Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Route

Before we left on this journey, we planned our stops, calculated our routes, figured out how many miles we needed to ride each day, and planned some more. But it turned out that when we were actually on the road, our routes seemed to change at least a little every day! Our stopping cities changed a few times. Some days were longer than we planned for, some were shorter. Here are our originally planned stops, followed by our actual stops and mileages.

1. Emma, IN - Chesterton, IN (89 miles)
2. Chesterton, IN - Waukegan, IL (95 miles)
3. Waukegan, IL - West Bend, WI (92 miles)
4. West Bend, WI - New London, WI (80 miles)
5. New London, WI - Wausau, WI (71 miles)
6. Wausau, WI - Bloomer, WI (103 miles)
7. Bloomer, WI - Solon Springs, WI (97 miles)
8. Solon Springs, WI - Floodwood, MN (89 miles)
9. Floodwood, MN - Chisholm, MN (50 miles)
10. Chisholm, MN - Littlefork, MN (89 miles)
11. Littlefork, MN - International Falls, MN (16 miles)
12. International Falls, MN - Dryden, ON (118 miles)
13. Dryden, ON - Sioux Lookout, ON (61 miles)

Day 1: Emma, IN – Chesterton, IN (90 miles) Econo Lodge

Day 2: Chesterton, IN - Highland Park, IL (79 miles) Courtyard by Marriot
This was the day I couldn't make it to our scheduled destination, and we stopped early. After this, we split the next scheduled day into two days for a little bit of a break. All of our hotels where we had reservations were very accommodating when we asked to change the dates! We managed to snag Courtyard's last room, which seemed to to be the very last room in the entire area; they were very nice and gave us a discount.

Day 3: Highland Park, IL - Oak Creek, WI (58.79 miles) Value Inn

Day 4: Oak Creek, WI – West Bend, WI (52.4 miles) Country Inn & Suites
Our first donated hotel, and it was the nicest one so far! The room was very nice, and the staff was so helpful. We had been using the laundry facilities to wash our biking clothes every night. When I asked about a guest laundry there, they didn't have one, but the lady at the front desk offered to wash our clothes for us in their washer! She was a brave one- our clothes were always quite sweaty and smelly by the end of the day. Nevin hit up the hot tub to help his aching muscles. We ordered in Domino's Pizza for dinner- gluten free for me, and a regular one for Nevin... and we were both sick the next morning. No more Domino's for us!

Day 5: West Bend, WI - New London, WI (89.6 miles) AmericInn
Another donated room. So nice!

Day 6: New London, WI – Wausau, WI (81.5 miles) Hampton Inn
Donated. Beautiful hotel and room! I think this was the nicest one we stayed in on the whole trip. I was craving Applebee's while biking this day, and what do you know, there was one right next to the hotel! So once showers were over and laundry was in the washer, I walked over there to fetch dinner while Nevin ordered in pizza. That was the best steak, rice, chips, and dip ever! I made use of the hot tub here; my sore muscles loved that.

Day 7: Wausau, WI – Bloomer, WI (106.54 miles) Bloomer Inn & Suites
Donated. A hotel has never looked so beautiful as one looks when you've ridden 106.5 miles on a bike. A place to lay your head down and rest.

Day 8: Bloomer, WI – Minong, WI (78.77 miles) Wild River Trail Inn

Day 9: Rest day in Minong... After breakfast, we stayed at the hotel and slept most of the day.

Day 10: Minong, WI – Virginia, MN (74.45 miles biked, 50 miles in truck) Pine View Inn
This was the day of the three flat tires.

Day 11: Virginia, MN – Fort Frances, ON (101.28 miles) Super 8
A big day, a late night, and a donated hotel room! Lovely.

Day 12: Fort Frances, ON – boat launch at Vedette Lake, ON (48.69 miles) camping with Galen and Edith

Day 13: Vedette Lake, ON – Dryden, ON (72.64 miles) Best Western
Another donated room! A delicious dinner from the hotel restaurant, and the most comfortable beds in the world.

Day 14: Dryden, ON – Sioux Lookout, ON (60.81 miles) Galen and Edith’s house!
Two weeks later, we're HERE. With family to greet us, and the knowledge that we don't have to get up and keep biking tomorrow. The best feeling ever!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 14

Arrival day!! We got up early in anticipation of seeing the finish line, seeing our family, and getting to relax for a few days! And if we arrived by 1:00 we would be in time for lunch, so that was the goal for today. We were planning on a 65 mile day, and when we started out just after 7:30, Nevin said, "We're going to be there by 1:00." I certainly wanted to be there by then, but didn't want to get my hopes too high for that. "Well, we'll try anyway." Nevin: "No, we're not going to try. We're going to be there by 1:00." Okay then. We'll be there by 1:00. And off we went. Uphill and down. 

The trip was pretty uneventful. There wasn't a lot of traffic. We stopped for short breaks when necessary, and otherwise kept going as hard as we could. Well... as hard as I could. Poor Nevin had to wait on me quite often in these two weeks. He probably could have arrived 3 days earlier if I wasn't weighing him down. :-) 

Finally, at the top of yet another hill with what I thought was another 10 miles to go, I told Nevin, "I cannot. take. any. more. hills. It's too far!" And then- music to my ears- he told me it was only a few more miles! He had seen a few signs that told him it wouldn't be as far as we had originally thought. Okay. I can do this. I can make it. The family had all gone to church in the morning, and about a half mile before we reached Galen's house everyone but Galen and Edith passed us on their way home! Just in time to greet us when we arrived. 

And then, two weeks after we began, our goal appeared in front of us. It seemed almost surreal that we had actually just biked 1,000 miles and completed the journey we had been planning for months. It was the end. Such a strange feeling. 

The family was on hand with camera, applause, and hugs. And it was just before 1:00! Nevin was right. We did make it. And it ended up only being 60.81 miles, according to our bike computers. Once the hellos and "We made it" celebrations were over, I collapsed on the grass while Nevin gave the kids trailer rides up and down the street. Typical end of ride activities.

After Galen and Edith arrived and we had celebrated with them, it was time for showers and a delicious lunch. And then... nap time! 

Galen's had planned a reception/celebration in the evening with our family, Morley & Reta Beardy, their coworker Cathy, and David & Frieda Herschberger. This was the perfect ending to our journey. Galen spoke first about the trip, and our fundraising efforts, and then Morley and Reta spoke about their ministry. They told their story of losing their daughter, and spoke about Ashawaabic Ministries and what they do through that. Hearing their story firsthand and hearing about their work made everything so much more real. Not that it wasn't real before, but before the trip and when we were biking, it was all just names we heard. Now, we had people to match the names to. Stories. Real life. New friends. There were not many dry eyes in the room during the part where Galen, Morley, & Reta were speaking! Morley and Reta, may God bless you, oh so much, with strength and grace as you reach out and help those whose pain you know all too well. It was an honor to meet you, and to be able to raise money- with the support of so many- to help your ministry.

Galen and Sharon (I think? Or was it Edith? Not sure who all was involved in this part.) had made a certificate to present to Morley & Reta with the donation amount on it, and he presented them with this and the envelope of cash. And then Morley & Reta had gifts for us, too! That was a fun surprise. I can't wait until the weather cools enough to wear my new jacket. Thank you again, so much! And thanks, Galen, for the drinks! :-)

Cheese on! :-)

Am I missing something? It's hard to know where to end this, and a little sad to see the whole thing come to an end. I still have a few blog posts to do, but with this post, I guess the trip is officially over. Thanks for following along as we journeyed!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 13

Galen & Edith got us started with a great breakfast cooked over the fire before we hit the road again. We also unloaded all the things we wouldn't need anymore from our trailer into their truck- tents, sleeping mats, extra food, etc.- so that gave Nevin a much lighter load for the rest of the journey! That helped him out a lot on all those hills we still had to climb.
At this point, I would have given almost anything to ride the rest of the way in a vehicle. I wanted to think I could make it, but I was not convinced. I was fairly convinced I wasn't going to be able to go the whole 70 miles uphill to Dryden. And also? Bears. They live there. And other wild things. But Galen had brought his satellite phone along to send with us in case we have any trouble, since there isn't any cell phone service in that stretch of road, so that definitely made me feel better. Nevin seemed to still have plenty of energy left, especially since he didn't have the full 70 pounds following him anymore! :-)
We also had more family to look forward to on this day! Lorne & Sharon's family was headed our way, and we were eagerly watching for their arrival. Maybe they would let me crawl into a corner of their van and ride along? They caught up with us close to lunch time, so we stopped for a little over an hour to eat, talk, and rest. It was so wonderful and encouraging to see more family again! I still wasn't sure that I could make it to Dryden at that point, but Sharon gives a pretty good pep talk. :-) And we went on our way again. At this point, we knew there was no one else coming along that could potentially give us a ride to the next stop. I think this helped my determination a lot- there was no way out now. The only option was to ride on until we got there!
Let me tell you something about the drivers on the 502: THEY'RE CRAZY. And dangerous. And they don't know about sharing the road. There isn't a shoulder to speak of, and usually there would be quite a few vehicles passing us at once. And they didn't know about slowing down or giving the bikers room when they pass them. And if there's oncoming traffic, do we slow down and wait to pass the bikers? Of course not! We just cut in closer so that we're three wide on the road. I was cringing and just waiting for impact most of the time. I think we both had a permanent, um, I'll call it a "twitch", that wanted to give all those drivers some... "friendly advice" for driving with bikers on the road. Or just show them how we feel about the situation.
About 8 miles from Dryden, who should we see but Galen, Rachel, and my Dad coming to check on us! That was a pretty cool surprise, as we hadn't expected to see any of them until the next day. Galen offered at that point to ride my bike the rest of the way, but by that time I had made it this far, and I felt like I could go the rest of the way. If I was too worn out and at the end of my strength, he would have ridden it all the way to Sioux Lookout for me. But I had been giving myself pep talks the entire afternoon, and I could see the end in sight. We had another nice little break chatting with them a bit, and then. THEN. They said they would follow us the rest of the way to our hotel! Why was this so awesome? Well, besides knowing they were behind us, supporting us in the last miles of the day, this would force all the crazy drivers to give us plenty of space when they passed us! And we wouldn't need to chew out so many drivers anymore!
We hit some rain in the last couple of miles, but it wasn't too bad. We reached Best Western in good time, and Galen went in to check us in. And he paid our supper at the hotel restaurant before he left! (Thanks, Galen!) We did our laundry, had a delicious supper, and were ready for sleep. On the most comfortable beds in the world.
One more day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 12

We got to sleep in on day 12! We had less than 50 miles to go, so we slept late, had breakfast, got ready slowly, and left the hotel around 11:30. I think. 
And then- for me- the biking part of the day started with a half mile walk to the nearest gas station. Yep, another flat tire! Nevin found a few wood splinters in the tire that I must have picked up on the road the day before. Thankfully it held up until we reached the hotel, but by morning it was as flat as it could get. Nevin still had a spare tire & tube along, so he changed the whole thing and we were good to go.
We headed out toward Dryden in the early afternoon. Previously, we had thought this trip would need to be done all in one day, but Galen knew about a few places along the road where we could set up camp beside a lake. The idea of being able to break a 118 mile day of large hills into 48 & 70 mile days sounded great to us! Especially after starting out and realizing that this entire stretch of road was one steep uphill climb. Or so it seemed. I guess most of the uphills also had downhills. And I used those for much needed rest times!
We knew that my mom & dad were on their way to Galen's that day, and we looked forward to seeing them along the way. When they finally reached us, it was wonderful to finally see family again! Seeing their van go by and knowing they were stopping at the top of the hill to see us gave me the burst of energy I needed to make it to the top for a break. We stopped for a while to eat (they fed us!) and catch up a little, and then we were all on our way again.
And watching for the next batch of family.
Finally, around 46 miles in, we saw Galen's beautiful truck and Galen & Edith's beautiful faces! He told us to wait where we were while he goes back where we came from about a mile to see if we can camp there. If that didn't work, there was a boat launch up ahead 2 miles that would work. We ended up going on to the boat launch and camping there for the night.
They took wonderful care of us there! It was a perfectly beautiful place to camp. They set up chairs, told us to sit, and proceeded to build a fire, set up camp, and cook a dee-licious supper for us! Steak, fried rice, shrimp, fruit, veggies... wonderful, amazing food!
We relaxed around the fire for a while, then Nevin and Galen jumped in the lake while I headed to the woods for a shower. Yep, he even brought a camp shower along for those of us (me) who didn't care to get clean by jumping into a frigid lake. Nevin also did his laundry in the lake. I just hung mine up to air out overnight. :-) After a little more relaxation, we hit the tent for some attempted sleep. It was so cool to listen to the loons calling over the water while drifting off! Or... While talking and telling tall tales and jokes, as the case may have been. We did eventually get some sleep, though.
Day 12: success. Only 2 more to go!

RIP Joey. You were a good camping pal. Sorry I didn't give you any of my food, buddy. (He was hit on the road the next morning. So sad.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 11

From Virginia, MN, we planned to head to a campground about 35-40 miles from Fort Frances. Galen & Edith had offered to come camp with us part way between Fort Frances and Dryden to break up the 118 mile day, so we would have skipped the night in Fort Frances and just kept biking the next day. (Have I said Fort Frances often enough? I'm gonna say it a few more times yet.)
But on our way to Virginia, Sharon told us that if we rode 99 miles the next day, that would take us all the way to Fort Frances! That way we could sleep a little later the next morning, and then head toward Dryden to meet Galen's along the way. We liked this idea, and decided to try it!
So we headed out for another big day. The beginning went fairly well. There were some hills, but not too major as I recall. But as the day went on, the hills kept getting bigger. And it kept getting windier. Is windier a word? More windy. It kept getting more and more windy.
We stopped in Orr, MN for lunch and to rest for about an hour. I took a nap on the sidewalk while Nevin chilled out next to the ice. I was pretty tired at this point, but I really wanted to make it all the way to Canada!
While we were hanging out in Orr, the owner of the campground where we had planned to stay came by and wondered if we were the ones who were thinking of staying at his facility. He wanted us to stop in and let him know whether we plan to stay or ride on. When we got to the campground, it looked like a really pretty place to stay! It was right by a lake, with a beautiful view. But we really wanted to make it to Canada. So Mr. Campground Man refilled our waters while entertaining us with some conversation, and on we rode.
Into the wind. The Big Wind. It seemed like it was just as strong as on day one! This, combined with the hills, made for a very long, tiring day. But finally. FINALLY. We saw International Falls, and then the border! We had reached Canada!
We found the place for pedestrians to cross and went inside, where the questions began. Soon we moved outside to the bikes, but the inquisition continued. I'm not sure why we got so many questions-
Where are you from?
How old are you?
What are your jobs?
Do you have any alcohol, tobacco, guns, pepper spray, or mace?
What is your relationship?
How long have you been on this trip?
How far have you come today?
Where are you staying tonight?
Do you have reservations?
Who knew about this trip?
What is your final destination?
That's not how you get to Sioux Lookout.
Can I see your map?
...Oh. I was wrong. That is the right way.
*Looks through map search history on my phone.*
*Exits map and sees photo of Galen, Sophia, Evan, and I. Sticks phone in my face.*
Are you married?
(No. That's my brother and his kids.)
...and more.
Finally, he was apparently satisfied with our answers and let us go. We got to our hotel at about 10:30. By the time we had showers, laundry done, and were settled in, it made for a late night and some tired bikers, but WE WERE IN CANADA!! Such a good feeling, and only a few more days to go!
Welcome to Canada:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 10

The God day. Well, all of them were God days, of course. but this one? It was pretty cool how everything and everyone was obviously put at the right place at the right time for this exact day.
After our resting day, we started out feeling SO much better about getting on the bikes and heading north again. The sunburns had healed some, our sore muscles, brains, and everything else had had time to recover, my face wasn't swelled up anymore... We were headed to Saginaw.
And then about 10 miles into the journey, Nevin's back tire went flat. Well, this wasn't in the plans. Okay! He set about patching the tube while I searched on my phone for a bike shop nearby. He got everything back together, blew up the tire... And it immediately deflated again. He needed a whole new tire and everything. Now what do we do? We're miles from town, not a bike shop in sight.
After breakfast with our new friend, Weldon, on day 9, he had told us to let him know if we need any help between there and Duluth. So I texted him to see if he knows of any bike shops closer than the ones I had found online. Soon he called and talked to Nevin to see what we needed, and not long after that, he showed up! Our options for bike shops were to back track about 35 miles, or go on ahead to Duluth. It made the most sense to just go on ahead to Duluth, so we loaded everything up and headed out! He took us to a bike shop to get the new tires, and then offered to take us to the top of the big hill in town yet. We weren't going to turn down an offer like that!
All told, I think we jumped ahead nearly 50 miles. And it didn't even feel like cheating since we couldn't help the tire situation. :) And it sure felt good to just ride in a vehicle for a bit! It was so amazing how everything worked out perfectly to put us in touch with Weldon the day before, and then not to have any bike trouble until the exact day when he was nearby to help us.
Once we were dropped off, Nevin changed the tire while I sat in the shade, ate chips and taquitos, and made helpful comments from a distance. At that point it felt like the best day ever. Nevin had lunch, we climbed around on a train that was sitting there on display, and then got ready to head out.
At this point, we were so far ahead that we decided to just go on past Saginaw and head to Virginia, MN. That was about 60ish miles from where we started in Duluth. It was going to make a long afternoon, but we knew we could make it!
17 miles away from our destination, we stopped at a rest area for a little break. When we went to leave there, Nevin's back tire was flat. The new one. The new tire. Was flat. He took it off and tried to find the hole in the tube, but it was too small and he couldn't locate it. So he tried the old, patched tube to see if that would work. He only had enough air left to fill that one tube, so we were hoping and praying it would work! And it did!
But then, when he went to put the tire back on, a piece had fallen off that was needed to keep the trailer on. And we couldn't find it. We searched through the grass for a good 10 minutes... praying to find it, asking Sharon to pray we find it, searching, searching, and suddenly there it was! Nevin got everything assembled once again and we headed for the next city as fast as we could.
Surely we can make it there without any other trouble, right? Right?
About 10 miles later, I started to feel like something was up with my bike. I kept riding for a little bit, then finally stopped to see what was up. The back tire was pretty low, so I texted Nevin & told him I would be coming a lot more slowly. A mile or three later, it was feeling worse, so I checked again and sure enough, completely flat! I guess I'll be walking!
I walked along, listening to music, and trying to think of ways to enjoy the moment. Or at least to not let it get the best of me. Oh look- the sky is so pretty tonight! I can watch the sunset while I walk! Nevin hadn't noticed that I was not close behind him until he was out ahead pretty far, so he let me know where he was waiting, as his phone was nearly dead and we wouldn't have a way of getting hold of each other once that was gone. And on I walked. Gazing longingly at all the cars that went by. Chewing a few of them out for not stopping to help. Ha. And then I saw someone walking up the street toward me. Is it true? Has help really arrived? He asked if I was having trouble, and said that he was... Wait for it... A bike mechanic! And he lived nearby and had an extra tube at his house! I told him where Nevin was waiting, he loaded the bike into his car, we hopped in, and I said, "I'm Sarah."
"Spencer, nice to meet you."
So Spencer took me to McDonald's where Nevin was, and asked if Nevin wanted help fixing the flat. We didn't have any more extra tubes along, so we said yes! He only lived a few blocks away, so he ran home to get a tube. Soon he came riding back on his own bike... And had the tire fixed and filled with air in no time!
Who would have thought that out of all the many people flying past me, there would be a bike mechanic from Superior that was going to school in Virginia, and he would have what we needed to fix the bike and get us back on the road in short order? Once again, God knew all about it, and had everything planned out just right!
And neither of our helpers would allow us to pay them for gas, time, parts, anything.
What an amazing day. We were so very blessed!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 9

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early to meet a friend of my cousin for breakfast, across the street from our hotel in Minong, WI. He bought our delicious breakfast, (Thanks, Weldon!) and we left there fully intending to hit the road and reach Saginaw, MN by last evening.
We were exhausted, sore, sunburned, and just plain not feeling well. Biking was pretty much the last thing we wanted to do at that point! After a bit, we decided to see if we could have our hotel room for another night, and it was a yes! We slept, slept, did important things on our phones, slept, and slept. And then I was famished, so I walked to the store for some food, came back, ate, and slept again. It was amazing! We woke up this morning feeling like whole other people. So, so much better. And feeling like we could bike all day long...
God had other ideas, apparently. I'll tell you about them in a little while...