Petunia is stretched out on the foot of the cozy bed in a little hotel in Savannah, Georgia tonight. She’s breathing peacefully, tipped belly-up, after another long day of playing with her soft little lamb squeaker, eating snacks and kibbles, snoozing, and travelling many miles across two state lines. But this time, she hasn’t been riding in the dog pod on the bicycle. Instead, our faithful two-wheeler is strapped to the back of our fully-loaded car. We’re on a tour of another variety this year. Just about all of our earthly possessions (including all of Tunes’s beloved outfits and toys) have been packed into my car, and we headed south out of Connecticut about a week ago, stopping to visit friends and couch surfing with strangers in states and cities previously unseen, seeking adventure, planning shorter-term bike tours and excursions and, ultimately, making our way across the country yet again to settle somewhere new. For now, anyway.
Before I begin recounting some of our new tales, I suppose I should comment on the end of the 2015 Northern Tier tour. I stopped writing for no particular reason about after having a wonderful stay at the unforgettable Bicycle Bunkhouse in Minnesota. The TL;DR version of the end of that summer-long tour: I rode to North Dakota, and then did some hitchhiking to bypass the incredibly hot, flat, treeless Badlands. Cycled off and on through Montana, fell in love with the singing cowboys and cowgirls in Great Falls, was wooed by the boundless natural beauty of Glacier National Park, scored some beautiful campsites, met some amazing WarmShowers hosts and friends, and eventually reached the coast of Oregon at Seaside. From there, I caught a lift into Portland, where I stayed and became enamored with the city. My days were spent in a summery bliss: I day-cycled to redolent rose gardens, pedaled to bustling dog parks, hit the zany food trucks, volunteered for the WAVE Foundation (Women Against Violence Everywhere), pitched in at a local organic brewing festival, and explored scenic campgrounds and stunning mountain views with previous-bike-tour friends.
I forged deeper connections that held me happily in Portland for almost a month, but my Rose City relocation dreams were deferred after I ended my tour and returned to New Jersey briefly. Happily, and with thanks to all of the generous supporters of the 2015 fundraiser part of the cross-country trip, we sent a check for $1,277 to GearingUp, and they sent us a very sweet thank-you letter. We’d hoped to get down to Philly to ride with the women in the program and some of the staff, but we were sadly unable to make our schedules match. By late fall, life’s tortuous path led me back to my home state of Connecticut in the fall, where I stayed for a couple of months. The winter there was not brutal, but quite cold, and I spent too much time alternately shut inside or getting windbeaten and weathered on the sub-zero nights I spent stargazing. But during those months, I heard my heart dreaming again and decided it was time to find roots and roads elsewhere. I gave away most of what I owned, fit the essentials (and then some) into a new-to-me ’04 station wagon that I hoped would withstand my plans for it, kissed ma and pa goodbye, and headed south with my best buddy.
First, we spent a couple of days visiting a dear friend in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Dawn and her effusively excitable and heartily muscled dog Olive welcomed us to the home city of James Madison University. Tunes and I got back on the bike to gleefully spin around the campus, feeling fresh and new as giddy freshmen. We took our time in the freshly blooming arboretum, decadently dined alfresco for the first time in 2016, and I experienced the deliciousness of local beer and made acquaintances with some nice folks who wanted to meet the little dog in the bike basket. Aside from cycling, I spent time working on some consulting projects, which my incredibly cool boss had allowed me to continue to do remotely to support myself during my new phase of wanderlust. Dawn’s envious collection of books and movies also occupied my time, and I even reveled in a couple of academic experiences on campus. I got attend a talk by a distinguished English department professor after another prof’s reading of an excerpt from his new novel, and caught a documentary on misogyny in the media in a lecture hall with fussy computer technology. Tunes got to do some trail running with me at the local park, and plenty of dodging of Olive’s ebullient jump-stomping that served as her socially awkward entreaty to play play play! Play now, please play, play with me!.
After a few happy days out of the car, we buckled up and continued south to Asheville, North Carolina, a hipped out town that I’ve always wanted to see firsthand. We certainly have some stories from that trip… so the blog and the travels shall continue as Touring Tunes sojourns on!