Bike and Build 2010 (Scroll Down for Most Recent Post)

This coming June (less than a week following our wedding), we will be heading off on a 2 month, 3,830 mile long biking adventure with Bike and Build.  Along with 24 other cyclists from across the country, we will make our way from Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver, BC, stopping at various places along the way to work with affordable housing organizations.

We  need your help and support to make this trip possible!  We invite you to peruse our website, have a few laughs, and consider making a monetary donation to our efforts.  If nothing else, check back every once in awhile for entertaining and enlightening updates.  Leave us a few comments too – we need all the distractions we can get to avoid planning this wedding 🙂

-Stephanie Jansing and Josh Mueller

Flatout and Flat on the Flatlands

The plains did not let us leave easily.  We rode into Cut Bank, Montant, our last full day on the plains, with a deafening and demoralizing headwind every pedal stroke.  By this time towns were becoming more frequent.  We would ride towards them for 5 miles before actually reaching them, a distance long enough to make you question the reality of your vision.  Just before reaching Shelby, our lunch stop for the day, the Rocky Mountains came into view behind a very active wind farm. 

The next day, we left from Cut Bank with temperatures in the 40’s and rain making it feel even colder.  It was a good thing that we had seen the mountains the day before, otherwise we would have never known that they loomed on the horizon.  When the sky finally broke over Browning, they loomed much larger.  Although we were warned not to linger in Browning, the road into the town proved to be much more perilous.  Stephanie and I were sweep on the day, so we stopped at Java Time in Cut Bank to allow the rest of the riders to ride away.  On the road, I flatted first at mile 8 and Stephanie followed at mile 13.  At this point, I assumed that we would not see any other riders until lunch.  Cresting a hill, we found Liz with her bike upside down.  The last holdout against a flats flatted.  Less than three miles after we let them roll, I flatted again.  After all of this, we still caught up to Mark changing a flat.  Being his last day before leaving to teach in Alaska, all of our flats might have been a sign of solidarity with Mark who led the group with the most flats, or it could have been all the glass in the road.  The road sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies (Snap, crackle, pop or snap, crackle, psssss).  By the end of the day, more than 20 flats were changed, patched, cursed,…and many of them under raining skies. 

We camped at St. Mary’s, just inside the park entrance.  Over night, the rains and wind only intensified.  I slept, or laid, on the upwind side of the tent.  I would wake up to the tent wall flapping in to the point that it engulfed my body, seperating me from the rest of the tent, only to snap back like a flag in a stiff wind.  By the 4:30 wake-up call I was wet, cold, and dealt with it on very little sleep. 

All that led up to the ride through Glacier, really speaks to its beauty.  Halfway up Logan Pass, all was forgotten and replaced by childish grins.  Even seeing the scenery in patches, reveled by the shifting clouds, brought us to complete awe.  I will not try to explain it, and will caution that the pictures are an injustice.  I will simply say, MAKE PLANS TO SEE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK. 

Back in western North Dakota, we had to re-route a day to avoid oil-trucks by the hundreds on the two-lane highway 23. The only alternative was a patchwork of roads that included 25 miles of gravel rodes that rose and fell and twisted and turned. The ironic part of these two days was that we entered the oil fields after riding through a wind farm.

 

Passing traffic would cover the length of our group in a few minutes and probably see this sight a handful of times in that short time. I wonder what they thought. One look at Stephanie tells you all you need to know about the temperature.

 

Waterfalls fell thousands of feet down steep steps throughout the park, sometimes hitting right next to the road.

 

The elevations are not as high as Colorado, but beginning at a lower elevation, they are no less imposing.

 

Trash bags to keep the water from my wet shoes out of my socks, and electrical tape to keep my shoe on my foot after I packed away the ratchet buckle, realizing it only after my bag was at the back of the trailer.

 

Not as impressive as the group that saw a cub cross the street riding towards Logan Pass.

 

One more injustice.

Memories Off the Bike

Josh and I are currently 2,661 miles into our 3,810 mile journey across the country.  Oddly enough the magnitude of our journey didn’t quite hit me until we entered the state of Montana a few days ago.  My mind is still trying to wrap around the fact that we have peddled all the way from New Hampshire a month and a half ago!  Aside from the daily miles traveled, the incredible sites we see from the road, and the experiences we encounter on the bicycle, I have an on-going list of “Things That Have Changed My Life” while off the bike.  I’d like to share a few of them with all of you.

Nola the Airdale Puppy (Avon Lake, Ohio)

A fair amount of you are probably aware of my obsession with Weimeraners and my willingness to consent to Josh’s desire for a husky as long as it’s named “Egg Nog”.  If there is one thing that Josh and I continuously argue about it is which dog breed takes top honors.  However, after our stay in Avon Lake, Ohio (a suburb outside of Cleveland), there’s a new dog in town.  It would have been pretty obvious if I had tried to steal this puppy and fit her in my bag, but don’t think for a second it didn’t cross my mind.

Ann and Sieg from St. Paul

Ann and Sieg were our host couple in St. Paul for two nights.  They entertained us with story about story of their worldwide travels.  Sieg also kept me fully hydrated (and delighted) with the deepest, darkest, most delicious coffee for breakfast each morning.  Sieg orders green coffee beans and actually roasts them at home by himself!  Let’s be honest, being served coffee of this quality is a sure way to my heart.  Also worth noting, Ann got her coffee table straight from the Taj Mahal!

Harbor View Cafe (Pepin, Wisconsin)

For Josh’s birthday we spent the morning riding into Pepin, Wisconsin, a quaint little town situated right next to Lake Pepin.  Pepin also happens to be the hometown of Laura Ingall’s Wilder.  Aside from surprise water balloon attacks and a random pinata  named Alejandro, I had made reservations for a birthday dinner at Harbor View Cafe for a nice change of pace from lasagna and hamburgers.  Josh and I feasted on delicious meals that were chosen from a menu written on a chalkboard above the bar and enjoyed lingonberry and almond cake for dessert.  If I were to design my own restaurant it would look a lot like Harbor View Cafe and would serve the exact Black Bean Fritters and Fishcakes that Josh and I ordered.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

Josh and I had no expectations as we rode the 75-some miles to Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  We powered through 23 miles of gravel roads (to avoid oil truck traffic on the main road) and enjoyed the typical North Dakota landscape we had seen for a few days.  Even as close as 4 miles from the park the view looked the same – rolling hills, fields of tall grass and wheat, and a never ending blue horizon.  I was beginning to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn.  Suddenly, we turned a corner to the most beautiful view of sprawling badlands; peaks and valleys of gorgeous rock formations and layer upon layer of various colors of Sandstone.  In the morning, 4 miles into our ride out of the park we were stalled by a giant buffalo blocking our route out of the park.

And, of course, some pictures for your enjoyment!

Enjoying Kate's homemade energy bars! Thanks Kate!

Holy Cow! We're in Montana!

Josh is a prarie dog...do you see it?!

The Prankster is Pranked

Leaving Crookston, ND, we had the longest day of the trip (117 miles) ahead of us.  The day began not thinking of the miles ahead but the slow unveiling of the previous night’s covert activity. 

To appreciate the story, you have to know Nolan Wildfire.  He has a prolific resume of pranks: offering Sarah suntan lotion for her to discover it was ranch dressing after putting it on her face, the entire team waking up to find their shoes hanging from the tennis court fence, rocks in camelbacks, locking people in port-a-potties, removing the buckle from my waist strap,…In the midyear evaluation, we were asked what the team could do to improve.  Many people responded that as a whole, we could be better at pranking Nolan.  There have been responses, some successful, some not, but none that shook his confidence.

I gave nothing away during breakfast, even sitting at the same table, and managed to carry his bike out to the parking lot before he saw it under the guise of moving bikes to clean.  If you don’t have a good poker face, getting very little sleep the night before works amazing.  Nolan and I are to the point that when he discovered the 5 pound dumbbell suspended in the triangle of his bike (zip tied to suspend and locked to make sure he couldn’t remove it) I was suspect number one.  Accused my poker face failed me, but you don’t need a poker face when you have the best hand.  In mile increments, I disclosed first a wrong combination and then individual numbers to the combination with chalk on the road.  As I chalked the last key in the road, I could make out Nolan’s gangly silhouette coming through the fog.  He didn’t seem to care about the combination, and prankster and pranked rode the next 20 miles together.  I’m pretty sure he would have rode the 117 miles with it attached to his bike had the zip ties not snapped 15 miles in.  Instead of dumping it on the side of the road, he dumped it in his backpack.

We came across a cross-country rider from Sweden with limited knowledge of the country and English that allowed him to be conversational with some deliberation.  Sitting at the rest stop, Nolan removed the weight to get at something deeper in his bag.  The Swede cracked up and said that Nolan could carry some of his bags and drop them at the hotel.  He made Nolan look more stubborn than impressive as he had 100 pounds on his bike.  He was riding, constrained only by the plane ticket he had back home from New York in September.  It was hot so he turned north.  Kira learned that he was going to be riding to Rugby the next day, also our destination.  Knowing that there was really only one route, she decided to look up Swedish phrases to chalk on the road for him.  It amazes me the little things people on the trip do for others and reminds me to look for opportunities beyond pranking Nolan. 

With the trees gone once we left Crookston, the potential for a tough ride was great.  In the end, the wind was absent and the miles clicked by. 

Seeing a few locals jump from the bridge that spanned the gorge 88 feet above the St. Louis River was enough to convince us that it was deep enough for a more modest 30 foot jump. Other cameras captured me look like a frog leaving the edge.

In St. Paul, we spent the day at separate worksites, each spending the day scraping paint from houses. I expected to be eating my cereal left-handed the next day.

One of my more flexible moments.

No two miles alike. Even the miles from backtracking after wrong turns offered a different perspective.

Llama Prama in Rugby, ND (the geographical center of North America). This deserves a whole post, but you are looking at a white dress shirt and tie thrown over the shoulder. Better pictures will emerge, but it had to be mentioned.

The ABC’s of Bike and Build (Apples, Biking, and Coffee)

I speak for the rest of the Bike and Build group when I say that our sense of time is no longer.  If it weren’t for the watch I wear on my wrist every day (more for maintaining the incredible watch tan I now sport than for actually telling time), I would have no idea the current day of the week.  Our days are dictated by activities unrelated to timing: eating, biking, napping, sleeping.  If there are no more miles to pedal and no meals to eat our bodies do as they please – for me this usually includes some form of chocolate and a nap on my thermarest. 

However, there have been a few days in the past weeks when we take a break from the bike all together.  These usually take the form of Build Days, when we work with local affordable housing organizations in the town we happen to be staying.  Most recently, we spent a day in St. Paul, Minnesota working with a branch of Habitat for Humanity called A Brush With Kindness.  A Brush With Kindness focuses on home repairs for low income individuals in the community.  Josh and I spent the day on seperate build sites, however it seems we were put to similar tasks as we each spent a few hours scraping paint.  My job also included washing the outside walls of the house and priming the house for repainting.

A few days before, in Madison, Wisconsin, we had our first day completely off.  Josh and I explored Madison by embarking on a marathon coffee shop tour.  Our tour led as throughout Madison, including State Street (the main hipster drag of Madison), UW Madison, and Lake Mendota.  The large amounts of caffeine, baked goods, and chocolate kept us energized the entire day!

After a few days on the bike traveling throughout the beautiful state of Minnesota, we will enjoy another day off tomorrow in Duluth.  We will continue to update as frequently as possible with our travels and include many more pictures when internet speed picks up!

We are biking across the country**

*This will not be a negative post by the end

 **In Vancouver, I can no longer say that I have ridden across the country. In Ashtabula, OH, the trailer was loaded at 5 in the morning under a flashing sky. The lightening and radar delayed our start, with a promised decision on the day by 9 AM. I spent most of the time over many cups of tea and a coloring book sheet, colored entirely with the appendage found in exhibit A.

Exhibit A: At the beginning I struggled to contain my coloring within the bat, but I finished with 3 toned panel shoes.

When the leaders called us together at 8:25, I expected good news. Surely they would wait to the last minute before canceling. I guess they had seen enough to begin the arduous process of 3 round trips. The fact that they created so much more work for themselves should have given me confidence in their decision, but I was only bitter, and not able to really hide it in my silence, but not explicitly showing it either. A lot of people (most) were quicker to make the best of the situation. I drew the first shuttle, giving me quicker (by many hours) access to my clothes, book, journal…

Hearing that Avon Lake was one of the best hosts in all of Bike and Build, I thought their generosity would not be fully appreciated void of the fatigue of 90 miles. Nearly 100 people prepared and joined us for dinner. The group was divided among different hosts in the community. Before making out way to the Roach’s new home, we stopped by the Witticker’s house on the Lake Erie. You could reach the T-shaped concrete dock by either the sweeping stone or spiral staircase. The wind that blew the storms in earlier in the day, blew all the clouds out, and created waves that would have been impressive in an ocean. Under a setting sun, we played in the world’s best wave pool. Not only did the waves swell in, but as they hit the concrete dock, they were sent back out. When an outgoing wave met a cresting incoming wave, they collided with a splash that sent spray 20 feet in the air. I have never seen Stephanie with such youthful and wide eyes. All communication between the group was reduced to giggles and screams.

Jamey had a camera in the water, so there should be some action shots to follow.

After a long time, I made a quick exit as the waves left me queasy. We retreated to the Roach’s and were given an enthusiastic tour by their two daughters, Megan*** and Caitie. Tired, we were unable to take advantage of their hospitality of beer, TV, or the internet. Hard to believe.

Needless to say the bitter taste did not last. Maybe we will complete the leg from Ashtabula to Avon Lake when we return to Ohio for Carin and Chris’ wedding. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

***On the way to the Witticker’s, we rode in two separate cars. Riding with her mom, Megan asked if the ceilings of their new house would be tall enough for my height. Enjoy the random photo dump.

Into Michigan today, Indiana tomorrow, Illinois two days later, and then Wisconsin the next.

Rows of grapes leading to Lake Erie.

 

A rough bunch. Its a good thing the background offers a beautiful distraction.

You Asked

Where are you?

Currenty Rochester, New York on the eve of a build day after riding nearly 400 miles in the last 6 days.

Where have you been?

Bridge construction prevented us from documenting New Hampshire as we left.

How do you shower?

Only once, but probably the most refeshing. YMCAs, community rec centers, churchs, and hoses we're told in the future allow us the option to shower every day.

Where do you sleep?

We have slept in church common rooms, between pews, in prayer rooms, on altars, and even in one bed at the Silver Bay YMCA camp.

What is the scenery like?

We have already crossed the White, Green, and Adirondack Mountains.

Keep the questions coming, and we’ll try to answer them when we get a chance.  We are just coming out to 3 days without cell phone service after riding through a wilderness county, one of only two left east of the Mississippi.  There are a few stipulations to garner that title, but one for this county was the fact that there were more bears than people.  It is also based on EMT response time, so you can breathe easier now that we have made it out.

Crossing or Climbing?

It started under a sky that had decended to the ground (probably not scientifically correct).  We had a quick 6 mile ride from Holy Trinity to coast of Portsmouth, N.H.  Everyone rolled out from the church in rain gear, surrounded by fog.  Our trip was officially Christened with a dip of the rear wheels in the Atlantic Ocean, and a second dip 10 minutes later once we realized that another rider flatted on the way, missed the dip, and voided the legitmacy of the first dip.  Our wheels were pulled up from the water to a different sky…sun.
From there, we have traveled from Portsmouth, through New Market and Nottingham, stopping in Concord, New London, and currently Lebenon.  The riding can best be summed up in the words of Angela, “It will be hilly until you start climbing.”  I’ll take it because although it sounds contradictory, the plains of the midwest are looming ahead.  The past few days, our que sheets (directions with milage markers) have had roughly 10 turns.  Supposedly, there are que sheets in the plains that require one direction: “Turn out of the parking lot and go straight for __ miles.”  On days were there are a lot of turns, chalk is handed out and the first rider/groups through mark the road.  Although we have often found ourselves in that group, Stephanie and I are reminding each other to stop and enjoy our surroundings.  Today we stopped at a former Quaker community and stuffed 5 people in a small phone booth with the 10 second delay our cameras allowed.
There is not much to say about the next picture except there were many encouragers but only a few followers.  Still cute!
We don’t get access to a computer often enough to make this blog a journal, but don’t worry.  We both are keeping journals to keep the details fresh so that we can more fully relive our adventure when we see you in person.  If you go to http://www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/route.php?route=NUS&year=2010 you can see daily entries from riders including shout-outs to all our generous hosts and photos.

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