Friday, September 4, 2015

Summer Bike Tour 2015 - Where'd we go?

Hey all, we made it through our trials on the trails! We got back a few days before school started (for both of us), with Neva starting Kindergarten, and me finishing my final year of my master's. Just to catch you up on where we went, I have a few maps to share.  First, we biked across Iowa, on the world-renowned RAGBRAI.

This was a great year for Neva's first year of pedaling.  The terrain wasn't too difficult, the weather stayed comfortably in the 80's most of the trip, with even a few welcomed showers, and we had a tail wind most of the time!  We were even recognized and interviewed by a local Iowan news, Channel 13

And that's the rig all set up.  We decided to take the Kidz Tandem for this trip. Neva felt large and in charge being up front, and both her and the bike got lots of attention. The question I got most often is "Is she steering?!". No, she is not steering, there is a long steer tube for me that goes down to a linkage bar which attaches to the front wheel, so I'm able to steer from the back.  It's a similar idea to the dutch cargo bikes.

Neva did great.  She definitely passively pedaled most of the time (don't get your hopes too high for them pulling their own weight!), but when we were going uphill, she would stand up on her pedals and work it!  If she got tired, she would put her head down on the handlebar bag in front of her to keep her eyes out of the sun, and she would hydrate herself with the easy-access water bladder tube that I attached to the handlebars. Through rain or shine, she didn't complain...much.  

Neva navigating on a rainy day.  She had the maps up front and loved pointing to the next town.

Well, she complained less than any adult, and that's pretty good. 

Neva not wanting to sleep in the tent again; confused as to why there are homes with people around us, and wondering why we are not staying in those homes.

As mentioned in the previous post, we did have some trials with transportation, but thanks to many favors of Warm Showers friends, we eventually made it to New York to start the Adirondacks tour.  Here is a rough map of where we went : 

And here are most of the places we went : 

Schenectady, NY
Speculator, NY
Indian Lake, NY
Inlet, NY
Long Lake, NY
Tupper Lake, NY
Saranac Lake, NY
Keene Valley, NY
Plattsburgh, NY
Isle la Motte, VT
Saint-jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, CAN
Chambly, QC, CAN
Montreal, QC, CAN
Ingraham, NY
Ausable Chasm, NY
Burlington, VT

The Adirondacks are nice to bike around with the picturesque lakes and forest scenery, but know what to expect!  Those mosquitoes are no joke; little syringes with wings, they hurt! And the ticks, they are smaller than the dog ticks that I'm used to seeing in CA, AZ, and TX, and Lyme disease prevalence is increasing at an alarming rate.  This is thought to be from temperature changes affecting their life cycles, creating larger numbers. 

What the locals use for small critters. This stuff is sold all over the local shops. 

The temperatures were ideal, the terrain wasn't too aggressive, and the views were nice. The shoulders, for the most part are pretty wide, but many of these areas are frequented as a getaway by many New Yorkers, so you will see a high volume of people within a tiny area in many of the lakes, especially around Inlet and Lake Placid. We enjoyed many of the things that draw the tourists, visiting the museums in the areas, kayaking when we could, and taking the time to eat lunches by the lake. 

Neva at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY
We left the Adirondacks, and headed up to Canada via the Champlain Islands. We had officially hit the flatlands on our trek north, with terrain that (oddly enough) looked a lot like Iowa. 

Quiz : is the above A. Somewhere in upstate NY, B. Champlain Islands, VT, C. Somewhere over the Canadian border, or D. Iowa.  Hint, it is NOT Iowa!
The answer to the above question is 'all of the above.' Corn fields, farm houses, and tractors as far as the eye could see. I knew I had raised my girl on RAGBRAI when we stop to use the restroom and Neva wants to take a picture with the corn. (And yes, the picture above does show her resting on the handlebar bag!) 

Though the populations are tiny, we did come across some bike-friendly places that cater to this common bike route (which is different than charging cyclists high prices because they're the only service around).  Luckily, on Isle La Motte, we found a quaint little community style bed and breakfast to stay at to break up the trek from Plattsburgh to Chambly.  

The Old Schoolhouse is run by Carol, one of the warmest persons I've ever met! She has a beautiful garden outback which we were able to pick from for fresh kale, tomatoes, squash, etc. to have for our dinner that night. There were also chalkboards in the rooms so you could write friendly notes for her. Carol is also an amazing baker, and we awoke the next morning to the aroma of lemony fresh baked scones. The Schoolhouse also draws a fun crowd.  There were two other couples that stayed that night, and we had a community style breakfast, and shared stories.  One man made killer eggs and serenaded us all with his melodic tunes on the violin. What a great way to start a biking morning!

We then ventured into Canada. Once we got to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the corn fields faded away, and we were back in civilization with beautiful bike paths and buzzing town squares, centered around water and green parks. Everyone was out and about.  We were no longer the lone rangers, but joined by an extended community of active people smiling, sweating, and speaking french. 

Chantale and her family welcomed us into their home in Chambly, Quebec. They took us to the park for a picnic lunch, and we sat next to the falls enjoying the water, and looking at the tiny life seeking refuge amongst the rocks. 

 They also took us kayaking. Chantale's husband Martin had just finished building two of his own simultaneously and was anxious to try them out.

Martin teaching son Remi how to flip upside down and right himself again with his handmade kayak, in their pool in the backyard.
Afterwards, we headed back over the border, and finished our tour in Burlington, VT. It was a great way to end our tour.  We stayed in a community house of 8 people, three of which work at different organic farms in the area.  After our long day of biking, we were met with tempura vegetables over quinoa with fresh picked greens and handmade dressings. The next day, we were able to head out to the goat farm and join in the children's summer camp, focused on teaching children sustainable practices for farm life, and how to work within a community. 

Neva fit right in and instantly made friends with human, chicken, and goat alike. Also geeps.  Did you know this was a thing? Sheep + Goat = Geep.  Yes, even I learned something new that day!

This morning they had chicken chores.  Neva's group was in charge of watering the chickens. 
We then went to the ECHO museum, dropped our bike off at Old Spokes Home in Burlington, a non-profit which houses an impressive bike museum in the attic, and then we had dinner with our good buddy Ed, a long time friend from our days in Flagstaff, AZ. 

Me at Old Spokes Home bike shop, basking in the coolness of old ordinaries, safeties, chainless bikes, early tandems, and the like. 
We ended our tour visiting family in NYC and Philadelphia.  Neva talked about seeing Grandma Stephanie the whole trip, and got to end with some much needed grandma spoiling, after 5 weeks of a rigorous 1000 mile biking schedule. The grandparents threw her an un-birthday party since we probably won't see them on her actual birthday this year. Stephanie pulled out her cake making tools, and we all had a ball making her cake. Here's the result :

 In the end, I think Neva concluded...

(and VT, PA, and QC)...but, I'm ready to go home...for now.

Total trip; planes, trains, bicycles, etc. 

My favorite [bike] things coming up in the next blog...


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