Review: 5 Owls Solo Shelter

It's been just over two months since we returned from the inaugural Salty Spokes adventure and we thought it was about time that we give you guys the inside scoop on the gear that we used that made our ten week voyage possible. Through all the weather, winding roads, and grit and grime our gear made it possible to go the distance and make it through all seven countries. 

The first piece of gear I am going to talk about is the 5 Owls Solo Shelter. Part bivouac, part tent, this storm proof shelter was what Ryan and I called home for most of the trip. The name speaks for itself; the shelter sleeps one person, but still had enough room to fit all of our gear and panniers which gave us peace of mind knowing all of our gear would be safe at night. The tent compartment also allows you to be able to sit up inside of the shelter which made it easy for Ryan and I to read, journal, and edit photos comfortably at night. 

All packed up the Solo Shelter weighs in at 4lbs 14ounces. For us bringing a Shelter that we trusted to get us through anything the weather could throw at us made the little bit of extra weight of the shelter versus a hammock or bivouac well worth it. Plus all packed down into our dry bags it fit nicely on top of our back racks when we were riding. 

The Solo Shelter set up and take down is painless! Huge plus for when we were setting up camp in the rain. The Solo Shelter also comes with a Storm Shelter Cover which kept us warm and dry during the thunderstorms we slept through in Portugal and Spain. 

A couple tips from us: 1. Always set your tent on the high ground away from where water will flow if it rains. The night we camped near Muros, Spain Ryan unknowingly set up his Solo Shelter in front of the drainage basin of the wall we pitched our shelters behind, and after a night full of downpours woke up in a small lake. No matter how water proof your tent is, wake up in a small lake and your stuff will be wet. 2. When your tent gets wet, because it will inevitably will if you use it frequently, hang it up to dry as soon as possible. The longer it sits wet, the more likely it is for your tent to get mold which happened to Ryan's after a few days of sitting in his dry bag after the storm. 

With all that said, if you are planning on going on a bike tour, or you are looking into getting a single person shelter for your outdoor adventures, I highly recommend the 5 Owls Solo Shelter. Compact, lightweight, and waterproof the Solo Shelters were a god send on our trip. Having a place to sleep at night that you know can handle all of the elements gives you some serious peace of mind, and after living in it for the bulk of ten weeks on the road, I can tell you it does just that. 

A special thanks to 5 Owls for sponsoring us on this trip. Without your support this trip truly wouldn't have been possible. Stay tuned for some more Salty Spokes + 5 Owls collaborations in the near future. 

Returning to the Real World

I have to say I was pretty smart and lucky to be able to prolong the harsh weight of reality from hitting me after I graduated.  Around May, biking was all I wanted to do.  The idea of biking through Europe seemed like a surreal, somewhat nonexistent adventure that was taunting me in the distance.  For me it was just something to plan for and keep busy, thinking that I didn't have to face the reality of life like most college grads do the minute they're handed a diploma.  Instead of stepping into a job I wasn't sure of, I stepped into some spandex, got a bike, and went to try my hand at biking through some countries with my best friend. 

I loved this idea, mainly because it was a little bit out of character to me.  I talked to a good friend from college the other day, telling stories about the trip, some good days, some bad days, and he started laughing.  He admitted that when I told him about the trip he just thought, "Ryan... biking for 10 weeks... good luck?" While he was wary of my plans, he watched me get a bike, and come home every week after a few rides sweaty and cursing as I passed out on the couch.

Looking back on the trip where everyday, we would spend 6-9 hours on the bike working our ass's off to get to the next destination gets me stoked.  The first day setting out of the airport in Lisbon, I was scared shitless.  I just looked at the highway, foreign cars cutting through visible humidity.  Feeling my bike, I also realized this was my first time riding fully loaded down with my panniers.  For anyone planning a tour, don't do this, train with the panniers and you will be glad you did.  Despite my worried rants of getting a taxi, Keagan controlled the desire to smack some sense into me, calmed me down, and told me to get on my damn bike.

It was unreal, moving from that first pedal in Lisbon, shorts and a tank-top, freshly shaved face, with a naive thirst for what lay ahead. Suddenly I'm wrapped in the warmest clothes I had riding a few thousand miles away along the Irish coast, with a burning orange tuft of hair protruding from my face, yet that smile and absolute excitement for the moment hadn't changed.

Ending in Dublin, we were staying with a friend, Lisa, who had been my nanny when I was 3 months old and she was 19.  We were happy to be with such an awesome family for our last few days, but the trip had come to a halt.  Everything had been rolling around our spokes for 10 weeks, then as I handed that bike over to be packed away in a small green shop in Dublin, everything crashed.  Ten weeks of constant movement and new surrounding just piled up on top of me.  After the flight home and a week of just nothing, it's all coming together.

No matter what the real world holds for me I'm happy to be doing something I love.  Even though I just found out what a bike can really do, I don't want to stop pedaling.  Every one I've met, the places I've seen, the hills I've climbed made for one hell of an adventure.  As long as I have my bike, camera, best friend, and open road I'm happy.

Saltyspokes is a community and a way of travel, and hopefully will grow into a few more adventures.

Van Gogh Themed Bike Path

A little less than a month ago I was in the Netherlands, in specific Amsterdam. When I was there, two things really blew my mind: Number 1 being the incredible art scene the city prides itself in, particularly its collection of art from the Dutch Artist Vincent Van Gogh, and 2 how many people ride bikes. I mean the bike ratio there is 1 to 1, meaning everyone living in the city has a bike. For me, putting these two things together is what creates such a provocative atmosphere for the place. Art and Bikes. It really doesn't get any better than that... 

Today I found out that the Netherlands has combined the two in actuality. On November 13th, the city of Eindhoven unveiled a 1 kilometer long glow in the dark bike path inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's renowned painting Starry Night. The artists behind the project Daan RooseGaarde said that the path is a form of "Techno-Poetry" where "people will experience in a special way, the technical combined with experience". This path is the first of its kind, and with 2015 being named the year of Van Gogh, it is a great way to kick off the celebration of his life and achievements.  

The Netherlands was already one of my favorite countries of the trip, but after seeing pictures of the "Starry Night" bike path, and hearing about all of the solar bike paths going in, I am already starting to plan my next trip over to the bike crazed country. 

So if you are planning on making your way to the Netherlands this year with your set of wheels, make sure and visit Eindhoven and its Van Gogh inspired glow in the dark bike path!

-Keagan Banks 

Salty Spokes and You!

Well… we made it. 7 countries in 10 weeks, and we made it.  However, though there may be a stench, the sweat and salt hasn’t even been fully rinsed from our clothes, bikes, and gear. Half savoring the last little bit of dirt and grime we brought home from the trip, and half hoping that another one is going to come up before we can get rid of it. We may be back but we are already ready to start planning our next adventure, and we want you to be a part of it.

For all of you who followed along on our first trip (we cannot thank you enough!), and for those of you who are just tuning in to the Salty Spokes community we would love to get some feedback from you guys! Things we could do better on our next trip, suggestions of places to go and routes to take, gear that you simply cannot leave on any trip without, and in general your questions, comments, and concerns.

Our goal with Salty Spokes is not to simply just travel around on our bikes and share our adventures with you, but to get you involved with us and our sponsors as we aim to create a community of people who seek to learn in ways that only traveling can teach. After all we want to be a “True Spoke”, connecting people to places, gear to experiences, and dreams into real adventures. 

Our first trip may be done but it doesn’t end here. We are going to keep on pedaling, keep on coming home salty, and keep on getting better as we take Salty Spokes to new places and to new heights.  But, we can’t do this without you guys, so now is your time to get involved!

Here is my personal email, and I encourage you and your friends to reach out and give me a call or email to share your thoughts, talk about bikes and surfing, or to just say hi. I want to get to know you, and I want to make Salty Spokes a place and a brand for you.

Double D's (Doolin and Dublin)

Doolin was only supposed to be a one nights stay. A place right in the middle of our destinations Cork and Galway, that would allow us to see the Cliffs of Moher.  We weren't prepared... Okay at this point in the trip we were pretty well prepared for anything that could be thrown at us, but we weren't prepared to fall in love with this small, quite, farming village by the see called Doolin.

As soon as the bus zigged and zagged down the back side of the cliffs and pulled up to the Rainbow Hostel we knew we had something special. We were greeted by one of the guests named Maya, a musician from Vancouver Island who, like us, immediately fell head over heals for this place as soon as she walked in the door. Carmel, one of the owners, showed us to our room and the ins and outs of the place and sent us off to unwind from the days journey.

Carmel's husband Mattie is part of the Irish Coast Guard and after managing to talk his ear off for a few minutes I was able to get out of him that Ireland's best surf spots were in a ten km radius of the place we were staying. There is Lahinch which is about 8 km south, Aliens directly under the Cliffs of Moher which you need a jet-ski to access, Crab Island located about 400 meters off the Doolin  pier, and handful of secret rock slabs and points in virtually every nook and cranny of the place. Haven't had a surf since we left Hossegor, my mind began to fantasize about ending our trip with perfect green Irish barrels in some icy cold water.

We knew that for the next few days the west coast of Ireland was going to be hit by a series of storms, and, sitting next to he roaring fire exchanging stories with our new German friends, Ryan and I looked at each other and both knew right away that we were going to be here for a few days. And we were perfectly okay with it. Sure we weren't going to see as much of Ireland as we originally planned, but we had managed to find this quaint little hostel on the west coast of Ireland and we were surrounded by good company. And I had my hopes up that there would be a break in the wind and the rain long enough to get a good surf in in-between storms. Staying here and extra couple of days was going to be just fine.

The next morning the storm hit, and it hit hard. Sitting inside the hostel we could here the wind whistle through the trees and around the house, the rain exploding against the windows. While I sat on the couch next to the fire reading my book, enjoying a cup of tea, and journaling, Ryan decided too brave the elements to try and go snap a few pictures, but after being ran off the road by a bus driver he returned to the hostel after a few hours drenched to the bone, and looked at me and said there is no way we are riding to Galway... "Way to sketchy". The feeling of our trip coming to an end really began to set in after that. Quite possibly we were done riding for the trip. 9 weeks of riding basically every day was pretty much over. Half being relieved, and half yearning for some more hills and countryside to pedal through, I was left staring at the fire thinking about everything we had achieved on this trip and all the places we had the opportunity to see.

The next day we awoke to some sunshine and knew that this was going to be our best chance of seeing the cliffs without then clouds and fog covering them. Our American/German posse set off on the 8km trek called the Burren's Way which took us literally along the edge of the ocean up along the Cliffs of Moher. We weaved our way through the labyrinth of puddles and finally made it up to the Cliffs. Rain and wind squalls would come and go but the sunshine in between lit up the area perfectly.

The different shades of green, the enormous cliffs littered with nesting seagulls, and the Victory at Sea like ocean made for one of the most picturesque places of the trip.  The waterfalls off the cliffs were put in reverse leading to us getting soaked as we scrambled along the cliffs edge. At one point the wind was so strong, and my vans lacking the necessary tread, I was skiing backwards along the muddy trail. The 5 of us couldn't stop laughing as we battled the wind which could easily blow the lot of us right off the cliff into the big blue thing sitting a few hundred meters below us. We made it to the visitors center dripping wet and covered with mud but with the biggest smiles on our faces. Our trip may be coming to an end but we were still managing to cross things off the bucket list.

That night, after hearing about the live music that was to be played at McGann's pub down the street from our hostel, we rounded up the troops and made our way down there to see what it was all about. It was Indian night so the pub smelled of fresh Guinness and Indian food but the atmosphere was filled with laughs and people dancing to  some very traditional Trad music. It seemed as if the whole town of Doolin was there and out to have a good night. This is where once again the world proved to be extremely small. Not only were we in a small town in rural Ireland, we were also at a tiny pub, and low and behold we ended up meeting Ashley and Luke Stirtz who just so happened to be from Dana Point, California, our neighboring city. The two were on their honeymoon and we all have mutual friends back in the states. It never ceases to amaze me that everywhere we go these situations happen.

After checking the waves the next morning and realizing that my dream of surfing in Ireland wasn't going to happen with this weather, I spent the rest of the day with my head buried in my book and journal, sipping on tea, sitting next to the fire, and listening to the rain. I wasn't complaining. For me this was the perfect way to decompress from the incredible trip we were having.

Our friend Tyler was heading to Dublin, our final destination of the trip, and told us that if we can manage to get our bikes and all of our gear in the hatchback than he would gladly drive us there and save us the hassle of taking a bus. Don't ask me how, but we made it all fit, and although it was not the most comfortable ride, we got made it to Dublin safely. It felt weird being back in a car. Watching the kilometers tick down like seconds on a clock rather than how slowly they do when we are riding. We were in our last city of the trip. We were done riding. I was in a daze just thinking about how we actually made it to Dublin.

We are staying with Ryan's Au Pair from when he was three months and her loving family who welcomed us into their home for a few days. Not having to worry about the next days ride or where we would be staying, how we are going to get everything packed for the return trip, having my own room void of Ryan's snoring, has seriously diminished the amount of stress that comes with getting ready for the final departure.

Strolling through the Wicklow mountains with Lisa.

Our first full day in Dublin Lisa drove us around to see Power's court and the Wicklow mountains which ended up being one of the most scenic places we had been to on the trip. Stunning landscapes which we had managed to see during the golden hour in between showers. Mountains and valleys filled with small streams and waterfalls and painted over with the leaves of the trees ranging from purples, oranges, and greens. Being from Southern California I have never really experienced the changing of the seasons, and the scenery I saw today in the Wicklow Mountains, specifically in Sally's Gap will forever be engrained in my brain. Looking at those landscapes I was taken back by its beauty. I couldn't help but to think about all of the places we had seen, and realizing that the trip would be over and I would be back in California in a few days and left to dreaming about the next adventure. Where would we go next? What is Salty Spokes going to turn into? There is a lot of questions but one thing is for sure. This is not the end.

The Rainbow Hostel and the Cliffs of Moher

Waking up in Cork we made it to the bus station with hopes of making it to the west coast to spend our last few days exploring the Cliffs of Moher.  With both the weather and time against us,  we expected a hassle transporting our bikes, but realized that not everything was worth the stress.

After a few coffees, the bus arrived, our bikes were comfortably stored underneath and I sat staring at the countryside through twisting jarring roads. This bus was jerking around every corner through a labyrinth of narrow roads with its wheels touching the edge.  A part of me was  happy to not be biking because of the lack of room, the inevitable chance of being run down by a bus, and the chilling rain.  Then thinking about, it was those type of days riding through less than ideal conditions where I had the most fun.  Pushing myself through a mixture of howling winds, cranking engines and the rush of a semi coming within inches of my panniers while I yelled in fear and excitement... I liked that.  Those were the rides that made the destination and the beer at the end of the day that much better.  

Dropped off in Ennis,  we decided to take another bus to the Cliffs of Moher and see what sort of accommodation could be found there.  There was realistically 3 days before we had to be in Dublin on the 9th or 10th to situate everything with our bikes and get ready for the flight back to California.  On the bus, I happen to spark up a conversation with a guy sitting across from be with a big smile and a case with what I found out was a saxophone. Obviously a backpacker, his name was Leeander, who was traveling for a few months around Europe armed with a backpack and a saxophone.  He was jumping from hostel to hostel working for a few weeks at them with the payment of food and board, while he was able to explore a new region.  When he mentioned he was headed to a hostel in Doolin, our destination, Keagan and I lit up and ended up following are new German friend to his new job in search of a room.  

Doolin is a charming country village with a few pubs and B&Bs catering to the tourists visiting the cliffs of Moher.  We were dropped off with our gear and bikes in front of a quaint white building with the words “Rainbow Hostel”  painted against a rainbow.

With the glimmering smile of hope we always don when searching for a place to rest knowing that our options are thin, the owner, Carmel, welcomes us into her home.  Not really knowing what to expect, we settled in as a fire was being tended in the living rooms stove and travelers were coming in and out.  It seemed alright.  We were given warm smiles and jumped on our bikes to climb up a lovely hill through the stone-lined fields to pick up something for dinner.  
Per-usual, our options in the small-town market were minimal, but I let Keagan work his magic as I did my thing and picked out something for dessert.  Without disappointment there was a pot of delectable lamb and vegetable tomato soup.  By this point, a few more had stumbled upon the hostel and with a full pot of stew, and obviously hungry faces, we offered up what was left.  Dinner ended up being Keagan, myself, an Italian, our German friend Leeander, as well as two more Germans, Estert and Toby.  Everyone was happy with a warm meal on a cold and rainy Irish night.  

It was funny to look around as broken English was being tossed around and we were all sharing stories of our travels.  Someone was just beginning as others were ending, and some were just meandering, but we all were enjoying life, making the 5 minute walk to the pub afterwards for a few pints.

The next day was wet, and rainy all day.  Along with some friends we drove around to make it to the market for food, but couldn’t really do much.  I was itching to get back on the bike, so despite the rain, I grabbed the rain gear and went out before I could second guess myself.  I guess it was the adrenaline but I ended up drenched to the bone lost along an abandoned shack.  Muddy and water trickling over the brim of my cap I just laughed because I knew Keagan was curled up by the fire reading his book.  I just thought how nice that was going to be when I was back, so I kept riding, searching for a good photo, until the wind turned and threw me into a thorn bush and the rain decided to flood my vision.  It was time to head back.  Coming in soaked yet still with a smile, my German friends looked me over with a curious grin and everyone just asked how it was when we all knew the answer. It was very wet.  

Going slightly crazy after 2 months.

We had a crew that set out to the pub again that night with the intentions to catch some real Irish music.  We weren’t disappointed and I had maybe too good of a time.  Made some new friends, one of them being the bartender, who would have a Guinness pouring as soon as he saw one of us get up.  As most of the crew left, I couldn’t get myself to leave the music just yet.  It has been moments like these where I can just hang out and enjoy myself even if it wasn’t a long day of riding, I love looking back at the past two months that has brought me here.

I made it back and awoke to the constant moan of cows. I have never lived near a farm so I guess this might be a normal thing, but they would not stop yelling.  It wasn't a "moo" like a child is taught, but is more of a strong constant gargle that jolted me awake.  It was that and the fact that Keagan who was on the bottom bunk, lifted my bed up and let me drop because I was snoring louder than the melodious cows.

I rolled over, saw the light peaking through the curtains, and knowing that this might be a shortly-lived period of sunshine, I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went for a ride.  Unlike the ride before, even though the sun was shining and rainbows were sprouting all around, the wind was mean and treacherous.

As soon as I made it to the trail head where I had to stash my bike behind a crumbing stone house, I was in heaven.  The light was golden poking through the clouds and I was kind of overwhelmed by where I was.  It has been two months but I'm on the west coast of Ireland walking along the Cliffs of Moher watching a stream flow off into the Atlantic ocean.  It took me an hour of exploring, falling in the mud, and scrambling down to the tide pools to try and get some photos before I realized that I should go back.

The raw beauty of this place was unnerving.  I wanted to run back and grab everyone in the hostel to come see it.  Even though this is a well known place, I was the only person in this area and I couldn't take it.  It was a combination of the danger that lay within the gorgeous landscape.  I kept a wary eye everywhere I placed my foot because I knew one slip and I was gone, swallowed up by the ocean I knew was unforgiving.  The stone cut and moving, water from land and sea constantly washing over it in ever corridor leading to caves and crevasses.  It seemed more as a different planet than the one I am used to.  Before I ventured to far, I knew I had to grab Keagan before I saw the Cliffs of Moher so I turned around(mainly to unload all my photos because I filled up a card).

Ten minutes after I returned, Keagan, myself, and three friends ventured down the Burrens way to hike along the Cliffs of Moher.  I just had my vans on, jeans, and a rain jacket.  I thought that would've been fine.  We started hiking, and within 30 minutes I gave up on keeping my feet dry.  Every step towards the cliff would be in a hidden puddle or sinkhole of mud.  It became a joke because I would let out a yell of disbelief every ten steps as my feet slid deeper into the Irish countryside.  After a while of hiking we reach the fist view point of the cliffs.  It's honestly one of those views that gives you a different view on life.  I know that is kind of cheesy but honestly looking at these astonishing cliffs, watching the wind blow back the streams into a upside-down waterfall as we ran through them laughing and yelling,  I was again, knocked into perspective about what I have experienced.

Anna just taking it in.

We pushed through the hardest winds I have ever experienced.  Every step I took one foot would be pushed back.  We were all yelling and laughing, falling in the mud until we finally made it to the top of the steps and realized how sketchy that situation actually was.

Soaked to the bone, covered in mud, and walking in a puddle, I happily walked away from the cliffs of more after a sold few hour hike that I will never forget.  Everyone split up and hitchhiked back in the rain.  As soon as we were back, clothes were set out to dry, a pot of tea warmed up and the fire started, it was just another wonderful day in Doolin.

Why not?

A Simpler Pace

I find that I can get myself distracted easily.  A small road, distant house, herd of cows.  While riding there are many things that seem to lead my attention away from my final destination.  It has something to do with loving photography wanting to capture every little moment I see so that I can save and share what I experience.

Throughout the past 6 countries I did just that, stopping to take photos when I liked and still managed to keep a decent cadence and pace along with Keagan.  This changed when I came to Ireland.  Even with the sideways rain, the wind shoving me off the road, and a few inches of shoulder to ride on, I couldn’t really understand the landscape in front of me.  Every turn and hill offered a new perspective that I was endlessly having to stop and take in what was happening around me.  I could be sitting in a minuscule contained rain storm and 50 feet ahead, it’s dry with a rainbow caressing the ruins of a church.

My constant fascination with the countryside and coastline resulted in falling back a few miles from Keagan, who has the tendency to get in the zone, then nothing is stopping the machine.  After going on a ride with Keagan and his Dad back home, and getting absolutely worked by trying to keep up, I’ve realized where Keagan gets his riding mentality.

Ireland has been living up to it’s infamous legend of being beautiful.  We realized that having around a week here isn’t even close to enough time to experience this country and all it has to offer.  

I kept along the Copper Coast, blessed with a few days of sunshine riding, I controlled myself by stopping only when it was essential to capture that moment.  This ended up being every moment.  

After leaving our lovely and frigid caravan, and devouring a full Irish breakfast, the ride to Dungarven was serene.  I know my Irish Mother would be proud to know that I ate every piece of blood sausage on my plate. Despite her unpleasant stories of eating them every Sunday as a child, I really enjoy them.  

Used to the easy coastline of Southern California, riding these hills where grassy fields rolled into jagged cliffs greeted by an always unruly sea, just made me happy.  The wind always push some salty mist at me giving me an extra nudge to ride on.  

At our own pace in Ireland, and knowing the direction we were going, I just rode knowing that Keagan would stop somewhere for a coffee soon.  Just as I was about to get a little nervous that we have lost eachother I see just his bike perched against a brick wall on the driveway of a house.  I stopped, and took my helmet off, scrathing my head doing a 360 trying to find him when a little girl standing on a porch yells at me to come inside.

I walk up to the house and find Keagan sitting in the kitchen with the nicest family I have met this trip.  Keagan asked for some water, and we ended up with a pot of tea, sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, candy, and a lot of smiles.  Shows what generosity is left in this world.  People are genually awesome and open to help someone out, even a spandex clad American dripping sweat.

Holding a Hurling club, a sport that was described to me as way gnarlier than ice hockey.

We left happy and full,  stopping at a bar/hostel for the night.  Quickly we jump down to the bar for a Guinness and that turns into a few whiskeys, then some new friends, great stories, and a good nights sleep.  Well a good rest for me, because when I woke up a little hazy from the night before, yet happy, Keagan unfortunately didn't get any sleep.  The reason was, even though I might be small and incapable of any force, I apparently sound like a 300 lb man with a really bad cold. 

Another great Irish breakfast and a long ride to Cork, I was happy to grab a Guinness and make some more friends. 

I am a friendly guy and I have a naive hope that everyone is friendly as well with good intentions.  Two drunk fellows were talking to me and the idea of playing a game of pool came up.  I said " hey, I'm no pro but I'll play." An older gentaleman, gold chain, faded snake and dagger tattoo on his arm, a clean pencil thin goattee, and a strange smirk set up the game and asked how I played.  He realized I didn't know European rules much, but we got to talking, made him laugh with my travel stories and realized I made a friend.  Through the middle of the game he put his arm around me, put on a similar smirk, chuckled and said, "Lad, I gotta be honest with ya, from the moment I asked you to play I just wanted to run ya for some money, but you're a nice lad, I'm not going to clean you out." 

He hit my back, won the game, bought me a beer, then proceeded to run another tourist for 20 euros, giving me a smirk as he won.  I guess being nice gets me somewhere sometimes.  Then later in the night some other fella gets decked in the face by a vodka filled local and for some reason, being the muscular and strapping guy I am, I tried to help break it up, but then Keagan saved me from a bad story.

A brewery tour the next day, gave me a good look at the chemical process of beer even though I had no idea what the hell was going on and Keagan looked like a kid in a candy shop.  His brewers mind was spinning trying to take some idea from the brewers chemist.  A funny and jumpy Irish guy, he gave the three of us a good insight on their tradition, and I was just happy for the tasting at the end.  As well as trying an ale that had been aged in old Jamenson Whiskey barrels. Straight heaven, and I went to bed with a smile.

Irish Pubs

We can't seem to get away from the pubs here in Ireland. I mean I'm not complaining, but I'm starting to get a pretty good picture of what Irish pub culture really is. A pub isn't just a place for the Irish to come and get drunk and fight (stay tuned for the later). It is a place for the local people to come and share the days stories, drink, sing, laugh, and cheer on their local sports teams. Now that all might seem like your local bar wherever you live, but the pride and respect the Irish people have for their local pub runs deep, and therefore it feels more like a family rather than a bunch of drunks. There are people like your older brother, who give you a hard time, make a bit of fun of you, but are always good for a laugh. Older women like your mom and grandma who ask you 21 different questions about what you are doing, and make sure you are safe and taken care of. Father figures who tell you what to watch out for, where to stay away from, and lecture you on many life lessons. And grandfathers who point their finger at you from across the bar, pull you in close, put you in a headlock and sing you an old Irish folk song as they reminisce about the old days. An Irish pub is a thing of beauty. Everyone feeds off each others energy and the pub comes alive, especially when come half-past-8, the local musicians start to play a tune or two.  For me there is nothing better than having good company, live music, and great beer.

Spreading the stoke of bodysurfing with a local surf shop owner on our way to Dungarven. 

Arriving to Dungarven with no where to stay we began asking the locals where we could find cheap accommodation. We were pointed to a pub called the Tudor house. We walked in the front door, spandex and all, and everyone's head turned and stared, knowing that we were not from there, but other than the looks know one seemed to care. Asking for a room for the night the bartender handed me a key and showed us to our room. Very intrigued about our bikes he made sure they were locked away safely in the storage room of the pub, knowing that the rest of our trip depended on them. After a quick shower and swapping our spandex for some normal clothes we went downstairs to the pub for a beer to celebrate the days ride. The peoples stares had turned into smiles and they began asking us what the hell we were doing riding our bikes through Ireland in November!

It's funny that everyone asks us the same question: "Why didn't you start in Ireland and finish in Portugal?". And yeah, when I think about it, had we done the trip in reverse we may have gotten to experience the best summer Ireland has had in 20 years, had warmer weather in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and less rain and more waves in Portugal and Spain, but I couldn't have asked for a better outcome for our trip. Had we done the trip any differently we likely would have missed out on meeting the people that we have, and seen the places we have as the season changes from summer to fall to winter. Rain is just water and everything that we have overcome and put up with on this trip has just made the adventure that much better.

Early nights have become pretty standard on this trip, knowing that we need as much energy as possible for the next days ride. So we went to bed, woke up the next morning and packed everything up and the realized that our bikes were still locked up in the pub which we both knew would not be open this early. After scrambling trying to figure out what to do I finally got a hold of someone who said they would send someone over to get the bikes. I felt terrible, I could hear in his voice that I had just woken him up from his deep slumber and he was not to happy about it. As we waited for someone to show up, a lovely women named Tina walked through the door and up the stairs and asked what we were doing. We explained the situation and she told us she had the key to the pub and would help us out. After following her down stairs and telling her the story about our trip she offered to make us a full Irish breakfast before we hit the road. Tina has family in Santa Cruz, so we immediately connected and I told her all about going to school up there. Tina was a total mother figure although I don't think she had kids herself, but she took care of us and sent us on our way to Cork.

The ride to Cork started with a huge climb, followed by another, followed by a few more smaller climbs after that. But the sun was out and the wind was a little calmer than the previous two days so we didn't mind. We realized pretty early on on this trip that Ryan and I have two different riding styles, me wanting to push myself to go faster and ride longer, while Ryan likes to really enjoy the surroundings and make sure he captures everything with his camera. Now don't get me wrong I take in my surrounding while I ride, I just prefer to do it with a faster cadence, always pushing myself to ride harder and go faster no matter the terrain or weather ( something I know I developed from years of riding with my dad). After that first initial grueling climb I looked behind me and couldn't see Ryan and for the first time on this trip I just kept on pedaling. Ryan knew where we were going and if I did stop somewhere, I would leave my bike out some where visible to signal where I was. My legs were now warmed up and the hills became easier and I started climbing faster. I got in my tuck on the descents just to feel the wind slap me in the face. I wouldn't allow myself to stop until I got there. I pushed harder. My body at the point of bonking but my mind not allowing it to. I reached into my handlebar bag and grabbed some Halloween candy the Bonnar family gave me the day before and chowed down  for some energy and followed that up with a few big gulps of water. I just kept on pedaling. When you push yourself like this you start to get tunnel vision. You block out the pain, the exhaustion, and pretty much whatever your body is thinking and feeling and you just keep going. For me this is what fun is. Pushing yourself to levels you haven't taken your body to before. Climbing a hill faster than you did the previous time. Descending around corners tighter than last time, and pedaling longer and harder than you thought was even possible. You can feel yourself getting stronger everyday.

We eventually made it to the Bru Hostel in Cork and checked in. Booked for 2 nights we began to settle in for some well needed R&R.

That night happened to be open mic night at the hostels pub downstairs, and being tired from the days ride we decided that downstairs was about as far as we were willing to go for a pint. The pub was full of characters. A lunatic film director who supposedly had a film in the Cannes Film Festival, a wannabe actor who was trying to persuade the director into letting him be in his next movie, a 70 something year old "Jamison Connoisseur" if you catch my drift, a fellow bike tourer named David who just got his dream job with Earnest & Young, and far off in the corner two guys which seemed to be in a very serious conversation... The volume of this "very serious conversation" began to get turned up, and before the lanky bartender could do anything a flurry of right and left hooks were thrown leaving the pudgy Russian guy flat on his back on the ground. Ryan, being the tall, strong, and experienced fighter that he is, immediately jumped out of his chair to help brake up the fight between the rather large Russian man and a feisty South American. Not wanting the two guys to get seriously hurt, I pulled Ryan out of it by his collar and sat him down and handed him his pint and looked at him and said "what the hell were you thinking?!". After things settled down everyone started laughing. Cross that one off the bucket list, we had just experienced our first Irish pub fight.

We turned in for the night, looking forward to what the city of Cork had to offer us for the next day.

The next day actually tuned out to be pretty lazy. It consisted of a lot of reading, journaling, and staring at a map trying to figure out where we would be going the next day. The book I picked up, and haven't been able to put down since, is Richard Branson's Autobiography called Loosing my Virginity (get your minds out of the gutter, he is the person who started Virgin Music, Virgin Airlines, Virgin everything). It's funny to grab a book off the shelf at a hostel and have it connect with you on so many different levels, but this book is turning out to be one of the most influential books I have ever read. If you are looking for a inspirational book, and are intrigued by entrepreneurship and business this book is for you! Okay back to Cork. After our lazy day, Ryan, our new friend Dusty who happened to be from San Diego, and I decided to head down to Corks own micro brewery, Franciscan Monk, for a tour of the brewery and some beer tasting.

 A jolly Irish fellow who was the brewery's chemist was our tour guide. I was stoked to be getting a tour and hearing about the process from a chemist because having brewed a few batches of beer back in the states, I understand the basic process and wanted to learn more about the chemical processes going on and how different types of yeast, grains, and hops affect the outcome of different types of beer. It just so happens that our tour guide had created his own yeast strains and was in charge of preserving the brewery's special yeast strains for years to come, so I was learning first hand from one of Ireland's leading yeast specialists.


To make the tour even better there were supposed to be 9 people on the tour, and 6 people didn't show up so the three of us got a private tour and got to see the ins and outs of the brewery. I was completely needing out the whole time. While everyone our guide was saying was going over Ryan's and Dusty's head, I was eating it all up and taking notes on things we can do and try to make our home brews better. I was in awe of the brewery's equipment and the efficiency of their brewing process. They had my dream brewing set up. We finished the tour with a beer tasting, and finally I found an IPA. I have been craving an IPA this entire trip and finally, in our last country, in our last week, I found one. And a damn good one at that called Chieftain IPA. I was in heaven sipping on the hoppy golden nectar, and I went to bed that night a happy man.

Ireland is Green

I pushed my bike across a narrow grate onto the ferry at Fishguard, handing over to two bearded, oil-stained workers tying down the bikes for the crossing.  The sea was rough and angry making me nervous as someone who prefers be swimming in the ocean rather then rocking around on top of it.  I scrambled to the deck as the rain started up again and the wind slid me back across the deck.  It was a little sad to look back at England and the two months I’ve spent with my best friend on a loosely planned adventure.

I zoned out until England disappeared behind the fog and we were again crossing a channel or border into another country and unfortunately our last.  Arriving late we found a B&B, rested, woke up to a full Irish breakfast then left with only an idea on our direction, but not our destination.

Ireland has lived up to it’s name.  The countryside is gorgeous and we rode along the national road for a few hours until Keagan came to an abrupt halt.  Looked at me with a sad little grin and said my least favorite phrase, “we are going the wrong way.” I held back my anger because I love getting lost most of the time.  It's just that this time it was cold, windy, and absolutely perfect. 

I found us a route through the country and we got a good feel for what Ireland had to offer.  Since the clocks had been set back, it gets dark around 4:30, so come 1:00, as the rain and wind decided to drill us back the opposite direction we were heading, a dry place to stay was essential.

I rode through the rain leaning at a hard angle on my side as I pushed up the hill just to keep straight up.  It was a constant battle against the direction of the wind that we definitely weren't winning.  Besides the weather, the coastline was growing to become a complete different experience compared to before.  The rolling hills cut in and out of beautiful cliffs surrounded by ruins of old churches and castles. 

I couldn't help but smile as I rode throughout the day.  Knowing that this was the last push in the tour, I was casually biking through stinging rain and howling wind, having the keep my head down to avoid the pain.  I notice Keagan huddled next to the wall of a bar, so I join. We rush in, dry off next to a warm fire, pot of tea, good lunch, and were gifted a place to lay the sleeping bags for the night.

Hanging out around an Irish pub in a small town form 4-9 gave me a pretty good insight on the people coming in and out.  A couple pints shared I met a truck driver who gave us directions for our next ride, then a fisherman who warned us about the weather and shunned us for not starting our journey in Ireland. 

The truck driver trained me on the ins and outs of rugby because it was an essential piece of knowledge to have for around these parts.

I awoke the next day in the abandoned caravan we were giving the keys to for the night, freezing and in a haze primarily from the few pints of Guinness I had happily drank a the pub. All of that was fine.  I packed the bike and realized where I was.  The sun was shining as 20 crows dipped across the mildew strewn caravan as I rolled over to the beach to get a better look. 

Throughout the day we rode with the sun past tiny fishing villages, old ruins and plenty of cows.  I was killing my speed by stopping every 50 feet to take out my camera for another photo.  I rode through the hangover, stopping for a full Irish breakfast of course.  After a few pieces of bacon, an egg, two sausages, grilled tomato, beans, and some blood sausage get in me, I'm fueled up with enough energy to kick whatever else was poisoning my body and mood.  My favorite part of it was having a slice of brown bread tucked away as a mid-ride snack.  Having an Irish mother is a benefit when she has a generation tested authentic Irish Brown Bread recipe, so one bite of that and I'm back home. 

I kept my own and let Keagan race ahead. The beauty of what was in front of me tied together, again, with the fact that it was all ending soon gave me a refueled appreciation for what I was doing.  Just pedaling the bike through some gorgeous countryside on another beautiful day in this not-so-bad lifestyle.

Halloween in Ireland

It's Halloween and we are in Ireland. After a few hour ferry ride we arrived in Rosslare and were given a warm Irish welcome with some rain and wind. Winding our way up from the harbor we arrived to a little B&B and quickly shed our rain gear for some warm and dry clothes. The two of us anxious to experience our first Irish pub and some real Irish Guinness quickly headed down the street to the nearest pub.

It's pretty funny how on this trip whenever we walk into a cafe, bar, or pub, the local people can immediately tell we aren't from there. Embracing the stares and looks we were getting from everyone we walked straight up the bar, "two pints of Guinness please". Pouring a Guinness here in Ireland is an art, and it takes time. There has to be the right amount of head and unlike pouring other beers which is usually done with one single pour, a Guinness is poured twice I order to guarantee the right level of head Guinness is so well know for over here. Taking my fist sip I was amazed by how much better it tastes here than back in the states. It's thicker, creamier, and has more flavor. It is a proper Irish stout, and any Irish person won't let you think any different.

Pretty sure that we were going to get some weather the next day, we went to bed early to make sure we had enough energy for what ever Ireland was going to throw at us on our first day of riding.

We woke up and low and behold we had sunshine. We quickly ate the full Irish breakfast Liam had so graciously cooked for us and hit the rode. After heading up the rode for a few miles and thinking we were going the wrong way, we decided to explore the countryside and weave in and out of the small roses connecting each farm. After some stunning scenery and a few odd looks from some locals we made it back out to the main rode and we were back on course for the days ride. This was were the weather turned and the temperature began to drop.

It started with some rain and a few gusts of wind, and by the time we made it to a small ferry in Passage, it was raining sideways. We would take three pedals forward and get blown ten back. We weren't going to make it any further so we asked where the nearest place we could get a meal was. "6 km's up the rode, the place is called the Saratoga".  One foot after the next, one pedal at a time we pushed through the wind and the rain and made it up cliffs that stood in between me and the pub. Drenched to the bone and on the brink of shivering we made the final decent into Woodstown where the Saratoga was located. We arrived and were greeted by Bill, the owner, who was still cleaning up from the previous nights Halloween festivities. Seeing us shivering he dropped what he was doing and lit us a fire and a brought out a pot of tea. I was amazed at the hospitality Bill was showing us and the Saratoga immediately began to feel like home.

As the weather worsened Bill asked us if we knew where we were staying for the night, and after telling him we didn't have a clue, he began thinking of different places we could stay for the night.  That's about when he came out from around the bar and told us that he had a caravan in the car park next door that was closed for the year, but he had the key and would allow us to stay in it free of charge... Well free of charge meaning that if we would buy a few pints later that night. This is what the trip is all about and we immediately jumped at the opportunity to stay in his caravan. Despite the lack of heat and running water, we unloaded our gear and made the caravan our home for the night.

After putting on dry clothes we spent the rest of the day in the pub, conversing with the locals, watching rugby, and learning about the Irish sport of Hurling. Realizing that they only accepted cash, I began preparing myself to brave the weather again and make the 6km ride to Dunmore East where the nearest ATM was. Theresa,  Bill's lovely wife, insisted that we wait and she would drive us at the top of the hour. She not only drove us, but gave us a mini tour of the village and shared with us the history of the place. I couldn't thank her enough from saving us from making that ride which turned out to be full of hills, and with the sun setting, we would, have likely returned with hypothermia.

Pints of Guinness were drunk, stories were shared, and we quickly made friends with the locals who call the Saratoga home.  This entire trip I have been amazed by the hospitality of strangers, but what we were experiencing at the Saratoga made for one of the most memorable nights of the trip. We had been welcomed into the Saratoga family with open arms, given a place to stay for the night out of the wind and rain, and now have some amazing Irish friends.

The next day the storm had passed and we began our ride early in the morning knowing, like England, that covering distance here would take a bit longer than what we were used to. Passing in and out of small fishing villages and coastal roads we inched our way closer to Dungarven. Ya it was windy, but the sun was out and panoramas we were seeing were some of the best of the trip. Johnny Cash was absolutely right when he said there are "40 Shades of Green" here in Ireland.

About halfway through the ride I was out of water and pulled off the road to ask for some. In order to make sure that Ryan didn't ride past me, I leaned my bike on a stone wall at the end of the drive way to signal where I was. Unsure of how people were going to react to a skinny guy in spandex walking up their driveway asking for water, I nervously approached the house. I was immediately greeted by the family's 2 month old puppy followed by the entire family who was at home enjoying their "lazy Sunday". They not only filled my water bottles, but made us sandwiches, fruit, and a pot of tea. The 7 of us sat at the table while Ryan and I told stories from the trip while the family gave us a lesson on the sport of Hurling. The entire family played the sport, and their father is one of the best to ever play the sport and now coaches a championship college hurling team. Knowing we needed to get back on the road, we said our goodbyes, but not before exchanging contact info and taking some pictures.

We had only been in Ireland for 2 days, but the hospitality the Irish people were showing us has been some of the best of the trip. It blows me away by how nice complete stranger have been on this trip, and how welcoming people can be if you just put on a smile and share some stories from the road. It may not be the best time of the year to cycle in Ireland, but I am so happy that we are ending our trip here with the Irish. Thank you Bill and Theresa and Bonnar Family for taking us in and welcoming us as part of your families.

Jumping through England

With my bike packed, new rack and all, we left Reading thinking we would make it 78 miles to Bath. I mean we had already had days where we have rode over 100 miles in a day, so 78 should be no problem. Well we were wrong.

Just a little tid-bit of information for everyone planning a cycle trip around the UK, give yourself plenty of extra time because you will not be able to cover the same amount of distance you have been able to in other countries. The weather is unpredictable, the roads are not the most bike friendly (nor are the drivers), and the Sustrans cycle paths, which are amazing don't get me wrong, consist of a lot of dirt paths that when it rains, which is very often, turn into muddy rivers. It is going to take you longer (around double the time) for you to get from Point A to Point B on a bike.

All that being said you should really go to the UK and cycle!

I think we had been riding for about an hour and a half when I looked at the GPS and saw that we had only gone about 7 miles. Sure the scenery was gorgeous, but there was no way we would make it to Bath at this pace, especially because with daylight savings it gets dark out at 4pm.

Already having booked a couple beds in a hostel in Bath, we opted to ride for a few more hours and catch a train for the remaining distance. We arrived at Newbury train station got our tickets and immediately began laughing. In order to get to Bath we would have to take a train back to Reading, and then transfer trains to get to Bath. So once again we found ourselves on our way to Reading. At least we got some riding in for the day and got to see some of beautiful English countryside.

A few hours later we made it to the city of Bath. The city is stunning, old Georgian architecture, Roman baths made with the city's natural not springs, and a canal running through the middle of it all. The only thing standing in between us and our hostel was a mile and a half climb up a hill with an 11% grade. Woohoo! After sitting on the train for awhile our legs were loving it...

Barely making it up the hill, we made it to the "youth hostel" only to be greeted by a couple families, and a lot of people that were well over the age of 60. Not sure they should have called this place a youth hostel, but hey we had a roof over our heads and some interesting conversations.

Pouring over the map, looking at the distances we would need to cover in the next few days in order to get to Fishguard, Whales to take the ferry, I realized that riding out the rest of England would mean less than a week of riding in Ireland. Coming into the trip Ireland was the country I was probably most excited to cycle in, and selfishly not wanting to sacrifice my time in Ireland for more riding in England we made the decision to take yet another train. So that morning we rode 25 miles to Bristol on the Bath to Bristol cycle network (the best stretch of cycle path we had encountered in England) and booked a train to Fishguard.

An interesting sculpture in the middle of the bike path.

On that short ride we had two very interesting encounters. The first came when a cyclist decked out in some nice gear on a beautiful Felt rode bike came up next to me. My dad having a Felt bike as well, I looked over at him and asked how he liked his bike. This was the start of a 15 minute ride with this cyclist who was so stoked on the stories I was telling him about our trip that he didn't mind the slower pace and he thanked me for making his morning commute a lot more interesting. Right as he was about to leave he told me he just so happens to work for the biggest cycling magazine in the UK and that he would love to run a story about us in the next issue. Small world huh? Then as we neared the Bristol train station we were deciding on which bridge to take across when this older gentleman rocking red pants, a suit jacket, and a pretty rad commuter bike pulled up next to us and pointed us in the right direction. Riding the few hundred meters with us to make sure we didn't get lost, we told him briefly about our trip and what we were doing. He immediately began firing off questions on what we thought of cycling in England and what we thought of the cycle paths we had ridden on. After introducing ourselves and shaking his hand, he casually tells us he is the elected mayor of Bristol, that he "runs the place", and is responsible for Sustrans cycle network being out into place. Sure enough when we exchanged information and looked at his business card it said mayor of Bristol. It was one of our shortest days of riding, but we met two people that are hugely responsible for the cycling push that is taking place in the UK.

We eventually made it to Fishguard, had an incredible stay at the Backpackers Lodge with our new friend Steve, and the next day we would be off to Ireland.

Our last ferry ride, our last country, our last leg of the trip. Not sure how the weather is going to be, but either way we are stoked for what is to come in Ireland.

Into Ireland

I am realizing that a few weeks would have been needed to cover what we would have liked to do in England. Regardless we had an adventure. Leaving London was bittersweet becasue of the friends we had met the morning we departed.  As we rode everything seemed to crumble.  First, the bolt to Keagans rack snapped in his frame.  That sucked but he washed away the anger, put on a smile, fixed it, and rode away.  Then about ten minutes later the actual rack snapped completely.  Besides the obvious frustration, it was a beautiful day in England, which we have been told don't happen a lot. 

To avoid being stuck behind a day, we hopped a train to Reading to stay with some friends.  It's a complete mess with no bike compartment so automatically we are assholes, and being American didn't help our cause.  Keagan gets out to let people in then the doors close and he is gone.  All I did was laugh and waited for him in Reading. 

Lucky enough to find a bike shop, Keagan found a new rack and we headed towards Bath.  Our route was a little gloomy but gorgeous.  We winded through feilds and canals, past boat houses and made new friends.  We rode for hours stopping for coffee in a small town pretty confident about the rest of the ride, then realized we had 40 miles left with about an hour of sunlight. So we took a train.  Spent the night in Bath, and made it to Fishguard with a combination of riding and getting yelled at in trains. 

Before Fishguard, we were riding into Bristol to catch the train.  For some reason tensions were high and we were pissed at each other but the train station was in our sights so we knew what was ahead.  Crossing a bridge with a floor resembling a cheese-grader, another cyclist rode by warning us about the consequences if we fell.  He was British, friendly and seriously interested on what the hell we were doing.   We told him what we were about and that we had been riding the bike paths in England. As soon as that was mentioned he was curious about what we thought, the condition of the path, and how it compared.  As we were talking and Keagan gave him our info he handed me his card.  On it his title was "Mayor of Bristol."  I looked up with a confused grin, "yo, are you the mayor," and with a confident grin he throws back "yep, I run the place." 


The Mayor of Bristol and a new friend.


That interaction had me laughing through the train ride to Fishguard.  Making it there we pulled into a "backpackers lodge."  Not expecting much, we were stoked to meet Steve.  This guy was not only a hardcore surfer, he was down in Baja, Mexico and Southern California surfing and bumming through the 70's and 80's.  I couldn't tell who was more stoked to be meeting each other, us or him.  He had the right idea.  He was stoked on our trip and mentality on life, and we could tell he had the same mind-set.

Headed to a pub to wind down, got pulled into conversation with some young kids, a self proclaimed communist/photographer, and woke up to our last ferry into our last country. 

One Thing Lead to Another

Two nights in London is not enough to get the full London experience, but with our trip slowly coming to an end, we knew we had to keep on truckin. We said our goodbyes to Hagen and his flat mates and set off through the busy city with plan of making it to Reading where some of my cousins friends lived.

After meeting the guys at the B1866 (Brooks Saddles) store in Covent Garden the previous day, we stopped by the shop on our way out to grab some coffee, share some more stories, and do some more convincing that they need to come out to California for a bike tour! We talked about bikes, touring, highlights of our trip, and why traveling by bike is the best way to travel.  With the shop starting to get busy, we said our goodbyes but not before finding out that Serge's girlfriend, Emma, owned a barber shop up the street. I couldn't pass up a clean cut after so many weeks in the road, so I immediately jumped at the opportunity to have Emma cut my grimy hair (sorry Emma!).

Before stoping by ELP Barbershop, we popped our heads in the London Specialized shop to show off our AWOL Comps and tell them about our trip and what we are doing. We met the crew took a few photos gave them a review of the bikes thus far on the trip, and we were off.

Let me start by saying if you find yourself in London and need a "haircut, wet shave, and a beer", heading over to ELP to see Emma is a must! If you need help finding the place her shop is located at:

3 Earlham Street,
Seven Dials, Covent Garden,
London, WC2H 9LL

The atmosphere of the shop is unreal. From the tree bark wall paper, to the art on the walls, bikes in the back, and fresh cup of coffee I received when I got there, I was in my happy place. After a quick shampoo to rid my hair of the road grime, Emma went to work and in no I went from looking like a bike touring bum to a dapper London gent. Okay I was still in my spandex so I was still rocking the bike bum look just with a fresh haircut. Seriously people if you are in London go to ELP and have Emma cut your hair, you will not be disappointed and will walk out of the shop stoked on life. Thanks Emma for the cut, can't wait for you and Serge to come out to California and tour with us!

Leaving our new friends behind sucked but we had to make it to Reading. Riding through the streets of London is and adrenaline rush, dodging and weaving through traffic, our panniers making it extra difficult to do just that. We made it about 10 blocks from the barbershop before the screw in my back rack snapped inside my frame again. Now an expert on solving this, I swopped out the screw and rigged it up to the my rear dropouts and we were back on the streets of the city. About another 10 blocks later, just before making it out of London, my actual rack snapped. Out of duck-tape and lacking a welding torch, I resorted to piling everything onto my front rack. My back panniers on the bottom, my front panniers on top of that, and my tent and fins sandwiched in between, it was all held together with my two bungee cords and cargo net. My front was so loaded that my handlebar bag barely was able to fit over it all. Not willing to settle for buying a cheap piece of crap back rack, we rode to the nearest train station in order to stay on track and make it to Reading with the hopes of a good quality rack waiting for me.

Now let me tell you. Riding a bike with around 80 pounds of gear loaded down to just the front of your bike is a challenge. Now, riding a bike with 80 pounds of gear loaded down to the front of your bike in an extremely busy city such as London with taxis and bus' swerving around you is nearly impossible. My adrenaline was pumping before this, but now I was sweating bullets and praying to God to just let me make it to the train station.

I survived the few mile trek to the station and before long we were finally on our way to Reading. Or so I thought...

The train was busy, and with two bikes in the carriage we were blocking the exit, so at our first stop I opted be a gentleman and hop off the train to let people out. Note to self, never get off a busy train. As soon as I got off and the people exited behind me, everyone else rushed the door. Scrambling to find another carriage to get myself and my bike on I ran down the platform looking for an opening. Next thing you know the doors of the train closed and I was mouthing the words "see you in Reading" to Ryan through the plexiglass windows of the now moving train. All I could think was thank god I was in England and people spoke English otherwise this would have been a lot worse. The next train to Reading was in 45 minutes so I embraced the situation and passed the time speaking with all the locals who saw me miss my train or who were curious enough to ask me what the hell I was doing.

After a very long day I eventually made it to Reading, dropped my bike off at the shop to get it fixed and to get a new rack, and made it to Brian and John's where we would be staying for the night. After a solid dinner we hit the hay anticipating another day of riding in the rain.


Keagan -

Well we made it to Amsterdam. Arriving from a train from Ghent we made it to our hotel and quickly became apart of the bustle of the city. Walking the canals and dipping in and out of small alleyways trying to get lost in a city full of art and culture. Like Ghent, Amsterdam is a university town and because of that, we had no problem meeting people our own age. To add to youth we were surrounded by, our two Canadian friends Matt and Andrew who we had been traveling with since Bruges arrived to Amsterdam a few hours after we did. Ryan again pulled through with a friend of a friend who happened to be living in Amsterdam, and after a day of exploring the city we met up with her and her friends from Liverpool for a couple pints at the local pub. It was only our first day here, and we, well in at least in our eyes, were experiencing the city like the locals do.

Did I mention Amsterdam was full of art? There are countless art galleries, some of the best museums in the world, and not to mention some pretty rad graffiti. On our first day there Ryan and I decided that our stay in Amsterdam wouldn't be complete without seeing at least one of the museums, and after some back and forth deliberation, we decided that the Rijks museum would be getting our 15 euros a piece. Dedicated to the art and history of Amsterdam, the museum had an incredible collection of paintings, sculptures, weaponry, ship collections, jewelry, and furniture that perfectly depicted how the times changed throughout the centuries. While touring the museum I had the chance of meeting Mr Van Gogh himself. Standing in front of his "Self Portrait" I was taken back at the intricacy of his work. The minute details of every brush stroke visible as I looked the painting over.  Down the next corridor it came across my first Rembrandt. Not being an experienced museum goer, especially fine art museums, I was amazed at the accuracy and the clarity of his work. His paintings look like photographs, every subject's posture and facial expression was spot on. Besides seeing the work of two of the most well known artists that ever lived, my favorite part of the museum was the nautical exhibit, which consisted of a collection of boats, anchors, and navy weaponry.  Being obsessed with all things nautical, I was in awe of the entire exhibit. Walking through the Rijks museum took us back in time and showed us an accurate depiction of how life in Amsterdam has evolved.

The next morning I was awakened by the thunderous coughing of Ryan. He had been fighting an uphill battle having spent everyday with me while I was sick, and I immediately knew he had caught the bug. Ryan was down for the count and there was nothing I could do but to boil water and bring him some tea. He smartly opted to stay at the hotel for the day while I went off to see more of the city. I felt bad for Ryan and could feel his pain having had to do the same when we were in Bordeaux, but I was excited to wander the streets of Amsterdam by myself. I started off the day at a local café and met a Hungarian guy named Aron who was on his way to Africa. We exchanged travel stories for a bit, grabbed a waffle and parted ways. I then made my way through the streets stopping in the many bike shops along the way sharing the Salty Spokes story.

After talking with one of the bike shop owners I found out that the person to bike ratio in Amsterdam is 1 to 1 meaning that every person who lives in Amsterdam has a bike. I was amazed at the infrastructure of the city which makes it so bike friendly. Every street has a bike lane, and every driver respects the cyclist. Amsterdam is my kind of city: beautiful, lots of history, amazing music and art scene, young, and most importantly bike friendly! Later that day I met up with the Canadians and Amy, an Australian who we met at the hostel in Bruges. The four of us having not experienced the insanity of the infamous Red Light District set out to go see what it was all about. To keep things PG I won't go into to much detail of the things we saw but I will tell you that the stories you hear about this place are true. Seeing a crowd of people our age funnel into a building at the end of the district we followed and to our surprise it needed up being super clean and furnished with Victorian furniture. The drinks were good and the people were friendly, and after some time we came to find out that the place was a brothel turned bar, and it is one of the most famous pubs in the town for students. We bounced around a couple more pubs and the four of us parted ways.

Even though Ryan ended up getting sick, Amsterdam was a blast, and is a place that I know I will be returning to soon.

Crossing the Pond

I have been patting myself on the back for the past two months, congratulating my body on being able to carry on through the most physical exercise it has endured in an extended period of time.  In the past I have been known to get sick constantly without warning, so biking through 5 countries while I was eating whatever was placed in front of me, retiring and rising at unreasonable hours, and never forgetting my after-ride-beer, I was impressed I stayed together.

Crossing into Belgium, my heart was heavy to leave behind the country I love so much.  Belgium surprised me.  From the flat seemingly endless canal roads to the countless people on bikes simply enjoying the day, it was this different land from everywhere else we had ridden.  Bruges and Ghent became two of my favorite stops on the ride.  Beer, great friends, warm hospitality, good music, and I couldn't wipe this damn grin off my face. 

great friends.

I was feeling great. We rode through a casual hurricane passing overhead, and through the clouds and griping wind, I kept my bike straight and didn't fall into a canal which is what I call a good day.  Our next stop was Amsterdam then to the Hook of Holland to catch a ferry "across the pond" to England. 

Navigating a train and some solid miles, we arrived the famed city, rolling our bikes onto the streets only to see hundreds of bikers in every which direction.  Sticking out a little like usual, we plowed through the crowd until we unloaded our bags, we were told to lock our bikes outside.  Whenever this is told to us, we stare back the fiend with the same eyes and expression a child has when he/she is denied a new toy.  Unfortunately my big blue eyes didn't have any effect and our bike were chained along a floating sea of hundreds of other lonely friends. 

Having a day ahead of us we perused the city getting some culture in us at the Rijks Museum. That night, we met up with some new friends, explored the city which has a beauty and image unlike any other place I have traveled to.  The was successful, beer was good, and a warm bed was better, so nothing had gone wrong and I was happy for the moment. 

The next morning I woke up in my own lovely personal hell. Drenched in sweat, a heavy fever, the feeling of a tortilla chip lodged in my throat, unable to swallow a thing, the day was looking up. So basically I was grumpy and only left my cot to hunt down a pharmacy.  The comfort didn't last long, and the next day I pieced myself together in madness and made it to our ferry leaving the next night front the Hook of Holland.

I kept my spirits up staring our the station window watching the orange tinge fade over the ferry.  Trying to shut my eyes for a second, I see another guy, my age, similar bike, loaded with paniers, give me a big smile and comes inside to great his fellow tourers.  This was Cameron.  A young Australian, just as energetic as Keagan and I, who had been biking for a year-and-a-half. He had us beat, but still we had some epic stories to pass around as we boarded the ferry for the 6 hour night crossing to Harwich, England.

Stuck in a small cabin, a few beers were smashed as I slowly fell into a coma only to be woken up at 5:30 the next morning by "Don't Worry be Happy" blaring through the loud speakers.  I coughed up a lung, swallowed some pills, donned some spandex and met Keagan and Cameron to bike into the the early English light. 

Coincidentally, Cameron was biking to London as well, so we had the privilege to ride with him for 80 miles until we had to depart.  Without his wisdom, I don't know how far we would've ridden. 

The terrain hadn't changed much form the other countries, just farms, brick buildings, sheep and cows. Within the first ten minutes I was honked at and in a very comprehensible form of English, then was called a "tosser." This just made me just laugh uncontrollably because even though I am in a country where I can understand the language, it is still extremely difficult.

Cameron introduced us to a full English breakfast in a small grungy American-esque diner in some quaint English town.  After riding for hours through small towns we stopped to make some coffee with our little-used stove.  While we almost set ablaze a statue of the Virgin Mary,  Cameron indulged us with the do's and don'ts of English cycling before we had to say our goodbyes. 

Only being 5 p.m. the sun had retreated and we rode into the London city skyline.  Blue and chilly I found myself lost on the London Bridge amidst the buses and thousands of people.  It is cool to be here knowing where I started.  We got lost a few more times before making it to a friends flat for the next few nights.  The comfort of a friendly face, and some good food soon got my spirits up and my temperature down.

Two nights in Bruges and we still hadn't had enough of Belgium, so we decided to head to the city of Ghent. We toyed with the idea of going to Brussels, the country's capital city, but everyone we asked said to not bother and spend the extra time in Ghent. Not only is it another beautiful canal city filled with history, it is also a university town so there would be no shortage of people our own age.

After two days off the bikes, we welcomed the opportunity to get back on them for the 50 km ride to Ghent. It just so happens that there was a severe weather warning for the day with a hurricane expected to pass through our direct route. We were stoked... At this point in the trip rain is just water and is not much of a hindrance as you may think when we are cycling, but when you mix 40-60 mph gusts of wind into the mix, raindrops feel like piercing bullets, and riding is near impossible if it is not a tailwind.

After a quick pit stop at a local bike shop for some new tires, a new front rack for Ryan, and a fixing for my rear rack, we set off from Bruges for Ghent. Decked out in our rain gear we quickly warmed up despite the rain and wind. Back on bike paths we passed through small towns and farms as we inched closer to our destination.

About an hour into the ride we pulled off the rode at a horse stable that had a Café sign tacked into a wooden fence. The big man upstairs works in mysterious ways, because 5 minutes after we pulled off the road, the eye of the hurricane passed right over the cafe causing the entire place to shake and the tarps covering the owners hay stash to catch sail and blow violently in the wind. Without even having to ask we quickly jumped up and ran over to help the farmer, owner, stable master, whatever you want to call him wrangle the tarp back over his hay supply. A few old tires and cement slabs later we had managed to cover up the supply and went back in the cafe to wait as the hurricane passed, sipping on espresso and munching on a candy bar.

Seeing a break in the storm we hit the road again and took advantage of the tailwind the hurricane had created for us. We were racing with the storm along the canals and 50 kilometers turned into 20 real fast. The last 20 we changed direction and that wonderful tailwind turned into a brutal head/side wind making our legs and core work extra hard to just keep the bike in a up right position.  That's about when my tire got stuck on the side of the gutter and I went down again. Hitting the same bruised spots from when I went down a few days prior. Not wanting to wait around for the pain to set in, I got right back on my bike and continued to ride.

We eventually made it to Ghent, and immediately we knew we had made the right decision coming here versus going to Brussels. The streets were bustling with university students, the buildings just as beautiful as they were in Bruges, and we had managed to find another awesome hostel in a great part of town. To top it off our new friends from Canada we had met in Bruges had decided to join us in coming to Ghent so we had some familiar faces to go explore with.

After a well needed shower and a dinner consisting of noodles, canned sausages, and tomato soup someone had left with a sign that said "free", we rallied a group together to head to a local Jazz bar someone at the had hostel recommended to us. Finally got myself some Delirium Tremens on tap in Belgium and I was a happy camper listening to the sax and trumpet players vibe off of each other. We followed up the jazz bar with some more live music at another pub and called it a night.

Every day we have spent in Belgium has been incredible, and coming in with lower expectations than some of the other countries we have been through, Belgium has quickly moved its way to being one of my favorites of the trip so far.

Beer and Waffles

Crossing another border.

Besides being the land of Beer and Waffles, Belgium is also the land of bike paths. Upon crossing the France/Belgium border we were immediately greeted by a freshly paved bike path. Which lead to another bike path, which lead to another bike path that ran along a canal, which lead to another... well I think you know where I am going with this. Everyone bikes here and therefore every road was built with bikers in mind making Belgium the most bike friendly country we have been to thus far.

Not only can I relax about not getting hit by a semi truck or bus here, but it is also flat. No hills. Just flat fertile farmland mixed with cities surrounded by canals and windmills. Because of this we have been able to put in a lot of miles, something that was not possible back in the mountainous terrain of Portugal and Spain. At this point in the trip our legs are visibly stronger, our brains mentally tougher after all of those climbs, and when we are pedaling on these flat bike paths, it's insane how fast we can get our bikes going with all of our gear on them. Pushing harder and harder the wheels spin faster and faster, the farms fly by, the trees become blurry as we pass.

Our first destination in Belgium was Bruges. Myself being an expert on the place from watching the movie "Monuments Men" a month ago...  I didn't even know what to expect of Bruges, just that Michelangelo's Madonna and Child was there. We entered the city through a series of canals that encompass the old medieval village, and we made it to Hostel Lybeer located in the heart of the city.

Cold and frustrated with all the bike problems we had had the past few days, we quickly put our gear away, showered, and hit the bar downstairs in the hostel for a taste of our first Belgium beer. Apparently it was happy hour, so everyone staying at the hostel was taking advantage of the 1 euro beers which lead to us quickly making about 30 new friends. There were people from Canada, Australia, Iowa, Holland, New Zealand, Turkey. The hostel was a melting pot for world travelers and everyone had stories to share from there adventures.

A beer tasting began to take shape in the hostel's bar, and we ended up trying 6 different beers from Belgium and hear the stories behind each one of them. A Trappist beer which have to be made by the monks within the walls of a monetary, and profits from each Trappist beer sold go back to the monks and to a children's charity, Duvel: directly translated to Devil, created by a farmer who got his whole village drunk off of his first batch and everyone said it was the work of the devil, a Belgium double, and triple, and yeah at this point everyone was having a great time!

The next day we woke up to sunshine. I dug to the bottom of my panniers and grabbed my shorts, something that hasn't been busted out since our stent in southern France, so already I knew it was going to be a great day. I kicked off the day right and went to the market and made a gourmet breakfast of potatoes, mushroom, onion, red pepper, egg, and bacon scramble with some fresh bread. Now fully fueled up we decided to go on Kai's walking tour throughout the city of Bruges. Vulgar, blunt, and over the top funny, Kai showed us the city and told us the "real" facts about its history. Learned where to get the best waffles, the best chocolate, where the best places for food where, we learned about the city from a locals perspective. For me the highlight of the tour was being able to get to walk through and taste some beers at the Bruges Beer Museum. I was in heaven being able to smell the hops and grains of the local beers, and read up on the history how many of them were created.

After the tour, a group of us had bonded and decided to continue exploring the city together. We stopped off to see Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, got some authentic Belgium waffles, and took a tour of the last standing brewery within the city of Bruges called Half Moon Brewery, known for the beer Brugse Zot. We followed this up with a traditional Flemish dinner of beef stew. This city had quickly moved into competition for my favorite city we have been to on this trip.

Ryan with his waffle the second before he managed to get chocolate all over his face.

Back to the hostel for a quick shower we rallied 20 of our new friends together to go out for our last night in Bruges. We only had a 50 km ride to Ghent the next day, so one last night out in Bruges with our friends was well worth the possibility of riding the next morning with a slight hangover.

Bruges I will be back. Not just for the beer and waffles, but for the amazing energy it had and for the people that it brings together.

Breaking Away

France really did not want us to leave. In La Havre, it started with us buying ferry tickets to head to England because we contemplated only having 3 weeks left... 35 euros down the drain but we bit the bullet and decided to ride out France.

And when it starts to rain, it pours. Literally and figuratively,  we not only had rain for our last few days in France, but we started to have bike problems left and right.

The screw for my back rack snapped inside my frame, forcing me use a screw from the extra water bottle holder to jerry-rig it to my another part of my bike. Shout out to Specialized for putting the extra screw holes on the rear caliper on my AWOL Comp. Seriously could not imagine doing this trip on any other bike. From the sketchy single track descents we did in Portugal and Spain to all of the rain, our AWOL Comps have exceeded our expectations and have proved themselves in any condition we put them in.

Now back to the bike problems... After getting my rack in working condition, Ryan got his second flat of the trip. You are right, not a big deal, flats are apart of any bike trip. But after replacing the tube and putting it back on his bike (this was his first time doing it all by himself, Ryan he passed with flying colors, Ryan is officially a biker now!) he grabbed onto an electric fence. Based on his initial reaction I knew he was hurting, but all I saw was him picking up his pannier, so all I could think was how the fuck he managed to hurt himself lifting his pannier. Following his ghastly stare, a series of fuck, shit, holy shit, fuck could be heard echoing through the farming valley we were in outside Dieppe. That's when Ryan managed to muster out the words "eeelectriic fffenccee".

Yeah I laughed. Hell I pretty much pissed myself. Ryan had just grabbed ahold of a fence designed to shock the shit out of cattle so they don't leave the farmers property! He didn't have a heart attack, so we hit the rode again, inching our way closer and closer to Belgium.

Next, our last two days of riding in France were not only the two days we put in the most amount of miles in two days of riding (104 one day and 97 the next), we a
So had the most amount of bike problems. After getting bugs in our teeth from the decent through a cornfield outside Calais, Ryan yelled ahead to me to stop. With my bike now being heavily front loaded because my back rack wasn't in tip top shape, when I hit the brakes on the freshly moist countryside road, I immediately slid out, rolled 5 or six times, dislocated my shoulder, popped it back in, and kept riding. Oh and Ryan's bolt on his front rack fell off, but he was able to find it and fix it. For now.

Next thing i know I have a flat. The score was now even. Two flats for Ryan and now two for me. Another quick tube swap and we were back on the rode.

We finally made it to Belgium but as we we got close to our destination of Bruges, France (being angry that we left) caused Ryan's bolt on his front rack to fall off again to time not to be found. Thanks to Jean-Claude we had some extra duck tape, so we decked out his front rack with some silver bling and his rack was once again good to go.

Not even 5 kilometers later I, i managed to run over a metal tack on a bike the bike path. I mean what the fuck, who puts metal tacks on a god damn bike path. We had a solid tail wind going and 8 km's to go and I had to get a flat. Thank you France! New tube and we made it to Bruges.

We booked two nights at Hostel Lybeer in Briges, Belgium. Time to relax, fix the bikes, and enjoy the city. France you were fun, but it's time to let us go.

The wrong cowboys

After the night well spent in Saint Brieuc, all I wanted was to meet a lovely old French couple and have a glass of wine while I try and comprehend their life story told in French.  It’s become a game. Stories are what make an adventure, and hearing what some of these people have to say is unreal, and for me, understanding it in French makes it just that much sweeter.

We left in the rain, only to ride a short distance, until we were forced to wait it out until the sun shone the next day.  After Mont Saint Michel, the ride was stunning.  The floating castle peaked at us through the clouds as we popped in and out of rolling hills and fading forests letting fall take over.

The brick and stone chateaus lined every quiet road we would happen upon.  Thanks to google, the route was a gamble if we ended up on something bike-able or not.  For this day, the ride was simple, just straight to the beaches of Normandy.

After Portugal and Spain, what we encountered as “hills” in France, made us toss our heads back in laughter as we casually ride over the mosquito bite.  I guess we mocked France’s capability for a challenging landscape, because hill after hill we exclaimed how “that was the biggest one we have ridden in France,” over 10 times.

Trying to fight the cold with a good attitude.

That morning both of us were quietly hiding the fact that we were freezing.  We had to put on our rain gear which was just too much and making us sweat.  For the first 2 days in the north we fought this, trying to see what we could find to combat the chill.  a little too easily, we found a discount sports store, scored a long bib and riding jacket, and a pair of gloves, tossed them on and rode on to the historical coast of Normandy.

Making it within 40 miles of the coast, drained from the constant fight against the deceivingly undulating route, a small restaurant with a cheap “plat du jour” catches our attention.  Now, we are always in our riding gear which for us seems normal, but when we are in the middle of the French countryside walking into a small town’s local watering hole, things get weird.  It is like the scenes in western movies where the “guy who doesn’t belong” kicks open the saloon doors and everyone becomes silent and stares at him.  Except in our case, Keagan is smiling bright and I’m smiling trying not to look uncomfortable, while the place goes immediately silent as everyone tries to figure out why we were wearing tights.

After a few minutes, things settle down so we go through our routine of eating everything in front of us and keeping some “pocket bread” for the coming ride.  The restaurant was packed, and everyone knew each other.  Covered in paint, or in work overalls, they are they to eat, talk, and drink, but a man sits next to me, pours himself a glass of cidre then reaches over to pour a glass for Keagan and I.  With that we have made a new friend in the midst of cowboys shunning the outsiders who came to the wrong saloon.

It’s become pretty funny, everyone reaction, but everyday we sit just with each other amidst some glaring eyes wondering but not asking any questions.  There is always someone curious enough and brave enough to break that cultural barrier and talk to us.  Sometimes it leads to having a place to stay that night, or a phone call to a friend to house us in the next town.  Everything happens for some reason and we just go where ever the bike carries us to see what will happen.

Apples and Rain

Whenever I explain my adventure to others on the road, every other person poses the questions,  "Why didn’t you start in Ireland and follow the warm weather?"  We have our reasons, silly as they may be, but it is just how the trip unfolded.

Sitting on a train bound for Quimper in the Brittany region of France, I noticed everything quickly changed.  Fall was breaking and taking hold of the landscape more-so than it did en-route to Bordeaux.  The train was necessary to gain days lost in the South, and experience more along the Northern coast of France.

I sat jostling about, watching others pass in and out of the carriage as we perused through different villages, ascending towards the north.  Our bikes hung at the entrance as an obvious barrier for the passengers, who would have a laugh when they saw the half drunken bottle of Bordeaux that had replaced a water bottle on Keagan’s bike.

After a nights rest we rode hard throughout the day to reach Saint Brieuc in the evening.  This is where things fell into place gave me a constant reminder of why I love traveling.  Through a few recommendations, we ended up being put into contact with an old couple who lived on the water at the edge of the city.  Through what I understood it was some sort of a Bed & Breakfast, and it was cheap so we agreed and rode to our house for the night.

As we arrived, an old women greeted us at the door with a cat in her arms, and welcomed us, dirty, wet, clad in spandex, American cyclists into her home.  It was more than we could ask for. We were in everyone’s "favorite grandparents" home.  Hours went by as I talked with her and her husband using every bit of brain power I could muster up to comprehend all of the French that was being thrown at me in Every direction.

The warmth they gave was amazing and as I woke up in the morning to fresh crepes and coffee under a glass veranda overlooking the bay at high tide, nothing was wrong.  She checked in on us constantly, making sure the coffee was full, and singing back replies in the sweetest French accent I've heard so far.

Staying in their home built by hand 60 years ago, can't get any better.

Not until we left their warm embrace to embark on a dirt road in the freezing rain that I realized this wasn’t Portugal  anymore.  This was the real, actual weather that I have been trying to tell myself didn’t exist.

Only when we (had ridden until we were soaked to the bone, and had pushed ourselves to the point of complete exhaustion, did we stop to refuel and find a place to rest. Again, we were amazed by the willingness of others to help.  For an hour, a French couple who owned the sandwich shop we were at called and searched until Keagan and I had a roof over our heads and a warm bed to rest.

With the promise of a clear day ahead, we had another full day of biking to Mont Saint Michel, a place that seemed to have been created from your imagination. Starting from 50 miles away, the towering castle guided us along the coast.

After stopping for a sandwich, and meeting new friends who graced us with a bag of food for dinner, we made it the floating castle.

Keagan with the amazing family that graced us skinny cyclists with a large bag of sandwiches.

Riding through the fertile farmland, trying to get a whiff of every apple orchard lining the road, I weaved in and out of tractors hauling loads of potatoes and carrots that were dug out that afternoon.  It is the places like this that sparks every bit of imagination in my head.  The old buildings and chateaus that have some much history oozing from the cobblestone walls.  I want to reach out and grab it and live in each spiral staircase, every vine-covered barn.

I sat at the top of Mont saint-Michele, my feet dangling over the edge of a mossy courtyard as Keagan and I share some cidre and watch the orange sky disappear on the horizon.  I thought it was a surreal ending to the past 6 weeks I've spent biking almost everyday trying to get to a seemingly endless destination.  I'm laughing about people we've meet, situations we've managed get ourselves into and out of, roads that my Mom would give me a frightening lecture about being to dangerous to ride. 

I thought that my imagination would've thought of most things that could've happened, and what I would be seeing, but I'm thrown off-guard everyday.  I didn't know that I would be dealing with fleas swarming my gear for a days, or I would be wandering through a party in an old military bunker in Bordeaux.  Whatever happens, I'm happy taking it one day at a time.