Archive for the '18 USA 2009' Category

The final kilometers

Posted by on Oct 21 2009 | 18 USA 2009, 19 Canada 2009, English

Only one State left

We left our friends in Portland on a beautiful day. Riding through that bikefriendly city was quite nice, but it took us much longer to reach Vancouver (Washington) than we thought it would. At the city park we took a mid afternoon break and decided to stay in town for the night. The next campground was still a long way north of the city, so we looked for a motel.

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From Longview Kelso we followed the route of the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride, but from Vancouver (WA) to Kelso we follwed the I5 on back roads. From Woodland to Kalama, there was only one choice, the green mountain road, if we didn’t want to take I5.

The name ‘green mountain road’ definately hit the mark for it was extremely steep uphill for 7km. After about 3km uphill and in the middle of a few hundred meters of  incredibly steep road, a car stopped and the driver asked, if we needed help. Flo asked if, the top of that steep piece was the top of the hill and the driver asured us, that after that little bit of a climb left, the road was going to flatten out. Flo thanked him and said, that in that case we didn’t need help. The road did flat out for a couple of hundred meters, then continued for the last 4km to be almost overhanging. On the top of the hill, the road came back down on the same side of the mountain, another 7km extremely steep. The I5 had follewd the river down in the valley. Had we known about the green mountain, we would have chosen the interstate for that part!

green mountain road

green mountain road

It took us eight days, to reach Seattle. We were not in a hurry and we stayed in State Parks or other campground when possible, and if not, we looked for a motel.

One day we were a bit late. It had been further to that State Park than we thought it would be. There was no ranger at the park and we put up our tent in the nicest hiker and biker site we’ve ever seen.  There was a playground very close as well as the washrooms, whereas usually the hiker and biker sites are far away from everything and not maintained very well. At 8.00 next morning we found out why this site was so nice. It was not the hiker biker site, but the day use area as the ranger, who had woken us up, explained. We had aparently mistaken the sign for the paystation of the h and b site for the actual sign.

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From Toledo to Yelm we could follow a bike path, built on an old railway track. This gave Chan another opportunity to ride a long way by himself. The day before we reached Seattle, we came across another bike path, which leads almost all the way into the center. The next day, Chan was happy again to ride by himself and we were happy too, because the ride into the metropolitan of Seattle with 3.3million people was relaxed, actually quite beautiful on that path.

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In Seattle we were staying with a family, we had met in Oregon about a month earlier, for a few days. Chan enjoyed the company of the five girls very much. While Flo dealt with the Canadian Immigration to get a travel document to enter Canada as a permanent resident, Chan and I visited a Children’s museum and then took a lift up the space needle and enjoyed the incredible view.

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Canada here we come!

On the ride north the weather was beautiful and we soaked up the sun rays for the air was already crisp and fall knocking on the door.

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From Anacortes we took the ferry over to Sidney on Vancouver Island. We wanted to visit a friend in Victoria, which we had met on a bicycle tour on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), when Chan was only 8 months old.

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We stayed with Lars for a few days and through the first fall rain. Riding up to Nanaimo we were welcomed home to Canada’s west coast with more rain. The roads were familiar, exactly the same we were taking southward a little more than three years ago.

Galloping Goose trail August 2006

Galloping Goose trail August 2006

Galloping Goose trail, September 2009

Galloping Goose trail, September 2009

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2004

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2004

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2009

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2009

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Then suddenly our last day on bicycles had arrived. Our feelings were mixed with a sense of relief, that the days of folding a damp tent and living in the same old pants days in and out have come to an end and a sadness, that our freedom of living our own rhythm and not needing to fit into any society given grid was now abruptly ending.

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It was a beautiful sunny day.  On the road from Horseshoe Bay we even met other bicycle travellers and chatted as we did so many times before on the road. Then we crossed Lions Gate bridge and biked along the waterfront.

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Everything was so familiar. Nothing seemed to have changed over the passed three years, except that the Olymic Village has been built in the space of a before empty ground. All around False Creek seemed so short now. We arrived at a park, close to our friend Christine, where we had invited our friends to for an arrival potluck. Nobody was there. We decided to take a break anyhow and let Chan play for a while, before heading over to Christine’s. And then she came with her whole family and a little later a few more of our friends arrived. Chan was hiding under a table  from all those people knowing him, but who were strangers to him. But soon he played with Macalli, one of his friends when they were toddlers, as if they had never been apart.

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We could stay with Christine and her family for the first week in Vancouver. Initially I thought, that we would take it slow and take time to arrive. But as soon as we were here, I needed to organize our lifes here. We found a place in a school for Chan and only five days, after we arrived in Vancouver, he started kindergarten.

First day of school

First day of school

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Florian found jobs here and there with friends, and I tried ot organize our starting houshold. Then we could move back into the basement suite we had left three years ago. The girl who lives there at the moment was looking for somebody to sublet, while she is on a field trip until march 2010. We can use some of her furniture and all of her kitchen tools.

Playing with Jivan from upstairs

Playing with Jivan from upstairs

Enjoying art at home

Enjoying art at home

Even with our living space provided and the support of our friends and even though getting back into settled live is happening very smoothly, it feels overwhelming at times and in those moments I wonder, if we should have just continued to pedal…

We will keep our blog up and let you know of our lifes in one place for who knows how long!

6 comments for now

What about a home?!

Posted by on Sep 02 2009 | 18 USA 2009, English

An end or a beginning

So we are back in the USA and we are cycling up north. Our journey has always been somewhat confusing but the last few steps must have been difficult to grasp for even the few people who understood our trip so far.

Only a few people, our families and our friends in Vancouver,  have known for about a month of a desicion of ours made when we travelled in New Zealand: We are on our way back to Vancouver.

Travelling as a family and that is mostly with our own muscle strengh, has been extremley rewarding but also quite energy consuming in many ways.

At the end of the world, in Argentina, we felt adventurous and strong to continue the journey on the other side of the world. We were pretty certain, that we would be able to work there for money either in New Zealand or Australia and we knew, that we needed some time in one place to give our bodies some rest. On a journey like this, money or the knowledge that you can’t earn more of it, can create stress. It turned out to be difficult to find legal work for us in New Zealand because of our age and because of being a family. It might still have worked out somehow but the transition from South America to a completely different bacterial and viral environment, little sleep during this transition while hitch hiking to Buenos Aires, and  a poor diet of pasta or rice for most of the time travelling in Patagonia with little or no diversity in vegetables and fresh fruit left our bodies worn out.

We caught cold after cold in New Zealand and needed a long time to get started. Then the weather turned and winter arrived much too early. Struggling with sore throats and running noses we travelled south on the North Island because we read about work possibilities on the northern part of the South Island and we needed to go to Wellington to apply for work permits. When the rains started we found it hard to get our travel spirit back. It was time for a break but we couldn’t find one. It didn’t help that different immigration officers had different opinions on what kind of a form we had to fill out and that we did get work offers but none of the employers were able to give us a written statement for it. After a week of trying to sort things out while living in the living room of a shared house I had enough. I suddenly knew, that I didn’t have the energy to deal with this kind of stuff anymore. I needed to be “normal” for a while.

Chan had changed too from a little kid to a boy with many interests and different needs which we could not keep up with while on the road or as guests of other people. He was sad every time he had to say good bye to a new found friend and I realized that it is time for him to explore friendships and take part in group activities with children his age. It’s time to explore wood working, glue, hammer and nails, metal, fabrics, clay, paint…

So is this the end then of our journey? We don’t know. We just realized that the end of one dream carries the birth of a new one. We could be cycling for the rest of our lifes but maybe there is a time now to try a few different things, maybe exploring a home for once turns into a whole new adventure. The world will hopefully still be around in a few years for us to explore, what we haven’t seen yet. And what about a horse treck through Mongolia?!

Where is home?

All three of us felt homesick for Canada, when we explored New Zealand. Many things, reminded us of  Vancouver and we felt a strong connection to Chan’s birth place. Now we had to make another desicion: Do we need to go back to our home country, where our families live or to a place where we feel called to? It was not an easy desicion and it is like all of our desicions of the past years, just our next step. A step in one direction but not necesarily for the rest of our lifes.

For now, things in Vancouver seem to fall into place lightly. We have a place we can move into mid October for the first six months and Flo has an offer for some work. We are looking foreward to the next chapter of our lives while enjoying the last few hundred kilometers on the road north.

Getting into hauling shape again

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We stayed with our friends in Mill Valley for two weeks. Flo went sailing with Michael and Tyler and went flying into the water. Chan was making up for all the missed kids movies of the past three years, and had a lot of fun with Sam and Theo who wrestled with him and played what ever he asked them to play. I enjoyed not wearing sweaty and oily clothes for once and having woman’s conversations with Peggy and Sam about everything and more.

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Then we joined the family on their ranch in Middletown, some 150km north of San Francisco for a few days before heading out for the last leg of our journey.  We had been looking for a campground which we could reach the first night on the road. It turned out to be much too far away. We first needed to get used to cycling long days again so we ended up camping in the bush. Then we entered Sacramento Valley, the heat chamber of northern California. After the second day on the road we already needed a break day to cool off from the heat.

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It wasn’t interesting riding along the valley. We bought a California Road Atlas to find our way around interstate 5 and still ended up on gravel for a little bit. Finally we reached Redding and with this city the peak of heat. It was 49°C! We stayed three days on a campground with a pool, since I wasn’t feeling well. Chan loved the place not only for the pool but also for a new found friend, Eric, with whom he damed up a little creek, cruised around by bike and had lots of fun.

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A few climbes lay ahead of us now towards Lassen and Shasta National Forests. We were passed by fire truck after fire truck. The road we were taking had just been reopened again after being closed for traffic because of a fire. The fire seemed to be under control now, although we could see and smell the smoke. Again we didn’t reach the days destination and asked at a restaurant, where we slept in the back yard. The owner liked Chan and gave him an old matchbox racing car.

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Up in the national forest there was a klicking noise at Flo’s bike. It turned out to be a broken spoke. We saw a sign of the California Fire Department and the firemen let us fix the wheel at their station and filled our water bottles with ice; what a luxury!

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Up on about 1200m now, the air was a bit cooler and the scenery much more enjoyable especially after turning towards Mt. Shasta and getting glimpses of this vulcanic peak with patches of snow against the bright blue sky.

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It is not only in Latin America, where bike mechanics don’t always know, what they are doing, we discovered in Mt.Shasta, where Flo wanted to have somebody look at the hub of his back wheel, which made squeeking noises lately. We also wanted to buy a few new spare spokes. The mechanic wanted to sell us six of which only two had the right lenght and he didn’t know the difference between noname and dt swiss spokes, he just declared them to be all the same. Then he took Flo’s wheel apart, opened the bearing and misplaced one of the balls, so that it squeaked even more afterwards. After telling Flo that there was nothing wrong with his wheel, he wanted 10 bucks for his work.

Being found by people

When I stepped out of the grocery store in Mt. Shasta, Flo was chatting with somebody. The man sad:” Hi, how are you? Remember me?” I didn’t. So I asked him to take off his sunglasses. I still didn’t have a clue. I felt a bit embarrassed. Turns out that we had met mistery man in El Bolson, Argentina, and camped next to each other. He said, that we had been one of the most impressive things he and his girlfriend saw on their trip down in Argentina. Now he had just finished guiding a group up into the mountains and was on his way back to Berkley, where he lives, when he saw us and turnded around. How small is this world!

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We found our rhytm on the road again,  hauling each 80 to 100kg and began to ride more km a day, than we thought we would be able to. Instead of 45 to 50km days, we ended up riding between70 to 80km. The USA are an easy country to travel trough by bicycle. People are really freindly. We never have to worry about water too much. Most roads are paved. There are gas stations with cold drinks on almost every intersection. In Klamath Falls, Oregon, we picked up a State map and the woman at the information center even had a free cycling map for Oregon with grades and distances, bike mechanics and traffic volume on it.

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We were about to leave the Oregon Welcome Information Center, when a family came over for a chat. Turns out, that they are a cycling family, riding all over the country with four kids. They are from Seattle and invited us to stay with them, once we get there.

We headed up to Crater Lake Natonal Park. The weather was gorgeous, the temperatures cooled off at night, we found less travelled highways. The climb up to the campground at Crater Lake was still a good climb though and we were happy to only ride half of the day. The campground was full, but the registration lady found a spot for us when she checked back with her computer. We were cooking dinner, when a family with a little boy of two riding a like a bike, slowly passed. They started talking to us. We learned later that they had seen us riding into our loop and since they had once rode across the country themselves, they wanted to chat to us. They were very interested in our journey, especially because we’re travelling with Chan.

Deb and Tom gave us their phone numbers and invited us to stay with them in Bend. It took us three days to get there. First we had to climb the remaining 300m up to the Crater: What a beautiful lake, with a deep blue. Flo was so excited about this beautiful piece of nature, that he jogged up to a view point and then run back to Chan and me within 30 minutes. The sign said 45 minutes  for the hike up to watchmen view point.

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When we arrived at Deb and Tom’s house, Chan had a fever. We could stay with them for two days. Even though Chan was a little sick, he enjoyed to be a big brother for Logan and they played together for the whole time. In those two days, Flo learned about the sunrise to summit duathlon; racing a bike for 32km, then running up a montain for 5km. Tom is doing it and so Flo registered for it as well. Deb and Tom are i the process of moving from Portland to Bend and they were heading back to Portland for the week, where they are working. They invited us to stay with them in Portland as well. We had about a weeks time to ride from Bend to Portland, over a few passes, before we have to drive back with Tom and Deb to Bend for the race.

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The ride has been beautiful, especially after we climbed the first pass, and cruised down for about 40km into much familiar vegetation of the coastal rain forest which will soon be our home in Vancouver again.

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