Well that month really flew by! Sorry friends, we didn't take much time off on the South Island and the few days we did, my book took precedence. The great news? My book, Joy Ride: A Bike Odyssey from Alaska to Argentina, is now available for pre-order at bookstores and Amazon! Finally!! Order it now and it will ship May 2nd. If you want a signed copy, come to the book launch: May 12th at 7pm at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Oregon. If you plan to attend, please purchase your book there at Powell's (there will be plenty of books!) and I will sign your copy there. Should be a fun party! If you can't attend, stay tuned, Ville and I hit the road this summer for a book tour through the U.S. and will be traveling to a city near you...(Sign up to stay updated)
Now, on with the show...We left off together in Whanganui, up on the North Island. Although it was only 120 miles to Wellington on the highway, we opted for backroads and farm roads which added a substantial amount of riding. We rode northeast through the large city, Palmerston North. Climbed a steep, busy highway south out of town, onto gravel, farm roads. Occasionally we had to be on highways and that was always horrible. Shoulderless roads with aggressive drivers running us off the road. We rode through Masterton, stopping only for lunch, and continued on backroads through beautiful wine-country, passing Gladstone, Longbush, Hinakura and into Martinborough. Bustling with holiday travelers, Martinborough, was a cute, little town with a park in the center and a decent campground. At a cafe the next morning we met Andrea, who invited us to visit her family once we arrived in Nelson on the South Island.
From Martinborough, we climbed up through Featherston where we joined the Remutaka Rail Trail and climbed through the Kaitoke Regional Park. It was spectacular! The sun peeked out between rainstorms, the grade was manageable, trail was rideable and we met cyclists along the way. We arrived in Lower Hutt (just north of Wellington) on Christmas Day and were welcomed into our friend Izzy's house. We had met Izzy cycling in the north part of the North Island and she invited us to spend Christmas with her at her Dad's house. Beau, his wife and three kids took us with them to church and afterwards we feasted on Burmese food with their friends. Thank you so much for making us feel so welcomed everyone!
From there we rode bike trails into downtown Wellington, where we splurged on a hotel for my birthday and New Years. We ate Japanese, Indian and Thai food. We rode bikes around the city's waterfront. And we went bowling with Izzy and her boyfriend, Justin. Thanks Izzy for the tasty chocolate cake! And on Jan. 2nd, we took the ferry to the South Island, arriving at the campground in Picton just before dark. The next morning, we met up with Justin and took a water taxi north to Punga Cove, with the plan to ride the Queen Charlotte Track together. Because I agreed to keep up on edits for publishing my book, as well as a Blog while cycling New Zealand, carrying a laptop has made packing light an impossibility and therefore many of the "hike a bike" tracks in NZ less than fun. The Queen Charlotte Track was one of these "less than fun" tracks. So after pushing bikes up a steep trail to the saddle, Ville and I opted to drop down to the north side of the peninsula and ride the Kenepuru Road all the way to Linkwater, where it meets up with Queen Charlotte Drive (T.A. Trail) and Justin took the crest trail along the peninsula arriving in Nelson a day behind us. From Linkwater, we rode through Havelock to the Pelorus Bridge, where we took a dip in the Te Hoiere River before taking the Maungatapu Track into Nelson. Although the sign said the track was "closed" we figured we would still make it over. It was that or the busy, shoulder less highway to Nelson. The track/trail was hell. Eighteen percent grade, boulders and most of the trail had been eroded away by the rains. To add insult to injury, motorcycles were tearing up and down past us, spraying us with rocks as we pushed bikes for 5 miles up AND down (too steep and rocky to ride) the pass. With storm clouds threatening rain, we made it down to the river and looked for somewhere to camp.
Just then, four cyclists on electric assist mountain bikes showed up and informed us there was flash floods coming that night and we should not be camping. We were also told it was the weekend of some big music festival in Nelson and we would not be finding a place to stay. Impeccable timing. Then, one of the couples invited us to stay with them! What luck! We followed them eight miles into Nelson, pedaling furiously to keep up. When we arrived at the bar, they were no longer serving food (figures) and we ate bars, nuts and beer with our new friends. After, we followed them four miles up to their house in the hills on the outskirts of Nelson. Again riding furiously on completely spent legs. We helped make burgers, showered and were asleep by midnight. Unplanned we had rode (and pushed) 60 miles with over eight and a half hours spent on the bikes. What a day! Thank you Van Vledder Family for taking us in! The following day, in the pouring rain, we met up with Justin, who had taken a bad spill on the Maungatapu Track, that left him scratched, bruised and with a dented helmet. We stayed a couple more nights in Nelson with the Goodwin Family (Andrea from Martinborough) and enjoyed meals, wine and buying handicrafts from their two kids. Thanks Goodwin Family for taking us in and spending time with us. I love my ring and bracelet!
Riding out of Nelson, Justin decided to continue south with us through the Rainbow Track. We had a long day of riding on shoulder less, busy highway before camping in a family's yard. The next day we arrived at the Rainbow Road, just east of St. Arnaud, and met up with our friend, Roy (we had met he and his wife while riding in Chile and then rode a few days together in Spain last fall) and now we were a traveling circus, party of four. The Rainbow Track was beautiful, long slow climb over the Island Saddle, with crazy headwinds into Hanmer Springs the following day. The weather was great (the sun finally popped out), the grade was manageable and we even had a family pull over and share beers with us! It was a multiuse gravel road and a busy, holiday weekend with lots of Utes dusting us with gravel, but you can't have it all. Not in New Zealand anyway. In Hanmer Springs we ate, rested, soaked in hot pools and went down the waterslides. Izzy came to pick up Justin and they made their way back to Austin, Texas.
Now party of three, we continued south to Christchurch. We rode gravel backroads when they were available and busy highways when they weren't. We stayed a night with our new friend, Jan (a mother of our friend, James, in Bend) in Rangiora and brought flowers and 10 avocados from a roadside farm stand. It happened to be her birthday and we enjoyed celebrating with her over dinner. Thanks Jan! We took a couple days off in Christchurch fixing bikes, replacing gear and resting. With fairly flat terrain and farm roads, we made it to Rakaia Gorge in a day and fell asleep at the campground listening to jet boats roar up and down the river and awoke to a helicopter landing on the riverbank the following morning. In the rain, we climbed out of the gorge to Staveley, where we stopped at the cafe to get warm food. There we met Brain and Leah of Southern Alps Honey and they gave us Buzz Honey Shots to try on our journey. Thanks gang, they were a HUGE help on the climbs south!
We climbed backroads passing through Mount Somers, Mayfield and into Geraldine. There we found a sports bar so we could watch the U.S. Women's Soccer Team play New Zealand. At the sports bar we made a new friend, Jon, a real character and local fixture in the community. "I give that goal a 6/10. Do you agree? HUH? DO YOU AGREE?", to which we replied, "Sure Jon, I agree." He was brutal on his ranking system. From there we were on gravel roads. We climbed over a pass and camped in a farmers yard. Where in the middle of the night, while peeing and staring into the starry sky, Ville stepped into a wet cow pie. Oh what fun! Not enough hand sanitizer and wet wipes could clean him off. Luckily, we crossed a river the next morning and he was able to get a scrub down. Then we climbed up and over MacKenzie Pass into Lake Tekapo, unfortunately the last fifteen miles into town on a very busy highway. Lake Tekapo was an expensive tourist trap and we were back on the road after only a night. Upon leaving, we connected with the Alps to Ocean Bike Route, and had the most spectacular ride all the way to Twizel. There we stayed with Jan's brother, Graeme and his wife Shirley. Graeme drove us up to Mt. Cook and we hiked up to Tasman Lake at the base of the Tasman Glacier. Ville took a swim, but he's a little unstable, so that's to be expected. HA ha! He won't read this.
Still on the Alps to Ocean route, we had beautiful, easy climbing around Lake Ruataniwha and Lake Ohau, had lunch in Omarama and climbed up and over the Omarama Saddle and ATV track. It reminded me of riding in eastern Oregon, dry desert with expansive views. On the backside we crossed 25, yes 25, river crossings arriving in St. Bathans worn out and filthy. We ate burgers at the Vulcan Hotel, bathed in Blue Lake and camped at the DOC campground. Luckily, we had an easy day into Alexandra on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Stunning scenery of wide open grasslands with jagged, rock outcroppings. The next day we rode to Cromwell on the new Lake Dunstan Trail (best riding in NZ yet!) and stayed a night with Shirley's brother and wife, Fiona. Unfortunately, the bike trial is yet to be built to Gibbston, so we had a harrowing eighteen miles on one of the busiest highways, but luckily we didn't die, and made it to Gibbston where we were again on a bike trail, Gibbston river Trail into Arrowtown.
We camped at the Holiday Park in Arrowtown, where our friend Ginny (a friend of a friend) brought us a car with a bike rack to drive ourselves an hour north to Wanaka. Which is where I sit now. Relaxing for a couple days off bikes. What great company! Ginny and her husband, Dan, took us for a picnic across Lake Wanaka last night. It has been much needed time off. Next, we will get a ride back to Arrowtown tomorrow, ride into Queenstown, stay a night, and take a steam ship across Lake Wakatipu where we will pick up a road and climb up and over Walter Peak and continue south towards Bluff. We are so close now we can almost see the bottom! Wish us luck! Thanks everyone for continuing to follow along. Do me a favor, if you're still reading this, please leave a comment. So I know it is worth me continuing to keep the Blog alive. I hope this finds everyone healthy and happy! Until next time, keep on, keeping' on ya'll...
Hello again loyal followers and friends,
The last stretch Ville and I rode in New Zealand can be summed up best by Hunter S. Thompson, "Wow! What a Ride!" We'd been looking forward to the last stretch, knowing it would be more remote than the last, and it did not disappoint. Once leaving Mangakino (where manager, Emma, gave us a ride to get food because we looked too haggard to make it in the rain) we continued southwest on the Link road on our way to the trailhead of the Pureora-Ongarue Timber Trail. Just outside town we came to a sketchy, chain-link walking bridge that we had to remove panniers and drag the bikes over (should have been our first sign of what was to come) and as we climbed deep into the rainforest on a narrow, steep goat trail, the rain fell steadily, soaking us through. By the time we reached the trailhead, we sprung for a cabin that reeked of mildew, housed a swarm of mosquitos, but offered a hot shower. I'd have paid a million bucks for that hot shower. We pitched our tent inside, sheltered from the downpour and began the Timber Trail the next morning.
The Pureora-Ongarue Timber Trail is a fifty-mile stretch of hiking/biking trail that climbs and descends through the Pureora Rainforest Park. The well-maintained trail crosses multiple suspension bridges (not for the faint of heart) and has a camping/hotel option mid-way through. The wilds and birdsong that accompanied us through the forest was amazing! The rain showers that turned most of the trial to mud with deep, brown puddles was character-building. We stayed at the campground, where we met Ross and Don, a father-son duo braving the rain for the weekend and had a great time sharing bad jokes and great stories. Thanks for sharing your whisky boys. :)
We popped out of the forest at Ongarue in the pouring rain and had 14 miles to Taumarunui. We were so wet we had to sit outside a restaurant to eat dinner, checked into a motel, hosed mud off the bikes, showered and washed clothes. From there we had a great stretch on backroads (there have been far less traffic south of Auckland) to the Blue Duck Trailhead. Not wanting to pay for camping, we charged ahead that evening, through the Whanganui National Park, trying to reach the Mosley Camp. The trail turned to a mud slick and as we climbed into a steep gorge, the trail narrowed to the width of a hiking trail, with a cliff to our left and rock face covered in greenery to our right. Then it began pouring rain. I had already been dismounting, pushing my bike over boulders, across slippery, mossy bridges, through deep mud puddles for nearly 10 miles when the trail turned into a river. Luckily, Mosley Camp had a three-walled shelter, where we pulled bikes inside, stripped off wet clothes, ate dehydrated dinner and slept fitfully, dreading the "ride" the next day.
Four more miles of pushing bikes with intermittent riding brought us to the intersection where we were suppose to ride towards Mangapurua Landing and the Bridge to Nowhere, but due to excessive rain and landslides (they call them slips here) the road was closed. Again we detoured down out of the forest, past farmland, farmers moving livestock and into Raetihi. When we arrived, soaking wet at the campground at Raetihi, they had a major water leak and told us we might want to head 10 miles up the road to another campground. I practically begged, pleaded with them and they were super nice and let us stay.
From Raetihi, we had a long, steep descent into Pipiriki, where we met a group of school kids who just got off the river after a five-day canoe trip. We chatted with them a while and Ville let one of the guys ride his bike. Meeting people, especially kids, along the way has been such a blast. The route south along the Whanganui River was beautiful! Paved, easy road, intermittent showers and our campground was on the opposite side of the river accessed by gondola. We stopped at a roadside shop, manned by Moana and her brother Te Rangihaeata, where we bought ice cream and enjoyed chatting with them about their town, lives and what they planned to do for summer. Thank you both for hanging out!
The next morning, we rode 27 miles into Whanganui. We didn't even mind the rain and lightning storm because we checked into a motel with a hot shower. It took a lot of legwork, but we even found a motel that aired the World Cup Final this morning at 4am (for all you soccer fans) and holy smokes what a game!! If you missed it, I recommend watching the highlights. Tomorrow, we will continue east and then turn south on back roads and make our way to Wellington. We hope to make it there by my birthday, Dec. 30th.
Until next time, I hope you all have the happiest of holidays! That you enjoy some time with friends and family, eat too much, sleep late, drink some egg nog and party like it's 1999. Thank you for all your continued love and support, until we meet again, keep on keeping' on...
Howdy Ho Good People!
Time for a rest and another update. For those of you that don't know yet, Ville and I are riding from Cape Reinga to Bluff (top to bottom with a lot of zig-zagging in between) of New Zealand. For those of you that are caught up, we left off in Opononi a couple weeks ago. A lot has happened...
After we dodged a lighting storm, we ventured out heading south, climbing, climbing and climbing through the Waipoua Kauri Forest (home to Tane Mahuta, the largest living Kauri tree and Te Matua Ngahere, the oldest living Kauri tree). It was an incredible experience to see these trees and the ride through the forest was amazing!
The next large town we passed through was Dargaville, where we decided to take a three-day-long alternate route east around the Wairoa River Inlet to get some extra riding in (as opposed to taking the ferry across it). Our route took us mostly on farm roads with a few long stretches of death-defying highways in between. There have been no flat spots, we are either steeply climbing or on gravely, steep descents. We passed lots of cows and sheep, grazing on green hillsides. What was the favorite stop? A field of Shetland ponies and their foals. SO cute! Each day it rains, everything from showers to downpours. Kiwis, the nicest, friendliest people! When behind the wheel, some of the most dangerous drivers we have yet encountered in the world. They give new meaning to Too Fast, Too Furious, that's for sure!
On our first night out of Dargaville, we camped on Rob's farm, a handyman and auto mechanic who has a collection of 60 old Chevy cars. We passed Kaipara Butchery and bought the best snack ever at a roadside stand: homemade sourdough bread with mixed berry jam. Thank you Trish and your sister for the goodies! Our second night we passed Gillian in a field brushing her horse and camped next to her barn. John, her husband, and Gillian were nice enough to let us use their shower! Thank you Rob, John and Gillian for your hospitality. On our third night, we limped into Auckland in a complete soaking downpour, rode straight through the Santa Parade right before it started (waving at fans lined the road) and checked into a hotel to shower, wash clothes and catch up on my last round of Book edits!
After five days in Auckland, we were itching to get back in the saddles. It took almost an entire day to get out of Auckland suburbs, we passed some rugby matches, parks and a small mountain bike park along the way. We passed Ardmore Airport where small planes were doing acrobatics (we found out later the next day was a big air show), were turned away at the RV campground, and began a serious climb along a militarized zone when we were in need of camping. Disheartened and exhausted, we pulled over at the top of the climb to ask a man doing yard work if he knew where we might camp. Shane went to ask his sister, Paula, who invited us to camp down in her field. Then she offered us a shed in her backyard, then her boat to sleep in, and finally her spare bedroom. Paula and her husband, Harry, lived on the top of the hill, in a beautiful house, with views of the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland and the Firth of Thames Bay in the distance. It was spectacular and we couldn't believe our luck. An act of kindness that came when we least expected it. Thank you Harry,Paula and Shane for your kindness.
Harry suggested we get a ride up to Tapapakanga Regional Park, up to the north point of the Hunua Ranges Regional Park where he promised the road and views would be far better than the route we would have taken. Of course we agreed, loaded the bikes on his bike rack the next morning and got dropped off at Tapapakanga Regional Park at the campground (near Orere) on the beach. Harry and Paula were right, the route south along the eastern coastline was our favorite stretch so far! The traffic was light, the views amazing and we spent most of the day on the Hauraki Rail Trail (a fantastic REAL bike route along the coast and through farmland). We stopped for ice cream at The Country Store where we met Jack and Grace, two of the sweetest kids working at the shop. Thank you both! Jack, save your money for a touring bike, it will take you further than a quad. :)
Unfortunately, ten miles of the Hauraki Rail Trail were closed without notice, pushing us onto a busy highway without a shoulder, but we made it to Kopu (Thank you Red Door for dinner). From there we continued south along the rail trail, stopping in Te Aroha (where we enjoyed a soak in the mineral pool) a lunch at The Merchant in Matamata (thank you Simon for the t-shirts) and camped at the Little Waipa Reserve. We had the best three miles of riverfront bike trail before we learned at breakfast at the Rhubarb Cafe that the next twenty miles would be another detour through farmland. Of course it would be. It was beginning to be a pattern in New Zealand, bike routes/paths closed without a detour. Thank you staff at Rhubarb Cafe for the directions and tasty pick-me-up that made the detour better!
We jumped back on the bike route at Waipapa Dam and had an epic twelve-mile ride along the Waikato River in thick rainforest, unreal steep switchback climbs and descents into Mangakino. Which is where we now sit, resting our sore legs and butts for a day. Next, we plan to head through the Pureora Forest Park, a fantastic fifty-three-mile timber trail through a rainforest. Fingers crossed it is open!! Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
P.S. BOOK UPDATE COMING SOON...(Leave your email to be sure not to miss it!)
My Grandpa once said, “the grass doesn’t grow under your feet” and he knew us all too well. This last couple of months was proof of that. We crammed in so many things my head is still spinning.
In mid-September, Ville FINALLY received his U.S. Citizenship! It took ten years of paperwork, fees, fingerprints, rentna scans, questioning, appearing, more paperwork, getting flagged, searched, more fees, more paperwork, a test most U.S. Citizens would fail, meeting criteria, another test, more paperwork and then an oath ceremony, but he did it. Just in time for us to leave for our next adventure.
Mid-October we rode the train from Portland, Oregon to Tustin, California in Orange County to visit my Aunt Lori and Uncle Steve. My Uncle is a cancer survivor and avid cyclist, and we ride the number of miles for his age on his birthday each year together. This year he turned seventy-six. My Aunt Lori joined the party for two additional rides. We also had a visit with my cousin Shannon, her husband, Kirk, their kiddos, my cousin Sara, Chip, his wife Nicole and their kiddos. It was great to spend some time with family!
When we returned, we spent a week in Bend volunteering at Mountain View High School (my old school) to speak with the Freshmen Foundations Classes. After recently losing a student and coming out of multiple years of lockdowns, the moral was low, so it felt more important now than ever to share our story. A few students signed our bike bags to come along on the adventure. Thank you MVHS for having us, we hope our message resonates and inspires you to live your passion.
Speaking of living your passion, it was time for Ville and I to get back to ours, traveling. We packed up, sold things, cleaned, said our goodbyes and moved into a storage unit. At the same time, we packed up our bikes and gear and flew to Auckland, New Zealand, with a plan to ride from the top to the bottom of the country. It's time to get back in the saddle!
We spent a couple days in Auckland (north island) before taking a bus up to Pukenui in the north part of the island, where our friends, Warren and Glenys live. We met them while traveling home from Ushuaia after completing our long bike ride from Alaska in 2018. They welcomed us into their beach house for a night and then showed us around the area for a few days. Ville, now a "Kiwi Bloke" made a new friend, Shorty, a pudgy, old paint horse he considered trading his bike for. In the end, Shorty preferred the barn to life on the road so Ville is still on his bike.
Before we left, we spent a day at Pukenui School where we did two presentations for the elementary and middle school kids. We had a great time and the kids were a fantastic audience. We added more names to our bags and were ready to set off. Warren and Glenys gave us a ride up to Cape Reinga, we took pictures at the Lighthouse, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea and set off!
From Cape Reinga, we rode south and west to the beach. There we rode fifty-miles on the 90 Mile Beach to Ahipara. While we were riding we passed hikers (hiking the Te Araroa Trail), cars and even spotted a wild horse missing his herd. He was walking away from us, then hearing us, turned and ran towards us thinking we were his herd, stopped, then ran when he realized we were not. We named him Black Beauty. We camped at Ahipara Holiday Park and continued inland, climbing and descending steep hills on out-of-shape legs and butts, but with spectacular views! When it's not raining. After all, it is spring.
We spent a night at The Tree House in Kohukohu and took the ferry to Rawene crossing Hokianga Bay. From there, we rode lots more ups and downs to Opononi where we now sit in a motel, waiting out a thunderstorm before we continue towards Dargaville. While here, we took a tour to the Waipoua Kauri Forest with a Mauri guide named Billy Boy and it was a really emotional experience to see the two largest Kauri trees in the world, in the 2% of rainforest that remains in New Zealand.
Tomorrow we plan to keep trucking. We'll do our best to keep you updated, however, the WiFi has been spotty at best, so bear with us. You can follow us on all the socials: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok. We would love to hear from you, comment, email us or give us a call on WhatsApp. Thanks for your continued love and support! Until next time, keep on keeping' on ya'll...
Hiya Friends! What a crazy past few months it has been for us. Let me catch you up...
For those of you that have known us a long time, know that we have been doing public speaking since 2011 when we thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. After we returned home to Bend, we volunteered most of our time speaking in schools; elementary to college including alternative schools for troubled youth. Our motivation was to inspire others. Neither of us loved standing up in front of a crowd (especially as critical as kids can be), but we deeply believed that 'good comes to those that pay it forward'. So we shared our story. A lot.
When we began the next wild adventure, riding bikes from Alaska to Argentina, we were asked to return and share more of our story. As word spread about our willingness to speak to classrooms, it grew to include community centers, rotary, newspapers, magazines and TV. When we completed the ride, we were asked to speak on Princess Cruises and packed their auditoriums. When we returned home, we spoke for as many classes and audiences as we were willing to. I will be honest, it was exhausting for a couple who had been living two years on the road. But it was also incredibly rewarding! When a child would thank us for sharing our story, a teenager said we inspired them to begin living their own dreams and a teacher took her kids camping for the first time after listening to our presentation, we knew it was worth it.
Then, Ville and I spent last winter (mid-November to mid-January) riding our bikes around Spain. While we were there, an old roommate and friend, Darius, reached out and asked if we would come to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and give a presentation at their Gathering of the Titans (GOT) event this last April. Of course we said, "YES". What an amazing opportunity and an honor to be invited! GOT was a four day event; sun up to beyond sundown, invitation only and packed with a list of talented professional speakers. We were scheduled to speak on the last day of the event, the grand finale, which was stressful, but great for meeting and befriending all the attendees beforehand. What an incredible bunch of people!
Speaking at GOT at MIT was like taking the stage after U2, Bruce Springsteen and Adele performed. Nerve racking as hell! However, we just needed to inspire one person to make it worth it and we felt like we did just that. We had the audience laughing, cheering and crying. It was surreal. We were and are both unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to have been there. After the event ended, we took the train to New York and then Washington D.C. to see the sights. Upon our return, we were asked to speak again. A Titan who had heard us speak at MIT invited us to Vancouver, B.C. to speak at a conference for InvestX. There, we met more incredible people, walked around the city and walked under the Lions Gate Bridge (the bridge we rode our bikes over when riding from Alaska to Argentina).
From there, Ville flew to Croatia to celebrate his long-awaited 40th birthday with sixteen of his closest Finnish friends for five days. What happens in Croatia, stays in Croatia, right? Right. And after a reported fabulous time, he flew to Finland and spent a month with his family and friends. He spent time with his Mom, helped fix her cabin, traveled to Helsinki to see Hampton and then finished the trip with a visit from his Brother and his family. While he was there, I did many back-and-forth trips between Bend and Portland for real estate. I also flew to Los Angeles with my best pal, Natalie to visit my girlfriends, Dani, Kristyn and Kaitlyn. Dani and I use to be roomies in S.F and Kristyn and Kaitlyn are my kids I use to babysit growing up in Bend. L.A. is far too chaotic for me, but spending time with friends was a blast.
Then, another Titan invited us to Ocean Reef in Key Largo, Florida to speak at GOT Family Event and we met even more cool people and families. Since we began our speaking journey in schools, we knew just what to say to keep kids engaged. We stayed for the three day event; learned more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, we snorkeled, played ping pong (Ville taught Rick a thing or two about how to be a champion ping pong player), learned how to paint, enjoyed a scavenger hunt on golf carts and made some great friends along the way. Each family set a goal to work on before all of us meet again next year. Our goal is to visit each family along my book tour next year!
Then, my brother, Jordan, and his now wife, Ami, got hitched! We are pretty damn excited for them. Our friend, Tim, gave us his place to stay in San Pancho, Mexico (what a great friend!) and we spent a week down there with Jordan and Ami a day before flying to Boston for MIT. Our good buddy, Marc, finally visited us from Vermont and we got to spend some long awaited time with Tommy Ford Teen Heart Throb Fan Club (Olympian extraordinaire). There was some Mom and Dad time, split-boarding time, niece and nephew time (Braydon and Skylar), sister (Lisa) and Sean time, Natasha visit, kayaking, hiking and a Kentucky Derby Party. We were busy!!
What about the Book?! I know, I know. I am sorry gang for taking so long with an answer to this question. Here is the scoop. I finished the book! Which is not the end, but the beginning of making it a published book. All along I had intended to self publish it. Then, I received four different offers from publishers to publish it. Exciting, right?! YES! However, I am now in negotiations with one of those publishing companies currently and will not know a timeline for publishing until we have a signed deal. As soon as I know a timeline, you will know it also. Promise.
What about Ville's Documentary? It is almost finished and he is waiting on my Book launch timeline to get it out into the world. As soon as we know when that is, you will know. Fingers crossed for us that things move quickly!
What about Speaking? We are for hire! If you have an event coming, hire us to come and speak at it. If you are a non-profit, please reach out and we will always make time for you as it works into our schedule.
What about the Next Adventure? Where are we going next? Well, Ville just got his new bike built and we are planning the next trip as we speak. Stay tuned to see where we go...
And what about me? We love you. All of you. Thank you for loving us, for following our journey, for spending time with us and just being your cool-ass selves. Please stay in touch, we love hearing from all of you. Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll!
Hello again good people!
We finally made it home after a false start. But before I dive into that, when we left each other last, we were on our way to Madrid from Cordoba. We had hoped to take a train there. Spain has an excellent train system, however, it is run by a bureaucratic mess and they don't allow bikes on them. Well, they allow bikes, but only on the regional trains, and only if they are taken apart and boxed, but sometimes just taped up with handlebars removed. It is possible to walk your bike on board, but only if you have reserved a spot for it on the regional train in advance, but it's nearly impossible to find someone to book that for you in advance, so you might try the bus system, but then you need to break down the bike to the size of a shoe box and then check it on as luggage. Like I said before, a bureaucratic nightmare. And good luck trying to find the person behind a desk to give you the correct information (and it will only ever be told to you in rapid-fire Spanish.) So, we rented a car again and drove with the bikes to Madrid.
We left the bikes with Ville's friend Jesse and his wife, Hanna, and then we caught a bullet train back to Alicante where we stayed with Ville's brother, Antti, his wife Berit and their two kids for four days. It had been over a year since we saw each other so we had a nice time catching up. It was also our first time meeting our new niece, Hedda. Somewhere I caught a cold, but tested negative for COVID and just felt crummy for about a week and a half until it went away right before we planned to head home. We took the train back to Madrid and met up with our good friend, JBro, who flew in from Germany to spend the week with us. Ville and I know JBro from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail together and have tried to see each other, somewhere in the world, almost every year since. We had a great time together in Madrid, sightseeing, walking through museums, eating lots of tapas and even made it out to the mountains for a hike with a Warmshowers host, Scott.
A couple days before our scheduled flight back to Oregon, JBro flew back to Germany and Ville and I had some packing to do. We found two cardboard bike boxes in bike shops around Madrid, took apart the bikes and had to wrap them in pieces of cardboard and packing tape in the hopes they would make it safely all the way home. We took COVID tests at a medical center (Germany required the PCR test within 24 hours of flying) and the results came back to us at 9:30pm, only six hours before we were to leave for the airport to head home. Except, I tested positive for COVID and the flight left without us.
As stressful as it was to book new flights home, we were both so grateful to be healthy and able to roll with the punches. I sat in the hotel room for the next two days until I tested negative and then it was off to the races. With an extra week in Madrid, we saw more museums, did more hikes, had dinners with friends and walked all over the city. A big thank you to Scott and all our new Madrid friends for making our time spent there so much fun!
Ville and I were able to catch our next flight home with minimal scuffs or bruising and my brother picked us up from the airport. Happy to be back in Oregon, we both jumped back in to work on the Book and Documentary with the hopes to get those out to you as soon as humanly possible! I am also still in the real estate game, so if anyone is in need of selling or buying a home in Oregon, I am your gal. We are also looking ahead to some very exciting speaking engagements coming up about The Bike Ride so stay tuned for the info. And last but not least, our website will be getting some much needed updates, so expect to be shocked, amazed and wowed soon.
Until next time, thanks for continuing to follow us and keep on keepin' on friends!
Happy New Year Gang! I hope this finds everyone making new years resolutions to travel more and do more of what makes you happy. Life is short.
Ville and I are in Spain, riding our bikes and in our happy place. The last time I wrote to you, we were just beginning to climb and by golly, climb is what we did! For three days we climbed over 1297 meters (2,992 feet), which doesn't sound like much after the Peruvian Andes, but it ended up including a lot of disappearing roads where we pushed our fully loaded bikes up washed-out ravines, canyons and mountainsides. We purposefully chose 'mountain bike routes' on our GPS and Maps.me, but the routes that were marked were for downhill riders, not uphill and we did not realize it until we were deep in it and headed uphill. As exhausting, thrilling, maddening and wild as the routes were, it made for a fantastic adventure and that is always what we are after. As Ville likes to remind me, no one becomes a good captain without navigating through many rough seas.
On the way up, we also got food poisoning and each spent a night sick as dogs in Guadix, followed by a day of riding on empty energy tanks. We did have some spectacular scenery and it made it all worth while when we reached the Puerto De Los Blancares Summit and dropped down into the city of Granada. Since everything was closed down because of the holiday, we spent Christmas there and were able to see the La Alhambra (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and walk all over the narrow cobblestone streets. Before leaving Granada, we met a super friendly guy from South Africa, Johan and his wife who invited us to their house for tapas and a chat by the fire. It was really nice to make some friends!
While in Granada, we learned that Ville's brother, wife and two kids would be flying into Alicante, Spain (a town along the coast we had passed through soon after leaving Valencia) and changed our plans a bit to make a trip back to see them. To do so, we rented a car (trains and buses do not allow bikes on them in Spain) and drove west to the port town of Cadiz. From there, we rode northeast to Seville, and had a very eventful couple days to get there. We met a very sweet old man on a bike who led us to a hotel in Lebrija, which was an unplanned stop but ended up being one of our favorite towns because it was full of the friendliest people. Up until then, we had traveled along the coast and through more touristy areas where Spaniards were not as thrilled to meet two touring cyclists and where we had met very few friendly people. Lebrija was a surprising exception. People came up to us in the town square to talk to us, an old lady came up to me to tell a joke while I waited outside the post office and people even waived to us! It felt really nice to meet kind, friendly people.
With only 35 miles left to ride into Seville, we were sure it was going to be a fun, easy day. Oh how wrong we were. After a week of rain AND the fact that we had chosen to ride farm roads through an estuary called Brazo del Este Natural Area (didn't know it was a flooded plain until we were, again, deep in it and our bicycle tires were covered in mud.) It felt like riding in glue and Ville's clearance between his tire and bike frame did not accommodate all the mud that was sticking to his tires and he continually had to get off the bike and carry it, digging out the mud with sticks repeatedly along the way. Let's just say, he was not a happy camper and nor was I. We decided to detour into headwinds far off our route to get onto a paved road and then head back north on a highway into Seville.
Once we arrived in the city, Ville booked us a really nice hotel in the downtown with a balcony overlooking the cathedral for my birthday! What a guy. We spent my birthday walking around the city, not getting into any of the sites because you had to plan ahead (which we do not do) and book tickets into everything and went ice tubing in the Winter Park instead. It was a blast! See the videos below.
After New Years, we rode to Cordoba. It took us two long, boring days along a highway and we had an excellent night camping in the backyard of a truck stop, sandwiched between the train tracks of the bullet train (which travels at 180 miles per hour) and a bunch of parked road construction equipment. The nicest lady working there gave us the OK to camp. In the morning, we watched car loads of farm workers gather and carpool to work, many of them African immigrants. We had a typical Spanish breakfast of pork leg and tomato puree on a white bread roll and shoved off towards Cordoba. We arrived by the end of the day in the city and have spent the last two days exploring the Alcazar De Los Reyes Cristianos (Castle or Fortress of the Christian Monarchs) and walking along the Guadalquivir River.
Tomorrow we will head to Madrid, then take a train back to Alicante to see Ville's family. Really excited we get to see Ville's family on this trip to Europe. I will try and post again soon, thanks everyone for emailing us and following along. Have a fantastic beginning to this new year and we hope to see you all soon. Until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll.
Back on the road and looking for adventure...
After a 10 day rest in Valencia, Spain to let my broken foot heal, we were ready, more than ready to get back out on the road. We decided to head south along the coast with a little mountain climbing mixed in. Our original route we had planned would take us high up into the mountains, but as we realized on the first go, it is quite cold in the mountains in Spain, especially this year and almost all the small villages we planned to resupply in, were closed down for winter. So we took the coast.
The first stretch leaving Valencia and headed to the city of Gandia, was beautiful with a winding path right along the ocean front of the Mediterranean. From Gandia, we took a hiking/mountain biking route up into the mountains called Via Verde del Serpis, all the way to Cocentaina. We passed an incredible amount of unfriendly middle-aged-men riding down the hill past us and collected all their valuables they dropped on the trail behind them; a cell phone, headphones and money. It was an eventful day with spectacular scenery. We did have to work for it, however and after riding the following day into the town of Ibi, we were at over 3,000ft in elevation and it was freezing.
Riding out of Ibi, we dropped all the way back down to the coast to the big coast town of Alicante and took a day off to see the city and walk along the malecon. The following day we rode to the outskirts of Torrevieja, where we stayed a night with Ville's good friend from Finland's parents, Hessu and Sirkkis, who were renting a place for a couple months to soak up the sun and golf every day. Sorry Jazzy J we didn't get to see you, but we enjoyed hitting the nightclub with your Mom and Dad. The following morning, we scored some goodies in a Finnish market in downtown Torrevieja and had a pretty crappy ride through a bunch of greenhouses to the next big coastal city of Cartagena (we chose the 'car route' instead of 'biking route' on the GPS and learned the hard way that the slower route was far better even if it was slower, interesting and quite often took us to places fit more for hikers than fully loaded mountain bikes). We took a day off in Cartagena to walk around the city, see the ruins and drink our Lonkero drinks (Finnish beverages of gin and grapefruit juice) on the oceanfront.
The next morning, we climbed up out of Cartagena and things became more interesting. It was a long, slow climb over the coastal mountains and when we dropped back to the coast at the town of Isla Plana, the weather was much warmer, the town's architecture was more beautiful and expats from Central Europe were everywhere. Until then, the winds we battled everyday were fairly fierce and we had been riding in two layers of clothes to stay warm, even climbing! And the architecture of apartments, storefronts and buildings were not what I had pictured Spanish architecture to look like, we had been passing more skyscrapers that were all shuttered and looked abandoned. Every town, village and city we had passed though looked apocalyptic. This being our first time to Spain, we were not quite sure if it was because of COVID and the lack of tourism or if it was normally like this in the winter, but we have been told it is a bit of both. Once, we arrived in Isla Plana and headed south, we found the tourists, en masse. Lots of German and French license plates passing us and we hear there are lots of Central Europeans that live along the Spanish coast in the winter.
For those who don't know, Spain is one of those "siesta countries" and for those that didn't follow along on our ride through Argentina (another "siesta country"), we are not the biggest fans of them. For a touring cyclist who needs to stick to the riding schedule of daylight hours, it is a nightmare. There do not appear to be regular scheduled business or working hours here, one day a cafe will be open at 9am and the next day, maybe noon? Siesta is from around 3 pm until 8 or 9pm, so you better not show up at that time and expect to find anything open to get food. What is siesta you might ask? Siesta is time for everyone to go home and eat lunch and take a long nap. We say "Buenos Dias" to all the people we pass, some say it back, others do not. Since this is a more touristy coastline and not more of a remote route, we don't find the same friendliness from the locals we might if we were off the beaten path. But we can understand that, it must be hard for the local Spaniards to have an overwhelming amount of tourists descend on these small villages, wanted or not.
From Isla Plana to Puntas de Calnegre, about 18 miles, the road and Eurovelo 8 biking route we have been following, hugged the coastline, was sheltered from wind, nice and warm, packed full of playas, tourists, bars and restaurants. It also had long sections of hillsides covered with greenhouses and long stretches of beach with German vans and RVs, similar to the beaches we passed in Baja California full of Canadian and American snowbirds. After Puntas de Calnegre, things got REALLY interesting! We climbed up into the coastal mountains again through the Cabo Cope and Puntas de Calnegre Nataional Park, however, the trail we were riding on became a goat trail and then that even disappeared. We spent five miles, pushing bikes up and down steep washes and ravines wondering why had challenged maps that had said our chosen route was 'hikeable', but not 'bikeable.' Well, it sure was an adventure!
By the time we reached the town of Aguilas, we were sweaty, battered and bruised and stopped at a restaurant where we ordered so much food, even the waiter reigned us in. From Aguilas to Garrucha, for about 40 miles, the road hugged the coastline which was packed full of warm sunny beaches , bars, restaurants and tons of tourists. While we were riding along the sea cliffs in the morning, we passed an older Spanish man on an electric bike, who after a few leapfrogs, asked us to pull over at a lookout. When we stopped, he told us about a town nearby that was a good spot for food and beer. When Ville, being polite, said, "Oh, nice. Food and beer." The man replied, "Oh! You want to go get a beer, huh? OK! Let's go have a beer." And off we went, following him a few miles down the road to a small cafe in the center of the town of Villa Ricos. If anyone knows how to find the characters along the way, it is us.
After leaving Garrucha, we climbed steeply up and over more coastal mountains into the town of Carboneras back on the coast and there we were back in the wind and cold weather. We did get to see a family of mountain goats on the side of the hill and when I startled them, they ran stright up the side of the mountain. That was last night. Today, we climbed through Cabo de Gata National Park and it was beautiful! We climbed through dry, grassy hills of small estancias (farms), past cactus and wildflowers and then dropped down a dry wash of bright red and white rock until we came to San Jose, the small town we are currently staying in. Tomorrow, we plan to ride to the outskirts of Almeria, where we plan to begin a long, slow climb up to Granada.
Thanks everyone for writing us, commenting and following along. Without you, I would ditch the laptop that weighs more than a brick and lighten my load, but since you keep reading, I will keep writing. As for the foot, it is slowly healing. It has posed some challenges on this last leg of the journey, but I don't want my life to get too boring :) I have been taping it every day and Ville helps me sometimes with the bike when it is pushing it up or down major stuff. What a guy. And last but not least, the book is coming along with the editor. I am hoping to be close to getting it ready to print in about a month when we return to Oregon. Stay tuned! Until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
And we're off! But...wait...
We started off on our Spain Bicycle Adventure really well! Roy, Ville and I had a few days off to put our bicycles together, run a few errands and see a few of the sights in Valencia. I assumed I broke my foot before we left (because I ran it into our dresser, my little toe went sideways and I promptly popped it back into place before pretending it simply hadn't happened) and without seeing a doctor, I taped it, rested and we flew to Valencia. I was unable to walk more than hobble through the airports, but riding my bicycle seemed reasonable and so we set off into the mountains, Tres Amigos!
The riding went well, the scenery was spectacular and the weather was stellar. Ville and I met a local farmer, Miguel, in a small cafe who took us to his orchard and filled a bag of clementines for us to take along on our journey. What a guy! The route was great, easy climbing, back roads most of the way and our new bicycles were a dream! It was all the other things I had not taken into account that were not, shall we say, optimal with a broken foot: squatting to pee, putting my foot down when stopping the bike and climbing in and out of the tent. On the first night camping in an abandoned olive orchard, I fell on my foot climbing out of the tent and reinjured it. Ville made the call that we would return to Valencia the next day and see a doctor to get a proper x-ray and our buddy, Roy, decided to continue on south without us. We were really sad to part ways and bummed we don't get to travel together, but we were happy he decided to keep going because once we got to Valencia, saw an ER doctor and confirmed a broken toe, we were grounded for a minimum of two more weeks with a total healing time of 6 weeks! No bueno.
The silver lining, is that Ville and I were able to enjoy more of Valencia than we had planned and as it turns out, it is actually a pretty cool city! For a week, I sat in our vacation rental and finished a bunch of online continuing ed courses to keep my Real Estate License active (I work as a real estate agent in Bend and Portland, Oregon, when I am not riding bikes OR writing a book) and I used crutches to get out and about for breaks. No better time to be couch bound. We connected with a local Warmshowers' dude, Alex, and his girlfriend, Alex, and we met for lunch and shared some travel stories. After sending x-rays to my good friend, Sara, in Bend (who also happens to be a Physician's Assistant), I was given the OK to do "light" riding with my taped foot and we ventured out into the city. We rode through a green space, that runs through the length of the city and all the way out to the beach, almost daily. We ingested lots of paella, seafood, pork, goat cheese, pastries and coffee. For those who have not made it to Spain yet, we highly recommend a stopover. The food is tasty, the wine is fabulous, climate is moderate and the architecture is a beautiful blend of old and new.
Tomorrow, we are planning to leave Valencia and head south down the coast. The plan is to, as per usual, not make a plan and ride until we get hungry or tired. We will likely stay in a hotel until I can walk gingerly on my foot. We will talk to strangers, take risks and enjoy life. We hope you will come along with us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll!
P.S. A BIG Thank You to everyone that wrote us about The Book! It has been the biggest undertaking of my life. It turns out, writing a Blog while doing a two-year bicycle journey was fairly easy compared to sitting at a computer (while in Buenos Aires, Helsinki and Portland, Oregon) and trying to write a book about the ride. Sharing all the stories of kindness from strangers all along the way, was my driving force in doing so and it is our way of giving back. There are so many great people in this world! If you have not already, sign up for The Newsletter and I will let you know when the book is ready to be released and how you can order your copy. Thanks again for your continued love and support.
The time it took Ville and I to ride bicycles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Bahia Lapataia AND the time it took for me to write a book about it. Who knew writing a book would be so difficult, time-consuming and vastly different than riding a bicycle? Surely, not me! But guess what friends? The writing is complete! I know, I can hardly believe it either. But first, here is a brief update:
The last post I wrote was from Finland, just after Ville's father passed away and we found ourselves moving there to help out his Mom at the same time a global pandemic shut down the entire world economy. After six months of Ville living with his Mother in Lahti and I living in Helsinki, an hour south of them, we got a flight back to Oregon, where we found ourselves in a completely changed place. My hometown of Bend, Oregon had already been one of the most popular cities to move to in the United States pre-pandemic, but COVID refugees fleeing big city life only worsened the situation. And if Ville and I have learned nothing else, it is BE THE FISH THAT GO AGAINST THE FLOW. So we rented an apartment in downtown Portland, Oregon, a place with a mass exodus of people and also home to my siblings and our niece and nephew, and settled in to finish The Book and The Documentary.
Somehow, a year passed.
A year is 12 months, 48 weeks, 365 days. A year is an exorbitant amount of time. Plenty of time to write a book and complete a documentary, right? Well, yes and no. We are the coolest Aunt and Uncle and wanted to spend time with the kids; playing at the beach, rock climbing, critter hunting and obviously riding bikes. I also continued to work as a real estate broker in Bend and with the surplus of sales due in large part to those moving in partnered with extremely low interest rates, I spent many weeks driving back and forth between Bend and Portland, a nearly four hour drive each way. We also happen to love the outdoors and the Pacific Northwest is full of beautiful places to explore. Although we were grateful to stay employed and busy, non of those helped in book writing or documentary building. So it took a bit longer. Like, a year longer.
No matter, it is done! I had set a deadline for myself a month prior, to take a much needed work break during the holidays and we booked airline tickets for Nov. 17th to go to Valencia, Spain to begin a short bicycle tour. After booking flights, Ville went to hang out with my Dad in the woods and I broke my foot! As you can imagine, it put a bit of a damper on things, but I kept furiously writing. At least I hadn't broken a finger I rationalized. Then, on the evening of Nov. 16th, I completed the writing of the book! I sent all of it to my editing friend, Alison (a saint who has stood by me through the entire process) and a finish editor (Chuck) and we hopped a plane to Spain early the following morning. Phew! What a rush!
How does one do a bicycle tour in Spain with a broken foot you ask? No idea! But, if I can ride a bike from Peru to the bottom of Argentina with a broken tailbone, then I imagine I can figure out how to do it with a broken foot. Positive thinking is at the very least, a fabulous start. :) As I write to you now, Ville and our good friend, Roy, whom we met while biking in Chile, are out fixing Roy's front tire while I am catching up with you good people. Because I hadn't written enough over the last five years, I figured I would haul this brick of a laptop with me on this adventure and keep you all updated.
What is the plan, you ask? As per usual, no plans. We are going to head towards the mountains and see where the trails take us. So stay tuned. We have a tentative plan to fly back to Oregon mid-January because I will need to design the cover and layout of the book and get it printed once the edits have been completed. We are very close to getting a completed book in your hot little hands, so sign up for the Newsletter if you have not already, and I will be releasing the book title as well as announcing Pre-Sales shortly.
We pulled our new bikes from the bike boxes yesterday, put them together and will take them for a short little lap around the town this afternoon, just to make sure nothing falls off, before our planned departure tomorrow morning. I am planning to carry our camera, a couple lenses and a laptop to keep the Blog going. Although it is a lot of work, I just plain miss you all and want to stay connected. I will try and get an update every week or so as WiFi permits, so stay tuned. If you want to connect with us, we would love to hear from you, click on the CONTACT button above or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wish us luck! Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
On a Book Tour
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson