Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poland to Portugal: How Far? How Many?

Here’s the recap from the Europe leg of our Bicycle Geography Adventure…

Days on the Continent/Days Pedaling: 106/62
Distance Covered: 3,625 km
Hours Pedaling: 244.5
Avg Speed: 15.0 kph
Longest Day: Beziers to Perpignan 104 km
Incidents: 2 (one angry driver in Croatia, one accident in the Alps)

Countries Visited: 9 – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France,
Spain, Portugal
Languages Attempted: Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, French,
Spanish, Portuguese

Favorite Country: Croatia (CK), Croatia/Portugal (LK)
Favorite Food: Anything at a tapas bar (CK), croissants (LK and only the ones in France)
Best Beer: Zlaty Bazant – Slovakia

Europe was fantastic for bicycle touring. The continent is full of amazing scenery and interesting culture. Despite the language barriers, we found the interactions with the locals to be quite friendly. We weren’t rock stars as we were in Laos, but we got plenty of smiles and waves.
Although the US Dollar is weaker than the Euro, there are many deals to be found. If you’re into camping and self-catering you can live quite well.
We found roads and highways to be in great condition and drivers are used to bicyclists. In fact, most towns and cities were full of people pedaling.

Stay tuned for the entire trip recap…


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thank You

Without a long introduction or philosophic statement, we’d like to give out many thanks to many people.

To our family and friends at home – thank you for your love, support, and encouragement. Your belief in our journey gave us great strength.

To our new friends on the road – thank you for sharing your time with us. You gave us food, shelter, great conversation, and friendship. The universe brought us together and we will never forget you.

To our blog readers – thank you for taking an interest in our journey. You have made us feel special. We have had great fun sharing our thoughts and adventures.

To our sponsors – thank you for your partnership. Your investment in this grassroots project kept us traveling in the right direction (dry, warm, satiated, organized, lubed, rolling, and fully charged).

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." -- Melody Beattie

LK and CK

Friday, November 21, 2008

Travel Circus

Day: 422
Lisbon to Denver
Time: 26 hours

Like any circus you have seen there are big tops, strong men, big men, and the freaks. The only thing missing were the animals, but there was one bird that made a brief appearance.
We caught our early taxi from the hotel to the airport. Traveling with boxed bikes can be a little bulky at times, but with a crazed cabbie and short ride to the airport those weren’t a problem. The cabbie just shoved them in the back and left the hatch open. Leslie spent the first part of the day hanging onto the bikes making sure they didn’t fly out in a roundabout. Thankfully traffic was light that early in the day and the cabbie didn’t have to goose it too much. Once at the airport we somehow got on the same schedule as the ‘pushy’ couple. You know the ones who have to first in line and argue with the ticket agents? They even bossed us on how to run the elevator. Fun beginning to the day. We got a little brekkie at the airport and enjoyed our last cup of Café com leite (½ strong coffee + ½ hot milk). The flight to Frankfurt was mostly spent sleeping so it went quickly. Our layover was short and after 45 minutes of hanging out at the gate we boarded the plane for the long haul. I managed to get behind a guy who had to have his seat leaned back all the way, but as luck would have it there was an open seat on the other side of Leslie next to a nice little Polish Grandma. There was no one in front of me so all was well. About an hour into the flight a guy further up decided that he needed to move and took the seat in front of me. He also leaned it all the way back, but he didn’t last too long in that seat since I placed a knee in his back. He ended up moving several more times throughout the flight, eventually settling in the crew member section on final landing. That flight was spent catching up on movies, eating and napping very little. We finally got into Chicago, where we flew through customs only to get snagged in one of the slowest security lines I have encountered. I love the European style of security; quick, dirty and usually accompanied with a heavily armed guard. We finally got to our gate and lined up with all the other folks. The Chicago to Denver flight was full to the brim with the overheads stuffed beyond belief. I am sure that the flight crews love the charge for checked baggage. There were people in line with big suitcases that intended to carry them on. We finally got settled, got some last minute repair work done on the plane, and vroom off down the runway we went. The kicker was right when we got airborne there was a bang, flash of light and smell of smoke. The pilot turned to plane around and we got a priority emergency landing. We were even met by a fire truck or two to make sure the left engine wasn’t on fire. The official report was that a bird had flown or gotten sucked into the engine on takeoff. The airline handled it all very well and we taxied back to the terminal where we jumped off and got on another plane. We took off a little while later and that flight was nice and uneventful.
We touched down, got our bags and bikes, hustled out to meet the car and off we went. We are a little tired, but did manage to get a good night sleep. The rest of the day will be spent unpacking, checking our pile of mail (3 months worth) and sleeping. Travel is always great while you are on the road, it is the set up and take down that is the wearing part.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The End is Just the Beginning

Day 421

In the beginning we approached the planning of our trip like writing a business plan. As rigid as that seems, it gave us some boundaries to work with. Here are some definitions that helped us to define those boundaries:

Bicycle Geography: The study of the world and all that’s in it (people, places and time) from the seat of a two-wheeled, human powered machine.

Commitment – engagement and involvement

Trust – belief and confidence in the reality, truth and goodness of a person or thing

Adventure – participation in bold and exciting undertakings or endeavors

Humility – having an unassuming nature

Wonder – a state of mind created by something unexpected or extraordinary

I remember many days where I recited those values in my head. It was mostly just a way to keep myself in context, going forward in the direction of the goal. I guess it worked.
Sitting here, writing this blog from Portugal, I laugh at the thought of our first day out in New Zealand. We didn’t really know what we had gotten ourselves into. I think that was a good thing – it made the humility and wonder part all the better.

See you next time on home soil,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Day 419


We want to give out some props to some bicycle people in Portugal. Thanks to Blue Coast Bikes and Loja de Bicicletas.

Blue Coast was kind enough to help us with route and transportation ideas into Lisbon. Without them we might still be trying to ride across the city (we’ve been here for two days now).

Loja de Bicicletas hooked us up with some bomber boxes. They deal in Cannondale, Rocky Mountain, Mondraker, and KTM. Loja’s shop also had that great shop oil smell. It’s kind of like new car smell only better.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just Wanted to Let You Know

Day 418
Setubal to Lisbon
Time: A little riding and a lot of train
Distance: 58.3 km
Avg Speed: 43.5 kph (that’s the train)
Terrain: Flat
Location: N 38˚ 45’ 32.7”, E 09˚ 09’ 10.9”

After 418 days on the ‘road’ I have to come clean. We haven’t left Leslie’s parents basement in over a year. The whole blog and picture thing was made up. It was all fabricated off the internet. The stories from the road were made up with the help of Lonely Planet books. All the photos with us in them were photo shopped.
There, I now have a clean conscience.
On a happier note, Leslie and I just finished riding our bikes around the world. I know that we did ride a train today, but it was in between two riding sections. Where did we celebrate our achievement…McDonald’s of course!!
We are both blind to the fact that we just finished a long sought after dream. I would imagine that in a day or two we will realize that we ‘nuked our foundation’ and have a much different life to return to. The beauty of that is the fact that we are much different people. Sometime, somewhere along the way we both changed. It wasn’t a wake up different change (although some mornings it felt like it), it was a gradual change. We knew we would, we just weren’t sure how much. I don’t think either one of us is sure how much we have.
Right now our priorities are finding a laundromat, finding some boxes for the bikes and doing a little souvenir shopping. I think that the Laundromat may be the hardest one. The nice thing is we have some clothes that are so worn and smelly that they won’t be getting a ride back home with us.
Lisbon isn’t where we thought we would be 416 days ago, or even a month ago. Us being flexible with the weather along with our refusal to ride in the cold brought us here. Not much did go according to our little blueprint we hammered out before we left. I think that our relationship came through the stresses and triumphs with strength and grace. I attribute that to my fellow traveler and partner in crime. I have come to know that wherever I am in the world, I am always home as long as Leslie is at my side (or pulling me through a headwind).

Loving being loved.

The Power of Bicycles

Day 417

The main event of the day was finding the train station and working out the logistics of getting to Lisbon. After our hard fought battle to get to Seville we are reverting back to our habit of thorough transportation planning. After talking to the guy at the ticket window we are ready for another adventure in a big city. Hopefully we’ll have nothing interesting to report.
Our visit to the train station sparked a spirited conversation as we walked to our next stop. We discussed the combination of bicycles, public transportation, and our experiences throughout the trip. We’ve been able to travel with our bicycles on trains and ferries relatively easily (except for Spain). We also chatted about the utility of the two-wheeled machine and the possibilities it has beyond a recreational capacity. We’ve seen plenty of practical use here in Europe but not enough in the US.
Consider the following (fine graphics are available on the World Bicycle Relief Webpage):

During a commuting day of 10 miles traveled, a bicycle saves 3 hours.
Walking – 2.5 miles per hour
Bicycling – 10 miles per hour
Riding a bicycle increases one's capacity by 5 times.
As time increases, effort to travel increases. Riding a bicycle requires less effort, allowing one to travel farther in less time.
Over equal units of time, one can ride a bicycle 4 times the distance as one walking.

After waving our righteous fingers, we came to a conclusion. As fuel prices remain high and people are looking for ways to save money, the bicycle is a very viable means of transport. To that end, it is very important that public transportation compliments the choice of traveling by bicycle.
All of that came from finding out that our bikes travel for free on the train tomorrow.

So, where did we go after the train station? We visited the Igreja de Jesus, a late Gothic church built with the Manueline architectural style. The church was in a very natural state – not pristine, but not in shambles. The pillars of the church were very unique compared to anything I’ve seen in all of Europe. The design is very ornate while the stone is very rustic. Each column twists from floor to ceiling and provides an interesting contrast to the tile mosaics that line the church walls. The structure is apparently the first to use this particular style and we’ll be looking for more buildings in Lisbon for comparison.

Have a good weekend,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Things and Old Things

Day: 416
Grândola to Setubal
Time: 2:52
Distance: 47.2 km
Avg Speed: 16.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 38 30' N, 08 58' W

We slept through our alarms this morning. The bed was too warm, and the heavy curtains were keeping out just enough light to fool us. We still made it to the free brekkie before the rest of the guests. Just enough time to drink all the coffee and eat the croissants. We both thought that the croissants are the best ones we have had since France. On a total side note, today is Prince Charles’ 60th birthday. There was a party and the royal cavalry even did a 41 gun salute at his precise birth time. The salute was a request of the queen. I love BBC News.
The riding today was pretty straightforward. The road we needed was off the main roundabout in Grândola and after that it was point it straight and go. Even though the road was a back road on the map it turned into a truck route. The truckers were all nice and waited for oncoming traffic to pass and didn’t buzz us on blind corners. Part of the ride today was along a narrow spit of sand that led to our only water crossing of the day. Leslie wanted to swim it, but I talked her into taking a ferry. We know the game when it comes to ferry boats and after waiting our turn with the cars we were allowed to jump the line and go to the front of the boat. The crossing went quickly and I was able to pass the little time by watching the fishermen lining the beach.
Setubal reminded us both of the waterfront in Hobart, Tasmania. The old classic buildings tumble down the hill to the waterfront where they are met by the wharfs and piers servicing all the ships that port here. We quickly found a nice place to stay and took a little rest before heading out. Our first order of business was internet and the best place for that is…McDonald’s!! They didn’t have internet, but they did have fries and a coke. From there we went to the library where they did have internet along with a huge display of Marxism and Chè Guevara. We have noticed a lot of bill boards and signs for the Portuguese Communist Party. Last night we even stayed across the street from the district HQ. We left the library in the dark and found our way back into our neighborhood. The locals were out and the roasted chestnut vendors were on every corner. Neither of us had ever had them so we parted with a few Euro and got a bag. WOW! They are really good. We both may get our own bag tomorrow night. Trying new things only leads to dead ends (or belly aches) once in a great while. Most of the time you are left with a smile on your face and new understanding of the things that make life tick.
Tick tock, tick tock

Friday, November 14, 2008


Day: 415
Cercal to Grândola
Time: 3:59:00
Distance: 54.7
Avg Speed: 14.7
Terrain: Hills
Location: N 38˚ 10’ 31.8”, 08˚ 34’ 4.1” W

Man, I’m getting tired. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are on day 415 and 9,500+ kilometers into the trip or if my body just knows the end is near. Fatigue has been setting in around lunchtime and we usually have a couple of more hours to go before the day is done. Perhaps it has something to do with the weeklong break we took recently. Chris equated it to running a car for three months, turning it off, and now it doesn’t want to start again. With one or two more days to go, I think we can muster up the last little bit of energy. I just keep telling myself to be present and enjoy the last bit of pedaling. Soon enough we’ll be home facing the winter months and no regular rides to depend on.
We had another peaceful ride through the undulating cork groves today. I enjoyed examining all of the twisted branches of the trees with no leaves. I’ve become quite fascinated with these oaks. I also tried to soak up the atmosphere; blue skies, rural landscape, and smiling locals. Most people will give a wave if you give them a nod. I’ve had such a good feeling from most rural people across Europe, but the Portuguese are special. I don’t know what it is exactly, but they just have this quiet confidence about them.
And so we come to the eve of the last day riding. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we prepare for the last day of a big ride. I’d like to think that we have many more adventures with bicycles ahead of us. It will probably be a day of reflection and I’m sure we’ll share our thoughts here. You’ll probably get tired of us philosophizing in the next week or so. I’m finding that it’s hard not to think about what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and how life has changed. My mom shared a quote with me yesterday in an email. Apparently it was something that I wrote down when I was in college. Ironically it’s something that puts our trip into perspective.

"Presence: Success is a matter of desire, failure is a matter of excuses. Strength is building a road of dreams into the future, but still following it when weakness arises. And nothing happens unless the mind has presence."

Until tomorrow,


Day: 414
Odeceixe to Cercal
Time: 4:04
Distance: 54.8 km
Avg Speed: 13.2 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 48’ 3.2”, W 08˚ 40’ 20.0”

In case you haven’t read it, or haven’t heard of it there is a great book called The Alchemist. It is about dreams, love, the world and the little signposts along the way pointing you where to go. I don’t know if I have mentioned it before or not, if I have forgive me.

Today we had our own little alchemy of the world. We both fell in love with our little lady at the Casa da Celeste pension. She treated us great, gave us the run of the place and gave us coffee until we were jittery with caffeinated tension. She also didn’t speak a word of English and I think the only Portuguese we spoke to her was good morning and thank you. It didn’t matter because we understood each other perfectly and carried on conversations as if we were speaking the same language. After rolling out (still in a haze of caffeine) we started our first climb of the day. The headwind had gone unnoticed until then and we both remarked that the terrain, the scenery and the wind was very reminiscent of New Zealand. We both agreed that New Zealand was hard for us, but that it being hard made the rest of our trip a lot easier. We fought the headwind for about 30 km (along with hills, hills and more hills) where we passed a couple of blokes from Brisbane, Australia heading the opposite direction. They were enjoying our headwind (for it was a strong tailwind for them) and were on their way down to the southern coast. The were 3 days into their 3 month tour and we laughed since we had about 3 days left in ours. They were planning on hugging the coast all the way to Eastern Italy where they were going to fly home. It sounded like an awesome trip, and we wished them good luck as they were whisked off. I didn’t know if we were looking for parallels with everything today, or they were just there for us. We finally got to our lunch spot in a little town just off the coast called Villa Nova de Milfontes. Not much there except for a bridge, some holiday homes and a gas station. It was on the side of this gas station that we decided to take a break. Right when we sat down a big rig pulled up with a Portuguese license plate that read Pokemon. For those people not in the know that is Leslie’s old manager’s nickname. What was even better was the guy that came strolling up 10 seconds later wearing a tourist sweatshirt that said Colorado Springs on it. I was pretty sure we weren’t looking for parallels anymore, the signs were there for us. We have no idea what they meant, but they were there.
We jumped back on the bikes with a smile/smirk on our faces and headed off to our destination for the night. The gas station attendant at our lunch stop said that there were a few places to stay the night in Cercal so we headed off up the hill. The climb was long, but easy and took us through some of the thickest cork oak groves yet. We knew that we had found a good town to stay in when there were tractors on the road and in the roundabout along with all the other traffic.
Making gold out of what we got.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Culinary Wonderland

Day 413

“You can eat the whole thing; just don’t look at its eyes.” This comes from the server who sets the plate of grilled squid down in front of Chris. Chris nodded as he popped the first one in his mouth. Man, am I glad I ordered a pizza…

Portugal is full of surprises when it comes to gastronomy. It just goes to show that this little country has had a BIG impact throughout the world. For instance, did you know that the Japanese technique of deep frying food (called tempura) was actually introduced by Portuguese traders and missionaries? Wouldn’t you just assume that the curry-based favorite of vindaloo comes from India? Sort of; the hybrid of wine (vinho) and garlic (alho) sauce was developed by the Christian community in Portuguese Goa. At least now I know why we’ve seen so many Indian food restaurants.
It all sounds crazy until you think about the history of exploration that originated from this country. Vasco da Gama, the great explorer, opened the trade route to India. This paved the path for Portugal to become the wealthiest country in Europe in the late 1400s. By way of the Treaty of Tordesillas the country had divided the world in two with Spain. Portugal’s empire would influence and dominate the Orient. Can you say five spice powder? The prosperity of flavor was realized on the first expedition of de Gama when he brought back pepper. It was a small amount but enough to pay for three times the cost of the trip. Amazingly, the spice trade was something that was just as lucrative as the extraction of gold from Africa. In the financial times of today I think you could do better with precious metals rather than table condiments. Isn’t history cool?
Oh, I forgot to mention that marmalade is also a Portuguese original. We had some with breakfast this morning – it was even a little spicy…

Here’s to the world of food,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 412: Sagres to Odeceixe

Time: 4:00
Distance: 62.46 km
Avg Speed: 15.6 kph
Terrain: Hilly
Location: N 37˚ 25’ 56.9” E 08˚ 46’ 11.1”

Our stay at the pousada last night was kind of a random splurge on our giant ocean of nights on the road. The room was nice and tidy, the dinner was worthy of writing home about and this mornings breakfast was a sight for hungry eyes. We both were happy to have voluntarily wanted to stay there and were quite cheery as we got on the road this morning. Leslie started the day off by posing a question (she has become more and more philosophical the closer we get to going home). She asked ‘where do you wish we had gone that had planned to go and didn’t end up going and where do you wish we had gone and didn’t plan on going’. She didn’t want my answer right then, she wanted me to think about it. The first part of the question is easy; Vietnam. I think it has to do with being so close to its border and deciding to head home with a broken wheel in tow. Leaving Vietnam untouched worked out and we were able to have a nice summer in Colorado. The second part of the question was a little tougher and I don’t think I have come up with a definitive answer. Right now I am wavering on South America and the far north of Europe. At least I have it narrowed down to a planet.
With fodder to chew on we rode out of Sagres and north to Odeceixe. The landscape changed from the dessert-scape of the southern coast to eucalyptus forest with agriculture and cork tree groves sprinkled here and there. I finally did some reading about the cork industry here and found out that a cork oak has about a 150 year life span of harvesting. The first harvest of a tree’s bark usually doesn’t occur until the tree is about 20 years old, but after that it is harvested every 9 years or so. The cork taken off of older, more harvested trees is of higher quality and gets better money. The plastic cork revolution has taken its toll on the cork industry in Portugal, but the industry is looking into making cork a fashionable wine stopper once again. Feel free to wow your friends around the water cooler.
Leslie set a new all time record for photos shot on a riding day. Her rest day record is set high at around 150 photos, but today she was able to squeeze in 81 shots even with riding for 4 hours. Nice to see that she hasn’t slowed down.
We were warned that Odeceixe is a pretty sleepy little town in the off season. I think that sleepy is an understatement. The first two guesthouses we went into were wide open, but totally unmanned. Usually there is a sign saying help yourself and catch up with me later, but here there was nothing. Finally we were about to just sit at a café and wait awhile, but when I looked back up the street I saw a little lady waiving to me. I quickly walked up to her and she got us in to her place. I guess a little old man on his walk saw us step into her place and then saw us head down to the café. Not wanting his friend to miss out on business he went and found her and got us all straight. Sometimes it is nice to stand out like sore thumbs.
Standing bigger and better,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The End of the World

Day: 411
Lagos to Sagres
Time: 2:35:00
Distance: 37.8 kilometers
Avg Speed: 14.6 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 00’ 21.9” E 08˚ 56’ 3.0”

We arrived in Sagres today, one of the most southwestern points in Europe. Before the days of major exploration, it was thought that this was the far end of the world. A man named Henry the Navigator changed all of that when he settled in Sagres and created a school for navigation. He trained the likes of Magellan and Vasco da Gama and the rest, as they say, is history.

The day started with blue skies once again as we pedaled west. We had planned to ride a combination of highway and back roads. There was no hurry since we only had about 35 kilometers or so to our destination. About 30 minutes into the ride we turned toward the ocean and the little towns of Luz and Bergau. The first town was easy enough to navigate through. The second proved to be frustrating enough that Chris took over the duties of map reader. He’s been doing a bit of backseat pedaling and I decided that I couldn’t deal with it again today. There was no scene, no exchange of terse words, just a smile when I handed over the map. “I’ll follow you” I said calmly. Five minutes later we lost the pavement and a dirt road stretched out far into the distance. “Classic Kehmeier…” I thought to myself but uttered nothing to him. I was up for the adventure and it turned out to be a very scenic one. We rolled up and down the coast with ocean views the whole way. It was a nice respite before joining the highway again. The further from Lagos we went the less development we saw. Much of the coast is protected in this part of the Algarve and makes for some really spectacular bicycle touring.
Our ride was short and we rolled into town just after 1pm. We followed the sign to the pousada and parked our bicycles out front. Pousadas are government owned accommodation. They are very up market and offer the chance to stay in unique settings that reflect the character and history of the region. They were first built in the early 1940s so that people traveling would have a place to stay. Eventually, historic buildings were also converted and it was possible to stay in castles, mansions, and monasteries. We’ve had the full pousada experience today, right down to multiple course dinner with several changes of tableware. At one point Chris traded his two forks and two knives for three forks and three knives while I got one fork and a spoon. Even the server had a little trouble remembering what went where. Oh well, it wouldn’t be that memorable if we had known exactly what to do.
Tomorrow we make the turn to ride up the west coast. We’re on the homestretch and looking forward to savoring every minute.



Day: 410
Albufeira to Lagos
Time: 3:48
Distance: 60 km
Avg Speed: 15.8 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 05’ 42.1”, E 08˚ 40’ 28.4”

Portugal has reverted to its old ways for us. When we first arrived in the north it was warm and sunny. Since then a cold front had blown in and cooled things off a bit for not only Portugal, but most of Europe. Today we got back those clear sunny days with enough warmth to roll in a t-shirt. First thing we had to do before getting out of Albufeira was a little laundry though. The laundromat was on our way out of town so we stopped and did a load of wash. It is always nice to have a couple of clean items swimming in your pannier. Leslie watched the wash while I ran over to the grocery store to get some provisions for the day. We had been spoiled with refrigeration for a week and we really didn’t have anything road stable (or hot pannier proof). I timed my shopping perfect to coincide with the mad Saturday rush. I knew the layout of this store so I quickly got what I came for, but had a hard time finding the peanut butter. Peanut butter isn’t a big thing in Europe (or the rest of the world) but at most big markets you can usually find a jar or two. I was looking in all the aisles and paying more attention to the search rather than my surroundings. I stood up from looking down low when WHOOSH, something hit my little basket and spun me around. No voice, no look, nothing, just the back end of a little old lady rushing by me heading to the fish section. I took that as my cue to find that PB and get out of dodge before a whole gang of them came after me. I eventually found it and timed my arrival back at the laundry to help fold. We got on the road with the sun high and the temperature getting into the 70’s. The landscapes around us changed from busy resort towns, to agriculture lands with orange and lemon trees, to sleepy local towns still in the 1950’s, to large river estuaries teeming with birds and fishermen. We eventually located Lagos and eventually found a place to stay. This past week has by far been the longest break we have had this leg of our journey and both of us are feeling a little bit haggard tonight. Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice one and we are looking forward to getting back our bike legs.

ps - Happy Birthday to Makayla!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Once Upon a Time I Used to be a Climber

I’m sitting here in the lobby of our resort downloading the latest episode of CSI. My life may have been simplified but I still have a few vices. Anyway, while I wait for the file to transfer, I have been looking at photos on our Flickr photo web page. I stumbled across a bunch of photos from the spring and summer of last year. Apparently, I used to be a climber. I still am, I’ve just spent a little more time going across the horizontal than up the vertical in the last 14 months.
Viewing the photos made me realize that our journey started long before we touched down in Auckland, New Zealand. It actually started on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Longs Peak, and the Grand Teton. Some summits were successful while others were not. Every adventure was the beginning of our new way of life and it was a chance to spend time with some of the most important people in our lives. Now looking back I realize it was also preparation for the voyage we are now close to finishing. What they say is true; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Here’s to the clank of a carabiner and the sound of snow under crampons,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Geography Lesson: Portugal

Day 408

We’ve been in Portugal for ten days now and it’s probably about time to share some info. It’s the last country we will visit before returning home in a few weeks.
The southwestern-most country in Europe is definitely one of the most interesting. One might think that it is similar to its neighbor Spain. Surprisingly, Portugal is very unique and is proud to stand on its own.
In terms of the landscape, Portugal covers 92,000 sq kilometers of the Iberian Peninsula and is very diverse. With steep mountains in the north, dry plains in the central region and wetlands in the southeast, the country is home a full range of topography. We have certainly experienced the hilly aspect of the interior on our route from Beja south to the Algarve coast.
Economically, Portugal is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Most of the population works in agriculture while tourism is the largest industry. Lisbon has the lowest cost of living for any European capital city. From a traveler’s perspective, Portugal has so far been one of the best values.
Portugal joined the EU in 1986 and is governed by a parliamentary democracy. It gained its independence in 1140 and includes the autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores.
Here are some more interesting facts:
Population: 10.6 million (2007)
Major Language: Portuguese (300 million people world wide speak this language)
Number of bicycles produced in 2007: 900,000
Coastline: 1,793 kilometers
Major exports: textiles, port wine, over 50% of the worlds wine corks

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Condo Livin’

Day: 403
Faro to Albufeira

Time: 1:52:00
Distance: 32.0 km
Avg Speed: 17.1 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 05’ 36.1”, E 08˚ 12’ 22.7”

“And there’s an immersion blender!” This exciting quote comes from Chris who was discovering the kitchen before he even got his bags in the door. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what you use an immersion blender for - I’m just the dishwasher.

We had a short ride today to Albufeira (Albu-fayra) and a one week rest. After almost 3,400 kilometers we are starting to experience the law of diminishing returns. I guess maybe your legs do get a bit tired after riding your bicycle for over a year. Ha ha.
Our new accommodation is quite a treat. We don’t have to cook, eat, and clean in the same room. We don’t have to watch tv from bed and… we have couches! Don’t get me wrong, all of our lodging has been very nice, but having all of this space is quite a luxury.
The agenda for the next week has little to nothing on it. We’ll need to plan the last part of our route and do laundry. Other than that we’ll probably just check out the area, get caught up with family and friends, and find the best cafe. There’s even talk of another scooter rental. I wonder what color helmets they have in Portugal…

Here’s to fractional ownership,

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kenny and the Ninja

Day: 402
Vila Real de Santo Antonia to Faro
Time: 3:43
Distance: 57.4 km
Avg Speed: 15.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 01’ 9.1”, E 07˚ 56’ 14.5”

Last nights destination definitely won the longest name on the trip award. Most of the road signs just shortened it to VRS Antonio. I bet they would have to add a little bit of signage to get the whole lot on there. Most lodging in Portugal has provided breakfast and this morning was no exception. We thought we had really hit the jackpot when we found scrambled eggs to go along with the usual bread and coffee. We fueled up (I may have fueled up a little too much…I was really excited about the eggs) and got on the road just in time for the wind to pick up and the moisture to roll in. The moisture never really developed and we were able to dodge rain drops most of the day. We donned rain gear once, but it turned out to be a false alarm so all we did was sweat in it. The wind never really subsided and we encountered strong, steady headwinds most of the day. The riding was pretty mellow even though it was through coastal development most of the time. We even got caught in a traffic jam in a small town and being too wide to fit in between all the cars and the curb we had to wait our turn like everyone else. After we got through the traffic we stopped for a potty stop at McDonald’s. I now think that Leslie knows where they all are and times them for potty/lunch spots. We now have hit a McDonald’s in every Western European country. I am not sure if I should be bragging about that little feat. They do have them in Eastern Europe as well, we just managed to avoid the timing and temptation. We got to Faro shortly thereafter and staying true to our city experience we got lost. We finally found the lodging area of town and got settled in. It was Leslie’s turn to cook tonight so we headed out for a nice little dinner near our place. The national passion in Portugal is fish, so that is what we had. Leslie opted for prawns the size of my arm and I decided on Dorado the size of my face. Fully bloated but wanting more we ordered dessert and coffee. We think we got decaf-espressos with dinner, but I am pretty awake right now. It could be the sugar coma from dessert though. We head off to a week long break tomorrow and I think we are both looking forward to it. The coast here is beautiful and it is easy to see why it is so developed.
The title of the blog pertains to our Halloween outfits for today. See if you can tell who is Kenny and who is the Ninja. Happy Halloween (and Happy Birthday to me!!)!!!!!