1 0 Posts with the tag: Warmshowers
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Along the Erie Canal

Posted by on June 26th, 2012 2 Comments

May 28 2012 DSC 9039 548x284 Along the Erie Canal

From Massachusetts, we rode through some lovely New England towns on our way back into New York state. It seemed each little village was featured up on a hill with a tall church steeple you could see from miles away. The roads were beautifully empty of traffic – it was a bicyclists dream. Except those hills. We had more hills and climbing on this day than most days of the entire trip. Up and down we went with few breaks in between, ascending 780 meters (2560 feet) in only 60 kilometers (37 miles) or so. It was a lot of work with the weight we pull! We made camp at an RV park on top of the last hill of the day, and slept well despite the lumpy, uneven grounds of the tent sites.

We looked at the map the next day and didn’t know what our destination would be, or where we would stay. The city of Troy was about 70km away, and if we made it there, we’d have to make it out to the other side to find camping – and that would make for a bit of a long haul. If we stopped before Troy, we would have to make up the lack of mileage later. Normally, we pretty much know where we will stay each night – and even when we don’t, we have had a lot of success staying in people’s lawns. In built up urban areas, this type of camping is a bit harder to come by than out in the country. We have, however, gotten quite comfortable living within the ‘unknown,’ and in fact, it seems that it is in these situations where something miraculous usually happens, like how we first met up with Hob and Deb back in Virginia.

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A taste of New England

Posted by on June 7th, 2012 2 Comments
May 17 2012 DSC 8922 548x316 A taste of New England

Springtime in the north east

After we said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean and were officially headed home, we realized we were only one days ride from Hob and Deb, whom we had met serendipitously a few weeks earlier in Virginia. We called them up, and despite the short notice, they insisted we come stay at their place (even though they had just returned from their own tour a few days prior). Hob had warned us that central Connecticut was hilly, and of course he was right – after 30 years of bike touring, he knew his state pretty well. We arrived exhausted as we hadn’t really battled many hills since leaving Panama a few weeks earlier. Hob gave us a tour of his wonderful 200+ year-old house and property that he and Deb have worked on tirelessly for years to restore to the beauty that it is now. Deb prepared a wonderful meal and the kids fell asleep easily when bedtime rolled around.

photo1 548x394 A taste of New England

Hob and Deb on their Santana touring tandem.

After the sun set, we talked for hours with Hob and Deb. Despite our differences in age, it felt like we were old friends – we had a common level of understanding of kindness and generosity in the world, of risk taking and adventure, of stupidity and mishaps that lead to learning in a whole new way. There are things you can share with a fellow bike tourist that they understand only too well! We learned more about their 100,000 miles of bicycle touring – what started it all, and how the cycling actually took a back burner to their interest in long-distance hiking. Over the years, these (now retired) school teachers have hiked every long trail in America, as well as thousands of miles spent tracing old pilgrimage routes in Europe. Their stories were inspiring and led us to dream about what a lifetime of adventure could look like. We said goodbye the next morning, but are certain our paths will once again cross as this amazing couple are a wealth of knowledge on biking, hiking, and pilgrimage walks around the world.

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Approaching the Big Apple

Posted by on May 21st, 2012 3 Comments

Spring was in the air and the weather was absolutely gorgeous on our ride out of Washington D.C. We had spontaneously adjusted our route plan the night before – and instead of heading towards Baltimore and Philadelphia, we left the metropolises behind and turned our wheels due east towards rural Delaware. We had set our sights on arriving in New York City by Eden’s birthday – May 3, and could just make the timing work out using two boats as shortcuts: the Lewes/Cape May ferry to get into New Jersey and the Belford ferry to jump right into Manhattan. Reuben’s aunt and uncle live just north of NYC and we were eager to visit with them and enjoy some downtime at their house. Also, my mom, dad and sister were planning on driving down from Hamilton to see us for a few days, so we had a lot to look forward to. The icing on the cake was that the largest cycling event in the country, the NYC 5-boro Bike Tour, was scheduled for May 6th and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience New York with 32,000 other cyclists on traffic-free streets. We did not have registrations for the event, however, as they were assigned months ago with a lottery system, so we were hoping to somehow make things work when we arrived.

April 28 2012 DSC 8653 548x362 Approaching the Big Apple

Delaware fields

Our ride across Delaware was a quick one thanks to the flat nature of this small state, or maybe we were just distracted with the thoughts of tasting some great craft beer at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach. A generous reader hooked us up with an amazing beach house near the brewery where we had an incredibly relaxing and wonderful stay after enjoying tiny sips of 16 flavourful brews.

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Getting up to speed back in the USA

Posted by on May 11th, 2012 3 Comments

As they say ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ and a lot sure has happened in the last month. After riding through Costa Rica, we reached our most southerly destination in Panama City. From there we proceeded to cruise up to Miami and then skip up to Richmond, Virginia via Amtrak before setting out on the bikes once again, this time heading north towards Washington D.C. A brief account of this transitioning stage of our adventure follows:

March 23 2012 DSC 8217 548x204 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Costa Rica

March 22 2012 DSC 8201 548x276 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Sunset our first night in Costa Rica

“Self contained bicycle touring” is a term that leaves most people thinking about the time spent on the bike: how difficult it may be, how much weight one must have to pull, how many hours one must spend riding per day. But as most long distance bike tourists will tell you, this lifestyle is not always about the biking. We recently realized that over the last year, we have spent somewhere between 16 and 22 hours a week on the bike – just a fraction of our waking hours. The rest of our time is spent at libraries or parks, exploring cities, making or shopping for meals like regular folks, or setting up camp and just hanging out. But our favourite part of our journey, and the part that has been the most rewarding over the last year, has been meeting wonderfully kind and generous friends along the way.

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We stop at a lot of roadside fruit stands

March 27 2012 DSC 8241 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Right off the side of the highway in Costa Rica

The highlight of Costa Rice for us was not just the wildlife or the backpacker hostels or the landscape, and certainly not the hot and sticky weather which often felt like cycling through a steam bath – it was meeting a French Canadian couple who built their beautiful and unique home 27 years ago when they moved to Costa Rica where they operate a bed and breakfast – Casa Del Arbol. Their refuge is tucked away deep in the jungle between two small towns, and provided an incredible retreat for an evening. We had a hard time leaving!

April 01 2012 DSC 8290 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The treehouse at Casa del Arbol

April 01 2012 DSC 8287 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The treehouse at Casa del Arbol

April 01 2012 DSC 8304 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The treehouse at Casa del Arbol

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The unbelievable bathroom at Casa del Arbol

April 01 2012 DSC 8319 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Harper finishing things up at Casa del Arbol - he is officially out of diapers!

April 07 2012 DSC 8374 548x368 Getting up to speed back in the USA

I enjoyed my 32nd birthday in Santiago, Panama.

There is really only one option for a direct ride through Panama – and it is a heavily trafficked highway through the countryside with few towns or cities along the way. Frustrated with the busy roads, we took a ‘long-cut’ and routed around the highway for a few days where we were rewarded with the most spectacular views we had seen in weeks – a lush tropical paradise dotted with small villages and winding beautiful roads with almost no traffic. We wondered why this road was so deserted during our first few miles rolling over fresh asphalt, but began to understand why few traveled this way when the surface was reduced to gravel and dirt with bits of fresh asphalt for the rest of the day. The road has obviously been under construction for quite some time, but when finished it will be primed for an incredible cycling experience. Once rejoining the Pan-American, the road got wider and the traffic got heavier the closer we got to Panama City, making for days with the sounds of nature drowned out by the sound of traffic. We were relieved to have a police escort vehicle to take us over the Bridge of the Americas. Crossing over the Panama Canal signified our entrance into Panama City and the end of our journey south!

April 05 2012 DSC 8346 548x320 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Panamanian countryside

April 05 2012 DSC 8339 548x315 Getting up to speed back in the USA

When we entered Panama, a reader messaged us on Facebook. Tony was from Panama City and would love to meet us. He also offered to help us find boxes for our bikes so we could pack them up for shipping back to the USA.

April 11 2012 DSC 8402 548x324 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Panama City has a stunning skyline.

April 12 2012 DSC 8459 548x341 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Tony greeted us the day we arrived with a pick-up truck full of boxes and an invitation to join him and his family for dinner at his house. We were thrilled to spend some time with a Panamanian family and had a delightful evening. The children were soon sleeping as we were up till nearly midnight discussing everything from religion to bike culture to customs and lifestyle in Panama. It was humbling to be invited into someone’s home to share a meal and conversation as if we were old friends. Tony met up with us once again, generously transporting us to Colon with all our belongings in order to board our cruise ship, which was repositioning and would serve as our slow transport across the Caribbean Sea to Miami.

April 14 2012 DSC 8477 355x548 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The Panama Canal. Truly an amazing sight.

April 13 2012 DSC 8466 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Packing up the bikes.

April 15 2012 DSC 8490 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Thanks for the lift, Tony!

This one-way repositioning cruise was quite a way to travel from Panama back to the States. Amazingly, the fare was less than the cost of a flight, and the baggage handlers didn’t bat an eye when presented with the task loading our mountain of gear. While a cruise is fun in itself, it’s even better to share the time with people you love. So we were overjoyed that Reuben’s mom and grandparents flew into Panama City to explore the canal with us and were then able to join us for the 3-day journey back to the U.S. We ate, we played, we ate, we swam, we napped, and we ate some more (cruises, apparently, are mainly about eating! No complaints from these touring cyclists.). The boat was seriously under-booked, which resulted in there being more crew aboard than guests, so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. The quality time that Eden and Harper got to spend with their Nana and great-grandparents on the boat was truly special.

April 16 2012 DSC 8514 548x361 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Reuben's Grandpa, Grandma, and Mom joined us for the cruise.

April 16 2012 DSC 8524 548x270 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The climbing wall on the boat was a lot of fun!

April 16 2012 DSC 8546 548x362 Getting up to speed back in the USA

So happy to spend this time with family.

After disembarking in Miami and saying farewell to dear family, we loaded all our boxes into a U-Haul and headed to the train station where we were reunited with Amtrak on a 24 hour trek to Richmond, Virginia – a city on the map chosen for it’s proximity to home. With six weeks left before we needed to be back in Hamilton, starting this leg of the ride from Richmond would allow us to route through a few destinations in the New England area before returning to our home city. Our year of adventure was getting closer to completion! At the train station in Richmond, we spent a few hours putting the bikes back together and repacking all of our gear – then rode out to encounter the reverse culture-shock of being back in North America. There was a lot to rediscover after being in Mexico and Central America for the last four months!

With the bikes in need of some maintenance, we turned once again to Warmshowers.org to connect with a host family in Richmond. We were greeted and assisted by Glen and Latisha, their 3 boys (Logan, Miles, and Mason), and their many bikes. The weather in Virginia was refreshing after being accustomed to being soaked in sweat after a few minutes of riding in Central America. We could actually cycle around town, or down to Logan and Miles’ school and arrive with dry clothes!

April 21 2012 DSC 8571 548x336 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Our hosts in Richmond, VA.

Eden and I enjoyed riding a tandem for the first time and Harper got a kick out of sitting on the back of Glen’s Big Dummy with only holding onto the stoker bars! The best part of visiting with families with other young children is having a larger integrated family for a time. It’s not a 2-hour play date – it’s life together where kids get tired or hungry, where we eat together, play together and even do bedtime routines in the same space. It is also when you get to see your new friends again early the next morning. Eden and Harper learn so much from these concentrated moments with their peers – like how to make space for some quiet time alone and learning how to get along and share. As parents, we also get to learn from our peers’ parenting styles and techniques – picking up good ideas on how to deal with certain behaviours, or what new snacks and foods other kids eat that ours like as well.

Out of Richmond, we headed off in sunny weather, but the rains began as we made camp our first night. The next day, the wet weather continued while the temperature dropped. We pushed on, amazingly facing our very first rain day of the trip (we have seen rain, but never really rode through it the whole day until this point). We warmed up and dried out at a laundromat, waiting out the bulk of the storm before heading out of town to start the search for a place to camp. Not too eager about setting up in the rain and tucking into our damp sleeping bags, we knocked on door after door with no response. We were getting back on our bikes about to head to the next house when a car pulled in the driveway. When a man stepped out, I eagerly asked if he lived there and mentioned we were looking for a place to set up our tent. He said he had something better. His name was Hob, and despite the fact that he pulled up in a car, he was currently on bike tour with his wife Deb. He was actually just returning to his cousin’s house a mile down the road after getting some work done on their tandem. He insisted we follow him down to the house for a warm meal and a dry space to sleep! His cousin Annie welcomed us into her home like we were family and we had a wonderful time during this serendipitous encounter with Hob and Deb, who have over 100,000 miles of loaded bicycle touring experience! With the promise that we would reconnect near Hob and Deb’s home in Connecticut, we rode out towards Washington D.C. the next morning with smiles on our faces.

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Great times with Hob, Deb, and Annie.

Washington D.C. brought back a lot of memories for me – in a way, it was my very first family vacation when I was 14. We met up for coffee with a good friend of my mom’s who had hosted our family when we came through 16 years ago. We had a great time visiting a few of the monuments and memorials in the city, as well as staying with another Warmshowers.org host family right near Capital Hill. Once again our kids had playmates and enjoyed playing with toys and at parks with our host’s children. It was awesome to also see the excitement on 6-year-old Stephen’s face when he met us. He travels to school and around town on the back of his dad’s Xtracycle, and was excited to meet a family who was travelling that way for a year!

April 25 2012 DSC 8648 548x314 Getting up to speed back in the USA

The reflecting pool looking not so reflective. It was under construction!

April 25 2012 DSC 8642 548x290 Getting up to speed back in the USA

While we have spent a lot of time meeting new people on this adventure, Reuben and I are generally introverts. Back home, we worked with colleagues in an office during the day but our evenings were usually spent at home as a family. This year has stretched us socially – we have found it so rewarding to learn from the friends we have met along the way.

April 24 2012 DSC 8582 548x300 Getting up to speed back in the USA

Changing a flat somewhere in Virginia.

It is human nature to be drawn to spending time with people who are similar to us and yet we grow the most when we spend time and conversation with people who are different. We have learned on this trip that 99.9% of people are good and wonderful people that we can learn from – we may not agree about every issue but we can find commonality somewhere and learn from our differences. We have also learned that many people have unfounded fears about opening up to strangers when the risk of getting hurt is actually quite low. Our minds have been opened in new and wonderful ways after interesting conversations and encounters. We look forward to continuing to meet new people and build lasting relationships when we return home. Whether the experience of meeting and interacting with someone is positive or negative, you can always learn something through each encounter – the risk you take will be worth it.

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Crossing Borders

Posted by on March 4th, 2012 6 Comments

While taking a few simple pedal strokes from one state or country into the next may not change the scenery at all, to a long distance bicycle tourist, it marks a major milestone and sense of accomplishment – as well as a new burst excitement and energy for the trip as a whole. We felt this when we crossed the Mississippi in the first month of our trip, when we reached the Pacific Coast in the Fall, when we crossed into Mexico near Christmas – and even more so entering Guatemala, our first Central American country, a few days ago.

February 15 2012 DSC 7405 548x232 Crossing Borders

We had been counting down the days until the Guatemalan border throughout our last week in Mexico. We cruised through our last day in the state of Oaxaca, heading towards the state of Chiapas over flat roads and through fields of wind farms – both of which are usually a clear indication of one of our worst enemies – strong headwinds. But not on this day! Fortunately for us, the windmills stood still as we rode by at a healthy 25km per hour, covering the distance from Juchitan to Zanatepec in record time. Here we were warmly greeted by Warmshowers hosts Rodrigo and Lupita and their two young sons Ethan (3) and Mateo (1). The four of them took us around their town that evening – Eden and Harper especially loved the children’s activities in the Centro such as a trampoline and electric toy cars they could ride around in circles. Mexican towns and cities really come alive at night, so this was something we truly enjoyed as we rarely explore much after sunset.

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