Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bike Fork Photos

Hey everyone!

Not sure who's still reading this...but I did promise that I would put some additional pictures up, so I'm here to deliver on that!

Here are two pictures of my bike fork.

You can see it bent slightly to the left.

The top part of the fork is not supposed to be bent at this angle - it should be more of a straight, gradual line. Oops!

Here's a picture taken in Forsyth Park, in Savannah...Such beautiful live oaks! One of the last photos I got before my camera broke!

Margaret and I have talked recently and been typing up haikus and other musings from the road which we hope to eventually put in a finished document of sorts. We also hope to see each other for New Years. The trip had a bit of an abrupt end so it will be great to reunite! Happy Holidays and a safe and Happy 2010 to all!

Love, Emily

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre Turkey Day

Hello all!

A bit of a revision to the last post...we did not continue on to New Orleans and fly home from there. Though the details are blurry, I'm told I was eating absurd amounts of food, sleeping lots, and not really making much sense. So, after another visit to the ER for a Catscan in Tallahassee, we instead flew to Manchester, NH late on the night of Sunday the 15th. Margaret went back to St. Johsnbury, VT with her folks, and I returned to Scarborough, ME, with mine. This past week I continued to eat like it was my job, sleep about 16 to 18 hours a day, not make a lot of sense, and not remember many things. But just in the past two days, I finally feel like myself again! Hallelujah.

So, much to my disappointment, we did not make it to our end destination, and therefore will not be posting pictures of the Big Easy...but we had a hell of a time on the way there! Maybe someday we'll make it there together. I am so thankful for Ken Middleton, the paramedic who helped us out, Mike McDonald, and Margaret. Thanks to them I got home in one piece!

There is at least one thing to stay tuned for - when I get my act together some more I will post a picture of my bent bike fork, and maybe some more pictures from the trip! But for now, Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Love, Emily

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Emily recently had a crash in Jacksonville Beach florida, en route to St. Augustine, FL. Her foot got stuck in her wheel and she flipped over her bike, and ended up with a pretty severe concussion and 8 stitches in her elbow along with some bruises. Luckily, Burlington friend Mike McDonald lives in Tallahassee and offered to come pick us up. We've been recouping at his place and just put our bikes in boxes to ship home. We'll continue on to New Orleans by bus tonight, spend 4 days there, and then head home in time for Thanksgiving.

Before that we'd come from Charleston, SC to Beaufort, SC where we stayed the night in the side yard of the Davis family, home of Tom Davis, the U.S Senator! We then continued onto Hunting Island where we were visited in the night by 3 wily raccoons. The next day we went to St. Helena Island, home of Gullah culture and the famous Penn Institute, one of the first places to educate freed slaves. We tried low country gumbo, sweet tea, and sweet potato pie. We were able to stay in Savannah with a friend of a friend, Nick Powell, a wonderful guy. We explored the city, admiring the beautiful architecture and squares, saw a film at the SCAD film festival, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After Savannah, we stayed a night in Darien, GA in the yard of a Methodist preacher. We stayed one night at the famous Hostel in the Forest, in Brunswick, GA. We camped our last night in Kingsland, GA at a KOA campground. The next day our goal was to make it to St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States. The Spanish established a fort there in 1565 made of shells that still stands today. We were about 20 miles from the city, having just crossed a river via ferry when Emily had her accident. Margaret was ahead of her and did not see it, but heard the crash and backtracked. Luckily, a paramedic on the scene gave us a place to stay for 2 nights before we got in touch with Mike. Emily is still somewhat zombie-like, but it showing progress and sleeping a little less each day.

Also we have no pictures because Emily's camera also fell and cracked in Savannah. It however, was not wearing a helmet so instead of a concussion, it completely bit the dust. Sorry! We'll see you soon! And thanks so much to everyone along the way - we could not have done it without you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Our cup of Luck Overfloweth

We left Spartanburg Wednesday morning and headed toward Sumter National Forest expecting to have open forest space to pitch a tent. As we biked through it however, we were surprised to find residences, yards, and 'no trespassing' signs. It didn't feel like a forest at all! And what's more, it was also the land of snarling, unleased or fenced-in canines that loved to chase us! No bites, but intimidation for sure. We decided to book it to the nearest town where we could ask people about
campgrounds. We stopped at a Piggly Wiggly in Whitmire, SC, in the evening, where we learned it was at least 20 miles to the nearest campground. Enter Karen, a kindly woman who took us in, fed us and put us up in her guest room! Safe and comfortable yet again thanks to the kindness of strangers.

The next day we made our way toward Congaree National Monument. It was a sunny and beautiful day on super flat terrain, so we couldn't have been more pleased. We passed many fields of cotton, that somewhat resembled snow-covered plants. When we stopped to touch it, a man in a pickup pulled over and asked if we needed help. We explained that as newcomers to cotton plants, we just had to get out and touch the plants and would soon be on our way. He smiled and continued on.

Margaret introduces herself to the cotton plants.

We biked just over 70 miles that day, stopping briefly in the capital of Columbia to cool down with iced coffees. We made it to the park and pitched a tent that night outside the Congaree vistor center.

Capital building in Columbia

Friday morning we took time to walk to boardwalk there. Congaree is actually a riverbottom forest, since the network of rivers nearby will flood the area regularly making it more of a swamp. There are tons of Champion trees there (meaning they are the biggest of their species), including many trees we don't have up north, such as Tupelo and Swamp Oak, and probably the most famous Bald Cypress which have 'knees'-roots that pop up above the soil and then dip back down. It was a really fanciful looking place.

Swamp photo!

Hey there Bald Cypress, your 'knees' are showing!

Finally we left about midday and stopped at a little diner so Margaret could get her coffee fix. It was the only store around for miles and a few locals were hanging out. The woman working there was a little baffled about why we would ever bike like we are, but ended up gifting us some delicious warm cornbread in exchange for a postcard that we will send down the road. Bellies full, we continued on our way and found ourselves in Holly Hill as it was getting dusk. A very kind couple in their late 80's ended up taking us in and yet again we got the royal treatment of a guest room, and meals and good company. They even sent us off with Halloween candy in the morning!

Emily samples boiled peanuts for the first time.

Next stop: Charleston! We traveled mostly on route 61, a scenic byway that was lined with huge Live Oaks, dripping in Spanish Moss. We pulled into a spot along the way called 'Middletown Place,' just expecting to fill waterbottles. It turned out to be an old plantation with the most historic landscaped gardens in the United States, designed by the same architect who designed Versais! We went into the museum shop to ask about getting into the city and ended up chatting with Peggy, the woman working there. When we asked her about famous plantations in the south, she insisted that Middleton Place was the most worth seeing. We were afraid the tickets wouldn't fit our shoestring budget, and when we mentioned that we had to check prices, she then suggested that we use some of her free guest passes. So...we had an unexpected afternoon tour of the house and ramble of the grounds! Another example of the incredible good fortune and good people on this trip!

We had to peddle on if we wanted to make it to Charleston that night though, so we took off towards the city. As the traffic started getting heavier we ran into another cyclist who led us right to a 'greenway' bikepath that spat us out downtown right where we needed to be. We found the house of our hosts - College of Charleston students who were friends of a friends of a friends - just in time to join in on Halloween festivities!

The next morning was a glorious sunny and warm day of exploring the city. We saw the waterfront, marina, historic buildings, College of Charleston campus, the shopping district and more. Then we convened back with our hosts and made dinner, watched a movie and hung out. Today was another day of exploration, including a horse-drawn carriage tour of historical sites around the city. It was well worth it to get to know a little more of the story behind all of the architecture. All in all, Charleston has turned out to be a great spot.

The awesome people in Charleston who took us in! Thanks guys!

On the Mega Dock in the Charleston Marina

Sunset in Charleston

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Southern Hospitality is Real Good, Y'all

It's currently raining and overcast, but luckily, we are warm and dry inside at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina! Since last writing we've been through Asheville and Chimney Rock, NC. We crossed into SC yesterday and arrived in Spartanburg last evening.

Friday we spent poking around the city of Asheville. We checked out the co-op, read the menus at all of the interesting looking restaurants, and ducked into many a shop downtown. We saw some great art. That night we met up with Ben and Pearl, our Warm Showers hosts, at a vegetarian restaurant that everyone had recommended to us.

On Saturday we went to a discount grocery store - quite a dangerous endeavor given that we have to carry everything we buy - and then took an afternoon kayak trip on the French Broad River with Ben. We'd hoped to both kayak past the Biltmore Estate and then make it in time to see the bike co-op in Asheville, but it wasn't in the cards. For dinner we ate a southern meal of eggs, biscuits with gravy, kale and onions, and sweet potato homefries downtown and then headed to a local bar for some local brew and bluegrass music. Because we were so in the moment in Asheville, we kind of forgot to take photos! Here's our lone one:

Sunday was a gorgeous day. We didn't set out on the road until midday, but once we did, we rode predominantly on route 76 east, towards Lake Lure. We passed through Hickory Nut Gap, where we happened upon a local man named Gary who showed us around the historic Shellies Inn, that served as a stopping point for travelers over the gap from 1834 to 1909. We filled our water bottles from the spring there and got some great views.

We cycled past Chimney Rock and were planning on camping in the Lake Lure/Chimney Rock area. The sites we came upon though were all for RVs! We scoped out a local park thinking we could tuck our tent towards the margin, but realized it was right by a police station - so we went to ask if that would be ok. It wasn't - but the police did suggest asking the nearby Baptist Church if we could pitch our tent in their yard. We did, and and they agreed. Just 15 minutes later or so as we were setting up camp in the area they had indicated, (by a little house that they also owned), the pastor drove up with a set of keys in his hands. He told us that "he just couldn't stand the thought of anyone sleeping in the cold", and so we could stay inside the house that night. He turned on the heat and let us use the shower and stove etc. Yet again, we are blown away by people's generosity and hospitality!

Here's a haiku to describe our feelings:

we are well-cared for
so much generosity
the world is too good

On Monday we made our way from Chimney Rock towards Spartanburg. The day was pretty uneventful until the afternoon, when we took a bit of a spill. None of the roads in South Carolina seem to have shoulders, so we were riding pretty close to the white line. At one point along Route 9 the pavement sort of crumbled away. Emily's tire went off the road, and she ended up flying over the handlebars when she turned left to try and correct and resume road riding. Luckily, only scraps and bruises came of it, and an EMT happened to be right behind us to shower her in hydrogen peroxide and wrap her up with gauze!

Emily all bandaged up

Also, if a fall had to happen, it was great timing. We were only a few miles from Spartanburg where our host Shelley, who works at Upstate Forever and is involved in Partners for Active Living, lives. She contacted us when she read about our trip through the Rail to Trail newsletter. She then connected us with Converse college, which is also taking really good care of us.

Emily, Margaret, and Shelley

That night that we got to listen to an amazing woman, Dr. Katherine Jeter, speak on campus about "designing your lifestyle", (essentially, how does one accomplish goals they aspire to). One of her accomplishments that impressed us in particular, was that she rode 70 miles in a day on her 70th birthday and raised over $70,000 for charity to do it! She emphasized that a large part of getting something done is setting a date and telling people of your plans so that you're held accountable. How true! Our own take on that is that it's not even necessary to know exactly what you're getting yourself into. If you set the date, you have to launch in just like we did for our tour...and we sure are figuring it out along the way!

Katherine and Emily

Speaking at Converse College! What?

We plan to head out tomorrow morning and hope for sunnier weather! The rough plan is the head east, stop at Congaree National Park en route and find our way to Charleston, and then Savannah!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Layer or Not to Layer?

Since last writing we've entered into North Carolina, and met the coldest weather of our trip so far! Who knew that was possible?

After leaving Roanoke, we headed southwest to Christiansburg, VA on route 11. We stayed with Warm Showers hosts Colin and Becca, and arrived just before it started to rain! Colin is a fellow UVM grad! Thanks guys!

On Colin's recommendation, we decided to hit the New River Trail - a Rail to Trail path - that follows the river for just over 50 miles. Despite the chill in the air, it was extremely scenic, winding past green pastures and through technicolor leaves. It was a great low, and therefore warmer, alternative to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our first night, we camped right off of the trail in Foster Falls, an old village with cool old buildings. For more shelter, we set our tent up in the stage area of an amphitheater! Presenting...Emily and Margaret!

The next day we finished the trail extremely chilled in Galax, VA. We warmed up for a while in a BBQ Smokehouse, the only business open in the downtown on a Sunday. It was there that we found out frost was predicted that night! We decided to continue on the Blue Ridge, as we had initially planned, since weather would likely be more extreme there. Luckily, some friendly people at the Galax Methodist Church helped us out and put us up for the night.

The next morning there was frost everywhere, so we were lucky to have been inside! What's more, the sun had returned after being absent for three or so days. Wahoo! That made a huge difference. We got back on the Blue Ridge, and had a beautiful clear and warm day. It was so nice to be in just a jersey and shorts again, after so many days of layering up and down! The previous days had been a constant struggle with layers to find a balance between being hot and sweaty from activity and chilled from the wind and cold. When we stopped for lunch at a crest, a woman in her car asked us, "Where y'all from?" When we replied Vermont, she said, "VERMONT?!" and proceeded to take our pictures because, "anyone who does that deserves a photo to be taken."

We spent Monday night on the Blue Ridge in a nice spot off the road. It was cold when we went to bed, but we were still surprised to wake up this morning to frost again! We hung out in our sleeping bags while we waited for the day to heat up. And heat up it did! We even managed to get a little sunburned! We were forced to detour off the ridge towards Boone due to a rock slide. When we stopped at a small gas station and mini mart to fill up water bottles, we were the talk of the town in no time. Some old timers who looked like fixtures on the outside benches were fascinated by our travels, asking us questions and offering up their own stories. One gentleman showed us pictures of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in the local rodeo.

We spent the night in Boone with some fellows from the warm showers gig. We had a lovely night of annies mac, boggle, and meeting bicycle enthusiast friends, as well as a jem of a dog named Praise Break. Even though we only spent an afternoon and evening in Boone, we were both pleasantly surprised and taken with the town. We could easiy immagine ourselves there.

Thanks Winklers Creek guys!

We struck out from Boone Wednesday morning and got back on the Blue Ridge. It was a super sunny, spectacular and hot day! The views were even more astounding then before. We wanted to make sure we got close to 50 miles in since we were hoping to make it to Asheville, (which is about 100 miles from Boone)the following night, so after 47 miles when we found a flat spot to pitch our tent off the side of the road, we were ready for it and psyched. Right after we had pitched our tent a pickup pulled over and the driver came out to tell us that it is illegal to guerilla camp in that area, and that a ranger would probaly be by to give us the boot. However, he did offer his yard up as a free spot to throw a tent...and we took him up on it! He and his wife also clued us into the fact that Mount Mitchel, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, stood between us and Asheville. Awww man! We lack maps that show elevation- a major flaw in our plans. Wanting to make it to Ashville by Thursday night, we decided to cheat a little and catch a ride with a pickup a ways up the mountain the next day.

The lengths we go to, to stay warm...

Luckily, we met Karen and Charlie, a nice retired couple from Georgia, with a pickup. They helped us up the mountain, so we were free to coast down the other side. Again, the day was sunny and clear, so the views and ride down were truely breathtaking. We were so inspired that we wrote a Haiku:

Feet clipped in real tight
The miles pass like minutes
This must be cloud nine

View from atop Mount Mitchel

Bonus Photo with Mustaches!!!

We're super excited about getting to check out Asheville!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unattractive but Alive!

Unattractive indeed, but alive, yes.

We took off from Charlottesville on Sunday and made a minor detour to Crozet for an annual craft fair. It was a beautiful sunny day and we took our time munching kettle corn and listening to some local bango music. Then we continued on to find the legendary cookie lady in little Afton VA. Our host Hal in C-ville had clued us in on her. She is an 89 year old woman who has been hosting cyclers en route since 1976! June Curry. We weren't sure quite where she was or what to expect, we had just heard that she offers travelers cookies, and that perhaps we could even camp there. After a long uphill that locals had warned us about, we came across an old brick house with a sign in the front yard, "Cookie Lady". We made it! We followed the signs around back to her stoop and there she was, no taller than 5' , waiting for us at the door with a polaroid camara and key in hand.

Margaret, June, and Emily

She sat us down, took our photo to log in her guest binder, and then invited us in and ended up chatting for 2 hours. She regaled us with stories about Afton in the "olden days", and showed us her homemade model of the town from the '2o's. Finally we went next door to what she called the 'bike house'. It was one floor several room abode, with the walls plastered in postcards and newspaper articles that past biking guests had sent her. The title for this post is borrowed from someone elses tour name - the Unattractive but Alive girls of 2008. It perfectly describes how we feel, when unshowered for several days, but but our hearts pumping and wind in our hair! The whole house was a sight for soar eyes. The kitchen was stocked with goodies and pans for our use, and there were couches and blankets. She surely is a trail angel, as she has been deemed by the cycling community. What a highlight of our trip! (google her- the cookie lady, it's worth checking out!)

Over 11,000 cyclists have stayed at the "bike house" since 1976

Then the next morining was our climb up to the blueridge parkway. It was beautiful, but as cold and dreary as we'd experienced on the trip so far. We tried psyching ourselves up with some candy treats (bull's eyes have become our new fave). Also, we loaded up on layers (hats, gloves, smartwool etc) so that we wouldnt freeze on the 30 mph way down, but it made for some swampy 4 mph uphills! We went about 40 miles that day and camped off the side of the road by Irish gap and quickly crawled in our sleeping bags after dinner to stay toasty. Later that night, we were awokened by a pack of coyotes calling back to each other in the nearby woods. Kind of haunting, and very cool.

Guerilla camping on the Blue Ridge

For as sobering as Monday was, Tuesday was equally lighthearted. As we packed up camp the sun came out and we stripped to shorts and a t-shirt. Then we experienced about 20 miles of downhill amidst clear sunny views of blue ridges and flaming reds and orange leaves. How spectacular! We dropped from about 2,300 ft to about 600 ft, the lowest point on the parkway.

Beautiful view from the ridge

We saw a sign for the Natural Bridge, just 15 miles off the parkway and figured since we were so low, it wouldn't be a big ordeal to get back on it after. So off we went, assuming that it would be a lovely natural feature for us to stumble upon and stroll through. Little did we know that a large, commercial gift shop and visitor center demanded $18.00 of each of us to be allowed to walk to it! What?! So instead we took a cheaper, and much cooler tour of nearby caverns. They were the deepest on the east coast, 34 stories down. Then luckly we were able to pitch our tent in the picnic area nearby. Another free nights stay.

Hooray for caves!

The next day was our most challenging; not physically, but moral-wise. It was cold when we woke up and started raining soon thereafter. We spoke with some locals to get opinions about getting back on the Blue Ridge, but the resounding response was, "No, it's a steep climb and it's gonna rain." We took Route 11 in the valley instead. Good thing we did! We ended up taking refuge at gas stations and sipping warm drinks along the way. After biking for about 4 hours in cold rain, we were soaked through, but at least no one could call us wimps, and we took an odd self rightous pleausre in it all! We got lots of disbelieving stares along the road. At one point in the afternoon, we could both feel our blood sugar crashing and we started to find everything hilarious. We had our heads down, rain dripping from our noses, just chugging along silently, when we were enveloped by the overwhelming smell of donuts at one point on the road, Emily looked up and yelled, "Where the HELL is that DoNUT?"

After a few extra miles in the wrong direction, we arrived at a host we'd found through Warmshowers.com. Our warm showers were truly glorious. After a dinner of delicious cereal, we went to see an excellent French film called Seraphine with our host, River Laker and his friend John. We also both had our first Waffle House experience after! And still later, we went to the Car Less Brit Museum, which is basically documentation of River's 9+ month experiment of life in Roanoke without a car. Check it out at http://carlessbrit.tumblr.com/. It was the perfect end to an evening to pedal around on modified tricycles inside!

Circus Bear Margaret rides a baby bike

Again, because of our host connections, (River works in the Promotions Department at the local library), we were able to get another insider opportunity! This morning we headed to Jes Gearings house, a vegan who is being featured by the Roanoke library for her Vegan Thanksgiving menu. We got to witness and sample some butternut squash with a mustard maple glaze! Yum. She also has a food blog that you can visit at http://cupcakepunk.wordpress.com/. Check it out, it looks divine!

Today is a regrouping day. We're running errands and restocking what we need, doing laundry, etc while waiting out the rain.