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Photos


Even when the weather doesn’t agree with us, it agrees with us. That’s what I was going to write about how the persistently poor Pennsylvania weather works in our favor when we’re pedaling up the biggest hills since the rockies, burning up inside, but cooled by the clouds and an intermittent sprinkle. The mountains out here have nothing on the Rockies. That’s also what I was going to write until we hit three big climbs in one day on the way to Waynesboro. 50 miles seems like a lot more when half of it is steeply uphill. Of course, the downhills are a blast, but like I said, sometimes the weather didn’t really agree with us.

On our first day of tackling Appalacia, a spritz here & there cooled us off. Then an extended shower kept extending until it poured on us during the entire climb over Laurel Pass into the Highlands. 2,600 feet in the sky is truly nothing for twoarmparty, but when you descend another 1,000 feet then go back up a few times, in the rain…that begins to suck.

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So we stopped in Jennersville, a small town just past our first pass, and had some ice cream while we drip-dried. An older lady who we asked about camping said that her daughter was at Camp Sequanota up the street with her grandkids, and maybe we could set up under a pavilion there, or at least in an unused campsite. She made a few quick phone calls, and by the time Andy’s Sundae came out, we were hooked up with a place to pitch a tent at the camp, which happened to be a Lutheran summer camp. And this was family week.

We rode back up the road a bit to Camp Sequanota, and found our way to the main offices, where Linda, the woman’s daughter, came out to greet us and direct us where to go. Shortly afterwards, Pastor George came out, and as we all looked at the darkening skies above the mountains to our west, feeling mists of future downpours drift past our faces, our place to stay was negotiated. What was once a spot on the ground became a spot on the ground under a pavilion, then an unfinished, dusty cabin, then cabin six with twelve beds, electricity, and two bathrooms.

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dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

dang...i forgot to rotate this image...but...you get the idea

“Why don’t you join us for dinner,” Pastor George asked. Twoarmparty never turns down an act of generosity. So we walk into the dining hall where teenage counselors are frantically setting dozens of tables, families are chasing around kids who have fallen ill with cabin fever (it’s been raining all of family week), and the staff poured pitchers of Kool-Aid. We stood around a table with Linda, Pastor George, a counselor and another couple while a camp leader lead the room (with more people in it than the entire population of Philip, South Dakota) in the “Johnny Appleseed” grace. It involved lots of hand motions and gutteral sounds that none of us understood and seemed somewhat cultish. But that’s probably just because we’re heathens. Nonetheless, Andy and I had some Kool-Aid and came back later for the puppet show. It was a delightful reinterpretation of classic 50′s songs set in a diner, based on the gospel of Mark, chapters 4, 5, and 6. Even the 18 year old counselor with tattoos, piercings, and a torn Misfits shirt who Andy said “That was me, when I was at Bible Camp” was getting into it. Hanging out with the Lutheran Family camp in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania was just like hanging out with the guys at Pactola lake, way back in the Black Hills of South Dakota, except this time, they were drunk on the love of God.

Brought to you by Pennsylvania, near the site of the crash of flight 93 on September 11th.

That airplane is awfully close to Jesus's head

That airplane is awfully close to Jesus's head

This is the same state that thinks hosting drinking parties for your teenage kids is a bad idea.

Preposterous!

Preposterous!

 

that's Brett's dad in the middle..

that's Brett's dad in the middle..

Everyone riding to the reception

Everyone riding to the first party spot

 

the married mobile

the married mobile

 

Eric and Andy (andy rode Eric's BMX bike all day)

Eric and Andy (andy rode Eric's BMX bike all day)

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after the wedding we went to this bar, then the reception, then eventually back to this bar.

all the single fellas

all the single fellas

It was a blast going to Brett and Janell’s wedding.  Congratulations!   Janell looked soooo beautiful.  Brett was very handsome – i love the beard.    It was really nice to get out of my one outfit and feel like a lady again.  We all made our way out to the dance floor at some point and showed off our moves, none of which compare to those of Brett’s dad.  He was amazing!!

During these next few days, team QAK splits up.  Andy’s hangin in Dayton, I’m flying to Syracuse to see my family, and ken’s headed to his home town to be in his friends wedding.  I was anxious to get to Syracuse so I scheduled an early monday morning flight.  This meant that i had to get up and ride to columbus today to catch my flight tomorrow.  Didnt actually get to sleep till 2, but felt good in the morning and was siked for my solo ride…and i made pretty good time considering there was no one to draft off of.  Got into Columbus at 3 and met Lee who rode with me back to his place.  Ken, Andy and I will meet at Lee’s place on the 28th and get back on the road the following morning. Hopefully our muscles won’t disappear in the meantime.

The ride to Columbus was much nicer than I expected – I had high expectations as there were bike trails the whole way, but it was really a beautiful ride… very quiet, with loads of wildflowers and wildlife.  And the bike trails took me all the way to London, about 25 miles outside of Columbus.  On my ride, I passed a friendly older couple that said hello and then caught up to me a bit later when i stopped to stretch and call my dad, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!… well, i rode with them for a few minutes and told them about the trip and they insisted on taking me to lunch.  More amazing people.  Phillis and Bill Evans have toured all over the country and ride the Ohio bike trails frequently.  Thank you again!

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Two awesome shirts found by Eric's talented girlfriend, MAGGIE. Dorothy, we thought of you when looking at the shirt andy's got on.

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a bit confused.  trying to fix a hole in ken's pants - i went over and took care of it after laughing for a bit...  love this photo.

a bit confused. trying to fix a hole in ken's pants - when i saw the photo op, i couldn't stop laughing. Â i eventually tagged in and fixed the pants for them.

Getting all dolled up.   The bride on the left with Maggie to her right.

Getting all dolled up. The bride on the left with Maggie to her right.

Emily doing a beautiful job on Janell's hair.

Emily doing a beautiful job on Janell's hair.

A little tooo tight...

A little tooo tight...

We’re going to a wedding!

Dayum, do we clean up nicely.

Dayum, do we clean up nicely.

And the shoes! It's gotta be the shoes!

And the shoes! It's gotta be the shoes!

Quinn, getting all gussied up by a bridesmaid. The bride is in the photo, with her back to the camera.

Quinn, getting all gussied up by a bridesmaid. The bride is in the photo, with her back to the camera.

Brett Wayne Barker and Janell Kathleen Broering, congratulations!

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I wanted to put up some photos, but figured I’d write a little too since Ken does most of the writing.  Andy and i are a little lazier about this, especially since ken really loves to do it and is a great writer.
Thanks again to Brean for letting us monopolize his apartment for several days in Chicago.  The guys did their own thing for a good part of it, and Brean was nice enough to show me around a bit… we went to see “The Bean”.  I’ve been to chicago twice before, but both times the bean was not yet there.  finally, i got to walk under this thing, and i didnt move because it was so weird and kinda creepy.p1030967

i'm waving!!!

i'm waving!!!

Brean also told me all about the architecture in Chicago and why its, generally, a lot nicer than  the most of the buildings in NYC.   Standing in Millennium park, it really was much classier than standing in Central Park.  and though i miss my friends and occasionally other parts of the big apple, i dont miss it much.

Day 2 in Chicago.. we watched movies ALLLL DAY!  Ben Schults on the left (one of Chicago's BEST polo players) and Brean on the right.

Day 2 in Chicago.. we watched movies ALLLL DAY! Ben Schults on the left (one of Chicago's BEST polo players) and Brean on the right.

So, as Ken said… last night we stayed on Bass Lake and it was way too expensive and completely packed.  I fear that we will find this more in our future.  Ugh.  Hopefully we can still find nice remote spots to camp where its quiet and the kids aren’t obnoxious and annoying.

BUT!! the lake WAS beautiful and it was really nice to sit and eat dinner on the beach.  We had a really incredible sunset.

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Today we rode to Kokomo…. thaaaaats where you wanna gooooo.    Well, along the way we went through beardstown.  As the guys have um, reallyy awesome beards now,  i thought it necessary to stop and take a photo.

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So, now i’m writing from a bar in Kokomo.  Yep, a bar.  Already drank 1/2 a bottle of vodka ON MY OWN.. and i toasted to you, mom!  Not really, but after a beer and not enough to eat, i can feel it – so, sorry if i sound ridiculous.

i’m excited to hang out in dayton, visit my family in syracuse and ride through pennsylvania.  because, even if PA is maddening to ride through, its gotta be a lot nicer than northern Indiana!

chombo's luggage tag

chombo's luggage tag

no privacy in los marcostan

no privacy in los marcostan

Zack, Adam and Johnny won the most improved team award..and got some sweet wheels.

Zack, Adam and Johnny won the most improved team award..and got some sweet wheels.

The RVA polo guys.. (richmond, virginia)

The RVA polo guys.. (richmond, virginia)Â I love these guys!!

my awesome teammates and jill from madison, hiding from the photo

my awesome teammates and jill from madison, hiding from the photo

me and bro

me and bro

a solid weekend of laughing..  nearly peed my pants laughing a few times

a solid weekend of laughing.. nearly peed my pants laughing a few times

packing up the polo bikes and saying goodbye to our nyc friends.  sad to see them go.

packing up the polo bikes and saying goodbye to our nyc friends. sad to see them go.

Before we hurl ourselves into the madness & mayhem that is a major underground cycling event, we need to reflect on the much more bucolic past few days. By the time the chaos, camaraderie and competition of COG’s big tournament in Milwaukee wears down, we’ll forget that we spent two days touring rural Wisconsin, climbing up and down forest roads, the rumble of an approaching car’s engine such a rarity that we had the luxury of the whole street to ourselves. We’ll forget the absence of all noise but the wind rustling through the leaves and whirling by our ears. We may not forget the constant struggle of battling yet another hill, but we might forget how awesome some of these roads were:

Stanek Road! Parties everywhere!

Stanek Road! Parties everywhere!

Oh, it’s true. Pausing at this street sign, a dog chased us down, then promptly lost interest when it realized we weren’t moving anymore. It’s owner came out & asked us if we were lost. “No, we’re just taking pictures of the street sign,” because of the whole last name thing”. “Oh, are you related to any of the Stanek’s? Dan & Bill? They live right over there.” As far as I know, I’m not, but I’m going to wait for my Grandmother’s deference on that one. Hi, Grandma!

Jonny confessed that there were less challenging ways to bring us into Madison “but I figured it’d be easier to keep you here for an extra day if I tortured you a bit first.” Jonny’s a methodical kind of guy. He had at least two advantages over the bulk of our previous hosts: 1) he keeps up to date with our blog and knows the generosity we’ve already been shown, and 2) he’s competitive about it. He wanted to make sure he planned a tour that rivaled everything we’ve encountered so far. And he’d be the one to do it. In addition to the underground food collective, he organizes an annual Bike The Barns ride & fundraiser, which tours local farms and raises money for low-income families to afford CSA packages. Also, since Jonny was in charge, he took most of these photos.

The Wisconsin River

The Wisconsin River

somewhere in wisconsin, near a barn

somewhere in wisconsin, near a barn

Our first stop, which was supposed to be lunch, happened at a clandestine restaurant tucked away into the hills. They only take reservations for Fridays & Saturdays, but Jonny works with them a lot, and coordinated a late lunch / early dinner for us. All of the produce is grown & harvested within the 16 acres of their property.

Lightyears restaurant and farm

Lightyears restaurant and farm

They had a lot of chickens & ducks there

They had a lot of chickens & ducks there

We kept going. Jonny took another wrong turn, turning our 60 mile day into a 78 mile day. I’d like to think this was completely a mistake, but then again, he wanted to make sure we stuck around in Madison for a while, so I’m not sure. We ended up at Caitlin & Andy’s place – a beautiful renovated barn at the top of yet another hill. Andy makes gruyere cheese. Caitlin makes paintings.

We got there sweaty. Jonny snapped photos. He thought I looked hilarious.

my future combover

My future combover

it took some time, but we convinced andy to keep going with us instead of staying with the cows

it took some time, but we convinced andy to keep going with us instead of staying with the cows

but i mean seriously, this cow was adorable

but i mean seriously, this cow was adorable

i left my waterbottles at the house and had to backtrack 4 miles to get them. Jonny took this as I finally showed back up.

i left my waterbottles at the house in the morning and had to backtrack 4 miles to get them. Jonny took this as I finally showed back up.

Andy the cheesemonger wakes up early in the morning to make Upland Cheese Company’s award winning gruyere. By the time we got to his dairy, he was well into the process of separating the curds from the whey. For his tour, we had to don some stylish hairnets & booties

new style!

new style!

Andy gave an amazing tour

Andy gave an amazing tour

cheese. young.

cheese. young.

cheese, older

cheese, older

one of america's best cheeses is made here

one of america's best cheeses is made here

One thing we have just about no documentation of is rhubarb. Ever since staying with Arone’s mom in Spicer, Minnesota, we seem to have had rhubarb in some form for every meal. Apparently it’s in season. We knew just about nothing about rhubarb before this trip. Like what it looked like. Here you go. DON’T EAT THE LEAF! That part’s poisonous. Most rhubarb isn’t this huge. This is Jonny’s friend Lee’s photo.

Meeting up with Jonny Hunter in Wisconsin was one of the most anticipated parts of our trip. The week leading up to the COG tournament in Milwaukee is what we based our entire schedule around. Jonny was going to meet us two days out of his home in the capital city of Madison, and take us on a riding tour of some of the local farms.

Jonny Hunter and his brother Ben are menaces in two places: polo courts and kitchens. Ben can fly and score goals while doing it. Jonny’s got some kind of sixth sense. Both of them run The Underground Food Collective. While Quinn, Andy and I were already biking, they came to New York to cook a few more spectacular dinners. Back in the fall of 2008, I attended their five-course (or more?) Pre-Industrial Pig dinner. It was a brilliantly assembled, attended, and delicious event. Not only was Johnny going to show us how to get into our second big city this week, he was going to make sure we ate well along the way.

Before we met him though, we had to get there. Minneapolis is a big city. And there’s another city, St. Paul, right next to it. We foolishly didn’t ask for another guide out of the city, and foolishly followed the vague directions of the founder of Black Label at the Hard Times Cafe. I’m sure that the Gateway Trail he recommended we take is a spectacular ride, but you kinda gotta know how to get there in the first place. We didn’t. And instead of being out of the urban area in the morning, we didn’t make it to Wisconsin until the early afternoon. There was still 170 miles between us and Johnny Hunter. The good news was that it was along some of the most gorgeous parts of the country, following the Mississippi River. The bad news was that there was a 15-20mph headwind. The other bad news was of course that there was still 170 miles to go.

The Mississippi lopes and roams, backed up into lakes miles wide at times, its enormity fed by rivers already massive – tributaries that snake hundreds of miles away up the mountains this side of the Continental Divide. Route 35 hugs its banks for most of it’s length in Wisconsin. Motorcyclists roam up and down in packs, dropping off in groups to explore the roads up to more scenic vistas along the tree lined bluffs.

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After 97 miles, stormclouds starting to threaten us and we paused in the town of Nelson, with hopes of finding a fine place to pitch a tent. The railroad that had paralleled us and the river went through the town like it had for all of the small, lovely towns along route 35. The locals recommended we camp in the town of Alma, 9 miles away, but after our obvious conviction towards not riding anymore, formed a consensus that the city park behind Beth’s Diner was probably a fine place to spend the night. We moved some picnic tables from under an overhang, pitched our tent, stashed our bikes away from any rain, and walked into Beth’s Diner for a dinner that could not possibly satisfy our appetites.

Last night's campsite

Last night's campsite

In true twoarmparty fashion, as soon as the doors closed behind us, the skies opened up and drenched the town.

The rain let up quickly, and we devoured our meals with similar haste. Sleep set in easily on our wind battered and grumpy bodies. Hours later, because commerce never stops, our dreams were shaken by the rumble of approaching locomotives. The movement of miles of freight was announced by a blast of the engine’s massive whistle, rendering slumber impossible, but waking us to a resounding echo from the mountains behind us. It was immensely disrupting, but strangely beautiful.

The next day’s trip was much further than the 97 miles we had just tacked on. It was supposedly less hilly (until the very end of our ride), and if the weather wasn’t lying to us, we were going to have some tailwinds. Both assumptions ended up being true. We even found a shortcut that Jonny hadn’t pointed out. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, has done a fantastic job turning old railroad tracks into bike trails. We followed this flat, straight trail for 12 miles into La Crosse. Quinn took a video, thankfully, to give you an idea of what it’s like. It might make you queasy, but…train bridges! Woods! Mississippi marshland! No cars whatsoever! Possibility of alligators on the trail! It was pretty.

We followed route 35 until Ferryville, where we were to pick up route C, headed away from the river and uphill all the way for the next 15 miles. This was at mile 107. We knew dinner was waiting for us with Johnny in Star Valley, but since the burgers at the biker joint were only $4, it only made sense to inhale one before climbing.

Maybe it’s because we psyched ourselves out, or maybe it’s because we’re just getting stronger, but that last 15 mile climb was no sweat. Maybe those burgers had something extra special in them that made them taste so great. Whichever way, we beat Jonny to his friend Josh’s house. Josh, a farmer, rolled out, and let us make ourselves comfortable in his house while he went out to plant some seeds. By the time he got back, Jonny was still on his way. So Josh took us on a tour of the farm. Quinn is the only one of us who has any knowledge of the fields at all, but we still learned a ton of stuff that city kids don’t know just from listening to him for 45 minutes. And we saw a bald eagle. Check.

A Bald Eagle. These things are beautiful. It opened it's beak and went "America!"

A Bald Eagle. These things are beautiful. It opened it's beak and went "America!"

What had taken Jonny so long is that he was trying to get his bike together. He has the luxury of owning one of the last bikes every produced by Johnny Cycles. All of his components though, were hastily borrowed from friends. While he cooked dinner, Josh’s brother Noah gave us a tour of the farm equipment. He had no idea how to give a tour, but it was OK, because we had no idea what we were looking at. He ended up giving us a spectacular explanation of some of the 100+ pieces of equipment they use to manage their farm.

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By the time we finished eating, it was nearly 11, and we’d added 220 miles to our total. It was time to pass out. The next morning, just like any other day, we got ready to ride.

Josh, Jonny, QAK

Josh, Johnny, QAK

The whole point of the previous photo was to have us in front of a tractor, but it turned out that you couldn't see the tractor at all. This one is from the 40's.

The whole point of the previous photo was to have us in front of a tractor, but it turned out that you couldn't see the tractor at all. This one is from the 40's.

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