Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hoosier daddy?!

Total distance: 1577.6 km

It's worth noting that one of reasons we headed into Indiana, apart from the desire to notch up another state, was the desire to visit the home state of one of our favourite science fiction authors, Philip Jose Farmer (and also one of his best-loved characters, Kickaha). Since we wouldn't be detouring to PJF's home town of Terre Haute we instead aimed for the Hoosier National Forest, as Kickaha is always described as having a Hoosier accent.

On Tuesday morning we went through our usual pack-up routine of breakfast, drying out the dew-covered tent as well as we could, and then stashing it all away.  After zooming along the 4km between campsite and park entrance, we took a left and headed towards Charlestown.  As the oatmeal we'd had for breakfast hadn't really satisfied, we decided to stop at a cute little restaurant on the entrance of town, which was basically a train that had been converted.  The "gourmet sandwiches" it boasted had us intrigued, so we wheeled our bikes up to their patio, and were immediately warmly greeted and invited inside.  The food turned out to be quite nice, especially their choice of soups, and we had a very nice chat with the various staff members.  We found out from them that the word "Hoosier" does in fact apply to anybody from Indiana, rather than just those who live around the Hoosier National Forest or any one particular part of the state.

When we had finished our meal, we discovered that it had started to rain.  Luckily, our second breakfast had revived us and filled us with gumption, so we just shrugged, put on our wet weather gear, and headed off.  We were pleased to find that the terrain from Charlestown onwards was nowhere near as hilly as we had been led to expect, and certainly a nice break from what we had been dealing with recently.

When we reached Jeffersonville, which is part of the cluster of towns level with Louisville on the other side of the river, we unfortunately got epically bogged down by getting groceries, which made the entire day a bit of a write-off when it came to travelling.  However, we did find a motel room that was only barely more expensive than some of the campsites we've stayed at, which, although extremely convenient, was also a little disturbing.  We tried to have an early night but, as usual, failed and ended up going to sleep at midnight.  Go us.

On Wednesday morning we packed our belongings and discovered that  I (Sundance) had lost the stuff-sack for my raincoat. This upset me quite a bit, because, sentimental fool that I am, I was quite attached to it as the jacket and stuff-sack were a birthday present from my parents. Anyway, I held us up epically by back-tracking to the supermarket from the previous day and checking the aisles, the bike parking rack, and their lost-and-found before eventually deciding that it was a lost cause, and we had better make some headway or waste the whole day. But if you're reading this in Indiana, between Charlestown and Jeffersonville and you find a black-and-red stuff sack somewhere along route 62, contact us via this blog, okay? :-) Please.

In any case, we soon headed out through Clarksville, skirting the freeways and following smaller roads as much as possible, emerged through New Albany, where we got a good view of a bridge that led to Kentucky and looked like the Sydney Harbour Bridge undergoing the later stages of mitosis, and headed up a long, gruelling hill to reach Edwardsville. Quadriceps ready to burst, we stopped to admire the view at the top, and got chatting with a couple of locals who recommended we follow a smaller road that ran between the interstate and route 62 - much less traffic. After following this road up hills and down dales and past dogs who were obviously in desperate need of something to bark at and chase (at one point an overweight bulldog on its ridiculous stubby legs fell flat and slid along on its face while trying to get up from a yard onto the road to chase us. Hilarious!) we coasted gratefully down into the town of Corydon, and pulled up next to a Mexican restaurant. The scrolling sign in the window advertising fish tacos drew is in quite successfully, as we've been hooked on fish tacos since spending last January on Maui.

The folks in the restaurant decided we must be fitter than them, since we showed up on bikes, and smelled like we'd been riding them for a while, and got chatting to us about where we were going and where we'd been. Presently we headed off, on their advice, to camp at O'Bannon Woods state park and got to the appropriate turn-off before dark although the road turned out not to be as curvy or dangerous as they'd warned us. We then slogged up another enormous hill or six-hundred until we made it to the actual park office, only to find a map informing us that there had been a
"primitive" campground (i.e. one for tents) about 500 metres further along the road past the turn-off. Arrrggghhhhhh! One really frustrating thing about camping in the US is that they don't seem to consider the possibility that you might not be travelling in a motorised vehicle, or in fact might not be sleeping in an RV or caravan, and hence don't tell you about "primitive" campsites until you're so far away from them that the only reasonable way to get there is by driving. And so we decided not to head all the way back to the main road, but rather to find a flat patch of dirt between all the bitumen-covered RV campsites to put up our tent.

Thursday morning broke peacefully, apart from the roar of a park maintenance person clearing leaves off the campsites with a bobcat. Because after all, we don't want anyone to have to park their humungous RV on some leaves! Camping has nothing to do with encountering nature, now does it?

Make breakfast, pack bedding, dry tent, pack tent, admire morning sunlight on pretty autumn leaves, wash, rinse, repeat. Are you sick of reading about our morning routine yet?

We left the campground and decided to head out of the park along a gravel bike/hike trail, rather than retracing our steps from the previous night. Some of the stretches of trail were a bit loose and muddy, but fun, and when we got to the bottom we found that the trail ended at an old iron bridge over the Blue River (which was actually quite muddly and brown) which no longer had a proper surface to it, just the iron framework which was decidedly rusty. Clearly we would have to go back up the trail we'd just come down, and retrace our path from the previous night. So instead, we did this;

And now that we've given all four of our parents several panic-attacks...

Crossing that barrier refilled our gumption tanks, a lot, as it made us feel like we were not going to let anything get in our way, and all those folks on motorbikes and driving their RVs couldn't have done what we just did.

We proceeded along a minor road along the riverside through the town of Leavenworth (although I'm not sure it really was big enough to call a town), up a killer steep gravel road which had us cursing the inventor of gravel roads, and then headed into even more hills as we went towards our goal of Hoosier National Forest. We finally got there, and had a well-earned lunch of tuna and salad sandwiches just before the town of Sulphur (notice the spelling!) and found that the national forest was really just a bunch of little towns and cow paddocks with some trees around them. We stopped in a shop with a huge cabbage growing out the front to find out which way was most scenic and least hilly, and were rapidly rewarded by the terrain levelling off and heading somewhat downhill. We even managed to admire some of the scenery when we got away from the scattered population centres.

Just after dark we cruised into Meinrad, and set out to find the local abbey, in the hopes that the staff at the guest house would let us set up a tent somewhere on the grounds. Instead they monks arranged for us to have a free room for the night, complete with internet connection. And now, showered and fed, we are off to get some well-earned rest.

Oh, and just for the record, the hoosier accent sounds a bit like a southern twang, but more "rounded", almost as if there's a hint of Irish brogue mixed in. It can be quite charming, really.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Roadkill

Total distance:  1448.9km

By Yana (mostly):

So, our first couch surfing experience has turned out to be a very positive one indeed.  Our host, Mike, turned out to be most excellent, and we did our best to repay him by feeding him with our hopefully equally excellent cooking.  This was no mean feat in some ways, as it turned out that the local grocery joint, affectionately called "Ghetto Kroger" (the neighbourhood had some sketchy elements, but was really quite charming), stocks only a limited supply of healthy foods.  Still, we made do, and apart from some very nice poached eggs also managed to produce a stir fry that had the dinner party raving, despite having been made with el cheapo ramen noodles.  Go us!  It was wonderful meeting several of Mike's friends, they have turned out to be a very cool crowd.  Once again, that's what this trip is all about, really, meeting cool people and seeing cool stuff.  We also got to check out the nearby markets, which included a very good spice merchant and a shop which on that day happened to stock oranges imported from Australia.  Ah, the bits of home you get to see.  On our last night in Cincinnati, we decided to have dinner at a Thai place with several other members of the local Couch Surfer community, which was a merry affair.  One of them named Doug proceeded to drag us to Wal-Mart, so that we could stock up on things like a spare head torch and replacement pants, as one pair had worn through from all the pedalling.

We actually ended up staying three nights in Cincinatti, but eventually packed our bikes once more and headed across the river into Kentucky.  Getting out of Cincinnati turned out to be a whole lot easier than it had been getting in - we zoomed downhill through a few cobble stoned back alleys, reached the bridge without further ado, and then headed west along the Ohio River.  The weather was definitely on our side, although our route turned out to be a little loopy for a bit.  We did stop at a random little place selling all sorts of nifty pumpkins, as well as other veggies and apple cider.  All-round charming and full of photo opportunities.  We alternated between a cup of hot apple cider and a cup of the cold stuff, bought some apples, and then had to do a bit of a back tracking loop over some nasty hills to find our way onto the road we wanted.  We rapidly discovered that in Kentucky, main roads are the only way to travel long distances, and there really aren't very many minor roads to skirt through. It took some asking the locals for advice, but we eventually found our way, although it was getting dark by then.  We had a few moments of quite low gumption, though we pushed through it.  A quick feed at a petrol station helped.  We decided to push on to the suspiciously-named Big Bone Lick State Park, which was basically the first state park within reach.  We pedalled on through the night okay, and stopped at a little pub/restaurant called "Helen's Place" to get directions.  We found out very quickly that folks in Kentucky could easily give those in Ohio a run for their money in the friendliness stakes.  We were very quickly offered some space in the backyard to put up our tent, which we accepted, as it was getting late.  We also came into the place for a little bit, as our hosts kept inviting us inside.  In fact, they insisted on feeding us for free, which made us feel a little bit bad, though it was very nice of them.  As it was karaoke night, I figured we may as well sing for our supper, so I made a point of grabbing the mike a few times, which was a big hit.  Kind of nice, really.

We ended up turning in at almost 2am.  Needless to say, our start the next morning wasn't that early, though at least it hadn't been as late as the previous day.  We were still there when one of our two hosts, Helen, came and opened the place for the day again.  She actually wanted to feed us breakfast as well, but we declined.  It didn't seem fair, even though they were obviously enthusiastic about helping us out, and apparently take great pride in their friendliness.  We did end up leaving a couple of dollars in their tip jar, though Helen kind of tried to stop us.  I suspect that it's the kind of place where you need to be pushy about being nice, because people will try to not accept it out of politeness.

We headed into Big Bone Lick State Park, up and down some ridiculous hills.  Turned out to be pretty cool, apparently the reason for the name stems from the bones of mammoths, mastodons, and other large mammals having been found there.  The soil there has a high mineral content, and the salt would bubble up out of the ground at springs and attract the animals, which would gleefully lick away at it.  Many of them then got bogged down in the salty mud and their bones were left behind for tens of thousands of years, making it "The birthplace of American paleontology". There are also live animals in the park, and we actually got to see some bison in the distance, which admittedly would have been much more satisfying if they hadn't just been indistinct blobs at the far side of their enclosure.  There was also a little gift shop with a museum display of various mammoth bones, and an outdoor diorama type thing of various prehistoric giants sinking into the boggy ground.

It was late afternoon by the time we left the park, but we still pushed on a reasonable distance to Carrollton, where we found the state park it was practically sitting on top of.  Once again, some fun hills to scale, but at least we found the camp site without too much trouble, and pitched our tent in the dark.

We woke up to a foggy morning, although it cleared up quickly as we got ourselves packed up and ready to leave.  We ended up staying in Carrollton a bit late for breakfast, mainly because of the Mexican restaurant on their main drag, which turned out to be excellent.  We actually practiced a few salsa moves to the sizzling tunes playing on their radio before we headed onwards.

The next stretch of road showed us that we were moving into slightly different geographical territory, mostly recognisable by the kinds of road kill we came across.  We have not yet mentioned this unsavoury fact, but the truth is, we have probably come across more road kill in the last month than we have in our entire lives before.  It's been interesting to note though that as the miles have gone by, the species have changed.  We started out with almost exclusively raccoons, with the very occasional skunk or deer, and, sad to say, a few cats and dogs.  That day, we actually encountered our first few squirrels and rabbits, if I remember correctly, not to mention quite a few snakes and at least four crushed tortoises.  This description may seem very clinical, and I'm sure it is very crass of me to say this, but it made it seem like Super Mario had been doing the rounds.  Honestly though, it was actually a pretty saddening sight.  It's kind of disturbing to think that we've seen hundreds of maimed critters by now.

Now, off this topic.  We reached the bridge to Indiana relatively promptly, and crossed into the very charming town of Madison.  There we did a few loops in search of the Visitor's Centre, which gave us a sound appreciation of how pretty the place is.  Lots of gorgeous autumn foliage, some very pretty buildings, lots of quaint little shops, and the weather was just glorious.  The day was actually hot, which we were just stunned by.  Utterly wonderful.  In fact, we ducked into the local ice creamery, and were served some very nice ice cream by an equally delightful girl who was working behind the counter.

Once again, by the time we left, it was getting a bit late, but we still left Madison and powered up several high hills as the dusk fell around us.  At one point, when we stopped, I had a close and painful encounter with a very large insect - once again, proof of a warmer climate, which is something to be grateful for, despite the really quite startlingly ouchy bite that the insect bestowed.  We headed for one of the towns just before the cluster that is level with Louisville, Kentucky: Charlestown, another one of those places with its own little state park, which goes by the same name.  It was actually 4km from the park entrance to the camp ground, with plenty more fun hills (do we notice a trend here?), and we actually ran into an elderly park ranger who assigned a camp site to us.  We pitched our tent, listened to the wolves howling in the distance, packed our food away somewhere safely remote from our tent, and got to sleep at around midnight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is a great day... for SCIENCE!

Total distance: 1220.2 km

By Sundance:

Well, it must be time for another blog update, it's been a few days, and we've been slacking off a little with posting.

We went a little Girl Genius-crazy, and took our intended detour through Mechanicsburg, which turned out to be a fairly pleasant little town, with a nice coffee shop where we stopped for some sandwiches - and not the dangerous home of mad scientists and inventors galore, as the name implies. Oh well. But we still took time to pose for photos on the way into town,

 as well as a photo of the main street with a grain-processing facility Castle Heterodyne peeking over the rooftops.

After that, we set course (straight into a headwind) for Springfield, passing through the 1000 km mark of our journey in the process. We got almost into town, but camped at the Buck Creek state park campground on the eastern outskirts of town for the night.

We set off into Springfield the following morning, after a crisp, clear sunrise, mostly in search of a bike shop, as there seemed to be something non-obvious making it difficult for Yana to pedal. We'd checked all the options in terms of rubbing brake pads, less-than-full tyres, loose chain, etc. but to no avail.
Springfield certainly showed a distinct personality, as we rapidly found ourselves pedalling past "Vote Nobama. I Luv Sarah" slogans on fences, and the first guy we asked for directions to a bike shop declared that he wanted to pray with us for our safety and luck on the way to the shop. Okay. Whatever.

We set off in the intended direction, got thrown off course by a road that changed its name part way along so that we didn't realise we were actually on the road we were supposed to be on, asked for other directions, and finally made it to a bike shop that was closed. So much for the power of prayer. We decided that one word sums up Springfield, Ohio;


In some frustration we decided to just get ourselves on the Little Miami bike trail, which wound its way through the suburbs of the south of town, along some roads, before eventually making its way onto a nice off-road path that ran south towards Cincinnati. We stopped for a little while in the surprisingly delightful town of Yellow Springs because I smelled pizza, and take Yana's bike to a bike shop (an open one!), where they guessed that the brakes were not rubbing when we examined the bike, but that the weight of a rider was distorting the frame and wheel just enough to make the rear brakes rub. They tweaked that, after which the bike moved a lot more smoothly, and then we grabbed a wholemeal-crust pizza and a couple of fruit smoothies. We then headed on through the town of Xenia (warrior princess! :-) and steered ourselves towards the Caesar Creek state park to camp. We muddled our way back and forth following (the lack of) signs for the campsite, headed to the park office which was closed, found a map on a noticeboard, located a campground, rode out there, discovered it was 'group permit' only, and decided we were too tired to be bothered camping elsewhere so we just wheeled our bikes around the gate and made camp for the night. It was a beautiful clear night, and had we known it was also the night of the Orionid meteor shower we might have stayed up to watch some of it, but instead we just fell asleep.

The following morning we broke camp, headed back to the bike trail, and proceeded south. We sailed straight past the Fort Ancient archeological site, which would have been nice to look at, but we felt that it was good to keep our pace up, stopped for lunch a little further on, then dropped into a library in Morrow to try to find a place to stay in Cincinnati using CouchSurfing. By the time we reached Loveland, we had two possible hosts to stay with (so that's another point for science/the internet), and we got in touch with one host (Mike U.) who gave us directions to his place near downtown Cincinnati.

The last part of getting there was, of course, the most challenging. Once the bike trail ran out we had to find our way through the hilly suburbs of Cincinnati - although at one point a couple in an SUV wanted to know where we were riding to with all our gear, and were so impressed that they offered to buy us dinner, which we regretfully declined as we didn't want to keep Mike waiting up for us too long- and on a couple of occasions found ourselves backtracking or hauling our bikes over railway tracks to get to the streets we wanted to be on, and not on roads where trucks, bikes, and pedestrians were not allowed. But we made it eventually, and were greeted to a cozy bed, a kitchen in which we cooked rice, chicken, and stir-fried veggies to fill our bellies, and a good night's rest.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Never thought I'd be on a boat (so soon, anyway)

Total distance: 953.9 km

The past couple of days have been utterly wonderful. They're the kind of days that make us glad we chose to travel like this, and filled us with gratitude and humility for the generosity of our fellow human beings. We'll tell you why in a minute.

After we left Mt Vernon we made our way through the south-western side of town seeking a bike trail we had been told ran along our anticipated course towards Columbus. This resulted in much faffing around and confuzzlement, since the trail in question wasn't very easy to find, and the only section we did manage to find led us straight into a drag racing track (fortunately not in use at the time).  As it turned out, the trail had not been completed yet, which was probably why it was all so confusing.  By the time we had ridden around the race circuit, we decided that it was just going to have to be a road day.

We headed west on the 36, with the occasional vehicle buzzing past us a little closer than we would have liked. That being said, we were once again dealing with a narrow shoulder on the road, so it wasn't really ideal to begin with.  We eventually entered the town of Centerville, where we decided to stop for lunch.  After a brief chat with the local deputy Sheriff about our trip and where we might get spare bike parts in town, we settled ourselves in the nearby park to make our sandwiches.  It was actually freezing cold, to the point where it was incredibly uncomfortable to take our gloves off, or sit still while eating.  One of those few times when it was tempting to hop on a Greyhound to take us a little bit further south, and out of range of the liquid nitrogen wind that tends to blow across from the Yukon territory.

We pressed on towards Columbus, having decided that despite the cold, we would try camping for the night.  Our destination was Alum Creek, a little sliver of State Park just north of Columbus.  As it turned out, the campsite was quite difficult to find, especially as the Visitor's Centre was already closed.  Undeterred, we went exploring, and after a few circuits through the freezing cold, found ourselves riding up to the marina used by the Alum Creek Sailing Association.  There were a few people hanging around, and we figured we'd ask them if they could direct us to the campsite.

After a few moments of giving some surprisingly complicated directions that involved skirting around some roadworks, they suggested that we just put up our tent inside the pavilion they had put up that day. It turned out that we'd come across the preparations for their last pre-Winter race, and they were happy for us to shelter ourselves from the impending frost by putting our tent inside their bigger tent, and jokingly suggested we could serve as "security" for the night. Then a funny thing happened; they suggested that we also hang around for the following day (Saturday) and go out sailing with them, and stick around for the party they would be throwing after the race. It's pretty hard to say no to such a wonderful offer, so we didn't.

Anyway, most of the folks who were involved headed home and left us to set up our camp, but some people were sleeping on their boats, and they invited us out for pizza at a local restaurant/pub. So we bundled into their truck, and headed out into the night, for a really fun dinner, interspersed with conversation about travel, politics, English slang, etc. And then they insisted on paying for our meals. Afterwards we crawled into our tent and reflected on how lucky we were to have met such nice people. But there was better to come.

The following morning we decided that we'd like to go out sailing, rather than head off on our bikes, as these kind of random encounters and adventures were exactly what travelling by bike was all about. Even though neither of us had been sailing properly before. We mingled at the pre-race meeting, and signed aboard the crew of a fellow named Brent, who had  been intending to sail his yacht solo until we showed up.  Without much further ado, we hopped aboard the Teak-Keel-Ah, and headed out onto the lake.  Brent showed us the basics of what we would be doing, and what to do when the boat would tilt crazily, and off we went.  Once we had the hang of it, it turned out to be great fun.  Luckily, being on this trip meant that we had the right kind of wet-weather gear to sail through the cold and the spray.

We supped on hot apple cider and Kettle chips between races, and considered it all to be time extremely well spent.  We ran three races, and got quite good at chucking ourselves from one side of the deck to the other to tack the jib (the little sail at the front, for ye scurvy land-lubbers out there) before the end of it.  After the third race, some people on the other boats were starting to feel the cold, so we decided to call it a day and head back in to shore.

We got stuck into helping with the party preparations, which for us mostly involved taking care of the tiki torches.  Everything else seemed to be pretty well in hand, and people started to bring in mountains of food.  There was even going to be a band, and it actually turned out to be a Halloween party of sorts.  A handful of people took this opportunity to dress up, which added a bit of extra entertainment to the evening.  By nightfall, the party was in full swing, and we had a grand old time socialising with the masses, eating excellent food, and tearing up the dance floor to the Classic Rock supplied by the band.  At one point, we were actually called up on stage to give a rendition of "Deadly Animals (Come to Australia)" by the Scared Weird Little Guys.  The impromptu rendition we had given to our dinner group the night before had apparently gone down well, so the whole crowd had to hear it.

We actually got several couch surfing offers, which again made us feel very very welcome.  We ended up accepting the offer from Mike (one of several folks called Mike), a fellow Australian who had been living in the US for several decades.  The guest room was certainly several steps up from a tent!  We also got some information on bike trails we could take to Cincinnatti, which proved invaluable.

The next morning, Mike drove us back to the marina, where we collected our gear and repacked everything more efficiently.  Several people came up to us to say their goodbyes and swap addresses with us before they went off sailing for the day, and we lingered for a little while afterwards, taking in the beautiful clear sky and brightly coloured autumn leaves.  We took quite a few photos before we could wrench ourselves away and get onto our bikes.  We did a brief detour to watch everyone sailing in the distance, and then headed for the bike path that would take us through Columbus.

We stopped briefly in one of the suburbs to restock on a few supplies, and then headed onward, still marveling at the beautiful weather.  The bike path turned out to be pretty good, though not quite as flat as previous ones.  We decided to take a small detour into Columbus itself, just to have a bit of a look.  We were rewarded with some very nice photo opportunities, including the Santa Maria, which is a little ship docked on the shore of the Olentangy river - presumably a replica of Christopher Columbus' boat of teh same name. Very cute. While we were there, a small group of pirate-clad kids was being given a tour of the ship and told about what life as a pirate would have been like. We then rode a little figure 8 through Downtown Columbus, had a look around the German Village, and then headed onwards to our camping destination for the night, which was the RV park in Alton, a little way west from Columbus. It turned out to be a bit pricey, but does have Wi-Fi access, which meant that most of this blog post was written in our tent!

We got there without further ado, and tried to get ourselves set up pretty quickly, as it was a clear night that promised to be cold. We did actually have a little frost this morning, but luckily not in the sheltered spot where we camped. You can definitely tell winter is hot, er, cold on our heels though. That being said, we're not actually heading due south today, but slightly northwest, in the name of visiting a little town called Mechanicsburg. For those of you who don't understand why this is exciting to us, we suggest that you follow this elegant and finely crafted link.

So in the last couple of days, we went looking for a campsite, and instead wound up being fed for free, to the point of bursting, sheltered, entertained, taken sailing, and generally treated like celebrities. It's a great shame that America has a bad reputation on account of the actions of its government and big businesses, because without fail the people we've met have turned out to be helpful, friendly, kind, and open-hearted, wonderful people. And it's hard to say just how warm and fuzzy that makes us feel.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marsh 'n' canals

Total distance: 823.4 km

By Sundance:

Part 1: Well, it's been a little while since we've had internet access and hence been able to update the blog, but more on that story later. So let me bring you up to speed.

After a few days in Cleveland, recovering from our epic long-distance ride into town, going to food markets, collecting extra camping gear, and the like, we headed out of of town and inland, along the Towpath trail. This is a bike and walking trail that runs from Cleveland to New Philadelphia along an old canal, through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As that description implies it was everything a bike trail should be - flat, smooth, devoid of cars, and quite scenic. The old stone locks from the canal are scattered along the length of the trail, and it also runs roughly parallel to the Cuyahoga river, so we were surrounded by parkland and marshes clothed in autumn colours the whole way. The first day we set out a bit late in the afternoon and got as far as Perimeter Depot before it became dark. We decided that the scenery was so nice that rather than pushing on into Akron in the dark, we'd stop and camp for the night and set off again in the morning when we could appreciate it.  We set out to ask some of the locals where we could camp. At first we came across an art gallery where the residents were having a jam session, singing "Peaceful, easy feeling" by The Eagles, which brought back many memories of camping trips I'd go on with my mother up the east coast of Australia. Despite their nice singing, they weren't very helpful about where to camp, and so we asked in a local pub, and the local police station, and eventually as we were setting off to head back up the trail to a  place we'd passed earlier in the evening, a couple in a car asked us how far we were going to be riding. It turned out they were keen cyclists and were quite excited about our little trip, and convinced us that the best thing was just to trespass onto the local Boy Scout camp. Well, we cycled out and tried to find the grounds keeper but there was nobody around to ask permission, so we just put up our tent and dozed off.

Part 2: Now it's siesta time in A-kron, O-hi-ooo!...
The next day we packed up our stuff, bumped into the groundskeeper on the way out of the Boy Scout camp, and headed south again.  It was a pretty uneventful day. We passed through Akron, circled around a bit tying to find a place to have lunch, and eventually headed off along the trail again to make nightfall in the town of Clinton. We found a caravan park, where the owner was very surprised to see anyone showing up, as they were almost closed for the end of the season. He actually let us camp for free, and some of the local long-term residents came over and insisted on being helpful, running an electric light to our campsite, bringing us firewood, lighting a fire for us whether we wanted one or not (with an impressive "whoomp!' of gasoline-and -oil-mix home-made lighter fluid), and pointing out the location of the taps, and the showers (which, being about seven metres from our tent, we may have otherwise missed!).

Part 3: Been spending most our night, camping in an Amish paradise...
The following day the hills began. We followed the Towpath trail down to the town of Navarre, and then headed off the trail, as we wanted to make our way westwards, towards Columbus. We were instant celebrities in Navarre - while I was in the local deli getting supplies, a woman started chatting to Yana outside, and convinced us to come into her favourite pub for lunch. She and her friends were amazed that we were travelling so far on our bikes, and couldn't stop talking to us, which was pretty nice. One of the great things about a trip like this is meeting locals and connecting with them. After lunch we headed out onto the road and the countryside began to get hilly, which slowed us down and sucked, a lot. We pushed on into Amish country, and into Winesburg by nightfall. Just south of there, in a little village called Trail, we were directed to an Amish family who have a cabin that guests could stay in. That was a true delight, and surprisingly high-tech. Solar-charged batteries running the lights and a fridge, self-igniting gas stoves, teflon frying pans, in fact everything but TV and an internet connection. Hence no blog updates.

By Yana:

Part 4: I for one welcome our new Ohio-bike-path constructing overlords...

As the Amish fellow who let us stay in his cabin had predicted, we were greeted with rain the next morning.  Not much we could do about that, of course, so we saddled up and headed onwards.  We had more lovely wet hills to deal with, and the road was curvy, with only a very narrow shoulder.  I shudder to think of the crashes that could have happened, but thankfully didn't.  The motorists apparently weren't too worried about hooning over the crest of a hill on the wrong side of the road, if it meant they were giving us a berth.  Anyway, I don't think either of us have ever used the low gears of our bikes so much.  Of course, our progress was frustratingly slow, and we ended up wearing plastic bags as socks in the name of keeping our feet dry.

We had only done maybe 25km by the time we stopped for lunch, in a vaguely cute little town named Millersburg.  Upon asking a random local, we decided to stop into the nearest Pizza place, and proceeded to gleefully stuff our faces.  The food was excellent, and restored our will to live.  We were actually still peckish afterwards, and the delivery driver actually bought us our second round of food, which was lovely of him.  We have certainly run into a lot of kindness and generosity here in Ohio, which has been very humbling.

After watching a pair of Amish boys duck in, purchase rainbow-coloured ice cream cones, and wander out again, we got up the gumption to keep moving again.  At least it had stopped raining, and we had also found out about another bike trail to keep us off those horrible roads.  The bike trail was exactly what we had gotten used to: flat, smooth, and scenic. Not at all like those crazy Canadian bike paths, which some genius decided should be surfaced with a layer of loose, medium-grit gravel! We can certainly applaud Ohio for its bike paths.  We forged ahead a little longer, and ended up in Killbuck.  We decided to push on a little further still, and when the clock struck 6:30, we ended up knocking on a random door on the side of the road and asking if they minded us pitching a tent in their backyard.  They were very nice about it, and even offered us a hot shower, though I concede that this may have just been a case of us looking and smelling like absolute hobos.  They also showed us photo albums of their own extensive travels, which was inspiring, to say the least.  We eventually crawled into our tent, and slept surprisingly well.

Part 5: But I would ride 500 miles... and I would ride 500 more...

Yet another rainy morning, with hills to look forward to.  After a long and convoluted packing process, we hopped on our bikes and did the old rinse and repeat of hills in the rain.  It was actually surprisingly hard to push on today, at least for me - I'm guessing I'm fighting off the beginnings of a cold, which I suppose isn't surprising.  No prizes for guessing who is plying herself with Vitamin C and zinc now.

Apart from the pretty but wet autumn colours, and the occasional Amish buggy, there's actually disappointingly little to report about today.  It's both amusing and saddening though to note that apparently the Amish just aren't as hardcore as they used to be.  I've seen quite a few of them hop out of cars and suchlike.  Oh well.  I guess they know best what the important nucleus of their way of life is.  In any case, we eventually found another lovely bike path, and stopped for a very late lunch that basically turned out to be dinner in the town of Mount Vernon.  On the grounds of my incoming cold, we have decided to do the Motel thing tonight, which helps a little with the gumption. The woman in the Mexican restaurant where we had dinner even gave us part of the cost of our motel room, so that we could stay in a nicer place. The people here really are wonderfully generous and kind. I think we'll remember Ohio for that, if nothing else.  

The progress in the last few days has been kind of woeful.  Well, at least we'll supposedly be out of the hills by the time we hit Columbus, and then it'll be flat.  But I guess that's where we'll have to hope that we don't get swept away by any tornadoes.  Though apparently a more likely thing at the moment is snow.  Yep, another thing to add to our intrepid list - we did, after all, ride through a bit of hail yesterday.

In any case, once again today Sundance got chatting with someone in a shop, who said that there was a bike path right along the way we wanted to go. Ohio, you've done it again! So we hopped onto the Kokosing Gap bike trail, and it was partway along that trail that we passed the 800 km mark, which we figured was not exactly, but close enough to the 500 mile mark (Google informs us that 500 mi = 804.672 km. Like I said, close enough).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Euclidean geography

Total distance: 564.9 km

By Sundance:

Yesterday was EPIC! After our update from the Italian restaurant where we had dinner, we hurtled through the night, through the city of Euclid (which is much bigger than it looks on the map, and Euclid ave is much less straight than the name may suggest). We eventually made it into Cleveland, and got thoroughly confused trying to find our way to the house of the friend we're staying with. At least twice we found ourselves on bridges going over the roads we wanted to get onto. In any case, we finally made it to Samantha's place, for a grand total of 124.22 km travel in one day, pulverising our previous record for distance in a single day. And we can still walk this morning! Not surprisingly we'll be taking a day to rest and veg out and resupply. 

And after all the winding our way around the streets of Cleveland in the wee small hours of the morning, navigating by the GPS and Google Maps features of my Crackberry, I think I'm going to write DON'T PANIC in large friendly letters on the cover of its carry-case.

By Yana:

It feels like I should fill in some of the details we skipped in last night's entry.  As you have already read, we have gone pretty damn far, and we did also get to see a few interesting things during the day.  We actually spent an inordinate amount of time faffing around the first town we passed through, Geneva on the Lake.  What was supposed to be just a quick stop to buy some more jelly beans turned into something much longer, as we ended up chatting with some locals, who, of all things, had a pet dingo in the backseat of their car!  Okay, it was only a half-breed, but still, a bloody dingo!  Whose bright idea was it to import those to the US and turn them into pets?  It's somewhat reminiscent of an anecdote we read in a book a while back, in which the author's friend decided to purchase a wallaby on eBay.  It seems like the line between wild animals and pets is getting increasingly blurred.

We also meandered through the very cute little town of Ashtabula.  It was an intriguing mix of charmingly quaint and grittily industrial - it worked surprisingly well.  We read the various information plaques, rode up a steep cobblestone street (well, Sundance did, I only went two thirds of the way before wheeling it for the rest), took a few photos, and continued onwards.

The Seaway Trail we had been so fond of (now the Coastal Ohio trail) actually let us down a little bit in terms of efficiency at that point.  It was going to be a big day regardless, and instead of the usual efficient nearly as-the-crow-flies line to our destination, it actually took us on an extended zig zag.  Eventually, we got fed up with that and abandoned it in favour of the more direct route down the 20.  It also decided to start raining on us, but apparently that is just no longer a biggie.  We just put on our wet weather gear, and forged ahead.  And hey, there was little to no wind, so we ended up cruising at a surprisingly high speed.  We'd gotten so used to having to deal with a headwind that not having it makes us feel downright superhuman!

One thing which is a little bit bothersome: we have caught so many whiffs of skunk on this trip that at times, it seems like everything has a very slight skunk-like aroma as we're riding along...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ohio gozaimasu

Total distance: 524.8 km

By Yana: Kaze no Tanai Sundance mo Yana

Well, it turned out that the blustery day we had yesterday in Erie didn't stop us for long.  After our huge and protein-laden lunch in the nifty little art gallery/shop/cafe, we decided to hop on our bikes and basically go as far as we could.  By then it was 5pm, but hey, what does that bother us?  Upon climbing out of the windy valley where we had camped, we discovered that the winds were much more bearable.  We hit our groove fairly quickly, and quite comfortably rode through the impending darkness.  A few times, we were afraid that we had lost the trail, but that turned out to be unfounded.  There were a few dips in the road, basically a crazy steep downward slope, followed by its upward counterpart.  Those turned out to be great fun, once you get the hang of them.  You go careening down those hills at 45km p/h (we checked our maximum on our speedo afterwards), and your momentum carries you up most of the slope, and at some point you start pedalling like crazy to keep up the momentum.  It makes it remarkably easy to go up the hills.  Of course, me not being that much of an adrenalin junkie, I do still have a moment of breaking out in cold sweat for a moment, visualising myself going arse over tit and breaking several bones.  Still, much fun, and I suspect it might have been partially the adrenalin that kept us going as far as we did last night: almost 60km.  We got into Ohio when it was dark, ended up going right through Conneaut, and camped at a campsite in the next town.  The cool thing was that, as we arrived, we actually almost rode into a little cluster of deer, which ran off with their tails high when they saw us zooming up to them.

We got to sleep at about 2am, but that's not exactly unusual for us.  We still got up at a reasonable hour the next morning, though getting packed up was still a bit of a long process.  I guess we'll get better at it as time goes by.  We had decided to bite off quite a huge chunk to chew today: try and get to Cleveland, which would be our first day over 100km.  We've gone 80km so far, had a lovely dinner, and will probably run for it soon.  More to tell later.

By Sundance: Tall in the middle and round on both ends

I'm just going to brag quickly, because the laptop's battery is almost flat, but as you will have noticed from the total distance counter at the top of this entry, we busted through the 500 km mark today! That's given us a great sense of achievement. We're also really hitting our stride, dropping into cruising speed (about 22kph) really easily and immediately whenever we hit the road. Last week has been good training, and I think we'll be really cruising in a few more weeks, powering across the country.

I may have to amend an earlier comment, as I've discovered that it's not just Canadians - the locals here also wish is a "safe journey" all the time. Must be a North American thing.

I've also decided that the word 'Ohio' looks a bit like a bicycle.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A chautauqua in Chautaqua

Total distance: 381.5 km

Part 1: Thanks, Bicycle-Repair Man!

Well, we've made it to Erie, Pennsylvania. Last night we camped out in a ridiculous windstorm, and we're having a very lazy day waiting for the headwind to settle down so we can head off again. But first things first.

We stayed in Buffalo overnight on Sunday, after a squeaky crank arm was causing trouble on my bike. At the recommendation of the folks in the hostel we headed to a bike repair shop up the road and got everything tightened and our tyres inflated with real compressed air-pressure on Monday morning, then headed out of town. There's a wonderful thing called the Seaway trail which we're following, that runs along the south shore of Lake Erie, although it can be a bit difficult to follow at times, as it disappears onto footpaths and around train tracks in places.

Eventually we found our way onto an easy-to-follow section of the trail that follows Route 5, a smaller road parallel to Interstate 90, with less traffic. Just perfect. Our path took us through Chautauqua county, a name we had only previously been familiar with as referring to a philosophical/educational discussion, used in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Which is wonderfully appropriate, since this bike trip across the USA is partly inspired by ZMM. Eventually we pulled into the town of Dunkirk for the night, having broken our previous km/day record, by exceeding 80 kms. We can definitely feel ourselves getting fitter and more accustomed to the riding. We've had our fair share of "can we do this?" moments, but I think we're starting to get confident that yes, we can.

Part 2: Yana Sundance Barcelona

That being said, we had one of those gruelling bits a few miles before reaching Dunkirk.  Wonderful as the Seaway Trail is, it has its disadvantages.  While the bits of it that go along the waterfront are extremely pretty, they also leave us fairly exposed to the wind, so we have been buffeted by quite a few powerful cross- and headwinds.  Fun.  Still, it toughens us up pretty quickly, and for the most part, we haven't actually been that tempted to quit.  In fact, this morning was the first time, and that's just because we were stationary in one place for too long, and I (Yana) hadn't had my protein fix.  I'm more itching to go now that that has been taken care of.

Anyway, we have seen some fairly nifty things along the way.  The day before yesterday (I think that makes it Monday...?  It's so hard to keep track when the days of the week are irrelevant), we actually crossed paths with no less than seven deer, although they weren't all together.  We seem to have left most of that pesky Ontario rain behind, so we're no longer riding along looking like waterproof convicts in our bright orange rain gear.  Okay, I'm generalising, as Sundance is actually in red and gray, but I'm orange from head to toe as soon as the wet weather gear comes on.  So now instead of the rain, we get to ride into those quadricep-training headwinds, hooray!

Yesterday, we went through a cute little town named Barcelona, which just tickled us.  Ah, New York.  Speaking of which, we have come away from these last few days with a new appreciation for just how large New York State actually is!  I had expected it to be piddly and small, as a line in Crocodile Dundee II states that you can walk across it in two days.  It took us three days to cycle through it!  Admittedly, we weren't going at an absolutely blazing pace, but still, we were riding, as opposed to walking!  Anyway, we crossed into Pennsylvania yesterday, which has been an interesting change in some ways.  Wonder how long it'll take us to reach Ohio, especially with the way the wind has slowed us down.

Ah yes, the wind. Last night we cruised into Erie, Pennsylvania, and arrived at a campground near the entrance to the Presque Isle State Park, just in time for the rain and wind to start. The campsite office was closed, so we wound up cooking dinner in the camp laundry to shelter from the rain. A helpful fellow who was showering informed us there were 40 mph winds forecast for the night, and so we headed to the tent area of the campground (it's almost exclusively caravans), and crawled into our wonderful little blue tent to wait out the night. There was a LOT of wind, and the occasional concern about tree branches blowing off and falling on us, but we had set up camp in a grove of fairly young, flexible trees, so they bent instead of breaking. In the morning it was still cold and windy, but dry at least. And so we've had breakfast, showered, done laundry, and had lunch while waiting for the weather to improve. With food in our bellies we'll probably just push on regardless and see how far we get in spite of the wind. It's supposed to calm down tonight or tomorrow anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Breakfast in America

part 1 – Dissing you already!

By Sundance:
Total distance: 169.9 km

We're no longer in Canada! Yeah! Last night just about sunset we crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls from Canada to the USA. Despite all our concerns that the immigration guys might turn us back because cycling across a continent sounds insane, and we don't have onward
tickets to Australia they were actually pretty enthusiastic about our trip and wished us luck along the way. So we've now crossed an international border by bicycle. That's a new experience for me. And we did get some funny looks from people in their cars as we were waiting in line on the bridge amidst the traffic.

Anyway, since yesterday was my last day in Canada, I feel like unloading a bit. The three years I lived in Canuckistan were rather lonely and unhappy for me (for reasons I won't be so
self-indulgent as to go into here), and I want to take this moment to make a few observations about the frozen white northern land, and its people.

Canadians are nice. They're friendly. They're helpful. But they can often be closed-minded and unimaginative. To illustrate the point, on our way out of Hamilton two days ago we stopped to buy travel insurance. You know, we're gonna be cycling about 7000km across a country with exorbitant medical fees. If one of us has an accident and needs to go to the hospital, medical insurance could be handy. So I ducked into a travel agent to get a quote. After figuring out how many days cover we'd need, and how our respective ages affected the cost, I was all ready to do the paperwork, when the travel agent asked me for my Canadian passport. Hilarity ensued. Not.

It turned out she'd assumed I was a Canadian citizen. Get a f***ing clue, Canada! Not everyone who lives in Canada is a Canadian citizen! And the insurance we could buy only covers Canadians, or foreigners travelling within Canada. I'm sorry to say I've run up against this sort of parochialism time and time again when living in Canada, trying to deal with phone companies, government services, and the like. For a country that prides itself on its openness to migrants and foreign workers this kind of insular failure to recognise that some people who reside in Canada were not born in Canada, are not Canadian citizens, and do not intend to live in Canada forever is just staggering. It may not sound like much, but that's three years of irritation encapsulated in a single incident.

I've made another interesting observation. When telling people about our bike bike trip, Canadians universally wish us well by telling us to “stay safe!”, where as Aussies, Irish and Americans tends to say something like “have fun” or “good luck”. So Steve F, if you're reading this, I'm sure you'll agree that they all just want everyone to have a good safe time, eh? ;-)

So over the last three years living in Canada I've come to think of it as ... somewhere I was. British Columbia should secede, because it's awesome, and I'd happily go back and stay there for a while. And while I've made some great friends in Canada whom I'll miss, Canada in general and especially Ontario (Yours To Disparage), just doesn't do it for me. I'll stop complaining now, because that's in the past. But I needed a little catharsis. Now the road beckons, and every kilometer we chew up gets us closer to California, Maui, and Australia.

I realised something else since setting out on this trip. For the first time in years, I keep catching myself with a huge smile on my face.

part 2 - America, F**k Yeah!

By Yana:

Well, the last two days have been vaguely productive. We haven't been covering as much distance as we would have liked to, Leaving Hamilton on Friday turned out to be a lot more convoluted than we had expected! You know how going through a city in a car slows you down? Yeah, turns out it slows you down on a bike, too. Didn't help that we were going through the rain... we did sort of just hang around in front of the motel we'd stayed in the previous night, hoping that it'd let up, but by 2pm, we had to accept that it was just not going to happen. So with resignation in our hearts and gumption in our minds, we donned our wet weather gear, and braved the elements. Night riding the first day, rain the second, we may as well get used to all our adversity right from the start, right?

Luckily, my fears that we were going to stack it in the rain turned out to be somewhat unfounded. Yes, the panniers do make the whole experience a little trickier, but it was still quite manageable, and we both stayed in high spirits. As previously mentioned, it took us bloody ages to get out of Hamilton, and by the time we arrived in Grimsby, it was dark, and about 9pm. Yeah. Oh well. We stopped at yet another English pub for a feed, which turned out to be pretty tasty, after much discussion about where to leave our numerous packs and paniers. While waiting for our food, we asked around about finding any campsites nearby, and the consensus seemed to be that the best option was in the next town, Jordan, which was another 16km or so onwards. One fellow, who looked and moved uncannily like my friend Bren back in Adelaide, gave us some directions that led to the service road that went along the freeway. It turned out to be a little bit of a kerfuffle to find, but find it we did, eventually, though it was 11pm by then. I was still going strong, as I had actually succumbed to the siren call of caffeine, and was therefore high as a kite. Slightly different story for Sundance, who was in somewhat lower spirits, though we managed.

Going along the service road turned out to be smooth sailing, which was nice, and we more or less kept track of where we were. At about 12:30, we arrived at a hotel where I asked directions across the freeway and into Jordan while Sundance took a ten-minute catnap. We then pushed on for the last supposedly 6.8km, which took us into the Jordan Valley campground. By the time we had set up our tents and were ready to go to sleep, it was 3am. Holy moly. It's amazing how easily time gets chewed up.

Still, we woke up at 9am, which was semi-reasonable. Mind you, again, by the time we had packed up and showered, it was midday. Turned out that our campground was a very cute and charming little place. The same also applied to the town of Jordan itself, as we saw once we had slogged our bikes up out of the valley. We stopped for a late breakfast at the Zooma Zooma Cafe (chicken paninis with wasabi mayo), and then made tracks. The first stretch of road was hellish, as we immediately got smacked in the face by a strong headwind, which was of course catching our panniers and slowing us down even more. Not to mention that the areas was a little bit hillier than what we had been used to. Still, once that was done, we were pretty well off, and going at a semi-decent pace. We decided to circumnavigate the city of St Catherine's, in the name of not getting bogged down there, and headed pretty much straight for Niagara. On the way, we stopped for a cheap-arse high-protein lunch at a place called Blazing Saddles, which just tickled us. Then we powered into Niagara itself, and upon briefly pausing to check our map, we found ourselves trapped by a decent-sized thunderstorm. Still, the sun came out quickly enough, and we got a few moments of sparkling rain before the weather more or less reverted to what it had been for most of the day, which was quite pleasant.

After a bit of debate, we decided to cross the border via the Rainbow Bridge, which, as Sundance already mentioned, turned out to be surprisingly painless. It was already dark, but luckily our hostel of choice wasn't too far to go by then. We also ran into a gaggle of helpful locals who pointed us down the right way, and we were received by a very lovely owner. We also discovered that the place had a kitchen with a gas stove! In the light of this, after chatting to two Aussie girls who happened to be staying in the hostel that night too, we headed to the nearest supermarket and got some groceries. We cooked dinner quite late at night, though it was a joy to cook with gas again after all this time! This morning, we made use of the gas again for some fried eggs and baked tomatoes. Heaven! And now we must really make tracks, as I suspect we have outstayed our welcome, considering we only paid for one night. There are better things to do than to still be hanging out in the dining room! Our destination for the next couple of days: Cleveland, Ohio.

part 3 - Oy oy oy. Oy oy-oy oy!

Buffalo cyclist... in the heart of America... Okay, we had a very short riding day today. A bit of sight-seeing from the US side of Niagara Falls (which, unlike the casino-infested Canadian side, is actually taken up largely by a state park, and is extremely pleasant ), some rain and headwinds, and a flat tyre all slowed us down. So we only made it to Buffalo, but never mind. Tomorrow we have a full day ahead of us, and a readily-accessible bike path along the shore of Lake Erie.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Riding in the Rain

Hamilton, Ontario  67.73km

Yana: Well, our first day of travelling turned out to be surprisingly easy and pleasant, considering that we did literally set off at the "crack of dusk".  I can see this becoming a bit of a thing for us.  It was basically sunset at the start of our journey, and pretty much dark by the time we actually exited Kitchener Waterloo.  It's funny how you expect these things to be utterly gruelling, but you kind of forget that to a certain extent, you can make your bike do the work for you.  It was a bit of a blessing that for the most part, the terrain was flat.  Yes, we did labour up a few hills, but it was certainly not beyond our level of ability, even with our heavily laden panniers.  And boy, do those things give you momentum when you're coasting downhill!  Apparently, Sundance was doing 44.6km per hour at one point - at least, that's what our speedometor-odometer gizmo says.  Not too shabby!  Our cruising pace seems to be at about 20km per hour, which is nothing to be sneezed at, either.

The original plan last night was to just get to Cambridge, as we had started out so ridiculously late, but when we got there, we decided that we were still fresh, so we pushed on.  So far, the strategy of popping seven jelly beans every hour or so is working out surprisingly well - take that, energy gels!  Who needs you when we can get our sustained sugar high off good old-fashioned jelly bellies!  In any case, we made it to Dundas somewhere between 10 and 11pm, and stopped to ask where we would be able to get some sleep.  The camping thought had kind of gone out of the window, as campsites can be an absolute pain to locate in the dark.  The locals at the Winchester Pub were very helpful, and after we had ourselves a late night high-protein feed, we went in search of accommodation.  We ended up at the Hamilton Inn, which was a little more pricey than we would have liked, but turned out to be totally worth it.

We have also established upon waking up this morning that we aren't even sore!  Amazing!  Looks like we had actually underestimated ourselves, which is a relatively unusual thing to do on a trip like this.  Unfortunately, we also discovered that it is raining.  We've checked out of the motel now, but it looks like we'll just have to suck it up and put on our wet weather gear - it doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon.  Curses!  Oh well, at least we're getting our adversity reasonably early on in the trip - we spent most of yesterday's trip riding at night, after all, so what's a little rain?  Okay, it makes for balance issues and slipperiness, but I guess we'll just have to wear our skid lids, and hope we don't smoosh our brains out on the tarmac.

Wonder how far we'll get today.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now bring me that horizon!

By Sundance: 

The day has arrived at last.

Late. But it has arrived, none the less. Packing up and leaving the place you've lived in for three years is a time-consuming, frustrating process, which has left me with a whole new level of empathy for the launch crews who manage space missions. Another launch delay! Grrr! Frustrating and moderately embarassing, but you do eventually get through them all.

We had intended to set out two days ago, but arranging shipping for our belongings back to Australia and the removal of furniture has pushed that date back to last night. To say that we left our apartment at the crack of dusk would be generous, and it was tempting to stay for another day, but the landlords are moving new people in today and so we had to get out. And so we loaded up our bikes, like snails climbing into our shells, in the wee small hours, left behind our keys and made ourselves homeless for the next few months.

The first question was how well we'd manage to ride with the paniers and our backpacks, and fortunately neither of us had any trouble or toppled over or anything like that. We then rode out to our friends Rianne and Julian who generously let us couch-surf at their place This was a very useful practice ride, as it gave us a good idea of how well our gear would fit on the bikes. I'm glad to say it all seemed pretty good, although we're going to try to rebalance the weight and reduce a bit of bulk here and there. It also meant we got extra pre-travel hugs this morning, warm showers, and a nice spacious kitchen in which to prepare breakfast today.

And now the air is cool, as winter moves its way in from the Arctic, but the sun is out and we're ready to put some kilometres beneath our wheels. And the knowledge that we're on our way back to Australia and will be seeing a whole slew of new stuff en route is slowly seeping in. That's a good feeling.