Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Running to stand still

We just checked into a hotel room, 55 miles from New Orleans. Tomorrow will be our last day riding. I thought I would be excited and feel accomplished when this day came, but that's not what I'm feeling now. When I first saw New Orleans on the highway mile marker sign, (73 miles) my stomach turned. Not in a good way. I feel like a dog in the car who just realized he's on the way to the vet. Every mile is a countdown now.
People keep saying they are proud of us, but I don't feel that is the appropriate response. That's like being proud of someone who flew to Hawaii on vacation. I have not had to work for 65 days. I have not had to interact with anyone but Beth. I have not had to endure a daily routine that has grown tedious and meaningless.
I think that my natural state is one of transition. During these times, I feel most at home, like I belong where I am, and like I'm living each moment.
I know that once I get to New Orleans I will feel differently. There are friends I haven't seen in so long.
Beth's on the phone with Peyton right now, and she just said she's on her way to get a queen size mattress so we can all sleep together in her apartment until we get jobs and find homes. Maybe I shouldn't be this nervous. Maybe I will feel differently once we reach the French Quarter. I just don't know what's next... but I will find out soon.


Friday, August 24, 2012


Mary and I are in Arkansas, somewhere. We are about 200 miles from the Natchez trace, a route that will take us to New Orleans. The Ozarks were beautiful, with a lot of rolling hills and some kind of plant that smells like bad tequila. We are going into Memphis, Tennessee tomorrow. We've mostly abandoned the Trans-American bike route, and are planning our itinerary one day at a time.
From lake to lake.
It's gotten pretty quiet with the heat, and I think we're both ready to be done riding bikes. I don't regret the trip at all, but sitting my ass on that little guy and pedaling through beautiful shit, it has started to feel like endless hours that just blur into each other. I hardly remember where I woke up at, or if something happened today or this week.
It will feel strange to live inside again, to have a place to go that is the same place I went yesterday with a refrigerator and air conditioning. I feel like I could spend a week watching tv and drinking things with ice in them. I guess it's good to feel worn out towards the end of the trip, but it's hard to believe we've already gone probably three thousand miles and the last five hundred feel so far away.
The hardest part has been the questions. I've had the same conversation twenty times a day about where we're going, where were from and if we're twins. It would be engaging once or twice a day, but when I am trying to put my chain back on or fix a flat or ride along a narrow shoulder without a frito-lay truck ripping my arm off, I don't want to pull over and talk to a construction worker about my life choices while he looks everywhere but my face.
It still feels like I'm about try to ride across the country on a 300-dollar bike with my sister; not like I am doing it or can do it. I still feels like I'm just leaving. But less emotional and more mechanical. I miss the emotional part. I just feel sort of numb.
And speaking of numb, both of us are loosing feeling in our hands. I dropped a glass bottle of juice that broke all over the floor in a gas station and Mary looks like she has Parkinson's when she tries to smoke a cigarette. Hopefully that goes away.
I can't wait to get to New Orleans, but I think it will be hard to adjust to a routine besides waking up, packing up, finding a gas station to sit outside of and drink coffee before it gets too hot to want coffee, googling a new destination and riding. Again and again.
This was a pretty negative entry, but we haven't updated in a while so, there's why.
Less than two weeks left!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I guess Missouri.

I forgot what state we were in today, but Illinois and Missouri border each other and they have a lot of similar letters, and similar letter structures like repeating consonants, so I don't feel that stupid.
We left Kansas today without Tatum. It was sad, I really wanted to say "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, tatum" on a bike. But there were no tornados and Tatum is gone, so I just watched videos of her on my iPhone instead.

Mary and I were thinking about taking a shorter route through Arkansas. We had no maps for it, so we prepared by researching hick towns in Arkansas with a plan to visit the creepiest. We planned a route through the kkk's current most active county. Then we went and saw "The Dark Knight" in Wichita, spent one night in a shady trailer park, and decided to get back on the Trans-America bike route through Missouri instead.
The route is well known and there are several other cyclists. It feels a lot safer, and all the small towns we pass through on-route are accustomed to bikers coming through. Off-route we have to explain ourselves thirty times a day. The people are great, but having the same conversation about who we are and what we are doing gets hard.

Speaking of how great the people are, a few days ago we met a man at a gas station who pulled us over five miles later because he'd bought a ten dollar sunscreen for us since our backs looked red. He didn't know that the night before someone had stolen Mary's purse with our sunscreen inside, and he wasn't flirting or anything. Just buying us sunscreen and going home (he had to do a u-turn to go home, so he drove out of his way).
Another man stopped on the highway to give us six bottled waters.
Another knocked on our tent with a Tupperware container of Tri-tip steak when we were camping.
Another knocked on our tent with tortillas, pork chops and sausage.
There have been so many kind people we've ran into, and so many kind people warning us about dangerous people. We haven't had any shady encounters, and it makes me feel differently about Society. It's sort of humbling.
We've only been on the road a month and a half, but whenever people stop to offer something I start to think about how I can't wait to have a structured life again, to work and live somewhere with an air conditioner, and to have something to offer someone. I hope I will be more generous when I am through the bike trip than I've been before.
We are in the Ozarks now. When I was in third grade I remember getting obsessed with the Ozarks and picturing living here with a pet armadillo. We haven't seen any live ones yet, but a lot of dead ones. And dead turtles, and ferret-things. I am glad we visited the Ozarks.
We're camping in an rv sight tonight that we snuck into. There's a public pool that's closed so we plan on hopping the fence a few (more) times. I wish it were open, instead. I would pay two dollars. Every time someone does something kind I swear I'll stop breaking minor laws. But then it gets hot.

If we take a direct route, we are only 700 miles from new Orleans now. I am excited to arrive, but fear adjusting back to society. Spending this time on the fringe of american society, it will be hard to go back to wearing real clothes, sleeping in a bed, and working each day. We usually take days off once a week in major cities, but cities have begun to feel foreign. It is a funny balance; all the unpopulated ghost towns we pass are depressing, but all the major cities are disorienting with so many stores and entertainment options. .

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Headed into creepy

We decided to go off route to Wichita, mostly because we've been listening to Gillian Welch and she sings about Wichita. It took us a few days to get here, and we decided we like some time off the Tran-American bike route. The popular route our maps provide through America is awesome, but it is predominantly small town with poorly paved bike lanes (and less traffic.)
Through Kansas, the main highways are rural enough and I greatly appreciate drafting off of semis in the wind.

- Beth

Once in Wichita, we decided that instead of heading back towards the planned bike route in Missouri we'd go into Arkansas and down from there. It is more direct than the transamerica route, so we'd make NOLA sooner. And, arkansas is creepy. We like creepy, and we hope to find us some creepy. Only during daylight hours though, especially since my tazer got stolen and we met a cyclist headed west who said a young girl he camped with (also a cyclist) had been molested in Kentucky. Bad things happen, there are bad people out there. We have been fortunate not to have run into any. But remember, bad things happen in your own home or town just as often as for travellers.
That is something I get upset about, that many people fear traveling and being vulnerable. But the only way to know if bad or good is winning is to go out, and find out. We have gone out, and found only good. People generous to the point of guilt, people curious and excited for us, even when we refuse to meet their eyes or answer another where-you-from?-going?-you'se-still-got-a-ways-to-go-AReYOuTWINS????!!
People who will buy our food, behind us in line at the gas station. A quiet old man with a cane who said "I seen you girls on the road earlier. I'm proud a' you'se". Hotel housekeepers who wash our weeks-old laundry, for free.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tay tay is not scary at all like Larry

Well the Internet somehow deleted the post I wrote on tatum, so that sucks. She was so perfect. When I grew up we had a shitzu named naomie that I loved more than anything, and had never met a dog as personable and communicative as her... Until tatum. When I laid down, That baby would run at me full speed with her hot pointy little nose until it smashed into my face. If I put her down, or took her out of my shirt (where I carried her on the bike looking for a crate) she would whine. When it was time to put the tent away in the morning she would jump inside and lay down belly up with her mouth open like a little Venus fly trap waiting to close on whatever finger might attempt to move her. The only time I left her alone (in the bathroom one morning, because she wouldn't get up to follow me) when I got back she was crying so loud and when I opened the door and lay down to apologize, she jumped on my chest and licked and bit my face in a frenzy. I knew it wasn't practical to take her on this trip, and as we continue through Kansas I'm glad I gave her away since its now above 100 every day. But I have wanted my own dog for awhile now, and none will be more perfect than she was. I think the woman who took her knew how perfect she was though. She was very excited. And Tay tay will have a yard and someone to love her all day, every day.

Something weird happened a week or so ago that we forgot to write about. We stopped in a tiny town (Boone, CO) to camp at a park. An old man named larry taylor came over and talked to us for a long time about a bike trail he founded and all the local businesses he owns, and invited us over to use the Internet and/or his electric guitar and/or stay the night. When he finally left us alone a family came to tell us he has been a huge problem in the town and has a long criminal record, including years in a mental institution. A few years back apparently he kept an 11 year old girl in his house for three days before she managed to escape. He was put in jail for it but the city mayor (who was also weird, brought us a Tupperware full of steak the same night... Steak was good) bailed him out. He has been warned by police to leave bicyclists alone, and the adventure cycling association that has organized this trans-America route we are on may soon have to re-route the Colorado section so it no longer goes through Boone because of him. This is sad for the town since 2000 cyclists do this route per year and the one tiny store there relies heavily on us for business.
Fortunately scary Larry (that is what they call him) did nothing to us. He did come back to show us maps of the bicycle route he founded (a lie) and again to point out all the buildings he owned (another lie) and again to tell us that night's sunset was the best he's ever seen (a lie, hopefully).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


We are in garden city, Kansas today. We made it through the rest of Colorado a few days ago and camped in Holly, Colorado, four miles from Kansas. On our way from the gas station to the campsite we passed a small friendly dog, and stopped to pet him. His owner came outside and we talked for a long time. He was from Holly and had moved to wine country in California, and moved back to Holly with his wife a few months ago to retire. His son owned a multi million dollar company, and it was interesting that he chose to come back to Holly and retire after living in big cities. He was getting ready to go eat dinner with his wife at the Subway in the local gas station- the only exciting option in Holly. That's where we ate dinner, too. He told us that his dog had just had puppies, and was selling them for 50 dollars. After looking up "bike touring with dogs" online Mary decided to buy one ( it was a shi-tzu puppy, which usually go for 500 to 1000 dollars.) apparently a lot of people travel with dogs on bikes, some for years at a time. And the puppy was trained, beautiful and happy.
We bought her, named her Tatum, got her some puppy food and camped with her that night. The next day we planned on riding into Garden City to buy a venitaled cage to attach to the bike, but the more we thought about it we realized it was not fair to bring her on the bike trip in case something happened to her. She was very happy riding that day, but you can't control hailstorms or getting hit by cars or anything else that could possibly hurt her. After another night, a few fights, and almost splitting ways, we decided on either bringing her to the local shelter or putting her on Craigslist. We stopped in a small store to buy some sodas this morning, and the owner of the store loved Tatum. We told her what was going on, and she said that her elderly single mother needed a puppy. We talked for awhile and then crossed the street to look for puppy supplies. On our way back to our bikes, she came out of the store and waved us over. Her mother had come down to see Tatum. The two of them were very kind, the mother had a large yard and Tatum liked her, so we gave her up. It was a horrible decision to buy her, an amazing few nights with her, and a hard time parting. We didn't feel like riding after all that, so we did a large circle around town running errands and came back to the same campsite tonight. I feel stupid, and a little defeated, but I don't regret meeting that little angelpuff for a second. Tomorrow, we will get back on track. Together. Without any animals.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Over the mountains and through the woods

Riverside, WY was the city we were to spend our last night in before entering Colorado. It has a population of 64, so we were expecting a quiet night. But the night we arrived happened to be the kickoff of Whatfest, a local bluegrass festival. It was held in and behind the two bars in town (we can't figure out how those bars support themselves in a town of 64 every other day of the year.) We decided to stay a day to see some more of the local music. The next morning we were hanging out in a river near the festival, and a party van showed up. A band unloaded and came down to the river- and brought us great beer from a brewery in Fort Collins where one of them worked. They were all so kind, and we saw them play later that night- They were awesome, the Lindsey O'brien band.
After our break we weren't really looking forward to getting back on the road because as soon as we got into Colorado, the Rockies (and our highest summit on the entire route) were looming.


Wyoming was very interesting with all it's tiny ghost towns leftover from mining booms, but also lonely and disorienting because of so much open space and so few people. So the WHAT festival was a perfect last day.

Colorado so far is filled with much bigger and more outdoorsy towns (REI version of outdoorsy versus living off the land outdoorsy of WY). They are more eco-conscious (the coffee shops provide uncooked fettuchini noodles to stir your coffee instead of stir sticks). They also follow the rules, cyclists here have clip on shoes and spandex. And there are roads you must stay off, which we found out the wrong way.

The day before our largest pass (Hoosier) we were headed to its base in Breckinridge. We turned onto what we thought was the bike path, and proceeded to climb the steepest 5 miles ever. When we got to the top, there was a real fun surprise little loop-de-loo back down the hill to where we started. After google mapping ourselves, we realized we were going the opposite direction of Breckinridge. So we headed back down and decided instead of trying again to find the bike path, we'd just take the direct route. So we climbed through a wee bit of barbed wire and headed east on the interstate to our destination. Soon we heard sirens and a kind officer pulled us over to give us a warning (he could have fined us 22 dollars each, but didn't). He told us to just be careful and get off the next exit, which we gladly agreed was best (since it was the Breckinridge exit anyway).

The next morning, after stopping for champagne and OJ to celebrate with mimosas at the top, we headed up hoosier. The climb wasn't actually much worse than any other, it was more symbolic of all the climbing we'd done up to that point than anything. But reaching the top felt amazing because when I planned to do this trip, that pass was the one obstacle that made me nervous. And now I've done it. From here on, all rivers flow to the Atlantic.


After the climb, we spent 80 miles today coasting downhill into Canon City. Apparently it's all downhill to Kansas, and then we have to start planning for triple digit heat in the plains.