Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Around Lower 48 in One Year

Mother's Day Weekend:
We were delighted to host a Warm Showers guest: Josh Cunningham from Beatrice, Nebraska who is on state 21 of 48 and month 9 of 12! Josh's mom, Naomi and her students at Paddock Lane Elementary have been following him on their Wall of Fame. We fed Josh well, let him get some rest and even went to see the Walla Walla High School performance of the Wizard of Oz, complete with flying witches and monkeys! We never tire of meeting amazing people who are seeing the world one two-wheeled mile at a time. Now it's the four us who have "the look"--that longing for the freedom to pick up and go exploring. May all the long-distance bicyclists be safe and dry tonight.
~Alison and family

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

The Trip that Keeps on Going!

Sonia and Gus get ready for their interview

A year ago today we left on our journey across the United States, picking up the Northern Tier route in Newport, Washington. We once again got to re-live the trip as we were interviewed for the public broadcasting show In Steppe on KWSU (the Washington State University affiliate). If you would like to see the show go to the In Steppe website by clicking here.

Andrew, Gus, and Friedel

. We enjoyed swapping stories over burritos and the best milkshakes in town from the Iceburg Drive In. Their story about traveling through Syria was amazing. Their website is a definite must-read!

Hosting Riders

So, how did these riders find us? Well, as I was doing some last minute research before we left last year I came across a blog of a cross-country cyclist who wrote about a group called Warm Showers. The website helps riders find people who are willing to provide a place to sleep (from yard space for a tent to a bed) and a shower. Many people will also offer either a kitchen to cook or a meal. All provide great company while taking a break from the road. We stayed with three Warm Showers hosts: in Glacier National Park, Williston North Dakota, and Port Colborne Ontario.

The flip side of using the website for finding hosts is to be willing to be a host yourself. What we have enjoyed has been the stories of the road. After Andrew and Friedel left Sonia and I were riding the tandem to school talking about how much our trip meant to us and how we wanted to get back out on the road again!

If you are interested, check out the Warm Showers organization by clicking here. You don't need to be a cyclist to host.

What's Next?

This summer we are going to do some shorter week-long trips as time permits. Gus and I are still trying to figure out the "big one", but that may have to wait a summer or two. And I am still working on the book. I hope to have it finished by the end of summer.

And yet, the trip from last year continues to resonate with people. Many people will ask us how we could have done that, with children especially. The honest truth is, it wasn't that hard. In fact, it was fantastic (even the hard days!). There is nothing special about us. We are not super-cyclists who put in hundreds of miles a week on the bike. What it really took was the realization that we
could do it. I think getting beyond all the "what ifs" and just getting on the bikes is all it takes.

We finally realized that all we really needed to do was "shut up and pedal"!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Story on NPR!

The story was on the Day to Day program on NPR this morning. In case you didn't get a chance to hear it, you can go to the Day to Day website and listen on-line. Click here to go to the story.

As I listened I thought about all the people we met along the way. Maybe Curry in Rugby, North Dakota heard the story while driving in the below zero temperatures blanketing the northern tier of the country. Or maybe Carol and Charlie in Spencerport, NY were listening as they hunkered down by the wood stove. There were so many people who made this trip possible, and so many people we met along the way who helped us, took the time to talk with us, who made us laugh (and sometimes made us yell at their poor driving!).

We are buried in snow here (over two feet!), and biking seems so far away at this point. I did see one hardy soul riding this morning on the snow-packed street in front of our house. I can't wait to get back out on the tandems again. Gus and I are still contemplating riding with Phil in Australia. We are all looking forward to getting on the bikes and doing more local trips and day trips.

Thanks again to everyone we met along the way (both in person and on-line). You are all now part of the lore of the trip!

Have a great holiday season, and we will see you in 2009!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Story Goes National!

Hello from snowy Walla Walla!

As unbelievable as it might seem, our story is about to go national. Anna King, a reporter for National Public Radio, came by our house last week and spent two hours interviewing us about the trip.

It still amazes me that people keep finding out about the story, months after it ended. It was fun to relive the trip. And as Sonia told Ms. King, one question we asked ourselves a lot while on the trip was "how long will it be until
this is funny?" referring to whatever the hardship of the day was! And now, much of it is funny. We even relived the hard parts, especially Alison's battle with MS.

The story will be on the NPR show Day to Day. Click here for a link to the show's website. We don't have a date yet for the show, but it should air before Christmas. If you get a chance to listen to it we would love to hear your comments. If you don't get the show Day to Day on your local NPR station, you can stream the show from the Day to Day website.

And yes, I am still working on the book. If anyone knows of a grant that I might get so that I can take a sabbatical from work and write full time, let me know!

Happy holidays, and we hope to see you again next year on Shut Up and Pedal!


Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

Some events in life help us focus, help provide us perspective. Our trip provided many. Some were huge: crossing the continental divide; Alison's MS and her response to it; reaching the Atlantic. Some were more subtle: seeing the reaction of the kids as a blue heron slowly lifted from a roadside stream; listening to the wind as a storm approached; watching the road stretch to the horizon in eastern Montana, straight and flat and constant.

I think that the trip help me deal with another huge event. Last week, on October 31st, my Mom died. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer about two months ago.

About two weeks before she died I flew back to Iowa to be with her for what we both knew, but was left unspoken: this would be the last time I would see her alive. We spoke of the mundane (the weather), the profound (she insisted she would give me a sign from the "other side" -- which I haven't seen yet!), and the practical (she was worried about what would happen to her absentee ballot if she died before the election. She got quite the laugh when I told her it would only count as half a vote). She also spoke about what she wanted for her funeral service. Always a strong woman, she wanted to take as much of that burden off my Dad and the family as possible. Her strength, I think, comes in part from her Irish ancestry (100% and she was proud of it!).

My younger sister and I sat with her and took notes as she told us about everything from the clothes she wanted to be buried in to music to be played at the funeral service. The music included "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" playing in the funeral chapel just before the procession left for the cemetery and "Danny Boy" to be played on the flute by my niece at her graveside.

Before I left to return to Walla Walla my Mom could tell that I was worried about not seeing her again. She told me that she would let me know when it was really time to worry. "I don't have an expiration date stamped on me yet!" It was less than two weeks later that I got a call on my cell phone. Barely able to catch her breath and in a weak voice my Mom said "It's time to come home." A day and a half later she died.

Whatever else sets us as human beings apart, we all share this: we're born, we live, and we die. It is what we do with the "we live" part that matters.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Newspaper Story

Hello Friends!

It seems like forever since we returned from our adventure, when truly it has only been seven weeks. Believe it or not, we just received my tandem back from Maine yesterday. Alison's arrived a couple of weeks ago. We have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to put the bikes back together. But that will happen this weekend.

For some reason, our story continues to resonate with people. I was interviewed by the TriCity Herald last week and the story appeared on Monday (Oct. 6th). To read the story click here.

As I spoke with the reporter I had a feeling of longing to get back on the bike. The sounds, sites, smells, and tastes of the road came back to me as we talked. She asked great questions and truly seemed interested in our trip. She was most impressed with the kids (as is common) and with Alison (as is also common). I guess I was just along for the ride!

I am still working on the book, although very slowly. I am still ruminating over the trip and what it all meant. The journals are sitting next to the computer as I type this. I hope to get an outline before the new year arrives.

Thanks again to all of our friends, new and old, who followed us and continue to check in to our blog. We appreciate all of you!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rules for returning to civilized society

We've been home a month now. We miss the bikes, having unstructured time, overcoming daily challenges, seeing new places, being together, doing something special. We miss the BLOG and hearing from our friends!
As we reintegrate into work and school, we've had to start following some guidelines for social acceptance which were never a problem when we lived outdoors. Here's what we came up with:

1. No spitting.
2. Daily bathing is highly recommended.
3. Wear underwear. Preferably clean.
4. No eating food off the ground.
5. No made-up songs that contain profanity.
6. No bacon
double cheeseburgers with ice cream sundaes.
7. No sleeping in your sleeping bag on top of the bed.
8. Use "inside voices" when inside.
9. No belching the words on road signs.
10. No shouting "A tour bus is coming" when your mother is peeing by the side of the road.
11. No peeing by the side of the road.
12. And please, no yelling "Fire in the hole" just before loudly farting.

That oughta' do it. Thank you to everyone who followed us this summer. We felt your love and concern. America is a wonderful country. A really BIG country. There are amazing people from sea to shining sea.
--Alison, Dan, Sonia and Gus