Archive for December, 2006

The Trans-Pacific Trip

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

We’ve made it to New Zealand! As Jamie mentioned it took 4 flights & 36 hours (23 flying, 13 layover) to get here. We arrived in Auckland at 2:30pm on Dec 30th, got through customs, then put our bikes back together, strapped on our 8 panniers, 2 handlebar bags, and 2 frame bags, and rode to our first campsite.

For your entertainment here are some highlights from the past two days:

  • We acquired bike boxes fairly eaily thanks to the nice people at Bike Cycles in Wilmington. Jamie thought it’d be a good idea for us to ‘test’ fit the bikes in the box. Thank goodness he did, because it took multiple hours of bike disassembly to cram them into the boxes. We both worked ourselves into quite a frenzy in my mom’s garage: Jamie was running around in a sweating fit & I was taping up boxes with wild abandon & much excess tape.
  • Momentary panic attack when we realized the bikes, their giant boxes, and all our panniers were not going to fit in the two small cars we’d planned to drive to the airport in the morning. Aunt Beverly saved the day by letting us use her SUV – everything fit in perfectly.
  • Wilmington to LAX went smoothly. Upon checking in at the international desk we were informed we’d need Australian visas for our 3 hour layover in Sydney. WHAT?! Just the day before United had told me we wouldn’t need visas… We applied for them at the United ticket desk and thankfully they were approved. The lady helping us really freaked us out when she said “Sometimes last minute visas are denied, I really don’t know why and there is nothing I can do about it. So if that happens, you two are on your own.” Ack!!
  • Got to Sydney. Our longest leg (14 hour flight) went very smoothly. We slept for a few hours, woke up & took Benadryl, then slept again. Thanks Mom for the Benadryl!
  • Had to go through security again in Sydney. Our allen wrenches & socket set, which we’d been carrying with us since Wilmington, were confiscated as ‘banned items’. Much panic ensued again – we needed those tools to put our bikes back together in Auckland! We begged and bargained and the very nice people at New Zealand Air finally agreed to take one of our carry-ons, stick the bikes tools in it, and process it as checked baggage.
  • During customs in Auckland we were stopped because one of the trained dogs smelled something illegal in one of our bags. NZ is extremely strict about bringing fruit, vegetables, meat, and milk products into the country. The dog was apparently smelling the apples we’d had in our carryon but had eating before landing. They searched the bag to make sure there were no more illegal apples, then let us pass through.
  • Customs also took away our tent and sent it for inspection in the ‘BioHazard Protection’ room (or something like that). They were inspecting it for seeds & foreign plant material. We passed the test and our tent was returned in a giant messy heap. ugh! So I got the lovely job of re-rolling and re-stuffing our tent into its bag on the sidewalk outside the airport.

The Auckland airport has a very nice area with bike work stands where we put our bikes back together. Everything came through just fine with only a few minor scrapes & we successfully reassembled everything. Hurray! We then rolled out of the airport – on the LEFT side of the road, very tricky – towards our first camp site. Only 13 km on a not-too-scary road. We set up the tent, ate a little bit, chatted with some fellow campers and went to bed at 9:30pm. We both slept through the night just fine, woke up in the morning at a decent time, and today we have been feeling normal. Is it possible to adjust to jet lag that quickly? I hope so!

Here’s me with our bikes & baggage feeling very relieved that everything made it:

Putting bikes back together in Auckland airport:


Bon Voyage

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

The day has finally arrived! Sarah and I leave for New Zealand this morning at 07:45 EST. We will arrive in Auckland, New Zealand on December 30th after 23 hours of flying and 13 hours of lay overs. Sarah is sleeping like a baby right now, but I am definitely feeling nervous. It is hard to believe we are actually doing this.

Today we got some bike boxes from BikeCycles in Wilmington and packed up our boxes for the flight. US Airways would have allowed us to just wrap our bikes in bubble wrap, but we are flying on United for one leg of our journey and they require us to box our bikes. After a couple of minutes of staring at the boxes and comparing them with Sarah’s 61cm Rivendell Atlantis with racks and fenders, I realized her bike was not going to fit in the box without some serious disassembly. We had to remove her seat, front rack, and both fenders. On my bike, we removed the front rack, front fender, and seat and were able to squeeze it in. We were under the impression that we were just going to need to remove the pedals, lower the seat, and turn the handlebars to fit the bikes in, so the process of disassembling the bikes was pretty nerve racking as we wondered whether or not they were going to fit at all. Now we’ll just have to see how many pieces the bikes are in when (if?) they arrive in New Zealand.

If anyone knows if bike boxes come in large enough sizes to hold an assembled touring bike with racks and fenders, leave a comment or send us an email and let us know. We plan on avoiding airlines that require boxes instead of bubble wrap in the future, but if we do have to use boxes we would like to avoid as much disassembly as possible.

In other news, we secured the first sponsor of our site! Averatec has provided us with one of their 1100 Series notebooks which I am using to make this post right now. It is an extremely light and powerful notebook, so we are very happy to have it for this trip. You can find out more details on the Gear page, which I also updated with the rest of the details on our notable gear. If I missed anything it is probably Sarah’s fault.

‘Twas the Night after Christmas

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

When all through the house not a creature was stirring, except for James and Sarah preparing to depart for New Zealand and begin our bicycling adventure in less than two days! We’ve been making our gear list, checking it twice, and shopping for last minute items. Today we put new chains on the bikes to replace the rusty ones and tonight Sarah’s mom and brothers took a test ride on our fully loaded bicycles. They were impressed with our rigs.

Texas Chili & Beer says Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Tonight we cooked our Christmas present for my dad & brothers – Texas chili complemented by Shiner Bock beer (also from Texas, of course!). We brought all our ingredients over to James & John’s house and then realized they didn’t have a pot big enough to make all the chili. No worries though, we improvised by browning the meat on the stove then dumping it into their giant crock pot, combining everything else in the crock pot, and letting it stew for an hour or so. We used all the hot peppers included with the chili mix, plus some extra peppers I found in J&J’s kitchen. The result was, of course, very spicy and delicious! Dad is losing his edge though, the chili was a bit too hot for him to handle. He didn’t even finish half his bowl.

After dinner we went to Blockbuster and rented Rikki Tikki Tavi for old times sake. For anyone who doesn’t know this story: Rikki Tikki Tavi was our youngest brother John’s absolute favorite movie as a kid. It’s a cartoon movie about a mongoose in India that kills snakes.  I’d be willing to bet that this movie was John’s #1 pick for 10 years running. James and I liked Rikki the first few times we saw it, but after approx 20 viewings it got a little old. Thus, we were reduced to speeding into the movie store ahead of little brother John so we could find & hide Rikki Tikki Tavi from him. Then we’d say to him “Oh, too bad John, someone must have gotten here first and rented it! darn!” We all enjoyed the re-watch, and John even admitted that he wouldn’t want to watch it every weekend now that he’s 21.

Tomorrow we’ll leave Minneapolis in the morning, stop for the night in Dayton, Ohio (halfway point) and then continue on to Wilmington, North Carolina for Christmas.

Minneapolis, MN

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Jamie and I are now in Minneapolis, MN at my dad’s place. We arrived in Minneapolis yesterday night and will stay for two days before beginning our final roadtrip leg – the grueling two day journey from Minneapolis to Wilmington, NC.

Tonight we’re going to have dinner with my friends Alison & Kristan (Kristan lives in Seattle but just happens to be in Minneapolis tonight – yay!). Tomorrow night, as our gift to my dad & brothers, we will cook an exciting Texas meal complete with authentic beer imported from Texas.

We just finished spending a few days with Jamie’s family in Fargo, ND. We spent most of our time after 3 weeks on the road enjoying a real house with TV, food, and fun people to hang out with. Jamie spent much of his time binging on cookies and Starburst, I drank a lot of coffee, ate a lot of cereal, and did the crossword puzzle every day. Other highlights included: making some updates to our website, seeing our long lost kitty Robo, and last but certainly not least – a hilarious basketball game with the Welle family at the YMCA!

Only nine more days until we leave for New Zealand. We did some final shopping in Fargo including the purchase of pepper spray for those pesky stray dogs. When we get to Wilmington we’ll do the final pannier pack and clean our bikes so we pass the entry exam in New Zealand. Surprisingly, the bikes are insanely dirty and even a little bit rusty from spending the past 3 weeks on the back of the car. We haven’t really even been in bad weather yet!

Money, Money, Money, … Moonaay!

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Cue the Apprentice theme song, I updated the Finances page with the details from our United States road trip. Check them out.

United States Road Trip Pictures

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

We uploaded some pictures from our US Road Trip. You can access them through the Gallery. We are using some scripts called ImageGal for our picture gallery and the navigation is a bit akward. Let us know what you think of it.

Day Four, Big Bend

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

The final day in our two day test bike tour! We made oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, as usual. Here’s what Jamie looks like when we eat breakfast. Also, I am really starting to think I want to bring my french press coffee pot along on the international part of the trip – I’m not sure I could live without coffee in the morning!

The ride for today was pretty short – approx 20 miles, but with an elevation gain of 1900 ft. Our biggest climb to date! The first 10 miles were fairly easy with rolling hills & pleasant weather. We stopped for a snack at mile 10 because I was already starving. After that we began to climb slowly and steadily (as low as 4 miles/hr) for the next eight miles. It was very tiring, especially for me, but I never even had to dip into my granny gear which is very exciting! It started to get hot, and because we were going so slowly flies started buzzing around our faces. I started to get crabby at the very end of the ride. In this picture I am saying “You better not be taking a picture of me. Wait, are you taking a video?! If you are I am going to kill you. Stop it!!”

Texas, Part II

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

After leaving Marfa we drove south to Chinati Hot Springs, which we found out about from a few people in Marfa. The Hot Springs is a small quasi-resort in the very corner of Texas, built around a naturally occurring hot spring right on the Mexico border. To get there we drove through some small towns that almost seemed deserted, then drove over seven miles of super rough dirt road through the middle of nowhere. We saw a group of cows hanging out on the road munching the dry spiny bushes & then later saw a family of javelinas milling about in the ditch. Our first official sighting of our friends the javelinas! They just moseyed off the road when we drove by…they apparently were not in a bloodthirsty mood & did not try to charge our car. How unexciting!

The hot springs was really neat – it was a group of little cabins, a community kitchen, and camping spaces along with a a big outdoor hot tub (filled with the spring water of course) and a bunch of smaller private tubs you could use to take a bath. We took a dip in the hot spring water then went for a hike on the trails around the hot springs. The trail we followed went straight into Mexico but we’re not sure whether or not we actually crossed the border. If you were a Mexican wanting to cross the border that would be a super easy place to do it, in case anyone out there is interested!

Day One, Big Bend:
After Chinati Hot Springs we drove into Big Bend National Park. It was freezing there! It was about 35 degrees our first day there and I was not at all happy about it. We set up our tent in the freezing cold, I whined & complained, then we decided it was much too cold to go for a hike – even Jamie agreed about this. So instead we went for a scenic drive with the car’s heater on full blast. During our scenic drive we spotted another family of javelinas trotting along together down the side of the road. We were about to find out that javelinas would be our #1 most sited animals in Big Bend! We stopped at an exhibit, read the little poster, and then decided to sit in the car listening to a CD & waiting for the sun to set. I picked Elliot Smith for our CD & Jamie asked me if I wanted to kill myself (it is a depressing CD I guess). We both laughed because – don’t worry, I did not actually want to kill myself – but I was definitely not in a very good mood. The sun never really set, it was much too cloudy and icky out. It just got dark.

It was only 6pm, not early enough to go to bed, so we decided to treat ourselves to a drink in the park’s restaurant. We went in & sat in the wonderful warmth of the restaurant. It wasn’t quite warm enough, though, so I kept both of my jackets on. I’m sure I looked like a crazy scraggly lady that weighed 300 pounds, but whatever. We got beers & a plate of Texas Toothpicks – little strips of deep fried onion & jalepenos. Yum! We heard the guy next to us order a steak ‘VERY rare’. Jamie now dreams of ordering a steak like this. He also secretly admires the way my dad claims he wants to order a steak – “Just wipe its ass and put it on my plate.” Eeeew.

Day Two, Big Bend:
It was a little bit warmer this day, so we decided to do a bunch of hikes. We saw dry stream beds, a little spring/oasis in the middle of the desert, and old ranch house. We also saw lots of deer & cute little roadrunners throughout the park. We did four hikes throughout the day, made yummy bean tacos over our cookstove, and went to bed. We were very happy this day because we finally finished under our daily budget – only $10 for the whole day (for our camp site)!

Day Three, Big Bend:
The first day of our bike tour! We packed up our panniers, loaded our bikes, and dropped the car off at the Ranger station for the night. We planned to bike the 21 miles from Panther Junction ranger station down to Rio Grande village where we would camp for the night then pack up the next day and head back. This was our first day on our fully loaded bikes – food, tents, everything! The first day we descended 1900 ft so the riding was super easy. The weather was finally decent, sunny & mild, but we did have to ride in an annoying headwind for the first eight miles or so. We were pedaling on a slight downhill so the headwind wasn’t too difficult but I was really annoyed because the wind from a headwind plus just your regular riding speed is so much louder than I’d expected. We could not hear each other talk unless we rode right next to each other and yelled, and we most definitely could not hear cars approaching. Luckily not many people were driving on the road, and the wind died down after we reached lower elevations.

Before we got to our campsite we road a four mile detour to Boquillas overlook – just a little point looking over the Rio Grande river into Mexico. I was surprised to see that there were a group of Mexican guys & a horse on the other side of the river watching us tourists. They’d waded across and set up a few little crafts that they were selling & collecting money for in a plastic jug. They were watching from across the river (about 300 ft away) but the payment for the crafts was basically on the honor system. We didn’t buy anything but instead sat on a rock nearby and ate our snack of oranges & baby carrots. One of the guys on the other side of the river decided to wade across and gather up the money he’d made so far – we figured rangers probably stop by occasionally and confiscate the money & crafts, so he was being careful to keep as much as possible. He waded across the bright green river wearing his red shirt and singing a song in Spanish. The river only came up to his waist in the middle. He took his money, said hi to us, then went back to the Mexican side. It was actually a really beautiful scene, but sad too.

We backtracked across our 4 mile detour and headed to our campsite. We pulled up on our bikes, picked out a site, and started to set up the tent. The campsite host came over to visit us right away…she had some very important information for us. This campground was in javelina territory and those little warthog clans ruled the roost in this area of the park! There were all sorts of guidelines we had to follow to avoid a nasty run in with the javelinas including things like:

  • When you set up your tent you had to either leave all the doors open so the javelinas could roam in & out sniffing your possessions, or you had to collapse the tent poles so the javelinas would just walk right over your tent. Leaving a tent set up with the doors closed was an invitation for the javelinas to slash right through the walls to find out if you’d left them any tasty morsels, like toothpaste or a granola bar, inside.
  • When cooking dinner you usually need two people to finish the task. One to do the cooking, the other to shoo away the javelinas!
  • All food & toiletries must be kept in the metal cabinet provided on your site. Nothing could be left outside of this cabinet at anytime as the javelinas are constantly on the lookout for things to snatch and run away with.
  • At night the javelinas might come snuffling around your tent but then won’t try to get in because they’ll know you’re in there. If you wake up and smell something like a cross between a sewer & a skunk, you’ll know the javelinas are hanging around outside your tent. If you want then to leave you should turn on your flashlights and talk loudly.

We actually saw a family of javelinas just 100 ft away from our site; they were happily rooting around in the grass. I thought all this was hilarious, Jamie was a bit more nervous. We set up the tent, left the doors open, and walked to the park store to buy two cans of Shiner Bock beer to celebrate our first day of bicycling. On our way back to the site some guy joked that it looked like we were going to have a big party tonight with our two cans of beer! We made our dinner, sat around drinking our beers, and did not have any run ins with the javelinas. We were both nervous all night that we’d wake up with a stinky javelina snuffling around our head through the thin tent wall but nothing happened.

I’m out of internet time at the library, I’ll try to come back and write more about our 2nd day of bike touring tomorrow!


Friday, December 8th, 2006

We’ve finally made it to Texas, the last stop on our US roadtrip! We’re currently in Austin at the public library and I only have 10 minutes left to write a post.

Texas started off with a stop in Marfa. We were expecting a small boring little Texas town, but it turns out that Marfa, population only 2000, is somehow in on the artist scene. There are a few famous galleries in the city along with a super nice bookstore and a few cute restaurants. We visited a winery in Marfa where we tried six different Texas wines. The road to the winery was under construction so we were the only visitors on a Friday night, which means we got lots of information on the winery, industry, etc – very fun. The family also had two cute little Boston Terriers, so I was in heaven. After the winery we drove a few miles out of town to try to view the mysterious Marfa lights. I’ll provide a link later when I have more time, but the Marfa lights are basically little lights that appear on the horizon and dance around. No one knows what causes them. We hung out in our car for 20 minutes then gave up and went to bed – no lights for us!

After Marfa we drove South to Big Bend National Park where we spent 4 days. We managed to squeeze in a quick 2 day bike tour through the park…more on that later, I’m out of time!