This story takes you back a long time in the “Life On A Bike” chronology but it couldn't be written about at the time of its happening as there were some people who needed to hear the news in person rather than read it on the internet or hear it over the phone. It has been a difficult secret to keep but now that we've told everyone in our immediate families in person, I can finally write the story.

Rewind all the way back to the U.S. portion of this trip, August 2010, as that's where the story officially began. We were at my parents' house in Minnesota and somehow, though I don't remember this happening, Mike got a hold of the one piece of jewelry that I always wear, a piece made by my sister in a college class and I've never removed since she gave it to me at least 5 years ago. Anyway, he managed to get his hands on it, tried it on himself for size and made a mental note of how it fit.

Then there's a huge gap in the story. We rode the rest of the distance across the U.S., through South America and some 7 months later, in southern Spain, the story resumed. We were camped by a river with huge boulders that had sweeping, comfortable grooves for sitting in so I took the opportunity to do some writing in such a beautiful and peaceful setting. Mike took off on a walk through the forest in search of the perfect piece of wood for making a sling shot for his brother-in-law. Unbeknownst to me, he was also searching for something else; another piece of wood with tight grains, that was dry and had no cracks. He found exactly what he was looking for, cut 2 small pieces about a quarter of an inch thick from the 1 ½ inch diameter stick, tucked them away in his handlebar bag and waited.

Later that week we were staying at a Couch Surfing house in Granada. While I was in the shower, Mike found a ¼” drill bit in a tool box in the room we were given, quickly drilled a hole through the centers of the wood pieces before I returned and again put them away for later.

Another 2 weeks passed and the project remained untouched until we reached Zaragoza, a city in northern Spain. There, we had a Warm Showers house to stay at so while I was busy making phone calls and writing emails, Mike went out to search for some cardboard to send some stuff home. While out and about he bought a utility knife, which he was waiting until he was alone to buy as we documented every penny we spent and he didn't want to have to make up a bogus reason for his purchase. The knife was then used to carefully carve out the center of the wood piece any chance he got to get away from me. It's not an easy task when you live together in a 5x7 foot tent and though he's talented, he hasn't quite mastered the art of wood carving while cycling, which most days is the only time we get away from each other.

Again there was a long span of time where nothing happened, through France, Switzerland and on up to northern Austria. It wasn't until we reached the city of Schladming where we again had a house to stay at for a couple of days and Mike had some time to himself. Bike maintenance in the basement of the apartment was what I was told he was doing, which to a certain extent he was, but he was also sanding. With the sandpaper in our tube patch kit, he was meticulously smoothing down the outer surface of his creation.

Again there was another big break in the progress until we reached Kallstugan in southern Sweden where we stayed with our friend Gisela for nearly a week. There was a lot of down time while we were there waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. I spent an entire afternoon in town with Gisela which left Mike at home alone, and another afternoon he went “fishing” at a nearby lake. Those 2 large chunks of time were spent putting the final touches on his project. First he had to smooth out the inside surface and make it perfectly round which he did by wrapping a tiny piece of sandpaper around a small stick. Once completed, he had to seal the wood so he coated his work with clear fingernail polish that he had found in a bathroom cupboard at the house we were at. It wasn't the perfect sealant but it was the best he could do at the time. After it dried he set it in our tube patch kit, the only small box we have with us, tucked it in his pocket and waited for the perfect moment.

That moment finally arrived exactly 1,567 miles later. Fast forward to Nordkapp, Norway (The North Cape), the northernmost point in Europe to which you can drive (or ride a bike), the place where we saw the midnight sun. There was actually much more to that story than I originally published on the blog, so here's the remaining part.

There was a point along the cliffs at Nordkapp that we noticed right away; it was narrow with enough space for one to stand safely on its point or maybe two if you squeezed, it had beautiful views of the surrounding sunset golden cliffs and the Arctic Ocean far below but the best thing about it was there was no fence like most of the area. It was the place where you could sit on the top of the world with your legs dangling free over the ocean below; the place everyone seemed to be waiting to stand. “That's the perfect spot,” I remember Mike saying, but of course it always seemed to be occupied . We stood along the fenced section of cliffs until finally, shortly before 11pm, it was empty. By that time in the night most of the crowd was gathering around the globe, the iconic spot at Nordkapp where people come from around the world to witness the midnight sun.

I sat down on a small, grassy step, let the setting sunshine warm my face from the crisp Arctic breeze and invited Mike to sit down next to me. But he declined and just stood there, smiling at me from the edge of the cliff with his hands in the pockets of his puffy down jacket and replied, “You've been quoted as having said that you'd never marry a man who wouldn't ride his bike across the U.S. with you.” (Which is true, those words have come from my mouth on many occasions; a small requirement in my opinion). Before he finished his first sentence we were both smiling our biggest smiles and crying our biggest tears as he pulled his hands from his pockets. “Well, I hope I made the cut.” And then he asked me to marry him. No, not down on one knee as he would have tumbled down a cliff, and besides, that's a little too traditional for me anyway. Of course I said YES as he placed the perfectly sized, beautiful, hand carved wooden ring on my finger.

Since it came from an Oak tree is southern Spain, we like to say it's made out of “Spanish Oak” just to make it sound fancy and if I hold my hand in front of the sun it has more bling than any ring in the world. It is an invaluable ring that shines as bright as the sun and is made with the most sought after elements in the world, hard work and love. Mike has asked me to marry him about 100 times since that night in July, and every time I say yes. Now that he's said it once he can't seem to stop and he'll likely propose another thousand times or more before we actually get married as it's going to be a while. We still have a whole lot of the world to see from the seat of a bicycle and a wedding can always wait.



While we were out on the road, people often told us that some day we'd have to come back to the real world. The thing is, we never left it. Traveling by bicycle is anything but an endless hay-day; we have daily chores to do, finances to budget and balance, days of boredom, days of no motivation and days when we have more to do than is feasibly possible in 24 hours. It was simply a different world and just as it took some time to figure out how to live while in constant motion, it also took a while to adjust back to the lifestyle that we once considered normal.

Things were overwhelming at first and suddenly the quiet, simple existence which we had been living for over a year seemed very far away. The peaceful country roads that we called home were replaced with bustling freeways, honking horns, vehicles everywhere and no escape. The days of solitude where the only people we had to talk to were each other, where we were free to watch the landscape pass by at a snail's pace without ever speaking a word at all while lost in our own thoughts were replaced by people. People everywhere. People wanting to know how our trip was (but I have to ask in return, is anyone able to sum up their last 15 months in a few sentences?) and people wanting to schedule a time to see us. I cannot hold it against them, as I would do the exact same thing if I had a friend who had been away for that long and though it was a bit exhausting, it was wonderful to see our friends again. The nights of drifting off to sleep to the sounds of a rushing river, the wind flapping the fabric of our shelter or the rain pitter-pattering on our tent was replaced by whistling trains, rumbling planes and passing cars. The only familiar sound that carried over was Mike's snoring which is anything but peaceful. The constant commotion and clutter enveloped us the instant we landed in San Francisco and sent me into a desperate desire to become a hermit. I don't think I'd make a very good hermit but during those first few days I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and return to the quiet, zen-like existence I had come to love.

In retrospect, our first couple of weeks back in the States were really quite comical. Mike's Mom took us to the grocery store to pick out some food we wanted to have at the house. We gathered the items we needed for dinner and were ready to go when Ruth reminded us that we now have a refrigerator, don't have to carry everything on our bikes and could therefore get enough food for a few days rather than a single meal.

On our second day back, Mike and I went out to run some errands and were startled when we could understand what everyone around us was saying. It had been one year since we had been in an English-speaking country and I had grown to love the fact that I couldn't understand what people were saying. It meant that I didn't have to listen to parents pleading with their children to get them to cooperate, teenagers talking about the upcoming weekend's party or people's one-sided conversations on their cell phones because I didn't care, or want to hear, any of it anyway. Everywhere else in the world it was white noise that I could completely tune out, now if I could only figure out how to do that with English. As we approached the checkout counter and, as we have become accustomed to doing every time we wanted to talk to someone, I began saying, “Do you speak English?” before I realized everybody here understands us and we no longer have to preface every conversation with that question.

When we got home, we each dug out a box of our clothes since we left most of what we had with us in a trash can in Denmark. As you've seen in our pictures, we each really only wore one shirt; Mike a bright orange one and me bright pink. While we were shopping we separated to each go grab a few things. I found what I needed and then began looking for Mike. I scanned the entire store for his orange shirt but couldn't spot him anywhere and it wasn't until he was literally a foot in front of my face that I did a double-take and finally recognized him.

Driving was another thing that caught me off guard. I used to be somewhat of a lead-foot but apparently I've turned in to a Granny Driver. While cruising down the freeway feeling like I was moving outrageously fast, I noticed that everyone around me was going considerably faster. I looked down at the speedometer to find that I was only going 50 mph. I guess I've come to love life in the slow lane.

Those were just a few of the culture-shock scenarios from our return that made us laugh. Now that we've been home for a month, we finally feel a little less alien and a little more human. We've realized that not a whole lot has changed in our absence; everyone's still over scheduled and works too much, Americans are still powered by obscene amounts of coffee, the newspapers are still full of depressing stories and the pop radio stations still play the same 7 songs over and over all day long, of which we didn't recognize any, but were disgustingly sick of them after a mere 2 hours of listening. As for us, we've once again settled in to the luxuries of sleeping in a bed, showering regularly and wearing clean clothes, though in my opinion, those things aren't all they're hyped up to be. I didn't mind the alternatives and in fact I kind of liked them.

I know I haven't updated the blog as often as I said I would but we've actually been quite busy. We seem to have transitioned from bike tourists to home improvement specialists as Mike's repaired his parent's fence and done some major renovations on his family's cabin while I've been working on my parent's property in Minnesota and helping build a shed at their cabin. Between projects Mike's been to Las Vegas for a Bachelor Party and I've been head over heels for my new niece, Amelia, who was born while we were in Europe, the 2 of us already discussing plans for her future as a cyclist as well as her first bike, which she'll likely have before she can walk.
Mike's cabin project.

Cari and Merry putting the roof on the shed.