Hello friends. Greetings from Iowa City! We have been in town for a couple days, being hosted by Cody and Steve from 30th Century Bicycle. We had a slideshow presentation on Thursday night that went rather well, thank you.
A lot has happened on the road over the last month, and I've been pretty bad at blogging about it. I think a lot of it is due to the length of time we've been on the road--four months next week. Three months is a pretty "average" time for a cross-country bike tour. And now we're over that time frame, and not even across the continent. Most of my energies have been drained by logistics, riding, and doing stuff in the places we've stayed. I haven't had much energy to document what has been happening. I apologize for that, and in the coming months I'm going to fill in the holes of this rambling narrative.
It's been almost a month since we left Winnipeg. Manitoba is definitely not a bike friendly place, and it was nice to cross back into the U.S. into Minnesota, a state more friendly to two wheeled exploration. Biking through Minnesota took awhile, as we entered through the extreme NW and exited via the SE. Along the way we saw the source of the mighty Mississippi at Lake Itasca, the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, the mighty mighty Lake Superior at Duluth, awesome bike infrastructure in Minneapolis, and scenic bluff country on the Mississippi south of "The Cities". We spent a couple days in Wisconsin before we entered into the land of corn, Iowa, where we currently are.
Many cool people helped us out along this leg of the trip, whether supporting us with monetary donations, food, beer (we love beer!), a place to stay, or helping out with an event. Here's a short list of thank-yous:
- Cara (W.R.E.N.C.H.), Gill, and Mark (Bike to the Future) in Winnipeg
- Andy in Thief River Falls (all Minnesota from now until I say it ain't)
- Sara at the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel (HI) at Lake Itasca
- Thomas and Liz in Bemidji
- Karen, Bob, and Doug (MN Bike Commuter) in Duluth
- Mary in Harris
- John, Joe (Snak Shak), Jeremy (Werstnet), and Laura (GreaseRag) in Minneapolis
- Jerry in Red Wing
- Terry and David (River Rider) in Wabasha
- Zach and Andy in Winona
- Bree, Eric, Skot (Thistle Cycles), and the guy from the band in the bar who bought us beer in La Crosse (Wisconsin)
- Marty (Prairie Peddler) in Prairie du Chien
- Doug in Anamosa, Iowa
We depart Iowa City for points east tomorrow (Sunday the 25th). It'll take us three days to get to Ottawa, Illinois where we will stay with our friends Brad and Kim for a couple days. Then onto the Big Windy, Chicago! We'll be in town for several days soaking up big city ambiance, staying with my friends Ellen and Paul.
And Chicago will mark the easternmost point on the trip.
Yes, the Cross-Continent Tour is essentially over. We may swing by Milwaukee and Madison if money and energy allow. But we will not reach the East Coast.
This is quite the bummer, indeed. When we planned this trip we had every intention of making it all the way across. And if we aimed for a more "conventional" routing across the country with a day off here and there, say using the Northern Tier or Trans-Am, we could have done this in three months. But I didn't want to do anything so direct, and I wanted to spend longer in each place. I thought we could pull it off somehow. But the middle of the country has taken longer than we expected, we've spent more time in each place, and summer is pretty much done.
Blame me for planning such an ambitious itinerary. I thought we could pull off Portland to Halifax in five months. And maybe if we sped up things along the way, we could still. We revised the endpoint several times over the last few months. First we were aiming for Montreal (with a possible train excursion to the Maritimes.) Then Boston. Then at least to D.C. where we could at least claim getting to the "East Coast", and then maybe take the train to other eastern cities. But by the time we got to Duluth, I figured out that we would reach Chicago around Sept. 30th. We didn't relish the idea of biking through the Midwest in October with possible freezes and iffy weather. We also didn't have the ambition to "push it" to get to D.C. somewhere around mid-October. We toyed with the idea of taking the train east, but we're broke. So Chicago it is.
I'm quite torn on this turn of events. On one hand, I really wanted to get to the East Coast. It would be cool to bike back to my hometown. There are a lot of cities we wanted to visit, and cool people to meet. We don't want to let down those of you in the east who hoped to meet us. But let's face it: Four months on the road is a long time. I am tired. Tired of biking every day. Tired of living out of two sets of panniers. Tired of camping (I still like camping but it loses its thrill after the 631st time you set up camp). Having extensive rest days have helped in some aspects, but do slow the momentum. Spending a month in the Canadian Prairies was more than we wanted. While there is still tons of cool stuff we can see on the road, the notion of having a stable place to live again is starting to win over. I really have a new respect for those who can be on the road for years on end.
This doesn't mean we won't be back, or not tour anymore. Just not tour for four months. We want to finish this trip in the next few years when time allows. Maybe one big Chicago-Halifax (or thereabouts) excursion over a couple months, or maybe smaller segments.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us on this crazy adventure. If you feel like supporting us for the last leg of this journey, please click on the "Donate" button on the right.