We’re doing a three day tour from Portland to the Oregon coast with our friends Brian and Cynthia, who are in town from Santa Monica. They brought their Dahons, and we’re riding our Bromptons, so it will be quite a sight to see. We’ve since named ourselves Team Pelotini (small peloton)! We’re packing everything that we’re bringing for our next big tour, so it will be a full dress rehearsal. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the folding bike craziness.
Two years ago, we were weeding through piles of dishes, shelves full of books, closets full of forgotten knick-knacks. We were waiting for the official announcement of my layoff and trying to figure out how to actually make the leap to full-time travel. We were preparing ourselves to say goodbye to our friends, to carry our entire lives on our bikes, to make an enormous and unknown leap. Suffice it to say, preparing for this next trip is a completely different experience.
After rambling across the country for 15 months, we feel like we’ve become hardened travelers. The idea of heading back out into nothingness isn’t something we need to steel ourselves against, and the details of life on the road aren’t overwhelming like they were two years ago. Instead of figuring out health insurance or a home for our couch, we can focus on how to structure our work flow on the road so that we can actually accomplish everything we want to do. We feel like we’re able to be much more pro-active in our plans for this next trip, and think about the bigger picture.
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Besides the work we’re doing to combine trains and bikes, we also want to route our journey through lots of unique places. Which is where you come in… On May 15, we leave Portland. Aside from plans to be in Missoula, Montana around the first of June, we have very little of our route planned. So we’re asking for your suggestions. Do you know of some funky little places we should explore or interesting people we should interview? Do you have a favorite burger joint or coffee shop? Send them our way!
We spent this past weekend with the great group at Cycle Wild, a non-profit organization in Portland whose mission is to reconnect people with nature through bicycle touring. One of the great things about Cycle Wild is that it has become a great organization for getting first timers to tour; people who are a little daunted by the logistics and routing, people who don’t necessarily want to carry camping equipment (there was a yurt option on this last trip), and those that want to tour with a fun group of people. This weekend, we couldn’t help but feel like newbies again taking our Bromptons on their first bike camping trip!
As Laura wrote on her last post, we’re still figuring things out. This is simultaneously fun and exciting as a challenge, but also a little nerve wracking as we try to optimize everything we’re carrying. Our last trip is beginning to look a lot like a Carnival Cruise in retrospect, when comparing it to our more streamlined setup. I’m trying to vastly cut down on the electronics, carrying my most used bits of camera gear from the last time around. My clothing packing list is under constant scrutiny, as I try to figure out what little permutation of clothes I can bring to account for the the big temperature variations we’ll face. Of course, a lot of this is familiar territory, so it is a little funny to get butterflies in the stomach.
In that spirit, it was wonderful to join some newcomers to touring this weekend and have that same sort of I’m-still-figuring-it-out feeling too. We got to respond to lots of questions and quizzical looks during the weekend. One of the first questions that people ask us when they see the Bromptons are if we have to pedal any faster or are we much slower than with our other bikes? We’ve been telling people, “No.” It was good to finally confirm this on our weekend trip. We were able to keep up without a problem and even found ourselves at one point in a funny looking pace line of bikes, bags and Bromptons to Champoeg State Park at a good (for us) 15mph clip.
The 6 widely spaced gears covered most of the bases. It gave us a reasonable high gear of about 88 gear inches and a reasonably low gear of 29 gear inches. What this means in practice is that for 90% of the time you will not have a problem even with a light touring load, though there will 5% of the time where you’ll be grunting up a hill cursing for another gear and another 5% where you may have to walk. We’re still playing with gearing and may try a few mods before we settle on our final setup. But for those that are demanding the specs now, we have 6spd Bromptons with the wide range rear hub and the -12% reduced gearing option. The only other modifications we’ve done so far are replacing the bikes with our old Brooks saddles from the Surlys and changing the grips (Laura is using some Ergon BioKork grips and I’m using Ergon Magnesium race grips – both of them hacksawed down a little).
Aside from the riding, we also were trying out our new tent, a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. Many will recall that we traveled with an REI Quarterdome T3, the last time around. We decided to find a tent that was smaller and lighter and would pack well with the Bromptons for our next trip. The Copper Spur UL2 is fairly roomy for a two person tent. It was long enough that we could keep our Brompton front touring bags at our feet, allowing us to park our folded bikes in the vestibule! We can’t speak for its durability yet, but our initial impressions are really positive.
This past weekend was a trip of some firsts. It was good to finally do a real ride with a real touring load over some very real hills. It was both encouraging and sobering. We were constantly amazed at how well the Bromptons handled, but also became more aware of their weight and gearing limitations. We’re still really excited to take them out on tour, but it means we’ve got a bit of fine tuning to do before we push off in a few months!
After a few days in the exciting and frantic streets of New York City, we are now back in the country, reflecting and planing our route (the final leg of this season’s traveling). It has been a whirlwind last few weeks as we’ve passed through big city to big city.
We immersed ourselves in the bike culture and varied bike shops in Philadelphia and were amazed to find the diversity of cyclists in the city.
The day we left Philadelphia, the NE was experiencing record rain. Rivers were overflowing their banks. We hit a stretch of road that was underwater and had to reroute.
Fortunately, the canal tow paths that we were riding into Lambertville, NJ didn’t overflow and were passable. However, the Delaware was running unusually high and fast.
We had a close encounter with a falling tree! It still strikes us as ironic that after 9000+ miles of road riding, it was a tree on a gravel road that almost hit us.
We stay with Laura’s cousin and spend a few days eating and relaxing in New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ – two cute sister towns separated by the Delaware river.
Cuteness abounds in New Hope!
On our way to New Brunswick, we stop by the Princeton campus and thoroughly confound students and locals with our vagabond looks. Un-ironic sweater over the shoulder wearing was prevalent, as were popped collars. We are in strange country, friends.
We met up with the folks at CycLab, Princeton’s very own bicycle co-op. They took us on a mini-adventure around campus and ate at one of the hallowed eating clubs on campus.
Just outside New Brunswick, we stumble upon a cemetery and find the grave of Laura’s great-grandparents.
In New Brunswick, we stayed with Zack, a reader, fellow bicycle tourist and researcher who has been studying the effects of hurricanes in Mexico. We go to a place called Stuff Yer Face, a great local eatery that specializes in strombolis and good beer.
From New Brunswick, we take a train into “The City” and find ourselves in the madness that is Manhattan. We experience something like shell shock as we try to navigate through the traffic.
We ride over the varied stretches of new bicycle infrastructure in New York, including the Williamsburg bridge.
We spent our first night in New York in Queens, someplace we’ve never been. Our hosts take us to one of their favorite eateries in they neighborhood that serves Bosnian food. The food is dense, grilled sausages and potatoes and a spinach pie – it all seems perfect for the crisp evening.
Reluctant to leave New York so quickly after traveling all this way, we change plans again. We spent an afternoon exploring Brooklyn and the surrounding environs.
Through the magic of the internet, we get help from BrooklynByBike and @noneck, and put together an impromptu presentation in Williamsburg. Despite the short timing, we get a great enthusiastic crowd that asks some probing questions.
After our presentation, we get a visit from some critical mass riders! We move the venue to the street and talk to some riders and answer questions about bike touring. Somewhere in there, we are handed a “Times Up” sticker and our bikey evening in New York is complete.
We say goodbye to our hosts in Brooklyn. We know Becky through her parents who we stayed with in Durham, NC. It’s a small world and the internet is making it smaller.
On our way out of NY, we decided to cross the Brookyln Bridge, along with thousands of other tourists. It is slow going, but the views coming into Manhattan were great. There are people from all over the world walking on the bridge and it reminds us how unique this place is.
We decided to stop by one last bike shop before we leave the city. It is a very stylish bike shop in Tribeca called Adeline Adeline that specializes in Dutch bicycles and accessories.
We hopped a train at the iconic Grand Central Station to get out of the city and into the country.
We’re in the Hudson River valley now in the small town of Garrison, NY. It is beautiful here. The colors are changing and there is a definite chill in the air. From here, we are riding east to New Haven, CT then north to Boston. Winter is coming and once it arrives, it will be the temporary end of our traveling for this portion of our journey. If you are along our route and want to meet up, send us an email!
A couple weeks ago, we hopped on a train out of Durham, North Carolina, and got off in Baltimore, Maryland. Instantly, everything was different. No more South, with its slower pace and overgrowth of kudzu. In Baltimore, we found colonial-era buildings and a snappier attitude. By skipping over Virginia, we effectively skipped over the transition between the two locales.
Now we are in Philadelphia, reeling a bit from the enormity of the city, and the density of this whole region. It has been several weeks since we have set up our tent, as camping options are dwindling before our eyes. We laugh about how we camped through the bitter cold of last winter and the sweltering heat of the summer, but now that it’s fall and the weather is perfect for camping, we’re in an area (and on a trajectory) where camping isn’t as viable an option. But it’s all about the choices you make, and right now we’re choosing to explore this dense region and its varied cycling cultures.
Philly has been a delightful surprise for both of us. If we stay out of Center City and all its downtown-y madness, you can almost forget how big the city is, because it feels like a string of little communities. West Philadelphia, where we have spent most of our time, is full of old buildings and small restaurants and a vibrant, diverse population.
And the cycling is pretty fantastic! The roads may be extremely torn-up, the paint may be chipping away from the striped bike lane markings, the drivers may be crazy and only looking out for themselves, but it doesn’t make the city any less bike-able. For the most part, Philly is fairly flat. The blocks are short and the streets are narrow and crowded, which tempers the speed of most drivers. There are some incredibly great bike shops. And, most importantly, when we’re out on our bikes, we’re not the only ones. We hear that the city has had a cycling boom in the past couple years, and it shows. Yesterday, when I saw a mother riding in the street, with her two young daughters also riding in the street, it made it that much more clear how accessible this city truly is for cyclists.
We leave Philly tomorrow (Friday) and head to New York City (via my cousins in NJ). We’ve been working to nail down a presentation in the city, and we’ll let you all know when we get the details figured out. We’re hoping to spend a week or so in the area, so let us know if you’d like to meet up, or if you’ve got space to host us. And if anyone has any brilliant, lesser-trafficked routes into the city from the west, please let us know!
If you’re a reader in Philly, we’d love to meet you! We didn’t get a chance to set up a presentation this time around, but we still would love to talk touring and bikes! We’re staying near Dock Street Brewery (which also happens to be right next to Firehouse Bicycles) and thought it would be the perfect location for an evening of beers, bikes and good conversation.
Where: Dock Street Brewery
When: Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 6pm-8pm
Why: Drink beers and talk bikes.
Here’s the Facebook Event page…please RSVP so we’ll know how many tables we’ll need to commandeer! See y’all/yous on Wednesday!
Everything is closer together in the East coast. In the West, we could travel days and weeks before reaching a city of any size. In the East, things are a lot more compressed. We’ve been a little remiss about updates, there has just been so much going on, so here are a few snaps from the last few weeks.
We led a successful overnight bike camping trip in Durham and turned some people on to the joys of bike touring (even super short ones!).
We met Jack and stayed with his family for a few days. He’s a bike commuter and an active bike advocate in Durham.
After hopping a train from Durham, we found ourselves instantly in the East coast. We rode around Baltimore for a few days, getting use to being in dense urban areas again.
We met some folks involved with the Baltimore bike scene and chatted with Tommy Nash, a budding frame builder and part of the Baltimore Bicycle Works worker-owned cooperative.
We took a day trip into Annapolis and stopped by Velo-Orange headquarters.
Then we took a long series of rails to trails conversions and made our way slowly to Philly.
We rode through the beautiful rolling hills of PA.
On one of the rails to trails, we run into some readers who generously take us in for the night. We have a great time talking about adventure and travel.
We stayed with Megan, a reader and energetic entrepreneur, who also happens to be a bike advocate way out in the middle of nowhere PA!
More riding through scenic rails to trails.
We’re now in Philly. We’ve banged out 115 miles in the last two days (which is a lot for us) and are tired. We’re hoping to set up a presentation, do some exploring and get my iPhone fixed (it bit the dust). If you’re in Philly and want to meet up or help us out with a homestay for a day or two, zip us an email!
We’ve just come back from dinner with some new friends after our presentation at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville. We weren’t quite sure what the turnout was going to be, since we only got about 8 people to confirm on Facebook, but we were pleasantly surprised when we counted over 50 people! Here are some snaps from the evening.
Setting up for the event. We had a stack of free Adventure Cycling magazines to give away. A lot of the folks seemed new to Adventure Cycling so it was a great way to spread the word about bike touring.
We also got some great gear from Klean Kanteen to give away, including a pair of steel pint glasses, insulated Kanteens and water bottles. We did a quiz on bicycle safety and the law and made people work for it. In addition to Klean Kanteens and Adventure Cycling memberships, we also got some REI gift certificates to give away!
Mike Sule from Asheville on Bikes talking about some upcoming bicycle events.
Caroline, the event coordinator for Malaprops was stunned (so were we, in fact) at the turn out.
Laura watching our year long slideshow with the crowd. We still get a kick out of seeing our old photos from the beginning of the trip. It reminds us how lucky we’ve been to be able to travel like this.
That’s it for now. We’re both pretty tired but will post more about our stay in Asheville soon. Thanks to everyone that came out tonight, it was a great crowd!
We’ve been on the move, pedaling at break neck speeds (not really) and are in North Carolina! We’ve passed such beautiful country that we have fought (and won!) the urge to just blow by it all. We’re not just stopping to smell the roses, we’re putting them in our mouths. Some snaps to catch ya’ll up.
We met lots of great bikey people in Chattanooga. This is a portrait of Quint, who I stumbled upon at a cafe one morning. He had just purchased some bike racks for his favorite coffee shop and was there to figure out their placement with the owner.
As we moved through East Tennessee we stumbled upon a Mennonite farmer’s market! Here are some folks unloading the watermelon into the side of the market.
Laura crossing the Hiwasse River.
The interior of the awesome lodge we stayed at in Tellico Plains. The manager, Toni, a transplant from Louisiana was super friendly and welcoming. If you’re ever in Tellico Plains, we highly recommend the Mountain View Cabins!
While at Tellico, we partake of a local food gem – the Tellico Grains Bakery! Stuart, the owner, is also an avid cyclists and has ridden the Great Divide Route. The food there is spectacular and is easily the best place to eat in town.
We also met up with some readers and talented artists, Allen and his wife Cathy. Allen is a sculptor and potter and Cathy is a painter who paints fluid abstracts inspired by water and nature. We visited them at their beautiful home in the mountains around Tellico, climbing up a bumpy gravel road!
Bumping along Wildcat Road.
While at Tellico, I got a fair amount of fishing in!
As we left Tellico, Toni the manager from the lodge gave us some hand picked vegetables after reading Laura’s post on food. She was just plain awesome.
The gift of food was quickly put to use.
From Tellico, we hoof it up the Cherohala Skyway. It was some serious work after being in the flatlands for a while.
We get a most AWESOME surprise when one of our readers, BIll, finds us at one of the overlooks and gives us some dessert and water!
Nothing sweeter than eating strawberry shortcake while climbing a mountain on your one year anniversary of traveling.
Amazing views from the Cherohala.
We are all smiles at the top.
After the Skyway we stumble upon paddling mecca – the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
We then roll to Bryson City and have a great presentation at Bryson City Bicycles!
We explore the sights and sounds of Bryson City. I went fishing (no photos) and Laura takes a pottery class at Pincu Pottery with our awesome host Raquel!
That’s it for now. We’re enjoying our time in Bryson and will be heading into Asheville, NC soon. If you want to connect while we are in Asheville, send us an email!
After our great stay in Nashville, we hit the road again, excited to explore more of Tennessee, sad to leave behind all the great new friends we’d made. We decided that, since we’d had such a long break, we should take it easy getting back in the saddle, and plan some short mileage for the first few days. Then, we kept with the shorter-mileage days, because the countryside was just so beautiful that we kept running across great places to stop and stay.
From Nashville, we headed east toward Percy Priest reservoir. Our plan was actually to get to Cedars of Lebanon State Park, but the day was hot and we were seduced by the idea of just camping by the reservoir. From Nashville, we followed the Greenway out of town. For miles and miles, we were able to ride along this beautiful, wooded multi-use path – and we enjoyed the shade and the quiet. The Greenway ends at the dam, and you climb a hill out of the parking lot. Directly across the street is a visitors center, where a lovely young ranger told us all about camping options on the reservoir. We ended up at the Anderson Road campground, just a few miles SE of the visitors center. The campground is rustic, but we found a delightful spot right on the water, where we enjoyed the sunset that night and the sunrise the next morning.
From Percy Priest, we headed south-ish, along Hwy 41, to Murfreesboro. For the most part, Hwy 41 is a perfectly fine road, and traffic only gets heavy and unwieldy as you get into town. But, we lucked out, and spotted another greenway on the right side of the road, so we hopped on it and enjoyed a quiet, shady ride into town. Actually, before we got into town, Russ indulged in some urban fishing, since the greenway follows several rivers and creeks. We puttered around Murfreesboro that afternoon, and decided to just stay in town that night.
The next morning, we continued down Hwy 41, which continued to be a fine travel road. Just north of Manchester, we turned into Old Stone Fort State Park. We wanted to get into the park early in the day, since it was Friday and we wanted to make sure we got a spot. And it turned out to be a good thing that we pedaled so quickly, because that afternoon and evening were full of rainstorms that pummeled the area. We strung up our tarp porch and sat underneath it, as the rain came down so hard and fast that it created rivers through the forest around the park. (If you don’t believe me that it was that crazy, check out this video.)
In the morning, we woke up to a soggy, humid campground, and decided to head down the road a few miles to Barton Spring campground on Normandy Lake. The manager at the campground promised to make space for us, even if all the sites were full, and Russ was itching to fish some more. The country roads out to the lake were fantastic riding and we soared up and down the hills. Camping at Barton Spring made us realize that it’s actually summer! The place was packed full with families, swimming, picnicking, boating. It was an experience we hadn’t had since last summer! While Russ caught and released tiny fish after tiny fish, I sat under a tree and read, and jumped in the water whenever I started to get too hot. That night, we walked around the park and mused about the sheer number of people and the variety of humanity that was camped there.
From Barton Spring, we meandered south through the town of Tullahoma. We passed the George Dickel distillery, but couldn’t get a tour since it was Sunday morning. We figured the nearby Jack Daniel distillery would be closed too, so we skipped it as well (although, we later found out that Jack is open on Sundays, go figure). We rolled into Tims Ford State Park around noon and stopped to rest and find out about camping in the area. When we discovered they have a small restaurant with ice cream at the marina in the park, we opted to just stop for the day and continue to enjoy the feeling of being on summer vacation. That afternoon, another storm blew through, so we tightened our tarp porch and kept our fingers crossed that our tent would continue to hold (which it did).
In the morning, as it continued to drizzle, we debated staying another night at the park. When I realized that we didn’t have enough food and the small restaurant was closed on Mondays, we decided to mosey down the road a bit. The constantly changing weather was also getting us sick, so we opted to ride into nearby Winchester and get a cheap motel room. While I rested and tried to get well, Russ set up the computer in the only space in the room with wifi… the bathroom sink.
From Winchester, we were determined to finally log some miles and get into Chattanooga. We headed east along Hwy 41, moving slowly (since I was still feeling sick). When we reached the small community of Sewanee, we stopped for a bit of a break. We chatted with the guys at Woody’s Bike Shop, and ate lunch at Julia’s. Then, as it started to rain again, we took Joe (one of the guys at the bike shop) up on his offer to stay the night in town. That afternoon, after the rain had subsided, Joe took us on a hike out to a hidden waterfall. And that evening, we ate dinner with Joe and his roommates, Jerre and Charles.
We lingered in Sewanee in the morning, stopping for coffee on campus. Then, we headed down Jump Off Road toward our last camping stop before Chattanooga. If you’re in these parts, we really recommend Jump Off Road. It’s heavily wooded, which provides delightful shade on a hot day, and the traffic volume is extremely light (just don’t take Snake Pond like Google Maps suggests). We chowed down on some burgers at a local (and left-over from the 60s) fast food joint in South Pittsburg, then continued down Hwy 156. We naively followed Google’s travel advice and discovered that you really can’t cross the Tennessee River along Hogjaw Road (it’s a dam that was closed to traffic following 9/11). So, we ended up putting in a few more miles getting to our destination that night, Marion County Park. This would be a wonderful campground (right along the water, beautiful views), if not for the fact that I-24 (and all its traffic) is only a few hundred yards away. We did our best to ignore the sounds of cars and trucks, and focused on the water and groups of geese wandering around.
From Marion County Park, we followed Hwy 64 around the peninsula by the river. Given that it looks like it’s right along the river, we thought it would be fairly flat. It is not. But the serious amount of climbing is truly worth the stunning views. The traffic volumes were also quite light along this road, and we always had two lanes in our direction or a wide shoulder whenever we had to climb. Hwy 64 brings you into Chattanooga from the West, where you skirt the edge of Lookout Mountain and the remnants of a 60s tourist culture. And before we knew it, we were in downtown Chattanooga, getting ready for our presentation that evening. Thanks to everyone for coming out and to Outdoor Chattanooga for hosting us! We’re now greatly looking forward to exploring the rest of the city!