Friday, June 18, 2010

Heading West Through MI to Bike the Grabaawr! Bike Ride Across Wisconsin.

We left Dave and Annette's place in the Sault Saint Marie area to head to the Grabaawr (Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River). Our goal was to be in Eagle River by June 18th so that we could have a rest day prior to the ride starting. We will be doing the ride fully loaded while most of the other riders will be riding very light road bikes.

As we started heading west we found ourselves traveling through bear country. In fact, Strong Corners is the bear capitol of the WORLD! The roads were outlined by heavily wooded areas and we had to keep a close eye on the ditches and woods. We actually saw a a bear on the side of the road. We weren't really paying attention as we were talking at the time and by the time Jacky saw it and slammed on her brakes, Ward didn't expect this and ran into her. Luckily no one fell and the bear, after taking a second look, walked back into the woods. Its quite ironic because we just got rid of our bear spray a few days prior after carrying it all the way from Alaska. Yes, we are in the northern woods of Wisconsin.

We are mainly camping now but occasionally stay in a cheap hotel if weather warrants it. We have had a lot of fun sitting outside talking to the construction workers that stay at these hotels while they are completing jobs. We not only tell lies and stories but we learn a lot from them about the area.

As we bike we notice most everything. As you can see we passed a unique billboard. One that seemed to be talking to us. We also passed the Rosebud Cafe. Ward's mother's name is Rose and she would sign her name "Rosebud".

Our last night in Michigan we spent free camping in a little park just outside of the town of Norway. They had a natural springs there. As we cooked our supper we observed tons and tons of people coming from all around to fill their water jugs, water bottles, anything they had with them. They said it was the purist and best water you could ever get. We tried some ourselves and confirmed this to be true.

Now onto Wisconsin! Jacky's old stomping grounds! She felt very welcomed by all of the Green Bay packer signs.

Visiting Friends in Sault Saint Marie

Our goal was to arrive in the Sault Saint Marie area on June 12th. We actually arrived a day early. Why did we want to go so far north? Ward's friends have a summer home up here, Dave and Annette Swick. Ward and Dave's friendship and debauchery started back in college. They haven't seen each other in many years so spending a few days here was going to be a real treat.

They built this beautiful summer home with their own sweat. It took them 7 years to finish but it will be a nice retirement home once they quit teaching in Waterloo, IA. While we were there we had to arm wrestle to be able to do some work. They were insisting that we just rest but that is not in our vocabulary. We had great fun helping them put in the dock, plant flowers and start a perennial flower garden. But, you know Ward, he can't leave without tuning up all the bikes.

We had such a fun time and we're looking forward too hooking up with them in Iowa.

Heading up to Sault Saint Marie, MI

We had a great ride up through MI. We pushed it hard on the nice days so that we could have the flexibility to take off a day that was stormy. We also made sure we allowed a little time to do some re-hydrating. You just have to stop at "Jack's R Wild". Jacky has a bad reputation she has to uphold!

Along the way we passed by many signs and billboards that seemed to tell the story. Yes, this was Jacky's dream. But, sometimes for Ward it was a nightmare! (just kidding).

As we approached Mackinac Bridge, we were informed that they did not allow bicycles to cross it. The prior night we stayed with a Rotarian, Walter, who provided a nice camper for us to stay in. He volunteered to drive us across the bridge. Boy was this appreciated. It made it so much easier for us. As we were crossing the bridge we soon realized why they don't let bicycles cross it. There wasn't any shoulder at all and a lot of construction going on so it was down to 2 lanes. It would have been very dangerous. The bridge is 5 miles long. One time it was so windy that a small car was blown over the side. So, now they have an escort system where someone will drive your car across the bridge for you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada

We crossed the border into Canada and visited Niagara Falls. What a beautiful sight. There was so much spray from the falls that we ended up soaked.

From there we booked across Canada staying with Dave Mitchell (warm showers organization) along the way. We passed by a curling stone manufacturer. This was Jacky's sport through High School and very popular back in the Midwest so we stopped to check it out. It turns out that there are only 2 curling stone manufacturers in the whole world. This one and one in Scotland. Pretty cool.

We entered back into the US (through MI)on June 5th. We were questioned at the U.S. border for 45 minutes. I guess we need to clean ourselves up. We must look dangerous.

Now we are heading up to Sault Saint Marie and from there we will head to Eagle River, WI where we will start the Grabaawr (week long ride from north WI to the south) on June 20th. We will be biking into Decorah, IA on June 30th!

On the Way to Niagara Falls

In the northwestern part of New York we found many houses made of cobblestone. They were very beautiful.

We also found more wonderful hospitality. As we arrived in Lewiston, NY, out running the predicted severe thunderstorms, we stopped for directions to the Portage Motel (cheap one in town). The man we asked, Dave Kimball, said, "why don't you come and stay at my house". So, we did. He is quite an adventurer himself and when he was young his parents used to run a "free" hostel because they believed in the importance of travel. What a special family.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Upstate New York

On May 27th we entered back into the US through New York. We found Upstate New York to be very beautiful with rolling hills and fields. We were very happy the NW winds wouldn't be bothering us for awhile. As we rode through Amish country we stopped at a farm that was selling baked goods. The family brought coffee out for us and we shared stories with the kids for some time as we ate our warm creme filled donuts and chocolate chip cookies. Reminded me of childhood expereinces.

We also found the same friendliness that we have been experiencing up the whole east coast. Jim Mousaw, an Elk member from Potsdam, let us camp in his yard, but...not before a night cap up in his tiki bar that he built right off from his bedroom. Then John from Ace Hardware, also an Elk member, picked us up and took us to breakfast the next morning.

We have been running pretty hard the past few weeks averaging 70-85 miles a day. But, we always take time to see the beauty along the way (flowers and swan).

"Old Quebec"

We had a great day walking around the city of Quebec. As you can see it is a very old and beautiful french city. Over 90% of the Quebecers(as they call themselves) only speak French. We visited Chateaus, parks, breweries and just enjoyed walking through the narrow and beautiful streets and watching the boats. A visit to Quebec must include a picnic of french bread, brie cheese and red wine. Quite a day.

Bonjour! The Wonderful French Canadian Hospitality!

We had a tiring ride to Quebec as we were facing daily headwinds, heat and long distances. Our reprieve from the wind was eating lunch behind some dumpsters.

We found the French Canadians to be very friendly. We passed one lady, Bridget, walking her bike with a flat tire. Ward fixed her tire and she was so grateful that, through the use of charades, she invited us to her house for dinner and to sleep. Unfortunately, we needed to get farther down the road and had to decline.

In route to Quebec we met another local cyclist, Jean-Luc, that invited us to stay at his house for 2 nights while we toured Quebec City. He lives right next to "Old Quebec" which made it very convenient for touring.

To get to Quebec City from Levis, we took the local ferry. We were amazed at how many bikers were on the ferry. Ward noticed a biker with a bike problem and had to lend a hand. We also met a young couple on the ferry that took interest in our trip. Who would have thought that we would end up running into them the next day on the street and enjoy more conversation and drinks together.

Back into Maine on our way to Quebec

We were anxious to get our budget back on track and re-enter the US. We had wanted to camp but the campgrounds were not open yet. We found that the Elks Lodges come to our rescue. The Elks Lodge in Houlton, which is still all men members, welcomed us in. They were having a grill out that evening and they fed us a fantastic chicken dinner. Then Donald Dunn took us in for the night and gave us a comfy bed to sleep in.

In the northeast they don't have bowling like we know it. They have candlestick bowling which entails a smaller ball and smaller pins. They say a score of 100 is good!

Its also interesting to see the signs showing when these cities were established.

Before entering back into Canada on our way to Quebec, we were stopped on the road by a TV crew and interviewed. It was funny because locals would yell to us on the road that they saw us on TV and wish us good luck!

Maine was very good to us!!

New Brunswick, Canada

From Maine we headed up to Frederickton in New Brunswick, Canada to see Stacey Mclean. She is a friend that we met while we were in Bolivia. Ward climbed a mountain with her in La Paz.

After a grueling day of fighting strong headwinds, Stacey and Jerry made us a scrumptious dinner of salmon, fiddleheads, roasted potatoes and corn on the cob. The next night we introduced them to German bratwursts. Great time.

While in Frederickton we presented at the Rotary Club and tooled around the city.

Three days was all we could afford in Canada. Its very expensive so we decided to head back into Maine on our way to Quebec.