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.

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