Deborah and Dave’s 2016 Year in Review

December 2016

Happy Holidays!

The wedding shot!

The wedding shot!

It’s that time of year again…time to wrap gifts, send wishes of happiness and wellness to friends and family, bake Christmas cookies, stuff stockings, sing carols, and enjoy the festivities of Christmas and the New Year.  It is also time to read a faithful account of Deborah and Dave’s 2016 Year in Review.

The Wedding
After a 2-year courtship, Dave and I wed in a small, private wedding on January 16, 2016.  We were fortunate that the wedding took place in the Mitchell Domes a week before concrete debris fell, forcing the park system to close it for several months.

Honeymoon Bike Ride around Lake Michigan
For the first time in 15 years, I don’t have a new international trip to report – but boy did we bike!  Although the clock isn’t done for the year yet, Dave biked an impressive 5000 miles and I managed a cool 3400.  Not too shabby for wintry Wisconsin!

Sleeping Bear Dunes on our bike tour of Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes on our bike tour of Lake Michigan

Although we wed in January of this year, we postponed our honeymoon until June, so we could load up our bikes and head out on the road.  Relevant to the honeymoon story is that I had to patiently wait for my wedding present until April:  Dave built me an Ellis Strada Fango as a wedding present, but before I could ride it, it made stops at the Philly Bike Expo in November 2015 followed by a trip to Mountain Flyer magazine in Colorado for a test ride and bike review. (Check out the June 2016 edition of Mountain Flyer magazine for the glowing review! Link)  Five months later it landed back in Wisconsin and I rode it for the first time in April at the Dairy Roubaix gravel ride.

Trip Insights:

  • The ride around Lake Michigan is a lovely route – filled with terrific beaches, campgrounds, quaint towns, and lots of lighthouses.
  • If you are biking for two weeks, it will eventually rain and probably more than once.
  • Packages cannot be overnighted to the U.P. of Michigan. Dave’s bike had a rim failure and we were grounded for three nights in Manistique, waiting for the new wheel. (There is nothing to do in Manistique.)
  • The mosquito level at Little Brevort campground was reminiscent of the Boundary Waters at dusk – only it wasn’t dusk!
  • Google maps occasionally leads you astray.

In addition to our honeymoon ride, we biked across Wisconsin in a day (179 miles from Dubuque, IA, to Kenosha, WI) and joined Dave’s brother, Steve, for the 7-day Cycle Oregon ride (30,000 feet of climbing).  We also biked a record 5 centuries.

A beautiful vista on Cycle Oregon

A beautiful vista on Cycle Oregon

The Yard
Our house purchase came with an unkempt yard.  We successfully identified creeping charlie, buckthorn, garlic mustard (we removed 20 bags of the stuff), crab grass, unruly grapevines, and nightshade.  Dave rebuilt the wood beds and fence in the vegetable garden and lost no time planting his blueberry bushes and I did my best to eradicate the weeds.  The garden fence is tall enough to withstand a deer attack, but alas, has not stopped the rabbits and squirrels.

Other Noteworthy Mentions

  • We have a new nephew. We look forward to meeting Ansel Theodore in the future!
  • Dave convinced me to try mountain biking this fall and so far I’m surviving the experience.
  • We think a skunk is living under our gazebo.

And so, we come to the end of another Year in Review.  Wishing you good health and great happiness in the upcoming year.

Signing off from 2016,

Deborah and Dave

Advertisements
Posted in Ellis Cycles, Ellis Strada Fango, Lake Michigan, Michigan, Mountain Flyer, USA, Year in Review | 2 Comments

Biking Around Lake Michigan

Time to hit the road again – this time, on bicycles!

All smiles at the beginning of our ride

All smiles at the beginning of our ride

Dave and I started to plan for a fully-loaded bike tour of Lake Michigan last summer when we decided that he would build me an Ellis Strada Fango as a wedding present.  As soon as the bike was built, its first stop was the Philly Bike Expo in November 2015.  It was then shipped off to Mountain Flyer magazine for a full bike review – Check out the June 2016 edition of Mountain Flyer magazine for the glowing review!  Five months later it landed back in Wisconsin. I rode it for the first time in April.

Although we wed in January of this year, we postponed our honeymoon until June, so we could load up our bikes and head out on the road.

Welcome to a few highlights of our honeymoon ride around Lake Michigan…

Quick Facts

  • Total Miles: 789
  • Average Daily Miles: 67
  • Fastest Speed: 40.8 mph (It was quite the hill!)
  • Average Daily Speed: 13.9 mph (Dave says I bring down his average speed.)
  • # of Days: 13
  • Layover Days: 2 ½
  • Accommodations: 5 camping, 5 motels, 2 Warmshowers.org
  • Ferries: 3
  • Ice Cream Eaten: Lots
Our bike tour followed Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Muskegon

Our bike tour followed Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Muskegon

We forget that Wisconsin has nice beaches too!

Kohler Andrae – We forget that Wisconsin has nice beaches too!

Day 1: Milwaukee to Sheboygan, 75 miles
We traversed familiar roads from Milwaukee to Sheboygan on the first day of our journey and spoiled ourselves with an air conditioned hotel room to escape the 90 degree weather!

Day 2: Sheboygan to Suamico (Green Bay area), 81 miles
Another hot day as we traveled from Sheboygan to Suamico, WI.  Dave got his gravel fix on Devil’s State Trail and a passerby drove 20 minutes out of his way to give Dave the bike gloves he had left behind in Denmark, WI. If all you do is watch the news, it’s easy to forget that 99% of people are genuine and kind.

If all you do is watch the news, it's easy to forget that 99% of people are kind and generous

Dave’s gloves returned!

Rough terrain

Rough terrain

Dave gets his gravel fix.

Dave gets his gravel fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Suamico to O.B. Fuller County Campground (17 miles west of Escanaba), 91 miles
We pushed ourselves to the limit by biking 91 miles on a cold and rainy day – crossing into the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), passing pasty shops, and ending our day with a pot of freeze dried Chili Mac at our lakeside campsite.

Entering Michigan!

Entering Michigan!

IMG_0911_edited-1 20160613_200244

 

 

 

Day 4: O.B. Fuller County Campground to Manistique, 70 miles  Hot tub. Our butts demanded a hot tub.

Manistique lighthouse

Manistique lighthouse

And the rain rolls in...

And the rain rolls in…

Day 5: Manistique, 0 miles
Dave’s bike had a rim failure and our order to overnight a new wheel to rural Michigan resulted in a three night stay in Manistique, population 3000. Day 5 was also a day of unrelenting rain. (I highly recommend coordinating bike repair delays with rain days.)

Day 6: Manistique, 0 miles
The skies cleared, but still no wheel. We walked every road in Manistique and idleness set in.

Day 7: Manistique to Little Brevort State Forest (20 miles west of St. Ignace), 71 miles
We were delighted to be back on bikes and made good time to our campground on Little Brevort lake, a lovely, non-motorized boat lake, but with seriously aggressive mosquitoes.  Also, Dave spotted lots of wild iris in ditches along the roads.

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Sunrise at our mosquito-infested campsite

Sunrise at our mosquito-infested campsite

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: Little Brevort State Forest to Mackinaw City, 34 miles
We hopped the St Ignace ferry to Mackinaw Island, toured the island, and ate lots of fudge before catching a second ferry to mainland Michigan.

U.P. portion of our trip completed!

U.P. portion of our trip completed!

St Ignace

St Ignace

Mackinaw Island

Mackinaw Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Mackinaw City to Petoskey State Park, 53 miles
A leisurely bike tour of Wilderness State Park, the Tunnel of Trees, and the stunning vistas of northwest Michigan were highlights of our tour. We also climbed the first hill of significance outside of Harbor Springs.

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park

Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 10: Petoskey State Park to Elk Rapids, 66 miles
Dave spotted a rare Showy Lady Slipper flower. Google maps also took us down a few unpaved roads today. Gravel-loving Dave was in heaven. For my part, I curse Google maps. Also noteworthy, a 30 mph headwind in the morning to Charlevoix.

Lots of rollers heading to Elk Rapids

Lots of rollers heading to Elk Rapids

Showy Lady Slipper

Showy Lady Slipper

Gravel!

More gravel…

Yep, frame builders are not exempt from flats

Yep, frame builders are not exempt from flats

 

 

 

 

 

near Elk Rapids

near Elk Rapids

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Elk Rapids to Platte River Campground (near Sleeping Bear Dunes), 79 miles
The day started out sunny and delightful, but ended in menacingly large raindrops as we rolled into Platte River Campground to join friends for the night. The route from Traverse City to Sleeping Bear Dunes via Suttons Bay was particularly lovely. All in all, a great day to be alive.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

near Sleeping Bear Dunes

near Sleeping Bear Dunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 12: Platte River Campground to Ludington State Park, 84 miles
Our estimated 69 mile biking day turned into a surprise 84 miles. Once again, I curse Google maps.  Also noteworthy, hardest hills of the trip.

Overlook at the top of a nasty hill

Overlook at the top of a nasty hill

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

Time for a swim!

Time for a swim!

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 13: Ludington State Park to Muskegon…and Lake Express ferry to Milwaukee, 81 miles
Google maps recouped my confidence by guiding us onto the Hart-Montague trail for the last 20 miles of biking before taking the Lake Express ferry home to Milwaukee. A lovely way to end our journey!

Sinister skies to start our last day of riding

Sinister skies to start our last day of riding

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

Hart-Montague trail

Hart-Montague trail

Ferry home

Ferry home

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home,  Sweet Home

And so, we come to the end of another great journey.

Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home

Signing off from Lake Michigan,

Deborah and Dave

Posted in Crazyguyonabike, Ellis Cycles, Ellis Strada Fango, Lake Michigan, Michigan, Mountain Flyer, Strada Fango, USA, Wisconsin | 2 Comments

Deborah’s 2015 Year in Review

December 2015

Happy Holidays!

Engagement shot!

Engagement shot!

It’s that time of year again…time to wrap gifts, send wishes of happiness and wellness to friends and family, bake Christmas cookies, stuff stockings, sing carols, and enjoy the festivities of Christmas and the New Year. It is also time to read a faithful account of Deborah’s 2015 Year in Review.

The Proposal

The year started off with a bang: Dave proposed marriage in January while we were strolling around a snow-covered Scout Lake. It was a full moon and flowers and kneeling were involved. I accepted. We will marry in a small, private wedding on January 16, 2016.

 The Moves

Dave puts his Waterford house up for sale.

Dave puts his Waterford house up for sale.

I sold my house of fourteen years and moved in with Dave in Waterford while we looked for a new home back in the Milwaukee area. We finally settled on a home in Franklin and moved into the house in October. Dave had an accepted offer on his house within four days and wrapped up the closing at the end of October.   We have spent the bulk of the last two months fixing up our move-in-ready house.

Nicaragua

On top of Cerro Negro volcano before I boarded down it, Nicaragua. And, yes, it was dangerous.

On top of Cerro Negro volcano before I boarded down it, Nicaragua. And, yes, it was dangerous.

I traveled in Nicaragua and the northern tip of Costa Rica in February. I kayaked Lake Nicaragua, wandered the streets of Granada, waded through Somoto canyon, explored the rooftop of Leon Cathedral, and volcano-boarded Cerro Negro volcano. I also ate a steady diet of gallo pinto. I ended my trip with a zip-lining excursion in Costa Rica.

 

 

Biking

A dining gem we found near Chequamegon National Forest, Wisconsin

A dining gem we found near Chequamegon National Forest, Wisconsin

Dave and I biked several multi-day bike rides this year: TOMRV (Iowa), Northwoods (Northern Wisconsin), and BAM (Minnesota). Brother Kevin joined us on BAM for a fun-filled four days.

Dave built me a travel-gravel-touring bike (Ellis Strada Fango). It traveled with him to the Philly bike show this year and was a great hit. It’s currently “hanging out” with Mountain Flyer magazine where it will be ridden and reviewed for a future edition. (One day soon I might actually get to ride it!)

My new travel-gravel-touring bike. An Ellis Strada Fango cycle.

My new travel-gravel-touring bike. An Ellis Strada Fango cycle.

Other Noteworthy Mentions

  • Dad, patriarch of the Yakes family, turned 80. It’s official. He’s now an octogenarian.
  • Dave’s brother, Steve, married in May and moved from Ventura, California, to Portland, Oregon.
  • After 50 + years in up-state New York, Dave’s parents moved to a nearby suburb and are settling into their new life in Wisconsin. We are pleased to have them near us.

And so, I come to the end of another Year in Review. Wishing you good health and great happiness in the upcoming year.

Signing off from 2015,

Deborah (and Dave too!)

Posted in Ellis Cycles, Nicaragua, Year in Review | 1 Comment

Bed Bugs and Bus Breakdowns

The Bus Breakdown
Several travelers and I managed to catch the last express bus back to Esteli after our hike/swim through Somoto canyon.  I was excited about the prospect of an upscale bus ride after the agonizing ride up north on an ordinario (chicken bus) with scant seat and leg room and a music track that included the Bee Gees and other bell-bottom bands from the 70s.  (Please – no more Stayin Alive.)

I had big plans for a nap and happily settled into my comfy seat. I had barely closed my eyes when I heard a rooster crow. One eyelid popped open followed by the other.  I looked around and discovered the culprit: A rooster being held like a baby in the arms of a man two rows back.  He made no attempt to shush his cargo.

Shortly after my hopes of a nap were dashed, the bus began to make engine noises and then sputtered to a stop. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the bus started, the passengers (and one rooster) filed off of the bus onto the highway. The driver doled out refunds minus “his expenses.”

Nicaraguans are resourceful and quickly disappeared into flagged down pick-up trucks and passing cars until only a few Nicas were left  – and the foreigners.  A taxi arrived on the scene and offered to take us to Esteli for 700 cordobas.  It is important to note that my hesitation was not the price tag ($4 per person) rather fitting seven people into a compact Hyundai.  We decided to go for it after one fellow traveler begged for the trunk (see footnote on trunk people).  I was wedged into the back seat with four others and had the uncomfortable task of sitting mostly off the seat, sideways. One hour later we arrived at our destination.

Bed Bugs Revisited
Those of you who have been following along with my travels all these years know of my long and tawdry history of bed bugs, fleas, and mosquitoes.  In terms of blog entry frequency, bed bugs, in particular, rank equally with affronts such as bad coffee, intolerable wine, and the ubiquitous disgusting toilet.  Indeed, it is impossible to engage in a discussion about bed bugs without becoming aware that my abhorrence for bed bugs borders on crazed.

It was during my stay in a lovely hostel in central Granada, with a chill courtyard and tasty restaurant,  that I awoke from a sound sleep to an alarming number of bites.  Mosquitoes are thick in this part of the country and given the open windows and lack of mosquito nets in my sleeping quarters (eleven-person dorm), I first suspected mosquitoes.  However, on closer examination, my lower back was hardest hit and some of the bites were linear. My second suspicion was fleas.

It is generally not helpful to report bed bug and fleas to hostel staff.  They either don’t care or don’t understand that bug infestations are deemed to be unacceptable in other cultures.  I decided to remain silent.

The hostel owner made an appearance that night.  He was a congenial and knowledgeable man and after a helpful exchange on general travel topics, I decided to broach the bug topic. He expressed immediate concern and further explained that the entire staff is trained on bed bug detection and perform inspections after each traveler departs.  They further fumigate each week.  He said that the staff would take action.  He thanked me profusely for letting him know.  I was impressed.

Later that evening I was sitting in the smoking section – which is where all interesting conversations occur – when I saw a hostel worker clandestinely carry first the mattress and then the bed board out of the dorm room and past the courtyard smoking area.  To my amusement, the smokers were so engrossed in a discussion about the U.S. First Amendment and how it has been misconstrued to apply only to Christians that they didn’t notice this new development.

Although the transfer of the mattress and frame went unnoticed, my missing bed in the dorm room did not.  The missing bed was finally detected by a fellow dorm-mate, but did not seem to alarm anyone in this relaxed atmosphere.  The mattress and bed frame came back with a clean inspection report and newly fumigated.  I slept fitfully and bite free that night.

Other Noteworthy Mentions
* I chickened out on the 15 meter jump on my hike/swim through Somoto canyon.
* Nicaraguan men watch soccer games at the bus station.
* There are slot machines on every corner in Nicaragua.
* I coined a new term: trunk person.  Someone who voluntarily folds themselves into a small, dark space – risking carbon monoxide poisoning, rear ends, and excessive jostling – and enjoys it.

Signing off from Nicaragua (and Costa Rica),

Deborah
P.S. I might try surfing again. It might turn out poorly.

Posted in Nicaragua | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On the Road Again…

image

Hola!

My 10 pm arrival at my Managua hostel was met with an empty front desk.

“Hola,” I casually called out.

After a moment without a response, I brushed off my Spanish: “Hola, algien esta?”  A Canadian voice from the nearby dorm room unhelpfully offered, “He should be at the front desk.”

“Hola, hola, hola?” did not further my cause.  I took off my backpack and prepared to wait.

A few minutes later the clerk hurriedly arrived – followed by an attractive and disheveled women a moment later.

I was quickly checked in and led through a labyrinth of hallways and rooms until we arrived at a closet-sized, windowless room tucked behind the kitchen and surrounded by communal bathrooms on two sides.

Under normal conditions I would have flatly refused the room and embarked on a neighborhood search for a better habitacion.  I did an assessment of my situation: Full hostel, Saturday night, deserted streets.  I set down my pack, graciously thanked the front desk clerk, and settled in for a sleepless night.

Upon closer inspection of the room, I discovered a mosquito-blooded wall, two plumbing access points to the bathrooms, a non-functioning aircon unit, and oddly enough, a large painting by what appeared to be a Nicaraguan artist.

While the room in no way wins the award for worst-room-ever (the filthy room in Tibet and the Ethiopian bed bug and flea rooms come to mind), it was not an ideal first impression of Nicaragua.  It also made me question if my budget travel days were over. Could it be?

The next day I hopped a microbus to Leon.  My seat companion offered me one of her oranges, pointed out the local sights as we passed them, and showed lovely patience as I haltingly addressed questions to her in Spanish.  The triciclos (tricycle) driver who peddled me from the bus terminal to my hostel in Leon, proudly showed off his town as he sweated his way across busy traffic.

This is why I travel.

Signing off from Nicaragua,

Deborah
P.S. I pitched myself down the steep, active Cerro Negro volcano on a piece of particle board.  I didn’t previously realize that volcano boarding was a “thing.”

Posted in Nicaragua | Tagged | 1 Comment

Deborah’s 2014 Year In Review

Happy Holidays!

My new Ellis Cycle being built!

My new Ellis Cycle being built!

It’s that time of year again…time to wrap gifts, send wishes of happiness and wellness to friends and family, bake Christmas cookies, stuff stockings, sing carols, and enjoy the festivities of Christmas and the New Year.  It is also time to read a faithful account of Deborah’s 2014 Year in Review.

The Near Drowning
I traveled to Colombia in March where I wandered the artsy streets of Bogota (mannequins with big butts are all the rage), ate roasted ants (no need to repeat the experience), bird-watched in Minca (there are eight pages of yellow birds in the guide book), and explored Cartagena (Romancing the Stone, anyone?).

I also white-water rafted the challenging Rio Suarez and nearly drowned when I was tossed out of the raft on a Class V rapid.  I survived to tell the tale, but not before I was spun upside down and all around, surfaced too briefly to gasp air (twice), and made impact with a big rock.  It took a full week for the bruises to fully develop, but it did not otherwise impede my enjoyment of the trip.  Colombia is a great country!

First loaded touring bike ride!

First loaded touring bike ride!

The Year of the Bicycle
I took the plunge and ordered my first custom bicycle: An Ellis Cycle.  It’s loaded with all of the good stuff and is the best ride I’ve ever had.

Dave and I biked every chance we got this year: TOMRV (Iowa), Bon Ton Roulet (New York), Spring Green, and Door County. We also completed our first loaded touring trip from Milwaukee to Sheboygan and back.  I’m definitely hooked and am already plotting a trip around Lake Michigan.  Dave suspects my enthusiasm for touring would have been quickly dampened if we hadn’t had a glorious tail wind on both days.

Other Noteworthy Mentions
* I threw out my back during the polar vortex in January and couldn’t raise my leg high enough to cross over a snow bank.  There is no denying it now: I am officially middle aged.
* I finally fixed the downstairs faucet.  It just doesn’t look right without the bucket underneath the sink.
* I road-tripped to Minneapolis with my sisters to celebrate my (older) brother’s 50th birthday.  Just another reason why I’m feeling old.
* Despite all of the aging, my family remains in good health.

And so, I come to the end of another Year in Review.  Wishing you good health and great happiness in the upcoming year.

Signing off from 2014,

Deborah

Artsy Bogota, Colombia

Artsy Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Posted in Year in Review | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

El Camino Real y Hormigas Culonas

Hola!

With scarcely enough time to express order a travel guide, dust of my passport, and buy a new pair of hemp pants, I hopped a plane.  Destination: Colombia.
El Camino Real y Hormigas Culonas
I hopped an early bus to Barichara to hike the centuries-old Camino Real to the tiny village of Guane.  My guide book states that the trek takes two hours.  My leisurely pace clocked me in at less than 1 1/2 hours.  I bought a lemon soda and some hormigas culonas and sat down on the curb to wait for the Barichara bus next to three hombres and a toddler attempting to crawl away from her tranquilo father. The petite men wore identical dainty and embroidered slipper-like shoes and baseball hats.  Their faces were dark and wrinkled and their eyes kind.
In rusty Spanish I asked them when the bus to Barichara would arrive.  They said half past nine – sometimes.  It was 9:20 and a bus arrived.  I got up to see if it was my bus and they motioned me back.  I was told that the Barichara bus is always white and red and always late.  They knew the bus schedule cold.
I settled back down to my spot on the curb and turned my attention to my purchase.  Hormigas culonas are fat ants roasted and served up cold in small containers.  It’s a specialty of the Santander department and is believed to have medicinal properties.  They are a “must-try” when in the area.  I carefully picked up an ant and examined it from all sides.  For ants they were remarkably fat and long.  I balanced one on my thumbnail to confirm it was longer than the nail.
I popped an ant into my mouth and gingerly began to chew it.  It tasted unremarkable:  A roasted-burnt taste with a slight crunch upon impact.  Next, I decapitated one to determine if the head tasted different than the body.  I detected no difference.  I washed the ants down with a swig of lemon soda. The locals watched my actions in amusement.
Perhaps the medicinal powers of the ants will lessen the force of my next cold.
Other Critically Important Information
  • Colombia is spelled with an “o”.
  • I have forgotten a healthy amount of Spanish as was amply demonstrated when I failed to recall the words for flight, Wednesday, and tax when I ordered a plane ticket on my first day in Bogota.
  • Colombians take their art seriously.  Museo Botero displays fine works from Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Degas, and of course, Colombia’s Fernando Botero whose is famous for painting exaggeratedly large people and objects. I have seen many crucifixion paintings in my travels, but this is the first time I’ve seen a chubby Jesus staked to the cross.
  • Mannequins with big butts are all the rage.
  • The everyday Colombian coffee is terrible (they export all the good stuff).  However, I have had several fine-tasting cappuccinos.
  • Roosters have no sense of time.
  • Colombiana is my new favorite soda.
  • The farm cheese is terrible.  I’ve switched to imported cheese.
Signing off from Colombia,
Deborah
Posted in Colombia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment