comments from our posts, posting a picture on Facebook, or planning our next presentation, but we've both been caught playing games. I just recently kicked my little brother's butt at Chess With Friends.

Seriously, though, we are constantly planning. First off, we need to plan our route. We met up with a couple from Amsterdam on the road one day and they had plugged into their GPS their entire route from Florida to California. Sometimes I think it would have been so nice if we had done the same thing but the truth of the matter is, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, we enjoy figuring it out as we go. We like to hear from the locals the best roads to take and leave some wiggle room for changing course if we have a presentation in a city off our path.

We have some amazing people willing to helping us to set up events, namely Julie Wartell from She's always on the lookout for a good pub or brewery in a place we're heading through that might be a good spot for a fundraising event. Whenever we get wi-fi, which we can get at lunch spots, some gas stations, or coffee shops if we're lucky, we try to look up bike shops and bike advocacy groups in cities we're heading towards to try for some help with an event. Sometimes we're lucky like in Tulsa when Mike Schooling got back to us and we ended up having an event at a bike shop, two T.V. Interviews, and a great place to crash for a few days. Other times, we never hear back from anyone and we just keep on keepin on. We've been really fortunate to have Megan, a student at Providence College, as our PR intern and she helps us get in contact with local media and other bike shops and groups to spread the word about an event we have set up.

Another thing we have to plan is our meals. Oddly enough, while I hated going grocery shopping at home, it is probably one of my favorite things to do on the trip. Maybe because it's something that reminds me of normalcy. We'll try for a bigger visit to the store once every three or four days and we'll stock up on peanut butter, oatmeal, dried cranberries, almonds, spinach, tuna fish packets, tortillas, pasta or rice, and gatorade powder. I actually had a woman comment to me on how healthy I was eating when she saw my grocery basket!

Whenever we go into a store, Adam stays outside with the bikes and I'll be the one to run in and grab what we need. I like figuring out what we eat and Adam likes the extra time to play on his iPhone so it works out well. He'll eat whatever I buy him, anyway. Sometimes we do things like splurge for a hamburger meal and we both have to go inside. Our rule is to never leave our bikes in a place where we can't see them. To us, it's more than just a bike, it's our entire life. We'll either lock them up in front of a window so we can see them from inside, or we'll ask someone in a restaurant or store if we can bring them in.

The biggest difference between how we grocery shop and how you grocery shop is in what we do with the food after we buy it. After our Wal-Mart grocery shopping the other day, we sat on a bench and one of the workers laughed at us separating all of the groceries into Zip-Lock bags for easier packing.

Besides our big grocery store stops, we are constantly hitting up the road side fruit stands like Joanne and Larry's here,

...or little convenience stores for refills on bread, those little mayo packets, ice cream, or anything, really, and if it's towards the end of the day, some sort of meat to cook up for dinner. Sometimes though, if we're really hungry, that darn fried chicken calls to us and we have to grab a little snack.

As for knowing where we'll be spending the night, it's always a toss up. Sometimes we know there's a great campsite 60 miles away and we shoot for that. Other times, there doesn't seem to be anything and when we ride into a town close to dark, we have to scramble around to find a park, church, or a nice person to invite us over. We usually try to avoid places with these signs, though.

When talking to other touring cyclists, they would mention camping off the side of the road somewhere, but Adam and I have found that we like camping in legal spots more than just setting up somewhere. We can more easily rest and not feel like every sound we hear is someone ready to steal our bikes or kick us out. If we're really stuck, we'll talk to a police officer and they usually can help us find a spot. Plus, just having them know we're there makes us a little more comfortable.

I remember after a long day of work how nice it felt to sit down to a nice glass of wine or a beer, but after our long day of riding, there's no beer waiting for us.

We have to do things like launry...

...and we have to work hard at training for Hawaii!!

...and making campfires for warmth.

...and this may sound funny but we have to take some time for a walk and stretch our legs.

... and our bikes need a little loving. Usually we spend about 20-30 minutes cleaning the chains and the chain ring, or lubing the chain if it needs it.

The other night it took me about an hour and 1/2 to clean it then try to get my gears to shift correctly. After that frustrating hour and 1/2, I gave up and instead, we brought it to Chain Reaction in Augusta the next day.

Jimmy was baffled with the shifting as well, until he pulled out the cable and found a kink in it- ah ha! A new chain and we were good to go! Bike shops stops are often a great source of stress relief as they help fix our bikes, like Truly Spokin in Milton, FL or give us suggestions for routes. Soon it'll be time for some major bike maintenance as we need some new tires and chains.

So even though these past few weeks haven't had much else going on other than riding our bikes, grocery shopping, planning events, covering over 900 miles, eating 4 bugs while biking, cleaning our bikes, and crossing four state boarders,

(check out the video here)

all that is about to change. My cousin, Theresa, in Charlotte has been working hard at getting an event going there and we'll be having a spin class fundraiser(Yup, that's right! We're spinning on our day off) as well as a meet & greet at Ri Ra Irish Pub. Sounds like it should be a fun time.

Adam has long since found his Leatherman and come back. Hopefully we don't forget anything like that again. Let us know if there's anything we've missed here that you still have questions about! Sorry it took so long to get a post up, but we promise to keep in better contact in the future! See?

In the meantime- have to give a shout out to some of our friends we've met along the way!

Here's us with Tom, after he spoiled us with a Cracker Barrel breakfast and a bunch of Gel packets!

Tyler, who drove by us somewhere in Georgia and recognized us from a post Tom wrote about us coming to Augusta, stopped and offered us dinner that night!

Eric, celebrating his one year anniversary of his restaurant, gave us some great conversation and yummy ice cream on a hot, hot day!

Tina and little Juliana who offered us a spot on their campsite when we found out the campground was totally full!

Charlene and Edwin who opened their home to us in the middle of Alabama somewhere!

Al and Sally Melvin in Milton, FL who gave us some yummy dinner, breakfast, and a warm bed.

A few guys who found us on the road and invited us in for a beer before heading on another 20 miles!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Will Bike For Food

There seems to be a common thread between touring cyclists and people that we meet along the way. Food. Other people cook it, and we delight in eating it!

For Adam's birthday, all he wanted was shrimp. Being in Louisiana you would think this would be an easy task, but traveling on bike doesn't guarantee anything. I was a little nervous when we were 75 miles away from Alexandria on the night before his birthday with a weather forecast predicting two full days of thunderstorms and thought we might have to hunker down in Jonesboro which didn't have much besides some fast food restaurants. What a sad birthday dinner that would have been.

Since we had given up hope of getting to Alexandria, the morning of Adam's birthday we spent some time getting a blog up and didn't rush out, thinking we weren't going to get further than Winnfield, the next small town only 25 miles away. But at 11:00, still without any real rain, we got on the road thinking Alexandria might not be a dream.

The ride to Winnfield was really easy going, and we were fooled into thinking the rest of the trip to Alexandria would be as nice. So after lunch, with 50 miles to go, we went for it! We felt good for the first few hours but the constant wind breaks you down physically as well as mentally. We kept having to tell ourselves that it would all be worth it and we would be eating shrimp in Alexandria at the end of the night. With 24 miles to go, I was done but Adam wouldn't have it. He told me to drag off of him and for the next hour, we rode faster than we had the rest of the day and knocked out 15 miles in what felt like no time. I think it was the shrimp calling to him!

It looked like we had the rest of the day in the bag. 9 miles to go at 5:00. We'd get there with just enough time to find the cheapest motel in town and maybe not have to ride in the dark.

8 miles more, 7 more, 6 more, 5, 4, 3, 2... Uh oh. What was that noise coming from Adam's bike? We slowed down to look and sure enough he had a tack sticking into his tire. We should have left it. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. We knew we would be stuck fixing a flat, but weren't prepared for what else we would find. After fixing the flat, we were blowing the tire back up and noticed that the actual tire had broken. There is a piece of the tire that holds it firmly onto the wheel, called the bead. Well, this had worn away on Adam's tire and we realized we couldn't put in too much air or the tube would pop out. So we kept the pressure low, and rode very slowly into the city. There went our dreams of riding in with some light left.

As we rolled into the first hotel we saw, the overpriced Holiday Inn Express, Adam noticed his front tire starting to lose air. At that point, in the dark, we weren't about to fix any flats. The Best Western, half the price of the Holiday Inn, was within sight so we pushed the bikes into a hotel room there and settled in for the night. Lucky for us, right next door was a great Cajun seafood restaurant and Adam got his birthday shrimp. I didn't even need to give him his birthday present that day, a pair of waterproof shoe covers. Turned out to be a good day after all.

He needed his birthday present the day after, for sure. The temp dropped and it thundered and poured all day long. We tried waiting out the rain until we went to the bike shop to get Adam a new tire, but it just kept pouring so we trudged through the cold rain to spend more money on bike maintenance... I have to keep telling myself, at least it's not a broken carburetor.. Haha. Sometimes we end up saving money and doing our own bicycle maintenance! We use fancy tools like old toothbrushes to clean out the chains.

We waited out tornado watch # 3 in our hotel the rest of the day, then got up early to make up some ground. The further south we biked, the greener the grass got, and the more beautiful the scenery. We rode along the Mississippi River and got to take lots of photos. That night, we settled in at a campground ten miles from the Mississippi River crossing and we were sure glad we did. The next morning, some of our R.V. Neighbors, Marty and Carol, invited us inside, out of the cold and cloudy morning for some eggs and bacon. No one believes me, but I have actually gained weight on this trip from all the food that we've been spoiled with. Should be called the Give Us Food, 50 State Tour.

We were in no rush that morning and enjoyed the company and coffee, then took our time on the fifteen beautiful yet bumpy miles to the ferry that crosses the Mississippi.

Ahhhh... the East! As we started riding into Saint Francisville, we were totally rejuvenated. The feeling of being on this side of the Mississippi was indescribable. It felt like we were on our way home! And Saint Fransicville just made it better. We had to stop at Magnolia Cafe where a friend from home used to work. The Chicken Magnolia was so yummy and the atmosphere was great!

We could have spent a while in the cute town but had plans to meet Mark, a photo archivest at LSU in Baton Rouge 30 miles away and so we were off. There's me eating breakfast with a portrait of Mark!

Mark, our Baton Rouge host was also the guy in charge of B.R.A.S.S, Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets. He hasn't owned a car in 20 years and instead relies solely on the bike for his transportation. We loved touring the city by bike, especially since it was comfortably warm!

The nights felt like summer nights in CT and the day.. well, the day was rainy. But the rain didn't phase Mark and we took on his attitude and let it rain on us. After two nights and one day of getting around Baton Rouge by bike, I fell in love with the idea of not owning a car when we go back home! Let's see how Adam feels about that one!

The night we arrived, Mark took us to a friend's house for dinner. He made Pork Stroganoff and if us reaching for seconds and thirds didn't hint to him that we were enjoying it, hopefully the number of thank-yous we gave him did.

Because of the threat of more thunderstorms, Mark let us stay another day and experience Baton Rouge Mardi Gras with him. It was a rainy mess, but we still managed to get in a good ride and joined in with a neighborhood parade collecting non-perishable goods for the local food bank. Rain doesn't stop Mardi Gras, that's for sure. It was fun to be involved in a local charity event even though it had nothing to do with bikes and meet a good bunch of people in the process. And we even got to try(or devour, I should say) some Gumbo! They had six jumbo crock pots full of the yummy goodness and we ate our fair share.

As if we hadn't eaten enough good food, that night we spoiled ourselves even more with Louisiana Cuisine! Blackened Alligator, rice and red beans, and hush puppies! And Adam's favorite part? $0.35 Oysters! I am so amazed by all of the different types of food we've been able to try on this trip. Sure it's all America, but there are so many cultures within our country, it's almost overwhelming.

Before we rode out the next day, Mark took us around the LSU special collections library to show us some old books and photography!

When we started our bike tour two months ago, we used Adventure Cycling Association bike maps from San Diego to Phoenix. After Phoenix, the ACA bike route stayed south and we needed to veer north, so we made our own route but we were excited to hook back up with the ACA route yesterday. It's fun to make our own routes, but 88 miles of beautiful, low traveled bike routes yesterday was a welcome experience and we'll stick to ACA routes as we finish the last few Southern states, like Mississippi!

Another good thing about ACA routes is the chance of meeting other cyclists. Steve and Tracy had stayed with Mark the night before we got there but we were all headed on the same route East and we got to meet up with them last night. We found each other in the dark campsite as we finished up the long ride. It may not have been gourmet, but their pasta and sauce combined with our two boxes of cookies made it a feast for hungry cyclists!