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
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.
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!
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.
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!
On July 17, we biked up to this lovely scene after some nagging thoughts that maybe we'd made the wrong turn. No, it's just that this haven of gelato, brick oven pizza, delicious dairy, fresh produce, and weekly live music seems like it must have been transplanted down those gravel roads, surrounded by the Chequamegon National Forest. North Star Homestead Farms is a gem, and this bicycle tour is the only reason I'm not still there, learning from the amazing farmers, Ann and daughters Laura and Kara, who run this stunning sustainable farm.
In addition to Laura's poultry brigade, Kara cares for the flock of dairy sheep (evening milking pictures are further down). Other animals on the farm include Kunekune pigs, a breed of pigs know for being friendly and well-suited to being on pasture as they require a very low amount of protein and don't root as intensively, leaving the pasture alive and well. The farmers also have bees, the happy pollinators.
And in addition to all of the animals, they also run a vegetable CSA! Around every corner, these farmers have a dozen more projects going on. Their fenced in veggies provide shares for around 40 families and allow them to stock their on-farm Market (in the Creamery building) as well as a local farmers' market on Saturdays. Not to mention the aquaponics production system they have that produces Tilapia and fresh greens year-round!
But for as busy as they must be to get all of the animals cared for and veggies weeded and harvested, all three women were remarkably friendly and willing to answer any questions about the rationale behind the practices they use on their farm. Kara said people sometimes ask why they have so many things going on- wouldn't they rather simplify? She responds by saying that there's nothing she would want to remove. The way they have their farm, everything has a purpose, and the animals and plants depend on each other. They obviously love what they do.
Laura, a musician herself, sets up a beautiful stage for their Saturday live music. In the picture above, Kara makes delicious brick oven pizzas to-order next to the stage. It was a wonderful place for Paul to play, and I enjoyed sitting back and watching the sun dip behind the trees as the evening wore on.
When I expressed interest in tagging along after the concert for evening chores and milking, Kara was happy to take me along and explain everything as she went. Of course, I loved Kara's mode of transportation for herding the sheep in for their evening milking! She is supremely knowledgeable about and attentive to all of the animals she cares for, and I tried to grasp onto as many new concepts as I could while we spent the evening hours together.
- Jen Tillman