Our Travel Log
| Home To Home - The Final Chapter 2009-03-16 15:49:46
| One year has passed since we finished our vagabond lifestyle. We should have written this final chapter of the log months ago, but somehow life got in the way. Several not so adventurous activities have followed including finding homes for puppies, nursing Mystic back to health after her intensive heartworm treatment, moving to a new continent (with our dog), starting new jobs, finding a place to live, and beginning to train for our next big life goal…Ironman Zurich.
After settling into our luxurious room at the colonial bed and breakfast in Louisville, Kentucky, we found our way to a local bike shop only about a mile away. We had made prior arrangements to pick up a bike for Erica’s mom so she could celebrate her 60th birthday on the road and finish the last leg of the journey with us. This was even more special since Elsbeth biked the first three days with us in Switzerland. We got her a comfortable Trek hybrid bike, but as it did not come with a rack or panniers, we had them ordered and shipped to the b&b where they were already waiting for us. All we needed to do was to assemble the rack on the bike and voilà her bike was ready to roll!
We had originally worked out a plan to have the bed and breakfast pick up Erica's mom from the airport. However, due to the major snow storm (which a little further north was classified as a blizzard) they decided not to pick her up citing it as a liability. We had to laugh as this was not the first time we had heard those words since crossing the Rio Grande and re-entering the good ol’ US of A. So, we ended up calling a cab to take us to the airport. It took maybe twice as long to arrive than it probably would have due to the weather. Louisville is just not prepared for the masses of snow that we encountered that weekend.
Once we arrived we were excited to see that Elsbeth’s flight was only delayed an hour compared to so many others coming from the north that were actually cancelled. When her plane landed on the snow covered runway her pilot welcomed the passengers to the North Pole. It was a happy reunion and Erica and Elsbeth were thrilled to see each other again after 18 months apart. It seemed like it took forever to get back to the b&b as the snow continued to come down and the roads were considerably worse. Eventually we arrived, and even though we were all tired we managed to enjoy a few drinks while catching up and contemplating if we would even be able to bike in a few days.
Everyone slept well and due to the snow we just took advantage of our comfortable room. Later in the afternoon we managed to bike a few miles down the road to go out for a late lunch and some grocery shopping. The roads were still in rough shape, but the sun was out and the snow was melting quickly, so we made the assumption that the main roads would be clear by the next day and we made preparations to continue. We had a leisurely morning, checked the weather one last time and found that it would be improving. So, we slowly made our way out of the city and through the icy roads, second guessing ourselves more than once. Unfortunately, on Elsbeth’s first day she had to experience an angry U.S. driver. Just as we were leaving the city we were greeted by the loud horn blaring of a truck and the driver’s one finger salute. It seemed his only reason for being upset was that we were three cyclists on “his” road. Fortunately, the streets were significantly better as we made our way to the main roads allowing us to venture into horse country. We cycled almost 100km through the hills and we were completely impressed by Elsbeth as she had no problems keeping up. The next morning we had a real American breakfast at Waffle House where Elsbeth was excited to eat, although she still insisted on having her daily morning apple which confused the waitress who probably wasn’t used to people eating quite so healthy in her restaurant. We continued on through mostly flat terrain as we had made our way to the Ohio River. We stayed the night in the small town of Rising Sun, Indiana, now famous for its gambling and enjoyed a pleasant walk through the town. We left early the next day and enjoyed crossing the Indiana county lines of Switzerland County and Ohio County. Not long afterwards we crossed the border and couldn’t believe we were back in Ohio!
We cycled into Cincinnati and up one final massive hill which was at least a 15% grade! We stayed with the Statt’s who we had contacted over warmshowers.org. As a continued testament to our increased faith in humanity we were given the code to their garage as they were still at work when we arrived. Joe and Kathy came back a while later and prepared a delicious dinner for us. Their daughter, Megan, also came by for dinner and we enjoyed sharing stories of cycling adventures. Megan and her father had cycled across the USA to raise awareness for juvenile arthritis a few years before. It was inspiring to hear about their trip and we knew that although our trip was coming to an end we would one day have to cycle across America. After talking to Megan for a while we discovered that she was friends with a girl we had gone to high school with! Megan had actually chosen to have dinner with us that night instead of going running with her. So, we called Abby and she came over after dinner to hang out and catch up.
After leaving the Statt’s home, we cycled across town to the Ohio to Erie bike trail (http://www.ohiotoerietrail.org) which, when finished, will lead from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. We were able to take the trail from Cincinnati all the way to southwest Columbus. The sun was shining and we were able to enjoy our coffee break outside in the touristic town of Loveland, only to be stopped by a flat on Erica’s bike less than a kilometer after leaving the coffee shop!
After 110km on the bikes (the first time Elsbeth ever biked more than 100km!) we stayed at another b&b in Xenia, Ohio. We were starving so we ended up stuffing ourselves silly on an all you can eat Chinese buffet. This led to the mother-in-law comment “Ryan, you know you are at the age when men start putting on weight.”
After several long days we had a relatively easy ride to another b&b in London, Ohio. We informed the innkeeper of Elsbeth’s birthday and she made pancakes with a candle for breakfast to celebrate the occasion. While we were all getting ready to go, Erica tied balloons to her mom’s bike to make sure everyone passing us would also know it was a special day. We were able to take the bike path part of the way, until we were finally forced to the road after it came to an end outside of Columbus. Within 20 minutes of leaving the trail Ryan got a flat tire, luckily the last one of the trip! After a quick fix we were back on the road and anxious to finally make it to Columbus. We made our way to a busy Broad Street with light rain and emotions running high as we approached the city skyline. We stopped by Chipotle, the one we used to go to when we lived downtown, picked up some delicious burritos and got a bottle of red wine at the little wine shop in German Village. We cycled the last few blocks down the brick road to our great friends’ Doug and Lindsey and their newest member of the family, Gwyneth, where we spent the night.
That evening we went to dinner at Schmidt’s, a German restaurant, to celebrate Elsbeth’s 60th birthday. We surprised her with a visit from Ryan’s parents and Erica’s host parents from her exchange year as special guests. After a delicious meal, Erica’s mom surprised the table by graciously paying for the entire meal, a Swiss custom that the birthday person invites the guests.
We woke up the next morning to cycle to Blacklick, where Ryan’s parents live. Doug joined us for the trip and reportedly had the weirdest bike ride ever as we crisscrossed through the city and into the suburbs. Finally, after more than 20,000 kms on the road our trip came to a close as we rolled into Ryan’s parent’s enormous garage and were greeted by our friends and family, who came and went throughout the day. We sat back and reflected on the trip and couldn’t believe how far we’d come.
After an enjoyable evening, we woke up at 5am the next morning to race back by car down to Nashville, TN, where our recently adopted, knocked up, runaway Mystic was patiently waiting for her parents to finish their journey. We picked her up from Dr. Woody’s and then stayed the night at Mary and Jim’s place, where we had spent a week earlier.
The next morning we left super early again to hurry back to Columbus. Two days later Mystic was a mamma of 7 adorable puppies.
| To Louisville: our last stretch of road on our own
| We left Jim and Mary’s place in the afternoon hoping to make good distance. However, we somehow got turned around due to a confusing naming of roads which caused us to go about 15-20 kms out of our way. We ended up in busy traffic and our progress was delayed as we took the scenic route of Nashville's suburbs. By the end of the day everything worked itself out. We didn’t make it to our goal, but we did arrive at a campground where we were able to stay for free.
The next morning we continued north and crossed the state line into Kentucky. There was an immediate change in road condition for the worse as the road narrowed and we encountered several potholes. Luckily an hour or two later the road widened again.
The temperature was perfect for riding in the day but the nights continued to get colder. We arrived at a state campground where we had to go around the barriers to get to the campsites and found ourselves to be the only campers in an area with about 100 sites. The next morning we woke up to a little frost. A ranger drove by and we fully expected him to confront us about paying for the night in the park. However, he just waved and smiled as he slowly drove past our unpacked bicycles.
Happy to have saved money on another free night of camping we rolled away towards Elizabethtown. We arrived in Elizabethtown, the same town as the movie Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom(that neither of us have seen), tired and looking for a campground, but didn't pass one as we neared the city. Once downtown we went to the city hall to ask for help. As we approached the building two men were just finishing up a day’s work. We spoke with them for a few minutes before one of the men, the City Administrator, made an offer for us to stay at his house only a few doors down. He and his work colleague locked up the building and we followed Charlie back to his house with our bikes. His wife Mary was also happy to have us and they invited us to dinner at a local restaurant across the street. They told us about a father and son from Sweden who cycled across the US and stayed with them. Also, they had hosted several foreign exchange students over the years. That night we watched the news and saw there was a possible storm approaching. Charlie offered to give us a ride the following morning, but our pride got in the way and we graciously declined. However, as we woke to a snow storm with several inches covering the ground we came to our senses and accepted the lift to Louisville. Even in the car we had to drive well under the speed limit as the visibility was extremely low. Charlie and his wife kindly dropped us off at our bed and breakfast and we quickly settled in to relax for the day before Erica’s mom, Elsbeth, arrived.
| Franklin, Tennessee
A troubled heart and a belly full of surprises! 2008-05-22 08:24:12
| We were excited to be in Franklin and happy to spend time with our good friend Josh. Of course, we now had a dependent in need of attention. Our first order of business was to find a vet to do a wellness checkup and get Mystic all of her necessary shots. Josh’s mom recommended her vet, Dr. Woody at the Franklin Animal Hospital. Dr Givan and Diane, the vet technician, informed us Mystic appeared healthy and only slightly on the thin side. They gave her all of her necessary shots and told us they believed she was about 2 years old. However, they also gave us some sad news. Mystic tested positive for heartworm. We learned a little about the intensive treatment this would entail and of course we were willing to do all that was necessary for Mystic to be healthy. We learned the treatment could potentially be quite expensive, so Diane offered to help us find the most economical path to complete the treatment in Ohio as she is originally from the buckeye state.
Saddened by the news, but also still determined to allow our new companion to travel home with us, we ordered a baby bike trailer so that Mystic could finish the trip in style. We had already planned to stay with Josh for a week so we quickly made the order to ensure that it would arrive by the time we wanted to leave. However, the company made a mistake and sent the bike trailer to the billing address in Ohio rather than the shipping address in Tennessee. Ryan’s dad received the bike trailer and immediately came to the conclusion that we were expecting a baby. He was a bit disappointed when he discovered we didn’t have a baby on the way, and a dog would be finishing the trip with us instead. We sorted out the mess with the company and they promised to have the bike trailer delivered to Tennessee by the following Monday.
We had a great time visiting with Josh, going out in Nashville and exploring Franklin. We watched quite a few movies and ate very well, even gorging ourselves on McDonald’s while we watched Super Size Me. Josh’s parents also kindly took us out to lunch and gave us a ride to the bike shop as Ryan’s bike needed another small repair on the bottom bracket.
The generous people of Franklin come to the rescue!
Throughout the week we had been emailing back and forth with Diane. She had done more research for us about the heartworm as well as the breed of Mystic. We had already believed Mystic to be a Mountain Cur. With Diane’s research we are more certain that she is a Tennessee Treeing Brindle, part of the Mountain Cur family, a rare dog found in the US, primarily in this region.
A few days after our first vet appointment, Mystic began to have some discharge. We did some research and believed she was going into heat. We gave Diane a call and made an appointment for the following Monday, the day we planned on leaving. We also bought some boys star wars underwear to prevent her from spotting in Josh’s condo. Saturday night, after returning from an evening out, we discovered Mystic had managed to get into her food and ate the better part of a small bag of dog food. She had been so well behaved we just couldn’t believe it. Her belly seemed to be enormous and she seemed to be in a bit of pain. By Sunday night her belly was just as big and the more we looked into it the more we believed her to be pregnant! At the vet appointment Dr. Woody confirmed this with an ultrasound. Based on the ultrasound Dr. Woody indicated the puppies could come in only a few days or up to a couple of weeks. We were absolutely amazed! Mystic had not only followed us over 140 miles, a huge feat for any dog, she was also pregnant and heartworm positive!
We now had a dilemma since we wanted Mystic to come with us. Since we weren’t sure of the exact day to expect the puppies we had to think of our possible alternatives. We could have made it home within a week if we rode hard, but we had made arrangements to meet Erica’s mom in Louisville, Kentucky several months before as she would be completing the trip with us. We also considered that even if Mystic would not have the puppies until we returned to Ohio she would be increasingly uncomfortable riding in the bike trailer. Thankfully, Dr. Woody graciously offered to board Mystic (and potentially her pups) at no charge while we made our way home. So, we stayed at Josh’s parents’, Mary and Jim, for another week before setting out on our way to Louisville. Josh’s parents offered their place as they live fairly close to Josh and they could provide a lot more space, if Mystic did deliver the pups. We checked Mystic’s temperature daily (a dog’s temp usually drops several degree the day of the birth) hoping the pups would arrive before our departure, but Mystic just wasn’t ready to deliver. We knew that it would take about four days to bike to Louisville, so we waited until the last possible day we could depart and still make it in time to pick up Erica’s mom from the airport. The morning of our departure we dropped Mystic off with Dr. Woody, Diane and the entire veterinarian staff so that we could complete our journey and return for “Our Mississippi Girl” in about 10 days.
Mary and Jim took great care of us and were extremely patient with Mystic as she began to have issues with her bladder the more pregnant she became. They fed us well and even allowed us to borrow their car when we needed it. They were an amazing help and we are extremely thankful for their kindness. We left Franklin by early afternoon and began to push forward to Louisville and the impending end of our journey.
| Cycling up Natchez Trace Parkway from Mississippi to Tennessee
| Upon entering the state of Mississippi we cycled through the city of Natchez. On the other side of the city we began the Natchez Trace Parkway. Starting in Natchez, MS leading 440 miles to just south of Nashville, TN the Trace began as the easiest route through the mountains by the Native Americans. Eventually, it became a US postal route as well as a path for travelers to take on their return north after a long journey by boat down the Mississippi. Now, this is a protected parkway with limited traffic, as semi-trucks are restricted from using it. It was a perfect road for us to bike with many campgrounds along the way, many of them cycling specific.
We spent the first few nights at the campgrounds just off the Trace. On our 4th day of riding on the Trace we arrived in Kosciusko, MS, north of Jackson. Donna and Gary came out to meet us on their tandem and guided us back to their place. We had contacted them a few weeks before on warmshowers. They treated us with a delicious meal and good company. The next morning we cycled with their good friend Maureen about 20 miles north to French Camp, where Donna met us with her brother and took us out to lunch. The rest of the day was a relaxed comfortable ride.
The next day we had a beautiful morning, but by the afternoon there was a steady rain and the temperature had dropped. We made it to the Tupelo Visitor Center and huddled in the museum/bookstore to keep warm. They told us there were a few rustic cabins on the other side of the road where we could take shelter from the terrible storm coming that night. The next morning the ground was frosted over and freezing cold, but it had been a quiet night as the feared storm never arrived. We stopped back at the visitor center to fill up on water and warm up our hands and toes before continuing on our way.
About 5 miles north of Tupelo we noticed two dogs running across the road. We still had an anti-flea/anti-tick treatment given to us by two traveling veterinarians in Nicaragua. So, we pulled over our bikes and Erica called the dogs. One of the dogs turned around immediately while the other one ran on. We pet her a few minutes and gave her a corn tortilla since she looked on the thin side. Erica applied the treatment; we gave her a bit more food and some much needed loving. The other dog came back for her, but she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. After a few more minutes we got back on our bikes and carried on. However, the dog decided to follow. After about 10-15 miles we gave her a bit of water and some more food. We traveled about 45 miles that day 40 of them with our new companion.
Throughout our trip we joked about picking up a stray dog along the way, especially after our encounter with India in Argentina in November 2006. The timing certainly wasn’t perfect, but since we were in the US and almost home we knew it was possible. So, we decided that it would be up to our new friend to decide if she wanted us. We planned to have her sleep in our vestibule the first night, but since it was freezing cold and she seemed to have such a relaxed personality we decided to let her stay in the inner tent. The next morning when we woke up to a frosted tent the dog continued to show no desire to leave us so we fed her the only available food – oats soaked in warm milk. While Ryan prepared breakfast Erica pulled about 30 ticks out of the dog and we decided on the name “Miss Tick” which we converted to Mystic since we liked the double meaning of the name. After pulling out so many ticks we were sure to take showers at the campground to check ourselves for ticks as well.
We moved slowly for the next few days, only cycling about 30 miles. Mystic was incredible. The entire stretch, other than on a narrow bridge and a detour section through a populated area, Mystic ran on the grassy slope next to the Trace. She seemed to spot every deer and barked to let us know where they were. Despite the hard running she sometimes raced into the woods to follow them. However, whenever we caught her attention in time she listened to our commands to stay by our side. It was not until the 4th day that we really saw significant signs of her tiring out. After our 3rd day of riding we contacted Ryan’s good friend Josh from Colinwood, TN. Josh now lives in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville and offered to drive down and pick up Mystic to give her a break and to allow us to make it to his place a day earlier. We arranged to ride another full day with Mystic the following day where we camped near the gravesite of Meriwether Lewis, just off the Natchez Trace. The following morning we rode about 10 more miles before stopping for a short break to fuel up and give Mystic a rest.
Only a few minutes after we had pulled over to rest our friend Josh, his mom Mary and his brother Michael came to Mystic’s rescue! They brought us biscuits and coffee to help warm us up. We spent a little while catching up before we loaded Mystic into the truck and set out for Franklin, still about 50 miles away.
Mystic had followed us a total of 142 miles (230 kms) over 5 days! She was now our dog as much as we were her humans!
| Bienvenue en Louisiane!
| As we crossed the river into Louisiana the hills disappeared and we were able to pick up speed as the terrain flattened. We arrived in Leesville late in the afternoon. We had assumed we would find a place to stay along the way, but having no luck we stopped into the police station for advice. They gave us directions to a campground, only about a half mile off our original route. We arrived at the small park which was full of RVs, but no one was in the office. So, we asked a few people sitting at a picnic table if they had seen the administrator. They told us they hadn’t, but to go ahead and set up our tent in the yard in front of their RVs. As we were setting up our tent they brought us over a glass of wine and invited us over to hang out at their table. We quickly finished setting up our tent and prepared our trusty one pot dish before heading over to hang out with the two couples. We spent the evening chatting and they even claimed us as their children for a night, saving us the camping fee. They wished us well the next morning with a delicious coffee.
We continued on our way in the light right. By the afternoon, as we entered Alexandria, the sun had come out, but the closer we got to the city the more we felt that we must have missed the road. We pulled over to a side road and knocked on a door to ask for directions. The woman was kind enough to let us use her phone to get in contact with John and Diane, who we had contacted through couchsurfing and where we would be staying that night. John told us the easiest way to get through the city and even offered to pick us up, which we declined. We made it about ½ km down the road when Ryan got a flat tire. Luckily, there was a gas station nearby so we pushed our bikes into the parking lot to assess the situation. Since we had already made it to Alexandria and were only few miles from John and Diane’s place we decided to take them up on the offer, especially since our spare tubes also needed to be repaired. When we attempted to make a call it wasn’t a big surprise that the pay phone didn’t work, just like almost every other pay phone we’ve needed to use in the US. In Latin America we rarely had a problem finding a payphone and they worked 99% of the time. Luckily a man nearby saw our need for a phone and offered his cell. Ten minutes later John came to the rescue. We piled our bikes and gear into his truck and he brought us to their place. We stayed here for 3 nights relaxing on their beautiful property next to the Red River. John and Diane took great care of us, taking us out to eat multiple times. Erica had a repair on her bike, so John gave us a ride to the shop. When we picked up the bike, as we were talking to the mechanic, John slyly paid the cashier for the repair. We were completely surprised, but also thankful for their incredible generosity. We enjoyed their company greatly, especially the relaxing mornings drinking coffee on their back porch overlooking the river.
The night we left John and Diane’s we made it to Jonesville. We thought there was a campground in the area, but it turns out we were mistaken. After having no luck at the town hall, we went to the local library to look online. The librarians saw us pull up and the moment Ryan entered, they immediately started asking questions. Ryan shared the website with them and they helped brainstorm a place for us to stay for the night. After about 10-15 minutes of an unsuccessful search, one of the librarians suggested that we stay in their small fenced in area behind the library. She showed us the spot and it was perfect! After talking for while they even decided to leave the back door unlocked allowing us to use the bathrooms and kitchen that night! They gave us a fun library t-shirt and we wore them the next morning for a photo op in front of the library. ? We continued about 30-40 more miles before crossing the Mississippi River into our third US state.