Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Our time in D.C. was a huge boost. There's no better recharge than getting to hang out with family, kicking back with the niece and nephews, and enjoying the craziness of normal life. Taking walks to school, playing games, and reading bed time stories were among the highlights of those few days we were able to spend with family.
When Will came home from school the first day we were there, he exclaimed how excited he was for us to come speak in his class the following day. We were excited, too, but the next morning when we walked Will to school, people were driving out saying school was cancelled because of a power outage. What luck! It broke our hearts when Will turned to look at us and asked if they were joking. Thank goodness for the mind of a four-year-old, though. Two minutes later, Will was invited to a friend's house and the presentation was forgotten. We couldn't shake it as quickly as Will did and decided to shift our schedule and leave a little later the next day in order to make sure we could give the presentation to his class.
Our favorite part of the presentation was when Will stood in between Adam and I, and introduced his Uncle Adam and Aunt Christy to the class. He was so proud and stayed in front with us during the entire presentation. He didn't even care that he couldn't see any of the pictures we showed.
The class hung onto our every word, shared stories of their own pink bikes with baskets, and gave hugs to us on our way out.
The goodbye was bittersweet, leaving family has proved to be one of the most difficult parts of this trip. Before we headed on our way, we had to stop at the monuments in D.C. and pay a little respect. We stopped by the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials one night with Damon and a few friends after we met up at a restaurant in D.C, but we needed a little more. I was so blown away at the feelings we experienced there, in the heart of our country, I wrote about it in my last Patch article and feel the need to include it here, too.
"Before this trip, I know many people, including ourselves, were uncertain of who we would meet and we were warned to be careful. I don't think it's too far-fetched to say that some people are even losing faith in America and Americans. But if what we've experienced on this trip gives us any indication of what type of people Americans are, then we should be proud!
When we left, my brother told me to, "go find yourselves and America." I'm not sure if i fully grasped what he was trying to say, but then I remember reading a friend's comment after one of our blogs about the generosity we we have experienced. She wrote, "It re-awakens my pride in being American." That one comment alone makes this trip worthwhile. We've accomplished something we didn't even set out to do! So it may be cliche, but I am proud to be an American.
Standing next to Adam, staring up at Abraham Lincoln the other night, I got the chills. I'm glad we took the time out of our busy riding schedule to see the monuments and be able to reflect on our journey and the people we've met so far."
After drinking up all of the American Pride we could, we headed out of the city and on to our next state!
Towards the end of the day, we met Charlie who had pulled over on the side of the road. He saw us riding as the sun was going down and offered for us to spend the night at his house. How come this couldn't happen on a night that we didn't have any accommodations set up? We thanked him for the offer, but Damon had set up with a friend of his that we could spend the night just five more miles up the road.
Because of our delayed start and dawdling at the monuments, we arrived fairly late but were greeted by Ryan and his oldest daughter, Hailey. We have been interviewed by a few news stations throughout our trip but 7-year-old Hailey was by far the best reporter we've met. She quizzed us that night and the next morning she helped her three sisters understand what we were doing. We left fairly early in order to get as many miles in while the sun was out, knowing there was a storm coming the next day.
We've had many friends tell us they'd love to join us for a few days of riding somewhere along the journey but something that's holding them back is they think they aren't fast enough. I can assure you that we don't move fast on our fully-load touring bikes. On our ride through Maryland, though the hills weren't huge, they were constant ups and downs. At one intersection, an older couple on hybrid bikes flew around the corner. I was able to hang with the 60 year old woman, just as Adam was able to hang with her husband. That is, until the hills. I was totally humbled when this 60 year old on basically a mountain bike pulled easily ahead of me and left us in the dust.
Feeling slightly discouraged after a tough day, we rode hoping we'd be lucky enough to find another Charlie, but to no avail. Instead, we found a Fire Department and knocked on the door just as the Chief drove up. The Darlington Volunteer Fire Department was a beautiful station with well kept trucks where our bikes got to spend the night. We got to sleep in the pull-out beds in the meeting room, cook on a real stove, and take a warm shower. Chief John Singleton hooked us up!
We got up early the next morning intending to beat the storm and for three hours, we did a good job doing just that. But after stopping at the Delaware boarder to get our signature picture and video, the storm caught us and we ran into a Starbucks to wait it out. Five hours of down pouring later, we gave up the wait and headed into a motel for the night.
Another early morning, and we were on the road by 7. We made it into Pennsylvania bright and early, and decided to brave the city streets and head into Philadelphia. How could we resist running up those famous Rocky steps???
We were lucky enough to meet one of Adam's friends, Mike, for lunch. As if we didn't get enough baby time in D.C. with Miles, Mike's wife came by with their 3-month-old boy, Mike Jr. I was happy to see how comfortable Adam was holding the little guy and thankful we have such good friends starting great new families.
As we made our way out of the city, the neighborhoods and streets became harder to navigate through so we opted to try a bike path. The path started out so nice, a hard packed red rock path without a sole using it. While the path itself remained nice, the intersections with roads became harder and harder to get through. We found ourselves carrying the bikes over guard rails, pushing the bikes next to train tracks with trains running just feet from us, and choosing pricker bushes over flooded sections. About 7:00, we decided enough was enough and we got off the path just before we crossed into Trenton, New Jersey, hoping to find a place to stay in Morrisville, NJ.
We asked a 711 clerk for a place to camp but she was stumped, and so were the patrons. There just so happened to be a Comfort Inn across the street, but we were hoping to avoid paying that kind of money, so on our way through the parking lot, we found a group of four coming out of the pizza shop. We thought we'd give it one more shot before spending the money on the hotel.
The two couples were coming out of a pizza restaurant were rating the pizza. One of the girls, Emily, worked for a magazine and as part of her job, she was required to test the pizza at 30 different restaurants. They were on restaurant two of the night and had one more to test. When we asked if they knew of a place to camp, they racked their brains, offering suggestions of places that may or may not have had legal camping and places that were another eight or so miles away. You could see they had just about run out of suggestions when Emily offered her parents' backyard. Of course, she had to call them first and I was dreading what the parents would say after she explained that she met these two crazy cyclists in a parking lot who needed a place to spend the night. But as she dialed the number, she looked at Adam and asked if he went to Providence College. Apparently they graduated in the same class.
We listened to one side of the conversation.
"What are you guys doing tonight?" (nervous laughs)
"Well, you see, we met these two people in the parking lot who are riding all 50 states on their bikes. They need a place to stay tonight. Can they camp in your backyard?" (wince)
"I actually went to Providence with one of them!" (whew)
To us: "My dad wants to know if you're gonna try and sell them anything." (laughs)
And that was that. We had a place to spend the night.
We followed their car the mile to her parents' house, and when we got there, the four of them had decided to order pizza at the house so we could all enjoy. The deal? We had to help her rate the pizza.
So we spent the night with Emily, her husband Justin, Emily's parents, Roy and Susan, and their friends Dee and Devon. We ate pizza and got to know each other. It was funny watching them watch our past videos online while we were right there with them but I loved seeing their reactions. I don't think we were any help with rating the pizza! It was a 10 in our books!
That night, Susan, Emily's mom, assured us we would not be camping in her backyard, but staying in Emily's old bedroom. She got the room all set, offered us showers, laundry, and to iron our clothes. It would have been the first time on this trip any of our clothes had seen an iron, but we couldn't take her up on it. I would have felt bad stuffing the clothes back in our panniers if they were wrinkle-free!
It was funny saying goodbye to Emily that night as she went home with her husband but we stayed in her parents' house. Emily admitted to us that she was going to write about us in her next blog post which you can read here. In my opinion, this is one of the best articles written about the experience of this trip so far.
After some coffee, oatmeal, and fruit the next morning, we were off to New Jersey and arrived there only ten minutes into our day. It always feels a little odd posing for a picture at the state line and doing a little dance, but it was that much weirder when we were head banging at the New Jersey state line at 8:10 in the morning while rocking out to Bon Jovi's, Living On A Prayer in our heads.
So I'm gonna go ahead and preface this by saying I have nothing bad to say about riding a bike in New Jersey. We started the day with a good 15 miles of beautiful streets on our way to Princeton, enjoyed a snack next to a church in the Princeton center, then continued another 10 miles on a bike path, this time, with no annoying guard rails to climb over or Railroads to push our bikes next to. What made it better was the fact that we were heading towards our friend, Stephan's, house. We didn't even realize it, but we just so happened to have a presentation in the same town that Stephan lived so we jumped at the chance to see a friend from home. We made it there with a few hours to spare before our presentation at Marty's Reliable Cycles in Morristown and we spent the time showering and enjoying the company.
You may remember our friend Steven(not to be confused with Stephan), who we met while cycling in Louisiana. Steven and his friend Tracy were touring from New Orleans, LA to Pensacola, FL and we all joined up for a few days, riding, camping, and enjoying some drinks on the beach in Dauphin Island. Steven lives in Morristown, NJ, told us he wanted to set up an event for us as we cycled through, and here we were.
We were so thankful for what he did, especially in getting the word out. It was the most people we had at a presentation so far. At least 25 people showed up and afterwards we got to catch up with Steven, Stephan and some other friends at a restaurant. Not a bad way to start the end of our first half.
The next morning we put on our rain gear and started the ride into NYC! Though there were no huge downpours, the day remained cloudy and cold, and sprinkled on us a few times. Even the gloomy weather couldn't compete with the feeling we had while crossing the George Washington Bridge. As we rode across the Hudson and saw NYC in the distance, I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. I don't think my words will do any justice in conveying how it felt to ride into NYC, the symbol of home.
We started 3 and 1/2 months earlier in San Diego and here we were, riding into NYC. And what a treat it was to ride in the city! The numerous bike lanes, the bike path along the entire west side of Manhattan, even the little red and green bike lights all helped us realize that biking in the city is by far the best form of transportation. We rode down the West side bike path to my cousins apartment where she had out a bottle of champagne, strawberries and cheese and crackers for us with a note reading, "Happy honeymoon you lunatics!" We were so ravaged that we didn't even have a second to pull out the real camera so all we have is this iPhone pic (the cheese and crackers are already almost gone).
We spent that night enjoying Sarah and Jon's generosity. We went out to eat at a restaurant down the street from them and as they watched Law & Order in bed, we curled up in her living room with blankets and watched The Fighter before falling fast asleep on their futon.
The next day we met up for lunch with my cousin Marie and her newborn baby boy, James, then walked around the city. Though I didn't even buy anything, just walking into stores made me feel normal again! Sarah took me out for drinks in the afternoon and treated us to the best lobster roll! She did her best to spoil us rotten and we were reluctant to be leaving the next day.
That night, we had the opportunity to meet up with a few friends as well as John and Kate Suscovich, AKA, The Food Cyclists. This recently married couple was about to embark on a two year bike tour around the world and had found us on Facebook. We loved being able to give them advice and had to do a little dancing with them in the streets of New York to start them on their journey.
At this point, Adam and I felt so close to home it was almost unbearable. We were a 2 hour train ride from home (a trip we have taken so many times before) but we were still three days of riding away! To make it that much harder, we were getting little glimpses of home around every corner.
We left NYC early the next morning without waking up Sarah and scooted out the door to go meet my Uncle for breakfast. We went to a place called Cafeteria and what do you know, I was craving the oatmeal with almonds, cranberries, and honey. Adam convinced me otherwise and I ended up going with the mascarpone french toast with apples instead. Seemed more like dessert than breakfast. Mmmmmmm.
Before we left the city, we needed to experience Times Square on bikes so we headed up 8th Ave to 42nd street. Even on a Thursday morning, Times Square was packed. We rode in and out of crowds, got a free bowl of Kashi cereal with Silk Milk from a promotion event, and even got a free hug. Well, at least he advertised them as free hugs but then he asked us for money after he gave me a hug. Sheesh.
Near the Silk milk promotion booth, we heard a tiny voice call out, "Uncle Adam!" and we looked around to see Ellie, one of the girls in Will's preschool class. She recognized us first, and her parents recognized us from the pictures the teachers had taken of the presentation. What a random encounter. Ellie's parents grabbed this picture so they could show Will!
After we got our fill of Times Square, we headed out of the city. We went back up the West side on the bike trail, then across the top through The Bronx to Pelham Bay Park where we met Adam's mom and dad on their way home from Pennsylvania. We found a little fried seafood place with terrible service, but enjoyed lunch with the Coppolas for the first time in 3 1/2 months. Home felt within arms reach but we were still 100 miles away.
The Coppolas got in their car as we hopped back on the bikes and we were tortured knowing they'd be home in 1 1/2 hours. I guess that's what we got ourselves into this year, though. To ease our minds, we did have two fantastic stops along the way that we were really looking forward to before our two week break at home.
Stop #1 was with Auntie Ang and Auntie Gen. Getting to spend some time with my mom's sisters was such a comfort and pasta with sauce for dinner made it that much better! We realized how fortunate we were to get to spend this one on one time with family members because usually when we see family, there's a ton of people around and we are constantly bouncing around from one person to the next. With Damon's family, then my cousins Sarah and Marie, and again with my aunts, we left feeling a little closer to our family.
The next morning we enjoyed coffee, corn muffins, and a frittata before lugging our bikes and gear down three flights of stairs and then across the state to East Haven where we would meet up with Adam's brother Paul and his girlfriend, Ashley. The riding was really pretty. Most of it was along the shoreline on cute little backroads, but we really weren't into too much sightseeing. The best sight of the day was seeing the black Ford Fusion with Paul and Ashley inside, meeting us five miles from their condo. We were so ready for some family time!
Paul and Ash kept driving by us, taking pictures as we rode through the busy New Haven streets until we rode up the hill to their condo. It was such a funny feeling being in East Haven, only three towns away from home. It was like we weren't quite home yet and I didn't feel right going out to eat with a bunch of friends. We still had another day of riding before we got home.
I text my mom and dad with a picture of Adam and I at Paul and Ashley's and not even two seconds later, my mom was calling me. I said, "Hi! How are you?" And she replied, "Great but I'm driving up and down route 100 in East Haven trying to find my daughter!" This is why my mom is the best mom in the whole world- she was trying to catch us on our way to the condo. I gave her directions to get to Paul and Ashley's condo and a few minutes later, there was my mom! Ahhhh, now it felt like we were home and we were just gonna go a little 25 mile bike ride the next day.
Sure enough, the day of our homecoming was probably the worst weather we've ridden in all trip! It was a hard rain the entire 25 miles and would have been miserable except that we had some pretty devoted friends and family come ride with us. At least Adam and I had the right clothes, but some of our friends froze, while others wore Kayaking and snowboarding gear to keep warm and dry. We were a sight riding into Madison with bright colored jackets in the pouring rain, but we loved it.
At the Madison town line, we had more friends and family waiting for us and enjoyed a brief hello and town-line dance before heading on to Adam's parents house where there were towels, dry socks, and sandwiches waiting for us all. I loved it when we pulled into the driveway and Adam's dad pulled his brand new BMW out of the garage to make room for our Cannondales!
After we had a few hours of seeing friends and family, there was still one very important reunion to be had. We got a ride to my mom's house where we'd be spending our two weeks, and as we walked into the garage, Adam whistled a familiar whistle. Juneau, our dog, couldn't have been more excited to see us. He ran between the two of us, greeting us with licks and jumps. I'm not sure who was more excited, us or Juneau!
It wasn't until after our reunion with Juneau that I noticed my brothers were in the room, too! I had seen JP earlier, we stopped quickly at the guilford CVS to say hi to him at work before heading into Madison. But Dan had driven over an hour to come see us! The homecoming was complete. We visited with the fam into the night and sinking quietly back into our old routine, right at 10:00, Juneau made his way to Adam and I and looked at us, waiting for us to go to bed and bring him in with us. Yup, we spoil our dog and let him sleep in the room with us but if you saw how comfortable he was getting back into the old routine, you'd spoil him too. That was our cue to head to bed and with that, we started our two weeks home...
I'm writing this as we prepare for our departure tomorrow. Two weeks flew by and though we did manage to get some rest and relaxation, we were pretty busy with presentations and a few interviews that you can view below. We had our biggest event of the trip with 170 people coming to the Clinton Country Club that our parents had organized. The event was a huge success and with the help of local businesses and friends donating items to our silent auction, everyone raised over $6,000 for our charities.
Tomorrow we start the 2nd leg of our journey through America and we are re-energized, well-rested, and pumped to get back on the road.
Better Connecticut interview
Fox CT interview