Pass the Sprinkles - Our Last Post

M

The pedaling may have slowed down, but we haven’t. We spent the last few days climbing up rock faces, summiting a mountain, and talking about what’s next for us. We’ve looked at purchasing homes in Peoria, and we’ve wrestled with life aspirations and how we hope to live them out. Oh, and we’ve toyed with the idea of training for a half ironman next year.

But I want to remind you, you’re not going to wander through Kroger and find us on the cover of Wheaties. We run marathons and aim for the five hour mark, not to qualify for Boston. We rock climb to challenge ourselves and be with friends, not to prepare for free soloing El Capitan. We biked across half the country not for bragging rights or because we look sexy in spandex, but because we wanted to write a foolhardy adventure into the story of our marriage. And we do all these things because we believe one thing. Love requires action.

You see, I tend to think life gives us a bowl of vanilla ice cream and it is love’s job to add the sprinkles, hot fudge and cherry. And the job often isn’t pretty. For every stunning mountain there’s been miles of sweat, discouragement and soreness in the nether region. But love is an action and for hundreds of miles that action was nothing more than pedaling and perspiring. I don’t know what’s on next year’s horizon but I know it’ll take grit and courage to find it because love takes action.

It might be moving to the burbs and raising little adventurers, maybe it’ll be summiting Rainer. In either case, I’m filled to the brim with anticipation as the wife and I chart the next course and points the sails toward the horizon.

So let me conclude this adventure with the closing words from The Chronicles of Narnia - words that instill hope and set my heart free to wander.

The Last Battle C.S. Lewis

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

It’s time to pass the sprinkles. 

Zero Flat Tires

J

Hello Again!

I’m honestly not sure when our last update was, but I know that it was before we reached our final destination. These last couple of days here in Bar Harbor and Acadia have been wonderful. Best of all, the whole island has FREE public transportation! Holla!! For two cyclists, those words are music to our ears…and our bums.

We’ve spent some time hiking and talking about this experience, but before I share some of my final thoughts I have to give a huge shout out to Micah.

When Micah asked me if I wanted to bike across the country with him, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I delight in times Micah asks me to join him on adventures. I had no idea what this adventure would entail, but I knew we’d be in it together, so it was okay.

This journey has allowed me to see his love for me in so many new ways, I can’t help but get a little gushy for a second. When I was burning out my thighs on steep hills, he was cheering me on. When I was exhausted and grumpy, he was working to make sure I had a place to sleep and food to eat. When he had to pick campsites, he considered what would make me most comfortable. When there were free cookies available, he got me some. He never turned down my request for ice cream, and always kept plenty of jokes up his sleeve to keep the mood up. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to experience these days together.

1998 called and wants their internet connection back from us. So tonight enjoy this one awesome photo of me Joelle took and we'll get more photos up tomorrow. Rockport, ME

1998 called and wants their internet connection back from us. So tonight enjoy this one awesome photo of me Joelle took and we'll get more photos up tomorrow. Rockport, ME

That being said, here are a few summative thoughts from my experience of living off my bike for a month.

1. People love to help.

We biked all the way to Maine, and you know what? People are nice here too!! (shocker, I know). But really, people want to help. There is so much goodness and kindness to spread around, we’re just not always in a position to receive it. Being on bikes created a conversation starter with people everyday and they showed us unexpected kindness by offering what they could: advice on routes, lifts, food/drink/monetary donations, hotel upgrades, directions, hot coffee, a place to sleep, and so on. Being on bikes made us dependent on kind drivers and late night hotel workers, but that dependency also allowed us to see a beautiful side of people that doesn’t get to be seen as clearly otherwise.

2. Obstacles are scarier in the distance

As we entered hill country, the horizons began to look daunting. We’d be at a top of a hill, see the downhill, and then see the immediate uphill. Almost without a doubt, that upcoming hill looked horribly long and steep. But you know, as soon as we got down the hill and started coasting/pedaling up the next one, it became evident that it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Now, it still might have been bad, just not as bad as it looked. Isn’t that true with all sorts of life obstacles? This trip seemed like a daunting challenge when we started it. And it was! But it was never as long or scary as it seemed at first. And, like most challenges, once you’ve faced and conquered it, you start to wonder why you were ever afraid of it in the first place.

3. Adventure is not glamorous…

This month has reminded me that behind many beautiful Instagram photos, there’s a struggle: years of practicing a talent, hours of physical exertion, days of loneliness or patience waiting for the right moment. The photos that can be created out of sacrifice are amazing and beautiful, but we should remember there is a cost to them.

Most of this month would not have made good photos. In fact, most of what I saw is what you see everyday: roads, fields, trees, squirrels, gas stations, small towns, and power lines. Most of our adventure can’t be shown in photos, because the adventure wasn’t about the beauty around us, but the changes within us.

4…But it’s worth it.

This month has continually surprised me by the difficult moments, followed by my ability to conquer them. There were moments daily when I didn’t think I could climb another hill without walking, but I did. There were countless mornings when I sat on the bike and I thought no way is my tail bone going to make it through another 50+ miles, but it did. Sitting in the bus today, staring out at all of the cars in the parking lot reminded me that almost everyone who is here drove in their car, or rode in an airplane. But we didn’t. We rode on simple two-wheeled machines, and we made it. We did it. We biked from Central Illinois to the coast of Maine.

Few people might ever have an understanding of the challenges and rewards of such an adventure, but that’s okay. I hope our sharing of our adventure makes you think about an adventure you’d like to take, and consider saying yes! Apply to a new job. Ask that person out. Try a new restaurant. Go hiking with your kids. Travel to Antarctica. Learn to play the ukulele. Adventure is out there, but it doesn’t always look like Instagram. Get your family together and make a new adventure.

July 1st Stats:

Left: Bridgton, ME 9:30 am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Brunswick, ME
Total mileage: 49.7 miles
High Speed: 37.4 mph
Avg. Speed: 9.8 mph
Overall weather conditions: rainy
Elevation Gain: 2,089 ft
Elevation Loss: 2,491 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1391.1 miles

July 2nd Stats:

Left: Brunswick, ME, 9:00 am
Sleeping in: a teardrop trailer in Rockport, ME, arrived 6:00 pm
Total mileage: 60.7 miles
High Speed: 33.4 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.1 mph
Overall weather conditions: sunny like Candyland if a board game could have weather
Elevation Gain: 2,426 ft
Elevation Loss: 2,445 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,451.8 miles

July 3rd Stats:

Left: Rockport, ME, 7:15 am
Sleeping in: campground in Bar Harbor ME
Total mileage: 68.9 miles
High Speed: 37.2 mph
Avg. Speed: 10 mph
Overall weather conditions: sunny
Elevation Gain: 3,249 ft
Elevation Loss: 3,305 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,520.7 miles

July 4th Stats:

Left: Campground in Bar Harbor to finish route at the town pier
Total mileage: 11.5 miles
High Speed: 36.1 mph
Avg. Speed: 9 mph
Overall weather conditions: beautiful because we finished
Elevation Gain: 544 ft
Elevation Loss: 499 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,532.2 miles

And zero flat tires.

 

 

 

 

Cranking Up The Kank

We worked around Black Mountain (pictured here) and we began to ascend into Kancamagus Pass. Lincoln, NH

We worked around Black Mountain (pictured here) and we began to ascend into Kancamagus Pass. Lincoln, NH

M

Our maps have an elevation profile. This profile is a guide that answers how long, how high, and how much suffering climbs will bring you. Some climbs are less than a 100 feet. Others are over 2,000. And the mother of all hills for our route is Kancamagus Pass.

Kancamagus Pass is 2,855 feet high and while that may not seems like much, it shot up in our elevation profile and has kept us wondering for the last week or so, “Can a couple of kids from the flat Midwest handle this?”

Our maps are provided by the Adventure Cycling Association. They are absolutely fantastic! I would estimate we've used them exclusively for 85% of our route and in areas where signal service is lost for the iPhones, there is something reassuring about having a paper map to guide you. 

Our maps are provided by the Adventure Cycling Association. They are absolutely fantastic! I would estimate we've used them exclusively for 85% of our route and in areas where signal service is lost for the iPhones, there is something reassuring about having a paper map to guide you. 

The short answer:

We utterly obliterated Kancamagus. Like the Patriots playing the Falcons in the Superbowl, we climbed Kancamagus and left it whimpering behind us. And we pushed hard on the Kank. Joelle pedaled up Kank faster than Chuck Norris could pedal down it. And when we were done with it… well let me put it this way…the Zune music player has better feelings about the iPod than the Kank has about the Hancocks.

Joelle accuses me of exaggerating when I write. So in order to clear my good name, I’ll tell you the real story. We got up early, pedaled uphill for a long time, took in the view from the top, and then scooted our way down. For being the highest point on our route, it was one of the easiest climbs we’ve done this trip.

The rest of the day found us wandering through Eastern New Hampshire and crossing the border into Maine.

We made it up the pass! Final elevation, 2,855 ft. Kancamagus Pass, NH

We made it up the pass! Final elevation, 2,855 ft. Kancamagus Pass, NH

Yup. Those two bicycles and our massive thigh muscles powered our way to the top. Kancamagus Pass, NH

Yup. Those two bicycles and our massive thigh muscles powered our way to the top. Kancamagus Pass, NH

That almost feels strange to write. Maine. We’re in Maine. It still hasn’t sunk in.

When we got to our campsite that night, there were mosquitos the size of Tie Fighters and enough daylight left in the day to push on. We told the camp owners we’re were blowing their popsicle stand and pushing on further.

Four miles from our lodging last night, we hit a rain storm, and it was awesome. Hot, sore bodies got drenched and we laughed, took selfies, and had the time of our lives. We were biking through Maine in a rainstorm. Does it get any better?

We stopped to take photos in the rain. It was up there as one of the most joyful moments of the trip. Bridgton, ME

We stopped to take photos in the rain. It was up there as one of the most joyful moments of the trip. Bridgton, ME

Today wasn’t as pleasant. High humidity and steep “up, downs” made for a slow pace and grueling day. But hey, we’re still biking through Maine.

We’re in Brunswick tonight and tomorrow we turn north and will get our first view of the ocean. If weather holds, we’ll be in Bar Harbor for the Fourth. Which is exciting because I hear Bar Harbor has a pretty spectacular Fourth celebration.

But even if it isn’t, we’ll still have biked to Maine and that is amazing enough for me.

Yesterday’s Stats:

Left: Lincoln, NH, 8:00 am
Sleeping in: a motel in Bridgton, ME
Total mileage: 66 miles
High Speed: 34.4 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.3 mph
Overall weather conditions: sunny, then rainy
Elevation Gain: 3,158 ft
Elevation Loss: 3,534 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1341.4 miles

 

Today’s Stats:

Left: Bridgton, NH, 9:30 am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Brunswick, ME, arrived 5:00 pm
Total mileage: 49.73 miles
High Speed: 37.4 mph
Avg. Speed: 9.8 mph
Overall weather conditions: humid like football locker room in a thunderstorm
Elevation Gain: 2,089 ft
Elevation Loss: 2,491 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,391.1 miles

Hancocks in New Hampshire

J

Hello from the Hancock rest day!

After the craziness of the last few days, the day off has been fantastic. First let me give you a quick summary of yesterday:

1. 2 mile climb, fairly difficult/thigh burning

2. On our way down the hill stop at a local grocery and ate AMAZING muffins

3. Continued upsy downsy for a few more hours.

4. Climbed one more hill to a town where we ate lunch inside of a gas station while it rained outside. (We happened to time that one perfectly)

Joelle churning up the mountain. Appalachian Trail, NH

Joelle churning up the mountain. Appalachian Trail, NH

5. The rain stopped, our food had been digested, so we began our daunting climb that would take the rest of the day to go up and down.

6. We climbed. We coasted down a little bit. We climbed (very gradually). We coasted down even more. We kept coasting so much I thought we were on our way down. I was wrong. We spent hours working on a very gradual but steady climb which ended up driving me crazy. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t go any faster, and it felt like I was pedaling eternally uphill.

7. We stopped to admire the Appalachian Trail and to eat chocolate pudding. (and to let me settle down from being so frustrated with the climb)

8. We realized we were actually at the top and now began the descent.

9. Steep Coasting!

This question raises a lot of questions. 1. Where does the road go? That 12% grade makes thing difficult to see. 2. Do bikes have to abide by the speed limit? Because, if so, Joelle deserves a speeding ticket. Appalachian Trail, NH

This question raises a lot of questions. 1. Where does the road go? That 12% grade makes thing difficult to see. 2. Do bikes have to abide by the speed limit? Because, if so, Joelle deserves a speeding ticket. Appalachian Trail, NH

10. Eventually after some more up-downs, we got to our hotel.

This is the best Econolodge I’ve ever been to. (The free room upgrade to get a Jacuzzi room didn’t hurt. ;)

We ate popcorn, watched HGTV, and made a FANTASTIC dinner out of this freezer aisle chicken parm combined with plain cooked ramen, and microwavable vegetables. It was amazing.

Today we reveled in not biking.  We ate like banchees at our hotel breakfast, Micah got some work done, and we even walked 2 miles to go to lunch! French fries are my weakness right now, and this place had great fries. Anyways, then it started to rain, so we popped in and out of tourist shops on our way back to our hotel. It was a long walk, but it felt great to WALK somewhere.

Now I have to think about biking again tomorrow. Tomorrow’s the biggest climb of the trip, and after how my brain handled yesterday’s climb, I’m interested in seeing how tomorrow goes. Micah’s already been working on our lodging for the next few days, and guess what. TOMORROW WE’LL SLEEP IN MAINE!! Wow. This is crazy.

We walked around an antique shop today and looking at this old rusty globe put in perspective how far we've gone these past couple of weeks. Lincoln, NH

We walked around an antique shop today and looking at this old rusty globe put in perspective how far we've gone these past couple of weeks. Lincoln, NH

Thanks for all the support everyone, we love seeing your questions and comments online! Only a couple hundred miles to go!

Yesterday’s Stats:

Left: Sharon, VT, 9:00 am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Lincoln NH, arrived 7:00 pm
Total mileage: 62.8 miles
High Speed: 41.7 mph
Avg. Speed: 9.4 mph
Overall weather conditions: warm, cloudy
Elevation Gain: 3808 ft
Elevation Loss: 4,009 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,275.4 miles

Tall Tales from Vermont

M

“All good stories deserve embellishment,” Gandalf whispered to Bilbo.

Today was overflowing and to think how many stories today created is almost overwhelming. Nevertheless, I promise the stories are worth it.

Today began in Ticonderoga, NY, the site of battles from the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. After a couple of miles, we came to the Champlain River. We signaled the ferry by pulling a cord and raising a red paddle and after about 20 minutes, boarded the New York to Vermont ferry. It felt right. Passing through history on a historical means of travel.

We crossed the Champlain River via ferry for two dollars each. Ticonderoga, NY

We crossed the Champlain River via ferry for two dollars each. Ticonderoga, NY

Vermont brought us diving hills and grinding climbs. Joelle’s biking legs are coming in nicely and she’s outperforming me on some of the longer hills. A short stop in downtown Middleburg, VT brought us lattes and weather update. Storms.

We’re learning that rain comes in and out of the mountains like rompers go in and out of style. Today’s route took us up our first major mountain pass through Bread Load mountain (yes, that is the actual name of the mountain) and the forecast said heavy thunderstorms by early afternoon. I chugged my latte and we set off to begin the seven-mile climb up Bread Loaf.

Bread Loaf is a 1500 foot climb that you probably wouldn’t make much note of in a car. It’s beautiful and rolling and tough on the thighs. But with the threat of thunderstorms pushing us on, we climbed. Until about 1300 ft. Then we hit construction. The entire road at the top of Bread Loaf was being redone and therefore down to one lane which meant we had to bike in the oncoming traffic lane. We’ve gotten use to semi trucks passing us but now they were coming at us. We hopped into the ditch and let them pass. No sense getting into a collision with a semi rolling down a mountain.

Joelle taking in the view as we cross into Vermont. It really is staggering how much the landscape changed just by crossing a river. The heavily wooded areas of the Adirondacks gave way to wide open vistas of fields and pastures. Shoreham, VT

Joelle taking in the view as we cross into Vermont. It really is staggering how much the landscape changed just by crossing a river. The heavily wooded areas of the Adirondacks gave way to wide open vistas of fields and pastures. Shoreham, VT

We finished the peak of the route and bombed down Bread Loaf, taking full advantage of the 12% grade angle. Which, if you’ve never biked something this steep, it really is a rush.  Joelle described it like a roller coaster, and it was nothing short of it.

We rolled through the town of Hancock and onto Rochester, Vermont. There we stopped at the local bike shop, a renovated house where they have a drawbridge to enter in the shop. It was coolest bike shop we’ve seen so far. A lunch at the local diner and a break to digest the burger and Panini and then we on to the 30-mile push to the finish.

Most fortified bike shop ever. Rochester, VT

Most fortified bike shop ever. Rochester, VT

The next 19 miles rolled on easily enough but it was the last 11 miles that things started to fall apart. I’ve prided myself on nailing the timing thus far. We’ve outrun rain or planned a stop during a passing storm. But today, my luck ran out.

There's a staggering beauty to this part of the country. It is reminescent of Eden. Rochester, VT

There's a staggering beauty to this part of the country. It is reminescent of Eden. Rochester, VT

On the final 11 miles we were racing a storm, and we came in the second. Three miles from town a thunderstorm rolled over us and pummeled us. Rain flew sideways and we pushed on, looking for shelter. A ways down the road, we came to a very high overpass where we took shelter and watched lightning strike around us. It was terrifying and wonderful and beautiful.  

The storm blew through and we pedaled forward. And then, two miles before our destination tonight, we hit another 1000 foot climb. I had anticipated this hill as the first segment of our ride tomorrow but misjudged our destination tonight. So, with 2.5 miles to go and soaking wet, we dropped all our gears and biked/hiked up a monster of a hill. Again, Joelle biked while I had to walk a few sections. I’d blame the extra weight I’m carrying but I actually think she’s just a better climber than I am.

Just split second after I took this photo, we saw a flash of lighting strikes a little ways behind us. Sharon, NY 

Just split second after I took this photo, we saw a flash of lighting strikes a little ways behind us. Sharon, NY 

And tonight we’re staying at someone’s house we’ve never met. I saw their information on the internet and called him yesterday. He’s out of town today but left the door unlocked for us so we get to stat for free.

“Some of the best stories are true,” Micah said to Gandalf.

Today’s Stats:

Left: Ticonderoga, NY, 7:15 am
Sleeping in: a Warm Showers host in 8:00 pm
Total mileage: 77 miles
High Speed: 36.5 mph
Avg. Speed: 9 mph
Overall weather conditions: sunny, cloudy, stormy then sun
Elevation Gain: 4,577 ft
Elevation Loss: 3,839 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,213.5 miles

FAQ & Our 3-Day Update

It was an 82 mile race against this storm but it still came down to the last mile to see if we got soaked or not. Hancock's 1 : Mother Nature 0. Until tomorrow my worthy opponent. Blue Mountain Lake, NY

It was an 82 mile race against this storm but it still came down to the last mile to see if we got soaked or not. Hancock's 1 : Mother Nature 0. Until tomorrow my worthy opponent. Blue Mountain Lake, NY

J

Today was a great day! Note: This was written on Saturday. Today, Monday, was tough. We got back on the road after our 2-day break (It was supposed to only be one day but then thunderstorms came…), biked a little over 50 miles, and landed in the cute little town of Boonville, at a campsite that is literally right next to a beautiful river. Wow!

Our campsite in Boonville earns most beautiful campsite so far. We were 20 feet from Sugar River. Boonville, NY

Our campsite in Boonville earns most beautiful campsite so far. We were 20 feet from Sugar River. Boonville, NY

When we left this morning the clouds were so dark that we put on the rainflies and our raincoats. It was fairly cold and we thought our elevation gain was going to be grueling. Turns out, we were wrong! It was really a beautiful ride through farm country with big puffy clouds and the occasional Amish buggy. There were far off views of foothills (possibly of the Adirondacks?) and thick forests covered hilltops all around us. (Though in typical fashion, we did get sunburned...again. Golly we gotta stop believing that we can outrun the sun.)

After we got to our beautiful camping spot, we rode into town a little bit to visit a grocery store and the local ice cream shop. It turns out, this little place, Mercer’s Dairy, was the creator of wine ice cream! The inside of their shop was covered with magazine and newspaper articles that included their product. Micah said it best when he said it felt like we stumbled into the Ivanhoes of New York. So that was cool!

Our first official mountain sighting, Pilgrim Mountain. Raquette Lake, NY

Our first official mountain sighting, Pilgrim Mountain. Raquette Lake, NY

Today I also have been thinking about some questions we have gotten asked, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Q: When was your start date?
A: June 4.

Q: When will you return?
A: July 12

Q: How will you get back?
A: We will take a plane. We will take our bikes to a local bike shop and they will partially dissemble and ship our bikes back to our local bike shop. We may end up mailing our gear back if it will be cheaper than paying the airfare for checked baggage.

Q: What mileage do you try to do a day?
A: We have to average a little over 53 miles a day to stay on track. Mostly we have aimed between 60 and 70, though these couple of days we are hesitant to go that high due to the elevation gain. At the time of posting this, we did 81.7 miles through the mountains. Bike touring is full of inconsistencies.

Today might end up being the most climbing of any day on the trip with over 3500 feet over elevation gain. Blue Ridge Road, NY

Today might end up being the most climbing of any day on the trip with over 3500 feet over elevation gain. Blue Ridge Road, NY

Q: What does a daily schedule look like?
A: As hard as we’ve tried, it seems it always takes us 1.5 hours to get going in the morning. We normally want to leave no later than 8. We will bike between 15 and 20 miles and then take a break. We try to line up this break with a small town so we can get a Gatorade at a gas station. Then we try to get 20-30 more miles in before lunch. We want most of our miles down before lunch because the biking conditions are much nicer and our mental condition is much stronger. We’ll take a long lunch, maybe we’ll even put up the hammock and take a nap. After the heat of the day (3ish?) we’ll finish out our miles and head to our evening lodging.

Q: What do you eat?
A: Breakfast is a toss up, though it usually consists of a piece of fruit and some finds at the local gas station. For lunch we eat picnic style. We carry peanut butter and honey (and Micah will sometimes use jelly packets from hotels) and bread for sandwiches, fresh fruit (currently granny smith apples and cherries), pretzels, and chocolate pudding. For dinner we either eat out, grab something from the local grocer deli, or get an instant type meal we can cook at our campsite. Tonight we’re having hamburger helper, and we got some raw veggies to go with it.

Q: What’s been the hardest part so far?
A: M-Everything is always up in the wind. Lodging, food, riding conditions. Nothing is ever too certain. J-Dealing with the wind. I do not like the wind.

Q: What has been the best part?
A: Seeing old friends and family along the way, and making new friends too, as well as experiencing this challenge with Micah.

We spent almost three days with the Farney's and this was one of the only photos I got. At least it's a cute one. Evan Mills, NY

We spent almost three days with the Farney's and this was one of the only photos I got. At least it's a cute one. Evan Mills, NY

Q: What’s it been like doing this kind of adventure with your spouse? Do you feel like your relationship has changed?
A: I certainly don’t feel any different about Micah than I did when we started, but this trip has allowed him to show his love for me in new ways: asking strangers if I can use a bathroom in their house, making sure I’m safe on the road, and making sure I have a safe place to sleep.

It’s also given us new and different scenarios to solve problems together and resolve conflict. We’ve had to work on a lot of different communication skills to be used both in busy traffic and just sitting around the campsite.

I’ve also had to trust him more. When he says to turn, there’s not always time to question why we’re going where he says. I had to realize that most of the time, my “help” wasn’t actually helping. Micah has always realized quickly if there was a navigational error, and those have been far, far fewer than my suspicions. So at the end of the day, I’m trusting learning to stop doubting him, and let him lead me where he deems best.

Q: Is it fun?
A: I’m not sure fun is the right word. It’s been engaging, challenging, fulfilling, empowering, frustrating, and rewarding.

Q: Are you glad you did it?
A: Yes.

6/24 Stats:

Left: Evans Mills, NY, 8:30 am
Sleeping in: a campsite in Boonville, NY
Total mileage: 59 miles
High Speed: 36 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.2 mph
Overall weather conditions: warm
Elevation Gain: 1,530 ft
Total Trip mileage: 991.5 miles

6/25 Stats:

Left: Boonville, NY, 7:00 am
Sleeping in: a campsite in Raquette Lake, NY, arrived 4:30 pm
Total mileage: 63 miles
High Speed: 33.1 mph
Avg. Speed: 9.4 mph
Overall weather conditions: pleasantly warm like fresh baked muffins
Elevation Gain: 2365 ft
Total Trip mileage: 1,054.5 miles

6/26 Stats:

Left: Raquette Lake, NY, 6:00 am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Ticonderoga, NY, arrived 4:30 pm
Total mileage: 82 miles
High Speed: 38 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.2 mph
Overall weather conditions: cloudy/rainy
Elevation Gain: 3,242 ft
Elevation Loss: 4,763
Total Trip mileage: 1,136.5 miles

A Father Who Loves Me - A Belated Father's Day Reflection

M

I didn’t get to see my Dad on Father’s Day this year. For one reason or another, we couldn’t make it back home in time. But sitting in church on Sunday, I got to thinking about some of my favorite memories with my Dad.

Dad and I working it for the camera back in the day. Morton, IL

Dad and I working it for the camera back in the day. Morton, IL

There’s mountain biking in the fall. The night Dad, Derek and I waited in the Wal-Mart parking lot to get a Wii when they first came out. The smell of cigars on crisp October nights. The Sunday morning wrestling matches and the time Dad used food coloring as wrestling face paint and then couldn’t get it off in time for church.

I also see a lot of characteristics in my Dad that I want to emulate. Integrity. Stewardship. The willingness to call something out that wasn’t right. The ability to do a job well but not be controlled by work. To my knowledge, he never took a work phone home but went in early most days to make sure everything got done.

Another thing my Dad and I have in common, a love for coffee. One of the best parts of my day is when our morning break happens to line up with stopping in town for coffee. Brockport, NY

Another thing my Dad and I have in common, a love for coffee. One of the best parts of my day is when our morning break happens to line up with stopping in town for coffee. Brockport, NY

There’s also a lot of ways my Dad and I aren’t alike. For instance, he cheers for the Bears; I go for the Packers. I love rock climbing and heights aren’t his thing. He’ll take a Diet Pepsi. I prefer a Diet Coke. He loves to fly. I don’t.

Actually, that doesn’t quite do my dislike for flying justice. For a very long time, I would put flying towards the very top of the list of things Micah absolutely dreads to do. Now I know my odds of winning the Powerball are better than my odds of dying in a plane crash, but fear never listens to the odds. Fear seems to thrive on the 1% chance of disaster and is sustained by the perpetual “what if?” mentality.

But I want to share with you something a mentor told me.

He says, “Questions in life comes down to whether or not I believe I have a heavenly Father who loves me.”

Now, I’ve grown up in Sunday school, completed my eight AWANA books, gone to the youth group lock-ins, traveled on missions trips, and previously worked for a church. But none of that keeps fear from creeping in. My Dad and Mom were around to check for monsters in the closet but I live like my Heavenly Father is downstairs snoring when life gets scary.

But the reality is this. I do have a Father who loves me. And I want to live in the truth every. single. day.

Maybe we don’t believe the same things, and that’s okay. I’m aware enough to know that both wonderful and terrible things have been done in the name of religion, and I can’t make an excuse for any of it. I can only choose what I believe and how I respond. 

And out here on a bike there’s so much out of my control. When something on the bike starts to creak, tonight’s lodging falls through, or it just plain storms, I feel my own insufficiency and fear trying to seize control of my heart. But then I remind myself that I have a Father who loves me whether I make it to Maine or don’t go a mile further than I am now. A Father who loves me when I’m on my bike or building a business and a Father who loves me regardless of whether or not that business succeeds.

And when I get on the plane to fly home, I’m going to be like my Dad and enjoy the flight, because I know I have a Father who loves me.

On particularly bumpy flights, I leave myself a reminder on the plane window. 

On particularly bumpy flights, I leave myself a reminder on the plane window. 

Today’s Stats:

5 miles to Taco Bell for lunch…in the rain…
Rain Day in Evan Mills, NY

When you want Taco Bell, you bike in the rain to get Taco Bell. Evan Mills, NY

When you want Taco Bell, you bike in the rain to get Taco Bell. Evan Mills, NY

Winding Windy Hills

J

Hello hills!

Today we had our first real day of rolling hills. We climbed over 1700 ft., and let me tell you, for a couple of Midwesterners, it was tough at times. I found myself thinking back to our first several days with strong headwinds and feeling like I had to face the same mental battles. Except this time, I’d had experience dealing with these mental battles, and I felt prepared to tackle them instead of crumble beneath them.

Our view, more of less these days. Except this is a fantastic view because the hill goes down. Lake Ontario, NY

Our view, more of less these days. Except this is a fantastic view because the hill goes down. Lake Ontario, NY

The day’s challenge was to focus on conquering one hill at a time, and spending your mental focus on cadence and pressure in our feet to adjust our shifting the best we could. Micah and I spent a lot of time about a ¼ mile apart today as one or the other was farther ahead up a hill.

It was interesting to me that even though each hill had its difficulty, I was not frustrated by them. There was never a point in time when I felt like we weren’t going to make it, or questioning whether or not we can make it through the mountains. (Here’s to hoping we can!) I realized that those three days of struggling through merciless headwinds had actually shown me how capable I am. I don’t mean physically, I’m thinking more of what Micah would describe as grit. I realized after finishing those miles in those hard headwinds that I have the grit to do this. I can ride my bike for 80 miles in 20+mph headwinds and still pedal. I can ride my bike up and down rolling hills, dodging potholes and crying dust out of my eyes, and still pedal. I can keep pedaling, and I can finish out the daily miles.

Nascar drives pop a bottle, NFL coaches get a gatorade bath, the Hancocks get ice cream. Pulaski, NY

Nascar drives pop a bottle, NFL coaches get a gatorade bath, the Hancocks get ice cream. Pulaski, NY

In two days when the hills keep coming and they get higher and steeper, I might have to reread what I just wrote. I might have to remind myself that I have what I need to keep pedaling.

In other news! We’re staying with some friends Kevin and Candice tonight, and we are taking a day off tomorrow to spend with them. So huzzah for an early rest day! We’re hoping the day off will help our muscles rest, recover, and strengthen up for the hills that will inevitably be upon us shortly.

Today’s Stats:

Left: Wolcott, NY, 9:30 am
Sleeping in: a friends house in Evans Mills, NY (They picked us up in Pulaski where we finished around 6pm)
Total number of Joelle’s chain falling off her bike: 2
Total mileage: 63.5 miles
High Speed: 35.8 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.7 mph
Overall weather conditions: warm like fresh baked cookies
Elevation Gain: 1,764 ft
Total Trip mileage: 927.5 miles

Anniversary Post!

M

A few days into our trip my buddy Bruce asked what had been the best part of the trip so far.

I didn’t respond right away.

Truth be told, I couldn’t think of anything at the moment. I was sunburned, wind-burned and burned out. Several days of head winds, heat, and biking 65+ miles a day left me with the realization that I was in over my head. Not like sucking for air in the deep end of the pool over my head; more like exploring the Mariana Trench with a snorkel over my head.

Joelle showing her grit and pushing through the wind and sun. Somewhere in Indiana.

Joelle showing her grit and pushing through the wind and sun. Somewhere in Indiana.

This trip had been my idea and like most of my ideas, had grown to rather bold proportions. A 3-day bike trip to St. Louis had transformed into a 38-day trip across half the country. And fortunately, two years ago today I married a girl loving enough to let me pursue my dream of a bike trip and dauntless enough to join me on it.

And at that moment in the windswept fields of Indiana, I looked behind me and saw that girl, pedaling on and plodding forward. This trip hadn’t been her idea but she was with me on it. She had to fight the same wind. She had pedal up the same hills. She had to pee in the same cornfields, (something I can only imagine to be more difficult for her than me). And if she was with me, then I could keep going.

The weather had changed for us. Today we started dodging rain and clouds. Sodus Point, NY

The weather had changed for us. Today we started dodging rain and clouds. Sodus Point, NY

At the next stop I sent Bruce a message and it’s the same thing I’m going to tell you now. This trip hasn’t been easy. But the absolute best part of it is knowing when we’re done, whether we make it all the way to Maine or not, this is going to be a major accomplishment that we fought for and accomplished together

The question you should be asking is did the Hancocks really drink a half gallon of milk over lunch in the rain? Yes. Yes we did. Sodus Point, NY

The question you should be asking is did the Hancocks really drink a half gallon of milk over lunch in the rain? Yes. Yes we did. Sodus Point, NY

And that describes our marriage. We’re fighters. We believe that marriage is a battle and your spouse is your ally and comrade. Disney princes may marry the delicate maiden; I’d rather be William Wallace marrying Joan of Arc. The last two years have had their battles. We’ve changed jobs, moved, held funerals for some dreams and given new life to others. It’s not all sunsets and Journey songs. I mean, this trip has brought us windy days and grinding hills. And looking at the topographical map for next week, those hills are only going to get larger. 

Nothing terribly special about this photo. Cows are just some of my favorite animals. Sodus, NY

Nothing terribly special about this photo. Cows are just some of my favorite animals. Sodus, NY

At the end of it all, I won’t be able to say I biked halfway across the country. I will, however, be able to say my wife and I did. And I quite like the sound of that.  

To all of life’s roads yet to traveled, I love you, Joelle.

Today’s Stats:

Left: Rochester, NY, 8:00 am
Sleeping in: a bed and breakfast in Wolcott, NY arrived at 6:30 pm
Total mileage: 55 miles
High Speed: 36.5 mph
Avg. Speed: 11.1 mph
Overall weather conditions: cloudy with the sky the color of Wesley’s Eyes (if you get this one, comment and I’ll give you a high five when we get home)
Elevation Gain: 879 ft
Total Trip mileage: 864 miles

 

 

God Bless America. Hoorah!

J

Guys.

I love America.

A store window in downtown Brockport. After battling down the Erie Canal trail (think pedaling on wet kitty litter and you're on the right track for the condition of this trail) we stopped for coffee. Brockport, NY

A store window in downtown Brockport. After battling down the Erie Canal trail (think pedaling on wet kitty litter and you're on the right track for the condition of this trail) we stopped for coffee. Brockport, NY

Not only have we created baseball and country music, but I love that I can get on my bike and ride for hundreds of miles without being afraid of bombs going off, or having to bribe the police to let me go somewhere. I love that I can stop at a gas station, use the bathroom for free, and get safe, clean drinking water from the soda fountain. I love that I can smile and say hi to people who look different than me, but who live here with me and get to enjoy the privileges of living in a land where we celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Taking in the view at Niagara Falls. We didn't feel comfortable leaving our bikes and all gear exposed while we toured the falls and caves so this stop ended in ice cream and just watching the water. Niagara Falls, NY

Taking in the view at Niagara Falls. We didn't feel comfortable leaving our bikes and all gear exposed while we toured the falls and caves so this stop ended in ice cream and just watching the water. Niagara Falls, NY

And while we’re talking about similarities, let me tell you. While 800 miles is still a relatively short distance when you consider the thousands of miles of roads across this country, we Americans have more in common than you might think these days. Driving through a small town here in New York feels no different than driving through a small town in Illinois. (No, they’re not any more rude than your grumpy neighbor.) You see people walking their dogs, taking their kids to the park, rushing out of their driveways on their way to work, and picking up a few groceries at the local store. You smile and wave to folks who wait for you to turn, and you greet folks who walk past you on your breaks. Rural communities and small towns show ample support for our troops and our police. There are always some guys with pick-ups that are a little too loud. If you want to know what happened to Cindy Lou down the road, ask the gas station attendant. They know everything.

While doing our time on the Erie Canal, we bumped in this cycling group based out of Decatur, IL. They gave us pastries and coffee and we rode with Mark and Arthur for the next ten miles. Albien, NY

While doing our time on the Erie Canal, we bumped in this cycling group based out of Decatur, IL. They gave us pastries and coffee and we rode with Mark and Arthur for the next ten miles. Albien, NY

It might be obvious that there are similarities between small-town Americana, but cities are as different as you might think. While different cities can certainly have their distinct personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, even there can be found the commonness of humanity. People want their kids to grow up happy, safe, and provided for. And maybe to outsiders city dwellers seem rushed, rude, or hoity-toity, those people have the same needs and wants for their own lives and families.

In these days of strong opinions and sharp politics, lets not forget our humanity. Let’s not forget the humanity of others. Spend some time chatting at your local gas station or with another family at the park. Remind yourself that the human movement around you everyday isn’t just the daily pace of life, but that those are interesting and quirky humans who are funny, intelligent, curious, compassionate, adventurous, generous and a whole other slew of adjectives.

You see that window on the bottom left. Joelle and I helped install that window with our own two hands. Lake Ontario, NY

You see that window on the bottom left. Joelle and I helped install that window with our own two hands. Lake Ontario, NY

Take time to talk to a new human today, and be reminded how blessed we are to enjoy America together.

Today’s Stats:

Left: Medina, NY, 7:30am
Sleeping in: a warm showers home in Rochester, NY arrived at 4:30 pm
Total mileage: 48 miles
High Speed: 21.1 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.0 mph
Overall weather conditions: cloudy with a chance of meatballs
Elevation Gain: 273 ft
Total Trip mileage: 809 miles

P.S. We spent a wonderful weekend with my family, Tim and Diana Chaddock at their lake cottage on Lake Ontario. It is being completely remodeled, and we got to help put in a window and move their deck! (I didn’t help as much with the deck part). Then my cousins Josh and Ashley came to visit with their kids! It was a wonderfully relaxing time to catch up, swap stories, and enjoy the best food of the trip! Thanks again for hosting us, guys!

Cousin time at the lake! We ate. We built. We frolfed. Lake Ontario, NY

Cousin time at the lake! We ate. We built. We frolfed. Lake Ontario, NY

SAG Wagons, Milk Shakes & Hamburg

M

What a day, what a day!

We left our motel in North East, PA and starting spinning toward the border. Upon crossing the border into New York, we got the obligatory photo and were about to get on our way when we meet some other cyclists. Seventeen to be exact. They were part of a ride from Los Angles to Boston with some riders doing the entire route and others just hopping in for a segment. And they were a hoot!

Our new friends on the trail. One of these riders is 71; another rider is doing a "Every Foot and Inch" tour. A EFAI tour requires a rider to never walk his bike but literally ride every foot and inch of the tour. Barcelona, NY

Our new friends on the trail. One of these riders is 71; another rider is doing a "Every Foot and Inch" tour. A EFAI tour requires a rider to never walk his bike but literally ride every foot and inch of the tour. Barcelona, NY

You have understand, there are two of types of biking touring out there. There’s me and Joelle carrying roughly 100 pounds of gear and riding steel bikes. We camp when we can, hotel when we have to. It’s called unsupported riding. Then there are our seventeen friends riding full carbon bikes who had two support vans and a box truck following them with gear, getting ahead of them to drop off water, snacks and transporting their bags to the next hotel. I’ll put it this way. Joelle and I are a wagon train plodding along on the Oregon Trail; these guys are the transcontinental railroad.

This gas station was clearly ready for cyclists and had signs posted everywhere - no bathroom usage without a purchase. Barcelona. NY

This gas station was clearly ready for cyclists and had signs posted everywhere - no bathroom usage without a purchase. Barcelona. NY

We stopped at a gas station, and they took turns trying to lift our bikes and telling us the respect they had for us and the pace we were keeping. We kept up with them for the next ten miles or so, swapping stories, hearing where they were from (mostly the UK actually) and laughing about the joys and agonies of being on a bike all day. They eventually pushed past us but not before offering to buy us a beer at the next town.

The afternoon whirled by with an epic nap at state park on Lake Erie, and we crushed out a few remaining miles. Well, we were going to crush out the last miles of the day until Joelle saw Super Freeze restaurant and we had to stop for milk shakes. As Joelle says, “Never underestimate the power of well-timed ice cream.” Best decision of the day.

As a personal diatribe, the outrageous cost of campsites on Lake Erie has peeved me and I have made it my goal to stay in hotels cheaper than camping at major campsites. Tonight, I made that goal a reality. Botta bing, botta boom.

Super Freeze came in clutch on a hot day. My coffee milkshake was, as the kids used to say, "On fleek." Hamburg, NY

Super Freeze came in clutch on a hot day. My coffee milkshake was, as the kids used to say, "On fleek." Hamburg, NY

We’re staying in Hamburg, NY so almost by necessity had to get hamburgers. There was a grill just a block down so we walked over. Joelle and I both went for this burger, no idea what it was called, but Joelle called it the best burger she’s ever had in her life. “I think I might start crying tears of joy,” she said two bites in.

Tomorrow brings us to Niagara Falls, Buffalo and time with family for weekend. Six days of biking has a way of wearing you out and this cyclist is ready for that upcoming rest day.

Today’s Stats:

Left: North East, PA, 8am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Hamburg, NY arrived at 5:30 pm
Total mileage: 68 miles
High Speed: 26.3 mph
Avg. Speed: 12.3 mph
Overall weather conditions: warm but not too warm, like luke-warm bathwater
Elevation Gain: 901 ft
Total Trip mileage: 704 miles

Hey PA!

J

Greetings from Pennsylvania!

Joelle getting the afternoon selfie by the lake. Once we got to Erie, PA we had to decide to push on and risk getting caught in a thunderstorm or stay there for the night. Erie, PA

Joelle getting the afternoon selfie by the lake. Once we got to Erie, PA we had to decide to push on and risk getting caught in a thunderstorm or stay there for the night. Erie, PA

Let me tell you friends, we are so not in the Midwest anymore, and my quads and calves can attest to it: we are starting to hit larger hills! Today we spent much more time biking through vineyards than cornfields. We cut our mileage short today as we had to outrun some thunderstorms. Due to a lack of campgrounds, we will be sleeping in a little motel.

Guys, can you believe we actually biked from Illinois to Pennsylvania?? And tomorrow we’re going to be in New York! That’s crazy! The days might go slow, but the miles go by fast.

Now I’m sitting in a Laundromat, praying the thunderstorm doesn’t come until after we’re done! Micah’s doing his thing with the maps, trying to figure out places to sleep for the next couple of nights. This has by far been our greatest challenge and it consumes most of our non-biking/eating hours. The difference between one town and the next can go from under-mileage to over. While ten miles between towns doesn’t seem like much in a car, on a bike in the heat of the afternoon, you start really wishing those ten miles are all downhill. Reality check: they’re never all downhill.

We were racing storms today, or so we thought. In reality, it didn't rain at all and we made it 20 miles further than we had planned. Lake City, PA

We were racing storms today, or so we thought. In reality, it didn't rain at all and we made it 20 miles further than we had planned. Lake City, PA

Towns might not have lodging available, or they might only have expensive hotels! But we’re making it. He’s done a great job of making sure we have a place to sleep every night, which I am thankful for. I know some people don’t mind plopping their tent in the ditch, but I do appreciate knowing I have legal rights to my sleeping location.

Goodbye cornfields, hello wine country. North East, PA

Goodbye cornfields, hello wine country. North East, PA

Today’s Stats:

Left: Conneaut, OH, 8am
Sleeping in: a motel in North East PA, arrived at 2:30 pm
Total mileage: 48 miles.
High Speed: 33.9 mph
Avg. Speed: 11.2 mph
Overall weather conditions: hot
Elevation Gain: 747 ft
Total Trip mileage: 633 mi.

Gear Geek Out!

M

One of the common questions we get as we wander around the local Circle K is about the gear it takes to bike across the country (or at least half of it). So tonight’s blog is dedicated to the gear lovers among us and will be about what and why we brought what we did.

I also want to add a huge thank you to my homies at Peoria’s Bushwhacker. Nearly everything we’re carrying is from there and the expertise from the bike mechanics has been invaluable. Now, onto the good stuff.

Micah's 520 missing the left rear pannier. We keep all our food for 36 hours in that pannier and this time, it was time for lunch. Cleveland, OH

Micah's 520 missing the left rear pannier. We keep all our food for 36 hours in that pannier and this time, it was time for lunch. Cleveland, OH

Bike: Trek 520

Touring bikes are made of steel and have countless points to carry gear, racks, bottles and the occasional hitchhiker. They’re much like a road bike but have larger gears which make going up those hills a tad easier (but just a tad). My bike is named Sanca (from Disney’s Cool Runnings, but that’s is a story for another blog though) and with rider, gear and bike weighs in about 275lbs. But even with all that girth Sanca rides smooth and corners well.

Extra Geeky Breakdown: If you’re interested in touring, one of the most popular bikes out there is the Surly Long Hauler. We almost went that direction but found the Trek’s geometry to be a bit more comfortable. Also the Long Hauler has smaller wheels for smaller frame sizes (Joelle rides a 51, I ride a 54) and that was a turn off. That, and with the retail price being a couple hundred bucks cheaper and the rear rack included, the 520 won for us. Another shameless plug for going to a bike shop; you don’t really get to know a bike until you ride it. All the stats online just don’t make it real.

This has to be one of the roomiest 3-person tents out there. Seriously, there's so much room for two people and gear. Odell, IL

This has to be one of the roomiest 3-person tents out there. Seriously, there's so much room for two people and gear. Odell, IL

Tent: Marmot Limelight 3P

There are certainly lighter tents (ours clocks in over 6lbs) but the elevated sides and roominess made this our winner. As a bonus, the rain fly extends slightly from the tent and is large enough to stash panniers underneath it when it rains.

Joelle cooking up some Hamburger Helper. Gibsonburg, OH

Joelle cooking up some Hamburger Helper. Gibsonburg, OH

Camp Stove: MSR Whisperlite International

I’ll be the first to admit, no one gives us creative points for this pick. The Whisperlite burns camp fuel, gasoline or just about any other flammable liquid and packs down small. But it’s mighty and there’s a reason it’s always at the top of the lists for backpacking/bikepacking stoves.

The Real MVPs: Patagonia Capilene and The North Face 3-1 Convertible Pants

After being cooked by the sun until my back was the texture of friend chicken, I wore my long sleeve capilene baselayer in 90 plus degree heat. I didn’t get over heated and the UV protection did far better than sunscreen. Same for Joelle’s adventure pants. They are zip-off pants that also become capris and are water repellent. Both items have saved burnt shoulders and legs from getting any crispier. But on that thought, I’m starting to crave fried chicken.

Because when you bike across the country, it's nice to have a drone following you for parts of it. Gibsonburg, OH

Because when you bike across the country, it's nice to have a drone following you for parts of it. Gibsonburg, OH

Other stuff:

We’re carrying a couple of 35 degree North Face sleeping bags, Therma-Rest Prolite Plus pads, a pillow stuffed in a stuff sack, a camp pillow, and enough Sea to Summit dry bags that we could build a make-shift raft.

Other items include:

·       Axiom Panniers

·       Flare R Tail light

·       Water bottles

·       Handle bar bag

·       Saddle bag
 

·       4 shirts

·       2 shorts

·       1 convertible pants

·       Shoes

·       Chacos

·       Raincoat

·       3 pairs of socks

·       4 pairs of underwear

·       Toiletries

·       SUNSCREEN

·       Aloe (picked that up first day…)

·       Bug spray
 

·       Pliers

·       Wrench

·       Multi-tool

·       Spare parts

·       6 spare tubes (tires)

·       Knife

·       Headlamps

·       Hatchet

 

·       Camp stove

·       Camp stove fuel

·       Pots

·       Mixing spoon/tool

·       Dish soap

·       Wash cloth

·       Pepper and seasonings

·       Matches

·       Water purification tablets

·       Eno hammock and straps

·       First aid kit

·       Foam roller

·       Camp towels
 

·       Drone

·       Canon 6D

·       Laptop

·       Battery bank

·       Small flexible tripod

·       Phones

·       Maps

 

Today’s Stats:

Left: Mentor, OH, 10am
Sleeping in: a campground in Conneaut, OH, arrived at 6:30 pm
Total mileage: 59 miles.
High Speed: 30.3 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.0 mph
Overall weather conditions: windy
Elevation Gain: 602 ft
Total Trip mileage: 583 mi.

Duck & Weave

J

Duck and weave.

These words definitely summarized our riding experience today. We spent a lot of time riding in bike lanes today. I want you to know, I appreciate a good bike lane. That being said, I appreciate a GOOD bike lane. Not one covered in gravel, not one covered in trash/broken glass, and not one full of asphalt caverns and potholes. We did a lot of swerving today. Thankfully, we made it safely 81 MILES today! Even through the craziness of downtown Cleveland! Wow!

Hello Cleveland. You seem nice and you have a great personality. Maybe we'll have a second date sometime. Cleveland, OH

Hello Cleveland. You seem nice and you have a great personality. Maybe we'll have a second date sometime. Cleveland, OH

I can’t believe the difference from last week to this week. Our bodies definitely went through biking boot camp last week, but they are ready to rock and roll this week! Our feet don’t hurt as much. Our rumps don’t hurt as much. We can bike faster for longer without needing breaks, and we’re not getting as sunburned!

In other words, life is good!

Joelle rocking life in the bumpy, crusty bike lane. Vermillion, OH

Joelle rocking life in the bumpy, crusty bike lane. Vermillion, OH

You know what else is good? People being nice.

When we left our hotel this morning, the manager, who lived in Maine and gave us the free room upgrade yesterday, gave us some promotional codes to get some deals on future hotel stays! Wow!

Then later this morning we stopped at a Speedway and took them up on their buy 2, get 1 free Powerades. While we were enjoying being indoors in an air-conditioned room, a woman struck up a conversation with us about our bike ride. (It’s not hard to figure out who has the two overly-packed bikes…usually there’s only 2 people in the store walking around with bike helmets on.) Before we left, she gave us $6 to support our Powerade fund!

Joelle embracing the oldest and most noble tradition of biking...walking. You can see from our daily stats this was not the first hill we had to climb today. Cleveland, OH

Joelle embracing the oldest and most noble tradition of biking...walking. You can see from our daily stats this was not the first hill we had to climb today. Cleveland, OH

Then later this evening, we were only a couple of miles away from the hotel so we stopped to get some food. As we were pulling up, a gentleman rolled up in a powered wheelchair and started talking with us. While we conversed we learned a lot about this man…like he smoked a lot of things in his younger years, but never crack.

“Never smoke something that has the same name as a body part,” he sagely said.

Anyways, he offered to buy us some alcohol, but after we declined, he settled on getting us some chocolate milk. And let me tell you, chocolate milk never tasted so good!

So our bodies are doing well, and we are in high spirits this evening. We’re watching the weather carefully this week as there’s supposed to be some scattered rain.

So someone mentioned Cleveland has a professional football team but we couldn't find any evidence of their existence. Cleveland, OH

So someone mentioned Cleveland has a professional football team but we couldn't find any evidence of their existence. Cleveland, OH

Here’s to hoping our miles tomorrow bring no rain, tailwinds, and smooth roads. And if not? Let the adventure continue.

Today’s Stats:

Left: Huron, OH, 8am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Painesville, OH, arrived at 7:30 pm
Total mileage: 81 miles.
High Speed: 22.2 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.9 mph
Overall weather conditions: Sunny
Elevation Gain: 717 ft
Total Trip mileage: 525 mi.

Moments that Last

With the lower milage, strong tail wind and riding friends we made along the way, we made it to our destination by lunch time. Huron, OH

With the lower milage, strong tail wind and riding friends we made along the way, we made it to our destination by lunch time. Huron, OH

M

Today was packed. We left our camp in Gibsonburg around 7:45am and arrived in Huron about 1:00pm. During that time, a lot happened.

First, we met Jan. We were cruising down a pike path when two guys came toward us from the other direction. As we passed them, one of guys pulled a sharp u-turn and started riding along side us. This would be Jan. We found out later that Jan is a sixty-five year old local who bikes 40-60 miles a day. He told us later when he saw us coming we looked like we had a story to tell and told his riding buddy that he would be going where we were going. Jan joined us for the next twelve miles and we swapped stories about our local towns, trips we were planning to take, and Jan showed us a shortcut not on our maps.

Jan showing Joelle the way down a road not on our map. At first, we wanted to trust the map but when we heard Jan rides several hundred miles a week and never leaves a 20 mile radius, we decided he probably knows his way around. Clyde, OH

Jan showing Joelle the way down a road not on our map. At first, we wanted to trust the map but when we heard Jan rides several hundred miles a week and never leaves a 20 mile radius, we decided he probably knows his way around. Clyde, OH

Later, when arrived at our hotel, we met Angie. We had made good time today. The wind was with us and riding with Jan had made us pick up our pace so we arrived at our hotel earlier than our check-in. Angie is the General Manager of Comfort Inn in Huron, OH and when she heard we were going to Maine she got really excited. We learned she grew up and there and we quickly learned the inside scoop on the roads we had to ride while there and how beautiful Acadia is. We also got a free room upgrade.

But the highlight of today was seeing Anna and Micah Poteet. Anna is Joelle’s sister and Micah is our brother-in-law. Joelle has one sister and I’ll leave you to figure out the odds of both of them marrying a guy named Micah.

Our first sight of Lake Erie from the town of Huron. Sometimes things don't make sense. Huron, OH

Our first sight of Lake Erie from the town of Huron. Sometimes things don't make sense. Huron, OH

This trip has changed how I see and feel about many things. Seeing Lake Erie today, knowing our tired thighs and sore bottoms carried us this far, it started to sink in that, perhaps, we can make this journey. But something else that has changed is how I perceive moments. So many moments feel like a snow globe. Pristine, idealistic and beautiful. A farmer waves from his front porch as we pass. A group of bikers pass us going west (and remind us we’re not the only fools out here). American flags wave over small towns. But at the end of the day, these moments feel as fleeting as the fake snow in a snow globe. They may be beautiful but they’re gone as fast as we can bike by.

But seeing Micah and Anna today reminded me that we have reality. We have friends. We have family. We have people who care enough to drive hours to see us. Moments on the bike may be quintessential, but in a few weeks they’ll be surrendered to rest in the photo book. But I get to look forward to everything life with sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles and friends has to offer. And unlike moments that whirl by at 12 mph, I’m looking forward to a lifetime with these guys.

As photos goes, we nailed this one. Huron, OH

As photos goes, we nailed this one. Huron, OH

 

Today’s Stats:

Left: Gibsonburg, OH, 7:45am
Sleeping in: a hotel in Huron, OH, arrived at 1:00 pm
Total mileage: 51 miles.
High Speed: 19.5 mph
Avg. Speed: 12.1mph
Overall weather conditions: Sunny
Elevation Gain: -121 ft
Total Trip mileage: 444

Sunday Funday

J

Happy Sunday Everyone! I hope you all had a restful day today!

Our rest day was full of all sorts of pleasant adventures!

Joelle has been very committed to finding the best possible hammocking spots. She nailed it tonight.

Joelle has been very committed to finding the best possible hammocking spots. She nailed it tonight.

This morning we joined First English Lutheran Church for their worship service. This is a little congregation in the middle of a small town. When we got there, we were informed they were celebrating their pastor’s 50th ordination anniversary, and so the service would be a bit different. And a bit different it was! The pastor’s family came in from all over the place. The grandkids did special music performances. The church’s 4-person choir performed. We sang all of his favorite hymns. And best of all, they invited us to join them for lunch after the service! Micah was ecstatic to find out they would have fried chicken, so we couldn’t say no.

This afternoon our college friends Kayla and Nate made a two-hour trip to come see us!

Kayla and Nate, it really means so much to us that you would take the time to make the trip to come see us. Thank You!

We played mini-golf, (where I smoked everyone and beat Micah by 6 strokes) ate mango ice cream, found Rutherford B. Hayes’ home and burial grounds, discovered a 9/11 memorial in town, and finished by going to a local pizza joint (where the young waitress was sometimes a little too honest about the quality of their food…).

The three mini-golf losers all trying to determine which hole is actually the right on.

The three mini-golf losers all trying to determine which hole is actually the right on.

Now I’m sitting in a hammock during golden hour with a cool summer breeze.

What a great day.

This past week has been a good one. The good moments overshadow the hard ones. In fact, sometimes I forget about the first 4 days of last week altogether! It’s amazing how quickly we can forget, which is why, I guess, Micah and I want to keep a blog. I think it’s important that we remember the struggle. It helps us remember the accomplishment. It’s important to remember the good days to help us through hard days when they come again. Just like touching the piece of wreckage from the 9/11 memorial makes you reflect on that day, so I too want something to look back on long after this trip is done. 

But as my aunt Angie predicted, the best part of this trip isn’t the places, the sights, or the landscape, but it is the people we meet along the way. When I think about this past week, the best parts that stick out are the people: Kevin and Frances and their wonderful hospitality, Shannon and the Reiskytls who came to our rescue, the folks at church today welcoming us and asking about our trip, strangers who make sure we’re okay and admire our courage, and our friends today who made the sacrifice to be with us. These really are the highlights.

Thanks for making the journey to see us. It was marvelous to see you guys again!

Thanks for making the journey to see us. It was marvelous to see you guys again!

I’m excited to see Maine. I’ve never been there before! But I’m most excited for the platform this kind of trip provides to meet and be with people.

Here’s to a new week, new adventures, and new relationships.

Today’s Stats:

Pieces of fried chicken eaten this week: 14
Hole-in-ones at putt-putt: 1
Miles biked: 4.5

The Story of Why

M

Have you ever considered biking across the country? If you’re trying to make up your mind, let me give you some reasons why you SHOULDN’T consider it.

1. Does the thought of 8 hours on a bike cause you to break out in a rash?

2. Do the words “tent,” “no showers,” and “ditch pee” cause you to start twitching and batting at invisible flies?

3. Does spending several weeks with only your spouse and no clean clothes make you want to check-in to marital counseling?

When you average about 7 hours in the saddle everyday, you get a lot of views like this. Napoleon, OH

When you average about 7 hours in the saddle everyday, you get a lot of views like this. Napoleon, OH

For me, seven months ago I didn’t know bike touring (the technical name for traveling by bike) existed. I thought cross-country travel by means other than car or plane was reserved for the likes of Forest Gump. But that was last fall and today I’d like to tell you the story of what has brought Joelle and I on this trip.

Last fall we thought we knew the direction for our lives. Joelle was pursuing a graduate program in Memphis and I was freelancing and working part-time at Bushwhacker in Peoria. We believed God was leading us to Memphis and were actively preparing for the move. The savings account was fertilized. The career hunt had begun. Then, after months of acing the application process, we were at the last step in the process. We went down, listening to the musical “Memphis” on the way down. And, after a long weekend down there, we left feeling confident this was the next step in our lives.

You don’t have to be a literature major to know what happened next in our story. We got the “thanks but no thanks” email and just like that, what we had felt confident was our direction, evaporated. I haven’t forgotten walking home that night and seeing Joelle on the couch. I sat down and we said nothing.

This Shell Gas Station has the marketed cornered on awesome signage. Napoleon, OH

This Shell Gas Station has the marketed cornered on awesome signage. Napoleon, OH

Rejection is never easy, but for us, this struck at a deeper nerve. I felt like our lives in Peoria were beginning to flat line and Memphis had become the paddles we hoped would shock us back to a life of adventure and out-of-the-ordinary experiences. Then it was gone.

After that, we spent some time not really looking for answers but just hurting. But then, without noticing it at first, we began planning a caper.

Several weeks earlier before the email came, we had talked about how to spend our last spring break in Illinois. I had wanted a story to tell not just a vacation to go on and had suggested a bike trip from Peoria, IL to St. Louis. 160 miles on a bike and then a train ride home.

We're not actually sure what this place is, but Joelle stopped to get a photo anyway. Outside Napoleon, OH

We're not actually sure what this place is, but Joelle stopped to get a photo anyway. Outside Napoleon, OH

But now with our summer completely free we had a bit more time on our hands. And with some extra cash we had stashed away for moving, we found ourselves available for something a bit grander than we had originally expected.

When I asked Joelle if she’d bike to the ocean with me, she said, “Yes.” Cue the montage and here we are in Gibsonburg, OH. 390 miles into our bike trip. For those of you keeping score at home, we could have biked from Peoria to St. Louis and then biked home by now.

But this story isn’t about crazy responses to rejection. Joelle and I know we can’t wander away on a cross-country trip every time we’re told no to something we want. No, this story is about choosing to live a life together and make our own story. We had looked to grad school and a possible move to jolt excitement and meaning into our lives but God was offering some thing better. Like a father teaching his son to drive, He was handing us the wheel and giving us the opportunity to write the next chapter in our lives and our marriage.

Dinner time has become one of the best times of the day. Today we stopped at a little ma and pa grocery and got meat and hamburger helper. The dinner of bikers everywhere. Gibsonburg, OH

Dinner time has become one of the best times of the day. Today we stopped at a little ma and pa grocery and got meat and hamburger helper. The dinner of bikers everywhere. Gibsonburg, OH

We’ve been on the road for a week now and there are parts of me that are ready to return to the goodness that routine can offer. I look forward to friends and beds and clean clothes.

But for now, the deep ache for a life lived meaningfully and intentionally with my wife pushes me on. June 20th will be our second wedding anniversary, but I don’t think it’s too early to share the ending part of our vows.

“I take you to live daringly, following Jesus through every adventure, known and unknown, as long as we both shall live.”

Today’s Stats:

Left: Defiance, OH 7:30a.m.
Sleeping in: a campground in Gibsonville OH
Total mileage: 71
Avg speed: 11.1
High Speed: 20.3
Weather conditions: windy
Elevation Gain: -26 ft.
Total Trip Mileage: 393 mi.

Surprises!

J

Special thanks to the Reiskytl family for hosting us on our rest day yesterday! We really needed it. Grandma described it best when she told us we were in an oasis. We got iced, aloed, and fed, and we took some time to reevaluate how we were structuring our days. We needed to scale back our expectations. We had been basing calculations based off of everything going right, but that’s not what was happening. Those expectations led us to three very stressful, rushed days, and difficult days.

We couldn't have done it without these guys giving us rest and the chance to recover. Fort Wayne, IN

We couldn't have done it without these guys giving us rest and the chance to recover. Fort Wayne, IN

I would never consider myself a quitter. I do not back down from challenges. Fear of regret led me to summit Half Dome and bungee jump over the Zambezi River. But these last few days made me think about quitting. They were physically and mentally agonizing. I continued to ask myself, “Why on earth am I doing this?” I hated the thought of walking away from this challenge because I wasn’t strong enough in some way, shape, or form to complete it. So I started thinking about why I was still pedaling my bike.

Our cousin Taylor gave us letters to help encourage us on. You'll see one of those is for next time we're ready to give up. Thanks Taylor! Fort Wayne, IN

Our cousin Taylor gave us letters to help encourage us on. You'll see one of those is for next time we're ready to give up. Thanks Taylor! Fort Wayne, IN

Every morning when I woke up in pain, I didn’t think I could get back on my bike. But I did. I surprised myself. Every time the wind blew 20mph in my face, I didn’t think I could go another mile. But I did, and I found myself surprised. Every time Micah said we had another 15 or 20 miles before our next break, I didn’t think I’d make it. But I did. And slowly but surely miles passed by. They were painful and they were slow, but I kept on surprising myself.

So that’s why I’m still pedaling! I am honestly amazed by what my own body can do. I can’t believe that I have biked over 300 miles across 3 states. I can start a day knowing that the unexpected is coming, but I am sure to surprise myself through it anyway.

Today’s Surprise? It was a marvelous day! The temperatures were cool, the terrain was downhill, and our mileage was low. Today was the first day that I really enjoyed being outside on a bike all day. With only having to bike 56 miles, we took our time and enjoyed our day!

Today's lower milage meant we got some hammock time in over lunch. Antwerp, OH

Today's lower milage meant we got some hammock time in over lunch. Antwerp, OH

Fail Harder

M

My friends went climbing at our local gym last night. And I’m not going to lie by saying I wish I could have joined them. Climbing every week together has become a way to bond and grow stronger as friends and as climbers. The reality of how long our trip settled in when we climbed together for the last time for a month and a half. I’m going to miss the gym, the friends, and post-climb Taco Bell runs. Interpret that last thing however you’d like.

Bruce and I looking like we know something about climbing. 

Bruce and I looking like we know something about climbing. 

Learning to climb has taught me a lot of things but the thing I’m most thankful for is a love for failing. I absolutely love not being able to do a route and take an almost masochistic approach to climbing harder than I can climb routes. I want to fail. Like shuffling your feet around a room in the dark, failing becomes a way of finding your limits and pushing them.

The problem with failing is we have to crush fear first. The fear of embarrassment, of not coming through, of falling short. And it’s this part, I’m not too great at. I’d rather work overtime, come through in a pinch, and not be embarrassed.

And Joelle and I have failed a lot this last week. We failed to put on enough sunscreen. We failed to take a turn and ended doing more gravel than necessary. We failed to measure our mileage accurately. We failed to account for wind. Boy, did we not account for wind.

In the moments, these little failures are discouraging. You feel the heat of the afternoon sun on your already burnt shoulders. You downshift despite going downhill because the wind speed is pushing you backwards.

But what I’ve learned through climbing and continue to learn on this bike trip is the necessity of having mercy on yourself. And when we’ve encountered these failures, we adapted and by the grace of others, we’ve pedaled on. A stranger gave us a meal and place to sleep. A college friend gave us a ride to make up some lost miles.  Family members invited us in to stay an extra day to rest.

Joelle chillin' outside a Dairy Queen as we wait for a ride.

Joelle chillin' outside a Dairy Queen as we wait for a ride.

I won’t deny the macho side of me wants to be the guy who pushes on no matter what and powers through his failures, but I can’t be. Nature and this trip aren’t merciful on my body so I have to be. I have to be willing to say “that’s enough for today” and know when to push and when to rest.

I think guys want to be Batman. Strong, able to do it alone, never failing at their mission, and never needing rest. Some guys might be capable of that lifestyle. But I’m not and that’s okay. Alex Honnold may be able to free solo El Capitan, but I’ll always need a partner for when life adventures end in failure.

And fortunately, for this trip, I do.

We had a 15 miles stretch straight into a headwind. When we stopped for a rest and to check our progress we had done 8.5 miles in and hour and a half. 

We had a 15 miles stretch straight into a headwind. When we stopped for a rest and to check our progress we had done 8.5 miles in and hour and a half. 

Today’s Stats:

Hours slept: 9.5
Hot meals eaten: 3
Miles Biked: 0 (and that’s okay)

Gravel Grinding & Windy Wednesdays

J

 

Hello world,

First let me give you a quick summary of the last two days:

Tuesday:

We left our hotel hoping to get in 80 miles and sleep in Fletcher Indiana. It turns out we were actually 90 miles away from Fletcher.

We had high winds.
We hit gravel roads. (These slow you down considerably)
We hit gravel roads so bad, we had to walk our bikes.

There's never shame in hike-a-bike...especially when the gravel is so loose you're back tire is sliding out.

There's never shame in hike-a-bike...especially when the gravel is so loose you're back tire is sliding out.

Basically, it was dinner time, the sun was starting to get lower in the sky and we still had 20 miles to go to our campground.

Thankfully, there is this wonderful website called warmshowers.com where bicyclists offer to house other bicyclists for free. God provided a house 10 miles away from us. The kind hosts fed us a wonderful dinner, gave us clean beds to sleep in, and sent us off with a wonderful breakfast this morning! We were truly blessed to be connected with Frances and Kevin.

Wednesday:

When I woke up this morning, every part of my body hurt…except my legs. (I can’t seem to figure that out). I was exhausted from the winds of the previous two days and I was not looking forward to 70 more miles today. But, as we got going my body settled in apathetically and things didn’t seem to hurt so much.

The mood lifted a little. It was a sunny, calm morning with beautiful cirrus clouds. There were trees amidst the cornfields, and for a short while I didn’t mind this whole bike touring thing.

Then the winds came. Slowly but surely throughout the morning the winds got stronger and stronger. Then the terrain got more challenging. We encountered rolling hills. Not the beautiful picturesque type, I mean the type that take you up 40 feet, and then down 40 ft. repeat, repeat, repeat. In the midst of the hills I discovered my front derailleur wasn’t shifting down, so I couldn’t get to my most powerful gears for climbing hills…nice right? Luckily I married a man who loves to fix things. He got to work right away. But after tinkering, screwing, loosening, and pedaling, he finally found the pebble that caused the problem, and we were on our way.

We were on our way, and we were on a bike path! It was awesome! Downhill, back to the wind, it was great.

Then reality set back in. We faced 15 miles of hard headwinds. I mean HARD. By the time we got to Lagro, our “lunch” destination, it was after 3 in the afternoon. We were supposed to be 20 more miles down the road to get picked up by some family at 5. We weren’t sure how this was going to happen.

A road under construction followed by a closed bridge meant we had to talk our third option: a winding, gravel road. 

A road under construction followed by a closed bridge meant we had to talk our third option: a winding, gravel road. 

Enter: Shannon.

Shannon is a friend of mine from college at Taylor! She lives in Wabash, and she was willing to come hang out, and then she gave us a ride! She helped us load up our bikes and our gear in her car and bring us to our meeting spot where we got picked up by my aunt and uncle. Thank you so much Shannon! Your time means so much to us!

Two very thankful bikers being grateful for a friend.

Two very thankful bikers being grateful for a friend.

Due to our current physical conditions, we will be taking a rest day tomorrow here in Fort Wayne! Yay!! We plan on lots of sleep and couch time.

Thank you for all of your support and prayers! We love hearing from all of you! It’s been a hard couple of days of conditioning and bodily adjustments, but we feel confident that after a day of rest, aloe, and ice we will be back at it and heading towards Ohio!

Until next time…

Today’s Stats:

Left: Royal Center IN 6:45a.m.
Sleeping in: my family’s house in Fort Wayne, IN
Total mileage: 51 mi. (yesterday’s was 81)
Avg speed: 7.5 mph (yesterday’s was 8.4)
High Speed: 24.6 mph
Wind Speeds: 20 mph
Weather conditions: windy
Elevation Gain: 449ft. Yesterday:298 ft.