On the road again...
Well, a week ago, after a fantastic farewell show, we pedaled away from Ivy Creek Farm. Back on fully loaded bikes for the first time since October we biked up into the mountains through the towns of Burnsville and Spruce Pine, NC. We rode the Blueridge Parkway for a few miles before turning east and climbing a few hundred feet higher to just under 4,000 ft. Soaked in sweat from the climb we began our inevitable decent down to the Piedmont in 55 degrees. We stopped and changed into dry clothes, and within the first mile we took a right turn onto a gravel forest service road that we would ride for about 25 miles down out of the mountains. This unassuming Pisgah National Forest road had no traffic as it weaved and switched back down the side of the mountain. The views we're incredible. It seemed that you could see for days. Weeks even. Somewhat potholed and washboarded, the road led us down to a deep valley in which Wilson Creek flows: a fly-fishing mecca, a pristine wilderness, and an intensely quiet and peaceful place to spend the night.
We pedaled along the creek as it wove its way down the valley, wishing it was warmer as we were hardly able to resist our urge to jump in to the beautiful clear water, stopping for lunch on the river rocks. It was the kind of place that takes you in completely. You almost forget there is anything else in the universe besides that beautiful river flowing gently under the soft springtime sun.
Experiences like biking along Wilson Creek in the Pisgah National Forest after crossing the Appalachian Mountains aren't that common in much of the touring that we do.
We rolled our way up Yadkin Valley to Wilkesboro, then on towards Winston-Salem, for the first show of the tour. We arrived a day early and gave a shout out to a few fellow cyclists on the Warm Showers network, and were quickly called by a Winston-Salem native who invited us to stay with her for the evening. She turned out to be a local organic farmer, who had worked at the Rodale Institute, where Jen has also worked. They knew a whole slew of the same people, and we had a great time hearing about her farm and felt like old friends when we pedaled away the next day.
We rode some pretty unfortunate roads through the north west side Winston-Salem in order to reach the Muddy Creek Cafe, the venue for the first show of the tour. High traffic, high speed limits, no shoulder, but we made it. Upon arriving we high-fived in celebration of completing the 200 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing necessary to reach the first venue.
The first show was a smashing success. A very engaged and supportive crowd, and a fellow named George who was totally obsessed with "Rolling in my Bones" (e.g. He requested it, I played it, and then he requested it again, and sang along) made me feel like Winston-Salem was my hometown. The venue owners were kind and generous, giving us a place to stay, inviting us to a concert the next night and taking us out to dinner. Such good people! We've been overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers on this trip. Strangers can turn into friends in short order.
Just a day's ride from Winston-Salem brought us to the fine city of Greensboro, NC, home of UNCG, a minor league baseball team called the Grasshoppers (ha!), and a really nice environmentally focused library called the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library, which was the location of show #2. Library shows provide a unique opportunity for me: I get to not only perform music, but I also get to practice presenting about the Freedom From Fuel Tour. There is so much to the story at this point, and I have so much music to play that packing everything into a one hour time slot makes for an action packed event. A solid crew of local cyclists, environmentalists, music lovers, and library patrons made it out to the show and we all rocked out.
Now we're heading on to Durham, Chapel Hill and then on up towards Richmond, VA along US Bike Route 1. Should be a wild ride! More soon,
We've arrived in North Carolina!!!
We've arrived. We cycled about 3,600 miles to 32 shows this summer, ending here in Barnardsville, NC. Our last day was a bit hilly - 4,570 feet of ascent in just 34 miles. We coasted the last two miles gently along a river, turned left onto a gravel driveway and the ride came to a much anticipated end. It's difficult to find a way to share the depth of emotion connected with culminating a journey of this magnitude, but we'll try. We want thank each and every person who gave us a smile, took us in, set up a show, cooked us a meal, shared their space with us or passed us conscientiously on a busy road this summer. We're thankful to have had a summer like this. We're in a sort of soft disbelief that we've arrived at the next chapter of our trip here at Ivy Creek Farm. We're here until March, farming and recuperating, and then we bike on. Thanks for being a part of our journey,
Paul and Jen
Entering the Smoky Mountains
We have arrived in the Smoky Mountains after a little more than 3,500 miles of pedaling this summer. We're in great spirits and looking forward to our final day of riding tomorrow.
The night rider
Riding into Nashville, TN!
My birthday was pretty rad. We biked all day and arrived in Nashville, TN around 7 PM. Riding safely into the Music City for the first time was a great birthday present!
We've come upon a church in Marion, KY that has been hosting long distance cyclists since the inaugural Transam ride in 1976. The huge stove has served us well. This is our morning standard: grits with veggies and mushrooms. Oh, and the all important coffee.
We've biked through some magnificent wind farms in the past few weeks. Such sweet revenge to make energy from the wind!
Venturing into illinois
Chicago welcomed us with chilly rain, a strong headwind, and rush-hour traffic, but the beautiful city-scape was worth it. We were excited to spend a few days off the bikes, catch up on some computer work, and see some of our Chicago friends and family!
Thanks for having us, Chicago!
We're grateful for all of our friends and family who made our stay in Chicago wonderful. Katie and her housemates hosted us a couple nights. We also stayed with Trish, my crew coach at Lafayette College, and Amanda. I even got to ride in a launch with Trish to watch a crew practice- that brought back lots of great memories! We visited with my cousin Gary and his family, as well as our friend Shane, who we met a couple months ago in Wisconsin when he and a couple of his friends were biking across the country. Hope to see you all again soon!
We're finishing up a few rest days in the big city of Chicago, but I wanted to be sure to post about the farms we visited while we were still in mainland Michigan. We loved Michigan, and a big part of that for me was seeing so much food production as we pedaled.
Michigan is a big food crop state; it ranks #1 in the nation in blueberry and pickling cucumber production, #2 in squash, celery, and fresh market carrots, and #3 in apples and asparagus. We saw fields and fields of squash, passed by quite a few asparagus fields (in the fern stage- we were a bit late in the season for asparagus), and saw plenty of berry and tree fruit farms.
The farms we stopped at, though, were a different sort all together.
It was chilly and rainy the evening and following morning when we were at their farm, so I didn't walk away with my usual cache of pictures. I was excited to see all of the work my friends have done in the one short year they've been on their land, and excited to hear how happy they are to be doing what they're passionate about. They have their hands full right now, but are already talking about what areas of their land will come into production next year. This year, they sold their produce and eggs at the Boyne City and Harbor Springs markets, both twice a week. We'll see what they get up to next year! It was such a pleasure to reconnect with them and hear about everything that goes along with starting a farm.
We said goodbye to Michigan a few days ago and are now leaving the Chicago area behind. We'll miss Michigan, but are excited to see what Illinois has in store for us! We'll let you know soon.
Goodbye Upper Peninsula!
Our trek across Michigan's gorgeous Upper Peninsula has come to an end this morning. It was such a nice place to bike that I have to admit I felt a bit of sadness as we rode across the Mackinac Bridge this morning. That same sort of soft sadness hit my heart when we turned away from Lake Superior for the last time in Grand Marais, Michigan last week.
I don't mean to mislead you: biking in the UP came with its share of challenges: exceptionally persistent biting flies and some very heavily trafficked campgrounds will linger in my memory. Riding shoddy gravel roads that give way sporadically to sections of un-rideable loose sand, causing the bike to bind and fall in an instant makes an impression. So does the hospitality of strangers who welcome you to share their campsite in a full campground, or those who give you a bed to sleep in at their house, and then drive 90 miles a day later to support you at your performance. There may have been a limited number of groceries to choose from on the shelves of the old small town groceries, but there was no shortage of adventure, no lack of starlight and no deficiency of smiles and laughter as we made our way.
The UP is a great place to bike. The campgrounds are more frequent than possibly any area we've cycled through, and if you can't find a campground, you'll find and abundance of lakeshore and forest where you can spend the night listening to the waves break on the big lake. Additionally, the state of Michigan has taken care to include a wide and rideable shoulder on virtually every major road, which makes navigating easy and riding relatively safe. The "multi-use" trails are probably best considered mountain bike trails. A wide tired touring bike can handle half of them or so, and bike-packers would love them for that reason, but a narrow tired bike is not a good match for the rugged, ATV-churned surface. The Iron Ore Trail into Marquette is an exception to this rule however, and is quite rideable and ends in a 8 mile downhill into the west end of Marquette. Yay for Rail Trails!!
We've also had the good fortune of some absolutely wonderful shows at Algomah Acres Meadery in Greenland, MI, Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, and at the St. Ignace Public Library. Thanks to everyone who put the shows together and came out to listen!
And now, the pictures!