EarthByTandem.com
This site is dedicated to our earthly travels by tandem.....

USA - May 7 - August 15, 2006

Back in the USA
(Photo Album)

May 15, 2006

YO DUDES.WHASSUP?

For those of you who have followed our travels over the past 11+ months via our updates and website you know that we have tried to start the first update from each country with a greeting typical from that country. Thus the above is a tongue-in-cheek American style greeting.

Prior to arriving back in America we had a little anxiety mixed with curiosity as to what it would be like returning to our homeland after nearly a year of international travel. While we have missed home, we haven't missed a lot of other things such as the political dynamics, and the way the media portrays ongoing local, national, and international stories. It is an understatement to say that our return was a lot happier and healthier than we ever could have hoped for.

We had a 4 hour layover in Los Angeles between our arrival there from Fiji and our connection to Seattle. We were met at the airport by our friend Andy who took us out of that environment to Marina Del Ray. It had been a couple of years since we had last seen Andy, an avid skier, at Mt. Crested Butte (even longer for Janet as she was sick that weekend). We caught up on our adventures and enjoyed sitting under the sun, by the water and watching the boats. It was a great way to see a friend and escape the airport scene for a few hours.

Our long day of travel ended in Seattle where we were picked up by Barbara, the twin sister of Barry who is the one house-sitting during our 14 months of travel. We've met Barbara and her husband Dave several times over the years but always for brief stints. Spending the next 4 days with them gave us the opportunity to connect at a much deeper level and we now consider them very good friends. We had initially scheduled a full week in Fiji but cut it to five days when it was decided that Barry and his girlfriend Marcia would come out to Seattle to meet us and have a large party to celebrate Barry and Barbara's upcoming 60th birthday. It was a great opportunity to meet some of their friends and to celebrate our return to the states. Virtually everyone on our email distribution list has heard stories of Barry. Without him taking care of our house, cat, financial logistics, and on and on we never could have undertaken this journey with the success we've had. He has truly been (next to our bike) the third member of our team. We had a little time to sightsee in Seattle, a first for both of us, and enjoyed a ferry ride and walking the Sunday market in the downtown area. We also went to REI to purchase a new tent as ours had lived its best days after very heavy usage. Our time here also allowed us to bring our bike in for some repairs to insure its readiness for the cross country journey ahead.

On Monday May 8th, Dave drove us a couple of hours north to Anacortes to the start of Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier route. What has transpired over the first week of cycling across northern Washington State has been nothing short of phenomenal. We have experienced nearly perfect weather and lots of tailwinds. We know the former will change throughout the projected 10 week journey to our final destination in Cape Cod Massachusetts, but we are hoping the latter stays with us for the entire trip!! Our first day out was primarily flat, which was quite welcome given that we had been off the bike for almost two weeks since arriving back in Auckland. It was a great way to start, and to get our butts reacclimated.

When we arrived in Concrete we asked a woman walking her dog if the market was ahead. "No, it's two miles back" she said. Within a minute Marcia had invited us first to camp on her lawn, and then to stay in her RV. Breaking in our new tent would have to wait! Her husband Jack, the town's mayor, was equally as welcoming when he met us later that evening. We wondered how our people experiences would be here in America after being the highlight of our trip internationally, and if this was a start we were bound to be in for more incredible interactions.

The next day brought us into North Cascade National Park. We have long believed that our national park system is the jewel of our country and our time here continues to reinforce that feeling. The majestic peaks, beautiful rivers, and old forest growth provide for stunning scenery. We cycled over Rainy Pass where the road was clear but the snow on the side was nearly six feet high. John Muir said "Being in the mountains is being home", and this felt true to us. Maybe even more so on the east side of Washington Pass where the landscape is much drier and similar to Colorado's mountains than on the western side of the pass. We left the park knowing we will have to return here to undertake a backpacking trip into the park's wilderness.

In Twisp we stayed with our first American Warm Showers contact. Actually it was more like having our own place than "staying with". Scot had provided directions to his place, told us to make ourselves at home etc. but he wasn't able to show up until the next morning. It gives us hope that human nature and kindness is so much better than portrayed by the media when you have people so trusting enter your lives. Because of Scot's schedule we only had about 30 minutes with him, but it was enough to know that if we lived closer to each other we'd be good friends. Upon leaving he told us another friend would show up shortly to use his phone. When Marie arrived and inquired as to what we were doing there it was almost instantaneous that she pulled out a book, made a phone call, and had us staying with friends of hers in Tonasket, our targeted destination that day.

Another day, another pass, this time Loup Loup, and then down into the Okanogan Valley were we were greeted with strong tailwinds pushing us all the way into town. We typically arrive at the top of the passes wearing only our shorts and shirt because we are working so hard. Then we quickly don arm warmers, tights, wind jackets, toe warmers, and long finger gloves for our fast descent off the pass summit where temperatures are likely in the mid 40's (8c?). The waves of warmth as we drop elevation feel great. In Tonasket we stayed with Phil and Sandy. Phil is an avid rock climber and his library of climbing books is striking. A wonderful salmon dinner, the ability to catch up on email and laundry, and to connect with this welcoming and wonderful couple were highlights. It was too bad we didn't have more time (as is so often the case) to have them show us some of the local area they talked about so positively.

Over the next two days we had two more passes to climb, Wauconda (4, 310') and Sherman (5,575') with the later being the highest of the five passes we'd done over the 4 day period. Sherman was, in our opinion, the most beautiful of all both going up and down. Crossing the Columbia River at Roosevelt Lake at the bottom of the pass felt like a milestone. The day over Sherman Pass and the next day into Sandpoint Idaho were exceptionally long 92m/148k and 98m/159k respectively. Fortunately the second day was primarily flat along a back road that paralleled the Pend Orelle River. We arrived in Sandpoint with a phone number to possibly stay with a friend of Phil and Sandy. As we got ready to make the call from a payphone outside the supermarket a woman and her 3 children on bicycles saw us looking at our map and asked if we needed help. When the call went unanswered, you can probably guess what happened next. We were invited by Miriam to follow her and the kids, Heather, Kiernan, and Connor back to their place to spend the night. Miriam said "It's not the Hilton" but to us a full mattress and one less night in the tent feels luxurious. If this first week of hospitality is any indication of what is to come as we make our way east then our new tent is likely to stay in that condition!

After seven days of hard cycling we are taking a day off. It is our plan to take about a day off per week, but much will be dictated by weather and how we feel. We knew we would have to pick up our average daily distance as we cross the states because of our desire to finish by the third week of July. We hope that we can keep our current pace. Because we are in the "panhandle" of Idaho we only have a few more hours cycling to cross this section of the state into Montana. Then it will take us nearly two weeks to traverse this huge state covering over 700m/1,100k. Hopefully it will be sometime after this that we will be able to update you again on our travels.

Two final notes:
First, to our work colleagues: The 2005/06 school year is coming to a close. We hoe that it has been a rewarding year for all of you. We know that you have done wonderful things for kids. May you all enjoy a well earned summer vacation, and we look forward to seeing you in August.

Second, to our friends in the Colorado Springs Cycling Club: The Buena Vista Bike Fest is our annual fund raiser and we have been actively involved in this event since its inception 8 years ago. We will miss it this year, but we know that with over 800 participants for the May 20th event that it will be the best year ever. Have fun and we hope the weather is great. At the post ride party please have a Fat Tire beer on our behalf.

May 25, 2006

After being on the road for nine consecutive days it is time for a day off in Wolf Point Montana. Why here? Because of our Warm Showers contact Mary. She is a retired public health nurse who has worked on Indian reservations for years. Wolf Point is home to two tribes: Sioux and Assinaboine or as they refer to themselves Nakota and Dakota respectively. Mary is also an active bike tourist. To celebrate her 50th high school reunion she biked from Wolf Point to Folsom California near Sacramento and back. Then to celebrate her 70th birthday last year she rode from here to Bar Harbor Maine along the Northern Tier route we are taking and then back via a different route. Both of these tours were solo and self contained! As noted throughout our journaling we have met amazing people throughout our travels, but Mary's adventures reinforce our dream that we will be able to continue bike touring for many years to come.

The day we left Sand Point Idaho we entered Montana and could immediately see why it is referred to as "Big Sky" country. This has been reinforced throughout our travel in this, the country's 4th largest state. One really has to travel here to truly understand the "Big Sky" feeling. With less than a million people in the state there are vast stretches of land with little to no population. If there is one thing to provide a sense as to how big across this state is, it's the fact that you change from the Pacific to the Mountain time zone when you cross Montana's western border, and then go from the Mountain to the Central time zone when you cross the northern part of Montana's eastern border! One state incorporating an entire time zone.that's big.

Our first few days crossing the western part of the state provided beauty on par with what we had experienced in Washington and Idaho. The 36m/53k state highway 56 paralleling the Bull River, its associated wetlands, and views of the Cabinet Mountains is now added to our list of "top 10 cycling roads". From Troy at the northern terminus of highway 56 we knew we had one way to go - up. Troy is Montana's lowest point at about 1900-feet/600 meters elevation. We followed along the Kootenai River to Libby and up to the Libby Dam that has created Lake Koocanusa. This 90-mile/156k lake is so called as a result of a contest in 1971 to name the newly formed lake. The winner was a woman who took the first 3 letters of Kootenai and Canada, and USA as the Kootenai's headwaters are in Canada and it flows into the US. The lake is so big and deep (up to 370 feet in depth) that its water could more than cover the state of Massachusetts to a depth of one foot. The riding along here was also exceptional. A highlight was early one morning where we were descending a long hill and caught up to a Black Tailed Deer sprinting parallel to us for nearly a half mile, while each of us were going 50kph/31mph.

The day we arrived in Whitefish we went through Eureka, which brought us to within 7m/12k of the Canadian border. As the day wore on the shifting on our bike steadily deteriorated. Once again we were exceptionally lucky as Whitefish has a fantastic bike shop. Because they are on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route they "prioritize touring cyclists". Somehow we had bent our derailleur hanger. The next good bike shop was at least 400 miles away! The owners of Glacier Cyclery are themselves tandem tourists and we had a great time talking with Jan about our trip.

The following day brought the first significant rain since we started our cross-country trip. Up to this point we'd had beautiful clear skies and warm days with tailwinds being the norm. We rode in a steady rain from Whitefish to Columbia Falls. We hunkered down at a service station for an hour, and when the rain subsided to off and on drizzle we continued to West Glacier. The weather looked "iffy" heading east so we called a hostel in East Glacier to make a reservation. They literally were opening that night and "things still needed to be dusted but the hot showers are working". Knowing we had a bed for the night made it plausible for us to press on. We had hoped to go through Glacier National Park and Going To The Sun Road, which traverses over Logan Pass, but the road is still closed due to heavy snow accumulations over the winter. It is projected that it won't open up till mid June at the earliest. We'd have felt a bit cheated if it weren't for the fact that we had biked this road several years ago from east to west. Consequently our route took us over the much easier and lower Marias Pass from West Glacier to East Glacier. As we started our ascent the weather cleared and we were warmed for the first time all day by blue sky and brilliant sun. What a contrast to earlier in the day. We summited the pass at 7pm and made it to the hostel before 8. When we arrived we were welcomed by cheering from the group of locals who had gathered for a birthday celebration. We hadn't even gotten off our bike when the hostel's owner Linda said "Are you hungry?" "Starved" we responded. "Well come on, we have lasagna, salad and would you like iced tea or Sangria?" After over 7 hours in the saddle covering 86m/139k it was about the best welcome we could have had.

We left East Glacier the following morning to clear skies and tailwinds. We were now on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. If we headed south from here instead of east it would take us little more than 2 weeks to ride to our house in Colorado Springs. Fortunately, we have had such wonderful experiences so far that we continue to be highly motivated to point east. It took more than a day for views of the Rockies to fade into the distance. Being on the eastern plains of Montana the roads are primarily flat with occasional gentle rolling hills. With the exception of one day with headwinds we have had exceptional tailwinds since leaving East Glacier. This along with the terrain has allowed us to increase our daily distances and set record average riding speeds. While we had hoped to average close to 70 miles per day/110k+ in the states versus the 50-60 miles per day (80-100k) during the earlier parts of our touring, we have so far averaged 77m/124k per day including one day of 108m/175k. While we have no illusions or desire to keep that pace, the favorable conditions have allowed us to stay slightly ahead of our projected itinerary.

Our day off in Wolf Point is most welcome. Our bodies need the rest, and to have another nice place to stay with such a fascinating host makes it that much better. Over the past few days we have ridden along the Lewis and Clark Trail. They stopped very close to what would become Wolf Point on the Missouri River in May 1805 and this entire area is steeped in Lewis and Clark history. Given the material we have picked up with last year and this being the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery expedition, we very much want to return to this area to more fully explore the Lewis and Clark trail.

In closing this update, here is some information about Wolf Point from a website on the town: The history of the Wolf Point area goes back many years to when a traveler on the river, in 1842, noted in his journals the many wolves sighted near old Wolf Point. Several fur trading forts were operated in the area by the American Fur Company. One was Fort Charles, located near the present site of the Missouri River Bridge. Other sites have been discovered, but the names are unknown. In the 1860's and 1870's when the river steamboat was the principle mode of travel, Wolf Point was a refueling point as well as an Indian trading post. During the 1870's Winter trappers stacked their wolf hides along the river to wait for spring and for the steamboats to transport their cargo to markets in the East. The name "Wolf Point" was here to stay.

Because Montana is such a large state, geographically, people not familiar with this part of the country frequently ask, "Exactly where is Wolf Point located?" To give you a little better idea, in terms of highway miles at least, Wolf Point is: 1,238 miles from Chicago, 750 miles from Denver, 1,300 miles from Phoenix, 744 miles from Salt Lake City, 993 miles from Seattle, 1,607 miles from Los Angeles, 1,491 from San Francisco, 1,981 miles from Portland, 750 miles from St. Paul, 725 miles from Spokane, .......and light years away from New York City.

June 11, 2006

It took us a week to go from Wolf Point, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnesota. After two days of rolling hills in North Dakota the terrain turned primarily flat with the most vast farmland we'd ever seen. We've been fortunate to continue to have mostly tailwinds, and this has helped us maintain higher than expected distances per day. While the terrain of North Dakota was not overly interesting, the people we met were exceptionally nice, and the drivers as courteous as any we have encountered in our cycling travels.

The greater Fargo area is the largest metropolitan area between the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and Spokane Washington, about 1,200 miles/2000km as a guess. Fargo ND and Moorhead are separated by the Red River, the longest north flowing river in America at 545m/877k. Once again Warm Showers came through with our hosts Larry and Karen. It is amazing how many times we have felt an immediate connection with our Warm Showers hosts over the past 12 months, and Larry and Karen joined this long list. We spent two nights with them thorougly enjoying their hospitality and company. On our off day we visited the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center which houses a replica of a Viking ship built by Robert Asp, a school counselor from this area, in the 1980's. Tragically he died of Lukemia prior to sailing it to Norway, which had been his goal. However, four of his adult children were part of a crew that successfully undertook that journey.

Upon leaving Moorhead we headed northeast to Itasca State Park which is Minnesota's oldest state park. Itasca Lake and the surrounding lakes to it are the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The length of the river is difficult to ascertain because of the changing channels. At the headwaters a sign says that the Mississippi is 2,552 miles long. The US Geologic Survey says it is 2,300 miles while the Environmental Protection Agency has it at 2320. Finally the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area lists the mileage at 2,350. The two well done information centers provided lots of fascinating statistics and historical information. At the headwaters at Lake Itasca, the average flow rate is 6 cubic feet per second. The northernmost Lock and Dam at Upper St. Anthony's Falls has an average flow rate of 12,000 cubic ft/second. Near the Mississippi terminus at New Orleans, the average flow rate is 600,000 cubic ft/second. At its widest point at Lake Onalaska the Mississippi River is more than 4 miles/6.5km across, with its narrowest point at the headwaters with a width of 20-30 feet/6-9 meters. Finally, a drop of rainwater that falls at the headwaters will take approximately 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Since leaving the headwaters we have crossed the Mississippi 15 times on our way to the Twin Cities and it has been fun to see the changes in its' width as we progress southeast.

We are presently in St. Paul staying with friends who we have not seen in far too long. Linda was one of Janet's bridesmaids in our wedding, and Gwen was a former social worker collegue in Colorado Springs who now lives in northern Minnesota. Spending time with them and their families has been a wonderful way to close out the first half of our trans-America trip and to prep us for the second half and last part of our journey. The day after we celebrated one year since leaving our home on June 4th, 2005 we celebrated 10,000 cycling miles since our first pedal strokes in Ireland. A few miles later we crossed the 2,000 mile point since leaving Annacortes, Washington.

After 2 days off, we will pedal on in the morning as we make progress toward Cape Cod, our final destination.

Final Journal Entry:

It was for good reasons that we spent two off days in St. Paul Minnesota. Additional time to spend with our friends Linda, Chris, and Gwen, and extra time off the saddle to give our abused Gluteus Maximus muscles some recovery time. From St. Paul we continued to head south through increasingly hillier terrain during our remaining days in Minnesota and throughout our time in Iowa. The constant rolling hills in conjunction with strong headwinds for 3 days made the cycling in Iowa some of the most challenging of our trans U.S. tour.

When we crossed the Mississippi River for the 17th and final time we left Iowa and entered Illinois. More symbolic than crossing the River and the state line was the fact that once again we were finally heading east. It had been 10 days of cycling since leaving the Mississippi River headwaters at Itasca State Park and since that time we had essentially been heading due south for over 1,300k/800m all in an effort to avoid the Great Lakes. In addition to the change of direction, we were rewarded with tailwinds, which for the most part stayed with us for the remainder of our trip.

Just as we had been amazed at the incredible amounts of wheat farming in North Dakota, our route in Illinois and Indiana traversed through the vast Corn Belt synonymous with this area. Much of the crop is used for feed and, as our Adventure Cycling map says, "Nowhere else in the world is so much grain fed to non human mouths". The roads were very flat and straight, and with our "friend" assisting us with a positive push we were able to cover good distances on a daily basis.

At the end of our second full day in Illinois we planned to camp at the city park in Ashkum. We asked a guy mowing the school lawn for directions to the park and we rolled under the park's large pavilion just as the approaching storm started to spit rain. Rollie, the mower, stopped by a few minutes later wanting to make sure we made it to the park and to ask questions about our travels. After he went home to talk with his wife Pam he drove back
to the park and invited us to their home for the night. Fortunately we had yet to set up our tent so we quickly repacked the little we had taken out and followed Rollie back to his house. As a retired caterer Rollie's cooking for dinner and breakfast was an excellent departure from our standard culinary cuisine while camping, and helped to re-energize our bodies. Because Pam is a school counselor we had plenty to talk with her about concerning the similarities and differences related to public education in Illinois and Colorado.

Monroeville Indiana has an incredibly positive and well-earned reputation within the touring cycling community. Every touring cyclist we passed who was heading west scowled when the subject of winds came up, but smiled when they spoke about Monroeville. We fully understood why after our time there. Monroeville is on two Adventure Cycling routes, "Northern Tier" and "Great Lakes"; consequently they get a lot of touring cyclists passing through during the late spring, summer, and early fall months. Literally everyone we talked to in town not only asked us questions about our travels, but stated how much they enjoy having touring cyclists come through their community.

Since the later 1970's they have opened up their community center at the city park allowing cyclists to stay there for free. Inside are laundry and shower facilities with all the toiletries provided. A large kitchen is available for use, as are a TV and videos, books and cycling magazines. In the quarter century that they have opened up the center to cyclists they have never had a negative experience. Our stay there could not have been better, or better timed. A significant storm with high winds approached with amazing speed. We entered the town's library to check email under a calm blue sky, and within about 20 minutes the sky had turned to black with trees bending in the wind. The librarian told us of reports of a possible tornado touching down about 50k/30 miles southeast of us. We got on our bike and pedaled as fast as we could to the community center, running across the ball field and under the pavilion just as the rain started. Warren, a city park board member, was waiting for us and instructed us to come inside with bike in tow. Within two minutes the pounding on the roof was remarkable, and a look out the door had us witness one of the heaviest downpours we'd ever seen. Within the hour the rain had subsided, but the drenched lawn surrounding the community center made us even more appreciative of having a place to sleep indoors.

The community center building had been rented out that late afternoon for a party and when the organizers arrived to set up they invited us to participate, as "there's plenty of food and drink". We didn't need too much encouragement to say "yes". The next morning we watched the local news broadcast as we ate and packed up. Extensive footage of the storm's destructive path had us once again giving thanks for our night's shelter. They reported on downed trees, flooding, road closures, and power outages that in some areas would continue for a couple of more days. Over the next few days cycling we passed crops that were flooded and likely a total loss, as well as a few homes surrounded by standing water. We felt lucky to hit only one road closure that added an additional 7k/4m to that day's ride.

The day that took us to Cleveland Ohio incorporated a beautiful approach to the city from the west as we passed magnificent homes along the shores of Lake Erie. After being in America's heartland and passing through rural communities since leaving St. Paul 13 days earlier, it felt strange to be approaching a big city. Fortunately the Adventure Cycling map did a great job of incorporating back streets, and our Warm Showers contacts Martin
and Edie lived only about a mile off of the route. They were yet another fantastic couple to stay with and their 15 plus bikes in the garage was testimony to their dedication to bike commuting to work every day across all 4 seasons regardless of weather. We spent what would prove to be our last "off day" of the tour visiting the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. We also put energy toward mapping out our final two-week itinerary if weather conditions and other external factors remained in our favor.

It certainly felt like we were "east" on the day we arrived in Upstate New York as we started the day in Ohio, and passed through northeast Pennsylvania prior to crossing into the Empire State. Touching three states in one day while riding a bike would be a feat we'd match again eight days later going from New York, to Vermont and then into our final state,
Massachusetts.

We left New York briefly to go to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, thus marking the 20th country that we've touched during our 13 months of travel. The falls truly are a spectacular sight and the bike path along the river leading up to them made the experience that much more positive. The next day we cycled along the Erie Canal towpath for about 80k/50m. It was more scenic and interesting than we thought it would be, and a treat to not have to deal with or think about cars. As we approached Rochester the bike path network became more extensive and quite impressive. We passed a recumbent cyclist who then caught up to us and asked if we had a place to stay. We would be staying with Jarret and Barbara as Warm Showers came through again, but Bob lived close to them so he escorted us there.

Jarret and Barbara were hosting a large family reunion the next day so 2 of their adult children had flown in prior to our arrival and the third would do so later that night. From our arrival until we left the next morning we felt like we were members of this wonderful family and it made us want to stay longer to meet others. Alas our desires to press on trumped our desires to stay, but like so many places we've visited we hope to return.

The next few days had us cycling through the Adirondack Mountains. It felt good to be in hillier terrain and had us thinking even more of our return home to the foothills of the Rockies. At Blue Mountain Lake the Adventure Cycling route continues east through New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire before terminating in Bar Harbor Maine. Because of our time frame we headed south. However, it wasn't only time that altered our destination, but the opportunity to see our friends Kent and Jill at Camp Fowler where Kent has been the camp director for some 20 years. Kent had officiated our wedding nearly six years ago, and this was the first time we'd seen him and Jill since tying the knot. Once again we longed for an additional day to relax with friends, but knowing we were now just six days away from our final destination we chose to continue pedaling eastward. It was on that day that we cycled adjacent to the northeast arm of the Great Sacandaga Lake, which was one of the most beautiful stretches of road since our arrival in the states. We had a long ascent climbing out of the Adirondacks, and the subsequent descent was so fast that we set a new record for our highest speed of the trip, 83.8kph/51.5mph. If it weren't for a curve in the road that impacted our sight line, our top speed would have been even higher.

North Adams Massachusetts is in the northwest corner of the state only a few miles from both Vermont and New York. Our good friend Pete from Colorado Springs grew up there, and was leaving his hometown after a visit to return to Colorado. We met up in Vermont for a couple of hours to converse over ice cream. What a treat it was to see him and his two kids after 13 months! Pete had set us up to stay in North Adams with his long time friends Larry and Hulda. As we approached the Massachusetts border we saw a cyclist on the other side of the road. Less than a minute later a voice from behind us said, "You are only a few miles from a beer and a pool". It was Larry who'd come out to escort us to his house. It wasn't long after our arrival that we were indulging in both offerings.

For the third time in less than a week we wanted to spend another day exploring the region and have more time with friends. As we left Larry and Hulda's we talked a lot about a future bike tour that will bring us back to North Adams, Camp Fowler, and the Rochester area to meet those goals.

The Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts were formidable. While not high in elevation, the gradients and length were steeper and more sustained than what we'd experienced in the Adirondacks. We had set up to meet our friend Scott on the eastern side of this mountain chain, camp for the night, and then ride to Scott's house the next day. Aaron had first met Scott 17 years ago while both were on bike tour in Colorado as Scott was soaking his feet in a stream. A friendship was born instantly, and because he lives close to Aaron's father it has been easy to stay connected and see each other annually. It was great to spend the night camping with Scott and even better to spend the next night with him, his wife Isabelle, and their two beautiful young daughters.

The day after we left Scott and Isabelle's we arrived in Cape Cod at Aaron's father's house. It was an incredible feeling to cycle up to the door having left here 13 months ago almost to the day, and have Dad greet us with hugs, smiles, and laughter. Our journey had literally come full circle. A few days later Aaron's stepmother Sue, his sister Marjorie, brother-in-law Gordon, and nephew Sam joined us for the weekend to continue the welcome home celebration. It was wonderful to be with family again.

When we left Anacortes Washington on May 8th we set a target arrival date in Cape Cod for July 15. We made the cross-country trip five days earlier than planned. Since leaving St. Paul exactly 4 weeks earlier we'd taken only one off day (Cleveland) and cycled 3384k/2098m. Our total distance for our cross-country tour was 7201k/4465m, and our total cycling distance since we started in Ireland in June 2005 was 20,199k/12,523m.

Those statistics aside, it is not the distance we cycled, the countries we visited, or the sights we saw that were the most amazing part of our journey. It was, without a doubt, the people we met along the way that were our journey's most powerful experiences. Reading the newspaper and watching the news on TV too often bombards our minds with negatives that unfortunately are a component of our planet. However, the people we met throughout our travels had us constantly focusing on the positive things that people do for one another.

It is our hope that we will have the opportunity to see again many of the people who touched our lives so profoundly over the past year, but the reality is that it will likely be a small percentage. That said, we already have two friends who will be coming to visit us this fall: Luc from France who we tramped with in Nepal, and Phil from Melbourne Australia who we stayed with in January.

After spending 24/7 with each other for the past 13 months with much of that time on the tandem bike, it has become clear to us that loaded bicycle touring, at it's most basic level, is about living life simply.

We'd like to close with a story and a quote:

When we arrived at Camp Fowler to see our friends Kent and Jill, Kent showed us a shirt that he'd just received from a staff member whose father owns a bike shop. The shirt has a quote on it that continues to give us pause for thought as we transition back to life off the bike. The next day as we unpacked our trailer to set up camp we found the shirt stuffed into our bag (thanks Kent!). The quote reads:

"Could the secret of life be so simple? Could it be to love someone and ride your bike everyday?"

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