SE Asia Day 5: Exploring Vat Phou and Champasak

December 30, 2016

Ride map.

We got a slow start this morning because all we really had to do was head to Vat Phou (an ancient temple) and get massages. Hard life.

We ate breakfast at our hotel and headed to Vat Phou, which was about 12k away. The ride was nice, and a lot of tourists rented bikes to ride to the temple, so we had company.

Vat Phou is a Khmer temple and complex  (built by the same Khmer kings who built the temples at the Angkor Wat complex) on a mountain and a UNESCO world heritage site. The structures that remain on the site date back to the 11th-13th century, but the site has had a temple on it since the 5th century. It’s situated at the base of Lingaparavata mountain (now called Phou Khao), so named because the top is shaped like a linga, which is one of the forms the Hindu god Shiva takes. Thus, the mountain is believed to be sacred. There’s a constant stream of water coming down from the mountain, which is also believed to be sacred.

As you approach the temple, there are two large reflecting pools with cows grazing around them, then you get to two symmetrical buildings, the function of which is unknown.

Then starts the gorgeous climb up to the temple:


The temple has not been restored, but there’s been a modern Buddha added, as well as a tin roof to protect it. Along with the remaining structures, there are cool carvings of elephants and a crocodile in boulders. The crocodile carving is believed to have been the site of an annual human sacrifice (the crocodile is the size and shape of a human lying upside down). The view of the surrounding area, which was the ancient city of Shrestapura, is pretty cool, especially when you think about how it must have looked as a highly populated city.

We headed back down to explore one of the lower structures, and angered a little green snake.



We then headed back towards town and ate at a nice little restaurant at a lovely guesthouse that doesn’t seem to have any guests. It’s a little out of town, but if you come to Champasak, you should stay at the Khaimkhong guesthouse. The food was great, staff was kind, and the grounds were beautiful.

We headed back to town, walked around to look at the cool French colonial architecture and brightly colored houses, then got massages at the Champasak Spa, which were wonderful. Then we headed to dinner and then to a show at the Champasak Shadow Puppet Theater.

Shadow puppetry is an ancient art form that a small group of artists and musicians are reviving in Champasak. The puppets themselves had been kept for some significant number of years by local buddhist monks (our host, a Frenchman transplant to Champasak, spoke good English, but he left a few gaps), before they were given to this group around 8 years ago.  There was a group of musicians playing Lao folk music (called Lum Si Phan Don), as well as puppeteers and voice actors.  The music was great, and the show was fun to watch. Our host explained the story (an adaptation of the Ramayana) in English so we could follow along pretty well. The puppeteers popped out at the end to show us how the puppets look and how they operate them.

Such a cool experience! Off to the Bolaven Plateau next, land of coffee plantations and waterfalls.

SE Asia Day 4: Don Khong to Champasak

December 29th, 2016

Ride Map

Danielle woke me up this morning at 5:45 to watch the sun rise over the Mekong.

How beautiful.

We watched at first from the large terrace on the second floor of the guesthouse and then moved to Mali’s patio across the street, right on the river.

It felt like our vacation was just then starting. Siem Reap had its ups and downs, but we came to explore Laos, and now we were just getting started.

After the sunrise, we packed up our things and then rushed downstairs to have one more amazing meal with Mali. This morning it was an omelet with fresh vegetables and mushrooms grown by Athalo and Mali themselves (“I come here to detox, I want to know what is going into the food I eat”), a fresh baguette, and local Laos coffee. Also, Mali brought out her personal stash of Nutella to share with us. So kind!

After breakfast, we filled up all of our water bottles from the water cooler in the kitchen. This wasn’t insignificant, because tap water isn’t always safe to drink, so filling up 5+ liters of water saved us from buying 5+ liters of water on the road.  This was yet another act of kindness from Mali (“Don’t thank me, thank your personality”).

And then, in the biggest, MOST AMAZING act of kindness yet, Mali and Athalo offered to drive us from their guesthouse to the main road on the mainland, saving us from the choice of either spending money and dealing with the hassle and delay of finding a boat to take us across the river or adding an additional 15k to what was already the longest ride of the trip.

We gratefully accepted, and at the end of the ride they gave us big hugs and watched us ride away, waving at us and smiling like they were our adopted parents.

Ok. Enough about Mali. We’re finally riding! This was supposed to be a bike tour after all!

Like I said, this was the biggest ride of the trip. We were hoping to ride 106k, or about 66 miles. That would have been nothing at the end of our last tour, but neither of us have been riding a lot lately.

The beginning of the day was just lovely. We lucked out and had a relatively cool day (in the mid seventies instead of the upper eighties), so we weren’t suffering too much… at least not from heat. We were facing a consistent headwind all day, but it was pretty gentle; it was nothing at all like those headwinds in eastern Montana.

The road (Route 13, the main/only north/south road in southern Laos) is in great condition, and traffic was incredibly light. We probably had to deal with more cows than cars in the road for the first 20k or so.

The countryside reminded us a lot of Zambia. There were fields and rice paddies, and a few fish ponds too. There were very few large trees, and large numbers of roadside shops all selling the same things.


We also saw an interesting mix of housing. Often more run down houses were side by side with newer, beautiful french colonial houses. The traditional style of house here is built on stilts, and often families were gathered in the shade underneath their houses, processing their crops and sometimes just hanging out.


Every time we passed a group of people they would smile and wave. Children would run after us, waving and yelling “sabaideeeee”, which means both hello and goodbye (noteworthy because the kids who chose to greet us in English often went with”goodbye,” and watching a kid run out to greet you yelling “goodbye, Goodbye, GOODBYE!!!” was pretty entertaining).

I love riding my bike through a new area!

After we rode about 40 miles, we decided to stop for lunch in a small town named Huay Keua. We pulled over at a restaurant looking place (although they also sold clothes and cut hair), and when the proprietor spoke to us in Lao, Dani greeted her and then mimed eating out of a bowl. The lady smiled broadly, and a few short minutes later we had a couple of big, steaming bowls of delicious chicken pho.


As we chowed down, the owner came out of the back with her toddler son, who had apparently just been given a bath by his grandmother. He was our entertainment for the rest of the meal. He was very interested in us, running up to touch us on the leg and then running away as if on a dare. He also tried to take a swig from a bottle he filled with rocks and spent a while playing with a stool and pushing it around the patio. Who needs toys when you have all these random objects to play with?


After lunch, we had about 23 miles to get to our ferry across the Mekong, and like they always say, the last 23 miles are the hardest miles.

It was hotter, the road started going uphill, we were more tired, and traffic had picked up (although most drivers were incredibly considerate, at times following us at 10 mph for minutes until it was safe to pass). And our butts hurt.

So we rode slower, complained more, and took more breaks. But eventually we made it to our turn off to go down to Ban Muang, where we could catch our ferry. What sweet relief this side road was. No headwind, no traffic, and downhill to the Mekong.

We rode into town and straight past our turnoff, but some kind townies shouted at us and let us know where to go. We went down to the edge of the Mekong, where the people shocked us by telling us that the ferry crossing was 70,000 kip (~$9) each.

Or so we thought. Turns out the Lao word for twenty sounds a lot like the English word seventy. So the ride cost $2.50 each. Much better.

The ferry ride was an old rickety boat with the operator, us, our bikes, and one other passenger.

It only took us about 7 minutes to get across, and then, after pushing or bikes up the hill, we set off find our guesthouse. Turns out it was in the wrong location on the map we had, but a kind lady selling street food stopped me before I tried to enter what was–in retrospect–obviously a private residence.

A mile or so later, and 67.5 miles in total (kinda, that counts the ferry), we found our actual guesthouse, Khamphouy, where we paid $10 for a basic room that had everything we needed, but not much more.

We showered (hot showers was one of the things we decided we needed), and then headed out to find food before collapsing in bed around 9pm.

Tomorrow we explore Vat Phou, a thousand-year-old temple built at the base of a mountain just off the Mekong.

ps. Dani made a video! Check it out for a taste of our trip so far. It has a few clips from today. . . and from tomorrow – time travel!

SE Asia Day 3: Bus to Laos and the best guesthouse on the planet

December 28th, 2016

We woke up early (I’m getting up naturally at the crack of dawn every day when I normally struggle to roll out of bed by 8am) and ate free hotel breakfast before heading to the bus station. There were six other travelers on our bus: two Aussies, three Germans, and an American.  We were the only ones who didn’t smoke, including the driver!


We were a little nervous heading to the Cambodian side of the border because Ted was holding our passports in a waist pouch as we explored Angkor Wat and he sweat right through my Cambodia exit form. But turns out that if you’re willing to pay $2 for expedited service (i.e., bribe the border agents) all your problems go away.

We used Asia Van Transfer to get from Siem Reap to Nakasong, and we mostly recommend it. We had three drivers by the end of the day, and all drove fast and crazy. We had all of these unexpected bus changes, and the last bus we were supposed to use broke down on its way to pick us up from the Laos border, which made us over an hour late getting in, which meant we missed our ride to our guesthouse 20k away, so we had to pay for a ride (it was after dark and we didn’t have Internet so we didn’t know how to get there by bike). Ted bought a sim card as soon as we got into town so we could call the guesthouse, but it turns out that his phone only took micro-sim cards.

We ended up cutting down the sim card with leatherman scissors, using a cell phone flashlight while in the back of the van heading to our guesthouse. We got it down to the correct size and called up the guesthouse, and we were dismayed to learn that our host, a lovely Chinese-Canadian woman named Mali, had waited for us for an hour and a half!

Anyway, the rest of this post is going to be about Mali and her husband Athalo because they’re two truly wonderful people who brightened our trip. Mali is a gregarious bundle of joy who moved to Canada from China 37 years ago with a sixth grade education, phenomenal cooking skills, zero English language skills, and an insane work ethic. At some point in Canada, she met her husband, Athalo, a quiet, kind Laotian man who also immigrated to Canada. Carp, Ontario, to be exact. They got married, had 9 kids (7 boys and 2 girls), put them all through college, and now spend 6 months in Canada and 6 months in Laos every year in their retirement. Athalo inherited some land right on the Mekong from his father in the early aughts, and they decided to tear down the dilapidated wooden home in which Athalo grew up and build a small guesthouse on the land. Just 4-5 rooms to occasionally rent out to have some extra income while in Laos. But they don’t really need the money, so Mali reserves the right to send away any snotty people because, she says, her value and happiness are worth more than what they can pay her. If someone makes a booking online she can’t send them away, but she refuses to cook for people she doesn’t like. actually asked Athalo why they don’t say breakfast is included on their page, and he responded that Mali wants to be able to decide whether people are worth cooking for. Ha! We’re happy to report that she cooked us both breakfast and dinner, so we made the cut. Anyway, Athalo designed the guesthouse and one of their sons, an architect, drew up the plans, then they built this lovely guesthouse.

Mali and Athalo are very much in love, even after 35 or so years of marriage. Athalo’s calm energy perfectly balances out Mali’s brash gregariousness. She can ask him for something from across the compound and he will come running to do her bidding, with an adoring smile on his face.

Mali and Athalo now have three homes: two in Canada and this guesthouse. How did they do this, you ask? Hard work! The ultimate bootstraps story! Like I said, they didn’t have a fancy education, but Mali opened a restaurant in Carp and worked 20 hours a day for 13 years! Athalo did most of the child rearing and opened up his own business, too.

Mali is hilarious and full of wisdom. She shared so many great stories, so I’ll just recap our favorites here.

1. Mali buys a private island for $30,000 with less than $1,000 in her bank account. Mali is the type of person who decides she wants something and makes it happen. Sometime in the 80s, she saw an ad for a private island for sale in the middle of a river in Ontario, so she decided to go check it out. The island was small, was only accessible by boat, and had a small cottage with electricity. The moment she stepped foot on the island, she knew it was hers. The man selling the house was eager to get rid of it, so he was willing to sell for $30,000. Problem was, she didn’t have any money, not even $1,000 in the bank. But she wanted to secure the place, so she wrote out a check for $1,000 and asked if he would accept this as a down payment. He agreed, and Mali ran back home to call the bank manager, who happened to be her friend, and asked him to cover the check until she had the money. He agreed! In order to afford the island, she’d have to get a mortgage. She needed a 25% down payment because it was a second home, plus all of the fees associated with buying a place – at the end of the day, she needed $10,000 cash. So she worked crazy hours at her restaurant, then moonlighted at a fancier restaurant, and made $10,000 in one month. In the 80s! And just like that, she had an island. The island is now valued at over $200,000, but no one can convince her to sell (people have tried).

2. Athalo is the boss; Mali’s just an assistant. While we ate some phenomenal plates of Lao Laap Mali made, she sat down to chat. She told us that her husband was the boss, and she was the assistant. From what we saw of Mali and Athalo’s relationship, this did not appear to be the case, but she explained that in a business, the assistant takes care of all of the little problems, and when a problem is too big for the assistant to handle, she brings it to the boss. She said that in 35 years of marriage, there has never been a big problem. Ha! I think you had to be there to appreciate Mali’s delivery. Take it from me, it was hilarious.

3. Mali’s words of wisdom:

  • Mali told her kids that if they wake up and don’t want to go to work every day for two weeks straight, they should quit their jobs and look for something else because it’s not fair to yourself or your employer to do a job you don’t love. She said she has always worked very hard — she’ll out-work anyone — because she has always loved her jobs.
  • “You take the good and the bad, and you make lemonade. And then you sell it, and you make money.”
  • When each of her kids got married, Mali gave them a down payment for a house for admittedly selfish reasons. She said that the best way to get your kids out of your house and to have them leave you alone and be self-sufficient is to help them buy a house because then they have to get a job to make the mortgage payments.

We wish we could have stayed for another day or two, but we have hotels and flights booked and things to do! Mali told us we were doing “buffet style” travel, where we stop over at different places and get a small taste of many things, “but you don’t even know what you’re tasting!” She’s right, and I wish we had unlimited time, but if anyone reading this comes to the 4,000 islands region of Laos, you should skip the touristy party islands and come straight to Mali’s guesthouse, preferably while she’s here between December and May, and plan to stay a while to explore the island of Don Khong. Learn from our mistake!

In any case, it may seem odd that I spent almost this entire post writing about two people that we met, but that’s half the reason we travel. The world is a big and crazy place full of injustice and inequality, but outside of these systemic problems, the people who make up the world are good and kind. And it’s important to keep that in mind.

Besides, this blog is also our personal journal, and we definitely don’t want to forget Mali.

SE Asia Day 2: Angkor Wat by bike

December 27th, 2016

Well, it turns out that jet lag is a real thing.

Danielle had heard that the way to avoid jet lag is to survive the first day and go to sleep at a normal time the first night. We did that (we went to bed at 9:45p), so I thought I was fine. But then I woke up at 2:45a clear eyed and wide awake.

So that was a bummer.

It wasn’t actually all that bad though, because our alarm was set for 4:45a; we were waking up early so we could watch the sun rise at Angkor Wat.

Many (most?) people pay someone to take them around the various temples, either in a tuk tuk or in a van, but we’re here on a bike tour, so we rode our bikes!

We were on our way by about 5a, and we joined the stream of traffic heading north out of Siem Reap. And I mean it was a stream. Lots and lots of people.

The ticket office for Angkor Wat used to be right off the main road, but apparently it was recently moved to a new location 3K east of said road. In a fit of logic and common sense, we decided to listen to the giant sign on the side of the road and not what we read on the internet. We (mostly I) don’t always make smart decisions, but we got this one right.

After the 6K detour to buy tickets, we rode the rest of the way up to Angkor Wat, arriving right as the sky was starting to lighten. We walked into the temple complex and found a place to stand among the hundreds of other people.

This paragraph might overstate things a bit. I think that sunrise at Angkor Wat used to be a peaceful, spiritual experience. It wasn’t very crowded (it became a national monument relatively recently; it was for quite some time just sitting, ignored, in the Cambodian countryside), and I can see how watching a sunrise here could be magical. I mean, there wasn’t even a spectacular multicolored sunrise on the day we were there, but the sillouette of the temple and palm trees against the rising sun was stunning.

But it is hard to find the magic in the midst of all of this:

It was still beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I’m getting old and grumpy, and I don’t like being around this many people.

This was a theme for much of the day: too many stinking people. But here are a few pictures of Angkor Wat without people in them.




After exploring the Angkor Wat temple for a bit and choking down some horrid, overpriced egg sandwiches, we set off to the next big temple area: Angkor Thom. Here’s Dani about to enter the city (you can see the gates ahead) alongside an elephant.

Bayon Temple was originally built as a Buddhist temple, but was used by later kings to suit their own religious preferences. It is known for the many large, smiling faces looking out in all directions from the temple towers.

Baphoun might have been my favorite temple, and maybe that was because it was so much less crowded. It is currently being restored, but we were able to climb all the way up to the top and were rewarded with some amazing views.


After climbing back down, we walked through the woods to see a few other ruins, and then came upon the elephant terrace. This was where the great Khmer kings received important visitors to the capitol city.

Then we got back on our bikes and rode east. By this time, it was getting very hot, and since I hadn’t slept a lot the night before, I was starting to struggle.

We stopped on the way and has passion fruit smoothies and a fresh pineapple. I love passion fruit. Love it enough to occasionally spend $3 on one tiny little guy at our co-op. So you can imagine my delight at getting a large cup of essentially passion fruit juice blended with ice for fifty cents.

As we sipped this sweet nectar of the gods, we decided to go to one last temple before heading home: Ta Phrom of Tombraider fame (full disclosure: I haven’t actually seen Tombraider. But the temple is referred to as the Tombraider temple, so I guess it was a location in that movie).

This temple was REALLY cool but oh my goodness was it crowded. Walls of people being directed along tight temple corridors like cows headed to the slaughter. When we found a spare moment with a little breathing room, we were able to appreciate the awesomeness of an ancient temple being slowly taken over by nature, with silk-cotton and strangler-fig trees growing over the walls and around the buildings. But then the moment passed, and we were surrounded once again. (Although you’ll notice that Danielle did a fabulous job of finding ways to take pictures that made it look like were alone. Looking at these pictures, I’m starting to second guess my own memory.)

After Ta Phrom, we headed back toward our hotel. The ride could have been very pleasant, but the traffic was insane. Motorbikes, tuk tuk, vans, buses…. We were always being passed by something, and ended up spending almost the entire ride home sucking down exhaust fumes.

We made it back to the hotel around 1p and decided that we were done with the traffic, the noise, and the exhaust-and-burning-plastic smell of Siem Reap. So we spent the rest of our last day at the hotel. We swam, ate some delicious red curry by the pool for lunch, enjoyed some out of this world passion fruit smoothies (we each ended up having two and a half smoothies today; the ones at the hotel were so delicious!), took a little nap, prepared for our trip out of Cambodia, and went to bed early. It was a lovely, relaxing way to spend the second half of the day.

Next up: Laos!

SE Asia Days 0-1: Travel day + staving off jet lag

Day 0: Travel day
Ted checked in for our flight online and we had a series of serendipitous events (skipping the line because Ted checked in early; K-9 team so we didn’t have to use the scanner, take off shoes, or take out laptops at security; a security line opening up right as we got in line) which we needed because a bunch of frustrating things also happened (second flight had a last-minute airline switch which meant we couldn’t check in for it and they had trouble checking our bags all the way through, Ted said the word “bicycle” and the airline employee checking us in had a coniption about how our bags were oversized and needed a box even though they were well under the size and weight restrictions, our bike locks in our carry on luggage were considered possible weapons by the TSA so Ted had to go back to the counter to check them and come back through security). But we made it with time to spare.

Our flight (on a cool double-decker plane) took us through Seoul, SK before heading to Siem Reap. The flight was 14 hours long and uneventful. Neither of us slept, which we both decided was a good thing for jet lag reasons, but which meant we were up for a good 30 hours straight. Ted worked for most of the flight while I read a book and watched several movies. The food was pretty good – they had bibimbap!
At the Incheon airport in South Korea there was some confusion at the transfer security station about why we didn’t have boarding passes yet, but they eventually let us through. Then it inexplicably took ~20 minutes to print our boarding passes at the gate, and we never really relaxed until we had them in hand. But we eventually got those too, and boarded a 5-hour flight to Cambodia. We both slept a bit on this flight, although every time Ted fell asleep, a flight attendant came by to wake him up for something. 

Which brings us to the Siem Reap airport, where we anxiously waited for our three checked bags (after the airline employee struggled to check them through, we were skeptical they’d be there). They all arrived, and our Bromptons did not suffer any damage! So it seems like all you have to do is put your Brompton in an IKEA Dimpa bag with some light foam around the sensitive parts, have the airline put a “Fragile” tag on it, and they can travel halfway across the world without a scratch!

Our hotel sent a tuk tuk to pick us up, which was a lovely way to get into town. We arrived Christmas night and apparently some Cambodians party pretty hard on Christmas, so there was lots of merrymaking to observe. Ted instantly got nostalgic for Zambia due to the smell of the town, which I pointed out to him was the smell of burning plastic. We were exhausted, so we basically collapsed into bed at the beautiful Bopha Pollen guesthouse (which I would highly recommend if you can get a good rate like we did from 


Day 1: Angkor National Museum and Wat Thmei

We decided to take it easy today to recuperate from traveling (neither of us have ever traveled this far and we were both a little nervous about jet lag). We woke up and got free breakfast from our amazing hotel, then set out for a walk to the Angkor National Museum. There are a few good museums in Siem Reap (land mine museum, war museum, this Angkor museum), and we decided to come to this one to give ourselves some context for our trip to Angkor Wat tomorrow. The museum was lovely and we learned some helpful things about the great Khmer kings, the history of the Angkor temples, and the deities that were the focus of the Angkor carvings. 

We then ventured to the Peace Café, an undeniably western vegetarian restaurant / community yoga space that came highly recommended by a coworker. This place had a beautiful setting with lots of shade trees and comfy chairs. We got some delicious curry dishes, a smoothie, and coffee, all of which were super. 


Then we headed to Wat Thmei, which is a temple and memorial for the approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population that was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 70s. The signs said that between 8,000 and 10,000 people were killed at this very site. 

Pol Pot never had to face justice for his crimes. Just like America never had to face justice for the millions of civilians we killed in this region of the world (not to mention the fact that we likely gave covert support to the mass-murdering KR regime).

Moving on….
We then headed back to the hotel and took a dip in the pool because it was a hot day (and because pool), then headed out to the night market and dinner. The night market was a little too much for us, so we left pretty quickly, and we were so tired that we just stumbled into some random place for dinner and it was just okay. We went to bed pretty early because we needed to be ready for sunrise at Angkor Wat the next day!

BTW, Siem Reap is not very walker friendly. No sidewalks in most of the town and everyone drives a motorbike or rides in a tuk tuk so you’re sort of an outcast if you walk. The locals don’t even walk. Therefore, this smells like exhaust and burning plastic. 

San Juan Skyway: Day 4: Durango to Ridgway (6/5/13)

As many of you know, we have an exciting trip coming up in a few days. In an effort to get you in the habit of checking our blog, we dug up an old, dusty notebook from 2013 and typed out journal entries from our four-day bike trip around the gorgeous San Juan Skyway in Colorado.

We woke up early to eat breakfast before catching the train. There was a super delicious bagel place next to the train station and we got fresh baked bagel sandwiches. Delicious.


We got on the platform and took our bikes to the cargo hold. One of the conductors was really into biking (biked the Iron Horse, a race from Durango to Silverton where you try to beat the narrow gauge train, several times), so he was super helpful with our bikes. We got on the train and sat in the open car next to a sweet couple from Oakland. They were on an old person traveling tour called Road Scholars (they seemed super out of place). The people on our other side were from Louisville and on vacation with their kids. Both sets of people were very interested in our bike trip. The train went through the Durango suburbs, then some fields, then went up through the gorgeous canyon that’s only accessible by train. There is a hydro-electric plant and a guesthouse/ziplining situation that are only accessible by the train. We also passed a place called Needleton with a few vacation homes that I believe are also only accessible by the train. When we were passing through the fields part of a journey, there was a guy in very fancy biking clothes with several panniers as well as an extra wheel with more panniers who was actually riding faster than the train! No helmet, though. 😦


The ride up the canyon was absolutely spectacular. Took so many pictures. Just breathtakingly gorgeous. Apparently there was a recent rock slide that trapped the train in Silverton for the night and they had to bus 500 people back.


We got off the train in Silverton, which is an absolutely gorgeous old west-y town surrounded by mountains with old west architecture and people. Someone recommended we go to Avalanche Café and Brewery, but they were closed. They recommended that we go to Mattie and Maude’s Café. We had frito pie, smothered cheeseburger on fry bread, and a bowl of potato, bacon, and cheese soup. The lady who worked there (Lori) was super friendly and very worried about our climb up the pass, which in turn made me nervous about our ride.


We left around 2:10 to climb up our last pass. Teddy’s knee started hurting almost immediately, but he pushed through and made it to the top. The ride was gorgeous on the way up. When we got about one mile from the top, there was a CDOT guy waiting for us ringing a cowbell to encourage us. So cute!


The million-dollar highway was scary at times, due to a nonexistent shoulder and the road actually chipping off and falling off the massive cliff that we climbed past. I had to debate whether I was more likely to fall of the shoulder by staying close, or more likely to get hit by a car if I rode in the middle of the lane. I rode in the middle of the lane.


At the top, a friendly man took our picture and told us about a community science project studying pikas. Apparently there’s a massive colony on the pass.


We started our huge, gorgeous descent, but there was nowhere to stop to take pictures until we were past the prettiest part, but it was incredible.


We got to a sign that “Ouray is Switzerland of America” and I got off the road to take a photo, but almost got hit by a pickup truck, so I turned too quickly and fell. He didn’t even stop to ask if I was okay. At least I didn’t get hit, but that’s a super dangerous place to stop—totally blind corner!


Ouray is an adorable little mountain town that looks like a Swiss village. So cute. We decided to power through the last 10 miles to Ridgeway. It was a tough 10 miles because we were booking it and it wasn’t downhill like we thought and the wind was crazy, but we made it in 25 minutes. We checked into our hotel room, showered, and went out for surprisingly delicious Thai food! We then went straight to the hotel and basically passed out.

Days five and six were not on bikes; we did some backtracking to explore some hot springs and Telluride. On day five, we woke up around 8:30 and went to breakfast at Kate’s Diner. It was delicious. Then we went to Orvis hot springs. So. Good. Gorgeous natural springs, not too crowded. It was an oasis! We ended up spending the whole day there, with a brief interlude to go to Ouray Brewery for lunch and beer then Mouse’s Chocolates for ice cream and chocolate.

They had free tea at the hot springs from Montana Tea and Spice Trading – so delicious! My favorites were the Night on Glacier Bay, Huckleberry something, and something about early light. The springs were more crowded when we returned, but still amazing. We sat in the cold pool (89 degrees) for a bit to escape the 102 degree pool. There was also a nice waterfall area with a freezing cold waterfall that we monopolized for a bit before heading to the 110-degree lobster pool. It was so hot that I couldn’t even fully get in, but Teddy did. After trying another pool, we headed for Telluride, settled into our hotel, then had wings and Detroit Square Pizza at Brown Dog Pizza. We went for a quick hike in Telluride, got lunch, then drove home to Denver. This was such a lovely trip! This part of Colorado is so lush and relatively undeveloped – very different from the front range.

San Juan Skyway: Day 3: Mesa Verde to Durango (6/4/13)

As many of you know, we have an exciting trip coming up in a few days. In an effort to get you in the habit of checking our blog, we dug up an old, dusty notebook from 2013 and typed out journal entries from our four-day bike trip around the gorgeous San Juan Skyway in Colorado.

We headed over to the café to grab breakfast after breaking down camp. When we got to the outdoor seating area, we saw someone who looked like Kirsty Gallagher from Peace Corps. Turns out it was her! We ate unlimited pancakes and caught up with Kirsty. Then we equivocated a bit about whether or not we wanted to hitch hike to the cliff dwellings (unfortunately, Kirsty had gone to them all yesterday). We decided not to, partially because there was no place to keep our stuff (of course the NPS/Aramark employees were not willing to let us keep our things in a storage closet) and partially because we like being in control and hate asking people for things.


We took the long, hot, busy, incline road to Durango and got a hotel there for the night, if for no other reason, because my sleeping pad is busted and I’m sick of sleeping on the ground. The ride was boring, boring, boring for the first 30 miles, then we took a beautiful descent into the valley were Durango is situated.


We reached 39.8mph, the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike. The vegetation changed back to that lush, green landscape we experienced on day 1. When we got to Durango, there was a beautiful path along the Animas River that led to town. We watched a little Harry Potter in the hotel room, showered, and headed out for delicious pizza and beer. We also decided to take the train from Durango to Silverton tomorrow because Teddy’s knee was hurting really badly and the train is supposed to be spectacular. No one-way fares, which is annoying, but better than climbing two mountain passes on a bum knee.

After pizza we went to a local brewery and ordered some interesting beers. A dandelion saison and I can’t remember what Ted ordered. We then picked up some food from the grocery store and rested in the room.

San Juan Skyway: Day 2: Cayton Campground to Mesa Verde NP (6/3/13)

As many of you know, we have an exciting trip coming up in a few days. In an effort to get you in the habit of checking our blog, we dug up an old, dusty notebook from 2013 and typed out journal entries from our four-day bike trip around the gorgeous San Juan Skyway in Colorado.


We started off this morning at 8:15a (after Teddy woke up and started working while I slept on his functional sleeping pad because mine decided to stop working last night). We said goodbye to Jonny and Kathy and began our journey. Today includes a 40-mile descent!

Our bums hurt from the very beginning of the day and never stopped hurting. I thought today was harder than yesterday. Just because it’s mostly downhill, doesn’t mean it’s easy! About 10 miles in we reached Rico, a tiny, adorable town where everything was closed except for a tiny, adorable organic espresso shop, where we stopped for a drink. Sitting in a vintage matte grey pickup truck was Felix, a former paraplegic skicross racer who used to compete in the X-games, but they cut the event due to too many injuries and apparently a death. He is now a “migrant festival worker.” He informed us that there’s a festival in Telluride every weekend in the summer except one, which is crazy in general, but particularly because it’s so far from any major city. His two favorite festivals are the Mountain Film Fest and the Jazz Fest. Maybe we’ll travel back for those someday.


I ordered a chai with a shot of espresso and we sat on the porch chatting with Felix and some locals. They told us crazy stories about people who accomplished impressive feats, such as a group of construction workers who would hike over a huge mountain (20 miles!) to Putnam every day, or cross country ski there in the winter. Another guy told us about a group of cyclists who recently rode the whole San Juan Scenic Byway in one day (17 hours)! I’m not sure if these folks were trying to make us feel like wimps, but I sure did. Felix also told us about some hot springs a mile north of Rico that are across from a metal shack. We didn’t want to go back uphill, but will likely check them out the next time we’re down here.


Continuing down the mountain we ran into Jean-Pierre, who is riding from San Francisco to Montreal. He had a very long day ahead of him. He also had very cool maps from the Adventure Cycling Association that we should get next time. They even show you an elevation profile to prepare for the climbs! We had a gorgeous descent until we reached Dolores. All of a sudden, the climate, vegetation, scenery, and people changed for the worse. Of note, the fire danger signs until we reached Dolores were all “low.” When we reached Dolores and ever since, the fire danger has been “high” and we even saw an active forest fire on our way up to Morehead campground.

We got to the letdown of a town called Cortez, where everyone was mean to us. First, as we rode in, a guy in the passenger seat of a passing car pretended to smack my bum. Gross. People after Dolores stopped giving us a wide berth, in general. We got to the Kokopelle bike shop and they were okay. The lady working there sort of hovered over us the whole time, which was annoying, and everyone seemed more into BMX biking than anything like what we’re doing, so they weren’t the friendliest or the least bit interested in our trip.

Megan, the hovering bike shop employee, recommended a local organic restaurant called The Farm. We ordered tons of food because we were starving, but unfortunately, it wasn’t all that great. Ted’s French Onion soup was cold and instead of melting Provolone on top, they had some mysterious shredded cheese tossed in that didn’t even melt because the soup was cold. My burger was overcooked and the “feta” in our Mediterranean salad tasted like goat cheese (and not goat feta), which would have been fine if I wasn’t expecting feta, but was disappointing because I was. The waitress spilled the fancy tomato jam that came with the burger, then brought me regular ketchup as a replacement. Just a bunch of little things that made our experience less enjoyable than it might have been.

We stopped for some groceries, then started our climb to Mesa Verde. It was hot, but we made it. We got to the entrance where we learned that a car pays $15 to enter the park, while bikes and motorcycles pay $8 each. This is infuriating to me. A gas-guzzling conversion van carrying eight people pays less than two people on bikes. And bicycles pay the same admission as motorcycles?? Oh well.



Four. Mile. Climb. 1,100 ft of elevation gain at the end of a 70+ mile day. We got to the campground and found that our campsite was another $30 (!) and the employee at the campground neglected to tell us about the shortcut to the site that would have saved us another mile of climbing. We met a couple from Illinois who were very friendly until Ted asked if we could hitch a ride to the dwellings tomorrow (biking there would add another 40 gruesome miles onto our day tomorrow, so we were hoping to find a friendly stranger that wouldn’t mind bringing us with them). They got very awkward and told us that their minivan was too full with coolers and luggage to fit any people inside. It was just the two of them! People travel with way too much stuff.


Like I said, people are not being very kind on this leg of the trip. We probably won’t go to the dwellings unless we can hitch a ride (which makes the $46 we spent to stay in this campground completely useless), but we’re on a tight schedule and can’t afford to add 40 miles onto our day tomorrow if we want to make it back in time. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not optimistic.

We cooked tortellini with salami and zucchini for dinner and ate cookies from the last time we met kind people. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

San Juan Skyway: Day 1: Ridgway to Cayton Campground (6/2/13)

As many of you know, we have an exciting trip coming up in a few days. In an effort to get you in the habit of checking our blog, we dug up an old, dusty notebook from 2013 and typed out journal entries from our four-day bike trip around the gorgeous San Juan Skyway in Colorado.


Teddy says this was the hardest cycling day of his life. I agree. It was hard. We started at 7:30a with an immediate climb. The first 10 miles took us over our very first Colorado mountain pass, Dallas Divide Summit (elevation: 8,970ft). I suppose it was sort of a wimpy pass, but it was definitely a challenging start to our day. It was almost exactly a 2,000ft. climb. Then came a massive descent into Placerville, an adorable tiny community. We stopped at a park. Actually two parks. One had water and a broken toilet, the next had working everything and gorgeous views. I think it was called Down Valley Park, but I’m not sure.



We saw several road cyclists who seem lucky enough to actually live out here. Everyone’s been super friendly to us thus far. More about that later.


From Placerville we had an unexpectedly difficult climb into Telluride. It was only 800-1000ft of elevation gain, but it was scorching hot, we were famished. I get shaky and dangerous when my blood sugar gets too low, so I had to stop on a dangerous shoulderless curve to get quick sugar. We climbed a bit more, then stopped at Keystone Lookout to eat a full lunch and we were both pooped. We toyed with the notion of just going to Telluride and spending the night, but pushed on!

After rounding the curve to continue on 14S, we had another super steep climb. Toward the beginning, we both smelled spent grain and it was hard not to turn around and find that brewery! At the top of this 1,100ft 3-4 mile climb. (Never-ending climbing!) We hit the most spectacular view I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Loads of rugged mountains in the distance, large green pastures in the foreground, and lush evergreens scattered throughout. The sky was spectacular, so big and blue with the brightest white clouds. We stopped in a driveway to take pictures and a real-life cowboy drove up and offered to take pictures of us. His name was Randy and he runs horse rides for tourists on his ranch.



From there, the next 6 miles were pretty tame – a much more reasonable elevation gain. We filled up water at Sunshine campground (beautiful), ate tons more food, and climbed on. We reached another gorgeous lookout (Ophir), took some pictures (any excuse to stop), then hit an unexpected 1000ft drop! We flew down (top speed: 36.4mph) and immediately started our climb to Lizard’s Head Pass (aka, the most miserable 1.5 hours of climbing of our lives). When we were near the top, a lady with a road bike on her Subaru stopped and gave Teddy two full-sized Snickers bars! I immediately decided that I would do the same for any bike tourist I happened to pass in the future because it truly made our day.


When we finally got to the top (10,222ft), Teddy whined and complained like a baby. He also lay on the ground motionless for 10 minutes. We took some photos, then started a 6-mile descent to our campground against a strong headwind. All of that work and the stupid wind forced us to pedal downhill.


Our campsite hosts, Jonny and Kathy, were super friendly and impressed by our journey today. We got to our campsite and shortly after, Jonny came up with a bag of fresh-baked peanut butter cookies and free firewood! I swear I’ve encountered more friendliness and generosity on this trip than in my previous two years in Colorado. People have also been getting far over for us when passing, for the most part. Overall, people don’t seem nearly as annoyed by bike tourists as they were in Oregon. Also, so far, there’s been far less traffic and far fewer RVs and logging trucks. Wonderful!


Dinner tonight was great. We had Thai lemongrass rice noodles with chicken and zucchini.

We bought tickets!

Hi all!

It’s been almost a year since we finished our coast-to-coast tour. I can’t say that we woke up the next morning wanting to get back on our bikes, but at some point in the last year, we got the itch to get out and go exploring again.

And we’re happy to report that we bought our tickets for our next adventure!

Laos, here we come!  (Well not RIGHT now, but soon!)

We’re going to start here:


(that’s in Cambodia, but we felt like we couldn’t go to Southeast Asia without visiting Angor Wat)

We’ll hop on a bus to the Laotian border, and explore here and there and over there:





Then, because we’ll have earned it, we’re going to finish up with a few days here:


Here are the screen shots of the two legs we expect to bike, from the boarder to Savannakhet, and from Vientiane to Luang Prabang:

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 5.58.50 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-13 at 6.00.27 PM

We’re going to be doing this trip on our Bromptons, so we’ll keep everyone posted about the process of traveling with and touring on our folding bikes.

We hope those of you that enjoyed reading about our cross-country trip will follow along as we take on our first international bike tour. Stay tuned for planning posts, packing lists, and other updates! We’re so excited!