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Day 1 – Back in the Saddle Again

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Despite two days of false hopes, we were finally, definitely ready to leave on Sunday morning, which happens to be exactly two years to the day that Dallas had initially left Portland before ending up in New Orleans.  Still, it was almost noon when we finally rolled away from the house we were staying at in Portland.  My loaded bike seemed incredibly heavy, and my legs felt sensitive to even the slightest incline.  We were both out of practice after not having toured in so long, so it took a few miles to gain our balance and momentum.  That momentum was killed as we followed fallen lifesavers and other pieces of crushed candy up the steep hill to Dallas’s mom’s house in Oregon City.

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Riding the Champoeg bike path

After a brief stop in Oregon City, Dallas and I continued to Champoeg (pronounced ‘Shampooey’) State Park – the start of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which would take us south to Eugene.  At the park, while we shared an apple with almond butter, a park ranger approached and asked if we were camping there.  We still had about two hours of daylight, so he pointed us in the direction towards the next campground, about 20 miles down the scenic bikeway.

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It seemed like a lot of people were burning things outside today, and the wind kept blowing smoke to our senses before we could see the source of all the fires.  We rode through miles of farmland rich with fall crops like apple and hazelnut trees, corn, and pumpkins.  We still had just under ten miles to go when the sun touched the horizon. 

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As we pulled over to put our lights on, a truck pulled over to ask us about our bike tour.  Back on the road, just a short distance beyond this and around a corner, the truck was pulled over again.  A guy got out as we approached and offered us his parent’s apartment behind their house for us to spend the night.  It was half as far away as the campground and included a bed and shower.  We eagerly accepted the offer, and they gave us directions to their home.

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This is MUCH more luxurious than our tent - thanks, Peggy and Graham!

Graham and Peggy were waiting for us when we pulled up to the garage, where their beautiful apartment is attached.  They showed us around and told us to eat or drink whatever we found in the fridge.  We are so grateful for such generous people who open their homes up to us, and we both hope to return the favor some day.

Distance covered today was just under 50 miles (not bad for starting at noon).

New (used) bikes for our next adventure

Back in Portland, Dallas and I spent a few days recovering from our travels from Alaska.  We needed to get moving though, before the weather turned cold and rainy.  It was apparently already too late to miss the rain, so after 2 rest days, we started to get serious about our next move.  Dallas purchased an almost new Kona Honkytonk from our friend Alyssa, and I found an excellent deal on a GT Wheels 4 Life Peace tour bike on Craigslist.  The former owner of my new steed had just finished riding across the US with it – you can see her blog here: www.missionusa2013.blogspot.com

On Friday, Dallas caught up with family in Oregon City while I ran with our friend Kelly in Forest Park.  I spent that weekend testing my bike out on some of John Benenate’s team rides.  It’s heavy compared to everyone’s road bikes, but it will definitely get me out of Portland.  After spending Saturday and Sunday cycling in the rain, Dallas joined me for Tuesday and Wednesday evening group runs organized by other Skora ambassadors.  There’s definitely enough resources to stay active all week in Portland.

My plan was to wait for a few sunny days in a row (which could be weeks here), and get as far south as possible before the rain hits again.  We got lucky on Thursday afternoon when the sun came out (and we got to see our friend Kristina, from Sockeye, who had just arrived in Portland the night before).

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Hoping to leave Friday, we hurried to get everything we needed together for another long bike tour.  Halfway through the day, we decided we wouldn’t be ready and would leave on Saturday instead.  Saturday morning came, and we still had a few last minute things to pack and adjust.  By Saturday afternoon, we were still not quite ready.  Hopefully we haven’t wasted our only two sunny days in Portland.  We definitely plan on biking out Sunday morning!

The plan is to head south as far as Eugene together.  Then, I may cut west to the coast and ride down the Pacific Coast Highway.  Dallas is planning to continue towards Crater Lake (hopefully the National Park will be open again by the time he gets there) and south to visit his dad in Ashland before meeting up with me again in San Francisco.  The goal is to get to San Francisco by October 19th.  Keep checking back for more frequent updates along the way!

Northbound, for Alaska

Warm and sunny weather has finally arrived in Portland, and Dallas and I are on our way to Alaska, where it’s

Our shaky attempt to ride the tandem around the block

Our shaky attempt to ride the tandem around the block

currently snowing. We hosted a potluck with our friends who had hosted us, and everyone has stunned me with their generosity. I must say that this is a great group of friends, and while I’m excited to be finally on our way to something new, I am a bit sad to leave such wonderful people. During our last week in Portland without our bikes, our friend John Benenate provided us with a tandem to borrow. Even friends who couldn’t make it to say goodbye gave us donations so we could replace our stolen bikes sooner than ever. We are well on our way to doing that, thanks mostly to Dallas’s friends and family!

We will be spending the remainder of our weekend in Juneau before boarding a ferry on Monday morning for Skagway. Hopefully the weather will warm up rapidly so we can enjoy the last frontier!

Missing: Two Touring Bicycles

I write this post with both sadness and hopefulness.

On our last day in New Orleans last year (in May of 2012) we celebrated by going out to a bar.  Our bikes were just outside and a few doors down.  When I went to check on them, I noticed someone standing over them.  As I approached him, I realized the man was attempting to steal our bikes by twisting a broom handle that he had stuck in between the cable lock and the bike frames.  I confronted the man, who looked both drunk and homeless.

“What are you doing with our bikes?”

“These bikes? These aren’t your bikes.” He lied.

“Ummm…yes. That’s my bike, and that’s my helmet!” I retorted, pointing at the helmet that he was wearing backwards on his grimy head of long, tangled grey hair.

He finally decided against messing with me any further and stumbled away.

Having my bike stolen was one of my biggest fears about living in New Orleans.  We made it until our last night without incidence, and I was lucky enough to divert the one feeble attempt that was made to take our bikes from us.  Unfortunately, it was in Portland that our bicycles were successfully stolen.  Unless of course, our bikes had overheard Dallas considering buying a new bike and decided to run away together before I got the same idea.  I can only hope they are together and being treated respectfully, wherever they are, and that they are not too afraid.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and Bianchi Volpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape - both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and BianchiVolpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape – both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

We were on our way back home from visiting Dallas’s mom in Oregon City, and stopped at REI.  Our bikes were locked up together on the bike rack outside of REI, and we left them alone for maybe an hour, while we browsed the store and ate a quick meal next door.  Walking back to the bike rack, I did not see any wheels sticking out.  That’s when my heart sank in my chest, and we saw the cleanly cut lock on the ground by the rack.  Fortunately, Portland does have good public transportation, and we were able to get home within 40 minutes and only one connection from the MAX to a bus.  But I felt a bit of shamefulness having to walk to the MAX in our bike shoes, helmet in hand, with no bikes.  I started thinking of all the things that I could have done differently to prevent our bikes from being stolen, and I felt as if it were my fault.  We shouldn’t have stopped at REI.  We should have taken the ride that Dallas’s step-father had offered us back home.  We should have locked our bikes somewhere else, or gone back to check on them between shopping and eating.  But in reality, there’s no way I could have known, and of course it’s too late to change what has happened.

Dallas and I are looking on craigslist, ebay, pawn shops and bike shops in hopes of recovering our lost bicycles.  But in the end, we cannot complete our goals without bikes, and we may just have to break down and get new ones.  This gives us an opportunity for something good to come out of it, and perhaps we can strike up a partnership with a bicycle company that would be interested in sponsoring us.  We are totally open to ideas.  In our current circumstance, we will probably end up riding whatever we can find on a budget.

A few months away from rainy Portland

On the eve of my departure from Portland I lay awake thinking about everything that has happened since our arrival.  I was feeling incredibly sad that I would be leaving Dallas for two weeks, but at the same time I was excited to go back to New Orleans and hopefully recover a bit financially.   My alarm clock rang to wake me up before I ever fell asleep.  It was going to be a tiresome trip.

St Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square is all lit up for the Super Bowl

St Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square is all lit up for the Super Bowl

New Orleans was colder than I would have liked it to be, but the spirit in the city was just picking up for the Superbowl and Mardi Gras. I came just at the right time to start pedicabbing at the height of the tourist season. It did warm up considerably after a few weeks, and Dallas joined me for a month before going back to Portland. I had planned to fly back to Portland on the same day as Dallas, but I ended up passing up my flight to stay longer and enjoy a visit from my dad. My pedicab license actually expired on my birthday, so instead of pedicabbing in New Orleans, I carpooled with my friend Ryan over to Austin, where my pedicab license was still valid for another year.

Biking around Austin on a sunny day

Biking around Austin on a sunny day

Austin was warm and sunny during the days, but dropped to cooler temperatures once the sun disappeared for the night. I arrived a few days before SXSW, the festival that attracts thousands of people to the city each year. I didn’t want to work as hard as I had last year, but I needed to work enough to make up for the expense of being there. At this point, I had bought another plane ticket to go back to Portland and see Dallas, but it was three days before the festival ended, and I would have had to miss out on two of the best nights for pedicabbing. I also wasn’t looking forward to leaving the lovely weather to go to a place where I would be mostly alone, unemployed, and uncomfortably cold. I decided at the last minute not to take my flight, and instead stay in Austin until the end of March.

Mayan ruins of Tulum

Mayan ruins of Tulum

After SXSW was over, I got in touch with my friend Dainy (D), another nomadic free spirit who showed up both in New Orleans and Newport while bouncing around between other various locations. She had been in Austin for SXSW and was planning to drive to Mexico that day with her roommate, John, from New Orleans. After thinking over her invitation for a few minutes, I decided to join them. A few hours later, the three of us were driving south in her car, headed for Monterrey. We arrived around 4am, where Perla, a couchsurfer in Monterrey, so kindly let us stay on her couches. She even made us pancakes and drove us to the airport in the morning, where we caught a discount flight to Cancun. From there, we took a bus to Playa del Carmen and spent 4 days exploring beaches, cenotes (underwater caves), and Mayan ruins in Tulum. D’s friend from Mexico City, Stephen, joined us in Playa and introduced us to some of his friends as well. Once back on the bus to the airport, D decided to stay in Mexico and actually stopped the bus driver to get off at the next stop. Back in Monterrey, John and I were met by Karina, another couchsurfer that D had arranged to host us. Being the only two ‘gringos’, she easily recognized us and took us to an awesome barbecue at her friend’s house. This was the most memorable night of my time in Mexico, since it was more authentic than eating at a restaurant in a tourist town, and the people were amazingly welcoming and friendly. I still find it amusing that Mexican meals always seem to include the same foods, and this barbecue was no exception. Tacos made with fresh corn tortillas, meat, cheese, and spicy salsa. We stayed at Karina’s house that night, and her mom fed us breakfast (similar to the barbecue, but with eggs too) the next morning before we drove back to Austin in D’s car.

Me, Karina's mom, John, and Karina before leaving Monterrey

Me, Karina’s mom, John, and Karina before leaving Monterrey

Driving back, the line at the border was so long, and the sun was so hot, that the car overheated and the radiator leaked. We noticed this after smelling something burning and seeing smoke rising from the hood. Mexicans are very resourceful, and there were plenty of guys walking around all the cars waiting in line, selling various goods. I kind of wanted to ask if any of them were handy with fixing overheated car engines. We eventually made it to the front of the line, but had to keep turning the engine off and back on again to move forward a space (people would cut us in line if we left more than half a car’s length of space between us and the car in front). I think border crossings should all be at the bottom of a slight decline, so cars can all turn off their engines and coast down the line. Either that, or do something to make the line move faster! The officer who inspected our car did not seem surprised that our engine had overheated, nor did he offer any help with our situation. We did manage to find a shaded area to park once we crossed into Laredo, and after letting the engine cool down I was able to refill the coolant without it leaking again. A mechanic at Sears told us that it’s very common for cars to overheat while waiting at the border. I think there has got to be a solution to prevent this from being a common occurrence.

Oldest tree in Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI

Oldest tree in Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI

I enjoyed the warm weather and company of friends in Austin for a few more days before flying to Providence to visit family for a week. I also reconnected with some good friends from home and started to get back into a regular running routine. I finally flew to Portland at the beginning of April to be back with Dallas. Apparently the weather wasn’t so bad while I was away, but the city greeted me with cold weather and persistent rain upon my arrival. That’s just when it started to warm up in Rhode Island too!

While we were in New Orleans, Dallas and I applied for and accepted jobs as bicycle tour guides in Skagway, Alaska. We will be leaving Portland at the end of April to spend the summer in Alaska. Our plan after that is to head south by bicycle towards Patagonia, with likely stops along the way to work and recover financially.

A much needed update – Portland, Oregon!

A detour through the Tillamook Forest on the way to the Oregon coast

I apologize for neglecting this website for so long.  When I’m not actually bicycle touring, I don’t think there’s much point to writing on here, but I know that some people have been curious about where we are now and what we are doing (and when we are planning to hit the road again!).  I will add some more posts to fill in the details about the summer later, but for now I will write about where I am right now.

After pedicabbing in Newport for the summer, Dallas and I purchased a one-way flight to Portland, Oregon.  We flew directly from Boston to Portland on September 11th, and we plan to stay here until the end of the year.

Camping on Mount Hood

While Dallas was able to get to work immediately on a construction project remodeling an apartment building, I spent the next 6 weeks looking for a job.  It wasn’t easy, but fortunately the weather stayed nice for a while before the rain moved in.  I printed out a bunch of resumes and biked around town for days, dropping resumes off, mostly at bike shops.  I also spent a fair amount of time performing online searches and applying for gigs on craigslist.  It took nearly 2 months before I finally landed a seasonal position at the Columbia Sportswear outlet in Sellwood, just a few miles from where I live (and all downhill).

Dallas crushing the Portland Marathon

Dallas and I ran the Portland Marathon on October 7th, and Dallas impressed me with his time of 3:32:14.  I’d like to see Paul Ryan beat that!  In his first marathon, Dallas ran faster than I have ever run a marathon.  He’s definitely a keeper.

One thing I noticed about Portland, which is one of the only platinum level bicycle cities, is that everyone here is pretty good at bicycling.  There’s a whole network of bike paths and lanes throughout the city, and the local cyclists (of which there are thousands) zip by with purpose at intimidating speeds.  During the morning rush hour, cyclists stream towards downtown dressed in cool rain gear and all carrying some sort of cycling bag either on their backs or bike racks.  I have honestly never seen so many cyclists in this country and so many fast bicycle commuters in any city (including Amsterdam).  I’m not used to being passed on my bicycle by other cyclists, but during my first few weeks in Portland I had trouble keeping up with most cyclists of all ages and genders.

View from the trail that goes up to the top of Multnomah Falls

Aside from the predominantly cold and rainy weather, I have enjoyed living in Portland.  It has a great outdoor culture, and accommodates runners and all sorts of outdoorsy people in addition to bicycle commuters.  Our roommate, Gerrit, has been generous to lend us his car on occasions when we want to get out of town – and usually he will go with us.  We’ve been trail running in Washington and Multnomah Falls, camping on Mount Hood, and most recently ran a trail race in Eugene.

Photo from the dress rehearsal of Marat/Sade

Before I was hired at Columbia, I was in search of gigs I could do through craigslist.  I ended up putting the pocket trumpet I bought in New Orleans to good use and performing in a play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade, for short).  Having never played trumpet for anything before, I was nervous, but the show went well.  Being part of the play inspired me to audition as a singer for a Winter Solstice performance, but I did not get called back for that.

Also since moving to Portland, Dallas and I decided to audition for the Amazing Race.  We had our friend, Justin, help us put together the video for our application, which you can see here:

James and his mom, Jo, before departing Portland on their bike tour up to Bellingham, Washington

We have had friends visit us here in Portland, which is always fun. Dallas’s friend, Linus, and his friend Vito, came to town for work one weekend and cooked us fettuccine Alfredo with veggie sausages.  My friend, Ashley, came down from Vancouver, BC with a bunch of friends for a weekend.  One of Dallas’s friends, James, who he met while cycling down the coast before he came to New Orleans, was bicycling up the coast with his mom, who was on her first bike tour.  They stayed for 2 or 3 days, and explored the city while it rained the entire time – and James made incredible Bengali lentil soup.

We were all Happy Fangs Stars for Halloween – Jayson, Doug, Adam, Gerrit, Taassin, me and Dallas lying in a pile during our Halloween party

My friend, Adam, from Rhode Island, was visiting during Halloween, and we made him a costume like ours.  We searched for a place to buy cheese curds so he could make poutine, but had to resort to buying poutine at one of the food trucks.  And most recently, Duffy and Kara, friends from New Orleans, stopped in for a few days on their way to a job that was waiting for them in California.  Kara cooked delicious vegetable soup and made salad, which she served with bread and ginger snap cookies for dessert. To any friends who are reading this, you are more than welcome to come visit as long as you give us a bit of notice to make sure we’ll be home – and cook us dinner one night!  (Dinner is not required, but always appreciated).

Happy Holidays from Lowenbad!

Dallas has reunited with his band, Lowenbad, and will be playing a show on December 14th at a bar called Scandals.  I may get to play trumpet or trombone in a few songs!  (We picked up a trombone on craigslist for only $25).  If you are in the area, it’s worth checking out.

We plan to leave in the spring on our bicycles and head for South America.  I will try to update again before we leave Portland, but for now, I think I’ve caught y’all up to everything we’ve been doing here!