Monday, February 23, 2015

Here we go again!

It’s been over two and a half years since we biked the west coast and left our lives behind for SE Asia. Since returning, there have been some big events (see previous post) and we are all settled in to our new home. Our travel bug is still going strong though! And we're excited to update you on our next adventure...

For a couple of years now, Ethan has been saying that he wants to do a cross-country bike tour. It was never something I was really interested in even after touring the pacific coast. I came up with a whole list of reasons why I wasn’t interested - it would take too long, it would be too hard, it would cost too much, etc. I had made up my mind and the issue really didn’t come up again until a few months ago. Ethan came to me and said that he was intent on doing the cross-country trip and was going with or without me. Immediately I said no. But in the back of my mind I thought I would probably want to go eventually. And with a few changes to his original plan, I was on board! (I knew if I gave her an ultimatum that she would eventually agree to it. -E)

From the beginning Ethan wanted this trip to serve a purpose. He decided he wanted find an organization that we could use the trip to raise money for. Something that was close to our hearts and that we thought we would be able to actually see the money helping. Fairly quickly, he connected with a guy that we had gone to high school with named Corey. Corey and his mom had started a non-profit organization to aid those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It was perfect. It was something that we both felt to be really important for people struggling with those issues and we had seen how helpful those programs can be through Ethan’s younger sister, Emily. We worked with Corey and decided that the money we raise will go toward a memorial scholarship named for Ethan’s late grandfather, David McLoughlin. He played an important role in Emily’s recovery by providing financial support for her stay in a treatment center and transitional housing. The scholarship will help pay for the first month’s stay in their RISE transitional housing program. You can read more about that, buy a t-shirt and donate at these pages: FacebookT-ShirtsDonate, Twitter and RISE Transitional Houses.
The tour will, hopefully, begin the second week in June and end in August. The start date is dependent on Ethan getting his final classes finished and we have to be back by the second week in August for my sister Stevie's wedding. Ethan is confident that we can bike the route in that amount of time. 

So far our preparations have included planning the ROUTE itself (and some alternate routes around seasonal roads, etc), locating potential places to stay (campgrounds, WarmShowers places, and friends of friends or family who have offered their couches or extra beds) and bike shops along the way. This can all be found in ETHAN'S NOTES. We also started training recently. Yes, it's happening! We've never trained for a tour before, but this one is definitely going to push our bodies beyond what we have experienced so far. We figured we might want to at least try to get in shape. We started with just doing the P90X3 workouts. They are only 30 minutes, but they are pretty intense. They focus on strengthening your core and preparing your muscles for athletic activity - and there is a once a week yoga session that is pretty stellar. 

So we did that for about a month and then decided to up the ante. We purchased stationary bike trainers from Craigslist and have decided to set weekly mileage goals. We are hoping this helps get our legs ready for the 3,100 mile journey. 
Along with the workouts, we are planning on doing some smaller trips leading up to the big one. The longest of those will be over Ethan's spring break the first week of April. Ethan found a trail that we could do in that time frame called the NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY. The parkway follows the historic Natchez Trace trail from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It's about 440 miles and we are hoping it will take us about 6 days. 
If the weather warms up in March, we might do some smaller trips in Michigan, but I would say the chances aren't very good given the current temperatures! After the Natchez ride, we are planning to spend as much time biking as we can with weekend trips of about 100 miles. 

Well, that's where we are at now! We plan to keep this updated leading up to the trip and, of course, during. We'll always post our blogs to Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow along! Thanks for reading!

Back in the US of A

So many things have changed since we set our feet back on American soil. I’ll just briefly outline some of those things here in case you might have missed them.

Our first adventure when we got back was the wedding of one of my younger brothers, Koltar. Our whole family loaded up and drove 11 hours to Connecticut for the party. It was glorious. Another well-done wedding and the Granmarkersons (my family) tore up the dance floor as usual.
That summer (2013) I got a job working with Ethan’s older sister, Lindsay, at a non-profit called Elder Law of Michigan. It started as a two-day part time gig that turned into full-time employment. We went on a few short weekend adventures that summer while looking for teaching jobs. While we were hiking the Manistee River Trail, Ethan got the call we’d been hoping for. He was offered a part-time Physical Education position at Dansville Middle School. We were thrilled. It was nearing the end of summer and neither of us had had any luck yet. We were about to start looking in other states, but Dansville saved us. It wasn’t full time, but it was something and either way he was going to gain experience. So by October we were both gainfully employed (and right before school started they added one class to Ethan’s schedule getting him almost to full time).
Around the same time we moved into my Aunt’s house near downtown Mason. It was going to be vacant for a while, so we decided to occupy it for her and start saving for our own place. We have always wanted to stay in Michigan and have always wanted to own our own home. Renting is awful and we were prepared to live with Deena and Steve until we could afford to own a home. Living so close to downtown Mason was great. We loved it. We could walk/run on the paved recreational trail that came within yards of the house and everything was so close and convenient. We spent the winter hanging out with friends and saving as much as possible. I ended up getting a kidney stone right before Christmas - just my luck. It was the worst thing I’ve gone through medically. I had to have surgery to have it removed and then had to have a stent put in to properly drain my kidney. The stent caused more pain than the stone and put me out of commission for about 12 days. It was awful. I hope it never happens again!
In February (2014), we began our house hunt. We looked in Mason first because we love it and would love to live there. But we couldn’t find anything that wasn’t super old or out of our price range. Eventually we opened our search to new-build neighborhoods. We ended up falling in love with the idea of building and decided to go with CVE builders. We had really wanted to build in a neighborhood just outside of Mason, but CVE only owned two lots and we didn’t like either of them. We ended up going to see a model of the floor plan that we wanted in a neighborhood in Holt that was about 3 minutes further than the neighborhood we wanted. We walked through the house and I think it was love at first sight. The house was on a partially wooded lot and had almost everything we were planning on choosing. We put in an offer and it was accepted. We wanted to wait to move in even though the house would be finished in about a month. We needed a bit more savings in the bank to make sure we weren’t totally broke after the down payment.

In April, we traveled to California for my cousin Chelsea’s wedding, which was another success and so much fun. We had a few weekend adventures, but nothing huge, that spring. Then on June 16th we got the keys to the house and moved in. We spent most of that summer (2014) decorating and making the house a home. We also attended my other cousin Chelsea’s wedding and a friends wedding in the UP. We tried to hike Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore again, but the rain chased us out!! We also travelled to Columbus to watch a friend play on his professional soccer team, the Columbus Crew. We didn’t have as many summer adventures as we would have liked, but our main focus was the house. 
We spent the fall with friends and family and didn't go on many adventures or travels. Ethan was coaching soccer and keeping up with college courses he needed to take to become certified to teach health. It was a busy fall. We had Thanksgiving at our house and both our families were in town for Christmas. We really enjoyed our time with them and are lucky to have such great families. 

Keep reading to learn about our next big adventure!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Natchez Trace Parkway

We are going on a 440 mile trip from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee for spring break. There are a few reasons for the trip. We need to make sure all of our biking and camping gear is in working order before the big trip over the summer. It will also kick start our training efforts to get ready for the big trip. Lastly, it is an area of the country that we are not very familiar with and would love to get to know better. The Natchez Trace Parkway is supposed to have a wealth of history to it and we are excited to learn more about it.

Meet Emily at the Garrison Creek Visitor Center and leave our car there. Contact park office to let them know we will be leaving it over night. Em is going to drive us to Natchez, Mississippi from there.

0                       Natchez
38   (38)          Grand Gulf Military Park ($5- 10 miles from parkway)
55   (17)           Rocky Springs CG (free)
94   (39)           Jackson, MS (45 miles to WS)
                                      (Timberlake Campground- $17)
125 (31)           Ratliff Ferry Trading Post and Campground
160 (35)          Kosciusko CG (free)
194 (34)          Jeff Busby CG (free)
235 (41)          Witch Dance CG (bike only- free)
261 (26)          Tupelo, MS (WS)
267 (6)            Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center (bikes only- free)
328 (61)          Colbert Ferry CG (bicycle only- free)
356 (28)          Collinwood, TN (WS)
387 (31)           Meriwether Lewis CG (free)
409 (22)          Tennessee Hwy 50 CG (free)
429 (20)          Garrison Creek Visitor Center (No camping- parking area)
442 (13)          Northern Terminus

MP 0               Natchez, MS
                                 <Grand Village of the Natchez>
MP 5.1            Washington, MS
                                 <<Elizabeth Female Academy Ruins and Historic Jefferson College>>          
MP 8.7                     <<Old Trace Exhibit Shelter>>
MP 10.3                   <<Emerald Mound>>
MP 15.5                   <<Mount Locust>>
MP 37.7          Port Gibson [Food- near Trace]
MP 41.5                   <<The Sunken Trace>>
MP 45.7                   <<Mangum Mound and Grindstone Ford>>
MP 52.4                   <<Owens Creek Waterfall>>
MP 54.8          Rocky Springs CG (free)
MP 61                      <<Lower Choctaw Boundary>>
MP 73.5                   <<Dean Stand>>
MP 78.3                   <<Battle of Raymond>>
MP 79            Raymond [Food- 3 miles from Trace]
MP 88.1                   <<Cowles Mead Cemetery>>
MP 89            Clinton [Food/information- near Trace]
MP 93.1                   <<Osburn Stand>>
MP 100           Jackson, MS (WS)
MP 100.7                 <<Choctaw Agency>>
MP 102.4                 <<Parkway Information Cabin>>
MP 103.4        Madison [Food- near Trace]
MP 104.5                 <<Brashear's Stand and Old Trace>>
MP 105.6                 <<Ross Barnet Reservoir>>
MP 106.9                 <<Boyd Mounds>>
MP 107.9                 <<West Florida Boundary>>
MP 122                    <<Cypress Swamp>>
MP 122.6                 <<River Bend>>
MP 123.8        Ratliff Ferry Trading Post and Campground
MP 128.4                 <<Upper Choctaw Boundary>>
MP 135.5                 <<Robinson Road>>
MP 140                    <<Red Dog Road>>
MP 159           Kosciusko CG (bikes only- free)
MP 160           Kosciusko [Food/info- near Trace]
MP 175.6                 <<Cole Creek>>
MP 176.3                 <<Bethel Mission>>
MP 180.7        French Camp Historic District [Food- near Trace]
MP 193.1        Jeff Busby CG (free)
MP 195.5        HWY 9 [Food- near Trace]
MP 198.6                 <<Old Trace>>
MP 203.5                 <<Pigeon Roost Creek>>
MP 204.5        Mathiston [Food- 1 mile east]
MP 213.3                 <<Line Creek>>
MP 219.6        Mantee [Food- near Trace]
MP 221.4                 <<Old Trace>>
MP 229.3         Houston [3 miles west]
MP 232.4                 <<Bynum Mound and Village>>
MP 234           Witch Dance CG (bike only- free)
MP 243.1                 <<Owl Creek Indian Mounds- mile off Trace>>
MP 245.6                 <<Monroe Mission>>
MP 249.6                 <<Tockshish>>
MP 251.1                 <<Chickasaw Council House>>
MP 251.6       Pontocola Road [Food- near Trace]
MP 251.9                 <<Black Belt Overlook>>
MP 255.7        Verona [Food- east 1 mile]
MP 259.7                 <<Battle of Tupelo- mile off Trace>>
                                 <<Elvis Presley Birthplace and Tupelo Automobile Museum>>
MP 260           Tupelo, MS (WS)[Food]
MP 261.8                 <<Chickasaw Village Site>>
MP 263.9                 <<Old Town Overlook>>
MP 266           Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center (bikes only- free)
MP 269.4                 <<Small Confederate Cemetery on Old Trace>>
MP 270.7        Saltillo [Food- 3 miles]
MP 275.2                 <<Dogwood Valley>>
MP 278.4                 <<Twentymile Bottom Overlook>>
MP 283.3                 <<Donivan Slough>>
MP 286.7                 <<Pharr Mounds>>
MP 293.2                 <<Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway>>
MP 293.4                 <<Bay Springs Lake>>
MP 302                    <<Tishomingo, MS>>
MP 304.5        Tishomingo State Park [Food]
MP 308.4                 <<Cave Spring>>
MP 308.8                 <<Bear Creek Mound>>
MP 308.9                 <<Alabama-Mississippi State Line>>
MP 313                    <<Bear Creek>>
MP 317                    <<Freedom Hills Overlook>>
MP 320.3                 <<Buzzard Roost Spring>>
MP 327           Colbert Ferry CG (bicycle only- free)
MP 327.3                 <<Colbert's Stand and Ferry>>
MP 328.4                 <<Tennessee River>>
MP 330.2                 <<Rock Spring Nature Trail>>
MP 338                    <<Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall>>
MP 341.8                 <<Alabama-Tennessee State Line>>
MP 350.5                 <<Sunken Trace>>
MP 350.7        TN HWY 13 [Food- near Trace]
MP 352.9                 <<McGlamery Stand>>
MP 355           Collinwood, TN (WS) [Food]
MP 357.8                 <<Old Trace Drive>>
MP 363                    <<Sweetwater Branch>>
MP 364.5                 <<Glenrock Branch>>
MP 367.3                 <<Dogwood Mudhole>>
MP 385.9        Meriwether Lewis CG (free)
MP 391.9                 <<Fall Hallow Trail- waterfalls>>
MP 401.4                 <<Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive>>
MP 404.7                 <<Jackson Falls>>
MP 407.7                 <<Gordon House Historic Site>>
MP 407.8        Centerville [Food- 1 mile]
MP 408           Tennessee Hwy 50 CG (free)
MP 415.4        Fly [Food- 1.7 miles east]
MP 423.9                 <<Valley Divide>>
MP 427.6                 <<Garrison Creek Visitor Center>>
MP 429           Leipers Fork [Food- 1 mile east]
MP 438                    <<Birdsong Hollow>>
MP 442                    <<Northern Terminus>>

Northbound on the Natchez Trace Parkway