When we returned to the States we put a poll on the website and asked our readers what they’d like to see us do next. The majority of you voted for us to get back on the road (you people are insatiable!). Many voted for us to come sleep on your floor. We’re happy we accommodated a few of you in our road trips (sorry about the ring in the tub). Some voted for more photos of tacos (see below). To the six people who voted that we should get jobs…perhaps a travel blog is not your thing.
The people have spoken, and we liked what they had to say. We’re heading back out on the road. On August 21st, we’re flying to Europe. We’ll be there for three months. A short tour by our standards, we’ll be back for Thanksgiving dinner. Our anticipated route will take us through Norway and Sweden, then south through Poland and Germany, and then into the Austrian/Swiss/French/Italian Alps. Stay tuned for fjords, vikings, the Rhine River Valley, pierogis, beer and sausages, castles, mountains, and probably a bit of snow.
After being away for two years we had a lot of catching up to do when we got back. We’ve spent the last couple of months with friends and family. It was nice to be “home” for a while. The happiness we felt when we were with our friends and family made us realize how much we really did miss everyone.
But when it was only us, it felt weird. I thought I would be able to sit down and articulate how if felt to return to the States, but here we are in August and I haven’t put it to paper. I’ve tried, but the words to describe it are always just out of reach. Being back didn’t feel quite right, like if all your shoes were suddenly a half-size too small. You remember them being comfortable, and you can squash your feet into them if you try, but at the end of the day you can’t wait to take them off. You may wish that they still fit. But they don’t. And deep down you know it’s not the shoes, it’s you.
We’re asked quite often where we consider “home”. I put it in quotes because we don’t really identify any particular place as home, perhaps that’s at the root of our feelings about being back. We probably felt most at home when we went back out on the road, this time borrowing Scott’s gram’s 1998 purple Plymouth Breeze and took a road trip from Baltimore to Vermont to Texas (we always go north before we go south). People had little faith in the car making it back. We’re not sure if this had more to do with the vehicle’s age or the fact that we hadn’t driven much in over two years. After watching the world go by at 10mph, ol’ Nelly felt like a speed machine.
We stayed busy though, occupying ourselves with this and that. Sometimes Scott would ride the lawnmower towing me around in a wagon while wearing deer antlers strapped to our helmets.
Here we are keepin’ it real in the ‘burbs:
*This is a congratulations video we made for our friend, Leah, when she arrived in Ushuaia. YOLO!
I ran a 51 mile ultra marathon. That’s like running two marathons, back-to-back. At this point, I can’t remember why that seemed like a good idea. All I know is one month after reaching Ushuaia I found myself at a start line, before sunrise, knowing that my training amounted to less than the race distance. Sure, all that biking was good, but it helps to at least have broken in your sneakers before the event.
So how does running 51 miles compare to riding 20,000 on a bike? Mentally, it’s easier than a week out on the Peruvian Pampa. I just had to convince myself that it would all be over in a few hours and I’d have a nice bath and comfy bed to crawl into. Physically, it hurt WAY worse than any day on the bike. At some point in the race two toenails fell off. I didn’t know this until afterwards when I removed my shoes, because I couldn’t feel my toenails peeling off over the pain that came from deep in the marrow of my aching bones. Everything, and I mean everything, was telling me to stop, and that this was in fact my best, worst idea ever. I was told this by many people beforehand and at the risk of proving these people (i.e. the husband) right, I had to finish.
I can say with some authority that the best part of running an ultra marathon is crossing the finish line and knowing it’s over. It’s such a euphoric feeling maybe that’s reason enough to run one. I include this here not so much for our readers, but as a reminder to myself, this is one thing I don’t necessarily need to experience twice.
As much as we thought we’d have it all figured out by the time we reached Ushuaia, we returned to the States without a clue what we wanted to do next. For the past couple of months we’ve been brainstorming, trying to decide what we want to do, where we want to go, or if we want to go anywhere, maybe we’re done traveling for a while. When the world is your proverbial oyster, it can be a bit overwhelming to even pick a continent.
But after a few months, as the calluses on our arses disappeared, so did the novelty of being back. The realities of life-in-one-place set in and we started dreaming again. We never did stop scanning the roadside for hidden places to camp, even when we were riding in the car. Or noting the wind direction and speed, when it was inconsequential. I missed tracking the phase of the moon and being aware of the precise moment of sunset and sunrise. I missed sleeping outside, the pulsing rhythm of the sounds of nature, the starry night sky. I missed being connected to our place and space.
We will chronicle the European adventure on our WanderWheels website, but in a different format. On our tour of the Americas we published a daily journal, an intimate account of our day-to-day lives on the road. It was a tremendous amount of effort, but I’m glad we did it. It is my favorite souvenir. I found it cathartic to write about experiences that at times bordered on the extreme. Writing forced us to process and make sense of our experiences; the beautiful, the challenging, and the mundane. If nothing else, it demonstrated that every day has a story.
We interrupt this program with a word from our sponsors.
For our European tour we’ll publish summaries, more like photo-essays, rather than a daily journal. We’re leaving behind the laptop, phone and GPS. Electronics will be limited to our cameras and a small tablet. Because of this we will not be updating the website in real-time, but will upload our photos when we return in November. If you would like to receive an email when we publish entries, then subscribe at the top right-hand side of this page. While we travel we will periodically put photos and updates on our WanderWheels Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WanderWheels). The page is open so you do not need to have an account with Facebook to see the updates, just copy and paste the address into a web browser.
We’re excited to start this next leg of our bikepacking adventure. If you were with us in spirit on our previous tour, we invite you to sign our guestbook post. A huge thank you to everyone who has, we really do appreciate hearing from you! Aside from appeasing our curiosity for Who on Earth is reading this?!, the heartfelt notes that you have left are like hugs for our soul. What started out as just a record for ourselves has grown into a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.
Enjoy the ride!