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


Anonymous said...

Sigh. I feel so contentedly full, so saturated with an elixer of magic and determination. Like I just finished a wonderful novel.

Hard to accept, however, that I've turned the last page. A sequel can't come soon enough.

Elaine said...

YOU DID IT!!!!!!!!
Dan, I remember that moment at the ocean in Lincoln City, Oregon when you dipped your back wheels in the seawater. You and Alison were very careful to get every bit of sand and sea water off so it didn't get into your chains, tire rims, etc. Then, you carried the bikes back up to the parking lot where that couple came down to visit with you. They had seen you from his parents' house as you dipped your wheels, and knew what you were doing since they had ridden cross-country on their bikes a few years ago. You and Alison were anxious to get going since you had a lot of miles to cover that day (75, I think, over the Coastal Range to Salem) and it was doing a combination of sleeting, snowing and drizzling. Being responsible for everything, you were a little distracted and it's not surprising that the memory of all that happened right then didn't stick with you. After you left, Jim and I remained and visited with that couple for fifteen minutes or so. You gave them your blog address. I wonder if they followed your trip?
Jim is very relieved that you have arrived safely. He was always worried that one of you would be sideswiped by a car.
The photos all show your joy in arriving safely at the Atlantic shore. You have all earned it!!! We're SO HAPPY FOR YOU!! Enjoy your next couple of days and unwind a little at Acadia National Park before you head home. I'll be there at the airport to welcome you back with open arms and lots of hugs!!
Mom and Dad

Anonymous said...

Very well done....congrats from the Yellowhammers. Also happy Anniversary. Doesn't seem that long ago we were stealing the flag off the 9th hole at Dee-white house. Time goes by, ya get married, ya have a couple kids, ya ride across the USA on bicycles (with the family)...

You still have that pink feather duster? That's a keeper...

fFeJ and family

rachel said...

Anyone who has to ask "Why" has obviously never bike toured. You do it because it's like no other kind of trip. You really experience every mile, every town, so many people. It awakens the senses like no car trip ever car. Tell him to get his bike out of the garage and go for a ride sometime....


PS. The lobster looked luscious.

Anonymous said...

My hat's off to you all!!! What an accomplishment! Maybe a full body massage is in order when you get back home.....
Carol in CO

wombat064 said...

Well my fiends theres only one thing left...


Dan, Alison, Gus and Sonia's Guided Bicycle tours across America Pty Ltd

You could keep the costs down by rotating your patrons off the bike as designated driver for the day etc.

Again congratulations from me ..If your ever in Australia, Id love to meet you all in person.

Anonymous said...

wow. incredible. I dont know if I could have done a bike trip that far... Im really not sure what to write, exept that im amazed. I probably would write some long,gushing speech about how incredible riding across america is, if I had it in me, but words fail me.



lisa said...

congratulations! great job. well done, all y'all.

i can't even imagine how it feels for all of you. i didn't pedal one single mile and i've had a million thoughts and feelings in the past few days.

mostly, i want to savor your victory for as long as i can. the ride is over but not the journey. i think i'm getting ready to reread the tale; the first time through i'm always focusing on the plot and sometimes the fine details get missed.

and the story continues. i know a few people who started reading later and are catching up with older posts. plus, the newspaper coverage (dwight And w2 have nsprs?? we can barely support them here in the big city! god bless the free press.)

and god bless technology (and the public library system). how great that we could follow you in real time. this record and how it has connected us all to you and to each other makes a month worth of spam email seem like a fine trade-off.

happy birthday, Sonia. Alison and Dan, happy anniversary. Gus, you're awesome.

peace and love to you all.
woo hoo!

D and J said...

I first learned about your trip from the Adventure Cycling newsletter and we’ve been following your trip all long the way. Although at times I got a little worried when there wasn’t an entry for a few days. It’s hard to believe that the trip is over and I’ll have to get used to not reading a new entry every few days. First I just want to say what an outstanding accomplishment for all of you….that is a trip of a lifetime!! My wife & I are avid cyclists and we’ve been on a number of week-long tours in different parts of the country, but your ride makes all of ours seem pale in comparison. And I just think it is so fantastic that you have two great kids that would set out with their parents on a 4000 mile journey on bikes, not complain about it and actually want to spend time with “mom & dad”!! Gus & Sonia……we are just really proud of you and really admire what you’ve done….you both are just really awesome!! & Happy Birthday Sonia!!

Alison…...I don’t know how to say this any better than so many others have already said it, but you truly are an inspiration for anyone that is facing any kind of health problem in their life. I remember reading early on in your blog that this trip was your “ascent of Mt. Everest” and you have made it to the top!!! Ok…..so you had to back off a little and use the red pickup…..but your foot was still on a “pedal” wasn’t it?? So technically you still “pedaled” the distance…..right?? We know that since you have accomplished this much in spite of the MS, that disease doesn’t know just how much of a fighter you really are!! You are in our thoughts and our prayers……keep the faith.

And Dan…..what can I say…..ya did good. Meltdowns and all. In fact, you probably did better than I would have in some of those situations. Between flat tires, cracked rims, heat, rain, headwinds, stupid drivers in Wisconsin, etc……I know I would have lost my cool a couple times in 4000 miles. But sometimes meltdowns can be good…..it gets all that bad crap out of your system, makes you realize that you really are human, and after everything calms down, you find out that those that really matter in your life still love you and are not planning on pushing you off the bike and leaving you by the side of the road after all!!

All of you together make a great family and it has been a joy to follow your journey across the states. I said to my wife that nothing good like this ever makes the news on CNN or MSNBC……where is Matt & Meredith or Katie when you need them??!?!??

If you ever find yourselves in Philipsburg, PA…..look us up. There is a Dairy Queen in town and we’re buying the ice cream!!! Have a safe trip home……..

Dave & Jan Dunlap

Chris said...

CONGRATULATIONS!! Thank you so much for including us on this awesome journey.
Tim & Chris
Lil' Robin's Restaurant
Lockport, NY

Anonymous said...

Don't want to know about any philosophical deep things, but, talking about lobster dinner, did anybody get lucky ? I mean we ARE talking about Lobster here, right ?

Granted that missus was a bit under the weather, but, well, I hope you got a rain-check.