First impressions say a lot about people and places and from our first week in Sweden all we have to say are wonderful things. For starters, the people have been outstandingly friendly. Everyone says “hej” (sounds like hi) when we pass them on the streets, any time we stop in a town people come up to us and want to talk about where we're from and where we're going and we have yet to meet someone who doesn't speak at least a little English, most of them being perfectly fluent. For the first time in a long time communication has been easy and I must say it's really, really nice not having to speak in simple, broken phrases and simultaneously use hand gestures.

I've always imagined Sweden, and all of Scandinavia for that matter, to be somewhat like the Midwest in terms of people's kindness towards strangers. So far that premonition has held true. Last Friday was a holiday, The Midsummer Festival where all of Sweden celebrates, kind of like the 4th of July in the U.S. Technically Summer began only 5 days before that and I hope that this wasn't really the midpoint, which would leave us with only 5 days to go before Fall hits. Of course we didn't know it was a holiday until we arrived in a town to buy our groceries for the day. We stopped at a convenience store only to find it closed. At the same time, a woman drove up, we inquired about a supermarket and she pointed us in the right direction. However, when we arrived, that too had closed early for the day. We proceeded to the other store in town but as you can guess, it was closed. Luckily we had some lunch supplies in our pannier so we sat on a bench outside the market and pulled out our chips, cheese and avocado and began to eat. Just as we took our first bite a car pulled up. It was the same woman we ran into when we first got to town telling us that there was one gas station in town, 400 meters away, that was still open for another 15 minutes. I don't know how she found us tucked under the awning of a closed supermarket and I don't know of too many people who would go out of their way to hunt down two travelers just to inform them of the last place they'd be able to find food for possibly the next two days, but we were happy that this woman had the heart to do it for us on that day so we didn't have to eat only chips for lunch and plain white rice for dinner.

So far bike touring in Sweden has been fantastic. The landscape is very much like northern Minnesota, the Pacific northwest, Canada or Alaska. There are rolling hills of mostly forest though some stretches of farmland and we pass by dozens of lakes daily. We had to buy Mike a fishing pole so he didn't drive himself mad at camp every night and just as it turned out to be a good investment in Chile, it has also proven to be a worthwhile way to spend $30 here too. I get a couple of hours to write, read or work on editing our pictures and Mike gets a couple of hours to fish and drink beer; it works out nicely for both of us.
Mike fishing.

Although we haven't found any long stretches of bike paths, they're not necessary here. Most of the traffic sticks to the main highways which leaves us as the only ones occupying the quiet country roads that connect the tiny rural villages. It is peaceful riding with the only sounds being those of our tires whirring along the pavement, the wind in our ears, birds singing and our squeaky pedals. The land is scattered with little mountain cabins, the majority of them painted dark red with white trim, that beautifully contrast the lush green landscape and wildflowers that surround them. The air is clear and fresh, the kind that's only found in the forested northlands where there are no people and lots of trees. There is a crispness in the air and despite the fact that it's the warmest time of the year there is still smoke billowing from the chimneys that gives the forest the smell of lazy winter days and makes me want to snuggle up in a down blanket with a good book and a cup of hot tea. There is so much wide open space, so few people and such deafening silence that it feels like we have the world to ourselves and I think of how peaceful it would be to live in such a place. I'm sure I'd love it until winter hit (in August) and then I'd be ready to move some place warmer.
A typical looking house.

On top of everything I've already mentioned, there is one more thing that makes Sweden absolutely wonderful for bike touring. They have a law called “Every Man's Right” and what it states is that you are allowed to camp virtually anywhere as long as you're not in someone's yard, in a park where it's posted that camping is prohibited and not disturbing or destroying the natural habitat. For us, there couldn't be a more convenient law. No longer do we have to spend time searching for a place to hide every night. When we're ready to camp, we fill up water and pull over just about anywhere without having to worry about someone seeing us or spotting our campfire and kicking us out in the middle of the night. What a wonderful place this is!

Over the course of our first week in Sweden, we've talked to dozens of people and nearly every one of them has ended our conversation with some form of, “Welcome to Sweden. I hope you enjoy your visit.” What a proud, welcoming and wonderful people we have found in this country and thanks to their kindness, we are certain to enjoy our time here.



We were very excited to get to Germany as we had heard from many other cyclists that there were fantastic bike routes and the riding was great there. I don't know if we've become cycle path snobs or if we're just idiots but we had no luck finding these bike paths that people spoke of and when one actually did appear for a short time it was anything but pleasant to ride on. I think what it comes down to is that we were terribly spoiled with the well-marked and superbly maintained bike routes in Switzerland and Austria and were expecting the same in Germany. Rather, we found no maps or signs for long distance cycling in the eastern portion of Germany and the tourist offices we stopped at were of no help at all. Every now and again a path that paralleled the road we were on would randomly appear so we'd get on it only to discover that several miles further on it stopped just as abruptly as it began and spit us back out onto the same narrow, busy, shoulder-less road we were previously on. In the towns, there were generally 2-colored sidewalks made of bricks or uneven tiles, the red side for bicycles and the gray side for pedestrians. First of all, cycling on these surfaces was very uncomfortable and they might as well have made the bike paths out of cobblestone and secondly putting bicycles and pedestrians on the same path is never a good idea. Though there were designated sides, no one looks both ways before crossing a sidewalk when they're leaving a store or stepping of of a bus. We couldn't let our minds wander or look around for an instant as we certainly would have clobbered countless people; there were already too many close calls when our complete attention was on navigating the sidewalks. Needless to say, the ease of traveling by bike and a general sense of bike friendliness was a bit of a disappointment in Germany.

Aside from our few days in Berlin, the rest of our time in Germany was spent cycling through rural landscapes. It reminded us very much of Minnesota in the summertime with the endless fields, numerous lakes and torturous mosquitoes that attacked in swarms the instant we stopped cycling. I guess it's a good preview of what we'll be dealing with in Scandinavia. We enjoyed a week of riding over flat terrain for the first time since we left the Midwest 9 months ago. Our knees were grateful that the longest they had to work to power us up any hill lasted, at most, 2 minutes and our minds loved the psychology of jamming effortlessly down a road and at the end of the day when we checked the odometer finding that we'd covered far more ground than expected.


For the first time on this trip we have run into ticks. Germany seemed to be heavily infested with these spooky little arachnids. Looking at our lifestyle over the past year of living outdoors and setting up camp almost nightly in tall grass or forested areas, it's actually a surprise that we haven't had issues with them until now. Since we crossed the border, we've both been bit by one and we've found them crawling on us, in our coffee mugs in the morning and across my notebook as I do our bookkeeping at night. They seem to be everywhere, some of them a few millimeters long and easy to spot, yet some as tiny as the tip of my pen. Maybe we're just worry warts about the potential harm these critters can cause but for nearly 2 weeks we've felt like we constantly have things crawling on us and when a mole or speck of dirt on our arm or leg catches our eye we immediately think tick and rush to flick it off. We're like a couple of chimpanzees and check each others back and hair for bugs when we get to camp at night which is kind of disgusting, I know, but it really is incredible that we've seen more ticks in 2 weeks than either of have seen in our entire life. We're hoping there will be fewer in Sweden but our senses tell us otherwise so I guess we'll just keep on riding and try not to be paranoid.
It's no wonder we're full of ticks when this is our home.



We generally avoid cities but we made an exception for Berlin. There's too much history there to blow it off as just another big city. We found a place to stay through Warmshowers with a guy named Stefan who was preparing to leave on his own world bike tour. It was so fun for us to see this individual during his last week of work, terribly nervous yet unbelievably excited for what lays ahead, with brand new gear and definitely too much of it, with high hopes and expectations of what he'll see and experience on his journey and having read hundreds of bike touring books and blogs, thus feeling ready yet with questions galore. We remember having all of those emotions like it was yesterday; leaving all of your friends, family and comforts of home to take off into the unknown is not something one soon forgets.

We answered his questions and gave him any advice we could think of from our year on the road and passed on a little piece of superstition that was presented to us right before we left. “The demon bells” given to us by our friends Stephanie and Ethan is actually a motorcycle tradition but we like the idea for bicycles as well. The bell must be given to to you as a gift, placed on your bike by someone else and left there until it falls off. It will protect you from the demons of the road by scaring away those things that cause breakdowns and accidents, thus keeping you safe during your travels. Well, the demon bells are still jingling away on our bikes and have done a good job of keeping us safe so hopefully Stefan will have a long, safe journey himself.
Stefan and Mike having Berlin's famous Currywurst.

Berlin is a city full of museums, memorials, gigantic statues and old, powerful looking cathedrals. We spent 2 days visiting some of the sights including the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburger Tor, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin History Museum and the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Memorial. We barely touched the surface of seeing everything there is to see in Berlin, that would take weeks and would be way too depressing. There isn't much in the way of happy history surrounding this city. The unthinkable inhumanity that occurred there was disgusting, the cruelty of human beings leaves you with a heavy heart and the fact that it was so recent in our history only makes it that much more horrific.

I'm not going to say anything about each of the places we visited. We all know the history. The rest of this post is just pictures from around Berlin.

East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall.

Checkpoint Charlie.

Brandenburger Tor.


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.



When we think about our final 5 days in Austria, one thing comes to our minds; the Brandtner family. Once again we used the Warm Showers website and ended up at Christian and Andrea's house where we stayed for a few rainy days, got a bunch of errands done and shared bike touring stories. When the day came for us to continue on, Christian drew us a map and told us we were welcome to stay at his parents' house 100 km up the road, which happened to be right along the bike route we had been following. So we left one Brandtner house and arrived at the next that same night, tired from the mountainous ride and wet from the rain. We were immediately ushered into their toasty warm kitchen, fed hot tea and a typical dinner of cold meats, cheese and homemade bread. It was unfortunate that Roman and Johanna didn't speak a word of English as we would have loved to have a conversation with them so smiles and nods had to suffice, but thankfully their other son, Robert, was there to show us to our bedroom and help us get comfortable. As Robert was helping us map our route from his parents' house, we were then invited to stay at his and his wife's house the following night another 80 km along the bike route. This family couldn't have been more welcoming or more conveniently located and perfectly spaced for bike touring. We had 5 consecutive nights with a roof over our heads and showers. It was by far the cleanest 5 days we've had in many, many months. Huge thanks to Christian and Andrea, Roman and Johanna, Robert and Karen for all of your hospitality; we couldn't have dreamed up a better family to meet on our ride through upper Austria.
Cari, Andrea and Christian making dinner at the cafe. 

 Cari, Roman, Johanna and Mike.

Cari, Robert, Karen and Mike.

Our last 2 months of cycling have been spent in countries that have been immaculately clean where spotting so much as a soda can laying on the side of the road was virtually impossible. The roads and cycling paths have been top-notch and buildings, though centuries old have been renovated to look like new. When we arrived in the Czech Republic there was immediately noticeable differences in the infrastructure from what we had seen in its neighboring countries to the south. The cycling paths suddenly disappeared and therefore forced us to ride on the roads which could use a bit of repair. We noticed the first bits of trash we'd seen in what seemed like ages and many of the buildings required considerable maintenance. The border town was busy with people selling their wares in small, crammed shops that somewhat reminded us of the markets we had seen in South America. It was obvious that this country has experienced difficult social and economic hardships in recent history, but insight from some locals has informed us that it's recovering, has improved drastically over the past few years and is thankfully on the mend.

We purposely chose a route heading north through Czech that bypassed Prague, likely the most tourist visited city in the country, because, as we've tried to explain to a million people, big cities are a nightmare to bike tourists. We did, however, ride through the cute, and definitely touristy, town of Cesky Krumlov with its castle nestled in the center of this picturesque city on the banks of the Vltava River. From there we headed for the traffic-less country roads through rural Czech which we discovered to be a little “rough” feeling, in the same sense that you'd likely find a bike trip through the back roads of rural America to feel. But despite the roughness in the people and the state of disrepair of the tiny farming villages through which we passed, we found the landscape to be absolutely beautiful. The countryside was rolling hills of deep green forests and fields of hops, corn, wheat and fire-red poppies as far as the eye can see.
Cesky Krumlov 

Czech countryside 

Cari making dinner at camp.

One of our biggest challenges in the Czech Republic came on our second night in the country. By then we were deep into the heart of farm country, it was getting late and we needed to fill our 8 liters of water so we could start looking for camp. Remember that we have just left the Alps where some of the most pure water imaginable is abundantly flowing from the mountains. For nearly a month we've been passing through towns with numerous fountains in each, continuously spewing fresh drinking water for anyone who passes by. Finding good water was as easy as riding into the center of a village and we didn't expect to have such a difficult time in Czech.

Most of the farming villages we rode through consisted only of a few dozen houses or so; no gas station, no supermarket, no bar and no restaurant. We didn't have many options other than to ask people who were outside working in their yards. The first guy we asked didn't speak English but clearly understood that we wanted water. He passed all of our bottles through the window to his wife who filled them and sent them back out to us. The last 2 bottles that came through the window were our clear 1.5-liter soda bottles and much to our disgust the water in them was a murky tea colored brown. No way were we drinking that so we rode around the corner and dumped every last drop. We were down to our final 16 ounces of good water so we changed our route and headed for the nearest “big town.” A half mile up the road we saw an old, shirtless man outside so I asked him if he spoke English. He nodded yes, but when I spoke to him it immediately became clear that he didn't. He understood that we were searching for water so he led us into his house and we filled a bottle. Again it was brown and we made gestures to ask if it was safe to drink. “Yes, yes, gute” he kept saying and then proceeded to imply through charades that he didn't drink water, only beer. He certainly wasn't a guy to trust when it came to whether or not we'd be sick for the next day from bad water, so once again we dumped the water and continued on. The third times a charm, right? A few miles further on was another small village and to our relief it had a bar which we've found always have the best water. It was my turn to go in and ask so I took our 2 big bottles inside and was thankful to see 2 young girls working. Our experiences throughout Europe has been that the majority of the young people and a fairly high percentage of older people spoke English, but in Czech we hadn't yet run across anyone. No, those girls didn't know any either. I said “water” in every language I could, English, Spanish, French, German but they had no idea what I wanted. No problem I thought. We've become very good at acting out what we need so I lifted a bottle to my mouth as if I was taking a drink. Still, I got only confused looks and then one of the girls grabbed a pen and paper, pointed to each individual beer tap and wrote down a price, thinking I wanted them to fill me up with 3 liters of beer. I finally spotted a sink behind the bar, pointed until they understood and watched them fill the first bottle. Once again the water looked disgusting so in an attempt to ask if it was safe to drink, I made drinking gestures followed by a thumbs up. But again they just looked at me like I was crazy. One of them then disappeared outside and returned with another woman who said with a strong accent that she understood English. I asked if the water was safe to drink as the 3 of them stood behind the bar watching the questionable water fill my last bottle with looks of skepticism on their faces. The third girl shrugged her shoulders, “yes, it's safe to drink.”
Is this water potable?

I returned to Mike with a look of defeat on my face, we rode around the corner and for the third time in less than 3 miles we dumped all of our water on the side of the road. An hour later we reached the town of Pisek, found a bar, filled our bottles and made it to camp just as darkness settled in. The water ordeal and our inability to find anyone who spoke any English that night was a subtle reminder that we were no longer in the touristy areas of Europe.

Our final destination in Czech was the city of Most, the home town of Helena, one of our good friends back in California. I had met her mom, Jitka and uncle, Zdenek, 3 years ago at her wedding and though there were major language barriers was looking forward to seeing them again. Helena arranged for us to stay 2 nights and made sure her mom knew some details about us; we'd be stinky and dirty, need showers and laundry and one of us was a vegetarian. The thought of staying with someone we can barely communicate with no longer phases us; we've managed to get by with body language for many months now and there's always “Google Translate” if we really get stuck. I think Jitka, however, was a little more nervous about our stay. First, she didn't know how we'd find her flat amongst the hundreds of pastel-colored apartment buildings in Most, second, she was worried about entertaining us, and finally she had to deal with cooking for a vegetarian who didn't eat chicken or fish. It's hilarious to me how many people think chicken and fish are exempt from the “meat” category, but it's a very common inquiry.

Well, our stay with Jitka was wonderful. When we arrived to her building she was standing at the window waving to us and since we had no idea what time we'd arrive, I hope she wasn't waiting there for hours. We lugged all of our stuff into her apartment and immediately the pampering began. Cold beer and dinner was ready and waiting, when our laundry was finished she hung our clothes to dry and they were neatly folded the next morning, breakfast was always on the table when we awoke in the mornings and for every meal she cooked something with meat for Mike and something completely different for me. Every time we offered to help with anything we were told “no” and shooed away. Neither of us are very good at sitting around while someone else waits on us and throughout the many Skype sessions we had with Helena during our stay we tried to get that point translated through the grapevine, but it was hopeless. Helena said just let her do her thing as it makes her happy. And so we did, were spoiled rotten and tried our best to show how grateful we were for her hospitality without words, which is much more difficult to do than you might think.

On our second day in Most, we went with Jitka to her cottage in Mila to do some gardening. We took a tour of her garden and with the help of her little red Czech to English dictionary, learned all of the fruits and veggies she was growing. She had a lot of work to do and I really wanted to help as I love gardening but all she'd allow us to do was pick strawberries, which took considerable begging on our part to convince her that we'd really enjoy the work. Later that day Uncle Zdenek and his daughter, Zdenka, who spoke perfect English which made life a lot easier for everyone, took us on a tour of the city. We saw some former coal mines that have since been made into lakes and recreation areas, an old church that was relocated nearly a kilometer when they tore down the old mining city and still holds the Guinness record for the heaviest thing ever moved on wheels and the castle up on the hill overlooking the city.
Jitka showing Cari the garden with the help of her trusty red dictionary. 

The city of Most.

The next morning we left Most and headed towards Germany. We had made arrangements to meet Zdenka for lunch at her family's cabin in Cesky Jiretin, which was right on the border. Jitka decided that she was going to the cabin as well and insisted on taking our panniers in the car. We weren't going to argue with that one; a few miles of unloaded riding are always appreciated. About half way into our ride we realized we'd made a huge mistake. Suddenly it got cold and started to rain and neither of us had any extra clothes with us, only our shorts and t-shirts. By the time we arrived at the cabin we were soaking wet, our feet were numb and fingers purple. Thankfully, inside was a pot of hot water on the stove which was poured into a garden watering can and used as a shower to warm us up and get all of the mud off of our bodies and hair. There was no running water at the cabin but I must say, that method of showering was very effective. Our clothes were hung and our shoes set set next to the stove to dry while we drank hot tea and coffee, indulged in the risotto lunch Zdenka had made and enjoyed our final afternoon with Helena's family.

When the time came for us to leave, Jitka pulled a cooler from the fridge full of food for us. There were apples, bananas, cherries, sodas, sandwiches and chocolate bars that she insisted we took. There was enough food to keep us going for two days and our bikes weighed an extra 20 pounds when we left Czech. Many, many thanks to Helena and her family for their amazing friendship and hospitality. I know we will see you all again, only hopefully it'll be in California next time where we can be the ones doing the pampering instead of you.
We love Jitka! 

Mike, Zdenka, Jitka and Cari



It's hard to believe we've been wheeling ourselves around the world for a year already, but alas, the date we left our home and life in California has once again returned to our calendars. Usually it feels like the year has flown by, like we left only a few weeks ago but as we sit and reflect on where the past year has taken us and think about individual experiences and memories it feels like we've been out here for a very long time. It's certainly been an eventful and memorable year; sometimes the adventure was so frustrating and far from fun that we would have done almost anything to get off our bikes and return to our comfortable home, friends and jobs. Those times are easy for us to pick out in our minds. Mike's least favorite day was in Patagonia when we opted to ride at night to El Calafate, Argentina in hopes of avoiding the horrendous daytime winds. However, we were still met with a nasty headwind, it was cold, we were running on no sleep and had to wear our sunglasses in the dark to protect our already wind burnt eyes, focusing on the white road lines 2 feet in front of us as we moved at a snail's pace. I have never seen Mike so exhausted, physically or mentally, as when we finally arrived in El Calafate at 6:00 in the morning. For me, my least favorite times were many along the first half of the Carretera Austral in South America. The lose gravel and washboard roads made my life miserable for a couple of weeks. I hated every minute of it, wanted to quit and go home, had at least one daily breakdown and frequently threw a tantrum and walked my bike. I will hope to never have to ride in those conditions again.

But aside from our few individual shining moments, the adventure has been fantastic. It's not as easy to pick out a favorite day. There have been far too many and therefore is impossible to distinguish one that stands out above the others. We have seen places we never thought we'd see, met people and made friends from around the globe and ultimately it has been one of the most wonderful years of our lives.

Not much has changed since we began this adventure. We're both a little more grungy, our bikes and gear are looking tattered and worn, our upper bodies, which haven't had to do any work in a year are embarrassingly out of shape and our hair is significantly longer than it was when we left. It's down to the middle of our shoulder blades and I have to braid Mike's hair in the mornings to keep his wild mop of curls from turning into dreadlocks. I can honestly say I never thought I'd be doing my boyfriend's hair for him!

The things that have changed are the ways in which we bike tour. It's been a learning process as we've gone along and we're continually figuring out how to make living on bikes less expensive and more enjoyable. Daily mileage is no longer a priority. I don't know why we were so obsessed about putting in high mileage everyday while we were in the U.S., but we were. We'd be disappointed after a day of riding if we didn't break 60 miles, but not anymore. Enjoyment is much more important than how far we go so if one of us is tired, the weather is crummy or the terrain is beating us, we have no problem quitting early for the day, which is the way it should be when you get the opportunity to travel without a schedule.

We've become pro's at “wild camping.” We rarely camped for free during the first few weeks of our trip. There were private property signs and fences everywhere and the fear of getting caught doing something “wrong” landed us in campgrounds where, though we weren't paying much for lodging, still added up over time. It has been a long time since we've paid for camping. We've climbed fences and tucked ourselves away for a night in hundreds of places we knew we weren't supposed to be but no longer do we fear being caught. Rather, once we spot a tentative location for camp, we both get off our bikes, go tramping around like we own the forest until one of us finds a place that will suffice and there we make our home for the night. I'm actually surprised we haven't been discovered and kicked out of camp in the middle of the night, but I'm sure at some point that night will come.

We have learned to live very cheaply. When we started out, we really had no idea how much money it would take everyday to travel on a bicycle but we had a goal of keeping our average daily cost to less than $50. We weren't very good in the U.S. as we paid for several campgrounds and hotels along the way and we had a horrible habit of succumbing to the temptation of buying Dairy Queen ice cream on a near daily basis. We greatly improved throughout South America since there weren't all sorts of tasty treats for us to buy and thankfully our frugal habits then carried over into Europe where we were told travel would be very expensive. However, our spending habits coupled with the extensive network of Warmshowers houses available for us to stay at every once in a while when we're dying for a shower has actually made Europe one of the cheapest places of our trip. It feels great to not spend money and we're proud to say that we've spent less in this entire year on the road than what we would have paid for a measly 10 months of rent for the house in which we were living.

We have become very comfortable with using public facilities for our own personal use. The strange looks and stares we get from locals or other tourists passing by as we hand wash our laundry or dishes at a public fountain are hilarious but then we think of how we'd react if we saw some foreigner doing the same thing back home and we'd likely have the same reaction. McDonald's typically has free wifi and more than once set up our little office in a corner of the restaurant and spent an afternoon or rainy day writing emails or working on the blog. Restrooms at fast food restaurants or gas stations also make for easy places to do our laundry as well as shampoo and condition our hair when we're in dire need. There was one time in Spain when we each spent a half an hour in a gas station restroom washing our hair. The gas station worker looked somewhat baffled when we each walked out with a towel on our head and then proceeded to comb our hair in the parking lot. Our behaviors may be a bit socially unacceptable but when you don't have the conveniences of a house to take care of some pretty basic needs you have to find alternative ways to do what you have to do.

When we first started out, a year sounded like an eternity. We had no idea how long we'd enjoy living on bicycles, but in the back of our minds we both estimated we'd be getting ready to go home after about a year, or maybe 10,000 miles which sounded ridiculously far and unattainable at the time. Well, we cruised right on through 10,000 miles and we're going to cruise right on through the 1-year mark as well with no intention of calling it quits in the near future. There's still too much of the world to see and as long as we still have a few bucks in the bank, healthy bodies and the desire to see what's around the next corner or over the next mountain we're going to keep going. We thank all of the people we have met during this year, making it enjoyable and memorable, all of the people who have helped us out financially; we've learned to make every dollar last, and all of the people who have urged us to continue, telling us that told us we're an inspiration, that we're living their dream; it makes us realize how lucky we are to be living our dream as well. We can only hope that the next year of Life On A Bike will be as wonderful as the first.

10 THINGS WE MISS THE MOST: Obviously the number one thing we miss is our families and friends, that goes without saying. We miss them beyond imagination and think about those people and how much of their lives we're missing out on every day, so I guess this is technically our top 11.
10. Mike - Running
     Cari – Wearing clean clothes
9. Mike – Wearing clean clothes
     Cari – Sleeping in a bed
8. Mike – Road biking
     Cari – Sitting on a chair and at a table to eat
7. Mike – Drinking COLD beer
     Cari – Showering whenever I want/need to
6. Mike – Showering daily
     Cari – Racing triathlons
5. Mike – Sleeping in a bed
     Cari – Salads
4. Mike – Simply having time to relax/do nothing
     Cari – Speaking English/being able to easily communicate with those around me
3. Mike – Going to the gym
     Cari – Having a kitchen so I can cook and bake
2. Mike - Swimming
     Cari – Tofu
1. Mike – Carnitas burritos from Los Charros
     Cari – Exercise other than cycling, especially swimming and working out at the gym.

THE BOOKS WE'VE READ: Unfortunately most of our books come from book exchanges and the English options are usually rather limited.
MIKE – Perfect Storm, Of Mice and Men, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Stolen Away, Jurassic Park, Zeitoun, Pirate Latitudes, Congo, Annapurna, Bringing Down the House, The Open Veins of Latin America, Apollo 13, No Country for Old Men, The Road, Swan Peak, Twilight Eyes, The Trail to Titicaca

CARI – Stolen Away, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Motorcycle Diaries, Of Mice and Men, The Runaway Jury, Two Old Women, The Snow Walker, Same Kind of Different As Me, Zeitoun, Bringing Down the House, The Glass Castle, No Country for Old Men, The Road, A Painted House, The Trail to Titicaca, Sacred Hoops, Swan Peak, The Help, Naked, A Prayer for Owen Meany

The remainder of this post is mostly fun facts from our first year on the road, compiled from the meticulous record we've kept of our trip.

TOTAL NUMBER OF DAYS ON THE ROAD: 364 (it was a leap year)

TOTAL DISTANCE RIDDEN: 10,685.3 miles (17,196.3 kilometers)


AVERAGE MILES/DAY : 51.9 miles ( 83.5 kilometers)



HIGHEST SPEED RECORDED: 48.6 mph (descending from Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota)

LONGEST DISTANCE CYCLED IN ONE DAY: 137.5 miles (Huron, South Dakota to Marshall, MN)

SHORTEST DISTANCE CYCLED IN ONE DAY: 4.0 miles (from a campground in Sula, Montana to the banks of the Bitterroot River to find a free place to stay and take a rest day)

MOST CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF RIDING WITHOUT A COMPLETE DAY OFF: 16 (once in North America and once in Europe)

FURTHEST CONSECUTIVE DISTANCE RIDDEN WITHOUT A COMPLETE DAY OFF: 1004.1 miles (Urbana, Illinois to Narrowsburg, New York)


HIGHEST MOUNTAIN PASS: 9,137 ft. (Portete, Ecuador)

LOWEST ELEVATION: 2 ft. below sea level (flooded by the tide in Puerto Puyuhuapi, Chile)

WINDIEST DAY OF CYCLING: estimated 60-65 mph cross wind between El Chalten and El Calefate, Argentina

HOTTEST DAY OF CYCLING: 105 degrees F (Pierre, South Dakota)

COLDEST DAY OF CYCLING: 32 degrees F (Port D' Envalira, Andorra)

NUMBER OF MOUNTAIN PASSES OVER 3,000 FEET (that means it took at least 2 hours of sustained climbing to reach the pass): 26

MIKE – 13
CARI – 10

MIKE – 1 broken chain, 1 broken derailleur and 5 broken spokes


NUMBER OF CRASHES/WIPEOUTS (a crash is defined by us as a high speed, painful disaster. A wipe-out is defined by us as a time when you're going very slowly, usually not paying attention and the fall causes much more embarrassment than pain):
MIKE – 0 crashes and 2 wipe-outs
CARI – 1 crash and 2 wipe-outs















PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON SUPPLIES (defined as essential things we need like toiletries, clothing, fuel for our stove, maps, etc.): 7.0%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON MISCELLANEOUS THINGS (defined as things that aren't essential, like souvenirs, postage, postcards, etc.): 6.0%

COUNTRIES VISITED: United States, Canada, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Japan*, Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Czech Republic



The fantastic cycling we experienced in Switzerland has continued on into Austria. Once again we've come across the little bike route signs that lead us around the country on all of the back roads so we can cycle without having to think much about where we're going. We've seen more bicycle tourists in our first 24 hours in Austria than we've seen in almost an entire year on the road and there are more and more every day. It's amazing; there are loads of cyclists here and about 1 in 4 is loaded down with panniers. It seems as though there are tons of organized tours here as there are often big groups traveling together with the same amounts of matching gear. It really should be that surprising, I guess, given the excellent bike paths and the opportunity to see big mountains while staying in relatively flat trails in the valleys. There's always the option to go over the big passes, but it's nice that the various routes can offer something for all levels.
Cari on the bike path.

The downside to Austria's bike routes is that the signs are green and small and blend in easily with the lush landscape making it much easier to get off track if you're not paying attention. Fortunately for us, we have two sets of eyes so if one misses a turn the other usually spots it and therefore we've only gotten slightly lost a few times. The only other downfall to this network is that the cycling routes take you through literally every little village within a valley. There's not really the option to take the direct roads because they're busy and lack bike lanes so we're more or less forced to zig-zag back and forth across the valley on the path, ultimately riding nearly twice as far to get from point A to point B. We've commented several times that it's a good thing we're on absolutely no time schedule as the bike routes could be infuriating if we were.

Though we've only been in Austria for a few days there are a few observations that immediately struck us. First is that after 8 long months of riding through countries in South America and western Europe that literally shut down for the greater portion of every afternoon, we have finally and ecstatically entered a country without siestas! No longer lo we have to worry about making it to the next town by a certain time to buy our lunch only to realize upon our arrival that they closed 10 minutes prior, forcing us to wait 4 hours until they re-opened so we could get food. Siestas drove us crazy and we're so happy to have them behind us, for a while at least.

The second thing that was apparent was that the architecture, mostly that of churches, has begun to change. Though there are still many western European looking churches with standard straight and pointed steeples, there's now also the presence of churches with fancy, metallic, domed steeples that feel much more eastern to us. It's kind of nice to have a change of scenery.
Starting to see a change in the architecture.

Our third observation was that the Austrians pay very special attention to their wood piles. We've never seen such tightly stacked and perfectly organized wood piles on the sides of nearly every farm house and you must wonder how many hours it took someone to complete such a task. Some of the displays are truly amazing.
Fancy wood piles.

As for the landscape, it continues to be beautiful. Little red trains are constantly seen quietly whirring through the green countryside, the valleys are full of wildflowers and cows are grazing everywhere as Austria seems to be even more of a farming country than Switzerland was. The part we don't like about that is the smell of manure is frequently lingering in the air and we constantly have to dodge the land mines scattered on the streets since they seem to double as roadways for humans as well as routes for moving cattle from one pasture to another.
A valley of wildflowers.

Waiting for a herd of cows to get out of the street.

As we're made our way eastward through Austria, the mountains have begun to diminish into foothills and we've officially crossed our last big mountain pass for a while. I think we can say that we've sufficiently “toured” the Alps, but I'm a little sad that we won't have any more 2-4 hour climbs where we get our minds set on slow mode, stick the bike into Granny Gear and crank away until we've reached the top. We both enjoy the sense of accomplishment and of course the reward of a long and steep descent afterward, but there's also a part of us (primarily our knees) that are looking forward to some smaller hills and even some flats as we move away from the Alps.