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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And now, a word for our sponsors

The word is THANK YOU!

St. Mary Medical Center, Walla Walla, Washington
Voler Team Apparel/Ed Fonda
Shimano American Corporation
Teva Neuroscience/Phil Hazel
VOmax/Michael Rustuccia
Biogen Idec/Dennis Pegram
REI, Kennewick, Washington/Dave King

We hope we did you proud.

--Alison, Dan, Sonia and Gus

Returning to our lives

Teacher and students on the first day back to school.
This summer it was the adults who were the students, even when there were lessons we didn't want to learn.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Photos: Coming Home to Washington

Nice to ride a lightweight bike. Back home in Walla Walla, Washington.


1. 80 days on the bike was easier than 8 hours on the plane!

2. Dave from Stillwater Recumbents near Old Town, ME will break down and ship the bikes for us. (Thank you!)

3. Lobstering in Narraguagus Bay.

4. + 5. America is still a land of wonder and beauty. Here, near Milbridge, Maine.

Milbridge, Maine was settled over 250 years ago!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photos, Maine Down East

Thanks for taking care of us on our last day in Maine, Lil and Ralph!

Downeast Maine. We elected to skip Bar Harbor, which one person advised us was "plastic", and explore the real Maine.

I wish they could stay this age forever. I wish this moment could last forever.

Alison at the Maine shore near Milbridge. "This accomplishment is better than med school graduation."

Sonia plays in alpine lake near Cherryfield, Maine.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Looking back up the jetway leaving Maine: lobstah and moose.

42 stories up at the Penobscot Narrows Observatory.

Old bridge. New bridge. Behemoth truck with bikes. Near Bucksport, Maine.

Quote of the Day: Trenton, Maine

"Hard times bring families closer than happy times."

--Polish emigre Casey
(a pleasure to talk with you)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The End is Just the Beginning

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.

~ Anthony Brandt

Here are the before and after pictures of the bikes in the Pacific in March (top), and the Atlantic in August.

It is still hard to believe that we made it. As I went to sleep last night in the tent at the Camden Hills State Park on the coast of Maine, I had to ask myself whether it was all a dream. To have come almost 4000 miles by bike. I know that in some sense it was just a bike ride -- a very long bike ride. But I also know that this experience has changed me in ways that I couldn't anticipate as we dipped the tires in the Pacific, and in ways that I still can't comprehend.

So, what is next? After a few days of exploring the Maine coast by car (actually, a big red truck -- a truly awful way to travel compared to what we have just done, but a compromise that needed to be made if we wanted to get to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor), we will return to Portland, Maine on Thursday. We are going to stay with our friend Thom's parents and then fly out on Friday. As Alison has told several people along the way, it took us about 80 days to bike across the US and will take us about 8 hours to fly almost as far. Amazing.

Alison's mom will pick us up at the Portland, Oregon airport on Friday night. We will then stay with Alison's parents south of Hood River (they are Warm Showers hosts, by the way, in case you are cycling near Mt. Hood, Oregon. Go to the Warm Showers website for more information). We will also be reunited with our dog, Xela (pronounced Shay-la). On Saturday we will return to Walla Walla, forever changed.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what should come out of this trip. All of us, the kids included, don't want to just let it end (although I think we are all looking forward to our own beds and a home-cooked meal). I have already registered three website domain names,,, and There are no websites there yet, but I will be working on that and more related projects shortly.

We would love to hear from you, as would Shelia Hager from the Union-Bulletin newspaper in Walla Walla (see an earlier post for more information) about what our trip has meant to you.

This not the end, but just another beginning. We hope that all of you will continue to follow the exploits, adventures and mis-adventures of the shut-up-and-pedal crew!

I think one of the first blog entries at the start of the trip had a quote from John Steinbeck, from his book Travels with Charlie. It is fitting that we end with the same quote.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
It surely did. And we live on to ride another day.

Photos, Maine Mid-Coast

Red's Eats for lobster rolls, huge chunks of lobster in grilled bread.

Estuary at Wiscosset.

View from Red's Eats Lobster Shack in Wiscosset.

A somber evening of camping at Camden Hills State Park. We are sad that the trip is at an end, and surprisingly, we actually MISS being on the bikes.

Harbor at Camden.

Camden Hills State Park.

Lincolnville, Maine.

Waiting for the library to open.

Photos, Maine shore

Lobster boat at Lincolnville, Maine.

Thank you, America's Libraries

Thank you to all the libraries and librarians across America. We appreciate you. Despite living in a computer age, it is clear that the vibrancy of a community is reflected in its library.

Maritime Museum: Bath, Maine.

Getting the big picture was humbling.

The DeLorme Map Company near Yarmouth, Maine, has a three-story high globe in the entrance hall. We climbed the stairs to get a look at the whole world as it slowly turned past us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


So, I have now had my first post-trip night's sleep, after a wonderful lobster dinner (Thanks to Thom Bolduc for the Lobster Shack recommendation!).

When I was a kid my family didn't take many trips. With five children in the house we didn't have the resources to go on vacation very often. My Dad, a carpenter at a lumber mill (and later at a hospital), and my Mom, an assembly line worker at a television plant near Chicago (when they used to make TVs in the United States) worked opposite shifts so one parent was always home with the kids. Just getting through the work week must have been enough of a challenge, let alone planning a family vacation.

One time, however, I can remember going to the Wisconsin Dells for a couple of days. Just the name Wisconsin Dells conjured exotic images. Even though only a couple of hours away by car from our home in the Chicago area, it seemed a world away in my imagination. The memory of lying in the back of the station wagon on pillows and blankets (can you imagine that now?), looking out the back window listening to Three Dog Night sing On the Road to Shambala on my transistor radio seems like yesterday. I probably didn't realize it at the time but the travel bug was planted early (or maybe it is a genetic memory from my Irish and Italian ancestors who left their homelands to come to a new country). That trip to the Dells made me realize that there was a world beyond my house and neighborhood. As I grew my parents encouraged me to explore and to push myself.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if we are swimmers in the river of life, choosing the direction we go, or if we are leaves floating on the surface, going where the currents and eddies take us. I have received so many unexpected gifts from this trip, listened to and learned from so many people, and had the opportunity to share an amazing adventure with the people I love the most. Who could have expected so much when we took those first pedal strokes away from the Pacific Ocean, away from our home and friends in Walla Walla, and toward the coast of Maine? I must have had some expectations for the trip, but for the life of me I can't think of what they were.

Yesterday after we dipped our tires and were standing by the bikes a man came up to us and asked us what we were doing. After telling him he asked a question no one, and I mean NO ONE has asked in our nearly 4000 miles of biking: why? I laughed at the novelty of the question. And I couldn't answer it. Maybe some day I will be able to.

I really want to thank all of you who have followed us for the words of encouragement. There were times when those words helped us get through hard days. This was truly a team effort. Without the help from our friends and neighbors in Walla Walla (thank you Jen and Thom Bolduc and Shanna Johnson for helping with the house and all your other kindnesses, especially getting medicine shipped overnight for Alison and squirt guns for the kids!) we could not have made this trip. Thanks to our families for their support as well. We wouldn't be the people we are if it wasn't for our parents and siblings to help us along our path. And thanks to our work colleagues and employers (Walla Walla Clinic and Pioneer Middle School) for understanding when we needed extra time off to accomplish this feat.

I don't intend on letting this trip end here. We are contemplating on how to take what we have learned and make something more of it. Please check in for an update on our plans (give us a few weeks, however, as we will be jumping right into work and the "real world" as Gus called it as soon as we return to Walla Walla).

~ Dan

Shambala (Three Dog Night)

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala

How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala

I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala

How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala

The Newspaper Needs Your Help!

Sheila Hagar of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin will write an end-of-the-road story about this trip. She's requested that anyone who would like to please contact her at to share tiny morsels of what this trip has meant to all of you. Each submission will have to be very short, and she will have limited space, so there are no guarantees what she will ultimately use. Nonetheless, she would like to include that which she can from those who took this journey with us.

Also, we would love to hear any final thoughts you may have for us after you have had some time to think about it. There is no limit on what you send to us!

We have made new friends through this trip (even if just on-line!), and become reacquainted with friends from the past. Thanks again to all of you!

~ Dan

Quote of the Day, Maine shore

"If you don't have to consider distances, traveling by bike sure beats traveling by car. You can hear the waterfalls and smell the wildflowers."

Photos: Last day of the tour

Thank you, Thom, for the excellent recommendation for post-trip dinner!

Grocery store cheesecake after lobster shack dinner. Best meal of the trip.

Birthday-girl Sonia.

"I have been dreaming of this meal for 4000 miles."

Finishing the achievement of a lifetime. Thank you, Dan, for believing in me.

Walking the bikes away from the Maine shore, and heading for a lobster dinner.

Letting our friends and family know we reached the goal.

Quote of the Day: Portland, Maine

"Any advice on how to return to our old lives when we are not the same people anymore?"
(Email to friends who completed Trans America bicycle tour two weeks ago.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

More photos: Getting it done.

"We don't want to take pictures, we want to swim, Dad!"

Photos from the last day.

Relaxing after the finish of the last day. This was just before a giant seagull ran away with our bag of Cheese Nips and we had to chase him.

Atlantic Ocean in the background. As William Clark said about another ocean: "O the joy! Ocean in view!"

The night before the final ride: Bridgton, Maine.

Moose: Tanks on stilts.

Gus and Alison make it to Maine just after the lightening legs of Calzaretta & Calzaretta.

Photos: Completion of the cross-continent tour.

The unofficial final mileage.

The last turn of the day: Crescent Beach State Park and the ocean shore.

Gus and Sonia wasted no time wading in on this wonderful sunny last day of the journey.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine. We are overjoyed!