Day 50: Newcomb, NY to Leicester, VT

 

Hudson River


We headed out of Newcomb, NY into a gorgeous day: blue skies, upper 60’s to low 70’s temperatures, and a good tail-wind. The roads were relatively empty as we road through the Adirondack mountains, crossing the Hudson River, and cruising down the elevation decline to Lake Champlain.

crossing Lake Champlain


The ferry across Lake Champlain would take us into Vermont, which we have been looking forward to ever since we left Glacier National Park for the following reasons:

1. Beautiful mountain scenery
2. Maple cremees
3. Co-op grocery stores in nearly every tiny town
4. Maple cremees
5. Bernie Sanders
6. Maple cremees

Entering Vermont also means that we are on our last section of the Northern Tier maps! Just 401.5 miles left! 

Once we crossed Lake Champlain, the scenery looked exactly what we expected out of Vermont: rolling farmlands with mountains in the background, dotted by small towns with churches. 

We also passed some adorable ponies, which Rachel had to stop and pet. We stopped at the first place we saw selling maple cremees, which was a gas station/creamerie. Delicious! 

   

There, we tried to figure out where we would spend the night. We had decided that staying in one more hotel would be a good idea, as Rachel had a video-chat meeting scheduled for the next morning. We called around, and although the bed and breakfast we called in Middlebury did not have any vacancy, the owner directed us to call Lesley, who runs an unadvertised BnB at an organic farm in Leicester, VT. This ended up being the perfect place to stay. When we arrived, Lesley and Jim showed us to our room: the solarium, with a big, fluffy bed and a view of their llamas through the windows!

purple string beans for our salad

We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so Leslie walked us down to their garden, where she helped us pick out about 15 different greens for our salad. We were very happy to have fresh chard, kale, purselane, lambs quarter, basil, and many other vegetables in our delicious salad. Lesley and Jim also gave us some fantastic lentils and bread, and set us up for a candle-lit dinner in the solarium. It was perfect. After a good night’s sleep, we’re looking forward to getting some work done, eating a delicious breakfast, and meeting the llamas and sheep. 

freshly picked salad for dinner!

 

Stats:
today’s distance: 69.9 mi
time in saddle: 6 hrs, 45 min
total distance: 3,801 mi 

Post script:

Rachel messed up in the scheduling of that meeting, so we ended up having to use the wifi in the late afternoon. We tried to figure out a way to bike and then use wifi elsewhere, but being Sunday afternoon, this was challenging. So we decided to spend an extra night at the farm. Lesley and Jim offered a trade for the second night to help our budget: Rachel would help them with their website in exchange for the second night’s lodging. We had a lovely day off: Rachel got some work done, we borrowed Lesley and Jim’s old Volvo to go into Middlebury, and we met their awesome animals. They have a sheep that is friendlier than many dogs – when Lesley entered the pen, this sheep ran over to cuddle! The sheep also nuzzled with us. The llamas just watched cautiously.

    

 

Day 48: Osceola, NY to Inlet, NY

Adirondack foothills scenery


When we finished packing up the tent (and avoiding discussing payment with the owners of the campground), the day’s weather was not looking great. We heard distant thunder, and a light rain started just as we removed the rain-fly from the tent. The newly wet roads on the steep, three-mile hill from the campground down to the route were a bit slippery, so we rode down cautiously. Our ride from Osceola to West Leyden felt quite tough. Our quads were burning from the reintroduction of serious hills yesterday, and we were a little concerned that we would need another short day. We reasoned that our timing was good for our end-date in Maine, so we weren’t too worried. We need to average about 62 miles per day to reach Bar Harbor on schedule, which seems perfect for riding through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

energizing second breakfast in West Leyden


In West Leyden, we stopped for second breakfast at the Milk Plant Tavern, which really helped our energy. Despite the onslaught of hills, we rode out of West Leyden feeling strong. Even better, when we reached Boonville, there was a farmers’ market! We were very happy to find blueberries, baby kale, peaches, tomatoes, cheese, bread, and pies to purchase, and ended up adding quite a bit of weight to Rachel’s trailer. 

Boonville farmers’ market


We rode out of Boonville, enjoying the scenery of the Adirondack mountains and lakes, until we reached Old Forge, where we stopped for ice cream and groceries, chatting with vacationers who were curious about our trip. The weather was not looking great for the evening or morning, we hadn’t paid for lodging for 11 nights, and Rachel needed to get some work done, so we decided to get a motel. The Marina Motel in Inlet, NY, was a perfect spot. It’s one of the nicer places we’ve stayed on the trip, and the price wasn’t bad considering that this appears to be a popular vacation spot. We were happy to have wifi for work, blogging, and to video-chat with friends, and of course, a comfortable bed was a treat too. We made a dinner out of our purchases from the farmers’ market, and then walked a few blocks for homemade gelato by the public beach. The weather held out long enough for us to enjoy a beautiful sunset, and we made it back to the room just in time to hear booming thunder outside. 

Inlet, NY sunset


Stats:

today’s ride: 65 miles
time in the saddle: ~5 hrs, 30 min
total distance: 3,679 miles

Day 41: Otter Lake, MI to Marine City, MI

The farm was so quiet that when we turned off the alarm this morning, we fell back to sleep … until Mike got back to shooting his gun around 6:30AM. We put our things away and headed over the kitchen area of Blueberry Lane’s shop to order an enormous, delicious breakfast made by Theresa: buttermilk blueberry pancakes, eggs, and coffee. We also purchased another pint of blueberries, a blueberry cookie, a loaf of bread, and some nuts to serve as our snacks for the day. It was a great, hearty meal for our long day of cycling. Unfortunately, much of the day was spent on busy state roads with fast traffic. 

Yale, Michigan is famous for its bologna festival


We went through a few lively towns, got stuck in conversations with locals who were happy to have a captive audience as we ate lunch or waited for restrooms, and ended the day on a somewhat confusing bike path into Marine City. Marine City is right on the St. Clare river, dividing Michigan from Canada, and eventually leading to the ocean. There’s a beach, a bunch of cute shops, and a lovely Warm Showers host, Cheryl, who welcomed us into her home above the bar/restaurant she owns. There’s another cyclist here, Connor, who is headed in the opposite direction, so we’ve been trading information about places to sleep and eat, roads to avoid, etc. It’s a great place to stay, which is especially fortunate given that we have a couple of good reasons for taking a day off: free lodging, Nick’s birthday, and a bunch of work that Rachel needs to catch up on. So we’re spending Tuesday working/reading in a coffee shop and hanging out on the beach. 

Stats:
today’s distance: 89.2 miles
time in the saddle: 7 hrs, 14 min
total distance: 3,106 miles 

Day 40: Midland, MI to Otter Lake, MI

Dow Chemical’s headquarters in Midland, MI, with influence all over town, such as the school mascot: The Chemics

We woke up refreshed after a full 8 hours of sleep, and headed out of Midland, wrinkling our noses at the (real? imagined?) harsh smells coming from the Dow Chemical headquarters. We listened to new audiobooks as we rode through farmland interspersed with residences, feeling strong with the tailwind pushing us to Bay City. We hoped there would be a natural foods store in this larger town so that we could pick up today’s groceries.

vegan brunch at Heather’s in Bay City


While we didn’t find one in our Internet search, we did find a mostly vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was open for brunch today! So we took a longer break there, enjoying vegan coconut-crusted french toast, a tofu-veggie scramble, and fantastic tofu bacon. We’ve clearly abandoned our usual style of mostly vegan eating on this trip, so any meals like this are a real treat. Right next door was Jack’s Bike Shop, where, though they were closed today, the owner let us in to purchase some supplies.

Michigan bike paths are great!


After struggling to follow the bike path through Bay City (it was mostly sidewalks, sometimes poorly signed), we eventually got out of town and turned into a headwind. The weather was cool with scattered rain throughout the ride, so we kept our rain gear on most of the day. It was challenging riding, especially because we had a goal of reaching Otter Lake to get to a blueberry farm where they serve blueberry pancakes until 6PM each day. 

Blueberry Lane Farms’ many delicious blueberry products


We rode hard, sometimes on country highways, but mostly on well-maintained bike paths, until we reached Blueberry Lane, just in time to purchase two pints of blueberries, a few slices of blueberry pie, a blueberry cookie, and some blueberry lemonade. We were very disappointed to miss the blueberry pancakes, as the store was closing up for the day as we arrived. We sat down to eat the pie at their picnic benches, and the owners, “Blueberry Bob” and Theresa, came over to talk about our ride with us. They informed us that although we had missed the pancakes today, that they would be here at 6AM and would serve us breakfast.

foreground: blueberries! background: our tent!

Then, they told us we were welcome to pitch a tent right here among the blueberry bushes! The regular campground around here is pretty expensive, and would add a few miles to come back for breakfast, so we were thrilled at the offer of a free night’s lodging in such a unique location. They have toilets, potable water, and picnic tables, and it’s nice and quiet here. It’s a lovely place to spend the night. They warned us that their handy-man, Mike, would be shooting to scare away the birds for a bit this evening, and that they would let him know we were here. After he finished shooting for the day, he came over and chatted with us about the blueberry farm, the bird population, his grandchildren, and our ride. It was a good thing he knew that Bob gave us permission, because he’s been known to scare away blueberry thieves with his 12-gauge. 

Stats:
today’s distance: 68.4 miles
time in the saddle: 6 hrs, 12 min
total distance: 3,017 miles 

Day 37: High Cliff State Park, WI to Ludington, MI

working at the Culture Cafe in Manitowoc, WI

We had a bit of a head wind today, so we we happy that we had a shorter ride due to the ferry ride today. We headed to Manitowoc, where the ferry to Michigan departs, where we found a vegetarian cafe with awesome espresso, the Culture Cafe. It’s in a strip mall on the way into town, but the interior felt like a small, independent shop. The owner was very friendly as he prepared our chili and spicy bean burger. We spent a little bit too much time at the cafe, making our ride to the ferry dock a bit rushed. Of course, if something can go wrong, it will. And it did. About 1/2 mile from the ferry dock, Rachel ran over something that caused a horrible tube blow-out. After unsuccessfully begging for a ride from someone driving a pick-up truck, Nick raced ahead to let the ferry staff know that Rachel was running with her bike as fast as she could to get there. Luckily, a staff member offered to come get the bike in a van, so we were able to make it to the ferry just in time.

Saying goodbye to Wisconsin, and getting coal in our beers on the SS Badger

 

SS Badger

Once we had made it on the SS Badger, we promptly ordered some beers and went out on the deck to wave goodbye to wonderful Wisconsin. Unfortunately, our beers were in plastic cups, which became dusted with coal ash from the SS badger. Yes, the SS Badger is powered by coal. This means a huge smoke stack belches coal ash out into beautiful Lake Michigan and our beers. They replaced our beers after we told them what happened. As for the rest of the ride we blogged, fixed tires, contacted a bike shop in Ludington, ate nachos and ice cream and talked to other passengers about our trip across the USA. 

Nick’s temporary fix for that side-wall puncture of the tire: a dollar bill! The puncture is so huge that you can see the bill clearly.

 

Stepping off the ship in Ludington, MI ran into another cross country cyclist. He started in early July from Seattle and was about to pass us, as he was averaging 100+ miles a day. We only did that kind of mileage for six days, and it has taken us a week to recover.

Warm Showers host, Claudia, in Ludington, MI

We biked just about a mile into town to stay with a Warm Showers host, Claudia, and Nick took a detour over to the bike shop, where the owner had agreed to meet him after hours to get us a replacement tire (the old tire got some large gashes in the tube explosion). Claudia welcomed us into her lovely home, and shared a delicious dinner with us: homemade hummus, tabouli, bread, grilled veggies, and wine. We happily went to sleep in a real bed. 

Stats:

today’s ride: 45ish miles (tech difficulties!)
total distance: 2,863 miles 

Day 19: Havre, MT to Malta, MT

sunrise out of Havre, MT

Today’s ride started out at 5:45, with the flattest riding we’ve had so far, a gorgeous sunrise, and a few short rainstorms to cool the weather off a little. We learned that we are in an area known as “Mosquito Flats.” That describes it pretty well. We had an energetic day of riding despite the short night’s sleep last night. We kept up a pretty fast pace, and did intervals of higher speeds to break the monotony of Route 2. In addition to the speed work, we also listened to our iPhones through just one earphone (the side away from the road, for safety), and we are both enjoying podcasts such as the New Yorker Nonfiction podcast, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, Radio Lab, and This American Life. We highly recommend interspersing the podcasts with music with a strong beat to keep the pace up.

every town on the Hi-Line (Route 2) has this basic set-up of a large set of grain silos next to the train tracks on one side, and various sized towns on the other side

 

When we arrived in Malta, we waited for Tom and Leo at the only place open on the 4th of July, the bar, where we shared a pizza and juices while Rachel worked on a project. Leo is a teacher at a Catholic school, and he had his principal write up a letter of recommendation that he shows to priests in towns with Catholic Churches, and they’ll let him stay at the church overnight for free — so tonight, we’re sleeping in the old convent of the church in Malta, MT. It’s nice to be away from the city park given the fireworks this evening.

Stats:

today’s ride: 86.4 miles

total distance: 1226 miles

time in the saddle: 7 hours, 35 minutes

Day 14: West Glacier, MT to Babb, MT (mostly photos of Glacier!)

We left our dingy West Glacier motel room around 6:45 this morning and biked enthusiastically toward the entrance to Glacier National Park. We’d been looking forward to this ride for months, and we were particularly pleased with the sunny skies today. Logan Pass isn’t always open by this time of year due to snow, so we were happy to hear that it opened up a week before our arrival. Cyclists are only allowed on the route to the pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road, between 7AM and 11AM, which would be pretty fast riding with no time for taking pictures. We therefore felt a little rushed, but assumed that they wouldn’t make us turn around if we were close to the top after 11AM. We passed by beautiful Lake McDonald, winding around the park, waiting for the serious climbing to begin. Much of the road was being re-done, so we rode on a packed dirt path, stopping to take many pictures. We eventually reached Logan Creek, the beginning of our climb, which was paved, thankfully. We climbed and climbed and climbed the long 6% grade road to the top, passed by many drivers who encouraged us (and a couple that yelled at us), and took a lot of photos. We also saw a bunch of big horn sheep (scroll down for photos)! Then we made lunch at Logan Pass and rode down toward the Blackfeet Reservation, where the landscape changed rapidly to the Northern Plains. We had a long, difficult day, and we are pleased that our crappy-looking motel (see yesterday’s post on why we aren’t camping right now) in Babb is actually well-taken-care-of and clean. Here are way too many photos from the day:

Lake McDonald


 

McDonald River


 

 

Stats:

today’s ride: 59.1

time in saddle: 6 hrs and 22 min

total distance: 867 mi              

Glacier tours


 

McDonald River


 

 

 

 

big horn sheep!


 

family of big horn sheep!


  

St Mary Lake


 

St Mary Lake


  

and this is what it looks like on the other side of Glacier…