Setting off

Brent with both bikes on his back.

After weeks of packing boxes and going through stuff that we haven't gone through in years, we managed to get everything we own into two dozen neat and orderly boxes in my mom's storage shed. Then we set to packing our own bags for indefinite traveling with many ambitions and unknown destinations. The question before us: How to pack for a trip where you want to bike across countries, go camping if the possibility arrises, write, study a new language, and climb a mountain here and there. You value traveling light and every piece of it must fit on your back, bicycles and all. The answer we found lies partially in engineering and largely in deliberation.

15 month old Jack (our nephew), keeping spirits high during our organizing extravaganza.

Breaking our bikes down as small as possible, we put them both into one bike bag and I then set to taking apart an old external frame backpack of mine. Add some mule tape (strong and cheep nylon straps) and voila!- you have a bike backpack. Our repair tools include one multi-tool, 8 spokes, a pedal wrench, a small adjustable wrench, pliers, 4 bike tubes and a patch kit. With those and a little resourceful ingenuity I think we can handle anything that gets thrown at us.

Packing up the girls

Camping wise, we invested in a terrific sleeping bag from Feathered Friends which acts as a single light summer bag or a double with the addition of a ground cloth. A tarp will function perfectly as a tent and we'll pick up a mosquito net along the way. When it was all said and done we had our whole camping set up: sleeping bags, tarp, and even our luxury inflatable pads all in one medium sized compression stuff sack. Then with minimal clothes and other bike necessities we were able to hoist everything off the ground, with some gracefulness still intact.

 

We packed until one-thirty in the morning and then Annelisa's dad drove us to the airport a mere three hours later. We are now on our way.

 

Viva Mexico!

Riding across Mexico City (don't tell our mothers).

 

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Welcome to Wind Love and Pedal Power Part II:

We're going to change gears as we head on to Mexico with the girls (our folding bicycles) in tow for a Tour de la Fiestas Mexicanas! For years I've wanted to spend a fall in Mexico touring some of the celebrations which are so iconic to Mexico. We figured that this year would be an especially pertinent time in Mexico as the Mayan Calendar winds down and celebrations take on a particular sense of urgency in the face of the potential end of the world.

Mt. Rainier from Skyscraper Peak on the Wonderland Trail.

Teotihucan. Background is the Pyramid of the Moon

We spent the summer biking and sailing in and around the Puget Sound, backpacking around Mt. Rainier on the incredible Wonderland Trail, and preparing for our trip to Mexico and beyond. Our goal in this blog is to put together helpful, well written, and insightful blog entries and articles about some of the most remarkable places we can think of to visit. In this next chapter we'll be visiting the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato for Cervantino Festival, the largely indigenous Purapecha community around the town of Patzcuaro for Dia de los Muertos, and the Ancient Mayan temples of the Yucatan Peninsula for the winter solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar. We'll interrupt these festivities by taking a month, starting mid November, to go to a country that starts with a C and rhymes with 'tuba,' let's just call it Canada, where we'll bike the country end to end. If the world spins on then we'll enjoy a very Mexican Navidad before trying our luck crewing on ships in the Caribbean.

La Fortuna's new spinnaker sail

Now before you all think that we're just a couple of party tourists let me just say… yeah! Mexicans love a good party and we're going to be right there along with them. But celebrations in Mexico are so much more then just an excuse to party. They are a celebration of life and such a part of the people and culture as to be indistinguishable. Moreover, each festival represents a very different element of Mexico from the modern arts festival Cervantino, the ancient and colonially adopted Dia De Los Muertos, and the finale of the very ancient 5,126 year old Mayan calendar.

Since you can not sail into the heart of Mexico and cycling is for those a little more suicidal than us, I guess this part of the journey is going to be mostly about the love we have for this amazing vibrant country. We hope you enjoy.

 

Love, Brent and Annelisa

Packing up the girls

 

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Off to the Wonderland Trail…

Unloading the ferry and our sailing adventure.

We’ve been taking a break from adventures to celebrate Annelisa’s brother’s wedding (Congratulations Benji and Stephenie!) and spending time with family and friends.  But we’re getting back at it today and are departing for Mt. Rainier to spend eleven days backpacking the Wonderland Trail in Washington State.  The 93 mile trail circumnavigates Mt Rainier with lots of altitude up and down the ridges.  The forecast is so so…. So, please cross your fingers for us that it’s not a soggy hundred mile slog.

We’ll be back in early September with pictures and a full report.

Take care!

Unloading the ferry and our sailing adventure.
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The Rest of Our Sailing and Biking Adventure

July 27th- August 4th

Shortly after our trip to Victoria, we met up with my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and mom Ganges.  Ganges is a terrific town with a great Saturday Farmer’s Market, local artists, public marina, and lots of other small town island charm.  I will blow through the rest of our trip in this one post because at this point our trip became more relaxing, lazy, and less adventurous.  No less enjoyable but perhaps not quite as notable in this format.  This excludes those who are new mothers sailing with babies and anyone interested in the dynamics of cramming six people onto one small Catalina 27.

Nathaniel, Marea, and One-year old Jack

Back to Ganges and one of the real gems of the gulf islands, the Tree House Cafe is a great breakfast and dinner joint which boasts of one hundred eleven consecutive nights of live music during the summer.  To our pleasure, we were in town for Shane Philip, who we discovered to be a guitar playing, drum banging, didgeridoo blowing musical genius.  We bought two albums and Annelisa hasn’t stopped listening to them since.

After Ganges we sailed to Wallace Island Marine Park, Montague Harbor, Portland Island, and then to Sucia back on The States side.  These are all wonderful marine parks and include three out of my five favorite anchorages in the San Juan and Gulf Islands.  Our biggest adventure through this period was our attempt at rock climbing on the island cliffs on Galliano Island and Sucia.  I would consider this attempt to be marginally to mostly successful and we will definitely explore more in the future.  We did some top-roping as well as deep water soloing, with varying results.  The rock is mostly sandstone with lots of flakes pulling off, but was otherwise challenging and fun.

Brent deep-water bouldering near Wallace Island.

It was a hugely successful family sailing adventure and left us dreaming of a time when we might ‘run away’ to the San Juan and Gulf Islands, raising babies on a sailboat and living one of our ultimate Monday-Friday dreams.

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Riding to Victoria and Busker Festival

Les Walkyries

Victoria and the surrounding area, primarily the Saanich Peninsula, boasts of great bike riding trails and attractions.  Over a two day sojourn to Victoria we found this to certainly be true.  Setting off from Brentwood Bay we hopped on the Interurban Rail Trail which heads south from Butchard Gardens along the west side of the peninsula.  The traffic is pleasantly sparse, even though the road is lacking a shoulder, but just a short ways away you reach a well-graded gravel bike trail which our skinny road tires handled well.  We continued on following the convenient yellow signs leading to Victoria, sometimes on the gravel trails and sometimes on the road, although closer to the city a bike lane is available.

Several kilometers shy of Victoria I came up with a flat tire and so, for the next forty five minutes, we set to fixing three different flat tires.  First: the tube blew near the nozzle while pumping it up, second: we discovered two more holes in the tube after pumping it up again, and finally: to hell with it and we threw on a new tube.  So after a short lesson in the cost of being cheap and clinging to your worn out tubes, we are back and on the road.

To our pleasure and amusement we find that we had come to Victoria during an annual busker festival (street music and theatre) and so of course we stayed the night.  We watched a trio of fire tamers named Les Walkyries and the one woman Canadian comedy act with Sharon Mahoney, as well as other terrific shows and music throughout the city.  There is something kind of magical about a city full of street theatre, as though you’ve stepped into another world ruled by gypsies and musicians.  That evening we made it to the Comedy Cabaret, where standup comics and rather ingenious silent performances had us in hysterics.

Sharon Mahoney with impressive audience participation

The next morning we had breakfast and toured the city which is wonderful with or without a busker festival going on.  We reluctantly departed late that evening and rode the Lockside Trail which is a great network of paved and well graded gravel trails all the way up the Saanich Peninsula to Swartz Bay.  We arrived at Brentwood Bay just at sunset and found La Fortuna resting safe and sound in Todd Inlet.

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Cowichan Valley Wine Tour

 

Riding through the farmlands

Today we rode our bikes through the Cowichan Valley which proudly proclaims to be the warmest region in all of Canada as well as the main wine region of Western British Columbia. We began the day by catching the Brentwood Bay ferry to Mill Bay where we rode up the coastal road toward Cowichan.

We made a lovely route through the afternoon visiting Unsworth Vinyards, Merridale Cidery, Silverside Winery, Cherry Point Estates, and Enrico Winery. What made the tour really special was the diversity of the wines we tried. Our favorite hands down was the Pinot Gris at Unsworth, which screamed summer on the terrace (or the verandah, or under the pergola, or wherever wealthy people enjoy wine.) Meanwhile Silverside Winery had an array of berry wines that were superb, Merridale had apple ciders and brandies, Cherry Point had a great blackberry desert and port wine, and Enrico was fantastic all around.

We made a great loop on country roads that were overall easy going through beautiful farmland. After a bottle of wine and delicious platter at Cherry Point we rode back to the ferry feeling quite tipsy and fell asleep on the crossing back to Brentwood Bay.

 

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Gardens and Fireworks

We sailed down the Saanich Inlet to Brentwood Bay and Todd Inlet, home of the resplendent Butchart Gardens. Todd Inlet lies just a short walk from the gardens through Goland Todd Park which is a fantastic provincial park hugging the southeast shores of the Saanich Inlet. Trust me when I say that it's best to make it to the gardens on a Saturday in order to catch the weekly fireworks display that takes place throughout the summer.

If you are yet to visit Butchart Gardens then you are missing a real treat. Walking through the Canadian Heritage Site I found myself wishing that all wealthy people could be so classy as Mrs Butchart. There are four main gardens: the Japanese Gardens, the Italian Gardens, the Rose Gardens, and most notably, the Sunken Gardens. Picture displays show the transformation of this old depleted limestone quarry into the verdant gardens with an impossible array of seasonal flowers. Furthermore, there are lovely green spaces, trees, views of the water, and much more than I can detail here.

We walked the gardens as the sun edged out of the sky and colored lamps began to light up the gardens for their night tour. In the spirit of the gardens, Annelisa and I indulged in ice cream and rode the carousel. I mounted a handsome deer while Annelisa rode at my side on a confused looking cat with a mouse in her mouth.

I didn't know what to expect from the wireworks display. It was not the Forth of July and I was in a country which still had the Queen of England printed on their money. Would their benevolent monarch stand for such pyrotechnics? Evidently she would because the show was stupendous. Great ground and ariel shows were cleverly timed to both comical and dramatic music which built to an impressive finale. I'm sure this is the best fireworks display one can find on the North American continent on a day other than the Fourth of July.

 

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