The steam has settled since my last post, I went and spoke with the travel agency we booked our tour through and although they appeared to be sincerely concerned about our misfortune and claimed they'll try to refund some of our money, I highly doubt anything will ever happen. You win some and lose some, but what's done is done so we might as well dwell on all of the great aspects of our time in the Galapagos.

First of all, the passengers on board the Princess with us were, for the most part, a lot of fun.  Since it was a lower priced tour we were on the same level as everyone else and when we saw the fancy ships docked at ports with older passengers all showered, hair combed, wearing newly purchased zip-off pants, button down safari-style shirts and sun hats and carrying mega telephoto cameras we got a good laugh at what our group looked like.  We were a bunch of young, grubby looking, wild-haired, dirty clothed kids who were mostly all out traveling the world.  It was fantastic having so many people to share stories of where we'd all been, where we're all going and all of the lessons we've learned along the way.  We never would have fit in on any of those fancy boats anyway.
The Princess of the Galapagos

Second was the colors of the water.  When we were sailing between islands the ocean was the richest, deepest, fullest shade of navy blue you can imagine, but if you looked at it for more than a few seconds at a time, it appeared to change into a black that was as black and as viscous as oil.  It was beautiful.  Then as we pulled into ports, we found ourselves floating on water the most brilliant shades of turquoises and teals.  It was spectacularly clear and looked so inviting to take a swim, but turned out to be a little deceptive and we froze our tails off every time we jumped in.

We got to snorkel a few times to experience the underwater world of the Galapagos and though I would have liked to swim around for hours on end, it was so cold that 20 minutes was about the max we could handle.  We got to swim amongst the schools of brightly colored fish and view some amazing corals.  We saw White-tipped Reef Sharks, sting rays and penguins up close.  We got within arms length of sea lions, the young ones completely unafraid of humans.  Although we didn't see dolphins while snorkeling, we did get an incredible up-close look at hundreds and hundreds of them from the boat.  One day we sailed into a pod that stayed with us for a good half hour.  In every direction you could see their dorsal fins breaking the surface and watch them playfully jumping about.  The most spectacular view, however, came from the bow of the ship.  The dolphins were directly in front and under our ship, cruising right along with us, jumping, rolling and putting on a show for their captive audience.  But my favorite animal of the ocean was the Green Sea Turtles.  The way they looked in the water was so mysterious, mythical and prehistoric.  Their motions were slow and gentle as they effortlessly flapped their flippers as if they were flying through the water.
 White-tipped Reef Sharks

Galapagos Penguins


As expected, the animals on the islands were abundant and fascinating.  Massive groups of stinky Sea Lions were present on nearly every island and it was interesting to watch the male bulls patrol their segment of shore.  We actually had one who plopped himself on a dock we needed to walk down to get to our boat.  He barked at us and leaped towards us a few times while our guide slapped his flip-flops together in attempt to get him to move.  We had no luck but the bull eventually laid down and we all hustled past him.  The female Sea Lions were fairly inactive, lazing on the shores with their young pups, who were unbelievably adorable.  The more we observed the Sea Lions, the more human-like qualities they seemed to show; the pups were active and playful with each other and were constantly bugging their mothers by crawling over them or attempting to run away.  They never got far before either the mother scurried in front of them or their uncoordinated movements caused them to trip and nose-dive into the sand.  They liked to be close to each other and there were frequently small groups snuggling together on the beach (maybe the group snuggling isn't so human-like but the being in groups is), and anytime there appeared to be an argument between 2 of them, another would simply squeeze in between them and that would end the dispute.
 Sea Lions

We saw many kinds of birds - various finches and warblers, ducks, herons, hawks, albatross and flamingos.  We saw gulls and doves that looked quite different from those we're used to in the U.S. and Frigate birds with their split tails and inflated red chests.  Of course we saw Boobies - the Blue Footed Boobies with their most unusual, unnatural seeming feet and beady, creepy little eyes.  We also got to see the Masked Boobies who weren't all that unusual looking but had the most blinding white feathers of any bird I've ever seen.
Yellow Warbler

Great Blue Heron

Galapagos Hawk

 Greater Flamingo

Swallow-tailed Gull

Galapagos Doves

 Magnificent Frigatebird

Blue-footed Booby

 Masked Booby

Iguanas were perhaps the most abundant of all animals we saw on the islands.  Their spiked bodies, color variations, humorous ways in which they moved, spit and piled up on each other made them intriguing and interesting to watch and photograph.  They have adapted very well to their surroundings and there were many occasions in which we'd be walking along and not notice until the last second that there were hundreds laying alongside the path on the rocks or even right in front of our feet.
Land Iguana

The Galapagos Giant Tortoises were spectacular and a wonder, living to be 150 years old and weigh up to 250 kilograms!  The history of these reptiles on the islands is a grim and sad story, but thankfully the slaughtering of them was halted before they went extinct.  They have made great strides in bringing back the population of tortoises, but sadly it's all done on farms due to the number of introduced animal predators still present despite the park's attempt to eradicate them, which would then allow the tortoises to once again reproduce and survive through their first few years in the wild.
Giant Tortoise

We visited a place called Post Office Bay, so named because at the end of the 18th century a barrel was set near the beach and acted as a makeshift mail drop.  British whaling ships would leave letters there to be picked up by homeward bound vessels who would then deliver the letters.  The post office is still there and in use today.  Visitors can leave postcards which can then be picked up later by other visitors who will deliver them to their postmarked addresses.  We left a couple of letters that may someday be delivered (we thought it would be a fun experiment) and also found a few from around the Bay Area that we're planning on hauling around the world on our bikes for a while and then delivering when we return home.
Post Office Bay

The landscapes of the Galapagos were also noteworthy.  These are small, volcanic islands and therefore the ground is rocky and rough with black lava fields everywhere.  It is a magnificent contrast against the white and red sand beaches on the islands, turquoise water and red crabs living in the rock crevices along the shores.  The vegetation was sparse and desert-like on most of the islands with cacti and gnarly shrubs everywhere, but on the bigger islands, large, prolific trees were also present.  There was also beautiful ground covers on one of the islands.  We were there during their dry season and they had turned from their typical shades of green to reds, oranges and yellows and it somewhat felt like we were walking around in a psychodelic Dr. Seuss sort of world.

Overall, I have to say I'm glad we visited the Galapagos.  Although I wouldn't recommend a budget trip to anyone, it's a fantastic place worthy of experiencing.



I wasn´t exactly sure what to expect from a trip to the Galapagos Islands, but what we got was far from what I imagined.  I had known for years that I wanted to visit this place a distant land I had read so much about in all of my years of biology education a place of beautiful and strange landscapes, of unique and abundant wildlife.  All of these things were present and I´d like to write of all the interesting, beautiful and awesome things we saw on the islands, but it´s going to have to wait for a few days until I am no longer red in the face with steam pouring out of my ears.  I walked away from this trip feeling angry, disappointed and jipped, questioning whether it was worth going or not.

There is no such tihng as a cheap visit to the Galapagos.  Even the most inexpensive tours cost a pretty penny and I quickly realized those islands are not a place to visit unless you have an extremely large bank account or have saved up many thousands of dollars exclusively for this purpose.  Unfortunately, we weren´t in either of those situations and fell victims to the corruption of the tourist industry in South America.

When we booked our tour, we knew the boat would be small and crowded, the rooms wouldn´t be the most comfortable accomodations and the meals would be anything but gourmet, but we were okay with that as none of us believed the boat should be the most important aspect of the tour.  It should simply be a place to eat, sleep and transport us between the islands.  Other than that, the itinerary looked great showing that we were to visit a different island everyday and though the price was expensive, it was still affordable and approximately what we had planned to pay anyway.

Were we ever so unpleasantly surprised.  The boat, ´The Princess of the Galapagos,´ was a crummy piece of floating crap.  The cabins were ridiculously small, barely large enough for 2 people to stand in at the same time and there was a constant smell of diesel fumes present throughout the vessel.  There was no warm water, though we were told there was.  The ride was rocky and rough with all of us walking around like drunken sailors, feeling sick to our stomachs despite taking our sea-sickness pills.  The first night I pulled back my sheets to climb into bed a cockroach (fortunately not the big, scary kind) scurried across my bedding.  I´m happy to not be afraid of creepy, crawly things, smashed it with my book and proceeded to get into bed and fall asleep.  The boat itself was a wreck.  The anchor system didn´t work and every time we arrived or left a location, the crew had to lower and pull it up by hand.  The engine frequently broke down and one of the crew members was continuously down in the engine room attempting to fix whatever was broken.  There were times we were positive we´d be bobbing around in the middle of the sea for days before anyone would rescue us.  There was a generator attached to the back of the boat (just outside our bedroom window) that ran day and night, providing power to the ship because the engine wasn´t doing its job.  Needless to say, it was obnoxiously loud and if I had had a wrecking bar on board the thing would have been smashed within the first day.

I tried to think of reasons as to why the boat could be in such unacceptable condition, but I couldn´t find any.  There´s no excuse, given the amount paid per week by each of the 16 passengers, that there´s not enough to repair and maintain this boat.  The answer is simple, but it disgusts me because it´s so wrong.  We pay a fat wad of cash to go on the tour and all but the few bucks it costs for food, fuel and to pay the guides their measly salaries goes straight into the hands of the owner of the boat - the fat man who´s probably never even stepped foot on his rip-off piece of garbage.

Okay, so the boat was pathetic, but I could accept that.  Afterall, it was the islands and the animals we were there to see.  But what do you know - more disappointment.  Rather than spending the majority of our days exploring the islands we found ourselves on a boat that only allowed short excursions on land and therefore most of our times was spent on board the Princess.  Yes, we did get to see a lot of animals in the few short hours we were on the islands everyday, but it made me furious knowing that other boats were spending so much more of their days exploring all over the islands and sailing at night while we were stuck sailing for much of the daytime hours.  I felt like a prisioner, bored, tired and sea-sick and therefore many of us on board spent many days just laying around or sleeping.  We took some very expensive naps!  I spoke with our guide and asked why we were on this horrible schedule and his answer to me was, ¨I have no control.  The schedule is all decided by the owner of the boat.  We´ve had lots of complaints about this in the past, but there´s nothing I can do about it.¨  I don´t understand how we can pay so much money and get such crummy service in return.  Apparently we fell into a great big scam and were just a few more victims of the disgusting amount of corruption down here. 



Riding across North America was an excellent 4,000 mile warm-up for the next segment of our adventure. It was here, in a place where we could comfortably and easily communicate and had almost immediate access to anything we wanted or needed, that we learned the sport of bicycle touring. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we originally set out, but it didn't take long to figure it out. Here's my list of discoveries that we didn't entirely expect:

Spare time. You'd expect we'd have a ton of free time everyday because all we're doing is riding our bikes and, of course, one cannot ride all of the hours in a day. Well, we quickly realized that our days were jam packed from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed and sadly the couple of hours of daily reading, writing or just hanging out we were hoping for did not always exist. Here's what a typical day was like for us. Obviously there were many variations, but more or less it went something like this:
6:30-7 -- alarm goes off and we try to wake ourselves up.
7-8:30 -- get dressed, make breakfast, clean up cooking supplies, pack up camp and get on the road.
8:30-10 -- ride
10-10:30 -- snack, talk to people and stop at a gas station to wash our clothes from the day before if we didn't have running water at camp.
10:30-12 -- ride
12-1 -- lunch and talk to people
1-3 -- ride
3-3:30 -- snack and talk to people
3:30-anywhere between 5 and 7 -- ride, stop at a store to get dinner supplies and look for a place to camp.
7-9 -- set up camp, make dinner, clean up dinner mess, go to sleep and get ready to do it all again the next day.

Food. We figured, with all of the riding we'd be doing, that we'd lose quite a bit of weight and before you knew it we'd be a couple of skinny kids. Not so much. Yes, we were exercising more or less all day and burning a ton of calories, but it was at a moderate to easy intensity. It was very rare that we were actually out of breath or working to the point of complete exhaustion. But that didn't mean our appetites weren't gargantuan. We were always hungry and ate what sometimes felt like non-stop. You'd think we would have craved hearty, nutritious meals, which I was excitedly prepared to experiment making on a single burner camp stove, but instead we found ourselves with the most insane sweet tooth you can imagine, settling more for what was fast and convenient instead of interesting and nutritious. Our breakfasts and dinners were simple, yet healthy, but everything in between was pretty junky – we got daily doses of chips, candy bars, sodas and ice cream – and I don't think either of us lost a single pound. Another cyclist, Sam from England, whom we met crossing South Dakota said it best, “I've never liked sweets much but at the end of a day of riding all my body wants is an entire liter of ice cream.” Sadly, I have to agree, it's true, and we weren't very good at ignoring or depriving our cravings!

Fires. We set out with a plan to mostly camp our way across the country, which we did. Aside from our week in a hotel in Arcata, CA at the beginning of the trip when Mike's knee was hurt, we only broke down and stayed in a hotel twice after that; once for our anniversary and once in Niagara Falls where it was too sketchy to camp. That makes for a lot of nights of camping and we originally expected to have camp fires almost nightly – because that's what you do when you camp. I think we could count the number of camp fires we had on one hand. The lack of them being because we were either camped illegally (and the last thing you want to do is have a fire then) or we were just too tired after the day of riding. Most of the time we'd get to camp, set up, make dinner, clean up and be ready for bed with no desire to sit around a fire for a few hours.

Maps. We didn't plan our route at all and no, we didn't have a GPS with us. Mike despises them, so we set out everyday with a standard AAA state map not knowing exactly which roads we'd be riding or where we'd be camping that night. But here's the thing with maps. They have towns printed on them but we discovered that, more frequently than you'd think, many of those towns don't exist. That's a bummer when we were running low on food or water and were counting on stopping to resupply. We'd stop along the road, check our map, thinking we should have hit a town by now, have no choice but to continue on and then eventually we'd find ourselves 2 towns up the road without ever seeing a hint of an establishment. Aren't there a set of standards required for a town to be printed on a map? Perhaps at least a sign signifying the town or a cluster of more than 3-5 houses? The lesson we learned – always carry way more food and water than you think you'll need because you never know if the next town actually exists or not.

Wind. It's always said that the prevailing winds blow from west to east. That may be true 30,000 feet up in the air, but at ground level, that's a bunch of bologna! We had great visions of pedaling with ease across much of the U.S. with the wind blowing at our backs, but I think we were only lucky a handful of times to actually have a tailwind. More often than not it was gusting straight into our faces or coming from some side angle, but always blowing in a different direction each day.

People. We didn't expected random strangers to be as inquisitive, accommodating or generous as they were. We figured people would approach us and we'd have to answer a few questions every now and again, and maybe if we were lucky someone would invite us into their house for a meal, shower or place to stay , but I never imagined it would go to the extent that it did. The people we met and the kindness that they eagerly showered upon us, each incident adding a new dimension to our adventure and reminding us of the overall goodness of humankind, was something that blew my mind. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that we were off the beaten path and didn't follow one of the standard cross country bike routes. We were coasting through towns where many people had never seen bike tourists before and instead of being looked at as just another summer cyclist, we were crazy, doing something unthinkable and people wanted to help us out. Whatever the reason was, it doesn't matter. The people are who made this trip for me and we can only hope to encounter as many wonderful folks as we found here as we venture into a land of unknown languages, cultures and surroundings.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us and become part of our adventure!

We're about to take off for the next segment of our adventure. South America. It's a little bit scary heading into a new country, far away from everyone we know and everything we're accustomed to, but the aspects that make it scary also make it exciting. We'll have to learn to communicate in a language we cannot fluently speak. We'll have to learn how much food and water we have to carry with us because towns will be spaced further apart than they were in North America and the convenience of everything will be far from what it was here. We'll have to be more cautious because of all of these things, and we know we'll learn some lessons the hard way, but nonetheless, it will be an adventure.

I will continue to write so please stay tuned. I don't know how frequently the posts will be, as I'm unsure of how often we'll find internet access, but I'll try to get something on here at least every week. I'll leave you with a quote a friend gave us when we left California in June, and though it was relevent then I think this is the point in our trip at which it really starts to apply:

“Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be....close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar and you'll live as you've never lived before.” -Erich Fromm



Our past week has been a whirlwind combination of visiting family on the East Coast and gearing up for the next leg of our trip. After we left NY, we stayed with my cousin, Khadijeh, in Philadelphia and were relieved to be in a smaller, quieter city. We spent our afternoons running around in search of bike shops who carried the gear or parts we needed and our evenings wandering around downtown, taking a look back in our country's history and eating Philly Cheesesteaks (that was a Mike-only activity).

We had major issues with our gear crossing the US, mainly our rear wheels, which were constantly coming out of true, having to deal with broken spokes, flat tires and difficulty removing the rear cassette. By the time we reached the East Coast, we were long-ago fed up with this and had decided we'd get new rear wheels and new, beefier tires, along with spare parts for just about every part on our bikes because bike shops will be few and far between in South America. Given the number of breakdowns we had in North America, we need to be prepared for anything in South America where the roads are likely to be much, much worse. However, what we were looking for was not easy to find and once we finally found them online and ordered them, the wrong items arrived. Having a time frame made it even more frustrating and we found ourselves on a wild goose hunt searching for what we needed. In addition, we had to find a bike builder, who are not all that common, to make a solid repair on Mike's bike from when he had a major breakdown way back in Wisconsin. It had been temporarily fixed, and it probably would have held up, but we wanted to make sure. After driving through a shady section of town, we supposedly arrived at our destination, but all we saw was a junk yard on one side of the dead end alley and an old building on the other; no sign of a bike shop anywhere. We called to confirm we were in the right place, found out we were, walked past an old mattress laying in the parking area, down a little tree-lined path and sure enough, there it was. Not a likely place for a bike shop, but we found ourselves in a crowded shop with bike parts covering every inch of the walls, hanging from the ceiling, looking like a garage that we someday might own. They were able to fix the bike, and after we called or visited a million bike shops in Pennsylvania and Virginia, we eventually found everything we were looking for and stocked up on all of the extra parts we could potentially need. I'm positive this experience has scarred Mike for life and he'll never purchase another thing online, but we're finally ready to go.
The bike builders who fixed Mike's bike.

Mike had been dreaming of going to Philadelphia to have authentic Philly Cheesesteaks since we were in Minnesota. He had been drooling at the thought for about 2,000 miles so you can only imagine how excited he was once we finally arrived. He only taste tested 3 of Philly's hundreds of restaurants to choose from, but here are his reviews. The first was Geno's, not the original creator of the cheesesteak, but definitely one of the most famous. Mike wasn't impressed. It wasn't bad but he said the sandwiches he's had back in California were much tastier. Second was at Old City Pizza (or something like that.) I can't remember the exact name of the restaurant, but it was a place Mike recalls eating at when he was in Philadelphia as a kid. It was an improvement on Geno's, but still, not every component of the cheesesteak was perfect. He wasn't satisfied. Lastly we tried a Lebanese restaurant, Saad's, and they were by far the winner of Mike's Philly cheesesteak challenge, even living up to Mike's California Philly Cheesesteak standards. The meat was right, the cheese was right and the bread was right (per Mike's opinion). I'm sure if we ever make it back to Philadelphia again, Mike will continue his quest of finding the world's most perfect cheesesteak.

From Pennsylvania we traveled to Delaware where my cousin's husband's parents live. I had never met them before, but Hasan and Kulsum had been following us on our blog, were convinced that we're doing one of the most extraordinary things imaginable and wanted us to come stay with them so they could treat us to massages and home-cooked Indian food. You didn't have to twist our arms to get us to visit and we had a fabulous time. The massages were some of the best either of us have ever had, the company was over-the-top kind and entertaining, and the food was scrumptious. We had a fun time learning from Khadijeh's husband, Mohsin, how to properly eat Indian food. It's eaten with your fingers and could potentially be very messy, which didn't bother either of us, but there's a technique to do it correctly so you don't end up with food all over your hands, face and dinner table. It's also accepted and not at all impolite to lick your fingers throughout the meal – how different from American culture – but that made it all the better! We were far from “good” at it and it took a long time to eat a plate of food, but we didn't quit and Mohsin gave us a passing grade at the end of each meal.
Khadijeh, Cari, Mike & Mohsin eating Indian food.

The final segment of our East Coast visit was spent at my aunt's house in Virginia, just outside of DC. Sadly we didn't do any sight seeing here as we found ourselves spending all of our time preparing for South America, cleaning our bikes, disassembling and packing them in boxes, taking care of bills, prescriptions and purchasing other items we'll need while out of the country but won't have easy access to. However we did get to spend quite a bit of time with my relatives and see cousins who I don't get to see often, which was great, so we weren't too upset that we didn't make it into DC. Besides, we're so tired of big cities, the vast numbers of people everywhere and the rush hour traffic that goes on 24/7, that visiting yet another major city likely would have pushed us over the edge and drove us (or me anyway) to insanity.
An Iranian Feast.

Cari, Aasiyeh & Mariam carving pumpkins.

We're officially ready for South America, ready to start a new adventure and definitely ready to be pedaling again.



Riding a bike into New York City is like purposely throwing yourself into Hell on Earth. I don't know what we were thinking. As we got closer and closer to the city, the traffic intensified, the quiet secondary highways we were riding on suddenly turned into freeways where we found ourselves trapped with no shoulder, speeding traffic and a police escort to quieter streets. I found myself wishing I was back in the corn and soybean fields of the Midwest that, only a week ago, I was praying to not have to see again for a long, long time. The inconsiderate, impatient drivers multiplied, the frequency of angry horn honks and profanities directed towards us skyrocketed and the overall friendly and helpful characteristics of people went down the toilet, which had actually been happening since we hit Ontario and continually worsening as we moved east. I'm not saying we didn't run into any wonderful folks from that point on (because we did), but there was a very apparent difference in people's attitudes towards us compared to the West Coast and Midwest.

Our final day of riding was undoubtedly the worst day of riding of our entire trek across North America and I wouldn't recommend riding into NYC to anyone. If I had to do it again, I would have chosen a small, quiet location on the east coast and ended there because by the time we made it to our final destination we were too stressed out and exhausted from the hair-raising ride that day to experience what should have been an exciting, joyous moment of accomplishing our goal. Instead, all I wanted was to crawl into a hole to escape the hordes of people, traffic and noise and find a peaceful, secluded place to hide.
Our bikes with NYC in the background.

Fortunately we had a comfortable apartment to call home for the few days we were in NY, thanks to our friend Cathy. Our first night was fairly uneventful – just a short walk to get dinner, a recap of the last 4,000 miles of places we'd seen and people we'd met and a celebratory drink (or pitcher of margaritas, rather) to commemorate the fulfillment of a dream and making it through our final day unscathed.

I have to admit I wasn't very excited about going to NY. I'm not a city person; never have been and never will be. There was a lot I didn't like about our visit and will never understand why anyone would ever want to live there, but there was plenty of interesting and entertaining aspects as well. New York is such a tremendous city. It goes on forever horizontally as well as vertically, with massive buildings everywhere, each one attempting to outdo its neighbors in height, girth, gaudiness and splendor. It's a concrete jungle of excessiveness and chaos, yet to think about the logistics of constructing a city with buildings that reach 100+ stories above ground and another 10 below, with subways, elevated freeways, massive bridges, tunnels and to make it all run on a day to day basis, it really is amazing that humans are capable of such a magnificent feat.
Times Square

Every nook and cranny is filled with people, there is no sense of personal space as they cram as many as can possibly fit onto subways, buses and sidewalks. It is a game of Frogger trying to get from point A to point B, dodging vehicles as they run red lights or are jammed in the traffic jams of city streets, dodging bicyclists as they whiz and weave down the streets completely oblivious of the world around them and dodging pedestrians who all walk with their heads either looking up at the skyscrapers or down so stuck in their own personal bubble of blackberries, iPods and cell phones that they don't even acknowledge that anyone around them exists. Everyone is seemingly in a rush to get somewhere and when you bump into someone in New York, they don't flinch, apologize or even realize there was a collision. It's amazing and sad to see the lack of human interaction.

While the absurd number of people was one of the things I most disliked about the city, it was also one of the aspects that made it most interesting. There are people in NY from every single walk of life and corner of the Earth imaginable. If you can dream up a person; their physical characteristics, their mentality, their social behavior, their means of expression, every trait that makes them human, you are guaranteed to find that person in NY. It is fantastic people watching! I hate to stare at people,but I found myself staring a lot. I couldn't help it. There was everything from suits and ties, baggy, dirty bum-like outfits, glittery, glamorous, gaudy jewelry, over-the-top outfits, mismatched, obnoxious, displaying every color of the rainbow and every pattern imaginable all on one body outfits, solid colored outfits like the man wearing an all pepto-pink (including his shoes) to people dressed up in panda or other fuzzy animal costumes. All I could say was “WOW,” and we laughed non-stop as we wandered through the city playing a game where we made up voices and stories to go with the people we saw, wondering what their lives were actually like. One thing is for sure – you can be whoever (and whatever) you want to be in NYC and I could appreciate that.

There was no such thing as pure silence as there is always the noise of blaring horns, screeching brakes, sirens and the rumble of airplanes and helicopters overhead. My favorite sound is silence and it's one thing you'll never get in the city. There were bright lights, flashing lights and lights burning in every building 24 hours a day. There was no fresh air. Even though we were outside nearly the entire weekend, it was filled with scents of exhaust, sewer, dirty, fishy water, and more exhaust. The city is the definition of sensory overload with small pockets of “nature” found in several places throughout, and although some people can tune out all of the stimuli surrounding them and find peace, it's too much for me.

We could not have ended up visiting New York on a more perfect weekend. The weather was sunny and warm which allowed us to see and do all of the outdoor touristy things instead of being pushed indoors to museums and such, in which neither of us were overly interested. We got around by foot or subway, which I have to say is an insanely efficient people transporter and I wonder why every large city doesn't have a system like New York's. It's fast, easy, gets you anywhere you want to go and as long as I didn't think too much about the potential horrible things that could happen while being stuck underground in a subway system, I was happy riding it.
Down in the subway.

Our tour of NY consisted of a stroll along the Hudson River from Lincoln Center to the Statue of Liberty, past the construction site where the Twin Towers once stood and where they are now building a monstrous tower and memorial. We were surprised at the lack of information posted around the site. I would have thought there'd be something telling a little about where the towers had been, the destruction and reconstruction process after 9/11, drawings of what the new structure will look like or what kind of memorial will someday be at the location. Instead we found nothing more than a lot of visitors walking around with blank looks on their faces wondering aloud the same questions we were wondering and postulating about what had happened and what was going to happen with this area of the city. We stood at the base of the Empire State Building, blown away by its size, wanting to go to the observation deck to get an eagle's view of the city from what is currently the tallest building in New York, but were too cheap to pay the hearty fee for a little thrill. We wandered down Wall Street past one of the most expensive corners in the World, through Times Square, Chinatown and Penn Station. We walked across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and got a beautiful view of the city from there instead. Although there were a million too many people walking across the bridge at the same time as us, the old architecture and beauty of the structure grasped both of our attention and became one of our favorite things in the city. We spent an afternoon in Central Park watching New Yorkers enjoy what was sure to be one of their last beautiful weekends before the weather turns cold. It was awesome how many people flocked to this park, each doing something outdoors that they enjoyed. There was something for everyone; carriage rides, rollerskating dance parties, musicians, people playing volleyball, frisbee and football, slack liners, runners, cyclists, dog walkers and balloon men. It was by far the best location for people watching we had found and it was free entertainment to just sit there and take it all in. Overall, New York was a better experience than I expected, but two days was enough chaos for me.
Construction at Ground Zero.

Statue of Liberty

Wall Street

China Town

Empire State Building

Mike on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Us on the Brooklyn Bridge.

On the Brooklyn Bridge with a view of the city.



It's incredible that by crossing a river we could go from people saying in long, slow sentences, “You really rode your bikes “oot” here from California, eh? Holy Christmas that's a long way, eh.” to, “No kiddin.' You's can't be serious, kid. You's rode your bikes here all the way from California.” in thick, New York accents that make you feel like you're in a mafia movie. Welcome to New York!

Most of our last week has been spent pedaling through Upstate New York and, for the most part, it's been fabulous. Although we're here a week or two too early to get the full color display of the season, I cannot complain about the beauty of this state. There are wonderful mountains here whose trees have begun to change colors with vibrant autumn shades exploding from the hillsides.  It's spectacular and reminds me of how much I've missed this season living in the Bay Area for the past decade where Fall is, more or less, non-existent.
Fall colors.
These mountains have, for the first time since we left the Rockies, provided us with something other than long, straight, flat roads to ride which was a much needed change in scenery. However, it has caused our progress to slow; the terrain is steep hills and winding roads and that combined with shortened days means fewer miles logged each day. We've surprisingly found these roads to be equally, if not more, challenging than the roads in the big mountains. The climbs are shorter, maybe a mile or two long instead of 10+ miles, but the grades are much steeper and there's no extended descents to rest our legs before we start climbing again. I love it!
Cari climbing a steep road in the rain.

The roads in New York have been superb. I am happy we started from the west coast and this is our final state to ride through instead of riding the other direction – we would have been spoiled with their gigantic shoulders on essentially every road and smooth surfaces and the rest of the country's roads would have been a major disappointment. Needless to say, this has been one of my favorite states we've crossed, both in beautiful landscapes and bike friendliness.

But of course, there's always the downsides to everything wonderful It's difficult to find camping here, which is a surprise given the fact that we've been riding through forests essentially the whole way. Apparently it's all private land because on nearly every tree and power line pole there is a 'no trespassing' sign tacked up, clearly letting us know we're not welcome to pitch a tent there. We've managed, though, usually setting up camp somewhere illegal (in parks or fields, next to grocery stores or train tracks or off in the bushes next to the road) and then getting out very early the next morning. We've only been approached by the police once, when we were camped by the railroad tracks, which gave us a bit of a scare, but turned out fine in the end. We didn't really have any place else to go, it was cold, dark, he saw our bikes, checked to make sure there were no warrants out for our arrests and continued on his merry way.

The weather has taken a turn for the worst as well. It's cold, which isn't too bad when it's not wet at the same time, but over half of our days in New York have been spent pedaling all day in the rain. I guess not everyday can be perfect for riding, but this past week has been pretty much miserable and it doesn't help that I've come down with a cold – thank you Nancy! We are soaked to the bone, our feet are stuck in water-logged shoes and we hate to stop to eat or rest because it only makes us colder and more uncomfortable. On those days I can't help but dream about how great it would be to curl up next to a fireplace with a warm blanket, hot drink and a book and stay there all day. Instead we get to set up our shelter in the rain, climb into a cozy, wet tent, get up the next morning only to put on cold, wet clothes and then do it all again. Fortunately a couple of days ago we found a campground that had little shelters at most sites so we set up our tent inside, found a laundromat within walking distance to dry our clothes and camped there for 2 days waiting for the rain to ease up a bit and to give myself a day of being warm and dry to hopefully get over this cold quickly.
Our 'dry' camp.

Today we're back on the road making our way to New York City, which will be our final destination for our North America bike trip.  In 2 weeks we'll be heading to South America to continue our adventure!