Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Welcome Home from Louie and Rudy

One question we've been asked a lot since arriving home is "How did the dogs react when they saw you?" Mel's mom picked us up from the airport when we got home, and we had her walk in the house first and capture their reaction on here it is!

I think it's safe to say they were happy to see us :) We missed them like crazy!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Post Ride Day 9 - September 6, 2013

Ahh, the day we've been waiting for - Raise the Roof day!  For those of you who aren't familiar with Raise the Roof, it is the annual fundraiser for Brandi Carlile's Looking Out Foundation.  The foundation we were raising money for on our trip!  Our awesome pals at Again Today coordinate the event each year in Seattle, and it brings in a ton of money for the foundation, not to mention the fact that it's a really fun evening of entertainment and education.

We picked up Erica's parents from the airport in the early afternoon, grabbed lunch at Mel's favorite place (you surely know what that is by now!), and headed to The Triple Door...we hadn't had time yet to prepare any visual aids to go with our short talk about the trip, so we needed at least something for people to look at instead of just us standing awkwardly on stage!

We threw together a short slide show with some photos from the trip (huge thanks to Susan for letting us use her laptop and flash drive!), then in no time, people were filing in and the event was about to begin.  It was so good to see so many friends in one place at one time!  It was also satisfying to bring Looking Out Across America full-circle - we had first introduced the trip publicly at the 2012 Raise the Roof, and a year later, we had finally completed the adventure of a lifetime, and got to announce to everyone that we raised over $6,000 for the Looking Out Foundation!  Through the generosity of tons of amazing people, we also raised over $2,000 to cover our personal expenses during the journey through t-shirt sales, and had tons of gear purchased for us through Amazon.  Thank you all for donating, buying shirts, and helping out with gear and encouragement!!!

We survived our on-stage time (mostly because I (Erica) made Mel do most of the talking) - then enjoyed the musical entertainment of The Flumps, Jen Hopper and Khaled Tabbara, and Pretty Enemy.  There was also time for a Q&A with Brandi Carlile and band, raffle drawings, and then a 90 minute set by Brandi, Tim, Phil and Josh.  We had a great night with our families, got to see so many friends that are typically spread across the country, and had a great night celebrating the end of Looking Out Across America!  I know there is video of Raise the Roof floating around, and if I can get my hands on a video of our portion I'll post it here.

We'll stop our daily updates here...we stayed in Seattle until September 15th, spent more time with family and great friends, and fell more in love with the Seattle area.  We didn't have much down time - there was sightseeing to be done, tattoos to get (ooh, maybe I'll blog about our LOAA tour memento tattoos...), dinners, breakfasts, and lunches to attend, people to drop off at the airport, and a wedding to attend.  We had a blast, and such a great time unwinding from 3 months on bikes!  Thanks to everyone who made our stay in Seattle so fantastic!

Here are a few photos from the remainder of our stay:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Post Ride Day 8 - September 5, 2013

We decided to make today a touristy day, since Mel's parents haven't ever been to Seattle.  I ran to the grocery store early before everyone was ready, so we had some staples for breakfast.

We took off for downtown Seattle, and did the most touristy thing we could think of right off the bat - a Duck tour!  In case you don't know what these are, they take these amphibious vehicles from WW2, and created land and water tours around that concept.  They are cheesy, of course, but it's a great way to get a good overview of the city without having to drive or walk yourself, and you get a little boat ride on Lake Union.

After that, we grabbed a bite to eat at MOD Pizza at the City Center, then headed up to the top of the Space Needle.  We had a great time taking in the sweeping views of the city!

After stopping by Target for a few essentials, we enjoyed a lazy evening back at the condo.  We had such a good day showing John and Jane one of our favorite cities, and are so glad they could come out and spend time with us here!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Post Ride Day 7 - September 4, 2013

We were pretty lazy again today!  We packed our stuff up - Mel's parents are flying in to Seattle tonight, so we are (reluctantly) moving out of Susan and Cathy's guest room and into a rental condo for the next week.

I took one photo today, of this frog I spotted on the deck:

We enjoyed an delicious dinner at a Chinese place with Susan and Cathy, then they were awesome enough to give us a ride to the airport to pick up our rental car and Mel's parents.  We will see them a ton of other times while we are out here, but we were still sad to go!

We selected only the most awesome of minivans (leather seats and a DVD player, though we don't have any DVDs with us - a formality), then awaited Mel's parents arrival in the cell phone lot.  We picked them up, and headed about 15 min north of Seattle to the condo.  It's tough to find a rental place to sleep 6 people!

Everyone was tired, so we hit the hay.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Post Ride Day 6 - September 3, 2013

This will be a short one - we didn't leave the company of the couch and tv all day, except to pick up lunch.  Susan made some delicious tacos for dinner, and we spoiled this guy a little more:

Poor guy had to have his toenail removed  all the way to the knuckle.  So naturally, he milked it for all it was worth!  We were so in need of a rest day, and this one was perfect!

Post Ride Day 5 - September 2, 2013

Another lovely morning complete with sleeping in and enjoying coffee!  We could get used to this!

Since its Labor Day, Susan and Cathy both had the day off.  We ran more errands with them, and then had conveyor belt sushi for dinner!  We love conveyor belt sushi, and have only found it in Chicago so far.  Wish Indy had one!

Other than that, all we did was hang out with these guys:

It's so nice to be around dogs again - we are missing our boys so much!!!  Susan and Cathy's French Bulldog had a toenail injury, so we babied him to the extreme, and he loved it!  

Post Ride Day 4 - September 1, 2013

After an awesome sleep in a comfy bed, we woke up and had coffee here:

Beautiful view huh?  After a very laid back morning and early afternoon, we headed out with Susan and Cathy to run some errands.  We had dinner out, and that was pretty much the extent of our day.  It was nice to do some normal things again!

Ahh, life off of our bikes :)  This may be the most uninteresting blog post ever!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Post Ride Day 3 - August 31, 2013 - Portland, OR to Seattle, WA

We still hadn't found some of the important articles of clothing we needed - specifically shoes - so we spent our day browsing through Nordstrom Rack, Ross, and Target.  I'm a sucker for cheap stuff!  We wanted to pick up everything we needed in Oregon to avoid paying sales tax in Washington.  My score of the day - $14.90 shoes!

We hit up Chipotle for lunch, which you all know by now is Mel's favorite restaurant in all of creation.  There is a running theme on our trip - we get to wherever we are going just in time to miss a huge crowd of people getting in line behind us.  This is usually the opposite case in our real lives, as we usually get to the checkout at the grocery store just as everyone else has already jumped in front of us!  Just as we were ordering our food at Chipotle, an entire high school girl's soccer team got in line behind us!  Madness...

The biggest excitement of our day was that we were going to take Amtrak for the first time ever!  I know this doesn't sound fun to a lot of you, but we were stoked :)  We ended up having to walk forever (probably 2 miles, so not really forever) with our bikes, a duffel bag, and rolling carry-on luggage (not an easy task!) from our hotel to the train station.  On the way, we passed what we think was a deceased homeless guy sprawled out in the gravel courtyard of an apartment complex.  The police were on their way over to go check out the situation...yikes.

Getting on the train was an experience...we had to get tags for our bikes, but keep them with us.  Then, everyone jumps in one long line and gets a seat assignment randomly on the way to board.  You just walk right out onto the tracks to get on the train - no security screening or anything!  So different from hopping on an airplane!  We had to walk our bikes back to the baggage car at the end of the train, lift them up to the attendant on the train, and then they hang them for you in the car.  We found our seats, and settled in for a 3.5 hour ride to Seattle.  There were actually several other touring cyclists boarding the train with us.  A couple of them asked where we had come from, and were impressed when we told them Virginia.

The scenery on the way up was beautiful - lakes, mountains, and forests the whole way.  We dined in the bistro car on the best of expensive microwaveable fare (cheeseburger and cheese pizza).  Mel watched Friends on her iPad while I watched Paranormal Activity 3 via Netflix on my phone (she doesn't enjoy scary movies, so I decided to work that one in while I was watching alone!).  After several short stops - they barely come to a complete stop in some of the smaller towns along the way - we were unloading in Seattle!

We have been blessed with some great friends in Seattle, and two of them, Susan and Cathy, were waiting at the station to pick us up!  We loaded our bikes and bags into their cars, and headed to a late dinner at Denny's, since it was about the only thing still open at 11pm!  Susan and Cathy also graciously let us stay in their guest room for a few days - we couldn't be more thankful!

We had finally arrived in the city where we would spend our last couple of weeks of this journey.  The Seattle area really feels like home to us, so it was comforting to be there after living as nomads for 3 months!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Post Ride Day 2 - August 30, 2013 - Portland, OR to Astoria, OR and back

Never being one to sit still somewhere for too long, I decided we needed to rent a car today and drive out to the coast to check out the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Astoria, OR.  We got up early, hopped the Portland Light Rail to the airport, picked up our car and took off!  The light rail in Portland is awesome, just in case you've never been on it.  Clean, and efficient, and only $2.50 to anywhere you want to go!

We stopped briefly for lunch at the ever-fancy Taco Bell on the way out of town, and quickly could see the forests and mountains we loved on our journey laid out ahead of us...but with the added bonus that we didn't have to manually get ourselves up those hills today!  We both were groaning watching other people struggle up hills on loaded bikes, and commiserated about how bad some of them would be on ours.  A sure sign we were in need of a break :)

After another quick stop at a roadside fruit stand for banana chips and fresh local blueberries, we arrived in Seaside, OR.  It was a pea soup fog kinda day there.  I hear they have a lovely beach, but we didn't (couldn't) see it through the fog!  They have a really lame outlet mall there too - we were hoping for much better since we are in dire need of real clothes - you know, things like pants that extend below the knee, shirts that aren't jerseys, and shoes that aren't sandals.  The kind of stuff normal human beings wear...

The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park was neat - they have a replica fort representing the one that L&C wintered in when they were in the area, and some good information about their journey.  Lewis and Clark are like superheroes in these parts - there are tons of things named after them!

After that, we checked out a bit of Astoria.  In case you didn't know, parts of The Goonies were filmed in the town, so we also went to the Oregon Film Museum.  It's tiny, and not that impressive, but we love The Goonies, so it was cool to see the jail cell where one of the Fratelli brothers pretended to hang himself to get out of jail, the museum where Mikey's dad worked, and the restaurant where Chunk smashes the milkshake up against the window during the opening car chase scene.

There was mad traffic going toward the coast on our way back - we then remembered it was the beginning of Labor Day weekend.  Looked like all of Portland was headed to the beach for the long weekend - good thing we were headed the other way!

We hit up a mall in Portland, and bought nearly one of everything that H&M there had.  Finally, some normal clothes again!  We won't know what to do with ourselves :)  After some lovely food court fare, it was getting late and we were getting dirty looks from the food court janitorial staff since it was nearly closing time and we were dirtying up their clean tables, so we headed for the airport to return the car, then hopped back on the light rail for the ride back downtown.  Taylor Swift had a concert near the convention center, and at nearly 11pm, tons of teenage girls were hopping on the light rail with their mothers, their new TS shirts, and some with lighted posters they made to try to get Taylor's attention from the stage.  Those mothers are saints!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Post Ride Day 1 - August 29, 2013 - Florence, OR to Portland, OR

No riding at all today - it still hasn't sunk in that this journey that we planned and dreamed of for nearly 5 years is complete.

Jodi and Milly graciously offered to give us and our bikes a ride to Portland today.  They really are the best!  It was about a three hour drive, so they really sacrificed a lot of time for us.  People just keep renewing our faith in humanity...

They dropped us off at our hotel in downtown Portland, and we headed out to wander around downtown.

We ended up having Thai food for dinner, then made the requisite stop at VooDoo Doughnuts for a few delicious treats on our way back to the hotel.  We held back this time and only picked out two doughnuts a piece instead of going for the Voodoo Dozen like last time we were here.  2 people cannot (or at least SHOULD not) eat that many doughnuts over the course of a few short days!

We're still feeling the effects of spending nearly 3 months on bikes...our bodies definitely want some R&R!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 86 - August 28, 2013 - Florence, OR

Miles - 12
Total mileage - 2,322

We had a glorious night of much needed rest in Jodi's cabin, and didn't even set an alarm!  After some cereal, we picked Jodi's brain for a good location to dip our wheels in the ocean without having to haul our bikes over miles of sand.  She gave us directions, and we took off down Highway 101.

We reached the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area after riding across a narrow bridge (yikes), and sailed down to the dunes.  There were fine buggies racing around on the sand, they were pretty cool to watch.  And we saw the ocean for the first time!

We searched for a decent place to cross the dunes to dip our wheels in the ocean, and eventually I got sick of riding and we decided to just shove our bikes over the giant dunes.  These things were massive, and extremely steep!!

We finally made it to the other side!  And to the ocean!

Shep, Badtz, and Ozzy made it too!

We spent a few hours walking around on the beach, and just enjoying the symbolic end of this summer of adventures.

We really wanted to be able to personally thank everyone who supported and encouraged us during Looking Out Across America, so we recorded this short video.  (To be added - you can find it on our Facebook page now if you'd like!)

Stay tuned - I know we will update everyone on what we have been up to since the end of our trip, and definitely will post a recap of the Raise the Roof annual fundraiser for the Looking Out Foundation, where we present the total funds raised for LOF and the Fight the Fear campaign!!!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 85 - August 27, 2013 - Eugene, OR to Florence, OR

Miles - 80
Total mileage - 2,310

We originally had talked about splitting this final portion of our trip into two days, stopping about 14 miles short of Florence, camping for the night, and having a short and enjoyable last day's ride to the coast.  As we left the hotel this morning, we were still undecided as to whether we would make a run for it all at once, or split it up - as you can see, we went for broke and made it in one day!

Our hotel was right on the river in Eugene, and also right on the awesome bike path that ran along the river.  We hopped on the path and headed north out of town.

After a quick stop at Mickey D's for breakfast (we were the only people there on a Tuesday morning who weren't pushing 90!), we were pedaling out of Eugene and past a dam.  

There were only 2 noticeable climbs left, and they were tackled before we were even 30 miles in.  Shortly after the first one, we came to our first Florence sign!

The last climb was rather sustained, which meant Mel went pedaling on past while I took about 10 breaks on my way to the summit!  It was nice at the top to know that we had tackled the last big challenge of this journey :)

We enjoyed the last big downhill to, and continued on past Triangle Lake, and through some beautiful Oregon countryside.

We stopped for drinks and a snack at a country store in the tiny hamlet of Deadwood, and took a little break outside on their picnic tables.  I (Erica) was pretty tired, and we still had almost 30 miles to go to Florence.  We were still undecided about our final destination for the day at this point.

We pedaled through a few more tiny towns, and finally got to our decision point for how far we would go - Mapleton.  This was the last camping option before Florence, and only 14 miles from the coast.  We stopped in to another convenience store for our last convenience store snack of the trip!

As we have done so many times this summer, we parked it on the sidewalk in front of the store and took in some fuel.  At this point, I had decided that I wanted to press on and get to the coast today, we were ready for the conclusion of the trip, and would rather not drag it out for another day.  We still had plenty of daylight, and only 14 miles of gradual downhill to go to Florence!

It was then that we met Jodi - she pulled up in her car to the market, asked where we were heading for the night, and when we said Florence, she asked if we had a place to stay.  We definitely didn't, and had been planning on camping, but Jodi graciously offered us her cabin she built behind her home, and also picked up dinner for us to enjoy once we arrived at her place!  With renewed enthusiasm, we pedaled down he river headed to the ocean!

Finally, we arrived it Florence!

We wanted to try to find a beach to dip our wheels in that night, but the best we could do was a boat ramp on the river.  People probably thought we were nuts, but oh well.  The picture is on the real camera, so it'll have to come later.  We planned to find the real beach tomorrow, after we find a suitable place to get our bikes out to the water.

We did that, then headed to Jodi's.  she welcomed us to the cabin, and invited us in for dinner after we got settled.  How nice!  Jodi is a retired folk singer, Milly still works in town, and they became friends when they were both correctional officers in Texas.  They have traveled all over together, and have such interesting lives!

We changed clothes and came inside, and met Jodi's friend Milly, who shares the house with her.  We enjoyed a lovely meal, followed by ice cream cones, yum! Jodi and Milly both ride recumbent trikes - these things look awesomely comfortable!

We had some good conversation, the  retired to the cabin.  Jodi made sure to leave the back door open for us in case we needed to use the bathroom during the night.  We are continually awed by the generosity and kindness of people!

We had a great night of much needed sleep in the cabin!

We had such an eventful day, and an emotional one knowing that our journey is officially complete, and that we would wake up tomorrow with nowhere to pedal.  The rest is welcome, but we will sincerely miss the adventure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 84 - August 26, 2013 - Springfield, OR to Eugene, OR

Miles - 8 ish?

Today was another unintended day off. We got ourselves all packed up and ready to go, and were headed down the hall of the hotel...I noticed that rolling my bike down the hallway felt slightly strange, and just thought that maybe it just felt different with all of our gear reconfigured. Then, Erica says "Ummm...your back tire is flat." All I could say was "Ugh." But I wasn't incredibly surprised. As we were riding down Highway 126 a couple of days earlier, I was constantly dodging stuff on the road. At one point, I was pretty sure I ran over a tack on the road. I was pretty bummed about the flat tire for a couple of reasons:  I knew we had to find a shop to go get it taken care of (don't judge...back tires are a pain in the arse to fix and in our previous attempt to change a flat on my back tire, we ended up pinching the tube and wasted a bunch of time and a new tube) and this was costing us time on the road. 

But first things first, we stopped in to the post office and sent lots of stuff back home. Erica is quite the master at packing, and she managed to fit tons of our gear into a box to ship home. 
Then, we attempted to inflate my tire just enough to get us to the local Performance Bicycle store. The crew there was really cool and the technician was super fast at changing my tube, making sure to check my tire for any remaining debris. We chatted about bikes and our trip, and he was pretty impressed we didn't have any other mechanical issues. When we went to pay him, he just said "This one is on the house! Have a great rest of your trip!" I continue to be amazed at the kindness of people. 

Now we were approaching lunch time, so we made the decision to stay in town again, this time in Eugene. We hit up Chipotle for lunch again (my wife is so awesome for tolerating my love of this place) and found a room at a nice hotel right along the river, which had a great bike path! 

We wandered over to the shopping mall and decided to catch a movie (Despicable Me 2). Later on, we enjoyed the hot tub at the hotel, followed by a nice dinner at Noodles and Co. We went to bed pretty early in anticipation of our last day of biking ahead of us. 

Day 83 - August 25, 2013 - Springfield, OR

Miles - 0

We kept seeing a 30% chance of rain in the forecast for this day and were hoping we could make it out of town, but the rain and storms moved in overnight and we didn't feel like taking the risk. The night before, we had some trouble deciding on a route to take to Florence...we could either continue to ride down 126, a constantly busy road, but less miles, or take 36 out of Eugene and up a small pass, less traffic, but adding a few more miles. We spent a lot of time weighing these options and even considered splitting the ride to Florence over two days. Unable to make a decision meant a rough night of sleep. When we awoke to a rainy day, I think we were both relieved to have another day to make a decision. 

We knew that we could begin the process of sending some of our gear home, so we took some time looking through all of our stuff and deciding what we knew we could live without for the rest of our trip. It still amazes me how much stuff our bikes can carry, and how amazingly light they feel without all of our stuff on them! We decided to go buy a duffel bag to have once we shipped our gear home, so we could consolidate our clothes and necessities down to one bag. Thank goodness it is back to school season, as we found a pretty good deal on a bag! Of course, our mid-day shopping trip would not be complete without a quick lunch stop at the local Chipotle. 

We spent the rest of the day reconfiguring our gear and making a giant pile of stuff to send home. At least the rainy day was a productive one! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 82 - August 24, 2013 - McKenzie Bridge, OR to Springfield, OR

Miles - 52
Total mileage - 2,222

We awoke in our rainforest campsite, ate some nutritious powdered sugar donuts purchased at the country store last evening, packed up camp, and headed out.  It was chilly this morning, and we were both in long sleeves when we started pedaling.

Luckily, a few miles down the road we came to a convenience store with hot coffee to warm us up!  After a short break, we were back on the road.

The time we spent on Highway 126 today was mostly a gradual downhill, with a small shoulder to ride on.  Traffic wasnt too heavy, but the road is definitely well traveled.  We rode past another bicycle traveler who was waiting at a bus stop when we rode by, then he passed us by in not too long.  Must have decided to skip the bus!

We stopped for lunch in Vida, at the only restaurant, the Vida Cafe.  This place was pretty busy after we sat down!  Looked to be a good mix of locals and tourists camping in the area for the weekend.

We had the McKenzie River on our left for most of the day - our favorite roads are flanked by a river and beautiful forests!  We ride through a virtual tunnel of trees at some points today, such a pretty ride!

We stopped in another small town for a cold drink, and found a pretty unique art studio across the road - complete with its own Conderella carriage!

We turned onto a less traveled country road near the end of the day.  The scenery changed from forest back to rural farms and ranches as we approached Springfield.  On the outskirts of town, we found bike lanes again!  Yay! Bicycle friendly cities are the best!  The rest of our ride was through busy city streets to our hotel.

After a quick dinner at Taco Bell (only the best!), we took to going through our stuff and deciding what to send home as we headed out the next day.  With only two days of riding left at the most, we wanted to lighten our load a bit.  The feeling in our room that night was pretty melancholy - so hard to believe this adventure is nearly over, this thing we planned and looked forward to for so long will soon only be a collection of memories as we get back to reality...