Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Atlantic Ocean is good and all, but turkey, stuffing, and cornbread is better!!!

       Since our last post we have journeyed to the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach areas to spend time with friends for Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season. Getting here was easy following bike route one which runs all the way from Mt. Vernon and around Richmond to North Carolina. At Richmond we picked up bike route 76, leading to Williamsburg. The bike routes are great when you can find them in VA. The routes take you along blue highways and have signs most of the time to keep you on course. There were points along the route where we would not see a sign forever and used Ryan's iphone for google map searches or other maps to try and find our way. We managed alright and never got too lost. The official state bicycling map is helpful but no where near detailed enough to really rely on, if you want to see what I mean.
       We spent about three days on the road heading south until we reached Richmond, then headed east toward Williamsburg. It rained for a two day period right before Thanksgiving and we were still far from reaching Johann's house, (A good high school friend of Ryan's) in Chesapeake, VA where we were invited for the holiday. Johann and his roommate T.J. came and rescued us 17 miles outside of Williamsburg, after Johann was off of work. The highway we were biking on was pitch black by nightfall with the exception of a dim light on a telephone poll next to a small row of four houses. We waited with our back lights flashing red pulses into the darkness so Johann could see where we were waiting on the side of the road. When they arrived it felt great to climb onto a big Yukon and get out of the rain. The four of us made it into Chesapeake in a quick 45 minutes.
        That night we met Johann's girlfriend Krissi and the other two roommates living in the house, Amber and Drew. We showered and changed to go out with everyone that night to the strip club that Johann manages called Headlights. It's a great feet of adaptability when you are capable of standing in the rain, in the pitch dark for a couple of hours after camping and biking to a strip club blaring with loud music, dancers and many shots of alcohol. Adapting is going very well for the two of us on this trip, and we had a great time at the club. By the end of the night I was more than ready for bed when the time came.
     The following day Krissi and Amber started making all the side dishes for Thanksgiving and I helped where I could. By Thanksgiving day we had almost everything done and spent the day relaxing, cooking the Turkey, and drinking beers. The feast included macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, green bean casserole, stuffing, cornbread,  yams, turkey, gravy, and desserts. The bulk of the work was done by Amber and Krissi who did a wonderful job.
       Since that day of hearty feasting we have visited Williamsburg for a day and have been down to the Oceanfront. Williamsburg was my favorite stop so far in the area. Its way bigger than I thought it would be and full of great shops with traditional and newer items for sale.  Johann, Krissi, Amber, T.J., Ryan, and I spent a couple of hours walking the main areas of the town together. On another day trip Johann and Krissi took the two of us to see the beach and Oceanfront area. This time of the year its dead down there. We had the beach to ourselves and almost all the stores that are normally open for the tourist season were closed down. It felt like a ghost town, which I liked. The housemates have also taken us out on the town to the Ghent and downtown areas of Norfolk where there are some really fun bars. We are still visiting with everyone and having a great time. 

Ryan and Allegra

 Krissi at the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach.
Finally! Our first true look at the mighty Atlantic.
    View of Virginia beach front.
      Houses in Williamsburg
   Another beautiful house.
     Garden next to a row of homes.
   Not exactly sure what this building is. Maybe a school?
       Large plantation style home off of the main street through town.
      Main street through Williamsburg. Comes complete with shoe repair shops, hat shops, and more.
     My guess is a weapons arsenal.
   Cemetery next to one of the towns churches.
         Classic brick home.
   Farmers market and gardens at Williamsburg.
Ryan, Krissi, T.J., and Amber munching on the thanksgiving goodness. 
     Joe, Amber, Drew, and Johann ready themselves for feasting comas. 
     Fields on the way to Williamsburg.  
Grave stone of a confederate solider from the Civil War.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DC and VA

      Bike paths/ trails are making the trip down the east cost a million times easier. The secondary highways are really busy through this region of the country with typically no shoulder. We started using a website called to find back roads around the congestion and to the cities that we plan on visiting. That's how we made it into DC from Baltimore. It was a longer route to the capitol city by back roads, but had very little traffic. The route hooked us up to a bike path that lead us all the way to The Mall. The routes on the website are posted by bike riders in the area who have figured out alternatives to the crappy highways in order to commute on long day rides......I think?
      Ryan and I stayed five miles outside the capitol in  Arlington, Virginia with my uncle Trey and Aunt Rose. Their house was just a short walk from the subway line and right next to a inner city bike trail that fed into DC. We took the subway most days right to the heart of The Mall to explore the Smithsonian Museums and see the national monuments. The Smithsonian's are large and jam packed, all three story buildings with great exhibits that are worth spending time moseying through. It took us two days per museum in order to finish each of them from top to bottom. So we opted to see the Natural History Museum, The National History Museum, and the ever so famous Air and Space Museum which is full of boy scouts and screaming children every day, but is still worth the visit. Other notable stops included the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, WWII Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. On our last day of capitol city exploration time, we met up with our buddy Rob and his friend Katie from Baltimore who came down by car to spend an afternoon with us. It was great to hang out one more time before we head further South.
       On our very last day in the DC area Trey and Rose drove us out Harper's Ferry in West Virginia. The town has been beautifully preserved over the years despite the Civil War and all the flooding that is has experienced being located right where the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers meet.  It still functions as a town for most of the residents in the area. Old town has been turned into numerous small museums and time capsules for public view. The four of us walked the entire old town district and had a wonderful lunch together. Special thanks to Rose and Trey for sharing their home and taking us on a grand outing. I don't see enough of my family on the east coast so its a special treat to get the opportunity!
        We headed deeper into Virginia form Trey and Rose's house on the same inner city bike trail. It ended at Mt. Vernon, not too far from where we had been staying. We had a late start that day and when we arrived at Mt.Vernon  we realized that we needed some more back road routes in order to get on our way safely. The day ended with a camping spot we found in a fielded area down from the Pope-Leighey house, ( a Frank Lloyd Wright house) for the night.  
( Our stealth camping skills have broadened with courage.)
       The following day we spent the afternoon at a library down the road in order to figure out how to get to Fredericksburg via After finishing up our search the two of us were packing up the computer and some camping gear into the trailers when a local woman came up to us to ask us where we had come from and where we were going to stay for the night. Her name was Mary Jane and she was wonderful. 
        She and her husband Marvin live in an area called Mason's Neck Virginia. Marvin is a lawyer and spends his days in Alexandria at his office. We spent the days with Mary Jane talking, eating breakfast and lunch together, reading the news paper, helping her around the house when needed, and walking the dog. Every evening Mary Jane made dinner and the four of us had drinks and chatted or watched movies or English comedies. For three days it poured due to the remnants of hurricane Ida that had hit the gulf coast earlier in the week. When it cleared up the nice weather was not enough reason for the four of us to part. We grew close quickly and didn't want to part ways. Ryan and I stayed in their in-law apartment for a week. It was hard to say goodbye to two people we share such a great affection for. Thank you Marvin and Mary for the hospitality and friendship.
          We had only camped out for a night when we were spotted taking a snack break late in the afternoon by a great gal passing us in her van on the way home. She invited us over for pot roast and a place to stay for the night. Bridget and her Husband Dan had just moved back into the states a little over two months ago from Turkey where Dan was working for the FBI and Bridget was doing outreach work for refugees seeking admittance into the US. Dan and Bridget have a seven year old son, Sam and two newborn twins named Ella and Claire. It was hard to believe all they had just accomplished with the move and newborns. We had a great time meeting them and staying somewhere nice and dry for the night. Thanks for the great dinner and beers! 
     It has been absolutely amazing how many people are willing to house complete strangers for a night or more. We honestly thought that we would encounter less hospitality in the upper portions of the east. There tends to be a stereotype about Americans being more guarded and untrustworthy of one another in general, let alone strangers, especially on the eastern seaboard. We're both so delighted to find that so many more people than we thought possible want more than anything to connect with others who are out of the ordinary.

Ryan and Allegra. 
This is the great bike path that took us into DC.
There were numerous streams along the path.
Here is the cathedral at the National Catholic Collage.
Arlington National Cemetery.
The Obama household. 
The Capital. The health care debate was going on in the house when this was taken.
The elephant in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
The Smithsonian Castle.
Inside the castle.
Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in this plane. That was a while ago.
Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. 
Various rockets from NASA.
A Ford Tri-Engine. 
The Washington monument. The obelisk is a symbol of the Masons. Some believe they secretly run the government. I think politicians run the government. Poorly.
Ducks and monuments. Good times.
The WWII monument. I thought it would be more impressive.
The Lincoln Memorial.
Honest Abe. He freed the slaves and saved the Union. I once found a peanut with 3 nuts in the same shell.
Obama in his helicopter.
Legs at the Vietnam Memorial.
Rob and Katie from Baltimore came to hang out with us in DC.
The town of Harper's Ferry, WV.
The firehouse where John Brown made his last stand in his attempt to start a slave revolt in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
Trey and Rose, Legs' Aunt and Uncle who hosted us in DC.
Here we are in Harper's Ferry. 
Fort Washington on the Potomac River. 
Sam, Mary Jane's bird taking a bath. 
This was a stable for horses in DC. Marvin and Mary Jane took us for a car tour of DC to see all the things we missed.
The National Cathedral.
The most beautiful sunset we have ever seen. 
Marvin and Mary Jane, our wonderful hosts who saved us from Hurricane Ida.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NYC to Baltimore

          We will miss the grandeur and worldliness of New York. There is so much in a city this amazing to sink your teeth into that in order to even get a good taste, you need a good solid month to explore. In our short time we were able to do a sizable amount of exploration, although more experiences there would have been fantastic. The journey continues with the meat of the East coast ahead of us.
      After our stay we left NYC via bike path from Roosevelt Island over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. Most sane people riding bikes on a trip would know that the safest approach to Jersey City and the Newark area would be planing a way out and making sure that you have a place to stay come night fall. We don't fit into a category of solid planing methods on most occasions. Rolling with the punches is one thing, but Jersey City is another. The later it got, the more questionable our sleeping arrangements were going to be. To avoid theft of any of our belongings, or possibly other terrible situations, we decided that it would be a sleepless night of wondering around and keeping guard.
     As we rode on through Jersey city with the sun setting a man and his buddy flagged us down from their car while driving through an intersection. The driver shouted over traffic that we should bike over to his house a couple a blocks down the street to have some refreshments and to talk to him and his family about what we were up to. To our wonderful surprise they let us camp out in they're backyard for the night. That evening we talked with Matt, who invited us over, his wife, two kids, and friends of there's. The house was full of life and excitement. Kids were running around and playing, dogs sat stationed for attention around the room and puppies yipped in their kennels.( Matt and his wife Melissa sell and breed puppies.) Everyone ate apple pie and drank cider while exchanging stories. 
     Matt gave us a pile of helpful maps for future use in other states. The following morning he drove us in his van out of Jersey City and into the Pennsylvania countryside out to Lancaster county. Without the help of Matt and his family we would have had a terrible time getting out of that part of New Jersey. It's all industry and freeways near New York and virtually no bikeable roads in the direction that we needed to head in. Outside of Jersey City is beautiful and entirely different from its industry choked areas.
     Lancaster Pennsylvania is Amish and Mennonite country. The farms are traditional and amazingly well kept. There are frequent wagons on the roads with travelers. Matt took us to an Amish Market where we picked up some home made snakes for our journey down to Baltimore. 
      Two days later we arrived at our friend Rob's house who we met at Yellowstone back in July. We were spoiled rotten by Rob and his family. Rob took us to downtown Baltimore and showed us the inner harbor area and Federal Hill neighborhood. We also went out with Rob and friends to a couple of awesome bars in downtown Baltimore. Rob and his parents bought us steamed crabs one night for dinner! And Katie, Rob's sister, made us lasagna another night. 
    Two days before Halloween a group of us went out to a downtown bar for a couple of beers. To our surprise there was a pumpkin carving contest that night with gift certificates available to the first, second, an third place winners. We opted not to carve pumpkins but Rob, a friend Katie, and a few other people in our group carved amazing pumpkins.
    On Halloween Rob, his friend Mark, Ryan and I all went out to Gettysburg for the day. We had a great time walking around the battlefields, the town, and famous sights. Considering the bloody history there, Halloween was a great night to experience it on.  
         After a week or less we departed onward toward Washington DC. We have been staying with my uncle Trey while we visit the city. More on DC soon. 

    Thank you so much to the Serio and Aichroth families for their wonderful hospitality. You are all amazing people that we loved meeting and spending time with.

Ryan and Allegra

Our last glimpse of New York as we headed over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.
The wonderful Serio family, who saved us from New Jersey.
Here we are in front of an Amish food market in Lancaster county, PA.
A nice covered bridge in Lancaster county, PA.
We arrived in Maryland on a rainy, cold day. This is our 17th state visited so far.
Baltimore, MD. This is the view of Inner Harbor from the top of Federal Hill Park.
Row houses in Baltimore, MD. Most of the dwellings in Baltimore are row houses.
A nice fire station in Baltimore.
The USS Constellation. The last tall ship from the civil war still afloat.
The view from the other side of Inner Harbor looking at Federal Hill.
More row houses in Baltimore.
Katie and Rob having a good time at a bar in Baltimore.
Gettysburg, PA. This is the house that General Meade used as his command post during the battle of Gettysburg.
This is the monument to all Pennsylvania soldiers who perished during the battle.
Mark doing his best Lincoln impersonation and Rob laughing at Mark.
Another view of one of the battlefields.

Our great hosts in Baltimore the Aichroth family, who let us crash at their house for a week, stuffed us with crabs, lasagna and candy, and treated us like part of the family.
Rob, Legs and Ryan. The three amigos.