Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Connections

It's a neat feeling to meet people along the way on the street, through our Facebook, or one of our charities, but along with meeting random strangers, now we've started to make connections with people through these connections. Its like a connection to the Nth power.

Staying in Madison, WI with Mark was one of these connections. We had met Judy in Cleveland. Judy is the sister of Lisa, who we met only through email. She is the sister of Mike Kollins, the World Bicycle Relief C.O.O, who we have never met before but found out about through our WBR connection, Katie- who, as you can probably guess, we have never met. I'm pretty sure this is a connection to the fourth power once removed.

Anyway, Mark is an old college friend of Judy's and she wrote to him hoping he'd be able to help us on our travels through Madison, WI and one week later, here we are! Mark is a triathlete who cooked us a healthy pasta and veggie dinner with a great salad and some corn alongside. Energy food! He invited his friends, CJ and Steve, over and we all enjoyed the food and company, and watched history as a young Irish guy won a golf tournament.

Our stay in Madison was short, but sweet. The next morning, we headed out early, cautious of the dark clouds. But we had plans to meet up with a bicycle touring family who wrote to us on Facebook saying they'd be in Madison at the same time as us. Reuben, Heidi, Eden, and Harper are the Pedal Powered Family. They are taking a year off and riding through North and South America with their two and four year old kids. Their set up is amazing and we were lucky to get to spend the time with them.

We loved their style. Every playground we passed was a definite stop for the kids to play and get out some energy. When watching Reuben and Heidi, we were amazed at their patience and energy. When we stop pedaling, we enjoy some relaxation time. When they stopped pedaling, they still needed the energy for their kids and they had it.

Eden's favorite part of the tour so far was the camping, she told us. I never saw a frown on her face. She seemed to have adapted quickly and enjoyed every aspect of traveling by bike. She took pride in giving her little brother a sticker to make him smile while on the back of their dad's bike. Of course, no one was smiling when the raccoon climbed onto our picnic table and grabbed the whole bag of marshmallows. Thank goodness for the kindness of a camp neighbor who gave us a few marshmallows to roast over the fire. The night was saved.

Their routine in the morning was already perfectly executed, even though they were just a month into their trip. They had it all down pat and were packed and ready to go before Adam and I. That morning, we got to fly down the beast of a hill we had climbed the night before into the campground. It was a great rush to start the day, but only minutes later, my tube burst for the second time in just a few days and actually shredded my tire. Adam and I were at a loss without a spare tire or a spare tube on us after replacing Adam's tube the day before with our spare when his tube burst. I can assure you, bursting tubes is not fun and could be really dangerous. Thankfully, they all happened while moving fairly slowly. Just two minutes earlier, and the bursting tire story would have ended much differently.

So with that, we said our goodbyes to the Pedal Powered Family (just for now... We'll meet up again for sure). Adam even left me to ride to the ranger station to see about getting me a ride there instead of having me push it the three miles. I was all alone, pushing my broken bike through the park. It wasn't the heat that got to me, it was the bugs. I wasn't moving fast enough to get away from them and my bug repellent, named Adam, wasn't there so they were having a field day with me. Soon enough, a park ranger came by and offered me a ride to the office. I didn't feel guilty about taking the ride since I was the one who traveled this road the night before, heading to the office from the campground to pay for our site.

We were a little worried this might be a bit of a setback and were brainstorming how to get a ride back to Madison to the closest bike shop when a park ranger gave us a piece of paper with a name and number on it. Michael was the Vacation-Saver, as he liked to call himself. His "shop" was only five miles from the park, but when we called him, he insisted on coming up and meeting us there. He just so happened to have the right size tubes and tire to get us by until we were able to buy a whole new set of tires in the next big town, La Crosse, 80 miles away. We couldn't trust those Amazon bought tires anymore, not after three blowouts in three days.

Instead of backtracking 50 miles and losing a day, we were on the road again in an hour. Thank goodness for Michael. Even with the late start and the braking downhills due to lack of trust in our tires, we managed a good 65 miles to a cute little town named Viola. The whole day was full of beautiful riding and Viola was no different. It was one of those towns that you just feel good as soon as you enter. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by mountains, you just knew there were bound to be good people.

Even though we're making all of these connections through Facebook or e-mail, we're still finding good people everywhere we go. Grant was the first person we met in Viola and we didn't have to search any further to find kindness. He invited us into his home, heated up a great dinner complete with lettuce and radishes from the garden, and the next morning while we were waiting for the rain to pass, he drove us around and gave us a tour of the town and surrounding mountains. Grant and his wife, Helen, both worked for Organic Valley and I have never seen anybody so passionate about a job as Grant. While there, they fed us Organic Valley milk, chocolate milk, and cheese and even stuck a pack of cheese in our packs before we left. Mmmmm.

After our tour of the town, Adam and I hopped on our bikes and rode away towards La Crosse to get new tires.

Along the way, we received a call from News Channel 8. He sent out a crew to interview us on the road and we made the 6:00 news that night!! Our host from the night before, Grant, had apparently called them up and told them about us. Told you he was a good guy!

We made it to La Crosse, fairly exhausted from the hilly ride and found the bike shop where we had ordered new tires. Smith's Bike Shop was hopping, but we didn't want to leave without someone looking at our tires and wheels to make sure they were OK and hopefully wouldn't blow up on us again. We were pushing the limit when Scot was finally able to look at our bikes with only ten minutes left before the shop closed. He watched us fumble as we clumsily changed our tires, breaking another tube in the process. He must have thought we were pretty hopeless and took pity on us because after ringing us out and giving us a sweet deal on the tires, he invited us to his home for the night.

Scot took pride in his home and gave us the grand tour before sitting down for pasta and sauce for dinner. Scot was more of a racing cyclist but his wife, Carrie, had done some touring the past and we swapped stories about the difference between bike touring pre-iPhone and post-iPhone.

After dinner and a Klondike dessert, Scot's eyes lit up as he invited us into his basement. He could hardly contain his excitement about showing us his bicycle collection. Scot and Carrie were a 1 car, 54 bike family, as he put it. And in his basement, he had many of these bikes hanging. At one time he had planned on opening a bicycle museum and had a huge collection of bikes, bike components, and bike magazines. Now, though, he was more focused on creating his own bike brand, Thistle. We got a lesson in Campagnolo bike components and a little history of bikes before we headed to bed for the night.

The next morning was raining again, but we all got on our bikes anyway. Scot rode to work and we rode on up the Mississippi River towards Minnesota. Only five miles down the road and we ran into another touring couple with a fun story. They had been planning a bike trip through Wisconsin for months and were a week and 1/2 into it when we met them. At the beginning of their trip, Nick proposed to Amanda and so they were enjoying their first few days as an engaged couple on bikes. Their story brought us back and we started feeling all gushy about our engagement and wedding.

We were feeling these good vibes during lunch and Adam snuck away to pay for their food but we were too late! Nick had already given his credit card to the cashier. Sneaky, sneaky.

After lunch, we rode a few more miles with Amanda and Nick before we parted ways. They were continuing north and we were headed across the Mississippi into state #36. We stopped in Winona that night at the campground and were looking forward to a relaxing night together. Well, even in a campground you can't get away from the kindness of strangers and we were visited by numerous people and even had our picture taken with two teenage girls who claimed we were their idols! We did manage to have a peaceful night together and were even invited to Lavern and Carol's for breakfast the next morning.

Yet another fun connection was Todd and his family. Todd wasn't connected with World Bicycle Relief. He wasn't a friend of a friend of a friend. Todd was an alumni of Providence College, Adam's Alma Mater. Our story had been published in the Providence College alumni newsletter and Todd happened to see it, look us up, and noticed we were riding through his town. Todd wrote us a few weeks ago to see if he could help set something up in Rochester, MN for us on our way through.

A presentation fell through due to timing on our part, but we did manage to spend a great evening with Todd, his wife, Christine, their little boy, Jack, and their friends Brian, Amanda and their son, Finn. The colorful veggie-filled dishes were a perfect summertime barbecue, paired with some grilled salmon. Can't really get better than that except for Todd's Mojitos he made for us at the end of the night.

The next morning, Todd gave us a tour of Rochester and even showed us the hotel in town where he had arranged for a room for us for the night. We said our goodbyes later that morning, but couldn't thank him enough for his generosity. On top of all of this, they gave us two containers of blueberries which were consumed within hours. Mmmm.

We had a relaxing day in Rochester, hiding out in our hotel room, ordering from a pizza place, napping, and writing at the Starbucks in the lobby, all the while letting the rain fall outside. So we didn't actually get to see much of the city, but a good day off was even better.

We left the next morning with bellies full of blueberry oatmeal, with rejuvenated spirits, and with a tail wind!

82 miles down the road and we were feeling the distance. It was our longest day on the road since we left CT and it felt so good. We asked a family in Minnesota Lake for ideas for a campground in the area and they offered the backyard of their church, unlocked the church doors so we could use the bathrooms, and invited us over for dinner. Marilyn and Eldo had made a tenderloin and served it with corn from the neighbor, lettuce and strawberries from their garden, and baked beans. Mmmm. Much better than the Pasta Sides dinner we would have made.

That night, as we laid down to sleep, we started to see the lightning and hear the thunder. The weather said the wind would be pretty heavy, too so it didn't take us long to grab our sleeping bags and set up inside the church instead. We went out the next morning and noticed the wind was so strong there were tree branches scattered around our tent, the tent poles actually inverted, causing our tent to look lopsided, and it knocked over Adam's bike. Glad we chose to get a good nights sleep indoors.

Our final connection of the week was Don. Don is Katie's dad (Katie, our WBR contact who we still haven't met but will in Colorado). He had been emailing us for weeks about riding with us and though we didn't go through his town, he drove out this morning and met us at the church.

Little did Don know that this day would be one of our windiest. We battled the wind for 3 hours and rode only 20 miles, but having the company on the ride made it all better. Unfortunately, Don had to turn back after lunch to get back to his car. He left us to battle the wind alone, but I guess he had his own battles. He texted us that he had been chased by "an ugly, mean-looking, black dog and a not-so-mean-looking black and white chicken." Fortunately, that didn't seem to dampen his spirits from the day.

So, only 40 miles on the day but with two interviews, some grocery shopping, and a blog, we're happy campers tonight. Literally!!


  1. Great stuff as usual guys! Seriously as we approach our nations day of independence...go USA, and specifically the warm hearts and hospitality of our fellow Americans ! Xoxo, ash m & m

  2. Hi Christy and Adam
    You are so great, beside of riding through all States of the US you present us such great pictures and a wonderful writing! Thank you so much - I'm waiting every day for a new entry [smile]

    We have been on a short tour in the western part of Switzerland last week - maybe you're interested in our journal (german) or some pics

    Take care and have fun - Daniel from Switzerland

  3. I love the picture of the camp site in Winona. You do such a great job taking us all on your journey. You are both so talented!

  4. As always, jealous of the photos! Does Adam ever not have a camera in his hand?

    We're halted in PA with family for the time being, but we're kind of alright with that.

    Love where you guys slept in a church. We're finding that finding a place to sleep at night can be mighty interesting.

    Enjoy the road!

  5. AWESOME photos (as usual!!), great writeup (as usual!) and SO cool to read about all of your amazing connections. LOVE the pics of the Pedal Powered Family. Tailwinds!!

  6. Extraordinary~ Uncle George & I enjoyed your stories and Beautiful images along your journey. Thanks for sharing! You 2 continue to be an inspiration! Safe travels:-))

  7. So cool, I will definitely be reading your blog. WE are anticipating our first bike tour starting august 27th. Your photos are awesome. Now, i've got lots of reading to do on here :).tabatha