Monday, July 14, 2008

If We are What We Eat...

An army moves on its stomach (and so do cyclists)

~ Napoleon (with an addition by Dan)

...then I would be in a world of hurt if it weren't for the bicycling. I would estimate that in the first 33 days of the trip I have consumed:
  • at least 20 ice cream cones
  • about 15 DQ Blizzards
  • close to 20 hamburger/cheeseburger/bacon cheeseburgers
  • Uncountable onion rings and fries
  • Bags of gummy worms and other candies for quick energy
  • Several pizzas
  • Dozens of pancake, egg, sausage, and bacon breakfasts (a real staple)
I will try to keep a more accurate list just for the sake of interest, but I think this is fairly close.

Now, if I were in Walla Walla eating like this I would be dead by the end of the year. But while biking on a trip like this I have found that I can eat anything and as much as I want and still feel good. In fact, after hours on the road a bacon cheeseburger seems like health food!

I like visiting the small, local restaurants and bakeries. In fact, it is rare to see a franchised restaurant in most of the towns we have been through, with the exception of Dairy Queen and Subway. Sometimes the food is excellent (most breakfasts), sometimes it is bland and uninteresting (some dinners we have had). Almost any meal, however, after a day in the saddle tastes good. And ice cream ALWAYS tastes good.

The Ride

Waiting out the storm in Duluth was a good idea. We got to spend some time in a bigger city, we had a great view of the lake, and we saw Superior at its finest and fiercest. The bit of the storm we saw must be nothing compared to the November gales that are so infamous. It was fun to watch, and to listen to. The sound of the wind combined with the waves crashing on the rocks and the thunder from the lightning storm that raged overhead was thrilling. It reminded me of when I was a kid growing up in the Chicago area where we had some great spring and summer storms. Steinbeck put it best: I like weather, not climate.

When we left Duluth on Saturday we had to negotiate the city streets to find our way out of the city. We were able to do this without any real problems. The fun part was climbing the Bong Bridge (yes, its real name) out of the city into Superior, Wisconsin. The bridge was about 100 feet above the bay. Luckily there was a bike lane separated from the traffic by a concrete barrier. The wind howled as we rode across. The views of Duluth and Superior were excellent, however, and made the climb worthwhile.

In Superior we stopped at a grocery store. While sitting on a bench outside enjoying an iced tea we were approached by a man who wanted to know more about our trip. Dave, as it turned out, had been thinking about a cross-country trip for several years and planned on doing one when he retires (in two years, I believe). He wanted to hear all about our trip, our planning, our equipment. We probably talked for at least half and hour. He then gave us directions to get us out of town without having to deal with the city traffic.

One of the great parts of the trip is having conversations with people that we don't even know. When traveling by car across the country we are isolated from other travelers by our steel and glass cage. There is no common bond. There is no curiosity because it is so common place. I wonder if the first people who crossed the US by car received so much attention. I would imagine that the novelty of the trip increases the chance that people will want to talk to you about what you are doing.

Oddly enough, I have the most difficulty answering the question "why are you doing this?" Partly it is the challenge. Partly it is being able to spend time (hopefully quality!) with my kids before they get too old. Partly it is just to say I have done it. The farther we get into the trip, however, the more I realize that I am learning as much about myself as I am about America.

Some people have said to me along the way that traveling by bike must be a great way to see and learn about America. I think that is partly correct. America, however, is as much a concept as it is a place. I have made some generalizations about "America" from riding (for another post). But I have also found that even in the age of instant communication and the homogenization of our culture through television and mass-advertising, there is still an America out there to be discovered. An for me this discovery has taken place not through the places we have seen, but through the people we have met.

Once we left Superior we made our way northeast up the south coast of Lake Superior toward the town of Cornucopia. As if the wind-gods were smiling on us, the tail wind seemed to shift direction in our favor the entire day. We had a beautiful ride that ended at the cabin of our friends Chas and Trisha from Walla Walla. They own some land on Roman's Point, about 4 miles from Cornucopia, Wisconsin. They took care of us with some great food and conversation. We would have stayed an extra day had we not lost the time in Duluth due to the storm.

While we were there they introduced us to their friend Tim, a professor at a small college in Ashland, WI (or next day's destination). He also runs and Aikido school in Ashland and told us that we were more than welcome to sleep there if we wanted. The studio is in an old church. We fell asleep to the fading evening light softly illuminating the stained glass windows that surrounded our "bedroom". What a great way to end the day.

Today we are off to Iron Wood, Michigan, and then into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is hard to believe that we have been on the road for about 34 days now. I actually get a sad feeling when I think about the trip being over. But we have many more miles (and adventures, I hope) ahead of us.

Thanks for all the comments. We appreciate everyone who has been following us.

~ Dan


fat rachel said...

Sounds like you guys are in biking heaven!! I'm glad. You had some rough days. It's been stinking hot here which means gardening early morning and late evening. Tell Alison she would love the way the front garden looks now. It's really beautiful. I picked blueberries yesterday and made a cherry pie last night. (I'm knee deep in berries of all sorts right now!) Anyway, with Hannah and Rob in Disneyland there's no one to eat all the extra pie edges but ME so I've been gaining all sorts of luscious weight even as you are losing it! Hannah is in heaven in Disneyland. I've never heard her so exhausted and thrilled at the same time. Apparently she was nearly run over by a giant bolder in the Indiana Jones ride and it was the most fun she's ever had. They should be home Friday and then we'll start packing for our Northern Idaho bike ride. I'm looking forward to getting on the bikes especially after reading all of your great posts. The pictures are really beautiful. Big hugs to the kids and both of you.


Jen said...

Wow! I so enjoy reading your thoughts about the whys of this trip, and the realizations along the way. Have you read William Least Heatmoon's BLUE HIGHWAYS? It's been a long time since I have, but I remember reading that and Steinbeck's TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE at the same time on a cross-country car trip. Wishing you all well -- and thank you again for such thoughtful posts (and beautiful photos).