How it's Going


The Route to Minneapolis and Beyond

When we discovered Highway 61 was closed to Red Wing, Minnesota, it was all hands on deck. The detour through the hills on narrow roads with all the diverted traffic didn’t rock our boat. We called a bicycle shop owner who suggested we cross back into Wisconsin and ride on their highway. We spoke with Corey, (the inn manager), about putting a sign up that said – cyclists need a ride through the detour – will pay. Corey, (who told us his mother named him after Corey Hart, Corey Feldman and Corey Hiam), did us one better by posting our request on Wabasha’s online community forum. Within 30 minutes, Pat received a text from Brenda, asking about our bicycles and our panniers.  “I’ll take you up the road in the morning, provided your bicycles fit in the back of my Honda Pilot,” she said.

And just like that, Brenda arrived in the morning and we stashed our bicycles into her vehicle. It was all so easy. Along the way, we learned that Brenda is the co-owner of the Hopping Girl Brewery, runs a bed and breakfast and serves as a travel consultant. She’s definitely a go-getter with plenty of energy. When Brenda dropped us off in Hastings, Minnesota, it was around noontime with temperatures in the mid-80s.  Our destination that day was Minneapolis. The pavement was hot and there was little shade for miles. We rode through the 3M complex in Cottage Grove and eventually made our way to the outskirts of St. Paul, while dodging sidewalk and road construction projects. From there, we had a pleasant ride through many of St Paul’s trails and parks, all the while assuming Minneapolis was just a few miles further. Two hours and 15 miles later, we arrived on the University of Minnesota campus. We were thirsty and light-headed, having neglected to eat anything all afternoon.

“Let’s take a day off and explore Minneapolis before we cycle north,” Pat suggested. We did, walking several miles around the city through the sculpture garden, the flour mill ruins and the main thoroughfares. It was downtown Thursdays, something the city has initiated to bring workers back to the city and out of their home offices. As in other cities, much of downtown is empty of businesses and offices; the aftermath of the pandemic. We did have a bit of fun playing a creative game of miniature golf that had been set up on the street.

After a lovely meal and some brews at the Town Hall Brewery, we got back to planning the rest of our route. After studying the mileage and the calendar, we learned that the train station, where we planned to board the train back to Chicago, would not allow our bicycles on because it’s an unmanned station. This is something I suppose we might have checked months earlier. Our options were getting dicey; perhaps we should ride to St. Paul and take the train back to Chicago and do some more riding around Illinois. But, then we found a private car company that would take us to Brainerd, Minnesota, at the beginning of the Paul Bunyan Trail. With enough stamina, we could ride several 50-mile days, cycle the Paul Bunyan up to Bemidji and back to Brainerd, and then cycle back to St. Paul. It sounded quite challenging but we were up for it.

“Do you want the bigger or smaller van for your bicycles?” the owner of the car service asked. It’s $315 for the smaller or $350 for the larger vehicle. “We’ll take the smaller vehicle,” Pat said, fully confident because our bicycles had fit in Brenda’s SUV without issues.

Bill, our driver, arrived in the morning, in a jacket and tie with muffins for us. He opened the hatchback and Pat attempted to place his bicycle inside.  It didn’t fit. “Let’s take the front wheels off,” Pat said. My front wheel easily came off but Pat was having no luck with his bicycle.  When he finally was able to loosen it, the axle cracked.  We jumped in the car, regardless. All three of us assumed we could easily find a replacement part at a bicycle shop on the way north.

That was when our journey came to a screeching halt. Not one bicycle shop on our way north  had the axle he needed and we didn’t have the days needed to wait for an order to arrive. I texted my friend Kris, now frantic. “Rent a U-Haul and drive back to your daughter’s home in Chicago,” she suggested.  And we did, giving up our dream of seeing the blue ox. It was tough and we were distraught.  I figure that savings of $35 on the smaller van, cost us an extra $1500 that day. Another learning. Pat called a bicycle dealership in Lisle, Illinois – that is a Jamis dealer. They had the replacement axle in stock.

For a few more days, we will make our way around the multiple trails in the Chicago suburbs before heading home to Waitsfield.

Follow us as we spin our wheels,

Shevonne and Pat





Decorah, the ten mile climb and river hopping

Decorah was hosting their Pride Week when we arrived. On Thursday night, we carried lawn chairs to town, ordered drinks and sat outside on a local street to play Pride trivia. Corey and Kyra’s team, is named Sexy Neighbor and they often have a circle of 10 people in their group. Unlike our trivia in the Mad River Valley, it’s all done with an app.

As we walked into town Friday morning we spied our former orange cat, Lucky, in the school playground. Two little girls were petting him. Twelve years ago, we agreed to send Lucky with Corey and Kyra when they left Vermont. Lucky found himself a new community and every day he visits the children before the beginning of the school day.We were told that there is one playground rule about Lucky.  He’s not allowed to be taken down the slide. 

Pat’s bicycle needed a new wheel. The local bicycle shop, Decorah Bicycles, did an outstanding job – the part was ordered on Friday morning from Minnesota and his bicycle was good to go by Saturday afternoon.

Kyra, our daughter-in-law, led swing dance instruction on the main street Friday evening for the annual sock hop. Several young people practiced the swing dance steps.  Pat and I also had the chance to catch up with Laura and Randy Hashman, our Cedar Falls Warm Showers hosts from two years ago. When they learned we were going to be Iowa once again, they brought their camper up. We spent Friday and Saturday evenings feasting and sharing stories with them. It was wonderful to see them once again. 

While we were in Decorah, Corey and Kyra assisted us in making some additional bicycle and camping equipment repairs. We toured the Porter House one block up their street; the former owners never needed to work. Instead they traveled through several countries collecting artifacts,  butterflies and insects. Closer to home, they collected rocks and used them to create a unique rock wall around their property.

Corey offered to give us a ride into Harmony, Minnesota, the beginning of a lengthy bicycle trail, and we agreed because none of the roads out of Decorah looked very appealing. We had cycled the same trail two years ago. We stopped in Lanesboro  to get groceries at what was the local organic market; alas it is now cannabis only.  We stopped to talk with a woodworker in Peterson, who makes beautiful tables, bought groceries in Rushford, and continued cycling to Houston. Once again, we stayed at a primitive campsite there. When the sun disappeared, the temperatures turned chilly and it was tough to sleep in our lightweight bags (though this time we do have a liner).  It was 44 degrees when we woke up and the fog didn’t lift until 10 a.m.  We climbed  over ten miles out of Houston and toward the Mississippi River at La Crescent, MN.

From there, we determined it was better to cross into Wisconsin because it offered the Great River trail (a dirt path next to the Mississippi River.  Hence, we crossed the Mississippi into La Crosse, WI. That was our second time across the river. The Great River Trail was once a railroad. We had spectacular views of the river as we cycled north. In the town of Trempealeau, we called it quits for the day. Forty three miles had been plenty. The Little Bluff Inn had one room left and we grabbed it. The motel owner suggested we get a drink at Cat Daddy’s by the river because of the excellent view and also that we try Sullivan’s restaurant for dinner because it was Manic Monday; night of a free bottle of wine.  She said both were too far to cycle to but that we could borrow her golf cart to go to Cat Daddy’s and that Sullivan’s would shuttle us to dinner and back to the motel. And that’s exactly what we did.

After a yummy yogurt parfait and another espresso in Trempealeau, we put our wheels back on the Great River Trail north until we reached a wildlife refuge, and cycled around it until we landed on Highway 35 and then on a bicycle trail across the Mississippi once again to Minnesota.  After sharing a black and blue salad in Winona, we steered toward  Prairie Island, a national wildlife refuge, eventually finding ourselves on Highway 61, a four lane highway. There was no other choice -14 miles of fast vehicles next to the Mississippi with eight foot wide shoulders. We definitely were moving at a fast pace.

 We’ve been told that unlike Vermont, Minnesota and Iowa have had little rain all summer. The fields of soybeans and corn are baked to a crisp. Our last destination for the evening was Wabasha, and we now have a new problem to resolve.  The highway is closed 15 miles ahead because the state is paving. Who knows what route we will now take? 

Follow us as we spin our wheels.

Shevonne and Pat




Hawkeye Highlights

It was pouring rain and chilly when we woke up in Davenport. Neither of us were very enthused about getting on the bicycles.  The solution – the 392 Caffe where we shared three delicious cappuccinos. Once injected with all that caffeine, nothing could stop us.  We cycled up the hill outside of Davenport, connected with a local bicycle trail and headed west on historic US 6. By the time we arrived in Walcott, the rain had run its course. The main street was lined with US flags. From there, we proceeded to Wilton, a diamond in the rough.  The Wilton Candy Kitchen caught our eyes. Inside we not only found penny candy but an old fashioned soda fountain with a plethora of milk shake, sundae and flavored soda offerings.  In the back section of the store, was a collection of Wilton memoraiblia that will one day be moved when a museum is constructed. Three sisters were diving into  hot fudge sundaes and milkshakes as we shared a tuna melt sandwich and a cherry coke. They are on a tour of their ancestors, one of whom settled the town of Wilton, naming it after his home town of Wilton, Maine. Lynn, the Candy Shop owner was intrigued by our goal to reach the Mississippi headwaters and we were smitten with his shop.  If only we could have feasted on a malt or ice cream soda; but that would have put us right to sleep.

We continued to make our way toward West Branch, Iowa, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, our 31st president, spent the night at a Days Inn and in the morning, took in the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. In the visitor center we learnedthat Herbert and his siblings, who were raised as Quakers, became orphans when their parents died in their early 30s.  Other family members took in the children but eventually Herbert was asked to help a relation on a farm in Oregon.  The 10 year old packed his suitcase and took a train to the other side of the country. Under the tutelage of an uncle, Hoover eventually made his way into Stanford University, (then a new college) and graduated as a mining engineer. From thence he had a variety of adventures across the world, became wealthy , served under earlier presidents as one of the cabinet members, created UNICEF and was elected president. Though Hoover’s reputation suffered greatly during the subsequent Great Depression, his post presidential efforts toward humanitarian causes elevated the public’s perception of him. His wife, Lou, and many West Branch community members invested in restoring his childhood home and other structures that were intact during hisWest Branch. Here’s a question to contemplate – if Hoover hadn’t become an orphan, would he had become president regardless?

As we exited the visitor center, we bumped into a couple who wanted to know more about our journey.  They were on their way to South Dakota to ride the Mickelson Trail. Close to two decades ago, they cycled across the country before the dominance of smart phones.  We found plenty of hills to climb, stopped in a small community for sandwiches on the steps of the former Morse General Store, turned onto IA highway 1, to Solon, where upon we found the Hoover Nature Trail on the back side of the high school. Solan had an extensive array of outdoor recreation fields, a playground and a historic lodge that can be rented for events.  The skies were once again turning dark; something we hadn’t expected because thunderstorms were not in the day’s forecast. Six miles in after we had passed a shelter, the skies opened up on us and other unprepared cyclists. We quickly put on all our rain gear and patiently waited out the lightning and torrential rain. Back once again on our bicycles, we cycled on to Cedar Rapids, on paved trails. Now in the city, we could hear a sound check for the band, Train, that was performing at an outdoor venue and noted the gigantic Quaker Oats plant that took in several city blocks.  It was our silver anniversary and we splurged on a fancier overnight stay at the Doubletree Hotel and dinner on the 16th floor.

It was a bit confusing the next morning as to which trail to take – the detour sign had been knocked down so we assumed we could ride in that direction, but a half mile out, we came to a standstill in the midst of a huge construction project.  Cedar Rapids has dewatered their lake. Once we got ourselves out of that mess, we cycled past suburban neighborhoods and crossed multiple streets before we found ourselves back in a rural setting.  In Center Point, we learned more about the former local railroad, that had been created to move supplies during World War I . We said adieu to this lovely trail and took county roads through Walker, Quasqueton and Winthrop, to the Jak Way campground outside of Aurora. It was another day with several uphill climbs and we were tired. Suddenly a vehicle pulled over and yelled “You are doing it.”  Turns out it was Kyra, our family member. She was nearby and decided to  find us. When we arrived at the campground, we discovered we were the only guests for the evening. This time we did eat our cold baked beans, and settled in quickly as darkness unfolded. listening to an owl.

Pat reported that his bicycle was wobbling; and from past experience we knew it needed a serious repair. Our plan was to get as close as possible to Decorah, our night’s destination and wait for Corey and Kyra to borrow a truck and take us back to their home and a bicycle shop. In Fayette, we stopped for lunch and then determined we could go no farther safely because of the lack of shoulders on the highway.  Or, perhaps we were just tired. We spent the afternoon under a picnic shelter, playing word games and reading.  It was there that I found an old book about Iowa’a history and learned  about Blackhawk, the famous Indian Chief, who attempted to save his lands to no avail.  He was arrested, jailed, taken to Washington DC to meet president Andrew Jackson, released back to Iowa and when he passed away, his gravesite was robbed. When his bones were recovered and placed in a museum, a few years later, the museum burned to the ground.The book references Blackhawk as the reason Iowa named itself the Hawkeye state but that’s not a hundred percent accurate. There are conflicting opinions; suffice to say we may never know its true origin.

Follow us as we spin our wheels.

Shevonne and Pat





A Thorn, A Rose and the Mighty Mississippi

Four miles north of La Salle, we found an open bicycle shop and purchased an additional inner tube.  A Holiday Inn Express was a mile further down the road and opted for another night of decent rest. Of course, as we left the hotel in the morning, I noted that once again my back tire was flat. Pat pumped up my tire and we dashed back to the bicycle shop.  It was Saturday and the shop didn’t open until 10 a.m.  When the owner arrived, he eventually diagnosed the problem. Using a magnifying glass, he found a tiny thorn. Because we had over 60 miles on another canal path, this time the Hennepin Canal and we understood that the first ten miles had chunky new gravel, I opted to purchase a more durable tire. (note to self – on the next bicycle trip, we should carry a magnifying glass).

After 15 miles of cycling on back roads, we arrived in the small town of Bureau Junction, shared a Dr. Pepper under a picnic shelter and  entered the Hennepin Canal Trail.  Our goal was Lock 22  which offered a primitive camping site. This canal was filled with water but the cycling was grueling. Unlike the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, there was no posted information about this canal and no mileage markers.  The only signage we did find had been weathered to the point where it was no longer readable. The only people we saw on the path were fishing near some of the locks.  When we arrived at the visitor center, we discovered it had been shuttered for lack of staff. At around 5 p.m. we had five more miles

to our designated campsite.  I was beginning to wonder if that particular campsite was a good idea. That’s when we spotted a sign for the HickoryGrove Campground, the only commercial enterprise on the canal. It looked appealing but we weren’t sure they would take us in because most of the campground was filled with RVs. Joan, one of the two owners, found us a tent spot.  “Do not camp under any tree limbs,” she said; “One fell right next to a camper a while back.”  Then she changed her persona. “But why are you doing this?” she asked.  Wouldn’t you rather take a trip to Hawaii or take up sailing?”We shook our heads.  “And whose idea was this trip?” Pat pointed at me. That’s when she loaded him up with a huge bag of popcorn and two popsicles. 

We found our spot in the campground and began to set up the tent.  It had been two years and we wondered whether we would easily remember how to do so. And then, two men in a golf cart pulled up and invited us to have dinner with them and their wives.  “We barbecued chicken and there’s plenty,” they said 

It didn’t take more than a minute for us to agree to dine with them.  We had been planning a dinner of cold baked beans and yogurt. And that’s how the thorn in the morning turned into a rose. Jerry, Bob, Connie and Deb spend several months at the campground and then in the winter they move west to Arizona.  After dinner, we moved on to Bob’s bonfire and Joan and Dave, the campground owners and their adult children, Grace and Angie, joined us for stories late into the night. At one point we looked up in the sky and got excited when we saw Elon Musk’s 15 satellites all in a contiguous line.

On Sunday morning, we packed up and put our wheels back on the Hennepin Canal for 30 more miles. It was a never ending sight of water, trees, lily pads over and over again. When we arrived at the canal’s end we celebrated our good fortune – no more flat tires, with more Dr. Pepper. It was a treat to once again cycle in neighborhoods and on paved roads. In East Moline, we jumped on the Great River Trail next to the Mississippi River  We stopped to admire the mighty river, cycled a few more miles and crossed over it on an expansive bridge that carries vehicles and pedestrians. Our destination for the night was Davenport, Iowa. Dustin Collison, our Warm Shower’s host, greeted us and helped us get settled in our overnight accommodations and found us an open place for a meal. As usual, every day brings a new adventure.   

Shevonne and Pat

Our 61 miles on the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail

It was a pleasant, somewhat rainy start but by the time we found our way to the Illinois and Michigan Canal path, our raincoats were back in the panniers. We quickly learned that this canal is is recognized as a national heritage area and is responsible for making Chicago what it is today. The canal took 12 years to build – dug by hand  by immigrants.  Once opened, supplies and people from the south could make their way to the north and vice versa as the mules pulled them through. Of course, the canal’s heyday didn’t last long; other methods of transportation quickly materialized.  By 1933, the canal was shuttered.  This year, however, the canal turns 175.  The surface on the trail was either limestone, grass or paved and much of the trail was only single track.

Our favorite town on the canal was Lockport.  We had barely parked our bicycles when Nancy, curator of the Illinois State Museum, (there’s a branch of it in Lockport) shouted out to us that we should come inside, see the exhibits and use the restrooms.  So we did and found a collection of exquisite prairie focused  paintings by Philip Juras.  After an iced coffee break we were back on the canal, catching glimpses of muskrats, great blue herons and deer. For miles we were the only travelers on the trail.

In Joliet, the trail next to the canal ended, requiring Pat to find us a route around the city and back to the next segment of the trail. As the day progressed we realized we had tried to take on too many miles for our second day. I was slowing down and then I was really slowing down; from a 10 mile an hour average to a crawl at 5 miles per hour.  At a canal gate in the town of Morris, Pat suggested we stop.  But I wasn’t ready to give in, that is until I looked at my back tire.  “Oh, that was my problem,” I said.  “My tire is flat.”

We were both grumbling.  It was only the second day and we had to change a flat tire. Neither of us could remember where we had put the tire lever, the extra inner tubes and the tire pump. Subsequently we had a major meltdown and chucked everything out of four panniers all over the path.  Changing the back tire on my bicycle isn’t easy and once the new inner tube was on and the tire inflated again, it was impossible to insert the back pin to hold the wheel into the frame.  While Pat was swearing at the tire, I was considering what other options we had. That’s when a couple pulled up in their vehicle and asked if we needed help. “Yes, we do, ” we shouted.

They parked their car and the gentleman began to work with Pat to get the pin back in. It was no easy task because some grains of dirt were in the way blocking the pin. But this gentleman didn’t give up until he was finally able to remove the grit.  It was an amazing turn around to what we had presumed was an unsolvable disaster.  We were ecstatic and so thankful for  their help.

It was now 6 p.m. and we figured cycling another 20 miles was not possible.  Instead we cycled through the Morris business district until we came upon a Super 8 sign and that is where we spent the night. As we were checking in, we talked with Mark Hammond and his friend. “We are on our way back from riding across the country,” Mark said. “I used to do what you all are doing but then I discovered riding a motorcycle is way more fun.”

After several hours of rest, we were back on our bicycles on Friday and on a roll flying past mile marker after mile marker.  Most of the canal was empty. In Ottawa , we dined on ham and cheese sandwiches and cashews while sitting on the steps of a local church and listening to the church bells toll.  On our way back to the canal path, we spotted a town square with a fountain surrounding a monument of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in honor of the debate they held in the town.

Sixteen more miles on the trail and we landed at the end in the town of La Salle. There we spotted a canal boat that takes guests up the canal for one mile with the help of a horse . They had shut down early today as there were very few customers. We were beat but thrilled that it had been a day without problems.

Shevonne and Pat



The Launch

Yesterday marked the first day of our Midwestern cycling adventure and it offered a bit of everything,

You might think that because we had traveled across the country two years ago, we would know exactly how and what to pack.  Apparently not and within the first half mile, Pat had already lost the piece on his hydration pack necessary for drinking water. He went back to the starting place, at our daughter’s apartment in Wheaton, but all he found was a flock of geese. Did we bring extra water bottles?  Yes, we had but decided to leave them at Destyni’s apartment because why not?

A few minutes later, I watched Pat catch his wheel in a gutter and he almost went down.  Not a good beginning but then we found the Illinois Prairie Path and our cycling abilities improved.  We passed some mothers out pushing infants in strollers and crossed multiple streets on the path as in took us to Warrenville.  The path was beautiful, tree covered on both sides and the surface was primarily crushed limestone.  We circled around the St. James Forest Preserve that had multiple corrals all of which had no horses.  Then came the highlight of the day when we arrived in Warrenville and spotted the memorial to the founders of the Illinois Prairie Path.  Getting this path off the ground was quite the feat thanks to May Watts and close to 12 others who advocated for the creation of a trail on the abandoned rail line. This trail and the Wisconsin trail from Elroy to Sparta were the beginnings of the rails to trails movement and we have much to thank the visionaries who saw what was possible and protected the land.

We then entered a section of the trail next to large power lines on one side and cattails on the other, crossed railroad tracks and went through an industrial park section.  It was here that the aroma of coffee was everywhere or perhaps I was fantasizing. The trail ended at the Fox River on the outskirts of Aurora, Illinois.  We found our way to the city of lights, their nickname, because they were one of the first communities to use electric street lights in the 19th century. Multiple businesses on the main street were shuttered but eventually we found a side street for iced coffee across from the city’s library.  Pat took charge of the rest of the trip; from one nature trail to another with suburban sidewalks and multiple housing developments.

The worst part of the afternoon occurred as we neared Interstate 55.  No sidewalks, no shoulders and cars and trucks moving at a fast speed. My brilliant solution to walk inside the guard rails facing traffic was a no go when we discovered a jersey divider over the bride and had to turn back, find a way to cross the horrid road and try walking on the other side with traffic. At one point, Pat moved his bicycle into the lane where the cars were and I was wondering why when I, too, noticed the dead animal in our path. Yuck!!!

After surviving this road intact, we found sidewalks again and continued on to Bolingbrook and Romeoville.  We were stressed and tired and knew our plans to cycle to a campground outside of Joliet was no longer in our sight. Luckily a nice gentleman suggested a few motels not far away and we found ourselves at a Holiday Inn Express. Apparently we arrived on the right night for free wine, beer (Bud Light) and popcorn.  After a excellent night’s sleep in a bed, rather than our daughter’s floor, we are ready for Day Two.

Shevonne and Pat




Training ride on the newly minted Lamoille Valley Rail Trail

It was the perfect day to take on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail from Morrisville to St. Johnsbury.  The weather was smoky but sunny, it was Canada Day and it was Pat’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than to check out 50 miles of the trail we had never traversed.  As we wound our way from Waitsfield to Oxbow Park, we were filled with nervous energy.. We partially filled two panniers each, checked the air pressure of the tires and covered ourselves in sunscreen. Our plan was to meet my sister, Jill, and brother-in-law, Dave, somewhere along the trail. They were starting from St. Johnsbury and didn’t intend to cycle as far as we had in mind.

The newly constructed portion of the trail is wide, 10 feet to be exact, and it is covered in gravel, though much more reasonable gravel than whatever they use in Iowa. We crossed bridges on the Lamoille River, passed several  cornfields and marveled at the Fisher Covered Bridge reconstruction. We could see the backside of Wolcott and then cycled on to Hardwick.  Fourteen miles in, we took a detour to purchase some snacks, grabbing a bag of cherries and a box of peanut butter crackers. My goal was to hold onto them until we reached mile 30. We noted the former Hardwick rail depot, also home to the  historical society. and continued to skirt north. That’s when the real fun began. It might have been railroad grade but we never stopped pedaling through East Hardwick to Greensboro Bend to Walden. On either side of the trail we found swaths of forest and farmland  and plenty of cyclists enjoying the downhill coast while we continued to push upward.  At mile 28.5 I gave in; it was time for nourishment. Pat was ecstatic; “I’ve been starving for the last four miles,” he said. “Honey”, I replied, “the food was in your bag.”

The next six miles to Joe’s Pond became easier because of the food and because we had reached the top of the 16 mile climb. As we entered the trail around Joe’s Pond, we spotted plenty of watercraft and well-maintained lakefront residences. It was here at the public beach that we crossed paths with our family members. They had  climbed from St. Johnsbury to West Danville and were looking forward to coasting all the way back with us to St. Johnsbury where we had reserved rooms at the Cherry House Inn.  The trail was now more narrow, dirt-covered and grass grew in the median. We paid close attention at the road crossings, two of which crossed Route 2. Somewhere along the way, Pat and David disappeared from sight and I received a text that said flat tire.  Jill and I went on ahead, determined to visit the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center before they shut their doors for the evening. While Jill predicted the flat tire repair would be at most 15 minutes, it took them 45 minutes because the tire refused to budge.

Presently, the trail ends at the bottom of the hill in St. Johnsbury. As we neared this end I slowed down, remembering that once upon a time, my former colleagues and I placed a imprinted metal riddle about our PATH Adventure on the trail. I wondered if it was still there; but I couldn’t remember where we had placed it. At the trail’s end there’s a steep rise to the road and then a dip down past a waste hauling company and one more gravel climb.  Our accommodations for the evening necessitated  one more relentless climb. I was doing my best not to be outdone by my younger sister but she sailed right by me. When I attempted to complain about the uphill to a gentleman sitting on a bench halfway up the hill, his response came out of left field. “Isn’t that an e-bike?”, he asked. “No,” I shouted.. “It’s all my own power.”

By the time Dave and Pat arrived, I’d already started my own happy hour with a beer from Virginia and some salty pretzels. The rest of the evening was pleasant; flat breads, shared salads and a chocolate chip cookie smothered in whipped cream to acknowledge  Pat’s birthday. Thankfully, when we awoke to a downpour on Sunday, we were able to catch a ride with Jill and Dave back to our car in Morrisville.

50.3 miles in total. Next training ride on the trail; Swanton to Cambridge and back. No overnight.

Shevonne and Pat


We are back and in training for a 1000 mile cycling trip this September

Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota

To all who might be waiting on pins and needles to learn where the Travers plan to cycle next, here is our update. In early September, we will stuff our Subaru Impreza with our bicycles, our panniers and our dog, Robbie and travel to  DuPage County in Illinois. Upon our arrival, we will  say adieu to Robbie, gifting him to our daughter for a month’s time.  Then we will begin riding west on the Illinois Prairie Path to the Illinois Michigan Canal Trail. We will cross the Mississippi River into Iowa and then travel northwest and north  to Minnesota until we reach he headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca. The estimated mileage is a bit over a thousand miles and we will partake of canal towpaths, rail trails, local roads and state highways. As per our style, we will camp, stay in some small motels, and  hopefully find a few Warm Showers hosts along the way.

Father’s Day Training Ride

This plan means it’s time for us to get our  bodies in shape once again. Since early May we’ve  been training on a variety of rail trails and up and down the hills in the Mad River Valley. In honor of Father’s Day and because Pat’s new passport arrived in the mail, we journeyed by car to Saint Jean sur Richilieu in Quebec to ride on the Chambly Canal trail. This trail is 12 miles in length each way; it’s flat, filled with exquisite scenery and offers delicious food and drink once in Chambly.

It was 55 degrees when we left our home and we had gained only three more degrees when we parked at the tourist information center. After stepping out of the car, my first words were -“it’s too cold; I don’t want to do this.” Of course, I hadn’t dressed appropriately for the weather; the shorts and sleeveless shirt I had on weren’t helping me want to spring into action.  Pat’s response was the perfect way to get me on the bicycle. We’ll be in temperatures much like this in Minnesota this fall,” he said. So, I stopped whining and put on my bicycle shoes. At least I had brought along a windbreaker.

Though chilly with the wind blowing in our faces, the ride was easy and seemed way too fast. Unlike the C and O canal the Chambly Canal is an active canal with several locks requiring many lockmasters. This time we spied a boat that had traveled from Georgia.  At the halfway point, we stopped for lunch and tried mussels and frites served in a blue cheese broth. One beer and one sangria later, we were back on the trail, this time with the wind lending us a hand.

I don’t know where our next training ride will take us but we’ll keep you apprised as the summer continues.  I’m betting we’ll be doing some long trips on the newly minted Lamoille Valley Rail Trail across Vermont.

Shevonne and Pat




And Now for our Reflections and Acknowledgements

First from Pat,

So, our “event of a lifetime” is now behind us and I have had some time to pause, look back and reflect over what we just did. The first thing that comes to mind is, Wow, what an accomplishment, we did it! We traveled some 3,000 miles, across 14 states, from Seattle to Washington, DC on our bicycles! And, we did all that with our own legs, all the way.  Self-powered. I must say that I am quite proud of that. 

Another reflection is, what a diverse and beautiful country we live in. We got to see Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Midwest and the Appalachians. We traveled through deserts, forests, corn fields, soybean fields, and dairy farms. We experienced several cities, including Seattle, Lincoln, Omaha, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC., and countless cute small towns, too many to mention. We also crossed over or cycled along dozens of rivers, including the Columbia, the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Potomac. There is great diversity to see out there and I am happy that I got to see it at ten miles per hour.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this trip restored my faith in humanity. With so much focus on negativity nowadays, I learned that the vast majority of people out there are indeed friendly and want to help. And it doesn’t matter where they live, what they do for work or what they have experienced in their backgrounds. On many occasions during this journey, when we really needed assistance, someone always showed up to give us a ride, provide us with water, lend us a hand on a repair or offer some other kind of help. This was very gratifying. I was also astounded by the daily curiosity and interest that total strangers showed in what we were doing. Some even took us out to dinner.  We have made some new friendships all across this country. I really didn’t expect all of this generosity when I started this trip.


First, I would like to thank my wife, Shevonne, for coming up with the idea of doing this trip. Frankly, I don’t know if I would have come up with the concept on my own.Secondly, I would like to thank my employer, Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., for allowing me to take a three-month leave of absence to take this journey and wanting me to come back to work after I finished the trip.

I also want to thank my brother-in-law, David Morganwalp, for providing guidance on what we would need for equipment and gear and to Jill, my sister-in-law for dropping us off at Union Station in Washington D.C. for our train trip west and picking us up in front of the US Capitol on the other end of our cycling trip and toasting us with champagne.

I also need to give out a shout to my sister-in-law, Leah Wilder, for picking us up and hosting us at her home in West Virginia when we ran out of rail trail and later taking us into Pittsburgh to avoid a dangerous road.

A big thank-you has to go out to all of the Warm Showers hosts that invited us into their homes, fed us, allowed us to do laundry and take a hot shower. The Warm Showers concept is awesome and we will now be hosting passing cyclists in our home through Warm Showers.

Thanks to all of our friends and neighbors here in the Mad River Valley and beyond, who warmly sent us off in June, followed our blog, eagerly awaited my Facebook posts, expressed support during the trip and gave us such an awesome welcome when we arrived back home. To this day, we are still receiving “Welcome back” greetings and that is heartwarming.

And finally, huge thanks to all of the “trail angels”, all across the country, who provided help when we really needed it.

And now from Shevonne,

The fact that an individual can pedal across our country continues to astound me. While many folks we talked with along the way indicated that they would not be able to cycle 10 miles let alone 3000 miles, for the vast majority this is probably not accurate. As we discovered, our bodies, our minds and our souls can adapt to new environments and new challenges that we present upon ourselves.

Putting our trust in others was absolutely essential for us on this journey. Our most horrific day was our fifth day into the trip, on the Army base in Washington, where we experienced miles of pushing our bikes through sand, high temperatures and then an unrelenting windstorm. Then, Bob Myrick appeared out of the blue to help us. it was then that I realized a power greater than the two of us would guide us forward and all we had to do was find the space to believe in and to trust others.

My best moments throughout this summer on wheels were those in which we made ourselves available to talk with others and listen to their stories. My life has become much richer and our connections with people now stretch across the country.

Though our family members and close friends expressed concern as to how we would endure all those days together, Pat and I discovered that we are a forceful duo when faced with the unexpected. 


To my father, Henry Walp, whose story of how he traveled from Pittsburgh to California by bicycle in the summer of 1939, lit a fire inside of me as a child and a flame that I could not extinguish until I was able to make my own cross-country journey.

To the Rails to Trails Federation for their vision and promotion of the Great American Rail Trail, that though unfinished, convinced me that this trip could be safer than I had ever imagined.

To my siblings, Jill and Leah, who housed us and listened to me when I was frantic about either a trail closure or my disastrous bicycle issues, I thank you. And to my niece, Carly, who knew exactly how to bring our Two Slowpokes on Spokes blog to life.

To my son, Ryan, who while expressing plenty of trepidation about his mother taking this on, stuck by me and listened by phone as we moved across the country. To my son, Corey, and his partner, Kyra, who shared their Iowa home for a much-needed respite and then subsequently assisted our daughter, Destyni, in moving from Arizona to Chicago for dental school.  This enabled Destyni to move without requiring any help from us.

To our friends from the Mad River Valley and Grand Isle who celebrated our leaving with a bon voyage party and then upon our return surprised us with another fabulous get together.

To everyone who read our stories on our blog, on Facebook or in the Valley Reporter and added supportive comments along the way. We appreciated it all and were thrilled that you lived vicariously through us.

To my former employer, VSBIT, and the VEHI PATH team for listening to me as I talked incessantly about this idea for over a year and for making sure I stayed relatively dry from bad weather throughout the trip.

And lastly, I want to thank Patrick, who got on board with this idea, spent hundreds of hours building an itinerary complete with maps, distances and places to stay and then carried it all in a pannier in a three-ring binder. Every time our trip needed some revamping because of unforeseen circumstances or because I was in a panic about the lack of shoulders on a road, he graciously found new routes to travel.


Cheers to all of you!!!  We shall miss writing to you all.





From the C and O Canal Towpath to the US Capitol – Tout Fin!

“I need to find a post office,” Pat said on the second day we were cycling on the C and O Towpath. Me, in my typical gullible fashion, fell for it. “What do you need to mail?” I asked, a bit irritated by his desire. Pat, has made it a point of lightening what is in his panniers throughout this trip – and we only had two days more of cycling. What could he possibly need to mail now?  “My blue jacket that I haven’t worn since the State of Washington,” he responded. And then he cracked a big smile. “Gotcha,” he said.

Last Saturday morning, we steered our bicycles toward the C and O Towpath in Cumberland, MD, which is 184.5 miles in length. Thanks to interpretive signage, we learned that on July 4, 1828, the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad began in Baltimore while at the same time the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal began in Georgetown. It was a race to see who would finish first. The railroad won opening eight years earlier than the canal did. And while the B and O railroad continued on to the Midwest, the canal threw in the towel and ended in Cumberland. According to what we read, it was George Washington who, several years earlier, recognized how valuable linking the Potomac to what eventually became Pittsburgh, would be for the new nation.

Because the canal couldn’t compete with rail in terms of speed or capacity, (after all, it relied on mules), it was nearly obsolete from the time of its opening. Bulk commodities including lumber, wheat and coal were transported on the canal as were passengers. The canal continued to operate until 1924 when a significant flood damaged it beyond repair. Over decade later, the federal government took ownership and this summer, marks the 50th anniversary of the C and O National Historical Park.

Cycling on the towpath has its share of highlights and challenges. Several miles of it are in need of resurfacing and because of this. when it rains, the mud can be overwhelming. It is the one trail wherein we might have purchased more food in advance as there is nothing nearby.  There are plenty of primitive camping sites along the way and in many sections, as you ride, you can see the railroad, canal and the Potomac River at the same time. As we cycled we passed by several locks that the canal boats once traveled through

The first night we opted to set up camp and grab a bite of something to eat at the only establishment around – Bill’s Place in Little Orleans, MD.  Bill’s Place had a 50th anniversary a few years ago and there’s a For Sale sign in front of it. In spite of the “Welcome Cyclists” banner, we felt very much out of place.  We’re not sure if that was because we arrived on bicycles rather than motorcycles or perhaps because we didn’t fit in with their usual clientele.

Back at the campground, we took a quick swim in the Potomac – the only way of showering and then hunkered down to watch the moon rise. The next morning, we were able to change it up and cycle on the 28 paved miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which is right next to the towpath, through the town of Hancock to Fort Fredrick where it ends because of an active rail line.

We stopped for the night in Williamsport, MD and then on Monday, we made our way to Shepherdstown, WV, crossing over a bridge into the historic village. Shepherdstown is the home of Shepherd University and Monday was the first day of classes there. Returning to the towpath, we cycled to the bicycle parking area at the Harper’s Ferry intersection, which offers another bridge crossing, but instead of a bicycle ramp leading up to that bridge, one has to either carry their bicycle up and down multiple steps or lock it up in the provided rack.

It was fairly hot by the time we arrived, but we did our best to meander through some of the National Historic Park and spent the majority of our time inside the John Brown museum. Neither Pat nor I had ever really spent time at Harper’s Ferry and after reading everything in the museum, the question for us remains – Did John Brown truly precipitate the beginning of the Civil War?

On our last night on the towpath, we pitched our tent at the Indian Flats Hiker-Biker Campsie, about 42 miles outside of Washington, DC. This was our first experience at this type of campsite, and they are very primitive. – just a water spigot and a porta-let.  Appropriately enough, we were serenaded a few times by train whistles from the nearby railroad. In the morning, we had cold coffee in the tent and headed out on our bicycles for breakfast seven miles downstream at the historic White’s Ferry.

The next stop after breakfast was the Potomac Great Falls, where the river cascades through flumes over a series of rocks. The falls area is quite scenic and kayakers like to shoot the rapids here. An old barge boat is also docked at the lock house, which in non-pandemic times offers rides in the canal.

Three miles from the end of the C&O Canal Towpath, we cut over onto Washington DC’s Capital Crescent Trail, to stay on the Great American Rail Trail. At that trail junction, we stopped for a soda at The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove. A local cyclist/banjo player gave us some tips on cycling in the area and shared stories about his life.

In Georgetown, we had the pleasure of meeting up with Kevin Belanger, the Manager of Trail Planning for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. This is the non-profit organization spearheading the development of the Great American Rail Trail. We had a very nice chat with Kevin and provided him with our frank assessment of the various portions of the existing segments of the trail and how the conservancy might better communicate the status of the planned nationwide rail trail.

After meeting Kevin, we had a mere four miles to go to finish our “journey of a lifetime.” Just a quick ride down the Water Street Bike Lane to the Rock Creek Trail and then the National Mall Trails. How appropriate and fitting it was that a portion of the Rock Creek Trail is being reconstructed and we had to follow yet another detour for about a mile on the city streets of DC! This included going through an intersection on Constitution Avenue with a malfunctioning traffic signal. Nobody said this would be easy.

With the detour behind us, we pushed on for the last three miles. The Rock Creek Trail fed us into the National Mall. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, we stopped to take in the view of the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool and the US Capitol in the distance.

The very last chapter of our journey involved cycling through the National Mall, past the Washington Monument to the United States Capitol. It was very thrilling to ride through this historic site where so many significant events have occurred over the past 200+ years. After dodging several pedestrians, crossing what seemed to be multiple intersecting streets and turning down offers from water vendors, we came to the pool in front of the United States Capitol. It was an incredibly emotional moment. We had finished our 77-day journey across the United States, all the way from Seattle! We succeeded!

Pat asked the first person he saw to take the final photo of our journey, in front of the US Capitol. How ironic was it that this individual was a Russian tourist visiting from Moscow! As stated before, we have definitely come to “expect the unexpected.”

Shevonne and Patrick

Stay tuned for our reflections of this epic trip  after we return to Vermont