The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Michigan Peninsula's

Sitting in a café in Fairgrove Lower Michigan, the café lady said “oh so you’ve been through the Upper Peninsula (of Michigan), they say it is much more beautiful than the Lower Peninsula”. Well firstly – why hadn’t she ever been there, it is 3 days by bike, and being American I’m sure she owns a car. But secondly – no it is not more beautiful. Perhaps people get a different perspective in a car than by bike, but the Upper Peninsula was all trees initially which are nice enough but after 2 days of it they get a bit boring, then around the lake edge was nice initially, but that too didn’t change view in 2 days and also got a bit boring. The Lower Peninsula however offers different views every day, in fact if you imagined the odd field of sunflowers and villages with smaller stone like cottages then you could be in France.
50kms of flat cycle trail.
Wind turbines as far as you can see and no wind.

I imagined the area north of Detroit to be quite industrial. A flat grid like pattern of roads and just above the biggest car manufacturing area in the States. If anything it is the total opposite.  Yes the roads are mostly flat and grid like in pattern, but that is where the imagined view ends. It is full of mature trees, beautiful and often mansion like houses that are well maintained and surrounded by beautiful gardens also well maintained. There are actually small towns that are still alive and functioning with shops, like the pretty Fairgrove mentioned above. Detroit city may be bankrupt, but it obviously was doing well financially once.

Pretty and mansion like houses.

I will say one thing for this area – it rains – a lot. And it is cold – a lot. Apparently this is typical Michigan so stoner camp ground manager told us. We had the ‘pleasure’ of staying in stoner camp ground. The manager was obviously high on drugs, had metal stuck all through his face, attired in all black jeans and hoodie with the hood up, and had vicious dogs at his feet that look scared of him. It was a basic campground, but all that there was available when we needed one. The funny thing is the day before, we stayed at the ‘best campground in Michigan’, with a little shelter over our picnic table and even a kitchen provided. The campground we are at today is overrun with lazy people driving little golf like buggies. Honestly people are so lazy they actually make you mad. They drive their cars and buggies to the toilets and laundry room. It is a way of life here. Back home New Zealanders  escape into tents to get away from things and to connect with nature.  When we go camping at home, it is to feel free, unencumbered by stuff, and preferably with no one nearby.

Voted the best campground in Michigan. our shelter in a lightning and thunder storm.
Well we have done 5,000kms now and have slightly over 3 weeks to go and 20 of those days are cycling days. We are definitely making progress, so that the end seems almost in sight now. I have had times when I have really had enough and feel like we just aren’t getting anywhere, but that isn’t so. Tomorrow we cross back into to Ontario for our jaunt along Lake Eyrie’s shore to Niagara Falls. It will be our last ‘great lake’ before cutting across the top of the north east corner of the States to Bar Harbour and our ferry to Nova Scotia. So keep reading to hear about our last bit of the challenge to go coast to coast.  

Thursday, 25 July 2013

scaredy cat.


Lake Michigan.
I have a confession to make, I am scared of deep water, and all the things in deep water. I cannot do water sports and can only go on a boat if I don’t look over the side into the water. So crossing big bridges by bicycle is very scary for me. The Golden Gate in San Francisco was very scary and I had to look straight ahead  and cycle as fast as possible. So the bridge over the strait from the upper Michigan peninsula to the lower Michigan peninsula that joins lake Michigan to Lake Huron is my biggest fear. The bridge goes for many kilometres and spans very deep water. I have been almost panicking about it for the last few days and now it is upon me.  However it looks like I might be in luck as they don’t have a cycle lane and bikes must be put on a shuttle to the other side.

Fighting to see the other side of the lake.
There's that bridge.

Talking about stupid suspicions. I was watching the TV in the motel last night ( yes another motel – as there are no campgrounds in this area), and there were people trying to find a Sasquatch. They had ‘evidence’ of its existence: a turd that was very human like! but not human, a thatch of red / brown hair that was DNA  coded as something like a human but not. A recording of guttural noises ( that sounded a lot like a Deer in heat), and trees that had been ‘bent’ into odd shapes that no human could do, human scientists and doctors who had apparently seen and even touched a Sasquatch but the most ridiculous thing of all was the heat sensor that detected something in the woods. There are many things in the woods, Deer, Bear, Squirrels, rats and bats to name just a few. They were determined that a Sasquatch exists. Silly people.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Emotions are up and down.

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions this week. I had an email from the cattery where our cat and 2 kittens are on ‘holiday’. They are fine, but the kittens have grown a lot. All I could think of is that the cattery has had our kittens for longer than we had them and are watching them grow up. I miss them and Bob my cat so much it made me very homesick. Then we found out that there had been more strong earthquakes at home. So we felt a bit down.
Then cycling along we saw a father teaching his child of about 7years old how to shoot a rifle. Nowhere else in the world would you see that so obviously on the side of the road. How can that father live with himself?  It is bad enough that the child is being taught how to shoot to kill, but at 7 years old he does not have the reason to understand what he is doing.  What was he shooting at? A target circle? No it was a human figure.
Look at the difference in size of these biscuits, cheering myself up with a big bikkie.

Playing dodgems with road cones in the forest.
No Niel you don't need anymore road side junk, put it down. No it would be great for .......
We stopped for a lunch and met a family from Halifax Nova Scotia, and we realised that we are meeting people from our destination. And then we realised that we only had 28 cycling days left and every day that amount gets less. So that cheered us up. We even tried to do a nice short day of 80kms, but we are so fit that we couldn’t do it and had to keep going until we had done 120kms.  After doing that a couple of times we now have an unscheduled day off up our sleeve. So we have managed to cheer ourselves up, and to carry on.

We are in Escanaba Michigan (just above Chicago for those that are not sure where that is). So we are at the great lakes at last.  I have been looking forward to this bit of the tour, as there should be nice scenery with views – I have missed views. Trees are nice, but the fact that you never see a view makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. Hopefully there will be more towns with shops too so that we don’t have to go hungry and thirsty any more. We have been meeting more cycle tourists now that is always nice to compare stories and just to talk to people who understand life as a cycle tourist.
A house festooned with junk, but they call it collectibles here.
We are having a day off here, only our 4th day off since we started. I managed to talk Niel into having it in a cheap Motel. So we have wife, TV, and have the comfort to clean things including clothes and bikes. Actually the bikes are starting to show a bit of wear, mostly in the gearing. Niel’s bike only has a 5 cog rear cluster so his cogs have worn out to the extent that he can only use 4 of those gears, if he carries on, then another gear will get worn out, so he needs another cluster and chain to get him to the end. My chain may need a link removed; if I am not gentle with my gear changes then the rear derailleur gets a bit caught with the looser chain. So he is off to find a bike shop. But the best thing about being in a motel is that there are no insects biting you, and you can sloth around barely clothed. Bliss.   

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Tipping in the US.


Well the good old U.S of A. is just the same as the last time we visited in 2010. Although I have to admit that the cars are not all monstrous over -sized vehicles and there are a lot more Japanese cars on the roads. 
Cooling off in 38 degree heat.

I haven’t had much to say as the scenery hasn’t changed in about 500kms It is all trees and straight roads in high temperatures.  We have passed through 3 states in 3 days and are headed to the more civilised parts of America and Canada.
These water towers signify a town and we look forward to seeing them rising above the trees.

Lake Superior at Ashland Wisconsin.
There is one thing that is bugging me though. Tipping. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t reward good service it is a cultural norm, - get rid of it. If people need it to supplement their wages then pay them more. If the service deteriorates then people won’t go there and the good places will get all the custom.  New Zealand doesn’t accept tipping, the only people that tip are American tourists, infact it is embarrassing if someone does tip you, what do you do with it? You can’t be seen pocketing money. I find it insulting if someone tips you, I like to do a  good job for my own self respect, and it doesn’t help to make the boss happy so that he doesn’t mind too much when you go off on extended cycling trips.

Anyway we have passed by Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world, and are on our way to Escanaba  next to lake Michigin. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Trees and Lakes = mosquitos and biting flies.

As soon as we encountered trees again, we encountered biting insects. It lifted my heart to be in trees and beautiful lakes, the scenery was what I was hoping to see in Canada, but then as if the mossies weren't bad enough, the biting black flies became a real problem. They swarm you in a frenzy and if your speed drops below 20km / hr ( like on a rise) they bite in a frenzy as if you are the only human on earth. Their bites are like bee stings. You ride like a demon in the hopes of keeping your speed high, but you don't get a chance to drink and you end up dehydrated and exhausted.
Happy that there are trees again.

Kenora, and the Lake of the Woods area are truly lovely though. It would be nice to stay here out of insect reach and truly savour the beauty.
Lake of the Woods.

We caught up the Jessie and Jackie - who are the instigators of the trans Canada cycling site. It was wonderful to compare stories. They are as nutty about cycle touring as we are.

Jessie ,Jackie, and me.

But now we are at the United States Border and about to embark on our second half of the trip. So goodbye Ontario, we will be back in a little while.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Half way.

Halfway across Canada. We are in Winnipeg, which is considered the halfway point across Canada, however for us halfway will be in a few days when we cross in to the US at Fort Frances / International Falls.


The Eastern side of Saskatchewan was much nicer than the rest of the province, with forests and small hills, if you imagined that the yellow Lucerne in flower were sunflowers then you could almost think you were in France.  Broadview, where we spent the night, was infact a very pretty  village and had won some awards for environmental awareness, Manitoba is much prettier than Saskatchewan. It even has forests of Oaks. One campground we stayed at even had squirrels running up and down the tree trunks, I felt like I was in England.

Look a real forest.

My feet have healed up with the use of bandages and socks. My persistent cold has all but gone, and even my cracked lips are not stinging any more. So my body is as good as I can expect it to be.


We are about to head  south to the US, and that is through a myriad of lakes and  forests, we will be back in Bear country.  We have never left Mosquito country. I am sure there is not a single part of my body they haven’t bitten.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Fit, but falling apart.

We are sitting in McDonalds again, having countless cups of coffee trying to get out blogs updated.

A field of sweet pea and clover in flower.
Initially I was disappointed with Saskatchewan. It was so barren and monotonous, but then the small things of beauty became more obvious to me with each kilometre. Niel may find the enormous trains and junk yards interesting, but for me I saw fields of wild flowers, wild roses pocking up on the road edge, and even prolific amounts of Gypsophila in flower. I didn’t know Gypsophila could handle very cold winters and dry windy summers, obviously it can. There are the ducklings following their mothers in the road side lakes, and the golden coloured eagles being harassed by smaller birds.
Wild Gypsophila.

We are still doing big days – 170kms yesterday. It isn’t because we intended to do big days, but the distances here are always more than the guide book and maps indicate. We have to keep to our schedule or we won’t make our flights home in Halifax, so we have to do these big days.

Ruined feet.
I have a horrible cold / bronchitis, thanks to our neighbour at home, thanks Sonia for your gift of a cold as we embarked on this challenge. Having said that though, I am very fit and have lost weight. I haven’t seen myself in a full length mirror for some time and got a shock when our current campground had full length mirrors in the bathrooms. My waist is back, my face now has prominent cheek bones and my legs have lost their fat and gained muscle, and my problem hips are no longer a problem. On the side of the coin, my feet are falling to bits. They are so chaffed from riding without socks that they won’t stop bleeding. (It is too hot to wear socks.)

We are having a day off in Regina, to replace my tyres, I keep getting punctures, as the road side crap is too much for slick skinny tyres, and Niel is sick of fixing them. I also want to give my bike a much needed clean and oil. 
Big days ride.

We have passed our 2,500 km mark and will be in Manitoba in a day.  We met a guy in the bike shop, who said; “ if you think Saskatchewan is interesting then wait till you get to Manitoba.”



Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Something interesting to look at.
Sun, wind and grass, and lots of biting and stinging insects. That just about sums it up. The wind is a big issue on the plains. If it is a headwind you die slowly and start to get behind in your schedule. If it is a headwind the cattle flies can keep up with you and bite you constantly. So we are doing big distances to cover these plains as quickly as possible. We will be in Regina in a few days for our second day off.
36 degrees at 6pm in the shade.


Monday, 1 July 2013


Wifi is hard to find, and when we do find it we often only have half an hour of time, so Niel tends to monopolise it, so I apologise for the few and far between posts.

Climbing Rogers Pass

It took us 3 days to climb the Rockies, and descend on to the plains on the other side. We have done some big days 172kms being the biggest. We have also gone from wet and cold to hot and sunburnt.

At the top.

Leaving Revelstoke to climb Rogers Pass was a ‘piece of cake’ as we say at home. I have never done such an easy pass. Anyone who finds it hard, should have gone the Allison Pass , Anarchist mountain and Bonanza Pass route, as anything after is easy . We saw 2 Black Bears climbing the pass. They seem to be unbothered by humans, although every time we saw one Niel or I would point at it, and in seconds there are cars screeching to a halt and people piling out of their cars to get as close as they can to get a photo. So much for not approaching a Bear. The hill after Rogers Pass however was not easy, beware anyone cycling this route.


Kicking Horse Pass the next day was harder than I anticipated, but was very scenic the whole way. I particularly liked the village of Field. It was settled to construct the railway and spirals for the trains to ascend. It was mostly settled by Italians and it has a pretty and character filled ambience. We saw another Bear at the top of this Pass too.

Lake Louise.

We were a bit concerned about the next bit. The road was supposed to be closed for cyclist from Banff to Canmore due to the huge floods of the week before. We were supposed to put our bikes on a shuttle bus, but decided to act like ignorant foreigners if we were confronted, and ride the road anyway. Yes the cycle track had completely been  washed away, the road however was perfect. Cyclist CAN  ride on the road you know !! honestly these people who make the rules should get out of their cars once in a while and experience life by bicycle. Yes I admit there was a lot of debris on the side of the road, and it looked like it was pretty serious. Incidentally the wet boggy ground has created a real mosquito problem

Descending to the plains.

We managed to skirt around Calgary by doing a semi – circle through the foot hills and have now descended  onto the plains. It is very hot on the plains and we have got very sunburnt very quickly. In a day or two we will be in Saskatchewan.