Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cleveland, Ohio and New York

  It is cooling down quickly out here in New York. If we continue to bike fast we may make it up to Portland, Maine, we'll see how the weather holds up for us.
        In Cleveland we lucked out and were able to stay with a couple of great guys we meant in a bike shop they work at outside of the city. We arrived close to downtown and stopped by the bicycle shop to pick up a map of bike routes through the area. Josh and Brad were working for the day and invited us to stay at their apartment for a night. The following day the four of us went to the farmers market and to a waterfront park with a stunning view of downtown Cleveland. Josh and Brad were great; and we thank you guys for all the help with everything and for a nice place to stay.
       A couple of days later we made are way through Pennsylvania and into New York. Since Chicago we have been hugging the lakes while heading East. Pennsylvania only borders Lake Erie for about 50 miles and so we didn't see that much of the state. In both Pennsylvania and New York, near the shoreline, there are an amazing amount of grape orchards which never seem to end. On on way down the Atlantic we should be seeing some more of Pennsylvania, which I'm really looking forward to.
     Now that we are going across New York the hills have returned to our daily routine. There are some serious hills out here. They are shorter than many of the hills we climbed through the Cascades and the Rockies, but are not gradual at all, coming up one after the other without much, if any flat road in-between. The two of us have readjusted to continuous hill climbing after hundreds of miles of very flat expanses, which sucks, but it's just the way its going to be until we reach the Atlantic. Hills make any area more beautiful despite the pain they cause us. 
Just outside of East Senica, NY after climbing a huge hill, we were met at the top by a resident of the area named Ed. Ed treated us to a Coke at the restaurant that he and his wife own, then let us stay in a 100 acre campground that he has been working on. It was a great night with a big fire and long hot showers. The next morning Ed's wife bought us breakfast. Bacon, pancakes and milk are a huge treat for us.
    We are now in a medium sized town called Canadaigua, NY. Tonight is a rare treat for us. We have a hotel room generously purchased for us by a local named Mike. Yesterday he stopped to chat with us and ask where we were biking from as we pulled into the state park near Lake Canadaigua. Later we parted ways and Ryan and I pitched the tent in the furthest corner of the park to camp. It rained all night and started up again today right around the time that we were planing on heading out. Mike had come back to walk his dog and noticed that we were still camped out in the corner, waiting out the rain, so he purchased a hotel room for us so we could take a break from the bad weather. We are so grateful to have a room to relax and dry ourselves off in for an evening. It was a gesture of kindness that we still can't believe from a perfect stranger. So much thanks to Mike for your wonderful gift.

Ryan and Allegra
   Browns stadium where the Cleveland Browns go to lose every Sunday.
     Wonderful old house in Gowanda, NY.
    Looking off of Hwy.20 toward Buffalo, NY.
    Along Hwy.20. It's all hills out here.

             Making it to New York.
  Stream in Pennsylvania.
  Grape vineyard in Pennsylvania near Lake Erie.
   Arriving at the border of Pennsylvania.
 Josh, Ryan, Legs and Brad in Cleveland, OH.
              Josh poking fun at a VERY dedicated Cleveland sun-bather.
     Cleveland from Lake Erie.
 Farmers market next to downtown Cleveland.
     Ryan (at right) feeding a raccoon Twizzlers in a park outside of Cleveland that we camped in.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ohio: Cornhole Capital USA. ( Also, Indiana and Michigan)

      Once we began our jog through Michigan it took three days to get across before we reached Ohio. We stayed right on the Michigan/ Indiana border on Hwy 12, then continued on Hwy. 120 into Ohio. 
       Other than the fact that you can seem to smoke anywhere in Michigan, including most restaurants too, there is quite a large population of Mennonite and Amish communities in the area. We saw many different members at Walmart or at gas stations. (The men will ride in cars to work sites if the Foreman who hires them drives). Occasionally we would pass a farm with a buggy in the driveway. The picture below shows a barn or house being built by hand with traditional tools used. Other than a few stops at gas stations and lots of farms, there wasn't to many amazing things that we saw in Michigan.
     We did stay in a really nice church in Lake View, MI. The pastor let us sleep in the youth center and allowed us to use the kitchen as well. The youth center had pool tables, so we played at least one game before passing out for the night. 
      The real excitement started in Metamora, OH. Our first day in Ohio; and  we make it about 40 miles, then stop in this small town's bar to see if it might be alright to camp in the local park. Well, we ended up there for hours, meeting locals and telling our story. Many of the patrons bought us beers and spent time talking to us. 
       The later it gets in a small town bar, the younger the crowd slowly becomes. By closing time we spent the last hour or so with a group of local friends in our age range, having a great time drinking on..... 
    They then proceeded to abduct us and take us back to one of their houses to play a local game called cornhole and drink beers.
      Cornhole is a bean bag toss game where the object is to throw the bags into a hole on a slanted board, getting as many in the hole as you can without going over 21 points. The game is played with two teams of two, or one on one. Its a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Ryan's a great cornhole player. We stayed the night and ended up there the whole weekend drinking, eating great food, playing cornhole, and watching football. There was no logical reason or desire for escape. It was our first two full days of rest without biking at all since midway through Minnesota. We were so glad to have been able to meet fun people who wanted to host us for a weekend. We were just expecting to lounge in our tent, but this was far more worth it than that.
     Thank you to everyone in Metamora! Joe, Andy, Randy, Eric, Kilee, Six, Matt and everyone else who we spent time with. We had a blast and truly appreciate the hospitality.

Ryan and Allegra

    Lake Erie with a nuclear power plant in the distance.
    Huge flame at the top of a tower at an oil refinery in Oregon, Ohio.
                           Police car in Oregon, Ohio.
                                     Toledo, OH.
                              Bridge in Toledo.
          Pond at Jo and Andy's house in Metamora, OH.
              Cornhole land/ barn where we hung out for the weekend.
    Everyone on the porch at Jo and Andy's house in Metamora, OH
      The boys playing a round of cornhole.
                         Having beers outside of cornhole land.
               More cornhole!!! 
                                        Arriving in Ohio.

          Church we stayed at in Lake View, Michigan. 
   Turtle that we found in the middle of the road. We walked him across so he wouldn't get squished by a car. He is an ugly turtle!
       Mennonite or Amish farmhouse being built in MI with buggy off to the left.
                       Old grain tower for filling engine cars.
      Another nuclear power plant in Michigan.
   Old road we camped on outside of Gary, IN. in the National Dunes Wildlife Reserve.
     Old rundown building in Gary, IN, everything looks like this there.
                                                    Getting into Indiana.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Milwaukee and Chicago

        Hey everyone. We had a great time going through the rest of Wisconsin, then down to Chicago. Milwaukee has a lot of character to it that we weren't expecting to see. There are loads of gorgeous old churches and buildings all over the city. We arrived by bike trail into the city, and were lead right to the Miller Brewery by a great guy we meat on the bike ride towards the heart of Milwaukee. He really helped us negotiate our way to beer land and the city, otherwise we would have spent the entire day trying to figure out arriving by the bike trial system. They are confusing and not clearly marked the closer you get into the center of the city.
     Beer land was awesome! Neither one of us has ever seen a brewery so large. Miller has a chunk on the outside of downtown that is about five by six city blocks big where the brewery, distribution center, and offices are located together called Miller Valley. We took the free tour and sampled three different kinds of beers that Miller Brews. It was worth seeing, being in the land of beer and all...( we also went to a small cheese factory, but forgot to take pictures.)
      It took us two more days to get down to Chicago from Milwaukee. Nothing too amazing happened on the ride before our arrival in Chicago. We took Hwy. 32 almost all the way there, then wove our way through traffic on various streets until arriving at the area of the city where we stayed with another Warm Showers host. Our host's apartment was located in an area of Chicago called Pilsen; it was right outside of the downtown area, and is a Hispanic neighborhood. I really enjoyed the area because it was thriving despite its more run down buildings. There was always children running around, adults talking on the street corners, many authentic Mexican restaurants, businesses, and activity all of the time. Shannon was our host for our stay. She had a great apartment and fun dog named Roxanne who was incredibly sweet. Thank you Shannon for letting us stay with you and Roxanne!
     We biked all over Chicago while we were there. We left the trailers at Shannon's house so we wouldn't be lugging them all over the city or risk getting them broken into. Biking without a trailer is like flying. We flew all over Chicago, weaving down the city streets, through traffic, and over bridges and under the El. Its tons of fun to tear around a big city on bikes! There are lots of bike lanes in Chicago, and bike routes. We never felt like we were in danger of getting hit by a car. Drivers are great about passing cyclist even if its a bit closer then we were used to. You can tell that drivers are used to cyclist and know what there doing.
      While on our journey through the city we went to Millennium Park for an afternoon and walked around the sculptures, the pavilion, and other areas of the park. We made a point of exploring the areas just outside of downtown where there are lots of funky bars, gift shops, and restaurants. I really enjoyed Division St. and Clark St areas. Although we went out to the Oak Park area of town where Frank Lloyd Wright built his home and worked, we missed the last tour for the day and were unable to see the inside of the house. We probably couldn't have afforded it anyhow, but it would have been nice to view. We still saw the exterior, and the surrounding neighborhood is packed with beautiful old craftsman homes that are fabulous to see as well. Most of our time was spent exploring Chicago by bike; just picking a direction and biking off. The Metra's elevated train, (El for short) was fun to ride on out to Oak Park. During the middle of the day your allowed to take your bike on it, so we did and biked back from Oak Park. If its rush hour in Chicago then you can't take your bike on the train.
     After two days we left to keep heading east. Our ride through Indiana was short and a bit depressing, and we are now in SW Michigan. We hugged the lake all the way through Indiana and went through the city of Gary. It is a poor city full of trash, hundreds of condemned or closed buildings, and almost no businesses, except fast food places and a few other things. I don't know what people do there for work, unless almost everyone works at the oil refinery or steel mills that take up half of the actual town and make it stink no matter where you are. But we got through Gary just fine, despite its horrible reputation as a rough place. We camped in the Indiana Dunes Nation Forrest outside of Gary.
    So far Michigan has been fairly nice. We haven't seen enough of it yet for us to have formed some sort of solid opinion, but hopefully it will be scenic. So far I know that your allowed to smoke inside the gas station convenience stores if you want, from watching the customers and employees doing it. It was a truck stop though. The small towns seem to be just as nice as any we have seen. 

Ryan and Allegra

                                     Legs at Navy Pier.
                    Ryan at Navy Pier.
                                Lighthouse from the pier.
                        Looking back at the city from the pier.
                              Middle of Navy Pier.
                                               Navy Pier.
     Face spitting from the fountain in Millennium Park. The faces change on a large screen behind glass bricks.
   The face smiling before it changed expressions to "spit."
      Art in Millennium Park.
     Sculpture form China on display.
    Another sculpture from China.
           "The Bean", it is a permanent sculpture at Millennium Park.
       Us reflected off of The Bean.
                    Looking up inside.
             Picture from a distance.
        Few from behind the Pavilion.
    Frank Gehry stage up close.
   Stage and sky net with speakers that hang down designed by Frank Gehry. This is in the middle of Millennium Park.
     View of a garden in the park.
                  Different face on the fountain.
                       Downtown near the park.
    Picasso statue in Daley Plaza.
      The Civic Oprah House
    Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright's house in Oak Park.
    Another view from the outside of the house.
                                                   Sears Tower.
                     View from the El station we boarded to Oak Park.
       Wrigley Field, one of America's oldest baseball fields.
            Fountain in downtown Chicago.
    Restaurant dedicated to Harry Caray, famous announcer for the Chicago Cubs.
                   Another view of Harry Caray's
                    House of Blues in downtown.
          view from the middle of downtown over the Chicago River.
                     Another couple of pictures over the river.

                                Train station in Downtown.
     Street we stayed on in the Pilsen area of Chicago.
                                    Reaching Illinois.
     Milwaukee from Lake Michigan at sunset.
                                           Lake Michigan.
                             Downtown Milwaukee, WI.
    Another picture of downtown Milwaukee.
     Original beer cellar used for chilling beer.
    Old building at the brewery.
    outside of the building where miller brews it beer.
   Inside the same building looking down at the beer vats.

    This is where all the beer is boxed up and bottled before it goes to distribution.
      Entering the grounds of the Miller Brewery for a tour.

Riding under the El in downtown Chicago.