torsdag 23 september 2010

My thank you's

So, the time has come for my thank you’s.

I went on a so called unsupported trip. I didn’t go in a group, I didn’t pay any travel agent. There was no leader, no team, no one to transport my things or provide me with a plan with maps and information. There was no SAG wagon with food and drinks and extra gear. But I did have support. And from more people than you have seen mentioned here so far.

Thank you…
• Ingegerd , for early on making sure I could have the time off work and still not be overloaded with it the time I got back
• Harriet and Lena, for making sure I’d have means throughout the summer to buy all the maple syrup and reeses pieces I wanted
• Lilian, for surprising me with more maple syrup and reeses pieces when I got back to work
• Beata, for putting up with my thousand questions I need a reply to
yesterday just because I didn't get back until the students had already hit the class rooms
• All my other colleagues who showed an amazing interest before and during my trip, and who still seems to think it is interesting hearing about it
• Everyone who posted comments on my blog – you have no idea how much this meant to me, honestly
• Leo, for making me consider the US as a country worth visiting (it SO was), and for informing me about coffee cakes and reeses pieces
• San Fransisco Cyclery, for making my Surly perfect for me for this trip and the bike repair shop in Culpeper for making it stay perfect throughout
• All my hosts, and everyone else helping out while I was on the road (I know at least a couple of you might actually read this)
• William and his family and friends, who hosted me in New York but also helped out with practical matters concerning the bike and thereby making sure I could have a really good time in the city
• John, for encouraging words making me want to do better
• All other bicyclists on the road, for information and advice and sometimes company
• All bicyclists on the Swedish web page Utsidan, also for information and advice, especially Anders Forselius, who spent more than an hour on the phone prior to my trip calming me down when I was worried about snakes and spiders and scorpions and black bears, and also Johan and Filip, whose blog helped me pack better and warmer for the mountains to come
• My neighbors, for looking after my flat and watering my plants

And last but certainly not least,
a really big thank you to my sister and her family, for taking care of my cat and for making sure I could go and not worry about anything, and also to Ola, for taking care of the same cat so that my sister and her family could go on holiday too.


And now, I final picture of me and also my Surly and my panniers (however packed up), ready to fly home to Sweden. (Look, I am wearing jeans and no helmet!)

And that’s all, folks!

fredag 3 september 2010

If you want to explore the States

…why not rent a car? a friend asked. I kind of like cycling, I responded. So why not just use the spinning bike at the gym? my friend continued.

And he is not the only one to maybe not quite understand. I am OK with that. Everyone cannot understand everything about everyone’s every choice made. But I will even so elaborate on this matter.

The cycling means nothing and the cycling means everything.

I have met quite a few other long distance bicyclists on the road, who just loves bicycling. They might run a bicycle shop, they might repair bikes for a living, they might own six or seven different bicycles because they sometimes want to race, sometimes ride off road in the woods and sometimes commute to work and so on. They might collect bicycles. Old bicycles, new bicycles, tandem bicycles, recumbent bicycles, bicycles from different countries – or bicycles they have made themselves. And they might indeed do spinning too.

I am not one of those people. For me, a bicycle is a mean of transportation. I could also walk, do cross country skiing or even use my roller blades. In that way, the cycling means nothing. I didn't go on this trip so that I could cycle. I just wanted to be on the road again.

But going by car was never an option for me. I need to move, I enjoy being active, I wanted the physical challenge – and also the mental challenges that come with it.

As for this trip, bicycling was my only reasonable choice. You look at the terrain you want to cross and the time you have got. Walking takes much longer (too long in this case), and it is difficult to bring camping gear and clothes for both freezing cold mountains and hot and hostile deserts. For cross country skiing, you need snow, and as for the roller blades… Well, I must admit I am still a bit anxious from an unfortunate fall a couple of years ago.

But I am not unhappy about this at all. Cycling is fun. I most certainly enjoy riding a bike. It is also very practical with all the panniers. And another thing is – and I am sure that the other long distance bicyclists I have met this summer would agree with me – that the slower pace of a bicycle (in comparison to a motorized vehicle), in combination with the special interest locals as well as other travelers show in bicyclists, gave us great opportunities to meet people and get sights of, and insights about, the country traveled. In this way, the cycling means everything. The trip would not have been the same with a different type of vehicle.

And I did have the holiday of my life.

I had to struggle some. I didn’t always feel safe. Maybe there are one or two things that I would have done differently knowing what I know now. But seen in retrospect, it was still all good. It has been a learning experience and so I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to do this.

söndag 29 augusti 2010

New York

A couple of days ago, I arrived in NYC, and it was a perfect day.

Sure, there were moments when I was all in tears. That was to be expected, I guess. It is me and it is this trip, and I was biking towards the end of a journey I really didn't want to see the end of.

But the route was easy, the traffic made me focus, the temperature was really comfortable and also, it wasn't a very long day, so I had time to take everything in, and to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to me. Getting closer to the ferry, I started to smell the ocean (oh, Gothenburg!), and then I saw the Manhattan skyline, and the word emotional got a whole new meaning.

I cannot imagine a better first meeting with New York than by taking the ferry from Atlantinc Highlands in New Jersey. Since you approach the city from the waterside, you get a fantastic view of it. You see all the buildings and bridges, and the Statue of Liberty, while being in the sun on the water. It is SO beautiful!

But my luck didn't end there. Once off the boat, I had to find the bike path that would take me to my hosts place. I asked a guy on a funny looking scooter, and he seemed to think that going to Harlem with a Swedish bicyclist would make his day, because he decided to escort me all the way from the ferry to my hosts adress. And I am sure you agree with me, that this also must be the perfect ending to my trip, considering how it started out, some twelve weeks ago, with me being escorted through San Fransisco to the ferry that would take me to Vallejo.

The next day I spent in Central Park, watching funny looking scooter guy (his name is Glen) and his friends do their thing on roller skates (old school) and then I cycled all the way down 5th Avenue. That was almost as much fun as riding in the Ozarks! :-)

This city really appeals to me. It's like Amsterdam grown big!

4000+ miles

The whole route between DC and NYC took me eight days. It was nice to have all that time at hand for a not too large a distance and I really enjoyed this additional part of my cycling, even if it was hard at times to find good routes (I did most of the part without ACA maps) and even if I had to make more of an effort to stay reasonably safe. I will now just give the main information more or less as it is in my notebook. That way I can get out to explore some more of New York City today! :-)

August 19:th
I cycled out of DC. It was fairly easy and very pretty. There was a bike path all the way out (a different one from the one I took when I entered, so that must mean there is plenty of nature in and around the city). Later on, it got trickier. I missed a few turns and ended up somewhere in the outskirts of Baltimore. It wasn't good. But I found a man outside a church who helped me find a motel in Pikesville, just before it got dark.

August 20th
The next day I spent some time in the Pikesville library to make sure I wouldn't end up in the same situation again. However, that time spent in the library ment I had too little time to get to Columbia, where I was planning on heading. So just before Manchester, PA, I went into another library to see if I could find a different place to stay the night (it IS a bit tricky without good maps...).

There were plenty of people around who wanted to help out - and scare me: They had had guns pointed at their heads and they had been mugged and it was all going to be worse and worse and worse the closer I got to NYC. Normally, I wouldn't listen, but the recent experience from the night before made me give them my attention. I actually considered going back to DC.

But then Sharon, the librarian, stepped in. She decided to take me home and feed me and give me time to plan my trip. When it came to the scary stories, she just laughed at them. Sharon had been on a road trip herself a few years back, and she knew all about peoples ideas about what a single woman cannot do.... I spent two nights at Sharons house - which btw is my dream house! - and I had a really good rest. And then I hit the road again. Of course :-)

August 22nd
In York, I had Warmshower hosts. That is ALWAYS good. Other long distance bicyclists know what you need, and so did this couple, Debra and Gary. Plenty of good food was served, and I was even allowed to make my own coffee. Since they had toured in Sweden, they knew about Swedish people and their coffee preferences...

August 23rd
And then it was time for Lancaster, where I stayed with the musicians Anne and Rob. I couldn't remember the last time I went to a pub, and then they took me to one that served Hoegaarden!

August 24th
I was planning on going to a Couchsurfing host in Norristown, and I had a pretty good day of bicycling, although it got slightly rainy towards the end of it. But then I got troubles finding my way, and so when I saw Carolmarie, I asked her for directions. And that's how I ended up staying with her instead - she was a mother and she just wouldn't have it that I'd stayed in that town, on that street. Apparently there had been shootings the night before. My couchsurfing host didn't deny living in a dodgy part of the town, and so I shoved my bike into Carolmaries car and off we went. (The next day she took me back to the exact same spot and I could continue my biking...).

August 25:th
I went to Ruth and Jason in Doylestown. This is a fantastic couple who goes out of their way to help guests out. They were just so friendly. Also, Jasons food is to die for (and we had REAL maple syrup for breakfast!), and his directions that he put on my bike with a little clip (now THAT is something I should have done weeks ago!) were terrific. Ruth: I have already started reading your book! Thank you!

August 26th/27th
On the final day, after yet another good stay at a Motel6 (I totally recommend it! Nice and clean and very low priced), this time in East Brunswick, I went to get some drinks. The manager of the shop somehow found out about my trip, and invited me an my Surly in to take pictures. They had never heard of anyone ever cycling across the US before. "That must be some kind of record or something!" they decided. Of course it isn't and I wouldn't pretend it was, but I had a good time posing anyway :-)

måndag 23 augusti 2010

On the road again

After two nights in DC, my hosts left on holiday, John was on the Amtrak back to San Fran, and I had already taken my picture of the White house. So I started pedalling north. I was so happy to be back in the saddle again. I am now in Pennsylvana, half way to New York city.
But more about that when I get there. There will be two more postings. One on DC - NYC and then of course my thank you's and good bye's.
Getting in to DC was easy. From Leesburg, a ferry takes you across the Potomac river for a dollar, and then you go on a bike trail through the woods for some 20 miles and this trail takes you almost all the way to the city center.

DC was exactly what I had expected it to be. Big, but not too big, nice and clean and slightly dull. But I was of course very happy to have made it there... Project finished. Challenges dealt with. I had delivered. I guess :-)

(Actually, I felt nothing. For once. Except perhaps some annoyance about the last nights camping and the new bug bites on my legs.)

Coconut Juice versus Maple Syrup

In Washington DC, I got to meet up with John again. John is the guy I cycled with the first couple of days in California. He is also the guy my colleague Harriet asked me not to meet on this trip. But no worries. I will be back at work on September 1st.
Now, part from being a person I have grown very fond of, John has also played an important role in a little experiment we have conducted during the last ten weeks.
We wanted to compare how two different diets would effect us, and so John (to the left) has lived almost exclusively of coconut juice (henceforth referred to as the CJD, the Coconut Juice Diet) during these weeks, whereas I (to the right) went on a diet based on maple syrup (henceforth referred to as the MSD, the Maple Syrup Diet).

The results are quite interesting. The CJD made John loose 40 pounds. The MSD made me loose 15 pounds. We were not too surprised by this, but what we had not expected, though, were the different reactions those diets caused when it came to facial hair growth. But as you can see from the pictures, the CJD clearly promotes growth of facial hair, and the MSD does not - on the contrary, facial hair might actually disappear (see eyebrows on picture 1 and compare with picture 2).
Picture 1 (June 8th, 2010)
Picture 2 (August 18th, 2010)
Our conclusions and recommendations are: If you wish to loose 40 pounds and grow a thicker beard, go on the CJD. If you wish to loose 15 pounds and have your eyebrows disappear, choose the MSD. But whichever you choose, you are likely to feel stronger and happier by the day.
No negative side effects have been reported.

onsdag 18 augusti 2010

A little bit tired

It kind of feels like I've cycled across the US or something.
Hey, wait - that's what I've just done.
So I'll get some rest now, and I will write more later.

lördag 14 augusti 2010

3500 miles - and here are my fantastic hosts.

Juan and Edie - my hosts in San Fran. Edie picked me up at the airport, asked me what I wanted to do first, and of course I said I wanted to go get my bicycle. Within no time she had taken me to the SF Cyclery. How easy life is when you have someone like Edie taking care of you! :-) Oh, and when she realized I was concerned about cycling through San Fran to get to the ferry that would take me to Vallejo, she and Juan decided to drive ahead and show me the way. That was just so much fun! Thank you Edie and Juan! I couldn't have had a better start in the US.

John - my very generous host in Vallejo. I haven't been able to get the Iphone to work yet (but I will) but how I have enjoyed the music you gave me! Thank you!

Oh Peggy, how happy I am that I could come along with John and stay with you and your husband. ALL my hosts have been amazing, but there is something special about meeting other long distance bicyclists. Thank you ever so much for helping me out with my things and for your postings.

We were so lucky to find Dan. What a helpful and easy going guy! I needed to get to a sports store and he drove me, and then we went for some REALLY good pizza. Too bad I cannot remember the name of the place (it seemed to be a chain)...

This guy really saved me. I was cycling in the Sierras and it had gotten dark and I hadn't found anywhere to stay or to camp (everywhere I looked there were fences and hostile signs...), and Rusty, on his way home from a meeting, stopped his car and invited me to his and his wifes place. Oh, and she made the best BLT sandwich I have ever had plus made sure I had some sandviches for next day's bicycling too.

This is not a host. This is the guest room I was invited to stay in after having asked if I could pitch my tent in a garden. I cannot for my life remember what this couple was called, but I sure am grateful to them!

This is Donna. She is not a member of Couchsurfing, but her daugher is, and that's how it came that I stayed at Donna's and her husband Glen's impressive house just outside Fallon. I loved Donnas cooking! Then I was invited to go with Don to Las Vegas, where he had a business meeting, and so I did. I remember that my knees were really happy to get this break. I got to see Las Vegas and I also went on a very touristic tour to the Grand Canyon. Then Don took me back to Fallon, and the following morning, I went to Carson City, where I stayed with Mike - where is my picture of him??? I will post it here when I find it...

After having cycled for too long in the sun, I decided to stay in Minersville. Unfortunately, this place had no motels or camping sites, but I could pitch my tent in this couples garden. Skip also served me a fantastic meal (LOTS of food) and his wife came home a day earlier than planned just so that she could meet me. I was amazed. The next morning they left the door open so I could go in and help myself to breakfast. Sometimes you just don't know what to say.

Half an hour, and we were chatting like old friends. I stayed with Renee for two nights in Cedar City, and even though both of us had plenty of things to take care of during my stay, we could still fit in hours of conversation. On the morning of my departure, she made me pancakes - my first American pancakes with maple syrup, but certainly not my last...

More girls' talk with Molly, who invited me to dinner at a local restaurant, which served great food and where I went the following morning for my biggest breakfast ever. I enjoyed this stay. I loved the dogs and the cats, but the frets kind of scared me :-)

I had made plans to stay with a Warmshowers member, but something went wrong in our communication and found myself outside an empty house one night... However, their neighbour Gloria invited me to stay with her instead, and I was very happy to.

The communication with this Warmshower host went better - even though I never managed to reach him on his cell phone. People working in a cycle store knew him, and started talking to about him, and one of the customers in that store who had overheard the conversation came out to me and said she'd call Matt for me. They worked together. Tiny little world. Matt came to pick me up and then made me a great dinner with plenty of veggies. The next morning we cycled back to town together. Thanx Matt for a great stay!

This family is very special to me. First of all, because I was invited to them even long before I got on the plane to the states. Canon City was not on my route, but I made it be on my route, and I certainly do not regret that. I stayed with Steve and Joyce, and they had invited their daughter Valerie and her four kids to come and meet me. The deal was: You come and tell our grandkids about your travelling, and we'll provide you with a warm bed and some good food. Now, that was a mighty good deal. These grandkids, Jake, Julia, Quin and Eve, have stayed with me in my heart during my entire trip.

Jeff in Pueblo at his neighbours cafe, where I had a meal twice - first because his neighbours invited me to it, and then Jeff took me to breakfast. Pancakes! More pancakes! This stay started out a bit awkward, with me trying to get in to Jeffs house and passed his dog. Didn't work. But with the neighbours help I could leave my panniers in Jeffs backyard and go explore Pueblo. I really enjoyed my stay with Jeff and the dinner at his mothers'.

This New Zeeland woman, Gillian, is famous amongst long distance bicylists and apparently also well known in her town. If you ever get to Ordway, CO (close to Kansas), ask for her and people will point in her direction.

This woman (her name has slipped my mind....) was the first of quite a few in Kansas to come up to me to invite me to her home. I was very impressed by that and then also by the number of flags in her house. I will post a picture later... Also, her husband was a former FBI agent (so they DO exist IRL and not only on TV!) and also an avid marathon runner, which was very exciting.

And this is Doris. She saw me outside the closed library, invited me first to use her computer, then to take a shower, and finally to stay for the number of nights I wanted. But even though the company was great, and the home made cake absolutely unforgettable, I stayed only one night.

Lester was the only guy to invite me to stay with him. I wish the afternoon/evening had been longer. We had such pleasant conversation and also, this guy had a whole fridge with Belgian beer! :-) I was also surprised but quite happy to hear that a single guy can actually adopt a child.

My youngest host, Kathleen, who impressed me plenty with all the things she had already done in life, like working and hiking in Alaska. Fantastic photographer too. Kathleen, I hope you soon get your journalist job at an adventure/nature/wildlife magazine (and they should be happy to have you!).

Ruth and her gang saw me pulling up on my bicycle outside the gas station/grocery store/cafe where they were having their girls talks meeting and she offered me a drink. I sat down with this cool bunch of ladies and it didn't take long before I was offered a place to stay. Ruth is 82 but that did not stop her from cooking for me and taking me for a quick walk (she was fast!). Fantastic lady. I hope I have that energy and that sharp mind when I am her age (or I wish I had it now...).

Ruth has a son, and this son has friends. Meet Rebecca and her daughter. They fed me and hosted me in Pittsburgh. Thanx guys!

It seemed like there was really no place to stay at all, and Mike also had no room to offer me at first. But when I was starting to pitch my tent behind his hotel, he decided to let me stay for free in a room with a malfunctioning toilet (I could use the one in the lobby, though). Thanx, Mike!

Herman the German - a bicyclists host from guess where. He had a sign on a lamp post or a tree or something saying "EU bicylists Willkommen" and within 10 minutes from having seen that sign I was sitting in his garden. It was great fun looking through his photo album of all the bicyclists that had stayed with him.

Oh my oh my, could this woman cook! I had a fabolous stay with Violet and her husband, Bob, who was also the pastor of the Baptist Church of Sebree where I stayed two nights (and had some wonderful meals). Thanx for your kindness to all of us long distance bicyclists.

In Berea, Kentucky, I stayed with these three women, Elizabeth, Amber and Kristine, each and everyone different from the others, but all with amazing personalities. I stayed for two nights, ate really well and had some really nice conversations. Thank you guys!!!

When I arrived in Hindman, KY, I went for some ice cream at a gas station, and when I came out again, this guy, David, stuck his head out of the car and said: Monica, are you looking for me? And I was. David provides camping spots for long distance bicyclists, and he is well known along the Transam route for feeding us until we almost explode. Eric, another bicyclist, had been his guest the day before and told him I'd probably be coming, but you can imagine my surprise when some stranger in a car calls me by my name... Anyway. Great stay. Loved the cats. Sorry, David, that I couldn't take on any of the kittens... I would have loved having them all...

And finally, my hosts in Washington DC! Candice drove the SAG wagon while Gwen and her father cycled across the country. Somewhere in the middle we met, but of course they were so much faster, going without panniers and stuff, so when I needed to stop for a drink, we parted. But some 30 minutes later, Candice called out for me from the SAG and gave me her phone number in DC. I've been very happy staying with them!