Saturday, December 28, 2013

What I've Been Up To

I've had a handful of inquiries in the last few months asking what I've been up to. In my last post, I wrote about guarding my intentions. And so it may come as no surprise that I've been somewhat aloof in responding to the inquiries.

Here's what I've been up to (read as "here's what I'm willing to share at this point in time"):

  • I've been housesitting.
  • I've been working on a teaching gig.
  • I've been volunteering.
  • I've been working a fun job.
  • I've been vetting some opportunities that I've decided not to pursue.
  • I've been absorbing inspiration.
  • I've been scheming up my next bicycle adventure.

In the forthcoming posts, I'll share more about each of the above.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Guarding My Intentions

I guard my intentions. My ideas. My plans. I shield them from everything that has the potential to harm them.

You may have already made this observation about me. You may have noticed that when you ask what I've been up to, I am vague or dismissive.

I've lost one so-called friend because of my guarded intentions. This "friend" viewed my vagueness and dismissiveness as a lack of trust. It's not a matter of trust for me. It's a matter of appreciating that undeveloped ideas and plans are terribly beloved and frail.

I keep my intentions to myself until I have a high degree of confidence that they are robust enough to flourish on their own.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Legacies of Bicycling Divas

Once upon a time there was a woman named Annie Londonderry. Her real name was Annie Kopchovsky, but that's not important.

Annie Londonderry was a bitchin' bicycling diva. This is Annie, alongside her trusty steed:

Annie Londonderry, a bicycling diva.

Our bicycling diva, Annie, set out to prove that a woman could ride around the world on a bicycle. (Thomas Stevens was the first man to cycle around the world. He spent two years accomplishing the deed on a penny farthing, completing his journey in 1886.)

The year was 1894. Annie left her husband and three children to girdle the world around.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Alastair's Lessons

Alastair Humphreys rocks my world.

For one, he has a gnarly name.

For two, he is an adventurer from England who spent four years cycling around the world. (Oh, and he also ran 150 miles across the Sahara desert, walked and pack-rafted across Iceland, and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.) <Insert salivation here.>

But cycling around the world is Alastair's baby, as it was his first adventure. Alastair wrote a book about his journey, called "Ten Lessons from the Road."

Alastair learned a helluva lot of lessons during his four-year journey. So why does he only include ten lessons in his book? Because life is short. Because each day we inch closer and closer to our deathbeds. Because we can't spend too much time theorizing. We just gotta do it and get on with our dreams!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Out of Office

You may have noticed the "Out of Office Notice" I posted on Facebook last week:

I had posted many Out of Offices for my career life. Admittedly, last week was the first time I ever posted an Out of Office for my personal life.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Happy Re-Birthday to Me!

Happy Re-Birthday to Me!

I'm not one who enjoys celebrating my birthday. But this is an occasion I'm proud to celebrate: it was one year ago today when I took the plunge and quit my job. This event was pivotal in achieving my new lifestyle. Happy re-birthday to me!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Poetic Resuscitation

"I have a keener interest in revenge than I have a need for approval." And with this statement, Billy Collins ended his talk Monday night at Town Hall Seattle.

If we all had a keener interest in most anything other than approval, then I'm sure we'd all make a pretty significant mark in this world.

Take a good look at the face below. This, my friends, is the face of someone who has made his mark. This is the face of Billy Collins, poetic resuscitator extraordinaire.

Billy Collins, poetic resuscitator.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Riding for a Cause

On my bike trip this summer, a number of people asked me if I was riding for a cause. "Sure," I said, "I'm riding to experience the pure joy of traveling by bicycle."

But then I felt a little guilty. I knew what their question really meant. Other cyclists were riding for a "charitable cause" -- to raise money for guide dogs or to raise awareness for three-toed, pink-haired hermaphrodites. Am I a bad person for not riding for a cause?

But then I came across this beautiful tidbit of wisdom from Lao Tzu. After reading these words, I felt not an ounce of guilt. Rather, I embraced my original cause. And I embraced it proudly.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bloated Fish & Butt Raisins

It was a perfect, autumnal weekend for a rectangular ride with spectacular company.

The company, enjoying the autumnal spectacularness.
From left to right: Whitney, Phil, Me, Rich, Jason, and Claudia.

The ride, in all of its rectangular glory.

"The Rectangle Ride" is a 110-mile route that starts in Arlington, WA, heads east to Darrington, north to Rockport, west to Sedro-Wooley, and then loops back south to Arlington.

This is the fourth time I've done this route, and only now has it earned the name "The Rectangle Ride." It's safe to say that this is my favorite local overnight route, and so I was super-duper happy to share the route with five friends.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Kale Tail

Oh my! I've sprouted a tail! And so has my friend, Jason!

Our Kale Tails.

Indeed-ily-do! These tails do resemble kale stems! You are such a smarty pants!

Truth be told, our tails sprouted just after we destemmed some kale, in preparation for baking some kale chips.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Video Montage: Portland, OR to Portland, ME

It was a perfectly rainy day today and thus a perfectly spectacular day for making a video montage of my bike ride from Portland, OR to Portland, ME. You will recognize most of the photos from my blog entries, but you'll notice some newbies as well.

As this is the first video I've ever edited, bear with me on some of the rough transitions. With a few more bike rides under my belt, I'll become a pro at editing videos.

I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bob Is Famous!

Meet Bob.

Bob & his Surly Long Haul Trucker.
(From Bob's Facebook photos.)

I met Bob earlier this year. We both signed up for a bike maintenance class at Wright Brothers Cycle Works. When we rolled our bikes into the first class in January and noticed that we both had Surly Long Haul Truckers, Bob and I instantly bonded!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bike Touring, Tiny Houses, & Slug Sex

There is nothing better than a mini-adventure that combines my two loves: bike touring and tiny houses.

For those of you who may not already know, I am in love with tiny houses. "Tiny houses" are small, mobile homes that are built to look like houses (as opposed to RVs). They are built on trailers, thus enabling the homes to be easily moved from one location to another.

I have been obsessed with tiny houses for a couple of years now. I came very close to building a tiny home last fall when I first left my job. Alas, I've decided to hold off for now, until I become a little less feral.

I first mentioned tiny houses to my friend, Claudia, a few weeks ago. She quickly fell in love with them, too. Because it can be difficult to fully appreciate tiny homes without actually having been in one, I suggested that Claudia and I go on a bike adventure to visit my friend, Candice, who owns a tiny house in Snohomish County.

Me & Claudia.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hunting Typos to Save the World

Nom, nom, nom. Punctuation is critical. It can spare granny's life!

My appreciation for written language began as a youngster in Spelling class. I loved spelling, mostly because it came naturally to me.

My appreciation for language further developed in junior high, when I learned to map sentences in Ms. Limbos's Language Arts class. I discovered that as complicated as the English language may be, it's quite formulaic.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Don't Let Tomorrow Be Your Retirement

Take one: Holy smokes! Prudential gets it!

Er... scratch that. Try again.

Take two: Holy smokes! Prudential has a really good ad agency!

Yes, that's more like it.

A friend sent me a link to an online video. Before I could watch the video, I was subjected to a 31-second advertisement. [Roll eyes.]

"Oh, but wait!" said I. "That's Dan Gilbert, the social psychologist from Harvard and author of 'Stumbling on Happiness.' I like him! This advertisement is speaking to me!"


Imagine two people at the end of a first date. Each wants to kiss the other, but neither wants to make the first move.

This is "mamihlapinatapai." Each person wishes that the other will offer something that they both desire. But both are unwilling to offer it themselves.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Stuff Owns Me

Since returning from my bike trip, I moved three times within 22 days:
  1. From the sailboat in Portland to a friend's home in Seattle, where I stayed for a week.
  2. From the friend's home in Seattle to a friend's sailboat in Seattle, where I stayed for two weeks.
  3. From the friend's sailboat in Seattle to a house in Seattle, where I will be housesitting for two months.
Each time I have moved, I have also moved my belongings.

I don't own that much stuff anymore, as I went thorough a fairly decent downsizing effort earlier this year. Everything I own now fits in my little Corolla...

...well...aside from the Corolla itself, Shirley (my bike, which fits on the car's bike rack), the house, a box of valuable mementoes (which I'm storing at a friend's place), and a few boxes of stuff from my youth (which are at my parent's house).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Call Me Ginger

What do you think of my new hairdo? From this point forward, call me "Ginger."

Sarah Ginger.

I will never forget the first day of grad school. There was a sweet, innocent Filipino woman in my Tax Research & Property Transactions class. Her name was "Ginger." As the professor called off the names on his roster, he commented that Ginger sounded like a stripper's name. Dear god almighty--have we no filters? I guess you can say whatever you want as long as you are tenured!

But I'm a Ginger now, too. Apparently acquiring red hair is accompanied by the acquisition of professional strip-tease skills. Lucky me--a new career falls into my lap!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Great Weekends Are Memorialized By The Knees

Sarah ain't had a proper summer if her knees ain't scraped-up'n'bruised.

This summer has mostly been filled with biking. And while I love biking, it keeps my knees a little too pristine.

Thankfully my friend, Phil, and I went on a backpacking trip this last weekend to the Cascades. This trip enabled me to roughin' up my knees for this summer.

The photo on the left shows my knees after the first time I went rock climbing, five years ago. The photo on the right shows my knees after this weekend. Granted my knees aren't nearly as beat up as they were after that rock climbing trip, but they've still earned some color to them.

Great memories are memorialized by body scars. The proof is in the black circles.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bicycling to a Wedding

Sometimes it's great to go on a bike ride for no reason at all. But other times it's great to ride for a reason.

Enter Will and Joanna.

My friends, Will and Joanna, got married this last weekend in Leavenworth. The wedding provided "a reason," and so I opted to bike the 248 round-trip miles to and from the wedding. How could I resist when the wedding invitation suggested bicycling as a means of transportation...

Biking is first on the list of transportation options.

Route Beta: Biking Over Stevens Pass

This post provides route beta* for bicyclists who are interested in cycling over Stevens Pass, along Highway 2, in Washington state.

* "Beta" is a term utilized among rock climbers to indicate specific information on how to accomplish a climb or task.

  • The highest point of Stevens Pass is 4,061 ft in elevation.
  • Ascending the pass from the west is steeper, and thus more difficult, than ascending the pass from the east.
  • The elevation profile for the 37 miles from Skykomish, WA
    to the intersection of Highway 2 and WA Route 207.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pure Genius - Expressed in a Bike Rack

Genius is often evidenced by elegant and functional design.

Before going further, I must first confess. [This is the part where I blush.] You see, I have attended yoga class at the Phinney Neighborhood Center many times. But, yesterday was the first time I actually rode my bike to said yoga class. I can go on a 3,000 mile bike ride, but I have a difficult time riding a few miles to the neighboring hood -- how embarrassing!

Anyhow...I suppose the gods were rewarding me for my bravery, as I had the great fortune of experiencing pure genius. In the form of a bike rack.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Biking Reunion

There is a special bond among cycling tourists. When one cyclist sees another cyclist, they instantly connect with one another. Although the specifics of each cyclist and each journey vary, the cyclists empathize with one another's goals, joys, and hardships.

On Day #37 of my cross-country trip, I crossed paths with three rock-awesome chicks who were also riding cross-country, though from east-to-west. If all we had done was acknowledge each other with a simple wave, that special bond would have been created.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lessons Learned: Portland, OR to Portland, ME

Portland, OR
As mentioned in my pre-trip Lessons Learned post, I'm a fan of post mortems. Not only do they provide closure, but they also allow for continuous improvement by enabling reflection on the things that went well and the things that didn't go so well. Identifying, reviewing, and incorporating learnings from my bike trips helps pave the path for even better tours moving forward.

Portland, ME 
In the spirit of post mortems, here are the learnings from my recent bike trip from Portland, OR to Portland, ME. This will be a "living post," meaning that I will add to the list if additional lessons come to mind.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Adirondacks & The Drive to Chicago

After my bike trip ended, I met up with my older brother (BJ) and his girlfriend (Lilia) in New York. We spent twelve days together, exploring the Adirondacks and then slowly making the drive to Chicago.

Below are an assortment of photos from the trip. (Lilia requested that her photos not be posted.)

We borrowed a kayak for an overnight camping trip on Jabe Pond.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bike Trip Stats: Portland, OR to Portland, ME

As I am a bit of a data geek, below are the stats for my recent bike trip from Portland, OR to Portland, ME.

Total Miles Travelled by Bicycle: 3012

Total Time in Saddle: 238 hours, 46 minutes
(equal to 9 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes)

Number of Flat Tires: 0

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day #52: A Bittersweet Ride (with a Cherry on Top)

Today's Route: Rutland, VT to Ticonderoga, NY (45 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 3012

The heat wave continued through my final day of riding, and so I was on the bike again shortly after 5am.

The fog in the lowlands, as the sun rises over the mountains.

Today's ride was bittersweet. I reflected on all the positives - the miles I've covered, the people I've met, the experiences I've had. And I reflected on the sorrow of an amazing trip coming to an end.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day #51: Paying Homage to the Mountain

Today's Route: Canaan, NH to Rutland, VT (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2967

I had planned on getting an early start this morning to beat the heat. But waking up during the 3am hour was just a tad bit earlier than desired.

I awoke to the sound of a man shouting in the street right in front of the yard where I pitched my tent for the night.

He was going absolutely ballistic. He was telling some woman that she didn't have anything on him. That he had just finally gotten out of prison. And that he admired Noah for having the guts to put a bullet through his head; if he had a gun, he'd kill himself now, too. This whole dialogue was peppered with every cuss word and variation thereof (the noun form, the verb form, the adjective form, etc).

The "comic moment" (if you can call it that) was this dialogue:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day #50: Starting to Sink In

Today's Route: Center Ossipee, NH to Canaan, NH (70 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2901

It's starting to sink in that my bike trip is coming to an end. I can't believe that, as of this morning, I have only three days of biking and about 190 more miles to go.

This bike touring thing has very much become a lifestyle for me. It's now deeply ingrained in my identity. It will definitely be a strange transition back to my "regular" life. It's good I have a few weeks of backpacking and visiting with family before I get back into the swing of everyday life.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day #49: The Other Portland

Today's Route: Gorham, ME to Center Ossipee, NH (72 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2831

Yeah! Shirley and I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean!

The Atlantic Ocean!

It's hard to believe that I left St. Paul, MN on this date last month. I've covered 2,160 miles in one month. I've experienced so much in that time - seen so many things and met so many wonderful people.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day #48: A Change in Plans

Today's Route: Lincoln, NH to Gorham, ME (87 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2759

In my La Mappa Della Bicicleta blog entry, I outlined the plan for my bike trip. The plan was as follows:
  • Bike to the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick, ME.
  • Travel down to Washington D.C. to visit with my little brother and his family.
  • Bike from D.C. to Chicago to visit with the rest of my family.
  • Take the train from Chicago back to Portland, OR.

There have been a few changes to the plans. My new plans are as follows:
  • Bike to the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick Portland, ME.
  • Travel down to Washington D.C. to visit with my little brother and his family. Bike back to the Adirondacks to backpack with my older brother and his girlfriend.
  • Bike from D.C. Hitch a ride with my older brother back to Chicago to visit with the rest of my family.
  • Take the train from Chicago back to Portland, OR.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day #47: Tirgry

Today's Route: South Strafford, VT to Lincoln, NH (67 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2672

A few months ago, I attended a presentation by Ellie Thalheimer. Ellie is a cyclist from Portland who has written a guide providing information on various long-distance bike routes around Oregon. In her presentation, she used the word "hangry" to describe that feeling when you're touring and you experience the mixed mood of being hungry and angry.

Today, hangry wasn't the right word to describe my mood. I was "tirgry." Tired. And hungry.

Day #46: The Northeastern Beauty Contest

Today's Route: Ticonderoga, NY to South Strafford, VT (82 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2605

Sorry folks, but I have nothing to report from last night's stealth camping experience. Except that it went perfectly smoothly.

Aptly labeled dugout - my stealth "home" last night.

Yesterday I mentioned that my left hand was swollen from a fly bite. The swelling began about 12 hours after the bite and then lasted for a day or two. The swelling is now gone in my left hand but is now present in my right hand (which was bit the day after my left hand).

While I recognize that most of you are not familiar with how my hands typically look, trust me that the below swollen hand looks nothing like my hand. You can't even see my veins!

Very swollen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day #45: Deer Flies, Ladybits, & More Stealth Camping

Today's Route: Long Lake, NY to Ticonderoga, NY (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2523

When I left Long Lake this morning, the sun was shining, and there was a perfect patch of blue in the sky immediately above me. But in the surrounding skies, in all directions, there were dark clouds.

Closely watching the clouds develop.

Last night I had washed some clothes in the sink, and today those clothes were strapped on the outside of my panniers, in hopes of drying.

The first hour or so of riding, I kept watching the sky, waiting to getting dumped on. But by late morning, there were clear skies in all directions. Score, I would be able to dry my laundry!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day #44: The Beauty of the Rain

Today's Route: Otter Lake, NY to Long Lake, NY (64 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2457

Today's ride was the best yet. I had a smile on my face the entire time - even when the heavy rains began to fall 35 miles into the ride. It was so wonderful to be riding among the trees. I am definitely a nature girl way more than a city girl.

At Seventh Lake.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day #43: Cemeteries and Cottage Life

Today's Route: Texas, NY to Otter Lake, NY (77 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2393

Seriously? I can't pedal my bike through Pulaski?

No biking allowed?

Get it? <Insert eye roll here.> I know, I know. Corny. Sorry for the bad joke.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day #42: No Ifs, Ands, or Butts About It

Today's Route: Sodus, NY to Texas, NY (58 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2316

Since leaving St Paul on Day #19, I have not had any rest days. The idea of going a day without cycling doesn't really appeal to me. With that being said, I think it's important for the body to rest every now and then.

My idea of a rest day is a lower mileage day. And so, after three days in a row of 80+ miles each, today's ride felt like a complete and utter rest day in my book.

Day #41: I "Heart" New York

Today's Route: Holley, NY to Sodus, NY (84 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2258

Evan (my Warm Showers host from last night) rode along with me this morning for just over 40 miles along the Erie Canal. It was great to have a riding buddy to chat with. Evan saved the walkers, runners, and bikers along the trail from having to listen to me sing off-pitch Brandi Carlile songs.

Me & Evan.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day #40: A Delightful Day

Today's Route: Buffalo, NY to Holley, NY (93 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2174

Today was an absolutely delightful day! I rode 93 miles, which is the farthest I've ever cycled in a single day with a loaded bike. But it didn't feel like 93 miles at all. The miles seemed to fly by.

I left Buffalo this morning and crossed over The Peace Bridge to reenter Canada. I rode about 30 miles along the Niagara River. Although the bike-friendly Niagara Recreational Trail runs along the river, I decided to bike along the Niagara Parkway instead - the traffic was minimal, and I figured it would be faster to ride along the street.

After 20 miles of riding I came to The Falls. But just a few miles shy of Niagara Falls, it looked as though the city was on fire.

The city is on fire!

Day #39: Where the Buffalo Roam

Today's Route: Port Dover, ON to Buffalo, NY (83 miles/134 kilometers)
Total Trip Miles: 2081 (3348 kilometers)

I'm back in the states tonight. I'll cross over the border again tomorrow morning to do about 30 miles on the Niagara Recreation Trail before heading back into the states for good.

For tonight, it's great to be back in the good ole' U.S. of A.

Here are some observations I've made about my experience in Canada on this trip:

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day #38: The Port Burwell Predator & The Port Dover Angel

Today's Route: Port Stanley, ON to Port Dover, ON (75 miles/121 kilometers)
Total Trip Miles: 1998 (3215 kilometers)

Happy Fourth of July, people of the United States!

I have successfully managed to miss all independence day celebrations; I was in the U.S. for Canada Day, and I was in Canada for the Forth of July.

It sure did feel weird waking up this morning and seeing that it was July 4th, but knowing I wouldn't be seeing any parades or watching any fireworks. Heck, I haven't even seen any red, white, and blue decorations - flags, buntings, whatnot - for a few days now!

As it turns out, Canada celebrated its birthday on July 1st. I've seen many signs saying "Happy Canada Deh." I had to ask. Yes, "deh" is the good humored Canadians laughing at themselves for their "eh"-speak.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day #37: In Need of a Soundtrack

Today's Route: Morpeth, ON to Port Stanley, ON (48 miles/77 kilometers)
Total Trip Miles: 1923 (3094 kilometers)

Donna, my Warm Showers host from Bay City (MI), took this photo of me three days ago.

Heading out from Bay City.

This photo surprised me; I look different than when I left for this trip. For one, my smile seems to be a bit bigger. But that doesn't really surprise me - this trip has been really good for me. What surprises me is that my clothes seem to be a bit looser.

I have definitely noticed changes in my body as I've biked over the weeks. For the first time in many, many years, I'm starting to see muscle tone. Oh my god, I actually do have abs!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day #36: Oh, Canada!

Today's Route: Port Huron, MI to Morpeth, ON (85 miles/137 kilometers)
Total Trip Miles: 1875 (3017 kilometers)

It seems as though I have been in Michigan forever! Truth of the matter is that I crossed into Michigan 11 days ago. Having biked through the Upper Peninsula, I don't think it's possible to have travelled a longer route across the state.

The people of Michigan have been nothing but wonderful. I've been absolutely touched by the encouragement I've received - people hollering and clapping from their yards and cars pulling over to wish me the best.

Oh, and I love how so many Michiganites have asked if I just graduated from college. Why, yes I did! Thirteen years ago!

But...I'm ready for some different license plates. Bring it on, Canada! Beginning today, I will ride through Ontario, hugging the north side of Lake Erie.

Day #35: It's Not About the Bike

Today's Route: North Branch, MI to Port Huron, MI (57 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1790

Bill came over to check on me this morning at the church. He handed me a little white bag. "What's this?" I asked. Inside the bag was a tasty pastry. That's total blow-my-socks-off "wow"! Just another example of the North Branchers' generosity.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day #34: Firebows & Small Town Loveliness

Today's Route: Bay City, MI to North Branch, MI (65 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1733

My morning began with a quick stop at a grocery store on the way out of Bay City. I was surprised to see two touring bikes in front of the store.

The waterbottles on the bikes stated "Spokane, WA," and a Tyvek jacket from the popular STP (Seattle-to-Portland) ride was strapped to one of the bikes. In fact, it was the same jacket I had from riding the STP back in 2008.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day #33: It Ain't Over...Until It's Over

Today's Route: Clare, MI to Bay City, MI (62 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1668

As the saying goes, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings."

Lesson Learned: Don't publish a blog posting summarizing the day's events until the day is over. Like, really over.

Three things happened yesterday evening after I posted yesterday's blog entry.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day #32: Fat Bikes and Fat Hearts

Today's Route: Luther, MI to Clare, MI (79 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1606

I stopped by the post office in Luther this morning, ten miles into my ride, to mail home the stuff I enumerated in yesterday's post.

The grand total weight was...drum roll please...6.5 pounds! That's nearly the weight of three liters of water! Maybe it was all mental, but it seemed that Shirley (my Surly bike) and I rode a wee bit faster today.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day #31: A Month on the Road

Today's Route: Traverse City, MI to Luther, MI (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1527

Wowsers! I've been on the road for a month now! That's one-twelfth of a year! For what it's worth, I can't think of a better way to have spent that month.

As you may know, I love to look for inspirational graffiti as I'm biking along. Often times this graffiti appears on streets or on signs. Here is today's graffiti, which I found on the TART bike path along the waterfront in Traverse City.

What do you suppose it means?

Day #30: A Long Day

Today's Route: Boyne City, MI to Traverse City, MI (71 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1461

Day #21 marked my longest bike tour (last year's Pacific Coast trip was 20 days in length). Today marks the most miles traveled while on a bike tour (I travelled 1450 miles of the Pacific Coast).

Although it was an exciting record-setting day, it was a very long, tiring day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day #29: Tree Tunnels, Bona Fide Tourists, and Dirt Bagging

Today's Route: St. Ignace, MI to Boyne City, MI (81 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1390

The alarm this morning was set for 6:00. I heard the first boom of thunder at about 5:40. With the second boom, I woke up quickly. "Jake, let's get packed before it starts raining."

We both entered into speedy packing mode. Within about 15 minutes, we had dressed, broken down the tent, and packed. The rain started to fall literally less than a minute later.

We high-tailed our bikes to the overhang by the campground bathrooms. The flashes of light and the booms of thunder were close together, indicating nearby lightning. Buckets of raindrops were falling on us.

A pool of water begins to accumulate near the bathrooms.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day #28: Parting Ways - Twice Over

Today's Route: Blaney Park, MI to St. Ignace, MI (71 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1309

The theme for today's post is "parting ways." There wasn't just one parting of ways today. Nopsie daisy! There were two.

After spending a few days riding along with us, Mr. Andy has decided to ride 19 miles off-route today to spend the day chillaxing* at a Warm Showers host's digs. A warm shower, a comfortable bed to sleep in, a laundry machine, home-cooked food, good company. Yeah, I can see why Andy made this choice.

* "Chillax" combines "chill" and "relax." Get it? This is a new hip term I learned from Carenna.

Andy, many thanks for your companionship over the last few days. You make one hell of an awesome riding partner. Hope you'll catch up again soon so we can ride together more.

Jake, Andy, and me - parting ways.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day #27: Draft Day & Frog Feet

Today's Route: Escanaba, MI to Blaney Park, MI (86 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1238

Today we decided to stick together as we rode. We knew we had a lot of miles ahead of us, and so we figured it would be most efficient if we were to take turns leading and drafting off of one another.

An awesome sculpture, just outside of Escanaba.

The most popular road kill for today was the porcupine. We saw four of them. I've never seen a live porcupine in the wild. I figured they'd be a wee bit bigger than a hedgehog. But holy smokers, these porks were humongous!

Day #26: Naked Bicyclists

Today's Route: Crystal Falls, MI to Escanaba, MI (83 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1152

Yesterday was the summer solstice - the longest day of the year. Yeah solstice!

I, of course, love the summer solstice for all of the wonderful daylight. But I also love the solstice because of the Fremont Solstice Parade.

Fremont is, without a doubt, the funkiest neighborhood in Seattle. And its annual Solstice Parade is, without a doubt, one of my favorite Seattle events.

Why do I love the Fremont Solstice Parade so? Because of the naked bicyclists, silly! Yes, each year, hundreds of cyclists bike nekkid in the parade.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day #25: Storms, Storms, Go Away!

Today's Route: Phelps, WI to Crystal Falls, MI (50 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1069

Sure enough, it had rained all night long and was still raining when we wiped the sleep from our eyes this morning. We had a cold breakfast in our tents, packed up our soggy homes, and were on our way.

There's not a whole lot to say about today's riding. Other than it being soggy and punctuated occasionally by flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.

The storm that got us.

Day #24: That [Bleep]in' Steve

Today's Route: Boulder Junction, WI to Phelps, WI (54 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 1019

We woke up to the hoots and yodels of the nearby loons. I was instantly reminded of the 1981 classic "On Golden Pond," starring the handsome Henry Fonda and the lovely Katharine Hepburn. "The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back!" I love that movie. Especially the soundtrack.

In addition to waking up to the sounds of the loons, we also awoke to the hum of skeeters. Again.

This is a small portion of what the outside of our tent looked like when we awoke this morning:

Mosquitos, everywhere!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day #23: Brach Candy Corn in Northern Wisconsin

Today's Route: Glidden, WI to Boulder Junction, WI (62 miles)
Total Trip Miles : 965

We did it! We got mosquito repellent!

Our repellents of choice.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day #22: Insects, Insects!

Today's Route: Hayward, WI to Glidden, WI (55 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 903

We awoke this morning to find another tick. This time in the tent.

Before I could blink, Jake had his clothes off and requested another tick check. I fulfilled the request, paying particular attention to the warm and/or moist parts of the body where ticks like to sink in their little heads. Jake reciprocated.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day #21: Stealth Camping in Tick Land

Today's Route: Cumberland, WI to Hayward, WI (66 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 848

My tour last year down the Pacific Coast was 20 days in length. As it is Day #21, this is now the longest trip I've ever been on. I'm starting to feel as though bike touring is just my normal everyday life. Quite frankly, I find myself forgetting that I live somewhere fixed and that I own belongings other than those that fit in my panniers.

Day #20: Getting Into the Touring Groove

Today's Route: Scandia, MN to Cumberland, WI (65 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 782

It's our first full day of touring together, and Jake and I are starting to find our groove. Up until Day #18, I had been traveling by myself. Now that I have a biking partner for the next few weeks, things are...different.

Day #19: And We're Off

Trip Route: St. Paul, MN to Scandia, MN (46 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 717

This is the first day of riding together for Jake and me. We will ride together from Minnesota to New York state.

Andy, a friend of mine, will begin his tour tomorrow. He is riding nearly the exact same route, but he will be a day behind us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day #17: Trains & Pedal Wrenches

Today's Route: Whitefish, MT to St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN (by Amtrak train)
Total Trip Miles: Same as yesterday

If you recall back to an earlier post, I have the great honor of being accompanied by the famous Traveling Pedal Wrench. As promised, I am photographing this magnificent wrench in locations where it plays a key role in my adventure. Here's to you, Traveling Pedal Wrench!

The Traveling Pedal Wrench in Whitefish.

Day #16: Character Building

Today's Route: Bigfork, MT to Whitefish, MT (48 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 671

I fell asleep early last night to the sound of the falling rain. A little while into my sleep, I thought I heard a faint voice saying, "Is anyone home?"

I poked my head out the tent vestibule to find the campground host, with a note in his hand. He had put the note in a ziplock bag and was planning on attaching it to my bike.

Good news and bad news.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day #15: Ghost on Her Ghost Bike

Today's Route: Condon, MT to Bigfork, MT (49 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 623

As you may recall, my next destination is Whitefish, MT. From there, I will take Amtrak to Minneapolis, MN to meet up with Jake for three weeks of riding.

It's about 175 miles from Missoula to Whitefish. I certainly could have made it to Whitefish today, but I wanted to leave some buffer time in case I ran into mechanical problems or inclement weather. In the interest of preparedness, I opted for a few easy days instead of pushing it. So far there have been no mechanical problems (not even a flat tire!) and no inclement weather (I'm 15 days into the ride, and I've only had a half day of riding in the rain - not bad).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day #14: Contrasts

Today's Route: Greenbough, MT to Condon, MT (53 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 574

The following photos can do far better than words to summarize my morning.


Days #10-13: Adventure Cycling Leadership Training Class

Day #10 - Thursday

I spent the morning at Toole Park, along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. My tent was still wet from the prior morning's dew, and so I took advantage of the sun and laid out the tent to dry in the grass. I then got comfortable in the shade of a tree, completed paperwork for the class, and spent a few hours reading some more short stories from my book of anthologies.

I was absolutely flattered to have a nicely bearded Montana man, named Bradford, approach me to offer his phone number in case I needed anything or wanted to hang out while I was in town. He had just come down from a bike ride in the mountains. After completing his very early morning shift. At the local donut shop.

Um, yeah. Welcome to Missoula.

Awhile later I rode over to the hotel to check in before class began at 4pm.

Thursday evening's class was primarily introductions. We took turns introducing ourselves, stating our intentions for the class, and providing some background about our touring experience. To assist in learning each other's names, we had to state all of the names of the people who had previously introduced themselves.

I did my introduction and then stated everyone's name. When I got around to Darryl (remember him from the prior post?), I said, "And this is Darryl. He and I did Warm Showers together last night." This statement seemed entirely harmless to me, but it elicited a loud chuckle from everyone else. Without familiarity with Warm Showers, I suppose it does sound rather funny.

Days #11 and 12 - Friday and Saturday

Both Friday and Saturday were jam-packed with learning and role playing. In modeling the experience of a typical day on tour, we took turns practicing meal planning, shopping, and cooking for 12 people.

Me, Adam, and Jody, making a very tasty African Peanut Stew.

One of the advisors, Joyce, gave a presentation about her beautiful custom-built touring bike and the gear she takes on her tours. I always thought I was an organized packer. But, my golly, it's comforting to know there's someone way more anal than me.

Joyce has color-coded stuff sacks for everything!

We had a fun no-obligation talent show.

Darryl sings some original songs.

Andrew rides his bike backwards.

Day #13 - Sunday

Today's Route: Missoula, MT to Greenbough, MT (31 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 521

'Twas the last day of training! And what a great couple of days it has been!
All in all, the training was quite good - far better than I had expected. I've done a number of leadership courses in the past, and they were always frou-frou. But this one was good. Well organized. Excellent advisors. And a fantastic group of fellow students.

Back (L to R): Adam, Andrew, Sarah, Alex, Christy, Josh, Darryl, Joyce, Art, Scott; Front (L to R): Mimi, Jody, Sue

Like me, Robin, the blonde chick in the back row of the below photo (second from the right), is from Portland. As it turns out, she lives on a houseboat on the same island where Jake and I live. It'll be great to have a new biking friend who lives less than a quarter of a mile away!

Back (L to R): Jerry, Steve J, Ann, Steve G, Danna, Tyler, Robin, Wally; Front (L to R): Neill, Joe

The class is now complete. I look forward to leading some tours with Adventure Cycling next summer! Woohoo!

Mission accomplished!

Update 12/10/2013: For any individuals who are interested in taking Adventure Cycling's Leadership Training Class, please know that taking the course does not guarantee that you will receive a tour leader position.

For one, at the completion of the class, you must be recommended as an eligible tour leader; not all class attendees are "tour guide worthy." Secondly, many eligible leaders graduate from the LTC each year. The pool of eligible leaders grows at a much faster pace than is needed to fill ACA's guide positions. Thus, it can take many years to obtain a tour leader position with ACA.

An email sent on 12/6/2013 by Arlen Hall (ACA Tours Director) with the subject "2014 Tour Leader Assignments" reads:

… If you were not selected for a tour, do not give up waiting for an opportunity. I would like to briefly share my story of success. I took the Leadership Training Course in 2004 in Littleton, Massachusetts. Once I was identified as a potential leader the waiting time began. I hoped to have an assignment in 2004 but was not offered one. I completed the Leadership Preference Survey in 2005 and I waited throughout 2005 as well. I completed it again in 2006 and had to wait again.  In the spring of 2006, I received an email and a phone call. Before the Tours Director could ask if I could... I said "YES I can" and then figured out how to make it work. Between then and 2011, I received more and more assignments until I had to start saying no to few. So... hang in there. …
Suffice it to say, although I was recommended as an eligible tour guide, I did not obtain a tour leader position for the 2014 year. I look forward to an opportunity arising in the coming years.

Update 8/9/2015: I helped staff the Columbia River Gorge event in June. It was great fun! (See Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge.)

After the class ended, I hopped back on the bike to continue the next leg of my journey.

Some folks playing bike polo in Missoula.

I had planned on riding only 30 miles today, as our course evaluations lasted through the middle of the afternoon. It's a good thing I had a short day of riding, as last night Adam and I went to hear Hey Marseilles, a Seattle band that was playing in Missoula. Wowsers! They were fantastic! (My favorite was the cello player. He was quite dreamy to watch, as he was practically making love with his cello. Hubba, hubba!) It was totally worth the 2am bed time and less than four hours of sleep.

Montana definitely has different scenery from Idaho. Big, blue skies. Wide open fields. Lovely tree-covered mountains in the background.

Ah, beautiful Montana.

Tonight I'm staying at The Lubrecht Experimental Forest, a 20,000 acre outdoor classroom and laboratory for the University of Montana's School of Forestry. There is supposed to be a campground here, but I can't find it. (And in all honesty, I haven't tried that hard.) I haven't seen anyone around, so I've decided to make a lovely picnic pavilion my home for the night. The pavilion offers both running water and electricity. I'll take it!

I have the whole pavilion (and perhaps the whole forest) to myself.

It's absolutely gorgeous here. Totally quiet and peaceful. Just me, the birds, and the trees.

I'm going to try Eric's method of sleeping on the picnic table tonight. This will be a first for me.