Leaving the United States for Approximately Six Months

Amanda and I have flown to Korea to start our tour of Asia and New Zealand/Australia, and we don’t plan to make it back to the U.S. until Memorial Day. Packing for this leg of the journey was quite the challenge due to the many different climates and activities we have planned for the next half year, but we managed to fit everything into our (heavy) backpacks.

We flew to Seoul and spent two days there to begin our trip and adjust to the new time zone and now are working our way around Korea.

Art work along the Cheongyecheon.

Art work along the Cheongyecheon.

Here is our itinerary so far: Amanda and I are in Korea for two weeks, and then we fly to Taiwan. We will spend three weeks in Taiwan and then we head to Japan on January 9th. We are renting a campervan in Japan to drive around the islands and will spend over a month in country before finally flying to Thailand on February 11th. That is as far as we have plane tickets booked, but the idea is to spend 2 months travelling around Southeast Asia, and then head to New Zealand around April. Let us know if you’ll be somewhere in these areas and want to meet up. As you can tell, we’re pretty flexible on the planning.

 

Utah Rocks! – Part 1

As Rob and I got in late the night before, we didn’t get to check out the amazing view from Goosenecks State Park until the morning. You drive in and it looks like nothing, but once you enter the park, there’s a great view of two river bends, goosenecks, that the San Juan River makes. There are a number of unofficial campsites beyond the designated eight if you keep driving along the rim road.

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Goosenecks State Park. The photo doesn’t do it justice. Although, we also didn’t realize how many of these we would see/could see later in the trip.

Leaving the park, the next stop was Mexican Hat to check out the rock formation and the free BLM land camping we had passed up. The rock was neat but the free camping was pretty much just a parking lot off a dirt road with no privacy – not great for tent camping.

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Mexican Hat

Monument Valley was our major destination for the day followed by Natural Bridges National Monument. We drove south and crossed into Arizona onto Navajo land to go the the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

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Monument Valley. The left and right mittens and a butte that I don’t remember the name.

When we drove up to pay the fee, it turned out the park was closed for two days. It seemed like everyone was going in anyway, so we followed the crowd and drove through the park. Everything was actually open except the fee collection and the restaurant- the souvenir shop, the people at the pull offs selling things and tours, all open.

Our next Utah experience was surprisingly the drive to Natural Bridges National Monument. I had seen a sign the day before the mentioned RVs and trailers not recommended on a section of the road. After looking at the map zoomed in, it became clear why.

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Google Map of the Moki Dugway

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Moki Dugway

We drove toward a steep wall and then the road became gravel, under construction, steep and narrow for 6 miles as we switch-backed up a rock face. Later, I found out this section of road is known as the Moki Dugway.

At Natural Bridges National Monument, there are three noteworthy natural bridges, which differ from arches as they are formed when a river erodes the neck of the gooseneck bypassing the bend and creating a natural bridge. Arches are formed by freeze thaw linked erosion. We hiked to all three natural bridges then headed on to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

The free camping at Newspaper Rock was closed and amazingly all of the BLM designated free campsites were full on this random Thursday night. Luckily we were able to fall back to a nice boondocking site along a road to a cheap (but not free) BLM campground called Hamburger Rock.

The next morning we got up ready to do some actual hiking. We were limited on starting points by not having a 4×4 but we were still able to get to the trailhead for the Joint Trail and Druid Arch. Our goal was to combine them into one long day hike, which we did by doing the Joint trail segment out and back to save distance/time. Both the Joint Trail and Druid Arch are amazing and shouldn’t be missed on a visit.

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Needles District View

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Druid Arch. A couple ladder bits and a bunch of river bed trekking to get here was well worth it. 

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The Joint Trail. This was amazing. We did not know what to expect and suddenly the trail dropped down into the gap between rock sections. 

 

After hiking, we cooked up some curry ramen at the Ranger Station while we waited for the Night Sky Program to begin. Canyonlands is a designated dark sky park and ranger had a fancy telescope to look at some different star clusters and nebula. He also showed us how to find a teapot who’s “steam” is the milky way. Camping was again off the same road but a different site as the one we had used was already taken.

 

Flashback: Baltic Cruise on Azamara Quest

Rob finally finished our Scandinavia trip photos. They are posted here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100293523992391.1073741840.3002574&type=1&l=113e644672. We’ve been pretty busy recently but hope to finally be more up to date next week.

Here are my recollections from our Baltic Cruise on the Azamara Quest.

Monday, July 27: Left Seattle at 5 pm

Tuesday, July 28: Arrived in Oslo at 11 pm. We met Rob’s parents returning from Bergen at the train station and they kindly helped us carry our luggage to our hotel in the rain.

Wednesday, July 29: Fjord tour/Rick Steves Norway in a Nutshell. (We booked our Norway in a Nutshell tickets in advance via the DIY route and which was almost 50% cheaper than the package deal). After arriving late, we caught the 6 am train toward Bergen. This was one of the most beautiful train rides we had ever been on, rivaling the Swiss Golden Panorama train route from Lucerne to Interlaken. It travels through miles of tunnels and snowsheds, offering peeks of lakes frozen well into the summer dotted with homes.

Taking the train from Oslo towards the west coast of Norway. Up in the mountains the lakes were still mostly frozen

Taking the train from Oslo towards the west coast of Norway. Up in the mountains the lakes were still mostly frozen

Upon reaching Myrdal, we transferred to the Flam railway. This tourist train descends down a steep river valley towards the fjords using several different braking systems. It even made a 5 min waterfall stop so everyone could get a nice photo.

It is a short 20 km railroad line from the mountains at 4000+ ft to sea level, surrounded by waterfalls.

It is a short 20 km railroad line from the mountains at 4000+ ft to sea level, surrounded by waterfalls.

In Flam, we joined a fjord cruise with a boatload of Chinese tourist to Gudvangen. The top deck was chilly, but we braved the cold in our down jackets and hats. Waterfalls abounded on both sides of the fjord. Little white specks turned out to be a flock of sheep.

It was pretty cold and a little rainy, but the landscape was still beautiful.

It was pretty cold and a little rainy, but the landscape was still beautiful.

At the end of the cruise, we bused to Voss then continued on the train to Bergen. Arriving at 5pm, we explored the town for several hours, visiting the old Hanseatic warehouses, eating fish cakes and enjoying the sunset before catching our overnight train back to Oslo.

Giant fish sculpture in Bergen, Norway.

Giant fish sculpture in Bergen, Norway.

Thursday, July 30: Oslo, Overnight ferry to Copenhagen

Arriving early in Oslo, we joined Kathy and Bob for a fabulous breakfast at their hotel. We had a chance to try many types of fish and local cheeses in addition to the normal breakfast foods. Afterwards, we rolled out to tour Oslo on foot and attempt to digest our massive meal. Strolling around the waterfront, we eventually meandered to the Parliament building for the first tour of the morning. The tour included a look at a variety of Norwegian artwork done before and after WWII, including some abstract paintings of the current monarchs. Then, we returned to the hotel to assemble the tandem and do a short ride to a sculpture park to make sure it was working fine. By this point, it was time to ride to the port and catch our ferry to Copenhagen with Rob’s parents.

The family met up in Oslo and we took the overnight ferry to Copenhagen.

The family met up in Oslo and we took the overnight ferry to Copenhagen.

Friday, July 31: Copenhagen

Biking off the ferry, we almost beat Rob’s parents, who took a cab, to the hotel. Rob and I were amazed by the bike infrastructure. Wonderful bike lanes, bike signals and bike park and rides. We spent the day biking and walking around the city to see all of the highlights – New Christiana, City Hall, the old Stock Market and then Tivoli Gardens at night.

Saturday, August 1: Cruise departs from Copenhagen

Rob and I visited the Rosenborg Castle. The neatest part was seeing all the narwhal furniture and the ridiculous crown jewels including a crown that weighed 7 pounds.

Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen

Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen

After lunching in surrounding park, we grabbed our luggage and headed to cruise ship pier next to Kasteel Park near the Little Mermaid Statue. We parked next to ship and started disassembling the bike. A couple of cruise ship folks asked if we were boarding the ship. When we replied to the affirmative, they took it in stride and told us to let them know when the bike was ready for them to collect. Then, they delivered it to our room. Azamara is awesome!

Disassembling the tandem to carry it on the cruise ship. I think we might be the only people to ever bring a tandem bike on Azamara, but they were very accomidating.

Disassembling the tandem to carry it on the cruise ship. I think we might be the only people to ever bring a tandem bike on Azamara, but they were very accomidating.

Sunday, August 2: Travemunde and Lubeck, Germany

For the first morning of the cruise, we arrived in the German beach town of Travemunde. The ship docked right in downtown and we caught the first bus to Lubeck, a historic Hanseatic trading town. We followed the Rick Steves’ tour around tour visiting a number of churches and an old city gate then took the train back to the boat. Rob and I set out on bike, while everyone else went for a walk. On the warm Sunday, the beach was quite popular. We biked down the packed streets and boardwalks lining the beach. We eventually reached a dirt trail that we followed for awhile through a number of other beach towns then looped back to Travemunde.

The city gates in Lubeck, Germany

The city gates in Lubeck, Germany

Monday, August 3: Wismar, Germany

After wandering around Wismar for the morning, Rob and I grabbed the tandem and headed out for an afternoon ride to a Insel Poel, an island connected to the mainland by a bridge over a small spit. We navigated a route on country roads and gravel paths to a set of beaches along the coast. Reaching the beach, it became clear where everyone else with tents was biking to, it looked like the entirety of Germany had migrated here to enjoy the sun, water and sand, bringing a campful of things with them. Each family staked out its own territory with shade tents and temporary walls (to hide the naked people sunbathing we quickly learned).  We waded in the water for a bit before continuing our bike loop back to Wismar.

We took the tandem off the cruise ship in the afternoon and biked to this beach outside of Wismar, Germany.

We took the tandem off the cruise ship in the afternoon and biked to this beach outside of Wismar, Germany.

That night, we had dinner reservations for the nice steakhouse on board the ship, which was unfortunately coincided with the Electric Light Orchestra-esque performance put on as part of a night of entertainment for the ship by the port of Wismar. Rob and I did at least catch the mens choir performance and the fireworks at the end of the night.

The cruise ship spent one day in Wismar, Germany and this port must not see too many cruise ships: the town held a concert right next to the cruise ship and then put on a fireworks show for us.

The cruise ship spent one day in Wismar, Germany and this port must not see too many cruise ships: the town held a concert right next to the cruise ship and then put on a fireworks show for us.

Tuesday, August 4: Bornholm, Denmark

With only 6 hours in port and over 50 miles round-trip to Svaneke, a fishing village with a brewery and smokehouse, we were in line with the tandem ready to disembark right at noon. The island of Bornholm is known for a plethora of bike trails that encircle and cross the island. Unfortunately the route circling the  island was too long for our time, so we had to choose a section the was shorter and mostly paved. Since Svaneke had the most interesting places to visit and an easy bail route, we decided on that. The brewery had the best local brew of the trip. We also visited licorice and toffee makers. Rob’s parents with Brian rented e-bikes and did a separate loops. The e-bikes got rave reviews from them.

Quickly enjoying a few beers before we had to bike back to the cruise ship.

Quickly enjoying a few beers before we had to bike back to the cruise ship.

Wednesday, August 5: Gdansk, Poland

Poland was definitely our cheapest stop on the trip. A big festival was going on at the time so all the streets were lined with food stalls. Rob and I saw these corn-shaped bread things all over and finally asked what they were. They turned out to be cheese. Heated up on a little grill, they were one of the best things we ate that day, better then the open-faced lard sandwich with grilled onions and pickles. We also tried pirogies and a breadier version for lunch.

The main attraction of Gdansk besides being a wonderfully rebuilt Hanseatic trading town was the Solidarity Shipyard whose worker revolt began the road leading to the fall of Communism. The newly built Union Center housed a large and incredibly well-done museum described the events of the revolt and how it lead to the formation of the shipyard union. Neat fact: people wore resistors as symbols of support for the resistance.

Monument to those who were killed in the Shipyard Uprising of 1970 in Gdania. The workers were rebelling against the terrible conditions on communist Poland.

Monument to those who were killed in the Shipyard Uprising of 1970 in Gdania. The workers were rebelling against the terrible conditions on communist Poland.

Thursday, August 6: Day at sea

Finally a break! After sleeping in, Rob and I headed to the Jazz brunch, where the ship’s great jazz band was playing. Since we got there at opening it was pretty sparse and we managed to snag our normal window dinner table for the family. In addition to a pasta station, they had a fruit carving station and I noticed this weird spiky fruit that I had never seen before. It turned out to be a dragon fruit and one of the chefs cut it up for us to try. The flesh inside was a beautiful fuchsia color and darn tasty. Somehow, I think I ate most of it. Then, we hurried off to the bridge meet up where an older couple humored us for an hour of bridge. After bridge, Rob, Brian and Bob toured the ship’s bridge, while Kathy and I played Mahjong. After winning the first hand, I quit to let another women played and managed to catch up with the bridge tour.

Seeing the bridge was pretty neat, especially learning about how things are managed on the ship behind the scenes. They are constantly doing maintenance on the ship through the cruises and they often are not running the all the engine/generator capacity in order to allow some portions to be serviced.

Friday, August 7: Tallinn, Estonia

KGB Museum. Rob and I managed to join a tour of the KGB museum which occupies the “hidden” 23rd floor of the Hotel Viru. Built during the Cold War out of a new building material micro-crete (40% microphones, 60% concrete), this hotel was where foreigners stayed when visiting Tallinn and included a hard currency bar and fabulous food and shows. The 23rd floor housed the KGB listening post.

One of the KGB spy cameras used to photograph guests through tiny holes in the wall.

One of the KGB spy cameras used to photograph guests through tiny holes in the wall.

Saturday, August 8: St. Petersburg

Rob and I ordered room service breakfast to enjoy the cruise into St. Petersburg from our balcony. The large boat route to the city piers winds through the industrial port, so it was an interesting journey to the heart of the city.

One of the many names of St. Petersburg

One of the many names of St. Petersburg

We saw what looked like submarine dry docks along with cargo ships, ice breakers and coast guard vessels. Disembarking from the ship, we met our tour guide, Elena. After a drive around downtown to see a few sites, we headed to Catherine’s Palace and the amazing reconstructed amber room. It was pretty amazing despite the hoards of tourists. The same can be said for the Hermitage. We whizzed through all the historic rooms dodging other folks, but when we finished those and started on the paintings, I started to get museumed-out. The Hermitage has an amazing collection, but the Russian history and related artifacts were what I was more interested to learn about. We finally left the Hermitage after 3 hours.

Sunday, August 9: Moscow

On this day, we caught the train at the crack of dawn to visit Moscow. Seeing Red Square, the Kremlin and St. Basils Cathedral was pretty neat. They actually used evergreen trees in the landscaping around the edge of the Kremlin, which isn’t common here in the States.

The Russian Orthodox churches are awesome, so many colors. This is St. Basils, in Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox churches are awesome, so many colors. This is St. Basils, in Moscow.

Monday, August 10: St. Petersburg

We began the morning with a hydrofoil ride our to Peterhoff just in time for the ceremony where they turn on the fountains. Our tour guide ushered us to the best view and told us to stand our ground from the other tourist at all cost. All the fountains are gravity fed with water piped from nearby mountains. It was pretty impressive to watch the sequence of fountains coming online. There were also a few fountains that had an operated hiding in the bushes that would spray folks (mainly kids) who wandered into or through their fountain. I decided to hop in with my umbrella.

There were fountains for kids to play in, where the fountain would turn off until someone walks through, and then it would shower them. Amanda defeated this prank using an umbrella.

There were fountains for kids to play in, where the fountain would turn off until someone walks through, and then it would shower them. Amanda defeated this prank using an umbrella.

Our St. Petersburg tour concluded with a visit to the church of the Spilled Blood. One of the most impressive churches we’ve seen, every surface was covered with beautiful mosaics. It was built on the spot where the last tsar was assassinated.

Tuesday, August 11: Helsinki, Finland

After doing Rick Steves’ walking tour, we visited the free Helsinki City Museum. They had one neat exhibit that featured an exhibit about the Mermaid Hall (essentially a dunk tank). At first only women were dunked, then they added men to make it fair. The exhibit was essentially a dunk tank with a screen that had old video footage of women getting dunked that would play when you hit the target. They also had a survey where you could vote on why you came to the museum. I tied my string next to free bathrooms, a rarity in Helsinki.

Helsinki City Museum surveys visitors as to why they came.

Helsinki City Museum surveys visitors as to why they came.

Rob and I also visited several interesting places of worship and the Sibelius monument in addition completing a quest to find stamps for our postcards.

The Chapel of Silence is a small chapel in the middle of Helsinki

The Chapel of Silence is a small chapel in the middle of Helsinki

Wednesday, August 12: Stockholm, Sweden

We wandered around Stockholm finishing up at the Vasa museum where we spent hours checking out the old preserved warship. The Vasa was recovered largely intact and all new pieces added during restoration were left a lighter brown to show the completeness of the find.

The Vasa was a huge ship!

The Vasa was a huge ship!

Thursday, August 13: Departed cruise ship, left on bike tour.

Putting all of our luggage on the bike and leaving the cruise ship for the last time. One of the ship's employees asked to take our photo, as we might be the only guests to ever bike away from the cruise ship.

Putting all of our luggage on the bike and leaving the cruise ship for the last time. One of the ship’s employees asked to take our photo, as we might be the only guests to ever bike away from the cruise ship.

Saturday, August 22: Return to Stockholm

Sunday, August 23: Departed Sweden to Seattle

Roadtripping Seattle to Minnesota

Rob and I just began at least two months of road tripping around the USA. Our first stop is Minnesota to meet up with Paul and Karen from Baker. Paul will be joining us for a week of canoeing around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

Day 1: Seattle, WA to Superior, MT
We finally left town around noon after some last-minute errands. On I-90 east, we passed a whole military convoy with tanks and all with everyone in battle stations.

We passed a military convoy at battle stations driving I-90 East.

We passed a military convoy at battle stations driving I-90 East.

Our one time constraint was a frypan pick at GSI Outdoors in Spokane Valley by 5pm. We made it with 30 minutes to spare then continued on to MT. I was looking at the wrong directions so we ended up at a $6/night campground instead of the free one. A random local woman saw our headlamps and pulled over to see what was going on. I guess that place is used infrequently.

Day 2: Superior, MT to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, WY
We passed a sign for Testicle Festival.in Clinton MT. Rob remembered that The Stranger was there and we found ridiculous pics of festival folks under Drunk of the Week. For lunch, we made an epic Costco sample run in Bozeman. We looked up Costco just before the exit for it.

After another bout of driving, we made it to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area by 5 pm and attempted to camp in the Horseshoe Bend Campground. There were howling winds when we reached the campground, around 20-30 mph. We attempted to pitch the tent but it was collapsing in the strong winds, we didn’t think we would need to bring the mountaineering tent for summer camping!

Rob using the car to block the wind so we could enjoy some Montucky Cold Snacks and strawberries.

Rob using the car to block the wind so we could enjoy some Montucky Cold Snacks and strawberries.

As we tried to light the stove, the nice folks in the RV across the way took pity on us and invited us to use their microwave and join them for dinner. Turns out Charlie and Willy live nearby and had been staking out their RV spot all week for the Labor Day weekend. They also invited us to go out with them on the lake the next morning with them.

Day 3: Bighorn Canyon, WY to Devils Tower, WY
We began the day with an awesome boat ride with Willy, Charlie, their friend Bill and the camp host, Bob. They started opening beers at 10 AM because by then it is noon in New York. Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals or catch any fish, but we did finish off all the Deep Eddy lemon vodka we had.

Cruisin' on Bighorn Lake (MT/WY border) with Willy and Charlie.

Cruisin’ on Bighorn Lake (MT/WY border) with Willy and Charlie.

Bighorn Canyon View from the water.

Bighorn Canyon View from the water.

View of Bighorn Canyon from Devils Canyon Overlook

View of Bighorn Canyon from Devils Canyon Overlook

From Bighorn Canyon, we drove over the steep Pryor mountains and through the national forestland there. We passed a number of cars parked on the roadsides near pasture gates, but didn’t see any folks. From there, we rejoined I-90 and passed through Moorcroft, home of the West TX trail museum. This was the end point where the cattle were loaded onto train cars.

Camp that night was at Devils Tower (where Close Encounter of the Third Kind was filmed). Free firewood made Rob’s night since he had fire-envy as we drove into camp. The winds started to pick up right around bed time and I was afraid the large trees overhead would fall on us.

Day 4: Devils Tower, WY to Badlands National Park, SD
We toured Devils Tower in the morning and watched a bunch of climbers going up. It was really busy, we didn’t realize there would be so many tourists in the Wyoming/South Dakota area. The Native Americans in the area are petitioning to change the name to “Beer Lodge,” which had been mistranslated as “Bad Gods” and became Devils Tower. The creation legend involves the uplift of land saving kids from a bear.

Us at Devils Tower (East side)

Us at Devils Tower (East side)

Rob saw this awesome dead tree and knowing how I love dead tree pics, he took one.

Rob saw this awesome dead tree and knowing how I love dead tree pics, he took one.

Stopped by the Prairie Dog Village. It reminded Rob of Lubbock, TX.

Prairie Dog Village near Devils Tower. They're not shy at all. Apparently they also spread the plague.

Prairie Dog Village near Devils Tower. They’re not shy at all. Apparently they also spread the plague.

Continued heading east to Rapid City, SD, then south to Mt. Rushmore. We passed so many ridiculous tourist traps on the way – Independence Hall replica with Liberty Bell, Reptile world, black light mini golf, 2 level human maze, alpine slide with chair lift, Dances with Wolves set tours and more.

Mt. Rushmore was also busy as it was still Labor Day Weekend. Unfortunately we were too early for the illuminations ceremony which consists of a video about America and then the lighting of the memorial. Instead, we did the 0.5 mile (but 450 step) Presidential traverse and learned about the building process. No one died building Mt. Rushmore and the only person seriously injured jumped off a out of control tram car that was eventually stopped in time.

Amanda and Mt. Rushmore

Amanda and Mt. Rushmore

We made a brief road-side stop at Wall Drug: a ridiculous, but free tourist trap that got people to stop by advertising free ice water. Like Bucky’s, it had signs almost the entire way from Rapid City. We enjoyed the tacky kitschy strip mall, but failed to get our promised free ice water.

We finally made it to camp in the Sage Creek primitive Campground in Badlands National Park. It was a huge grassy field with bison nearby and coyotes howling (but hopefully less nearby).

Bison in the Sage Creek Campground

Bison in the Sage Creek Campground

Day 5: Badlands National Park, SD to Minneapolis, MN
We woke up at 6:30am and were out of camp by 6:50am. New record! We drove the overlook-dotted road toward the visitors centers. Overlook #2 featured a herd of Bighorn sheep blocking the road. A storm brought heavy rain partway through the drive; we tried to hike a short loop during a dry spell and ended up getting drenched. We arrived at the visitor center just in time to avoid another downpour. After seeing the amazing landscape, it’s pretty clear why folks called it “the land that is bad to cross.” The rock is really soft and erodes an inch a year so they’re always finding new fossils. After rain storms visitors often discover new ones; the park has a huge collection from a variety or prehistoric creatures. By the time we went through all the exhibits at the visitors’ center the storm had passed and the sun was out. We hiked the Window, Door and Notch trails (total of 2.5 miles) and got on the road to Minneapolis, an 8 hr drive plus a 1 hour time change.

Rob in Badlands National Park

Rob in Badlands National Park

View at the end of the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

View at the end of the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

Panorama in Badlands National Park

Panorama in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep blocking the road in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep blocking the road in Badlands National Park

Stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell to see the murals made with corn and other grains.

Corn Palace Mural inside the Mitchell Civic Center.

Corn Palace Mural inside the Mitchell Civic Center.

We arrived in Minneapolis around 9 pm and met up with Karen, a friend from college. For a nice change, we went out from some tasty burgers nearby. Finally, we had our first shower of the trip and also our first night on a real bed. Thanks Karen!

Summering like the Swedish and Swedish flat

Day 2

After finding that our cycle route turned into 6 km of deep gravel, we detoured and found a much nicer campsite next to a lake. The bugs were out but there was a bench with a campfire pit. After determining the flattest spot to pitch our tent, we realized the trees surrounding it had little mounds of toilet paper covered by sticks. Apparently we discovered the number 2 bathroom.

Amanda next to the campfire on night 2 of wild camping, drinking the last of the Champagne we had biked this far

Amanda next to the campfire on night 2 of wild camping

Day 3

Hit the road early and arrived a Navekvarn. Found the TI with super-clean toilets and showers. We would have enjoyed but continued on with the knowing we would just be getting sweaty again. Heading on, Rob and I just caught our second tiny ferry. We shared it with a tourbus and a tractor. After a bit of flattish biking and some accidental detouring, we finally reached Mem and the beginning of the Gota Cannal and OMG more flat biking (once we could get the sheep off the bike path). Soderkoping, the next town 5.5 km in, is apparently known for their ice cream. Multiple Swedish folks and the guidebook mentioned ice cream. Therefore, we HAD to get ice cream. There was an incredibly long line to get the largest, most ridiculous ice cream sundaes in the cafe (one even had a special dry ice compartment so the sundae smoked), so we settled for take-away. So good! Followed by some ferry booking/internet time at the local TI, some grocery shopping and Swedish pickle consumption (very salty/half-pickle half-cucumber), this was a lazy afternoon.

Famous ice cream place in Soderking right next to the Gota Canal

Famous ice cream place in Soderking right next to the Gota Canal

We decided to put some more miles on the bike. These ~25 km redefined Swedish flat for us. There is no flat. Sweden = up or down. Trees mean elevation change and the road connects houses on hilltops. A campground appeared when I was crashing so we stopped for the night and found out what Swedes do in the summer: go to a cabin or if you don’t have a cabin, camp at one place for weeks at a time in your camper. Overall, the campground, although mostly filled with RVs, was nice. It actually had flat tent pitches, not in a pet poop yard or under a light, hot showers and a nice kitchen. The only issue came when Rob decided to hammer in the tent stakes with his bike shoe.

Rob put a tent stake all the way through the heel of his bike show. Oops.

Rob put a tent stake all the way through the heel of his bike show. Oops.

Thankfully the shoe is fine, except for a small hole in the bottom.

Day 4: Valdemarsvik to Vastervik
After looking at the bike route mileages, we decided to save distance/leg strength and take the E22 highway for a bit. Turns out that Sweden does not believe in road shoulders. We braved this for ~15 km then managed to find some Swedish flat side roads that were less trafficked and made it all the way to Vastervik.

Bridge from spit to Vastervik

Bridge from spit to Vastervik

After determining that we might do another couple miles on the highway to save a big loop on the cycle route, we decided to do another night of luxe camping since Sunday night heading home traffic was in full force. This campground – scratch that – luxury camping resort has everything: mini-golf, golf, turkish spa, sauna, kids adventure waterpark, amazing kitchens, a grocery store, 3 restaurants and fantastic bathrooms. Oh and awesome wifi that I’m currently using. On to Oskarshamn tomorrow.

Survived Night 1 of Wild Camping!

Rob and I survived our first night of wild camping. After fueling up at an outdoors store in Stockholm (we proceeded to see three more branches on the way out of town), we finally hit the road at 2:30pm after ditching our massive duffel at our hotel for before we flyo out. Construction and navigation issues slowed us down but we managed to get in 80+km ending just outside of Trosa. Our route included a nature park stop (Lida) complete with water, tons of bunnies/hares and a wc as well as a surprise ferry ride.

Tandem at Lida Nature Park (They had a ski lift!)

Tandem at Lida Nature Park (They had a ski lift!)

Surprise Ferry ride at Skansen.

Surprise Ferry ride at Skansen.

This bike route seems to be a popular pleasure cruise- tons of motorcycles and a whole convention of convertibles. We found a campsite off a dirt road and ate the best ramen ever – curry flavor. Rob and I were debating if it tasted better than the last night’s dinner on the boat.

We had an offer from a Warmshowers host for tonight, but with the delay getting out of town and some mileage mis-estimation, we had to cancel. Right now, we’re at the awesome library in Nykoping – bathrooms, water and wifi = everything we were looking for in a rest stop after 55 km. The tourist guide is a bit disheartening with it’s “Nykoping, located on the coast one hour south of Stockholm,” but the journey has been pleasant thus far. The only thing I would happily remove is the plethora of insects in the evening. Oh well. Maybe we’ll check out the underground Cold War museum or a beach this afternoon.

Non-stop action

Ever since Norway, we’ve had very little downtime with internet, so cruise photos will be forthcoming. Rob and I are now embarking on a 10-day tour of southeastern Sweden. The current plan is to head to Kalmar and return to Stockholm via ferry from Gotland.

Amanda by the bike as we pack everything to ride into Stockholm.

Amanda by the bike as we pack everything to ride into Stockholm.

Somehow we made it to the airport…

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Somehow Rob and I managed to pack up everything in the house, move a portion of it to the our friends’ house, clean the old house for the tenants and get to airport. Cheryl kindly dropped us off in our car since we had over 100 pounds of luggage. Hopefully we didn’t leave too many things in the house or forget anything essential. Somehow with moving there’s always so much stuff left at the end and trying to pack at the same time for a month vacation – I’m not sure exactly where everything went.

Last night, we were making good progress with cleaning and packing. Rob got two bike boxes from Ride Bicycles and made a franken-bike box to fit the tandem halves. He only had to remove the pedals, seats and front wheel/fender to get everything to pack. This means he will be able to reassemble the bike, right? We’ll see when we get to Oslo. Despite having two panniers each as carry-ons, one massive bag and the bike box, we can kinda carry everything at once. Public transport is going to be a blast!

See you all on the other side (of the ocean)!

Northwest Tandem Rally 2015

Rob and I had an awesome time at the 2015 Northwest Tandem Rally in Bellingham, WA. In addition to tacking on ~120 miles to our butts/legs, we acquired 4 more WABL passport stamps, visiting Aslan, Chuckanut, Boundary Bay and Kulshan Brewing. Hopefully, ETC can do as good a job when we host the rally in 2017.

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Mass start on Saturday.

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Best dressed tandem.

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At Chuckanut Brewery. They had a large owl, so we had to get a pic with it.

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Birch Bay rest stop.

Graduation + Training in Earnest

The craziness of defending my thesis, turning it in and having family and friends over to celebrate caused a temporary lag in the updates, but now that the party is over (well as of tomorrow), I’m back to trip preparation. After doing a crash replacement on our 6 year-old Ortlieb classic panniers, the new ones came in the mail super quick! The upside of having to get new panniers (the old ones were tearing on the bottoms) is that we now have orange panniers to match the bike. They got a first test this weekend on the ETC 3rd annual beer ride and then again on Sunday for the ride to the WABL festival. Sunday was a bit slower and we had to make a stop at A-pizza mart to fuel the last 7 miles. ~55 miles Saturday and another 50 or so on Sunday. All and all a good weekend.