ME FIRST! Marcus here, breaking the order of things. I’ve got to say, this isn’t my usual voice and I’m trying a more concrete approach so bear with me, as I smash out a quick description of the infinite things I could talk about. Alot has happened since Winnipeg, although we have long since settled into our haphazard routine and cycling seems as natural as cooking a meal. From Winnipeg we made it down to Minneapolis (Minnetonka to be sure) and spent time with Christina’s family before heading out again. Backtracking, we left Winnipeg and cycled the scenic Route to Duluth. And we got to cross the US-Canada border four times now! Coming back into the US, we sat outside the border and ate our produce. The area was heavily forested and a pylon marked the divide, a wide swath of forest cut down to create a physical indicator (can’t have those Canadian trees invading the US) that disappeared somewhere in the far off distance. We nested under the cameras and ate half an onion, some cheese, cucumber, and bread. Imagine what our breath smelled like as we pulled up to the border patrol. I wanted to laugh as he questioned me, asking what we were doing outside of the border. I just wanted to eat my onion man. They broke down and smiled later as Christina told them that the menacing looking item sticking out of our bags was, in fact, a uke. The look on his face as he was stopped short was akin to a dog seeing himself in a mirror for the first time. We laughed freely as we pedaled away, once more back in the states. After 18 miles into Roseau, we had to stop for the day and figure out grownup stuff. Apparently Christina’s health insurance got canceled for lack of communication between administrative departments. Yay bureaucracy! Then we got sick. We made our way down to Duluth, 150 miles south where we were hosted by an amazing couple, Aaron and Barb! On the way down to meet them, we were given directions to their house on a beautiful road… where we battled headwinds and ended up arriving after sundown, but not before Aaron came whizzing by, hit a U-turn and handed us a city map, and let us finish the last 8 miles in. The food was delicious, and we talked about music (he was learning the piano) and car-hopping (he was a professional we came to find out) and maps (he studied cartography). Aaron is… thorough. The directions he sent covered all possible approaches with objective commentary on each as well as a personal preference. And so he actually became a great resource, showing us the Willard Munger State Trail, tree-lined, postcard perfect goodness. All the leaves and colors you could wish for, framed by black granite walls. He actually became our copilot though Wisconsin, introducing us to the driftless region, carved out when glacier dams burst and sent forth a torrent, shaping the land. You can actually see it on Google Maps, take a look. We loved listening to these two, and they were amazingly hospitable. Onward
Christina’s has such a fun family!!! I got to meet her parental units and her brother and his girlfriend. A typical dysfunctional family, each one so different from each other, but bringing forth something to the table. Her brother, Oliver, is very direct, and spent a good 10 minutes taking selfies on Christina’s camera for her to sort through later. My favorite had to be the “Exploring the human nostril” shot. Papa Lange has a well-traveled background and always has a way to do something. The mind of an engineer. And he loves to teach. To share. To take part in. So when he gets to talking, you get to listening. Like Aaron, it’s not brief, but you do learn quite a bit if you can sit long enough.
Mama Lange is a delightful woman, sitting tall and dressed finely, words enunciated. But, there was more than met the eye with her. Though she wasn’t a transformer so don’t get too excited. Oliver was mentioning all the different kinds of rock music he liked and I chuckled, mentioning that he should listen to Beartooth when no one is around. “What is Beartooth,” asked Mama Lange. I told her not to pay attention, that it wasnt something that she would like. But she wouldn’t accept that and challenged me. “Try me. You might be surprised.” That was the invitation so I took it hesitantly. We cranked the volume and let it rip. Beartooth.. She had a boyfriend who played in a metal band one time. And so she loved it. What a cool kid.
Setting the table turned into four people discussing how best to lay out our spread of breakfast options and conversations that were never complete as another took over, only to have attention moved, yet again.. I just shoveled another spoonful of oatmeal in my mouth and got lost in the sea of words. Maybe I’ll get them a conch for Christmas.
The hospitality of Oliver was amazing though, and he worked to make our stay as comfortable as possible. Lovely people, they were a blast. Were it not for winter, we would draw out our stay, but we had to move onward!
We crossed Wisconsin and arrived in Michigan! Only 1000 more to go to reach Boston and I’m looking forward to hitting some mountains. It’s not been the same since Yosemite and Glacier Parks. Those were lovely, muscle crunching, slow going, never-ending climbs that never did end… Until next time, camp in your back yard, write your name in cursive with a flammable substance and light it on fire, count the stars, cherish a childhood toy, and have lunch with a stranger.
And Christina here checking in. I am glad that Marcus got to go first this time.
Hanging in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we were only meant to stay one night, but…. well it was raining, so Yes, we are a little rainshy, and so still here. We have been saying that we should be doing a new update on our blog, so today seemed the perfect day to do this. So with an Irish coffee in hand, it is the perfect fall rainy day weather with most of the leaves on the ground, by which to drink irish coffee by, so here we are.
Hitting up Justin and Sarah on warmshowers, we cycled up last night and were greeted with: “here, we have cookies and almonds for you, and here is some pie, which you can have before or after dinner, which is going to be deep fried avocado tacos, up to you”, a very enthusiastic and super cool Justin excited to host us for the night. Little did he know then it would become two… he is a unicyclist and juggler!!! which is just too cool and plans on going on his unicycle on a bike tour. What can I say? Awesome.
Since Winnipeg, we have hit up quite a few warm showers hosts and have had a blast. I loved hearing how Barb in Duluth was part of a singing group in the vein of the Andrews Sisters and how they perform to senior citizens all around Duluth. Robin in Virginia, Minnesota and me talked about punk music and I got way jealous when he mentioned that he saw the Dead Kennedys live. Andrew and his flatmates in Madison were so much fun and we hit it off right away. I wish I had an ounce of Andrew’s drawing skills. He does cartography and has done one of the coolest maps I have seen of his previous bike tour down South to New Orleans and back. Madison is a feel good town. We ended up spending Halloween night there and danced around in the Caribou Tavern. From there to Milwaukee: we had a long day of 88 miles and because of a late start – I couldn’t find my camera and had to backtrack to the Caribou Tavern – we didn’t get into Milwaukee until 11 at night. This meant that we cycled about 5 hours in the darkness and cold. It was cold. Layers were put on. Faces, feet and hands were icy and Marcus had an ice beard. But the ride was great! Minnesota and Wisconsin both are wonderful states to cycle in, as they have dedicated bike paths. Which after about 2500 miles of sharing roads with traffic that roars by, is a welcome change. The landscape isn’t quite as awe inspiring as out west, the raised eyebrows at the sheer incredulity one feels at how awesome landscapes can be, the’wow’s and ‘oooh’s’ aren’t as pronounced, as we now roll through more gentle regions. We just missed the peak of the colours of the leaves, which as we roll down the bike paths now crunch underneath our tires. We entered Milwaukee after more than eight hours in the saddle and said hello to Zac and Lindsay. Whom we shared different interests with. Turns out they both lindy hop, which if you know me, is a passion of mine and Lindsay was part of a burlesque troupe, and then Marcus and them had a love for fantasy novels. That was fun conversing in each others’s subcultures, speaking languages that were familiar to us both and in turn learning about the other subculture we are not so familiar with.
One town that kept on being mentioned in the Driftless Region in Wisconsin, was Viroqua. I think not a single person forgot to mention their co-op. Viroqua is also in Organic Valley. We had to stop at their co-op. So we roll into town late once again and go to the only place that is open. A pub. As in a single pub. To warm up a bit. And we meet Laura. She is a transplant from Kansas City and has come out to see the semi-final game of the Baseball World Series which had the Kansas City team pitted against the San Francisco one. And she shakes her head and says, no, you’re not sleeping in the city park tonight. You are staying at my boyfriend’s new flat, which is across the road and which he hasn’t moved into yet.” And so we did. We spent a couple more hours chatting with Nolan and Laura and then settled in for the night. Warm, cosy, thankful.
All the encounters we have had with such awesome people, and the many more that we have come across, makes me wish we would be able to spend more time with each of them. To delve into more detail, to have more conversations, to be able to hang out. However, even though our time has been short, it has been intense. And that so many have trusted us implicitly with us staying in their homes without them even being there, has been pretty cool and eye-opening.
Another fun day was when we cycled past Peck’s Farm Market just east of Spring Green, Wisconsin. Marcus, being a Peck, went indoors to find out whether they were related. And perhaps they are. Have yet to find a definite answer. They had a long chat, we walked around the market, which was totally decked out in Halloween stuff, which made me very Halloween happy, it is my favourite holiday. We got fresh cheese curds, Thursdays is the day to get cheese curds as that is the day they are made fresh. Seemingly across the state. We ate our lunch and enjoyed the squeaking of the cheese curds on our teeth. This is a sure sign of freshness. From there, we cycled to a nearby building that has a big grey mouse in front of it, which is the building in which they make Arena Cheese and Cheese Curds, which we had had for lunch. Marcus got a cheesehead, which was promptly and proudly mounted onto the helmet.
We have also seen a lot of roadkill. A tally shows: more than 50 skunk (woo, the smell), a dozen porcupines, opossum and raccoon, outstretched frogs, elongated squished snakes, flattened turtles, deer, antelope, moose, elk, foxes and coyotes and animals which we have no idea what they once were. We have effectively been having anatomy 101 classes en route. We have also seen some live animals including coyotes, bear, cranes, herons, falcons and similar birds of prey, deer, antelope, bison, elk, big fat red mid-west squirrels, Big Horn Sheep near the Swan region in Montana, snakes slithering along the side of the highways, millions of small fat furry black and red caterpillars hustling along the highway shoulders going I don’t know where, and several wind spiders that had fun wrapping their webs around us while we were cycling. Sadly, we have not seen a single live skunk or porcupine.
So to date, we have covered about 3500 miles. It definitely doesn’t feel like we have covered this amount. When looking at a map of Northern America, it is hard to believe the distance we have gone. And how much more we have to cover. And we have a whole array of friends that we will be visiting, so we are super excited about seeing them all. Showing up on their doorsteps powered by peddle-pushing. And all the people whom we don’t know about yet, whose acquaintance we shall make over time.
Between now and Christmas, and I putting this out publicly, as I have stage fright and am thus binding myself to this statement, we have said that we will busk at least twice. We are still learning the ukulele’s, but are coming along. Putting in practice sessions wherever possible.
And now I shall too sign off. Justin is going to be home soon, followed by Sarah, and Marcus and I are going to cooking tonight: Sweet Potato Fries with Bug-Juice Green Beans, Biscuits and Veggie Gravy along with Spinach and Cucumber salad. We do miss cooking and so when given an opportunity try to do something fun.
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