Trip Statistics

So, we’ve been back in good old Oregon for a few weeks now. We’re so swept up into resuming our normal lives that it almost seems as if the trip never happened. Then suddenly we stop and remember, oh yeah, we just got back from biking across the continent!

So today, we get to relive it a little. While Paul is working on sorting through photos to get together the best ones for an album, I decided to work on some trip statistics.

To clarify a bit about the statistics. The day after our wedding we biked back from the ocean to Portland. We had a week to get ready and then left on the Portland to Portland trip. We wanted to capture the post wedding miles in the total trip distance, so that is included in the stats. But the heart of the trip was Portland to Portland. So the other stats are based on P to P, unless otherwise noted.

Trip Statistics:

Miles biked from Oceanside, OR to Portland, ME…………………………………….3,950

Miles biked from Portland to Portland…………………………………………………….3,860

Miles ridden in a car………………………………………………………………………………..158

Days from coast to coast……………………………………………………………………………87

Days from Portland to Portland…………………………………………………………………83

Rest days…………………………………………………………………………………………………15

Average Riding Miles per Days Ridden……………………………………………………56.8

Overall Average…………………………………………………………………………………….46.5

Lodging:

Number of nights spent

  • Motel…………………………………………………………………………………………………………10
  • Home stay with family, friends, or friends of friends………………………………………27
  • Home stay with random strangers………………………………………………………………..10
  • Warm showers…………………………………………………………………………………………….7
  • Camping……………………………………………………………………………………………………23
  • Bed and Breakfast………………………………………………………………………………………..2
  • Vacant Flooded House………………………………………………………………………………….1
  • Urban Camping Behind a Coffeehouse…………………………………………………………..1
  • Refurbished Train Caboose…………………………………………………………………………..2

Number of nights we payed for lodging…………………………………………………………………..16.5

States in which we never once paid for lodging…………………………………MI, IN, ND, NH, VT

Route:

States/Provinces Visited…..OR, WA, ID, MT, ND, MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, ON NY VT, NH, ME

Longest State……………………………………………….MT, 676 miles, 18 days (14 full riding days)

Shortest State…………………………………………VT, 50 miles, 4 days (but only 1 full riding day)

Highest Point…………………………………………………………………………………….Lolo Pass 5233 ft

Most consecutive rest days……………………………………………………..4, Ottawa, IL+Chicago, IL

Most above average trail……………………150 miles, Central Lakes/Lake Wobegan Trails, MN

Number of wrong turns……………………………………………………………………………………………..2

Shortest day……………..22 miles, due to headwind and projected thunderstorm, Poplar, MT

Longest day………….86 miles, due to one of the above mentioned wrong turns, Crystal, MN

Number of unnecessary 1,000 ft climbs…………………………………………….at least 1, Utica, NY

Mechanics and Gear:

Number of flat tires…………………………………………………………………………………………………..11

Number of flats occurring on HWY 2…………………………………………………………………………..5

Number of leaks in Big Agnes sleeping pads…………………………………………………………………2

Number of Big Agnes leaks we were able to patch on the road……………………………………….0

Parts replaced…………………2 forks, 3 sets of tires (one purchased didn’t fit), 1 chain, 1 cable

Favorite gear………………………..down coats, EVT mirror (Caroline), headlamps, SOTO stove

Gear brought and never used………………..map holder (Caroline), thermal underwear (Paul)

Stuff lost on the road………….hat, 2 pair gloves, hot sauce, cheese, sausage, soap, shampoo, neoprene booties, t shirt

Stuff delivered to us while on the road……….1 bowling ball, 2 care packages, 1pkg of pancake mix, 2 sets of tires

Documentation:

Photos take………………………………………………………………………………………………………3,940

Photos kept………………………………………………………………………………………………………1,600

Blog posts written………………………………………………………………………………………………….47

Postcards sent……………………………………………………………………………………………………..136

Number of times on the news……………………………………………………………………………………1

Number of people who recognized us from the news…………………………………………………..8

Food:

Number of cider donuts consumed……………………………………………………………………………21

Slices of chocolate pie consumed………………………………………………………………………………..5

Brewpubs/microbreweries visited……………………………………………………………………………..14

Number of New Glarus beers smuggled out of WI……………………………………………………….11

Number of Maine’s official state snack, the whoopie pie, consumed……………………………….3

Best meal………………………………………………………………………………………..HoDo’s, Fargo, ND

Runners up………………Piquad’s deep dish pizza, Kim D’s blue cheese steak, lobster dinner

Notable sites:

Largest earthen dam biked across……………………..Ft. Peck Dam, 21,026 ft long, 250 ft high

Largest dune climbed……………………………………………………Mt Baldy, Indiana Dunes, 123 ft

World’s worst mosquitoes……………………………………………………………………………….Montana

Highest Point Visited……………………………………..Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, 6646 ft

Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder…………………………………………………………………Pepin, WI

Best small town festival…………………………………………………….Potato Days, Barnesville, MN

Largest statue of a giant Viking (birthplace of America)…………………………..Alexandria, MN

Of a giant penny-farthing (bicycle capital of America)……………………………………Sparta, MN

Oldest curling club in North America………………………………………………………….Walthom, IL

Most deserted city/best urban biking……………………………………………………………Detroit, MI

Best and Worst:

Best drivers…………………………………………………………………………………………………….Ontario

Worst drivers: ………………………………………………………………………………………………Michigan

Best roads……………………………………………………………………………………………………….Ontario

Worst roads…………………………………………………………………………………………………..Michigan

Friendliest people……………………………………………………………………………………North Dakota

Meanest people……………………………………………………………………………………………Nowhere

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We Made It!

Okay so we actually made it to Portland a few days ago. But it is really hard to write a post about something until it is finished. Unfortunately, the last three days in the other Portland haven’t really provided a lot of interesting material. We had a great time hanging out but nothing really exciting happened. Except for the fact that we made it to our destination, which is exciting enough.

Between the consistent misting rain, the wood framed houses, people talking about how great Portland is, and the obscene amount of brewpubs with delicious food,  I sometimes forgot which Portland I was in.  Signs like, Portland Parks and Rec., were especially confusing.

We filled our days trying to avoid the rain and sample as much delicious food and beer as humanly possible. We went on a brewery tour of Allagash and spent hours in Novare Res, an awesome pub, writing post cards and drinking hopped mead (yum!).

While the two Portlands seem to have a lot in common, Portland East is much  smaller – at 66,000 it is significantly smaller than Fargo.  And they get snow. And have cute brick sidewalks, lobster instead of salmon, and an ocean instead of a river.

We really liked Portland and would love to spend more time there, especially when it is not raining.

A big thank you to Marialice and family, our friends-of-friends hosts in town. And to Ellen, the nice woman we met on the bike trail who escorted us into town.

And now home. Slowly on the train, but not nearly as slow on the bike.  See you soon Portland of the west, home sweet home.

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The Real Mainer Way to Eat Lobster

Just 20 miles shy of Portland, we stopped for two nights in Biddeford with Paul’s coworker’s brother, Shaun.  Now, Shaun hiked the Appalachian Trail, so he understands how special hospitality can be.  He is also a nice guy and is the head chef of a local brewpub.  All that combined means that we were completely spoiled with awesome food and company during our stay.

We spent a lot of time at the pub, the Run of the Mill. Located in an old textile mill, they have done a lot of creative reuse to make the ambiance complete, from the huge wood beams to the drafts of the old textile prints framed on the wall. We went down for breakfast and Shaun just kept bringing out more and more food- bacon, eggs, corn beef hash, home fries, French toast. It was amazing. And since it was raining we just lingered for a while using the wifi.

But the best treat of all was far and away the homemade lobster dinner. Even though Shaun grew up in Ohio, he frequently visited his grandparents in Maine and learned the real Mainer way to make and eat lobster. So he showed us all how it was done. We had a full house: me, Paul, Shaun, his super sweet wife Alejandra, her sister from Chile who is staying with them, the little schnauzer they were pet sitting and Drew the tortoise chilling in the corner.

We gathered around the table with a big bowl in the middle for the discarded shells and napkins, with paper towels tucked into our shirts. We were served two lobsters each along with corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and the sparkling white wine Paul and I had picked up earlier. Shaun showed us how to properly crack open and eat the lobster. Claws first, then legs, then tail, then body.  The body takes a lot of work. But a true Mainer will take the time to dig out all the lobster meat and not waste any.  A true Mainer will also apparently eat the “guacamole” or slimy green cooked organs, but I skipped that step.

We had a great time with Shaun and Alejandra.  They are awesome people and we wish them the best when they move to Chile. And we are so happy that we had some great folks to celebrate our arrival on the coast with.  Thanks guys, we are truly indebted.

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A friendly reminder to enjoy the journey.

When we were looking through possible Warmshowers hosts, I read Paul this description, “I am approaching a quarter million miles, have toured in US/Canada/Europe, have written a Bicycle Guide to the Lewis & Clark Trail (www.deerfootpublications.com), and have just completed a ride from Florida to Maine and an 11th return to Switzerland and northern Italy in late August.” Yes, we thought, we should try to stay there.

Tod sent us a route suggestion to get to his house in Newmarket, NH. We plugged it into www.ridewithgps.com and found that while it took some probably very pleasant backroads, it added 10 miles and 1000 ft of elevation. That might not have been a big deal, except that we had spent the last couple days climbing and Paul had bonked the day before. We opted for the easiest possible day we could come up with. Which meant some busier but more direct roads. He also suggested that we get there by three or four in the afternoon, so we have more time to chat. Unlikely at “our” pace. We politely wrote back to explain that we are, in fact, quite slow, and five or six was more likely.

When we got to Tod and Lyn’s house we were treated to a fantastic view of the bay, a home cooked meal, and great conversation. Their house was decorated with old and recent photos of all their adventures… bike tours, rock climbing, mountain hiking, sailing. We adored them, talking about life with Lyn and “shop” with Tod.

We were a little embarrassed to admit that we had not followed his route. When we found out that he was working on writing a book about bicycle touring on the Maine coast, we knew we had to follow his route at least part of the way up to Portland.  Overall, the difference between the scenic and non scenic routes to Portland was 110 miles versus 60. But it is hard to say no to a 6’6 man who has ridden a quarter of a million miles. And since we had time, why not enjoy the Maine coast?

One of the things we are consistently reminded of on our bike tour is that there is no right way to travel by bike. Everyone does it differently, taking different gear and going at different paces.  And there are constant tradeoffs to choose between. The longer we have been out,the more likely we have become to choose the more direct roads, even if they are more busy and less scenic.  With  five days left to go 60 miles, it was nice to be reminded that we could slow down and enjoy the scenery a bit.

So the next day we followed his route precisely into Portsmouth. We stopped for a nice lunch and checked out the downtown. Portsmouth is ridiculously cute, like a mini Boston meets arts college town. While walking down Main Street we saw Tod ride by. He told us that he had done a reverse loop and was looking out for us. He expected to run into us sooner and had given up on seeing us. He admitted that we are, in fact, slow. He on the other hand is a 65 year old finely tuned machine.

We continued up the Maine coast, which unlike the Pacific, does not offer many opportunities to actually see the ocean. Instead of consistent views, the road meanders through cute neighborhoods of stately New England homes, with occasional peeks at the distant sea. But at last there was a stretch where the road  ran right along the coastline.  And we got off our bikes and dipped our toes in the water.

We weren’t yet in Portland, but we had biked from ocean to ocean!

And that was plenty cause for celebration. Time for ice cream.

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Atlantic Oceans Ahoy

We made it to the Atlantic Ocean and dipped our toes in! Yay! We are not officially done until we get to Portland, ME. But we don’t mind celebrating now. (We are only twenty miles away).

More blog post detailing our adventures up until said ocean touching are coming shortly. As of course are more posts about our future days traveling to Portland. Keep reading.

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Green Mountains, White Mountains, vomit in a dumpster

Let’s start out by saying that everything we have heard about Vermont in the fall is true. It is freaking gorgeous! As we slowly climbed our way over the Green Mountains of Vermont on Route 9, we wondered what the more scenic way would have looked like, had it not been flooded out. At the peak, the leaves were in full color, a patchwork of red, orange, yellow and green covered the mountains sides. And we were treated to the occasional perfectly reflective mountain lake.

The mountains were not nearly as hard to climb as I imagined. I was expecting the bastard child of the unending Rockies and the steep Wisconsin rollers. But those little baby mountains were nothing for our hardened legs and asses.With the blue skies and beautiful scenery, we could almost completely forget the busy traffic and simply enjoy the day.  

Plus, on the descent, we got to stop at a cider mill and sugar shack, and have hot apple cider with cider donuts. I have been obsessed with hot apple cider and cider donuts since discovering that they don’t exist out west. So far we have discovered that cider donuts exist in Michigan, parts of Ohio, possibly parts of Wisconsin, Vermont, and New Hampshire. And that is it as far as we know. If you have the benefit of being exposed to this amazing delicacy on a fall day in one of these states, make sure to try it.  

We talked about our donut obsession and inquired about grade c maple syrup (as Matt Picio suggested). The proprietor told us that grade c is commercial and not sold in retail. She offered to ship us some next time she has some, as well as ship us cider donuts!

In Brattleboro, we camped in the state park that was two miles out of town. It was closed for the season, but off season camping is allowed if you call the ranger. Arriving anywhere at night is creepy. This deserted state park was no exception. I have never seen Paul so jumpy.

The next day we headed out to New Hampshire. Our choices were between another closed down state park and a childhood friend who lives in Milford, VT. We opted for the old friend, even though it added 10 miles and 700 ft of elevation gain.

That morning Paul’s belly was upset after breakfast. By lunch time he felt horrible.  He put his head in my lap and refused to eat. I made him eat toast. I suggested that we stop for the day but he wanted to keep going. We still had another 35 miles and 2000 ft of climbing.  

By the time we rolled into Milford, Paul was disoriented and wobbly. He hardly touched his dinner. Eating only a single meatball and three forks of spaghetti. Meanwhile, Parker and I reminisced about our days in children’s community theater. I best remember him as an energetic Rumplestilskin. Paul on the other side of the table was slowly drifting off and resting his head on the diner wall. When we left the restaurant Paul stumbled over to the nearest dumpster and promptly puked what little food he had consumed. He still insisted that he could ride his bike over to Parker’s home. The rest of us insisted that he ride in the car back and Parker walked Paul’s bike home.

But after a good nights sleep he was restored. We are still not exactly sure what happened. Too much hill climbing with not enough food? (ED notes: 9% grade hills suck.)

Regardless, I got to visit with a childhood friend I literally haven’t seen since childhood, it is interesting to see how folks turn out, and we were closer to our goal. Very close indeed,these small states out east go fast.

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Bliss in Bennington, VT

After three hours of biking in a consistent drizzle, our rain coats were damp inside and our sleeves stuck cold and wet to our arms.  We crossed into Vermont in a mist, on a narrow highway with cars zipping past, and got to North Bennington just before dark.

We had a Warmshowers host set up with Bruce and Judy.  I had been emailing Bruce since Ontario, trying to figure out the best way through Vermont due to the flooding.  He recommended taking Route 9 from Bennington to Brattleboro and so we asked for a place to stay when we passed through.

I have never been so thankful to see a cute yellow house on top of a hill. The garage was open, showing off Bruce’s many bikes- including a recumbent, a fuji mixtie, a titanium folding bike, and a motorcycle- with plenty of room for ours.  Bruce and Judy were fixing dinner, with vegetables, and invited us to join them.  We took hot showers, ate our fill, and learned that there was a great bike shop in town and a home brew fest the next day.  And so it was that we took a rest day in Bennington, VT. Our first rest day since Detroit.

The next day we breakfasted at the renowned Blue Ben, a classic diner car, originally manufactured in New Jersey, and located in Bennington for over sixty  years.  The food was delightful, not exactly your typical greasy spoon.  They offered everything from eggs and bacon, to avocado omlets, to gluten free french toast, to fried chicken on a waffle.  Half the menu was handwritten on white sheets of paper tacked above the bar.  We opted for some fancy whole grain pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup.

In town, we dropped our bikes off for some work, a new cable for me and a new chain for Paul, checked out the downtown, and headed to the coffee shop to write some postcards. 

“Paul, those people have some really big backpacks.” We got the opportunity to not be the objective of attention for once, and be the inquirerers.  Wolverine and Four Eyes were through hikers on the Appalacian trail. We compaired notes about our journeys and discovered that bike tourists have it easy.

AT: “What do you do to treat your water?”
Biker: “We fill up our bottles at a gas station.”
AT: “How many days of food do your carry?”
Biker: “We eat at restaurants.”
AT: “What do you do when your things get wet? At some point, every piece of gear we have gets soaking wet.” 
Biker: “We go inside and dry off.”

Yup, being close to civilization has it’s perks.  We were humbled and inspired by their tales of the trail.  They explained to us about yellow blazing (hitchhiking ahead), trail angels, and trail names (must be given to you by someone else).  We signed our trail name, Honeymoon Bikers, on Wolverine’s pack.  

The day was finished off with the home brewers fest, where we each sampled seven out of a hundred beers, and dinner again with Bruce, Judy, and one of their friends. The conversation was warm and fluid.  It felt like home and we were so appreciative of the hospitality we received. 

Did we mention that Bruce taught a class on alternative transportation at the community college?  Pretty awesome folks in this world.

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Two hundred and fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

In a mission to finish the trip, we blew through the state of New York. But not before making some new friends, seeing some beautiful scenery, and getting the Erie Canal song stuck in our heads for days on end.

From Lockport, NY (named for the series of five canal locks), we followed a crushed limestone bike path that runs directly next to the Erie Canal.  It used to the be tow path where the mules would pull canal boats. One of the great things about biking the rails-to-trails and now the tow path-to-trails projects is the exposure to fascinating history.  The Erie Canal was hugely influential in the growth of New York City, the state, and westward migration in general.  

According to nycanal.com, when it opened in 1825 at “363 miles long, forty feet wide, four feet deep, 18 aqueducts and 83 locks, the canal shortened travel time form the east coast to the gateway to the west (the Great Lakes) by half and reduced shipping costs by 90%. The Erie opened the only trade route west of the Appalachians, prompted the first great westward migration of American settlers, turned Rochester into the nation’s first boom town and made New York City the busiest port in the United States.”

It was a new and novel experience biking along the waterway.  We’ve heard that rivers in Europe have bike paths next to them too so we are going to have to check that out someday. It was also a heavily used trail, which was fun for meeting people. Everyone was very friendly, asking about our trip and wishing us well. We met some more bike tourists – a group of six young guys from Portland, OR who were also biking to Portland, ME. One of the guys Paul had met 2 years ago on a Cycle Wild trip!  As well as a couple of “credit card campers” named Tom and Rick. They were lightly loaded and staying in motels every night.

We followed the bike path for about 80 miles to Newark, Ny, then got on the road.  The bike path is less consistent from that point forward and we were also getting tired of the slow gravel surface. From then on our path roughly followed the canal route, but we took a lot of different highways and side roads to get there.  Despite all this twisting and turning route planning, one thing remained consistent.  We always managed to run into our buddies Tom and Rick…everyday!

First we saw them on the bike trial, then we ran into them at a lunch stop, then on the road. By the third day we parted ways with, we’ll see you tomorrow.  The fourth day we both missed our turns, and ran into each other at a gas station.  The fifth day, we thought for sure we wouldn’t see them, but when we got to our planned lunch stop,”Grandma’s Kitchen”, who was walking out, but Tom and Rick.

They were great folks to chat with, old friends and ski buddies from when they lived in Minnesota back in the 80′s.  They lived, in fact, in one of those small towns we biked through.  We bonded over Minnesota and biking and they even gave us a copy of a biking the Erie Canal tour book and bought us lunch. I find it so inspirational that they have been able to stay friends for so long and it was nice for us to have their camaraderie throughout NY state.

The other new thing about NY is that we started using Warmshowers more, in part because there were suddenly a lot more hosts.  But also because the weather was getting colder and rainier and we are doing our best to stay inside.  We stayed with a very enegetic guy in Rochester, who met us on the bike trail and escorted us into town. A very tired med student let us sleep on his hide-a-bed in Syracuse. We also stayed at a delightful Bed and Breakfast, another worthy indulgence on the trip, and a hotel that gave us a discount because we told them we are on our honeymoon. 

Our whole trip across the state was beautiful. We biked through flat river valleys and over dramatic hillsides (not always intentionally).  We saw a definite progression  as the leaves became more colorful, the hills more pronounced, and the drivers more aggressive, as our path led us towards Vermont.

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Niagara: America’s natural wonder, but only from Canada.

Our next stop was Niagara Falls, which Paul has never been to.  So we had to go.  It was even more cheesy, touristy, mini Vegas, make you want to vomit than I remember.  Of course, those really big falls sure are beautiful, but neither of us do well with crowds.  We did find some really good Indian food though.  It was worth listening to the talking plastic buzzard at the Burger King next door.

The New York side is a little more pristine, or boring as one New Yorker complained.  We tried to go see some whirlpools but ended up on a crazy out and back hiking trail on our touring bikes.  Oops.  The river gorge was stunning but we went about 2 miles and lost about 200 ft of elevation on a single track gravel path before turning around.

We ended the night in Lockport, NY.  We saw a delightful looking Italian restaurant in a red Victorian house just outside of town.  We were drawn to the steamed clams sign, the fact that it looked very busy (true sign of a good restaurant) and the Bed and Breakfast sign.  We thought we would just inquire about the price.  Chances were it would be more than we could justify paying, when there was camping not too far off.  But in the course of dinner, a nice couple we were chatting with offered to pay for half our room. We were floored.  And we couldn’t turn it down.  As the nights are getting colder it is even nicer to spend a night indoors. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Science nerds are cool

An old friend of Paul’s hosted us in St Catherines, Ontario.  We caught her right between finishing her thesis for her PHD and moving to Ottawa.  Good timing.

Paul had met Lauren on a high school trip to Europe. Paul was so shy, he told her that he never talked to girls before.  Lauren and a large group of Canadian high school German students adopted Paul, cut his hair, and presumably taught him how to speak to women.  Paul even drank his first beer in his life at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Getting drunk for the first time ever, and WITH GIRLS.

Now eleven years later Paul and I are visiting her.  Even though I’ve never met Lauren and Paul really hardly knows her, she is so cool that we felt like she was an old friend.  We went out for drinks with some of her science nerd friends and heard all sorts of stories about the amazing things she has done.  Lauren studies malaria, climate change and has worked in the highlands of Ecuador. She married an Ecuadorian, and has all sorts of stories from her work, treks, and adventures there.  Some exciting only in a scary sort of life-threatening way.  She is a bad ass.

It was a great visit.  We wish her husband was in town so we could have met him too.

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